cut on the bias

keeping an eye on the spins and weirdness of media, crime and everyday life

Monday, May 20, 2002

A GREAT MIND, for media, that is. Media Minded has a couple of great reads.

First, check out his riff on headlines, starting with reference to a post on bias in headlines, but skidding pretty quickly into a funny nostalgia stream on headline jargon.

Second, MM encourages us to spend a little time with the Arcata Eye, famous for hilarious police blotter coverage, and its Anti-Eye, people with their panties in a wad and no sense for web design. They should be cited in the Eye's blotter for offensive use of typeface and web-designing while under the influence of fuchsia.

DOESN’T PLAY WELL WITH OTHERS: The Social Security Agency is handing out over a 100,000 social security numbers a year to non-citizens with no right to them, and many are being used to commit fraud. The SSA has been unconcerned:

For more than three years, Mr. Huse has recommended that the Social Security agency check the records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service before issuing Social Security numbers to noncitizens.

Before Sept. 11, the Social Security agency disagreed with this recommendation and did nothing to carry it out, fearing it would lead to unacceptable delays in issuing Social Security numbers to legitimate applicants.

Of course, as with everything else, 9/11 changed things:

The Social Security agency has since embraced the recommendation…

Well, not everything:

…but has had little success in getting the necessary help from the immigration agency, Mr. Huse said in an interview. The immigration agency issues many of the documents that immigrants use to show they are eligible for Social Security cards…

There might be hope:

Mr. Huse said the two agencies were still working out an arrangement to give Social Security officials access to electronic immigration files on noncitizens.

But the two agencies apparently are getting righteous at each other, never a good sign:

Social Security is also waiting for the immigration agency to incorporate data on certain immigrants authorized to work in the United States.

Bill Strassberger, a spokesman for the immigration agency, said: "We are trying to work more closely with the Social Security Administration to reduce the use of fraudulent documents. It's one of our top priorities."

Ahhh… the old “we’re waiting on them to get their act together” while the other agency says it’s “a top priority” (i.e. in our own good time or when hell freezes over, whichever is slower, most likely the former). It looks like agency pouting, where each is blaming the other and neither is making a solid effort to fix the problem. And it’s not as if they don’t know the true seriousness:

…"The tragedies of Sept. 11 demonstrate that the misuse of Social Security numbers and identity theft are `breeder' offenses with the ability to facilitate crimes beyond our imagination," Mr. Huse said in his report.

We have to cut off access to documentation that gives criminals, especially terrorists, the legitimacy to operate in the open setting up bank accounts and such. This kind of “I can’t do MY job because they won’t do theirs!” whining is ridiculous. Someone (Bush?) needs to say, “You will play together. Here is your common goal. This will happen or there will be trouble. Soon.”

Of course I know the problem is bureaucracy and the federal civil service monolith. But the Congress and the President, together, should be able to make any two federal agencies play nice together. If the federal agencies balk and play the civil service stub-up instead, then the President can change who’s in charge. If that doesn’t work, Congress can change civil service to make workers truly accountable. If Congress won’t, then we change Congress. Folks, this isn’t making a car in Detroit or sewing a sleeve on a dress in Iowa. This is whether a terrorist gets legal documentation to set up an bank account so he can kill Americans on his own timetable, at his leisure, in whatever manner he chooses.

The current coverage of the 1990s intelligence goofs that allowed Al Qaeda to launch the 9/11 attacks is evidence of what happens when federal agencies don’t play well together. “We the People” means ultimately it’s up to us to fix it. I’m of the opinion that it doesn’t matter right now, this minute, “who knew what when”. The time for that finger-pointing is gone because all it does is detract from the “who’s going to fix it now”. The only possible way that it matters is as an indicator of what needs fixing. I’ve seen several calls for a non-partisan “Challenger” like investigation. I say, fine, but only if it doesn’t have 200 people involved and doesn’t take two years to do, as often happens with such groups.

Stop looking backward – look forward. Fix it. Make Social Security and INS play nice. Make the federal law enforcement agencies play nice. And if they don’t, kick butt, take names, send people home and get people in there who DO play nice. I’m sick of this. We’re all sick of this.

We're dying while the government fiddles around.

HARLEY HEARSE: You gotta see it to believe it.

UPDATE: Link updated courtesy of Michael Levy. (Thanks!)

AND YOU THOUGHT YOUR DRIVE WAS BAD: Stefan Sharkansky chronicles his baby son's first trip to Lake Tahoe; the ride home through snow is an exercise in futility and humor. At least, I thought it was funny. I don't think Stefan was amused, at the time. Long, but worth it.

Sunday, May 19, 2002


Thanks to DailyPundit for the link.

LAW, RELIGION AND MEDIA: Friday night the season finale of Law & Order SVU used as its main story line the current abusive Catholic priest imbroglio. In the episode, several young boys are abused while in Catholic school, and years later one of them commits a murder that leads to the revelation of the abuse. As the story unfolds, we follow a priest at first accused of the abuse, then later revealed to have been the one to whom the real abuser confessed his sin. Near the end, a Catholic police officer forces a decision on the priest: break the confessional seal in the hopes of preventing future abuse, or preserving his Catholic vows and in so doing protecting a child molester. We see the priest in tears, then we see him in a garden with the actual molester - a bishop in full robes. The officer accuses the bishop, who in essence admits his guilt by turning to the priest with his own accusation. He says (paraphrased), “You broke your seal. Do you know you could lose your soul?”

The priest replies, “I think I just saved it.”

I was very taken aback (although not surprised) at this conclusion. It reflects the mentality of the writers and producers, and typically the secular world as a whole: When religion and the secular view of human safety/health/happiness conflict, the human side always wins. While on the face of it, this makes sense, it spells danger for religionists and is something we need to address.

Yesterday a Vatican City appeals court judge, Jesuit priest Gianfranco Ghirlanda, released an opinion which states, in partial summary, that a bishop reassigning a priest accused of abuse does not have to inform the new parish of the priest’s abusive history; that if additional abuse occurs, the assigning bishop bears neither moral nor legal responsibility for that; and that even requiring the abusive priest to undergo psychological evaluation is violating his right to privacy. That sounds pretty bad from a secular standpoint, and seems to support the “righteousness” of the Law & Order priest’s decision.

In a vastly different situation, but also one involving an application of religious law in a way Westerners – and some Muslims – strongly denounce, a woman in Pakistan has been convicted of adultery and sentenced to death by stoning after admitting that she was raped by her brother-in-law. According to her, she was raped repeatedly over time until she became pregnant, which, since her husband was in prison, was proof of illicit sexual activity. Her accusation against her brother-in-law was taken as a confession of her guilt; he, on the other hand, was not even charged because four Muslim men of good standing (and all those conditions must inhere) must witness a rape for a Muslim man to be charged. The force behind it is Sharia, the Muslim religious and civil law, and the part dealing specifically with extramarital sex, Hudood. Efforts are underway to moderate or set aside Hudood, by progressives in the region.

Why juxtapose these two obviously unrelated situations? Because I don’t think they are unrelated, philosophically, and a misunderstanding of the connection between the two is where the danger for religionists lies.

Internationally, laws range from those based fully on religious teaching – Sharia, or its cousins – to the fully secular. The United States has something of a mixture; while its laws are not specifically tied to a particular church, many of its approaches are based on the Judeo-Christian tradition and the common law that evolved in societies with that tradition. As we move along the continuum from religious-as-civil mix to purely secular, the teachings of particular groups are increasingly removed from the codified law. The edicts of the religions in those more secular countries are not erased from society, but rather the adherents obey both religious and civil laws.

The problem comes when the two laws come into conflict. In our society, we have a tendency to allow religious beliefs to trump secular law when the impact could be seen as not detrimental to society as a whole – for instance, allowing exemptions to the military draft to those who conscientiously object for religious (and other) reasons, or not forcing an adult of good mind to get medical attention if he or she feels it is against his or her beliefs. However, our society has already decided that there are instances where social good trumps religious beliefs – as in the case of a child refused medical care by parents who believe medical treatment is religiously condemned. Courts have taken children away from parents in those situations, and ordered treatment. But other than cases where immediate harm is not just possible but likely, US society as a whole leaves churches alone in their religious practices. It’s one of our foundational Constitutional rights.

But the fight for the law of our country has become more starkly an issue of religion in the past few years, where those with what are termed “fundamentalist” beliefs pilloried when they even seek office (for example, John Ashcroft). And even before 9/11, the term “Taliban” began to be used to describe any conservatives who referred to their religious beliefs in discussing law or its enforcement. (I use conservative because I’ve yet to see Jimmy Carter or Joe Lieberman referred to as “Taliban”.) And what is the law the Taliban sought to impose? Sharia. While it is at present mostly hyperbole, the connection between Islamic Sharia and Christianity has been made and as with all demonizations (see “racist” and “homophobic” as applied to anyone who objects to affirmative action measures) it is likely to gain more purchase when it shows itself to have political impact.

But what does this have to do with the current Catholic church crisis?

Think back to the Law & Order example. I’ve read several posts discussing the priest’s seal, and why it is reasonable that they cannot be made to break it. The Law & Order writers/producers just expressed their view that righteousness in this case is to break a vow of silence made to God. Next, take a look at the articles about Ghirlanda’s edict – the headlines themselves are inflammatory. That’s the stark interpretation of the secular media, and it is universally condemning, implicitly if not explicitly. But, when viewed through the lens of someone with close knowledge of Catholic history and law – a journalist for the Catholic News Service – Ghirlanda’s analysis makes pretty good sense, within the confines of the Catholic canon, and provides much more protection for the faithful than a reading of the secular media would suggest.

On the face of it – as presented by the secular media – the edicts from the Vatican in the form of this article by Ghirlanda seem to go against US law and certainly cross the line between acceptable and unacceptable religious deviation from law as it has been practically applied in the US. In essence, the media portray this as saying the church is protecting its priests and its reputation first, and the children can lump it because church canon trumps secular law in any instance where the two collide. That’s not really the truth of Ghirlanda’s article, but in my experience few journalists writing on religious issues have a sense for the religious nuance that is revealed in the Catholic News article. I think it is only the vastness of the Catholic reach and the concern for offense to powerful people that has prevented the media so far from comparing it to Sharia. If a split becomes more evident between conservative and progressive elements in the US Catholic church, then I anticipate that comparison will soon follow for those who take a more conservative stance.

I struggle to separate my own religious viewpoint from this analysis of the broader impact of the Catholic church’s response to their crisis. I’m not Catholic, and I have major theological differences with Catholic teachings. But, while I disagree with the theology, I can and do support the Catholic church’s legal right to practice their faith as they see fit. The need I see now is for another dialogue in this society about the lines we draw around the practice of faith, and an acknowledgement from the Catholic church that the way it handles this crisis can damage every faith practiced in the US if it does address just its internal sensibilities and not the broader legal implications of its decisions.

The Catholic church is the largest centrally controlled religion in the word, to my knowledge – other faiths may have more adherents, but they are not bound so tightly to a central governing body as the Catholic church is to the Vatican. (In fact, concern about ties to the Vatican were a feature in JFK’s presidential race, couched in a manner similar to the coverage of John Ashcroft during his confirmation and after.) Thus, the Catholic church has the unenviable task of making decisions that meet the needs of its adherents in a free country such as the United States while not creating problems in other countries with different contexts. In addition, there is a desire to stay with the tradition of the church, to adhere closely to the canon when addressing problems, which is what the article by Ghirlanda is meant to do. In the response so far, there is a tone that says, we were here before you, we speak for God, this is the way it has to be. There is a certain immutability about it, almost a disdain for the rule of law in the United States as it relates to the canon of the church.

But it seems to me that this “holding to the canon” is not all that is going on in the highest levels of decision-making for the church. There are also political realities within the church hierarchy itself, as well as financial considerations (one part of Ghirlanda’s article seems to address the concern of false claims against the church, a valid issue, but in protecting against false claims there appears to be shorter shrift than necessary given to the possibility of genuine claims). The church has vast holdings, which could be jeopardized by widespread revelation of genuine sexual abuse. The same revelations would also diminish donations and threaten the intense bond between the faithful and the leadership. So the church’s approach to this cannot be seen as wholly without earthly considerations. The question is, where do the spiritual concerns end and the earthly concerns take precedence?

This is an important question, because what the Catholic church does will either strengthen or weaken the freedom of religion in the United States. I don’t think it will remain the same, regardless of the church’s decision. If the church chooses to take a hard line that is generally perceived (among the non-Catholics, and likely amongst some Catholics as well) as a move that leaves children at risk for the purpose of preserving the Catholic hierarchy and holdings, there will be a backlash, a further splitting between the religious and the non-religious, a hardening of intolerance already gaining greater voice. If, conversely, the Catholic church not only institutes measures to actively root out abusers within its priestly ranks but also conducts a public relations campaign saying “There was wrong, we’re fixing it, and this is what it looks like” that is understandable to those for whom religion is a foreign language, then it will strengthen the understanding that because religions will police themselves as moral entities, it is not necessary for the government to intervene to protect the populace from the religionists.

I see the impact of a hard-line Catholic response being a shift toward imposing secular law in instances where it conflicts with religious beliefs. For example, the congregation where I attend does not have women ministers as a matter of doctrine. That, of course, violates anti-discrimination laws, but since it is a question of religious practice the laws do not apply. I can foresee a time when a woman wanting to preach at a church like mine sues the leaders of the congregation for not giving her equal consideration, and is allowed civil judgment against it. Likewise, tax exempt status could be threatened for such activities that violate secular law.

The freedom of religion in this country is at a crossroad; our foot is already turned toward the more secular path. The Catholic church will choose whether we go more quickly and decisively in that direction. The wrong choice will damage not only the Catholic faith, but all others, eventually. The ones sitting in judgment on whether the choice is the right one are the same people who see everything right with a priest breaking his vow to God. If the Catholic church wants to preserve that vow, then it must police itself convincingly, in a way that puts righteousness and protection of innocence first - not money, or image, or organizational politics. And it must not allow any comparisons to the abusive nature of Sharia to be in any way valid, as would be the case if it sets up its canon as civil as well as religious law by not affording children the protections US law provides, and resisting the efforts of the US government to step in to provide them. It is always wrong to allow abuse to hide behind the name of God, whether it is Catholicism or Islam that does it.

This country stands to lose a part of its soul. The Catholic church can help save it - or lose it.

Saturday, May 18, 2002

WHAT WORD WAS THAT? The NY Times leads with this on their latest "What did Bush know?" article:

The White House began an aggressive attack on Democrats in Congress today as President Bush tried to contain the political fury over a warning he received last August that Osama bin Laden might be planning a hijacking.

Notice the "fury". Now, I am sure there are people who are upset, and naturally this needs to be reviewed. And I do think the Bushies are being needlessly defensive in a situation where the bald truth is the best defense.

But the word you want, Ms. Lizzy and Ms. Alison, is "furor". This is a "furor". Not a fury. May I loan you my Webster's?

The political, however, is spot on.

ENVIRONMENTAL REPORTERS BIASED? Tony Woodlief thinks so, and gives a funny and insightful analysis of how it happens in this report on an environmentalist panel he attended.

IT'S A SLOW SATURDAY, and there's not much news I want to blog. I have some thoughts about the Catholic church situation, about media bias, and a variety of other things, but those are mostly "thinking pieces", not links. I'm going to get around to at least one of those today, but not for a while. I've got life stuff to take care of. I hope you're having a great Saturday. Mine is just excellent, thank you.

BERTELSMANN BUYS NAPSTER after all, and Fanning is back in the mix.

REMEMBER THE IOWA STATE JOURNALISM SCHOOL MESS? Well, the demoted administrators have been remoted, at least for now.

DON'T TALK TO STRANGERS, especially in unfamiliar comfort stations.

Friday, May 17, 2002

GIVING ADVICE LIBERALLY, Josh Marshall actually makes a suggestion to the White House about the pre-9/11 warnings that I agree with:

The best thing -- really the only thing -- for the White House or the President to do now is to come out and say ...

"Look, in hindsight, there are connections maybe we should have made. Communications should have been better between various intelligence and law enforcement agencies. But hindsight is 20/20 and these things were not as clear then as they are now. Our people did the best they knew how. But I'm the Commander-in-Chief. And I'm responsible. The buck stops here. Let's move ahead now and make whatever improvements we can..."

Yep. Looks like the best thing to me. And then follow up by really making those improvements.

THE MINNEBOMBER ISN'T CRAZY, just a product of modern education, according to Thomas Sowell. He sounds like a grumpy old man here, but makes good points nonetheless.

Link via Cornfield Commentary.

IT'S RAINING IN TEXAS, and since the truck was unloaded before the first drop, it's time for a nap...

BELLESILES LIED? We have original reporting, my friends, posted right here on the Blogosphere – Michael Tinkler at Cranky Professor:

I got my Ph.D. from Emory from the Graduate Institute of Liberal Arts. My actual course work, dissertation committee, and friendship tied me very closely to the History Department - my adviser was department head for some time…

In the emails to Professor Lindgren, which Professor Bellesiles disputes he sent - and I hope Emory has checked the server - Professor Bellesiles makes two claims that I find hard to credit. (1) He says that he had no assistants and (2) he says that he did this book before he discovered "the joys of statistical analysis on computers."

… My friend was Bellesiles' graduate assistant in 1988.

I emailed her late last month to ask about this - and to point out that he claimed to have done it all alone. She agreed that she had been counting guns. Her instructions were to count anything that might be a misspelled gun as a gun, which she feels this tends to prove that Professor Bellesiles was not intentionally understating the count. She then entered this data on a Lotus spreadsheet.

Crash go two of his claims - no help, and all his work was on yellow legal pads…

Tinkler’s friend contacted Emory to discuss her experiences in light of Bellesiles’s claims, and came to the conclusion that likely the data she compiled was used in an earlier book. But as Tinkler says, data in academia tend to be cumulative (i.e. data she compiled could have served as the foundation for a data set added to for Arming America), and once you’ve used spreadsheets you’re unlikely to go back to yellow legal pads. And, incidentally, EVERY college professor in a graduate program has access to one or more assistants. It’s just the way things are.

Tinkler’s post is excellent, and apparently the first of a series. I can’t wait for the rest.

UPDATE: The Weekly Standard has an update on Bellesiles too - it appears he cited another set of records that only he has seen, and no one else now has. Huh. I'm sure there's a reasonable explanation.

CITIZENS FOR A CONSTRUCTIVE UN: A new weblog, touted already by LGF and USS Clueless but of course I'm late to the party as usual. Worth a look, if you've not been there already. They're certainly fighting an uphill battle.

BAD IN EUROPE, NOT ALWAYS BAD IN CA: Howard Fienberg reports that things are bad in Europe for Jews, but Privateer finds that not all California university rallies are threatening to Jews - even when the speaker is a nutcase.

UPDATE: While you're at Fienberg's Kesher Talk site, check out this letter to the editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, taking the newpaper to task for printing a "news analysis" which originally appeared in the Egyptian government-censored Cairo Times, without noting its origin. A gentlemanly but pointed takedown.

ISRAELIS BANNED BY NYC RESTAURANT? Israeli Guy Gil Shterzer reports that the Israeli paper Ma'ariv carries an article today stating that two Israelis living in NYC were told to leave the French bistro Alouete, located 2588 Broadway near 98 street, because they were Israeli:

...the owner of the restaurant came out from the kitchen and with a heavy French accent told the two: " I'm sorry, Israelis will not eat in my restaurant".

The owner denied it to a reporter from Ma'ariv. Interesting that the owner had "a heavy French accent".

This kind of thing can't be allowed to stand, if it's true.

SCARY THOUGHT: A friend of mine drank an unusually large amount of leaded (i.e. caffeinated) beverages this morning, and is suffering from fast-forward syndrome as a result. Her comment to me about it?

I know now what it's like to be inside your head every day.

I don't, by the way, drink caffeine very often. Now you know why. Have you heard the term "coals to Newcastle"?


Beware of your inner cowardice

We behave as though we do not know the people on whom God’s wrath has descended and those who are not on the right path. Some of us, seemingly, believe that the divine wrath will not visit those who seek shelter in the White House…

Why should we listen to President George W. Bush’s demand to call the Palestinian martyrs terrorists?

…Arabs and Muslims, beware of your inner cowardice.

Words cannot describe my pain, frustration and shame at the sight of Palestinian fighters being led into exile…The sight of a crying young mother with her baby on her bosom was extremely upsetting. Upon spotting her husband among the prisoners, she shrieked and fell to earth. But I was delighted when I found her saying confidently that she would wait for her husband’s return and in the meantime, bring up their baby as a true Palestinian patriot. He might grow up to be another martyr for the cause.

Let Israel and its supporters be warned that suppression, violence and humiliation will never stifle the Palestinians’ love for their country which Israel and its supporters call terrorism.

On the contrary, Israel’s inhuman treatment will only breed generation after generation of avengers upon the murderers of their relatives and usurpers of their homes. One martyr is followed by a thousand. The reward for martyrdom is worth sacrificing all the transient pleasures of a lifetime.

And there you have it. Arabs and Muslims are cowards for not defending Palestinian "martyrs", which martyrdom is known amongst savvy Muslims as "love for their country". This in the newspaper overseen by the Saudi Arabian government.

What was that about how the Saudis are our friends?


Mullah Omar warns US of war

...When the killing of the oppressed people increased in number we decided to withdraw from the land and start the phase of guerrilla war in the mountains so that the lives of people and the poor Mujahedeen may be spared...

Ahhhh.... it was a tactical decision for the Taleban warriors to move into mountains to fight - not a result of being routed.

Coming soon: Tactical decision to move out of Afghanistan altogether.

UPDATE: And here's the Fox News article on Omar's ranting.

IS THIS RACIST? Remember the two Iowa State University journalism school administrators who stepped down after accusations of racism? Here’s what supposedly caused the problem:

[Provost Rollin] Richmond said he learned through conversations with the junior professors who recently resigned -- Linus Abraham, Osei Appiah and Spiro K. Kiousis -- that a senior faculty member said that younger minority professors are better paid then senior white professors. Abraham and Appiah are black.

Doesn’t seem racist to me. Why does this come up? Here is another snippet:

Richmond said the racial comments may have contributed to the resignations of the three professors but were not the only reason. He said the problem appears to stem from a generational difference among faculty members and conflicting opinions over the department's focus…

"There is racial tension, but the racial tension was the result of a philosophical tension between the young faculty members and the senior faculty members, and because minority faculty members were involved this then evolved into racial tension," [Peter] Rabideau [now in charge of the resolution] said. "I don't think it was ever the primary issue."

Very interesting. Two administrators are accused of racism, it’s blared all over everywhere, when what actually happened? It sounds to me more like a disagreement over philosophy where someone (I wonder who) played the race card for leverage. It's just a shame that two probably decent people have had their careers seriously damaged over likely inaccurate but broadly disseminated accusations. I'm not surprised, either, that there apparently was a disparity in salary; in the race to get minority faculty in a field with limited numbers of candidates, money plays a major role. The resultant disparity can easily cause resentment, as well as a tendency for those more highly paid to feel they have greater power than those paid less regardless of the other person's credentials or seniority. It almost ensures clashes in an environment already rife with egos and competing philosophies. In an academic environment, there are no "bosses" in the traditional sense, other than the dean; everyone is encouraged to establish themselves as an expert, and you don't succeed without the ability to espouse your viewpoint aggressively. Departmental decisions are made in a very democratic (which is to say, political) way, with discussions, consensus building and, at times, factional infighting that can result in one side taking its toys and going to play elsewhere. When race and money are used to gain political advantage in the department, it gets even more volatile in a hurry.

That seems to be what happened here; you can read the article and judge for yourself.

Thursday, May 16, 2002

WHEN IT'S NOT JUST A BAD HAIR DAY, but a whole bad head day, face and all. Side benefit - you may get arrested if you go into a store. Not recommended if you have Saudi Headcovering Syndrome (SHS). Link via Seeking The Road Less Traveled.

YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO DO...WHAT?? J Bowen's adventures as a geek boy trying to figure out just what girls did look like, and what went where, and how, and all that stuff, is the subject of a sweet and funny essay on his site, with a bit of nostalgia for the days when it wasn't in your face everywhere you turned.

UPDATE: AC Douglas reflects on how Palestinian spokeswoman Diana Buttu manages to get her message across virtually unchallenged. (This becomes a danger once those geek boys get it all figured out.)


THE BALD TRUTH: Desert Pundit discovers what's really going on under Saudi men's traditional headcoverings.

Do you think the US products and services embargo includes Hair Club for Men? They might want to reconsider...

MEDIA MINDED HAS A SLAM DUNK in this piece about a race-baiting Minnesota columnist who claims that Minnebomber Luke Helder is getting some type of "pass" because he's white.

INSTAPROF DOES THE DEED: There's been a lot of concern in the blogosphere about the riot at SFSU, and whether the word would get out about it given the low-key response by the media. Glenn Reynolds has an excellent column on the subject on FoxNews, complete with links to Meryl and Joe's weblogs. This is one of the most important passages:

People shouldn’t be punished for demonstrating, or for counter-demonstrating, regardless of their views. Had the riot at SFSU targeted black, or gay, or Muslim students, there would have been a media explosion, and campus administrators around the country would be holding meetings and taking steps to prevent such events at their schools. But violence, threats of violence, theft and vandalism should be punished. No matter who the guilty party is.

There's three important ideas there. The first is that demonstrating is free speech, regardless of the viewpoint expressed - therefore, both the Jewish group and supporters, and the Palestinian group and supporters, had a right to be there. The second is that criminal behavior or the threat of it isn't less criminal because it comes in the context of otherwise free-speech demonstrations, and it should be punished - no matter who does it. On Fox News's O'Reilly on Tuesday night, SFSU students on both sides of the issue, both of whom were at the demonstration, spoke about it. I didn't hear the whole program (O'Reilly is like fingernails on a chalkboard to me), but I did hear the Palestinian student say that they were called "sand niggers" and death threats were made to them too. My instinct is to say, "yeah, right", but that isn't important. There is a video of the event. Authorities should review it and visit the consequences on anyone, regardless of the "side", who degenerated into threats. I'm all for self-defense if you're attacked, but terroristic threatening is a crime.

Finally, Glenn points out that there are cherished groups and there are unpopular groups on campuses, and threats or attacks on one are treated differently than threats or attacks on the other. Just who those "groups" are shifts with the times; currently, the "cherished" groups include (Glenn's list) gays, blacks and Muslims. The "unpopular" groups include Jews, conservatives and Christians. Conservative religious people (Christian or Jew) are doubly unpopular. But that is now, and tomorrow that could change. What is important is to establish that certain behaviors are always wrong, and will always be punished. I don't think the liberals realize that. One of the big reasons you protect basic freedoms, even when you might not use a particular freedom, is that tomorrow it may be your ox being gored. That is why, for instance, while I don't smoke and I get headaches when someone smokes near me, I would be first in line to vote against any measure to outlaw smoking in all public places. It's a personal choice, it should remain a personal choice. (Although I do ask that they be considerate.) Why do I care? Because tomorrow someone may try to censure my chocolate because it's not healthy for me. They're already trying, in fact. A simplistic example, but deliberately so, to show the concern free of the rabid emotions that attend discussion of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

So SFSU presents us with two issues: Protection of the basic right to express yourself, to move about your world, free of abuse and threats, and amelioration of the hatred toward Jews as a religion/race because of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict (or, at least for now, associated with that conflict). The latter is a cause for concern, and needs to be addressed, but the immediate concern is the abridgment of basic rights. We can't stop hate easily or quickly, but we can and should stop immediately this abusive and threatening behavior on campuses toward the Jewish people and their supporters. That is not a liberal-conservative issue. It's a human issue.

UPDATE: Here's an editorial about SFSU in the Washington Times, link via Instapundit.

SUBURBAN PRINCESS HITS A SNAG, and I can say I sympathize. But not to despair, Princess. With smarts like yours, you'll either a) learn it or b) make tons of money telling everyone about how it didn't work out, because all of us go through the same thing.

It is interesting, though, how much the emotions of a teenager resonate down the decades. Sometimes I think we're all still teenagers inside, somewhere, we've just learned better coping mechanisms, and hopefully improved our reasoning powers so we make better decisions.

But then that's not always true either, is it?

LIAR, LIAR: Tony Woodlief has a unique perspective on University of Michigan racial quotas, the subject of a recent supportive ruling.

And Tony, btw, is not the liar.


Link courtesy of Curmudgeonry.


Hey, my pacifism ends at my first row of beans.

(Scroll down to May 13 to find the context of the quote.)

Wednesday, May 15, 2002

FOR A VARIETY OF REASONS I have nothing to say today. Blogging will likely return tomorrow. Enjoy your day.

Tuesday, May 14, 2002

END YOUR DAY with a lovely squash blossom.

'SPLAIN ME SOMETIN’, LUCY, WA HAP’N’D? Tony Adragna thinks I’m picking on Jimmy Carter, and everyone else is too. He thinks it’s because Carter is in Cuba, and, of course, it is. But, in my case at least, it’s not about Carter in Cuba because Cuba is Cuba, but Carter in any country where he’s playing the role of statesman where he has no official standing.

Referring to my earlier post, Tony says:

Carter's "license" to travel to Cuba falls under the same guidelines by which journalists, academics, and organizations regularly travel to Cuba. That the trip was granted approval by the administration is no indication that the trip is anything less [or more] than what Mr. Carter asserts -- in fact, all travel to Cuba by persons who are subject to U.S. jurisdiction must be "licensed" by the U.S. government.

Yes, Tony, but those people don’t get the red-carpet treatment. The news media don’t say “THE FIRST US PREZ SINCE 1959 TO VISIT CUBA!” if, say, a Katie Couric touched down, or maybe even everyone’s favorite academic defender of the oppressed, Cornel West. And Couric or West aren’t going to get a security briefing which they can then spill to potential enemies. They don’t have the history or knowledge to humiliate the United States; we can mock them and shake our heads. They haven’t been presidents before, and they won’t command the attention of opinion leaders in the same way. They haven’t touched or held the power, and they can’t pretend to still have it, as a Carter can and, obviously, does. In my judgment Carter damages the ability of the United States to manage its foreign policy, and in his case I think he’s either too naïve or self-righteous to see it. He even annoyed Bill Clinton.

I don’t care if Carter oversees elections, or builds houses, or brings medicine. That’s great. I don’t have any interest in locking him up in Plains, other than he annoys me. But he needs to have his “statesman” pretensions exploded. Permanently.

As for why I didn’t take him down for previous trips, I can explain that too.

Lucy got a blog.

I was listening as I drove home to Steve Malzberg and Richard Bey, a radio talk show team on WABC 770 in NYC. Malzberg is conservative, Bey is mostly liberal but reserves the right to be all over the map depending on his mood. A caller who is British but living in the US called to say he didn’t understand political parties in the US and he didn’t know what he was – there are liberal Republicans, conservative Democrats, all other mixes. He said, how do I know what I am?

Bey said, look around, find some people who seem to be of good motive, who seem to have good ideas for making things better, and see what they are.

Malzberg said, “What do you believe?”

Bey emphasized people and feelings; Malzberg principle. I thought it a striking expression of liberalism and conservatism in a nutshell.

TO KILL OR NOT TO KILL: J Bowen at No Watermelons Allowed brings his usual thoughtful approach to the subject of euthanasia, specifically in the context of a televised case in England.

WHAT TO DO IN RESPONSE TO SFSU: Joe Katzman of Winds of Change has a thorough, reasoned post about how to respond, who and why. Excellent. But I'm still not quite sure what I can do. I'll think about what he's said, and see what my part can be. And he's right - it's not just about the Jewish community, although they are the point in that instance, and are shamefully the focus of this kind of thing all over the world. He says that it's also about campus conservatives, or any group that doesn't meet the universities' view of "protected group", where a "protected group" can actually attack another group with behaviors that if directed at the "protected group" would raise the ire of the university. If you're going to have protections, then apply them uniformly. If they won't, we have to make it happen.

SPOONS GETS IT, and says more with less than I've done for three days. Not that you're surprised. (Be nice.)


THE SEWER OF JOURNALISM: That's what my professor called talk radio yesterday. I wanted to say, "Yeah, I've not been much impressed with NPR either."

Do you think my professor likes Rush?

At any rate, prof also had some serious problems with my core area proposal, so the revisions will be more complex than I originally thought. Starting Thursday, I'm on a research schedule, so blogging will have to fit around it. Maybe, if you're lucky, I'll blog about my research.

And I apologize for the virtual lack of serious takedowns and major bias alarms lately; I've been distracted by huge deadlines at work and the whole school thing. I'm also occasionally awash in a sense of futility - what can my horn-tooting do in this backwater of the Internet? I have amazing and bright readers, as those of you who leave messages and email (hint hint) attest. But when things like what happened at SFSU go on, and my own professor looks me in the face and tells me there's no media bias... ????? A few times when I've been in the "settings" section of my blog, I've thought about just hitting "delete this blog" and going to read a good book, or start cooking more again instead of eating so much cereal, or teaching another class because I miss teaching and could use the money...

But then, I realize the reason I started this blog - to say what I had to say to whomever would listen, as much for the way it makes me think through my own reactions and viewpoints as for spreading same - still stands. So you're stuck with me. And thank you for making this labor of ... well... sometimes love, sometimes screaming fury... an enrichment of my life and a source of pleasure and connection to some really amazing people - all of you.

THEY'RE JUST DEEP-LINK BULLIES: The Dallas Morning News is found out, via Ipse Dixit.

ANSWER TO THE SFSU SEMI-RIOT: Meryl Yourish has posted the text of a letter the SFSU president posted on campus following the Jewish peace rally there that ended as Palestinian students and supporters surrounded the Jewish students and their supporters with vicious verbal attacks and near riotous conditions; the peace rally supporters had to be escorted away by police. Meryl also has an email address for you to thank the president for (finally) addressing it, and also some ideas for a beginning of a response. Please join in.

CARTER KEEPS LOW PROFILE: Nice to see that Jimmy isn't getting involved in matters of state that have nothing to do with him:

Former President Jimmy Carter found himself in a debate on democracy with Cuban leader Fidel Castro, after he ignited an uproar at home by saying U.S. officials told him they had no evidence Cuba was involved in developing weapons of mass destruction.

Carter's statement, made Monday during a tour of Cuba's premier biotechnology lab, seemed to contradict assertions made last week by a top State Department official who said Cuba has conducted research on biological weapons and shared it with other countries

And this is just offensive:

He [Carter] hinted that the State Department announcement was an attempt to undercut his visit.

Yes, Jimmy, honey, it's all about you. The Bush administration is setting up an elaborate scheme to discredit your (uh hmm) non-diplomatic visit. You are so powerful, after all, as an ex-prez 20 years gone, that the current President of the United States must needs resort to goofy back room measures to discredit you. Naturally it wouldn't have occurred to you to a) stay home or b) keep your mouth shut. I don't know what you heard, I don't know to what extent you're hallucinating or to what extent a State Department official briefing you may have misspoke, but I do know this: You are an arrogant and thus dangerous man, with no consideration for your country, no respect for confidentiality, no regard for anything but your own agenda.

Another point of interest - compare this excerpt from the Associated Press article on iWon:

Bush administration officials stood by Undersecretary of State John Bolton's earlier remarks that he believed Cuba had "provided dual-use biotechnology to other rogue states."

Secretary of State Colin Powell noted that it was not a new statement by the Bush administration.

To this excerpt from the NY Times:

His comments came as Secretary of State Colin L. Powell cast some doubt on assertions last week by a senior State Department official that Cuba was making such weapons.


CNN says this about Powell:

Cuban leader Fidel Castro has vehemently denied the biological weapons charge, which Secretary of State Colin Powell reiterated in an interview Sunday on Russian television.

"We know that Cuba has been doing some research with respect to biological offensive weapons possibly, and so we think that it is appropriate for us to point out this kind of activity," Powell said.

FoxNews says this:

Secretary of State Colin Powell said Monday he does not know who briefed Carter. But he stood by Undersecretary of State John Bolton's statements last week that Cuba has the "capacity" to develop such arms.

The Boston Globe has no article on the flap. And the Washington Post says this:

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, asked about Carter's comments while traveling to Iceland to attend a NATO summit, said he stood by Bolton's comments and added that they were not the first such assertions made by the Bush administration.

I don't think CNN or the Washington Post have reason to misrepresent or downplay what Powell said. So whence comes the NY Times interpretation? I'll let you draw your own conclusion.

UPDATE: Damian Penny is much nicer to Carter than I am, but he still thinks Carter's latest pronouncement is stupid (ok, he says naive).

UPDATE: Bryan, that's more like it.

I've been threatening to do a takedown post on Carter as a "man of faith", which made my brother Alan (an evangelist himself) laugh at me. He said, "I think you are just in a malaise." I'll cogitate on it. I'm just offended at all Carter gets by with because he's such a "man of faith". I think it's wrong, and I think it's because he's a Democrat. Does Jerry Falwell (and I'm no fan of his really) get a pass because he's a "man of faith"? I'm thinking not.

UPDATE: And here's one more reason to admire the insight of Tony Woodlief.

UPDATE: And of course Bill Quick, the Daily Pundit, has something to say.

Monday, May 13, 2002

NORWEGIANS NON-GRATA? Sounds right to me.

WHEN I BEGAN READING THIS I thought Jonathan was talking about the situation at SFSU. But no, he's not. I'd kind of made the connection before, but when you read his piece after reading about the SFSU situation, all kinds of little neurons start connecting. I especially like the last paragraph.

Reading the two together also underscores why we need to take back our universities.

IF YOU LOVED BOOKS as a child, and have trouble getting rid of them as an adult, this will touch a chord. It did with me, as I sit surrounded by books that take up almost more room in my apartment than any other single thing.


OLD PRESIDENTS CLUB II: Just like I said before, Old Presidents need to have their traveling priviledges revoked unless specifically asked to go somewhere. And I'm not the only one who thinks so - it's nice to have validation from the likes of the National Review. I especially liked this article from USA Today, which confirmed what I thought - that Jimmy Carter is highly annoying (apparently he was to Clinton too), and that Clinton is using his presidency to eat well all over the world:

...they [Bush administration] are annoyed by former president Jimmy Carter's trip to Cuba, which began Sunday with a red-carpet reception. Bush officials see the visit, the first by a sitting or former U.S. president since the 1959 revolution, as a public-relations boon for Fidel Castro and a forum for Carter to espouse closer economic and diplomatic ties with Cuba -- views that conflict with administration policy.

Unlike officials who are appointed by and beholden to the current president, former presidents have no obligation to toe the administration line, of course. They often have their own political agendas and policy views. And they can command attention at home and abroad to have them heard.
All that is precisely why presidents are more likely to see their predecessors as mischief-makers than mediators. The fear: Former presidents will send mixed messages to foreign leaders, blunder into sensitive issues, take credit if something is achieved and perhaps even contribute to an impression that the current president can't manage things by himself.

…Since Clinton left office 16 months ago, he has visited 30 countries on six continents. He lunched last Wednesday in New York with former South African president Nelson Mandela; he leaves Saturday on a trip with stops in Japan, China, Singapore, Brunei and New Zealand.

…Clinton says he's careful to avoid criticizing Bush or complicating his job -- in part, aides say, because he remembers how irked he was as president when Carter injected himself into conflicts in North Korea and elsewhere. Since leaving office, Carter has won wide praise for monitoring elections, mediating disputes and addressing problems of poverty and human rights.

But he also has riled officials in the last administration and the current one. An op-ed column he wrote in The New York Times suggested Bush hadn't done enough to stem the violence in the Mideast.

Then there's Cuba.

Yes, then there's Cuba, and you know what I think about that.

Somebody put Carter in an Old Presidents' Home and throw away the key.

Links via The Weigh In.

THE POWER OF THE BLOG: This blog is now the first entry for anyone googling "susanna" and for anyone googling "cornett". If you google "susanna cornett", it's all over the place. But don't do it. I get "susanna cornett" google searches hitting my site pretty much daily, and it gives me a little bit of a weird feeling. Just who out there wants to know about me who doesn't already know about this site? Except, of course, for my friend Ben who refuses to either bookmark it or remember the web address, so each time he wants to read it he googles my name. But I know he's not reading it daily. So whence the googles?

At least it's better than getting hit for the google search "gym girl toes and bare feet photo page".

NO PALESTINIAN STATE? The Likud votes, Sharon is dissed, Netanyahu makes inroads. Damian Penny and Tal G in Israel comment.

IT'S NOT A DIPLOMATIC MISSION! IT'S A...WELL...DIPLOMATIC MISSION: I posted below about ex-prez Jimmy Carter and his jaunt to sunny Cuba, trading on his ex-prez status and mucking about when he should stay home. The article emphasized the trip as a "private" mission, and Tony Adragna defended Carter in the comments to my post. Carter arrived yesterday. Let's take a stroll through the NY Times coverage this weekend, and then you explain to me just how it's a non-diplomatic mission by a private, philanthropic citizen:


Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, on an historic visit to Cuba to try to patch up four decades of feuding with the United States, met on Sunday with the top echelons of the island's communist government.


Former President Jimmy Carter arrives in Cuba on Sunday as the most prominent American political figure to venture across the chasm between two nations separated by 90 miles and 43 years of Communist rule.

While no major policy breakthroughs are expected during his five-day visit, which is billed as a private one, many here hope that Mr. Carter's presence will advance their efforts for change.


"We are eager to personally see your achievements in education, health and culture," Mr. Carter said. "We also appreciate the opportunity to meet with President Castro, other members of the government and representatives of religious and other groups." Mr. Castro said Mr. Carter was free to meet with any dissidents he wished...

Bush administration officials said when they approved the visit that they hoped Mr. Carter would use the opportunity to promote human rights and democracy. A spokesman for Mr. Carter said at the time that administration officials had not tried to dissuade him nor had they asked him to carry specific messages

Those who favor more open relations with Cuba praised Mr. Carter's visit as an effort to start a new dialogue. The trip was denounced by others though, as a sop to Mr. Castro, whose country is facing economic problems and international criticism for its human rights record.


FORMER President Jimmy Carter is to board a Havana-bound jet today to continue a mission started a quarter-century ago ...

[Julia E. Sweig, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations] said, the insistence of the hard-liners within the Carter administration that Mr. Castro make a concession before continuing negotiations leaves her with a sense of "lost opportunity."

"Cuba will always provide a rationale for taking a hard line if we are going to look for one," she said. "But we were never as close as we were then."

...No one close to Mr. Carter wants to discuss what he hopes to accomplish with this five-day visit. Mr. Carter, who is going to Cuba at Mr. Castro's invitation, has said he opposes America's embargo. [Bernardo Benes, a prominent Miami banker who worked with Carter on his Cuban efforts during his presidency] said all anyone can do is hope that two elder statesmen can finally agree on some fundamental issues that may improve the quality of life for the people of Cuba.

But fortunately, Carter reassures us this is not a diplomatic visit:

Carter, the first former or sitting U.S. president to visit Cuba since Calvin Coolidge in 1928, has emphasized this is a private visit and that he will not be negotiating with the Cuban government.

I'm sure there's no connection to this:

President Bush is expected to spell out his own Cuba policy on May 20 in Miami at a ceremony celebrating the centennial of the founding of the Cuban republic.

I'm sure, really, it's a sunny vacation, a visit between old friends, and an opportunity for Carter to buy a few cigars. Just a quiet, private visit to check out the country.

Glad the media weren't notified. Gives the "private" label some credibility.

GIRLS WITH GUNS show men up. Really. There's proof.

Sunday, May 12, 2002

NO MORAL EQUIVALENCE on Saudi television.

UPDATE: And a good catch by Desert Pundit.

What's that saying about giving someone enough rope?

CARTOON EQUIVALENCE: An interesting view of the Israeli/Palestinian situation, which Matt Haughey at A Whole Lotta Nothing says is the "the best critique of the Israel/Palestine conflict I've seen".

So, Matt, if this is a good analysis, then what is the best response? I would be curious to know how you would settle it. When neither side is more at fault, and both sides are equal agitators, you have to answer these questions:

1) Who has standing to end the conflict? Does it have to be an internal group or can it be an external group? (I'm assuming here that you don't really anticipate that Godman will crush both and save the world from having to make that decision.)
2) If it's external, how do you make that decision? How can you adjudge that a mediator/resolver is neutral? You can't assume an entity IS neutral just because the entity itself makes that claim (as in the case of, say, the UN). There needs to be clear criteria.
3) Once the decision is made, who gets to enforce it on the combatants? How aggressive/forceful can that entity be in ending it?
4) If no external entity has standing, then how does it end? Would it ultimately be, might makes right?
5) If it is might makes right, then isn't that what was already happening? Why would we hold back Israel?

I think it unlikely that most of those claiming moral equivalence actually believe it. But it would be useful to see what resolution they would propose from that perspective.

I'M CONFUSED. Why would gay college students agitate for mixed-gender housing? How is it heterosexist not to have it, and even if it is, why would they care? It seems to me that if you're gay, same-sex housing meets all your criteria. Puzzling...

Now if the frat boys were wanting to mix it up with the sorority floors, I might understand.

YOU MEAN THEY KILLED PEOPLE? The European countries who volunteered (yes, volunteered) to take the 13 terrorists exiled after leaving the Church of the Nativity are now reacting with shock and horror that these men actually killed people. Who knew?

Well, actually, Israel knew. Now they will too.

The EU didn't want Israel to grab that tiger by the tail, so Israel said, fine, if we let go they roam your lands.

How do you like your new mankillers, EU?

(Read LGF, Den Beste, DPM and InstaPundit for The Full Fisking.)

NO ONE'S LISTENING? Don't bomb mailboxes - blog.

ARE WE COPING TOO FAST? It seems Justin Weitz (link below) was prescient, at least about what the NY Times is thinking. This article looks at the role of media, most specifically television, in the country's recovery from 9/11, including discussions about how media should approach it. This was particularly interesting:

At a conference last fall of cable television executives, a psychiatrist, Bert Pepper, called on programmers to consider the effects of traumatic visual stimuli as they plan their schedules. "Do the programs help educate people about actual risks?" he said in an interview. "Or for the sake of marketing do they want to exaggerate the risk and increase the distress people continue to feel?"

Television overdramatizing to win market share? Of course not. Wouldn't happen.

The latest round of commemorative shows begins tonight with "Telling Nicholas" on HBO. I don't know that I could watch it; since I don't have HBO, I won't find out whether I would. But it's unsettling to think of the invasions in privacy and taste that we will likely see in the four months leading to the one year anniversary of 9/11.

IT'S ALL THE INTERNET'S FAULT: Thomas Friedman says Middle East Muslims are believing nasty things about America and the Israelis because of unfiltered Internet, and their own general stupidity about its unfettered nature and technology in general. It's an odd, worried, disconnected column, starting with an Indian journalist railing about Fox News, and ending with a fear that it's too late for one-on-one diplomacy.

Mr. Friedman... sir... it's not the Internet. People in the United States don't automatically believe everything on the Internet because we have a free press and a mix of ideas and access to all manner of viewpoints and sources of facts. If those people lived in a place with similar freedoms, and were taught to read and reason for themselves, I bet they'd be less likely to believe whatever came off The Internet. And people were hating and finding others to hate along with them long before telephones, even, or television, or Internet. Yeah, it's easier to form coalitions of hate, but also coalitions of truth. And the cure isn't diplomacy.

It's democracy.

MORE MONEY TO FIGHT AIDS: The Senate is getting behind the effort to tackle AIDS in Africa, and given the level of the problem there it's probably a good thing. I just worry though that the money will be diverted into the management of the organizations, the pockets of local officials and generally everywhere but into medicine for those who need it. And the spread of AIDS in Africa is not just about health conditions, but social conditions as well, and there is resistance to dealing with the social contexts that increase the likelihood of its spread. AIDS has never been treated the same as other contagious illnesses because of those same social contexts. None of us want children to suffer, or countries to teeter constantly on the edge of anarchy because of a preventable disease. But it doesn't help either situation to tie our own hands in addressing it for fear of offending people with agendas beyond tackling it in the most direct and effective ways possible.

ISRAEL BACKS DOWN? I'm not quite sure how to react to the postponement or maybe even abandonment of retaliation for the 15 dead from last week's suicide bomb attack. It's being hailed by the Arabs as a chance for diplomacy to work, and anything hailed by the Arabs is a frightening prospect. The article has this amusing note:

Israeli commentators said a Gaza sweep could have caused friction with Washington

I suspect the Israeli commentators here are NY Times reporters, editorial staff and cocktail buddies, with the possible addition of the increasingly disappointing Colin Powell.

However, one thing is true - Israel has stepped back from a righteous retaliation, in the name of diplomacy, so now we'll see the truth of the Palestinian and Arab claims of wanting peace.

IS 9/11 FADING? The American Kaiser's Justin Weitz looks at where America is in its stages of grief and recovery. I'm not sure I agree with him that the level that it's faded is a good thing, but I do agree that now is a lot different from then.

Just yesterday I was walking from my car to my apartment building, and saw a low-flying plane banking overhead. I'm in the flight path for Newark International, which is where two of the 9/11 planes came from. For just a moment, I considered whether that plane was so low that maybe, just maybe, it was headed toward a building. I think that almost instinctual fear will be with me for a very long time.

And I don't know that it's a bad thing.

THAT HATEFUL OLD ASHCROFT! Scutum Sobieski at Regurgablog dismantles a Minneapolis Star-Tribune editorial whining about John Ashcroft, that mean old man trying to put guns in every pocket by finally recognizing that the Constitution means what it says.

Saturday, May 11, 2002

SO WHAT SHOULD WOMEN PLAY? Quana X. Jones can't really think of a women's sport worth his time (ok, that's an extrapolation, but see if you agree), and he doesn't like basketball at all! His Eristic blog is cool, and his webblog oversight committee bovinishly compelling, but anyone who doesn't think men's college basketball, and especially the University of Kentucky Wildcats, is amazing and worthy of adulation... well... He's a Texan. Need I say more?

UPDATE: Yikes! While I was in the midst of posting the above, Quana was ripping a journalist a new one for defending the Saudis. He ripped so hard I think the journalist's entire immediate family and ancestors three generations back got a wakeup call. Not for those with delicate sensibilities:

Warning: I have been extremely frank in my comments on this article. Sometimes it is more than a matter of 'excusing my French'. I apologize to sensibilities in advance. I'm not going to change it. If certain four letter words and/or sexual comments offend you, please skip this jeremiad.

So if you're feeling brave, check it out.

UPDATE 2: Spoons busts the same piece. Great minds and all that. But can't have too much of that good thing, can you?

UPDATE 3: And the slams just keep coming. Solly Ezekiel at Gedankenpundit has another take on the piece, different enough from the other two to be worth your time.

WARNING: MASSACRE IMMINENT – Fifteen Israelis died this week, blown to bits by a Palestinian suicide bomber. Israel is going to retaliate. The Chicago Sun-Times does not talk about funerals of those who died, or the fears of the Israelis as the bombing starts again. No, it talks about this:

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip--Residents here hoarded food and thronged bakeries Friday, while Palestinian gunmen patrolled streets and blocked camp entrances with mounds of rubble ahead of an anticipated Israeli military strike.

Be sure and get some of that canned milk, too, this may take a while and we don't want you to, you know, get hungry while you're waiting for a break to send more suicide bombers into Israel. Regular milk might spoil. We don't want your health to suffer.

After a passing reference to the Israeli deaths as context for the retaliation, we see this:

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, replying to a question about a possible incursion into Gaza, accused Israel of committing crimes against Palestinians. ''Our people are steadfast and will continue with all their power to defend our holy cities, Christian and Muslim places,'' he said at his West Bank headquarters.

We know what that means, Yassar - more suicide bombings.

And then the article goes into a long discussion of the standoff at the Church of the Nativity, which could, but doesn’t, say this:

73 Palestinian policemen and civilians were set free just in time to load their guns and strap on some dynamite for the next round.

Then the article reveals the continued delusion of the president:

President Bush said the end of the Bethlehem siege was a welcome sign and ''should advance the prospects for resuming a political peace process.''

We learn that even the Palestinians left before the obnoxious foreigners, four of them unfortunately Americans:

By midmorning, all Palestinians had left the church, but the standoff was not over. Ten foreigners, who had slipped into the church May 2 in a show of solidarity with the Palestinians, refused to come out--demanding a lawyer and insisting on holding a news conference.

Israeli riot police later entered the compound and removed them by force, with the approval of exasperated priests. The 10, including four Americans, were detained ahead of deportation.

I think the Americans should go straight from the airport into jail.

We then learn that Israel will limit it’s strikes to terrorist enclaves, that the head of Hamas is unconcerned (why should he be concerned? The world is either explicitly or implicitly on his side), and that Gaza actually used to be in Israel but the Israelis gave it up in an effort toward peace (huh, you mean the Israelis are serious about peace? Then...if THEY are... who isn'.....oh). And then, finally, we learn the sad and shocking news:

Gaza is one of the world's most densely populated areas, and many think that invading the strip on a scale similar to Israel's sweep through the West Bank last month in search of militants would result in high casualties among civilians and Israeli troops.

Apparently it is "a massacre waiting to happen", only this time the Israeli troops will not escape unscathed (um, they did last time?).

And who are the “many” who think that?

You can bet the four Americans who refused to leave the Church of the Nativity without holding a press conference are among the “many”, and so are the ones who predicted “the brutal Afghan winter”, and found a massacre in Jenin. I’m suspecting that, in the final analysis, we’ll learn that this “belief” was just as accurate as the other two. But that won't stop the predicting, or the spinning of the retaliation even before it's begun.

And Israeli somehow always comes out the bad guy.

THE OLD PRESIDENTS CLUB should have their speech and traveling priviledges revoked if they keep doing stunts like this. I used to have some sense of Jimmy Carter as ineffectual but fairly innocuous and at any rate humble. But I'm coming to see him more as a man arrogant in his self-righteous efforts to reshape the world as he sees fit, regardless of its impact on official US policy. As much as I did and do detest Bill Clinton, I would never have advocated George Bush 1 going to other countries on his own behest mucking about in foreign policy during the Clinton administration. It weakens the country's focus and makes us appear foolish in the eyes of a world already too prepared to criticize and mock. Carter has no official standing, and I personally think the White House should say so publically and explicitly. Then take away his passport.

SUCH TALENT: Dan at HappyFunPundit both deconstructs how juxtaposition makes lies seem like truths, and then astonishingly segues right into an original, evocative poem. All in the context of a post on Palestine.

How does he do it?

HOW TO RUIN A SATURDAY: My landlord informed me last night, fairly late (around 9) that this morning (around 9) the bug spray guy was going to come in, because someone in an apartment two floors below thinks he saw two roaches. I haven't seen any. So I have to pull everything out of the shelves in my kitchen, move it to another room, wait for them to spray, leave while it works, then wash all the dishes and put them back on the shelves. I really really find that whole process annoying.

It also means that until my kitchen is reassembled, posting will likely be low to non-existent. Sorry.

UPDATE: It was a good news/bad news thing. The good news was - I didn't have to dismantle my kitchen after all because they have this new process of putting bait in corners and under shelves, so nothing has to be moved or washed. The bad news is - I had already about halfway dismantled. Oh, well. Good exercise, right?

Friday, May 10, 2002

WHAT IS AN UNBORN CHILD if you can't say "unborn child" or "fetus"?

On Law&Order SVU tonight, they needed to get DNA after an abortion from the aborted fetus. So the police officer said:

"We need tissue from the products of conception."

I wonder how long they had to think to come up with that.

The power of words. Creating (or carefully avoiding creating) images. Think about it.

ARE WE FOOLS? A bus blows up in Jerusalem in 1995, killing, among others, an American citizen. The Palestinian suicide bomber is given a state funeral, with dancing and a 21-gun salute, when his body is returned by the Israelis in 2000. Meanwhile, the United States offers a reward for information leading to the conviction of those responsible.

David Tell, who’s article in The Weekly Standard details this, says:

Arafat must think we Americans are fools.

He then meticulously follows the path of money from the Saudis to the family of this same suicide bomber:

The Saudi royal family, according to its own internal records, has just recently paid a hefty cash prize for the murder of a U.S. citizen.

The Saudis, too, must think we Americans are fools.

David, they cannot just think it, they have confirmation through the impunity allotted their own actions.

Surely it would behoove our president to disabuse them of this notion?

Yes. So, surely it behooves us to let him know he must.


UPDATE: Brian Sinclair at The Daily Babble has a different take on this.

THOSE WHO REMEMBER: The Angry Clam, on top of the Berkeley beat as usual, points out an op-ed in today's The Daily Cal by an avowed and known Holocaust revisionist (TAC says "denier"), which says the Jews use selective memory in laying claim to land that living memory would give to the Palestinians. He makes this good point:

I also wonder what the campus Jewish community is going to do in response to this. My guess is angry letters and lobbying... Let's not forget what people from the MSU and SJP [Students for Justice in Palestine] did when they were confronted with [a cartoon from Sept. 18 depicting two of the 9/11 terrorists in hell]. These people decided to lay siege to the Daily Californian offices and demand an apology. When that was not forthcoming, there was a large picket of the building and website hacking attempts. The Daily Cal remained unbowed, so the battle went to the ASUC senate where it was proposed that the rent for the paper's offices be hiked. The rent-hike proposal too was defeated. Finally, members of SJP...took it upon themselves to steal an entire press run of the paper. How much do you want to bet that Jewish students, who are right to be quite irked, do not resort to any of these actions?

Interesting how it is always the same story, just a different address, isn't it?

BIAS IN THE HARD SCIENCES? Say it ain't so! Bryan Preston at JunkYardBlog reports that it is.

I WOULD LINK TO RABBIT, but I have this and no one told me to.

IF YOU LIKE CROSSWORDS, here's one at Goliard blog on capitalism.

SCHOOL EXAMS DANGEROUS TO FAMILY MEMBERS: Accounting-blog called my attention to this 1990 study, which I think needs to be replicated with more recent data, and possibly made into a platform of the PTA.

RILYA ISN’T PRECIOUS DOE: I’ve posted before about the little five year old girl from Florida who went missing from her home in January 2001 and hasn’t been seen since. Tests were done to see if she was the little girl found beheaded in Kansas City last year; today we learn she wasn’t.

So where’s Rilya?

Florida's Department of Children & Families lost track of Rilya in January 2001. Geralyn Graham, who claims to be her grandmother, and Pamela Graham say Rilya was removed from their home by a woman who said she was a DCF worker and was never returned. DCF skipped required monthly visits and reported her missing April 25.

We don’t know if the person who took Rilya was a DCF worker, although we do know that the caseworker was horribly negligent in following Rilya’s case. We don’t know that Graham is really her grandmother. In fact, given the Grahams’ history, we don’t even really know that Rilya was taken by a DCF worker:

Geralyn Graham and her sister, Pamela Graham, both gave deceptive responses in a polygraph test administered earlier in the investigation, Miami-Dade County police spokesman Ed Munn said. Police would not disclose the questions, citing the ongoing criminal investigation.

"We can't take anybody at their word," said police director Carlos Alvarez.

Rilya was given as an infant to another family, with unfortunate results:

Rilya moved in with Graham after being removed from the home of Pamela Kendrick in April 2000. State officials had investigated allegations of abuse there in 1998 involving other children, but the inquiry was dropped, according to records…

"I was with her for the first three years of her life," Kendrick said in an interview Thursday with The Associated Press. "I made it possible that she could have a normal life, because I cared for her as my own."

“Caring for her as my own” is no comfort from someone accused of abuse. If, of course, the abuse really happened. We don’t know; we can’t quite trust DCF now, can we?

So just who did Rilya go to live with, when she was placed with the Grahams?

Court records in the Alamo case show that Geralyn Graham had at least 14 aliases, six driver's licenses and five Social Security numbers.

A psychologist concluded in another lawsuit that Geralyn Graham had suffered dementia, hallucinations and memory problems following the accident. Graham had sued Alamo Rent-A-Car in August 1996 for $2.5 million for injuries suffered when her sister ran over her with a rented van.

In an Aug. 12, 1997, video deposition in the Alamo lawsuit, Geralyn Graham said she does not remember her old jobs, being arrested in Tennessee for food stamp fraud or being married.

So, a 3-year-old child was given to a woman who forget she was married, who was arrested for food stamp fraud, who sued Alamo because her sister ran over her in Alamo’s van, who had a string of aliases, drivers’ licenses and Social Security numbers. This woman is now claiming that Rilya was essentially kidnapped, but she didn’t raise a stink about it for over a year.

If that was your child, wouldn’t you be sitting in the governor’s office about 10 minutes after getting the brush-off from DCF?

In the photos of Rilya, she is smiling so sweetly as only a little child can, and you just want to hug her. But you can’t. Because we don’t know where she is. Was she taken by DCF, placed elsewhere and the records lost? Was she taken by an imposter and kept, or killed? Was she taken at all? Is it possible that one of the Grahams hurt her, or someone associated with her did, and knowing the incompetence of her case worker they made up a story?

I don’t hold out much hope for Rilya; it’s been too long, and too many people in this world prey on children. But we need to dig and dig and dig until we know precisely what happened, because this will teach us what went wrong so we can fix it. Government can’t cover up its mistakes and make them go away. This is a child, not an “oops”. Maybe it was the juxtaposition of a lot of human error resulting in one huge tragedy. But we need to know.

For the sake of all the children who find themselves without champions, sucked into the family services government machines all over the nation, we must keep asking:

Where’s Rilya?

SADDAM REFERENDUM: Myria at It Can't Rain All The Time reveals the ballot options on the upcoming referendum on whether Saddam should stay in power.


…a growing sentiment that Arabs should distance themselves from the United States, and they want their governments to do likewise.

Excellent. Fine. Great. Pack your bags and go home, or pack our bags and send us out of your country. This is what it would do:

Purchases of American goods generated by 300 million Arabs form such a small part of American exports that even a widespread boycott would not cause much of a blip. Most trade consists of big ticket items like airplanes, with total American exports to the Middle East amounting to $20 billion in 2000, just 2.5 percent of America's total exports.

However, there are a few problems for the Arab countries:

…said Kholood Khatami, a 25-year-old Saudi journalist, “…I'm boycotting. Of course, there are some things you cannot avoid — technology and software is all American."

Khatami, be a man of conviction. Turn off that computer. Go back to your abacus. Don’t let the evil US mar your shores in any way.

Meanwhile, we should start drilling offshore, in Alaska, in Russia, in those old fields that are, amazingly, refilling. Let’s take our oil money out of the Middle East, and let the Arabs have what they want.

Just for the record, I’ve no interest in overwhelming the Arab culture with Western culture. And I also think that Americans of Arabian descent are just that - Americans. This is not about trashing Arabs as a people. But I think any nation that is actively working to harm the United States and its citizens should be withdrawn from physically and commercially. Period.

MAKE UP YOUR MIND: When speaking today of the terrorist bombing in Dagestan, Russia, that killed 34 people – 12 children – during a parade, Bush said the right thing:

President Bush said today … in a statement. "Terrorism and the killing of innocents can never be condoned or justified."

This is in direct contrast to what he said yesterday regarding Arafat, who is a terrorist:

Mr. Bush said that, despite reports in Israel, he had never indicated…[that] his administration was trying to move Mr. Arafat out of power.

"…my opinion is that Mr. Arafat has let the Palestinian people down. He hasn't led. And as a result, the Palestinians suffer and my heart breaks for the Palestinian moms and dads who wonder whether or not their children are going to be able to get a good education and whether or not there's going to be a job available for their children."

Or whether they will blow themselves up at the behest of Hamas or one of Arafat’s other terrorist organizations. “Let’s see… I could go to college… I could get a job… I could blow myself up. Looks like I’ll go with what’s behind Door Number 3, Monty!”

I still think GW is so much better than Algore that it’s not even a contest. But right now he’s no where near the leader I’d hoped for.

Maybe he should take lessons from the Dagestan leader:

The chairman of the Dagestan state council, Magomedali Magomedov, said the terrorists "must be destroyed as traitors who are not letting humanity live."

"It's very hard to call those who committed this act of vandalism people," he said. "They are subject to liquidation."

Thursday, May 09, 2002

A TREE RISES IN SANTA CRUZ: Locals object to tree. Some online observers (well, one) think it may have responded to junk email with stunning success. Owner thinks everyone should get a grip (note what owner does for a living).

Children giggle.

Meanwhile, local psychologists report an increase in appearance anxiety amongst Santa Cruz men.

Arboreal bobbitization possible.

(Link via A Long View).

GOOD JOB, GUYS. But aim better next time.

THE LAST WORD ON MEDIA BIAS. Well, from Zonitics' Edward Boyd, anyway. He does an amazing job of researching, presenting and discussing the truth of left-right labeling in the media, originally reported by Nunberg in The American Prospect. Bravo, Edward.

Do we need to Google-bomb Nunberg so Zonitics' answer comes up high on any googling of Nunberg?

Link via Instapundit.

A VERY ODD THING I DO: When shopping for toilet paper, I'm always confused by the many choices: One ply, two ply, single roll, double roll, triple roll, four pak, six pack, 9 pak.

So I spend five minutes - and this is almost every shopping trip that includes TP - comparing cost per square foot, factoring in the one or two ply difference.

And wind up, usually, buying the two-ply Charmin six-pak.

Which saves me a dollar, maybe, over the other choices.

Then, of course, I go home and throw out the fresh basil I keep buying because I'm going to make homemade pesto again, someday, when I have time. Fresh basil, btw, is $2/bunch here.

I also hate math.

So what odd things do you do?

A ONE-DAY WEATHER FORECAST, according to my Snapple lid ("Real Fact" #65), "requires about 10 billion mathematical calculations".

Is that why it's usually wrong?

That margin of error thing, you know.

SMILE FOR THE MINNEBOMBER: You won't believe how the pipe bomber chose the locations.

Link via Ipse Dixit.

TRUTH BEYOND HORROR: Botox, hair implants, breast augmentation, artificial "beestung" lips, liposuction, on and on and on... I thought we were fashion obsessed, and placed too much emphasis on appearance in jobs, dating and just being friends. But this goes beyond vain and solidly into movie-style horror.

Link via Ye Old Blogge.

BYPASS ARAFAT: Adragna's Middle East solution.

SAUDI ARABIA AND CAT LITTER? USS Clueless finds the connection.

NEW (to me) BLOG SIGHTING: A C Douglas deconstructs the Arab/Israeli solution, takes down Jimmy Carter and in between has time to slice up attitudes about modern culture. Excellent reading, and I'm glad I found him. Check him out, if only for the cartoon of himself in the upper right corner. He's going on the blogroll.

THIS PAST WEEKEND, the 16-year-old son of a couple I know slightly in Kentucky was killed in a car accident. I had never met him, but his father is a preacher who lives what he preaches, and his mother was devoted to raising their four sons. I asked my brother, who went to the visitation, how they were doing. He said the mother said, “We’ll get through this”. Implicit in that, I knew, was, “With God’s help.”

I can’t say I know how they feel; I have no clue about the depths of sorrow losing a child must bring. But it has brought my wandering heart closer to home again, thinking about it. And then today I came across several excellent posts by friends and fellow travelers online, who are thinking about the world, faith, and the struggle we all have to put it together. I was especially moved by Tony Woodlief’s piece, where he said:

But [the words of a quoted Bible verse] don't promise that we will understand the purpose of a suffering in our lifetimes, or, should we discern the purpose, that we will judge it worthwhile. "All things work together for good." Notice that this does not tell us that every single thing by itself will produce good, nor that any resulting good will be manifest in the weeks or months following the affliction. The words instead describe a totality that many of us cannot see or understand, at least not here. "For my thoughts are not your thoughts..."

Tony is much more eloquent than I, and his words made me think about my own favorite passages, the ones that I say to myself when life seems hard, unfair, not what I planned, or too painful to bear; when the balances seem out of sync, and not likely to right themselves. This is the first, my always answer to “it’s not fair”:

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going. I returned and saw under the sun that--
The race is not to the swift,
Nor the battle to the strong,
Nor bread to the wise,
Nor riches to men of understanding
Nor favor to men of skill;
But time and chance happen to them all.
--Ecclesiastes 9:10-11

The companion verse, for me, is:

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
--I Corinthians 10:13

I've written several closing paragraphs, but they all sound too preachy, or chirper, or annoyingly pious. So that's it. Food for thought on a rainy Thursday.

And my prayers are with Ben's family.