Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

I have moved to a new blog host

If you can read this, you're lucky. Blogger has been horrible this week, a plague that seems to be affecting many. For me, it's the straw that broke the camel's back, since I've been having lots and lots of Blogger problems over the last few months. While I'm incredibly grateful to Blogger for providing me with more than a year's worth of relatively easy, free blog hosting, I'm ready to start over. So -- my blog will henceforth be at WordPress. You can find it by clicking here. I'm struggling to figure out how to transfer all my data -- my stat counter, my Ecosystem information, my everything. So, if you've done this before, and you have advice, please send me an email at Bookwormroom@gmail.com. Also, please, please, please, if you'd be so kind: 1. Update your blogroll (assuming I'm already on it). 2. Let people know about my new address (I'd really appreciate that). Remember, henceforth, I'll be at http://bookwormroom.wordpress.com.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Who writes the history books?

DQ here, and my shows are at it again. This time it's Criminal Minds, who put forth an American Indian as a strawman. Of course the Indian turns out to be a hero, while the bad guy is a capitalist posing as a cult leader and his cult followers who are duped by him. Along the way we are treated to a history class told from the perspective of the Indians. You can imagine what that sounded like. For example, the reservations were described as "internment camps." But it brings to mind a question. The old saying is that the winners write the history books. This has the salutary effect of strengthening the culture and passing it on to subsequent generations in a positive light. So what happens when the losers (and, whatever else may be said about American Indians, they were the losers) write the history books? This is more than an idle question, since the Left, who has taken over American education, presents history more from the standpoint of the losers than the winners. Our kids are learning to hate the society they are raised in. What long term effects will this have on our society? I find it hard to imagine the effects will be positive.

Blech

Do you remember how, in 1960s sitcoms, there was a standard refrain of the amusing drunk? Bewitched had its stock drunk, who was always around to be witness to the various witches' comings and goings -- and, of course, no one believed him. The Dick Van Dyke show also liked to toy with drunks. Indeed, one of the funniest episodes ever had a hypnotist make it so that, every time the phone rang, Rob would act like a complete drunk, only to stop the next time the phone range, ad infinitum. Van Dyke's physical humor was perfect for this type of comedy. The only sad part watching this episode, with 20/20 hindsight, is to know that Van Dyke was sliding down into real dysfunctional alcoholism even as audiences of the time watched and laughed. The reason I'm thinking about this is because I went to a lunch party today and one of the guests got dysfunctionally drunk. It was not funny. It was embarrassing and disgusting. I'm not a great yardstick of these things, since I don't drink (I don't like the stuff, and I don't like anything that impairs my self-control, even minimally), but her conduct went beyond the pale to the point where everyone in the place was engrossed in the spectacle. What I wished, in a bizarre way, was that my kids could have had a glimpse of this. We've taught them, by pointing to friends who drink responsibly, that drinking alcohol can be a socially appropriate thing, but it's very hard to get them to understand why we place limits on that conduct. Seeing a sloppy, disgusting drunk is a great lesson about the downside of alcohol -- or, indeed, about the downside of abusing anything. UPDATE: When I wrote the above, I didn't realize that there is still a small group out there celebrating the "romance" of drunkeness. But so it is. I tuned into NationalReview Online and read the following:

At the beginning of his interview, Frank Kelly Rich apologizes for having missed an earlier interview we had scheduled. He was out conducting research for an article, he explains, and couldn’t be reached. By that he means he was out having a drink. Well, more than a drink. Actually, it was a “mini-bender.” It happens fairly often too.

“Sometimes they’ll be actual seven-day style ones, especially when I’m researching a story,” he said in a phone interview from his native Denver, Colorado.

Those kinds of work habits would get most people in trouble with the boss, but not Rich. Not only because he’s his own boss, but because his work literally demands serious drinking. Rich is the founder, editor, and guiding light behind Modern Drunkard Magazine.

Now in its tenth year, with a circulation around 35,000, the bi-monthly humor magazine celebrates all things related to drinking alcohol. For those who can’t find it on the newsstand, a compilation of its most popular articles was published last year.

Inspired by the likes of Frank Sinatra’s Rat Pack, poet Charles Bukowski, W. C. Fields, and countless others, Modern Drunkard recalls those earlier eras when getting hammered nightly was the height of coolness, not a cry for help. Its mission today is to preserve that culture against a rising tide of “neo-prohibitionism” that Rich says is slowly overtaking America.

He may be right about the "neo-prohibitionism" but, frankly, afterspending some time with a serious drunk, I'll take neo-prohibitionism any time. Talking to Technorati:

Thursday, March 16, 2006

I feel the eternal Caesar within me

This type of story is why I still like NPR -- you just won't hear this anywhere else and it's wonderful.

Be the first to know about the things that matter

Centcom has just published General Abizaid's statement about the 2006 posture of the United States Central Command. It's fascinating reading, insofar as it is both a log of accomplishments in three regions (Afghanistan, Iraq and the Horn of Africa), and a road map of plans and expectations for the coming year. To begin with, did you know how vast is CENTCOM's area of operations and responsibility?

The CENTCOM region spans 6.5 million square miles and 27 countries including Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Egypt, the countries of the Horn of Africa, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the countries of the Arabian Peninsula, Pakistan, and the Central Asian states as far north as Kazakhstan. It incorporates a nexus of vital transportation and trade routes, including the Red Sea, the Northern Indian Ocean, and the Arabian Gulf. It is home to the strategic maritime choke points of the Suez Canal, the Bab el Mandeb, and the Strait of Hormuz. It encompasses the world’s most energy-rich region – the Arabian Gulf alone accounts for 57% of the world’s crude oil reserves, 28% of the world’s oil production, and 41% of the world’s natural gas reserves. The more than 650 million people who live in the region make up at least 18 major ethnic groups of many nationalities and cultures. While predominantly Muslim, the region is home to adherents of all of the world's major religions. Human civilization had its birth in this region, with many cities dating back thousands of years. The diverse peoples of the region take understandable pride in their rich culture and history.
The statement doesn't hedge about the nature of the fight ahead of us. It's a tough one and a long one. (I can just hear the Democratic Senators in upcoming years saying that nobody every told them it was going to be a long war.)
Defeating al Qaida and associated ideological movements will require significant counterterrorism cooperation among our allies and partners not only within the CENTCOM AOR, but throughout the globe. It will also require the dedication of military, intelligence, and many other components of national power. Our network of allies and agencies will eventually defeat the al Qaida network, but we have yet to master the integration of national and international power to achieve success against this ruthless, borderless enemy. We have long experience with nation state warfare. We must, in the years ahead, learn to organize ourselves to defeat a stateless enemy capable of delivering state-like destruction without having state-like vulnerabilities. Defeating such an enemy requires a careful study of its clearly articulated strategy and vision.
I have to fault the report for having the usually PC pabulum about Islam being a religion of peace, but I suspect that, having described the conduct engaged in by its adherents, the General felt obligated to make a disclaimer:
This enemy seeks to topple local governments, establish a repressive and intolerant regional theocracy, and then extend its violence to the rest of the world. To effect such change, this enemy believes it must evict the United States and our Coalition allies from the region. Masking their true intentions with propaganda, rhetoric, and a sophisticated use of the mass media and the internet, this enemy exploits regional tensions and popular grievances. Al Qaida and its associated movements exhibit strategic patience and are willing to wait decades to achieve their goals. These extremists defame the religion of Islam by glorifying suicide bombing, by taking and beheading hostages, and by the wanton use of explosive devices that kill innocent people by the score. Their false jihad kills indiscriminately and runs contrary to any standard of moral conduct and behavior. The enemy’s vision of the future would create a region-wide zone that would look like Afghanistan under the Taliban. Music would be banned, women ostracized, basic liberties banished, and soccer stadiums used for public executions. The people of the region do not want the future these extremists desire. The more we talk about this enemy, the more its bankrupt ideology will become known. But more important, the more that regional leaders talk about and act against this enemy, the less attractive it will be. Osama bin Laden and Musab al Zarqawi cannot represent the future of Islam. Al Qaida and their allies are ruthless, giving them power beyond their relatively small numbers. They are masters of intimidation. Their depraved attacks menace entire communities and can influence the policies of national governments. They embrace asymmetric warfare, focusing their means on the innocent and defenseless. In Jordan, they target wedding parties. In Iraq, they murder children playing in the streets, doctors working in hospitals, and UN employees supporting Iraqi efforts to build their country. They respect no neutral ground.
Anyway, I won't quote the whole report, but I definitely think it's worth reading, so that you'll know at least as much as your Congressman.

Succinctly explaining judicial activism

Apparently Justice Ginsburg was recently in South Africa heaping disrespect on the American Constitution. (What is it lately with American public figures going abroad to denigrate America? Think Al Gore here.) Anyway, as noted in this Power Line post about Justice Ginsburg she summarized her whole judicial philosophy this way:

To a large extent, I believe, the critics in Congress and in the media misperceive how and why U.S. courts refer to foreign and international court decisions. We refer to decisions rendered abroad, it bears repetition, not as controlling authorities, but for their indication, in Judge Wald's words, of "common denominators of basic fairness governing relationships between the governors and the governed."
John, at PowerLine, comes back with the perfect response:
This is, to put it politely, nonsense. In our system of government, the courts are not called on to determine what "basic fairness governing relationships between the governors and the governed" requires. For legal purposes, issues of "basic fairness" were decided when the Constitution was authored and approved by the initial thirteen states, and when the document has been amended over the subsequent centuries. The real issue here is: what is the Constitution? Justice Scalia has famously noted that the Constitution is a legal document which, like all legal documents, says some things and does not say others. In Justice Ginsburg's view the Constitution is, on the contrary, a roving charter for nine individuals to decide what "basic fairness" requires. It should hardly be necessary to point out that the former understanding, which was universal until quite recently, is a charter of freedom, inasmuch as the people's representatives can vote on amendments. Conversely, the "basic fairness" approach is a form of tyranny in which a small elite can impose its policy preferences on the rest of us. It is also utterly unworkable. There is a reason why people reduce legal documents to writing: it's the only way to know what the deal is. Under Justice Ginsburg's approach, the "law" is ineffable. There is no way to know from one day to the next what it might be.
We can only wait for the day when Justice Ginsburg decides that she'd rather lie in the sun in her backyard and catch a few "Z's", than slog off to the Court every day. And we can only hope that we reaches this conclusion in the next two years. UPDATE: If you want to know how judges who are not judicial activitists view their responsibilities on the bench, and if you want to understand why their viewpoint is more consistent with the role the Constitution plays in America, read this article. Talking to Technorati: ,

No Ivy on my walls

My kids are still far away from college decisions, but I just loved Anne Morse's take on what's wrong with the Ivy Leagues, written as part of a longer article about why her son won't be going to Yale anytime soon:

There has always been a certain glamour attached to an Ivy League education, and many parents dream of seeing their children walk through those Ivy gates. But in recent years the tawdry behavior of Ivy League professors and administrators—at Yale and elsewhere — has tarnished that glamour. Harvard ousted a popular president for even entertaining the possibility of innate differences between men and women. At Princeton, one well-known professor advocates bestiality, while another allowed an artist to exhibit works blasphemous to Catholic students (while acknowledging that she would never permit Muslim students to be similarly insulted). Columbia naps while its professors engage in vicious anti-Semitism. During freshman orientation at Dartmouth last fall, students were ordered to stand and pledge allegiance to a gay pride flag. And on it goes. Parents expected to pony up their life’s savings, or take out crushing loans to fund such foolishness, cannot help wondering: Why are we even thinking of paying for this?
All I can say, you go, girl! Talking to Technorati: , , , , ,

This is why we shouldn't pay attention to the Hollywood types

It's a tempest in a teapot: George Clooney and Arianna Huffington are disputing whether the latter had the right to gather together a series of statements that Clooney in fact made, and then print them as "Clooney's blog." I won't bore you with the oh-so-petty-and-boring details. What had me laughing, though, was the statement from Clooney's publicist:

"It's not a misunderstanding, it's misrepresentation," he said. "She knows what she was doing. She was saying to people that she had George Clooney's blog and was printing it. George Clooney does not make statements. He answers questions." [Emphasis mine.]
I love that: "George Clooney does not make statements. He answers questions." First off, what the heck is that supposed to mean? Those of us who attend to the news regularly, or even casually, know that Clooney is constantly making statements about how noble he is, how evil the U.S. is, and how stupid President Bush is. The man never shuts up. And yet here we have the statement that, Godlike, Clooney cannot be expected to speak like an ordinary man. He can only be approached as an oracle. So you have to ask yourself again: Why in the world would anyone take this bubble headed, and bubble encased, Hollywood types seriously? Talking to Technorati: ,

Deny facts and teasing at faith

Marc, at American Future, points to an article called "Separating Truth and Belief," which André Glucksmann, a French philosopher wrote for Democratiya. Amazingly, for something written by a French philosopher, it's neither turgid nor pointless -- it's short, interesting and, as Marc says, important. I'm therefore honoring Marc's request that this get greater blog play and am printing it here in its entirety:

The anti-caricature campaign started by attacking a newspaper. It then focussed on Denmark as a defender of the freedom of the press, and now it has all of Europe in its sights, which it accuses of having a double standard. The European Union allows the Prophet to be denigrated with impunity, but it forbids and condemns other 'opinions' like Nazism and denial of the Holocaust. Why are jokes about Muhammad permitted, but not those about the genocide of the Jews? This was the rallying call of fundamentalists before they initiated a competition for Auschwitz cartoons. Fair's fair: either everything should be allowed in the name of the freedom of expression, or we should censor that which shocks both parties. Many people who defend the right to caricature feel trapped. Will they publish drawings about the gas chambers in the name of freedom of expression? Offence for offence? Infringement for infringement? Can the negation of Auschwitz be put on a par with the desecration of Muhammad? This is where two philosophies clash. The one says yes, these are equivalent 'beliefs' which have been equally scorned. There is no difference between factual truth and professed faith; the conviction that the genocide took place and the certitude that Muhammad was illuminated by Archangel Gabriel are on a par. The others say no, the reality of the death camps is a matter of historical fact, whereas the sacredness of the prophets is a matter of personal belief. This distinction between fact and belief is at the heart of Western thought. Aristotle distinguished between indicative discourse on the one hand, which could be used to reach an affirmation or a negation, and prayer on the other. Prayers are not a matter for discussion, because they do not state: they implore, promise, vow and declare. They do not relate information, they perform an act. When the Islamist fanatic affirms that Europeans practise the 'religion of the Shoah' while he practises that of Muhammad, he abolishes the distinction between fact and belief. For him there are only beliefs, and so it follows that Europe will favour its own. Civilised discourse analyses and defines scientific truths, historic truths and matters of fact relating to knowledge, not to faith. And it does this irrespective of race or confession. We may believe these facts are profane or undignified, yet they remain distinct from religious truths. Our planet is not in the grips of a clash of civilisations or cultures. It is the battleground of a decisive struggle between two ways of thinking. There are those who declare that there are no facts, but only interpretations – so many acts of faith. These either tend toward fanaticism ('I am the truth') or they fall into nihilism ('nothing is true, nothing is false'). Opposing them are those who advocate free discussion with a view to distinguishing between true and false, those for whom political and scientific matters – or simple judgement – can be settled on the basis of worldly facts, independently of arbitrary pre-established opinions. A totalitarian way of thinking loathes to be gainsaid. It affirms dogmatically, and waves the little red, or black, or green book. It is obscurantist, blending politics and religion. Anti-totalitarian thinking, by contrast, takes facts for what they are and acknowledges even the most hideous of them, those one would prefer to keep hidden out of fear or for the sake of utility. Bringing the gulag to light made it possible to criticise and ultimately reject 'actually existing socialism'. Confronting the Nazi abominations and opening the extermination camps converted Europe to democracy after 1945. Refusing to face the cruellest historical facts, on the other hand, heralds the return of cruelty. Whether the Islamists – who are far from representing all Muslims – like it or not, there is no common measure between negating known facts and criticising any one of the beliefs which every European has the right to practice or poke fun at. For centuries, Jupiter and Christ, Jehovah and Allah have had to put up with many a joke. The Jews are past masters at criticising Yaweh – they've even made it a bit of a speciality. That does not prevent the true believers of any confession from believing, or from respecting those of a different faith. That is the price of religious peace. But joking about gas chambers, raped women and disembowelled babies, sanctifying televised beheadings and human bombs all point to an unbearable future. It is high time that the democrats regained their spirit, and that the constitutional states remembered their principles. With solemnity and solidarity they must recall that one, two or three religions, four or five ideologies may in no way decide what citizens can do or think. What is at stake here is not only the freedom of the press, but also the permission to call a spade a spade and a gas chamber an abomination, regardless of our beliefs. What is at stake is the basis of all morality: here on earth the respect due to each individual starts with the recognition and rejection of the most flagrant examples of inhumanity.
Talking to Technorati: , , , ,

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Read it, please!

This Haim Harari speech, which appears as a FrontPage article, is far and away one of the best things I've seen about the troubles plaguing the Arab world; about the War they've embarked upon, with or without our awareness; about the weapons they use; and about the responses we have. It ranks, in my mind, as a must-read for anyone who wants to understand what's going on in the world today vis a vis Arabs/Muslims and the West (or, at the very least, for anyone who wants to know where I'm coming from when I blog).

Torture cultures

Laer asked "Why was Tom Fox tortured?" As you may recall, Tom Fox was the Christian peace activist who was kidnapped in Iraq along with a group of others from his organization. His body turned up a couple of days ago. He'd been shot multiple times in the head and indications were he'd been tortured before he died. And so Laer posed the question, "Why the torture?" My response was that I believe Muslim fundamentalists come from a culture that believes in torture -- which is an entirely separate idea from saying that the Muslims who actually carried out the torture happen to believe in torture. English Professor, in her comment to Laer's post, politely asked why I reached this conclusion. I thought about her question and here is my answer, expanded from the answer I left at Laer's blog. The first part of my answer is that there is an extraordinary amount of torture and violent death coming from the fundamentalist (and not-so-fundamentalist) side of the Muslim spectrum. Here's a random laundry list: 1. Ilan Halimi 2. Daniel Pearl 3. Nick Berg 4. Christian school girls decapitated in Indonesia 5. Saddam Hussein's prisons and his sons' use of those prisons. (Indeed, people are now buying videos of these horrible tortures to try to find the fate of their missing family members.) 6. The atrocities in the Sudan that the white Muslims use to purge Christians and black Muslims. 7. The way in which Theo Van Gogh was killed. Incidentally, Van Gogh's murder included body mutilation, which I consider a subset of torture, since it has within it the same impulse to humiliate and destroy, even after death. So you can add to this list the body mutilation on the American contractors in Fallujah. 8. The incredibly brutal rapes young women in Australia and northern countries have been suffering at the hands of young Muslim men. That's all I can think of off hand, but you get the idea. Of course, I know that some of you are saying, "don't be so holier than thou -- we have rapes, we have Gitmo, Israeli soldiers torture prisoners, Western women get raped on the streets and in their homes, etc." All of which is true, but ignores my second point. The second part of my answer is that torture cultures, rather than decrying these atrocities, celebrate them. Think of the furor and self-flagellation in America after we learned about what happened at Abu Ghraib. Westerns writhed in embarrassment and shame, and apologized a thousand times over. Whether people supported the war or not, whether they supported the military or not, whether they supported the President or not, they were united in their condemnation of what happened their, united in seeing that the malfeasors were punished, and united in ensuring that this didn't happen again. We see this same disgust when Westerners confront rape. Unless you're in the infinitesimally small group of Western men who commit violent rape, you view rape as a taboo, horrible thing. In the torture cultures, however, all of these atrocities, rather than being condemned, are celebrated. Some examples: 1. The Muslim-on-Western rapes I spoke of are viewed as appropriate activities in the Muslim community, since the bareheaded young women "deserve" this treatment. 2. You may recall dancing Palestinians, rejoicing in human suffering as the Twin Towers fell. 3. While we buy slick Hollywood videos (some good, some bad), popular videos on the Arab street show in glorious, gruesome, bloody detail the tortures and beheadings of Daniel Pearl, Nick Berg and others. 4. At MEMRI, you can read speech after speech of Arab speakers, speaking to Arab audiences, calling for the slow, painful death of their enemies (that would be us). 5. And recall that the contractors' death and mutiliation in Fallujah was a mob activity. I don't want to be too high and mighty here. Our Western culture has also had times of being a torture culture, with torture functioning, not just as a government tool, but as popular entertainment. I won't bore you with the Romans and their coliseums and crucifixes; the Spanish with their racks; the Western Europeans with their burnings, flayings, rackings, dismemberings, etc; the Nazis with their "all of the above" approach to torture. All those happened. Sadly, the urge to torture seems to be an innate part of the human psyche. However, our Western culture has decided that, whether the desire to torture the "other" is innate or not, it's a bad thing. We discourage it from happening and, when it happens, we decry it and punish it. The fundamentalist Muslim culture, however, celebrates torture as an act that is appropriately visited upon "others." And I'm going to be non-PC here and make a value judgment: I think we're right and they're wrong. I want to be on my side in this culture war and not theirs. And I think Tom Fox was tortured because he had the bad luck to fall afoul of a torture culture. Talking to Technorati:

Spinning a story

Yes, the MSM usually puts all the facts in an article. But as every lawyer knows, it's not just that the facts appear, it's how you spin them. If you'd like to see a perfect deconstruction of a very spun article about an event in Iraq, please check out this Cheat Seeking Missiles post.

I need to have my head examined

I really need to work on resisting my self-destructive impulses. I'm just hoping I don't regret giving in to this last one. What did I do? I got a dog. She's an 8 month old puppy, a mutt, from the pound. So far, in the less than 24 hours I've had her, she's proven herself to be smart (she's already learned to heel and sit, despite obvious unfamiliarity with the concepts) and friendly. She's also riddled with tapeworm, because the shelter forgot to treat her! The good thing about this infestation is that, from the kids' point of view, there's a legitimate reason Mom's keeping the dog locked securely in a crate and refusing to allow them to touch her. I've got a good two or three days of working with the dog and teaching her I'm in charge before my own two puppies begin seriously engaging with her. My hope and belief is that, in a month, I'll have a well-trained, well-housebroken, happy companion. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

How to get rejected

No time for blogging today (it's a 12 hour day packed into 6), so I'll leave you with a question that's been plaguing me since my 20s. You're a guy who is interested in a gal. You ask her out. Would you rather that she (a) fobs you off with a line about being busy, without providing an alternative date; or (b) says something along the lines of "I'm incredibly flattered that you'd ask me out but I'd rather not." Both are rejections, but they take very different forms. One is implied, one direct. Which is preferable?

Monday, March 13, 2006

There won't always be an England

As a student of English history, I long ago learned that the last time England was conquered was in 1066. My information, though, is shockingly out of date. It turns out that England is slowly being conquered from within and that, contrary, to the popular saying, there won't always be an England. Do you doubt my statement and think I'm exaggerating? I'm not. You've probably already heard that the British paper, The Telegraph, depublished Alasdair Palmer's article entitled "ENGLAND: The day is coming when British Muslims form a state within a state." Fortunately, the article is still available in the invaluable internet, and American Future does us the favor of printing it in its entirety here. To give you an idea of what the article says about Islamic goals for England, here's just a small portion of the much longer, very detailed article:

Perhaps the explanation is just that they [British leaders] do not take it [Muslim threats against Christians, Jews and England itself] seriously. 'I fear that is exactly the problem,' says Dr Sookhdeo. 'The trouble is that Tony Blair and other ministers see Islam through the prism of their own secular outlook. They simply do not realise how seriously Muslims take their religion. Islamic clerics regard themselves as locked in mortal combat with secularism. 'For example, one of the fundamental notions of a secular society is the moral importance of freedom, of individual choice. But in Islam, choice is not allowable: there cannot be free choice about whether to choose or reject any of the fundamental aspects of the religion, because they are all divinely ordained. God has laid down the law, and man must obey. 'Islamic clerics do not believe in a society in which Islam is one religion among others in a society ruled by basically non-religious laws. They believe it must be the dominant religion – and it is their aim to achieve this. 'That is why they do not believe in integration. In 1980, the Islamic Council of Europe laid out their strategy for the future – and the fundamental rule was never dilute your presence. That is to say, do not integrate. 'Rather, concentrate Muslim presence in a particular area until you are a majority in that area, so that the institutions of the local community come to reflect Islamic structures. The education system will be Islamic, the shops will serve only halal food, there will be no advertisements showing naked or semi-naked women, and so on.' That plan, says Dr Sookhdeo, is being followed in Britain. 'That is why you are seeing areas which are now almost totally Muslim. The next step will be pushing the Government to recognise sharia law for Muslim communities – which will be backed up by the claim that it is 'racist' or 'Islamophobic' or 'violating the rights of Muslims' to deny them sharia law. 'There's already a Sharia Law Council for the UK. The Government has already started making concessions: it has changed the law so that there are sharia-compliant mortgages and sharia pensions. 'Some Muslims are now pressing to be allowed four wives: they say it is part of their religion. They claim that not being allowed four wives is a denial of their religious liberty. There are Muslim men in Britain who marry and divorce three women, then marry a fourth time – and stay married, in sharia law, to all four. 'The more fundamentalist clerics think that it is only a matter of time before they will persuade the Government to concede on the issue of sharia law. Given the Government's record of capitulating, you can see why they believe that.'
As I said, it's a long article, but it's well worth reading, both because of what it says, and because of what is revealed by the fact that the Telegraph withdrew its publication. (The Telegraph also fired the brilliant Mark Steyn -- but that's a another story altogether).

It's me!

If you want to get to know me (sort of), here I am. If you're wondering about yourself, see what you discover here. Hat tip: Crossing the Rubicon

Rich is back!

After a year away from blogging, Rich, at Beef always wins is back. Rich was the first longtail blogger I discovered, and I've missed his wise, witty observations a great deal during his blogging sabbatical. Welcome back, Rich! And as for the rest of you, if you're not familiar with his blog, be sure to check it out.

Everything you knew about the crusades was probably wrong

The Crusades were a centuries' long series of bloody persecutions that the Christians waged against innocent Muslims in order to (a) steal Muslim wealth and (b) force Muslims to convert at swordpoint, right? Wrong. It turns out that the Crusades were anything but a unilateral war to destroy Islam. The truth, as explained by Robert Spencer, a well-recognized scholar of Islam and the Crusades, is that the Crusades were started as a defensive war against repeated Muslim encroachments; were fought consistent with the rules of warfare as understood by both Christians and Muslims at the time; and, until the decline of the Muslim nations, were not seen as a historical big deal, since the Crusaders basically lost. You should definitely read the whole interview with Spencer, which is fascinating, and which is a useful effort to set straight a historical record upon which Islamic fanatics increasingly rely to work on Western politically correct guilt. Hat tip: The Paragraph Farmer Talking to Technorati:

Enshrining malignancies

Frankly, it's not as if I need more proof that our colleges and universities are jumping their own personal sharks, so as to make themselves ridiculous in the eyes of ordinary Americans. However, if I did need proof, I would find it in this John Leo article about the various awards and honors our colleges and universities shower upon those whose values are somewhat antithetical to ordinary American values. Some examples:

Stanford University gives the Allan Cox medal each year for faculty excellence in guiding student research. Cox was a professor of geophysics and dean of the school of earth sciences at Stanford. He committed suicide in 1987 while under investigation for sexually molesting the son of a former student. The molesting allegedly went on for five years, starting when the boy was 14. One of the most elegant prep schools, Phillips Exeter Academy, gives an annual Edmund E. Perry Award for "diversity and cultural awareness." Perry was an outstanding black student at Phillips Exeter who was shot to death in Harlem while trying to mug a plainclothes cop. *** Last year the Borough of Manhattan Community College in New York announced a new scholarship named for Ho Chi Minh and another honoring Joanne Chesimard, the former Black Panther and convicted murderer of a New Jersey police officer. Both scholarships were quickly renamed after protests.
You can read the rest here. No wonder I'm less enthuasiastic than Mr. Bookworm about spending my very hard earned money to send my children to fancy East Coast (or any Coast) liberal arts colleges. Fortunately, since my children are young, our debate right now is hypothetical. I'm hoping that, when they're old enough for the debate to be real, the evidence of insanity at these institutions will have reached proportions sufficient either (a) to dissuade Mr. Bookworm from casting yearning eyes at these places or (b) to effect an actual change at these places so that I won't mind funding them.

I take Mary, and Susan, and Charlotte to be my lawful wedded wives

Do you have any thoughts about the legalization of "poly" relationships? By poly, I mean polygamy, polygyny or polyandry. If you do, share them at Out of the Binjo Ditch, where Steve is soliciting responses to his question as to whether those relationships should be legalized or not. I think it's an extremely interesting question, and one that should be considered, since countries formerly committed to monogamy, such as Canada, Sweden and Holland, are flirting with the idea.

Playing God

I've long found the push for euthanasia concerning, because it's such a slippery slope. It starts off with high minded discussions about horrible suffering and imminent death, and ends up boiling down to freeing up money and taking burdens of (legitimately) over-burdened caregivers. I guess my views were formed by this joke, which I heard as a child, and included on my blog about a year ago:

In a small Asian village a long time ago, a young boy met up with his father. The father was heading to the river and, on his back, he carried a basket into which he'd packed the boy's aged grandfather. "Father," asked the boy. "Where are you taking grandfather in that basket?" "Shh," said the father. "Grandfather is old and sick. Caring for and feeding him is becoming too difficult and expensive, so I am taking him down to the river to drown him." "That's an excellent idea," replied the boy. "Just remember to bring the basket back, so that I can use it for you when the time comes."
I was reminded of this point when I read Colleen Carroll Campbell's article about the increased reliance on euthanasia in Holland, as well as the unseemly haste to see Haleigh Poutre in her grave. There is no doubt that, in the modern age, we face dilemmas of the type never seen before. In the old days, doctors could do little but give palliative care and, often, their best intentions were more deadly than the diseases they treated. The problem, now, is that we're able to keep alive people who, without medical intervention, would die. This means that we really have two types of euthanasia to consider. The first, and the one that's popular in Holland, is for the doctor actively to kill someone who would survive but for the doctor's action. In other word, doctors are being given license to kill people they no longer deem worthy of living. Mengele did that, and it's a slippering slope no matter how you try to dress it up in pretty language about alleviating suffering. (Speaking of Mengele, I told the story here about a family friend who faced Mengele down and talked herself out of the gas chamber.) The second, and infinitely more troubling type of euthanasia is the one where the doctor withholds treatment from people who will die but for the treatment. In this scenario, is the doctor playing God by giving the treatment in the first place (which prevents the natural death process) or is he playing God by withholding that same treatment? On the one hand, the moment one gives the doctor the power to decide who is worth, you start moving into scary ethical territory. On the other hand, I'm in favor of the "Do Not Resuscitate" requests that people with terminal illnesses make. The process of resuscitation is incredibly brutal and, in people this ill, apparently often futile. That's why I can't come down as entirely opposed to withholding treatment, when imposing treatment would be more dreadful than the alternative.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Achooo!!!

I've got a cold which, I'm happy to say, is a rare event in my life, since it leaves me feeling like a wrung out dish rag. I burned up what little energy I had setting the house in order, and learned something about Mr. Bookworm in the process. Mr. Bookworm is less tidy than I am, something I occasionally find irritating. Today, I spent several hours putting away -- and throwing away -- stuff that had migrated to shelves and floors. Stuff like empty shoe boxes (that Payless Shoes is an enticing place when you have kids), old shopping bags, broken party favors, dirty clothes, empty backpacks and lunch bags, random items left over from ski trips, books, balls, GI Joes, beaded bracelets, etc. When I collapsed, exhausted, I congratulated myself on a necessary job fairly well done. My husband's comment: "Why'd you do that? It looked good before. It looks so sterile now." That explains so much.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Global warming alert

This deadly nightmare is what happens when you get snow in the wrong place:

Northbound Highway 101 near Sausalito is open again, now that authorities have cleared the wreckage left by a 28-car pileup on the icy and snowy highway that killed two people and injured more than a dozen others. The roadway opened at 1:35 p.m., more than 11 hours after the accident brought traffic to a halt. Investigators had kept the road closed to gather evidence and clear the wreckage, which stretched hundreds of feet along the roadway just north of the Waldo Tunnel, said CHP Sgt. Wayne Ziese. Authorities said the colossal pile-up started at 2:28 a.m. when cars began sliding on the roadway, which was slick with snow and slush. *** The wreckage stretched for 350 to 400 feet, creating what Ziese called "a jigsaw puzzle of cars." Dented cars faced every which way, strewn about like bowling pins. Broken glass, license plates, bashed fenders and CD cases littered the road. De La Torre Torres' crushed Honda had slammed into the center divide with another silver sedan. Its passenger door was embedded in the back of a white SUV several yards uphill in the middle of the logjam. Big-rig drivers approaching the crash had slowed in time and turned their trucks to block the lanes, preventing additional cars from joining the pile-up, Ziese said. He said motorists were simply going too fast for the unusual snowy and icy conditions that left the road slick. "They're coming around a curve, losing control, slip-sliding, spinning. Pretty soon it's boom-boom-boom-boom-boom," he said. "I don't recall a pileup of this nature in 20-some years in the Bay Area." *** Curtis Glace was the first CHP officer to arrive, and he found a surreal scene of chaos and confusion blanketed by an inch of snow and slush. Car horns and alarms blared as people, many of them standing outside their cars, yelled for help. "I have never seen anything like that," he said. "Everyone was sliding and everything happened so fast . . . One person said they kept getting hit, so much they couldn't keep track."
Driving in winter conditions is an acquired skill, and not one likely to kick in if you don't even realize that, in a place that never gets snow, your ploughing through icy slush:
Marin county resident Dimitris Koutsoukos, 51, was returning home from dinner in San Francisco when he came through the tunnel, saw lights and tried to stop but found his car sliding 200 yards on the slippery road. "It felt funny," Koutsoukos said today, standing amid the wreckage, his Mercedes Benz caught up in the middle of it. "All of a sudden, I was hitting the car in front of me, and I was hit. I thought it was raining. I didn't think it was snow because I never experienced snow."
Here's a picture from the Marin IJ story about the accident. Note the bizarre white stuff on the ground:

Slow and small

Apparently the mills of God decided to kick in after it became apparent that the UN machinery was never going to get Milsevic to justice:

Former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic, the so-called 'butcher of the Balkans' being tried for war crimes after orchestrating a decade of bloodshed that killed 250,000 people and broke up his country, was found dead Saturday in his prison cell. He was 64. Milosevic, who suffered chronic heart ailments and high blood pressure, apparently died of natural causes and was found in his bed, the U.N. tribunal said, without giving an exact time of death.
I find intriguing what a small story this is. He was an evil man who reopened the reign of genocide on European soil. I think, too, that the UN's sluggish response to the atrocities he ordered has been a green light for all manner of other evil people. Hard to imagine the Nurenberg tribunal functioning with such malaise, political game playing, and inefficiency.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Psst. Did you hear the latest about Hillary?

You probably haven't heard this story about Hillary if you're riveted to the NY Times or LA Times, so here is the beginning, and you can click on the link to get the rest:

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton has accepted campaign contributions from a Saipan garment-industry tycoon, sometimes described as a sweatshop operator, whose ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff have been part of the lobbying scandal investigation. Newly filed Federal Election Commission records show that the businessman, Willie Tan, last year gave $2,000 to Friends of Hillary, one of the senator's political action committees. Friends of Hillary also accepted $2,000 contributions from Raymond Tan and Siu Lin Tan, family members who are top executives in Willie Tan's businesses. All three contributions were received on September 30, 2005, according to FEC records. Another family member, Josie Tan, who listed her occupation as homemaker, made a $2,000 contribution received on October 2, 2005. Together, the Tans contributed more to Friends of Hillary than the senator's PAC received, separately, from residents of the states of Hawaii, Mississippi, Nebraska, Vermont, Utah, Kansas, Wyoming, Alaska, Idaho, South Dakota, Montana, or North Dakota, according to the nonpartisan website PoliticalMoneyLine.com For years, Willie Tan, who is a naturalized U.S. citizen, has played a central role in business and politics in the Northern Mariana Islands. His chief interest has been in protecting his garment factories, which pay sub-minimum wages, from U.S. labor laws. In 1992, Tan's businesses were cited as sweatshops by the Labor Department, and Tan was forced to give $9 million in back wages and damages to workers. As part of his effort to steer clear of further American regulation, Tan hired Jack Abramoff.
Frankly, I doubt it's any more scandalous than any of the other dirty money flowing into politics on both sides of the aisle. I report it here only because I have my doubts about it getting much play elsewhere.

An observation about monopolies

Don Quixote and I were talking about our experiences with court reporters. Although there are always individuals who buck these general observations, the fact is that court reporters who do depositions tend to be reliable, polite and have quick turnaround. Contrariwise, court reporters who are actually employed by the courts tend to be unreliable, curt, and incredibly slow in producing work product. The difference? The deposition court reporters are out in the market hustling for customers. The trial court reporters have government jobs for life, and know that you have no recourse. By the way, lest I offend any court reporters reading this, I am always impressed by the amazing work product that they turn out. Also, even with government employee court reporters, I've never had someone directly rude to me. The main frustration is trying to track them down and get their work product (which one needs to pursue writs and appeals). I also don't know what kind of a workload trial court reporters carry. I just know outcomes, and the market definitely produces better outcomes. Talking to Technorati: , ,

Thursday, March 09, 2006

I'm still laughing

This is my 8 year old daughter's self-evaluation about her leadership skills: "My leadership skill is helping people when they are fighting, because I fight with my friends and my brother all the time."

"Come on. Dish the dirt."

NPR had the decency to call Army Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli about what's going on in Iraq, so that he would counter another story about Iraqis worried about more violence. Chriarelli is generally upbeat, telling NPR that that the supply lines are getting more secure, American forces are able to become less visible, the Iraqi Army is performing well and understands its role in a Democracy, and the Army is turning its attention to the police forces. What's so fascinating about the interview is the interviewer's (and I don't know which NPR personality it is) frantic effort to catch Chiarelli on some dirt. It reminded me of a cross-examination, where the lawyer essentially testifies through the questions he asks. Here's the deal: direct questions are open-ended. They'd be questions such as "How is the situation?" "What are you doing to address security concerns?" A cross-examination question is meant to contain within it the answer you seek, confining the witness to yes or no answers: "Isn't the situation disastrous?" "You're unable to address security concerns, aren't you?" "Sectarian violence has gotten out of your control, hasn't it?" (These aren't questions from the NPR story, but they match the tone.) This technique, of course, puts both the interrogator's and the witness's credibility on the line in a trial. It was always my understanding -- color me naive -- that good reporting at least started with open-ended, direct questions. That is, true reporting is a way of learning, and disseminating news, not trying to obtain someone's conviction. I guess I shouldn't be surprised to find that kind of reporting notably absent here.

At the movies

Okay, this post isn't actually about going to the movies, because that's something I never do, and it's not even about current movies, since one of them is 70 years old, but it is about three movies I've recently seen and want to comment on. Movie No. One: Have you ever seen San Francisco, the classic 1936 movie about the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco (and the movie that introduced the famous eponymous song)? If you haven't, you definitely should, and for a whole bunch of reasons. To begin with, April 18 is the 100th anniversary of the quake. (You can find some good websites here, here and here.) It was an extraordinary geological event. My next door neighbor when I grew up through the quake. Her house was relative undamaged, but she recalls that the fires, which were a couple of miles from her house, blazed so brightly you could read a newspaper by their light in the middle of the night. Anyway, San Francisco has, in my opinion, one of the best earthquake sequences ever filmed. Sure, the technique's a bit primitive, but it still packs a huge wallop -- something that may not be surprising if one considers that there may have been many involved in making the movie (filmed a mere 30 years after the quake) who actually experienced the quake or personally knew someone who had been there. The movie also has Clark Gable, as a Barbary Coast nightclub owner, Jeanette MacDonald, as the singing preacher's daughter whom Gable learns to love, and Spencer Tracy, as the fighting priest, which makes for a totally wonderful cast. Add to this a knock-out script by Anita Loos (of Gentleman Prefer Blondes fame, and herself a San Francisco native), which contains dialog like this:

Blackie Norton: Well sister, what's your racket? Mary Blake: I'm a singer! Blackie Norton: Let's see your legs! Mary Blake: I said, I'm a singer! Blackie Norton: All right, let's see your legs!
Aside from the tart dialogue, I swear that I still tear up every time the movie reaches the shlocky but inspiring end, which I won't ruin for you by describing. Movie No. Two: 50 First Dates is the most schizophrenic movie I've ever seen. About a third of it is gross comedy with vomit, transvestite jokes and a racist Hawaiian caricature played by the truly untalented Rob Schneider. But the other two thirds of the movie is a sweet, charming love story about a man, nicely played by Adam Sandler, who falls in love with a woman (Drew Barrymore), who has a brain injury that leaves her stuck in a time warp. It's this love story that, while improbable, is imaginative, and leaves you feeling good. I ended up giving the movie two stars on Netflix, because the gross part garnered it one, the sweet part earned it three, and the average was two. Movie No. Three: If you're having any doubts about whether executing Stanley "Tookie" Williams was a good thing, City of God, a Brazilian film from 2002, will set those doubts to rest, even though it actually has nothing to do with Tookie. City of God is set in a slum outside of Rio, and follows a nice boy's efforts to survive life in those slums from the 1960s through the present day. The slums are riddled with hoodlums, guns and drugs, and the violence, though never graphic, is appalling and deeply disturbing. It's especially awful because, in the most violent character, named Li'l Dice or Li'l Ze, you see Tookie -- the uncontrolled lust to kill, the joy in suffering, the thirst for power, the organizational skills, etc. It's a difficult movie to watch, but an excellent one. In many ways, the weirdest thing is the lovely, lilting Brazilian music providing a constant background to so many on-screen horrors. So, if you've been casting around for things to add to your Netflix list, those are my offerings. Talking to Technorati: , , , ,

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

You just need to know which groups it's okay to insult

Via Michelle Malkin we learn that, in Saskatchewan, it's okay to publish a cartoon that simultaneously manages to be revolting, anti-Semitic and anti-Christian -- and this from a paper that refuses to run the Mohammad cartoons for fear of offending Muslims. Only go to this link if you're prepared to be offended by a gross, mean-spirited and sacrilegious image. I'm still trying to decide here if those students would also have offended Muslims if they weren't afraid of being killed, or if they have compartmentalized the world so that Muslims are always the "good guys," with Christians and Jews the "bad guys."

Indoctrinating teachers

Not a lot of time to write right now, so I'll just give you a heads up that, if you're as hostile to the National Education Association as I am, you'll find this Sol Stern article riveting.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Protecting sensibilities at Harvard

If you read this article in yesterday's Harvard Crimson, you'll see that, as part of the abortion debate, Harvard students are being assaulted with an atrocious image:

“I personally find the image disgusting and don’t want to walk past it everyday,” said Nichele M. McClendon ’06, who said she did not tear down any posters. “It doesn’t have to do with abortion as an issue or free speech; it’s about being decent and not being disgusting.”
Of these same posters, another student characterized the image as a "shocking picture." As I type this, I can hear you asking, "What are these images?" Are they posters from pro-Life groups showing dismembered fetuses in garbage cans? Are they posters from pro-Choice groups showing dead women in puddles of blood, with coat hangers protruding from between their legs? Well, no, although they're being defaced and removed as rapidly as if they were. Here's a little more information about the poster uproar at Harvard:
Posters depicting in utero fetuses raised eyebrows and a small uproar last week. One of the posters, the second in a series created by Harvard Right to Life (HRL), featured the picture of a fetus named Elena with the words, “I’m 25 days old...and my heart already BEATS!!”
Whatever your position on the abortion debate, it strikes me as profoundly bizarre when college students characterize as disgusting and shocking a picture of a living fetus. I still remember when I had my first ultrasound for my first child and saw for the first time the delicate string of pearls that was her 16 week old backbone. It was many things -- moving, stunning, beautiful, etc. -- but it certainly wasn't shocking or disgusting. Hat tip: Suitable for Mixed Company Talking to Technorati: , , , , , , ,

In Paris, it's 1933 all over again

What's absolutely awful about reading this article about the murder of Ilan Halimi is that it could be rewritten with minimal changes (change "France" to "Germany", change "Muslim" to "Nazi") to describe the situation German Jews faced in 1933. I keep being amazed that it's taken Europe only 70 years to position itself to repeat the Holocaust.

Reason #48743934 to get rid of the UN

Rich Lowry delivers himself of a beautifully written diatribe castigating the foul UN Human Rights Commission. You know you're reading something good when you find language like this in the first few paragraphs:

Bolton had hoped to change the commission and infuse it with some of its old idealism. Nothing doing. He’s finding that at the U.N. Augean Stables, the cattle always prevail. The 53-country human-rights commission’s abiding flaw is that it has no standards for membership. So, bloodthirsty tyrannies sit on it together with liberal democracies. Given the let’s-all-get-along bonhomie of the United Nations, they all operate based on a vaporous consensus that strips the commission of any purpose. China, Cuba, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Zimbabwe are all current members, ensuring ample representation of governments interested only in preserving their ability to jail their dissidents, repress their women and despoil their countrysides.
Good writing to make a good point about an evil institution -- who could ask for more?

The male problem in China

In an earlier post, I wondered what was going to happen in America as we urge feminization on our men and deny them the military as a good place to channel ordinary testosterone energy. I also noted that, traditionally, military service was a good way for a society to take that male energy and direct it away from the men's own society and onto someone elses. Here's the flip side for you to think about: China, thanks to its one child policy, the fact that males are favored over females, sonograms, and abortions has an unnaturally large population of surplus males. Do you think China is going to teach these extra men -- men who have no women to domesticate them -- that war is bad and they should explore their feminine side, or do you think China will chose the traditional route for directing that male energy away from China itself? Talking to Technorati: , , ,

Monday, March 06, 2006

It's a G'Day to be Gay

Reading this article about the enormous success of Sydney, Australia's, cross between a Gay Pride and Mardi Gras parade reminded me vividly of the last time I saw San Francisco's Gay Pride parade. I didn't have children then, I was a good, card-carrying liberal, and I still left feeling the event feeling slimed. For the most part, what I saw wasn't a parade about people who happen to be gay, but are proud of their lives -- although there were contingents of gay S.F. cops and firefighters, wearing their uniforms, and attesting to the change in those formerly macho domains. There were also parents who are proud of their gay children, and gay parents with children. All of it celebrated life. What creeped me out was that at least 50% of what was on parade was sex -- not sexuality, not sexual orientation, not gender identity, but pure, raw sex. Parading down the City streets were naked people, people decked out in little leather strings, people being dragged about by leashes, people in bizarre masks, people whipping each other, and more that I seem to have forgotten or don't want to remember. I concluded then that I'm happy to witness a joyous celebration of a life free from fear and prejudice, which is what I'd always understand a gay pride parade to be. I'm way less interested in having my city streets opening up to the equivalent of a moving S&M Sex Club. And that is what I thought off when I saw this in the Times:

Tom Sellers busily adjusted white cowboy chaps over the underwear of dozens of gay men, handed out sequin-trimmed pink and blue cowboy hats and tied glittery bandannas to best effect around everyone's necks.
[Holli Hollitzer/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images]

As dusk fell, Mr. Sellers and his group, inspired by "Brokeback Mountain," were geared up (or, in some cases, geared down in bare buttocks) to take their place in Australia's venerable Mardi Gras gay pride parade, which cavorted through crowd-lined streets here Saturday night. [Emphasis mine.]

To me, this just isn't family friendly fare.

Hmmm.... I wonder why?

I'm sure that somewhere in Hollywood, perhaps in Barbra Streisand's living room, George Clooney, Barbra, Warren, Rob Reiner, and a few others, are gathered together, trying to figure out why this happened:

It was one of those rare Oscar weekends when not one nominated movie made it into the top 10. Neither the Academy Award hopefuls nor the four wide releases entering the market did enough business to dislodge Tyler Perry's "Madea's Family Reunion" from first place. "Madea's" took in an estimated $13 million, bringing its two-weekend total to about $48.1 million. Its closest competitor, the Bruce Willis-Mos Def vehicle "16 Blocks," grossed about $11.7 million in its debut. Other newcomers in the top 10 were the Milla Jovovich sci-fi/action movie "Ultraviolet" with $9 million in fourth place, mermaid-out-of-water comedy "Aquamarine" in fifth with $7.5 million, and the hip-hop musical documentary "Dave Chappelle's Block Party" in seventh with $6.5 million.
Unlike the luminaries I named, I can discern a trend in what's popular and what's not.

Apres les metrosexuals, les deluge?

Despite having seen some of the most bloody fighting World War II had to offer (five years in North Africa and Southern Europe), my father still looked back on his service as the best time in his life. He loved the camaraderie, the discipline, the purpose -- and he loved the right to be aggressive. I'm not saying that my father was an unusually violent or aggressive man. He was simply a young man with a lot of normal testosterone flowing in his body. There's no getting away from the fact that this testosterone almost certainly elevates aggression -- not weird, psychopathic aggression, but the kind that leaves a man hot under the collar when a store clerk is impolite, while his wife manages to ignore the whole thing. I also don't think my father was unusual in finding war stimulating. I gather from Milblogs, from military memoirs, from psychological studies, etc., that many men do not find military service entirely distasteful, even during war time. If one accepts as true my premise that ordinary, well-socialized young men with appropriate testosterone levels are more prone to aggression, it falls to a society to figure out how to channel that aggression. Throughout history, war has been one way of doing so -- indeed, probably the primary way of doing so -- since it takes that male energy, focuses it away from the community, and uses it to acquire land and wealth (and, in the old days, labor in the form of slaves). This leads me to the question lurking behind this post: what happens when you make military service a societally unacceptable option for young men and, indeed, encourage young men to feminize themselves? I think that's certainly true in our society, especially among the middle and upper classes. Examples: **Middle class schools are actively teaching their young people that there is no such thing as a moral war, or moral military service. I've documented that fight here. Just the latest kerfuffle in this battle for young men arises because of the students in Maryland who protested the "Peace Studies" course taught at their school. **Metrosexuals are all the rage. For those of you unversed in this new terminology, metrosexuals are liberated young men perfectly comfortable wearing makeup and dishing dirt with the girls, all the while identifying themselves as heterosexuals. They're not gay (not that there's anything wrong with that), they're just femi-men. At my local mall, I see young men at the department store with bouffant hairstyles, carefully applied makeup, delicate lip gloss, and bare midriffs -- looking much more beautiful and feminine than the girls attached to their arms. **Men in movies are young and soft. No rugged Clark Gable, Gregory Peck or John Wayne to be seen. They're pretty boys: Ben Affleck, Leonardo DiCaprio and Orlando Bloom. Kimberley A. Strassel is not alone in lamenting the missing American man at the movie theater. **At the Olympics, it used to be that the women were pretty and graceful, while the the men were strong and at least pretended to be macho. Now, the women are pretty damn strong, and the men are just as pretty and graceful -- and flutteringly costumed -- as their female counterparts. I don't even want to watch any more. As the French say, "Vive la difference" and when there's no difference, why bother? Speaking of the French, think of this: In the French revolution, these pretty, powdered, patched, and pompadoured men: were utterly defeated by these men: In other words, in the fight between manly men and femi-men, I wouldn't waste my money betting on the latter. Please understand that I'm not arguing for a return to women as second class citizens, nor am I demanding that men prove themselves by grunting and going out to kill people. I am saying, though, that we're embarking willy-nilly on a major cultural experiment in which we feminize our men. At this time of world turmoil, the probable outcome of this experiment leaves me feeling less than secure. UPDATE: I just wandered over to The Telegraph and, coincidentally, there was this nice article about Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo. It's a male dance troup that's been around a long time, and is part of a burlesque tradition of drag performances, but I can't resist including this picture to end this post: UPDATE II: Welcome, American Thinker readers. Needless to say, I'd be delighted if you'd stay a while and check out the whole blog. Talking to Technorati: ,

Wolves in sheep's clothing

I think people are entitled to whatever political views they've concluded are correct. What irks me regarding the MSM is its pretense that it has no political views and that it's engaged in objective reporting. I'd start reading the NY Times again in a minute if it would forthrightly admit that it is a paper aimed at furthering the Democratic party platform. I wouldn't feel as if I and all the other readers are being lied to by something that feeds us news with an agenda, but denies the agenda exists. The same holds true for what's going on at universities. They cling to the ridiculous pretense that they're institutes teaching objective information, free from any biases. Come on, Columbia! Just start admitting that you're a Marxist, anti-Semitic institution. That way, my liberal Jewish friend's child, who is intrigued by the Marxist agenda, might hestitate to apply based on the freely admitted anti-Semitic part. Anyway, apropos of this point, I liked this bit from David Horowitz's most recent article regarding his book exposing college professors:

A principal theme of my book (unmentioned by its critics) is that faculty radicals have transformed entire departments and fields into political parties whose agendas have little or no relation to any activity that could be called scholarly. Thus Women’s Studies are not about an academic inquiry into the nature, history and sociology of women. Instead, Women's Studies is the Party of Feminism on campus. Similarly, Peace Studies is not about a scholarly inquiry into the causes of war and peace. It is the Party of Anti-American, Anti-Military, Sympathy for the Terrorists. And this, by the way, is not a small movement. There are 250 such “Peace Studies” programs on campuses across the country. The one at Ball State is headed by a Professor of the Saxophone; the one at Purdue by a member of the central committee of Angela Davis’s Communist Party. It think this qualifies as “dangerous” and I think the broad public who will read this book is likely to agree.

He who pays the piper gets access to the dance hall

Hurrah! The Supreme Court unanimously held that schhols that accept federal feds must allow military recruiters on their campuses:

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday that colleges that accept federal money must allow military recruiters on campus, despite university objections to the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays. Justices rejected a free-speech challenge from law schools and their professors who claimed they should not be forced to associate with military recruiters or promote their campus appearances. Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the court, said that the campus visits are an effective military recruiting tool. "A military recruiter's mere presence on campus does not violate a law school's right to associate, regardless of how repugnant the law school considers the recruiter's message," he wrote.

Setting the Katrina record straight

Sometimes sanity comes in strange places. This American Thinker article reviews a Popular Mechanics cover story that debunks all of the major (and, need I say, anti-Administration) myths surrounding Hurricane Katrina. I never thought much about Popular Mechanics, the magazine, but it's gone up in my estimation to astropheric heights for having the intellectual honesty to bring fact to hype.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Guess who did it?

I (Don Quixote) was watching one of my junk TV series (Without a Trace, I believe) and within the first five minutes the show introduced the possibility that an environmental group committed the kidnapping. I turned to my wife and said, "Well, one thing is guaranteed; the environmental group didn't do it." Sure enough, the bad guys were the greedy businessmen from the start-up drug company. It's a shame that Hollywood is so very predictable, but it raises the wider issue. The Left has made so much progress in its war against America by controlling the MSM and the education system. How can those of us who care about America take back those institutions or what other means can we use to defeat them?

More feminist myths foisted on women

Do you remember that famous perfume commercial for Enjoli? While a silk-clad woman slithered across the screen, a lusty-voiced woman belted out:

I can bring home the bacon, Fry it up in a pan, And never, never let you forget you're a man, Because I'm a woman, W O M A N
There you have it all in a neat refrain: the feminist superwoman, capable of working full time, managing a house, and curling up like a sex kitten in the boudoir after this 18 hour day. I think most women have figured out that this is, in fact, a myth. I'm not sure about the men. Back in the 1990s, I read a wonderful book called The Second Shift, by Arlie Hochschild. She examined the lives of married, working women. I'll never forget her conclusion. What she discovered was that those working women married to unabashed, 1950s style male chauvinists, actually got more help from their husbands than women married to sensitive 90s style guys. It turned out that the chauvinists placed much more value on house work, and the effort that goes into it. When their wives had to work, they realized what a sacrifice that was, and pitched in around the house. The touchy-feely 90s style guys, however, had been raised on the Enjoli commercial and were convinced, despite all evidence to the contrary, that their wives could, in fact, bring home the bacon, fry it up it the pan, and sizzle in the bedroom. To the extent that sensitive guys helped around the house, in an ostensible spirit of equality, that help proved to be illusory. Thus, an earnest sensitive guy would explain that he was responsible for all outside chores, while his wife was responsible for all inside chores -- which sounds like a fair division of labor. In fact, analysis showed that he took the garbage out once a week and mowed the lawn every two weeks, while his wife did all the shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry, household finances and, of course, child care (during Nanny's time off). All told, if I remember correctly Hochschild discovered that the wives of sensitive guys put in an extra month's work annually compared to their equality-aware husbands. I have a suspicion that Hochschild's findings still hold true today. Can anyone direct me to a recent study on this point? Talking to Technorati: , , , ,

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Challenging family values on both coasts

[The following is a rewrite of one of my earliest posts, which I wrote when I first started the blog. I've polished it a bit, but am re-doing it here, since I think it has a certain relevance this Oscar year.] In 2004, I saw Disney's on-stage version of The Lion King, which had been hugely successful on Broadway, and I just hated it. As you may recall, the charmless plot opens with a ridiculous scene of prey animals worshipping their predator, and then goes downhill from there, focusing on cubs with attitude. It's true that the stage show offers impressive puppets and costumes but, after ten minutes of that, you're left with an icky plot line; bad dialogue; soggy, politically-correct lyrics; lousy (but loud) music; and dancing that looks as if it was choreographed by an aerobics teacher. Underlying all these specific grievances, I just feel that there is something a little bit unwholesome about the Lion King, something anti-family. At about the same time in 2004 that I saw The Lion King, I also saw PBS' six part show about Broadway's musical history. The show's first four episodes are really great fun, since they take one all the way back to the Ziegfeld era. The last two episodes are pretty much devoted to the openly gay Stephen Sondheim and modern Broadway Disney-fication and big corporate shows (Les Miz, etc.). These same last episodes also cover the impact AIDS has had on Broadway. One of the people interviewed said that AIDS devastated Broadway, because Broadway "is gay men." And that statement struck me, because that was not always true about Broadway. Thinking back to Broadway from the turn of the century through the early (even late) 50s, Broadway may have had its share of gay men, but it certainly wasn't "about" them. To begin with, the producers and directors, men such as Ziegfeld, Irving Berlin, and Bob Fosse, certainly weren't gay. Likewise, the composers during Broadway's heyday were, for the most part, heterosexual. Think of big names such as Irving Berlin, the Gershwins, Jerome Kern, Rogers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Loewe, Richard Rogers, and Dorothy Fields. The same heterosexuality holds true for the big name Broadway performers from the 20s through the 50s, men such as Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Eddie Cantor, John Raitt, and W.C. Fields. I haven't forgotten that some famous talents were indeed gay. For example, the extraordinarily talented Lorenz Hart and Cole Porter were both gay, and both men led difficult lives try to hide their sexual orientation. Nor am I ignoring the fact that some Broadway hits, which we view today as innocent and innocuous, were considered hardhitting for their times. Two easy examples are Showboat, which, in 1927, tackled racism, and Finian's Rainbow which did the same thing twenty years later. I'm also not saying that classic Broadway performers and creative talents lived wholesome lives (Kaufman and Ziegfeld, for example, were both notorious womanizers). Indeed, I'd hate to examine the private lives of many of the talents I named above. Nevertheless, for the most part, they lived lives that were at least superficially in synch with middle-America (that is, marriage and children), and their shows were in synch with these same values. One can't say the same thing about recent Broadway offerings. Without in any way challenging the quality or craftsmanship of the shows, I'm not sure there is anything charming or uplifting about Urinetown, The Full Monty, Sweeney Todd, Assassins, Chicago, and Rent. I'm not saying here that art always portray life in an artificially sunny, pure way. Artists have always used their medium to help challenge and broaden their audiences. I do feel, though, that the Coastal art communities have gone out of their way in the past twenty or thirty years to portray middle-class American life as banal and evil (think American Beauty, the critically acclaimed movie), and the fringe lifestyle as normal and joyous. And this lopsided view is every bit as dishonest as one that paints everything in halcyon "Father Knows Best" colors. I'm also not saying that gay men should be driven out of entertainment, or forced back into the closet. Perish the thought. Frankly, I don't think it's a coincidence that so many gay men are drawn to the performing arts. It seems to provide a haven and an outlet for young men who fit uneasily into the regular world. However, I do think that if Broadway wants to retain its relevance and popularity, it would do well to imagine an audience beyond the threater groupies clustering around Times Square. Indeed, although I find the Disney Broadway shows charmless (see how I started this post), they did in fact revitalize Broadway by bringing it back to its mainstream-ish roots. Talking to Technorati: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

This wouldn't have surprised her at all

Helen MacInnes wrote some of the best Nazi and Cold War thrillers. I've blogged before about how prescient some of her books were (see here, here and here.) I've been reading the last book MacInnes wrote before her death, Ride a Pale Horse, a 1984 effort about the waning years of the Cold War. Once again, I've been struck by the fact that she could as easily be writing about the cold aspects of the War we're facing now as about the Cold War itself. This time, the subject is disinformation. We're awfully familiar with it right now. Indeed, the AP gave a perfect example of disinformation this past week, when it let ride for a week a patently incorrect story claiming that Pres. Bush always knew that the levies in the Big O would breach. Other recent examples with horrific outcomes have been the imaginary Jenin massacre, the faked Mohammed al Dura death, and the incorrect "flushed Koran" that led to riots. But it turns out that this kind of skilled lying to manipulate the masses is nothing new in the ideological wars of the last 60 years. The scene I'm thinking of in MacInnes' 1984 book is a conversation between her heroine, Karen Cornell, an unbiased reporter just returned from a "peace" conference in Prague, and her editor, Schleeman, an equally unbiased journalist (proving that MacInnes didn't get everything right):

The meeting was ended. Not yet, thought Karen. "I have been doing some thinking. On disinformation. I could write two articles at least on that subject -- if I had some solid facts as a basis." "Disinformation?" That had caught his attention. He dropped the pen back on the desk. "It's important -- something we all ought to be aware of. Most of us don't really know the difference between misinformation and disinformation." "But you know now -- since Prague?" He was amused but interested. "Give me an example of that difference, Karen. No fancy language: just a simple explanation that any ignorant layman -- like myself -- can understand." He is challenging me, she told herself. All right, let's show him this isn't just a Prague-inspired notion. "The scene is Paris. An attempt to shoot Mitterand as he was entering his car. The actual facts are that he wasn't hit, his driver was wounded, and the two assailants escaped. "An early press report of the incident said that Mitterand was wounded and his chauffeur was killed; two, possibly three terrorists had done the shooting. That report is a case of misinformation. "Another press report starts appearing. It says that an attack on Mitterand took place; he wasn't hit but his driver was wounded. The two assailants have been identified as gunmen used in previous killings by a West German intelligence agency. A reliable source states that the assassination of Mitterand was to have been followed by a right-wing coup, establishing in power a French general favored by fascist elements in Germany." Karen paused. "And that report is pure disinformation." She knew what she was talking about. Schleeman nodded his approval. "It includes a fact or two to make a story credible, then adds the distortions." And people fell for it: the riots in Pakistan four years ago, the burning of the American Embassy and two Americans killed -- all the result of skilled disinformation. The lie that had lit the fuse? The Americans were responsible for the seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, the CIA being the villains. [Bolded emphasis mine.] (pp. 39-40.)
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Dealing with the inevitable

This story was predictable as of 2000:

Zimbabwe has only two weeks of wheat supply left, while citizens are faced with soaring bread prices, Zimbabwe's main milling organisation has said. The cost of bread has risen by 30%, pushing Zimbabwe's inflation rate to more than 600%. Zimbabwe has been in economic decline since President Robert Mugabe began seizing white-owned farms in 2000.
I wonder what the West's obligations are. It seems inhumane not to ship in wheat to alleviate the starvation of the innocents. However, it's obvious that doing so will prop up another truly evil African dictatorship. That is, if we send wheat and other supplies, Mugabe gets to continue in power, pursuing his evil policies, and letting the West sustain his people at a minimal level -- too much food to die, too little food to rebel. Talking to Technorati: , , ,