HAPPY HALLOWEEN! (Especially for prudes....)

I never get any trick-or-treaters, but I always carve a jack-o-lantern anyway. Here's this year's:


I can't help notice that there have been a lot of complaints about girls wearing slutty outfits like these, but because no one ever comes to the house, I have no way of evaluating slutty costume statistics.

For some background, Glenn Reynolds links James Lileks who quotes from Newsweek:

Witches are "wayward" and grammar-school pirates are "wenches." A girl isn't an Army cadet, she's a "Major Flirt," and who knew female firefighters wore fishnet stockings? Even Little Bo Peep comes with a corset, short skirt and lacy petticoat.
To which Lileks responds,
I kvetched about this a few years ago in my print incarnation, but for some odd reason one lone column did not stop the marketing juggernaut. I'll have to look into that.
My advice is to start an alternative juggernaut. Why not try marketing deliberately prudish costumes as an alternative?

I'm wondering, is such a thing possible?

As to what they would look like, I don't know. Earlier Glenn said he was "OK on slutty," although not for nine year olds, but would anyone say they're "OK on prudish"? Do today's kids even know what the word "prude" means?

What would a prude wear, anyway? Does anyone know?

First, let's settle the nagging question of what is a prude -- at least, from the standpoint of a clueless girl:

Dear Alice,

Hey! I am a thirteen-year-old clueless girl. I was just wondering what prude means. I mean, I am very curious about it, all my friends talk about it, and I have no clue what it means. If you could help me out, I would be very grateful. Thanks again.

-Curious and Clueless

Dear Curious and Clueless,

A prude is someone who is concerned about whether what s/he says, what s/he does, how s/he dresses, etc. is proper according to what a particular group of people thinks is "normal" or appropriate.

Huh? That means all the kids who are worrying about being cool and fitting in are prudes? That can't be right.

But there's more:

The term is often used to judge someone as sexually conservative and no fun.

Being a prude could also describe a person who doesn't know very much about sex because of a lack of experience, or who doesn't do something sexually that someone else wants her/him to do.

Does that mean rape victims are prudes? Lesbians who rebuff heterosexual men? Gay men who refuse to have sex with women? This prudishness sounds more exciting than I thought.

So what exactly would a girl who wanted to go out as a prude for Halloween wear, anyway?

I found a goofy online "Are you a prude?" test which had a couple of images:


Well, that looks downright Victorian to me. And while the Victorians were known for being prudish, today that look is considered "Gothic" -- and therefore cool and trendy!

At least as trendy as the "elegant Gothic Lolita" look:


And that's perverted right?

So it wouldn't do for a youngster who's trying for the prude look.

The test site also has this schoolgirl uniform:


I guess that's prudish, but I see a problem right away with the prudishly strict school uniform thing. While the schoolgirl uniforms might be intended to be prudish, it's a well known fact that perverts in Japan (and probably here) get turned on by them.

Which leads this sort of thing to be marketed:


It's so slutty and disgusting that it ought to be illegal, right?

Which is obviously why it's being marketed as a Halloween costume. But the problem is, it derives from prude wear!

If yesterday's prude look becomes today's slutty look, I see no way for parents to win.

I truly apologize for the fact that this became waaaay perverted.

To think that I imagined I could write a modest proposal for prudish Halloween uniforms!

I should probably stay the hell away from fashion and stick to pumpkins.

posted by Eric at 08:17 PM | Comments (3)

Forgotten threats from forgotten anonymous commenters

Dennis Perrin is one of those guys who isn't content merely to disagree with what people say. He has to make things up and put words in their mouth.

Accordingly, in his latest attack on Little Green Footballs, Perrin wasn't content with disagreeing or even name calling; he had to smear LGF (by putting anonymous words in his mouth by way of commenters' remarks):

The commenters never addressed my actual arguments; they simply went after me personally, telling me that I was insane, anti-American, pro-Saddam, probably a fag, or better yet, transsexual. Once they read certain key words, their brains clicked into auto-assault mode, and nothing, n-o-t-h-i-n-g, could stem or alter their spewing. At Little Green Footballs, several commenters bluntly advised me to leave the site, or they would track me down via my IP address and kill me. Probably hot air, but there are plenty of crazy people in the world, and arguing at an anti-Arab racist site wasn't worth taking the risk, however slight.
(Via Glenn Reynolds.)

Asked to produce evidence of a death threat, Perrin stated that he wasn't threatened in his own name, but that of an alias:

What that tag was I have no idea, since I posted there maybe five years ago, two computers and three hard drives in the past.

I knew very little about that site's politics at the time, as I was relatively new to the Web, so I thought I could argue from a different perspective in good faith. Umm, right. My biggest mistake was insisting that the Palestinians are human, which is science fiction to Chazzy's tribe. Several commenters told me to leave, and one said that if I didn't, he'd track my IP address and "hunt" me down, encouraged by a few others. Now, whether this was possible or not, I don't know, but as I said in my earlier post, I figured, f*ck it, and moved on.

So, an anonymous commenter alleges that he was threatened by another anonymous commenter?

With a standard that sloppy, I could leave a comment in one name, then threaten it in another name, and then claim that I received an anonymous death threat, but that I can't remember who I was or who made it.

Glenn Greenwald, call in your angry vengeful Brazilian boys!

As it happens, I have been threatened with death. Right here on my own blog! And if I'm responsible for comments left at my own blog, doesn't that mean I am responsible for death threats made against me? And considering the fact that the commenters were also threatening each other, perhaps all the threats are my fault.

This is just sheer nonsense. (And that's even if you believe that Mr. Perrin really was threatened and really can't remember what his pseudonym was nor the pseudonym of whoever allegedly threatened him.)

Considering what Perrin has written in the past, I am inclined not to believe him now. Years ago (in response to Perrin's rather unhinged attack on James Lileks) I wrote a post analyzing his attacks on Christopher Hitchens, and there was something disingenuous about the way he smeared Hitchens with ad hominem invective -- all the while calling him an old friend -- that made me distrustful. I also found the way he injected race into sports not only distasteful, but largely the product of his own hyperactive imagination:

"many white men...are transfixed by black flesh in motion. Dizziness occurs....Perhaps this is why, equilibrium returned, they despise black jocks in celebration."
As a sportswriter, he certainly didn't care for American fans:
elements like racism, religion, patriotism, and blood lust intertwine with the love of sport to produce phenomena like Texas high school football fanatics, Hoosier hysteria, and the Yankees' Bleacher Creatures
To which I exclaimed,
I knew it! Sports fans are bloodthirsty, racist religious bigots! Not only that, they're (gulp) patriotic!
Not being Hitchens, nor a sports fan, I found nothing personal in any of that. (Although, when Perrin implied that W.C. Fields was a socialist, that hurt....)

I see no reason to believe his latest allegations about five year old anonymous death threats to a pseudonym he can't remember.

posted by Eric at 04:07 PM | Comments (5)

mothers against move on!
You may call it "nonsense" if you like,' she said, ` but I've heard nonsense, compared with which that would be as sensible as a dictionary.

-- The Red Queen

In yet another example of how the copyright and trademark laws are being used to interfere with free speech, the group Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is taking legal action against the anti-illegal immigration group Mothers Against Illegal Aliens. Because, claims MADD, they "own" the words "Mothers Against"!
Michelle Dallacroce was hopping mad when she received a letter from Mothers Against Drunk Driving demanding she change the name of her organization, Mothers Against Illegal Aliens.

"I couldn't believe it," Mrs. Dallacroce said. "I don't know who would be confused by this. We don't even have the same acronym."

Mrs. Dallacroce, president of the Phoenix-based advocacy group, received a certified letter Oct. 10 stating that MADD owns the rights to the name "Mothers Against" and giving her 10 days to stop using it.

There are more groups named "Mothers Against" this or that than I can count.

There's Mothers Against Brain Injury, Mothers Against War, Mothers Against Guns (who don't get a link), Mothers Against Sex Predators, Mothers Against Sexual Abuse, Mothers Against Predators, Mothers Against Pornography Addiction, Mothers Against Peeing Standing Up, Mothers Against Video Game Addiction amd Violence, and last but not least on my list, Mothers Against Blogging. ("It's sucking the life out of my kids," proclaims the site! My mom would probably join it were she alive.)

In fact, there are so many "Mothers Against" organizations that I feel like starting the "Mothers Against Mothers Against Invention." But the fact is, I'm not a mother. Not that a detail like that has stopped the president of MADD, who's a man.

Anyway, MADD has not taken legal action against the Other Mothers. Only against MAIA.

All Mothers should be aghast.

MADD's sleazy, heavyhanded tactics remind me of what MoveOn.org tried to do to it's critics. Robert Cox (via Glenn Reynolds has a report, and Michele Malkin details how the organization with all its vast Soros resources decided to bully a small independent t-shirt seller:

I heard from one of the independent T-shirt sellers targeted by MoveOn.org last week. The seller is a lifelong Democrat and member of the military. Incensed by the attack on Gen. Petraeus, the retailer opened up a shop at online store CafePress. The homemade designs at the PoliStew Cafe (www.cafepress.com/polistew) were stark and simple: "Move Away from Move On!" "MoveOn.org NoFriend to Dems." "General Petraeus has done more for this country than MoveOn.org."

For daring to raise a voice and raise some money for the troops (all proceeds from the sale of his items go to the National Military Family Association charity), this T-shirt seller earned the wrath of MoveOn.org's lawyers. MoveOn.org chief operating officer Carrie Olson brought down the sledgehammer. She sent a cease-and-desist letter to CafePress demanding that PoliStew Cafe's items and other anti-MoveOn.org merchandise be removed from the store.

Olson warned: "We have been alerted to an entire page of items on your website that infringes on our registered trademark, and we request that you remove all items immediately, and ask the poster to refrain from shipping any items purchased on this webpage. We also request that you give us contact information for the company / person who posted the items. This content has certainly NOT been authorized by anyone at MoveOn.org, nor anyone affiliated with MoveOn."

Unfortunately, Cafe Press caves pretty easily, as I found when I tried multiple versions of the PINO CHE T. (Maybe I should start a "Mothers Against Che" while I'm at it.)

It's worth noting that this obnoxious form of censorship has been attempted for years across the political spectrum. From Michael Savage to Al Franken to the New York Times, the idea is to use copyright and trademark laws to thwart free speech and especially silence critics.

The theory of protecting names from misappropriation for personal gain is being perverted into the the banning of ordinary words, and into the outrageous idea that critics should not be allowed to name what they're criticizing.

The ultimate idea is "You cannnot criticize me, or I'll sue you for using my name!"

It's like something from Alice in Wonderland.

I better stop, because if the Red Queen© reads this post, she might sue me for mentioning her! ("NOT IN MY NAME you don't!")

posted by Eric at 10:15 AM | Comments (4)

"Invincible" Hillary has bad night in Philadelphia

Last night, I stayed up till all hours writing my first ever Pajamas Media column.

I have to say, I didn't expect sparks to fly in the Democratic presidential debate, but fly they did -- with Obama and Edwards and Dodds really zeroing in, and Hillary looking every bit the waffling, finger-to-the-wind political hack that she is. In my view, her greatest "strength" is that many people would love to see her husband as president again. Last night, this wishful nostalgia just wasn't cutting it. Nor were the numerous attacks on Bush. My fix was that she had a bad night -- beginning with her lousy Halloween-style makeup, and ending with a disastrous waffle on the alien issue:

Hillary certainly did not win tonight's debate. (I think Obama did, although Dodd's articulate and solid performance was quite a surprise.) While I wouldn't say Hillary is in trouble, tonight I saw a few small cracks beginning to appear in her facade of invulnerability. She lacks her husband's legendary teflon, she lacks his common sense ability call a spade a spade, and she lacks his sense of humor.
There's a lot more, plus video.

If this keeps up, the race will actually start to get interesting, and appear to be less of an inauguration.

And for comic value, nothing can beat Dennis Kucinich, who pops up and squeaked "IMPEACH BUSH" like a malevolent Jack in the Box at every opportunity, and finally stated on national television that he had seen a UFO. (If only they'd had some 1950s science fiction music at that point, the night would have been perfect.) It may sound surreal, but last night really was the Night of the Aliens. Hillary waffled on the "alien" issue, while Kucinich held firm as a true believer. (But if they can pilot flying saucers, maybe they are qualified to drive.... After all, last night was almost Halloween.)

So please go check out my post.

My thanks to Pajamas Media for allowing me what turned out to be an exciting opportunity.

UPDATE: Clinton feels the heat.

MORE: Former Clinton strategist Dick Morris thinks Hillary was finally "on display and visible to all":

Hillary Clinton finally got too cute by half in her explanation of her convoluted position on giving driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. The American people saw her tying herself into a knot over the issue, trying to have it both ways.

AND MORE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for linking the Pajamas Media post!

posted by Eric at 09:30 AM | Comments (2)

Blog Radio

I am going to be on the radio. Blog Radio. Always On Watch has invited me and Karridine to discuss I Wanna Go Home and to talk about our give away of 1,000 Free Copies on blog radio. You can tune in here and listen live and call in at 19:00 GMT (12:00 Pacific Std. Time) or listen later at your convenience.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:28 AM | Comments (1)

Sex scandal, but which sex?

A sex scandal being deliberately kept under wraps by the news media?

Involving a Democratic candidate?

Anyway, it appears that something is brewing. Glenn linked both of the above, but I can't find any news reports with real dirt or names. Here's what Ron Rosenbaum said:

So I was down in DC this past weekend and happened to run into a well-connected media person, who told me flatly, unequivocally that "everyone knows" The LA Times was sitting on a story, all wrapped up and ready to go about what is a potentially devastating sexual scandal involving a leading Presidential candidate. "Everyone knows" meaning everyone in the DC mainstream media political reporting world. "Sitting on it" because the paper couldn't decide the complex ethics of whether and when to run it. The way I heard it they'd had it for a while but don't know what to do. The person who told me )not an LAT person) knows I write and didn't say "don't write about this".

If it's true, I don't envy the LAT. I respect their hesitation, their dilemma, deciding to run or not to run it raises a lot of difficult journalism ethics questions and they're likely to be attacked, when it comes out--the story or their suppression of the story--whatever they do.

Oh and it's not John Edwards


Am I allowed to at least ask whether it's a male candidate?

posted by Eric at 08:58 PM | Comments (5)

moral collision course?

A story in today's Inquirer illustrates a strange and disturbing irony, and it's the second one of it's kind to make the local news. I speculated about the line between animal hoarding and animal rescue in an earlier post about a Philadelphia school teacher/author/animal "rescuer" whose house had been rendered uninhabitable by a huge number of cats.

This time, Pennsylvania's animal control bureaucracy stands accused of ignoring a much larger, ongoing problem at a professional animal rescue outfit called "Faithful but Forgotten Friends":

HARRISBURG - Several members of the state dog law advisory board are calling for an investigation into why it took so long for the state to raid a kennel in southwestern Pennsylvania and seize 215 dogs, many of which were emaciated and diseased.

Board members say the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement, charged with inspecting the state's 2,700 licensed kennels, ignored poor conditions in the kennel and pleas from rescue groups that began almost a year before the raid was ordered on Faithful but Forgotten Friends and Best Buddies kennel.

By the time animal cruelty officers arrived at the Fayette County kennel late last week, it was too late for 50 dogs that had to be destroyed because of severe mange - an irritating skin disease that if caught early is treatable.

Board member Doug Newbold of Malvern, who saw dozens of the surviving dogs - and several that had to be destroyed - at the Pennsylvania SPCA in Philadelphia said she found it hard to believe that the wardens could have missed the signs of a progressive disease and did not take action after earlier inspections.

Others said the bureau's delay was evidence that the welfare of dogs in kennels was still at risk a year after Gov. Rendell began overhauling bureau operations.

Rendell, a dog-lover, has sought to improve conditions for thousands of dogs in large commercial kennels in Pennsylvania, which has been called the "puppy mill" capital of the East.

The irony here is that the conditions at the animal "rescue" operation are so appalling that had they been found at a puppy mill, the story would have been on the front page. But these people are in the animal rescue business, and they're well-known to the animal enforcement authorities. Moreover, they've filed lawsuits against the latter:
"This was a major enforcement action" against someone who has filed lawsuits against the bureau and tied it up in court for years, said Smith. "It doesn't mean there's a major breakdown here."

But Howard Nelson, director of the Philadelphia-based Pennsylvania SPCA, which conducted the raid and took in 35 of the seized dogs, believed a review of the bureau's inspection procedures was in order.

"It sounds healthy to have a review to make sure it doesn't happen again," said Nelson, whose shelter had to euthanize nine of the sickest dogs.

Rendell's spokesman, Chuck Ardo, said the governor was "distressed" to hear that animals were being kept under bad conditions, but had yet to determine what steps he would take.

"We'll review the facts of the case and make a decision on how best to proceed," said Ardo.

Faithful but Forgotten Friends kennel, located 300 miles west of Philadelphia, billed itself as a "rescue," picking up dogs from overcrowded shelters, including 76 dogs from Philadelphia Animal Care and Control Association (PACCA).

The kennel license for operator Paula Lappe Barber had been refused in April 2006, after a failing inspection, but a new license was issued to her daughter, Rachel Lappe Biler, at the same location four months later.

The kennel got unsatisfactory inspections twice this fall before the raid was ordered.

"On a cruelty scale of 1 to 10, this is a 10," said PSPCA humane officer Reba McDonald, who led the raid. "The kennels were in poor condition. In some cases, there were 10 to 12 dogs in one pen. The dogs were very thin, and some were suffering from mange or dermatitis."

Quite incidentally (and this is not said in defense of puppy mills), no kennel breeding dogs for money would last long if it kept dogs that way, because even if the adult dogs didn't die, the puppies with their fragile immune systems would. So, even a cruel and callused breeder interested only in making money would have to provide a basic minimum standard of care for his animals, regardless of any laws or enforcement.

Interestingly, the Faithful but Forgotten Friends operation has been in the news before

Normal people looking for a dog would have to go to a considerable amount of trouble to "adopt" a dog from this outfit. From the group's website:

....We have an adoption contract for you to complete. If you want to adopt one of our friends, the adoption fee will generally be $150.00 to $300.00 for a spayed/neutered adult dog and $250.00 to $400.00 for a puppy. At times we do charge a higher adoption fee and such pet is labled as a fundraiser pet. Fundraiser pets are trypically chosen as fundraiser pets because they are in high demand and their adoption can generate revenue needed to care for other animals in the rescue's network.
They also refuse to place dogs in households in which the couples are not married.
Cohabitating couples who have not married or joined to each other via a civil union need not apply to adopt our pets. Please do not argue with us; there are many other rescues who will adopt to unmarried couples so we suggest that you contact them.
One thing is consistent with all of these animal rescue operations. They believe they are saving the animals from euthanasia. This particular outfit is so against animal killing that they oppose dog abortion:
We do not knowingly abort pregnant dogs or cats. Some rescues do abort pregnancies in their animals. We do not abort for two reasons: first, the babies are living creatures and the abortion is virtually the same things as simply killing them after birth and we do not involve ourselves in the killing of good tempered pets. The second reason that we do not abort is the risk that the abortion will harm or kill the mother. We are always interested in hearing from people who are willing and able to foster pregnant pets and their babies. We provide food and medical care for all moms and their babies in our network.
Naturally, they resolutely oppose the breeding of dogs (and insist on spaying and neutering). Somehow, it escapes me how neutered dogs crammed together in unhealthy and crowded conditions are "happier" than puppy mill dogs which are allowed to breed.

It's not as if the dogs know that they are being "saved" -- much less from what.

There are a lot of articles about this organization's ongoing struggle. They have previously complained about harrassment by the authorities, and in 2005 it appeared that they were almost closed, but they engaged in a lengthy dispute. Now that they're closed, the neighbors are relieved.

The whole thing is quite sad. I don't like seeing animals mistreated, whether by unscrupulous breeders or animal hoarders who imagine they're doing unwanted animals a favor when their conditions are as bad or worse than puppy mills.

I suspect there will be more of these stories, because there is a war between dog breeders and self styled animal rescuers. It's a war over two competing views of morality -- one which considers animals property, and another which considers them like death row inmates, or like slaves.

It's an emergent form of morality, and it strikes me as analogous to the culture war (although I think the distinction between man and animal involves more than just a culture or lifestyle clash).

In any event, feminist blogger Jessica Valenti ran smack into it recently, because she committed an immoral act. What did she do that was so immoral?

Jessica Valenti bought a dog.

No big deal. Certainly it's nothing that I consider immoral in the least. (Far from it; it's something I support, and I have repeatedly warned people about the consequences of non ownership of animals, most recently in the Ellen DeGeneres context.)

I think the Salon article exposes a dirty little secret which is not receiving the discussion it should. There are a growing number of people who consider Jessica Valenti's act of buying a dog (a normal and legal act repeated by millions of Americans) to be inherently evil, as literally akin to human slavery. There is a huge and growing cultural disconnect. By admitting to a dog purchase, Valenti generated an uncomfortable moral debate. As Salon puts it,

people were confronting a difference at the very core of their morals and the great lengths people went to show how deeply irrational the other side was being.
The Jessica Valenti dog-buying incident generated an articulate and widely quoted post in her defense at the Feministe blog. Unfortunately (but probably understandably), it has been pulled from Feministe but it was cross-posted here. However, the Feministe cache remains here for the time being (scroll down to the entry titled "holy crap"), and I'll quote it in its entirety, because I agree with it and I don't like coverups.
BEGIN EXTENDED QUOTE HEREI can’t believe I just read this. From a thread on Feministing responding to a cute video of Jessica’s puppy Monty, in which several people excoriated Jessica for getting Monty from a breeder, and demanded she justify her decision because she’s a feminist and dog breeding is somehow a core feminist issue:

There is absolutely no need to breed animals for profit, be them for pets or meat. It’s slavery and it’s wrong.

I just — that’s offensive to me on so many levels; I simply can’t imagine how that feels to someone whose ancestors survived the Middle Passage only to be sold at auction and kept in bondage for the rest of their lives; someone whose relatives in living memory were denied civil rights, equal access to education, and subject to lynching for nothing more than looking at a white person funny.

That's just so willfully blindly privileged, and tin-eared, and utterly cruel, and racist all at the same time. But I suppose, given PETA’s history of racist and anti-Semitic ads, where images of black slaves and Jewish inmates at extermination camps were set alongside images of cattle going down a chute or chickens in battery cages, that this is not so uncommon an attitude among the animal-rights set. From Steve's* post about Ingrid Newkirk's dismissive response to the objection of James Cameron, the director of America's Black Holocaust Museum to PETA’s “Slavery” campaign: (my emphasis)

Remember, [Dr.] Cameron almost died at the hands of a lynch mob. They were screaming “get the nigger” and had yanked him out of his cell. Only the lone voice of a woman saying “leave that boy alone” saved his life. But this harrowing experience means nothing to Newkirk, his pain is irrelevant to her. I thought I had seen cruel responses to Mrs. Sheehan. But this tops them. By a mile.It's the same kind of ignorant cruelty Cindy Sheehan is facing. Newkirk is simply incapable, like most fanatics, of seeing any side but her own. And she is blind to the outrage this will cause. She has no idea of how her response is not going to go over with black people. Even her explaination is as tone deaf as George Bush. That may go over well with her donors and allies when she makes a mistake, but it will fall on deaf ears with black people. I dare her to defend this on any black radio show, or even Air America.

Now, not only is PETA refusing to apologize, as they did with the Holocaust ad, they intend to continue the tour, well until they're denounced on Tom Joyner and from church pulpits. To compare black people to animals is the gravest insult a white person can do, and no matter how “liberal” PETA says it is, this will dog it until their tour is cancelled. Because she is fucking with something she does not understand in any way, shape or form. Angry isn't the word. I'd be surprised if Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton aren't outside PETA HQ at the end of the week.

So, given that this is the mentality of PETA's leadership, do you think it's fair to call them racist, now?

Somehow, it's even crueler when the animal in question is not a steer being led to the slaughterhouse, but a well-loved puppy from a responsible breeder.

I'm just gobsmacked.

And after I originally wrote this, the commenter explained herself:

Regarding Zuzu's comments about slavery: Only people who think their lives are more important than non-human animals' lives can be offended by the comparison of human slavery to animal slavery. The definition of slavery is to treat another as property. Property is the essential concept of slavery. Property. The only way you can be offended is if you think it's OK to treat non-human animals as property. I've had this discussion on my blog before: http://www.elainevigneault.com/politics-of-power-and-peta.html

so you can read more if you're truly interested in understanding my perspective. Or you can just ignore my criticisms and right me off as a loon, like you normally do.
I just really don't know how to respond to that.


(cross-posted here)

* God, I miss Steve.


I don't know who "Steve" is, but judging from the tone, I don't blame the writer for missing him.

This blogger quoted it, and the issue was interesting enough for Salon.

But it's an issue with which few are comfortable (and I suspect that's why the post was pulled.)

I'm fascinated by the slavery analogy though. Wrong as it is, I think it raises some fascinating points about the morality of reproduction. If animals and people are equal, what gives humans the right to possess intact genitalia, but not animals? If dogs are like slaves, but should not be allowed to breed, does that mean slaves should not have been allowed to breed? Or does it mean that the dogs should be freed from captivity entirely and only then allowed to breed?

Or should humans not be allowed to breed? I mean, aren't there too many unwanted humans?

Frankly, I think the animal rights people are out of touch with reality. If humans are like animals are like humans, then why should there be different standards?

It is not immoral to buy a dog, because dogs are property. What is immoral (IMO) is to create a new morality based on the premise that dogs are like humans and should have the same rights.

This new morality degrades humanity, because ultimately it means that there's no reason that humans shouldn't be treated like dogs. (Licensed, controlled, impounded, sterilized....)

So why isn't it being condemned more resolutely?

UPDATE: Zuzu, the author of the post I quoted above, left a helpful comment below:

The post wasn't pulled from Feministe, but the link in that post isn't working now because Feministe migrated to a new host briefly, then back when it didn't work out as planned; as a consequence, links from that period aren't working. Here's the post: http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2007/09/05/holy-crap/
The link works fine, and the post was not pulled as I stated above.

I'm glad to see that I was in error in making that assumption.

posted by Eric at 11:00 AM | Comments (6)

Some costumes are so scary they cross the line!

The major news story involving the presidential race today seems to be which candidate would make the scariest choice for a Halloween costume. Hillary Clinton is winning:

Once again, Hillary Rodham Clinton leads in a poll. This time, she was top choice when people were asked which major 2008 presidential candidate would make the scariest Halloween costume.

Asked about costume choices, 37 percent in an Associated Press-Ipsos survey this month chose New York Sen. Clinton, the front-runner among Democratic presidential contenders. Fourteen percent selected former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who leads Republicans in national polls.

No other candidate exceeded 6 percent.

Clinton was the choice of four in 10 men and one-third of women. While a predictable two-thirds of Republicans picked her, she also was the choice of 18 percent of Democrats. Among members of her own party, that made her second only to Giuliani as the scariest costume.

Hillary masks are sold out here, and while this one is listed at Amazon, if you click for more information it is also not available, although you can join the want list.

I did find Hillary masks apparently still for sale at these two online stores, but I didn't confirm it by trying to actually ordering one. They might be out of stock, and it might be too late to get one in time for Halloween.


Ebay has two Hillarys for sale; this one costs more but if you buy now, they claim you can get it in time.

But I don't think it's a waste if it arrives late, because masks of political figures are by no means strictly Halloween-only items. For example, I've seen a lot of Bush masks worn by protesters at demonstrations. And like it or not, Hillary seems unlikely to go away as a cultural icon any time soon. These masks are therefore probably good investments, and can be used for special occasions all year round!

As to Rudy, I found a mask for sale here, but I think it needs updating.


(Sorry, none on ebay.)

The New York Daily News says that Obama masks were the most popular in stores there, but they've completely sold out.

What I'm curious about is the gender crossover issue. While it's been some time since I was a boy, I never dressed up as a woman character until I was an adult, * and I don't remember other little boys doing so. Sure, there were witches, but the witch costumes were worn by girls.

How does Hillary fit? Not only don't I have kids, but I never get trick-or-treaters so I'm probably too out of touch with the pulse of today's Halloween issues. Still, I'm wondering.

What's scarier?

A boy who wants to be Hillary? Or a girl who wants to be Giuliani?

* And, please, let's not confuse the issue by talking about what Rudy might wear, OK?

posted by Eric at 04:53 PM | Comments (0)

It's Official

Defence News has a story up on the death of Dr. Robert Bussard in which they state that the US Navy has put up nearly $2 million to continue the research on the Bussard Reactor.

Robert Bussard, inventor of a promising method for producing energy from nuclear fusion, died Oct. 6. He was 79.

Bussard received nearly $2 million under a U.S. Navy contract in August to continue work on an inertial electrostatic confinement reactor he had developed. The reactor uses magnetic fields to confine electrons, whose negative charge causes protons and Boron 11 atoms to fuse. The fusion sets off a chain of reactions that produces electricity.

I have a bit to say about Dr. Bussard's life work at Dr. Bussard has died.

You can find out more about the Bussard reactor at the following urls.

Bussard Fusion Reactor
Easy Low Cost No Radiation Fusion
Bussard Reactor Funded
Dr. Bussard's Final Interview
IEC Fusion Newsgroup
IEC Fusion Technology blog

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 04:49 PM | Comments (0)

Who's really trying to politicize the military?
The linchpin of a republic under civilian rule -- as well as faith in the armed services by a cross-section of Americans -- is an apolitical military.
So declares self-styled constitutional scholar Glenn Greenwald.

Greenwald has an earlier post here in which he makes the same argument.

In the traditional, World War II sense, "apolitical" meant staying out of ordinary domestic partisan politics. Military leaders tend to shy away from making political endorsements, and thus Eisenhower would have been unlikely to tell the troops which party to vote for, notwithstanding his personal beliefs.

However, because it is the job of the military to fight and win wars, matters that go to the heart of the war -- such as wartime propaganda -- are not ordinary partisan politics. For example, in World War II, the United States had to contend with enemy propaganda, and enemy propagandists. Tokyo Rose and Lord Haw-Haw are two examples. It is always the job of the military to oppose and counter enemy propaganda by any means possible. This is all the more true in a propaganda war, which the current war is.

Factor in the maxim that war is the continuation of politics by other means, and Greenwald's sanctimonious moral posture becomes questionable, if not disingenuous.

What bothers me the most about Greenwald's argument is that he goes out of his way to take the side of an accused enemy propagandist, Bilal Hussein, who has been detained in Iraq for being a suspected terrorist agent.

After right-wing blogs loudly complained for months about the supposedly Terrorist-sympathizing journalism of Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein in Iraq, the U.S. military in Iraq detained him with no charges (and, just by the way, continues to detain him for a year-and-a-half now with no charges). While the military refused to talk to A.P. or any other press outlets about its photojournalist, they leaked the story of his detention to Michelle Malkin -- one of the principal agitators who had spent months calling Hussein a Terrorist-lover and calling for his arrest -- and then, with her military-delivered scoop, she excitedly announced his detention.
The idea that "right wing blogs" give the military their marching orders and tell them who to arrest is so absurd on its face that I don't think it requires extended comment. Except Greenwald is making it, and presumably there are people who agree with him.


I guess that means I should at least disabuse readers of the idea that Hussein was arrested pursuant to some order issued by General Malkin. According to the Wiki entry, Michele Malkin was not even present at the scene of his capture, but only blogged about it later (presumably from the United States). Moreover, the military claims to have found Hussein with an al-Qaida leader:

The military said that Hussein was found with two insurgents, including Hamid Hamad Motib, an alleged leader of al-Qaida forces in Iraq.[1] According to a May 7, 2006 e-mail from U.S. Army Major General Jack Gardner, "He has close relationships with persons known to be responsible for kidnappings, smuggling, improvised explosive device (IED) attacks and other attacks on coalition forces."[1] Gardner continued, "The information available establishes that he has relationships with insurgents and is afforded access to insurgent activities outside the normal scope afforded to journalists conducting legitimate activities."[1]
Now, I don't know what access Greenwald has to classified material. I have none, and not only do I lack a security clearance, I'm not what anyone would call a "war blogger," although I am a war supporter. I have to assume that Greenwald is in no more position to know the facts of the Hussein capture than any other blogger, because he doesn't cite any special evidence for his position that the military detention of Bilal Hussein is wrong other than the recital that there are "no charges." I don't know whether that's true, but I would note that prisoners of war are also typically held with "no charges." Other than that, he asserts a connection between the following:
  • "right wing bloggers" complained; and
  • the military detained this guy.
  • To Greenwald, this is evidence that the military has been "politicized."

    OK, let's look at the "sides" in this political partisanship equation. On one "side" are the supporters of Bilal Hussein, and on the other are those who think that he should be released because the military has no right to hold him.

    Sorry, but I don't think these two "sides" constitute political partisanship -- certainly not in the traditional context. Let's compare Bilal Hussein to Tokyo Rose. While she was arrested -- and "detained for a year by the U.S. military" -- this was after World War II had ended. But let's suppose that she'd been grabbed earlier, and detained. Without charges. Suppose some anti-war group had formed a "Tokyo Rose Freedom Committee." While that could have been considered "politics," I submit that to call it the sort of politics implicated in the "apolitical" tradition Greenwald invokes is to torture the primary role of the military in war, which is to win.

    I realize that the debate over the war is inherently political, but I don't think the debate over how the military fights war propaganda (or propaganda which helps the enemy) is quite the same thing. Yet Greenwald claims that support for an enemy propagandist constitutes "politics," and that by taking action against a suspected enemy propagandist (and by refusing to cooperate with his sympathizers), the military is being partisan.

    Would it have been "partisan politics" for the military to refuse to cooperate with, say, reporters for the German American Bund during World War II, or Communist reporters (say, the People's Daily) during the Korean or Vietnam wars? I don't see how.

    An additional problem is the reduction of this issue to "right wing" and "left wing."

    How, pray tell, is Greenwald defining right wing blogs? Pro-military blogs that wants the United States to succeed in the war? Greenwald gives a clear hint that he defines right wing as pro-war when he complains that "the military had even been providing conference calls and other briefing sessions seemingly reserved exclusively for right-wing, pro-war bloggers."

    Does this mean that if the military does not want to deal with anti-military, anti-war blogs that wants the United States to fail in the war, that they are behaving in a political manner?

    I have a question about right wing versus left wing.

    How is support for this war any more "right wing" than support for the war against Nazi Germany or imperial Japan?

    Are Democrats who support this war to be considered right wing also? This is no exercise in sophistry or rhetorical hair-splitting, and not only because there are still a number of pro-war Democrats.

    Yesterday, I wrote a post about the right wing anti-war movement, which is growing. There are the Buchananites, the MSU-YAF people, the Ron Paul people, the libertarian Antiwar.com people, and there are a number of right wing 9/11 Truther types. All of these groups (and I'm sure there are more) are right wing, and anti-war.

    On top of that, look at the inherent nature of the enemy. People who want to impose a fundamentalist theocratic dictatorship which oppresses women, executes gays, forbids theater, film, and music and all sorts of personal freedom can be called a lot of things. I call them "Islamofascists," and while I realize not everyone uses that word, they are certainly far right in the conventional sense of the word, and I see no way that any reasonable person could consider them left wing. Thus, it is fully legitimate to say that the U.S. military is to the left of the enemy it is fighting.

    For all these reasons, I think the claim that "pro-war" is synonymous with "right wing" is bogus and misleading.

    However, if the goal is to accuse the military of being politicized, then by all means it is necessary to insinuate right versus left into these things.

    Considering the totality of the circumstances, is it entirely fair to consider Glenn Greenwald a left wing shill?

    Seriously, can't he also be seen as a right wing shill?

    I really think he can. (Although it's getting tougher and tougher to know the difference between reality and sarcasm.)

    On the other hand, I hate to further politicize what Greenwald is already doing his best to politicize.

    But then, I'm not the one who declared that supporting the war is "right wing."

    UPDATE: Anyone who thinks being pro-war or anti-war comes down to a neat little question of Republican versus Democrat should read this:

    White was one of about 300 people who attended the anti-war rally in downtown Orlando. Many at the rally said Democrats need to do more to bring the troops home.

    "I'm at a loss," said Nancy O'Byrne, a Democrat from St. Augustine who attended the United for Peace and Justice rally. "Democrats aren't any better on the war issue than the Republicans. Very few would get our troops out and home and not leave any behind. A lot of candidates are backpedaling on their stance on the war and I'm not sure why. Seventy percent of Americans want this war to end."

    (Via Glenn Reynolds.) I'm sure most Republicans want it to end.

    The question is under what circumstances. Most Democrats supported this war when it started.....

    UPDATE: Thanks to Lance at A Second Hand Conjecture for the link!

    posted by Eric at 10:00 AM | Comments (9)

    Round Pegs In Round Holes

    Suppose you have a machine that depends for its proper operation on wooden pegs in wooden holes. Say that it has been traditional, if wooden pegs were not available, that brass pegs were an accepted substitute. Now suppose the government outlawed the use of brass pegs and decreed that if you didn't have wooden pegs only gold pegs were acceptable. Would that be right?

    What am I getting at? Brain chemistry.

    The holes are receptors. The wooden pegs are the body's naturally made receptor fillers. The brass pegs are substances you imbibe (in one way or another) to make up for a lack in the bodies' natural chemistry. What would the gold pegs be? Dr. prescribed medicines.

    Let us take the case of marijuana. Mice have been developed which do not naturally produce enough CB1 receptor fillers. They are genetically different. They have long term memories of fear situations. They live in fear and that fear is easily excited. Not a pleasant way to live. Modern medicine has developed substances that can relieve that constant fear. Doctors are allowed to prescribe such substances. However, marijuana can also fill those receptors and relieve constant fear and anxiety. We have made marijuana illegal even though there is no objective difference between the doctor prescribed medicine and marijuana (with respect to brain chemistry). Is that right?

    This line of thought came to me in an e-mail discussion of Treatment Vs Recreation and Class War.

    You can read more on this line of thought - I have been at it for six years - at the following articles:

    PTSD and the Endocannabinoid System
    Addiction or Self Medication?
    Genetic Discrimination
    The War On Unpatented Drugs.
    The Pain In The Brain
    Addiction Is A Genetic Disease

    and way more articles at:
    The Nature Of Addiction

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 11:46 PM | Comments (0)

    Conflating Islamofascism

    Does opposing Islamofascism mean being anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, anti-gay, and racist?

    Yesterday I was reading Pat Buchanan's latest WND tirade against Giuliani:

    Pro-abortion, anti-gun, again and again he strutted up Fifth Avenue in the June Gay Pride parade and turned the Big Apple into a sanctuary city for illegal aliens. While Ward Connerly goes state to state to end reverse discrimination, Rudy is an affirmative-action man.

    Gravitating now to Rudy's camp are those inveterate opportunists, the neocons, who see in Giuliani their last hope of redemption for their cakewalk war and their best hope for a "Long War" against "Islamo-fascism."

    Interesting that he has the word hyphenated and in quotes. Does that mean he thinks Islam is being tarnished by fascism? (As opposed to the other way around?)
    I will, Rudy promises, nominate Scalias. Only one more may be needed to overturn Roe. And I will keep Hillary out of the White House.

    A Giuliani presidency would represent the return and final triumph of the Republicanism that conservatives went into politics to purge from power. A Giuliani presidency would represent repudiation by the party of the moral, social and cultural content that, with anti-communism, once separated it from liberal Democrats and defined it as an institution.

    Rudy offers the right the ultimate Faustian bargain: retention of power at the price of one's soul.

    I wasn't going to bother with a post, because this is really nothing new for Pat Buchanan. But -- now that I've seen these characterizations of Little Green Footballs as a "pro-Muslim, left-wing blog", I think a few words are in order.

    It's not that there's any one thing standing alone that especially bothers me. I mean, normally, I would have overlooked the Buchanan piece, just as I ignored Ann Coulter's recent winking at anti-Semitism, because, I figured, she's an entertainer. (Yeah, she also winked at the use of the word "faggot" and she was fired by the NRO for winking at converting all Muslims to Christianity. Winking at something means never having to really come out and be the thing, I suppose.)

    I'll say this for Ann Coulter. At least she didn't wink at Holocaust Denial. The MSU YAF Buchananite crackpots who mounted the latest attack on LGF have done more than wink at Holocaust Denial; they've sponsored a lecture by a Holocaust Denier.

    In the aggregate, there's now too much to ignore.

    Anyway, when LGF complained, the YAF group responded responded by calling LGF "pro-Muslim," "left-wing," and more:

    The Little Green Footballs blog decided to condemn MSU-YAF for hosting Nick Griffin. In case you do not read Little Green Footballs, the blog is pro-Muslim, left-wing, politically correct, and basically a front for neoconservative foreign policy (instead of defending their culture, they want to build schools in the Anbar province). They are basically a puppet of the multiculturalists and believe that Islam is not the enemy of Western civilization and Christendom. Only Bush-bots read the Little Green Footballs blog.

    Instead of writing about threats to Western civilization, the LGF blog has recently attacked organizations who are fighting the culture war by doing more than just posting stuff on a blog that only like-minded people read.

    What LGF pointed out is that Nick Griffin is a Holocaust denier, and the Vlaams Belang/Blok organizations are racist. VB "chooses a white Europe" to be precise. (Ayaan Hirsi Ali, BTW, called the party "a racist, anti-Semitic, extremist party that is unkind to women and that should be outlawed." I might not agree with that, but to suggest it would make her "pro-Muslim" is absurd.)

    The YAF blog links Pat Buchanan's blog as number one, lists four of his books, and I think it's fair to characterize them as Buchananite and solidly within the Paleoconservative camp. More on the group here.

    The LGF post also links the group's leader Kyle Bristow, who has managed to get himself photographed with nearly every prominent conservative in America. Anyone can get a picture taken with a politician, though, and it does not mean that they all endorse Bristow's views or tactics. Not only do the latter include the display of signs saying things like "Straight Power" and "End Faggotry," but Bristow claims he wants to "protect" the public:

    Bristow goes on to say, "YAF members find homosexuality and other forms of sexual deviancy to be disgusting. The Boy Scouts, military and the American public need to be protected from these degenerates."
    I don't buy into the notion of hate speech or any kind of censorship, and I think Bristow has every right to say these things and take these positions.

    But there is a sort of "let the buyer beware" principle here. And there are also political realities. For whatever reason, this group is giving the left (which already believes anti-Islamofascism is anti-Muslim bigotry) a lot of ammo to argue that "a critic of Islamofascism is an anti-Muslim bigot is a neocon." And meanwhile, the isolationist, xenophobic Paleocons promote the argument that "a war supporter is a neocon is a trilateral commission-supporting, One-World-Order, homolovin' bilderbuggerin' Bush-lovin' Jew."

    They may be right wing fringe, but by assisting in an ideological war against those who oppose Islamofascism, they're providing an incalculable service to the left.

    They're also providing an invaluable service to the Islamofascists, who'd probably love to see a resurgence of American right wing isolationism and xenophobia. (To say nothing of anti-Semitism.)

    Strange bedfellows all.

    UPDATE: Thank you, Glenn Reynolds -- especially for quoting this post.

    Welcome all!

    posted by Eric at 02:01 PM | Comments (19)

    But blogging is real journalism!

    That's a scary thought. And it's a narrative I try to keep in the closet, because I never agreed to become a journalist, and I have maintained -- often vehemently -- that I am not one. However, blogger Michael Costello (linked by Glenn Reynolds yesterday for saying "If The Fu Hsits") discovered that as a blogger he used the same process that conventional journalists do:

    I had my narrative in anticipation of facts that I could mold to fit it.. Fortunately for me, I didn't have to make them up. They were just buried in history. I only needed to dig them up. Or, more accurately, find someone else who had dug them up.
    While that fits my narrative that blogging is journalism, it's a narrative I resist -- mainly because I don't like the label.

    Even if bloggers and journalists are doing the same thing, both have a problem with The Other.

    In general, while bloggers don't want to be The Other, journalists don't want to seem to be The Other. This is why bloggers stubbornly, constantly admit their biases, while journalists stubbornly and constantly do not.

    While my dark side often suspects that bloggers are honest journalists, while journalists are dishonest bloggers, you can't say things like that without being misunderstood, so I should probably keep such thoughts safely locked away in the narrative closet where they belong. Besides, I tend to misunderstand myself, and it occurs to me that there's no way to call a blogger an "honest journalist" if he won't admit to being a journalist at all.

    (Unless there's such a thing as honest dishonesty.

    But there can't be. For that would mean that bloggers are closeted journalists. (And journalists are closeted bloggers.)

    posted by Eric at 09:57 AM | Comments (0)

    common ground on a heated issue

    I don't see why people are having such a hard time over the connection between global warming and arson, but they are, along the usual predictable political fault lines. While the California fires were still raging, the Democrats were quick to spot the cause as global warming. But then, when it turned out that the proximate cause was arson, the global warming claim died down, a new finger was pointed at Blackwater while Republican commentators brayed about the fire's human origin.

    Many sarcastic claims were made that "global warming causes arson." (Which, if you think about it, isn't all that different from saying that global warming causes terrorism, violence or even nightmares in children.)

    Both sides are IMO, overlooking a common area of potential agreement. If you rearrange the words, and use a little logic, isn't it obvious that arson causes global warming? Arson equals fire which equals not only the release of heat, but the release of more C02, right? So all who believe in AGW theory ought to be able to agree on arson as a contributory cause, and even the skeptics ought to be able to allow that arson does at least heat up the area where the arson is committed.

    In fact if the entire world were set on fire, few would argue that it wouldn't be hotter.

    The more I thought about this (and I tried to be very careful and scientific), the more I was drawn to a remarkable conclusion, on which we can all agree. FIRE IS HOT.

    The rest is a simple step.

    Can we all get along now?

    posted by Eric at 09:34 AM | Comments (2)

    Cowardly new world

    More red light camera news (involving prohibitorily expensive but "mistaken" filing fees to contest the tickets) via a link from Glenn Reynolds, who provided plenty of evidence last year as to why these things do not work.

    The red light cameras, while they have increased revenue, have not stopped carnage in Philadelphia. (Probably because people drive like hell to avoid the yellow lights, then slam to a stop if they turn.) Nevertheless, the Philadelphia Inquirer supports extending them, and in a recent editorial, is now calling for the much more intrusive speed cameras:

    The red-light cameras, though, have not stopped the carnage along the 12-lane highway through Northeast Philadelphia. In the last year or so, a dozen pedestrians have been killed along the road. So it makes sense for city officials to look at further measures to make the Boulevard safer, as well as other traffic trouble spots.

    Earlier this year, Council entertained a range of costly safety strategies - from adding more pedestrian bridges, to closing traffic lanes, to boosting patrols and safety programs.

    All good ideas, but the first one to be tried could provide another "cameo" for reckless drivers: State Rep. George T. Kenney Jr. (R., Phila.) proposes legalizing speed-detection cameras.

    As with red-light cameras, the speed cameras would snap vehicle tag numbers of speeders, with appropriately hefty fines to follow.

    Great. And the guy sponsoring it is a Republican, no less. The party of small government?

    People need to stand up to this tyranny, and exercise their constitutional right to see and confront their so-called "accusers" in court.

    I'm sick of living in a world in which legal trouble can be generated by robots.

    UPDATE: In case anyone was wondering where the red light camera revenue money goes, today's Inquirer has a front page story titled "'Running amok' at the PPA" (Philadelphia Parking AUthority, which runs the cameras). The PPA uses the money to fuel a gigantic political "patronage machine, pinching drivers for $192 million a year while giving only a pittance to the city's general fund":

    All told, the authority now squeezes $192 million a year out of Philadelphia drivers.

    That's tough enough for many to take, even assuming that the cash is being used for a clear public good: hiring teachers, say, or paving city streets.

    But as an Inquirer analysis shows, the Parking Authority has become a self-replicating patronage machine that has used its new revenue principally to double the size of its staff and to inflate the salaries of its myriad managers.

    Despite revenue growth of 54.5 percent since fiscal 2001, the authority has delivered only a pittance of extra help for the city's general fund: an average of $740,000 a year, or 4 percent, when adjusted for inflation.

    "The city is sucking air in a lot of areas, and we look and see a Parking Authority that's twice as big, that's seen a wild running-up in staffing numbers," said Joyce Wilkerson, Mayor Street's chief of staff. "I'm not sure the Parking Authority should have first dibs on that revenue when we have trouble keeping libraries open."

    Others share that view. Parent organizations are calling on the agency to write a $20 million check to the public schools. City Controller Alan Butkovitz is poring over the organization's books. Gov. Rendell plans to grill the authority's board of directors, and lawmakers in Harrisburg may call for hearings.

    "It appears that it's running amok," said State Rep. Dwight Evans (D., Phila.), who has been a longtime supporter of the authority.

    But it takes a lot of money to run amok!

    (No wonder they're clamoring for speed cameras...)

    UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for linking and for quoting this post! A warm welcome to all.

    I'm especially honored to be linked in the same post that links an important article by Glenn ("Stop, in the Name of 'Bots") which discusses the use of robots in a much more sinister context.

    Don't miss it.

    I especially liked the conclusion:

    When the power to enforce the law is delegated to software employed by people who don't -- or can't be bothered to -- understand it, no one is safe. When you hear that people are using machines to enforce the law, remember the old computer-geek saying: "Garbage In, Garbage Out."

    posted by Eric at 12:33 AM | Comments (13)

    when murderers are heroes

    According to today's Inquirer report, Dillon Cossey (the overweight bullied kid I posted about before) has confessed to plotting a Columbine style attack:

    A troubled 14-year-old admitted yesterday to plotting a detailed, Columbine-style assault on Plymouth Whitemarsh High School.

    Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor said Dillon Cossey confessed he planned to use chains to secure the high school doors so occupants could not escape, fire a rocket launcher - which he did not own - and use a car as an "ammo dump," an idea gleaned from a Columbine video on YouTube.

    Cossey, who named his rifle "Reb" to honor Eric Harris, one of the Columbine killers, admitted in Montgomery County juvenile court yesterday to criminal solicitation to commit murder, risking a catastrophe, and possessing instruments of crime.

    The plan was apparently to kill bullies at school, and what I find most disturbing about this case is not so much that Cossey admired Harris and Klebold, but his attorney's claim that the psychotic Columbine pair are "heroes" to other bullied kids:
    Although police did not find ammunition for the firearms Cossey possessed, his "severe social maladjustment" resulted in a frightening plan that could have ultimately been implemented, Castor said.

    Castor said Cossey, who will now get the help he needs, admitted telling friends that he wanted to "kill bullies" at the Plymouth Meeting high school, but the teen told authorities he could remember only three times that he was victimized.

    Farrell said his interviews revealed that Cossey was subjected to "protracted peer abuse," something most victims are reluctant to admit.

    "Klebold and Harris are heroes to kids who are bullied," Farrell said, adding that such thinking is fueled by violent Internet postings. Dylan Klebold joined Harris in the Columbine massacre that left 13 people dead. Cossey created "a fantasy that was beginning to cross the line," Farrell said.

    "He's very remorseful," Farrell added.

    Cossey waived the 20-day period for his disposition hearing to allow time for mental and physical evaluations that will assist the judge in selecting an appropriate rehabilitative program.

    Tressler explained that the length of treatment will depend on Cossey's progress.

    I'm hoping the claim that Harris and Klebold are "heroes" to bullied kids is overwrought hype by the kid's attorney, because if they are developing a cultlike status, it's a disturbing development.

    That's because, if you think about it, on what basis is this Columbine hero cult to be condemned? Because they were murderers? And murder is bad?

    Well, what about the Cult of Che Guevara? Klebold and Harris killed twelve people, while Guevara killed nearly 2000, including the witnessed killing of a 14 year old boy. And how about the Cult of Mumia?

    I'm having trouble understanding how Che and Mumia can be heroes, but not Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris.

    Not that everybody considers Che and Mumia to be heroes. Far from it. Fortunately, these are fringe cults.

    But don't they have a certain legitimacy? Put yourself in the position of a school principal, and suppose some admirer of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold (yes there are groups like these) decided to wear a t-shirt with one of their pictures. Everyone would be horrified, right? The school would ban the t-shirts, right? But would they ban the Che t-shirts and the Cult of Che?

    This is not a new problem. Oleg Atbashian wrote a great Pajamas Media piece about it, and included this:


    Considering Che a hero while blaming the NRA for kids who go bad?

    In a twisted way, there's a certain logic to it.

    MORE: It's probably worth adding that young people are not being taught that Che Guevara is a murderer. Far from it. They are being taught that he was a victim. Who only "wanted to help people":

    Annoying as the Che adulation is, a recent comment by a 14-year-old on an online movie message board was truly disturbing: "I just saw The Motorcycle Diaries, which further made me question: Why is communism bad? . . . Young people are told how bad communism is, but we are not told why. . . . The Motorcycle Diaries showed me how Ernesto Guevara wanted to help people. . . . But this did not explain why he was such a 'bad' person and apparently deserved to be murdered by the U.S."

    MORE: In a different context, Clayton Cramer argues that "hero" is "a devalued word in the news media."

    It's a pity. But when villains are turned into heroes, when anti-heroes become heroes, heroes and heroism are annihilated.

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

    UPDATE (10/29/07): President Bush visited the Philadelphia area today for a fund raiser, and while here he also honored the 14 year old who blew the whistle on Dillon Cossey's Columbine plan:

    Lew Bennett III was credited by Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor with helping to avert a potential tragedy after he told police on Oct. 10 that Dillon Cossey, 14, had acquired a semiautomatic rifle from his mother to use in a planned attacked on Plymouth Whitemarsh High School.

    Bennett was in a line receiving Bush at the airport. They shook hands and Bush was seen putting his arm around the youth.

    Castor said he gave Bennett's name to Sen. Arlen Specter (R., Pa.), who apparently made the arrangements with the White House for Bennett and his parents, Lew Bennett Jr. and Terry Bennett, to meet the President.

    "I told Sen. Specter that it would be a good idea if the president could recognize the young man, as a way to send a message throughout the country that it is a good thing to come forward to avert a tragedy," said Castor. "I would hope others would step forward."

    I'm glad to see the kid getting official recognition for what he did.

    posted by Eric at 03:02 PM | Comments (16)

    Muslims Against Sharia

    I had a post up at Classical Values called So Insensitive. Nothing unusual. I do lots of posts at Classical Values. What was special was a commenter who signed himself Muslims Against Sharia. He provided a link to (what else?) Muslims Against Sharia. So let us see what they have to say about Islamo Fascism Awareness Week which has just passed.

    Muslims Against Sharia congratulate David Horowitz FREEDOM CENTER and Mike Adams, Tammy Bruce, Phyllis Chesler, Ann Coulter, Nonie Darwish, Greg Davis, Stephen Gale, David Horowitz, Joe Kaufman, Michael Ledeen, Michael Medved, Alan Nathan, Cyrus Nowrasteh, Daphne Patai, Daniel Pipes, Dennis Prager, Luana Saghieh, Rick Santorum, Jonathan Schanzer, Christina Sommers, Robert Spencer, Brian Sussman, Ed Turzanski, Ibn Warraq and other speakers on the success of the Islamofascism Awareness Week.

    Islamofascism (or Islamism) is the main threat facing modern civilization and ignorance about this threat is astounding. We hope that this event becomes regular and reaches every campus.

    A great many Westerners do not see the clear distinction between Islam and Islamism (Islamofascism). They need to understand that the difference between Islam and Islamism (Islamofascism) is the same as the difference between Christianity and Christian Identity Movement (White Supremacy Movement).

    Wow. I'm in total agreement there.

    You should visit them and find out more. Good people.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 02:54 AM | Comments (6)

    But only a kook would refuse to show ID!

    Glenn Reynolds links a very thoughtful piece by Melanie Scarborough which brought back old memories for me. Apparently, Washington DC police are blocking off streets when they feel like it and then demanding ID from people who simply want to walk from place to place. Ms. Scarborough asks some good questions:

    Which statute requires law-abiding citizens to produce ID to walk down a sidewalk? What law says that citizens must explain to police where they are going and why?

    A call to the police departments general counsel asking that question was not returned. Unfortunately, there likely is some badly written statute that the Metropolitan police can contort into affording them sweeping powers -- similar to the Secret Service's ability to operate virtually unchecked by claiming it is protecting someone or something.

    I can understand why the general counsel failed to call her back. If in fact there there is some badly written statute requiring law-abiding citizens to produce ID to walk down a sidewalk and explain to police where they are going and why, it is unconstitutional under a long line of United States Supreme Court cases.

    In Brown vs. Texas 443 U.S. 47 (1979), the Burger court reversed the conviction of a man for:

    refusing to comply with a policeman's demand that he identify himself pursuant to a provision of the Texas Penal Code which makes it a crime to refuse such identification on request.
    And in Kolender v. Lawson 461 U.S. 352 (1983), the court held that California Penal Section 647(e) (which "requires persons who loiter or wander on the streets to identify themselves and to account for their presence when requested by a peace officer") was unconstitutionally vague:
    The statute, as drafted and as construed by the state court, is unconstitutionally vague on its face within the meaning of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by failing to clarify what is contemplated by the requirement that a suspect provide a "credible and reliable" identification. As such, the statute vests virtually complete discretion in the hands of the police to determine whether the suspect has satisfied the statute and must be permitted to go on his way in the absence of probable cause to arrest.
    In order for the police to justify a stop, there has to be some reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. These "stop and identify" laws are unconstitutional, and the police know it. In all probability, they are abusing their powers and hoping most citizens will comply.

    Melanie Scarborough argues that citizens should refuse to comply with such "laws" and claims of authority:

    Such laws are more dangerous than any group of protesters.

    Keep in mind that the Bill of Rights is essentially a list of impediments to police. The Founding Fathers understood that a free society can exist only when there are strict checks on police powers. It is not supposed to be easy for cops to corral citizens as they do -- and too few Americans object.

    Instead of submissively behaving as if a policeman's word is law, Americans should demand to know why their movements are being restricted. When a police officer capriciously demands to see identification, the proper response is "no." That is not defiance toward authority; it is an obligatory defense of freedom.

    I couldn't agree more. When I was a kid, we used be horrified by movies depicting life under totalitarian states, and one feature they all had in common was the Gestapo/Stasi/KGB guy coming up to people at whim, and demanding, "Let me see your papers!"

    Well, this is exactly what Ms. Scarborough is describing, and I think it's appalling.

    I helped work with Edward Lawson (who was arrested 15 times under 647(e) during the time I knew him) when I was a pre-law student, and I'm proud that I played a small part, as he handled the Kolender vs. Lawson case in propria persona before the ACLU finally got involved. Edward was the furthest possible thing from being a criminal; the problem was that the cops just plain didn't like his attitude, his race, or his dreadlocks (which frightened cops in those days). If asked for ID, he would pull out his notebook and start writing down badge numbers -- something which did not go over very well with people accustomed to having their authority go unquestioned. The thing was, he didn't drink or do drugs or anything, so he was always clean, and it drove the cops crazy, because they are so accustomed to everyone being afraid and having something to hide. He also had a great, booming, deep voice which sounded like a Harvard professor from the 1930s on steroids, with perfect enunciation and a very erudite manner of speaking (which many police officers interpreted as making them look like ignorant louts). Basically, he defied the stereotypes, would politely and patiently refuse to cooperate, and never budged on his rights, no matter how long it took.

    It takes a real dedicated kook to do stuff like that, and it took him many years of dedication to get the law struck down.

    We need more such kooks.

    MORE: As seen on YouTube!

    As recently as May 18, 2007, Edward Lawson still attracts undue police attention. The encounter Edward describes with a police tactical anti-gang unit in El Segundo is so typical of the sort of thing that used to happen to him when I knew him, and it will give readers an idea of what I was talking about.

    I was surprised to find it on YouTube, maybe I shouldn't have been.

    According to Edward, the police began the encounter by saying, "how many probation violations do you have?"

    Says Edward, "It's a cartoon. You're trapped in this Saturday morning cartoon."

    Be sure to watch Part 2, in which they decide he's a "gang member," refuse to take a urine sample without explanation, take away his rented car, and finally tell him he "was" arrested for "being under the influence of a controlled substance." (Edward's "the last thing I am is a gang member" is a vintage classic.)

    As for drugs, I knew and lived with Edward for years, and I can tell every reader that he did not take drugs. It's a matter of principle with him -- which Edward explains in Part 3. In part 3, Edward characterizes this as "racial profiling gone bad." and I agree. It began as ordinary racial profiling, and was then aggravated by Edward's refusal to fit the "profile."

    And finally, there's Part 4.

    "It has happened to me over and over and over."

    (Yes, it has. I remember it back in the 70s.)

    "Does this bother me? I've become used to it. That's worse than bothering me."

    "Any cop who wants to can make up any story he wants and any jury would believe it."

    Finally, he signed a form under duress in order to be released.

    "These four deputies fabricated a crime against me because I was not the gang member they were looking for. How many more times are they going to do this on a daily basis?"

    It's all so ridiculous, and all so typical of the encounters I remember. I guess not much has changed in all these years. (I have long suspected that the primary problem in most of these incidents is that Edward is smarter than the cops.)

    What gives cops the right to arrest people for being under the influence when they are not, and refusing to give them a blood test? Can the police just accuse sober people of being "under the influence" because they don't like them? (Obviously they can.)

    I remember walking down the street with Edward in Berkeley back in the 70s, when a police car drove by. In an ominous tone, the loudspeaker suddenly blared out (for no particular reason) "You're not a student, Lawson!"

    Trust me, cops just don't like this guy. Not everybody does.

    But what has that to do with law enforcement?

    Apparently, everything.

    posted by Eric at 04:49 PM | Comments (9)

    Stifling my radical libertarian conservative Goldwater liberalism

    I have never thought of myself as a "conservative," although a lot of people who know me think I am conservative.

    I realize that's not much of an insight. In fact, it looks like an outright waffle. So, in the hope of further self analysis (and in the hope of making this discussion as entertaining as possible), I just took the first online "liberal versus conservative" online test I could find.

    Here are the results:

    Your Political Profile:
    Overall: 80% Conservative, 20% Liberal

    Social Issues: 75% Conservative, 25% Liberal

    Personal Responsibility: 75% Conservative, 25% Liberal

    Fiscal Issues: 100% Conservative, 0% Liberal

    Ethics: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal

    Defense and Crime: 100% Conservative, 0% Liberal

    Regardless of how true the label is, does it give me any duty? To anyone? If so, under what theory? And what does it give me a duty to do? Police myself? The thoughts I have which might cause people to label me are mine, are they not? Does the mere fact that some test (or some person) might cause a label to be bestowed on me give me a duty to uphold it, as if I've sworn an oath of allegiance to a term I never selected?

    Similarly, I have never thought of myself as a doctrinaire libertarian -- not even when I was registered Libertarian. Nor am I "middle of the road." And I am certainly not a "liberal," unless that is defined in the classical sense.

    I really don't care about the definitions, because I don't seek them. The problem is, they seem to seek me, and they have a way of becoming what other people think are Their Business. It's one of the reasons I started this blog, and one of the things that has kept me going for over four years is that people keep either trying to reduce me to a definition (which is insidiously similar to identity politics), or else threaten to withold a definition from me. Like I'm supposed to care.

    I'll never forget being scolded for not being a good enough libertarian. A "pseudolibertarian" is what a self-appointed libertarian blog scold named "Hesiod" called me. (Another libertarian I won't name said much more insulting, much more unrepeatable things.)

    All of this old stuff was on my mind as I read Stephen Green's and Bill Quick's posts that Glenn Reynolds linked yesterday.

    They served as a reminder of a doctrinaire Big L Libertarian mentality that's still there. Say the wrong thing (voice support for the war, or utter a qualified opinion that maybe it's OK to spy on al Qaeda operatives), and the Big L ideologues will jump all over you.

    Yet I never signed any piece of paper saying that I was a LIBERTARIAN and therefore bound to kowtow to every Rand-spouting ideologue looking for latent altruistic deviationist tendencies. Where do people get off acting like this?

    Stephen Green's (more here) and Bill Quick's posts were unpleasant reminders of this phenomenon, but I didn't think it merited another post on a subject I've written about more times than I can recall.

    But now I'm seeing the same problem in another context.

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems that there's a newly emergent group looking for signs of deviation from Big C Conservatism, and they're reminding me of the Big L Libertarians. The idea is that if you don't agree with them, you might not be a "real" conservative.

    Well sorrrrrry!

    Where's the piece of paper I signed agreeing to be a "Conservative"? For the umpteenth time, am I ever going to be allowed to just think what I think?

    It seems that the Big C Conservatives (at least, people claiming to be that), have decided to promote the meme that anyone right of center who does not agree with them is not a "real" conservative. Glenn Reynolds, in their mind, is somehow to blame for the problem, because.... Well, because (I'll try to follow this argument out) bloggers who are right of center want to get linked by him, and this corrupts conservatism because Glenn is a "radical libertarian":

    The fact that many center-right bloggers care more about getting linked by a radical libertarian than they do in discussing the concerns of their fellow conservatives is one of the primary reasons the Right blogosphere is a failing to have the same impact as the Left.
    There are a lot of assumptions there. For starters, there's a major assumption of double corruption along the following lines:
  • That Glenn is linking "center-right bloggers" because they care about getting linked; and
  • The "center-right bloggers" are not saying what they think, but only saying what Glenn Reynolds wants to hear in the hope of currying favor with him.
  • Isn't it possible that Glenn thinks what he thinks, and links what he likes, and that the bloggers he links also think what they think and write what they want? Considering the sheer number of bloggers out there, all writing millions of posts on endless subjects each day, I find it tough to imagine that the center right bloggers are all scrupulously avoiding saying what they think, lest Glenn Reynolds fail to link that post. Furthermore, Glenn routinely links not only posts he disagrees with, but bloggers who disagree with his philosophy.

    The above analysis makes the major error (in my view) of seeing political correlation as political causation. What happens in the blogosphere is that people are able to hook up with others who feel shut out of the normal political process, precisely because they don't fit neatly within the liberal-versus-conservative spectrum. I'm a good example of this, and the reason I like Glenn Reynolds is not because I've been seduced by what are called his "seductive radical libertarian ways," but because I already thought the way I think, and I was delighted to read a blogger who thinks along similar lines. It just so happens that I agree with Glenn Reynolds most of the time, and I suspect a lot of people do. Those who agree with Glenn would also tend to agree with each other. Is anything surprising about that? So why does Glenn get the blame as if he's this radical libertarian Svengali?

    I have to say, much as I'm honored by every link I've gotten from Glenn, I see blogging as an art form, and I try to put a little but of my heart into every post. Sometimes I'm more successful than other times, but if I judged success by whether or not Glenn linked the post, I'd be a 99% failure and I'd have to quit blogging. Let's face it; many, many thousands of my posts were never linked by Glenn Reynolds.

    What I find especially insulting is the idea that my thoughts are not mine, but actually Glenn's. I've been thinking outside of the box ever since I voted for Libertarian Roger McBride in 1976. As it happens, I learned about Glenn Reynolds in 2002 from Justin, my best friend, who knew me well enough to know what I think and who nagged me to start reading him. He'd call on the phone and say, "Hey Eric, go to instapundit dot blogspot dot com right now!" And I would. And I liked what I saw. So I kept reading, and I still am. The idea that my "conservatism" has been "suppressed" because I have been "seduced" laughable. So rather than be insulted, I guess I should try to laugh it off.

    But, putting aside the issue of whether I think what I think, the idea that conservative discussion in general is inhibited by Glenn Reynolds is so absurd that it reminds me of the complaint that Glenn Reynolds is so "loud" that he shouts everyone else down.

    What I think is really going on here is that there are conservatives who disagree with Glenn Reynolds, and who don't like contemplating that there are a whole lot of people out there who share Glenn's general perspective on things. Um, isn't Glenn's huge traffic a clue that millions of people think along similar lines, and read him because they like him, and not because they're repressing their conservatism while avoiding the concerns of their fellow conservatives?

    The link Glenn provided cites a post by Joe Carter for the following proposition:

    'Right-Leaning Bloggers Are Out of Touch With a Large Portion--If Not the Majority--of Conservatives in America.'
    I don't really know how to react to that. I guess it must include me, because I'm sure as hell not left leaning. (A casual glance at these comments from Amanda Marcotte's readers -- or these from Instaputz's readers -- ought to settle any question on that score.)

    I don't like arguments, so I don't want to start one with Joe Carter, because I'm sure he means what he says, and I will never change his mind. He's with the Family Research Council and I don't know how many conservatives they represent, but this is where definitions come in handy. If you define "conservative" as agreeing with the Family Research Council, then probably a lot of right-leaning bloggers are out of touch with conservatism.

    And that's the problem. Without getting into a detailed definition of conservatism, the fact is that Carter's post revolves around the Family Research Council "Action's Values Voter Summit":

    I talked to the bloggers on the panel, many of whom are the same bloggers I read daily and interact with here in DC. Then I talked to the people from the audience, most of whom are not political junkies. The differences in the discussions was eye-opening. The top four issues that voters said were important to them are "life" (e.g., abortion, euthanasia, embryo destructive research, etc.), marriage, tax cuts, and permanent tax relief for families. Aside from tax cuts, these issues are rarely talked about by the bloggers on the Right. Three out of four issues are ignored--and this is just the top of the list.
    This FRC summit defines "conservatism"? By what standard? How many conservatives self-identify with that organization?

    And where does this leave me? I know a lot of people who vote Republican and consider themselves conservative, but they're not obsessed with homos and abortion the way the Family Research Council seems to think they should be.

    Are they all RINOS?

    If so, I have a question: is not agreeing with the Family Research Council the new definition of RINO?

    And precisely why am I supposed to care? I've already admitted to being a "Goldwater liberal," because I think a lot of the people aligned with groups like Family Research Council would consider him a liberal. I guess it's also possible that a Libertarian could come along and say,

    'Right-Leaning Bloggers Are Out of Touch With a Large Portion--If Not the Majority--of Libertarians in America.'
    So I'll plead guilty to that too, in advance.

    What troubles me is if I am not a liberal, not a Libertarian, not a Conservative, not a Family Research Council supporter, then what am I?

    And for God's sake, from where derives this rule that people who think like me are to blame for some "failure" to have "the same impact as the Left"?

    The fact that many center-right bloggers care more about getting linked by a radical libertarian than they do in discussing the concerns of their fellow conservatives is one of the primary reasons the Right blogosphere is a failing to have the same impact as the Left.
    Since when am I supposed to be concerned with having the same impact as the Left? I'm writing a blog, not running a political machine. And I don't like activists. They have made way too much trouble, and written far too many laws.

    Here's a sample of what activists have wrought from today's Wall Street Journal:

    The continuing expansion of federal criminal jurisdiction has given federal law enforcement officials unprecedented power over each of us. As Gene Healy of the Cato Institute has observed, the federal criminal code is so vast and comprehensive that it enables prosecutors to "pick targets they think they should get rather than offenses that need to be prosecuted." Mr. Healy estimates that about 4,000 crimes are "scattered throughout the tens of thousands of pages of the United States code," stressing that the exact increase in federal crimes has been difficult to track. One frequently cited 1999 study by the American Bar Association noted that 40% of all federal criminal laws enacted after the Civil War dated back only to 1970.

    While libertarians have mounted consistent, principled resistance to this expansion of federal criminal jurisdiction (and Cato offered thoughtful testimony against the federal hate-crime bill), generally both liberals and conservatives have adopted result-oriented approaches to federalizing crime: Liberals who favor decriminalizing marijuana possession oppose federal laws prohibiting it, which conservative anti-drug warriors support. Liberal gay rights advocates support the federalization of bias crimes against gay people, which conservatives wary of expanding gay rights oppose.

    This may look like pragmatism, but it's more like shortsightedness. Expansions of federal criminal jurisdiction are often responses to concerns of the moment -- from carjacking and cockfighting to child abuse and juvenile crime -- that can be addressed adequately by the states (especially with federal incentives). The necessity of many federal penal laws is more often presumed than demonstrated, and outweighed by the cumulative threat that this growing body of law poses to liberty.

    So I'm supposed to pick a "side" in this insanity, so that more laws are passed taking away more and more freedom?

    Is that what is meant by having an impact? Sorry, but I'd rather do my best to try to dampen the impact.

    As to the "radical libertarian" label, while it's not a major point, I do remember Joe Carter calling Glenn Reynolds that years ago during an argument over the immorality of eating ice cream in public. He also said this:

    I can't say who should be more embarrassed: Reynolds for being so dismissive of religious-based reasoning or those of us who value a Judeo-Christian heritage for allowing this culture of disdain to flourish.
    Far from being a question of disdain for religion (much less conservatism) the discussion involved eating ice cream. I'd be tempted to ask whether eating ice cream is Out of Touch With a Large Portion--If Not the Majority--of Conservatives in America, but I won't, because I wouldn't want to be seen as advocating ice cream eating (or posting pictures of people doing such things) in order to stifle my conservatism and ingratiate myself with Glenn Reynolds.


    If only Glenn would quit stifling me from discussing my concerns!

    posted by Eric at 10:40 AM | Comments (4)

    1,000 Free Copies

    The author of I Wanna Go Home, Karridine, has authorized me to give away 1,000 free copies of the song to our men and women in the military for personal use only. However, recipients of a free copy can let anybody listen to it if they want. Members of the military can put it on their i-pod, use it on their computer, or make one CD.

    To get your free copy just send me an e-mail. The address is on the sidebar. Your free copy will be delivered by e-mail - about 2.1 Megs.

    I can send out about 100 to 200 copies a day. So if yours doesn't arrive right away be patient.

    If you are in a hurry and can't wait to Get a copy then Click here - I Wanna Go Home. The author has given permission to those currently serving in the military who buy the song to share it with nine of their best buddies, wives, husbands, parents, or children.

    You can find out more about the song and watch a video of the first minute and thirty seconds at I Wanna Go Home. There is also a link to the lyrics so you can sing along.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 02:16 AM | Comments (0)

    The Joys Of Air Travel

    Megan McArdle is blogging about an air travel disaster she recently had. So I thought I'd have a few words about my favorite air travel experience:

    I remember Knoxville, TN, fondly.

    I got to sleep with over 50 women in one night. On the floor of the airport terminal.

    I did have the presence of mind to ask one of the airline personnel to retrieve some sleeping gear from one of the grounded aircraft before they went off duty. At least I was only uncomfortable, not cold and uncomfortable. Others were not so wise.

    Sadly none of the grounded ladies asked to share my accommodations.

    Ah, the joys of air travel.

    H/T Instapundit

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 09:40 PM | Comments (0)

    Leftist religious war gets dirtier and holier!

    To tell the truth, I never gave much thought to the notion of whether Che Guevara met God. Even when I saw Glenn Reynolds' link to Samizdata, I thought the whole thing must be someone's idea of a sick joke.

    The title of the Times Article that Brian Micklethwait linked -- "Where do you stand in the new culture wars?" Followed by a "Culture War quiz"?

    I mean, Come on! Che meets God? Surely that's gotta be humor.

    So I read on:

    A glorious culture clash took place in Iran recently that made me laugh out loud. The children of Che Guevara, the revolutionary pin-up, had been invited to Tehran University to commemorate the 40th anniversary of their father's death and celebrate the growing solidarity between "the left and revolutionary Islam" at a conference partly paid for by Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president.

    There were fraternal greetings and smiles all round as America's "earth-devouring ambitions" were denounced. But then one of the speakers, Hajj Saeed Qassemi, the co-ordinator of the Association of Volunteers for Suicide-Martyrdom (who presumably remains selflessly alive for the cause), revealed that Che was a "truly religious man who believed in God and hated communism and the Soviet Union".

    Che's daughter Aleida wondered if something might have been lost in translation. "My father never mentioned God," she said, to the consternation of the audience. "He never met God." During the commotion, Aleida and her brother were led swiftly out of the hall and escorted back to their hotel. "By the end of the day, the two Guevaras had become non-persons. The state-controlled media suddenly forgot their existence," the Iranian writer Amir Taheri noted.

    After their departure, Qassemi went on to claim that Fidel Castro, the "supreme guide" of Guevara, was also a man of God. "The Soviet Union is gone," he affirmed. "The leadership of the downtrodden has passed to our Islamic republic. Those who wish to destroy America must understand the reality and not be clever with words."

    OK wait. First of all, as we all know, God is not Allah. God hates Allah, right?

    So even if this were serious, the question would more properly be whether Che met Allah, right? You know, the guy in the sky with the 72 virgins?

    Someone already seems to have thought about this, as I found a cartoon of Che dressed for the occasion:


    But are we really serious yet with this unholy alliance between blasphemous commies and religious crackpots? Come on.

    And hey, what's with that "Association of Volunteers for Suicide-Martyrdom"? Are they one of those legitimate "religious" charities? Sounds more like a sick joke to me, especially the acronym.


    Um, sorry, but I've been around the block a few times, and I know a raunchy ad category catering to San Francisco's Folsom Street set when I see one.

    So let's just cut the phony religious crap, OK?

    There are plenty of ways for the blasphemous Che to play games with his religious friends.

    CHE: "72 virgins my ass!"

    (After translating this from Spanish into Arabic, Osama dutifullly follows Che's religious instructions....)

    Adds Brian Micklethwait to the Times discussion:

    LOL indeed.

    I am actually quite optimistic that at least some (more) lefties will wake up, as time goes by, to the absurdity of them being in alliance with radical Islamists. The only rationale for this otherwise ridiculous arrangement is (see above) that the enemy of your enemy (the USA) is your friend, no matter what.

    I was thinking maybe the enema of your enemy, but whatever.

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

    (I hope that I have not offended anyone except those in need of a good offense...)

    posted by Eric at 08:43 PM | Comments (9)

    What Classic Movie am I?

    This test says I'm "Platoon."

    I'm hoping this says more about the people who wrote the test than it does about me, because I didn't like "Platoon" and I can't stand Oliver Stone. Who wants to be a film you can't stand?

    I found this test via Sean Kinsell, who is also a Vietnam war film, but his is "Apocalypse Now."

    Sean links another test called "What Famous Leader Are You?" According to the test, he's Ghandi -- an "emaciated do-gooder." To which Sean replies "WTF?"

    My results are not publicly disclosable, as I don't want this blog to be banned in France.

    posted by Eric at 01:29 PM | Comments (11)

    Another day, another image!

    The following photo is so good that I thought that rather than update yesterday's post on "imageism," I'd put it in a new category by itself.


    It shows Desiree Farooz of Code Pink, having at it in her uniquely unhinged way.

    Who finds these people anyway?

    (And they said that Karl Rove retired!)

    MORE: Check this out.

    Desiree Does Disrupts the Heritage Foundation -- and boy is she pissed!


    I'm glad to see that at least someone is doing the heavy lifting for the Republicans.

    AND MORE: Hillary Clinton seems to do a better job than the Republicans of keeping Desiree at a desirable distance.

    In the following video, Desiree tries (and fails) to disrupt Hillary Clinton. If you watch it, you'll notice that they never let her get close to the action.

    PLEASE NOTE: To see the attempted disruption of Hillary's speech you need to watch through to the end of the video, as I can't edit out the clip.

    However, I don't think you'll be disappointed by the first part of the video. (Especially those who enjoy gender confusion.)

    MORE: More on Desiree Farooz. She's from Texas, where she "quit her teaching job in Grand Prairie and left her family behind in Arlington to become den mother to the women of Code Pink."

    UPDATE: From Glenn Reynolds, a good question:

    ....would anti-abortion protesters in "Operation Rescue" t-shirts be allowed up-close to wave bloody hands at Ruth Bader Ginsburg? Somehow, I doubt it.
    I doubt it too (although I think Condi Rice would do -- and does -- a better job of not being intimidated by the fringe than Ruth Bader Ginsburg.) It's not as if this Desiree Farooz isn't well known. As to "Code Pink," they're so notorious and ubiquitous that the White House complained that "Congress is run by Code Pink."

    UPDATE: It seems there may be some problems with the embedded links above.


    Just in case they don't work for you, here's the Heritage heckling link.

    And the Hillary heckling link.

    posted by Eric at 10:00 AM | Comments (6)

    A Soldier's Lament

    This is a video done by my friend Karridine. It made me cry when I first heard it. Hope you like it.

    Here is a little about him and why he did the video.

    Karridine enlisted at age 17 to follow his father's example and serve in Korea. After a year's study at the DLI in Monterey, CA, learning Korean language, Karridine served in the Army Security Agency, working atop a mountain on an island on the Korean DMZ. When the USS Pueblo was captured, Karridine was one of three people handpicked by NSA to fly back to Korea and guide the follow-up there. He got his Honorable Discharge after 4 years service in late1968.

    Karridine wrote "Wanna Go Home" as his supportive contribution during the Battle of Baghdad, long after he was refused further service. Knowing how lonely it can get on the front lines, or just far from home, Karridine wove this story of the normal American GI's desire to go home, AFTER completing the mission, AFTER making a positive difference in the field.

    The full song is available at I Wanna Go Home. The author has given permission to those currently serving in the military who buy the song to share it with nine of their best buddies, wives, husbands, parents, or children.

    posted by Simon at 07:28 PM | Comments (0)

    Happy Birthday, Jeff Soyer!

    I just learned about Jeff Soyer's 53rd birthday -- as well as Alphecca's 5th Blogiversary!


    And congratulations on five years of awesome Second Amendment blogging.

    Jeff helped give me a much needed start when Classical Values began in earnest, as he honored me when I was a complete unknown by agreeing to be my blogfather. (I was his first blogson too.) Anyway, five years is an important milestone in blogging, and it represents more than ten percent of Jeff's life.

    The only thing that troubles me is that I turned 53 in July, which makes me three months older than Jeff. How many people are older than their fathers?

    Why, I'm so old, I even remembered that Jeff had cake back in 2004, so I updated (literally) the icing!


    So go wish Jeff a happy birthday.

    MORE: While you're partying, Jeff's got a great post about Hillary Clinton's amazing claim that she "supports the Second Amendment." (And if you believe that, Jeff has a bridge for sale in Brooklyn too.)

    UPDATE: Thank you, Glenn Reynolds!

    posted by Eric at 05:15 PM | Comments (2)


    Most people are familiar with this picture:


    And this famous picture of the napalmed girl in Vietnam:


    A burning child is certainly not a pleasant thing to contemplate (neither is a romanticized murderer), and I remember that the picture caused great distress when it first appeared in print.

    But was it an indictment of the Vietnam War any more than a photograph of Che validated his actions and beliefs? The near-religious frenzy that both photographs inspired and continue to inspire is remarkable, and as a logical person I've never quite been able to understand it.

    Certainly, the napalm girl photo depicts an awful scene. But does it make America an evil country? To many people, the picture is not only conclusive proof that the Vietnam War was wrong, it's conclusive proof of the Ugly America (discussed in this essay by Norman Podhoretz). And beyond that, it's conclusive proof that all war is evil.

    But why stop there? Isn't it also proof that flammable substances are evil? Forest fires? How many children have burned to death because of human use of fire, and flammable substances?

    I submit that logic has nothing to do with it. Pictures reach people on an emotional level, and because the emotions tend to override logic, they are thus seen as "persuasive" by those I might as well call the persuader classes. Instead of presenting arguments, they like to resort to arguments which are not arguments at all, but pictures. I don't know what to call this, but "imageism" seems about right.

    Michael Moore is one of the masters of imageism. He and the people who think like him know that if you show Bush swinging a golf club and then a truckload of dead Iraqi children, there are people who will make the "connection." That there is no connection at all means nothing, because these people are not thinking; they are emoting and then they are imagining themselves to be thinking. Not only that, they'll make permanent irrational "associations" which they will always remember. The next time they see a well-dressed man swing a golf club, the thoughts of "murdered Iraqi children" will leap into their mammalian brains, and a series of negative and irrational thoughts will follow. I remember that when I sat as a Berkeley Police Review Commissioner, the people who hated the cops were clearly dominated by 1960s images of the Birmingham police turning dogs and hoses on demonstrators, and the Chicago Police Department beating on "peaceful" McCarthy protesters in 1968.

    I'm sure that a picture of Condoleeza Rice shopping for shoes juxtaposed with a picture of Katrina flood victims would be similarly "persuasive."

    I do not mean to suggest that this phenomenon is limited to the left wing. As we're all familiar with the tactic of waving giant images of aborted fetuses, I'll offer another example.

    Here's a recent example from the right, maintaining that the following image of the globe which is being placed on North Carolina drivers licenses --

    NC4 (2).jpg

    Is so similar to this image --


    That it constitutes proof (at least, so says WorldNetDaily) of a conspiracy to dissolve the United States into the "American Union" and thus, eliminate United States sovereignty.

    Without getting into whether certain people would favor such a plan to dissolve the U.S. (clearly some would), I think the idea that the use of a globe on a drivers license proves its implementation is a bit of a stretch. But it's an example of the power images have over people -- as well as the power that people inclined towards magical thinking imagine they have.

    FWIW, an image of the globe has appeared on a United States coin at least once -- on the reverse side of the Columbian half dollar -- and the nation managed to survive.


    One of the reasons I love the Internet is that by making so many images available, it reduces the traditional hold they've had over human thinking. The irrational ability of images to influence thought is one of my pet peeves, and I suspect that it was behind the Biblical prohibition on graven images. In my view, the more images are restricted, the more power they have over people -- the huge uproar over the Muhammad cartoons being a good example. The people who freaked out and engaged in rioting proved that they are prisoners of imageism, and their extreme intolerance resulted from the prohibition on images, in much the same way their extreme intolerance of sexuality and alcohol (and even pigs) results from similar prohibitions.

    Unfortunately, the copyright people are unwittingly assisting the power of the cult of imageism by attempting to control and limit the distribution, proliferation -- and even parody -- of images.

    Back to the juxtaposition of Condoleeza Rice shopping for shoes with a picture of Katrina flood victims. Funny that I'd mention that, but I started this essay a few weeks ago and then today's news served up another reminder that Condoleeza Rice is especially hated by the believers in imageism. That's because they are so preoccupied with appearances that they elevate them above substance, and they hate her with a special passion for the unforgiveable crime of being conservative while black. This is considered an affront to all that is holy in leftist imageism because it violates the central tenet that black people cannot be conservative.

    Accordingly, she must be "exposed" as evil -- by the use of imageism! I saw a perfect example as a thumbnail on today's Drudge Report, and then found the photo here -- titled "CODE PINK - Putting Reality in Condi Rice's Face":


    That this "reality" is seen as a damning indictment of Rice is shown in the explanatory comment:

    This is my favorite photo of the last 7 years.
    I would almost say the same thing but for very different reasons. While I can't say it's my favorite photo of the last seven years, as an illustration of the mindset I'm talking about, it goes a long way. What the woman with the "blood" and her supporters forget is not everyone who looks at it is going to see the picture the same way. No matter what their mindset, though, few people will be persuaded by it. That's because fortunately, the Internet has made people much more cynical about manipulation by images than they used to be.

    My reaction to the photograph is that it shows a logical and reasonable woman doing her best to remain calm in the face of an illogical, irrational, and highly emotional attack. On a sociological level, there's a contrast between a black woman who worked incredibly hard to achieve success and her shabby looking tormentor with the manic expression on her face. I wasn't there, but it inclines me to empathize with Condi Rice, as I put up with a lot of abuse when I was on the Berkeley Police Review Commission, and I'm not fond of leftist intimidation tactics. (So, to the extent that the picture endears Secretary Rice to me, I'd say it has backfired. Hmmm.... Should I send a check to Code Pink?)

    Condi's a real pro, and I don't think she's any more likely to be persuaded by Code Pink activists with "bloody" hands than Operation Rescue activists with pictures of dead fetuses. Or pictures of dead Iraqi children..... Clubbed demonstrators in Chicago..... Clubbed baby seals in Canada.

    Or even.... golf balls clubbed by Bush.

    I wish I could same for everyone else.

    UPDATE: Rave reviews from the left to the picture of the protestor with the bloody hands, one "Desiree Farooz."

    To me, Desiree Farooz's expression is beautiful/pure righteous confrontation.
    I say it's a TIME COVER !!!
    Wow, what a photo!!! Think she's pissed? C'mon Condi, tell us how you really feel, you crazed loonie!!
    Ya'll just know she wanted to throw down on that lady!!!
    I guess it's time for lunch. Hmm, I wonder how your blood would taste, lady.

    What a cold hearted mean bitch! Did you hear her greet someone in the background sound with her fake irritating voice? these people have no soul.

    What a great picture. "Every Picture Tells a Story" and this one certainly does.

    Welcome to the real world, Miss Mushroom Cloud!

    May you dwell in a parched land, endlessly ponder your own wickeness and choke on your tears of regret.

    And here's one I can agree with:
    I've added it to my collection. It's a picture that will come in handy for '08.
    Yes, it will indeed.

    UPDATE: From Glenn Reynolds, a good question:

    ....would anti-abortion protesters in "Operation Rescue" t-shirts be allowed up-close to wave bloody hands at Ruth Bader Ginsburg? Somehow, I doubt it.
    I doubt it too (although I think Condi Rice would do a better job of not being intimidated by the fringe than Ruth Bader Ginsburg.) It's not as if this Desiree Farooz isn't well know. As to "Code Pink," they're so notorious and ubiquitous that the White House is complained that "Congress is run by Code Pink."

    posted by Eric at 02:26 PM | Comments (7)

    But who are they? Part II

    After nearly zero sleep (I was awakened at least a dozen times, and I've yet to master the art of incremental sleeping), I'm not feeling terribly original, nor are my fingers cooperating by creating what my brain cannot. It would be nice if they could, though...

    But I found something worth quoting. In a discussion of the realities and the myths of millionaires, Dr. Helen concludes with some great advice for the jealous left, and the government.

    ...rather than a bunch of "fat cats," most millionaires are just the opposite: people who worked, lived below their means and saved a lot of money. Or as one politician put it, people who "worked hard and played by the rules." All of us could learn from them. Jealous that they have not achieved this level of wealth, now many controlling types of people are scheming to take money from others through high tax rates that penalize the "shy millionaire" as much as the real "fat cats," whatever that means. Instead of scheming like a bunch of thugs, perhaps the government and those that approve of their thuggery should learn to be more like the shy millionaires by spending below their means, saving, and showing some class.
    That would also be in line with the free economic system which has shown itself to be so effective in creating wealth. Unfortunately, so many people on the left seem to believe that all wealth is stolen and that we're in a zero sum game in which everything is constantly dwindling. I'm not sure how many of them can continue to believe this in the face of the innumerable people (Bill Gates looms large as a very familiar example) who have created something where there was nothing before, or whether they simply assert zero-sum rhetoric as a justification for their jealousy. But the emotional notion of "fairness" really does become a disease. Resentment takes on a life of its own inside the mind, and it activates illogical processes.

    The result is "class war" and other diseases of what's called the "collective mind."

    I've stopped engaging in wishful thinking along the lines of "if only they realized that socialism does not work," because I don't think they care whether socialism works.

    The core issue is resentment. Resentment clouds minds. People whose resentment stems from jealously not only resent those who contribute to the economic life and growth of a society, they defend and promote those who are doing the opposite. They fail to resent those who are actually the most deserving of resentment in any healthy society -- criminals. The latter are defended, excused, and their criminal actions are actually blamed on the people who are helping the economy.

    So it's not just a question of resenting people who should not be resented. It is also tied closely to not resenting the people who should be resented.

    It is one thing to be irrationally resentful in this way, but the problem comes when the people driven by irrational resentment seek to be in charge. In an earlier post titled "But who are they?," I lamented my inability to come up with a definition, but posed a few questions:

    I complain a lot about assorted government bureaucrats, social workers, educrats, the Imagine people, the government people, academicians and self appointed activists who work hand in hand with those who manipulate public opinion, highly educated people who believe that their credentials qualify them to run people's lives, but there is an enormous class out there. I don't know whether to call them a "ruling class," because Americans are not supposed to be ruled but are self-governing, and "ruling class" is simply not an accurate description of an unelected and undefinable elite that would deny its own existence. But this all begs the question: who are these people who want to rule, and why do they have so much power without ever having to run for office?

    Writing about the "excuse making industry," Robert James Bidinotto identifies a large group of people dedicated to the belief that instead of being resented, criminals should be excused:
    the Excuse-Making Industry....consists primarily of intellectuals in the social science establishment: the philosophers, psychological theorists, political scientists, legal scholars, sociologists, criminologists, economists and historians whose theories have shaped our modern legal system. It also consists of an activist wing of fellow-travelers: social workers, counselors, therapists, legal-aid and civilliberties lawyers, "inmate rights" advocates, "progressive" politicians and activists, and so on...

    It's a sprawling intellectual consensus...united in a single premise: that the criminal isn't responsible for his behavior... Forces and circumstances outside his control "cause" him to behave as he does. He should be forgiven, or treated therapeutically, or placed in a better environment, or counseled to "cope" with his uncontrollable inner demons. But he must not be held accountable for his actions-- and, under no circumstances, punished for what he "couldn't help."

    I think this also goes a long way towards explaining another pet peeve -- the mindset which blames guns for crimes committed with them by criminals who aren't allowed to have them, and proposes to take them away from law abiding citizens as a "solution." Misplaced and irrational resentment probably lies at the core of gun control, too, because law abiding citizens who are capable of defending themselves with guns exhibit self-sufficiency.

    Is it possible that the self-insufficient resent the self-sufficient?

    I'm complaining that it is emotional and illogical.

    But what if it's natural?

    Isn't it a bit of a paradox to argue against natural resentments? Maybe it is, but I still think identifying problems is a good idea.

    posted by Eric at 10:41 AM | Comments (1)

    The Stalinists Have Won

    Gateway Pundit has pictures up that show the protests against Islamic Fascism Awareness Week in Bezerkeley, California. As per usual there is a guy dressed up as a Gitmo prisoner.

    Gitmo guy talked about his fascist government here in the United States. He believes we should take care of the fascist government here at home first.
    Leftys used to be internationalists.

    Evidently the Stalinists have overpowered the Trots.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 06:08 PM | Comments (0)

    Every Thing Has Changed - I No Longer Recognize The Place
    posted by Simon at 12:47 PM | Comments (7)

    Reigning cats and dogs

    Late last night (when I probably should have been in bed), I wrote a post about Hillary Clinton's cat, and as I tried to explain, cats are not my area of expertise. Nor am I into catfighting.

    However, I do think it's interesting that the term "cat fight" is usually used for as code language for certain types of human combat, while "dog fight" generally means canine combat. Well in World War II it meant aerial combat, but that use seems to be fading. Anyway, when was the last time you heard about urban cat fight problems or police raids on catfighting rings?

    This is just another reason why cats and dogs should be treated separately. And this post is about dogs, especially the case of Buddy, the ill-fated chocolate lab who never made it out of the Clinton administration alive.

    Yes, it's true. This sad tale has all the telltale signs of another conspiracy, and another coverup.

    Ann Althouse linked a 2001 Mickey Kaus piece titled Who Killed Buddy? which meticulously examines the many strange and suspicious (and unaccounted-for) circumstances surrounding what ought to be called "The Strange Death of Buddy." People who want to read the ultimate spine-tingling political chiller should take the time to go read "THE NINE SUSPICIOUS FACTS ABOUT BUDDY'S DEATH."

    I won't go through them all, but here's one of the most damning facts, plus Kaus's exhortation to the cowardly GOP-run Congress:

    ....Buddy would "pad on down to the basement of the West Wing, poking his nose into the wastebaskets outside Sidney Blumenthal's office." Yes, that Sidney Blumenthal, the partisan conspiratorialist who is so often at the center of Clintonian machinations--the same Sidney Blumenthal who had seemingly eerily anticipated last week's deadly event by writing a play about a scandal involving the president's dog. Why Blumenthal's trash, and no one else's? What did the doomed Labrador find there? Had Buddy smelled too much?

    Connect the dots. It doesn't add up. No other conclusion seems even possible. Perhaps some subpoenas would help shake loose the real story. But who in Congress will step forward to do what is necessary?

    That was written in 2001. Six years later, nothing has been done.

    While the Internet is alive with conspiracy theories about the death of Vincent Foster, there's almost nothing about Buddy. Clearly, America is a speciesist culture which cares more about lawyers than man's best friend.

    Witness the double standard where it comes to sex. While Buddy's master was free to play, Buddy found himself castrated -- on the orders of Doris Day! At the time the BBC commented on this strange irony:

    The United States First Pet looks likely to avoid the sexual allegations which have dogged his owner President Bill Clinton.

    Buddy, the President's seven-month-old chocolate brown Labrador Retriever, is to be neutered.

    Mr Clinton made the decision after consulting his vet and hearing an appeal from actress Doris Day, expressing concern that the dog would suffer health problems if he were left intact.

    Mark Steyn had another view:
    EVERY DOG has his day. And for Buddy the First Pooch it's Doris. Last week, Doris Day wrote to President Clinton demanding that he be neutered - the dog, that is. Of all the potential perils the modern world has to offer, the possibility that Doris Day will publicly call for your castration must rank as pretty remote. Nonetheless, Buddy's perky blonde nemesis is insistent. If the President's chocolate labrador were to be left intact, she says, he would be liable to prostate problems which might cause embarrassing urinary accidents on grand White House occasions.


    The poor mutt is clearly labouring under a great deal of strain. Buddy really is this man's best friend - the last remaining FOB (Friend of Bill), the only one who can't be subpoenaed. And, like so many others, he's now being called on to take the bullet or, in this case, the knife - for his pal. Bill Clinton wasn't forced from office, but Web Hubbell, his Assistant Attorney-General was; Bill Clinton didn't go to jail, but James McDougal, his Whitewater partner, did; Bill Clinton won't be castrated, but Buddy's distinguishing characteristics are headed for the same shredder as Hillary's law firm billing records.

    Add the castration and mysterious killing) of Buddy to the declawing and dumping of Socks, and a clear pattern emerges.

    If this first couple is returned to the throne, we can expect more eunuchs and more disarmament!

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

    Getting a grip without retractable claws

    Much as I should have left the hell alone my last post about Ellen DeGeneres's dog rescue issues, I didn't. Instead, I reiterated my point in an update by making a Hillary Clinton/Ellen DeGeneres comparison:

    Via Glenn Reynolds, I read that when she got Socks, the White House cat, Hillary Clinton "lectured readers" that pets are an "adoption instead of an acquisition." Later, she dumped the cat on her secretary, who now has it.

    It sounds as if Hillary thinks adopting an animal is less of a commitment than buying an animal.

    I never really thought about it before, but I guess if it's not really yours, where's the commitment?

    This didn't seem like all that big a deal at the time. But now the cat fight has spread, and my original point about the virtues of buying versus adopting (or "rescuing") animals seems lost.

    Yeah, OK, I was originally talking about dogs, not cats (and definitely not cats owned by Hillary Clinton). I am a dog person and I'm probably now treading on thin ice. (There's that old saying that you should stick to what you know.) I generally try to avoid cats because I'm allergic to them and I don't own them. Plus cat owners get really weird and emotional about them, and if you say anything that can be seen as in any way wrong, cat people will often go ballistic. I'm sure if I said that it was better to buy a cat than rent one via the "rescue" service, I'd get flak from one cat faction, and if I said it was better to rescue or adopt than buy, flak would fly from another. Cat people can be catty, and cat fights result, so I just try to stay the hell out of it.

    And this isn't just any cat. It was Hillary's cat!

    I did think that Ann Althouse raised a good point in her earlier post, though, in which she rather cattily ventured that Hillary should go on TV and talk to Ellen. When I read it, I thought I'd said enough about the virtues of privately owned dogs (which wasn't Ann Althouse's point), and I just didn't want to start a new post getting into a detailed moral comparison of Ellen's dog and Hillary's cat.

    I do think that in general if you own something, you'll tend to take better care of it than if you rent it, and in my callused opinion, adopting an animal (especially when you don't have title) is more like a rental, while purchasing it is more like real parenting or home ownership. I realize people will disagree with me, and these things are emotional, so I thought I'd let the Ellen post die its natural death.

    So perhaps adding the Hillary cat update was asking for trouble. That's because I have this weird inability to ignore unfinished things, and now the Ellen/Hillary thing has escalated into a catfight, with Andrew Sullivan weighing in by misunderstanding Ann Althouse.

    What the former objected to was this:

    So, Hillary, just go on the Ellen show -- if Ellen ever manages to stop the tears and broadcast again -- and cry about how terribly much you loved Socks and have Ellen help you explain why love is what makes you get rid of the pet. Then you can get back to telling us how you're going to bring the womanosity to the presidency.
    While I think the humor and sarcasm are obvious, I'm going to give Andrew Sullivan the benefit of the doubt and take it seriously, and literally. The fact is that even if we take this as genuine advice, Ann Althouse showed remarkable restraint. For not only did Hillary dump Socks, but in 1996, she had Socks declawed (a procedure which renders a cat vulnerable by removing its primary means of self defense):
    In a recent interview, Hillary Clinton disclosed that Socks has been declawed in December 1996. The First Family's decision to declaw Socks was in part at the insistence of the Secret Service, after Bill was seen wearing a bandage on his cheek. At first, he said he had cut himself shaving, but later he revealed Socks had scratched him. Perhaps the declawing was postponed until until after the presidential electlion to avoid it becoming a campaign issue.
    This horrific and sadistic act caused an NPR reporter/cat lover to negatively compare Hillary to the (Pat) Buchanans (who did not declaw their cat):
    the Buchanans did not have their cat declawed, which is more than you can say for our current president. Mrs. Clinton recently told the world on TV, and without a hint of remorse, that Socks was declawed years ago - probably to save the White House furniture.
    For shame!

    Again, I think Ann Althouse was being too kind. The overwhelming evidence is that as a cat parent, Hillary Clinton stinks. (I guess that would be stank.)

    Thus, sense of humor or not, there is no practical need for any catfight.

    posted by Eric at 10:51 PM | Comments (3)

    Malibu Burning

    Malibu burning?

    Maybe the little people will get access to the beaches for a while.

    H/T Instapundit

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 08:51 PM | Comments (0)

    So Insensitive

    Gateway Pundit posted the below picture of raging grannies protesting IslamoFascism Awareness Week. Shouldn't they be in burkas or something? How can they be so insensitive?

    Michelle Malkin also has a round-up.

    raging grannies

    posted by Simon at 05:02 PM | Comments (3)

    President Who?

    In a post titled "Resistance is futile: You will be (mis)informed," Michael Yon laments the awful cognitive disconnect "between what most Americans seem to think is happening in Iraq versus what is really happening in Iraq":

    ...it wasn't until I spent that week back in the States that I realized how bad things have gotten. I believe we are witnessing a conspiracy of coincidences conflating to exert an incomprehensibly destructive force on the free press system that we largely take for granted. The fact that the week in question also happened to be when General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker were delivering their reports to Congress makes me wonder if things are actually worse than I've assessed, and I returned to Iraq sadly convinced that General Petraeus now has to deal from a deck clearly stacked against him in both America and Iraq.
    Read it all (and as Glenn suggests, please hit Michael Yon's tip jar). The post is an eye opener, and it makes me very angry, because I think that the general public is fatigued to the point of being burned out. While this is often thought of as war fatigue, unfortunately it takes the form of information fatigue. People just don't want to hear any more. Part of the reason is because they have already heard too much, and they are tired of being scolded in a partisan manner if they so much as utter a war related thought.

    A good friend recently told me that he supports the war in silence, and he absolutely refuses to talk about it any more.

    Bloggers, I am sorry to say, cannot fix this problem. Most people do not get their information from blogs, and those who do are usually on one side or the other, so their minds are not likely to change.

    Take me, for example. I can write this blog post, but I am not in Iraq, and I am relying on what I have read in Michael Yon's blog and a few others. However, I do watch mainstream media reports pretty closely, and what I have noticed is that at the same time the situation in Iraq improved, mainstream news reports seemed to dwindle in a direct relationship to the improvement. To me, that's a clue. But to others (especially the more "normal" people who rely on news accounts) no news is not seen as evidence of good news, but just a relief from news. Unfortunately, all they remember is the steady drip drip drip of bad news from Iraq. Without any news, they're probably just hoping that the channel has been changed.

    As I've argued before, this behavior reminds me of changing the channel on the remote. And if you're blogging about the war, what you're doing is basically like trying to get people to go back to what they've been tired of watching for a long time. Add this to the fact that the overwhelming majority of blog readers already know what they think, and my remark that bloggers cannot fix the problem becomes understatement.

    It makes me very angry, and it's one of the reasons I don't write about the war very much despite my strong support for it. And let's face it, anger is generally non-productive -- especially anger over being unable to do anything productive.

    I mean, really, what the hell can I add? Should I repeat for the umpteenth time that I am sick and tired of seeing all these seemingly irrelevant bloggers doing what's supposed to be part of President Bush's job?

    But even there, there's a problem. If bloggers who are doing President Bush's job by defending the war are being ignored as irrelevant, then what good does it do to get mad at Bush?

    Especially if President Bush is irrelevant.

    Glenn Reynolds discussed the relevance issue yesterday (after a Google "Bush" search turned up nothing) and after the Washington Post reported -- barely -- a recent claim by Bush that he was in fact "relevant":

    Bush said his veto pen was "one way to ensure that I am relevant; that's one way to ensure that I am in the process. And I intend to use the veto."

    Bush said Congress, under Democratic control for nine months, has not "managed to pass many important bills. Now the clock is winding down and in some key areas Congress is just getting started." Congress should act on mortgage relief for homeowners hit by the housing crisis, trade deals that would strengthen allies, legislation expanding U.S. markets and aid to military veterans, Bush said.

    "I'm looking forward to getting some things done for the American people," Bush said. "And if it doesn't get done, I'm looking forward to reminding people as to why it's not getting done."

    Can I look forward to the same thing? The problem is, Bush barely mentioned Iraq (the foreign policy questions involved Putin, Iran, and Iraq was only mentioned in the context of Turkey), but there Bush was, with the press in front of him, insisting he was relevant, all the while saying nothing about success in Iraq.

    Has the president become content to support the war in silence like my friend?

    owlBush1.JPGWhile Bush's rather plaintive cry of relevance seems to have made it into the Inquirer, it didn't quite stand out at me the way another story did, which pictured Bush with a screech owl:

    First came some bird-watching at the Patuxent Research Refuge outside Washington, where he peered through a scope at waterfowl and had a closer encounter with a brown-and-white screech owl.

    "Cute little fellow," the president said, looking slightly askance at the jittery bird perched on his hand.

    Bush, noting that migrating bird populations were threatened by increasing development along their routes, said his administration would award private landowners "credits" they could sell, mainly to federal agencies, to encourage them to set aside "stopover habitats" for more than 800 species of migratory birds.

    He said his administration also would give extra tax breaks, if Congress consented, to landowners who donated conservation easements to help migratory birds.

    I was quite taken with the picture, because I like screech owls. The Democratic Underground really liked the owl pictures (even more than the Inquirer), and they've got some really good images of the "cute little fellow" who probably thinks my screeching about the war infringes on his species' name.

    But if he thought that, he'd be wrong, because the name "Screech Owl" is a bit of a misnomer. The Screech Owl does not screech, but makes an unforgettably haunting sound like the whinny of a horse. And more:

    The screech owls produce a number of different noises. The call that gives them their name is less a screech and more a spooky horse whinny. Another call they make is a quick melodic puttering that is very hard to locate. When angered, mildly threatened or otherwise offended they growl, like a miniature bulldog. Annoyed or quite upset, they will snap their bill making a little clapping noise. Some argue this clapping is actually tongue-clicking.
    Well, I may not be what President Bush would consider a "cute little fellow." But even though I'm not much of a war blogger, I do make a number of different noises. Maybe if I growl like a bulldog and make sure my tongue-clicking isn't minsinterpretated as clapping I can get the increasingly irrelevant president to listen.

    Not that I'd tell him how to run the war, of course, but I wish he could do a better job of defending the war instead of worrying about whether he's "relevant" while war bloggers like Michael Yon do his job for him.

    Hey, it's not as if I'm asking Bush to point out that owls are associated with Athena, and that Athena is the goddess of war and technology or anything like that....

    Just defend the war!

    UPDATE: Thank you Glenn Reynolds for the link, especially for the quote!

    A warm welcome to all.

    posted by Eric at 01:17 PM | Comments (11)

    Progressively dimming?

    The neural circuits of most people tend to get gradually dimmer over time, and as they dim, the memories tend to fade along with them. Some people's dim more than others; I noticed that Senator Bob Kerrey stated recently that an important conversation he had with the president of the United States was now "lost from [his] memory bank":

    Moynihan wrote that former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey confided that he called Bill Clinton after the release of the 1998 Starr Report on the president's affair with Monica Lewinsky, and told the president he should resign. "Wow," Mr. Kerrey emailed after learning of the account. "This is lost from my memory bank. Whatever conversation I had (and I won't second guess the content of the Moynihan memo) it had to be more of a discussion of options than a recommendation. I would remember if I recommended he do this."
    Well, there are a lot of things I can't remember so it's tough for me to sit in judgment on the memories of others. I do think that in some cases, memories never get written in to the circuitry of the brain in the first place. (If, for example, you don't remember the next day what you did during a long night of partying the night before, it is unlikely you will ever have the memory to forget.)

    Anyway, where was I? This was not supposed to be about Bob Kerrey's memories, or who forgets what about the Clintons. Rather, a piece in today's Inquirer made certain dim memory circuits light up.

    Flashback to the early 1970s, and the beginnings of the anti-smoking movement. There is no way that I can prove that this movement started in Berkeley, but I moved there in 1972, and I will never forget my astonishment over what would today be called "political correctness" but which at the time I thought was the most whiny group of the whiniest whiners I had ever seen whining in my life -- angry anti-smoking "activists" who had found each other and organized themselves into what was called GASP -- the Group Against Smoking Pollution:

    In the early 1970's, people around the United States began to talk about the annoyance and potential health hazards of secondhand smoke. The smoke gave some people headaches, made some cough and gag, and in the worst case scenario kept those with respiratory illnesses from entering smoke-filled establishments. These concerned citizens banded together to form local organizations called Group Against Smoking Pollution (GASP) that initially engaged in educational work and eventually began to seek legislation to limit smoking in public places. Several GASP organizations sprung up in California and in 1976 they combined their resources to create California Group Against Smoking Pollution.
    The 1976 official starting date seems also to be accepted by the evil Tobacco people, but I'll never forget the first time I encountered these people, because I was still possessed of a young and impressionable mindset -- a "revolutionary" one if you will -- and I thought the anti-smokers were not only whiny, but wasting their time on a "frivolous" and "divisive" issue. Many people in Berkeley in the early 70s (nearly all of them were on the left in those days) agreed that they were ridiculous.

    I remember ridiculing them and laughing at the way they would go up to smokers and whine "You're polluting my air!" Of course, I didn't smoke, nor did smoke bother me, so I had no axe to grind. It's wonderful when you can watch such highly emotional things from a neutral and detached perspective, especially at the tender age of eighteen. On the one "side" were the activists -- messianically whiny and in your face, and on the other were the smokers, none of whom had yet become accustomed to being considered evil, and who only seemed to want to be left alone.

    While this experience did not cause me to break with Marxism, or leftism, it was about that time that the earliest cracks in my revolutionary veneer began to appear. It struck me that the "GASPers" (this was what we called them) had gravitated to their cause more for psychological than rational reasons, and I started to wonder (indeed, I worried!) whether a similar mechanism might be behind a lot of people who were attracted to "movements." My worries were not alleviated when I heard an angry black revolutionary shout down an angry white revolutionary along the lines of "I'm fighting because I'm oppressed and my people are oppressed! You're just fighting because you hate your father!" This might not have struck at the merits of Marxism, but it did make me wonder early on about the very different motivations. So did the fact that no sooner was the draft ended than anti-war demonstrations which had once drawn 500,000 were down to a trickle of 10,000 or so. The same war was on, right? What happened to the idealists who were against it? (Like, the 10,000 or so might have been in the "I hate my father!" group, but it occurred to me that the other 490,000 might have had a much more universal motivation of "I don't wanna die!")

    Well, I've strayed so far from my point that I'm nearly in the dark as to what it was.

    It was the light!

    The article that triggered my memory synapses and made me think of the GASPers was about "light pollution."

    It is titled Let there be (less) light:

    Light pollution - the glare of civilization that makes it hard to see the full blanket of stars at night - has long been an environmental issue, but mostly among stargazers, who contend the dark sky is one of the world's fastest-disappearing natural resources.

    Try as they might to enlist support, they were often dismissed - except in places such as Arizona, home to a major observatory.

    Now, however, a confluence of concerns is ratcheting awareness up. And getting lights turned down.

    Light pollution? Are they serious? Or is it safe to laugh at them the way I once laughed at the GASPers?

    I don't know what to think. But there's an organization called the International Dark-Sky Association which is pushing for less light. With new help from the forces of Global Warming alarmism:

    Lately, dark-sky advocates may have found their best ally yet: energy conservation.

    Saying that about 30 percent of lighting is wasted - it is "ill-conceived, ineffective or inefficient," they say - the International Dark-Sky Association, based in Tucson, Ariz., estimates the annual toll is as high as $10 billion.

    Not to mention increased air pollution and global warming from burning fossil fuels.

    "People are starting to realize everything is connected to everything else," says Dennis Ward, of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. He recently coordinated a citizen science effort, the Great World Wide Star Count, to chart light pollution.

    In two weeks, he got more than 4,000 observations from 61 countries. He hopes the results will raise awareness and eventually illuminate trends.

    Unlike most environmental ills, light pollution is easy to fix - turn it off, turn it down, or shield it from your neighbors. And the heavens.

    I can just hear them now...

    "You're polluting my natural darkness!"

    "You're warming the planet!"

    Can anti-light complaints (lodged by neighbors against neighbors, naturally) be far away?

    Am I still allowed to laugh while I can? No, I really shouldn't because my laughter is grounded in cynicism and denial, and this is an issue which touches on the human spirit, on poetry, love, and even God!

    In the darkest spots - such as Cherry Springs Park in Potter County, Pennsylvania's first "dark sky park" - as many as 14,000 stars are visible. In most cities, you can hardly pick out 150.

    Ultimately, our new world of day and partial day may be as much a loss for humanity as for science.

    The bejeweled sky has inspired humans to create myths, write poems, compose sonatas, ponder the existence of God, and fall in love.

    Well shame on me and my hateful and flippant light attitude! (Someone from the forces of beneficent darkness will probably flip me off sooner or later. Maybe society should try experimenting with mandatory "lights off in the neighborhood" campaigns.....)

    Lest you think this is just an example of the light-headed kidding I enjoy in this blog, remember something: these people are activists.

    And activists always want laws!

    In response to increased inquiries from municipalities, the Dark-Sky Association and the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America are drafting a model ordinance.
    Ironically, I think that as a practical matter, this "movement's" worst enemy might turn out to be the personal injury trial lawyers, most of whom are solidly on the left. That's because unlit spaces are a very fertile source of legal liability. A lot of accidents occur at night when people cannot see, when paths are not illuminated, and a lot of crimes are committed by thugs and rapists hiding in dark alleys and parking lots. One of the reasons for the omnipresence of well-lit spaces in urban areas is the ever-lurking specter of crime. Much street crime occurs at night -- especially in dark places.

    Ratcheting this issue up will take time, because there will be much resistance, not only from trial lawyers, but from ordinary citizens who want to feel safe. And people who really don't want to be thought of as polluters simply because they like to read in bed. And considering that soccer moms always worry about their own safety and that of their kids, I don't expect Hillary to to be leading the way in the progressive fight against the light.

    However, by offering the satellite picture, the Inquirer article did shed some light (if I may still say that) on something else.

    We have been seeing the world in the wrong way. When we gaze at the satellite pictures, we tend to regard the darker spaces and the less illuminated countries with pity, because we see them as "backward." And as "undeveloped." What we need to remember is that they are the ones leading the way to a better, darker future!

    Anyone remember the map showing the two Koreas?


    Remember how we used to laugh?

    Shame on me for laughing at the most progressive country in the world, and at the most progressive leader, the dimmest of the dimmers, the enlightened endarkened Kim Jong Il -- shown here while his benevolent stargazing "inspires humans to create myths, write poems, compose sonatas, ponder the existence of God, and fall in love."


    That was in 1979, before his further, um, elevation.

    More recently, he met with Madeline Albright, who seems to have done little more than present him with a letter from President Clinton:

    "The secretary and Kim Jong Il met for three hours. The conversations were substantial; we found them useful," U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters in Pyongyang.

    Boucher said that during the meeting, Albright gave Kim a letter from President Bill Clinton dealing with Clinton's expectations of how to further develop relations between the two countries.

    He said Kim and Albright were expected to meet again on Tuesday because "they have more to talk about."

    During their meeting Monday afternoon, Kim and Albright focused their discussions on issues of how to improve ties between the two countries and Clinton's possible visit to Pyongyang in the near future.

    While the last article doesn't point it out, she also presented him with a basketball signed by NBA legend Michael Jordan. Might that have been an environmental hint? Aren't basketballs globe-shaped like the earth? Could this possibly have been a subtle way of acknowledging the need to protect the environment?

    There's the famous photo of the two of them drinking a toast, but what I'm more intrigued with is this one, showing them in front of the ocean:


    I think the above picture has a decidedly environmental flavor. Still, not a word seems to have been uttered by Albright in praise of Kim's world leadership in saving energy in general, or his country's amazing absence of light pollution in particular. However, later Albright did seem to go out of her way to state that Kim was not a nut.

    Far from it. He's leading the way to a darker future!

    Dimming the lights may be a long way off, but we have to start somewhere.

    posted by Eric at 10:31 AM | Comments (6)

    When disagreement becomes infringement

    The misuse of copyright law to defeat free speech is getting out of hand. I made a wisecrack about it in an earlier post, as my attempt to produce an obvious political parody of Che Guevara's widely disseminated image has now been rebuffed by two different t-shirt designers claiming that even making fun of the image constitutes infringement -- notwithstanding fair use and parody.

    Before the company realized its mistake and flagged the design, I had ordered one of the t-shirts, and yesterday it arrived in the mail. I thought the least I could do was put it on and pose for a picture of me, attempting to duel with commie fascism:


    "Tou che!"


    Maybe I should call it the commie-fascist uniTee. (Well there are such hybrids....)

    If you look carefully, you'll see that I am holding a Model 1898 Argentine cavalry saber:


    That sword would have been in use in the Argentine cavalry when Ernesto was born. Parenthetically, when I lived in Argentina in 1968, the president was a former cavalry commander, General Juan Carlos Ongania, who had helped identify Che Guevara's severed Argentinian hands. (As a matter of fact, as recently as 2004, Argentina and Castro were fighting over the rights to Guevara's corpse.)

    Much as I'd hate this to turn into a "more than you needed to know about Guevara" trivia post, I'm afraid it is becoming that. So while I'm on the subject of Che, let me pause to consider the Cult of Che.

    There is nothing new about this well-established cult. Its originated in the development of mythology shrewdly built around a failed revolutionary whose death was in the interest of the very people who built and encouraged the growth of the cult. The reason for this is obvious; Che was a handsome, charismatic leader, but wildly impractical, and his ideology was at odds with that of Fidel Castro and the Cuban government. Worse yet (from their standpoint), his travels to the Soviet Union had convinced him that the Soviet Communist model was not working. Probably because his emotional fanaticism was fueled by personal pride (you know, "real men" can't stand to admit they are wrong), instead of questioning the premise of Communism, he decided that the more fanatic variety -- Chinese Maoism -- was the way to go.

    Bad career move. Castro couldn't wait to get rid of him. But (if you can stomach the thought for a moment), put yourself in Castro's position. What do you do when a highly popular and charismatic figure is poised to make major trouble with your only major underwriter, without whose support your regime will almost certainly fail? Obviously, you can't just kill someone like that. And Castro was too smart to do something crass and stupid, like staging an "accident."

    What Castro probably did know was that as a military tactician, Che, a failed doctor, was a bit of a dud. During the abortive Bay of Pigs invasion (a perfect opportunity for Cuba's heroes -- both existing and newly minted), Che was relegated to a place far from the action in what has been called "one of the worst conceived, planned, and executed military-intelligence operations in modern history." It would not have been possible to give the Cubans -- especially Che -- a better propaganda opportunity, and in retrospect I think Fidel knew it, and would not have wanted Che to have a central role in any way. Whether by design or sheer incompetence, Guevara was nowhere near the botched invasion, and all he managed to do was shoot himself in the head:

    Che's role in "Imperialism's First Defeat!" as Castro refers to the Bay of Pigs invasion merits mention. The American invasion plan included a ruse in which a CIA squad dispatched three rowboats off the coast of western Cuba in Pinar Del Rio (350 miles from the true invasion site) loaded with time release Roman candles, bottle rockets, mirrors and a tape recording of battle.

    The wily Guerrilla Che immediately deciphered the imperialist scheme. That little feint 300 miles away at the Bay of Pigs was a transparent ruse, he determined. The real invasion was coming in Pinar Del Rio. Che stormed over to the site with several thousand troops, dug in, locked, loaded and waited for the "Yankee/mercenary" attack. They braced themselves as the sparklers, smoke bombs and mirrors did their stuff offshore.

    Three days later the (literal) smoke and mirror show expended itself and Che's men marched back to Havana. Somehow Che had managed to wound himself in the heated battle against the tape recorder. The bullet pierced Che's chin and excited above his temple, just missing his brain. The scar is visible in all post April '61 pictures of Che (the picture we see on posters and T shirts was taken a year earlier.)

    Cuban novelist Guillermo Cabrera Infante, a Fidelista at the time, speculates the wound may have come from a botched suicide attempt. Che hagiographers John Lee Anderson, Carlos Castaneda and Paco Taibo insist it was an accident, Che's own pistol going off just under his face.
    Who knows?

    At any event, Guevara did manage to thank the United States for the invasion.

    This egomaniac was a major headache for Fidel, and I am sure he breathed a huge sigh of relief when Che finally met his doom, and the building of the real, controlled, personality cult could begin in earnest.

    The Korda picture is the quintessence of what I call "imageism." Without it, I'm not sure the cult of Che would have ever been quite what it was -- and is. For whatever reason, no other picture of Guevara captures that romantic essence of the rich Western kid who overcame his roots and became a champion of armed revolution. It is supposed to be an inspiration to others.

    As such, it is not so much a picture as it is pure, passionate propaganda -- for Communists it is every bit as much a religious symbol as a famous religious image like Da Vinci's Last Supper. From a constitutional perspective, the Korda image is the essence of political expression. For it to have gained "copyright" protection (which I do not think it has) is a sham and an outrage. It was deliberately, systematically placed in the public domain, circulated worldwide, and only in 2000 did the photographer manage to wangle what is called a "judgment" (a court-approved settlement is what it is) from a British court.

    Those who promote the Cult of Che believe that this "judgment" gives them the exclusive right to the image -- even against parody or ridicule of it. Ridicule, parody, or any use the cult owners dislike, so they claim, constitutes infringement.

    (Which probably means that if I printed up this post and titled it "Che for Dummies" I'd face a lawsuit for double infringement!)

    The resultant attacks on the free speech have of course been directed at critics of totalitarianism like Reporters Without Borders, who face bankruptcy simply because they "grafted the face of Korda's "Che" on to a picture of a French riot squad officer" -- something which is still (IMO) allowed in the United States even if the cowardly American T-Shirt companies are afraid to touch it.

    I think there's an important and fundamental principle here. Whether it is moral or legal, it is certainly of constitutional dimension, because the essence of censorship is government-enforced prohibitions on free speech -- especially when such restrictions are based on political content.

    While there is a longstanding constitutional "exception" for commercial speech, the assumption was that commercial speech was not political and thus not deserving of First Amendment protection which is there to protect political speech. What worries me here is that copyright law is increasingly allowing this commercial speech exception to engulf and devour the broad protection afforded political speech.

    Thus, I believe rather passionately that not only do I have the legal right to politically attack the Cult of Che by desecrating the Korda image, but I have a broader moral and legal right to do so in order to defend an important constitutional principle.

    Aside from its inherently political nature, the Korda image is (I think) squarely in the public domain. In a Church of Scientology involving the public domain question, the court held that if Hubbard's works "had fallen into the public domain before 1983" (which Guevara image had) "then any registration of copyright over such works would be invalid." Not only did Korda fail utterly to object to the fact that the posterized version of the Che image had been circulated worldwide, but with no objection from Korda, its Irish author declared it a free image:

    I made all the Guevara images copyright free. That's how it spread everywhere so quickly.
    The posterized Che image thus became analogous to the freely distributable Iwo Jima image. Another discussion here.

    The People's Cube has a thorough discussion with many links, and I especially enjoyed their Hillary Horse's Ass Che.

    It even inspired me to come up with another pain in the ass infringement


    Which in turn led to a totally psychotic one -- the "Munch Scream" Screaming Che!


    Munch Che Sí!

    Munch Che Do!

    As you can see, things got a bit out of hand. And only because I didn't want to encourage the Minutemen did I refrain from putting an eagle devouring a snake above Che's head in the middle. (Um, that would be intentional international disrespect towards the copyrighted logo of a country, which would have to constitute copyright infringement, wouldn't it? )

    These arguments are not new to Wiki; their old Che stuff is here, and their deletion discussions are here and here.

    Odd that I would mention my moral rights under the United States Constitution, as there is such a thing as moral rights theory in the context of copyright law. But "moral rights" in the European sense mean the right to censor. American legal commentators have warned of the clear conflict between moral rights theory and parody:

    Other commentators have expressed concern that traditional, continental moral rights, if adopted in the United States, might endanger the creation of socially desirable derivative works, including parodic uses. For this reason, some of these commentators have called for the application of fair use in order to permit such beneficial uses. See PATTERSON & LINDBERG, supra note 93, at 176 ("The [traditional] moral-rights doctrine should not, for example, be used . . . to inhibit the genres of burlesque, parody and satire."); Kwall, supra note 21, at 71 (noting that fair-use doctrine "represents a particularly significant limitation on [traditional] moral rights" and that such limitation is "justifiable as a 'necessary concomitant' of living in a democratic society"); Lacey, supra note 111, at 1595 n.267 (stating that artists should be prevented "from asserting [their] right of integrity to prevent genuine parodies of [their] work"). These commentators' concerns are warranted in the context of continental, personality-based moral rights, which can prevent alterations of even reproductions of art works. If such broad moral rights were recognized in the United States, fair use should permit the unauthorized creation of desirable derivative works. However, the rights recognized by VARA are significantly less expansive than traditional moral rights, protecting only original .works of visual art."
    When the line is crossed and the "art" -- or the "commercial speech" -- become clearly political, the rules which originated to protect commerce no longer apply.

    Obviously, my moral rights theory is inconsistent with their moral rights theory. But we live in the country where I have the right not only to thumb my nose at their view of moral rights, but to parody the very concept of copyright as an interference with free speech.

    This Harvard Law School site has an invaluable collection of helpful links, such as this parody and fair use -- defined as "a humorous form of social commentary and literary criticism in which one work imitates another."
    I also enjoyed this, and there's a lot more at the Harvard site.

    Guevara with headphones, anyone?

    Or how about Guevara with a necktie, shown here around the time of his Departure For The World (the famous Motorcycle Diarrhea run).


    Sorry about the staples that have pierced our hero's head and chest! But these foul acts of desecration were committed not by me but by the Colombian government.

    Obviously, if you're a handsome and rich young egomaniac, it's not enough to just sit around. (No time to lament the loss of Evita -- the fake future hopes of Hollywood and Andrew Lloyd Weber notwithstanding.)

    Anyway, while the PINO CHE T design was simmering, I read about the Fox News reporter named Rebecca Aguilar who bullied an elderly Texas man who had defended himself against burglars. By now that news is old, and it has been commented upon by others such as Glenn Reynolds and Ed Morrissey,

    What outraged me more than the conduct of the reporter was the way the station reflexively availed itself of copyright laws by pulling the video! Yet it was the video which showed the very bullying by the reporter that generated all the discussion. That is the conduct which is precisely at issue, and I think it's a classic example of how copyright law is being abused. Glenn Reynolds linked the Fox affiliate's legal threats against Dan Riehl (who pulled the video) and this Breitbart video discussion incorporating it. (There's also another link here.)

    But it's YouTube with which everyone is familiar these days, so Fox wasted no time in complaining about "copyright infringement" -- and the video disappeared, with this message appearing in its place:

    This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by KDFW FOX 4 TV.
    Sheesh. I'm surprised the station hasn't tried to assert its copyright rights over the reporter's "trigger happy" and "shoot to kill" expressions as part of its "protected content."

    This was Glenn Reynolds' comment on the matter:

    KDFW has gotten the video -- previously embedded here -- pulled from YouTube, which suggests that they feel they have something to hide. But you can see the relevant segments as part of this commentary on Aguilar's journalistic ethics, at Breitbart.tv.

    I was struck by reporter Rebecca Aguilar's body-language, literally standing over him in judgment with tailored suit and umbrella. The way she looked down, literally and figuratively, on an old man who had defended his life, entirely legally, and reduced him to tears seems to me to be representative of the worst stereotypes of Old Media. Then, when she belatedly realizes that she's coming across like a bully -- because, you know, she is -- she retreats into faux-sympathy and the laughable claim that she's just helping him get his side of the story out. It's like something out of a local-tv parody on The Simpsons. Yet her webpage suggests that she's on the side of the "little guy."

    She's on the side of the "little guy" all right -- unless and until the "little guy" decides to think it over and watch her again in a way she or the station might think disrespectful. Then watch them pull a copyright infringement claim out of their hat and crush the "little guy."

    What happens when a "little guy" strikes back? The anti-Hugo Chavez "don't buy gas from this ass" billboard (in this video) strikes me as a good example of something to watch. (The fallout and the video, of course.)

    I would expect a lawsuit or a demand that the Citgo parody be taken down too. After all, the billboard shows Citgo's corporate logo, does it not? I'm sure the name "Citgo" is protected too, and I don't doubt that some clever lawyers could figure out a way to claim that anyone who criticized "Citgo" was guilty of infringement by using the name "Citgo."

    I mean, just look at the this flagrant example of the disrespect shown to a leading company and its fearless leader!


    And on top of that, there's the destruction of the glass monument to Che Guevara© in Venezuela! Not only was the image copyrighted, but it was a protected religious shrine! Why, almighty Che had actually stopped right there during his copyrighted Motorcycle Diaries© trip!

    How dare these heretics vandalize a sacred image at a place for religious pilgrimages! What's next? Images of Che photoshopped into the sacred corporate logo?

    Death to the copyright infringers!

    Death to the parodistas!

    Parodistas al Paredón!©

    (Probably what MoveOn© would love to do the parodizers in their disinfrinchisement campaign too. It can't happen here!)

    MORE: Reason's Michael C. Moynihan has a good post on the BBC and the Cult of Che, especially what the BBC leaves out. (Like the murder of nearly 2000 Cubans, and possibly more.)

    Yes, but he was young! He was handsome! And he was idealistic!

    UPDATE: I am muy honored by Compañero Glenn Reynolds, who cared enough about the dead Che© to link this post.

    ¡Y hasta la victoria siempre!©

    posted by Eric at 01:45 PM | Comments (5)

    Krugman Gets It

    Economist Paul Krugman gets it.

    The ascendancy of modern conservatism is "an almost embarrassingly simple story," he says, and race is the key.
    Yep. I think that perfectly explains Republican Bobby Jindal's win in Louisiana. Krugman is a genius.

    H/T Instapundit

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 02:50 AM | Comments (3)

    Jindal Wins in Louisiana

    It looks like the voters in Louisiana know who caused the Katrina mess in that state even if the left in the rest of America still blames Bush. The Associated Press reports:

    BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) -- In his second bid for governor, Republican U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal strongly led a field of 12 candidates in the Louisiana gubernatorial race late Saturday night as he attempted to avoid a Nov. 17 runoff.

    Jindal, 36, the Oxford-educated son of Indian immigrants, needed more than 50 percent of the vote in the primary to win outright without a runoff. Victory would make him Louisiana's first nonwhite governor since Reconstruction and the nation's youngest governor in office upon taking the oath in January.

    It looks like Bobby is going to win without a run off. At this time he has 53% of the vote.

    And what do you know, it seems like the Republicans are friendly to people of color. Despite what Democrats say about the party being a den of racists. In addition, this should improve our relations with India which have hit a snag over the atomic trade deal.

    Here is more from the AP.

    Virtually no one questions that Jindal, who lost to Democrat Kathleen Blanco four years ago, will be atop the field of a dozen candidates when the votes are tallied. But Democrats Walter Boasso and Foster Campbell and independent John Georges hope they can keep Jindal's support under 50 percent, sending him into a Nov. 17 runoff election.

    But analysts also said Jindal built up support as a sort of "buyer's remorse" from people who voted for Blanco last time and had second thoughts about that decision amid widespread public dissatisfaction with the Democratic governor after Hurricane Katrina.

    "I think the Jindal camp, almost explicitly, (wanted) to cast it this way: If you were able to revote, who would you vote for?" said Pearson Cross, a University of Louisiana at Lafayette political scientist.

    Not Blanco. How Nagin (mayor of New Orleans during Katrina) won re-election is a mystery.

    ABC News makes an interesting point.

    U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal, the son of Indian immigrants, won the Louisiana governor's race Saturday, carrying more than half the vote against 11 opponents to become the state's first non-white governor since Reconstruction.
    Louisiana had one non-white Governor before Jindal. He was a Republican named Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback and he was the first black governor of any state.
    During the Civil War, Pinchback traveled to Louisiana and became the only African American captain in the Union-controlled 1st Louisiana Native Guards.

    After the war, he became active in the Republican Party and participated in Reconstruction state conventions. In 1868, Pinchback organized the Fourth Ward Republican Club in New Orleans. That same year, he was elected as a Louisiana state senator, where he became the state Senate president pro tempore. In 1871 he became acting lieutenant governor upon the death of Oscar Dunn, the first elected African American lieutenant governor of a U.S. state.

    Pinchback was elevated to the Louisiana governorship on December 9, 1872 after impeachment charges were brought against his predecessor, Republican governor Henry Clay Warmoth.

    So properly speaking Jindal is the first elected non-white Governor of Louisiana and a Republican to boot.

    I do not think the Democrats are going to have the easy ride in 2008 that they expected. This is a harbinger. I think we are going to have another swing election. Corrupt incompetents are going to get tossed just as they were in 2006. Just look at how Congress stands with the American people. From September 19th.

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush and the U.S. Congress registered record-low approval ratings in a Reuters/Zogby poll released on Wednesday, and a new monthly index measuring the mood of Americans dipped slightly on deepening worries about the economy.

    Only 29 percent of Americans gave Bush a positive grade for his job performance, below his worst Zogby poll mark of 30 percent in March. A paltry 11 percent rated Congress positively, beating the previous low of 14 percent in July.

    Yep. Bush is setting new lows with a drop of 1% to 29%. That is terrible. Congress too is setting new record dropping 3% to 11%. The Democrat and Republican core support runs around 30% give or take. Those numbers mean Republicans retain their core support and Democrats have lost 2/3s of their base. It sure looks like the making of a Democrat debacle in 008.

    It might be a real good idea to keep matches out of the hands of Democrat Congress critters. We wouldn't want them setting fire to the place to cover up their incompetence.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 12:55 AM | Comments (0)

    The number one issue

    When I read that Sam Brownback had dropped out of the race, my immediate reaction was that this would be good news for Mitt Romney.

    In light of Brownback's comments yesterday, I'm wondering whether he dropped out specifically to help Romney:

    The Kansas senator did acknowledge, however, that he is convinced the Republican Party will nominate a "pro-life candidate," and he feels that Giuliani does not fit the bill. "Governor Romney's certainly taken a pro-life position now," Brownback said to reporters after his speech. "We'll see if that's something that can persuade the American public. My criticism of [Romney] has been that you need someone that believes in the cause to persuade the American public, and if it's seen as switching on a lot of topics it's tough to persuade the American public. Mayor Giuliani has said he's pro-choice."
    That sounds like a tacit endorsement of Romney.

    But it makes me wonder about something else.

    Since when is abortion the number one issue for the president of the United States?

    I realize people have strong feelings all the way around. I have mixed feelings and I have discussed them. But what exactly is the president going to do about it one way or the other? He's charged with faithfully executing the laws of the United States, and his powers are limited. True, he could sign or veto abortion legislation (and that could possibly be sustained or thrown out by the Supreme Court), but he'd be charged with enforcing the laws on the books, and little more. There's no magic wand for the president to wave which could either "save the unborn" or further "doom" them. And even if we suppose that the Supreme Court were to do something so dramatic as to reverse Roe v. Wade, then abortion would become even less of a presidential concern as it would revert completely to the states.

    My intent here is not to debate the merits of the abortion issue, but to express concern that the GOP is plagued with a lack of imagination, and possibly hamstrung by single-issue contingencies.

    Meanwhile, Hillary is becoming a walking encyclopedia of moderation, and while she barely mentions abortion these days, she has done her damnedest to make herself appear as abortion-unfriendly as possible. Unless she's caught waving a coathanger at a NOW convention, the Republicans will be painted as shrill and obsessed.

    And Hillary will fall back on her previous statements that abortion is "a sad, even tragic choice to many, many women," and:

    There is no reason why government cannot do more to educate and inform and provide assistance so that the choice guaranteed under our constitution either does not ever have to be exercised or only in very rare circumstances.
    "We're not going to beat Hillary Clinton by acting like Hillary Clinton," said Romney yesterday.

    Neither will Hillary.

    MORE: And here's another important issue -- headlined "Republican Candidates Unite In Disgust Of Harry Potter."

    That was before today's announcement that Dumbledore is gay.

    Hey, these are serious issues. Get with the program!

    posted by Eric at 11:49 AM | Comments (3)

    Israel Gets It

    Israel gets what?

    Israel gets it. Since the 1970s, on school campuses in Israel, policy requires teachers and parent aides to arm themselves with semi-automatic weapons. The result? School shootings have plummeted to zero.
    H/T Instapundit

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 11:12 AM | Comments (2)

    That Was Bad

    About Iraq:

    Our generals up 'til now didn't win. That was bad. Our generals up 'til now didn't lose. That was good.

    In addition too little force allowed the insurgents free play. That was bad. Too little force allowed the Iraqis to get to know the insurgents on an intimate basis. That was good.

    Out of bad strategy and bad tactics victory may yet come.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 12:41 AM | Comments (2)

    Dennis Miller Reams Harry Reid

    HT Gateway Pundit

    Note: the first video link has been pulled from YouTube. Listen to this while you still can.

    posted by Simon at 08:40 PM | Comments (1)

    Via E-Mail

    I have just received an anonymous e-mail with a link to a site, I Call BS, that purports to have a secret recording of Harry Reid's Secretary from this morning. You can listen to the mp3 and judge for yourself. It seems authentic to me.

    Some one should tell Rush.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 04:19 PM | Comments (0)

    King's alternate dream?

    The Tony Auth cartoon in today's Philadelphia Inquirer resorts to some of the Inquirer's usual kneejerk assumptions about the NRA.


    As a member of the NRA and other often-stereotyped groups, I don't enjoy stereotypes, and I'm no more enamored with the idea that because I belong to the NRA I dream about arming infants, nuns, and cats any more than I enjoy stereotypes about gays being immoral, Jews being greedy, or blacks being stupid.

    (However, I have to admit that I find myself tempted to ask why Mr. Auth didn't include any "happily married gay couples with closets full of assault weapons" in his cartoon.)

    In addition to invoking the usual stereotypes about gun owners, the cartoon's caption quotes the famous words of Martin Luther King Jr. This invokes the conventional wisdom that King was a Ghandian pacifist who would never have had guns.

    That King never owned guns is considered so beyond dispute that we all just take it as a given, right?

    Not so fast.

    Well before his decision (apparently in 1955) to embrace Ghandian non-violence as the best tactic in the national showdown over civil rights, King had been a committed civil rights activist, but also a man who believed in protecting himself and his family against constant threats of racist violence (which included the bombing of his home).

    Accordingly, the pre-Ghandian King had been armed to protect himself and his family -- to the point where his home was described by one activist as "an arsenal":

    King would later admit that at the start of the boycott be was not firmly committed to Gandhian principles. He had initially advocated nonviolence not as a way of life but as a practical necessity for a racial minority. When his home was bombed at the end of January, he had cited Jesus-- "He who lives by the sword whill perish by the sword"-- rather than Gandhi in urging angry black neighbors to remain nonviolent. At the time of the bombing, King was seeking a gun permit, and he was protected by armed bodyguards. Only after the bombing did King alter his views on the use of weapons for protection. His reconsideration was encouraged by the arrival in Montgomery of two pacifists who were far more aware than he of Gandhian principles.

    Competing with each other for the influence over King, Bayard Rustin, a black activist affiliated with the War Resisters League, and Glenn E. Smiley, a white staff member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, saw themselves as King's tutors on Gandhian precepts. Rustin was shocked to discover a gun in King's house, while Smiley informed fellow pacifists that King's home was "an arsenal."

    King appears to have not only been personally armed, but he applied for (and was unconstitutionally denied) a gun permit:
    Martin King was not committed to nonviolence at the beginning of the bus protest. As white violence became increasingly focused on King personally through police harassment, the bombing of his home, volumes of hate mail, and frequent telephone threats of harm, King, seeking to protect himself and his family from white violence, applied for a gun permit, which, of course, was rejected. The threat of violence was so real that armed blacks took turns guarding King's home. King also kept a loaded gun in his house, which Bayard Rustin of the War Resistance League nearly sat on during a visit.
    The rejection of King's gun permit, while a historical oddity that few know about (and fewer still would mention), is the sort of thing that intrigues me.

    For starters, why was the application rejected? The use of the language "of course" makes clear the unmistakable reason -- white racism by a bigoted Southern police department (King lived in Montgomery, Alabama at the time), and brings to mind the specter of the racist history of gun control -- all amply documented by Clayton Cramer in his ground-breaking work. The racist gun legislation was not merely intended to disarm former slaves after the Civil War. It also directly targeted those involved in the emergence of the 20th Century Civil Rights movement:

    Most of the American handgun ownership restrictions adopted between 1901 and 1934 followed on the heels of highly publicized incidents involving the incipient black civil rights movement, foreign-born radicals or labor agitators. In 1934, Hawaii, and in 1930 Oregon, passed gun control statutes in response to labor organizing efforts in the Port of Honolulu and the Oregon lumber mills. Michigan's version of the Sullivan law was enacted in the aftermath of the trial of Dr. Ossian Sweet, a black civil rights leader. Dr. Sweet, had moved into an all white neighborhood and had been indicted for murder for shooting one of a white mob that had attacked his house while Detroit police looked on. A Missouri permit law was enacted in the aftermath of a highly publicized St. Louis race riot.[47]

    After World War I, a generation of young blacks, often led by veterans familiar with firearms and willing to fight for the equal treatment that they had received in other lands, began to assert their civil rights. In reaction, the Klan again became a major force in the South in the 1910's and 1920's. Often public authorities stood by while murders, beatings and lynchings were openly perpetrated upon helpless black citizens. And once again, firearms legislation in Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee and Texas made sure that the victims of the Klan's violence were unarmed and did not possess the ability to defend themselves, while at the same time cloaking the specially deputized Klansmen in the safety of their monopoly of arms.

    For reasons that I think are obvious, King never pursued a constitutional challenge to the racist actions of the Montgomery police department. His new leftist Ghandian mentors would have been appalled, and middle America at the time -- whether left wing or right wing -- would not have been sympathetic to a black gun owner who was discriminated against. An ugly reality, to be sure, but one which reflected the prevailing racism of the times.

    Needless to say, the denial of King's gun permit application did not make it into the Wiki entry on King. (Should someone add a sentence with the appropriate links?)

    Personally, I think King missed an opportunity to strike a blow for civil rights. So did his supporters, and so did the Second Amendment-shirking ACLU. Bearing in mind that King's house had been bombed, and he had received numerous death threats, I think it is beyond debate to any fair-minded person that the denial of his gun permit application was grounded in racial discrimination, which was illegal even at the time. He would have had a good case. But it was one of those "missed" opportunities -- and I place the word "missed" in quotes because of the strategic nature of King's decision to ditch his guns, and embrace Ghandianism.

    What I'd like to know (both as an NRA member and history buff) is whatever happened to his gun? The man was monitored and bugged; is it possible that somewhere along the line one of the various surveillance operatives might have noted and recorded the serial numbers of his gun? In those days, gun ownership was pretty much uncontrolled everywhere, and guns could be purchased by mail order and even sent to minors (so purchase records of the sort kept today would be nonexistent). I don't know whether in 1955 Alabama still had any laws barring black citizens from merely owning guns, but I'm assuming that King's ownership of the gun must have been legal. Otherwise he'd have doubtless been arrested on gun possession charges by the racist cops who already hated and watched him. (Indeed, the bigots at the time would have probably savored such an opportunity.)

    So, King's gun permit application must have been for a permit to carry the gun. What I don't know is whether the permit process was governed by state law or municipal (Montgomery) law, and whether or not applications would have been gun-specific and included serial numbers. If so, the serial number(s) might be matters of public record somewhere, and maybe the gun or guns could be found and placed in a museum where they "of course" belong.

    If I were feeling up to the task, I'd almost be inclined to do a retaliatory photoshop of the Auth cartoon, with an alternate history image of King celebrating his newly won victory for the Second Amendment rights of black people in the South, captioned along the lines of

    "I HAVE A GUN!"

    But alas! If I did that I'd probably be accused of "copyright infringement."

    posted by Eric at 09:56 AM | Comments (2)

    Oh, Spray

    It appears that the Time Magazine issue with the Marine Corps Osprey on the cover was spraying bunk. Lubbock Marine Parents whose motto is: "Freedom is not free, but the U.S. Marine Corps will pay most of your share." -Ned Dolan, has the story.

    I am so glad to see this article. I am not a Time Magazine reader, but happened to see this particular issue in the library. I saw the Osprey on the cover and because one of my sons is in an Osprey squadron, I was curious about it and read it. It was extremely negative. I came home and started searching on the internet and found lots of blogs talking about the Osprey in a very negative way too. When I next talked to my son I asked him about the points that the article made. He said most of them were either outright wrong or dated. One of the blog posts I read even stated that the prop wash from the Osprey would rip a Marine's clothes right off of him and that the Osprey wasn't equipped to fly into clouds. My son has been in the Osprey while it was flying through clouds, so I knew right off that that part wasn't true. He also works with Ospreys every day and has NEVER heard of any one's clothes being ripped off. Where did that even come from? Just made up on the spot by the blog author? I didn't know enough to put together a whole blog post about it and answer all the accusations, so I was thrilled to find this article. Be sure and read that last paragraph.
    There is a lot more in the article, but this bit about the forward facing gun issue interested me the most. Quoting from an Air Force Times news report:
    There's also the issue of defensive weaponry. The Ospreys that press reports say are now operating in Iraq, all with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263, are equipped with M240G medium machine guns pointed out the back ramp, ready to spray hundreds of 7.62mm bullets into a hot landing zone.

    Retired Gen. James Jones, former commandant of the Marine Corps, told Time he'd always wanted the Osprey to have a forward-mounted gun, a .50-caliber under the nose -- something he never pulled off as the Corps' top Marine.

    Jones thinks all assault support aircraft should have forward-facing weaponry, according to the article. He described it to Time as a fundamental belief stemming from his Vietnam War experience: Biggest and baddest is best. A spokesman from Jones' office said the retired general was unavailable to comment for this article.

    The Time article quoted Jones as saying, "A rear-mounted gun is better than no gun at all, but I don't know how much better."

    But Walters said the Osprey's rear machine gun is the same weapon system the Corps has in every assault support aircraft, none of which has guns facing forward.

    Over the past five years, side gunners firing from CH-46 Sea Knight and CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters in Iraq and Afghanistan "found that most of the threat was on the ramp," Walters said.

    He said Jones wasn't the only Marine to stand by a forward gun on principle.

    "It's an emotional issue for a lot of people," Walters said. "I can come up with a scenario where it would be valuable, but we haven't seen it in five years of combat."

    Experience is the best teacher. If you want to learn more about how Time got intimate with the pooch GRTWT.

    Update: I think this quote about accuracy in the Drive By Media is particularly apt:

    "Thompson left out the part where I indicated my support and hopes for VMM-263's success and resultantly I am presented as a 'critic,' " he wrote. "That's what I get for attempting a complete thought with a reporter who's reverse-engineering a story."
    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 09:17 AM | Comments (2)


    Yesterday I was discussing in Dingy Harry Gets The Bum's Rush how Rush Limbaugh turned the "phony soldier" controversy into cash for the Marine Corps -- Law Enforcement Foundation. When I posted last night (local time) the bidding was up to $850,000+. Today the bidding is closed and the total is, as the headline shows, over two million dollars. On top of that Rush plans to contribute an equal amount to the foundation. Over four million dollars folks. No doubt the moonbats at DU are howling. Howling moonbats. Got to be a new sensation.

    You can go to rushlimbaugh.com to find your local station. Today ought to be a lot of fun.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 08:17 AM | Comments (0)

    Self preservation is a full-time occupation

    Anyone who knows me from this blog (it's been awhile) or just about anywhere else would probably be surprised to recognize an Ani DiFranco reference in the title, but they'd be even more surprised to learn that I belong to *gasp* a union.

    I am in fact a public school teacher working in a closed shop, which means that they'd take my money one way or another, and as one put it to me, paying the full dues would protect me if I ran a kid over on the way to school one morning. Not that I have any plans to do that, or think that I shouldn't be held liable if I did, even by accident. But there's a lot of added security in not standing out as a non-tenured teacher in a very powerful crowd of unionistas.

    I have a very strong financial motive for surrendering my ideals and a portion of my paycheck.

    What I will not surrender, however, is my good taste, and I could not stomach this bit of doggerel that made its way to my inbox:

    The Jersey Jive

    An Election Time Rhyme--For a Good Reason!

    Hickory, Dickory Dock
    It's time to check your clock
    An election is coming
    (Ah, the excitement is numbing...)
    And to the polls all good citizens flock.

    We're not talking about that White House race
    This election's about a whole different place
    The State House in Trenton
    Has candidates here bent on
    Calling the Assembly or Senate "home base."

    Nov. 6th is the day we will vote
    And you can't afford to miss this boat
    'Cause the stakes are sky high
    It's about the state funding "pie"
    And there are plenty of issues to note.

    Local property taxes are key
    And your pensions and benefits, see
    Plus with school vouchers scams
    And members' rights slams
    The situation's as bad as could be.

    So, see your PAC-endorsed candidates here
    And let's make one thing quite perfectly clear
    To vote absentee
    Click this form and do it quickly
    For Election Day's really quite near.

    And speaking of forms, there's one more
    And this one cuts right to the core
    Join the Committee of 1000
    To show 'em school workers aren't drowzin'
    And Election Week watch NJEA ROAR!!!

    The form of the limerick, though inappropriate to the message, is not that hard to master.

    There once was a silly old message
    that was filled with a queer sort of presage:
    It made little sense,
    packed with numbers quite dense,
    like the fools what had sent that old message.

    (Mine strikes me as a bit Goreyesque.)

    posted by Dennis at 08:20 PM | Comments (2)

    Is that a snake in your toilet or are you just happy to see me?

    Earlier this morning, I was emailed a link to what appeared to be a typical scare story about a python which came out of a woman's toilet.

    There was no Halloween bogeyman in the closet for one Brooklyn woman just a 7-foot-long python in her toilet. Nadege Brunacci was washing her hands in her bathroom before dawn Monday when she glanced back and saw the slithering serpent peeking out from her toilet, most of its body hidden in the pipes.

    "I turned on the light and screamed," Brunacci, 38, told the New York Daily News. "It still makes my heart race."

    Workers had to tear apart the plumbing to get the snake out. But when I read the rest, I noticed something odd that made me skeptical of just how frightened this woman was. Apparently, she had given the snake to a "friend" who named it after her:
    It's unclear how the snake made its way into the pipes.

    Brunacci, a restaurateur, says she gave the snake to a friend who keeps it as a pet and named it after her.

    Brunacci says she started using her daughter's training toilet after the scare in her third-floor apartment. And when she brushes her teeth, she said, "I'm looking over my shoulder."

    Where does the "friend" live? I wonder.

    I think there's more to the story than is being reported!

    posted by Eric at 10:55 AM | Comments (0)

    Let the non-buyer beware!

    This story (which only received media attention because it involved Ellen DeGeneres) should serve as a remember that if you "adopt" what is called a "rescue" dog, it is not your dog:

    The twisted dog tale began last month when DeGeneres and de Rossi adopted a cute, black Brussels Griffon mix terrier named Iggy. When Iggy wasn't able to get along with DeGeneres' cats, the couple gave the dog to DeGeneres' hairdresser.

    That, Batkis pointed out, violated a written agreement de Rossi signed in which she agreed to return the dog to Mutts and Moms if the adoption didn't work out.

    DeGeneres acknowledged she erred but said her hairdresser and her family shouldn't be punished.

    "This is so insane," a calmer DeGeneres said on her talk show Wednesday. "It's just the dog needs to go to the family."

    Batkis has refused to back down.

    "If Ellen wants to place dogs and decide what's a good home, then she should start her own rescue group," she told "Inside Edition.""But I'm the one doing this and I know what I'm doing."

    Meanwhile, the dispute has become a hot topic on news and talk shows.

    "There's got to be some sort of rational compromise," ABC's Diane Sawyer said on "Good Morning America."

    A deal is a deal, and if you sign a piece of paper which says the dog is not your property, that piece of paper is what will control, and the dog is not yours to give away.

    People who don't like the consequences should simply buy a dog. I bought Coco, and she is mine. I would not part with her for any reason I can think of, but if something awful happened (say, I was dying or in some kind of dire straits) and I couldn't keep her, I could give her away or sell her, and then she would be owned by someone else.

    Nothing wrong with that. Or is there? According to a new system of recently manufactured morality, the ownership of animals is immoral, and instead of owning them, humans should henceforth only be allowed to become "guardians." This is a radical view of animals, and I have criticized it many times. However, there is a growing "guardian" movement, working largely under the radar to get various governments to change legal language in the hope that eventually, animal ownership will be abolished. (Yes, they even call themselves "abolitionists.")

    Laugh all you want, but these people are activists devoted to their cause -- which means that their tireless efforts never cease.

    I am not saying that all animal rescue organizations subscribe to this radical abolitionist ideology, but unfortunately many of them do. Whether it's merely a coincidence (or part of a two-pronged attack), the legal push for guardianship is accompanied by the constant (albeit indirect) promotion of the new morality. At this point, most animal shelters and rescue workers don't directly declare themselves to be against pet ownership. But they are determined to stop the breeding of dogs (AB 1634 is clear evidence that this idea alone has become mainstream thinking), and additionally they are rapidly reaching the point of unanimous opposition to the sale of dogs.

    From a typical animal rescue web site:

    "The number one resolution next to spay neutering is to abolish pet stores."
    Anyone remember the song "How much is that doggie in the window?"

    As the new "morality" becomes ascendant, that song will become little more than what it is in this link I found -- embarrassing evidence of an immoral system which allows the buying and selling of animals. Right now, pet stores that dare to sell dogs in this area are being treated like abortion clinics, and subjected to angry, emotional demonstrations like these.

    And it's not just that dogs should not be sold in pet stores. They should not be sold anywhere -- nor should pet stores be allowed to sell pets (which are called "companion animals").

    The opposition to pet store dogs is said to be based on the fact that pet store dogs come from "puppy mills" where dogs are abused and bred like cattle. Now, most caring and compassionate people would oppose puppy mill cruelty. (I certainly do.) But animal cruelty is already illegal, and the term "puppy mill" has become a foot in the door for condeming nearly all sales of dogs. Here's the HSUS:

    You gaze into the sad eyes of the puppy in the pet store window, and you want to "rescue" the lonely pooch...

    You read the ad in the newspaper, and the couple seems so trustworthy, with their decades of experience breeding dogs...

    You find a website with photos of green hills and beautiful puppies that insists the "little darlings" and "bundles of joy" will only be sold to "loving families"...

    Beware! A cruel, mass dog-breeding facility could hide behind each of these scenarios. Most likely, you've heard about them. The Humane Society of the United States calls them puppy mills, and for good reason.

    Like nearly every discussion on the subject, the site urges people who want dogs to visit their animal shelters:
    Puppy mills will continue to operate until people stop buying their dogs. We urge you to visit your local shelter, where you are likely to find dozens of healthy, well-socialized puppies and adult dogs--including purebreds--just waiting for that special home--yours.
    While there's certainly nothing wrong with adopting a dog from a shelter, in many instances, you will end up having to submit yourself to a thorough background check, pay steep adoption fees, and have the dog "fixed" by a veterinarian and microchipped. After all this time and trouble (and the expenditure of hundreds of dollars), you'll often end up with a dog you don't actually own, as they will make you sign an elaborate agreement stating the dog is not yours.

    It must drive such people crazy that it is still legal in many areas to breed and sell dogs, because not only are they convinced it's immoral, they want to be in charge of all dogs.

    Except that in the case of Ellen DeGeneres, they went a little too far, and it managed to get into the news. The initial outburst generated much sympathy for Ellen:

    The calls got so bad that Marina Batkis said she had to close her business and stay home Wednesday, a day after DeGeneres broadcast a tearful, televised plea for the dog to be returned to her hairdresser and the woman's daughters.

    "My life is being threatened. This is horrible," a tearful Batkis said outside her home.

    Batkis and Vanessa Chekroun co-own Mutts and Moms, the nonprofit dog-rescue organization that gave DeGeneres and her partner, actress Portia de Rossi, the dog.

    But the story is now receiving international attention, and the animal rescue outfit is taking a hard line approach:
    any sympathy Mutts and Moms owners Marina Batkis and Vanessa Chekroun had for DeGeneres has evaporated. The pair have reportedly received death threats since the show screened and are now taking a stand, insisting through their lawyer, that will not be bullied and Iggy will not be returned.

    The American media, whipped into a frenzy by DeGeneres's tears, are now beginning to swing in behind Batkis and Chekroun, reporting on their distress, DeGeneres's clear breach of a contract, and clear Mutts and Moms rules that say small dogs can not go to families with young children.

    The LA Times and the AP have more on the story, but neither side appears to be backing down.

    Common sense suggests to me that a deal is a deal.

    And if you want your own dog, go buy one.

    (Better hurry while it's still legal!)

    MORE: Via Glenn Reynolds, I read that when she got Socks, the White House cat, Hillary Clinton "lectured readers" that pets are an "adoption instead of an acquisition." Later, she dumped the cat on her secretary, who now has it.

    It sounds as if Hillary thinks adopting an animal is less of a commitment than buying an animal.

    I never really thought about it before, but I guess if it's not really yours, where's the commitment?

    posted by Eric at 10:14 AM | Comments (4)

    obsessive people write obsessive morality

    Of course, if I publish this, I'll look like someone who is obsessed with obsessive people who write obsessive laws, so maybe I should let it rot in oblivion like so many other posts. Besides, how can I be expected to solve a centuries-old theological dispute in a blog post?

    So may the gods forgive my neglect of my obsession with obsessiveness! (While this is an awful dichotomy, I have decided to sail directly into the Scylla of "neurotic" obsessiveness as opposed to the Charybdis of "healthy" neglect.)

    Anyway, regular readers know that I've often scratched my head over how the sin referred to as "sodomy" became more important than all other sins -- to the point where some people see sodomy theology as the overarching be-all of Christianity itself. Why the apparent obsession? And why did the same thing not happen with Judaism, which is after all said to be the source from which the original condemnation of homosexuality derived?

    Don't expect to find the answer in the Bible. While a few references to same sex sin are there, they cannot be called obsessive by any rational standard. To find the obsessiveness, you have to go to medieval sources. Not just any old medieval sources, but the obsessed medieval priests and monks -- one of the most noteworthy being an 11th Century religious scholar named Peter Damian.

    I stumbled onto Peter Damian while reading The Invention of Sodomy in Christian Theology by Mark D. Jordan. The author does a good job of explaining how "sodomy" became code language in which the name of a physical place evolved into unique form of condemnatory language of all people in all places and times who practiced certain behaviors (which, I'd add, have no logical connection to attempted angel rape actually described in the Bible). "Sodomy" as a term was a medieval creation -- and Peter Damian was its principal creator.

    The more I read, the more it occurred to me that there might be a simple reason behind the development of the extreme animosity against homosexuality which found its way into Christian theology. For starters, guys like Damian were not ordinary people. He and others like him flagellated themselves regularly. This was called "the discipline." In an amazing leap of logic, he also devoted a good deal of time to "proving" that God can actually restore virginity (although Damian maintained it was "wicked" to ask whether God could actually undo the deed which caused the virginity to be lost.)

    It occured to me that men drawn to living together in religious orders under vows of poverty and celibacy might tend to think about some sins more than other sins, for the simple reason that only certain sins would have been possible, much less present.

    I mean, put yourself in their position: if you are living with people wearing the same primitive sack cloth attire, eating the same dull and uninspired foods, whipping yourself daily, surrounded by nothing worth stealing, no ordinary enemies to kill, no females to date, and no entertainment in the popular sense (like, say, killing Jews, or butting cats to death with your head), while your thoughts might not necessarily turn to having sex with your fellow flagellants, it could certainly be expected to happen in others, and it obviously did. A lot. And not only would those who did it have plenty of guilt to obsess over, but those who didn't could be expected to become even more obsessed with those who did.

    Anyway, I never gave much thought to the plight of these medieval clerics before I read the book. Not that the author felt terribly sorry for them; I think he's mad at them over the fact that their theological distortions were written into Christian theology. True, the consequences are with us today in the form of the obsession with homosexuality that an occasional modern blogger like me will complain about, but I hardly think the obsessions of these medieval clerics should surprise anyone.

    Even a critic of Jordan's book would seem to partially concede that point:

    Why is it, asks Jordan, that so much energy is expended on denunciations of sodomy compared with the more lenient treatment of other sins in the medieval catalogue of vices, say, murder, usury, simony, or adultery?

    Why, indeed. Medieval monastic and scholastic authors presumably had less pastoral experience than did the regular clergy with murder, adultery, and usury, or even with standard clerical sins such as simony, nicolaitism (clerical marriage), and concubinage. As members of male religious houses, however, Benedictine monks (like St. Peter Damian) had in common with Dominican friars (like Saints Albert and Thomas) a concern for the moral, spiritual, and psychological health of a same-sex religious community.

    A more cynical writer sees Peter Damian's writing as evidence that a problem we call "modern" was just as stubborn a problem in the 11th century:
    To whatever degree priests are actually more inclined to pederasty than anyone else, the association is not new, as the excerpt below indicates. Taken from an eleventh-century book-length invective against homosexuality among priests, the passage demonstrates that not only were homosexuality and pederasty common in the Middle Ages, but so little was being done about it that the author, Peter Damian, an Irishman, felt the need to speak out violently. His verbal assault is sweeping and relentless and, to the modern eye, somewhat comical. But despite his overblown rhetoric, Damian clearly believed that homosexuality and pederasty were the foremost faults with the medieval priesthood. Nine centuries of civilization have done little to erode the stereotype.
    He goes on to quote Damian, and boy is it ever juicy stuff! (Forgive the long quote, but I think it illustrates an obsession with the subject that went well beyond a literal reading of the Bible.)
    From The Book of Gomorrah: An Eleventh-Century Treatise Against Clerical Homosexual Practices by Peter Damian
    translated by Pierre J. Payer

    A Mournful Lament for the Soul Who Is Given over to the Filth of Impurity

    O, I weep for you unfortunate soul, and from the depths of my heart I sigh over the lot of your destruction. I weep for you, I say, miserable soul who are given over to the filth of impurity. You are to be mourned indeed with a whole fountain of tears. What a pity! "Who will give to my head waters and my eyes a fountain of tears?" And this mournful voice is not now less suitably drawn from my sobbing self than was then spoken out of the prophetic mouth. I do not bewail the stone ramparts of a city fortified by towers, not the lower buildings of a temple made by hands; I do not lament the progress of a vile people taken into the captivity of the rule of the Babylonian king. My plaint is for the noble soul made in the image and likeness of God and joined with the most precious blood of Christ. It is brighter than many buildings, certainly to be preferred to all the heights of earthly construction. Therefore I especially lament the lapse of the soul and the destruction of the temple in which Christ had resided. O eyes wear yourselves out in crying aloud, overflow the rivers full of tears, water with continuous tears my sad, mournful face! . . .

    Consider, O miserable one, how much darkness weighs on your soul; notice what thick, dark blindness engulfs you. Does the fury of lust impel you to the male sex? Has the madness of lust incited you to your own kind, that is, male to male? Does a [male] goat goaded by lust, ever sometimes leap on a [male] goat? Does a ram leap on a ram, maddened with the heat of sexual union?

    Don't tempt me with that one, buddy! Science is trying to cure modern "RAMBUTTS" as we speak! Baaahh!
    In fact a stallion feeds calmly and peacefully with a stallion in one stall and when he sees a mare the sense of lust is immediately unleashed. Never does a bull petulantly desire a bull out of love for sexual union; never does a mule bray under the stimulant for sex with a mule. But ruined men do not fear to commit what the very brutes shrink from in horror. What is committed by the rashness of human depravity is condemned by the judgement of irrational animals.
    Unmanned man, speak! Respond, effeminate man! What do you seek in a male which you cannot find in yourself? What sexual difference? What different physical lineaments? What softness? What tender, carnal attraction? What pleasant, smooth face? Let the vigour of the male appearance terrify you, I beseech you; your mind should abhor virile strength. In fact, it is the rule of natural appetite that each seek beyond himself what he cannot find within the cloister of his own faculty. Therefore, if contact with male flesh delights you, turn your hand to yourself. Know that whatever you do not find in yourself, you seek vainly in another [male] body. Woe to you, unfortunate soul, at whose ruin angels are saddened and whom the enemy insults with applause. You are made the prey of demons, the rape of the cruel, the spoils of wicked men. All your enemies open their mouths against you; they hiss and gnash their teeth. They say: "We have devoured her; this at last is the day we hoped for; we found it, we saw it."
    Needless to say, deconstructing such emotional nonsense is a PostModernist's dream, and this lucky PostModernist found himself shooting fish in a barrel. In particular, he relished the distinction between "natural" and "unnatural" sin, and quotes more passages like this:
    The miserable flesh burns with the heat of lust; the cold mind trembles with the rancour of suspicion; and in the heart of the miserable man chaos boils like Tartarus. . . . In fact, after this most poisonous serpent once sinks its fangs into the unhappy soul, sense is snatched away, memory is borne off, the sharpness of the mind is obscured. It becomes unmindful of God and even forgetful of itself. This plague undermines the foundation of faith, weakens the strength of hope, destroys the bond of charity; it takes away justice, subverts fortitude, banishes temperance, blunts the keeness of prudence. And what more should I say since it expels the whole host of the virtues from the chamber of the human heart and introduces every barbarous vice as if the bolts of the doors were pulled out.
    For it is this which violates sobriety, kills modesty, strangles chastity, and butchers irreparable virginity with the dagger of unclean contagion. It defiles everything, stains everything, pollutes everything. And as for itself, it permits nothing pure, nothing clean, nothing other than filth.
    To this the author replies,
    Not only does sodomitical practice defile everything again note the generality of Damian's word choice but it easily casts out the normative, permitting only things unclean. The threat of sodomy then is not simply a perversion or deviation of the norm but a full-scale displacement of the Same's instability onto the Other. Hence not only is sodomy itself irrational and able to conflate truth and error, but it is also a perversion so powerful that through it the normative social order and the reason subtending it can be overthrown and, ultimately, destroyed. Damian's statement is just as, if not more, revealing of the normative as it is of the deviant. From this perspective, the Liber Gomorrhianus divulges, probably unconsciously, the very state of the normative which its rhetorical, spiritual, and sexual politics attempt to occlude.
    While the author goes on to argue that Damian's arguments against sodomy are similar to the modern ones, I don't think most modern people think that way.

    Well, there is a candidate for president who called homosexuality "the thermonuclear device--that is aimed at the soul of America," but I think that in general, such views are atypical today. Not merely because they're derived from medieval thinking, but because they're derived from atypical medieval thinking. I think that the people who wrote medieval "sodomy" theology that became Christian theology were truly tormented souls, personally obsessed with and quite possibly too close to the subject to write about it in an objective manner.

    It is understandable in one sense that people obsess over things that matter to them personally. (After all, why would I be writing this post if it did not matter to me?) But why is it that obsessed emotional thinking tends to become dominant thinking on any particular subject to the point where logic and reason are crowded out? Are the vast majority of non-obsessed people like a bunch of sheep who are incapable of thinking for themselves?

    A similar conflict of interest touches on why laws should not be -- but often are -- written by activists. Animal rights activists work for animal rights organizations and draft animal legislation. Environmentalists go to work for the EPA or Greenpeace and then draft environmental legislation. Members of identity groups write new laws calling for inclusion of their particular group. And so on.

    I am getting so tired of writing about these things that I really ought to figure out how to take a break. But ignoring the obsessed does not stop them from obsessing, and ignoring activists does not stop activism. (Which means that every time I try to avoid obsessing over the obsessed activists, they draaag me back in!)

    Seriously, if I can't fix gun control obsessions in Philadelphia, how the hell can I fix sodomy control obsessions in the early Middle Ages?

    MORE: Not that it would matter much to anyone but a student of medieval theology, but according to Jordan, Damian sees sodomy as unique among sins because it is incapable of being repented (something Jordan sees as violative of Christian teaching):

    Peter Damian's construction of sodomy renders it "as a sin that cannot be repented. [Damian's] conception violates the fundamental Christian teaching about sins of the flesh, namely, that they are always repentable. To conceive of a fleshly sin that cannot be repented is to set in motion an interminable dialectic. The dialectic can be stopped only by admitting that what has been categorized as an unrepentable fleshly sin is either not a sin or not fleshly."
    I think it is possible that Damian may have been engaging in hyperbole not so much to contradict his faith, but by way of deterring potential "sodomites" from a sin he considered irreversible. He seems to have believed that sodomites were possesed by demons. (A medieval way of saying there was no "cure," perhaps?)

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

    The NRA is the cause of crime?

    If a criminal shoots a law abiding citizen, is that the fault of the NRA?

    Coming from me, I know that will sound like a rhetorical question. But what's a rhetorical question for me is a genuine argument for someone else -- in this case a grief-stricken Philadelphia city official.

    Among the organizers was city consumer advocate Lance Haver, whose son Daren Dieter, 24, was paralyzed by a gunman in West Oak Lane on Sept. 22 and who remains hospitalized at Albert Einstein Medical Center.

    Pausing during the march, a tearful Haver said, "My son is lying in a hospital bed unable to move. He cannot move and cannot breathe, and it's because he was shot with an illegal handgun."

    Haver said people should understand that "no young person who is shot and slaughtered has done anything to suggest that that should be their punishment."

    Tyree Bohannon, 21, of the 6500 block of North Fairhill Street in East Oak Lane, has been charged in the shooting.

    The goal of the rally was to "stop this from happening to anyone else," Haver said. "And to call attention to the fact that Daren was shot by someone he didn't know because our elected officials refused to stand up to the NRA."

    (Emphasis added.)

    By any standard, the unprovoked shooting and subsequent paralysis of Haver's son is a horrible outrage, and I hope the accused suspect spends the rest of his life behind bars.

    I can only begin to imagine the pain and suffering that Mr. Haver and his son are going through. But still, the father is a city official making a very unfair accusation that simply defies analysis. What I want to know is this: by what logic can the murderous actions of a thug, with a criminal record, carrying an illegal handgun, be blamed on the refusal (by elected officials or anyone else) "to stand up to the NRA"?

    As a member of the NRA, I can't but find the implications more than a little insulting. If elected officials are to blame for not standing up to the NRA, then the is NRA ultimately responsible, which means that I and all members share in the blame for this horrible crime.

    I know this will sound redundant in light of the many blog posts I have written on the subject, but what gun law or laws could conceivably have prevented a criminal from shooting an unarmed law abiding citizen? Today's article lists the current demands of the gun control advocates:

    [Former city managing director Phil Goldsmith] said that in 1995 state lawmakers passed legislation that took away the city's right to regulate handguns.

    "And what we've seen since then is an increase in handguns and violent incidents on our streets," Goldsmith said.

    Sorry, but according to the statistics, there is no such correlation:
    Murders peaked at 503 in 1990 for a rate of 31.5 per 100,000, and they averaged around 400 a year for most of the nineties. In 2002 the murder count hit a low of 288, but by 2006 the annual total had surged to 406.
    The crime rate actually went down during the time period in which Mr. Goldsmith complains that the city lost its "right" to regulate handguns. (A very interesting view of "rights," to be sure. But this is not the place to write a long essay on it.)

    Back to the Inquirer:

    He and others called on lawmakers to pass legislation requiring gun owners to report lost or stolen guns.

    "This is not a radical suggestion. Connecticut has such a law. The state of New Jersey is about ready to pass such a law," Goldsmith said.

    He said the measure had wide support throughout Pennsylvania.

    Goldsmith also called for passage of legislation limiting handgun purchases to one a month. He said the majority of Pennsylvanians favored such a measure.

    For the sake of argument, let's assume that the elected officials did "stand up to the NRA" and that Pennsylvania residents were legally required to report lost or stolen guns, and were limited to one gun per month. What possible effect could this have on a criminal carrying an illegal gun? He's already not allowed to have one at all, much less one per month. As to reporting lost or stolen guns, I'm assuming that this targets not criminals (the idea that they would report lost or stolen guns is laughable on its face) but the law abiding. I guess that in theory, the idea is that if law abiding people report lost or stolen guns, the serial numbers will be kept in some kind of data base accessible to law enforcement. How would this prevent any criminal from obtaining a lost or stolen gun, much less use it in a crime? All it might do would be to enable the police to track down the original owner of the lost or stolen gun, had he reported it (and had it later been found in the hands of a criminal). Had he not reported the gun lost or stolen, then maybe they wouldn't be able to track him down, or possibly they would be able to track him down, and then they'd be able to charge him with not reporting the loss or theft. At most then, this law adds another possible criminal charge which would only be possible to bring after an illegal gun was found in the possession of a criminal. For the most part, it simply enables serial number tracing after the fact.

    I understand that this is an awful crime, and that the father is grieving. But giving his argument every possible benefit of the doubt, I cannot come up with a logical theory under which his son would not have been shot by Tyree Bohannon had elected officials "stood up to the NRA," and the one-gun-per-month, mandatory reporting laws had been passed.

    The argument simply boils down to saying that the NRA is responsible for urban gun crime, and I think it's outrageous. As a matter of fact, I'd be willing to bet that if the NRA had been allowed to appoint the judges, there'd be fewer criminals running around with illegal guns in the first place.

    There is no question that criminals use guns. But the focus on guns almost always ignores the fact that criminals aren't allowed to have them, and that there are too many criminals walking around free.

    Once again, 80% of the shootings are committed by people with criminal records. Why focus on guns they're already not allowed to have?

    Wouldn't it be more productive to focus on the criminals than to blame the NRA?

    posted by Eric at 09:43 AM | Comments (4)

    Class War

    In my post Treatment vs Recreation I looked at how the pharmaceutical industry has come to the rescue of the middle class by making a whole host of drugs that substitute for the illegal variety. I'd like to take another look at the subject Tim Wu brought up in his Slate article. The Class War aspect. Let me quote from Tim:

    ...the current program of drug legalization in the United States is closely and explicitly tied to the strange economics of the U.S. health-care industry. The consequence is that how people get their dopamine or other brain chemicals is ever more explicitly, like the rest of medicine, tied to questions of class.

    Antidepressants and anxiety treatments aren't cheap: A fancy drug like Wellbutrin can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $2,400 a year. These drugs also require access to a sympathetic doctor who will issue a prescription. That's why, generally speaking, the new legalization program is for better-off Americans. As the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University reports, rich people tend to abuse prescription drugs, while poorer Americans tend to self-medicate with old-fashioned illegal drugs or just get drunk.

    So there you have it. The well off get "treatment" the poor get jail.

    I don't see how in good conscience we can keep doing what we are doing. In fact I pointed it out in a number of articles such as Dr. John Beresford Has Passed where I look at the Nazi connection to the Drug War and How To Put an End to Drug Users where I make that connection even more explicit with a review of Drug Warriors and Their Prey by R.L. Miller. I show exactly how conscience has been buried. We prefer to look the other way and make all kinds of excuses rather than looking at exactly what we are doing. If we faced it, we would have to see ourselves as kinder and gentler Nazis. We don't do mass murder. We do mass incarceration. Not exactly a step up we should be proud of. What exactly is the difference between a war on Jews and a war on the poor? Beats the hell out of me.

    HT Instapundit

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 03:25 AM | Comments (9)

    Treatment vs Recreation

    Tim Wu at Slate is taking a look at a subject I have been discussing for years. The idea that illegal drugs do the very same things that legal drugs do. Treat what are called emotional problems.

    Over the last two decades, the FDA has become increasingly open to drugs designed for the treatment of depression, pain, and anxiety--drugs that are, by their nature, likely to mimic the banned Schedule I narcotics. Part of this is the product of a well-documented relaxation of FDA practice that began under Clinton and has increased under Bush. But another part is the widespread public acceptance of the idea that the effects drug users have always been seeking in their illicit drugs--calmness, lack of pain, and bliss--are now "treatments" as opposed to recreation. We have reached a point at which it's commonly understood that when people snort cocaine because they're depressed or want to function better at work, that's drug trafficking; but taking antidepressants for similar purposes is practicing medicine.

    This other drug legalization movement is an example of what theorists call legal avoision. As described by theorist Leon Katz, the idea is to reach "a forbidden outcome ... as a by-product of a permitted act." In a classic tax shelter, for instance, you do something perfectly legal (like investing in a business guaranteed to lose money) in order to reach a result that would otherwise be illegal (evading taxes). In the drug context, asking Congress to legalize cocaine or repeal the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 is a fool's errand. But it's far easier to invent a new drug, X, with similar effects to cocaine, and ask the FDA to approve it as a new antidepressant or anxiety treatment. That's avoision in practice.

    Are the new pharmaceuticals really substitutes for narcotics? The question, of course, is what counts as a substitute, which can depend not just on chemistry but on how the drug in question is being used. But as a chemical matter the question seems simple: In general, pharmaceuticals do the same things to the brain that the illegal drugs do, though sometimes they do so more gently.

    As many have pointed out, drugs like Ritalin and cocaine act in nearly the exact same manner: Both are dopamine enhancers that block the ability of neurons to reabsorb dopamine. As a 2001 paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded, Ritalin "acts much like cocaine." It may go further than that: Another drug with similar effects is nicotine, leading Malcolm Gladwell to speculate in The New Yorker that both Ritalin and cocaine use are our substitutes for smoking cigarettes.

    Eric Scheie at Classical Values made that exact point in his post about Schizophrenia and Tobacco. I made that point in posts such as
    Addiction or Self Medication?
    Cannabinoids - the Key to many Pains?
    Capitalism, Pain and the War on Drugs
    The Pain Enforcement Administration
    Better than Viagra
    PTSD and the Endocannabinoid System
    The War On Unpatented Drugs
    and a host of others which you can find on my page Drug War Articles.

    I think all together they make a pretty good case about why the pharmaceutical companies support the war on drugs. They don't want the competition from substances you can grow in your back yard or in your basement. As I put it in my post Addiction or Self Medication?:

    It turns out that anxiety disorders are the most common mental health problem in the United States. They are worth $46 billion a year to the pharmaceutical industry. You don't suppose this fact has any thing to do with the pharmaceutical industries being in the forefront of the Drug Free America campaign do you? Of course not. They are just trying to keep you from being addicted to natural products at the cost of 1/10th of a cent per dose when they are more than willing to sell you an FDA and doctor approved, pharmacy sold product that will do the job for a dollar a dose. They have only your best interests at heart. Just ask their accountants.
    Plainly one of the reasons we have between a quarter and a half-million drug users and suppliers in prison and why we arrest about a three quarters of a million pot smokers a year is that the medical cartel doesn't want the competition.

    And you thought it was because drugs were bad for you. Well they are. If you don't buy from the cartel you can go to jail.

    HT Instapundit

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 01:46 AM | Comments (2)

    Canada's Harper - Kyoto Is Socialism

    Well, well, well. What do you know. The marks are starting to wise up. Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper says Kyoto is socialism all the way. As I have been saying for a while, human caused global warming is Socialist Science. Let me let the Prime Minister tell it like it is.

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper once called the Kyoto accord a "socialist scheme" designed to suck money out of rich countries, according to a letter leaked Tuesday by the Liberals.

    The letter, posted on the federal Liberal party website, was apparently written by Harper in 2002, when he was leader of the now-defunct Canadian Alliance party.

    He was writing to party supporters, asking for money as he prepared to fight then-prime minister Jean Chrétien on the proposed Kyoto accord.

    "We're gearing up now for the biggest struggle our party has faced since you entrusted me with the leadership," Harper's letter says.

    "I'm talking about the 'battle of Kyoto' -- our campaign to block the job-killing, economy-destroying Kyoto accord."

    This is the same reason that the American Senate killed the very idea during the Clinton administration by voting against it 95 to 0.

    The Prime Minister goes on:

    He writes that it's based on "tentative and contradictory scientific evidence" and it focuses on carbon dioxide, which is "essential to life."

    He says Kyoto requires that Canada make significant cuts in emissions, while countries like Russia, India and China face less of a burden.

    Under Kyoto, Canada was required to reduce emissions by six per cent by 2012, while economies in transition, like Russia, were allowed to choose different base years. As developing nations, China and India were exempted from binding targets for the first round of reductions.

    "Kyoto is essentially a socialist scheme to suck money out of wealth-producing nations," Harper's letter reads.

    He said the accord would cripple the oil and gas industries, which are essential to Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia.

    I'll bet if America adopted it that it would be bad for Texas and Oklahoma too.

    So much for history. How about some news.

    OTTAWA -- Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government promised Tuesday to get tough with polluters, but it angered opposition parties with a throne speech that reiterated its intent to ignore the country's legally binding targets under the international Kyoto Protocol on climate change.
    So how is Europe doing? About as well as Al Gore. They say one thing and do another. Robert Samuelson had this to say in 2005:
    Almost a decade ago I suggested that global warming would become a "gushing" source of political hypocrisy. So it has. Politicians and scientists constantly warn of the grim outlook, and the subject is on the agenda of the upcoming Group of Eight summit of world economic leaders. But all this sound and fury is mainly exhibitionism -- politicians pretending they're saving the planet. The truth is that, barring major technological advances, they can't (and won't) do much about global warming. It would be nice if they admitted that, though this seems unlikely.

    Europe is the citadel of hypocrisy. Considering Europeans' contempt for the United States and George Bush for not embracing the Kyoto Protocol, you'd expect that they would have made major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions -- the purpose of Kyoto. Well, not exactly. From 1990 (Kyoto's base year for measuring changes) to 2002, global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas, increased 16.4 percent, reports the International Energy Agency. The U.S. increase was 16.7 percent, and most of Europe hasn't done much better.

    Here are some IEA estimates of the increases: France, 6.9 percent; Italy, 8.3 percent; Greece, 28.2 percent; Ireland, 40.3 percent; the Netherlands, 13.2 percent; Portugal, 59 percent; Spain, 46.9 percent. It's true that Germany (down 13.3 percent) and Britain (a 5.5 percent decline) have made big reductions. But their cuts had nothing to do with Kyoto. After reunification in 1990, Germany closed many inefficient coal-fired plants in eastern Germany; that was a huge one-time saving. In Britain, the government had earlier decided to shift electric utilities from coal (high CO2 emissions) to plentiful natural gas (lower CO2 emissions).

    You know I think Kyoto is dead. I am also of the opinion that after seeing what is going on in the rest of the world any Kyoto like treaty will be no more popular in the Senate than it was the last time. It seems like Al's Nobel signifies what the Peace Prize always has signified. A person whose time has passed.

    Let me make it official then. Nobel Peace Laureate Al Gore is now officially a has been. He should than the Nobel Commission for the recognition.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 10:45 PM | Comments (4)

    Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week

    Front Page Magazine has a self parody up in which they refer to American Fascism Awareness Day. I was taken in by the parody. So I wrote Ron Paul - Communist Sympathizer? The joke was on me. Why was I taken in? It seemed like so much I have read on lefty and Islamic fascist sites from the usual cast of characters. So I guess it is time to look at the real deal.

    Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week coming to a campus near you starting October 22nd.

    Beginning on October 22, student groups across the nation will hold Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week on their campuses. These protest weeks will feature a series of events designed to bring a message to these academic communities that challenges most of what students are taught about the so-called War on Terror both in the classroom and on the quad.

    The Week's events will include speeches about Islamo-Fascism by prominent figures, including former Senator Rick Santorum (Penn State, Temple and UPenn), Sean Hannity (Columbia), Ann Coulter (Tulane and USC), Dennis Prager (UC Santa Barbara), Robert Spencer (Brown, Dartmouth, University of Rhode Island, and DePaul), Daniel Pipes (Northeastern and UPenn), David Horowitz (Columbia, Emory, Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin), Michael Ledeen (Maryland), Nonie Darwish (UCLA and Berkeley), Wafa Sultan (Stanford) and radio talk show hosts Melanie Morgan (San Francisco State), Michael Medved (University of Washington), Martha Zoeller (Georgia Tech), Alan Nathan (George Mason), Mark Larson (to be named) and many others.

    A major theme of the Week will be the oppression of women in Islam. The photo accompanying this article, which shows a teenage girl buried before being stoned to death for alleged sexual offenses, will serve as the poster for the protest Week. The stoning took place in Iran.

    They will be holding teach-ins on the subject. I was in Bezerkely, California for Mario Savio and the Free Speech Movement. Back then the anti-free speech people were on the right. Now the PC codes support the left. The worm has turned with echoes of the 60s. I like it.
    The plight of Muslim women will be featured at "teach-in" panels and also at sit-ins in Women's Studies Departments, designed to protest the absence of courses that focus on Islamic gynophobia. The silence of Women's Studies departments in the face of this oppression is a national outrage. College students are offered the opportunity to study the "oppression" of women in Boston and Beverly Hills in hundreds of Women's Studies courses across America. But there is not a single course we are aware of that addresses the real oppression of women in Teheran and Riyadh. In Saudi Arabia, to take one horrendous example, Saudi police recently shot to death schoolgirls who were fleeing a burning building without their veils. Better that they should be dead than seen. A pamphlet on the subject of women's oppression in Islam, written by Robert Spencer and Phyllis Chesler will be distributed on campuses (and posted on Frontpage next week), along with a petition protesting the campus blackout of this issue.
    You would think that the left which championed Women's Rights in America would be championing them in the most patriarchal societies in the world. You would be wrong. They have made common cause with those opposed to what they supposedly stand for. It seems like the only thing they have in common is hatred for America.

    There seems to be a backlash against Angry Studies and PC on campus. This should shake up the professoriate. Good. Nothing like a bit of cognitive dissonance on the other side to give one a feeling of schadenfreude.

    Cross Posted at Classical Values

    posted by Simon at 07:46 PM | Comments (2)

    Ron Paul - Communist Sympathizer?

    Front Page Magazine has a bit on Ron Paul's alignment with certain unsavory groups.

    The campaign mounted by campus leftists against Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week, which is scheduled to take place on more than 100 campuses during the week of October 22-26 has taken a new turn with the announcement of a counter-protest at the Washington Monument. The protest, which will be called "American Fascism Awareness Day" is being organized by Adam Kokesh of Iraq Veterans Against the War, the Revolutionary Communist Party, Students for Justice In Palestine, and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee among others and will feature speakers such as congressman Dennis Kucinich and presidential candidate Ron Paul, anti-war activists Cindy Sheehan and Harry Karry and actor Sean Penn. According to a spokesperson for the Revolutionary Communist Party, one of the sponsors of the event, "This is an answer to the Jew Horowitz and the neo-conservative Zionists who dragged us into an imperialist war in Iraq and are spreading hatred against Muslims to support their war plans against the Republic of Iran."
    I left the Libertarian Party because of their communist line on foreign policy. I'd say my diagnosis was 100% correct. It should have been. In my ill spent youth I was a follower of the Trots. This comes under the heading of suspicions confirmed.

    HT Reference Frame commenter Larry R.

    Update: It looks like I have been hoaxed. The "flyer" for the event lists Nov. 31st as the date of the event. There is no Nov. 31st on any calendar. I still stand by my point that the Libs have taken the Communist line on Foreign Policy. HT commenter Grant at Power and Control.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 06:12 PM | Comments (1)

    Impossible for a girl to have too many Hsus

    After mentioning the wiretapping, and plans of violence against Iran, Glenn Reynolds states that Hillary Clinton is "like President Cheney, only with hair!"

    Well, I am proud to say that this is not a new subject at this blog.

    And not a new look (although I guess it is a new one for Hillary):


    This makes me feel a bit sorry for President Cheney, though. Because in real life, not only did he never have hair like Hillary, but he never had her matching Hsus.

    (Without the hair or the Hsus, little wonder he can't be president.)

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

    While I am sorry that Glenn found this disturbing, what I find most disturbing is his reference to "Hillary Milhous Clinton."

    Let me make one thing perfectly clear. Some images are too disturbing to contemplate.

    posted by Eric at 02:45 PM | Comments (5)

    graves and graven images

    When Glenn Reynolds linked my PINO CHE T shirt design post, he commented that it had the potential to "create all sorts of amusing commotion." I assumed Glenn meant political commotion, but the commotion which has happened so far is copyright commotion.

    While copyright commotion can be amusing, it can also be annoying. Anyway, when I uploaded the design to a leading T-shirt designer, everything seemed to work, and I was actually given a URL where the T-shirt could be sold. No big deal there. I thought all was well, and I put the link in my post so people could order it.


    But last night, I got the following email from the T-shirt company:

    We recently learned that your CafePress.com account contains material which may not be in compliance with our policies. Specifically, designing, manufacturing, marketing and/or selling products that may infringe the rights of a third party, including, copyrights (e.g., an image of a television cartoon character), trademarks (e.g., the logo of a company), "rights in gross" (e.g., the exclusive right of the U.S. Olympic Committee to use the "Olympic Rings"), and rights of privacy and publicity (e.g., a photo of a celebrity) are prohibited.

    Accordingly, we have set the content that we believe to be questionable to "pending status" which disables said content from being displayed in your shop or purchased by the public.

    I emailed back asking for an explanation, as both Guevara and Pinochet are dead, and the image I designed is a composite of two widely circulated political designs which were derived from photographs taken long ago. (Along with a satirical caption which plays on both names.) It is quite obvious that the juxtaposition is intended as parody. Parody is exempt from copyright enforcement.

    So I wonder what is going on.

    I'd hate to think that Che or his photographer are trying to censor me from beyond the grave!

    MORE: The copyright parody plot thickens. Commenter Meleva suggested I go into cafepress and search for famous images, which I did.

    Considering they sell t-shirts featuring the original Korda photograph like this one (from which the rest are derivative), obviously that's not the copyright issue that's causing the commotion.


    Furthermore, they also feature t-shirts featuring the same Pinochet image on which I based the design!


    So I'm more confused than ever. If neither image alone has copyright problems, then what's behind the commotion?

    MORE: As I suspected, the Korda image is the problem. I just received this reply to my request for an explanation:

    Thank you for contacting CafePress.com!

    Unfortunately we have pended your Korda Che Guevara based image. Please understand that we feel Che is a political figure and that it is appropriate to use original, public domain or licensed images of Che on the CafePress.com Web site, however, the Korda Che Guevara image is a photograph that is protected by copyright laws and use of the actual image, or any derivatives can be viewed as copyright infringement.
    We have been in contact with the attorney for the Korda estate, and below please find his contact information. We are more than happy to allow you to use the image if you obtain permission.
    Maitre Randy Yolaz
    Cabinet D'Avocats - Law Offices
    17, Bis Avenue Foch
    75116 Paris France
    Tel: +33
    Fax: +33
    Sorry for the inconvenience. Once again, we do view Che as a political figure and allow pro or anti Che merchandise, however, your particular image is too similar to the original Korda photograph. Please note that merely altering the image is not sufficient, you need to create your own original work and it cannot resemble the unique features of the Korda photograph.

    Unlike other major t-shirt producers like ThoseShirts.com, apparently, Cafe Press does not understand that parody is not infringement.

    The Wiki entry for the Korda photo provides some background on the copyright issue. As Cuba was a non-signatory to the Berne convention, the image was widely reproduced for 40 years without any copyright protection. (Castro consider stated that he considered copyright law "imperialist bullshit," but he seemed to change his tune in 1997.) A couple of years later, Korda was upset by a Smirnoff vodka ad and sued in Britain, where he won a $50,000 judgment. Here's a brief summary:

    A recent international case dealt with this: a Cuban photographer (Alberto Korda) took many pictures of Ché Guevara (never taking public credit for them), and for years allowed anyone who wanted to use them to do so (because he felt that it immortalized Ché, as well as the Cuban revolution). A few years ago, Smirnoff vodka used some of these images in an ad campaign; the photographer did not like this, and complained about copyright infringement. Seagram's (the company that makes Smirnoff) countered that the photographer had allowed the copyrights to fall into public domain because he had made no attempt to stop the many people who had used the images before without asking permission. By strictest interpretation, they were right (the pictures were made pre-Berne, they were never registered, no notice of copyright had ever been given, and world-wide use had been allowed with no attempt to stop or even notify the infringers), but the government of Cuba put some pressure on the English government to protect the copyrights. In a purely political move, Seagram's backed down, but all this says is that if you don't have the backing of a large governmental agency, you can possibly lose your copyrights to public domain.
    Che's family says they're planning to fight what they call "infringement." Hah!

    I'd be willing to bet that they'll never dare sue ThoseShirts.com, because they'd certainly lose in any United States court. (Those cowardly British courts. Again!)

    The more I thought about Cafe Press's attitude, the more annoyed I became.

    Next I discovered that I am not alone. Cafe Press also censored The People's Cube for this "infringement":


    Not only is it pure parody, it doesn't even resemble the Korda photo. Moreover, The People's Cube documents countless instances of parodies of corporate logos none of which Cafe Press is interested in protecting.

    What a priceless double standard.

    Parody capitalismo sí!

    Parody communismo no!

    And in what I think is a priceless act of retaliation, The People's Cube now has their own Cafe Press Parody Site!

    UPDATE: The official PINO CHE T is now for sale here!

    UPDATE (10/19/07): The Printfection link will no longer work, so (only after great reluctance) I redesigned the T-shirt yet again, minus the Korda design which upset the companies. It is now for sale at Cafe Press.

    PINO CHENoKorda_T.jpg

    PLEASE NOTE: The above is not the Korda image, nor is it derived from it.

    However, it remains my opinion that the Korda image is in the public domain, and that in any event it may be freely parodied.

    posted by Eric at 10:27 AM | Comments (6)

    Classical liberalism is for kooks!

    Is Classical Liberalism dead in today's Republican Party?

    The reason I'm asking is that it often seems that way to me. I'm thinking that the Wikipedia's attempt to call it "conservatism" may therefore be in error.

    From the Wiki entry, a brief definition of Classical liberalism:

    a doctrine stressing the importance of human rationality, individual property rights, natural rights, the protection of civil liberties, constitutional limitations of government, free markets, and individual freedom from restraint as exemplified in the writings of Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill,[3], Montesquieu, Voltaire [4] and others. As such, it is seen as the fusion of economic liberalism with political liberalism.[5] The "normative core" of classical liberalism is the idea that laissez-faire economics will bring about a spontaneous order or invisible hand that benefits the society,[6] though it does not necessarily oppose the state's provision of a few basic public goods that the market is seen as being incapable of providing.[7] The qualification classical was applied in retrospect to distinguish early nineteenth-century liberalism from the "new liberalism" associated with Thomas Hill Green, Leonard Trelawny Hobhouse,[8] and Franklin D. Roosevelt,[9] which grants a more interventionist role for the state. Classical liberalism is not to be confused with the ideology that is commonly called "liberalism" today in the United States, as classical liberalism is actually closer to being a tendency of "conservativism" in the U.S.[10]
    Is that true today? The last footnote goes to a political science text published in 1999, which was in all probability written when Reagan Republicanism (with its belief in government non-intervention in the economy) was still dominant in the GOP.

    If this poll is correct, times are changing:

    The overseas earnings of large US companies may well be shielding the US economy from a recession at a time when the housing market is in a steep slump but voters of the traditionally pro-business Republican Party, by a nearly two-to-one margin, believe free trade is bad for the US economy, a shift in opinion that mirrors Democratic views and suggests trade deals could face high hurdles under a new president.

    A new Wall Street Journal-NBC News Poll shows a fraying of Republican Party orthodoxy on the economy. While 60% of respondents said they want the next president and Congress to continue cutting taxes, 32% said it's time for some tax increases on the wealthiest Americans to reduce the budget deficit and pay for health care.

    Six in 10 Republicans in the poll agreed with a statement that free trade has been bad for the US and said they would agree with a Republican candidate who favoured tougher regulations to limit foreign imports. The Journal says that represents a challenge for Republican candidates who generally echo President Bush's calls for continued trade expansion, and reflects a substantial shift in sentiment from eight years ago.

    If this is a new direction in the Republican Party, if the Democratic Party is poised to become the party advocating free trade, and if 32% of Republicans favor tax hikes, then I think it's fair to ask a question:

    Is Classical liberalism dead?

    I hope not. (And after all, you can't kill a theory, so in the technical sense it will never die.) What worries me, though, is that Classical liberalism may be close to dead in the Republican Party. Ironically, its executioner (or at least the guy who's hammering in the coffin nails) would seem to be its staunchest proponent -- Ron Paul. While there is no logical relationship between economic policies and support or opposition to the War in Iraq, human thought tends to become contaminated by juxtapositional associations -- especially when people are in a hurry (or mentally overloaded). Like it or not, Ron Paul's strident opposition to the war is being indelibly associated with his equally strident economic laissez faire advocacy. Few people take the time to sort these things out and ask whether he might be partially right. Instead, they dismiss him as a loon. And with him, they dismiss Classical liberalism.

    As a Classical liberal (or small "l" libertarian, "civil societarian," or whatever you might call it), I hate to see this happening.

    Parenthetically, this touches on why I think Alan Keyes should be included in the debates. It seems only fair (if not fair, at least symmetrical) that someone should be doing to social conservatism what Ron Paul is doing to libertarianism. Besides, there are people in the party who agree with Keyes, just as there are people in the party who agree with Paul.

    And, just as there are plenty of social conservatives who disagree with Keyes, so there are plenty of libertarians who disagree with Paul. Why does the "kook" phenomenon have to be linked in the debates only to libertarianism?

    Anyway, I'm sorry to see clear evidence that the Republican party rank and file have become so accepting of statism, because the Democrats offer no alternative at all. Whether it takes the form the welfare state, the nanny state, or the big government conservatism state, I worry that the country is headed for populist totalitarianism with mutual consent of both parties.

    No doubt there will be plenty of "triangulation" on both sides.

    MORE: Fred Thompson speaks out against triangulation:

    "Some think the way to beat the Democrats in November is to be more like them. I could not disagree more," the one-time Tennessee senator says in remarks he is to deliver to the Conservative Party of New York.

    "I believe that conservatives beat liberals only when we challenge their outdated positions, not embrace them. This is not a time for philosophical flexibility, it is a time to stand up for what we believe in," Thompson adds.

    It looks like an encouraging development. I like Thompson's federalism, and he might just be able to nudge the GOP back to a Reaganesque appreciation of limited government.

    (Not to confuse an already confused issue, but I should point out that there is also such a thing as neoclassical liberalism.)

    UPDATE: Oregon Guy has an interesting post on the submission curve. (This one's good too.)

    posted by Eric at 08:55 AM | Comments (2)

    It's not homophobia if it's Americaphobia!

    Can identity politics ever destroy identity politics?

    Glenn Reynolds earlier linked a perfect example of the cannibalistic nature of identity politics:

    According to Massad, a Palestinian Christian and disciple of the late Columbia professor Edward Said, the case for gay rights in the Middle East is an elaborate scheme hatched by activists in the West. Massad posited this thesis in a 2002 article, "Re-Orienting Desire: The Gay International and the Arab World," for the academic journal Public Culture, and he has expanded it into a book, Desiring Arabs, published this year by the University of Chicago Press. In it, he writes that such activists constitute the "Gay International" whose "discourse ... produces homosexuals as well as gays and lesbians, where they do not exist." The "missionary tasks" of this worldwide conspiracy are part of a broader attempt to legitimize American and Israeli global conquest by undermining the very moral basis of Muslim societies, as the "Orientalist impulse ... continues to guide all branches of the human rights community." Massad's intellectual project is a not-so-tacit apology for the oppression of people who identify openly as homosexual. In so doing, he sides with Islamist regimes over Islamic liberals.
    Of course, if a white Western man made a similar argument (as one did when he blamed Western homosexuality for Abu Ghraib), I don't think he'd be taken seriously, much less considered for a tenured faculty position at Columbia.

    But because Massad's crackpot view of sexuality is in the tradition of the "anti-Orientalist" Edward Said, he must be taken seriously:

    It becomes clear why Massad views gay-identifying Arab men with such scorn. In his mind, they have become willing victims of colonization. That's why Massad tacitly supports Middle Eastern governments' crackdown on organized gay political activity: He sees this repression as a legitimate expression of anti-colonialism. "It is not the same-sex sexual practices that are being repressed by the Egyptian police but rather the sociopolitical identification of these practices with the Western identity of gayness and the publicness that these gay-identified men seek." Thus, Arab gays (or, to use Massad's terminology, "so-called 'gays' ") should not identify as such, because to do so is accepting Western cultural hegemony. Massad even throws in a swipe at the "U.S.-based anti-Arab British Iraqi writer Kanan Makiya," a strong supporter of the Iraq war, for his alleged attempt to include protections in the new Iraqi constitution for homosexuals. How dare these men fight for their dignity as homosexuals!

    It is true that the current understanding of "gay identity" is a relatively new concept, formed by Western thinkers over the past century years. This does not mean, however, as Massad contends, that a gay identity is inherently Western. The increasing acceptance of homosexuality as an acceptable way of life is a fruit of Western liberalism, but so is equality for women. Just because these notions originated in the West does not also mean that gays around the world do not also yearn for them or deserve them. But that is the logic of Joseph Massad.

    His "logic" boils down to this: gay identity may be fine in the West, but when it is applied to the Mideast, it constitutes Western imperialism, because Islamic homosexuals are not "gay." Apparently he thinks there's a sort of a "Traditional Taboo Curtain" which must be upheld at all costs to prevent cultural hegemony from coming across from the West and corrupting otherwise clueless Mideast homosexuals into imagining that they might have a right to actually acknowledge doing what they want. (And if this means a few homos have to be killed, that's probably the West's fault too -- for "encouraging" them.) He says he's for sexual freedom, but I'm skeptical as he seems to be against intellectual freedom. Sure the gay identity is largely a Western construct. As I've often argued, the ancients didn't know gay from straight as they didn't think in those terms. But Massad seems to be arguing that people don't have a right to decide for themselves what they want to be. If they think they're gay, they're "corrupted" by the West.

    Does this mean the executioners who put the rope around their neck are their cultural "betters"?

    I suspect that what drives Massad is not homophobia, but what Dean Esmay calls Americaphobia:

    Americaphobia: it's as real as Islamophobia, but too many Muslims are too stupid to recognize this reality.
    Well, I guess I should be glad that Massad isn't arguing that the right to execute homosexuals is part of some identity group's "cultural DNA."

    The crazier these things get, the more people just want to be left alone.

    But sometimes, the right to be left alone requires a fight. I don't care whether the people Massad is talking about are "gay," or "homosexual," or "bisexual," or just men who for whatever reason like having occasional sex with men. The fact is, they are not free to do what they want to do. No amount of post-modernist analysis is going to change that ugly fact.

    They are therefore going to look to the West, and to America. To argue against that constitutes religious bigotry, as well as Americaphobia.

    Far from excusing the former, the latter only makes it worse.

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

    Keeping my blogger burnout burning brightly!

    There are some people who relentlessly believe that the opinions at sites like WorldNetDaily constitute facts, and RedState's Bob Frazier seems to be one of them:

    Is this country going mad?

    ""Mom and Dad" as well as "husband and wife" have been banned from California schools under a bill signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who with his signature also ordered public schools to allow boys to use girls restrooms and locker rooms, and vice versa, if they choose."

    So reports World Net Daily. Funny, it does not seem to be getting a lot of "airplay" in the Main Street Media. This is a group of state bills signed by Arnold the terminator. For those of you who supported Arnold over McClintock because "he was electable" the chickens are now coming home to roost. (Is there a lesson here?)

    The bills include SB777, which bans anything in public schools that could be interpreted as "negative" toward homosexuality, bisexuality and other "alternative lifestyle choices." There are no similar protections for students with traditional or conservative lifestyles and beliefs, however.

    The text of the bill is here. "Mom," "dad," "husband," and "wife" are not mentioned, nor banned. Nothing about restrooms. Nor are the words "negative" or "alternative lifestyle choices" mentioned.

    These are WorldNetDaily's opinions about how the bill might be interpreted.

    Here are the relevant passages which seem to have especially irritated religious conservatives:

    SECTION 1. Section 200 of the Education Code is amended to read:
    200. It is the policy of the State of California to afford all persons in public schools, regardless of their sex, ethnic group identification, race, national origin, religion, mental or physical disability, or regardless of any actual or perceived disability, gender, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or any other characteristic that is contained in the definition of hate crimes set forth in Section 422.55 of the Penal Code, equal rights and opportunities in the educational institutions of the state. The purpose of this chapter is to prohibit acts which are contrary to that policy and to provide
    remedies therefor.


    51500. No teacher shall give instruction nor shall a school district sponsor any activity which that reflects adversely upon persons because of their race, sex, color, creed, handicap, national origin, or ancestry a characteristic listed in Section 220 .
    SEC. 16. Section 51501 of the Education Code is amended to read:
    51501. No textbook, or other instructional materials shall be adopted by the state board State Board or by any governing board for use in the public schools which that contains any matter reflecting adversely upon persons because of their race, sex, color, creed, handicap, national origin, or ancestry a
    characteristic listed in Section 220
    SEC. 17. Section 60044 of the Education Code is amended to read:
    60044. No instructional materials shall be adopted by any governing board for use in the schools which that , in its determination, contains:

    (a) Any matter reflecting adversely upon persons because of their race, color, creed, national origin, ancestry, sex, handicap, or occupation a characteristic listed in Section 220 .
    (b) Any sectarian or denominational doctrine or propaganda
    contrary to law.


    SB 777 appears to be a rehash of SB 1437 (vetoed by Schwarzenegger last year), which basically adds "sexual orientation" and "gender" to the list of protected categories. The same arguments were made over that incarnation of the bill, and I addressed them then, so rather than recreate them, I'll just repeat myself:

    I don't think government should be dictating the content of textbooks, because that opens the door for various identity politics activist crackpots to complain that something "reflects adversely" on their group.

    However, notice that religion and sexual orientation are treated equally. That means angry fundamentalist activists would have just as much right to maintain that school activities or statements in the textbooks reflect adversely upon them as would angry gay activists.


    I am not clear on how forbidding the adoption of material that reflects adversely on a sexual lifestyle requires promotion of it -- any more than forbidding the adoption of material reflecting adversely on a religion mandates promotion of that religion.

    In logic, possible interpretations of a law are not the same thing as what the text of the law says, and these two things should be distinguished. WorldNetDaily is making a huge stretch in reporting what might happen as what would happen.

    Of course, we can argue whether it's important to differentiate between opinion and fact. I think it is important -- even in blogging. But in news reporting, I think it is more important, and WorldNetDaily describes itself as a newssite. As such, I think it is fair to at least try to hold them to the same standard to which I hold the Philadelphia Inquirer.

    Why hold any "news" organization to any standard, though? Maybe people should just vent freely, and engage in whatever sort of demagoguery turns them on.

    I can't help notice that in last year's post I was complaining that the whole things was giving me blogger burnout. (Even the title was "An inside look at blogger burnout.")

    Well my blogger burnout is back!

    And this time, I'm so burned out that I'm just about ready to climb to the top of Brokeback Burnout Mountain and proudly proclaim my perpetual burnout to the world.

    (A good thing really, because with an election just around the corner only a year from now, I probably ought to keep the fires of my blogger burnout burning on the back burner.)

    posted by Eric at 01:41 PM | Comments (1)

    Putting Children Into A Deep Freeze Is Torture

    There are several million embryos frozen in liquid nitrogen. I propose we thaw them all, right now and let their life continue. It is immoral to keep them frozen. They are being imprisoned without due process. It's unConstitutional. End the prisons for children at once. Thaw the embryos.

    Prompted by Jaw-Dropping Demagoguery and Can Rudy Talk The Pro-Life Crowd Into His Corner?

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 10:24 AM | Comments (5)

    "jaw-dropping demagoguery"

    Is how Ed Morrissey describes Alan Keyes' CLC speech from Saturday night:

    ....He made an intriguing claim that the preamble of the Constitution forbids abortion in its mandate to "secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity". In this, Keyes claims to have found the language forbidding abortion that Justice Blackmun insisted he sought during Roe, because "posterity" refers to those yet to come -- which would include unborn children necessarily. Websters defines "posterity" as "the offspring of one progenitor to the furthest generation" and "all future generations," and Keyes says the framers understood exactly what they meant when they wrote that passage.

    With that understanding, Keyes engaged in some jaw-dropping demagoguery. He claimed that Giuliani's pro-choice standing put him in the "pro-slavery position". That's ridiculous on its face. First, the language of the preamble did not forbid slavery; it took the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to accomplish that. Second, in no way could anyone accuse Giuliani of being "pro-slavery". It's as though Keyes read the Constitution and decided that one has to go all the way to Z as a consequence of moving from A to B. It's absurd.

    After that, he talked about Mitt Romney being "the devil with the mask on," and Rudy as "the devil with the mask off." Fred Thompson wears masks, too, because he made a living as an actor. Don't talk about Reagan being an actor, though, because Keyes says that Reagan had "character" while Thompson does not. How he makes this distinction, Keyes didn't elaborate, but it seems somewhat daft considering Reagan was an actor by training, while Fred's acting career was a lark that paid off.

    Devils and traitors populate Keyes' world to a degree not known by most rational people....

    No doubt I'm a pro-slavery traitor too (in addition to being an immoral hedonist). But I still think Keyes should be allowed in these debates, because his wing of the GOP is angry, and feels completely shut out. I think that if they are allowed to compete like everyone else and they lose by the rules, they'll be more likely to recognize the reality that we live in a world of immoral sinners.

    There's nothing new about Keyes' "slavery" argument. I've addressed it before, and it doesn't just arise in the context of abortion. Homosexuality is often analogized to slavery (in fact a persistent commenter argues that allowing consensual sex is like allowing slavery). Regarding homosexuality, Keyes goes even further than slavery; he calls it "the thermonuclear device--that is aimed at the soul of America," and "a direct repudiation of our most important principles." (Pretty strong stuff, but the man really and truly believes that opposition to homosexuality lies at the foundation not only of America, but of all morality.)

    I'll say this for Keyes; by sticking to the slavery analogy, at least he didn't accuse Giuliani and Romney of committing nuclear genocide against our founding principles.

    Nor, significantly, did he accuse his fellow Republicans of being like Hitler. Or Himmler....

    (Maybe the invocation of slavery is "Godwin Lite....")

    AFTERTHOUGHT: Does my advocacy of tolerance for the Keyesians violate the rule against tolerating intolerance? Any thoughts?

    (Maybe I should worry over whether the top of the Empire State building should be lit up in green despite the fact that there probably won't be reciprocal Christmas lights in Mecca.)

    posted by Eric at 09:03 AM | Comments (1)

    I Will Not Lie

    The Berkeley Daily Planet has a post up from US Marine Corps Captain Richard Lund in response to the Code Pink demonstration in front of the Marine Corps recruiting office in Bezerkeley, California.

    First, a little bit about who I am: I am a Marine captain with over eight years of service as a commissioned officer. I flew transport helicopters for most of my time in the Marine Corps before requesting orders to come here. Currently, I am the officer selection officer for the northern Bay Area. My job is to recruit, interview, screen, and evaluate college students and college graduates that show an interest in becoming officers in the Marine Corps. Once they've committed to pursuing this program, I help them apply, and if selected, I help them prepare for the rigors of Officer Candidate School and for the challenges of life as a Marine officer. To be eligible for my programs, you have to be either a full-time college student or a college graduate. I don't pull anyone out of school, and high school students are not eligible.

    I moved my office to Berkeley in December of last year. Previously, it was located in an old federal building in Alameda. That building was due to be torn down and I had to find a new location. I choose our new site because of its proximity to UC Berkeley and to the BART station. Most of the candidates in my program either go to Cal or to one of the schools in San Francisco, the East Bay, or the North Bay. Logistically, the Shattuck Square location was the most convenient for them.

    Next, you claim that I lie. I have never, and will never, lie to any individual that shows an interest in my programs. I am upfront with everything that is involved at every step of the way and I go out of my way to ensure that they know what to expect when they apply. I tell them that this is not an easy path. I tell them that leading Marines requires a great deal of self-sacrifice. I tell them that, should they succeed in their quest to become a Marine officer, they will almost certainly go to Iraq. In the future, if you plan to attack my integrity, please have the courtesy to explain to me specifically the instances in which you think that I lied.

    Next he goes into why a country needs a military. Let me give you the short version. Every country will have a military, either its own or some one else's. There is more. Go and read.

    Semper Fi

    H/T Zombie Time from a link at LGF

    BTW if some one can direct me to the author and exact form of the "Every country will have a military..." I'd appreciate it.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 04:26 AM | Comments (6)

    Dark Star

    A good one, from 8-27-72!

    (Grateful Dead, of course.)

    Explanation (well, sort of, if you really must):

    In Garcia, Charles Reich questions Garcia about "Dark Star.":

    REICH: Well then if we wanted to talk about "Dark Star," uh, could you say anything about where it comes from?
    [GARCIA]: You gotta remember that you and I are talking about two different "Dark Stars." You're talking about the "Dark Star" which you have heard formalized on a record, and I'm talking about the "Dark Star" which I have heard in each performance as a completely improvised piece over a long period of time. So I have a long continuum of "Dark Star" which range in character from each other to real different extremes. "Dark Star" has meant, while I'm playing it, almost as many things as I can sit here and imagine, so all I can do is talk about "Dark Star" as a playing experience.
    REICH: Well, yeah, talk about it a little.
    [GARCIA]: I can't. It talks about itself.
    (pp. 84, 85.)

    It also talks about some kind of weird extraterrestrial energy that no one in the band could explain. So they just reflected on it.

    "Sometimes I just count the scales of the dragon," said Garcia, in apparent agreement.

    Sometimes I could see the dragon breathe. But maybe I was only feeling it move and maybe my senses were crossed.

    posted by Eric at 12:06 AM | Comments (2)

    "Tou che!"

    Glenn Reynolds' link to Samizdata's Quote of the Day reminded me that I had missed the 40th anniversary of the Che Guevara's death:

    I belong to a Facebook group called "Che Guevara was a murderer and your T-Shirt is not cool". It has 10,935 members. It's not nearly enough. To celebrate the anniversary of his death, why not join up and get on the right side of history?
    Well, that's certainly the least I could do, so I just did.

    Marc Sidwell also supplied a link to this t-shirt, which is a good way to remember the beloved murderer so many foolish people imagine to be "cool."

    I was reminded of a t-shirt I designed (but alas never made), which I thought would probably annoy the Commies more than it would any other group.

    I called it the PINO-CHE "T" -- and now that they're both dead, it seemed like a good time to resurrect it.


    As I said at the time,

    I mean no offense to the victims of either of these two men, as it is not my intent to glorify them. Only offer a little perspective.

    (And symmetrical ridicule.)

    The post drew Steven Malcolm Anderson's final comment here:
    Tou Che!
    I'm glad the shirt gave Steven something to laugh about on his last day on earth. I'd give anything to have Steven back, and none of us wants to go.

    But if you've gotta go, I can think of worse things to do than laughing at Che Guevara on your way out.

    MORE: Don't miss "The BBC's vile infatuation with Che Guevara" -- which begins with this especially vile quote from Che:

    "To send men to the firing squad, judicial proof is unnecessary... These procedures are an archaic bourgeois detail. This is a revolution! And a revolutionary must become a cold killing machine motivated by pure hate."
    Che Guevara

    UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link, especially his comment that it "could create all sorts of amusing commotion."

    Of course, Glenn has a long history of creating t-shirt commotion, and no doubt the t-shirt humor police will note this latest outburst of politically incorrect shamelessness.

    Humor on certain subjects is of course verboten!

    MORE: I can't help noticing that Glenn is pictured here (at the bottom of the page), wearing the t-shirt that made such a commotion in the politburo of akademia.

    I just tried uploading my design there, but "file uploads are temporarily disabled."

    AND MORE: Finally figured it out. The PINO CHE T-shirt is for sale here!

    It looks like this:


    Go ahead. Outrage your commie friends!

    UPDATE: The commotion Glenn predicted seems to be starting (although it's not the type of commotion I expected). More here.

    posted by Eric at 08:14 PM | Comments (14)

    Dr. Bussard's Final Interview

    Tim Ventura has a 53 minute audio interview of Fusion Pioneer Dr. Robert Bussard at his site American Anti-Gravity. Let me give you a bit of what Tim has to say.

    In our exclusive interview, Bussard describes the disenchantment with big-science Tokamak research that led him to return to the roots of Farnsworth-style fusion in the "Polywell" project that he initiated in 1986. Funded for over 20 years by the Department of the Navy, Bussard's EMC2 corporation was tasked with solving 19 fundamental challenges that stood in the way of designing commercially viable Farnsworth fusors - and in an unexpected twist, a race to bring the prototype online after project funding was cut in 2006.

    Never straying far from the dream of manned spaceflight, Bussard's Polywell design is exceptional in being not only designed for high-efficiency, but also for portability - making it perfect for not only the Navy's intended use in powering ocean vessels and submarines, but also for providing high output thrust for proposed nuclear space-applications. Bussard's first intended application was an 8-foot diameter naval reactor capable of generating 100-megawatts of output energy, with the ultimate goal of using these reactors in high-velocity transorbital spacecraft capable of reaching the moon in less than 8 hours time.

    To hear the audio go to Tim's site. He has links there. It is a most interesting talk and well worth your time. Dr. Bussard discusses his Fusion Reactor and other Fusion developments like Cold Fusion and Sonic Fusion. He explains why the last two, though real effects, are unlikely to lead to net power production.

    Let me add that the US Navy funded Dr. Bussard's research this past August, about two months before he died. Two scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratories, one a long time friend of Dr. Bussard's, continue the work.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

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

    Yearning for the good old days
    (and building a better yesterday)

    Remember in the good old days of the Cold War, when political analysts in this country used to play Kremlinologist? The Soviet leadership would line up on the reviewing stand of the Lenin Mausoleum (especially on Mayday) to watch men and missiles on parade, and the slightest details were watched avidly. For "signs." And "clues." Who was now standing closest to Brezhnev? What did that mean when Kosygin was seen looking skyward for an instant when Brezhnev paused for effect? And why did Defense Minister Ustinov slightly raise his eyebrow?


    Yes, those were the happy days!

    While he was not talking about Kremlinologists, Sean Kinsell made me feel an outburst of nostalgia:

    ...everything she says or does is examined to death, by friend and foe alike, for what it might indicate about her emergent Hillaryness. Of course, every politician makes tossed-off comments or clothing choices that get overworked in the media, but with Hillary the enterprise reaches a whole new level. Some sources speculate that Clinton's newest shade from Clairol suggests her commitment to the reconstruction of Iraq is less than sincere.... I understand that there are reasons for it--she may lack Bill's charisma, but in her own weird way, she may be just as compelling a figure. A lot of her fans seem to think she's some kind of saint, and a lot of her detractors seem to hate her more than they do Satan.
    Ah, but that's why they watch her every move! This is not to engage in a moral or political comparison of Hillary Clinton to the Soviet Politburo, but when powerful figures become mysterious and aloof, when they are off limits to ordinary mortals (and politically "unreliable" media sources), a cultlike aura develops around them, and watching their every move becomes natural.

    Mere mortal than I am, even I occasionally can't resist the temptation.

    I kept my trap shut during the Media Matters-fueled attacks on Rush Limbaugh because it was obvious to me what he meant by the "phony soldiers" remark, and equally obvious that paid professional Rush watchers can do wonders by taking a few words out of their overall context. By its nature, talk radio cannot withstand textual analysis, because the shows consist of hours of daily spontaneous remarks. Considering the number of mistakes and inadvertent omissions I make when I'm writing, and the voluminous nature of my remarks (many of which are intended as satire), and considering the way new readers misconstrue what I say, I shudder to think what a paid professional antagonist could do if I vented freely on the air for hours each day. I'd probably be left saying, "I didn' t say that! And if I did I meant precisely the opposite!"

    On the other hand, I'm not a Limbaugh fan. So the Limbaugh matter failed to excite me. People can yell and scream and misconstrue him, demand that he be taken off the air, and it probably helps his ratings overall.

    However, there is one aspect of the Limbaugh matter that cannot be ignored, and it isn't Hillary's Media Matters stuff. When the government -- in the form of a number of members of the United States Senate -- ratified the Media Matters accusations and coupled them with demands on official stationery, they came pretty close to violating their oath of office. (The latter requires them to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic" and "bear true faith and allegiance to the same.") I think accusations and demands sent to a radio executive based on no more than the alleged content of protected political speech constitute something less than full truth and allegiance to the First Amendment to the Constitution. Maybe I should grateful that they stopped short of passing a law regulating what Rush Limbaugh is and is not allowed to say, but haven't these Senators heard of a thing called the chilling effect on free speech? (Imagine the outcry if a group of Republican Senators had sent a similar letter to the employer of a left-wing radio commentator who had upset them!) Anyway, whether they like it or not, these people are charged with protecting free speech, not chilling it. I think they've abused their position and damned themselves as enemies of free speech. Any remark made by Rush Limbaugh (who is simply sounding off) pales in comparison to a government letter like the above.

    Had the letter only been signed by a few ideologues like Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, or Bernie Sanders it wouldn't be as big a deal.

    What makes it a big deal is the signature of Hillary, because this makes it Hillary's letter to Rush. She is running for president, and unless the GOP does the impossible gets its act together, she'll win.

    In the letter, Hillary claims that Rush's remarks were "an outrage" and an "affront" which was "beyond the pale":

    Although Americans of goodwill debate the merits of this war, we can all agree that those who serve with such great courage deserve our deepest respect and gratitude. That is why Rush Limbaugh's recent characterization of troops who oppose the war as "phony soldiers" is such an outrage.

    Our troops are fighting and dying to bring to others the freedoms that many take for granted. It is unconscionable that Mr. Limbaugh would criticize them for exercising the fundamentally American right to free speech. Mr. Limbaugh has made outrageous remarks before, but this affront to our soldiers is beyond the pale.

    What I'd still like to know is whether soldiers were forbidden by order of Hillary Clinton to wear their uniforms in the White House. These allegations have been around for years, and they're detailed in a book by Buzz Patterson, who has consistently maintained -- and still maintains -- that they are true. As affronts go, this would certainly be a greater affront than Limbaugh's remarks about phony soldiers. Of course, Media Matters indignantly denies that Hillary ever tried to forbid uniforms, calling the claim a "dubious smear."

    I remember the uniform ban claim quite well, and I first heard about it during the frenzied debate over gays in the military. Looking back, it would be nice to know what really happened, but all I can see right now is the claim by Patterson (who worked as an Air Force aide in the Clinton White House) on one side, countered by angry denials on the other. The reason I wanted to know then and still want to know now is that it once worried me that so many of the people who were pushing for gays in the military -- a cause I strongly supported at the time as I do now -- were anti-military. (I'm a very cynical person, but the idea that patriotic gays who wanted to serve in the military might be used as political fodder to hurt the military upset me enormously. Perhaps to the depths of my soul, if such things be....)

    So I'd still like to know. If the First Lady tried to keep uniforms out of the White House, it is at least as relevant now as it was then. Because, you know, it might have significance beyond the Limbaugh letter.

    Geez, was I getting serious there? Forgive me. I started out trying to be humorous and nostalgic.

    Perhaps I should return to the signature of Hillary. Might there be hidden meanings expressed in the signature itself that haven't been thoroughly explored and dissected?

    Here's the Limbaugh letter signature:


    The "Clinton" part of her name is distant, and clearly running off to the right, as if written in as an afterthought. The "Hillary Rodham" part looks like a normal signature, while the "Clinton" appears added. Furthermore, "Hillary Rodham" runs along the same line, while "Clinton" is slightly elevated.

    Notice particularly the gap between "Rodham" and "Clinton."

    Signatures from a few years ago not only align perfectly, but there's no gap between "Rodham" and "Clinton." Here are three typical examples:




    What really deepens the mystery is that an autograph dealer states that she no longer signs her name that way:

    An Invitation to the White House oversized coffee table book autographed on the inside cover in black marker with a legible FULL NAME Hillary Rodham Clinton signature that she no longer signs. Her current shorthand signature is much less legible.
    Might that explain the gap? Has she reverting to signing her full name only recently? Or did she just do it this one time, and only for Rush?

    A psychoanalyst I am not (nor am I a paid professional Hillary watcher). But it does occur to me that there might be an element of passive aggressiveness in the Limbaugh letter "afterthought" signature, especially the Rodham-Clinton gap. Many have long suspected that she'd love to ditch the Clinton, and not in name only. But for political reasons, she can't. So she may be feeling torn, and it would not surprise me if she has mixed feelings about returning to the White House with Bill. Would they actually live together? Again?

    Not that it would really matter to anyone except a nostalgic Clintonologist.

    UPDATE: Via Glenn Reynolds and Extreme Mortman something to add to the nostalgia mix (and related to competitive victimology) is the question of whether black women should support Obama as a black candidate, or Hillary as a woman with historically significant hair:

    Clinton won Bell's undying support in part by playing on her femininity. In addition to the policy pronouncements she gave during the keynote at a black hairdressers' convention this summer, Clinton ran through a slide show of her hairstyles through the years.

    A long bob with short bangs.

    A short bob with tall 1980s bangs.

    A mini-bouffant as a brunette.

    A straight slick cut hitting at the chin.

    "Go 'head, woman," someone in the audience said. "You've got more power than any woman in this whole world."

    That's probably true, and we should all be focusing on important things like hair.

    Glenn also links Ann Althouse's discussion of fading memory (on which Andrew Sullivan has more). Althouse notes the incredibly condescending nature of the discussion:

    I'm vaguely horrified by this discussion of black female political thought. As the NYT article tells it, it seems that black women vote based on whether they feel more like a mother or a sexual partner to the candidate (or the candidate's spouse) -- with a dollop of religious inanity stirred in.
    I don't know which should be more horrifying; the condescension in the discussion or the condescension in the campaign.

    (Oh, I forgot. The media "discussion" is part of the campaign, dummy!)

    UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link! And welcome fellow Kremlintonologists. (Did I spell that right? I keep making hair-raising mistakes.)

    posted by Eric at 02:29 PM | Comments (0)

    More Chaos

    My friend linearthinker liked my post on Practicing Chaos so much he decided to add some thoughts of his own.

    "The difficulty in planning against American doctrine is that Americans neither see fit to follow their doctrine nor even read their manuals." KGB Document

    The KGB demonstrated incredible perception. The day-to-day activities recollected from roughly 30 years in the Federal bureaucracy bear out the truth in their statement. Must have been hell for the Soviets, until they realized what they were up against, and by then it was probably too late. One could paraphrase Churchill endlessly on the frustrations one encountered almost daily while coping with the bureaucracy, citing for instance, the unwilling led by the uninformed in pursuit of the worthless.

    I have my own scars to bear witness to the feckless leadership of our Federal bureaucracy, and yet their situation was one to evoke sympathy from even the most callous observer when it was realized they were forced into institutional schizophrenia by the conflicting demands of their purse masters in Congress. I offer into evidence only the environmental vs timber production direction given to the US Forest Service from the 70s through the turn of the century. But even that conflicting direction cannot begin to explain why the bureaucratic machine insisted on reinventing the wheel at every shift in program direction or new daily work challenges.
    Go read the whole thing.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 05:48 AM | Comments (1)

    Paul vs Clinton

    Nope. Not Ron Paul. Peter F. Paul.

    Paul has his own blog (who doesn't?) documenting his participation in election fraud. Which he calls the biggest election fraud in history.

    Then there is good ole boy Bill. Who seems to be doing very well with donations to his library. Oil money seems to be involved. Saudi Oil Money.

    LITTLE ROCK, ARK. - President Clinton's new $165 million library here was funded in part by gifts of $1 million or more each from the Saudi royal family and three Saudi businessmen.

    The governments of Dubai, Kuwait, and Qatar and the deputy prime minister of Lebanon all also appear to have donated $1 million or more for the archive and museum that opened last week.

    Democrats spent much of the presidential campaign this year accusing President Bush of improperly close ties to Saudi Arabia. The case was made in Michael Moore's film "Fahrenheit 9/11," in a bestselling book by Craig Unger titled "House of Bush, House of Saud," and by the Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Kerry."This administration delayed pressuring the Saudis," Mr. Kerry said on October 20. "I will insist that the Saudis crack down on charities that funnel funds to terrorists... and on anti-American and anti-Israel hate speech."The Media Fund, a Democratic group whose president is a former Clinton White House aide, Harold Ickes, spent millions airing television commercials in swing states with scripts such as, "The Saudi royal family...wealthy...powerful...corrupt. And close Bush family friends."

    Looks like a case of jealousy to me. Evidently that has now been resolved to the Clintons satisfaction.

    There is a more modest Clinton Library being built in Little Rock The Clinton Counter Library, whose motto is: Supported by Citizens who refuse to allow the Clintons to erase their White House record.

    Like any good politicians who a large segment of the population loves to hate, Hill 'n Bill have their very own video parody site. I kind of like the one with Hillary as Cher. Love that plunging neckline. How low can you go? Pretty low. And very pretty at that.

    H/T Gateway Pundit

    posted by Simon at 04:41 AM | Comments (1)

    When victims collide....

    Well, it happens. And in today's competitive victim society, it is sometimes very difficult to determine which victim has superior inferior superior inferior status.

    A month or so ago after an incident in a store, I was all primed to write about shopping cart etiquette in the context of who gets there first (the one who sees a spot or the one who's closest?), but it didn't seem all that important, considering the elections and culture wars and stuff, so I forgot all about it. But I was left with the distinct feeling that notwithstanding "equality," we are not all equal. Some people are better at getting spaces, while others are better at seeing them first even though they don't get there first. And "ladies first" be damned.

    Or is that ladies be damned first, damn it?

    I don't know the answer, but when black men and lesbian women collide, prepare for a victim competition contest:

    Liz Spikol says she witnessed a racial incident at a local pet store. As one of the women involved in that incident--which was an attack on two lesbians, not a racial incident--it's hard for me to imagine how Spikol could have gotten it so wrong.

    I'm one of four women who run a cat rescue shelter in Germantown. On that evening my friend and I had two carts of cat food and litter, so the manager had a cashier open up a register for our very large purchase, so as to not slow down the customers at the other register. The cashier had just started to ring up our purchases when "Goldfish Man" walked up with a small bag of goldfish and asked if he could go ahead of us. We politely explained that the cashier was already ringing us up, so no, he couldn't.

    He continued to press the point, becoming verbally abusive. Both my friend and I asked him to stop talking to us. Instead he walked up right next to my friend and continued his tirade. That was the point at which she told him to back off.

    He did indeed step back a foot, and continued his verbal abuse, which culminated in his shoving the back cart against the front cart while my friend's hand was between the carts. This caused a large cut and drastic bleeding.

    What I find interesting was that Spikol felt this was all about race, simply because the man, who was African-American, said the words, "It's because I'm black, isn't it?"

    This wasn't a racist incident; it was a homophobic, antiwoman incident. I'm shocked that as a woman, she walked away without noticing that the two women involved in the incident were feeling highly threatened.

    She may well be right, but I was not there.

    Liz Spikol says she was, though, and her original column here paints a completely different version of the story, with no mention of violence or bleeding. I'm kind of glad I wasn't there, as I tend to get just as outraged over things I see as anyone else would. Yet I don't necessarily see them the way others might. A lot of these interpretations seem to depends on whose mental "video replay" is the strongest. Do you see an automatic replay of Bull Connor's bigoted police in Birmingham hosing demonstrators and siccing the dogs on them? Or do you think of women being abused, or Matthew Shepard beaten and tied to a fence?

    Are we not all capable of being victims depending on how you look at it?

    Actually, there is one category of people who do not deserve victim status -- no matter what. I refer to those indefensible people known as "bigots" -- who Liz Spikol's PW colleague Steven Wells thinks deserve to be beaten:

    In light of all the cheeseparing piffle written about the Jena Six by liberal journalists apparently attempting to equate resistance to racism with the racism itself, I have to ask: Is it ever morally wrong to hit a racist?

    If Jackie Robinson, during his first game with the Dodgers, had reacted to racist abuse by taking his bat and smacking some bigoted scumbag in the face, would that have made him the moral equivalent of the racist? Would it hell.

    The legendary music journalist Lester Bangs once wrote about the casual racism of the mid-'70s New York punk scene. You guys have every right to go around spewing racism, he concluded, but no right to whine when some black guy walks up and smacks you in the mouth.


    Why, the callow and immature me is tempted to insouciantly say "Thou shalt not suffer a bigot to live!"

    But this is a serious game, and there are serious, um, rules. In the event of a dispute or altercation, according to the prevailing theories of identity politics, there are two primary considerations:

  • 1. Who has superior (victim) status?
  • 2. Who has a greater chance of earning a place in the bigot category?
  • And may the best man lose!

    In the instant case, if you scroll down and read the other letters complaining about Liz Spikol's column, they not only support the lesbian allegedly struck by the black man, but go out of their way to make sure that homophobic sexism is the narrative and not racism.

    You'd almost think they were trying to avoid getting on the wrong side of Cotton Mather.

    UPDATE: My thanks to Sean Kinsell for linking this post in a discussion of the former first lady.


    (Maybe I should have said "first ladies first" above.)

    MORE: Racist p0rn -- another collision?

    posted by Eric at 12:01 AM | Comments (2)

    "Columbine!" "Gun"! "Noose!" Some hysteria required.

    A local 14-year-old named Dillon Cossey and his alleged Columbine-style threats have provided two days worth of front page news, and the incident has become a national story.

    What I am unable to determine is precisely what the threat was. (It seems to have been related second-hand by a friend who said Cossey tried to recruit him, but the exact words of the threat have not been quoted.) By all accounts, there was no ammunition and his mother had only recently bought guns, one of which she is said to have given him. What the law says about parental supervision, I'm not sure, but it appears the mom violated it.

    There's a lot of talk about how the kid was bullied in school, and that the parents took him out and homeschooled him.

    One look at a picture of the kid (at the Inquirer and here, and it's not hard to imagine that he was bullied, at least teased.

    The kid is morbidly obese.

    I'm not quite sure how they define bullying (pretty broadly, I think), but there's little question he would have been teased quite a bit when I was a kid. But he wouldn't have gone on a school shooting spree -- despite the fact that guns were more available then than they are now. It wouldn't even have occurred to anyone that this would be a normal response to teasing. In those days, bullied kids fought back. I was the smallest kid in my class, and I had to fight back a few times, but it wouldn't have occurred to me in my wildest dreams to shoot anyone, even though there were guns in my home.

    Now, the formula seems to be along the lines of bullying plus guns in the home equals Columbine.

    What has changed? The left blames guns (Michael Moore's "culture of violence" nonsense comes to mind), while many on the right say it's taking the Bible out of the schools. I don't think the Bible has much to do with it, because the Bible was already out of the public schools when I was a kid, yet there were no shootings. I think two of the biggest changes are:

    -- the huge growth of media culture, which encourages everyone with a grudge to seek his fifteen minutes of fame and glory;

    -- a bizarre cult of hypersensitivity to all possible threats, real or imaginary, and in which the slightest criticism is seen as provoking a legitimate grievance and engendering a sense of entitlement to victim status.

    A perfect example is this:

    DENVER - In an effort to combat the problem of childhood obesity, the Denver Public School District is sending home student health reports to keep parents informed. However, one parent says it should not have been sent home in her daughter's backpack because she read it.

    "The part that upset her the most as she started reading it, there it stated that she was overweight and she started to cry saying, 'Mom, that school tells me I'm fat.' So, it was very heart wrenching," said Flaurette Martinez.

    Her daughter Isabel was sent home from the Centennial K-8 School on Monday with the health notice. It listed her height, weight and body mass index - a measure of body fat. Underneath the listing it had a marking next to the status "overweight."

    "My daughter is big boned," said Martinez.

    Isabel's mother does not have a problem with what the schools are trying to do. She says that type of sensitive information should be mailed directly home to parents, because kids are prone to reading letters sent home by the schools.

    "If she would have dropped this letter, a student may have found it and may have exposed it to other students," said Martinez. "Anything specific to the child should be mailed. It should not be given to the child."

    However, DPS Spokesperson Alex Sanchez says schools do that all the time. Report cards, disciplinary notices and letters from the principal are commonly sent home with students. Sanchez says it is cheaper for the district to send these things home with students instead of by mail.

    Martinez says that decision is causing her daughter emotional distress.

    Yeah, and report cards cause emotional distress. I'm sorry, but if a kid is dangerously obese and no one can even talk about it, something is crazy.

    I think media culture and hypersensitivity tend to fuel each other, and the result is a latent hysteria constantly lurking in the background, and ready to break out upon the slightest provocation.

    Take nooses. When I was a kid, they meant little more than the fact that a boy had learned how to tie them. Personally, I thought they were cool. It's only been in the past decade that I've suddenly been told that they are "hurtful images" like displaying a swastika. (Boys used to doodle swastikas all the time, as most of their dads were World War II veterans. Hammer and sickles were also considered "cool" to doodle when I was a child.)

    At the rate things are "progressing," pretty soon the mere hanging of a noose would shut down Grand Central Station. Recently, one caused panic in a post office (and it seemed imitative of an earlier one which caused chaos at Columbia):

    NEW YORK (CBS) ― There was a disturbing discovery near Ground Zero in Manhattan Thursday. A noose was found hanging from a lamppost at the Church Street Post Office. This is just the latest message of hate striking the city.

    Police said it wasn't clear where or at whom the Church Street noose might have been directed.

    "At this point, there was no target that was evident or any motive," U.S. Postal Inspection Service spokesman Al Weissman said Friday morning. He said no postal workers had reported any threats or other problems.

    Postal workers in a second floor office at Church Street noticed the noose Thursday afternoon

    Building managers removed the noose, which was later turned over to the NYPD's hate crimes unit for investigation, police said.

    Speaking to reporters following a ceremony at a police memorial, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly suggested that the noose outside the post office could have been an attempt to imitate the discovery at Columbia, which shocked the Ivy League campus and received extensive news coverage.

    "We have to be concerned about a copycat being out there," he said, adding that police had no suspects or motives in either incident.

    Meanwhile, detectives at the NYPD Hate Crime task force have 56 hours of surveillance tapes to comb through, trying to catch the person who hung a noose on Professor Madonna Constantine's door at Columbia University.

    A colleague, who Constantine is suing for defamation, says she had nothing to do placing this vile symbol of racism at her door.

    I guess pretty soon all you'll need to do is say the word "noose!" and people will run around screaming in a state of mass panic.

    Naturally, the ability to create mass panic and fuel media attention leads to copycat behavior:

    Kelly also said a noose found Thursday outside a lower Manhattan post office could have been the work of a copycat.

    "When something happens, we do have to be concerned that others might do it," Kelly said.

    Constantine, a professor of psychology and education, remains shaken by the discovery of the hand-tied hangman's noose on her office door Tuesday morning. "It was a symbol of violence," said Constantine's lawyer, Paul Giacomo. "By hanging a noose, you're saying, 'I want to hang this around your neck. I want to execute you.'"

    Detectives were conducting DNA tests on the noose and have interviewed several of Constantine's colleagues and students.

    "I don't know of any specific act within the last few weeks leading up to this that would lead my client to believe that one or more people would be a suspect," Giacomo said.

    Meanwhile, Assemblyman Joseph Lentol (D-Brooklyn) said he will introduce legislation to make displaying a noose a felony akin to showcasing a burning cross or a swastika. "I think it is high time that the law recognizes the racial and historic hatred that a noose symbolizes," Lentol said.

    Maybe they should make it a felony to display the Confederate battle flag -- or even utter the word "Columbine" -- while they're at it. It will all give the ACLU something to litigate. (If flag burning and swastika displays are protected speech, then nooses are also protected, right?)

    Are rational people really as terrified of nooses, flags, and symbols as they're portrayed as being? Does anyone really and truly believe a piece of rope will hurt anyone? People say they are terrorized, and I think where a noose is left as a threat against a particular individual, it ought to be investigated the way any other threat would be. But I have a problem with the idea that any black person who might see a noose left dangling in a public place is "terrorized." This just makes it way too easy for pranksters to cause huge disruptions over something which basically amounts to nothing.

    In another interesting wrinkle on hate crimes, a gay man was recently found guilty of hate crimes against another gay man:

    October 12, 2007 -- A Brooklyn jury yesterday found that a gay man who lured another homosexual to his death last year in a plot to steal the victim's pot was guilty of a hate crime, despite their shared sexual orientation.

    Anthony Fortunato, 21, was convicted of second-degree manslaughter as a hate crime and attempted petit larceny for his role in a scheme that resulted in the death of Michael Sandy.

    He was acquitted of murder charges, which would have carried a minimum 25-year sentence.

    The jury foreman, who shot Fortunato a regret-filled look when he read the verdict, said outside the courthouse that he felt the hate-crime law was unjustly applied by the district attorney.

    "It's absurd," said the foreman, Eric Zaccar, a playwright. "[The hate crime] is a great law when it applies to fat white guys with baseball bats beating up a black man, or gays, or Jews. But when it applies to one gay person seeking out another gay person, it's absurd."

    By the same logic, if a black criminal decided to prey on black victims or a Chinese criminal selected only Chinese victims, this too would be hate crime. I'm guessing also that this would mean that a hate hoax would also be a hate crime. (Maybe even if the hoax were directed by the victim against himself. Well, others were terrorized into a state of hysteria, weren't they?)

    It's too bad they can't make hysteria illegal.

    posted by Eric at 11:51 AM | Comments (5)

    What Is The Value Of Gore's Nobel?

    It will raise the value of his speeches by at least 10,000 gallons of jet fuel.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 09:27 AM | Comments (0)

    The State Of Climate Science - Check It Out

    This will take some time (assuming you are up to the task). But spend some serious time at Climate Audit and tell me the Climate "Scientists" are not cooking the books.

    Start here: YTD Hurricane Activity

    This is a real Gem: Hugues Goosse and the Unresponsiveness of Juckes

    Bad models: Climate Insensitivity and AR(1) Models

    Bad data: Titusville

    Bad accounting: Should NASA climate accountants adhere to GAAP?

    Bad explanations: Mann's New Divergence "Theory": A Smoothing Artifact

    Don't just read the entry. Read all the comments. This will take time. Once you have done that roam around. Then come back here and tell me climate science can make pronouncements about anything. Including todays temperature accurate to 1 deg K.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 04:57 AM | Comments (17)

    Quote of the Day

    I think it's hard to beat this remark from Ibn Warraq:

    I don't want to live in a society where I get stoned for committing adultery. I want to live in a society where I get stoned. And then commit adultery.
    (Excepted from a comment by "Adil" to Phllis Chesler's report on what must have been a wonderful debate.)

    What many would see as "irreverence" towards Islam I tend to see it as reverence towards freedom.

    By the way, the subject of the debate was "We Should Not Be Reluctant to Assert the Superiority of Western Values." According to Dr. Chesler, the vote was against the resolution before the debate, and against it afterwards.

    I suspect the vote changers needed a reminder that it isn't always a good idea to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    posted by Eric at 12:54 PM | Comments (0)

    Moral bankruptcy for sale here!

    A gloating environmentalist reacts to Al Gore's "peace" prize:

    Al Gore and the IPCC winning the Nobel Peace Prize symbolizes more than just a head-nod towards some eco-fad -- it shows that sustainability has finally moved from the outskirts of activism to the most central halls of authority. Concern for the planetary future is now as credible as it is possible to get. The beginning of the struggle to save ourselves from ecological catastrophe has come to an end and we can begin to see the outlines of the next stage of the struggle.

    Those of us who've spent our careers advocating a saner approach to the future can be forgiven a few moments of smugness, for these are sweet days. There is no longer any reasonable debate about whether or not we need to move with all possible speed towards a different way of living on this planet. To argue the contrary is now to prove oneself morally bankrupt.

    Of course, the morally bankrupt can still be found in some numbers in the corridors of commercial and political power, but we don't need to worry too much about them. They are the leaders of the past: their influence wanes by the moment, as leader after leader steps up to call for big changes.

    I enjoyed reading that because it confirms what I have been arguing for some time: that the anthropogenic global warming debate involves the manufacture of new morality.

    Didn't we have enough manufactured morality without having to make more?

    I'm sorry, but I refuse to have morality written for me by others, especially on such shaky premises.

    While I guess it's arguable whether I'm immoral, amoral, or simply morally bankrupt, what is going on constitutes moralistic overload, and I'm getting weary of it all.

    Moralistic hyperbole leads to moral bankruptcy.

    War is hot! (And "peace" is now "cool"!)

    So where do I buy my cool peace offsets?

    posted by Eric at 12:11 PM | Comments (7)

    Avoiding the appearance of a biased tone

    I've been feeling guilty. Not only did I drag poor Coco into being a "political ring tone laugh analyst," but by having her evaluate only the Hillary Laugh Ring Tone, I may have inadvertently created an appearance of something less than full objectivity.

    Regular readers know my biases, which I try to disclose, and I have said repeatedly that I do not intend to vote for Hillary Clinton. But Coco really hasn't taken a position on the candidates or the issues, and it just isn't fair to have people think that she would chose to evaluate the Hillary laugh only.

    Furthermore, after Glenn Reynolds opined that the "little chuckle that Mitt Romney deploys when he think he's scored a point" is "more irritating than the Clinton cackle," I consulted Coco, and promised that "I believe in fairness, and I'd be glad to have Coco check out the Romney chuckle ring tone."

    In light of my promise, the Mitt Romney ring tone positively cries out for Coco's evaluation. (Otherwise, I'd be guilty of a violation of Fairness Theory.)

    So here's Coco evaluating Mitt Romney's laugh as it emanates from my cell phone:

    You'll notice that Coco doesn't appear terribly excited. The Hillary laugh seemed to get more of a rise out of her:

    But whether she's more irritated is tough to tell. I think she finds the Romney chuckle more boring than the Hillary cackle.

    Wanting to leave no stone unturned, I finally decided to cut and paste the cackle and the chuckle together, along with an appropriate sound track.

    Again, here's Coco, doing her best to bear with me:

    I think she'll be glad when this election is over.

    (If the Hillary Mitt Medley Ring Tone isn't audible enough, you can also stream or download it here.)

    posted by Eric at 11:29 AM | Comments (3)

    Green Criminals

    I was discussing DDT in my post Global Warming Is Socialist Science and while I was doing research came across this comment at Deltoid.

    In Argentina, as all other countries in South, Central and North America DDT is strictly prohibited under severe penalties by the law. So you are LYING when claiming "there is no de facto ban". The exception is Ecuador who has never given up spraying DDT and saving human lives, alas, at the cost of valuable mosquito lives.

    I have been exploring and traveling the Amazon since 1971 and I know what I am talking about. I am a field scientist not an armchair scientist in air conditioned labs.

    At this moment, environmentalists are prosecuting health and agriculture officials in Córdoba, Argentina, because they discovered that a cargo of 12 tons of DDT had been stored for 30 years without telling the people it was stored there and "could" have contaminated the neighbors.

    Could, may, might, perhaps, are words always accompanying green and fake alarms. Then, why has not mosquitoes developed resistance in Ecuador after 32 years of Ecuador refusing to give up DDT spraying, and 53 years since they started using it? You should provide a scientific answer.

    Our Argentinean Foundation for a Scientific Ecology (FAEC) was consulted by the two federal judges that dealt with the DDT storage case and sent our report to be studied by the scientific team formed with members from our National University at Córdoba, and from the Ministry of Public Health. Then compared the accusations made by the environmentalists and studied their claims and references.

    A remark that one of the judges said to me after their ruling was: "These greens are not only crazy, but I would prosecute them for criminal activities if you pressed charges."

    Your weblog is perhaps the more "science-killing" and misinforming site I have ever seen. Keep up your work. It gives skeptics plenty food and ammunition to fight green neurosis and paranoia.

    Eduardo Ferreyra
    President of FAEC
    Argentinean Foundation for a Scientific Ecology

    WOW. Just WOW.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 08:41 AM | Comments (2)

    Al Gore Joins Yasser Arafat

    No, I don't mean Al has died of AIDS. Al has won the Nobel peace Prize. Woo Hoo. Another glorious day for Socialist Science and Green Criminals. You may barf when ready.

    The Reference Frame tells it like it is.

    British Judge says "Inconvenient Truth" is Politics Not Science.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 08:04 AM | Comments (5)

    Global Warming Is Socialist Science

    Lubos Motl at The Reference Frame is discussing Al Gore and his movie An Inconvenient Truth.

    Left-wing people are rarely right in politics. If they were right, they wouldn't be left. But this audio is a remarkable exception. A self-described mildly left-wing professor criticizes the British conservatives at their CPS Fringe Event and he is quite right.

    What the British conservatives are doing in the context of climate change - such as the recently proposed plasma TV ban - is absolutely outrageous and it is very good that Philip Stott told them in his inimitable way.

    Nigel Lawson, one of the brightest politicians in the U.K. history, speaks after Philip Stott.

    The audio Lubos mentions, along with a number of others can be found here. Or if you prefer, here is a direct link to the Lord Nigel Lawson - Audio. For the "plasma TV ban" link visit the Reference Frame. The audio opens with Windows Media Player so ignore any error messages that come up when you try to open the file with that player. I haven't tried any other players.

    I'd like to discuss one of the more interesting quotes from the audio. Let me note that the speeches are delivered in British House of Commons style which I have always enjoyed.

    I am absolutely amazed that the Conservatives above all others have been tempted to fall for the hubristic idea that we can control climate predictably, and I will return to that word "predictably", by big government. By taxes that are injurious to industry and to business. By taxes that are retrogressive on the poor and by attempting to micro-manage every single aspect of people's lives.

    Policies which stand 100% agaist those on which the CPS itself was founded by Keith Joseph and Margaret Thatcher.

    It is a serious issue "global warming", but it is politically serious not scientifically serious.

    I fear that Conservatives above all, have for the last two or three years, been walking blindly into a socialist elephant trunk.

    And that is just at the beginning of the Philip Stott segment of the audio. You should go and listen to the whole thing.

    We are seeing this same push in America to bring in totalitarianism through the back door. By the Global Warming hysteria, with Medical Totalitarianism and of course with the control mechanism that is the grand daddy of them all The Drug War. Two themes are predominant: "for the children" and boy do they love to whip that one. The other of course is "we are trying to do something about a problem so serious that it imperils life on the planet". Take the DDT scare. Cecil Adams of Straight Dope has this to say.

    While DDT is highly toxic to insects and fish and can poison other animals in large enough doses, in moderate amounts it's not especially harmful to birds and mammals, including humans. (Ironically, the EPA's own judge agreed, but was overruled by its chief administrator.) No one has conclusively proved that DDT can give you cancer. The cause of eggshell thinning is likewise poorly understood.

    On the other hand, DDT is demonstrably effective at controlling the mosquitoes and other insects that transmit malaria and typhus. Thanks principally to DDT, in the years after World War II malaria was eradicated in the U.S. and sharply curtailed in many tropical countries. Venezuela recorded eight million cases of malaria in 1943; by 1958 that number was down to eight hundred. The World Health Organization estimates that DDT saved 50 to 100 million lives during this period, and that's just counting malaria prevention. In recent years, however, the disease has staged a comeback. Globally it quadrupled during the 1990s, and it's even reappeared sporadically in the United States. The resurgence of malaria is due to a variety of factors, including changes in land use and possibly climate, and some experts say the phasing out of DDT is one of them.

    I don't mean to suggest that DDT is benign. On the contrary, it's a potent contact toxin, and though it breaks down quickly in sunlight, it's much more persistent in soil and water and accumulates in plants and fatty animal tissues with long-term exposure. But its drawbacks have to be weighed against its benefits. Malaria currently infects 300 to 500 million people annually, mostly in Africa, and causes as many as 2.7 million deaths. Alternative methods of mosquito control cost more and are less effective. Some 400 scientists and doctors have signed a petition opposing the inclusion of DDT among the 12 persistent organic pollutants (POPs) to be banned under a United Nations treaty now up for ratification, and a few public health experts are campaigning to bring DDT back. DDT isn't a panacea; India, which still uses it, suffered nasty outbreaks of malaria in the 90s, and insects in many parts of that country have become resistant to the chemical. But it remains an important tool, and in a time of rising global pestilence we shun it at our peril.

    These hysterias get ginned up every so often and the there is always one and only one solution proposed. More government control.

    The end goal of course is to free the world to follow exactly the dictates of government.

    My answer is that the best protection for all men is Liberty. Let me quote a few of our founders:

    "I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it." -- Thomas Jefferson (Letter to Archibald Stuart - 1791)

    "When governments fear the people there is liberty. When the people fear the government there is tyranny." -- Thomas Jefferson (attributed to Jefferson, by his contemporaries)

    "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." -- Benjamin Franklin (on the title page of An Historical Review of the Constitution and Government of Pennsylvania - 1759)

    "I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of freedoms of the people by gradual and silent encroachment of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations." -- James Madison (attributed to Madison, by his contemporaries)

    From the list at Action America

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 07:26 AM | Comments (6)

    Dedication, Devotion
    posted by Simon at 12:18 AM | Comments (0)

    "The era of big government is over!""

    So said Bill Clinton in 1996.

    And today, his wife is an echo claiming to be a choice:

    Senator Hillary Clinton said yesterday that if she is elected president, she intends to roll back President Bush's expansion of executive authority, including his use of presidential signing statements to put his own interpretation on bills passed by Congress or to claim authority to disobey them entirely.

    "I think you have to restore the checks and balances and the separation of powers, which means reining in the presidency," Clinton told the Boston Globe's editorial board.

    Although Bush has issued hundreds of signing statements, declarations that accompany his signature on bills approved by Congress, Clinton said she would use the statements only to clarify bills that might be confusing or contradictory. She also said she did not subscribe to the "unitary executive" theory that argues the Constitution prevents Congress from passing laws limiting the president's power over executive branch operations. Adherents to the theory say any president who refuses to obey such laws is not really breaking the law.

    "It has been a concerted effort by the vice president, with the full acquiescence of the president, to create a much more powerful executive at the expense of both branches of government and of the American people," she said.

    Classic triangulation strategy.

    Of course, she's attempting to triangulate a lame duck, long after hunting season.

    Bush's White House has gotten too strong.

    But vote for her, and she'll make it weaker.

    I'm skeptical, as I'm tired of expansionists who claim to be contractionists.

    How much more "over" can the era of big government get?

    Clinton recently floated the idea of issuing a $5,000 bond to each baby born in the United States to help pay for college and a first home, but it immediately inspired Republican ridicule and she quickly said she would not implement the proposal.

    She defended that decision yesterday, saying she is focusing on proposals with more political support and she is not formally proposing anything she can't fund without increasing the deficit: "I have a million ideas. The country can't afford them all."

    Responding to statements by some Democratic rivals that she is not electable because her negative ratings are too high, she pointed to her increasing lead in national polls. "I am winning," she said. "That's a good place to start."

    Small government is so affordable!

    posted by Eric at 12:08 AM | Comments (0)

    Scandals ignored. Denials issued. Planes grounded.

    In an update to my post about Alan Keyes' exclusion from the debates (apparently at the hands of Mitt Romney), I directed a question to the Kryptonite left:

    What I'd really like to know is why the left is so hell-bent on ignoring the flying Rechimplican sex scandal that I carefully documented yesterday....
    I admit, that question had little to do with either Keyes or Romney. It's just that I can't believe the continued silence of all these leading leftist bloggers about the huge scandal which has been dropped into their laps.

    Their attitude reminds me of Mickey Kaus' complaint about Matt Drudge:

    A bizarre number of people, including several kf emailers, seem to think that you just can't have a sex scandal unless Drudge is driving it. In part because they assume he has a low evidentiary threshhold, he's become something like the new accepted Arbiter of Truth. No Drudge, no story! But--from what I can tell--Drudge doesn't link to lots of stories, for both traditional (evidence, relevance) and idiosyncratic reasons. This isn't the first time kausfiles hasn't met Drudge's journalistic standards!
    (Via Glenn Reynolds.) Well, to that I'd add that this isn't the first time Classicalvalues.com hasn't met Drudge's journalistic standards! (I might as well have said that, even if I never did!)

    The thing is, Kaus is talking about a sex scandal that could wreck the Edwards campaign. The flying Rechimplican sex scandal, on the other hand, promises to shoot down most of the GOP, because at this point they cannot afford another sex scandal.

    What both affairs have in common is denial.

    The Democrats:

    [Edwards'] spokesman said that allegations Edwards had an affair are "false, absolute nonsense."
    The GOP:
    .....no agency admits to actually deploying Elvis insect bugs, but hey, why would they?
    Why is it that just at the same time that both parties face major sex scandals, each party is looking the other way?

    I suspect collusion.

    MORE: I see that Glenn Reynolds is unable to fly right now. Considering what's going on in the skies lately, I don't blame him.


    Time may fly, but the timing doesn't.

    posted by Eric at 10:29 PM | Comments (3)

    Arkadij Volodos

    Commenter dbjack46 was asking about the pianist in A Little Incidental Music. Here is what I found out from the wiki.

    Arcadi Volodos (ursprünglich russ. Аркадий Аркадьевич Володось/Arkadi Arkadjewitsch Wolodos, wiss. Transliteration Arkadij Arkad'evič Volodos'; * 24. Februar 1972 in Sankt Petersburg) ist ein russischer Pianist.

    Volodos erhielt mit acht Jahren ersten Klavierunterricht und widmete sich dem Instrument erst mit fünfzehn Jahren intensiver, da er sich zuvor auf Gesang und Dirigieren konzentriert hatte.

    Seine Lehrer waren Galina Jegiasarowa, Jacques Rouvier und Dmitri Baschkirow. 1997 gelang ihm der internationale Durchbruch mit einer von Horowitz' ehemaligem Produzenten Thomas Frost bei Sony veröffentlichten CD mit Klaviertranskriptionen, darunter einige von ihm selbst. Sein Debüt in der Carnegie Hall 1998 wurde aufgezeichnet und ist als CD erschienen.

    OK. I can actually do better than that. From Sony Classical
    The emergence of important new talent inevitably brings with it the thrill and exhilaration of discovery and promise. There was just that sense of excitement and curiosity on October 21, 1998, when the audience began filling Carnegie Hall for the New York recital debut of Arcadi Volodos. Over the last couple of years, the twenty-six-year-old pianist has been making his way as a quiet sensation. While rising from relative anonymity to conquer the major concert halls of Europe and garnering rhapsodic responses from audiences and critics alike, Volodos has, surprisingly, received relatively low-keyed publicity compared to the volume that greeted, say, Horowitz's arrival. By October 1998 New York concertgoers had had only two opportunities to savor Volodos' handiwork: performances of the Second Rachmaninoff Concerto with Seiji Ozawa and the Boston Symphony (December 1996) and Rachmaninoff's Third with Riccardo Chailly and the Concertgebouw Orchestra (February 1998). As a result, avid lovers of lapidarian pianism, who had discovered Volodos through his authentically brilliant first recording for Sony Classical (SK 62691), were eager to get a more inclusive "fix" on his musical and pianistic persona.

    Mr. Volodos was born in Leningrad (now, of course, St. Petersburg) and, like some other fabled Russian musicians (Sergei Rachmaninoff and Sviatoslav Richter, among them), had not primarily aspired to be a virtuoso concert pianist. Years earlier, the young Artur Schnabel was told by his guru Leschetizky, "You are a musician, never a pianist." Volodos, of a different temperamental stripe than Schnabel, also proved himself - as evidence unfolded - to be a splendid musician, although stylistically more akin to two other alumni of Leschetizky's apparently endless studio, Ossip Gabrilowitsch and Benno Moiseiwitsch. In their esteemed company, Arcadi Volodos is a true lyric virtuoso - a keyboard poet who can touch and warm the heart, even when inspiring with astounding technical feats. I make no secret of being a nonworshiper in my response to pyrotechnical acrobatics, but even I am not averse to an occasional swig of "firewater" in moderation. Virtuosity in excelsis is essentially a social activity - and best enjoyed with fellow drinking (or listening) companions. Without further equivocation, let it be chronicled that Volodos is an authentic hero - an exemplar of the Russian virtuoso school at its best.

    As was Vladimar Horowitz who did the piano arrangement of "Stars and Stripes Forever" that you heard at "Incidental Music". Arkadij has a website in German and English. Arkadij Volodos. Hope that helps.

    posted by Simon at 08:34 PM | Comments (0)

    Unchain Keyes?

    Hmm... (Maybe I should have titled this post "Defending the Indefensible.")

    As most readers know, I am anything but an Alan Keyes supporter. Not only do I disagree vehemently with the "Declarationist" philosophy that he espouses, I have written a number of posts sharply critical of him, and I think the Keyes wing of the GOP does the party more harm than good. (Needless to say, his remarks at the debate at Morgan State University did nothing to win me over.)

    But fair is fair, and unfair is unfair, and right now I have come to the conclusion that Keyes is being treated unfairly. It is too early in this multi-candidate race to be excluding candidates, and whether you like Keyes or not, he has a number of supporters who have every right to sound off and be heard. Plus, he's a barometer of just how strong the fringy Keyes wing is.

    In his inimitable drunk-blogging of the October 9 debate, Stephen Green characterized it as the Mitt & Rudy Show, and I'm sure that this is exactly the way Mitt and Rudy see it.

    Thus, it is not surprising that Mitt Romney would have the most to gain by seeing to it that Keyes is excluded. It appears that's precisely what happened:

    In the wake of the exclusion of presidential candidate Alan Keyes from next week's Dearborn, Michigan, Presidential Debate, conservative leaders in the Wolverine State today criticized Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis, whose neutrality in the presidential race has been repeatedly called into question. (See footnote.)

    "I think it is shameful that someone with Dr. Alan Keyes' experience in government and credentials in the conservative movement is being kept out of the debate," said Judy Zabik, Genesee County Republican Party Board member. "Voters in Michigan and across the country deserve to hear what this man has to say about where this country is and where it's going. He brings a principled, moral perspective to this race that nobody else brings."

    Anuzis, the guy responsible for the hastily made-up "rules" that kept Keyes out, was criticized by one of McCain's people as a "cheerleader" for Romney:
    A source close to McCain said that his top political advisers, including John Weaver, are aware of and endorse the campaign to remove Anuzis. They view Anuzis as a quiet cheerleader for Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA), who is likely to base his presidential campaign from MI's Oakland Co.

    One McCain ally noted Anuzis's "ties" to the Sterling Corp, which is assisting Romney in the state and whose consultants managed Mike Bouchard's Senate campaign. "There's no way Saul can be with the Sterling Corp., which is running Romney, and still be neutral in the presidential race." Anuzis's executive director, Jeff Timmer, is a former VP of the Sterling Corp, and the party has paid the group more than $1M this cycle, making it one of five vendors to recieve state party contracts.

    Something smells funny about this. Why won't they let the moral conservatives battle it out?

    I mean, Ron Paul is running around making libertarians look like anti-war activists, right? If a pro-war libertarian decided to run and the Paul people pulled strings like this to stop him from being in the debate, I'd be screaming bloody murder, and I suspect a lot of bloggers would. The only reason I can see for Keyes being kept out is that Romney is trying to corner the moral conservative market for himself.

    And if Soren Dayton is right, Romney may actually be afraid that Keyes will attack his position on gay marriage as opportunistic and phony:

    A number of friends have stumbled on the question: Who is actually going to attack Mitt Romney and expose him? None of the candidates can really get away with it. Alan Keyes may be the answer.
    I have no dog in this race, as I support neither Romney nor Keyes. But there's something I don't like about a candidate as well known as Keyes being excluded purely for the convenience of a one candidate.

    I say, let Keyes run and debate like anyone else, and let people make up their own minds. He'll never be president, but I'd like to know how strong the support for him is.

    Let the fringe be heard.

    If Romney's goal is to crush embarrassing dissent, shouldn't he at least get elected first?

    UPDATE: Alan Keyes is the only Republican candidate endorsed by Oliver Willis. Because Keyes, claims Willis, "expresses the true values of the Republican party."

    So let's unchain these true values!



    (What I'd really like to know is why the left is so hell-bent on ignoring the flying Rechimplican sex scandal that I carefully documented yesterday....)

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

    Neo-Nazis Love Ron Paul

    From Little Green Footballs:

    We know that Ron Paul is popular with 9/11 Troofers and Daily Kos, but here's another hotbed of Paulmania--at Stormfront, home of neo-Nazis and white supremacists, where they're urging the skinheads to 'VOTE RON PAUL IN THE ONLINE POLLS!' - Stormfront White Nationalist Community.

    (Warning: the link leads to a truly vile neo-Nazi web site; it's there only to prove that this really is happening.)

    I'm not going to provide a link to the Neo-Nazis. Why raise their Google score? However if you must look, visit LGF.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 01:24 PM | Comments (17)

    "if it clears then it is good" (That's what you think!)

    When does a check clear? Who has the authority to determine when it is paid? This is not a matter of idle concern to me, because I buy and sell on Ebay, and I've taken checks, and when I have, I've told people that I'd send out the item as soon as the check "cleared."

    But what does "cleared" mean? Naturally, I always assumed that when the bank says the check has cleared and funds are available, that it means what it says.

    I didn't know this before, but I was recently shocked to learn that this is not the case. Not if the check turns out to be phony:

    The phony checks look real to you, and even look real to your bank. If you get one of these checks and deposit the money, it shows up in your account just like normal, but that's when the trouble begins.

    The scam takes advantage of the fact that just because a check supposedly clears and the bank posts the money in your account, it doesn't mean the bank can't later take that money back if it finds out the check was a counterfeit.

    Supposedly clears? It strikes me that either a check clears or it does not.

    Common sense suggests that a check cannot clear and then later "unclear."

    Unfortunately, the banking laws say otherwise:

    That's just what happened to Jill Parker, a pharmaceutical company manager in Richmond, Virginia.

    Using the popular Craigsist web site to rent an apartment she owned in Chicago, she was contacted by someone moving from London.

    "He was going to send me a check for $25,000. I was to deduct what he owed me for the first months rent and the security deposit and then I was to wire the balance back to his agent, who was handling his furnishing," Parker said.

    She took the check to her bank and called a few days later to see if it had cleared.

    "He said the money is there, it cleared, it's there," she said.

    So, as agreed, she wired the remainder, $21,000, thinking she was ahead by $4,000.

    "Everything went fine until about a week later," Parker said.

    The bank informed her the check was no good, and had been returned not paid. And she, not the bank, was out the money.

    "We felt terrible to find out that we had been victimized," she said. "You feel very vulnerable."

    Tens of thousands of Americans are asking the same questions, many of them targeted online through Craigslist and eBay.

    "They send you a check and they over pay, and then they ask you to refund the difference and so it's a very quick transaction," said Postmaster General Jack Potter.

    U.S. Postal Service officials say they have seized more than $2 billion worth of high quality counterfeit checks, coming from Nigeria, England, the Netherlands and Canada.

    But many more phonies are getting through.

    "Under federal law, banks are required to make money available according to a certain schedule," said American Bankers Association spokeswoman Nedda Feddis. "Certain funds, for example, have to be available on the day after deposit. And the fraudsters are taking advantage of that rule."

    I think the banks should be liable, and not the customers, because the latter have the right to rely on the banks' apparent authority.

    I also found this account of a customer who was told that he could not rely on what his own bank told him:

    My family placed an ad to rent out an apartment. A person from out-of-town answered and sent a check after some phone calls and emails. Now we realize that it was a scam! In any case, the "renter" send a check for $3995 and asked us to send $2000 of it to a "furniture rental company" for him.

    I went to my JP Morgan Chase bank and asked, how do I know the check is good. The teller told me that if it clears then it is good. So I deposit the check on 4/12 and was told by the teller and the info on the deposit slip that it will clear on 4/18. Then I called the bank 3 time and asked 3 different people how do I know a check is good. All of them said if it clears on 4/18 then it is good.

    So on 4/18, the full $3995 was credited to my account, we sent a western union to the "furniture rental company". Then on 4/20, the bank retracted the $3995 amount and said it was a bad check. Obviously, by then, the western union money was claimed already and we never heard from the "renter" again.

    Now, the part about the bank is that I asked 4 different employees how I can tell the check is good. All told me if the check clears on 4/18 then it is good. So my decisions were based on the bank's advice. I feel they are responsible for the loss. Am I right? Is there anything I can do? The branch manager said I have no recourse. So do I need to go to court, write to FDIC? What are my chances?

    The answer, of course, is that he's SOL.

    Even if "banks are required to make money available according to a certain schedule" as the spokesman says, I think banks should be required to disclose whether a check has actually cleared. If they falsely state that a check has cleared when it has not, it seems to me that they should be held liable, not the customer.

    None of this is to say that the individuals in the above scenarios weren't lacking in common sense. I certainly would not put a large foreign check through my account and then send back the difference as these people did -- but then, I wouldn't imagine myself to have won the European Lottery because an email said so, either. Some people are more gullible than others. But isn't that why they need to be able to rely on what their banks tell them? Assuming these factual scenarios are accurate, I think the conduct of the banks in telling them checks have cleared when they haven't is indefensible.

    The banks are in a superior position, and customers should have the right to rely on their assurances.

    It would be interesting to see what would happen if one of these cases went to court.

    MORE: As a news subject, the "cleared but not cleared" check story is starting to attract more attention:

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - Patricia Soens paid more than $400,000 in processing and other fees to claim a European lottery prize she was told she had won. After realizing she had been conned, she killed herself.

    Soens, 56, of Louisiana, fell victim to one of a growing number of scams that use fake checks and the promise of easy money to lure people.

    The schemes, which range from fake lotteries to work-at-home offers, exploit the fact that banks have to provide funds from checks, money orders and other financial instruments before they actually clear.

    Again, banks should not be telling customers that checks have cleared when they have not.

    posted by Eric at 12:00 PM | Comments (6)

    new blog exposes hideous double standards

    Via Dr. Helen, I learned that Dr. Phyllis Chesler (author of The New Anti-Semitism -- a great book!) now has a Pajamas Media blog.

    There's already a lot of great stuff there, but I was drawn to a reference in this post to a truly appalling situation -- a left wing feminist who is helping justify female genital mutilation:

    Can it be true? Did a woman anthropologist actually compare the ceremony at which young Masai girls are genitally mutilated to "a white wedding"?

    Yes she did. It's true. The anthropologist's name is (or was) Melissa Llewellyn-Davies MFA. In case you're wondering, the initials do not stand for Master of Fine Arts; they stand for Marxist Feminist Anthropologist. Ms Llewellyn-Davies compared genital mutilation to a white wedding in her chillingly misleading narration for the film Masai Women, a Disappearing World production. You can buy it today from CD Universe for $13.49.

    I was reminded of this episode when Ayaan Hirsi Ali passed through Sydney recently. It should be said that on the subject of female genital mutilation, and the cultures where this abhorrent practice is found, her own writing in Infidel and The Caged Virgin is the place to start. The general circumstances in which helpless girls have the labia minora, clitoris, and sometimes more than this inadvertently cut off could not be better described and explained. Moreover, Ms Hirsi Ali also tells us that it is still practiced by Somali and Moroccan immigrants in Europe today.

    The denial in which this Feminist Marxist Anthropologist engages is quite sickening. She cares nothing about the suffering of the girl; in fact she edited out her awful screams, and instead presented the lying reassurances of a tribal elder:
    Her screams were edited out and replaced by the voice and image of an older tribal woman smilingly telling us how happy she is, while Ms Llewellyn-Davies--whose bleak British diction has to be heard to be believed--pours a bland sociological interpretation over everything. Those interested in general arguments about truth and lies in documentary film-making are referred to an essay at this site where these matters are discussed at greater length--see "Matters of Fact". For the story of the editing of Masai Women see Peter Loizos, Innovation in ethnographic film. University of Chicago Press. (1993)
    While I don't know whether such lefties actually enjoy seeing poor Third World people suffer, starve and die, reading things like that make me wonder. Certainly, condescending attitudes like that of the filmmaker do nothing to help rid the world of such barbaric practices as female genital mutilation, and it would not surprise me at all if the goal were to perpetuate them -- most likely under the rubric of "preserving" the indigenous people's "cultural DNA."

    Laughable as it sounds, many Post-Modernists do think that way. I don't see much logical difference between preserving the Masais appalling cultural practices and preserving the medieval Islamic fundamentalist practice of stoning women to death for "adultery," amputating limbs of thieves, or executing homosexuals and "apostates."

    Little wonder Ayaan Hirsi Ali is systematically ignored by the "feminists" at NOW.

    I'm sure they're quite uncomfortable with her criticism of barbaric Islamic practices. As Dr. Chesler has documented, such criticism is increasingly seen as hate speech -- ironically by people who themselves quite arrogantly engage in hate speech. This one-sided approach to hate speech is touched on here:

    ....The Veteran Feminists of America, hosted a plenary panel about the future of women, world-wide, at Barnard last year. They refused to allow me to speak about Islamic gender Apartheid. When I asked to do so, I was told that several women of color had already been invited and that no doubt, they would cover all the relevant issues that affected Third World women. Of course, they did not do so. One woman of color, a woman I rather like, instead railed against the host feminist organization because most of its members were "white." Otherwise, the august panelists did not stray from their politically correct concerns about racism which trumped all and any concerns they might have had about gender.

    No amount of dispassionate (and passionate) arguments have been able to sway the politically correct western faculties and administrators who believe that hate speech deserves all the trappings and protection of both free speech and distinguished university platforms and presses. The most heinous recent titles have all been published by once prestigious presses.

    They believe that their hate speech should be protected, but that if you disagree with them, you're the one who's guilty of hate speech! (What the new anti-Semites are saying boils down to, "we are free to malign Jews, but if you disagree with us, you're guilty of hate speech!")

    Obviously, the idea is that some hate speech should be protected while other hate speech should be prohibited. But what are the standards? While the people making these ridiculous assertions have no standards (which means that their nonsense may be freely disregarded), I suspect they'd like to create a "protected hate speech" category along "cultural DNA" lines. Because it is part of some people's cultural DNA to hate Israel, kill homosexuals, and treat women like property, what they say is not hate speech, but criticism of them is.

    But what if another crackpot comes along and argues that what we call "Western Civilization" is part of his "cultural DNA" and deserves special protection?

    (Don't look at me; I prefer the simplicity and elegance of the First Amendment.)

    posted by Eric at 10:04 AM | Comments (1)

    A Little Incidental Music
    posted by Simon at 07:20 PM | Comments (1)

    "along the tails of the big dragonflies....."

    Ann Althouse links this WaPo piece about bugs.

    Not just any bugs, but bug bugs. (Meaning tiny government listening devices disguised to look like dragonflies, which contain tiny cameras and transmitters to spy on and harass demonstrators.)

    The bugs have so upset activist Mara Verheyden-Hilliard that she's filed FOIA requests with several agencies:

    Three people at the D.C. event independently described a row of spheres, the size of small berries, attached along the tails of the big dragonflies -- an accoutrement that Louton could not explain. And all reported seeing at least three maneuvering in unison.

    "Dragonflies never fly in a pack," he said.

    Mara Verheyden-Hilliard of the Partnership for Civil Justice said her group is investigating witness reports and has filed Freedom of Information Act requests with several federal agencies. If such devices are being used to spy on political activists, she said, "it would be a significant violation of people's civil rights."

    For many roboticists still struggling to get off the ground, however, that concern -- and their technology's potential role -- seems superfluous.

    "I don't want people to get paranoid, but what can I say?" Fearing said. "Cellphone cameras are already everywhere. It's not that much different."

    I do so enjoy people like Ms. Verheyden-Hilliard -- with whose organization "even the local chapter of the ACLU has parted ways."

    Here she is, angrily addressing a rally to protest "Israeli aggression."

    If you look closely, you'll see Ramsey Clark standing behind her and applauding.


    Bill Ardolino calls her "the screamer," but I notice she has a degree in law from Columbia.

    Something about those bugs though. They almost remind me of Salvador Dalí's flying lobster machines.


    If you look closely, you can see tiny men in parachutes jumping from them!

    MORE: Regarding Mr. Louton's contention that "dragonflies never fly in a pack," I'm wondering what he thinks about this:

    Several species of dragonfly are known to collect in large swarms. In most cases this appears to be due to very favorable feeding conditions in the area. It may also be a "courting" group with males actively searching for females. This is less likely as males are much more aggressive to each other when looking for a mate.

    Some dragonflies gather in swarms before moving to a new area (like a bird migration). The reasons for this are unclear but may be due to population pressures. There are records from the US of migratory swarms.

    They are known to form migratory swarms in Autumn.

    How about the photo here?

    And unless I'm mistaken, Jerry Louton appears to be the author of a book which states that dragonflies...

    "...can form feeding swarms. Males hover periodically while patrolling."
    So I'm confused.

    Maybe a pack is not a swarm.

    But many dragonfly swarms have been reported.

    MORE: Here's a cool picture:


    And the caption:

    You never know what you are going to see when you go to a State Park. On this day I walked right into a swarm of peaceful dragonflies floating in the warm salt air.
    Peaceful dragonflies?


    More like war robobugs practicing to malevolently swarm over peaceful demonstrators -- brought to you by mad scientist Bush-Cheney Homeland Security Operatives at Halliburton!

    Now that the sinister flying Rechimplicans have been caught right in the act, if this doesn't bring about the long-awaited impeachment, I don't know what will!

    MORE: Dragonflies fly in tandem:

    It's also common to see dragonflies flying in a tandem position, but once again, there's little romance in it. In reality it's every dragonfly for himself in the insect world, and the male dragonfly is basically making sure no other male can mate with the female before the eggs he has fertilized have been deposited.

    "So it's a very competitive world out there," Abbott says, "and what you see is the male doing all sorts of behaviors to guard the female, to keep an eye on his investment."

    As to dragonfly morality, forget it:
    ...when it is time to select a mate, dragonflies can be as crude as frat boys at a keg party.

    "They'll mate as often as they can grab a female," he says of Common Green Darners. "Most are pretty rough when it comes to mating. They just grab a female. It gets pretty ferocious," he says.

    The genteel exception, he says, is the "polite" male Eastern Amberwing which "escorts" its mate to a cozy spot on the ground for a tryst.

    AND MORE: Here's what I think may really be going on (the photo has been edited in the interest of reader sensibilities and out of concern for modesty):


    No more dragonfly monkeyshines, please!

    (Such flight routines are exhausting.)

    BOTTOM LINE: Flying Rechimplicans from Halliburton, you're busted!

    posted by Eric at 03:25 PM | Comments (6)

    callow, immature and fruitless arguments cheerfully enabled here!

    An anonymous commenter keeps coming back, and just left a comment no one would otherwise have seen to an older post on consensual sex. Much as I find it annoying to go over old ground when the goal here is writing new posts, what's even more annoying is debating commenters, as this blog is not a debate. But what's more annoying than that is to waste time and energy writing a reply that no one will see. So I thought it deserved a new entry.

    Here's the comment:

    My question is completely serious and shows that your premise is hopelessly flawed, perhaps that is why you continue to evade the point. I'll spell it out for you in greater detail via the following hypothetical.

    Person A and Person B are deeply in love. So much so that Person B desires to submit to every aspect of Person A's being, by becoming Person A's chattel slave...property. In time, Person B becomes so bound up in Person A as to desire to become part of Person A's very physical being. And so Person B desires to be killed, in a loving and erotic way, and eaten by Person A. Therefore Person A erotically asphyxiates Person B, providing as much pleasure as possible along the way.

    Then Person A dismembers Person B, cooks and eats all the tasty parts, in keeping with the stated desires of Person B. This scenario is completely in keeping with your premise, yet you would prohibit Persons A and B from expressing their love for one another as they see fit.

    Therefore, it is your task to explain how the killing and eating of Person B by Person A causes any intrinsic harm to you, much less society. Alternatively, you can admit that erotic murder and cannibalism are things that you may personally disapprove of, but you can't find any justification for society to prohibit.

    This is the dilemma your own premise places you on. Squirm how you wish, I see no way you can get off of it, although your technique of ignoring the question and pretending it doesn't exist is one approach. A callow, immature and fruitless one, to be sure, but it is an approach. And a popular one, too, going by what I see both on and offline.

    Squirm? Moi? I'm not squirming at all. In fact I have addressed this issue before (and in much greater detail than I will now).

    As I explained previously, there's no way I would allow consensual murder (whether for erotic reasons or any other reasons), for the simple reason that allowing consent to murder is against the interests of society. It causes direct, intrinsic harm to me and to society to allow someone to murder someone else, because that sets a legal precedent of allowing murderers to argue as a legal defense that their victims consented. This means that if someone took my life, he could be heard to argue that I told him it was OK.

    The implicit position that I would defend that not only puts words in my mouth, but contradicts what I have said.

    Sex is not murder, and the above attempt to eroticize it is irrelevant. No doubt John Wayne Gacy would claim that his victims enjoyed their autoerotic asphyxiation.

    I think the commenter is trying to conflate sexual activity with slavery, cannibalism, and murder, when these things are not the same, nor are they related. Sexual activity between adults is not sex with children, it is not slavery, and it is not murder. From a legal perspective, the hypothetical is no different from wife asking a husband to shoot her. Society does not allow him to do that, nor should it. I'm not sure why the commenter believes that disallowing this is inconsistent with allowing two adults to have sex, but again, I think murdering someone -- whether consensually or not, does direct harm to society, because society has an interest in protecting the lives of its members. To the extent that society has any interest in sex between consenting adults, it would be to prevent them from doing it in public or, say, discouraging the violation of marital vows by sanctioning divorce. Society has no more interest in a private consensual sex act between two adults than it does in masturbation. (And of course, more harm is done by allowing two men to publicly pound each other's faces with their fists than by allowing them to use the same hands on each other's genitalia. I realize that moralists would argue that the former is morally preferable to the latter, but isn't that between a man and his choice of god or gods?)

    I can't help notice that the commenter keeps coming back to a blog post that readers can no longer see, yet insists on remaining anonymous. I suspect he wants to argue with me, and as I have said many times, that is not the purpose of this blog. If his position is so important that he wants the world to see it, why can he not put it out there in his own blog post? (I'll oblige this time, but again, I'm not here to provide others with a forum.)

    Finally, I don't think the words "callow, immature and fruitless" to describe my opinions are persuasive or helpful. Again, I don't think the goal is persuasion, but winning.

    Commenters who want to "win" debates are wasting their own and my time here.

    Except that the waste of time continues. Right after that, "Just Asking" left yet another comment:

    And of course the same applies to consensual slavery. If a group of people consists of dominant and submissive people choose to engage in chattel slavery, even going so far as to sell and buy other human beings, how can you oppose it? How are you harmed by such a practice in any real way?

    Sure, erotic murder & cannibalism, and chattel slavery may not be your idea of a good time, but you've already established clearly that no one has the right to tell anyone else what kind of sexual acts they may engage in so long as consent is obtained. So that bus left an hour ago, you cannot buy a ticket on it.

    You have to show real harm, or admit that these things ought to be lawful under your premise.

    As for the child sex thing up the thread, I regret to point out that the poster may be correct, although the language is clearly trolling for flames. There have already been attempts to change the DSM (DSM IV, IIRC) to make pedophilia only a mental problem if the practitioner feels bad about it. This suggestion (or whatever the psychs call it) did not pass, but the fact that it was put forth at all doesn't bode well for the future. Unfortunately I won't be surprised at all if down the road 10 years or so some specious "research" claims that 8 year olds can give informed consent to sex, and this is seized upon by the same political process within the DSM that was used to "normalize" homosexuality.

    When, and if, that occurs I fully expect most liberal/libertarians to go along with it, and some to applaud it. What would you do? Mumble "Gee, this wasn't what I intended" or some such?

    Again, the real harm is that if anyone can be sold, then I can be sold. If any human is allowed to be chattel, then I too can become chattel. (All they'd need to do is claim I "consented.") It doesn't take much callowness or immaturity to see that.

    Sexualizing slavery and murder does not render these things other than slavery and murder, any more than having a sexual fetish for robberies changes the nature of the robbery. The difference between robbery and murder is that if one consents to robbery, it is no longer robbery. Whether consent to slavery changes the nature of slavery I don't know. It's a stretch, but feminists have maintained that marriage is slavery, and I suppose that it could be argued that some people essentially consent to do what is not in their own interests.

    Why, now that I think about it, blogging might be a form of self-imposed slavery!

    However, allowing someone to become chattel irrevocably, and allowing that person to become legal property to be freely transferred and sold, that would mean that he would no longer be free to withhold consent. So, arguably it's no longer consent.

    But is it an argument that's really worth having?

    CORRECTION: Sean Kinsell correctly notes that I should have said "erotic asphyxiation" and not "autoerotic asphyxiation.

    posted by Eric at 10:47 AM | Comments (7)

    When losing is winning

    No, I'm not talking about Democratic hopes for a U.S. defeat in Iraq.

    I just watched Ian Schwartz's video of James Dobson explaining why he intends to support a third party candidate even if it means a Hillary Clinton presidency.

    The YouTube link is here. Or you can click on the image below (from the Fox News poll) showing the Dobson Hillary victory:


    Noting the obvious (that the result would be a landslide victory for HRC, and that Dobson has already stated that in addition to not supporting Giuliani, he also won't support Thompson or McCain), Hannity asked Dobson whether he would accept the inevitable result of a Hillary Clinton presidency.

    Dobson admitted it would be difficult. However, in light of Giuliani's "personal moral background" (I'm assuming he means his divorced marital status), his positions on abortion and gay marriage, the question boils down to this:

    "Why would we support someone when we would have to hold our noses?"
    Since when is there something wrong with holding your nose, Dr. D? I've been holding mine (and blogging about it) for years. In fact, I'm holding it right now as I contemplate the Doctor's moral prescription of making sure the nation has a fatal dose of Hillary simply because he can't stand Giuliani. (At this rate things are going, though, I might have to trade in my nose clip for a barf bag.)

    There's also Dobson's final rationale:

    "I don't believe Giuliani can beat Hillary in the first place."
    There is nothing new about any of this, unfortunately. I have been predicting it for years.

    However, I think more nose holding is called for all around. Seriously, I think it's easier to understand Dobson if you can hold your nose and put yourself in his position. If Giuliani is actually elected president, Dobson will be in the position of being in the same political party as a president he abhors, and while he'll be free to dissent and scream all he wants about things like Giuliani's "personal background," he will seem increasingly isolated, increasingly shrill, and increasingly fringe. It is not in Dobson's political interest to be in the fringes of his own party; he wants to be a major mainstream dissenter from the Satanic regime of the Wicked Witch. Seen this way, his wanting (or acquiescing to) Hillary to be president is far from an argument that he likes her. Rather, it's like being able to select your favorite enemy in advance of the coming showdown in the great moral and cultural war. At best, Giuliani is seen as someone who compromises with evil. Hillary is the Real Deal.

    Another factor is the economic one. While Dobson would be the last to admit it, his organization stands to gain far more if Hillary is elected than if Giuliani is elected. Hillary scares the living bejeezus out of the Dobsonite rank and file, while Giuliani is just another "RINO" of the type they've all seen and complained about for years. Little old ladies will be much more likely to write checks if they think they are saving the nation from evil than if they think they're helping to put pressure on a moderate Republican to stop him from possibly appointing a Gay Outreach Coordinator to the Assistant's Assistant to the Assistant Undersecretary of Undersecretarial Assistance. (Or whatever.)

    From the Dobson perspective, a Giuliani presidency will be furthering the decline of an already muddled, RINO-ridden GOP.

    Hillary as president will be seen as "clarifying." Electrifying, even. Why, with any luck, the "loser RINO GOP" might be forced to embrace Dobson's third party candidate as part of a "reconciliation" with the "betrayed base," and whoever the third party candidate is (Gingrich, maybe? He's divorced, but had the foresight to grovel to Dobson over it....) could become the certain-to-lose challenger to the Clinton incumbency in 2012. By that time, the nation's demographics will be hopelessly in the Democrats' favor, and the right-wing fringe can further circle the wagons and imagine themselves the only Americans left who can preserve traditional (read 1930s) values. Whether they'd see themselves as the equivalent of preservationist monks in the Dark Ages, or maybe engaging in a "Long March" to "take back the culture" I don't know. But the votes just aren't there for them to win with an acceptable candidate, they know it, and Hillary is in their best interests right now.

    I know it's not scientific, but I'm wondering what readers think. So here's a poll:

    Which presidency would be in the best personal interests of James Dobson?
    A Rudy Giuliani presidency
    A Hillary Clinton presidency
    pollcode.com free polls
    posted by Eric at 09:11 AM | Comments (6)

    Will You Arrest Me?

    Mitt Romney got asked by a medical marijuana patient, "Will you arrest me?" Mitt gave a brilliant answer. He turned his back on the guy. So much for compassionate conservatism.

    My answer to the man's question:

    "I will not arrest you. We should have learned our lesson from alcohol prohibition. I do not believe in price supports for criminals and terrorists. Just as alcohol prohibition didn't solve the alcohol problem, drug prohibition is not solving the drug problem and has in fact, like alcohol prohibition, compounded it by adding a crime problem."

    HT Eric of Classical Values

    posted by Simon at 08:43 AM | Comments (8)

    The New Imperialism

    Stephen Green, Vodka Pundit, on Tuesday's Republican debate thread had some thoughts on the new American Imperialism in the comments.

    Let's not forget also that America's western foreign policy was explicitly imperialistic -- using our excess farmers, and their desire for cheap, new lands -- to push our western border to the Mississippi and beyond.

    And Jefferson wanted to add Canada, Mexico, and Cuba to America's lands. *Jefferson*.

    For those that want to delve deeper in the subject there is the wiki.

    H/T Instapundit

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 01:13 AM | Comments (0)

    Medical Totolitarianism

    Dan Rhiel is discussing the recent dust up about the socialized medicine poster children. I have some thoughts on the subject:

    What happens when some government junk scientist discovers that eating carrots is bad for you? Carrot rationing.

    Or suppose they decide pot is good for you? You will be forced to consume your daily ration in front of a government agent. To keep health care costs down.

    And I f****n' hate pot prohibition.

    We are on the edge of totalitarianism with this stupid government run medicine.

    H/T Instapundit

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 12:24 AM | Comments (0)

    From The Wiki Damn It

    Stephen Green, Vodka Pundit, was discussing/live blogging Tuesday's Republican debate and it came out that Stephen (or Vodka as he is fondly known) was once a card carrying Libertarian. So I left a few words:

    Another ex-card-carrying-Libertarian. Woo hoo.

    I remember a Lib fundraiser calling me about a month after 9/11 and I made smoke come out of his ears.

    They haven't called back since. The party must have shrunk 40% in that month.

    I've got a few of them on a Ron Paul thread at Classical Values and one guy thought we beat the Barbary Jihadis in 1801-03 (Jefferson) with Letters of Marque and privateers.

    Then I pulled up some quotes from the wiki (from the wiki damn it!!!!) and he went quiet.

    So then he goes all "no declaration of war" on me and I pulled up another wiki (from the wiki damn it!!!!) about the War on the Barbary Jihadis. More silence. Then I pulled up the actual AUMF and compared it with Jefferson's Congress AUMF from the wiki (from the wiki damn it!!!!) and he hasn't been back since.

    Libs live in Libertopia. The land that never was or will be. Like the Socialists looking for the New Socialist Man the Libs are looking for New Libertarian Man. I hope they find him and marry him.


    We have a Brilliant Ron Paul supporter in the comments who asks why we have a foreign policy.

    Because the Constitution gives the President the power to conduct foreign relations. You can look it up in the wiki damn it!!!!

    H/T Instapundit

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 10:53 PM | Comments (2)

    hero is to heroine as knitting is to pork!

    While I try to keep track of feminist heroines, I'm afraid I'm not keeping up with the times.

    Yesterday the feminist heroine was Queen Isabella; today I see that Hillary (who has been considered a "feminist heroine") is now the Queen of Pork:

    When it comes to earmarks, an issue that voters responded to more than any other in the last election except for Iraq, her record is about as bad as it gets. If Dennis Hastert was the king of earmarks, Hillary Clinton was his queen. Republicans had their ``bridge to nowhere.'' Hillary has her knitting mill.
    (Via Glenn Reynolds.) Knitting mill? Well, I knew that knitting was a feminist issue, but I didn't know that Hillary had a knitting mill, much less a pork-based knitting mill. Naturally, I was intrigued.

    Sure enough, Hillary has a knitting mill. At least, she's funded one.

    HillaryKnittingFactory.jpg Here's the caption:

    September 1st, 2006 11:17:06am
    "Clinton in Seneca Falls"
    Senator Hillary Clinton discusses the future of the Seneca Knitting Mill as the home of the National Women's Hall of Fame during a visit Thursday. Clinton announced she has secured a $800,000 federal grant to start renovations on the mill. Network television crews from ABC, CBS and Fox were traveling with Clinton in Seneca Falls. Photo by Greg Cotterill.
    I didn't know about this, and frankly, it has the aroma of self-ghettoization, or embracing the oppressor. I mean, really. If a group of men had decided that a former knitting mill which had employed mainly women should be the new headquarters of the Women's Hall of Fame, imagine the outcry. It would rightly be called patronizing and condescending. (So what's this instead? Matronizing?)

    But hey, maybe I should get with the program. After all, it's all outlined here, and they start with a quote from 19th Century feminist Elizabeth Cady Stanton:

    "Come, come, my friend, wipe the dew off your spectacles, and see that the world is moving." -
    There's plenty of dew to wipe. And I'm wiping!

    There's a whole lot of stuff in there, including an elaborate, high priority "Website Overhaul" (which is supposed to take three months, and I'd love to know how much someone will get billed for that one)

    Improve the Economic Development section of Seneca Falls' website. Information on the site should include basic demographic statistics and projections (population, age distribution, income levels), details on the surrounding area (canal, wineries, Wildlife refuge, other activities), average housing costs, statistics on area schools, a summary of available business assistance and tax incentives and detailed spec sheets on available industrial sites and buildings. The site should provide links to the school district, local attractions, realtors, and other amenities. Links to Greater Rochester Enterprise, Syracuse MDA, NY AgriDevelopment Corporation and other relevant regional economic development actors should be included. Contact information should be listed for the Economic Developer, the Seneca County IDA, and the Seneca Chamber of Commerce.

    In terms of design, the community should hire a professional designer to create a new logo and tag line that reflect the community's new theme of women's history, growth and development; these should be included in the website and on any other materials produced by the Town or Village.
    Priority: High
    Lead: Economic Developer
    Timeframe: 3 months

    Seneca Falls is a small town (population around 9400), and they have a website which I guess is too ho-hum for the new plan. I wonder whether the local population knows their town is about to become a major tourist center.

    The big one is the Women's Hall of Fame

    Perhaps the most significant opportunity is the expansion of the Women's Hall of Fame. The Hall's new home in the Seneca Knitting Mill will provide ten times more exhibit space than they have right now. The Hall currently draws approximately 15,000 visitors per year to Seneca Falls. Executive Director, Billie Luisi-Potts, cited the planning study the Hall commissioned for its expansion, which estimates that in five years the number of visitors per year will be 50,000 and in ten years it will be 100,000. It will require a good deal of planning on the part of Town and Village in order to accommodate these visitors.
    Wow. I'll say it will require a good deal of planning. Ready or not! (I guess they should have known something like this was up when Bill and Hill visited the town. Local Democrats seem to be getting a boost too.)

    financingHOF.jpg But there's no reason Republicans can't get involved. One of the directors of the Women's Hall of Fame is Republican Senator Nozzolio -- about whom Seneca Falls locals complain ought to have the redeveloped local hotel named after him. He's obviously a major mover and shaker in the project (and he's pictured to the left with Hillary). He does seem to have a knack with hotels in the area as he somehow steered $100,000 to help a nearby Marriott. (Hey, at least the town is named "Aurelius." Seneca isn't bad either. Hey, I can't complain about Classical towns!)

    The Women's Hall of Fame factory knitting package is not the only Hillary Clinton pork that's been attracting attention. She's also sending a million for a Woodstock museum:

    $1 million for the Museum at Bethel Woods, which is dedicated to recreating the 1969 Woodstock Music Festival experience and will feature "An interpretation of the 1969 Woodstock Music & Arts Fair" exhibit in 2008, according to the museum's website. The earmark is at the request of New York Senators Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer.
    (Via the mean-spirited Jawa Report, which grumbles about a "church to hippies.")

    Can't we get into the spirit of things and wipe the dew off our spectacles?

    The world is moving, and I say it's time for bumperstickers!

    Ilovepork.jpg IloveKnitting.jpg

    There's a major effort underway to involve the National Pork Park Service in what appears to be another very expensive project called the National Women's Rights History Project Act:

    The National Women's Rights History Project Act would achieve three major goals.

    First, the bill would establish an auto route linking New York State sites significant to the struggle for women's suffrage and civil rights. The route would be administered as part of Women's Rights National Historical Park, and the National Park Service would work to promote historically significant locations along the route. To that end, the Park Service would support the development of a guidebook, a signage system, indoor and outdoor exhibits, and interpretive and educational programs to enrich the experience of visitors.

    Second, the Act would expand the National Register of Historic Places' online database dedicated to women's history, Places Where Women Made History. The website currently lists locations of historical importance throughout the United States. Rep. Slaughter and Sen. Clinton's legislation will support a collaborative effort incorporating the input of state historic preservation offices nationwide so that a more comprehensive listing of women's history sites can be provided online, along with new and relevant information concerning them.

    Finally, the Act would require the Department of Interior to establish a partnership-based network to offer financial and technical assistance for the development of educational programs focused on national women's rights history.

    While I have no idea how much it will cost, I couldn't help noting another little detail:
    Senator Clinton was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 2005 and has recently worked to secure preliminary congressional approval of $250,000 for the restoration of the historic Seneca Knitting Mill, the future home of the National Women's Hall of Fame.
    You think it might be just a coincidence that all this attention is being focused on the area shortly after her induction? Hmm, I guess if Larry Craig gets to be in the Idaho Hall of Fame, there's no real reason why Hillary shouldn't get to be in the Women's Hall of Fame. (Seriously though, it's for famous women, and she is that. I just can't help wondering coincidences.*)

    As usual I'm getting far afield from my original point, which wasn't supposed to be so much whether Hillary has earned the title of Queen of Pork, but whether she should be considered a "hero" or a "heroine."

    This might touch on word usage changes involving sexism in language:

    5. Gender: Sexist Language and Assumptions

    § 5. -ess

    Many people feel that sexist connotations may be implicit in the use of the suffix -ess to indicate a female, as found in words like sculptress, waitress, stewardess, and actress. According to this view, the sexism lies in the nonparallel use of terms to designate men or women: the ending for men, -er or -or, seems neutral or unmarked in a word like sculptor, and sculptress by comparison seems to be marked for gender, suggesting that a man in that role is what is expected and a woman is somehow unexpected or different. 1

    While it is true that the specific terms actress and waitress are in wide use and are largely acceptable, in general the use of such pairs of terms as actor/actress, steward/stewardess, and waiter/waitress to indicate gender is sometimes considered offensive and is often unnecessary. For occupational titles, the use of -ess is usually considered inappropriate and has been almost completely replaced by newly formed gender-neutral compounds or by the -er/-or forms. When you board an airplane, for example, you are now assisted by a flight attendant instead of steward or stewardess. British peerage titles formed with -ess, such as duchess and countess, however, are technically correct and unlikely to offend. 2

    The suffix has a long history dating to the Middle Ages. But several similar suffixes, such as -ette, as in suffragette, and -trix, as in aviatrix, also have long histories and have proved no match for the neutral -er/-or ending. So it appears likely that -ess will meet the same fate.

    I have to disagree with the idea that the ess suffix necessarily "suggest[s] that a man in that role is what is expected and a woman is somehow unexpected or different."

    Take the word "seamstress," of which I'm sure there were many laboring away in the knitting mill that's to become home to the new Women's Hall of Fame.

    How on earth is that suggestive that a man in that role is what is expected? To the contrary, I think the male version "seamster" is far more suggestively unexpected.

    Yeah, I know. Some smartass commenter will probably come along and ask what female members of the Teamsters Union should be called. Come on! Let's get surreal, and get with the program! Some words just don't contemplate different endings, while others do. The word "Teamster" would include truck driving women, and there can be male and female teamsters, just as there can be male and female lobsters. (Surely no one will argue that there is such a thing as a "lobstress.")

    I better do a Google check, because every time I look, it turns out that I'm not as kooky as I might have thought I was. Not only is "lobstress" a well-established word, but the seamster/teamstress issue has been discussed and resolved.

    A male seamstress is a tailor.

    A female teamster will kick your sorry behind if you call her a teamtress. :)

    And here's a T.V. writer who says that eye strain makes her play with "ess" suffixes:
    I have wicked eyestrain for real so I need to get away from this seductive computer, or I suppose it could be a computress. I get this tired, I start declining nouns like they're Latin. If a woman who sews is a seamstress, is a man who sews a seamster? Then can you be a teamstress? A huckstress? A prankstress? A mobstress? A lobstress?
    Nice to think about these things, but I still want to know whether Hillary is a hero or a heroine.

    Maybe we should leave it up to Hillary? It should be pointed out that Hillary used the word "heroine" in describing Harriet Tubman when she compared her struggles with a broken microphone to Tubman's struggles to free slaves and bring them North on the Underground Railroad:

    "This reminds me of one of my favorite American heroines, Harriet Tubman," the senator told 1,800 cheering supporters when her mike was restored.
    While Harriet Tubman's struggle might not be exactly the same thing as a failed microphone, the point is the narrative -- which is their common heroism.

    Or would that be heroinism?

    *AFTERTHOUGHT: Speaking of coincidences (and Woodstock), wasn't the Woodstock developer involved with Hsu?

    (FWIW, I think that old saying that a woman can't have too many Hsus is sexist!)

    UPDATE: Via Glenn Reynolds, a great post by Pieter Dorsman about a real heroine -- Ayaan Hirsi Ali -- and her shabby, cowardly treatment by the Dutch government.

    Hirsi Ali belongs in the Women's Hall of Fame, but considering that the feminists at NOW have not uttered so much as a word in her defense, I think that's unlikely.

    More on Hirsi Ali:

    She has received numerous awards for her human rights work, and in 2005, was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.
    Can the same thing be said for inductee Janet Reno?

    posted by Eric at 05:16 PM | Comments (4)

    Petraeus a sycophant, claims former Khmer Rouge apologist

    I regularly get startling emails, and one I received last night quotes a long argument -- titled "Petraeus out of step with US top brass" -- by an "analyst" named Gareth Porter who claims that General Petraeus was called a "sycophant" by Admiral William Fallon, chief of Centcom:

    WASHINGTON - In sharp contrast to the lionization of General David Petraeus by members of the US Congress during his testimony this week, Petraeus's superior, Admiral William Fallon, chief of the Central Command (Centcom), derided Petraeus as a sycophant during their first meeting in Baghdad in March, according to Pentagon sources familiar with reports of the meeting.

    Fallon told Petraeus that he considered him to be "an ass-kissing little chickenshit" and added, "I hate people like that," the sources say. That remark reportedly came after Petraeus began the meeting by making remarks that Fallon interpreted as trying to ingratiate himself with a superior.

    Naturally, we have only Porter's word that Admiral Fallon said this.

    As it turns out, NRO's Cliff May was sent a link to the same story (although his link was from the leftie IPS site). Putting the phrase "news story" in quotes, May was most amused:

    Hey, I'm sure this must be true. No doubt IPS reporters have great military sources.

    Now here's the kicker: I didn't come across this story because I'm a regular reader of the IPS. It was sent out to a listserve I'm on by a former U.S. ambassador who was one of the advisors to the Iraq Study Group, the vaunted Baker/Hamilton Committee.

    I'm hoping he'll next send us the National Enquirer story about Petraeus being the father of Brittany Spears' baby. And the kid's an alien, too!

    Now my curiosity was really aroused. I wondered, if the "facts" are coming from Gareth Porter, how reliable is he? Via Wikipedia, I found a clue:
    In 1976-77, continuing his challenge to the bloodbath argument, Gareth Porter rejected early accounts of the mass killings by the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia. With George Hildebrand he wrote a book, Cambodia: Starvation and Revolution, which accepted the Pol Pot regime's rationale for the deportation of millions of people from Phnom Penh and other cities. Critics have argued that the book's sources included official statements by the Pol Pot regime. [4] Testifying before Congress in May 1977, Gareth Porter said that "the notion that the leadership of Democratic Kampuchea adopted a policy of physically eliminating whole classes of people" was "a myth fostered primarily by the authors of a Readers Digest book." [5] Senator Stephen J. Solarz was so shocked by this testimony that he compared Gareth Porter to those who deny the murder of 6 million Jews in the Nazi Holocaust. Gareth Porter rejected this comparison. [6]
    Porter later seems to have backed off his genocide denial, but as recently as August (in a piece titled "Bush's "Killing Fields" and the Real Lesson of Vietnam"), he was blaming the genocidal Khmer Rouge on the U.S.

    The Cambodia book mentioned in the Wiki entry is reviewed here:

    In 1976, Gareth Porter and George C. Hildebrand, both American scholars,3 published a small but significant book entitled Cambodia: Starvation and Revolution. It is important for two reasons. First, it was the first English-language book purporting to describe the events unfolding in Cambodia in 1975 and 1976. 4 Second, it rationalized everything the Khmer Rouge did and were doing: from the evacuation of Phnom Penh residents and hospital patients to the forcing of monks into hard labor. In the book, Porter and Hildebrand (hereafter P-H) offer what appears to be insurmountable evidence that contradicts reports of atrocities taking place in revolutionary Cambodia, re -christened Democratic Kampuchea.5

    Porter's and Hildebrand's Sources

    Using "suppressed" documents and "official" bulletins courtesy of the Government of Democratic Kampuchea (i.e., the Khmer Rouge themselves), they argue that the April 17, 1975 evacuation of Phnom Penh was due to the U.S. war on the people of Cambodia, which resulted in the overpopulation of Phnom Penh (from 600,000 to 2-3 million between 1970 and 1975). Furthermore, they claim that the explosion of corruption under the Lon Nol regime was the direct
    result of U.S. foreign aid and that, in turn, it exacerbated death, malnutrition, and disease in Phnom Penh, making it uninhabitable. P-H refer to the Khmer Rouge only by their more palatable coalition name of NUFK (National Front for a United Kampuchea, also known as "FUNK" in its French acronyms and used as such throughout this essay).6 They pepper their book with propaganda photos directly from the regime.

    Oh, I see. The Khmer Rouge tried to be good, and they were basically good until the evidence came in that they were bad, and then it was clear that Nixon made them do it.

    While I don't like to stick my neck out, right now I'm disinclined to believe Porter's uncorroborated hearsay about General Petraeus.

    posted by Eric at 10:57 AM | Comments (2)

    Dr. Robert W. Bussard Has Passed

    Tom Ligon who worked for Dr. Bussard has informed me that Dr. Bussard has died. A sad day for all of us in the IEC Fusion community. A great one has passed. We are all diminished by his loss.

    Fortunately his work will continue. A whole community has developed to support his work:

    EMC2 Fusion
    IEC Fusion Newsgroup
    IEC Fusion Technology blog
    Talk Polywell
    Open Source Fusor Research Consortium II
    NASA Fusion/Spaceflight Forum

    Dr. Bussard was well known to Star Trek fans for inventing the Bussard Ramjet.

    The Bussard ramjet method of spacecraft propulsion was proposed in 1960 by the physicist Robert W. Bussard and popularized by Carl Sagan in the television series and subsequent book Cosmos as a variant of a fusion rocket capable of fast interstellar spaceflight. It would use a large ram scoop (on the order of kilometers to many thousands of kilometers in diameter) to compress hydrogen from the interstellar medium and fuse it. This mass would then form the exhaust of a rocket to accelerate the ramjet.

    In the Star Trek fictional universe vessels commonly have magnetic hydrogen collectors, referred to as Bussard collectors or Bussard ramscoops. Those are seemingly fitted on the forward end of the twin "warp nacelles", and have a "reverse" function that allows for spreading hydrogen as well as sucking it in.

    Dr. Bussard is also known for his recent work on the Polywell Fusion Reactor.
    The Polywell is a gridless inertial electrostatic confinement fusion concept utilizing multiple magnetic mirrors. It was designed by Robert Bussard under a Navy research contract, and is intended to overcome the losses in the Farnsworth-Hirsch fusor to create fusion power.
    Dr. Bussard has left a great legacy.
    In 1960, Bussard conceived of the Bussard ramjet, an interstellar space drive powered by hydrogen fusion using hydrogen collected using a magnetic field from the interstellar gas.
    Some of his earliest work was in the area of nuclear fission rockets.
    In 1956, Bussard designed the nuclear thermal rocket known as project Rover.
    Dr. Bussard initiated some of the first major work on nuclear fusion in the United States.
    In the early 1970s Dr. Bussard became Assistant Director under Director Robert Hirsch at the Controlled Thermonuclear Reaction Division of what was then known as the Atomic Energy Commission. They founded the mainline fusion program for the United States: the Tokamak. Later, in June 1995, Bussard claimed in a letter to all fusion laboratories as well as to key members of US Congress, that he, along with the other founders of the program, supported the Tokamak not out of conviction that it was the best technical approach but rather as a vehicle for generating political support, thereby allowing them to pursue "all the hopeful new things the mainline labs would not try".
    If you would like to see Dr. Bussarrd in action and learn a little more about the Polywell design you can find out more at Easy Low Cost No Radiation Fusion.

    My tears are flowing but the work will continue. God bless you Dr. Bussard and Warp Speed.

    Update: 09 Oct '007 0244z

    Rand Simberg has some thoughts.
    David Bullis at Jerry Pournelle's site had a few thoughts.

    I also want to thank from the bottom of my heart Eric Scheie and Justin of Classical Values who got me interested in Dr. B's work with this post and this one.

    The Fusor Net folks have some thoughts.
    The Talk Polywell people add their thoughts.

    Update: 09 Oct '007 2043z

    You can hear Dr. Bussard and Tom Ligon on The Space Show. I was honored to be able to ask a question. You can listen to the May 8th, 2007 MP3 here.

    New Energy and Fuel has a couple of posts up:

    Dr. Robert W. Bussard Passes Away
    Details On Dr. Robert W. Bussard Passing Away

    I will be adding links without further comment or update notices. Check back:

    Centuri Dreams
    Dad2059's Blog of Science Fiction
    Focus Fusion Society
    American Anti-Gravity - Eulogy and Audio Interview

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 10:15 PM | Comments (5)

    Celebrate Columbus Day, PC style!
    (With multiculturalism, diversity, and feminism for all!)

    I would have forgotten it was Columbus Day but for the fact that Glenn Reynolds linked this post from Jules Crittenden who exults in the politically incorrect glories of going to work:

    Columbus Day may be the most unPC holiday of the year. That's why I intend to celebrate it doing the most unPC thing I can think of. Working for a living.

    Columbus Day celebrates the arrival of Europeans in the New World, which critics note marked the onset of a lot of death, power shifts, slavery and domination of the continent by new ethnic groups. Essentially, a continuation of history as usual as far as the Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia were concerned, all of which had practiced those things repeatedly. Only in the Americas, an acceleration of history, something different.

    From this complex, sometimes disturbing history of boldness, vision, determination, misery, blood and hope in the cauldron of New World, emerged the greatest nation history has seen, founded on noble ideas, some of which we are still finetuning. An example to the rest of the world, which is still having trouble with a lot of the basics. Happy Columbus Day.

    I'm in 100% agreement on everything he said, except that I think a PC case can be made for Columbus Day, and I'll try to make it. While I'm at it, maybe I also have a slight issue with the "working for a living" part. Does this mean working for a "living wage"? I don't know whether I am doing that or not. It's like really complicated, because not only am I self employed, but I'm a lazy, penny-pinching cheapskate. I don't know the difference between working and living, as my life often seems to be a live-work situation. But I rationalize this by repeating the mantra from Mark Twain that a man's work is that which is not work at all.

    And as I was trying hard not to think about not working for a non-living, I read about a book in the Instamail which tells employers this:

    employers are advised to spend less time "obsessing over their employees' blogs."
    Fortunately, I'm self-employed. But that means I employ myself, does it not?


    Now that I think about it, the above still applies. I'd be well advised to advised to spend less time "obsessing over [my] employee[']s blog[]."

    Tell you what. Since it's Columbus day and I can't get especially worked up about living, or livened up for working, how about if I just obsess over Columbus and try my hands at knitting together a post-post-modernist narrative post?

    He's the guy who helped preserve undeveloped open space by discovering it, right? We wouldn't be preserving it by fighting sprawl if if he hadn't discovered it, would we? And, the undeveloped open space over here is largely responsible for making "us" (meaning the non-native invaders of indigenous peoples) come over here, and enslave literally everyone, not only in the form of chattel slavery, but through indentured servitude, capitalist wage slavery, and hundreds of years of exploitation. Even though the indigenous peoples had slavery and exploitation too, the endless struggle to end these things would not have been possible had Columbus not set these precursor events in motion. Nor would there be any environmental movement had we not laid waste to the land and put carbon footprints all over everything in the first place!

    Besides, somebody has to be the original ugly American, so why not Columbus? Sure, he might not have technically been an American in the literal historical sense, but I think he might as well be one in the narrative sense. I mean, he's at least as much American as Ward Churchill is Indian, isn't he? Sure, he screwed up and thought he was in India and everything, but didn't Churchill screw up and think he was Indian too?

    Can't we just get along and celebrate at least the dishonesty and hypocrisy of our common diversities on Columbus Day?

    Here's the Columbus Monument in Barcelona.


    Fortunately, it's located way up high, where the angry leftist nativistas in Spain can't do to it what their leftist counterparts did to the Columbus statue in Caracas, Venezuela.


    While those demonstrators might be loathe to admit it, the fact is that Columbus was sent by a woman. Not just any old woman, but Queen Isabella of Spain -- a woman who adopted "novel feminist ideas." And there's a fascinating book -- Isabel Rules -- which "applies a materialist feminist perspective to a wide array of texts of the second half of the fifteenth century in order to uncover and study the masculine psychosexual anxiety created by Isabel's anomalous power."

    Frankly, when I contemplated her statue in Barcelona, it was an undeniable fact that I felt plenty of masculine psychosexual anxiety, and I did the best I could to capture Isabel's anomalous power with the limited power of my Nikon Coolpix:


    In true feminist fashion, Isabella not only stood up to her hegemonic husband, but by any standard, was a warrior mom:

    Despite Ferdinand's attempts to rule both their kingdoms, Isabella held firm and kept her position as ruler.

    [13] Both loved the excitement of war, so the occupation of Granada by the Moors was a ready-made challenge. Although Isabella was described as being very feminine, she loved the look and feel of armor as much as fine dresses. In the field, Isabella scorned any suggestion of special consideration, and in the 10 years the two waged war against the Moors, Isabella managed to give birth to ten children. Five died in infancy. Small wonder. She was adamant about family and religion, so the children were dragged along to the battles, often in tatters. She wanted to supervise their training.

    Kinda puts the soccer moms to shame, no? And she not only made Columbus beg for funding, she kicked plenty of ass:
    [14] Christopher Columbus followed her for years before he could get her ear to plead for his enterprises. As Isabella the Catholic, she considered his plan as a great opportunity to proselytize other lands that he might find. Isabella, who had become known as the Catholic Queen, was as devout on the field as off. Her troops had to attend services and were not allowed to drink, swear, or gamble. Her religious fervor, unfortunately, led eventually to the Spanish Inquisition and its horrors.
    If Isabella was not a woman who "did it all," then I submit that the phrase has become so hackneyed as to be without meaning.

    So as we celebrate Columbus Day, I think it's only fair to celebrate him from a feminist perspective.

    And a multiculturalist perspective!


    Can anyone look at these statues and deny that they capture the supreme gratitude of the indigenous peoples at the time?


    Clearly the formerly oppressed Indians realized that their liberation was made possible only because of one of the West's pioneering feminists. Can carved stone lie?

    The statues speak for themselves, and I think no subtext is needed!

    Citizens of the United States should also remember that Isabella was the first named woman to make it onto a U.S. coin, in commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the Columbus voyage.


    What many feminists don't know is that while the Isabella quarter predated the Susan B. Anthony dollar, the latter feminist helped promote the project, as well as what has to be considered a feminist theme:

    Bertha Honoré Palmer then turned her attention to Congress' Appropriations Committee. Following the lead of the souvenir Columbian Exposition commemorative half-dollar, to be produced to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the discovery of America, Mrs. Potter lobbied and procured funding in the form of 40,000 commemorative quarters. In keeping with the female theme, she insisted on a female effigy on the coin, and what could be more fitting then Columbus' benefactor, Queen Isabella of Spain.

    In March 1893, the Mint Director Edward O. Leech informed the 'Board of Lady Managers,' that they needed to forward the likeness of Queen Isabella to be used on the commemorative quarter. In this way, it would save both time and money in production. Having some idea of the politics within government, it has been reported that Susan B. Anthony advised Mrs. Palmer to ignore the Mint Director's request and to pursue the commemorative quarter through normal channels. Bertha Palmer wanted to keep with an all female input into the design, and selected a New York artist, and student of the famed sculptor, Augustus St.Gaudens, by the name of Caroline Peddle to create the design. This action greatly offended the Chief Engraver, Charles Barber, and all chances for approval of Peddle's design was quashed. Charles Barber chose artist Kenyon Cox, who had painted several murals and illustrations at the exposition, to prepare sketches from which Barber personally created models and dies for the new quarter.

    Charles Barber's design of the Isabella Quarter features the crowned bust of the young Queen on the obverse. The legend encircling the bust reads UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, and the date 1893 is found to the right of the Queen's image. The design on the reverse features what was thought to be the major industry of women, at that time. It depicts a kneeling woman, holding a distaff, which was used for spinning wool or flax, in her left hand, and a spindle in her right. Surrounding the image, on the coin's border, the inscription reads BOARD OF LADY MANAGERS and COLUMBIAN QUAR. DOL.

    Anyone who thinks such "women's work" is passé should remember that knitting is now very much a feminist issue. (Along with the Isabella Quarter, the term "feminism" was coined in the same period.)

    Remember, it was Columbus who made possible the multiculturalism, diversity, feminism, and knitting that we enjoy today!

    So celebrate!

    I say this as a diversitist! And as a certified (or would that be certifiable?) "total feminist"!

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

    As Glenn says, Columbus is a feminist hero!

    (But we should also keep in mind that that Isabella is a feminist heroine.)

    posted by Eric at 05:41 PM | Comments (4)

    Making an "ass" out of "as" and "sin"

    Sorry, but sometimes I get confused by language. And this time, I'm even more confused than the last time.

    The Philadelphia Inquirer seems to have joined Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson in using the word "assassinations" to describe the murder of two Loomis guards by ex-convict Mustafa Ali in last week's ATM robbery:

    Before killing two armored truck guards at a Wachovia Bank ATM in the Northeast on Thursday, Mustafa Ali stalked them as they made their morning rounds, police said.

    Ali, also known as Shawn Steele, executed two Loomis guards and injured the driver during their third stop in the city, Homicide Sgt. Bob Wilkins said yesterday.

    The assassinations were captured by bank surveillance tapes, as was footage of Ali sitting in a black Acura TL at the guards' second stop, about five miles from the Wachovia branch, Wilkins said.

    Wilkins declined to identify the second location, but said it was at an ATM that was close to a school and a school bus stop. He said the tape depicts "kids going to school and numerous folks walking around."

    The stop is in the Northeast and less than a 10-minute drive from the scene of the shooting, which took place around 8 a.m. at the Roosevelt Mall at Bustleton and Cottman Avenues, he said.

    The revelation is chilling because residents who live near the mall had expressed relief on Thursday that the shooting happened just after school started that morning. Four schools are near the mall, and they went into lockdown when the firing started.

    (Emphasis added.)

    Perhaps it's nitpicky of me, but I have always thought assassination involved more than killing, even premeditated killing by lying in wait. The Wiki entry would seem to reflect the common usage of the term:

    Assassination is the murder of an individual; usually a political or famous figure.[1] An added distinction between assassination and other forms of killing is that an assassin usually has an ideological or political motivation, though many assassins (especially those who are not part of an organised movement) also show elements of insanity. Other motivations may be money (as in the case of a contract killing), revenge, or as a military operation.

    The euphemism targeted killing (also called extrajudicial execution) is also sometimes used for sanctioned assassinations of opponents, especially where undertaken by governments.[2] 'Assassination' itself, along with terms such as 'terrorist' and 'freedom fighter', may in this context be considered a loaded term, as it implies an act where the proponents of such killings may consider them justified or even necessary.[2]

    I suspect that the Inquirer is using the term imprecisely, but for rhetorical effect, because these murders were especially cold-blooded, involved lying in wait, and the guards happened to be retired police officers.

    But how can I be sure?

    After all, the Wiki entry goes on to note the origin and history of the word "assassin" ("generally assumed to be derived from its connections to the Hashshashin, a militant religious sect of Ismaili Muslims"). But even if we assume that Mustafa Ali was a genuine Muslim (and didn't just adopt the name in prison for other reasons), without any evidence that he committed the crimes for political purposes, wouldn't it be reckless (and maybe even a tad inflammatory) to use the word "assassin" to describe him?

    There doesn't appear to have been any political motive that I can determine. By all accounts, this man was a career criminal who planned to kill the guards, grab the ATM money, and flee. He did just that. Unless he planned to give the money to a political organization of some sort, his crime appears to be robbery murder.

    If robbery killings are to be considered assassinations in the absence of any political motive, then it should be expected to follow logically that robbery killings with accompanying political motives would have to be assassinations, right?

    So, the Weather Underground, the Black Liberation Army, and Symbionese Liberation Army members who killed numerous security guards and police officers during various robberies are assassins? That's odd, because despite the fact that these groups committed many murders, the only incident referred to as an "assassination" was the murder of Oakland School Superintendent Marcus Foster (killed by the SLA for trying to "create a student identification card system").

    Or take the case of convicted cop murderer Assata Shakur, now believed living in Cuba. No one refers to her as an "assassin," nor are the many murders of police and security guards by the BLA and other organizations called assassinations.

    And in Assata's case, a taxpayer funded community center was named after her. But people complained, so the college was forced to change the center's name. Noted Ace at the time,

    Murder is okay, depending on your politics. If you're left, or at least anti-American/anti-government, it's okay to kill people. You might even get your own shrine at a government-supported university.
    Yes, but why aren't politically motivated murders being called "assassinations," while ordinary robbery murders are?

    Were Bonnie and Clyde assassins too? I don't think so.

    In light of the community center, it seems that the concept of honor is involved. Can it be that some assassinations are more honorable than others? Or is the word now considered meaningless?

    If common criminals like Mustafa Ali are assassins when the same crime can be considered honorable if committed with a political motivation (even though the latter are supposed to be assassinations), then it seems all Ali needs to do to have the label of "assassin" removed is declare war on America and write a book.

    Then he might get a community center named after him or something, and people would clamor for his release. Instead, he's just a plain old assassin.

    Except once again, that makes no sense, as it's the added political element that makes an assassin, and not the other way around!

    I know it's only a word, but what gives here? I keep looking at the word "assassin," and the more I look, the less sense it makes.

    Perhaps that's the whole idea.

    posted by Eric at 10:26 AM | Comments (6)

    Criminals And Moralists Working Together

    While looking into into the Enron CO2 trading swindle I found this interesting tit-bit.

    The expressive term 'Baptist-bootlegger' derives from the days of prohibition. Under prohibition bootleggers and those who transported and supplied illegal alcohol made fortunes. One such entrepreneur was Joseph Kennedy whose second son, John, became US President in 1961. The bootleggers had allies in the Baptists and other teetotalists, who believed that alcohol was a deadly threat to the social order, and had worked for decades to get prohibition onto the statute books. The Baptists provided the political cover and the bootleggers pocketed the proceeds. In public the two groups maintained a great social distance from each other.

    Now Enron had positioned itself at the centre of an awesome Baptist-bootlegger coalition. The gargantuan rents which Enron energetically sought could be realized only if the Kyoto Protocol became established as part of US and international law. Ken Lay, Enron's CEO saw Enron as not only making billions from sales of the natural gas which was to displace coal as the preferred fuel under the Kyoto commitments, but he realised that as the main if not the only international and domestic trader in the new barter world of carbon credits, Enron could realise hitherto unimagined wealth. Such credits, of course, would only become bankable pieces of paper if governments, particularly the US Government, established and policed a global policy of decarbonisation under which a global tax on carbon was to be enforced.

    As the movement to establish the Kyoto Protocol developed momentum, it was necessary for Ken Lay to build up alliances with the green movement including Greenpeace. A 1998 letter, signed by Lay and a few other bigwigs asked President Clinton, in essence, to harm the reputations and credibility of scientists who argued that global warming was an overblown issue, because these individuals were standing in Enron's way. The letter, dated Sept. 1, asked the president to shut off the public scientific debate on global warming, which continues to this date.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 08:07 AM | Comments (0)

    The Face Of America In Anbar
    BoyswithStuffedPigRamadi - Michael Totten
    Photo of Boys with a Stuffed Pig by Michael Totten © 2007

    My friend Michael Totten has an article up, The Peace Corps With Muscle, that I have linked to several times in the comments here at Classical Values. So I thought it was time to do a front pager and look at how the war is going in what used to be one of the toughest neighborhoods in Iraq.

    Now that major combat operations are finished almost everywhere in Iraq's Anbar Province, the United States Army and Marine Corps are more like a United Nations peacekeeping force with rules of engagement that allow them to kill if they have to. "We're like the Peace Corps with muscles," is how one soldier put it when I left with his unit at 4:00 in the morning to deliver food stuffs and toys to needy families in the countryside on the edge of the desert.
    That is real progress. Will it hold? No one knows. However, it has been holding for some months now.

    During this day that Michael reports on American forces in Ramadi were guarding an aid mission convoy.

    The police trucks and Humvees rolled along at perhaps one mile an hour as women, children, and a few men emerged groggily from their homes and walked up to the convoy.

    Iraqi police officers handed heavy bags of flour and rice to adults and gave out smaller packages to the children.

    Not much fighting or excitement here. Except for the people who will be able to feed their families and hope for better times.
    All I could do was take pictures and notes. It was an awkward moment. I felt dumb and also like an intruder for seeing humble people in moments of weakness at dawn in front of their houses.

    Children swarmed the roads and fought their way to the sides of the trucks. The Iraqi police yelled at them as they handed out items. The Americans quietly provided security for everyone while this was happening.

    So what are the odds of turning Iraq around? It is no longer the hopeless case it was nine months ago, but the odds are still long.
    Iraq is a painful country. It hurts those who live there, and it hurts those who go there. It isn't the saddest place I've ever visited - Libya earns that dubious distinction. But it is the most distressing, not only because of the violence and horror almost everyone who lives there has experienced, and in many places still experiences, but because it's hard to shake the dreadful feeling that terrible forces are gearing up to punish the place even more.

    Anbar Province, while broken by war, is sort of okay.

    Michael has a few words to say about the "if it bleeds it leads" journalism in Iraq.
    This is what it's like now in and just outside Ramadi. This mission is the kind of thing embedded journalists see, which is why most war correspondents embed somewhere else. Soldiers Hand Out Newspapers and Rice isn't much of a headline, and it's even less of a scoop. But this is the kind of work soldiers do now every day in what was recently the most violent place in Iraq.
    From the comments Michael gives an estimate of the chances for holding Iraq together and turning Iraq into one of the better places in the Middle East. Not necessarily good. Just better than most.
    Shaulie: do you have hope for the mission? Your Ramadi dispatches incline me to the former, but when you mention Baghdad you seem to incline to the latter.

    Not a lot. Only a little.

    I think of the mission mostly as damage control at this point.

    It looks to me like the US and Iraq are screwed if we stay and more even screwed if we leave.

    But I don't know what is going to happen. No one does. I give it a one-in-four shot, but that's a gut-feeling guess.

    Iraq isn't quite as bad a place as it was, but it is still an emergency room case as a whole. We'll just have to wait and see what happens.

    If anyone can "save" Iraq, Petraeus can because he knows what he is doing. If he can't pull it off, probably nobody can. If the Iraqis don't get their act together it doesn't matter how good Petraeus is at his job.

    Michael also tells what it is like being on the ground in Iraq. It is a hard life. Michael and the soldiers will eventually go back to "the world" as we used to say in 'Nam. The people of Iraq will have to live there.

    A soldier asks:

    "What are you doing here in August anyway?" he said.

    "A fine question," I said as I seriously wondered why I hadn't waited for October or even November. The heat in Iraq during the summer is enough to make a religious man rail against God. I'm baffled, frankly, at how human civilization began in a place so inhospitable to human beings. Someone, I forget who, compared facing the afternoon breeze to sticking a hair dryer in your face while pouring sand on your head. That pretty much says it. It is much worse than in a place like Arizona, for instance, because you can hardly catch a break from it unless you stay on base in one of the buildings.

    Hell of a way to earn a living. Both for Michael and the soldiers.

    If you like what you saw and read here from Michael go to his www site and put a few pennies in the tip jar. He does what he does on the dimes we send him.

    Thanks Michael and God Bless you, our military, and the people of Iraq.

    posted by Simon at 08:44 PM | Comments (1)

    Another censored post?

    Well maybe not.

    Ann Althouse posted some incredibly cool pictures of freeze-dried rats and bats, and dried rattlesnake heads (all for sale in a store).

    They looked familiar. So familiar that I'm 99% sure they were the same rats and mice that I saw when I was in New York on Thursday night -- in a great SoHo store I always like to visit.

    Anyway, I took a few pictures of my own in the store, but the merchandise seemed a bit morbid for the blog. While I don't like to offend reader sensibilities, that's not the only reason for my reluctance. My paranoid side worries that the busybody types I complain about (the ones who think along the lines of "anything I don't like should be illegal") might read blogs. And if they saw things being sold that they didn't like, they might propose new laws to grab new headlines.

    A shame, really, because now I've talked myself out of publishing this post.

    Well, not really. Because, I can always censor the pictures I took, and leave the subjects up to the readers' imagination.



    I also took this picture, which doesn't need to be censored, as I can't figure out what it is:


    Perhaps my camera had been drinking.

    (I accept no responsibility for its contents.)

    posted by Eric at 01:24 PM | Comments (0)

    Equality is only a step towards supremacy?

    A short post by Dr. Helen linked this longer post at Maggies farm about a man who decided to evaluate an attractive woman in purely economic terms (as a "depreciating asset"):

    I qualify as a guy who fits your bill; that is I make more than $500K per year. That said here's how I see it.

    Your offer, from the prospective of a guy like me, is plain and simple a cr@ppy business deal. Here's why. Cutting through all the B.S., what you suggest is a simple trade: you bring your looks to the party and I bring my money. Fine, simple. But here's the rub, your looks will fade and my money will likely continue into perpetuity...in fact, it is very likely that my income increases but it is an absolute certainty that you won't be getting any more beautiful!

    So, in economic terms you are a depreciating asset and I am an earning asset. Not only are you a depreciating asset, your depreciation accelerates! Let me explain, you're 25 now and will likely stay pretty hot for the next 5 years, but less so each year. Then the fade begins in earnest. By 35 stick a fork in you!

    So in Wall Street terms, we would call you a trading position, not a buy and hold...hence the rub...marriage. It doesn't make good business sense to "buy you" (which is what you're asking) so I'd rather lease.

    Man, that's cold! (At least, so I thought.) How could anyone reduce relationships that ought to be based on love to such crude and degrading terms?

    It occurred to me that not only was love being left out of the equation, but so were considerations of the relative intelligence of both the parties. So I said in a comment:

    I think intelligence is at least as important (and possibly more important) than looks, so falling in love with a brain would seem to make more sense than falling in love with a body. I don't think all men would agree with this, though. As to women, who knows?

    Isn't there an old stereotype about men being threatened by women with brains? How does this square with the new stereotype that men are stupid and incompetent?

    So I can't figure out the rule. Do men want women to be less intelligent than they are? Or do women want men to be less intelligent than they are?

    Maybe it depends on whether you're out to get something. If the goal is simply money, then money plus stupidity would seem an ideal match. Ditto if the goal is simply attractiveness. But if the latter is the goal, why not wait until androids are perfected?

    As to what I called the "old stereotype about men being threatened by women with brains," that stereotype seems to have scientific support:
    In America research shows successful young women are hiding their accomplishments for fear that their academic achievements and financial kudos will scare off potential suitors.

    And it is no different here. Researchers from Aberdeen, Bristol, Edinburgh and Glasgow universities discovered that high-IQ women saw marriage prospects fall dramatically, but men with high IQs had little trouble finding a mate. They found that for each 16-point rise in a woman's IQ, her marriage prospects declined by 40%, but the man's chances of marriage increased by 35% with each rise.

    The widespread view is that accomplished women are at a disadvantage in the marriage market because men start out by saying they want a strong, powerful woman and then end up running off with the secretary. I should know. A few years ago my Swiss banker found my conversation too arty and cast his attentions on a lovely Spanish girl who worked in his office.

    Should women pander to male insecurities?

    I found the above via Hot Air and Glenn Reynolds, whose reaction to the conclusion is similar to mine.

    Here's the conclusion:

    Having grown up with successful women such as Margaret Thatcher and Madonna as role models, and with popular culture awash with fantasies of all-powerful women, from Lara Croft to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, men are not so uncomfortable with the woman in control. This value system recognises the trend of female supremacy, which while not as yet the norm seems to be pointing the way for future relationships.
    The "trend of female supremacy"? Isn't a false dichotomy implied there?

    I mean, excuse me, but I thought the goal was equality.

    Or is that now just a step in the "process"? Sorry, but if the "choice" is now between male supremacy or female supremacy, count me out on all counts.

    Sometimes it seems that politics is being driven by insane activists who want to impose their insane choices on the still sane (but non-activist) majority of people who just want to be left alone in their dwindling spheres of what was once called "privacy."

    I'm wondering.

    Is the conservative War on Sex supposed to be an alternative to the liberal War Between the Sexes?

    I see it as another insane dichotomy, because either way, the result is the Sex War.

    (I guess I'll have to redouble my ongoing effort be a "traitor" to both "sides.")

    posted by Eric at 11:21 AM | Comments (9)

    Columbus Day

    Gateway Pundit has a bit on anti-Columbus Day protesters in Colorado. You know "the evil white man destroyed the noble Indians and we therefor wish to atone for the sins of our ancestors" types. Have I got news for them.

    The Indians fought wars with each other all the time for territory.

    The white man was just a better Indian.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 10:42 AM | Comments (2)

    Targeting the law abiding?

    I complain a lot about the anti-gun mentality among Philadelphia city officials, and one of my pet peeves is the totally disingenuous attempt to label people with concealed carry permits as part of the problem. Police Commissioner Johnson has complained that his police officers are "outnumbered" by them.

    Now, via Newsbusters, I see that CNN has chimed in:

    On Thursday's "Anderson Cooper 360," CNN's Randi Kaye filed a story in which she promoted gun control as a solution for Philadelphia's crime problems, as she pushed the argument that the city's high rate of gun violence was the result of Pennsylvania state lawmakers voting to loosen gun laws in the 1990s. And, as if criminals would bother to apply for a permit to legally carry a concealed weapon, Kaye further suggested that the availability of concealed carry permits has contributed to the city's problems. Kaye: "In 1995 there were fewer than 800 applications for concealed weapons here. 'Keeping Them Honest,' we checked, and today there are 29,000 permits to carry. And it's against the law for police to ask anyone why they want one. One law enforcement source told me permits to carry are being passed out like candy."
    What Police Commissioner Johnson and CNN's Randi Kaye ignore is the fact that concealed carry permit holders are among the most law-abiding people in Philadelphia. They are pre-screened and go through a special background check which is much more rigorous than the instant background check used by gun dealers.

    Here's Les Jones:

    One study found that in Florida CCW holders were 300 times less likely than the general population to commit a crime. A Texas study found that CCW holders in that state were "5.7 times less likely to commit a violent crime, and 14 times less likely to commit a non-violent offense."

    There's a simple reason CCW holders as a group are so law-abiding -- they have to be law-abiding citizens in order to qualify for a permit in the first place.

    Unfortunately, Philadelphia statistics are not kept as to the number of permit holders who cause problems, but there seems to be little doubt that it is very low.

    If permit-holders are the problem, how many of those 85 murders were caused by a person with a permitted concealed handgun? When I asked, the city police and mayor's office were unable or unwilling to answer that question, but my guess is zero.

    In the extraordinarily rare cases when permit-holders get in trouble, there is news coverage. Yet there's not one single news story on such a case this year.

    Indeed, with 28,000 concealed handgun permit-holders in Philadelphia and more than 600,000 statewide, there was no such murder last year, or the year before, or the year before in the entire state. Only two have been recorded since the state law started in 1989.

    Contrast this with the police statistics on the shootings which are causing Philadelphia so much trouble. According to Philadelphia's Chief of Detectives, 80 percent of the shooters have criminal records. (And they're forbidden by strict gun control laws from owning or possessing firearms. Why don't they obey the laws?)

    Every once in a while, a concealed carry permit holder happens to be on the scene when a crime is committed, or as in a case I was delighted to see reported in the Inquirer, a criminal targets a concealed carry permit holder:

    Two days after Myers was killed, Bilal was arrested on robbery charges stemming from another holdup in the area, Costello said.

    In that confrontation, in the 1900 block of North 22d Street, one of two victims had a permit to carry a gun - and he used the weapon on the two suspected robbers.

    Highway Patrol officers heard shots fired and apprehended Bilal, who had been shot in the hip.

    Why on earth would the gun control advocates (at CNN or anywhere else) target this carefully selected group of law-abiding people for moral opproprium? You'd almost think they disapproved of self defense by the law abiding, or gun ownership even by a carefully screened and licensed class! I mean, really. Isn't fingerprinting, licensing, and background checking what they claim to want? I often hear the claim made that "owning a gun should be made like owning a car." In light of the moral condemnation of the most regulated class of gun owners in America, why should I believe them?

    Incredibly, the same CNN report dares to mention this past week's Loomis robbery murder case:

    After a report by correspondent Jim Acosta that recounted the story of security guards who were attacked by a gunman in Philadelphia, Acosta mentioned that the city's police commissioner "took the nation's presidential candidates to task" for not making gun control an election issue.
    The gunman -- Mustafa Ali -- was a convicted bank robber who had served six years in federal prison.

    I'd be willing to bet that had he robbed a local merchant instead of a bank, he'd have served a lot less time, but what is the campaign gun control issue?

    Why did gun control laws fail to prevent a convicted bank robber from breaking them?

    A better question might be: Why weren't there more concealed carry permit holders in the neighborhood?

    posted by Eric at 09:53 AM | Comments (2)

    (Not that I needed a reason to subscribe to the Inquirer)

    Despite my regular concerns with the Philadelphia Inquirer (especially when I perceive anti-gun bias creeping into news reports), I'm a loyal subscriber, as I think a daily newspaper is a fundamentally important part of a civil society. I like the Inquirer's online presence, regular linking of blogs, and most of all, the fact that the editorial board provides a platform for alternative views.

    This morning, I was delighted to see Glenn Reynolds' review of Larry Sabato's "A More Perfect Constitution: 23 Proposals to Revitalize Our Constitution and Make America a Fairer Country." Sabato wants to re-do, the Constitution, while Reynolds thinks (at the risk of simplifying) that we might be in danger of losing what we have, so we ought to try to preserve it:

    are we desperate enough to dare a new Constitution?

    I don't think so. There seems widespread agreement that the current system is bad, but no sign that we're desperate to change it. The next question is, should we be? That is, is our current system sufficiently dysfunctional that we'd be better off taking a chance on a new Constitutional Convention, as Sabato proposes, than continuing to operate under the current system?

    That's a tougher question. Our current political system certainly appears dysfunctional, and it seems to have been captured, to a greater degree than in the past, by special-interest groups that place their own welfare ahead of the public good. As Sabato observes, the framers' "feared corruption has come in many stultifying forms, from extreme partisan gerrymandering to the unresponsiveness of the political system produced by ossification over the centuries."

    Yet this raises another difficulty. The framers believed that no Constitution could protect a people who had fallen away from political virtue. If our political class is too lacking in virtue to make the current system work - a proposition I think Sabato would accept - then how likely is it that this same political class would produce a better system than the one we have now?

    The answer, I think, is an obvious no!

    As Glenn puts it, "Perhaps we would be better cultivating political virtue first, and worrying about constitutional change later."

    The reason the Constitution is in such disrepair is that it's been disregarded for so long by so many. I think any wholesale rewriting of it would only generate further disregarding and disrespect -- just the opposite of what Sabato intends.

    Sabato lists and discusses seven of his proposals here; and I'm not sure that them (such as the line-item veto) couldn't simply be enacted into law.

    It was great to see this review in the Inquirer!

    UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds links the Inquirer review and the Sabato book.

    posted by Eric at 08:44 AM | Comments (0)

    Senator Jim Webb On Mass Incarceration

    Jim Webb held hearings on The Mass Incarceration of American citizens. America imprisons a larger percentage of its citizens than any other country in the world. Lets look at the figures. These are from 2005. America 737 per 100,000. Russia per 611 per 100,000. Cuba 487 per 100,000. China 118 per 100,000. Canada 107 per 100,000. We are worse than Russia. Far worse than Cuba. By comparison with Canada we are almost 7 times worse.

    Didn't read about the hearing in your newspaper? I'm not surprised. Check out this Google search on news of the hearings. Seven hits. Seven lousy hits. Maybe it will get better when the Sunday papers come out. Or not.

    Let us hear a bit about what Jim has to say:

    Over the course of the period from the mid-1970s until today, the United States has embarked on one of the largest public policy experiments in our history, yet this experiment remains shockingly absent from public debate: the United States now imprisons a higher percentage of its citizens than any other country in the world.

    In the name of "getting tough on crime," there are now 2.1 million Americans in federal, state, and local prisons and jails -- more people than the populations of New Mexico, West Virginia, or several other states. Compared to our democratic, advanced market economy counterparts, the United States has more people in prison by several orders of magnitude.

    All tolled, more than 7 million Americans are under some form of correction supervision, including probation and parole.

    America's incarceration rate raises several serious questions. These include: the correlation between mass imprisonment and crime rates, the impact of incarceration on minority communities and women, the economic costs of the prison system, criminal justice policy, and transitioning ex-offenders back into their communities and into productive employment. Equally important, the prison system today calls into question the effects on our society more broadly.

    As Winston Churchill noted in 1910, "The mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of the civilization of any country." With the world's largest prison population, our prisons test the limits of our democracy and push the boundaries of our moral identity.

    You can read more on his remarks at the link.

    Let us look at what a politically connected ex-prisoner has to say.

    Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., is asking Congress to examine high incarceration rates in the United States, and he got a boost from a former California Republican leader yesterday.

    Pat Nolan, a vice president of the nonprofit Prison Fellowship, served 29 months in federal custody after pleading guilty to racketeering. He said yesterday that he once was a "reliable tough-on-crime" politician.

    "As a state legislator, I made the mistake of thinking that locking people up made our communities safer," Nolan told the congressional Joint Economic Committee yesterday.

    "Only when I was in prison did I realize that . . . locking so many of our people in prison while doing nothing to prepare them for their release is very dangerous.

    "I commend this committee and your staff for calling attention to the horrible toll that over-incarceration is taking on American society."

    The toll that Nolan condemned, the causes of rising incarceration in recent decades and its racially disproportionate impact, were explored by scholars and other expert witnesses at the hearing that Webb chaired and sought.

    Webb, a freshman better known for his outspoken stands on defense issues, labeled the racial makeup of America's prisons "alarming," questioned the impact on crime of the high incarceration rate, and hit "enormous" spending to maintain the prison system.

    The tab is more than $200 billion for combined expenditures of local, state and federal governments for law-enforcement and corrections personnel, Webb said.

    "Are there ways," he asked, "to spend less money, enhance public safety, and make a fairer prison system?"

    OK so who are we locking up? The Christian Science Monitor reports:
    More than 5.6 million Americans are in prison or have served time there, according to a new report by the Justice Department released Sunday. That's 1 in 37 adults living in the United States, the highest incarceration level in the world.

    It's the first time the US government has released estimates of the extent of imprisonment, and the report's statistics have broad implications for everything from state fiscal crises to how other nations view the American experience.

    If current trends continue, it means that a black male in the United States would have about a 1 in 3 chance of going to prison during his lifetime. For a Hispanic male, it's 1 in 6; for a white male, 1 in 17.

    The numbers come after many years of get-tough policies - and years when violent-crime rates have generally fallen. But to some observers, they point to broader failures in US society, particularly in regard to racial minorities and others who are economically disadvantaged.

    "These new numbers are shocking enough, but what we don't see are the ripple effects of what they mean: For the generation of black children today, there's almost an inevitable aspect of going to prison," says Marc Mauer, assistant director of The Sentencing Project, a nonprofit advocacy group based in Washington. "We have the wealthiest society in human history, and we maintain the highest level of imprisonment. It's striking what that says about our approach to social problems and inequality."

    Ron Paul talked about this in the recent Presidential debates.

    What else do we know about who gets locked up? Here is a study of 538 people diagnosed with various mental illnesses. What did the study find?

    Forty-seven respondents (9%) were incarcerated over the follow-up period. Among them, 20 were incarcerated multiple times. The prevalence, incidence, reasons for incarceration, and time served did not vary significantly by diagnosis. The most significant predictors of jail stay and time to incarceration during the follow-up were being male or black and having been incarcerated before admission. Predictive effects of other risk factors (for example, symptom severity or substance abuse) were smaller or statistically insignificant.
    How do the mentally ill get treated in prison? You don't have to guess.
    One in six U.S. prisoners is mentally ill. Many of them suffer from serious illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression. There are three times as many men and women with mental illness in U.S. prisons as in mental health hospitals.

    The rate of mental illness in the prison population is three times higher than in the general population.

    According to the 215-page report, Ill-Equipped: U.S. Prisons and Offenders with Mental Illness, prisons are dangerous and damaging places for mentally ill people. Other prisoners victimize and exploit them. Prison staff often punish mentally ill offenders for symptoms of their illness - such as being noisy or refusing orders, or even self-mutilation and attempted suicide. Mentally ill prisoners are more likely than others to end up housed in especially harsh conditions, such as isolation, that can push them over the edge into acute psychosis.

    "Prisons have become the nation's primary mental health facilities," said Jamie Fellner, director of Human Rights Watch's U.S. Program and a co-author of the report. "But for those with serious illnesses, prison can be the worst place to be."

    Woefully deficient mental health services in many prisons leave prisoners undertreated - or not treated at all. Across the country, prisoners cannot get appropriate care because of a shortage of qualified staff, lack of facilities, and prison rules that interfere with treatment.

    According to Human Rights Watch, the high rate of incarceration of the mentally ill is a consequence of underfunded, disorganized, and fragmented community mental health services. State and local governments have shut down mental health hospitals across the United States, but failed to provide adequate alternatives. Many people with mental illness - particularly those who are poor, homeless, or struggling with substance abuse problems - cannot get mental health treatment. If they commit a crime, even low-level nonviolent offenses, punitive sentencing laws mandate imprisonment.

    "Unless you are wealthy, it can be next to impossible to receive mental health services in the community," said Fellner. "Many prisoners might never have ended up behind bars if publicly funded treatment had been available."

    Three strikes and you are gone. Some times for life. What a wonderful country.

    How do we treat mentally ill ex-prisoners? Do we make their re-entry into society easy? Glad you asked.

    Pressed by rising costs, America's states are scrambling for ways to keep millions of people who are released from jails and prisons each year from coming back. An obvious first step would be to abolish senselessly punitive laws that make it difficult for felons to reconstruct their lives, like those in all 50 states that bar former convicts from occupations that have nothing at all to do with their crimes. Another prudent step would be to create high- quality programs that provide newly released people with counseling and job placement. Perhaps most crucially, those who qualify need assistance in getting back their federal disability and Medicaid benefits; inmates typically lose such benefits when they find themselves locked up for 30 days or more.

    The loss of benefits is especially devastating for the mentally ill, who make up one-sixth of the prison population and who are particularly susceptible to recidivism. Most of them get psychiatric drugs and treatment for the first time in jail. They often improve quickly, but deteriorate just as fast when they are released without being re-enrolled in federal disability programs or Medicaid, which would give them access to medication and psychiatric care. Homeless, delusional and out of control, they are inevitably rearrested for behaviors related to their illnesses. Many of them come back to jail so regularly that corrections workers call them "frequent fliers."

    Impoverished people who suffer from mental illnesses and other serious disabilities are entitled to Supplemental Security Income assistance, administered through the Social Security Administration. In many states, people who are declared eligible for Social Security-based benefits are automatically enrolled in Medicaid, which in turn provides mentally ill people with care and drugs.

    Federal law requires that people be suspended from SSI benefits when they land in jail for even a short time. The federal government diligently enforces the suspension rules - and even pays a small bounty to the prisons and jails in exchange for notice that a beneficiary has been incarcerated. But the institutions are offered no incentives to report that inmates are about to be released and need to have their benefits restored. Moreover, the rules governing the program are so vague and complicated that most prison officials don't understand them.

    A similar situation has developed with Medicaid, which bars states from receiving federal matching funds for treatment given to inmates except in acute cases requiring hospitalization. The federal government envisioned an arrangement under which Medicaid benefits would be suspended during incarceration and resumed upon release. But the states have resorted to terminating inmate eligibility outright and allowing inmates, including the mentally ill, to leave custody without access to care.

    Cute. Mental illness lands you in prison and then you get no help when you get out. This must be the compassionate conservatism I have heard so much about.

    How is drug prohibition affecting incarceration rates?

    Regarding State prison population growth from 1990 through 2000, the US Dept. of Justice reports, "Overall, the increasing number of drug offenses accounted for 27% of the total growth among black inmates, 7% of the total growth among Hispanic inmates, and 15% of the growth among white inmates.
    Let us look at the population these drug offenders are drawn from:
    According to the federal Household Survey, "most current illicit drug users are white. There were an estimated 9.9 million whites (72 percent of all users), 2.0 million blacks (15 percent), and 1.4 million Hispanics (10 percent) who were current illicit drug users in 1998." And yet, blacks constitute 36.8% of those arrested for drug violations, over 42% of those in federal prisons for drug violations. African-Americans comprise almost 58% of those in state prisons for drug felonies; Hispanics account for 20.7%.
    So is the increase in prison population caused by increased crime rates?
    Growth in the prison population is due to changing policy, not increased crime. Many criminal justice experts have found that the increase in the incarceration rate is the product of changes in penal policy and practice, not changes in crime rates. Changes in sentencing, both in terms of time served and the range of offenses meriting incarceration, underlie the growth in the prison population.

    Changes in drug policy have had the single greatest impact on criminal justice policy. The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 created mandatory minimum sentences for possession of specific amounts of cocaine. The Act instituted a 100-to-1 differential in the treatment of powder and crack cocaine, treating possession of 5 grams of crack cocaine the same as possession of 500 grams of powder cocaine. Crack cocaine is typically consumed by the poor, while powder cocaine, a significantly more expensive drug, is consumed by wealthier users. Mandatory minimum sentences for low-level crack-cocaine users are comparable (and harsher in certain cases) to sentences for major drug dealers.

    The composition of prison admissions has also shifted toward less serious offenses, characterized by parole violations and drug offenses. In 2005, four out of five drug arrests were for possession and one out of five were for sales. The crime history for three-quarters of drug offenders in state prisons involved non-violent or drug offenses.

    As my friend Cliff Thornton Jr. says, "If this was happening to white people there would be revolution in the streets."

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 12:36 AM | Comments (1)

    Ron Paul On Race And Drugs

    I agree with Ron Paul on a lot of issues. This is one of those issues. I do think he is wrong about Iraq. Nobody is perfect.

    posted by Simon at 12:16 AM | Comments (23)

    Enron And Carbon Trading

    The Briefing Room has a report on the connection between Enron and Carbon Trading.

    Amidst the talk about the benefits that Kyoto Protocol is supposed to promote, it is perhaps forgotten especially amongst the greenies how Kyoto was born in the corridors of very big business. The name Enron has all but faded from our news pages since the company went down in flames in 2001 amidst charges of fraud, bribery, price fixing and graft. But without Enron there would have been no Kyoto Protocol.

    About 20 years ago Enron was owner and operator of an interstate network of natural gas pipelines, and had transformed itself into a billion-dollar-a-day commodity trader, buying and selling contracts and their derivatives to deliver natural gas, electricity, internet bandwidth, whatever. The 1990 Clean Air Act amendments authorized the Environmental Protection Agency to put a cap on how much pollutant the operator of a fossil-fueled plant was allowed to emit. In the early 1990s Enron had helped establish the market for, and became the major trader in, EPA's $20 billion-per-year sulphur dioxide cap-and-trade program, the forerunner of today's proposed carbon credit trade. This commodity exchange of emission allowances caused Enron's stock to rapidly rise.

    Then came the inevitable question, what next? How about a carbon dioxide cap-and-trade program? The problem was that CO2 is not a pollutant, and therefore the EPA had no authority to cap its emission. Al Gore took office in 1993 and almost immediately became infatuated with the idea of an international environmental regulatory regime. He led a U.S. initiative to review new projects around the world and issue 'credits' of so many tons of annual CO2 emission reduction. Under law a tradeable system was required, which was exactly what Enron also wanted because they were already trading pollutant credits.

    Thence Enron vigorously lobbied Clinton and Congress, seeking EPA regulatory authority over CO2. From 1994 to 1996, the Enron Foundation contributed nearly $1 million dollars - $990,000 - to the Nature Conservancy, whose Climate Change Project promotes global warming theories. Enron philanthropists lavished almost $1.5 million on environmental groups that support international energy controls to "reduce" global warming. Executives at Enron worked closely with the Clinton administration to help create a scaremongering climate science environment because the company believed the treaty could provide it with a monstrous financial windfall. The plan was that once the problem was in place the solution would be trotted out.

    You don't suppose that all this CO2 hysteria is a con do you?

    I'll let you calculate the odds.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 06:17 PM | Comments (1)

    Is nothing sacred? (The answer is "No!")

    While it might possibly be mean-spirited of me to publish this post, the stuff I stumble across never ceases to amaze me.

    I try to be fair, and so does Coco. So, after I saw Glenn Reynolds' post about Mitt Romney's laugh being more annoying than Hillary Clinton's laugh, it occurred to me that it might be unfair to subject Coco only to the Hillary laugh while ignoring the Mitt Romney laugh.

    Searching for Mitt Romney and the word "laugh," however, brought up a disturbing subject.

    Sacred undergarments.

    No really:

    Inquiring minds want to know: What kind of underwear does Mitt Romney wear?

    A reporter asked him that very question recently. She said she felt embarrassed asking him, and he refused to answer, saying it was a personal matter, so she quickly moved on to the next question.

    What does it matter what kind of underwear Republican Presidential Candidate Romney wears? Well it doesn't matter at all, to me personally, as I'm sure it didn't to the reporter. What it comes down to, is the issue of Mormon "sacred underwear". Does Romney believe in it? Does it even matter if he does?

    I try to keep abreast of all things related to fashion, and I'd never heard of this one. However, Mike Wallace of CBS news learned about "sacred undergarments" some time ago, and if you watch this YouTube video, you'll see his studied inability to stifle a sneer and a laugh.

    Note that it wasn't about Romney, nor was it about presidential politics. (If it had been, I am sure that Mike's condescension would have been worse.)

    Here's the New York Sun on Romney:

    He has declined to say whether he wears the sacred undergarments -- usually white-colored underwear worn over the torso and upper legs -- required of church members. (Scholars of the religion generally assume he does.)
    Here's the problem I'm having. I started this post as an attempt at being humorous in the context of the "comparative laughter" matter, and I ran inadvertently into something else which is not really a proper subject of humor. It's not that underwear isn't a proper subject of humor (especially in the context of politics), but religion is a different matter.

    So what is it with religious underwear? I'm going to try not to be funny or cute about this, but the fact is, I've run into it, without even intending to, and I'd be a coward not to finish the post, so I will.

    My point is, just because I am not laughing over Mitt Romney's underwear does not mean that millions wouldn't, especially if he becomes the nominee. Hillary wouldn't even need to bring it up; all she'd have to do is remind people what a hard time the media gave her husband about his underwear (by asking whether he wore "boxers or briefs") and with a knowing wink, everyone would know what she was talking about. ("Presidential underwear really ought to be off limits, and looking back, I wish they'd left my husband alone!")

    The thing is, the guy's underwear is his business, as is his religion. Both matters are personal. But there is nothing fair about politics. If I had had the "decency" to not publish this post, could I later claim credit for self-censoring the discussion of sacred undergarments? Who the hell in his right mind would care about whether Classical Values avoided discussing presidential underwear? (Whether I like it or not, this is exactly the sort of thing that will become an issue. If it doesn't, it will only be because Romney never did well enough in the race.)

    The point is, if he does become the nominee, we all know damned well that the left would be absolutely delighted with this "unmentionable" issue. Some would of course scream Romney is a loon, while others would dance delicately around it with cute non-references. I didn't create it or unearth it, and I can't bury it or make it go away, and I suspect that lots of things like this are being studiously ignored, only for now. (Meanwhile, the files compiled by Democratic dirt diggers grow larger and larger.)

    Nothing fair about it. In fact, I think there's a tragic aspect here.

    What used to be personal is public, and it has been for a long time.

    So God help him. The world is vicious.

    PERSONAL NOTE: Considering the topic, it's probably only fair that I disclose my own underwear. Here's a picture of all the drawers from my drawers, laid out in front of Coco (who doesn't seem to understand the importance of my fearless disclosure) :


    Um, not every piece of underwear I actually own is pictured there, OK?

    (Do I have to air all of my dirty laundry?)

    MORE: Geez. There's even a website.

    posted by Eric at 12:27 PM | Comments (2)

    Energy Use Up - Population Down

    The Buckminster "Bucky" Fuller Virtual Institute has an interesting graph that I wish more people were aware of.

    Fuller noticed while reviewing available global statistics that as an area's per capita energy consumption increased, the average birth rate for that area decreased!

    This fact has held true for every country of the world as it went through the process of industrialization. As the world's energy per capita goes up, the world's birth rate will go down.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 12:16 PM | Comments (2)

    Hillary is not a socialist!

    Oh yes. And Media Matters is "not political." (Only a supporter of the "RIGHT WING RADICAL AGENDA" would differ with these truths.)

    I wish more political analysts were willing to state the obvious as Deroy Murdock has.

    Clinton is a hardened socialist, despite the mainstream media's efforts to portray her as a "centrist" merely because she is not as over-a-cliff-left as Michael Moore or MoveOn.org's patron, George Soros. Worse, her ethical corner-cutting routinely attracts dodgy, cash-rich rogues like recently captured fugitive fund-raiser Norman Hsu.
    Had Glenn Reynolds not linked the piece, I doubt I'd have seen it (although I suppose there's a slight possibility of it appearing in the Philadelphia Inquirer.) Seriously, though, if it weren't for the occasional writer like Murdock, who but a few bloggers would remind people of what Hillary said not that long ago? Again, Murdock:
    "We're going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good," she told San Franciscans in June 2004. As first lady, she said: "We must stop thinking of the individual and start thinking about what is best for society."
    Of course, Glenn Reynolds mentioned the "common good" remark at the time, and I chimed in, but I worry that even the collective memory of the blogosphere might not be a match for the collective amnesia of the MSM.

    Of course, there's still plenty of time to debate the details of socialized medicine. And the idea of handing out $5000 for every baby that's born...

    Hillary, however, will spin these things as common sense and will simply deny being a socialist. She'd probably like to deny her advocacy of Internet gatekeeping too, but the collective memory won't go away. Here's Rebecca Eisenberg, writing in the San Francisco Chronicle in 1998:

    Because the very same Internet that is broadcasting the White House Millennium Evenings was also responsible for breaking the White House sex scandal, the reporters asked the First Lady if she had rethought the critical remarks she made about the Net's ability to spread "lies."

    "We are all going to have to rethink how we deal with this," she answered, "because there are always competing values. There's no free decision that I'm aware of anywhere in life, and certainly with technology that's the case."

    Although technology's new developments are "exciting," Hillary continued, "There are a number of serious issues without any kind of editing function or gatekeeping function. What does it mean to have the right to defend your reputation, or to respond to what someone says?"

    Hillary doesn't get it. The greatest value of the Internet is the way it provides an easy means of defending your reputation and responding to what someone says.

    Competing "values"? Um, yes, there are. Does Hillary Clinton have something against competition, or does she think the government needs to control the playing field?

    It may be asking too much, but I wish the Republicans would have the balls to go on record as being for capitalism and for the free market, and actually dare to declare themselves unalterably opposed to the socialism of Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party.

    That way, the election might be spun as a choice between socialism and capitalism (instead of socialism dressed up as welfare nanny statism versus "big government conservatism" or socialism lite.)

    I'll say this for Hillary. She may be a socialist, but at least she's figured out how to make her gatekeeper program work. The ingenious new program is not called the "gatekeeping function," but is described as "barely veiled transaction of editorial leverage for access."

    A nice way to avoid embarrassing questions. But since when was Hillary Clinton elected gatekeeper?

    MORE: Considering her success at being the nation's first unelected gatekeeper, it wouldn't surprise me if Hillary figures out a way to deliver on her promised talk radio "fix" without the need for any legislation! (Not As If Media Matters....)

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

    Wind Power

    Lubos Motl has a piece up on the unprecedented thinning of Arctic Ice. He points to this paper which claims the cause is a shift in sea circulation patterns.

    The extent of Arctic perennial sea ice, the year-round ice cover, was significantly reduced between March 2005 and March 2007 by 1.08 × 10E6 km2, a 23% loss from 4.69 × 10E6 km2 to 3.61 × 10E6 km2, as observed by the QuikSCAT/SeaWinds satellite scatterometer (QSCAT). Moreover, the buoy-based Drift-Age Model (DM) provided long-term trends in Arctic sea-ice age since the 1950s. Perennial-ice extent loss in March within the DM domain was noticeable after the 1960s, and the loss became more rapid in the 2000s when QSCAT observations were available to verify the model results. QSCAT data also revealed mechanisms contributing to the perennial-ice extent loss: ice compression toward the western Arctic, ice loading into the Transpolar Drift (TD) together with an acceleration of the TD carrying excessive ice out of Fram Strait, and ice export to Baffin Bay. Dynamic and thermodynamic effects appear to be combining to expedite the loss of perennial sea ice.
    The Arctic Ice is not very thick.
    Antarctica's ice shield is thick down to 3000 meters; the Arctic sea ice is 5 meters/17 ft at the most. This is the old ice, which has survived two or more summer seasons. At the end of the winter, most of the ice is only around 2 meters/6 ft, down to an inch thin. The ocean movement breaks up the thin ice and piles it up.
    AccuWeather has more:
    Anyway, in a news release from NASA Monday, a group of scientists have determined that unusual winds caused the rapid decline (23% loss) in winter perennial ice over the past two years in the northern hemisphere. This drastic reduction is the primary cause of this summer's fastest-ever sea ice retreat in recorded history which has lead to the smallest extent of total Arctic coverage on record.

    According to the NASA study, the perennial ice shrunk by an area the size of Texas and California combined between the winter of 2005 and the winter of 2007. What they found was the Arctic Ocean north of Siberia and Alaska was dominated by thinner seasonal ice that melts faster compared to the thicker ice confined to the Arctic Ocean north of Canada. The thinner ice is more easily compressed and responds more quickly to being pushed out of the Arctic by winds.

    "Unusual atmospheric conditions set up wind patterns that compressed the sea ice, loaded it into the Transpolar Drift Stream and then sped its flow out of the Arctic," said Son Nghiem of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and leader of the study. When that sea ice reached lower latitudes, it rapidly melted in the warmer waters.

    What about these unusual wind patterns. Well, the article does not go into that too much, but I must believe some of this is due to changes in the Arctic Oscillation (AO) and the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) which are large atmospheric circulations which have major impacts on the weather in certain parts of the world.

    Now lest we all forget, weather is not climate.

    Arthropolis has a nice picture of Transpolar Drift (TD).

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 09:51 PM | Comments (4)

    He Retires Victorious

    K.C. Johnson of Durham in Wonderland is retiring from regular posting at his blog. He did as much as a human could to get the story out of the railroading of the three Duke Lacrosse players by disgraced District Attorney Michael Nifong.

    He follows in the path of another intrepid Professor who stood athwart history and said "they shall not pass", Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain who fought at Gettysburg. Let me quote a bit from Professor Chamberlain on the fight at Gettysburg.

    The roar of all this tumult reached us on the left, and heightened the intensity of our resolve. Meanwhile, the flanking column worked around to our left and joined with those before us in a fierce assault, which lasted with increasing fury for an intense hour. The two lines met and broke and mingled in the shock. The crush of musketry gave way to cuts and thrusts, grapplings and wrestlings. The edge of conflict swayed to and fro, with wild whirlpools and eddies. At times I saw around me more of the enemy than of my own men; gaps opening, swallowing, closing again with sharp convulsive energy; squads of stalwart men who had cut their way through us, disappearing as if translated. All around, strange, mingled roar--shouts of defiance, rally, and desperation; and underneath, murmured entreaty and stifled moans; gasping prayers, snatches of Sabbath song, whispers of loved names; everywhere men torn and broken, staggering, creeping, quivering on the earth, and dead faces with strangely fixed eyes staring stark into the sky. Things which cannot be told--nor dreamed.

    How men held on, each one knows--not I. But manhood commands admiration. There was one fine young fellow, who had been cut down early in the fight with a ghastly wound across his forehead, and who I thought might possibly be saved with prompt attention. So I had sent him back to our little field hospital, at least to die in peace. Within a half-hour, in a desperate rally I saw that noble youth amidst the rolling smoke as an apparition from the dead, with bloody bandage for the only covering of his head, in the thick of the fight, high-borne and pressing on as they that shall see death no more. I shall know him when I see him again, on whatever shore!

    So Professor Johnson on whatever shore we may meet again, I shall know you.

    God Speed,


    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 12:11 PM | Comments (0)

    "Nothing is true. Everything is permissible."
    (A day in the life of catching up)

    I tried to start my day by catching up with urgent news in the morning paper. It's arguable that this is not the way I should start my day, for I have a hyperactive imagination which can sometimes be set off by the slightest use of a wrong word here, or a hint of editorial bias there. The merest hint of slant can often send me into a paroxysm of distraction -- sometimes (depending on how much coffee I consume) lasting for hours.

    However, in the middle of that distraction, I was rudely interrupted by a terribly distracting (but very articulate) tirade about distractions:

    In 1967, Charles Hummel wrote an essay about the "tyranny of the urgent," where his point was not that we have insufficient time to accomplish tasks but rather that we prioritize the urgent over the important:

    "We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; and we have done those things which we ought not to have done."

    Since his essay was written in a less digital world, Hummel references the impact of the telephone on the urgent, "A man's home is no longer his castle; it is no longer a place away from urgent tasks because the telephone breaches the walls with imperious demands." The latter part of the sentence could now read, "it is no longer a place away from urgent tasks because cable, satellite, Internet, cell phones, etc. breach the walls with imperious demands."

    Via Glenn Reynolds, who's at least as into making the point as I am. (Probably more so. It never ceases to amaze me how he can do in a sentence what it takes me an essay to do. But I shouldn't worry about that lest it distract me from the distractions in the Inquirer which prompted this essay.)

    Frankly, there are more important things happening in the world than distractions. I really should be writing about "the first president who is married to a former president who was impeached for having oral sex with an intern in the Oval Office." (From a piece in the Economist Glenn linked even before my distractions started.)

    The issue of the future ex-first lady first lady president's ex-president is important, but it has nothing to do with the Inquirer's front page story. An armed robber shot and killed two Loomis security guards, both of whom were retired police officers:

    The man sits in a newer, black Acura TL near a Roosevelt Mall bank branch and calmly puts on a pair of black gloves. As a surveillance tape rolls, he emerges from the car, now with gun in hand, and strides toward two Loomis guards, former Philadelphia police officers who are servicing an outdoor ATM machine.

    Without a word, he fires, killing the guards and wounding a third inside their armored truck.

    "He just came out and essentially assassinated them," Police Commissioner Sylvester M. Johnson said.

    The word "assassinated" just sort of jumped out at me, distracting me to the point where I had to resort to the dictionary. Robbery murder is an awful thing, but I usually associate assassination with deliberate murders for reasons other than robbery, and I think most people do. Then there's the origin of the word. Precise accounts vary, but a fanatical 11th Century Iranian Shia cult leader named Hassan i Sabah seems to have had a penchant for kidnaping young men, drugging them with hashish, then giving them an earthly taste of the paradise to come if they did as they were told. After the drug-induced orgies were over, the men were returned to more Spartan accomodations where sober reality was allowed to set in, and ideas were planted and instructions given. Interestingly, the cult leader, while seemingly a well-educated holy man, turned out to be a nihilist at heart, whose last words were very much ahead of their time:
    "Nothing is true. Everything is permissible."
    The phrase is more commonly seen as "Nothing is true. Everything is permitted." As in Cities of the Red Night:
    "Nothing is true. Everything is permitted." The last words of Hassan i Sabbah, Old Man of the Mountain. "Tamaghis ... Ba'dan ... Yass-Waddah ... Waghdas ... Naufana... Ghadis." It is said that an initiate who wishes to know the answer to any question need only repeat these words as he falls asleep and the answer will come in a dream.
    I prefer Wiki's "permissible" to Burroughs' "permitted," but do I need permission for my preference?

    His "followers" (if that's the right word) were called "hashashins" or "assassins":

    The chosen were drugged, one or two at a time, and taken to this garden by night. When they woke up in the morning they were surrounded by beautiful and scantily clad houris [in Muslim belief, women who live with the blessed in paradise] who would minister to their every need and desire. After being allowed to savor this false -- but pleasant and sensual -- paradise for a day or so, they were again drugged before being taken back to awaken in their own squalid hovel or cave dwelling. To them, it was as if it had been a vivid dream. Ben Sabbah then sent for them, told them Allah had given them a preview of paradise, and surprised them by telling them exactly what each had been up to while in the secret garden."
    More about Hassan and his fort (aka the Alamut) in this review of a 1938 historical novel which juxtaposed Hassan i Sabah's nihilism alongside Mussolini's. The reviewer can't resist a comparison to the 9/11 suicide hijackers:
    Besides, Alamut is a philosophical exercise disguised as a novel, with the trappings of a certain historicity and topography. But it does not correspond with today's reality (or lack thereof) in precisely the way it has been assumed. Rather than representing the outcome of any diabolical plan hatched by a terrorist evil genius, today's world is a confused one in which analogies between the book and events quickly break down. Aspiring suicide hijackers, apparently too impatient or too uncertain in their faith, drink and go to strip shows before their fatal mission. Some suicide bombers in the Muslim world are created because of poverty; others because their loved ones are killed indiscriminately by American or Israeli troops, and they no longer have anything to live for. This is hardly the joyfulness with which Bartol's (all male) fedayeen go to their death, longing for the sensual pleasures of an easily visualized afterlife.

    Of course, there are many other cases in which Islamic rebels do seem very clearly to be happy to die (as in Alamut) as martyrs for the cause � but, it seems, with an eye to the immortal stature they hope to then attain in the legends of the living, and not with a view towards the afterlife. Perhaps in the book, the fedayeen just don't hate their opponents enough to be relatable with today's mujahedin.

    And so if anything, it seems that today's terrorists have grasped the truth behind Hasan ibn Sabbah's nihilistic message -- and not the one with which he made fanatics of his fedayeen at Alamut. The latter rests on the concept of self-interest and the ancient Greek presumption that every man desires the Good. Plato and the Stoics augmented this by adding that every man desires what he perceives to be the Good for him. Aware of the discrepancy, Hasan ibn Sabbah, like so many charlatan prophets, artfully satisfied the self-interest of his fedayeen: paradise in the afterlife. For them, death became a means to this end. However, above and beyond this, Hasan's higher wisdom is the nihilistic one: nothing is true, everything is permissible.

    I generally agree, except that I sometimes suspect the last earthly delights of the hijackers might have been more part of the plan than acts of impious impatience. Think about sexual guilt in this context (by all accounts, these people had major problems with what they saw as sexual "excesses" of the West). Had they had been ordered to party the night before, this might have been more than just a taste of the promised afterlife with its "houris" and delights. It would have been a strong motivating factor in guaranteeing mission success. It would have been unthinkable for these fanatics to wimp out on their killing mission after an evening of debauchery, for they'd have then been little more than cowardly "hedonists" of the sort they were supposed to be killing. Thus, the parties had a twofold purpose: a taste of what awaited in the afterlife, but a threat of real, almost unendurable sexual stigma in the event of failure. And of course, had it been necessary to abort the mission, their guilt (which would also function as shame if their superiors knew) would create a need for atonement as a powerful motivating factor in a future mission. Frankly, I think al Qaeda might have utilized and improved on the Alamut meme. (Wiki has an Alamut entry and another on the Houri girls.)

    All that from one word -- "assassinated" -- that I read in the Inquirer.

    To make the distraction worse, Glenn Reynolds' link to Wiki's Heinlein entry only added fuel to the sex war fires which always smolder in this blog despite my regular attempts to extinguish them. Among other quotes, Wiki has this Heinlein gem (which makes me want to shut down all distractions and seriously read the guy):

    Take sex away from people. Make it forbidden, evil. Limit it to ritualistic breeding. Force it to back up into suppressed sadism. Then hand the people a scapegoat to hate. Let them kill a scapegoat occasionally for cathartic release. The mechanism is ages old. Tyrants used it centuries before the word 'psychology' was ever invented. It works, too.
    It works, but why? Can't these people figure out that they're simply being had?

    Am I allowed to speculate that what they might need is pornography? Or is it "nihilistic" to negate sexual control? The sexual control types would certainly say so, but I think nihilism encompasses a lot more than that.

    Lest these distractions get the better of me, I should return to the story in the Inquirer. Frankly, it irritated me to read about the callused nature of the crime, and if in fact this man was an assassin I wanted to know more about him. I learned that in addition to being an assassin, he wore "blue jeans, a black shirt, white sneakers, and a yellow cap with a black logo":

    Killed were Joseph Alullo, 54, of Levittown, who retired as a sergeant in 2000 after 27 years on the force, and William Widmaier, 65, of Fairless Hills, who retired in 1989 after 23 years.

    The two Bucks County residents once worked together in the Seventh District in the Northeast and were longtime friends, Johnson said.

    The armored truck's 70-year-old driver, who was grazed by glass shattered by bullets fired at him by the gunmen, was not identified because he is a witness. He was treated at a hospital and released.

    Within minutes of the shootings, police ordered a lockdown at four nearby schools: Resurrection of Our Lord School, Northeast High School, Woodrow Wilson Middle School, and Rhawnhurst School. They reopened shortly before noon.

    The guards were picking up receipts at a drive-through deposit ATM at a Wachovia Bank when the robber - wearing blue jeans, a black shirt, white sneakers, and a yellow cap with a black logo - opened fire with a semiautomatic handgun, police said.

    Widmaier, who was servicing the machine, was hit in the chest. Alullo was wounded three times in the chest and abdomen while reaching for his revolver, officials said. The gunman then fired at the truck's windows.

    After both guards fell mortally wounded, the gunman grabbed a canvas money bag and ran away. The bag was found empty behind the nearby Turf Club, where the robber had left his car. Authorities did not disclose the amount of money thought to be in the bag.

    "We're looking for an armed and dangerous male who had no regard for life at all," Johnson said.

    An "armed and dangerous male with no regard for life who wears blue jeans, a black shirt, white sneakers, and a yellow cap with a black logo" is not much to go on. Suppose the assassin ditched the yellow cap. How would I know him if I saw him?

    Oh, he also wore black gloves, but they could have been ditched too. I guess the Inquirer should report the color of his clothes, but I'm a bit concerned about profiling, because a lot of young people today wear blue jeans and black shirts, and it just doesn't narrow it down. Aren't we at least entitled to know whether the blue jeans were baggy?

    No, because bagginess is a contentious issue. "Reactionary" and "indicative of the growing schism," says a Bucknelll professor quoted in the Inquirer. Wouldn't wanna go there.

    Besides, if everything is permissible, then assassins can wear whatever.

    Sheesh. I try to be respectful as I can and take everything into account, but things are getting ridiculous when I can't even keep up with the fashions of young people who can't keep up their pants!

    Little wonder it's so hard for anyone to keep up with anything.

    UPDATE: The assassin -- a man named Mustafa Ali -- has been arrested, and he has confessed:

    A fugitive who previously served federal prison time for bank robberies confessed last night to slaying two retired Philly cops.

    The stunning development came just a day after William Widmaier and Joseph Alullo - lifelong friends who found a second career as armored truck guards - were gunned down and robbed as they serviced an ATM in Northeast Philadelphia.

    The alleged confessed killer, according to police sources, has been identified as Mustafa Ali.

    He was arrested on an outstanding warrant from Middletown Township, Bucks County, at about 4 p.m. outside an apartment complex on Woodhaven Road near Covert Road, said Homicide Capt. Michael Costello.

    Investigators also found a four-door black Acura TL in the apartment complex that matched the getaway car that was used by the gunman in Thursday's double slaying. The car had been covered by a dark tarp, Costello said.

    The Acura had been purchased some time ago in Middletown Township, but the buyer paid with a bad check, which led police to issue the warrant on charges of felony theft, police sources said.

    Once again, I think it's fair to point out that as is common in so many shootings, this Mustafa Ali is a convicted criminal prohibited by strict existing gun control laws from possessing the firearm he used in the assassination.

    I'd ask why he didn't obey the gun laws, but that would sound like a rhetorical question.

    I had to get his name from the Daily News, as today's Inquirer refers to Ali only as "a Northeast Philadelphia man," who "was not identified by police." (I'm hoping that maybe they'll identify him in tomorrow's paper.)

    UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link, and a warm welcome to all.

    All comments are permitted -- yea, encouraged -- and there's no rule that they have to be true!

    It's worth adding that when I wrote this yesterday I had no idea about the identity of the "assassin" -- and if I relied on today's Inquirer I still wouldn't. (It often seems like pulling teeth to get the bare facts of important stories, and this one is becoming national.)

    I'm glad the cops arrested this murderous criminal, and it's only too bad he wasn't locked up longer, as police statistics show that 80% of Philadelphia shooters have criminal records.

    MORE: CNN reports the suspect's name.

    AND MORE: Cynic that I am, I worry about the fact that this seasoned convict has confessed to a double murder while in police custody. I suspect he's been in the joint long enough to know how the system works -- especially that in an emotionally charged case like this involving the cold-blooded murder of former police officers, he'll face the death penalty. "In custody confessions" create a very fertile source of future material for the lawyers who will spend the next fifteen or so years working on his case, and a seasoned ex con can be expected to know this.

    Confessing in custody was a good move on Ali's part.

    UPDATE (10/07/07): There is not one story or mention in today's Inquirer about the robbery or the arrest. A story which occupied the front page for two days in a row has apparently been dropped -- with the suspect's name never appearing in print.

    I wonder whether this non-reporting constitutes negligence, or whether the Inquirer simply does not want Philadelphians to know the name of the suspect.

    Or can it be that reporters are afraid to do their job?

    UPDATE (Ten minutes later): My mistake in not seeing today's story when I first read through the paper! There is a perfectly good report with plenty of details in the local section:

    Murder charges were filed yesterday against the man police say confessed to killing two Loomis armored-truck guards Thursday.

    Mustafa Ali, 36, of the 3800 block of Woodhaven Road in Northeast Philadelphia, was arraigned last night on two counts of murder, aggravated assault, robbery and related offenses. He was ordered held without bail pending a preliminary hearing on Wednesday.

    "This person will never walk the streets again," Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson asserted yesterday.

    The widow of one of the guards was comforted to hear the news.


    Ali, who is also known as Shawn Steele, was arrested late Friday on a warrant from Bucks County on charges of passing a bad $5,000 check, allegedly for the deposit on the car seen in the surveillance images.

    According to court records, Steele pleaded guilty to bank-robbery charges in 1993 in federal court. He was sentenced to seven years in prison followed by seven years of supervised released, and ordered to make restitution of $7,315. He was released from prison in 1999.

    A police source said that during questioning, Ali had confessed to the shootings. Police said they had known Ali was the shooter when he provided incriminating information and told them where he had buried the gun.

    Police found the murder weapon early yesterday, sources said.

    At yesterday's news conference, Johnson provided few details of the investigation. Police declined to release a mug shot until after a police lineup had been conducted.

    Interesting how they still need to do a lineup even though he's confessed. (It's as if they don't trust his confession, which is smart of them, as in-custody confessions can often provide a fertile source for appellate lawyers seeking grounds for reversal.)

    Anyway, I'm delighted to see that the Inquirer has reported the full story along with the confession. (My initial mistake was that I assumed it would be on the front page, or at least the front section.)

    posted by Eric at 11:47 AM | Comments (17)

    Emily Bear
    This young lady is from Rockford, Illinois.
    She composed the piece.

    posted by Simon at 06:54 AM | Comments (0)


    Hoots has an excellent post up on the happenings in Burma with lots of links. He quotes from the New York Times.

    Natural gas from Myanmar, which generates 20 percent of all electricity in Thailand, keeps the lights on in Bangkok. The gas, which this year will cost about $2.8 billion, is the largest single export for Myanmar's otherwise impoverished and cash-strapped economy.

    Thailand's gas imports highlight the dilemma facing China, India, Singapore and Malaysia, among other countries, as they vie for Myanmar's hardwoods, minerals, gems -- and access to its market of 47 million people.

    At a time of spiraling world energy prices, the prospect of extracting resources appears to override the embarrassment and shame of dealing with a junta that has attracted world notoriety. For this reason, the countries that have the most leverage over Myanmar seem to be the most reluctant to use it, analysts say.

    Hoots then goes on with a report on the US relationship with Burma:

    Relationship: Washington has called for political change in Burma and expressed support for the recent protests. In 1997 the US banned new investment in Burma, and in 2003 it banned most Burmese imports and dollar transactions. It has announced it will impose further sanctions against 14 senior officials in Burma's government, including the country's acting prime minister and defence minister. But in common with the other Western countries, the US realises its influence is weak when compared to that of China, India and Asean.

    Interests: As a result of sanctions few economic interests remain, a major exception being the US share in the Chevron-Total gas project.

    Comment: "The world is watching the people of Burma take to the streets to demand their freedom and the American people stand in solidarity with these brave individuals." US President George W Bush.

    Hoots then finishes with this comment:
    Don't wanna mess with that Chevron deal, do we?
    Stuff like this doesn't help my cynicism one bit.
    Actually it is that very cynicism first evidenced with respect to Iraq that prevents action.

    Plus I'm not sure it is Bush/Chevron.

    Total is one of the most corrupt oil companies in the world.

    Do a 'net search on:

    Maurice Strong Total Oil for Food

    for starters. Mr. Strong is a Canadian. Total is a French Company. I did a posts on that when the topic was hot. Belmont Club was also on the case. Especially the Oil for Food angle. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review also looks into Mr. Strong.

    BTW what would you suggest Bush do? He has his hands full trying to clean up the mess genocider Saddam created. Remember the mass graves of women and children in Iraq? And suppose Bush did do something. How soon before the "No Blood for Oil" folks started marching and screaming. The left/Democrats have painted themselves into a corner. The worst kleptocracies/dictatorships in the world are countries that depend on resource extraction.

    If you really are interested in fixing more places we are going to need a much bigger army. What are the odds that the Democrat congress will give the authorization and vote more funds? Even if they did it takes two years to get new troops into the field.

    It is really too bad that the Iraq adventure isn't totally bi-partisan. We might then be able to help more of the oil despotisms in the world.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 03:25 PM | Comments (12)

    Does the "Moon God" matter?
    ....the struggle is whether Hubal, the Moon God of Mecca, known as Allah, is supreme, or whether the Judeo-Christian Jehovah God of the Bible is Supreme.

    -- Pat Robertson.

    Regardless of whether you take Pat Robertson seriously, the argument that Allah is the Moon God of Arabia is one which will not go away. I've heard arguments on both sides, but the point is not to repeat them or take sides so much as it is to pose a simple question.

    Who cares, and why?

    While I am not a religious scholar and have not researched Moon God history as perhaps I should, that's largely because it's of minimal academic interest to me. Sure, the theology and history in this area interest me in a general sense, but when they're so politically contaminated that I'm unable to get a clear answer (it's tough to determine what is and what is not objective), then all I really need to know is that there is a debate. Do I really have to spend a year reading every available source in order to determine once and for all whether Allah is the "Moon God" as some claim he is, or the same as the Old Testament Yawheh as others claim he is?

    The answer is that I don't. Looking for an absolute answer strikes me as pointless. Without extensive study, how would I ever know to a moral certainty? And even if I found what I thought was an answer, millions would disagree. (As it is, Wikipedia can't handle a simple entry on the subject, although there is an entry on the leading Moon God proponent.)

    So, as of right now, I am forced to arrive at a conclusion based on simple logic:

    Either Allah is the Moon God or he is not.

    There. Nothing profound about that, is there? And what are the consequences either way? If Allah is the Moon God, then Judeo-Christians are not worshiping the same god as Muslims. Well, so what? Neither are they worshiping the same god as Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Shintoists, Animists, or Wiccans.

    What baffles me is why the Moon God argument is so popular with certain fundamentalist Christians. If Allah is the Moon God, that means that the number of pagans in the world has increased dramatically, right? Is it better to see Islam as pagan? No, that can't be it, for Muslims are not pagans; they are fiercely monotheistic and are taught that paganism is worse than Christianity or Judaism.

    So, I'm left not caring, while wondering why the Moon God theorists care so much. It makes very little sense that they would want Muslims to be worshiping a different god, so that can't be it. Perhaps the goal is not so much to declare the Moon God another god, as it is to declare him a false god. I suspect that theologically, the Moon God would be more false in the eyes of Christians and Jews than a misinterpretation of Yahweh, but then, aren't there plenty of other gods which are not Yahweh, and thus, equally "false"?

    Or might the argument boil down to an overarching need to define God? As someone who takes a broad view of eternity and the unknown, I don't think "God" in the general sense can be limited to certain religions only. Those who want to make God "Yahweh" or "Jehovah" only, and all other deities as other than God (or "not God") in my view commit a definitional error. (For starters, I believe in a general God. If I disagree with the Yahweh exclusivity approach, what does that make me? An atheist who believes in a false God??) While these people are entitled to their opinion, I hope they remember that it is a religious one, and I certainly hope they don't demand the government get involved, because that really would violate freedom of religion as well as free exercise.

    So I hope the Moon God argument isn't someone's idea of insinuating a specific deity into deism, to the exclusion of all others.

    Seriously, if saying "my god is god, but your god is not god!" isn't a religious argument, then what is? It's at least as much a religious argument as the view that some prayers are more equal than others.

    I'd like to think that in a country based on religious freedom, none of this should matter, because after all, the First Amendment prevents the government from taking sides.

    Or is my position a "secularist" one?

    (I certainly hope not, because that's become a dirty word....)

    MORE: I appreciate the comments, and they made me think remember Freud's Moses and Monotheism. Might that shed some light on this discussion?

    Dueling monotheisms may be a very old idea. (Especially if Yahweh was a volcano god.)

    How much should it matter whether Yahweh started as a volcano god?

    MORE: Is it possible that a volcano god is a sun god is a moon god? Or would that be reductionism? Is peaceful coexistence of gods morally permissible under the First Amendment?

    Or are these heretical questions which would more properly asked by an atheist?

    posted by Eric at 02:28 PM | Comments (14)

    Can altruism become an illness?

    One of the dirty little secrets in the so-called "Animal Rescue Movement" is that they take advantage of people who are emotionally wounded, and unable to say "no" to animals in need of help. There are networks of people who take animals in, and some of them are simply extreme cases of what might be called a "bleeding heart" personality. I know of a particular case in which a woman was told (by manipulative activist types involved in the "no kill" movement) that unless she took in a particular cat, it would have to be killed. The reason was what I learned is all too usual in these cases: a completely unverifiable story of how it "bit" another animal worker who was new to the game, and didn't handle the animal properly. But "rules are rules" and (at least so the story goes) even "no kill" shelters don't have to care for "biting" animals. I got suckered into helping out one of these cats myself, and I'll never do it again, because it only helped free up space for the particular activist to take on even more cats. However I'll never forget the reaction of the professional animal breeder who ended up taking the cat. "Nonsense! This is a perfectly normal cat, and he's no more likely to bite you than any other cat!" The breeder said the "no kill" people were just lying to pressure my friend into adopting ("rescuing") the cat.

    I don't know what the fine line is between animal rescue and animal hoarding, and I don't want to invade anyone's privacy here by saying anything more about the people I know. Suffice it to say that it is my opinion that a lot of well-meaning people with psychological issues are being taken serious advantage of by activists who ought to know better. You could call this a pet peeve of mine, but it's not one I spend a lot of time on, largely because I know that it's both an emotional and a political issue, and sounding off on emotional political issues invites trouble. (From "activists," of course. And again, I don't enjoy debating activists, as it's a no-win.)

    A story buried in today's Inquirer made me think of my own indirect brush with "no kill" animal rescue dishonesty:

    A feces-filled rowhouse packed with 62 cats and dogs - possibly a refuge house for animal rescuers who oppose the shelter system - was discovered by authorities yesterday in the Castor Gardens section of Northeast Philadelphia.

    A mental-health worker had gone to visit a tenant at the house in the 6600 block of Horrocks Street, and when she got no response and noticed a foul odor, she called police, said Lisa Rodgers, director of outreach for the Pennsylvania SPCA.

    Inside the two-story property, police and PSPCA agents discovered 46 cats and 16 dogs "in various states of breakdown. Some couldn't even stand," Rodgers said.

    Authorities suspect there may be three other similar homes in the neighborhood, possibly part of a "hoarding" network for animal rescuers who fear the animals would be euthanized in the shelter system, Rodgers said.

    The homeowner, Jerri Sueck, 51, was charged with failure to provide proper veterinary care and sanitary conditions, Rodgers said.

    The 63-year-old tenant was involuntarily committed for psychiatric evaluation, Rodgers said.

    A message left at Sueck's house was not returned yesterday.

    Neighbors, possibly from the other hoarding homes, came to yell at the PSPCA agents yesterday, Rodgers said.

    Hoarding network? Yelling at the agents? This got my attention, and I also understand why the Inquirer would bury the story (which is on page B-7).

    The Philadelphia Daily News has more. It turns out that this woman is a fairly well known author, as well as a distinguished schoolteacher:

    PERHAPS HER OWN early life as an unwanted orphan prompted Jerri Diane Sueck to take hordes of cats and dogs into her Northeast rowhouse, where animal-welfare agents seized them yesterday.

    But officials of the Pennsylvania SPCA said Sueck, 51 - a schoolteacher known to be into animal rescue "big time," according to someone who knows her - carried it too far.

    They said she was housing 46 cats and 16 dogs in conditions so bad that welfare workers gagged at the stench.

    The smell was so bad a mental-health worker and one of the neighbors feared there might be a dead body inside the house.

    There wasn't - but searchers did find a mentally ill tenant, covered with feces, in the basement.

    Sueck was charged with keeping animals in unsanitary conditions and failure to provide veterinary care, and the house was condemned by the Department of Licenses and Inspections, said SPCA spokeswoman Lisa Rogers.

    She said the dogs and cats were in "varying conditions," suffering dehydration, skin problems and other ailments.

    Sueck, a teacher at the Franklin Learning Center, is the author of a book about her early life called, "Letters My Mother Never Read: An Abandoned Child's Journey."

    In it, she tells how her mother died in a trailer fire when she was 8 and that her stepfather's parents kept her and her brothers in a coal cellar before depositing them at an orphanage.

    Police issued Sueck a summons yesterday. Efforts to reach her for comment were unsuccessful.

    Sueck owned the 46 cats, some of them strays, and two of the dogs, Rogers said. The tenant, identified by Rogers as Beatrice Lloyd, 63, owned the 14 other dogs, Rogers said.

    "It was suspected that these people are hoarders," Rogers said. "They worry that if they turn an animal in to a shelter that it's going to be euthanized.

    From the book description of Embracing the Child:
    When her mother died in a fire, eight-year-old Jerri thought life couldn't get worse. She was wrong. Sent to live with people who didn't want her, Jerri was powerless to stop her once-happy childhood from becoming a nightmare of cruelty and neglect. Only a stubborn belief in her own worth and a fierce will to live allowed her to reach adulthood physically and emotionally intact. This is a book that will inspire not only those who have been orphans or foster children, but anyone who has known the pain of being unwanted.

    Ages: 12 Up

    It's also for sale at Amazon. Ms. Sueck is more than just a teacher; she's considered a distinguished enough author to be a have been a guest lecturer at seminars like this. (And while the link seems to be disappearing, she was a "guest at the 2005 Irene Garson Librarian of the Year Award Dinner, where she shared this book with us all.")

    I don't mean to invade this woman's privacy, but the Inquirer story made me think there was more than meets the eye, which of course there was.

    I am not sitting in judgment on anyone here, but my heart goes out to the many well-meaning people who get so sucked into animal rescue that they cross the line from "rescue" to "hoarding."

    As to exactly where that line is, I don't know, but I think the psychological predisposition to cross it stems from misplaced altruistic anthropomorphism which, when coupled with a "savior" ("rescue"*) personality, can take on its own life until it metastasizes controllably. The logical error is one I've touched on before, and it involves seeing unwanted animals as analogous to innocent human victims placed on death row. That these animals will be euthanized is seen as unbearable, but something very simple is being forgotten ---

    The animals do not know they are going to die!

    Thus, their plight is very different from an innocent man facing the death penalty. Believe me, having put my own animals down, I can certainly empathize. But I also try to be logical. So I hypothesized that my own dog, Puff, was on death row:

    Using my dog Puff as an example familiar to me, even if I engage in the most extreme anthropomorphic projection imaginable, there is no way that I could make the claim that Puff, intelligent and sensitive dog though he was, could possibly have been aware what it meant to euthanize him. I was sitting right there, and the dog had been experiencing regular pain and discomfort, and I'll never forget how happy he was when that shot tranquilized him. He wagged his tail and just went to sleep. There was no awareness of death at all. I was the one experiencing that -- and it was all on his behalf. I was stressed (and extremely so), whereas Puff's stress had come to an end.

    From where derives the burgeoning idea that a death like that constitutes animal cruelty? It might be people cruelty for those who are present, but even if I search within the depths of my soul, there is no way I can imagine it to be animal cruelty.

    But let me back up, to when Puff was a young and healthy dog in the prime of his life, say, when he was four years old. Of course I would never have euthanized him, but let's assume that he'd taken off chasing a bitch in heat or something (this never happened, as I didn't allow him to roam, but I suppose it's theoretically possible), and let's assume that he managed to get totally lost and was picked up by a stranger or something, and later found himself in an outlying jurisdiction many miles away only to be turned in by some kind-hearted person to a local animal control shelter. Naturally, I'd have spent all my time looking in local shelters, and it might occur to me to put posters up. (I had a dog stolen years ago, and I got him back that way.) Assume the holding period in the shelter wherever Puff was passed, and that they had a policy against adopting out "pit bulls." Or suppose he had eaten an indigestible object which lodged in his gut, causing a massive blockage only curable by expensive abdominal surgery. (Such things happen all the time.)

    So anyway, there's poor Puff, aged four, facing a lethal injection, without his master there to save him. (Again, horrible as it sounds, these things happen all the time.) Puff would have had no more awareness at that age than he did a decade later. Again, the pain and stress would have all been mine, and possibly, that of the animal control workers. To the extent Puff would have been stressed, it would have been during the holding period before his death. As I raised him from a puppy, and he grew up with his father and grandmother, his real stress would most likely have been wanting to find his way back home to familiar surroundings, so even if he'd been adopted out to a new owner, he might have wanted to escape. So it's arguable that depending on the circumstances, euthanasia might have been less stressful for Puff even than an adoption.

    The point is, Puff would not have known or understood the euthanasia (I was the one who suffered, and not Puff), just as other animals don't and can't know or understand euthanasia. To imagine that they do constitutes projection.

    Why has that thought not occurred to so many well-meaning people?

    *I worry that the word "rescue" is becoming a synonym for "adoption."

    AFTERTHOUGHT: I don't think it should be necessary to point out that animal hoarding is crueler to animals than euthanasia.

    But then again, maybe it is necessary.

    (Emotion can play strange tricks on people's brains.)

    posted by Eric at 08:41 AM | Comments (3)

    "I'm not going to dance to anybody's tune."

    So says Fred Thompson, responding to James Dobson's latest attacks with what have to be the most refreshing words in the presidential campaign so far.

    Glenn Reynolds watched the interview and later linked Ian Schwartz's video, which is now on YouTube:

    With all due respect, screw James Dobson and his repeated screwball attacks.

    And screw John Dean with his repeated slimeball attacks against Thompson. While the fact that John Dean has gone out of his way to attack Thompson is considered less newsworthy, Dean's animosity to Thompson goes back further than Dobson's -- all the way back to Watergate, when Thompson, as Republican minority counsel, got a little too close (IMO) to the truth about Dean's personal involvement with Watergate. Vintage video here. Ironically, Dean -- and others -- are now trying to spin Thompson as "dumb" (to the point of relying on Richard Nixon as judge!)

    Interestingly, even some of Thompson's critics admit that his honesty was refreshing then, and it's refreshing now. What Thompson did not know, no one knew -- until the story of the actual Watergate burglary began to unravel. It's a long story and I've posted about it a number of times. This post is not the place to go through it again, but -- if you want to understand how close Thompson was to figuring out Dean's role in the burglary, watch this excerpt from Tom Clancy's "Eye of the Storm" video.

    (And while I don't write this blog for political junkies, if there are any and they're interested and have time to watch videos, by all means help yourself to the YouTube links I posted here.)

    If you watch the Clancy/Ehrlichman video above, you'll notice that Dean (who was White House counsel) admits that he concealed the involvement of Gordon Strachan -- and thus the White House -- from the White House. (If you think about it, it should become apparent that the only reason Dean would do this would have been to prevent the Machiavellian Nixon, always baffled by the actual burglary itself, from learning about Dean's own involvement.) The "Strachan zone" was precisely the area to which Thompson was getting so damnably close in his questioning at the hearing in the Times video above. The problem was that by the time of the hearings, the burglary was a done deal, the burglars were in the joint, and no one was interested in what had happened or why. All that mattered was the coverup. And the fact is, Nixon ordered the coverup, even if he didn't understand what it was he was covering up.

    Thompson was right there in the middle of it, trying to be conscientious, and yet he had no idea how close he was. Little wonder John Dean hates him.

    But I digress. (I admit, I'm fascinated by Watergate's unresolved questions.)

    The important thing to remember is that Thompson is under attack by both James Dobson and John Dean.

    In my view, that alone makes him a great guy.

    But beyond that, Thompson keeps talking about the Constitution -- and federalism -- in a way which makes me think that he really believes in such things, and not just as campaign rhetoric. It may be that the only way to pull together the horribly fractured Republican Party is to go back to what too many Republicans (and too many politicians) have ignored. Some things are worth taking seriously, and the Constitution is one of them. I don't know when I last saw a presidential candidate talk the way I've seen Thompson talk, and I am cautiously optimistic.

    Nearly everyone called Watergate a "constitutional crisis" at the time, and Thompson was in the middle of it. (Peter Morgan and Glenn Reynolds called Watergate the "Big Bang," which is true. We live in the post-Watergate era, in which political/moral thinking is referenced from the Watergate starting point.)

    Anyway, I'm a pretty cynical person, but the more I see of Thompson, the more I think this might explain the genuine respect he seems to have for the Constitution (which most politicians regard as a quaint anachronism, if not an annoying irrelevancy).

    A crisis can do that.

    posted by Eric at 12:06 AM | Comments (3)

    Law Enforcement Against Prohibition

    In March of '003 I did one of the first interviews with LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. It was a very interesting interview and got a lot of attention. Today I want to present a video full of interviews with police officers.

    The video is about 13 1/2 minutes long. You can get the gist of it in the first 5 minutes.

    If you liked it go to the LEAP site and make a donation.

    posted by Simon at 08:04 PM | Comments (0)

    Are strangers entitled to more from me than I give myself?

    John Stossel has an interesting piece about health insurance titled "Control Your Own Health Care." He argues that buying a high-deductible policy is just good common sense:

    If people paid their own bills, they would likely buy high-deductible insurance (roughly $1,000 for individuals, $2,100 for families) because on average, the premium is $1,300 cheaper. But people are so conditioned to expect others to pay their medical bills that they hate high deductibles: They feel ripped off if they must pay a thousand dollars before the insurance company starts paying.

    But high deductibles may be the key to lowering costs and putting you in charge of your health care.

    Five years ago, the Whole Foods grocery chain switched to a high-deductible plan. If an employee has a sore throat or a sprained ankle, he pays. But if he gets cancer or heart disease, his insurance covers it.

    Whole Foods puts around $1,500 a year into an account for each employee. It's not charity but part of the employee's compensation. It's money Whole Foods would have otherwise spent on more-expensive insurance. Here's the good part for employees: If they don't spend the money on medical care this year, they keep it, and the company adds more next year.

    It's called a health savings account, or HSA.

    CEO John Mackey told me that when he went to the new system, "Our costs went way down."

    Not only do I have no problem with high-deductible health insurance, it's exactly what I have. The idea is, while I try to stay healthy (I exercise daily and try to avoid things which are bad for my health), I'd be foolish not to recognize that a major event like an accident or serious injury (to say nothing of a major disease like cancer) could wipe me out financially. I don't get sick much, but when I do it's usually small stuff like colds and flu which don't require a trip to the doctor.

    There's a major push now for mandatory health insurance, which I oppose for reasons I gave in an earlier post. Among my concerns were these:

    ...by what right does society have a right to make me (and everyone else) pay for what I do not want?

    Then there's the coverage issue. What if I only want a major medical, catastrophic coverage type of policy which won't pay for ordinary health care. Shouldn't I be allowed to pay for less if I use less? And if so, then why shouldn't I be allowed to pay for none and use none?

    It is one thing to have a basic safety net of some sort. I don't like the idea of people starving in the streets or bleeding to death for lack of money to afford a doctor. However, it strikes as patently immoral to take money from me and use it to buy things for other people that I do not buy for myself.

    For example, I have never bought a new car in my life, and while I have a television, I don't watch it and I could easily do without it. Such things are not necessities of life, rather, they are desiderata. The idea that my money should purchase a class of health care for other people better than that which I buy for myself makes about as much sense as saying that my money should pay for strangers' new cars or television sets.

    So, it will be interesting to see the details of whatever mandatory health care plan the Democrats wish to impose.

    It's bad enough to impose a plan which would wreck the health care system, but I hope they're not planning to make me buy for others what I don't buy for myself.

    That adds insult to injury.

    Might even be violative of the Golden Rule....

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

    You laughin' at me?

    Accomplishment-wise, Coco is ahead of most dogs. While I don't like to brag about her excessively lest she develop a swelled head, I had a chance to review some of her many accomplishments today, and I have to say, she could cobble together an impressive resume.

    Not only has she reviewed and tested a number of dog toys, gourmet foods and chocolates, but Coco has tested a number of human consumer products and gadgets. Beyond that, she's dabbled in many different fields, including science, politics, diplomacy, engineering, organizing, art and writing. I think she has gone far beyond the normal canine call of duty by any standard.

    While her career so far spans less than three years, she has tested a shredder which doubled as fax machine in the heat of litigation, strange cell phones which didn't impress her much, Carlsberg beer and Danzka vodka in solidarity with Denmark (which did).

    As a consumer advocate, Coco tested the design of a car trunk, and she unearthed what I initially thought was a buried gas cylinder but which turned out to be deadly WMDs.

    A ferocious Second Amendment advocate, Coco believes in standing up for her rights, and actually took on the very nasty James Wolcott in a political debate. While Coco has been known to have nightmares about Democrats, she need not worry. For, despite a size disadvantage, Coco bested Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a political debate.

    As an naturalist and environmentalist, Coco has debunked false nature claims on bumperstickers, has dissected owl pellets, conducted ecological research, dabbled in mycology, and as a climatologist Coco actually challenged Al Gore to set an example on the offsets issue, and then decided to go the denial route before working a "coldening" miracle of her own.

    In the cultural area, Coco's accomplishments include being a Valentine Queen, a film reviewer, an accomplished artist, a lighting consultant, and accomplished online music critic! Little wonder she has hosted international guests at least twice!

    As longtime readers know, Coco has repeatedly tried her hand at blogging, and she was even dragged into Al Franken's Air America war as a product endorser.

    And remember, Coco is a dog!

    These many accomplishments incline me to forgive the fact that Coco prefers driving to reading, has been known to engage in occasional acts of what might be considered vandalism in a human, and of course there's been the occasional outburst of doggie hedonism -- both online and in person. Aren't we all entitled to a little fun occasionally?

    With Coco's credentials firmly established, it's time to return to the subject of an earlier post. I decided to have Coco to test another product today, this time the Laughing Hillary Ring tone which I downloaded and installed in my cell phone.

    I am disappointed to report that it just doesn't seem up to Coco's standards.

    Take a look at the video (link here) for yourself; it barely got a rise out of her.

    After some initial mild curiosity, Coco looked bored, and stared at me as if to suggest that if I wanted to get a rise out of her I could do a lot better than that.

    Well, from Coco's point of view, while the new tone is a strange and unfamiliar sound, it replaces the cackling call of a Great Kiskadee that I had installed as the previous ring tone and to which she had grown accustomed.

    The Great Kiskadee, by the way, is a "large tyrant flycatcher."

    (You don't suppose Coco might be trying to indicate a preference, do you?)

    UPDATE (10/05/07): I'm trying not to let Coco read this post from Glenn Reynolds:

    PERSONALLY, I FIND THE LITTLE CHUCKLE THAT MITT ROMNEY DEPLOYS when he think he's scored a point more irritating than the Clinton cackle. But the latter gets more attention, perhaps because Jon Stewart has been making an issue of it.
    I'm glad Coco hasn't seen that, or else I'd be having to download and install the "Mitt Romney chuckle ring tone" for Coco's evaluation.

    I believe in fairness, and I'd be glad to have Coco check out the Romney chuckle ring tone. I haven't found it yet, but I have to say, the Hillary ring tone does have its limitations. I was in New York yesterday and I could barely hear it when my phone rang, so I switched back to the cry of the Giant Kiskadee, which I'm keeping, because it's much more audible.

    There are a lot of things which can be said for or against Hillary Clinton. But I think both Coco and I can safely conclude that as ring tones go, she's no Great Kiskadee.

    posted by Eric at 05:52 PM | Comments (2)

    cell phone etiquette; who has the last laugh?

    Last week, Rudy Giuliani interrupted a speech to the NRA in order to chat with his wife on the cell phone:

    Most Americans understand it takes an extra chromosome to run for President, but there are some limits on odd behavior. Which makes us wonder what Rudy Giuliani was thinking last Friday when he accepted, and even flaunted, a phone call from his wife Judith in the middle of his speech to the National Rifle Association.

    This was no emergency call. His cell phone rang in his pocket during his speech, which is itself unusual; most public officials turn theirs off during events, if only out of courtesy for the audience. Mr. Giuliani went on to answer it and carry on a routine "love you" and "have a safe trip" exchange with Mrs. Giuliani while the crowd (and those of us watching on C-Span) wondered what in the world that was all about.

    I wonder whether he'd have allowed the same thing to happen had he been addressing a 9/11 memorial gathering. I doubt it.

    Ann Althouse called it "a cornball stunt."

    And I started this post last week, but forgot all about it (probably my beer-soaked receptors made me want to forget a regrettable incident involving a candidate I like). But this morning, Dr. Helen raised the subject in a new context, asking "Can a guy control the nation if he is controlled by his spouse?" It also comes down to basic etiquette:

    ....let's give Rudy the benefit of the doubt, and say that he really does love his wife and just wants to talk with her all of the time. That's great for his love life, but where does it leave voters who want to feel that their presidential candidate will listen to them and understands how to set boundaries with others? A good leader sets boundaries, provides his undivided attention to his constituents and sets a good example of a work ethic-so answering the phone to coo with his wife is not exactly going to get him rave reviews in the leadership department.

    Maybe what the press secretary says is correct-all of the phone calls are just a way to humanize him in the eyes of voters and show he is just some kind of "family man." Well, that only goes so far and no one seems to be buying it. My money is on the first reason: that his wife is controlling and he goes along with it to keep the peace due to fear or intimidation on his part. Why else would he take 40 phone calls in the middle of speeches that are so important to his career? And if this reason is wrong, then he should prove it by heeding the wisdom of those who tell him to switch his phone to "silent."

    Dr. Helen links these recommended rules of etiquette.

    I think it's rude to take cell phone calls while meeting or talking with other people, period. Wife or no wife; husband or no husband. If the phone rings, it should be turned off immediately or in those rare occasions when it Absolutely Must Be Answered, the recipient should excuse himself and leave, or else tell the caller quickly "I'll call you back." In front of a group or at a movie or public gathering, it's even worse. (I was on XM Radio last week, and I turned off my cell phone for that very reason.)

    While I can't find any link to the story, I well remember when First Lady Hillary Clinton got into trouble years ago at a posh country club. (You know, the kind with rules against all things tacky?) Her cell phone rang, and, being the important woman she was, she answered it the way one might be expected to answer a business call -- as if she were sitting in her office. Eventually, a member of the club's staff came up to her and curtly informed her that talking on cell phones was against the club rules and that she would have to leave.

    Over at Newsweek.com, Rudy's inappropriate cell phone behavior is being juxtaposed with not with Hillary's long-forgotten country club call, but with her penchant for outbursts of giggles:

    For Clinton, her tendency to burst out in a giggle during some public appearances has generated political tongue-wagging.

    The New York senator, often seen as an overly serious candidate, has been showing some personality lately.

    She laughed at times during questioning on Sunday morning television shows more than a week ago and then hooted with laughter when asked to respond to a critical comment from a rival candidate at a debate last Wednesday in New Hampshire.

    It has become so frequent that Frank Rich, a liberal columnist for The New York Times, said the laugh seemed to be the Clinton campaign's method of heeding complaints that she is "too calculating and controlled" and compared it to Democrat Al Gore's long kiss with his wife Tipper during the Democratic National Convention in 2000.

    "Now Mrs. Clinton is erupting in a laugh with all the spontaneity of an alarm clock buzzer," Rich wrote.

    Comic Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show" last week likened her to a robot with a robotic voice saying, "Humorous remark detected -- prepare for laughter display."

    There has been blogospheric discussion of The Laugh, which is easily streamable at the last link.

    In a typically cryptic remark when he linked the discussion of The Laugh, Glenn Reynolds said,


    I don't want to devote an entire essay to speculating about precisely what Glenn might have meant by that (it is certainly open to my usual misinterpretations), but I liked The Laugh so much that I'm thinking of installing it as my cell phone ring tone.

    That way, I won't attract undue attention if it goes off at a snobbish country club. I'll just blend in. (If it went off unexpectedly, I could even go into full coverup mode and look around quizzically to "see who's laughing.")

    And hey, if it went off at at NRA gathering, I could explain to everyone that it's Hillary! (And I could go out of my way to ignore her!)

    So, be the first on your block, folks!

    Download the "Hillary Clinton Ring Tone" at Drudge today, before it gets worse!

    AFTERWORD: After downloading and installing the Hillary Clinton Ring Tone and installed it in my cell phone, I called it from the land line. It sounds great!

    Watching the YouTube video of John Stewart's discussion of the ringtone laugh, it became obvious to me that Hillary's Laugh occurred well before Giuliani's gaffe, and that Giuliani had plenty of time to download and install it on his cell phone in advance of the NRA speech.

    Had he done that -- had Hillary's laughter emanated from his cell phone instead of whatever boring tone he uses -- I think Giuliani would have been better prepared for the controversy.

    posted by Eric at 10:47 AM | Comments (2)

    Genocide, The Jews, And The Six Million

    I was having a discussion of a post at Classical Values My People with Brett. Let me reprise the gist of the short post:

    If Hitler put them in camps they are my people. Count me with the Jews, the gays, the mental defectives, and the drug users.
    Brett then asks:
    What I don't understand is why so few see something so obvious.

    As infected by New Deal collectivism as they were, the G.I. generation were born close enough to the Republic to admonish their children to "mind your own business!"

    This folk phrase sums up the ideals of the American Revolution, enjoining us at once to take care of ourselves and to leave others alone, that they may do so.

    For some reason, the postwar generations have not been able to stomach this concept.

    My answer to Brett is as follows:

    I've been trying to figure out where we went wrong. I blame it on the Jews (I'm Jewish myself so hang on a minute).

    The genocides of WW2 were emphasized as against the Jews and solely promoted by the evil mad man Hitler. "Never again" was only about the Jews. The Jews made the mistake of only talking about the six million and not the twelve. I always thought it was a mistake to elevate Jewish suffering over the suffering of all of Hitlers victims. Jews in general still do it and it is wrong.

    Instead of studying genocide as a process we have conceived of it as merely a historical event. Instead of seeing the roots in human nature, it was seen as particular to that time in history.

    It all comes from the Jewish conception of man as inherently good. Such a view lets them forgive their enemies as misled. However, it opens the door for the next time.

    I think the Catholic view of man as "fallen" comes closer to the truth. The tendency to genocide is in all of us and must be monitored in order to prevent its expression. We must stop looking for devils. Demon rum, demon drugs, demon people. Every instance of good and evil must be dealt with on its own merits.

    We are hard wired to ascribe to the group the behaviors of individuals. To be civilized we must watch ourselves as much as we watch others. In a way we must all be Zen Masters if we wish to be and remain civilized.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 10:13 AM | Comments (4)


    Totalitarians always find some group characteristic that is "objectionable" and use it to have a nice little pogrom on the group.

    Schizophrenics take drugs. Alcohol and cigarettes in excess. They seem to also like other drugs to self medicate. Pot being among the more popular. Heroin for those with more serious trouble.

    Our war on drugs is just another way to punish the mentally ill for being deviants.

    Totalitarian. A modernized eugenics movement. We don't have to sterilize them, we can put them in jail. Kinder and gentler.

    About 70% of female heroin addicts have been sexually abused. A good portion of the male heroin addicts fall into the same category. A lot of the people you see at the methadone clinic are victims of sexual abuse. Others are no doubt victims of other trauma. Obviously they deserve further punishment for taking heroin to relieve their pain.

    Totalitarian indeed.

    Every society seems to need its devils. Our devils are abused children and the mentally ill. Swell. Just swell.

    Excuse me for not falling into line, but the Emperor is naked and covered with feces and is followed by a horde of flies. Not a parade I'd care to join.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 12:58 AM | Comments (0)


    An off topic discussion at Climate Audit was considering Fenton/Soros and their relationship to the AGW (man made global warming) movement and how Soros intended to profit from his rent-a-mobs:

    If I was a savvy investor with inside connections I wouldn't place my bets until my objective was nearly a sure thing.

    First generate a "popular" demand. Await political developments. Invest.

    The job of Fenton is to create political rent-a-mobs.

    It has to do with human nature - (how far off topic can you get?). It seems humans want a belief structure that gives order to knowledge. Living with uncertainty is not satisfying for the vast majority. For most folks rationality is hard. Very hard. People want certainty. It is why astrologers still exist at this late date. I used to dabble in those "sciences". Got rather good at it. It was never about reading the cards. It was about reading the people asking the questions. Obviously this is very prone to manipulation. Since I never got a lot of satisfaction out of manipulating people, I gave it up. There are others who find such manipulations satisfying and profitable.

    To understand what is going on a study of human nature would be much better than studying CO2.

    So let me start with the main driver. In humans fear of loss is a much stronger driver than hope of gain. It explains why newspapers focus on bad news despite the fact that for most of us most of the time the news is good. If AGW was proven today to be bad science, there would be a new scare tomorrow.

    There also seems a propensity to magnify the opposition. We need devils. No one is immune. For many here (myself included) it is the AGW folks. For the AGWists it is the deniers and the oil companies. We all want our devils, because devils is a "better" explanation than error coupled with self interest. Evil intent is much more satisfying than human bias towards the stupidity of the day.

    Let me add another biasing mechanism. Youth likes novelty and change. Age likes stability. The dividing line seems to be around age 20 or 25. One of our most famous modern poets put it to music in a song called "My Back Pages" - you can look it up.

    With all this going on it is a wonder we manage any rationality at all.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 09:57 PM | Comments (1)

    How well I know, how well I know

    And how I hate repeating myself!

    The problem is, when history repeats itself, and you've seen it before, what else can you do?

    When I read about the third party threat by religious conservatives, I started a post titled "Good News for Hillary," but now I see (via Glenn Reynolds) that the Anchoress has done a truly first rate job:

    Had Ross Perot not run in 1992 it is unlikely Bill Clinton would have been president. I suspect the Democrats would like nothing better than to see a third party of conservative Christians siphon just enough votes away from the GOP to do the same for Hillary.

    We're already watching the Clintons re-run all their moves from the '92 playbook. Triangulation Kitty is again being served up to feed the masses, this time with Bill as the Hard Left Outside and Hillary as the Softer, Chewy and Yummy Center. We're already watching the press do what it can to bury any negative perspectives on the Clintons and their team.

    The whole thing is a must-read, as it's from the heart, and offers disgruntled religious conservatives advice from a religious perspective. (I've often thought that some of the tension between religious conservatives and libertarians lies in the fact that libertarians are more accustomed to not getting their way with the GOP, and thus they don't expect that a candidate they supported will do things like abandon the war on drugs.)

    I have an additional worry, though, and while I know I'm going over old ground, I think that the argument that the best shouldn't become the enemy of the good is largely lost on people who prefer having a Hillary Clinton presidency to a Giuliani presidency. This is not because they really prefer the former candidate to the latter; it's just that the dynamics involve their view of themselves.

    And like it or not, Hillary is a lot less threatening to their view of themselves as Republicans and conservatives than is Giuliani.

    This cannot be overstressed.

    Glenn also links Slublog, who quotes from a New Jersey purist named Dan Sullivan:

    "Who could possibly replace social conservatives as the GOP's grassroots?" asked Dan Sullivan, a northern New Jersey veteran of several campaigns. "Country club Republicans? Those people write checks and spend their free time riding horses. They;re not going to take off work and drive two days to volunteer on a Senate candidate's race like pro-lifers and homeschoolers did for Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania in 2004."
    Slublog quips that Toomey is "the guy who lost the Pennsylvania Republican primary against Arlen Specter. Good example of your political clout there, Dan."

    This generated the following comment at Ace:

    Toomey lost because the fucktard RINOs in the RNC and Bush protected Specter and gave him a shitload of cash and support, Specter woulda lost had they not done that, and we'd have at least had a replacement for Santorum had we done that.
    Wrong, wrong, wrong. This commenter forgets that Toomey would had to run in the 2004 general election. As pointed out in my blog at the time, the Democrats were hoping and praying that Toomey would beat Specter, because their moderate Democrat Joe Hoeffel would then have won the general election. Thus, after Toomey lost, Democratic activists then supported a third party far right challenger in the hope of splitting the vote. Unfortunately for Hoeffel, these ploys failed. Specter won reelection handily -- in a state which Bush lost. Noting this at the time, I went so far as to cite Specter (and Schwarzenegger) as examples of how the Republican Party might actually become a winning party:
    Note that Arlen Specter was the top vote-getter in Pennsylvania, out-performing either Bush or Kerry. That a Republican moderate can win in a Democratic state is newsworthy in itself, but that he'd get more votes than either presidential candidate in a highly-charged election like this -- well, in my opinion it puts ideologues in both parties on notice that the voters like moderately conservative candidates who can work with both sides.

    Factor into this Arnold Schwarzenegger's huge popularity (65% in a heavily Democratic state) and I think it's obvious that the Republican Party is in a position where it could become the party of consensus.

    I stress "could" because I know the ideologues in both parties will do their damnedest to stop this from happening. Consensus and ideology are like tar and water. Yet ordinary Americans love consensus and eschew ideology. Regardless of his positions on individual issues, Specter is seen as a symbol of both.

    Considering the way they look now, I guess it was naive of me to imagine that the GOP might become the party of consensus.

    Anyway, as we all know, in 2006 Santorum actually ran to the right of Bush and (surprise!) lost his seat to a moderate Democrat. Why? Because he was perceived by the general voters as being too far to the right. Hmmm.... Now that I think about it, I predicted that Santorum would lose, and I don't think I ever took the opportunity to say "I told you so," so I think I should get a pass on repeating what I said then (because I'm only now saying "I told you so" for the first time):

    Not that it really matters what I think, but if I were asked to perform a political autopsy in advance of the Republicans' death, I'd probably point out that the right wing in Pennsylvania is not especially strong to begin with. They tried like hell in the Toomey campaign, but they couldn't manage to unseat moderate Arlen Specter in the primary. Sure, they can be counted on to vote for Rick Santorum. But consider the bulk of the mainstream voters in the barely Republican Philadelphia suburbs. They voted against Toomey, and had to be asked nicely to reelect Arlen Specter, which they did along with the rest of the state -- which Bush lost. (While it could certainly be argued that Pennsylvania Republicans are a bunch of RINOs, how will that help Santorum win?)

    In the two years since that election, Bush has been vilified relentlessly as a a stupid, far-right, religious warrior who talks to God before sending troops to their death, etc.

    And now the strategy is to run against him from the right? In Pennsylvania?

    Sorry, but the math just plain doesn't work.

    (Unless the goal is to lose.)

    Few things are more gruesome than repeating pre mortem autopsies, but I think it's clear that Hillary hopes to continue this trend. I think she's smart enough to know that while she can't beat the Arlen Specters, or the Giulianis (and she's lucky Arnold Schwarzenegger is constitutionally unqualified), she can beat the Santorums and the Toomeys.

    What she has going for her, though, is that there are plenty of Republicans who would rather endure having a Democrat in office than endure Arlen Specter. They would also rather endure a President Hillary Clinton than a President Rudolph Giuliani.

    Is this because they prefer Hillary and her wrong-almost-all-the-time policies to Giuliani's wrong-maybe-twenty-percent-of-the time policies? Hardly. The reason involves personal morale. Religious conservatives cannot stomach being led by a man who is against them on key issues. They cannot look themselves in the mirror each morning knowing that their values have been discarded by the man in the White House, who heads their own party, as they'd feel no sense of purpose, and would have nowhere to go.

    Having Hillary as president, though, solves the problem of personal morale in the way that only having a great enemy (I hesitate to say "Satanic") can. She is seen as someone worth fighting, and by any standard, definitely is "the other." It is easier to organize and galvanize forces against her. With any luck, she'll even oblige by engaging in acts which could be construed as "persecution." With Hillary as president, there will be no question of who is the most against her. The more to the right someone is, the more anti-Hillary he becomes. The future of far right conservatism would be brighter than ever, with far right conservatives prouder than ever. With any luck, Giuliani could even be spun as the guy who "lost to Hillary" and over time, few will remember why he lost.

    Thus, a third party candidacy has enormous appeal. Real conservatives have an opportunity to take a stand! For principle! As opposed to being betrayed by another RINO.

    I hate to say it again, but I have to.

    It is in their interest to have the party lose to Hillary.

    Needless to say, it is also in Hillary's interest. So while religious conservatives rail, she's busy triangulating:

    Many Democrats, including Senator Clinton, are doing their best to soften the edges of their support for abortion rights, emphasizing they favor policies that might reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies.
    Hillary's triangulation effort will doubtless be helped along by the wavers of giant aborted baby photos:
    "Far better for the GOP to lose in 2008 than for pro-lifers to be marginalized from both parties. If Rudy gets the nomination, I will oppose him vociferously. I would want to see protesters with giant gruesome aborted baby photos crash the convention. I'd want the GOP version of Chicago in 1968."
    Yes, the aborted baby photos do a great job all right. A great job of boosting student attendance at abortion rights rallies.

    It's easy to say "you'd think they'd learn."

    It's also easy to forget that what they want is not so much to have their party win; it's to have their causes win. They'd rather be right to their causes than subordinate them to winning, though, and what better evidence could there be of that than mounting a third party challenge which they know is absolutely certain to lose?

    Why, a third party campaign is so certain to lose that winning or losing isn't really the point, so much as overturning the chessboard.

    Such a tactic may be many things, but chess "strategy" it is not.

    The appeal is that while it can't win, it's nonetheless seen as more "dignified" than losing. (And as they know they will lose, it's a perfect cut-your-losses tactic. The fact that it's a tantrum will be excused, too. Much the way 1960s excesses are.)

    I'd be tempted to call the strategy of overturning the chessboard childish, but that would be bad strategy.

    What I'd propose instead (if I had any wind left in my sails) would be an alliance between libertarians and religious conservatives. The more they hate each other, the more it proves the beauty of the small government federalist approach that it is in both of their interests to favor.

    (Unfortunately, right now that sounds like utopian thinking.)

    posted by Eric at 05:29 PM | Comments (9)

    Law and Order

    Roberto, a grower of the herb yerba mate who lives near Yaguaron, tells me that Paraguayans "need another Stroessner to stop Lugo." He is one of those who fall into the trap of thinking that the alternative to left-wing populism is right-wing authoritarianism. "He did some nasty things to some people," Roberto acknowledges of the late dictator, "but there was order in the country."

    From: Alvaro Vargas Llosa

    HT Instapundit

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 05:15 PM | Comments (1)

    The Desire To Punish

    "Distrust anyone in whom the desire to punish is powerful" Friedrich Nietzsche

    posted by Simon at 05:06 PM | Comments (0)

    My People

    I'm having an e-mail discussion with a rabid "punish the drug users until they quit or die" type. Here is my response:

    If Hitler put them in camps they are my people. Sad that they are not yours. Count me with the Jews, the gays, the mental defectives, and the drug users.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 04:46 PM | Comments (9)

    War on Sex part LXIX..... (Why do they give a crap?)


    Maybe the title should be "Why I won't email Oprah."

    Anyway, I get email. And the latest is from a man named Justin Hart, who's with an organization I'd never heard of before called Family Fragments, which is in turn run by the Lighted Candle Society.

    Here's the email:

    Subject: O Oprah...!
    ES - Be sure to thank Oprah for oiling up the slippery slope.


    I don't know how I'm supposed to thank Oprah when I don't watch Oprah, but I suspected Mr. Hart was being sarcastic. This tempted me towards an immediate outburst of counter-sarcasm, but I've tried to temper that with a thing called "self control" that they tried to instill into me when I was a small boy.

    The following long quotation in his email gives examples:

    Oprah conducted a poll of her own audience bringing to light several choice examples of the slippery slope that families face in our culture. Take Winnie, for example, who says she saw a gorgeous home, and she told her husband of 44 years about it that night. "He hawed about it and I said, 'I'll give you the best sex tonight you have ever had. I don't care if it's all night,'" she says. "And so we did and I got the house the next day."
    I find it hard to be shocked by a husband and wife having sex. Whether that is supposed to be a shocker I guess depends on whether you're part of the conservative war on sex, or the liberal Dworkin/Atkinson/Marcotte version on the left.

    There's more, and maybe I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area too long, but it made me want to stifle a yawn.

    Next, Oprah talks to Janee who owns a small collection of pornography, or, eh, "erotica" - as she prefers to call it. "I think with respect to my mother's generation, her mother's generation, you know, exploring the adult entertainment industry was just unheard of. It probably wasn't even an option for them,"

    Another expert, Dr. Saltz, chimes in advocating pornography to women for overcoming their concerns about the addiction that their spouses indulge. To her credit, Dr. Saltz notes: "The problem is, it can be a double-edged sword in that anything really pleasurable can become kind of addictive."

    Next, Oprah trots out the best of the breed Greg and Hollie, married with two children enjoying all the normal things that families do... and, oh yeah, practicing "open marriages", read adultery. As Oprah recounts the story:

    During a long car trip Gregg asked Hollie--who says she had never had sex with anyone besides Gregg--if she was curious about being with someone else. "And I said, 'Well, nothing's missing. I don't need it. I don't really think about it,'" Hollie says. "But sure, I mean, if you're curious, if you've only had one partner your whole life, I mean, sure, you'd wonder what it would be like with somebody else."

    Eventually Hollie started dating and eventually sleeping with one of their mutual friends. Gregg says he's flirted with other women but hasn't started an outside relationship of his own.

    "She just has more love in her life," Gregg says. "It doesn't take anything away from what the two of us have."

    As we pointed out previously Oprah has aired numerous shows delving into the topic of pornography addiction. These included the sad tale of woman who killed her husband in self defense after he went on a porn-induced rage and a former gospel singer whose life was shattered by the addiction. Why Oprah, whose influence is unmistakable, would backtrack to advocate pornography and adultery is beyond us.

    Oprah's "advocacy" isn't exactly staring me in the face there, but I didn't see the show. Might the piece be confusing her failure to condemn all pornography out of hand with advocacy?

    Never one to shy away from sarcasm, I thought about emailing back, but I remembered that debates solve nothing, and that this man is an activist. Activists believe that debating constitutes "leading," and they don't believe in idea sharing so much as they do in fighting. A dissenting view is seen as invasive, as a threat to be countered rhetorically, and thus any disagreement from me would simply be seen as an invitation to more.

    Besides, what could I say? This is not just a concerned reader, but the vice president of an organization with a mission:

    Our Mission

    Lighted Candle Society was created to awaken our fellow citizens to the ultimate dangers of pornography and its effect upon society by:

    *Supporting civil litigation against producers and distributors of pornography
    *Financing scientific research into the addictive nature of the disease
    *Publishing information revealing the sources and effects of the scourge
    *Providing help to those who have been harmed by the addiction or caught in its vice even now.

    Our Vision

    Lighted Candle Society envisions a world where pornography is shunned, spurned and widely recognized as a serious threat to our way of life. We strive for a world where the negative consequences of producing and distributing pornography far outweigh the financial benefits.

    Our Call to Action
    Lighted Candle Society calls on the best in each of us, courting the courage of concerned citizens everywhere to help us take evil to court.

    The organization also wants to pursue what it calls scientific research:
    The second mission of the Lighted is to pursue scientific research into the effect of pornography.

    To that end the LCS is committed to financing scientific research that will enable us to obtain the clear verifiable evidence that pornography leads to critical mind altering changes destructive to mental and emotional health. We anticipate using the recently developed technology of functional Magnetic Resonance Imagery (fMRI) in order to demonstrate the effect of pornography upon the human brain. The ultimate cost of this research will be in the millions of dollars. The ultimate benefit of this research will be to save the millions of individuals who because of the addictive venom of pornography would otherwise experience the destruction of their hope for happiness and fulfillment in life.

    (My reaction to that is looking for deleterious effects is as scientific as it would be to look for beneficial effects, but I guess that depends on who's funding the science.)

    The organization also has a stated belief grounded in victimology:

    4 - Find Help for Victims

    We believe that the entire breadth and effects from pornography is only just now being made evident. The victims of pornography are numerous. Individuals become numb, couples are separated, and families are torn apart. Lighted Candle Society will help you identify resources you can use to thwart the challenges of pornography in your life.

    By any standard, the above constitutes activism. Knowing that I could never persuade an activist (activists cannot be persuaded of things that contradict their beliefs, because that would nullify their purpose), my initial impulse was along these lines.
    Hi Justin,

    Thanks for your email. This comes as news to me as I don't watch Oprah. Whether I should thank her as you suggest I don't know. I mean, if I wrote to her and said "Dear Oprah, I want to thank you for oiling up the slippery slope," she might not understand my meaning. And I might not mean it, as I'm disinclined to believe in the negation of free will which I suspect is implicit in your organization's argument that there are "victims" of visual depictions of sexual activity. (This makes about as much sense to me as the claim that people are victims of guns.) As the suggestion (and information) came from you, perhaps my letter should be along the following lines: "Dear Oprah, Justin Hart asked me to thank you for 'oiling up the slippery slope," although I think he is being sarcastic. I'm afraid that's the best I could do, because you have failed to persuade me. I take it your email was prompted by something I said on my blog (http://www.classicalvalues.com/), because you wrote to the blog's email address, but I can't be sure. Can you be more specific?

    I think this whole thing is as much of a waste of time as it is to get into arguments with commenters who show themselves to be activists. As it is not my purpose to argue with committed activists or waste time, I see no point in responding to the email. However, it does supply a basis for discussion, because I'm fascinated by the pornography issue. This is much more complicated than whether it's dangerous or whether I think it should be allowed and someone else doesn't, as it goes to the essence of what constitutes human nature, and totally divergent views of how the human brain is influenced -- and who has responsibility.

    A threshold problem is that in the case of this anti-pornography outfit, there is no definition of pornography. It would seem that in order to be against something to the point where you want people prosecuted for it, you ought to define what it is. Precisely what are they against? It's one thing to oppose kiddie porn, but are they talking about Playboy? Apparently so. The guy who emailed me about Oprah also wrote a post in which he called Playboy part of the "porn industry":

    Recent developments in the online Porn industry are not surprising but terribly disconcerting. Note these recent startups:


    * As if college kids didn't have enough sex on the brain... Playboy steps in with a user-sharing website for pornography restricted to college-age kids. See here.

    The link goes to a site which advertises another site called PlayboyU, which by its own admission, is not even as graphic as the magazine:
    In what may be a bummer for some, the site will be "an exclusive college-only non-nude social network". Furthermore, it will be a place to "show your school pride, connect with other students and celebrate the social side of college". But I'm sure they're not going to police the whole network for porn.
    I don't know whether they're policing it or not, but when I went there it looked fairly dull. Plus, they discriminate!
    .edu emails required.

    Sorry, but high schoolers, old dudes and your Mom can't join.

    At 53, I'm probably an "old dude." And without an .edu to my name, I face double discrimination. But the point is, if this is less racy than Playboy, and it's pornography, then I guess the group's definition of pornography is broader than most people's.

    Unless I am reading them wrong, they are convinced that sexually oriented pictures of the sort in Playboy have harmful effects on the human brain.

    I have a serious conceptual difficulty with the idea that pictures or videos can do that, and while I'm sure that certain parts of the brain are aroused by sexual titillation, I don't see how sexual arousal constitutes brain damage, unless we posit that having sexual thoughts of an unauthorized nature is inherently bad. Obviously, that goes to the core of my disagreement. I don't think having sexual thoughts is bad in and of itself. If the thoughts are unwanted, then they might be bad for the individual who has them, but I do not understand how thoughts would ever become the business of others. Now, seeing that the primary purpose of pornography is the stimulation and encouragement of sexual thoughts, it follows necessarily that whether another person uses pornography cannot possibly be the legitimate business of anyone other than that person himself, or possibly his sexual partner.

    For the purposes of this argument, it does not matter whether pornography is defined as the more racy or the less racy stuff. It might even be things that we (at least most reasonable people) could all agree were not even pornography, provided that they acted to stimulate the sexual imagination of whoever wanted to look at them. For example, Victorian men were often turned on by women wearing corsets. I'm sure that some modern men are too. Likewise, a number of modern gay men are turned on by men wearing black leather (and some straight men are turned on by women wearing leather). Thus, attractive models wearing corsets or leather might be exactly what someone wanted (and thus pornographic to him) without meeting any legal definition of pornography -- and perhaps without meeting even the Lighted Candle Society's unstated definition of pornography.

    Uh, oh.

    It just occurred to me that there might be some sexual purist out there who might possibly be reading this post. Possibly even people who think that pictures of models wearing leather and corsets are pornographic, and that any production of them which in any way catered to such tastes constitutes evil. So let's switch to a less common fetish -- rubber. Suppose a guy was incredibly turned on by neoprene wearing, wanted to see pictures of attractive models wearing rubber, and ordered wetsuit catalogs from companies catering not to rubber fetishists, but to SCUBA divers. If you hook him up to the telltale MRI machine pursuant to the stated desires of the Lighted Candle people and hand him a wetsuit catalog, that little sexual pleasure center in his brain will light up just as brightly as it would in the brain of a guy into "normal" pornography depicting the usual "sexy she sluts" doing naughty things with genitalia.

    So is there a loophole for such "abnormal" interests as rubber fetish that might be fully satisfied by wetsuit catalogs?

    This begs the question of what is pornography, and of course, what constitutes victimhood. It's easy to say that someone is a victim of the thing that turns him on when we resort to villain language like the "Porn Industry." But it's hard to see a catalog produced by Dave's Dive Shop as victimizing anyone.

    But what about the models? Why are women who dress up as sexy she sluts victims, yet not the wetsuit models? Presumably, the former know perfectly well what they're posing for, and have a pretty good idea of who is likely to be looking at their pictures, and why. In that sense, the girl in the wetsuit is more "innocent" as she never consented to being the object of the sexual desires of a total stranger. Who is more "exploited"? The knowingly exploited, or the unknowingly exploited? (Remember, I don't think either one is, but I'm trying to follow out this argument.)

    We often think of the idea of "model as victim" to be the central argument against kiddie porn, but here again, an adult with an abnormal interest in children might conceivably be able to satisfy it by resort to catalogs of children's clothing. Would that be illegal? If so, why? What, precisely, would we be punishing? The possession of the material? Or whether it satisfies the sexual pleasure centers of a human mind? Surely punishing the desire for sexual gratification cannot alone supply the basis for laws against pornography, because like drug laws, they are possessory in nature, and do not require any interest in the prohibited material objects. In theory, someone could break into my house (or my computer) insert criminal pornography, and I'd be just as guilty of possession as I would if they broke into my house and put heroin in a desk drawer.

    My lack of interest might be a question for the jury, I suppose, but the goal behind making possession an offense is predicated on punishing illicit desire. Without the "thought crime" to go along with it, heroin is meaningless white powder, and "Sexy She Sluts" is slick paper covered with ink. There is not even arguable "harm" without desire. (To illustrate, put on a blindfold and try to distinguish between pornography and an annual report from a Fortune 500 company.)

    Not only is porn theory far from settled, it is going to become infinitely more complicated by technology which will enable the creation of highly individualized, custom-tailored pornography to suit an individual's particular tastes. Such "virtual pornography" will not involve real models, but computer-generated images, which are on the verge of becoming as photorealistic as any photograph of a real model. But because there will be no real models involved, the "model as victim" theory (long a basis for the claim that porn "exploits") will no longer apply. Moreover, if the software gets "good" enough (which it inevitably will), there won't be any need to capture, create, or sell images of anyone. A guy will be able to sit down at a computer, and imagine his fantasy into virtual reality.

    Glenn Reynolds recently touched on the virtual porn issue in the context of a pending Supreme Court case involving distribution of "virtual" kiddie porn:

    Williams v. United States4 deals with the constitutionality of 18 U.S.C. §2252A(a)(3)(B), which prohibits knowingly advertising, promoting, presenting, distributing, or soliciting any material that reflects the belief, or that is intended to cause another to believe, that the material is illegal child pornography. The question before the Supreme Court is whether this prohibition is unconstitutional on grounds of vagueness and overbreadth. A statute is ''vague'' if its language is so unclear that a person of reasonable intelligence cannot tell what it prohibits, opening the way to arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement. A statute is overbroad if it significantly prohibits conduct that is protected by the First Amendment as well as conduct that is not.
    Well, for starters, what does it mean to "reflect a belief"? If it is known that the images are not real people, and thus could not reasonably be believed to be real people, what is the being criminalized? A belief, or a fantasy in someone's imagination? Either way, I see major constitutional problems, and if this nonsense is allowed to continue, I could see it leading to the development of thought crime police.
    In an online chat room, defendant Williams had shared nonpornographic pictures of children--and adults digitally manipulated to look like children--with an undercover federal agent. Williams promised, but did not deliver, genuinely pornographic pictures of children, and was charged with ''pandering'' under §2252A(a)(3)(B).

    Before the Eleventh Circuit, Williams argued that the statute was overbroad and vague. The Eleventh Circuit found that it was, and struck down the statute:

    First, that pandered child pornography need only be ''purported'' to fall under the prohibition of § 2252A(a)(3)(B) means that promotion or speech is criminalized even when the touted materials are clean or nonexistent . . . In a noncommercial context, any promoter . . . be they a braggart, exaggerator, or outright liar . . . who claims to have illegal child pornography materials is a criminal punishable by up to twenty years in prison, even if what he or she actually has is a video of ''Our Gang,'' a dirty handkerchief, or an empty pocket. 5
    The government's justification was that shutting down a market in child pornography requires banning all promotional speech, regardless of whether it actually involves child pornography.
    While it doesn't appear that there was mutual knowledge the pictures were not in fact real, suppose that all the parties did agree that the pictures were not real, but fake and simulated. The possibilities can get pretty crazy. Does this mean that if a husband asks his young-looking wife to pose for pictures dressed up in a school girl uniform, he is soliciting the creation of kiddie porn? Suppose he does that and then (with her permission) runs an age regression software program on the pictures, thus creating the appearance that his wife is only 13. Suppose they both enjoy this, and share the pictures with friends. Is any "child" exploited? I don't think so. Rather, I believe this hypothetical scenario would constitute a thought crime, in this case a consensual thought crime between husband and wife.

    Could age regression software allowing someone to do that be constitutionally punished? I don't see how, although I don't doubt that there are people who seek to criminalize it.

    But age-regression aside, what is "age"? I'm an "old dude" by the standards of the PlayboyU website, but I have plenty of pictures of myself when I was younger and handsomer. If I lie about my age, do I become a purveyor of purported child pornography?

    Here, for example, is a youthful me, wearing leather (gasp!) and holding my young bitch (gasp!) who is clearly trying to break free from the man who not only keeps her in bondage, but who subjugates and disciplines her:


    Suppose that, in despair over my waning attractiveness quotient, I used that picture and said "that's me!" in the hope of turning on some total stranger. Sure, it's dishonest to lie about my age (and probably not to disclose that I don't look like that now), but it's not a crime simply to create a false impression, is it? Under what theory should it become a crime to run software which would create the appearance of taking another ten years off my age? Who's the victim? And why? Am I the victim of myself? If so, isn't that my business?

    Apparently not. The central idea behind opposing pornography is that thoughts matter, that unapproved sexual thoughts are evil, that there is such a thing as a guilty brain, and above all, that the guilty brain influences and is the responsibility of other people.

    This debate is hopeless because it is a debate over influence. Pornography is seen by some people as an influence which must be stopped. By influence, and by force if necessary.

    I think the dispute is grounded in "monkey-see, monkey do," and I will try to explain.

    M. Simon emailed me a link to a discussion of what one columnist calls a "who gives a crap" gene:

    Andrea Nemerson is the San Francisco Bay Guardian's sex columnist. I don't imagine that my answers to the questions about why X person is into Y weird thing ever satisfy anyone, since no matter what the experts, from Krafft-Ebing to John Money, have claimed, nobody has the slightest idea why people like what they like, and it's all completely random as far as I can tell. As for me, I have always been and still am utterly confounded by homophobia and similar hatreds. I don't mean this in a "Why must people be so meeeaaan?" kind of way; I mean I truly cannot fathom why anyone gives a crap, and I've read all the theories. I guess I'm missing the "gives a crap" gene. I'd like to have it, actually--it's not helpful in my line of work to simply not comprehend what other people are feeling, but every time another one of those anti-gay-marriage ordinances passes, I'm all, "Huh? Who gives a crap?" again.
    I am forced to give a crap only because others give a crap. The existence of the "give a crap" forces requires me to give a crap, even though I resent giving a crap.

    Ann Althouse linked a fascinating video of Bonobo chimps (you know, the evil buggerers who enjoy bisexual screwing for pleasure), and it triggered what may be my "give a crap about those who give a crap" gene, because after all, these people so badly give a crap that it may cause the Republican Party to lose to Hillary Clinton (something I definitely give a crap about). I see a serious disconnect over the "are we apes?" issue, and I worry that it might go to the core of what we call the "Culture War" as well as the difference between communitarians and libertarians. It may well trigger and exacerbate divisions between red staters and blue staters, Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives.

    PLEASE NOTE: the video that Ann Althouse links is not pornographic in any way. Readers looking for hot Bonobo action, please be advised to look elsewhere.

    For starters, there's no agreement on whether we are apes. The Bonobos strike close to home, as they are so similar to us that it's a little creepy. The libertarian, individualist in me abhors the mob, and very much wants to avoid doing things because others do them. But by wanting to avoid the mob, I have to take the mob into account, and thus I am influenced by it whether I like it or not. Also, I like to think that humans have evolved past the ape stage, and I dislike it intensely when I see clear evidence that not all of us have. Clearly, some humans are more animalistic than others, and some people are more in denial of the animalistic nature of humans than others. Conservatives and libertarians tend towards a belief in the dark side of human nature, but disagree over what to police and how to best police it. Libertarians tend to be people who like to think that they do not behave as animals, and hence resent being herded and ordered around under the assumption that all are. Conservatives see animalism as a lurking possibility to be constantly guarded against, and they care a lot more about the people who might act like animals, or others who might allow them to. Which is the more realistic assessment of human nature depends on your view of the ideal society. While I try to be unselfish towards friends and people I like, I resent animalistic behavior in others (especially in people I don't like), and I see no reason why I should have to be bound in my own life by concerns that I should not do something or advocate something simply because some people might be inclined to imitate me. (I know this sounds silly, but there are people who think that by owning a gun or a pit bull or opine on certain subjects, I am therefore "setting an example." Sorry, but I never agreed to have my life be an "example" to anyone.)

    I won't buy cigarettes, so cigarette advertising does not matter to me, and I do not wish to be bothered worrying about the minds of people who are unable to resist monkey-see, monkey-do impulses. Put the cigarettes back in the mouths of sexy she sluts from hell. I don't care. The Seagram's Distillery does not victimize anyone, nor does pornography, nor do gun manufacturers.

    Liberals and progressives, on the other hand, tend to believe in the innate goodness of man. Man has evolved past the ape stage, or else he can be made to, and that human perfectibility is achievable by humans, and thus can be undone by humans. Again, there is a belief in the power of monkey-see, monkey-do, and this tends to be a shared belief of liberals and conservatives.

    As I dislike the unfortunate human tendency toward monkey-see, monkey do, I resent whatever power it has over people, and I especially resent further empowering it with policy decisions. The war against pornography goes to the essence of the monkey-see, monkey do, because it is seen as a virus spreading from one chimp to another. Even pornography viewed in private has a contagious social effect, as the guilty mind will be spreading filth through guilty attitudes.

    Thus Mitt Romney has run into trouble with his own followers over "pornography" issue. (As it happens, Justin Hart, the man who sent me the email is not only Vice President of Communications for the Lighted Candle Society but was appointed to Governor Romney's Faith and Values Committee. "Our ultimate mission is to bring civil litigation against the producers and distributors of pornography," he claims.)

    Romney is accused of having close ties to the Marriott Hotel chain, which is said to be bad because the hotels allow guests to pay extra to view videos which the critics describe as "pornographic."

    During his run for President, Romney has campaigned on a platform of "family values" recently telling a graduation class, "Pornography and violence poison our music and movies and television and video games."

    Some of these conservative grassroots activists want to know whether he spoke up or tried to put a stop to Marriott's business dealings back then.

    Phil Burress, founder of Citizens for Community Values has been fighting hotel chains for decades on this issue. He tells The Brody File that every month a group of roughly 15 anti-pornography leaders meet in Washington to discuss the latest happenings.

    Mitt Romney's Marriott connection has come up repeatedly. "Ever since he announced president, it's been a topic of discussion."

    Mitt Romney's campaign told CBN the following: "Governor Romney's role as board member was in an advisory capacity on financial matters related to the company and, obviously, he did not have a role in the day-to-day operations or decisions of individual franchise holders."

    John Harmer, President of the anti-pornography group The Lighted Candle Society and the former Lieutenant Governor of California under Ronald Reagan isn't buying it. He wants to hear more.

    I'm tempted to say "Get your hands off my remote, you filthy ape!" but that would persuade no one.

    The problem is, what would?

    If what we're arguing over is whether we're apes influencing each other, any attempt to be persuasive would in and of itself be apelike conduct.

    The most highly evolved human thing to do is not give a crap.

    As I say, I'm working on it.

    But I'm not perfect. There's a little bit of ape in all of us.

    Anyone heard of self control?

    Or is that up to others?


    Beware the beast man, for he is the Devil's pawn. Alone among God's primates, he kills for sport or lust or greed. Yea, he will murder his brother to possess his brother's land. Let him not breed in great numbers, for he will make a desert of his home and yours. Shun him, for he is the harbinger of death.

    --Dr. Zaius, Minister of Science and Chief Defender of the Faith.

    (No simian moral comparisons intended or intentionally omitted.)

    posted by Eric at 12:28 PM | Comments (4)

    Totolitarian U

    Evan Coyne Maloney has made a film. Here are some out takes. Here is what the makers have to say about about the subject matter.

    Speech codes. Censorship. Enforced political conformity. Hostility to diversity of opinion. Sensitivity training. We usually associate such things with the worst excesses of fascism and communism, not with the American universities that nurtured the free speech movement. But American higher education bears a disturbing resemblance to the totalitarian societies that are anathema to our nation's ideal of liberty. Evan Coyne Maloney's documentary film, Indoctrinate U, reveals the breathtaking institutional intolerance you won't read about in the glossy marketing brochures of Harvard, Berkeley, Michigan, Yale, and hundreds of other American colleges and universities.

    "When we think of going to college, we think of intellectual freedom. We imagine four years of exploring ideas through energetic, ongoing, critical thinking and debate," Maloney said. "But the reality is very far from the ideal. What most of us don't know is that American college students check their First Amendment rights and individual freedom at the door."

    If you would like to have the film screened in your area you can sign up here.

    HT Instapundit.

    posted by Simon at 06:26 PM | Comments (1)

    Israeli Women With Assault Weapons
    Israreli Women
    Click on the photo for more pictures

    HT Ikar M.
    posted by Simon at 11:11 AM | Comments (0)

    Supporting the troops, Bay Area style? (Or Democratic style?)

    In Oakland, California (antiwar leftist Mayor Ron Dellums' town), 204 Marines were prevented from being allowed into passenger terminal:

    In short: "On September 27th 204 Marines and soldiers who were returning from Iraq were not allowed into the passenger terminal at Oakland International Airport.Instead they had to deplane about 400 yards away from the terminal where the extra baggage trailers were located. This was the last scheduled stop for fuel and food prior to flying to Hawaii where both were based. The trip started in Kuwait on September 26th with a rigorous search of checked and carry on baggage by US Customs. All baggage was x-rayed with a 'backscatter' machine AND each bag was completely emptied and hand searched. After being searched, checked bags were marked and immediately placed in a secure container. Carry on bags were then x rayed again to ensure no contraband items were taken on the plane. While waiting for the bus to the airport, all personnel were in quarantined in a fenced area and were not allowed to leave." Nevertheless, Oakland forbade them from entering its terminal. According to the Marine, a Lieutenant who served in Afghanistan with the same unit in 2006 noted that Oakland had treated troops the same way before. He "was almost arrested by the TSA for getting belligerent about them not letting the Marines into the terminal," despite more rigorous screening prior to landing in Oakland. Both JFK airport and in Germany had no problem with the Marines entering their terminals.
    Via Glenn Reynolds.

    And in San Francisco refused to allow the filming of a recruitment commercial:

    The city's treatment of the Marines is making many people angry, from local conservatives like Christine Hughes with the San Francisco Republican Party who told us, "it's an embarrassment. I'm a fourth generation San Franciscan and I don't even recognize my city right now."

    To current and former Marines like Vince Rios, a Vietnam veteran.

    "I'd like to say, 'does your mother know you're doing this? And if so, is she proud of you for that?'" said Vince Rios.

    "The city of San Francisco made a statement saying, 'we don't like the war' by shutting down the troops. I don't think that was the right thing to do," explained Eric Snyder, a U.S. Marine.

    "I wish to hell she would leave her politics at home and take care of the city business and the bridge business on an even keel basis," said Mike Paige, a Korea veteran.

    The Marines also applied for permits to shoot on the Golden Gate Bridge that same morning, but were turned down because of similar traffic concerns.

    The end result -- the crew didn't film the Marines in San Francisco at all. They had to go to the National Park Service for permission to shoot in Marin overlooking the bridge and at Kirby Cove.

    "Golden Gate National Recreation Area is steeped in military tradition and we're honored to be a part of their continued military traditions so we're glad that we could accommodate the shoot," said Amy Brees with the National Park Service.

    Captain Corrales and several other Marine veterans came to the Film Commission Monday afternoon. They see this as just the latest insult along with the city blocking the USS Iowa from docking here, banning the junior ROTC from high schools, and trying to ban the yearly Blue Angels air show.

    "This -- a slap in the face of every veteran and every parent of men and women who are doing their duty -- is shameful," said Captain Corrales.

    The Marines we spoke with also make the point that the city allows street demonstrations, anti-war protests and other events which snarl traffic, such as Critical Mass. They still don't understand why the Marines got turned away.

    The people who run these cities believe in things like "Peace Studies." And "conflict resolution."

    If they had their way, there would be no military, no Department of Defense, and self defense would be forbidden.

    No wonder so people vote Republican -- even if (like me) they don't like the Republican Party. They're not really voting for the Republicans so much as they're voting against the left.

    No matter how much Hillary talks the talk, her party continues to walk the walk.

    It's easy to say that San Francisco and Oakland governments are aberrations. The trouble is, they are by no means aberrational within the Democratic Party.

    (And they're far too numerous to be considered a "Microtrend." Hillary might want to cobble together the latter, but the Democratic base is built on the former.)

    posted by Eric at 10:30 AM | Comments (0)

    The new peace paradigm is working!

    It was painful to watch peaceful Buddhist monks brutally crushed in Burma. Too painful. Pacifists (and the related "conflict resolution" people) who are against all violence must have especially hated seeing how well pacifism works as a strategy when you're not Mahatma Ghandi, and the enemy does not consist of sentimental British rulers who believe that their "religion of peace" really is supposed to be that.

    A lot of good it does to yell that violence is never the answer. What happened in Burma should surprise no one, and I don't think it really has. However, it makes a lot of people uncomfortable, so there's a collective "the less said the better" mentality. We should move on, and focus on real issues. Forget about the Burmese Junta crushing a peaceful religious protesters, because that's only a "distraction" from the most important evil of today, which is of course George W. Bush and his attempts to brutally crush the religion of peace. It helps to be selective when you believe in the peace paradigm.

    Few pacifists are willing to grapple with whether pacifism is an effective way to deal with war. At Students for a Free Tibet, Frida Ghitis of the the Miami Herald shares some thoughts:

    Some of my best friends are pacifists. Some are even militant pacifists. Truly, I respect their conviction and their idealism. I must confess, however, that I am less than impressed with the results that their methods have been producing.

    A few years ago, I had the unforgettable privilege of visiting two nations, Tibet and Burma, whose people have spent decades struggling for freedom by following the spiritual and political guidance of their pacifist leaders. The leaders of the quest for freedom in Tibet and Burma (renamed Myanmar by its despotic military rulers) are two of the most extraordinary human beings alive today. The Western world has recognized their cause and their integrity, honoring Tibet's Dalai Lama and Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi with the Nobel Peace Prize. They have gained worldwide fame and have brought attention to the suffering of their people. And yet, they and their followers have failed miserably in achieving their goals.

    The Dalai Lama, Tibet's religious leader and the head of its government-in-exile, has spent more than four decades trying to muster diplomatic support in his quest to secure Tibet's independence from China. By now, he doesn't even ask for independence, having lowered his demand to mere autonomy for Tibet under Beijing's rule. We still call them demands but, even as he travels the world with a popularity that eclipses major rock stars, his political muscle has faded along with the bleached Tibetan flag bumper stickers on American cars left over from more optimistic days.

    China represses Tibet

    As China pushes ahead, quickly becoming an economic superpower, the people of Tibet endure under Beijing's repressive rule, and Tibet's culture within its traditional Himalayan highlands shrinks, making way for China's mighty economic engine. The Dalai Lama, it seems likely, will have to wait until his next incarnation before achieving his and his people's dream of a free Tibet.

    The situation in Burma is even more depressing. The country was once the rice-basket of Asia. Today, after decades of despotic military rule, poverty, hunger and disease -- especially AIDS -- are rampant. The country is now one of the poorest in the world.

    The remarkable woman who has led her people's determined push to break the shackles of dictatorship, Aung San Suu Kyi, is the only Nobel Peace Prize winner in the world currently under arrest. Fifteen years ago, when Burma's generals inexplicably allowed elections, Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy won 80 percent of the seats in parliament. The generals immediately rejected the result and placed Suu Kyi under arrest, where she has spent most of the time since the election, as have many of her supporters.

    As the Burmese people languish under a regime whose well-documented practices include forced labor, rape, torture and execution of opponents -- even for nonviolent activities -- the world has attempted a number of strategies to bring about change. After multiple special envoys, scattered sanctions and many, many speeches, the result, according to a recent State Department, is that the prospects for reform continue to decline.

    As Ms. Ghitis points out, peace activists urged the Security Council to take action.

    Amazingly, the forces of peace and non-violence did not prevail over the forces of violence.

    The problem is, a lot of people on the left (and a majority of antiwar activists) desperately want to believe in the pacifist narrative. (One especially angry wealthy pacifist yelled at me last year over dinner that "war is an outmoded paradigm!" and that the new peace paradigm would win. My skepticism infuriated her, and she didn't look very peaceful. I'd be willing to bet that she doesn't want to think about Burma in relation to the "new" paradigm.)

    Because Burma gives the lie to narrative, it will fade.

    With the peaceful demonstrators having been crushed, Burma is reported as "tidying up" for the UN peace envoy:

    Barricades that were erected last Wednesday in front of the Shwedagon Pagoda, where riot police and soldiers beat back monks with batons and tear gas, have been removed and the debris cleaned up.

    "They are tidying up for Gambari," said one Rangoon resident, in reference to visiting United Nations special envoy Ibrahim Gambari. Gambari, on an assessment mission in Burma after the country was rocked by its worst violence in 19 years, arrived on Saturday. He was allowed to meet with Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi for an hour on Sunday.

    Gambari was in Naypyidaw, the junta's hideaway capital, situated about 350 kilometres north of Rangoon, on Monday where he had sought a meeting with the regime's chief Senior General Than Shwe.

    There is great skepticism about what Gambari's mission will achieve.

    "The United Nations has been sending special envoys to Burma for the past 18 years and they have no real mandate, so nothing is likely to happen," said Bertil Lintner, a Burma watcher and author of several books on the country. "They just issue reports and that's it. Only the UN Security Council can issue binding resolutions."

    Whoa! A binding resolution. That'll bring the brutal Junta to its knees.

    Not that the UN Security Council is about to do anything so drastic as issue a binding resolution.

    Wouldn't want to create conflict.

    After the dead bodies have been burned (some of them reportedly while still alive) and the blood is washed away, maybe the Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution folks can come in and listen to both sides.

    MORE: Accdording to the latest reports, thousands are dead in a government massacre:

    Thousands of protesters are dead and the bodies of hundreds of executed monks have been dumped in the jungle, a former intelligence officer for Burma's ruling junta has revealed.

    The most senior official to defect so far, Hla Win, said: "Many more people have been killed in recent days than you've heard about. The bodies can be counted in several thousand."

    Mr Win, who spoke out as a Swedish diplomat predicted that the revolt has failed, said he fled when he was ordered to take part in a massacre of holy men. He has now reached the border with Thailand.

    MORE: Glenn Reynolds links this Pajamas Media roundup, which is bleak. I agree with Rand Simberg:

    If there is a solution to tyranny and dictatorship, it does not lie in passivity and non-violence.
    Truer words were never spoken.

    posted by Eric at 09:57 AM | Comments (0)

    Chandra Levy - Deborah Palfrey Connected?

    As I often do when I have an idle moment I follow strange links to see where they lead.

    This one is strange indeed.

    Police in the Chandra Levy murder mystery are investigating a link between Levy and "madam" Deborah Jeane Palfrey, whose "little black book" may contain the name of the man who killed Levy.

    A veteran D.C. homicide detective, Rod Wheeler, thinks the chances of the killer's name being in Palfrey's book, which contains the names of 10,000 men, are very high.

    Here is some background on the Chandra Levy case and her affair with Democrat Congressman Gary Condit. I got the idea of looking into that from this comment at Politico about the Congressman Jack Murtha (D)Pennsylvania Haditha defamation case.
    I knew the Gary Condits in the mid 70's and witnessed them dispose of what they thought was a "Sexual political embarrassment" in pieces then. I was undercover in US Army MI, in espionage, and sworn to secrecy about it. It's 30 years later, he finally got kicked out for Palfrey's callgirl, Chandra Levy, and has he been sent to jail? No, he simply gets away with murder. Seriously so. That's what's wrong with Congress, and our government, today. For every one he's provided this "Service" for, is another politican type owned lock, stock and barrel by foreign and hostile intelligence agencies. The KGB runs the US Congress one hell of a lot more than we the People do. Subpoena, anyone? I'll have a platter of them, thank you.

    Posted By: Rick A Hyatt | September 29, 2007 at 11:59 PM

    Instapundit led me there. Inside Edition also has a write up on the Levy - Palfrey connection. I love the 'net.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 06:31 AM | Comments (0)

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