Archive for November, 2005

Too Close For Comfort

Tuesday, November 29th, 2005

Too Close For Comfort

When I was a 14- or 15-year-old and my adolescent hormones were goin’ at it like a bag of Butter Lover’s Kettle Korn in the microwave, Lydia Cornell immortalized herself in my pubescent memories by strutting around in those kootchie shorts in the first season of “Too Close For Comfort” with those silky, tanned, toned thighs whose gentle curves betrayed the childbearing shape of her goddess-like hips and ass. Whooie. Well, nowadays the silky, tanned, toned thighs are poking out of a cheerleader’s skirt, but only figuratively, and the cheerleader uniform belongs to the Democrats.

Which is okay by me. How many incredibly sexy starlets, both A-list and has-beens, are shills for Democrats? Tons of them; and nowadays, it takes a lot of A-list starlets to make a “ton”. Except Cornell, apparently, is going to plant her own fists on those childbearing hips and get all uppity and cranky with me, if I don’t immediately and uncritically buy into what she’s selling, that she is in fact a Republican:

Dear Ann [Coulter],

I was a Republican for many years, voted for Reagan and still attend Reagan’s former church, Bel Air Presbyterian. I am writing an article about the Alachua Republican Party and wanted to clarifiy something with you. I had heard about your speech in Gainesville and was troubled in regards to your comments on the First Amendment and the stifling of the free speech of Democrats. Do you stand by those remarks? Do you wish to clarify or add anything to them � and do you really feel that stifling free speech and/or violating/changing the U.S. Constitution is the best way help spread democracy to the rest of the world?

There is nothing self-contradictory here, so far. Cornell says she was a Republican, as in past-tense. So it’s logical to conclude she was a Republican when Reagan was running because she liked Reagan’s stuff, and since then has brought her interest in politics to a halt, or jumped over the fence and become a Democrat. Okay fine, I’ll buy that. Lots of “Republicans” have something different in mind for conservatism, besides of what George Bush is selling. Some days, I’m one of them.

But this screed she’s got going, which apparently she posted some eleven days after her query to Ann Coulter, sets the whole thing on its head:

I feel I�m going insane. Right after the 2004 election when You-Know-Who was elected, I actually developed a nervous tic in my left eye, like the Police chief in the Pink Panther, who was driven berserk by Inspector Clousseau. Of course there’s no comparing the lovable Peter Sellers with the witless, war-mongering leader of the free world, but I don’t want my eye twitch to come back so I’m trying to stop hating him so much. I think I figured out a way to talk to Ann Coulter: turn the other cheek and let her hit that one.
During my conversation with [Alachua Republican Party Vice-Chairman Bryan] Harman, I was tempted to be confrontational, but made a conscious decision to remain objective and get inside the Republican mind-set.[emphasis mine]

Waitaminnit Lydia! You don’t need to “get inside the Republican mind-set”! You are already there! Or at least you were. At the very least, you once were.

That’s what you said. I’m just taking it seriously, and look what a problem we have here.

You have a nervous tic in your left eye because “You-Know-Who” emerged victorious against Mister Massachusetts Nuance? What policy changes did you, as a former Reagan-voting Republican, want out of Mister Purple Heart Christmas-In-Cambodia Seared-In-Memory Terrorism-Is-Just-A-Nuisance?

I’d really like to know. You start with Ronald Reagan, and take away everything that does NOT look like John Kerry, you get…nothing. You start with Kerry, and remove everything that doesn’t look like Reagan, you still get…nothing.

Is there something I’m missing?

Or are you, with your perfect legs and your perky breasts that look SO appealing under those super-snug, early-eighties sweaters, ready to receive my personal judgment on whether what you have told me is COMPLETE BULLSHIT or not?

I’ll tell you something else that doesn’t quite add up. Ms. Cornell doesn’t think like a Republican, or like anyone who has ever, ever been a Reagan-voting Republican. Look at that post — the point of it is, that Ann Coulter spews hatred and is bad for the Republican party.

I know Republicans who don’t like Ann Coulter. I know Republicans who don’t like her, because they feel she’s a poor representative, a sentiment which Lydia Cornell obviously shares. They do not present their arguments this way. They say “here are the facts…this is how you can get the complete text of what she said…this is my opinion about it, although obviously you are welcome to form your own opinion…and I don’t feel this is acceptable.”

Not so with Ms. Wish-I-Was-A-European Cornell. Lydia Cornell gives us a snippet. She essentially says, like a Democrat union goon, Trust Me, this is what Ann Coulter is all about. Trust me, you don’t need to read her entire speech to make sure I got the context right. And Trust Me, this is what Jesus Christ Himself would have to say about it — it’s my interpretation, and if you’ve got a different one, that doesn’t matter, because mine is the right one.

That’s not what a Reagan-voting Republican does. And a Reagan-voting Republican damn sure doesn’t get a facial tic about politicians he or she doesn’t like. Reagan-voting Republicans, when laboring under the tenure of powerful politicians they don’t like, simply bide their time and wait for the next elections. When they post blogs about those powerful politicians and what those powerful politicians are doing, they create compelling arguments: These are the facts…this is my opinion…these are the assumptions you must make to form a different opinion, from those available facts, and I find those assumptions to be too extravagant to be maintained.

They present compelling cases for what they believe.

They do not tell their readers what they are supposed to be thinking, at least, not without providing factual support. Like some member of the French cabinet. Or some liberal black baptist preacher who violates separation-of-church-and-state at the drop of a hat during a campaign. Or a union thug.

Sorry, I don’t mean to be harsh. But ever since I cast my first vote for a Democrat, way back when Woodrow Wilson was running for re-election against Charles Evans Hughes in 1916, and all the votes I’ve cast for Democrats since then, I’ve never been able to understand this about my own Democratic party. Why, I’m even thinking of leaving it. Believe me. Please, believe me.

No, seriously. In all seriousness. I think Lydia Cornell has voted for Republicans the same way I’ve suffered from menstrual cramps.

I Speak Of…

Tuesday, November 29th, 2005

I Speak Of…

Two hundred years after his famous letter to Nehemiah Dodge, Ephraim Robbins, Stephen Nelson and the Danbury Baptists, in which he defined a “wall of separation between Church & State,” Thomas Jefferson’s treasured wall is threatened by the rise of a fundamentalist religion in the United States of America. This religion threatens to take over this country and seize control of its government.

It is a dangerous, double-talking religion. It has lately come to hide behind science; it pretends to present its beliefs, simply by softly questioning more orthodox cognitions deemed to be contrary. The deception behind this is revealed when this religion regards anyone skeptical of their faith, as walking, breathing, unfinished tasks. Those who practice and promote the religion of which I speak, do not seek to form reasoned opinions from established facts — they seek to proselytize. In short, they pretend to participate in epistimology, but what they really want to do is grow their flock, facts be damned.

Their flock is growing like a wildfire. It is difficult to venture beyond one’s doorstep, or into cyberspace for that matter, without encountering several of these practitioners in the course of a single day. Those practitioners pretend to respect our freedom as individuals to select the religion of our choice, but very seldom do they show this respect. To sum it up, nearly all of them believe, with their faith, they are smarter than someone who practices a different faith. They think the rest of us are just big dummies, and are not afraid to say so at all. There is something about this religion that makes people stunningly rude.

Those who promote this religion, do so by simply questioning whatever doesn’t fit; like all religions that seek to find shelter and comfort in quasi-science, they insist on controling the questions. Questions that are inconvenient to contrary theories are encouraged, and when questions arise that are inconvenient to their own faith, the questions suddenly stop. Promoters of this religion, will not tolerate any hesitation, temerity or abatement in questioning what is contrary, but they also will not tolerate questions directed toward what is friendly.

They have begun to spread the canard that the United States of America was founded on their religious principles. They are frequently heard to say “The Founding Fathers were” part of their religion, as if scores of patriots who championed religious freedom as *individuals*, squabbling endlessly among themselves as they did so, must necessarily have belonged to a single faith.

Their religion pretends to simply be a question. But it is not a question at all, it is an answer. It’s a hard, brittle, absolute answer, tolerating no dissent whatsoever, about something unproven and unrefuted that cannot be proven or refuted. It is blind faith masquerading as a set of reasoned inferences.

Our legal system has been hijacked by this religion. On behalf of no other religion, can a lawsuit be filed, and expect to achieve such stellar success, upward through the judicial levels, all the way to the Supreme Court, where such lawsuits either emerge victorious or are allowed to stand. This happens nearly all the time. File a lawsuit friendly to any other religion, and if you can find a lawyer willing to take it, you should expect to see your case thrown out at the most rudimentary level. Especially if that suit can be inferred to be hostile to the religion of which I speak!

The religion of which I speak has already taken over the hallways of our academic institutions. What we now call “science” will analyze, hypothesize, test, and debate, come what may, offending whoever it must, respecting no sacred cows at all — as science should — until the time comes to potentially offend people who practice the religion of which I speak. Then, what we call “science” will come to an abrupt stop, and in so doing betray all of us. The problem is so bad, that our society has for several years now been practicing something called “science” that isn’t really science.

The religion of which I speak has already been placed at the head of several governments. This religion is more hostile to the concept of individual inalienable rights, than any other religion can be — and so, because of all the countries that have enshrined this religion in our recent history, millions of people have been killed. Perhaps as many as a hundred million men, women and children. If you’re sharp, you already know what religion I’m talking about.

I speak of atheism.

The Speech He Should Give

Monday, November 28th, 2005

The Speech He Should Give

James Q. Wilson, author of The Moral Sense (1977), puts together a speech President Bush could and should give about what’s going on in Iraq.

To summarize, it’s just a fraction of the endless litany of good things that have taken place there, placed into a template fitting the President’s usual speaking style.

We know now that some of our information about the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was wrong. But we also know now what we have always believed: That Saddam Hussein, who had already invaded both Iran and Kuwait, had the money, authority and determination to build up his stock of such weapons. When he did, he would have become the colossus of the Middle East, able to overwhelm other countries and rain rockets down on Israel.

We have created a balance of power in the Middle East in which no regime can easily threaten any other. In doing this, we and our allies have followed a long tradition: We worked to prevent Imperial Germany from dominating Europe in 1914, Hitler from doing the same in 1940, and the Soviet Union from doing this in 1945. Now we are doing it in the Middle East.

I have nothing to add to this, save for one thing. Documentation of these encouraging events, and many others, has been circulating around the “innernets” for years now; since shortly after the invasion in Spring 2003. This is seldom discussed, although the events are widely known. The alphabet-soup news networks which so regularly are accused of a politically-leftward tilt, who regularly fret over their eroding credibility, and who regularly get kicked in the ass by their own declining ratings as viewers desert them in droves — they could mitigate all of these problems by mentioning a handful of these things more prominently. To the best of my knowledge, very seldom does that happen.

The most bumptious among our anti-war people cite as the basis for their opposition, the mounting death toll among our brave troops. That toll is supposed to be a great concern to them, as is the mission to make it an overriding concern to the rest of us.

I call bullshit on this alleged concern. If the troops are dying for something, they are dying to make the things mentioned in Wilson’s column happen. An anti-war zealot who was concerned about the lives of these troops, would say “I don’t think freeing a nation the size of California from tyranny, capturing Saddam Hussein, giving Iraqis running water and electricity for the first time, free elections, a constitution (etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.) is worth the loss of life in our military” and then such a zealot would give reasons why his cost-benefit equation works out the way it does.

Such a zealot would give evidence that he’s taking these benefits into account, by listing them, and then actually taking them into account. They are, after all, the things for which our troops gave the ultimate sacrifice, whether that exchange was part of the original plan or not.

And the lives and welfare of those troops are supposed to be the objects of all this anti-war concern.

So, no. I don’t think the typical anti-war loudmouth gives a rat’s ass about the dead troops. I should add, of course, that every loudmouth is different. But the paucity of discussion that takes place, about benefits from this military action that are so numerous, is evidence of what I’ve been thinking all along.

Opposition to the war is all about a desired return to our status quo, where we indulge in overwhelming quantity and intensity of discourse about unimportant things. In recent history, that has meant two things: 1) wealthy old people with summer homes and Winnebagos lobbying for greater medical benefits, at the expense of thirty-something apartment rats struggling to make ends meet; and 2) special-interest organizations representing “minority” gender, ethnic and sexual-preference classes, lowering our national pain-threshold every two years so they can find something to complain and litigate about.

Body bags flying in to Dover AFB make it hard to get worked up about those. REAL hard. That is what they want to stop.

So our anti-war loudmouths are really pissed about those bags.

As a group, they generally don’t give a shit about who is IN that bag. You’ll notice they very seldom mention that person — and they mention even less often, the whole point of the noble sacrifice that put that person in there. Evidently, they have an argument that would weaken if they acknowledged anything positive coming from that sacrifice, whatsoever — nevermind that, being a signatory to that sacrifice, the person inside that bag presumably had strong feelings that it was a worthwhile trade.

Self Help

Thursday, November 24th, 2005

Self Help

I don’t have television, by choice, so what I know about TV comes from traveling and staying in hotels.

This will come as a shock to anyone who reads my blog and regards me as a sage on all human affairs, which of course nobody does. As far as human affairs that take place on the boob tube, I am precisely as well-informed as the timeless conceptual little green man from another planet who monitors our radio and TV signals.

Maybe the little green man if he somehow had access to Google.

Anyway, I couldn’t help noticing something.

The cable TV I have decided I don’t want in my home, is fairly jam-packed with self help programs. Morning, evening, late night. Commercials, infommercials, plugs for infommercials, movie rentals. Self help up the yin yang.

Roughly half of these programs have to do with identifying what you want in life, and going after it, no holds barred, refusing to take no for an answer, and getting in the face of anyone who gets in your way.

The other half has to do with something called “Dealing With Difficult People.”



Thursday, November 24th, 2005


Another “Mobile Blog Post” as I find myself on the road once again. This time I’m visiting family. Aren’t we all.

As we give thanks for what we have in our lives, can we all come to an agreement about the concept of “Thanks”. Like any other emotional sentiment, a Feeling of Thanks is useless until & unless it *culminates* in something — an action, or an inaction.

Let’s face it: If you have a functioning brain and a life to live, not a day goes by that you don’t feel happy, sad, angry, pleased, and grateful — maybe dozens of times. Most of these impulses come to nothing, and a scant few of them have an impact on what we do.

A successful Thanksgiving is one where your feelings of thanks have an impact on what you do.

So what do you do with this feeling of gratitude, once it’s been validated, an felt sincerely? This is an important question. This is America. We have it good — astonishingly good. Our “poor” people are obese, and have cable TV channels in the triple-digits.

In the final analysis, there are only two big possibilities: You can feel guilty, or you can start figuring out what’s going on, as a first step to making more of it happen. These are mutually exclusive. The abundance of our gifts, our commerce, our gadgets, our technology — it’s a glaring problem crying out for a solution, or it’s a manifestation of something going terribly right that calls out for propagation and multiplication. It’s fundamentally bad, or it’s fundamentally good.

There is no home for “moderates” on this question.

And those who wish to feel guilty, have a vexing conundrum to resolve: How *did* America go about getting all this wealth and abundance for which we’re supposed to feel grateful today?

If it is our desire to spread these gifts to people who don’t have them, it seems like a solid logical conclusion that answering this question is the first step.

Some will say we have this high standard of living because we stole it, somehow, from those who we notice don’t have it. Either we plundered these riches, actively, or we intercepted them passively. Either way, if you accept this premise, then the question I asked above becomes moot.

Except then, I would expect, you will not be joining in the celebration today. In which case I hope you’ll donate your turkey and canned goods to those in need.

You Go First

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2005

I just love activists. Their very name is inspiring. Activist…activist…activist! Someone who takes the initiative. Who sees what needs to be done and does it. Captain of his own destiny. Righter of wrongs! Defender of the defenseless! Punisher of the punishless!

A socially inept control-freak who’s come up with a great way to get laid. By foolish left-wing sluts.

Four decades and some change after social activism became fashionable, there is evidence here and there that, by failing to stand up for itself whenever activists twiddle with its switches and knobs and rabbit-ears, society may be doing the activists more harm than the activists can be doing to it. The harm that is done to the activist, has to do with a gradual unmooring from reality. This is dangerous. Someday, the activist will have to move out of his mom’s apartment, and reality will become a bigger part of his life. His ability to reconcile with that reality, therefore, will become more important.

More important than what?

More important than it currently is to whoever wrote this e-mail to the Hagerstown, MD Herald-Mall, said e-mail appearing to take responsibility for a potentially deadly act of incendiary vandalism:

Last night we, the Earth Liberation Front, put the torch to a development of Ryan Homes in Hagerstown, Maryland (off of Route 40, behind the Wal-Mart). We did so to strike at the bottom line of this country’s most notorious serial land rapist.

We warn all developers that the people of the Earth are prepared to defend what remains of the wild and the green.

We encourage all who watch with sadness while developers sell out the future of us and our children to join us in resisting them in any and every possible way.

The Ents are going to war.

I found this to be particularly interesting where it says We warn all developers that the people of the Earth are prepared to defend what remains of the wild and the green. They took a poll?

Can people of all ideological stripes, agree on this: Activists, by and large, have an unfortunate tendency to remain oblivious to the negative consequences involved in the causes they establish, sustain and for which they recruit.

Could we therefore lend our support to the following proposal: We will find a way to allow the activists to continue with their causes, and with freedom of speech, but we will also find a way to guarantee the activists are the first among those who have to live with the consequences of what they want done. ELF, here, should live in an urban “ant farm” where housing is rare, rents have skyrocketed, homelessness is rampant, but thank goodness there are no town homes. And we will find ways to further this goal throughout all brands of activist zealotry, regardless of how pleasing those activist movements may be to whoever.

Activism, by nature, exists to tell everybody how an elite class of people has decided they all should live, and if they don’t want to live that way, well that’s just tough. It is coercion. Activism is the antithesis of democracy. It is a policy of “You Do This.” We could call my policy the “You Go First” policy.

Gun-grabbing activists get to live in a place where burglars burgle wherever they want, because they know nobody has a gun. Anti-death-penalty activists get to live in a place where murderers walk the streets, secure in the knowledge they’ll never be executed. Anti-capitalists get to live in a place where money is nonexistent, and anyplace you can get a bite to eat, looks like your elementary school cafeteria where you wait in line endlessly to get a big scoop of colorless glop.

That would be fair.

Man, I am rambling. Need to get coffee.

What Are We Arguing About?

Friday, November 18th, 2005

What Are We Arguing About?

Charles Krauthammer’s article flatly states that Intelligent Design is full of crap. Actually, what he’s saying is something I’ve been saying all along, that we’re making a mistake in assuming different theories logically have to be mutually exclusive from one another, when they don’t.

Newton’s religiosity was traditional. He was a staunch believer in Christianity and member of the Church of England. Einstein’s was a more diffuse belief in a deity who set the rules for everything that occurs in the universe.

Neither saw science as an enemy of religion. On the contrary. “He believed he was doing God’s work,” wrote James Gleick in his recent biography of Newton. Einstein saw his entire vocation – understanding the workings of the universe – as an attempt to understand the mind of God.

Krauthammer belongs to the “It Isn’t Science” crowd, those who insist that, being untestable, Intelligent Design cannot be a legitimate scientific pursuit. I’ve been reluctant to sign on to that, because if I were to do so then I’d have to support banishing the following from science:

  • The noise made by a Tyrannosaurus Rex;
  • The idea that a black hole in our universe leads to a white hole in another;
  • Extraterrestrial life forms;
  • The notion that time is made of particles, equal to or lesser than one unit of Planck Time;
  • All questions of history that evidence has left unanswered, such as for example, did Henry II deliberately order the assassination of Thomas a Becket?
  • Krauthammer has inferred that Intelligent Design proponents — all of them? most of them? some of them? I don’t know! — are pushing the theory of the constantly-intervening God. Sorry, Chuck. I find it to be dishonest to link “you have opposable thumbs because Someone designed you that way” to “when you put your right leg into your pants first this morning, it’s because God decided that six thousand years ago.”

    It pains me to say this, but Krauthammer has blundered significantly in the arena of clean, organized, critical thinking, which is where he has been known to contribute the most in confounding disagreements like these. The delta between those two assertions he has welded together is not only significant, but it cuts to the quick of religio-scientific principles upon which this republic was founded. When atheists protest against “In God We Trust” being inscribed on our money, they are frequently heard to assert “The Founding Fathers were not Christians, they were Deists!” Little do the most passionate among them realize, that the most accepted definition of Deism is the proposition that the world was created by a non-intervening God.

    That a Supreme Being is responsible for creating us, but not for intervening with our day-to-day operations, is absolutely critical to acceptance of the twin assertions that 1) we “are endowed by [our] Creator with certain unalienable Rights”; and 2) it is our “Right, it is [our] Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for [our] future Security.”

    Which is to say, we may very well have grown here through a process unguided by any intelligent force, but if that is proven (or accepted) to be the case, then the document I have quoted has been made utterly groundless; and similarly, if we were put here by an intervening Higher Power, that decides for us if we are to part our hair on the right or the left, then it isn’t up to us to do anything at all — let alone overthrow our government — and the document is again made utterly groundless.

    Krauthammer is effectively stating that a Higher Power that put us here, by definition, is a Higher Power that, as he puts it, “steps into this world of constant and accumulating change and says, ‘I think I’ll make me a lemur today.'” How can these be synonymous? He’s trying to make the argument that science and religion aren’t enemies. One of the most potent suppositions for supporting that, is the concept of a non-interfering Higher Power that uses evolution as a tool, which is put in motion and then left alone. Much like the little old lady and the tomato seeds.

    I’m afraid Charles Krauthammer has lost track of what we’re arguing about. But haven’t we all? Find me a thousand loudmouth idealogues extolling their opinions of Intelligent Design, on one side or the other, and I can find large numbers therein of folks who will sign on to many, a whole bunch of, or most, of the following perceptions of the disagreement:

    1. Proponents of Intelligent Design assert that the Judeo-Christian God created everything, opponents assert this is not so.
    2. Proponents of Intelligent Design assert that some Higher Power created everything, opponents assert this is not so.
    3. Proponents of Intelligent Design assert that some Higher Power created everything and is watching over it all now, opponents assert this is not so.
    4. Proponents of Intelligent Design assert that the complexity of nature proves that some Higher Power created everything, opponents assert it does not.
    5. Proponents of Intelligent Design assert that the complexity of nature surpasses what can be explained by evolutionary theory, opponents assert this is not so.
    6. Opponents of Intelligent Design assert that evolution is a fact, not a theory, and proponents assert that it is a theory, not a fact.
    7. Opponents of Intelligent Design assert that they can explain everything in nature with the theory of evolution, without the intervention of any designing agent, proponents assert this is not so.
    8. Proponents of Intelligent Design assert that the earth is not much older than six thousand years, and opponents assert this is not so.
    9. Proponents of Intelligent Design assert that man shared the earth with dinosaurs, even using them as beasts of burden like Fred Flintstone, and opponents assert this is not so.
    10. Opponents of Intelligent Design assert that it is a violation of the Establishment Clause to teach Intelligent Design in the classroom, and proponents assert this is not so.
    11. Opponents of Intelligent Design assert that it is outside the realm of science to even consider Intelligent Design, and proponents assert this is not so.
    12. Opponents of Intelligent Design assert #11 because Intelligent Design is “untestable.”
    13. Opponents of Intelligent Design assert #11 because it might prove there is a God, and religion is an enemy of science.
    14. Opponents of Intelligent Design stand guilty of telling everybody else what to think, about something that is unprovable.
    15. Proponents of Intelligent Design stand guilty of telling everybody else what to think, about something that is unprovable.
    16. #14 and #15.
    17. Proponents of Intelligent Design assert that evolution is a canard, and all species were created in the form we observe them today, opponents assert this is not so.
    18. Proponents of Intelligent Design assert that evolution is at work only with non-human animals, that man was created in the form we observe him today, opponents assert this is not so.
    19. Proponents of Intelligent Design assert that evolution had a hand in creating all animals, including humans, but that a Higher Power is also at work in nature, opponents assert this is not so.
    20. Proponents of Intelligent Design assert that nothing in the evolutionary theory can ever be proven, opponents assert some things can be.
    21. Proponents of Intelligent Design assert that some things in the evolutionary theory can be proven, and some things can’t, opponents assert all things can be.
    22. Proponents of Intelligent Design assert that Intelligent Design can be proven, opponents assert that while it’s conceptually possible, it can’t be proven.
    23. Proponents of Intelligent Design have a hidden agenda to inject Judeo-Christian religion into public schools.
    24. Opponents of Intelligent Design have a hidden agenda to enshrine Atheism as the state-sanctioned religion.
    25. Proponents of Intelligent Design do not assert Intelligent Design itself, quite so much as desire discussion about Intelligent Design.
    26. Opponents of Intelligent Design do not dispute Intelligent Design itself, quite so much as desire to muzzle any discussion about Intelligent Design.
    27. Proponents of Intelligent Design desire to muzzle any discussion about Natural Selection, since religion is an enemy of science.
    28. Opponents of Intelligent Design assert that students should not be taught Intelligent Design if their parents don’t want them to be taught that.
    29. Proponents of Intelligent Design assert that students should not be taught the Theory of Evolution if their parents don’t want them to be taught that.

    So here’s my point: Isn’t it a rather abundant waste of energy, to start proselytizing one’s own point of view, or to insult and denigrate others, without first arriving at some agreement of what we’re arguing about?

    Imitation is the Sincerest Form IV

    Friday, November 18th, 2005

    Imitation is the Sincerest Form IV

    While staying in New York on Monday, I made some observations about Norman Podhoretz’s column that appeared that morning in the Wall Street Journal. Mr. Podhoretz himself didn’t say as much, but I was noticing that his article was on the “hard” side. That is to say, his article fell woefully short on the “this is what I am instructing you to think about x” stuff, and ran kind of long on “This is Exhibit A, this is Exhibit B, this is Exhibit C, etc.” I was making the point that there’s a certain asymmetry to the exchange of facts vs. opinions in the debate about Should The United States Be In Iraq. The “Yes, we should” side can use facts and opinions, whereas the “No, we shouldn’t” side can only use opinions:

    What if you wanted to smear President Bush’s decision to invoke military action against the old Iraq regime, and you shied away from incendiary speculation, treading only upon established, indisputable fact?

    Let us give it a try:

    “This administration led us into a war, based mostly (not entirely) on Iraq’s continuing efforts to acquire (not possession of) weapons of mass destruction, which, once we took control of that country, it turned out at that particular moment not to have any.”

    Doesn’t have the same punch as “He LIED!!!” now, does it?

    Kind of leaves something out when the next sentence is “so let’s impeach him!”, doesn’t it?

    This says something. In the inflammatory debate we’re having now, one side can afford to stick to established, indisputable facts, whereas through this exercise the other side would be utterly devastated, losing the bulk of its shock value, persuasive power and emotional punch.

    I don’t know if White House counselor Dan Bartlett reads my blog. I would expect hardly anybody does. But how then do you explain this gem which appeared in the Washington Post yesterday morning.

    “What bothers me is when people are irresponsibly using their positions and playing politics,” [President George W.] Bush added. “That’s exactly what is taking place in America.”

    [Vice President Dick] Cheney’s speech was part of a GOP effort to push back against criticism on Iraq that presidential counselor Dan Bartlett said will continue.

    Traveling with Bush, Bartlett said: “There’s a bright line there that the Democrats have crossed. They have no facts on their side.”

    I’ve been robbed, but I’m not calling the police. I’m quite flattered.

    More Timely Than It Looks

    Tuesday, November 15th, 2005

    More Timely Than It Looks

    This is a lot more timely than it looks, which doesn’t say much because it doesn’t look timely at all. It looks like a rehash. What it is, is a recital of the facts about how the United States got into the war in Iraq. And it’s a little on the long side, so why chew over it again?

    To answer that, we have to get into, once again, the difference between an established, undisputed fact, and a reasoned but debatable opinion. The noisiest people who “debate” things in our society today, think they know the difference between the two. Very few of them do.

    This article sticks to facts. And it does have an agenda of supporting President Bush. Some people have an agenda of attacking the President; those people don’t stick to facts, because they can’t.

    Think about THAT for a minute or two. What if you wanted to smear President Bush’s decision to invoke military action against the old Iraq regime, and you shied away from incendiary speculation, treading only upon established, indisputable fact?

    Let us give it a try:

    “This administration led us into a war, based mostly (not entirely) on Iraq’s continuing efforts to acquire (not possession of) weapons of mass destruction, which, once we took control of that country, it turned out at that particular moment not to have any.”

    Doesn’t have the same punch as “He LIED!!!” now, does it?

    Kind of leaves something out when the next sentence is “so let’s impeach him!”, doesn’t it?

    This says something. In the inflammatory debate we’re having now, one side can afford to stick to established, indisputable facts, whereas through this exercise the other side would be utterly devastated, losing the bulk of its shock value, persuasive power and emotional punch.

    Read up, folks; this is re-emerging, again, as a heady and current topic of controversy. Congress is stepping up the pressure for withdrawal, and Democrats therein are asserting there have been shenanigans going on in selling this war. The President is fighting back, accusing his critics of rewriting history and sending mixed signals to the troops and to the terrorists. Neither side is backing off.

    “Fact” means something is beyond the realm of dispute, or at least should be, unless someone is speaking out of ignorance and/or a deliberate effort to deceive. Yet the facts are what are in dispute.

    So regardless of your opinion — and you’re keeping in mind what an opinion is, right? — if you want to corner that obnoxious neighbor or co-worker with a different opinion at the next cocktail party, you’d be well advised to read up. In executing the ambush without first brushing up on recent history, even if you think you have a command of what’s been happening here, you risk making a “Hugh Jass” out of yourself.

    And my recommendation is that if you find Mr. Podhoretz’s litany a little too long to merit this expenditure of your time, keep your mouth shut. Because you’re the kind of person who should. That’s *my* opinion.

    Veteran’s Day

    Friday, November 11th, 2005

    Veteran’s Day

    Nobody ever reads this blog, but among those who happen to trip across it, consider this. If you’re part of the great crushing mass of independent thinkers who oppose the War on Terror in general, and/or the War in Iraq in particular, because you have been flabbergasted, flummoxed, overwhelmed and just plain knocked-flat-on-your-ass by the incredible personal sacrifices made by our troops who serve overseas, thank a vet today.

    Some other time, we’ll pick up the debate about whether logical sincerity has been betrayed, or is being adequately serviced, by the hair-splitting exercise of “supporting the troops while opposing their mission.” We have time to do that, tomorrow, next week, next year, thanks to those folks. For today, we can agree that regardless of how that debate turns out, these people deserve thanks. Drafted or not, wounded or not, having-seen-combat or not.

    For The Anti-Death-Penalty Types IV

    Thursday, November 10th, 2005

    For The Anti-Death-Penalty Types IV

    I’m glad this girl has lived, so far, and I’m glad that she appears to have been somewhat pretty. I’ve noticed those among us who oppose the death penalty, do so out of concern that “civil liberties” be accorded to “the least among us” and respected once they are so accorded. As if, when you make sure some malt-liquor-gulping, woman-beating, puppy-kicking piece of scum can enjoy his constitutional rights, you’ve somehow ensured we all can, and every man, woman and child from sea to shining sea can rest easy. Or that, if you defend the right of a very wealthy corporate executive to keep his money, you have defended that man alone; in the fight to defend freedom for everybody else, this was just a waste of time.

    Ah, except people who think that way have an unfortunate tendency to be excited into passion, action, or noisemaking only when pretty girls are abducted, beaten, raped or murdered. So maybe what happened to this poor girl, will cause our anti-death-penalty types to re-think a thing or three.

    Her name is Lauren Huxley. She’s 18, and remains unconscious in critical condition after having been beaten, tied up, doused with fuel and set on fire at her home.

    Lauren Huxley’s parents and sister Simone today pleaded for information about what they say is an “inexplicable” attack on the teenager.

    “We have no idea who did this to her and we have even less idea as to why anyone would do this,” her mother Christine Huxley said.

    “She’s turning 19 on Christmas Eve. She is the most beautiful girl, so innocent and she’s never confrontational, we are at a complete loss as to why anyone would hurt her.”

    I recognize that phrases like sick twisted fucks incorporates strong language that is not fit for a diverse and uncontrolled Internet audience. But there is no phraseology suitable for mixed company, that can adequately describe what is happening here. Some people are born with the wrong wrinkles in their brains to safely exist alongside the innocent, who in turn have a God-given right to be protected. That’s not a logical leap at all, nor is the supposition that whoever did these terrible things to this poor girl, has that wrinkle.

    Killing is wrong, you say, even when you kill someone for having killed? Yeah, sure. I’d like to see you say that, after someone close to you suffers a horrible attack like this, and then, God forbid, expires from it. Letting people like this live, is really no different from letting them go. And letting them go, is condemning yet more innocent people to burn to death in puddles of flaming gasoline.

    Who is really in favor of that? I would hope nobody. Okay then, you people suffer from delusions. That doesn’t make you bad people, but I see no reason why the innocent have to keep suffering because of your delusions.

    Update (11-11-05): For whatever it is worth, thanks to the superior writing in this article, it is seems established that Ms. Huxley is not a burn victim.

    Lauren Huxley, 18, was found by fire-fighters when they were called to a blaze at her Northmead home, in Sydney’s west, about 4.30pm (AEST) on Wednesday.

    They found her tied up and unconscious, with serious injuries and covered in petrol.

    Ms Huxley was last seen getting off a bus, from Baulkham Hills TAFE, just around the corner from her home about 2pm on Wednesday.

    Police, who are treating the attack as an attempted murder, said it was thanks to the rapid response by fire-fighters that the blaze had not spread to the garage and to Ms Huxley on the floor.

    This has no bearing whatsoever on the viciousness of the attack, certainly not on the intent of the individual or individuals responsible for it. They were sick twisted fucks yesterday, they’re sick twisted fucks today, and they possess vital organs that could be put to good use in much more worthwhile individuals.

    The Fifth Division

    Thursday, November 10th, 2005

    The Fifth Division

    Last month I had offered my thoughts about the one-dimensional blue-state/red-state spectrum, and my opinion that it was inadequate for describing the issues that are really dividing America right now. Believing, still, that we have disagreements about principles in this country, not about whether George W. Bush is a big doo-doo head, I further offered my encapsulation of what these principles are. I came up with five, four of which I listed, the last one of which I kept under wraps with the promise I’d discuss it later. This fifth division amongst us, I said, is more important than the other four.

    The fifth division is Abiding By The Contract: Should individuals in our society be bound by it, or not?

    Let’s review what The Contract is.

    1. You perform services and make X money;
    2. You demand services of others and compensate them with Y;
    3. You get to keep Z, which is the difference between X and Y;
    4. If you want Z to be bigger, you provide more to others or demand less from others;
    5. If Z is less than 0, you must diminish your savings, or else cede your personal decisions to other people because they are no longer entirely yours to make.

    This is a gross oversimplification, because today we have all kinds of things in America that help to corrupt this contract. Taxes represent one corrupting factor; social safety nets represent another. In divining one’s political philosophies, it is a far more accurate technique to keep in mind The Contract, than to simply listen to the philosophies word-for-word. For example, a social program exists to keep people of modest means out of trouble. But we have a lot of people of modest means who get into trouble because of tax issues. So it makes little or no sense that the people who want a more robust social safety net, are the same people who like to make taxes more punitive. That is, until you keep in mind The Contract. These people simply don’t like it. They want it to be corrupted.

    This is proven by the abundance of very wealthy individuals who favor more confiscatory taxes, and brag about this position in spite of their comfortable position in life — and by the paucity of these individuals who then brag about paying surplus taxes. Very few people say “The IRS didn’t charge me enough, so I cut a bigger check and that’s the end of the issue until next year as far as I’m concerned.” These people never seem to want to do that. They want everybody else along for the ride. If Bob is rich and Bob doesn’t think he’s been charged enough, and he simply leaves a “tip” to the treasury, The Contract remains relatively uncorrupted. The impact of this decision is felt only by the public treasury, and Bob. It can even stay a confidential transaction, in addition to being a private one, if Bob so chooses. Well, I can’t help but notice, there are no Bobs, none that speak up anyway.

    So very, very few people who proselytize for higher taxes, really give a rat’s ass about a solvent treasury. That’s not the issue for them. The issue is The Contract under which we all live.

    There are a lot of people on the other side of the wealth spectrum who don’t like The Contract. These people are weary of living a life in which Z consistently turns out to be close to, or below, zero. They’re tired of it, and who can blame them? But I’ve learned these poor people who are ready to eradicate The Contract, have their own Code of Honor: They wince, uncomfortably, when the cost for some vital service is high — but when a business opportunity comes their way, and a prospective patron offers to pay them an unexpectedly high wage, they still wince uncomfortably. So the opportunity comes their way to change Z, and they pass it up. They don’t want to pay big money out, and they don’t want to take it in either. They simply don’t want to deal with money. It makes them uncomfortable.

    Now, a lot of these people work very hard, and — far from wanting to rip people off by making demands for services and not paying for them — they simply want to be spared uncertainties in life. This is a natural development from working long hours for a prolonged period of time, and having nothing to show for it. Once the spirit of Achievement Through Excellence has been fully driven from you, it’s easy to fall prey to mediocrity: Fine, I’ll punch my time clock and work my ass off. Just spare me, after my fifteen hour shift is over, from this desk with the stack of bills on it. I’m not in the mood. Every two weeks I take in seven hundred dollars and pay out eight hundred. I get it already, one number’s bigger than the other. Call me a failure, call me what you will, I’m tired of the same ol’ math problem, sick of sweating over it. Just let me do my hard work, make that phone stop ringing, and I’ll forget about Doing Something Truly Great. And by that I mean, ever.

    I don’t agree with that personal decision, but I certainly understand it, and I have to question if we who abide by The Contract have the right to compel others to do the same.

    Maybe the solution is to go ahead with the Two Americas, one blue, one red. America has historically been at its greatest, when it has found ways to let individuals live their lives in the way those individuals choose to live. Let’s go ahead and draw the line, but draw it first & foremost along a question regarding this Contract.

    Do you want to live by it, or not? Let’s cut the crap.

    And then those who want to opt-out of the Contract, can have whatever government they want. Make it look like France. Hell, make it look like Star Trek and get rid of all the money. Free chocolate sundaes on demand, work whatever hours you want, three hots and a cot, and nobody can have a gun, or a bigger house, better education, faster connection to the innernets.

    After all, there’s only one political ideology that is truly economically dangerous to everyone, and it’s Thing I Know #4:

    4. Most of us want to be capitalists on payday, and Marxists on the day before.

    In a society where people strive for excellence based on the net of what they do, you can’t have people demanding things for free — and in a society where everybody is guaranteed the same amount & quality of stuff, you can’t have people striving for personal excellence. These are things that don’t mix.

    I think that’s where America has been going wrong. We keep trying to mix it up, to create some successful “hybrid.” We do this so that we can all live together in harmony. Meanwhile, it is written nowhere that such a hybrid is possible, or even that we as a species were meant to all live together. We are, as we’ve demonstrated repeatedly, a tribal species. Maybe the time has come to form a tribal society.

    Super Duper UN Man

    Wednesday, November 9th, 2005

    Super Duper UN Man

    It pays to stop by once in awhile and visit FlashBunny. Like for example, if I didn’t check it out today, I never would have found out about Super UN Man.

    No comment from me needed here, you can form your own opinion.

    Summit II

    Wednesday, November 9th, 2005

    Summit II

    Well folks, it’s looking more and more like I was right when I said things were cresting out and we were due for a downfall. People are definitely getting stupider. Eight propositions were up for voter approval in the special election yesterday, and all eight of them bit the mat hard.

    We hate things the way they are, but we love them the way they are.

    Meanwhile, some guy has posted a thesis about why libertarians are idiots. I know it’s just some random page on the vast innernets, but I know he represents a lot of people. His argument is this: First, he wants to single out the extremists who actually want a small government, “if you voted against Bush, we can probably get along just fine”. Okay, so if you’re a reasonable guy you should want a BIGGER government than George W. Bush wants. Wow.

    And why should we want this? What’s wrong with the people who don’t? “It’s hard to read libertarians without concluding that they’ve never been out of the country — perhaps never out of the suburbs”.

    They don’t know what Latin American rule by the elite looks like; they don’t know any way of running an industrial economy but that of the US; they don’t know what an actually oppressive government looks like; they’ve never experienced a depression; they’ve never lived in a slum or experienced racial discrimination. At the same time, they have a very American sense of entitlement: a gut feeling that they’ve earned the prosperity they were born into, that they owe the community nothing, that they deserve to have whatever they want, that no one should stand in their way.

    In short, they’re spoiled, and they’ve evolved a philosophy that they should be spoiled.

    Wow. Just wow, wow, double-wow.

    I don’t mean to diminish this guy’s message. After the his-own-buttocks buffet Governor Schwarzenegger was handed this morning, it’s clear this hater of individuality is far more numerically significant, today, than I am, and his opinion is important. True, his argument is pure sophistry. There are people who passionately agree with him, who are disgracefully cloistered in by tiny neighborhoods they’ve never left, and there is a demonstrable link between the cloistering and the passion. True, there are enthusiastic libertarians who have lived under “rule by the elite” and this oppressive existence has fomented their libertarianism; Ayn Rand, herself, comes to mind. And true, those two examples by themselves devastate his blatant generalization intellectually. But as far as charting a course as to where California goes from here, as well as the nation, I think he’s far more important than I am.

    The public is in the mood for a little bit of hammer-and-sickle redistributionism.

    Note how well the article is written. This guy is no dummy, and I think he’s being sincere. So we have a social environment wherein a fairly sharp mind can be convinced that libertarians are spoiled and dull-witted, and redistributionists are sophisticated and by-and-large enjoy a broader world view.

    These people think our society will end up more prosperous if, whenever individuals become prosperous, they are compelled by the law to separate themselves from that prosperity and give it to people who think work is for suckers, so that everyone can share. Then, we should expect, next year those prosperous people will work just as hard to be prosperous.

    Yeah, that makes perfect sense to me. I know reading this kind of stuff just fills me with enthusiasm to fill out the job applications and get that better education so I can beef up that salary. All those people on welfare depending on me, as they say.


    Sorry, I’m just not in that cheerful of a mood this morning.

    Revenge of the Euro-Pansy America-Hating Douchebags

    Tuesday, November 8th, 2005

    Revenge of the Euro-Pansy America-Hating Douchebags

    Revenge of the Sith showed up finally, Saturday. Maybe I’m biased here, but I can’t find anything really positive to say about this marketing technique. I pre-order the movie, and my reward is that I get it on November 5th or so, while the Soccer Mom/Redneck Wal-Mart shopper gets to waltz in and pick it up on the 1st. My reward for all this advance planning is paying $14.86 instead of $19.99, a savings which is promptly eaten up by the shipping costs. Eh, some things it makes sense to by on the innernets, some things it don’t. But I digress.

    Shortly before this final Star Wars installment came out there was this buzz going around that it was a Bush-bashing movie. This is based mostly on a line used by Anakin Skywalker, shortly after he turns to the Dark Side. Uh oh, I just ruined it for you if you haven’t seen it, huh. Anyway. He says something to his former mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi, “If you are not with me, then you are my enemy.” Kenobi is supposed to further cement this relic of my childhood memories into the Fahrenheit 9/11 genre with the reply “Only a Sith deals in absolutes.” There ya go, further proof that George Bush sucks. He lied to get us into a war that took 2,000 American lives, he smirks, he swaggers, he’s an evil genius who took over the country, he’s a raging imbecile, and he’s a Sith Lord.

    Well, this whole outlook on the final Star Wars chapter has been bugging me every time I watch that part of the movie because from where I sit, there are quite a few lines that come swinging back around the other way. I will not go so far as to say it is a pro-Bush movie, only that I see a mixed set of messages. A lopsided mix of messages. There is a whole mess of one-liners, character setups, and plot developments that appear to be 1) artificially inserted for no other purpose than supporting the War on Terror, or 2) created for the support of a storyline that, intentionally or not, supports the War on Terror. I was going to write up a list, but someone else beat me to it.

    The example that I think is most important comes first, but this author does not put quite as much weight on it as I think it deserves:

    In the film, Anakin states something to the effect that the difference between a Sith and a Jedi is that the Sith are emotional and turn inward and are selfish in the Force, while Jedi are ruled by logic turn outward and are selfless. Being selfish and emotional are the literal hallmarks of contemporary liberalism. It�s all about how you feel, doing what you feel is right. There are no moral absolutes. At one point Obi tells Anakin that Palpatine is evil, and Anakin responds that he believes the Jedi are evil. Obi believes in absolute moral evil, whereas Anakin takes the liberal position that “one man�s terrorist is another man�s freedom fighter.”

    Here’s the dialog in question as I lift it from the DVD, in the middle of Anakin and Obi-Wan’s ferocious duel. See if you’re reminded of one side or the other in this whole Iraq debate, as the two actors speak:

    Anakin, at 1:58:23: “I should’ve known the Jedi were planning to take over.”

    Obi-Wan (exasperated): “Anakin, Chancellor Palpatine is evil!”

    Anakin: “From my point of view, the Jedi are evil!”

    Obi-Wan: “Well, then you are lost!”

    (The two contestants glower at each other for ten or twenty seconds or so)

    Anakin: “This is the end for you, my master.”

    Now really, let’s take a couple steps backward and look at what you have going on here. You have this punk kid who is abundant in his power and potential but unwise in the ways of the world/galaxy, completely lacking in perspective, who is ruled by his emotions. He’s sold out his “country” and is pulling this opinion pretty much out of his ass that the “Jedi were planning to take over.” His incredulous, wiser elder, with this What in the blue fuck is the matter with you tone uses exactly the same argument the Republicans are using, that this guy offscreen is just plain evil — he just plain is! — and what is the matter with you that you can’t see it?

    And Anakin’s Euro-pansy douchebag response is the classic John Kerry nuance philosophy of (as the Right Thinking blogger points out) there are no absolutes, it all depends on your point of view. The guy who possesses a better sense of perspective about what’s going on, realizes (“then you are lost!”) that he’s having a futile conversation with someone who isn’t listening to reason, and seems to come to a mutual agreement with his former apprentice that the political debate is over.

    The young “lost” guy then prognosticates that the Good Guy’s demise is close at hand — very much like the mainstream media and liberal bloggers are predicting, nowadays, that the White House is about to collapse (“Is it on its final days? Is Scooter Libby’s indictment the beginning of the end?”).

    I suppose there is a certain symmetry to all this, at least on the surface, and that for every snippet of this movie that seems to cheer on the Republicans there’s another one designed to appeal to the MoveOn.Org crowd. And vice-versa. But this particular line of dialog is critically important to the entire six-chapter saga. All the way forward (backward) in Return of the Jedi, in a line that is clearly supposed to show the audience What It’s All About, the ghost of Obi-Wan Kenobi chastises Anakin’s son Luke that “You’re going to find that a great many of the truths we cling to, depend greatly on our point of view.”

    And indeed the Ghost of Kenobi is right about that. But he, and by extension George Lucas, is emphatically stating that all points of view are not equally valid. It’s not a game with a monkey and a spinning dartboard; if this, somehow, is inconsistent with the intended message of Star Wars, then Lucas and crew have quite by accident made an insightful and prescient comment about life. You are individually responsible for the points of view that you hold, and whether these lead you to the Good Side of the Force, or to the Dark Side. It is, as the saying goes, Your Desssssstiny. Point-of-View and Destiny are inextricably linked.

    And if your “point of view” makes it easy to swivel the roles of good & evil, back, forward, and backward again, this Lazy-Susan spinning-around is a harbinger of a destiny that ultimately won’t have a lot of appeal to you. And no, outside of the movies it doesn’t get you a glossy, scary helment or a spiffy-looking suit.

    Update: I was thinking about this before, and forgot about it, and then after I wrote what you read above I had this flashback. I was thinking about one scene that had a huge impression on me the moment I first saw the film in the theater, and the Right Thinking author completely missed this. At 1:13:20 there is the “Fork in the Road” for the entire friggin’ movie, which means, the whole Star Wars story. Mace Windu and Chancellor Palpatine duke it out right in front of Anakin, the three major characters arranged neatly into a simple triumvirate of Good, Bad and guy-who-has-to-make-tough-choice. Palpatine and Windu start zapping each other with force lightning, and simultaneously, have a political argument in front of Anakin. That’s gotta be tough to do while you’re being zapped, although admittedly the exchange doesn’t approach William Buckley heights of sophistication:

    Palpatine (zapping Windu): “He’s a traitor!”

    Mace Windu (absorbing and reflecting the zaps back): “He’s the traitor, Aaiiigggh!!”

    Palpatine (face getting distorted by his own lightning): “I have the power to save the one you love!” (His plosives become distorted as his lips lose shape) “You must choose…ugh!”

    Holy Crap. The social commentary is burning through this so incandescently you’d have to be blind to miss it.

    If Anakin enjoys the luxury of a studious examination of what is good and what is evil, he will side with Mace Windu and the forces of good. Cornered, Palpatine turns everything around simply by denying Anakin that luxury: I have the power to save the one you love. He knows that once this factor is introduced, Anakin will cease to care about anything else.

    As he changes tactics, from “He’s the bad guy” to “I can save the one you love,” the distortion of his features takes place right then and there — a reflection of how truly insidious this brand of demagoguery is.

    Forget about terrorists. Vote for us, or those Republicans will have your grandma choosing between her meds and her next can of dog food.

    You know why there are so many people who were bitterly disappointed in Star Wars I and II, and were all set to trash this movie, instead having to grudgingly admit it was, at least, the best of the three? It wasn’t that Yoda had a bigger role or that Jar Jar had a smaller one. It was because this movie had the best drama. We were supposed to identify with Anakin, especially with his flaws, and we did. Deep down, we all have what it takes to become embroiled in a battle between right and wrong, and abandon the Good Fight once we see that the side of “wrong” has some perceived power, however delusive that may be, to save the ones we love.

    We have the capacity to care about what’s good, and then forsake the pursuit of good, even align ourselves with what we know to be evil — out of love. It is a flaw of compassion that burdens nearly all of us. If half of us enjoyed immunity from this, the drama would be no good. But in real life, half of us fall prey to favoring love and compassion, over our innate and God-given recognition of good and evil, while nearly all of us have the capacity to do so.

    So we can all relate. That’s what good drama is. Beats the snot out of watching some stalk-eyed soprano amphibian prattle on about “Meesa People Gonna Die?” and “How Wude!”

    My Wine Club

    Tuesday, November 8th, 2005

    My Wine Club

    Sometime in June I had some company over and we finished off a bottle of white wine I had in my rack. It was such a unique delight I had to snap a picture of the bottle before throwing it out. That’s probably not the right way to do things, because these fancy-schmancy vintners like to use all that uppity artistic writing and junk on their labels, I knew at the time I should be making an effort to write things down. So I had to do some Googling before I went shopping. Here is the link.

    Ask The L-Words

    Friday, November 4th, 2005

    Ask The L-Words

    Leonard Pitts, writing a column that appeared in my local Sacramento Bee newspaper, supplies a question which defines a true social conundrum for the times in which we live (link requires registration). He appears to want an answer, although he has the beginnings of a hint he would like to offer. Describing “an otherwise anonymous fellow who used to rant on our voice mails,” he expounds further:*

    I was awed by the guy’s ability to cast absolutely any topic in terms of liberal inferiority. “Naturally, you liberals support the infield fly rule,” he would rasp. Or, “Only you liberals would choose paper over plastic.” I exaggerate less than you think I do…”liberal” is the catchall explanation for Everything Wrong, one-size-fits-all terminology for Those Who Disagree…we use the L-word the way we use all words of opprobrium and scorn. As if, having said this, you need say nothing else.

    Which must be convenient, but convenient is not a synonym for right. So I wish some of us would stop pretending that shouting “liberal” is a way to explain reasoning.

    Okay, Mr. Pitts writes very clearly, so it should be easy for me to figure out the message here. He seeks to know why the “L-Word” is perceived by many among those who use it, as an adequate substitute for a persuasive argument as to why something is wrong. Plainly, the lecture behind his musings is that we should stop doing it. In effect, he’s arguing that at a time when Americans identify themselves as conservatives much more often than as liberals, we should indemnify the word “Liberal” from any sense of shame that permeates it within the community it describes. Put more concisely, he has tasked us to elevate the esteem of the “L-word” above what it earns from those who associate with it. And if it’s not too much more to ask, kindly explain how you came to regard this as such a dirty word.

    My response to Mr. Pitts, is, don’t ask me. Ask the L-Words. They are the ones who are afraid to carry the label, even as they enthusiastically seek to proselytize the ideas behind it.

    There is even some justification for gratuitously and derogatorily attaching the label to disfavored ideas, without waiting for endorsement from the opposing side. I will not go so far as to delineate the plastic-versus-paper argument alongside a liberal/conservative fracture; I’m unsure how your caller came to glean that from our national discourse, and confess myself ill-equipped for trying to figure it out.

    But I can advise you that “liberal” has earned itself a certain disrespect by becoming a brand-name of sorts, rather than any set of guiding principles.

    For example, if you were to tell me someone I’ve not yet met believes in a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy, I think you will agree I can predict with virtual certainty, this person does not believe we should have a military presence in Iraq. I can make book on this, offering three-to-one odds, or even higher. If you tell me this stranger is opposed to spousal- and parental-notification laws, and is in favor of partial-birth procedures, we can probably agree it’s a virtual certainty this person thinks “Saddam Hussein was not dangerous.”

    The funny thing is this: To believe, against the evidence, against what our leaders on both sides of the political spectrum have been telling us about Hussein since the early 1990’s, that the Butcher of Baghdad “was not dangerous” — this doesn’t have a whole lot to do with killing babies, or whatever you choose to call that procedure. The two issues are not connected by a concern for the sanctity of life, or making peace & not war, or a sense in the potential of humanity or complete nihilism. They are completely disparate issues.

    But what you and your caller apparently agree are “liberals,” have demonstrated a strong tendency to buy up these two disparate positions as a package deal. And there are more positions like this. To draw another example, if you show me ten people who think vicious, child-raping serial killers should be spared from the death penalty, I’ll show you at least nine people who think that perhaps bedridden old people in persistent vegetative states, should not be. Show me a hundred people who want to “raise the minimum wage” so “working families” can have an edge, and I’ll show you ninety people who want to repeal tax cuts so that other working families can’t have too much of an edge.

    The same goes for so many other positions that are entirely disconnected from each other in terms of philosophical values — except where they directly contradict each other — but solidly riveted together, watertight, in terms of the equilateral support they draw from those who call themselves “liberals.”

    Why is that?

    I can’t tell you. I don’t know. You will have to ask them. But I have a gut feeling if you can crack that nut, you’ll have the answer to why most of America holds this label in such deep contempt.

    *It’s not me.

    Hungry People

    Tuesday, November 1st, 2005

    Hungry People

    One Letter to the Editor of the Sacramento Bee today asked, in regard to an article two weeks previous called “Psst, Maria,” “Does The Bee want California to be the leader in food stamps, too?” Another one commented on data in the same article, that they show “California has come up with a good plan to reduce dependency…Obviously, The Bee missed the point.” Yet another one made an observation that on television, “The poor people…were – all of them – fat. Not slightly overweight, but fat.”

    Intrigued, I put the paper down and dialed up Google so I could find the article, “Psst, Maria” from October 17. Then I read it. I was shocked by what I saw.

    Editorial: Psst, Maria
    Want to help the poor? Talk to Arnold

    Published 2:15 am PDT Monday, October 17, 2005

    It was hard to escape the irony. California first lady Maria Shriver, briefly reprising her role as TV news reporter on “Oprah” this week, traveled to Virginia and Kentucky to interview families living in poverty, a worthy issue for any journalist to highlight. But as she accompanied Candy Lumpkin, a Virginia woman, on a grocery expedition with food stamps, did the first lady know the extent of poverty in her own state and how California has the lowest level of food stamp usage in the country? [emphasis mine]

    Unlike Virginia, California requires its poor residents to submit to finger imaging, a finger-print-like system, to qualify for food stamps. And unlike most states, California also requires food stamp recipients to apply for federal food assistance every three months instead of the typical twice-a-year requirement elsewhere. Both factors help account for low food stamp usage in California.

    As she quizzed Lumpkin about food choices – did she prefer low fat to whole milk, Shriver asked – did the first lady know that her husband vetoed a bill that would have jettisoned the humiliating and error-prone finger imaging? The bill also would have scaled back the once-a-quarter food stamp application process that is needlessly burdensome to California’s poorest residents. [emphasis mine]

    Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s veto of the bill that would have made it easier for poor and hungry people in California to get food betrays a meanness at odds with the first lady’s obvious sympathy for the people she met mired in poverty on the other side of the country.

    There’s another irony. As Shriver traveled to Virginia and Kentucky, the Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C., think tank, [emphasis mine] released a survey that said Fresno has the highest concentration of urban poverty in America. Brookings ranked cities with neighborhoods where more than 40 percent of residents live below the poverty line, defined by federal guidelines as an income of $19,350 a year for a family of four. Fresno ranked even higher than New Orleans, No. 2 in the survey.

    The next time the first lady wants to interview poor people, she can stay at home. She might even want to invite her husband to go with her.

    Dubya, Tee, EFF?!?!?!?

    We have people who work at the only newspaper in Sacramento, which is the capital of one of the largest states in the nation, who can write editorials unsigned. I would have to presume this means that they are so high up in the structure, that their opinions, for all intents and purposes, are the opinions of this capital’s-only-newspaper. Although I have little idea who these people are, they hold positions of great responsibility. Much higher than some guy who writes for a blog nobody reads.

    And they see nothing wrong with using food stamp usage as a reverse indicator — unbelievable! — of how badly a regional economy is doing.

    They introduce any unacquainted readers to the Brookings Institution as a “Washington, DC based think tank.” There is some precedence for referring to Brookings in this way, or as a “centrist/nonpartisan” outfit, but only among journalists who want to deceive. It is far more established, and reasonable to at the very least call them “progressive.” They are funded by Teresa Heinz-Kerry. Any promoter of a “centrist” canard, upon being asked for a conservative position by E. J. Dionne, would have to answer by scrambling furiously and futilely.

    They think the fingerprinting process of food stamp applicants is “humiliating and error-prone.” Clearly they don’t like it, although perhaps the space constraints have precluded them from explaining exactly why. I would have thought building a case on this would be Priority One. There are some Bee readers who require a little bit more than something like “it’s bad, you’re supposed to disapprove.”

    The people who wrote this think an application process is “needlessly burdensome.” How long is this application process? The point of “needlessly burdensome” comes shooting past awfully quick for me if I’m well-fed and trying to defraud the system, but if I genuinely need the help, why, I may never see it. Give me writer’s cramp. Before I’m done pushing the grocery cart around the store, it will be a distant memory, especially if my family’s fed for the next month and otherwise would not be.

    What in the hell are these people talking about?

    I can think of only two things. They want more fraud in the system, or else they don’t believe in the fraud. They must want a greater demand to be placed on public assistance — they have said so — and they don’t want the resulting traffic to meet any resistance. They want throughput.

    I would hope, if God popped out of the sky and said “I’m God, don’t worry, every belly in Fresno is full tonight, I guarantee it” they would drop the issue. I hope that, but I don’t think so. I’ve been watching the journalism profession for a long, long time. It’s clear to me that in a world with no empty bellies and little need for public assistance, newspapers just don’t sell as well.

    Have Fun With Them

    Tuesday, November 1st, 2005

    Have Fun With Them

    If there were any readers of this blog, which of course there aren’t, they would recall a long-standing tradition here of noticing how our media outlets pretend their techniques are perfectly objective while they are actually anything but. This is our fault. As Americans, we tend to do a dandy job of understanding the impossibility of trusting what has not been questioned, but we do a very poor job of cataloguing what we need to question.

    That last sentence has a high density factor. Go back and read it again if you have to.

    Still confused? I’ll give you an example in the form of our Number One Contentious Issue: Iraq. There is a “pro-war” side and an “anti-war” side, and we’re now starting our fourth straight year (before the invasion as well as after) debating what is right and what is wrong about invading Iraq. Our media steers clear of improperly promoting viewpoints about this that would be entirely personal, by sticking to reporting the facts. And it is accountable to us when it deviates from fact and drifts into falsehood, especially to the blogging community.

    But which facts does it report?

    For the media, the world is just a big playground here. The United States has done some things that fall short of the high standard of civil behavior we have set for ourselves; our enemies have done things that fall short of any standard of civil behavior whatsoever. What will our media talk about? They get to decide this on their own.

    You simply can’t get in trouble with the public for ignoring something. Other editors, sure. Anybody who has channel surfed during a news hour, knows this to be true. ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and FOX all talk about Abu Ghraib at the same time; they all talk about Reagan bombing the evil empire at the same time; they all talk about the weather at the same time, and they all talk about a family of really cute duckies holding up traffic on a two-lane road at the same time. The rigidity of the template is a settled matter. But the public? Stupid readers and stupid television watchers, they get excited over anything. One guy gets mad at you for not talking about Palestinian terrorists bombing Israelis, you just ignore him — until you can’t, and then you print a letter from a guy who’s mad you didn’t talk about Israelis bombing Palestinians. Print the two letters next to each other, and you look perfectly centrist.

    In other words, an opinion that the media should have discussed something, that it didn’t, is exactly that: An opinion. You can’t “nail” the media for not doing their jobs, with an opinion. And there’s something proper about that, but there’s something improper about allowing ourselves to be entirely defanged in this venue. If our media ever fails us spectacularly, as some believe it did before September 11, 2001, it will fail us by refusing to talk about something important. And even with the advent of the blogging community, we have no checks against this.

    That’s one way they can hose us. Here’s another. In addition to enjoying unlimited latitude in choosing facts to report, they can choose to ask whatever questions that they want.

    There’s a great example of this in the abortion issue. There is a pro-life side, which believes the baby’s right to life overrides the right of the mother to terminate her pregnancy, and there is a “pro-choice” side which believes the opposite. Certain questions have a potential to splinter-up, and thereby take power from, one side or the other. Question A might be “should a woman have the right to terminate a pregnancy after a rape, or when her life is in danger?” and this splinters-apart the pro-life side. Some folks on that side will answer yes, and some folks will answer no. The pro-choice side of the line stays united, the other faction is intellectually broken apart.

    Question B might be “should a woman be denied the alternative of abortion if she is blatantly and repeatedly using it as a method of contraception?” This would have the opposite effect. The pro-life faction would stay united, the pro-choice group would come apart at the seams.

    You hear Question A asked quite a lot. You very seldom hear Question B. That’s an example of persuading people toward one side over the other, while pretending you’re not doing it. That’s what our media does to us.

    I’ve found it is an educational exercise, and quite an amusing one, to use this technique on intellectually lazy camps of thought that have yet to self-destruct into smithereens even though they cry out for the chance to do so. And there is no camp of thought more deserving of this, than the anti-war camp. They could be busted up six ways from Sunday by the right question, but within the media and without, they seldom have to address the question.

    Well, I have freedom of speech like anyone else, and therefore have been inviting noisy anti-war zealots — who in turn show little-to-no reluctance to accept — to more precisely define the stance they want to take. This is great fun. These people really do think, as they narrow down their intellectual position, that their bedmates from coast to coast are actually along with them for the ride, on every single word. After all, they are so righteous. No man alienates his own allies in a battle for what’s righteous, does he?

    Which Is It?

    1. Saddam Hussein’s regime was not dangerous, and we were wrong to do anything.
    2. Saddam Hussein’s regime was not dangerous yet, and we should have given it time to get dangerous before we did anything.
    3. Saddam Hussein’s regime was dangerous to other people, but not to us, and didn’t care about us, and it wasn’t our place to do anything.
    4. Saddam Hussein’s regime was immediately dangerous to other people, and would have been to us someday, but not at the time we overthrew it so it wasn’t our place to do anything.
    5. Saddam Hussein was trying to become dangerous to us, but we struck too early and now we have no evidence, which has resulted in an alienation of our allies.
    6. Saddam Hussein’s regime was dangerous to us, but because we bungled the invasion we let all the evidence go missing and now we got nothing.
    7. Other?

    I’m positive that with a little work, that list of options could be greatly expanded.

    But it’s more than just a fun exercise to ask the anti-war camp to stipulate where exactly they stand as individuals. It is our sacred duty. If we are going to safeguard our liberties by vigorously questioning controversial positions taken by our fellow countrymen, we need to vigorously question all the controversial positions, not just the ones the powerful elites in our media don’t like.