Even a blogger needs to eat. This blog is primarily Charles' hobby. But if he is intent on continuing to woo the Hooter's waitresses
in Chatanooga he needs something that pays.... wings don't come free you know. Here's a link to his
day job where he works the education beat
and, assuming he can't annoy enough people that way, is sometimes allowed to write opinion pieces.
Need perspective? Watson offers readers all they could possibly eat. For a unique view on current events, namely how they look from
orbit, here's Chuck's Real-Time(ish) Satellite Imagery of Areas of Interest.
Whenever it strikes his fancy, and there's good telemetry, Chuck will
process and post near real-time images of locations in the news. Eminently engrossing.
Wanna get into the head of a Japanese salaryman? Why, for Chis'sakes?! Well, assumin' you do, feel welcome to check out
the on-line journal of
Campbell's English class. Everyday, a group of disaffected salarymen are required to spill out their inner-most thoughts about life, the universe
and everything in broken English. Amazingly prosaic.
Shoutin' across the Pacific
Chiizu taberu koufuku shiteiru saru ga kangei-saremasen.
Sunday, June 30, 2002 Breaking Up Is Hard To Do. The largest Islamic party in Indian-controlled Kashmir says it is no longer seeking unification with Pakistan. The Jama'at-e-Islami also said it had no links with Islamic militants staging terror attacks and strikes on military targets since 1989 and hinted that it could break ranks with other Kashmiri separatists and consider participation in elections.
Hopeless. Seems some people have just discovered that Georgia's HOPE scholarships are a subsidy for the middle class. Funny, I thought it was known from the beginning that that's what they were. I certainly knew it.
But I'm not sure that the scholarships really boost students' incentives to prosper academically. I've heard a lot of stories from teachers who are facing increasing pressure from parents to make sure their kids get Bs, so as to qualify for the scholarship. Every teacher I've talked to says he has heroically resisted this pressure. But everyone knows of teachers who haven't. Granted, that's purely anecdotal. But it certainly sounds plausible that the scholarships may be leading to grade inflation.
Saturday, June 29, 2002 Hottest Woman In Sports. FoxSports' poll is down to the Sweet 16. In a tough draw, my two favorites, Anna Kournikova and Katarina Witt, are matched against each other, meaning one won't go on to the quarterfinals.
Killing Monsters. Thanks to my pal Virginia Postrel for bringing to my attention a new book that sounds fascinating. "Killing Monsters: Why Children Need Fantasy, Super Heroes and Make-Believe Violence" by Gerard Jones.
The book's central theme is that
Children need to feel strong. They need to feel powerful in the face of a scary, uncontrollable world. Superheroes, video-game warriors, rappers, and movie gunmen are symbols of strength. By pretending to be them, young people are being strong.
That certainly squares with my own experience as a child. Even seemingly amoral violence can, in the hands of a child, be empowering in a positive way.
I found a story on a pro wrestling board a couple of years ago that shows just how important fantasy, even politically incorrect fantasy can sometimes be to children.
By way of background, this was posted at the time of the death of John Wisniski, who wrestled for almost 30 years as Johnny Valentine. John was a legend among wrestlers as one of the legit toughest men in the sport. He once told a young wrestler, "You can't convince people that this is real, but you can show them you are." He worked a brutal style that often caused other wrestlers to refuse to work with him. He had what other wrestlers called a "heavy hand." He'd pound you full-power on the chest and back and expect you to do the same to him. As for his ring persona, imagine Stone Cold Steve Austin without the swearing, hell without any talking at all. He was a dangerous man who gave no mercy and expected none whether he was playing the good guy or the villain. He probably wasn't the sort of character many parents would want their kids to idolize.
That's why I found this post on a tribute page interesting. Valentine's physical toughness was apparent to anyone who saw him work. For some, pure physical toughness was a necessary viture.
My best friend in grammar school was a kid whose mother was dead and whose father -- an otherwise pleasant, pompadoured bus driver who smelled of cologne -- used the opportunity offered by the weekends to get drunk at a local tavern and then stagger home and beat his son. I learned about this situation on a Sunday afternoon in December, when my friend showed up at my door to deliver wrapping paper and ribbons that my mother had ordered from him for the benefit of his church. Except for a large purple-black welt on the side of his neck, on that day, my friend was his usual chipper, respectful, patronizing self. ...[M]y mother was stirred enough by his wound to ask about its derivation. "I fell off my bike last night,"he told her, not missing a beat, "and my neck hit the bumper of a car." Later, when he and I were cleaning my American Flyer engines and tracks, he told me the truth: His old man had choked him on the night before to the point where he passed out. Although I was only thirteen at the time, I reacted like a liberal attorney, expressing my outrage in a soliloquy ending with, "...but don't worry, man...my father's a cop, he'll take care of the ******* ." Before I got two steps in my dash toward the door in my room, my friend grabbed my arm, turned me around, and said, "No, man, don't, I can take it." "Bull****," I said. "You're only thirteen years old." "No I'm not," he said. "I'm Johnny Valentine." I never told my parents the truth about my friend's father, whose terrible behavior he survived. My friend is a happily-married businessman today, with two grown sons who, to the best of my knowledge, my friend never laid an angry hand on. ...The persona that Johnny Valentine so brilliantly created and expressed gave my friend the strength to survive.
Wednesday, June 26, 2002 Not That Wacky. Eugene Volokh examines the 9th Circuit ruling on the pledge. Click here and scroll up.
The Ninth Circuit's decision is a perfectly plausible application of the Supreme Court's precedents on the matter. The Court has held that it's unconstitutional for the government to endorse religion, and to do things that have the tendency to coerce people (even via social pressure rather than the threat of legal sanction) into expressing religious views.
The ruling isn't, as President Bush charged, "ridiculous."
Nevertheless, Eugene seems to be more persuaded by the dissent. More important, he thinks it more likely than not that the Supreme Court will overturn the decision.
So why is Joe Lieberman calling for a Constitutional amendment to protect the pledge already? And why is the Senate interrupting debate on important issues to vote on a resolution defending the pledge?
Even if you think the court is wrong, is this that important an issue?
Actually, it just goes to show how shameless politicians are in pandering to the public. I've often said that I'll vote for the first politician I find who doesn't have a strongly felt opinion on every issue. The first time someone responds to a question about the pledge or flag burning or circumcision or any other issue that won't really affect the general welfare "I don't know, and I don't care," I'm voting for him.
Al Qaida's Next Targets? We well could be in store for a cyber Pearl Harbor. But I'm much more worried about the Chinese than Islamic terrorists on this front. The Defense Department seems to agree with me, which leads me to think I could be wrong.
Court Declares Pledge Unconstitutional. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a 1954 act of Congress inserting the phrase "under God" after the words "one nation" in the pledge. The court said the phrase violates the so-called Establishment Clause in the Constitution that requires a separation of church and state.
I'll leave it up to Instapundit or one of the Volokhs to talk about how sound the reasoning is behind this decision is or is not.
Even without the God part, the pledge has always struck me as a more than a bit totalitarian. Who pledges allegiance to an inanimate object? Why not pledge allegiance to the Constitution? Or to the values this country was founded on? Then I found how the pledge originated. The author was Francis Bellamy, cousin of Edward Bellamy who wrote the Socialist utopian novel "Looking Backward." Francis was a lader in the nationalist socialist movement inspired by his cousin's book.
There's something more than a little dictatorial about lining kids up and forcing them to recite a loyalty oath, especially in schools they are forced to attend. Despite the pledge's socialist origins, many conservatives embrace it with a near mystical fervor. You should have heard talk radio last month when Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura vetoed a bill requiring school kids to recite the pledge. A few neoconfederates were pissed about the "indivisible" part, but otherwise right-wingers went rabid that someone didn't like their sacred pledge. (Speaking of sacred, doesn't the pledge seem to violate the Second Commandmant?)
Then again, maybe it isn't so ironic that a socialist pledge has been so embraced by conservatives. Both movements want to regiment and order our lives, they just differ about who should pass the rules and for what purpose they should govern.
Ann Coulter, I Just Don't Get It. She has a new book out. She's all over the place promoting it.
But I've never understood how she has a job as a pundit. She isn't funny, at least not intentionally. (She does sometimes strike me as a being a Saturday Night Live parody of a conservative pundit.) She doesn't offer well-informed, reasoned arguments, just angry invective. Her writing is, apart from her vitriol, pedestrian. Yet some right-wingers treat her as if she were a goddess of wisdom, and TV producers clearly love her.
Her detractors say she has built her career on her looks. But I can't even see that. She's skinny and has a horsey face. There are plenty of right-wing babes who are much more attractive.
But whatever the source of Coulter's appeal, she is proof that you can make a handsome living just preaching to the choir and never winning any converts.
Tuesday, June 25, 2002 End Times.Time says that Americans are now obsessed with Apocalyptic talk . I'm not sure that's true, or at least no more true than usual. Here's a review of the 2001 movie Left Behind that really delves into the theological assumptions behind a lot of this talk and scores some deserved but easy shots against the move.
Monday, June 24, 2002 The Palestinian Strategy. I always take Stratfor analyses with a grain of salt. But seems to me to be the most account I've seen of why Palestinians are pursuing the tactics they have pursued recently.
Tiger Who? Last year, predominantly black Bethune-Cookman College won the Minority College Golf Championship. How many blacks were on the team? None. The school's winning team was all white. Participation of black golfers on teams representing predominantly and historically black colleges has recently been as low as 40%.
Another One-Term Bush?Larry Kudlow wants to know why the stock market is sinking despite abundant signs of an economic recovery. He places much of the blame on W's misguided economic policies.
To some observers President Bush's economic policies have moved away from free-market principles and toward short-run political expedience. Rather than resembling Ronald Reagan's, the Bush policies are looking more and more like Richard Nixon's.
Ouch! Kudlow's right, but the stock market won't be the only thing that's sliding if Bush continues down this path. The economy could start to flonder again soon, possibly just in time for the 2004 election.
Sunday, June 23, 2002 Sputnik Monroe. That's a name most of you don't know. But he was a very big pro wrestling star in the 1950s and 1960s, and he was a major factor in racial integration in the South. Seriously.
When he first pulled into Memphis in the 1950s, he took a liking to Beale Street and befriended a young record producer named Sam Phillips. It was just after Phillips had discovered Elvis Presley. At that time, however, Phillips may have been best known for recording a lot of the Blues greats such as Howlin' Wolf and Elmore James. Soon Sputnik, who was white, had huge black following.
Here's how a recent article from the Dayton Daily News described what happened next:
He soon became the star attraction at the Monday night wrestling shows at Ellis Auditorium. But his black following was relegated to the third balcony far up in the arena. The promoter had counters on both the White and Colored entrances and wanted only 70 or so blacks in attendance. Instead, Monroe bribed the counter and 500 blacks were getting in and spilling into the white seats. Soon a crowd of more than 1,000 blacks was gathering outside the arena.
When the promoter refused to let them in, Monroe offered an ultimatum: "If you can't make room for my friends, I'm cuttin' out."
The greedy promoter — seeing green before black and white — let the blacks into his shows and soon the color line was being destroyed at other entertainment venues, too. "That's really how integration in Memphis started," musician Jim Dickinson told (It Came from Memphis author Robert) Gordon. "There's no other single event that integrated the audience other than the wrasslin' matches. . ."
Sputnik then flexed his power elsewhere. When black leaders were trying to protest a segregated car show, Sputnik simply called the dealership sponsoring the event and threatened to open his own car lot in a black neighborhood. The car show was integrated a day later.
In later years, Sputnik took a young black wrestler -- Norvell Austin -- as his tag partner. The two dressed alike, and Norvell bleached a streak of his hair blond, just like Sputnik. The unspoken assumption was that Norvell, in the storyline, was Sputnik's son.
They had a bit where they'd dump black paint on an opponent. "Black is beautiful," Sputnik would bellow. "White is beautiful," Norvell would respond. "Black and white together is beautiful," they'd chant in unison.
Saturday, June 22, 2002 What's To Rethink? If you vote in another county's elections, serve in its military or high government office or carry a passport issued by it, then it should be assumed that you have renounced your U.S. citizenship. I'm sorry. I have no sympathy for Shawn Pine. If he was nearly 17, he could have refused to join his family, refused to serve in another nation's military. When he didn't, upon his return to the U.S., he should have been treated as an Israeli citizen trying to immigrate to the U.S.
The interests of two countries, even two close allies, can and sometimes do take separate paths. Israel spies on the U.S., as do most other "friendly" nations. (To be fair, we spy on them as well.)
Take the case of Jonathan Pollard. His defenders point out that he, a spy for a "friendly" nation, has been treated more harshly than most spies for "unfriendly" nations. But some experts say there's a reason for that. A number of officials strongly suspect that the Israelis repackaged much of Pollard's material and provided it to the Soviet Union in exchange for continued Soviet permission for Jews to emigrate to Israel. Pollard's defenders deny this.
But even if the Israelis did what they are accused of doing, I wouldn't condemn them that much. They were only doing what they thought was right for their nation, which is a government's duty. I only recognize that they will (correctly) continue to do what is right for their people, and that may not always serve American interests. That's one reason why the neocon and Randian push to treat Israeli and American interests as always being identical is foolish.
But I don't want to single out Israeli-Americans.To be blunt, I'm more concerned about Mexican dual citizenship.The Mexican government has been, for several years, trying to subvert the assimilation process of immigrants to the U.S. Juan Hernandez, Mexico's cabinet minister for Mexicans Abroad, has been blunt. He wants Mexican-Americans, even those who have been in this nation for generations, to think of "Mexico First." Hernandez, by the way, was born in Texas and has dual citizenship.
Such views could rend this country in years to come. In life, people have to make choices and live with them. That applies to citizenship, as well.
Friday, June 21, 2002 Doctor, My Eyes. My illness and the medicine I've been taking have left my eyes dry, red and itchy. So I've started taking a salve my doctor recommended. Well, I put it in one eye, and after I finish writing this, I'll put it in the other, and then I'll be through for a while.
The salve is nothing but white petroleum and mineral oil. If I'm not mistaken, that's simply Vaseline. Yes, my eye doesn't burn, but now I see like, well, like I have one eye covered in Vaseline. It's like walking around inside a Penthouse pictorial circa 1976, except there are no naked women around.
Thursday, June 20, 2002 Charlie Daniels Sucks. I'm a 30-something white Southern male. Ronnie Van Zant and Jim "Dandy" Mangrum were bigger heroes to me as a boy than John Wayne, John Galt or Muhammad Ali.
I worked a lot of hard hours doing construction work to buy everything put out by the Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd and ZZ Top. I was even into decidedly second-tier southern rock bands like Molly Hatchett, Blackfoot and the Marshall Tucker Band.
But even as a die-hard teenage redneck, I knew that the Charlie Daniels Band sucked. CDB rode the coattails of all the other Southern rockers. All of the other bands had great songs. The Allmans and Skynyrd had dozens of tunes. Does CDB have one song, just one song, that can compare to Freebird, Sweet Home Alabama, That Smell or any of a dozen other Skynyrd tunes?
When I asked my buddies about CDB, they'd admit Charlie had no great albums and few good tunes, but they'd always say that the CDB's real magic was never captured on album. They were a great live band. Of course, the Allman's and Skynyrd and all the rest were even better live than recorded. But they were still damn good on their albums.
But whereas Duane Allman and Ronnie Van Zant had the good grace to die young. Charlie just got old and worse. His songwriting was never his strong suit. But his trite lyrics became preachy as the years went by.
I think it all started with 1980s "In America."
We may have done a little bit of fighting amongst ourselves/But you outside people best leave us alone/’Cause we’ll all stick together, and you can take that to the bank/That’s the cowboys and the hippies, and the rebels and the yanks.
The song may be a response to the Iranian hostage crisis, but the only foreigners to be cited by name are the Russians, who had just launched their own war against fundamentalist guerrillas in Afghanistan.
No one ever accused Charlie of being a deep thinker.
Things just got worse as the years went by. He rewrote one of the few good songs he did, "Uneasy Rider." The original was a whimsical tale of a Southern stoner's trip across the nation. The rewritten "Uneasy Rider '88" is a mean-spirited tale of two rednecks who go fag-bashing.
To make matters even worse, he changed the lyrics of the only truly great song he ever did, "Long-Haired Country Boy." The original's "I get stoned in the morning/I get drunk in the afternoon" is now "I get up in the morning/I get down in the afternoon" and "I will take another toke" is now "I will tell another joke." So now people think the singer is "no good and crazy as a loon" because he gets up in the morning. Does anyone but Charlie think that even makes sense?
Last year, Charlie Daniels refused to play a CMT benefit for the victims of Sept. 11 because they wouldn't let him play a new song, "This Ain't No Rag," because it might offend Arab Americans. CMT was right not to let him play the song, but not because it might offend someone. He shouldn't play it because it's lousy.
Now, Charlie was pulled out of a PBS July 4 concert because he demanded to play another new song ,"The Last Fallen Hero." I haven't heard the new song, but if it's like every other jingoistic flag-waving song Charlie has recorded over the last 22 years, I'm sure it sucks too.
Update: Charlie now has the lyrics on his site. They suck.
Posting From Me Will Continue To Be Light. For at least a few more days, I won't be blogging as much. As I've mentioned before, I've got a case of bronchitis I just can't shake. I don't have a lot of energy, but what I do have, I must devote to a project I'm working on that I've promised to have finished quickly.
It's the start of something pretty big. I can't say more now, but when the time is right, I'll definitely post more about it.
In the meantime, take a trip to this site. I'd take what is posted there with a grain or two of salt. But I find it interesting that the musicians who have the best marks for niceness to their fans tend to have have a rep for not sleeping around. The guys who are ranked as the biggest sluts seem, for the most part, to be the biggest jackasses. As for the rumors about Diamond Dave, I'm not saying they are true. But take a look at how he dressed in the 1980s.
Wednesday, June 19, 2002 Bad Manners. Some Muslims seem to think their religion demands rudeness.
The bishop of Hildesheim in Germany paid an imam a courtesy visit in his mosque. The imam handed the Catholic prelate a Koran, which he joyfully accepted. But when the bishop tried to present the imam with a Bible, the Muslim cleric just stared at him in horror and refused to even touch Christianity's holy book.
I'm Taking This Really Great Cough Medicine. And I told myself that I shouldn't post anything substantive until I've finished with it. I may be even less coherent than usual. But Franklin Harris has a thoughtful response to my paleolibertarian posts that I felt compelled to answer.
He raises a point that I had considered before in making my distinction between being pro-liberty and anti-government. Is that really a valid distinction? As Franklin puts it, "Well, for an anarcho-capitalist, this is only a rhetorical difference."
I don't want to try to settle the minarchist vs. anarchist debate. I can't. But I do contend that even among those who argue that the state has no functions that can't ethically and efficiently be performed by the private sector, there is a difference between being pro-liberty and anti-government. It isn't merely a difference of rhetoric. It's also a difference of mindset. Franklin notes that one of the major influences on his thought is David Friedman. Friedman, like Murray Rothbard, is an anarchocapitalist. But there the difference begins. I would contend that David Friedman is pro-liberty, not merely anti-state.
David is a frequent contributor at various usenet groups. And if you search for his name, you'll find many, many fascinating posts on just about every topic imaginable. Compare his rhetoric, his focus, to that of Lew Rockwell or Rothbard, and the difference becomes clear.
Or consider what David himself said in one usenet post,
I have been told that Murray Rothbard on some occasion asserted that the problem with me was that I wasn't a good enough hater. I don't know if the story is true, but I would like to believe it is. And I think part of Rothbard's animosity towards my father, like (Ayn) Rand's, came from the fact that he (Milton Friedman) saw the enterprise as an argument among reasonable and well intentioned people, not as a war between good and evil.
To me that sums up the difference between Friedman and Rothbard. One's focus is essentially positive. The other, negative. Friedman makes it clear that he is in favor of putting up with government in those (possible) instances where it would have bad results to abolish it. Specifically, when it would result in being conquered by another and worse government. Check out his discussion of national defense in The Machiney of Freedom. He acknowledges that the problem of national defense is a knotty one for anarchists, and some form of limited government may be the least bad alternative. I can't see Rothbardians even acknowledging that getting rid of the government might have bad consequences.
That difference in mindset makes Friedman a more persuasive voice for anarchocapitialism, and it keeps him from making the sort of, um, extreme, statements that Rothbard, Rockwell, Raimondo, etc. do.
I Hate To Nitpick. A new study claims watching a movie or TV program with strong sexual references interferes with people's ability to remember the commercials in such programs. Programs with a strong amount of violence have similar impact.
I haven't read the study, so I maybe shouldn't make any judgements. But this caught my eye
Bushman and his colleague conducted the research by recruiting 162 men and 162 women between ages 18 and 54. The volunteers were randomly assigned to three groups. The first group saw 45-minute shows with content labeled by cable networks as "V" for violent. Shows included "La Femme Nikita," "Tour of Duty" and "World Wrestling Federation Monday Night Nitro." The second group saw shows labeled "S" for sexual. These included "Strip Poker," "Howard Stern" and "Strip Mall." The last group saw shows that had neither the "V" nor the "S" labels. They included "Miracle Pets" and "Candid Camera."
What's the problem?
There never has been a show called "World Wrestling Federation Monday Night Nitro." The WWF, now WWE, has a Monday night show. It's called RAW. There used to be a wrestling show on TNT called simply Monday Nitro. It was part of WCW, not the WWF.
I've seen "World Wrestling Federation Monday Night Nitro" mentioned in almost every press account of this new study, so it seems to have originated with the study's authors, not reporters. Again, I haven't read the study, but I do wonder just how careful the research is behind it. The authors don't seem too pay much attention to details.
Don't you remember you told me you loved me baby? Megan Gaffey got kicked out of her Catholic high school for refusing to sing songs from Jesus Christ Superstar. She says the songs and the play are blasphemous. Many christians agree. But the Vatican disagrees. The Pope endorsed the musical in 1999, and the play was performed as part of the Vatican's 2000 Jubilee celebration. (Trivia note:If you watch the film version of JCS, look for porn actor/director Paul Thomas in the role of Peter.)
I always find it interesting when people, often with similar beliefs and values, come to completely opposite reactions over a work of art. In his 1980s book Hollywood vs. America, Michael Medved attacked the movie The Mission, calling it anti-religious because it showed cowardly eighteenth-century ecclesiastical officials who sold out idealistic Jesuit missionaries and their converts to profit-minded Portuguese imperialists and slave traders. Yet in 1995, the papal committee compiling the Vatican film list numbered The Mission among fifteen films noteworthy for special religious significance.
Another example is The Exorcist. William Peter Blatty is an extremely devout Catholic who felt that his book and the movie based on it were evangelical works that warned that Satan was very real, that people played with the occult at their own risk and that only Christ and his church stands between us and Satan. But many other equally devout Christians denounced the film and the book. Billy Graham went so far as to say that the very celluloid of the film was imbued with evil.
Silly Me. I thought that lack of paternal affection, lack of parental discipline and a bleak economic outlook were responsible for the high rate of sexual activity and prostitution among Japanese high school girls. Turns out it's all the Whoppers.
Maybe I Was Bit Unfair. But only a bit. Franklin Harris and Domenic Anghelone ask whether I painted the paleolibertarians with too broad a brush. They wrote just a few hours before LewRockwell.Com linked to an article thusly "Delegitimize The State: That's our job, says Tom White." The actual article is headlined A Dismal Era We Live In. But the link better captures its essence. "I agree with the irrepressible Murray Rothbard and the equally irrepressible Lew Rockwell that the work of the honest pundit is to establish the intellectual illegitimacy of the state," White wrote. Not to make the case for liberty.
Rothbard, Rockwell and their followers are to the libertarian movement what Noam Chomsky is to the left. (I mean that as an insult. But they would take it as a compliment.)
That branch of libertarianism is indeed more anti-state than pro-liberty. Take one now infamous example: Murray Rothbard celebrating the fall of South Vietnam. For those who want to check out his reasons for joy, find the July 1975 Reason.
His article read in part
This dissolution of States also confirms the insight of political theorists from Etienne La Boetie to David Hume to Ludwig von Mises that, in the final analysis, all States, whether "democratic" or dictatorial, rest for their continued existence on the majority support of their subjects. Once that support is finally destroyed, the State - seemingly mighty and all-powerful only weeks before - disintegrates and dies.
Rothbard is forced to admit that the liberties of the South Vietnamese didn’t increase with the fall of that government. In fact, the new government was even more repressive. His glee came only from the fact a government had fallen. Does that sound like a man who is pro-liberty? Or merely anti-state?
To go off on a bit of a tangent, Rothbard’s anti-statism always led him to overestimate the capabilities of guerrilla warfare. In his Reason article, he attributed the fall of South Vietnam solely to successful guerrilla warfare, never admitting the massive support from other states those guerrillas got. And in his multi-volume history of the early U.S. he makes it seem that the U.S. victory in the Revolutionary War was due solely to guerrilla actions by men such as Ethan Allen and Francis Marion. Other historians, even libertarian ones, give much greater weight to the Continental Army and the French navy. But they are writing as historians, not propagandists.
I don’t want to rehash my problems with the paleolibertarian stance on the Civil War. Those who are interested can see my previous posts in the archives of this blog. Or you can check out my Reason article Southern Nationalism. Let me just say that I don’t think the Confederacy was a libertarian project. but it certainly was an anti-federal-government one.
To see how Rothbard’s anti-statism bleeds into general anti-authoritarianism, check out his treatment of Adam Smith in his History of Economic Thought. Smith was not an anarchocapitalist. But Rothbard paints him as little more than a proto fascist.
And to do so he misrepresents what Smith actually said.
For instance, Rothbard refers to Smith’s “call for government-run education.” He claims that it was Smith’s desire to see the state foster a martial spirit and create an attitude of obedience to government among the people that lay behind that call.
Smith did not call for government-run education. He offered arguments both for and against government education, and his conclusion, which Rothbard does not mention, was that subsidizing the education of the masses would be a legitimate government activity, but that it would be equally legitimate, and might be better, to leave education entirely private.
What about fostering a “martial spirit?” Smith wrote
That spirit, besides, would necessarily diminish very much the dangers to liberty, whether real or imaginary, which are commonly apprehended from a standing army. As it would very much facilitate the operations of that army against a foreign invader, so it would obstruct them as much if unfortunately they should ever be directed against the
constitution of the state.
Does that sound like Smith wanted to militarize society?
I could go on. But let me just add that Mark Skousen, the man who commissioned the history, thought the section on Smith was deeply flawed. Why did Rothbard misread Smith so badly? I think he simply wanted to “take down” the father of modern economics.
Now, the paleolibertarian movement is broader than Rothbard, Rockwell and Raimondo, but not by much. And the knee-jerk anti-government, anti-military, anti-authority attitudes of those men may not be felt as strongly by others in that movement. Further, some of the people whose articles appear on LewRockwell.Com aren’t paleolibertarians (Robert Fisk and John Pilger come to mind.) And many of the people who pass through the Mises Institute’s programs don’t buy into the R-R agenda. I certainly didn’t have them in mind when I wrote my prior post. To the extent that I appeared to attribute the mindset of Rockwell, Rothbard, etc. to others, I did paint with too broad a brush.
I could say more on this, and probably will, but for now, it’s late, and I have bronchitis, so this will have to do.
Tuesday, June 18, 2002 Mises Must Be Spinning In His Grave. His name and legacy have been hijacked by a bunch of neoConfederate quacks. When I first started writing for this blog, I posted a few things on LewRockwell.Com, the main voice of those persons. But I quickly lost interest. Frankly, the Rothbard-Rockwell faction of libertarianism grows more marginal by the day, talking only to each other. Rockwell descended past the point of parody with he posted an article arguing that it would be a good thing if Washington, D.C. were nuked.
But PunchtheBag.com slams the paleocons the way they deserve to be slammed, even if the author doesn't know the difference between the Stars and Bars and the Southern Cross.
The main problem with Rothbard-Rockwellianism is that it isn't founded in a love of liberty. It is based instead on a hatred of the state, and more generally, a hatred of authority. That's the common thread among all of the articles on Rockwell's site. This faction is at war, not just with government, but with mainstream economics, mainstream science, mainstream medicine, mainstream history, etc. If the authorities in any field believe in something, Rothbard-Rockwell libertarians oppose it.
And Rothbard-Rockwellians find themselves believing in every sort of conspiracy. Think homeopathy is unscientific quackery? You've just been deluded by the medical establishment which supresses the truth about homeopathy for its own nefarious reasons. Think evolution is a scientific fact? You've just bought the big lie offered by the scientific mafia for its own evil ends. Think Adam Smith was the father of modern economics? Well, you get the idea.
In The Eye Of The Beholder. FHM has just released its latest ranking of the world's 100 sexiest women. These awards are purportedly voted on by the magazine's readers. That would be teenage boys who spend several hours a day surfing the Internet for porn. So it's no surprise that Anna Kournikova finished first. (Anna also finished first in the survey by the magazine's U.K. edition.)
Anna's not bad. But the real sexiest woman, Halle Berry, is ranked only 3rd by FHM. And how can Salma Hayek and Cindy Crawford not be in the top five? Jennifer Connelly should be in the top 20. (Up until just a couple of years ago, she would have been much, much higher, but she has lost too damn much weight.) Speaking of losing too much weight, Sarah Michelle Gellar's number nine ranking is too high. A few years ago? Maybe. But she has gotten too damn skinny.
And Pam Anderson at 11? Please. In 1991, she was definitely top 10 material. Maybe even top five. But that fresh-faced beauty from British Columbia now looks like a drag queen. She pushed her luck with breast implants once too often. It looks like she's got a pair of salad bowls on her chest now. She isn't even top 100.
I give them credit for acknowledging that Wil Wheaton got enough votes to qualify for 26, but was ineligible because he was a man. (I used to know a costumer from ST: TNG who told me that Wil was, um, very manly. At first I thought that was just good snarky gossip. Then I remembered that Wil was like 12 when he did that show, and I became very uncomfortable.)
I disagree with many of the other placings. Elizabeth Hurley (31) and Catherine Zeta-Jones (56) are too low. Kim Delaney and Sela Ward should probably be on the list.
But the one that most jumps out as incredibly stupid is former WWE performer Joanie Laurer (Chyna) at 98. Come on, if Wil Wheaton can't make it because he's a guy, then Chyna should be cut as well.
Monday, June 17, 2002 Viva USA! I know nothing of soccer, and I don't care to learn. But I do know that the USA kicked Mexico's ass. I was living in L.A. in 1998 when the U.S. team lost a Gold cup match 1-0 to Mexico before nearly 100,000 screaming fans -- nearly all whom cheered for the Tricolores, the nickname for the Mexican team.
After the game, American fullback Alexi Lalas said, "Tomorrow morning they are going to get up and work in the United States and live in the United States and have all the benefits of living in the United States."
Quite so. I only wish I was still in L.A. to see those traitors crying now.
Small-Town Tolerance. Sorry my updating has been so spotty the last couple of days. I've really been under the weather. Here's something I've bee sitting on for several days, hoping to give it one last polish. But it doesn't seem I'm going to have the energy to do that soon. So I thought I'd go ahead and post it before it gets too old.
Summerville lies deep in the Bible Belt. It’s a small town. The only high school in the county school system has barely 1,000 students.
So what happens when an openly lesbian high school senior takes another girl to the prom?
“Nothing happened. There was no reaction at all, because everyone is
used to it,” said one teacher.
Everyone should be used to it. The girl took a female date to the prom last year as well.
In fact, her classmates had known for some time that she was gay. But she didn’t suffer a lot of ostracism from her peers. Indeed, she was elected class president in her freshman and sophomore years.
“It's surprising to me that in a small, redneck town like this the students would be so accepting of this, but this has been the case. I believe that if it were two boys, however, they would be ridiculed and beaten by other boys,” the teacher said.
He may be right about gay boys being treated differently.
But small towns in the South have always been more tolerant than their images would suggest. These towns usually made a sharp distinction between private and public behavior. And a surprising range of private behavior was tolerated. Indeed, good manners often dictated that those who engaged in public displays of intolerance were themselves looked down upon.
I grew up just a few miles from Summerville, and I spent most of my first 22 years in rural communities. It seemed that everyone knew everyone else’s secrets, even the embarrassing ones.
From an early age, I knew of women in their 30s and 40s who lived together, women I often saw driving their trucks to the local feed store. The adults around me called them “old maids.” I later learned that was often a euphemism for something else.
And as I grew older, adults began to share more of their gossip with me. Small towns are big on gossip. I heard what was said about the men who owned the local florist shops. And there were quite a few rumors about the men who owned a local diner.
As far as gossip goes, it wasn’t particularly mean-spirited. Certainly, no one thought it was a good thing to be gay. But I never heard anyone saying these men and women would go to Hell or decrying their influence on the community. The only time I heard that was when I saw some evangelist on TV.
During the early 1980s, some of those men we gossiped about died at a young age, and rumor had it they died of AIDs. But I never heard anyone say those men deserved to die. I never heard any of that “wages of sin” talk, though I’m sure that many felt that way. I only heard expressions of sadness from people who knew them and liked them.
It wasn’t that people approved of homosexuality. It was simply that people drew a sharp distinction between private and public behavior. As long as one acted politely and properly in public, good manners called upon you to treat that person with respect.
A person could drink too much or practice “deviant” sex or engage in any other manner of “sins” in the privacy of his own house, and good people could still befriend them.
But bring those habits out into the open and polite society would cut you off very quickly.
The best example of this may be the unfortunate case of Dr. Charles Scudder and his live-in companion Joseph Odom. The two moved to Chattooga County in the mid 1970s and built a castle-like home they called Corpsewood Manor. They filled it with occult symbols and statues and a pair of English Mastiff dogs. One of the dogs they named Beelzebub.
The men were widely rumored to be gay, and I always heard them referred to as “the Satan worshippers.”
Whether it was true or not, people widely believed the stories. And the two men sometimes had to deal with drunken rednecks determined to drive the Satan worshippers out of town. But these men were a minority. Most people in the county condemned those who harassed Scudder and Odom.
Well, the two men were polite to others, paid their bills on time and never flaunted their beliefs or sexuality. Private sodomy and devil worship were seen as lesser sins than getting drunk and making an ass of yourself in public.
In 1982, Scudder and Odom were murdered and robbed by two local men they had befriended. The trial was a lurid affair. Scudder and Odom’s homosexuality, their religious beliefs and their alleged drug use were all raised by the defense. To no avail, as the men who killed them were convicted.
Again, I never heard any “wages of sin” talk. Instead, I often heard people say ”They didn’t hurt nobody.”
Not that anyone agreed with the men’s lifestyle. Rather, it was just a heart-felt belief that if you weren’t bothering anybody, then nobody should bother you. And if you didn’t hurt anyone else, no one else should hurt you.
Of course, small-towns in the South were far from libertarian utopias. Much private behavior was illegal, even if those laws were rarely enforced.
And regulation of “public” but non-violent behavior is still very strong. Many rural counties now allow the sale of beer and wine, for instance, but only in convenience stores or supermarkets. Having a beer after work is frowned upon by many Southern Baptists. And for a long time they kept much of the South completely dry. But the idea that people have a right to do what they want in their own homes slowly took precedence, and alcohol sales are now allowed in many places. Yet drinking alcohol in restaurants is still considered public behavior, and buying liquor by the drink is still illegal in many small towns.
But despite such restrictions on personal liberty, small towns, at least the small towns I knew, never deserved their reputation for intolerance and repression.
Saturday, June 15, 2002 I Don't Have A Dog In This Fight. So it's a bit interesting to hear the former head of the Southern Baptist Association, Jerry Vines, call Mohammad a "demon-possessed pedophile."
Muslims are, of course, outraged. But they have a problem. The Hadith, a collection of sayings of and stories about Mohammad, traditionally attributed to his earliest followers, says quite explicitly in a number of passages that he married a girl of six and consummated the marriage when she was nine. That certainly sounds like pedophilia to me.
When confronted with these facts, Muslims have reacted in two ways. The first is to argue that the Hadith are simply wrong. But that flies in the face of traditional beliefs.
The other is to affirm the truth of the Hadith, point out that very young marriages were common to all Semitics peoples of the same era and to claim that God doesn't mind if 40-something men have sex with 9-year-old girls. (Thanks to Glenn Reynolds for those links.)
Mohammad had 17 wives in his life. At one point he was married to nine women at once, despite the fact that God had ordained that man should have no more than four wives. Again, how do Muslims react to the difference between his words and deeds? Some simply deny the facts.
Selod Faroog, an orthopedic surgeon and an Islamic spokesman in Fort Worth, said: "People who can't face the truth come out and make accusations like this. If Muhammad was heavily involved in multiple wives, he wouldn't have had time to spend all night praying like tradition says."
Or they find reasons to excuse his behavior. Mohammad married all those women so that they would have a man to provide for them or to cement political allegiances. Her certainly didn't do it to sleep with many women.
Even Vines's "demon possessed" claim has an origin in Islamic tradition. A lengthy passage in the Hadith shows that Mohammad himself thought that his visions and the voices he heard were signs of demonic possession. It was his first wife who convinced him that it was actually the word of God that he heard.
Vines knew all of this because of the work of Ergun and Emir Caner. The two were raised as Sunni muslims but converted to Christianity. Ergun is assistant professor of theology and church history at Criswell College in Dallas, while Emir is assistant professor of church history and Anabaptist studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. together, they are the authors of a new book, "Unveiling Islam: An Insider's Look at Muslim Life and Beliefs" (Kregel Publications).
A Desperately Needed Constitutional Amendment Not being a professional journalist, I don't have time to scan very many blogs or pundits. In the mornings I spend 30 or 45 minutes reading Drudge, the BBC News, scan Townhall.com, the Washington Times and Post, and a couple of blogs (Katzman, Reynolds), and check Drudge and BBC (and, of course, Shoutin') maybe 3 or 4 times during the day. So this topic has probably been blogged, punditized, and ranted on at length, as well as having been discussed by virtually every media source, but it's a source of frustration for me at the moment, so I'll add some thoughts on it. I don't normally think amendments to the constitution are a good idea, but we need some kind of mechanism to sunset laws and regulations. Therefore I propose the following amendment to the constitution:
No Federal Law, Regulation, or Directive shall remain in force unless, within 8 years of of its initial passage or revalidation, said law, regulation, or directive is read in full before each house of congress with a quorum physically in attendance, and a majority of those physically attending voting in the affirmative to retain the law, regulation, or directive. Within 30 days of revalidation, the President may reject the validation. If the President exercises such authority, the Congress may override such rejection with a 2/3rds majority in each house.
Simple, direct, and would revolutionize government. There is contradictory stuff, technically obsolete or redundant regulations, and just plain stupid directives that have the force of law. Actually requiring a law to be read in full before passage would be a novelty - many representatives have admitted to voting for (or against) measures without having read them at all. Regulations, promulgated by the executive branch with the objective of implementing law, are a snakes nest with in many cases little or no oversight. Requiring Congress to be present during readings would, in my view, reinforce the seriousness of the matter of passing laws and their implementing regulations. I think many in politics see laws in the abstract, rather than as concrete things people have to live with. Finally, one could argue that it is impossible to physically read the entire existing CFR in 80 years, much less 8 years. RIGHT! And that's exactly the point.
Thursday, June 13, 2002 Stay Out Of Kashmir I think that Ted Galen Carpenter is right on the money when he says the U.S. shouldn't get deeply involved in the India-Pakistan dispute.
There's no easy solution to this situation.The one thing that Pakistan and India seem to agree on is that Kashmir shouldn't be independent, and that seems to be what the Kashmiris themselves most want.
The situation is made even more complicated by the fact that Pakistan gave China a chunk of Kashmir several decades ago. Back in 1948, the United Nations said Kashmiris should be allowed to vote on their fate. Does anyone really think China is going to allow those in the region it controls to have a free vote on independence? Will the rest of Kashmir accept any solution that does not involve their brothers?
The U.S. can only get itself into a quagmire here.
Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word. I've just finished more Brickbats. Check those out. Meanwhile, the Beijing Evening News has admitted that a story it ran on Congress threatening to move from D.C. unless it gets a new Capitol is false.
The story first apeared in the satirical publication The Onion.
It took the Beijing paper several days to run a retraction. In fact, after the goof was pointed out, the editor challenged Western reporters to prove the story wasn't true. While apologizing for "factual inconsistencies," the paper doesn't seem to feel any regret about running a story from another publication without crediting it. And the Chinese proved they still don't quite get The Onion.
"Some small American newspapers frequently fabricate offbeat news to trick people into noticing them, with the aim of making money," the paper said. "This is what the Onion does."
It cited a recent Onion article about the U.S. government issuing life jackets to all Americans for some unexplained reason. "According to congressional workers, the Onion is a publication that never ceases making up false reports," the Evening News said.
Wednesday, June 12, 2002 Prince Charles Blasts Blair. Chas is miffed that the prime minister actually defends genetically modified crops against scientific illiterates. What makes this jug-eared, in-bred twat think anyone should give a damn what he thinks? In Georgia, a man like this would be sitting in overalls playing a banjo, while his father tells you what a pretty mouth you have. You'd get the hell away from him and his kin as quickly as you could. In England, they invite the entire family over from Germany to be their titular rulers.
Christ, this is a man who left a beautiful young wife for Camilla Parker-Bowles. This is a man who thinks it's either romantic or sexy or both to tell his beloved he wishes he were her tampon. This is a man who talks to plants. This is a man who supports homeopathy and aromatherapy and other medical quackery. Does anyone think he has displayed sound judgment in any matter?
The Japanese Get It. So why don't they act on it? Seventy-four percent of Japanese distrust bureaucrats in central government ministries and agencies.
When asked what images came to mind when they thought of bureaucrats, 41 percent of respondents mentioned the practice of amakudari (descent from heaven), in which bureaucrats are given lucrative jobs in the private sector after retirement.
This was followed by "corrupt ties with politicians and businesses," cited by 35 percent and "irresponsibility," cited by 34 percent.
After more than a decade of economic stagnation, the Japanese must know their economy is screwed up. And they seem to know their political system is lousy. So why aren't they demanding real change?
Enron and Postmodernism. Jacques Derrida would have approved of the company's business strategy.
The philosophical essence of the postmodern, or anti-Enlightenment, outlook is that there exists no external reality to which our beliefs should conform. On the contrary, say postmodernists, the nature of reality simply is what people believe and say it is. Of course, people cannot believe and say anything they like. Their beliefs and speech must be coherent and consistent. And if they want to work with others, they must ensure that the group is in agreement about what to believe and say. But that is the goal: constructing a shared narrative that supports the group's desires and activities. So long as that is achieved, no "external reality" is going to come along to correct or punish them.
Enron execs spent their time trying to construct a narrative that would support its goals. But reality bit them on their asses.
Since the dawn of time, man has been able to delude himself into believing that things are better than they really are. But when so many people share such a delusion, and so few speak up, something is truly amiss. Did "postmodernist" attitudes lie behind Enron's complex structure and "creative" accounting? I'm not completely convinced, but it's an interesting point to ponder?
You Are The Weakest Link. Arab men don't like to hear those words, especially from a woman. So it must be women who have turned the Arab-language version of The Weakest Link into a hit.
''Educated and urbane men who come on the show relish it as a challenge,'' (host Rita) Khoury said. ''But the more traditional ones have more difficulty putting up with it. I try to provoke them, not humiliate them, but it's not my problem if they can't answer.''
Khoury says she regularly turns down pleas from men, anxious to protect their honor back home, that she edit out some particularly acid remark
''No woman contestant has ever got upset,'' she said, flashing a cheeky grin. ''Maybe it's because Arab women are so downtrodden.''
It's easy to mock game shows, but this one may herald a small revolution in Arab gender relations.
Tuesday, June 11, 2002 Oh, Great. The Cavalry's Here. The International Monetary Fund says it's sending a team to Argentina to lay the groundwork for new loans to that country.
Prior IMF loans to that country have done more harm than good. They allowed the government to continue the profligate spending that got the country into this mess.
And IMF action in other areas has been even more disastrous. The IMF's own reviews of its activities in Indonesia, South Korea, Mexico and Thailand revealed that the policies the IMF demanded as conditions for loans did more harm than good. Argentina, however, can't blame its bad polcies on the IMF. Those mistakes were home-grown. The IMF only acted as an enabler there. More IMF loans won't solve Argentina's basic problems -- bloated government payrolls, high taxes and strangling red tape. At best, they'll just allow the government to ignore those problems for a little while longer.
I Wonder If Teenage Boys In Tehran Have Her Pictures On Their Walls. JAG star Catherine Bell is British born and half Iranian. (She prefers to call it Persia.) She's even fluent in Farsi. But something tells me she isn't well-regarded by the mullahs who rule Iran. And it isn't just the fact that she is a Scientologist. (Well, no one is perfect.)
Islamist? Thug? What's the Difference? The Chicago Sun-Times has some interesting articles on Abdullah al Muhajir, the man charged with plotting to blow up a dirty bomb in the U.S. The man is also a member of a Latino street gang. And there are other connections between gangs and Islamic terrorists.
"Like all American gangs, [terrorist groups] have this combative, hate-the-system, tear-it-up, blow-it-up attitude,'' said George Knox, director of the National Gang Crime Research Center. "What drives gangs is conflict ... it's like they made it big time, they want to wreak havoc.''
Knox said the first link between gangs and terrorist groups surfaced when El Rukn leader Jeff Fort was convicted in 1987 of plotting to carry out terrorism against the United States on behalf of Libya for a $2.5 million payment to the South Side street gang. No terrorist acts were carried out, Knox said.
Knox also pointed to the relationship between the Latin Kings and the FALN, the Spanish acronym for the Armed Forces of National Liberation, the terrorist group that fought for the independence of Puerto Rico.
I also find it interesting that the articles refer to al Muhajir as Jose Padilla. Most of the press seems to prefer to call him by his birth name, rather than the name he has chosen just as they refuse to call John Lindh by the Muslim name he has adopted. Funny, no one calls Muhammad Ali Cassius Clay or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Lew Alcindor. Are we supposed to believe that only good guys truly convert to Islam?
The very term fiqh was not in vogue before the Abbasid period when it was actually formulated and codified. But when fiqh assumed its systematic legal form, it incorporated three vital aspects of Muslim society of the Abbasid period. At that juncture, Muslim history was in its expansionist phase, and fiqh incorporated the logic of Muslim imperialism of that time. The fiqh rulings on apostasy, for example, derive not from the Qur'an but from this logic. Moreover, the world was simple and could easily be divided into black and white: hence, the division of the world into Daral Islam and Daral Harb. Furthermore, as the framers of law were not by this stage managers of society, the law became merely theory which could not be modified - the framers of the law were unable to see where the faults lay and what aspect of the law needed fresh thinking and reformulation.
If sharia doesn't seem like a very practical way to run an open and technologically advanced society, that's because it isn't.
What this means in reality is that when Muslim countries apply or impose the Shari`ah – the demands of Muslims from Indonesia to Nigeria - the contradictions that were inherent in the formulation and evolution of fiqh come to the fore. That is why wherever the Shari`ah is imposed – that is, fiqhi legislation is applied, out of context from the time when it was formulated and out of step with ours - Muslim societies acquire a medieval feel. We can see that in Saudi Arabia, the Sudan and the Taliban Afghanistan.
Sardar says the problem is that many Muslims want ready-made answers to all of life's problems. But true Islam doesn't offer that. It does offer an integrative worldview. It provides ethical principles that each person must apply to his own unique situation and time. There's more to this fascinating article, but I'll let you discover it.
The Greater Evil. As I've noted before, I don't think that Israel is completely blameless in its on-going war with the Arabs. Nor do I believe that it is the steadfast ally of the U.S. some neocons and Randians believe. Still, over the last year or two, I've abandoned my "a plague on both your houses" attitude, and I have become much more symapthetic to the Israeli cause than to the Palestinian. Why? Consider this story from, of all places, The Village Voice.
"According to data from Palestinian sources, 55 percent of the Palestinian dead were combatants," said Don Radlauer, an ex-New Yorker, who is building a casualty database at ICT. "And we rated all kids under 13 as non-combatants, even if they were armed when they were killed."
On the Israeli side, statistics show that only 25 percent of the dead were combatants.
The data on the number of women killed is even more telling. Radlauer said the findings "were not what we were expecting."
"Less than 5 percent of all Palestinian casualties to date were female," he said, "while 30 percent of Israeli casualties were women."
"Among the non-combatants killed, and again relying on Palestinian reports, we found that 7 percent were Palestinian women," he said. "In contrast, 37 percent of the Israeli non-combatant dead were women."
Looking at solid numbers, the Palestinians report a total of 66 women killed as of the end of April. In the same period, 135 Israeli women died, all but three non-combatants.
"But if you only look at non-combatants, excluding female suicide bombers and women killed in bomb factory 'work accidents,' etc., the number drops to 40 Palestinian women killed," Radlauer said.
"Do the math—132 Israeli female civilians compared with 40 Palestinian women," he said. "That's more than three Israeli women killed for every one Palestinian."
"Palestinian data on fatalities do not bear out the claim that Israel is attacking a civilian population in their homes," said Radlauer.
"The Palestinian fatalities are an engineered tragedy," he added. "If I am angry at anything it is that the Palestinian leadership is willing to put so many of their own kids in harm's way just to gain propaganda points."
Pussies. Several days ago I linked to a Fox News column on abuses at Straight, Inc., a drug rehab program backed by several prominent Republicans. Now, Radley Balko, the author of the piece, says Fox has pulled it under dubious circumstances. (Scroll up for more.)
The value of a liberal arts education. Singapore's The Straits Times has a fascinating article on the intellectual battle for the soul of Islam in Indonesia.
STRANGELY enough, most of the Muslim hardliners come from secular universities like the Bogor Institute of Agriculture, Bandung Institute of Technology and the University of Indonesia.
Nearly all of them are grounded in the science and engineering disciplines.
In these universities, student bodies like the Campus Propagating Group (LDK) are common place and a focal point for students who lack an early education in the fundamentals of Islam.
Unlike their counterparts in IAIN who grew up dissecting Islamic teachings while learning to read the Quran, the LDK members make easy converts to religious dogma.
The article cites some worrisome trends that indicate that radicalism may be growing fastest among the affluent and near-affluent.
That really shouldn't surprise us. Many Islamic radicals have been highly educated. In the West, many of our homegrown radicals have also been children of the affluent and the middle class, people who were highly schooled if not well educated.
As the Straits Times notes, moderate Islam has a long tradition is Islam. And many people are educated in that tradition. From an early age, they are made aware of the history of that tradition. They learn the intellectual challenges their faith has faced and how moderate Muslims responded. And through that education they learn to think about values.
Indonesia's secular schools don't seem seem to equip their students with those vital skills. They learn to use their minds to grapple with science and math but not with ethics and metaphysics. Yet science and math can't be context free. The implicit values of such schools may be tolerance and rational inquiry. But those values too often are just platitudes mouthed by teachers.
When students from those schools find those values challenged, they have little ability to defend them. And they are easy prey for extremists who are certain of their arguments.
The Cardinal has a good point, although his comparisons to Nero et al are a little over the top and his comments are bound to cause more trouble. The problems within the Church with a few sick priests, and the way the matter is being handled by some of the bishops, is a scandal in the true sense of the word. However, I agree with Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga that this is a crisis primarily due to media exaggeration. Certainly the press has a duty to report this, however, the intensity of the reporting is way out of proportion to the scope of the scandal. In addition, the terminology in many cases is deliberately inflammatory: an affair with a teenager is a very different thing from molesting a 6 year old. If the public school system were treated with the same intense scrutiny on the topic of teachers having affairs with students, they would be shut down (yeah, I know, mixed blessing). In our local school system, I know of at least three cases of teachers being caught in affairs with students, in one case involving a pregnancy, since this January. In the case of the pregnancy, the matter was handled with a payment to the family and an out of court settlement. The Coach/Teacher was transferred. Sound familiar? Where is the reporting and national attention? The bottom line is that in any environment where adults are entrusted with the supervision of children and young adults, there will be adults who will take advantage of it. Many who attack the Church so vigorously over this scandal seem to be doing so largely to advance their various agendas - there are plenty of targets out there if the true goal is to protect children. Others have made this point better than I can, but it is frustrating. The best hope is to try to do what is right, ship priests who fail off to a monastery after their prison term if applicable, and wait for the media hounds to move on to another subject.
As for the Palestinian matter mentioned both by GR and by Charles on this blog, I'll comment on that in my much anticipated (ok, not anticipated at all) rant on the Middle East, which will come after the rant on hot socialist babes.
But the Church will survive this, and will come out of it stronger. The 10:00am Mass today at Blessed Sacrament was well attended, despite summer vacation starting and it being just a normal Sunday in Ordinary Time. Children hugged the Priest after Mass, and life goes on.
Ron, no need to worry about a job. If you come back to the states, I have the perfect gig for you. You can team up with this woman. She covers China. You can cover Japan. the two of you can make a fortune.
Hello? Blogger's been down from this end for the past 12 hours. I've tried two different ISPs from here and I keep getting "500 Internal Server Error."
Anyway... the point of this post "The Nipponese win the pennant! The Nipponese win the pennant!" Or something. I'm an American so I don't really understand how the rankings work. But with Japan's upset against Russia (1-0) in their World Cup match in Yokohama you could walk into any bar in this country and get action tonight. If you've never seen a normally reserved salaryman and equally coquettish Office Lady liquored up and kissing each other with wild abandon... well... it's not pretty. Unless you're the guy.
Congrats to the home team anyway. Omedetou Nippon!
Update: And on the other side of the world... like you couldn't see this coming.
Saturday, June 08, 2002 Perfect for the family den or rumpus room. Oh God I WANT THIS! And so do you! You can have this vintage, mid-60s lounge chair with plywood siding, Naugahyde covering and non-functional arm-rest controls for a mere $150,000. Maybe more now. Bidding seems to be active... I'm amazed that Paramount and their legal team haven't stepped in and tried to take this thing back from the lucky SOB who 'rescued' it.
Update: Just what is that stain on the left side of the pedestal? Tribble juice?
Religion in America: Crisis has a interesting article on how American Christianity looks to outsiders. I hope this is just the first part of its interviews with non-believers. There are so many other questions to be asked. And I look forward to seeing what Christians from various braches of that faith have to say.
I'm not going to defend Steve Den Beste.He does a great job of that on his own.
But I would like to add my thoughts about sexual attractiveness. I'm talking purely about physical assets here. So don't bust my chops about maturity and human interaction or any of that. I'll concede all of those points for the sake of argument.
That having been said, an awful lot of men seem to find women in their late teens and early 20s to be at the peak of their beauty. Former football player Jim Brown once said that when he eats a peach, he wants to eat it when it's just ripe. And when he's with a woman, he wants to be with her when she's just ripe, her late teens or early 20s. I suspect many men think the same thing but would never voice those sentiments.
Ron tells me this sentiment is even stronger in Japan. Single women over 25 there are called "Christmas cakes." That's because Christmas cakes are very expensive until the 25th, then you can't give them away.
And I guess there may be some biological basis for that. As we've all heard recently, a woman's fertility generally starts to decline around the age of 27, and it plummets after age 35. So that reptilian part of our brain that just wants to spread our seed tells us that women under the age of 27 are the most desirable.
But evolutionary biology aside, I've never understood why so many men are so fixated on youth. I see plenty of pretty young women, and they are delightful to look at. Still, for my money, most women are at their most attractive between the ages of, say, 30 and 33. Again, I'm talking purely physical beauty. For many, this is the period between baby fat and teen-age acne and just before things start to spread and sag. (I know I'm going to get mail on that.)
Still, even those women who are damn near perfect in their youth seem to get better with age. Compare, for instance, the Playboy photos Cindy Crawford did at 22 with the ones she did 10 years later. Can you really tell me she is less attractive in the later photos?
When I was in my teens, I was generally most attracted to women in their late 20s and early 30s. And now that I'm, um, past my early 30s I'm still most attracted to women in that age group. That isn't to say that women outside that age range don't catch my eye from time to time. If the right young (but legal) woman came along, I wouldn't pass her up. And if the right older woman wanted to have a fling, I could go for that. (If Barbara Eden reads this, e-mail me.)
More on Tyson. Some of you may know that Mike Tyson converted to Sunni Islam while in prison. And when he isn't threatening to eat his opponent's children, he can be heard praising Allah for his victories. When he isn't seen being led into jail in handcuffs, he can be seen bowing towards Mecca.
Evander Holyfield is even more adamantly a Christian. He leads his entourage in prayer before a fight. He trains to the sounds of spirituals. He credits all of his victories to God. Okay, there's the matter of all those children by all those women. But remember that first stone stuff.
In the hoopla leading up to the first Tyson-Holyfield fight, we heard more religious talk than we would in an entire year of watching the Trinity Broadcasting Network. Each man claimed that his god had ordained his victory.
As for the fight itself, Holyfield dominated Tyson, knocking him out in the 11th round. I was watching on pay-per-view, and when the ref waved his hands over a dazed Tyson and called the bout, a friend turned to me and said, "I guess we know which god is mightier now."
And this nation has nuclear weapons? Pakistan is trying to drag itself into the 21st century. Unfortunately, it's saddled with a religion that doesn't want to emerge from the 11th century. Islamists can't create, just destroy. And they are determined to destroy the nation's economy.
Islamic Democracy. Islamists value democracy only as a means to power. Once in control of the government, they have no allegiance to democracy, constitutionalism, limited government or individual rights.
Look at Malaysia. Muslim fundamentalists there have taken control of two states. They've introduced a harsh Islamic code of law in one and plan to enact a similar code in the second, even though the constitution gives the national government alone the right to draft penal codes. "We feel our obligation to God is greater (than our obligation to the constitution)," said the chief minister of one of the Islamist-controlled states.
What sort of legal code do the Islamists want? Consider its treatment of rape.
The "hudud" code stipulates that rape victims unable to prove sex was forced upon them can be sentenced to 80 and 100 lashes. The code also says at least four Muslim men must have witnessed such a rape and women cannot become legal witnesses.
Just over one half of Malaysia's population is Muslim. But Islamists won't be satisfied until their cruel faith dominates the land.
In Defense Of Boxing Fans. Press reports indicate the Lennox Lewis-Mike Tyson fight has already sold some 400,000 pay-per-view buys. There's talk it could meet or excede the 2-million buy PPV record set by the second Tyson-Evander Holyfield fight.
This has many sports writers and other commentators upset. They argue that people are only paying to see a freak show. Fans are buying the PPV only to see if Tyson bites Lewis or tries to break his arm or starts a riot. No one is paying their money to see a boxing match.
That sells the people buying this show short. Promoters are charging $54.95 for the PPV. That's an awful lot of money to pay for a freak show. And the fact is that you could take any other fighter, have him do what Tyson has done in and out of the ring, and there wouldn't be any interest in him.
Tyson is different. From 1985 to 1988 he dominated the heavyweight division in a way that few, if any other, fighters ever have. He combined size, handspeed, one-punch knockout power in both hands, foot speed, head movement, defense and a killer instinct. No other heavyweight has had that sort of complete package. Tyson was the most electrifying heavyweight since Muhammad Ali. He won his first championship by knocking Trevor Berbick down three times with one punch. He solidified his claim by KOing Michael Spinks just 91 seconds into the first round.
He was the American success story. He came up from the streets, achieved success, fame and wealth. He married a beautiful, educated woman who was born well above his station. And then he threw it all away. His prime ended before he turned 23. His reign as champion lasted less than four years. And spent his 26th birthday in prison for rape.
And that's why many people are still fascinated by Tyson. There's a drama there. Tyson ruined himself with bad choices. Maybe he can still save himself by making the right ones. Fans want to see if he can somehow find that old Tyson. They want to see if he can once again pull together those ferocious seven- and eight-punch combinations.
Yes, some people will tune in to see a train wreck. And virtually everyone who buys the fight fears the worst. But there are an awful lot of people who hope that Tyson can pull out one last great performance in the ring. They hope that with the championship on the line and with his other options exhausted, Tyson will be motivated and can turn the clock back 15 years.
Even Tyson's most ardent supporters seem to have given up hope he can ever redeem himself outside the ring. But many hope he can redeem himself one last time inside the ring. That is why they are giving him one last chance.
I'm A Professional Wrestling Fan. I have been since I was a small boy. I'm also a journalist. And that's why I get pissed whenever mainstream journalists try to cover wrestling. They don't like it and look down on those who do, so they think that gives them the right not to prepare, not to take whatever story they are doing seriously. They get basic facts wrong. They slip into easy cliches.
To see how arrogance can affect even good reporters, try to find the video of John Stossel's infamous piece of wrestling from the mid 1980s. You know, the one where Stossel got slapped around by wrestler David Schultz. There was a major story there. Wrestling was going through one of its periodic reinventions. Vince McMahon was helping to dismantle the regional cartels that had dominated since the 1950s. Vince helped pioneer pay-per-view, now a staple in the entertainment industry. The WWF was a "big man's" promotion, and to get to the big leagues more and more wrestlers started using steroids to bulk up. John missed all of that.
Instead, he devoted much of his segment to asking "Is wrestling fake." If John had done just a little research, he'd know that the press has been "exposing" wrestling since at least 1915. He'd know that having former wrestlers discuss the mechanics of how a match is preformed was nothing new either. In short, he'd know the story he did do had been done literally hundreds of times before.
And if he'd done a little research, he might have found out that David Schultz was an infamous tough guy, even by the standards of pro wrestling. If John had tried to find exactly the worst guy to ask "Is it fake?" he couldn't have done better.
I don't mean to single out John Stossel. The story he did was largely factually correct, if cliched. That isn't true of much mainstream coverage. (Back in the 1980s and early 1990s, magazines like Forbes and Fortune did stories with wildly unrealistic numbers of pro wrestling revenues. That changed only when the WWF, now WWE, went public and the numbers were easy to obtain.)
So I'm surprised when a mainstream reporter does a story that's largely accurate. Shaun Assael's analysis also strikes me as sound, and I'm now looking forward to his biography of WWE promoter Vince McMahon.
Bonus Thought: In the chance that someone in the financial press reads this, you might want to do a story on how much the WWE has slipped in the last year. Ratings have plummeted, attendance is down. It's still in good fiscal shape, but nowhere near its former strength. The WWE will say that wrestling is a cyclical business or they'll point to lengthy absences of their biggest star The Rock. The real reason for the decline is piss-poor writing and backstage politics that have kept it from elevating new stars. (The owner's daughter is the head writer, and her real-life boyfriend is one of the major stars.) Just a thought.
You'll Burn In Hell. I'm glad Ryan Zempel admits that's his argument for why old people should not live together if they aren't married. Zempel recognizes that some people may question why he has been gifted with such knowledge of their fate in the afterlife. So he weakly argues, "There's plenty of 'social-policy garb' that legitimately shows why sex outside marriage isn't a good idea, and I suspect some of it would even apply to seniors."
Well, I went to the site that he linked to, and it's full of dire material showing that children born out of wedlock are more apt to be poor, commit crime and suffer abuse. I don't know of many 65-year-old women worried about accidentally conceiving children. So I think it's up to Zempel to tell us exactly how senior sex outside marriage is a bad idea in this world.
But this statement gets to the real problem with his position
Every worldview is steeped in faith - whether it be faith in a deity or in the nonexistence of any deity or in mankind itself. There are no valid reasons why the "religious" ones are to be discounted while the humanistic and atheistic ones, whose adherents are often just as devout, are to be accepted unquestioningly.
Let's put aside Zempel's (deliberate?) misunderstanding of atheism.
The real problem with basing public policy on religious beliefs is that each religion claims to be the truth. How do we settle those disputing claims to truth? Look at the issue of cloning. Devout Catholics believe that life begins at conception, and that leads them to a very distinct view on cloning. But Mormons and Jews have a different view about when life begins. Mormons can point to their holy books to "prove" their point, but that will never convince Catholics, who don't accept those works, to change their minds and vice versa.
The only way to settle such disagreements is on consequentialist grounds. We can't reach any agreement over matters of faith, but we may be able to reach agreement on matters of fact and science.
Zempel may truly believe that sex outside marriage is wrong, even for seniors. And his religious arguments may sway those who share his worldview. But if he wants to convince others, he's going to have to offer practical reasons for seniors to remain celibate if unmarried. So far he hasn't.
I'm No Anarchist. But I also thought Guns, Germs and Steel was overrated. Don't get me wrong. It was a good book, but I thought Jared Diamond had, like all those who have a big idea, a tendency to tweak data to fit his thesis. And far from being a dispassionate scientist, he had a subtle but clear leftist bias throughout the book. If history is determined chiefly by geographical factors, not cultural ones, then Western society's greater wealth isn't due to superior culture, but to luck of location.
So when Diamond attacked Viking Iceland I was a bit skeptical. Again, I wasn't sure that it was the libertarian paradise described by David Friedman, but I had even less faith in Diamond's description.
Now, Roderick Long responds to Diamond's Iceland article. I think the libertarian philosopher gets the best of the acclaimed physiologist.
Creative Cities. Salon has an interview with Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class. He discusses his thesis that those cities that do the best job of attractting creative persons are the ones that will thrive in the 21st century.
What that means for cities is that instead of "underwriting big-box retailers, subsidizing downtown malls, recruiting call centers, and squandering precious taxpayer dollars on extravagant stadium complexes," the leadership should instead develop an environment attractive to the creative class by cultivating the arts, music, night life and quaint historic districts -- in short, develop places that are fun and interesting rather than corporate and mall-like.
In case you are wondering, yes, I am still pissed that I wasn't allowed to cover this story in the national issues slot several months ago at Investor's Business Daily.
My favorite quote from this interview: "Gays are the canaries of the creative economy."
Harvey Weinstein Is Satan. Ian Rowan is completely right about the abuse of intellectual property laws and the butchering of Hong Kong films by their American distributors. One of the worst things about my move back east was that I had to get rid of all the HK videotapes I had collected over the years in Chinatown and from, um, other sources. These were originals, not the American releases that have been mutilated and burdened with rap soundtracks. But I just couldn't afford to ship them back, and I have no place to put them.
Tough Jews. The Saudi ambassador to Great Britain, Ghazi Algosaibi, says a gang of young Jews beat his son and some friends on the streets of London, attacking them with baseball bats.
I'm sad to hear that the problem of aimless young Jews wandering the streets causing trouble has spread to Britain. I understand the ambassador's fear. I know it's wrong, but on more than one occassion, I've crossed the street when I saw a Jew walking towards me rather than take a chance he might jump me. And, yes, I'll admit, I get nervous when an elevator door opens and I see a Jew standing there.
But I try to overcome such fears and remember that many young Jewish men, maybe even most, have no criminal record. And I hope that the unfortunate incident doesn't poison Algosaibi's attitude towards Jews. I take comfort in the fact that neither he nor his family ever reported the event to the police or the British Foreign Office or to his own government. And I'm delighted that he waited more than a month before mentioning the attack to the Arab press. That gives the youths who attacked his son the chance to think through the errors of their ways. Instead of jail, these young men deserve compassion, and the ambassador, who is a noted poet, has displayed much of that.