Monday, April 30, 2007

Did the Administration Ever Deliberate About the Iraq War?

James Fallows says 'no,' and asks whether anyone can finde evidence to the contrary.

I don't know. Did they deliberate badly, or simply not deliberate? It'd be interesting to know, but we may be splitting hairs.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Scary Anti-Gun People in Switzerland

Grading...little time to comment beyond: apparently Big Sister is watching you, Switzerland.

A quote:

"We don't know any woman who wants a weapon in the house," said Lisa Feldmann, the magazine's editor. "Women and the younger generation think this is crazy."

1. Then you don't know my mother, nor Johnny Quest, nor most of the females around where I grew up.

2. My suggestion to Ms. Feldman: so don't own one.

But you can't have mine, and that, you see, is final. You can't take it, you can't have it, that's the end of it, and, thus, this is all just hot air from my perspective.

Er, though last time I checked, this wasn't Switzerland, so perhaps I'm over-reacting...

Somehow these people don't seem to recognize the significance of the following facts, also quoted in the story:

According to Swiss police, there were 204 homicides in Switzerland in 2005, including 48 that involved guns. That is about the same number of gun-related killings as took place last year in England and Wales, which have strict gun control and a population seven times the size of Switzerland's.

I try not to talk to hysterical anti-gun types for the same reason I've started avoiding Bush dead-enders, creationists, Jesus freaks, and rabid physicalists: it's bad for my objectivity--they drive me farther over to the other side. My objectivity--such as it is--is a fragile thing.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Bush's "Abstinence-Only" AIDs Ambassador and Prostitutes Sittin' In A Tree...


Too bad for Randall Tobias. If he'd merely dodged the draft, tried to steal an election, or lied us into a war, he'd be fine. But it looks like he had him some s-e-x, which as we all know is a d-i-r-t-y activity that makes the baby J-e-b-u-s weep.

And now Tobias is, er, s-c-r-e-w-e-d. [at Metafilter (well, he's not screwed at Metafilter, but that's where you can find all the links.)]

Oh, and he p-a-i-d for it, which you'd think would be the free market at work--like, ya know, an invisible hand job--but somehow isn't, perhaps because s-e-x is d-i-r-t-y (see above).

I've got to say I really do marvel at how bent so many of these hyper-puritans actually turn out to be. A lesser man would find this so bleeding hilarious that he would, in an effort to stifle a laugh, emit just a wee bit of Gatorade out of his nose when he read this. But not me.

Does anybody else find it astounding that you can be a complete nut and people hardly even seem to notice...but if you're a hypocritical nut, violating your own crackpot principles, suddenly it's no longer o.k.? I say: better a hypocritical nut than a nut that sticks to his nutty principles.
Desperately Seeking A Saddam-al Qaeda Link

Jeez, these people (e.g. Instapundit) never give up, do they? Turns out that former major in Saddam's army--Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi-- was a member of al Qaeda. Not a colonel, not a general, not one of Saddam's inner circle...but a major. Jeez, I wonder whether any second lieutenants will show up?

This rather reminds me of that business a couple of weeks back in which some Bush dead-enders (e.g. Tom DeLay) were trying to argue that since now, four years into the war, the insurgents were using some chlorine gas, this showed that there were WMDs in Iraq after all. The mind, she reeleth.

It's almost too ridiculous to respond to, but here goes: Saddam and al Qaeda, see, they didn't get along. We know that. You could look it up. But it would be virtually impossible for there to be no overlap between the Iraqi government and al Qaeda. In fact, even though we know there was no significant operational relationship between the two, it's kind of surprising how little incidental overlap there has turned out to be. There's a lot more overlap between the current Iraqi government and al Qaeda than there was between Saddam's government and al Qaeda. Should we bomb al Maliki?

Somebody needs to tell these people that you can't make something true just by insisting on it.
Tenet's New Book:
(a) Administration Lied About War Evidence;
(b) Torture Effective Against KSM et. al.

At the Washington Post.

The upshot(s):

(Supposing, temporarily, that Tenet is right and telling the truth.)

(a) Though Tenet doesn't use 'lie' or its cognates in any of the exerpts, but, of course, that's what we're talking about. We're in the midst of our biggest strategic train wreck ever because we (well, some of us) elected basically the most intellectually dishonest and ideological SOBs on the American political scene. So no news there. Only an intellectual ostrich has any doubts about that by this point.

Put it in the history books. That case is closed.

(b) Torture was used against some people (e.g. KSM), and it worked at least some times. As for the former point, we already know that. ("Enhanced interrogation techniques" = torture, of course; if we're going to do it, we should at least be honest enough to admit it.) As for the latter point--as I've said before--it doesn't really surprise me. I know very little about the subject, but provisionally assume that torture is, in fact, effective in some cases. I've read claims by people in the know that it's not effective because you can get people to say anything if you brutalize them enough; but the important question here is: if you stop short of that, and merely brutalize them a little, can you get important information from them? (Christ, I can't even believe that this is who we are now: a country that has to talk about how severely it should torture people...)

Some who argue that torture is never morally justified hang much of their case on the claim that it doesn't work. A phlosophically more interesting question is: is it still never justified even if it does sometimes work. My position, FWIW: it probably works sometimes, but it is only justified in fairly extreme cases. I'm concerned that the administration sometimes seems downright eager to torture an alarmingly large percentage of the people it can lay its hands on. My position--again, FWIW, which ain't much--is that it should only be even considered in cases that closely approach "ticking time-bomb" cases. I'm not even sure it should be used on KSM. (Though to be honest, I'm not exactly in danger of dehydration from crying about the fact that it was.) I don't know--and you don't know--enough details to make a very accurate judgment there... But we do know enough details to distrust the administration's judgment in such matters. Anyone who doesn't distrust this administration's judgment in almost all matters is, again, playing ostrich.

I'm so sickened by all this that I can barely bring myself to read the papers anymore.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

How To Prepare For An Alien Invasion


One suggestion: "mujahadeen-style tactics" as in Iraq.

Sounds reasonable to me (um, given the premise...)...but...are the aliens coming because they've been led to believe that we have weapons of universal destruction (WUDs)? And after they invade, will they leave giant stockpiles of weapons and explosives unguarded so that we can use the stuff against them? And will they fail to plan for after the invasion?

Just wondering.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Arguments I Love: The Gun At the Bedside Argument

O.k., so I love the following argument--an argument that some of my academic-type non-firearm-oriented friends have actually offered in conversation with me:

Look, even if you had a gun right in your nightstand, if someone sneaks into your house and then into your bedroom and then puts a gun right to your head and so you wake up staring right down the barrel...well, what good is your gun then, huh?

Refutation left as an exercise for the reader.

This is in no way to suggest that there are no sensible arguments for gun control. I'm just discussing one single, terrible, argument that amuses me.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

How Will the World End?

I used to think a gamma-ray burst. Then Canis Major (the guy, not the constellation), turned me on to quantum vacuum decay (i.e. a "vacuum metastability event"). Now there's a disaster for ya.

Makes the inevitable zombie apocalypse seem almost cozy by comparison.
Almost Seems Not To Suck That Bad By Comparison

Is there a word or phrase that means, basically, almost seems not to suck that bad by comparison?

It seems like it would be handy to have such a term. There must be one that I'm forgetting. How could we have gotten this far without one?

The obvious instance is: Bush is so godawful that, to much of the world, anyway, he makes OBL almost seem not to suck that bad by comparison. And Republicans could only recognize that fact, this would probably immediately become a slightly better world.

I raise this question, however, not as an occasion for Bush-bashing--because, really, what sport is to be had at the expense of such a slow-moving target?--but, rather, because the Democrats--of whom, remember, I only ask that they suck less than the Bush administration--are, I have to admit, starting to rather disappoint me.

The point being, of course, that the Democrats are so lame that the Bushies almost seem not to suck that bad by comparison.

I'm not writing them off, I'm just trying to shut up about them. Bush is dangerous, and this administration has been a virtually unmitigated disaster. Consquently, I'm not really interested in harping about the fact that the Democrats merely suck.

By the prevailing standards, merely sucking is pretty good.

But I must admit that I'd hoped for better than that.

Stupid me.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Adjunct Professor Fired After Class Discussion of VA Tech Shooting.

Hard to tell exactly what happend here...but stay tuned.
Mass Murderers v. Armed Resistance: Some Cases

Not saying these cases constitute a representative sample, but it's food for thought.

[Via Instapundit]
Cheryl Crow and Toilet Paper

Cheryl Crow is obviously not serious about this, [link fixed jeeez] a proposal to legislate the number of sheets of toilet paper (1-3, incidentally) that people can use per "visit" to the bathroom. (Does one really visit the bathroom, I wonder...? Do we visit the kitchen? The bedroom?)

It's rather obviously a joke.

So everybody calm down.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Giovanni's Post-Shooting Poem

I referred to this in the previous post. Youll find this up currently if you visit the Virginia Tech English Department website:

We are Virginia Tech

We are sad today
We will be sad for quite a while
We are not moving on
We are embracing our mourning

We are Virginia Tech

We are strong enough to stand tall tearlessly
We are brave enough to bend to cry
And we are sad enough to know that we must laugh again

We are Virginia Tech

We do not understand this tragedy

We know we did nothing to deserve it

But neither does a child in Africa
Dying of AIDS

Neither do the Invisible Children
Walking the night away to avoid being captured by a rogue army

Neither does the baby elephant watching his community
Be devastated for ivory

Neither does the Mexican child looking
For fresh water

Neither does the Iraqi teenager dodging bombs

Neither does the Appalachian infant killed
By a boulder
Because the land was destabilized

No one deserves a tragedy

We are Virginia Tech

The Hokie Nation embraces
Our own
And reaches out
With open heart and mind
To those who offer their hearts and hands

We are strong
And brave
And innocent
And unafraid

We are better than we think
And not yet quite what we want to be

We are alive to imagination
And open to possibility
We will continue
To invent the future

Through our blood and tears
Through all this sadness

We are the Hokies

We will prevail
We will prevail
We will prevail

We are Virginia Tech

--Nikki Giovanni, delivered at the Convocation, April 17, 2007

O.k., writing good poetry is hard, and I've got a certain level of respect for anyone who'd even try to write a poem like this a few days after such an event and put it out there in front of God and the internets and everybody.

But it strikes me as deeply mistaken to be so quick with comparisons that seem to minimize the scope of the tragedy. It is not o.k. to suggest that we get perspective on this event by thinking about "...the baby elephant watching his community be devistated for ivory."

Let me make this clear: I am a big fan of elephants, and, like everyone else, especially of baby elephants. I suspect that elephants might be far more sentient and intelligent than most people think. I think that if you kill one for ivory that there's a good chance that you deserve to be shot yourself.

I am extremely pro-elephant.

But it strikes me as downright perverse to think that this is an apt comparison.

I do not think that the Tech murders constitute the greatest crime in human history, nor that it's even the worst thing that happened in the world last week. For all I know, it wasn't in the top ten. And I think getting perspective is a good thing. But something is really bugging me about this way of doing it.

As always, I could be wrong.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Incredulity re: the VA Tech English Department

I received this by James Lewis at The American Thinker.

An extraordinarily astute and intellectually honest friend of mine was led to wonder about the VA Tech English department on the day of the murders, and pointed me to their homepage then, so I've actually been thinking about this a little bit.

Lewis's argument is rather a mess (too busy today to do the detail thing today), as you'll see. Lewis seems particularly put out by the non-standard/weird sexual themes that are common in English departments. I'm never sure which is more off-putting, the intellectual left's obsession with weird sex or the intellectual right's obsession with any sex.

Anyway, Lewis's essay is rather overwrought and under-evidenced...but the Tech English department's poem at the end is so bloody bizarre that it almost makes Lewis's screed seem reasonable.

The part where the murdered Tech students are compared to baby elephants is probably the, I'd say.

One footnote:
Some liberals don't seem to want to admit this, but take it from me, there's a good bit of truth in it: the humanities and social sciences are largely overrun by second-rate intellects hawking third-rate theories. I'm in no way linking this to the shooting, and, in fact, I'm not advocating any course of action. I'm just taking the opportunity to point out that, for all the right has wrong, they're largely right about this. A university is a place where even dumb ideas ought to be tried out. But this sort of thing is getting to be a bit much. The grating, tedious mediocrity and silliness of much of what passes for serious thinking in the humanities and social sciences these days is, I'd say, one of the main forces dragging down the contemporary American university.

(Incidentally: thought the roots of much of the silliness at issue is European, I'm told that its been passe in Europe for quite some time, and survives mainly in American English departments. But I don't know whether that's true.)
The Likely Outcome of Fighting Back Against an Armed Assailant

Here's the story of John Klang, a Wisconsin school principal who took a gun away from an armed student. Shot in the process, he died later that day. The student, of course, is not responsible, because he is the victim of something, and the principal, of course, just made things worse by trying to take his gun away.

So that's what awaits you if you resist: probable death, even if you succeed, and slanderous comments about you in defense of your murderer.

On the other hand, there might be at least some (and maybe more than some) truth to some parts of the killer's story. I went to a fairly small and very tame grade school, ditto high school. I think I graduated just before we really started hearing horror stories about violence in public schools. Nevertheless, I suffered frequent humiliation until I learned to fight. After that, I fought a fair bit, and watched others who didn't endure humiliation, helping them out when I had the physical and psychological resources. There was a small number of predatory students who spent their days terrorizing weaker and meeker kids. It wasn't south central L.A. or anything, but I witnessed some poor kids live hellish lives of repeated humiliation. If one of those kids had brought in a gun and shot one of his tormentors, frankly I wouldn't have thought it that unreasonable. This is not to advocate such action, but just to report my opinoin at the time. (Why anyone would start killing people indiscriminately, though...well, I just can't answer that one.)

Of course, when you did fight back, you got in trouble for it. The bad kids didn't care about that, of course, but the good kids did. Punishing people for defending themselves is, I still think, about the stupidest thing I've ever seen.

The teachers let this go on because, first, they usually didn't see it, and, second, they were kind of afraid of the mean kids, too, even though there was no physical threat to them. I came to think that most of the teachers had been picked on themselves and had never quite gotten over it. Consesquently, they were hesitant to confront the bullies, and, in fact, kind of relieved when the mean kids struck up a kind of alliance--or, at least, cease-fire--with them. It was as if some of the teachers actually enjoyed the fact that the mean kids kind of semi-befriended them. It seemed as if that made them kind of regress, as if the bullies of their own youth had finally stopped terrorizing them. Very speculative, that, but that's the hypothesis that suggested itself to me at the time.

So what's the point? The point is in no way to attempt to justify the unjustifiable, nor to excuse the murderous. It's rather something like this: there are plenty of reasons to stop bullying in schools. Rather far down on the list is this one: some kids will be bullied until they come back and kill. Now, if they only killed the bullies, I have to say I wouldn't be all that concerned about it. But that's not the way it will happen.
The Gun Control Debate Flares Up, Of Course

With, e.g., this, Tom Plate at It's basically a parade of fallacies. Though you won't need me to identify them, I probably won't be able to resist going through them in detail as soon as I get some time.

I see that the contrary position is articulated by the noted social philosopher Ted Nugent, known for his execrable music and some hunting videos that show arrows ripping through deer in extreme close-up slow-mo.

Lord help us. We are a silly bunch.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Should Professors Be Allowed to Carry Guns?

One thing about blogs: they make it possible for everyone to start sounding off about every new event, instantaneously turning the discussion toward their own pet issues. I was afraid that it was too soon for my previous post, but later found out that some folks over at NRO's The Corner were already talking about a similar issue, and in far less circumspect terms.

They're already discussing whether professors should be able to carry guns over at the Volokh Conspiracy. Seems a little soon for this sort of thing to me, but what do I know?

I've never really understood why one isn't allowed to have firearms on Virginia campuses. It's not as if I have a strong desire to take a gun to class or anything. In fact, I've never even gotten around to getting a concealed-carry permit. It's just that I don't understand the rationale for prohibiting it. A local man around these parts has challenged the law, thus prompting occasional derisive comments about The Very Idea by the Provost at Faculty Senate meetings. For the good of the department, I just bite my tongue.

It's downright amusing to hear some of the reasons for the prohibition (a comment at Volokh: "Universities are a place for reason, not violence." Now waddaya gonna do with something like that, I ask you?) I have a kind of gut-level hunch that it's a good idea to keep guns off of campuses, but a gut-level hunch is all I've really got.

I've often thought that if I were a better and more responsible human being, I'd get my permit and carry most of the time. A gun in my hands is virtually guaranteed not to be misused, and it would put me in a position to defend others in the rather unlikely event that that became necessary. That is: though the odds are low that I'd ever have occasion to use the gun for good, the odds are even lower that I'd ever misuse it. Thus, the world in which I carry a gun is safer than a world in which I don't. Thus it seems like I ought to carry.

But, though I am comfortable with firearms, I wouldn't be comfortable carrying one all over the place. Translation: I'm too lazy and it would be too burdensome. Not the best reason of all time, eh?

There are plenty of times on the farm (note: now technically the ranch) when for one reason or another I've had occasion to stick a handgun in my back pocket. If, say, we're having trouble with a pack of coyotes or wild dogs, but the likelihood of encountering them is small, and I don't feel like toting around a long gun. Now, let me tell ya, after about twenty minutes, I'm like "I wish I'd have left this @*$&ing heavy-ass thing in the house." Holsters are better, but still a pain.

Think of it this way: would you be willing to carry around a heavy, oily, rather dangerous mechanism under your arm every day because there's a one in a [insert name of large number here] chance that it could save lives? My answer so far: not really, but I'm willing to be persuaded on the point.

Furthermore, given the political atmosphere on campuses, lots of people would freak out and think you were crazy, so you've got to figure that into the pain-in-the-ass calculations. A friend of mine once had a plain-clothes cop in a night school class, and the prof and the students were so freaked out when the guy'd get hot and take his jacket off (thus exposing the gun in his shoulder holster), that my friend asked the cop to quit carrying in class. Now that's a fairly high degree of sensitivity--being afraid of armed cops.

At any rate, I certainly hope we can figure out some better solution, since liberalizing concealed-carry laws would, I think, probably do very little to solve this problem, since few people (and very few college professors) will actually avail themselves of the relevant opportunity.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A Few Thoughts in the Wake of the Virginia Tech Tragedy:
Violence and the Obligation to Resist

I'm not really thinking about the terrible incident at Virginia Tech just yet, but, rather, thinking about such incidents in general terms, and thinking about the sobering fact that such things will inevitably happen again.

Whenever I hear about incidents of this kind, I automatically begin flipping through possible types of action (this will happen in the back of my mind even if I don't think about it explicitly). In an actual situation of the relevant kind, there's a fairly high probability that my primary course of action would involve a lot of hiding and running away, but I at least recognize that that's probably not what I ought to do.

Since one doesn't want to have to think through such things from the ground up in the moment, it's good to think about the general issues ahead of time. I'm wondering whether we might need to think about what policies for action are ideal and admirable under such conditions, even if those policies might be difficult to enact in the face of actual danger.

I think that the actions of some of the passengers on United flight 93 probably provide us with an exemplar here. Recognizing that death was almost certain if they did not act, they elected to fight back against their attackers. It seems fairly clear that this policy is rational. Many pacifists will deny this, but that merely illustrates what most people already realize: that pacifism is an unreasonable and morally indefensible position.

Most situations are not as clear-cut as that on flight 93, however. In very many cases, a given individual's odds of survival might reasonably be thought to increase if he declines to fight back. That is, in such cases, if Smith attacks the shooter, Smith's odds of survival go down. However, if no one attacks the shooter, more people will be killed. So individuals in such cases face a difficult choice.

I think we all need to recognize that there is at least some small chance that we will be called upon to make such a choice, and I think that it is clear that each of us should at least recognize that we are under some obligation to make sacrifices under such circumstances. We have a general obligation to defend the innocent, and in some cases this obligation entails that we must risk our own lives.

It had not even occurred to me that there had been no discussion of these points until the mighty Armenius pointed this out to me. The response of our own institution has so far been of the candlelight-vigil-and-grief-counselor variety, and one worries that that's all it will ever come to. It's still early, and I think everyone acknowledges that there's a time for grieving. Eventually, however, we will have to address questions about confronting evil. What we don't want to do is to focus on grieving and sadness exclusively, with no attention to thinking about what this might teach us about what we ought to do in the future.

One of the many reasons that the Virginia Tech shooter was able to kill so many innocent people was that he caught a building full of nineteen-year-old kids flat-footed at nine o'clock on a Monday morning in a place they thought to be safe beyond question. He had every advantage, which is just the way the predatory like it, of course. They usually won't attack under less-than-ideal conditions. The rest of us will always be at a disadvantage.

There's a lot of talk around these parts about how our students are looking to us for guidance in this matter. Supposing that there's any truth in that, my guess is that one of the best things we can do for them is talk to them seriously about their moral obligation to defend themselves and other innocent people. That is, about the fact that they are sometimes obligated to do violence, and sometimes obligated to risk their lives. One of the best ways to prepare for the future is to think hard about it ahead of time, to have a plan of action. You don't want to have to think things through from the ground up in the heat of the moment. Making these points to people, helping them to steel themselves for defensive action, is better than holding vigils for them after their death, however important the latter might be.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Condolences to Tech

There's not much to say about the situation at VA Tech right now. I think there are issues in this neighborhood that ought to be discussed, but now's probably not the right time.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Drum's Purgegate Update

Make sure to keep abreast of the latest dirty dealin's.

[Note: that's the apostrophe-of-droppin'-a-'g', not a misuse of the possessive.]

[In retrospect, it would have been easier to include the 'g'.]
Do Bad Drivers Prefer Red Pickups?

So they're looking for a red pickup that apparently cut off the car NJ governor Jon Corzine was riding in, causing the accident that put Corzine in the hospital.

Now, I know all about the human penchant for hasty generalization, selection bias and so forth...but I'm going to fess up and admit that I've had a hypothesis for a couple of years that bad, reckless drivers have a penchant for shiny red pickup trucks. Anybody else notice this, or is it all in my head?

Friday, April 13, 2007

The Worst Science Fiction/Fantasy Story of All Time?

Dear God let's hope so.

For your reading plea...uh...for your reading, Philosoraptor presents "The Eye of Argon," by Jim Theis. (via Metafilter)

Apparently this comes from somewhere near the Ozarks, thus constituting yet another feather in the cap of the rich literary tradition of my people.

[Holy God, it has its own Wikipedia entry!]

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

New Hiking Boots Uncomfortable?

Is your brand-new $170 pair of kick-ass Montrail Torres really, really, really uncomfortable? Do they not fit at all like they seemed to at the store?

Wondering how on Earth you could have purchased such an uncomfortable, ill-fitting pair of shoes?

Well, check and make sure you didn't forget to put the insoles back in, and haven't been walking around all day on the rock-hard and pancake-flat footbed.

'Cause that'd be just like you.

God, how I am sick of Imus. It's all Imus, all the time on the cable news channels. Which kind of indicates one important reason why those channels suck.

Couple of points:

1. I simply cannot believe that some people think it's o.k. to publicly ridicule people for their appearance. I mean JEBUS. What is this, grade school? Man, that sh*t hurts people, and it's not like it's even funny. I'm not exactly all PC or anything, but this is just common human decency. I would never go on tv and say "Egad, look at Don Imus, that nasty, dried up old m*therf*cker." I mean, it does not take a moral genius to figure out that this is not alright.

Actually, it reminded me a bit of when that sh*theel Limbaugh ridiculed Chelsea Clinton's appearance.

Look, it's not like murder or something, but it IS the kind of thing that deserves a punch in the nose. What kind of pathetic turd makes fun of young girls like that?

2. As for the racial part, I'm inclined to think that people may be being a little too hard on him given that the words 'ho' and 'nappy-headed' have virtually been "mainstreamed" by rap and black comedians. I'm not sure how hurtful such words really are, but I can say that one might reasonably conclude that the answer is "not very" on the basis of their prevalence.

On the other hand, it's a fairly common observation that there are some things you can say about yourself that others aren't allowed to say about you, and some words that are o.k. for one group to use, but not for others. But this sets the stage for more non-malevolent slip-ups. My friend Gera will sometimes say things to me like "Wassup nee-gro?" Now, although I've never asked, it doesn't seem permissible for me to return that exact same greeting--though I've come close to doing it sometimes just reflexively, without thinking. Not a perfectly parallel case, of course, but somewhere in the same ballpark. (Important background information: I am not black.)

3. Johnny Quest's point:
If people pay you money because you say rude and shocking things on the radio, you can't get upset if they stop giving you money because you said rude and shocking things. Profit by the sword, perish by the sword.

So there are no grounds for complaint if you get fired. Though Imus might reasonably object that he didn't mean any harm...though see 1.

4. My opinions became rather more anti-Imus, however, when I heard that he'd said something racially nasty about Gwen Ifill. Started to sound like a pattern. And the Ifill comment sounded way more likely-to-be-racist to me than the Rutgers comment.

And: who the heck would say something mean about Gwen Ifill, anyway?

But more importantly: who would waste time writing a post about this stuff?

Iran and the British Sailors

In blog terms this is already ancient history, but I thought I'd mention that this episode reminded me what kind of people we're dealing with in the Iranian government, and one of the reasons I so despise such people.

I suppose there are some people out there who watch a tape of an obviously terrified and exhausted prisoner denouncing his country and take it as evidence that said country was in the wrong. But, lord, that ain't me. And I can't believe it's most people. When a country puts out a tape like that it's like putting out a tape showing a vast, high-end musical number called "Why We Suck!" It's like a time warp taking us back to the days of the USSR, or to the Cultural Revolution. A tape like that just screams TOTALITARIAN PSYCHOPATHS.

So if you, like me, were starting to obsess a little too much about our own moral failings and a little too little about those of the other guys...well, maybe those tapes helped to rouse you, too, from your dogmatic slumbers.

And it didn't help to see that they were forcing the female sailor to wear a head scarf. As far as I'm concerned, that's in the same general ballpark as making someone wear a yellow star or a pink triangle.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Instapundit's Anti-Edwards BS

Well, there's this.

This is not worth the powder to blow to hell, but:

1. I'm averse to ostentatiously rich people, so I'd probably be fairly unhappy myself if somebody built such an absurdly extravagant house nearby.


2. Insty is just cheating on this one. Edwards didn't say anything that suggested that she was looking down on her neighbor because he was "less wealthy" or "different."

3. She was worried because he seems to be rather eager to pull out the shootin' irons.

4. And she wasn't wild about his car farm.

Now, having grown up around people like Mr. Johnson, I can tell you that they make me nervous, too. And I was raised in a family that was perfectly at home with firearms, and perfectly willing to employ them if necessary. But someone who brings out the guns at first sight of someone on his property is crazy and dangerous.

Furthermore, my folks had about ten rusting vehicles on their property at last count, and I can tell you, it's not the most aesthetically pleasing sight. If their place were visible to anyone else, I'd complain on behalf of the other party. It's not about wealth, it's about ugly. (In my dad's defense, the vehicles are mostly kept behind the shed, so most of them aren't visible from the house.)

But, of course, Insty wasn't even trying to be fair or accurate. It's just recreational snarking.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Thespians and the White House

Quick question: the Republicans aren't seriously considering nominating Fred Thompson, are they?

One actor is embarrassing.

Two is enough to stir up a few extra worries about the idea of democracy.

I'm going to go way out on a limb here and say: playing a lawyer on the teevee is not a qualification for the presidency.

Jeez, these Republican candidates are starting to make the Democratic candidates look better to me.

Which is basically the way this process has always played itself out in the past, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Kathleen Parker on Women in Combat

Um, there are a few decent points mixed in this here and there...but overall it's pretty appalling.

My favorite part is: "just because we don't 'feel' humiliated doesn't mean we're not. In the eyes of Iran and other Muslim nations, we're wimps."

Um, if some jackass thinks we're wimps for, ya know, treating women like people...well, I just can't get too worked up by that. And: who, again, would win in a fight, us or these folks who think we're wimps? Furthermore, one might point out that just because we're humiliated "in someone's eyes" doesn't mean we're humiliated. Somebody's wrong about what's objectively humiliating here, and it isn't us.

I actually do worry about the threat of rape to women in combat, and would be interested in hearing a, ya know, sensible discussion of that sometime. But you won't find such a discussion in this bone-headed Parker piece.

Friday, April 06, 2007

No Saddam-Al Qaeda Link

Ah, return with me now to those thrilling days of 2002... Remember the Administration-Wingnut Complex hyperventilating about all the (ahem) "evidence" that Saddam was in bed with (his deadly enemy) bin Laden?

I do. I remember thinking: these people all seem so convinced! They can't all be crazy, can they? (Ah, little did I realize...) What am I missing? Because the evidence they keep citing is approximately as lame as evidence can get.

Oh, how I tortured myself trying to discover what shreds of anti-Bush partisanship were preventing me from seeing their point. Oh, how I turned the evidence over and over and over in my mind.

Oh, how it always added up to bupkis.

Well, guess what? As the reality-based community has recognized basically from the start, there was no link.

Oh, and the evidence was cherry-picked.

But you might be comforted to know that Cheney is still saying that there was a link (same link).

Now that is some seriously resolute sh*t right there, Maynard. As we know, changing your mind simply because it becomes indisputable that you were absolutely wrong about everything is just flip-flopping. And flip-flopping--like actually, ya know, fighting in war--is for sissies like John Kerry.

Staying (a) in the States and (b) the course is for real men like D*ck Cheney.

If these criminals had even the most gossamer shred of decency they'd resign.

And join a monastery.

In prison.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

People With Absolutely, Positively Too Much Time On Their Hands

Exhibit A: A Wikipedia entry not merely on the lame-ass rock band Guns 'n' Roses--but also one on one specific album by the lame-ass rock band Guns 'n' Roses.

The mind, she reeleth.
Negotiating With TerroristS(tates?)

Like everybody else, I'm glad that the 15 British sailors are back and safe.

But...isn't anybody worried that this came about as a result of a prisoner exchange? The GOP has a history of under-the-table deals with Iran, of course, and I suppose that adds to my suspicion/concern here.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The Price of Disloyalty

Over at Slate, Timothy Noah discusses the trend regarding the fates of Bush defectors:

By far the greatest humiliation endured by the above-mentioned Bush defectors rained down on the earliest bird of all, Dilulio. Within seconds of the Esquire piece hitting the stands, the White House was able to wring a series of groveling public apologies. The White House achieved this, it has been whispered, by scrutinizing the Venn diagram of rich people who gave both to the Bush campaign and to the University of Pennsylvania, where Dilulio taught. Some fat-cat Bushie Penn alumnus was then dispatched to instruct the Penn administration (or perhaps Dilulio himself; this part's unclear) that Dilulio's rude comments might prove costly to university fund-raising if they weren't retracted with all deliberate speed.

But recent defectors like Matthew Dowd and Vic Gold get little more than a cold shoulder.

Presumably everyone would agree on the following, right?:

(a) The actions described above are deplorable and inexcusable. Any individual or administration who/that would employ such tactics is to be condemned, and is very likely to be unworthy of the kind of respect one ordinarily associates with the presidency.
(b) If the actions described above never actually happened, then people should stop "whispering" about them, quit writing about whispering about them, etc.

As is so often the case, the moral question here is fairly clear-cut; it's the facts that we lack.

[HT: Statisticasaurus Rex]

Monday, April 02, 2007

Spoiled, Wasteful Wankers

So, I was thinking about the disagreement between Richard and the Mystic, and it brought up this thought that occasionally flits through what passes for my mind, and, since everybody on the whole internets wants to know every little such thing, I thought I'd write about it. And it goes like this:

I grew up on a farm (technically my folks' place was separate, carved out of the farm; but once you climbed over the barbed wire fence, you were on my grandparents' place. That was the farm. But this was a purely de jure distinction. It was really all one place.) on the very easternmost edge of the Ozarks. (It was rather hilly, but not mountainous by any stretch of the imagination. But then you could say that about most of the Ozark plateau. Still, to give my folks trouble I sometimes call them 'hillbillies'.)


Even though I've always had a comfortable life (e.g. I don't remember a time without television--though I do remember us having a black-and-white t.v. (egad!), I often think back to some of my earliest memories of the farm, and how my grandparents lived--and, consequently, how we lived much of the time--and I think things like "If my students saw this, they'd think it was from the nineteenth-century." (I took one of my grad school girlfriends back home once, and she eventually blurted out "I just can't believe you came from here!"...though that may be a slightly different point.)


My grandparents were conservative, oh yes they were. God-fearin', hard-workin', no-nonsense, no frills, and not a terrible overabundance of gentleness or compassion, it sometimes seemed. And one thing they were ostentatiously not was wasteful. They weren't, like, Amish or anything, but it wasn't uncommon for things to be identified as 'wasteful,' and that was a reasonably-serious indictment. They weren't nuts, but they would do things like save wrapping paper on the perfectly reasonable grounds that it just didn't make sense to throw away something that was perfectly good, only to buy the same danged thing again later. That kind of stuff.

Now, I'm no paragon of virtue. In particular, I'm a rather wasteful person, mostly on a account of being disorganized, capricious, and just generally not too swift (as my dad would say--and, as a matter of fact, has said on several occasions.) But least I feel bad about it. So I guess that's something.

What I don't understand is why people in general are so bloody wasteful now. I'm not all twisted up about it or anything, I just don't get it. Isn't there some point at which conspicuous consumption becomes simply embarrassing? I can understand not wanting to be bothered to conserve...what I can't understand is what seems like a positive desire to waste. Sometimes I feel like I'm surrounded by those cartoon millionaires who light their preposterously fat cigars with $100 bills. I feel like my jaw's hanging open much of the time.

I'm genuinely puzzled about this, and I don't want to turn it into a liberal-versus-conservative point, but I will say that one sort of additional sense of puzzlement about this is that conservatism will--rightly or wrongly--always be associated in my mind with my grandparent's rather frugal habits. So it's particularly puzzling to me that conservatives seem to me to be not only disinterested in conservation or frugality, but downright hostile to them. I mean, heck...for example, I actually like SUVs*, but I'd feel downright guilty--and not for the ordinary liberal reasons--for having such an ostentatiously wasteful mode of transportation. But sometimes it sounds almost as if conservatives believe that if we don't all drive SUVs the economy will crumble or something.

(Let me add for balance that those liberals who think, e.g., that recycling is one of the most pressing moral issues of our time also bug the hell out of me. It's not the recycling to which I object, since I do it when it is even remotely convenient. It's rather the weird puritanism that sometimes seems to be floating around in the background. Some liberals recycle with what I'd call the appropriate attitude--to wit: goddang this is kind of a pain and it probably ain't gonna do any good anyway but it's better than nothing. I'm not wild about the ones who are all self-satisfied about the fact that they drove their hybred down to the recycling center and spent half an hour getting everything into the right dumpsters. I used to do that crap until I realized what a fruitless waste of my time it was. My policy now is: if they pick it up at the curb, then I recycle. Otherwise it's simply unlikely to be worth the effort.) where was I? Oh yeah, wastefulness. I mean, seriously. Basically everybody I know now is--by the standards of the real world of most actually human beings who have ever lived--rich as bloody Croesus. We've all got ridiculously comfortable (though not palatial by today's American standards) places to live, reliable cars, nice, warm clothes, more food than anyone could ever possibly eat...we live like kings. Better than kings--better than any kings who actually ever lived, anyway (until recently). But almost nobody seems to really understand how good we've got it. And most of us (me included), continue to want at least just a little more.

So this is related to a point that Richard and the Mystic agree about--that our desires are being manipulated and distorted, even to the point of grotesquerie. I guess I have nothing much to say about this really other than: it seems to me that there ought to be a rational equilibrium point somewhere between living on the edge and devil take the hindmost and contemporary American middle-class grotesquely conspicuous consumption. That's all.

* Note: that is, I like driving them and riding in them, but I hate the damn things when I'm surrounded by other people in them. Largely because most other people haven't the foggiest clue how to drive.