Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to all my friends!

More activity from the Religion of Pieces

Just in time to end the old year and begin the new, the Religion of Pieces once again carries out its dastardly plan to reduce non-Muslims to their component parts:

Eight people have been killed and dozens injured when a bomb tore through a Christian market stall selling pork in Indonesia's religiously divided province of Central Sulawesi, police have said. The latest blast to rock the restive area came as security forces across the archipelago nation were on high alert for potential Islamic extremist attacks during the New Year period. Mostly Christian shoppers had thronged the stall to buy pork, which is forbidden for Muslims, for New Year's Eve celebrations later Saturday night, police said. Workers from the four hospitals where victims were ferried gave individual tolls to AFP that tallied to eight, with the latest victim being a 13-year-old boy who died after massive blood loss. The number of injured in the blast was 48, police said earlier. Security minister Adisucipto, quoted by the state Antara news agency after a cabinet meeting in West Java, said the attack was "related to terror networks which have so far been active in Indonesia. "There are groups that aim to create instability. We are trying with maximum effort, along with the national police chief and intelligence chief, to immediately solve this case," he said. National police spokesman Paulus Purwoko said that the blast did not bear the hallmarks of on-the-run Malaysian militant Noordin Mohammad Top and his group "because they normally target foreigners". Television footage showed helmeted police along with survivors carrying the bloodied victims, many of whom were Christians, to cars amid the chaos. "We have sealed the area for fears of more unidentified bombs," Rawang said soon after the blast. "Most of the victims suffered injuries to their legs because of the shrapnel from the bomb." Yandri Tumiwa, a meat seller at the market who escaped the blast, said on ElShinta radio that the explosives contained "nails and metal pieces" which had damaged his own stall, just two meters (six feet) from the bomb.

Some thoughts about privacy

The big NSA hooha that the press is trying to stir up (and that’s finally resulting in some scrutiny regarding leakers), got me thinking about privacy.  I first had these thoughts over twenty years ago, when I heard Arthur Miller give a speech about how the computer age was destroying privacy.  After all, as he pointed out, every time you book a plane flight, some computer drone in the Midwest (now, he’d say India) knows what you’re doing.  Following his speech, I really considered privacy – not in the legal sense, where there’s a large body of law – but in the day-to-day sense of ordinary people.

My sense is that, to an ordinary person, privacy means the ability to conduct his life without embarrassment or scrutiny.  More specifically, I think it means that a person has the ability to create a buffer between himself and those in his immediate community.  That is, when I get up in the morning, I want to yawn, stretch, and scratch without anybody watching me engage in those personal acts.  (I’ve always thought that one of the worst punishments about prison is the absence of physical privacy.)  In the same vein, of course, we don’t want anyone peering in when we’re enjoying private time with our significant others.  At less base or rarified levels, we simply don’t want to feel like animals in the zoo, with people observing our every move throughout the day (again, a freedom from scrutiny that prisoners are denied).  

This type of privacy also includes the “none of your beeswax” areas of privacy:  that is, no matter how good my relationship is with my neighbors, it’s none of their beeswax what I earn.  Likewise, if I tell them I’m vacationing in Bermuda, but my budget really only stretches to a weekend in Los Angeles, I probably don’t want them to know that either.  And if I’m engaging in other embarrassing, but not illegal behavior, I don’t want those whom I have to meet in the store and the PTA to know about that either.

It’s these “none of your beeswax” areas of privacy that really deserve thought in the digital age.  While I want to shield this type of information from people before whom I might lose face, I’m utterly unconcerned by the fact that:  my boss knows my income; my bank knows my income; my coworkers have a good guess about my income; the hotel clerk in L.A. knows I’m there and not in Bermuda; the hotel clerk where I’m conducting a hypothetical clandestine affair knows something is going on, etc.  So a lot of what we consider private really has to do with who knows what’s going on.

Now let’s imagine ourselves back in the world of the Founding Fathers.  Even the big cities were small, and most people lived in small communities – where their neighbors knew them from birth, knew their every peccadillo, their every thought, their every move.  The wealthy lived in homes filled with slaves and servants from whom there could be no secrets   That’s a stunning absence of privacy.  Nowadays, especially given the anonymity of so many American communities, we have infinitely more day-to-day privacy than our ancestors did.  

What we have, though, that our ancestors didn’t have to contend with, is machines that are capable of gather vast amounts of information about us.  As I write this, my computer is recording the text, and recording the meta data, and when I publish this, huge streams of information come and go from my computer.  And I just don’t care that much.  I’m not doing anything illegal, and while I keep my blogging secret from my neighbors, I’m not too worried about the fact that someone I don’t know in Silicon Valley or Bombay is seeing this stream of digital information slide by them.

Of course, the algorithm changes when it’s the Government doing the scrutiny.  But, as with all things Government, there’s a balancing act involved.  We have, for more than two hundred years, routinely given the Government information about ourselves, most notably in the form of financial information for taxes.  I leave you to think of the hundreds of other ways in which we pour out information to the Government for the privilege of living in clean, relatively safe, usually well-managed communities.  So to castigate the NSA program because the Government was gathering information is ludicrous – it does that all the time.  All that we want to do is insure that Government information gathering stays within certain parameters, and doesn’t rise to Orwellian (or N. Korean) proportions – and no matter how the MSM spins it, it’s apparent that the NSA surveillance came nowhere near that level of intrusion.

It’s no bad thing to be a watchdog and to make sure that Government, which always seeks to augment its powers, does not aggregate too much ability to gather information, something that would leave citizens prey to a corrupt government.  However, it’s just partisan politics to argue that a type of government surveillance that’s been in use for umpteen years, and that is clearly intend to protect the average American citizen from being the victim of aggressive enemies, is some sort of new and horrible “invasion of privacy.”  As I began this post by pointing out, this is not the kind of act that most people see as impinging on their own personal zones of privacy.

Learning more about Mitt Romney

Just to let you know that James Taranto gives us some more information about Mitt Romney, who might be a 2008 Republican presidential candidate. I continue to find Romney an intriguing possibliity.

Relief for the visually challenged

I can multitask, but I cannot track too much visual input. I was therefore delighted to read this:

And now, ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages, step right up and meet the no-ring circus. For the first time in its history, the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus will present a new show to its audiences without three rings, or two - or even one. When the 136th edition of the circus opens on Wednesday at the St. Pete Times Forum here in Tampa, where Ringling maintains its winter quarters, the elephants, clowns, aerialists and acrobats will roam an arena floor. In as big a departure, the show will have a story line instead of being simply a cavalcade of acts.
High time. It always made me horribly neurotic to be watching one thing and be absolutely sure I was missing something more interesting on the other side of the circus.

Wondering whether anyone ever said "no"

Some members of the United States women's skeleton team, including the 2002 Olympic gold medalist Tristan Gale, have accused Coach Tim Nardiello of a pattern of sexual harassment dating to 2002.
So begins the story of Coach Nardiello's alleged improper acts -- and they are very improper: patting women's bottoms, making explicit requests for sex, bursting into hotel rooms while they're dressing, etc. Icky. What's interesting about the article is the fact that it appears none of the women ever confronted him directly. That is, the article describes women complaining to committees, and representatives and even Nardiello's wife, but there is no mention ever that these women just said "no" to him. And I'm not talking "no" followed by a threat or a long speech about women's rights. I'm envisioning something along these lines:
Coach: You know, attractive athlete, I really want to hoodle your snickerdoodle. Athlete: Don't say that. It really makes me unconfortable and it's inappropriate. I don't ever want to hear that from you again.
I'm not saying that would have stopped a determined man, with no boundaries, no sense, no tact, and way too much libido, but I wonder. And of course, these young women may all have said that. I suspect, though, remembering my own young woman days, that they did the one "act" the article does describe:
"Many times at the start line of a race, waiting for the light to turn green, Tim would look me up and down and comment how good I looked in my speedsuit," Canfield said. "He has even patted my butt. I would have preferred to focus on my race. He has tried to kiss me on the lips, but I have turned my cheek. I, along with a dozen other athletes, have heard Tim say over the radio, 'The only time I want to see your legs spread like that is if I am between them.'" [Emphasis added.]
Yeah, that's the way to get the message across to an amorous man -- turn your cheek. I'll never forget a self-defense class I took where the woman said one of the ways to stop harassment in its tracks is to be explicit. Many men view that pulling away or turning the cheek as a coy prelude to flirtation. An explicit "no" is what is needed to get their attention.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Quack, quack, quack

It's a good thing I like it wet:

Residents snapped up free sandbags as the latest in a string of powerful storms began moving in Friday, days after brutal downpours drove Northern California rivers to their highest levels in seven years. The Pacific Ocean storm, paired with another forecast to hit Sunday, could add as much as 6 inches of rain to the already water-logged region, said Diana Henderson, a National Weather Service forecaster based in Monterey.
This is the wettest December I can remember since the early 1980s, when we had a series of incredibly wet winters. Those winters stick in my mind, since I drove a very old car then, and it invariably broke down on the freeway whenever a storm broke overhead. I thank my lucky stars everyday for reliable cars and cell phones! But I digress (as I often do). Sitting here now, I have the rain and wind thundering outside my window and, on my lap, an uncomfortable little dog who absolutely refuses to do her business when it's so wet outside! It will be a fine day when they figure out indoor plumbing for the more delicate canines among us.

Emanations from Tookie's execution

I doubt I need to fill you in on the fact that, after Arnold Schwarzenegger refused to grant Tookie Williams clemency, so that the multiple murderer was executed, Ah-nuld's hometown of Graz expressed disgust with Ah-nuld's conduct. In a stunning move of intelligence and decisiveness, Ah-nuld wrote to Graz and told them to get his name off their stadium by the end of 2005. Mark Steyn takes this already inspiring story, and lets us know that it has even deeper meanings than a one-sided fight between a petty township and a governor with no small amount of integrity:

Schwarzenegger is no conservative, and has been a disappointing governor. But his letter is magnificent, and the pleasure it affords was only heightened by the hilarious Guardian headline to its report on the "controversy": "Schwarzenegger Faces 'Tookie' Backlash In Austria." No, he doesn't. With one typewritten sheet, he's ended the whole damn backlash, and usefully offered a good basic template for US-EU relations that recognizes the basic differences between the two: Americans have responsibilities, Europeans have attitudes. Indeed, the EU has attitudes in inverse proportion to its ability to act on them. It's able to strut and preen on the world stage secure in the knowledge that nobody expects it to do anything about anything. If entire nations want to embrace self-congratulatory, holier-than-thou gesture politics as a way of life, why not give them a hand? The politicians of Graz want Tookie to be a domestic political issue? Now he is, if only for the tourist industry.
I agree with Steyn that Schwarzenegger has been a disappointing Governor -- although as a Californian I know the almost impossible job he has dealing with the California legislature -- but he's certainly proven himself a mensch (a real person) with this step.

The things we know and the things we don't know

Just a heads up that Ben Johnson does a fantastic rundown of the most overreported and underreported stories of 2005.

Fun article on Jewish names

Here's a fun article about how Jewish surnames came into being, which wraps up with the original Jewish names of many famous actors and actresses. It's a fun list, which leaves you asking yourself if Edward G. Robinson would have been quite as successful under the name of Emanuel Goldenberg. (I like the name Emanuel, though, which means "Gift from God.")

A different view about coming out of the conservative closet

For those of you who have followed my travails as a crypto-conservative, you may find interesting (as I did), Neo-Neocon's take on my article about crypto-conservatism.

A paradox, a paradox, a most ingenious paradox....

If you're only going to read one thing today, you might want to read this Victor Davis Hanson article which takes on an intriguing modern paradox: the more Bush is successful in defending us from terrorism at home and in defeating the dictatorship in Iraq, the more he is reviled on the Left. There is, of course, the obvious point that a party out of power is always going to hate with extra energy the party in power, if the latter is successful. Hanson sees more subtle reasons, too. For example:

[T]here is a sort of arrogant smugness that has taken hold in the West at large. Read the papers about an average day in Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Detroit, or even in smaller places like Fresno. The headlines are mostly the story of mayhem — murder, rape, arson, and theft. Yet, we think Afghanistan is failing or Iraq hopeless when we watch similar violence on television, as if they do such things and we surely do not. We denigrate the Iraqis' trial of Saddam Hussein — as if the Milosevic legal circus or our own O.J. trial were models of jurisprudence. Still, who would have thought that poor Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, a mass-murdering half-brother of Saddam Hussein, would complain that Iraqi television delayed lived feeds of his daily outbursts by whimpering, "If the sound is cut off once again, then I don't know about my comrades but I personally won't attend again. This is unjust and undemocratic." A greater percentage of Iraqis participated in their elections after two years of consensual government than did Americans after nearly 230 years of practice. It is chic now to deprecate the Iraqi security forces, but they are doing a lot more to kill jihadists than the French or Germans who often either wire terrorists money, sell them weapons, or let them go. For what it's worth, I'd prefer to have one Jalal Talabani or Iyad Allawi on our side than ten Jacques Chiracs or Gerhard Schroeders.
As I said, if you have time for only one article today, I suggest you make it this one.

Weirdly brave new world

You have to work hard to follow the genetic details in this story:

TWO Marin women - best friends and longtime domestic partners - dreamed for four years of having a family. Some weeks ago, after many fruitless and heartbreaking tries, their dream came true: They are the mothers of four tiny babies, three girls and a boy. Shelley Friedman carried two of the babies, Noa and Nathan, and a week later - on Nov. 5 - her partner Tania Lowenthal gave birth to Elie and Emma, identical twins. "It's a miracle," says a radiant Friedman, 44, who hopes their story will inspire others who might give up on becoming parents. "With a great partner, with medical advances, and with the support of a wonderful community, it is possible to fulfill your dream of having a family." The new mothers and their babies - conceived through in vitro fertilization with a sperm donor and Lowenthal's eggs - are part of a growing trend in variations on parenthood, said Tes Lazzarini Robards, president of the Marin Parents of Multiples Club. "It is great that modern science is finding ways so once infertile couples can now have children of their own," she said. The Friedman/Lowenthal babies are considered to be quadruplets, though carried in two different wombs. [Emphasis mine.]
These are not the only strange genetic tales from modern science. The same article details a bunch of other looney relationships thanks to science's involvement in cutting edge cultural relationships.

This might help me overcome my fear of flying

I want this on my airplane:

El Al Israel Airlines will install anti-missile systems on six passenger jets that fly to areas where the Al-Qaida terror network has been active, a transportation official said Friday. Installation of the $1 million Flight Guard systems - meant to obstruct a ground-to-air missile fired at an airplane - will begin in the coming days, said Yitzhak Raz, the project's director at the Transportation Ministry. The decision to install the anti-missile systems on some passenger jets was made in 2002, after militants in Kenya fired two shoulder-launched missiles at an Arkia airplane, narrowly missing their target.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Hollywood does battle with the real world

After decimating "Syriana" and "Munich", here's Victor Davis Hanson's conclusion about everything that's wrong with American movie making:

Actors, producers, screenwriters and directors of Southern California live in a bubble, where coast, climate and plentiful capital shield the film industry from the harsh world. In their good intentions, these tanned utopians can afford to dream away fascist killers and instead rail at Western bogeymen — even in the midst of a global war against Middle East jihadists who wish to trump what they wrought at the World Trade Center and Pentagon. If Hollywood wants to know why attendance is down, it is not just the misdemeanor sin of warping reality but the artistic felony that it does so in such a predictable manner.
Max Boot makes the same point. After discussing the fact that Hollywood's never had a problem showing Nazis as bad guys, despite the hundreds of thousands of war dead the Allies left behind in WWII, he notes that:
For some reason, Hollywood can't take an equally clear-eyed view of the war on terrorism. The current conflict, pitting the forces of freedom against those of Islamo-fascism, is every bit as clear cut as World War II. Yet fashionable filmmakers insist on painting both sides in shades of gray, as if Israeli secret agents or American soldiers were comparable to Al Qaeda killers. Two of the most serious holiday flicks — "Syriana" and "Munich" — are case studies in mindless moral relativism and pathetic pseudo-sophistication.
He then proceeds to prove his point.

I am woman, hear me whine

One of my favorite writers is Christina Hoff Sommers. She earned her high rank in my mental list when I had the pleasure of reading her wonderful book Who Stole Feminism? Hoff Sommers' point, which should be obvious to anyone with eyes, ears and a brain, is that the current feminist movement has nothing to do with equality, and everything to do with very unhappy women trying to elevate themselves by trumpeting their weaknesses (a weird strategy, but very successful on college campuses). Apparently feminism's British sisters in arms have fallen prey to precisely the same "I am victim -- elevate me" strategy. At least, that's the point of a marvelous Carol Sarler column in the Times Online. In an article triggered by the thirtieth anniversary of Britain's Sex Discrimination and Equal Pay Acts, Sarler points out that the act hasn't really succeeded (assuming its goal was to help create strong women who can be men's equals):

The overwhelming achievement of these three decades of feminism and its worker bees in the “women’s movement” has been to turn our triumph on its head. What was once about women’s strengths is now about their weaknesses; where once we celebrated what women can do, we are asked, now, only to make allowances for what they cannot. The purpose of the new law was to ensure what might loosely be called fair play; it beggars belief, looking back, that its proponents ever expected to see it invoked in so many cases that are, frankly, pathetic. Scarcely a week passes without some female high-flyer running to a tribunal with tales of men being beastly; in one memorable case this year a woman used in evidence the fact that her male colleagues often went to the pub without her. You might think that equality involves an equal chance of being disliked — she called it sex discrimination. (And prevailed.)
It seems that British military women are especially prone to complaining about problems arising from their gender. Or, as Sarler says:
Women in the Armed Forces seem especially attracted to this milch cow, with 2,400 of them last year complaining of harassment — in other words, the very women expected to produce superhuman effort under enemy fire cannot, apparently, be expected to produce a robust rebuttal of a smutty overture.
I might add that women joining the testosterone rich world of the military might, perhaps, expect that these are men who, well, act like men. And to try to feminize them, as the feminists are so clearly attempting to do, might, just might, affect their ability to do what a military is supposed to do: fight. Not fight in the courts, as the feminists do so well, but actually fight, real world style. But I digress.... Sarler also takes on the inequity inherent in the argument that a drunk man must be punished for imposing himself sexually on an equally drunk woman, on the ground that she couldn't be expected to defend herself (whereas the man, apparently, can be expected to control himself):
This season’s heated debate, for example, has concerned whether a woman’s consent to sexual intercourse is valid if she is drunk. Feministas are adamant that it is not, arguing that a man who “takes advantage” of a woman rendered compliant by a few pints of snakebite is a fully-fledged rapist; again, their argument weakens us. Allowing for the tautological assumption that “date rape” takes place on a date, and allowing therefore that both parties probably enjoyed several sherries before engaging in sex, what this means is that a man may be held responsible for his inebriated actions — but a woman need not be. A curious equality, is it not, that disallows an equal right to make our own mistakes?
Anyway, these are just pieces of a long, interesting article about the decline of true feminism. You would probably enjoy the article, as you would Hoff Sommer's book. Hat tip: A very special thank you to Kathryn, at Suitable for Mixed Company, who didn't think this quite fit the tone of her blog, and so gave me the heads up. And she asks me to thank Matt Rosenberg, who first put her onto this great Sarler article.

Interesting numbers

Laer, at Cheat-Seeking Missiles, has two interesting sets of numbers today. First, he reports that a huge majority of Americans favors the type of NSA eavesdropping that the President authorized. Second, he points out that, while the MSM has been obsessed with bloodshed in Iraq, the real news has been the huge economic growth there since Saddam's murderous regime ended. Both of the stories have a common sense element. The first shows that Americans, unimpressed by MSM/Democratic screaming, understand that the President was taking a common sense step in today's technological age to preserve American safety, at home and abroad. The second shows the obvious point that murderous tyrannies are bad economic news, and that freedom is the best economic indicator. UPDATE: Bruce's comment about NSA was so interesting, I'm moving it up here, to text:

I have to admit I haven't been following the NSA brouhaha very closely - family christmas activities have been much more fulfilling. Having said that, let me toss in a different slant on the discussion... Working in the computer industry I've come to realize that large-scale data collection on every human being on the planet is basically inevitable. If the government doesn't do it, then private industry will - its just too useful a tool. You don't even have to do it on purpose - in today's computerized corporate world you end up accumulating masses of data simply as a side effect of doing business. So I take that as given - each individual's personal information is going to accumulate "out in the world", in greater and greater detail over time. Given that, what we really need are better laws and consequences for people who abuse that information. We can't stop the information from getting out, but perhaps we can discourage people from abusing it. So when I approach the current flack, I'm concerned that the existing 'secret court' mechanism wasn't used - and if the existing laws and mechanisms are not adaquate to deal with modern technological scenarios, then I'd like to see new, more-pertinent checks and balances put into place - rather than just saying "the current stuff doesn't work, so we're going to secretly blow it off and do what we have to do." It sounds like just as we need new legal mechanisms in the corporate data privacy sphere, we need new ones in the intelligence gathering sphere as well. (On a side note - secret laws and regulations really, really scare me. Secret courts - ok, you can convince me we need them ocassionally - but secret laws? How can we be law-abiding citizens if we don't even know all the rules?)
If you want more of this type of thoughtfulness, visit Bruce's blog, here.

Little pawns in politics

I'd already heard about this story, but Ari Kaufman gives a splendid rundown of the Wisconsin school district that was very surprised that it wasn't supposed to use its third graders to help its teachers protest the Iraq war. Here's the basic story (with hyperlinks omitted):

The day before Thanksgiving, third-grade students at the Frank Allis Elementary School in Madison, Wisconsin, were given a curious lesson in civic responsibility. They were told to write letters to their congressman and various media outlets calling for an end to the war in Iraq. Parents were sent a letter justifying this political indoctrination as a social studies lesson. “The Frank Allis third grade will be writing letters to encourage an end to the war in Iraq,” the letter explained. “The letter writing will teach civic responsibility, a social studies standard, while providing an authentic opportunity to improve composition skills and handwriting. If the war has not ended by the 12th day [of the letter writing campaign] we will start the whole sequence over again, writing to students in middle school, high school, and college.” Signed by the “third grade staff,” the letter in closing asked parents to fund ten postage stamps and 12 envelopes for the project. As a “courtesy,” the teacher gave parents the option to opt out of the assignment – as if that excused the school’s attempt to recruit impressionable third-graders into the service of “antiwar” movement and mold their views on the War on Terror. At first, school administrators saw nothing wrong with the project. School principal Chris Hodge initially signed off on the project after being approached by the third-grade teachers. But when news of the project sparked controversy, Hodge began to back peddle, acknowledging that, on reflection, it may have been in violation of school district policy after all. Nevertheless, she said she wanted to check with administration officials before taking action. As it happened, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the letter-writing project was indeed in contravention of district policies – several policies to be precise. According to district spokesman Joe Quick, not only did the project run counter to a ban on teacher promotion of their personal political beliefs to students, but it was also in conflict with a policy that requires teachers to address opposing views when presenting controversial topics.
The rest of the article discusses the reaction of politicians, and the school district's eventual decision to back down. I was particularly charmed by this paragraph (with my emphasis added):
Not everyone was pleased with that decision. In the aftermath, Sharon Johnson, Frank Allis Elementary PTA president, said she was disappointed to see that the envelopes and stamps she sent to school with her daughter, as requested in the assignment, were returned last Tuesday. “I got the letter, and I had no objection,” Johnson told the Journal Sentinel. She had hoped that the antiwar project would prove revelatory for her daughter. “Her world is pretty much made up of the Cartoon Network. I thought it was a good idea to get kids to open up their eyes,” she said. But while Johnson, a Democrat, approved of the assignment, she admitted that had the campaign been in support of the war, she would have taken umbrage.
I have to say, I didn't find the article at all surprising. My 3rd Grader regularly comes home spouting liberal cant about wars, poverty and Tookie executions. I usually use simple Socratic questions to get my child to realize that the teacher's views are illogical, or onesided. I consider these teaching experiences, but I really shouldn't have to do it. (And no, I don't complain. I love the school in every other way, and it's not a public school.)

This is not as good an idea as it sounds

The New York Times reports about co-sleeping -- which is the tend where parents take their babies into their own beds, instead of having them sleep in cribs. One of the leading sleep experts, Richard Ferber, who used to be entirely against co-sleeping, has said that maybe it's okay. People are taking that idea and running with it. The two big oppositions to co-sleeping have always been the risk to the baby's body (that it might be squished by a sleeping parent) and the risk to the baby's psyche (that it might not adequately separate from the parent). Those risks seem to be less than thought, and it certainly is easier to get a baby to sleep in Mommy's arms than alone. What the article fails to mention is that, as the babies gets older, that's when the problems really develop. They stop being cute little ten pound things that snuggle, and become big toddlers who kick you to pieces during the night. And what about when babies two or three come along? Does baby one get kicked out of the bed, which will create a nice case of sibling rivalry? Or do Mom and Dad just spend the night being pummeled violently by busy little feet? This is one of those things that sounds good -- and is good at the beginning -- but creates huge problems down the line. And by the way, I sort of stumbled into co-sleeping. I never did it with my first. However, when my second came along, I was so tired, I simply fell asleep with number 2 by my side -- even though that was not my intention. Of course, number 1 got jealous, so I ended up with both in my bed. They slept well; I became terribly sleep deprived. That was bad enough, but even worse was training them to sleep in their own beds again. Fortunately, the training worked -- my kids sleep alone and well, but it was a bad experience.

More adventures among liberals -- but I had the last word

You've all repeatedly read about my conversations with liberals. I usually emerge bemused or frustrated. Yesterday, I emerged triumphant -- and without having started a fight, either. What worked was disingenuously presenting real facts. I never argued, I just kept saying "but I read in the newspaper...." Thus, last night at a dinner party, the conversation got around to how poor and uneducated our armed forces are. I didn't pick up on the inflammatory string there, which was clearly about to lead into how Bush grossly exploited the downtrodden to have them fight our war for oil. Instead, I just pointed out that the most recent study shows that this is not true. That, in fact, our volunteer forces are middle class. What they are not is urban. I suggested, politely, that to urban eyes, these middle class youngsters therefore appear unsophisticated. The urbanites then concluded, wrongly, that they're poor and uneducated. Everybody was amazed, and this conversational thread just died politely. Worked really well, and at least four people left my dinner table with some real meat to chew on for their next conversation.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Gee, I wish I'd said that. . . .

John Leo has collected aphorisms for 2005 (you know, those pithy one or two liners that convey a world of information). Here are some of them:

"We campaign in poetry; we govern in prose," said President Jed Bartlet of TV's "West Wing." *** Ann Coulter, typically sharper than your average aphorist, said: "When conservative judges strike down laws, it's because of what's in the Constitution. When liberal judges strike down laws, it's because of what's in The New York Times." *** "The right to offend is far more important than any right not to be offended," said Andrew Sullivan [who lately seems to be forgetting his own important aphorism]. *** Entrepreneur Bo Peabody said: "The vast majority of the press is not concerned in covering what is actually happening. They are interested in covering what they think people want to think is actually happening."
Hat tip: Cheat-Seeking Missiles

Looking deep into the future

Mike, at the Deep Freeze, is doing some New Years predictions, and he's asked me to join in. If you check his predictions out, you'll see that they sound very good. So good, in fact, that I may be tempted to lapse into the fortune teller's trick of vague predictions that are bound to come true (e.g., "there will be a huge storm next year"). Anyway, here's my try: 1. I agree with Mike, that Alito will be confirmed, and that the Republicans will not be forced to go nuclear. (Although wouldn't it be fun if they did?) 2. Israel, having given the Palestinians their own little nation state in Gaza, will end up engaged in a full-out war with the Gazans in 2006. The Gazans will initiate the war, Israel will win, and the world community will condemn Israel for defending herself. 3. The President, having been soundly and roundly whipped this year by the MSM, will have learned his lesson. He will cease being such a gentleman, and will come out fighting for each of his initiatives, whatever they are. His poll numbers will rise accordingly. 4. The "case" against Tom DeLay will be dismissed. Nancy Pelosi, however, will not be indicted for her (and her aides') little financial pecadillos. 5. There will be a huge terrorist attack somewhere in Europe. I dread this happening, but I think it will. 6. Some Hollywood star will be splashed all over the tabloids for some sordid sex and/or drug scandal. (I feel that this is a very safe prediction to make.) 7. My statcounter will cross the 50,000 mark, which will be very exciting for me personally, and have absolutely no effect on the world at large. I think this is an excellent meme, and don't want to limit it by naming just a few people. Pick up on it and move it forward. If you do, though, please (a) let me know, so I can check out your predictions; and (b) give Mike credit for a great idea.

"The more things change, the more they remain the same."

I was reading various blogs to distract myself from boring work, and just got terribly depressed over at LGF, which tracks (a) media bias; (b) Islamic terrorism; and (c) general stupidity. It's a great blog, and I think Charles Johnson provides a huge public service when he consolidates all this information, but it can still make for depressing reading. I found consolation in the thought that things really haven changed that much in 40 odd years. How else to explain the Kingston Trio's song Merry Minuet:

They're rioting in Africa, They're starving in Spain. There's hurricanes in Florida, And Texas needs rain The whole world is festering With unhappy souls. The French hate the Germans, The Germans hate the Poles; Italians hate Yugoslavs, South Africans hate the Dutch, And I don't like anybody very much! But we can be tranquil And 'thankfill' and proud, For man's been endowed With a mushroom-shaped cloud. And we know for certain That some lovely day Someone will set the spark off, And we will all be blown away! They're rioting in Africa, There's strife in Iran. What nature doesn't do to us Will be done by our fellow man!

It's not always Mom's and Dad's fault

Dennis Prager uses the tragic suicide of Tony Dungy's son to discuss both how much, and how little, influence parents have on their children. My own experience tells me that Prager is correct. My children came into the world hardwired with certain personality traits and certain abilities that I cannot touch. That is, no matter what I do, nothing changes these qualities. Some of these qualities are good, some are bad. All I can try to do is create an environment where the good qualities are fostered and the bad qualities are, at least a little, deprived of oxygen. Also, because peers are so important in children's development, my contribution is to try to ensure that my children are around others whom I like -- or, at least, don't dislike too much. As Dennis Prager says:

What we learn over time, from our own children and from the children of our friends, is how powerful are the traits built into our children -- and not only those of personality and bio-chemistry, but more important and even frightening, of character. Some people are born good -- naturally inclined to be kind, thoughtful and considerate of the impact they have on others; while for other human beings, empathy -- the ability to put oneself in the place of another -- is very hard and sometimes impossible to inculcate. In parenting, as in virtually every other area of life, as we get older we become increasingly aware of the role of luck -- including how some children turn out.
I read somewhere, a long time ago, that the most stressful jobs are the ones where the workers have the most responsiblity and the least power. That's a parent's job in a nutshell, isn't it? No wonder I started spotting white hairs on my head so soon after my children were born!

Quick hit on the NY Times

Duty to family calls, so I'll just direct you to this great Michelle Malkin column exposing the New York Times for the horribly biased paper that it is.

If you thought dishonest reporting wasn't affecting the Middle East peace, think again has published its annual "dishonst reporting" awards for covering the Israeli Palestinian conflict, and it's a doozy. I'd laugh at the manifest bias from our major news outlets if I weren't crying so hard:

Of all the coverage we saw of the Gaza pullout, nothing stood out more than this odious comment by Reuters in the lead-up days:
The [Gaza] closure will give about 8,500 settlers a taste of some of the military restrictions and bureaucracy endured by Palestinians living under occupation.
The wire service also remained consistent to its warped principles during the London terror attacks too, refusing to describe the bombings as "terror." To understand the logic behind Reuters' vocabulary gymnastics, see here.
That's just an ugly example, followed by others about the Guardian's hiring a man with affiliations to terrorist groups and the story of the Palestinian stringers and their biased photos. The real kicker is the list of ten examples showing why BBC wins, hands down, the award for being the most dishonest news outlet when it comes to reporting about the Middle East. Here are some examples (with hyperlinks omitted):
9. Every morning, listeners can tune into BBC for an uplifting "Thought of the Day." One February morning, Rev. Dr. John Bell used the feature to describe an Arab-Israeli acquaintance only identified as "Adam." According to Rev. Dr. Bell, this acquaintance was "conscripted" into the Israeli army, where "he was also imprisoned for refusing to shoot unarmed schoolchildren." See the full transcript here. After HonestReporting pointed out that Israeli-Arabs aren't required to serve in the IDF and that the allegations that soldiers have orders to shoot unarmed kids are wholly unfounded, the BBC apologized-but only for not fact-checking Adam's age and the issue of conscription. We still await a retraction about the non-existent orders to shoot kids. *** 3. Following the London terror attacks, the BBC admitted loading the studio audience with a disproportionate number of Muslims for Questions of Security: A BBC News Special. (See Biased BBC for links to video of the show.) Among the complaints, one viewer wrote angrily:
I do not pay my license fee to watch an unrepresentative Muslim audience like this.
The BBC's response?
In order to ensure a range of voices on these issues, the studio audience contained a higher proportion of Muslims in the audience than in the population as a whole - around 15% of the audience as opposed to 2.7% of the country as a whole....
This isn't the first time the BBC got in hot water for loading the audience. In 2001, anti-American invective from a Question Time audience discussing the 9/11 attacks got so out of hand that news director Greg Dyke had to apologize to US ambassador Philip Lader, who participated in the show. Can anyone imagine a BBC program on Israel loaded with Israelis and Jews?
Does anyone remember, precisely, when the BBC went from being a reliable news source to being a shill for the worst elements of the Left?

Making suburbs safe for Republicans

I live in a suburb that is part of the ultra blue Bay Area, and that is about 99.999999% Democratic in make-up. It was therefore with great interest that I read this Weekly Standard article that describes suburbs such as mine, and puts forward ideas for giving Republicanism a chance in the suburbs. I should say, though, that my suburb is unlikely to change. The article focuses on suburbs that used to be Republican strongholds but that, in the 1990s, shifted to Democratic strongholds -- primarily because urban housing pressure caused urbanites (usually Democrats) to start populating those same suburbs. My community is now, and always has been, a branch of the Democratic party. Anyway, it's an interesting article, which basically involves a concerted Republican effort to appeal to soccer moms. How the times have changed, haven't they? It was that same effort that got Clinton elected in 1992.

Another "compassionate" Democrat reveals the ugly side of his party

Do you have a Wall Street Journal subscription? If you do, be sure to read this article, that addresses the ugly, open secret about Democratic hatred for black Republicans. It's written by a black Republican who ran a homeless shelter in downtown Los Angeles. Fair use let's me give you this paragraph, and you'll have to scramble around for your own copy of the WSJ for the rest:

Recently, I was invited to address a local Republican Women's Club; my landlord read an article in the local paper reporting on the event. Soon after, I received a notice raising the Dome Village rent from $2,500 a month to $18,330. Shocked, I inquired as to the seriousness of the change and the property owner blurted out that the cause of our "eviction" was "because you are Republican." He said that as a Democrat, he was tired of helping me and the Dome Village. In other words, let the homeless be damned.
UPDATE: Curt, at Flopping Aces, took the ball and ran with it. He has amazing information about Hayes, the man whose entire homeless shelter is being evicted because of his political beliefs. I wonder how soon it will be before the ACLU is lining up to defend him. (Hint: I'm not holding my breath.)

Two people can keep a secret if one of them is dead

This time it's the Wall Street Journal explaining that the Democrats are manufacturing a scandal out of thin air. This Robert Turner article carefully explains that the Founding Father's, always aware that Congress could not keep secrets, intended that the President would have exclusive authority over foreign intelligence gathering -- and the power to go with that authority. One almost wishes the Dems would attempt to impeach the President, if only to expose to the world how petty, manipulative, vindictive and dishonest they are.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Manufactured outrage over appropriate presidential conduct

I read this admirable summary of the alleged spying scandal in the New York Times, of all places. It's part of a longer op-ed by David Rivkin and Lee Casey, lawyers who served Reagan and Bush Sr.:

Shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush ordered surveillance of international telephone communications by suspected members of Al Qaeda overseas, even if such calls also involved individuals within the United States. This program was adopted by direct presidential order and was subject to review every 45 days. Judicial warrants for this surveillance were neither sought nor obtained, although key members of Congress were evidently informed. The program's existence has now become public, and howls of outrage have ensued. But in fact, the only thing outrageous about this policy is the outrage itself. The president has the constitutional authority to acquire foreign intelligence without a warrant or any other type of judicial blessing. The courts have acknowledged this authority, and numerous administrations, both Republican and Democrat, have espoused the same view. The purpose here is not to detect crime, or to build criminal prosecutions - areas where the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirements are applicable - but to identify and prevent armed attacks on American interests at home and abroad. The attempt, by Democrats and Republicans alike, to dismantle the president's core constitutional power in wartime is wrongheaded and should be vigorously resisted by the administration.

"You're ugly and your mother dresses you funny," says Kofi Annan to journalist

Okay, the title of my post isn't actually correct, but it could be. How else is one supposed to understand Kofi's reaction to a legitimate journalist who keeps pressing him to come clean about his son's dishonest dealings -- all of which seemed to occur under Annan's aegis. In an article that starts with these three wonderful paragraphs, journalist James Bone details Kofi's little problem and his school yard response:

Kofi Annan, U.N. secretary-general and Nobel peace laureate, is normally the meekest of diplomats. He is so accommodating he once described Saddam Hussein as a man 'I can do business with.' These days he spends a good deal of time on the phone with Syria's Bashar al-Assad. Yet he seems to have a problem with me. It was with some amusement that I found myself the target of a decidedly undiplomatic tirade by the U.N. chief at a news conference last week. The usually mild Mr. Annan erupted in an ad hominem attack, calling me 'cheeky' and belittling me as an 'overgrown schoolboy.' Although I have covered the U.N. in minute detail for The Times of London since 1988, and have known Mr. Annan for almost all that time, he suggested I was not a 'serious journalist.' The cause of Mr. Annan's ire was a question I put to him about a Mercedes car that his son Kojo had imported into Ghana (and which cannot, now, be traced). The facts indicate that Kojo had bought the car in his father's name, thereby obtaining a diplomatic discount and a tax exemption totaling more than $20,000. The question about the car -- to which Mr. Annan again refused to give a satisfactory answer -- is part of the wider probe into his role in the U.N.'s Oil for Food scandal. Despite months of investigation, important questions about the integrity of public officials remain unanswered. If we are serious about U.N. reform -- as Mr. Annan claims to be -- they must be resolved.

Giving aid and succor to the enemy

Surrounded by kids and house guests, I don't have any time to develop today the theme of the constant flow of classified information our MSM feeds to our enemies. Fortunately, I really don't have to. If you click here, you'll find an excellent article by Lt. Col. Gordon Cucullu explaining precisely what I would say if I could say it.

Islam, Rape, and Orwellian Newspeak

In an article that has simply nauseating content, Sharon Lapkin details the hundreds of violent rapes that Muslim men are visiting on women all over the world. In each case she describes, the Muslim men used their religion, and the rape victim's lack of same to justify their conduct. I still feel shaken having read the descriptions she provides of rapes in Australia, Norway, Sweden, France, England, etc. Weirdly, though, what left me even more shaken was the response to these rapes from those in power. It wasn't what you'd think. It wasn't government officials and media outlets demanding harsh retribution. It wasn't women's groups standing arm in arm outside mosques and embassies. Instead, the response takes the form of accusations that those who have pointed out this alarming -- and explicit -- trend are racists and, in a horrible reversion to an early mentality, that it's all the victim's fault:

In Australia, when journalist Paul Sheehan reported honestly on the Sydney gang rapes, he was called a racist and accused of stirring up anti-Muslim hatred. And when he reported in his Sydney Morning Herald column that there was a high incidence of crime amongst Sydney’s Lebanese community, fellow journalist, David Marr sent him an e-mail stating, “That is a disgraceful column that reflects poorly on us all at the Herald.” Keysar Trad, vice-president of the Australian Lebanese Muslim Association said the gang rapes were a “heinous” crime but complained it was “rather unfair” that the ethnicity of the rapists had been reported. Journalist Miranda Devine reported during the same rape trials that all reference to ethnicity had been deleted from the victim impact statement because the prosecutors wanted to negotiate a plea bargain. So when Judge Megan Latham declared, “There is no evidence before me of any racial element in the commission of these offences,” everyone believed her. And the court, the politicians and most of the press may as well have raped the girls again. *** Oslo Professor of Anthropology, Unni Wikan, said Norwegian women must take responsibility for the fact that Muslim men find their manner of dress provocative. And since these men believe women are responsible for rape, she stated, the women must adapt to the multicultural society around them. The BBC pulled a documentary scheduled for screening in 2004, after police in Britain warned it could increase racial tension. “In these exceptional circumstances... Channel 4 as a responsible broadcaster has agreed to the police’s request...” The documentary was to show how Pakistani and other Muslim men sexually abused young, white English girls as young as 11.
The multiculturalism that has emerged today -- a multiculturalism that has nothing to do with a truly pluralistic society that allows all society members to enjoy equal rights, provided that they don't trample on the rights of others -- has turned into a horrible travesty of itself, with anyone claiming minority status given complete license to abuse women. What's even more scary is that the Left doesn't see the irony. That it doesn't recognize that, having empowered women and moved on to its "next cause," its "next cause" is undoing everything the Left did in the first place to advance women's rights, freedom and safety. And just in case you were wondering, NOW's website is 98% abortion, 1% Mexican "femicides" and 1% cervical and breast cancer. Not a breath, not a word, not a grumble about the most violent, deadly rapes going on all over the world under the umbrella of one of the world's major religions.

Monday, December 26, 2005

I'd be talking to my realtor right about now

Imagine that you live in Mexico City, one of the largest cities in the world, and a mere 40 miles from the Popocatepetl volcano. Then imagine you read this story:

Mexico's giant Popocatepetl volcano threw up an ash column almost 2 miles high and spat glowing rocks down its snow-clad slopes on Sunday, but nearby towns were not affected, officials said. Popocatepetl, whose name means "smoking mountain" in the Nahuatl Indian language spoken by the Aztecs, spewed out the huge plume of ash and rocks in a three-minute exhalation. "The recent activity is within the expected scenarios and there is no evidence of a major risk in the following days," said the disaster prevention center Conapred. "No reports of ash fall have been received." Sunday's activity was the latest in a recent series of disturbances which started December 1, when the 17,887 foot (5,452 meter) volcano showered ash on the nearby town of Amecameca. Popocatepetl, which on clear days can be seen from Mexico City, 40 miles away and home to some 18 million people, reawakened in 1994 after decades of inactivity. It has sparked to life several times since then, most notably in 2000 when it tossed red-hot rocks far above its crater in a series of explosions. Tens of thousands of people living nearby were evacuated at that time. Scientists say the volcano's last major eruption was more than 1000 years ago, while the Valley of Mexico's pre-Hispanic Aztec residents recorded minor eruptions. The volcano becomes more active during the cooler Mexican winter months as more ice expands and causes fissures in solidified lava in the crater, allowing smoke, ash or molten lava to spew out.
This really gives new meaning to that old expression about living life on the edge of a volcano, doesn't it? I strongly believe, whether this belief is scientifically valid or not, that, when a long dormant volcano starts to speak, it's time for me to start to listen. Incidentally, God forbid Popocatepetl blows, that's not just a problem for those citizens caught immediately in its path, it's a problem for everyone. This is because, if it's a sufficiently dirty eruption, it has the potential to damage crop outputs around the world -- as happened in 1815 when Mount Tambora blew its top. Mother Nature has been working hard lately to let us know that she's in charge.

More deep thoughts from liberals

I was at a Christmas party this weekend where one of the guests opined that it was no coincidence that oil prices dropped just as Bush's popularity hit rock bottom, so that his numbers could go up again. I politely refrained from pointing out that, if Bush really had control over oil prices, the smarter thing would have been to keep them low all the time, so that he didn't suffer the humiliation (and loss of Congressional control) that comes with falling numbers. The same guest was pretty sure that Bush manufactured (or at least escalated) the whole bird flu crisis because he has friends in the pharmacy business. Again, I politely held back from pointing out that America was pretty much the last to hop onto the bandwagon, with multiple other country and NGO ssweating and screaming before Bush even got around to announcing a plan to stock up on drugs. Unless this woman believes that Bush was manipulating every one of these entities to give himself plausible deniability, there just doesn't seem to be a good conspiracy there either. I should say that the person voicing these thoughts is intelligent, well-read, and in thrall to the NY Times.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Getting a handle on the Bard's relationship to Judaism

Jeremy, who has crafted a fascinating blog that looks at current events through Shakespeare's eyes (so to speak), grapples with Shakespeare's manifest dislike for Jews. It's a fascinating post and I think, provides a useful template for other, modern culture's dislike of Jews. It is worth noting that Shakespeare had almost certainly never seen a Jew. The Jews had been expelled from England in the 12th Century (or is it the 11th? I always forget). They didn't return until the mid 17th Century, which was a long time for stereotypes to develop in a complete informational vacuum.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!

Friday, December 23, 2005

The last word on Katrina's myths

We knew as we were watching, that the MSM was purveying Katrina stories based on two paradigms: (1) Bush is evil and (2) blacks are savages. That is, they tried to show how horrible Bush's response was, and they believed that this response was especially horrible because blacks, in the liberal world view, will descend into the worst type of savagery without the government's steadying hand. (A more racist outlook I find it impossible to imagine, and I'm still bewildered as to why African-Americans cling to the liberal side of the spectrum. But I digress.) What I wanted to say is that Mona Charen does a great wrap-up about the worst canards from Katrina reporting, and winds it up with a grim reminder to all of us:

Now comes the next deluge: the deluge of cash that will rain down on New Orleans and the surrounding area. Louisiana lawmakers have demanded $250 billion in aid. Karl Zinsmeister estimates that this is the equivalent of handing each Louisianan a check for $56,000. This is on top of whatever insurance reimbursements and charitable contributions hurricane victims receive. In the last days before Christmas, Congress was working on legislation to spend $29 billion on levee repair, new pumping stations, and a variety of other services to Louisiana residents. Sen. David Vitter called it a "down payment." All of this spending will go to the most corrupt state in the nation, and will doubtless be disbursed primarily to the good friends of politicians. And this miscarriage of public policy will be due entirely to myths.


Spent whole day with children. Floor littered with hair I pulled out of my own head. Hands shaking. Gut churning. Children triumphantly battling each other. Mom reduced to wreckage. I miss the days of a good spanking -- and I'm speaking as one who was on the receiving end of a quick-handed mother. For strong-willed children, the threat of a "time out" or losing a toy or facing Mom's disapproval is meaningless. All of these "punishments" just mean a small deferral of pleasure until life returns to normal. There's nothing more effective then a well-timed slap, which instantly gives the child negative, unpleasant feedback, and creates a strong incentive in the child to remember the rule, listen to the instruction, and avoid the immediately nasty sensation of pain. Do I sound like an evil dragon? I'm not, really. I'm massively frustrated, because I live in a community where corporal punishment can leave you being visited by Child Protective Services. So I don't use corporal punishment against my kids. The problem is that parents have no leverage here. It's fine if you've got easy-going, lowish energy kids. It's not fine if you have dynamos, who have no natural off buttons, and who know that there's really no consequence of consequence at the end of the line. Believe it or not, despite my lack of leverage, I'm enough of a disciplinarian that I still manage to run a fairly tight ship -- and I have pretty nice kids. It just takes such an inordinate, disproportionate amount of parental energy and imagination. This requires a level of chronic mental effort that takes much of the fun out of childcare, especially since there are few times in this dance where I can just relax, knowing that I'm in the company of children who will be well-behaved, rather than little time bombs. They're sweet and loving children, but they're also smart, and it doesn't take long for a smart child to find loopholes, billions of them. Sorry for the grump, but it's been a day beyond exhausting.

Thinking about life after life

With his typical elegance, Patrick, who can usually be found writing at the Paragraph Farmer, offers an American Spectator article, that ruminates about life, and about life after life. Reading this thoughtful article is a refreshing break at a hectic time of year. Thanks, Patrick!

An Irving Berlin homage

I've loved Irving Berlin ever since I can remember. I'm therefore almost sorry that I didn't have this New York Times homage to Berlin in hand when I was last in New York, because it guides you to all the places in New York that are associated with Irving Berlin. It's a nice article, a reminder once more that, when the Times keeps it nose out of partisan politics, it does some good work.

Art and science

Here's Dorothy Sayers, writing in 1936, in Gaudy Night:

The only ethical principle which has made science possible is that the truth shall be told all the time. If we do not penalize false statements made in error, we open up the way for false statements by intention. And a false statement of fact, made deliberately, is the most serious crime a scientist can commit. [Emphasis mine.]
And here's today's story:
Research by South Korea's top human cloning scientist - hailed as a breakthrough earlier this year - was fabricated, colleagues have concluded. A Seoul National University panel said the research by world-renowned Hwang Woo-suk was "intentionally fabricated", and he would be disciplined.

Holiday blogging -- or not

Well, the holidays have officially kicked in for me, since the kids are home through the new year. I'll try to blog intermittently, but my reliable stream of posts will be severely diminished. Today's a good example of the upcoming week. We started off with errands; now I'm quickly doing some work (and sneaking in some blogging); then some exercise for the whole family in the form of a long walk; then another little TV break for the kids and work break for me; followed by a visit to the doctor for a kid checkup. And so will go the whole week, with me sneaking in little bits and pieces of time here and there. Don't forget me during the week, and be sure that, even if you take some time off, you come back in the new year.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Five is as good a number as seven

The end of the year memes are striking. I did my sevens, and now I'm doing my fives, thanks to Anna. Here goes: What were you doing 10 years ago? Working like a demon and loving every minute of it. Because I was self-employed, I set my own hours, which meant working from about 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. My work interested me, and I liked the money-work connection (not something you really feel when you're an employee). What were you doing 1 year ago? Same as I am now: being pulled into way too many pieces as a Mom, lawyer, homemaker, school volunteer, and daughter of an aging parent. Of course, all of that also made me feel very useful and needed, which are two things that give everyone a reason to get up in the morning. Five snacks you enjoy: 1) Chocolate ice cream 2) Yogurt with chocolate chips 3) Chocolate ice cream 4) Yogurt with chocolate chips 5) Chocolate ice cream Five songs to which you know all the lyrics: 1) White Christmas (White Christmas) 2) Where Did You Get That Girl (Kalmar & Ruby) 3) Dancing Cheek to Cheek (Irving Berlin) 4) Remember (Irving Berlin) 5) Crazy (the Patsy Cline song) Five things you would do if you were a millionaire: 1) Buy many, many, many books 2) Put my Mom in the retirement home of her dreams 3) Re-remodel the house, 'cause I don't like what we did the first time 4) Keep my kids in their pricey private school 5) Hire a private trainer for exercise Five bad habits: 1) Procrastinating 2) Reading in lieu of other, more worthwhile activities 3) Refusing to exercise 4) Hating to cook 5) Losing my temper with my children [Interestingly, my bad habits track Anna's very closely.] Five things you will never wear again: 1) Bikini 2) High heels 3) Capri pants 4) Mini skirt 5) Form fitting clothes Five favorite toys: 1) Roomba 2) TiVo 3) My computer 4) KitchenAid mixer 5) My new-ish toaster oven (where I can heat all those pre-made foods) As for tagging people, I overwhelmed a lot of people with my tags from the seven meme. I'm going to open this one up therefore. Be sure, though, that if you catch this meme, you let me know so I can check out what you have to say.

Everything old is new again

I always scan the magazine racks at the checkout stand (and they're frequently so salacious, I'm glad I usually don't have my kids with me). Today's scanning, though, surprised a laugh out of me. This was the cover photo on this month's Elle magazine: A closer look revealed that this voluptous beauty with the heavily made-up eyes is Scarlett Johansson and, further, that she's sporting the "modern" look of beauty. Why do I think that's funny? Check out these circa 1920 photos of screen Goddess Theda Bara. Allowing for the silly hats, and the old-fashioned photographic technique, Ms. Bara is sporting precisely the same look of voluptous, Egyptian-eyed "modern" beauty:

They can't even defend themselves

Everyone, of course, is abuzz with the Times' unusually well-timed "expose" about the NSA matter. John Hinderaker, at Power Line, actually wrote to Eric Lichtblau, who authored the article, questioning him about the article's failure to inform people that there was (and is) a good argument to be made that Bush's activities were entirely legal (leaving aside the fact that Clinton, of course, did precisely the same type of stuff). What followed is a fascinating colloquy between Hinderaker and Lichtblau, where you see a powerful, honest mind (that would be Hinderaker) squash a weak, dishonest mind (I'll leave you to guess whose mind that is). The post doesn't yield to summarizing or selective quoting, so I urge you to click on the link and read it at the source. Then, if you're still actually subscribing to the Times, you might want to cancel that subscription.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Seven is a very good number

My friend Callimachus, at Done With Mirrors, tagged me with the "seven" meme. (By the way, his response is delightful, and you should take the time to check it out.) Here's the list I get to complete: 1. Seven things to do before I die 2. Seven things I cannot do 3. Seven things that attract me to (...) 4. Seven things I say most often 5. Seven books (or series) that I love 6. Seven movies I watch over and over again (or would if I had time) 7. Seven people I want to join in, too. Okay, deep breath, Bookworm. And go! Seven things to do before I die 1. Learn Hebrew (but I'm not optimistic, because I'm mentally lazy and lousy at languages) 2. Hold my grandchildren, if my children decide to be fruitful and multiply. 3. Have one entirely stress free day. 4. Witness peace in the Middle East. 5. Meet Mark Steyn. 6. Have a perfectly clean house for at least one day. 7. Have a guilt-free vacation entirely to myself, where I do nothing for seven days but read and eat ice cream. Seven things I cannot do 1. Learn languages (see the problem with number 1, above). 2. Manage a conversation without interrupting someone (although I keep flattering myself that they're supportive interruptions, aimed at showing that I'm tracking the conversation, rather than piggish interruptions, where I take over the conversation). 3. Watch a Spielberg movie. 4. Cry in public. 5. Refrain from kissing my children in those special kid places that smell so sweet (my son's temple, my daughter's forehead). 6. Be near a computer without checking (a) my statcounter and (b) my email. 7. Remember people's birthdays. Seven things that attract me to blogging 1. The chance to hold forth without anyone interrupting me (see number 2, above). 2. The chance to let out all my reined in conservatism, a belief system very unpopular in my neighborhood. 3. The opportunity to improve my writing. My legal writing has improved more in the past year since I've begun blogging than it has in my previous 17 years as a lawyer. 4. The fact that I've met so many delightful and interesting people at an intellectual level -- which is, since I'm a bookworm, the level that often satisfies me most. 5. The ego fulfillment of having lots of people read what I think, and then be kind enough (a) to come back and read some more and (b)to take the time to leave a comment or to link to my post. 6. The intellectual excitement that's seized me since I've begun blogging. I feel incredibly engaged with what's going on in the world now that I have a forum in which to develop my thoughts about world events. 7. The fact that I have at least the illusion that people are listening to me. Seven things I say most often 1. "Because I said so." (This is usually preceded or followed by: "I'm your mother.") 2. "I'm sorry." (Not because I'm an apologetic person, but because I make lots of mistakes.) 3. "I love you." 4. "[Child's name], listen!!!" 5. "Is anybody listening to me?" (The fact that I ask this question so much in my house explains number 7, above, regarding why I like blogging.) 6. "Drive safely." 7. "That is the stupidest/worst/most decadent movie I've ever seen." Seven books (or series) that I love (in no particular order) 1. All Jane Austen books 2. The Peter Wimsey mysteries 3. A Town Like Alice 4. Little Women 5. The Narnia series 6. Georgette Heyer's books 7. A Vision of Light by Judith Merkel Riley (see my sidebar) Seven movies I watch over and over again (or would if I had time) (and they're almost all musicals) 1. Groundhog Day 2. Every Fred & Ginger ever made 3. Singing in the Rain 4. Pride & Prejudice (the 1994 A&E production) 5. Royal Wedding 6. The Merry Widow (1934, Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette MacDonald) 7. Holiday Inn (the movie that launched Irving Berlin's White Christmas) Seven people I want to join in, too. (And I've been careful to number everyone in order of importance) 1. Anna 1. Anne 1. Curt 1. Laer 1. Mike 1. Steve 1. The crew at Scott's Conservative News & Commentary Seven is really such a limiting number, isn't it. Here are a few more people whose 7s I'd like to see: 1. Gina 1. Gail 1. Heather 1. Ron 1. Kathryn 1. Mark 1. Jack 1. Marc 1. Phibian 1. The Happy Housewife 1. Presbypoet 1. Bruce 1. Jeremy [Patrick, I'd have chosen you, too, except I know you've already done this one.]

Bringing a little complexity to Spielberg's childish inanities

Here's an article I really like. It challenges Spielberg; it challenges "Munich," the movie; and it provides actual historical facts to counter the fantastic, amoral melange that Kushner and Spielberg offer as historical reality in their new movie. By the way, speaking of new movies, think about this: Time Magazine devoted a huge cover story to Munich, as if it were news. In its latest edition, Newsweek gives its end of the year cover to the upcoming Da Vinci Code movie. Just one question: Is this news. Can anybody take these magazines seriously anymore when they are as breathlessly promoting upcoming movies as a studio's own promotion department, and with the same drooly, smoochy style as People magazine? Now, I'll freely admit that I gave up on these magazines a long time ago, but I do wonder if these breathless encomiums for movies, and this effort to elevate them to "news" status will alienate some more intelligent members of their crowd of current subscribers. These magazines, since their inception in the 1920s and 1930s used to be news lite. Now they're just lite, no news. Eventually, people are going to catch on.

How soon the MSM forgets

Just to jog the MSM memory, Ben Stein has a few questions, a sampling of which follows:

(2) Where are all of the wild hurrahs that should have greeted the recent election in Iraq? It went off incredibly well, with all major groups participating, with a much smaller amount of violence than was expected. Iraq has gone from being the most unfree Arab country to the most free in a matter of months, thanks to the vision of George Bush and the heroism of America's fighting men and women. What has happened is beyond the hopes of even the greatest optimists. But where are the cheers? Why are Bush's opponents still bashing him over what is a clear success? Can it be that hurting Bush is more vital to them than helping a slave people become free? Do they really hate Bush so much that they would torpedo freedom for a nation of 25 million to spite Bush? I am afraid they would rather have us lose the war and humiliate Bush than win the war and have Bush succeed. What if this had been the GOP's attitude in World War II? Or Vietnam? Or Korea? I wonder if there is a name for what Bush's enemies are doing here. (3) Does anyone remember 9/11 any longer? Innocent men and women being burned to death? Temperatures so cruel that grown men and women held hands and leapt to their deaths from the high floors of the World Trade Center? Children crushed in the lower floors? Planeloads of totally guiltless men and women and children crashed to death? The worst terrorist act of all time? In case Chuck Schumer forgot, it was a big thing in his home state.
While the MSM is wallowing in "Good Night and Good News," I'd add one question to Ben Stein's list of things one should ask the MSM's members: "Have you no shame?"

When disagreement equals censorship

In an article that is worth reading in its entirety, about the differences between liberals and conservatives, Burt Prelutsky makes the following excellent point:

Liberals have become so accustomed to having only their own points of view disseminated by the mass media that they now believe that any opinion in conflict with their own is an infringement on their right to free speech. So not only do they feel entitled to spout off ad nauseam, but honest disagreement is regarded as censorship!
What he said!

The love that really dares not speak its name

Caryn James has a funny little article about the hysterical laughter that greets the trailer for Brokeback Mountain. (She also provides links to the trailer.)

There are lots of possible reasons for the comic effect. There might be snickering at the love story between the men played by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal. There might be snorting at a story that comes off as sappy in the trailer — so romanticized that the preview ends with a shot of fireworks exploding behind one of the men. There is no doubt, though, that plenty of laughs come when the audience hears Mr. Gyllenhaal’s emotion-wracked voice say, “I wish I knew how to quit you!” The line barely works in the film; in the preview, it’s a howler — evidence of the dangers of wrenching dialogue out of context.
She also unwittingly touches on something that is, to me, a subtext of all the discussions about the movie: sheep. Thus, in describing the trailer's task, she has this to say:
Still, this trailer has a tough job to do, and it carries it off pretty well. It has to say that this is a gay cowboy movie without a voice saying, “It’s a gay cowboy movie,” and scaring off part of the audience. The preview eases its way in with scenes of the men riding and herding sheep. (They’re cowboys!) Then comes a glimpse of the men coming toward one another for a kiss in a pup tent. (OK, they’re gay cowboys!)
It's that "herding sheep" line that gets to me. I'm not a huge Woody Allen fan, but I've always thought that one of the funniest moments in film is the sheep romance in Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* But Were Afraid to Ask. Do you remember that bit? It's where Gene Wilder falls madly in love with a sheep and for reasons I don't remember after 25+ years, ends up alone in a gutter, drinking cheap wine. And I can't help thinking that, if it hadn't been for each other, poor Jake and Heath might have had to turn to those equally poor sheep. Perhaps that sheep romance -- the love the really dares not baaaa its name -- is the next movie coming down the pike. I'm only half joking, you know. Take Peter Singer, the amazingly controversial "ethicist" -- a term I use advisedly. (I blogged about him here.) He started his career as pretty much the founder of the modern animal rights movement, only to have the movement turn against him when he said bestiality was fine, as long as the beast consented. His former followers were outraged, feeling that a cow was really never in a position to consent, so that it would always be rape. (And no, I'm not making all of this up.) So you see, Brokeback Mountain could have been a lot more interesting and controversial, if it had tackled the really hard issues of a man, his sheep, the world that seeks to separate them, and whether sheep can actually engage in consensual sex with humans. I'm savoring a moment here trying to imagine the trailer to that film and the corresponding audience response. UPDATE: Thanks to the gals at the Independent Women's Forum, I got the link to this great Saturday Night Live spoof of the trailer. I'm not an SNL fan, but this is a hoot.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Whew! I'm going to sleep better tonight

This is precisely the type of story NPR should be using taxpayer dollars to report. It tells why the 50% mortality rate predicted for bird flu is highly misleading, and explains why, even if bird flu goes wild, a more likely mortality rate is 2%. Worldwide, 2% would still result in a staggering number of deaths, but nothing like watching half the world population drop dead.

Scary and sad

This is an incredibly scary and sad story about the fact that high schoolers are using OxyContin in ever increasing numbers. What was really frightening about the story is the fact that kids who are successful in school seem to be attracted to the drug because it's expensive (must be good, right?) and, even more to my point, less scared of the drug because it's legal (at least with a prescription). I've always been pretty libertarian in my belief about drugs, thinking that they should be legalized because people should be given the right to trash their bodies if they want (I also think we should tax the heck out of them if they're legal). I also thought that teenagers, being as oppositional as they are, would be more likely to use something illegal, not less likely -- precisely because it is illegal. To hear these kids say that part of OxyContin's attraction is its legality may have me rethinking my entire stand regarding legalizing drugs. By the way, I've never been drawn to illicit drugs, both because I perfer legal to illegal conduct and because I'm such a control freak, I find horrifying the thought of something working in my brain. Creeps me out.

Manly, moral men in movies

After including a devastating quotation from Stephen Greydanus about how Brokeback Mountain is an utterly nihilistic film when it comes to destroying any last vestiges of noble masculinity, Patrick, at the Paragraph Farmer, takes upon himself the task of coming up with a "triple bill for people who want cinematic portraits of masculinity: Outlaw Josey Wales, Glory, and Finding Forrester, Chariots of Fire, Ulee's Gold, or The Mission." I've never looked at movies in that light, so I'm struggling to come up with the best portrayals of manly, moral men in movies. I've decided that my list is: 1. Rhett Butler, in Gone With The Wind. Yes, he's a bit of a crook, but he's as masculine as they come, and his very cynicism enables him to engage in and be true to his own code of honor. (This is even more clear if you read the book, where he proves to be very decent to those whom he truly admires, such as Melanie Wilkes, as opposed to those he disdains, such as those who have a weird love affair with Southern slave mythology.) 2. Phil, in Groundhog Day. Phil is a manly man, in that he really wants to get the girl. He's a moral man in that, during his endless day, which he repeats over and over, he develops an inner morality, premised on caring for those unable to care for themselves, helping people in true heroic fashion and, oh by the way, winning the girl after having developed these manly and moral traits. 3. Brig. Gen. Frank Savage in Twelve O'Clock High, who takes on an air squadron with a moral problem and whips it into shape. He does it by demonstrating what many would consider the worst masculine traits -- using shame, verbal brutality, aggression, etc. -- but he takes as good as he gives and, because these methods are successful, he dramatically increases each of his flyer's chances of survival. Great movie. Very manly many stuff. Anyone who wants to run with this meme should consider himself or herself tagged. UPDATE: Just got back from Narnia and I have to add Peter to the list. The boy is portrayed as callow and bossy in the beginning, and then morphs into a true manly man: honest, brave, kind, thoughtful. It's nice to think of legions of boys and young men seeing this. One hopes they see it soon enough in their development that the taint of pop culture doesn't leave them feeling he's dorky, rather than a truly noble, manly man.

Yes! Yes! Yes!

Sometimes, I worry that my chocolate addiction is akin to a cocaine addition. At other times, I know I'm on the right track:

A few squares of dark chocolate every day might cut the risk of serious heart disease by helping to stave off the hardening of arteries, according to a study published on Tuesday. Researchers from University Hospital in Zurich studied 20 male smokers, who are at greater risk of hardening arteries characteristic of coronary heart disease, to see the effects of dark and white chocolate on arterial blood flow. *** After two hours, ultrasound scans revealed that dark chocolate -- made up of 74 percent cocoa solids -- significantly improved the smoothness of arterial flow, whilst white chocolate, with four percent cocoa, had no effect, the study published in Heart magazine said.
If you ever see me on the street, you'll recognize me by the chocolate stains around my mouth!

I'm shocked, shocked!

This needs no introduction:

While the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal is conservative, the newspaper's news pages are liberal, even more liberal than The New York Times. The Drudge Report may have a right-wing reputation, but it leans left. Coverage by public television and radio is conservative compared to the rest of the mainstream media. Meanwhile, almost all major media outlets tilt to the left. These are just a few of the surprising findings from a UCLA-led study, which is believed to be the first successful attempt at objectively quantifying bias in a range of media outlets and ranking them accordingly. 'I suspected that many media outlets would tilt to the left because surveys have shown that reporters tend to vote more Democrat than Republican,' said Tim Groseclose, a UCLA political scientist and the study's lead author. 'But I was surprised at just how pronounced the distinctions are.' 'Overall, the major media outlets are quite moderate compared to members of Congress, but even so, there is a quantifiable and significant bias in that nearly all of them lean to the left,' said co‑author Jeffrey Milyo, University of Missouri economist and public policy scholar.
Hat tip: Little Green Footballs

I'm dreaming of an interesting 2008 ticket

National Review had an interesting article about how Mitt Romney's Mormonism might play out if he runs in 2008. I was reading the article, and I suddenly thought of a really interesting ticket -- and one I'd be willing to vote for: Romney/Lieberman! Two honest men; two deeply religious men; two men who will put principles ahead of politics (at least Lieberman has proven he will); two men whose religion places them somewhere on the outside of the normal power structure, even though they have held positions of power.... What do you think?

When seeking freedom, we all celebrate Hanukkah

Are you familiar with the Hanukkah story? Emanuele Ottolenghi, in an important article about freedom, gives a brief summary of the main points:

In Jewish tradition, Hanukkah is the festival of lights, because it celebrates the survival of the Jewish people against the onslaught of a tyrannical regime that denied them the freedom to practice their faith freely. Under the leadership of a priestly family, the Jews rebelled and fought against their oppressors. Eventually, they managed to gain back control of Jerusalem's Holy Temple, which their enemies had turned into a pagan shrine where pigs — that most unholy of animals in Jewish tradition — were being sacrificed to pagan gods. Having smashed the idols, so the story goes, the revolt's leaders sought the oil necessary to light the Temple's candelabra, in order to re-consecrate the sanctuary. This they only found in small quantities, enough to last a day, but well short of the minimum eight days needed to prepare the oil in conformity with the needs of worship. And here's the miracle: The tiny oil quantity, meant to last for just a day, kept the lights on for the full eight days.
(For more information, including the historical context, here's a good rundown.) I'm not mentioning this just because Hanukkah starts in a few days. Ottolenghi's point is much bigger, because she points out that the Jewish battle for freedom 2,200 years ago is a harbinger of the same battle America fought 225 years ago:
The triumph of liberty over tyranny, through the resolve believers who refuse to bow to a brutal regime is the story of America's Founding Fathers and of their ethos of freedom. Their pursuit of religious freedom brought them to unwelcoming shores. There, despite the odds, they eventually built a free society, where belief, however outlandish and deviant from established church doctrine, would never again become ground for persecution. Americans should therefore find no difficulty identifying with Hanukkah lights. Though a Jewish tradition, their message is universal, a powerful reminder that tyranny can be defeated and freedom restored.
Ottolenghi therefore urges all people who believe in freedom, on the night of December 27 (the third night) to gather together to light Hanukkah candles and, especially, to do so if they can in front of Iranian embassies:
This year, Hanukkah coincides with Christmas. On December 27, the third night of Hanukkah, Hanukkah candles should be lit in public ceremonies across the streets, in front of Iranian embassies around the world. Jewish communities should organize a lighting ceremony in all those capital cities where Iran has an embassy, and in New York it should be done in front of the U.N. building, right beside the Iranian flag. According to Jewish law, anyone can light the Shamash, the candle that is used to light all others. Prominent leaders with bipartisan support should be invited to perform this symbolic act to reaffirm the light of freedom over the darkness of tyranny. And other public figures should endorse this initiative as a message to the Iranian authorities. The idea was recently launched by two London activists, and is already gaining support and sympathy elsewhere. Rome may soon follow, and so should other capitals of Europe and the Western world.
And even if you can't light a wax candle, light a candle in your heart to remember that the fight for freedom is a good one, fought at all times and in all places. And if we see God's hand in the miracle of the lights -- that is, that it was God who saw that the oil burned for eight days, not one -- we must understand that God, having given man the capacity for thought, has put his imprimatur on the thoughtful man's struggle for freedom.