Who will promise to imprison the largest number of women for abortion?
by Eric

According to Newsmax.com, Fred Thompson's abortion record is being scrutinized:

Combing through Thompson's archive, Newsweek found several files on his campaign strategy on abortion that could roil his 2008 bid. On a 1994 Eagle Forum survey, Thompson said he opposed criminalizing abortion. Two years later, on a Christian Coalition questionnaire, he checked "opposed" to a proposed constitutional amendment protecting the sanctity of human life. In a campaign policy statement filed in the archives, he also said he believes "the decision to have an early term abortion is a moral issue and should not be a legal one subject to the dictates of the government." During an interview with the Conservative Spectator, a Tennessee newspaper, he claimed to be pro-life but also said that, "The ultimate decision on abortion should be left with the woman and not the government."
The Tennessean has more, and while Thompson's statements to various organizations and media outlets have varied over the years, his overall voting record indicates he's philosophically opposed to abortion. (A federalist, he thinks Roe v. Wade was wrong, and voted repeatedly to ban partial birth abortion.)

But I guess to certain ideologues, you have to want to put women in prison or else you'll be labeled "pro abortion."

Voters who think abortion should always be illegal (I assume that means they want to put women in prison, but I can't be sure that they've all thought it through) were 16% of the 2004 electorate, and 12% of Bush's voters. I think if they compare Thompson's record to Clinton's or Obama's, they'll vote for Thompson if he's the candidate in the general election.

I don't know where people get the idea that the president can do much about abortion one way or another, but it certainly fuels a lot of passion.

posted by Eric at 06:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)

Decadent bureaucrats mutilate soldiers
by Eric
"Decadence" is the essential condition of "a society which believes it has evolved to the point where it will never have to go to war."

--Air Force Colonel Robert Wheeler

From today's Philadelphia Inquirer:

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Fifth-graders in California who adorned their mortarboards with tiny toy plastic soldiers this week to support troops in Iraq were forced to cut off their miniature weapons.
While the Inquirer shifts the focus to "zero tolerance" in general, I think the larger issue is an anti-military, anti-boy mindset, and I see the cutting off of the tiny plastic guns as a perfect example of the bureaucratic eunuchoid class run amok.

There's a great blog post here which reprints the full story, with pictures of the offending mortarboards. What I enjoyed most was the boys' spirited defense of the wounded troops.

wounded.jpgFor obvious reasons, the picture on the left is not getting much mainstream media play. I can't think of a better way to expose the anti-war bureaucrats than the boys' simple demonstration that the school bureaucrats had wounded the troops. No words can match the eloquence of the bloodied bandages!

I wrote several posts about eunuchs, and I think this is as good a place as any to add a few words about Phil Bowermaster's post about transmasculinity, which Glenn Reynolds linked yesterday. I have no problem with the idea of transmasculinity (or androgyny), and don't think it is remotely the same as state-enforced policies forcing boys to become eunuchs.

As Bowermaster observes from personal experience, we've gone from persecution to persecution, in little more than a single generation:

I was born in 1962 and attended public schools in the 1960's and 1970's. So depending on whom you ask, I either suffered under the early stages of a dehumanizing PC agenda that was trying to "feminize" me, or I enjoyed the last few halcyon days of a golden era when boys were allowed to be boys. In point of fact, I think the latter is closer to the truth, but let me just point out one important feature of that lost golden age: it could pretty much suck for boys who weren't terribly interested in boy stuff.

Personally, I hated sports when I was a kid. I read a lot, and very indiscriminately -- meaning that I cheerfully read books that my older sister was reading or had just finished, even though many of these were "girls'" books. When I was in the 5th grade, I wanted an Easy Bake oven for Christmas. It's hard to imagine in the age of Emeril what a stigma there once was around a boy showing an interest in cooking. For these points of divergence with mainstream boyhood, I was rewarded with a label which -- unlike tomboy -- was never considered complimentary: I was a sissy, later a queer or fag. Some thought it cute for a girl to be a tomboy; nobody ever thought it was cute for a boy to be a sissy.

What I would have really liked when I was a kid was for other people to leave me alone and let me be who I was. But no such luck -- and I don't think the peer pressure to be "masculine" had as much to do with trying to raise a just and noble and manlike society as it did preventing boys from growing up to be homos. I was always getting crap about how I walked. There was this bizarre belief that boys who "walked funny" had started down a one-way highway that ended in Queersville.

But as we all know, the opposite of crazy is still crazy. And in this case, we get craziness on a much vaster scale. My longed-for world of live-and-let-live never really came about. Instead, rather than persecuting the few boys who don't have traditional masculine inclinations, we've put a system in place that persecutes that vast majority of boys who do have such inclinations. Progress!

I avoided the whole thing by being morbidly subversive, Machiavellian, and reptilian. (I'm not proud of some of the things I did, but it was survival stuff, and my way of fighting back.)

It's the heavy arm of the state being brought to bear that I think is the larger problem here. Social engineering when practiced by tyrannical boys against each other is inevitable. While it should be policed by responsible authorities when it gets out of hand, the idea of reshaping boys by doing things like carving up their little plastic toys based on a government edict -- at a time when we are at war -- is simply an outrage.

But again, I don't think it's so much feminization that's going on as it is neuterization, or eunuchization. John Lennon "Imagine" pacifism is not feminine, but neuter -- and in my opinion, decadent.

The problem is, it has taken over the bureaucratic establishment.
Pajamas Media links Westhawk's review of a new article by Robert Kaplan:

Mr. Kaplan thinks there are two Americas, a pacifist Establishment and a warrior class, two Americas that hardly know each other.
I'm afraid that the pacifist class wants to castrate the warrior class in any way they can, and at every opportunity -- beginning with the enforced mutilation of tiny plastic soldiers.

The real soldiers are being symbolically castrated with kindness. This includes the very condescending approach of pitying them as victims. According to Kaplan, soldiers want respect, not pity:

I cannot remember how many times a soldier or marine told me that we don't want to be pitied as victims, but respected as fighters.
How can they be respected as fighters by a society that forces children to sever their fighting parts?

This seemingly tiny incident is not as tiny as it appears.

UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link, and welcome to all!

(In answer to Glenn's question, I think bureaucrats may have zero tolerance for decency.)

posted by Eric at 10:04 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBacks (0)

Another Attempt At Friendly Discourse Goes Awry
by Justin

From the comment section of Denialism Blog, a slightly abridged comment. The bolding is mine...

Mark, you are simply missing the point. You take yourself very, very seriously - and no doubt the issues at stake are serious, both economically and environmentally. Blair, on the other hand, is just a joker. Everything he writes is basically a joke - but usually one with a certain wry observation or kernel of truth in it.

It is a totally different kind of writing to the kind of pseudo-scholarly discourse (or is it really an "Inquisition", as Harry would have it?) going on here. It's a bit like you getting upset watching a roadrunner cartoon: "That doesn't make sense - that coyote would be dead by now" kind of thing. Your "quote mine" was little more than a handle for a new joke to rest on. Most of Tim Blair's readers don't give a damn what you think or believe.

Contrary, to Wes' assertion, the link is there for readers to follow as they wish. I think that you should be glad to get this kind of exposure from a very popular Australian blog - assuming that your objective really is to reach out and persuade. I have had a good look around and there is some very interesting material here.

Posted by: Bob Bunnett | June 8, 2007 12:30 AM

Not well received. Nice try, though.

posted by Justin at 05:47 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (0)

Educated Incapacity
by Justin
From The Expert and Educated Incapacity , by Herman Kahn
Educated incapacity often refers to an acquired or learned inability to understand or even perceive a problem, much less a solution. The original phrase, "trained incapacity," comes from the economist Thorstein Veblen, who used it to refer, among other things, to the inability of those with engineering or sociology training to understand certain issues which they would have been able to understand if they had not had this training.

The training is essential to gain the skill, and society wants these people to have the skills, so I am not objecting to the training. But the training does come at some costs by narrowing the perspectives of the individuals concerned...

When a possibility comes up that is ruled out by the accepted framework, an expert--or well-educated individual--is often less likely to see it than an amateur without the confining framework.

For example, one naturally prefers to consult a trained doctor than an untrained person about matters of health. But if a new cure happens to be developed that is at variance with accepted concepts, the medical profession is often the last to accept it...

Educated incapacity in the United States today seems to derive from the general educational and intellectual milieu rather than from a specific education...

Individuals raised in this milieu often have difficulty with relatively simple degrees of reality testing--e.g., about the attitudes of the lower middle classes, national security issues, national prestige, welfare, and race. This is not to say that other groups might not be equally biased and illusioned--only that their illusions are generally reflected in more traditional ways.

posted by Justin at 05:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)

Slow Motion Singularity: 1968
by Justin

From 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Sir Arthur C. Clarke

The great dinosaurs had long since perished when the survey ship entered the Solar System after a voyage that had already lasted a thousand years...

They were patient , but they were not yet immortal. There was so much to do in this universe of a hundred billion suns, and other worlds were calling. So they set out once more into the abyss, knowing that they would never come this way again. Nor was there any need. The servants they had left behind would do the rest. On Earth, the glaciers came and went, while above them the changeless Moon still carried its secret.

With a yet slower rhythm than the polar ice, the tides of civilization ebbed and flowed across the galaxy. Strange and beautiful and terrible empires rose and fell, and passed on their knowledge to their successors. Earth was not forgotten, but another visit would serve little purpose. It was one of a million silent worlds, few of which would ever speak.

And now, out among the stars, evolution was driving toward new goals. The first explorers of Earth had long since come to the limits of flesh and blood; as soon as their machines were better than their bodies, it was time to move. First their brains, and then their thoughts alone, they transferred into shining new homes of metal and plastic.

In these, they roamed among the stars. They no longer built spaceships. They were spaceships.

But the age of the Machine-entities swiftly passed. In their ceaseless experimenting, they had learned to store knowledge in the structure of space itself, and to preserve their thoughts for eternity in frozen lattices of light. They could become creatures of radiation, free at last from the tyranny of matter.
Into pure energy, therefore, they presently transformed themselves; and on a thousand worlds, the empty shells they had discarded twitched for awhile in a mindless dance of death, then crumbled into rust.

Now they were lords of the galaxy, and beyond the reach of time. They could rove at will among the stars, and sink like a subtle mist through the very interstices of space. But despite their godlike powers, they had not wholly forgotten their origin, in the warm slime of a vanished sea.

And they still watched over the experiments their ancestors had started, so long ago.

If you'll allow that evolution really does happen, and that intelligent life can endure, intelligently, for millions of years, then the above doesn't seem at all farfetched. Indeed, the first few steps seem inevitable. As for the lattices of light and subtle mist stuff, who can say? Not me, that's for sure. We still don't know enough to say it's either possible or impossible with an acceptable degree of certainty. But we're getting there.

Where the Singularitarian Kids lose me is their insistence that they will live to see it. Frankly, I question the timing. What looks to be possible in three hundred years, probable in three thousand, a sure thing in three million, looks flatly impossible in a mere thirty. And yes, I do know about Moore's Law.

Concluding, let's just back up a bit textually, eh?

Those who had begun that experiment, so long ago, had not been men--or even remotely human. But they were flesh and blood, and when they looked out across the deeps of space, they had felt awe, and wonder, and loneliness. As soon as they possessed the power, they set forth for the stars. In their explorations, they encountered life in many forms, and watched the workings of evolution on a thousand worlds. And they saw how often the first faint sparks of intelligence flickered and died in the cosmic night.

And because, in all the galaxy, they had found nothing more precious than Mind, they encouraged its dawning everywhere. They became farmers in the fields of stars; they sowed, and sometimes they reaped.

And sometimes, dispassionately, they had to weed.

Ah. The good old stuff.

posted by Justin at 04:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)

Victorian Wisdom: 1934
by Justin

From A London Child Of The 1870s, by M.V. Hughes

On one of my bad days I refused to finish up my rice pudding, was sent from the room, and fled in angry tears to my bedroom. Soon Aunt Lizzie came up to me with the information that 'it says in the Bible that the disobedient are to burn for ever in the Lake of Fire, with idolaters and murderers and liars'.

This sounded all too likely, and without questioning the accuracy of her quotation I went back and choked down that rice pudding...

In spite of the fun that we made of Aunt Lizzie we were really fond of her, because she never gushed and would do any thing for us. And we all knew her tragedy. She had run away to be married, and her husband had turned out a drunken brute with no redeeming attraction.

He tortured her to such an extent that she was obliged to flee from lodging to lodging to avoid him, and to make a living for herself by giving music lessons. It is no wonder that she took gloomy views of life, and had such vivid ideas of Hell.

Victorian times are supposed to have been so settled and happy and care-free, but my recollections hardly tally with this rosy picture. Surely to-day no woman would endure such humiliations year after year.

If only Aunt Lizzie had listened to Leon Kass. She should have courted her beau, rather than eloping with him, the brute. Lucky she had her music teaching to fall back on, eh?

From The End of Courtship by Leon Kass

On the one side, there is a rise in female assertiveness and efforts at empowerment, with a consequent need to deny all womanly dependence and the kind of vulnerability that calls for the protection of strong and loving men, protection such men were once -- and would still be -- willing to provide...

...the economic independence of women, however welcome on other grounds, is itself not an asset for marital stability, as both the woman and the man can more readily contemplate leaving a marriage. Indeed, a woman's earning power can become her own worst enemy when the children are born.

Give the doctor his due. He fully recognizes that men are bastards. That's why Aunt Lizzie should have been more careful...

Not all the obstacles to courtship and marriage are cultural. At bottom, there is also the deeply ingrained, natural waywardness and unruliness of the human male. Sociobiologists were not the first to discover that males have a penchant for promiscuity and polygyny -- this was well known to biblical religion.

Men are also naturally more restless and ambitious than women; lacking woman's powerful and immediate link to life's generative answer to mortality, men flee from the fear of death into heroic deed, great quests, or sheer distraction after distraction. One can make a good case that biblical religion is, not least, an attempt to domesticate male sexuality and male erotic longings, and to put them in the service of transmitting a righteous and holy way of life through countless generations...

Ogden Nash had it right: "Hogamus higamus, men are polygamous; higamus hogamus, women monogamous." To make naturally polygamous men accept the conventional institution of monogamous marriage has been the work of centuries of Western civilization...

Glad that's settled. So, which century would you rather live in?

posted by Justin at 03:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)

Boron Fusion Rocketry: 1977
by Justin

From The Jupiter Theft, by Donald Moffitt

The ritual spying had become a way of life during the year-long preparations for the joint Chinese-American Jupiter mission...The big prize in the game was the new boron fusion/fission engine that was going to power the Jupiter ship, courtesy of the United States. The Chinese didn't have one yet...

Jameson was familiar with the basic principle: You inject a proton into boron 11, with its six neutrons and five protons, and you get an unstable nucleus that explodes into three helium nuclei, with two protons and two neutrons apiece, plus a liberated proton. But it took temperatures in the billions of degrees to start boron fission.

So to get the hot protons needed to trigger the boron reaction, you had to have a fusion reaction first. That was being supplied, courtesy of the Chinese, via a more conventional deuterium-tritium fusion triggered by carbon dioxide lasers.

The security problems at the interface of the two systems were nightmarish.

Some would say that science fiction rots the mind. And that was just the short form. A longer version (with high performance deep space rocket ship!) follows...

The Jupiter ship drifted among the stars, a gigantic hoop and stick perforated with light from its blazing ports...the camera pinnace, hovering a prudent fifty miles away, zoomed in to the limit of its magnification, and the hoop became an enormous puffy doughnut, bumpy with outside structures, and the stick swelled to an immense cylindrical shaft...

Somewhere inside the long shaft, Chinese technicians bustled around a massive globate housing that bristled like a hedgehog with converging laser assemblies. Towering stacks of capacitors marched endlessly down the arched chamber. Pipes and cables disappeared through a thick bulkhead. On the other side of the bulkhead, a team of American technicians tended the dull buging shapes of of cryogenic storage vats and monitored a bewildering array of computer displays.

A walnut-size pellet of boron dropped into a vat. it was hollow on the inside, and beautifully machined, with twelve precise pinholes slanting through its jacket. It was immediately stuffed with a tiny snowball made of frozen deuterium and tritium

A computer on the American side of the bulkhead positioned the pellet to within an angstrom and fired it through a long pipe into the chamber of the Chinese device. All the lasers fired at once in a burst that lasted only a few picoseconds. They were computer controlled by a single oscillator on the American side...

Time out for a minute.

Back in the mid seventies, when The Jupiter Theft was being written, laser induced fusion via inertial confinement was looked on very hopefully. It was seen as a possible solution to the very difficult problems encountered by magnetic confinement devices. Subsequent experience proved it to have problems of its own.

Back in 1984, T.A. Heppenheimer wrote a quite good history of fusion research aimed at the lay audience. It was titled Man-Made Sun, and I think it holds up rather well, even today, for the curious and non-technical reader.

He covers the history of magnetic confinement fusion, inertial confinement fusion, a handful of more speculative concepts, and concludes with some tempting prospects for the future. I first learned of Farnsworth Fusors from this book.

Interestingly, he even gives a pretty fair accounting of Robert Bussard's Amazing Riggatron Fusion adventure with Bob Guccione. Mind you, I haven't opened my copy in over fifteen years, so caveat whatever.

I'd have to say that my one favorite line from the book was a heartfelt quote from a magnetic machine advocate. "Those laser guys are such liars!"

We now return to the launch...

Twelve thread-thin beams of coherent light blasted through the pellets pinholes and converged at the center of the snowball. A tiny volume of space turned into hell. A few cubic microns of hydrogen isotopes became ten times hotter than the interior of the sun. The fusion reaction became self-sustaining. The pressure of the blast crushed superheated plasma to the awesome density of degenerate matter, and held the pellet together for the few picoseconds needed to initiate the next stage of the reaction.

For hydrogen fusion, a mere 200 million degrees Fahrenheit had been sufficient. For boron fission, a temperature in the billions of degrees was needed. Fusion was only the trigger. The raging nuclear fury in that tortured speck of matter stripped hot protons from surrounding hydrogen atoms and drove them with incredible energy into the now-collapsing nuclei of boron-11 atoms. The extra proton was too much for the boron nucleus to hold. Each atom split into three helium nuclei. The energy released was tremendous--far more than the controlled fusion energy that mankind had unlocked a half century before. a stream of electrically charged helium nuclei sought their mad escape rearward through the ship's nozzles.

The ship trembled and moved.

Another pellet dropped. Another chamber turned into hell. Then, three seconds later, another. And another,

The ship, shuddering, picked up speed. It was accelerating rapidly now, at one percent of a g.

One hundredth of a gee? Now that's what I call high performance, and I'm not being the slightest bit facetious. One hundredth of a gee will take you anywhere in the solar system if you can keep the engines running long enough.

You could reach Mars in weeks instead of the months currently envisioned. Jupiter in months instead of years. With constant boost, you'd reach Pluto in less than a year instead of the decades current technology requires. That's what a hundredth of a gee will get you. Of course, it would be nice if we could do better.

Boron fusion might someday deliver that kind of performance. As far as I know, this is the very first depiction of it in the annals of science fiction. I'm sure I'll hear about it if I'm mistaken.

posted by Justin at 12:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)

Bicentennial Transhumanism: 1976
by Justin

From The Next 200 Years, by Herman Kahn

It seems very likely that many subtle and sophisticated questions will arise as mankind--increasingly relieved of the burdens of simple sustenance and richer in technological capabilities and economic resources--continues its inexorable march across new frontiers. Indeed, some such questions are already arising.

The fundamental physiological and psychological aspects of human life are being altered today, and will be changed further tomorrow. Most of the great diseases of the past have been all but eliminated (smallpox, for example, will soon be a memory almost as distant as scurvy and beriberi), and death increasingly will be mainly the result of either accident or the simple wearing out of vital organs (here, too, new opportunities for life extension are arising through the rapidly growing science of organ replacement and soon of organ regeneration). As man progresses further in genetic research, he will move closer to the time when he will be able to influence the design of his offspring, perhaps even produce them ectogenetically. Man can now alter his mental state with drugs, and over time even influence his personality. Will man, within 200 years, be able to condition his mind to increase his ability to learn, to communicate, to create, and will he he have the power to affect others similarly, perhaps without their knowing it?

How will all of these potential changes, many of which are quite likely, affect human beings for whom work--in the post-industrial era--will be an activity of relatively short duration, and of a primarily self-serving nature? It is almost impossible to imagine such an existence. But already there are available electromechanical devices that effect enormous savings of labor, and the next generation of such devices--spurred by the computer revolution--will probably free man from the need to manage them, except for the preselection of appropriate computer programs.

What kind of a life will a genetically engineered, vital-organ-replaceable, mental-state-adjustable, computer-robot-assisted human being want to live? Will he seek even more to test himself in the combat of sport, the risk of adventure or the challenge of exploration? Or will he be able and prefer to experience all of this--and more--through artificial stimulation...

The postindustrial world we foresee will be one of increased abundance, and thus hopefully of reduced competition; it will be one of greater travel and contact, and thus possibly one of diminished differences among its peoples. But it will also be one of enormous power to direct and manipulate both man and nature; and thus its great issues will still be the very questions that confront us now, though enlarged in range and magnitude: Who will direct and manipulate, and to what ends?

posted by Justin at 11:50 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)

as the noose tightens, the hangman becomes respectable
by Eric

In more posts than I can count, I've raved against AB 1634 (mandatory spay and neuter), and my position on anthropogenic global warming is beyond that of a mere denier; I'm a defier. Not that I advocate using incandescent bulbs or not spaying pets for other people; my position is a very simple one. I don't want the government telling people what to do in their personal lives.

My house, my dog, my car, my guns.

It's my business whether I own (yes own, not act as a state-appointed "guardian" for) my dog, or my car and my guns, and it's my business what I do behind closed doors in my house.

California's endless litany of ever tightening restrictions (detailed here and linked by Glenn Reynolds who likened the place to Singapore) tend to be laughed at by the rest of the country.

So let's all go ahead and laugh at California!

In particular, let's have a good laugh at Berkeley.

In Berkeley's green future, there will be no incandescent lightbulbs, Wedgewood stoves or gas-powered water heaters. The only sounds will be the whir of bicycles and the purr of hybrid cars -- and possibly curses from residents being forced to upgrade all their kitchen appliances.

Six months after Berkeley voters overwhelmingly passed Measure G, a mandate to reduce the city's greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050, the city is laying out a long-term road map for residents, business and industry. It includes everything from solar panels at the Pacific Steel foundry to composted table scraps.

While San Francisco, Oakland and other local governments in the Bay Area have approved policies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Berkeley is the first to begin spelling out how people would be expected to reduce their carbon footprints.

Some measures will be popular and easy, like a car-share vehicle on every block and free bus passes. But others will be bitter pills, such as strict and costly requirements that homes have new high-efficiency appliances, solar-powered water heaters, insulation in the walls and other energy savers.

Ah, silly Berkeley! Big Brother in Birkenstocks! Ha ha ha ha ha!

Laugh at your peril.

Because it is your peril. As a collective process, what is going on has been likened (via Samizdata) to a series of fence posts placed in the ground:

The problem is, they will outlaw almost everything while enforcing very little. Imprisonment by stealth. People will not know they are encircled until it is too late - like putting in all these very deep, robust fence-posts with no fence panels. All seems open. One day you will wake up and the panels are in, you are trapped and they can decide what law they wish to impose to nail whomsoever they desire.
I'm reminded of the line from the movie Goodfellas, in which the local mob boss locks the doors to the bar from the inside, then turns around and says, "Now youse can't leave."

But the problem is, people vote for it, and we live in a democracy. Perry de Havilland has also called the process "Democratic totalitarianism":

...a total state really is what a great many people have in mind for us all. They seek a sort of 'smiley face fascism' in which all interactions are regulated in the name of preventing sexism, promoting health, and defending the environment. The excuses will not invoke the Glory of the Nation or the Proletariat or the Volk or the King or the Flag or any of those old fashioned tools for tyrants, but rather it will be "for our own good", "for the Planet", "for the whales", "for the children", "for the disabled" or "for equality".

But if they get their way it will be quite, quite totalitarian.

It would be an error to dismiss such warm and fuzzy totalitarianism as the product of top-down rule by a Leviathan state. Pliant and well-meaning citizens (some of whom I suspect in my darker moments are wannabe eunuchs) voluntarily condition themselves first to accept self-imposed limitations, following which it becomes easy to impose them on others. The "fairness" principle lies at the heart of this
We have all been doing our part in fixing our pets the state-sanctioned companion animals of which we're now guardians, substituting bicycles for cars, replacing our lightbulbs and windows with "green" alternatives. Is it really fair for a small minority of recalcitrant denialists to live like pigs greedy American kulaks at the expense of the rest of us?
Freedom be damned. Your "liberty" is unfair to the rest of us! You're polluting us all -- and we must stop your, your footprint!

"I saw you driving your car to the store yesterday!"

As I say, the noose is tightening. As California goes, so goes the nation. You think there's an escape? Think again. I admit, I sometimes fantasize about escaping:

....here I am, minding my own business and not so much as inconveniencing anyone, while an ever-growing number of people want to make me into a criminal. As it is, I'm forced to live as an exile from California, where my dog and my guns would be criminal activities.

So, should I just sit around in Pennsylvania and imagine it could never happen here? Or should I move South and hope it doesn't happen there?

Wherever I go, it seems that it's easier and easier to become a criminal by doing nothing.

The way things are going, I almost prefer returning to Berkeley. I was ahead of the game there.

Here I sit and wait for the ideas to spread, and then wonder what the hell is wrong with everyone. In Berkeley I knew what was wrong with everyone, and they knew what was wrong with me. In a city of kooks, I'm just one more kook -- even if I'm on the "wrong" side. The difference here is that once the ideas spread, they've become so trendy and entrenched that people don't realize how kooky they are.

I guess I'd rather be tyrannized by kooks than by the normal majority. It has less of a sting. True, freedom is lost either way, but it's comforting to the soul to know that your enemies are as crazy as you are. Seen another way, it's better to be rended by wolves than suffocated by sheep. (More dignified, anyway.)

But those are just my personal issues. The rest of society be warned.

Now youse can't leave.

posted by Eric at 09:25 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBacks (0)

hot times in Kuwait
by Eric

Two videos.

The first one is labeled, simply, "Kuwait dancer"

(I don't know what the song is, but the dance is interesting. The title should say "Kuwait dancers" as there are two of them, plus a couple of spectators.)

And the second one is titled "Kuwait scandal 2" -- and quite a scandal it is!

(Actually, while they might not be quite ready for prime time, they do a pretty good job of dancing to "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." As spontaneous amateur choreography goes, it's not bad.)

In all honesty, sometimes Youtube makes me feel as if I'm invading the privacy of strangers. But then, I was just browsing for Mideastern music, and there they were. And because Saturday night is YouTube night at Classical Values, I have to share the best of whatever I find.


posted by Eric at 11:52 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (0)

Eunuchly American literary figure(s)
by Eric

I was all set to write a post about Sidney Sawyer, but when I Googled "Sidney Sawyer" and "eunuch" or "Sidney Saywer" and "neuter", the only links I got were to my own blog.

I had in mind a long-winded essay about how the best way to avoid raising a eunchoid son would be to have him read "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," but this took the wind out of my sails.

(Things are really desperate when all you get when you Google is your own stuff.)

To make a long post short, I think what's important about Sidney is that he is, literarily and metaphorically speaking, a neutered boy -- the equivalent of a eunuch. Not gay, not a sissy, or anything like that, but a pliant, obedient, well-behaved lover of authority who does as he's told, runs to the authorities for protection, undermines the accomplishments of others, and thwarts those with free will and stubborn independence. (And who in all probability would think sex is icky.)

Sid Sawyer has been on my mind lately because of a couple of posts about eunuchs -- one from a modern (mostly figurative) perspective, and the other from an ancient (more literal) perspective.

"The Dangerous Book for Boys" strikes me as a Tom Saywer/Huck Finn sort of restoration project in the making, and an antidote to the growing neuter movement. How could anyone in their right mind could object to that? I Googled the book to look for objections, and found none. However, it didn't take long for an angry whiner to come crawling out of the woodwork in the form of Glenn Greenwald -- a genuine Sidney Sawyer if ever there was one. I was a bit taken aback, but I shouldn't have been, really. It was just so in character for Greenwald to object to this book. So, so, perfectly fitting. His attack on "The Dangerous Book for Boys" is a true testament to the perpetually recurring nature of the Sidney Sawyer eunuchoid personality that is unfortunately as much a traditional American character as his brother Tom. IMO, the ideal American spirit is Tom Sawyer, not Sidney. I don't think most parents would want to raise a Sid Sawyer (or a Glenn Greenwald) as a child. Nor should the schools be encouraging the development of such personalities. (Instead of banning Tom Sawyer, I think they ought to make it assigned reading.)

Regardless of whether the Sid Sawyers of the world are comfortable with it, this stuff has important consequences -- some of which were discussed in a Wall Street Journal article that Glenn Reynolds linked yesterday:

You can't build a civilization and defend it against barbarians, fascists and playground bullies, in other words, with a nation of Phil Donahues.
Nor with a nation of Sidney Sawyers.

The author (Tony Woodlief, who also wrote "Raising Wild Boys Into Men: A Modern Dad's Survival Guide") amplifies:

The good father, then, needs to nurture his son's moral and spiritual core, and equip him with the skills he'll need to act on the moral impulse that we call courage. A real man, in other words, is someone who doesn't run from an Osama bin Laden. But he may also need the ability to hit a target from three miles out with a .50 caliber M88 if he wants to finish the job.

Not only do I believe that trying to take the wildness out of boys is a doomed social experiment, but I'm certain that genetic scientists will eventually discover that males carry the Cowboy Gene. That's my name for whatever is responsible for all the wrestling in my house, and the dunking during bath time, and my 5-year-old's insistence on wearing his silver six-shooters to Wal-Mart in order to protect our grocery cart. I only pray that when the Cowboy Gene is discovered, some well-meaning utopian doesn't try to transform it into a Tea Party Gene.

If anyone had the Tea Party Gene, it would have been Sidney Sawyer. He'd not only run from Osama bin Laden, but he'd tattle on the Tom Sawyers who risked their lives to go after him.

UPDATE: Many thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link, and welcome all!

Considering the recent forced mutilation of toy soldiers by educrats, I think a Tom Sawyer revival is long overdue, as the Sidney forces seem to be winning.

All the more reason not to forget about Tom!

posted by Eric at 04:09 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBacks (0)

Thinking globally, acting locally.
by Eric
We can change the world

Rearrange the world

It's dying - to get better

-- Graham Nash

In a self-reproaching post yesterday, I grudgingly admitted that the ice at a local lake is showing clear signs of global warming, and I don't want it said about me that I am one of those passive types who sits around and gets alarmed, yet refuses to take active measures to stop the crisis which even fourth graders in Maine describe as a "huge pending global disaster," but that "we all have the means to change it together."

Change starts at home. (And I don't mean changing light bulbs, for much as I love my CFLs, in all honesty they have not resulted in any demonstrable cooling in my house.)

Via leading Australian environmental advocate Tim Blair, I am persuaded that the best place to start is in my kitchen.

Encouraging others to pitch in with personal stories of how they helped cool the world, Mr. Blair started the Blair Fridge Project, and overwhelming reader response led to another post, with an utterly inspiring group of photo submissions, showing that we truly can change the world, by making it a cooler place! One fridge at a time!

This fits in with the civic message that each citizen must be held accountable. From each according to his ability, to each according to his need. This finds justification in the Bible:

"And all went to be taxed. Every man into his own city."
Like the incredibly cool Denver -- which is planning to tax citizens based on their individual coolness or uncoolness. And just think -- in Denver 9 of the 10 warmest years occurred before 1955, which means the cooling must already have been working in an anticipatory manner for years!

(I'd note parenthetically that Denver is also cracking down on methane producing animals, with the worst offenders being ordered to "leave the city or be killed." Well, even though the overwhelming scientific consensus does say that animals are the number one cause of anthropogenic global warming, mass killing goes too far to suit my tastes.)

Better for now just to tax and spend, and use incentives to encourage citizens to turn in deadbeat noncomplying emitters.

But clearly, it's not enough merely to use CFLs. What is needed are active cooling measures, like the citizen refrigerator. Think of it! If each citizen runs at least one refrigerator, I don't know how much cooling that is, but the sum total is obviously way cool and I wonder whether the scientists have been taking accurate spot measurements into account in their averages, because it wouldn't be accurate to declare that my house is 90 degrees just because it's 90 degrees outside! You have to average in the refrigerator temperature along with the air-conditioning, to get the full picture.

Anyway, I want it known I'm doing my part, so here's my better-late-than-never submission:


In particular, note the heavy-duty industrial thermometer on top of the fridge. Its gauge goes all the way up to 2400 degrees Fahrenheit, so you can't say I'm not prepared!

Changing the world is a matter of degree.

posted by Eric at 10:14 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)

A sign of the times
by Eric

If this isn't considered proof positive of the anthropogenic global warming/scientific alarmist consensus, I don't know what is!


The above picture was taken yesterday, and, skeptic that I am, I have to admit that things are worse than the sign ever anticipated. The ice isn't just thin; it no longer exists.

As you can clearly see, the ice has melted away. To nothing except bare water (and very dangerous water at that).

What this means is that I can't keep up my skating-on-thin-ice act forever. Sooner or later, I'll have to admit it's gotten warmer, and then I'll have to go from pretending to skate on thin ice to pretending to walk on water, or whatever one does in a meltdown.

posted by Eric at 05:38 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBacks (0)

A sudden emergency to legalize millions
by Eric

Today's Inquirer has a great op ed from Victor Davis Hanson in defense of the critics of the immigration bill:

Washington pundits and Beltway politicians are furious at critics of the bill, from radio talk-show hosts and writers for conservative magazines, to frontline congressional representatives and Republican presidential candidates such as Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney and likely aspirant Fred Thompson.

These critics are dubbed cynical nativists - or racists - who have demagogued the issue and scapegoated hardworking illegal aliens. Even President Bush alleged that conservative obstructionists were somehow not working in America's best interests.

But who's really being cynical when it comes to illegal immigration? The government? Of course. It has caved to pressure groups for more than a quarter of a century.

The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 ensured neither reform nor control. Instead, the law simply resulted in millions entering the United States through blanket amnesty and de facto open borders.

In many cities, current municipal laws bar police officers from turning arrested illegal aliens over to immigration officials.

So why should the public believe that the proposed new law, with hundreds of pages of rules and regulations, would trump local obstructionism or effect any real change?

The public shouldn't believe it, and frankly, I question the timing -- especially the timing of the urging of this dire sense of urgency.

What's the hurry? These people have been illegally crossing the border for years, and nothing was done to stop them. Now, it's urgent that they be legalized? Why? I'm not enough of a hardliner to advocate rounding them all up and deporting them, but as I said before, this situation is a classic illustration of the principle that sometimes doing nothing is better than doing the wrong thing. IMO, legalizing the millions of illegal border crossers would be doing the wrong thing.

As to the timing, I suspect the whole thing is an attempt to swell the voter rolls in time for the 2008 election, and I am therefore deeply suspicious. Calling people "racist" for not wanting millions of unassimilated illegal border crossers legalized is just the cheapest of cheap shots, and reveals desperation, and, as Hanson points out, elitism:

Most cynical of all, however, are the moralistic pundits, academics and journalists who deplore the "nativism" of Americans they consider to be less-educated yokels.

Few of these well-paid and highly educated people live in communities altered by huge influxes of illegal aliens. Their professed liberality about illegal immigration usually derives from seeing hardworking waiters, maids, nannies and gardeners commute to their upscale cities and suburbs to serve them well - and cheaply.

In general, such elites don't use emergency rooms in the inner cities and rural counties overcrowded by illegal aliens. Their children don't struggle with school curricula altered to the needs of students who speak only Spanish.

But such elites will doubtless love having a president whose campaign is co-chaired by the former head of La Raza.

Anyway, I think Hanson is right, and his piece contains much food for thought.

Considering the previous post, it's probably worth a reminder that uncontrolled immigration has been considered a contributory factor in the fall of Rome.

posted by Eric at 10:06 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBacks (0)

Where have all the eunuchs gone?
by Eric
The mystery of Western thought is how a term that originally meant the manliness of a man came to mean the chastity of a woman.

-- Leo Strauss

In an interesting review of Mathew Kuelfer's "The Manly Eunuch: Masculinity, Gender Ambiguity, and Christian Ideology in Late Antiquity," Hagith Sivan touches on some issues which I doubt will ever be settled but which nonetheless fascinate me as an admitted traitor to both sides of the Culture War. I have long believed that certain aspects of the Culture War derive from an unresolved struggle over human sexuality during the late Roman Empire (early posts here, here, and here), and it has long baffled me that so many contemporary American moralists blame the Fall of Rome on sexual freedom, when in reality the Fall was accompanied by unprecedented restrictions on sexual freedom, and the birth of a new sort of "chaste" Christian maleness. Not surprisingly, this leads activists (always quick to point blaming fingers) to engage in post hoc ergo propter hoc reasoning. I think the Rome's fall was far too complex to blame on newly emerging religious views of sexuality. IMO, the growth of bureaucracy, high taxes, and most importantly, the deterioration of the military were far more important factors. Common sense suggests to me that regardless of what is going on in a culture, if there is not a strong military presence to defend it, sooner or later outside opportunists will realize that things are ripe for the plucking.

Here's reviewer Hagith Sivan and the chapter on waning masculinity, the farming out of military service to barbarians, the staffing by eunuchs, and the concomitant decline in the Roman military:

Chapter two ("Men receive a wound and submit to a defeat: masculinity, militarism, and political authority") examines the waning ancient masculine ideals in men's public lives as reflected in aversion to serving in the late Roman militia, either military or civilian. The basic assumption here is that the coming of the barbarians as military recruits and of "servile outsiders" (eunuchs?) to staff the bureaucracy must have affected individuals as well as the "very idea of what it meant to be a man among the elite classes of Roman society" (p. 37). According to MK the very essence of manliness had been the image of a soldier, as imperial panegyrics indeed reiterate ad nauseam. But he also knows that "there is little evidence for overwhelming numbers of Romans in the armies of the later empire" (p. 39). The exclusion of senators from military life had been a policy of the emperors since the third, if not the second century. For MK senatorial absence from the militia is to be linked to their own waning enthusiasm. No distinction is made between senatorial readiness, if not downright enthusiasm, to vie for administrative honors (below), and their apparent small representation in the army.
While much has been made of the fact that Christians tended to avoid military service, the reviewer doesn't think this was as significant a factor as the author believes:
MK appears to believe that Christians in general opposed serving in the army. There are indeed cases that suggest such antipathy but there are also numerous instances of Christians who were more than happy to pursue promotion through the military (the families of Valentinian I and Theodosius I are merely two of many). Because "men of the later Roman land-owning classes were more likely to be the victims of military aggression rather than its perpetrators" (p. 40) such powerlessness entailed a decline of manliness intertwined with denial of military crises (p. 41), desertions from the army (p. 43) and widespread employment of barbarians as defenders of all that was Roman.
Denial of military crises? Employment of barbarians?

This sounds much too familiar! Ye gods!

(I'm still allowed to have a little fun, right?)

The review touches on some of my favorite themes, including the redefinition of virtue -- from original Roman martial male virtues into the new Christian chaste female ones (with obvious implications for the replacement of from virtues to values) and reminds us of various, long-forgotten paradoxes (some of which may have implications for modern times) including the moralization of anatomy and disease and what I'm sure some would call the dissemination of "eunuch culture" via early Christianity:

Chapter three ("A purity he does not show himself: Masculinity, the later Roman household, and men's sexuality") discusses "the decline of the masculine ideals in men's private lives, in changes to family life and sexuality" (p. 6). It begins with a look at the decline of patria potestas, already a phenomenon of the Republic and the early empire, and places its final demise in late antiquity with "the deterioration of Rome's military greatness", demographic decline, new laws regarding betrothal arrangements ("reverse dowry") and a general change of women's rights of possession and of inheritance. MK uses the evidence of the Theodosian code to explore this specific erosion of paternal authority over children and over wives before turning to investigate the relationship between the "elite Roman male" and his body. Here he sees a clear connection between "sociopolitical changes and changes to sexuality". Because "sexual prowess was central to masculine identity in classical Rome", the "changes to male sexuality in late antiquity assimilated men's sexuality to women's" and "eroded the separation between men's and women's roles and identities" (p.78). Sexual abstinence becomes manliness, linked with "an unmanly fear of sex" that "pervaded later Roman culture" (p. 79) due, perhaps, to the threat of diseases. The idea that "sex was deadly" (p. 80) is interesting if perhaps overstated. MK connects the avoidance of sex with a new morality that set up husbands as (chaste) marital models to their wives, with laws that prescribed harsher penalties for adultery and for sexual offences (including visits to prostitutes), and with the scarcity of slaves or rather with decreased availability and legal restrictions regarding the use of slaves for sexual purposes.

To complete his survey of the sexual horizons of sexual chastity and impudicitia MK turns to pederasty and to legal restrictions on males that display rhetorical disgust with male sexual passivity. He observes a "reformulation of male pudicitia" which necessitated the "abandonment of any sexual relationships between males" (p. 95). Instead, these men were called upon to exercise greater self control over their bodies, being judged, paradoxically, on the basis of the criteria that had traditionally molded stereotypes of women. Concluding once more with eunuchs K. examines how they functioned in individual households as live reminders of the problematization of male sexuality, namely their control of women and over themselves. Once more Claudian's In Eutropium provides a rich illustration of the range of eunuchs' activities, if hardly a document that "must be interpreted in the context of the loss of men's authority over their wives and the sexual morality restricting men's sexual freedoms" (p. 99).

I think it should be stressed that seeing too many parallels to American culture in this would be a huge mistake, as the ancients were so different in so many ways. For starters, we don't really have eunuchs. While there might be cultural eunuchs (and while I often suspect that the growth of bureaucracy represents institutionalized eunuchs), it has to be remembered that the neutering that is going on is on a philosophical and moral level. Men remain men and women remain women. Eunuchoid bureaucrats might write the rules and might want us all to live in a safe and padded world in which we can call 911 when danger threatens, but when the chips are down, instinct rules, and people will behave as did the passengers on Flight 93. Despite the criticism of the passivity of Virginia Tech students in the face of an armed attacker, I don't think the same situation would be repeated now that people know what to expect. John Lennon's "Imagine" sounds nice in a song, but when armed invaders threaten to kill, the old "conservative is a liberal who's just been mugged" tends to kick in. (Which is why so many pacifists changed their thinking after 911.) The flying Imams are another example; the bureaucratic eunuchs would have us sit there and be terrorized not only by provocateurs like that, but by "rules" which encourage them to sue anyone who dares to oppose them.

Anyway, there's a lot more to the book, and to the review:

Thus far the first part of the book. The second and longer part ("Changing ideals") encompasses five chapters (4: "I am a soldier of Christ. Christian masculinity and militarism"; 5: "We priests have our own nobility: Christian masculinity and public authority"; 6: "My seed is hundred times more fertile. Christian masculinity, sex and marriage"; 7: "The manliness of faith: Sexual differences and gender ambiguity in Latin Christian ideology"; 8: "Eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven: Castration and Christian manliness".).

Not unnaturally Martin of Tours provides a lively illustration of a new ideology of militarism and pacifism through the internalization of the battles that a 'man' must conduct throughout life. The analysis purports to show that "the manly self-image of Christian men did not depend on the success of the armies of the Roman empire but on the victories of an interior struggle" (p. 124). This is precisely what Gibbon deplored. Another aspect of a new Christian masculinity is explored through the terminology of marriage. Because God was the ultimate source of authority, a Christian man could speak about himself as a submissive woman, but only when relating to the divine (p. 142).

"It was this feminine identity in their private lives that permitted Christian men to assume a manly stance in the exercise of public authority" (p. 142). Here MK correctly discerns a jarring note or a flat contradiction between the rhetoric of Christian humility, especially with regards to "episcopal lowliness" (p. 156) and the elevated social status of many bishops in late antiquity. This is, of course, a rhetoric of false humility, a political weapon that is still widely exercised.

This distinctly echoes Strauss's "mystery of Western thought."

I'm not a Christian theologian, nor am I an expert on eunuchs, so I can't state with confidence that I completely agree with the author's contentions that Christianity represented a sort of triumph of eunuch culture. The danger with this stuff (and frankly, I was a little hesitant to write the post), is that people get emotional when they see "their" religion being attacked. First of all, let me say that I don't believe in attacking anyone's religion. But despite my concerns about the early Christianity of the late Roman period, is it really fair for anyone to compare it to modern Christianity and claim it as "theirs"? When was the last time a modern pastor quoted Jesus on eunuchs, for example? So, please bear in mind that I think this is useful not as a religious analogy, but as a cultural analogy. We don't have early Christians taking over as they did in Rome, nor do we have a eunuch staff running the military. However, I think there may be parallels between Christians and socialists in the ecological niche sense (Christian theology is often interpreted as having a soft spot for socialism, which IMO has caused a great deal of trouble), and I think we could be experiencing tyranny at the hands of the modern equivalent of eunuchs (people who abhor masculinity and femininity and who, while they may talk the talk about sexuality, are in reality a bunch of unattractive, "spineless, ball-less wimps" if I may borrow the phrase.....)

In what must have been the ultimate paradox for the Romans, the antithesis of manhood now became manhood. And sex became a sin:

Chapter 6 deals with Christian perceptions of adultery including the ambiguity which seems to permeate the castigation of the traditional double standard that Christian moralists attempted to counter, in vain it seems. MK suggests that "Christian leaders encouraged the code of male sexual restraint not only as a sign of Christian conviction but also as a sign of manliness" (p. 170). Sex became sin, a moral legacy with which we are still battling. From this there was but one logical step to the elevation of celibacy at the expense of marriage, as Jerome did with vigor and vehemence. Spiritual marriage came to the fore with few personal examples and much greater verbosity. Concomitantly, MK observes the encouragement given to male friendship, if not to intimacy among males. Here the ancient ideal of amicitia may have been infused with a new life through the assiduous cultivation of many Christian writers. But a thinker like Jerome also provides an interesting example of the ambiguities of this new type of 'friendship' which by its very nature excluded women yet could also embrace women as intellectual equals. Combining issues of gender relations MK strives to demonstrate how leaders of the church could extend their authority beyond the immediate family by a clever appropriation of patriarchy (p. 204). The point is well taken.

The last chapter focuses on eunuchs and on the meaning of being a Christian in heart, mind and body. Since the teaching of Jesus allocated a place of honor to eunuchs, Christian theologians had to come to terms with an understandable reluctance to inflict self-mutilation on the devotee and their own touted desire to follow Christ wholeheartedly. The result was a construction of a manly eunuch, a lifestyle of manly perfection achieved through a deliberate divorce from other males (and females) and from conventional virility. This ideal was taken to its ultimate performative level in monasticism, a brotherhood of the most 'manly' of 'men'.

Again, the lessons is not religious, but cultural.

Cutting off balls has consequences.

posted by Eric at 09:53 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBacks (0)

Lung Cancer Stopper
by Simon

Well what do you know? Marijuana can stop lung cancer.

The administration of THC significantly reduces lung tumor size and lesions, according to preclinical data presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) in Los Angeles.

Investigators at Harvard University's Division of Experimental Medicine reported that THC inhibited the growth and spread of cells in vitro from two different lung cancer cell lines and from patient lung tumors. They also reported that THC administration reduced the growth of lung tumors in mice by more than 50 percent compared to untreated controls over a three-week period.

Researchers noted that THC appeared to block a specific cancer-causing protein in a manner similar to the pharmaceutical anti-cancer drugs Erbitux (Cetuximab) and Vectibix (Panitumumab).

Results of a large-scale, case-controlled population study published last year found that smoking cannabis, even long-term, is not positively associated with increased incidence of lung-cancer. Investigators in that study noted that one subset of moderate lifetime users had an inverse association between cannabis use and lung cancer, leading them to speculate that cannabinoids may possess certain protective properties against the development of lung cancer in humans.
So what do you think a plant extract might do to the market for anti-cancer drugs like Erbitux (Cetuximab) and Vectibix (Panitumumab)?

I will let you draw your own conclusions about why the pharmaceutical companies are the biggest supporters of the Drug Free America Campaign.

Cross Posted at Power and Control and at Classical Values

posted by Simon at 01:00 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBacks (0)

dangerous thoughts on "neutrification"
by Eric

In my numerous posts about AB 1634 (California's mandatory Spay and Neuter bill), my focus was on dogs -- primarily the right of dog owners to decide for themselves what's best for their dogs.

By focusing on the role of government, I didn't focus much on cultural factors, because my primary goal is to defeat what I see as awful legislation, not argue over the propriety of neutering dogs.

However, I have been noticing an increasing societal tendency towards neutering in general which deeply disturbs me.

I decided to explore this because there's recently been a lot of discussion in various posts (and a Glenn and Helen podcast interview) of "The Dangerous Book for Boys," which looks like a great book about the sort of stuff of interest to boys when I was growing up. (This one also looks interesting.)

Many people believe that society (especially the educational establishment) is trying to make boys into girls, or like girls. I don't think that's exactly what's going on. Rather, I think the goal is to neuter boys, which is not quite the same thing. I don't think this is a distinction without a difference, either, because they're doing the same thing with girls. Not trying to make them like boys, just neuter. Boys are being made non-boys. Girls are being made non-girls.

Not boys into girls, or girls into boys. The idea is that masculine traits and feminine traits are to be gone. That the distinction between the sexes (which is physically a fact and hormonally based) can be eliminated by an official policy of neutering.

Neuter is poised to become the national sex standard if it hasn't already.

I find this chilling and depressing, and I am not enjoying this post. Perhaps that's why I saved it for a cold and depressing day. For there is something truly colorless and depressing about neuter. Not masculine, not feminine. Not even androgynous (which is sexual and colorful), but cold, sterile, bleak, ugly, and utterly devoid of both masculine and feminine components.

If I don't like the fact that people were being first conditioned, now forced, to get used to having their dogs neutered, why should I like the fact that they're conditioning people to get used to having their kids neutered?

It's not just kids. Several years ago, a brilliant essay ("The Pussification of the Western Male") by Kim du Toit pointed out how this is happening with men, and while I agreed with much of what he said, if the essay had been mine to write (fortunately it wasn't) I'd replace the word "pussification" with "neutering," or maybe "neutrification" if that isn't too much of a monstrosity. As I pointed out in reaction to the du Toit essay, I don't like anyone defining manhood or the lack thereof or telling anyone what to do, though. So I think there's an individual right to be neuter, or downright effeminate. (BTW, it's off-topic, but I think a deliberately effeminate man is more of a man than a pussified man. And a sissy boy has more integrity than a neuter boy, because at least he is striving for something involving the human spirit.)

But in terms of the overall picture, these are minor objections. The fact is that there is an ongoing process which seems hell-bent on neutering us all: men, women, dogs and pussies cats.

The contrarian in me has long had this wild and irrational suspicion (I say "irrational" because I can point to no supporting science) that the primary social value of The Pill is not contraception, but neutering women so that they are better workers. I say "neutering" because I have heard too much anecdotal evidence from women who say that the pill cuts off not just their ability to procreate, but their procreative instincts. They feel less feminine. Whether these stories are true for the majority of women, I don't know. Not being a woman, I cannot guinea-pig myself to find out. But suppose -- just suppose -- that the Pill has created a number of women who are close to being female eunuchs -- neuter women. Is that not an enormous benefit to an economy reliant on working women? And if there are ever-growing ranks of neuter women and neuter men, why should it surprise anyone that there's a movement to make children neuter?

Little wonder there's so little opposition to the state using government force to neuter all dogs. When I was a kid, people didn't cut off the family dog's balls. Nor did they stop boys from rolling in the dirt with toy guns.

Tell me it's all a coincidence and maybe I'll cheer up.

Of course, if I look at this another way, things might not be as glum as they appear. Despite my paranoid concerns about possible socioeconomic side effects of oral contraceptives, no one is suggesting the physical neutering of human beings. Until they start doing that, hormones may prevail.

There is evidence that even in animals, deliberate attempts at sissification ("girls would dress Centipede up in dresses and put lip stick on him") far from being a feminizing influence, only serve to encourage the warrior spirit in unneutered males. And until the 20th century, boys wore dresses -- a fact that did not stop them from becoming warriors.

The sexes are so different that barring surgery or hormonal treatment, neutering may be impossible. The human spirit (especially the male spirit) chafes at the bit.

No wonder The Dangerous Book for Boys is so popular.

MORE: While I hadn't been thinking about him lately, Glenn Greenwald is having fits over "The Dangerous Book for Boys" -- and is now accusing Glenn Reynolds of treehouse loving behavior:

That same dynamic is what enables an effete and bloated figure like Rush Limbaugh to parade around as the icon of masculinity, and it is what drives him not only to dismiss -- but to overtly celebrate -- the abuses of Abu Grahib and other torture policies as just good, clean fun had by real men (like Rush, as proven by his support for it). As John McCain pointed out in the GOP debate in South Carolina, men who have actually served in the military find torture to be dishonorable, dangerous and repulsive. Only those with a throbbing need to demonstrate their masculine virtues would glibly embrace things of that sort.

This dynamic is depressingly pervasive, yet incomparably significant. It's what causes someone like Glenn Reynolds -- who, by his own daily admission, devotes his life to attending convention center conferences on space and playing around with new, cool gadgets in the fun room in his house, like a sheltered adolescent in his secret treehouse club -- to fret: "Are we turning into a nation of wimps?," and directly in response to that concern, to urge "more rubble, less trouble" -- meaning that he wants to watch on his television set as the U.S. military flattens neighborhoods and slaughters more people in the name of "strength," "resolve," and "power."

It's a tough job to nail someone for the crime of liking a children's book. No wonder he throws in Abu Ghraib and Rush Limbaugh. Especially Rush Limbaugh:
And just as Glenn Reynolds has done, Rush has developed a virtual obsession with the book The Dangerous Book for Boys, geared towards teaching "boys how to be boys." Rush spent the week hailing it as the antidote to what he calls the "Emasculation of America."

Identically, Reynolds on his blog has promoted the book a disturbing 17 times in the last six weeks alone. When doing so, he routinely proclaims things such as "maybe there's hope," and -- most revealingly -- has fretted: "Are we turning into a nation of wimps?" It is the identity of the "we" in that sentence where all the meaning lies. Perhaps if "we" torture enough bound and gagged prisoners and bomb enough countries, "we" can rid ourselves of that worry.

Imagine, counting the times Glenn Reynolds mentioned a book he likes! Obsessive though I can be, it's never occurred to me to count how many times a book is mentioned.

The thing is, I did Google the title earlier in an honest attempt to find someone -- anyone -- who objected to the Dangerous Book for Boys, and I couldn't. And here, right under my nose, was a guy who linked the book to Abu Ghraib and Rush Limbaugh!

No fair!

Anyway, to continue, Greenwald is furious, and he's now morphed from Giuliani Derangement Syndrome to Thompson Derangement Syndrome. I guess Guiliani wore a dress, and apparently Thompson is too butch to do that, but never mind; the point is neither one of them is enough of a neuter to please Greenwald. Rather than characterize Greenwald, I should be fair here. He once called Giuliani an "authoritarian narcissist" -- "plagued by an unrestrained prosecutor's mentality -- who loves coercive government power," "hates dissent above all else," and "would make George Bush look like an ardent lover of constitutional liberties." But now, Greenwald has issues with Thompson's "tough-guy military persona" and there's stuff about "smells and arousing masculinity and the "daddy" qualities of various political officials" which would only be offensive to a genuine angry and vengeful neuter.

Sorry, folks, but I do think Greenwald is a neuter. (I know some people have called him "gay," but I think he might be too much of a neuter to really be gay.)


Again, there's nothing wrong with being masculine, feminine, straight or gay, or any combination thereof.

But neuter is not both masculine and feminine; it's neither. It's not straight nor is it gay.

I'm reminded of castrated male dogs who hate dogs with balls.

UPDATE: Ace's translation of what Glenn Greenwald meant ("Glenn Greenwald Calls Instapundit A Faggot") takes a slightly different view, but the dynamics are similar. However, I think this assessment may only be partially accurate:

I really think that questioning others' masculinity is a game probably better left to people who haven't had more cock in and out of them than a Tyson Chicken regional distribution center.
While he certainly has no business questioning others' masculinity, I think it's entirely possible that Greenwald is one of those "spineless, ball-less wimps who thinks sex is icky."

Has anyone actually seen him sweating and grunting in the act?

MORE: If we assume Ace's theory is correct, then Greenwald means it as a smear, right? But here's my question: how can the imputation of homosexuality be considered a smear unless Greenwald thinks there is something wrong with being gay?

What gives here? Doesn't Greenwald also claim there's nothing wrong with being gay? If there's nothing wrong with being gay, then why smear Glenn Reynolds with that? It always struck me that attacking people for being gay (whether they're gay or not) constitutes anti-gay bigotry.

But Greenwald claims to be gay -- as if that makes it "better."


What sort of gay person would go around imputing homosexuality to people in a condemnatory manner?

Something doesn't make sense.

(Unless, of course, Greenwald is one of those self-loathing homosexuals I keep hearing about....)

If you doubt my logic, imagine a heterosexual man imputing heterosexuality to another man as a smear. It wouldn't work, would it? That's because few heterosexual men would hold another man's heterosexuality against him. In fact, most modern American heterosexual man would not hold another man's homosexuality against him. Unless I am wrong, it seems that the only people who hold homosexuality against people are the following:

  • old fashioned anti-gay heterosexuals
  • political leftists (both gay and straight) who hate gay conservatives
  • homosexuals who accuse heterosexuals of homosexuality.
  • Now, I think all three groups have to be considered prejudiced. But it strikes me that only the first group is being honest. The second group is trying to have its cake and eat it too, while the third group is hating something which isn't there, but which they want to be there.

    The problem is that the only reason they want it to be there is so they can hate it. Yet what they hate is what they do.

    Hating someone for doing what you do is either hypocrisy or self loathing. And if you hate them for doing what you do even though they don't do what you do, that means you're hating a projection of your own fantasies (which only heightens the hypocrisy and the self-loathing).

    In the case of a eunuch though (who can't really do anything), I suppose it might be projected form of jealousy...

    (Damn if this doesn't get complicated!)

    posted by Eric at 05:57 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBacks (0)

    Mr. Bloomberg, Tear down the Brooklyn Bridge!
    by Eric

    In Philadelphia yesterday, I saw the foundations of the house which Robert Morris lent to the fledgling executive office and which was occupied by George Washington and John Adams. When the foundations were first unearthed, I ridiculed the contentions of activists of a historical coverup, as the place was torn down in 1832 to become a store and no one -- then or now -- has ever denied that George Washington owned slaves. The first reports were fairly tame, and only hinted at a coverup:

    A day or two after that find, another stone foundation was discovered - remnants of an underground passageway from the kitchen basement to the main house's basement. The passage allowed slaves and servants to move back and forth unseen.

    The passageway had also been unknown.

    I had a lot of fun speculating about hidden passageways:
    I immediately wondered whether there might be similar passages at the White House itself -- where the today's servants of another powerful man whose first name is "George" are also able to "move back and forth unseen." Will future historians ever be able to know?

    The first President's House was torn down in 1832 (ostensibly to erect commercial buildings) but that's now being seen as a coverup of historic proportions. Now that archaeologists have unearthed the truth, there is no longer any way to conceal the slavery -- the contrast between the powerful and the powerless!

    I might have had too much fun with my satire, because what appears to be little more than a basement hallway (used by persons unknown between 1767 and 1832) morphed from a "hidden passageway" to an underground tunnel from hell!

    What amazes me if the unquestioning acceptance which is being given to the shrill claims of biased activists, as in this ubiquitous AP report:

    PHILADELPHIA -- Archaeologists unearthing the buried remains of George Washington's presidential home have discovered a hidden passageway and other ruins, still intact, used by his nine slaves.

    The findings have created a quandary for National Park Service and city officials planning an exhibit on the site, which is steps from the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. The officials are now trying to decide whether to incorporate the remains -- which powerfully show freedom and slavery side by side -- into the exhibit or go forward with plans to fill in the ruins and build an abstract display detailing life in the house.

    Whatever decision is made, a dramatic story waits to be told, said Michael Coard, a Philadelphia attorney who leads a group that worked to have slavery recognized at the site.

    "As you enter the heaven of liberty, you literally have to cross the hell of slavery," Coard said. "That's the contrast, that's the contradiction, that's the hypocrisy. But that's also the truth."

    Washington and John Adams each lived at the mansion, a block from Independence Hall, when Philadelphia was the nation's capital between 1790 and 1800.

    Archaeologists have uncovered an underground passageway where slaves slipped in and out of the main house, so they wouldn't be seen by Washington's guests. They found remnants of a bow window, an architectural precursor to the White House's Oval Office. Other discoveries include a large basement that was never noted in historic records.

    Googling "Philadelphia slavery" brings up hundreds of news hits to stories with headlines like "Slave passage found at Washington house," "Founding father's passageway for slaves discovered," and "Washington's slaves used tunnel."

    Googling "George Washington" and "underground passageway" yields over 11,000 Google hits, almost all to stories which recite the "discovery" uncritically.

    Only a few writers -- Rick Moran being a notable exception -- have raised questions about perspective.

    For starters, the house in Philadelphia was not owned by George Washington, but was lent to him by philanthropic revolutionary financier Robert Morris. As to who built the "secret slave tunnel" or why, anyone familiar with colonial architecture (or even later Victorian architecture) knows that homes built for people affluent enough to afford household servants usually had separate entrances, separate quarters, and separate stairways. That was so servants could come and go as inconspicuously as possible, and it was not dependent on the servants' status. Whether slaves or free, servants were expected to be in the background. Condescending by modern standards, but I'd hardly call it a coverup. While in Milwaukee, Wisconsin I stayed at a bed and breakfast which had been a huge Victorian mansion. Sure enough, there was the usual grand formal staircase in the entry area -- and a tiny servants' staircase in the rear. Wisconsin was not a slave state, but I suppose if the same house had been older and located south of the Mason-Dixon line, it would be reasonable to conclude that the tiny staircase might very well have been used by slaves.

    To call what appears to be a basement hallway a "slave passage" motivated by a coverup is, IMO, and exercise in political hyperbole dressed up as scholarship. First of all, no one is asserts that Washington built the "tunnel." Did he? Or was it part of the original Morris design? And how on earth could anyone possibly know that it was only for the use of Washington's nine slaves? How do we know that George and Martha didn't use it themselves for reasons unknown? And what might John Adams have done with it? True, he didn't have slaves, but does that mean that he had no household servants, and that if he did he might not want them coming and going through the same entrances and using the same staircases as visiting dignitaries?

    I think this is puffed up nonsense.

    What I'd like to know is why only Philadelphia, and why this one president? There is no historical dispute that slaves worked in and were kept in the White House under a number of presidents. It's considered fourth grade history:

    When George Washington was president (1789-1797) he lived in New York and Philadelphia. He brought cooks, maids and coachmen from Mount Vernon -- all of them slaves -- to work at his house alongside white servants. The presidents in the early days were expected to hire and pay for their own staff. Since many of the early presidents were southern planters, they brought their slaves to work for them in Washington, D.C. Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809) brought slaves from Monticello, and during his presidency the second child ever born in the President's House was born to his slaves, Fanny and Eddy. Paul Jennings was the personal servant of President James Madison (1809-1817). He was a slave who wrote down his memories of living in the Madison White House. You can read them by clicking here. Tennesseans Andrew Jackson (1829-1837) and James K. Polk (1845-1849) also brought slaves from their farms, and almost always they lived in basement rooms. Enslaved craftsmen helped build the White House. Black servants helped save documents and art when the British burned the structure in 1814. Most of all, African Americans made the president's household operate efficiently. But it was a man who never held others as property, Abraham Lincoln, who would make sure that slaves would never work in the White House again.
    Yes, but what about the coverup? Didn't White House slaves use separate entrances and passageways? And what about those underground basement rooms?

    Why aren't we hearing more about the full nature of the true White House horrors?

    And why aren't we hearing about the coverup of Washington's household activities in New York, where he lived in not one, but two presidential executive residences?

    In February of 1790, the executive mansion was moved from the Osgood house at 3 Cherry Street to the Macomb house at 39 Broadway. A much larger dwelling, the Macomb house provided two drawing rooms and a number of additional spaces that required furnishing. Accordingly, the furniture already procured by Congress for the Cherry Street residence was moved to the new household and was supplemented by that ordered from local cabinetmakers. Washington privately purchased for the residence a number of items from the Comte de Moustier, including a suite of French seating furniture, some examples of which are in the Mount Vernon collection. The French furniture was placed in the larger and more formal of the two drawing rooms, while the smaller drawing room contained the government-owned pieces brought from Cherry Street. Despite the larger dwelling and the addition of French furniture, one visitor to this residence confirmed that the interior appointments remained in keeping with other American elites. William Hazlitt recalled: "The drawing-room in which I sat, was lofty and spacious, but the furniture was not beyond that found in dwellings of opulent Americans in general, and might be called plain for its situation."

    In 1790, the seat of government moved from New York to Philadelphia, and the Washingtons relocated again. Most of the furnishings used in New York, and all of the mahogany furniture, was transferred to the new executive residence at 190 High Street in Philadelphia.

    It's the former 190 High Street (now Market Street) location that's stirring the present controversy.

    Let's start with the site of the nation's first vast historical coverup. Few Americans know it, but the first executive residence was located on Cherry Street! And in what may be one of the most sinister coverups of all time, it's now home to the Brooklyn Bridge! (No, really; here's a piece which appeared in the New York Sun, titled "A Piece of History Stands Hidden on Brooklyn Bridge"

    On an otherwise nondescript anchorage of the Brooklyn Bridge, a small brass plaque pays tribute to another era. As cars and trucks whiz by, observant passersby may notice the tarnished marker placed on the bridge more than a century ago to commemorate the site of George Washington's first presidential mansion.

    They would have to look for it under years of grime and overlook the garbage strewn nearby, a fact that has upset a group of local residents who recently renewed their campaign to have the plaque moved. They say the location is too remote and that steelwork added to reinforce the bridge in 1998 has further obscured the historic landmark. "It's a pretty historical spot, but nobody knows it," the district manager of Community Board 1, Paul Goldstein, said. "This thing is basically not visible to the public."

    The site in question is located at the intersection of Pearl and Dover streets near an entrance to the FDR Drive. The plaque is little more than a foot wide and half as tall. It is affixed to an anchorage of the Brooklyn Bridge, where historical documents indicate the presidential mansion once stood at 1 Cherry St.

    Although that portion of Cherry Street no longer remains and the area bears little resemblance to the "uptown" neighborhood once populated by Revolutionary statesmen, the mansion was rented by Congress for Washington's use, according to New-York Historical Society papers. He lived there between April 1789 and February 1790, before moving to 39 Broadway. Later occupants included Samuel Osgood, DeWitt Clinton, a bank, and a piano shop.

    The white colonial building was razed in 1856 to make way for wider streets, and the subsequent construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, which opened in 1883.

    Obviously part of an ongoing historical coverup. I'd be willing to bet that the plethora of Brooklyn Bridge jokes find their origin in an early disinformation campaign spread by secret operatives wanting to hide the real crimes of George Washington from future historians.

    After Washington left the Cherry Street house, he moved the executive residence to the Macomb Mansion, at 39 Broadway. This later became a hotel called the Mansion House.

    BroadwayMansion.gif If you look at the picture of it, and see for yourself how large it was. There's no way the place could have operated without servants, and the fact is that slavery not only existed in New York independent of any of the household activities of George Washington, it thrived. At the time of the founding, there was more slavery in New York than in any other American city except Charleston South Carolina had a higher concentration:

    ...New York City once had the highest concentration of slave ownership among all American cities, except for Charleston, South Carolina. Much of early lower Manhattan, including the original Trinity Church was built using slave labor. The New York Historical Society presented a comprehensive review of New York City's involvement with slavery last year.

    After the American Revolution, New York and New Jersey were alone among northern states in not abolishing slavery. Then-Governor Morris and John Jay attempted to insert a clause into the founding state constitution suggesting the eventual elimination of slavery, but were rebuffed. Almost a decade later, a political coalition including members of different parties, Gov. Clinton (owning eight slaves), Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay (owning five slaves), along with prominent abolitionists formed a group to urge state abolition of the institution of slavery in New York. The practice of slavery became gradually restricted in following years, but in 1788 the group pressed to have the deportation of New York slaves to southern states outlawed, as many slaveholders worried about continued limitations tried to unload their human inventory to southern plantation owners. The port of New York, however, remained open to slave-trading ships. In 1786 40% of all households within ten miles of New York were slave owners and more than two-thirds of Brooklyn households owned slaves.

    As to modern slavery in New York mansions, that's probably considered irrelevant to this discussion, as we're talking about collective guilt over things that happened hundreds of years ago, not events of 2007.


    The Brooklyn Bridge and Broadway Mansion coverups have been so complete and thorough that despite due diligence, I have been unable to determine how many slaves lived there, or whether they, too, were forced to use secret passageways.

    But I suspect they were. New York always gets away with these kinds of things, leaving Philadelphia to get screwed at the taxpayers' expense.

    I say, it's time to tear down the Brooklyn Bridge and see what they're hiding!

    posted by Eric at 10:19 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBacks (0)

    Vital issue of national importance
    by Eric

    Forgive me for the frivolous nature of this post, but I have run completely out of time for blogging, as this as sandwiched between afternoon and evening obligations which are putting the squeeze on me.

    Anyway, I have a goofy bust of a silly Caesar (no idea where it came from), and to heighten its silliness I stuck a badminton shuttlecock on top of Caesar's head, which looked like this:


    However, yesterday while I was running in the rain I noticed a rather odd-looking object lying forlornly on the ground -- the severed top end of Superman! I should have left it there but I stuck it in my pocket and ran home with it. The only place it seemed to "belong" was on top of Caesar's head.


    What does this mean?

    Half a Superman beats a whole shuttlecock?

    A rended Superman rendered unto Caesar?

    In a startling and shocking coincidence, while I was writing this post a friend send me video (which also appears at YouTube) showing a great trick by the magician Criss Angel -- who directs what appears to be the shocking tearing-in-half of a woman.

    While the spectators are clearly shocked, the trick is "debunked" (if that's the right word) at Snopes.com

    The "half man" Johnny Eck from "Freaks" used to do a similar trick back in the 1930s. A contortionist helper is required to perform the role of the lower end.

    Of course, in his present condition, Superman can't fly.

    But the shuttlecock still can.

    posted by Eric at 03:01 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBacks (0)

    putting an alliance where a war ought to be is cultural treason!
    by Eric

    One of my pet peeves is that libertarians and Christians -- especially fundamentalist Christians -- have more in common than they realize, but they are distracted by spurious (yet highly emotional) issues which cause extreme animosity. This animosity causes them to forget the big picture, which is an area where they have a lot in common. So much in common that it dwarfs their differences.

    I'm afraid I'm beginning to repeat myself here, and I really dislike repeating myself, but the issues don't change. Like the bull who charges the red cape instead of focusing on the matador, people think that the "issue" is condoms in the schools and wear themselves out fighting over it -- in the process missing precisely what is meant to be missed -- the dysfunctional nature of schools which are unable to impart basic skills necessary for citizenship.

    Keeping in mind my aversion to repeating myself, here's one of my arguments about the condom-on-the-banana "issue":

    Arguments over penises and sexual morality become quasi legalistic arguments over rights based on membership in identity groups. Ironically, the state is far more involved with matters of personal sexuality and privacy than ever before.

    Because people get caught up (hung up, really) in these personal debates (what we call the "culture war"), the real debate -- which should be over confiscation of wealth and loss of freedom -- is avoided.

    In schools, students are taught how to put condoms on bananas. As I have argued before, I don't think the goal is to "protect" them from AIDS, but as a diversion to inflame the sentiments of conservative parents -- who will then expend vast amounts of time and energy getting condoms out of the classrooms -- while the more horrendous reality that schools can't or won't teach (and prefer to indoctrinate instead) is ignored.

    (In a real war, this would be called "flypaper strategy" of course.)

    In my conclusion last year, (which showed obvious signs of Culture War fatigue), I opined that the Culture War itself is largely a diversionary one:
    How can I make this more obvious? The Culture War is not a war, but a tactic, and to a large extent a diversionary one. Time wasted battling over what people do with their penises is precisely what the tacticians hope to accomplish. If demoralization results as a byproduct, fine. But the beauty of cultural, personal strategies is that they are malleable, and change according to the styles of the times. If a cultural attribute that shocked one generation (say, long hair) fails in another, well, then politicize head-shaving in another, and so on.

    When tactics are cultural, fighting over them is as much a waste of time as it would be to police the sale of gasoline because people might use it to make Molotov cocktails. The phony Culture War thus insidiously subverts the real war (to protect freedom) into innumerable and constantly changing petty squabbles over personal behavior.

    By its nature, the "culture war" is a tactic -- a viral, mutable one, but a tactic nonetheless.

    (Plenty of unpleasant busywork for a blog like this...)

    I don't know how I tolerate repetition, much less repetition of repetition. I'm afraid this is all sounding very tired to regular readers, and I didn't want to do that, so much as I wanted to call attention to Part II of a brilliant Pajamas Media essay by Oleg Atbashian:
    if I choose to plunge into deviancy I want it to be my personal decision, not the whim of some sneaky TV producer who suddenly feels like mixing his otherwise insipid didactic jumble with sleazy nuggets, sending me and my family, along with millions of other TV viewers on an unsolicited communal trip into the gutter. And I certainly don't want them taking my children for a ride in the deviancy amplification spiral; a media roller coaster attraction that glamorizes depravity, making it seem common or acceptable.

    A truly free market would not only allow a diversity of media content, it would also sort the markets in the order of magnitude, keeping the mainstream in the mainstream and the marginal on the margins. This would be a refreshing change from the upside-down Big Media of today that mainstreams the marginal and marginalizes the mainstream. This compulsion furthers an elitist perception of the American audiences as some harebrained violent perverts with the attention span of a fruit fly, the mental aptitude of a walnut, and the moral fortitude of a gerbil. This isn't just an insult: according to analysts such perception generates aversion and hatred of this country among more socially conservative and less tolerant populations overseas, especially in the Muslim world.

    The elitist media's view of its customer base as nitwits is the rationalization of its own failure, after decades of proselytizing, to convert America to the ideas of "progress." After all the marvelous columns, news stories, movies and shows with filtered facts, exaggerated failures and understated successes, after all the free unsolicited advice bestowed upon them by the media, the American people went ahead and reelected George W. Bush. Who would the media elites rather blame for it - themselves or the unworthy recipients of their wisdom? Come to think of it, one group in this equation deserves to be called nitwits, and it's not the American people.

    Atbashian makes it clear that the media elites thrive on regulation. They create a process which lures their opponents to join in the clamor for more regulation in much the same way that social conservatives battle for "inclusion" in processes which are illegitimate, because they derive from quasi-governmental monopoly-based systems. (Like public education and public airwaves theory.)

    So there's a war between God and sex. Jesus versus penises. Even between differing ways of viewing the unknown. An illegitimate war over inclusion. In reality, the government has no business in these things.

    While I've touched on things beyond the proper scope of a blog post, for those who are interested, I recommend reading Edmund Opitz's Libertarian Theology of Freedom, which I read years ago and which convinced me that I was not insane as I thought I was when I used to wonder whether the animosity between libertarianism and Chistianity was necessary.

    I'm sorry to read (via Reason) that Reverend Opitz died last year, so I thought I'd close with a quote:

    "There is a place for government in the affairs of men, and our Declaration of Independence tells us precisely what that place is. The role of government is to protect individuals in their God-given individual rights. Freedom is the natural birthright of man, but all that government can do in behalf of freedom is to let the individual alone, and it should secure him in his rights by making others let him alone."
    Reverend Opitz should not be relegated to obscurity. Far from it; his ideas and work ("founder and coordinator of The Remnant, a fellowship of conservative and libertarian ministers and a founder and secretary of The Nockian Society") are timeless in nature and scope. Among other things, he was the founder of The Remnant -- a "fellowship of conservative and libertarian ministers" as well as The Nockian Society.

    Considering Bill Whittle's brilliant essay discussing "The Remnant," is it too much for me to hope that these radical ideas are becoming contemporary?

    posted by Eric at 10:07 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBacks (0)

    Winning by shutting up the loudest?
    by Eric

    When I first contemplated the candidacy of Fred Thompson in mid-March, my reaction was positive. I was sick of the election then, and I'm more sick of it now, but I might as well repeat what I said:

    I would not be surprised to find that because Thompson is the equivalent of genuine combat veteran of the worst political war this country has seen in modern times, he has a different view of the process than your typical ego-driven, hard-charging political animal.

    The man has been in the arena and seen the worst of it.

    What appears to be an absence of drive might indicate the presence of something much more important and in generally short supply: political wisdom.

    I think Fred Thompson has sufficient political wisdom that he might be worthy of being drafted into service even if he expressed no interest in the office.

    Since then, he's made it clear that he doesn't need to be dragged into running, but at the same time, I think he's wise enough to be cognizant of a genuine problem which is missed by the political junkies.

    The problem is, it's too early to be sick of the election -- mainly because it's too early for there to be an election to be sick of! (That this is lost on political junkies is not surprising, because like any other variety of junkie, they have a craving not shared by non-junkies.)

    What I like most about Fred Thompson is that he doesn't seem to be in all that much of a hurry to kowtow to the political junkies. I think he senses that there's huge disgust among ordinary people over the growing movement to estabish a national culture of, of....

    Election addiction? I don't know exactly what to call it. Many commentators have been talking of campaign fatigue -- and if there's fatigue at this early stage, what are the implications for the future? If one thing's certain, it's that the culture of "premature election" (which is what this is) will not go away anytime soon. Instead, it will get more and more relentless. There's already talk of ruining the Fourth of July with more premature announcements that people just don't want to hear.

    So far, Fred Thompson has made it quite clear that he won't mind being a candidate when he's good and ready, but he doesn't seem to be in a hurry to insult ordinary voters by being in everybody's face. It's a delicate balancing act, but I hope he keeps it up, because I hate this seemingly irreversible process of premature elections that won't go away.

    For shutting up the loudest and not beating people over the head, Fred Thompson gets an A. As to how to go on being a front runner (or near front runner) without running in a campaign nearly all normal non-junkie types are totally sick of, I wouldn't know how to advise him, though.

    Maybe he can make his announcement, then take a summer vacation.

    UPDATE: I'd be willing to bet that Fred Thompson neither owns nor wears a pair of these. (The wearing of which a prominent law professor deems impeachable.)

    posted by Eric at 08:08 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBacks (0)

    Fusion News: Chris Wants Some Help
    by Simon

    Chris wants some help:

    American Express is having a contest to fund one idea to "make the world a better place". They have received several thousand ideas, and will pick the top 50 (in their opinion), and then let people vote to pick the best. The top idea will be funded for between $1M and $5M, depending on how many people sign up to vote.

    The amount of response that each idea receives before the selection of the first 50 has some bearing on which ideas are selected.

    Because of the rules of the contest, you can not ask for a specific entry to be funded, or even mention trademarkes like Polywell. So, there is a very generic entry for P-B11 fusion at:

    American Express Fusion funding.

    If you are so inclined, you can rate it and add comments to try to get some more attention for the idea.

    If it makes it to the top, then some form of P-B11 fusion will be funded. I know it's a long shot, but at the very least, it will raise awareness.

    The deadline is June 17th, so spreading the word as soon and as much as possible would be great.




    More about Bussard Fusion Reactors here:

    Bussard Fusion Reactor
    Easy Low Cost No Radiation Fusion
    IEC Fusion Newsgroup
    IEC Fusion Technology

    Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 02:54 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)

    "Can you play something to make me feel happy?"
    by Eric

    That's the question asked by some anonymous European fan in the audience to Champion Jack Dupree at the beginning of this video.

    Dupree (a former boxer) promises something to "knock him out."

    An utterly charming video -- especially for people who like the barrelhouse piano style, of which Dupree was a master.

    It's amazing to find something like this on YouTube, as I've been a fan of Dupree since high school when I heard "Blues From the Gutter." (I have the original LP, and I'll be damned if it isn't available on CD at Amazon. According to one modern reviewer, it's "proof that you can sing about things other than women that get you down too, like addictions, having bad blood, bumps on your face and tuberculosis.")

    By any standard, the man led a fascinating and colorful (if sad) life, which included being orphaned as an infant by Ku Klux Klan arson and imprisoned for two years in a Japanese POW camp. He moved to Europe to escape racial prejudice in 1959, eventually dying in Germany in 1992.

    "When you open up a piano, you see freedom. Nobody can play the white keys and don't play the black keys. You got to mix all these keys together to make harmony. And that's what the whole world needs: Harmony."

    -- Wiki quotation.

    MORE: Whoever provided the YouTube link to the video stated that "I do not have any details re the Venue," but I'm wondering whether the second guitarist in the background might be Eric Clapton, who was known to have played with Dupree. It's blurry, but the guy kind of looks like Clapton.

    posted by Eric at 06:46 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBacks (0)

    Preventive Health care, John Edwards style
    by Eric

    On the front page of Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer is a shocking expose on what I think is a corruption of medical practice -- the fact that the once-risky (and distinctly icky if not unnatural) procedure of delivering babies by cesarian section is "now is used in about a third of U.S. births":

    "This is mostly about changes in culture," said Eugene Declercq, an expert in maternal and child health at Boston University's School of Public Health. "In all the gray areas of clinical decision-making, obstetricians have moved to cesareans. Mothers are more accepting, too."

    Cesarean critics worry that doctors are frightening mothers into the surgery.

    "A woman who is given reason to be scared that something bad might happen to her unborn child will do anything to avoid it," said Jose Gorrin Peralta, a University of Puerto Rico obstetrician. "If the doctor says, 'Your baby could die unless I do a cesarean,' what woman is going to say, 'Don't do it'? I call it obstetrical terrorism."

    Far be it from me to call it "obstetrical terrorism," but if we must call it that, shouldn't we also be looking for the root cause? Is it that there's a new generation of doctors who just enjoy cutting women open? Or is something motivating them?

    Sure, it's easier to perform a c-section than ever before, but the rates are still four times that of a normal delivery. The Inquirer hints at economic factors:

    ....the specter of lawsuits heavily influences the use of cesarean.

    At Lankenau, for example, the cesarean rate rose from 28 percent in 2001 to 36 percent the very next year. The jump was largely triggered by a lawsuit contending that a child was born with cerebral palsy because a cesarean was not performed. The parents won a $24 million verdict.

    "You can imagine there is that fear of what can happen," said Nancy Roberts, the chief of obstetrics.

    A Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine study of 31 hospitals found that the more physicians perceived they were at risk of being sued, the more cesareans they did.

    I know Lankenau Hospital very well, and the implications of the statistical change shocked me.

    I think it is a violation of the Hippocratic Oath for a doctor to take into account potential legal liability in deciding to cut a woman open instead of waiting for nature to run its course.

    It's not preventive health care on behalf of the patient; it's preventive legal care on behalf of the doctor and the hospital.

    Doctors, of course, counter that it isn't their fault, and a number of commentators have pointed the finger at John Edwards:

    Edwards specifically has made much of his fortune suing doctors for not performing C-sections, arguing that they help prevent cerebral palsy in children. In 1970, six percent of all births were C-sections; in 2003, that number had climbed all the way up to 28 percent. However, as John Stossel reports, there had not been a decrease in prevalence of cerebral palsy during that time. Hence, although Edwards' lawsuits have not, apparently, prevented anycases of cerebral palsy, they have, at least in part, yielded a great increase in the occurrence of C-sections. Now doctors do C-sections "just to be safe," meaning safe from lawsuits, though the procedure is not so safe for mothers. While C-sections are not overly dangerous, women are four times more likely to die during a C-section than during vaginal birth; this is not an insignificant risk.
    Michael Fumento has more on the c-section scam, especially the role of John Edwards:
    Medical malpractice was his specialty, and he reportedly tried more than 60 such cases, winning more than $1 million in over half of those. Most involved Ob/gyns. Indeed, he was so feared, according to the Center for Public Integrity, "that doctors would settle cases for millions of dollars rather than face him at trial."

    Edwards' specialty was cerebral palsy, a set of permanent conditions affecting control of movement and posture that usually appear at toddler stage. There is no cure, although stem cell studies in both humans (umbilical cord cells) and rats (neural cells) have produced promising results. More than 10,000 U.S. children are diagnosed with it yearly. Edwards claimed the disease developed because negligent doctors ignored fetal heart monitors indicating the child might not be getting enough air during birth and thus failed to deliver it immediately through cesarean surgery.

    Yet Edwards won his cases not because scientific evidence favored him but because of his smooth-talking "trust-me" demeanor -- and heart-wrenching pleas in which he ghoulishly sometimes pretended to be the voice of the unfortunate child crying out for justice.

    The rise in c-sections parallels the rise in this legal strategy:
    in what's called "defensive medicine," lawsuit fears increased the number of "When in doubt, cut it out" C-sections. Cesareans in the U.S. had begun dropping in the late 1980s, going as low as 22 percent of deliveries. As Edwards and friends spread fear across the Ob/gyn land, rates began to climb again. The rate is now 30.2 percent, a record high for the nation.

    There are probably many reasons for the increased popularity of C-sections, before and after the Edwards era. One is that women often choose it over the pain of labor Dr. Bruce Flamm, clinical professor of Ob/gyn at UC Irvine, told me. Still, "The biggest reason is probably the litigation issue" he said.

    Photos released by the Edwards campaign often feature him surrounded by his wife and kids. No doubt he loves them very much. It's too bad he thinks so little of the families of others.

    One advantage of blogging is that I'm allowed to mention stuff that the Inquirer fails to mention, and I can easily understand why John Edwards' role in the rise of c-sections might be off-limits.

    I'm not saying this is the Inquirer's fault, either.

    There's just too much money involved, and too much money is why there will never be meaningful tort reform, as trial lawyers like Edwards fill the coffers of the Democratic Party money machine.

    But Edwards is a man of the people, right? There's been some discussion recently which was linked by Glenn Reynolds to the effect of how unfair it is that rich guy like Edwards is seen as phony whereas in the old days, the sincerity of patricians like FDR went unquestioned. I agree with Glenn that identity politics is largely to blame -- because it assumes that in order to speak for the poor, you must be poor, in order to speak for a woman you must be a woman, etc.

    ....FDR was a rich guy who cared about the poor, he says, so why can't John Edwards be?

    Well, John Edwards is no FDR. But the answer to Krugman's complaint is found in the post 1960s political zeitgeist. Back before identity politics, and the notion that "the personal is political," the idea of a rich guy representing poor people was entirely plausible. He could be rich, but still have ideas about poverty, and care about them. But now that we have identity politics and the like, that's impossible: If only a woman can represent women, only a black person can represent blacks, etc. -- Barbara Boxer even suggested that Condi Rice couldn't understand mothers because she was childless -- then obviously only a poor person can represent poor people. And since there are no poor people in American political office, poor people perforce go unrepresented. Thus, the "progressive" causes of identity politics and personalization mean that the progressives' key clients can't get "authentic" representation. This is probably bad for the country, but it's certainly a bed that the progressives have made for themselves.

    It is a shame, because I'm sure there are progressives like FDR who should be able to legitimately advocate on behalf of the poor.

    His father James Roosevelt was heir to a huge coal and railroad fortune, while his mother Sara Delano was heir to an opium fortune amassed by her drug-smuggler father. Such a background might (along with heavy influence of Endicott Peabody) well have contributed to the development in young Franklin a sense of guilty noblesse oblige, and a genuinely earnest desire to help the poor.

    No matter what might be said about the sources of FDR's parents' income, no one can say that he made money by taking it from the needy (especially in the form of 40% contingency fees).

    I agree that John Edwards is no FDR.

    And while I don't agree with the way identity politics has thwarted genuine noblesse oblige, I don't think the man has any more moral authority to speak for the poor than anyone else.

    I'm not even sure that Edwards has earned the moral authority to speak for the handicapped babies he's enriched, because he's taken so much of their money doing it.

    What about the pregnant women who've been hoodwinked into having themselves cut open unnecessarily by obstetricians fearful of Edwards-style litigation? While it might not be "legal terrorism," it sure isn't FDR-style moral authority.

    posted by Eric at 02:17 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBacks (0)

    Praying For Fusion
    by Simon

    I visited the site of the world's first atomic pile CP-1 (which stands for Chicago Pile One) while I was in Chicago for my son Jonathan's graduation from the University of Chicago.

    There is a Henry Moore sculpture at the site. I hugged it and climbed in it to commune with the gods of energy. I was praying for success for the Bussard Fusion Reactor.

    A really neat interactive picture of the Moore sculpture was done by VictorZaveduk. The orange building in the background is the Max Palevsky Residential Commons a.k.a. dormatories, where Jon lived while he went to U Chicago.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 01:18 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (0)

    war on dogs?
    by Eric

    In a comment to my earlier post about the shooting of a dog by Philadelphia police, NickL pointed out that "it seems that it is now standard practice for police to shoot the family dog when turning up to arrest someone," and cited two very disturbing posts by Radley Balko. The first one discusses two incidents -- one in which the officers charged into a private backyard in "hot pursuit" of a suspect who lived elsewhere, then shot the dogs who lived there for defending the yard (a primary reason people keep dogs), and another incident in which (quoting this report) a SWAT team in Maricopa County, Arizona forced a 10 month old pit bull puppy to be burned alive, Waco style:

    [I]n the ultimate display of cruelty, a SWAT team member drove a dog trying to flee the home back into the inferno, where it met an agonizing death.

    Deputies then reportedly laughed as the dog's owners came unglued as it perished in the blaze.

    "I was crying hysterically," Andrea Barker, one of the dog's owners, tells me. "I was so upset. They [deputies] were laughing at me."

    Balko notes that aside from the torching of the building and the torturing of the dog, all the police had to show for their efforts was the arrest of one suspect -- for traffic violations. My reaction is to find myself hoping that somehow this is all made up by Balko or someone else. I don't want to think that I live in a country where police act like this. I'm trying not to be emotional, and I realize that this was just a dog. And I'm quite aware of the irony that I should be more sympathetic with the people and I therefore agree with the spirit of Balko's remarks about that distinction:
    On a slightly lighter note, I relayed my "they always shoot the dog" observation to a colleague here at Cato. He told me he's discoverd something as he's given interviews and speeches over the years about the Waco massacre.

    Apparently, people who think that perhaps the government acted properly in invading and burning down a house of largely innocent (but admidetly weird) people get really pissed off when they learn that the federal government also slaughtered the Brand Davidian dogs. Women and children? Meh. Weirdo cultists probably deserved it. But...

    "They killed the dogs? Aw, man. That's bullshit."

    It's like, sure, they have a right to burn up gun-toting religious crackpots, but the dogs? That goes too far!

    No, I do not think that way, although to be fair, while dogs are not human (and legally they are property) they are nonetheless innocent in a way that humans are not, because they have no human awareness of criminal intent.

    However, it also occurs to me that men who think it's funny to watch a puppy burn to death might not be the right candidates for law enforcement work, and I hope that their boss (celebrity sheriff Joe Arpaio) will or has fired them, assuming the allegations turn out to be true. Call me a bleeding heart liberal for saying it, but I would not want to be taken prisoner by people who entertain themselves by burning puppies to death.

    The other Balko post cites two more incidents -- one in which the police entered the wrong house in the quest to track down a burglar alarm signal and shot a Rottweiller simply for behaving as a watch dog. And in the second incident, police shot a pit bull for defending another yard they entered in "hot pursuit," then beat the owner for coming to the aid of his dog:

    Blu was in the couple's fenced yard on Sixth Street when the officers opened the gate to pursue a suspect, then shot the dog 11 times with pistols and a shotgun. When Parr ran up and asked the officers, "Why'd you shoot my dog?" police "pointed their guns at him, kicked and punched him and threw him to the ground," the suit said.

    Police arrested Parr on suspicion of obstructing police officers, but no charges were filed.

    It's not funny, as it could happen to me, my dog, or anyone's dog.

    I say this not simply to promote my libertarian crank theories, but because I was once mistaken by the police in hot pursuit of SLA bankrobbers as a member of the SLA -- in my own backyard. Oddly enough, I recalled the story about three years ago when contemplating another dog shooting incident:

    If some cops came into my yard and shot my dog, I would want to get even any way I could. Police tend not to apologize in these situations, because they feel they were just "doing their job."

    Well, what about the dog? Wasn't he just doing his job too?

    Mistakes like this can be intolerable, and can create lifelong rage. It's been more than 30 years since it happened, but I've never forgiven the cops who held guns (two pistols and a shotgun) to my head, made me lie on the ground and called me names, simply because they thought I was with the Symbionese Liberation Army, which had robbed a nearby bank. (I wasn't with the SLA; I was in my own backyard and had no idea a bank had been robbed.)

    At least I was alive! People have been killed because of such mistakes.

    There's no getting around the fact that it just isn't nice to shoot someone's dog, especially when there was no criminal culpability involving the dog's owner.

    One of the most horrendous examples involved a law abiding man who left his wallet on a gas pump after he'd filled up. This set in motion a series of "bureaucratic errors" leading to a felony stop, and the shooting of his apparently friendly dog who jumped out of the car because the police would not allow the "suspects" to close it:

    In the video, released by the THP, officers are heard ordering the family, one by one, to get out of their car with their hands up. James Smoak and his wife, Pamela, and 17-year-old son Brandon are ordered onto their knees and handcuffed.

    "What did I do?" James Smoak asks the officers.

    "Sir, inside information is that you was involved in some type of robbery in Davidson County," the unidentified officer says.

    Smoak and his wife protest incredulously, telling the officers that they are from South Carolina and that their mother and father-in-law are traveling in another car alongside them.

    The Smoaks told CNN that as they knelt, handcuffed, they pleaded with officers to close the doors of their car so their two dogs would not escape, but the officers did not heed them.

    Pamela Smoak is seen on the tape looking up at an officer, telling him slowly, "That dog is not mean. He won't hurt you."

    Her husband says, "I got a dog in the car. I don't want him to jump out."

    The tape then shows the Smoak's medium-size brown dog romping on the shoulder of the Interstate, its tail wagging. As the family yells, the dog, named Patton, first heads away from the road, then quickly circles back toward the family.

    An officer in a blue uniform aims his shotgun at the dog and fires at its head, killing it immediately.

    For several moments, all that is audible are shrieks as the family reacts to the shooting. James Smoak even stands up, but officers pull him back down.

    "Y'all shot my dog! Y'all shot my dog!" James Smoak cries. "Oh my God! God Almighty!"

    "You shot my dog!" screams his wife, distraught and still handcuffed. "Why'd you kill our dog?"

    "Jesus, tell me, why did y'all shoot my dog?" James Smoak says.

    The officers bring him to the patrol car, and the family calms down, but still they ask the officers for an explanation. One of them says Patton was "going after" the officer.

    "No he wasn't, man," James Smoak says. "Y'all didn't have to kill the dog like that."

    Brandon told CNN Patton, was playful and gentle -- "like Scooby-Doo" -- and may have simply gone after the beam of the flashlight as he often did at home, when Brandon and the dog would play.

    The Tenneseean has more including an analysis of video discrepancies between what the police initially reported and what happened. More here.

    NickL's comment to my earlier post concluded ominously:

    I'm sure there's plenty more as well. Maybe that's what the police get taught during training nowadays?
    I certainly hope not.

    But I notice that police seem to be given wide latitude in shooting dogs -- especially if the dogs are "pit bulls."

    A police account of another shooting is titled Vicious Pitbull Attacks Officer:

    Los Angeles: A vicious Pitbull was shot while officers were searching for a burglar.

    On May 28, 2007, at about 12:30 p.m., Southwest Bike Officers Elbin Quintanilla and his partner responded to assist other officers who were in foot pursuit of a burglary suspect.

    While searching for the burglary suspect, an LAPD Air Unit directed Officer Quintanilla and his partner to a backyard in the 3000 block of Norton Street. The officers were confronted by a vicious Pitbull who charged Quintanilla's partner and was inches away from biting his leg. Officer Quintanilla fired one round and struck the dog in the shoulder. The owner of the Pitbull came out of the house and restrained the dog.

    A perimeter was set and the K-9 Unit was called out. The burglary suspect was located near the area and was taken into custody without incident.

    Again, it appears that at most this dog was defending his backyard. How does the defense of a yard morph into "vicious"? By the assertion that the dog was "inches away from biting his leg"? (The dog bit no one.) Or by the additional words "pit bull"? Well, what was it? A "vicious pit bull"? Or a dog defending his own yard?

    Do dogs have the right to defend yards without being labeled vicious? Or do only pit bulls forfeit this right?

    I found the following YouTube video in which the police gave one of these usual accounts, but if you watch it, you'll see that the neighbors dispute it rather vehemently, saying that the police shot a friendly puppy who came to them when it was called.

    This whole area strikes me as a perfect scenario for a law school question. Under what circumstances do the police have a right to shoot dogs? Obviously, they'll always say that the dogs were attacking, but if the police have invaded private property without a warrant, and the owner of the dogs is given no notice that they were there, how is the dog supposed to know that they were "good guys" and not the bad guys it is their job to protect against? Nothing is more dangerous than police in hot pursuit or police acting under a mistake, as unlike criminals, they're acting under legal authority, and if you don't know they are there, anything might happen.

    What about the right of the dog owner to defend his dog? Legally, it has to be kept in mind that dogs are property, and there is no right to use lethal force in defense of property, even if that property is about to be destroyed or irreparably injured. Thus, if an unlawful trespasser enters my backyard and I see him pointing a gun at my dog's head, I am not allowed to shoot him -- even if that would save Coco's life. That's because Coco is a dog, and the trespasser is a human. Frankly, I agree with this distinction, and no matter how awful it would be to see Coco get shot, that does not entitle me to commit murder to prevent it.

    As a practical matter, though, I am allowed to use reasonable force to defend my property, and I suppose I could run out into the yard, point a gun at the guy, and scream "DROP THE GUN!" What I could not do would be to shoot him. However, if instead of dropping the gun, he turned from Coco and pointed it at me, then I could shoot in self defense.

    But what if the trespasser about to shoot my dog was a cop? Same rule?

    Don't ask me.

    I'm not in law school and I don't have to answer law school questions.

    My worry, though, is that the burgeoning dog control movement may be fueled in part by fearful police, who are after all human beings and who read the same scare stories as everyone else. Moreover, they are routinely (and more and more frequently) being ordered to utilize military methods and tactics while conducting raids on residences without notice to the occupants, many of whom have dogs which are dangerous to dangerous invaders.

    I worry that the war on drugs is fueling a war on dogs.

    MORE: Readers who might think this is all about pit bulls should think again. According to the Responsible Dog Owners of the Western States, a total of 75 different breeds of dogs (plus various mixes) are now being banned or restricted from ownership in the United States:

    BSL is based upon the urban myth of the "pit bull", which is not a recognized breed of dog. Under the guise of banning "pit bulls" any breed may be thus identified. There are at least seventy-five actual breeds, plus any mixed breed now either banned from ownership, or restricted in ownership in the United States. That is about 1/5 of all recognized breeds.
    I won't list them all, but the full list of breeds appears here.

    I guess the idea that a man's home is his castle has become an anachronism.

    UPDATE: Longtime commenter Chocolatier opines that pit bulls can be spotted by a "know it when you see it" test. The problem is that there's no way to define it legal terms.

    If you doubt me, take the famous "FIND THE PIT BULL" test.

    I had trouble with it.

    BTW, I've owned these dogs since the mid 1970s (when they weren't controversial), and when she was a girl my mom was photographed with "Pete" -- the famous Our Gang dog -- at the Atlantic City Steel Pier.

    Nowadays, I find myself judged by the breed of my dog -- a judgment which results not from anything my dog has done, but what other people's dogs have done. Unfair by any standard. And as Radley Balko made clear, it's at least as unfair as gun control:

    ...when pit bulls are criminalized, only criminals will own pit bulls.
    And of course, if every "pit bull" was rounded up and killed, does anyone think the dog killers would stop there?

    MORE: Via Glenn Reynolds, I see that there's apparently a rule that if you take a video of the police shooting a dog, you can be charged with "wiretapping."

    No, really.

    (Which means that even if you're allowed to use reasonable force to protect your dog, you may not use a camera!)

    UPDATE: Link to Nick Schweitzer's fine post fixed, with thanks to Nick for pointing it out.

    posted by Eric at 10:37 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBacks (0)

    Adjusting my tinfoil sensitivity
    by Eric

    A bill pending in the California legislature would criminalize the mere possession something I'd never heard of before -- bags lined with aluminum foil. While I'd heard about various cities banning stores from distributing plastic bags and styrofoam cups, this is the first time I'd heard of criminalizing the possession of any type of bag.

    To shoplifters and merchants, these foil-lined bags are known as "booster bags" -- because they defeat RFID technology by blocking radio transmission signals. As blogger tadhg.com sees it, laws against them criminalize intent:

    the real effect of the law would be to lower the burden of proof on prosecutors, and to criminalize intent. I'm not a fan of criminalizing intent; intent is primarily a mental state, and it should be clear that criminalizing mental states is totalitarian and grotesque. This law would criminalize intent because it criminalizes possession of the "booster bag" itself, and not what someone does with it.

    In other words, we already have laws against shoplifting. If someone is caught shoplifting, they should be prosecuted for shoplifting. If we want extra penalties for shoplifting, then we should add those penalties directly, and not create entirely new categories of "criminality" for that purpose. If someone isn't caught shoplifting but is caught with one of these bags, the new law is effectively prosecuting them for intent to shoplift. The bag itself isn't harmful to society. We think (proceeding from my assumption above about the consensus view on "theft") that shoplifting is harmful to society, so we criminalize shoplifting. But if someone has the bag and hasn't done any shoplifting, we can't prosecute them because there's no way to prove that they were going to shoplift. There's plenty of room for reasonable doubt (they might get scared and change their mind). This is one of the major reasons why intent usually isn't criminalized, because you end up attempting both to prove what would have happened in an alternate universe and to read individual minds.

    This legislation would get around that by eliminating any discussion of intent, but intent-to-shoplift is really what's being addressed by it.

    I don't think that we really need to make intent-to-shoplift a crime. Making actual shoplifting a crime seems far enough.

    In addition, we don't need more laws of this kind. Pass enough laws like this, and you end up with a situation where all kinds of things are illegal for obscure reasons, and hence a large chunk of the population is (perhaps unknowingly) in breach of numerous laws a lot of the time. Since they can't all be dealt with (not enough resources, and if we did apply enough resources, we'd have a fully totalitarian state), we get to selective enforcement, where law enforcement agents can choose people at random and have a good shot at finding something illegal about their conduct or possessions--a situation to be avoided at all costs, as it obviously leads to tremendous abuse of power.

    Well put, although with a possessory law, intent is irrelevant. (No one cares, for example whether a man who possesses heroin is an actual user, or whether someone whose computer contains kiddie porn images has the slightest interest in them.) Laws against things, and possessory laws generally, invite the worst sort of abuse, because the possession is the crime.

    Thus, when 88-year-old Kathryn Johnson lay bleeding to death on the floor, the cops who had illegally broken into her house and shot her devoted their time to planting marijuana in her basement. (That's because marijuana requires no intent.)

    In the hands of a creative prosecutor, these laws are wonderful, because the possession of the evil thing is thought of as inherently a byproduct of evil intent. Few sympathize with someone who possesses instrumentalities of crime, as the evil intent is just assumed. I worried earlier about my legal culpability for possessing sudafed within ten feet of my lithium batteries -- and sure enough I learned that the DEA could treat this as a crime if it wanted to (and possibly invoke the "Patriot Act"). Were I taller, larger, covered with tattoos, and a member of the right motorcycle gang, I don't doubt that they would too.

    This is of course all paranoia. The law hasn't passed yet, and if I don't like the little RFIDs I can still wear my tinfoil hat to protect myself from them.

    Hell, I can even wrap my fried chicken lunch in tinfoil and blatantly carry it in my pocket!

    As long as the store isn't using one of these, I'll be safe!

    MORE: Speaking of "creative" prosecutors, did you know that a camera can be considered a wiretapping device? I didn't either, but I share Glenn Reynolds's reaction to the prosecution of Brian Kelly for filming a police stop. It's an outrage.

    Wiretapping? Yes. As Brendan Loy explains, the law in question prohibits "intercepting" oral communications. I share his assessment of the situation:

    Remind me, what country do we live in again?

    Frankly, this kind of thing scares me much more than a lot of the political civil-liberties debates that people get all exercised about. The idea that someone could face a potential seven-year prison sentence for... making a video and audio recording of himself being pulled over in a traffic stop... in America... is beyond terrifying.

    The camera becomes a wiretapping device of course, which means that anyone with a video camera is now a potential wiretapper.

    I think there should be a right to film and record the police. All the more so considering that the police have the right to film and record you!.

    Considering that the police are more and more doing things like entering onto property and shooting dogs, what other recourse do citizens have?

    posted by Eric at 08:01 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBacks (0)

    If you don't like it, move to flyover country!
    by Eric

    If San Francisco Supervisor Chris Daly gets his way, the Blue Angels would be banned from flying over San Francisco:

    SAN FRANCISCO (Map, News) - The annual aerial show by the U.S. Navy's Blue Angels -- a San Francisco tradition dating back to 1981 that pumps millions into the local economy -- is running into opposition from three local peace advocacy groups that are calling for a permanent halt to the popular Fleet Week flyover.

    CodePink, Global Exchange and Veterans for Peace, Chapter 69, are working with Supervisor Chris Daly on a Board of Supervisors resolution to address concerns over the Blue Angels.

    Daly acknowledged he is considering a call to halt the flyovers because, he said, "they seem dangerous and unnecessary." Daly said he plans on introducing the resolution as early as Tuesday, but is still drafting the language. A resolution is not legally binding, but states a board position.

    The Blue Angels, a team of navy fighter pilots, fly over San Francisco during Fleet Week, which this year is scheduled for Oct. 4 through Oct. 9. For four of the six days, the flashy blue- and yellow-striped planes soar through the skies over the northern waterfront at speeds reaching 700 miles per hour, and perform such maneuvers as vertical rolls. As part of the show, six planes group together in tight formation to perform deft maneuvers.

    In what's probably an indication that even local San Franciscans are furious, Daly seems to be backing down -- for now:
    A resolution that would call for a permanent halt to the Blue Angels annual Fleet Week flyovers won't be introduced to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, according to its potential sponsor.

    Supervisor Chris Daly, when asked about the progress of his resolution, told The Examiner on Thursday, "Because of you, I haven't gotten any work done today, and because of you, I am not going to introduce it on Tuesday."

    Daly was apparently flooded with media inquiries as well as phone calls from residents weighing in on the U.S. Navy Blue Angels on Thursday, after The Examiner reported that he is drafting the resolution with local peace advocacy groups CodePink, Global Exchange and Veterans for Peace, Chapter 69.

    Daly now says he is "going to introduce it some other time."

    How dare the SF Examiner interfere with this man's agenda by causing him to be flooded with inquiries?

    This is of course all very predictable coming from someone like Chris Daly -- a man I think epitomizes smug trendiness, who refused to allow the U.S.S. Iowa in San Francisco's maritime museum, and who of course hates the military with every bone in his body.

    He's also a no-growth progressive, who opposes development, but whose policies encourage sprawl:

    ...fulfillment of the no-growth imperative that brought some of them to office is the greatest legacy of the current, progressive Board of Supervisors. And it's the greatest delight of real estate speculators and other property owners who see their equity increasing in response to a building shortage, and of anti-development lawyers, turf-hungry public-welfare charities, and nonprofit developers adept at gaming the building-approval process.

    In helping their friends, the progressives have ruined things for the rest of us. They've greatly exacerbated the city's housing shortage, discouraged employers from locating here, made impossible in San Francisco the middle-class dream of owning a home, and spurred the environment-destroying sprawl that's degrading once-beautiful Northern California. To listen to supervisors describe it at meetings, you'd think development pressure just went away once housing projects were killed. But the fact is, every person must, and most people do, find places to live, even if they aren't in this city. People move against their better wishes into housing tracts built at the edges of the Bay Area, in what had been open space. Then, by dint of artificially created necessity, they must commute huge distances by car. (You're not going to believe this, but I've heard S.F. progressives claim they favor preserving the environment.)

    In the Mission, the progressives are trying to block 1,000 desperately needed apartments from being built exactly where they should be -- in a blighted neighborhood that's near transit lines and downtown.

    There are unremarked monuments to the failure of San Francisco progressivism across the city. Vacant buildings and weedy, crime-infested blocks -- once slated to be new residential and apartment districts -- pockmark San Francisco. Homeless residents live on the streets, and middle-income families pack into tiny apartments, because neither can afford a better place to live, because progressive policies ultimately work to keep the supply of housing low and rents, therefore, exorbitant. Because housing isn't built here, ugly sprawl development pops up where it can -- across the Central Valley and into the Sacramento River Delta and the Sierra Nevada foothills.

    Leftist city policies actually encourage sprawl?

    I never really thought about it, but it makes a lot of sense.

    Chasing away the Blue Angels will probably have a similar effect.

    "Get out of our smug and trendy city!"

    posted by Eric at 02:06 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBacks (0)

    Jonathan Simon Graduates From The University Of Chicago
    by Simon

    Jonathan Richard Simon, the grandson of Esther Simon and the late Manny Simon, son of Michael and Sandra Simon, and brother of, David, Jason, and Camille Simon graduated from the University of Chicago on June 9th, 2007. His degree was in Slavic Languages and Literatures - with Honors.

    Jon was elected to Phi Beta Kappa in the Spring of 2006.

    He has been a Student Marshal since 2006.

    Here is what the University has to say about their Student Marshals.

    Student Marshals are appointed by the President of the University in recognition of their excellent scholarship and leadership. Appointment as a Student Marshal is the highest honor conferred by the University upon undergraduate students.
    Congrats Jon!!!!!!!!!!!!

    And now you know why my blogging has been light for the past few days.

    Chicago was my school. However, I dropped out after the first year to pursue other interests. Jon has set a mark of excellence that has far surpassed anything I was able to accomplish in school. Plus he has done me proud by doing it at my old school.

    posted by Simon at 11:18 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBacks (0)

    Bombing the bombasts of gaydar hate bombing
    by Eric
    As the key to American politics for at least two decades (and arguably right back to the sixties), cultural polarization deserves serious thought and study, not perpetual denial.

    So says Stanley Kurtz, in a post linked by Glenn Reynolds for other reasons.

    I'm a bit more concerned with the Culture War than most bloggers, as it often seems to me that I've spent four years perpetually avoiding the very denial Kurtz describes.

    Kurtz goes on to observe that if Giuliani doesn't win the nomination, "it will be because the culture wars did him in." That is certainly true. As more than one commentator has observed, the election will be won by whichever party does a better job of not being captured by its "base."

    I'd go further than that, and venture that the election will be won by whichever party does a better job of appearing to not be captured by its base. And beyond that, by whichever party does a better job of portraying the other party of having been captured by its "base."

    In that regard, I think the Democrats have been doing a better job learning their lesson. (Or at least doing a better job of appearing to have learned their lesson. Running nominally pro-war centrists was part of their strategy to take back the House, and it worked.)

    But the real lesson that ideologues hate to learn is that most Americans do not like the bases, because they're shrill, vehement, ideologically-driven people prone to hurl invective at anyone who shows the slightest sign of deviation from what they believe. I got into a bit of a debate the other night with a left wing ideologue, and I ended it by joking that the Democratic Party obviously misses me, and that it's probably time for me to switch my registration back -- so I can go from being a "RINO" to being a "DINO" again.

    He did not like it. He was seriously upset at even the idea that someone with views like mine could legally become a card-carrying Democrat, and no force on earth could stop me if I wanted to.

    It's as if I am a traitor to the Culture War without even knowing which side I am betraying. The more I talk about the Culture War, the more I see it everywhere, and the more resolutely opposed to it I become. I don't care that much about which side I oppose. Mainly, I wish they'd end the tyranny against the individual, especially in the form of personal ad hominem attacks.

    I saw a classic example this morning when I read about left-wing attacks on Iraq-embed reporter Matt Sanchez. (Via Glenn Reynolds.) Antiwar activists who have never been to Iraq and have no idea what they're talking about take issue with the reporter's sexual preference -- as if that has affected his reporting. (I don't have time for sexual preference research right now, so I'll treat this nonsense as a "so what?")


    You'd think that after four years of writing a Culture War blog I'd be getting ready to hang up my cleats, but as the old Al Pacino/Sopranos saying goes, "Every time I try to get out, they draaag me back in!"

    Which is my way of saying that I'm finding it impossible to ignore what Glenn Reynolds called the blogpost title of the week -- "Gaydar Love" -- in the context of what ought to be called left-wing "Gaydar Hate."

    So I'm wondering....

    Might the "Gay Bomb" which the military refused to develop back in 1994 might be an effective weapon to deploy against leftists who impute homosexuality to their ideological opponents and then go ballistic over it:

    Let's think this "offensive ... almost laughable" option through as a moral proposition, applying the most progressive, libertarian, gender-orientation accepting, peace-loving standards possible:

    Gay Bomb, good or bad?

    Non-lethal = good.

    Homosexuality is an increasingly accepted sexual orientation and lifestyle. Not that there's anything wrong with that = neutral.

    If homosexuality is OK, then the real problem with the Gay Bomb is not that it would reduce male soldiers' inhibitions and encourage them to boff each other, but that it is intended to cause shame. Shame about gayness = bad.

    But in an increasingly open, GLBT-tolerant society, is the shame and disruption of unit cohesion then simply because of unrestrained, indiscriminate sexual activity, regardless of its orientation? Shame about sexuality = bad.

    This is complicated to analyze militarily, and not nearly as relevant to the troops from a tolerant Western country (who, except a few extreme ideologues, can be expected to handle whatever culture shock might be produced by the bomb) as it is to intolerant, extreme-shame-based, Islamist combatants.

    Thus, Crittendon links this point from Hot Air:

    The "gay bomb" works best against those enemies least tolerant of gays -- you'd think that element of poetic justice would mitigate its offensiveness somewhat.
    I think the intolerant shame-based left would be very susceptible to the application of the gay bomb. They have a much narrower view of homosexuality than even their counterparts on the intolerant right, and they are far more subject to having their equilibrium disrupted. I realize that what I just said sounds counterintuitive, for the right wing is generally stereotyped as being far more intolerant of homosexuality than the left wing, so I'll try to explain this paradoxical Culture War quagmire to the extent that I can.

    For starters, the left is given credit (by itself) as being the Far More Tolerant, even The Officially Certified. Officially, intolerance of homosexuality is Not Tolerated, so anyone who is on the left is entitled to an automatic presumption of non-bigoted status. The mere assertion of Support for Gay Marriage is seen as the equivalent of an official badge, saying "No One Is More Tolerant Of Gays Than I!"

    However intolerance of non-comforming homosexuals is not only tolerated, it is mandatory. That's because homosexuals who disagree with the party line are seen as ungrateful, but because it is disconcerting to credit them as actually hating the left, they must be seen as being guilty of hating themselves. (An easy twist to make considering the premise that Only The Left is Officially Not Bigoted.) And if someone hates himself, it follows according to leftist logic that it is OK to hate him. Perhaps then he'll come to see the error of his ways, and come back to the left, for only there is he allowed to love himself.

    But now we come to the Hateful Right, and it gets very tricky, because while there is such a thing, the fact is that the actual homo haters on the right are far fewer in number than commonly believed. Sure, they've got some web sites and a few organizations which can be depended on for the statements that fuel the left, but a serious and growing problem for the left is that many conservatives really don't give a rat's ass about other people's sexual preferences. I mean, when even a notorious "homophobe" like Rick Santorum pointedly refuses to fire an outed gay staffer, you know you've really got a problem with the ordinary conservative rank and file. On top of that, conservatives tend not to see homosexuality as ideological treason. Rather, those who are squeamish would tend to see it as an individual's problem -- one which some of the "homophobes" might think deserves some sort of religious "cure" but one which very few would link to ideology.

    On top of that, it is almost unthinkable that any conservative would consider a left-wing homosexual to be a traitor to his penis the way the left does about a right-wing homosexual. There simply is no counterpart, as conservatives tend to abhor identity politics in general, and in any event would never consider homosexuals to be "theirs." True, some think that homosexuals should be "property" of the left, but even these people would not see a left-wing homosexual as a traitor to the right.

    My thesis is that the left wing is far, far more intolerant of nonconforming homosexuals than the right, and thus more vulnerable to the effects of the "Gay bomb."

    Or, well, at least a modified form of the bomb. I notice that the original news reports Crittenden sites date back to 1994. Hasn't our scientific technology advanced since then? Wouldn't it be possible to come up with a bomb which makes people not only gay, but also conservative?

    Or is surgical precision in the Culture War too much to hope for?

    posted by Eric at 10:36 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)

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