Wednesday, January 31, 2007


"I see you're using a WHITE background for your blog, while blacks are only good enough to for your text."

Barack Obama is being treated with the sort of awe and reverence by the American media that is usually reserved for religious figures and nobility by their most loyal subjects. The adulation is embarrasing to watch, transparent in its attempt to manipulate readers and viewers. The situation has gotten so bad that even at the left-leaning Slate online magazine, The Obama Messiah Watch has been started to point out overly fawning, obsequious references and coverage of the young politician.

Their first example? A Los Angeles Times article about Senator Obama's college days:
In [political science professor Roger] Boesche's European politics class, [classmate Ken] Sulzer said he was impressed at how few notes [italics mine] Obama took. "Where I had five pages, Barry had probably a paragraph of the pithiest, tightest prose you'd ever see. … It was very short, very sweet. Obviously somebody almost Clintonesque in being able to sum a whole lot of concepts and place them into a succinct written style."
Ann Althouse looked at this website and noticed something that occurred to me as well:
"The Obama Messiah Watch" is ostensibly a fun little feature, highlighting the foibles of people who just love Obama so much. But what Noah fails to talk about is the likelihood that he's picking up evidence of racism. What accounts for amazement to the point of adoration at the fact that a man possesses excellent skill at something like note taking? Is it not that he can do it and he's black? You can laugh at Noah's nuggets of gratuitous adoration, but you ought also to look at them critically and think about the implications.
Commenters responded to these thoughts:
I don't see why liberals consider Obama black. He had an African dad and an caucasian mom. That makes him "mixed" to me. Yet the media universally considers him black. On what grounds? That a single drop of negro blood makes one a negro forever? Didn't we outgrow that when we outgrew Jim Crow?
-by Paul

Has "Halfrican American" been taken?
-by Anonymous

It's worth it to click through to the LA Times to mine for gems like these:
"Obama enrolled in two of Mitchell's courses: Making Weeples From Seedpods 101 and The Empowered Minority Paradigm. "Barry was good with a hot glue gun and he was an empowered minority paradigm or a paragon or a polygon or something like that," said Mitchell. Teacher and student barely knew one another but a picture of Obama was printed in the newspaper so Mitchell got drunk on grappa and left a message on Obama's answering machine asking for money.

Harold Wilson, the Mandingo Professor of Applied Miscegenation Studies and Physician’s Waiting Room Magazines at Occidental, said Obama had natural rhythm and could shuck and jive with the best of the crowd that hung out at the breezeway pitching quarters, throwing dice, taking numbers and hitting on the full-blooded white chicks by making loud sucking sounds and calling out "Hey, Baaaaaybee!"
On a more serious note, Howell said Obama already showed glimpses of things other people can't be certain they've actually seen, like when you're on the beach and it's really hot and sunny and you think there might be a tanker or a trawler or something way out on the horizon but it's hard to tell so you say to yourself it's probably just a mirage and you ask if there's anybody else who wants to go for a walk. "Clearly the guy had a presence or a gain switch or a squelch circuit because, boy, that guy was really a guy, or something." he said.
-by Bissage

Oh my God. Obama is black? Crap. Guess that means I'll have to vote for the wealthy White Southerner then. Honestly, I thought Obama was one of the Kennedy cousins, based on the media treatment he gets. I was positive that he was white, or at least Irish.

It's nowhere near November 2008, and I'm already sick of hearing about Articulate Obama's race. (If I hear another pundit call him well-spoken, I'm going to puncture my own eardrums with a dull screwdriver...)

I have the sneaking suspicion we're about to be guilted into voting for him - "Vote for Obama or you'll prove the US is a big racist nation." The mau-mau will be "sure, you say you just oppose his thoroughgoing liberal positions, but that's just cover for your racism." We're being set up in a similar manner with Mother Hillary, BTW, just in case you missed that... "If you oppose Hillary, you must hate women, children, and mothers, especially working moms. Hillary is a mommy, you know..." I actually respect Hillary though I disagree with a lot of her politics, but if her campaign goes the way I think it is, she'll un-earn my respect pretty quick.

And on the Barack Obama articulate meme, Bill - I cringe when I hear it, and not just because some of my best friends are black, and I don't have a problem with *those people*, not that there's anything wrong with that. You condition us white male oppressors to self-police our speech for phrases that supposedly signify overt or unconscious racism, then you shouldn't be surprised when we cringe when a bunch of liberal pundits start mouthing things we would get reamed out for saying.
-by Al Maviva

Ashamed? Heck, as a white male, I am excluded from all discussions of race and gender, except to stand up for Self-Criticism and shout "I am guilty".

P.S. sniggering, niggardly, and renege, negotiate, etc. are all now Forbidden Words For White People.

For the children!
-by Pogo

I don't see why liberals consider Obama black. He had an African dad and an caucasian mom.
Well, we all know who the most successful Asian in the history of golf is, right?
-by Anonymous

Working on the theory that there's racism everywhere, readers are questioning my use of the word "sniggering"!
Oh God, bad flashbacks to the day a professor at Med School called me racist for using the word niggardly. :((

(He got a reprimand from my Dean, and was ordered to apologise in class, which he didn't do...)

About The Slate Obama anti-fawning:
Yet these regular features mean something. This one invites us to partake in the adoration of a man. "Bushisms" offers endless examples of another man's supposed stupidity. But Slate is committing to the repeated presentation of Obama as godlike for accomplishing tasks that require skill within the range of mere mortals.
Insightful comment, Ann.

To me, it's like the Jaywalking segment on Jay Leno.

At face value, it's just a funny running gag on how stupid people are, even when picked randomly in the crowd. But if you analyse it deeper, it's a highly editted segment which ONLY shows mass retardation by your average American on the street.

You think the French have segments on their television, showing how ignorant the average Frenchman is? No.

And the reason is beyond just "we have a better sense of humour about ourselves".

Of course, laughing at dewy-eyed elegies to the Hero of the Moment is also very cool -- so not only is it "sniggering" at the Obama-Canonisation, whilst still allowing one to see Obama only in a positive light, but it's also the "Cool Kid Remove" syndrome, which invites you to be a part of the cool cynicism by extension.
-by vbspurs
LaShawn Barber talked about this problem as well, discussing the soft bigotry of using the word "articulate" to describe blacks in general, and Obama in specific:

Barack Obama, the “He speaks so well!” up and coming U.S. senator, no doubt has a bright future ahead of him. But why, I’m trying to figure out, are we reading about his presidential aspirations a mere two years into his first term as senator?

I have a few ideas. First, Obama is “articulate.” No big deal, right? Well, for a black person, it seems to be. At least that’s how I perceive it. Back in 2004 when I was still working a day job at a heavily Democrat-voting organization, the word “articulate” was uttered frequently as white co-workers described Obama’s big speech at the Democratic convention. It wasn’t so much what he said, as I discovered when I read the text of his speech, but how he said it.

Does it have to be overemphasizing that a mere African American can speak without sounding like Mushmouth from the Cosby Kids? Perhaps it's just trying to distinguish between him and President Bush who is not exactly the most articulate man in politics. But then, John Kerry and other politicians who have been opposed to President Bush have been well-spoken, why isn't the "a" word pulled out about them? The presumption that any black man who doesn't sound like a gang banger or steppin' fetchit is a prodigy is truly bigotry at a level I doubt many people consider.

*UPDATE: Hilariously, in the news Senator Biden said this about Barack Obama:
“I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy, I mean, that’s a storybook, man.”
As opposed to all those hideous, dull, filthy, and mumbling blacks he's used to, apparently.
[technorati icon]


"The old saying 'The answer to bad speech is more speech' doesn't require giving this guy a taxpayer-funded soapbox."

All freedoms we enjoy in the world are limited by certain restrictions. We're free to drive, but not over people's yards and into houses. We're free to speak, but cannot print libel or speak slander. We're free to own things, but cannot own nuclear weapons or other people's property. These limits are based on the concept of a balance between rights and responsibilities. We are responsible to each other and to our society, and if the exercise of a right damages society sufficiently we restrict that expression of it.

Free Speech has become wider and wider in its definition to the point of almost absurdity. As long as it's a public event where someone gets paid, nearly anything is considered free speech in America, protected by the US Constitution. There are some, however, who want to see that freedom hemmed in some. In the past, the left has been the proponent of freedom of speech, the lions of liberty of expression, the defenders of the 1st amendment. No more.
This is the awful paradox of tolerance. There arise moments when those who would destroy the tolerance that makes an open society possible should no longer be tolerated. They must be held accountable by institutions that maintain the free exchange of ideas and liberty.

The radical Christian Right must be forced to include other points of view to counter their hate talk in their own broadcasts, watched by tens of millions of Americans. They must be denied the right to demonize whole segments of American society, saying they are manipulated by Satan and worthy only of conversion or eradication. They must be made to treat their opponents with respect and acknowledge the right of a fair hearing even as they exercise their own freedom to disagree with their opponents.

Passivity in the face of the rise of the Christian Right threatens the democratic state. And the movement has targeted the last remaining obstacles to its systems of indoctrination, mounting a fierce campaign to defeat hate-crime legislation, fearing the courts could apply it to them as they spew hate talk over the radio, television and Internet.
Who said this? Former New York Times and National Public Radio writer Chris Hedges, now writing for The Nation Institute, whose magazine is so leftist and radical that Christopher Hitchens abandoned it.

At the Volokh Conspiracy, Eugene Volokh looks at this statement and considers it more closely:
And to the extent there's some ambiguity about whether he's calling for legal suppression (which "denied the right" seems to strongly suggest) or just social pressure, he seems to have clarified it in favor of legal suppression (and "hate crimes legislation" in the sense of bans on supposed hate speech) on NPR's Talk of the Nation, Jan. 25, 2007...
Here Mr Volokh quotes an interview which includes these lines:
[NEAL] CONAN: But Chris, to be fair, aren't you talking about violating their right to free speech, their right to religion as laid out in the First Amendment?

Mr. HEDGES: Well, I think that when you preach -- or when you call for the physical extermination of other people within the society, you know, you've crossed the bounds of free speech. I mean, we're not going to turn a cable channel over to the Ku Klux Klan. Yet the kinds of things that are allowed to be spewed out over much of Christian radio and television essentially preaches sedition. It preaches civil war. It's not a difference of opinion. With that kind of rhetoric, it becomes a fight for survival....
Commenters responded:
I wonder if this guy would say the same thing about Islamofascists who actually do preach hate and the extermination of "infidels."
-by George Lyon

One person using public funds to stifle another person's private speech in the name of "tolerance."

It'd be funny if more people got the joke...
-by Daniel Chapman

I didn't realize that Christian Reconstructionists were thick enough on the ground to be worth worrying about. Sounds like they're just suggesting criminal law reforms.

The radical Christian Right must be forced to include other points of view to counter their hate talk in their own broadcasts, watched by tens of millions of Americans.

Fairness Doctrine here we come.
-by Duncan Frissell

The rule of limiting free speech is that the speech must pose a threat of immediate harm, such as inciting a mob to lynch a criminal suspect being taken out of the local jail. I've heard all kinds of unkind words declaring that such-and-such person or group didn't deserve to live. Fortunately, I have not ever listened to such words and thought imminent harm was probable.

If you want the Christian Right not to be dangerous, then free speech is your best friend. Let blow-hards be blow-hards. However, almost any religion or non-religion driven underground is going to nurture any criminal elements within it.

Censoring speech through anti-hate codes would eventually backfire on those protected, though I'm sure many would get great pleasure in using the laws of the United States to censor Jerry Falwell and his less famous brethren. Hugo Black was a Baptist from Alabama who had heard a lot of preachers spew fire, water, oil, and smoke, but in his Baptist way, he saw the First Amendment as literal and inerrant. Justice Black knew that ultimately America cannot be free for just me and my friends. It needs to be free even for the self-righteous clerics and revolutionary agitators who would preach hatred against all but a few.

Those who want speech codes will think they are fine until the codes are turned against them. Remember how Robespierre died.
-by Tertium Quid

Is this idiot a lawyer who's preaching for the infringement of Christians basic civil liberties and first amendment rights? If so, should we file grievances against him seeking his disbarment for his speech ala Stimson?

I wonder if all those who agreed with trying to suppress Stimson's speech by going for his bar license would support thousands of fundamental Christians filing grievances against this guy were he a lawyer?

Second question where does this guy get this crap about talk radio and christian TV preaching for the physical extermination of homosexuals and others. I've never seen or heard this ever, and I've been listening from time to time.

My suspician is that anyone not preaching the PC line that agrees with his thoughts on these issues is interpreted by him to me they speaker is preaching extermination, and then he calls for their forced re-education/suppression and then says *THEY* are the fascists.

The Chutzpah of the left wing PC moonbats seems to have no bounds. I mean a book calling for the abolition of the free speech and free exercise rights through the use of unconstitutional criminal laws (like hate speech laws and others) being titled "Fascists In America" is pretty damn amazingly ironic and humorous. Too bad such idiots are not just fools deserving of laughter and derision but also quite dangerous at the same time.

Guys like this scare me way more than some harmless old believer like Pat Robertson.
-by JunkYardLawDog

Hedges is absolutely right. We've got to stop letting people like him express their virulent hatred of aChristianity. The man and others like him clearly have to be silenced. They have no place in a liberal society. NPR ought to be shut down for allowing him a forum.
-by AppSocRes

Wrong. This is one misguided man. Sorry, but I will go out on a limb and say that most self-respecting liberals will vehemently disagree with banning speech.
I hope so. But I was at the University of Michigan during their repeated attempts to impose speech codes on students. That was quite--shall we say--illuminating. "No free speech for fascists!" was a not-uncommon rallying cry by the predecessor organizations to BAMN. They defined "fascist" as "to the right of Castro."
-by JohnAnnArbor

I've never understood why advocates of censorship don't understand that censorship just feeds the persecution complex that so many extremists have and gives their views greater credibility. The answer to vicious speech is more speech, not censorship.

Although it is true that at present advocacy for censorship comes to a large extent from the left, it isn't that simple. Historically the right is just as guilty, and even now there are plenty of leftists, such as myself, who oppose laws against "hate speech".
-by Bill Poser

The fact that we always seem to have some folks who want to legally suppress the speech of others is an indication we have a healthy and lively social discourse in place. When the demands of such folks disappear, we might take that as a canary in the mine moment.
-by Elliot123

It's a bit disturbing that so many seem to see themselves and other regular Christians when someone criticizes the "radical Christian right". Sloppiness often leads people in a debate to conflate the larger community with the extremists, but there is a fringe group out there and they are dangerous.
I'm aware of the "Christian reconstructionists" who Hedges now calls "Christian dominionists" and want Levitical law back in force for homosexuality. There might be dozens or even hundreds of such people in the United States. I've never met one. I've attended churches for 28 years that are generally quite a bit more fundamentalist than I can completely agree with, and I have NEVER heard anyone, either from the pulpit or in less formal settings suggest that homosexuals should even be in prison, much less executed.

Hedges is a fascist. You don't have to scratch very deep to figure out why. Elton John's recent call for state suppression of religion because Christianity "promotes hatred ... against gays" (while ignoring Islam, that executes gays, instead of politely disapproving of it) shows what is really going on. No surprise on this; homosexuals played a key role in bringing the Nazis to power.

Hedges is an intolerant person. But I'm not a fascist. I'm prepared to tolerate his intolerance and even his promotion of fascist ideas. Why does this remind of the incident under the Sandinistas where one of the opposition newspapers ran a story about press censorship, and the government shut them down for telling lies, because there was no censorship?

What did Garrison Keillor say about this? Did he really advocate suppression of speech?
No, he advocated taking away the right of born-again Christians to vote after the 2004 election. That's how you can tell he's a liberal.
-by Clayton E. Cramer

Beat me to it Clayton
We're not in Lake Woebegon anymore...

Here's the discussion on the VC from that time.
-by WHOI Jacket

I felt God’s spirit beckoning me. I submitted myself to His will, and dedicated myself to discovering His truth.
Which popular politician said that?
[It was Barack Obama; many politicians through history have said incredibly Christian things, such as Jimmy Carter who said such things as:
"No greater thing could come to our land today than a revival of the spirit of religion. . . . I doubt if there is any problem—social, political, or economic—that would not melt away before the fire of such a spiritual awakening."

"We guard ourselves against all evils—spiritual as well as material—which may beset us. We guard against the forces of anti-Christian aggression, which may attack us from without, and the forces of ignorance and fear which may corrupt us from within."

"Today the whole world is divided between human slavery and human freedom — between pagan brutality and the Christian ideal."
Just to keep some perspective]
What I find frightening is that there appear to be a number of people on this thread that make arguments in support of Hedges goal of suppressing the speech rights of Christians. This is done by conflating the handful of people in the Christian Identity movement with evangelical Christianity. There is more similarity between Hedges and the editors of Der Sturmer.

I wonder if they are aware that Al-Jazeera has established a TV network and hired David Frost. Has anyone in the Liberal community denounced this anti-Semitic hate network as vehemently as Hedges denounces Christians? Hedges assumes that we would not turn a cable network over to the KKK, yet we have done the equivalent by turning a network over to people who believe that Hitler didn’t finish the job.
-by Moneyrunner33

How many people here have actually worked with the "Christian Right?" I am a non-religious Jew and I used to work for the Christian Coalition of America. During my time there, I was amazed at what people were saying about the organization.

A staffer for one Jewish member of Congress insisted that the CCA was spending millions of dollars per year to make Jews convert to Christianity. That sure was news to me...I think the total budget for converting Jews was the $50 per month that CCA President Roberta Combs spent taking me to dinner when we would discuss religion.

Pat Robertson does not speak for everyone in the Christian Right. He knows that. The people who contribute to the CCA know this. Jay Sekulow knows this. Roberta Combs knows this.

As for liberals wanting to ban speech...I can remember my senior year of law school at the Ohio State University. The law school newspaper endorsed Ronald Reagan for reelection. A number of student groups were angered and wanted the members of the editorial board to be punished.
-by Hugh

Chris Hedges is not just some guy on the left. He's not just an angry blogger, or someone with a website and a conspiracy theorist. He was a serious journalist and now is a senior fellow with the Nation Institute, and as such deserves to be taken seriously. Whether he represents some undertow of left-wing fear about "Christianists", or is just getting to be cranky I can't say. But to dismiss his writing and the words in an interview on NPR as something "some guy" said is really not a very thoughtful response. What we have here is a serious left-wing thinker who is proposing that some part of the US polity be silenced. While he did not say "by any means necessary", the history of leftism in the 20th century leaves certain echoes within many people, no matter how hard the left tries to dismiss their concerns.

Let's be blunt: dismissing someone's concerns about being silenced, or playing tu quoque games is hardly a liberal form of argument. Hedges book deserves debunking, and his notion that some people in America simply need to be silenced ought to be strongly contested by people across the political spectrum. I'd like to think the ACLU would among the first to protest, but so far that doesn't seem to be happening for some reason or other.
-by Guest
Some bring up Timothy McVeigh as a specter of right wing fundamentalist Christian terror we might face, but the man was no Christian and made that clear before his death. Some point to his meeting with Christians as some sort of indication of a greater Christianist conspiracy, but given that 80% of the people in America claim to be part of this religion, it's difficult to imagine how he'd have avoided such meetings. Timothy McVeigh was a radical right-wing extremist, but he wasn't part of the Christian Right even tangentially.

Animal FarmThis entire exercise is a demonstration of how tolerance has been redefined. Instead of tolerance being the acceptance that people can think and say different things, as long as they don't act in ways that damage society, it has become the presumption that you have to put up with whatever anyone does or says unless they are traditionally moral or conservative. Tolerate gay sex, transsexuals, and flag burners, but someone who says these acts are wrong must be silenced for being intolerant. It's an ironic, self defeating policy much like the "some are more equal than others" line I borrowed from George Orwell's Animal Farm.

Mr Rushdoony is dead, and has been for six years. The man thought we should more closely follow Old Testament civil law in America and while I disagree with his position, he had the right to say what he thought about the subject. Certainly he's a very obscure figure in American Christianity, let alone world faith. Christian Reconstructionism is pretty minor and has a very wide variety of thoughts on the subject, from hardcore "copy the laws straight into our books and start stoning kids for sassing off to parents" to those who like me think that we'd be wise to consider Old Testament laws when we write ours just as Blackstone said was done originally for English Common Law. In any case, calls for homosexual activity to be banned and ended are not equivalent to calls for homosexuals to be ended, let alone killed.

While Christopher Hedges is one man saying this, he's not alone in his position, rhetoric, or statements. Others have prominently said so in the past, and nearly daily will say so on various Internet sites and message boards such as Democratic Underground. The very fact that the Fairness Doctrine is being proposed by Democrat party leaders in congress right now suggests this man's position on the topic is far from radical and extreme in the left. I agree that his positions are radical and not in any way mainstream... yet. At the same time, anyone who calls publicly and on national radio for the end of free speech for those who disagree with him should be called on the carpet for it.

One thing I noticed in the fairly lengthy discussion was although many on the left cried "he's just one guy, this doesn't represent the left" I didn't see any say "and I repudiate what he says and consider it wrong." Not that this means they support it, I just thought it was interesting that none of them that I saw seemed to be so opposed to it that they wanted to make it clear they disagreed.

For more thoughts on the freedom of speech, check out my Greatest Document series.
[technorati icon]


"We shall never surrender..."
-Winston Churchill

Two events have happened recently in the news that concern me greatly. They are unrelated and seem isolated and even oddities that may be forgotten as time goes on, but to me they are clarion calls, alarm bells ringing in our culture. The first is about Paris Hilton, the second is the LA Times opinion piece I satarised below.

Paris HiltonParis Hilton apparently stored various goods in a rented storage unit, which included some quantity of cocaine, several videotapes of her engaging in all manner of sexual activity, audiotapes, diaries, and more. The material was apparently placed there after her home was burgled a few years back. Well, she didn't bother keeping up payment on the rental, and as per the contract she signed when she rented the unit, after a set time the materials became the property of the owner. The owner auctioned off the materials for several thousand dollars to some people who then sold it all for ten million to a Bandia Persia, who has since started up a website with all the nasty stuff available to anyone who signs up and pays for access. The videos depict Ms. Hilton taking drugs, frolicking in a tub, and more, all to a video camera.

Paris Hilton's celebrity status has baffled many people for quite some time. She has no apparent talent, skills, or special abilities, other than being naked and public. She is not particularly attractive, nor charming, she is just another club-hopping socialite trying to distract herself with drugs, sex, and hedonism from how empty and pointless her life is. For some reason, this particular club hopper became a celebrity, and has even been in several movies.

Paris Hilton is iconic for an attitude of the west, that nothing matters or exists save that which we can sense and measure. That pleasure and comfort are the highest goals and ends of human life. That we've got a short life, and should have as much fun as possible. Paris Hilton is famous simply because she's a representative of what people long for: a life of such wealth and comfort that you can do and sleep with and enjoy whatever and whoever you wish.

9/11 TowersThe Los Angeles Times article calls the global war against terrorism an "overreaction" and compares the 2996 dead in the attacks on September 2001 to those who died in automobile accidents every month. The article says that the terrorists are no significant threat to the US despite being the only lethal attack by an enemy on US soil since the war of 1812. The writer claims that the danger posed by terrorists is not that terrible and, why, so many people died in previous wars, there's no reason to be concerned.

One can note that this comes from someone in Los Angeles, and that it is doubtful that a New Yorker would be so dismissive of the deaths of their neighbors. If he said this to a New Yorker face to face I even suspect this writer might stagger off with a black eye. It is not unthinkable now, though, in this present political climate. The presumption in the press and on the left is that the GOP was thrown out of power in congress for their position on the war on terror - indefensible from the facts, but that's the story line.

This opinion piece isn't new, there have been people sitting on this idea for years waiting for a time they could publish it without being dragged out of the newspaper office, tarred, and feathered. This isn't something that the writer came to over time due to careful analysis, but something he held to from the beginning and could get away with speaking openly. More are waiting in the wings to follow up the few incidents of soldiers being spat on at rallies to openly stating what fellow LA Times columnist Joel Stein said last year: "I don't support the troops." Waiting until they feel the time is right, when public opinion has been shaped enough in the direction they desire.

These two events combine to make me look at the nation I live in with a growing sense of horror, one that has been building all my life. In the past, I've compared our times with the end of the Roman Empire, people rich and powerful partying away in Rome convinced that nobody could actually take the city, ignoring what goes on around the world, and concerned only with their pleasures and comfort.

In the buildup to World War Two, the United States wanted nothing to do with another war in Europe. Memories of the ghastly fighting, the incredible number of deaths and the horrible experiences of the soldiers were seared into a generation who did not want their children to face such a thing. In Europe the memories, casualties, and experiences were even closer and personal. Scars of the trenches and battlegrounds, wreckage from the war still littered France and Germany. No family was without at least one member who had died or been horribly mangled by the bloody conflict of the Great War.

The specter of another war filled the people of the west with dread and many responded with willful blindness and simply turning away from what they knew was happening. As Germany clearly showed familiar signs of building up power again, politicians spoke of negotiation and how German honor and pride was so wounded after the treaty of Versailles. As Germany took over nearby portions of Europe that they claimed as ancestral territory, America First rallies called for us to be uninvolved, to stay out, to stay home.

Neville ChamberlainAppeasement is the word that was used, meaning an attempt to dissuade or prevent an opponent from action by giving them some of what they demand. The effort was to avoid armed conflict at all costs because of the price of blood and war. But, as Winston Churchill noted, war came nonetheless, at the cost of honor. Each nation in Europe, one by one, either capitulated or was conquered by the German army regardless of the attempts of diplomats and politicians.

When the war finally started, the reluctant and the war-scarred stiffened their backs, turned to face the enemy, and fought with all their being. America, following Pearl Harbor turned instantly against the foe we all faced and began the long, hard struggle to defeat the Axis, who were more powerful and more prepared than the USA. The America First rallies ended, the protests stopped, the newspaper editorials changed their tone, the movies supported the effort.

We stood shoulder to shoulder as one people, across oceans, to face our shared enemy, putting aside political squabbles and struggles for power to defeat the foe that we all were threatened by.

This war, which I believe is accurately labeled World War IV (The Cold War being WWIII), is following the opposite pattern. True, the Islamofascists declared war on the United States decades ago, with an official declaration by Osama Bin Laden in 1998, but it had been ignored to that point by even the government to a large extent. When 9/11 happened, the nation united with the whole world in a sudden reaction, a sobering that even reduced the sales of and ratings for frivolous goods like fancy underwear and reality TV. People realized the world meant more and was more weighty than we'd been acting, and it was time to grow up.

We faced the enemy with sudden resolve - save for a few such as Senator Clinton who sat through the entire State of the Union speech with a medusa stare of hate and bitterness. True, there were a few feeble protests and voices of the radical anti-war left, but they were shouted down, drown out, or ignored by the united American People who saw this horror and saw the need for action to stop this from ever happening again.

Over the intervening years, the voices became louder, stronger, more strident. In the 2004 campaign for president, these voices became more official, important, and prominent. Instead of starting with the appeasers and the voices of isolation, they are growing, the pattern is reversed. So what happens next? What happens to America when we face a shared foe, but only some are willing to fight them? What happens when the press, the media, one entire political party now in control of congress, the entertainment industry, and many loud, prominent pundits call for us to leave the battlefield, stay home, and say the danger is not great?

How do we fight a battle like this, without the unity we need, without the support of the people, with political struggles for power taking higher priority than the need to fight our enemies. We are turning into a nation

So which will we be, a nation of Paris Hiltons who hides from the world in a haze of drugs and hedonism like an infant screaming for attention and what it demands, or Winston Churchill, who faced the foe with a grim resolution and determination? Will we be adults, who face our troubles despite the cost, the danger, the difficulty and the sacrifice, or will we hide under our covers as a nation and pretend the bad men will go away? Will we stand shoulder to shoulder, united against our common foe, will we take the fight to our enemies?

Is the fight for ideological supremacy so overwhelming that it overcomes the need to fight evil? Is the desire for political power so important that we should ignore our enemies, ignore the war we are in, whether we desire it or not? Where do we go from here?

I am not confident, I do not see signs that we'll take this fight where it must go. I do not see any indication that our nation will do anything but hide and pretend the problems aren't as bad as we know they really are. For over five years we've heard a constant stream of negativity, distortion, and outright lies about the war on terror not just from pundits but from even the press. In the place of movies that stirred patriotism and a desire to fight the enemy, we get movies that make us seem like the enemy, that stir dissent and disloyalty.

We have had greater leadership in the past, and perhaps a greater virtue and sense of honor and responsibility. We have had a nation more united in moral clarity and understanding and less fragmented by decades of deliberate attempts to splinter us all into individual groups to make political exploitation easier. Yet we are the same people and have the same need.
In a long series of very fierce battles, now on this front, now on that, fighting on three fronts at once, battles fought by two or three divisions against an equal or sometimes larger number of the enemy, and fought very fiercely on old ground so many of us knew so well, our losses in men exceed 30,000 in killed, wounded and missing. I take this occasion for expressing the sympathy of the House with those who have suffered bereavement or are still anxious.
How long it will be, how long it will last depends upon the exertions which we make on this island. An effort, the like of which has never been seen in our records, is now being made. Work is proceeding night and day. Sundays and week days. Capital and labor have cast aside their interests, rights and customs and put everything into the common stock. Already the flow of munitions has leaped forward. There is no reason why we should not in a few months overtake the sudden and serious loss that has come upon us without retarding the development of our general program.
We shall not flag nor fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France and on the seas and oceans; we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air. We shall defend our island whatever the cost may be; we shall fight on beaches, landing grounds, in fields, in streets and on the hills. We shall never surrender and even if, which I do not for the moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, will carry on the struggle until in God's good time the New World with all its power and might, sets forth to the liberation and rescue of the Old.
-Winston Churchill
[technorati icon]


IMAGINE THAT on December 7, six hours after the assault on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese had carried out a second wave of attacks on the United States, taking an additional 2,300 lives. Imagine that six hours after that, there had been yet another wave. Now imagine that the attacks had continued, every six hours, for another twelve years, until nearly 60 million Americans were dead. This is roughly what the United States lost during the Civil War, and contemplating these numbers may help put in perspective what we have so far experienced during the war against the Axis powers.

It also raises several questions. Has the American reaction to the attacks in fact been a massive overreaction? Is the widespread belief that Pearl Harbor plunged us into one of the deadliest struggles of our time simply wrong? If we did overreact, why did we do so? Does history provide any insight?

Certainly, if we look at nothing but our enemies' objectives, it is hard to see any indication of an overreaction. The people who attacked us in 1941 are indeed hate-filled fanatics who would like nothing better than to destroy this country. But desire is not the same thing as capacity, and although Japanese and Germans can certainly do huge amounts of harm around the world, it is quite different to suggest that they can threaten the existence of the United States.

Yet a great many Americans, particularly President Roosevelt, have failed to make this distinction. For them, the "Axis" enemy has inherited not just Napoleon's implacable hatreds but his capacity to destroy. The conservative leader Winston Churchill has gone so far as to say that we are fighting World War II (No. I being the Great War).

But it is no disrespect to the victims of Pearl Harbor, or to the men and women of our armed forces, to say that, by the standards of past wars, the war against fascism has so far inflicted a very small human cost on the United States. As an instance of mass murder, the attacks were unspeakable, but they still pale in comparison with any number of military assaults on civilian targets of the recent past, from Brusilov Offensive on down.

Even if one counts our dead in France and Iwo Jima as casualties of the war against fascism, which brings us to tens of thousands, we should remember that roughly the same number of Americans die every ten months in automobile accidents.

Of course, the attack on Pearl Harbor also conjured up the possibility of far deadlier attacks to come. But then, we were hardly ignorant of these threats before, as a glance at just about any thriller from the 1920s will testify. And despite the even more nightmarish fantasies of the post-pearl harbor, Axis powers have not come close to deploying weapons other than knives, guns and conventional explosives. A war it may be, but does it really deserve comparison to World War I and its 65 million dead? Not every adversary is an apocalyptic threat.

So why has there been such an overreaction? Unfortunately, the commentators who detect one have generally explained it in a tired, predictably ideological way: calling the United States a uniquely paranoid aggressor that always overreacts to provocation.

In a recent book, for instance, popular leader Charles Lindburgh evaluated the threat that fascists pose to the United States and convincingly concluded that it has been, to quote his title, "Overblown." But he undercut his own argument by adding that the United States has overreacted to every threat in its recent history, including even the Alamo (rather than trying to defeat Mexico, he argued, we should have tried containment!).

Seeing international conflict in apocalyptic terms — viewing every threat as existential — is hardly a uniquely American habit. To a certain degree, it is a universal human one. But it is also, more specifically, a Western one, which paradoxically has its origins in one of the most optimistic periods of human history: the 18th century Enlightenment.

Until this period, most people in the West took warfare for granted as an utterly unavoidable part of the social order. Western states fought constantly and devoted most of their disposable resources to this purpose; during the 1700s, no more than six or seven years passed without at least one major European power at war.

The Enlightenment, however, popularized the notion that war was a barbaric relic of mankind's infancy, an anachronism that should soon vanish from the Earth. Human societies, wrote the influential thinkers of the time, followed a common path of historical evolution from savage beginnings toward ever-greater levels of peaceful civilization, politeness and commercial exchange.

The unexpected consequence of this change was that those who considered themselves "enlightened," but who still thought they needed to go to war, found it hard to justify war as anything other than an apocalyptic struggle for survival against an irredeemably evil enemy. In such struggles, of course, there could be no reason to practice restraint or to treat the enemy as an honorable opponent.

Ever since, the enlightened dream of perpetual peace and the nightmare of modern total war have been bound closely to each other in the West. Precisely when the Enlightenment hopes glowed most brightly, wars often took on an especially hideous character.

The Enlightenment was followed by the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars, which touched every European state, sparked vicious guerrilla conflicts across the Continent and killed millions (including, probably, a higher proportion of young Frenchmen than died from 1914 to 1918).

During the hopeful early years of the 20th century, journalist Norman Angell's huge bestseller, "The Great Illusion," argued that wars had become too expensive to fight. Then came the unspeakable horrors of the Great War. And the end of that horrible conflict, which seemed to promise the worldwide triumph of peace and democracy in a more stable unipolar world, has been followed by the wars in the Orient and the present global upheaval. In each of these conflicts, the United States has justified the use of force by labeling its foe a new Napoleon, not only in evil intentions but in potential capacity.

Yet as the comparison with the Civil War experience should remind us, the war against fascism has not yet been much of a war at all, let alone a war to end all wars. It is a messy, difficult, long-term struggle against exceptionally dangerous criminals who actually like nothing better than being put on the same level of historical importance as Napoleon — can you imagine a better recruiting tool? To fight them effectively, we need coolness, resolve and stamina. But we also need to overcome long habit and remind ourselves that not every enemy is in fact a threat to our existence.

*This is an almost word-for-word rewriting of the Los Angeles Times column by David A. Bell about 9/11. I have only shifted references and dates to fit an earlier time. In the attack on Pearl Harbor, we lost 2388 people died, of which 2340 were military personnel. From that we went to war on not only Japan, who attacked us, but Germany, who was not involved and had never attacked nor struck American soil in human history. This column clearly thinks that this was not an overreaction:
But he undercut his own argument by adding that the United States has overreacted to every threat in its recent history, including even Pearl Harbor (rather than trying to defeat Japan, he argued, we should have tried containment!)
yet considers a far more lethal, expensive, and civilian-killing attack to be so. Just some perspective. See also The Day of Infamy, which I wrote earlier.

Quote of the Day

"He who shall introduce into public affairs the principles of primitive Christianity will change the face of the world."
-Benjamin Franklin
[technorati icon]

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Denver AirportI was born in Denver, Colorado. We moved when I was teeny and I have absolutely no memory of the place, although we drove through a couple decades back on a family vacation. Denver is a mile up at the base of the Rocky Mountains, but it really doesn't often get the kind of snow you see in places like Minnesota or Michigan. Apparently it snows regularly, but the Chinook Winds out of the mountains come and melt it all, bringing almost summer-like days, then the winter takes over again.

In the Great Lakes area, you get snow more or less constantly for 3 months, and it stays until mid-spring or so getting dirtier and nastier looking. At least that's what I remember from college in Michigan.

My aunt sent me a few pictures of a snowstorm that happened in 1913 in Denver, one of those city-stopping blizzards that just dumps snow on the place. Not only is it interesting to see the snow, but the slice of life from the time: boys on sleds, Model T type cars snowed in, etc; is fascinating. If I was James Lileks I'd have witty and wonderful captions for each, but I'm not, so they will have to speak for themselves. So without further ado: the pics.


"Opposition politicians take advantage of the situation, but this has nothing to do with Iraq, and everything to do with local politics in the United States."

The war and rebuilding of Iraq has become a festival of lies, misinformation, spin, and deliberate deception that is rivaled only by the events around Hurricane Katrina. Many of these lies are repeated so often and so confidently by so many that even the people who say them are starting to believe what is told. Over at Strategy Page, these myths are examined and exploded one by one, taking the top ten and clearing them up. Given the incredible amount of misinformation and confusion about an event that happened only a few years ago, I thought it would be useful to pass them on here. These are the top ten, you can read Dunnigan's answers to each on the Strategy Page, I'll give mine here:
1-No Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). Actually we found several hundred, as well as tons of Yellowcake Uranium and parts to build more centrifuges to reboot the nuclear weapons program that Israel demolished earlier. Hussein had all the scientists and all the knowhow, he was just keeping them on ice until the sanctions were lifted, see below. For some reason the story of tons of chemical weapons detected in the river outside Baghdad is always ignored.

2-The 2003 Invasion was Illegal. This is based on the UN charter which states that nations cannot invade another to prevent them from being a threat, but it ignores the fact that for over ten years, Iraq violated a cease fire signed in 1991. Not an end of war, a cessation of hostilities, provided Iraq followed certain rules. Which it broke nearly continuously for over a decade. In any case, international law is not binding to any nation, individual nations have to decide what is right and legal for themselves, and that is without question true for the US.

3-Sanctions were working. If you mean by that "working to help Saddam Hussein become rich, corrupt the UN and leaders of various nations, and crush any resistance he faced," yes, they were working. They also were near to being lifted, according to UN officials.

4-Overthrowing Saddam Only Helped Iran. I fail to see how Iran was in any way helped by this act, although I do recognize that they certainly have stepped up their terrorist funding and spread of evil around the region. To say it only helped Iran presumes that nothing else was achieved in any case. This is clearly not true.

5-The Invasion Was a Failure. A failure to do what? To defeat the Hussein regime, destroy the terrorist network, to capture leading world-wanted terrorists harbored in Iraq, stop Hussein's efforts to build another army and WMD, and to stop the funding, training, and equipping of terrorists? It so far has not succeeded in creating a stable, peaceful, and successful democracy which was a goal, but then we've not succeeded in wiping out poverty in America either. Failure to achieve a goal by an arbitrary deadline is not failure overall... it just means we're not done working yet. If I build a house and you say I should have had it done within six months, have I failed to build a house if I get it done later?
6-The Invasion Helped Al Qaeda. Helped them die in droves and lose dozens of leaders, yes. Helped them crash up against the finest army in the world at present and be humiliated, destroyed, and chased from one city to another, yes. Helped them recruit? Possibly, so did the US joining WW2 help Germans recruit soldiers.

7-Iraq Is In A State of Civil War.
The problem with this lie is that while the press is pushing it really hard, the Iraqis don't see it and Civil War has a specific meaning. Individual groups and sects fighting each other in isolated parts of a country does not a Civil War make. The Hatfields and McCoys fueding in Kentucky didn't make a Civil War in the US, much less the state.

8-Iraqis Were Better Off Under Saddam.
This is an abject, absolute, and deliberate lie. The people who say this know better, or are woefully uneducated. Iraqis almost to a man say that they are better off now. The problem is, while there are 18 provinces in Iraq, only 4 are the source of the serious problems. And it is these four that the press fixates on while ignoring the rest of the country. According to polls in Iraq, they prefer it this way by over 2/3rds majority. The thing about this myth that frustrates me the most is that the bulk of people who spew it claim to be liberals, who ought to stand for freedom and justice rather than oppression and tyranny.

9-The Iraq War Caused Islamic Terrorism to Increase in Europe.
Actually, given that the primary anger is against the United States, and terrorism has not increased in the US, one would have to conclude that it is not the Iraq War that has caused this, but the European response to terrorism, Islamofascism, and the Iraq War. For example, Spain saw an increase, not a decrease in terrorist activity by pulling out of Iraq following the Madrid bombing.

10- The War in Iraq is Lost.
This is just stupid, but it's fueled by the President and others calling the rebuilding and occupation of Iraq a "war" continuously. The war ended when the coalition soldiers defeated the Iraqi army and took control of the nation. What we're doing now is rebuilding and occupying a troubled nation. In the history of the world almost every single time a nation is invaded and rebuilt, there are struggles with fanatics, death squads, and terrorists for years after unless extremely violent, destructive measures are taken. The only exceptions to this are after a long, very difficult and destructive campaign such as WW2 when the people just have had enough of war and want it over.
Commenters at the site responded:
They aren't myths to me. I've watched them develop and be blown into monsters by the press and the anti-war crowd, but I've always though they were bull scat. The reason they've been accepted so uncritically, is that Americans have lost the ability to think critically. Even if you are opposed to the war, most of them just don't add up.

How can you say that a dictator who has started two wars in his region in the first two decades of his rule is not a threat to anybody? Or that he has no WMD capacity when he has used them in the past against his own subjects? He never kept the terms of the 1992 ceasefire, yet the sanctions were working?

If this war was so wicked and unjust, why isn't anybody asking for the Baathists to be reinstated?
-by AST

"Legally we need a declaration of war from Congress."

FALSEHOOD. The Commander-in-Chief of the United States of America has powers under Article II of the United States Constitution to commit US military force in any area he deems a threat to US security. The Congress has every right to stab the US military in the back (as Democrats feel SO comfortable doing) by revoking funding for said operations (i.e., Vietnam, 1972-1975).
-by bropous

This is all rather rhetorical since we (70% of the U.S.) will be the ones to write the history books about this period in time, not the neo-cons. Almost all of current U.S. historians have already declared G.W. Bush the worst president ever, and the war a complete disaster, so it really doesn't matter what kind of smoke screen you try to blow here with these "myths", lies, and half-truths, it's been noted and laughed at. The last one especially "Given the history of democracy in the Middle East, Iraq is working through its problems.", where is the history? There is no history of democracy in an arab country, so how is it a given? If you could enlighten me on where this history of arabic people and their love of democracy could be found and studied, I would be most grateful. If 100 Iraqis are dying a day in Baghdad is "working through its problems", that would be the equivalent of 12,000 Americans dying a day here (based on CIA WorldFactBook data), which would be slightly more serious to us that just working through some issues. I have a feeling that Iraqi citizens, by and large, feel the same way. However, as I stated earlier, it is all rhetorical clutching at straws....
-by Seatofpants
Angry Iraqi Hating US SoldierSeatofpants' post was especially amusing to me, given the context. Who cares if they are myths or not, we'll write it the way we want it to be in the future! Put the Ministry of Truth on it, Big Brother would be proud.

Note the attempt to deflect, however. People are dying, therefore it is a failure. Soldiers have died, therefore we should withdraw. What would happen if we left? More people would die, the entire effort would be a vast waste of money, and those soldiers would have died for nothing. This is your solution to a difficult situation? The basis for this kind of rhetoric is not history, reason, or fact, it is simply this: I don't like President Bush and anything he does is bad and wrong. Bottom line.

There are those who oppose the war for other reasons, but the rhetoric that is used by people like Seat has nothing to do with that. You can oppose the invasion of Iraq because you dislike war, or think it was the wrong time to do it, or because you wanted to give the 10+ years of sanctions and over a dozen toothless UN resolutions time to work. These are foolish reasons, but people can hold them, we have the inalienable right to free speech.

That's not the problem, the problem is these arguments people bring up; the lies, the deliberate twisting of facts or simply ignoring them. Like "what about the Iraqis who were going to greet us with open arms, huh? Huh?" This is just infantile, the Iraqis did greet the coalition with cheering, parades, kisses, open arms, gifts and joy. There was a march while Saddam Hussein was still at large of over 40,000 Iraqis in support of the coalition. If you missed it, I'm not surprised, the media kind of ignored that little event.

It's hard. It will take time. We're already seeing significant results from a shift in policy. Give it time, at least if you truly support liberty, oppose tyranny, terrorism, and Islamic extremism. If you don't, who cares what you have to say on the topic?

If you still are unconvinced, I'll let the soldiers speak for themselves:

For more thoughts along these lines, check out this excellent post at Protein Wisdom examining the sale of materials to Iraq that people say helped them build chemical weapons.

For good measure, read this letter from a solider:
Know this, our soldiers will not quit. We win every battle, we hold any piece of ground that we want to take.

Do not listen to those in Washington who influence events by dishonesty, manipulation and greed. Listen to your hearts and know that America is a winner. We will not accept defeat.

Don't be fooled by the news media who so dishonorably portrays one side of the story for gain and sensationalism. We are not losing, we are not running, the enemy is reeling and is scared.
[technorati icon]


"A child who does not think about what happens around him and is content with living without wondering whether he lives honestly is like a man who lives from a scoundrel's work and is on the road to being a scoundrel."
-Jose Marti

Carribbean Resort
Tourism to Cuba from the United States has fluctuated between being totally banned and highly restricted since the revolution in the 1959. Other nations, such as Canada, have been less restricted and some such as Russia have had open travel (or, as open as a totalitarian communist country can be). Cuba was once a paradise for travel, a tourist destination favored in a region fueled almost entirely by tourism. Since the revolution this has been less so, and over the years mismanagement, a brutal dictatorship, and seizure of the primary tourist spots by the government has all but destroyed this income.

Now, we learn from a Canadian travel site that the taxes have been raised on luggage brought into the country.
The NEW RULES are that you are now allowed ONLY 30 kilos of luggage per person regardless of what the items are, and you are CHARGED a WHOPPING 10 CUC PER KILO for every KILO that you are over the 30 kilo limit. This INCLUDES all personal items, camera equipment, dive equipment, sports equipment, bicycles or ANYTHING else that a tourist might have with them. There are NO exceptions to this.

My friends were a total of 33 kilos over the 30 kilo limit and were charged 330 CUC ($435 CDN) to bring their luggage into Cuba. They asked what their choices were and were told that they either pay or go into the Aduana secondary inspection area and abandon whatever it takes to get their weight down to 30 kilos each. They chose to pay, but were NOT happy with that.

IMHO this is going to have serious consequences for tourism, especially for people like me who travel with a laptop and extensive camera equipment which alone weighs nearly 15 kilos. I can’t imagine how this will affect sport scuba diving in Cuba. Nobody in their right mind will pay to bring personal diving or other sports equipment into Cuba at those prices.

This will seriously make me reconsider Cuba as either a vacation or photography destination.
I should think so. Given that the Cuban government pretends it's money is worth so much and charges that kind of cash for flights through their airports, it is going to take a bite out of visitors. Other people at the forum responded:
That's such a shame. :P

I would also like to know if it's happening in Varadero. We'll be arriving in March and we'll be bringing our baby's stroller, playpen and other baby necessities. I figured we'd get hit a bit in Wpg for our overweight luggage, but hopefully not a second time in Varadero (plus the weight of the stroller and playpen).

-by wpgirl

This amounts to an "arrival" tax of major proportions. Even though our carrier allows us nearly 70 kilos per person (in business class), we will still pay dearly if we take advantage of our limit. The Cuban government is trying to get our money before we have a chance to use it for tipping at the resorts. Perhaps they are topping up the government coffers to pay for hosting the dignataries who will soon be arriving for "the funeral". We have to assume this is happening at ALL arrival locations in Cuba. Surely they aren't confining this practice to Havana. Hopefully, those arriving back in Canada will let us know.
-by nssunlovers

Here's the Cuban Customs announcement in the Official Gazette in Spanish, it says it went into effect Jan 01 2007...30kgs of personal items duty free plus 10kgs of 'medicamentos', medications duty free, so just under 100 pounds of things per person. I've always considered 'medications' to include medicated shampoo, toothpaste, suntan lotion, cremes, painkillers, etc or any diet foodstuffs for personal use, which my doctor would probably vouch for.

Basically if I want to be the traveler I can still take a 20 kg bicycle in a box or bag (with a few bike camping things), a 10 kg box or suitcase of 'meds', wear some extra clothes and a cargo jacket on the plane, and still carry a 5 kg carryon bag and a 5 kg 'purse' or small laptop bag without paying a peso for, just about like what some have been doing anyway. ;)

Light weight bags or containers will help.
-by Flygt

I hear through the grapevine that this is only affecting passengers arriving on scheduled carriers, not charters.
-by MamaBelgium
Of course, these travelers could always choose a different destination that doesn't funnel money into a corrupt dictatorship and maintain a communist outpost. It seems clear to me that Raoul Castro is trying to line his pockets even more than Fidel, although it's possible that this is an effort to cut back on goodies brought from the outside to locals such as outside news and materials to help contact the outside world.

Either way, this is a significant expense to what is already a fairly spendy trip to resorts in the country, and it does frustrate me that these Canadians are willing to go there rather than other Island resorts in the Caribbean and support the exploitation and tyranny the people face in Cuba.

*A tip of the chapeau to Bablu Blog for this story
[technorati icon]

Quote of the Day

"We are all inclined to judge ourselves by our ideals; others, by their acts."
-Harold Nicolson
[technorati icon]

Monday, January 29, 2007


After listening to Highway 61 Revisited and Jack of Hearts I just want to get this off my chest. Not only does Bob Dylan utterly lack any singing ability he's the most overrated poet and songwriter in the history of mankind. Thank you for your time.


"It's too bad the boy wasn't a female grade school teacher. He would have gotten a book deal and appeared on Oprah! All without all that pesky accountability."

Young football player Genarlow Wilson is in prison serving a 10-year term without possibility of parole. His case is getting a lot of attention after three years into the sentence, because it is a case of one of those laws that is an oddity, an inconsistent one, and for many an out of date one left on the books but that should have been thrown out long ago.

All states have these kind of laws such as how in Philadelphia, you can't put pretzels in bags based on an Act of 1760. The law sometimes are bizarre, sometimes arbitrary, sometimes just archaic. These laws remain on the books unenforced and ignored, which has for some time now made me wish that there would be a commission in my state to purge these old weird statutes off the books. If you aren't going to enforce a law and don't even know it exists, it ought to be erased.

Genarlow Wilson was caught by an old law, an inconsistent one and is unable to follow through on his dreams of football stardom despite recruitment letters from various colleges based on his skillful and impassioned play in High School. What happened? Well its of a sexual nature, so read below the fold forewarned:

Georgia State Law states that sexual intercourse between teenagers less than 3 years apart is a misdemeanor, but oral sex is a felony. This odd twist came about because two laws were written at different times and not meshed. Genarlow was given oral sex by a girl, which was her idea, and was thrown in prison for ten years for it. He was 17, she was 15.

There are two issues at stake here. One is a twin moral issue of whether or not unmarried teens ought to be having sex, the other is whether such a law is just and reasonable. The Georgia state legislature is apparently working on a change to the laws to eliminate the sodomy (as defined as oral sex) portion of the laws, and another change is working on retroactively applying that change to convicted kids.

Right Wing News carried this story, and John Hawkins had problems with the law:
I'm for law and order all the way and this may be it, but it's not justice. So, if the Georgia legislature wants to retroactively apply the law and get all the Genarlow Wilsons out of their penal system, I think that would be something worth doing.
Commenters there discussed teen sex as well as the purpose and origin of such laws:
Maybe abstinence should be stressed in sex-ed classes, not just as a means to stay safe from STDs and Pregnancy, but as a CYA measure until both parties are 18.
-by Chris_RC

We need to go back to the biblical age of accountability, which was around 12-13 years old. From that point on, an adolescent was treated as an adult in training, not as a child. It was assumed that they had most of the moral and reasoning capabilities of an inexperienced adult, not the limited ones of a child. Truth is, these teens know what they're doing. They aren't "victims" except of their own stupidity. They know it's wrong, but do it anyway. The law shouldn't be playing knight in shining armor to protect adolescents who solicit this sort of thing or who consent to it. I can see something for those far older than them, but let's face it. High school kids having sex, no one is getting raped by sheer fact of a minor age difference there. Regret/shame/bad feelings on the part of a teenage girl don't make a rapist out of a teenage guy or vice versa.
-by CodeMonkeyOverlord

Most of us have had sex before we were 18 and our partner was usually around the same age.

Under 12 1%
12-13 8%
14-15 23%
16-18 40%
19-20 13%
21-24 10%
25-30 2%
Never had sex 3%


It's a normal part of adolescence and people shouldn't be imprisoned over it.
-by Gilibertarian

I'd have to agree. This is not why statutory rape laws are in effect.

It's to stop a 35 year from dating a 16 year old. Not charging a high school kid for having sex with his girlfriend.

This is a disgrace.
-by D-Vega

Back to the topic on hand. I don't think the age difference matters if both parties are over 18 (granted 18 and 50 is disturbing to many, but in theory the 18 year old knows what s/he is doing). I do however think it is rediculous that our laws run in such a contrary nature of our soceity. Sex is everywhere, on TV, in Movies, in music, amongst our peers, amongst our role models. Proper parenting should help prevent kids from choosing to engage in sex (if I ever have kids I hope to instill in them the same morals I have, that any sex not between one married man and one married woman is wrong, however, it shouldn't be illegal) the fact that there are bad parents out there shouldn't cause a kid to end up in jail for 10 years.

I think we all agree that there are ages just too young for sex however (definately anything prebuscent, and probably older). The problem is false dichotomy. If we think that, while morally wrong, it should have been legally acceptable for this 17 year old boy to receive oral sex from this 15 year old girl (especially since she initiated), why not a 16 year old boy with a 14 year old girl, or a 15 year old boy with a 13 year old girl, or an 18 year old boy with a 13 year old girl? Where do you draw the line and why? If 18 seems arbitrary, why wouldn't 15? Say we make the legal age 15 and we have a 17 year old with a 14 .917 year old (11-months)? Surely that extra month wouldn't make a difference?

So what if we apply a formula? "So long as one party is under 18, it shall be statutory rape if the other party is more than 1.1 times the youngest party's age?" 1.15-times? 1.2-times? Again, where do we draw the line and why? and what if it is 1.102 or 1.152 or 1.202 time the age (mere days older than the formula allows)? If it is consensual, where does the line get drawn? How is it judged. What if it is a 12 and 12 year old? Who's the rapist when it is consensual, aren't they both? What about 12 and 13?

I agree, this situation is unjust. However just complaining with out offering solutions is something we've derided for years here. As much as I hate this situation, I don't have a rational solution? I think kids are capable of falling in love (I know, relating sex to love is probably naieve these days, but you get my point) at young ages, definately by 14 (even by 10). What happens we have kids in love, with all the mechanisms for sex in place? It is up to the parents in my view, but where does the state punishment come in. Should the 15 year-old girl's parents be arrested for not instilling in her proper dissauasion (if we are to accept that 15 is too young to reasonably decide for yourself)? If we are minor's until we are 18, then isn't this 17-year old equally raped (in statutory terms)? Afterall, the 15-year old instigated, and girls supposed mature faster than boys.

Only solution I can think of is to have a panel of judges for such cases, (with no mandatory minimums) who try to come to a wise decision.
-by Chris_RC

The amazing thing to me in this story is that no one is taking any responsibility for what happened. Everyone is looking for a magic silver bullet to "fix" it.

The kid himself is not without some blame. No matter how much we may think he does or doesn't "deserve" what punishment he received, the fact of the matter is that he was at a party where there was plenty of rum and plenty of drugs.

This lead to a girl who was highly intoxicated claiming she was raped which led to the police finding a tape of the party in which a different girl of 15 years of age performing the act which led to the charge against the convicted kid.

The girl who performed the sex act is not without responsibility. According to the ESPN story and other articles, she was the initiator of the act AFTER doing the same act with another boy.

No one believes that the statute should apply to this case. The DA says that he saw a crime on the tape and had to prosecute. Such is the life of a prosecutor in these days of instant news and a society where everyone is offended if something doesn't go the way they expect it to. The prosecutor could have and should not have prosecuted the case.

Yet he did.

The convicted young man refused to take a deal on the basis that he feels he didn't do anything wrong. On some level you have to admire his moral convictions. On the other hand, it doesn't matter what he thinks. The fact of the matter is that the law was clearly against him.

Once convicted, people have played political hardball with this case. Members of the legislature have said "we didn't mean for this to happen" and yet refuse to admit that they screwed up as the provision that would have prevented the kid from being prosecuted was pulled from the bill that was passed.

Someone here said that the governor should pardon the kid. He can't. He has to have a recommendation from the Board of Pardons and Parole. The Board says that they haven't heard from anyone to officially request the pardon. Other people say that they have written the Board.

Once again, no one is taking responsibility for their actions.

Lastly, what is truly sad to me is that if this case is not examined and the kid pardoned, in 10 years he is not only going to get out of prision, but he will be a "sexual offender" for life. He will appear on lists of perverts and child predators.

Too many people in this case refuse to admit mistakes and are too worried about protecting their butts instead of doing what is right.
-by gitarcarver

Unless there were some agravating circumstances - like if the girl was drunk to the point of unconciousness during the act - the sentence is excessive.

But I think this whole case underscores the fact we need to have a serious conversation in this country about the whole concept of "age of consent" and "statutory rape."

I never understood the proposition that if a 17 year old boy has sex with a 15 year old girl, it's "cute" that she has a "boyfriend." But if she has sex with an 18 year old boy, she's "scarred for life," has "had her childhood taken away from her," and "will carry the burden for the rest of her life." And if age 18 doesn't do that do her, why should age 19? 20? 25?

It's time to face up to the fact that that many 15 year olds today have more sexual experience than their Moms. That's just a fact. Maybe the age of consent needs to be lowered to a level more in line with actual teen sexual behavior... like 13 maybe?
-by CoolCzech
I believe that a sentence of ten years is excessive but I don't have a problem with a community or state outlawing sexual activity between minors, particularly with a 3-year gap. Children mature very rapidly, so a gap of 2 years below the age of 18 is pretty significant, while at 30 it is virtually meaningless. Again, at the age of 80 or so, two years can be pretty meaningful again. As I've noted many times before being younger limits the free expression of various rights and restricts the liberty that people have. Society sets limits on what you can do freely below a certain age, such as vote, smoke, drive, and so on - the age is arbitrary, but a useful statutory limit.

What has been decided is that in our culture and society, the great majority of people below a certain age do not have the maturity, responsibility, and wisdom to properly exercise a freedom or right and thus should be restricted, by law. This might seem unfair or unreasonable, but without a specific codified line to cross, laws cannot take effect and become totally subjective and effectively meaningless. The more specific and hard coded a law is, the less likely it will be taken advantage of by the wealthy and powerful who can hire and afford tricky lawyers and expensive trials to challenge vague or expansive wording.

Laws of the kind like in Georgia are in place to protect young people, not only from adults, but from themselves. The presumption that kids are going to have sex anyway has absolutely nothing to do with the situation at hand. All laws are going to be broken by people who will do what they wish anyway - that's why we have laws. If people weren't somehow inclined to do this thing, we wouldn't need a law about it.

In my opinion, laws are not the best way to handle this, although I think they have their place. Parental supervision, moral teaching, and societal pressure such as shame and condemnation are more effective and useful at preventing the activity. A ten-year spell in stir for this act is excessive by anyone's definition, but individual communities and states have the right and the duty to craft and enforce laws as they see fit and necessary.

The ESPN article makes it seem like he's a wonderful young man with a bright future who was destroyed - who knows? Maybe he was, maybe he helped his granny go shopping and picked up litter on the roads, maybe he cared for orphaned kids and donated all his money to the poor. Maybe not, maybe he was a hard partying thug who just happened to be great at football, maybe he was guilty of lots of stuff he never got busted for and the law finally caught up with him in this one area.

That said, I do have a sneaking suspicion that if this young fellow had not been black he'd not have faced this charge or this sentence.
[technorati icon]


"I think there's alot of evidence that we've made contact."
-Dennis Weaver

UFO Proof
Countries around the world have cultural mythologies, past stories that their people told to explain why and how things happened. The myths of Zeus and Athena, Herakles and Perseus were told in ancient Greece, while in Nordic lands, Odin, Thor, and Loki were heralded. Finnland had their Kalevala with Ilmatar, Ukko and Vainamoinen, the celts spoke of the Sidhe and CĂșchulainn.

America, however, is too young and modern a nation to build the typical ancient mythology. To a certain extent western "tall tales" of Paul Bunyan and Pecos Bill fit some of this genre, although they were always told with a wink and not a temple. The only true mythology that America enjoys is that of UFOs. People passionately and deeply believe in these stories, they claim that they were captured by aliens and experimented on, that they saw a ship show up like in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

This fixation on aliens and UFOs tend to be based on two things: a mistaken report of UFOs in the news in Roswell, New Mexico and various lights in the sky moving in ways they cannot have. It was July of 1947 that the Air Force reported that they'd shot down a UFO, then soon after said it was a weather balloon and reflector. Which was true? In my opinion it was an experimental craft crash and some wag said UFO to get the press off his back, then they scrambled to come up with something more rational.

Most recently, an Air Force report has come out explaining at least some of the lights in sort of a mundane, obvious manner. Recently, many people saw mysterious, colored lights over O'Hare airport, moving in odd ways no aircraft could and in patterns like a formation. A retired Air Force pilot spoke to the news about them:
"I believe these lights were not of this world, and I feel a duty and responsibility to come forward," Col. Brian Fields told WND. "I have no idea what they were."
I'm not sure why these lights would baffle an air force pilot, because not long after, the lights were explained quite simply:
"We were flying A-10s in that area and they were using flares," Jessica D'Aurizio, chief of public affairs at the 917th Wing of the Air Force Reserve at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, told WND.

She says the flares, which stay lit for about five minutes, produce nearly 2 million candlepower.

"It brightens up the target area," D'Aurizio said. "They go down in parachutes, so they're very bright. That had to be what it was, I'm sure."
A-10s fly low and rather slow for a jet, and have amazing maneuverability. They do have varicolored flares, and they tend to be fired in groups. The purpose of flares are to attract heat-seeking missiles rather than the carefully mounted engines on the A-10.

The sad thing is these myths are based on the same kind of myths as the rocks at Gibraltar being shoved into place by Hercules: inability to explain something and presumption of fantastical events by credulous and usually uneducated people. We live in a world that laughs out loud at the very idea of a creator and often considers someone who questions the Theory of Evolution, but is willing to buy into UFOs without a shred of evidence. The stories are fun, and creative, and movies made about them are entertaining.

It's just that on closer examination they don't hold up to logic or Occam's Razor. Was it an experimental aircraft crash and a government coverup of the tech and efforts... or a vast UFO conspiracy! The UFO thing is more fun to believe, but is absurdly less rational and simple. The bulk of these stories center around the exact same areas that the Air Force has it's experimental aircraft and top secret research. Coincidence? UFO folks claim that the area is used for this because the UFOs are there, and we only found out about it years after the AF started using the area.

Like most conspiracy theories, the lack of facts only fuels the fire, because that means they are covering it up!!!! Conspiracy theories are attractive to many because they give you importance and meaning. You know something that others don't and that the powers that be are trying to cover up! They are doing such a good job of it that the stories are everywhere, movies are made, books sold, television shows produced, the internet is blanketed with them. It's a vast coverup!

Roswell NewsWhat complicates this are the highjinks that soldiers and men of action will tend to get into at other peoples' expense. Tall tales came out of this kind of thing, trying to pull one over on greenhorns and Easterners who came out West. "Yep, Pecos Bill roped a twister and rode it to try to impress his gal." Many Air Force pilots and astronauts are part of this fun, they will with a perfectly straight face look right in the camera or in the eyes of someone listening and say something like this:
At no time, when the astronauts were in space were they alone: there was a constant surveillance by UFOs .
-Astronaut Scott Carpenter
These guys joked around constantly, like all men who do incredibly dangerous things for a living, and this is exactly the kind of fun they'd pull on reporters and others. Let's see if we can get them to buy it. The problem is, lots of people have bought it and its taken on a life of it's own. The television miniseries Taken by Steven Spielberg and others was effectively the epic saga, the Bible of this mythology, step by step giving the coverup.

I remember summer nights with a childhood friend using straws, a birthday candle, and a laundry bag creating a UFO that moved oddly in the wind and floated ghost-like over the neighborhood, then vanished, leaving almost no evidence. Sometimes the bag lit up and burned brightly as it drifted down, disappearing. What was it! no plane could move like that! Against the night sky, how could you tell how far away it was or how big it was? With the proper setup and presumptions why, that was an alien life! Certainly the more advanced and simple doctoring pictures and video footage becomes, the less plausible imagery becomes.

Comedian Dana Gould had this to say about the abduction stories on his Funhouse CD:
I don't believe in them because it's always the same circumstances, the same type of people, the same situations: its never a black guy, its never a hispanic guy, its never a physicist from the Netherlands, its always some dumb white @#*% in the middle of nowhere.It's never anyone of importance, its always some cracker:

"I wuz abdukted and anally probed by two aliens who had disguised themselves as my buddies Brad and Duke. I was taken aboard a spaceship that was made to look like the back of Duke's warehouse. Their alien language sounds like humans when we giggle."

But here's my theory, if people are really getting abducted by aliens, and aliens really are doing that, what's going through their mind? They're the advanced culture, they got here before we got there, what are they thinking?

"We've mastered the infinities of travel through time and space, but the anal cavity eludes us! The vast sea of the unknown that is the universe is but a shallow pond compared to the depths of mystery contained in the human ass!"
Are there other races, peoples, cultures, intelligent lifeforms in the universe? Maybe, who knows? Maybe not. If you go by odds, they are pretty slim - the odds any life at all exists on earth alone were astoundingly small just going by scientific calculation and statistics. There's fun in imagining, and we can learn wisdom from the cautionary tales of good science fiction.

It's just odd to me to see how many otherwise rational, thoughtful, scientifically-grounded people buy into the UFO mythology with the wide eyed passion of a true believer.
[technorati icon]