Thursday, December 19, 2002

CLINTONISMS: In case you were wondering about our former President, he made it clear this week that he remains an embarrassment to us all.

Thursday, December 12, 2002

STAR WEBSITE: This website may be appropos for the Christmas season... it's at least some interesting research about the astronomical validations of the Christmas story. As a side note, it turns out that I was born on the 1,944th anniversary of Christ's crucifixion.

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

SOME THINGS DESERVE TO BE POOPED ON: Every week or so I try using cloth diapers on my daughter, but within a day the extra laundry so overwhelms me that I go back to disposables. I buy the cheapest ones I can find, which usually means the Sam's Club generic brand, but they don't make any in the small-size needed for newborns. So for now I'm buying White Cloud diapers at Wal-Mart. Now, anyone not in the baby biz won't know this, but John Lennon's estate has licensed some doodles he made -- giraffes and such -- so that they appear on all sorts of baby products now, including White Cloud diapers. And one day, while changing the nth diaper for the hour, I noticed that these diapers don't just display Lennon's art, they display his "philosophy," you know, deep ideas like, "Imagine living in a world of peace" and other pablum from "Imagine." And at that moment an epiphany struck: "Imagine" is being used to market disposable poop-holders; John Lennon is selling throw-away feces-receptacles! He's finally lived down to his potential! Diaper changes haven't been the same since.

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

THE SWEETEST STRAIN BY MORTALS SUNG: "Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Minority Member Leahy." One more time, with feeling:
"Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Minority Member Leahy."
Not that I'm gloating. After eight years of Clinton and a near miss with Gore, never. Just savoring this brief interlude.
WE'RE NOT DEAD YET. Just hibernating. OK, fine, in a coma, with occasional brainwave blips from Ms. Frazier. Still not dead, though. Kinda like the Democrats. Heh, heh.
DUMB HEADLINE WATCH: From the WaPo frontpage (it's not on the page following the link):
Alleged Bin Laden Tape Airs If authentic, the tape reveals that al Qaeda chief may still be alive.
In other news:
Alleged Alien Invaders' Tape Airs If authentic, the tape reveals that aliens may exist, intend to enslave humanity a la Jabba the Hutt in Return of the Jedi; chain-mail bikini shares soar.
Well, I thought it was funny. Sheesh.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

SOUR GRAPES: Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe made an ass of himself and his party this morning analyzing the Republican victories, and commenting that they were "tactical" not "ideological." The GOP had the home field advantage, he complained. Of course, he failed to mention that it has been years since the "team" with the supposed "home field advantage" won the mid-term elections. Of the Bushes he said, "I know at Thanksgiving, when the Bush family goes to Kennebunkport, I know that Jeb will turn to George and say, 'Now we're even.'" The Dems have been a real class act this election cycle, no?

Monday, November 04, 2002

FREE THE BABY LAWYERS: Dahlia Lithwick makes a profound critique of the new generation of corporate slaves ...

Thursday, October 31, 2002

HYPERSENSITIVE COLLEGE LIBERALS: The University of Tennessee's chapter of the Kappa Sigma fraternity was suspended last week in a stupendously absurd decision to protect all the University's other students from being subjected to the insensitivity of students who would dare to dress up like the Jackson 5 in an air guitar contest. According to the report, "last week's appearance of Kappa Sigma members in blackface was insensitive and offensive to those who work tirelessly to improve the climate of understanding and diversity on campus." I can't bear to think of how many people will be deeply offended tonight by the insensitive mockery of children all over the United States dressed up as someone they're not.

Thursday, October 24, 2002

HMMM...
Despite the arrests, many mysteries remain, including the motive for the attacks. The pair had been living in Washington state, and it is unclear why they allegedly chose to make the Washington, D.C., area their shooting range. Their relationship is also unclear, and it is unknown whether one or both are suspected of having pulled the trigger in the attacks. -- WaPo.
Why would anyone attack the greater D.C. area? I mean, why of all places would you attack the nation's capital? That's about as farfetched as attacking New York City. I wonder if the FBI has determined yet whether these men traveled to the D.C. area intending to kill? I don't know. It might take a long time to figure that one out.

Monday, October 21, 2002

KIDDIE MUSIC: My son loves music, which means I rarely get to listen to NPR in the car any more, but I guess that's one of the sacrifices you make as a parent. (And at least I don't have to listen to Daniel Schorr.) Usually we play whatever music I'm in the mood for, which results in my three-year old absurdly crooning that he is a "man of constant sorrow" or admonishing "Tom Dooley" to "hang down his head and cry." But sometimes we have to listen to kids' music. As any parent knows, most music marketed to children in wretched, especially when sung by children. Most parents, me included, ooh and ahh at their own children's off-key singing, but listening to someone else's children sing is more than most people can stand for long and stay sane. (Somewhat analogous rules apply to changing diapers, cleaning up vomit, and nursing: for my children, yes; for your children, no way.) For several months we suffered from prolonged exposure to Wee Sing America (which at least played patriotic music) because it was the only thing that kept my son happy in the car. Finally, in desperation, I went in search of kids' music we both could enjoy. I've now found three albums that meet my criteria, which are: (a) my son asks to listen to them; and (b) I don't lose my mind when he does again, and again, and again .... These godsends are: Capitol Sings Kids' Songs For Grownups, The Bottle Let Me Down: Songs for Bumpy Wagon Rides, and No! by They Might Be Giants. Squeamish parents beware: some of these songs revel in the earthy side of childhood, like "Godfrey the Sickly, Unemployed, Amateur Children's Magician" (it involves making a root beer float with stuff from inside of Godfrey's throat; Godfrey ends up in a strait jacket), or "Don't Wipe Your Face on Your Shirt" (Dad's worried about what the neighbors will think if they see his sons with mucus on their shirts). Of course, your kids will love them.

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

OUT OF THE MOUTHS OF BABES: We have one of those Russian matryoshka (nesting) dolls depicting Russian leaders from Tsar Nicholas through Boris Yeltsin, which our son loves playing with. Boris, the largest doll, got dropped and cracked at some point, but the rest of the dolls are fair game for toddler play. We've taught him to say that Stalin "was a wicked man" because "he killed lots of people." But he's learned even more than we realized: yesterday, he came up to me and said, "Mama, Boris Yeltsin is a broken man."
POST-MODERNISM DEFINED! "[U]nreadable, jargon-clotted theory-sophistry ...," as in "Goodbye to the deluded and pathetic sophistry of postmodernists of the Left, who believe their unreadable, jargon-clotted theory-sophistry somehow helps liberate the wretched of the earth. If they really believe in serving the cause of liberation, why don’t they quit their evil-capitalist-subsidized jobs and go teach literacy in a Third World starved for the insights of Foucault?" -- Ron Rosenbaum, The New York Observer, p.1, October 14, 2002.
SEWANEE FLUFF PIECE: As a graduate of a small, not-widely-known university, the University of the South (aka Sewanee), I'm usually thrilled when my alma mater or one of its alumni gets mentioned in a national publication. It's been especially fun to follow the film career of a one recent Sewanee alumnus in magazines like US and People (even if his career path briefly crossed that of Britney Spears). But this recent write up of Sewanee in Newsweek made me shudder -- and not with excitement -- both because the author thinks the best thing he learned at Sewanee was how to get schnockered like a "gentleman," and because Newsweek would publish such a poorly written fluff piece. This fluff piece doesn't do credit to either institution.

Saturday, October 05, 2002

THE NEWEST ADAMS: Philippa Jane Adams was born at 4:56 p.m. on Saturday, September 28, 2002, weighing eight pounds, four ounces and measuring nineteen and one-half inches long. She's doing great and so am I, though I never thought breastfeeding would be as difficult for the first fews days with a second child as it was with the first. Her big brother is absolutely wonderful as well and hasn't wanted to give her away yet.

Sunday, September 22, 2002

IS IT JUST ME: or is there something frightfully hypocritical about criticizing the Bush administration for failing to prevent 9/11 and dogging the Bush administration for its preemptive efforts to root out terrorism in Iraq? What exactly do these people want?

Saturday, September 21, 2002

REALITY PRESIDENT: I hadn't, even in my worst nightmares, considered the possibility of making American political life a TV game show... but apparently someone else suffers more fitful sleeps. "Outwit, Outplay, Outlast" supposedly makes for a good campaign strategy. At least there is some upside. As my friend, Rob, points out: "I've got to think it hurts D[emocrat]s more than R[epublican]s. I think their voter base is more likely to be enthralled by such a spectacle. What we really need is "American Senator", to siphon off some D[emocrat] votes in a few key races."

Sunday, September 15, 2002

IN LARRY TRIBE'S BACK POCKET?: It's hardly likely, but by some inexplicable chance, Laurence Tribe and Cass Sunstein, two of the most unmitigated liberals teaching Con Law these days, have recommended that the Judiciary Committee approve the nomination of Michael W. McConnell, a Utah (formerly U. of Chicago) law school professor, and perhaps the best legal mind practicing on behalf of the Right in a long, long time. Maybe it's because they know McConnell will be less of a threat to their agenda for liberalizing the law on the bench than he is at the bar. Deserving most of the credit for the thinking behind the Supreme Court's recent pro-religion decisions (including school vouchers), McConnell is more than well-deserving of his nomination, and hopefully, future appointment, to the 10th Circuit Ct. of Appeals.

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

CHILDREN AS GOOD MENTAL HYGIENE: Life with toddlers can seem so surreal. They run in circles for no reason at all. They respond to simple questioons with non sequiturs. (Mom: "Would you like some more juice?" Toddler: "Do cars have gas tanks?") Sometimes it seems like small children are only good for driving their mothers insane, giving them grey hair, and making them pull that same hair out in handfuls. And yet sometimes these strange, maddening little creatures who make their parents' worlds so surreal and chaotic are the only ones who can impose reality and order. That's my September 11 story. A year ago today, I woke up in Fairbanks, Alaska to a ringing telephone. It was my husband, calling from his hotel in California. He asked me if I had heard the news. I hadn't. It was only seven in the morning Alaska time, but the towers had fallen hours before I woke up. I turned on the TV and just watched, not quite believing, and feeling several million more miles away than the four thousand or so I was from the attacks. Like many others, all I could do was cry, for the dead, for the living left widowed and orphaned, for my husband who would have to fly home in a few days, and for myself, because I was all alone and nothing seemed real, just a nightmare that wouldn't end. Then my son woke up. It would be touching to say that his good-morning hug and kiss reminded me that there was good in the universe and made me feel at peace. But it wouldn't be true, because I was too busy feeling scared and wanting revenge to pay much attention to goodness in the universe. But what my son did do was demand attention, a diaper change, and breakfast. He had visceral needs that didn't stop for war but reimposed a schedule and priorities on me. I won't say my son made me feel any better that, not at first anyway, but he got me through the day. He anchored the surreal to the real. And so he did again today, when I was listening to NPR's coverage of the memorial services and crying, again, over the senseless loss of life and feeling, again, a strange and powerful urge to kill the people who planned those attacks and the people who celebrated them. For my son, the morning of this September 11, like that a year ago today, was just another morning: he needed to be pottied, fed, and taken out for his daily time on the front porch to blow bubbles and, in his words, "annoy [enjoy?] the day."

Tuesday, September 10, 2002

THE NEED TO MEDDLE is something that most of us have in some measure or another. We can't just leave well enough alone or recognize that doing something isn't always better than doing nothing. In the political realm, Bill Clinton was the master of meddling and a lot of my friends, even the conservative ones, repeat the mantra, "But we have to do something," about whatever current crisis is looming. That's the mentality that brings us long airport lines and random searches of old ladies in wheel chairs. This need to fix things that aren't actually broken or fix them in the least useful and efficient way possible also spills over into personal life way too frequently. Putting together a house is a lot of work under any circumstances, but when you are working under the deadline of a baby's impending arrival, it can be overwhelming. We bought an old house in very good, recently renovated shape. That means nothing had to be done to it right away. Somehow we've managed to already make this far more of a project than necessary, by changing almost every light fixture in the house, painting a bedroom and a wide variety of other home improvement projects that, while nice to have done, could certainly have waited for a more opportune time. I'm not sure what drives man to meddle and to fix things that aren't actually broken. I guess we believe we know best and if only we can put our stamp on something it will suddenly become perfect. We ignore, of course, that we are imperfect creatures and our attempts at perfecting the universe, either on a large or small scale, will quite possibly create larger issues and more difficult problems -- whether that is the Middle East Crisis or the mirror we pulled down only to discover that we need to plaster a wall now.

Tuesday, September 03, 2002

JUST IN CASE we still have anyone checking in, we're finally in the South again, have the house relatively unpacked and an internet connection established. I, at least, will attempt to resume blogging. The baby is due in about 3 or 4 weeks though, so we'll see how long my abilitiy to string two thoughts together lasts.

Thursday, August 08, 2002

MCKINNEY CHALLENGED: Democratic Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney is under fire again. And this time it's not from a Republican pundit. Ms. McKinney is being challenged in her reelection by another black female, Denise Majette, and the Democratic primary is reportedly up for grabs. The author of an article in support of Ms. McKinney has this to say about her (in)famous political career: "She has made a name for herself as an advocate for healthy, safe and livable communities with good jobs, better schools, alternative transportation and a clean environment along with a democratic foreign policy. One of the big criticisms from the warmongers is her general view that as a world power, the U.S. has a responsibility beyond our borders to stop the transfer of weapons and military technology to human rights abusers. She has consistently called on U.S. businesses operating in impoverished countries with weak democratic structures to adhere to a code of conduct that promotes U.S. democratic ideals with labor rights." Funny, I don't know anything about Ms. McKinney's prowess in the areas of alternative transportation and 3rd world labor rights, but I'm fairly well versed on her propensity to slander the President along with any number of other Americans, and her all out support of certain radical Arab peoples and their policies. Hail, hail Ms. Majette!

Saturday, August 03, 2002

UPCOMING BLOGGING OUTAGE: We're computer-less at home, and this next week will be spent finishing up the half-dozen projects I've been putting off and training my replacement, and we'll be at sea or on the road for about two weeks after that, making the move from Fairbanks to the lower-48. So, Adams-blogging will be sporadic at best until the last week of August. Our minions, er, colleagues, will pick up the slack, however. Hear that, colleagues?
NITPICKING: An NPR reporter remarked that "near-First Lady" Tipper Gore was campaigning for John Dingle in his Democratic primary contest. "Near-First Lady"? Excuse me? Would any other wife of a losing presidential candidate (no matter how close the race) be referred to as "near-First Lady"? I think not. "Close" only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. The same goes for "near." Gore lost. NPR needs to get over it.

Friday, August 02, 2002

DRAFT DODGER CLINTON would fight and die for Israel. But he doesn't think they should be fighting. And he's in favor of a Palestinian state. And he thinks the Palestinians will come around. And everything's cozy over there anyway ... right?

Monday, July 29, 2002

OH MY GOODNESS! It seems pop tart Britney Spears has turned into quite the angry woman. At a concert stop in Mexico last week, the singing sensation was photographed giving some reporters an obscene gesture. Maybe she should talk to Allen Iverson about how to be a role model?

Saturday, July 27, 2002

JOHN MCCAIN, Democratic Senator, oops, er ah, I mean, of course, Republican Senator from Arizona, has jumped at the chance to appear on Saturday Night Live, October 12, this Fall. McCain, whose recent voting record and political alliances place him to the left of many Senate Democrats, can be expected to be part of a new series of SNL parodies of President Bush. Let me make one thing clear here. I'm not at all opposed to Saturday Night Live's right and duty to spoof, satirize, and poke fun at any public figure or policy. As with England's venerable Punch magazine, political and cultural satire is SNL's job and hardly anyone on American television does it better. None-the-less, SNL is a questionable forum for a United States senator, even granting that Senator McCain would scarcely be the first prominent politician to appear on the program. Perhaps looking ahead to a new career once his days on Capitol Hill are over, the budding Arizona Thespian may be simply seeking an opportunity to hone his stage skills since he admits "... there's a fine line between political theater and theater..." However, this admission of his personal view of politics doesn't absolve the Senator from the responsibility of acting with the dignity of the office to which the increasingly embarassed Arizona voters elected him. Since McCain's oath to uphold the Constitution didn't stop him from urging the passage of the very unconstitutional McCain-Feingold Bill and trampling on the First Amendment's protection of political speech, it's a bit scary to imagine where he might draw the line on Saturday Night Live. Will the honorable Senator climb through an SNL set window wearing a killer bee outfit? Perhaps he will do a samurai spoof using a Japanese katana ala the late John Belushi. Personally, I'm holding out some hope that the clever SNL writers and crew may convince the Senator to do a Gilda Radner skit. For those too young to remember, the late Miss Radner was at her Saturday Night Live best while playing the role of an irate citizen who had been given television time to comment on some current issue. While Radner ranted on, it was painfully and hilariously obvious to the viewer that she completely misunderstood the issues, the problems and had, at best, only a tenuous grasp on reality. The sad thing is that the Gilda Radner role would indeed be an appropriate role, not for a United States senator, but for Arizona's John McCain.

Friday, July 26, 2002

MANY THANKS to The People's Republic of Seabrook and Blogger for their links and accompanying referrals. I'm not sure our Bravenet account can handle this much traffic!
WELL, DUH: "Actress" Pam Anderson while appearing on a recent CNN Larry King Live show, announced that she has hepatitis C, probably contracted by sharing a tattoo needle with drummer exhusband Tommy Lee. Because hepatitis C is a nasty and tenacious affliction, treatment for it is lengthy and not much fun. The former Baywatch star is contemplating about a year of treatment with unpleasant chemotherapy-like side effects such as hair loss and nausea. Nontheless, Miss Anderson is facing the prospect bravely. As she puts it, " I want to do it for my kids, because I don't want to die basically." If it were me, I would do it even without kids, uh, like, totally, basically.
SILLY DEM JUDGES: A Louisiana federal district judge ruled yesterday that an abstinence program funded in part by the government violates the Establishment clause because it advances religion. The funding program provides that "[c]ities, states or organizations that receive the federal grants must use the money to teach abstinence as the only reliable way to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases." The goal is to help adolescents build character and develop the skills to "say no to sex." The basic Lemon test for determining whether government funding violates the Establishment clause goes something like this: Does the grant have the primary purpose of advancing religion? Does the grant have the actual effect of promoting a religion? Does the grant unnecessarily entangle the government with religion? More recently the courts have moved toward a different test: does the grant show that the government is endorsing religion? Also, is the grant neutral with respect toward religion? (That is, can religious and non religious groups qualify for the grant on an equal basis) I won't go into any in-depth analysis, but I think it's pretty clear that an abstinence program does NOT advance religion. (Unless you worship a sex goddess, perhaps? Well no; I guess that would be "targeting" religion) The real issue here is an argument that I heard for the first time when I was in law school -- basically, sexual responsibility (particularly abstinence outside of marriage) is a Christian tenet -- and since no one besides Christians believe in sexual responsibility anymore, if government funds go to support abstinence programs (or anti-abortion concerns, as the second verse of this same song plays out) then they are necessarily going to advance Christianity, which is prima facie a violation of the Constitution. It's a silly argument, and one that absolutely baffled me the first time I heard it advanced. And frankly, it's bad legal analysis. The major failure of this argument (and there are many) is that the government itself has a very strong interest in promoting abstinence among teenagers. Interestingly, the grant was created as part of a welfare reform bill. The clear purpose of the grants is for the governnment to educate teenage girls so that it can reduce the number of unwanted children growing up on welfare. You can't really get much more secular than that.

Thursday, July 25, 2002

ADD THIS TO THE "IS ANYONE SURPRISED?" PILE: I thought the news was supposed to inform you of something you didn't already know was a sure bet.
Jennifer Lopez Seeks Divorce After Less Than a Year -- Reuters.

As the parrot in Aladdin sarcastically said, "I think I could have a heart attack and die from that surprise."
COSTS OF DELAYING MARRIAGE: This essay by Danielle Crittenden has been in my head a long time. While I agree with her arguments in the abstract -- she claims that women give up too much by delaying marriage to pursue independence, because for many or most of them, the opportunities they have to marry in their early twenties do not replicate themselves in their early thirties or beyond -- I think she misses at least half of the issue. It is a paltry sum of men who are marriageable in their early twenties. And there certainly is some value (whether or not it outweighs the costs is clearly one of the questions with which Crittenden takes issue) allocated to the maturity that people gain by facing adult life with the limited resources of singleness. I actually believe that there is a lot of growing up to be done, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually in a person's early twenties. Some of this growing can be done well in the partnership of marriage. On the other hand, I know an awful lot of persons who marry young, and then feel like they've given up the years that most people spend "discovering themselves" in favor of the laborious prospect of making a marriage work. While I praise those who know love early, marry young, and become wizened spouses on the job, it's nearly always those who were born with an extra dose of maturity who do it successfully. I think history has played a cruel joke with respect to singleness -- it's the sexual irresponsibility, relational distrust and stunted maturity that was born in our parents' generation and has been bred in our own.

Wednesday, July 24, 2002

BABY-ON-THE-WAY BOOKS: To prepare our son for the impending end of his single-child status, we've been reading to him any book we can find about new babies and older siblings. Some of these books are too saccharine, some are too clinical for a two-and-a-half-year old, and some are just right. The stories about older siblings who throw fits, tantrums and try to give away the baby are probably the most accurate and definitely the funniest. My current favorites are Julius: Baby of the World, by Kevin Henkes (the best line, from the big sister to an unsuspecting preggo woman, is, "You'll live to regret that bump under your dress!") and I Want a Brother or Sister, by Astrid Lindgren. I'd appreciate anybody's recommendations of other good books, sent to jordana-at-sluggy-dot-net.
LIGHT ONE UP FOR ME: Australia's law against airing tobacco advertisements is so strict that a news show that broadcast footage of Russell Crowe smoking was punished for "advertising" and "encouraging" the public to smoke. No joke. I hate cigarettes. I hate the smoke, the smell, and everything else associated with smoking. Smoking holds absolutely no interest for me. But stories like this about anti-smoking zealots and their ever-increasing wish-list of stupid regulations make me want to go out and light one up just to show solidarity. If I didn't hate smoking so much, I'd start.
I WONDER what we'll be renaming our football stadium in Nashville:
Adelphia Founder, Other Top Execs Arrested
-- WaPo.
A REALLY USEFUL DEVELOPMENT: The Rev. Moon is tying up some loose ends in the religious world.
A REALLY USEFUL ENGINE: When my niece started living and breathing the Thomas the Tank Engine videos, books, and toys, I was dismissive of the whole thing -- but then, I wasn't a parent. Then along came my son, a boy who is fascinated by all things mechanical, who lives and breathes planes, trains and automobiles. I kept him on a very tight TV leash and didn't let him watch anything at all until he was over two years old. But during a trip to Portland last winter, out of desperation to save our host's house, I broke down and bought my son a Thomas the Tank Engine video that came with a Thomas toy train. And since then, our lives have been filled with Thomas: Thomas video sessions for potty-training rewards; the original Thomas stories for bedtime reading. What makes all of this Thomas-mania tolerable is that the stories are pretty funny and interesting, and the videos are made using wonderfully detailed and beautiful toy train sets. Yes, Thomas really is a useful engine. (For the uninitiated, that's the tag-line in Thomas stories: everyone wants to be "really useful" -- pronounced with an English accent for best effect.) [Note: None of this praise of the Thomas series applies to the feature film, Thomas and the Magic Railroad, which stars Alec Baldwin and Peter Fonda and is a miserable waste of time and money that should be avoided at all costs -- which anyone could probably tell just from reading the cast.] All of which is to say, I was bemused by some of the reader reviews of Thomas stories on Amazon that Cut on the Bias republished. Many of the reviewers complained that Thomas and his friends get grumpy sometimes and make snide remarks about one another, and they don't want their children to learn that kind of behavior. Good grief. First, little kids don't have to learn how to be grumpy, defiant, and twerps -- it's innate -- and besides, they're going to run into grumpy people. Second, one of the main themes of the Thomas stories (and of lots of children's literature, come to think of it) is that uncivil behavior is, to use another Thomas tag-line, "naughty," and that we should all strive to be good, i.e. "really useful." I guess some parents are just nuts.

Tuesday, July 23, 2002

UGH: I'll argue with those who think the circumcision of boys before their eight days old is barbaric (even a Christian can't just toss out 5000 years of Jewish law and history), especially now that local anesthetic is generally used, but I can't argue with those who think the Afghan tradition of circumcizing boys between the ages of two and five without any anesthetic is barbaric. Fortunately, the Turkish doctors who performed mass circumcisions today on boys between the ages of 2 and 11 who had missed out on the traditional ceremonies gave them a local before the procedure was done with a "soldering-iron gun."
IS IT STILL TOO MUCH TO ASK of people who roll their eyes over the Right's "obsession" with communism that they admit the obvious: that communists were as brutal a gang of killers as any in history (including Hitler's Nazis, about whom nobody jokes) and committed murder on a scale as massive as any (including the Holocaust, about which nobody jokes). "But they had such good intentions, you know." Yeah, it probably is too much to ask of them. UPDATE: From the linked WaPo article above, referring to a recently unearthed mass grave in Ukraine:
He paused and left the thought incomplete, returning to the safe ground of forensics. "Of course, I wish I could complete all the skeletons and take everything out of the ground. Look at that one." He picked up the lower jaw of a child. "It has almost all the teeth in it but when we pulled it out of the ground, they fell out. This one doesn't have wisdom teeth -- they grow after 18 so we know this one was younger than that." He turned back to the personal impact. "I don't have any disturbing emotions. When I was 13, I witnessed the death of my friend when a drunk policeman killed him in 1939. We went to the railroad storage area to look for something. Three policemen rushed in and kicked us out. They were all drunk. One of them raised his gun and shot him through the heart. I lifted my friend's head. His eyes rolled back in his head and he died. They just looked and walked away." He paused again and looked back at the table of bones. He picked up a small one, no more than a couple of inches long. "You know what this is?" he asked. It was the shoulder bone of a child.
Yeah, really funny guys, those commies. Uncle Joe, and all that. Can you believe that Ronald Reagan guy? "Evil Empire"? What a hoot! Idiots. You know how some people rub their dogs' noses in it to house-train them? Wish I could rub the anti-anti-communists -- the eye-rollers, the jack-asses wearing the Chairman Mao caps and the Che Guevera t-shirts at the annual WTO-Starbucks-McDonald's-"globalism"-whatever-dude-I-just-wanna-get-high protests -- wish I could rub their noses in their icons' handiwork. They're like Holocaust deniers, just denying a different holocaust.

Friday, July 12, 2002

GRANOLA CONSERVATIVES: I used cloth diapers part of the time, breastfed for 25 months, tried natural childbirth, wear Birkenstocks, listen to hippie-dippie folk music, am considering homeschooling for non-religious reasons, and love to wander through the organic section of the grocery store. My husband doesn't quite understand it and neither do my wacky liberal friends. How can someone be as right-wing as I am and yet like and do all these "liberal" things? What kind of a freak am I? Well, today I found out I'm not alone, and I'm not a freak -- there are other "granola conservatives," writes Rod Dreher on NRO. I should have at least suspected that there might be other granola Republicans. Driving my ancient Volvo 240 wagon (sans Greenpeace and Amnesty International bumper stickers, but sporting a custom horn that played "Dixie") into the organic market parking lot, I might have noticed the irony in my automatic assumption that the other Birk-clad, NPR-t-shirt wearing, flowing skirt types going into the organic market were flaming leftists. But I didn't. I missed a basic truth, obvious in my own life, and the main point of Dreher's essay: people can do the same things for very, very different reasons.

Thursday, July 11, 2002

MANY THANKS to Sand in the Gears and Cut on the Bias for their links to a couple of yesterday's posts.

Wednesday, July 10, 2002

FOUL! I'm a big fan of Best of the Web, but I was annoyed by this headline -- "Another Religion of Peace" -- for the blurb in today's edition about the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod's suspension of the Rev. David Benke for participating in the post-September 11 interfaith service in Yankee Stadium. The headline, "Another Religion of Peace," alludes to a recurring Best of the Web feature, "A Religion of Peace," which catalogs the many cruel and uncivilized acts committed by Islamic radicals in the name of Islam. The implication of this feature isn't that Islam theoretically must be a violent religion, just that as practiced by many, many Muslims, it often is in practice a violent religion. Anyway, Best of the Web's analogy, between a church disciplining -- in a non-violent fashion, in accordance with its internal law -- one of its ministers for participating in a religious service with non-church members in violation of church law, and Islamists who commit acts of violence and barbarism against infidels for being infidels, is tasteless at best. Look, James Taranto and lots of people may not understand it, but some people who call themselves monotheists really believe there's only one God, and Buddha, Allah, and Gaia ain't Him. And members of some Christian denominations -- apparently including those of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod -- really believe their church is the only legitimate, Christ's-body-on-earth, small-cee catholic church. And because they really hold these beliefs, they cannot in good conscience worship and pray with those they consider non-believers. And when their ministers -- the people in charge of teaching the church's doctrines -- violate those doctrines, they must in good conscience discipline the violators. You can call this "intolerant," "old-fashioned," "uncompassionate," "mean-spirited," or a host of other silly words, but you cannot say the peaceful adherence to deeply held religious belief -- even when it hurts other people's feelings -- is anything like killing people for being "infidels." Now, when these monotheistic, anti-denominational Lutherans start killing people who don't accept their beliefs, James Taranto can crack wise about them practicing "another religion of peace." But until they start rapin' and pillagin' the rest of us in the name of the Cross, it's just obnoxious to compare them to Islamist radicals.
I DUNNO: Noticed that the House of Representatives passed a bill allowing pilots to carry guns if they go through training -- prospects in Senate dim; White House stupidly opposes -- and was wondering: do the folks who oppose arming pilots opposing arming anyone on airliners, e.g. air marshals? Surely not, because, well, what would be the point of having an unarmed air marshal. ("Stop, terrorist! My body is a deadly weapon!") But if it's OK to arm trained air marshals, why not arm trained pilots, and flight attendants for that matter? And another thing: Based solely on my personal experience, (a) most flight attendants are women, and women like guns less than men; and (b) most airline pilots are men, and men like guns more than women. So it doesn't surprise to me that the flight attendants' union opposes a law arming pilots, while the pilots' union supports it. Has anybody written about this interesting and revealing gender difference? I've probably missed it.
COGITATIONS AND RUMINATIONS ON THE TODDLER AS PROTO-TOTALITARIAN: I wonder if the war against Islamism lends support to an argument I've been chewing on: that the Islamist threat to civilization shouldn't be characterized as "religious" anymore than the communist and fascist threats should be characterized as "secular," because what each of these threats have in common, and what drives them, and what makes them so dangerous and destructive of the lives of millions of people, is that they're utopianist ideologies. Communists wanted to create the global worker's paradise at the end of history; fascists wanted to create the perfect nation-state; and Islamists want to create the perfect Islamic state, a polity and economy perfectly governed by "Islamic" ideals. Each ideology seeks to create heaven on earth; each has the impossible goal of human perfection, whether on a national or global scale; and each tries to square the circle of perfecting human nature by killing off imperfect human beings. My point is that we don't need to blame religiously-inspired Islamic terrorism on religion anymore than we need to blame atheistic-materialist-bad-economics-ly-inspired communist terrorism on atheism and dumb economics or nationalistically-inspired fascist terrorism on nationalism. It doesn't matter whether you like religious folk, atheists and dumb economists, or nationalists, none of them are dangerous until they decide to create a perfect society by force of arms. Now all of this cogitation on the common utopianism of religious and secular totalitarians relates to my cogitation on a related theory, that utopianists are just toddlers who never grew up. Despite their messiness and unruliness, the toddlers I've known have all had an instinct to impose their notion of perfection on the world. As a child, symmetry fascinated me. My Lego constructions and my drawings had to be geometric and symmetrical. If I'd known about them, I'd have preferred French gardens to English. In childhood games, I demanded perfect obedience from my younger siblings, and when such obedience did not come, I responded with force, until Mom or Dad threatened me with a good whuppin'. To this day, my wife mocks my cooking, because I insist on seeing whether the meniscus lines up with the measurement mark on our liquid measuring cups. My wife confesses to annoying her parents as a child by reading them riddles from a book, then telling them they got the answer wrong when they did not give the exact, word for word, article for article, comma for comma answer in the book. I see the same instincts in my two-and-a-half-year old son, who lines up his cars in perfectly straight lines, and throws a hissy fit when his perfectly straight building-block tower falls over. Kids don't want to be governed, but they want to govern and bring order to a messy world. Totalitarian dictators are much the same, only they use bigger words and carry AK-47s. But the difference is that most toddlers grow up and out of their instinct to control others. They discover that humans and human affairs are messy and unpredictable, that they often don't live up to their own principles, and that it's hard enough (and much more fun) to control one's own life and put principles and ideals into individual action than to create the perfect society out of zillions of people. But a few toddlers never grow out of their instinctive totalitarianism and, fired by religion, materialism and bad economics, or nationalism, or some other idea we haven't thought about yet, try to impose their order on the rest of us. Now, when these totalitarians were young, they probably just needed whuppin'. But once they grow up, and take up arms against the rest of us, they just need killin'.
HERCULEAN STUPIDITY: "It appears he went there with the intention of killing people." -- FBI agent Richard Garcia, speaking of Hesham Mohamed Hadayet, the man who shot up the El Al ticket counter at LAX. Yeah, I know this is old news, but I'm still struck by how hard this G-man had to work to sound this stupid. A Herculean effort, really.

Tuesday, July 09, 2002

Imagine that the Fourth Amendment read:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against non-random searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon random selection, supported by Oath or affirmation, and describing in no particular detail the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Not only could the police could stop and search you as you drove to work, walked to the park, or lounged in your backyard for no particular reason, but they could only stop and search you for no particular reason. The benefit of this system would be equal protection: no one could complain that the government singled him out for search and seizure based on unfair criteria because the government singled him out for no reason at all. It would be equally likely that the police would frisk a middle-class woman walking in a swanky suburb or a young man in an inner city neighborhood. But society couldn't tolerate such a system. First, too many criminals would escape. Since there's a limited number of criminals in society, and a limited number of searches the police can perform, a policy of randomly searching the general population would minimize the number of criminals who would be searched and discovered. But the second, and I think more important, reason society would tolerate this random scheme is the fact that it would be equally likely that criminal and non-criminals would be searched.
IT TURNS OUT that buying a house in Tennessee, packing up a house in Alaska, finishing a job, and moving four thousand miles, all within the next five weeks, is much more taxing than I'd thought, which is why I haven't blogged a blog in many moons, and probably won't for many more.

Monday, July 01, 2002

NO! They Might Be Giants fans, especially fans who now have kids, might want to buy their new album NO!. It is the usual slightly whacked and sometimes incomprehensible stuff I expect from They Might Be Giants, and also bouncy fun for adults and their progeny. My son has been asking to hear the "cool kid's music" a lot. It goes without saying that the title track is his favorite. My favorites are "Bed, Bed, Bed" and "Where Do They Make Balloons?".
WE'RE BACK: We survived our 8,000 mile round-trip trek to the lower 48 with toddler in tow, and we found a house. Blogging may be slow on and off as we pack and Justin finishes up his job.
NEW FACE OF TERROR: Perhaps you were too short-sighted to notice, but Americans are not the only ones under attack. According to this post, animals are the victims of millions of acts of terror, including but not limited to, their slaughter as your food source. This Peter Singer update can speak for itself of the absurdity of the animal rights movement. But one statement stuck out like a sore thumb, and I wouldn't want you to miss it if you skip the article for the sake of time (and sanity). "Conference participant Jennie Sunner called Singer 'fundamental to the movement's inception and its movement forward... I am so relieved he exists...he's so well-reasoned and well-thought-out, that it is hard for someone not to agree,' she added." HEY JENNIE, TRUST ME, IT'S NOT SO HARD.
ABORTION MEETS REALITY: Some of you will find this op-ed interesting.

Monday, June 24, 2002

MEN NOT INCLUDED: A brilliant Brit has opened a sperm donation center designed exclusively to serve lesbian women. I don't guess I really care that much in the abstract, but I take offense at the absurdity of the center's organizer, John Gonzales. He says, "I have believed for a long time that same sex couples have a fundamental right to have children. This right has been denied through beauracracy and prejudice for too long." Without even touching the "fundamental right" fallacy, how is it that bureaucracy is at fault that lesbians can't reproduce? I mean, we can blame almost anything on bureaucracy, but I'm going to have to blame that one on the Creator. Mr. Gonzales also has a pre-fab response to the objections that will come from Christian interests. "I would say to them, if a lesbian walks into your church, are they barred from the church? If the answer is 'no,' why should they be barred from motherhood?" Wow. If ever a non-sequitur I've seen. Seems to me that this is the same problem the Left has been making all along. In glorifying the individual autonomy of women, we must wholly ignore the interests (not "rights" you notice) of everyone else, in particular, their children. I remember in my high school civics-ish class, my teacher explained the juxtaposition between liberty and law like this: we have the freedom to swing our arms, but only so long as we're not hitting anyone else. Is it just me, or are a generation of kids getting knocked upside the head?

Saturday, June 22, 2002

I HATE NORMAN MINETA: Blogging will probably not happen for about a week, as my family makes a 7,000 mile round-trip house-hunting expedition. We will, of course, do this trip by airplane, which leads me to the subject of this post: I hate Norman Mineta. My hatred is especially intense since I just returned from a 4,000 mile business trip, consisting of four-legs, before each of which I was searched. My trip began badly when I tried to check-in and the nice airline lady said I couldn't, and hollered for another employee to call an "LEO." Innocently, I asked, "What's an LEO?" "A law enforcement officer," she replied. "Oh." A nice LEO arrived and explained that my name showed up on a "no fly list" -- that is, a list of persons deemed too dangerous or ill-mannered to be allowed onto an airplane -- and he was sure it was all a mistake, but could I please give him my driver's license anyway so he could make sure. Innocent though I was, I found it unnerving that there could be, somewhere out there, another "Justin Adams" who had done something so heinous -- murder, rape, or smoking in a public place -- that he could not be trusted to travel by airplane. But my fears were quickly allayed by Mr. LEO, who confirmed that I wasn't the "Justin Adams" on the list. The nice airline employee then checked me in, but chuckled, "Of course you'll have to be searched before getting on the plane on both legs of your trip." "Of course. Ha, ha," I replied. She did not lie. The airline computer system had printed a large "S" -- presumably for "search" or "security" -- on each boarding pass, which the airline employee helpfully highlighted in red, so that the goons would not miss me. On each leg of my trip, coming and going, before getting on the airplane, a stranger rifled through my bag, ran a scanner up and down my body, made me flip my belt buckle over, and made me take my shoes off. This last search was actually a small mercy, since having one's shoes searched is a lesser indignity than having to search a stranger's smelly, sweaty shoes; such is the grim satisfaction of the utterly helpless. Some screeners spoke English well, some did not. Some treated me respectfully, some did not. Regardless, I pretended they did not exist. If specifically addressed, I responded, but otherwise, I endured their deprivation of my liberty in silence. Yes, this was childish. But you see, Norman Mineta won't return my angry telephone calls, and never replies to my vicious letters, so I needed a target for my hostility and airport screeners were the nearest target. Not that I expressed my hostility bravely. In fact, I'll stipulate that giving hapless security screeners the silent treatment is feeble and cowardly. But if I did anything worse than ignore them, they might really put me on that no-fly list, and then where would I be? I had to take the trip; I had to use an airplane; I had to let them search me and my things for no reason whatsoever. But I didn't have to be friendly; I had control over that. If they chose to become instruments of a mindless, faceless bureaucracy and harass and humiliate their fellow citizens for no good reason, I would treat them as nothing more than cogs in the machine. "But why the hostility?" you may ask. It's not the mere indignity of the searches that angers me. It's their pointlessness. We don't prohibit searches and seizures, just unreasonable ones -- and random searches of old men and women, cripples, the obviously mentally retarded, and little children simply aren't reasonable. (Maybe they are legally reasonable; I haven't thought about that; but as a matter of public policy and commonsense, they're not.) Searching me -- white male, married with children -- isn't very reasonable either, but at least the government could, with some absurd stretching, fit me in the profile of a terrorist (the profile being defined as able-bodied men between the ages of 18 and 35). And if that's what happened, if I was actually being profiled (even as absurd a profile as that would be), I wouldn't mind being searched so much because I would know that the government was exercising some restraint. But everytime I see some meathead make an old lady in a walker take her shoes off, I know the government isn't restraining itself at all. Perversely, it is acting without any restraint whatsoever in choosing the targets of searches to avoid profiling. That is, to avoid the narrow equal protection problem of singling out a few people for searches based solely on bad reasons -- ethnicity or nationality -- the government is creating a huge fourth amendment problem by singling out many people for searches based on no reason at all. And for that, I blame and loathe Norman Mineta.
TEEN PREGNANCY, YOUNG MOTHERS, AND MARRIAGE: Last week Instapundit noted that a Florida high school now devotes pages in its yearbook to student-mothers and their children. Alex Whitlock honored these young mothers for keeping their babies instead of killing them in the womb, and I can't disagree. Loco Parentis praised them for managing to be mothers and finish high school at the same time (I can't disagree there), but she also criticized the stigma attached nowadays to being a young mother. As a relatively young mother myself, I can't disagree that stigmatizing young mothers makes no sense and is unfair. I agree when she writes, "There is nothing shameful about young motherhood. It isn't a dirty secret of some kind. We should get off of the backs of young mothers in this country. Age alone does not define a woman's ability to nurture and guide her child." It's the caveat she makes to her discussion of "young motherhood" that I have a problem with: "Leaving aside any questions of the advisability of having babies outside of a committed partnership ...." I don't think it makes sense to discuss society's stigmatization of "young motherhood" without considering whether "young mothers" are married. I doubt most people tar teenage mothers with the brush of stigma because they're young, but because they weren't married when they made the baby and never got married after they had the baby. And I think one good reason for stigmatizing unwed moms, whether 15 or 40, is that having babies out-of-wedlock usually deprives children of full-time (and often even part-time) fathers. Study after study shows how much children suffer without fathers (lower income levels, increased likelihood of delinquency, increased likelihood of having children out-of-wedlock) and at the hands of men who move in and out of their mother's house and bed. Not that anyone needed a study to know this; it's commonsense. Being a mother is a tough job whether a woman is 16, 26, or 36; being older doesn't necessarily mean you'll be better at it, and who knows, maybe being younger is an advantage. So it makes no sense to criticize women for having babies when they're 18 versus when they're 28, especially since women had children that young and younger in our culture for centuries and still do in other cultures. The real issue should be whether a woman, whatever her age, who has sex with a man without any thought to whether he would make a good father for her children, is doing everything she can to "nuture and guide" -- not to mention protect -- her children?

Friday, June 21, 2002

IS THERE ANYTHING SCHOOLS AREN'T RESPONSIBLE FOR? Liberals don't think parents can take care of their children on their own, much less themselves. One way they "remedy" parental "deficiencies" -- which are always called a "crisis" -- is through public school policy. So schools hand out condoms to solve the "teen sex crisis," and feed kids breakfast to fix the "nutritional crisis." Now there's another "crisis": "Too Few U.S. Schools Protect Kids From Sun's Harm," Reuters reports. Maybe schools should hand out free suntan lotion and condoms at breakfast.
BREAKING NEWS! BREAKING NEWS! In a stunning revelation, Reuters reports that "Hospitalization Can Traumatize a Child."
IRRELEVANT INTENT: From the last paragraph of today's Washington Post article of stem cell research, referring to harvesting stem cells from human embryos:
The intent of the scientists who want to perform that procedure, a type of cloning, would be to derive healthy replacement cells that are a perfect genetic match for a human patient. But because the procedure would create a microscopic embryo that would be capable, briefly, of turning into a human clone if implanted into a woman's uterus, some groups oppose it, saying destruction of the microscopic embryo would be tantamount to murder.
(Emphasis added.) Note how the reporter carefully explains that the "intent" of researchers who kill embryos isn't killing but healing. Why? No one argues that scientists kill human embryos for the jollies, and the therapeutic purpose of embryonic stem cell research is well-known and granted. No, I think the reporter is attempting to make a fine distinction between knowledge and purpose that doesn't wash in these circumstances and misleads readers as to the nature of the moral debate about embryonic stem cell research. Here's the distinction I think the reporter is drawing. A person can do something not intending a consequence but with the knowledge that that consequence will likely, even certainly occur, like the general who orders his soldiers into battle not intending to kill them, but knowing that some will certainly die. But that distinction doesn't wash in this case because the researcher who harvests stem cells from an embryo not only knows this act will certainly kill the embryo, but is doing the very act that will kill the embryo. If there is still a difference between intent and knowledge in these circumstances, it's too fine for me to see. What I see is a researcher who intentionally kills an embryo for the benign purpose of healing other people. The reporter's explanation of researchers' "intent" is misleading because opponents of embryonic stem cell research don't deny the benign purpose of researchers, and supporters don't deny that the researchers are knowingly or intentionally killing embryos to accomplish that purpose. The debate centers on two questions: is an embryo a human being or just a potential human being, and is it OK to kill a human being or a potential human being for this benign purpose.

Thursday, June 20, 2002

CRUEL & UNUSUAL: So, the law now is, it is cruel and unusual to execute the perpetrator of a vicious, premeditated murder who happens to be not so swuft, but it isn't cruel and unusual to lock him up in a cage for the rest of his life. Of course. It's so logical. UPDATE: I'll just quote from Justice Scalia's dissent:
Once the Court admits (as it does) that mental retardation does not render the offender morally blameless, there is no basis for saying that the death penalty is never appropriate retribution, no matter how heinous the crime. As long as a mentally retarded offender knows the difference between right and wrong, only the sentencer can assess whether his retardation reduces his culpability enough to exempt him from the death penalty for the particular murder in question.
ASININE: A California elementary school principal has banned "tag" without adult supervision, because some kids "weren't feeling good about it." Playground sensitivity counselors will be brought in to train students to play a modified version of "tag," in which children take turns being "it" to reduce the stigma of slow, clumsy children who would otherwise always be "it." (First sentence true; second sentence "creative.")

Wednesday, June 19, 2002

GOOD JOB!!! A while ago, Tony Woodlief wrote about how nice praise is -- even coming from your toddler for things you don't normally get much praise for, like using the bathroom. Today I got a taste of the same sweetness when my son told me I'd done a really "good job" putting my sandals on the right feet all by myself. And you know, some days that's probably the hardest thing I manage to do.
WHAT ARE FRIENDS FOR? Well, if you're about 30 inches tall and two and a half years old, friends are mostly for inflicting physical abuse. I took my son over to play with a friend's two year-old son and four year-old daughter last night. The four year-old daughter spanked him for following her rules, and the two year-old son whacked him on both sides of his head, leaving some lovely lumps. Not that my son just stood there and took it; that's not his style. He got his revenge later in the evening by pushing the two year-old down a couple of steps. Now, this kind of child-on-child abuse may sound terrible, but it's actually a healthy learning experience. Eventually, these two little boys will figure out that they're about equally strong, that it really hurts to get punched-kicked-shoved-down-the-stairs, and therefore that it isn't wise to pick fights with one another -- which will result in a sort of toddler cold war.

Tuesday, June 18, 2002

I'M AS CONSERVATIVE AS BOB DOLE? I scored a 35 on the political quiz to which Cut On the Bias linked. Not bad, as far as scores go, although I don't know where I lost those five points. But Bob Dole? I never thought he was all that conservative.
BOOBS V. BOOZE: Before last week's parlimentary election in the Czech Republic, the Christian Democrats in the Moravian town of Valasske Mezirici were handing out free shots of liquor. The Communists fought back by having topless women distribute their campaign literature. Now I read that the Communists won 19% of the vote, while the center-right coalition together won only 14%. This a sad time for the Czech Republic -- electing Communists can't be a good thing -- but what does the preference for breasts over booze say? Just pondering. UPDATE: Maybe breasts and booze symbolize what Europe is all about -- hedonism and socialism.

Monday, June 17, 2002

BLOGGING will probably be slow for the next few days. Justin is out-of-town, and I am busy chasing a toddler all by myself.

Friday, June 14, 2002

JUST ADDED a new blog to the left. Readjacobs.com is a really interesting blog mostly related to education.

Thursday, June 13, 2002

BUT YOU ASSURED ME IT WAS A RELIGION OF PEACE! I got a kick out of this passage from a report on suspected terrorist Abdullah al-Muhajir (aka Jose Padilla) (via Instapundit):
... authorities have painted a picture of al-Muhajir as a former gang member who was born in Brooklyn but raised in Chicago, where he was convicted of various petty crimes as a teen. He apparently grew up a Catholic, but converted to Islam after moving to South Florida in the late 1980s. Despite this conversion, authorities say he developed a penchant for violence. ...
Imagine that: al-Muhajir became a violent sociopath despite his conversion to Islam. Rats. There goes my plan for bringing about world peace by forcibly converting everyone to Islam and killing anyone who won't....
OBNOXIOUS: Regarding newly proposed EPA regulations governing when and how energy companies must upgrade pollution controls when they repair or upgrade physical plant, "Earthjustice" executive director Buck Parker had this to say:
"With the release of this report, the administration dropped a dirty bomb and it's going to cost thousands of American lives."
Power plant pollution: it's like radioactive fallout from a terrorist "dirty bomb" intended to kill and sicken thousands of people. How clever, and so much more subtle than the usual "pollution is terrorism against the environment" analogy. I haven't formed an opinion as to whether the proposed regulations make sense, but over-the-top environmentalist idiocy like this confirms my gut instinct that they do. What a jerk.
INCORRIGIBLE UNTO DEATH: When lawyers speak in court on behalf of clients, they often hedge and speak in the hypothetical about facts unfavorable to their case. Lawyers don't make definite assertions about unfavorable facts because these assertions could be construed as admissions that legally establish the facts. Our legal system figures out facts by making two adversaries duke it out, so a party's self-serving hemming and hawing about unfavorable facts isn't actually a bad thing: it just makes the other side do its own work to establish the fact. But I can't see what purpose this kind of squishy-lawyer speech serves when it comes from the mouth of a man condemned to die for committing a heinous murder. I'm referring to Walter Mickens, a man who "sexually assaulted a ... teenager, stabbed him 143 times and left him to die on a dirty mattress" and was at last put to death for his crimes last night. Some of Mickens' final words were, "To whoever I may have hurt or caused harm, I pray that you can forgive me." Whoever he may have hurt or caused harm? Note first the lawyerly redundancy of "hurt or caused harm." Obviously this man had spent too much time with lawyers, which explains his odd, legal-sounding locutions as well as the fact that he'd cheated punishment for ten years. Note, second, the hypothetical or theoretical cast of the sentence: "whoever I may have hurt or caused harm." Does it gall you that a man who had been found guilty of stabbing a human being 143 times -- ignoring, or perhaps relishing, the victim's screams, the horrifying sound of metal puncturing tissue, the sight of dozens of bleeding wounds -- a man whose last legal claim was not that he was factually innocent, but merely that he didn't have a good enough lawyer -- does it gall you that this man, at the point of death, still wouldn't give up the role of beleagured criminal defendant and simply acknowledge his guilt? What issue was he preserving for appeal? Perhaps he thought God would remand for a new trial, and didn't want to waive the issue? No. He was simply in death, as in life, an incorrigible man-turned-monster, and that's just how they talk.
AT THE MOVIES: Michael Lewis's Dad Again column is once again an interesting read. He goes with his baby daughter to a parents-and-babies-only movie night. What a brilliant idea! I wish there were places like that across the country.
REVERSE DISCRIMINATION? I've been too busy using the internet to search for a house and a doula to pay much attention to the news, but I did notice an item in Jay Nordlinger's Impromptus about job advertisements. It seems that a travel agency in Great Britain wished to place an employment ad that described qualified candidates as "friendly." The job agency refused to run the ad for a "friendly" employee because "that would discriminate against applicants not lucky enough to have that sort of personality.” Judging from the large numbers of grumpy and surly clerks working in my favorite department stores, like WalMart, I don't think we need to worry about "personality discrimination" in the United States. In fact, I sometimes wonder if stores, not to mention government agencies, fast food restaurants, and my local medical clinic, are practicing reverse discrimination against employees lucky enough to be friendly and helpful.

Tuesday, June 11, 2002

WHY WE LOATHE THEM III: I struck "hate" from the headline for my original post on this subject and replaced it with "loathe" because "hate" sounds too intemperate, too harsh, and connotes malice, which I do not bear toward even the EU-nuchs. I merely "loathe" their "moral vanity," which means something like "hate," but lacks the connotation of malice. That which I hate, I may wish to harm. But that which I loathe, I find too disgusting to trouble myself with it; I simply wish that it would go away, like some foul odor. When European officials preach to Americans about European "ideals," I don't want to hurt them, I just want them to be quiet, just be quiet, and stop insulting my country with their self-righteous blather.
WHY WE LOATHE THEM II: Referring to Germany's non-cooperation in the prosecution of Zacarias Moussaoui, about which I artlessly and intemperately vent below, Best of the Web describes opposition to capital punishment as "the central object of European Union moral vanity." "Moral vanity" -- how better to describe the flaunting of a simplistic moral position, by the continent that created tyrannies galore, to the nation that crushed them all? Besides "loathsome," of course.
WHY WE HATE LOATHE THEM (EU-NUCHS, THAT IS): Germany, fatherland of such civil libertarian innovations as the Gestapo, Kristallnacht, and Auschwitz, regrets that it cannot aid our prosecution of Zacarias Moussaoui because the death penalty, which our government seeks against Moussaoui for the petty crime of murdering 3000 people, does not, according to a spokesman for the German Justice Ministry, "correspond to the ideals of our legal system." These cretins demand that our government "consult" with theirs? These moral Lilliputians lecture us on "international responsibility"? These only recently neutered progenitors of the monstrous Third Reich and Democratic Republic of Germany get prissy with us about the "ideals" of their "legal system"? O, how I loathe them. Not that the United States will hurt the European states the way they deserve, by purposely letting them take one big one to the chin. ("Hey, sorry about the whole terrorists-nuking-Paris thing. We meant to send an e-mail, but it was, like, a holiday weekend.") That would violate our ideals, which -- bless our simplistic little hearts -- actually mean something more than waxing pious about the lives of mass murderers. Besides, the EU-nuchs are so far gone, I doubt taking even a devastating blow would faze them.

Monday, June 10, 2002

NO TV NEWS FOR LEFTIES? The tail-end of today's Howard Kurtz column in the Post caught my eye:
Everyone knows Fox News Channel has a conservative audience, right? Actually, a Pew Research Center poll puts the viewership at 46 percent conservative, 32 percent moderate and 18 percent liberal -- not much different than the 44 percent conservative audience for CNBC or 40 percent conservative for CNN and MSNBC. The difference is more apparent on individual shows: Bill O'Reilly's Fox audience is 56 percent conservative and 5 percent liberal, while Larry King's CNN audience is 38 percent conservative and 19 percent liberal.
Judging from the small numbers for "liberal" viewers, one might think lefties didn't watch TV news. (Which means they must be listening to NPR and PBS, right? Wrong, says this Pew Center study (link via Kausfiles), finding that 36% of NPR listeners are self-described conservatives versus 20% self-described liberals.) No, the real reason is that the right has successfully turned "liberal" into a dirty word for most lefties (as this great Bloom County strip explains, along with another involving Opus's appearance before a Senate committee, which I can't find on the web), which explains the popularity of the obnoxiously self-righteous term "moderate" and the still more odious label "progressive."
EVEN MORE ON MCCLELLAN V. GRANT: JunkYard Blog compares the Civil War's McClellan to today's Pentagon brass much more artfully than I did a while back. He writes:
[A]rmies are built to be used, not admired. McClellan was in love with watching his grand army in its resplendent blue uniforms march up and down big parade squares in camp, and was in love with the attention and respect the commander of the Union army garnered. ... In battle, McClellan was hapless, not because he didn't understand the battle tactics of the day, but because simply lacked the decisiveness and courage a general needs. ... Today's Pentagon seems to be in love with its reputation as the world's greatest military, but if reports of its skiddishness about Iraq are true, it seems to want to be admired as a military force, not used as one where high casualties are possible. ... We'll need our military leadership to carry out the orders of President Bush in destroying the Islamofascist conspiracy and ending its threat of international terror. Let's hope President Bush doesn't have to weed out a few McClellans on his way to discovering a US Grant. Let's also hope that if he does encounter a McClellan or two, he'll have the nerve to sack them and promote competent leaders who will take the fight to the enemy.
MCCLELLAN, GRANT, ET AL. II: Alexander was "noted as much for his uncommon decency"? News to me; I thought he led a band of cutthroats who were motivated by loot and women and inflicted terrible cruelties against their conquered foes. Anyway, Sherman as a war criminal? Sorry, that dawg won't hunt. Nineteenth century armies depended on local foodstuffs to live and horses and railroads to move; the Southern economy depended on slavery and the rebel war effort was dedicated to preserving the same. Sherman burned the crops, seized the horses, "bow-tied" the railroads, and freed slaves. That's fair play. Members of Georgia's fairer sex screamed loudly about rapin' and pillagin' Yankees, but they screamed louder at their husbands and sons for being too cowardly to fight Sherman's army, forcing them to bear the brunt of his assault. Besides, while some of Sherman's soldiers raped and killed some civilians, as some undisciplined soldiers do in every war, claims that his Army of the West engaged in rape and civilian murder as a battle tactic are based on hyperventilating Southern newspaper editorials, not fact. The Confederacy was a democracy; its populace voted in favor of rebellion and supported war against the duly established government of the United States; its oldfolk and womenfolk screamed for war and sent off boys and young men to die by the thousands -- yet most Southerners, especially Southerners of the aristocratic planter class, had never tasted the war they demanded. Sherman made them taste it, and they didn't like it very much. Sherman's March to the Sea and his march through the Carolinas shortened the war by teaching the civilian population that the rebellion had failed and that the rebel armies could not protect them. Seems to me burnin' crops, plantation houses, and railroads was a sight more moral than grindin' up several thousand more Southern boys. I'm won't get into total war doctrine, and its justifications and flaws, because I gotta earn a living. But let me take three pot-shots: First, targeting civilian infrastructure when it supports the enemy's war effort makes sense; that's what Sherman did in Georgia and the Allies did in German and Japan. Second, international law recognizes the principle of retaliation: a breach of law can justify a retaliatory act that would otherwise violate the law. Since it was illegal for the Germans to blitz London, that breach arguably justified the Allies' blitzing German cities. If Iraq or Iran financed a terrorist nuclear attack on an American city, that illegal act would arguably justify nuclear retaliation against an Iraqi or Iranian city. Smarter people than I have and will debate whether some laws of war trump the right of retaliation, and in many cases, morality should restrain the retaliating state, but state practice will decide the question, if it hasn't already. Third, as my last two points indicate, warfare between industrialized states and against agressor states that lack any qualms about killing civilians raises moral and legal questions that warfare between early-nineteenth century armies clashing in set piece battles did not, and which cannot be answered by simple citations to Ghengis Khan, Hitler, Stalin, et al. Take that! (Exit, chased by Southern Civil War reenactor.)
McClellan, Grant, Sherman, Patton, Marshall, Ghengis Khan, et al.: While I have oft been accused by my devoted son-in-law of becoming too emotionally involved in a war that ended nearly 150 years ago, the mix and match comparisons of the fighting styles of Northern Generals in the War Between the States and those of Patton/Marshall in WWII seem misleading and inappropriate. While I grant that Marshall's (and perhaps McClellen's, as well) hesitant timidity contrasted with Patton's great skill and assertiveness offers important lessons and examples for the present conflict with Islamic extremists, the methods of Sherman do not. Let me explain. It is no secret that, well fortified by some good Kentucky rye and unburdened by any of McClellen's scruples, Grant got the results Lincoln wanted. However, debating whether Sherman, with his clever little flanking movements, was a more skilled tactician than Grant ignores the more sobering fact that all three proud "Sons of Ohio," Sherman, Grant, and Sheridan, could easily and properly have been tried and hanged as war criminals for their brutal and needless war against civilian populations in Tennessee, Georgia, Virginia, and elsewhere. The Nuremberg trials after WWII justifiably tried the Luftwaffe commander Hermann Goering as a war criminal, not for any role in Auschwitz, Dachau, or Bergen-Belsen, but for his deliberate bombing of civilian targets in Poland, Russia, England, and Scandinavia. If, God forbid, the Nazis had won WWII and thereby also won the privilege of writing the history, you can rest assured that there would be a pious chapter on the military necessity of demoralizing a stubbornly recalcitrant enemy by murdering and starving its civilian population. Pillage, rape and civilian deaths are always going to be a tragic part of the collateral damage of war, but they need not be the goal of the protagonists. Arguably, the greatest military genius of the pre-Christian, or possibly any, era was Alexander the Great of Macedonia. By his mid-thirties he had conquered an area comparable to what the Roman Legions would need centuries to acquire. In his day, however, Alexander was noted as much for his uncommon decency as his military genius. Brilliant and ruthless in war against opposing armies, Alexander was also willing to spare the civilian population of any city that did not openly fight him. As a stark contrast to Alexander, Ghengis Khan in the early 13th Century successfully spread terror and demoralizing despair across western and central Asia by systematically and deliberately slaughtering nearly all the civilian populations he encountered. Despite Ghengis's military successes, the centuries following him saw (at least in the West) fewer and fewer kings and generals willing to imitate his style of deliberately starving and slaughtering civilians. Today, except in Mongolian history, Ghengis's military brilliance fails to obscure the fact that he was a brutal murderous thug, barbaric even by the standards of his barbaric age. Over 50 years after the fact, I can admire the daring, brave, and brilliant Alexander-like military tactics of Patton's tank corps. In contrast to Patton, however, the passing of 150 years have not removed the stain of Lincoln's Ohio Generals' cowardly Ghengis-like legacy of pillage, rape and scorched earth warfare against women, children, and old men. It is eminently arguable, if not altogether certain, that Lincoln's political ambitions and desperation to win by any means the war against the South reintroduced to the world the "effectiveness" of systematic total war against civilians foreshadowing the even more brutal 20th Century genocides by Kemal Ataturk, Joe Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Hideki Tojo, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, and Idi Amin.

Sunday, June 09, 2002

LIFE IMITATES THE SIMPSONS: I've checked. This Washington Post op-ed, "Fighting Obesity And the Food Lobby" -- which notes "disturbing parallels" between the "food industry" and the "tobacco industry" and issues an ultimatum that the "food industry"
(1) suspend all food advertising and marketing campaigns directed at children; (2) remove sugar-sweetened soft drinks and snack foods from vending machines in schools; (3) end sponsorship of scholastic activities and professional nutrition organizations linked to product promotion; and (4) refrain from political contributions that might influence national nutritional policy
-- is not based on The Onion. It's based on The Simpsons (Episode 1308: after authorities "determine that Springfield is pound for pound the fattest town on earth, ... Marge ... hires a lawyer and wins a class-action lawsuit against big sugar. The Judge then decrees that sugar be banned from Springfield for life.") (Via Best of the Web) (See also Overlawyered here and here.)
DEPARTMENT OF KIDDIE PROPAGANDA: It's easy to scare kids. They have vivid imaginations, a loose grip on reality, and will believe anything they're told, especially if it comes from an authority figure. Which is why lefties love writing scary books for children on the horror de jure. Nowadays it's global warming. (See, e.g., Climate Crisis: Saving Our World, by Nigel Hawkes. Comes in library binding, naturally. Public schools and public libraries love this stuff.) But when I was an urchin, the lefties decreed that the Official Childhood Fear should be nuclear war. I remember reading a book back then (I've long since forgotten the title) about a boy who complained to his parents that they didn't spend enough time with him because they kept going to nuclear freeze rallies. "But honey," they replied, "We're just trying to make the world a better place for you." And the other day, when my wife and I were browsing the library's kid lit section for our son, I came across this blast from the past, published in 1986: Nobody Wants a Nuclear War, by Judith Vigna. Readers may remember Ms. Vigna as the author of such children's classics as My Two Uncles ("Sometimes a man loves another man in the way a married couple love each other"), Saying Goodbye to Daddy (Daddy's dying), I Wish Daddy Didn't Drink So Much, I Live with Daddy (Daddy's divorced), Mommy and Me by Ourselves Again (Mommy's boyfriend broke up with her; who knows where Daddy is). Nobody Wants a Nuclear War is classic kiddie propaganda. Here's how it goes. Arms control, MAD, the Cold War -- it would be hard for Vigna to explain all of that to little blighters. (But my dad did: "You see, son, we have to build bombs because the Russians keep building them. But if the Russians think we can blow them up before they blow us up, they won't bomb us.") So she doesn't mess around with details; she just scares the little blighters: "If there's a nuclear war ... the whole world will blow up. There'll be no more houses or trees or animals or parents. Only a dark, smoky desert like we saw on television," a little boy explains to his sister. An artless illustration depicts the little boy and his sister hiding beneath a bed, holding a magazine with a mushroom cloud on the cover. But it's not enough to scare kids; you have to move them to action, and more important, piety. The little urchins run outside, build themselves a fallout shelter, and fall asleep inside it wrapped up in "the big snuggly picnic blanket." "I felt safe," says the little girl. That's the title of a wretched book by Judith Vigna wrote for children back in the mid-1980s.

Saturday, June 08, 2002

TEN MORE WORDS TO KILL FOR: A.C. Douglas lists ten words that "when written or uttered are cause sufficient for the murder of the writer or utterer, and the immediate establishment of a prima facie case of justifiable homicide with the consequent full exoneration of the murderer." I agree with all of his homicide-inducing words, and nominate a few more:
  1. as a __ -- when used to imply that a speaker's opinion on a subject is dictated by the speaker's sex, race, or other status, and that persons of different status may not legitimately offer an opinion on the subject, as in "As a Tibetan bisexual woman, I find your opposition to liberal immigration policies, same-sex marriage, and abortion-on-demand deeply offensive."
  2. feel -- when used as a synonym for "think," as in "I feel that your position is illogical."
  3. deeply -- when used to modify "offensive" or "offended," as in "I was deeply offended by that remark," or when used to modify most any other word, for that matter.
  4. diversity -- when used to mean "per capita skin melanin within a population," as in "This community lacks sufficient diversity" or "I am deeply offended by the lack of diversity at our university."
  5. impact -- when used as a verb, as in "the poignancy of Alec Baldwin's latest public remarks impacted me deeply."
  6. network -- as in "This conference will be a great opportunity to network with prospective employers."
  7. offensive -- when used to describe almost anything besides an odor, as in "I find your position on affirmative action deeply offensive."
  8. parent -- as in "No one can tell you how to parent your child."
  9. progressive -- as in "Mother Jones takes really progressive positions, like confiscating private property."
  10. synergy -- when used in any context, but especially offensive when used in wedding vows, as in "The synergy of our souls will last us through eternity." (If you can't believe that synergy gets used in wedding vows, you haven't been watching TLC's A Wedding Story.)
IF MY GRANDMA HAD WHEELS, SHE'D BE A BUS: A lot of the debate about what the FBI and CIA knew and whether they could've prevented September 11 reminds me of the wisecrack that "If my grandma has wheels, she'd be a bus." Yes, it's hackneyed, but it makes a good point: it's pointless to speculate what might be the outcome if you had circumstances completely (and impossibly) different from actual circumstances. If you could staff the FBI and the CIA with bureaucrats who are always selflessly dedicated to their mission, not selfishly devoted to personal advancement and prestige; who always think creatively, not regurgitate conventional wisdom; who always exercise reasoned judgment, take intelligent risks, and accept responsibility for their actions, not evade risk and responsibility by inaction; who never become complacement about potential threats, no matter how many wearying false alarms they endure, no matter how bewildering the array of intelligence sources they manage -- if you could staff a the FBI and CIA with people like that, you'd create effective intelligence agenices unlike any known to mankind -- but only because they'd be staffed by aliens!

Friday, June 07, 2002

I don't understand why some people think agency competition is bad and centralizing agency responsibility is good. Maybe they imagine that agencies work the way my middle school civics text described it: a flow chart tracing the devolution of executive power from the president to his cabinet secretaries and agency heads, then to their underlings, and so on, a neutral system of communicating and executing the will of the president. But the federal bureaucracy doesn't really work that way. Agencies aren't neutral presidential mouthpieces, but are political constituencies unto themselves. These constituencies have interests and agendas that transcend individual administrations: the State Department was an arms-controlling, Arab-appeasing, and UN-suck-upping institution under Reagan, Bush I, and Clinton, and continues to be so under Bush II. Civil service protection ensures that most agency personnel survive administration changes. And agencies develop agendas independent of Congress or the president because that's what we designed them to do; remember, one justification for creating and deferring to the administrative state is that career bureaucrats have "expertise" that transient, elected political hacks lack. To add to the confusion, Congress creates multiple agencies with overlapping jurisdiction, The result is that a new president comes into office facing legions of personnel who do not agree with his policy decisions and actively try to thwart them. None of this is as bad as it sounds. re: proposed new department -- don't think solution is centralization -- agency competition is good -- different approaches, info, ideas -- but key is to create incentives for useful competition. That means system of rewarding creative thinking and ideas; and firing ineffective people -- that means firing top people -- I also wonder whether the long-term solution is technological -- Director of Central Intelligence and National Security Advisor, I thought, were both designed to filter, synthesize info -- but how a President uses NSA, DCI, depends on President and whose in the positions. Bush seems to rely a lot on Condi Rice to manage competing agencies Discussion of eliminating turf-wars and such is fanciful -- bureaucracies compete for money, authority -- trick is to use what they want as reward and punishment system -- FBI blows it, cut its budget, CIA figures something out, reward it -- maybe it's too far-fetched, but long-term solution might be a congressionally-enacted budgetary scheme where President has more discretion to throw money around to agencies, kind of slush fund for good behavior. Lot of the discusison about intel failure and long-term solutions is kind of like arguing that if my grandma had wheels, she'd be a bus. If you could get bureaucrats who were selflessly dedicated to their mission rather than selfishly devoted to their own advancement, prestige, brownie points; if you could get bureaucrats who thought creatively and took intelligent risks based on reasoned judgment, instead of people who were too afraid of failure to do anything, who put their heads down and press on by the book, not wanting to tick anyone off; if you could get people who never become complacement, who never stop worrying about potential threats, despite wearying false alarms and bewildering array of intelligence sources -- in short, if you could create a bureaucracy unlike any every known to mankind, staffed with people unlike any ever created in the history of the human race -- because their aliens! -- then you'd have an intelligence system that worked. Oh.
COLLATERAL DAMAGE: The hostage situation in the Philippines ended horribly, but it ended the right way. It ended horribly because it left two hostages dead and one a widow. But it ended well because it ended with a military assault, not negotiations. Someone once argued, in National Review, I think, that the right way to deal with hostage situations is to treat the hostages as already dead. It's a horrifying thought, condemning fellow countrymen to almost certain death, and I couldn't advocate it if it my loved ones were the hostages. Most people can't approach difficult problems rationally if they're personally and emotionally involved. The government has to act in the best interests of society, and society's interests are served by making hostage-taking a futile, no-return investment. That means denying terrorists what they hope to gain from hostage taking -- publicity, ransom, and government paralysis -- by hunting them down and killing them, even at the risk of killing the hostages. We don't let the risk of collateral damage to the enemy paralyze our military operations. We can't let the risk of collateral damage to our own countrymen paralyze us either.
DON'T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU READ: This story proves the well rehearsed quip. Beijing's most popular newspaper reported as fact a story copied word-for-word from "The Onion," an internet satire tabloid. Apparently, if DC doesn't come through with updated accommodations, Congress is looking to make a strategic move to Memphis or Charlotte -- a town with a much better fan base and improved concessions. (Although I hear the beer is still outrageous!)
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