cut on the bias

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

Sunday, June 16, 2002


Cut on the bias has moved. Please change your bookmarks, links, etc., to this:

And thanks for stopping by.

Sunday, June 09, 2002


I'VE BEEN DISCOVERED: I just got this email from Fred First:

Do you have an alias? Is there REALLY a bizarro-world? Are you too? Will one blog live while the other is left on an iceberg with the Polar bears?

The answer is "yes".

A few weeks ago, Dodd Harris of Ipse Dixit asked me if I'd like to move off Blogger and onto a server in his part of the world, Louisville, KY. Since I've become discontented with Blogger, I love Dodd's blog and he promised 24/7 support (didn't read the fine print either, didya, Dodd?), I thought it was a great idea. Plus, since I can't live in Kentucky, at least my blog can. So Dodd constructed my template in Moveable Type, patiently taught me how to use it, and today we made the transition. As of tomorrow, all posts will be on my new server, so please change your links to:

This move now makes me a member of the H O S T I L E family, hosted by the redoubtable Mark, known to be a genius by his friends. At least they say that, if they expect to stay on his server! I'm proud to be there, and sometime soon you'll see links on my page to all the H O S T I L E gang. That has a certain ring to it, doesn't it? Could I now call my blogging "hostility"?

It's going to take a few days for me to settle into the new blog, so please bear with me if things look a little funky at first. And sometime in the next little while, I'll be doing a redesign (keeping in mind Meryl's words of wisdom), but that won't affect the link, just the look. For now, my other blogs - The Saturday Ramble, inside my mind, and writings - will remain on Blogger, as will my archives.

And thank you all for reading my work. It makes every day a pleasure to see that people come here, and to read what you say in my comments and in email.

NOTE TO SELF: Do not depend on driving directions from two passengers who do not drive, speak with strong Caribbean accents and tend to get excitable in New Jersey traffic. In this way lies madness.

ANOTHER "NICE GUY" KILLS BECAUSE OF BULLYING: Providence, RI, newspaper production worker Carlos Pacheco killed two coworkers and then himself yesterday; his family claims he was endlessly "chided" and "taunted", and co-workers claim the management of the company causes such stress that not only did it cause Pacheco to kill three people including himself, but also caused another employee to commit suicide three years ago.

Management praised Pacheco:

''He was one of the nicest kids I've met,'' [Plant supervisor Bob Varin] said. ''He was a great worker. We never had a problem with him."

Anthony Minucelli, a former co-worker, agreed:

Pacheco, he said, ''didn't bother anybody. It shocked me that it was him.''

The family's characterization of "chiding" and "taunting" doesn't seem to mesh with the "work tension" identified by other workers; perhaps Pacheco personalized a generalized attitude on the part of management, or something else was going on. We'll be find out more, and probably will learn that Pacheco was a gun nut, and someone will conclude that if guns weren't so available, this wouldn't have happened because, after all, Pacheco was a nice guy. But regardless of what is said, the final truth is this: He could have quit the job. He could have made many other choices, none of which involved killing others. He wasn't shooting in physical self-defense. The blame for these deaths rests squarely on his shoulders, no matter what the provocations, no matter what the means.

And Bob Varin is one lucky man.


Todd Hardwick, a licensed alligator trapper and the owner of the Pesky Critters nuisance wildlife control company, has a permit from the state to trap and kill "nuisance alligators" like these.

He has come armed with several big, shiny hooks of the kind normally used to catch sharks, hundreds of yards of the parachute cord he uses as fishing line, a bang stick loaded with a hollow-point .357 bullet, one large plastic bag of decomposing pig lungs and seven bags of marshmallows.

"They like marshmallows," he said.

It is one of the tests that the 39-year-old Mr. Hardwick uses to determine if an alligator has lost its fear of humans. He flings a handful into the water. If an alligator eats them, it is almost certain that it has been fed by fishermen or campers.

"If he swims away, he lives," said Mr. Hardwick...

Apparently snack foods are a no-no in the animal world too.

[Link via reader Dave Menke - his insomnia is your gain of reading material.]

IN THE "EXAMPLES OF WHAT WE SHOULD BE" DEPARTMENT, I give you the French, those perennial critics of America:

Minorities Struggling to Join The Political Elite in France
Equality Still Only an Idea as Voters Choose Members of Parliament

I vote we send Rep. Cynthia McKinney over there to help them integrate. They should work well together, don't you think?

[Link from reader Dave Menke.]

I'LL HAVE THOSE POTATOES FRIED, PLEASE: Jacob Sullum at Reason Online comments with appropriate disgust and amazement on the current efforts to chase after obesity in this country with the same lawyers who went after Big Tobacco. Summarizing his amused horror will not do the piece justice, so I won't. I do want to comment on this:

The Independent added that many Americans can't get healthy food even if they want it. "Once you head inland from the coasts, away from the big population centers and college towns," it reported, "the very notion of unprocessed fresh food" vanishes. "It's a straightforward question of availability, giving the lie to food industry claims that consumers can exercise free choice in deciding what to put in their mouths."

Sullum responds to this well, but didn't make the point that immediately came to my mind, as someone who grew up about as far as you can get from the "big population centers" and still have an average of one person per square mile or more. You see, the further you get away from those "big populations centers", the more likely you are to be close to another American phenomenon - "farmers". "Farmers" are people who produce the "unprocessed fresh food" that the Independent apparently thinks magically regenerates in those big city supermarkets, kind of like a Lil Abner Dogpatch ham (no matter how much you use, there's always more left). "Farmers" even make "unprocessed fresh food" available more cheaply than supermarkets, at roadside stands and farmers' markets.

It's true that when I was growing up far from any coast in that vast wasteland void of big population centers, we rarely bought vegetables at the supermarket, especially in the summer. What we did do was go to the garden, liberate whatever looked good, and eat it the same day for dinner. It was routine for my dad to put a pot of water on the stove, then go to the garden for corn; by the time he was done shucking it, the water was boiling and ready to receive it. Many times dinner was sans meat - we'd have corn, broccoli, cole slaw, new potatoes, sliced tomatoes and onions, all from our garden, and cornbread made from cornmeal ground from our corn. And - this will really horrify those who think food spontaneously appears, packaged and pasteurized - we also occasionally killed and dressed chickens for dinner that same day .

The problem wasn't the availability of fresh, unprocessed food. When there was a problem, it was how it was fixed - fried. Fried chicken, fried potatoes, fried corn (you haven't lived 'til you've had it), and - in some families, not mine - fried tomatoes. All served with cornbread and butter. This was relatively okay fare for a hardworking farmer going dawn to dusk, but when the work style changed the eating style didn't, so you had a disconnect between calories eaten and expended. It wasn't - and isn't - availability at issue. It's choice of food, choice of preparation style, choice of time spent preparing, choice of quantity and choice of calories expended (i.e. exercise). Suddenly, it begins to look like choice, doesn't it?

I don't deny that sometimes obesity is involuntary, but that's usually a medical condition, not a corporate plot. And there are legitimate emotional issues and physical addictions (for want of a better word) associated with food that can make it difficult to control weight, as well as cultural habits of eating and the tendency to make celebrations and social occasions food-centric. Also, limiting a behavior is always more difficult than just giving it up entirely - the "can't eat just one" syndrome. Nonetheless, it is insanity, this whole chasing-after-obesity movement with lawsuits and pious pronouncements about protecting people from evil corporations leading them insensate to the trough. It is an invasion of privacy and a further undermining of the concept of personal responsibility. And just, well, stupid.

Saturday, June 08, 2002

YOURISH TRULY: A bloggish milestone - I spent a lovely afternoon and early evening with Meryl Yourish in marginally-suburban New Jersey, the first time I've met a fellow blogger. If it weren't for the fact that she beat me to the only copy of Shirley Jackson's Raising Demons in the used book store, I would call it an unmitigated pleasure. She's as articulate and straightforward in person as she is in her blog, and in between the shop crawl and the chocolate sundaes, we did our very best to solve the world's problems.

Meryl's knowledge of Israel and the history of the Jewish people helped me understand more about the situation in the Middle East. It reinforced my sense that there is just no negotiating with the Palestinians - as a group - anymore. I think Arafat and the Palestinians are collectively operating under a delusion about their own actions, and no logical or normal way of handling the situation is truly an option. To negotiate is to give them the impression that their opponents are weak, and the suicide bombings are working; to retaliate in piecemeal, "we're warning you!" kinds of ways only feeds their sense of ill-use, stoking the coals of their hateful obsession rather than putting out the fire for good.

Today four more Israelis died, while the West coddles a killer. When does it stop?

ARE WE SURPRISED? Chas Rich at Sardonic Views identifies the credulous use of a press release from an environmentalist group by CNN, and notes that other groups wouldn't get such an easy pass into their news cycle. Link via the Prof, who thinks it's not unusual. I concur, and point out that this is another way that media bias manifests itself.

IF YOU HAVEN'T READ IT YET, make the time for Will Warren's latest Unremitting Verse.

BUSTED: Tony Woodlief nails people who insist on all lower case for their names or use only one name:

Bell Hooks. Bell Hooks. That's capital B, capital H. What's that, Bell? You want to be called "bell hooks," sans capitals? Too bad. I'm a capitalist, this is English, and you are Bell by God Hooks. So get over yourself.

It's hilarious.

(We won't discuss that, as you can see by my tagline, he's busting me too. I do use appropriate capitals in the non-bloggish world.)


TANGLED DEFINITIONS: This week an Ohio man was given two life sentences for beating to death his wife, who was five months pregnant at the time. One of the sentences was for his wife, the other for their unborn child. Yet the unborn child would have been about 20 weeks along, which is in terms of viability a gray area for doctors:

Viability is presumed to exist after 27 weeks of gestation (assuming an otherwise healthy fetus) and is presumed not to exist prior to 20 weeks... The time between 20 and 27 weeks is a "gray zone" in which some fetuses may be viable and others are not.

While I've not seen much about the case, the fetus's viability would have been the crux of that part of the murder case, given that, in reference to abortions:

In Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey (1992), the Supreme Court [wrote]..."the attainment of viability may continue to serve as the critical fact."

However, even the Supremes refused to set a time frame for viability:

..."the soundness or unsoundness of that constitutional judgment in no sense turns on whether viability occurs at approximately 28 weeks, as was usual at the time of Roe, at 23 or 24 weeks, as it sometimes does today, or at some moment even slightly earlier in pregnancy, as it may if fetal respiratory capacity may be somehow enhanced in the future."

It's a dilemma, whether the death of an unborn child should be considered murder. Viability is a factor, certainly, as is intent. I would be inclined, for instance, to visit greater punishment on a Manson-like evisceration of a mother for the purpose of removing the unborn child and killing it too. Or for a person who shoots a woman in the stomach for the purpose of killing the fetus - which is unlikely to happen at an early stage, anyway. And the later the pregnancy, the more inclined I am to count the death of the fetus as murder. But while I'm hesitant to say the caused-death of an early stage fetus is the same as murdering a infant, or an adult, at the same time I'm generally against abortion. So should I consider viability of the fetus as an issue when a pregnant woman is deliberately or negligently killed, for purposes of charging the killer with the death of the fetus, when I don't give that a lot of value in my decision about whether induced abortion is acceptable?

Conversely, it poses the opposite problem for someone who is pro-choice: it raises the issue of whether the child was wanted - for a pro-choice advocate, the issue at the center of his/her pro-choice decision is not primarily the viability of the fetus but rather the mother's ability to choose whether she wants to have the child. Thus, if the child was unwanted, the other-induced abortion, albeit involuntary on the part of the mother, would not be in the same order as the same action in a case where the child was wanted, or so it would seem to me, if the argument is to stay consistent. That is to say, the value of the fetus (or mass of fetal tissue, as it is sometimes referred to) is contingent on the value the mother places on it, ultimately, rather than on any objective standard. Therefore a defense against a charge of murdering the fetus could be that the mother herself had planned to get an abortion. On the other hand, the choice was taken out of the hands of the mother, which would be a violation but not, I think, on the same level as murder if she had already chosen abortion. In either instance - involuntary or voluntary abortion - "the mass of fetal tissue" loses any chance of viability, so how could you justify terming one murder and one not?

I want to say that wherever we land, the application needs to be consistent - whatever the current law is on abortions, that same standard should hold with murder charges where the death of a fetus was caused through the negligence or criminal activity of another party. But issues of viability and choice remain as question marks. It's not an idle questioning either - laws are but the will of the people codified despite the rather attenuated connection to the people's will that some laws represent.

It's the kind of dilemma that permeates our criminal justice system, which only the most blindered would term "consistent" or, often, even "fair". And it's the kind of dialogue we need to have in this country, rather than mindless applications of new laws without consideration of the broader consequences or implications. I lean toward a graduated scale of harm based on the viability of the fetus, in this instance, but whatever the decision is, it should be internally consistent with the rest of the legal code and in line with the broader policies of society - to the extent that we can pinpoint what those are with any consistency either - within the framework of the Constitution.

ALL YOU NEED IS PAUL? Victorino Matus at The Weekly Standard reveals himself to be a Beatles purist. Kind of. Well, mostly.

EMBLEMATIC WORDS: Stephen Hayes at The Weekly Standard says what I think about Triple Crown contender War Emblem and his Saudi owner.

THE BIRMINGHAM NEWS PROTECTS ITS READERS - I'm not saying I agree (or disagree) with their choice, but interesting that they made it in this day and age.

...we said we would take the ads if they made them a little more conservative, or more informative and less promotional. At that time, they were not interested in revising their ads and that's understandable.

Should a newspaper make this kind of judgment? And if so, should it be made for the reason given as most likely in the article?

Link via Romenesko.


Producers of the 2002 Tony-winning best play [The Goat] were upset by a color ad mistakenly running in the paper's June 9 "Arts and Leisure" section proclaiming that "Metamorphoses" had won the top drama prize last Sunday...

"We are still looking into the matter," said Times spokesman Toby Usnik, while producers for "Metamorphoses" declined comment until they got a fuller explanation from the Times...

"The Goat," Edward Albee's play about the limits of love, and "Metamorphoses," a water-drenched reinterpretation of the myths of Ovid, were in hot contention for the best-play Tony, which inevitably boosts a show's box-office receipts.

UPDATE: And a reverse Dewey, in a stunning expansion of the Times' status as the best newspaper in the world.

NOTHING BUT THUGS: Martin Burnham is dead after a year in captivity with the Abu Sayyaf, a terrorist group in the Philippines showing their thuggish ways. Filipino nurse Ediborah Yap, also a captive, died in the apparent effort to rescue the hostages. Gracia Burnham was shot while escaping, but remains alive.

The NY Times article says:

Abu Sayyaf began as a radical Islamic group more than a decade ago.

At that time, its mission was to establish a Muslim state in the southern Philippines. The founding members received military training in Afghanistan during the war against the Soviet Union, and later in Libya. The group is believed to have had ties to Al Qaeda, but Filipino officials said those links faded in the mid-1990's.

The group later became more interested in kidnap-for-ransom.

It's nice to see the NY Times "get it" about this group - they're just a bunch of criminals, not some altruists fighting a holy war against oppression and McDonald's - but the Times doesn't make that connection with Al Qaeda and some governments in the Middle East and elsewhere. There aren't noble "root causes" that give birth to such behavior; it's not about even a marginal effort to make things better in their own countries, to build a society where people are aided in achieving the basics of the human condition. It's about power and money for the leaders and their minions. While the United States can't go around dismantling power-hungry, greedy governments all over the world for humanitarian reasons, when that desire for power gives birth to a resentment of and attacks against us - or support for those attacks - it's time to take them down.

SO YOU THINK YOU'RE COOL? Meryl Yourish has advice for bloggish web design.

Friday, June 07, 2002

DIARY OF A FRIENDSHIP: The Saturday Ramble is up.

GOTTA LOVE A GOOD SEGUE: Media Minded comes through again with a nice evisceration of an email from the writer of an article MM dismembered previously, whom I suspect of masochism (the writer, not MM) given the fact that he came back for more abuse. The issue is Drudge's reporting of David Brock's mental collapse while writing his sad little screed last year, but the pleasure in the piece is MM's sure-footed trouncing. And the last sentence is a masterful (albeit likely unintentional) segue into his next post, about the brouhaha over swearing in newsrooms. Reading this one will give you a good idea as to why liberal media bias is so pervasive AND so difficult to get your average journalist to see. After all, the next cubicle is also plastered with Greenpeace bumper stickers, isn't it?

KRUGMAN AND ELVIS: Tom Maguire has the details over at The Minute Man.

WHAT, PRAY TELL, IS SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE? Newton's Kumquat (NK henceforth) is pretty annoyed:

OK, this really ticks me off:

CHATTANOOGA (AP) — The Ten Commandments have been removed from Hamilton County court buildings, ending an episode that may cost the government as much as $80,000...

I wonder what the $80,000 spent on this travesty could have purchased if it were put toward improving schools or building affordable housing...

NK has a funny interlude between these sections dealing with a not-very-bright support statement for the ten commandments from a proponent, but I'll let you discover that for yourself. I've been ambivalent about the whole 10-commandments-posting-in-public thing, not for religious reasons but for definitional reasons. As a religious issue, I think it's the wrong hill to die on and only sets up Christians as objects of fun (cf. NK). But the purging of religion from public life and public spaces, as seen in efforts to remove murals or plaques or statues with religious connotations from publicly-owned properties, is a real concern. I don't think the founding fathers meant for religion to disappear from public life in a torrent of agnosticism; I think they meant for a vibrant religious community to be encouraged by the absence of governmental pressure to be one thing or another by dent of state monies being used to support it, as with the Church of England. To me, "vibrant religious community" is a broad term that includes people who are philosophically agnostic or atheistic - after a point, those positions are religions too, with moral implications and certainly evangelistic fervor. (And every deist needs at least once to have his or her faith baptized in the fire of an intense debate with a truly committed atheist, on the same principle that pressurized water is used to find holes in pipe systems.) Removing all evidence of religiousity from our public spaces and dismissing it as unimportant in public debate is to deny our history and in a very real way disenfranchise religionists. I'm not done with this internal dialogue yet, so I can't offer a solution. But I do think the energies of religionists would be better focused on other issues. (For those interested in the church-state issue, this is a great site for more information.)

Meanwhile, back to NK: S/he also has a good discussion about the dearth of public transportation in fly-over country, to which I responded in comments and s/he in turn responded to me in a post. Check it out.

NOTE: I've recently identified a woman as a man on my blog, and a man as a woman, in one case from a blog where the blogger's name wasn't given on the front page and the other where the name, to me, was indeterminate so with a 50/50 shot I called it and missed. Now I'm retiring from the "guess the gender" games and identifying anyone who's gender is not self-identified as "s/he".

UPDATE: Newton's Kumquat has confirmed that "he" is the appropriate pronoun for references to NK. However, he prefers other details to remain mysterious for privacy purposes, which is fine with me. I tussled with that myself - there's lots of things I could tell you about where I work and what I do that I think are pertinent, but since I'm fond of paying bills, eating and the like, I've refrained since my name is on the blog. OTOH, I get to claim my work as my own publically. Life, as always, is about choices.

SICK OF TELEMARKETERS? Here's a good script to follow in getting rid of them for a long long time, based on the provisions of the 1991 Telephone Consumers Protection Act.

Found via Dive Into Mark.

INCOMPETENCE PROMOTED: I can't believe Bush wants to make Homeland Security a cabinet position. The concept of Tom Ridge, and whomever succeeds him, needing more authority to accomplish the job is a logical one. But we've not seen anything out of Ridge's HS to give us confidence that this isn't just another layer of bureaucracy. The problem, as I see it, is that there is no way in the current system to give sufficient authority to do the job. That would be one director - Tom Ridge - with the ability to make heads roll, to streamline functions and to bring all the agencies into some kind of centralized intelligence flow where each has its own area of expertise but where some unit answerable only to Ridge has access to all the information and can do macro analysis across agencies.

The mix of civil service and political appointees in government has built to a mass of incompetence that is monolithic in its resistence to change. Having worked in government for eight years, and having extensive experience with public education (although not so much as an employee), I have developed a distaste for civil service and tenure that is equal to my distaste for unions - while I accept that in some respects they are necessary, given the political games that are endemic to all those contexts, the form they have evolved into is actively dangerous to our system of government and to the people of our country. In the case of federal law enforcement and justice agencies, there has to be a way to investigate what went wrong, in an across-the-board, I-don't-care-if-it-was-Barbara-Bush-or-Jimmy-Carter-who-caused-the-problem way, kick some people out of their positions AND out of government, then restructure the agencies so they work more cleanly, honestly and, within their own community of law enforcement, more openly. But instead, we have another layer of high salaries puffing around without accomplishing anything, while the agencies themselves protect their own people and turf at the expense of the safety of the American people.

It's shameful, disgusting, pathetic. And making Tom Ridge Grand High Muckety Muck of Colorizing Warnings isn't going to fix it.

Thursday, June 06, 2002

WE'RE SORRY FOR THE INCONVENIENCE, but the brains behind this site will be down today for maintenance and possible retooling, as an upgrade seems beyond the hope of the staff and the capabilities of the brain. We recommend the following alternative sources of enlightenment:

JUNKYARDBLOG - One of my first links, and still one of my favorite bloggers, Bryan Preston has a very interesting view on nuclear war, expressed in this discussion about Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Having spent time in Japan while in the military, and happily married to his Japanese bride, Bryan has a unique perspective. It's a two-parter, so start with the linked post and scroll to the top for the second part.

PATIO PUNDIT - Anyone with a patio like this really deserves no more out of life, certainly no links from me, but Martin Devon is stacking up the good posts lately so I'll succumb to the imperative of taste. He moves from fine art (where's the El Greco, Martin? the Monet? the DALI??), to the startling image of Michael Jackson whining about mistreatment from his record label, and finally winding up commenting on the bloggish soccer/football tussle. Martin, I know how to resolve that - ban all sports but college basketball, then summarily name the University of Kentucky Wildcats Best Team of the New AND Old Millenium.

THE LAST PAGE - If any of you haven't been checking her blog obsessively, what's the matter with you?

LIFE AS A VOLE - Funny, a good writer, and insightful, all at the barely-attained age of 17. Her latest post on love contains a passage I wish I'd written, but which certainly applies to me:

Before I say anything else, I want to make it clear that I in no way know what I'm doing. I have my goals and ideals but if at any point I sound like I know exactly how to execute them please don't believe me.

On that note, have a nice day, and write me any suggestions you have for the retooling. I'm considering caramel Cordovan leather, to match my hair, but the concept of a casual, poofy-chaired beach cottage style is strangely compelling.

UPDATE: My idea of a man: Tony Woodlief. God love him and his offspring.

Wednesday, June 05, 2002

Don't stop until every terrorist who targets innocents is surrounded by 72 virgins

and may they all look like the backside of a diarrhetic camel.


Sixteen people - 13 of them Israeli soldiers - were killed in northern Israel Wednesday morning as an Islamic Jihad homicide bomber blew up the car he was driving alongside a packed commuter bus...

In Damascus, Syria, another Islamic Jihad leader, Ramadan Shalah, said the bombing was meant to coincide with the 35th anniversary of the 1967 Six-Day War, in which Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem - areas the Palestinians claim for a future state.

I saw this story last night as I was going to bed late; then it was only a banner across the screen. I felt sick, and just crawled into bed without blogging it. I knew plenty would be said by the time I got back to the computer, and it was. Blog, blog, blog. And then I found out it was a 1967 Six Day War anniversary surprise. Nice of you to remember us, Arafat, but you really shouldn't have.

I don't know the intricacies of Sharon and his politics, but I can't find any glimmer of righteousness in this action, except Israel's righteous wrath. I hope it rains down on the Palestinian perpetrators like fire and brimstone on the plains of Sodom, consuming them with the sulfurous furies of a well-deserved hell.

Sharon, say this:

Happy anniversary, baby. Here's our present for you.


The pasture grasses just beyond the maples are in full flower and their pollen smells like midnight bread baking; the creek sends wafts of spearmint, wet mud and turbulence. So familiar, almost painful, these olfactory memories of summers past, from calm childhood Alabama nights...

The photo at the top of the page looks almost exactly like the field near my childhood home, complete with old, unpainted wood building. This looks familiar too. This is what I'm more used to seeing now.

BUT DOES SHE CLEAN UP WELL? Dan at Happy Fun Pundit thinks the US should seriously consider Mark Steyn's suggestion that we annex Alberta, that bastion of oil. However, the deal comes with strings. Well, dates. Or at least, an attempt to get dates.


That was NOT a full-length photo! And I am NOT a member of this group.

(However, it is intriguing to think of saying at a party, "I'm into sackbuts.")

DEBUNKING UPDATE: I mentioned below the Bush Is Awful list of "failures" from his first year; Ben has posted his second set of 10 debunkings, and I've received an email from David Sprintzen, to whom the list is often wrongly attributed, explaining the provenance. Summary: Someone sent it to him, he sent it to a bunch of people, the original author was on the original email but somewhere got lost in the forwarding.


UPDATE: In a move that will shock my evolutionarily-inclined compadres, I have shamelessly moved up the food chain to flappy bird. Meanwhile, on a slightly different scale, I apparently Will Link For Beer. Who knew a guy who doesn't even know where I live would uncover that Bud in the pantry behind the bag of onions? I'm a teetotaler, remember, it's JUST FOR ONION RINGS. Go away.

THIS IS ONE OF THE FUNNIEST THINGS I've seen in quite a while, in a dark, dark kind of way. Maybe because I've been there, done that and been done to. Not for the married amongst us, unless you just have this nostalgia thing going about it. If you do, you're a bit sick, you know. And the site is old, so if you've seen it before, sorry. I am, as usual, late to the party, so move along with your recriminations and leave me to my wide-eyed wonder.

This was a cogent, emotional, and deeply moving post. I don't want to see any more like it.

Link via Ipse Dixit.

Tuesday, June 04, 2002

RESEARCH NOTE - MEDIA FRAMING: I've got a pile of research materials to read for my core area proposal (the to-be-rewritten one, if you remember), and since that's going to be a big part of my reading for a while you're going to have the pleasure of quotes from and comments on what I'm reading. I'm going to preface each with the "Research Note" heading, though, so you'll know to move along if your eyes glaze over at this kind of thing.

Tonight I read a study on media framing in coverage of the Crown Heights riots in 1991, where an Hasidic Jewish man was killed by rioters. Earlier, as a result of an accident with another car that wasn't his fault, a car driven by Yosef Lifsh, a Lubavitch Jew, struck and killed a young black boy and injured a young girl. Due in part to the long-standing tensions between the Caribbean-American community of the children and the Lubavitch sect, the situation quickly developed into a riot and, later that day, in author Carol B. Conaway's words, "a group of 10 to 15 young male blacks surrounded and assaulted Yankel Rosenbaum, a 29-year-old Hasidic man. He was stabbed four times...and died three hours after identifying [Lemrick] Nelson as his assailant".

Conaway, an African American Jew, describes how the riot began:

An ugly rumor that the Hatzolah ambulance crew [run by the Lubavitch Jews] had ignored the critically injured children started to circulate in the crowd. It fed the longstanding belief in the Caribbean-American and African-American communities that Hatzoloh Service catered exclusively to the Jewish community. They and nearby Lubavitchers argued fiercely; some of the younger blacks in the crowd began hurling rocks and bottles at the Lubavitchers...(t)he crowds soon grew too large to be controlled by the police. Caribbean- and African-American youths continued their rampage through the neighborhood...

In 1993, the Girgenti Commission classified the Crown Heights disturbances as bias-related. They found an explicit element of bias in the many marches, demonstrations, and criminal activities that occurred during the four days of disturbances. For example, the Commission cites the time one afternoon when marchers went through Crown Heights shouting "Death to Jews"... As the young males of African descent surrounded Yankel Rosenbaum [who was Hasidic but not a Lubavitcher], they shouted, "Kill the Jew!" and "There's a Jew, get the Jew."

The article discussed how the tension was between cultures - a Caribbean-American community and a tightly-knit, closed Hasidic Jewish sect - yet the NY Times and the NY Post both covered it as a black/white racial conflict even though the quotes they themselves used from those involved were explicitly about culture, most specifically anti-Semitic comments from the Caribbean residents. The NY Post soon shifted to an anti-Semitic frame for its coverage, while the NY Times continued in its racial frame for two years, again despite a preponderance of anti-Semitic quotes in its pages, until the Girgenti Commission Report was released.

A media frame is the context the journalists place a story in; often they have to assimilate and interpret complex situations quickly, and present them clearly and understandably to the public. That's easier when there's already a larger, society-wide "story" to plug the event into - thus, a "frame" to organize the information to make it more understandable. In this instance, the NY Times initially picked the "racial story" to form a backdrop for this situation, given its various markers, which is to some degree understandable at first but less so as evidence piled up that a different "story" was more appropriate. After the markers began to show that there was a strong component of anti-Semitism, the NY Times was showing framing bias by continuing to use the "racial story" anyway. The reason why that's important is made clear in this quote from the article:

This inability to conceive of persons of African descent as having interaction more complex than racial conflicts with people whose skin color is white is symptomatic of a larger problem in American society itself - one that fails to define and understand individuals and communities of color as persons who have a complete range of humanity in their being, both for good and for evil. Until this singular perspective and dialectic of race changes in journalism and admits these complexities, this failure in understanding will persist.

The article is "Crown Heights: Politics and Press Coverage of the Race War That Wasn't", by Carol B. Conaway in Polity, Fall 1999, and is derived from Conaway's earlier research paper.

UPDATE: My earlier post mistakenly identified the driver as the one killed; the article correctly outlined the events, and the post has been substantially rewritten to better reflect the Crown Heights situation itself as portrayed in the article. Thanks to Meryl Yourish, who pointed out the mistake in comments, and then asked:

Does your paper have any follow-through? The two communities got together after the riot to build bridges, bridges that exist today. They admitted there were problems...on both sides. Community leaders stepped up to the plate and got each group to start learning that the others were human, too.

The answer is no - the article does not go into the ways the communities learned to live together after the riots, focusing rather on how the genesis of the conflict emerged from misunderstandings based on cultural and religious differences, not race. Conaway says,

The Lubavitchers formed an insular self-sufficient community here as they had done in Eastern Europe [having immigrated to the US to escape the holocaust], and made no group effort to befriend, or in most cases, even acknowledge, their Caribbean-American neighbors...many members of the Caribbean population interpreted these actions as arrogance and aloofness, and began to adopt negative stereotypes of the Lubavitchers...

The focus of the article is the media framing. The research paper on which the article (which I couldn't find online) is based is here (PDF file).

I WAS IN THE 2% - which isn't surprising. Take the test, see how you did, then go see what Den Beste had to say about it.

And if you just can't stand it, you can write me to find out what my answer was.

UPDATE: Well, wouldn't you know that Andrew Sullivan linked this test just hours after I did, so the poor blogger has now exceeded his bandwidth. Try again later if you get that deadly message.


MORE EVOLUTION STUFF: Martin Devon and Max Power continue their exchange, with interesting results. Check it out. I'll be back in the fray likely this weekend.

FOR TODAY ONLY, while voting is going on, I'm posting an old photo of your blogger, which shows her girl-next-door charm and outdoorsy nature. We won't discuss how old the photo is, and no one is allowed to ask my dad the hunter/gatherer type just what he thinks of my outdoorsy claims (hint: he thinks enjoying videos of The Smoky Mountains doesn't count.)

UPDATE: Well, it's not today anymore, it's tomorrow, so as promised the photo is gone. You'll have to wait for the next time I come out of my shell to see another.

INCREASE LEGAL SMOKING AGE TO 21? The Dodd at Ipse Dixit finds out that California has proposed it, and isn't very happy. Don't miss the comments section, where he and his readers (including me) debate the points. Is it a question of health vs. rights? Is fairness an issue? Worth some of your time.

TERRORIST SPEAKS AT LONDON UNIVERSITY - Theodore Dalrymple of City Journal reports:

Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, so perhaps it is petty to complain that the presence of the Palestinian terrorist Leila Khaled in Britain, to address a meeting of students at London University's prestigious School of Oriental and African Studies, undermines Britain's claim of iron commitment to the anti-terrorist cause.

Just who is Leila Khaled?

One of the world's most famous female terrorists is Leila Khaled, who worked with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Born in Haifa in 1944, and sent to Lebanon as a refugee four years later, Miss Khaled, at age 25, hijacked a TWA flight from Rome to Athens in 1969. The plane was blown up, but no one was killed.

A picture of her fashion model-like face peering out of a keffiyeh, the traditional Arab headdress, and her slim fingers wrapped around a machine gun gave her worldwide notoriety as a "deadly beauty."

One year later, she struck again, hijacking an El Al flight in Amsterdam. The hijackers were overpowered and the plane safely landed at Heathrow Airport near London. Miss Khaled spent less than a month in prison before being released by British authorities in an exchange for Western hostages held by the Palestinians. Since then she has lived in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.

And what did she have to say?

To do her justice, she is not a turncoat to her cause. She told the meeting at SOAS (packed, of course, as you'd expect) that there were no suicide bombers, only freedom fighters. The fact that freedom is not a conspicuous aspect of the political culture of the part of the world from which she comes seems to have escaped her.

Dalrymple's conclusion is straightforward, and sad:

Khaled's presence in Britain illustrates by analogy the truth of Lenin's famous dictum: "The Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them."

A free society with a (somewhat) free-market economy is difficult to police effectively, but inviting in those who have tried to kill us is just insanity. How many of you doubt that some groups would be willing to pay Osama Bin Laden for a speech in the US if, 30 years hence, he is still alive? A few probably would today.


The newest trend in marketing is big corporations posing as small companies in a bid to recast themselves as friendlier and more customer-caring.

WATCHING THE WATCHERS II - It's a good (bad?) week for nailing media inaccuracy and spin. Nat Hentoff of The Village Voice has an excellent takedown of media inaccuracies in coverage of slavery in the Sudan. Hentoff begins by establishing his bona fides to fact-check other journalists:

For more than five years, I have been writing on -- and interviewing witnesses to -- chattel slavery in Sudan…

I have interviewed redeemed slaves living here; have reports from black Sudanese bishops; and have checked with American journalists who witnessed slave redemptions, as well as with Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., and Rep. Frank R. Wolf, R-Va., who also have been in Sudan.

He then takes down Nicholas Kristoff, featured below in this very blog:

In his April 23 column in The New York Times, Nicholas D. Kristof wrote, "Unfortunately, there is evidence that many of these redemptions are the result of trickery, with false slave traders selling make-believe slaves many times over." That's all Kristof wrote on this point. He presented no evidence. If I were still teaching journalism classes, I would use this as the denotative definition of irresponsible reporting. As of this writing, the Times has declined to print letters specifically challenging Kristof's unsubstantiated charge.

And then he goes after WaPo's Karl Vick:

A much more egregious illustration of reckless journalism was a Page One story in the Feb. 26 issue of The Washington Post by Karl Vick, a correspondent in Nairobi, Kenya. The headline: "Ripping Off Slave 'Redeemers.'" In the story, Vick charged that "buying the freedom of Sudanese slaves" abounds in corruption, and "in some cases ... the slaves were ... people gathered locally and instructed to pretend they were returning from bondage." Redeemers and observers who do not understand the local language were tricked, according to Vick.

John Eibner of Christian Solidarity International (CSI) -- the organizer of the redemptions, whose reports over the years I have checked and never found inaccurate -- said that Vick himself did not witness any slave redemptions, did not interview any liberated slaves, and, "after many months of research, failed to find, identify, and produce a single false slave out of the 60,000-plus slaves redeemed by [CSI]." Eibner also said -- regarding allegations that complicit translators did not tell "fake" slaves the specifics of what Western observers were actually asking -- Dateline NBC and CBS News, when each reported from Sudan, had their translations checked for accuracy.

The rest of the article is mainly a discussion and refutation of these incidences, and an example of one columnist who was first snookered by WaPo and then found out the truth through research, resulting in the ethically correct response - a column explaining the truth, and a public apology for getting it wrong. That kind of attitude is what begins to restore faith in journalism.

Read the whole column for a look at how journalists get it wrong, and their newspapers often apparently don't care.

UDPATE: NRO has another article on this misrepresentation in the media, by a very reputable source. Thanks to my favorite Media Minder for tracking it down - we're playing tag team today.

HINDSIGHT SPIN DETECTOR: Mark Levine dissects Cynthia Rowley's memo and unpacks his version of the FBI's pre-9/11 behavior, in NRO.

OH, THIS SHOULD BE FUN: Nicholas Kristof, the columnist everyone loves to hate, has visited a gun show and isn't very impressed:

...the Michigan Gun & Knife Show, held here over the weekend, was the place to buy any kind of pistol and lots more: huge .50-caliber semiautomatic rifles, fuse wire, Confederate flags and 75-round clips for an AK-47 in case I wanted to pursue moose that lacked the sense to flee if I missed the first 74 times.

..Gun show bumper stickers are big on machismo: "I just got a gun for my wife — It's the best trade I ever made" and "Warning: Driver only carries $20 worth of ammunition."

...These gun shows are incredibly common — there are 4,500 of them a year in the United States — and constitute one loophole in the war on terrorism that the Bush administration refuses to plug...

Of course this isn't primarily an issue of international terrorism, but rather an urgent public health crisis: guns kill one American every 20 minutes. Even since Sept. 10, six times as many Americans have died from guns as from international terrorism...

President Bush prides himself on his willingness to do whatever it takes to fight terrorism — lock up zillions of Arab men, introduce military tribunals, invade Afghanistan and Iraq. If terrorists were buying weapons at these kinds of gun shows in small foreign countries, we might try bombing them. So what about closing America's own gun show loophole?

I anticipate that this will create a stir in the blogosphere, and expect later today to see NRO and possibly The Weekly Standard to pile on. Go get 'em, I say! Meanwhile, go see what real women think about gun control (link from Brent at The Ville), and check back here this afternoon for new links to those who've chosen to shed righteous truth on Kristof's column.

UPDATE OF THE COMMENTS (given in the order and with the time I found them): 9:26 a.m. Glenn is unimpressed. 10 p.m. He remains unimpressed and his readers do too. Jeff Goldstein busts on Kristoff too, using a great slam-nick - "Jolly Old Slant Nick". (I noticed Goldstein's piece in mid-afternoon but was so swamped I didn't get it posted then.)

EVEN INNOCENT PLEASURES TURN DARK - Because I like nifty interactive maps, I posted a link to a computer-generated, real-time tracking map of LAX's air traffic. Even though you can click on each plane to learn its altitude and a few other things, to my untrained eye it seemed like nothing more than a really cool online stop. Reader John Simutis keyed off it to make all sorts of connections, sent to me in the posted email below in its entirety except for a few modifications such as adding a word "here" for a link instead of giving the actual link in the text. The photo is from one of the links he provided, and I added links to the Strelas and Tasers. While I don't know enough about the topic to evaluate his concerns, it sounds likely enough to make me itchy.

Great interactive map. It's just what any self-respecting terrorist would appreciate in order to make best use of his/her shiny new MANPADS rocket (MAN Portable Air Defense System) - see here for the Russian set (SA 7, 14, 16, 18), here for the most popular US version. Saab/Bofors has an improved version here - 5000 meter altitude and range greater than 8 km.

Occasionally I have seen mention of Coast Guard chasing away boaters from the end of some coastal airport runway; I do not hear anything at all about even watching the landward boundaries of the airport facilities or the takeoff/approach paths. The minimum area to cover is a set of about 10-mile-wide corridors aligned with the runways, as well as beneath the 'orbit' paths where the planes waiting permission to land may be lower than about 16,000 feet.

To take just LAX as an example, this gives the precise alignment of each runway; this tells us how high traffic must be at particular points, depending on time of day, and of course all air traffic control traffic is unencrypted, with frequencies published for anyone with a scanner to eavesdrop. 'Outer Markers' for the runways at LAX are about 6 miles from the ends of the runways, so there is an area of around 60 square miles of prime 'kill-zone' for just the final approach.

A pair of binoculars and a passing command of English, a radio scanner, an internet connection and a map puts one easily in the 'best' places, with access to escape routes. This is a longer treatment of the threat of MANPADS use.

The Washington Times says "The U.S. government has alerted airlines and law enforcement agencies that new intelligence indicates that Islamic terrorists have smuggled shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles into the United States.", which seems to validate the previous article.

Still feel like flying? Shall we lobby for missile-threat radar and Infrared decoys aboard commercial airliners? Maybe the Tasers will shoot down the Strelas...

Of course the US law enforcement and military agencies know this, but that isn't the comfort it once was.

Monday, June 03, 2002

THIS IS MIGHTY COOL. I wonder which if any have guns on board? Link from DaleyNews.

MORE ON PILOTS WITH GUNS: Alley Writer Yack says, don't do it.

NOT THAT BUSH DOESN'T DESERVE A GOOD SMACK: Below I hammered a supposed "media watch" editor and writer for her high moral anti-Bush tone alongside an apparently "lifted", certainly unoriginal and unattributed, list of Bush sins. While I think her lifted list is bunk, this article shows that Bush has plenty of sins to repent for without the left going gaga searching for them.

I'm getting disheartened. You may have noticed that I've not posted as many smackdowns and political items lately; part of that is just a time issue (it's more complex to do a good analysis than link about and write what I think about music), but a lot of it is that I'm disgusted with Bush and his minions and it's hard for me to get a good irritation going against a liberal who's poking at him, no matter how unfairly, when I want to yell at him myself. There's no center there, there's only fogginess with occasional glimpses of what could be showing through.

I'm disgusted, actually, with the Republican party in general. I'm registered Republican, but I am not a party person - I'm a conservative, registered as the closest thing to my position. I nearly had to beg, for months, to get political signs from the NJ Republicans last year; the year before, I volunteered several times to help Bush, online and through people I knew locally to be associated with the party, and I never did get a call or even a stupid bumper sticker. Perhaps if I was a political operative on a general basis, I would have had more luck, but it's people like me - not the Republicans-to-the-marrow types - who win elections. If I hadn't been so intent on making sure the Democrats didn't get in, I would have considered staying home. Both years. But I vote because I'm an American, every primary, every general election.

I might have thought that my being ignored had something to do with being in New Jersey, which is slipping back solidly into the "Democrats always win" column (perhaps because of just the kind of incompetence I noted above), but a friend of mine in Kentucky told me a similar story. She wanted to put a sign up on her farm, for Bush, in a county that could have gone either way. She called about getting one a month or so before the election - her usual practice, and also usually successful - only to be told that signs had to be reserved, and if she hadn't preordered one, she couldn't get one at all! Did a yard sign suddenly become a status symbol, a designer fashion, a trendy icon? What better way to dispel the impression that the Republicans are an elitist party than by getting snitty with people who want you to win.

I was very happy when Bush got into office and seemed to be doing so well. After 9/11, I was impressed with his follow-through and that of his people. Then Powell started to get soggy, and one by one the promises that lifted him into his presidency failed. I find it hard to listen to the news, to read the coverage of what he's doing, even sometimes to follow what is being said on the blogs. When Rush Limbaugh says, "What's left of the conservative agenda that has not been offered up to Democrats?", all that's left is for Ann Coulter to gain 100 pounds and sing like a canary.

I tried not to go with the "he's wobbling" crowd. I still think Bush can resusitate his presidency. But with a Republican party that appears, to me at any rate, to be arrogant and dismissive of its supporters, and a president with all the backbone of a sponge in a rainstorm, I'm wondering whether I should plan a vacation for election day 2004.

IN HIS OWN INIMITABLE BLUESY FASHION, Dodd at Ipse Dixit introduces his new design today. I love the logo. Very cool.

IN FINE NEW GEARS, but with sand still in his craw, Tony Woodlief unveils his inspired, updated blog design. Check it out - as fine as the new design is, the content is better still.

WHO WATCHES THE WATCHERS? Ben "Yin" Thornton is debunking, point by point, a list which has been going around since last summer that purportedly lists many "accomplishments" of G W Bush's presidency, all of them considered negative by those who do not like his presidency. I'm sure some other bloggers dealt with it before, as it's been around a while and was also prominent in Michael Moore's book, Stupid White Men. It's attributed to Dr. David Sprintzen, but according to Spinsanity's article on Moore's book, Sprintzen is not the author. (I called Sprintzen at his office to find out whether he is indeed the author, or if not if he knows who is. There was no answer, so I emailed him at his university office at the C.W. Post campus of Long Island University. I'll let you know if he writes back.)

Ben (or is that j erolson?) does a fine job on the first 10 points, and promises to finish out the more then 75 item list in the coming days. What I found additionally interesting was just who posted the list, and what context each site gave. I did a quick Google search, and found a lot of references, so if you want to do more research yourself it's easy. But I did pull out a number of links, here, here, here, here and here; you'll notice little if any context at the various sites, which is especially interesting after seeing Ben's debunking. The Red Pepper version was posted in March 2002 in the UK, so it's still moving outward.

The very best site, though, was Chicago Media Watch, which, as you can imagine, is supposed to keep an eye on the Chicago media to make sure they're truthful and walking the straight and narrow. From their site:

Chicago Media Watch aims to ensure that this region's media remains open, honest and responsive to the needs of its people.

We are devoted to critical analysis of the corporate commercial media in the Chicago area and beyond.

The article with "the list" is in their most recent newsletter issue, Spring 2002, and is written by the president of CMW, Liane Casten, about whom they say:

Liane Casten is an award-winning writer and president of Chicago Media Watch.

So this is apparently their star writer, advocate and media watchdog. Let's see how she does.

First, the headline sets the tone:

A Year of Shame

And just in case you missed the point, the teaser gives it to you straight:

In George W. Bush's first year in office, he has done little to serve the people and protect the resources we all depend on. On the contrary, he has grabbed the reigns of power as if his vested interests and spoilers depended upon it. And the media has only helped him along.

Casten nails the "corporate media", by which she apparently means any professional media organization owned by someone who wants to make money, for their support of Bush, saying they "have pledged to give the American people only the President's and the corporate side of the story." (I wonder who took notes at that meeting? Did she get copied on the minutes?) She then trashes TV pundits with their "poll-and-ratings-driven bootlicking", and finishes up by pitying the writers of letters to the editor praising Bush, saying,

There is a reason for such laudatory exclamations: the public is simply not aware of what this man is really doing to the country and to the world – thanks to a servile media.

She builds to a steaming rage, quoting this and that no doubt unbiased source, culminating in this:

Politically speaking, Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network are the best thing that ever happened to the presidency of George W. Bush. The expatriate Saudi millionaire made President Bush what he is today - a remarkably popular chief executive who is opportunistically transforming the Sept. 11 terror attacks into a political mandate for pursuing strategic right-wing goals.

Then what does she do but launch into another quote of the Spinsanity-debunked, non-Sprintzen, poorly-researched-by-Moore list, which is largely indistinguishable from what you'll find on other sites. But it's not attributed! Not even, incorrectly, to Sprintzen, not to Moore, who's book has been out for a while, not to any website or printed text. As far as the average reader knows, she developed it herself. That Liane, the award winning writer! She's a workaholic - just look at that list! Musta taken her forever to put it together! Here is her segue:

So while the public is seduced by Bush's words - "sustain and extend" the spirit of citizenship and service that has been engendered in the wake of Sept. 11 and "lead the world toward values that will bring lasting peace" - let's look at what this man and his well-connected cabinet is doing away from public scrutiny.


Cut Environmental Protection Agency budget by $500 million.

Cut by 50% funding for research into renewable energy sources.

And the list goes on and on and on. Notice the second item - If you go back to Ben's page to compare, you will see the exact same words on that list, only there it is number 4. I checked the first 10 items of her list against the one from the Montgomery County Democratic Party website, apparently updated yesterday, which attributes the list to Sprintzen. While her entries were ordered differently, they were all also on the Montgomery County list, the only other difference being some editing for clarity. Apparently, Casten thinks that cleaning up and rearranging the order of a list somehow makes it her original work.

I'm not quite sure whether to call this pathetic, ironic, amusing or just lying. There is, I suppose, some vastly remote chance that the list is her original work, since I've not tracked the source, but the article's presence the Spring 2002 issue of her newsletter makes that seem unlikely. Certainly, given that much of the wording remains unchanged, it's unlikely that she's tracked down each item to make sure it was accurate; Ben's debunking shows that at the very least the material is misleading and out of context. And that makes her closing words, in the light of her standard bearing as a watchdog of media, all the more amazing:

In the absence of a vigorous media, the public needs to spread the truth. Given the media role as an apologetic lapdog for a man who is rapidly undermining our Constitution and our future as a democratic nation, we must alert everyone we know.

As E.L. Doctorow said: "Corporations that pit themselves against the manifest needs of the American people according to the issues that arise take turns as enemies of the people."

Who is servile to their ideology here? And just who do you think is an enemy of the people?

UPDATE: I received an email response from David Sprintzen today, which I'm pasting below in its entirety, except for his contact information. If you want that, he's on the Web:

Thank you for your note -- I did not compile, but only distributed info, and can no longer locate its author. I received it by email from a friend, but can't trace its origin. There has been no update, but one correction (the We The People program has been funded) and a few additions. Since this list has been circulating for many months with only that one mistake reported, I feel confident we can trust the accuracy of the rest of the list. I would love to see a report on the nerxt six months, but cannot do it myself. The original did have documentation, that has been lost in distribution.

David Sprintzen, Secretary
Long Island Progressive Coalition
Citizen Action of New York

OH, YEAH, THIS MAKES ME HAPPY. What's next, SCUD missiles on

I'VE BEEN TRYING TO POST this morning, but Blogger is being difficult and I have to leave for work. Will post later as I can.

MAKING THE CUT: Thanks to CG Hill, I've been included on a rather...interesting list. Competitive as I am, my instinct is to campaign, but I think I'll adopt the cool, aloof mode, the "you wish you knew" attitude. I have my advocates, and could possibly post testimonials, but why take away all the mystery?

At any rate, it appears to me that the fix is in.

(And, CG, I think the latter group is beyond caring, and the former hasn't yet conveyed his view.)

UPDATE: Go here to vote.

Sunday, June 02, 2002

MUSIC IS A PHYSICAL THING, sometimes, the best times, when you hear it. The instruments weave their chords through your mind, your heart expands to hold it until it seems your chest can't contain it. Most of my favorite music also include vocals, and close harmonies rising through instrumentals or ringing clearly through an a cappella void often move me to tears even when the song is not meant that way. The beauty hurts, and I resent that I can't somehow dissolve into the music and become a part of it. I imagine ballet as the closest human thing to physical music, but still the dancers are tethered by their bodies. In the right mood, with the lights off and the music turned up high, it almost happens. Almost. Never completely.

Silence can become its own music, when the mood and the place is right, and sometimes silence is the backdrop needed to give human sounds their deepest meaning. Other sounds, like the sound of crowds cheering at a high school ball game, evoke emotions from camaraderie to anger. But music is the thread that sews our lives together, memories, joys, sorrows, pleasures, while taking the here and now to a better place.

I can't imagine what life would be like without music as available as it is to us now - stereos at home and in the car, portable CD players, cassette tapes and, if you're still driving that vintage 70s Camaro, an 8-track tape. Millions of songs move over the Internet every day. Almost any music ever recorded professionally (and much that was not) can be had if you're willing to look.

I started young with music; piano lessons from 2nd through 7th grades, clarinet in band in 8th through 12th, a year of voice (but don't get excited - I did a few scales and breathing exercises but nothing that would make Juilliard do more than sniff. And instrumentally I was never more than adequate, if that). But singing has always been my first love, likely always will be, despite a voice without a large range. I have an excellent ear, though, and a friend once told me that no matter where she went with her voice, I was right there with her, in harmony. And harmony in voice, in any music, is what rests deepest in my heart. Where I attend church, we sing a cappella, no choirs, and often I'm the only tenor - high tenor at that. I sometimes get goosebumps when the parts come together.

All these thoughts went through my mind when I came across a challenge on Ipse Dixit's Five Songs page -

...pick five - and only five - songs you can never get tired of, no matter how many times you hear them.

The way I mean it, a song can only make this list if, after hearing it five times in a row, it would be just fine with me if it started right back up. If I heard it again the next day, and the day after that, I'd have to be able to still be fine with hearing it again the next day - and I have to have good reason to believe that I'll still feel that way about the song six months or a year from now.

What would I choose? There's too many. And he said, no more than five, and no more than one of any group. That's like saying, choose one of your children as the best. I love so many kinds of music - country, rock, folk, bagpipe, dulcimer, celtic, on and on. So I considered...for as long as I remember, singing with records, then tapes, then CDs, has been one of my greatest pleasures (albeit a trifle dangerous when I get really rocking while driving through West Virginia at 80 mph). So it would need to be songs I could sing with, that could have been the one on the stereo the time my uncle complained to my parents that he could hear my music a quarter mile away - and I was grounded from the stereo for a week. Something I loved that much, songs that I've already listened to in just that way. So here's my list, not high brow, not trendy, not fast because harmonies are harder then, but songs I've listened to so much that I can pretty much sing them without any notes or music. If someone gave me a CD with just these, I'd consider myself blessed. So here, Dodd, for your page:

My five songs:

1. Alone - Heart
2. Hold On, Hold Out - Jackson Browne
3. Don't close your eyes - Keith Whitley
4. Walkaway Joe - Trisha Yearwood with Don Henley
5. Southern Cross - Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

FISHY, YET TOOTHSOME AND GOOD FOR YOU: Stefan Sharkansky, he of the Lake Tahoe trip from... well... Alaska, maybe, and other interesting and funny essays, has stepped into the blogging arena with his new Shark Blog. Welcome and have fun, Stefan! And we don't mind if you talk about your kids sometimes.

IN MY HOMETOWN - The NY Times yet again visits where I grew up:

MANCHESTER, Ky., May 30 - In one of the bloodiest election seasons in more than 50 years in these fabled Kentucky hills, Sheriff Edd Jordan of Clay County is watching his back.

"When you're a sheriff in eastern Kentucky, you watch your back every day," Mr. Jordan said...

Kentuckians who thought they had lived down the old feudin'-and-a-fussin' stereotype are finding some of the back-road hamlets of the eastern hills flirting anew with their own blood-soaked 19th-century history, when furious political differences were regularly tested by ambush.

This year, with five months to go before the general election, two candidates in sheriff's races have been killed. Other races have been punctuated with gunfire and fistfights, and there are widespread accusations of swapping votes for liquor, cash and even the addictive prescription pain-killer OxyContin...

"You know our crime rate has been falling for years, and this is probably one of the safest places in the country to live," Sheriff Jordan of Clay County said. "Unless you're a politician."

Yes, I grew up in Clay County, and went to high school in Manchester, the county seat. As I've mentioned before, I saw very little of the roughness, and I've always been annoyed by the characterization of eastern Kentucky as a place of violent and ignorant people. Well...sometimes you have to admit they're there, don't you? The majority of Kentuckians neither participate in nor condone that kind of behavior, but we can't deny that it happens. There is so much beauty and goodness there, and I regret that when the NY Times comes in to write about it (and this isn't the first time), it's always the bloody fights. That said, I think this is one of the better articles I've read, giving some perspective while detailing what really is a pretty awful situation.

Thanks to reader Dave Menke for the link.

AND THE BEAT GOES ON: Max Power says Martin Devon is wrong in his essay about evolution. Actually, he says I'm wrong too, but he starts with Martin and moves on to me. As a bonus, hang around and look at Max's discussion of the theory of gravity.

UPDATE: Ian the Dancing Bear piles on too. Hey, it's a free for all!

Saturday, June 01, 2002

CAN YOU RESIST A BOOKSLUT? I can't. I just spent 30 min reading this really cool blog. Check it out.

WHAT HE SAID. And take their money away too.

JUST WHEN YOU THOUGHT IT WAS SAFE, here’s another entry in the evolution discussion. Actually, it was written way before today's exchange, and is a lovely essay that basically concludes that there's a lot we just don't know, and that's okay to say. It's by my favorite Patio Pundit, which probably was all that needed saying anyway. And I agree with a lot of what he says. Meanwhile, if you have no idea what I'm talking about, start here, go here and finish up back here (don't read the update until you've read the 'go here' post). Take time to read the comments in all those places, because they add much to the discussion.

I'm still absorbing, and thinking, and considering. I by no means think I have full knowledge in this arena, and one of the things I try to do in my life is explore not just what I believe but why I believe it. A friend of mine, an agnostic with a PhD in physics, when asked to provide me with the name of a book on evolution to update me on the 'state of the art', said, "Why would you want to read something that could shake your Biblical faith?" I was startled by the question - why wouldn't I? If it's that fragile, then I need to be testing it anyway. Something that's truth will never be disproven by more truth.

Sometime soon, I'll write a follow-up that addresses the points made by Moira, and Jeff, and others, as well as Rand's response. I'll let you know when that happens.

And, if you're interested, this is the book my PhD friend recommended (along with a high school biochemistry textbook for a glossary, and a trip to the Bronx Zoo to finish the job).


1) Who in the UK would search for "straight arab male pornography"?
2) Are they looking for pornography featuring straight arab males? or pornography for straight arab males?
3) Would either involve an abaya? or an anti-aircraft missile?
4) How did my blog wind up at #13 on the search?
5) How did this site wind up at #11?

SINCE I CAN'T SLEEP ANYWAY, I'll have to go see Insomnia. Dodd at Ipse Dixit, no easy prey for the Hollywood crowd, was very impressed. Josh Claybourn, while less lengthy in his praise, nonetheless gave it a solid thumbs up. I read the book, but it's been a while, so I should still find the plot development entertaining. It remains to be seen if it's worth giving up my parking space for (something those of you who have to park on the street, in a crowded neighborhood, will understand).

STOP, OR I'LL... um... well... figure out something. Since my guns aren't loaded.

I feel safer already.

UPDATE: Apparently it's a problem in a lot of places.

TELEMARKETERS - THE NEXT GENERATION: BBC is taking hits for recording a television program on British viewers' TiVos without permission, as an advertising ploy. And they should. That's kind of spooky.

Link via Deep Purple Master, who has a few pithy comments himself.

CLANCY SHMANCY: Charles Murtaugh is disgusted with Tom Clancy, and with the bloggish insistence that Hollywood PC'ed The Sum of All Fears. Murtaugh says Clancy pc'd himself long before Hollywood got the chance.

Me, I'm not political. I just go for the fight scenes.

OLIVER STONE, CALL YOUR OFFICE. Kevin McGehee of Flyover Blogdom Today unpacks recent conspiracy theories and holds them up to the light.

EXCELLENT ARTICLE ON BLOGGING by Catherine Seipp. Go read it.

COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS: Katie Allison Granju at Loco Parentis posts a touching essay on the illnesses of her son.

Tonight I will wrap a freshly-bathed Elliot in a soft blanket and rock him on our wide porch facing the Smoky Mountains off in the distance. I'll sing to him about the moon and fairies and I'll count his breaths as he finally drifts off to sleep. I will probably weep a few tears for no good reason other than the almost physical sense of relief I have in the presence of his sweet smell and strong body...

ANTI-SEMITISM ON THE RISE IN RUSSIA. Apparently it never lost its solid base.

TALIBAN BARBIE - BITING SOCIAL COMMENTARY? JunkYardBlogger Bryan Preston bites back.

PLAGIARISM IS JUST SO TAXING - Doris Kearns Goodwin has resigned from the Pulitzer Prize board:

She wrote that she could no longer devote enough attention to the board because of the controversy surrounding the book [Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys] and the need to work on a biography of Abraham Lincoln...

ORGANIC DISSEMBLING? Terrence in Vancouver sends a link to this refutation of an article in the L.A. Times (registration required) about organic farming, wherein the reporter apparently picked through her source material to present a less than accurate picture. The refuting article is by one of her sources, Alex Avery, who works with the Center for Global Food Issues, a divison of the Hudson Institute. A check of the Hudson Institute site reveals that Michael Fumento is also affiliated with it, so I tend to give Avery credence in this discussion.

Avery's discussion is interesting even if you aren't particularly moved by organic farming, for its outlining of how a reporter can present a biased perspective and still appear to consult all "sides". To be fair to her, it also may show the difficulties of knowing who to depend on the most when writing about a topic you have no background in. But reading the article and then Avery's response tends me toward a conclusion of PCism on the hoof.

BIAS SLAPDOWN: Alley Writer holds nothing back in expressing an opinion about political correctness in the classrooms of Texas.

I say, Remember the Alamo!

A CLARIFICATION: If anyone should meander onto my page as a result of the Instalanche on Transterrestrial Musings, from the Professor linking Rand's response to my email, I would like to make a clarification of the good Professor's comment:

...This lengthy post from Rand Simberg, however, raised the 'evolution is just another religion' point that you sometimes hear from creationists. Simberg answers that just fine, but I've always felt that this quote from Isaac Asimov was dispositive:

It is the chief characteristic of the religion of science, that it works.

It is very apparent from Rand's post that he does not believe the moral extrapolations made by believers in evolution as a moral philosophy as well as a structure for scientific exploration are appropriate:

... it [evolution] should never, ever be taught as a moral rightness. We cannot derive morality purely from our genetic heritage, or from science classes. That way lies disaster.

It is natural, and an evolutionarily-advantageous behavior for males to rape females. That doesn't mean that we should approve of such behavior. I've posted numerous times in the past about the danger of equating 'natural' with 'good' or 'moral.' Nature is not our friend. Or our enemy. It's just how we got here.

…We can't derive morality from science, or at least not from the primevil urges of our hormones. That seems to the crux of the problem - people seem to think that our ancestors, or our origin, should define our current behavior.

Let me also note that I haven't said that "evolution is just another religion", a toss-off comment that indicates I dismiss evolution completely. I don't. I think many of its conclusions - especially as regards specific evolution - are true. What I was indicating is that evolution in its entirety is presented as law, not theory, in the majority of educational contexts, and the moral extrapolations that get their strength from evolution-as-law-not-theory are as much a religion as any other belief system. If you want to have that religion, fine. Just don't tell me you're keeping religion out of the classroom, then turn around and teach your form of it there.