Friday, May 31, 2002

DEATH, DISEASE, AND DESPAIR: THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF CHILDREN'S LITERATURE: : When I was a child reading juvenile literature, I ignored books about "reality," especially books meant to "teach lessons" about death, drugs, sex, racism, sexism, nuclear war, etc. I did read Judy Blume's Forever, about a girl losing her virginity, but not because it taught the consequences of premarital sex (actually, I think Blume's point was that there aren't any consequences), but because it seemed the shocking thing to do in junior high. I didn't want "reality," which involved pimples, gawkiness, and vicious adolescent girls; I wanted fantasy. Not "fantasy" as in "fantasy literature" (never understood A Wrinkle In Time, never got past The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, and to my brothers' disgust, never read Lord of the Rings), but books set in a "real" world that still allowed me to escape my reality and pretend to be some else. I could be an orphan, but a very happy orphan, in Anne of Green Gables; I could break and enter and snoop in Harriet the Spy without going to jail. I could even run away and live in a museum in The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Books like these were magic enough for me. (Now it's romance novels.) So I was taken aback when I read Moira Redmond's essay, "Tales of a Seventh-Grade Scare Tactic: The new Gothicism of children's books," on Slate, describing a new genre of juvenile "reality" literature she calls "Dreadlit" -- modern morality tales like those of the grim Victorian tradition in English literature or like Der Struwelpeter in German literature. In these stories, bad or just unwise actions always have CONSEQUENCES. Youth loses its innocence suddenly and tragically, assuming it starts out with any at all. Now, when I'm in parent-mode and my control-freak instincts begin to surface, I wonder whether books that teach the dire consequences of bad behavior might be a good idea. But then I remember that I would have hated books like these as a child, and no matter how many my mother brought home from the library, I wouldn't have read anymore of them than I read of the "good literature" she plied me with when I wanted to read the latest The Babysitter's Club book. Then, as now, I wanted to slip the bounds of reality and explore worlds in which the usual rules didn't apply. And I never had any trouble once I closed the book and slipped back into reality: no one had to tell me not to sneak into people's houses after reading Harriet the Spy, not to run away from home and live in the museum, or that life as an orphan, even a Canadian orphan, wouldn't be peachy. The funny thing about some of the examples of "realistic fiction" Redmond cites is how little they have to do with "reality": I certainly hope there isn't a large market of children drawn to Julius Lester's When Dad Killed Mom ("Jenna suspected her parents' marriage was in trouble") because it parallels their family life. Remond also notes that children in Dreadlit "have operatically unreliable parents: often only one and often with a substance-abuse problem" and that "there is a bizarrely high incidence of cancer in these books, and the death rate in general is surely higher than is found in real life." But as Redmond argues, the disasters wayward children suffer in Dreadlit are "real" in the sense that they're "just plain terrifying, with no entertainment or allegorical value." Of course, I don't have to worry about any of this, since Paul Bunyan is the longest book my two-and-a-half-year old has sat still for since he started objecting to Beowulf's lack of pictures (yes, his father is that twisted). But when his attention span extends beyond five seconds per page (and when he learns to read), I think I'll pass on Dreadlit. My kids will learn about actions and consequences from me and from experience. If they need reinforcement from literature, they can get it from some genre besides one with books like It Happened to Nancy ("Nancy was an innocent fourteen-year-old when she fell in love. ... Then he date-raped her and left her -- infected with the HIV virus).

Thursday, May 30, 2002

A POST-SEPTEMBER 11 BABY-BOOM? I wonder if stories like this one about a supposed 9-11 baby boom (link via Leaning to the Right) are really about bored reporters looking for a story, any story, when there's not much else to report. The reporter admits that "At this point, evidence of an overall jump in post-Sept. 11 pregnancies -- even for the New York metropolitan area -- is anecdotal. That's because it takes demographers weeks or even months to collect and tally official birth data," but runs with the anecdotes anyway, including Chris Rock's admission on Oprah that Sept. 11 prompted him and his wife to conceive. The general theme is that "it's never going to be the right time. We should start now.''' Well, since anecdotes are all we have to go on, here's mine: I've belonged to an internet group of women who have been chatting about life and babies since we met on when we were pregnant back in 1999. Some of us stopped with one child, but several others have kept going, and about a quarter of the women in my group are currently pregnant. Not one of those pregnancies was inspired by 9-11. In fact, the only woman I know in NYC is opting to wait a few more years before having another child. So I guess I could write a story with the headline, "September 11 Doesn't Trigger Baby Boom; but Women Still Having Babies for Other Reasons."
WHAT I DIDN'T LEARN IN GRADE SCHOOL: Readers will recall the generic chapter, usually entitled something like "Our Government," in their generic grade school social studies textbook. It had a flow chart, illustrating the devolution of executive power from the president to his cabinet secretaries and agency heads, then to their underlings, and so on. This flow chart, and the explanatory text, described the executive branch as basically a system of, well, executing the will of the president: he tells the secretary to do X, the secretary tells his underlings to do X, and so on; the president's subordinates are simply extensions of the president. But when readers turned from grade school civics texts to newspapers and magazines, they were perhaps surprised, as I was, that the theory of executive government varies wildly from practice. In theory, the President commands the Secretary of Defense to make war on Iraq, which command he conveys to the generals, who develop plans, marshal resources, and execute. But in practice, the generals balk, and worry, and actively try to dissuade the president, if not thwart him, and crow about their supposed success in leaks to the press. In theory, having failed to detect and prevent a devastating terrorist attack against American citizens, the Director of Central Intelligence should at minimum accept responsibility, set in motion reforms, and submit his resignation, which the President may or may not graciously decline to accept. But in practice, someone leaks to the press that the CIA prepared the President a memo before September 11, 2001 that hinted at an increased threat of hijacking, setting off a storm of criticism against the President and deflecting attention from the CIA, whose director has not, by the way, accepted responsibility, much less tendered his resignation. Link to TNR article re: CIA's motivation for leak Link to TNR editorial castigating president for not firing insubordinate generals
AIN'T THAT THE TRUTH: "The danger is not that Bush won't be educated by Colin Powell into being a more mellifluous and moderate statesman. The danger is that he will," Andrew Sullivan writes. Unfavorable comparisons in the press of President Bush to Powell usually bode well for the war; favorable comparisons do not.

Wednesday, May 29, 2002

What strikes me about Glenn Reynold's basic premise in "Teen [xeS] and Media Hype" -- that teenagers should be treated as and given opportunities to be adults-in-training -- is how it meshes with conservative arguments for trying and punishing some young criminals as adults.
MCCLELLAN V. GRANT: Our military has always had McClellans and Grants. McClellans carefully conserve their armies' strength, constantly worry about what their enemies will do to them, and bide their time, waiting for the perfect moment to strike, which never comes. Grants are the opposite: their enemies worry about what Grants will do to them. It's not that Grants don't conserve their armies' strength, or try to anticipate their enemies' reactions -- like any good generals, they do both. But to Grants, armies are weapons, which must be finely honed and lovingly maintained, but ultimately must be used to attack the enemy, rather than shield against him. Last week's Pentagon leaks claiming that top Pentagon brass don't think we can or should go to war against Iraq illustrate the ongoing tension between the military's McClellan and Grant wings. The Washington Post reported that some military officers oppose war on two grounds: that "Hussein, if faced with losing power and likely being killed, would no longer feel the constraints that during the Persian Gulf War apparently kept him from using his stores of chemical and biological weapons," and "the danger of becoming bogged down in bloody block-by-block urban warfare in Baghdad that could kill thousands of U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians." The Pentagon leakers fit the McClellan mold: having spent billions to build the world's most powerful army, equip it to resist chemical and biological attack, and arm it with nuclear weapons to deter the same, they worry about the contingencies of the enemy's strategy and tactics to the point of paralysis. These McClellans are so fearful of what Saddam might do to them that one wonders whether they'd prefer another Afghanistan ("Comes WMD-free and complete with a proxy army to do the ground fighting!"), as risky a military campaign every fought by American soldiers. By fearing the enemy's reaction to the point of inaction, these McClellans would let Hussein win without fighting: once you get WMDs, we won't touch you. How would Grant approach this situation? He wouldn't ignore the risk of chemical or biological attacks; no competent military or civilian planner would. But having assessed that risk, he would calculate the threat of force necessary to deter such an attack and communicate that threat to the enemy, and make the enemy worry about what we would do to him. Iraq is a dictatorship, but even dictators need aides and soldiers. Even if a clear and credible threat of nuclear annihilation wouldn't deter Hussein from ordering a chemical or biological attack, it would deter his aides and soldiers from launching the attack. Hussein's minions aren't automatons; they're human beings with families who have rationally calculated that they're better off serving Hussein than trying to kill him. The threat of national holocaust would change that calculation. Grant would approach the risk of urban warfare in the same way. He would avoid it altogether in the large swathes of the country populated by Shiites and Kurds hostile to Hussein and friendly to the United States. He would besiege cities, cutting off their water and electricity, and offering generous terms of surrender. But when necessary, Grant would order his soldiers to fight block by block and accept responsibility for the ensuing American and civilian casualties, because armies are weapons, not shields. Grant would know what Gen. John M. Keane told the 101st Airborne Division in Kandahar, Afghanistan: "We can't defend an open democratic society of 285 million people. The only way we can protect Americans is to kill those who would kill them." (AP, via Best of the Web.) Armies must be used as weapons because they can't be shields. Wars begin with McClellans in charge, because the peacetime military, like any bureaucracy, favors the cautious. They end, and end well, when Grants take charge. But the military won't make that transition on its own; it takes presidential leadership. As Rich Lowry argues, the civilian leadership must set military policy and either see that military commanders execute it, or promote commanders who will. The Civil War began with McClellan and ended with Grant because President Lincoln made it so. President Bush must do the same in this war.
SAVE YOUR MONEY AT THE POST OFFICE and don't send letters and packages by Priority Mail. A new study shows that regular first-class mail gets to its destination faster. The USPS -- still a government operation.
OFFICIAL COVERUP: It's summertime, which means more and more men and women will be running around with less and less on. My husband says he always looks forward to autumn, just because people put their clothes back on. Of course, how much clothing is too little is in the eye of the beholder. Earlier in May, Saudi officials confiscated 82,000 abayas that were considered too revealing, either because the fabric wasn't thick enough or they had decorations on them.
FAME! Links from InstaPundit won't cut it anymore, now that I've been linked by Warblogger Watch, the famous self-parody of lefty Vichyists, armchair Chamberlains, and would-be gad-flies of "laptop Clausewitzes."

Tuesday, May 28, 2002

FEMINISM COMES TO THE ITALIAN MAFIA: High-speed car chases and deadly shootouts have long been par for the course for male mafiosi, but this latest bout of mafia violence involved middle aged mamas and teenage girls. I'm glad to see that such women, a minority long repressed by the greater mafia community, are finally coming into their own.
YOU CAN'T GO HOME: Not if you're Iranian and want to stay out of prison. A U.S.-based Iranian dance instructor went home to Iran to attend his mother's funeral and was thrown in jail for corrupting the youth of Iran with his dance lessons.
HIP, HIP, HIP, HIPPOPOTAMUS! California fish and game officials just removed a 500 pound pygmy hippo from a San Diego man's home. What do you with a pet hippo anyway? It sounds less fun than a goldfish, which at least can't kill you if you make it mad.
BELATED THANKS to InstaPundit for the link to my post on Chief Justice Rehnquist's disinvitation to a school assembly at his old high school, and to Loco Parentis for the link to Jordana's post on namin' babies.

Monday, May 27, 2002

EVERYONE WANTS TO BE A PROFESSIONAL: Once there were just a few professions: medicine, law, the clergy (maybe soldiering too). Everything else was a trade. But as time went on tradesmen wanted to get in on the act and started calling their trades "professions." The latest tradesmen to make the move are nude art models, who have formed a union in Pennsylvania to collectively bargain for better working conditions and so that "we could become regarded more as professionals and not as unskilled people off the street," said model Tomas Dura. I wonder what their professional code of ethics will be?
"SON, WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO WITH YOUR LIFE?" Readers may recall this story about the San Fernando Valley school district that won't let high school seniors participate in commencement exercises unless they "describe their plans for some kind of postsecondary education or training to school officials -- or at least explain their future career paths in detail." If Chris Portman had lived in the San Fernando Valley, instead of Mercer, PA, I wonder how school officials would have reacted to his after-high-school plan -- which he has fulfilled -- of becoming mayor of his town at age 19.

Friday, May 24, 2002

WHY TODDLERS ROCK: People malign the "Terrible Twos," but anyone who can run to his "office" under the table wearing a Superman shirt, a hooded towel over his head, and froggy rainboots on the wrong feet, while singing his personalized version of "Take Me Out To the Ball Game" (retitled "Take Me Out To the River"), without a moment of self-conciousness -- anyone who can do that rocks.
CIVICS 101 IS CANCELLED: What kind of high school principal won't make a few rotten teenagers keep their mouths shut at an assembly to honor the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court? That's right, Chief Justice Rehnquist's old high school in Wisconsin ("Ah, Wisconsin, it's already starting to make sense") wanted to honor him at a school assembly. But some adolescent imbeciles quickly organized (no doubt with encouragement from some Sixties left-over of a teacher or parent) to oppose the assembly "because they contend Rehnquist has a record of undermining civil rights and voting rights." So the school has cancelled the assembly and scheduled receptions in the Chief Justice's honor instead:
"We did not feel it would be appropriate to invite him to receive an honor and then embarrass him here," Shorewood High School principal Rick Monroe said. "We did not want to subject him to that sort of treatment."
Idiot teenagers don't bother me. I was one not too long ago. I remember the angst, the self-absorption, the self-righteousness. But the cowardice of these school officials is unforgivable. Remember, school officials readily kick kids out of school for writing scary creative writing projects, calling them "threats," so it's not like they give the First Amendment an expansive reading. Yet in one area where the Supreme Court has actually affirmed school officials' power to restrict student speech -- where it disrupts a school function, like a student assembly (See Bethel School District v. Fraser) -- this school principal didn't have the guts to use it. This "educator" won't even try to teach his students the difference between peaceable assembly and disorderly conduct. Pathetic.
WHY STAR TREK: ENTERPRISE ROCKS: From a recent James Lileks screed:
I’ve only seen about 8 or 9 Enterprises, but I’ve enjoyed them all. Best first season of any post TOS series, good characters, great soundtrack (except for that hideous theme) and innumerable nods to the purists & geeks in the audience. Trek has been delivering, one way or the other, for almost 30 years, because it grows and changes and bends.
* WARNING! GEEKY EXPOSITION AHEAD! * The Enterprise theme is wretched (like Bryan Adams on a good day), and some of the "nods to the purists" are dorky (e.g. Captain Archer -- and I'm creatively paraphrasing -- "What we need is some kind of rule, a directive, to tell us what to do when we encounter pre-warp alien cultures. Maybe we could call it the 'Prime Rule.' No, that doesn't sound right. Maybe the 'Prime Directive.' Yeah, that's the ticket"), but it still rocks. What I love most about Enterprise is how overtly American it is. Sure, there are the aliens, Sub. Com. T'pol and Dr. Phlox, who like obnoxious European tag-alongs insist on supplying the cultural relativism that plagues all Star Trek franchises. But there's also the obviously midwestern Captain Archer and the southern Commander Tucker -- whose southern drawl is the first I've heard in a Star Trek series -- keep kicking against the pricks, insisting on the superiority of human -- read "American" -- virtues. Ensign Mayweather, who grew up on a space freighter, is like a kid from a blue-collar family who makes it big, because he was smart and had some moxy. Ensign Hoshi is an All-American Girl who also happens to be capable of learning an alien language in 48 hours. Even the Brit, Lt. Reed, exudes a love for high-powered weaponry that only an American can understand. Even the basic theme of Enterprise is American. In Enterprise's time frame, humanity is like the young upstart United States, round about 1800. We've barely gotten our act together, but we've got big ideas and big appetites for trade, knowledge, and influence, and we chafe at the restraint that older, wiser, and less vigorous civilizations counsel. Americans feel that way now, even though we're bigger, richer, and stronger than the Framers could have imagined. Lileks is right: Star Trek has succeeded "because it grows and changes and bends" to fit the mood of American society. The parallel isn't complete: our mood today is in part created by the fear of unknowns unleashed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the rise of Islamic totalitarianism. But we're still excited by the prospect of reshaping the world -- once again -- by projecting our influence into the darkest and remotest regions of the world, by exerting our power on very alien cultures. That's the chord Enterprise strikes in me, and why I'll keep watching.
WHY I DON'T TRUST PRESIDENT BUSH -- EVEN THOUGH I DO: George W. Bush -- his enemies underestimate him, and his friends never quite trust him. Case in point: Andrew Sullivan's reaction ("IS BUSH SURRENDERING?") to this Washington Post report that military bureaucrats don't want war against Iraq and think they've persuaded the President to abandon plans for military action against the Hussein regime. Of course, Sullivan shoots from the hip on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, while the rest of the week he knows bureaucratic infighting is what makes the Executive Branch work and thinks President Bush masterfully balances competing advisors and interests. So by tomorrow, he may be arguing -- and finding ample support in the Post article -- that some top Pentagon brass have mistaken the lack of any final decision from the White House on Iraq for acquiesence, are over-playing their hand, and will get a good thrashing from SecDef Rummy in due course. The peacetime military has always been full of unimaginative, risk-averse senior officers; we can hope, maybe even expect, that war will weed them out. (See, e.g., McCellan v. Grant and Sherman; but see Eisenhower and Marshall v. Patton.) The problem is, I'm not sure I believe that argument, which brings me back to my original point: many friends of the President, one of which I count myself, just don't trust him. Where does this distrust come from? For me, it all goes back to candiate Bush's absurd campaign theme, "compassionate conservatism." It was just what his dad did, define himself not against his ideological opponents on the Left, but against the Left's caricature of the Right, as "mean-spirited," "greedy," and "uncompassionate" villains. By defining himself as a "compassionate conservative," Bush implied that some conservatives weren't, and turned them into a straw man to beat the crap out of for the benefit of an adoring press -- all the while expecting them to vote for him. It was cynical and opportunistic. But it worked. I distrusted George W. Bush in 2000 because he took conservatives' loyalty for granted so that he could try to win votes from moderates, but he squeaked by the incumbent vice-president in a popular administration in a time of economic plenty. I distrust him now because he sold out free trade for the long-shot of winning votes in the steel belt, because he refuses to explicitly embrace Israel's war against terror as our own, and because he hasn't come out and said we're going to overthrow Hussein, occupy Iraq,and rebuild it in our image. I doubt selling out on steel tariffs will matter one whit this Fall (although signing the odious farm bill probably will). But I do know that Arafat wet his pants with fury as Sharon demolished his plutocracy and killed and jailed his supporters -- as George Bush demanded immediate withdrawal from one side of his mouth, while praising Sharon's non-cooperation as cooperation from the other. It was cynical and opportunistic. But it worked. Now I don't trust President Bush to go to war with Iraq. Colin Powell, the man who advised Bush I how to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in 1991, has Bush II's ear. The military brass, too afraid of failure to risk victory, are bragging to reporters that the "Iraq hysteria" of some senior Bush administration officials has been "diffused" by their sobering predictions that war would require hundreds of thousands of men and entail great risk. Meanwhile, the EU-nuchs demand "consultation" (rhymes with "emasculation") and counsel appeasement and weapons inspectors over wary, and the President responds by saying "I have no war plans on my desk" ("He said it almost proudly," Andrew Sullivan complains). How could I trust the President to do the right thing? And yet, past performance indicates that George W. Bush will probably do the right thing. The State Department will take his indecision for "restraint," the brass for inertia, and the EU-nuchs for cowardice ("After all, that's why we're indecisive"). Then we'll collectively glance at the news ticker for the latest on Chandra Levy and look up to see live video of American G.I.s and their Iraqi rebel allies marching into Baghdad as a joyful mob hangs Saddam Hussein's bullet-riddled corpse from the nearest lamp post. (But I still won't trust the President to manage the occupation.) In a war that has induced a popular craving for principle and moral clarity, pragmatism looks cheap and cynical and engenders distrust. But as long as George W. Bush's "conservative pragmatism" wins the war, the occasional distrust of his friends will be a fair price to pay.

Thursday, May 23, 2002

WHAT'S IN A NAME? My husband thinks I spend too much time thinking about names -- especially since I can hardly ever seem to hit on one I really love. I'm picky. I want something normal, traditional and not androgenous, but also uncommon and different. I'm amazed by women who name their babies as soon as they get an ultrasound and know the sex. What if the child didn't look like the name she'd picked out? I think about all sorts of things. What if a name I love becomes wildly popular a few years from now, so that half the kids on the block have it too? (I practically live in fear that the names I give my children will wind up in the top 100 names.) What if the initials spell out something naughty, or ridiculous, that I haven't noticed? OK, so that makes me a typical, neurotic pregnant lady. But as Virginia Postrel explains, I've got good reasons for being neurotic: predicting whether a name will be too fashionable, too frumpy, or just right is as hard as predicting any other fashion. In fact, it's harder, because the goal is to give your child a name that will sound good when he or she is two, 20, 50, and 80. That's like trying to pick out a dress that would look good over a 70 year period. So it's no wonder that names I thought were the coolest ten years ago I wouldn't give to my dog now.
INNOCENCE LOST: For the first time, a factual error has been discovered on the internet. I just hope we can all learn from this, and move on.
AS IF THERE WASN'T ENOUGH FOR ISRAELI TROOPS TO WORRY ABOUT: The Israeli military has announced that its troops will no longer be allowed to accept gift pizzas. And no, not because pizzas don't meet kosher standards. Realizing the uniquely frustrating mixture of tension and boredom that Israeli solders endure, sympathetic Europeans and Americans have been sending pizzas to (presumably) off-duty soldiers as morale boosters. While no actual incidents of booby trapped pizzas or explosive delivery boys have been reported, the potential for terrorists is grimly obvious. What a sick, cruel world when "Abdul, pass the plastique achovies," isn't simply the punch line to some bad joke.

Wednesday, May 22, 2002

CROSS-DRESSING EUNUCHS II: There's gotta be a Far Side on this somewhere....
CROSS-DRESSING EUNUCHS: Archeologists discovered the skeleton of a man dressed in lots of women's jewelry at an ancient Roman burial site in Britain. Their theory is that eunuch priests in the service of the fertility goddess Cybele liked to dress up as women. An alternate theory is that one ancient mortician nudged another and said, "Hey, let's dress Julius up like a woman before we bury him. Won't the people who dig him up be surprised? Heh, heh, heh."
NARAL CARES ABOUT THE MILITARY! Well, not really. But NARAL does care about servicewomen who can't get abortions in military hospitals while serving abroad, and it's lobbying Congress to make the military pay for abortions, or at least provide them at soldiers' expense. (See this post.) No surprise there: NARAL, like other pro-abortion groups, doesn't just believe that abortion-on-demand is a right, but that it's an entitlement. What is surprising is NARAL's attempt to saddle its pro-abortion agenda on the war effort:
At our nation's most critical hour, lawmakers have needlessly endangered the health of military servicewomen and dependents, preventing them from obtaining needed medical services and exercising their constitutional right to choose simply because they are stationed overseas. Women willing to sacrifice their lives for this country should not have to sacrifice their right to reproductive health care.
"At our nation's most critical hour"? Picture the scene: somewhere in Afghanistan, huddled on a mountainside as bullets fly overhead, G.I. Jane reaches inside her flak jacket and fingers the used pregnancy test dangling alongside her dogtags: it's positive. Exploding mortars shake the ground, heavy machinefire chews up the ground around her position. She fires a burst, and chomps her cigar with grim satisfaction as an al Qaeda soldier falls. But they keep coming. She's got her gun, her ammo, her grenades. But that's not enough. She needs more. She reaches for her radio, and shouts over the din: "Command, get me an abortion, ASAP!" Of course NARAL isn't really making the absurd argument that battlefield abortions are vital to the war effort. It's just that NARAL's real issue, getting government-funded abortions for servicewomen, is usually a loser, so NARAL is repackaging it in Old Glory. "For flag! For country! For abortion!" (Or maybe, "Praise God and pass the ammo! And the speculum!") Who knows, maybe that'll get some pro-abortionists, who tend to be feminists, who tend to view the military as a patriarchal, violent, and otherwise icky endeavor, behind our troops (at least the unwillingly preggo ones). But with the exception of rabid pro-abortionists, I figure most Americans who support the right to abortion see it as a necessary evil, something to be tolerated, not celebrated, and not paid for by the government. I doubt NARAL's flag-waving probably will appeal to this moderate, mainstream pro-abortion constituency. What most Americans see as a war of national survival, in which real soldiers are fighting and dying for their country, NARAL sees as an opportunity to hawk government-funded abortions. That should make any decent American sick -- whether or not he supports abortion. But then, all of NARAL's radical positions should have that effect.
G.I. JANE NEEDS AN ABORTION: NARAL has set up an e-mail form letter to lobby Congress to allow military hospitals abroad to provide abortions to servicewomen and their dependents.
Just when I begin to doubt the President's war leadership, I'm reminded again that George W. Bush is the most consistently underestimated president since Ronald Reagan. Today's reminder was a Washington Post report that critics of the President's decision to withdraw from the ABM treaty are admitting -- however grudgingly -- that the world didn't come to an end. Someone in the administration compiled a list of critics' quotations; it's a hilarious read, and makes a many prominent people, most Democrats, look foolish. (Sen. Daschle: "I believe it would be a grave mistake for the United States to unilaterally abrogate the ABM treaty in order to deploy a robust national defense system. Unilateral actions will trigger reactions all around the world. Those reactions themselves could make our nation less secure." Rep. Gephardt: "Europeans are worried," Gephardt said, saying the administration may "prevent us from seizing a historic opportunity for engagement with Russia.") Resurfacing Animosity Awaits Bush in Europe Democrats Shift Focus on Probe of Terror Warnings The Way Out By George F. Will President/Monsters Why Europe Doubts By Madeleine Albright Probe Deep, and Fairly By John McCain Let Congress Do It WSJ Editorial Naked Writing -- Scary Thought Making Reform A Reality By Dennis Ross

Tuesday, May 21, 2002

I THINK I'll GO WATCH STAR TREK NOW: I'm an old school geek. How about you?
NAKED CHICKENS: That's right, these chickens have no feathers. Next step: boneless chickens. Who knew Gary Larson was a prophet?

Monday, May 20, 2002

A NEW FATHER'S LOVE -- AND LOATHING: I've seen my husband's reaction to being awakened by a screaming baby for the nth night in a row (murderous looks, dark mutterings), and I've heard him confess that it's not so difficult to imagine doing horrible things to little babies when he's being screamed at at two o'clock in the morning after many sleepless nights. So I read Michael Lewis' latest installment -- "Infanticide to Infatuation: Why daddies don't kill their babies" -- with a lot of interest and understanding. Lewis' point isn't that new fathers are dangerous to their children, just that they have to work harder -- and need the mother's help -- to overcome the screaming, puking, and pooping and love their babies. After all, fathers haven't formed the emotional bonds that develop from carrying a child for nine months in the womb, so they start off with a disadvantage. Sometimes parents, and especially fathers, just have to muddle through and do what needs to be done until those emotional bonds can form; in the meantime, the occasional thought of throttling that screaming bundle of angst crosses the mind, although it's quickly suppressed. I think Lewis perfectly captures the loathing and love many fathers have for their newborns.
SOY BABIES: The brochures OB-GYNs and pediatricians hand out to new mothers always start this way: "Breast is best, but...." The "but" is always followed by an attempt to persuade mothers who can't or choose not to breastfeed that formula is basically equivalent to breastmilk, and that soy-based formula is basically equivalent to milk-based formula. Some mothers choose formula over breastfeeding, then read about dairy allergies, decide that milk-based formulas are bad, and immediately put their babies on soy formula. Other mothers start out breastfeeding, but when their babies develop dairy allergies, stop breastfeeding and turn to soy formula, instead of dropping dairy from their own diets. The result is that almost 15% of babies in the U.S. eat soy-based formulas, even though the percentage of dairy allergies in babies is much smaller. What makes this over-use of soy troubling is that it's a pretty poor substitute for breastmilk. Formula-fed babies generally have more illnesses than breastfed babies, and now it looks like soy-based formulas may cause even more immune system problems. Of course, soy formula is a necessary alternative for women who can't or don't breastfeed and have babies with milk allergies (although five to 30 percent of babies who have dairy allergies also have allergies to soy). But mothers who can choose between breastfeeding and formula need to make an informed choice -- and that means knowing the trade-offs.
LOST IN THE SYSTEM: A prisoner escapes from his prison cell to "freedom" -- in the prison ductwork. I don't understand the criminal mind.
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS WITH THE RUDE: The universe offers periodic reminders of why we must keep using those good manners our parents drilled into our heads, even after we grow up. My reminders come from encounters with rude people, from which I go away hoping no stranger ever remembers me that way. Today's close encounter with the rude came as I waited, pregnant belly prominently displayed and whining two-year-old attached, for the Sam's Club clerk to verify that I had paid for the one item I held in my hand -- when Mr. Rudesby jumps in front of me and hands the clerk his receipt. Had I not been trained to be polite, I would have made several choice remarks to him. But being a lady, I took the next turn, got in my car, and vented my wrath by politely letting a Suburban into traffic.
IS IT HARD TO BE THIS STUPID? Headline from the Detroit News (via The Corner):
Critics say 'Clones' has racial stereotypes ... Latino critics in particular charge his latest Star Wars epic, Episode II: Attack of the Clones, toys with American paranoia about Mexican immigration with its cloned army of swarthy lookalikes who march in lockstep by the tens of thousands, and ultimately end up serving as Darth Vader's white-suited warriors. ... Temuera Morrison, the actor who plays Jango, is a New Zealander of Maori descent. But that didn't get in the way of some members of an eight-person Detroit News panel assembled to review the film. "He looked totally Latino," says Martina Guzman, a Detroiter who's managing a State House election campaign. "And his kid," says Wayne State history professor Jose Cuello, referring to the young Boba Fett, "looked even more Latino." It reminds Cuello a little bit of "those Reagan ads in the 1980 campaign, that suggested if Nicaragua went communist, you'd have wild-eyed Mexicans with guns running across the California border."
This is not a parody, I repeat, this is not a parody.
SPACE COMPETITION: The BBC reports (link via InstaPundit) that China's space exploration program includes the goal of establishing a mining base on the Moon beginning in 2010. Two thoughts: (1) China obviously hopes to crown itself the reigning great power in east Asia, to America's exclusion. But little things, like China's ambitious space program, nuclear weapons build-up, and it's billion-strong population kind of make me doubt China will settle for just playing regional hegemon. Can anyone say "global strategic competitor"? (2) The space program that gave us the Apollo missions was driven by international competition, not the pure quest for knowledge; I've wondered before if it would take a new competition with a financially worthy competitor to get man back on the Moon and maybe to Mars. The pure quest for knowledge doesn't seem to be cutting it.
OH, NOW THAT'S AN IMPROVEMENT: The Bush administration, having been beaten about the ears by the Democrats and press for not publishing general intelligence it had in August 2001 of a possible hijacking plot, is now publishing general intelligence that -- you'll never guess -- another terrorist attack
is "almost certain" and "could happen tomorrow, it could happen next week, it could happen next year." (Washington Post)
This kind of general warning might be useful if given to remind us that we're at war, that it's just begun, and that the enemy will try to kill many more of us before we defeat him; in an unconventional war against a mostly hidden enemy, periodic reminders that we are indeed at war are probably necessary to maintain morale and political support. But as a warning per se, it's absurd and its repetition could be dangerous; creating a cycle of warnings followed by never-materializing threats, however sincerely, will dull the senses and create an illusion of improbability, and is no better than crying wolf.

Saturday, May 18, 2002

"IT'S TIME TO RECLAIM THE ANTHEM FROM THE DIVAS," writes Tunku Varadarajan, referring to "The Star Spangled Banner." Greg Hlatky of A Dog's Life, who knows much more about music than I do, agrees: "Nothing irritates me more than having hearing some hideous arrangement, full of breathy inflections, sung by some pop diva instead of just having the music played for the crowd to sing." Equally irritating is the anthem's rendition by country pop singers -- the same "breathy inflections," only done in an affected, syrupy country accent (think Reba, i.e. "REE-buh").

Friday, May 17, 2002

APOLOGY UNNECESSARY: Loco Parentis thinks critics owe Rep. Cynthia McKinney an apology for slamming her suggestion that the President knew the September 11 attacks were coming and did nothing about it:
Well, as it turns out, Rep. McKinney's suspicions regarding President Bush's prior knowledge of a potential hijacking of commercial airliners by Al Qaeda footsoldiers was pretty much right on the money. Even if you don't buy the rest of her theory -- that the President didn't act on the intelligence on his desk because he knew that Bush family members and friends would (and certainly have) benefit financially from increased war industry commerce -- Ms. McKinney deserves an explicit apology from those who trashed her so heartily when she spoke out. (emphasis added)
Respectfully, no. As Jonah Goldberg writes, "Cynthia McKinney is still an idiot." The "rest" of McKinney's theory was that "persons close to this administration are poised to make huge profits off America's new war." (See The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.) That is, the President of the United States knowingly allowed 3000 people to die so that he and his family could make some money. Cynthia McKinney could believe this only if she's very stupid; she could publicly say it only if she's very wicked. Ordinarily, it's illogical and wrong to attack the speaker instead of her idea, but the ad hominem attack was made for Cynthia McKinney. She accused the President of the worst kind of evil -- knowing complicity in the murder of thousands of people -- without any basis in fact. That idea isn't logically external to her; it's the product of her sick and twisted mind, and thus can't be attacked independently of her character. McKinney deserves every line of abuse written against her.

Thursday, May 16, 2002

SPANISH WITH A GEORGIA TWIST: Is there something about old Southern men that makes them incapable of sounding like anything other than old Southern men when they speak foreign languages? In college my friends and I used to cringe every time the university vice-chancellor spoke at convocation and graduation, both of which were conducted primarily in Latin. Most of us didn't understand Latin, but we were pretty sure Caesar never spoke it the way the VC did. I also don't understand much Spanish, but listening to Jimmy Carter's speech to the Cuban people -- given "all in Spanish" as NPR incessantly reminded listeners -- I was pretty sure Spanish was never intended to sound that way.
AERONAUTIC PEDANTRY ALERT! This is my kind of pendantry. From a Washington Post article on the cancellation of the Crusader system:
One of the major problems with the Crusader was that only one unit at a time could fit in the C-17, the largest military transport plane, because of the size and weight of the 40-ton gun and the 30-ton transporter needed to carry its shells.
The C-17 (169' x 174' x 55', peacetime take-off weight of 585,000 lbs) is not, of course, the "largest military transport plane"; that honor goes to the C-5 Galaxy (222' x 247' x 65', peacetime take-off weight of 769,000 lbs). Nyah, nyah, nyah. (Good thing I'm too old to get beaten up for this sort of thing.) In fairness to my pendantic tendencies, this is the sort of factual error reporters make all the time when reporting on military affairs. You don't have to be in the military to check these facts (though it helps if you were a boyhood subscriber to Air Force Magazine whose dreams of flying military aircraft were dashed by near-sightedness -- sniff, sniff). A simple Google search will do. Guess I still deserve that beating, huh?
AFGHAN WEATHER REPORT: While American soldiers survived the "brutal Afghan winter" of yore, can they survive the latest climatic threat:
During a three-day mission called Operation Iron Mountain, more than 100 soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division were flown into the brutally hot mountains here near the Pakistani border last weekend to put a stop to regular rocket attacks on a nearby U.S. base. (WaPo; emphasis added.)
(I'm not mocking the risks our soldiers face, just the adjectives and adverbs American journalists choose.)
MY LIFE AS A CULT MEMBER: And I didn't even know! Shouldn't they warn you before you have children?
LEARNING THE RIGHT LESSON: It's tempting to get defensive about the gleeful response of Democrats like Senator Edwards and the odious Rep. Gephardt to reports (WaPo, NYT) that the President was warned of a hijacking threat before September 11. And of course some Democrat had to make a Nixonian allusion, as the odious Gephardt
called for a congressional investigation into "what the president and what the White House knew about the events leading up to 9-11, when they knew it and, most importantly, what was done about it at that time." (WaPo)
But the fact is, the government, and by extension the Chief Executive, blew it. If the FBI in Phoenix had gotten together with the FBI in Minnesota, and if the FBI had gotten together with the CIA, and if someone in either organization had read Tom Clancy's Debt of Honor, or had the slightest bit of imagination, a light bulb would have gone off and maybe, maybe even probably, the government could have prevented September 11. But this is hardly a revelation. The government always blows it. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor; the Chinese invasion of Korea; the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran; the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut; the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait -- the list of American intelligence failures is quite long, and I didn't even get to the Clinton years. American officials in various agencies at various levels of authority invariably fail to communicate information, because they're lazy, trying to protect bureaucratic turf, or lack an obvious means of communication; when they get information, they use poor judgment or no imagination in analyzing it; and even when they draw logical conclusions from information, they dismiss them because "no one would be that crazy." They're people, after all. After Rep. Gephardt and Sen. Edwards make their political points, people who actually serve useful functions in government will draw practical lessons from this latest massive intelligence failure. The FBI will share intelligence with the CIA, overcoming the ban on domestic intelligence-gathering by the CIA imposed by Democrats; the FBI is already creating a central-clearinghouse for counter-terrorism intelligence, and is jointly briefing the president with the CIA. But the most important lesson to be drawn is that the government will always blow it -- if it only maintains a defensive posture. Our enemies will always find a hole in our wall, a chink in our armor, and will exploit it to devastating effect. After the 1993 World Trade Center attacks; after the Khobar Towers attack; after the African embassy bombings; after the U.S.S. Cole bombing -- we maintained a defensive posture. For each of those attacks, the government may have secretly thwarted dozens of other plots, but that wasn't good enough. Staying on the defensive is like trying to prove a negative proposition: you just can't eliminate all the possibilities. (I think that analogy makes sense.) The lesson to be learned from the intelligence failures of September 11, and from the repeated intelligence failures leading up to it, is that once we know we have an enemy, we must take the war to him. The President seems to have learned and applied that lesson in Afghanistan, and shows every intention of applying it in Iraq. That's more reassuring than anything a committee led by congressional vultures will turn up.

Wednesday, May 15, 2002

LILEKS WORSHIP: THE SAGA CONTINUES: It's almost impossible to excerpt this wonderful screed by James Lileks because every inch is good. But I'll try. The scene: a lefty get-together featuring Dr. Patch Adams; he's just finished saying many stupid things, like comparing President Bush to Hitler:
Moderator Dennis Brutus offered the audience a chance to respond . . .The panelists, all of whom Brutus said volunteered their time and money for the event, urged the audience to disagree, to initiate a two-sided argument. No one did. “I think there are a majority of people who want love, peace and cooperation,” said Caldicott. “But we find it hard to reach out to each other.”
Lileks retorts:
No. It would be easy to reach out. The hard part is keeping our reaching hands from grasping your wattled necks. But that would be wrong. Instead, we laugh and roll our eyes and dismiss you as naughty children who shout HITLER the way a three-year old screams I HATE YOU at his parents. Just to prove you wrong, we tolerate you. Toleration makes Baby Adolf cry.
If I wasn't already a grown up, I'd want to write like Lileks when I grew up. You must read the rest.
PUBLIC HEALTH ALERT: If you blog four or more posts within one hour, you may be a binge blogger.
SO CAN I STOP CLEANING NOW? I hate cleaning the house. I've improved since college, when my floor was visible only on rare occasions. I only improved when I realized that my husband likes doing laundry, putting clothes away, changing sheets, and scrubbing bathtubs even less than I did, and that if I didn't lead the charge, we'd wallow in filth. Anyway, since I also don't like to exercise, I've encouraged myself to clean house with the thought that it would give me a bit of a workout. But alas, a British study says that housework, although a physical activity, doesn't improve your health or help you lose weight one whit. Guess I have to start walking again -- which will be good, since my house may descend back into squalor.
STAR WARS APATHY: I'm not looking forward to seeing Episode 2 (I cringe to write the ridiculous subtitle, "Attack of the Clones). Maybe I won't. Episode 1 was boring, mostly stupid, and a total let-down after years of anticipation based on the original, wonderful trilogy. What was George Lucas thinking?
IT DEPENDS ON WHAT THE MEANING OF "ALL" IS: Over at, Kate Kennedy makes an interesting point about women's desire to have it "all." Knowing yourself and what you really want is the key to having it all. If women who want to be mothers make that their "all," and if women who want a career outside the home make that their "all," and simply accept the trade-offs, both will be happier. For some women, happily balancing a career and motherhood may be possible, but for women like me -- and I don't think I'm alone -- happiness comes from figuring out what we want to do most in life, pursuing that goal, and accepting the trade-offs. Having it "all" doesn't have to mean having kids and a career; it can mean making a reasoned choice between the two.
WOMEN OF SENSE: I may be the only woman in America who hasn't watched Titanic and never will. But as these posts on The Last Page and Ye Olde Blogge show, I'm not the only one who thinks it sounds like an awful film whose only redeeming feature is Leonardo DiCapro's demise.
MORE ON MISANTHROPIC ENVIRONMENTALISM from a reader on Andrew Sullivan's book club page:
I think it's Lomborg's desire to apply a human-centered cost-benefit analysis to the environment that really bothers environmentalists. They're quite rightly afraid that in a democratic society, people with values different from theirs will sometimes decide that the price of saving some particular part of nature is too high, and will choose to just say goodbye to it instead.
I haven't read Lomborg's book, but I'm interested that some people who have keep touching on this theme of misanthropy in environmentalist ideology. Of course the environmentalists dislike people because they pollute. But what's worse, even when you tell people they're polluting, sometimes they vote to keep doing it. Sometimes they choose building a dam to generate electricity over the best interests of the local salmon population. They actually insist on viewing themselves as legitimate members of the natural order entitled to prefer their own interests to the interests of other species -- you know, like other species do -- and not as alien intruders, or a virus (see "Mr. Smith" in The Matrix), to be quarantined off from "pristine" nature. Of course many environmentalists are misanthropes -- and statist, anti-democratic, and anti-capitalist. People, and institutions like democracy and private property that give them power, are the problem. UPDATE: The permalinks to Sullivan's book club page don't seem to work; here's the main link; scroll down to letters for Tuesday, May 14.

Tuesday, May 14, 2002

BOSOMS AIN'T IDEOLOGICAL (WHERE HUNGRY BABIES ARE CONCERNED): Today on National Review Online, Betsy Hart complains about seeing breasts everywhere -- with babies' mouths attached. While I'll grant that mothers should use a little discretion when breastfeeding in public, and not unnecessarily expose the goods to the discomfort of strangers, the fact is that too many people -- like Hart -- are uncomfortable around breastfeeding whether or not they can see anything. Hart complains about seeing a 14-month old child nursing, implying that it was too old. But a 14-month old child is still very much a baby, and many babies that age still need to nurse, for food and, more importantly, for comfort. Hart notes that after a few months babies go hours between feedings, so a nursing mother should just schedule her trips out of the house around eating times. That's all well and good if you ordered one of those on-schedule-baby models, but lots of babies still nurse all the time after a year (and that's not counting comfort-nursing, which is necessary whenever the baby needs, well, comforting; I've never been able to schedule my son's bumps and scrapes). My main problem with Hart's essay is that she tries to make public breastfeeding a feminist issue. Maybe some feminists and anti-feminists see it that way, but for me and most mothers I know it has nothing to do with ideology. It's a matter child-rearing. I'm all for "breastfeeding anywhere, anytime" because babies and toddlers should be able to eat anywhere, anytime. That some people see breasts as sexual objects -- either to be "de-objectified" through public breastfeeding, or kept modest by discouraging public breastfeeding -- has nothing to do with whether my children get hungry when I'm out and about. PS: On a topic only related in my mind, while women are whipping it out everywhere, some men have problems doing the same.
MISANTHROPIC ENVIRONMENTALISM: While perusing Andrew Sullivan's book club page (the topic is Bjorn Lomborg's The Skeptical Environmentalist; I haven't read it) I found this dead-on-target argument by one of his readers (scoll down to the last heading in the post):
For [environmentalists] to admit that progress is being made and the earth is getting cleaner despite a growing population and growing Western influence is probably too much to ask. With the collapse of socialism, many on the left see environmental issues, particularly global warming, as their last chance to prove they were right about the evils of capitalism and development. In the end I've come to believe that many on the left who support environmental causes don't really care about nature, they simply don't like people very much.
Maybe true misanthropy -- unlike the harmless kind curmudgeons and satirists indulge in -- is just the natural evolution of authoritarian-utopian ideology. Communist and socialist utopianists tried to perfect human society, but human beings turned out to be imperfect, i.e. they liked money, air conditioning, toilet paper, free speech, and the like. So the utopianists quite logically tried to "perfect" something more malleable than human society, and turned their designs toward nature -- whose plants and animals don't talk back, form political parties, and revolt -- and against human beings, who do.

Monday, May 13, 2002

DUMB MOMENTS IN DESPOTISM: King Abdullah of Jordan opined on Meet the Press:
"People are angry -- the rage is on. ... [A]lthough there seems to be a relative calm now, that is only temporary .... If we don't articulate a vision in the next couple of weeks, that rage is going to come back, and it's going to be twice as strong."
Meanwhile, back in Amman, an angry mob marches on the royal palace chanting "Death to Israel! Death to the Jews! Death to America!" King Abdullah steps out onto his balcony, motions for the crowd to be silent, and asks, "What if I just articulated a vision of peace, instead?" The mob murmurs; arguments break out; protesters gesticulate wildly to one another. Finally, one man steps forward and addresses the king: "Your highness, the rabble were wondering -- well --" "Wondering what? Speak up, man!" "The rabble were wondering if your highness could articulate some Jew- and American-killing in the royal vision, because we all thought that'd be really peaceful and relaxing."
HTML PROBLEMS FIXED: With helpful advice from several readers and some tweaking, any HTML-related viewing problems seem to have been resolved.

Saturday, May 11, 2002

HTML PROBLEMS? A reader (or I guess more accurately, an attempted reader) has informed me that she can't view posts on her Windows 98 machine running Netscape 4.7. (She could only see the links section). The site looks fine on my Windows 98 machine with IE 6.2. I changed the template to its present form last Friday. I've checked the template and don't see anything obviously wrong. It isn't fancy; it uses a style sheet and a javascript for the archives that I got from Blogger's "How do I" section. I'm going to try to figure out what the problem is. If anyone has had a problem viewing the site, or has any idea why it might not be viewable on Netscape 4.7, please e-mail me.

Thursday, May 09, 2002

PRIESTLY IMPROPRIETIES: A Scottish priest resigned this week after sharing with his order that he does not believe, and has not believed for some 30 years, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. I suppose it is intolerant of me, but I think heresy probably justifies "for cause" termination of a priest.

Wednesday, May 08, 2002

HOW DO YOU SAY "COMPASSIONATE CONSERVATIVE" IN DUTCH? "Our positions are businesslike, but with a heart" -- that was slain Dutch libertarian Pim Fortuyn's campaign slogan. This is the man the Euros and American leftists called a "far right" and "extreme right-wing" populist before an apparent left-wing extremist -- oh, sorry, "activist" -- murdered him. Actually, they're still calling him that, lacking the decency to speak honestly of the dead. Here's a few excerpts from the late Mr. Fortuyn's campaign platform (via The Angry Clam):
On education: "Teaching staff to be paid a market salary, and the education system to be restructured, partly on the basis of the wishes of the labour market. The central theme of the LPF is that youngsters should be educated to become modern, caring, assertive citizens. Deregulation will make the education system feasible again." On crime: "The justice system is another area that is ripe for reorganisation on every front and at every level. Fewer than a quarter of all the 45,000 police officials is actually involved in implementation. We need more police on the street and fewer behind desks. Every policy of toleration regarding a lack of safety in the public space must be scrapped. This requires that priorities are set. Violent crime, in particular, must be tackled vigorously. It is incomprehensible that the Ministry of Justice prosecutes citizens who exercise their right to defend themselves, but sets the real criminals free due to a lack of time. On public finance: "Inflation, with its particularly crippling effect on the weakest members of society, must be tackled forcefully. Any taxes which contribute to inflation or increase costs, such as an excessively high VAT, stamp duty, ECO tax and taxes imposed by lower levels of government, must be removed from the tax system."
I'm not excerpting his positions on restricting immigration and encouraging assimilation of immigrants, because everyone else already has. Others have explained why Fortuyn's villification by European elites, and now his murder, spell trouble for European politics and society. Either it foreshadows the resurgence of a violent, terroristic left, or the resurgence of a violent, autocratic right that speaks to problems like crime and immigration that mainstream parties won't confront. But it also spells trouble for the United States. The fact is, there's not much daylight between Fortuyn's platform and that of mainstream American conservatives, especially economic and socially libertarian conservatives. Most Democrats would sign on to what Fortuyn stood for. If European elites regard men like Fortuyn a public enemies out of office, how do you think they regard the United States under conservative rule? That can't be good.
NIPPLE NAZI DISPATCH: There was a great pro-breastfeeding piece on NPR this morning about the correlation between breastfeeding and IQ. It's stories like this that keep me listening. Sometimes formula feeders claim they are attacked by pro-breastfeeders on every side, but with only 60% of women breastfeeding when they leave the hospital and only 20% doing so after 6 months, the message that breast is best still needs to be sounded loud and clear. I wish NPR had added that both the American Association of Pediatricians and the World Health Organization recommend nursing exclusively for 6 months and continuing for at least a year. (Here's a link to the WHO/UNICEF "Declaration on the Protection, Promotion and Support of Breastfeeding.") Sure, I usually ignore both of these organizations, but this time they're actually right about something. UPDATE: Here's a Washington Post link to the same story.
AMEN. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on yesterday's suicide bombing that killed 16 Israelis:
I depart now to Israel with a heavy heart, heavy with grief and heavy with rage. The rage of every man and woman in Israel. The rage of each and every Jew in the world. The rage of all those who share our values: freedom, liberty and democracy Israel will fight for these values. Israel will fight anyone who tries to threaten these values. Israel will fight anyone who tries, through suicide terrorism, to sow fear. Israel will fight, Israel will triumph and when victory prevails, Israel will make peace.
Read the rest here.

Tuesday, May 07, 2002

COMMON SENSE: Charles Evers, brother of the slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers (and brother-in-law to former Chairman of the Board of Directors of the NAACP, Myrlie Evers) is a member of the G.O.P. In this speech, excerpted recently on Public Radio in Mississippi, Mr. Evers explains why he thinks members of all ethnic groups would want to support the Republican platform. [Note: The above link is to a RealPlayer file from Public Radio in Mississippi].
THE REAL PROBLEM WITH LIBRARY CENSORSHIP: Jared Kendall, in a recent e-article ("The Filter War Rages"), courageously sides with liberty, freedom, down-trodden people, and the American Library Association to denounce the Childhood Internet Protection Act (CIPA) and to fight against the implementation of either mandatory or voluntary filtering (read "censoring") software on computers at public libraries. The gist of Kendall's argument against censoring software (who said that alliteration is dead?) is two-fold: (1) Librarians simply want to "provide information" and give the public the opportunity to "tap into as vast a store of knowledge as possible," and (2) that Congress will make the filtering software as a condition for Federal technology grants. The first point is disingenuously bogus and, with regards to the second point, tough beans, c' est la vie. Let me elaborate. As one brilliant curmudgeon noted recently, the American Library Association of today is scarcely a neutral professional organization. A few minutes at the ALA homepage reveal it to be more closely aligned with the progressive agenda of the Democratic party's left wing than with Benjamin Franklin, the nominally revered founder of the American public library system. The truth is that librarians already censor their material. See for yourself. If your local library is like mine, you will find it next to impossible to find an honest account of communism v. fascism (e.g., in the Twentieth Century Mass Murder Olympics Hitler takes only the bronze while Joe and Mao duke it out over the gold), the truth of domestic violence (e.g., both sexes kill their spouses with almost equal frequency and women are more likely to use a weapon), or even the real reasons why nearly 300,000 Southern boys gave their lives fighting the invading armies of Honest Abe Lincoln. Librarians don't hate censorship -- they just want to do it themselves in their own sneaky and dishonest way with no one watching. Kendall's second major point, that Congress would use its financial power to call the shots, is on target, but so what? Congress has the authority to tax and, by implication, has the right to oversee how the money is spent. But actually, all that is piffle -- let's cut to the chase. Ironically for Kendall and the ALA, there does indeed exist a very strong case against this sort of censorship by Congress. But don't hold your breath waiting for them to make that case. Simply put, it's that wrascally and oft ignored Tenth Amendment: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states, respectively, or to the people." Of course, Congress has no constitutional authority to make laws for or against censorship software, but then again it also has no constitutional authority to regulate auto emissions, set the drinking age, protect spotted owls, make abortion legal or illegal, or to require busing in Cleveland. To anyone who takes the Constitution seriously, it's obvious that Congress does a lot things it shouldn't. When Kendall and the ALA join the fight to limit the unconstitutional powers of the Federal Leviathan, I'll think about joining their noble efforts to empower public library smut-peddlers.

Monday, May 06, 2002

IN SEARCH OF A GOOD EGG: Eggs. I used to eat them infrequently and even went through an egg-hating stage. Now we buy them in the boxes of 18 for our family of three. I like them, my husband likes them, and our toddler insists on eating at least one every morning and sometimes as many as three or four in one sitting. Now Slate's egg taste test has left me wondering what exactly I'm missing out on when I eat my Sam's Club eggs. Their taste testers thought fresh eggs, either chicken or duck, were of the finest quality and that ranking second were "organic" eggs -- ignoring, of course, that no eggs (except egg substitutes, perhaps) are, say, silicon-based and therefore inorganic. But that's a rant for another day. Now I feel like I should go in search of fresh eggs, to conduct my own taste test, but gourmet eggs aren't easy to come by in Fairbanks. And I shudder to think what "organic" eggs that cost around $5 per dozen in the lower 48 would run up here. So I guess I'll have to enjoy my flavorless, store-brand eggs for a while longer.
"COME ON, QUIT JOKING AROUND. Be serious. It's just not funny. Knock it off. "You're serious? But that's so -- simplistic. A lot of sophisticated people disagree with you. You're being rash. Think of your reputation. "Don't ignore me. I was doing this before you were born. You need my experience. You need a pragmatic viewpoint. "How can you be so selfish? And arrogant! And -- and -- simplistic! "You're doing it anyway? But this is madness! Madness, I tell you. Stop it! STOP IT! Arms race! New cold war! Unilateralism! UNILATERALISM! NOOOOOOOOO!" Anybody notice that the President formally renounced the treaty creating the International Criminal Court? Bet the Euros and the usual suspects were annoyed.
CREDIT WHERE CREDIT'S DUE: Back on April 26 I suggested that Best of the Web's campaign to shut down racist web groups on Yahoo! and MSN was misguided because "[o]ne benefit of letting bad people speak their mind in public is that the rest of us can learn what's on their mind and figure out whether they're merely obnoxious or actually dangerous." InstaPundit linked, Best of the Web linked InstaPundit, and the rest -- the fame, the wealth, the women -- is history. But it turns out that someone else, Mr. A.C. Douglas, actually made the same point before me, and much more colorfully. Readers should direct any future payments of money or harem additions to Mr. Douglas. That is all.

Sunday, May 05, 2002

DIRTY WORDS: Just when you thought you got your diet in healthful order, along comes the news that showering causes cancer too. I used to think the semester I spent in Europe skulking the countryside on smelly trains was merely educational. Now I realize it may have added years to my life...

Saturday, May 04, 2002

JIMMY CARTER REFRESHER COURSE FOR GEN-X: I'm 27 years old, so my first political memories are sitting at my parents' feet in a polling booth while they voted for President Reagan, watching Reagan's first inauguration on a black-and-white TV in my first grade classroom, sewing elephants on table clothes with my grandmother for a Barry Goldwater party, and getting a pat on the head from Senator Goldwater. I don't remember anything about Jimmy Carter, and my parents, probably hoping to forget those years, didn't talk about him much. Except for his annoying, public interference with U.S. policy toward North Korea back in the Clinton administration, I only knew of him as that nice old man who works with Habitat For Humanity and teaches Sunday school. But after reading Jay Nordlinger's "Carterpalooza", I'll never see Carter as a harmless old man again. I'll see him as the best friend of the worst dictators. Carter has consorted with brutal dictators like Tito and Castro and monsters like Ceausescu and Kim Il Sung. He's taken terrorist Arafat's side against Israel, and Saddam Hussein's side against his own country, secretly asking France and China to thwart our military effort against Iraq. What's most disturbing about all of this is that Jimmy Carter isn't stupid; he can't have been duped. He has knowingly consorted with evil, which means he's evil, no matter how many houses he builds for the poor. Learning about Carter's dark side made me wonder if President Clinton was really that bad. I needed this course in Carter history, and I bet a lot of other people my age need it too.

Friday, May 03, 2002

RUN AWAY! RUN AWAY! When scrolling through the Washington Post's list of "Today's Editorials, Opinions, Columns," the authors of one of today's Op-Eds --Hillary Rodham Clinton and Joseph Lieberman -- caught my eye. I haven't yet gone to see what their topic is, but the very combination makes me want to run away yawning as fast as I can.
ON MARRIAGE: Maggie Gallagher makes some good points about marriage and how important it is for the government to start promoting it in today's NRO. I think she's a little harsh on other conservatives like Kate O'Beirne though -- stigmatizing single-motherhood seems to me like it would fit hand-in-glove with encouraging married motherhood. But how did we get to the point where promoting marriage became a social necessity, anyway?
LIBRARIANS, AGAIN: Mr. Kendall also notes in his article, "These aren't exactly radical anarchists picketing the WTO, folks. They're librarians." Sorry, but the days of bespectacled little old ladies standing behind the circulation desk are long gone. Many librarians today -- especially the ones picketing the WTO and everything else -- are leftist radicals, like many other people who work for government-funded money pits. Or does Mr. Kendall think public school teachers can't be leftists either?
IF A LIBRARIAN SAYS IT, IT MUST BE TRUE: I went to library school, but I must have missed the class where we learned that librarians are gods and goddesses whose every position on free speech and censorship must be correct. I recall some classmates who felt that way, but I just thought they were arrogant schmucks. But now they have someone backing them up, one Jared Kendall, who writes in The Advocate:
If a librarian says that Web filters are bad for libraries, who the heck are we to argue? Why does pornography frighten us so greatly that we're willing to alienate such a wholesome profession? What's next, picking on museum guides? Sure, I realize I'm making tremendous generalizations here. Still, I just can't see how anything opposed by so many organizations of librarians is a good idea.
Librarians haven't been all that "wholesome" for years, and just because librarians can help you search a database or find that musty tome you've been looking for doesn't mean they or their politcal advocacy groups are right about everything. And it's a big leap Mr. Kendall makes from porno filters on computers, that keep kids from viewing sexually explicit material on the public dime (and make the workplace much more pleasant for librarians), to picking on museum guides for displaying Michelangelo nudes. To paraphrase one Supreme Court justice, we know pornography when we see it, and no one's going to see Michelangelo that way. But hey, I don't even need to make an argument. I went to library school. I took cataloging. I know all about classification. Just trust me. I have an MLIS.
CHECKERS, ANYONE? Not the game, but the cute little puppy that Nixon wouldn't give back. The dog was the subject of a famous speech for the campaigning then-Vice President, and it looks like politicians have decided that in the area of canine-aided campaigning, Nixon was on to a good thing. An IWF Hotflash reports that a company called K9 Billboards is hiring out dogs as campaigners for political candidates. Now does Fido look more Republican than Fifi, or vice versa? Which dog do you choose to get the soccer mom vote and which one will win you the [fill in your special interest group of choice] vote?
CONFESSIONAL: I'll admit it. I like to read romance novels. After undergraduate and graduate degrees in German literature, I like to read fluff books where everyone ends up happy and alive in the end. When I read, I like to escape reality and I also like delving into my favorite period of history -- Britain around the turn of the 19th century. So a recent IWF Hotflash on Harlequin's new line of romance novels, Red Dress Ink, caught my eye. But this new, "modern" genre of romance novels, "aimed at the modern gal more likely to hit the town in a push-up bra and a G-string than a chastity belt," definitely isn't for me. Then again, I've never been able to relate to Sex And The City either. I just hope my Regency novels won't start disappearing off the shelves of bookstores any time soon -- that would depress me almost as much as reading too much Kafka in one sitting.

Thursday, May 02, 2002

ROBORATS? Researchers have found a way to use remote controls to guide rats' movements through implanted electrodes. These researchers say they are "trying to avoid using bigger animals" because of the "big brother" ethical issues involved in developing a technique that in many cases overrides an animal's natural instincts. "Trying to" doesn't exactly make it clear what their plans are, does it? Once the techniques are out there, who is to stop someone else from moving on to bigger and more exciting things? Some cloners only want to clone animals...
RUDE AWAKENING II: To paraphrase O'Sullivan's Rule, institutions not expressly rightist will naturally evolve (or devolve, if you prefer) into leftist institutions. I suppose that makes Brill's replacement by Mother Jones an instance of quantum evolution.
FOLLOW THIS LINK if you haven't already seen these photographs of anti-semitic posters at Berkley, courtesy of The Angry Clam.
YES, MOMMIE DEAREST: Since Mother's Day is fast approaching, I thought it might be nice if we post some messages about things we like. I like bright copper kettles, whiskers on kittens, and, oh yes, brown paper packages tied up in string. How about you guys? PS: Does anyone have any feelings on the Camaro going out of production?
RUDE AWAKENING: I was quite surprised last week when I opened my mailbox and found that I had a subscription to Mother Jones, the progressive (read: Socialist), muckraking bi-monthly. It seems that Brill's Content, a magazine about the media to which I have subscribed since Mr. Brill launched the publication, has ceased printing. All Brill's Content subscribers have been given Mother Jones subscriptions to finish the remainder of their terms. When I was considering the demise of Brill's I thought it would be a lark if journalists lamented the disappearance of a magazine about magazines. Strange things interest me!
I AM A WOMAN: Er, well, I'm Marge Simpson, anyway, according to this personality test based on The Simpsons (which I discovered via Loco Parentis). I'm quite shattered, really, as I always pictured myself more along the lines of Monty Burns.
UNWORTHINESS UPDATE: Thanks to InstaPundit, Curmudgeonry got linked in today's Best of the Web. Yes, it's just 15 bytes of fame, but it's our 15 bytes of fame. (Not the mention untold riches and women!)
WHY DO THEY HATE US? No, not "why do the Europeans hate us," but "why do the Americans hate the Europeans." It's a question Euros haven't thought to ask until recently. In fairness, they've been so busy chiding us for our "simplistic" foreign policy and "unilateralism" and explaining to us, speaking slowly and using small words, that "you -- have -- a -- public -- relations -- problem -- with the rest of the world," that they haven't had occasion to flip through an American newspaper or magazine to learn how America views Europe. They've grown so accustomed to kow-towing American reporters hanging on their every snide remark about American society-culture-government-fast-food-sports-you-name-it that it never occured them to wonder what 280 million people -- running the world's largest economy, armed with the world's most powerful military, and really, really angry about the murder of thousands of their countrymen -- thought about them. And so it's with almost child-like wonder -- "gee, look what I just found out" -- that the Times of London, reporting on American media coverage of Europe, writes:
The past fortnight’s comment in the media and politics has been so poisonous, so homogenous, and so voluminous, that it amounts to a sharp change of national mood, and is a real diplomatic problem of its own.
You don't say? Now, the Times' awakening is only partial, since it bizarrely blames this new-found diplomatic problem on Le Pen's first-round "victory" in the French presidential elections. No, lads, Europe's had a public relations problem with the United States ever since about, oh, September 11, 2001, when European intellectuals and politicians taught us that lovely German word, "schadenfreude," by personal example. It got worse when Americans could clearly see across the Atlantic burning synagogues and Jew-baiting that Europeans couldn't seem to see in their own back yard. And Europe's problems with the American street probably peaked when the American public saw European elites put their money where their mouths are -- on Arafat's thugocracy. No, lads, after that, the French giving a nationalist-socialist-protectionist crank a crack at the presidency was really just comic relief. But carry on. At least you're asking the right question now.
WE'RE NOT WORTHY, WE'RE NOT WORTHY! But Curmudgeonry got linked by Instapundit anyway! Think of the fame! The wealth! The women! (Er, strike that last one.) I think I'm going to retire now.
REMEMBERING THE REAL RIOT VICTIMS: Of all the stories I've been reading about the 10-year anniversary of the 1992 riots, this op-ed in the L.A. Times is about the only one that actually says what I think. In fact, it's the only one that even discusses the plight of Korean American merchants, the primary targets of the rioters and the real victims of the whole ordeal. I was beginning to wonder if I was the only one who was still mad. White liberal guilt only goes so far, I guess, at least in California. The Atlanta metropolitan area is home to something like 30,000 Korean Americans. If you asked them, I'll bet half are refugees from these riots. EDITOR'S NOTE: Mr. Park has many fine qualities, but one quality which he is still developing is the ability to use Blogger. While he goes about that task, I'm going to do this post for him.
Every newspaper, like every friend, has a distinct personality, and while some can be divined immediately -- the brash, loud, wide-open types -- others require some quality time. Reading the Post, for example, is like having a stand-up comic for a friend, but reading The New York Times is like having a wheezy uncle who drones on and on in the most mind-deadening way possible but you put up with him because he teaches at the community college and people seem to trust him. The Wall Street Journal is like sharing cocktails with a droll but over-precise insurance salesman who can occasionally frighten you with bursts of anger. -- Joe Bob Briggs, UPI (via The Corner)
Briggs' take on the Post and the Journal is just about right. But I'd cast the Times either as Al Gore -- pretentious, pedantic, thoroughly untrustworthy -- or as Daniel Schorr -- conventional, predictable, and incapable of self-examination. (Someone, I think in a National Review, well, review of Schorr's memoir remarked that he'd lived so long, through so much, and reflected so little on any of it.)

Wednesday, May 01, 2002

POETRY IS ALL WELL AND GOOD: I've read and explicated a lot of poetry in German and English, but I think having a National Poetry Month is a bit silly and even sillier the fact that my phone company sent out flyers urging me, "in celebration of National Poetry Month," to "attend a poetry slam, read a poem, or write one of your own!" And couldn't someone have come up with a more appealing name than "poetry slam?"
WAS MONICA THERE? A high school vice principal near San Diego was checking the girls to make sure they weren't wearing thong underwear and were wearing bras before they were allowed in to a school dance.
DANGEROUS WEAPONS? I'm not a big fan of guns and don't know if I'd want a real one in my house, but I accept that most little boys love them and if they do, they need to be taught to respect and fear the power of a gun. Reading a recent essay by Katie Allison Granju made everything I've always thought seem a lot clearer. That essay was still in my mind, when I ran across a news item today about four Kindergarteners who were suspended for playing cops and robbers on the playground and using their fingers as guns. One set of parents sued and today a judge threw out the case saying that "school officials may restrict violent or disruptive games." I used to think the schools that suspended small children for having tiny pocket knives were crazy, but when they start suspending children for bringing their fingers to school, things have gone way too far. I'm all for strict discipline, but whatever happened to free play and boys being boys?
JUST FEED YOUR KID: I don't call myself a "breastfeeding advocate," because I hate the word "advocate." I prefer "nipple nazi," if I must have a label, although I never accosted a mother in the grocery store, absent-mindedly stuffing a bottle in her baby's mouth while she tried to do her shopping, to tell her "how much good nursing would've done your child." Most likely she'd hate me, think breastfeeders are nuts, and decide never, ever to nurse any future children. And even if I won her over to the cause, relactation is difficult and often impossible. Now I have another reason not to harass formula-feeding moms: at least they feed their kids -- unlike these two NYC vegans who nearly starved to death their baby daughter on a diet of "ground nuts, fresh-squeezed fruit juices, herbal tea, beans, cod liver oil and flax seed oil." Apparently the parents, who practice veganism like religious devotees, didn't believe breastmilk or even soy formula were proper for their child. By sixteen months, she weighed only ten pounds and was near death when authorities removed her from her parents' custody. Whatever the demerits of formula-feeding, it sustains children and keeps them fairly healthy. I'll never enjoy seeing that mom propping up that bottle, but I'll be glad she's actually feeding her child.
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