Archive for the 'Society' Category

So This is How the Zombie Apocalypse Starts

The good news is that it starts in Russia.

According to the Russian news agency RIA Novosti, a mosquito managed to live 18 months clinging to the outside of the International Space Station, without any food, being bombarded by radiation and enduring fluctuating temperatures ranging from minus 230 degrees to 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

“We brought him back to Earth. He is alive, and his feet are moving,” Anatoly Grigoryev of the Russian Academy of Sciences told RIA Novosti.

The bad news is that there are a LOT of people in Russia.

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What Does It Take for a Police Officer To Get Fired?

Radley Balko compares two police officer firings and finds that it’s pretty hard for an officer to get fired, unless they go easy on marijuana users.The first officer kind of reminds me of Alaskan State Trooper Mike Wooten from Sarah Palin’s silly “Troopergate” fiasco.

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Day Without Pay Unpopular

Looks like the “Day Without a Gay” civil rights protest intended to send a message to the country about the importance of gay employees and consumers…had no effect whatsoever. Thus the congenitally counterproductive leadership of the gay rights movement can notch another embarrassing disaster onto their totem pole of failure.

Why can’t this movement find effective leadership? Flippantly shirking your presumably safe job for political messaging, when people of all sexual orientations are , was no way to inspire national sympathy for the cause. Would it not have been more logical and positive to have a ‘day with twice the gay’? Say, encouraging gay Americans to double their daily purchasing, or work twice as hard?

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Morality of the Bailout

In a Q&A session at the University of the Pacific in October, Dinesh D’Souza was asked about the moral dimensions of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act. I don’t agree entirely with the causality he posits exists between irresponsible consumer behavior and irresponsible governance, but it’s an interesting take. Particularly in how he adapts certain complaints more commonly associated with the political left, to serve a conservative argument:

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An Encounter With Political Sexism

How many children does John McCain have? It’s seven including adoptions, but very few seem to know that. Easier question: how many children does Sarah Palin have? Five and I bet you knew that instantly. Welcome to sexism says liberal feminist Linda Keenan, in a profound and important confessional apology to Sarah.

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Risk and Reward

Playground Many of us, when we hear the phrase “risk and reward” think of Wall Street.  Or business in general.

But in reality, “risk and reward” affect us throughout our lives.

Our parents take a risk when they conceive us.  They hope that we will provide them with more joy and satisfaction than heartache and pain.  They pray that we will be born relatively healthy rather than sickly.

As we get older, parents do their best to provide a fine environment for us to learn and grow.  What some adults seem to have forgotten, however (if they ever knew at all) – is that all gain requires some risk.  It is impossible to achieve rewards without taking on chances of failure.  Parents want to keep us safe.  Yet, too many protections and too much removal of risk can oddly enough produce difficulties.

Safety is meaningful only in the context of other benefits and risks. Safety always involves trade-offs — of opportunities, of scarce resources and, especially in the case of children’s play, of learning to manage risk. The question is whether the trade-off makes sense. Soft rubber matting will cushion any fall. This is probably a good thing, at least in situations where children may fall on their heads. But rubber matting also gets hot.

There’s only one solution. Someone on behalf of society must be authorized to make these choices. Courts must honor those decisions. Otherwise, the pious accusations of safety fanatics, empowered by the nearly universal fear of being sued, will guarantee a cultural spiral downwards toward the lowest common denominator.

For America’s children today, that means spending more than six hours per day staring at a screen. Is that the way we want our children to grow up?

Philip Howard of The Common Good lectured several years ago at The Center of the American Experiment, and it was my pleasure to be able to hear him then.  Mr. Howard and his organization are battling to return common sense to everyday society.

None of us want a dangerous place for our children – or for adults!  Still, we must never forget that a risk-free society is impossible to achieve.  The removal of some risks must be weighed against what we are sacrificing by removing that risk.  While sometimes we agree that the risk of harm is too great – other times we can see that the purported removal of risk actually heightens the odds of other, not immediately obvious, forms of harm.

If we never forget that reward entails some risk, then we all will be better served.

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When Families Fail

Because of my background in working with emotionally disturbed, learning disabled, and generally abused kids, I am often to drawn to stories about the results of extreme neglect of children. I saw some awfully hard cases with some of the kids I worked with, including a kid who was found as a toddler scrounging for food in a trash can with his younger brother before being put into the foster care system, and a young girl who, although not even ten years old, was “traded” by her mother for drugs on a routine basis. There are some really sick cases out there.

For example, a few years ago some foster parents were arrested and charged with aggravated assault and child endangerment after someone finally checked up on their kids and discovered a gruesome sight:

Two of the teenage boys were so badly nourished that they each weighed less than 50 pounds and stood about 4 feet tall, authorities said.

An investigation into the family began after police found the Jacksons’ 19-year-old son, Bruce Jackson, rummaging through a neighbor’s trash.

The young man, who was adopted in 1995, measured 4 feet and weighed 45 pounds. He also had apparent heart irregularities.

The three other boys, ages 14, 10, and 9, were removed from the home and hospitalized. The 14-year-old was 40 pounds and 4 feet tall.

Investigators said the couple received a yearly stipend of up to $28,000, but kept the boys locked out of the kitchen and fed them dry pancake batter.

Every state’s foster care system has a few stories like this, some more than others. The sad fact is that there are really bad people out there, for whatever reason, and some of them become parents and foster parents. How can these people become foster parents? Well, as bad as they end up being (and, it is actually pretty rare), they are still better than the home from which the foster kids are typically removed. For example, there’s the case of Danielle Crockett: (more…)

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ASHC is Alan Finch Central

Alan Finch, Helen Finch, Alan Finch
Alan Finch, Helen Finch, Alan Finch the Revenge

Looking over our logs, it’s incredible how much global traffic we get from people searching for information on Alan Finch (August’s #1 ASHC keyword and a top-30 quantity since February). Perhaps a little odd for a blog that tends to focus on American party politics, economic theory and international affairs.

To recap you, Alan is an Australian man who had a double sex-change (first from male to female and then from female to male). He was the subject of a very brief AtW post by myself in February, and thereafter became the source of all this traffic.


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For the last six months or so, one of the first things I did upon coming into work on Sunday mornings was to check Randy Pausch’s update page. Randy Pausch, if you will remember, achieved worldwide notoriety last fall when the video of his “Last Lecture” hit the internet and the Wall Street Journal noticed. Having been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer, Pausch, 47, gave a lecture entitled “Really Achieving your Childhood Dreams” to an audience at Carnegie Mellon University where he taught computer science. Well this morning I selected Randy’s site from my bookmarks menu but the page was very, very slow to load. Too slow. Sure enough, when the page refreshed, it contained the news that Randy passed away Friday due to complications from his disease.

What made Pausch’s story so compelling to me wasn’t merely that he was close to my age and, like me, the father of young children, nor was it merely the fellow feeling that most of us past and present cancer patients have for one another. Rather it was his infectiously positive yet humble attitude, the geeky fierceness of his appetite for life, and his charmed and seemingly bottomless capacity for extraordinary achievement that convinced me that pancreatic cancer didn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell against this man, that this time death itself had fatally (ha!) miscalculated in even daring to touch someone so fresh and so vitally creative, so… Jedi. The Force was very, very strong in this one.

But I guess at the end of the day it’s never strong enough. And of course I knew that, in that cold, data processing part of my brain, and I’m certain Pausch did too. But I’d still like to think Randy made death a little nervous, if only for a couple of years, or even a couple of minutes.

You can check out the video of his famous “last lecture,” as well as videos of his lecture on time management and his cancer activism, here.

Pausch’s Update Page documenting his cancer battle is here.

Carnegie Mellon’s obituary of Randy is here.

Unlike thousands and thousands of very lucky people, I never knew Randy Pausch in life. But like tens of millions of almost as lucky people, I will never forget him.

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Boundary Issues

Peg pointed me this way, and I really enjoyed nodding in agreement. Of course, I have long nodded in agreement with Megan. Especially on these:

2) Gay marriage. I’m basically pro, but I take the Burkean arguments seriously.

3) Immigration. Again, I’m pro–but while I think the anti-immigration side makes often ridiculously ahistorical arguments about how current immigration differs from past waves, I think that more-open-borders folks like me don’t give enough respect to the real cultural frictions that immigration causes.


5) Taxes. I don’t have any very well thought out position on the optimal level of taxation in society. I take seriously both the justice arguments of the libertarian absolutists, and the notion that anyone living in a wealthy society owes their prosperity at least as much to the wealthy society as they do to their own skill and hard work–and if you doubt this is true, I suggest you go try to deploy your rugged individualist talents in Zimbabwe. I think society has a duty to care for those who genuinely can’t care for themselves, but I am against an ever-expanding notion of what constitutes “can’t”.

6) Intergenerational equity. I don’t mean social security, which I think is largely a stupid program. I mean questions about how we should privilege the interests of people who exist now over those who will exist in the future. The environment is the most obvious, but not the only, area where these questions come up. To me, health care is another one; the core issue is that we can probably help some people by moving to a single payer system today, but only by destroying the innovation machine that will help many many more people down the road.

7) Humanitarian intervention. I am often tempted by the isolationist stance, the cool purity of its single-rule decision making. Then another Darfur rends my heart. I don’t mean to address the prudential, utilitarian calculus, but rather the question: if there’s a good chance that we could make things better, should we? And under what circumstances?

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The Hated Become the Hateful

Jesse Helms has died today. And I have lost track of the number of gay friends who have written me congratulatory or celebratory emails and IMs. It really is terrible—yes, the man opposed our right to an equal stake in society, the right to have a family, the right simply to live our lives without men like him imposing his views on us. But celebrating his death? Helms has been a non-issue for years—no matter what crimes one may pin on him, if people really think he could have spoken magic words and suddenly convinced people to stop condomless sex in the 1980s… well, that is simply delusional.

The amount of hate being spewed at a man we all condemned for hatred is simply despicable. And people wonder why I have such problems being associated with other gay men. His family is grieving, just as our families grieved when our loved ones die. To dance upon his grave, no matter how much you opposed his message—one friend even crowed that he was “rotting in hell, paling around with Hitler and Stalin”—is so far beyond the pale, I really am out of words.

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Amazing New MPG Breakthrough!!!

Yes, after extensive research I can now offer to the public an almost guaranteed way of decreasing the amount of gas used in a week. While YMMV (Your Millage May Vary) I saw a 13% increase this past week using this new breakthrough.

I’m so confident about this breakthrough, that I’m also going to thrown in another breakthrough, FOR ABSOLUTELY NO CHARGE!!!

The first breakthrough is, get this, driving slower.

I know, who would have thought, that driving slower would bring such incredible results. Yes, while YMMV, mine went up to 34MPG, from a paltry 30MPG. That’s right, by backing off on the skinny pedal, and setting the cruise control a whole 5 MPH slower then I normally do, I achieved such breakthrough millage.

But wait, I promised another breakthrough for decreasing the amount of gas used in a week, FOR FREE!!!

The second breakthrough is, drive less often.

I know, it’s an incredible breakthrough. Why, by planning our trips over the weekend, we only went on 3 trips for errands, where we could have easily made 5 or 6.

So, there you have it, two incredible breakthroughs in driving technology, which will, more then likely, reduce the amount of gas you use in a week. Of course, YMMV.

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Chicks Are Cool, ‘Long As They Know Their Place

Only in America’s Army:

KHOST, Afghanistan — Pfc. Monica Brown cracked open the door of her Humvee outside a remote village in eastern Afghanistan to the pop of bullets shot by Taliban fighters. But instead of taking cover, the 18-year-old medic grabbed her bag and ran through gunfire toward fellow soldiers in a crippled and burning vehicle.

Vice President Cheney pinned Brown, of Lake Jackson, Tex., with a Silver Star in March for repeatedly risking her life on April 25, 2007, to shield and treat her wounded comrades, displaying bravery and grit. She is the second woman since World War II to receive the nation’s third-highest combat medal.

Within a few days of her heroic acts, however, the Army pulled Brown out of the remote camp in Paktika province where she was serving with a cavalry unit — because, her platoon commander said, Army restrictions on women in combat barred her from such missions.

It’s difficult to find a better summary of some of the fundamental contradictions of the Army today. Women can serve, and valorously, so long as they’re not lauded for it—then, they must be taken away from their units. But it’s the same thing for gays, too—serve your country, just don’t ever let anyone know what you really are. Sad.

I can remember being about 10 or 11 and hearing arguments about how we can’t use the military for “social engineering.” This was during the days when Bill Clinton was pushing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, when Tail Hook was the End of the Navy, and so on. I would think that same logic should apply now: the rest of society has moved on: like it or not, women are serving in combat duties, and they are doing so valiantly. The restrictions on their service, and in this case punishment for being too brave, make less and less sense every day.

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Search for Truth About 9/11 Leads to Beating Up Handicapped Girl

German “Gary” Talis of the 9/11 “Truth” organization “We Are Change” beat up a wheel chair bound girl with cerebral palsy yesterday. His compatriots also got into an argument with Secret Service after trying to verbally assault Laura and Jenna Bush at an event for their children’s book “Read All About It.”.

The assailant and his cohorts are currently seeking pro-bono or reduced fee legal representative to defend them and pursue legal action against the NYPD.

Also covering this is LauraW at Ace’s, though I don’t think she has figured out it was a truther yet.


A truther has also posted the personal phone number and street address of the family in a comment on digg and asked for people to harras them. No, I’m not going to link to it, but I have reported it to digg.

by dnafrequency 1 hour ago
I think John Lovetro needs to be confronted about his out of control lying behavior. A little public humiliation works wonders but don’t get to close, he is an attack dog! You can contact him at: 718 ***-**** (number has been temporarily disconnected) and you can write or visit him at 1*************, NY ****. What a piece of filth! I’m sure his wife and daughter are very proud of him today!


Just wanted to throw in a link to Pat at the Screw Loose Change blog. Those guys do some great work.

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Get Over It!

Justice Antonin Scalia will appear on 60 Minutes this coming weekend. A preview of what he has to say is here.

“I say nonsense,” Scalia responds to Stahl’s observation that people say the Supreme Court’s decision in Gore v. Bush was based on politics and not justice. “Get over it. It’s so old by now. The principal issue in the case, whether the scheme that the Florida Supreme Court had put together violated the federal Constitution, that wasn’t even close. The vote was seven to two,” he says, referring to the Supreme Court’s decision that the Supreme Court of Florida’s method for recounting ballots was unconstitutional.

Furthermore, says the outspoken conservative justice, it was Al Gore who ultimately put the issue into the courts. “It was Al Gore who made it a judicial question….We didn’t go looking for trouble. It was he who said, ‘I want this to be decided by the courts,’” says Scalia. “What are we supposed to say — ‘Not important enough?’” he jokes.


Stahl asks how he can be a close friend of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, his liberal bench mate, despite the fact that they oftentimes disagree. “I attack ideas, I don’t attack people, and some very good people have some very bad ideas,” he tells Stahl.

Bravo, Justice Scalia! I have dear friends (and, dare I say it – relatives) whom I very much love and care for – yet, on some topics, they are utterly wrong. Of course, I myself have been utterly wrong on issues and at times in my life!

If we are looking for perfection in our friends, relatives, peers, associates …. we will assuredly be woefully disappointed in our lives. We also will have never ending battle.

I do not agree with Scalia myself on a number of topics. On what he says above, however, applause from me. And – get over it, those of you who have not!

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Try Legal Weed

No, not that. We’re talking Weed Beer. I’m talking about a beer made in the city of Weed, California. A local brewer there has named his beer after the small town. The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms however, wasn’t too pleased with their slogan on their bottle cap, “Try Legal Weed”.

Bureau spokesman Art Resnick said Monday that the bottle caps tell consumers to support an illegal drug

Since it literally says “legal weed” on it, I’m not sure how they think it refers to illegal weed. The owner of the brew counters with the fact that Budweiser is known as “bud”

“They sell Bud — we sell Weed.”

Just add this to another casualty in this ridiculous war on drugs.

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What’s wrong with Iraq War Movies?

I’m often guilty of seeing connections between things that others seem to think make no sense at all. So bear with me and then tell me what you think.

The New York Times review of “Stop-Loss” explains the failure of Iraq themed movies in this way, “The commercial failure of last autumn’s crop of high-profile Iraq-themed movies — Paul Haggis’s “In the Valley of Elah” and Brian De Palma’s “Redacted” among them — has hardened into conventional wisdom about the moviegoing public’s reluctance to engage the war on screen.”

We’re tired of the war. We don’t want to hear about it. But does that even make sense?


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End Human Slavery

One organization I send a lot of money to is the International Justice Mission. They are dedicated to ending human trafficking and exploitation through a novel approach: unlike the typical NGO scream (think Human Rights Watch), they build cases against the abusers using local laws.

Indeed, slavery is a major, global problem—and the biggest it’s been in world history. Humans make up a not-insignificant part of the multi-billion dollar global shadow economy, which systematically undermines states as it trades in illegal goods.

Don’t think we’re immune just because we’re wealthy and Western. The UK has a big problem with girls being forced into marriages, and tens of thousands are hijacked for slavery in the U.S. every year.

Groups like IJM can help. Their donation page is here.

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William F. Buckley Jr. (1925-2008)

I remember him most for his debates on the Firing Line in the 70’s. His style, full of respect and grace are what I’ll remember him by.

I’m devastated to report that our dear friend, mentor, leader, and founder William F. Buckley Jr., died overnight in his study in Stamford, Connecticut.

After year of illness, he died while at work; if he had been given a choice on how to depart this world, I suspect that would have been exactly it. At home, still devoted to the war of ideas.

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One Life to Give

Private jets.  Multiple mansions.  Designer clothes and vehicles.  Dazzling jewelry.  Generally, these are the hallmarks of the uber-wealthy.

For one man, however, something beyond the glittering materialism of this world matters.  What is it?  Giving.

Feeney Read about a remarkable man who made a fortune – then gave it all away.

Feeney correctly foresaw a pent-up demand for foreign consumer goods, especially liquor. Over the years DFS opened dozens of duty-free shops across the world. Feeney learned Japanese and did deals with tour guides to divert travel groups through their outlets. “We caught a wave,” he said. DFS became a global retail empire, a moneymaking machine that made its partners super rich. In 1988, Forbes magazine included Feeney in the top 20 of its 400 richest people list, estimating his worth at $1.3 billion.

But Feeney did not belong on the list. In 1982, he had secretly and irrevocably transferred his entire 38.75 percent interest in DFS to a charitable foundation, keeping less than $5 million for himself. The decision to give his wealth away was not sudden, he said. “I did not want money to consume my life.” The decision to create a foundation came after Feeney made his first major bequest of $700,000 to Cornell University in 1981, and was besieged with requests. He turned to a legal friend, Harvey Philip Dale, a brilliant New York law professor, who advised him on setting up a mechanism to handle future donations. The foundation — in reality a number of separate foundations collectively known as The Atlantic Philanthropies — was registered in Bermuda to avoid disclosure requirements. To maintain secrecy, the organization did not bear his name — almost unheard of in the world of philanthropy. Feeney declined even to take personal tax deductions on his giving.

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Am I anti-Intellectual or…

…am I just not impressed by YOU?

Jules Crittenden responds to a column by Susan Jacoby The Dumbing of America. She concludes…

It is past time for a serious national discussion about whether, as a nation, we truly value intellect and rationality.

The short answer is… yes, we truly value intellect and rationality.

It just doesn’t look like what you want it to look like. In fact, I’m tempted to start quoting The Princess Bride… “This word? I do not think it means what you think it means.”


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Freedom can’t exist without trusting the untrustworthy

This is an extension of the commentary from this post from MichaelW.

Have you heard the truism that a person is smart, but people are dumb?

On the one hand it’s profoundly true. On the other hand we fail to understand that the opposite is also profoundly true. A person is dumb, but people are smart.

Dumb people, making sub-optimal individual decisions, somehow manage to combine in aggregate into communities that most often are remarkably robust and remarkably effective.

It works with a market, where individuals make poor decisions about what to produce and what to buy. Somehow, with all those individual mistakes the result is highly effective and highly responsive. Compare that flawed mish-mash of poor decisions to what happens when there is directed organization and decision making, usually by experts, and the unwashed masses directing their own lives come out on top. Waaaay on top.

It would also work in education, given a chance.

Do I trust my fundie neighbor to do the best possible job teaching her children? Do I trust the secular unschooler down the street? Do I trust the Muslim who recently immigrated and would rather not have his child in public school? Do I trust the Amish who don’t (I’m told) educate past 8th grade? Do I trust the polyamorist wiccan coven who wants to start a day school?

Not only no, but hell no.

But do I trust them in aggregate? Do I trust the robust nature of the way all of our various choices work together to optimize the end result? Do I trust the flexibility and diversity of knowledge and ideas to mesh into a whole that is by far the most desirable and effective totality of education to advance our country and perhaps our world into an unknowable future?

Yes, I do.

I trust people.

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Where’s The Youth?

The current dust-up over the Cuban-Che flag (flags?) hanging in the Houston campaign office for Barack Obama (opened by supporters, with actual staffers intended to occupy by next week), has spawned some interesting commentary. Captain Ed advised:

Oh, my. Barack Obama may want to call his new Houston office and suggest some decorating ideas…No, that’s not a Texas state flag with a picture of Obama on it. It’s the flag of the Castro-led Cuba regime, with Che Guevara’s face superimposed on the side. A Fox report from Houston captured this image as it showed Obama supporters celebrating his momentum after Super Tuesday.

Does Obama know his Houston supporters honor a terrorist in his campaign office? I’m sure he doesn’t. However, it would behoove him to ensure that the flag gets taken down and that he renounces any affinity for Che and the Fidel Castro regime.


I really doubt that Obama has any idea either. But this is campaign season, and his refusal to wear a flag pin or put his hand on his heart during the pledge of allegiance opens him up to attack based on this sort of miscue by his supporters. I really don’t care about the flag pin (I don’t wear one either), but the hand-over-the-heart petulance does raise legitimate questions, IMHO.

In any case, the leftosphere is accusing the rightosphere of having apoplectic fits over this, and using “Rovian Swiftboaters,” with their prime target being Captain Ed (my emphasis).

Oh darn those college volunteers with their affinity for hacky-sack & Che Guevara!

It’s going to be another long, reality-deprived year from the GOP Operatives. Apparently, some young volunteer for the Obama campaign had the temerity to set up an office in Texas BEFORE Obama’s actual staffers arrived in Texas. This included someone taking something off their dorm room wall, a Cuban flag with a picture of Che Guevara on it. This sent Captain Ed to the nitro tablets and asthma respirator.

It seems someone hasn’t been on a college campus in thirty-five years. Where youthful affectation with revolucion long ago replaced pictures of “Happiness is a Warm Puppy”. Oh those kids today with their I-Phones, their I-Pods, and their I-deas.

Up next, college-age Hillary Volunteer wears “Bush Sucks” T-Shirt. Ed Morrissey faints.

James Joyner attempts to the split the difference:

[Captan Ed is] right that Che is a terrorist who shouldn’t be honored by decent people. Che worship (or, alternatively, the wearing of Che t-shirts as a statement without the slightest clue of who he was) seems to be a phase that certain left-leaning activists go through in their youth; it generally passes. Driscoll’s characterization of it as “juvenilia” is spot on.

But, surely, Obama doesn’t need to publicly weigh in on the decorating choices of every low level staffer? Let alone “renounce” affinities which he’s never shown?

I sure didn’t take from Captain Ed’s post (or Charles Johnson’s) that he wanted Obama to take a loyalty oath (as Joyner later suggests), and I’m not sure why suggesting that Obama distance himself from such an idiotic display of anti-Americanism is going beyond the pale. Captain Ed was simply encouraging Obama to have his Sister Souljah moment, which seems like pretty good political advice.

But the most irritating thing about the apologia is the persistent inference that this was a youthful transgression. First of all, take a look at the picture and point out to me where this “youth” is. Do you see any college kids in that picture? Are there no adults in charge there? Don’t the women in the picture bear some responsibility here?

Secondly, why should anyone be even remotely complacent about the seemingly accepted fact that “youths” have no compunction about displaying the likeness of a mass murderer in the dorm rooms, on the their chests, and in their volunteer headquarters? Have we just given up on teaching any semblance of what’s right and wrong, acceptable and unacceptable? If the flag was instead a revolucion flag from Chile with Pinochet’s Pinochet flaghirsute mug gracing it, would the left be as complacent about that? How about Mao or Pol Pot? Is Mugabe OK, or Hugo Chavez? Where exactly does the line get drawn for which statist terrorists may grace the clothing and walls of “youths” before it becomes a fashion faux pas?

Oh, and for the record, here’s a little history on the source of that flag:

I came across a flag which is very usual in demonstantions and events of the youth organization of the portuguese communist party (J.C.P. / P.C.P.). It consists of a cuban flag defaced with the likeness of the mythical communist hero Ernesto “Che” Guevara. A similar flag, all red with black elements and bearing at times the cuban slogan “hasta la victoria siempre” (”towards the victory, always”). I’m not sure if any of these are used by communists anywhere else, namely in Cuba, but it is most likely.
Antonio Martins, 26 December 1999

This non-Cuban “Che flag” is or was, according to Jaume Olle’, used by a ultra left guerrilla group in Guatemala. I used darker colours because flags appear with darker colours. These flags are, of course, unofficial, so the shade here is basicaly a matter of taste, but they are usually used with darker colours than those we have in the Cuban national flag.
Jorge Candeias, 27 December 1999

Getting back to the genesis of this story, I really doubt that this will have much of an effect on Obama’s campaign. Those whom are already against an Obama presidency, aren’t going to be any further swayed by the fact that he has the support of communist sympathizers. By the same token, neither are those on the left with an affinity for Obama (even if they are voting for Hillary) going to be moved, since they seem to have little problem with communist sympathizers being in their midst (to their eternal shame, I might add). And anyone who is part of the undecided middle in this race, probably isn’t even going become aware of this little fiasco, since they likely don’t pay much attention to politics outside what they here on the evening news.

Indeed, the only real eye-opener here is that apparently a number of people think that mythical-Marxist hero worship is nothing more than a college kid fad, and they’re okay with the next generation being that stupid. I guess I’m just not.

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Perhaps we’re turning into Victorians

Or: What I Learned About the World from Reading Historical Romances.

I learned that sometimes people get *more* uptight over time rather than less.

Victorians, according to custom and any number of novels, were concerned with propriety above all. Certain things were not spoken of and certainly the rougher aspects of life were hidden from young ladies. They were prudes.

Read enough novels and eventually a consumer of these delightful escapes will come across one that isn’t Victorian at all, but set in the Georgian era or earlier, or at the very least has a foul mouthed old grandmother who insists on wearing her wig and powder and scandalizing her adult children with accounts of her wild youth.

What brought this to mind (in a rather random fashion, which is typical for my brain) was this post of mine and what Joshua said about History. (more…)

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I Approve This Message

(Originally posted at What if?)

From the moment I purchased “Managing Your Money” software many years ago, I realized that Andrew Tobias is a very smart and very amusing fellow. Later, I discovered that Andy is also warm, friendly and has a huge heart. Despite being a huge business and DNC celebrity (he’s the DNC’s treasurer), he frequently takes times to email-correspond with lil’ ol’ me.

Often, Andy and I disagree on a multitude of policy issues. Nevertheless, on at least one issue, we are quite in agreement: gay folks deserve the same rights and responsibilities as the rest of us.

While Andy happens to be gay, I am not. Neither is Jon Kislak, a Floridian active in Republican politics. Mr. Kislak, Andy, I and many others appreciate that your sexual orientation should not be an obstacle to enjoying the same civil rights that heterosexuals have. While I seem unable to put in an excerpt at what if?, please do go to Andy’s site to see what Mr. Kislak has to say. (Just a little warning; you’ll have to scroll down a lot of pro-DNC stuff before you get to it. Forewarned is forearmed! :) )

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Home & Land Defense

There’s a moment in Mark Steyn’s book America Alone, where he relates the truism that we’ve all experienced conversations with a mild-mannered, educated and seemingly rational person from the Arab world, where quite unexpectedly they say something nutty in the most casual way. “Of course the Jews planned 9-11″ for instance. As Steyn notes, when this happens it’s a peculiar form of media and culture-shock, and you’re not quite certain what to say in response. But this strange cultural dissonance can also be experienced between Europeans and Americans just as easily on certain issues.


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The Muhammad-pedia Controversy

After their success getting the Muhammad cartoons banned, some Muslims have now set their sights on wikipedia. Recently a large group of Muslims have started an email campaign asking wikipedia to remove their images of their holy prophet Muhammad, even going so far as to start an online petition that has received over 80,000 signatures.

“It’s totally unacceptable to print the prophet’s picture,” Saadia Bukhari from Pakistan wrote in a message. “It shows insensitivity towards Muslim feelings and should be removed immediately.”

Thankfully wikipedia says they are staying true to the idealism the site was founded on, and doesn’t find it “unacceptable” to “[show] insensitivity towards Muslim feelings”.

“Since Wikipedia is an encyclopedia with the goal of representing all topics from a neutral point of view, Wikipedia is not censored for the benefit of any particular group.”

I can only hope that this stays a peaceful online protest and doesn’t descend into an online version of the violence that the cartoon controversy did.


I also want to add what I think is a much larger point about these types of protests. From the Paul Cobb, who teaches Islamic history at Notre Dame, “The idea of imposing a ban on all depictions of people, particularly Muhammad, dates to the 20th century”. This is a very recent phenomenon and does not represent any consensus of world wide Muslims. It isn’t some ancient commandmet being violated, it’s a politicization of a cultural taboo, if you can even call it that.

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Good Intentions; Frightening Results


This morning, I read a column from the Wall Street Journal about race.

Just when we thought we’d heard everything from the diversity police, here they come trying to prescribe even the color of charity. The California Assembly last week passed a bill sponsored by state Representative Joe Coto to require foundations with assets of more than $250 million to disclose the race, gender and sexual orientation of their trustees, staff, and even grantees. Look for this to arrive in a legislature near you.

A Berkeley-based advocacy group called the Greenlining Institute hatched this idea because, allegedly, racial minorities aren’t well enough represented in California policy debates. John Gamboa, Greenlining’s executive director, blames foundations for failing to donate enough money to “minority-led” think tanks and community groups and businesses, and he hopes this legislation will “shame” them into giving more. What counts as a minority-led organization? According to Greenlining, the board and staff should both be more than 50% minority.

Obviously, some people find this to be a good idea; it would not have passed otherwise. I, however, find it frightening.

Not long after the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC opened, I visited. While some of the focus, obviously, of the museum is Europe’s Holocaust, much of the museum also highlights the varied offshoots of classifying human beings by their race and religion. Several of the exhibits are immensely powerful. One of those is a photographic explanation of how Nazis classified humans by race.

The exhibit shows photographs of people from all over the world – and describes how Nazis classified them. Measure the skull, look at how the eyes are spaced, judge the pigment of the skin …. That’s how they ultimately selected between people who were worthy of being part of their “Master Race” – and those who should be shunned, tortured – and/or murdered.

While I know that the intentions of those who pass a law such as the one above are intended to do good, I am confident it will achieve anything but. Ultimately, the simple classification of humans into these separate races creates a pernicious cloud above all of us.

Who is the ultimate judge of someone’s exact racial DNA? Why should that make a difference in the charitable work that those individuals are doing?

We are – every one of us – members of the human race. I implore these lawmakers to revisit their despicable law harkening back to the thoughts of the Nazi era and junk them. The shape of someone’s nose; the curl of their hair; the color of their skin. Absolutely none of it should have any bearing on their worth as a human being.

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You Get What You Pay For



(Cross posted at What if?)

Did Rudy lose because the purportedly “ruthless” candidate was too nice?

Most critical in the closing days of the contest, when he desperately needed to reinsert himself into the narrative, was Giuliani’s inexplicable refusal to draw contrasts with his rivals, especially the surging McCain, whose votes were coming directly out of the former mayor’s hide.

“Within the campaign, there was broad strategic consensus to engage the opposition,” shared a frustrated adviser. “But whether it was subtle or aggressive or stuff in between, the reality was that it was his decision, and his opinion was that that was not the way he wanted to run campaign.”

“He just didn’t want to do [contrast ads],” said another source close to the campaign. “He rejected a lot offers.”

“You see what that gets you — maybe McCain will send him a thank you note.”


“I’m proud that we chose to stay positive,” Giuliani said after the Florida results were known. Even beyond his unwillingness to launch negative ads, in fact, Giuliani declined to raise direct contrasts with his rivals on the campaign trail.

Of course, I do not know if this evaluation is accurate or not. If it is, however – those of us who bemoan the nastiness and brutality of some campaigns should realize: we get what we pay for. If we do not reward candidates who attempt to run above board, based-on-the-issues campaigns, then we will not see more of them in the future.

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People are People

Bad Are you a liberal who foams at the mouth about the immorality of big business?  Are you a conservative who rails about giving ten cents to government employees who will waste it or steal it?

Turns out you are all right!

Let’s face it.  People are people.  Some of us rise to the occasion magnificently.  Some of us are utter low lives.  Most of us are in the middle; we basically live a decent life, but have our moments of acting poorly.

No matter where each of us falls, however, the bottom line is that government and the private sector has its share of bad apples.

The study, released yesterday by the nonprofit Ethics Resource Center, found that nearly 60 percent of government employees at all levels — federal, state and local — had witnessed violations of ethical standards, policy or laws in their workplaces within the last year.

Observed misconduct was lowest at the federal level, with 52 percent of federal workers surveyed saying they had witnessed problems such as conflicts of interest, abusive behavior, alterations of documents and financial records and lying to employees, vendors or the public within the last year. . . .

The sooner we all recognize this simple fact, the more rapidly we can get to superior solutions to lowering the ill effects of such activity.

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“First They Came for the Gays”


(Cross posted at What if?)

My liberal friends think I’m a conservative. My conservative friends think I’m a liberal. Frankly – there is truth in the assessment of both groups. Depending upon the issue, you can honestly label me with both.

One issue that continues to gnaw at me is that of equal rights for gay people. Again – I am bothered by positions by both conservatives and liberals on this topic! Too many conservatives either do not appreciate the burdens that gay folks must experience today, despite improvement in recent years. Others are out and out homophobes. On the liberal side, too many seem unaware of the relationship between the battle against radical Islam and the fight for equality for gay people.

Bruce Bawer has a column which highlights these points. Whether your general philosophy is of a conservative bent or a liberal one – please read this and take it to heart. Have more consideration for your gay neighbor. If you already do – then please realize that his rights are under terrible threat in societies that you consider to be “enlightened.”

Europe is on its way down the road of Islamization, and it’s reached a point along that road at which gay people’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is being directly challenged, both by knife-wielding bullies on the street and by taxpayer-funded thugs whose organizations already enjoy quasi-governmental authority. Sharia law may still be an alien concept to some Westerners, but it’s staring gay Europeans right in the face – and pointing toward a chilling future for all free people. Pim Fortuyn saw all this coming years ago; most of today’s European leaders still refuse to see it even though it’s right before their eyes.

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This is truly disturbing-Updated

Walk Away

I really have little to add to my declaration of extreme discomfort.

Much more on this here.

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Education and Socialization

All four of my children have been homeschooled, and one of the complaints about homeschooling that irritates me the most, is that it is socially damaging.

My children have various social strengths and weaknesses, just as kids I knew in school, and adults I know now. For the life of me the worst argument for public school is the socialization assertion. My children certainly are not less comfortable in society at large, and I think those of you who know them will say they in general are more comfortable with themselves and their place in it than most children their age. At minimum they are doing better than many of my friends did at the same age. Possibly however my children are an exception, but my experience tells me no, homeschoolers are in general doing just fine relative to their institutionalized peers.

Anyway, Wulf over at Atlas Blogged, a teacher himself, explains very well why this complaint is invalid:

As a teacher, this is the aspect of schools that frustrates me the most – parents and students somehow assume that school prepares children for the “real world”, but school is not the “real world” and we go to great lengths as a society to ensure that. In the real world, you don’t have to take gym class if you’re fat or scrawny or just don’t like it. You don’t automatically get promoted when you show minimum competence. You don’t get detention for chewing gum, and you don’t just get two weeks off work if you beat somebody up at the office. You choose which interests to pursue, and when to choose them, and your level of success and happiness is dependent on those choices. I have no idea why people think the artificial society that exists in fifth grade would in some way prepare children for the “real world”. It can be a rewarding, enriching, wonderfully educational experience, but it certainly isn’t automatically these things, nor is it at all clear that public schools are the best way to have these things.

This is in response to this comment from Mom is Teaching that describes a large part of what attracted me to homeschooling:

I feel that the best place to prepare them for college and for life as an adult is by letting them be a part of the real world. Where they have to get to class on time of their own accord and not because of some distant bell ringing or adult lecturing, where they must manage themselves, and where they can direct their own educational futures… [Bryan]’s right. It takes a village. The baker, the farmer, the police, all the people in the real world who haven’t set foot in a classroom since they graduated. Luckily homeschoolers don’t spend 8 hours a day stuck in a brick bubble…they get to be a part of the real world every day.

My children missed some things by not being in “regular” school. However, they had a wider, more open, social experience with people of a much larger range of ages and backgrounds. Everybody else missed all of that. They wouldn’t change it I promise you. Go ahead and read the whole thing, but I’ll make one more observation.

I had a great High School experience, at a very special place. I went to an awful Junior High, and a pretty good elementary school. All public schools.

What struck me as an adult, though, is who came up with the idea that the healthiest way to raise our children was to have me in an environment where the predominant influence on my life was hundreds of other 13 year olds and  a few outnumbered adults trying to ride herd on us. Exactly what about that is expected to necessarily produce a healthy, mature outlook on life? It is a surreal environment in reality.

I think it says a lot for many of the teachers and students that such an unreal environment produces so many productive adults. We ask children to work in ways at age 8 that as adults the most prominent companies in the world know would shut them down. Can you imagine a work environment where your behavior was so circumscribed? Could you get any work done? Sitting in rows in little desks. No leaning back in your chair, no waste basket basketball, getting up and pacing, whatever are your work patterns. That is fine for only the most repetitive and automatic of tasks.

Anyway, as I said, read the whole thing.

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Take Two

Earlier in the day, you might have been wondering how much of your assets might melt away, as markets around the world gyrated with perceived increasingly negative news. Later, on political blogs everywhere, reports that Fred Thompson was ending a run for his party’s nomination.

Then, news that a young and successful actor had died, most likely from a drug overdose.

Usually my evenings are a strange brew of real estate work, reading blogs, playing or watching bridge online, editing photographs, and so forth. In the background, talking heads on the various political shows fill me in on what has happened during the day – occasionally inducing some mental error while I compete!

Tonight, I thought that a majority of these shows would be devoted to discussing the future for Republicans now that Fred was dropping out.


Oh, yes; Thompson got some time. But – just as on the Internet (Fred; 174 hits; Heath Ledger, over 1,800) – almost all the focus was the death of Ledger.

Please do not misunderstand me. The death of a vibrant young person is a terrible tragedy. I myself have faced the illness of addiction in my own family, and words can barely express the pain and the awful outcomes that it can produce.

Still. On political cable channels, would one expect hour upon hour of focus about a movie star, rather than on the people who will soon lead our country? I would not – but – once again, I prove myself to be a poor prognosticator of what might occur.

Back to the politics. Fred wasn’t “my guy” (Rudy was and is). Yet, Thompson would have been “my guy” had he gotten the nomination. Smart, humble, straightforward, intelligent … I particularly loved when he stood up to that ridiculous interviewer in Iowa, who wanted him to state in one or two words what he thought about some of the most important issues facing us. He wouldn’t do it. If Fred couldn’t have the opportunity to really explain his viewpoint – at least 30 or 45 seconds! – well then, he would not play along.

I wish we had more like him.

And, as long as I am wishing, I wish that whoever does get the nod to be our next president might have some insight about addiction. The War on Drugs and “Just Say No” have been sad failures. I don’t know the answers. I only hope that others may have a glimmer of a solution.

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Parade of Fools

Behold the band of idiots.

JENA, La. (Jan. 21) – The residents of this central Louisiana town, who watched their community turn into a battleground over the “Jena Six,” will watch out-of-towners doing most of the marching on the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr.

The Nationalist Movement, a white supremacist group headquartered in Learned, Miss., planned what it called “Jena Justice Day” on Monday.

Organization spokesman Richard Barrett said the group wants to voice its opposition to the King holiday and to the Jena Six, a group of black teenagers accused of beating a white schoolmate shortly after a noose was hung on the campus of Jena High School.

“We want to see the holiday returned to Washington’s birthday, something that celebrates the people that made this country great,” Barrett said Sunday.

Barrett’s group planned a noon march from the LaSalle Parish Courthouse to the high school and back, and an afternoon of speeches. He did not say how many protesters were expected.

“We’ll have speakers and an open mike,” Barrett said. “The people of this town have still not had their say in all of this.”

Barrett is upset over the rally for the black teens held in September that drew over 20,000. That group was protesting charges of attempted second-degree murder against the six. Those charges have since been reduced to second-degree battery.

One might ask, quite reasonably, why are these idiots getting so much attention? If the white supremacist groups held a march and nobody came, wouldn’t that be the best of both worlds: free speech being accompanied by the consequences of speaking hate filled nonsense?

Yes. Yes it would. However, the problem here is not that these idiots are in the spotlight, but why they are there. To find the reason why, look no further than the bolded sentence above which is nothing more than a myth.

The myths started when a Jena High student asked a silly question about who could sit under a campus tree to extend a school assembly, writes Franklin, whose wife teaches at Jena High. Blacks and whites routinely sat under the tree.

The next day, three white students put nooses on the tree. They said it was a prank aimed at white friends on the school rodeo team. They’d got the idea from watching “Lonesome Dove.”

The committee further concluded that the three young teens had no knowledge that nooses symbolize the terrible legacy of the lynchings of countless blacks in American history. When informed of this history by school officials, they became visibly remorseful because they had many black friends.

Three months later, when six blacks ambushed a white student and beat him unconscious, nobody mentioned the noose incident as a reason for the attack. The victim had nothing to do with the nooses.

The “Jena 6″ became a cause célèbre because some seemingly unjustifiable charges were levied against six black students in what was a felonious enough assault to begin with. Then the usual race-baiters came along and turned the ordeal into a circus.

But the circus could have ended there if it were not for a media completely incapable of, and apparently uninterested in, doing its job. The “noose myth” survives to this day (much like the manifold Katrina myths) because the people who write, edit and distribute the news don’t care about getting it right. All they care about is producing a story that fits within their predominant world view where a noose equals racism in all cases, where white racism is the cause of every problem (especially in the South) not laid at the foot of free-wheelin’ capitalism, and where a high school student getting beaten by six thugs had it coming because he’s a white southerner and the thugs were black victims. In short, news reporters don’t report anything; they tell stories and expect us to accept them as fact.

When myths are presented as fact, the natural consequence is that the media creates space for idiots like the Nationalist Movement to stand firmly upon and shout their nonsense. Whites are being demonized in this instance for no good reason because that’s what the narrative tells the media to do. Just like with the Duke Lacrosse fiasco, the media saw an angle and ran with it, despite the copious evidence revealing just how wrong their narrative is. Now marchers will clash in Jena, the media will tell a new story conveniently equating all white people in Louisiana with the Nationalist Movement, and helpfully suggest that this is the underlying cause of the horrible injustice perpetrated upon those fine young citizens who shall forever be known as the “Jena 6.” And the biggest casualty of all will be the truth, which holds no court on this day in Louisiana.

I honestly don’t think this is what Dr. King had in mind when he wrote:

So the question is not whether we will be extremist but what kind of extremist will we be. Will we be extremists for hate or will we be extremists for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice–or will we be extremists for the cause of justice?

There is no justice when truth is murdered.

One last comment: few things bother me more than willful ignorance. Admittedly, I’m not one to suffer fools gladly, but simple ignorance is mostly curable while refusing to acknowledge reality in favor of a “narrative” borders on true evil. I say borders because, in my mind, true evil is the total absence of truth, the negation of rationality, and the tyrannical rule of myth. Where true evil reigns, your thoughts are not your own, but instead are the subject of an omnipresent authority that completely encompasses your reality. You can’t believe your lying eyes because it is illegal to do so, and you will be found out. So when the media actively creates, fosters and promotes myths as truth, they do so in support of evil.

With respect to the Jena 6, it is evil to blame others for their own problems, and to cast them with virtues they have not earned. It is evil to overshadow questionable prosecutorial practices with made-up racial hate crimes and thus deny the justice that was due in favor of myth creation. It is evil to perpetuate that myth when the truth is not just known, it is actively eschewed. It is evil to report myth as fact.

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3rd Party Startup

Bill Quick has an interesting discussion over at the American Conservative Party, on what such a party might look like.

Says Bill:

My gut feeling is that the traditionally American conservative viewpoint has been constitutional in nature, has tended toward limited, inexpensive government, and focused on individual liberty.

This can be an inclusive of a range of individual positions. For those of us tired of both the Democrats and Republicans, the discussion should be an interesting one.

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Nigerian Virgins Wanted

Nigerian orange girls
(photo: enric/baldiri)

Nigerian magazine editor Madam Adunni Adediran, is appalled by the decline of traditional moral conduct in her country. In particular she’s concerned about rampant promiscuity and abortions among young women. To combat the trends she’s helped organize a ceremonial celebration called “Nigerian Virgin Girls” this month in Lagos. Prizes for participation include certificates of virtue, gold jewelry and university scholarships, if the girls can establish they’ve had no carnal knowledge of a man.

Well, remembering college life quite well, it seems to me that if you want to keep women virgins, sending them to college might not be the wisest idea in the world.

Not to make too much light of the problem of youthful promiscuity in Nigeria or the commendable effort to promote chastity against it. Even though the HIV epidemic in Africa is substantially less serious in Nigeria, in 2005 it was estimated there were 2,900,000 people living with the disease there. A sobering figure. And while group celebrations of a rather private matter such as sexual indulgence might seem peculiar in the West (even though it happens), it’s far easier to accept within the communal traditions of Africa.

There was also this peculiar remark from Madame Adediran:

“Last year October was when I got the initiative. I found out that men use the blood, pure blood from virgins for money rituals But if a girl is being disvirgined by her husband, it’s a pride for the family, and respect for the family members.”

While that’s new to me (and would tend to suggest an advantage for losing one’s virginity), there’s also the horrifying problem of a common belief among many Nigerian men that sleeping with a young virgin can cure HIV and other diseases. Prostitution and international sex slavery are also among the many hurdles young Nigerian women face.

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Perfunction Awakens the Mighty King of Trolls


The other day Perfunction posted David Duke’s political advice for the Ron Paul campaign. The noxious white nationalist’s recommendations being essentially that while Paul was great, he needs to be just a wee bit more, you know, anti-Semitic.

Anyway, it made enough rounds on the blogs that apparently the news reached Duke himself. He emerged from the depths of his cold and dark lair to personally troll Perfunction, lashing out at the Iraq war and “Jewish Neocons.” An excerpt from the comments thread:

From the beginning it was a war based on lies for Israel and not for the United States, and as I predicted, as anyone can check out, it has been a catastrophe for America (and the Iraqi people) on every level. The only ones who have really benefited is Israel (which is quite happy for the war) and Al Qaida.

Trillions of dollars wasted, tens of thousands of American lives lost or ruined, more hatred against America.

All because the Jewish extremists who dominate the American media could lie about “weapons of mass destruction” without hardly any fear of contradiction.
(David Duke trolling Perfunction via LGF)

The more you read comments like this, you begin to wonder why it is that the far left and far right haven’t yet settled their differences (assuming they still have any) and joined forces completely.

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Fighting the Mafia with Social Networking

In a bottom-up rebellion in Sicily, a group of Palermo youths have started a social networking site called Addiopizzo, which provides public attention and mutual support for Sicilian businesses which publicly refuse to pay the mafia “protection” money. Evidently it’s starting to deplete the mob of what has long been its most stable revenue source.

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The Constant Viewer has resurfaced

One of my favorite bloggers has resurfaced, and I am hurt, hurt, hurt that D. A. Ridgely didn’t let his fans (okay, me) know to where he had disappeared. He is now blogging at Positive Liberty, and the blogosphere has now gone from diminished by his absence to a place where civil, insightful cultural and political commentary has once again one of its finer practitioners.

I wasn’t going to avoid Charlie Wilson’s war, but his review makes me want to see it all the more. I also appreciate his dead on cautionary note on the ending. D. A. is quite comfortable with the ambiguous and uncertain nature of our world, including the past, a trait in foreign policy discussions which is quite rare and much needed in this time. Unfortunately, such admitted lack of certainty pays little dividends in gaining adherents. Thus the rise of the neo-cons, and their alter ego’s, who preach a certainty and confidence in their views which attracts to our great loss. It also means there is little market for such commentary, and probably one of the reasons he spends comparatively little time entering the fray.

I also recommend his thoughts inspired by Jonah Goldberg’s new book I brought up here.

Glad to have you back D.A.

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The paradox of choice

An interesting TED talk on how to many choices are making us miserable. I’ve been seeing more and more people referring to these talks. Everyone I’ve sat through has been interesting in some way.

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“XMas” Origins

Jon Henke posts an interesting history lesson concerning the origins of the well-known abbreviation for Christmas:

Growing up, I sometimes heard – in church and from various religious scolds – that XMas was a secular attempt to “take Christ out of Christmas”, rather than, say, an attempt to save valuable space on signs.

Jon then links to an entry from

Claim: ‘Xmas’ is a modern, disrespectful abbreviation of the word ‘Christmas.’

Status: False.

Origins: The abbreviation of ‘Xmas’ for ‘Christmas’ is neither modern nor disrespectful. The notion that it is a new and vulgar representation of the word ‘Christmas’ seems to stem from the erroneous belief that the letter ‘X’ is used to stand for the word ‘Christ’ because of its resemblance to a cross, or that the abbreviation was deliberately concocted “to take the ‘Christ’ out of Christmas.” Actually, this usage is nearly as old as Christianity itself, and its origins lie in the fact that the first letter in the Greek word for ‘Christ’ is ‘chi,’ and the Greek letter ‘chi’ is represented by a symbol similar to the letter ‘X’ in the modern Roman alphabet. Hence ‘Xmas’ is indeed perfectly legitimate abbreviation for the word ‘Christmas’ (just as ‘Xian’ is also sometimes used as an abbreviation of the word ‘Christian’).

None of this means that Christians (and others) aren’t justified in feeling slighted when people write ‘Xmas’ rather than ‘Christmas,’ but the point is that the abbreviation was not created specifically for the purpose of demeaning Christ, Christians, Christianity, or Christmas – it’s a very old artifact of a very different language.

In point of fact, “XMas” is actually an abbreviation of an abbreviation. The Greek letters “Chi” (X) and “Rho” (R) were often used to represent Christ in ancient texts (since the original New Testament was written primarily in Greek), the most widely known example of which can be found in the Book of Kells.

Chi Rho

That’s an ‘X’ not a ‘P’ on the top, and the “Rho” is found directly underneath. A clearer depiction of this page can be found here. Together, ‘XR’ means “Christ”, and therefore the abbreviation ‘XRMas’ would be the true and correct abbreviation for Christmas.

Of course, that would look really silly and would appear to be prompting people to pronounce the word “Chr-mas”, or worse “Exermas”, neither or which is desirable or correct. Instead, we drop the “Rho” to get “XMas” which seems more phonetically pleasing somehow, and has the added bonus of being even easier to display in great big signs for holiday shopping.

All of which leads to Jon’s wise admonishment:

Let’s add to this one more valuable lesson: Don’t take offense where none is intended. You’ll end up with a martyr mentality, objecting to XMas and imagining a “War on Christmas.”

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We’re All Teen Girls Now

“Teen pregnancy can happen to everybody.”

Bill Albert, Deputy Director of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, commenting on the recent revelation that 16 y.o. Jamie Lynn Spears is pregnant.

I’m guessing that I don’t need to explain why that’s stupidest thing I’ve heard all week, and probably this month. It’s certainly in the running to be the dumbest thing I’ll hear all year, although both major political parties are heading into the first primary of the season, and Joe Biden is still one of the candidates. So there’s still time, Joe!

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Happy Repeal Day!

For information on Repeal Day you can visit

The turn of the twentieth century was a dark time in America. The Women’s Christian Temperance Union, which had been promoting Prohibition for many years, believed alcohol was the cause of many, if not all, social ills. Mistruths like this were spread. Lines were drawn. Bars and taverns were vandalized. People were killed. On January 16th, 1919, Congress passed the Volstead Act, outlawing alcohol and ostensibly putting an end to drunkenness, crime, mental illness, and poverty.


Repeal Day is not widely celebrated in this country, yet it commemorates the anniversary of the day the United States repealed the Eighteenth Amendment and gave Americans the constitutional ability to consume alcohol.

Here are a few reasons why we think Repeal Day should be a celebrated day in the United States:

It’s the perfect time of year.

Conveniently located halfway between Thanksgiving and Christmas — at a time when most Americans are probably not spending time with family — Repeal Day presents a wonderful occasion to get together with friends and pay tribute to our constitutional rights.

We have the constitutional ability to do so.

The American FlagUnlike St. Patrick’s Day or Cinco de Mayo, Repeal Day is a day that all Americans have a part in observing, because it’s written in our Constitution. No other holiday celebrates the laws that guarantee our rights, and Repeal Day has everything to do with our personal pleasures.

It’s easy!

There are no outfits to buy, costumes to rent, rivers to dye green. Simply celebrate the day by stopping by your local bar, tavern, saloon, winery, distillery, or brewhouse and having a drink. Pick up a six-pack on your way home from work. Split a bottle of wine with a loved one. Buy a shot for a stranger. Just do it because you can.

Thanks for reading about what we hope will become a celebrated day in this country. Please help spread the word about Repeal Day, and tell a friend.


In celebration of the repeal of Prohibition I give you this from Reason TV:

For more Repeal Day errata, I highly recommend Dewars terrific website filled with historical video, proper Repeal Day conduct and drinking songs.

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Feminism vs Multiculturalism – UPDATED

The radicals over at N.O.W. continue to be in a pickle over their support or at least their inaction over a case where one set of values conflicts with another set of values. How can you defend womens rights, and not condemn the treatment some cultures or some people, give towards women.

Why is it so hard to say that this treatment is completely out of line with the supposed crime? Do they fear offending Muslims so much, that they dare not criticize them?,2933,313426,00.html

A spokeswoman for the National Organization for Women said the situation “is definintely on the radar, and N.O.W. is not ignoring it.

But she added that the U.S.-based organization is “not putting out a statement or taking a position.”

Radio personality Tammy Bruce, former president of the Los Angles chapter of the National Organization for Women and past member of their board of directors, criticized the organization for not taking a stand.

“We have a duty to make a difference for women around the world,” Bruce told FOX News. “The supposed feminist establishment is refusing to take a position in this regard because they have no sensibility of what is right anymore. They’re afraid of offending people. They are bound by political correctness.”

“The American feminist movement has not taken one stand to support the women of Iraq, the women of Afghanistan, the women of Iran,” she said. “It is the United States Marines who have been doing the feminist work by liberating women and children around the world.”


Roger Simon notices a similar problem within the movie industry.

For Vietnam: The evils of communism could be and were rationalized by the left as a plea for social equality in an economically unjust world. For Iraq: The evils of Islamofascism and just plain fascism are considerably harder, indeed almost impossible, to rationalize.

This problem is particularly true for Hollywood because the evils of Islamofascism – notably extreme misogyny and homophobia – are justifiably big no-nos to people in the Industry. In fact, they are close to the biggest no-nos of all for them in their daily lives. Who is worse than a sexist pig? Only a violent, murderous sexist pig who wants to take over the world. It then becomes a complex balancing act indeed to make a movie that ignores or downplays this in order to criticize the US as the larger villain. No one has been able to come close to pulling off this balancing act in a film. In fact, it may well be impossible because it is fundamentally dishonest.

So the filmmaker is reduced to the idea that our problem is that we are fighting these obvious (and largely unspoken) evils in the wrong way. But there is no easy way to fight anything. Or even to not fight it. Otherwise we would be living in a perfect world. So the idea itself is not even possible, yielding yet another level of fakery. No wonder these films seem inauthentic.

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Slippery Slope

Dog Bride I guess “man bites dog” is :

NEW DELHI – A man in southern India married a female dog in a traditional Hindu ceremony as an attempt to atone for stoning two other dogs to death — an act he believes cursed him — a newspaper reported Tuesday.

P. Selvakumar married the sari-draped former stray named Selvi, chosen by family members and then bathed and clothed for the ceremony Sunday at a Hindu temple in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, the Hindustan Times newspaper said.

Selvakumar, 33, told the paper he had been suffering since he stoned two dogs to death and hung their bodies from a tree 15 years ago.

Scott Adams comments:

A number of things struck me about this wedding. I shall start with the most obvious jokes first.

The report was quick to mention that the dog is female. That was a relief because allowing a man to marry a gay dog would be a slippery slope.

Heh. Adams has more so RTWT.

Actually this whole incident just prompts to wonder what sort of skeletons my wife has in her closet that she had to atone for by marrying me. Come to think of it, I probably don’t want to know.

[HT: Megan McArdle]

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Cracked Toys

Hat Tip: Tyler

Please run through this list of baffling toys. Please leave responses. People who understand Japan are especially encouraged to leave comments. I need to understand the fascination with poop.

This is a practice stripper poll, that was yanked from toy store shelves in the U.K. last year when some fussy killjoys questioned whether it was a good idea to market stripper poles toward children.

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Oh, To Be a Fat Cat

The New York Times has a nice piece on the latest health research on the impact of weight on health. Of course, like most nutrition and weight related research we should approach it with some caution as John Tierney has discussed at great length (or breadth?)

I actually enjoy the social history in it the best. Somewhere in all my study of history I missed this little tidbit:

Dr. Brown is among those social scientists who say that being thin really isn’t about health, anyway, but about social class and control.

When food was scarce and expensive, they say, only the rich could afford to be fat. Thus, in the 19th century, well-do-do men with paunches joined Fat Men’s Clubs, which gave rise to the term “fat cat.”

I also found this amusing:

Dr. Brown, the Emory anthropologist, related how in the 1950s, white South African public health officials tried to warn people in a Zulu community about the dangers of obesity. They put up two posters.

One showed a fat woman standing next to an overloaded truck with a flat tire. “Both carry too much weight,” the poster said. The other showed a thin woman sweeping up dirt under a table while a fat woman stood nearby, leaning on the table for support. “Who do you want to look like,” the poster asked.

The Zulus thought the first poster showed a fortunate woman, so rich that she was fat and with so many possessions that her truck was overloaded. As for the second poster, they thought the thin woman was the servant, working for the obviously affluent fat woman.

Well, if fat is not as big a problem as previously thought, then I am in the right state.  Plenty of overweight people and food that makes you not care. I think that means Gumbo for lunch.

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It Must Be So

Bono says it is, so it must be so…

“There is an imminent threat,” says Bono. “It’s real and grave. It is as serious a threat as Stalinism and National Socialism. Let’s not pretend it isn’t.” Exactly. Be afraid.

Well, maybe he’s just playing the politics of fear…

Jonathan Evans, in an extraordinary public appearance, reports his outfit is watching more than 2,000 terrorism supporters in the U.K., homegrown and otherwise, a number that is up exponentially over a year ago. And building. It’s clear, Evans says, that Al Qaeda masterminds are recruiting hordes of disaffected youngsters and have “a clear determination to mount terrorist attacks.”

Pooh, predictably yawns a member of Britain’s opposition party: nothing but “breathless talk.” There’s a lot of that going around. In America, for example, one presidential hopeful thinks any mention of Islamic extremism is just “the politics of fear.”

But if people who warn about Islamic extremism are just playing the “politics of fear,” then what are the alarmists who are warning about the extreme effects of global warming doing???

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Rich People Prefer Democrats

Or, at least, that’s what the data says:

In a surprising development, the Financial Times reports that the Democratic Party – traditionally the party of minorities and the lower classes – has become the party of the rich.

More and more Democrats represent areas with a high concentration of wealthy households. Using Internal Revenue Service data, the Heritage Foundation identified two categories of taxpayers – single filers with incomes of more than $100,000 and married filers with incomes of more than $200,000 – and combined them to discern where the wealthiest Americans live and who represents them.

The results? “Democrats now control the majority of the nation’s wealthiest congressional jurisdictions. More than half of the wealthiest households are concentrated in the 18 states where Democrats control both Senate seats.”

That’s from Michael van der Galiën (who you should be reading every day), who also ponders if Democratic policy making will be effected by this revelation.

While the fact that a large majority of the very wealthy vote Democratic probably comes as no surprise to anyone living in one of the major metropolises, there are a couple of grains of salt to take with this report:

(1) Those meeting the income thresholds for this report aren’t necessarily all that rich when looking at their peers in places like New York City, Los Angeles, or Washington, D.C. For example, making $100,000 where I live is good money, but not exactly “rich.” They’re not poor either, but the fact that they make a much larger salary than someone in Galax, Virginia, or Sibley, Iowa shouldn’t confuse people into thinking that they’re all flying private jets to the Hamptons for the weekend.

(2) Democratic voters tend to live in or near big cities. The reasons are unimportant for this discussion, but it is a fact. People who live in or near big cities also tend to have incomes larger than people living in more rural areas (as set forth in (1) above).

Ergo, if Democratic voters choose to live in urban areas of the country where salaries are higher (but so is the cost of living) wouldn’t it make sense that “richer” people vote Democratic?

Seems that way to me.

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