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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

SAFE BETS

Back a month ago or so, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) walked through a Tea Party rally then ran to the nearest microphone and claimed people yelled "nigger" at them and even spat on one congressman. Over the next few days the news gleefully ran with the story, likely hoping the "tea party hates blacks" theme would resonate with black voters as much as the "Bush hates blacks" one did. The fact that both were a lie was irrelevant, they had their narrative and weren't terribly concerned about looking into it more closely.

Step by step, every allegation by the CBC was walked back, from the spitting incident to the racial slurs. Andrew Breitbart offered $100,000 cash for actual proof that anyone said anything racially ugly toward the congressmen. Dozens of people were there with cameras, including the CBC. Microphones followed them through the crowd. No one came forth to claim the money because no such footage or audio existed. To this day some news organizations have refused to even consider a retraction, and few offered one.

So Breitbart had a cool hundred k lying around and when the Journolist was shut down he began to offer that money again, this time for the archives of Journolist, no questions asked, the source fully protected.

I'm guessing the money is as safe for this gambit as it was the last one. The mafia's omerta has nothing on reporters.

PICTURE OF THE DAY


Have a happy day.

GOTCHA POLITICS

"We now know there really was a vast right wing conspiracy."
-Larry Davis

Just about everyone dislikes "gotcha" politics, where you find some little dumb thing someone said and trumpet it about with glee. Someone mispronounces a word, miscounts the number of states, says a word like "macaca" which nobody understands but is sort of close to a French slur, and so on.

The problem is, this kind of campaign device works. Its like an attorney blurting out something that the judge rules inadmissible then tells the jury to disregard it. Yeah, like they're going to ignore what he said, the very order to do so seals it in their memory. The blight of such an event when broadcast repeatedly and picked up by comedians and popular culture makers to be repeated and referenced in movies and TV shapes the perception of the voting public, even when it isn't true. How many people still think Sarah Palin said she can see Russia from her house?

So the push goes on to catch people, find them saying something that can be exploited or that is embarrassing, something which can be misunderstood by people or seems offensive. Consider Rand Paul's comments on federalism and individual ownership. I happen to agree with him, but what he said is offensive to many who believe that our only hope is for the federal government to force us to be nice to each other. With the omnipresence of cell phone cameras and the ease of recording events, politicians are now in more trouble than ever. The slightest slip of the tongue or comment shows up on YouTube within minutes and the whole world sees their foolishness.

Consider the Town Hall meetings of last year. Dozens of these were shown on YouTube, demonstrating the contempt politicians held for their constituents, and the boiling rage building up among voters. And Democrats want to take advantage of this for the upcoming elections. They can sense as well as anyone that a monumental defeat is on the horizon for the Democratic Party, and they are looking for ways to turn that around.

Kimberly Schwandt at the Fox News blog Liveshots writes about one such attempt:
In a strong sign that YouTube videos and camera phones will be ever-important in this year’s election, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) is launching a new program called “The Accountability Project” encouraging anyone to upload videos catching and “documenting” Republican candidates at public events.

They are hoping to then point-out any “misinformation, lies and double-speak” they see from “candidates try to make misleading attacks and false claims under the radar,” the DNC said in a release announcing the project.
"Who knows what else is being said when the cameras aren't running?" the Democratic Party asks. Who indeed? And I just shrug at this. I was registered as a Republican briefly during the primary season in Oregon, but I don't feel any particular allegiance to the party. As far as I'm concerned, its good if the stupidity, ignorance, and bad ideas of a politician are well-known to the public as broadly as possible. I want to know if a politician thinks we all should pay higher taxes, for the greater good. I want to know if a politician thinks one race or another is inferior.

And if the politician simply says something stupid or mistaken like "57 states" well, that's just what happens when you talk for a living all day long. As far as I'm concerned, its better for us all to have more information than less and I welcome the effort. But the Democrats need to be careful. What works for them can work against them - those cell phones are pointed at everyone, not just Republicans. And this kind of effort is practically tee ball for the GOP, as RNC Spokesman Doug Haye demonstrated:
“If the DNC now believes in openness and transparency, the best place to start is not on the campaign trail, but with this White House and this Congress."

“We would also ask for footage of a budget being drafted, but we know no such footage exists – just as no budget exists.”
What I don't welcome is how this information often is used. If the press was more evenhanded and the entertainment community more neutral, then there would be less of a problem. If Joe Biden got even half the abuse that Dan Quayle did, with ten times the stupid statements on record, then things would be a bit more reasonable. If the stupid or offensive statements and ideas of the left were given the same contempt as those on the right, then we'd have a well-run system.

They aren't. Granted, the internet is a great leveler, and a good YouTube video is good even if CNN doesn't care to mention it, so the playing field is significantly more even than it used to be. But you can bank on anything this "Accountability Project" finds will show up on the nightly news and fronts of newspapers far more readily, more repeatedly, and more often than anything that hurts Democrats.

KEEPING A JOURNAL

"But the reporter has the responsibility to determine, number one, whether that is true, and number two, to make a judgment as to whether it's in the public interest and whether or not it should be part of the debate."
Bob Schieffer

Increasingly events and stories are being led by and uncovered by bloggers rather than traditional journalists. Stories either ignored or unknown by the legacy media are covered by bloggers and eventually gain so much traction that the media cannot ignore them. A few quick examples leap to mind:
  • Dan Rather's 60 minutes memo forgery (aka Rathergate)
  • Jeff Gannon is paid to write news for the White House
  • Climaquiddick (the memos and emails from Hadley CRU)
At TechNewsWorld, Walaika Haskins writes:
"Just a few years ago, blogs were looked down upon by many media professionals and even bloggers themselves. However, it's not unheard of for a blogger to be the one breaking the news on a big story. Blogs such as Perez Hilton, the Wonkette, the Daily Kos and others have changed the way people get their news and the way the media covers news."
I'm not sure when bloggers looked down on blogging, and it is amusing she only seems to be aware of left-leaning sites, but the fact is,increasingly big stories are being broken by some guy "in his living room in his pajamas writing what he thinks" as CBS executive Jonathan Klein grumbled. As this happens, the question being increasingly asked is whether or not bloggers are journalists. Not long ago, police raided the home of Gizmodo editor Jason Chen following an article he wrote about the new I-Phone before it had been released.

Chen had found the prototype lying in a bar, left there by a hapless Apple worker, and wrote an expose on the phone's new features. His computer was confiscated, he was taken to court, and the controversy heated up. As AOL News writer Steve Pendlebury puts it:
Gizmodo, a Gawker Media blog, claims Chen is protected by a California law that says a "publisher, editor, reporter or any other person connected with or employed upon a newspaper, magazine or other periodical publication" can't be forced to reveal sources or turn over unpublished information.
Pendlebury also brings up a previous court case in California, also brought by Apple, in which the court ruled:
"We can think of no reason to doubt that the operator of a public Web site is a 'publisher' for purposes of this language. ... News-oriented Web sites ... are surely 'like' a newspaper or magazine for these purposes."

"Chen qualifies as a member of the media and is protected under Amendment I of the United States Constitution," O'Grady wrote on the ZDNet blog The Apple Core. He added that the 2006 ruling in his case "upheld the rights of online journalists to protect their confidential sources and put them on par with traditional journalists."
Apple's lawyers argue differently, saying bloggers are just people stating opinions and are not reporters at all. Some brought up the idea of requiring journalists to answer to a board of officials like lawyers do, and Michigan state legislator Bruce Patterson (Republican) called for state licensing of journalists to control the flow of information, saying “We have to be able to rely on the source and to understand the credentials of the source.” Patterson was shocked to learn that no college degree was required for the job.

That there is any controversy about this at all suggests to me a lack of historical understanding. For example, the pamphleteers of the American Revolutionary War wrote under pseudonyms, stating opinions and writing about events without the structure of any news organization. They had no "rigorous system of editorial control," only their own interest and efforts to say what they thought had to be said. Thomas Paine's pamphlet Common Sense was written anonymously, spreading to influence hundreds of thousands with its arguments on liberty. Most blogging follows this pattern of opinion or analysis rather than fresh news or breaking stories. Yet there are bloggers out pounding the streets reporting news and events as they happen, and most do so at least once in a while when they learn of something others have not mentioned.

The typical understanding of journalists is the image of someone working in a city office, with legal protection and a paid job to collect news and find out what's happening. The reporter drives to events, interviews public figures, and checks news releases to write stories. Yet history shows that the origins of this profession were a lot more open ended and wild than the image now shown. Even putting aside rough stories of frontier papers and virulently partisan newspapers pushing one political party or another, reporting has been more humble in the past.

In the book The Air-Raid Warden Was A Spy by historian William Breuer, he tells this fascinating story:
Edmond Scott, a reporter for a New York City newspaper, PM, was assigned to a curious investigation. He was to masquerade as a longshoreman and look into repeated reports that the waterfront was wide open to sabotage. It was mid-January 1942.

Dressed in work clothes, Scott got a job with a crew hired to lug furniture aboard the French ocean liner Normandie at Pier 88 on the Hudson River. Taken over by the US Navy and rechristened the Lafayette, the huge vessel was being converted into a badly needed transport, and some fifteen hundred civilian workers were swarming about on her.

Scott was appalled by the almost total lack of security for this highly valuable ship. A private firm had been hired to guard the vessel, and anyone who had fifty dollars for a union initiation fee could become a stevedore and board the Normandie.

Alone and unchallenged, the disguised Scott prowled all over the ship and he was truck by how simple it would be to set fire to the vessel. A pocket-full of incendiary pencils, he visualized, could be used with devastating impact.

Eight hours after "longshoreman" Scott had boarded the Normandie, he had learned her destination, when she would leave New York, how many guns she would mount, and the thickness of armor being put over portholes -- secret information obtained from loose-tongued workers and foremen.

Back at his newspaper, Sctott handed his blockbuster story to editors. They were flabbergasted, calling the account a "blueprint for sabotage," one that could advise enemy saboteurs how to destroy the world's third largest ship (only a few feet shorter than the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth). So publication was held up.

However, alarmed editors did report Scott's amazing adventure to Captain Charles H. Zearfoss, the US Maritime Commission's antisabotage chief. He angrily denied the findings (the editors would say) and ordered: "Get your reporter of there before he gets shot!"
On February 9 of that year, fire broke out on the Normandie/Lafayette and it was destroyed at the dock. Reporters in the older days were a lot more active and less formal than they generally are perceived today. Those were the days of Ernie Pyle, not the days of relaxing in a hotel and listening to enemy informants - or partying in Manhattan while writing breathless dispatches allegedly from Baghdad as Jayson Blair did. Blogging has more in common with Ernie Pyle and Edmond Scott than today's reporting.

Reporting for too many has become about the profession more than the job of telling the news. Losing sight of the basics of simply reporting "the facts, ma'am." What impact this has on the world, who benefits and who is hurt politically, what this will look like to one's peers, how this impacts personal career advancement, and so on are all more important than delivering the information factually, accurately, and impassively. Instead of a passion or a job, it has become a career and a calling, a higher duty to "change the world" and make it a better place.

Instead of reporters, they are now called "journalists" a more wholesome and important sounding name. Yet look at that word: journalist. One who keeps a journal. What's a blogger? A web-logger, someone who keeps a regular account of personal thoughts and events on the internet. The names are so similar in original meaning that it is fascinating to me that there's any conflict here.

Not everything a blogger writes is journalism - often it is not. Not everything a reporter writes is journalism either, sometimes they write opinion pieces and editorials. Sometimes they do so in the guise of reporting. The fact is, reporting isn't a profession at all, it is being an accurate witness and telling others about what you learned. You can be paid as a reporter and be a professional, or an amateur. You can work in a big news conglomerate or work solo like Michael Totten. But any way you do it, you are engaging in an activity that is defined not by the person paying or your job description but what you do while on that job.

Bloggers can be reporters, and so can anyone else. Its just sad that reporting has become so filled with self-importance and the job of "journalism" has become so elitist that anyone daring to attempt so without leaping through the approved hoops is considered with such contempt. Surely the content of their work is how a blogger - or a journalist - ought to be judged, not their relative employment status or degree from Columbia.

Quote of the Day

"An honest man can feel no pleasure in the exercise of power over his fellow citizens."
-Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

KEEP THE PEACE

“The police aren’t there to create disorder. The police are there to preserve disorder.”
-Mayor Daley

I've considered being a cop in the past. Not that I have the physical ability to do so; you really do have to be in good shape to get into the police force, if not necessarily stay in. I just have thought a lot about the job and what it requires, why police do what they do and how it must affect them.

One thing I've noticed about the job, the rhetoric, and the activity of cops that I would have the most problem with is something that never seems to go commented on. Its not the "marriage destroying career" aspect - I know several cops and none of them have marriage problems beyond the norm. Its not the "burnt out rebel who must break all the rules to catch the bad guy while his superior screams at him" cliche, which is pure Hollywood nonsense. No, its about the basic purpose and meaning of the job police officers have to do.

See, I understand the job of a cop to be to enforce the law. They are the physical extension of the law, they are the bodies that go out and make sure people don't break laws. That's why the job is called "law enforcement." But if you ask any cop, anywhere, what their job is, they will say "keep the peace." Consider the usual police slogan Serve and Protect emblazoned on LA police cars. Nothing about the law.

I don't mean police are meant to be arbiters of justice, that's what the courts are for. Police don't determine guilt or innocence, they catch people breaking the law and let the system handle that. Once they leave for court, the cop's job is done (except for testimony). I mean cops are supposed to enforce the law. There's a big distinction between that and keeping the peace. Let me illustrate this idea with a few recent events in Canada.

Courtesy Mark Steyn at National Review Online, we have this tale from the G8 summit in a Toronto suburb:
For the G20 summit, the Toronto coppers ordered up a ton of new body armor, weaponry, gas masks, etc - and then stood around in their state-of-the-art riot gear watching as a bunch of middle-class "anarchists" trashed the city. Streetcars were left abandoned, and even police cruisers were seized, vandalized and burned.
This wasn't the first time he watched as police stood aside to let lawbreakers and thugs do their thing. Steyn mentions an Ann Coulter speaking event which ended up in violence and destruction as police stood by and watched. An Ottowa Finance Minister was attacked during the rally, and he noted “The police, I’m told, were urged not to intervene, lest pictures of demonstrators being hauled off by the cops show up all over YouTube.” Mark Steyn quips:
True. You might haul off a Muslim or a lesbian and find yourself in “human rights” hell.
There is something to be said for police concern over being filmed, which is leading some to unwise and illegal actions such as when Kathy Shaidle's husband was ordered to stop filming an arrest on a streetcorner. Cops being filmed are just being set up for some sort of legal attack and the movies might seem to indicate some violence or improper behavior even if it never happened. Cops don't like their cases being thrown out of court, and nobody likes having people standing around filming them work; the job is stressful enough.

Yet there's another aspect to this. The cops at the G20 summit riots didn't do much despite having advance warning, proper gear, and presence in numbers. They watched anti-capitalist thugs burn cars, break windows, and generally run about like tantrum-throwing 3 year olds. A few people were arrested but apparently by policy they didn't take action.

Why not? Filming is one thing but it isn't enough. They didn't want to get involved because it would endanger them and they believed the public at large. Moving against rioters means people get hurt, gas might cause problems for someone not involved. Heads get cracked. Police get hurt. It doesn't matter that they're breaking the law, it disturbs the peace more to wade in and stop them than to stand around and let them get it out of their system.

See, when keeping the peace defines your job, you let people break the law as long as they aren't disturbing others while doing so. If you are focused more on keeping peace than enforcing law, then you let people go you catch if they seem likely to stay calm. I don't think cops intend to do it that way, but the job ends up more a job than a calling for many police, and in the end you stop trying so hard to catch the bad guys and work more at keeping things calm and normal.

Maybe that's inevitable, maybe that's the only way you can actually do the job, and stay sane, at least. There's no way you can possibly catch every bad guy. And the laws are often so crazy that you can't really enforce them all or you'd have to line up 9 people out of 10. I've been told that you cannot cross town without breaking a traffic law. If police were really zealous about stopping every criminal they'd have half the city pulled over at any given time.

I just think the basic philosophy behind being a cop makes a difference about your approach and sometimes it can lead to some real problems in what you do and why.

NATIONS WITHOUT CHESTS

"ABB! Anybody But Bush!"

In 2007, popular opposition to President Bush and the war on terror reached a frenzied screaming climax, with tooth gnashing and frothing spread across the world. The mood had shifted from an understanding of the need to crush world wide terrorism to panicked fear that we were being mean and just angering the Muslims. Hysterical rumors and absurd falsehoods were spread about what was happening because of the war, and two world leaders who were strong supporters of President Bush and fought valiantly aside him in the war on terror were toppled: Tony Blair of Great Britain and John Howard of Australia.

That year saw a reversal from a more conservative Australian PM and a strong ally of President Bush in both the UK and Australia to more leftist Kevin Rudd who opposed the war on terror and Gordon Brown who was not as strong supporting President Bush. Many saw this as a repudiation of previous turning toward the right by various nations (although Blair was Labor Party and a leftist in all but his war on terror policy). Next to turn left was the US, with first both houses of congress then the presidency going to Democrats when President Obama was elected in 2008.

The repudiation of President Bush and the right was seen as complete, the celebrations, gloating, and plans for how to move the world further left began. Somewhere in the last year, that all fell apart. In the last six months we've seen the conservative party win in the UK, and Kevin Rudd shoved out of power in Australia. President Obama's support has crumbled, and the mood of the US has turned distinctly against the Democrats and the left.

What happened? Well, each case is distinct and has its own causes, but I think there are two common themes between all these events.

The first is the world economy which by the end of 2008 was in such bad shape the word "depression" was being bandied about - indeed some economists believe we are effectively in a depression, one being hidden by vast government spending. When the economy goes bad, people always turn against the people in power, fair or not.

The second commonality is, I believe, second thoughts. While the press and the popular entertainment media was howling continuously about the horrors and incredible evils of the Bush administration, the narrative started to shift toward that perspective. Almost none of the accusations were true, almost every single alleged wrongdoing was grossly distorted, but when everyone says the same thing, over and over, most people start to wonder if maybe it isn't true, no matter how big a lie it might be.

Yet as time has passed, and the howling of the left has faded away, people are starting to wonder if maybe back then was really all that bad, if the war on terror was really all that wrong, and certainly if these new guys in power are really all that capable or worthy of office. Elected in a short-thinking frenzy of wanting things to change, now the men in power are demonstrating themselves unworthy of the position and hapless in policy.

So the big movement of just last year has faded away to a bitter aftertaste and voters looking to rectify these mistakes. The problem I see is that the remedies aren't any better than the problems. Cameron in the UK is essentially the same as Brown; Gillard in Australia is stronger than Rudd, but hasn't much difference in policy or ideas. And no one on the scene right now to possibly replace President Obama seems very capable or worthy of the position in the US, either.

After decades of dumbing down education, ramming the culture to the left, eliminating most of society's motivation for excellence and achievement, and crushing traditional ethics and virtues, we're left with a pool of "chestless" men, as C.S. Lewis puts it, people in positions of authority less because of their integrity, honor, leadership abilities, and virtues than their sheer passion to gain power and their skill at playing political games. One is much the same as another, with rare exceptions.

What is the answer to this? Time, I suspect. The generations of men who fought in Desert Storm and the War on Terror are aging and moving into the public arena. Home schooled kids are growing up and having kids of their own. The counter culture is slow this time, and the revolution much less telegenic, but there is some glimmer of hope in the future, as these generations age and move into position to take over. The crucible of combat and the values of ancient wisdom being taught to young people in rejection of the failed and socially manipulative schooling of recent decades might just give us a few chests. Without that, I don't even know how civilization can continue.

CATCHING UP

So I go downtown to buy a hot gun
I hated criminals, and now I'm one
Because I bought a gat to protect my house
The cops wanna bust me out?
So it's illegal to protect yourself?
Hell, you either get killed, or you in jail
So when you vote
You better think about what I just wrote
-Sir Mixalot, "No Holds Barred"

KKK and NAACP agree
Back in 2007 I wrote about events in the '60s deep south in which men who came to be called the Deacons for Defense were armed and ready to defend themselves against the Klan. Ken Blackwell writes in the Town Hall article I first read about this:
Following a KKK night ride in Jonesboro, the Deacons approached the police chief who had led the parade and informed him that they were armed and unafraid of self-defense. The Klan never rode through Jonesboro again. Local cross burnings ceased when warning shots were fired as a Klansmen’s torch met a cross planted in front of a black minister’s home. The initial desegregation of Jonesboro High School was threatened by firemen who aimed hoses at black students attempting to enter the building. When four Deacons arrived and loaded their shotguns, the firemen left and the students entered unscathed. It was this series of efforts by the Deacons that caused the Klan to leave Jonesboro for good.
The blogger Baldilocks, one of my favorites (who also has written a book now for sale) has been writing about this issue for a while now; the relationship between gun ownership, civil rights for blacks, and the desire to disarm them. In essence, one of the ways the blacks were kept helpless and defenseless against the Klan was to use the law to make sure they could not own any guns.

Now, years later, others are starting to take up the same theme. At the Washington Examiner, their editorial today quips "Justice Clarence Thomas likely can offer Kagan some useful advice on why the right to own firearms is never more critical than when KKKers are planting burning crosses in a black family's front yard." David Freddoso also writes in the same issue about black civil rights and gun ownership.

Good points by all, but if you've been reading Baldilocks for all this time, you'd have known all about this and why its so important.

I'D RATHER BE FIGHTING THE MAN

Our freedom of speech is freedom or death
We got to fight the powers that be
Lemme hear you say
Fight the power
-Public Enemy, "Fight the Power"

I bought a tee shirt a while back that has a black power fist on it, and the words "I'd Rather Be Fighting The Man" emblazoned on the front. As a white guy in my 40s that seems sort of odd to some people, and while hipsters would consider it ironic, that's not how I meant it. I liked the slogan and the symbolism for a simple reason.

When the idea of "fighting the power" and opposing "the man" became truly popular, it was the late 1960s when the counterculture was fighting a social revolution to transform culture and politics into their leftist image. The hippies, who had valid concerns about the culture around them, wanted people to stop trusting authority, stop relying on the structures of the society around them, and abandon tradition and the past for a new, brighter future.

Today, the situation is reversed. The left controls politics, the media, entertainment, education, nearly every aspect of western culture is dominated by leftist ideology. Even churches, hospitals, and science often have leftist tilts to them. The hippies won, they transformed culture, they led a fairly bloodless revolution and crushed the man. The counterculture has become the culture. Don't think so?

Turn on Rush Limbaugh in your car, loud. Roll the windows down. Dress up conservatively and go to school. Carry a Bible around with you. Mention that you voted for President Bush. Attend a Tea Party. And see how your peers act. Think about how you feel when you do it; do you feel like you're a part of your local culture or defying it? Do you feel just a little worried that someone might notice you have the local talk radio station on your earphones? Wonder what your friends will say if you they find out you go to church every Sunday? Think you'd be in trouble at work if you read the latest Glenn Beck book on break? If you live in a rural area, chances are no, but in much of the country, in the cities and places where culture is shaped and society is directed, you probably would feel uncomfortable doing these things.

The left is the culture to day, they have become the establishment. They largely control what we see, what we learn, what we enjoy in entertainment, what is considered true and false, what is news, what is liked or disliked. They dominate our culture in at least as great and expansive a fashion as the right did fifty years ago. When the hippies started questioning authority, that authority had no more control over education, politics, entertainment, news, information, and the rest of culture than they hold now. The left is the man.

So when I have a shirt that says fight the man, I mean something different, yet very similar to what they mean.

Looking around the cultural landscape of the United States, that's difficult to see. The left has continued its calls for fighting authority and the presumption of the hated right being in control of society is very pervasive and widely held. Entertainment assures us that behind it all sinister conservative businessmen and politicians pull all the strings, that secretly, somehow, the right is still really in charge, still really the dominant culture and that those who oppose this are heroic. Look at those who are considered rebels today: they are the ones who are even more leftist than dominant society, they simply take what is already there and distort it further, pushing it even more to the left.

Others are simply weird. Consider the strange online followers of Lexi Bee, oddball teenager with a cotton candy version of the goth/scene culture. She looks more My Little Pony™ than culture warrior, but she's thought of as a rebel, breaking boundaries and defying the man. Bright pink hair and stuffed animals aside, she's not rebelling against anything except what is commonly seen. Teenagers wanting to stand out find it hard these days, when the dominant styles and look of older ages have given way to an I-Pod jumble of whatever you personally happen to like and want.

Everything, that is, except for the true counterculture. When the culture is dominated by one outlook and ideology, the true counterculture is the one that opposes this. You can tell what really makes the dominant culture uncomfortable or unhappy by how it responds. Lexi Bee is ignored or shrugged at, perhaps with a giggle; dress in conservative clothes and carry a Bible and the response is very different, even hostile. If you listen to Rush Limbaugh in your car loud enough for others to hear, there's always a fear someone will condemn you, scowl at you, even come over and yell at you. Read a Bible in school and you might even be suspended.

That's where the revolution is at, young people. If you want to fight the man, if you want to defy authority, shock your parents, and stun your peers, if you want to stand out and be noticed as someone who defies the society around you, the answer isn't an even bigger nose ring or a fauxhawk. The answer is to turn right. Dress up for school, be respectful to authorities, skip the "green" rallies and "anti-war" slogans. Read the US Constitution instead of Das Kapital in college. If you want to really fight the power, then you have to fight the left.

Look at the world around you. Sense something is wrong? Fear for your future? Frustrated at what's going on and how things are headed? Don't trust your parents, your teachers, the authorities around you? Turn right, my son. You’ll shock your folks a lot more than a tribal tattoo; chances are mom already has one. The left is the dominant culture, the left is the authority. That's why I'd rather be fighting the man.

*This was originally posted on the Examiner Opinion Zone

PICTURE OF THE DAY


Who couldn't see this coming? I like fries okay but if you put them up against bacon, there's no contest. Actually his name is probably pronounced "freeze" but still...

Quote of the Day

“My dinner with Fidel Castro was the eight most important hours of my life"
-Stephen Spielberg

Monday, June 28, 2010

LISTING TO THE LEFT

"how many times can I report that these [tea party] activists are joyfully signing up with the agenda of discredited right-winger X and discredited right-wing group Y?"
-David Weigel

It isn't big news in the legacy media, but the blogosphere is roaring with discussion about Washington Post's "conservative media analyst" David Weigel. By all reports of people who know him, Weigel is a great guy but he lost his job after using his position to continually hammer anyone on the right, particularly the tea party movement, and especially after it was revealed that he was a member of Journolist.

Journolist is an email "list" created by leftist pundit Ezra Klein where left leaning journalists would have a free forum to comment on things and swap information off the record. In the 1990s these email "lists" were the hot new thing, exciting and very useful. I still belong to one about Hero Games but its not very active these days. Email lists of this sort are basically dedicated message groups that run through email, allowing subscribers to read and post, sending everything that is posted to all subscribers. These days most people use twitter or online groups such as Google or Yahoo, as Journolist did.

Journolist was a place for like-thinking legacy media types to discuss matters, but it took on another aspect entirely over time. This was a useful place to coordinate the message, to decide on topics and issues of the day and how they would be approached, and some fear to ignore some topics, bury others, and spin still others.

That coordination took place through this device is difficult to dispute. Rush Limbaugh regularly shows how hilariously regimented and identical talking points and even exact phrases are used through the legacy media on various major events. It probably didn't start out as a deliberate effort, most likely people would read a phrase or some idea on the list and think "hey, that's pretty good, I'll use that." Most of the time that's probably how it worked all the way up to a few days ago when Journolist was shut down by Ezra Klein. But over time it seems clear that what was covered and how, and what was not covered and why, became a matter of agreement.

At Instapundit, Glenn Reynolds quotes an emailer who wrote:
A friend who was on the List and works at a major newspaper told me recently, and I quote verbatim: "Journolist was basically a jobs program for liberals in DC.” This person said that it was used to link up the older, more established set with the younger up-and-comers, all to better staff newspapers, magazines, and institutions with liberals. And it is worth adding that this was said by a very liberal person who was not speaking the least bit apologetically.
And it seems very likely that such a structure, with most of the major players in reporting (and some in politics - the line is getting pretty blurred lately as journalists leave to become staffers for congressmen and such) would be used in this manner. You could help someone get work from the inside, recommending and commenting on people and their skills, political leaning, and so on.

It isn't that this sort of concept is new, in the past it was letters, gentleman's clubs, lodges, and so on where this took place. The "old boys club" in England of former schoolmates working together for example is one such network. Some use churches, some use hobbies such as golf, and so on. Humanity tends to gather in groups of like-minded people who then use this friendship or at least shared interest, to benefit each other and stimulate their work. As far as that goes, its not wrong or sinister in any way. This sort of grouping and coordination can even be a beneficial thing.

The problem comes with why and how you use such a group.

For journalists to talk shop together is not particularly troubling; they've done it for centuries just like every other group of workers. For them to do so in order to advance a specific agenda is another issue. There aren't a lot of conservative journalists out there, certainly not 400 or so as Journolist apparently ran, but if there were, you can only imagine the howls of outrage and gnashed teeth had these conservatives used their email list to coordinate on ways to get Republicans in power, bury stories which hurt the party, and pushed stories which hurt their political foes.

And that's where the problems start. Instead of showing integrity in their work, these journalists were apparently using this not just to gather information and talk shop, but to find ways to push their ideology and advance politicians who agreed with it. They used it to coordinate stories and bury others to get Democrats into positions of power. Journalists are supposed to be the fourth "check and balance" against the other branches of government, that's why the job used to be referred to as the "fourth estate." True, well-executed journalism acts as an information gathering unit to help the public decide and to peel back the layers of secrecy and control that power can grant.

If you abandon that sacred duty to promote an agenda such as getting one or another political party into power, then you're abandoning your entire job as a reporter. Once you become an advocate or a spokesman for some group or another, you cease to be a journalist and have become a publicist. You are being paid to help someone and hurt someone else rather than to find and expose the facts. Journolist wasn't the problem, it was why and how it was being used that was the problem.

That's why Ezra Klein can truthfully say:
That was the theory behind Journolist: An insulated space where the lure of a smart, ongoing conversation would encourage journalists, policy experts and assorted other observers to share their insights with one another. The eventual irony of the list was that it came to be viewed as a secretive conspiracy, when in fact it was always a fractious and freewheeling conversation meant to open the closed relationship between a reporter and his source to a wider audience.
However, he betrays this basic concept with another statement:
The membership would range from nonpartisan to liberal, center to left. I didn't like that rule, but I thought it necessary: There would be no free conversation in a forum where people had clear incentives to embarrass each other. A bipartisan list would be a more formal debating society.
See, by limiting the list to people who basically agreed on most issues (and for a leftist "centrist" means "guys like Bill Clinton who aren't really hard core left"), you cease to be a true source of conversation and insights and more an echo chamber and a place you could work on stories together. The intent was likely wholesome and reasonable, but the inevitable result was what came to pass.

Several of the emails by Weigel have come to the surface (such as the one partially quoted at the top) and they are uniformly contemptuous of the tea party movement and conservatives in general. Whether he was doing so to seem cool to the guys at Journolist and because of temporary frustration as he claims now, or whether this betrays a more basic worldview he tries to keep to himself except among peers is difficult to know for certain. The Daily Caller (courtesy Ace of Spades HQ) has several quotes from the leaked emails, such as this one:
In other posts, Weigel describes conservatives as using the media to “violently, angrily divide America.” According to Weigel, their motives include “racism” and protecting “white privilege,” and for some of the top conservatives in D.C., a nihilistic thirst for power.
Weigel is now going to work for leftist blog Huffington Post, further cementing the appearance that he's just one of them who tried to hide it to get a job (Ace suggests it may just be Weigel's anger at how the right leaning blogs are treating him).

Yet the response of the left, and journalists in general, is to cry foul at the emails being released. It is a very predictable pattern that any time someone leaks something which hurts the right (or Republicans, not interchangable by any means), the press is only interested in the content of the leak... but when the leak hurts leftists or Democrats (generally interchangable), they are only interested in the ethics of leaking and want to know who did it and why. The same holds true here for this leak. Walter Shapiro writes at Politics Daily:
But the sudden collapse of JournoList Friday afternoon -- after the private e-mails of Washington Post blogger Dave Weigel were maliciously leaked -- offers a cautionary tale about the dangers of candor in an age when everybody (and not just Big Brother) is watching.
...
Every entry on Google Groups, where JournoList resided, ended with the cautionary line, "And remember: All postings are off-the-record." But someone -- whose motivations were mysterious and whose lack of integrity was obvious -- collected all of Weigel's back e-mails and apparently sent the most intemperate comments (ripped out of context) to FishbowlDC, a media gossip website, and the Dally Caller, a new conservative online newspaper.
The tone and thrust here are pretty obvious: only a bounding cad could possibly leak anything, how dare he? The heroic leaks of the past (hurting President Bush) were abandoned for the "sinister, sneaking git" leaks (which hurt Democrats) narrative. I agree that there's some sneakiness and at least some lack of ethics involved in any leak, you are betraying a confidence. Yet for consistency's sake, the content should matter equally no matter who it hurts, right?

Anyone who, online, has any expectation of privacy or secrecy is an idiot. Nothing you do online is truly private or secret. There's a record of every single thing you've done online somewhere and almost nothing which is posted on the internet ever really goes away. If you think your Google message group is somehow private enough you can say and do anything you want, you're simply ignorant of how the internet works.

And really, after betraying confidences, printing "off the record" comments, and digging into private secrets for a career for centuries, it is difficult to swallow the sudden desire for privacy by the legacy media. Glenn Reynolds again at Instapundit puts it this way:
In The Appearance of Impropriety, Peter Morgan and I noted that sociologists like Erving Goffman think that every functioning society needs a “backstage” where people can let their hair down and speak without observing social proprieties. But journalists have been destroying that backstage for decades, reporting casual remarks, emails, and betrayed confidences whenever it would advance their careers, or their agendas. Why should they be permitted to keep one, when no one else is?
Indeed. The Bible says those who live by the sword, die by the sword, which is a basic truism: you tend to be punished by your own weapon. The press often lives by reporting secrets and betraying trusts; is it really so surprising this happens to them? The fact is, news is news, even if it involves a reporter.

And this is something that has been a long time coming: the use of journalism to do to reporters what they've been doing to others for as long as the profession has been in existence. For a long time people have wondered why it is nobody digs into a reporter's background like reporters do with public figures. For example, when then-Governor Palin was announced as Senator McCain's (R-AZ) vice presidential candidate in 2008, literally dozens of reporters were sent to her home town in Alaska to find out every small detail they could. This was literally dozens more than were used to look into then-Senator Obama's (D-IL) background, of course.

So why not look into the background of reporters? If their duty is so sacred and the fourth estate so important, why shouldn't we know more about the people who report these stories? If their job is so critical to democracy and what they do so very significant that they deserve special legal protections and privileges, then they should withstand the same scrutiny they impose upon others. Feel free to dig into my weak and boring past; my secrets are dull and pathetic.

In the end, the public's "right to know" and democracy benefits from not just reporters being looked into but the dissolution of Journolist, because of what it had become and what it was doing to news reporting. Naturally, some other structure serving the same purpose is likely already in place - probably more than one "something." These sorts of groups are around all over, I've been invited to one for people writing on The Opinion Zone blog. Just keep in mind nobody listens to me and I'm not shaping the national news, neither is anyone else at the blog.

DIE IN OFFICE

Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia has died. This man was exhibit A of Stoaty Weasel's question about politicians:
"Have you ever wondered why it is most men and women who have had long, passionate, productive careers in, oh, engineering or policework or architecture or soldiering seem delighted, when the time comes, to hang up their kit and grow roses for the rest of their lives? But politicians, judges (and doctors) cling on to their jobs with their fingers and toes until they mummify in place?"
The same congress which passes laws about mandatory retirement ages allows people to stay in office until they die of old age no matter how incoherent, physically capable, or even unintelligible they become. Even Supreme Court Justices have enough dignity to step down before they lose the capacity to do their job, not congressmen. You have to drag them out of office with a tractor.

If there ever was any proof of the excessive power, benefits, and pay of being in congress I think this is the most conclusive one. Almost no one leaves voluntarily; many of them die in office. Serving the people? I think not.

I'll leave it to others to comment on the man's life and actions in office.

OILY POLITICS CONTINUE

"It is true, I worry about the hype. The only person more over-hyped than me is you."
–Barack Obama to Jon Stewart

This is going to seem odd coming from a conservative blogger, but I come not to condemn President Obama, but to defend him. This isn't a clever ruse or satire, but an honest appeal to my fellow conservatives and indeed to the left as well.

It is fashionable, and politically convenient, to hammer President Obama over the Deepwater Horizon oil leak. Certainly there's room for criticism, and even the left is concerned over the president's apparent lack of real concern or effort in dealing with this catastrophe. There is a lot he could do and is not; a few examples include the halted oil dredging barges Governor Jindal of Louisiana ordered (stopped to check for safety equipment), the oil booms that a Maine company offered but weren't allowed, the long delay of Dutch oil cleaning ships being used, due to the Jones Act. All of these are easy things president Obama could, as head of the executive department, slash through the red tape and give the orders to make happen. President Bush, for example, waived the Jones Act during the Katrina emergency and cleanup. Bruce McQuain at Q&O Magazine has a great article with other things that could of and should have been done immediately, yet were not.

And I agree with the concern many have raised that other than make a few speeches and look for ways to punish British Petroleum (BP), President Obama seems significantly more interested in golfing and doing fund raising events for Democratic Party congressional candidates. Like the CEO of British Petroleum going on a yacht race, these follies make it seem like both are more interested in play than in work, despite their repeated statements of working hard and being focused on the job. President Obama said he would not rest until this was dealt with, then almost immediately went on vacation to rest, which sends a pretty poor signal.

Certainly the fact that President Obama claimed ignorance on a wide variety of topics which his administration certainly knew about - such as the booms in Maine, the extent of the oil leak, and so on - doesn't contribute to a particularly competent image, either.

As a result, some blame must be laid at the foot of the president, just as there needs to be blame at the feet of BP, Halliburton, and Congress, among others. As President Obama said, "there's plenty of blame to go around." What I'm concerned about is unrealistic, extraordinary blame. Surely kicking President Obama in the teeth and useful is fun for his political enemies, but there are actual limits on what the president can and should do.

President Bush was condemned for pretty much everything that happened during his time in office, from the weather to sporting events to prices and events far beyond his control in Hurricane Katrina. He was condemned for following standard emergency response steps when the hurricane hit, he was condemned for things the governor of Louisiana and Mayor of New Orleans alone were guilty of. He was condemned for things that never even happened such as the infamous "cannibalism in the Superdome" story.

Recently in the Washington Examiner, Matthew Sheffield wrote about this very effect:
Anti-Bush furor, meanwhile, had the exact opposite effect on liberals and moderates. Instead of shrinking their faith in government’s capabilities, it significantly expanded it. The only reason the U.S. economy had gone south or that other nations weren’t fans of America was because George W. Bush was the president.

It was a surprisingly simplistic argument that, unfortunately for President Obama, has become a nihilistic genie who cannot be put back into a bottle. Having let forth the argument that the president is literally responsible for anything bad that happens during his administration, it’s a bit hard now for the public to be persuaded that it’s really not Obama’s fault that oil is spewing into the ocean off American shores.
Having portrayed the president as not simply responsible for and guilty of anything that goes wrong, but by implication superhumanly capable of dealing with any issue and flaw. Such an image suggests that when any crisis or problem arises, the president simply has to strap on the red and blue suit, and fly around the earth several times to make everything all right again. The president of the United States has a lot of power, but he does not have a magic president wand to make everything okay.

The president of the United States cannot make the oil slick spreading in the Gulf of Mexico go away. He cannot hasten technology or make British Petroleum plug the hole faster than it is already. He cannot make the oil stop spreading over the ocean, he cannot make it stop killing fish and wildlife. He cannot prevent the oil from damaging beaches and damaging economies along the gulf coast. He is limited to reality and the abilities his office gives him.

Conservatives who push this idea of the super-capable office are not merely buying into but promoting the leftist concept of government as the answer to all our ills. Condemning the president for "not plugging that damn hole" sadly helps sell the idea of the all-powerful government which we all should turn to when things go wrong. Conservatism has for as long as the modern movement has been in place been about self reliance and at best a suspicion of government and its powers. Conservatives are the first to point to failures and incompetence at the government level as proof we shouldn't trust and rely on that body for our solutions.

BP has the strongest motivations in the world for getting this work done and are working around the clock to make it happen - the CEO is worthless in this effort, so his yachting jaunt isn't so much lazy or wasteful as it is in poor taste. They are driven by the massive loss of money, the bad publicity this is causing them and thus the stock damage, and the loss of potential revenue as the oil is spewed into the ocean rather than tankers. In other words, market forces and greed are driving them to work hard. And while I suspect this isn't of primary concern, at least some of the people working at BP are probably doing so because they hate the destruction this is causing, are concerned about the people living in the area, and want to save the environment from further damage. They'll get this dealt with, eventually.

That's the conservative approach. Surely the president can and should do all his office allows and empowers him to do to deal with the oil leak. Yet BP has all the right motivations and typical conservative driving force to face this challenge, with sleeves rolled up and old fashioned hard work.

So when I read repeated, gleeful attacks on the president condemning him for not making the impossible happen, I want to urge people to remember that President Obama is a mere mortal, albeit a remarkable man. Any man who can reach the presidency is remarkable and intelligent. He is a very effective speech maker, appears to be a very good father and loving husband, and is quite good at public relations work. He has a genuine gift for reaching out to and inspiring radical activists and is very skilled at manipulating many people's perception using the media. All of that makes him a very good politician. Yet in the end, he's still a man, and even if he somehow were an effective leader, he's incapable of doing everything that was promised, let alone everything that the president was blamed for failing in with the previous administration.

Some have suggested that President Obama deliberately is getting little done because this event is so politically useful to him; I would prefer to be more charitable and suggest he really doesn't know what to do and finds it frustrating as it interrupts his other plans, if useful for distracting from the economy.

I also understand that some "push back" is needed to counter the use of this crisis Rahm Emmanuel-style to drive an agenda of anti-drilling and environmentalist efforts such as "Cap and Trade" legislation. Let's just not abandon our conservative principles to fight this battle and remember that the precedent we set in peoples' minds today carries over to the next president as well. And he might be someone we support, someone more capable and a stronger leader who needs the people behind him.

*This originally appeared in the Washington Examiner Opinion Zone

Quote of the Day

"The more you read and observe about this Politics thing, you got to admit that each party is worse than the other. The one that's out always looks the best."
-Will Rogers

Friday, June 25, 2010

PICTURE OF THE DAY


I've never really understood why the left hates cops and yet trusts judges so much.

CHEATING AT CARDS

"What was I supposed to do - call him for cheating better than me, in front of the others?"
-Doyle Lonnegan, The Sting

Recently the Los Angeles Times reported that California welfare cards can be used in ATMs at local casinos. Like many states, in place of offering food stamps, recipients of aid use cards to buy food and goods. This has the advantage of being convenient and cutting down fraud, but apparently at least some businesses fell through the cracks and people are able to use the cards for more than they were meant to.

Whether this was deliberate on the part of casinos, which would really be quite reprehensible, or a mistake on the part of the California government is not clear. I just want to know who was the first person to try it out and why. It can't be a good reason.

I remember well working at a convenience store how the old food stamps would work. People would bring them in, buy something that gave a lot of change, and then collect the change to buy what they really wanted, such as booze and cigarettes. You were always supposed to give out food stamps in change for food stamps (so if you break a 20, you give out fives and ones in food stamps) but the coins were just coins and could be used everywhere.

Another scam was to sell your food stamps to other people for real money. That would free up that cash for whatever you desired. In one sense this was just a straight transaction: the same amount of food stamps was out there, and someone was still using them to buy food. The problem is, those stamps were issued specifically for people based on their income and alleged need, and they were using what they supposedly needed for other stuff, like drugs and sneakers. That meant someone was going without.

It got so bad the manager told us to demand ID, which people were supposed to carry around for their food stamps. The problem is, often people who were already on food stamps would have valid ID, they just bought more because they wanted more food and were trying to help out a friend. Some may have even paid people in food stamps which were then used in our store. Personally I think anyone who uses food stamps to buy things in a convenience store needs a slap up the back of their head, that's like buying gold plated clothing; its a stupid waste.

So the cards were a pretty good answer. They wouldn't result in any change, just a reduced total on the card. Only one person could use the card at a time, and nobody could trade value on it for cash unless both went to the store and one bought food for the other in exchange for cash. But you know, people always figure out a way to scam the system.

OPINION ZONE POST

The first weekend essay I ever wrote for Word Around the Net was about comments, but the first big research one I did came next: Oily Politics. It actually got a lot of linkage around the internet on big blogs even though I'd not put any effort out to advertise it at all. Now, my first post for the Washington Examiner Opinion Zone is about oil and politics as well.

Its called Oily Politics Getting Stickier (the editor gave me that title, I called it Oily Politics Continue, which is what it will be here on Monday), and its up right now for you to read. Here's a brief excerpt:
Conservatives who push this idea of the super-capable office are not merely buying into but promoting the leftist concept of government as the answer to all our ills. Condemning the president for "not plugging that damn hole" sadly helps sell the idea of the all-powerful government which we all should turn to when things go wrong. Conservatism has for as long as the modern movement has been in place been about self-reliance and at best a suspicion of government and its powers.
Take a look, and at the rest of the blogs up. I'm hoping this is the first of many such posts.

WORD AROUND THE NET

“Brilliant choice by the President. He removes his hand-picked choice for someone he had no confidence in just 2 years ago.”

The big news of this week is the removal of General McChrystal from command in Afghanistan. General Patraeus, hero of the Iraq rebuilding, has taken charge of Afghanistan. There is broad speculation on why this happened and what the general was thinking, and around the net various different responses were found:
  • Rush Limbaugh noted that the president and Vice President called General Patraeus a "failure" not long ago.
  • Michelle Malkin reminds us of the things the Democrats said about Patraeus when he first came to testify to congress about Iraq in 2007.
  • Jeff Dunetz at Big Government wonders if McChrystal didn't deliberately commit career suicide by the interview
  • Sweetness and Light shows us with screen shots that MoveOn has scrubbed their "General BetrayUs" ad which until recently was on the website - and Google has helpfully erased the cache.
  • Michael Yon emailed Instapundit with sober and thoughtful words about Afghanistan and the place we're in. We were there once in Iraq, too: not losing, but not winning. Can General Patraeus pull it off again?
  • Another reader at Instapundit (same link) notes that Rolling Stone took down a general and National Enquirer a presidential candidate; where was the legacy media in all this? Other than irrelevant.
  • And at the Daily Kos, overlander writes that General McChrystal is a brutish horrible thug, saying "America’s military is not made up of our best and brightest, but of our sickest and most pathological criminals."
  • Marc Armbinder at The Atlantic reminds us that General McChrystal is a leftist, saying "He is a political liberal. He is a social liberal. He banned Fox News from the television sets in his headquarters. Yes, really."
And then there's the big question many have asked: General McChrystal is out, what about the people he justly and accurately complained about? Will men such as the ambassador to Afghanistan be shown the door? Somehow I don't think so.

Vatican officials have declared The Blues Brothers a "Catholic classic." They went on to recommend the movie for viewing by Roman Catholics everywhere. Several other movies were also included in the list as Eric J. Lyman writes for MSNBC:
With the recommendation, “The Blues Brothers” joins the list of dozens of films recommended by Catholic authorities that includes Cecil B. DeMille's “The Ten Commandments,” “Jesus of Nazareth” from Franco Zeffirelli, Mel Gibson's “The Passion of The Christ," Victor Flemming's “Joan of Arc,” and “It's a Wonderful Life” from Frank Capra.
For some reason they passed over movies like The Last Temptation of Christ and The DaVinci Code. And the 12,039,102,301 "priest is a perverted child molester/hypocritical monster/studly bold romantic interest who defies the church leadership" movies.

Irony alert, the Heritage Foundation tells us; the "debt commission" show is running out of money. They quote the Fiscal Times:
President Obama’s bipartisan fiscal commission is operating on a shoestring budget and some panel members and lawmakers worry that it may run short of money.

The 18-member commission faces the daunting challenge of coming up with proposals by Dec. 1 to tame the federal government’s trillion-dollar budget deficit. But the panel’s own budget is only $500,000, barely enough to cover office rent and the salaries of four staff members.
If they can't learn to work cheaper and slim things down for the meetings, who would be confident they can find solutions to approach the debt? Not that anyone seriously thought that this commission had the slightest intent of doing so. Their job is to rubber stamp tax increases.

Sarah Palin had a legal defense fund set up so other people could pay for her legal bills, but it has turned out that the fund was set up incorrectly and has been ruled illegal. Now the administrator of the fund has to send the money back to donors, and hopefully set up a new one and get it back. Palin herself was found to have acted in good faith, trusting her legal team to do it properly although she didn't have the fund examined by an outside team to make sure it was set up properly. Like I've said before; I like her speeches, and I think Sarah Palin is a great voice for conservatism, she generates a lot of interest and excitement... but she's no good as a serious candidate for high office.

Manly men apparently can be discerned by voice alone. New Scientist reports on a study recently done which indicated that people were able to guess general upper body strength of men based on their voice alone:
A team led by Aaron Sell at the University of California, Santa Barbara, recorded the voices of more than 200 men from the US, Argentina, Bolivia and Romania, who all repeated a short phrase in their native tongue. Sell's team also put the men through a battery of tests of upper body strength.

What aspects of voice we link with strength remain unknown, since there was no correlation between a man's strength and the pitch or timbre of his voice. That's surprising, says David Puts at Pennsylvania State University in University Park, since previous research showed deeper voices were rated as coming from stronger men.
Likely the strength, virility, and health is perceptible from someone with greater athletic ability and exercise. Note the unquestioned presupposition of evolutionary theory in the article, as usual.

The New York Times recently had an article by Hilary Stout all about the dangers of having a best friend:
...increasingly, some educators and other professionals who work with children are asking a question that might surprise their parents: Should a child really have a best friend?

Most children naturally seek close friends. In a survey of nearly 3,000 Americans ages 8 to 24 conducted last year by Harris Interactive, 94 percent said they had at least one close friend. But the classic best-friend bond — the two special pals who share secrets and exploits, who gravitate to each other on the playground and who head out the door together every day after school — signals potential trouble for school officials intent on discouraging anything that hints of exclusivity, in part because of concerns about cliques and bullying.
At the Ricochet blog where I first saw this, commenter Adam Freeman waxed satirical:
Now that you mention it, I'm not sure a child should be allowed to have a parent, either. Might weaken the bond between the individual and the State.
Indeed.

Oliver Stone continues his effort to be the communist Leni Riefenstahl with a recent movie about Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez. The movie is not getting very good reviews, and even in Venezuela it has done lousy business. The only place people seem to be going to see the film is in the more rural areas - where its being shown for free. At Big Hollywood, Ann McElhinney explains one reason why:
Whilst I was there Hugo Chavez, the country’s president, did one of his regular Sunday broadcasts. These 4 hour homages to himself are a feature of life in Venezuela, that and shortages of things like milk, bottled water and toilet paper. During the broadcast Chavez is seen walking through an old part of Caracas with the local mayor. His red-shirted entourage surround him. He points to a jewelry shop and asks what it is. When he is told he immediately shouts, Expropriate! Expropriate! He goes on to repeat this action on a number of other small jewelry shops in the area before moving on and reminding his audience of how great he is.
They've seen glowing biopics of this man before; nearly every week in fact. After a while, even the most zealous supporter gets a bit tired of it. Unless you live in the sticks in a poor country and have no other real entertainment; why not watch something for free?

Meanwhile we find that Oliver Stone himself decided to smuggle some coca leaves into the country, according to an IFC article. He chewed them to deal with the altitude, and thinks they are just great:
No, it's a mild, mild stimulus. You're at 12,000 feet, so you're nauseous and it's really hard to breathe. This opens the cells, you get better oxygen and you feel more relaxed. I was nauseous, and then I ended up playing soccer, that was sort of the point. They've been doing it for centuries down there. It's a normal thing to do. By the way, I brought coca leaves back. It's illegal in this country to have a coca leaf, but put it in a cup of tea and it's better for your health than coffee.
Sure, Oliver. We trust your judgment on drugs. Or dictators. Or really anything.

President Obama tried to push the "lend money to people who could not possibly pay it back" program even harder, in an effort to stimulate more home ownership among minorities and the poor. I like the idea of people owning homes too... if they can pay for them. The program is failing, however. Alan Ziebel at the Associated Press writes (courtesy Forbes):
More than a third of the 1.24 million borrowers who have enrolled in the $75 billion mortgage modification program have dropped out. That exceeds the number of people who have managed to have their loan payments reduced to help them keep their homes.

Last month alone,155,000 borrowers left the program - bringing the total to 436,000 who have dropped out since it began in March 2009.
Hard to predict that idea not working out, if you're a pointy headed academic type I guess.

Deepwater Horizon's collapse and explosion and the subsequent oil spill has generated a lot of finger pointing, but Nancy Pelosi really stands tall as a finger pointer when she blamed "Bush era holdouts" at the EPA for the disaster. Its all really President Bush's fault. It turns out that there were no Bush holdouts at the decision making level. Joel S. Gehrke jr writes in the Washington Examiner:
The Washington Examiner has obtained biographic information on the MMS officials responsible for overseeing BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig at the time it exploded, from the Gulf Region Director to the last inspector to set foot on the rig. Most of these federal employees started with the agency decades ago. Not one was a presidential appointment of George W. Bush, although one longtime MMS employee in question was promoted to his current position during the Bush Administration.
We need a new term like Godwin's law about Hitler for the people who continually bring up President Bush as the great satan. Maybe Obama's law or something. For the Obama administration, the buck stops... at the previous administration, apparently.

During a recent Arab Festival Christians were seized and taken away. The festival is declared "open to the public" but when converted Arabs - once Muslim, now Christian - set up a booth and talked to people who approached them about Christianity, the police were called, the men were cuffed and led off by police, and the crowd chanted "Allahu Akbar." Where was this, Syria? Iran? Indonesia? Pakistan? No: Michigan. There's no indication that the men arrested and handcuffed were engaged in violence or disruption.

Seattle has made up new rules for the city hiring contractors. Prominent in their rules is one strongly discouraging hiring white males. Specifically. The spending in question is money from the "stimulus" package and it is specifically being targeted at women and minorities, as Carl Gipson at the Washington Policy Center blog explains:
The city of Seattle recently hosted a pre-bid meeting to let contractors and subcontractors know how to comply with training requirements for minority apprentices. Apparently the current system is complex enough to merit extra explanatory meetings. On the PowerPoint presentation (slide 7) is the bullet point telling interested subcontractors that they "Must use under represented groups -- No white males w/o WSDOT approval and extensive good faith effort documentation."
It is possible for white males to get into the program and get contract work, but they need a special waiver. That's actually written into law in the "stimulus" package, because the money is intended to help "disadvantaged business enterprises." The idea is to pick the most diverse, regardless of skill, experience, or even the capacity to do the job. Diversity uber alles - except white men, they aren't diverse.

One of the primary selling points of red light cameras when they are promoted is that they will increase safety by reducing traffic accidents. A recent study in Chicago suggests that is not necessarily true. At theNewspaper.com, we learn:
Shah's analyzed Illinois Department of Transportation data obtained by the Chicago Tribune which showed that although accidents dropped seven percent at intersections citywide, fifty camera-monitored intersections saw a five-percent increase in accidents. The city used its own, much narrower dataset to claim a significant decrease in accidents. The city only had ten usable intersections and defined "accident" in a way that limits reporting of rear end collisions that take place farther from the intersection. Shah recrunched the numbers and found a net safety benefit of just 1.5 percent.

"The goal was not to do a comprehensive study of red light cameras, but only to ask whether the benefits of red light cameras are obvious," the study concluded. "A more comprehensive study would include control groups. In sum, our findings show that red light cameras have, at best, a marginal positive impact on accidents. It's clear that the benefits claimed by the city are hyperbole and that there is no evidence that the red light camera have had a significant safety benefit."
1.5% is well within the margin of error of any statistical study. In other words, there's no evidence these cameras help reduce traffic accidents. They do accomplish their primary goal however: revenue enhancement. You just can't sell a community on that idea.

Seth Borenstein has a great article at the Associated Press helping put the Deepwater Horizon oil leak into perspective:
For every gallon of oil that BP's well has gushed into the Gulf of Mexico, there is more than 5 billion gallons of water already in it. And the mighty Mississippi adds another billion gallons every five minutes or so, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

So BP chief executive officer Tony Hayward was factually correct last month when he said the spill was "relatively tiny" compared to what he mischaracterized as a "very big ocean."
...
More not-so-dreadful context: The amount of oil spilled so far could only fill the cavernous New Orleans Superdome about one-seventh of the way up. On the other hand, it could fill 15 Washington Monuments and two-thirds of the way up a 16th. If the oil were poured on a football field - complete with endzones - it would measure nearly 100 yards high
.
He also points out that scientists estimate that the leak will, at the current rate, continue for another two years unless capped. The oil is covering a very large area, but its not very thick, because its oil on top of water. Most of us should have a pretty good idea how that works, oil is less dense than water, and moves to the top, distributing as evenly as possible in a very thin layer. The leak is bad, but not as ghastly as some seem to believe.

Democrats in the US Congress have admitted that they are putting the budget on hold until after the election. They did the same thing in 2008-2009, stalling the budget until President Obama was in office. Why? Its useful to keep voters from having hard numbers, earmarks, spending increases, and pork available to see and that information out of the hands of opponents to sitting congressmen. As Ed Morrissey at Hot Air puts it:
“Saving their own necks” is what this is all about. The Democrats in Congress believe what Rep. Gerry Connolly told the LA Times, which is that no member of Congress ever lost an election because of a failure to pass a budget.
As the Hot Air article points out, four years ago, John Spratt (D-SC) condemned Republicans for doing the same thing, saying "if you can't budget, you can't govern," which I can't argue with. Passing a budget is one of the fairly few things the US Congress is actually ordered to do in the US Constitution.

Loyola law school is in hot water right now for a plan to across the board inflate grades. Catherine Rampell writes in the New York Times:
The school is retroactively inflating its grades, tacking on 0.333 to every grade recorded in the last few years. The goal is to make its students look more attractive in a competitive job market.

In the last two years, at least 10 law schools have deliberately changed their grading systems to make them more lenient. These include law schools like New York University and Georgetown, as well as Golden Gate University and Tulane University, which just announced the change this month.
There's a lot of people trying to get into law schools, so competition is fierce. If you can sell your school as graduating more people who get jobs in the legal profession than your competition, you have an edge. There are other options such as paying for internships and counseling but this is really pushing the ethical boundaries by colleges and universities.

Arab "youths" threw rocks and shouted ethnic slurs at a Jewish dance group performance, forcing it to shut down. This happened in Germany earlier today. The youths were eventually identified as Muslims, as if no one could guess, halfway through the story. Six were arrested, the other three are being sought after. Germans aren't much at fighting wars these days, but I'd be terrified of their police still. The attacks began as soon as the group was announced, indicating the group came clearly prepared to stop the hated Joo.

And finally, Christopher Horner is reporting at Pajamas Media that the man who did the study showing how wasteful, pointless, and failed the Spanish "green" energy economy is was mailed a bomb. Dr. Gabriel Calzada received a package from solar energy company Thermotechnic as Horner reports:
Says Calzada:
Before opening it, I called [Thermotechnic] to know what was inside … they answered, it was their answer to my energy pieces.
Dr. Calzada contacted a terrorism expert to handle the package. The expert first performed a scan of the package, then opened it in front of a journalist, Dr. Calzada, and a private security expert.

The terrorism consultant said he had seen this before:
This time you receive unconnected pieces. Next time it can explode in your hands.
Dr. Calzada added:
[The terrorism expert] told me that this was a warning.
Calzada has gotten a lot of hate since his report, not because it was false or fraudulent but because it is so inconvenient and costly for leftist causes and "green" companies. Meanwhile President Obama, House Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) are pushing the same thing in the US based on Spain's experiment. Ace of Spades where I saw this first (and where you can find an excellent article about it and the lies of the green economy) calls this "pretendustrial terrorism"

And that's the Word Around the Net, June 25, 2010. We, too, are on a mission from God.