Archive for June, 2005

Souter Shrugged

Wednesday, June 29th, 2005

Souter Shrugged

I saw this news item on my cell phone that was such a delicious tidbit there was simply no way it could be true, but in the hours ahead, to my astonishment…well, it seems to be true. A developer is using the Kelo v. New London case to seize the family home of Supreme Court Justice David Souter.

Logan Darrow Clements sent a letter to the town of Weare, N.H., proposing to build “The Lost Liberty Hotel” and “Just Desserts Cafe” on Souter’s property.

“The justification for such an eminent domain action is that our hotel will better serve the public interest as it will bring in economic development,” he wrote. Clements, who runs a California media company, added, “This is not a prank.

Indeed it is not, contrary to what one would presume from names like “Just Desserts Cafe”. If indeed it were a prank or an urban legend or a bluff of some kind, Clements is to be congratulated for proliferating his little joke here and here and here and here and here.

Who is Logan Darrow Clements? He is a former candidate for Governor of California, having run during the 2003 recall effort under an Objectivist platform. What is an Objectivist you might say? A half-assed explanation can be found in the last story linked, above:

Objectivism is a philosophy advocating “rational selfishness” and capitalism, founded by the late philosopher Ayn Rand. Clements confirmed that he is an Objectivist, and that Rand is an “influence” on him.

“Are you sure you’re a Republican?” asked the pleasantly surprised youth.

By way of explanation, Clements suggested that he read Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.

I’m not entirely sure why the scare quotes are thrown around “rational selfishness”. The words could have been in a speech Ayn Rand gave, but as far as I recall that term is not used in The Fountainhead or in Atlas Shrugged. I do not take issue with the accuracy of the description, but I got a gut feel this tag was chosen because of the ugly spin it puts on the Objectivist concepts & goals. You hear the word “selfish” and you recoil reflexively.

Although what Mr. Clements is addressing, here, is the prospect if you going to a Starbuck’s or a Trader Joe’s where, a year before, your toilet and medicine cabinet used to be. I just have a tough time thinking most people would call the desire to keep your family home, “selfish”.

What really tickles me pink about this is that as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, Souter’s authority over this case ended when the case was decided. According to a press release from Clements’ company, Freestar Media LLC, the developer is going to be looking for a simple majority vote on the Weare, NH city council.

“The Towne of Weare has five people on the Board of Selectmen. If three of them vote to use the power of eminent domain to take this land from Mr. Souter we can begin our hotel development.”

The proposed development, called “The Lost Liberty Hotel” will feature the “Just Desserts Caf�” and include a museum, open to the public, featuring a permanent exhibit on the loss of freedom in America. Instead of a Gideon’s Bible each guest will receive a free copy of Ayn Rand’s novel “Atlas Shrugged.”

This story gets a pencilled-in First Place Award for the annual “you could never in a bazillion years make this up” award. For the time being, until something better comes along.

Hey by the way — you do realize, don’t you, that our most liberal Supreme Court justices voted for this hideous decision, and the most conservative justices voted against it? You’re also aware that there is a historical trend of Supreme Court decisions that parallels that, aren’t you? Good, just checking.

Go Choke Your Chicken Somewhere Else

Tuesday, June 28th, 2005

Go Choke Your Chicken Somewhere Else

I’m trying to keep an open mind about Europe, really I am. But there’s something about this story that doesn’t quite add up. The Health Ministry of Belgium has declared that Boy Scouts can stop slaughtering chickens, thank you very much. If you go by the story, the Boy Scouts have been defending the practice as a way of teaching survival skills. The Health Ministry has decided this just doesn’t make any sense.

Why do I get the feeling that whoever it is at the Health Ministry taking “the view that the Scouts learnt nothing from using animals this way” wouldn’t know about living in the wilds if it crept up on them and bit ‘em square in the ass?

Another problem — actually, no, not a problem, since I live in the United States and this just makes me happier that I do. Is it illegal to slaughter a chicken at a Boy Scout camp? C’mon, it is or it isn’t. One or t’other. Either way, there shouldn’t be a debate about this. Don’t hand me this line of crap about how some bureaucrat at the Health Ministry didn’t think it sounded good, so Nanny-State says the deal’s off. Sheesh. If that’s the way it works, you people in Belgium need to dress up like Indians and throw a few crates of tea into a harbor. Grow a pair.

The Health Ministry said in a statement issued on Monday that one Scout group had refused to stop teaching its lads how to carry out the bloody task even after complaints from parents.

Okay, I would hope this question is popping into everybody else’s head too: What in tarnation is wrong with people? A complaint from parents, oh me, oh my. We had better stop teaching this to all the lads, every single one of them. What’s this? One Scout group refuses to go along! I wonder if that one Scout group continues to teach chicken-slaughtering to the one kid whose parents complained — if they do, okay, I’ll go along with the idea that there’s a problem. But I doubt that’s the case. Hey, here’s a thought. If my kid goes to your Scout camp, and you teach the kids how to kill chickens, and some soccer-mom complains about it and you stop teaching all the kids chicken-killing to make this one yutz happy — guess what? I’m going to call in and complain. That would then be a “complaint from a parent” in the opposite direction, and you’d better treat it as such.

This has got to be said somewhere: Boy Scouts does not mix with political correctness, and anybody who tries to make it do so, is a fool. The two concepts are one hundred and eighty degrees apart. Political correctness is all about sanitizing things. Making sure human events and behaviors fit into established norms. Boy Scouts is all about surviving human events that do not fit into established norms — like getting lost in the woods. Boy Scouts teaches you to weather it out when the unexpected happens. How to not be such a freakin’ pussy.

You know when you’re out on a weekend hike with your buddies, and one among you is constantly bellyaching about the food is bad, it’s too hot, we’re going too far, I’m thirsty, my feet hurt, can we go home now? The lard-ass that ruins all the fun. Boy Scouts teaches you how not to be that guy. That’s an important survival skill in itself, and I’ll tell you why. If I’m out there on a nice day and I want to be able to do some fun stuff, and this sissy keeps me from doing it because he wants to be like a short leash on everyone else’s neck, people like me would just love to smash his chubby little face in.

The older I get, the more impressed I am about this truism of life. Some of the most annoying people I have known, are the people who second-guess what they do, so that such actions fit some pre-conceived standard of what’s “normal” thereby, they hope, making other people happy. Some of the least annoying people, are the people who just go ahead & do (legal) things and ask questions later. To put it a much shorter way: I doubt like hell you’ll ever hear anyone say “That Joe sure is a swell guy, he never kills chickens.”

In this case, you’re better off going ahead & killing the damn chickens. Whether it is approval you seek, popularity, or just some hot food for your empty stomach when you’re lost in the woods.

Quagmire

Monday, June 27th, 2005

Quagmire

I was trippin’ through the headlines this morning and I saw several references to this editorial in OpinionJournal:

The Iraq Panic
Zarqawi’s bombs hit their target in Washington.

The editorial starts out with two quotes, one from Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts (D). My eyes glossed over the content of the quote, but then I did a double-take on the date. June 23, 2005. Last Thursday.

“And we are now in a seemingly intractable quagmire. Our troops are dying. And there really is no end in sight.”

I continue to be amazed at why Americans don’t get blisteringly offended — forget about Democrats and Republicans for a second — when words are carefully selected for their consumption after being tested in front of focus groups.

It’s as if some of our most powerful public servants regroup with their handlers after every speech, and the handlers pound their fists on the table and say “Senator Kennedy, I demand to know why you failed to use the word ‘quagmire’ in your speech!” and the powerful senator has to say “Oh I’m so terribly sorry, I’ll try to do better next time.”

This is yet another time we should be singing hosannas and celebrating that we don’t have a Secretary of Defense Freeberg. What chaos that would be. I’m sure I’d learn immediately afterward why it would be ill-advised, but while at that table I wouldn’t be able to resist the following, and oh what fun it would be for the moment:

Senator Kennedy, my Defense Department regards you as a venerable and esteemed legislator, certainly a force to be reckoned with. We don’t want you to see Iraq as a quagmire. Tell me, please, pretty please, what situation would you like to see over there in order to lift it above any threshhold that could be described, in your mind, by such a word. Tell me please. Be specific. And you have my commitment that I will do my very best to make that happen.

I’m sure there are several reasons why Rumsfeld can’t ask that question — he’d be making commitments contrary to the President’s policy, he’d be giving Kennedy a lead-in to make a devastating speech that would be carried coast-to-coast within minutes, it would not rise to the level of decorum demanded by the occasion, “pretty please” could be seen as failing to give proper respect, etc., etc., etc. I don’t doubt any of that.

But the point is, Sen. Kennedy has no premeditated answer to that question. The good Senator is not governing, he is politicking, and everybody knows it.

Cue Sen. Kennedy’s sympathizers and fans to jump in with “Yeah, but Republicans are just as…” blah blah blah. Back to the subject at hand, folks. We are smarter than being bought off with this cheap q-word in June of 2005. We shouldn’t be putting up with this.

Men And Women Are Different

Sunday, June 26th, 2005

Men And Women Are Different

There is something in the advertising profession that is deranged and misguided, and whatever it is I hope it is staying in Cannes, France. What the advertisers would like to find out, is how you go about selling things to men. Somehow — somehow — the elites at the very tippy-top of the advertising profession, there is some short-circuit in their brains. They turn this question around to “How should we tell men how to behave?” and on this point, it would appear, reality has thoroughly confused them.

Male-targeted ads found to be in no man’s land
Fri Jun 24, 2005 12:53 PM ET

CANNES, France – The Marlboro Man is having an identity crisis.

The Leo Burnett advertising agency, which created the iconic macho cowboy, said a new study it conducted found that half the men in most parts of the world don’t know what is expected of them in society and three-quarters of them think images of men in advertising are out of touch with reality.

Most ads have lumped men into one of two groups — the soft, caring type known as “metrosexuals,” who are comfortable with facial peels and pink shirts, or the stereotypical “retrosexuals,” who remain oafishly addicted to beer and sports.

See here’s the problem I have with this. It isn’t that I’ve gleaned some logical discrepancy between “having an identity crisis” and failure to grasp what is expected of you — the two are not identical, but there is no significant discrepancy there. Trouble is, there’s little correlation between having this problem, and failing to buy stuff. if you need to know what is expected of you in order to go about your day, most of the time, you’re going to go through life being confused about what is expected of you. When an advertising executive wants to sell you something, he’s really not going to have much of a tough time doing it. You’ll be sitting there confused, trying to figure out what people want out of you, you’ll see an ad, you’ll buy the thing, and then go back to being confused — everybody’s happy.

Put another way, your confusion about external goals for your existence, does nothing to help or hinder your consumption of goods. There is no logical reason to believe in such a correlation, nor is there to my knowledge any evidence to support such a correlation.

So no, this isn’t an identity crisis with men, it’s a stereotyping crisis with advertising executives.

“As the world is drifting toward a more feminine perspective, many of the social constructs men have taken for granted are undergoing significant shifts or being outright dismantled,” said Tom Bernardin, chairman and chief executive of Leo Burnett Worldwide.

“It’s a confusing time, not just for men, but for marketers as well as they try to target and depict men meaningfully,” he said this week during a presentation in the south of France where the ad industry is gathered for its annual conference.

Wake-up call for Mr. Bernardin: You don’t need to depict me meaningfully to sell me stuff.

You know, men resemble women in one respect: If you think the subject is so freakin’ complicated that you’re destined to go to your grave, having never figured men/women out, you know what? You’re right. You’re doing it to yourself. Men and women, it turns out, are quite simple once you acknowledge & embrace the politically incorrect but provable fact that they’re different.

As far as being told what to do & think & how to just plain exist, men are simple. They are amazingly simple. You know what? I think I can summarize the lifelong career of every single man, being told what to do, right here & now.

1. Your parents tell you what to do, and you do it.
2. Your parents tell you what to do, and you don’t do it. There. That’ll show ‘em.
3. Your friends tell you what to do, and you do it.
4. Girls start to look good.
5. A girl tells you what to do, and you do it.
6. “Your” girl starts locking lips with some other guy who tells her what to do.
7. A lot of years and a lot of pain pass by with this step. Your mother, your sister, your ex-girlfriends, the girl who won’t go out with you, women who don’t like your opinions, strangers, teachers, they all tell you what to do in order to get more women. You try everything. There doesn’t seem to be any correlation at all between what you do & what gets more girls. Except for one thing…
8. …women have an innate and insatiable desire to be courted by a confident man.
9. You learn a lesson: There is nothing worthwhile to be gained from conforming to someone else’s idea of how you should live your life.
10. This is important. Are you listening, advertising executives? There is no 10. The lesson you learned in 9, you never have to learn again, never, never, never, never, never. You learned it once, you know it, you’re not going back. Can’t put the toothpaste back in that tube.

So when advertisers advertise to men the way they advertise to women — telling them what is “in”, how they’re supposed to dress and look and talk and live their lives — they don’t know it, but they’re advertising to men who are still in that infinite loop in 7 and haven’t yet gotten to that lesson in 9. Because guys who have learned the lesson in 9, aren’t going to respond to this. And they never will respond to it again.

Now the guys who have not yet learned this lesson, there’s a lot of them, because when we’re maturing Lord knows we go through a lot of years of wasted energy. During that time, if we read in a magazine some product will get us more poontang, we’ll buy it.

But what’s happening now, is men are learning the lesson in 9 a whole lot quicker. So the advertisers are losing this demographic. Are men learning quicker because they’re smarter? No, I think what’s happening is men are learning it quicker because they encounter the problem in their daily lives a lot more often.

“You won’t get laid unless you do xxxxx” — it’s one of those last refuges of the dull-witted. Men get told this pretty often. As a man pushing forty, I’d venture to say it’s become fashionable to hand this line to a man, moreso than it used to be. I think men hear this more often, than they did, say, 20 years ago.

It’s simply gotten worn out. Men just aren’t responding to it anymore. Because what works in #8, is the only thing that works, and they know it. A man knows when you tell him this, you either haven’t learned what he’s already learned, or you’re talking down to other men who haven’t learned what he knows, so you’re not worth listening to.

Well surprise, surprise. It turns out the advertising industry is a one-trick pony. This was the only device it had for selling things to men. Threatening their customers with involuntary celibacy.

Hey advertisers. You can’t do what you do without relying on a whole bunch of tools, and software, and fossil fuels, that were invented, built, discovered, explored, and refined by men. Those men didn’t invent your cars, drill for your oil, build your printing presses, write the software that delivers your e-mail, in order to look more Marlboro or metrosexual. They did it to get something done. So why don’t you take a hint: Worry about what we think we want to get done, not what we want to look like. Save the tips & tricks about what’s “in” for when you sell the toe-rings and belly-jewels to the little girls.

I love it. The whole paradigm of what’s “new hotness” and what is “ew, SO five minutes ago” is dying. By its own hand, you might say.

Define The Goal

Saturday, June 25th, 2005

Define The Goal

Now here is a step in the right direction. William Doherty, a marriage therapist with the University of Minnesota, has started a registry of marriage counselors. The idea is that if you & yours are considering marriage therapy of some kind, you get to sweep over a number of potential counselors, figuring out what each professional is all about, before settling on one. This caught my eye when I was staying in Tacoma, Wash. this week, and I’ll tell you why.

Personally, I don’t think we need to work harder at saving marriages. Marriages should be easy to get out of, harder than hell to get into in the first place, and it should take something just short of an Act of Congress to transfer property rights away from one divorcing spouse into the control of the other. Any conservatives who worry about what’s happening to the “institution of marriage” should turn their attention to the practice of using short-term marriages as a vehicle for committing fraud and theft. That’s destroying marriage quicker than anything.

But as much as I detest gold-digging marriage-minded paramours, I detest marriage counselors even more. Little known fact about me: When I was a teenager just starting to become aware of the adult world around me, I did not know anyone who wasn’t involved in marital therapy in some way. Not a single person. That’s sick, isn’t it? Everyone I knew…every single adult…was going to therapy to save a marriage. Or going to therapy to “strengthen” a marriage. Or going to therapy to give a “good start” to a marriage. Or sending someone to therapy by cheating on them. Or going to therapy to remember events of sexual abuse. Or to forget them. Or just for the hell of it.

It was the early eighties, and it was very, very fashionable to go see a shrink. About anything. This is about the time I first started to build a livelihood on computers, software, building applications, generally making things work.

So I had this weird thing going on where any time I was trying to do something, it had to do with “left brain” stuff like…defining goals, investigating tools and applications to see if they would meet the goals, figuring out what wasn’t happening that was supposed to be happening, trying to find out why. As my paychecks got larger, this effort became more intense, until it started to shape the way I interacted with everything. I became a nerd. Well, you know, I didn’t exactly become one. Let us say that nerds are a different breed entirely from adult nerds, and I became an adult nerd.

And as far as family, friends, other interpersonal relationships…everybody I knew was into feeling things, or hopelessly entangled in someone else who was into it. Everybody was involved in therapy or knew someone who was.

I never breathed a word to a soul about this during this time, but between the ages of fifteen and about thirty I was waiting for one person…one single, solitary person…to step forward and say “I went into therapy to accomplish x and I accomplished x and now I don’t have to go into therapy anymore.” You know, like I did with computer hardware, tools, software or applications. I sat down to write a program that did y and now it does y and now I don’t have to work on it anymore. Like that.

Never happened.

Not a single time.

Not once.

Ever.

Oh, tons and tons of people declared their therapy sessions a success. But it was not lost on me, that success came in the form of altered goals. “My therapist/counselor helped me to realize that what I really wanted to do was…” — so, to put it simply, I noticed there was never any tracking of established goals.

So assuming this registry is what it looks like, it’s a good thing.

Most couples probably don’t know that there is a long-standing debate among practitioners over whether therapists should actively try to save a marriage or whether they should remain neutral and treat the couple as two individuals for whom divorce possibly could be the best outcome.

William Doherty, a veteran marriage and family therapist at the University of Minnesota, is among those who take the marriage-saving view. He believes therapists have been too neutral, particularly since the 1970s, and have focused on the individual. He blames the period for the trend that he believes has rendered therapists so neutral that they are sabotaging marriages.

Yeah they’re sabotaging marriages, but anyone who calls them “neutral” probably needs to evaluate their own relationship with reality. That’s like putting the kitty-cat in charge of the fish counter and calling Mister Whiskers “neutral” when he starts chomping down on the steelhead. Natural, sure, but instinct-driven or not, trust me when I say kitty has an agenda. Therapists make money when people are messed up in the head — usually by the hour! If the marriage is saved, prince & princess live happily ever after, but if it crumbles everyone’s going to be walking around in a fog. What in the hell do you think most therapists are going to do?

I can’t imagine the feeling a man gets if he and his bride fail to make use of a resource like this, settle on a benevolent-looking counselor, and then when it’s too late to back out, find out the hard way the counselor bears a strong pro-divorce, anti-male bias. There must be no lonelier feeling on the face of the globe.

“The registry is about training and competence and about values, because most couples assume the therapist is pro-marriage, but many therapists feel they have to be neutral,” he says. “The values thing comes into play when there seems to be a discrepancy between somebody’s personal happiness and their commitment to the marriage.”

So if the marriage-counseling industry must stagger on, I say put this thing up. If Doherty’s database isn’t what it looks like, start another one. And another one.

But at the same time, count me out of it. Any woman who would send me into marriage counseling — of any kind, for any reason, with her tagging along or not — that’s a woman I don’t want to know, let alone marry. Besides, I’m on the dark side. I think before I feel, therefore, therapy — notwithstanding the number of people who probably think it could do me some good — is not in the cards. I’m far too obsessed with seeing the world as it is, not as the way I want it to be or the way it makes me feel.

And my thoughts tell me, if we want marriages to last longer, take the money out of them. Make it just as hard to get cash out of a spouse through a divorce, as it is to get it out of a complete stranger through a lawsuit. Do that one thing, and ten years later you’ll be amazed at how the divorce rate plummets. But I got a gut feeling that the weddings-per-year is going to slip down a few notches too. For that reason, my idea will never catch on.

Brides & grooms are just people, no better than the rest of us, no worse. And the fact is, half of all people have no scruples. It’s just a fact.

Conventional “Wisdom”?

Friday, June 24th, 2005

Conventional “Wisdom”?

Supreme Court stuff is extraordinarily dull, so perhaps readers will find this helpful if I make this really short. Or anyway, as short as I possibly can.

Whether I’m trying to make things short, or not, I’m a big fan of separating out what is within the realm of dispute, from what is not. So in the interest of brevity, I’ll summarize Thursday’s Supreme Court decision of Kelo v. New London, in which eminent domain is upheld, as feared by lovers of individual liberty everywhere whether they are conservative or liberal. That’s all I will say about the decision itself, other than that I don’t like it.

Conventional Wisdom says it’s a good thing for our individual liberties President Bush has not nominated anyone to the Supreme Court yet, since it’s easy to predict the values of such a nominee. Conventional Wisdom says that this nominee would be a danger to freedom, because he would closely resemble a construct of three sitting justices: Chief Justice Rehnquist, and Associate Justices Scalia and Thomas. This is not beyond dispute, because I’m disputing it. But it is Conventional Wisdom. Conventional Wisdom didn’t get here by accident; it commands a certain amount of respect. So by all means let’s take a look at it.

First we have Kelo, signed by Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Kennedy, which is a direct slap in the face to individual liberties, violating the spirit if not the letter of the Fifth Amendment “Takings Clause”. The three model justices joined in a dissent to this opinion that was authored by Sandra Day O’Connor, one of the “swing” justices. That’s right, the three guys who “prove” what an assault upon individual freedoms would be inflicted by a Bush nominee, dissented in this opinion that is agreed upon by both sides of the aisle as an assault upon individual freedoms. So here’s a problem.

But hey, the Supreme Court decides lots of opinions every session, and this is just one opinion. So let’s go back to the next-most-recent controversial opinion and see if reality starts to become a bit more friendly to the conventional wisdom.

On June 6, the Supreme Court delivered Gonzales v. Raich which upholds a virtually unlimited authority by Congress to regulate Marijuana and other controlled substances. This is another assault on individual freedom. Is that within the realm of dispute? Not really. Some very conservative people like to see penalities imposed on the consumption and distribution of controlled substances, but they don’t dispute that this is against personal freedoms, they simply infer that this would be a “good thing” or that it is somehow a legitimate exercise of power. Well when the Supreme Court agreed that this was consistent with the Constitution, the opinion was dissented by — you guessed it, O’Connor wrote the opinion, and she was joined by Rehnquist and Thomas. The majority opinion that gave the green light to this expansion of federal power, at the expense of individual freedom, was signed by — oopsie-daisy, it was Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Kennedy.

Scalia joined the majority in this one, purely on principles of stare decisis — he felt obliged to enforce previous opinions that broadened the “interstate commerce” authority on “public interest” grounds. But if you read his separate opinion, it’s hardly a ringing endorsement.

Since Perez v. United States, our cases have mechanically recited that the Commerce Clause permits congressional regulation of three categories: (1) the channels of interstate commerce; (2) the instrumentalities of interstate commerce, and persons or things in interstate commerce; and (3) activities that “substantially affect” interstate commerce. The first two categories are self-evident, since they are the ingredients of interstate commerce itself. The third category, however, is different in kind, and its recitation without explanation is misleading and incomplete.

It is misleading because, unlike the channels, instrumentalities, and agents of interstate commerce, activities that substantially affect interstate commerce are not themselves part of interstate commerce, and thus the power to regulate them cannot come from the Commerce Clause alone. Rather, as this Court has acknowledged since at least United States v. Coombs, 12 Pet. 72 (1838), Congress’s regulatory authority over intrastate activities that are not themselves part of interstate commerce (including activities that have a substantial effect on interstate commerce) derives from the Necessary and Proper Clause. And the category of “activities that substantially affect interstate commerce,” is incomplete because the authority to enact laws necessary and proper for the regulation of interstate commerce is not limited to laws governing intrastate activities that substantially affect interstate commerce. Where necessary to make a regulation of interstate commerce effective, Congress may regulate even those intrastate activities that do not themselves substantially affect interstate commerce.

So although Scalia concurs in the judgment that awards authority to Congress to regulate intrastate pot transactions as if they were interstate commerce, he is doing so as a referee, laboriously implementing the rules of the game based on previous opinions — not from puritanical zeal to force common people to adhere to “blue laws” in the living of their everyday lives. If he’s showing how a Bush nominee can strike at the very heart of our ability to live in a free society, then I must say he’s done a rather poor job of it.

So let us go back further, since the trend cannot hold, being as it is such a slap in the face of conventional wisdom. Surely we can find some of these Bush-friendly justices messing around with our personal freedoms, can’t we? Let’s examine the two-year-old decision of Lawrence v. Texas which strikes down state anti-sodomy laws on Fourteenth-Amendment grounds.

Jackpot! The Lawrence decision protects our sacred Constitutional right to exercise that freedom that is most important to our dignified existence as free and sentient beings, the right to insert our penises into the anuses of other men! What could be more of a linchpin of freedom, more of a keystone to the Spirit of 1776, than that. And the three old gray dolts who most closely resemble a future Bush nominee, dissented from the decision, which proves they must be out to regulate how us common people fornicate. Oh, this is rich, I just knew Scalia looked right for that Puritan outfit, complete with the tall black hat, the blunderbuss and the shoe buckles. What an overzealous regulator he is, daring to dissent from this opinion. What a tight-ass cracker. What a Quaker. Let’s take a look at the dissent he wrote, which was joined by Rehnquist and Thomas. It’s always interesting to see how these Bush people want to regulate every single facet of our lives, isn’t it?

That homosexuals have achieved some success in that enterprise is attested to by the fact that Texas is one of the few remaining States that criminalize private, consensual homosexual acts. But persuading one’s fellow citizens is one thing, and imposing one’s views in absence of democratic majority will is something else. I would no more require a State to criminalize homosexual acts–or, for that matter, display any moral disapprobation of them–than I would forbid it to do so. What Texas has chosen to do is well within the range of traditional democratic action, and its hand should not be stayed through the invention of a brand-new “constitutional right” by a Court that is impatient of democratic change. It is indeed true that “later generations can see that laws once thought necessary and proper in fact serve only to oppress,” and when that happens, later generations can repeal those laws. But it is the premise of our system that those judgments are to be made by the people, and not imposed by a governing caste that knows best.

Ooh. It appears his opinion is based on simply respecting the wishes of others, without regard to his personal feelings about it. Rehnquist joined this without comment, and Thomas wrote two short paragraphs that essentially repeat this sentiment in different words.

These are the three “conservative” justices who are supposed to be out to rob us of our individual freedoms.

I think I have extrapolated the three most controversial decisions of the last two years. Did I cherry-pick the decisions that made these three puritanical justices look deceptively Jeffersonian? Or has the time come to re-think our conventional wisdom? My opinion for now, is that a far greater danger to our freedom to exist as thinking individuals, is presented to us in the liberal wing that President Bush would water down: Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg and Breyer, with help out here & there from Justice Kennedy. But I’ll leave it to the reader to decide.

In the meantime, let’s resume our normal routine of never, ever, NOT EVER, thinking about the judicial branch, and the awesome, life-long, unchecked power it holds over our very existences as legal entities, in both civil and criminal matters, except when we simultaneously cogitate about pregnant women and bloody coathangers. After all, Conventional Wisdom says that is what justice in America is all about.

Spirit Is Willing, Flesh Is Weak

Friday, June 24th, 2005

Spirit Is Willing, Flesh Is Weak

On May 17 I pointed out that “Women are being taxed to pay for men’s erections” which is absolutely not the way any reputable news organization chose to report on the Medicare coverage of Viagra and other performance-enhancing drugs — although, I noted, the deliberately provocative headline was 100% truthful.

Well chalk this one up under the “good” column for the House of Representatives in the 109th Congress. The House has voted 285 to 121 to stop this insanity.

Impotence drugs such as Viagra would not be covered by Medicaid and Medicare, the government health programs for the poor and the aged, under new prohibitions approved by the House on Friday.

By a 285-121 vote, the House approved an amendment by Rep. Steve King (news, bio, voting record), R-Iowa, to stop the government from paying for the drugs. King said his amendment would save taxpayers $105 million next year alone.

You know what else needs to happen? This needs to get publicized. I’m really all for horny men gettin’ some, as long as I’m not paying for it, and mathematically $105 million really doesn’t count out of $2.6 trillion in federal outlays.

What cheeses me off has to do with the insanity of our social programs. It all has to do with lowering the pain threshhold. The program is proposed, and we have to debate something vital to human existence like oxygen, basic sustenance, medicine, shelter, or the like. Once the program gets going, the pain threshhold is lowered, and lowered, and lowered again, ad nauseum.

Until we find ourselves paying for boners. If you love a liberal, make sure he or she knows about this story, and emphasize that this is the rule, not the exception. This is the way social programs work.

It’s all very European. You like Europe? Go there. Leave our money-grubbing capitalists alone, and let them pay for their own erections, not somebody else’s.

Go Get ‘Em, Karl

Friday, June 24th, 2005

Go Get ‘Em, Karl

For some time I have noticed that while conservatives like to tell people what they should be thinking about, liberals like to just tell people what to think. For example, there really isn’t too much intellectual reason to engage in any of the following beliefs:

  • Hillary Clinton is a smart woman
  • We’d have fewer wars if women ran the world
  • A President Kerry would have much more credibility with the world
  • People want to kill Americans because of American policy (and would stop wanting to kill if the policies changed)
  • The United Nations can help us to achieve world peace
  • Gun control makes our streets safer
  • Bush knew about 9/11 before it happened

…and a whole bunch of other left-wing axioms that, when they are offered, are offered on platters of heated rhetoric rather than cool-headed consideration of available facts and reasoned inferences drawn from those facts. More tellingly — and I have a lot of experience to base this on — if a dissenting voice emerges to simply challenge what is being alleged, the support or proof for the allegation is almost never forthcoming. Instead, the liberal argues like a seven-year-old, with the tried-and-true “You’re STUPID!!!” line of attack.

In other words, liberals like to bully and intimidate. They say, think what I think, see things as I see them, or I will talk over you and call you a big fat stupid doo-doo head.

So the Democrats who are in power are really getting apoplectic about this:

“Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 in the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers,” Mr. Rove, the senior political adviser to President Bush, said at a fund-raiser in Midtown for the Conservative Party of New York State.

This is a whole different style of arguing from what liberals are used to. Mr. Rove is summarizing the news as he sees it. If you want to challenge this, you can’t really debate the facts that he’s summarizing, because, well, they’re facts — furthermore, he’s referring to events in the news that have been right out in front of all our faces for nearly four years now. If you wanted to argue this framework with him, you would have to examine his line of thinking. By offering repeated exposure to those facts, this examination would be more devastating to the liberal movement, than his original comment itself.

So Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi blossom forward with their righteous indignation, and their mock outrage, and their “cascade of criticism” and demands for Mr. Rove to resign.

If I was a senior Democratic advisor, I’d suggest a different defense and then wince a little bit when they rejected my advice — probably pull out my resume and start brushing it up.

After all, when someone says something damaging about you that is provably false or demonstrably falacious, you don’t respond with a “cascade of criticism”. Why would you?

Furthermore, they’ve offered an interesting contrast here. Karl Rove is expressing an opinion and then allowing the rest of us to go about our business, whether we sign on to what he said or not. Democrats are telling Karl Rove what he must do, telling President Bush what he should do, telling the rest of us what we ought to think. Must. Should. Ought.

I doubt any one among their leadership could comment on this without using one of those three words.

How very European of them.

Tweak A Geek

Friday, June 17th, 2005

Tweak A Geek

How to tweak a Star Wars geek…

…tell him you read somewhere that “Kenobi” is Swahili for “Loses Every Fight”.

Think about it.

Is My Downstairs Neighbor A War Criminal?

Thursday, June 16th, 2005

Is My Downstairs Neighbor A War Criminal?

You say, “I’m going to leave you chained up on the floor in the fetal position with no chair and I’m going to fiddle around with the room temperature until you tear your hair out” and without knowing who you’re referring to, I say “gee, that sounds like Pol Pot.”

Would I say that?

You say “I’m going to play rap music really loud all night long and force you to listen to it” and I’m going to say “that sounds just like the Soviets in their gulags” or “that sounds an awful lot like Hitler.”

Hitler & Stalin were all about playing bad music and cranking the volume?

I know this is just crazy talk. But in the United States Senate it makes a lot of sense, apparently. Quothe Richard Durbin, Democrat from Illinois:

On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more. On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold. . . . On another occasion, the [air conditioner] had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out throughout the night. On another occasion, not only was the temperature unbearably hot, but extremely loud rap music was being played in the room, and had been since the day before, with the detainee chained hand and foot in the fetal position on the tile floor.

If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime–Pol Pot or others–that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners.

Now it’s clear what is happening here: I’m capturing the utter ridiculousness of something said on the Senate floor, by treating it as if it is an expression of thought when it’s really an expression of emotion. There’s no way Dick Durbin really wants to compare playing rap music, with what the Nazis did. In all likelihood, he said what sounded good at the time and appealed to his constituents, and didn’t realize how silly it is until he saw it in writing.

But that’s unfair of me, isn’t it? After all, the Senate is not a place where people follow logical arguments and make sound decisions about courses of action based on reasoned opinions which in turn are based on principled deliberations of established, solid facts. Heavens, no. The Senate is a place where emotion is supposed to rule the day, right? We’re talking about defending the lives of millions of innocent men, women and children. Emotion must trump logic, of course, even when it places the systematic extermination of millions of political dissidents and innocent jews, on par with playing yucky music really loud and monkeying around with the AC.

Just to review: I made what Dick Durbin said, look pretty silly, but I didn’t do it by poking fun. All I did was take what he said, down to the letter, seriously, as if he really meant for it to be taken seriously. This is the most intellectually devastating thing you can do to a piss-poor silly nonsensical idea.

Do we like nonsensical ideas to be argued when the issue is protecting our country from people who are trying to kill us?

I’m Not A Liberal

Wednesday, June 15th, 2005

I’m Not A Liberal

Keep Your Eye On This Today III

Wednesday, June 15th, 2005

Keep Your Eye On This Today III

The Senate may, or should, or must, or perhaps will, vote on cloture to end debate on the nomination of John Bolton for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

…a bipartisan report on the U.N., released today…notes that “until and unless it changes dramatically, the United Nations will remain an uncertain instrument, both for the governments that comprise it and for those who look to it for salvation.”

Out here in real-person-land, this has been noted for quite some time. Oh well, here’s hoping that whether Mr. Bolton gets in or not, things change drastically. The way they are right now is quite bad.

Keep Your Eye On This Today II

Wednesday, June 15th, 2005

Keep Your Eye On This Today II

Remember Terri Schiavo? Her autopsy results are going to be made public today. This will be interesting, but the politics surrounding the results will be even more interesting. My prediction: Both sides will have fresh ammunition, as they see it, and there will be a lot of arguing.

Keep Your Eye On This Today I

Wednesday, June 15th, 2005

Keep Your Eye On This Today I

Last night there was a 7.0 earthquake in the ocean off Crescent City, CA. A tsunami alert was issued all up & down the west coast. Probably nuthin’.

They’re OUR Pawns!

Wednesday, June 15th, 2005

They’re OUR Pawns!

Derrick Z. Jackson is upset about Janice Rogers Brown, or more precisely, he’s upset that she’s a black female judge and the Republicans are trying to get her nominated to the federal appeals court in the District of Columbia. He feels it’s hypocritical. This is the kind of thing that really cracks me up.

Born in the mid-1960′s, I have spent a lifetime listening to liberals “educate” me about how they are all for poor non-white minority groups, while conservatives are “against” those minorities. I grew up with a living room in which all the furniture was arranged to face toward the idiot-box, where my family and I would soak up prime-time idiot-shows designed to educate us idiots how enlightened liberals were and how bigoted conservatives were. ABC, CBS, NBC were all in on the act. M*A*S*H educated me that war was always insane, so logically of course, there was no reason to declare it, ever. Nevermind that we all lived in a free country that was started by a war.

Then as I entered the world of adulthood, funny things began to happen. Reagan was elected, and then he nominated the first woman to the U.S. Supreme Court. Hello? I thought Republicans wanted women to stay in the kitchen. Pundits in the newspaper, on television, on radio, started to try to tell me what to think. When minorities were nominated by Republican presidents it was evidence of hypocrisy, but Bill Clinton was supposed to be given credit for doing exactly the same thing. George H. W. Bush was supposed to apologize to somebody for nominating Clarence Thomas. Well wait a minute, I thought “special episodes” of Mary Tyler Moore had educated me that minorities weren’t supposed to be treated any different, especially when & if they were placed in positions of trust.

I grew up in a state of perpetual confusion over this. Being concerned in any way at all over the subject of someone’s skin color, I was told, was the province of dimwits. At the same time, I watched people I was told were overwhelmingly smart, get into verbal knock-down drag-outs over peoples’ skin color.

Now all pretense of subtlety has been dropped, at least by Derrick Z. Jackson who is angry with Republicans for, once again, standing behind Brown who is female and black. Jackson is upset about something: He has detected a trend in the way Brown’s background is played up by Republican sponsors. “Daughter of sharecroppers.”

Sure, I agree. Janice Rogers Brown must have done something more noteworthy & accomplished than being the daughter of sharecroppers.

And your point is? John F. Kennedy did more noteworthy things than be the scion of a wealthy American family struck multiple times by (Darwinian) tragedy. His wife did more noteworthy things than own a silly hat. So what? When it comes time to recite Jack & Jackie’s resumes, the first things to tumble out of people’s mouths have something to do with “family has endured so much tragedy” and “pink pillbox hat.” We hear it over and over again, and that’s politics. Hillary Clinton has “worked hard.”John Kerry is “nuanced.”

Let us just cut through the bull for a second. Derrick Jackson is upset because Republicans are supporting, and therefore reaping political profit from, a person with dark skin. Derrick Jackson thinks Republicans shouldn’t be allowed to do this, that it is a privilege reserved for Democrats & other factions opposed to Republicans. It’s hypocritical, in their case, after all. Republicans never back minorities. Except when they do…in which case, it doesn’t count. Because then, Republicans are being hypocritical.

The free will enjoyed & exercised by Janice Rogers Brown, herself, is particularly vexing to people like Jackson. Brown is plenty sharp enough to understand what Republicans and Democrats are all about, and she’s plenty proud enough to refuse to be exploited. Since she’s black, and she obviously agrees with the Republican platform at least in some respects, she’s terribly dangerous to the status quo. She has made a conscious decision: I’m black, I grew up poor, and I could profit from my status through affirmative action. I choose not to, because if I do that, it will congest any avenue of success for those who come after me. I choose to rely on my own abilities, come what may, because this will open up avenues for other people who have abilities, regardless of what their skin color may be and how they grew up.

Congratulations to her. And as I’m often fond of saying about this and many other issues: If one person can do it anywhere, then anyone can do it everywhere.

Jackson, emotionally, is incapable of handling this in silence.

His article, boiled down to its rough essentials, says this: Lay off those black people, you Republicans! They’re OUR pawns!

Jackson, and those sympathetic to his point of view, are all going to be fascinating people to watch in the next few weeks. They’re journalists, but ironically they are trying to stop facts from getting out — any facts that would be damaging to the liberal monopoly of “minority rights” — “minority” as Democrats define them, and “rights” as Democrats define them. I think this is a professional betrayal: Journalists are supposed to be all about objectivity, and getting facts out. So let’s cause further pain to traitors like Derrick Jackson…let’s piss on the snowman a little bit more. Just for grins.

Democrats have a VERY checkered history with minority rights, and that is a charitable description. Let’s go over some of the problems in history, shall we.

1. During the Civil War, Republicans fought not only to win the war & free the slaves, but to make sure that full rights were conferred on those freed-men. Democrats opposed this. Republicans supported, and Democrats opposed, the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth amendments.

2. During the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a faction led by southern Democrats tried to defeat the CRA. Republicans voted in large numbers, in both houses, to get this legislation passed. If Republicans did not back it, the numbers would not have been there to get it through.

3. The case of Strom Thurmond opposing civil rights and then becoming a Republican, is highly deceptive. If you were in Kindergarten when Strom Thurmond ran for president as a DEMOCRAT segregationist, you would have completed high school, and almost certainly college as well, before Thurmond ever became a Republican.

4. Although Thomas Jefferson is claimed by Democrats as the founder of their party, things get interesting if you read what he actually wrote, especially during the time of his presidency from 1801 to 1809. He sounds just like Rush Limbaugh. Especially when he starts complaining about Federalists taking over the “judiciary” because they can’t win at the ballot box.

Don’t believe a single word of any of the points above. Do your own research.

The notion that Democrats champion minority rights, or have a history of doing so, is ripe for challenge, as is the notion that Republicans have any heritage of inherent hostility to same. Even if this were not the case, it is hardly productive to castigate one party or the other for nominating a “daughter of sharecroppers” to an appeals court, or to use that tagline in promoting her nomination. Most Americans want to live in a place where people have the opportunity to achieve whatever they want & whatever they’re willing to prove they can do, regardless of how they grew up. We also want to live in a place where the press tells us what the facts are, and we are left to form our own opinions — not where columnists like Jackson tell us that Republicans “overdid” something “to a level that is laughable”.

Jackson, to the best I can tell, makes no case anywhere in his article that the allegation about sharecropper parents is false. He doesn’t seem to be concerned with the veracity of the statement, only about whether or not it is offensive to him when it is pointed out.

Depending On Which Language You Speak?

Friday, June 10th, 2005

Depending On Which Language You Speak?

Does this strike anyone else as ironic? If Bill Richardson, Gov. of New Mexico and formerly Bill Clinton’s Energy Secretary, runs for President, he will bring credibility.

“He brings credibility and he brings recognition,” said Gustavo Moral, the conference’s organizer, “that the Latino community in New Hampshire is growing.”

So all we need to know is whether this credibility-bringer will bring his credibility to the Presidential race. Mister Messiah of Credibility, how say you?

“I want to be very clear about this presidential stuff,” Richardson, the Democratic governor of New Mexico, said at yesterday’s New Hampshire Latino Summit. “No, I will not run for president.”

Then, switching to Spanish, he told the heavily Hispanic crowd, “Segura que si, voy a ser candidato!”

Rough translation: You bet I am!

So…in this post-Clinton era of true things being false and false things being true and liars being effective leaders and truthful people being called liars…I guess we like this stuff. You switch languages and say the polar opposite of what you just said.

I must be getting old. There was a time we paid attention to these public figures to find out what their positions were, and even if they were utterly, completely unambiguous in every single language they dared to use, we debated the tiny minutiae of what they said. The more credibility they had, the less we debated. The less credibility they had, the more we debated. If they walked into the speech having some credibility and they ended the speech having less credibility, it was called a bad speech.

Now, they contradict themselves on purpose and we celebrate it. Ooh, boy, this can’t be a good thing.

Underwear Gangs

Friday, June 10th, 2005

Underwear Gangs

If you don’t watch for burglars twenty-four/seven, your home may be plundered by a nearly-naked burglar whose body just slips out of your grip when you try to collar him:

Sok Tum, a police commander in Tram Kak district, told the newspaper that two burglars wearing nothing but underpants and daubed in oil – to make them harder to identify and their bodies more difficult to grip by pursuers – had raided two homes in Leay Bo sub-district on May 30.

I just don’t know what else to say about it. It’s like Arsenio Hall’s “Things That Make You Go Hmmmm….”