Happy New Year 2011

To my first mate and mother of our four children whose hard work has made our relationship better than ever. BFF. More and better dear. Love ya!

And of course good wishes to all my readers. The comments and page views make blogging so much fun. Thank you!

And the kids wouldn't like it if they didn't get a mention. So here is to #1 son, #2 son, #3 son, and #1 daughter. BTW my daughter's real name is Barbra Ann. But my mate wanted to call her something else. So of course I deferred to superior forces. Discretion being the better part of valor.

And my mother, at 91, is still a joy. So happy to have you with us. The #3 son and #1 daughter have been visiting her for the holidays.

Happy New Year!!!

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:22 PM | Comments (4)

An "alternative" as worthless as a bubble

Via Victor Davis Hanson and Jonah Goldberg (who both do a good job of defending what I would call basic sanity), I found myself drawn to a trainwreck of a piece in the Washington Post by a man named Colman McCarthy. A former Post columnist, he "directs the Center for Teaching Peace in Washington and teaches courses on nonviolence at four area universities and two high schools."

As the piece is titled 'Don't ask, don't tell' has been repealed. ROTC still shouldn't be on campus. I expected to see confirmation of what I said here -- that DADT was just a pretext, and in the wake of its repeal the left would continue to agitate against ROTC. 

McCarthy, however, adds a new wrinkle. While he is of course against ROTC, he slips a very clever (if very wrong) argument into the piece, which I think may very well emerge as the dominant view among leftist academicians. 

If ROTC is to be allowed, there must an accompanying demand for fully-funded "Peace Studies" programs:

...schools have legitimate and moral reasons for keeping the military at bay, regardless of the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell." They can stand with those who for reasons of conscience reject military solutions to conflicts.

They can stand with Martin Luther King Jr. and his view of America's penchant for war-making: "This madness must cease," he said from a pulpit in April 1967. Even well short of the pacifist positions, they can argue the impracticality of maintaining a military that has helped drive this country into record depths of debt. The defense budget has more than doubled since 2000, to over $700 billion. They can align themselves with colleges such as Hobart, Earlham, Goshen, Guilford, Hampshire, George Fox and a long list of others that teach alternatives to violence. Serve your country after college, these schools say, but consider the Peace Corps as well as the Marine Corps.

Will the Ivies have the courage for such stands? I'm doubtful. Only one of the eight Ivy League schools - Cornell - offers a degree in peace studies.

Anyone surprised that the guy is making a pitch to expand what he does as a career? Would it be too harsh of me to call that a conflict of interest? 

The problem is, conditioning a return to ROTC on the addition of Peace Studies programs will be an easy sell to leftie academicians, because it will come conveniently packaged as "being fair to both sides."

Yet pacifism is at odds with history and common sense. It is not an academic discipline, but simply a nutty idea which self-evidently wrong. You don't have to be a militarist or a "neocon" to recognize that pacifism stands in stark opposition to the basic human right of self defense. (Even the sainted Martin Luther King Jr. had a gun.) And while I cannot fairly call myself an "Objectivist," I think Ayn Rand got it right on the silliness of pacifism:

The necessary consequence of man's right to life is his right to self-defense. In a civilized society, force may be used only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use. All the reasons which make the initiation of physical force an evil, make the retaliatory use of physical force a moral imperative.
If some "pacifist" society renounced the retaliatory use of force, it would be left helplessly at the mercy of the first thug who decided to be immoral. Such a society would achieve the opposite of its intention: instead of abolishing evil, it would encourage and reward it.

As pacifism involves the negation of the basic human right of self defense, it is one of those things I consider so self-evidently wrong as to be unworthy of debate.

One of the things I have learned in life is that debating with a pacifist is an utterly hopeless waste of time. They truly believe that self defense is wrong. I will never forget eating dinner with a school teacher who astounded me by declaring that the Warsaw Ghetto Jews who fought back were wrong to do so. What amazed me even more was that the woman who told me this was Jewish herself, but of course a dedicated pacifist, who believed that if we all put down our arms and abjure self defense, then there will finally be world peace. Right. I would submit that anyone naive enough to believe in even the possibility of that ever happening should not leave his or her house, and would not be safe inside it if the local thugs discovered that a self-proclaimed helpless fool lived there.

The demand that pacifism be taught as the "alternative" academic discipline to ROTC is about as logical as it would be to say that the home invader and the homeowner he attacks deserve to be treated as two equally worthy "sides."

I think that any college or university which considers the philosophy of pacifism to be an academic discipline rating a department is best avoided. I think a degree from such a place would be worthless, and paying money for one would only contribute to the higher education bubble. 

posted by Eric at 10:18 AM | Comments (7)

Not Possible

Watts Up With That is looking into complexity and finds prediction in complex situations difficult according to the IPCC.

Third Assessment Report: "In sum, a strategy must recognise what is possible. In climate research and modeling, we should recognize that we are dealing with a coupled nonlinear chaotic system, and therefore that long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible."
It all starts from the simple idea that increasing internal radiation reflection (Greenhouse Gas Theory) increases temperature. Fine so far. But there are complications. The climate system is not simple physics. For instance: surface water absorbs energy. And the Earth's surface has a LOT of water. Well the water evaporates and you get clouds. Clouds are very complicated. Sometimes the water vapor precipitates out of the atmosphere and you get rain, or snow, or sleet, or hail. This is part of an energy transport system (heat pipe)in the atmosphere. Clouds also complicate the radiation picture. They reflect from both sides. Which matters day AND night on Earth but only day for incoming radiation. And that is just one aspect of the system. Vegetation varies radiation depending on type and amount.
The simple and not so simple physics of a number of climate parameters, are programmed into the climate computer models. Many of these parameters, it is acknowledged, are not completely understood or that there is serious contentious debate about in the scientific literature. ie aerosols, clouds, solar pacific and atlantic oscillations, volcanoes, etc,etc

Engineers (or economists now, perhaps) will advice climate scientists, model are not reality, reality is often more complicated than any computer model. Take a step back, view with hindsight with respect to risk in the financial markets. At the trouble the cream of the last few decades of science graduates - turned computer modellers - left the world's economy in, following the modelling of credit risk amongst many other economic assumptions.

Engineers have always been the biggest sceptics (I prefer the Brit spelling) of the CO2 causes global warming hypothesis.

Engineers spend decades in efforts to match simple deterministic systems to complex environments.

Back in the 80s I (electronics engineer) used to worry about second order effects (deviations from simple laws) caused by the non-linearity of materials. We are now in third order territory with occasional forays into fourth order effects. Climate is like 14th or 40th order stuff. And very non-linear. It is possible (not likely) for 12th order effects to have first order results (chaos).

Is it possible to do decent predictions in short time frames? Maybe. I saw Piers Corbin on Nightline the other day and he has claimed to have predicted much recent weather and predicts a cold winter in the Northern Hemisphere.

Piers Corbyn's presentation showed the major advances in power and skill now achieved by his Solar-Lunar-Action-Technique (SLAT) of weather & climate forecasting which now includes the ability to predict from months ahead extreme events all over the world and changes in the Jet Stream such as those which caused the West Russian heatwave and the Pakistan super-deluges and floods and marked their ending in mid August 2010. In his presentation Piers showed a film of the double sunspot superfast solar coronal ejection on 14th August and the consequent Sudden Ionospheric Disturbance and the predicted jet stream disruption - See:


For WeatherAction summer forecasts 2007, 08, 09 and winter forecasts 2008/9 and 09/10 which beat all-comers see:


He seems to be doing OK so far. BTW he is a "CO2 causes global warming" sceptic.

Some urls:

And some books:

Red Hot Lies: How Global Warming Alarmists Use Threats, Fraud, and Deception to Keep You Misinformed

The Chilling Stars: A New Theory of Climate Change

Heaven and Earth: Global Warming, the Missing Science

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 11:41 PM | Comments (1)

Come together, fellow FiCons?

Every once in a while, I see something that's music to my ears, and a post Glenn linked -- "SoCons" and "Ficons": It Is Time To Come Together -- was one of those times. 

What I do want to discuss is the why behind some of the distrust that exists out there between the two groups ["SoCons" and "Ficons"] and how we can come together to achieve our goal of restoring this great nation.

Trust is an earned commodity. We as social conservatives must be honest with ourselves and admit where we have lost our way. In the past, many of us supported candidates who met our criteria on social issues, but who massively grew government and spent money like drunken sailors. There were groups within the social conservative circle who tried to warn us, but unfortunately they were in the minority and we did not listen.

Sadly, I used to be in the former category rather than the latter until the Tea Party came along. They opened my eyes to the truth that fiscal conservatism and limited government are every bit as important as the social issues. I am confident that I am not the only social conservative who has awakened to these truths. I  hope and believe the days are long gone of social conservatives supporting candidates who are not fiscally conservative, socially conservative, and champions of limited government.

Trust is not only an earned commodity, it also cuts both ways. Fiscal conservatives need to understand where social conservatives are coming from. Every day the Left and their media find some way to disparage Christians or those who hold to a traditional moral code. When social conservatives begin to hear what appears to be even remotely similar rhetoric from those who claim to be within their own camp, a general feeling of "Et tu Brute?" arises. It leaves social conservatives feeling disillusioned and angry. After all, no one enjoys being told to be silent on issues that they deem important.

As regular readers know, I don't especially like the debate over social issues, and while I don't like to revisit an old argument, I found the author's frankness so refreshing that I'm tempted. Especially by what he said at the beginning:

A part of me cringes to write this diary. It is a hot-button issue in which many have strong opinions. But I think we need to have civil dialogue so that we can work together to restore this great nation. 

I agree on the need for civil dialogue, especially among those who agree with the following bottom line: 

Fiscal Responsibility, Constitutionally Limited Government, and Free Markets.

If both sides in this debate can agree on the above, then both sides are FiCons, are they not? So is the argument really one between SoCons and FiCons? Isn't it more properly an argument among fellow FiCons?

Specifically, shouldn't the argument be framed this way?

FiCons who are also SoCons


FiCons who are NOT SoCons

And just as I couldn't agree more with this:

Every day the Left and their media find some way to disparage Christians or those who hold to a traditional moral code.

I think the following is also true:

Every day the Left and their media find some way to disparage libertarians or those who hold to a traditional financial responsibility code. 

Some libertarians would additionally find the following to be true:

Every day the Right and their media find some way to disparage libertarians (especially atheists or gays) or those who hold to a nontraditional moral code.

So it's all too easy to yell (as I'm sure I have) that libertarians are "getting it from both sides," but that's misleading, because it creates the impression that libertarians are "in the middle" which is anything but the case. But it does contribute to a certain aloofness on the part of libertarians, and also, because libertarians are more accustomed to not getting their way in politics, it contributes to a callused "SCREW EM ALL" know-it-all attitude which can take the form of outright rudeness. It can be tempting to wrongly conclude that if you know you're never going to get your way, why bother with being polite?

That is unwise thinking in coalition politics.

What is important to remember right now is that we are all FiCons. We don't need to "come together" so much as to acknowledge that we are together. Part of that understanding requires recognizing the nature of what it is that constitutes a coalition.

In one of the wiser posts I have seen on the subject, Robert Stacy McCain makes it clear that being in a coalition does not mean agreeing with others in the coalition. The issue came up in the context of CPAC inviting GOProud (a gay conservative group), which caused several anti-gay conservative groups to boycott CPAC. Calling the boycott idea "nuts," McCain said this:

...There are many organizations that participate in CPAC who have agendas I don't agree with. So what? My attendance does not constitute an endorsement of the agendas of those organizations (and heaven knows, they don't all endorse me). Coalition politics sometimes requires that people get along with people they disagree with. 

Since when does getting along with people require agreeing with them on everything? A coalition is not a "KUMBAYA" singfest. People who think homosexuality is wrong and sinful are not being excluded from CPAC, and the last time I looked, nor were people who think drugs are evil and ought to remain illegal. If the latter can nonetheless walk share the same convention hall space with a group like CATO, I don't see why an anti-gay group can't do the same thing with GOProud. It's not as if anyone is being forced to take a position he disagrees with.

Defining civility is not an easy thing. But in the case of FiCons, I think it might start with being able to recognize that fellow FiCons are fellow FiCons -- regardless of their positions on non-FiCon issues. FiCons might not all get along, but we ought to be able to tolerate the existence of fellow FiCons in the same room.

As to whether we can all "come together," I'd like to think so, but it might depend on interpretation

(Can "He just do what he please" and "You can feel his disease" get along?)

UPDATE: Via Glenn Reynolds, more from Allahpundit on the CPAC boycott (which is not a "social con boycott"). On MSNBC, GOProud's chief managed to get in the following narrative-damaging remark, "I have an easier time being openly gay with conservatives than I do being a conservative with other gay people."

I think almost any gay conservative can vouch for the truth of that one. That's because -- according to the preposterous logic of many gay activists -- being conservative while gay constitutes being a "traitor" to gayness.

But very few if any conservatives believe that being gay while conservative constitutes treason to conservatism.

I have long failed to understand any possible logical connection between homosexuality and socialism. I think that because this connection is not a logical one, it must be made by simple intimidation.

Come to think of it, that may offer a possible explanation to a vexing question Glenn once asked:

Is it just me, or does it seem that the people who are the most demanding of tolerance tend to be those least likely to display it themselves?

Left wing identity politics means zero tolerance for those who dissent from socialism. Hence they have to become "traitors."

UPDATE: Many thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the "musical" link, and a warm welcome to all.

Comments appreciated, agree or disagree.

Some commenters think that freedom in the marketplace (as Milton Friedman would say, "freedom to choose") is inconsistent with social freedom. While I disagree with that POV, I welcome constructive thoughts from the other side.

posted by Eric at 01:49 PM | Comments (32)

A resolution to keep? Or a resolution to end?

For many, many years, I have enjoyed my screen resolution the way it is, which is 800 by 600. I'm one of those people who can get by without reading glasses, but if I change the settings to the next highest level (1024 x 768), reading text (I'm using a Dell 17 19" LCD monitor) becomes uncomfortable. I can still read it, but I have to hold back my head and squint.

So what's the big deal? No one is forcing me to change anything, right?

Wrong. Not only do a growing number of software programs (especially video editing) refuse to work at all in 800 x 600, but a growing number of blogs (more and more all the time, it seems) force me to scroll from left to right in order to view the entire page. It makes for uncomfortable reading, and often makes it impossible to see a paragraph in its entirety. Worse, some blogs have advertising and sidebars which are in conflict with the lower resolution, causing untold amounts of garbage to be overlaid on what I want to read.

As if that's not enough, the latest phenomenon consists of annoying popup advertisements which cannot be closed, no matter what I do, because there is no little "X" box for me to click. Even if I scroll it will not appear, because it is rendered beyond the resolution. Which means that if I really, really wanted to read that bloody blog post (trust me, that sometimes happens), I have to close the browser, go to my screen settings, change it to 1024 x 768, then reopen the post, read it, then go back and reset the damned settings!

I realize this is a very petty annoyance, but I find myself wondering not only whether I am alone, but whether there is a growing, um, "conspiracy" to force people like me to change their screen resolution. I don't mean to be facetious, as am quite serious. Web designers seem condescending at best, and intolerant at worst. But even if they grudgingly "allow" 800 by 600, what about those ghastly individuals who design deliberately sadistic popups that cannot be closed?

(I try to be reasonable and I'm willing to scroll left and right to read a post, but sorry, there is something about having to change my resolution simply to close a popup that is so beneath my dignity as to be degrading.) 

If you think I am exaggerating about the condescending attitude, think again. An older geek discussion titled "What about the 800 x 600 resolution people?" sounds almost Culture Warrish... A more recent discussion noted that  "more than a handful of developers at GAWDS feel that 800×600 support is a bit out-dated and no longer needed as it once was", yet advocated keeping 800 x 600 support for the stubbornly backward handful. Another geek post titled "Is it time to ignore 800 by 600 resolution yet? seems to gloat with anticipation of the final demise of 800 by 600. Ditto this Wordpress geek forum: "Do we really care about 800x600 people?" Another site notes sourly that "the 800x600 screen resolution just refuses to die." You'd almost think that these avaricious web developers think people who like 800x600 are some kind of assholes who are holding back progress. 

Why might that be? Who benefits? It's like, I really don't think I am doing anything wrong here; I only want to be allowed to continue to do what I have done for at least as long as I have been blogging, which is to enjoy my computer's screen resolution in the privacy of my own home. I only want to be able to easily read text that other people have written. Is that really so bad? Am I asking too much of the damned world?  

Or is it time for me to consider a New Year's resolution to end my favorite resolution?

The problem is, I'd like to be able to have my resolution and keep it too...

AFTERTHOUGHT: As an experiment in self torture, I just now changed my resolution to 1024 x 768, and it is so annoying I can't wait to change it back.

So much for that resolution.

posted by Eric at 10:32 AM | Comments (10)


A US Navy Officer has committed suicide over a no drug drug bust.

A U.S. Navy officer jumped to his death at Manila's airport after he was arrested with what was thought to be cocaine, Philippine officials said Tuesday, but tests later showed the white powder wasn't an illegal drug.

Lt. Cmdr. Scintar Buenviaje Mejia died of head injuries after jumping from a second-floor staircase Monday while a security guard escorted him to the bathroom, aviation police chief Pedro Desuasido said.

The 35-year-old Mejia, a U.S. citizen of Filipino descent, was arrested a day earlier at an airport X-ray machine after security officials found a plastic packet containing what was suspected to be cocaine in his bag, Desuasido said. He was about to board a flight to Los Angeles.

Desuasido said Mejia shouted and threw the packet at security officials. He denied the packet was his and claimed he was set up.

That is always a problem with status crimes like drug possession. You are effectively guilty until proven innocent. And all it takes is a police officer who takes a dislike to you.

Mexico has a different problem. The police there are getting the very short end of the stick. American drug prohibition is very hard on the Mexican police

The last remaining police officer in the Mexican border town of Guadalupe has disappeared, and prosecutors in northern Chihuahua state said Tuesday they have started a search for her.

Twenty-eight-year-old officer Ericka Gandara held out despite the desertions and resignations that left her as the only officer in the Juarez Valley town, which was served by eight police a year ago.

But Gandara hasn't been seen since Dec. 23. While some local media have reported Gandara was kidnapped, prosecutors' spokesman Arturo Sandoval said her relatives have not filed a kidnap complaint.

Sandoval said the search was started Monday as a missing-person case.

The same day she disappeared, assailants also set fire to the home of a Guadalupe town councilwoman.

The Sinaloa and Juarez drug cartels have been battling for control of the Juarez Valley, leading many residents to flee across the border to Texas or to other Mexican cities.

All my prohibitionist friends need to get together and yell continuously at the top of their lungs, "It can't happen here." It may be utopianism but the energy expended in shouting makes sleep come easier. Which is all to the good. If you don't count what has likely happened to Ericka Gandara.

And another question for my prohibitionist friends: were the alcohol wars of the 1920s caused by a desire for alcohol or a desire for prohibition? Which appetite is it easier for society to abandon? Clue: alcohol is still with us. Alcohol prohibition is not.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:02 PM | Comments (0)

the politics of malice-based "love"

I was busy at the time (it was the night before Christmas, so I was probably overcome by Seasonal Altruistic Disorder), but Glenn linked a post from Bill Quick which discussed the dominant political paradigm in this country:

...the operating theory of political success has essentially been one of bribery. The idea is that one side or the other with take control of the levers of government, and then use those levers to extract riches from unfavored groups, then hand those riches over to favored groups in order to buy their votes. This has become entirely the case for both Republicans and Democrats.

Utterly true. And because the system works as a tool for keeping power, the two sides find it to their mutual interest to keep it in place -- by any means necessary. This does not mean that there are not genuine philosophical differences between them, but it does mean that they agree on the basic idea that government is there to take money from one group of people and give it to another. This guarantees that the recipients of largesse can be relied upon to fight for their own perceived interests, and that they will see those who want to stop their cash flow as mortal political enemies.

Naturally, the more Peter is robbed to pay Paul, the more pissed off Peter will get. As Bill Quick puts it,

if you take from one group to give to another, you eventually anger the group being robbed on behalf of other groups.

But should we assume that the recipient of the robbery proceeds is happy with his ill-gotten gain?

I am reminded of Mark Twain's negative comparison between men and dogs:

If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man.

In a long post in which I quoted the above, I amplified on the theme:

The bottom line is that it's not only a lot easier to share free money, it's a lot easier to become morally indignant with those who don't. But those who didn't earn their fair share are much more likely to be "generous" with what they didn't earn, and less tolerant of the reluctance of those who earned their money to share it.

Carried to an extreme, this leads the freeloading classes to paradoxically accuse those on whose hard work they depend -- their benefactors -- of being greedy. Of being "freeloaders" for not wanting to pay "their fair share."

Which makes about as much sense as parasites accusing their host of parasitism.

I even wondered whether there might be a poorly understood explanation rooted in biology:

I'm thinking that there may be a direct relationship between resentment and greed. Think about it this way: if the more productive classes are resented for having more, and if they are also resented even if they pay more, it begs the question of whether the resentment of them stems from a poorly understood aspect of human nature which touches on the Twain distinction between man and dog. Suppose for the sake of argument that there is some natural, biologically based resentment of the "helping" classes by the classes who are "helped." (Hence the quotes.) The result is that the productive are in a no-win situation; they are resented for having earned more, and also resented for helping the non-productive classes. OK, it being a given that humans dislike being resented, if they're going to be resented either way, what's in it for them by being helpers? Other than not wanting to go to prison, I don't know.

But I strongly suspect that the more the productive classes are resented for being "greedy," the greedier they'll actually become.

Right. And the more likely to reflexively support the Republicans, the so-called party of "greed."

Except it doesn't end with the productive classes merely supporting the "party of greed," and that's because of the guilt factor. People who have more when others have less often feel guilty about it. (There are plenty of scolds -- political and religious -- to remind them that they should.)

Or is it fear?

A post Glenn linked earlier in the month discussed philanthropy as resulting from the fear of malicious envy:

In situations where people were given awards they did nothing to earn the sense of getting an unjustified advantage caused people to act more altruistic. They probably wanted to dampen down the feeling of malicious envy in others.


The researchers previously found envy comes in a benign form that caused those who experience benign envy to want to improve themselves. Basically success inspires attempts to become more successful. But malicious envy causes people to want to bring down others.

In previous research, Niels van de Ven of Tilburg University and his colleagues Marcel Zeelenberg and Rik Pieters had figured out that envy actually comes in two flavors: benign envy and malicious envy. They studied people who showed these two kinds of envy and found that people with benign envy were motivated to improve themselves, to do better so they could be more like the person they envied. On the other hand, people with malicious envy wanted to bring the more successful person down.

Note that a person who focuses on feeling malicious envy misses the opportunity to motivate themselves to become more successful. Benign envy is more adaptive in most cases.

You can see from this why political class warriors who want to raise taxes or regulate an industry try to argue that their targets do not deserve their success. They want to bring out that feeling of malicious envy.

Historically, I think the Democrats have been the better practitioners of the political art of tapping into that malicious envy, but there are signs that they may be slipping. While they have traditionally attempted to portray their enemies as "the rich," as fat cat corporate bosses in big limousines, such images don't play well today, because the fat cat limo culture is now associated at least as much with the Hollywood left -- to say nothing of the Trial Lawyer left -- as it is with Enron, and maybe more. And they know they can't spin the Tea Party as a rich people's movement, because the overwhelming majority of Tea Partiers are angry working class and middle class taxpayers who are hard pressed to pay their bills and have had it with being taxed nearly to death. So all they can do is call them "racists." And we can see how well that has worked, can't we? Gone are the days of the rich Republican monopoly man with his dollar cigar and high silk hat. 

However, the Democrats still know how to leverage that fear of malicious envy. It is precisely what draws a certain type of rich person to contribute money to the Democratic Party and left wing causes. There are three major categories of guilty money they know how to tap: inherited money, Hollywood money, and trial lawyer money.

As to those who have inherited money, there was a time when they instinctively gravitated to the Republican Party. I have written several posts about the "Trustfunder Left," and it baffles me why there is such animosity in conservative circles to inherited money -- especially because conservatives are typically in favor of allowing people to dispose of their money as they see fit and are against inheritance taxes. But for whatever reason, in general Republicans with wealth tend to have earned it themselves (self made), and then agitate for the right to leave it all to their kids who then feel compelled to join the Democrats for reasons which elude their grasp, and may be biological. Such a plan is not rational. 

While Hollywood money and trial lawyer money both fall into the category of self made wealth, there is a difference between hitting the jackpot as a performer or lawyer and starting a small business and gradually building it up through years of toil and sweat. Every actor who gets his big break has many friends who are just as talented and just as attractive (and maybe more talented and attractive) who did not. There is usually luck involved, and in many cases nepotism or other special favoritism. This translates into guilt. Ditto trial lawyers. With a few phone calls, they can obtain huge settlements of which they take a third for themselves, and while they go to great lengths to spin themselves as champions of the little guy, they are anything but little. Again, guilt!

By offering a way to alleviate this guilt, the Democrats have become the only way for them to avoid being seen as "the rich." That many Republicans display open contempt for people with money not earned by "traditional hard work" only aids the Democrats. Fortunately, there are still some members of these guilty wealthy classes who are able to see past the fear equation and think for themselves. And find themselves hated for it. 

Of course, with any luck they'll be accused of "self hatred" by the people who hate them while claiming to love everyone. 

And if that sort of malice-based love equation fails, there's always love of the environment.

(And hatred of those who hate the planet....)

posted by Eric at 10:22 AM | Comments (2)

Founders, Freedom, and Federalism

Via Hotair, over at FrumForum John Veccione assaults libertarianism with a veritable army of strawmen. As someone who marched merrily from movement conservatism to more or less doctrinaire libertarianism, I feel obliged to call in some rhetorical artilley on the columns of calumny therein, while attempting assiduously to avoid employing the No True Scotsman defense.

Thomas Jefferson determined to wage war by simply denying foreigners the right to trade with the U.S. So did Madison. What libertarian has ever thought the government could cut off trade between free individuals?

Well, virtually all of them, of course. While libertarians are almost by definition free traders I've never heard anyone suggest the government does not have the power to regulate international trade -- which is, of course, a matter of treaty -- but rather that it should generally refrain from doing so because such inaction produces better outcomes via gains from trade, something that was not nearly as well understood in Jefferson's time. One might similarly anachronistically complain Jefferson did not also give women and blacks the vote and promote gay marriage, and thus was No True Libertarian.
Further, Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine supported the French Revolution. That revolution denied there was anything the state could not do in the name of the people.

This is simply untrue. Whatever the flaws and excesses in execution, the basis of the French Revolution in principle was in fact the inalienable rights of citizens. It was not by any means totalitarian, and it was a step forward in terms of liberty for the masses even allowing for the anti-monarchical excesses.
If ever there was a libertarian document it was the Articles of Confederation. There was no national power.

The AoC also lacked a Bill of Rights, or any power to enforce such against the states, and I've never, ever heard a libertarian say "Gee, if only we could go back to the Articles of Confederation!" Libertarianism is not just minarchism, though the two overlap today, largely because the government does so much more than it did in, say, 1777. A federal government that ensures basic liberties is not something libertarians would necessarily oppose in principle -- indeed, the most potent issue for many libertarians is gun control, which generally pits state and local governments against the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.
What is the libertarian approach to broken homes, and to attaching children to their fathers in general?

The libertarian approach is that these are not issues for the government to solve, but should rather be addressed by the community: churches, civic groups, and other voluntary assemblies without the power of coercion. Anyone who thinks the government has made these problems better hasn't been paying attention to the perverse economic incentives the Great Society created.
How do libertarians deal with bad actors abroad?

It depends on the libertarian. Some libertarians are near-total pacificists, but many support interventions that would promote liberty. Frum may not realize this, but there was significant debate among libertarians over Iraq (even at generally anti-war Reason, one can find some pro-war contributors, such as Cathy Young) -- and the topic is still contentious.
Modern wars have sometimes required a draft. Libertarians balk at this. Thus libertarian government always stands vulnerable to foreign conquest and the loss of rights and autonomy that entails.

This is only true if one defines "modern" as the 1940s and even then it's not at all clear a draft was necessary given the outrage over Pearl Harbor. The notion the U.S. is "vulnerable to foreign conquest" because we have a volunteer army is absurd -- the career military has become pretty adamant that they don't want or need draftees, partly due to lessons learned from Vietnam, where we failed to secure a favorable outcome despite a draft (in fact, even arguably in part because of the draft).
Libertarianism appears to be like arsenic, a stimulant in small doses but deadly poison when taken in large doses.

Sigh. I suppose one should just be grateful he didn't invoke Somalia.

posted by Dave at 12:13 PM | Comments (7)

"Do we want to live in their world?"

Does what a majority of ordinary people think matter to the tiny minority of privileged folks who rule without being elected?

I realize that sounds like a rhetorical question, but in theory, we are living in a country with a constitutional government run by elected officials with specifically limited powers, so it always pisses me off to read about immensely powerful agencies which are nowhere mentioned or defined in the Constitution acting as if they have a right to rule and behaving as classical tyrants. Whether it's the DEA conducting a "global intelligence organization with a reach that extends far beyond narcotics" (whose foreign policy operations now rival the CIA), whether it's the FDA unilaterally asserting the right to ban whatever sort of drinks it might not like, or whether it's the alphabet agency item that seems to be getting the lion's share of attention right now -- the FCC's arbitary assertion (despite warnings) of jurisdiction over the Internet

Not that it makes any difference to these unelected tyrants (and that is not political hyperbole nor a term I use lightly; our revolution was fought over less), but today I read that a majority of Americans actually want the FCC to leave the Internet alone:

American voters believe free market competition will protect Internet users more than government regulation and fear that regulation will be used to push a political agenda.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that only 21% of Likely U.S. Voters want the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to regulate the Internet as it does radio and television. Fifty-four percent (54%) are opposed to such regulation, and 25% are not sure.

Would it be extremist of me to call that a libertarian position?

The reason I'm asking is that I saw a condescending piece in New York Magazine (typifying what many would consider the "concern trolling" style of journalism) which pooh-poohed libertarianism, even asking a snidely condescending rhetorical question in the headline:

The Trouble With Liberty

Libertarians, of both left and right, haven't been this close to power since 1776. But do we want to live in their world?

Reason's Radley Balko does a great, detailed job with the piece, noting its barely concealed pretense of objectivity ("a thrashing disguised as a primer"), and says that believing libertarians are crazy seems to be an element of faith among some journalists:

There's an aesthetic I've noticed among some journalists that libertarianism is so crazy and off the rails that it's okay to step outside the boundaries of decorum and fairness to make sure everyone knows how nuts libertarians really are.


It's as if ensuring that New York readers fully understand and appreciate libertarianism's failings was the article's most important objective--and far too important to let readers come to that conclusion themselves.

In light of poll results like Rasmussen's latest, I think they may be more afraid than they let on. Hence the us-versus-them rhetorical question in the headline: "do we want to live in their world?"

If the libertarian "they" are over half the country, then perhaps "we" ought to be asking the same question about Them.

Do we want to live in their world?

A good question, even if those are not my words.

posted by Eric at 10:54 AM | Comments (5)

Stumble Bums

It looks like a number of Republican aspirants to the Republican nomination for President have stumbled in December. Mike Huckabee is emblematic of the stumblers.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee didn't have an easy December, either. Writing about the much-debated proposal to "cap and trade" greenhouse gas emissions, Huckabee said, "I never did support and never would support it, period."

But at an October 2007 meeting of the Global Warming and Energy Solutions Conference in New Hampshire, Huckabee said: "I also support cap and trade of carbon emissions. And I was disappointed that the Senate rejected a carbon-counting system to measure the sources of emissions, because that would have been the first and the most important step toward implementing true cap and trade."

Addressing the contradiction, Huckabee said it is fine for companies to voluntarily engage in cap and trade. "But I was clear that we could not force U.S. businesses to do what their Chinese counterparts refused to," he said.

They did give Palin an honorable mention for "doing nothing" in December.

One candidate not mentioned at all is former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson. I must say I like Gary's domestic policies (see video below). But a geopolitician he is not.

Gary Johnson opposed the war in Iraq as Governor of New Mexico and believes that the United States should withdraw our troops from both Iraq and Afghanistan as soon as effectively possible, believing that neither country poses a current threat to the US.

The United States should not be borrowing money to build roads, bridges, schools and other infrastructure in foreign countries, especially when such help is currently needed at home. Non-military foreign aid around the world is something we can not currently afford.

Well Gary, who exactly do you foresee filling the power vacuum when the Americans leave? And building roads and bridges in other countries? Bribery by America of foreign powers is as traditional as Jefferson paying off the Barbary Pirates to leave American ships alone. And we didn't have much money then either. Oh. Well. It appears that the reality of office and immersion in the global situation changes a person's views about the wisest course of action. Better to come in with the right framework to begin with though. But eventually circumstances master opinions. Just ask Winston Churchill.

You can always count on Americans to do the right thing - after they've tried everything else. - Winston Churchill

And now for the video:

I was a Libertarian before it was trendy (I voted Ron Paul for President in '88) and I left the Libertarian Party for the Republicans (libertarian branch) post 9/11. And I joined the TEA Party as soon as I heard Santelli's Rant.

Tea Party Difference
Click on the above image and learn how to spread it around.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:56 PM | Comments (1)

Gay Hitler? Finally, some real photographic proof!

I am not kidding. Go take a look.

Should I issue a retraction of what I said?

I'll have to think about it, because this is no laughing matter.

It's a grave issue.


posted by Eric at 01:17 PM | Comments (3)

Hic et ubique terrarum

A great piece at Instapundit about education versus schooling, and how the disparity was addressed in centuries past.

My sister was homeschooled, was accepted at Stanford, and after a year or so decided to become a firefighter/EMT.  She travels the world, is certified as a divemaster, and spent last winter in Antarctica at McMurdo.  She learned valuable skills, taxpayers came out ahead, and she had a great time. 

UPDATE:  This is probably what the future looks like, assuming defenders of the status quo are unable to quash such sellers of learning via regulation.

posted by Dave at 07:59 AM | Comments (2)

Crossed from Christmas, and crossed from the cross

Speaking of what should be taught to children, earlier I saw a quote from that landmark Supreme Court which (depending on your view of these things) either ordered the government to stay out of religion or ordered religion to stay out of the government. There is a difference, right?

In a letter (pdf file) to Tennessee school superindendants (which was deemed suspicious by the state's Homeland Security department), the Tennessee ACLU director quoted from McCollum v. Board of Education.

Designed to serve as perhaps the most powerful agency for promoting cohesion among a heterogeneous democratic people, the public school must keep scrupulously free from entanglement in the strife of sects. The preservation of the community from divisive conflicts, of Government from irreconcilable pressures by religious groups, of religion from censorship and coercion however subtly exercised, requires strict confinement of the State to instruction other than religious, leaving to the individual's church and home, indoctrination in the faith of his choice.
McCollum v. Board of Education, 333 U.S. 203, 216 -- 217 (1948)

While that decision did not take religion out of the schools, it did hold that certain "voluntary religious education classes for public school students from grades four to nine" were unconstitutional. An atheist sued, claiming that her son was "ostracized" for not attending the religious classes. Apparently the school ignored her. The Supreme Court ruled 7-1 in her favor, because even though voluntary it was considered state-sponsored religious indoctrination.

I now find myself wondering whether the school might have avoided this result by including atheist indoctrination as one of the choices. After all, atheism is merely another hypothesis about the nature of the unknown, positing that there is no God, no souls, no spirits. Of course, as this happened 62 years ago, it may be too late for me to gratuitously play Monday Morning Quarterback -- especially because this is a Sunday (and it's also the day after Christmas, which is probably not the best time to have religious people and atheists sing "Kumbaya" together).

I do think that it would be a hoot to teach (or attempt to teach) comparative religion in a public school today, though.

As I recently read about huge commotion in Bethlehem over the image of the cross (which is being banned in Bethlehem to appease Islamists), that might be a good starting point for the class. 

Never mind dreaming of a White Christmas. This Christmas, tourists and pilgrims to the Holy Land will need to keep their piety under wraps. AsiaNews reports that in Bethlehem, the city of Jesus' birth, the Cross has been banned for fear of stirring up unrest among followers of Islam (aka, the religion of peace). Writes AsiaNews:

Some textile workshops in Jerusalem and Hebron have begun to print and sell T-shirts depicting the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem without the cross. Because of the growth of Islamic fundamentalism in the Palestinian territories, the cross was also removed from T-shirts of football teams.

Samir Qumsieh, director of the Catholic television station Al-Mahed Nativity TV in Bethlehem, is reported as having said, "I want to launch a campaign to urge people not to buy these products," adding "removal of the cross is an intimidation against Christians, it is like saying that Jesus was never crucified."

Yes, because that is precisely what Muslims believe. What is not being pointed out in the article is that Muslims consider the cross to be blasphemous, not merely because it is a graven image, but because it is seen as a denial of the Koran. It flatly contradicts the Koran, which says that that Jesus was a great prophet, that the proponents of the crucifixion belief are mistaken, because Allah did not allow one of his prophets to be killed like that. And of course, Jesus is not considered the son of God, because saying God had a child would be a form of polytheism. Interestingly, the three great monotheistic Abrahamic religions all agree on the existence of Jesus, but not on his divinity. So there's a three way split. Unlike Christians, both Jews and Muslims agree that he was not a son of God, with the Muslims seeing him as a prophet, and the Jews seeing him as neither a son of God nor a prophet. I don't think you need to be a rocket scientist or a theologist to recognize that these three views of Jesus are irreconcilable, and from a religious standpoint, incompatible. But in the United States, people are just as free to believe any of these things as they are none of them.

Stepping back from Jesus to the larger picture (what I prefer to call views of the unknown rather than "religion") it is easy to see why monotheism, polytheism, skepticism, and atheism are also irreconcilable, and from a religious standpoint incompatible. Yet this country's traditions allow all people to believe whatever they want. 

Right now, a lot of Christians are complaining about attempts to take Christ out of Christmas. It does strike me as contradictory to have the celebration called Christmas not be the celebration called Christmas. Whether it makes sense for non-Christians (whether of other religions or not) to be celebrating Christmas in a secular manner is worthy of debate, but nothing having to do with religion can be legally controlling on anyone in a country with freedom of religion. So if people want to say "Merry Christmas" when they don't believe in it, if they want to celebrate the made-up "Kwanzaa" or revel in an undefined "Happy Holiday," there is no way to stop them. Stores that want to maximize profits will probably try to appeal to whatever the largest common denominator their market researchers tell them is out there, and if people don't like it, they can boycott the stores they think are being disrespectful.

But in this country the stores have no remove Christ from Christmas than Muslims do to remove the cross from Christianity. These things not binding on anyone.

Of course, I'm out of touch with reality these days and it could that I would be out of line raising these questions in class were I a public school teacher.

I'd hate to think that raising questions in a comparative religion class would constitute religious indoctrination in violation of the First Amendment.

But isn't there a First Amendment right to indoctrinate? There has to be. Otherwise, how would they get away with forcing the kids to believe in a particular view of global warming? Should they have to present both sides? And if so, how far does the definition of "both sides" go?

Is not global warming theory (along with the related dogma called "environmentalism") just another alternative view of the unknown? Sure, they say it is "known," but so do believers in any faith. Ask any Scientologist.

Religion is perplexing. One of these days it would be nice to define what it is in absolute terms.

Or maybe in absolute relative terms.

posted by Eric at 12:03 PM | Comments (4)

Some slippery slopes are more offensive than others

Darleen Click left a very thoughtful comment to a previous post which I didn't want to forget, because it reminded me once again of the absurdity inherent in classifying human beings according to their sexual tastes.

let me through another variable in here - what is considered "acceptable" behavior in society will have a great deal of influence on an individuals behavior (and possibly how they classify themselves).

Now male and female sexuality are different so when we are discussing "gay" here, I assume we are dealing with male sexuality. Romans and Greeks, as you state Eric, would have no clue what we are talking about. Their sexuality as defined by their society's mores dealt with channeling sexual desire into class expression. Thus, a [male] citizen demonstrated his status by being the penetrator of women, slaves and boys. This was bifurcated from "love" and emotion. Indeed, Romans even had laws against same-sex relations between freeborn males. While not considered in a "sacred" status, marriage was a very important societal institution in Roman society (though men were allowed to seek sexual satisfaction outside of marriage, for women adultery was a criminal act)

Outside of instances of complete physical coercion (a penis can be made erect by manual stimulation even if the attached male is unwilling), sexual arousal is an indication of sexual desire. Teasing out what is exactly that desire is where we tend wander politically astray. Male sexual desire can be easily fetishized - everything from shoes to power. So "rape" can resolve to a power fetish; most power fetishes confined to BDSM role playing.

But all this historic male "everything goes" approach to sexuality - also was complicit in the low status of women. Women cannot be anything other than the "bottom", thus equivalent to slaves and other "non" humans. Any respect for the status of a married woman wasn't resolved to the woman but resolved to man in the marriage.

IMHO, bisexuality demonstrates a male who is sexually aroused by either sex. In a society that promotes heterosexuality, a bi will feel more acceptable by channeling his desires toward his straight side but as society champions homosexuality, he may suddenly "discover" and indulge his gay side. That doesn't make him "gay" any more than when he was a fully functional straight made him "straight".

Sexual orientation (sexual desire plus emotional desire) isn't either/or. The majority of people are hetero, a very small percentage are homo (2-3%) and the balance somewhere on the continuim between those two points.

The "have gay sex means you're gay" meme is political - a version of the racist "one drop" rule.

So precisely why would homosexuality have been singled out as this great division of all divisions in human sexuality? The idea seems to be that people can be manipulated by identity politics into supporting those believed to be the best champions of their rights. As to what these rights are, they seem to be constantly redefined. I once thought that it boiled down to the right to be left alone -- the "privacy in the bedroom" argument. As Darleen says, gays are not the only sexual minority, as there are a number of people who are so into sado-masochism, articles of clothing, etc., that they cannot get off without such stimulation.

What fascinated me the most about the news of that Columbia professor's incestuous relationship with his daughter is the way so many people tried to tie it reflexively to homosexuality -- as if a man screwing his daughter has anything to do with homosexuality. But the argument is that it's a slippery slope -- that by accepting or tolerating homosexuality, we have created a trap in which society now has no choice but to tolerate incest. The implication is that tolerating homosexuality opened the gates of hell, and released all sorts of perversions.

Well, what about sadomasochism? A lot of people would say that tieing up and whipping someone who wants to be whipped -- by someone who gets off on doing that -- is extremely depraved and immoral. They would also say that about erotic asphyxiation -- an extremely dangerous practice which cost David Carradine his life. As to walking on someone while wearing high-heels or forcing a man to wear a French maid's outfit or something, I guess things like that are just "dirty" or "depraved" without being especially dangerous. But did tolerating homosexuality open the door to sadomasochism? Or erotic asphyxiation? How? Why wouldn't it be the other way around? There are no laws I can find prohibiting S&M or the wearing of erotic attire of any sort in private -- whether gay, bi, or straight. You want to get whipped, you have always been able to go right ahead and do that. Even in the pre-Lawrence sodomy days, had two gay men into the leather scene picked each other up and then gone home and handcuffed and whipped each other, they would have been committing no crime. As to tying a rope around your neck for gratification like David Carradine, I don't think there's a law against that either unless there's an express intent to commit suicide.

So which slippery slope led where?  

I think much of the fuss over homosexuality involves the fact that it was illegal, and stigmatized in ways that other sexual variants were not. This led to a counter-reaction by gays who organized and demanded that they be left alone. Police have pretty much stopped sweeping gay bars the way they once did, and not too many employers are going to be in a hurry to fire an employee who is discovered to be gay. A large majority of the public now think gays should be allowed to serve in the military. Gay marriage is probably on the near horizon, although I continue to worry that the "right" the activists demand is not a right, but an encumbrance on something once amazingly free and unregulated (largely because it was off society's radar). Marriage does not merely consist of freedom between two people, but is a way for the government to get its foot in the door of their lives via family law, family courts, and the sort of endless litigation which has turned people off to marriage and driven many a heterosexual man to drunkenness, despair, and even suicide. (And the "right" to marry carries with it the legal ability to impose duties on a purported or alleged partner even in the absence of an actual marriage.)  

People overlook the fact that if you need the government to assert and protect your rights on your behalf, you are less than a free citizen. Yet identity politics is at its very core driven by demands by self appointed activists that government protect group rights of people belonging to the groups they claim to represent. That way (it is hoped), the group members will be conditioned to look to the government for help, and the activists to be the ones who bring home the bacon. Gays who want to emulate the racial identity politics model might want to think again. What started as a push for simple human dignity (judging a man not by the color of his skin but by the content of his character) degenerated into affirmative action, inquisitions directed at "white privilege" and the crassest sort of racial politics, in which angry and abusive scoldings are called "conversations," and the slightest disagreement is called "racism." Disagreement of any sort soon becomes "hate speech." Laugh if you will, but even my co-blogger M. Simon has been accused of promoting hate simply for disagreeing with commenters here. Geez, I hope that's not another slippery slope.

(Or can I even say slippery "slope"? I would hate to think that I might give offense to some self-appointed "rice queen" activist?)

I better stop it with this slippery slope, because this is getting offensive.

Eventually everything will be offensive. That is the nature of identity politics. Because everyone has the right not to be offended, no one has the right to offend.

In this and in many other ways, identity politics becomes destructive of the very human dignity which it was originally intended to redress. In the guise of helping enable full citizenship, identity politics becomes a crutch which makes all who depend on it less than full citizens. 

The painful irony is lost somewhere along the trajectory of the slope.

Eventually, totally non-political (even non-sexual!) things become politically offensive. Things have apparently reached the point where saying "Merry Christmas" can be considered so offensive that Santa Claus is not allowed to say it. No, seriously, that's what happened recently here in Ann Arbor (I missed out because I haven't been to see Santa in some time). And of course, because the corporate fat cats want to keep identity politics dollars flowing, they make even Santa say "Happy Holiday" instead. But beware! Saying "Happy Holidays" has also become offensive for various reasons. We have identity politics to thank.  

So at the risk of continuing my offensive sleigh ride down the slippery slope, let me conclude by saying this:

Merry Christmas everyone!

posted by Eric at 11:44 AM | Comments (5)

Night before Christmas political surrealism alert!

Not a creature was stirring, except for my mouse....

I realize that the night before Christmas is no time for kidding around, but seeing this headline was really too much:

Joe Biden disagrees with Pat Robertson on Pot

"I still believe it's a gateway drug. I've spent a lot of my life as chairman of the Judiciary Committee dealing with this. I think it would be a mistake to legalize," Biden said on Good Morning America today. "The punishment should fit the crime. But I think legalization is a mistake."

Biden is wrong on both counts. He's also covering the administration's ass for its failure to live up to Obama's promise not to go after medical marijuana. Meanwhile, Robertson is talking about not splitting up America's families with prison terms over minor recreational drug use. (And speaking of gateway drugs: It's not pot that puts one on the road to perdition, but prison and the people you might meet there.)

Via Glenn Reynolds, who couldn't have rubbed it in more when he characterized Biden as calling Pat Robertson a "squishy pothead-lover."

All I can say is if that's squish, bring it on!

Absolutely unreal.

If we add that to the fascinating factoid that none other than former Attorney General Ed Meese is saying it's time to reconsider mandatory minimum sentencing in drug cases, it's little wonder the current federal regulatory regime regime is in a panic.

Might this explain the recent abominable overrreachings by the FCC, the FDA, and the DEA?

Are they getting desperate?

A couple of days ago, M. Simon said he was beginning to detect a "tectonic shift."


It couldn't come at a better time.

posted by Eric at 11:24 PM | Comments (1)

lessons in comparative religion for children

I need to do a better job of keeping up with local news. Until today I did not realize that local activists are fighting for slower speed limits in Ann Arbor.

One of them is a public school teacher who makes a fascinating comparison between driving and ritual human sacrifice:

Jeff Gaynor, a teacher at Clague Middle School and a member of the Safe Routes to School Coalition, said he recently showed his students a video about the ancient Aztecs.

"The students were quite horrified by the idea of ritual sacrifice," he said. "And when we look at our priorities in America, we sacrifice over 40,000 people a year to our god the automobile."

Like I say, I should do a better job of keeping up with the news, for I can't believe it took me until now to learn about the true nature of the awful carnage inflicted by our religious death machine. As an insensitive, desensitized older person, I should probably be grateful that the truth about our murderous and polluting car culture is finally being imparted to our children with my tax dollars. They need to know that not only are we destroying the planet, but what we do is morally no different at all from dragging people to the tops of pyramids, chopping out their beating hearts, and feasting on their corpses.

And by owning a car, I am imposing my wicked morality on my victims!

If I were my child, I should really hate me.

I should be glad I'm not.

Because if I were my dad I'd probably want my kid to build a model of the monster god.




posted by Eric at 03:14 PM | Comments (4)

What to do after you shoot that fat bearded drunk who came down your chimney?


Whether the night before Christmas is the right time or not, I have just finished devouring -- with great relish -- a book that Glenn Reynolds recommended not long ago: After You Shoot: Your gun's hot. The perp's not. Now what?

It's a real head trip of a book, especially if you're one of those philosophical types like me who like to analyze issues and spot contradictions. If you are looking for easy answers, though, be forewarned, because if there is anything you will learn from this book, it's that there are no easy answers.

Each situation is different, the laws vary, and the innumerable attorneys and firearms experts quoted in the book have very different opinions on how to proceed should you be unfortunate enough to have to shoot a criminal in self defense.   

Author Alan Korwin's primary point is to call public attention to a major defect in what we euphemistically call "the system."

Calling 911 is an inherent exercise in self incrimination.

This point cannot be overstressed. Many an honest homeowner has been turned into a pariah, tarred by the media, and prosecuted as a criminal simply on the basis of what he said to a 911 operator in a state of fear, panic and shock. Worse, the 911 tapes can end up in the hands of the media as well as anti-gun activists (if that is a distinction with a difference) and then be played on the air or streamed at online websites (meaning they will be online forever for the world to hear). Your right to remain silent under the Fifth Amendment is inherently compromised as soon as you pick up that phone and dial 911. The author makes an excellent case for having an attorney make the 911 call for you, but this is hotly debated in the book by numerous criminal defense attorneys. They say that all they will do is tell you to shut up, which you can and should do on your own without their help -- unless of course it is in your interest not to shut up. But that can be very tricky, because each individual situation will vary. If you are in a small community with cops who are on the side of armed citizens, they might be on your side from the start. But if you are in a place like Philadelphia, with a police chief who has publicly stated that he considers armed CCW citizens to be like enemies, you can assume that from the moment you call 911, the machinery of the state will be doing its level best to build a case against you.

The overall consensus is that it is generally a good idea to invoke your right to speak with your attorney. Not "an" attorney. Your attorney. But not always. If the cops are on your side, it might be best to talk. But how on earth can you know?

Because of the obvious problems the current 911 system presents, the author proposes model legislation offering immunity to citizens who call 911 after self defense shootings. Here's a link to the language at his website:

Model legal language will protect innocent people
who defend themselves against an attacker

Defense attorneys report that about 50% of convictions
in self-defense cases rely on traumatized and frantic calls to 911
made by the victim of the assault, who survived the mortal combat.
That's just wrong. Here's a solution. Including a "teeth" clause.

I suggest reading the proposed legislation for yourself, and maybe passing it along to your favorite state legislator. After reading the author's book I think an immunity statute is more than an idea whose time has come; I think it's long overdue.

As the author points out, 911 has been with us since the 1970s, but there is no law requiring anyone to call 911. It's just become the thing to do. A social more. Most people have been conditioned to see not calling 911 in a situation involving a shooting as immoral, and it would not surprise me if many juries could be persuaded by a DA to see it as evidence of the shooter's guilt. 

But think about it in the absence of emotion and social mores. Self defense is a legal right. If someone slugs you without provocation and you defend yourself by slugging him back, he's the bad guy and you are not obligated to call 911. Why should it be any different in the case of a criminal who has invaded your home?

I often like to come up with theoretical law school exam questions, and I'd be fascinated to see one about a hypothetical homeowner who failed to call 911 after shooting a burglar who had put him in fear for his life. Assume that no one else heard the shots and called the police (this would be a safe assumption if they failed to show up after a certain amount of time had elapsed). The burglar is either alive or dead, right? Since when are citizens obligated to render aid to people who have tried to kill them? Now, if we suppose the burglar was wounded and ran away, the incident has ended. Why should there be any obligation on the part of the homeowner who has acted legally to do anything more? And if the burglar is dead or dying on the floor, what would the legal obligation be? Other than not violate whatever laws might exist against illegal disposal of human remains, I don't know. While I don't think non-reporting of legal conduct could be charged as obstruction of justice, it is quite possible that disposing of the body could be. 

Obstruction charges can also be laid if a person alters or destroys physical evidence, even if he was under no compulsion at any time to produce such evidence. Often, no actual investigation or substantiated suspicion of a specific incident need exist to support a charge of obstruction of justice.

So you might be stuck not knowing what to legally do with a dead body that happens to be in your home through no fault of your own. It would certainly seem to be evidence -- whether of your own innocence or of the guilt of the invader. Whether destroying evidence exculpatory to yourself is obstruction would be an interesting question, but common sense would suggest that a dead body in your home could lead to trouble.

Letting nature take its course might not be wise either, as it would probably render your house uninhabitable for some time as well as violate various health codes. So maybe the best way to avoid an obstruction of justice charge would be to go the Ted Kennedy route. Get shitfaced drunk and go to bed. Then much later you can get around to making phone calls to your lawyers and private investigators, and let them figure out what to do. 

But will what worked for Ted Kennedy work for an honest homeowner who acted in self defense?  

posted by Eric at 11:29 AM | Comments (9)

Freedom In The World

A nice summary from Steve Chapman, but a bit pessimistic. An optimist might have noted the world has never been more free, and posited the notion that further movement is perhaps slow because there's no more low-hanging fruit -- the remaining unfree societies of 2010 have significant pathologies. And while there wasn't a whole lot of movement towards political freedom, economic liberalization did see significant progress, which probably matters just as much in the long run.

posted by Dave at 11:04 AM | Comments (4)

The drivers these days! Especially this time of year!

Last night I drove a half an hour west of Ann Arbor and back, and this morning I drove half an hour east and back. People are in a hurry, and many of them seem stressed. Bad drivers stand out more than ever. Michigan's biggest problem is that it has set two different highway speed limits -- 60 mph for trucks and 70 mph for cars. It used to be 55 for trucks (it was raised in 2006) and while I guess the idea is safety, much of the time (especially when half of the vehicles on the road are trucks) it merely creates a trap for the unwary. People in the left hand lane go at least 75 (usually 80 and over), while people in the right are limited to the truck speed, because that's usually where the trucks are. So with any traffic volume, you can be stuck in that right lane for a long time, waiting and hoping for a chance to make an escape. But then when you get in the left lane, you are faced with another balancing act, which is when to get back over into the right.

I try to be courteous to other drivers, as one of the things that galls me is these cretins who seem to believe they have a God-given right to stay in the left lane at whatever speed they happen to have set the cruise control on. So, when I see someone behind me going faster, I get over. But OTOH, I don't like to have to immediately get over when doing that entails sandwiching myself between two slow-moving trucks. And what really ticks me off is when I am not the one obstructing the passing lane, but the asshole in front of me who won't get over is the problem. Still, I try to comply with demands of the tailgating asshole behind me, not only because that's the law and it's polite, but because I hate being stuck in this phenomenon of endless mutual tailgating. It seems the unofficial rule of the road (assuming you want to get from point A to point B) boils down to this:

When you are tailgated, you must tailgate!

What could suck more than that? Anyway, this morning I was noticing and getting annoyed by the usual bad driving to and from the airport, but on the drive home I uncharacteristically grew reflective for a moment, and I noticed something I almost never, ever notice. Two things, in fact.

First was a driver in front of me in the left. I had my cruise control set somewhere in the low 70s (always safe if you don't want a ticket), and I saw a car in front of me in the left going more slowly. Conditioned to think of the slow people as assholes, I began to plan my strategy accordingly, and I looked over to find the longest gap in what ought to be called "the truck lane." As I was gauging what to do, the driver simply pulled over into the right courteously as he was supposed to. My first thought was how abnormal that seemed. But as I reflected, I realized that this happens all the time. Most people know the rules of the road, and they do get over. But I don't notice that. It is wholly unremarkable. 

As I thought over the remarkable nature of the unremarkable, I noticed another car in front of me which looked as if it might be going too slowly, but at that point the highway had widened, which meant the addition of an invaluable middle lane. Rather than tailgate the driver in front of me (as if to test his politeness), I just thought I would move over to the middle. Not to pass on the right (because I didn't know whether I would be doing that) but just so I could effortlessly maintain my cruise control speed. Not long after I had done that, a speeding pickup truck (easily doing 90) zoomed up behind the car in the left lane, then cut right in front of me (without signaling of course) and, seeing another car in front of me, continued all the way over to the right lane, stayed there long enough to get in front of the car in front of me, and then zoomed back in. Basically he just swerved rapidly all the way across the road, cutting off all drivers without ever signalling at all.

"Typical!" I thought. 

But not long after that I saw another car using turn signals in the normal fashion, and I grew reflective again, because as I realize that it was remarkable only in contrast to the maniac who had just crisscrossed the road, I thought of how many thousands of times I have utterly failed to notice people who signal properly (as several did later). They are doing what they should do. It is normal, and therefore boring.

If ordinary things and people are too boring to notice, who would bother keeping track of them?

Imagine if I wrote a blog post about normal people behaving in a courteous manner! What could be more tedious than that? We just don't notice the norm. Not that we should notice the norm; only the abnormal, the annoying or the unusual is worthy of attention. That's what I spend my time noticing, dammit! If I didn't, I wouldn't have much to say in this blog. The downside is that this can lead to illogical and mistaken thinking, especially when it is compounded by stereotypes. Old damn broken down falling apart cars! Hippie cars covered with leftist bumperstickers! Cars with stuffed animals cluttering up the back windshield! Cars with New Jersey license plates! Subarus (aka "lesbarus") that refuse to go faster than the "green" speed of 55! Or their stereotypical opposite, BMWs that seem to be driven only by people who think they are professional race car drivers with a God-given right to tailgate! Or the cars that blast BOOM-BA-BOOM-BOOM! garbage noise at concert hall pitch as they drive through residential neighborhoods! (I am sure I missed a few obnoxious minorities, but it is tedious enough without trying to list them all.)

If all you do is focus on the obnoxious, the rude, the loud, the annoying, and the abnormal, then that tends to become your norm. Normal means potential disaster -- everywhere and in all directions. I don't mean to deny the existence of and constant possibility of potential disasters -- even catastrophes -- but sometimes it is worth remembering that there's a lot of ordinary, non-disastrous, normal, quiet, even polite, "dullness" out there.

Ignoring the unremarkable has its pitfalls. It can lead to having a view of life which is, well, inaccurate.

I mean, who wants to spend a life completely missing the reality which actually exists for a majority of people most of the time?

posted by Eric at 09:27 AM | Comments (4)

The Times They Are A Changin'

Pat Robertson thinks the war on marijuana is bad for family values. I have been saying that for decades. I have been posting this link often: Demographics. It runs down what mass incarceration does to family values.

BTW Pat says he is "not exactly for the use of drugs". I'd love to find what exactly he is for.

I also wonder what his real motivation is. Why now? Why not 5 years ago? Maybe he is a secret user of med pot. Or he has some one close to him who uses med pot. Or perhaps news of things like The Mutiny In Montana have filtered in to him. Or maybe it really is what he claims - his prison ministry opened his eyes.

Well any way Pat. Welcome aboard. I hope you bring a few of your friends with you.

I think I'm detecting the beginnings of a tectonic shift in attitudes towards the War On Marijuana. A long time friend (in Internet Years) who is deeply religious threw in the towel on pot prohibition about 6 months ago in a private communication to me. I wonder if Pat's "coming out" will embolden my friend to go public? In any case the last major pocket of resistance to the end of Cannabis Prohibition (those who favor prohibition on religious grounds) is beginning to crumble. The end is nigh.

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 09:05 AM | Comments (8)

Pill Outbreak

Southern Ohio is in the midst of a public health emergency. There is a serious outbreak of pills in the area.

Nearly one in 10 babies were born addicted to drugs last year in southern Ohio's Scioto County. Rehab admissions for prescription painkiller addictions were five times the national average. In a rare step, the health commissioner declared a public health emergency, something usually reserved for disease outbreaks.

The culprits putting the rural county at the forefront of a burgeoning national problem are not only the people abusing the painkillers, officials say. They blame at least eight area "pill mills" -- clinics or doctors that dole out prescription medications like OxyContin with little discretion. At least two health care providers are facing criminal charges.

"I would describe it as if a pharmaceutical atomic bomb went off," said Lisa Roberts, a nurse for the health department in Portsmouth, an Ohio River city of about 20,000 with falling population and high unemployment.

Health officials say nine of every 10 fatal drug overdoses in Scioto (pronounced sy-OH'-toh) County are caused by prescription drugs. Of those drug deaths, nearly two-thirds of the individuals did not have prescriptions, meaning they bought the drugs illegally or got them from friends or family.

Obviously since 2/3rds did not get their medications legally the "pill mills" are at fault.

There are other "pill mills" around the country that are getting attention.

By publicly defending Stephen and Linda Schneider, a Kansas doctor and nurse accused of running a "pill mill," pain treatment activist Siobhan Reynolds irked the prosecutor assigned to the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Tanya Treadway was so annoyed that in April 2008 she sought a court order telling Reynolds to shut up. Concluding that such an order would be an unconstitutional prior restraint of speech, U.S. District Judge Monti Belot said no.

But by the time Belot sentenced the Schneiders last month, he was so irritated by Reynolds' advocacy on behalf of the couple that he could not contain himself. He said he hoped the harsh sentences--three decades each--would "curtail or stop the activities of the Bozo the Clown outfit known as the Pain [Relief] Network, a ship of fools if there ever was one."

Reynolds, who founded the Pain Relief Network (PRN) in 2003 to highlight the chilling effect of drug law enforcement on the practice of medicine, evidently has a talent for getting under the skin of people in power. But that is not a crime. By treating it as such, Treadway has used grand jury secrecy to cloak an unconstitutional vendetta.

The previous link leads to the PRN in case you want to learn more.

Of course I have written about the war on pain patients before. Just another advantage of having a war on pain relievers. What is the new motto in American jurisprudence? "Better 10,000 in pain than one additional drug abuser." You have to look at this in a positive light though.If you are in pain there is a thriving black market if you can afford it.

Here is a book that addresses current policy:

Pain Control and Drug Policy: A Time for Change

Here are some short reviews:

"A captivating and a powerfully expressed condemnation of the mindless folly of drug policy. Its great strength is the clarity of thought and power of expression." Paul O'Mahony Ph.D., Criminologist, Trinity College, Dublin.
--Book Review

"A dispassionate and multifaceted analysis of the harmful effects of drug policy in the US and abroad [that calls for] re-legalizing all illicit drugs." Jeffrey A. Miron, Ph.D., Harvard University, Cambridge, MA --Book Review

"Faguet's book is the latest classic in a growing literature on the divisive and counterproductive nature of drug wars. In passionate terms, he describes the history and development of current legislation and reveals that, far from protecting society, current drug policy undermines the fragile social, political, and legal infrastructures of producer countries and penalizes millions of petty offenders and pain sufferers in consumer countries. Strongly argued and uncompromising, this is essential reading for anyone with an open-mind, and an interest in drugs and drug legislation." --John B.Davies BA., Ph.D., C.Psychol., FBPsS., FRSM, Professor of Psychology, Director, Centre for Applied Social Psychology, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland

I have to agree with the reviews. A well working prohibition (yeah a logical prohibition - a novel idea) should keep drugs from those who supposedly don't need them and get them (through legal markets) to people who do. Instead our policies insure pretty much the opposite. Not to mention that for 30 years it has been considerably easier for kids to get an illegal drug than to get a legal beer according to government surveys. What is the point of that?

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:11 PM | Comments (1)

Bias in bulk

Via Glenn's link to Snowflakes in Hell, I learned about a new gun control proposal they're trying to sneak through. By "they" I don't mean only the Obama administration, or Mayor Bloomberg, or the BATF. I also include the Washington Post, because of the sneaky way the proposal is described:

To stem the flow of guns to Mexico, federal firearms regulators are proposing an emergency requirement that certain gun dealers along the southwestern border report bulk sales of so-called assault weapons beginning as soon as January.

When most people read the term "bulk sales," they are thinking in terms of truckloads, maybe even railroad carloads. I might have thought so too, except I'm so persnickety about weasel wording that I thought to check.

Here's the relevant language in the proposal (pdf):

The purpose of the information is to require Federal Firearms Licensees to report multiple sales or other dispositions whenever the licensee sells or otherwise disposes of two or more rifles within any five consecutive business days with the following characteristics: (a) semi automatic; (b) a caliber greater than .22; and (c) the ability to accept a detachable magazine.

Aside from the fact that the above do not constitute "assault weapons," since when is a dealer selling two guns in five days a bulk sale?

I would expect most dealers to sell more than that if they wanted to pay their rent. Moreover, the proposal does not say that the guns have to be sold to the same purchasor. Obviously, the intent is to require gun dealers to be constantly filing as many reports as possible. And obviously the Washington Post is in favor of that, which is why they're trying to soften up the general public by calling the sale of two guns in five days a "bulk sale."

It is anything but a bulk sale according to the business definition:

    Bulk sale

    Large volume of goods sold in a single transaction.

That is not what the BATF is seeking to regulate, and it is deceptive to suggest that it is.

This is clearly a proposal to harass gun dealers by forcing them to generate constant paperwork -- apparently for no other reason than the fact that they are located near the Mexican border. (Where these days law abiding citizens are more in need of guns for personal protection than in most other parts of the country.)

So what's up with the Post? Do they really think that selling two items is a bulk sale? Or are they just hoping they can call it that and the readers won't notice?

posted by Eric at 12:51 PM | Comments (2)

How gay is prison rape?

As there has been some debate recently over the possibility of gay soldiers engaging in sexual harassment of straight soldiers (which some would apparently define as being gay while showering with men who aren't), I thought I would take a look at a frustrating issue that I have never quite been able to clarify to my satisfaction:

Precisely what is gay?

Notice I did not say "what is homosexual?" -- because not all homosexual conduct correlates with being gay. For example, the type of men who rape other men in prison do not consider themselves gay. Nor are they considered gay by other inmates:

In many cases among men, the partner who penetrates another sexually is not regarded as homosexual among fellow inmates, and the receptive partner (who may or may not be consenting) is called a "woman", a "bitch," a "punk," or a "prag," and is regarded as homosexual[citation needed]. In the United States in particular, rape in prisons is a major problem, and may be perpetrated by inmates who do not view themselves as bisexual or homosexual. One of the conceptions that tends to minimize prison rape and sexual coercion is that the penetrating partner uses the act primarily to assert control or dominance, thus minimizing this activity as an expression of sexuality per se, an idea which is still repugnant to many, including perpetrators themselves. A man who has been raped, or who has been the receptive partner during intercourse, is often regarded as less masculine and hence a target for future rape and other violence.

According to one study,[4] 22.3% of male U.S. prison inmates had reported being a victim of prison rape. Although the rapist or the male who coerces sex with another male has clearly chosen to have sex with another male, other prisoners will view the male who has been raped or coerced as homosexual if he is unwilling to kill or die to protect himself from rape or is willing to negotiate a relationship to protect himself from attack by multiple rapists, while the perpetrator is not similarly labeled. This encourages and perpetuates sexual violence in an atmosphere where power and the perception thereof is regarded as paramount.

Arab men who have sex with other males do not consider themselves gay either.

If a man assumes the active role in anal intercourse with another man, his action is not necessarily regarded as shameful or as indicating any particular sexual orientation. He is merely performing the role that men normally perform in intercourse with women. The fact that he does this with a man rather than a woman may even be interpreted as a sign of heightened masculinity, since sex with another man is popularly thought to require greater strength or sexual prowess (indeed, many of the gay men who survived attacks in Iraq say they were raped by their attackers).

Assuming the passive position, on the other hand, is considered demeaning, since in this case the man takes on the role of a woman. The element of "shame", therefore, rests on an assumption that women are inferior to men. There is also a widespread belief that those assume the "female" role in sex cannot be doing it for pleasure - hence the tendency of the Egyptian police to regard such men as prostitutes.18

In the view of many Arabs, therefore, the significant distinction is not between heterosexual and homosexual but between penetrator and penetrated: men are the penetrators (of women and sometimes other men) while women are the penetrated - in which case the "deviance" of the shaadh is that he behaves as a woman.19

Unless their rapists are also to be considered gay, in both prison culture here and in Arab culture, gay men are clearly more likely to be victims of rape than rapists. (Because of this, those considered vulnerable are placed in protective custody in prisons.)

Are we to consider all men who rape men to be "gay." Are they? I don't think there is agreement on this point.

Does it matter? I don't honestly know. The answer would seem to depend on how "gay" is defined, as well as whether it is possible for heterosexual males to engage in homosexual behavior. Is it?

In Arab culture, the concept of "gay" seems to be an alien, Western one -- which relates not so much to sexuality but to emotion. Namely, love:

"Since the concept of same-sex relations does not exist in the Arab world, being 'Gay' is still considered to be a sexual behavior," says Outreach Director of the Gay and Lesbian Arab Society, Ramzi Zakharia, in an e-mail interview. But according to Western definition, "that limits it to 'homosexual' behavior, which does not mean that the person is Gay. Just because you sleep with a member of the same sex does not mean you are Gay... it just means that you are engaging in homosexual activity. Once a relationship develops beyond sex (i.e: love) this is when the term gay applies," adds akharia.

He believes that gays in the Arab world, unlike those in Western societies, "limit their activities to sex and rarely explore feelings beyond that," experience.


It would seem that in order to be considered "gay" in Arab culture there has to be a capacity of emotional reciprocation, as well as an acknowledgment of it. Thus, it might be misleading for news articles like this to refer to the rape of young Al Qaeda converts as "gay rape."

I cannot resolve these questions in a blog post, and the most I can do is attempt to spot issues. But it has long struck me that being gay involves more than engaging in homosexual acts; it would seem to require acknowledgement of it as a preference, and maybe even a lifestyle.

After being raped in prison, Charles Manson reportedly said "it's only gay if you like it." Which means he did not consider himself to be gay. (Even though he had a prison record as a homosexual rapist.) It's pretty clear, though, that on the outside, Manson preferred women. Is Manson gay? Whether he is or not, a sub-issue involves whether his gay status would be considered an indictment of gays, or of being gay. I don't think it would be, but some people -- especially those who carry on about Adolf Hitler being gay -- clearly would. Yet if Manson is considered straight, that would not be considered an indictment of straight people. Why is that? Is homosexual rape an indictment of gays if the rapists are considered gay, but it is not an indictment of heterosexuals if the rapists are considered straight?

If gays who engage have engaged in heterosexual sex are nonetheless gay, then why aren't straights who have engaged in homosexual sex nonetheless straight? Does gay subsume straight? Who gets to decide these things? Those who care the most? Aren't those who care the most also the most biased? How about the least biased -- those who care the least? Should the people who care the least be deciding things for the people who care the most?

The more I think about these things, the less sense they begin to make.

posted by Eric at 11:25 AM | Comments (10)

Three Matches

*If it's okay, I'll put up another free short story.  I put it up on my blog at According To Hoyt and Mad Genius Club also.  It's often easier for me to write a story than an article though there will be some of those once I recover from three days of remodelling the master bathroom (It was accidental, I swear.  I mean, I didn't mean to do it just then, only I set out to clean and next thing you know I'm peeling the awful mildewy paper off the walls and sanding them.  And now I'm exhausted and have a cold.)  It's set in the world of my Shifter series which is my interpretation of urban fantasy and probably a "uh?" for everyone else.  Draw One In The Dark, the first book, is out of print but available in electronic format from Baen.com.   The publisher says she'll reprint whent he third one comes out (in 12!)  Gentleman Takes A Chance, the second book, is around.  Oh, and the story was written because Knight Agency, which represents me, asked me to write something about my favorite holiday short story.  Insofar as I have one, it's The Little Match Girl because it's "real" -- i.e. as Pratchett would say, in the end it all comes down to the blood and the death which is where the real stories are.  Unfortunately, being tired, I found it easier to write a short than an article.  And being too tired for the blood and the death made it whimsical.*

Three Matches

You shouldn't cry when it's snowing.  Besides, crying wasn't going to do me a bit of good.  Not on New Year's Night with a blizzard blowing in low and tight over the city of Goldport, Colorado and turning everything further than two inches from my nose into vague shapes that I no more than suspected might exist.

I abandoned my car on Fairfax Avenue.  People say Fairfax is the longest straight street in the western states.  Perhaps it is, since it runs from one end of Goldport to the other and clean out of town on the other side.  Which makes it a very easy street to follow, even in pitch dark night and under the snow.  But not when your car was low on gas and the street was coated in ice.

As I got out of the car, pulling my gloves on and wishing I were wearing my snowboots and not the tennis shoes, I thought mom might have been right at that, when she said dad hadn't left her so much as he'd left Colorado.  You see, my father was a meteorologist, and mom said the Colorado weather had driven him insane being completely unpredictable.  You could start the day with eighty degrees and bright sunshine and end up at noon in a hard frost and subzero temperatures.  I'd always suspected dad had other reasons for leaving, but now I wasn't so sure.

I'd left Denver, three hours ago, in eighty degree weather and bright sunshine and look at me now.

Blinking, because it felt like my eyes would be frozen in their sockets, I walked carefully along the street, heading for the sidewalk.  There should be a space near the buildings where it was relatively warmer and perhaps not quite so icy.  Also there was a chance - okay, a chance in Hades - that a coffee shop or restaurant or something had left its door unlocked.  And that would be good, even if no one where there, because then there was the chance I wouldn't die.

The thought surprised me, because I had been thinking of it in terms of stupidity and annoyance.  Stupid, stupid Rya had left home without her snow boots, or her emergency kit in the car.  Stupid, stupid Rya had blown past the small towns on the way here without thinking to get her tank filled up.  Now the thought came, stark and naked.  Stupid, stupid Rya is going to die.

Which stopped my mind from spinning on the track it had been playing since I'd left Denver - how to tell one's mom and step dad about one's little embarrassing problem.  Particularly when said embarrassing problem is of a bizarre enough nature they'll consider having one committed?

In the sudden blankness of thought, I patted my pockets, suddenly wondering if I had what it took to survive this, if perhaps there would be a reprieve from my fatal idiocy.  This was when I realized my stupidity was greater than it seemed.  I'd brought my mom's jacket instead of my own.  Which meant I didn't have my cell phone, or my lip balm - so I'd die with cracked lips - or the mini candy bar I'd put there after grandma's holiday party.  On the other hand, I had a matchbook, that mom must have picked up somewhere and put in there.  I brought the matchbook out, wondering why people even gave them out considering that there was no smoking in bars or restaurants in Colorado anymore.  It was black, with a name and address printed on it.

I blinked.  The George.  On Fairfax Avenue.  In Goldport.  That didn't even make any sense.  I'd come to Goldport to University, but I didn't think my mom had even bothered to visit since the first weekend of my freshman year.  It was all "Rya, won't you come home."  And "Rya, darling, grandma is having a party."

Grandma wasn't really.  She was my stepdad's mom.  Not that there was anything wrong with her.  Or with Mark, my stepdad, except I always got the impression that they were more interested in having me there so they could show what a great family we were than in me, as such.

How long had mom been carting this around?  On the one hand the matchbook looked barely creased.  On the other hand, there were only three matches in it.  Right.  Three matches.

I found the edge of the sidewalk next to the buildings.  I was right there was less ice there, except for little patches there the water had melted and run or perhaps run before it froze.  I could watch for those, as I moved along, looking at the numbers.  From the numbers, the George was about eighteen blocks that way which, of course, gave me plenty of time to freeze to death.

Continue reading "Three Matches"

posted by Sarah at 09:54 AM | Comments (0)

Will ROTC be able to pass the campus "literacy test"?

When Glenn linked my post about whether incest is banned in the military, he not only made my post look funnier that I had thought it was, he reminded me of an obvious irony:

IF NOT, RESTORING ROTC TO COLUMBIA WILL JUST BE THAT MUCH EASIER: "Does anyone know whether the Code of Military Justice prohibits incest?"

Unfortunately, regardless of whether there's a military ban on incest (or homosexuality, or anything else), I'm afraid that the ROTC will remain banned.

I have never believed that DADT was the reason for the ROTC ban. It was simply a convenient excuse -- and a dishonest one at that, because DADT was not the military's own policy, but an act of Congress.

Congress told the military to discriminate against gays.

Which means that had these universities wanted to be consistent, they should have also banned Congressional recruiting on campus..

I remember getting into debates with leftist friends back in the days of the original hubbub over gays in the military in the early 90s, and it always struck me that they were against the military more than they were for gays. That a patriotic gay man might sincerely want to serve his country struck them as silly, even pathetic, as their thinking was "why would anyone want to serve in the military?" It seemed quite obvious to me that they were deeply anti-military, and were only supporting gays in the military as a way thumb their noses at the military.

To understand how outrageous and condescending this is, try putting yourself for a moment in the position of being a patriotic gay man. (Yes, there are such things.) Your so-called "friends" on the left claim to be supportive your right to serve in the military that they hate, and it gradually creeps up on you that they see you as a sort of leftist ally -- to be supported and used as a pawn in furtherance of their goal of degrading the military.

It's pretty sickening.

Anyway, the left hates the military just as much now as they did then. And if I am right in my speculation and they were using DADT as a convenient excuse to kick ROTC off campus, they'll find another excuse. Who knows what it will be? Maybe some "terrorist training camp" they don't like in Fort Benning, maybe "human rights abuses" at Guantanamo. And of course there's always "torture."

They will find something, because they are anti-military bigots, and finding something to hold against the military is what anti-military bigots do. Like many bigots, they claim that they are not bigoted, but just following their rules.

Speaking of bigots who claim not to be bigoted, I am reminded of the many stories from the Civil Rights era about the use of "literacy tests" to deny blacks the right to vote. These "tests" were not designed to test literacy, but were simply a ruse in which bigoted clerks came up with clever ways to disenfranchise black voters while officially denying that they were bigoted. A black applicant might, for example, be asked to construe a page of Chaucer. Or (as in the case of an apocryphal story which I was amazed to find online) to read and translate from a Chinese newspaper:

...my favorite example of using the law to discriminate is the story of the old black man who showed up to vote when the 'Jim Crow' laws were still in effect. The 'law' said voters had to demonstrate they could read.

The poll worker asked the black gentleman if he could read. The black gentleman said yes. The poll worker shoved a newspaper across the table and demanded the man read it.

It was written in Chinese.

The gentleman said I caint read that but I can tell you what it says.

Oh yeah, what's that? the poll worker replied.

The gentleman responded, It says, "Ain't no black man gonna vote here today."

Similarly, ain't no ROTC gonna be allowed at Columbia either!

posted by Eric at 01:04 PM | Comments (7)

Mutiny In Montana

The Missoulian reports on a marijuana case in Montana that went bad for the prosecution. They couldn't seat a jury.

A funny thing happened on the way to a trial in Missoula County District Court last week.

Jurors - well, potential jurors - staged a revolt.

They took the law into their own hands, as it were, and made it clear they weren't about to convict anybody for having a couple of buds of marijuana. Never mind that the defendant in question also faced a felony charge of criminal distribution of dangerous drugs.

The tiny amount of marijuana police found while searching Touray Cornell's home on April 23 became a huge issue for some members of the jury panel.

No, they said, one after the other. No way would they convict somebody for having a 16th of an ounce.

In fact, one juror wondered why the county was wasting time and money prosecuting the case at all, said a flummoxed Deputy Missoula County Attorney Andrew Paul.

District Judge Dusty Deschamps took a quick poll as to who might agree. Of the 27 potential jurors before him, maybe five raised their hands. A couple of others had already been excused because of their philosophical objections.

"I thought, 'Geez, I don't know if we can seat a jury,' " said Deschamps, who called a recess.

No jury was seated.

Evidently public opinion in the matter of marijuana prohibition is changing.

"Public opinion, as revealed by the reaction of a substantial portion of the members of the jury called to try the charges on Dec. 16, 2010, is not supportive of the state's marijuana law and appeared to prevent any conviction from being obtained simply because an unbiased jury did not appear available under any circumstances," according to the plea memorandum filed by his attorney.

"A mutiny," said Paul.

"Bizarre," the defense attorney called it.

In his nearly 30 years as a prosecutor and judge, Deschamps said he's never seen anything like it.

The question of course is an interesting one. If juries are empaneled only with people who support the marijuana laws are you really getting a jury of your peers? It does look as if that question may be becoming moot.

And who was in the jury pool that forced this action?

"I think it's going to become increasingly difficult to seat a jury in marijuana cases, at least the ones involving a small amount," Deschamps said.

The attorneys and the judge all noted Missoula County's approval in 2006 of Initiative 2, which required law enforcement to treat marijuana crimes as their lowest priority - and also of the 2004 approval of a statewide medical marijuana ballot initiative.

And all three noticed the age of the members of the jury pool who objected. A couple looked to be in their 20s. A couple in their 40s. But one of the most vocal was in her 60s.

"It's kind of a reflection of society as a whole on the issue," said Deschamps.

Which begs a question, he said.

Given the fact that marijuana use became widespread in the 1960s, most of those early users are now in late middle age and fast approaching elderly.

Is it fair, Deschamps wondered, in such cases to insist upon impaneling a jury of "hardliners" who object to all drug use, including marijuana?

"I think that poses a real challenge in proceeding," he said. "Are we really seating a jury of their peers if we just leave people on who are militant on the subject?"

Jury nullification has a long tradition. It is one of the last recourses of the people from a legislature intent on making bad law. There is in fact an organization devoted to it. FIJA - Fully Informed Jury Association. And there are books. This one got a 5 star rating.

Jury Nullification: The Evolution of a Doctrine

From the product description:

Juries have been delivering independent verdicts in the interest of justice for over 800 years, and many legal historians and scholars believe the value of juries is their power to act as the "conscience of the community," serving as the final check and balance on government in the moment of truth. If juries are nothing more than rubber stamps, they are no limit on government's power to pass unjust, immoral, or oppressive laws, and citizens are entirely at the mercy of sometimes jaded or corrupt courts and legislatures. This was what the Founding Fathers feared, and this is the reason why they guaranteed trial by jury three times in the Constitution -- more than any other right.

In Jury Nullification, author Clay Conrad examines the history, the law, and the practical and political implications of jury independence, examining in depth the role of nullification in capital punishment law, the dark side of jury nullification in Southern lynching and civil rights cases, and the purpose and legal effect of the juror's oath. The book concludes with an examination of what trial lawyers can do when nullification is the best available defense.

Yesterday I got an e-mail from a prof. of law (ret.) which speaks to the issue. I quote it here with permission.
In 1970 when I was a baby lawyer, the MINIMUM sentence for possession of any "useable amount" of marijuana in Texas was 2 years in prison. I started practicing in Lubbock -- then, as now, one of the most conservative parts of the state.

Judges would normally summon a panel of 30-40 veniremen to get a jury of 12 for a felony trial. But the early 70s, they were summoning panels of 150 in marijuana cases, and even then they often could not find 12 people willing to send someone to prison for 2 years for marijuana possession.

By the mid-70s, the Criminal Code was changed, reducing marijuana possession to a Class B misdemeanor.

This is jury nullification at its finest.

The times they are a changin'.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:19 PM | Comments (10)

yucky is unbecoming

Quick question.

Does anyone know whether the Code of Military Justice prohibits incest?

William Saletan claims that it does,

Technically, the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Manual for Courts-Martial prohibit sodomy, bigamy, adultery, "wrongful" cohabitation, and incest.

Except the link he provides does not prohibit incest; it merely lists incest as an example of the sort of crime which cannot give rise to a conspiracy charge between the two parties:

There can be no conspiracy where the agreement exists only between the persons necessary to commit such an offense. Examples include dueling, bigamy, incest, adultery, and bribery.

That language does not prohibit incest. I figured it might be listed along with the sections that prohibit homosexuality and adultery, but then I read that adultery itself is nowhere specifically prohibited. Instead, it falls into the catchall rubric of Article 134:

Articles 77 through 134 of the UCMJ encompasses the "punitive offenses" (these are crimes one can be prosecuted for). None of those articles specifically mentions adultery.

Adultery by members of the military is rarely prosecuted, but could be prosecuted under Article 134, which does list adultery as coming under the "General Article." Article 134 (60) does not prohibit adultery, but simply prohibits conduct which is of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces, or conduct which is prejudicial to good order and discipline.

"Though not specifically mentioned in this chapter, all disorders and neglects to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces, all conduct of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces, and crimes and offenses not capital, of which persons subject to this chapter may be guilty, shall be taken cognizance of by a general, special, or summary court-martial, according to the nature and degree of the offense, and shall be punished at the discretion of that court."

Incest is not listed at all, but I suspect that Article 134 could be said to include incest if it became publicly known that a soldier did that. There was, BTW, a famous military incest prosecution in the 19th century, and according to a reviewer, they not only used the catchall language, but refrained from specifying the details of the underlying conduct:

Army Captain Andrew J. Geddes for 'Conduct Unbecoming and Officer'. He accused another officer, Lieutenant Louis H. Orleman, of incest with his daughter Lillie. Orleman preempted the charges of Geddes by filing his own complaint that Geddes tried to seduce and abduct his daughter. The act of incest was so unspeakable at the time (1879), the Army chose to court marshal Geddes instead Orleman for 'Conduct Unbecoming' with specifications 'not fit to be specified'.

It would be unconstitutional to impose a general prohibition on civilians, because a law which prohibited, say, "all disorders and neglects to the prejudice of good order and discipline," or "all conduct of a nature to bring discredit" would be void for vagueness. But the military does not have to abide by the same standards.

Anyway, I found no specific prohibition on incest in the UCMJ and I got tired of looking.

Anyone who knows military law feel free to chime in.

I think that incest would be "conduct unbecoming" because for the vast majority of people -- whether in the military or not -- it triggers the "yuck factor." And obviously, what triggers the yuck factor varies over time. A majority of Americans once thought that homosexuality was yucky; today a majority do not believe it should be a bar to employment or military service.

"Yuckiness" seems to be dictated by majority sensibilities of the time. Cockfighting was once a very popular sport in this country, and a number of presidents were aficionados. It would not surprise me if two soldiers today were caught pitting cocks, they would be subject to discipline (especially if the media got hold of the story), because so many people are horrified by the sport today. According to a discussion here, they could be -- but again it would fall under the "conduct unbecoming" catchall of Section 134. But there is a push to add a specific cruelty to animals section to the UCMJ. Until that passes, cruelty to animals would be treated like incest. Both are unbecoming.

UPDATE: Many thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link -- especially for spotting an obvious irony that I missed. (Personally, I think it will take a lot more than legal incest to restore ROTC to Columbia, though...)

A warm welcome to all. Comments appreciated.

posted by Eric at 12:04 PM | Comments (14)

my endless search for the meaningful and sane

A comment to an earlier post touches on an intractable problem which refuses to go away, and makes me feel as if I am in a permanent Catch 22.

<i>I just have one question: why do you keep treating Sullivan as if he's meaningful or even sane? One shouldn't feed trolls nor like to the mad.</a>

I don't know whether I treated Sullivan as meaningful or sane; what I did was to attempt to address his criticism of Glenn Reynolds.

But maybe that commenter has a point. Perhaps I came across as being too fair to Andrew Sullivan.

Should I have simply ignored Sullivan's snark? Why? I was trying to make a point about the difficulties inherent in criticizing Communism, and I thought that Sullivan's remark showed how touchy the subject can be. 

What would people have me do? Indignantly level personal attacks on Sullivan? He is a blogger, and even though he is a lot more prominent and influential than I am, it seems like a cheap shot for me to hurl insults his way. (As regular readers know, hurling insults is not my style.) But it seems that now that I am being criticized for mentioning him at all, by someone who thinks I am being a weenie for treating him as if he is sane.

What is the lesson here? To either launch a vituperative attack or just remain silent? That would leave me with nothing to say at all. 

If I see something that strikes me as worthy of criticism, I will try to address it logically.

Let's take American Family Association leader Bryan Fischer as an example. According to him, Question Number One for all Republican leaders is whether they are going to reinstitute the ban on homosexuals in the military. It's the one hope America has left:

The one hope America has left is to elect Republican leaders at all levels, including the presidency, who will be determined to reinstate the ban on homosexuals in the military in 2013. That is now question number one for every Republican wannabe president, every Republican wannabe senator, every Republican wannabe congressman in the next election cycle: will you support a plan to reinstate the ban on homosexual military service? If not, every conservative must say you can forget about my support, my dollars, and my vote.

Considering how the man feels about homosexuals, the above is not surprising. Fischer is one of those "Hitler was gay" believers, and he has gone to great lengths to tie homosexuality to Nazism. 

Hitler himself was an active homosexual. And some people wonder, didn't the Germans, didn't the Nazis, persecute homosexuals? And it is true they did; they persecuted effeminate homosexuals. But Hitler recruited around him homosexuals to make up his Stormtroopers, they were his enforcers, they were his thugs. And Hitler discovered that he could not get straight soldiers to be savage and brutal and vicious enough to carry out his orders, but that homosexual solders basically had no limits and the savagery and brutality they were willing to inflict on whomever Hitler sent them after. So he surrounded himself, virtually all of the Stormtroopers, the Brownshirts, were male homosexuals.

I hate to be a party pooper, but the above is not accurate. While there was a homosexual clique in the early days of the brownshirts, Hitler (using Himmler as his henchman) had them uprooted and killed in the notorious Night of the Long Knives. That was in 1934 -- years before the savagery and brutality that the Nazis inflicted on the world, and on the Jews. (After the crackdown, Hitler specificially ordered an end to "homosexuality, debauchery, drunkenness, and high living" in the Brownshirts.) It is beyond dispute that Heinrich Himmler followed up with a regular, systematic uprooting of any Nazi homosexuals he could find along with homosexuals in the general population.He didn't pussyfoot around, either.

In the SS, today, we still have about one case of homosexuality a month. In a whole year, about eight to ten cases occur in the entire SS. I have now decided upon the following: In each case, these people will naturally be publicly degraded, expelled, and handed over to the courts. Following completion of the punishment imposed by the courts, they will be sent, by my order, to a concentration camp, and they will be shot in the concentration camp, while attempting to escape.

Heinrich Himmler, 18 February 1937 (1)

Although there is always speculation, most serious historians do not believe Hitler was gay. (And of course Nazi ideology was and remains virulently anti-gay. The pink triangle was a concentration camp badge.)

But what matters in the context of Fischer is not historical truth, but his truth. He believes the Nazis were gay as a sort of article of faith. Which means he probably thinks that reinstating the ban on homosexual military service will keep the gay Nazis from ruining the military. After all, he also blames homosexuality for the Holocaust.

Homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine and six million dead Jews.

If homosexuality in fact gave us the Holocaust, what I can't figure out is why Hitler would have purged his ranks of those who "basically had no limits and the savagery and brutality they were willing to inflict on whomever Hitler sent them after." Especially if he was gay himself. Bryan Fischer claims to know, and he bases his claims on a single book by a German historian who speculated that Hitler was a homosexual who killed everyone who knew his secret (thus there is no solid proof). Yet even according to that author, "What I stress in my book is that Holocaust has nothing to do with Hitler's homosexuality at all."

Fischer's contentions are critiqued in detail here. I especially enjoyed a remark Hitler made about the role of homosexuals in history to Rudolf Diels (first chief of the Gestapo):

"He [Hitler] lectured me on the role of homosexuality in history and politics. It had destroyed ancient Greece he said. Once rife, it extended its contagious effects like an ineluctable law of nature to the best and most manly of characters, elimination from the reproductive process those very men on whose offspring a nation depended. The immediate result of the vice, however, was that unnatural passion swiftly became dominant in public affairs if it were allowed to spread unchecked".

I would say that I think that the above remark sounds awfully like the arguments spouted by Bryan Fischer and his organization except I always try to avoid violating Godwin's Law on Sundays. 

And because I made the mistake of treating Andrew Sullivan as meaningful or sane, I must do the same for Bryan Fischer.  

So I'll just say that it is my considered opinion that Hitler was not gay, that homosexuality was not responsible for the Holocaust, and that reinstituting the ban on gays in the military is not Question Number One.

I'll leave the fun to Comedy Central, with "Gay Reichs."



The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Gay Reichs
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog</a> The Daily Show on Facebook


UPDATE: Many thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link, and a warm welcome to all.

Comments welcome, agree or disagree.

MORE: What's especially interesting about the claim of Hitler being gay is that even if that author's speculations are treated as absolutely true, at most it would mean that Hitler (suspected by author Lothar Machtan of having dabbled in homosexuality as a young bohemian) might have been a bitter and repressed homosexual.

If it were ever proven true that Hitler had gay sex during his bohemian years and later covered it up, activists like Andrew Sullivan could be expected to blame "the closet" for Hitler's evil. After all, Sullivan believes passionately that the closet is evil.

But isn't blaming Hitler's closet about as logical as Bryan Fischer's claim that homosexuality is to blame? 

Isn't it more significant that Hitler was a psychopath? Or is that just unexciting?

posted by Eric at 12:17 PM | Comments (23)

Wilderness Of Mirrors

David Freddoso at The Examiner thinks that a story claiming that Wikileaks is a government plot is a tin foil hat theory. I'm not so sure.

Document dumps with lots of verifiable facts plus a few ringers is a standard and very old way to plant false information where it will do some good (the intel folks hope).

Is that what happened in this case? Who knows?

But in tin foil hat territory it is not.

Of course if you are working with the intel folks calling such a theory "tin foil hat" territory is a very good move.

Which just gets you into a Wilderness of Mirrors. There is a book by that name that I highly recommend:

Wilderness of Mirrors: Intrigue, Deception, and the Secrets that Destroyed Two of the Cold War's Most Important Agents

Another very good book on the subject dealing with intelligence and counter intelligence in WW2 that I can also highly recommend is:

Bodyguard of Lies

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 02:40 AM | Comments (1)

Why not let's have conditional money?

When I was checking myself out at the grocery store the other day, I saw a new sign on the keypad:


Hmmm.... For a couple of seconds, I felt bureaucratically challenged. Then I realized that "WIC" meant the welfare debit cards that always seem to slow things down for the less privileged taxpaying classes who have to fund them, as they are programmed not to work with certain items, or they cause the total to exceed the balance of available funds, triggering endless whining and complaining by the "entitled" cardholder....

And it didn't take long for me to realize that "SCO" meant self check out. Duh. So the sign simply meant that the SCO unit had been programmed not to accept WIC cards. Frankly, I'm surprised that some activist group hasn't protested this action, for it relegates WIC cardholders to second class citizenship. Just like telling them to get in the back of the bus! I mean, isn't that economic apartheid? And as the stores have ever fewer checkout lanes staffed by actual human beings, long lines will be in store for two kinds of suspects: WIC cardholders, and people who insist on paying cash. At least in the case of the cash payers, the government does not get to decide what they should and should not eat. For WIC cardholders, there are rules:

WIC Approved Foods :

WIC Approved Foods Consult the Cashier Guide Any fresh, frozen or canned fruit or vegetable, except: No white potatoes No added sugar, fats, oils, sauces No fruit or vegetable juices No dried fruits, nuts or herbs No single servings, party trays or prepared meals Canned green/yellow beans only. No canned "dried" beans (kidney, black, garbanzo, etc) No salsa, stewed tomatoes, cooked sauces No pre-cooked fruits and vegetables. Grocer ECR/scanner systems may be programmed to distinguish approved/unapproved foods Shelf tags ("VT WIC Approved Food") are available

The above is just one example from a list which is being constantly revised by bureaucrats. Naturally, these revisions occur only after much bureaucratic deliberation and debate by committees which must meet and then issue reports. The reports are then reviewed by bureaucrats with higher seniority (and no doubt much more impressive titles), and then of course someone versed in "writing skills" has to be assigned the job of getting the revisions into the semi-final format which will be circulated to the appropriate departments in other agencies and ultimately to grocery store chains. So, the final copy would be subject to more review and revision. More meetings, more committees, etc. And someone has to be charged with "community outreach," right? And someone has to be charged with reviewing requests and submissions from the activist groups as well as those who bureaucrats like to call "stakeholders." And so on. 

Not being a bureaucrat, I'm sure I missed something. But no wonder government is a growth industry. There will always be a need for more people who help tell people who help tell people what to do.

Sorry to get sidetracked, for this post is not supposed to be about the WIC bureaucrats. It's just that when I saw the sign on the SCO, I was reminded of a recent post I wrote about the near-total loss of financial privacy (and the related merchant animosity towards cash transactions), as well as a very disturbing post by Tim Noah that Glenn linked:

TIM NOAH: Ban The Benjamins! Hundred-dollar bills are for criminals and sociopaths. Why do we still print them? Actually, a lot of people use them. And when inflation takes off soon, we'll be using them for Big Macs. We already quit making $500 bills for Noah's reasons. But they make 500-Euro notes. And why is it the government's business how we spend money?

I'm very disappointed in Noah. So is a hedge-fund reader who emailed Glenn:

In monetary theory land, there's a steady drumbeat of efforts to force all transactions into electronic form, for obvious surveillance and reporting reasons.

A cashless society would cut millions of people out of the economy...those who live the fringe, working "underground". Folks like Noah will literally have blood on their hands if they get their way, and our poorest folks are simply severed from the economy.

I had not realized what a flaming big government leftie Tim Noah is, and it came as a shock, for he was kind enough to link this blog in its early days.

Noah was then defending the right of people to publicly eat ice cream, so I had assumed he was a libertarianish sort, or at least some kind of freedom lover. So it was a shocker to see him come down on the side of Big Government and the War On Drugs.

I don't know what to do about this growing anti-cash mindset except repeat what I said in October:

Is the war on drugs really the reason? Or is the goal to monitor all cash transactions, and use the war on drugs as an excuse? Naturally, the war on "money laundering" is a subset of the war on drugs, but that, too, begs the question of whether the war on drugs supplies a very convenient pretext, to be used by those whose real goal is controlling our money.

As M. Simon keeps saying,


I understand why he put it in large caps, so I left it that way. Big government deserves to be fought in big caps.

Big Government, give us back our big bills!

Fortunately for now (as even Noah acknowledges), getting rid of the $100 would be difficult, as most of them circulate outside of the country by countries using the dollar as the international medium of exchange. But how long will that last?

Returning to the WIC cards, I'm now thinking that my worries about Big Brother monitoring all cash transactions might have been understated. Because, getting rid of cash would enable a lot more than simple monitoring. It would allow the government to control what we purchase, to watch carefully and make sure that we aren't buying unhealthy foods, too much alcohol, and of course to pull the electronic plug and shut down troublesome citizens entirely. (Considering that most Americans commit three felonies a day, we are all potentially troublesome.)

Seen this way, the WIC cards represent much more than a way to help the poor and provide jobs for bureaucrats. They are an experiment in social engineering, which is for now limited to people receiving government subsidies. But with government-subsidized health care, the class of people receiving subsidies will become greatly enlarged.

And if government-supervised cards were to replace money, they could also be used for redistribution.

What better way (to quote a leading leftie blogger again) "to take money away from people whose consumption has a low marginal value, and give it to people whose consumption has a high marginal value"?

If we are all subsidized, then it follows that for the public good, we should all be supervised. Unsupervised cash thus hurts all of us, and should be replaced by a newer, better form of money which does not enable criminals and sociopaths. 

What is money?

To the experts, it is simply a medium of exchange.

Money is any object or record, that is generally accepted as payment for goods and services and repayment of debts in a given country or socio-economic context.[1][2][3] The main functions of money are distinguished as: a medium of exchange; a unit of account; a store of value; and, occasionally, a standard of deferred payment.[4][5] Any kind of easily verifiable record serves these functions as well as an object (an "object" that is taken as money actually serves as just a type of secure record), and "digital money" that exists only as secure records in computerized files, is now the most common form of money.

A few squeamish libertarians like myself might complain about the new trend and insist that there ought to be a right to use cash. Where we get that idea I don't know; perhaps some imaginary right to privacy said to emanate from somewhere... But the majority of decent citizens are tired of these concerns, and would probably agree with the commenter who put me in my place:

If you aren't doing anything wrong, why are you worried about?

Oh, I guess crackpots like me would express constitutional concerns, and lamely ask who should get to decide what it is that constitutes doing wrong in the context of citizens' spending habits, and why.

But the answer will be that once my money becomes something other than mine, and part of a vast pool of low marginal value versus high marginal value consumers to be adjusted according to the needs of each, then my spending affects everyone, and conditions will attach. 

I often feel there is nothing I can do but watch a slow but impending trainwreck. (Or to use a nautical metaphor, the breaking of the bulkheads.)

But I can't jump from the train or leap from the Titanic, so I write these posts. 

posted by Eric at 11:28 AM | Comments (14)

As dated as ever

As anyone who remembers "The Dating Game" knows, the way the game works is that a young female contestant gets to ask a series of questions to three young male contestants (aka "eligible bachelors"), then chooses the best man based on the answers. She cannot see them, of course.

In this charming episode from 1972, horror star Vincent Price offers a variation on the theme by asking the questions on the girl's behalf, then choosing the boy he thinks would be the best date.


I watched it carefully, and I have to agree with Vincent Price. Bachelor Number One strikes me as an egotistical jerk, so he's out from the get-go. This leaves Bachelor Number Two (a wholesome and attractive class president type) and Bachelor Number Three (by far the most intelligent, if also eccentric of the three).

Fascinatingly, Three is the lone Republican of the group -- a quirky thing for a young 1970s TV contestant. Because Price was a good Democrat, he would never have picked a Republican, and politically this left him with no choice but Number Two.

I would agree with Vincent Price, but not because Number Three was a Republican, but because he would have made the best husband. The purpose of the show was not to find long-term husband material, but a hot date. Number Two is the kind of guy who would have taken her to the back seat of his car and given her a hot time. Number Three was a non-conformist who clearly did not follow the herd. A "geek" even. He had to be rejected.

In those days, television audiences wanted show, not substance. Vincent Price delivered.

In today's terms, she got the best hookup. Maybe the show isn't as dated as it seems.


posted by Eric at 12:54 AM | Comments (3)

More "gumption" needed!

Matthew Yglesias makes no secret of wanting Swedish style socialism for the United States, and says so. He also chides American progressives for not being more explicit about advocating socialism, and says gumption is required.

...you need to have the gumption to take money away from people whose consumption has a low marginal value, and give it to people whose consumption has a high marginal value. And you want to try to do it in a way that doesn't strangle growth. The Nordic countries are living out there on the frontiers of political thinking, and manage to tax almost 50% of GDP on a sustainable basis. But it's all too rare that I see American progressives explicitly calling for a Nordic-style tax code.

Actually, it's a pity that American progressives don't take his advice and come out of the closet as unabashed, admitted socialists. It would hurry their political demise.

I mean, it took gumption to ramrod through the "Affordable Care Act," and look where that has gotten them.


posted by Eric at 03:52 PM | Comments (8)

Muddled In The Middle

Via HotAir, John Avlon of No Labels continues fussing over alleged extremists right and left, this time aiming at Rush Limbaugh and his criticism of the group.

But Avlon's attacks seem off-target.  While I'm not a fan, Rush can hardly be described as "far right" in country where self-described conservatives outnumber self-described liberals 2:1 and his program is so popular he's signing the largest radio contracts in history. Rush is mainstream-right, Hannity is establishment-right, O'Reilly is populist-right, while someone like Savage is more accurately far-right. Meanwhile, the MSM is center-left, liberals like Chris Matthews, E.J. Dionne and Joe Klein are mainstream left, and Olbermann is far left. (Most people at TDB are center-left or left, and so naturally commenters there see Olbermann as fairly reasonable, but in terms of the country as a whole Olbermann is pretty far out of step.) As a libertarian, I don't have a lot of use for the simple left/right dichotomy anyways, but that's the lay of the land within that context.

The problem with the No Labels idea is that it amounts to defining "reasonableness" as something between center-leftism and centrism and then declaring everyone else out of bounds. That's not especially useful. For one thing, fringe ideas don't always stay in the fringe as societies evolve -- 60 years ago, the concept of gay marriage was so radical it was practically inconceivable it could be a political issue. Societal evolution is usually a good thing, and it happens because we have a vigorous debate.

More problematic for the group is that calling for civility while demonizing everyone to your left and right isn't remotely intellectually consistent. You can see that in what a logical trainwreck this column becomes -- Avlon at once denounces demonization and demonizes; his group is called No Labels but he slings around "wingnuts," "hyperpartisan," "poplarizing." The "national conversation" on No Labels mostly consists of eyerolling at the sanctimony, as well it should. Perhaps James Taranto put it best:

"They will establish lines that no one should cross." Rhetorical lines. That is to say, David Frum & Co. are going to decide what you may say and what you may not. Sounds fascist, doesn't it? Oh wait, are we allowed to say "fascist"? Or did we just cross the line that no one should cross?

In other "center-lefties telling everyone else to shut up" news, the inaptly named Politifact, which shares an award with Walter Duranty, has named "government takeover of health care" the Lie of the Year.

Face, meet palm.

Now, whether a 3,000 page bill that, among myriad other commandments, forces individuals to buy insurance and insurers to enter into money-losing contracts amounts to "a government takeover" may be a matter of opinion, but to call that claim a "lie" demeans the whole concept of honesty. Never mind Obama's factually untrue claims he hadn't raised taxes, that if you liked your doctor you could keep your doctor, that the health care bill would not increase the deficit "one dime," that it would be negotiated in the open on C-Span. Even on the right, there were certainly claims to be found that were actually, you know, not true -- and you didn't even need to stoop as far as Michelle Bachmann accurately quoting that Times of India piece on Obama's allegedly $200M/day trip. Accountability is surely desirable, but in the pursuit of that ideal Politifact is more stumbling block than swift and keen-nosed hound.

UPDATE:  Some excellent thoughts from Peter Suderman on the topic:

Meanwhile, our rigorous team of fact-checkers even introduce a misleading statement of their own when they claim that "the law Congress passed...relies largely on the free market."

The only way this is true is if you utterly fail to distinguish between the concepts of "the free market" and "a highly regulated private sector," which is a far more accurate description of what the health care law relies on to accomplish its goals.

Sadly, making important distinctions doesn't seem to be their strong suit. Somehow when picking their lie of the year, Politifact settled on a minority party exaggeration with elements of truth--and managed to ignore the near-continuous stream of full-blooded whoppers coming from the folks actually running things.

posted by Dave at 02:07 PM | Comments (14)

Defending evil can be a good career move!

I'm not a credentialed historian, but I have read many, many books about Nazism and Communism over the years. So many that I have lost count. It is numbing to read about mass killing, especially the details. Most of the books I've accumulated are in boxes, but here are a few I took off the shelf earlier:


Koba the Dread, btw, is discussed here by Cathy Young, who mentions the book's criticism of Christopher Hitchens (longtime left-wing friend and colleague of author Martin Amis). I loved the book, and I think a portion of the introductory background is well worth quoting here:

In time, Kingsley [Amis, the father of the author] left not only the Communist Party, but also Britain's Labour Party and became a vocal supporter of Margaret Thatcher. That his father was briefly duped into defending mass murderers is not nearly as troubling to the younger Amis as the persistence of the romantic myth of communism among people who have no excuse not to know better. This is a parallel conversation, held 50 years later, between Mr. Amis and his friend Christopher Hitchens.

"I'm wondering about the distance between Stalin's Russia and Hitler's Germany"

"Oh don't fall for that Mart. Don't fall for moral equivalence."

"Why not?"

"Lenin was ... a great man."

"This is going to be a long conversation."

It has been. And the conversation is, distressingly, still far from over. But as Mr. Amis notes, "progress has already been made. The argument, now, is about whether Bolshevik Russia was 'better' than Nazi Germany. In the days when the New Left dawned, the argument was about whether Bolshevik Russia was better than America."

Lots of people have debated which of the two mass murder machines was worse, and for many reasons, Nazism seems to come out on top as the number one villain. That's because there is something indelibly awful about lining up men women and children and machine-gunning them into giant pits, or gassing them and then burning them in ovens in huge death factories -- simply for having been born Jewish. The images involved capture the human imagination in a way that Siberian gulags, Chinese Laogais, and even Cambodian killing fields just don't.

So, Nazism just plain seems more evil than Communism. Moreover, it has been marketed that way, oftentimes by apologists for Communism. The appeal of such an argument is obvious, because if Nazism is the ultimate, defining form of human evil, then Communism becomes "not as bad." And those who are sympathetic to Communism are somewhat off the hook. Which just plain sucks, because if we look at total numbers of people killed, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot make Hitler look like a piker.

This issue is not new to me, and I have grappled with it for years. It is no fun to discuss, because there are always people who will come along and say that equating Stalin with Hitler tends to minimize the Holocaust -- something I would never do. Evil does not minimize or excuse evil. Nothing that Stalin or Mao did minimizes the malevolence of Hitler's crimes, or vice versa. 

So I really don't like the comparison of evil argument. What I find more disturbing is the notion that Communism is better than Nazism because it springs from "good intentions," (good gone wrong, if you will) whereas Nazism is pure unadultered evil.  

In a post occasioned by a recent New York Times piece about Mao's "Great Leap Forward" (in which 45 million Chinese lost their lives), Glenn Reynolds takes a look at some of the apologist memes, and concludes that both forms of murderous totalitarianism are equally bad, and so are their apologists:

Communists are as bad as Nazis, and their defenders and apologists are as bad as Nazis' defenders, but far more common. When you meet them, show them no respect. They're evil, stupid, and dishonest. They should not enjoy the consequences of their behavior.


Communism's mass murders have gotten less condemnation precisely because academic Marxists and sympathetic journalists continue to cover for them.

I couldn't agree more. Nazis and their apologists are considered beyond the pale of civilized society. That they are even allowed free speech is considered by most people to be a regrettable aspect of the First Amendment. 

Contrast this with the approach to Communists and their apologists. They are systematically portrayed as victims of an evil oppressive regime called "McCarthyism." To directly criticize a Communist is to run the risk of being accused of "red baiting."

Has anyone ever heard such terminology applied to Nazis? Will any movies be made lamenting the plight of well-meaning Americans who belonged to the Bund back in the 1930s and whose careers suffered as a result?

That's a rhetorical question, of course.

Because we all agree that Nazism is evil, indefensible, and so morally egregious that no defense of its sympathizers is tolerated. Sure, we wouldn't put them in jail, but anyone who actually defends Nazis risks serious career damage, and if his views became known, he would not be likely to find employment in academia, the media or anyplace in the professional job market.

To the many defenders and apologists for Communism, no such rule applies. Actually, it's quite the opposite. A great way to suffer career damage or preclude employment prospects (whether in academia, the media or anyplace in the professional job market) is to do precisely what Glenn suggested:

When you meet them, show them no respect. They're evil, stupid, and dishonest. They should not enjoy the consequences of their behavior.

That last remark may have already gotten Glenn in trouble with an influential blogger who calls himself a conservative, who claims to generally agree with Glenn, but who feels obliged to add a little snark,

What does that last sentence mean? Is it some kind of threat?

Is it? God forbid that Glenn should threaten defenders of mass murder with career consequences! (The most he could do would be to expose them to public shame at Instapundit -- which considering the way the left operates might have positive career consequences!)

But FWIW I don't think it reads as a threat, but rather as Glenn's statement of opinion, which Andrew Sullivan finds somehow threatening. 

I agree with Glenn. I don't think that apologists for mass murder should be enjoying the consequences, but they are.

Defending Communism is a good career move. 

Of course, if I said "apologizing for mass murder is a good career move," some people would take issue, pointing out that Communism isn't supposed to be about mass murder, because of the good intentions. They didn't mean to kill the Kulaks; they only wanted to solve the Kulak problem and move them to Siberia!

(Right. And Hitler really didn't want to kill the Jews; he only wanted to help them move to Madagascar...)

UPDATE: Many thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link, and a warm welcome to all.

Glenn's remark about Walter Duranty and Michael Moore couldn't be more apt. (The former was an apologist for Stalin whose lies about the Ukrainian famine won him the Pulitzer Prize, while the latter is an unabashed Communist who has made millions.)

Comments appreciated, agree or disagree.

posted by Eric at 11:55 AM | Comments (40)

If I were God, I would hate false flags! (Especially false-false flags...)

While I like to joke about Al Gore by comparing him to Jerry Falwell and calling him an "evangelist," consider the eerie connection between Al Gore and Fred "God Hates Fags" Phelps:

Fred Phelps is a long time Democrat supporter and frequent Democrat candidate for various offices in Kansas. As recently as 1998 Phelps got 15% in a Democrat primary for governor. He has been a devoted supporter of Al Gore and led his church members in working for Gore in 1988. Phelps' son Fred hosted a fund raiser for Gore in his home. Have you ever heard of that? Why do you think these things are left out of news reports about Phelps?

(Via Rand Simberg, whose post Glenn linked earlier.)

I recently asked similar rhetorical questions myself. I suspect the reason is that no one wants to ruin a perfectly good false flag operation. As I tried to explain, it's more than just false; it's false-false. Maybe I'm a lunatic, but once again, I think if you're going to fly a false flag, you should fly a true false flag, and do so with pride.


posted by Eric at 11:00 PM | Comments (2)

Coco puts her snow tire through the paces

While I might complain about the snow as I did earlier, Coco does not! In fact, she loves the snow, because it makes her favorite tire seem all the more enticing and magical.


As you can see, Coco is in no hurry to bring it to me, and when she does, she insists on having a fierce tug of war, and enjoys having me swing her around and lift her off the ground while she holds on to the tire while shaking and emitting those little squeaks and moans that so typify her breed; I call them "machine noises." (If only I could figure out a way to hold the camera and film her while at the same time I'm being jerked about in a tug of war game....)

posted by Eric at 04:00 PM | Comments (5)

On Strike

There is a prison strike going on in Georgia (the American one).

Inmates at six major prisons in the state of Georgia have begun a strong yet peaceful protest against inhumane conditions in the facilities in which they live. The protest is unique because it represents a coalition of Black, Brown and White inmates, jumping the line of racial segregation so prominent in prisons across America.
Those running the prisons are not letting the prisoners get away with it.
Thousands of inmates stayed in their cells Thursday, Dec. 9, leading to strong and swift retaliation by the prison guards. According to those familiar with recent events, inmates have been beaten and had their personal items destroyed. Inmates also say that the authorities have cut off their hot water and shut off the heat when outside temperatures were in the 30s.
And what exactly do the prisoners want?
Demands by prison inmates include, among other things, decent living conditions, educational opportunities, just parole decisions, the end of cruel and unusual punishment and better access to their families. Currently, inmates' families cannot send money orders and are instead expected to send funds through a company that takes a large percentage of the money sent. Also, the companies that provide short, 15-minute phone calls for inmates charge massive amounts of money to families, many of whom are in poverty due to missing a primary breadwinner in the home.

Most prisons in Georgia don't allow for hardly any educational opportunities beyond the GED. This is inconsistent with the notion of preparing inmates for re-entry into society upon their release. If someone is both marginalized by the criminal justice system and uneducated, their likelihood of going back to prison is very high.

So how did the prisoners get organized?
When state prisoners went on strike last week to protest what they called unfair conditions, they used smuggled cell phones to get their message out.

It's a security breach the FOX 5 I-Team first reported last month.

One former inmate shared his cell phone secrets.

The original investigation looked into what the I-Team called Facebook felons, Georgia prison inmates who somehow managed to set up their own Facebook pages behind bars.

I wonder if the cell phone smuggling has anything to do with the high cost of making phone calls to inmates?

And just think of trying to find an outlet where you can charge the phone batteries under prison conditions.

But this brings up an important point. If you can't keep contraband cell phones out of prisons how in the heck do people think a drug free America is even possible? And how is the TSA doing in keeping contraband off airplanes? Not well. Not well at all.

This book seems relevant:

Gates of Injustice: The Crisis in America's Prisons

From a Publishers Weekly review:

...Elsner uses a conversational tone in recounting the aspects of day-to-day life for American inmates: drug and alcohol abuse, rampant disease, rape, murder and racism. Prisons, Elsner writes, are fertile ground where the worst aspects of society take root and blossom, and the majority of his book, drawing on data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, court cases and interviews with current and former inmates, paints a stark picture of a seedy world where guards rape inmates without fear of recourse and inmates can be left in lockdown for weeks as a budget cutting initiative. Instances of the sadistic creativity exhibited by inmates (generally with the aim of violating prison regulations) and guards (to punish inmates who have creatively violated prison regulations) pepper Elsner's sobering reportage, much of which concerns itself with figures and statistics so staggering that Elsner, clearly an advocate of prison reform, hesitates to even hint at solutions until the final chapter, when he outlines three elements of prison reform: reducing the number of new inmates, lowering recidivism rates and eradicating the "worst abuses within the system."
I also found this bit from the product review sobering.
...how more than 2,000,000 Americans came to be incarcerated; what it's really like on the inside; what it's like for the families left on the outside; and how an enormous "prison-industrial complex" has grown to support and promote imprisonment in place of virtually every other alternative. Reuters journalist Alan Elsner shows how prisons really work, how race-based gangs are able to control institutions and prey on weaker inmates, and how an epidemic of abuse and brutality has exploded across American prisons. Readers will discover the plight of 300,000 mentally ill people in prisons, virtually abandoned with little medical treatment. They'll also meet the fastest growing segment of the prison population: women. Readers go inside "supermax" prisons that cut inmates off from all human contact, and uncover the official corruption and brutality that riddles jail systems in major cities like Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, and New York. Finally, they'll learn prisons accelerate the spread of infectious diseases throughout the broader society--just one of the many ways the prison epidemic touches everyone, even if they've never met anyone who's gone to jail.
Prisoners are no longer people but commodities i.e. slaves. But under our Constitution such slavery is permissible.

From the XIIIth Amendment:

"Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."

It may be permissible, but is it wise? Think about this: when the innocent (there are some) and guilty get out you have a very hardened cadre suitable for making revolutions. (see Prisons, Czarist Russia).

H/T A friend.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:36 PM | Comments (4)

Why do they hate our emissions?

This is the fourth day of arctic weather in the low teens and single digits, and I am getting sick of it. Like most Americans, I am in no mood for a scolding about Global Warming. Battling ice is no fun, and driving is dangerous because the streets that were plowed and look safe actually have a thin layer of what they call "black ice." I nearly rear-ended someone yesterday because my brakes simply failed to do an adequate job of stopping my car on this invisible ice. Fortunately, I had not been tailgating, so I was able to stop in the nick of time, but it's maddening to not be able to safely drive and even more maddening to not be able to safely walk. I like to think that when I accelerate my car I have the right to assume it will go forward and not sideways, and that when I place my foot on the ground, it will remain where I put it. I hate to sound like a bigot, but I don't see why I being forced by nature to revisit the laws of practical physics as I have always known them. If this is nature, then nature sucks! Grrr...

Anyway, to make my life easier I have to blame someone, and if the Bible-waving, evangelist Jerry Falwell can blame the homos for 9/11, then I can blame the Bible-waving evangelist Al Gore for bringing this climate on:


It's his fault! Because, like many a Bible waver, he hates human emissions, obviously loves this weather, and he wants to inflict it on us out of spite, while he gets to luxuriate in the decadent carbon emissions of his overheated palace. Besides if the theories of Gore and the rest of the tyrants are correct, as we further reduce CO2 emissions it will only get colder. 

So I could use some Global Warming, because I'm tired of being trapped indoors on life support.  

posted by Eric at 11:53 AM | Comments (2)

When heads explode

We should be glad we still have the First Amendment right to yodel, because in Austria they have lost it. No, seriously:

It seems as though in Austria, the popular yodel is an insult to Muslims. An Austrian court has recently fined a citizen for yodeling while mowing his lawn, according to a report in The Kronen Zeitung newspaper. The citizen, 63-year-old Helmut G., was told by the court that his yodeling offended his next-door Muslim neighbors, who accused him of trying to mock and imitate the call of the Muezzin. In Muslim tradition, the Muezzin is the chosen person at a mosque who leads the call to prayer at Friday services and the five daily times for prayer from one of the mosque's minarets. The yodel is a song which is sung with an extended note which rapidly and repeatedly changes in pitch and makes a high-low-high-low sound. Developed in the Central Alps as a method of communication between alpine mountaineers or between alpine villages, the yodel later became part of the region's traditional lore and musical expression. The technique is used in many cultures throughout the world and Austria is one of the countries where it is most popular. Unfortunately for Helmut G., his neighbors were in the middle of a prayer when he started to yodel. The Kronen Zeitung reported that he was fined 800 Euros after judges ruled that he could have tried to offend his neighbors and ridicule their belief. Helmut G. clarified that "It was not my intention to imitate or insult them. I simply started to yodel a few tunes because I was in such a good mood."

In this country, he has just as much right to yodel as the Muezzin does to yell "Allahuakbar!" from the blasted minaret.

Why such extreme cultural sensitivities, anyway?

I mean, it's not as if the yodeling is literally turning their brains into icky goo!


Unfortunately, embedding the above has now been "disabled by request," but that has not stopped comments like this:

This scene actually played out in Austria recently! An Austrian has been fined for yodeling while mowing his lawn. ... The Muslims were right in the middle of a prayer when the Austrian started to yodel. "It was not my intention to imitate or insult them. I simply started to yodel a few tunes because I was in such a good mood" the man told the newspaper (Austrian times) today. Would you believe it? It's a "Real life Movie!" Some alien's heads do in fact explode when exposed to Yodeling!

Tell it to the judge.

MORE: For those who are into culturally repellent music, here's the original, ready to make heads explode!



Blast off!

posted by Eric at 11:34 PM | Comments (3)

avoiding what cannot be avoided

As most readers know, I hate influence. Yet that is an absurd contradiction, one with which I struggle constantly. Avoiding influence is impossible, so I see it as one of those hopelessly unachievable goals -- like goodness or perfection. In what is probably a contradictory act of damnable hypocrisy, I will quote a famous person (Oscar Wilde) who was about as much against influence as it is possible to get. Which means that quoting him on this subject is wholly improper, but I'll do it anyway:

"There is no such thing as a good influence. All influence is immoral - immoral from the scientific point of view."


"Because to influence a person is to give him one's own soul. He does not think his natural thoughts, or burn with his natural passions. His virtues are not real to him. His sins, if there are such things as sins, are borrowed. He becomes an echo of someone else's music, an actor of a part that has not been written for him.

The aim of life is self-development. To realise one's nature perfectly - that is what each of us is here for.

Easy to express such a sentiment, whether as eloquently as Wilde did or not. But it is a lot harder to follow it. 

My problem is that despite my attempts to be logical and rational, and evaluate things objectively, in matters of opinion I cannot help being influenced by the personalities who utter opinions, even though I know I should not. This happens every day; if there is a controversial item or news event floating around, I know who I like (and therefore trust), and who I dislike (and therefore distrust). Right there I am in trouble, because liking and trusting are in no way synonymous.  

But I have noticed that if I hear a new idea or opinion, my assessment of it is very much influenced by my opinion of who uttered it. Which means that I hate it when I find myself agreeing with Pat Buchanan, and that reminds me of a recent comment by Kathy Kinsley (that an attack on Newt Gingrich by Media Matters makes her want to take a look at whatever Newt said again).

When I hear something coming from the lips of someone I dislike, I am much more likely to disagree with it than if I hear it coming from the lips (or keyboard) of someone I like. If Newt Gingrich or Pat Buchanan were to say that Julian Assange should be shot for spying on the United States, I would be far less sympathetic than if Glenn Reynolds or Ann Althouse said the same thing. Worse yet, I might be further improperly influenced by the order in which I heard these statements! This is completely irrational, and deeply concerning, because I want to be able to take pride in not thinking that way. So I have a penchant for writing long posts sometimes just to figure out what I think, or what I don't think. And even if I end up being confused or inconsistent, I want it to be my own confusion and inconsistency.

None of this is rational.

I'm tempted to conclude that if we avoid being influenced, we are still influenced.

posted by Eric at 08:11 PM | Comments (7)

Fight unemployment! Simply stop looking for work!

An article in today's Detroit Free Press confirms what many people on the right have been pointing out for years. What we call "the unemployment rate" is statistically misleading, for it includes only the "acute" phase of unemployed workers who are actively looking for work while drawing benefits, while omitting the large -- and growing -- number of people who become chronically unemployed.

Michigan's unemployed stop seeking work, unemployment rate drops

Michigan enjoyed a big drop in its unemployment rate in November but for the wrong reasons.

The jobless rate declined four-tenths of a percentage point to 12.4% with little increase in new jobs. "Instead, the jobless rate drop was primarily due to fewer state residents in the labor force seeking jobs," said Rick Waclawek, director of the Department of Energy, Labor & Economic Growth's Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives.

Which means that the longer people are out of work, the less "unemployment" there is.

Even though Michigan is not yet adding significant new jobs, the state's jobless rate in November was two full percentage points below the November 2009 rate of 14.4%

But hey, the numbers are down!

Neat trick, especially for those who want to claim credit for lowering the unemployment rate.

Reminds me of what Mark Twain said (and what Disraeli should have said) about "lies, damn lies, and statistics."

posted by Eric at 03:27 PM | Comments (1)

Liu Xiaobo -- Even More Awesome Than You Thought

Tim Blair learns from an unlikely source that imprisoned Nobel Prize winning dissident Liu Xiaobo not only supports greater political and economic freedom for the Chinese, but also enthusiastically supports our campaigns to liberate Iraq and Afghanistan, and argues in favor of the U.S. interventions in Vietnam and Korea. Xiaobo even bucks international opinion and praises Israel while criticizing Palestinian provocations.

Best. Nobel. Ever.

As Tim puts it:

Who knew? Thanks, Guardian!

Meanwhile, in Iraq, democracy continues stumbling forward. And the UN has sprung into action, finally lifting Saddam-era sanctions seven years after the regime's toppling.

posted by Dave at 02:31 PM | Comments (2)

No Newt is good Newt

In an article at The Hill discussing Sarah Palin's electability, I read something a bit unsettling:

...there are other names closely associated with the Tea Party movement, of which Palin is a prominent member, who might run: Rep. Mike Pence (R) of Indiana, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum (R) and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.).

Perhaps I am running with the wrong Tea Party crowd, but the Tea Party people to whom I have spoken around here are generally of two minds about Gingrich. The libertarians loathe him for being a drug war mongering statist (the Ron Paul libertarians additionally see him as a Neocon), while the social conservatives see him as an adulterer who abandoned his cancer-stricken wife, and who is now opportunistically striking a socon pose. Interestingly, both the libs and the socons distrust Gingrich as a big government guy. 

So if he is in fact "closely associated with the Tea Party movement," I am not seeing it.

But perhaps I'm running with the wrong crowd.

Am I missing something? I hate to be deluding myself.

posted by Eric at 10:48 AM | Comments (11)

Heaven in a bucket?

In the course of salting and scraping the sidewalk, I have been throwing road salt from a bucket. No big deal there. Just a plain five gallon bucket. But as Veeshir says, this blog is dedicated to overthinking things, and on the way up the stairs earlier I happened to notice something on the bucket that I had never seen before.

A warning, and I took a photograph of it:



Our government discusses it here:

A Hidden Hazard In The Home

Large buckets and young children can be a deadly combination. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has received reports of over 275 young children who have drowned in buckets since 1984. Over 30 other children have been hospitalized. Almost all of the containers were 5-gallon buckets containing liquids. Most were used for mopping floors or other household chores. Many were less than half full.

It strikes me as extremely unlikely for a child to drown in a bucket. For starters, a bucket would most likely fall over if a child did fall into it, thereby freeing the struggling child. As to infants, it is hard to imagine any parent letting an infant "fall" into a bucket.

What could possibly be going on here?

I'm skeptical over how big of a threat buckets actually are, and I am not alone. (I don't deny that a few children a year drown in buckets, but like commenters here, I suspect that they had help.) 

In any event, there are hundreds of millions of bucket-using Americans, who are needlessly subjected to a very goofy, very maudlin, guilt-tripping warning.

Why? Because some trial lawyers said so? Who elected them?

MORE: If you liked the bucket label, you'll love this one!



Shouldn't there be one on the dashboard of every vehicle?

Think of the lives we could save!

posted by Eric at 11:38 PM | Comments (11)

Sex Machines

I just came across an interesting book at Amazon:

Sex Machines: Photographs and Interviews

It is about the inventiveness of Americans when it comes to sex. Or to put it it in a somewhat more social context: men designing power tools for women.

From the product description:

Through astonishing images and the surprisingly touching words of its subjects, Sex Machines: Photographs and Interviews explores the new sex machine underground in America and the homespun inventors and users who propel it.

After contacting an active but intensely private Internet community of sex machine inventors, photographer Timothy Archibald eventually won their trust and was invited into workshops and homes. The resulting book is a powerful document that is by turns thought provoking, humorous, and always fascinating.

Sex Machines celebrates the American spirit of invention while exploring the desires and confusions that exist between men and women in our changing culture. Many of the inventors seen within these pages are otherwise ordinary family men who were inspired to help repair strained relationships or simply enhance their wives' sexual pleasure. Some inventors have expanded their hobby into thriving cottage industries, selling their creations on eBay and adult stores online.

Archibald covers the broad spectrum of the makers--from the elusive creator of the Sybian, the forefather of sex machines, to lesser-known inventors like Paul Gaertner, who, laid off from his job in the high-tech industry, founded a new business by transforming a thrift store pasta maker into a high-powered sexual appliance.

And there in lies a tail.

Some how or other in the mid to late 80s I got to know the designer of the Sybian. I think it was through one of the precursors of the internet. I happened to know a lady at the time who did free lance advertising copy and introduced the designer to her. He decided to hire her for his ad copy. Very tasteful and upscale. She needed to interview the designer for the ad copy and so we met him at a swingers convention. I went with the lady to give her moral support. We talked with the designer and then went home. No sex before, after, or during. Bummer. I did get to see what appeared to be a 300 lb. lady in a mumu (otherwise referred to as a tent) walking to the elevators with five guys on her arm (so to speak). I guess it is nice to be wanted.

Later I got access to a Sybian and computerized it. One joystick instead of two knobs for control. And the movement of the joystick could be recorded so playback of the best bits was possible. I thought it was a great idea. I only ever got one woman to try the contraption (no, she didn't let me watch) and she was not impressed.

So all that effort and engineering was wasted from my point of view. The devices are not seduction machines in any way. ("Come visit and try out my sex machine" is NOT romantic in any respect.) But mechanically I thought it was quite ingenious with a rotator and thruster each conjoined but controlled by different motors. And for the six months I worked on it my fantasies ran wild. So there was that. Plus I got to tell my engineering compatriots that I had worked on a computerized sex machine. Which at least boosted my standing among that cohort.

And now there is a book about the sex machine underground.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 09:38 PM | Comments (4)

Clowns To The Left Of Me

Via Glenn, Joshua Micah Mackie Packie Paisely Marshall writes perhaps the most ridiculous thing ever rendered in pixels:

"Amazing. A year ago, no one took seriously the idea that a federal health care mandate was unconstitutional. And the idea that buying health care coverage does not amount to 'economic activity' seems preposterous on its face. But the decision that just came down from the federal judgment in Virginia -- that the federal health care mandate is unconstitutional -- is an example that decades of Republicans packing the federal judiciary with activist judges has finally paid off."

This is apparently some new usage of "activist judge" JoMiMa has pioneered, meaning "actively doing things left-liberals don't like, such as actually interpreting the Constitution rather than just going along with whatever legal justifications we've invented to do whatever it is we want to do." That would be egregious enough by itself, but the notion "no one" was taking the constitutionality argument hopefully just means "no one JMMPPM has been reading in his left-liberal bubble" because otherwise it makes me wonder who does Josh's breathing for him, as this claim  is so poorly considered that I can't imagine brain stem function has survived whatever trauma has affected Josh's higher reasoning centers, since the topic has been being hotly debated since well before the law was passed.  (Also "not taken seriously" a year ago: Scott Brown's candidacy, the Tea Party, and the notion the GOP could take back the House.)

As any fool can see, if the government has the power to force you to buy health insurance, it has the power to force you to buy all sorts of things. When Don Surber asks "Can the government tell you to get a haircut, hippie?" he is assuredly being facetious, but in the spirit of newly taking things seriously, let us examine the proposition.

The reason we need to force people to buy healthcare is, of course, because we are also passing a law that says insurance companies must insure you, even if they know they will lose money because what you're "insuring" against has already happened (this also violates the constitutional rights of stockholders in insurance companies, but we'll leave that aside for the nonce). Now, even statists have the modicum of sense necessary to realize forcing insurers to sell "insurance" to people who have already experienced the event they are supposedly "insuring" against is going to create a death spiral of people not buying "insurance" until they they experience such an event, especially when the state is also forcing insurers to cover sex changes, aromatherapy, 12 years of explaining to a psychiatrist how the clown faces on your childhood wallpaper have scarred you, and anything else the interest group du jour can bribe legislators into enacting as law, such that "insurance" is ridiculously expensive anyway. So the state has a compelling interest to force you to buy health insurance, so it can force insurers to sell you insurance and also force them to cover things you might not want, all for your your own good, because you are too stupid and the insurance companies too evil to be allowed to enter into voluntary contracts on your own, plus that aromatherapy lobbyist chick is really hot and legislators really, really want to interface with her body politic. Clear so far?

So, using the twisted logic of Obamacare, can we argue similarly for support of SurberCare and its mandated haircuts? Yes We Can! -- and we don't even need to employ the excuse of other laws we're trying to pass to do so. You see, it's prima facie obvious that hair length in men is correlated to lower incomes (partly due to the fact many employers have grooming codes), and per Kelo tax revenue is a compelling enough interest to set aside property rights. So get a haircut and get a job, hippies! It's going to be the law soon.

posted by Dave at 02:34 PM | Comments (20)

Automated linking -- a crutch to enable slovenly thinking?

It has come to my attention that this blog now has an entirely new way to embed hyperlinks. It strikes me as not only lazy, but possibly dishonest, because all I have to do is write a post (presumably on any subject), and the new software will identify certain key words, then automatically suggest links for them!

I can only marvel at the unfairness of it all. For well over seven years, I have had to laboriously track down every blasted link in every post I have written in this blog, and have made sure that each one relates to what I am saying. And most of the time, I have had to satisfy myself that the content was either true or substantially reliable, and even if not true or reliable, that it at least said what I said it said.

But now, I can just be a total slob, and let the software do all the work for me, while I sit back and just do nothing. Worse (and better yet, because worse is always better and better is always worse in this insane new world), if the links prove untrue, unreliable, or even hazardous, I become utterly blameless, and without any moral responsibility. For I didn't do it! They are not really "my" links.

"The software did it!"

What a damnable outrage this is. I have no right to use it, and no right to like it.

So much for my moral indignation. Let's see how it works.

Phew. There are three links suggested below: moral responsibility, hyperlinks, and software. I clicked APPLY ALL, but fortunately they did not appear automatically in the text because I obviously have not learned how to make the damned thing work. What a relief.

But I should beware, because in theory this evil thingie could be made to work:

Adding hyperlinks is easy peasy lemon squeezy with Zemanta's single-click link suggestions

As you write your blog post, Zemanta picks out which people and terms are important in the text, and shows you link recommendations to include. And in one click, instantly inserts the hyperlink. All that's left for you to do is choose from the drop down menu the source you would like to link to. No more copy-pasting  embed codes, or scouring the web hunting down URLs.

I must turn away from it, and never allow myself to succumb to such evil material temptations.

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

Getting The Finger

Getting this kind of finger is a good thing.

The results of numeracy and literacy tests for seven-year-old children can be predicted by measuring the length of their fingers, shows new research.

In a study to be published in the British Journal of Psychology, scientists compared the finger lengths of 75 children with their Standardised Assessment Test (SAT) scores.

They found a clear link between a child's performance in numeracy and literacy tests and the relative lengths of their index (pointing) and ring fingers.

Scientists believe that the link is caused by different levels of the hormones testosterone and oestrogen in the womb and the effect they have on both brain development and finger length.

"Testosterone has been argued to promote development of the areas of the brain which are often associated with spatial and mathematical skills," said Dr Mark Brosnan, Head of the Department of Psychology at the University of Bath, who led the study.

"Oestrogen is thought to do the same in the areas of the brain which are often associated with verbal ability.

"Interestingly, these hormones are also thought have a say in the relative lengths of our index and ring fingers.

"We can use measurements of these fingers as a way of gauging the relative exposure to these two hormones in the womb and as we have shown through this study, we can also use them to predict ability in the key areas of numeracy and literacy."

I had first heard about this some years back and when I told my daughter about it she immediately checked out her fingers. She definitely had "math fingers". It made her happy to hear that. Currently she is a second year student in chemical engineering. So maybe there is something to the finger thing.

But fingers don't tell the whole story - just the relative strength of the influences. You can do well at language and math. It is how you get an 1600 on the SATs. Some people do it. Me? I have "math fingers" but did better on my verbal SAT than on the math/science part (not by much). I wound up being an engineer. I can assure you my reports are well written.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 10:08 AM | Comments (8)

The long trajectory of our slippery historical slope

Ever since some asshole of a leftist professor I'd never heard of before was discovered to be screwing his 24-year old daughter, there has been a raging debate over incest in the blogosphere. (Hmmm... I don't like the way that came out; I think I should say "debate in the blogosphere over incest.")

For a great example of the emotions this generates, see the comments to this post by Ann Althouse. (FWIW, I don't think there is a constitutional right to incest; nor do I see anything in the Constitution giving the federal government the right to prohibit incest. Or murder. Or "sodomy.") My personal opinions about "sodomy" laws have about as much to do with what I think about incest as what I think about sexual harrassment. As I have explained countless times, I think the most important factors in deciding what should be illegal is whether there is harm and if so who is harmed. (As well as who is complaining.) But these are not necessarily of constitutional dimension.

M. Simon already wrote a post about the incest issue, but alas! all I have done is to have left a flippant comment about Lot. According to the Bible, Lot offered his daughters to a mob that was threatening to break in his door and rape an angel. Bad as incest is, I think I'd still have preferred incest to rape at the hands of a mob, but that's just me, and I'm not Lot's daughter. (This touches on my admitted personal confusion about sex; I have never been able to understand why sexual touching is considered worse than, say, being punched in the face. If given the choice, I would prefer an unwanted touching of my genitals over a violent physical assault.)

So I thought it was time for a brief look at the historical immorality of incest. I figured the Bible would be as good a place to go as any, and in Leviticus, the punishments for incest (and a few other religious crimes) are spelled out. If the text is to be believed, the following statements were made by the God of the Old Testament:

9 "'Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death. Because they have cursed their father or mother, their blood will be on their own head.

We know how well that is enforced, don't we?

But cursing one's parents is not a sex crime. The punishments for the sex crimes follow:

10 "'If a man commits adultery with another man's wife--with the wife of his neighbor--both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death.

 11 "'If a man has sexual relations with his father's wife, he has dishonored his father. Both the man and the woman are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.

 12 "'If a man has sexual relations with his daughter-in-law, both of them are to be put to death. What they have done is a perversion; their blood will be on their own heads.

 13 "'If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.

 14 "'If a man marries both a woman and her mother, it is wicked. Both he and they must be burned in the fire, so that no wickedness will be among you.

 15 "'If a man has sexual relations with an animal, he is to be put to death, and you must kill the animal.

 16 "'If a woman approaches an animal to have sexual relations with it, kill both the woman and the animal. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.

Okay with all of that? I'm not, but I'm still not seeing any punishment for father-daughter sex. Why in the world might that be? Nor does the long list of sexual prohibitions in Leviticus 18 even mention father-daughter sex. Again why? The law forbids sex between all sorts of relatives, but not between a father and a daughter.

However, there is this catchall at the beginning (at Leviticus 18:6):

"No one is to approach any close relative to have sexual relations. I am the LORD."

So that would definitely include father-daughter sex, but still, the punishment is not listed.

The punishments are not all the same; some are death penalty offenses, some not. Fascinatingly, a man having sexual relations with his daughter-in-law commits a worse crime than a man having sex with his sister, or even his mother, for while the former is considered a "perversion" meriting the death penalty, the latter only merit public removal from the people.

17 "'If a man marries his sister, the daughter of either his father or his mother, and they have sexual relations, it is a disgrace. They are to be publicly removed from their people. He has dishonored his sister and will be held responsible.

 18 "'If a man has sexual relations with a woman during her monthly period, he has exposed the source of her flow, and she has also uncovered it. Both of them are to be cut off from their people.

 19 "'Do not have sexual relations with the sister of either your mother or your father, for that would dishonor a close relative; both of you would be held responsible.

 20 "'If a man has sexual relations with his aunt, he has dishonored his uncle. They will be held responsible; they will die childless.

 21 "'If a man marries his brother's wife, it is an act of impurity; he has dishonored his brother. They will be childless.

 22 "'Keep all my decrees and laws and follow them, so that the land where I am bringing you to live may not vomit you out. 23 You must not live according to the customs of the nations I am going to drive out before you.

Ann Althouse, Eugene Volokh, and PoliPundit all grapple with the question of how incest can be illegal when sodomy cannot.

To which I would add another question. How can sex without a condom be illegal when sodomy cannot?

I don't see why sodomy should be the be-all and end-all. There have long been and there are now lots of sexual restrictions, which come and go largely for cultural reasons. Back in the supposedly uptight Victorian times, respectable men frequented prostitutes, whore houses flourished, and it wasn't a big deal. Nowadays, visiting a prostitute is considered a more serious moral disgrace than it was then, and it can be a very serious crime -- one which can bring the additional charge of money laundering. 

How can sex for money be illegal when sodomy cannot?

In many locales, doctors are not allowed to have sex with adult patients, professors are not allowed to have sex with adult students, and these prohibitions have been applied to opticians, pharmacists and nurses.

How can sex with patients be illegal when sodomy cannot?

Forgive me if I can't find any coherent set of moral rules which would cover all sexual behavior. It wasn't even coherent in Biblical days. And the only sexual offense listed in the Ten Commandments was adultery, which was then defined as a man having sex with a married woman other than his wife.

It seems to me that incest is one of those things which is so rare that most people do not and would not do it. Those who do it, though, are probably not the least bit concerned about the law, so I doubt any law (whether in the form of a modern law or a religious "thou shalt not") would have much effect.

It's interesting that they did not charge the professor's daughter, though, because they were both adults. Another hopeless inconsistent double standard.

Such hopeless inconsistencies are as old as Leviticus.

And if we are to use Leviticus as the measuring stick for morality, I think "we" have clearly been on a slippery slope ever since "we" stopped executing people for cursing their parents.

MORE: From the comments:

how can not having health insurance be illegal?

UPDATE: Many thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link, and a warm welcome to all.

Comments welcome, agree or disagree.

posted by Eric at 04:05 PM | Comments (25)


This blog is in the middle of an upgrade! Regular readers may have noticed difficulty leaving comments; last night it was impossible and now the comments are working, but the new spam catcher is mean and intolerant, so I have had to adjust the settings. (At least now I can leave test comments....)

But there will be more changes, so please bear that in mind.

Meanwhile, I am keeping my fingers crossed, while hoping and praying that everything works out. This blog is old, gnarled, twisted, and cluttered, and has been running on an older version of Movable Type for many years, and I am taking to heart what Dave said last night: "My 11 years as an IT professional have taught me the value of prayer during upgrades."

As if fussing with the blog wasn't bad enough, local weather has really done a number on me. Yesterday it snowed most of the day, except it wasn't normal snow; these were huge wet flakes, coming fast and furious, but accumulating very slowly, because the snow was mostly melting as soon as it hit the ground. Temperatures were in the mid 30s. So when I went to bed there was only four inches of accumulation. But what I didn't realize until this morning was that temperatures would drop to the teens. Thirteen degrees! Which meant that the bottom of all that wet snow had turned to the most solid ice I have ever seen. This morning I could not open any of my car doors, and finally with great difficulty I was able to pry open one of the rear doors to gain access. The windshields were so covered with ice that the ice breaker broke, and I did the best I could with a metal paint scraper, but this was just solid ice. The windshield wipers were buried deep inside the ice like fossils. Simply getting the car out of the driveway took over a half an hour. There is no way to remove the ice from the sidewalk. I spread out an entire bag of salt formula, and it isn't working the way it did last year.

And technically, it isn't even winter yet! Perhaps Obama and the Dems can claim credit for getting rid of Global Warming.

Meanwhile, I'm freezing and cursing. What else can I do?

Gaia won't hear the prayers of a skeptic.

MORE: Damn! It's now 12:42 p.m. and it's now 11 degrees. Two hours ago I used an entire bag of salt on the sidewalk, and the ice is barely disturbed. There are a few dots and holes on top, but it's not getting through to the sidewalk. I read somewhere that salt does not melt ice when the temperature is less than 15, although I don't know how true that is. To call this inconvenient would be an understatement.

I think I'll go out there and shake my fist at the heavens.

posted by Eric at 10:52 AM | Comments (8)

Gaia hates bags!

Oh yes indeed. She wants to impose her morality on Santa Cruz County and make it a Bag-Free Zone:

For the most part, complaints about a ban on plastic bags come from three constituencies: dog owners that don't want to pay for puppy poo bags, grannies that reuse their CVS bags as garbage can liners and the American Chemistry Council, a.k.a. Big Plastic.

But as Santa Cruz County and all of its cities move forward with ordinances that would ban plastic and charge 10 cents for paper bags, officials in each jurisdiction are anticipating a call from attorney Stephen Joseph, who is suing cities and counties across the state that have banned single-use plastic bags.

According to his website, www.SaveThePlasticBag.com, Joseph is not getting any money from plastic bag manufacturers. In fact, he's claiming the mantle of eco-warrior. According to his site, banning plastic bags "would result in a major increase in greenhouse gas emissions," because "it would result in a switch to paper bags, which would be worse for the environment."

He is absolutely right. Go to the site and learn more.

Save the oppressed bags! From Gaia!

Or from the evil people who claim to be speaking in Her name!

posted by Eric at 08:29 PM | Comments (4)

Shamelessly Giving It Away

*I was not going to crosspost this here, but a friend said you guys might enjoy it also, so here it is. Hopefully Eric won't mind. It is a free short story. *This story was written for a steam punk extravaganza on a website. The location was dictated. The story had to be in the voice of the main character of Heart Of Light the first of my Magical British Empire Trilogy. It is a world in which magic is the basis of civilization, but shape shifters are outlawed and condemned to instant death throughout most of the civilized world. (For fun, a friend and I wrote what Pride and Prejudice would be like in this world. The story A Touch Of Night is for sale at Naked Reader Press.) I don't know if this short story stands up on its on, but I hope so. Enjoy!*

Continue reading "Shamelessly Giving It Away"

posted by Sarah at 12:03 PM | Comments (9)

25% Off Lingerie

The first mate says that if you want to get the other 75% off you have to do it yourself.

25% Off Women's Intimate Apparel

My mate also notes that the equipment being sold at the above link is not particularly stylish. From a man's point of view I must say that after looking at the provided pictures there was only one properly filled bra in the whole collection.

You have to wonder why Instapundit is pushing this stuff. No woman I ever knew was the least interested in saving 25 per cent on stuff that didn't make her look good. Maybe it has to do with Instapundit's sex obsession. Of course he has me looking at this stuff. So maybe the obsession is mine as well.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 11:58 AM | Comments (2)

If this is a teachable moment, what's the lesson?

A Michigan professor of journalism thinks the Westboro Baptist Church is important enough to warrant a lot of class time. He has previously had members of the crackpot group speak to his class, ostensibly to teach them about "the breadth of First Amendment protections." (At that lecture, Shirley Phelps-Roper called Obama an "antichrist" and said "all Catholics are complicit in the sexual abuse perpetrated by some priests.")

I think it's a good thing for students to learn about the "breadth" of the First Amendment, but couldn't such a lesson be just as easily (and much more cheaply) imparted by showing, say, a video of Nazis marching in Skokie, Illinois? Bringing a high-profile group of crackpots like the Phelpses into a classroom is not only expensive because of the security needed, but it tends to give the group the media exposure they crave. Moreover, I worry that unless the professor is presenting the full picture and context, some students might tend to associate the Phelpses and the Westboro Baptist Church with religious conservatism, and even the Tea Party movement.

While I have no way of knowing what this professor says in his classes, I certainly hope that the students have at least been informed that Fred Phelps' long background as a Democrat, and that his group is not representative of conservatism, or the Tea Party. Nor is it representative of conventional religious conservatism. (I guess there are a few exceptions like the Rushdoony cretins and a few crackpot web sites which call for the death penalty for homosexuals, but I don't think that such outrageous views constitute religious conservatism in the normal sense. Nor do they constitute the sort of extreme religious conservatism with which I so vehemently disagree -- notwithstanding the SPLC's recent attempt to link the two.)

In his most recent analysis of the Westboro Baptist Church, the professor seems genuinely baffled over why they would protest at Elizabeth Edwards' funeral:

"Their hang-ups are primarily gays and Catholics, Jews, people in the military, and I don't know that Elizabeth Edwards has any connection to any of those groups," said Timothy Boudreau, an associate professor of journalism at CMU.

The group could, he said, be seeking attention from the picketing.

Really? Do you think so?

I never would have suspected such a thing!

I mean, they are saying with such obvious sincerity and religious conviction that Elizabeth Edwards is in hell for the sin of coveting:

On the Westboro Baptist website, a press release states Edwards coveted things she did not have and is now in hell.

"When (the Edwardses) were visited from the Most High God with the death of their 16-year-old son, they did not humble themselves before His mighty hand," according to the statement. "They reared up in rage, decided they would show God who is boss, and meddled in matters of the womb, resulting in 2 more children - now motherless."

Boudreau says he has trouble "following the logic of their actions" but also says that they are shaping the contours of the Constitution:
"I have a tough time following the logic of their actions," Boudreau said. "When (Phelps-Roper) was here, she kept saying to me and to her audience, 'Connect the dots, follow the bouncing ball,' as if they knew what they were doing should be perfectly obvious and logical."

Boudreau said the students seemed outraged and bemused by and curious of Phelps-Roper. While the vast majority of students disagreed with nearly everything the church members had to say, he said, they were interested in hearing it.

While the group has caused national controversy -- including a lawsuit that brought them to the U.S. Supreme Court -- Boudreau said they are worth paying attention to, even if people do not agree with them.

"Love them or hate them, they are people who test the limits of the First Amendment, and they argued before the Supreme Court in October about their right to protest at these funerals," he said. "They are shaping the contours of the Constitution."

Look, these assholes have the right to say anything they want, short of directly inciting people to commit crimes. No contours need to be shaped, nor are they being shaped.

The only logic they follow is that they will do what it takes to get publicity -- including accepting an invitation from a gay organization so that they could represent the opposing "side" of the marriage debate. Right. Reminds me of another historic teaching moment. Back in 1996, California left-wing activists presented David Duke as a spokesman in favor of Prop 209 (the California Civil Rights Initiative), and naturally Duke was delighted to oblige. The university president said it was educational:

Later, Dr. Wilson said to me, "This debate about the debate is what I call 'a teaching moment.' I think the students will learn a lot about free speech.''

Gov. Pete Wilson emphatically disagreed. He insisted - as did Ward Connerly - that bringing Duke was a setup to discredit Proposition 209. Meanwhile, opponents of 209 were just as furious, predicting Duke would arouse the kinds of racial prejudices that might militate against Proposition 209.

Dr. Wilson remained calm and firm. ``You know,'' she told me, ``there is a 22-year-old black student who says he wants Duke to come because `I've never heard a white racist out loud.' ''

Never heard a white racist out loud? No one would say that today, because racism now means disagreeing with the president's economic policies while Republican. Well, times change, but false flag dynamics remain.

If the Phelps family "church" offers a teaching moment, I hope the journalism students are getting the full picture.

I'd say that God hates false flags, except what do I know about what God hates? Besides, where it comes to false flags, I sin with "pride."

posted by Eric at 11:09 AM | Comments (2)

Can man's war against nature be carried too far?

Future Pundit makes me want to get down and dirty. I often worry that I am too clean. I mean, I bathe daily, I brush my teeth and I floss, I do my laundry every week, and it sometimes gets to be a real drag, and I wonder what's it all for? Am I going to die clean, and die an early death?

A theory holds that auto-immune diseases and some other disorders related to the immune system are caused by a lack of exposure to microorganisms that our immune systems are designed to handle (this idea is known as the Hygiene Hypothesis). The absence of real enemies makes the immune system incorrectly attack friendlies and to otherwise malfunction. Are imbalanced immune systems due to clean environments making people depressed?
(Via Glenn Reynolds.)

There's more at the link, but the bottom line is that cleanliness is unnatural:
there is mounting evidence that disruptions in ancient relationships with microorganisms in soil, food and the gut may contribute to the increasing rates of depression.

According to the authors, the modern world has become so clean, we are deprived of the bacteria our immune systems came to rely on over long ages to keep inflammation at bay.

There are some some intriguing comments which posit that depression largely results from purposelessness:
...the useless you depresses you.

A further study would be how purposelessness causes depression.

And what a purposeless study that would be! I am all for believing in the ultimate pointlessness of life (or at least in the possibility of pointlessness), but still, I think that it is important to be as active as possible doing something. Those who think life is pointless would do well to find a point -- preferably a cause greater than themselves.

Let's take Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson as two examples. They were so busy discovering, inventing, tinkering, and coming up with new ideas, that they probably didn't have time to contemplate the purposelessness of life. Now, some might call that foolish and say that they missed out on an important ultimate realization, but I think they were better off being purposeful than purposeless. And not only were they better off, we are all better off.

The strange thing is, neither one of them was known for adhering fastidiously for what we take for granted today as basic standards of personal hygiene.

At his inauguration, Jefferson was described as "decidedly unkempt in hair and toilet." However, he does seem to have bathed regularly (which in those days may have meant weekly or monthly). Unlike Benjamin Franklin, who was said to have "hated water baths."

Then there was Thomas Paine who " was apparently so unkempt in his appearance that one contemporary called him "the most abominably dirty being upon the face of the earth."

Franklin and Jefferson lived to be 84 and 83 respectively, and although Paine only made it to 72, it apparently took more than being dirty to kill him ("Paine's last years were marked by poverty, poor health and alcoholism.")

Considering that the average life expectancy in colonial America was 25 years of age, all three of them did pretty well.

Nature used to have its way with people, and bad organisms ran amok. Since those days, modern medicine has waged a steady war against nature, and has learned how to thwart many of the bad organisms which used to routinely kill people.

Whether we are thwarting too many of them (and thwarting them too much) is a good question. While I can't see dirty as being healthy, it is very possible that an excess of cleanliness is unhealthy.

I'd hate to be pouring my natural life down the drain.

posted by Eric at 02:17 PM | Comments (8)

Will someone please eat my Christmas homework?

Regular readers know I have an occasional penchant for verifying the accuracy and sources of popular quotes attributed to famous and respected people.

There is a widely circulated quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln that I just haven't been able to verify:

The Bible is not my Book and Christianity is not my religion. I could never give assent to the long complicated statements of Christian dogma.
My question, obviously, is did Lincoln say that? I can't place my trust in sites which are biased against religion, and so I kept looking for a named source.

The only one I could find that is readily quoted was a book titled Salvation for Sale (a biased-sounding title, although that does not mean the scholarship of the author is unsound). The quote has been thrown like a dagger at bloggers who claim the country was founded on the Christian religion, but I have not seen it refuted anywhere.

Of course, how do you refute a quote? The duty, it would seem, would be for whoever offers the quote to provide a linked source proving it.

Which comes down to Salvation for Sale, the full title of which is Salvation for Sale: An Insider's View of Pat Robertson by Gerard Thomas Straub (described as "a former producer of the 700 Club"). What his bias might be, I do not know. He has written other books (which have won awards) and he is a religious man, but I'd like to have a close look at the Lincoln quote to see what if any source he provides.

Except this is the Christmas season and I just plain don't have time. I cannot check out every last damned quote that I see thrown around on the Internet. There is simply too much. True, I might have been able to do it for Isaac Asimov, but this is Abraham Lincoln. Priorities, you know....

Perhaps one of our readers who are concerned more deeply than I am can step up to the plate. As someone who believes in building coalitions, I like to think that I have readers on both, um "sides" of this issue. (Meaning that some readers would like the quote to be true, while others would like it to be false.)

Please feel free to dig in, and dig!

As to my own bias, I really don't have much of an emotional stake in Lincoln's views of the unknown. They are of interest to me, but I don't look up to the man as an ultimate authority figure whose views are binding on me.

Besides, I worry that debating views of the unknown is ultimately a purposeless activity. Yet its purposelessness does not prevent its politicization, which sets up a festering contradiction.

Should we politicize purposeless debates over the unknown?

Don't ask me. I'm too busy with Xmas.

posted by Eric at 12:35 PM | Comments (1)

But What Has It Got To Do With Politics?

S.M. (what a great set of initials) McCain is blogging about a blogger busted for incest. Since it is a political hit piece you know how it runs. The miscreant is a left wing blogger who was a big Obama supporter.

It is just a matter of time (human nature being what it is) until some prominent R gets found with a 15 year old and the Ds will claim moral superiority because "at least an 18 year old can consent." Yeah. The cad waited until his daughter was of age.

Of course the incest loving blogger could go all biblical on us and say that he liked her a Lot.

I don't think these kinds of stories say anything one way or another that is useful about politics. I'm reminded of one of Reagan's best friends and big money boys dying in the arms of his mistress while RR was President. Bloomberg I think - something like that.... (some one remind me if you know)

Gossip is no doubt interesting (Larry Craig?) but what does it have to do with politics? Well it does draw eyeballs. And since it is Christmas time I'm going to get in the spirit and sell something.

Song (comedy bit?) #11 (Green Chri$Tma$) on this compilation is particularly relevant.

Dr. Demento Presents: Greatest Christmas Novelty CD

H/T Instapundit who seems to have quite in interest in sex which allows me to indulge while claiming a smidgen of moral superiority. Which of course if found out will automatically make me morally inferior. But by outing myself on the subject.... Well it never ends. But it isn't, except in the crudest precincts, politics. A certain A.S. - take note.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:04 AM | Comments (3)

You Know, Pythagoras Was Persecuted And Eventually Starved To Death

Over at HotAir, Ed Morissey asks if Obama's triangulation has flopped.

We've been hearing a lot about 1994 lately, but people tend to forget that Ross Perot made a real showing in 1992 and was a major factor in 1996 -- for Clinton, moving toward the middle meant squeezing the space his 1996 challenger could occupy in between Clinton and the Perotistas, while for Obama this movement may open a space for the Naderites.

And Clinton was able to triangulate pretty deftly by supporting two issues -- free trade and welfare reform -- that had significant support among certain segments of his coalition. As many have noted these past couple days, the hated "Bush tax cuts" have been the left's bete noire for some time -- you'd be hard pressed to find a leftish faction with much good to say about the portion going to those making over $250K. And politics in general was more top-down 16 years ago, with the Internet a novel phenomenon and the term "blogger" still some years off, while far left Democrats were not still psychologically scarred from six years of being relatively powerless.

It remains to be seen whether the Obamaphile press can drag their man across the finish line, but things certainly aren't looking good right now.

posted by Dave at 08:08 PM | Comments (2)

Copyright tyranny

The copyright slimebags have gone after Matt Drudge for using an allegedly copyrighted photo in the Drudge Report.

What I find especially remarkable about the lawsuit is their damage demand:

As the Wild West of online copyright enforcement very, very slowly sorts itself out, a group that seems to be trying to enforce -- or, depending on your point of view, abuse -- the rights of the Denver Post to a photo has filed suit against the Drudge Report.

Their remakable demands: "[D]amages of $150,000 as well as forfeiture to Righthaven of the drudgereport.com and drudgereportarchives.com website domain names."

Drudge is a mighty big fish, and I hope he defends this aggressively, because the First Amendment is being systematically destroyed in the guise of upholding copyright law.

In the name of copyright enforcement, not only are blogs being sued, but web sites are being shut down by the government without any regard for due process.

So, I hope Drudge retaliates and sues Righthaven (for engaging in a conspiracy to violate his civil rights, along with RICO violations, and whatever), and that he ends up owning Righthaven.

The problem is, his insurance carrier will most likely take charge of the case and urge him to settle (which would only help enable the bastards).

posted by Eric at 01:58 PM | Comments (4)

Barbie needs a good lawyer

An FBI alert over a Barbie doll with a video camera has generated a lot of interesting discussion by people who are worried that the dolls might somehow be used by pedophiles to make kiddie porn:

...that the new "Video Girl Barbie" comes with a hidden camera, which could be used to record child pornography.

"The alert's intent was to ensure law enforcement agencies were aware that the doll, like any other video-capable equipment, could contain evidence and to not disregard such an item during a search," the FBI explained in a statement.

Naturally, everyone assumes that the "evidence" and the "search" would relate to an adult pervert -- you know, the guy in a long overcoat who waves the doll and says, "Hey little girl, wanna play with Barbie?" That scenario is certainly a possibility, but I'm surprised that so many people are missing the most likely criminal conduct these dolls could facilitate.

Children filming themselves! According to the laws we live under, children who photograph themselves nude are violating the child pornography laws.

The female students at Greensburg Salem High School in Greensburg, Pa., all 14- or 15-years-old, face charges of manufacturing, disseminating or possessing child pornography while the boys, who are 16 and 17, face charges of possession, according to WPXI-TV in Pittsburgh, which published the story on its Web site on Tuesday.

Police told the station that the photos were discovered in October, after school officials seized a cell phone from a male student who was using it in violation of school rules and found a nude photo of a classmate on it. Police were called in and their investigation led them to other phones containing more photos, it said.

A Barbie doll is not a phone, but "her" camera "can shoot 30 minutes of video footage and be uploaded to a computer via USB."

Saying "Barbie did it" would probably not be a defense. That's because if we are to be strictly logical, the adults among us must recognize that Barbie is not a human being. Which means that "she" cannot be an actual child pornographer, even though the manufacturers have created a situation where it is easy for her to become a virtual one. Where are the outraged feminists? I mean, why put poor Barbie in the position of being a proxy porn producer, when we all know that the evil men are most often the real cultural villains? Why isn't Ken being made a proxy porn maker? Where's the virtual equality?

I don't know, but if I were the manufacturer, I would cover my ass by putting some sort of label on the toy.


posted by Eric at 11:05 AM | Comments (2)

Instapundit Says: Buy This Book

The man's sex obsession is on view for all to see. My kinda guy. The book:

Lube Jobs: A Woman's Guide to Great Maintenance Sex

If you buy the book from the above link it is almost $2 cheaper than the Instapundit link. I wonder why? And if I use this link the price is up $1.

Lube Jobs: A Woman's Guide to Great Maintenance Sex

Interesting. Further: I just checked again and the first link is now the same price as the Instapundit link and the second link is now $1 less than either price. A real time market to be sure. Well. Maybe. Oh yeah. If you buy from one of my links I get a cut at no cost to you.

From the review section:

Some 20 suggested scenarios include creative manual, oral, toy-enhanced, and coital approaches, including body shots (a porn staple), front-seat fellatio, backseat bonking with porn on the laptop, bathtub blow jobs, and closet canoodling. While the constant servicing-a-car wordplay may annoy some readers, the advice is sound and fun. Lighthearted illustrations would have been a nice touch, but the book does quite well as is. Most people spend the largest part of their adulthood slogging through committed relationships, and they need books like this. Recommended for public libraries."--Library Journal --
The library was never that exciting when I was growing up. Except for the National Geographic. Other wise known as "Half-Naked Savages". Of course with my Dad's box of Playboys in the basement (I kid you not) I didn't visit the library near as often as I might otherwise have needed to.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 02:49 PM | Comments (0)

People, who hate people, are the luckiest people in the world?

Not only did I love Sarah's latest post ("Don't Hate Me 'Cause I'm Human"), I also loved her comment:

...if I hear ONE MORE twit-line (or read it) in move or book saying something like "We are a plague on the Earth" I'm going to... become even more angry than I am.
Those who say "We are a plague on the Earth" are by definition self hating. As well as haters of humanity.

And hating people is bad. Hate sucks, right?

So I have a question.

Why aren't groups that hate humanity (and who openly admit that they want to bring about an end to civilization) being included by the vaunted SPLC among the innumerable "hate groups"?

What's the rule? Is it that some hate groups are perfectly OK?

It seems that hating people in the name of loving the planet is not considered hate but love.

While I've always had the same sort of naturally antisocial tendencies that many of us have, there is something ominous about this.

I would hate to see hatred of humanity become schmaltzy.

I mean, think about it. They're taking simple misanthropy (long a perfectly normal and wholesome thing) and contaminating it with love!

Excuse me while I throw up, but hating in the name of love makes me sick.

posted by Eric at 12:55 PM | Comments (6)

The lying truth, the leaky truth, and the truth-truth!

I haven't written much about WikiLeaks, but I think there are two separate issues: one is the First Amendment, and the other goes to the damaging nature of the leaks (often called "national security").

It's pretty basic that the right to say or publish something does not make saying or publishing it right. The principle is grounded in common sense, and it applies to ordinary speech like profane, or foul and abusive language in a similar manner. I support the right of people to use extreme words and terms I would never use, and as I support the right of people to publish material even though when a good argument can be made that it clearly damages national security.
(Interestingly, the leakers themselves don't seem all that committed to the principle of free speech; quelling and silencing the opposition is fine for me, but evil for thee!)

Of course, not everyone thinks the WikiLeaks damage national security. Some -- and Ron Paul is a good example -- think that the truth should always be welcome, no matter how damaging it may be.

"In a free society we're supposed to know the truth," Paul said. "In a society where truth becomes treason, then we're in big trouble. And now, people who are revealing the truth are getting into trouble for it."

"This whole notion that Assange, who's an Australian, that we want to prosecute him for treason. I mean, aren't they jumping to a wild conclusion?" he added. "This is media, isn't it? I mean, why don't we prosecute The New York Times or anybody that releases this?"

Paul followed up with a post to his Twitter account Friday morning: "Re: WikiLeaks -- In a free society, we are supposed to know the truth. In a society where truth becomes treason, we are in big trouble."

I think Assange clearly intended to damage national security, and whether in the long run he will have been successful remains to be seen. Ordinary people (including people in other countries) know that bad shit happens in war. Bad shit happened in World War II, and American and British troops sometimes did things which were shocking. It's the nature of war, and I think that more people are capable of seeing the big picture than is commonly realized.

But certainly in the present context, the leaks have to be seen as harming the United States, regardless of what the various and ultimate "truths" turn out to be. That there is plenty of material containing plenty of truths to debate for the next few decades is undeniable. The debate centers on whether the leaks are helpful or harmful, and again, that depends on perspective.

What is truth, anyway?

Consider the way WikiLeak lover Glenn Greenwald excoriates the American majority for disagreeing with him:

Just for a sense of how pervasive these lies about WikiLeaks have become, consider this Pew poll from today, which purports to find that 60% of Americans believe the latest WikiLeaks disclosure harms the public interest, while only 31% believe it helps it (apparently, a majority of Americans demand: keep us ignorant about what our Government is doing in the world!!). But the whole poll is grounded in an absolute falsehood: the Pew release refers to "the WikiLeaks website's release of a huge trove of classified document"; describes "the release of thousands of secret State Department communications"; and praises the public for "make[ing] a distinction between WikiLeaks itself and the press' handling of the document release"
I have to say, it certainly came as a surprise to me that the leaks do not constitute a huge trove of classified documents, and do not involve the release of thousands of secret State Department communications.

I guess that means the WikiLeaks Wiki page is lying. Along with millions, I have been led to believe that the leaking of official documents was the whole idea:

In October, the group released a package of almost 400,000 documents called the Iraq War Logs in coordination with major commercial media organisations. In November 2010, WikiLeaks began releasing U.S. State department diplomatic cables.
The entry carries on at length about the breadth and scope of the documents, their classified nature, etc. etc. ad nauseam.

Now that I know I've been duped, I can sleep easier.

MORE: In light of my earlier post in which I discuss my reluctance to get involved in a Tea Party war that some non-Tea Partyers want to start, I find myself wondering whether -- and to what extent -- WikiLeaks ought to be considered "a Tea Party issue."

I don't think it is. But that does not mean that individual Tea Partyers might not have a multiplicity of strong opinions on the subject. In my area, many of them would agree with Ron Paul, and some of them might very well label those on the other side to be warmongering neocons. What that means is that it just isn't likely to be a Tea Party issue.

Nor is it a major issue for the overall public, as this chart indicates:


People are slightly interested, and only slightly less interested than they are in "Don't Ask Don't Tell." Single digits.

Hey, maybe the double digit issues are where the consensus truly lies....

MORE: Via Glenn Reynolds, Perry de Havilland explains why he dislikes Assange but nonetheless supports WikiLeaks:

If you think the state is too powerful, yet you do not want to see the state damaged by systemic attacks like Assange's Wikileaks, then presumably you think the state's power can be trimmed back significantly within the system. Indeed this was long my hope as I am a minarchist and thus see some role for the state in keeping barbarian hordes at bay, preventing plagues and putting out fires (the 'nightwatchman state')... but I think now that the idea this roll back of modern pervasive regulatory statism could ever be achieved via democratic politics is not just naive but verges on delusional.
It's an ongoing worry -- beyond the WikiLeaks issue.

posted by Eric at 10:50 AM | Comments (2)

Don't Hate Me 'Cause I'm Human

There's this disturbing trend I've observed recently - okay, the last thirty years.

It's part of what I was talking about yesterday, in a way. For a book to be considered serious, or introspective or relevant, it has to attack the past or western culture or civilization or tech or... humanity.

Continue reading "Don't Hate Me 'Cause I'm Human"

posted by Sarah at 01:34 AM | Comments (13)

Faith In Force

Punishing sinners. A thankless pass time. A LOT of money in it though.

According to Judeo/Christian philosophy punishing sinners is reserved for the Maker. Punishing disturbers of the peace is allowed.

Where our "religious" friends go off the rails is in conflating the two. Vice may be unseemly. It is not crime. Vice is to be regulated. Crime punished.

You can't stop people from doing damage to their immortal souls - called in some cases "a learning experience". You can create quite a bit of crime by trying to suppress vice though.

Who are the disturbers of the peace?

Well fashions in vice abatement change over time. For a long time in America alcohol was the favored target. Now we have new ones. And even those are on the verge of passing in the next 10 to 20 years. I wonder what/who we will be hating in 2030? Since every society needs something/someone to hate I propose the Andromeda Galaxy. It is sufficiently far away so that it is probably safe for a while.

Of course part of the problem here is the fragmented nature of the hate market. Some hate bankers, some politicians, Jew hatred is coming back to more normal levels, and some people are even so picky as to hate only Democrats or on the other side only Republicans. Such a very interesting dichotomy in America. The Democrats want to force you to do one thing. The Republicans another. They are united in their belief in force. Which is rather far from a belief in the Maker.

Me? Like any human I have my petty hatreds. I refuse to elevate them to the level of principle.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 05:37 PM | Comments (4)

An irritating feature that can't be turned off. But that's life.

This morning I was irritated to find a stupid piece of spam posted in my name on my Facebook Wall.

Eventually I figured out what happened (no, they had not hacked my actual FB account), and I tried to post a helpful warning to whoever might be reading my Wall. But I can't do that, as I am only allowed 420 characters:

Your status update is too long. The maximum status length is 420 characters, but it is 826 characters long.
OK, so here's what I tried to write but was not allowed to write on my Wall.

Facebook Mobile sucks. It appeared that someone had hacked my FB account, because this morning I saw a ridiculous entry purporting to be from me on my Wall -- along with a photo I never uploaded. What had happened is that a spammer had managed to randomly guess my Facebook "personal upload email" address. These are randomly generated and naturally, the spammers crank out millions of randomly generated spam emails until they get a hit. (As they did earlier.) There is no way to stop the feature. Nor is there any way to turn off Facebook Mobile (a feature I do not want and do not use.) The only thing you can do is change the blasted "personal upload email" address and hope the spammers don't randomly generate the new one. When they do, it will again appear that "you" have posted to your Wall, even though you did not.


An email address I don't want but have to have, and anything that is sent to it by anyone becomes a Wall post from "me." Talk about putting words in people's mouths!

Sometimes I get a little tired of irritating features that can't be turned off.

But if I look at the big picture, isn't that the nature of life?

MORE: If I feel like sharing, will this button help feed the downtrodden masses?

posted by Eric at 12:13 PM | Comments (3)

Where's the war? And who are the warmongers?

A lot of people are hoping to start a war between social conservatives and libertarians in the Tea Party, and I think that represents wishful thinking on their part. That there is no denying the existence of sharp differences in philosophy within the Tea Party tent has long been obvious; I have written a number of posts about it, and I make no secret of being in the libertarian camp, nor have I ever denied my disagreements with social conservatism (especially the statist variety). But because I have also long favored a coalition between libertarians and social conservatives on issues they can both agree upon, I see no more reason for starting a "war" than the social conservatives I have encountered. Because of the horizontal, grassroots nature of the Tea Party, I think it would be very difficult to start any real war. For starters, the Tea Party is based largely on showing up at a given event. If local Tea Party organizers in, say, the RTL camp decided that a mass demonstration in front of the local Planned Parenthood headquarters was in order, they would be as free to show up as those who disagreed with the demo would be free to stay home. There is nothing new about disagreement on that issue. Ditto gay marriage, marijuana legalization, or demanding that condom lessons be stopped in schools. Individual Tea Partiers have different positions on these issues pro or con, which means that large turnouts from "THE TEA PARTY" in its entirety could hardly be expected. Few would show up. So how do you start a "war" that way?

I'm reminded of the old slogan "what if they gave a war and nobody came?"

For there to be a "war" between libertarians and social conservatives, they would have to agree to have one. I might be wrong, but don't see such an agreement as forthcoming. It certainly isn't going to come from me. I merely disagree with social conservatives on those areas where I disagree, just as they disagree with libertarians on those areas where they disagree. As these disagreements are well known, and as the coalition enters its third year, I'm not seeing anything resembling a call for war within the Tea Party movement itself.

The whole thing seems awfully contrived, and I am tempted to ask "who benefits?"

In that regard, an article in Reason (Class War:How public servants became our masters) sheds some light into what drives the Tea Party more than any other issue.

Our rulers, that's what!

They -- and I do mean they -- are the uniting force that motivates libertarians and social conservatives to show up together in strength. They make disagreements on other issues pale by comparison. They want to bury us all. And they aren't checking cards at the gates of the nation's doom to see whether we are libertarians, social conservatives, or some non-conforming mishmash of both.

...54 percent of the economy is private, 28 percent goes to the feds, and 18 percent goes to state and local governments. The trend lines are ominous.

Bigger government means more government employees. Those employees then become a permanent lobby for continual government growth. The nation may have reached critical mass; the number of government employees at every level may have gotten so high that it is politically impossible to roll back the bureaucracy, rein in the costs, and restore lost freedoms.

People who are supposed to serve the public have become a privileged elite that exploits political power for financial gain and special perks. Because of its political power, this interest group has rigged the game so there are few meaningful checks on its demands. Government employees now receive far higher pay, benefits, and pensions than the vast majority of Americans working in the private sector. Even when they are incompetent or abusive, they can be fired only after a long process and only for the most grievous offenses.

It's a two-tier system in which the rulers are making steady gains at the expense of the ruled. The predictable results: Higher taxes, eroded public services, unsustainable levels of debt, and massive roadblocks to reforming even the poorest performing agencies and school systems. If this system is left to grow unchecked, we will end up with a pale imitation of the free society envisioned by the Founders.

That's what I think drives the Tea Party, and that's why the latest divide-and-conquer strategy will fail. Every day I see examples, large and small, and I don't have the time or energy to blog about all of them. (Just yesterday I read about the mandate for back up cameras on cars, and about bureaucratic insistence that doctors be chaperoned when examining patients even though neither the doctors nor the patients want chaperons.) These people are running our lives, ruining the country, and they are doing it with our money, and even though it is clear that the money has run out, they demand it anyway.

Which naturally leads me to suspect that it is they who want the Tea Party to have a war.

They can make all the noise they want, but I for one am not about to go to war on their say-so. Sure, they might be very powerful, but they don't have the power to declare war within the Tea Party, do they? Well, I guess maybe they can declare a war within their media echo chamber, but they can't draft me or make me fight, can they?

UPDATE: Many thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link, and a warm welcome to all.

I appreciate the comments, including the disagreements. I'm not inclined to go to war, and I don't think disagreement constitutes war.

(As I pointed out in a comment to M. Simon's earlier post, I don't even think disagreement necessarily constitutes hate!)

posted by Eric at 10:52 AM | Comments (81)

Moving backwards with government assistance

When I was younger and considerably more irresponsible than I am now, I bought a used car for almost nothing, which the guy sold me because the (automatic) transmission had conked out and he couldn't move it. Actually, the car could be moved, but only in reverse. The transmission was dead in all forward gears, but in reverse it operated as would any other car. While the car was a little over four miles from where I lived at the time, it occurred to me that if I could just get it home without having it towed (which would have cost more than I paid for the car) I would have a great deal. To do that, though, I would have to drive it in reverse for four miles across town.

Yes, I was crazy enough to do it. My thinking was that when you drive a car in reverse, people usually have enough common sense to understand what that entails, and they just sort of shrug while you slowly work your way in reverse past them -- presumably to get back to wherever it was you wanted to go but made an error, or to return to that parking space you missed. Obviously, driving in reverse is not a good idea at peak traffic times, so I figured I would drive the disabled car home at a time well into the wee hours of the morning.

It was much easier than I thought it would be. The only hard part was craning my neck while driving. I wrapped my right arm around the passenger headrest, and just kept going. What made it even easier was the fact that at 3:00 a.m. the lights in Berkeley are almost all timed, so I didn't have to sit at lights idling with the brake on looking like I had gone through the light and idiotically stopped without continuing "forward." There were a few other drivers on the road, but they had more important things to do than worry about a car backing up. All they were interested in was me getting out of their way and their staying out of my way -- and how on earth would they have known that I was driving a car in reverse for over four miles?

So I made it home. My neck was sore as hell the next day, though.

The reason this bizarre true story from my past came to light is that Glenn Reynolds linked a very irritating article about government run amok.

Federal regulations are to require backup cameras on all new cars by 2014.

By 2014 all new cars sold in the U.S. will have a factory installed back-up camera. These rear-view cameras, already standard on many luxury cars, could help prevent 300 death and 18,000 injuries. It's the law!
All I can say is that law would have spared me a very sore neck if they'd had the cameras back in the old days. I wish they'd had them!

Except I'm wondering whether that's the purpose. Does the government really want to facilitate long distance driving in reverse? Hardly. I think the idea is the ongoing idiot-proofing of everything. The reason there are so many accidents caused by people driving in reverse is that there are so many incompetent drivers on the road who either don't or who can't look before backing up. The latter include fat people, people with back problems, and the elderly, and a whole host of clueless people who simply do not have the manual dexterity, hand-eye coordination, brains, whatever it is you call it. For reasons that defy logic and common sense, the government experts who run everything are bound and determined to make it easier for them.

What they don't realize is that they're also going to make driving in reverse a lot easier for the people who are young, coordinated, and above all video-game savvy. I'm glad I'm not a teenager, because I can just see backup camera facilitated reverse street racing as the Next Big Thing. It's more fun than flying under instruments-only conditions.

Be the first on your block!

Hell, they're probably doing it already.

I'm sure it's a neat game once you get the hang of it.

Probably becomes second nature.

Almost makes me wish I were young so I could experiment.

(Everything will be so much safer.)

posted by Eric at 11:20 PM | Comments (7)

War Baby

I would like to thank the Japanese and Germans for starting WW2. Without the war my mother would not have met my father and I would probably be some one else. If I was anyone at all.

On Dec 7th, 1941 my Dad (God rest his soul) was in the Coast Guard. Not long after the attack he was in the Navy for the duration. He was a Chief Petty Officer (Damage Control) on the AOG-27 USS Escatawpa a gasoline tanker that was involved in the Battle of Okinawa.

AOG-27 USS Escatawpa

* Mettawee class Gasoline Tanker:
* Displacement: 2,280 tons
* Length: 221'
* Beam: 37'
* Draft: 14'
* Speed: 9.5 knots
* Armament: 1 3"/50 DP, 2 40mm, 3 20mm
* Complement: 62
* Cargo: 1,228 DWT
* Diesel engines, single shaft, 720 hp.
* Built at East Coast Shipyard, Bayonne, N.J., and commissioned 18 August 1944

BTW the 9.5 knots is the top speed. The economical speed is 8.5 knots. Cruising the Pacific in such a ship must have been daunting. I served on a frigate, the USS Bainbridge. When I was on it we had TWO Dual 3" 50s aft. And a top sustained speed (nuclear powered) of above 30 knots. Although I was in a combat zone for a while the only time we ever went to general quarters was for drill. I had nothing like kamikaze attacks to deal with. Of course being in engineering I would have been the last to know. Unless we took a hit. My general quarters station was damage control central.

My dad and I used to swap sea stories when he was with us. All because of WW2. Which started for America today. 69 years ago.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:36 PM | Comments (4)

Remember Pearl Harbor, lest it become "outdated content"

I try to remember every year. And I can't think of a better reason than the fact that (unlike Bing) Google would have us forget.

So what did I do? In spite of if not because of the obvious irony involved, I promptly Googled Google on the subject and found a Google discussion -- titled "Why is there no Google Doodle in honor of December 7th? (Pearl Harbor)."

Right up at the top, a red bar warns, "This discussion contains outdated content."

As outdated as remembering Pearl Harbor, no doubt.

Like this outdated remark from a whole year ago:

12/7/09 Have we already forgotten about "a date that will live in infamy"? Then again it looks like people have already forgot about what actually happened on 9/11 as well...
Or, how about a turkey doodle day?
12/7/09 You can do "Turkish National Day" but not pearl harbor day?? The Japaneses market will probably be offended I'm sure.....I'm using Bing!
For that occasion, Google very thoughtfully turned one of their O's into an Islamic crescent.


Then there was this outdated comment:

12/8/09 They devote a week and a half to Sesame Street, yet don't observe Pearl Harbor Day, the birthday of the Constitution and the birthday's of our military branches. I'm waiting to see if they are going to observe the birthday of the Bill of Rights. I did notice that their competetion, Bing.com, is observing Pearl Harbor Day in the memory of those who lost their lives and did our nation a great service. Without them, they probably wouldn't have a job. And I may have found a new search engine. I talk loudly and proudly and my friends will get wind of what has happened today.
In memory of those who lost their lives and continue to fight each and every day!
One less Google user
Things were even worse than poor Jessica imagined. Google did snub the birthday of the Bill of Rights, but they didn't just leave the plain old Google logo: they substituted a special logo to celebrate the birthday of LL Zamenhof:
Today is the 118th anniversary of the ratification of the U.S. Bill of Rights, but the buzz is not about the ten amendments. Instead, it is all about what search engine Google did, or rather did not do today. Internet is on fire right now with people discussing why Google chose to honor the 150th birthday of the 'father' of Esperanto L.L. Zamenhof rather than honoring the anniversary of the signing of the Bill of Rights, a milestone event in the history of the United States.
I guess now that it's a year later, that issue is "outdated content."

Why would Google think the invention of a language that faded into near total obscurity is more important than the Bill of Rights?

I think Glenn put it well.

"They're citizens of the world at Google."
I prefer being a citizen of the United States who remembers Pearl Harbor.

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

Comments appreciated, agree or disagree.

UPDATE: Co-blogger M. Simon is a veteran whose father served in World War II. Check out his Pearl Harbor Day post.

posted by Eric at 03:05 PM | Comments (18)

Predictable, but not dull

Repeating myself is no fun. Nor is saying "I TOLD YOU SO."

But in today's news, I see that President Obama is selling out the left, and making a right turn:

Obama sells out the left: a Republican win on taxes
By Jennifer Rubin

There really is no other way to say it: the Republicans won, the liberal Democrats lost, and the president sided with the Republicans. The subject, of course, is an agreement to extend all the Bust tax cuts. The president tonight announced a "bipartisan framework" for agreement on, among other things, to extend the Bush tax cuts for two years. A Republican House aide tells me tonight it is "a damn good deal." And so it is, from the perspective of conservatives.

Nothing could fail to surprise me more.

Things are right on schedule.

Here's what I said in February, (and I was repeating myself even then):

As I argued earlier, if Obama moves to the center now, not only would he look weak, but there's a serious risk that he might just save enough congressional seats to keep it in Democratic hands. And if that happens, the American voters (who remain center-right) would be much more inclined to vote him out in 2012.

But if OTOH, the Republicans re-take Congress in the fall, that dramatically increases Obama's chances of reelection (as the guy who would help keep in place that reassuring gridlock that American voters historically favor). Say what you want about Obama, but I think he's smart enough to realize this.

If my theory is correct, then once the Democrats lose Congress, then and only then would the Obama triangulation strategy begin in earnest. I think that any comparisons with Clinton triangulation are thus premature, and I think it should be remembered that Clinton's triangulation began after the disastrous Democratic losses in 1994 (which was the birth of the "Contract With America").

There's plenty of time for triangulation. Meanwhile, it is in Obama's best interest to have his party lose.

And now that they have lost, it is in his best interest to have his most beatable opponent on the GOP ticket in 2012.

If only this weren't so predictable.

It's not dull, though. Train wrecks never are, even if you see them coming.

(No, that is not a prediction that the Republicans would ever unwittingly help ensure that Obama gets a second term. After all, the presidency is theirs for the taking, isn't it? Why would they snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?)

posted by Eric at 11:03 AM | Comments (2)

Letting people in nursing homes suffer is a small price to pay...

Quick question.

What gives the Drug Enforcement Administration the right to determine what pain medications elderly people should be getting, when they should get it, and who gives it to them?

Kohl wants to change DEA rules that allow pharmacists to dispense drugs to nursing home patients only with a verbal or written prescription from a doctor. Advocates say this results in unnecessary medication delays because most nursing facilities do not have a full-time doctor on staff and may have trouble reaching a doctor at crucial moments.

A DEA crackdown last year against pharmacies that allowed nurses to place orders for painkillers without a written prescription brought new focus to the issue.

(Via Glenn Reynolds.)

Excuse me, but isn't this a medical issue?

Or are senior citizens suffering from pain in rest homes now considered criminal suspects? I have no doubt that the DEA would say that it isn't trying to deny rest home patients pain relief, but that the goal is to stop the illegal diversion of drugs to the black market. If so, then why are they not simply going after the people who they determine to be actually diverting and selling the drugs? Instead, by making it harder for everyone else to get them (under the guise of crime prevention), they're sending a clear message that they consider everyone who supplies or needs pain meds to be a potential suspect.

Do they really think a single drug-diverting criminal entrepreneur will be deterred by this harassment of law abiding people in pain and their caregivers? Has not history shown that drug criminals who flout the laws will simply adjust their tactics as needed? (If anything, they might see this as another opportunity to make more money if street prices go up.)

The DEA's tactics remind me of the silly (and largely discredited) idea that making it tougher to buy guns will stop criminals from getting them.

Pain relief prevention will not prevent crime.

posted by Eric at 04:01 PM | Comments (2)

Gratuitous and premature prognostication

When I was exploring a blog which Glenn Reynolds linked recently, I found a fascinating left-wing comparison of Sarah Palin with Mike Huckabee, which is so refreshing in its honesty that I couldn't resist sharing it:

* General GOP crap: Palin believes and pushes a bunch of asinine right-wing nonsense about the economy, environment, guns, war, etc., as does Mike Huckabee. A wash.

* Abortion: Palin is vehemently against abortion and identifies as "pro-life," as does Mike Huckabee. A wash.

* Birth control: Palin is explicitly in favor of birth control, in terms of using it, encouraging others to use it, and even allowing it to be included in sex ed (though she also argues for abstinence education for teens). Mike Huckabee thinks birth control should be banned. Yes: he thinks the birth control pill should be banned. Who's crazier?

* Gender equality: Palin explicitly believes in equality between men and women, rejects any subservient role for women, and identifies as a "conservative feminist." Mike Huckabee explicitly believes that God intends women to be subordinate and obedient to men, just like it says in the Bible. Who's crazier? (Edited to add: This alone makes Huckabee unfit for civilized society. Or uncivilized society. This is freaking huge.)

* Homosexuality: Palin is against gay marriage, but says she is fine with homosexuality and has many gay friends, etc. Mike Huckabee says that homosexuality is aberrant, sinful, and poses a public health risk. He also believes people with AIDS/HIV should be isolated from the rest of the population, perhaps in camps of some kind. Who's crazier?

OK, let me admit my bias: to say that I prefer Palin over Huckabee would be understatement. (No surprise to anyone who has read this blog.)

But what I think is irrelevant. Regardless of my or anyone's personal biases, to see that Sarah Palin is far more likely than Mike Huckabee to draw votes from independents, libertarians, and possibly disgruntled leftists does not require a degree in political science.

Little wonder the left is hoping and praying that Huckabee will be the nominee.

The trouble with comparing Palin and Huckabee is that no choice that simple will ever be before the voters. Instead, they (the GOP primary voters) will most likely have to choose between Palin, Huckabee, Romney, and Gingrich. In the last cycle, Huckabee and Romney tended to cancel each other out, but that was before Palin, who may very well take votes from Huckabee and Romney (probably more from the former than the latter), but the three way split could conceivably put Gingrich on top. If Palin is number two, then whoever decided to drop out first could be the king maker. Or the queen maker.

posted by Eric at 12:15 PM | Comments (12)

Hating Democrats

R.S. McCain is looking at the Jew hating faction of the Democrat Party. And like any good reporter he picks a particularly ugly example for our entertainment and enlightenment.

But history intrudes.

Nazi Germany is now history. And so is the interregnum it brought to Jew hating. Jew hating in America peaked in 1944. It was so virulent among Republicans that my mother has never forgiven them despite the train wreck that is the current Democrat Party.

Which is why, despite Jews earning like Episcopalians, they vote like Puerto Ricans.

Hatred has consequences that often far outlive the hatred. "Unto the tenth generation....." I believe is the rule of thumb.

A well rated DVD on the subject:

The Longest Hatred: A Revealing History of Anti-Semitism

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:14 AM | Comments (1)

Practice Run

I was reading Beyond The Nanny State which was discussing the TSA and other outrages and came across this comment:

I'm not even in a position to go flying, but I must say, why is each and every frequent flyer being treated like a drug-runner in a car in Jersey

You don't get it do you? The Drug War was the prototype for all this. Beating up on dopers was just a practice run. And fine practice it was.

Now that everyone is a suspect (contraband doncha know?) the government has well established practices for dealing with just such a situation. Effective? Of course not. But neither is the Drug War. And ineffectiveness has led to no widespread outcry against the practices endemic to that little war on contraband. Let alone serious complaints on civil liberties grounds. Excepting for a few of us cranks.

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:21 AM | Comments (2)

moral lessons from the war on drugs

There is right and wrong. At least I still like to think there is.

Drug laws contaminate our sense of right and wrong.

Think about it. The big divide in criminal law is the distinction between malum in se, and malum prohibitum.

Prohibitory substance laws treat malum prohibitum crime more seriously than many malum in se crimes. You can't do that and pretend that traditional notions of right and wrong won't be affected.

When my father was a kid, heroin and cocaine were available over the counter without prescription. They were no more immoral to buy than sudafed was until recently. Yet because of nearly a century of imprisoning people, SWAT team raids, a relentless stream of propaganda and ever more draconian laws, the possession of such drugs is now regarded by many as malum in se.

There has been an attempt to accomplish the same moral shift with guns.

You'd almost think there was no such thing as malum in se, and that right and wrong were relative concepts. If you did, you'd be a moral relativist.

But if right and wrong are being made relative by the laws, then who are the moral relativists?

posted by Eric at 12:04 AM | Comments (2)

Is that a cucumber in your underwear or are you just happy to be pickled?

Glenn Reynolds has a very amusing editorial comparing Barack Obama to Spinal Tap's Nigel Tufnel, who has cranked up the knobs to 11.

The more I watch this administration at work, the more I think we're seeing the first Nigel Tufnel presidency.

Nigel Tufnel, many will remember, was the fictitious heavy metal guitarist in the fictional "rockumentary" "This Is Spinal Tap." In a classic scene, he displays his guitar collection and his special amplifier that -- unlike all other amplifiers in existence -- has knobs that go all the way up to 11, instead of just 10.

And that's what Obama has done: In his first two years as president, he's taken us to 11 in so many ways.

Normally, we are conditioned to see 10 as the scale number that cannot be exceeded. But that's only because we've been stuck in our backward decimalistic thinking which sees things on a scale of 1 through 10. By taking us to 11, Obama has either defied the laws of math or else he has elevated us to elevenism -- a system newer than the newest new new math.

What he did not realize is that the setting of 11 would make the frogs jump:

For Nigel Tufnel, turning the knobs to 11 was a way to excite the crowd, and Obama's approach has certainly done that, if not quite in the way that Obama intended. While many Americans were uneasy about big government before, Obama's shock-and-awe approach got them downright upset.

Al Gore used to tell the story of a frog in a pot of slowly heating water, left insensible to the fact that it was being boiled by slow degrees. Obama turned the knob on the stove to 11, and now the frog has decided to jump.

Hmmm... And if we consider the Gore frog hypothesis in light of the latest scientific evidence (that if you put a frog in a pot of water and slowly heat it up, the frog will freeze to death before it realizes it's actually boiling), then the rapid turning up of the knob has obviously caused a concomitant rapid freeze in the economy -- precisely in accord with the new counterintuitive law of physics we now know to be true! So it doesn't matter whether the frogs are avoiding the sudden freezing or the rapid boiling; the point is that they are jumping out of the pot.

Glenn continues:

Obama's advisers thought that the sudden introduction of numerous big-government programs would produce a sort of shock-and-awe effect, paralyzing opposition and getting the public used to the idea of European style government involvement in American life. But instead of shock and awe, Obama's approach has produced shock and action, with the Tea Party movement and other anti-big-government protests sweeping the nation like wildfire, and producing the biggest Democratic midterm defeat in generations.

And, like the beleaguered band Spinal Tap, Obama is seeing his appeal shrink rapidly despite the increased volume -- though his advisers, like Spinal Tap's manager Ian Faith, protest that his appeal isn't shrinking, just becoming "more selective." In fact, as it flounders before the Wikileaks scandal and the TSA brouhaha, the entire Obama presidency seems to be shrinking, much like the 18-foot model of Stonehenge that, through a slip of Tufnel's pen, became an 18-inch model of Stonehenge that left audiences unimpressed.

The Spinal Tap analogy is so rich that I think the film may be truly prophetic.

I mean, consider the cucumber scene -- which so eerily anticipates the TSA brouhaha that I am flabbergasted.

Glenn concludes by asking whether there will be a Spinal Tap-style "happy ending to a humorous story of ineptitude and decline."

Well, I think we are in a pickle.

I'd call it the final "solution" for cucumbers and frogs, but this is getting sick.

(Plus, I don't like violating Godwin's Law on Sundays....)

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

(And I don't know what I would do if someone limited me to 800 words!)

posted by Eric at 12:05 PM | Comments (3)

Frozen in denial

Well, it looks as if I've been in denial about Global Warming. Turns out that it's killing people:

At least 60 people have died across Europe during the current cold snap, as snow plagued transport in Britain on Friday and serious flooding prompted mass evacuations in the Balkans.

Seventeen people died in Central Europe in the last 24 hours from the cold, bringing the total this week to 45. A further 11 died in Russia, plus three in France and one in Germany, according to local authorities.

At least 30 people, mainly homeless men, have died in Poland in the past week, and temperatures dropped to minus 15 degrees Celsius (five degrees Fahrenheit) overnight.

Temperatures plunged to minus 20 degrees Celsius (minus four Fahrenheit) in Braemar, Scotland, while Britain struggled to get back to its feet after days of transport chaos.

I anticipate that there may be cynical doubters and stubborn denialists out there who will say that if people are freezing to death, it's the opposite of warming, but they just don't understand.

Freezing is caused by warming!

"this shows that the climate is becoming more dynamic, and thus large shifts in the wind patterns are possible - in this case, sub-tropical air being trapped further south than usual."
Hey, as any idiot knows, if you put a frog in a pot of water and slowly heat it up, the frog will freeze to death before it realizes it's actually boiling.

posted by Eric at 02:23 PM | Comments (5)

"you don't know who's enemy"

While there don't seem to be very many film directors in Afghanistan, I recently watched an excellent film -- Osama -- about a girl in the era of Taliban rule whose mother encouraged her to disguise herself as a boy, because that was the only way for the family (which had no remaining men alive) to survive. It is a harrowing tale, and I won't spoil the plot, other than to say the girl's "crime" is eventually discovered by the Taliban. A grim reminder of how awful the situation was before the events of 9/11 caused the United States to remove the cutthroats from power. From a review:

"...Barmak's unflinching docu-drama depiction of the frightening Taliban terror is a traumatizing watch-but a necessary one. Filmed with the country's only 35mm camera at a total cost of the price of used Volvo...".
Have to admire a director like that.

Out of natural curiosity, I wondered whether the director (Siddiq Barmak) had done anything since. Sure enough, he has, and his most recent one is a sort of black comedy titled Opium War in which two wounded American GIs stumble onto a struggling Afghan family who live in an abandoned tank as they cultivate poppies -- which come in handy for the wounded GIs, who ease their pain by licking the pods.

It sounds interesting, and it was screened at festivals, and submitted to the Academy Awards:

Afghanistan's official submission to the 2009 Academy Awards.[1] Opium War was screened at several international film festivals, including the 2008 edition of Rome Film Feast where it won The Golden Marc'Aurelio Critics' Award for Best Film.[3]
But it seems to have died on the vine. I cannot find even a hint of it being available anywhere, for rent or for purchase. Why might that be? I always hate it when I want to see a film and I can't.

So I kept looking around, and finally found an interview with the director which scared the crap out of me. He fears for his country, and claims that the Taliban is on its way back to power. Obviously, that would mean an end to Afghan films, as well as any hope his children might have had to finish their education. Bad enough as that specter is, the most shocking allegation he makes is that NATO forces (including the US, natch) are deliberately helping move Taliban troops from the South to the North.

Here's background:

Siddiq Barmak is currently one of only a few filmmakers in Afghanistan who is able to make feature films in his native country. His first feature film, "Osama", portrays a young girl who is forced to don a disguise as a boy in order to support her mother in the Taliban era. The film won a Golden Globe Award, and made a great demonstration of Afghanistan's film heritage and its possible future to the world.

Siddiq, who was born in Afghanistan and studied film in Moscow, was exiled to Pakistan during the Taliban regime from 1996 to 2002. The current reemergence of the insurgency is a reminder for him that another dark time may be ahead. He was at the Pusan International Film Festival this year to present his second feature film "Opium War" which is, according to the director, "an exact reflection of the situation." I was able to catch the director and asked a few questions on the current state in Afghanistan.

And here's the embed (hope it works).

As I lack access to classified information and haven't spent my time reading through the WikiLeaks, I don't know how true the man's allegations of treachery are.

But the bottom line is that he is losing hope because (in his words) "you don't know who's enemy."

It didn't take long to find confirmation that the Taliban (long a problem in the South) is taking over in the North. The process is chilling, and seems numbingly familiar:

The fighters swarm into town, assemble the villagers and announce Taliban control, often at night and without any resistance.

With most Afghan and NATO troops stationed in the country's south and east, villagers in the path of the Taliban advance into the once-peaceful north say they are powerless and terrified, confused by the government's inability to prevail -- and ready to side with the insurgents to save their own lives.

"How did the Taliban get into every village?" Israel Arbah asked from his mud hut in the Shah Qassim village of Faryab province. "They are everywhere. And they are moving very fast. To tell you honestly, I am really, really afraid."

Here's the typical village-by-village pattern:
Before the Taliban invades a village, its arrival is sometimes preceded by a letter.

"Hello. I hope you're healthy and doing very well," Mullah Abdullah Khalid, a Taliban deputy district shadow governor, wrote recently to four tribal elders in a Faryab village. "Whatever support you could provide, either financially or physically, we would really appreciate that.

"We hope that you will not deny us."

But this is just a formality, because the Taliban is coming anyway.

In early November, the villagers of Khwaji Kinti awoke to the rumble of motorcycles. The next morning, they discovered that 30 to 40 Taliban, armed with Kalashnikovs and rocket-propelled-grenades, had taken charge. Tribal elders pleaded with police to send help. None arrived.

The Taliban was welcomed by a sympathetic mullah and set to work quickly. From the shepherds, it expected "zakat," or charity: one sheep out of every 40; and it took "usher," an Islamic tax, from the wheat farmers: 10 percent of the harvest, according to villagers. Its members shut down the lone girls' school and demanded shelter and meals from different homes each night. Mohammad Hassan, a wheat farmer, said insurgents knocked on his door about once a week after the evening prayer, asking for food. "We're afraid of the Taliban and the government," he said. "We're caught in the middle -- we don't have any power."

Naturally, they're also killing people, and inflicting arbitrary punishments:
Taliban members executed a man known as Sayid Arif, who they said worked for the Afghan government, by pulling him from his car and shooting him. They left him in the road with a note on his chest that said for whoever works with the government, "this is the punishment," said a tribal elder named Abdullah.

The Taliban began to settle disputes with arbitrary punishments -- which some consider its main public service. In one case, a dispute between a pair of brothers and another man escalated until the third man was shot. Without evidence, the Taliban chose one of the brothers, 22-year-old Mahadi, as the guilty party, villagers said. The Taliban assembled dozens of people, handed the wife of the victim a Kalashnikov and ordered her to shoot him, which she did.

"I stood there and watched that," one villager said.

WaPo readers are assured that the US troops are opposing them, so I guess clueless Americans like myself are supposed to hope that's true.

But the above was written in August, and I didn't find this more recent piece in Military.com especially reassuring

BRUSSELS - A senior NATO official says U.S. and NATO forces are helping the Taliban reach out to the government in Afghanistan as a first step toward reconciliation with the insurgency.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to reveal the contacts publicly.

The official says high level contacts have taken place in the Afghan capital of Kabul. It would be nearly impossible for top insurgent commanders to come to that city without U.S. and NATO cooperation. (Emphasis added.)

I hope the fix isn't in.

Or else it will be Osama time again (if you'll forgive the pun).

And people will say that the enemy will have been us.

MORE: Back in 2006, Michael Yon warned about the growing Taliban threat, and of course the opium:

approximately half of Afghanistan's economy is based on opium, meaning roughly half the economy thrives in a chaos that also funds world-class terrorists. Experts who study the calculus of the narcotics trade know that the problem is growing out of control in Afghanistan because every additional poppy lanced for its opium unleashes an oozing flow of black-market dollars. Those dollars are not taxed by the Kabul government, but by the virtual government of the Taliban. Perversely, poppy farmers grow poorer with each successively larger crop, because their bounty boosts supplies while driving prices lower, and they need to grow more each year just to stay even.
Of course, if the Taliban regains power, they'll abolish opium growing once again, and plunge the country into further economic despair.

As to what makes opium so profitable, well... I think M. Simon and I have written a few posts about that over the years.

posted by Eric at 11:29 AM | Comments (2)

Good Lovin

The Best Dead version of Good Lovin I've heard on YouTube.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

posted by Simon at 04:25 PM | Comments (7)

Holiday Recipes

Despite our best efforts the holidays are once again upon us, and so in the spirit of the season I'd like to share a recipe that I've enjoyed annually for some years now.

Traditional Two-Minute Bodybuilders' Low-Carb High-Omega-3 Christmas Dinner

You will need:
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup flaxseed meal (milled)
1 tsp Metamucil
1/2 cup powdered protein (suggested: Penta Pro 5-protein mix)
20 oz water
A blender
3 drops food coloring (red or green)

Put all ingredients into the blender and mix for 11 seconds on high. (Did you put the top on? I hope so!)

Drink from blender. Merry Christmas! Now go work out.

Feel free to share any recipes you've enjoyed in the comments.

posted by Dave at 11:44 AM | Comments (4)

Family Values

I love discussing the wedge issues between libertarian Republicans and Christian Conservatives. Evidently it is a subject that interests Instapundit who sent me to Dana Loesch. Who is hot on the subject. Since they brought It up I'm feeling a few words coming on.

First a redefinition of sorts: Uh it is not Christians vs Libertarians. It is Statists vs Libertarians. On the Right Statists manifest mostly as Christians On the left they are Socialists. I see no value in choosing between Secular Socialists and Christian Socialists. It is rank bias of course that I do not care to rank the factions.

A commenter said:

There is no doubt that the Left Wingers would LOVE to drive a wedge between the various factions in the Tea Party movement, especially between Libertarians and Christian Conservatives.

According to my rough surveys about half the Christian "Conservatives" are really liberals. i.e. "It is not The State that is the problem. It is who is in charge. Put good Christians in charge and all will be well. And BTW the dopers deserve it. I don't care about no durn Prohibition Amendments."

And why do I call Christian "Conservatives" liberal? Because like all liberals they believe that there are a lot of things that can be fixed with a liberal application of government. They believe in the Daddy State. Liberals are more inclined to the Mommy State. Family values.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 10:23 AM | Comments (11)

What we call "privacy" is just an unclosed loophole

I really liked Glenn Reynolds' latest InstaVision interview:

I talk with Jim Meigs of Popular Mechanics, who explains the creepy side of the information age. Corporations compile information on you. Can this information be used for nefarious purposes? What happens if a stalker gets a hold of your information?
I like to think that at age 56, I'm a bit old to attract stalkers, but I would love to at least have the ability to make it harder for whoever these people are to invade my privacy.

While it is annoying for corporations to be gathering all of this information on every last thing we buy and every movement we make, it didn't take long for an obvious thought to cross my mind. Surely, a lot of people are annoyed by the constant encroachments on their privacy, and would be willing to pay in order to "opt out." Starting with credit cards. Suppose you don't want a record of all your purchases to be public information. There's always paying with cash, right? But suppose you don't want to lug cash around all the time.

And what about the growing trend of businesses that refuse to accept cash?

Think I'm kidding? Try to buy something as mundane as an iPad. Apple stores will not accept cash:

Being disabled and on a fixed income, Campbell held off on buying a computer until the Apple iPad came along. It was small, mobile and perfect for her needs. So, little by little she saved up the $600 she needed to get one.

"It took quite a long time for me to just save up this small amount of money to go down and purchase one," she said. "I had my cash in the backpack and I went up proudly to the counter and told them, 'I would like to purchase an iPad.'"

She was at the Apple store in Palo Alto, about to pull out the big wad of cash and take home her first computer. Instead, she received a terrible blow.

"They said, 'Sorry, we don't take cash.' And, so I looked at her and I said OK she's kidding," Campbell recalled.

However, the clerk was not kidding. The Apple sales policy says if you want an iPad, you must pay by credit card or debit card. Diane didn't have any plastic and amazingly her cash was useless.

"It's sort of astounding to think here is this U.S. dollar, this money put out by the U.S. Treasury Department, and it's being turned away," Alan Fisher says.

Fisher, of California Reinvestment Coalition, advocates for low-income consumers who have trouble getting credit or mortgages.

"Apple is coming at this in a very heavy-handed way, and it means that their nice products are not being able to be enjoyed by people who already have many difficulties accessing the rest of mainstream society," he says.

Well, screw Apple then. I consider their policy to be un-American as well as Orwellian. I consider paying with cash whenever I want for whatever I want to be as American as apple pie. No Apple for me! If this is a sign of the times, then we are living in times that suck, and I can think of no better argument against keeping up with the times than boycotting this asshole company.

In fairness to Apple, I should point out that their policy generated such an angry backlash that Apple was forced to reverse its no-cash policy. For now....

I hope this does not represent a growing trend, because cash is one of the few vestiges of privacy remaining in this once free country. However, a major problem with cash is that a lot of people don't like carrying large sums cash around. In a comment yesterday, I opined that while there is "an absolute right to walk down the street with hundreds of thousands of dollars in your pocket," that it "might be stupid" because of the risk of robbery. I now realize that I spoke in haste, because if you had hundreds of thousands of dollars on your person, you might have just as much to fear from the police as from a criminal. Police love to take money away from citizens, and they so so at every opportunity. Naturally, our fearless courts uphold them when they do. Driving with large amounts of cash has been held to be a crime:

Federal Appeals Court: Driving With Money is a Crime

Eighth Circuit Appeals Court ruling says police may seize cash from motorists even in the absence of any evidence that a crime has been committed.

A federal appeals court ruled yesterday that if a motorist is carrying large sums of money, it is automatically subject to confiscation. In the case entitled, "United States of America v. $124,700 in U.S. Currency," the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit took that amount of cash away from Emiliano Gomez Gonzolez, a man with a "lack of significant criminal history" neither accused nor convicted of any crime.

On May 28, 2003, a Nebraska state trooper signaled Gonzolez to pull over his rented Ford Taurus on Interstate 80. The trooper intended to issue a speeding ticket, but noticed the Gonzolez's name was not on the rental contract. The trooper then proceeded to question Gonzolez -- who did not speak English well -- and search the car. The trooper found a cooler containing $124,700 in cash, which he confiscated. A trained drug sniffing dog barked at the rental car and the cash. For the police, this was all the evidence needed to establish a drug crime that allows the force to keep the seized money.

No drugs were ever found. So all they need to do is have a dog bark at you. I get barked at all the time, because not only do I have an attitude of insolent familiarity with dogs, but I smell like Coco, who has been favorably compared with Audrey Hepburn and Kim Novak. That's enough to drive most red-blooded American drug sniffers crazy. They might even want to mount me. So I better not exercise my right to keep and bear large sums of cash that the courts say I no longer have.

There are numerous reports involving government shakedowns of people carrying cash. Even a Ron Paul staffer was grabbed at an airport and detained by the TSA. His "crime"? Merely having $4700 in cash. Bastards.

But my ranting does not solve the privacy problem. Carrying cash is problematic even if the government doesn't take it away from you.

So my thoughts turned to plastic. It seems that there ought to be a way to simply buy a prepaid debit card, and then use that in place of cash. I mean, this is free market America, right? Where there is a demand for something (and surely there is a demand for financial privacy), clever entrepreneurs ought to be competing with each other to offer such privacy services.

I looked and looked, and while I found sites like this which discuss the options, I learned about a huge stumbling block. Guess what? It's not big business.

It's the government.

Unfortunately, the federal government recently passed a law that requires all credit card issuers to collect SSNs. This was post-9/11, so I assume the motivation was tracking terrorists' finances. Some go even further; Morgan Beaumont's application form, for example, asks for a copy of your passport or drivers license! No thanks.

Pretty much all issuers have complied, but fortunately, the law only requires that the issuer collect SSNs. Most don't actually do anything with them. Whenever a prepaid card issuer requires me to provide an SSN, I just make one up. Not one of them has complained yet!

Update: Other post-9/11 federal laws, such as the PATRIOT Act, are also rearing their ugly heads. Interpretation is still up in the air, but most financial institutions are erring on the side of collecting more rather than less, and verifying what they collect. For example, Green Dot recently started running credit checks against the SSN and birthdate you give them. No more fake info!

Here's an example disclaimer:

The USA PATRIOT Act is a Federal law that requires all financial institutions to obtain, verify, and record information that identifies each person who opens an account. You will be asked to provide your name, address, date of birth, and other information that will allow us to identify you. You may also be asked to provide documentation as proof of identification.


"Sigh" is right. Apparently it used to be possible to buy an anonymous debit card, but they cracked down.

Call it the war on drugs, call it the war on terror. It's really a war on privacy and on freedom, and the government is behind it.

What I can't decide is whether I'm still naive enough to hope that a Republican Congress might do something about it. (Or should we just give up on hope?)

Because pretty soon, all exit routes will be blocked, and the fence will be a done deal.

People will not know they are encircled until it is too late - like putting in all these very deep, robust fence-posts with no fence panels. All seems open. One day you will wake up and the panels are in, you are trapped and they can decide what law they wish to impose to nail whomsoever they desire.
How many warnings do we need?

MORE: Right after publishing this post, I saw a Wired piece titled "Feds Warrantlessly Tracking Americans' Credit Cards in Real Time"

Federal law enforcement agencies have been tracking Americans in real-time using credit cards, loyalty cards and travel reservations without getting a court order, a new document released under a government sunshine request shows.

The document, obtained by security researcher Christopher Soghoian, explains how so-called "Hotwatch" orders allow for real-time tracking of individuals in a criminal investigation via credit card companies, rental car agencies, calling cards, and even grocery store loyalty programs. The revelation sheds a little more light on the Justice Department's increasing power and willingness to surveil Americans with little to no judicial or Congressional oversight.

For credit cards, agents can get real-time information on a person's purchases by writing their own subpoena, followed up by a order from a judge that the surveillance not be disclosed. Agents can also go the traditional route -- going to a judge, proving probable cause and getting a search warrant -- which means the target will eventually be notified they were spied on.

I guess the Fourth Amendment has now gone from being a loophole to being an optional loophole -- depending on the whims of government agents.

It's a disgrace.

Who are these people, and why do they get to spy on us?

As I've said before, in some ways the tyrannical King George was more accountable, for at least his subjects knew who and where he was.... And they were allowed to use cash.

MORE: Regarding debit cards, I did find one loophole which apparently has not been closed -- store gift cards:

Gift cards offer far more anonymity than the prepaid debit cards because they can be used without disclosing any SSN. Although many terms of use say they require online registration of the card if you want to use them to make online purchases, the registration usually asks for a name and an address, not a SSN. Gift cards can be paid for with cash at many locations like Rite Aid, 7 eleven or countless other stores. They also work as an anonymous card at most stores where a regular debit card is accepted, again, without a related bank account.

There are some significant downsides to using gift cards. One of the main ones is that they are usually limited to a maximum of $200. Some vendors will be willing to split the payment over several different cards at once, but some will not be willing to do this so if you want to buy a more expensive item you should verify this before hand. Although not very high for each gift card, the fee for the card can add up if you are buying a lot of them. Gift cards are usually limited for use within the country where it was purchased, meaning that if you want to buy something from another country, you are out of luck.

As to how long the government will allow its subjects to buy them anonymously, who knows?

For now, a clever store chain might consider raising the maximum limit, and marketing them as "privacy cards."

UPDATE: Thanks, Memeorandum for the link!

posted by Eric at 10:04 AM | Comments (5)

The Sharp Edge Of Guilt

Yesterday I was hanging around in the kitchen with my older son, waiting for the coffee to brew, and he made some joking comment about my being oppressed when I was growing up.

I told him I was oppressed enough, or at least women were, in that time and in that place - as they still are in many times and in many places.

Yes, I like to point out and do - often - that it wasn't a gigantic conspiracy of men against women that kept women down for six thousand years because frankly most men can't conspire their way out of a paperbag. (I suspect women are naturally better at it. No, don't hurt me. Just women seem to be naturally more socially adept. But even women couldn't manage a conspiracy of that magnitude.) And I like to point out - and do - it wasn't shoulder to shoulder but the pill and changes in technology that liberated women or at least that made attempts at liberation reasonable instead of insane. (Of course, shoulder to shoulder makes for better movies and books, which is why everyone believes it.)

Continue reading "The Sharp Edge Of Guilt"

posted by Sarah at 09:49 AM | Comments (1)

Eric Told me I Could Do Shameless Self Promotion

So, blame this on him.

The paperback of Darkship Thieves is out. I'm buried in the next Elise Hyatt mystery -- A Fatal Stain -- which was due a month ago. I will do more Heinlein posts and others as soon as I get this written.

Meanwhile, I have put up -- again -- the recording of my reading the first chapter of Darkship Thieves. (Yes (rolls eyes) I REALLY sound like that. It's not a put on. I'd pay money to get rid of the stupid accent.) I'm also doing a giveaway. And a colleague of mine was kind enough to post a review of DST.

So, if you find yourself at odds and ends or trying to avoid work this morning, shashay (amble, walk, leap, lope -- whatever you prefer) on over to According To Hoyt and poke around. :)

MORE: This is Eric, and yes it is my fault! Not only did I tell Sarah that she could do shameless promotion, but I will shamelessly assist her in doing so, by bumping this post to increase its visibility!

posted by Sarah at 08:07 PM | Comments (6)

Hard Drugs

It is rich, but Raich has come back to haunt those hoping for a legal answer to Obama Care. Just as I predicted in Letter to a Friend.

Reason Magazine has the news.

According to a federal judge in Virginia, ObamaCare's individual mandate to purchase health insurance is constitutional under the Commerce Clause because, under precedents set by previous cases, "Congress has broad power to regulate purely local matters that have substantial economic effects, even where the regulated individuals claim not to participate in interstate commerce." The ruling, which was released yesterday, dismissed an argument by Liberty University, a Christian school based in the state, that the law should be invalidated because, among other reasons, it unconstitutionally requires individuals to purchase health insurance.

The section of the decision dealing with the mandate leans heavily on the Supreme Court's ruling in Gonzales v. Raich, a case in which the Court decided that, under the Commerce Clause, Congress could criminalize growing marijuana at home for personal use because failure to do so would upend a legitimate regulatory activity. Yesterday's ruling by Judge Norman K. Moon quotes Raich to argue that Congress may regulate "purely intrastate activity that is not itself 'commercial'...if it concludes that failure to regulate that class of activity would undercut the regulation of the interstate market in that commodity."

With the previous understanding the government was merely leasing the taxpayers. It now owns them. But you have to admit the dopers got what was coming to them. And now the rest of us are going to get it. Good and hard.

The Raich case was about pot. So maybe Marijuana is a hard drug after all. Evidently in aggregate it will be hardest on those who don't use it. A very peculiar drug to be sure.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:18 PM | Comments (10)

the wages of sin?

I'm a 56 year old man who sometimes enjoys contemplating the beauty of ruins. I don't want to say that I "celebrate the beauty of decay" because that might sound decadent and distract from my purpose here, which is to stick to an activity considered normal and wholesome. Contemplating the beauty of ruins is certainly normal enough that entire industries have grown up around it. It's so mundane that most of the people who contemplate ruins are called "tourists."

However, in my case, I don't have get into all-out tourist mode and travel all the way to Rome or Athens to contemplate beautiful ruins. In Philadelphia I used to enjoy visiting the crumbling ruins of the ancient Eastern State Penitentiary (just as I used to enjoy Alcatraz in San Francisco). And I have gotten quite a kick out of visiting the beautiful ruins of once-lovely Detroit. How "normal" an activity that is, I don't know. But let's suppose that during a hypothetical visit to an awful neighborhood in Detroit, I was set upon by a pack of thugs and robbed and beaten. That such a thing might happen would certainly be a possibility, but here's my question.

Would it be my fault?

Would I be said to have asked for it? Would people condemn my interest in photographing ruins as an immoral activity which invited the assault? And would an attack on me be considered occasion for sermons against the evils of taking pictures of old buildings? I doubt it.

So why is it that if a twenty-something woman wearing a short skirt were to go into the very same neighborhoods surrounding the crumbling buildings, many people would consider an attack on her to be her fault?

M. Simon's earlier post about blaming rape victims for being slutty reminded me of the many things that can be seen as triggers for criminal behavior. People who run around wearing Ipods, driving nice cars, or just wearing business suits in the "wrong" neighborhoods might be just as likely to be targeted by criminals as a young woman deemed slutty looking. So why is there more of a tendency to blame "sluttiness" (or hedonism) for criminal conduct than, say "conspicuous consumption"?

And the more I think about it, a guy wearing a nice suit might be more likely to become a crime victim than a slutty-looking girl. So why is the latter more blameworthy?

There was a local Detroit case I blogged about not long ago involving a 12 year old who was charged with shooting a 24 year old woman to death. My post drew commenters who went out of their way to blame the victim by making an unsubstantiated claim that she was a "stripper" -- something which in their mind made her blameworthy.

As I pointed out in response to the comments, a victim's occupation is irrelevant to a murder charge.

...I don't see the relevance of the victim's career choices to this discussion -- any more than the make and model of her car. Whether she was a stripper or not (and I have not seen that in the news accounts), murder is still murder.


...bad things can happen whether you engage in "dangerous activity" or not. But even assuming Ms. Babcock sought work as a stripper (and I have not seen any story confirming that hypothesis), by what standard is "stripping" a dangerous activity? This woman was not naked when she was shot, nor was she on stage. Unless you can show some tie-in between her alleged occupation and the shooting, it's no different than if she had beem shot while at home, and her occupation is irrelevant.


....even if she was killed for being a stripper, how would that make her any more worthy of blame than a gay man killed for being gay?

The latter reminds me of this video:

In the minds of these thugs and their culture, anything that might happen to that gay man would be his fault, and not theirs.

Most Americans aren't like that. But not all. Consider some of shocking stuff that has been said about the murdered Detroit woman elsewhere which I will not quote. (That last link is so appalling that I should probably warn readers not to visit the site if you are upset by vicious racist profanity. I should probably consider myself lucky to have such civilized commenters.)

This is not to say that it isn't advisable to use common sense in avoiding potential dangers, but I think that once we start blaming victims for the actions of their attackers, it is a short step to letting the criminals completely off the hook. Or worse yet, allowing them to become a perverse sort of free ranging morality police.

I do not want to live in a society where women have to cover themselves in order to feel safe. I'll take the Democracy! Whiskey! Sexy! culture any day.

However, freedom is not without its risks, as I often acknowledge.

It isn't free.

posted by Eric at 12:40 PM | Comments (14)

the modern exclusion of traditional gay inclusion

One of the hot topics of today is the DADT quagmire, which I don't feel especially compelled to discuss right now -- mainly because I don't like joining in news-driven choruses in rote response to the appearance of news items. (Allahpundit noted that despite the hype over the poll that's generating the current fuss, "there may be greater support for repeal within military families than within the general population.") I have mixed feelings about DADT, because I think sexuality ought to be a private matter, and if the reverse of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" is "Ask and Tell," then the many people who don't want to asked about their sexuality will be asked. I think the invasions of privacy in the old anti-gay days sucked. And while no one seems to be thinking about the privacy question, I still think that asking someone where he puts his dick sucks -- even if no penalty is supposed to attach to the answer. OTOH, I also have a problem with the idea of telling someone that he may not disclose his sexual interests at all. So the "Don't Tell" part strikes me as at odds with human reality. I'm not in charge of the military, though, and I don't think these personal issues should ever have been made be political questions.

I wish people did not care about these things, and I guess that means I'm not living in the real world. (And now that we're being forced to show our genitals to government bureaucrats, my concerns over privacy probably make me a ludicrous anachronism....)

However, I continue to be intrigued by definitions, and I almost missed a new one which touches on a puzzling question I've asked and polled. Memeorandum linked a thoughtful post at Maggie's Farm titled "I'm A Gay Guy And A Veteran." I clicked the link out of curiosity, and for a moment it seemed I'd been misled. Cleverly and playfully hoodwinked! For while the author was calling himself gay, he was not using word "gay" in the modern sense. Nor was he merely using it in the traditional sense.

I'm a gay guy, meaning I'm pretty carefree and happy, pretty tolerant, and not a homosexual.
Well, "gay" certainly does mean "carefree" and "happy" according to the traditional definition, but I am unable to find any definition of the word anywhere which means "not a homosexual."

That particular exclusion does not appear in the word's long etymology:


late 12c., "full of joy or mirth," from O.Fr. gai "gay, merry" (12c.); cf. O.Sp. gayo, Port. gaio, It. gajo. Ultimate origin disputed; perhaps from Frank. *gahi (cf. O.H.G. wahi "pretty"), though not all etymologists accept this. Meaning "brilliant, showy" is from c.1300. OED gives 1951 as earliest date for slang meaning "homosexual" (adj.), but this is certainly too late; gey cat "homosexual boy" is attested in N. Erskine's 1933 dictionary of "Underworld & Prison Slang;" the term gey cat (gey is a Scot. variant of gay) was used as far back as 1893 in Amer.Eng. for "young hobo," one who is new on the road and usually in the company of an older tramp, with catamite connotations. But Josiah Flynt ["Tramping With Tramps," 1905] defines gay cat as, "An amateur tramp who works when his begging courage fails him." Gey cats also were said to be tramps who offered sexual services to women. The "Dictionary of American Slang" reports that gay (adj.) was used by homosexuals, among themselves, in this sense since at least 1920. Rawson ["Wicked Words"] notes a male prostitute using gay in reference to male homosexuals (but also to female prostitutes) in London's notorious Cleveland Street Scandal of 1889. Ayto ["20th Century Words"] calls attention to the ambiguous use of the word in the 1868 song "The Gay Young Clerk in the Dry Goods Store," by U.S. female impersonator Will S. Hays, but the word evidently was not popularly felt in this sense until later (cf. the stage comedy "London Assurance" written 1841 and popular through early 20c., with its character Lady Gay Spanker, famously played by Mrs. Nisbett). The word gay in the 1890s had an overall tinge of promiscuity -- a gay house was a brothel. The suggestion of immorality in the word can be traced back to 1630s. Gay as a noun meaning "a (usually male) homosexual" is attested from 1971.

Putting aside the slang-derived modern definition, the suggestion of immorality, or looseness or licentiousness, is traditional enough to appear as one of the definitions in my stodgy old Webster's New International Dictionary (Second Edition, 1957):


Note in particular traditional definition number 5:

Given to social pleasures or indulgence; hence, loose; licentious; as, to lead a gay life.
There is nothing in that traditional definition which is incompatible with being heterosexual or homosexual. But it doesn't mean "not a homosexual" any more than it means "not a heterosexual."

Traditional gays can be straight, bi, or gay. The term is inclusive!

(I have no problem with inclusion, as long as it isn't done in an exclusive manner....)

IMPORTANT UPDATE: I should remind readers that "happiness" is now being proposed as a new mental illness category. Obviously, if that were to happen, then gays would become mentally ill again. Sneaky bastards, aren't they?

posted by Eric at 11:04 AM | Comments (20)

A Culture For Libertines

I was over visiting Stacy McCain's thanks to Instapundit where there was a discussion going on about a Muslim gang that raped white women and girls - some as young as 12 - in the UK. So of course the question of culture comes up. And of course the decline in morals in the West. And how we still have a slut/madonna duality. It just seems these Muslim boys had it worse. Evidently the difference between mutual agreement and force was lost on them. Which may have had to do with their Muslim culture. Especially its attitude towards non-Muslims.

One of the commenters said:

This issue is a symptom of the degradation of the West
The double standard Re: women is not Western, it is human. Personally I prefer the "girls just wanna have fun" attitude of Western women.

Every culture has its pitfalls. I'll take ours. The range of acceptable possibilities is wider. i.e. we are more adaptable. A survival trait.

Another commenter said:

-The behavior of the Royal Family is nothing new. Such activities have been the norm for all such families ever since the first king was crowned.
And why is it so prevalent in the West? We are richer. With wealth comes the "diseases" of wealth. i.e. human nature is what it is.

I like it. But I always did like strong independent women. Rich cultures have more of them. I liked strong women so much that I married one. Twenty eight years and four children ago.

#1. An artist
#2. Fulbright Scholar - teaches American Culture at a Russian University.
#3. Electrical Engineering student - drummer and drum teacher.
#4. Chemical Engineering Student

It is possible to raise strong families without "Victorian" attitudes. Our current situation is difficult because we don't have "rules" that correspond to the current situation. Over the next 100 years - if we remain rich - we will develop the cultural tools needed. In the mean time - as in any learning situation - there is going to be a lot of wreckage. Rule of thumb: if 50% of your experiments are not failures you are not learning fast enough.

Girls who are not dependent on men are going to be more sexual generally. Girls who can control their "fertility" are going to be more promiscuous. When there are not enough suitable men around women will be more promiscuous. In America we like sending a lot of men to prison. Especially dealers in dried plants and plant extracts. This contributes to our family problems.

Ironically you find that the folks who most hate "cultural breakdown" also really like putting the hammer down on the dealers in dried plants and plant extracts. It is a wonder to behold.

Humans is some very funny animals.

Maybe some one needs to write Cultural Rules For Aristocrats. "Or How to Get By With Loose Morals In An Age Of Plenty." Exhibition vs discretion could be one of the Chapters. It is all about etiquette. Americans don't have any. Jerry Springer? The Gong Show? The $1.98 Beauty Contest? And how do you write an etiquette where people's ideas of proper decorum are so divergent?

Could this be the basis for a Right and Proper Moral Panic? I hope not. If we are lucky this will all pass before some one gets the bright idea that what we need is a law, or twenty.

It will all pass if we give culture and wealth time to work. I remember the Christmas tree bomber lamenting that his culture was losing its his hard edge in soft America so he had to act fast. Before he didn't want to act.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:20 AM | Comments (18)

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