Friday, April 28, 2006


Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is best known for his Sherlock Holmes books, but he wrote many other books such as The Lost World which he preferred and considered better work. I highly recommend these other books, in particular the White Company and Sir Nigel, but one of these “forgotten” Doyle books is one called the Tragedy of the Korosko. Set in Egypt during the time of the Madhi (with his "dervishes" - Wahabbist muslim radicals) and the uprising against British rule, this is the tale of a cruise down the Nile to see historical sites that goes bad.

Early in The Tragedy of the Korosko is a discussion that takes place between some of the characters while still on the boat traveling south on the Nile. This discussion has eerie echoes today and I think it's a great read in addition to being very topical.

In the first two chapters there is a discussion of world politics between a Frenchman, two British men, and an American which show how although the world has changed much in just over a century, some things have not.

The Characters:

Mons. Fardet – “good natured but argumentative Frenchman, who held the most decided views as to the deep machinations of Great Britain and the illegality of her position in Egypt.”
John Headingly – “a New Englander, a graduate of Harvard, who was completing his education by a tour round the world.”
Colonel Cochrane – “was one of those officers whom the British Government, acting upon a large system of averages, declares at a certain age to be incapable of further service, and who demonstrate the worth of such a system by spending their declining years in exploring Morocco, or shooting lions in Somaliland.”
Cecil Brown – “was a young diplomatist from the Continental Embassy, a man slightly tainted with the Oxford manner, and erring upon the side of unnatural and inhuman refinement, but full of interesting talk and cultured thought.”

End of Chapter 1, Headingly and Fadet talk about the existence of Dervishes and the role of England in Egypt.

“Dervishes, Mister Headingly!” said he, speaking excellent English, but separating his syllables as a Frenchman will. “There are no Dervishes. They do not exist.”

“Why, I thought the woods were full of them,” said the American.
Monsieur Fardet glanced across to where the red core of Colonel Cochrane’s cigar was glowing through the darkness.

“You are an American, and you do not like the English,” he whispered. “It is perfectly comprehended upon the Continent that the Americans are opposed to the English.”

“Well,” said Headingly, with his slow deliberate manner, “I won’t say that we have not had our tiffs, and that there are some of our people – mostly of Irish stock – who are always mad with England; but the most of us have a kindly thought for the mother country. You see, they may be aggravating folk sometimes, but after all they are our own folk, and we can’t wipe that off the slate.”

“Eh bien!” said the Frenchman. “At least I can say to you what I could not without offence say to these others. And I repeat there are no Dervishes. They were an invention of Lord Cromer in the year 1885.”

“You don’t say!” cried Headingly

“It is well known in Paris, and has been exposed in La Patrie and other of our so well-informed papers.”

“But this is colossal,” said Headingly.”

“Do you mean to tell me, Monsieur Fardet, that the siege of Khartoum and the death of Gordon and the rest of it was just one great bluff?”

“I will not deny that there was an emeute, but it was local, you understand, and now long forgotten. Since then there has been profound peace in the Soudan.”

“But I have heard of raids, Monsieur Fardet, and I’ve read of battles, too, when the Arabs tried to invade Egypt. It was only two days ago that we passed Toski, where the dragoman said there had been a fight. Is that all bluff also?”

“Pah, my friend, you do not know the English. You look at them as you see them with their pipes and their contented faces, and you say, ‘Now these are good simple folk who will never hurt anyone.’ But all the time they are thinking and watching and planning. ‘Here is Egypt weak,’ they cry. ‘Allons!’ and down they swoop like a gull on a crust. ‘You have no right there,’ says the world. ‘Come out of it!’ But England has already begun to tidy everything, just like the good Miss Adams when she forces her way into the house of an Arab. ‘Come out,’ says the world. ‘Certainly,’ says England; ‘just one little minute until I have made everything nice and proper.’ So the world waits for a year or so, and then it says once again, ‘Come out.’ ‘Just wait a little,’ says England; ‘there is trouble at Khartoum, and when I have set that all right I shall be very glad to come out.’ So they wait until it is all over, and then again they say, ‘Come out.’ ‘How can I come out,’ says England, ‘when there are still raids and battles going on? If we were to leave Egypt would be run over.’ ‘But there are no raids,’ says the world. ‘Oh, are there not?’ says England, and then within a week sure enough the papers are full of some new raid of Dervishes. We are not all blind, Mister Headingly. We understand very well how such things can be done. A few Bedouins, a little backsheesh, some blank cartridges, and, behold-a raid!”

“Well, well,” said the American, “I’m glad to know the rights of this business, for it has often puzzled me. But what does England get out of it?”

“She gets the country, monsieur.”

“I see. You mean, for example, that there is a favourable tariff for British goods?”

“No, monsieur; it is the same for all.”

“Well then, she gives the contracts to Britishers?”

“Precisely, monsieur.”

“For example, the railroad that they are building through the country, the one that runs alongside the river, that would be a valuable contract for the British?”
Monsieur Fardet was an honest man, if an imaginative one.

“It is a French company, monsieur, which holds the railway contract,” said he.
The American was puzzled.

“They don’t seem to get much for their trouble,” said he. “Still, of course, there must be some indirect pull somewhere. For example, Egypt no doubt has to pay and keep all those red-coats in Cairo.”

“Egypt, monsieur! No, they are paid by England.”
Well, I suppose they know their own business best, but it seems to me to take a great deal of trouble, and to get mighty little in exchange. If they don’t mind keeping order and guarding the frontier, with a constant war against the Dervishes on their hands, I don’t know why anyone should object. I suppose no one denies that the prosperity of the country has increased enormously since they came. They tell me, also, that the poorer folks have justice, which they never had before.”

“What are they doing here at all?” cried the Frenchman, angrily. “Let them go back to their island. We cannot have them all over the world.”

“Well, certainly to us Americans who live in our own land it does seem strange how you European nations are for ever slopping over into some other country which was not meant for you. It’s easy for us to talk, of course, for we have still got room and to spare for all our people. When we start pushing each other over the edge we will have to start annexing also. But at present just here in North Africa there is Italy in Abyssinia, and England in Egypt, and France in Algiers---“

“France!” cried Monsieur Fardet. “Algiers belongs to France. You laugh monsieur. I have the honor to wish you a very good-night.” He rose from his seat, and walked off, rigid with outraged patriotism, to his cabin.

Chapter 2 - (excerpts)

The young American hesitated for a little, debating in his mind whether he should not go down and post up the daily record of his impressions which he kept for his home-staying sister. But the cigars of Colonel Cochrane and of Cecil Brown were still twinkling in the far corner of the deck, and the student was acquisitive in the search of information. He did not quite know how to lead up to the matter, but the Colonel very soon did it for him.

“Come on, Headingly,” said he, pushing a camp-stool in his direction. “This is the place for an antidote. I see that Fardet has been pouring politics into your ear.”

“I can always recognise the confidential stoop of his shoulders when he discusses la haute politique,” said the dandy diplomatist.

“But what a sacrilege upon a night like this! What a nocturne in blue and silver might be suggested by that moon rising above the desert. There is a movement in one of Mendelssohn’s songs which seems to embody it all, ---a sense of vastness, of repetition, the cry of the wind over an interminable expanse. The subtler emotions which cannot be translated into words are still to be hinted at by chords and harmonies.”

“It does seem more savage then ever tonight,” remarked the American. “It gives me the same feeling of pitiless force that the Atlantic does upon a cold, dark, winter day. Perhaps it is the knowledge that we are right there on the very edge of any kind of law or order. How far do you suppose we are from any Dervishes, Colonel Cochrane?”

“Well, on the Arabian side,” said the Colonel, “we have the Egyptian fortified camp of Sarras about forty miles to the south of us. Beyond that are sixty miles of very wild country before you would come to the Dervish post at Akasheh. On this other side, however, there is nothing between us and them.”

“Abousir is on this side, is it not?”

“Yes. That is why the excursion to the Abousir Rock has been forbidden for the last year. But things are quieter now.”

“What is to prevent them from coming down on that side?”

“Absolutely nothing,” said Cecil Brown in his listless voice.

“Nothing, except their fears. The coming, of course, would be absolutely simple. The difficulty would lie in the return. They might find it hard to get back if their camels were spent and the Halfa garrison with their beasts fresh got on their track. They know it as well as we do, and it has kept them from trying.”

“It isn’t safe to reckon upon a Dervish’s fears,” remarked Brown. “We must always bear in mind that they are not amenable to the same motives as other people. Many of them are anxious to meet death, and all of them are absolute, uncompromising believers in destiny. They exist as a reduction ad absurdum of all bigotry, ---a proof of how surely it leads towards blank barbarism.”

“You think these people are a real menace to Egypt?” asked the American. “There seems from what I have heard to be some difference of opinion about it. Monsieur Fardet, for example does not seem to think that the danger is a very pressing one.”

“I am not a rich man,” Colonel Cochrane answered, after a little pause, “but I am prepared to lay all I am worth that within three years of the British officers being withdrawn, the Dervishes would be upon the Mediterranean. Where would the civilization of Egypt be? Where would the hundreds of millions be which have been invested in this country? where the monuments which all nations look upon as most precious memorials of the past?”

“Come now, Colonel,” cried Headingly, laughing, “surely you don’t mean that they would shift the pyramids?”

“You cannot foretell what they would do. There is no iconoclast in the world like an extreme Mohammedan. Last time they overran this country they burned the Alexandrian library. You know that all representations of the human features are against the letter of the Koran. A statue is always an irreligious object in their eyes. What do these fellows care for the sentiment of Europe? The more they could offend it the more delighted they would be. Down would go the Sphinx, the Colossi, the Statues of Abou-Simbel, ---as the saints went down in England before Cromwell’s troopers.”

"Well now,” said Headingly, in his slow, thoughtful fashion, “suppose I grant you that the Dervishes could overrun Egypt, and suppose also that you English are holding them out, what I’m asking is, what reason have you for spending all these millions of dollars and the lives of so many of your men? What do you get out of it, more than France gets, or Germany, or any other country, that runs no risk and never lays out a cent?”

“There are a good many Englishmen who are asking themselves that question,” remarked Cecil Brown. “It’s my opinion that we have been the policemen of the world long enough. We policed the seas for pirates and slavers. Now we police the land for Dervishes and brigands and every sort of danger to civilisation. There is never a mad priest of a witch doctor, or a firebrand of any sort on this planet, who does not report his appearance by sniping at the nearest British officer. One tires of it at last. If a Kurd breaks loose in Asia Minor, the world wants o know why Great Britain does not keep him in order. If there is a military mutiny in Egypt, or a Jehad in the Soudan, it is still Great Britain who has to set it right. And all to an accompaniment of curses such as the policeman gets when he seizes a ruffian among his pals. We get hard knocks and no thanks, and why should we do it? Let Europe do its own dirty work.”

“Well,” said Colonel Cochrane, crossing his legs and leaning forward with the decision of a man who has definite opinions, “I don’t at all agree with you, Brown, and I think that to advocate such a course is to take a very limited view of our national duties. I think that behind national interests and diplomacy and all that there lies a great guiding force, --a Providence, in fact, --which is for ever getting the best out of each nation and using it for the good of the whole. When a nation ceases to respond, it is time that she went into hospital for a few centuries, like Spain or Greece, ---the virtue has gone out of her. A man or a nation is not here upon this earth merely to do what is pleasant and profitable. It is often called upon to carry out what is unpleasant and unprofitable; but if it is obviously right, it is mere shirking not to undertake it.”
Headingly nodded approvingly.

“Each has it’s own mission. Germany is predominant in abstract thought; France in literature, art, and grace. But we and you, --for the English-speakers are all in the same boat, however much the New York Sun may cream over it, --we and you have among our best men a higher conception of moral sense and public duty than is to be found in any other people. Now, these are the two qualities which are needed for directing a weaker race. You can’t help them by abstract thought or by graceful art, but only by that moral sense which will hold the scales of Justice even, and keep itself free from every taint of corruption. That is how we rule India. We came there by a kind of natural law, like air rushing into a vacuum. All over the world, against our direct interests and our deliberate intentions, we are drawn into he same thing. And it will happen to you also. The pressure of destiny will force you to administer the whole of America from Mexico to the Horn.”
Headingly whistled.

“Our Jingoes would be pleased to hear you, Colonel Cochrane,” said he. “They’d vote you into our senate and make you one of the Committee on Foreign Relations.”

“The world is small, and it grows smaller every day. It’s a single organic body, and one spot of gangrene is enough to vitiate the whole. There’s no room upon it for dishonest, tyrannical, irresponsible Governments. As long as they exist they will always be centres of trouble and of danger. But there are many races which appear to be so incapable of improvement that we can never hope to get a good Government out of them. What is to be done, then? The former device of Providence in such a case was extermination by some more virile stock. An Attila or a Tamerlane pruned off the weaker branch. Now, we have a more merciful substitution of rulers, or even of mere advice from a more advanced race. That is the case with the Central Asian Khanates and with the protected States of India. If the work has to be done, and if we are the best fitted for the work, then I think that it would be cowardice and a crime to shirk it.”

“But who is to decide whether it is a fitting case for your interference?” objected the American.

“A predatory country could grab every other land in the world upon such a pretext.”

“Events – inexorable, inevitable events – will decide it. Take this Egyptian business as an example. In 1881 there was nothing in this world further from the minds of our people than any interference with Egypt; and yet 1882 left us in possession of the country. There was never any choice in the chain of events. A massacre in the streets of Alexandria, and the mounting of guns to drive out our fleet – which was there, you understand, in fulfillment of solemn treaty obligations – led to the bombardment. The bombardment lead to the landing to save the city from destruction. The landing caused an extension of operations – and here we are, with the country upon our hands. At the time of trouble we begged and implored the French or any one else to come and help us set the thing to rights, but they all deserted us when there was work to be done, though they were ready to scold and to impede us now. When we tried to get out of it, up came this wild Dervish movement, and we had to sit tighter than ever. We never wanted the task; but now that is has come, we must put it through in a workmanlike manner. We’ve brought justice into the country, and purity of administration, and protection for the poor man. It has made more advance in the last twelve years than since the Moslem invasion in the seventh century. Except the pay of a couple of hundred men, who spend their money directly in the country, England has neither directly nor indirectly made a shilling out of it, and I don’t believe you will find in history a more successful and more disinterested bit of work.”


One of the complaints that is sometimes leveled against the news media's coverage of events in Iraq is that they aren't going out and getting news, but are rather staying safe in hotels and bars and relying on contacts for their information. Iraq can be a dangerous place, and it may be understandable why someone might be reluctant to travel much, but at the same time when it is your job, that becomes a problem.

Q and O blog has a blog entry on this subject, responding to the Editor & Publisher article by Bruce Kesler entitled "Is the Media covering Iraq on the cheap?"
Journalists are reviled by many for alleged negativism and over-focus on bad news in Iraq. Or perhaps the problem is: Their employers are just trying to do it on the cheap. Ironically, the same media that criticizes the U.S. for sending too few troops to stabilize Iraq send too few reporters to cover much more than the dramatic bombings around Baghdad.
A pretty startling admission. And as many have suggested, most of those that do go concentrate in Baghdad. The result, as one reporter explained, is predictable:
If truth is journalism's goal, cheapness within journalism undermines it. Embedded reporter Paul McLeary wrote in Columbia Journalism Review not long ago, "In Iraq, the untold stories pile up, one by one by one," because "there just aren't enough of them [journalists] to give the conflict its due."
"Boring" and not "newsworthy" are excuses. "Dangerous" is why they're not covered. I wonder what Ernie Pyle would say to that if he were alive today?

McQ goes on to point out that the embedded reporter concept has been largely abandoned, at least in part due to the cost.

Commenters examined the article as well:
Perceived danger is important in the reluctance of reporters to get out and about. Most reporters in Iraq stay close to Baghdad, and that’s where the bloody news and contentious politics are, often staged for their coverage. Articles about boring days patrolling peacefully in other 15 provinces, or of Iraqis rebuilding, are not considered as newsworthy.
"Boring" and not "newsworthy" are excuses. "Dangerous" is why they’re not covered. I wonder what Ernie Pyle would say to that if he were alive today?
He’d probably say,
Perceived dangers!? Patrolling peacefully in the other fifteen provinces!?
Journalists killed on Duty: 68
By Location:
• Anbar province (Fallujah, Ramadi): 4
• Nineveh province (Mosul): 11
• Baghdad province: 34
• Saleheddin province (Samara): 4
• Basrah province: 3
• Diyala province (Baqubah): 2
• Arbil province: 6
• Karbala province: 1
• Najaf province: 1
• Sulaymaniya province: 1
• Unclear: 1
Say what you may of the mistakes made both militarily and politically in Iraq, but when all is said and done, it is my opinion the MSM’s coverage of the war will be found wanting as well. It has been much less than their finest hour.
Okay, then. It’s well known around here that you think the MSM is lacking. Tell us, McQ. What was their finest hour?
-by PogueMahone

It is evident that you are laboring under the quaint and outdated notion that "journalism" must be based on facts and reality. In todays virtual journalism, it has ben proven that a quality and cost-efficient journalistic product can be produced in the comfort of a television studio, and that although facts are a nice thing to have, they are not entirely necessary.

Personally, I’m compelled to partially agree with Pogue. The total number of dead journalists does have a bearing on the perception of danger, regardless of nationality. After all, you won’t find me vacationing in the Sudan anytime soon, yet there have been almost zero US deaths there.

OTOH, 34 dead (non-Baghdad) out of (Pogue’s made-up number) 10,000 journalists is really not that dangerous. How many journalists died in the US between 2003-2006? Now, 34 dead journalists out of 50 (my made up number) that went into the countryside would be a large deterrent to any rational person. Of course, many of the things our soldiers do would be comsidered irrational, surely the journalists can face a relatively low-risk environment to get to the truth? Or are they simply interested in following their agenda?
-by Ken

Pogue, I’m not sure about your stat. From the web page you linked:
CPJ considers a journalist to be killed on duty if the person died as a result of a hostile action—such as reprisal for his or her work, or crossfire while carrying out a dangerous assignment.
The page goes on to say that 49 of the 68 dead journalists were Iraqi, but gives no details on how they died. It could be that they weren’t killed while patrolling, but rather at some other time. In short, the stat you quoted doesn’t show how US journalists are in a great deal of danger, or that journalists on patrol are in some great peril.
-by Steverino

And whilst I understand that the threat of death or mutilation IS a deterrent, still Pogue and others, I am CONSTANTLY informed by the MSM that they perform a VITAL duty for the US, presenting the news and informing us...

I guess it’s the hypocrisy that bothers me. Yes, Woodward and Bernstein are heroes, they saved us from something bad, and by extension so too are all journalists, EXCEPT when there’s a real chance of damage, they chicken out.

Being important, a savior, a spot-light, by definition, means RISK. Only, when the chance comes for them to actually BE these Information Age heroes, they wimp out. Sure they are all very brave, inside the US where there’s not much risk, but when they actually have to cover something that isn’t so safe, they quit. It’s like Martin Luther King, confronted with the very real risk of death he persevered, where many others, white and black quailed. That’s why he’s a HERO. If it were easy, we’d all do it.

I just want the MSM to own up to its feet of clay or to live up to its hype. Right now it just looks pitiful.
-by Joe

Huh!? So if, for the sake of argument, there are, or have been, ten thousand reporters in Iraq, and only 68 are dead, making it a minute 0.68% of the total…, tell me again how that make Iraq less dangerous?
42,636 people died in the US last year driving on the highways.

Good God, I put my life on the line every time I drive somewhere. Of course, there are 200 million citizens of driving age in the US so maybe the statistical danger is less than you would think from the raw number of deaths.

D’ya get my point, old man?
-by Mark A. Flacy

D’ya get my point, old man?
No, no. Make no mistake. I got the point. I just don’t understand why it’s relevant. Not all journalists venture outside of the green zone. So knowing the total number of journalists in Iraq is useless. What? You don’t think it’s dangerous there? about so the American people can be informed and know what is going on?
Ah, yes, shark. The old conservative’s sense of entitlement. Look like there’s a market niche for ya’ shark. Why don’t you start a news organization? I’ll bet you can get many investors around here. Then you can parade right through the streets of Mosul and Baghdad telling us the TRUTH about what’s going on in Iraq. And I’ll bet you’ll be famous, what with your blindfolded face appearing on Al Jazeera. Then you could write a book about it. If of course you live through it.
Go on shark, what’s stopping you? Steverino, you too buddy. Your country needs you. Take off that chef’s apron and grab a pencil, ‘cause it’s off to Basra with you. What’s that you say? Oh… “family and children” I see. Never mind, we’ll send others in your stead.

It’s obvious that many of you feel that journalists are cheap, lazy, bias, and cowards to boot. And it takes a special kind of courage to say that, you know… the kind of courage that only comes with a keyboard and mouse.
-by PogueMahone

The old conservative’s sense of entitlement

LOL it’s s sense of entitlement to expect journalists to report relevant facts, something which is their (self-styled) JOB DESCRIPTION?? Wow...
Go on shark, what’s stopping you? Steverino, you too buddy. Your country needs you. Take off that chef’s apron and grab a pencil, ‘cause it’s off to Basra with you. What’s that you say? Oh… “family and children” I see. Never mind, we’ll send others in your stead
I don’t get this a pathetic takeoff on the "chickenhawk" canard? Is that really the best you can do? TSK TSK, such a craven tactic, but I guess it’s to be expected from such as you. Hey, the MSM can cover the war any way they want but they misrepresent. They’re the ones who make all the noise about their noble profession, how they write the "first draft of history", how they chronicle the truth for the public blah blah blah. But they don’t act up to their hype. So either go traverse through a damn minefield to get to a new school in Mosul or stay at the green zone hotel, rely on former Baathist fixers and inteperters and staged news events from the insurgents- but in that case drop the bullsh*t misrepresentation of what they’re doing and be honest for once.
-by Shark
Ultimately, it is a reporter's job to gather news, and in many places that is a dangerous proposition - whether in Cambodia in the 1970's covering the Killing Fields, or in Detroit covering gang violence, or in Iraq covering the rebuilding of a nation. It was once considered a mark of bravery, courage, and honor to get into the danger and cover a story, but in Iraq it appears that the story is not so interesting to the reporters and too expensive to deal with properly for the media.

Quote of the day

"The Constitution shall never be construed to authorize Congress to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms."
-Samuel Adams

Comment Type #9


The Guest Blog is a comment in which someone writes their own extended essays and long form post on the topic, often with careful research, links, and data as if they were writing their own blog. This kind of comment can be very informative and interesting, or it can be very long, dry, and even incomprehensible. Each type is the work that could have been done on one's own blog, but was instead done on another person's. Usually someone who does this either has no blog and is using the comments section of another blog to substitute.

Sometimes the writer has their own blog and is doing a rough draft of a later entry - or a cut and paste of their work on someone else's blog. Sometimes this is done without intending to, the work might have started as a short comment that grew and expanded. This comment might end up the basis of a blog article later.

These kinds of guest blogs can be acceptable and even beneficial to the community and the blogger because they draw interest, inform, and stimulate discussion. There is a kind of guest blog that is less welcome, however. There are posts that are long, detailed, and often have links or even extensive quotes from articles. In fact, they often consist of little more than an entire article cut from another website and pasted into the comment section. Often this is included with little more than a single line of introduction or even a taunt by the commenter.

Quoting part of an article and providing a link is acceptable internet etiquette and does not violate copyright laws. In fact, the writer will usually welcome the publicity and the links that it may generate. However, printing an entire opinion piece or article, especially a very long one, is quite unwelcome and annoying, not to mention a violation of copyright law. This kind of post, especially if it is done more than once, will tend to be skipped outright by readers and often commented on negatively. Whatever purpose beyond mere trolling it was meant to accomplish, it is a failure in.

In most cases, if you find yourself typing yet another magnum opus full of facts and data and links, you might want to consider creating your own blog - it's easy and fast with sites such as Blogger (which Word around the Net is hosted by) or Typepad. Then you can link your essays with a pertinent excerpt, and save space on the comment section, and time for you. Blogs such as the Guardian Watchblog came from exactly this kind of experience. Now when CavalierX wants to make a point he's written on before, he can just link his blog article.

Comment sections are for your input, ideas, and thoughts. Extended posts are acceptable and even welcome if they have good content or further the discussion and benefit the visitor to a given blog. But if you make it a habit to post extensively on someone else's blog, think about making your own and saving them bandwidth. If you post nonsense or huge articles, just think again.

Thursday, April 27, 2006


While we in the United States are relatively free of the direct effects of riots and controversy regarding the Danish Muhammad Cartoons, Norway was very near ground zero and is struggling to deal with it's Muslim population like the rest of Europe. Bjørn Stærk has a blog from Norway which thankfully is primarily in English, and he examines the meaning and consequences of Free Speech in an essay entitled Believe what you say, Say what you believe. Here are some exerpts:

Vebjørn Selbekk, the Norwegian editor who printed Muhammed caricatures in January, has apologized for offending Norway's Muslims. The Swedish government has encouraged a web host provider to shut down a web site with similar pictures. Are we losing our freedom of speech?

The moment you ask that question, expecting a yes or no answer, you're off on the wrong track, the track where speech rights can be measured in a single number, and cultural disaster is always just a small increase or decrease away. Before you know it you'll be writing one of those tedious essays about how "we" have "forgotten" some value or principle or other, (decency, courage, rationality), and how you can't imagine how we'll ever pull out of this one.

The answer, in any case, is "it depends".

It's not a good answer, but that's the fault of a poor question. A more important lesson we can take with us from this is that it is a poor strategy to defend speech rights by saying things we do not believe.
True freedom of speech is related to democracy: By giving up my claim to absolute political power, I protect myself from oppression. In the same way, by giving up the right to impose my views on others, I ensure my right to express them. This is a subtle and paradoxical idea, which is why it is poorly understood, even among supposed defenders of democracy and speech.

Another lesson we should take from this is that speaking your mind has a price, and always will. Speech is free as in software, not as in beer. To learn the price of speech it is not enough to consider the law, you need to look at social pressure, the threat of being ridiculed and ignored and told you're a dangerous idiot if you say the wrong things. The law may allow you to claim that the Earth is flat, but if you believed such a thing, would you state it openly? Would you blog about it and send the link to your friends?
Just as there is more than one price for speech, people differ in their willingness to pay that price. Some will gladly embrace trite and inoffensive ideas so that they can be liked, others don't mind what the law or other people think. We should not blame this on the price alone, or say that if only there was no price then we could have freedom of speech. Being silent about your beliefs is a choice you make. The price varies, from very high in a tyranny to low or medium in a free society, but the choice of paying it remains yours.

There will always be a price for saying what someone do not want to hear, but the bright side of this is that just as the price never goes away, neither does the choice. If you are willing to be disliked and ridiculed, if you're willing to risk your job and your reputation, if you're willing to go to prison, then you will always be able to speak freely. If in addition you're willing to risk your life, (it'll end anyway), then you will be unbreakable.

So, have we lost our freedom of speech? Depends on what you're willing to pay for it. The price has increased a bit, but if you didn't think it too high before you probably still don't. Insist on your freedom, ignore censorship laws, social pressure and corporate pressure, and say what you believe. Then you'll have freedom of speech no matter what. And by ignoring the price of speech yourself, you may help lower it for those pitiable many who think any price is too high.

The commenters at his site had these insights:

As some readers of this blog may know (Well, Bjørn knows), I used to run a BBS back in the '90s. It was called "Arcade's BBS". Freedom of speech was strongly supported - and the few limits I imposed were on direct personal attacks, plus spamming.

We had the usual revisionists and other crazies posting their views. The revisionists were fun. I invited them to debate it. At first their arguments were quite difficult to reject (due to me not having heard them before) - but after using some lexicons and using maths to calculate ppm for Zyklon-B's lethality and so forth .. it was easy to disprove them. Then we discovered nizkor - and it was even more fun discussing with them.

My idea back then was quite simple. The only way to get to openly and freely discuss something - is to allow all views.

According to various news reports, muslims are frustrated about the european censorship when it comes to holocaust denial. Bwah! Just avoid discussing it in france and germany and they should be perfectly safe (I think?). Don't expect mainstream press though. The entire case for holocaust denial is ridiculous. "The Leuchter Report" has been debunked so well that it's laughable that anyones believes in it.

Now onto the case in point. The cartoons. Personally I'm willing to offend for freedom of speech. I've been on stands with Hedningesamfunnet on Karl Johan in the late 90's, making fun of christianity. It was quite obviously not as fun as earlier - as fewer people were enraged.

I think it's time to pull another stunt. We should start baiting both christians and muslims on stands. They should get shoved into their faces what their religions actually say. We should show the contradictions between Shi'a and Sunni variants. We should show them how the so called "hadith's" contradict how muslim practice their faiths. We should show them the double-morale of the muslim world.

And hey - we should show them that this is what we've already done to christianity.
-by Rune Kristian Viken

As you say, we should not provoke just for the sake of provoking. Still, we should support laws that allow equal rights to all opinions, even the ones we don't agree with. Pragmatically, how would you go about selling the case for full freedom of speech in Norway?
-by OEK

"Here's the deal: unless you know the price of offensiveness, and are willing to pay it, you should stay away from the front lines."

Well, in a real society where information is imperfect, this seems to me to be a pretty high bar to have to clear. This certainly hasn't been true in the US for quite some time; and, IMHO, ought not to be. It is well established in the US - and, btw; It is understood in the US that free speech rights must be secured in the most broadly understood sense. Free speech means nothing unless it is secured on behalf on even the most craven, thoughtless, base, venal and irrational. It cannot be the case that every time someone would like to opine that it potentially takes on the dimensions of some moral crusade. I think you have a very unhealthy society if the most ordinary among us feels compelled to continuously self censor what occurs to them.
-by Mark, Bellevue

Bjørn: As a dutchman, I'm trying to figure out where Pim Fortuyn, Ayaan Hirsch Ali or Theo van Gogh fit in in your line of thinking.

"There are some people we can rely on to hold the line, who will not give in to guilt or pressure. They're the ones who genuinely believe the stupid, offensive things they say. There are some people we can rely on to hold the line, who will not give in to guilt or pressure. They're the ones who genuinely believe the stupid, offensive things they say. Racists, Holocaust deniers, Islamists."

"Leaving the job of being truly offensive to the idiots is also a better way to promote freedom of speech."

We Dutch people were depending on Fortuyn, Hirsch Ali and van Gogh to hold the line (or in Ali's case, are), so I guess they fit in nicely amongst Racists, Holocaust deniers, Islamists and the very stupid.

Then comes the whole thing about the price of free speech, which baffles me too. Fair enough that there is a price to pay as in 'free software' (nice one) and I agree that there are many shades of gray. But, it's getting very clear that there are pitch dark blacks, too. Do you really want to say that 'it all depends' when people get killed because they made a film that offended some people? Is this a price we should even consider paying? The price has increased A BIT, indeed.

There is a limit to the responsibility one has for ones actions. Causing an effect does not necessary makes one responsible for that effect. If a girl with nice legs is wearing a mini-skirt, she should expect to turn some heads, she can, however, not be held responsible for the actions of some maniac that rapes her. Or does that all depends on the price she is willing to pay for wearing mini-skirts? Or maybe she's to blame because she should not, as OEK put's it, "provoke just for the sake of provoking"?
-by Taco

The proof that there should be no censorship is the Muslim view of Europe's laws on Holocaust denial. In the light of the defense of the cartoons they now view the countries that have made holocaust denial illegal as hypocritical. I think they are right.

I realized these Holocaust denial laws were a slippery slope when they were passed; I just wasn't sure how it would play out. Now I know that they will become the wedge for more censorship of ideas at the behest of offended groups. What's the answer? Repeal the censorship laws, develop a thick skin and be prepared to defend your ideas using the same free speech tools they are attacked with. Mockery of extreme ideas is also a great antidote to their widespread dissemination and acceptance. Just don't burn and butcher. Adherence to that lowers the bar so that people don't have to be as afraid to speak their minds, however poorly thought out their ideas/motivations may be.
-by Graham, Woodinville


"In fact, unless you're willing to defend the speech rights of Holocaust deniers and Islamists, you have not understood freedom of speech."

Holocaust Deniers disqust me and Islamists even more so, but once you start denying the right of some to speak and not others then the rights of ALL are denied.

For me the free speech line is crossed not when someone says, "I hate them", it is, "I hate them, now lets go and kill them."

Bjorn, I will still take exeption to your use of the word Islamophobe, however. Out of a strange coincidence, Robert Spencer at had an interesting take on the use of the word sure to scroll up if you are interested in reading it.
-by Zoe E USA

I think people need to keep in mind the difference between law and manners. In a free society, just because you are allowed to do something doesn't mean that you SHOULD do it. But by the same token, living in a free society also means that there are going to be rude and heedless people, which means that the rest of us just have to put up with it.

What gets my goat is that certain people want to impose their views on the rest of us, whether or not we subscribe to them. I would like to think I am a decent enough person not to deliberately insult someone else's deeply held beliefs, but that's an issue of my being polite and considerate. The other person doens't have the right to force me to do things his way.

With regard to the ex-Christian's comment: living in America, my instinct regarding freedom of speech is that prohibitions on any kind of speech (other than direct incitement to violence) are anathema - freedom of speech means nothing if it doesn't include freedom to say things that are disgusting to many people. So if it was up to me (which it isn't), I'd get rid of the European laws against denying the Holocaust. If people want to say stupid and hateful things, they have a right to say it, peacefully. But ex-Christian, that also means I have the right (should I so choose, which I don't) to say bad things about Muslims, Mohammad, abu-Bakr or anyone else - and you would have to put up with it just as I would have to put up with people denying the Holocaust or praising Hitler.

Although I don't think the laws against Holocaust denial are wise, I do understand the reason many European countries have them - Europe has a pretty sordid thousand-year history of murdering Jews, which ended in the Holocaust. With that sort of history I understand the perceived need to be vigilant against action that could lead to a repeat. And there is a pedagogical aspect of the Holocaust, too: it stands as an object lesson as to what happens when people - any people, not just Jews - are hated for their ethnic background. But I am still of the view that on balance it's better to let people say what they want, and subject their views to criticism or ridicule, than to suppress them. After all, discrediting Holocaust deniers is far more effective when their statements are disproved in open discourse than when their statements are never disproved at all because they are prohibited from making them.

Finally, ex-Christian, are you prepared to denounce the unbelievably disgusting anti-Jewish hatred that is regularly fomented in the Arab and Muslim press? If you're not, don't call other people hypocrites.
-by Stuart, New York

Ah, but WILL the European Muslims accept your argument? The behavior of the mobs in the streets seems to refute that. And their behavior is getting results, by intimidating the Europeans from exercising their free speech rights. If you're too cowed to say something, you're no longer free.

Ultimately, it comes down to this: Is is possible for the traditional European societies to co-exist with the Muslim immigrant societies that are growing rapidly in their midst? I've made the cuckoo's egg analogy before, where the cuckoo bird lays its eggs in another bird's nest and lets the other species of bird raise the cuckoo chicks, which then kick the parent birds' real chicks out of the nest to die.

And if something really IS dangerous, than fear of it is not a "phobia," it's completely rational.
-by Clyde


Popular Mechanics is becoming one of the most reliable, useful sources for information and mythbusting on the internet. I've long been skeptical of peoples' reliance on sites like Snopes although their information is typically accurate. But Popular Mechanics is a long-time, proven and reliable source for information since the 1930's. Their website has had two previous invaluable articles:

Debunking the Myths of 9/11
Debunking the Myths of Hurricane Katrina

Now they have done an informative article on alternate fuels called How far can you drive on a bushel of corn?
In the lab, many gasoline alternatives look good. Out on the road, automotive engineers have a lot of work to do, and energy companies have new infrastructure to build, before very many people can drive off into a petroleum-free future. And, there's the issue of money. Too often, discussions of alternative energy take place in an alternative universe where prices do not matter.

For this special report, PM crunched the numbers on the actual costs and performance of each major alternative fuel. Before we can debate national energy policy--or even decide which petroleum substitutes might make sense for our personal vehicles--we need to know how these things stack up in the real world.
Ace of Spades Headquarters examines the article and notes that

While it seems, superficially, to be a sober analysis, it doesn't mention the costs associated with creating each type of fuel, or compare the energy-cost of creating the fuel to the cost of producing petroleum feul. I mean, if it takes 200 BTU's of electricity to produce 100 BTU's worth of ethanol, umm, we still have to produce that electricity in the first place, right?

It mentions the energy investment for some "fuels," like electricity, which is a fuel but not a source of energy; it's just a form of energy created by consuming some other source. But it doesn't detail the energy investment associated with all of them. At least not in a detailed or rigorous way.

Commenters had this to say:
The problem with alcohols is they have lower energy density than ordinary gotta carry more of it to do the same amount of work.
-by Purple Avenger

I'm excited about fuels synthesized from bio-mass, like giblets and dead stuff. I hope there's a no-questions-asked policy, or at least late-night drop-off.
-by Spongeworthy

This kind of misses the point a little. If ethanol can provide a means of reducing the need for foreign liquids than why not do it- even if it means subsidizing it.
How efficient it is as a fuel depends on the analysis. One analysis (Pimentel) assumes fermentation as the only method, assumes only fossil fuels for harvest (as opposed to biodiesel) and includes the energy needed to make tractors.
There are other methods.
-by DrJohn

Ethanol, like hydrogen, is just an energy storage and transport mechanism. Even if it took more energy to make alcohol than it delivers, it could still be a good bet IF the energy used to make it was cheap enough, or at least, cheaper than oil or gas. Nukes anyone?

-by Toby928

It's true that solar energy would contribute to the energy input for creating ethanol, but (as mentioned by someone else earlier) there are other energy sinks in the process as well: The energy cost for watering, fertilizing, hoeing, reaping, sowing -- all that farmer stuff that adds into the cost as well. It probably offsets the gain you get from adding in sunlight.
-by petronius

"It probably offsets the gain you get from adding in sunlight."

Its possible or maybe not, the point is to use less shekels from my pocket. Effiencies don't matter if the final cost is lower and the supply more even and dependable. I can't get a nuclear power plant to fit under my hood but I could run my car on ethanol produced with nuclear power. Storage and transport mechanism, thats all.

Just sayin'
-by Toby928

The big magic trick is cellulastic ethanol, which is just now coming on line in a number of research plants here and in Canada.

Essentially, we now have genetically-tinkered-with yeasts that produce a series of enzymes that can break cellulose down into glucose. From Glucose, the familiar fermentation process can make ethanol.

We have butttloads of cellulose available to us, in the form of cornstalks, cotton, grasses, hay; you name it. Being able to turn _that_ into fuel (rather than the parts of the plant we might otherwise eat or feed to livestock) changes the ethanol playing field considerably.
-by leoncaruthers

Don't leave Biiodiesel out of the discussion alltogether. I know that ethanol has been getting a lot of the headlines for a few decades now, but biodiesel is so easy to make that you can make it yourself in a blender out of used (or fresh) vegtable oil and draino, and put it straight into your diesel car with no mods.

The major drawback from folks who do this regularly is that it is more temperature sensitive than diesel (which is very tem sensitive compared to gasoline), and needs heated lines and tanks in some climates. Vegtable oil is cheap to grow and cheap to extract. We currently throw away millions of gallons of it per year into land fills, and even more oil-producing plants go un-converted in the first place.

The process is about 80% efficient, and the byproduct (the 20% that doesn't convert) is glycerine laced with methane, which many of us know as Serno. It makes a great fuel for heating or for cooking your bio-diesel in the first place.

One other caveat, diesel engines started on either diesel or biodiesel can be switched over to run on straight vegtable oil without any conversion (but still need the heated hose and tank). This would remove the most expensive step out of the process. And don't think of the comodity cost based on the 32 oz packaging you see at the store either. Indistrial quantities of veggie oil can be had a LOT cheaper. There are farms in Germany and England where biodiesel was pioneered where they dedicate a percentage of land to oil production to run their equipment. Rape seed is reportedly the most prolific producer per acre, but corn and other crops make oil too.
-by Scot

Another quick thought about cellulostic ethanol: Many of the sources of this potential fuel are currently being used to minimize soil erosion on farmland. Cornstalks are left on the surface of the harvested field to help keep fall & spring rains from washing more soil into the Gulf of Mexico. If we harvest all these materials, we degrade our future ability to produce crops on that land.

Some people think that this material's just laying around waiting to be harvested. If you're talking about things like switchgrass grown specifically for power generation, then it may be true, but no-cost byproducts of farming are not as available as you might think.

Besides, from what I've heard, the technology for producing cellulostic ethanol is more promised than proven at this point. It's not quite cold fusion in a jar, but it's not anything that will be available soon, even if everything goes perfectly in the research.
-by Russ from Winterset

I was thinking about this yesterday. What if the President announced a sort of open Manhattan Project on fuel efficient vehicles that people would actually want?

What if the challenge was- "build a V8 that puts out 250 hp, runs on multiple fuels, and gets 40mpg?

"Build it, and we'll buy the patent for $10 Billion."
-by Barry


This is a small blog with not many readers, although I hope it is growing as the weeks go by. Word Around the Net has only been in existence about three weeks, but I'd like to check here in my first month the diversity of readers or at least visitors that come by. If you browse by here and see what is said today, please leave a comment with your location (state or country) - it can be just your location and nothing else if you wish, but just drop a short note so we can see how many places readers to even such a small blog as this come from!

Quote of the day

"It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings. ... Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things, which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it. Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves. ... Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!"
-Patrick Henry

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

MONKEY RIGHTS! (and apes)

Spanish Socialists have decided that because humans share 98.4% of our genes with chimpanzees, 97.7% with gorillas, and 96.4% with orangutans, that apes and monkeys ought to have legal protection. The plan is to introduce a bill in the UN Congress of Deputies:
The party will announce its Great Ape Project at a press conference tomorrow. An organization with the same name is seeking a UN declaration on simian rights which would defend ape interests "the same as those of minors and the mentally handicapped of our species."
The English language side of Barcepundit blog (for which I am grateful, having very little skill in Spanish) covers the story:

Maybe their plan is to give them voting rights, so they're reaching to their base...

To be fair, Environment minister said that this was not mean to actually give monkeys actual human rights, though the deputies sponsoring this, during the presentation in Parliament (link in Spanish), said that they pursued the concept of person to be expanded to big apes in danger of extintion (gorillas, chimpanzees) in order to protect them.

Protein Wisdom picks up the story with a note that humans and mice share 99% of the same DNA as well.

Will the UN go along? Most likely. After all, issuing such a declaration is a lot easier than dealing with, say, African genocides or Iranian nukes. And every official UN declaration—no matter how silly—is followed by brie, bread, and wine. So it’s a win-win!

Commenters could not resist:
Oh God. So many jokes. Where do I begin? Does this mean Spanish monkies will be allowed to vote and collect welfare? Will they be subject to Spanish law like humans? If so, I bet they’re gonna have to change the laws about masturbating in public (though other countries might not).
-by Chairman Me

Although I find it highly unlikely, I hope with every fiber of my being that the UN seriously backs this. A good portion of the world, including the US, still has faith in the effectiveness of the UN, and see it as the only legitimate arbiter for international conflicts. Things like this will continue to chip away at that belief, even with ridiculous leftists. Or am I giving them too much credit? Also, can you imagine the South Park episode on this?
-by srl

Hee, hee.

This is up over at Ace’s. [Ace of Spades Headquarters]

ARMED Sierra Leonean police are hunting up to 20 chimpanzees which killed a local taxi driver and injured three American visitors after they broke out of a wildlife sanctuary.

The Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary in forested hills outside the Sierra Leonean capital Freetown, where the incident happened, has been closed since Sunday’s attack by the screaming and excited apes, which mobbed and mauled the four men.

So maybe the Spanish are on to something.
-by rls

My goodness Chairman Me, if Apes of Spanish descent or citizenship are subject to laws, the prisons would become overrun with them. It would be like a zoo! Obviously, their minority status would have to afford them some mitigating rights. It goes without saying that the acceptable lexicon would need some polishing at the very least. Fecal flinging, public sex, excessive masturbation, and violence are long-established elements of their culture. Could we truly demand that they shed these critical behaviors that define their culture, simply to conform to our preconceived notions of how simians should behave? I know what knuckle-dragging neocons would say. Wait, that’s hate speech. You can’t say knuckle-dragging anymore. Afterall, since we’ve stolen all their land, they were never given a choice to join civilization. It was forced on them!

I propose a month should be set aside to celebrate our Solidarity with Ape-Peoples. Thoughts?
-by srl

I propose a month should be set aside to celebrate our Solidarity with Ape-Peoples. Thoughts?

Only one:

Get your damn hands off of me, you damn dirty ape!!
-by alppuccino

“Animals are clearly not machines, but neither are they slightly diminished human beings. Intellectual understanding is not found in any degree in any animal but man. The human capacity to understand the what and the why of things is unique in the animal kingdom. With respect to this faculty, man is different in kind from animals, not in degree. The difference between apes and other animals is one of degree, since they possess the same kinds of powers to a greater or less extent. But a greater gap separates man from ape than that which separates any two other natural creatures. (Augros, Robert [philosopher] & Stanciu, George [physicist], “The New Biology: Discovering the Wisdom in Nature”, New Science Library, Shambhala: Boston, MA, 1987, p.82).
-by lsr

I’ll take the UN’s interest in this subject seriously after they accept the proposition that Israelis and Jews have human rights.

On the other hand, if Jews are sons of apes and pigs, then conferring human rights on apes may achieve these unintended consequences.

t/w “movement,” as in “look at that ape flinging its movement”
-by Atilla (Pillage Idiot)

The PSOE’s justification is that humans share 98.4% of our genes with chimpanzees, 97.7% with gorillas, and 96.4% with orangutans.

Hmmm, I wonder the percentage is for human fetuses. Well, and humans as well. But then this is Spain and not under Holland’s euntanasia laws. Yet.
-by ken

These special rights for Primates are really just a way to continue discrimination against Dolphins.
-by eakawie

I just hope this turns out more like Troy McClure’s high-spirited Stop The Planet of The Apes, I Want to Get Off, and less like that downer of a movie it was based on.
-by Percy Dovetonsils


Esquire magazine has an article entitled 59 Things a Man Should Never Do Past 30. Some are difficult to support (never buy fireworks, put less than 10 dollars gas in the tank, or go to a Pink Floyd laser light show at the planetarium?) But most are a good sign you need a hefty dose of maturity. Commenters from a variety of boards chimed in with other possible things to avoid:

From Right Wing Sparkle:
Say "two points" every time he throws something in the trash

Well of course.

You're supposed to say "he shoots he SCORES"!
-by Dave in Texas

Use a wallet that is fastened with Velcro.


I didn't check out the original list, but I didn't see in your list:

Wear a PONYTAIL! (or long hair for that matter)

the most stupid looking thing for a guy

equal to (white) guys who now shave their heads

also equal to the cretinous looking thin little goatee

or Elvis type side-burns
-by alessandra

You try NOT air drumming to "Won't Get Fooled Again"!
-by Gordon

I'd also add the air drumming is acceptible to Phil Collin's "In the Air Tonight"

Also forgot to add to the list:

Wear pants that hang low enough for your underwear to show

Refer to your friends as your "peeps" or anyone as "dawg"
-by PMain

Oh, and please, Over 30's......

No more number "3" decals and little Chevy and/or Ford boys wizzing on the opponents logo, stuck to the back of yer pickup truck window.

No more DocMarten-type shoes with dress pants or business suits.

I'm guilty of a lot of them.

I mean, right away:

Coin his own nickname.

Front and center; first entry on the list. Not a good sign.

I would think wearing your baseball cap on backwards would have been on the list.
-by Roc Ingersol

22. Wear Disney-themed neckties.
31. End a conversation with "later skater.

I've never heard #31 in my life. Is that sentence purposely designed to incite violence? Any male who does either of these, no matter what age, deserves to have his ass kicked.
-by Steve_in_hb

Firework!!!! I will never, ever give up my 1/2 sticks 1/4 sticks. I don't make my own "destructive devices" all the time anymore. Now, if your talking sparkles and sh*t, I agree. Nothing makes traffic more bearable on a motorcycle than a frokbag full of m-80's.
-by Hutch1200

Ace, you are in big trouble. most of those things go contrary to the AOS Lifestyle.

Almost 20 years ago, Esquire ran a list of the 99 things a man should do before he turns 30. As we neared that magical age, we chanced to have a party where large quantities of alcohol were involved. Someone got a copy of that issue and we proceeded to spend the evening going through list telling sordid tales of a misspent youth.

Man, I miss that.
-by Steve L.

"Scenes from an Italian Restaurant" came out in 1977, and probably hasn't been played on a non-oldies station since 1979. So I'm guessing that no one under thirty has ever heard that song. I'm also willing to bet that no one over thirty has compared themselves to that song in 20 years. And when was the last time anyone saw a hackey sack?

There was also a conspicuous absence of any mention of videogames, fantasy sports, text messaging, or internet message boards on that list. Which leads me to believe the list was either written in 1985, or written by someone whose only connection with modern culture is through the small bits of his grandkids' conversations that he picks up between naps.

Other items that were included but didn't make the final edits:

60) Do a Mork from Ork impression.
61) Wear shoelaces in your Vans.
62) Forget to set your VCR to record Riptide.
63) Bet against the Kansas City Royals.
64) The headspin.
65) Wear long shorts.
66) Have a favorite Whammy on Press Your Luck.
67) Argue over which is better: Goliath or Knight Rider.
-by The Comish (sic)

As blogs pick this up, the comments sections will expand and be updated.

Now someone needs to do a list of things women shouldn't do. Like wear a half shirt that says "princess" or "flirty." Or get a "Tramp Stamp" tattoo at the base of the spine.

Comment Type #8


A Grammar Police post is one that ignores the points someone makes and focuses on their spelling, punctuation, or grammar. The purpose of the post is to correct or demean rather than respond or contribute, and typically is insulting in the place of response.

Even the most skilled, careful speller and linguist in the world will make mistakes, mis-type, and put words in the wrong sequence. Few people have a flawless grasp of their language and will make grammatical errors that can make a sentence less easy to understand and read. In some cases, someone is in such a hurry they don't look carefully and respond to get it out there as fast as possible in passion or a desire to be the first to say something. All of these are reasons that a post might be misspelled or have terrible grammar.

As far as possible, we all ought to have better spelling and grammar, especially someone like me who writes for a living and has been speaking English for over 40 years. At the same time, we all make mistakes and are all flawed, fallible human beings. In addition, some people who read and post on comment and message boards are not English-speaking people (or native to the language in question) and do not know enough of the language to spell or form sentences properly. In this case, I consider them brave to attempt the post and more learned than I, because I'd be hard pressed to even form a unique sentence in the language I studied most in school after all these years.

Attacking someone for their poor spelling is a form of Ad Hominem fallacy, in which you ignore the argument (or point) being made and focus on something irrelevant to the discussion. If someone spells a word wrong or gets a date mixed up (such as 1798 instead of 1978), or dangles a participle, it may be awkward to read, but it does not cause you physical harm. In almost every case it is best to let it go. There are some grammatical or spelling errors that cause people grief, however. For example, I consistently misspelled the word desperate on a blog comment section until finally a school teacher there could take it no longer and corrected me. That's fine, in my case I'd much rather know, and she otherwise agreed with what I had to say.

There is an exception to this general rule, however. Some people deliberately spell words differently as part of a sad effort to be k3wl or fit into a clique of their age group. See how that word was spelled? That's a derivation of the word "cool" which in it's self is slang. Younger people, especially using cell phone text messaging and chatting online have come up with a whole jargon of words. Instead of being alternate uses of words that become slang, these are alternate spellings of words already in use. Sometimes numbers are used for letters - in this case "3" is used in place of "e" and the entire word "cool" is spelled as if pronounced by a valley girl "kewl." "Pwn" is used in place of "own" - to dominate, humiliate, or embarrass. For a time, putting -z0r on the end of words was popular, an obscure computer programming reference.

This kind of jargon not only is difficult to even read if you're not familiar with it, and indicates a greater allegiance to trend and peer pressure than in communicating your point and making it lucid. Further, such spelling is pointless in that it often is at least as difficult to type or even longer than the original word. The excuse "its faster to type 'AEAP' than 'as early as possible" or 'CMIIW' than 'correct me if I'm wrong'" is valid on a microscopic keypad used on cell phones, but on a computer it is simple sloth. By the time you're done explaining what the acronym means, you've typed longer than if you had simply used the normal phrase.

For more on this kind of abbreviation used for text messaging, Webopedia has a list of some currently in use. The urban dictionary has an extensive list of alternate spellings and more recent slang (which, as has always been the case is constantly in flux).

We always ought to spell as carefully as possible - many blogs even have a spell checker as part of the comment section, and it is simple enough to take advantage of one if you are on a computer (and obviously you are to post comments on a blog). I use one regularly to check these blog entries, hoping to cut down on spelling errors. By using the best grammar you can and proper spelling, people will tend to take your point more seriously - fair or not - and your ideas will carry more merit and respectability.

If someone misspells, give them the benefit of the doubt, unless it is truly egregious and they ought to know better - such as a person posing as a college professor of English Literature who cannot spell or use proper grammar. As far as you know, the person who can't seem to string a sentence together well is 6 years old or from Indonesia and speaks more languages than you own books.

Quote of the day

"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largess from the public treasury. From that time on the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the results that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship."
-Sir Alex Fraser Tytler (1742-1813) Scottish Jurist and Historian, Professor of Universal History at Edinburgh University

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


In a case that brings to mind the Terri Schiavo tragedy just last year, there is another woman who is in a hospital being kept alive and some of the medical authorities desire her to be "allowed to die." John Hawkins at Right Wing News brought the story to light:

Yesterday, as I was perusing the Democratic Underground, I ran across a very troubling story. I'm reposting it here, so that you can read it just as I did last night (The phone numbers presently are x'd out, although you can read them in the original post)...
The hospital ethics committee met the day before yesterday and concluded that Andrea's treatment (respirator and dialysis) should be discontinued. We have ten days to move her from that hospital or they will "pull the plug" and let Andrea die. Andrea, until a few days ago, when the physicians decided to increase her pain medication and anesthetize her into unconsciousness, was fully able to make her own medical decisions and had decided that she wanted life saving treatment until she dies naturally. We have learned that this is part of the process, when hospitals decided to declare the "medical futility" of continueing treatment for a patient. But, this is not a Terry Schiavo case; not anything like it. Andrea, when she is not medicated into unconsciousness (and even when she is, and the medication has worn off to some degree) is aware and cognizant. She has suffered no brain damage to the parts of her brain responsible for thought and reason, or speech. She has only suffered loss of some motor control. The reason that the physician gave to medicate her so much is that she is suffering from intractable pain in the sacral region (in other words, she has a bedsore that causes her pain). This is not reason enough, in our books, and we are trying, as we speak, to get Andrea's medication lowered so that she can speak to us.

After reading this, I called Melanie Childers and talked with her about this case.

She told me that her sister recently had surgery for a heart condition. After surgery, she developed an infection and that's why she's so weak and needs a respirator to breathe. Again, her sister is not brain dead, she can speak, and she does not want the hospital to let her die.

Moreover, disturbingly, according to Ms. Childers there is a doctor at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital who has examined her sister and said that he thinks she has a chance to recover. Imagine that, folks -- being sick, having the odds against you, but wanting to fight for your life -- and having the hospital that's treating you cut you off at the knees when you're at your most vulnerable.

John goes on to say

If what Melanie Childers has told me is correct, we've got a situation where a hospital that claims to provide "ethical, compassionate and quality care" is pulling a woman's respirator and dialysis against her wishes and the wishes of her family after a doctor at their facility has said she might be able to recover. That doesn't sound very "ethical" or "compassionate" to me and maybe if the word gets out about it, it might make a difference.

Whether this story is accurate or we have all the information or not, it has stirred a great deal of interest in the blogosphere and commenters discussed euthanasia and other topics:

One might hope that those on the left will listen to this woman's plight and learn from it. It is a shame that they sometimes only listen when the voice is from what they perceive is from their side, but this is the kind of thing that might make some of them rethink Terry Schiavo's situation and hopefully will influence their opinion the next time it happens.

To Andrea Clarke, I would say that I hope everything turns out all right; that the hospital will provide care and that her sister will survive. I support the fight for life and believe it to be the most fundamental right, greater than anything else, and it, like all other rights, is fully deserved until a person denies someone else that right. Good luck with the protest and keep fighting alongside your sister for life.
-by CR UVa

The controversial portion of the law in question, the Texas Advance Directives Act of 1999:

TREATMENT DECISION. (e) If the patient or the person responsible for the health care decisions of the patient is requesting life-sustaining treatment that the attending physician has decided and the review process has affirmed is inappropriate treatment, the patient shall be given available life-sustaining treatment pending transfer under Subsection (d). The patient is responsible for any costs incurred in transferring the patient to another facility. The physician and the health care facility are not obligated to provide life-sustaining treatment after the 10th day after the written decision required under Subsection (b) is provided to the patient or the person responsible for the health care decisions of the patient unless ordered to do so under Subsection(g).
Yet subsection (d) states that if either the "attending physician, the patient, or the person responsible for the health care decisions of the individual" doesn't agree with the hospital review panel's decision, the physician should transfer the patient to another doctor or medical facility that is willing to provide care. So my question would be: Why wasn't this woman transferred? Childers' explanation really doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
-by Maledicta

One thing is missing from this entire story. What is the hospital's rationale for pulling the plug? Ms. Childers says simply, "The hospital ethics committee met the day before yesterday and concluded that Andrea's treatment (respirator and dialysis) should be discontinued." Why?
-by CavalierX

I'm familiar with St Lukes. My father died there in 1989. Well, he didn't actually die there. No, they let him come home - and then he died about 2 hours later.

There was talk of a lawsuit but nothing ever came of it - I was just a kid at the time so I wasn't really aware of all the details. In any case, there were grumblings among my family that my dad's insurance was about to run out and that's why they kicked him out. St Lukes has the reputation for being part of one of the best hospital systems in the WORLD. It is where the heart transplant was invented.

But something is seriously wrong over there.
-by RightThinkingGirl

As in the Terry Schiavo case, I am very troubled by this rash and rushed action by the medical professionals of this hospital. Law and ethics may be on their side, but by all accounts according to this poster this is a Human life that is not FOR CERTAIN brain dead.

In fact, is sounds as if the hospital just gave up on a Human life that can be saved.

Very disturbing.


I DO NOT PLAY POLITICS WHEN IT COMES TO THIS! Obviously this young woman did not know what to do, where to go, and in desperation she reached out to whoever she could to help. Be it us, or the Democratic Underground or whoever, this is clearly a Human Being, on behalf of an innocent Human Being unable to defend herself, begging for help! Clearly, her options are very limited, and I will totally rip to shreads anyone, ANYONE, that thinks this should be treated as a political issue up for debate.
-by Corporate_Cabana

"Like Terry's parents, she doesn't want her loved one sentenced to death for financial and convenience reasons. That is completely logical, and I don't see the reason to distance herself from that case."
The reason is that Terri Schiavo is dead. I'm sure she wants to avoid people looking at the case and thinking "here we go again" and expecting the same outcome.

I'm not familiar with this case or Texas law so I'd reserve judgement, but if it is as Melanie Childers explains it, the law appears to be a blatant violation of the patient's due process rights.

But are we starting to see why euthenasia just might be a bad idea? Maybe??
-by Mike_M

I'd like to humbly point out that much of what this woman says is what Terri's parents said.
-by Christopher_Taylor

Since she's thusfar the exclusive source for information on her sister's plight, that poses something of a problem.
According to the comments in the DU thread (I had to hold my nose, reading a few of them), her story was on the local news in Houston.

Probably the reason we haven't heard more is the family is apparently not as media-savvy as some of the ones you see every day on the news. Andrea Clark isn't the first like this, and she won't be the last--as long as there are medical "ethicists" and others around deciding whose life is or isn't worth living.

“Misery can only be removed from the world by painless extermination of the miserable.”

—a Nazi writer quoted by Robert J. Lifton in The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide
-by Bamapachyderm

I guess when the shoe is on their foot,they see things a little differently.
I know a lot of liberals who claim that the people who are against abortion, stem cell research, and/or euthenasia would sing a different tune if someone they knew had an unwanted pregnancy, crippling disease, and/or terminal illness. They often cite people like Nancy Reagan and the late wife of Christopher Reeve. Not to seem disrespectful, but I like to call people like this fair-weather moralists. They hold a moral position until it affects them personally, then they change it. Well sorry everybody, but that's not how morality works. You don't get to change your position because it's convenient and still expect to maintain credibility.

(And for the record, my father died of Lou Gehrig's disease. Something that could potentially be cured one day by stem cell research. So don't anyone try and pull that "you'd support it if only it touched someone you knew" bullsh*t with me.)
-by MightySamurai

Okay, I can't stand this anymore. First, we have tried facilities offering every conceivable level of care. She is on a respirator and getting dialysis. There are some nursing homes that offer respirator care and no dialsysis and vice versa. The long term acute care facilities see that the hospital says she is "futile" and say they can't take her because they are there to rehabilitate and send patients to a lower continuum of care. Other hospitals rely on the "futility" diagnosis. A provider won't take a patient just on the say so of the family--they talk to the hospital. The hospital believes she is futile. It's a catch-22.

The law sets ethics committees up as quasi-judicial entities that have no other oversight. There is no effective or fast way to dispute the decision of "futility".

The law provides only 10 days to find another place and to go to court to request more time. In court, you have to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that there is a reasonable expectation of transfer. So for ten days you try to transfer or get evidence that somebody will take her.

I will have to challenge the entire law--that is a huge undertaking and ten days is not enough time to do it in.

And, yes, they will pull the plug on the 10th day.

One other clarification, the family slept in the parking garage for prior ethics committee meeting regarding a care issue. My point to John is that it is ridiculous to have a comittee making such momentous decisions refusing to meet during regular business hours.
-by JerriLynnWard

Not again! The facts appear one sided until the hospital has permission to release their side of the medical story. Death is never friendly, fair or something to look forward too. From the story on the page at 2400 EST, it sounds like Ms Clarke doesn't want to die but we aren't sure that her body can accommodate those wishes. The really hard question is, how long should the medical community keep a body alive? Forever? Someone has to make the hard decision about life and death when there is no real hope for life. Sadly, it is about cost! There are only so many resources available and you can only manage those resources so far to help so many people. So someone has to make the horrible decision for cutting off life support when there is no chance for a medical cure. Do you control pain when the body starts to wear down -- which typically means the person sleeps the final few days of their life?

If the medical staff in the hospital believes that they have done all they can to save her life, it may just be the answer the family is afraid to accept. As for the one doctor that claims he can save her...I guess if I didn't want to face the fact that I was going to soon die, then I would hang on his every word too. Another sad story about losing someone who is loved. Hopefully Ms Clarke and the family has someone there offering them some spiritual support. Maybe the Clarke family will let the hospital release the medical information that is needed to make a sound Editorial on this issue.
-by Redfish

I think there is a strong chance that this whole story is a hoax, designed to embarass George Bush and continue the relentless march to impeach him. The sister reporting the case is reported to be in California, while she is also reported to be at a protest which occurred on Saturday. She reports all the press is at the protest on Saturday, but there are zero press reports on the case. The "pull the plug" law, which they say was signed by George Bush is simply a law on advance directives (medical powers of attorney and DNR orders). They say they have no lawyer but there is a lawyer, suddenly. While there are numerous posts on the case at the DU site, there are no left wing blogs which have picked up the story. In short, if this is true it is a terrible thing, but I think there is an equal chance it is all made up. Either way, it's troubling, but try a little Googling, and you will see what I mean. I would proceed with a little caution.
-by publia

Writing as somebody who is on the "left" politically, the ONLY reason most DUers and others on that side of the spectrum sided with the despicable, lying Michael Schiavo is because of who was most visible backing the Schindlers.

In other words, it was a matter of defeating the Jeb Bushes, the Randall Terrys, and the Tom DeLays of the world. They couldn't have cared less about Terri or the horrific precedent her court-ordered death set.

At bottom, there isn't a dime's worth of difference between the Schiavo and Clarke cases, and both show just how twisted the bioethics movement is. It's nothing more than the old-fashioned eugenics given a shiny new coat of paint.
-by Susan Nunes

This is a direct consequence of the Schiavo case.

If people didn't see this coming, they've been blind blind blind.

-by RightWingRockerUSA

I'm going to play Devils Advocate here:

Do we really want to take the decision-making process away from the doctors and give it to family members with little knowledge of medicine?

I definitely sympathize with Clarke and I think that the "ethicists" are usually unethical. But it seems like it is getting to a point where people don't want to trust the professional advice of doctors anymore and they'd rather just do what they want. This seems dangerous given that most people have no knowledge of the basic structures of DNA or cells, let alone major organs.

If we let this continue, won't that open up the hospitals and doctors to more lawsuits?
-by RepublicanPig1

Do we really want to take the decision-making process away from the doctors and give it to family members with little knowledge of medicine?

This is not "shall we use Anthropraxin or methindelonol for this infection" this is "shall we kill this woman to save bed space and money."

Incidentally, to whatever extent those invented words correspond with actual medicine is entirely due to coincidence.
-by Christopher_Taylor

I went thru this with my husband who had diabetes complications. He died 5 years ago. You have no idea how many lies are told by the doctors and the insurance people unless you have been through it. The chaplain and a doctor or two will only hint at what is going on, and families are generally left stumbling in the dark with no one to turn to for help. These Critical Care Committees are set up in many hospitals. From what I learned, most who are to die this way just pass away if family members are not visiting and watching carefully what is going on, asking questions, being at the bedside.

And it just doesn't happen to the poor. I have a professional woman friend who lives in New Jersey. Several years ago she came down with a difficult condition that required a blood product, probably expensive. She had full insurance. The hospital gave her 48 hours to live and told her family to fly in as the product was not available. Fortunately she had a brother and a son-in-law who were doctors. They knew what was going on and told the hospital that if they found the product would the hospital allow her to be transferred. The hospital couldn't say no. She was transferred, is in full recovery and back at work, flying all around the country for her job.

I have another friend who worked in a professional capacity with nursing homes. He said planned deaths are a regular thing. A lawyer friend told me that insurance companies set up seminars telling medical staff how to prepare a family for planned deaths.

Check out Holland to see what will happen here in the US. Their euthanasia system is several years ahead of what is happening in the US.
-by Zuukie1

I want to share one more thing. My Brother is the CEO and VP of a prominent Medical University in this country and he makes over a million dollars a year. He travels to Europe five times a year, spends weekends at Hilton Head and has put four children through college to earn master's. His children all work for the two top accounting firms in the world. Yes, world. Prior to this my brother worked in hospitals around the county. He is 55 years old.

AM I jealous of my brother, NO, but I think his profession is criminal. He will tell you that Andrea is better off dead, as well, as Terri Schiavo.

He makes a lot of money to back up what he says. This is not the brother I grew up with.
-by InAHeartBeat

The Texas Rainmaker blog has contact information if you want to find out more or get more involved. The commenters at that site also had a few thoughts:

There has to be more to the story. Patients’ lives are not in the hands of hospital ethic committees even in Texas. We have heard from the sister. What does the 23-year old son, BTW the one with real authority over medical decisions, say? This sounds to me like the Terri Schiavo case — with family members fighting and the hospital caught in the middle.
-by nk

I concur with nk in wanting to know what the son has to say. I would also like to see what the hospital has to say, which can be had if the son provides a release for the hospital to speak publicly on the case. I’d also be interested in knowing if the lawyer, Jerri Ward, has a report from the hospital which she can shared in lieu of the time delay with a release for the hospital.

BTW, is Ms. Ward working for the son or the person who has guardianship, if it is not the son?

I have great sympathy for Melanie Childers’ situation and understand her emotional state well. The faster all the information comes out the faster a unified voice will coalesce with reason and argument on its side.
-by Dusty

The Whizbang blog is reporting on the story as well, and Kim Priestap had this to say:

As I've said a number of times before, medical bioethicist is simply code for death squad. Andrea needs help. If you live in the Houston area and can help, get Melanie's phone number on the original post and contact her. Her sister's life matters.

Commenters at that blog responded:

medical bioethicist is simply code for death squad

Gawd, YOU SAID IT. I've been saying it too. Talk about false advertising!
It's not ethics, it's EUGENICS.
-by Beth

Blunt but related questions:

1) Who is paying the medical bills and what do they think?

2) Are scarce resources being utilized for this "futile" treatment, denying someone else needing non-futile treatment, or not?

3) If medical insurance is involved, what kind and has it reached its max?

Yes, after further research it appears the woman is covered by Blue Cross and Blue Shield, and her family believes it it pressure from the insurance company on the hospital that is causing the plug to be pulled, per posts at DU. It is not clear if she has reached the maximum coverage of the BCBS policy, but it appears not.

It is not clear to me whether ICU beds are at a premium and this is being considered triage or not. But I doubt it.

I think I asked the right questions.
-by Epador

The fact that President Bush signed the Texas Futile Care bill into law in 1999 is being repeated by lefty blogs over all over the internet as proof of Bush's "hypocrisy" and "inconsistency." This has been making the rounds since the Terri Schiavo case. I was unaware of this and it gave me pause, because it does make Bush's positions seem inconsistent. Why would he do this, given his stated pro-life beliefs? How does signing Futile Care into law square with this statement:

"In cases like [Terri Schiavo], where there are serious questions and substantial doubts, our society, our laws, and our courts should have a presumption in favor of life."

I have done some digging and it turns out that the Lefty spin appears to be a LIE BY OMISSION. Bush had previously vetoed a version of the bill, PUSHED BY THE LEGISLATURE and signed a second, compromise version of the bill only after additional patient safeguards had been added. As bad as the law is, sometimes governors are forced to face political realities and sign things they would rather not. This seems to be the case here.

I was only able to find this out by extensive digging. If anyone in Texas or elsewhere has more information on the political realities of how this bill came into law, I would very much appreciate it if you would enlighten us further [or contact me directly]. We need to shed a little light on the Democrat spin.


I was not referring to Terri Schiavo, but the Darwinist worldview and the pro-death positions of the Left in general. Where do you think "Futile Care Theory" comes from? If does not come from the right, I can assure you. Look up the "bioethics" teachings of such people as Joseph Fletcher.
-by JeffBlogworthy
Just for reference, there is an article that details the law that President Bush signed while Governor of Texas and what it means on National Review Online.

*UPDATE: This comment was left on Right Wing News by someone who claims to be the sister of the woman in question:

I am Andrea Clark's sister and I'd like to address SOME of the comments here. First of all, her last name is CLARK. No e. (No one is spelling my name correctly either--but oh well) Second, to any of you who think it is a hoax, I am shaking with rage! You are out of line suggesting such a thing! What a sick thing to suggest of a family that is struggling to keep their sister alive. Shame on you!

Third, I have set up a page for Andrea to receive email messages from people through the hospital. I didn't know this was possible until I was visiting Andrea this afternoon and a volunteer brought a printed copy of an email from a lady named Jane Adams in Wisconsin. Jane, if you are reading this, I want you to know that I read your email to Andrea and your words meant very much to both of us.

You know, when you're in a fight like this, you've got all your guards up. You're ready to fight fire with fire and you don't mind knocking heads to protect your loved one. But when you get a loving reminder of the gentleness and compassion of other people, it goes straight to your heart and you remember for a moment that you are much more than a warrior for a cause or your loved one.

Thank you, Jane for allowing me to feel that part of my humanity--your words meant more than you know.

Finally, if any of you want to leave your thoughts for Andrea, you can access Andrea's page by visiting and clicking on the "visit a CarePage" button. You have to register, but it's free, of course. All you need is a valid email address. Andrea's
CarePage is named NO E!
Lanore Dixon
-by Lanore