Thanks to 1st Lt. William "Eddie" Rebrook IV for kicking in $700.00 to reduce the federal deficit. After being injured in January 2005 by a roadside bomb that fractured his arm and severed an artery, Rebrook was evacuated to a military hospital, then underwent seven operations and eight months of therapy. Due to continuing range of motion problems with his arm, he got a medical discharge, and a last favor from a grateful nation: He had to pay the Army back for the body armor that got destroyed in the attack.
Update: Mission Accomplished—Army reimburses Rebrook.
Can the president order a terror suspect on American soil summarily killed? "Signs point to yes" says Steven Bradbury, head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, to Sen. Feinstein in a closed-door Senate intelligence committee meeting, according to this Newsweek account.
Yes, that's the Justice Department of the United States of America.
[Link via Rational Review.]
Reader Paul Wilbert finds one man who knows how to work the angles in the intoonfadah. Gaza store owner Ahmed Abu Dayya is out to corner the market on highly flammable Danish flags:
Abu Dayya ordered 100 hard-to-find Danish and Norwegian flags for his Gaza City shop and has been doing a swift trade.
"I do not take political stands. It is all business," he said in an interview. "But this time I was offended by the assault on the Prophet Mohammad...
"I knew there would be a demand for the flags because of the angry reaction of people over the offence to Prophet Mohammad," said Abu Dayya, whose PLO Flag Shop also sells souvenirs and presents.
He sells his Danish and Norwegian flags for $11 a piece -- a price he acknowledged might be dampening sales. Many protesters prefer to save money and make the flags themselves from scraps of fabric, he said.
The Prophet, for whom business always came first, would certainly approve. The most intriguing detail concerns Abu Dayya's source for Israeli flags:
Abu Dayya sources some of his flags from suppliers in Taiwan, but he buys Israeli flags from a merchant in Israel, even though he sells them to be burnt at anti-Israeli rallies.
That may raise ominous memories of Lenin's quote about the capitalists selling the rope with which to hang themselves. Or maybe Lenin didn't really say that. Or maybe he said something similar. Or maybe he said they'd sell the lash to go with the rum and the sodomy. In any event, it's clear who turned out to be the chump in that business deal.
Tennessee proudly announces that its tax on "unauthorized substances," including illegal drugs and moonshine, generated $1.7 million in 2005, the first year it was in force. In addition, the Tennesseean reports, "more than $32 million in uncollected taxes has been assessed." The paper explains:
Under the law, drug dealers are to pay taxes to the Department of Revenue within 48 hours of acquiring an unauthorized substance and obtain a state tax stamp. The amount of money taxed varies based on the type and amount of the drug. Payment of the tax is to be kept confidential and the information is not to be shared with law enforcement. If police catch a suspected drug dealer without the stamps, the tax is assessed, along with a fine for failure to pay the tax upfront.
The state can seize a suspected drug dealer's personal property in lieu of tax payments, even before he's convicted--indeed, even if he happens to be acquitted. A Nashville defense attorney told the Tennesseean the law "is allowing revenue agents to seize personal property of citizens based solely on an accusation by a police officer."
Stephen F. Hayes reported on Indiana's similar scheme of double punishment in the February 2000 issue of Reason.
[Thanks to mediageek for the tip.]
Julian Sanchez listens in on the attorney general's legal explanations of the domestic spying program, and hears nothing pertinent to constitutional authority.
Reuters reports that the World Trade Organization has issued a 1000 page confidential ruling against the European Union's moratorium on importing biotech crops. To wit:
The World Trade Organization, in a closely watched ruling, decreed on Tuesday that the European Union and six member states broke trade rules by barring entry to genetically modified crops and foods, diplomats said.
The diplomat also told Reuters:
"Members' safeguard measures have also been condemned," he said in reference to the complaint against individual market and import bans imposed by France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Luxembourg and Greece.
This evidently means that the WTO has rejected anti-biotech regulations based on the unscientific precautionary principle.
This is good news for the world's farmers, the world's consumers, and the poor.
BusinessWeek talks to hardcore monkey owners who fear a federal "Captive Primate Safety Act" is part of an effort to render them monkeyless:
Some people are seeing the conflict over primate ownership as something larger than monkey business -- a question of government power. Taking a libertarian view, Joseph Kirkland doesn't think he should be punished for the perceived mistakes of other monkey owners. An National Rifle Association member, he channels that group's resentment toward people who want to legislate his life. "Just like my gun," he says, "They're going to have to pry my monkey from my cold, dead hand."
Whole thing here.
The Westboro Baptist Church (unlike the Landover Baptist Church, they continue to insist they aren't kidding) has led 14 states to consider legal restrictions on protesting near funerals because the Westboro faithful have been showing up to protest the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan; a church representative is appalled and vows legal fights if any such laws are passed, saying, according to the AP account, that "states cannot interfere with [the church's] message that the soldiers were struck down by God because they were fighting for a country that harbors homosexuals and adulterers."
Via Arts & Letters Daily comes this interview with Milton Friedman in New Perspectives Quarterly. Snippets:
The great virtue of a free market is that it enables people who hate each other, or who are from vastly different religious or ethnic backgrounds, to cooperate economically....
The big issue is whether the United States will succeed in its venture of reshaping the Middle East. It is not clear to me that using military force is the way to do it. We should not have gone into Iraq. But we have. At the moment, the most pressing issue, therefore, is to make sure that effort is completed in a satisfactory way....
At the end of World War II, government spending was 15-20 percent of national income. Then it went up dramatically so that by 1980 it hit 40 percent largely because of programs ranging from Medicare to environmental regulation to Social Security. From 1980 until 2005, it has remained static. We haven't beaten the tendency or rolled it back. We've just stopped the growth.
Whole thing here.
Reason recently interviewed the 93-year-old Friedman on the 50th anniversary of his creation of the idea of school vouchers. That's online here. And he participated in our rollicking debate about the social responsiblity of business here.
Reason's own science correspondent, Ronald Bailey, will be taking on the precautionary principle and other misguided notions at the following DC event on Tuesday, February 14:
Panic Attack: The New Precautionary Culture, the Politics of Fear, and the Risks to Innovation
Tuesday, February 14, 2006 9:00 AM--4:30 PM
American Enterprise Institute
Wohlstetter Conference Center, Twelfth Floor
1150 Seventeenth Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036
Ron will be talking specifically on a panel about how media and science interact. He'll be joined by Reason contributor James K. Glassman and friend of Reason, the Institute of Ideas' Tony Gilland.
Bonus points: Reason contributing editor Charles Paul Freund will be moderatin' a panel earlier in the day.
More details--including how to RSVP for a free lunch--here.
More about the Institute of Ideas, who cosponsored a transhumanism conference with Reason back in 2001 amid the smoldering ruins of the World Trade Center, here.
More about the Precautionary Principle here.
Aaron Brown, the forelock-tugging philosopher/king of CNN whose intolerably unbearable insufferableness failed to catch on with audiences, was relieved of his duties in November. In general, it takes at least a decade's remove from career-peak to unemployment for a former anchorperson to become a revered media scold, but Brown watchers know that during his five years at the network he packed in a lifetime's worth of gravitas, carrying the weight of the world on those doughy shoulders night after night. So now he's in full Ape Lawgiver mode:
When NewsNight spent four hours covering the arrest of actor Robert Blake for the murder of his wife, Brown received thousands of e-mails criticizing the amount of time the show spent on the story. Nevertheless, that show, which aired in April 2002, received the highest ratings of any program since NewsNight's coverage of the November 2001 crash of American Airlines flight 587.
"Television is the most perfect democracy," Brown said. "You sit there with your remote control and vote." The remotes click to another channel when serious news airs, but when the media covers the scandals surrounding Laci Peterson, the Runaway Bride or Michael Jackson, "there are no clicks then," the journalist said.
With the departure from the screen of the "titans" — Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings and Dan Rather — who "resisted the temptations of their bosses to go for the ratings grab, it will be years before an anchorman or anchorwoman will have the clout to fight these battles," he said.
Now if you're talking gravitas, nothing brings you thudding back to earth quite like Ted Koppel. From America Held Hostage, the most hysterical of all the media's Chicken Little reactions to the Iranian hostage crisis, through thousands of hours of Hostage's final incarnation as Nightline, Koppel's ability to pass off low-protein, decontextualized chat as serious news analysis made you understand why Dennis Hopper just needed to shout "You are so fucking suave!" Koppel has a new career as an Op/Ed columnist, and Jack Shafer takes a look:
Koppel wants his readers to believe—as he does—that a golden age of broadcasting existed "30 or 40 years ago," before the cable Mongols invaded, before the deregulation of broadcasting, before the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine...
That's not my recollection of what sort of product the news divisions of CBS, NBC, and ABC turned out decades ago. Then as now, the news divisions took as their marching orders the accounts they'd read in the morning's New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal and bustled out to find pictures and graphics to go with them.
Nobody denies that all three networks did good work on occasion, but Koppel's vague recollections of excellence and service cry out for specifics. What terrific TV journalism are we saluting from days gone by? And is it really superior to today's TV journalism? If you, dear reader, could press a button on your remote control and delete the three cable news networks and the BBC World and restore the wonderful hegemony that the networks enjoyed in the halcyon years 1966 to 1976 that Koppel posits, would you?
When Koppel laments the fact that cable, satellite, and broadband have "overcrowded" the marketplace, making it "increasingly vulnerable to the dictatorship of the demographic"—that is, readers and viewers deciding what they want to consume rather than what the three broadcast networks think they should—he sounds like any other monopolist complaining about how the arrival of competition has dragged down quality. Is it a genuine disaster for the commonweal if the broadcast networks no longer operate fully staffed foreign bureaus in Vienna when readers and viewers, thanks to the Internet and cable and satellite TV, can consume timely newspapers accounts and broadcast reports from around the world? Who among us suffers because Pierre Salinger no longer files dispatches from his Parisian hotel room?
As I read Koppel's lame op-ed one last time, I wondered if I had been overrating him all these years. Granted, it's only one column, but had it arrived at the New York Times over the transom and without Koppel's byline, I'm certain the op-ed page would have rejected it. I can only surmise that Koppel convinced his editor to run his thin piece by reading it to him over the phone in the same stentorian voice he applies to his lines on television.
Brown's hope for another anchorbot who will restore the vigor of TV news (I expect that'll happen right after The Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson returns to declare that he really is the Messiah) lies at some distance from Koppel's bittersweet memories of an age he knows won't come again. But their attitudes are remarkably similar—a strange hybrid of social responsibility bromides and man-of-steel worshipfulness. In this interview with The Rake, Brown's suspicion of bloggers is the tell: The crisis in news (supposing that there is such a crisis) won't be solved by more data or more reporters, but by more strongmen who can wave aside the vagaries of pure democracy and restore The Republic to its former glory. Morituri te salutant, gentlemen!
Was Brown the victim of a conspiracy? Find out here.
There's still time to join other Aaron Brown fans at the Newsnighters Yahoo Group.
Véronique de Rugy combs the 2007 budget in search of a line item for smaller government.
When the porcupines behind the Free State Project finally take over New Hampshire, here's a law they can go after in the Granite State:
The way the law works now in New Hampshire...minors can be arrested for what is colloquially called "internal possession" of alcohol, to the point of being intoxicated. In a break with legal tradition, an underage person with drinks in his or her system often faces the same charge as one with a drink in hand.
Similar statutes are now on the books in a handful of other states. Together, they've taken the campaign against underage drinking to a place it has rarely been before: down the gullet and into the bloodstream of teenage imbibers. But they have also spawned criticism from some legal scholars, who say the laws are pushing the definition of a real possession charge.
"When the law makes the offense simply a biological fact, of simply having a certain chemical in one's body, that steps over a line in the law that has been traditionally accepted," said Richard J. Bonnie, a law professor at the University of Virginia who has studied underage drinking.
(Note to self: Give Prof. Bonnie a call; I studied underage drinking for years but never thought to turn it into a job.)
"I really had no idea you could get arrested for that," said Chris Cormio, 20, a Massachusetts native now attending Plymouth State University in New Hampshire. Last February, he drank two beers, then set out on foot for a police station to bail out a friend. Cormio said he had brushed his teeth to get rid of the alcohol smell, but an officer noticed something amiss.
"Where I'm from," Cormio said, "they take you home when that happens to you."
Indeed, especially if you live on Gin Lane. Two beers immediately before going to bail out a friend? I'm thinking Cormio's going have some trouble on his midterm exams.
But an outrage is an outrage and this crackdown on "internal possession" is, says the Wash Post, spreading like a spilled bottle of sloe gin, to South Dakota, Vermont, Utah, and Missouri (Missouri loves company, yes, but not if you're a sloshed teen).
Whole tale of sudsy woe here.
Gonzo steps up to defend eavesdropping, the collision-bound entitlement train shows no signs of stopping, and two toons that have East and West hopping—in the new Reason Express.
What's behind the militarization of local police? Radley Balko blames the feds:
The Pentagon's giveaway of surplus equipment (over 3 million pieces since the program began in about 1987) to local police departments has caused those departments to decide they'd better figure out a way to put the equipment to use. So they form a SWAT team. And now that they have a SWAT team, they figure they'd better use it. So they start using it for dubious tasks, like executing search warrants. There are towns that use SWAT teams for routine patrols, too. One used its team for crowd control during a parade. Greenwich, Connecticut used to deploy its SWAT team to retail outlets every time the state lottery topped a $1 million.
I've researched numerous small towns who've sold the city council and a skeptical public on the idea of a SWAT team by citing the need to have an answer to school shootings, hostage situations, and terrorism. All well and good. The problem is, once the team's in place, they can't resist the urge to call it out for far more mundane tasks, most notably serving drug warrants on nonviolent offenders (the federal government distorts this process, too -- there's lots of federal money available for documented drug arrests. There's very little for apprehending more violent crime).
I'm reminded of Terry Anderson's theory of why the U.S. negotiated fewer treaties with the Indians after the Mexican and Civil wars: because there were more troops to fight with.
For more on the topic, read Radley's op-ed on the SWATification of America, published in the Sunday Washington Post. And for some propaganda from the other side, check out the 2003 film S.W.A.T., which if nothing else proves that the underappreciated Clark Johnson knows how to direct even when he doesn't have much of a story to work with.
The Washington bureau chief for the German newsweekly Die Zeit, Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff, writes an insightful op/ed on the jihad against cartoons in todays Washington Post entitled "Tolerance Toward Intolerance." He makes the excellent point:
In this jihad over humor, tolerance is disdained by people who demand it of others. The authoritarian governments that claim to speak on behalf of Europe's supposedly oppressed Muslim minorities practice systematic repression against their own religious minorities. They have radicalized what was at first a difficult question. Now they are asking not for respect but for submission. They want non-Muslims in Europe to live by Muslim rules.
Instead of burning down buildings and threatening to kill people, write a letter to the editor and cancel your subscription. Enlightened people know that if someone demands tolerance, they must exercise tolerance themselves.
Are boys genetically incapable of turning in homework? Cathy Young investigates the new gender crisis in education.
A small bit of largely-neglected good news cropped up last week when Congress quietly eliminated cotton subsidies, which had been deemed in violation of treaty obligations by the WTO following a protest from Brazil.
Is the intoonfadah winding down, as I guessed yesterday? It's dropping off the front page, but things are still pretty hot: A 14-year-old boy was shot by police during a protest in Somalia. Four people were killed in protests in Afghanistan—though these protests, like others, may be more about local issues than the cartoon flap. Meanwhile, a South African court has prohibited republication of the cartoons, and Ferial Haffajee, editor of the Mail and Guardian, receives death threats for having reprinted one of the cartoons as an illustration to a news story. In the UK, politicians are looking to punish protesters who issued "direct incitements to violence" last week; one Omar Khayam (last scene getting mega-props from the literati for his Rubaiyat) explains why he dressed like a suicide bomber at last week's festivities. And as Jacob noted below, people trying to kill innocent Danes are at least being civilized about it.
Daily Kos comes up with a novel theory: that the Saudi government blew the protests wide in order to distract attention from yet another lousy security performance at the Hajj, during which 342 pilgrims were trampled in the annual stoning-the-devil mêlée. I'm somewhat partial to this theory because it gives the best explanation I've seen for why the issue suddenly blew up after four months of simmering. But there are problems with this view too. A survey of Arab press reactions to the stampede doesn't indicate the Saudis were under an unprecedented amount of public pressure—at least, no more than usual, since the Hajj produces a high body count every year, and this year's total death toll isn't even close to the record.
You may or may not know that there is a pretty long history of images depicting Muhammad in Islamic art. Here's an image gallery that traces the development in eastern and western pictorial history, and shows how the abstraction of the prophet's image evolved. (I wish Hollywood would take a hint for future Jesus movies, and take us back to the glory days when Christ and Franklin Roosevelt were represented onscreen by a silhouette and a disembodied voice.)
Another running theme lately has been the anti-Semitic art that thrives in the Arab and Islamic media, with nobody calling a foul. Here's a gallery of that kind of stuff. The funniest gag on this theme has been at a site called Filibustercartoons.com:
Speaking of this kind of having-your-cake-and-eating-it-too critique of anti-Semitism, here's the best evidence that the furor is dying down. After many interesting emails about my intoonfadah opus, I'm finally starting to get hotmail messages from real or fake Nazis that go like this: How's this for "free speech" the hollocaust is a lie.the biggest deception ever publish that and see what the jews do to your career! And once those volks show up, the topic has definitely jumped the shark. Allah Makun.
Pakistan's biggest protest yet draws 5,000 people.
Austrian and Danish embassies attacked in Teheran.
Palestinian police break up protest at EU office in Gaza City.
Omar Khayyam's a crack dealer, and he's really, really sorry.
Muslim Council of Britain calls for incitement prosecution of protesters who made ominous 7/7 references.
Philly Inquirer becomes first U.S. paper to publish cartoons, draws a peaceful protest of about two dozen.
Wind-down/non-wind-down factor: A push. Several of these are peaceful demos, and the Holocaust thing, though grotesque, is non-violent.
Michael Young argues that the case for democracy can survive even victories by the likes of Hamas.
Early this morning, Tim Cavanaugh announced, "I've got a hunch that the In-toon-fadah is winding down." In fact, there were hopeful signs as early as last Thursday. According to Agence France-Presse (by way of The New York Times), "two masked gunmen" in Nablus "kidnapped a German from a hotel, thinking he was French or Danish....They turned him over to the police once they realized their mistake."
The gunmen may not have grasped the distinction between speech and violence, or between a private Danish newspaper and the Danish government, or between the Danish government and the Danish people (every last one of them, including random tourists and, presumably, babies born after the offending cartoons were published). But they drew the line at punishing Germans for something Danes had done. Although I'm not sure why citizens of France get more blame than citizens of Germany, since papers in both countries reprinted the unflattering portraits of Muhammad, this has got to count as progress of a sort. Likewise, since a paper in the Netherlands ran the cartoons, it was surprisingly open-minded for demonstrators in Beirut to beat a Dutch photographer only because they "mistook him for being Danish."
Libertarian philosopher Roderick Long over at the Liberty and Power blog supplied an interesting post on Ayn Rand's birthday on February 2, in which he argues that the mighty libertarian could be read as having quite the lefty streak. An excerpt:
There are in effect two Rands, or two strands in Rand: a left-libertarian, feminist, anti-militarist, anti-corporatist, benevolent, experimental strand, and a conservative, patriarchal, homophobic, flag-worshipping, boss-worshipping, dogmatic strand. Which strand represents the "true" Rand? Well, both of them; she just is precisely the person who tried to combine these two strands.
A better question is: which strand most accurately expresses her fundamental principles? And here it seems to me that the answer is: the left-libertarian strand. The conservative strand, as I see it, is in large part (not entirely--human psychology and intellectual development are complex matters, and I don't mean to be offering some sort of reductionist account) an expression of Rand's understandably hostile reaction to the Soviet environment in which she was raised. I suspect that she tended to have a knee-jerk reaction to anything (well, almost anything--not atheism, obviously, or contextual analysis) that reminded her of Soviet propaganda or was associated in any way with pro-Soviet sympathies.
Very worth reading in its entirety for those interested in Rand or libertarian intellectual history and theory.
As is, by the by, Reason's March 2005 issue noting the centennial of her birth last year, featuring Cathy Young's take on Rand's legacy, and our notorious "Rand-O-Rama" survey of Randiana in culture, popular and otherwise. My own take on Rand's meaning appeared in Cato Policy Report in its March/April 2005 issue.
Brian Doherty wants to know what the judges who've deprived activist Steve Kubby of the medicine he needs are smoking.
Writing in The Nation, Max Blumenthal has a nice rundown of the ways Jack Abramoff used the Christian right.
As the big boys on the Hill debate National Security Agency[* corrected] surveillance, via Washingtonian magazine comes a reminder of the incredibly retarded kids' page at the National Security Administration, where tykes of all ages can chill with "Decipher Dog," "Crypto Cat," and other ersatz cartoon characters (yes, they do exist!) designed to make us love the feds from the cradle to the grave.
Go here to engage in "Operation Dit Dah" and other police-state hijinks.
And go here for Reason's Kerry Howley's earlier post on the matter.
The World Trade Organization will issue a ruling tomorrow on the case brought by the United States, Canada, and Argentina against the European Union's moratorium on importing grain and ingredients made from genetically enhanced crops. The rumor is that the WTO will decide that the EU did unreasonably restrict trade on biotech products.
According to Reuters, Adrian Bebb, GMO Campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe, declared,
"The WTO, the U.S. administration and biotech firms should stop their bullying and let Europeans decide what food we eat."
Of course, the whole point of fostering freer trade under the WTO is to let European consumers decide what food they want to eat the old-fashioned way--by letting them choose to buy or not to buy in grocery stores.
Once again, no biotech crop stocks were flogged in the blog item.
Washington Post reporter Shankar Vedantam asks the right questions in his Post Magazine article "Eden and Evolution." To wit: "Religious critics of evolution are wrong about its flaws. But are they right that it threatens belief in a loving God?"
Vedantam is right when he writes:
While the controversy over intelligent design is superficially about scientific facts, the real debate is more emotional. Evolution cuts to the heart of the belief that humans have a special place in creation. If all things in the living world exist solely because of evolutionary competition and natural selection, what room is left for the idea that humans are made in God's image or for any morality beyond the naked requirements of survival? Beneath all the complex arguments of intelligent design advocates, Georgetown theologian John Haught agreed, "there lies a deeply human and passionately religious concern about whether the universe resides in the bosom of a loving, caring God or is instead perched over an abyss of ultimate meaninglessness."
Anti-evolutionists are afraid that if their children accept the findings of evolutionary biology that they will lose their faith and go to hell. I appreciate the distinction between methodological naturalism (within scientific enquiry, one can only use natural explanations) versus philosophical naturalism (no supernatural forces or entitities exist). However, as scientific explanations of phenomena advance, the space in which a loving God can exist and act does seem to shrink.
On personal testimony, I know that the creationists (young earth, gap theorists, or ID types) have a point--at least about losing their children losing their faith. My own faith cracked when I learned about biology and evolutionary theory as a 13-year old. Scientific explanations were and are vastly more exciting and satisfactory than the "poof" then a miracle occurs accounts in the Bible.
Darwin was certainly right when he wrote: "There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved."
However, many Americans are untouched by the grandeur of the scientific project. Vedantam notes that the fight is particularly fierce in the United States because the Constitution guarantees the separation of Church and State. This means for believers that assertions made by public school biology teachers about how livings things arose are not countered by the "competing" claims of Christianity or other religions. Vedantam quotes University of Lancaster historian Thomas Dixon as proposing, "a solution to this may be to have schools teach religion. Let them teach Christianity and everything else. It may be a complete and utter revolution in American history, but I'm saying it's a good idea."
Perhaps an even better idea would be school choice--in which parents could send their children to schools that reflect their values and beliefs. As a supporter of a free society, I make this proposal even though it saddens me to realize that millions of faithful parents believe that they must stunt their children's educations in order to save their souls.
Competition is stiff, of course, but Jeff Sessions (R-Alab.) has been putting up a good fight to take home the prize in the "Most Shameless Fellating of Friendly Witnesses in Hearings" category. Every time Alberto Gonzales appears before the Senate Judiciary Committee, as he is now, Sessions plasters a smarmy, indulgent grin on his face and tosses out as many variants as he can cook up of: "Aren't people silly to suggest you want to spy on innocent Americans?"
His most recent round involved a tangent in which he shook his head at the poor confused souls who imagine that the PATRIOT Act authorized warrantless searches of any kind. Which would be a terribly confused thing to say... except that it happens to be true: National Security Letters, whose scope was expanded by PATRIOT, are administrative subpoenas for records not subject to judicial oversight. And the number of NSLs issued has risen dramatically in recent years.
Via the blog Against the War of Terror (yes, yes, boys, but what're you for?) comes a true story of government surveillance in action, that underscores what all listeners of Vicki Lawrence could have told you a couple of decades ago: Don't trust yourself to no backwoods Southern lawyer (instead, call in the ACLU of Georgia):
More than two dozen government surveillance photographs show 22-year-old Caitlin Childs of Atlanta, a strict vegetarian, and other vegans picketing against meat eating, in December 2003. They staged their protest outside a HoneyBaked Ham store on Buford Highway in DeKalb County.
An undercover DeKalb County Homeland Security detective was assigned to conduct surveillance of the protest and the protestors, and take the photographs. The detective arrested Childs and another protester after he saw Childs approach him and write down, on a piece of paper, the license plate number of his unmarked government car.
"They told me if I didn't give over the piece of paper I would go to jail and I refused and I went to jail, and the piece of paper was taken away from me at the jail and the officer who transferred me said that was why I was arrested," Childs said on Wednesday.
The government file lists anti-war protesters in Atlanta as threats, the ACLU said. The ACLU of Georgia accuses the Bush administration of labeling those who disagree with its policy as disloyal Americans.
Whole story here.
Info on starting a HoneyBaked Ham franchise--"You can be sure you have quality time to spend with your loved ones. After all, we're a family business too"--here.
Ratings of The Smiths' Meat Is Murder LP here.
President Bush today will propose a 2007 federal budget of more than $2.7 trillion, even while calling for savings in Medicare and other domestic programs, according to congressional and administration officials with knowledge of the spending plan.
The budget is an increase over the $2.57 trillion spending plan Bush proposed last year. Much of the increase will go to defense, homeland security and benefit programs that grow faster than the economy. The officials who gave details of the budget asked not to be named because the plan wasn't scheduled to be released until today.
More press account here.
Read the whole megillah here online (though at a relatively scant 9.8MB, it seems positively light, don't it?).
Read one of the least inspiring presidential texts--"The Budget Message of the President of the United States"--here.
As this Budget shows, we have set clear priorities that meet the most pressing needs of the American people while addressing the long-term challenges that lie ahead. The 2007 Budget will ensure that future generations of Americans have the opportunity to live in a Nation that is more prosperous and more secure. With this Budget, we are protecting our highest ideals and building a brighter future for all.
Back in June, Logan Darrow Clements proposed that the town of Weare, New Hampshire use its power of eminent domain to seize eight prime acres -- now wasting space as Justice David Souter's residence -- and build a shiny, tax revenue-generating new hotel dubbed "Lost Liberty." He and others gathered signatures and petitioned to put the proposal on the town's March ballot. This weekend, Weare residents balked. While the opposition claimed to be taking the two-wrongs-don't-make-a-right moral highground, it appears they basically added a "Not!" to the end of the initial proposal:
"This is a game," said Walter Bohlin, who proposed adding the word "not" throughout the proposal to take Souter's eight acres, including his more than 200-year-old farmhouse. "It was a piece of property targeted for revenge."
By secret ballot, residents voted 94 to 59 in favor of Bohlin's addition.
Via Club for Growth.
The first recipient of a face transplant has made a public appearance:
"I now have a face like everyone else," Isabelle Dinoire said at her first news conference since the groundbreaking surgery in November.
In speech that was heavily slurred, she explained how she was disfigured by a dog bite last year and thanked the family of the donor who gave her new lips, a chin and nose.
Really nothing short of amazing.
Jonathan Rauch makes a full disclosure of his absence of a relationship with a disgraced Republican lobbyist.
While I generally agree with Tim Cavanaugh's Super Bowl comments below, I'm surprised that he left out arguably the greatest lowlight of the evening: the half-time show in which Mick Jagger limped around the stage like he'd just stubbed his toe while wheezing out the lyrics to "Start Me Up," just about the worst song in the Stones' legit discography (roughly defined as anything up through, well, Tattoo You, the LP that contains "Start Me Up," a fake signature song that the World's Oldest Rock and Roll band has foisted on audiences for going on 25 years now). Sir Mick even had old lady flapping triceps on display, arguably more offensive than any wardrobe malfunction could ever be.
Dast I say that Michael Novak was as right about Super Bowl extravaganzas as he was wrong about the "unmeltable ethnics" (who ended up blending right into an oh-so-tasty All-American dessert fondue of identity--oh so good on marshmallows especially)? Recall his Kurtzian (as in Heart of Darkness or, even more so, Marlon Brando in the documentary about the making of Apocalypse Now), "exterminate the brutes" rant in the wake of Lady Janet's exposed nipple from just two years ago (A.D.):
Why does the NFL do this? Why do they want to dramatize in corrupt "art" the very opposite of what they dramatize on the field, in the inherent beauty of football itself? Why do they turn halftime over to people who loathe every virtue football stands for and depends on?
There are so many beautiful events in the history of our nation that our children and our families deserve to know, so many glorious episodes to dramatize. Why doesn't the NFL stage a ten-year sequence of halftime shows that tell the great story of the Founding of our nation? For this story embodies all the virtues required by championship football, and many others besides....
Why can't the NFL support the Herculean struggles of besieged families, and overworked schools, against the horrid drudge of a sick popular culture, and help parents and teachers to fire the imaginations of our children with ennobling images of greatness and achievement? Why does the NFL put our families through the sludge of an exhausted, desperate pagan culture that is going nowhere, and celebrates losers and freaks? Our families have enough enemies to fight through. Must they also fight the NFL?
On a deeper level, why does the NFL go against its own nature, beliefs, and strengths? Why does it embarrass and demean itself?
Indeed, why NFL, why? Novak's whole unintentionally hilarious blast, which includes a call for "a ten-year sequence of halftime shows that tell the great story of the Founding of our nation" and which will make even the biggest Seahawk fan (you know you're out there) forget for a minute the drubbing your team took, online here.
I've got a hunch that the In-toon-fadah is winding down. There was a peaceful demonstration by 300 people in Bangkok, and a planned demo in Jakarta is expected to draw between 2,000 and 5,000 people. It would still be nice if these hundreds and thousands grokked the idea that a cartoon in a privately owned paper in a particular country does not have to be approved by that country's government, but a peaceful protest is good. Increase the peace.
Meanwhile, evidence for the theory that the embassy burnings were as much government setups as popular uprisings continues to trickle in: Lebanese authorities report that half the 174 rioters they've arrested turned out to be Syrians. Meanwhile, a soi-disant Damascus rioter describes how the government greenlighted the attack on the Danish embassy.
Despite the pusillanimous shillyshallying of government officials in the United States and Europe, the message to the protesters, demonstrators, and rioters has been more or less clear: Governments don't (or at least shouldn't) decide what people say with their own natural right to free speech. The lesson for everybody else has been valuable too: Neither the neocons nor the simpering left will be able to feed us any more horseshit about how radical Islamism is limited to a few bad apples. Believers in multiculturalism and believers in the clash of civilization (who are closer to each other philosophically than either wants to admit) got some points too: There are serious philosophical differences at work here, which go beyond politics or civil affairs, and require real (ahem) dialogue.
So all in all I revert to my earlier statement, that the best thing that can happen is for this crisis to go as far as it can, with nobody pussing out.
Since the fanatics are quickly running out of Danish interests to attack anyway, maybe it's time to start focusing on soft targets: No more performances of Hamlet anywhere. All references to the Danish roots of pre-Sartrean existentialism will be removed from textbooks. "The Emperor's New Clothes" is out of the question just for its promotion of immodest dress. And somebody needs to spread the word that Greenland isn't even green, for Allah's sake; some Viking realtor just called it that in the hope of turning it into the next Hot Neighborhood.
The officiating was a scandal. I had a non-passionate preference for Pittsburgh, but they only took the lead thanks to two shady calls in the first half: the offensive-pass-interference review that nullified Darrell Jackson's touchdown in the first quarter; and the very fishy TD given to the Steelers in the second quarter. Only under the dictatorship of relativism could anybody claim Roethlisberger was over the line, and the more they reviewed the play the more clear that was. Without those two calls, the fourth-quarter score would have been 14-14 and we'd still be watching the overtime. They'll be arguing this for centuries, but what the hell: If all the old Yehudis in Miami had had their chads properly interpreted President Gore would have prevented the 9/11 attacks and I'd be smoking the medical pot I got from my universal health care package blah blah blah...
The commercials sucked. The FedEx spot with the cavemen had some well timed sight gags, but haven't these people heard about Intelligent Design? Bring back the bankruptcy-bound dotcoms blowing their entire budgets on too-cool-for-school 30-second spots. I knew the age of irony was over when that Gillette 5-blade ad turned out not to be a joke. (Not that I'm dismissing it! I scoffed at the Mach 3 for years, but that thing gets my kisser as smooth as a baby's ass.)
Censorship Roundup: Don't talk about come, don't talk about cock, and above all don't talk about coming with your cock. Those not-ready-for-primetime words were sent down the NFL's memory hole during the Strolling Bones' impressive halftime show. I heard rumors that Mick flipped the crowd the bird during one song, but I didn't see it. Maybe they can review that a couple hundred times. In any event, on the West Coast the game was immediately followed by a show called Grey's Anatomy, which opened with a lesbo fantasy scene that will keep Brent Bozell forging letters for another year at least.
True to the law of nature that Orthodox Christian priests are always wrong about everything, I met up yesterday with an old friend who's an abune in the Orthodox Church, and he immediately asserted that the Jyllands-Posten cartoons contained such offensive material as an image of the Prophet Muhammad getting a full in-out lapdance from his nine-year-old wife Ayesha. This is from a guy whose parish is in San Francisco, who sponsors all sorts of interfaith dialogues, who has a T1 line in his office. As you can see from the full collection of the cartoons, there is no such image, even among the fake ones. But who am I to argue with Christ's representative on earth?
This brings up another unknowable unknown: How many of the millions of Muslims going ballistic these days have actually seen the cartoons, or at least heard them accurately described? There's no public furor like one about an imaginary offense. Protestors in 1988 claimed the unseen Last Temptation of Christ featured scenes of Jesus having wide-eyed gay sex with the apostles—a claim that was still circulating years after the movie had passed into the DVD twilight, and may have inspired Nick Gillespie's epiphany that the 12 apostles (a stylishly motley collection of carpenters, fishermen, tax collectors, et al) were the original Village People. Deadly riots may ensue when a mosque is demolished, but even deadlier ones result when people only imagine a mosque has been demolished. Moustapha Akkad's The Message landed in hot water because even though it never showed an actor playing the prophet, critics suspected it did. (Having caught a recent Eid-al-Fitr showing of The Message, I'm not sure even blasphemy could have made that movie watchable.) And let's not forget all the Jew-bashing we were promised in The Passion of the Christ, a film that ended up being about as anti-Semitic as Fiddler On the Roof. Hell, I'm still waiting for the Eyes Wide Shut mashup where Harvey Keitel really does blow a load on Nicole Kidman's hair.
All of which leads to one obvious conclusion: The people who are republishing the cartoons are not inflaming the controversy; they're calming it down. Our freedom-loving allies in Jordan should not just release imprisoned editor Jihad Momani; they should give him a medal.
It wouldn't be a true religious controversy without a blazing Christopher Hitchens column on the deplorable nature of religion. Whatever you think of Hitch's default anti-religion positions (I find them tired and politically suspect in general, but bracing in cases, like the present one, where events have set him up for the alley-oop*), he always manages to come up with some zingers:
Many people have pointed out that the Arab and Muslim press is replete with anti-Jewish caricature, often of the most lurid and hateful kind. In one way the comparison is hopelessly inexact. These foul items mostly appear in countries where the state decides what is published or broadcast. However, when Muslims republish the Protocols of the Elders of Zion or perpetuate the story of Jewish blood-sacrifice at Passover, they are recycling the fantasies of the Russian Orthodox Christian secret police (in the first instance) and of centuries of Roman Catholic and Lutheran propaganda (in the second). And, when an Israeli politician refers to Palestinians as snakes or pigs or monkeys, it is near to a certainty that he will be a rabbi (most usually Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the leader of the disgraceful Shas party), and will cite Talmudic authority for his racism. For most of human history, religion and bigotry have been two sides of the same coin, and it still shows.
Whole article, featuring plenty of dumping on hapless State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.
And in this corner: Pope Benedict XVI, who for reasons that are increasingly less clear to me, still has a reputation for being more of an "intellectual" than his predecessor. The Vatican weighs in on the side of religious sensitivity:
"The freedom of thought and expression, confirmed in the Declaration of Human Rights, can not include the right to offend religious feelings of the faithful. That principle obviously applies to any religion," the Vatican said.
"Any form of excessive criticism or derision of others denotes a lack of human sensitivity and can in some cases constitute an unacceptable provocation," it said in a statement issued in response to media demands for the Church's opinion.
Cato's David Boaz writes in to object: "Wouldn't this mean that the teaching of evolution or the broadcasting of Desperate Housewives would fall outside the freedom of expression? Does the Vatican really mean that there is no 'right' to 'offend religious feelings of the faithful'?"
If that is what the boys in the Vatican mean, they might want to take another look at their own publications. The idea that the Prophet Jesus (PBUH) was a divine figure is an idolatrous belief that could just as easily run afoul of Islamic sensibilities as could a sexy TV show—but hey, we know no Muslim group would ever be crazy enough to make an issue of interreligious differences when there's a dictatorship of relativism to combat!
To get an idea of where Papa Ratzi's coming from, here's a passage from his new book Without Roots:
In our contemporary society, thank goodness, anyone who dishonors the faith of Israel, its image of God, or its great figures must pay a fine. The same holds true for anyone who dishonors the Koran and the convictions of Islam. But when it comes to Jesus Christ and that which is sacred to Christians, instead, freedom of speech becomes the supreme good. The argument has been made that restricting freedom of speech would jeopardize or even abolish tolerance and freedom overall. There is one major restriction on freedom of opinion, however: it cannot destroy the honor and the dignity of another. There is no freedom to lie or to violate human rights.
Have you ever seen anything more coy than that "thank goodness"? For the absolute unacceptability of anti-Semitism in European media, go here. As for the long-suppressed truth that the West's vanishingly small Christian minorities must suffer all insults in timid silence, all I can say is Happy Holidays, everybody!
I've been reading Ratzinger's stuff for years, and compared to John Paul II he's not only a charisma-challenged pope but an intellectual lightweight. I never hear anything out of this Great Thinker that couldn't just as easily have come from some stupid blogger. Specifically, where does this assumption keep coming from that there are natural limits to free expression that are universally recognized in the West? If Ratzinger wants to refer us back to the Ten Commandments let him do it; but a religious taboo doesn't become a universal truth no matter how preciously it's phrased. And a statement that sides with people who are burning down embassies because of a cartoon may be consistent with the history of the Catholic church, but it has no place in the contemporary civilization Benedict XVI seems so intent on rescuing.
* Apologies for any mental images of Hitchens airborne under the net, possibly wearing Julius Erving-era tighty whities. Further apologies for mixing sports metaphors: The Lord has made this day for football.
[The Aristocrats] emerged out of a series of late-night discussions between Jillette and Provenza, in which the pair would sit in restaurants on the Las Vegas Strip, gulping decaffeinated coffee and discussing (to borrow Jillette's phrase) "the most pretentious shit possible." For example? "We talk an awful lot about whether you have to stop at libertarianism or go onto to anarchocapitalism," Jillette said the other day. Luckily, Jillette and Provenza steered themselves away from anarchocapitalism (Death to Aristocrats?) and toward the science of dirty jokes. Out popped The Aristocrats, which had a small theatrical release but ignited a cultural interest in filth. (The new DVD hovers near the top of the Amazon.com sales charts.) If The Aristocrats was a celebration of bawdy free expression and the vanishing art of joke-telling, it was also a celebration of Penn Jillette's peculiar worldview—something like the academic art known as radical deconstruction.
Bryan "Middlebrow" Curtis profiles the louder half of Penn & Teller.
Protestors today burned the Danish embassy building here in Beirut, in the latest response to the ballooning Danish cartoon fiasco. One aspect of the protests was particularly disturbing: the embassy is in the predominantly Christian neighborhood of Ashrafieh, and groups of protestors--most of whom were Sunni Muslims, not Shiites--ransacked properties and threw rocks at a Maronite Christian church nearby, provoking the predictably angry reaction from Christian youths. Below my building, in the center of Ashrafieh, the army and security forces had to intervene to prevent the situation from getting out of hand as Muslims driving or walking to the protest were taken to task by some youths. The fact that the demonstrators were traveling through Ashrafieh in the first place, assuming they wouldn't be molested, confirmed they had no idea of what was going on and that there was no general intention to provoke Christians.
Then who threw stones at the church? The official version is that "external groups" did so, which conveniently meant individuals manipulated by Syria. It's difficult to say. Certainly, there were Islamist groups involved in the demonstration that answer to Syrian intelligence, for example the Ahbash, and they may well have had something to do with church attack. On the other hand, what we saw today was the true extent to which Lebanon's Sunni community has a large number of Islamist groups, particularly in the North, that subscribe to an increasingly militant agenda; and that the main Sunni leadership, represented by the Hariri family, really only has nominal influence over many of them.
The dunce of the day was Interior Minister Hassan al-Sabaa, a Hariri appointee. He initially deployed far fewer anti-riot police than required, supposedly to avoid increasing tension. Sabaa's striking incompetence has been on display before, but this situation may speak to something more complex: My theory, and it's only a theory at this stage, is that the Hariri camp may have tried to ride the Sunni groups' anger (presuming the demonstration would remain peaceful), to show its sectarian political clout, but then had to watch helplessly as the whole thing spun out of control. One of those groups organizing the demonstration, the Jamaa Islamiyya (Lebanon's branch of the Muslim Brotherhood), is not under the Hariris' thumb, but it does answer to Saudi Arabia, and in last year's parliamentary elections the Saudis paid the group a hefty sum of money to avoid its voting against the Hariri candidate list in the North.
My theory would also explain why a leading Christian politician, Samir Geagea, who happens to be a very close ally of the Hariri camp, harshly criticized the security forces (meaning Sabaa, meaning the Hariri camp) for having allowed the demonstration to get out of hand, when it was amply clear in the past day or so that something big was about to happen. (Addendum: Geagea is now asking for Sabaa's resignation.)
Expanding nuclear power is only one piece of the energy puzzle. But it is a piece we cannot afford to dismiss.
The reason is clear. Electricity demand is rising -- some say by as much as 50 percent during the next 30 to 50 years.
That's from an op-ed in today's SF Chron by the always-interesting G. Paschal Zachary (author of the wonderful book from a few years back, The Global Me). In "The Case for Nuclear Power," Zachary recounts a youth spent protesting nuclear power plants and catches the reader up on how nuke tech is better, safer, etc. It's well worth reading and is online here [*link fixed finally!].
As is the original Port Huron Statement, put out by Students for a Democratic Society, on this score. It takes nuclear power for granted ("whole cities can easily be powered" by it, even as the authors worry about nuclear weaponry; the full text even argues that "our monster cities...might now be humanized [and] broken into smaller communities, powered by nuclear energy) [updated link].
And so are the remarkable--and generally underreported--accounts of the long-term damage done by Chernobyl, the biggest nuclear accident to date. As the Wash Post glossed last year's authoritative UN study on the matter, the effects "were far less catastrophic than feared."
Reason's own science correspondent, Ronald Bailey, will be taking on the precautionary principle and other misguided notions at the following DC event on February 14:
Panic Attack: The New Precautionary Culture, the Politics of Fear, and the Risks to Innovation
Tuesday, February 14, 2006 9:00 AM--4:30 PM
American Enterprise Institute
Wohlstetter Conference Center, Twelfth Floor
1150 Seventeenth Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036
Ron will be talking specifically on a panel about how media and science interact. He'll be joined by Reason contributor James K. Glassman and friend of Reason, the Institute of Ideas' Tony Gilland.
Bonus points: Reason contributing editor Charles Paul Freund will be moderatin' a panel earlier in the day.
More details--including how to RSVP for a free lunch--here.
More about the Institute of Ideas, who cosponsored a transhumanism conference with Reason back in 2001 amid the smoldering ruins of the World Trade Center, here.
Reader Steve M. Galbraith takes strong exception to my characterization of the State Department as "siding with the rioters" yesterday. Galbraith points to this statement by State spokesman Sean McCormack:
Our response is to say that while we certainly don't agree with, support, or in some cases, we condemn the views that are aired in public that are published in media organizations around the world, we, at the same time, defend the right of those individuals to express their views. For us, freedom of expression is at the core of our democracy and it is something that we have shed blood and treasure around the world to defend and we will continue to do so. That said, there are other aspects to democracy, our democracy -- democracies around the world -- and that is to promote understanding, to promote respect for minority rights, to try to appreciate the differences that may exist among us.
You can read the rest, followed by a long colloquy with reporters in which McCormack more or less holds the line for press freedom, here.
There were at least three different statements from State Department officials yesterday (who knew Foggy Bottom had so many high-level flacks?), which collectively justify both the headline "U.S. defends press in cartoons offense" and the headline "US backs Muslims in European cartoon dispute." The one I referred to yesterday came from spokesman Kurtis Cooper:
These cartoons are indeed offensive to the belief of Muslims. We all fully recognize and respect freedom of the press and expression, but it must be coupled with press responsibility. Inciting religious or ethnic hatreds in this manner is not acceptable.
McCormack's comment came later in the day, and the Washington Times suggests it "balanced" Cooper's statement. There's also this, from the impressively named State Department press officer Janelle Hironimus:
Inciting religious or ethnic hatred in this manner is not acceptable. We call for tolerance and respect for all communities and for their religious beliefs and practices.
Rhetorically, what's important is where you place the however clause. If you say "We support freedom of the press but these cartoons are offensive," you're emphasizing the "offensive" part; if you say "These cartoons are offensive but we support freedom of the press," you're emphasizing the "freedom" part.
McCormack's three sentences do it both ways, which I don't think is a completely satisfying corrective to the other two statements. (Particularly Cooper's: Every time a government official says press freedom must be coupled with press responsibility, a copy of the constitution bursts into flames.) I'd also prefer to hear a government official say "We take no position on what a private publication does with its right to free expression, which is absolute and unqualified" than get into a lot of folderol about how they will shed (somebody's) blood to defend your right to speak.
Now my however clause: McCormack's statement, and his subsequent exchanges with the press, are a vast improvement on the earlier statements, and I'm glad to hear that the State Department is standing up for the right of Danish cartoonists to publish offensive cartoons, even if it's none of their business what Danish cartoonists do.
In related news, an art show (an "art" show!) at the Puck Building features an image of Jesus as an upside-down Osama bin Laden. Or an upside-down Jesus as Osama bin Laden. In any event, you can check it out rightside-up here.
The Danish cartoon controversy may look bad, but it's the best thing that can happen for Muslims and secularists alike.
Move over Kirk and Spock, Magnum PI and Higgins, and Felix and Oscar, there's a new love that dare not speak its name.
Via Robert James Bidinotto (via Instapundit) comes the trailer for the next great gay cowboy epic: Brokeback to the Future, starring Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd.
View it here.
Following on from Tim's post below, Egyptian liberal commentator Mona Eltahawy was onto the Danish cartoon story last week, just as the tsunami of opprobrium hit the world's Muslim communities. She's not impressed with the reaction of her coreligionists.
As interesting, if from a contrary perspective, was the statement of Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary-general of Lebanon's Hezbollah, who regretted that Salman Rushdie had not been killed over the Satanic Verses, as that would have had a splendid deterrent effect on the hapless Danes. Remember that in reading David Ignatius' latest column on Nasrallah, where he talked about, well, democracy.
An Egyptian ferry sank late last night in bad weather in the Red Sea. There were about 1,300 and maybe as many as 1,400 people aboard. Reports claim between 100 and 180 people have been rescued so far, with "dozens" of bodies in the water. It's also dark now, which I would expect will make it unlikely that many more will be pulled out alive. Most of the passengers were Egyptians returning from work in Saudi Arabia.
Let's get one thing clear: We are not all Danes now. If you want to be a Dane, knock yourself out, but I ain't no Dane.
That having been said, bully for the many European papers and websites that are republishing the controversial Jyllands-Posten images of the Prophet Muhammad. If every time the West does anything it creates 100 new suicide bombers, it's only fair that every time the Islamists try and suppress blasphemy they should create 100 new blasphemers. I wanted to repost these a few weeks ago, but there have been so many fakes going around that I wasn't sure I had the right 12. In fact, since some of these seem to have been translated into English, I'm still not totally sure these are the originals, but this is the group that turns up most consistently.
Also included: three extra pics, obviously fakes, that a group of Danish Imams included in a 43-page dossier distributed in the Middle East. With the caveat that any depiction of the Prophet is considered blasphemous, I should point out that the fakes are more crudely offensive, which makes me wonder whether it's still a sin to blaspheme when you're doing it for a higher cause (i.e., getting people mad at infidels)?
In the interest of balance, here's an objection from brusselsjournal.com:
Jee thanx again it shows pure ignorance on ur behalf. What if a muslim draws the picture of denmarki president sucking other men's bottom n showing his wife helping him by doing so?? Will that be 'freedom of speech' the so called democracy??? interesting how the west can force its view points on others in the name of democracy act soo low an arrogant n yet r given the excuse of being so called "democratic". shame on u for accepting such low acts n insulting other peoples religion n inflicting pain upon billions of muslims in the world n yet calling it democracy. I wish a muslim publication in denmark print some filthy cartoons of denmarki president n his wife n will see if the democratic president will see that as a 'freedom of speech'.
For the record, if you have pictures of the president of Denmark sucking other men's bottoms, we'll be happy to publish those too. Sexually explicit pictures of Denmark's Crown Princess Mary are even more welcome. In fact, even if you've got pics of Princess Elisabeth sucking a man's bottom, we'll run those just for shock effect. Now dig the cartoons while I kick back with a Tuborg Gold, the golden beer of Danish kings:
And here are the fakes, which raise the question of how fucking retarded the Danish imams must be if they thought these looked like they belonged with the preceding group:
The Drug Policy Alliance has a new voter guide--the first of its kind, as far as I know--that rates members of the House based on their positions vis-à-vis the war on drugs. It declares F. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) a "villain" (no surprise there) and identifies nine "heroes": John Conyers (D-Mich.), Sam Farr (D-Calif.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.), Ron Paul (R-Texas), Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), and Bobby Scott (D-Va.). Those choices were based on several criteria, including support for reform legislation that never made it to the floor, but the guide focuses on six votes:
1. House Vote 245 -- Amendment to HR 2862 on Justice Assistance Grants: increasing funding to the corrupt and troubled Byrne Justice Assistance Grant program (DPAN [Drug Policy Alliance Network] opposed);
2. House Vote 255 -- Amendment to HR 2862 on Medical Marijuana: prohibiting the DEA from undermining state medical marijuana laws (DPAN supported);
3. House Vote 264 -- Amendment to HR 2862 on Racial Conviction Distribution: requiring local narcotics taskforces that receive federal money to ban racial profiling and report their convictions by race (DPAN supported);
4. House Vote 329 -- Amendment to HR 3057 on the Andean Counterdrug Initiative: cutting funding to the counterproductive Andean Counterdrug Initiative (DPAN supported);
5. House Vote 344 -- Amendment to HR 3058 on the National Youth Anti-Drug Campaign: increasing funding to the failed anti-marijuana media campaign (DPAN opposed); and
6. House Vote 435 -- S 45: Drug Addiction Treatment: lifting the 30-patient limit on group practices for treating people who struggle with addiction to heroin and other opioids through buprenorphine-assisted approaches (DPAN supported).
According to DPA's Bill Piper, "One is about states' rights, another is about the deregulation of drug treatment, three are about increased funding for federal programs, and one is about racial profiling. Five out of these six issues could be seen as boosting conservative goals, yet Democrats were overwhelmingly more likely to vote the right way than Republicans."
[via the Drug War Chronicle]
This week Congress approved legislation that will allow college students with drug offenses on their records to receive federal financial aid. Students who commit new offenses after they start school will still lose their aid. As I've said before, I'm no fan of government subsidies for college tuition, whether in the form of grants or in the form of cheap loans. But the change in policy represents modest progress of a sort, inasmuch as Congress irrationally and unfairly singled out drug offenders--but not murderers, rapists, or bank robbers--for this penalty. It is therefore a conspicuous example of the moral confusion that underlies the war on drugs, which routinely punishes possession of politically incorrect intoxicants more severely than predatory crime.
Everyone knows how obnoxious the mall's moviegoers can be, but what about those audiences that are supposed to be more refined? Writing in Slate, Bryan Curtis runs through the "peculiar horrors" of the art house, from the chatter of film buffs to the aroma produced by "contraband sashimi and Whole Foods takeout." Some of these terrors are probably unique to New York City, but others occur more broadly -- even this one:
The Crinkler is a mythic art-house figure -- perhaps you've heard of him. Or, rather, perhaps you've heard him. As the lights go down, he is the guy three rows back who crinkles plastic wrap, restlessly and maniacally, for the entire length of a picture....It is possible, I suppose, that there is more than one Crinkler carrying plastic wrap all over the city, but the taste in movies (he seems to prefer muscular American cinema of the late 1940s) leads me to believe there is a single Crinkler, an omnipresent evil genius.
If there is just one Crinkler, he gets around. He used to sit behind me all the time when I lived in Los Angeles. I finally escaped him by moving to Baltimore, where annoying art-housers restrict themselves to hmming knowingly every time a character says something they deem significant. Think of it as the oral equivalent of yellow highlighter.
[Via Lew Rockwell.]
Ronald Bailey explains how mutant grass could keep your gas tank liquored up.
In yesterday's Wall Street Journal (free link here), Reason's Ronald Bailey pooh-poohed President Bush's Advanced Energy Initiative, noting that "the only way we've ever cut back on imported oil is in response to higher prices."
Here's some data for U.S. oil consumption dating back to 1960. Forty-six years ago, we drank down 9.8 million barrels a day of the stuff, a number that had risen to 20.03 barrels a day by 2003. Clearly, those figures need to be adjusted for population growth but as Ron suggests, the only dips in consumption came during recessions and/or short-lived embargos, either of which effectively jacked the price of oil. The same basic pattern holds true for most countries.
There's an irony embedded in the consumption data and implicit in Ron's piece, too: The more efficient our cars, furnaces, you name it become, the more energy we consume, either by buying bigger houses, cars, refrigerators, or whatnot. After all, it becomes cheaper.
[Cue John Facenda voice]: With little left to lose and even less to gain, Reason's own Tim Cavanaugh began prognosticating with the protean power of a latter-day Jimmy the Greek while mouth-breathing with all the suet-choked grace of a phlegmatic Jack Germond. As Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid stumbled to the scrimmage line deep in their own terrritory, pinning their electoral hopes on a Hail Mary play involving disgraced lobbyists and banished GOP pols rather than anything resembling a policy agenda, the Democrats' troubles grew ever more grave on the frozen tundra that is mid-term politics: Even their own supporters are openly saying that the Donkey Party's hopes for evening the score in Congress this fall are going down faster than a Clinton-era White House intern:
The Democratic congressional leadership (is that a oxymoron?) still cowers when it sees its Cold War shadow, a ghost drawn by Republicans and regularly re-inked by the Washington-based Democratic neo-conservatives who gave us John Kerry and who me-too'ed Bush on Iraq. They can't seem to understand that Democrats have won the baby boom generation-dominated electoral center on socio-cultural issues, not at all like the Depression-era center that elected Nixon and Reagan.
So, instead of boldly opposing the madness in Iraq and firing up the base with unapologetic opposition to the Talibanic wing of the GOP, Democratic leaders have brilliantly concluded they can win in 2006 by hammering away at The Hammer and his friend, Mr. Abramoff...
That's not what [voters] are going to vote on 10 months from now, when Abramoff is forgotten and/or conflated into a pox on incumbents in both houses and on both parties.
While Republicans are prepared to beat the brains out of Democrats with taxes and terrorism, my party apparently intends to win by default. But what else is new?
That's from an op-ed in the DC Examiner by Terry Michael, former press secretary for the Democratic National Committee, current head of the Washington Center for Politics & Journalism, and proprietor of a blog titled "Thoughts from a Libertarian Democrat." Whole thing here.
The Republican Party will retain control of both houses of Congress in the 2006 midterm elections.
As always, I'm making the prediction at a time when I can't be said to be jumping on favorable polls—specifically, when the Republicans are bleeding like Chuck Wepner and Gallup shows them in an even worse spot than the Democrats were in prior to the 1994 Republican Revolution. As always, if I'm right I'll preen like John McLaughlin and if I'm wrong I'll just huff and clear my throat like Jack Germond.
Explanation: The Democrats need to pick up 16 seats in the House and six in the Senate. Conventional wisdom is that the former is likely and the latter is an outside shot. History is on their side: Since World War II, much larger turnovers have been common in the House and not unheard of in the Senate. That goes for midterm elections too, although in those cases large turnovers tend to happen with a president in an unusually vulnerable spot (Truman in 1946, Ford in 1974, and maybe Eisenhower—because of the health rumors—in 1958).
But if historical trends were a guide, Bush would already be facing a massively hostile Congress. He has beaten the odds laid down by almost every president, including Reagan, by consistently picking up seats in his mid-term and re-election cycles. And he's got a great advantage this time in that this will not be a passionately fought election. The Democrats had their chance to harness the anti-Bush groundswell in 2004, and instead they nominated John Kerry. That chance won't come again in a mid-term contest.
The problem for the dems is that they have nobody capable of doing what Gingrich did in 1994: defying Tip O'Neill's law and conceptualizing 435 separate contests as a single national referendum. The only Democratic legislator who gets anybody's body heat up to room temperature is Barack Obama, and he is a) not yet old enough to see an R-rated film without accompaniment and b) in the Senate, where revolutions never occur, and where any attempts at energizing the troops will be blocked by DINOs Clinton and Lieberman.
That leaves the House. Fortunately for the Dems, they don't have as tall a task as Gingrich faced in '94. Unfortunately, they also don't have a Gingrich. They don't even have grich, or gin or even a ngr. They have Nancy Pelosi, the most incompetent politician in the western hemisphere. There are certainly more than 16 vulnerable House seats around this great land of ours, and to the extent those contests get decided locally, there's a chance the Democrats may get a turnover in spite of themselves. But to the extent that any change in the House majority depends on good organization, a strong message, or inspired leadership from above, the Democrats are sunk. Nancy Pelosi is good at one thing—nothing.
I would put even less money on this than on my other predictions. But there you have it. Discuss or ignore, as you see fit.
The following story, sent to me by an anonymous tipster at the
notoriously urine-free offices at Bloomberg News, is just one more
indication that the United States is truly an open-air
Urine drinker booted from job as crossing guard
Drinking your own urine? Orland Park police have no problem with that.
But drink it in a front-page newspaper article while wearing your crossing guard uniform complete with official police insignia, and there will be problems.
Ed Danis, the 84-year-old Orland Park "urine therapy" devotee featured in a Jan. 29 Southtown story, has been suspended from his job as a crossing guard, effective Wednesday.
Orland Park Police Chief Tim McCarthy, whose department oversees the part-time guards, said Danis had been warned in writing twice before that he was not allowed to espouse his beliefs while on duty or in his uniform.
"It has nothing to do with urine therapy," McCarthy said. "People cannot go around in Orland Park police uniforms speaking out on any issues."...
Oh come on, now, Chief McCarthy (bonus points for being an Irish cop): You're expecting us to believe that you would can a crossing guard who was, say, telling kids not to smoke? Whole thing here.
Of course, the real question for the Hit & Run crowd is what the dearly departed former Reason staffer Matt ("We Hardly Knew Ye") Welch thinks about this imbroglio. His first piece as a mainstream media sellout at the LA Times was a confession about "fold[ing] like a cheap tent" in the face of a workplace drug test.
When the Times makes "urine therapy" a condition of employment, Matt, what side of the barricades will you be on?
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Ronald Bailey tries to help President Bush get the "energy initiative" monkey off his back.
There's a new captain of the S.S. House Republicans. Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), the hell-raisin', Sallie Mae-squeezin', tobacco check-repurposin' man from Porkopolis, has outflanked Missourian Roy Blunt to become House majority leader. Says commenter Pro Libertate: "Great, maybe he can hand out tobacco checks again."
Update: It turns out the House GOP conclave initially produced some black smoke. The first vote resulted in a wacky mixup wherein nobody was sure whether they had the correct number of ballots. Republican sources say the Puerto Ricans are to blame for the snafu, which resulted in the House majority leadership's being temporarily awarded to funnyman John Byner.
Editor and Publisher reports on the Post's reaction here; folks over at AmericaBlog are quite alarmed. Not sure I agree that this should be read as an egregious attempt at intimidation that rises to the level of attempted censorship; and those wishing to shout a hearty "God Bless America" can compare this reaction to an offensive cartoon to the one from Denmark that some saw as an insult to Mohammed, blogged by Cathy Young below and me here.
Still, it is at least fair to say that they should have better things to do with their time and the better judgment to realize that such a letter could be read in a potentially sinister way, and just let it go by.
Last September, some cartoons about Islam published in a Danish newspaper caused serious offense to Muslims. (To see the cartoons, go here and scroll about halfway down.) A few days ago the paper apologized, but apparently not enough -- the apology was for offending the feelings of Muslims but not for actually publishing the cartoons -- leading to more protests and boycotts, as well as threats of violence.
The media in Muslim countries have weighed in. According to the Christian Science Monitor:
The Arab News of Saudi Arabia calls upon Denmark to legally ban religious hate speech.
Under the headline "Yes, we have the right to caricature God", France Soir ran a front page cartoon of Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim and Christian gods floating on a cloud.
It shows the Christian deity saying: "Don't complain, Muhammad, we've all been caricatured here."
The full set of Danish drawings, some of which depict the Prophet Muhammad as a terrorist, were printed on the inside pages.
The paper said it had decided to republish them "because no religious dogma can impose itself on a democratic and secular society."
Or can it? Unfortunately, France Soir's demonstration of the value of free speech ended in a fiasco: the paper published an apology and sacked its managing editor.
Meanwhile, the Norwegian Christian paper Magazinet, which also published the cartoons, then took them off its website because of threats. According to The Brussels Journal:
Magazinet also interviewed two leading Norwegian cartoonists: Finn Graff and Morten M. Kristiansen. Graff, who was known in the 1960s and '70s for his satirical drawings of Jesus Christ, said that he does not draw pictures mocking Muhammad. He does so out of fear for Muslims, and also "out of respect." Muslims, he said, are very sensitive about their religion and their prophet, which is something one has to take into account and one has to respect. Kristiansen said he had received many protest letters in the past whenever he mocked Christ. The same applies to cartoons about Muhammad, but lately the protest letters from Muslims had increasingly become threats, including death threats in e-mails from places such as Iran. Unlike Graff, Kristiansen said he will not change his behaviour because of these threats because it is important to defend the right to freedom of expression.
The lesson is that if you want your religion not to be mocked, it helps to have a reputation for senseless violence. Is this the incentive structure we want?
That observation is, of course, quite correct. Christians who protest blasphemy generally do not threaten a violent response (though there were some bomb threats in response to a planned production of Terrence McNally's Corpus Christi a few years ago). But I would note that the "blasphemy as hate speech" meme is shared by quite a few conservative Christians as well; and, in some cases, this translates into sympathy for even violent Muslim backlash against perceived anti-Muslim blasphemy. Here, for instance, a Christian blogger condemns the cartoons about Islam on the grounds of disrespect:
The cartoons are clearly offensive attacks on the faith of all Muslims and it is not surprising that people are upset (if similar cartoons were drawn about Christians there would be considerable protest and outrage). Thus, it was sad to learn that one of the newspapers that published the cartoons was an evangelical Christian paper in Norway. The editor said he had received death threats and hate letters.
What did he expect? He published hate cartoons and thus should not be surprised to receive hate mail. How does this guy think he can reach out to the Muslims in Norway with the Gospel if he so grossly mocks their faith? Why must Christian newspapers publish tabloid trash? It is time for Norway's Christians to demand the editor leave or to cancel their subscriptions.
And Pat Buchanan recently had this to offer:
When Bush speaks of freedom as God's gift to humanity, does he mean the First Amendment freedom of Larry Flynt to produce pornography and of Salman Rushdie to publish The Satanic Verses, a book considered blasphemous to the Islamic faith? If the Islamic world rejects this notion of freedom, why is it our duty to change their thinking? Why are they wrong?
The "hate speech," "bigotry," and "Christian-bashing" label was slapped on the NBC show "The Book of Daniel" (canceled due to protests and boycotts), which featured an Episcopal priest with a dysfunctional family and a Jesus who urged him to be tolerant of human frailties.
I agree that cheap religion-baiting, and particularly Christian-baiting, has long been in vogue among the liberal intelligentsia, and that it can be very juvenile and tiresome. But there is something dangerous, in my view, about the idea that certain beliefs are beyond criticism, even disrespectful criticism (or irreverent reinterpretation).
Once, in illiberal and authoritarian times, blasphemy was outlawed as an offense to God and the authority of churches. Now, we are hearing calls to outlaw blasphemy as an offense to human sensibilities based on group identity.
In attacking "The Book of Daniel," Andrea Lafferty of the Traditional Values Coalition urged the entertainment industry to treat Christians with the same respect it treats Muslims and Jews. I don't know about Jews; but if the Danish cartoons saga is an example, the way Western societies today treat speech deemed offensive to Muslims is precisely the wrong way to approach speech about religion.
(Cross-posted at The Y-Files.)
Girls are outperforming boys because the school system favors them, said [high school senior Doug] Anglin' who has filed a federal civil rights complaint contending that his school discriminates against boys.
Anglin's complaint has set off a buzz among the 1,000 students at the school....Of the 22 students in her honors Spanish class, only one is a boy, said Little, a senior. She also said that teachers rarely ask her for a hall pass if she is not in class, while they routinely question boys walking behind her.
As for assignments, she said, one teacher expects students to type up class notes and decorate their notebooks with glitter and feathers.
"You can't expect a boy to buy pink paper and frills to decorate their notebooks," Little said.
I think we can take the integration of glitter into any academic endeavor as evidence that public schools suck equally for men, women, and anyone in between. Over at Slate, Ann Hulbert chimes in:
Viewing school issues primarily through a gender lens has a way of encouraging a search for one-size-fits-all prescriptions for each sex. But what the array of motley evidence about males suggests is the wisdom of being wary about just that.
Whole thing here.
In a recent TCS Daily piece, Reason Contributing Editor James DeLong quickly moves from defending Google's cooperation with the Chinese government's Web censorship (which you might think would be a challenging enough task in a 1,300-word essay) to defending the Chinese government, which he suggests is wise to put "perestroika before glasnost." I am honestly not sure if he's kidding. Assuming he isn't, I have a few questions:
1. Isn't the need to maintain order the excuse of every tyrant?
2. Can Russia's return to authoritarianism (including state control of the news media), which DeLong cites as a cautionary tale about the dangers of moving too quickly toward an open society, reasonably be attributed to excessive freedom of speech?
3. Doesn't the Chinese government's ham-handed censorship foster popular discontent by giving credence to wild rumors and blocking the safety valve of open dissent?
4. Aren't the dangers of democracy that DeLong cites the result of insufficient respect for individual rights? How does punishing people for the things they say foster respect for liberty?
5. How can China have economic freedom if it doesn't respect property rights, including the right to set up a Web site with your own computer, using an Internet connection and hosting services that you purchase from voluntary sellers with the fruits of your labor?
6. What the hell does blocking access to Web sites featuring "jokes and alcohol" have to do with preventing chaos?
Will Wilkinson wants to know whether you've got to be a little more miserable before he can be fully content.
The City Council of Calabasas, California, is on the verge of banning outdoor smoking in the presence of others, including smoking in the outdoor seating areas of bars and restaurants, smoking on balconies and patios, smoking in parks, smoking in parking lots, and smoking on sidewalks. The ordinance, which is expected to receive final approval in late February or early March, announces that "except as otherwise provided by this chapter or by state or federal law, smoking is prohibited everywhere in the city." The exceptions are private residences, hotel rooms, and outdoor "smokers' outposts" in shopping malls. People also may smoke in an "outdoor area in which no person who is not smoking or who does not consent to smoking is within a Reasonable Distance [i.e., 20 feet] of the smoker" (emphasis added). So if you voluntarily go to an isolated outdoor spot with a friend who smokes, he can legally light up only if you do too?
The avowed goals of the ban include "protecting children from exposure to smoking and tobacco," "affirming and promoting the family-friendly atmosphere of the City's public places," and "reducing the potential for children to associate smoking and tobacco with a healthy lifestyle." As I've said before, the same rationale of setting a good, healthy example for the kids could be used to bar fat people from public places.
The only encouraging thing is that even some nonsmoking residents of Calabasas think the city's guardians of "the public health, safety, and welfare" are going too far. "I think it's fabulous," one told the Los Angeles Times, "but I don't think it's right."
When Cindy Sheehan was arrested at the State of the Union address Tuesday night, there was some confusion about the charges, with some reports saying she had merely worn an antiwar T-shirt and others declaring she had intended to break Capitol rules by unfurling a sign. In case you're wondering which it was: She wore a T-shirt. And in case you're wondering whether there's a law against that: No, there isn't.
Capitol Police dropped a charge of unlawful conduct against anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan on Wednesday and apologized for ejecting her and a congressman's wife from President Bush's State of the Union address for wearing T-shirts with war messages.
"The officers made a good faith, but mistaken effort to enforce an old unwritten interpretation of the prohibitions about demonstrating in the Capitol," Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer said in a statement late Wednesday.
The ejected wife was Beverly Young, spouse of Florida Republican Bill Young. She was expelled but not arrested for wearing a shirt that said "Support the Troops -- Defending Our Freedom."
Yet another thing I never got to do in my life: send a telegram. Western Union, now booming as a financial services company, has left the telegraph business. Here's the company's own farewell to its original core competency.
What's surprising is that that such an obsolete medium survived for so long. Company spokesman Victor Chayet tells AP that Western Union still managed to move 20,000 telegrams in 2005, despite a cost of about $10 a message and a delivery structure in which your telegram was actually delivered by Airborne rather than by a spiffy Western Union courier. Most of that traffic came from companies using the service for formal notifications.
Last week, the last 10 telegrams included birthday wishes, condolences on the death of a loved one, notification of an emergency, and several people trying to be the last to send a telegram.
"Recent generations didn't receive telegrams and didn't know you could send them," Chayet said.
Having problems jumpstarting your Super Bowl fever? Troubled by a nagging sense that a game which is in every way more gargantuan than ever before seems to have gotten so small? The Onion AV Club's appreciation of the NFL Films Super Bowl DVDs suggests a reason why: We don't have John Facenda narrating the highlight films.
Although I hadn't thought about Facenda's stentorian readings of the weekly NFL wrapups for a long time, the AV geeks pay him a telling tribute by singling out "Memorable John Facenda narration" on each disc, but not even bothering to name his successor (the able but less stirring Harry Kalas). It says something that a man who died more than two decades ago is still the unchallenged poet of professional football. Some samples:
Memorable John Facenda narration: "The clarion call of the Kansas City trumpeter went... unanswered."
Memorable John Facenda narration: "The third quarter was dying... and so were the Colts."
Memorable John Facenda narration: "A Niagra of gold and black... poured down on Roger Staubach."
Memorable John Facenda narration: "By day, the Rams' sparkling spirit kept the game close... but by night, it faded into the black reality of the Pittsburgh Steelers."
If you're not familiar with the vocal stylings of Facenda, a man who must have eaten nothing but leeks, you can listen to samples (not football-related, unfortunately) here and here. And if you think these phrases didn't just flow naturally from his lyre, that the great Facenda alexandrines were crafted by some nameless South Jersey writing team, read this account of how Facenda got the job. (It's in Wikipedia, so you know it's true.)
Maybe there's just something in the water in the City of Brotherly Love, the same stuff that produces the incomparable sub rolls; but why hasn't professional football been able to come up with another great narrator in more than 20 years? (Though some have apparently tried.) How is it that this supposedly post-ironic era can't muster up a decent Voice of God? Isn't there some underutilized baritone at the Philadelphia Opera willing to read Stan Lee-style descriptions of draw plays?
But this is no time for kvetching. One of the great dynasties of the Facenda era is back in the Bowl as the sentimental favorite (and to my surprise, the Vegas favorite), so reminisce with the DVDs for Super Bowls I-X and Super Bowls XI-XX—taking you up to the 1985-86 season, when Ditka's Bears clearly demonstrated that Facenda's heroic age had come to an end.
Update: Independent worm sends in this must-hear clip of Facenda reading "Autumn Wind," the fabled Raiders poem by NFL Films librettist Steve Sabol, complete with an old-school musical track (not "What do ye do with a drunken sailor earl-aye in the mornin'," but still stirring enough to make you want to go out and sack Bob Griese).
George H.W. Bush at least paid read-my-lip service to conservative principles; Jesse Walker squints at the State of the Union address in search of some comforting hypocrisy.
U.S.A.F. senior airman comes back from Iraq in one piece, gets shot three times by a San Bernardino County sheriff's deputy. An amateur video shows the cop shooting 21-year-old Elio Carrion from a few feet away while Carrion is apparently seated or supine, trying to talk to him, and obeying his orders. The cop tells him to get up, then shoots him—which suggests "Get up" may not have been an order but some kind of tough-guy challenge. Or he may have been jittery after a chase that ended in a crash. In any event, he's a goober who shouldn't be carrying a badge. Ironically, Carrion works as a military policeman.
A bold reification of the David Brin dream of a surveillance world where all watch all, the subjects observing the rulers with the same tools and techniques as the rulers watch the subjects--or a silly prank? You make the call, as the Northeast Ohio Antiwar Coalition turns the tables outside a federal building in Cleveland:
Some two dozen members of NOAC and other groups affiliated with the coalition dressed in exaggerated spy gear to protest government surveillance of a NOAC meeting in Cleveland last November, and similar monitoring of other peace groups, including the Quakers.
NOAC member Sarah Morton said the demonstration was intended to plant a covert tongue in a very serious cheek -- matching a perceived government gaffe with an equally ludicrous gesture. To "make people think about the ridiculousness of this federal action," as Morton said.
The "spies" were bracketed by Homeland Security cars parked behind them, and security keeping a watchful eye in front of them....
[Link via Rational Review.]
Ron Bailey debates Seed Magazine's Chris Mooney and the Discovery Institute's Wesley Smith on the politicization of science--in MP3 audio and MOV video.
Saree Makdisi, a professor at UCLA and nephew of the late Edward Said, has heaved his way up to the barricades of Middle East disputation in the United States. Recently Makdisi began a blog, and his latest entry highlights a piece published in London's The Guardian by Hamas official Khaled Meshaal. What does Makdisi think?
No matter what one thinks of Hamas, and no matter whether one reads the piece as nothing more than a political polemic, it at least marks a sea-change from the previous rhetoric of the official Palestinian leadership. Here there is no pathetic bleating about "resuming the Peace Process" or "returning to the Road Map" which leaders like Ahmad Qureia or Mahmoud Abbas would utter from time to time, often under the most surreal circumstances ... Meshaal revives the language of genuine struggle rather than that of hopelessness and defeat; he relies on the unapologetic rhetoric of national liberation, rather than the tired cliches and bureaucratic language ("performance," "interim status") borrowed from Israeli and American planners. And he puts the question to the world: why is it that the occupied, rather than the occupiers--the victims, rather than the perpetrators, of one of the most brutal military occupations of the modern era--are the ones who are constantly being asked to apologize, to renounce, to compromise, to offer, to atone, to beg for forgiveness? No matter what one thinks of Hamas, that surely is a question that deserves an answer.
Perhaps, but Makdisi reminds me of his uncle here, all stylish polemicist and innocent of a practical thought. Quite of what value is "the language of genuine struggle" remains a mystery; or, for that matter, the "unapologetic rhetoric of national liberation." Makdisi plays up the form but ignores the substance, as well as the fact that the revolutionary rhetoric of the 1970s took Palestinians absolutely nowhere. In dismissing the Oslo process that exchanged land for peace, Makdisi, but also Meshaal and Said, never offered a practical alternative; nor has Hamas done so today. The fact is that Israel can simply afford to ignore the Palestinians and build its separation wall, unilaterally delimiting its final borders, even as Palestinians devise new flourishes to enliven the language of national liberation.
It's not language that counts, nor the Palestinian refusal to apologize; it's what the Palestinians have in hand to forestall their further marginalization and impoverishment. The answer is desperately little. I have no problems with PhD Partisans, but if you're heaving rocks from Los Angeles, it would help to occasionally toss a doable solution to the people in the front lines, so they can resolve the conundrums you insist they address.
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Writing at Slate, Will Saletan reports that clinical trials have shown the experimental drug nalmefene to be effective at curbing the urge to gamble. Basically, by interfering with components of the brain's pleasure systems, the drug takes the thrill out of winning and losing.
Obviously, if this helps people who've decided they have a problem gamble less, that's fantastic. But part of me wonders whether a drug that takes the fun out of risky behavior isn't going to sound like the best thing since Ritalin to a lot of parents.
Joel Miller, author of the good book Size Matters: How Big Government Puts the Squeeze on America's Families, Finances, and Freedom (And Limits the Pursuit of Happiness), will be talking at the Cato Institute in DC tomorrow at noon. Reason regular Jonathan Rauch will offer up comments.
Go here for details and to RSVP (yes, there is a free-to-you lunch afterwards).
Bonus info: We'll be excerpting Size Matters in a future issue of Reason (so subscribe already). And here's an interview we did with Miller about his previous, equally excellent, tome, Bad Trip: How the War on Drugs Is Destroying America.
Last night a commenter asked about President Bush's assertion in his State of the Union address that "drug use among youth is down 19 percent since 2001." Judging from the Monitoring the Future Study, that seems about right to me. Between 2001 and 2005, for example, self-reported past-month use of illegal drugs fell from 11.9 percent to 8.5 percent among eighth-graders (a 29 percent drop), from 22.7 percent to 17.3 percent among 10th-graders (a 24 percent drop), and from 25.7 percent to 23.1 percent among 12th-graders (a 10 percent drop). A rough average of those declines is 21 percent.
A more important question is whether Bush's policies had anything to do with these declines. The peak year for past-month drug use among eighth-graders and 10th-graders was 1996, five years before Bush took office; past-month use among seniors peaked in 1997. Allowing time for any changes he implemented after taking office in 2001 to have an impact, I suppose Bush could try to take credit for the continuation of the downward trend after, say, 2002. But it's not clear how he thinks he accomplished that. By shifting the emphasis of the government's anti-drug propaganda from the hazards of illegal intoxicants to drug users' complicity in terrorism? By continuing the Clinton administration's cruel, dogmatic crusade against medical marijuana users? By putting Tommy Chong in jail for selling bongs?
Last week, Washington State passed a bill barring private-sector discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. There were a few depressing statements from proponents of the bill, such as the claim by State Sen. Bill Finkbeiner that "What we are really talking about here is ... whether or not it's OK to be gay or homosexual in this state," as if it's only "OK to be gay" if the state forces some bigoted prick to rent you an apartment. But the really sad part is that opponents seemed to be almost wholly acting on the worst motives. For instance:
Sen. Dan Swecker, R-Rochester, said, "Discrimination against anyone is unacceptable, and it is wrong."
"Unfortunately the bill before us today is not the magic tool that will end discrimination in our state," he said. "In reality, it takes us in the opposite direction.
"The passage of this legislation puts us on a slippery slope towards gay marriage. The two are linked. ... Are any of us naive enough to think the court won't take notice?"
In other words, revoking private citizens' rights to free association is, in itself, just fine and dandy. The real threat, apparently, is this might lead to a requirement that the government treat all citizens equally, and that would be unacceptable. In the immortal words of Mugatu: I feel like I'm taking crazy pills!
Last night President Bush joked that both he and Bill Clinton -- two of his "dad's favorite people" -- are about to turn 60. Over at NRO, Reason contributor Veronique de Rugy points out that the two have more than that in common:
Today it is impossible to square the president's rhetorical support for free markets and limited government with the long list of programs and new initiatives that he claims to support. If all this sounds familiar, it's because it is. Bill Clinton was a master of this strategy, declaring one minute that the era of big government was over and then the next minute proposing new government programs for every conceivable problem in society.
Whole thing here.
Jacob Sullum puts his ear to the door in search of a justification for warrantless wiretaps.
Reader Mark Lambert sends word of an Iowa bill to restrict "the exhibition or dissemination of certain sexual devices to minors," with the devices defined as "any three-dimensional item designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs." In other words, the legislators want to keep the kids safe from dildos -- aside, that is, from the dildos currently serving in the Iowa General Assembly. Comments Lambert: "By Gosh, we want our teenagers masturbating BY HAND, not by some newfangled device!"
Two Donkey-Party-friendly views of the Democratic response delivered by "rising star" (well at least til last night) Gov. Tim Kaine of Virginia:
It took just 15 seconds for Gov. Tim Kaine to begin pouring Religion Lite -- one of the new favorite brews of the consultant wing of the Democratic Party, which apparently believes if you can't beat those GOP Christian conservatives, you might as well join 'em (sort of.)...
And then, the big finish: "Tonight we pray, earnestly and humbly, for that healing and for the day when service returns again as the better way to a new national politics. We ask all Americans to join us in that effort because, together, America can do better. Thank you for listening, and God bless the United States of America."
Who, pray tell, was my party trying to reach with that response?
Is Religion Lite going to make evangelicals flock to the party of Thomas Jefferson?
Is the occasionally-churched political center going to feel properly pandered to?
How about us social cultural lefties, who make up a big chunk of the Democratic Party base. Are we going to be turned on, and turned out on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, by another cheesy attempt to inject religion into politics?
Anyway....God bless America. God bless us all. And you too, tiny Tim.
That's from self-described libertarian Democrat Terry Michael. Whole bit here.
Here's a different POV:
Why are so many liberal bloggers up in arms about Virginia Governor Timothy Kaine being picked to give the Democrat's reply to Bush's State of the Union? There's been fury in the blogosphere about everything from Kaine's looks, style, obscurity, his open talk about his faith and his inexperience in national security....
But, let's get real here.
1. It doesn't really matter who gives the reply, since no one listens and it's an impossible task.
2. This is slightly less important than whether House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi chooses to wear blue or red to listen to the speech....
For liberal bloggers who want to get exercised about something really important: Where are the Democrats or liberals talking about Ford laying off some 30,000 workers, the end of middle class benefits for working Americans, IBM's gutting of pension security, and the collapse of American manufacturing?...
If you want to know why Dems don't win elections, it won't be because Kaine is talking this Tuesday night. It's because the mainstream leadership of the Democratic Party doesn't think, feel, or viscerally respond to the increasing insecurities of working Americans.
That's from Nation Ed Katrina vanden Heuvel. Whole bit here.
Obscure blog headline allusion explained for non-William Peter Blatty-fans here.
Tribute to the real Killer K here.
The full text of Bush's State of the Union address, as released by the White House, is available here.
And the text of Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine's response is online here.
Read 'em and sleep.