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June 30, 2002

A spanking good commentary

I couldn't agree more.

I don't, however, recommend belts.

Posted by susanna at 11:58 PM | Comments (1)

Israel Kills Suspected Hamas Leader

It's a good start:

An Israeli tank shelled a house in the West Bank city of Nablus on Sunday, killing a suspected Hamas bombmaker whose work is blamed for the deaths of at least 100 Israelis in suicide bombings.

Now, go kill the rest of them.

Posted by susanna at 10:58 PM | Comments (2)

Wide-eyed discovery

Denis MacShane, a journalist-turned-British Labour MP, has suddenly discovered what he calls “advocacy journalism”:

Traditionally, we have reporters on news pages and commentators on the op-ed pages. Now we can turn to a news page in many of our papers and find opinion-laden articles that tell us what the journalist thinks, rather than facts and quotes attributed to a named source.

...we now have, in addition to reporting journalists and comment journalists, a new third category – advocacy journalists. They are out not to find truth, but to destroy opponents. The complex nuances of grown-up government are too boring for them. They cannot be bothered to report Commons debates or get on-the-record quotes.

He actually admits it’s not really new, dating back at least to 1997:

We enjoyed advocacy journalism when it hurt John Major.

But, you see, it’s biting back and so he’s aghast:

The advocacy journalists – right and left – are hostile to a Labour government, old or new. Advocacy journalism now predominates in our tabloids and increasingly in our broadsheets...

The application of "spin" has turned back to gouge holes in its Labour creators. But when Alastair Campbell was writing as an advocacy journalist, at least the Conservatives had a phalanx of loyal Tory papers to rely on. Now the once- Labour papers, such as the Daily Mirror, use advocacy journalism to play in the same anti-Labour team as the Mail and Telegraph.

It’s pretty funny that he’s up in arms now that it’s “devouring” Labour. And what’s his solution? Why, a stronger Conservative opposition party:

A moderate, post-Thatcherite Conservative Party would give Labour a political run for its money by filling the news pages with argument and policy...

Does he want this because it’s better for the country to have these debates? Because maybe Conservatives have something to say? No, it’s to draw some of the fire away from Labour. He thinks Conservatives are no threat:

Unlike the broad pro-Euro centrism of the parties of the right in France, Spain and Germany, the hard-right policies of the British Tories render them unelectable.

It’s nice to know his primary interest is getting important issues out on the table. I credit him with as much concern about truth and accuracy as I do the one he says sounds the alarm – David Brock.

Nice to know that Denis doesn’t fall victim to advocacy journalism himself.

I'm not saying that advocacy journalism doesn't exist, or that it's a good thing. You know I think media carries its biases into its reporting, the question is only to what degree. "Slice 'n dice" journalism under the guise of straight reporting is always inappropriate, whether it's from the right or left slant. But this kind of vacuous discovery and whining on the part of a former journalist and current politician is just, well, hysterically funny.

Posted by susanna at 09:43 PM | Comments (0)

That's my silence!

You have to wonder if people sit up nights just thinking up this kind of thing. On the other hand, I know a number of musicians I wish would cover these "songs".

In case you're not sure, mocking is in order.

[Link via Ipse Dixit]

UPDATE: CG Hill claims on Dustbury that all silence is not created equal. He seems to know more about this than me. But then, my involvements with silence are uneasy and rarely of long duration.

Posted by susanna at 09:11 PM | Comments (2)

Of birds and bees and corn and thee

Fred First at Fragments from Floyd (Virginia) shucks the whole ear about procreation and the corn patch.

Now I'm gonna be hinky about eating baby corn.

Posted by susanna at 08:21 PM | Comments (0)

Bare facts about candidate’s early exposure

From the cut on the bias Cincinnati, OH, bureau chief Dave Menke comes this link about the naked truth behind the early career of a Republican candidate for Kentucky governor.

Posted by susanna at 01:51 PM | Comments (0)

A personal report

Meryl Yourish had dinner with me last night. Here's the scoop.

(And she's not just joking about the stats.)

Posted by susanna at 09:47 AM | Comments (3)

Quote of the day

Supreme Court Chief Justice (then Justice) William Rehnquist, dissenting, in Furman vs. Georgia, 1974.

Rehnquist...emphasized the need for judicial self-restraint, and stated that the most expansive reading of the leading constitutional cases did not remotely suggest that the Supreme Court had been granted a roving commission, either by the Founding Fathers or by the framers of the Fourteenth Amendment, to strike down laws which were based upon notions of policy or morality suddenly found unacceptable by a majority of the Supreme Court.

(Joined by Burger, Ch. J., Blackmun, J., and Powell, J. Furman vs. Georgia is the ruling that struck down the death penalty in 1974.)

Posted by susanna at 09:38 AM | Comments (0)

Van Houten conclusions

Yesterday I posted a question about whether Leslie Van Houten should be released from prison. I received excellent comments (thank you); obviously on the strength of this jury, Ms. Van Houten would be long dead.

I like to look at this kind of case because it highlights a basic question about our criminal justice system – what is its goal? The judge clearly thought rehabilitation was the point, as did Van Houten’s attorney (of course). The prosecutor (again, of course) thought the point was justice, which in our society typically indicates an eye for an eye mentality, thus resulting in a view that she should stay in prison because of the severity of her crime.

In my judgment, the answer is that, yes, she should stay in prison. It’s true that rehabilitation, in her case, likely succeeded. She probably wouldn’t be a threat to society once she was released; she committed her crimes under the influence of drugs, a compelling personality and (I think) a generalized societal shift in the younger population toward, basically, a teenage angst gone mad. But some crimes are so egregious that no mitigating circumstances (beyond a M’Naughten-like insanity proof) can truly bring the intent-to-harm ratio down sufficiently for release to be appropriate.

That exposes my own belief about the criminal justice system’s correctional goal – it should be focused first on retribution, then on reducing recidivism, then on rehabilitation. Retribution is, I think, a cleaner term for what many call “justice” – society has not just a right but a responsibility to act in the place of victims and relatives to exact payment for a wrong, however imperfectly that system operates in the United States. I think our system operates best, though, when the continuum starts with recidivism reduction/rehabilitation as the goal on the low end of crime – to protect citizens while enriching society with “reformed” people whose positive contributions will likely offset the original harm - with an increasingly retributive goal as the harm of the crime increases. Thus, for “petty” crimes – like marijuana use, shoplifting, vandalism, bar fights where no one is seriously hurt –treatment and various intensities of probation supervision will accomplish society’s goal best. As harm increases – in physical damage to humans, or to property – the level of retribution should increase too, although rehabilitation opportunities should always be available and encouraged. Ultimately, however, I think there is a point where harm is so great that the goal becomes pure retribution. In those cases, the only true right sentence is death.

As Dodd notes, the "legal anomaly” that resulted in Van Houten’s stay of execution has allowed the release of people who have gone on to kill again. The judge quoted – Krug – would likely see this as an acceptable risk in the interests of upholding the law. While I agree with him that generally someone given Van Houten’s current penalty is released a few decades into the sentence (the term is usually “25 to life”, meaning eligibility for parole first occurs 25 years into the sentence), this was not her original penalty and thus I don’t think it goes against the spirit of the law to not just allow but advocate an anomalous parole consideration process. I think keeping her in for the rest of her life does not in any way diminish the fairness of the law – if anything, it supports it.

In an aside, I also think the Christian concept of forgiveness is inappropriately invoked when the death penalty is discussed. Forgiveness is about the hereafter; consequences are about the here and now. Sometimes forgiveness can result in a staying or lessening of consequences, but the two are separate decisions, albeit with forgiveness having a role in decisions about consequences. It is neither unchristian nor immoral to find that society’s responsibility lies with taking the life of someone who has deliberately caused great harm. In fact, I think it is immoral not to.

Why, beyond Van Houten’s case, is this important to discuss? Because we are faced with other youths, repeatedly, who engage in versions of her type of crime – John Walker Lindh and the killers of Susanne and Half Zantop, the two New Hampshire professors, come to mind. The justifications that should keep Van Houten behind bars are the same ones that should send those men to the execution chamber.

Posted by susanna at 09:33 AM | Comments (6)

Startling morning realization

When someone turns the hot water on in the kitchen, the shower becomes very very cold.


Posted by susanna at 09:24 AM | Comments (2)

June 29, 2002

Should Leslie Van Houten be released on parole?

In 1969, as the love-children of the 60s lurched their drug-hazed way into the discoed 70s, a group of misfits under the guidance of an evil man with a Messiah complex slaughtered seven people over the course of two balmy California nights. Charles Manson and his band of killers were later sentenced to die for the crimes, which came to be known as the Tate-LaBianca murders. All the sentences were commuted to life in prison when the Supreme Court struck down the death penalty in the early 1970s.

Leslie Van Houten was 19 then, and the youngest of those sentenced to die. She is now in her early 50s and was this week denied parole for the 14th time. During the course of her incarceration, she has been a model of rehabilitation – she expresses remorse for the killings, she has earned a college degree, she has been very active in helping other women through various drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs. Her psychiatric evaluations, according to a judge, “clearly indicate that she is not a present danger to society and should be found suitable for parole."

Van Houten's lawyer, Christie Webb, says:

…she has shown remorse and has been rehabilitated…

"She was the youngest. She was vulnerable and she was controlled by drugs and clever manipulation," Webb said. "All that LSD changed the chemistry of her brain."

California Superior Court Judge Bob N. Krug:

…strongly admonished the board for flatly turning Van Houten down every time based solely on the crime. Such decisions, he said, ignore Van Houten's accomplishments in prison and turn her life sentence into life without parole, in violation of the law.

But Deputy District Attorney Stephen Kay believes it is precisely the right thing:

"This is not a garden-variety murder case and it should not be treated as such," he said before the hearing. "I commend her for her good acts in prison and she appears to be a model prisoner. I think she should spend the rest of her life being a model prisoner. I feel because of what she did, she is not entitled to parole."

So what should happen? She is alive because of a legal anomaly, but the law in California did not then allow for life without parole so her sentence does in truth allow for parole – and in many cases, people with her sentence do eventually get out. If our system is predicated on following laws even when the results are not to our liking, then emotion should not be a factor – there should be some objective measures of “rehabilitated”, which indeed it would appear Van Houten meets. She was not a ringleader, she was very young and under the influence of drugs and a very powerful personality – Manson – which likely limited even what judgment she had. If she is released, it won’t be like you or me – she has a life sentence, which means that even if she’s back in society she will always be answerable to a parole officer for her behavior and movements.

So what do you think? Should she or shouldn’t she be let go? And why or why not?
Naturally, I have my own views. Tell me what you think first, then I’ll tell you what I think, and why, later.

Posted by susanna at 09:27 AM | Comments (22)

June 28, 2002

Who has loser legs?

Coulter, or Couric?

Dawson speaks.

Posted by susanna at 02:23 PM | Comments (2)

Newspapers, NEA biased against school vouchers

Not, of course, that we are surprised. Tony Woodlief does his usual beautiful job of dismantling WaPo and USA Today's bias against school vouchers, and points out the shady tactics of the National Education Association (NEA). Along the way, he explains how - again, we're so surprised - they lie with statistics, or rather the promise of them.

My favorite Woodlief section:

Of course the polling debate is a misleading frame; this is an issue of parental rights. The question is simple: should parents have the right to choose where and by whom their children are educated? It's amazing how liberals who get bent out of shape over the denial of choice in any other sphere of life suddenly forget what the word means when the conversation turns to schools.

Yes, there again is the major source of media and advocacy bias: selective framing. Read Woodlief; always worth your time.

UPDATE: More things to consider: history of the movement (NRO), why it’s good for minorities (NRO), victories and problems (NRO), concerns about government control of the private schools (Ipse Dixit), and the issue of supply and demand (Planet Swank).

Posted by susanna at 01:17 PM | Comments (10)

NPR link rules change; bloggers had role

NPR has posted new link rules, less restrictive but still not quite on the page with many Internet users, according to Wired - who also has a quote crediting the change in part to bloggers:

In response to furious criticism of its online linking policy, National Public Radio will no longer require webmasters to ask permission to link to

But there are still limits on linking to the nonprofit radio network's site. Links to NPR's site "should not (a) suggest that NPR promotes or endorses any third party's causes, ideas, websites, products or services, or (b) use NPR content for inappropriate commercial purposes," according to a new policy posted on Thursday...

"The blogger community brought it to our attention that this (permission form) was sitting out there," she said, "so thanks to our friends in that group for that." Also, NPR realized that having people ask for permission "was not really in step with reality."

Under these new guidelines, "99.9 percent of the linking that goes on we're acknowledging is OK," Lawhorn said.

But she added that NPR still believes that there can be "inappropriate links" to its site, and that "if our legal department found an incident of linking that was inappropriate to the point of being harmful," NPR would ask them to remove the links.

Examples of such "inappropriate: links include "certain kinds of commercial linking," she said.

Posted by susanna at 12:22 PM | Comments (2)

Quote of the day

"The right to be heard does not automatically include the right to be taken seriously."
- Hubert Humphrey in a speech before the National Student Association, University of Wisconsin, Madison, 23 August 1965
Posted by susanna at 11:36 AM | Comments (5)

New research indicates men are jerks; some skeptical

A new study released by The National Marriage Project at Rutgers University includes a special essay on reasons why unmarried men seem intent on staying that way. The basic answer is: Why buy the cow when the milk is free?

The ten reasons why men won’t commit are:

1. They can get sex without marriage more easily than in times past

2. They can enjoy the benefits of having a wife by cohabiting rather than marrying

3. They want to avoid divorce and its financial risks

4. They want to wait until they are older to have children

5. They fear that marriage will require too many changes and compromises

6. They are waiting for the perfect soul mate and she hasn’t yet appeared

7. They face few social pressures to marry

8. They are reluctant to marry a woman who already has children

9. They want to own a house before they get a wife

10. They want to enjoy single life as long as they can

My first reaction was, "Um, duh!" I certainly have my own views about sex, marriage, and the whole man-woman thing, so don't mistake my commentary for approval of the situation. But where's the big news here? And what assumptions underlie that this is a bad thing, in the implied sense that it's an unfair use of women? If a man doesn't lie to or mislead a woman to have sex with her, and it's consensual, then he's not taken advantage. I think sex-as-just-entertainment is a morally bad choice, but it's a bit harsh to be critical of men for buying into it when their partners are right there too. And if a woman moves in with a man and promptly takes on all the household duties of a wife, without commitment, I'm not impressed with him but not very sympathetic to her either. She's being pretty dumb, unless she just likes scrubbing commodes, washing his dirty shorts and fixing his meals as, you know, a pleasurable hobby. What a deal for the man! He's getting sex, clean shorts, good meals and no threats to his money or long-term freedom. At least with a long-term legal contract, you know the other person is likely willing to compromise to make the relationship work. (And yes, the affection and respect should be enough alone. But where's the respect if you're using each other already?)

And the other eight of the top ten reasons are as valid for women postponing marriage as men (well, really, the first one is too).

I'm actually suspicious of the methodology for choosing the men for the focus groups from which this information came; I think the conclusions are too bleak and not reflective of a lot of really good men who do behave more responsibly. When they describe the methodology, it sounds all fancy, but consider:

...we conducted focus group discussions among not-yet-married heterosexual men in four major metropolitan areas: northern New Jersey, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Houston. The participants, sixty men in all, came from a variety of religious, ethnic and family backgrounds.

These men range in age from 25-33. The majority are employed full-time, with reported annual incomes between $21-$35,000 and above. Most have had some college or hold a baccalaureate degree or better. No one reports ever being married. Three of the men have a child.

What we don't have is a knowledge of how the men were found. Was it a random sample? Was it an ad in the newspaper? Or a snowball sample? A snowball sample is when you tell some people what kind of research subjects you want, and they tell you who they know, and then those people connect you to more people of that type... thus, snowballing. It's a necessary method for some types of research, but comes with inherent biases in the data because you're limited by the people you know and those they know - i.e. you're not likely to get a really representative sample. I suspect - and there's no way to know from their report one way or the other - that this was a snowball sample.

There's a lot of analysis about women, and marriage in general, in the study, much of it in my judgment unsupported conclusions based on data collected for other purposes. As you might suspect by now, I am not impressed. Another example: The authors conclude that because fewer married people say they are "happy" now than those questioned 25 years ago, the authors say marriages are unhappier. Well, no, not necessarily. Maybe the definition of "happy" has changed. We're more likely to equate "happy" with some type of ongoing euphoria than our grandparents were; their happiness was, I think, more a contentedness and acceptance of the mundane with the exciting than an expectation that every breathing moment would be packed with gratification. I'd have to see how the question was framed to be sure, but again I think I'm likely right.

I may go off on this again when I have more time. It's worth reading just for the pleasure of mocking it - Tapped, where I got the link, certainly laid into them. Join the fun.

Posted by susanna at 11:19 AM | Comments (3)

Expressed bias and fair coverage

Howard Kurtz today has the fascinating story of a Florida journalist who made her biases about a political candidate and about her approach to campaign coverage explicit in an email to a reader, which eventually resulted in her resignation from the newspaper. The politician in question is Republican Katherine Harris, who was one of the major players in Bush’s win of Florida’s electoral college in 2000. Here’s the setup:

The Sarasota (Fla.) Herald-Tribune recently ran a 4,400-word, 2 1/2-page spread on Republican congressional candidate Katherine Harris. And when one reader complained that Democratic candidates were getting short shrift, Managing Editor Rosemary Armao responded with a remarkably candid e-mail -- one that wound up costing her her job.

"Katherine Harris is an international figure, like her or not," Armao wrote of the woman who became a central player in the presidential recount in Florida. "She's going to be the next congresswoman from this area, like it or not. . . . I have no intentions of covering each of the Democratic candidates to the same extent."

Armao added: "I do not intend to vote for Harris. . . . I blame the Democrats for not finding a better candidate . . . and I blame our culture for craving as its public figures, women like Katherine who are very pretty, hard-working and without original ideas that I can find."

...Executive Editor Janet Weaver said...Armao should not have offered a reader her opinion of Harris or predicted the outcome of the race.

"It compromised our impartiality and cast questions on our ability to cover that race," Weaver said. "As journalists, I don't believe we reveal our personal views...”

But Armao defended her choice (partially – she also says she sees the newspaper’s point) with a viewpoint that frequent readers here will recognize as something I agree with in principle:

In the past, Armao said, she has argued in print that it is "ridiculous" to pretend that journalists don't have opinions. "The whole idea is, you have opinions but you do responsible reporting regardless," she said.

So that raises the question – can journalists reveal their biases and still do a fair job?

I think the answer is yes, but I think Armao’s manner of doing so was inappropriate – and so was her decision-making about covering the race. I think the latter decision was much more problematic than her expression of bias because it was clear that she had a commercial bias as well as a partisan bias.

These days my model of expressed bias and fair reporting is actually someone who is not a journalist, but an attorney, and a radical communist at that – Ron Kuby. Those of you not in the New York City area likely have not heard of him, but he is half of talk radio WABC 770’s morning program with Curtis Sliwa (of Guardian Angel fame). He’s an extreme example but I think it makes the point. Kuby is very liberal, economically and socially, and he is not shy about telling the audience precisely what he thinks about any issue. But he also has a sharp legal mind. Whenever a topic arises that involves a legal issue, Kuby will shift gears and give neutral, comprehensive explanations about the facts of the case, the legal machinations involved and the probable legal implications. He usually slips back into the liberal commentary that makes me want to throttle him half the time, but in three years of listening to him regularly I have developed a great respect for his fairness in setting up the cases. And that is what the model would be – journalists and their newspapers having to build a reputation for fairness, with their biases explicit so that readers have an easier time of distinguishing when the bias is coloring the coverage. Readers are smarter and more sophisticated than newspapers often give them credit for, and if this model is commonly used readers would become more conscious consumers of information – a very desirable goal. But that model is threatening to journalists and their preferred mode as “unbiased” or “impartial”, which is on the face of it nearly impossible and in practice rare. Unbiased journalism as a rule is the emperor’s new clothes - everybody claims it exists despite ample proof that it does not.

What about Armao’s situation? Why was it inappropriate? She admitted her bias, isn’t that what I want?

Well, not the way she did it. Apparently her personal views of Harris did not have a negative impact on the evenness of coverage for Harris, although it sounds like Harris has good handlers, so to that extent her opinion doesn’t bother me. The problem I have with Armao is her defense of the quantity of coverage of Harris based on issues external to the situation at hand – Harris is an international figure, so that justifies her receiving a lot more coverage than her opponents, in Armao’s reasoning. What does that say about Armao’s goal? It’s not fair coverage of a race for a political position, because if so she would have been careful to have similar amounts of coverage for other candidates. Her goal is increased readership – selling papers – and thus, her decision was made on a financial basis rather than journalistic fairness. Her venom about Harris is unfortunate – I do think non-columnist journalists need to be more circumspect professionally even in admitting bias – but her open admission that she is giving more coverage to one candidate because the candidate is famous (thus will sell papers) and because she thinks the candidate will win, are worthy of whatever disgust is meted out.

As an aside, this glimpse inside the decision-making process of a newspaper is also illustrative of why campaign finance reform as it is currently structured gives unwarranted and unfair advantage to famous front-runners. Newspapers are not neutral in their coverage; rather, they operate with a bottom line that makes them vulnerable to pandering to readers rather than making fair journalistic decisions. Informed readership makes this more difficult to support.

Armao should have left her job, not because she exposed her political bias but because she used the wrong decision path for choosing how to cover the race. Bias is part of the human condition, and contrary to some views many journalists are in fact human. Acknowledging bias and doing the hard work of developing a reputation for fairness should be the future of journalism – not this protectionist attitude about a lie.

[Link found via Eschaton blog]

Posted by susanna at 08:17 AM | Comments (6)

June 27, 2002

Pledge ruling put on hold

The judge who ruled the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional has put his ruling on hold - so it won't be enforced - until the court decides whether to reconsider it.

I like a judge who makes a tough decision and sticks by it. Somehow this is almost worse; however, it does highlight that the 9th Circuit must be basically stupid, which is what I've been seeing around the blogosphere for the last 24 hours.

UPDATE: SatireWire explores early reaction to the original Pledge decision, and may offer insight into today's wussing out.

[Link via furtive explorations]

UPDATE: Spoons says, no story here, move along

Attorney Christopher Kanis (that's Spoons to you) said this in comments, which I wanted to pull out because I think it's important:

Nah, this story is getting misreported. Even if the judge hadn't done anything, it wouldn't have gone into effect for 45 days.

Also, because the government has announced its intention to either file a petition for writ of cert to the USSC, or to seek rehearing en banc from the whole 9th circuit, AND because this is a ruling that would effect hundreds (thousands?) of schools, it is perfectly ordinary and proper for the judge to enter a stay of his order to allow the government to appeal.

This is standard operating procedure, and it would be irresponsible of the judge to have done otherwise. This is not a story.

He even posted this on his own site, so we know it was Chris and not just someone playing him in Comments.

Posted by susanna at 05:05 PM | Comments (2)

Bill of Ideals

John Hudock at Common Sense and Wonder scores our adherence to the Bill of Rights. He isn't impressed.

Posted by susanna at 04:09 PM | Comments (0)

Coulter vs Couric - the blogosphere debate

No, not the one you think - the one that really matters:

From Media Minded:

Katie looks 1,000 times better in a short skirt than Ann does.

From Dustbury:

...Ann Coulter — to me, she's simply the flip side of Katie Couric, albeit with nicer legs

Please cast your votes in comments by noon tomorrow; I'll see if I can persuade Dawson to judge (although I can't say he'll be impartial).

Next week: Who looks hotter jogging - George W. Bush or Bill Clinton?

(Will add photo of Clinton jogging when I can find one)

UPDATE: Dawson sends these photos, to help the undecided decide.

Katie Couric.jpgannapril01.jpg



There appeared to be some dissent in the Comments section, as well as significant drooling (I had to put a bucket under my computer before I opened the comments each time), and several people added names to the list (no dice, guys). However, the voting leaned toward Ann Coulter, and that objective judge, Dawson of Dawson Speaks, has made the final determination with annotations:

And the winner is....

Look. I swear that I am being objective here. I'm not going to claim that either of these women have the greatest gams on earth, but my fellow citizens! There really is no contest here, it's all rather simple! On the left (I refer only to the photo positioning, my friends. Politics have played absolutely no role in this court's decision) we have the short, androgynous, Mary Lou Rettonesque Katie Colon, I mean Couric, who, like Yasser Arafat, always appears to need a good hot shower. (It is the lighting? The makeup? What is the deal with that perpetual filmy sheen on Ms Couric?) And on the right, a bonafide sex-goddess who has caught the eye of men as diverse as JFK Jr. and Bob Guccione Jr. among others. Including me. Ann's legs are a mile long, but not all bulked up, like a gymnast or a weight lifter, as are Katie's. Ann's legs are well-developed, yet feminine, long and yet graceful. Not to get fowl, but Katie is a duck, and Ann is a Great Blue Heron. So. It's Ann by a long shot. Katie isn't as bad as most liberals (oops!) mind you. She is all over Barbara, Diane, Connie, et. al. and hey, perhaps Ann is not as fine limbed as, say, Amy Holmes, but in this contest, Ann wins by a long shot. I think Laurence and our man in the field Ray book end the issue nicely. She appeals to us all, Texan Jews, Northern Gays, Southern Rednecks, heck, even liberals such as Alan Colmes are smitten! So there you have it. Ann Coulter has better legs than does the Mouseketeer. Sheesh.

Please direct all hatemail to Dawson. I am merely a researcher observing modern male behavior.

Pretty scary, actually.

Posted by susanna at 12:10 PM | Comments (26)

I'll have something in a classic style, please

Tony Woodlief says the Pledge of Allegiance issue is all about the framing.

Posted by susanna at 11:54 AM | Comments (0)

In other news: Saudis support "every available means" to help Palestinians

The Saudi foreign minister thinks Arab countries need to increase their efforts to help Palestinians:

Saudi Arabia yesterday called upon Islamic countries to set aside their differences and stand united in order to defend common causes, especially the Palestinian issue...

Prince Saud denounced the ongoing Israeli military campaign against unarmed Palestinian civilians. "The Israeli practices will not shake the determination of Arab and Islamic countries to continue their efforts for peace in the region," he said.

"We have to make every effort using every available means to promote the Arab peace plan and mobilize international support to implement it," he said about the Saudi-inspired peace initiative which was endorsed by the Arab summit held in Beirut last March.

This doesn't seem ominous on its face - after all, they are saying they want to implement a peace plan - but that "every means available" makes me nervous.

He also reaffirmed Saudi Arabia's goal to unify Arab countries toward domination:

"We should gain strength through unity to ensure that our Muslim nation will not be reduced to the sidelines of history, thus leaving the helm of affairs in the hands of other nations," Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal told an OIC conference here.

On the significance of Islamic unity, the prince said: "If we achieve it, we’ll pave the way for our nation to restore its prestige and glory."

He called for serious efforts to settle differences and end conflicts among Muslim countries. "Islamic solidarity is not a high-sounding slogan or a political call, but it is an eternal principle of Islam," he stated.

"Saudi Arabia considers Islamic solidarity as one of the central factors of its policy," Prince Saud said.

I'm not sure what "prestige and glory" they're restoring to, because the last time they had it high technology was a metal buckle on a camel saddle.

The best part of the article is this:

Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal told an OIC conference here...

Prince Saud urged...

Prince Saud denounced...

Prince Saud called upon...

Prince Saud said...

Prince Saud called...

In his wide-ranging speech, Prince Saud pledged...

However, he wasn't even there:

Ismail Shouri, deputy foreign minister for political affairs, delivered Prince Saud’s speech on his behalf.

I bet he didn't write it either.

Posted by susanna at 08:18 AM | Comments (0)

Pledging allegiance

This is going to be all over the blogosphere today, but I recommend that you read Professor Volokh's discussion before you start your opinion rounds. He's got about three posts thus far, so start with the linked one and scroll up as you finish. And generally, I agree with Ernie the Attorney:

The issue presented in this case is a pure legal question, not a moral/social question.

I'm having a difficult time getting worked up over this, at least from the standpoint of taking "God" out of the Pledge. I think it's dumb, but to me this country will be no less a gift from God just because some people got their shorts in a wad about what the Pledge says.

I agree with Glenn Reynolds: a lot of these kind of challenges, it seems like much ado about nearly nothing to me.

Dodd Harris:'s an awfully silly thing on which to spend a bunch of one's time and money (not to mention the time of the judges and all of the taxpayer dollars involved).

And Megan McArdle:

...what the hell is wrong with our country that this kind of stupid liberal hissy fit gets raised to a constitutional case?

...I think we should all dedicate a tiny portion of the rest of our lives to making fun of the idiot who brought this suit until he's ashamed to show his face in decent company.

And it may even make legislative hay - Tim Peck thinks it's a victory for conservatives and will move forward the issues of judicial appointments and school vouchers on the Congressional agenda, which would be a nice side benefit. [Link via Ben Domenech's comments.]

So where does this come together for me?

I think it's a shame that we're removing piece by piece the connection to spirituality and diety that, in my judgment, were a lot of what made this country great. It's a purging of public expression of a certain aspect of society just when other types of "diversity" are vigorously advocated by the very people supporting this purging - but then we know that many liberals want to construct society in the image of their youthful college conversations about How Things Should Be. They're willing to trample on any view of the country that is different from their's, while seeing no hypocrisy in their preferential treatment for other views. If I want to say "under God", and they and theirs have the right not to say it, why do they have to force their views on me?

That said, I repeat Ernie the Attorney's view - it's a legal matter. Of course legal matters shape social discourse, and have great moral implications. But interpretation of the Constitution is continually evolving, and as new issues arise new legal concerns have to be decided. Whenever a discussion arises about the presence of religion in secular life in some formal way, I mentally replace Christianity with some other religion - for example, the "God" in the Pledge with "Allah". Then I ask the question - how would I feel if my child were required to say "under Allah"? It tends to clarify things for me.

We have a Judeo-Christian heritage, and I think we're diminished by drawing away from it. At the same time, intense efforts to force display of the Ten Commandments in public spaces and public prayer in school are poor conceptions of what religion in this country means. You have to pick your battles, and you have to understand what the role of religion is in this country.

I hope that the Supremes find with the dissenting opinion, which Volokh summarizes in his post:

At the same time, Judge Fernandez's dissent makes a sensible argument that the endorsement and coercion tests should not apply to all references to God. America has a long tradition, as he points out, of "ceremonial Deism" -- the use of general and relatively nondenominational references to God (though of course all references to God do prefer some religious beliefs over others) to solemnize various occasions or sentiments. We see it in the Declaration of Independence, in the Star-Spangled Banner, in various other patriotic songs, in nearly all the preambles to state Constitutions, and in other contexts.

These sorts of references, Judge Fernandez argues...should not be seen as unconstitutional, because they are such a firm part of American constitutional traditions.

That decision recognizes the importance of spirituality generally, and our Judeo-Christian heritage specifically, without finding that every reference to "God" is by definition "establishing" Christianity as the "national religion". That's my preference. But, if the words "under God" come out of the Pledge, I can add them myself just as easily as the atheist can leave them out. I want the judiciary to stick to the Constitution, because while it may result in some shifts in public religious expression that I dislike, ultimately it will protect my ability to practice my religion as I see fit.

It's a stupid lawsuit. The decision appears to be a legitimate interpretation of the Constitution, which may have unintended consequences - the atheistic plaintiff may find the cure worse than the disease as the public (and thus Congress) get up in arms. I'll be interested to see how the Supremes come down on this, because I think that's where it's going to wind up.


God bless America.

Posted by susanna at 07:49 AM | Comments (4)

June 26, 2002

Needing a Constitutional

The Constitution is not for mention
Especially with your intention
I don’t want it guiding right
when what I want is to win this fight

You will not mention it in voir dire
You will not mention it, even for hire
You will not mention it in opening remarks
You will not mention it as the jury parks

You will not let the jury know
That your cause is true – even though
Your behavior wasn’t what was best
I’m warning you now – give it a rest

You will not mention it in the City of Denver
You will not mention it in my courtroom, remember
You will not mention it no matter the need
You will not mention our history’s creed

You will not mention the Constitutional Congress said
Keep your guns, or you might be dead!
You will not let the jury know
That your cause is true – they might let you go.

(with many profuse apologies to Dr. Seuss)

[Link via Instapundit]

Posted by susanna at 10:51 AM | Comments (4)

June 25, 2002

British voices on Bush

Two British newspapers give opposite views of the content and potential for effectiveness of Bush's speech yesterday about the Israeli/Palestinian situation. Unsurprisingly, The Telegraph's Patrick Bishop thinks it's a tough but necessary line:

President Bush has told the Palestinians that, if they stick with Arafat, they condemn themselves to more suffering and that the pain will bring no reward. It is a bleak prospect for even the most zealous nationalist...

Bush has left them with a stark choice. For Palestine to live, Arafat's leadership must perish, and the great survivor's career be brought to an end by his own people.

The Guardian's Jonathan Freedland is a bit less supportive:

That was a fantastic speech. Quite literally, fantastic. George Bush's address on the Middle East, delivered outside the White House on Monday evening, consisted, from beginning to end, of fantasy.

It bore so little relation to reality that diplomats around the world spent yesterday shaking their heads in disbelief, before sinking into gloom and despair...

Yasser Arafat must go, he says, though without naming him. It may be refreshing to hear a US president come clean in his conviction that he has the right to pick other nations' leaders, but this demand exposes fully the vacuousness of Bush's thinking...

So this new plan of Bush's is a flight of errant, irresponsible fancy that can only fail, bringing more bloodshed and ruin to the peoples of the Middle East who are desperate for something better.

But it will reverberate far beyond. It will damage the international standing of the US president and America along with it. Muslim and Arab nations will be antagonised by this plan of inaction, while chancelleries from London to Moscow will realise they are dealing with a leader who pays no lip-service to them - or to basic reality.

Worth reading.

Posted by susanna at 11:52 PM | Comments (3)

Paternalism the Arab way

The paternalists in our society have cleaned out Big Tobacco and are moving on to Big Snack Food. Better keep this Arab News article out of their hands, or Big ISP may be next:

The Internet phenomenon is becoming more common in Saudi Arabia with each passing day, as are its negative effects on family and personal life in the Kingdom.

Parents here are concerned with the time their children are spending surfing the Net. Once we were concerned mainly about what our children were exposed to online, like pornography; but now even the most innocent of online games are becoming an obsession...

The obsessive effect of online games and surfing should not be taken lightly.

People should be made aware of this and strategies, awareness workshops, help groups should be devised to combat this growing Internet disease. Those who devise these Internet games should provide a warning on the instructions about how they can be addictive, as they would on cigarette packets.

There should be a legal policy devised by our governments to ensure a log-off, automatic setting to stop games after an agreed safe limit for 24 hours; or a limited use of online time on home computers where the connection would disconnect after a certain period of time, like a legal speed limit for driving.

Some may argue that this represses individual freedom. If so, any legal policy protecting the welfare of people would be considered an infringement on individual freedom. The fact remains that it is for the better.

The negative impact of any technological advancement must be monitored before it gets thrown into society by those seeking solely to profit from it. Software companies and Internet providers have a responsibility to make sure they are not damaging the health of their customers.

I think the Saudi government should provide free Internet in every Arab home. Better playing war games than holding a real war, right?

Posted by susanna at 11:25 PM | Comments (2)


Have you ever been so angry at what somebody has done to someone that you love that you want to do serious damage? Have you played in your mind the scenarios where you would take care of the problem - the person – in so complete a way he would never fully recover? I’m not talking physical harm here, although the thought can be tempting, but a public humiliation that would show the person for what he is.

Have you ever been a razor’s edge away from hate for not just that person, but everyone who is similar to him in almost any way?

Have you ever felt that your strength means nothing when using it would cause more harm than good?

Sometimes doing nothing is the hardest thing of all to do.

Posted by susanna at 10:41 PM | Comments (4)

Unremitting Warren

Will Warren is just amazing. Go read his latest, about the 70 "prominent Americans" memorialized by a petition discussed here.

Expect to feel like making Warren poet laureate of the nation by acclamation.

Posted by susanna at 02:53 PM | Comments (0)

Meet the Bloggers

We've made the bigtime!

Er, middle time.

Well, actually, it looks pretty small time to me, but then, I'm just a blogger, what do I know?

(If it's not at that link, look at the other options on the page. I think they move to the right over time.)

[Link via Mary Madigan at What Are They Saying?]

Posted by susanna at 01:38 PM | Comments (0)

Reporting to the court

Brandt Goldstein has a good, short explanation of a reporter's responsibilities under law to divulge information to a court or law enforcement officer. It's in the context of the case involving former Washington Post reporter Jonathan Randal, giving links to articles about the situation.

Posted by susanna at 01:22 PM | Comments (0)

First, make sure you have ammunition...

Guess who's going to be writing a column - including advice on dating - for her local Long Island newspaper?

Amy Fisher, who spent seven years in jail for shooting her lover's wife in the head, has been hired by a Long Island newspaper to write a biweekly column.

"She's a natural writer," said Robbie Woliver, editor-in-chief of The New Island Ear, which will publish Fisher's first column on July 3. "If she wasn't able to write, we wouldn't have her do this column. We were very, very surprised. The Amy Fisher we found was a little different than the 16-year-old girl that we remember."

...Her column, simply called "Amy Fisher," will cover a wide range of topics -- from cyberdating to celebrity interviews...

I can hardly wait.

[Link via The Last Page.]

Posted by susanna at 10:27 AM | Comments (0)

RESEARCH NOTE: Do Americans support the War on Drugs?

I’ve heard mutterings here and there on the blogosphere and elsewhere that the US war on drugs is a failed effort. It’s certainly a position held by many academics and, in an unusual agreement with the academy, many libertarians as well. But what do most Americans think?

According to a study (using data from a 1998 survey) in the July 2002 issue of Crime & Delinquency (article not available online), the three main approaches used in the war on drugs – treatment of addicts, prevention taught in schools and through the media, and aggressive law enforcement and correctional responses – were all supported by well over half the respondents. But when asked about whether they supported maintaining or increasing funding in each category, there was a sharp difference in percentages – 91.7% were for prevention, 83.7% for treatment and 61.3% for aggressive criminal justice responses – resulting in a significantly greater support for prevention and treatment as opposed to criminal justice responses. And when asked whether these various approaches were useful or very useful, the numbers came in similarly – 87.8% for prevention, 75.2% for treatment, and 63.6% for penalties. Of course, it’s logical for a belief that an approach works to track with a support for funding for that approach – although that didn’t always happen in the study.

The study also divides up the respondents along a variety of characteristics – sex, race, age, income level, education level, party identification and political ideology – the last two being similar but not necessarily fully overlapping. (See the notes at the end of this post for question samples.) The study authors note that:

between-groups (e.g., Blacks vs. Whites, …etc.) differences in support for each policy approach were extremely modest

thus while many of the differences were statistically significant, they weren’t hugely so. The number of respondents was different between the two parts of the survey – 1,188 participated in the funding questions, and 1,329 in the usefulness questions.

While there’s too much data to present completely, here’s a few snapshots. (Please note that the study does not look at objective value/effectiveness of the funding or types of responses, just Americans’ opinions about them):

· Across all demographics (sex, age, race, education, income, politics) prevention both received the greatest support for funding and the highest confidence in usefulness, followed by treatment and then criminal justice responses. However, in no instance did the support for criminal justice responses fall below 55%.

· Blacks found all three approaches useful more often than did whites, with the strongest difference in support for penalties – 74.1% of blacks thought them useful or very useful, while only 62.6% of whites did. However, while blacks generally supported maintaining or increasing funding for prevention (94.1%) and treatment (87.5%), only 61.1% supported the same or higher funding for criminal justice responses, compared to 61.6% for whites – the only category where whites showed more support for funding than did blacks.

· Women generally supported funding for all three approaches more than did men; women even supported funding criminal justice responses at a higher percentage than did men, but the difference was not significant. On the other hand, women (70%) did find criminal justice responses significantly more useful than did men (56.7%).

· Lower income respondents supported criminal justice responses more than did upper income respondents, although both supported prevention and treatment at a much higher rate.

· College graduates supported funding for treatment and prevention more than did non-college graduates, but non-college graduates supported funding criminal justice responses more than college graduates. Both groups tracked closely in their assessment of the usefulness of treatment and prevention, but non-college graduates (69.1%) found penalties useful at a much higher rate than did college graduates (55.5%).

· Interestingly, Democrats and Republicans not only tracked pretty closely on usefulness of treatment (Democrats slightly higher) and prevention (Republicans slightly higher), but on penalties (cj response) as well – 68.3% of Republicans found it useful, while 64.4% of Democrats did. They tracked more closely together in support for funding criminal justice responses (D – 63.3%, R – 62.1%) than for prevention (D – 94.8%, R – 89.1%) or treatment (D – 90.6%, R – 80.6%). It’s important to note that not all respondents participated in these questions – 62% of 1,188 (funding) and of 1,329 (usefulness).

· Political ideology – liberal vs conservative – made a bigger difference in attitude than did political party, showing one of the strongest differences in the study: 72% of conservatives found penalties (cj responses) useful, while only 55.8% of liberals did; they tracked fairly closely on usefulness of prevention, while 79.9% of liberals found treatment useful vs. 69% of conservatives. Again, this is a self-identified group with only 53% of the total respondents participating.

The study authors note that:

If these findings are an accurate reflection of public sentiment at the time of survey, they signal significant erosion in support for current American drug control policy. It is impossible, however, to definitively ascertain the direction of public support for current drug policy on the basis of a survey done at a single point in time. Nonetheless, recent research offers some support for the claim that the public’s faith in a criminal justice-led approach to drug policy is flagging. In a recent study by the Pew Center for the People and the Press (2000), 74% of the respondents suggested “America is losing the drug war”. In addition, treatment was rated a more effective way to control drugs than arresting users (79% to 64%), although a large majority (82%) still views arresting sellers as effective (Pew Center for the People and the Press, 2000). Finally, significantly more respondents (52% to 36%) view drug addiction now as a disease rather than a crime. (Page 393)

Budgetary notes: The authors give an interesting history of the funding for the war on drugs, which is just too much to go into here. However, this excerpt is, I think, useful for context:

The ONDCP…has tracked federal expenditures on drug control since 1981. A review of the budget during this time period reveals two major findings. First, the domestic drug control budget as a whole has undergone massive growth in the past two decades. From 1981 to 2000 the total domestic drug control budget increased from almost $2 billion to nearly $15 billion, representing a real increase of 773%. Second, although growth has occurred in every part of the budget, it has been concentrated primarily in the area of criminal justice, which has captured 62.2% of the growth in the domestic budget over the past 20 years. By comparison, treatment and prevention account for 17.7% and 14.6% of the domestic increase, respectively. (page 382)

Methodology notes: As most of you know, the way a study is conducted is very important in determining whether the results are dependable. Without going into close detail (for that you can read the article), it is apparent that the data was collected in a sound, randomized fashion; the question samples given in the article were neutral and thus free of ideological spin; and the statistical analysis is straightforward and fully detailed in the article. The data from the study came:

from the first wave of the Multi-City Study of Attitudes about Addiction (MCSAA), a two-wave panel survey designed to assess the impact of viewing a nationally broadcast, five-episode television program about drug addiction on public attitudes about addiction, treatment and public policy. (Page 386)

Here are two sample questions:


I'm going to name some of these addiction-related cost areas and for each one I'd like you to tell me whether you think the government is spending too much money on it, too little money or about the right amount?


Please tell me whether you think each of the following is very useful, not very useful, or not useful at all in reducing addiction.


Lock, E., Timberlake, J., & Rasinski, K. (2002). Battle Fatigue: Is Public Support Waning for “War”-Centered Drug Control Strategies? Crime & Delinquency, 48 (3), 380-398.

Pew Center for the People and the Press. (2000). Drug report: Questionnaire. Retrieved from (Note: this is the citation in the article, but I couldn’t find it on the Pew site.)

Posted by susanna at 08:42 AM | Comments (0)

June 24, 2002

Like a fish needs a bicycle...

Just heard about this website on the radio - Man Not Included. It's a website in Great Britain where lesbian couples wanting to be parents can be matched with sperm donors.

I think we're headed for a world where kids are his, hers, mine, ours, their's, the guy down the street's, and somebody's across town who needed a few bucks to get his car detailed. Scary.

My question - with all this mix 'n match genetics, who's keeping track of who's related to whom? The spectre of half-siblings marrying accidentally (ok, no hillbilly jokes) seems less implausible.

We're so focused on who can scrape out, bear or "own" kids, yet so unfocused on what it means to parent. Sad.

Just random thoughts, triggered by the radio news brief. Oh, and the last quote in the segment was from a British physician, who said, "It's sort of an American type development."

I don't think he meant it as a compliment.

Posted by susanna at 09:19 PM | Comments (7)

Racism or lazy Slate?

Professor Volokh has in the space of one day earned a place in my heart and on my link list. Not that he cares what I think, but I'm impressed with his insight into both poor statistical analysis and media bias. His post on the death penalty ruling (linked below) was preceded by an excellent catch of a headline disaster over at Slate. He rips them for lazy or biased headline writing that accuses conservatives of racist behavior toward Cornel West, when the text of the article doesn't support the implication. He also touches on framing, which I think is one of the major ways that bias is expressed in the media. Worth a read.

Posted by susanna at 08:27 PM | Comments (0)

Davy Crockett's nemesis

This is why I won't live in Tennessee.

I have enough stress.

Posted by susanna at 05:06 PM | Comments (4)

Supremes rule only juries can impose death penalty

I heard the ruling this morning, but was waiting for a lawyer type to dig into it before I commented. Professor Volokh did just that, and beautifully (of course).

I'm going to have to go read the decision now, though, because apparently Justice Breyer made his case on what Volokh identifies as poor statistics (i.e. right up my alley):

...this statistical argument just doesn't work. Justice Breyer observes that (1) many counties don't impose the death penalty, and therefore concludes that (2) many communities have taken this view because they accept arguments against the death penalty -- but omits the possible explanation that (3) many of these counties might simply have very few murders.

Volokh goes on to explain in detail how the justice's statistical interpretation doesn't hold up - a nice little mini-primer in what is really pretty simple statistical analysis - then adds that the constitutional conclusion might nonetheless be appropriate. Take the time to read it - you'll be smarter for it.

Posted by susanna at 04:55 PM | Comments (0)

Just give it up now

The scariest description I've seen of a politician in a while: Jimmy Carter but in a reptilian sort of way

Ouch. I'd just give it up now, were I that politician.

On a brighter note, it does bode well for his future stock of Cuban cigars. (Oh, man, that just begs for a Clinton/Carter joke.)

Posted by susanna at 12:16 PM | Comments (0)

Amish farmers – the future of agriculture?

Steven Stoll, an assistant professor of history at Yale University, thinks that farming the Amish way is the wave of the future:

They are not dead-end holdouts left over from the agrarian 19th century; rather, their system of food production represents the future of American agriculture.

Stoll’s article explains the Amish approach to farming, which emphasizes community and, as much as possible, a lack of modern technology to produce products for their own use and for sale. His host speaks disparagingly of modern techniques – as does Stoll – and advocates a return to the land:

In the few days I spent with the Klines, I saw how their cultivation anchors their material lives…The Amish hold these values above all others: Anything that undermines their ability to cohere as a community of neighbors and linked families, anything that isolates them in their work or places production for profit ahead of the collective process, is prohibited. David adds a corollary: No practice will be allowed to denigrate the wholeness of the land and its capacity to sustain wild as well as domesticated animals…

David Kline's manure-centered husbandry…represents an alternative -- a progressive occupancy of land for the 21st century. No matter how unlikely the prospect that people the world over will take up small farms as they once did, that is no reason to reject the Amish as unfit for the future. On the contrary, there could be no land management better suited for a small and crowded planet…

Bucking every trend of contemporary American society, [Kline] says, as though calling out over the hills, "We need more people on the land!"

Interspersed throughout the article is a romantic view of man-of-the-land, and how Kline and his fellow Amish are actually beating the huge agronomist companies at their own game. It’s a lovely tale, but doesn’t hold up under closer scrutiny. An example:

Each year [Kline] grosses $2,000 per cow, compared with the $200-to-$300 profit common on industrial farms.

Did you catch that shift? Kline’s production is expressed as gross, compared to the profit of industrial farms – neatly sidestepping the issue of cost-to-produce. And that is considerable:

By choice, they have no electric power in their home and own no automobiles. They buy few consumer goods, distrust centralized authority, and dress plainly…

The Klines need every available family member to pull in the timothy grass (seven people that day, eight counting me), and they like it that way…

Yet for all that, income, no matter how high or low, is not the best indicator of the success of the Amish, because they have eliminated the need to shell out cash for all sorts of things... They pay little or nothing for insurance, fuel, or child care… Community provides the only real insurance the Amish have, and it carries no price.

So while the Amish way may be land-nurturing, to be successful it also requires that the practitioners eschew most worldly goods and all work farmer’s hours on the farm. If you want to look at the economics of it, you have to factor in the cost of all that labor at today’s market prices, as well as the cost of not having insurance should tragedy strike. It’s a nice socialist view of things, but not precisely the lifestyle that most Americans – or the populations of other industrialized countries – are going to be willing to adopt. And one question that came immediately to my mind was – what happens when one of the members of the community becomes deathly ill, or the whole community is wiped out by a storm? Yes, they can rebuild, and maybe the community can support the cost of one member needing very costly medical care, but that’s not a model sustainable on a broad scale. In addition, the Amish community is in some fashion predicated on the modern society – the cloth they use for clothes, the tools they use to farm with, the military and police who protect them, all products of the society they distance themselves from, as is the Yale ideologue who gushingly extols their virtues.

I do agree with Stoll that there is a place for the Amish way, and that nurturing the concept of families farming is a good thing. However, I don’t know that the survival of the commercial family farm is necessary to our nation’s health, Wendell Berry notwithstanding. I think a model is evolving – around farmer’s markets, and a general awareness of the goodness of farmer-to-consumer produce – that will sustain a few well-run family farms. I personally would make an effort to purchase locally produced goods at a somewhat higher cost to encourage local community sustainability. But Stoll’s argument that the Amish way is possibly now the “postmodern” way makes neither logical or economic sense – it is, rather, romantic ideology skewing facts in an effort at self-perpetuation.

Posted by susanna at 11:45 AM | Comments (6)

Just can't win

The US has been criticized for not helping to restore Afghanistan, but now that it is actively working in that direction, they're being criticized again.

I'm sure you'll be surprised at who is doing the criticizing.

The soldiers in the northern city of Kunduz are on the front lines of a different kind of war, one fought not with guns or bombs, but plaster, nails and cold, hard American cash.

Along with seven other civil affairs teams across Afghanistan, they have been working with local officials and warlords to reconstruct schools, hospitals, roads and water systems ruined by two decades of war, some by American bombs last fall...

The teams are not spending lavishly — about $8 million this year for the entire country — and have had to turn down many of the large-scale projects Afghan officials are begging for, like major road and bridge repairs. But in six months the teams have completed nearly two dozen smaller projects, many in remote regions where banditry or bad roads have limited the work of private relief groups...

But the work of the civil affairs teams has not received universal acclaim, receving the cold shoulder from some international aid organizations with which the teams hoped to collaborate. Those aid groups say the civil affairs teams have blurred the lines separating private from military programs, placing civilians at risk from Afghans angry with American soldiers.

That's correct - the humanitarian aid people are upset because the soldiers aren't out soldiering and giving the aid money to the organizations. And the Times isn't much inclined to give them credit.

Some Afghan officials and Western analysts have also asserted that the civil affairs teams work too closely with local warlords, fostering the perception that regional commanders, not the central government in Kabul, are the major dispensers of patronage and power in Afghanistan.

Who precisely might those analysts be? I'm sure it's not the Times' coffee klatsch. But we don't know, do we? They aren't identified, and certainly we have no opportunity to assess their qualifications for making those judgments. This, however, is my favorite part of the article:

The soldiers have barely scratched the surface of Kunduz's needs. The electricity supply is erratic, the central water system is not functioning, the airport is surrounded by land mines and the main road south is so rutted that it is barely passable.

Such projects, expensive and difficult, will be the true test of whether the the outside world can help rebuild Afghanistan. Chances are that most will be started by civilian aid groups or the United Nations long after the civil affairs teams have moved on to the next battle zone.

So there, US military! You come in there with your money and your effectiveness and you make people like you because you actually get things done, but we know that in the long run, the true heroes will be international aid organizations and the UN!

I just have one question - where will the bulk of the money for any work in Afghanistan come from - the US, or the EU and UN members other than the US?

Posted by susanna at 09:45 AM | Comments (0)

Smarter Harper's

Each month, Harper's Magazine lists what they call "eyebrow-raising statistics" about virtually anything. Each month, Smarter Harper's takes them down. Well, some of them. It's fun reading.

This month, Smarter Harper's hits on the gap in nuclear weapons between Israel and the Arab countries; Japanese vs US patents; status of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela; and FDA recalls or relabeling of presciption drugs. Enlightening.

Posted by susanna at 12:29 AM | Comments (0)

June 23, 2002

Getting the word out

I've given permission to a Second Amendment advocacy group to distribute copies of my post on the VPC statistical inaccuracies free at their gun shows. The same post has been linked by several gun rights advocacy groups online. All that made me think a little about copyright issues.

Everything on this site is either written by me or quoted with an attributed source. I want to know if someone distributes any material from it in a form different from linking to this site. Naturally this does not include every instance of quoting from it on another website, according to fair use rules.

I'm not a copyright attorney, so I can't give specific guidelines. And I really can't control whether people copy, paste and distribute, if they aren't selling it - and especially if they don't tell me. But I want to make it clear that I expect to be asked if someone wants to use the information. Then, if a group uses it that I don't agree with, I can say, truthfully, that I didn't give permission and it should have been clear to them that I meant for them to ask.

I've made a Word document of this particular post, which is available for distribution. Just ask.

Posted by susanna at 10:41 PM | Comments (0)

If you have Hotmail...

I have noticed recently that my hotmail account has been receiving a whole lot more spam than usual, especially in the Inbox, despite a high spam-catching setting. I found out why on John Ellis's blog - Microsoft has added new opt-out options that have been feeding my email address to spammers because I didn't know to go and change them. Go here to find out how to fix it - I already did.

Posted by susanna at 06:21 PM | Comments (0)

Spreading the traffic jam

I just stumbled across a website explaining how to adjust your driving to ease traffic jams - spread out the spaces so everyone moves faster. Cool, with animations. Some of you may have seen it - it's been up since 1998 - but for those of you who haven't, and who drive in heavy traffic, you'll like it.

Boredom led me to fantasize about the traffic being like a flowing liquid, with cars acting as giant water molecules. Over many months I slowly realized that this was not just a fantasy. Why had I never noticed all the "traffic fluid dynamics" out there? Once my brain became sensitized to it, I started seeing quite a variety of interesting things occurring. Eventually I started using my car to poke at the flowing traffic. Observation eventually leads to experimentation, no? There are amazing things you can do as an "amateur traffic dynamicist." You can drive like an "anti-rubbernecker" and erase slowdowns created by other drivers...

The author of it, William Beaty, freely admits to his lack of traffic engineering experience, but I was amazed - and impressed - with his approach to figuring it all out. If someone had done that kind of figuring out before building the Charlotte traffic circle in Jersey City, my morning commute would be a much happier thing.

Posted by susanna at 01:36 PM | Comments (1)

Soccer and Steyn

For all you World Cup fans (I'm sure at least two of you read this blog), here's the definitive take - Mark Steyn's:

I refer, of course, to the United States team, the first in World Cup history with more players than fans. Across America yesterday, all nine of them gathered in bars to watch the big match, only to find that the other patrons preferred to see the Golden Girls re-run dubbed into Spanish on Channel 173 or the last half of Bud Answers Your Plastering Queries on the Sheetrock Channel. Twiddling my own dial in New Hampshire, I couldn't find the game on anywhere except a French-language station from Quebec...

Americans like their international competitions to be international in the sense of the current "international coalition against terror" at Kandahar airbase - that's to say, overwhelmingly American but with a few token Canadians. The World Series extends to the Toronto Blue Jays, but that's it.

Just how did he get from soccer to Afghanistan? That man has talent.

Posted by susanna at 08:54 AM | Comments (0)

June 22, 2002

Tammy Faye Bakker - icon for gay men

In the Who'd ever believe this? department:

Tammy Faye Bakker, once the teary-eyed darling of the "electric church," has been born again -- but in a way that her former Christian broadcasting colleagues probably never anticipated...

She now calls herself Tammy Faye Messner -- taking her new husband's name -- and she's been appearing at gay pride events across the nation. Despite some doubts about her credibility, Tammy Faye has become an unlikely icon for the gay community...

Kate Clinton, a comedian and gay rights activist, says the gay community's embrace of Messner may reflect a deeper shift in cultural attitudes. "Maybe this is the beginning of a voice," Clinton tells Ulaby. "Wilder things have happened."

But others remain unconvinced. Randy Shulman, publisher of a gay newsweekly in Washington, D.C., says Messner falls neatly into a tradition of divas in distress who aggressively market themselves to gay men. "She was in search of a group to possibly adore her.... She found one and she clung to it."

Don't miss the photo - that hairdo looks like a big wind hit her from behind just before the shutter clicked.

And if you must know more about how Ms. Messner is coping with life, including her thoughts on 9/11, go here.

Posted by susanna at 09:18 PM | Comments (2)

News flash: Many US college student lack brains, guts

James Lileks unpacks the awful truth.

(Sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying.)

Posted by susanna at 09:51 AM | Comments (1)

This just in: WaPo writer needs vacation or better editor; readers hurling

In an article about a man who has jogged home from every stop on DC's Metro:

In the watermelon light of a summer evening...

What? Was it pinkish red? Wet? Sweet and fragrant? Encased in green rind? All of the above? Or, as I suspect, a consequence of someone waxing eloquent when she should stick to waxing only floors?

This, on the other hand, I can imagine in a variety of contexts:

He tried again last Monday, this time stapling packets of carbohydrate paste to his shorts.

There's just nothing to add to that.

Posted by susanna at 08:58 AM | Comments (8)

British grammar crisis - is it real, or is I missing something?

Headline from an article on England's World Cup soccer loss to Brazil in The Guardian:

This time we wasn't robbed

Quote in the story:

"The overall feeling among the English is that we were not robbed...

Other notable excerpts (not ungrammatical, just amusing):

"They were the better team," said Richard Taylor, a 29-year-old accountant, emerging from the pub, blinking back tears and looking for a Brazilian to unburden himself to. "I just want to find one so I can say well done. It would make me feel better."

...A hardcore of flag-wavers in Trafalgar Square jumped in the fountains and splashed ineffectually about, while American tourists filmed them and asked, "are they the soccer hooligans?"

In Charing Cross Road, location of a popular salsa bar, police barricades were erected to separate England and Brazil fans, although there was not much appetite for violence. Brazil fans blew whistles and bopped around while, across the police line, England fans in St George's flag boxer shorts lolled sulkily about, hurled the occasional insult and turned pink in the sun. "Look fellas," said a young policeman to a group of moody fans, "why can't you just be happy for them?" The dumbfounded silence was broken, eventually, as an England fan summoned his most deadly insult. "What are you," he spat, "German?"

Up next: The EU sends the International Red Cross in to investigate hardline grammar oppressors in anglo-centric language cells throughout England. This proves to be beyond their skill level.

Posted by susanna at 08:41 AM | Comments (6)

Paging all parents! Get a clue!

The Last Page (you know, that girl's on a permanent wave of brilliance) skewers parents who let television babysit. I think she should be made Parent of the Year. Except she's not. A parent, that is.

Posted by susanna at 07:47 AM | Comments (5)

Les mensonges, condamner des mensonges et Thierry Meyssan les mensonges français

Frenchman Thierry Meyssan's conspiracy theory book claiming that the US damaged the Pentagon itself as a part of a right-wing plot has become a best-seller in France. Those of us who watch French politics and culture with great admiration and veneration from here in the States are not surprised; The Last Page, just this spring, gave the definitive response, and an addendum. But the quote of the day comes from our very own government:

A Pentagon spokesman said, "There was no official reaction because we figured it was so stupid."

(The headline translates to Lies, damn lies and Thierry Meyssan's French lies. Cut on the bias: able to annoy you in two or more languages, with the help of a free online translation website.)

Posted by susanna at 07:42 AM | Comments (7)

June 21, 2002

Life is good

I just got home from the mall with a new hair style, new clothes, new books and a weekend ahead of me. In just a few minutes I'm going to curl up on the couch with my crocheting and watch Law & Order. Life is very good.

Something struck me again while I was at the mall in Jersey City tonight that occurred to me when I went home to Kentucky a few weeks ago - here in New Jersey, I'm more often than not the minority. This is not a bad thing, you understand. But I don't realize how accustomed I get to it, how basically I don't even think about it, until I'm somewhere that the ethnic mix is more homogeneous. It happened when I lived here before, and returned to Louisville for visits - Oxmoor Mall on the affluent east end of town was 180 degrees the other way. When I was in Bluegrass Airport in Lexington recently, the same thing was true.

In Jersey City, more than 100 languages are spoken in households throughout the city - and they are native speakers of those languages, most first or second generation immigrants. Saris, dreads and little business suits are equally likely attire. About 75% of the members where I go to church are black, many of them having immigrated from the Caribbean. At work, many of my colleagues are Hispanic or black. And in the town where I live, I'm more likely to see people of Portuguese, South American or Asian descent as European. (It's particularly noticeable to me because at 5'8" I tend to tower over everyone, male and female, from those areas.)

It's one of the things I like about New Jersey, and one of the things I'll miss when I go back home. But don't worry - I'm collecting recipes. And I think I'll buy a sari before I go.

Posted by susanna at 09:53 PM | Comments (4)

Dip in

The Spoons Experience has slipped into his new Sekimori designer blog. First rate - check it out.

Posted by susanna at 09:32 PM | Comments (0)

Rule the world!

Or, at least, tell War Now! your plan for how you'd do it.

I'm already plotting.

Posted by susanna at 02:30 PM | Comments (1)

Eat up and get out

It's not just the portion sizes that shrink as the prices go up at restaurants across the country. Be prepared to fight the busboy for your plate in some of these places.

[Link via reader Alan Cornett (yes, my brother), who notes that he never feels rushed at Schlotzkey's.]

UPDATE: Jonathan Gewirtz at ChicagoBoyz offers a solution.

Posted by susanna at 12:27 PM | Comments (0)

Word vs Woodlief

Tony Woodlief is not happy with the fancy new features of MS Word's latest incarnation.

Posted by susanna at 12:05 PM | Comments (0)

NPR deep linking update

Appended to the original post on it here.

Posted by susanna at 11:11 AM | Comments (0)

Voices in (and about) the Middle East

Jerusalem Post:

At least one terrorist infiltrated the settlement of Itamar near Nablus last night, killing a mother and three of her eight children and the head of the community's emergency response team. .


The New York Times:

A medic on the scene said the shooting was so intense it was impossible to evacuate the wounded.

The Arab News:

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, 21 June — Israel started mobilizing reserve soldiers yesterday and expanded its brutal military operations on the West Bank in the wake of two Palestinian bombings that killed 26 Israelis and left US peace efforts in limbo. The latest round of tit for tat violence forced US President George W. Bush to delay his much-anticipated announcement of a new Middle East strategy for fear his words would fall on deaf ears.


The United States said Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat's written statement on Thursday demanding an end to attacks by his people on Israeli citizens was not enough to end the violence...

Israeli leaders have dismissed the PA leader's condemnations of attacks as lip-service, insisting he is not lifting a finger to quell terror attacks.

Jerusalem Post:

An anonymous caller told Reuters that an armed offshoot of the PFLP, the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, carried out the attack, calling it "a reaction to Israeli fence-building... and to challenge the repeated Israeli incursions into Palestinian territories."

Jerusalem Post:

One of the murdered children was trapped in the family's house after it caught fire during the attack.

The (UK) Telegraph:

Ismail Abu-Shanab, spokesman for Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement, said: "If we have an effective weapon in our hands and the whole world is trying to take it off us, this shows it must be the most effective way."

...Hundreds of Palestinians held a "hunger march" yesterday behind a banner declaring themselves "victims of occupation and negligence".


The attack on the Itamar settlement late Thursday brought to 33 the number of Israelis killed in Palestinian shootings and bombings this week.
Posted by susanna at 07:48 AM | Comments (0)

Suppression of free speech

Glenn Reynolds has the latest on Paul Trummel.

Posted by susanna at 07:46 AM | Comments (0)

Serious concern, odd headline

A short article in today's WaPo sounds an alarm (but not a new one):

The Internet's potential for promoting expression and empowering citizens is under threat from corporate and government policies that clash with the medium's long-standing culture of openness, some leading Internet thinkers warned.

The headline says:

Web Thinkers Warn of Culture Clash

Not reflective of the story. Odd, and probably a result of space constraints and just too many headlines written on one shift.

Posted by susanna at 07:11 AM | Comments (0)

Peggy Noonan through a Brit's eyes

Mary Wakefield writes about Peggy Noonan in The Spectator, and while it's interesting it's not particularly flattering:

Peggy Noonan, one of America’s most revered Republican writers and former speechwriter for the Reagan White House, looks up from her chicken salad with an expression of baffled determination. ‘It is obvious to me, Mary, that we live in a time of extraordinary peril. But you will learn as you grow older that people just don’t listen!’

...I have become something of a doomsayer, but,’ she tosses back her hair, ‘what the heck!’

I don't think Wakefield meant to be funny, but this article turns out to be a caricature of Noonan that is as reflective of the writer as of the subject.

By now I am positive that she thinks I am one of the soft-thinking, leftist elite who stand to one side pontificating while things blow up all around. I do not dare look at her, but focus firmly on the improbably large, orange Polish sausage that I ordered by mistake. It attracts attention from other diners. ‘I only got the egg salad,’ complains an old Jewish lady to my left. ‘I want the sausage.’

I want to know if Wakefield asked the old lady if she was Jewish, or just assumed.

And Wakefield also gives us a descriptive passage that is, I believe, supposed to evoke horror in her readers - she's obviously not writing for a conservative American audience:

I would like to live inside Peggy Noonan’s mind for a while. It would be a calming, well-ordered sort of place, with rooms full of good things like home cooking, churchgoing and plain-speaking. A dank basement, with a door marked ‘To Be Nuked’ would contain many writhing evil things in turbans. An iron maiden would be set aside especially for Bill and Hillary Clinton.

I've always been fond of Iron Maidens. As a horror story staple, of course.

And no, neither of us mean the heavy metal band.

Posted by susanna at 07:00 AM | Comments (2)

Belo, ProJo, guilds and media influence

The Providence Journal is owned by Belo, the same “no deep linking” media company that owns The Dallas Morning News. Yesterday, ProJo’s journalists staged a “no byline strike” to call attention to a labor dispute with Belo – which has not successfully renegotiated a contract with its reporter types since their previous contract ran out in 1999. Belo has owned ProJo since 1997, so basically they’ve never negotiated one.

As anyone who’s read this blog for a while knows, I’m no fan of unions – be they attached to private industry or public entities (civil service, tenure). I think in their modern manifestations, they are a form of legalized extortion and protection for deadwood in a company. But unions originated in this country in response to truly egregious exploitation by employers, and every time I’m on the verge of saying, “Okay, out with unions, they’ve outlasted their usefulness and plunged wholly into corruption”, a situation arises that shows that’s not always true.

In this instance, Belo has three marks against it:

1) They are arrogant and dictatorial about use of their websites (the deep linking thing);
2) They apparently have partially blocked coverage of the fatal shooting by one of their production plant employees, limiting reporters’ ability to explore the situation fully, as well as not allowing coverage of their own labor dispute with ProJo employees; and
3) They remain unwilling to negotiate with their employees.

It is the first two that make the last problematic and likely, in my mind, to be another form of corporate arrogance.

Fairness and honesty should be the hallmark of a newspaper (I know, an elusive ideal), and it’s more likely to be the case if the corporation that owns it not only accepts but actively seeks that. It’s a difficult stance, because corporations by their nature are going to seek damage control in relation to negative coverage of their business. I’m concerned that this refusal to agree to a contract is a form of control of coverage as much as a business decision; at the least, the accompanying shutdown of coverage in their own paper shows a lack of commitment on Belo’s part to both fairness and honesty.

It’s a tough call. I tend to be pro-business. But with more and more professional media outlets owned by increasingly consolidated media mega-corporations, the extent to which media corporations control coverage is an issue that needs to be addressed – ideological skewing is easier to identify and mentally adjust for than limits on coverage and quality imposed by the imperative of the corporate bottom line. Pro-business doesn’t mean blind to genuine problems with corporate behavior. I suggest you check out the Providence Newspaper Guild website, as well as ProJo blogger Sheila Lennon’s coverage and the article by Ian Donnis at the Providence Phoenix website, and make your own conclusions.

Perhaps that’s another reason to be happy about blogging – it is by its nature resistant to control.

Posted by susanna at 06:35 AM | Comments (0)

June 20, 2002

Death penalty ban

Several people have asked me what I thought of the Supremes’ decision today to ban the execution of convicted murderers who are retarded. Actually, one of my bosses said, “So what will you do with your Saturday nights now?” – meaning, of course, now that I won’t have executions to watch. Capital punishment is an issue we’ve discussed several times, until he finally basically asked me not to mention it again so he could still think well of me (he was nearly heartbroken to learn how conservative I am – he made the frequent liberal mistake of assuming that if someone seems rational and likeable, she is of course also liberal in her politics. Wrong.)

My field of study is criminal justice, and I have a personal interest in theology, so my focus has always been the moral appropriateness of the death penalty as a sentence, and to a lesser degree the nuances of its application – but not its Constitutional underpinnings. So, I went to the experts. I started with Dodd Harris at Ipse Dixit, who is a lawyer of libertarian bent. Next I cruised over to UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh’s site, which added little but directed me to a good article at National Review Online. That path was a good choice – Dodd hits the high points of the actual ruling (and debunks them), then lawyer Richard Garnett – who is against the death penalty on moral grounds – explains why he thinks it was a bad decision too. A couple of quotes from the latter are a good summary:'s decision is not so much constitutional law as it is — in Justice Scalia's words — a breathtakingly arrogant assumption of power.

...I am afraid, in the end, that Justice Scalia is correct: "Seldom has an opinion of this Court rested so obviously upon nothing but the personal views of its members."

It makes me wonder which issue they'll use this logic on next time - and that's a scary thought.

Posted by susanna at 11:58 PM | Comments (4)

This is excellent

I'm the Website of the Day at Right Wing News.

So why don't people tell me these things??

(It's at the bottom of the right sidebar.)

Posted by susanna at 10:28 PM | Comments (6)

How to build confidence in your dictionary

Have Luddites revise it.

[Link via furtive explorations]

Posted by susanna at 10:08 PM | Comments (0)


You knew it had to happen.

UPDATE: Geezzz... I should have known it was too funny to be true. [Thanks to Kevin (in comments)]

Posted by susanna at 04:53 PM | Comments (7)

Campaign finance unmasked

You knew this was going to happen, didn't you? Dodd Harris has the goods on John McCain and His Amazing Never-Say-Die-Until-It's-All-Public-Funding Campaign Finance Mission.

It's almost enough to make me write out a check to the Republican Party. (And I would, if they'd stop sending me those obnoxious mailings.)

Posted by susanna at 04:45 PM | Comments (1)

NPR and the online kiss of death

Gregory Harris of Planet Swank is concerned but somewhat forgiving of NPR’s policy of allowing deep-linking only with permission. Those of you who read the comments here know Gregory is newly among my favorite liberal readers – cogent and willing to tackle questions directly, even though often misguided. But not always - he does a nice job on the NPR thing, and has it almost right. Dodd, on the other hand, has it all the way right.

If I had time, I’d deep link NPR myself. Without permission.

I’m such a rebel.

UPDATE (11 a.m. 6/21): Well, there's been a lot of movement on the NPR thing, which isn't surprising. Ernie the Attorney commented, which led me to Cory Doctorow at bOingbOing with additional good commentary, and that in turn took me to David Rothman's Teleread, which seems to be the center of bloggish NPR deep-link reporting. A quote from NPR Ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin (this from Ernie's site, quoting Rothman's site):

Asked if a link from someone's noncommercial homepage would bother the company, Dvorkin said: "It depends on your homepage -- what if you're an advocate for left-handed socialist diabetics? We wouldn't want to give support to advocacy groups."

Pretty amazing, how he manages to infuriate liberals, conservatives and libertarians in one easy statement. Good job, Dvorkin!

Rothman says NPR is reconsidering their policy, and his latest post explains how. I'll be keeping an eye on Rothman's site, which is updating the issue as it unfolds.

Posted by susanna at 04:36 PM | Comments (5)

Kopel on media bias

Dave Kopel had an excellent column in Sunday's Rocky Mountain News that I just found which identifies examples of journalistic skewing of context by leaving out details. An excerpt:

Another article that revealed less than it obscured was the June 1 Associated Press report in the News on the previous day's events in Israel. Reporter Mohammed Daraghmeh wrote: "Just a few miles from Nablus, a Palestinian gunman was shot to death after infiltrating a Jewish settlement."

This was an amazingly antiseptic description of a very dramatic incident, as reported by the left-wing Israeli daily Ha'aretz ( On the morning of May 31, a man entered a kindergarten where classes were just beginning and opened fire with a machine gun and began throwing grenades. The man then began shooting through the open windows of neighborhood houses. A nearby grocery store owner grabbed a rifle and wounded the attacker twice. The killer hid, but the grocer pursued him and shot him dead.

Daraghmeh's version left out the attack on the schoolchildren and homes, the use of grenades and grocer's heroism. Just as the AP refuses to call Palestinian terrorists "terrorists," Daraghmeh describes the man who tried to murder kindergarteners with machine guns and grenades as an "infiltrator." The Denver media, of course, would never describe the Columbine murderers as "infiltrators."

The News should stop relying on its Mideast coverage from sources that hide the real story about homicidal attacks on schoolchildren.

Posted by susanna at 11:18 AM | Comments (0)


Meryl Yourish, Bob Leahy and Andrea Harris. That's pretty much all I have to say on the subject.

Posted by susanna at 09:18 AM | Comments (0)

More guns, more bias: Concealed carry in Texas and the VPC

Last week the Violence Policy Center (VPC), a pro-gun control group, released a report about the concealed carry law in Texas. It was called to my attention by my friend and colleague Tamryn Etten-Bohm, who is doing her doctoral dissertation on the development of official gun control policy in Florida in the 1990s. She sent a link to a news brief on the study:

In the first five years that the concealed-weapons law was in effect in Texas, 5,314 of the 218,661 people holding concealed-weapons permits were arrested for various crimes, the Associated Press reported June 12... "License-holders are committing crimes, not preventing them," said Karen Brock, an analyst with the center.

And Tamryn was not happy. She asked in her email:

...what percentage of the general public was arrested during the same time period and how do these percents compare? Were these permit holders arrested by … police for weapons possession and then reversed?

I read the news brief, then the press release on the VPC site. Anyone who has ever taken a statistics class understands what “lying with statistics” means – reporting the results in such a way as to create the impression you want to create, despite the fact that a more objective presentation would create a very different image. The VPC staff is either statistically incompetent or deliberately misleading – lying with statistics.

First, if you read the news summary (posted on the anti-gun site Take Action Against Substance Abuse and Gun Violence) and the press release, you’ll notice that they are very careful not to say that crime increased over all, or even that crimes involving guns increased during their study time period. What they say is that:

“…Texas concealed handgun license holders have been arrested 5,314 times since the concealed handgun license law went into effect…”

And that tells us…what? Just the bald fact that 5,314 arrests involved license holders. What doesn’t it tell us? It doesn’t say what percentage of total gun crime that was, it doesn’t say whether that was an increase or decrease in gun related crimes (I would bet decrease, since they didn’t say), it doesn’t say whether that was 5,314 people or 5,314 times – and possibly fewer people. Does each arrest reflect one charge per person, or multiple charges? Look again at the quote. The sentence is constructed so that it would be true even if 1000 license holders were arrested 5 times each, or 100 arrested 50 times each (using rounded numbers). And if there are multiple charges – sometimes a person can have three to five charges arising from one incident – suddenly the number of actual incidents reflected by that “statistic” has the potential to plunge dramatically, and even more so if you consider that it’s possible that the same person was arrested more than one time during the course of the study’s five and a half year span.

A second point is the types of crimes the license holders were arrested for. The implication is that the crimes were all gun related – after all, we’re talking about why it’s a bad thing to let citizens own guns and carry concealed, right? But look at this quote:

Texas concealed handgun license holders have been arrested for more than two serious violent crimes per month since the law went into effect including: murder/attempted murder, manslaughter/negligent homicide, kidnapping, rape, and sexual assault. Texas concealed handgun license holders have been arrested for more than two crimes against children per month since the law went into effect including: sexual assault/aggravated sexual assault on a child, injury to a child, indecency with a child, abandon/endanger a child, solicitation of a minor, and possession or promotion of child pornography.

How many times does carrying concealed result in an arrest for possession of child pornography? Or abandonment of a child? How often does rape involve a handgun? (Rape does, occasionally, but not the majority of instances.) Either the VPC is implying that people who carry concealed are just bad people who oughtn’t be allowed guns, or they are implying that carry concealed suddenly turns a person into a child-molesting rapist. Neither construction is supported by the “facts” they present – and their implication that carrying concealed increases crime is not supported either.

And notice too the numbers here. License holders have been arrested for more than two serious violent crimes a month during the course of the five and a half year study. Let’s give them an edge and round that up to three a month. That’s 66 months multiplied by three – 198. Apparently 5,016 of the 5,314 arrests were not for serious violent crimes. And when I dug deeper - to their listing of data - I learned that only 1,272 arrests (less than a fourth of the original 5,314) involved gun offenses. Of those, nearly half (671) were for unlawfully carrying a weapon. Puts a different light on things, doesn’t it?

Tamryn also brought up the point of reduced charges. Sometimes when an arrest is made, charges that seem appropriate at the time are found under closer scrutiny not to be applicable. Therefore, if the data were collected from arrest, rather than conviction, records, the numbers would be very different.

The VPC and their pathetic “statisticians” also try to lend credence to their claims by this:

Arrest data is regularly accepted as a valid measure of crime, reflecting law enforcement response to criminal activity, and is used by agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for its Uniform Crime Reports (UCR).

Yes, that’s true. But there are two important differences between the UCR and VPC’s report – we know exactly how the UCR data was collected, and the UCR compares apples and apples, not apples and Amtrak trains. If you want to get really picky, I can point you to a number of criticisms of UCR data, based on such things as the point of data collection – as mentioned above, charges at arrest are often different from charges for which an offender is convicted. So, if even UCR data is not considered pristine by academic researchers, in all its completely-revealed glory, how likely is it that VPC’s raw data is also not above criticism? I would say very likely.

Obviously I can go on at additional length; I think you get the point. But what was VPC’s point? We aren’t left in any doubt about that:

VPC news release:

"The NRA told Texans in 1996 that a concealed handgun law would make Texas a safer place," VPC Health Policy Analyst Karen Brock, MPH, said today. "The thousands of arrests of concealed handgun license holders demonstrates the exact opposite to be true: license holders are committing crimes, not preventing them. States now considering concealed carry laws should learn from the dire consequences that Texans now live with day-in and day-out."

News summary:

The study, released by the Washington-based Violence Policy Center, was intended to counter claims by gun advocates that crime rates dropped after passage of concealed-weapons legislation…

The gun-control group released the study in Ohio because the state legislature is considering a proposal to allow residents to carry concealed guns.

Let’s hope there are a few statisticians amongst the legislature and the news media in Ohio.

UPDATE: Just in case you weren't sure which side VPC was on...

Posted by susanna at 12:22 AM | Comments (6)

June 19, 2002

That's exactly right

These insanos want war? Well, let's give them a real war and see how long it takes them to decide they don't want it anymore. If there are any of them left when Israel runs out of ammunition, well, then maybe we can see about peaceful coexistence. This war is looking more and more to me like a war between reality and fantasy, between sanity and insanity, between lies and the truth - and by exercising restraint and demanding Israel do likewise, we foster the continuation of the fantasy, the insanity, the lies - and the war.

---Mike at Cold Fury

Posted by susanna at 04:08 PM | Comments (0)

Something you can do

Read this.

Then read this.

Then go do this.

I have.

UPDATE: Because it just keeps happening.

Posted by susanna at 01:18 PM | Comments (4)

Hiding the criminality of the “deeply religious”

Columnist Alicia Mundy in Editor and Publisher magazine identifies a real problem in today’s media environment:

It is never easy to cover the religious angle of a terrible tragedy. No reporter wants to be branded "elitist" for asking questions about the impact of religious belief on someone's behavior. I'm not talking about clerical pedophilia. However, in the wake of stories about Andrea Yates, John Walker Lindh, and, now, the death of a toddler left in a van for seven hours by her family to die in agony from the heat, it's time the press developed a new paradigm for covering the possible fallout of religious beliefs.

She goes on to detail the facts in the death of the toddler: A “deeply religious” Catholic couple had 13 children, of which Frances was the youngest. She was left in the van apparently because her father – consumed with watching 13 children alone while their mother was gone - just forgot her. According to the subsequent police investigation, this wasn’t the first time a child had been forgotten somewhere – a brother was once left in a video store for hours – and Frances herself had been returned to her parents by police when she was found wandering in the neighborhood alone.

So far it is a fairly clear picture of parental neglect, and not, in my judgment, about religion at all. But when the father was charged with involuntary manslaughter, members of his church community denounced the indictment as anti-Catholic – condemning him basically for having so many children. The Washington Post became complicit in the restructuring of the issue when they printed a story on June 10 with the headline, "Death Mars a Flattering Family Portrait." Then:

The Washington Times dove right in -- trashing, in an editorial, the indictment against the father, who is already suffering because of what he called "a tragic accident."

Mundy correctly identifies this “accident” as, in truth, criminal neglect, and points out that likely if the parents weren’t “deeply religious” the reporting would have been different. She says the problem is that the media doesn’t know how to report about situations involving members of mainstream religions, especially people engaging in behaviors for religious reasons that are out of the mainstream – in this instance, having a great many children – which could be a contributing factor to criminality. Then Mundy herself veers off into her own interpretation of the problem – which in my judgment is just as flawed as what she accuses the Post and Times of doing.

I believe that if the religion involved here weren't one of the mainstream Judeo-Christian sects, editors and reporters might have raised some serious questions: Did the family priest not notice any problems -- or urge the couple to reconcile their religious views on birth control with their ability to handle so many children? What of the wide impact of having so many kids on the other Kelly children? Stories indicated the older children were being used as a built-in baby-sitting service while the parents continued to produce more kids than they could handle.

While the Times and Post were trying to in some fashion release the father from criminal responsibility because of his religious beliefs, Mundy tries to indict not only him but his priest, his congregation and, really, his entire religious community. Why weren’t they stepping in and making him do something different? Why didn’t they make this couple stop having babies when they very obviously couldn’t handle it? This involves religion as a factor just as much as the Times and Post coverage does, just from a different direction, and is just as inappropriate.

I think the problem is that most of these people – the journalists involved, including Mundy – are likely not highly religious themselves in the manner of those who guide every aspect of their lives by some religious edict, or their understanding of it. I’m not impugning the journalists’ morality here, just their understanding of religion and its role in people’s lives. As the US opinion elite in general, and the media most particularly, have moved away from religion as a defining feature of their world view, they have begun to treat it in some talismanic fashion, according those who are religious with special status, often with overtones of protecting the naïve. Religious beliefs somehow, in their mind, remove a person from responsibility for his or her actions. It is a form of insanity.

And that is ridiculous. We have laws that protect the practice of religion, but those laws should not protect the religious from prosecution for criminal activities. This case is not about a family that had too many children for religious reasons. In previous generations, many people had a dozen or more children – I knew a couple with 16 – and rarely did any of them die because they were forgotten. Recently a man in New Jersey left his toddler in the car because he had forgotten to drop him off on the way to work; the child died. The man didn’t have a whole bunch of children, but the crime is precisely the same. The couple in Mundy’s column had many children for religious reasons, and that’s fine; that is no excuse for their not taking care of them. If anything, they should be more culpable, since they ostensibly view each child as a gift from God. The father's behavior was criminal. End of story. Religion is not an issue in the facts of the case.

The news media need to get out of this view of religion as a form of organized insanity that gives its practitioners some type of bye in criminal cases. No, no and no. The criminal law is what it is, and those who break it for whatever reason are still responsible to it. There may be mitigating circumstances, and the religious beliefs of the offender may serve as one, but to present this case of neglect as more than just that is a result of ignorance, media bias and an unwillingness to be clear-sighted about our modern society.

UPDATE: On rereading my post, I realized I didn’t deal as fully with Mundy’s framing of the issue as I meant to. Her problem lies with the standard liberal concept that a community is responsible in some fashion for the behavior of the individual. Of course a person’s environment and associates have an impact on decision making, but it does not free the individual of personal responsibility for harm to others or property. It is not “asking the hard questions” to go after the priest or the father’s fellow church members to ask why they didn’t intervene. Using Mundy's examples, it was not Andrea Yates’s mother’s fault that Yates drowned her own children, although her raising of Yates may have helped set the stage. It is not John Walker Lindh’s parents’ fault that he took up arms against the United States, although certainly their raising of him was less than stellar and, again, set the stage for his behavior. But it didn’t cause his behavior, and none of those people – Yates’s mother, Lindh’s parents, and this father’s priest and congregation – are in any way criminally, and only marginally morally, responsible for the actions of those three people. “Asking the hard questions” is about trying to understand why religious people are given mitigation for flagrant stupidity/neglect (letting your child die in the car) or evil (buggering altar boys) just because they have espoused certain religions.

Kevin McGehee raises another side issue – that of groups such as Christian Scientists who believe that healing should come through prayer rather than modern medicine. This I think is a legitimate example of where the disobedience to law comes as a direct result of a religious belief, and as such should be treated differently. The interest of the state in upholding the law has to be examined. I think the courts’ intervention when a child is at risk of serious harm or death is appropriate, but only when it reaches that level of seriousness. Otherwise, CS parents should enjoy the same freedoms to raise their children as all other Americans do – or should and aren't, given the sometimes draconian measures taken by child services agencies in some states. There are likely other instances where religious beliefs legitimately come up against criminal law and must be examined by the courts, but allowing a child to die in an overheated car is not one of them.

UPDATE: More on Mundy from American Prowler [Link via Kevin McGehee]

Posted by susanna at 08:20 AM | Comments (1)

Crime, journalism and the public interest

The Chicago Sun Times and the Chicago magazine are having a disagreement about journalism’s role in interacting with law enforcement that I think has broad implications. Here’s the set up, from the Sun Times:

When [Sun Times] rock critic Jim DeRogatis and investigative reporter Abdon Pallasch received a video that showed an adult, allegedly superstar R. Kelly, having sex with a 14-year-old girl, they of course wrote about it. But they also gave the video to police.

The Chicago magazine thought it was unethical journalism, and sought out academics to comment:

By modern standards, the paper's behavior is unusual. Newsrooms normally resist efforts by police or prosecutors to obtain materials gathered by reporters. Publications often fight subpoenas for reporters to testify in court, for example. And in general, reporters aren't in the habit of turning over names of witnesses or investigative findings that aren't already in the newspaper...

"It is such a Faustian bargain," says Jane Kirtley, director of the Silha Center for Media Ethics and Law, at the University of Minnesota. "The principle for most journalists is to say, 'You do your investigation and we'll do ours.' It simply is not appropriate for journalists, as an ethical matter, to get cozy with the cops."

...[Sun Times’s] Pallasch says there is a distinction to be made: "In this unusual case, we had evidence of a crime arrive on our doorstep. Do we conceal it or turn it over to the police? If we find a dead body in the lobby, we call the police. That's not being an arm of the prosecution."

"Because of the appearance of the commission of a crime, we felt obliged to do something about that," says John Cruickshank, Sun-Times vice-president of editorial. "There is no principle that says the press is not obliged to act in the public interest...

We're on the side of justice. That's what this newspaper is about. We're not natural enemies of anybody else."

Kirtley says journalists may think they're being good citizens, but that the best role they can play in a democracy is to stick to journalism. That means to publish their findings and let the police do their own work.

The Sun Times responded:

We think Rhodes and the critics are missing a few obvious and important points. First, no one subpoenaed or pressured the Sun-Times to give police the video. It was our idea. We did it voluntarily because while sources must be protected--otherwise no one would take their stories to a newspaper--the videotape was not a source; it was a piece of evidence in a criminal investigation that up to that point had been stalled.

Second, we do not view crime indifferently. The video showed an adult sexually exploiting a teenage girl and urinating on her. Perhaps Rhodes and company should talk to a few parents to get a sense of this crime. Would the critics' view be different if the girl were age 6 instead of 14? We can't help but suspect that one issue here is a failure to grasp the seriousness of pedophilia, an attempt to give a star the grin, nudge and wink this sad case might have elicited in years past. Those days are gone. It's one thing to withhold the name of a source, but quite another to keep back evidence. Would the critics have had us withhold the tape if it had exonerated Kelly?

...We agree that we are not a law enforcement agency. But we are citizens--not of some journalistic utopia, but of Chicago--and as such we try to both publish news and do our civic duty. If the gun used in the Palatine murders showed up in the mail, we would take a picture of it, then call the police. The R. Kelly case is the same thing. No source was revealed. No reporter's notes were given to police. No film or digital images taken by Sun-Times photographers were turned over.

The point of interest here is how the journalists quoted in Chicago magazine are setting themselves up in opposition to police, rather than as citizens of the same community with often competing interests. There’s an important difference there, and in my judgment a disturbing definition of the relationship between society and journalism. Basically the Chicago magazine journalists are apparently viewing themselves as part of some type of god-like entity with no moral ties to any group except themselves and their perceived (I don't call them actual) ethics. They’re drawing a hard line where the Sun Times is admitting it’s more nuanced than that.

The Sun Times, from my reading, is protecting its investigative integrity and separation from law enforcement, yet voluntarily acknowledging the greater social imperative by passing along information that they did not solicit or uncover by virtue of their own efforts. That last is important, I think. They weren’t operating as the media arm of the police; they passed along something they received through no effort of their own.

Kirtley goes on in several places about how she thinks the way the discovery of a computer in Kabul by a journalist led materially to the death of Daniel Pearl, an accusation that I find amazing and horrific. She clearly understands neither the situation nor the implications of her statement. My question to her would be – if she were a journalist, and had received the tape of Pearl’s beheading along with supporting documents showing who did it, would she have turned those over to law enforcement? From her quotes in Chicago magazine, the answer would have to be no. And I think that more than anything shows the moral void in which she operates – a void that is reflected in the increasing disgust and dislike in which much of the media is held in this country.

The Sun Times, with which I am not familiar otherwise, has in this instance done exactly the right thing – made a tough distinction and served the public purpose. It’s that kind of action that should and will restore some public faith in journalism. The attitude expressed by Kirtley, especially, is precisely the kind of thing that makes the public feel that journalists are, ultimately, in it for their careers, their egos and the money they can make, rather than the public good. And that’s sad, because democracy works best when we have a strong, responsible, fair and free media.

[Links via Romenesko]

Posted by susanna at 07:35 AM | Comments (8)

June 18, 2002

Arab News reports from "Occupied Jerusalem"

[Photo removed from source site.]

The article is a fine example of Pro-Palestinian spin.

Our friends, the Saudis.

Posted by susanna at 10:31 PM | Comments (0)

What rhymes with witch?

File 13 does a little riff on Cherie Blair for this article:

Cherie Blair, wife of Britain's prime minister, said Tuesday that Palestinian suicide bombers are a symptom of despair.

Hey, Laurence, I think you did good with it. I sent the link to you because I was stumped. Speechless, even. Sorta like when I read this about today's suicide bomber scum:

The Islamic fundamentalist group Hamas identified the assailant as Mohammed al-Ghoul, 22, a graduate student in Islamic studies from the Al Faraa refugee camp in the West Bank. Al-Ghoul left behind a farewell note in which he said he'd tried twice before to stage attacks.

The last name is a slam-dunk without commentary. But twice before? Folks, I don't think we're seeing despair here, or even too much ideology. I think at least some of them are stupid, incompetent or naive losers who are trying to be important by this signature gesture. Kind of John Hinckley and the Columbine shooters rolled up together and wrapped in a Palestinian flag, fed poisonous rhetoric by evil people too smart to kill themselves, and turned loose on the innocents, their postmortem glory the shallow regard of a grade schooler with a new necklace. I think we're giving them too much credit even for evil. It's the "me too!" mentality gone mad. In a way, that's even scarier, because that means they're not really thinking about it in any abstract way, but rather how it places them in the group influencing them.

As far as I'm concerned, the Palestinian people are seeking collective suicide-by-cop. They just may get it, sooner rather than later.

Well. I seem to have recovered my power of speech.

UPDATE: Jeff Goldstein is more eloquent about the bombing, the causes and the results.

Posted by susanna at 06:11 PM | Comments (2)

All the rage

Read this, then get back to me about how Palestine and Israel will be at peace soon:

BALATA REFUGEE CAMP, West Bank — Fourteen-year-old Saleh Attiti has replaced his once-precious Pokémon cards with a less innocent craze that has swept up children in this violence-torn camp.

On a plastic coffee table in his cinder-block home, Saleh proudly displays part of his growing collection of necklaces with pictures of "martyrs" of the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation.

"I used to have plenty of Pokémons — my school bag was half full of them," Saleh said. "I threw them all away. They're not important now. The pictures of martyrs are important. They're our idols."

It's difficult to find a child in this teeming camp of 20,000 people who isn't wearing at least one necklace with a picture of a shahid, or "martyr" — mostly militant gunmen killed or suicide bombers blown up during the 20-month-old uprising…

The most recent hot item is a pendant of Jihad Attiti, the 18-year-old who became the camp's first suicide bomber two weeks ago by blowing himself up and killing two Israelis — an 18-month-old baby and her grandmother — in a Tel Aviv suburb.

The definition of a hero - the killer of old people and babies.

[Link via Croooow blog.]

Posted by susanna at 05:04 PM | Comments (2)

Passionate defense

Brent at The Ville is not happy with the terrorists and those who support them.

We need more passionate defense - not of terrorists, but of the United States and what it stands for, both in speech and action. Yes, we have to be careful about protecting rights. Yes, it's nuanced. But when it comes right down to it, there are good guys, and there are bad guys, and it is us or them. Calling it anything else is just blindness.

Posted by susanna at 03:17 PM | Comments (3)

Mother Nature's day

Fires in Colorado take a turn for the worse, and an earthquake shakes the heartland, centered near Evansville, IN.

My friends Dave and Mary Ann just moved to Henderson, KY, so he could take his first position as an attorney - in Evansville - after graduating from the University of Louisville law school this spring. (Good job, Dave! You've come a long way since that broken glass incident...) Maybe they should rethink the direction of the move.

Lexington is really nice, and much less, well, rattled.

[Links via The Ville and furtive explorations.]

UPDATE: More on the earthquake.

Posted by susanna at 03:09 PM | Comments (7)

Blogging on the right side

Are conservative bloggers just hiding behind their computers because they're afraid to engage liberals in the real world? Media Minded has some thoughtful things to say about a post by Brendan O'Neill.

Posted by susanna at 02:30 PM | Comments (6)

A reality check

File 13 becomes the dead file.

Posted by susanna at 01:54 PM | Comments (0)

Speaking of Eminem... we were a couple of days ago, here's a post from Global News Watch to counter what Mat Cantore at Bushtit had to say recently.

Posted by susanna at 11:55 AM | Comments (0)

I'm crushed

I only scored 29.

I'm a failure.

[via Global News Watch]

Posted by susanna at 11:52 AM | Comments (12)


Why did the Washington Post kill this story?

Will be interesting to see developments.

Thanks to reader Bob Bolger for the catch.

Posted by susanna at 11:05 AM | Comments (1)

Saudi Al Qaeda caught planning to attack... Saudi Arabia

Just heard on the radio that Saudi Arabia has captured some Saudis connected to Al Qaeda who were planning to attack Saudi people and property. Hmmmm....

Will update as it hits the news sites.

UPDATE: And before you can blink (maybe it was there already), Fox News has it.

Posted by susanna at 09:35 AM | Comments (2)

Palestine continues its efforts toward peace

Washington Post:

A Palestinian man detonated nail-studded explosives on a Jerusalem bus crowded with high school students and office workers Tuesday, killing himself and 19 passengers in the city's deadliest suicide attack in six years. Forty people were wounded.

Jerusalem Post:

"There was a huge explosion, smoke and pieces of the bus and body parts were flying everywhere. It was horrible," a witness, who only gave his name as David, told Army Radio...

Many of the wounded are aged 10-to-12, Army Radio said.


Islamic militant group Hamas claimed responsibility for the terror attack, according to Hamas sources in Gaza...

The Palestinian Authority immediately condemned the attack.

"The Palestinian Authority ... retains its position of not condoning the killing of civilians -- Palestinians and Israelis," said Saeb Erakat, chief Palestinian negotiator. "We reject any Israeli attempt to assign blame or finger-pointing at us. The Israelis have done nothing in the last 21 months but destroy our ability [to go after the bombers]."

Arab News, 8:10 a.m. EST; 12:57 p.m. EST:


Susanna Cornett:

Kill Arafat. Raze Palestine. Give it all to the Israelis. Send the Palestinian "refugees" to Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Let the world know inescapably that this kind of behavior will not be allowed anymore.

UPDATE: The bombing happened 5 minutes from Tal G's home.

UPDATE: Dave Worley agrees with me. Sort of. He votes for the sea or Jordan.

UPDATE: NZ Bear is on the same page too.

Posted by susanna at 08:06 AM | Comments (2)

Kristof and the straw woman

Nicholas Kristof is bent because the US hasn't ratified an international women's treaty he says is aimed at preventing discrimination, one which 169 other countries have ratified. Apparently Powell's State Department was supportive but Ashcroft's Justice Department said whoaaa. (Now, where have we heard that before? Powell gets more and more worrisome.)

Kristof spends the bulk of his column telling us about the horrific situation in Pakistan, and it does sound awful. We're supposed to believe that this situation continues because the US hasn't approved the treaty, and our accomplishments in this arena are supposed to make us feel guilty:

...frankly, the treaty has almost nothing to do with American women, who already enjoy the rights the treaty supports — opportunities to run for political office, to receive an education, to choose one's own spouse, to hold jobs. Instead it has everything to do with the half of the globe where to be female is to be persecuted until, often, death.

But then we get to this little nugget:

Twenty years of experience with the treaty in the great majority of countries shows that it simply helps third-world women gain their barest human rights. In Pakistan, for example, women who become pregnant after being raped are often prosecuted for adultery and sentenced to death by stoning. But this treaty has helped them escape execution. (Emphasis mine)

Did you see that? Pakistan has already ratified the treaty, so all the abuses Kristof details have apparently not been stopped by it. How would ratification by the US change that? The only possible way (and Kristof doesn't say this) is that if the US ratifies it, we will then carry some moral responsibility to make sure other countries either ratify it or follow it more closely. Now, tell me again about how US hegemony is a bad thing, Kristof?

Oh, and on a final note, Kristof has this to say in support of the treaty:

[The treaty has been ratified] without emasculating men in any of them!

We didn't even have to pass it for that to happen to you, Nicholas.

Posted by susanna at 07:41 AM | Comments (1)

Teacher, teacher, do it again!

More reason for confidence in your local school system:

When teachers are accused of sexual abuse, educators and law enforcement authorities say, districts often rid themselves of the problem by agreeing to keep quiet if the teacher moves on, sometimes even offering them a financial settlement. The practice, called passing the trash, avoids the difficulties of criminal prosecution or protracted disciplinary proceedings.

My first instinct is to say, hold the administrator at least marginally responsible, criminally, for later acts of sexual abuse by teachers who've been thus transfered or released. But then the question arises, what about lawsuits? I've been told by business people that they are afraid to give negative job references for fear of being sued by the person involved. That doesn't mean they should give glowing ones, as apparently happened in some cases here, but there has to be a middle ground. Fortunately, about half the states have addressed this part:

As of 1998, at least 26 states had passed laws explicitly protecting employers who give unfavorable references from defamation lawsuits.

But the excuse offered here is that administrators don't have time to go to the hearings necessary to take a teacher's license:

Julie Underwood, general counsel for the National School Boards Association, acknowledged that allowing those accused of molestation to leave districts without a mark on their record was morally questionable. But she said school principals often did not have the time required to pursue disciplinary actions.

"It may take an entire week of time at hearings to dismiss a teacher," Ms. Underwood said.

Um, excuse me? There's no "don't have time" when the issue is children's safety. I'm sure if the parents of a district were asked to vote, they would be for it. Let me help with the referendum question:

Do you think, in the case of a teacher who has sexually abused a minor, that the district should:

a) Do everything possible to get that teacher's license removed or

b) Let the teacher move to another district and abuse other children so the principal of his old school won't have to sit in a boring hallway drinking bad coffee and reading last fall's People magazine waiting for the hearing, while his cohorts back at the office cover for him just like they do when he's sick or at other school-related meetings.

How would you vote?

Before someone writes me all het up about my attitude about schools, let me note that both my parents are retired teachers, three of my grandparents were teachers and more relatives than I care to count right now are or have been too. Just because there are a lot of good people working their butts off to do a good job doesn't mean there aren't endemic problems resulting from a failure to put the child first. In fact, I'd say that is the whole problem - the child is last in the modern public school system.

One more reason to clean it up, including the teachers unions.

Posted by susanna at 07:11 AM | Comments (1)

June 17, 2002

Quote of the day

...the primary difference between a pacifist and an American military officer is that while the pacifist imagines the horrors of warfare, the military officer understands them first hand.

---John S. Letters to the Editor, CNS News

Posted by susanna at 08:18 PM | Comments (4)


Scutum Sobieski, formerly of Regurgablog, has done a complete makeover courtesy of Robyn and Sekimori, and is now proprietor of Horologium blog. Those ladies do excellent work, don’t they?

I’ve also updated my links list and wanted to call attention to it. My NJ buddy Meryl Yourish shows up long past due; she had some great stuff over the weekend, as you know already from my Sunday post, if you checked it. Tom Maguire of Just One Minute shares my same sense of humor (is that a good thing or a bad thing?) and also has some excellent insights on, among other things, Krugman. His new Father’s Day gift, the Column Compressor, is nothing short of amazing. (Please note that this permalink is in no way connected to his tendency to link to me.) Vincent Ferrari of Insignificant Thoughts also is insightful, original and funny, apparently recurring themes in my link list. Cold Fury gives the blogosphere a rockabilly musical twist, but he’s no one-note wonder – lots of cool stuff there, including this rip of Bill Clinton and a post about his Dad (Do I get my gold star now, Mike?). Global News Watch keeps us all informed, while Astonished Head is just… well, really interesting, to me, anyway. And Planet Swank is the home of Gregory Harris, currently under suspicion for liberal leanings. (Gregory, don't forget, it's tabled!)

So, go forth and multiply thy knowledge, or at least thy smiles.

UPDATE: Due to my change in server, and thus URL, I've tanked in the rankings of the Blogosphere Ecosystem, and am now again a Lowly Insect. Fix your links, peoples! It's cold under this rock, and I'm sick of scurrying.

Posted by susanna at 12:27 PM | Comments (5)

Smokey the Bear she's not - but how culpable?

A U.S. Forest Service forestry technician has been charged with inadvertently starting the Colorado fire that has burned more than 100,000 acres and threatens many homes in the Denver area. What was she doing? Trying to burn a letter from her estranged husband. Somehow I'm thinking she could have:

a) shredded it and tossed it out the window (yes, littering, but not as damaging as burning down the place)

b) taken it home and burned it in the sink (but then what would the landlord think?)

c) eaten it (A tummy ache vs 100,000 acres of forest and inhabited property. Sounds like an acceptable alternative).

This level of stupidity nearly defies words.

On the other hand, it does raise the question of intent and punishment. While her actions did result in huge property damage, threatened the lives of hundreds of people, and has cost probably millions to the taxpayer, she didn't mean for it to happen. Yes, she should have known, much more so than the average person, just precisely why it was such a bad idea to start a fire even in a designated fire circle during this dry time of year. But even her own experience may not have caused her to realize that such a small thing could cause such devastation, especially since she knew she was trained to control it. A horrible lapse in judgment, yes, but our criminal code is heavily weighted toward intent - meaning to do it makes a difference. That's why you have charges like manslaughter as an alternative to murder.

This case reminds me of the Carrollton bus crash in 1988 in Kentucky. Larry Mahoney, a long-time alcoholic, got on the wrong side of Interstate 71 when he left a bar on his way home after a bout of drinking. He hit a school bus head-on; it was bringing members of a church youth group home from a trip to Kings Island in Cincinnati. Because of where he hit the bus, and the bus's construction - the location of the gas tank and the lack of adequate escape routes - 24 teenagers and three adults died. It was absolutely nightmarish, and the local prosecutor even considered asking for the death penalty - Mahoney, after all, was an habitual DUI. But the prosecutor was stopped by the facts of the case - Mahoney's intent didn't fit the requirements for a capital murder charge, and the construction of the bus was a major contributing factor (which has led to new laws about bus construction). So while the devastation was immense, the punishment for the one who caused it was not on par with the damage.

I'll be watching to see how this case turns out. As for Mahoney, here's how he ended up:

Larry Mahoney, convicted of manslaughter in the infamous 1988 Carrollton bus crash, was one such case. Originally sentenced to 16 years in prison, he was released after serving 10 and a half years without any conditions (time off for good behavior and other incentives reduced his sentence). He “served out,” paying his debt to society, and is not required to report to a parole officer.

Let's hope he's staying out of bars.

UPDATE: Well, this changes things. I just heard on the radio that Terry Barton - the forest technician who started the fire - confessed to starting it deliberately. None of the articles I read said it in quite that way - stupidity and neglect, yes, meaning to set the woods on fire, no. That of course has a major impact on intent. If she set the fire meaning for it to go beyond the letter and the fire circle, then she is much more culpable for the results. On the other hand, this could just be the radio news capsulizing information to the extent that it becomes inaccurate.

If the radio report is correct, I'm not quite sure of the nuances of the law here, especially since the case thus far involves property damage but not loss of life. I'll defer to the lawyers who are better equipped to parse the differences between negligence and intent in this case.

Posted by susanna at 07:47 AM | Comments (3)

Did management block proper media coverage?

Some reporters are accusing the management of The Providence Journal with blocking proper coverage of the shooting at ProJo's printing plant on June 8, where three people including the gunman died.

The management is denying it.

I've noticed a number of times - through blogs and emails - that journalists tend to think that a big reason for any "spin" in news is not the reporter on the street, but the management's managing of what gets covered or goes in the paper. That makes this situation of even greater interest to me. Of course, at the same time, the reporters at ProJo are in a labor dispute with management, so I'm not sure what impact that has.

For those who've followed the blogosphere, it's also worth noting that the management of ProJo is the media chain Belo - which also owns The Dallas Morning News and has aggressively tried to stop the deep linking into their site that bypasses their advertising scheme. That situation has since been resolved.

Posted by susanna at 07:08 AM | Comments (0)

Catholic cardinal to be outed?

TLeeves, a new blog by a gay man living, I think, in the Washington, DC, area, says that one of the 11 American Catholic cardinals is about to be outed by ACT UP:

A source within the staff of The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops revealed to me that an American Cardinal is gay and is about to be publicly exposed as such by a political group.

He goes on to give the details as he knows them, and some commentary. I found TLeeves through my referrer logs, and he seems a sensible person. If this is true it would add a whole new twist to the current Catholic scandal. But proceed with caution - for now, it's unconfirmed.

UPDATE: IP has linked this, and I have to say that I agree with his analysis, although with a little different perspective. I agree that the issue here is as much the failure of the bishops to purge the church of pedophiles as the sexual abuse itself, and I hope if this post is accurate - that a cardinal is gay, and is outed - that it doesn't obscure the bishops' culpability. In addition, I also have a "so what" attitude about this - a cardinal who is a non-practicing homosexual is no different from a non-practicing heterosexual, if both are following the Catholic church's teaching on sexual matters in guiding their parishioners. The difficulty comes if the cardinal is either engaging in sexual activity - improper for a priest of any sexual preference - or is allowing his personal situation to skew his interpretation and application of church doctrine.

UPDATE: Pat Tyler at Quid Novi finds nothing new in TLeeve's scoop:

It is not just the rumor of the gay cardinal that has been around for some time, but the rumor of the actively gay cardinal's indiscretions.

We shall see how this plays out.

Posted by susanna at 12:03 AM | Comments (1)

June 16, 2002

Sunday suggestions

It's time to reclaim my apartment before the health department shuts me down, so I won't be posting today after this. Check these out - you won't be disappointed.

Andrew Ian Dodge at Dodgeblog takes issue with the Reason article dissing Jagger's knighthood, saying it's, well, unreasonable. File 13 notes that David Bowie's creative juices have dried up, and offers a solution. Vincent Ferrari has a significant thought about music CDs and value for your money. And Mat Cantore at Bushtit has an excellent post about Eminem, his music and those that would censor it. An excerpt:

I am a 27 year old male. If I choose to listen to Eminem, I should be able to go to the local store and get a copy of it. I don't need anyone telling me what I can and cannot listen to. I support fully the "explicit lyric" labelling, and the idea that the music cannot be sold to children under the age of 18 without parental consent. If I had children, there are certain albums I would let them get, and there are ones I would not. I would not let my child purchase any of Eminem's albums. That's called "parenting". If I found my child listening to Eminem, I'd sit down and ask them why.

Meryl Yourish has been busy this week, besides getting ready to move and forgetting to pack underwear. Her satire of Dubya-as-Elmer-Fudd is priceless (not, you understand, that I think it's fully warranted), she notes that Arafat is spending the martyr monies on himself (how surprising, yet satisfying, somehow), and finally she gives a good smack to what she calls voluntary illiterates.

Gary Farber at Amygdala looks at who's helping the Palestinian student organizations in California with their protests. The blogger formerly known as Sgt. Stryker has thoughts on combatants and rights. Beauty of Gray's Douglas Turnbull continues a bloggish discussion on the Civil War and the current war, before taking a swipe at Intelligent Design.

Clay Waters discovers that Clinton is still a jerk, and Philip Murphy at The Invisible Hand explains why John Tierney is the only one at the Times who is not. My favorite comment in Murphy's post is this:

Like The Washington Post, the Times treats its hometown the same way it would some remote news bureau.

Finally, Fred First asks the question, what's home? And how do we find it? I connected with this, because, like Fred, I feel most at home in mountainous places where the view is of narrow hollows or the tips of hills marching into the distance. I'm spoiled by the urban lifestyle, though, so I confess to sometimes feeling homeless. I think, ultimately for me, home is about people, not place, but place helps determine whether each day is a joy or a struggle. The ideal is to, like Fred, find oneself with the right person in the right place. Fred's archives aren't working, so scroll down to Home and the Heart.

And that's it for me. If you have time for only one read, I'd go for Mat Cantore's on Eminem. Meat for the brain.

Posted by susanna at 09:35 AM | Comments (0)

June 15, 2002

TenThings, cloning Hitler and grooving on doomsday

Sometimes I take a stroll through the blogosphere, usually starting from my referrer logs, to find new and fascinating things. Here's what today netted:

TenThings, a clever and funny personal site by Deb, who regularly puts up lists of 10 things she is thinking or doing. Besides my site, she also has on her link list the following two sites, both excellent finds.

Astonished Head by Ian Wood - a New Yorker touching on many things, including 9/11, Potassium Iodine and apple danish, with wry humor. An excerpt:

Clearly I'm grooving on the doomsday, chuckling into the irrational fear that people who don't live here try to tell me is "What They Want." Whatever, to that I say, whatever. I think that what they want is to kill us. Fear is incidental. Packing up antibiotics and iodine compounds makes me feel better; that's good. I work in a tall building: I'll be able to get down a smoke filled-stairwell. That's good, too, and practical besides. Maglights are handy in all sorts of ways. And the Clif bars may provide a snack some day. All good reasons to carry such items. Not the real reasons, of course. But when I used to commute into Manhattan from Jersey City five years ago, using the PATH line that's now been erased from the PATH system maps, I thought about assembling the exact same group of items, to use if I needed to escape the dread island. Turns out that I might.

And an alternative news site, quirky, named appropriately enough, Disinformation. I do like this, on their about page:

We'd also like to remind you that the name of this site is Disinformation. We encourage you to research each topic for yourself: check out all the links, especially the ones that seem contrary to your views; question the motivation of the writer and publisher; and form your own opinion about the information that is being presented. We suggest that you treat all other news/information outlets in the same way - the media have strong biases which directly affect the way in which news and information is presented to you - and very often that leads to disinformation.

Always good advice. That's where I found the possibility that Hitler may be cloned (along with other hated/celebrated people in history):

...the UFO cult, the Raelians, ...want to clone Der Fuhrer. Their goal is not the re-establishment of the Reich, but to make Hitler stand trial for war crimes. According to an article from Glasgow's Daily Record reprinted at, the Raelians approached the Moscow archive that (reputedly) possesses Hitler's skull and teeth in order to get a DNA sample. Though the Russians refused the request, some Western diplomats feared that corrupt officials could smuggle out the Nazi DNA. I wonder if the Raelians ever think that the ethically dubious logic that would permit a clone to stand trial for the crimes of the original might be applied to them in the future. Think of an arthritic and deformed clone that was produced by the Raelian labs before the cloning procedure is perfected charging and suing the ass off one of the clones of Rael in the future, the clones of bio-ethicists Fukuyama and Rifkin called into to give expert testimony at one of the biggest trials of the 21st century.

And with that startling scenario, I'm done thinking and linking for the day, possibly the weekend. Have a good one.

Posted by susanna at 09:17 PM | Comments (1)

Weevily cheese

Dr. Weevil says:

journalism : blogging :: processed cheese : Zabar's cheese

Works for me.

If you're buying me cheese, make it fresh mozzarella, preferably on a roasted pepper, roasted zucchini and fresh basil sandwich on a hard roll, with sundried tomato mayonnaise. I know, I know, yuppier than Starbucks, but awfully yummy.

OTOH, a hot Brown sure would hit the spot right now...

(And for goodness sake don't forget the iced tea and Derby pie. Only my version is better than theirs, IMHO.)

Posted by susanna at 08:37 PM | Comments (0)

Wear your fire-proof underwear

The Last Page scorches Johnny Taliban Walker, his defense, his parents and anyone within 30 feet of their asininity. Awesome, amazing job. You go, girl.

Not for the faint of heart, delicate of sensibilities or the wussy of ideology. I vote we get Page to do closing arguments in Tali-boy's trial.

Posted by susanna at 07:04 PM | Comments (0)

Rambling on

Alley Writer Yack is in a stew over women wearing hair in braids:

Ladies, whoever told you that pig/pony tails or braids were in any way cute or attractive was lying horribly. This person is not now and never was your friend. They undoubtedly hated you from the moment they laid eyes on you and were doing everything within their power to help you make fools of yourselves.

Save yourselves, ladies, abandon this heinous fashion blunder . . . and never ever speak to the person mentioned above again, they'll only mislead you again, laughing at you all the while.

Suddenly, half my life is dismissed as a fashion faux pas...

If you want to know what I think about it, you're in luck. The Saturday Ramble is up.

Posted by susanna at 04:59 PM | Comments (9)

Moore bashing

Robert Locke is not impressed with Michael Moore's book:

...the whole thing reads like a bunch of speaking notes from left-wing demonstrations – you know, the kind where pot-head trustafarian teenagers dressed like sea turtles nervously eye unemployed teamsters – he has spoken at over the years, stitched together by some twenty-something minion at the publisher.

While he's a bit late getting to it - Moore's book was published in February - Locke's Front Page column is worth the read just for his bloggish takedown and his insight into what makes good argumentation:

I didn’t agree with [Dinesh] D’Souza [in his book What’s So Great About America], but he can make a coherent (if wrong) argument, and he doesn’t lie about facts. Moore, on the other hand, writes in a manner that would have gotten at D in Freshman Composition for both style and logic, and he piles on outright factual lies...

...which he clearly hopes will mutate into canards that acquire the force of truth through repetition.

[In the interests of journalistic integrity, I will note that those last two sections weren't close the article, but if you read it you will see they are logically connected, and not misrepresenting the point.]

Locke's last comment is striking, given what is actually happening - Moore's lies are attaining the status of facts through, yes, blind repetition. I touched on that fact previously, here and here. And Moore is being believed. Here are a couple of excerpts from reviews of his book on

Reviewer: Gib Miller from FL United States

Wow! Michael's done it again! This book hits the nail on the head or maybe prunes the Bush would be a better phrase.
As usual, Michael has done his homework, researched and re-researched to bring us reporting worth reading.

Reviewer: bloolite...from Los Angeles, CA United States

Just the Facts ma'am, but Michael Moore gives us more than that. With pervasive humor and wit that sometimes can make you cry with half laughter and pain, Moore's humor strikes at the core of issues facing women, blacks, education, the US government, and of course, the issues surrounding the Bush presidency.

But it's the facts that'll bowl you over, especially Bush's accomplishments in his first few months of office...

And what are facts about those "accomplishments"? Locke goes into some of them, but for a more thorough point by point truth-takedown of Moore's list, go read Ben "Yin" Thornton, who's last two posts are here and here. [Thornton promises to finish when he returns, something about Chicago and a gerbil, but I don't want to know more.]

It's a fascinating walk through the impact of media on the electorate, and the endless gullibility of those who find some evidence, however pathetically researched and presented, to support their beliefs.

My favorite line from Locke's column is also a most fitting close:

Hatred of white males is the opiate of life’s losers.


[Thanks to Henry Hanks at Croooow blog for the link to Locke's column. It's your fault I've spent so much of my Saturday on this!]

Posted by susanna at 01:19 PM | Comments (0)

Catholics, media and zero tolerance

Lane Core at A View from the Core notes that one journalist was sighted writing his final-vote story from the meeting of Catholic bishops hours before the vote was actually due to be announced. Shocked, aren't we?

Also on The View from the Core - an explanation why a zero-tolerance policy for sexually-misbehaving priests wouldn't work. It has to do with the likelihood that Catholic bishops will misuse it to get rid of priests who are really problems for other reasons. Pretty sad.

UPDATE: Media Minded links the pre-write post, and says it's not as sinister as it sounds - it's a factor of deadline, not preconceptions. Sounds reasonable - and MM is always reasoned, so I tend to bow to his expertise on these matters. I just hope the pre-drafted story doesn't prove resistant to changes in tone or impression creation, if the situation warrants it, based on that same time constraint. Sometimes it's easier to fill an old mold than craft a new one, even if the old one doesn't quite fit.

Posted by susanna at 12:11 PM | Comments (0)

It's just not enough

A religious sect leader who said he was following instructions from God when he let his infant son slowly and painfully starve to death was convicted of murder Friday and sentenced to life in prison without parole...

Robidoux choked back tears as he described how Samuel went from a healthy, 10-month-old boy taking his first steps to a baby so withered he could no longer even crawl. His tiny bones were visible, and he cried in pain.

People like this I think I could just take apart with my bare hands. There are no words sufficient.

Posted by susanna at 09:03 AM | Comments (6)

Fun with statistics

Charles Murtaugh explains why you won't likely die from lung cancer due to air pollution.

Follow the links, too. It's a good illustration of how scientific information in the hands of journalists can be distorted. Yes, it wasn't their fault the information was incorrect, but the degree to which they hyped it was - either because of ignorance, ideology or their entertainment imperative. The statistical support just wasn't sufficient for that level of warning.

As another illustration of how impressions are created without substance, in an article Thursday in CBS News - the news outlet identified by Murtaugh - CBS News offered this quote as why it is a bad thing that the EPA is lowering some of its air pollution standards on utility companies:

"Today, pollution from power plants causes the premature death of 30,000 Americans," [John] Walke said. "Whether it's premature death or missed days at work, asthma, bronchitis, lung cancer, heart attacks, the truth is that society faces an enormous cost from air pollution."

Walke's credential? He's president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, a non-profit environmental watchdog group. His assertation is printed with no additional supporting information and is likely, at least in part, based on the very data declared wrong just one week earlier by the scientists who originally released it. Since we don't know what other sources he references, we can't check his facts, apparently expected to credulously accept his assertations.

On a good note, the New York Times did print the updated information.

Posted by susanna at 08:19 AM | Comments (2)

Palestine-Israel 101 for Americans

The Arab News, always a good source of amusement, is at it again, this time with a primer for understanding the Palestinian-Israeli situation. Apparently the article is actually a letter responding to something mentioned as "your presentation", which is never specified. Worth reading the whole thing, to get the other perspective, but the meat of it is in this (lengthy) analogy:

Let me tell you a story and after that make your own judgment on what you think is fair and right: You are sitting at home which you have had in your family for over 1400 years when all of a sudden, a beggar comes to your door and asks you to let them in to save them from the environment. Your boss finds out that this beggar has been attempting to come in to your house and being a generous man, "tells" you in not so many words, that IT WOULD BE BETTER to let this beggar and his family in. He promises to support you and make it worth your while if you do so. Funny how he forgot his mansion and thought that only your home would do. Then, to your surprise, after you agree and treat this beggar and his family in a fine manner, he decides that your home is too good for you and it would suit him better than you so he calls on your boss and "convinces" him of that. Again being such a generous man, you boss agrees with his suggestions and supports him evict you from YOUR HOME. Then, out of feeling guilty that he had been too unfair towards you he convinces the beggar to take you back in. Grudgingly, beggar lets you in put only if you agree to be, for all terms and purposes, his slave. Your movements are restricted, your dignity attacked and your family unsafe but at the end you expect this all to be temporary as justice will prevail. Then after all avenues of decency are exhausted, you take to attacking the beggar and his family hoping that they will go away. Question: Is this family wrong in attacking the beggar and his family? Should they negotiate for a peaceful settlement? Is the boss accountable for his action? Should he be forced to take the beggar and his family and compensate you for what had happened to you because of his decision? If you are truly fair, would you hold yourself guilty of teaching your children to hate that of the beggar's? Would it be wrong to dream that the house that had been your families for 1400 years should one day be yours again?

Now let's just change the labels in the story so that "you" reads "Palestine or Palestinian", "boss" means "UK or USA", "the beggar" means "Israel or Israeli."

Now read the story again and truly ask yourself who is the one who wants peace and who is causing the pain to prolong.

Naturally, in this scenario, it is the peaceful-homeowner-turned-attacker who wants peace. Quite a convolution.

Posted by susanna at 01:48 AM | Comments (3)

Russell Yates will not be charged

I puzzled over whether Russell Yates had any responsibility for the deaths of his children at the hand of his wife, Andrea. I think morally there is some fault there; she was not precisely with the program mentally, and he knew that. At the same time, he didn't know the attack was imminent, or even, really, possible. Who would think she would drown her babies? Certainly not a man who seemed to be trying to build the family he envisioned, and didn't want to acknowledge that all was not well in his world. Self-delusion is a powerful thing, especially when the other option is a life-changing pain.

Legally, I would think his responsibility would have rested on one of two concepts: whether he knew she was imminently going to do this, which would make him complicit for not stopping it; or whether he as her husband thus carried some responsibility for her condition and control. The former is obviously not true, the latter a throwback to more patriarchal times no longer reflected in today's legal system. So, recognizing that I am not a lawyer, it seems to me this was the correct determination.

It's just hard to accept that it was the right one.

Posted by susanna at 01:26 AM | Comments (0)

June 14, 2002

"White House stumblebum team"?

Paul McGeough of the Sydney Herald is unimpressed with the Bushies this week.

Posted by susanna at 11:07 PM | Comments (0)

Life on the move

This is a really cool blog.

And here's a more modern trip, with bivouacing but fewer sieges.

[First link via Ye Olde Blogge; second via Ipse Dixit]

Posted by susanna at 04:11 PM | Comments (0)

Democrats trying to erode individual rights - again

Dodd at Ipse Dixit sounds the warning about a behind-the-door effort by Democrats to limit individual rights through The Community Character Act:

the real Constitution-shredders are meeting in secret to render the Fifth Amendment's private property protections a dead letter...

If this bill becomes law, private property and local land use decisions will become a thing of the past. Bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. will have almost unfettered power to control land use in the United States...

Of course, Hilary is in the midst of it all. Outrageous.

Posted by susanna at 08:12 AM | Comments (4)

Bucking the trend

Christopher Johnson, editor and mastermind of the Midwest Conservative Journal, has moved onto Blogspot, off his previous server, Tripod. Kinda tells you all you need to know about Tripod, doesn't it?

Don't worry, Chris, we'll find you.

Posted by susanna at 07:55 AM | Comments (0)

Sense about nonsense

A 1971 commencement speech by Edward C. Banfield is reprinted in The Claremont Review of Books, Spring 2002. His topic is, basically, how high-sounding phrases in social discourse often mean nothing at all. It's amazing how well Banfield's words hold up, and the speech is a pleasure to read:

A tried and true technique of the advice-giver is to restate a problem so as to make it sound like a solution. "The best solution in South Africa," the Archbishop of Canterbury recently told the press, "would be a radical change of policy and the growth of progressive influence." This, it seems to me, is on a par with saying that the best solution for the problem of alcoholism would be the growth of temperance.

Read it all.

Posted by susanna at 07:36 AM | Comments (0)

That reminds me...where are my eyedrops?

Prescription eye drops used to treat elevated pressure inside the eye can delay or possibly prevent the onset of glaucoma, according to a new study.

While many ophthalmologists have for years been giving the drops to patients considered at high risk, the study is the first to confirm that the treatment can affect the progression from elevated eye pressure to glaucoma...

The study, in the journal Archives of Ophthalmology, found that pressure-lowering drops cut the risk of developing primary-open angle glaucoma, the most common form of the disease, by 50 percent. An estimated 10 million Americans have elevated eye pressure, and 2.5 million have glaucoma damage to their optic nerves. Glaucoma is a leading cause of vision loss and is the leading cause of blindness in African-Americans.

Just over a year ago I would have zipped on by this - after all, glaucoma is for old folks, right? Well, the damage usually is, but the precursor - the ocular hypertension that these drops help lower - is not. The damage doesn't usually show up until someone is older - often in their 60s - but the condition that led to it could begin as early as the 30s, and the damage is irreversible.

Last spring I noticed one day that there was a black spot over my vision field in my right eye. Not huge, but very apparent. No pain. I went to the doctor, who informed me that a vein inside my eye had sprung a leak and sent a small spread of blood into the eyeball itself. Fortunately for me, none of it went into the section where it would have caused permanent vision loss. They used words like "ocular mini-stroke", and did a lot of tests including an MRI. At one point, the doctor told me that there might be a tumor wrapped around my optic nerve. This was additionally fun since pretty much all my family and friends are 700 miles away and I was going to the doctors by myself, then going home alone to think about it. After six weeks of testing, they concluded that it was an anomalic event, and told me to take a baby aspirin daily to thin my blood a little, thinking a snug intersection of veins where the leak happened could have caused it.

I never thought I'd be happy for a spider bite, but last fall one nailed me, of all places, just under my left eyebrow. It was not a good year, medically speaking. There was significant swelling, it was not wonderful, but the upshot of it was that my opthalmologist discovered my eye pressure was spiking. That, she thought, was what caused the bleed-out in the spring. As a result, she put me on eye drops, like those in the study, and while I will always have to take them, at least I most likely won't lose my vision from glaucoma as I get older.

More than you wanted to know, I know. But it just serves to illustrate that an otherwise healthy person - who only wears glasses when she remembers it - can be walking around unaware of a condition that could make life very hard later on. So get thee to an eye doctor regularly, even if you don't wear glasses.

As for me, the only remnants now are longer eyelashes from the medication (who would think there would be a good side effect?) and a scar from the spider bite shaped like New Jersey.

What a fitting memento of my time here.

Posted by susanna at 07:00 AM | Comments (2)

Senate refuses vote

Glenn will like this.

I don't.

Posted by susanna at 06:23 AM | Comments (0)

Sounds right to me

A suicide bomber drove into a guard post near the U.S. Consulate in Karachi today, killing six and himself, injuring 45, none of them Americans.

Karachi Mayor Naimat Ullah offered sympathy for U.S. officials and vowed to arrest those behind the attack.

``The terrorists have no religion. They are not Muslim. They are not human. They are just terrorists,'' Ullah said.

That's right.

Posted by susanna at 06:17 AM | Comments (2)


Posted by susanna at 06:10 AM | Comments (0)

June 13, 2002

Advantage: JunkYardBlog

My buddy Bryan Preston at JunkYardBlog has been doing great things for a while now, toiling in far greater obscurity than his talents would dictate. He was the first blogger to really link me and encourage me, and he's not just a very good writer but also a friend. Now he's all over the place, with his connection of Jose Padilla with John Doe #2 in the Oklahoma City bombing, via a sketch of JD2 beside the photo of Padilla. (Here's the latest post - a fascinating Padilla timeline.) It got picked up by a host of people, including this blog, and now both of them are linked in The Village Voice. Awesome. And all this the same week that Bryan's first article for NRO appeared.

You always enjoy seeing friends succeed, and I must say this brings me a lot of pleasure. I'll be able to tell new eager young bloggers in years to come, "Yes, I knew Bryan Preston when he was just a JunkYardPup..."

Posted by susanna at 09:21 PM | Comments (1)

Onion makes Beijing paper cry

Foul, that is.

Of all the things that other countries don't get about the United States, I think our sense of humor escapes them the most.

Of course, my sense of humor escapes most people, American or not, but we won't go there.

[Link via The Last Page.]

Posted by susanna at 08:57 PM | Comments (0)

I've been anointed... one of the best and most venerated - I'm Doc Searl's Blogroll of the Day, and am now also on his Blogrolodex. Wow.

And I'm not even techie.

Posted by susanna at 07:52 PM | Comments (0)

Can the military sue for slander?

An Irish filmmaker has produced a "documentary" of the American military run amok:

American soldiers have been involved in the torture and murder of captured Taliban prisoners, and may have aided in the "disappearance" of up to 3 000 men in the region of Mazar-i-Sharif, according to Jamie Doran, an Irish documentary film-maker…

One witness in the film claimed he had seen an American soldier break an Afghan prisoner's neck and pour acid on others. "The Americans did whatever they wanted. We had no power to stop them," he alleged.

Sometimes prisoners who were beaten up and taken outside had "disappeared", he said…

The far-left Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) arranged for the special showing of Massacre At Mazar in the Reichstag. Party chairman Roland Claus was cautious regarding its content but did spoke of its attempt at "authenticity."

Notice that, despite the apparent left-tilt of the website (look at the titles of the other articles), even they use attempt, and scare quotes around authenticity. As well they should. I just wish our military didn't have to put up with this.

Before anyone jumps me on it, I know that our military is not always perfect, and some members of it at times have been downright vicious. But I can't imagine anything on this scale, and I hate that even this bizarrely tilted piece is getting out there. I know it's a dig at the United States and all it stands for, but US military personnel past and present are why we still have a country, and this kind of characterization is a horrific slander.

[Link via A Dog's Life.]

Posted by susanna at 05:52 PM | Comments (0)

Not in our courts

Thomas Sowell says members of international terrorist organizations should not be tried in the US courts, and why. Excellent.

I wonder if we could get Sowell to run for president...

[Link via Craig Schamp.]

Posted by susanna at 03:19 PM | Comments (0)

Ringing satire

All you Lord of the Rings fans and warmongering types will love this.

[Link via WarNow!]

Posted by susanna at 02:44 PM | Comments (0)

And the debate rages

Life has risen up and engulfed me today, possibly into tomorrow. In the meantime, there's a very interesting (and a bit heated) discussion going on in the comments section here, and then continuing on in the comments section of War Now! here, about whether the US govt's behavior domestically is necessary for our security or is an always-inappropriate abrogation of rights. The discussion also hits rather heavily on the issue of whether we've declared war and if not how does that impact our govt's right to behave as it is.

I'll try to post a little later in the day, but no promises. There's lots of wonderful and interesting stuff on the blogs listed to the left, which I highly recommend.

UPDATE: And now Alley Writer has posted comments in the "are we at war and what about our rights" discussion on his blog.

UPDATE: Gregory at Planet Swank (now permalinked) has a brief summary of the exchange with a complete list of the links, if you want to start from the top and work down.

Posted by susanna at 12:54 PM | Comments (5)

June 12, 2002

Constructing story

Doc Searls has an excellent piece dissecting the NY Times article on weblogs that made a case for there being a rift between tech and war bloggers. While his analysis of this particular article is interesting on its own merits, what I was impressed by was the delineation of how media needs story so media constructs story from whatever materials are available. In this case, apparently the writer needed some kind of central tension to hold his article together, so the "story" constructed was that there is a rift between the two general types of blogs. While the facts of the story were apparently correct, the impression created by the construction of the article - its story - were not. If you want a good lesson in how that works, read the article and then read Searls' post on how it came together.

Posted by susanna at 03:16 PM | Comments (1)

So what do you really think, Tony?

Tony Woodlief's gears are quite sandy today about the Spiderman movie. Ouch.

Posted by susanna at 10:46 AM | Comments (0)

LA Times - Moral Equivalence Central


Mideast Violence Kills 12 People

Apparently "mideast violence" is a new disease, or something unassociated with deliberate human agency. But let's look at the article to make sure.

Israeli troops shot and killed five armed Palestinians and a 9-year-old boy in separate incidents near a Jewish settlement, while a Palestinian suicide bomber blew up a fast food restaurant in a Mediterranean resort town, killing a 15-year-old Israeli girl...

Also Tuesday, a Palestinian was shot dead by Israeli soldiers after he opened fire on a civilian vehicle in Gaza, and another was killed when a bomb he was planting near the border fence with Israel exploded prematurely, the army said...

In the West Bank city of Hebron, Palestinians killed two fellow Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel.

Okay, let's count:

Mideast Violence Disease, unaided by human agency: 0

Innocent civilians killed by aggressive action by humans: 2

Palestinian terrorists killed in the process of trying to harm innocent civilians: 6

Palestinian terrorist killing self while trying to kill innocent civilians: 1

Palestinians killed by other Palestinians because of suspicions of aiding Israel: 2


Non-human agency - 0
Human agency - 11

Innocent civilians: 2
Palestinians with evil intent: 9

Yep. Looks like a case for the CDC. (Not that they would disagree.)

Posted by susanna at 08:32 AM | Comments (7)

Social engineering, Lexington style

A councilmember in Lexington, KY, wants to give a flat raise to all city employees rather than a percentage raise so that those on the lower end of the pay scale will benefit the most.

The mayor wants to give 3% raises to all but the entry level positions, which would receive 5%. The city's human resources director says anything less than 8.3% across the board means all employees are still paid under market rate.

Jacques Wigginton doesn't really care what anyone else says, what's fair or what's best management practices - his only concern are those at the low end of the pay scale:

Because the money for 8.3 percent raises isn't available for all employees, the priority should be to boost the salaries of low-income workers, Wigginton said. He said he'll urge his colleagues to issue a flat $1,080 raise for each employee, which would be more valuable to workers with low incomes.

This is social engineering and/or a complete lack of understanding about how to compensate employees fairly mixed with pandering to a favored constituency. A scary proposition, either way, that this man is making decisions about people's lives.

I used to work for the council in Lexington; I respect the difficulty of their jobs. But it has been my experience over years of working for or covering government that best management practices and fairness frequently give way to partisanship and grandstanding. It's this experience that makes me agree with the old saw:

Two things you should never watch being made: Sausages and laws.

Posted by susanna at 08:09 AM | Comments (0)

We're at war - get it?

Heather Mac Donald at City Journal rips "bleeding heart liberals and journalists" for their reaction to the detention of Jose Padilla and others who may have information about Al Qaeda and its activities.

Posted by susanna at 07:36 AM | Comments (11)

Only in France

Words just aren't sufficient to express the idiocy.

[Link from The Guardian, a joke in its own right.]

Posted by susanna at 03:24 AM | Comments (4)

You ruined my life by letting me live


A NSW Supreme Court judge today ruled that wrongful life cases have no place in Australian law.

In a test case on whether disabled children can sue doctors in their own right for negligence that resulted in their birth rather than termination, Justice Timothy Studdert ruled wrongful life was not recognised in Australian courts...

All three [plaintiffs] tried to sue, claiming if it was not for the negligence of doctors, the pregnancies would have been terminated.

Could it be that we'll see in the future mandatory abortions for fetuses determined to be unacceptably flawed? I hope this is an isolated incident, and if not, that legal systems throughout the world slap it down as soon as it rears its head again.

UPDATE: Wendy McElroy at ifeminists covered this issue back in March - apparently it does have a foothold of sorts. She mentions the Australian case above, then still in the courts. Thanks to Sandra for the link.

Posted by susanna at 02:53 AM | Comments (1)

Death won't end debate

Tonight, if all goes well, Walter Mickens Jr. will die.

It seems appropriate to me:

Walter Mickens Jr. sexually assaulted 17-year-old Timothy Hall, stabbed him 143 times and left him on a dirty mattress in an abandoned building along the James River in Newport News in 1992.

However, the case got into trouble early:

When Mickens was arrested, the court assigned him a lawyer who had been representing Timothy Hall on an unrelated charge at the time of the killing. Although the same judge handled both cases, Mickens would not learn of the conflict for five years – long after he had been convicted and sentenced to death and too late for him to seek a new trial under Virginia law.

The Supremes got involved:

The U.S. Supreme Court got involved twice, and the last time bitterly split the justices, 5 to 4.

Their decision hinged on whether the attorney, Bryan Saunders, had a conflict because he had been defending Hall on charges of assaulting his mother. That made Saunders incapable of providing Mickens with an independent, thorough defense, his attorneys said.

The Virginia attorney general's office countered that Saunders's potential conflict had no impact on his performance.

In March, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for the majority that the conflict was a "mere theoretical division of loyalties."

And Mickens was bitter:

"Nobody protected my rights or looked out for my interests," Mickens said from death row. "I thought that is what lawyers and courts are supposed to do."

The anti-death penalty crowd have used Mickens's case as an argument that the death penalty as unfair, but I think that's very unwise of them. In a list of those who deserve it, Mickens would be right up there. The concern here is not that the death penalty is unfair, but that the appointment of the attorney was inappropriate, given an apparent conflict of interest. I have some sympathy there since I think our rule of law must be protected even if it means that sometimes the bad guys get off easy.

But trying to make Mickens a sympathetic character is doomed from the outset. Timothy Hall keeps getting in the way.

Posted by susanna at 02:49 AM | Comments (0)

I keep trying to raise the tone, but...

Somehow, Kentucky, much as I love it, keeps showing up in the "geeezzzzz" column. Most recently:

A Pike County judge yesterday agreed to divert, or conditionally dismiss, misdemeanor sex charges against the signers of a "slave contract."

...Jason England, 31, of Belfry and Amanda Pinion, 22, of Harold...had filed a five-page document last December in Pike Circuit Court that prosecutors said appeared to make Pinion a sexual slave to England...

Both England and Pinion have said they did not learn the slave contract had been filed as an official document until it surfaced when Pinion attempted to obtain an emergency protective order against a Pikeville man. It was accidentally notarized and filed with other court papers, they said at the time.

England, who is married and disabled, said he and Pinion are still friends...

I wonder if the "disabled" came before or after his wife found out about the contract. Or if it is a mental thing, in which case both of them could be candidates.

This reminds me of a story I heard years ago about a Kentucky couple who were divorcing, as the husband said in court, because the wife began to show a preference for cucumbers.

And we aren't discussing salad.

[Link via furtive explorations.]

UPDATE: Ok, somebody out there spit their latte onto the keyboard when they read this! So share, already. I can't be the only one who nearly fell under her chair over it.

Posted by susanna at 02:15 AM | Comments (1)

Another bishop bites the dust

A bishop who was a confidant of Cardinal John O'Connor has resigned as a pastor and auxiliary bishop after admitting having had sexual affairs with women over the course of several years, the Archdiocese of New York said yesterday.

This was my reaction too:

Bishop McCarthy's swift departure raised eyebrows among victims' advocates, who noted that some priests who sexually abused children were never forced to resign.

Apparently having sex with a consenting adult is a greater sin than using influence or coercion to have sex with a minor. Maybe the hierarchy in the Catholic church should join Bill Clinton's Sex-initions Dictionary committee:

"Celibacy, as defined by the practice of the Catholic Church, is eschewing consensual sex with a person of legal age, and breaking this vow will result in dismissal. Buggering minors, as they are not consenting adults, does not inhere under this definition, and thus should not result in actual penalties."

Posted by susanna at 02:00 AM | Comments (0)

That must have been messy

Caption at the NY Times Online front page (photo of Palestinian car) at 1:31 a.m.:

The 1.3 million people of the Gaza Strip have been effectively cut in half by checkpoints set up in large part to safeguard the travel of 7,100 Jewish settlers.

Posted by susanna at 01:42 AM | Comments (1)

Law, religion and media

An earlier post where I pulled together a television show, the Catholic church and Islamic sharia to make a point about where religion in America is headed, is now up as the guest column of the week at A View From The Core.

If you missed it last time, don't let it happen again.

Posted by susanna at 01:36 AM | Comments (0)

A reasonable plan or just a delusion?

In this odd little commentary in the Arab News, Bassam Abu Sharif asks Israelis and Palestinians both to "give peace a chance". The column is a detailing of pretty much the standard line from the Saudis about peace. What I found most interesting are these assertions:

I am also absolutely sure that the overwhelming majority of Palestinians want to establish peace with the Israelis...

the Palestinian recognition of Israel and its right to live in security and stability behind safe borders, and to be a partner in the Middle East region, is irrevocable, regardless of what is being said by extremist groups that will quickly die out when peace prevails...

the Palestinians are willing to accept any international, American-European-Russian, or even just American arrangement, aimed at reassuring Israel, to control security matters on Palestine’s international borders with Jordan and Egypt, for a time period that Israel approves of for even more reassurance...

And finally, this:

The Palestinian people and their elected authority want a peace based on international legitimacy. They want to live side by side with the Israelis, and want to establish economic, cultural and development cooperation with them...

I guess he didn't read this:

A majority of Palestinians believe the aim of their 20-month-old uprising should be to eliminate Israel and not just end Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza opinion poll released Tuesday showed.

[Link via Ipse Dixit]

UPDATE: Tom at World Wide Rant calls into question the statistical quality of the Palestinian survey.

Posted by susanna at 01:14 AM | Comments (0)

Oh, please!

A judge threw out one of nine charges Tuesday against a man accused of trying to blow up a jetliner with explosives in his shoes, ruling that an airplane is not a vehicle under a new anti-terrorism law...

The judge said he looked to a legal definition of vehicle drafted by Congress in an earlier law known as the Dictionary Act. That defines a vehicle as something used as a means of transportation on land.

Okay, who screwed up here - Congress, the prosecutor or the judge? SOMEBODY needs to go to the woodshed on this one.

Posted by susanna at 12:50 AM | Comments (2)

Invading Iraq

What are the options?

Bryan Preston, famed on this blog for his senseless support of Maryland in the NCAA basketball tournament this year (so they won! immaterial.), hits the big time with his article on which method the US may use to neutralize Saddam. As always, Bryan's commentary is thoughtful, germane and thorough. For more of his insight, be sure to visit his blog where, among other things, he looks at the Oklahoma bomber John Doe #2 as compared to Al Qaeda contact Jose Padilla, and at reasons why nuking Japan was the right thing to do - and the Japanese agree.

Posted by susanna at 12:40 AM | Comments (0)

June 11, 2002

September 11, 2001

Never forget.

(The previously displayed images are here, here, here, here, here, and here. These images are copyrighted and used by permission. Please do not reproduce without express permission.)

Posted by susanna at 07:38 AM | Comments (0)

June 10, 2002

Insider insight

Sheila Lennon writes a blog for the Providence Journal, the newspaper at whose production plant a pressman killed two coworkers on Saturday, then committed suicide. She commented on my post about it, and has two posts on her blog on the reaction in the newsroom, here and here - the first from Saturday as they learned something had happened.

It's a new kind of interface for a newspaper, to have this kind of update on a breaking story. I don't know of other newspapers with this kind of blog; if you do, please let me know. I'd like to check them out.

UPDATE: The Dallas Morning News has picked up the ProJo weblog, including the reference to me, but being the pathetically web-challenged old-media outlet they are, they didn't provide a link to here as ProJo did. Advantage: ProJo. And please note that the reproduced-weblog link is a deep link of the Dallas paper.

UPDATE: ProJo has another weblogger too - Dave McPherson, with NetRunner, a somewhat techie blog but not really. Lennon has more info in the comments box.

Posted by susanna at 06:38 PM | Comments (2)

What's up in Louisville?

More than 120 lawsuits have been filed against Roman Catholic dioceses in Kentucky, the most in any state, and nearly 50 of the alleged victims have claimed sexual abuse by the same priest...

The Archdiocese of Louisville, which includes 220,000 parishioners in 24 counties, has been named in 119 of the 122 lawsuits. Forty-eight of them, including Strader's, allege abuse by the Rev. Louis E. Miller over a 45-year span. Miller has denied the accusations, including one that came from his nephew.

[Link via Something Else.]

UPDATE: A bishop in Lexington, KY, has resigned in connection to sexual abuse charges.

Posted by susanna at 11:33 AM | Comments (2)

Modern day minstrels?

Found by Newton's Kumquat:

In my opinion, this gangsta rap is the 21st century version of minstrel shows. And what's sad is these brothers don't even know about it.
-- Spike Lee

Posted by susanna at 09:04 AM | Comments (0)

This is a good thing

The number of defendants sentenced to death in California is falling at its most rapid pace since the state reinstituted the death penalty 25 years ago, according to an analysis of state records.

I'm for the death penalty, but I think it needs to be very narrowly applied, and more swiftly implemented. I think one of the reasons for the slow drag from sentencing to execution is the concern about whether the sentence is just. When it's used for situations where the crime is obviously egregious, and the evidence highly compelling, the public support for its logical follow-through will increase. Support for the death penalty is a two-step process: Is it morally appropriate? If so, is it fairly and appropriately applied? I think most Americans answer "yes" on the first question, but have been wavering - with good reason - on the second. More careful procedures, and a reduction overall of the types of cases allowed to be prosecuted toward a death sentence, will increase the "yeses" to the second question too.

And that too, in my judgment, is a good thing.

Posted by susanna at 08:39 AM | Comments (6)

Emergency rations

The drive toward safer sex is taking a new turn in Norway.

Posted by susanna at 08:27 AM | Comments (0)

Will he or won't he?

The praise and panning of George Stephanopoulos-as-journalist - only the show will make us sure.

Somehow I'm doubting he'll be more liberal than, say, Katie Couric.

[Links via Romenesko]

Posted by susanna at 08:22 AM | Comments (0)

US Media mum on nun abuse?

Editor & Publisher wonders if bias in the media is tamping down coverage on the other priestly abuse:

Who will report on the nightmarish tales from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the United States disclosing how priests raped or seduced nuns, impregnated them, and encouraged some of them to have abortions. What newspaper will turn loose its investigative reporters to track the alleged priestly predators who have been hidden away in the cloistered corners of the Roman Catholic Church?

While a failure of the media to report it is clearly a breech of their responsibility, the pressure for resolving these issues on a world-wide basis must come, I think, from the Catholic faithful.

Posted by susanna at 08:12 AM | Comments (0)

Bush Developing Military Policy Of Striking First

A good idea, I think, necessary even. But I'm not very impressed with what's happening now, and I'm afraid this is pure rhetoric - like the death penalty statutes that stand in many states but aren't implemented. Have it or don't have it, but if you say you're going to have such a policy, be ready to use it. Set clear criteria for its use, set the bar high so it's not an easy thing to invoke, then use it when the criteria are met. It's that last I'm worried won't happen - and having it without using it is worse than not having it at all.

Posted by susanna at 07:55 AM | Comments (0)

Islam - the religion of America's future?

According to this article in the Arab News, Islam closely fits the "current zeitgeist" of the United States and thus is a religion of tomorrow for America. Some especially interesting excerpts:

The concept of a Judeo-Christian tradition only came to the fore in the 1940s in America...

Might come as a surprise to the founding fathers.

Islam is democratic in spirit. Islam advocates the right to vote and educate yourself and pursue a profession.

See, for example, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia.

The dictators reigning today in the Middle East are not the result of Islamic principles. They are more a result of global economics and the aftermath of European colonialism.

Ahh... the problems of Islam today are the fault of America and Europe. That explains the lack of innovation and democratic rule in Islamic countries that predates the United States.

Muhammad, Islam's prophet, actually was a reformer in his day. Following the Qur'an, he limited the number of wives a man could have and strongly recommended against polygamy.

There you go. Muhammad, that feminist in robes, protected women by telling men they could basically own fewer of them.

None of this may seem obvious to most Americans because of cultural overlays that at times make Islam appear to be a repressive faith toward women--but if you look more closely, you can see the egalitarian streak...

"Look closely..."? Like at articles about young girls burning to death because the religious police wouldn't let them escape danger because they weren't "appropriately dressed"?

Like I said, interesting article.

Posted by susanna at 07:44 AM | Comments (7)

Isn't that the way I've always heard it should be?

The NY Times is fuming because a wave of new laws in the wake of Enron seems to have washed out, but grudgingly admits that the changes are happening anyway:

Corporate America and the stock markets have not waited for Washington. Instead, they have undertaken a host of changes in response to the problems highlighted by Enron and reinforced by corporate and accounting failures in the telecommunications, cable and energy industries. Investors have fled companies whose accounting or governance practices fail to measure up to post-Enron standards. Some Republicans say all this is evidence that the system is working without heavy-handed interference by lawmakers.

Odd, isn't it, that corporate America would clean up behavior that's likely to chase away investors, bring the wrath of Uncle Sam down on their head, and result in failure of the company. What a missed opportunity for more federal employees!

Posted by susanna at 01:22 AM | Comments (3)

Fried corn – good for what ails you

I mentioned below, in my post about lawsuits over “fat-inducing” foods, that one of my family’s specialties is fried corn. This is not for the faint of cholesterol, but it is one of the best foods in the world. Fred First, who lives in a place I wouldn’t mind living, wants to know the recipe, and if Silver Queen corn works. So here we go.

Start with fresh corn on the cob, uncooked. As far as I know, any kind of corn works fine as long as it’s plump and you’ve cut the worms out. It’s best just out of the garden, but in a pinch fresh from the store or fresh frozen, then thawed, is acceptable. Cut it off the cob, if it’s not already, and cut deeply before scraping if you like it less creamy (like me) or skim and scrape if you’re one of those weird cream corn types. You’ll want at least two cups, but this is not a food to be eaten sparingly.

Preheat a skillet on medium, with a teaspoon of real butter (or if you’re in a real country mood, hey, toss in a tablespoon). My granny uses bacon grease. Any kind of skillet works, but the best is a cast iron skillet, nicely seasoned. Pour your cut corn into the skillet; it’s going to sizzle and pop a little if you heated it right, but that’s a good thing. Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste, and about a half teaspoon to a teaspoon (if it’s a lot of corn) of sugar, mixing well.

Here’s the hard part: Don’t stir again for a while.

That’s right. Let it cook for a couple of minutes without stirring at all; if it really worries you, lower the heat. Then, using a spatula, scrape along the bottom of the pan to stir. You should get a nicely browned crust mixing in with the corn. Do this for about 10 minutes or so – letting the corn cook, then scraping the pan. If the crust isn’t forming, the heat’s too low. If the corn’s spitting at you, the heat’s too high. If the mixture seems to be getting too dry, add some water. You’re going for a medium-thick mixture with a lot of little chunks of brown corn crust.

That’s it. Eat it hot, add more butter if you’re thus inclined. Best served with fresh fried chicken (and you know what I mean by fresh), mashed potatoes, biscuits with milk gravy and green beans. I recommend rhubarb cobbler for dessert. Oh, and I put the corn on my mashed potatoes, not the gravy. That’s for biscuits.

If you fix it, invite me over. I’ll be right there.

Posted by susanna at 12:32 AM | Comments (3)

Radio Free Glenn?

The Professor looks set to take on a new medium. His fans want to know - does this mean less written punditry but more total enlightenment from Mount Knoxville?

Posted by susanna at 12:05 AM | Comments (0)

June 09, 2002

Cocktail sauce

Tom Maguire at Just One Minute explains how to charm at a cocktail party. (Any reference to me is purely coincidental. Besides, he's not even seen what's in my closet.)

Posted by susanna at 10:45 PM | Comments (0)

Tangled Definitions

(This is a repost from Saturday; I wanted it on the new blog)

This week an Ohio man was given two life sentences for beating to death his wife, who was five months pregnant at the time. One of the sentences was for his wife, the other for their unborn child. Yet the unborn child would have been about 20 weeks along, which is in terms of viability a gray area for doctors:

Viability is presumed to exist after 27 weeks of gestation (assuming an otherwise healthy fetus) and is presumed not to exist prior to 20 weeks... The time between 20 and 27 weeks is a "gray zone" in which some fetuses may be viable and others are not.

While I've not seen much about the case, the fetus's viability would have been the crux of that part of the murder case, given that, in reference to abortions:

In Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey (1992), the Supreme Court [wrote]..."the attainment of viability may continue to serve as the critical fact."

However, even the Supremes refused to set a time frame for viability:

..."the soundness or unsoundness of that constitutional judgment in no sense turns on whether viability occurs at approximately 28 weeks, as was usual at the time of Roe, at 23 or 24 weeks, as it sometimes does today, or at some moment even slightly earlier in pregnancy, as it may if fetal respiratory capacity may be somehow enhanced in the future."

It's a dilemma, whether the death of an unborn child should be considered murder. Viability is a factor, certainly, as is intent. I would be inclined, for instance, to visit greater punishment on a Manson-like evisceration of a mother for the purpose of removing the unborn child and killing it too. Or for a person who shoots a woman in the stomach for the purpose of killing the fetus - which is unlikely to happen at an early stage, anyway. And the later the pregnancy, the more inclined I am to count the death of the fetus as murder. But while I'm hesitant to say the caused-death of an early stage fetus is the same as murdering a infant, or an adult, at the same time I'm generally against abortion. So should I consider viability of the fetus as an issue when a pregnant woman is deliberately or negligently killed, for purposes of charging the killer with the death of the fetus, when I don't give that a lot of value in my decision about whether induced abortion is acceptable?

Conversely, it poses the opposite problem for someone who is pro-choice: it raises the issue of whether the child was wanted - for a pro-choice advocate, the issue at the center of his/her pro-choice decision is not primarily the viability of the fetus but rather the mother's ability to choose whether she wants to have the child. Thus, if the child was unwanted, the other-induced abortion, albeit involuntary on the part of the mother, would not be in the same order as the same action in a case where the child was wanted, or so it would seem to me, if the argument is to stay consistent. That is to say, the value of the fetus (or mass of fetal tissue, as it is sometimes referred to) is contingent on the value the mother places on it, ultimately, rather than on any objective standard. Therefore a defense against a charge of murdering the fetus could be that the mother herself had planned to get an abortion. On the other hand, the choice was taken out of the hands of the mother, which would be a violation but not, I think, on the same level as murder if she had already chosen abortion. In either instance - involuntary or voluntary abortion - "the mass of fetal tissue" loses any chance of viability, so how could you justify terming one murder and one not?

I want to say that wherever we land, the application needs to be consistent - whatever the current law is on abortions, that same standard should hold with murder charges where the death of a fetus was caused through the negligence or criminal activity of another party. But issues of viability and choice remain as question marks. It's not an idle questioning either - laws are but the will of the people codified despite the rather attenuated connection to the people's will that some laws represent.

It's the kind of dilemma that permeates our criminal justice system, which only the most blindered would term "consistent" or, often, even "fair". And it's the kind of dialogue we need to have in this country, rather than mindless applications of new laws without consideration of the broader consequences or implications. I lean toward a graduated scale of harm based on the viability of the fetus, in this instance, but whatever the decision is, it should be internally consistent with the rest of the legal code and in line with the broader policies of society - to the extent that we can pinpoint what those are with any consistency either - within the framework of the Constitution.

Posted by susanna at 10:20 PM | Comments (1)


Welcome to my new home. Take your shoes off, pour some iced tea, and stay a while.

Posted by susanna at 09:45 PM | Comments (9)

Note to self #2397:

Do not depend on driving directions from two passengers who do not drive, speak with strong Caribbean accents and tend to get excitable in New Jersey traffic. In this way lies madness.

Posted by susanna at 05:40 PM | Comments (0)

Another "nice guy" kills because of bullying

Providence, RI, newspaper production worker Carlos Pacheco killed two coworkers and then himself yesterday; his family claims he was endlessly "chided" and "taunted", and co-workers claim the management of the company causes such stress that not only did it cause Pacheco to kill three people including himself, but also caused another employee to commit suicide three years ago.

Management praised Pacheco:

''He was one of the nicest kids I've met,'' [Plant supervisor Bob Varin] said. ''He was a great worker. We never had a problem with him."

Anthony Minucelli, a former co-worker, agreed:

Pacheco, he said, ''didn't bother anybody. It shocked me that it was him.''

The family's characterization of "chiding" and "taunting" doesn't seem to mesh with the "work tension" identified by other workers; perhaps Pacheco personalized a generalized attitude on the part of management, or something else was going on. We'll be find out more, and probably will learn that Pacheco was a gun nut, and someone will conclude that if guns weren't so available, this wouldn't have happened because, after all, Pacheco was a nice guy. But regardless of what is said, the final truth is this: He could have quit the job. He could have made many other choices, none of which involved killing others. He wasn't shooting in physical self-defense. The blame for these deaths rests squarely on his shoulders, no matter what the provocations, no matter what the means.

And Bob Varin is one lucky man.

Posted by susanna at 05:38 PM | Comments (1)

Marshmallow trap:

Todd Hardwick, a licensed alligator trapper and the owner of the Pesky Critters nuisance wildlife control company, has a permit from the state to trap and kill "nuisance alligators" like these.

He has come armed with several big, shiny hooks of the kind normally used to catch sharks, hundreds of yards of the parachute cord he uses as fishing line, a bang stick loaded with a hollow-point .357 bullet, one large plastic bag of decomposing pig lungs and seven bags of marshmallows.

"They like marshmallows," he said.

It is one of the tests that the 39-year-old Mr. Hardwick uses to determine if an alligator has lost its fear of humans. He flings a handful into the water. If an alligator eats them, it is almost certain that it has been fed by fishermen or campers.

"If he swims away, he lives," said Mr. Hardwick...

Apparently snack foods are a no-no in the animal world too.

[Link via reader Dave Menke - his insomnia is your gain of reading material.]

Posted by susanna at 05:35 PM | Comments (1)

In the "examples of what we should be" department:

I give you the French, those perennial critics of America:

Minorities Struggling to Join The Political Elite in France
Equality Still Only an Idea as Voters Choose Members of Parliament

I vote we send Rep. Cynthia McKinney over there to help them integrate. They should work well together, don't you think?

[Link via reader Dave Menke.]

Posted by susanna at 04:52 PM | Comments (0)

I'll have those potatoes fried, please

Jacob Sullum at Reason Online comments with appropriate disgust and amazement on the current efforts to chase after obesity in this country with the same lawyers who went after Big Tobacco. Summarizing his amused horror will not do the piece justice, so I won't. I do want to comment on this:

The Independent added that many Americans can't get healthy food even if they want it. "Once you head inland from the coasts, away from the big population centers and college towns," it reported, "the very notion of unprocessed fresh food" vanishes. "It's a straightforward question of availability, giving the lie to food industry claims that consumers can exercise free choice in deciding what to put in their mouths."

Sullum responds to this well, but didn't make the point that immediately came to my mind, as someone who grew up about as far as you can get from the "big population centers" and still have an average of one person per square mile or more. You see, the further you get away from those "big populations centers", the more likely you are to be close to another American phenomenon - "farmers". "Farmers" are people who produce the "unprocessed fresh food" that the Independent apparently thinks magically regenerates in those big city supermarkets, kind of like a Lil Abner Dogpatch ham (no matter how much you use, there's always more left). "Farmers" even make "unprocessed fresh food" available more cheaply than supermarkets, at roadside stands and farmers' markets.

It's true that when I was growing up far from any coast in that vast wasteland void of big population centers, we rarely bought vegetables at the supermarket, especially in the summer. What we did do was go to the garden, liberate whatever looked good, and eat it the same day for dinner. It was routine for my dad to put a pot of water on the stove, then go to the garden for corn; by the time he was done shucking it, the water was boiling and ready to receive it. Many times dinner was sans meat - we'd have corn, broccoli, cole slaw, new potatoes, sliced tomatoes and onions, all from our garden, and cornbread made from cornmeal ground from our corn. And - this will really horrify those who think food spontaneously appears, packaged and pasteurized - we also occasionally killed and dressed chickens for dinner that same day .

The problem wasn't the availability of fresh, unprocessed food. When there was a problem, it was how it was fixed - fried. Fried chicken, fried potatoes, fried corn (you haven't lived 'til you've had it), and - in some families, not mine - fried tomatoes. All served with cornbread and butter. This was relatively okay fare for a hardworking farmer going dawn to dusk, but when the work style changed the eating style didn't, so you had a disconnect between calories eaten and expended. It wasn't - and isn't - availability at issue. It's choice of food, choice of preparation style, choice of time spent preparing, choice of quantity and choice of calories expended (i.e. exercise). Suddenly, it begins to look like choice, doesn't it?

I don't deny that sometimes obesity is involuntary, but that's usually a medical condition, not a corporate plot. And there are legitimate emotional issues and physical addictions (for want of a better word) associated with food that can make it difficult to control weight, as well as cultural habits of eating and the tendency to make celebrations and social occasions food-centric. Also, limiting a behavior is always more difficult than just giving it up entirely - the "can't eat just one" syndrome. Nonetheless, it is insanity, this whole chasing-after-obesity movement with lawsuits and pious pronouncements about protecting people from evil corporations leading them insensate to the trough. It is an invasion of privacy and a further undermining of the concept of personal responsibility. And just, well, stupid.

Posted by susanna at 04:46 PM | Comments (2)