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August 31, 2002

Gone a-wanderin'

(no word on return. send cute state police officers in search parties if no posts by midnight tomorrow.)
Posted by susanna at 02:53 PM | Comments (4)

A touch of the macabre

I've always had a tendency toward the macabre, starting with my addiction to old Echo comics (at least, I think it was Echo) where people were murdered in horrible ways and washed up on the bank with their faces washed off - I was 8 when I started reading those, mind you. Over the years this has manifested itself in various (legal and moral) ways, including a taste for macabre humor. No one does that better than Edward Gorey, a true gothic master and one of my favorite artists. A number of years ago I purchased a great poster which was (don't read this if you're a sensitive sort) a poster of Victorian children um, "passing on" in a variety of poetic and unusual ways, in alphabetical order - also published as a book, called The Gashlycrumb Tinies. I still have the poster, but I've never had it framed or hung it up because I've been, yes, afraid of giving offense. Now, isn't that silly? Anyway, here's a link to the images from the poster, if you're twisted in the same way I am. My favorite is, "N is for Neville who died of ennui". I think he was French.

Posted by susanna at 12:58 PM | Comments (7)

A walk through the Blogosphere

I spend far too much time online, and part of that time I'm mining through my referrer logs, other people's referrer logs and just rambling about thither and yon. To gift you with the fruits of my oh so strenuous labours, here are a few of the sites I've come across, some you may have seen, some not. Worth a little time on your holiday weekend while you wait for the guys to get over there with the barbeque.

The Misanthropyst – about motorcycles, politics and stupidity (oh, wait, those last two are the same!)

Andrew - a blog on politics, movie reviews and commentary, which somehow has survived without linking me. – another eponymous blog, political commentary mostly with a bizarre tendency to take weekends off from posting. Clearly a man with amazing strength of will (and good taste - he links me)

The Liberty Log – a group blog out of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. Buncha libertarians. WARNING! Do not assume "libertarian" and "conservative" are synonymous.

Out of the Frying Pan slice of life, religion and some commentary. Love the name and the header graphic.

A letter from the Olde Countrie – Steve Bail, in the guise of Group Captn. Lionel Mandrake, commenting on American politics with a British bent.

Alas, a blog - !!warning!warning!! a feminist! Well, okay, also some interesting commentary from a different perspective, plus excellent cartoons. Not always cartoons I agree with, but often acerbically funny and worth some time in the archives.

Caffeinspiration – Bobby Allison-Gallimore, a law student in Kansas, mainlining America’s drug of choice while providing insight into politics and whatever else trips his fancy.

Callahan Online – not a blog, but great cartoons. Today's made me laugh out loud.

Evil GOP Bastards – I know I’ve linked this before, but it’s just so cool to find staunch leftists with a sense of humor. Even if they are sadly, pathetically and irredeemably wrong.

Popcorn Pundit – this is George, who named his truck Frodo. He moved to New Mexico and has now threatened to quit blogging. Actually, he claims to have already. We must gang up on him and pull him back into the fold. We must! How else will we continue to find out about things like the sign outside a military base that read, “300 slut machines inside”? (We’re hoping, like George, that it was a typo.)

Lying in Ponds – a scorecard and a little commentary about which professional pundits are the most partisan (try saying that 10 times fast!). An excellent site for browsing, for checking out who’s dissing who, and for figuring out how you go about figuring out who’s partisan anyway.

There you have it. Now stop saying I never do anything for you. I do have a life, you know.

Posted by susanna at 12:36 PM | Comments (9)

A Palestinian horror

Brent at The Ville, someone I read every day who always has something to catch the mind and emotions - a smile, a laugh, a "yah, what he said!" - has posted his views on the Israel-Palestinian situation. We're in pretty close agreement on it. The kicker to the piece is a brief video showing what happens to Palestinians suspected of collaboration with Israel - it's not for the sensitive.

Posted by susanna at 08:16 AM | Comments (1)

A new blog and a roundup

David Mecklenburg has a new blog with a cool name - Sabertooth Journal - and he's working to take from you the burden of searching the Web. He's posted a roundup of links with brief summaries that should keep you busy linking for a while.

And check out the rest of the blog while you're there.

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

Does Fox TV read my blog?

Just Thursday, in response to the goofy new CBS series "Real Beverly Hillbillies", I suggested "The Upper East Side Kentuckians". Apparently Fox TV was watching:

Fox reality guru Mike Darnell has a message for CBS: Keep Beverly Hills, just give me that countryside! Just days after news broke that the Eye was planning a reality-skein revival of "The Beverly Hillbillies," execs at Fox Broadcasting, 20th Century Fox TV and Bunim-Murray Prods. confirmed they're developing a nonfiction laffer that mirrors another Paul Henning hickfest: "Green Acres."

Hmmmm!! Slick of them to claim they already had it in the works. Here's a little more on it.

The new show will join Fox's already strong lineup, known for its uncompromisingly artistic, high brow approach to television. For example, here's another show which will take to the air soon - Celebrity Boot Camp:

Celebrities often partake in grueling exercise regimes and strict diets, but apparently some of them are gluttons for punishment.

Several entertainers have signed up to get their butts kicked a la basic training in Fox's new show, Celebrity Boot Camp.

Former Brady Bunch brother Barry Williams, Renegade star Lorenzo Lamas, one time pop idol turned Playboy bunny Tiffany, Baywatch actress Traci Bingham and former Milli Vanilli member Fabrice Morvan are among a bunch of celebs who have enlisted -- at least temporarily.

Good to see they've mined the ranks of top-notch current celebrities for their recruits. No has-beens here! Uh uh! I just hope they make sure that when Milli-Villi Morvan sings for his supper that he doesn't have a tape player in his shirt and is just lip syncing.

Now, can someone tell me again why we're watching TV these days?

[Thanks to Caleb for the heads up on this!]

Posted by susanna at 07:54 AM | Comments (2)

August 30, 2002

Yeah, what she said

From a recent telephone conversation:

When he says that, I just want to take the words out of his mouth, make them into a baseball bat, and beat him with it!

And no, I'm not telling you the context.

(But she's talking about one of you.)

Posted by susanna at 10:04 PM | Comments (9)

Usama bin Dead

Bryan Preston thinks Usama is dead, and that the conflicting reports regarding his demise have more to do with the political needs of the countries making the claims than with the facts.

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

Joking about Israel and Palestine

Remember the other day that I mentioned hearing an American Palestinian comedian talking on the Curtis & Kuby show? Well, Bill Dennis of Bill’s Content blogged an article about the comedian, Ray Hanania, being dropped from a comedy club program because Jackie Mason, a comedian who is Jewish, didn’t want him opening the show. Mason denies that he complained.

It certainly raises an interesting question, because Hanania does tell jokes about the Jewish/Palestinian conflict. He had me cracking up as I was driving to work that morning. Apparently his wife is Jewish, and the joke I remember was primarily about how his relatives had to get passes to get within a mile of his house (in the US) while his wife’s family could just come on in anytime. Trust me, it was funny to hear him tell it. He said nothing about the conflict that appeared to place Israel in a negative light, nor did he mention or joke about suicide bombings or deaths.

So the question is – should he be welcomed in comedy clubs, even – or especially – when a Jewish comedian is headlining, since those types of jokes are a permanent part of his repertoire? I personally think that humor is a great way to defuse tensions and put things in their proper perspective, but at the same time the tensions and deaths over in Israel make humor about the situation a very touchy thing. Then again, he’s here, he’s American, he’s certainly got nothing against Jews, he doesn’t joke about the worst things. Couldn’t this be a good move?

I’m leaning, reluctantly, toward saying that it probably was not the right venue for him and those jokes at that time, although I think a different audience might be more acceptable. Bill Dennis says, “…leave the conflicts back in the old country”, and let the man perform. I would be interested to know what you think.

UPDATE: Al Barger is furious that Jackie Mason is taking hits for this, with accusations of racism. I do agree that's unfair, but I don't know that Barger's characterization of Hanania is fair either.

Posted by susanna at 03:52 PM | Comments (3)

Blacks rejecting the race card

This excellent article looks at the McKinney-Majette race from the perspective of the black electorate. The money quote:

The bitter truth is that guilt tainted racial appeals by black politicians for black solidarity and voter registration caravans and buses into black neighborhoods are not going to make blacks dash to the polls to vote for politicians who wage media-grabbing empty fights over issues that many black voters regard as remote and foreign to their needs and interests. But many will rush to the polls to vote for someone they think can better deliver the goods.

The voter turnout in Georgia's 4th Congressional district was the highest of any major race in that state, and many black voters rushed to vote for Majette. To them, she, not McKinney, represented that someone who can best represent them.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson, a writer for The Black World Today website, walks his readers through the changes that are happening in the political focus of the traditionally-Democrat black constituency. It's encouraging, not so much because more blacks are moving to right although I applaud that, but because they are increasingly refusing to allow themselves to be swept into the Democrats corner and left there ignored. They're voting on issues, framing the debate themselves rather than leaving it up to "black leaders" who have their own agendas, and demanding a true voice in policy rather than being satisfied merely to have someone of similar appearance in office. It is, in my mind, a maturing of political voice, a very healthy thing.

Michael Barone comes to some similar conclusions in his piece on the lessons from the McKinney race, although his discussion is more narrowly focused.

Cornel West, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, enjoy your here and now, because your future will be different.

[Barone link via Instapundit]

Posted by susanna at 10:55 AM | Comments (0)

Looking to Europe for our public policy

Three Justices of the Supreme Court have indicated that they think it's time to reconsider the question of whether juveniles convicted of heinous crimes should be executed. Their reasoning?

"Given the apparent consensus that exists among the states and in the international community against the execution of a capital sentence imposed on a juvenile offender," Justice John Paul Stevens wrote in the dissent, "I think it would be appropriate to revisit the issue at the earliest opportunity."

Justice Stevens, who dissented when the court last considered the issue in 1989, said he remained convinced that it is unconstitutional to execute people for crimes committed when they are younger than 18.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, joined by Justice Stephen Breyer, also dissented. They did not say how they would rule, but they added that reconsideration of the constitutionality of the execution of inmates for capital crimes committed when they were juveniles was warranted, given the court's ruling in June barring the execution of the mentally retarded.

According to the NY Times article, of the 80 people on death row who committed their crimes as juveniles:

About three-quarters of them were 17 when they committed their crimes; the rest were 16.

So we're not talking 12 year olds here - we're talking young people who are ostensibly of age to drive and to have abortions without parental consent. And the number of juveniles on death row throughout the country already indicates that the penalty is applied with restraint. However, I don't really object to their revisiting it, as long as the law is what is considered, not this:

The United States is practically alone in sanctioning the execution of juveniles. The only other nations that permit them are Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

Justice Stevens appears correct in his reference to a consensus "in the international community."

Thank goodness - yet again - for Chief Justice William Rehnquist:

"I fail to see," Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist wrote in his dissent in the Atkins case, "how the views of other countries regarding the punishment of their citizens provide any support for the court's ultimate determination."

That's right. International trends should have no impact on what we as a country decide to do. Our decisions should be made based on our Constitution, our law and our own internal sense of what is right. Looking to Europe and other countries will only lead us to become as wishy-washy, morally ineffectual, politically convoluted and irrelevant as most EUweenies are. And, quite frankly, I also don't think what Britian and its former colonies do is germane either.

I think we need the option of executing older juveniles, although I wouldn't object to a higher bar on aggravating factors in the crime. And I really don't care what the rest of the world thinks about it.

UPDATE: John O'Sullivan has a strong piece on capital punishment in NRO. It's a good succinct summary of the argumentation for the death penalty. This in particular caught my attention:

Last year, a trio of economists from Emory University, Hashem Dezhbakhsh, Paul Rubin, and Joanna Melhop Shepherd, released a study — "Does Capital Punishment Have a Deterrent Effect?" — that concluded on the basis of careful statistical analysis of the recent (i.e. since the restoration of capital punishment in the 1970s) evidence that there was a very significant deterrent effect.

Summarizing their conclusions, the statistician Iain Murray of the Statistical Assessment Service in Washington reported that "each execution deters other murders to the extent of saving between eight and twenty-eight innocent lives-with a best-estimate average of eighteen lives saved per execution." On this reasoning, if the 3,527 prisoners now on death row in the U.S. were to be executed, then something like 63,000 lives would be saved! Even if we scale down these estimates sharply, we are left with a very strong argument for capital punishment derived from social concern for the lives of potential victims and the distress of their families.

That's new data that I wasn't aware of. He also identifies one of the arguments I used to make to my Corrections class when we discussed the death penalty:

...there is another strong argument for capital punishment. It is known technically as the argument from incapacitation (i.e., dead men commit no murders.) And that argument alone is more than adequate justification for capital punishment.

I always stated this as, What correctional response to criminality has the lowest recidivism rate? The death penalty. As O'Sullivan says, dead men don't kill.

And what is my position on it? Well, if you've not figured it out yet, the title of my position paper in the semester-long class on the death penalty I took in my master's program may help you out:

The Death Penalty: A Moral Imperative

I've seen nothing in the past 13 years to make me change my mind.

Posted by susanna at 08:19 AM | Comments (4)

August 29, 2002


I've mentioned different kinds of bias in various posts, including framing and selection bias. Sometime soon I'll write a post focusing on the different kinds of bias and how to identify them. But in the meantime, Freedom and Whiskey's David Farrer has a great example of framing bias here. Good catch, David!

Posted by susanna at 03:29 PM | Comments (0)


Okay, I know I yelled. But really! This is such insanity!!

I hate what is happening to perfectly fine words and numbers in this society. I personally think 88 is a lovely number, has a nice symmetry, and if some people use it obscurely as a nasty little signal, the best way to pull its poison is to saturate the market with other uses for the same number - ask the owner of any brand name that's become public domain through use. The Target people in the article are all nut cases - they should have told Joseph Rodriguez "thank you very much", given him a gift certificate to Target, and ordered more 88 hats. And sent the police over to confiscate his VCR and cable box.

I've always been annoyed that the lovely word "gay" now means a male who is attracted to other males. I think it's pathetic that the word "niggardly" is considered racist because some people are so clueless about word origins that they hadn't ought to be allowed around words unattended. It reminds me of that silly elementary school "in crowd" game where a certain group imbued an innocuous word with hidden meaning, then would all laugh hysterically when a person not "in" on it said the word. "She said NOTEBOOK! Hahahahaha!"

I know language shifts, and meanings come in and out of vogue. I've read several books on language origins - fascinating. But this kind of egregious PCism isn't about shifts over time, it's about stupidity, plain and simple.

I vote we kidnap Rodriguez, tie him down and tattoo an "88"... somewhere. Right beside a tattoo that says, "Get a life, already!"

[Link via Trojan Horseshoes]

UPDATE: FoxNews has an article on this now. I went to the Southern Poverty Law Center's site to check it out, and they had photos of a pair of boxers from the collection. The hat, from what I could see, was innocent enough, but the boxers have grinning skulls all over them with EIGHT EIGHT emblazoned in blood red. That's a little different from just "88" on merchandise, and it's ridiculous to characterize the issue as just an "88" - it's the design as a whole, which give the use of the number more sinister impact. I still object to their saying that "88" is by itself a wicked thing to use. That's like saying that I shouldn't use white sheets on my bed because some people make robes and hoods from them. Please.

UPDATE: Fritz Schranck realizes that he's been harboring that self-same number - and intends to continue doing so.

Posted by susanna at 03:10 PM | Comments (9)

Uh oh

Just because I'm an egotistical masochist, I have two sites set up for non-bloggish writings of mine - a poetry site, inside my mind (a truly scary place), and a fiction site called, cleverly enough, short fiction. That last one I kind of sneaked into my lineup without fanfare, because I've not written much fiction in a while and some of my older stuff isn't, shall we say, ready for The Atlantic. (My new stuff isn't either, thank you for pointing that out. :P)

Well, I've been exposed. The wonderful John Braue of Rat's Nest has not only discovered my fiction, not only read the first story there, but soundly denounced it as a "slice of life" piece where nobody goes anywhere new. Sheesh. So it's treacly! So sue me!

I actually wrote the story as part of an online competition by Dream Forge, an e-zine I used to submit to a few years ago when I was a member of a writer's chat room on Undernet. We were given a list of things to include, and sent off to our corners to write. The list included a pregnant woman and Santa Claus, soooo... there you have it. The other short short piece there was based on a similar list in writing class.

John says I may now kick him until he bleeds for not liking my story. No, John, I wouldn't do that to you. Santa will just ignore you this year. Nyah.

Posted by susanna at 02:39 PM | Comments (2)

Reciprocal bias

One thing I hammer on here is that everyone is biased - yes, including your Revered Site Hostess. What's important is identifying and understanding the bias so you can reason your way through to the facts underneath, thus being better equipped to form your own opinions.

Media Minded, always on top of the game, today has an excellent post busting The Weekly Standard for busting The Washington Post for bias. Interesting in itself, it's also illustrative of the need to carry the same skepticism into your reading of a critique that you bring to the reading of the work under consideration. It often brings its own brand of bias into the mix - at the very least, a selection bias.

Posted by susanna at 12:35 PM | Comments (0)

Pipes on the Middle East

You must read John Hawkins' interview with Middle East expert Daniel Pipes; there's too much good there to summarize. I will give one excerpt, though, that contained my favorite quote:

John Hawkins: There seems to be a belief among many Europeans that if they don't stand with the United States in the war on terrorism, it'll make them less likely to be hit with terrorist attacks. In the long-run do you believe they're right or wrong?

Daniel Pipes: Well the United States is the great power and the Europeans have really chosen not to invest in their militaries and are basically secondary powers. The enemies of the West are aware of that and therefore target the United States. It might be true that they would open themselves up to more retaliation if they join us but it's also true that they're freeloaders if they don't. They're benefitting from our military and financial commitment without carrying their due proportion.

There are meatier things in the piece, which really can't be effectively excerpted. But I just liked the imagery of this - Europe as freeloaders if they don't get behind the US. Absolutely.

And congratulations to John for an excellent interview.

Posted by susanna at 10:15 AM | Comments (0)

Olympics in New York City

The United States Olympic Committee has narrowed down to two the cities vying to bid for the 2012 Olympics from the US - it's now between New York City and San Francisco. I think NYC is certainly a fine place to host thousands of people for the Games, in terms of having things for them to do when not watching the Games, but one of the concerns the Olympic Committee has is one that I think is central:

One major concern has been transportation, with members of the Olympic Committee saying they are worried about the feasibility of moving tens of thousands of athletes and spectators around the city. “Athletes will never have to be on the roads,” the executive director of NYC 2012, Jay Kriegel, said. “Every location in our plan will be reachable by ferry or train. We are prepared to move people smoothly and quickly.”

Ha. Ha Ha Ha. Yeah right. All those other derisive noises I could make. If they do manage to "smoothly and quickly" move the athletes from venue to venue, it's going to make nightmarish traffic problems for the rest of the metro area. My commute to work this morning took an additional 20 minutes because of a medium-level rainstorm. Can you imagine what it would be like with all that influx of additional people, who would be getting priority in moving about the city? Crazy making.

OTOH, maybe winning this bid would give NYC the wherewithal to revamp its transportation systems, thereby making things much easier for NYC area residents in the long run. That's the only silver lining in this cloud.

Posted by susanna at 09:47 AM | Comments (2)

August 28, 2002


Bryan Preston says that Europe is in the same position the US was in just prior to Pearl Harbor. Interesting. What do you think?

Posted by susanna at 08:58 PM | Comments (4)

Television as flopping fish

It had to happen:

[CBS] will soon begin casting for a weekly half-hour series that will follow the adventures of a rural, lower-middle class family -- yes, there will be a granny -- as they are transplanted from their humble digs to a Beverly Hills mansion. The project is tentatively titled "Real Beverly Hillbillies."

…Cameras will watch their every move as the rural clan attempts to fit in with folks who eat at the Grill rather than use a grill, or who shop at Harry Winston instead of Wal-Mart. And while the series will focus on a group of five or six, it's expected their extended family will also stop by for a visit sometime during their stay in the mansion.

CBS vice president of alternative programming Ghen Maynard said the series will have a humorous tone, though with a respect for the family and some elements of drama.

"It's a great fish-out-of-water story," he told Daily Variety. "A lot of it will be funny, but a lot of it will be real. We want to fnd a family that's different from what most people know but still relatable, a family that loves each other a lot."

Yeah, I’d say even people who “loved each other a lot” would find that kind of thing a strain. I just have a few questions: Are they going to be allowed to bring their guns? And the hound dogs? Will they wear their own clothes like the original BH did or will they be encouraged/allowed to “fit in” clothes-wise? And how precisely will they be treated “respectfully” when the whole point is to laugh at them? Just asking, is all.

It appears one of the people who pitched the story is named Dub Cornett. I venture to say that Dub is one of those rich Cornetts, not one of my people. Back home, there were two sets of Cornetts in the county – us average folk and those rich ones. We pronounce our last name “CORE-nit”; whenever someone said they knew a “core-NET”, we always said it must be one of those rich Cornetts. The pronunciation, by the way, is rare enough so that when I introduced myself to Louisville Courier Journal columnist John Ed Pearce, he immediately asked, “Which county in eastern Kentucky are you from?”

At any rate, I thought this might be a good opportunity to pitch some other “fish-out-of-water” reality shows:

The Real World Summit: Watch as several environmental activists spend a year with a small African tribe in a remote sub-Saharan setting. Chuckle with the activists as they attempt to bring Sustainable Energy to the tribe. See them waste away as the caviar, steak and pate’ from the Summit become a dim memory. Join the fun as you phone in suggestions to the activists; the suggestions will be airlifted to the site and dropped each week on camera. Observe their disappointment that the packet contains suggestions like how to build windmills out of cow dung, but no batteries for their Walkman, or even a small tin of foie gras.

Singer in the Rain: Bioethicist Peter Singer will be set up in a rainforest for a year to communicate with the biodiversity there. Watch Peter interact with the sentient creatures of the forest, evaluating each based on its consciousness of self. Chuckle as he discovers the moral vacuity of snakes. Admire his intellectual honesty as he informs an alligator that he is essentially the same as the reptile only tastier. Share the poignant moment when, as the alligator eats Singer, the renowned bioethicist gasps out that as he is now incapable of fending for himself (because he’s being eaten) the alligator was right to use him as food. Note: This show may end mid-season. A replacement is being prepared in that eventuality: The Cellist and the Cutie, where we follow Britney Spears on a world tour with YoYo Ma.

The Upper East Side Kentuckians: A liberal family from the Upper East Side of Manhattan – a producer of reality-television shows, his NY Times editorial writer wife, their two private-school teenagers, and a granny (we're not sure whose) – will spend a year living outside Manchester, Kentucky. Watch as they learn to grill squirrel rather than go to The Grill for pheasant. Share in their confusion as they try to understand the difference between hominy, grits and sweet corn. Laugh with them – not at them – as they are confronted with an actual vegetable in the ground, facing the dilemma of how to extract it, dress it and eat it. Watch the family rediscovering how to compromise as they realize their entire clothing budget for the year is less than he used to spend on one suit. Feel the tension build as we watch granny finish the table wine and go searching for moonshine. And don't miss the NY Times editorial writing wife try to explain down at the VFW why Bill Clinton was a good president.

They will be given a four-room house with an added on bathroom, an already planted garden, a 10-year-old used car, a tobacco base and jobs at Wal-mart.

“It will be a sweet show as we see the locals struggling to understand what they want when they ask for ‘coe-ah-fee’, and watch the community pull together when the editorial-writing wife breaks a fingernail,” the producer said.

Look for these and others coming to a cable channel near you. If you’d like to pitch a reality show, please feel free to do so in Comments!

UPDATE: Well, Caleb has taken up the challenge, though he didn't do it in Comments. Caleb, the answer is - government would screech to a halt. Although it wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing.

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

Things you like to hear

From an article about North Korean leader Kim on a jaunt through Russia:

Last year, when Viktor Popov, Russia's Far Eastern railway director, commented about a growing drug problem in the region, Mr. Pulikovsky recalls the North Korean leader saying: "Mr. Popov, if you find Koreans in Khabarovsk who deal with drugs, you can shoot them. I give you permission. We have a huge population, so there shouldn't be any problems even if we shoot many people."

You like to see a leader valuing the rule of law and the lives of his people. Now, if he'd said, "Shoot the criminals, we don't need them preying on the people", I could see a little reason there, although not enough to say that's a good approach. But to say it's okay to shoot people because we have so many, it wouldn't be a problem? Sounds to me like a man committed to serving the best interests of the populace.

(the continuation of this post has been removed.)

Posted by susanna at 10:36 AM | Comments (1)

Just passin’ time

Setting: 20 cars back on the 1&9 approach to the Holland Tunnel. On the way to work. Traffic stopped for red light.


Me: (crocheting quietly while listening to Curtis & Kuby yak with a American Palestinian comedian who is married to a Jewish woman. Thinking about blogging it. Car windows down.)

Unintelligible voice overrides radio slightly. I turn to the left, some guy in a maroon Saab convertible with the top up is obviously speaking to me. I turn down the radio

Saab guy: I’ve seen people shaving, putting on makeup, talking on the cell phone – that’s the first time I’ve seen anyone crocheting in traffic!

Me: Yeah! (holding up crocheting)

Saab guy: What are you making?

Me: Baby afghan. (holding up the whole thing, about a 3’ strip of quadruple crochet in bright white boucle)

Saab guy (laughing): Did you just start it today?

Me: Nope, traffic’s not been that bad today.

Saab guy (as light changes 20 cars away): What do you do, drive with your knees?

Me: Nope. Only crochet when we’re at a stop.

Saab guy (laughing): (drives away)

Me: (puts down crochet, drives rest of the way to work)

Posted by susanna at 09:07 AM | Comments (1)

August 27, 2002

Keystone Kops meet Bonehead

Fritz Schranck digs through a US District Court judgment to find a rather hilarious cops-and-miscreant story.

Hint: None of them cover themselves in glory.

Posted by susanna at 10:37 PM | Comments (1)

Lance Bass, God and Condi Rice

How, I bet you're wondering, did those three get in a headline together? It's all Bryan's fault. He has several excellent posts, including how Condi Rice views faith (I like it a lot), why he's happy Lance of 'N Sync is heading toward the real stars, and, not least, his former-military-man's view on whether only military types can opine about entering another war.

Posted by susanna at 08:51 PM | Comments (0)

Must... sleep....

It's been a good but very long day that's not over yet. I rolled out of bed this morning before 4 a.m., was at work by 5:30, on my way to an out of town meeting by 7:30, and by 5:30 p.m. had driven 3 hours and worked 9. Yes, I know, it's nothing like this (but then I don't have the CD yet, so mighten the rest of the tale be suspect?). I have no qualms admitting to wimpdom - all that on four hours sleep did me in. So it was home, a nap, and now more work. Why do you care? Thanks for asking. You care because that's why I've not posted anything since this morning. However, if you hold your mouth just right that may change before 10. Then again, I saw that smirk, so it could be tomorrow.

Posted by susanna at 08:33 PM | Comments (2)

Darwin strikes again

If you read this blog very much, you know I'm a bit testy with Darwin. But I have to say that when it comes to eliminating unworthies from the gene pool, he begins to prove his worth. Take this, for example.

Well, actually, guys, don't take it - I know my readers need to stay in the gene pool.

[Link lifted, with much amusement (and some sympathy), from Silflay Hraka]

Posted by susanna at 06:14 AM | Comments (3)

Stumpin' for the man

Dr. Cornel West, that flower of black scholarship, is stumping in New York for Andrew Cuomo, the son of Mario Cuomo, who is currently running for governor. Cuomo's only opposition in the Democratic primary is H. Carl McCall, the current comptroller of the state, who is black. West, who has made a career out of black solidarity, is Cuomo's man for trashing McCall:

Mr. Cuomo visited a few black churches and stood by as the scholar Cornel West, who is black, called Mr. McCall "timid and hesitant" on issues important to blacks.

Dr. West, a Princeton University professor and best-selling author on black America, continued a pattern in which Mr. Cuomo does not criticize Mr. McCall at Cuomo campaign events, but his supporters do. Dr. West's criticism came at a news conference after a visit to Memorial Baptist Church, when he was asked to assess Mr. McCall.

"I think Carl McCall is a decent man, he is a good man," Dr. West said, as Mr. Cuomo looked on. "But he is a timid and hesitant man. We need an aggressive progressive."

I don't really care who wins the Democratic primary, as long as current Governor George Pataki (liberal as he is) wins the general election. But I find it... amusing? that West, with all his talk of "black man" this, and "solidarity" that, is serving as a white candidate's front man to disconnect a black politician from the black constituency.

Personally, I'd prefer it if they showed respect for all voters, regardless of race, and ran on the issues instead of color. But that's just lil ole Southern conservative me. Who am I to question the Great Party Of Diversity?

UPDATE: John Rosenberg has a few good questions for West too.

Posted by susanna at 05:49 AM | Comments (3)

A primer on deconstructing media bias

Meryl Yourish does it right. But then of course she does. We expect that from her.

And we also aren't surprised to see Reuters leaning toward support of Palestine in its "objective" news content.

Posted by susanna at 04:46 AM | Comments (0)

August 26, 2002

Problem solving mongrel Americans - God love 'em

Steven Den Beste has a good essay about how the US military is different from that of other countries, most specifically the British. He keys off an email from an American military officer in Germany, so the topic swings into general politics too. Worth reading, but there were two things that caught my attention.

First, this:

America is a nation built of mongrels; and to some extent we glory in that...

This is exactly how I see it. Yes, I trace one line of my ancestry to pre-Revolutionary War times, but what about the dozens of other lines? They likely go off in all kinds of directions, and I'd say the vast majority of my ancestors were working class. Fine with me. What's important is that I'm an American, not how I got that way. I think ultimately the best of our military feel the same way, and that cheerful mongrelism withstands a lot of guff from those full of themselves for what their 36-times-removed grand-daddy did. Or three times removed, for that matter.

Randy, the military officer, wrote in his email:

Americans are, for the most part, optimists and we love to solve problems regardless of their intricacies. Therefore, we think (perhaps naively sometimes) we can solve most any problem that comes along. Moreover, our frame of reference is one of "freedom of choice" and that greatly influences our decision process because we think in terms of multiple options or parallel solutions. From my experience, Europeans are pessimists, in general, that do indeed react to situations with canned responses. They expect the worst and quite often are not disappointed.

...My point to all of this is that I think it stems from the differences in our time horizons. We have difficulty in carrying on a conversation (much less a relationship) because Europeans remember the past too easily and Americans don't seem to remember it past last Tuesday!

...[Also,] (t)he Europeans move at a slower more deliberate pace while Americans are zooming around on anything and everything that will move at the speed of electrons.

This is one of the clearest reasons I've seen to do things the American way, rather than all the other ways out there. Quite simply, when faced with a problem we collectively tend to approach it with a full range of options and the future in mind. Den Beste notes:

We're less afraid of uncertainty, I think, because we're more used to improvising. The unexpected isn't a disaster, it's just something that has to be dealt with.

One of the major arguments being made in Europe to our plans to attack Iraq is that it could destabilize the entire region and that it's impossible to predict what might happen. The American reaction to that has been, more or less, "And your point is?"

In my job, we frequently run up against slowdowns, deliberate or unintentional mistakes, and other problems. While it's useful to know how the problem occurred, to help prevent it from occurring again, the focus is, "This is where we are now. What do we need to do to get where we need to be?"

I think that's one reason many Americans, especially conservative Americans and those liberals who have no truck with the victim classes, have a difficult time with understanding the resistance to change in the Middle East. Of course there are vested interests in the here and now, but there seems such a strong element of "we were disrespected 500 years ago, we must have vengeance!" that is so antithetical to who we are as a people. I just wonder, in the long run, if understanding and trying to ameliorate that tendency on the part of the Middle Eastern nations is the right way to go.

It's difficult to learn from history when you're shackled by it; I don't really think there's a common ground to be found. We can't concede that their age old grievances have meaning in today's world. This is where we are now - how do we make it better? I think that's the question.

(And I think Cheney has the next right answer.)

Posted by susanna at 02:12 PM | Comments (4)

There are people worse than me?

I just took the "are you hooked on the Internet" test from USA Weekend and... I'm not. Just a little problem, my score said. Might want to consider things. But no need to worry, call your psychiatrist, go on disability, join Internet Users Anonymous...

So that's a good thing. But...

...there are people worse?

[Link lifted from The Last Page. She has more email accounts than me but not many.]

Posted by susanna at 12:41 PM | Comments (0)

FBI: always taking the high road

You like to see things like this:

LOUISVILLE - The two painting companies who made secret recordings for an FBI investigation of bribe-taking on an Ohio River bridge project have been told they cannot use the tapes in their civil suit against the state of Kentucky.

Federal prosecutors say they can't surrender the tapes because their release might violate the privacy of third parties mentioned on the recordings.

"We sincerely appreciate the assistance of these employees, but we have to comply with the federal Privacy Act," said Hancy Jones, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Louisville.

Who do you believe here?

Hedley also said that early in the criminal investigation, the companies were told that the tapes would be turned over to them once the investigation was concluded.

Jones said he could find "no information that any such promise was made." David Beyer, a spokesman for the FBI in Kentucky, said the bureau never made such a pledge.

Posted by susanna at 12:17 PM | Comments (0)

Finally - a Hillary to like


Somewhere in Jersey City. Girls night in, tofu stirfry and chocolate sorbet. Two liberals and a conservative.


Conservative: What’s this?
Liberal 1: A dog squeaky toy
Conservative: It looks like Hillary
Liberal 1: It’s supposed to.
Liberal 2: She’s not that fat.
Conservative: Yes she is.
Conservative: (squeezing toy)
Toy Hillary: WHEEZ SQUEAK!
Conservative: That’s the most intelligent thing I’ve ever heard her say.

Posted by susanna at 11:43 AM | Comments (6)

Who's really behind reparations?

E.L. Core has a long, fascinating excerpt from a newspaper article on just who was behind the reparation march in Washington. Can you say "felons and has-beens"?

Posted by susanna at 10:28 AM | Comments (0)

Race for the Cure update

People, I'm just beyond words. I started hoping to raise $175 for my Race for the Cure walk on Sept. 15 in Manhattan. Well, as of this morning, $385 has been pledged and that's not including what's been promised by a couple of emails. Wow, I'm just... well... speechless. Pretty bad for a blogger, ain't it? I've upped my goal to $500, and it's already over 75% met.

If you can, I do appreciate the donations. No amount is too little - every penny counts where it matters. And even if you can't donate now (I've been there!), if you have someone in your life who has survived breast cancer, or lost their fight with it, send me their name and I'll wear it proudly. Woman or man, because, yes, men get breast cancer too.

If you want to donate, go here.

Posted by susanna at 09:27 AM | Comments (1)

Congratulations, Chris

This is one of the sweetest things I've ever read. You'll do, Chris, you'll do.

Posted by susanna at 08:33 AM | Comments (1)

More on TrueMajority

In case you missed it at the end of my original TrueMajority post below, Dodd busts the TM crowd. And now, Kevin McGehee delivers a further whack.

I think it's so heartwarming when us conservative types join hands to advance Truth, Justice and The American Way - don't you?

Posted by susanna at 01:03 AM | Comments (1)

August 25, 2002

Racing for the cure

In the mid 1990s I lost two friends - a college classmate, and the sister of one of my best friends - to breast cancer. They were both in their early 30s, far too young to lose their lives. As a woman, I feel the spector of breast cancer hovering, a quiet darkness, at the side of my consciousness. It's one disease of many that kill, but it's one that's touched me personally, so I've chosen over the years to find ways to support breast cancer research when I can. And research on breast cancer helps all research on cancer.

This year I'm going to do the Race for the Cure in Manhattan on September 15. I would appreciate any donations you would like to make toward my fundraising goal of $175. I know most of you likely have charities you donate to already, but your support in this instance would be fantastic.

The Race for the Cure will be, for me, a 3.1 mile walk. Trust me, I could use it! I'm excited about the opportunity, and plan to wear the names of my lost friends during the walk. If anyone who contributes would like to add a name - or even if you want to add a name without contributing - send it to me via email. I'll wear names of those lost as well as survivors. Each is a celebration of a life - lost or saved.


UPDATE: Well, now I'm almost going to cry. I just posted this a few hours ago and already three people have pledged a total of $110. THANK YOU! Anyone else who is interested, any amount $1, $5, $25, whatever (hey, if you want to sell your car and donate $5,000 that's good too), will bring us closer to the goal. Not my goal - I'm pretty confident now I'll meet that - but the goal of finding a cure for cancer.

I'll post a list of those who donated the weekend of the Race. Of course, it's available at the link above anytime. If you use initials at the donor site, or don't wish your name to be used on the blog, let me know.

And, while my goal is to raise $175, I'm not limited to that. I'm just saying, is all.

Posted by susanna at 09:42 AM | Comments (0)

Just in time for 9/11

In case you were unsure of how to commemorate 9/11, just in time for the one-year anniversary will be selling an English translation of Thierry Meyssan's book claiming it was a US government plot, not those scapegoated al Qaeda types at all.

The NY Daily News (linked above) is steaming about it. The NY Press says, hey, get over it! The book's been thoroughly debunked, and we have a right to see the book in English so we can scoff at and deride Meyssan more effectively.

I really have no problem with the book being available. I do think it's pretty poor judgment/taste/whatever to sync (deliberately or not) its English release in the US with the anniversary of the national horror it dismisses.

Posted by susanna at 09:34 AM | Comments (3)

Exposing the NYT

This lovely article in The (UK) Telegraph goes into some detail about how the NY Times is engaging in active bias against the Bush administration and the possibility of attacking Iraq. It's not a scientific study, but they do give compelling examples. Here's a favorite passage (but the whole thing is great):

By convention, American newspapers have opinionated editorial pages while the news pages are supposed to be "objective", though in practice most big city newspapers reflect a faint liberal bias.

I wouldn't say faint, but that's just me.

[Thanks to reader Ty Clevenger for the heads up on the article.]

Posted by susanna at 07:24 AM | Comments (1)

August 24, 2002

JFK - racist?

Eric Lindholm has the September Smarter Harper's Index posted, and it's a fine one. Don't miss it. Here's Harper's magazine online, but the September issue isn't up yet. So you're ahead of the curve!

Posted by susanna at 09:16 PM | Comments (2)

Inside Nightline

Last Monday David Horowitz was on Nightline talking about the course at UNC requiring that students read the Koran. In this article he takes you through how the interview was conducted, and then edited, so that Koppel's view was the one shown to the best advantage.

Quite a damning treatise on how bias shows through agenda setting and framing issues.

[Link via The Ville Thanks, Brent!]

Posted by susanna at 09:03 PM | Comments (12)

IMing the cops

As a long-time online chatter, I was fascinated to see that new technology integrating law enforcement and emergency services across jurisdictions will include an instant messaging feature. Knowing cops as I do, I'm not quite sure how long it would take for it to be generally accepted, and certainly there's security bugs to be worked out. But it's exceptionally cool nonetheless:

The CapWIN network will let law enforcement agencies and others do three things: communicate with one another over a secure instant messaging network; search multiple databases; and permit better coordination between different agencies or officers responding to an emergency.

A police officer arriving at an emergency, for example, could enter a chat area to get a current summary of the situation while others at distant locations could run licence plate checks with different state and federal agencies on vehicles leaving the scene.

The CapWIN system, with a contract just awarded to IBM, will be an integration of systems in Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia. I've been working with my department to upgrade communications for a couple of years - mobile computers, laptops, handhelds and better systems overall - and of course I'm always a voice for more more more technology (and more more more training to get the cops to use it, not that they listen). I'll be pulling for this to work, and to spread. We shall see.

More information here, here and here. Original link from Moreover.

Posted by susanna at 03:01 PM | Comments (3)

Heads up, seniors! You might be cutting off your grandkids to get free drugs

Banana Counting Monkey has some very interesting thoughts about welfare states, immigration and grandkids. In summary: Don't come cryin' to me.

[BCM keys off a Colby Cosh piece for his riff. Cosh's post on Art (scroll a tiny bit) is also worth reading. I would link the post directly but apparently that isn't possible on his site. BTW, Colby - I love Monet. Amongst others. Nyah.]

Posted by susanna at 01:21 PM | Comments (0)

A public service

Just to help out you guys who want a good time but aren't quite on the marriage track yet:


Taken from How To Avoid Matrimony by Herald Froy (1957)

My self-assessment returned a solid minus score. Oops.

[Lifted from Nick Denton]

Posted by susanna at 12:47 PM | Comments (5)

Berlinski rules!

If you've not already read Claire Berlinski's proposal for dealing with the Middle East, you must immediately. I've linked it at LGF, where I found it, but it's also at Vodkapundit and Samizdata.

When you're finished there, check out her article on the real reasons why the CIA is a pathetic shadow of its purported self.

UPDATE: I read the comments on Claire's piece at LGF and VP, and something occurred to me that hadn't, really, before. All of you will snort and go, yeah, where has YOUR head been? But it just amazed me when the full implications hit.

We protect the Middle East from itself.

Without us, US, it would be anarchy, chaos, bloodletting on an even grander scale, the tigers fighting each other like in the story of Little Black Sambo that is now PC'd into obscurity. Nothing left but a few tufts of fur.

Not, really, a bad outcome.

Yeah, yeah, I know. I don't want all the innocents caught up in it either. But it strikes me that it's similar to how we the hawks have made sure that the dovish leftists have a country to denigrate. We the US have made it possible for the Middle East to have enough stability to lie back on their piles of cushions and lambast the US. We cradle them in just sufficient stability to preserve their countries, yet without really demanding a whole lot in return. Can you imagine if we were not involved? If we sent no foreign aide, if we bought nothing from them or sold nothing to them? That's what the mullahs and the imams say they want. The result would be truly horrific, I believe. And you know what? If we did pull out completely, and the inevitable horrors occurred, they would blame us again. There really isn't anything we can do to please them except give them all our money, convert to Islam and meekly allow the superior Arab race to rule the world.

Honey, that ain't gonna happen. So I wonder, why are we even trying to help? It's like the old saying - be careful what you pray for, you just might get it.

So why not fulfill their prayer of US withdrawal?

UPDATE: Yes, I'm late to the party and of course I'd even read these other posts, but sometimes things just take a while to sink in. John Hawkins at Right Wing News kicked it off here, then Andrea Harris at Spleenville picked up the flow, and finally Toren at The Safety Valve added his bit. It's nice to know that if I have to be late to the party, at least I'm joining some mighty fine folks when I get there.

My mind is still percolating about this. Sorry. Some of us are a bit dense.

Posted by susanna at 12:13 PM | Comments (4)

August 23, 2002

The things you see in Jersey City

This afternoon I was walking to the bank from work, thinking more about what to get for lunch, since it was already 2 p.m., than what was around me. As I stopped at an intersection to wait for the light to change, I glanced up and saw... a green and yellow porcupine caught in mid-metamorphosis into a non-descript white sedan. Huh? Yikes! Little pegs, looking about 2" long, were stuck into (emerging out of?) the body of the car, all over. ALL over. Yellow on the right side, where I was, and on the passenger door in green pegs it said, "TRUE".

True what?

This of course took only a few seconds to see, since the car was driving past, which was good because it gave me time to absorb the next thing - a large van-sized pink pig pulling a smaller pig which was... pulling a still smaller pig. I began wondering if I shouldn't skip lunch and go straight for the heavy drugs. Or maybe that was the problem. Just what was in that yogurt I had for breakfast?

Then, enlightenment: Across the, um, hams of the last little pig was stenciled:

AHHHH..! A public relations campaign! I put down the public phone book, where I'd been perusing "psychiatrists", and instead jotted down the website. I wondered, who might this majority be? Given that money was sticking out of the top of the largest pig (not a real pig, you know. one of those van conversions gone ugly), I thought - it's either a no-taxes citizens group or some buncha liberals. And since the driver of the bristly porcupine non-descript sedan was some young whippersnapper, I decided - buncha liberals.

So just now, I went to the site. And... it's a buncha liberals.

BIGGGGGGG liberals. Leftists, even.

Ben&Jerry's ice cream and Ted Turner leftists.

It's apparently a new "grassroots" (pig shit?) effort to provide "a brand new channel for bringing individual citizens' influence to bear on Congress." (Ha.) They know you don't have much time, so they'll "be your eyes and ears." They'll "track the debates and compromises and bills that will shape the world." And, when they've warned you of the horrific activities going on in Washington, "with just one click, we'll generate a fax to your Congressperson on your behalf".

So generous.

Here's their mission statement, known as The Truemajority Ten Principles:

TrueMajority’s underlying philosophy is contained in the TrueMajority Principles, a positive blueprint for moving forward in the post 9/11 world. These principles reflect the American values of compassion, charity and justice – the same values we must adhere to in order to build a safer, more secure home and world.

Oh, oh, oh, you're hurting me! I can feel something... dove-ish just lurking, just...

These principles are also revenue-neutral, meaning the investments proposed are entirely funded by reductions in unnecessary spending on Cold War-era weapons that no longer contribute to our national security.

See? There you've gone and done it! In this post-9/11 war, we need charity, we need compassion, we don't need those silly ole bombs. Why, if we had spent that defense budget money on the Middle East all along, 9/11 may never have happened! It was our fault, after all. But there's still time... we can fix it...

Here's the 10 Principles:

1. Attack poverty and world hunger as if our life depends on it. It does.

2. Champion the rights of every child, woman & man.

3. End our obstructionism to the world's treaties.

4. Reduce our dependence on oil and lead the world to an age of renewable energy.

5. Close the book on the Cold War and end the nuclear nightmare forever.

6. Renounce Star Wars and the militarization of space.

7. Make globalization work for, not against, working people.

8. Ensure equal treatment under law for all.

9. Get money out of politics.

10. Close the gap between rich and poor kids at home.

I can't say I disagree with all of these. But I'm thinking my version of them and their version would be... different. Let's see... let's pick one and look at the full description. No. 2 is one that, on principle, I could support:

2. Champion the Rights of Every Child, Woman and Man.

But what does it mean to them? I don't think, somehow, that it was a statement of their tendency toward libertarianism:

Make America stand for justice, not expediency. Stop turning a blind eye to governments that abuse their own people. Ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. If punishing a foreign tyrant means, in actual practice, punishing the women and children who are his victims, desist, and find another path.

Ouch. There's nothing I can say that won't get me in trouble with the preacher on Sunday. So let's look at who "we", the Truemajority, are:

TrueMajority’s principles are endorsed by Greenpeace, Rock the Vote, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Peace Action, the National Head Start Association, Global Exchange, The Interfaith Alliance, The Nation magazine, Sojourners, Rainforest Action Network, the United Nations Association/USA, Women's Action for New Directions (WAND), Service Employees International Union (SEIU), National Council of La Raza, and a long and growing list of Americans.

Wait, there's more:

TrueMajority was founded by Ben Cohen, Co-founder, Ben and Jerry’s...[and] is comprised of the following four entities:

Military Advisory Committee:

a dozen distinguished military analysts and experts on the subject of excess Pentagon spending...

Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities:

a group of 500 corporate leaders...

Religious Leaders for Sensible Priorities:

leading religious leaders of denominations representing 30 million Americans, including the Presbyterians, Methodists, Jews, Buddhists National Baptists, and American Muslims, as well as a host of individual clerics.

Entertainers for Sensible Priorities:

world-renowned leaders from the creative community, including Paul Newman, Ted Turner, and others.

That entertainer category would provide endless fisking opportunities all by itself. But, no, that's not my favorite part. What is? This lovely bit of drivel, from the 10 Principles full description:

9. Get Money out of Politics.

Curtail the vast corrupting influence of corporate campaign contributions, which make Congress beholden to private interests. Enact public campaign financing--we can fund it entirely by closing a single offshore corporate tax loophole!

That's right! Those nasty 500 corporate leaders who've signed onto our organization! If we could just stop one of their shenanigans, we could elect all kinds of people! Like Cynthia McKinney! Join today!

A-hem. Getting carried away. It really is a marvelous piece of leftish dove-herding. Check it out.

And the Large Pink Pig, and the Yellow Green Porcupine Non-descript Sedan? Two of the four-vehicle TrueMajority parade - don't miss the cartoon version on their website. They're the best thing there.

UPDATE: Andrea Harris (we must get together when I'm in Florida this winter) bites True Majority as well, then Mr. Misha at The Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler pummels them soundly. If that wasn't enough, Charles Austin continues the beating in The Rottweiler's comments, which Mr. Misha pulls out here.

Have I mentioned lately that I love the Internet?

The WarBlogosphere - Where No Idiotarian Goes Unpummeled

UPDATE: Dodd lists Ten Principles for a real "true majority".

Yeah, they sound right to me.

Posted by susanna at 11:16 PM | Comments (12)

Oh, yeah, that's sensitive

I just heard a teaser for tonight's news on Channel 4 in NYC. Today two construction workers died when their elevator dropped 19 floors in a freefall. Sad, tragic even, and certainly family members of the two men must live in the NYC metro area. So what was the lead comment from the anchor? Was it, "Two men die in elevator freefall"? Was it "Elevator fall causes deaths"? Either would be expressive yet... relatively gentle.

Did they use something like that?

No, of course not, or I wouldn't be blogging it. The anchoress, in a very dramatic voice, said:

The Death Plunge!

Yeah, it's not entertainment, it's news.

Posted by susanna at 10:31 PM | Comments (2)

Hey! That's my conversation!

The Last Page and her long-suffering boyfriend (who must be a blogger? hmmmm...) are struggling to find things to blog about. She solved it by taking notes on their conversation. He solved it by hittin' the bottle. Not that I'd comment.

At first I thought Page had sneakily recorded one of my conversations, until I realized that I don't have a bf anywhere nearby and thus have only had that conversation in my head. Which worried me. I'm going to go lie down a while now.

This gives you the perfect opportunity to see what Page had to say, what her bf puts up with and - BONUS TIME! - take the time to tell her why you blog.

I'm good to you, I know. Always things to do, to read. No, no, don't thank me. Just send chocolates. Godiva. With caramel centers.

Express mail.

Posted by susanna at 08:52 PM | Comments (6)

Moving on

Tony Woodlief reflects on change and the importance of faith in moving forward.


We'll be waiting when you're settled in the new place. And she'll be waiting when you reach the final place.

Posted by susanna at 08:12 PM | Comments (1)

Tell me again about media fairness?

Three Palestinians try to sneak into an Israeli settlement. Two are killed by Israeli military. The Al Aqsa Martyr's Brigade says it was their people - the intent was obviously to kill innocent families.

This is the photograph chosen to illustrate the article.

Now, what was that about media fairness? No pro-Palestinian bias? No moral equivalence?

UPDATE: As of 11:55 a.m. EST, this photo of Israeli soldiers was with the same article - the earlier one was no longer linked. Interesting. Are they trying to give "equal time"?

Posted by susanna at 11:01 AM | Comments (0)

Who you callin' racist?

Bigwig says what needs to be said about Georgia Rep. Billy McKinney's racist remarks toward Jews. He's exactly right. Thank you, BW.

Mike at Cold Fury, who pointed me to BW's fine post, has a few important things to say himself.

UPDATE: John Rosenberg has interesting thoughts as well, with reason for encouragement.

Posted by susanna at 10:42 AM | Comments (1)

Bush is losing the culture war

Mark Steyn, as always, nails it - this time pointing out that the war we fight is as much about culture as anything else.

Here's the extremist Islamic culture:

Radical Islamists aren’t tolerant of anybody: they kill Jews, Hindus, Christians, babies, schoolgirls, airline stewardesses, bond traders, journalists. They use snuff videos for recruitment: go on the Internet and a couple of clicks will get you to the decapitation of Daniel Pearl. You can’t negotiate with them because they have no demands — or at least no rational ones. By ‘Islam is peace’, they mean that once the whole world’s converted to Islam there will be peace, but not before. Other than that, they’ve got nothing they want to talk about. It takes up valuable time they’d rather spend killing us.

And here's the Western liberal's guilt culture:

And, of course, let us not forget Britain’s great comic figure, Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws, QC, who thinks that it’s too easy to go on about ‘Islamic fundamentalists’. ‘What I think happens very readily,’ she said, ‘is that we as Western liberals too often are fundamentalist ourselves. We don’t look at our own fundamentalisms.’ And what exactly does Lady Kennedy mean by Western liberal fundamentalism? ‘One of the things that we are too ready to insist upon is that we are the tolerant people and that the intolerance is something that belongs to other countries like Islam. And I’m not sure that’s true.’

If I follow correctly, Lady Kennedy is suggesting that our tolerance of our own tolerance is making us intolerant of other people’s intolerance. To complain about Islamic fundamentalism is to ignore how offensive others must find our own Western fundamentalisms — votes, drivers’ licences for women, no incentives to mass murder from the pulpit of Westminster Cathedral.

And what is Bush doing to stem this culture bleed-out?

I thought the clumsy multicultural pandering of the Bush campaign was a superb joke, but with hindsight it foreshadowed the rhetorical faintheartedness of the last year. Bush, we were told in 2000, would do the right thing, even if he talked a lot of guff...

George W. Bush had a rare opportunity after 11 September. He could have attempted to reverse the most toxic tide in the Western world: the sappy multiculturalism that insists all cultures are equally valid, even as they’re trying to kill us. He could have argued that Western self-loathing is a psychosis we can no longer afford. He could have told the teachers’ unions that there was more to the second world war than the internment of Japanese-Americans, and it’s time they started teaching it to our children. A couple of days after 11 September, I wrote in these pages, ‘Those Western nations who spent last week in Durban finessing and nuancing evil should understand now that what is at stake is whether the world’s future will belong to liberal democracy and the rule of law, or to darker forces.’ But a year later, after a brief hiccup, the Western elites have resumed finessing and nuancing evil all the more enthusiastically, and the ‘compassionate conservative’ shows no stomach for a fight at least as important as any on the battlefield. The Islamists are militarily weak but culturally secure. A year on, the West is just the opposite. There’s more than one way to lose a war.

He's absolutely right. Read it all.

[Thanks to Claire Berlinski for a heads-up on the link.]

Posted by susanna at 09:10 AM | Comments (3)

Weird editors: Bizarre? yes. Unusual? well....

Here's a fascinating article about Bob Ickes, an editor at Details magazine who's left under a seriously weird cloud:

Bob Ickes, the man at the center of the bogus Kurt Andersen story in the August issue of Details, has an unusual past - infuriating editors across the media landscape and leaving a trail of question marks going back to the mid-1990s...

In the spring of 2000, when young Bob was laboring for the media watchdog magazine Brill's Content, he requested time off because his father died. He was given several weeks off, around the time that a controversial piece involving Grace Mirabella was being finalized...

By the spring of 2001, Ickes had moved to Details, a fashion magazine published by Fairchild Publications - and Ickes' father had apparently made a remarkable recovery. Bob told Details people at the time that he needed time off because his father had a stroke and had to be moved to a rehab facility in New York from Philadelphia, said several insiders.

Robert Ickes Jr. is alive and well and living in the Philadelphia area, said sources.

Not surprising, then, that Ickes also has a track record of accusations that he falsified quotes in articles and used published sources to write a supposed "interview" article with a celebrity.

What's notable is the ease with which he moved through the media world - moving from job to prestigious job despite that. If this kind of wholesale disinformation slips by for so long, what little disinformations happen regularly, with a large cumulative effect?

Certainly we're all familiar with Janet Cooke, a Washington Post reporter who had to return her Pulitzer in 1981 after admitting that she made up the central figure in her winning article on "Jimmy", an 8-year-old herion addict. From my own experience, I've mentioned here before about the editor I worked with who seeded rumors during an election cycle and went back later to do an article about those rumors he started, after they'd had a while to percolate. And just yesterday, I spoke to a former journalist friend who mentioned one of her editors who had been forced out when it was revealed that he had lied for years by writing about his family in his weekly column - when he had never been married nor had children. Incidently, the newspaper never informed his readers they had been snookered.

I know these cases are varying levels of extreme, but behaviors in any context tend to be on a continuum. A lot of journalists are on the other extreme - their integrity is intact and closely guarded. But there's also, in my opinion, a lot in the middle who fudge this way and that, little "harmless" things such as putting in quotes what's actually a paraphrase, sometimes maybe making an allusion that is more dramatic than the strict truth but not whole-cloth lying. It all adds up, and I don't think the environment of the average newsroom makes either catching or punishing that behavior likely. In fact, it may implicitly encourage it.

Bias comes from many directions, from a worldview that limits the ability to see the other side so fairness is virtually impossible, to a feeling that the important thing is getting a good story, not necessarily the right story. The case of Bob Ickes is instructive and, quite frankly, a bit frightening, to think of how easily he buffaloed veteran journalists who are supposedly trained to sniff out discrepancies and lies. If they can't see it or dig it out in their own midst, how can we trust them to do so amongst the politicians, the academics, the normal everyday flow of life?

The fact that Ickes finally did get the boot, and that this article so clearly identifies why, is encouraging, but I think we'll all have a greater respect for the media when we feel they are assidiously digging out such people, and creating an environment where fairness and honesty are highly valued.

I'll hold my breath.

[Ickes link via Romenesko]

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

The unGreening of America

President Bush has proposed more cutting in our forests to prevent fires. Dodd at Ipse Dixit explains why that's a good thing.

Posted by susanna at 08:06 AM | Comments (1)

Welcome to the Neighborhood

Blog ranking and relational tools are popping up everywhere now. I just checked out Blogstreet, where I entered my URL to get a list of blogs related to mine. Very interesting - I was familiar with most of the 316 listed, and saw some others I need to check out. I don't know, though, precisely how they set the rankings, either as a whole or in relation to mine. My overall ranking is 163, out of about 7,000, which is quite gratifying until you realize that The Weekly Standard is 214. Maybe it's a function of how many people link to me? And USS Clueless is the #1 blog on my list. Why? Certainly Den Beste is very good, and he's on my permalink list, but I don't refer to him very often in my blog. How did he get to be above, say, Cold Fury or Media Minded, both of whom I've linked, and who have linked me, far more?

Some day when I have all the time in the world I'll go read how they set up their list. Meantime, I'm just happy I'm on it, and that on the real blog ranking list, I'm a Large Mammal. (And yes, still Never on the First Date, sorry.)

Posted by susanna at 07:54 AM | Comments (1)

August 22, 2002

Poetic justice

Cynthia McKinney falls again, this time by the pen of the Poet Laureate of the Warbloggers, Will Warren.

Posted by susanna at 11:22 PM | Comments (0)

Speaking of separation of church and state...

... apparently liberals don't mind when they work together, if it advances the proper agenda - like preventing another "scandalous" presidential election:

A 36-city NAACP bus tour traveled through the South this summer to increase awareness about the vital importance of voting. It’s as grassroots as grassroots can get, a face-to-face effort of going into neighborhoods with a bullhorn on top of a car and yelling at people to vote, sending speakers to high schools, getting DJ’s on urban radio stations to urge voter registration during evening drive-time. Anything and everything that serves the black community is becoming involved. And in all areas of the country, but especially the South, this means churches. The Missionary Baptist Church in Tennessee alone consists of 400 churches with 300 to 6,000 people per church, all taking their marching orders from the national NAACP, all fighting to register, to educate, and to get out the vote...

Regardless of how this may make some people feel about issues such as the separation of church and state, the fact remains that the state isn’t going to do what it should....

So we see the conditions under which it's ok (apparently when it's textbooks involving evolution it's not ok). Of course, as this is AlterNet, we know what they think anyway. But the way the argument is structured and supported is interesting. Let's see who they quote as an expert:

Mary Frances Berry, chairperson of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, [has said] that the upcoming 2002 election is a "mini-disaster waiting to happen."

Our dear centrist friend, that defender of rights, Mary Frances Berry. Not heard of her? Check this out.

All this dismay is because:

An untold number of votes were never counted in [the 2000 presidential] election. An unknown number more could never be cast as ex-felons were purged from voter rolls, police blockades kept African-Americans from voting and Departments of Motor Vehicles mysteriously lost and mishandled voter records and applications. Polling places moved without notifying anybody. Poll books inexplicably disappeared.

Allegedly, voters were turned away from polls in many states because of their race, told they couldn’t vote at a polling place because they had NAACP stickers on their cars, ordered to get to the back of the line, and even told to get behind white voters. In Florida alone, ballots cast by blacks were rejected at a rate almost eight times higher than those cast by whites. And similar allegations to every one of the above occurred in 22 states.

It's comforting to see that these allegations are solidly supported by evidence. (Can you be an ex-felon for voting purposes?)

And just what is the author, Catherine Danielson, saying here?

Unless your ancestors came over on the Mayflower and owned significant property after they landed on Plymouth Rock, someone bled and died so that you could go to the polls and cast that vote.

Actually, I think anyone who lives in this country and has the priviledge of the vote has it because someone died for them to get it. First the soldiers in the American Revolution, then all those who came after to protect all our freedoms. But we want to make sure it's clear that the wealthy, landed white people have always been special, don't we?

Ms. Danielson's website, by the way, is called Pretty appropriate. I won't mention that she wrote a book called Fascist Redux. That would just be too easy.

UPDATE: Caleb opined in Comments that some felons can vote. He's right - in Maine and Vermont, even people in prison can vote. Hmmmm.... At any rate, here's a little more about it, and here's an article on efforts to nationalize felon voting rules from earlier this year. I must say I'm glad to see that, for the time at least, this is still being decided on the state level.

Posted by susanna at 10:47 PM | Comments (3)

It is just a theory, isn't it, Razib*?

I offer this with little comment:

MARIETTA, Ga. — The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal lawsuit seeking to force the Cobb County school board to remove disclaimers on evolution from thousands of middle and high school textbooks.

The suit was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, just one day before the board was to discuss whether teachers should be allowed to teach faith-based ideas along with evolution as explanation for the variety of life.

The stickers, placed in new science books this month after requests from parents opposed to evolution on religious grounds, say evolution is a theory, not fact, and should be critically considered.

Jeffrey Selman, the father of an elementary school pupil, initiated the lawsuit. He said placing advisories in science texts is an attempt to inject religion into public schools.

"It singles out evolution from all the scientific theories out there," Selman said. "Why single out evolution? It has to be coming from a religious basis, and that violates the separation of church and state."

Um, no, it doesn't have to be coming from a religious basis. And even if it was, in this form it's not against the Constitution.

But we'll see what the courts say, won't we?

* Title harkens back to the recent evolution-as-theory discussion.

Posted by susanna at 09:53 PM | Comments (11)

RIP: NY Times business editor dies in fall

Allen Myerson, 47, an assistant business editor for the NY Times, has died in a fall from the 15th floor of the Times building in Times Square. Police suspect it's suicide.

What would cause a man of his age and status in life to jump? While, like many people, I've had dark times where walking into a river or driving into that bridge abutment seemed - very briefly - appealing, I don't fully understand suicide. It's not just that you've ended all hope of good in your own life, but you're willing to snatch away the happiness of the people who love you, perhaps forever. Although I believe in an afterlife, I'm grateful for every hour I have in this one.

For those of you who pray, add Myerson's wife, family and coworkers to your list. For those of you who don't, send a wish for peace. I think it'll be hard to come by for all of them.

UPDATE: It's always difficult to know how to write about things like this. I want to be sympathetic to the family, because no matter who it is, someone is sad at their death, and their grief very real. On the other hand, sympathy sometimes comes with a "yes, but..." clause. Apparently this is one of those times.

I didn't know Myerson, nor had I read his work. But he once lived in Lexington, KY, where I did before moving here, and recently had lived in Glen Ridge, NJ, where I go to church now. Odd.

Posted by susanna at 09:42 PM | Comments (0)

Howling at the moon

Ever wonder if things really do go crazy during a full moon? Caleb Brown of Quae Nocent Docent checks it out in his article in this month's SNITCH magazine, online here. Check out the cover too - it's pretty cool.

Posted by susanna at 09:11 PM | Comments (0)

Fantasy vs. reality

In response to my post on terrorists, A.C. Douglas linked in the comments this article by Lee Harris in Policy Review. It's lengthy (worth the read, though), but Harris's basic premise is that the Islamic extremists are acting out a real-life play for their own benefit, constructing and then populating their own elaborate fantasy of life where the audience is their fellow Islamists. Americans and Jews are just so much stage dressing - involuntary actors, if you will, and the 9/11 attacks less about hurting us than proving something to al Qaeda's Islamic audience. Harris connects this with Mussolini and Hitler, great dramas about self where they pull an entire people into their drama and engage in things - like invading Ethiopia, on Italy's part - to advance the drama rather than any pragmatic purpose.

Certainly Harris's premise adds insight into the interior landscape of social phenomena that are difficult for non-members to understand. I agree that many times actions are taken by people caught up in their own vision of themselves, or their people, that make sense only as stage dressing for the vision. However, I think the full articulation of Harris's premise is an overlay rather than an elucidation. I'm not a big fun of the whole dramaturgical view of life and society, although I think it has some explanatory value. Harris seems, to me, to be forcing events and behaviors into compartments that fit his theory. And I don't see where he explains the why of it all.

I don't think that Harris's basic ideas - about fantasy and acting out - are antithetical to my views on sociopathy. I think the terrorists in either scenario are disconnected from their compassion, objectifying those they want to harm. If anything, the sociopathy is a necessary corollary to Harris's idea - the reason behind the drama, the underlying character study for the lead character, the fatal flaw that causes both success and failure.

Harris's article is deserving of a full critique - I think it fails on several points, although overall a good theory. In particular, I think he uses "the Clausewitzian war" as a straw man to knock down in the process of proving his case, setting up a false dichotomy. And I think he also dismisses religion as a form of dramaturgy, seeing it as itself a fantastical thing rather than the underpinning for flights of fantasy. But I'll have to save that for later. Meanwhile, take the time to read it.

UPDATE: Media Minded links the same essay, with a short summary of his own.

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

August 21, 2002

Terrorism 101: Why they kill, why they should die

In response to a post on Cold Fury about the videotape of the dogs being gassed by al Qaeda operatives, I left this comment:

I've really kind of struggled with the reaction to the dogs being gassed. I know it's bad, and that it shows the cold cruelty of the terrorists. But I just can't quite get why everyone is so hysterical about it when we have a videotape of Daniel Pearl's throat being slit (which I've not watched, btw). When we have video, audio, of people jumping from a building hit by those terrorists - the ripe wet bursting sound of those bodies hitting the ground went much deeper inside me than the dogs yowling, hard as that was. You know what these terrorists remind me of? The circa 1970s serial killers in California who picked up teenage girls and tortured them in their Murder Van, using stripped electrical wires, pliers and other such things. Those two men recorded the torture, then jacked off to it later. These terrorists enjoy what they're doing, and I don't think the average person can quite get their mind around it. I think the Palestinian terrorists do too. They get off on it. People like that need to be killed like, well, a rabid dog in the street. Their evil has metastasized, there are no evil-free cells in their bodies. I didn't cry for the dogs. My tears are all shed. All I want now is for those men to die. Soon. Hard. I don't need more evidence.

Afterward, I spent a lot of time thinking about this, and decided to expand on it. For those of you who don’t know, I study criminal justice. I presented a paper at a conference once on serial killer Ted Bundy, the subject of my master’s thesis was mass murderers, and I once read widely about serial killers. I haven’t spent as much time studying other types of killers – paid mafia hitmen, for example, or terrorists – but I know enough to draw some conclusions, and make connections I don’t see being made as often as they should, in my judgment.

Here’s my explanation of al Qaeda and the core of Palestinian terrorists, because I believe at their center they’re the same thing.

Too many Americans begin their consideration of the terrorists by projecting their own possible motives onto them. You know what I mean – you do it when you think someone is angry at you because if you acted that way, you would be angry. We do it collectively when we try to understand what motivated Andrea Yates to kill her children by coming up with scenarios where we think it would be possible for us to do the same. And we do it on a far greater level when we wrap the terrorists – be they al Qaeda or Palestinian – in our worldview and project motives that make sense to us onto their actions. You know what? Most of us will be completely wrong.

A friend of mine recently sent me an email “psychology test” which supposedly elicits similar answers from serial killers, and different ones from those who are not. The scenario was: At her mother’s funeral, a girl meets a man she decides is the man of her dreams. Two days later, she kills her sister. Your task: figure out her motive. I’ll wait………………………………Ok. What did you come up with? My ideas were that she thought her sister killed her mother, or that her sister had gotten involved with the man. What was the “right” answer, the sociopath’s answer? She killed her sister because she thought the man would then show up at her sister’s funeral, and she wanted to see him again. Can you connect with that kind of motivation? Probably not. But then, you’re not a sociopath. You’re not a serial killer. And you’re not a terrorist either. You’re likely to be just as wrong when you try to project your own motivations onto them.

Sociopaths are people who have no true emotional connection with others; they experience life as one long effort to meet their goals without any concern about harm to others. Some manage to merge with society fairly well – you’ll find them amongst top politicians and top CEOs, amongst motorcycle gangs and street gangs, in boardrooms and courtrooms. The names of the deadly sociopaths - who like to kill, who enjoy it -are familiar to us: Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, Edmund Kemper. Killing people is their hobby, like skydiving or white water rafting might be yours. Typically, serial killers also are sexually aroused by their killing, especially the ones who enjoy torture. They get off on it, literally. Here’s a little about the two I mentioned in the Cold Fury comment:

Bittaker and Norris kept their latest hostages alive for nearly two days. They kept an audiotape of their rape and torture. Among other things, the tape captured Norris raping Jackie Gilliam, demanding that she play the role of a cousin who was the object of some of his sexual fantasies.

…Bittaker repeated his trick with the ice pick, stabbing Gilliam in both ears. As with Andrea Hall, it made her scream but failed to kill her, so the rapists took turns strangling Jackie to death. Afterward, they turned on Lamp, Bittaker squeezing her throat while Norris pounded her head seven times with a sledgehammer. They pitched their victims off a cliff, with the ice pick still imbedded in Jackie Gilliam’s skull.

Charming, isn’t it? And as I mentioned before, the two men would replay the tape and masturbate, listening to the girls’ tortured and dying screams. I’ve wondered just what those terrorists who killed Pearl did with their copy of the tape they sent back to us.

Sociopaths have no “tender feelings” that you and I would recognize, even though some of them fake it fairly well – Ted Bundy, for example, was engaged twice during the time he was sexually torturing and killing women. You need to understand all this because the men who lead al Qaeda, the men who lead the Palestinian killer cults, are just that kind of sociopath. They enjoy killing. It’s about power, it’s about playing a game, it’s about one-upmanship and feeling the rush of knowing that you will not stop even at murder – society’s greatest taboo. The people who die at their hands are so much cattle, fodder for their ideological slaughterhouse. They don’t shrink at blood, people, they revel in it. Seeing an Israeli street scattered in body parts, hearing the sound of an American businessman’s body bursting into jelly on a New York City public plaza, gives these men a hard-on. Do you get it? Do you understand? They are not human as we know human. What’s more, they cannot be. CANNOT BE. Never. Ever. Period. End of story. Here is what a psychiatrist said about Bittaker, one of the serial killers above. Think about a whole cadre of men about whom the same applies, men bound by blood lust and a feverish sense of rightness about their behavior:

Forensic psychiatrist Dr. Robert Markman examined Bittaker before trial and … warned that Bittaker was … “a highly dangerous man, with no internal controls over his impulses, a man who could kill without hesitation or remorse.”

And here’s his partner in crime, Roy Norris:

Norris’ [intake interviewer said he]…“appears compulsive in his need and desire to inflict pain and torture upon women. The defendant himself acknowledged ...that in the commission of rape upon a woman it was not the sex that was important but the domination of the woman. In considering the defendant’s total lack of remorse about the plight of the victims, he can realistically be regarded as an extreme sociopath, whose depraved, grotesque pattern of behavior is beyond rehabilitation. The magnitude and the enormity of the defendant’s heinous, nightmarish criminal behavior is beyond the comprehension of this probation officer.”

Bittaker and Norris were two-bit California killers, with no money, little help and innocent, unsuspecting vulnerable victims. Think about them with 20-30 more points on the IQ scale, more organization, endless pots of money, an unwavering sense of self-righteousness and crowds cheering them on, even from the hospitals where the torn victims are carried.

So sociopathic terrorists, you say, are the core. Maybe you will admit to a few really bad people spearheading the efforts, but what about all the followers? What about those trampled-on average Palestinians? What about the poor Middle Eastern countries that the United States has all but destroyed with their ruthless…whatever, fill in the blank, it changes with the leftist wind: corporate abuse, environmental abuse, refusing to let them kill each other in peace, the creeping hegemonic trend of the month?

Consider this:

The crowds who came to witness the games were a different matter altogether. Sometimes they became worked up into a frenzy of hate. They considered the Christians to be antisocial scum and clamored for a painful death for them in the arena, being mauled and torn apart by wild beasts or forced to fight gladiators who killed them for a public spectacle.

Make a few changes, and it might seem more familiar than Rome in the first century:

The crowds who came to witness the carnage were a different matter altogether. Sometimes they became worked up into a frenzy of hate. They considered the Jews to be heretic scum and clamored for a painful death for them in the streets and in their homes, being mauled and torn apart by bombs or forced to contend with terrorists who killed them for a public spectacle.

Now try this:

The crowds who came to witness the carnage were a different matter altogether. Sometimes they became worked up into a frenzy of hate. They considered the Americans to be non-religious scum and clamored for a painful death for them in their own cities, being mauled and torn apart by bombs under their buildings and beside their military ships, or forced to contend with terrorists who killed them for a public spectacle.

My, my, there is historical precedent for large elements of a population to cheer on the death of innocents, isn’t there? Yes, you may say, but in the ancient Roman times, the oppressors were the ones in power. Well, in ancient Rome, the ones being oppressed did not fight back, and their oppression was surely greater than that of modern day Palestinians. To say that the behavior of Palestinian “militants”, and their people clamoring for blood in the streets, is a necessary consequence of their condition, flies in the face of history. It is more the French Revolution than the American Revolution, filled with hate and viciousness rather than a desire to be free and self-ruled. And what do you think those Romans clamoring for the horrifically bloody death of innocent Christians did when they weren’t at the arena? Well, they cooked. They conducted business. They got married. They had babies, they fell in love, they laughed, told jokes, even helped friends in need. Then they went for a little afternoon diversion – seeing a man shredded, screaming, by a lion. Charming, isn’t it? Just so normal, so like the Palestinians today. People who allow, even encourage, horrific things don’t have to be slavering maniacs all the time, even much of the time. They are caught up in their own blood lust, their own prejudices, and “normal” life can continue alongside.

Grisly death as a part of the regular flow of life is not limited to the Romans:

Human and animal sacrifices were an integral part of Aztec religion…

...the men or women who were to be sacrificed to their gods were thrown on their backs and of their own accord remained perfectly still. A priest then came out with a stone knife...and with his knife he opened the part where the heart is and took out the heart, without the person who was being sacrificed uttering a word...

Along with warfare, mass sacrifice was institutionalized as a political policy. No one knows for certain how many humans met their deaths on the sacrificial block.

If you want a more modern example of a people who not only accepted killing, but embraced it, think about the Nazis. The Palestinians and the al Qaeda sympathizers are not the only peoples in history who accepted the killers of innocents in their midst, and cheered them on. They are just the latest. And yes, people who called themselves Christians committed terrible things in God’s name. That doesn’t mean they were justified then, nor does it justify the Islamic extremists now.

In the face of all this, I am just sick of the excuses people keep coming up with for the terrorists, any terrorists. I am sick of the moral equivalence that would accept with a shrug whatever evil the Palestinians or al Qaeda want to inflict because they are “oppressed”. That’s just a steaming pile of noxious crap. We cannot project the motives that would cause us, with our Western, mostly Judeo-Christian values, to do what they do. Quite frankly, I think most of us – those of us with any moral integrity and honesty – would not do what they do. We would not cheer it on. We would not allow it to happen amongst our people. And we cannot explain it away as acceptable.

I can tell you this – I would die before I would kill innocents as they have done.

I can also tell you this: All of those terrorists should die, like a rabid dog on the street, because that is what they are. Not humans. Rabid, filthy dogs – worth less collectively than any one of those sad creatures who died yowling to feed Osama bin Laden’s countdown to America’s demise.

Doesn’t that make me one of them? That’s what we continually hear, about Israel’s efforts to stop Palestinian terrorism, or the US’s efforts to end the march of al Qaeda and other Islamic extremist killers – when we wish to kill the killers, we become killers ourselves. Well, that’s wrong too. Let’s go back to our system of criminal justice to understand why. One of the foundational underpinnings of our system is the concept of mens rea, or intent. Simply stated, why you did something matters tremendously in what the fair societal response should be. That’s why we have different levels of charges for killing another person – from causing a death accidentally and non-negligently, which carries no punishment, to planning and doing a killing with malice, which can result in the death penalty. And the same principle carries into understanding the right or wrong of Palestinian terrorism vs. Israeli response, or al Qaeda terrorism vs. US response. When someone, or a group of someones, seeks to hurt you and yours maliciously, viciously, with no similar provocation to justify it, then it is right to stop them, or seek vengeance if efforts at prevention come too late. The point is intent - the terrorists mean to kill innocents. The US – and Israeli - mean to stop the killing of innocents. Sometimes innocents on the other side die in those efforts; that’s tragic, that should be minimized if possible. But when you cut out a cancer that has metastasized, you’re going to get healthy cells too.

And, before someone tries to bring up their right to disagree with Israeli or US policies, I’m not obviating those differences. I’m saying, those things don’t matter when the issue is terrorism. There is no context where terrorism is the right thing to do.

Let me say it again: There is no context where terrorism – killing innocent people deliberately to gain an advantage or just to cause fear, when neither they nor their leaders have first attacked or sought to harm you – is right.

The people who are at the center of the terrorist death squads – be they al Qaeda, Palestinian “militants”, or groups of any other religion or country – are sociopaths. They get off on power, on violence, on causing death and fear. The people who support and encourage them are blinded by their own ideology and the lust for nationalistic and religious dominance, and are in those moments of cheering madness themselves sociopaths.

The Bible says, “By their fruits you will know them.” We see the fruits of the Palestinians and al Qaeda. We see the fruits of the Israelis and the US. That is enough.

UPDATE (8-28): I found the "psychology test" on Snopes, so it is an urban legend, not surprisingly. However, the point stands - a sociopath/psychopath thinks about things differently from the average person, so trying to protect motive onto them based on what you think might cause you to do similar things is a futile and even, in some cases, dangerous exercise.

Posted by susanna at 08:26 AM | Comments (37)

August 20, 2002

Reparations reading

Some interesting things to think about in this post about reparations over at Negro Please; don't miss the comments.

Posted by susanna at 03:09 PM | Comments (3)

Rockwell case: unequivocally legit

Dean Esmay, a valued commentator in the Comments of this site, has questioned on his site whether the Susan Rockwell case, suing the Roman Catholic Church for discrimination for not ordaining women, is true or some kind of fraud/scam. Bryan Preston, a good friend and journalist as well, heard Ms. Rockwell speaking about the case on the radio this past Saturday, and when I wrote my post I was relying on his discussing the radio interview. I was satisfied with his say-so. Dean, not just skeptical of the original post, then questioned my follow-up sources because they were a Boston Globe article quoted in a listserv rather than the BG archives, and a (apparently universally untrustworthy) religious magazine. So, here we go, Dean, right from the original source:

I just called the U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire, where the case of Susan Rockwell vs. the Archdiocese of Boston is filed - case number C02239-M. I spoke to the Deputy Clerk, who informed me that on August 15, the Magistrate Judge issued an R&R (report and recommendation) which stated that "the Court recommends that the First Amendment, tax and companion state claims be dismissed from this action." On that same day, Ms. Rockwell filed a motion requesting an extension for response to the R&R until September 18, which was granted. Once her response is received, the Magistrate Court's recommendation will be forwarded with her response to U.S. District Court Judge Stephen McAuliffe, the presider over the case, who will decide whether to follow the R&R or not. And yes, Judge McAuliffe is the widower of Christa McAuliffe, who died in the Challenger explosion.

Please feel free to check my facts - the US District Court phone number is (603) 225-1423. The lady I spoke with was very nice.

I think, Dean, that the case is legit and still active. Don't you?

Posted by susanna at 01:55 PM | Comments (4)

Gadaffi To Head UN Human Rights Body

I am beyond speechless. Anyone who has been reluctant to pull out of the UN should find the last vestiges of resistence disappearing. Here's the article from Sky News:

Libyan leader Colonel Gadaffi is to head an international watchdog on human rights.

Libya is to be elected chair of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights - despite its links with terrorism and torture.

The move sparked a storm of controversy as it emerged British officials did nothing to block the appointment.

Libyan terrorists were responsible for the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, which killed 270 people, and Gadaffi's regime has been criticised for violence against its own people.


Human rights groups and Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith united to criticise the appointment.

But a Foreign Office spokeswoman said: "Our policy is to engage constructively with Libya, rather than isolate them."

Gadaffi's one-year term begins next March.

I found a brief on it from The Washington Times last week, and another here (scroll down), but nothing on it in the NY Times, FoxNews, NewsMax or The Washington Post.

Charles Johnson calls it a "bizarro world". I think it's worse than that. This isn't a parlor game of "be nice to everyone". This is reality, and pandering to such openly hostile and horrific regimes makes the UN not irrelevant, but an organization actively dangerous to freedom and justice worldwide.

Posted by susanna at 12:51 PM | Comments (5)

Martha Stewart, sex and paranoia

If that headline doesn't give you a chill, I don't know what will. Apparently Martha is infuriated because she thinks she's being scapegoated by Republicans, and they even want to know who she's been dating! J Bowen at No Watermelons feels a Dave Letterman Top Ten list coming on; let's see if we can finish the list! I've already put my suggestion for #10 in his comments.

Posted by susanna at 12:32 PM | Comments (1)

August 19, 2002

Crass? Craven? Horrific? How to describe?

Ian at Astonished Head is angry at the designer Kenneth Cole's billboard in Manhattan, trading off tragedy.

And he also, recently, worked up a fine rage over the obnoxious Woody Harrelson.

Ian's archives appear to be temperamental; scroll down to Monday, Aug. 12 for the Cole post, and Friday, Aug. 9 for the Harrelson post.

Posted by susanna at 10:00 PM | Comments (4)

Research note: Media influence on public policy

From Steven M. Chermak and Alexander Weiss, The Effects of the Media on Federal Criminal Justice Policy*, here speaking of gun control policy:

We argue that the news media do affect the policy-making process...

...(T)he media can determine what policy alternatives are given serious consideration. In general, the New York Times provided substantial coverage of gun control over time, advocating consistently for more stringent measures. The Times also helped to limit the discussion on the policy alternatives considered by focusing on specific pieces of legislation. For example, the media coverage that flowed from the (John) Hinkley (sic) and (Patrick) Purdy events did not necessarily have to focus on waiting periods or a ban on semiautomatic weapons. However, the Times devoted a large amount of space to these legislative proposals, and their editorial staff frequently voiced support for them.(p. 336)

* Chermak, Steven M. and Weiss, Alexander (1997), "The Effects of the Media on Federal Criminal Justice Policy", Criminal Justice Policy Review, 8:4, pp. 323-342.

Posted by susanna at 09:28 PM | Comments (3)

LOTR - wonderful again (this time in DVD)

Gregory of Planet Swank, a frequent (and valued) commenter on this site, has an excellent review of the recently released LOTR Fellowship of the Rings DVD, posted on the Destroy All Monsters site. "Excellent" in this instance means not only the movie, but the quality of Greg's review; I learned several things I didn't know. So if you're a Tolkien fan, check it out.

(Cool new template on your site, too, Greg!)

[Thanks to Dodd for the heads up]

Posted by susanna at 07:46 PM | Comments (1)

"It gets hard when they cheer"

Larry Miller, writing in The Weekly Standard, shows us another reason to know the Israelis are a people to be admired.

Posted by susanna at 04:49 PM | Comments (5)

Reparations - arguments against it, media biased for it

I've tacked a couple of updates on the end of the reparations march/Barron post below, pointing to discussions of reparations in blogs. I just found another, by Media Minded, so wanted to highlight both his words and those I linked below.

MM, always insightful, posts a quote you must see, and points out the USA Today insert that irresponsibly presented an article favoring reparations with no balance even hinted.

UPDATE: More on reparations worth reading: Oliver Willis here and here, and DC Thornton here.

Posted by susanna at 03:46 PM | Comments (2)

Woman sues Catholic Church to force ordination of women

This is something I've been concerned about for a while - lawsuits seeking to force religious groups to meet current PC preferences, claiming discrimination. This woman, Susan Rockwell, is seeking to have the church's tax-exempt status removed because she claims it subsidizes the church's discriminatory practice of not ordaining women. I don't think she has much of a shot - as with money going to faith-based programs and school vouchers going to religious schools, as long as the advantage (here tax-exempt status) is equally available to all religious groups, it's not supporting a specific religion. That's the law - the federal govt is not allowed to support one religion over the other, rather than forcing religions to abandon their doctrine or face death by lawyers.

Bryan Preston has an excellent post on Ms. Jackson, including his summary of a radio interview with her he heard this weekend.

I hope the court hands Ms. Jackson her hat and tells her not to let the door hit her in the backside as she leaves.

UPDATE: Dean Esmay on his site questions whether this is a "real" story or, if it is, whether it's already dead in the water. Good question, and as he states, we need to make sure our facts are correct. So, here is a link that includes the full Boston Globe article from 5/23/2002 about the filing of the suit (it's reprinted on a message board, I couldn't get to the actual article on the BG site), and here is a brief commentary by Ted Olsen in Christianity Today from August 9, 2002 (confusing - it says July 8 issue, but says posted 8/9/02); Olsen doesn't think she has much of a chance.

And there's your backup.

Posted by susanna at 03:01 PM | Comments (8)

Finding lost children - a media success story

Since media bias is a major focus of this site, I don't always have a lot of good things to say about the media. But I think the media are crucial to our society, and sometimes journalists do important and necessary things that they should be praised for. Finding lost children in Florida is one of them:

NEW YORK -- When the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale found nine children who'd been considered lost in the state's child-welfare system, it didn't use confidential sources, sealed court files, or undercover disguises.

In a way, all it used was common sense.

Many credit -- or blame -- the Sun-Sentinel's coverage with forcing the resignation of Department of Children & Families (DCF) Secretary Kathleen A. Kearney two days after the paper's Aug. 11 story. Kearney had been under scrutiny for months following the revelation that Rilya Wilson, a girl in DCF care who would be 5 now, had been missing for more than a year without state officials knowing about it.

Using data in police reports and in records of the DCF and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, three Sun-Sentinel reporters tracked down the nine youngsters in a matter of weeks -- with two being found in just a few hours.

What about the other 518 missing children that the DCF has "lost"? Do we need to hire journalists to find them too? I think the Sun-Sentinel did a fantastic job, and Kearney's resignation a reasonable response to it. And even if the Sun-Sentinel is a liberal-leaning paper - which there is no evidence in the linked article is the case - and even if their motivation was to go after a Republican office-holder - and again, no evidence that is the case - the investigation they did would be completely reasonable and appropriate. The problem is not that investigations are done, it's that too often they are not factually based or their coverage is highly skewed in one way or another. Not the case with the Sun-Sentinel. When the research is done with integrity and with a goal of finding truth, not dirt, its condemnation needs no embellishment.

Bravo, Sun-Sentinel.

Now, please, find Rilya. She's been gone too long.

Posted by susanna at 09:22 AM | Comments (2)

August 18, 2002

Stumping the snake

Quana at Eristic has an intriguing tale about playing with a snake. Growing up in the country as I did, I had a few run-ins myself, but never anything that fun.

Posted by susanna at 06:11 PM | Comments (0)

Racism on the Mall and the radio

New York City Council member Charles Barron, speaking at the reparations rally yesterday on The Mall in Washington, said:

I want to go up to the closest white person and say, 'You can't understand this, it's a black thing,' and then slap him, just for my mental health...

The Politburo has audio excerpts of the rally, as part of their coverage, noting that the NY Times didn't report Barron's comment (the article is very favorable to the reparations movement in tone, generally). But Steve Malzberg, a radio talk show host on WABC Radio in NYC, had Barron on his show this morning and asked him about it. There's no transcript or archived audio available (online, but I'm sure an intrepid "real journalist" could get one), but following is a paraphrased summary from my notes, which is as close as I can make it to what he said. Malzberg first quoted the Reuters article, then asked Barron his response:

Barron: It's black hyperbole.

Malzberg: What's black hyperbole?

[Barron starts to explain hyperbole, Malzberg cuts him off and asks what black hyperbole is.]

Barron: It's humor. It's political humor that black folk will understand but white folk are uptight and take it serious.

Malzberg: So if I said to a white audience, "I'd like to slap a black person just for my mental health", I could call that white hyperbole?"

Barron: No, because white people don't joke that way.

Barron went on to say that the audience laughed when he said it, so they understood what he meant, and white people on the podium with him shook his hand and told him what a great speech it was.

In my judgment, Barron was being flagrantly racist in his comments, and the fact that he was applauded by blacks and whites alike only says that his kind of racism is acceptable in some circles, not that it wasn't racism. I hope the mainstream media pick up Barron's explanation from Malzberg's show, because it makes his racism very clear.

UPDATE: Thanks to DF in comments for this link to a partial transcript of the Malzberg/Barron exchange.

UPDATE: John Hawkins at Right Wing News has more on the Mall rally, including what Louis Farrakhan wants. (And John, welcome to MT.)

UPDATE: Mike at Cold Fury skewers the idea of reparations.

UPDATE: And still more on reparations from Toren at The Safety Valve.

It seems that everyone had family that came over after the Civil War. Well, I confess - not only were some of my ancestors here before the Civil War, they were here before the Revolutionary War. One of my great aunts was in the DAR. My grandmother traces her ancestry to Pocahontas (does that mean I get a Native American bye?). I even have ancestors who fought in the Civil War - for the Confederacy.

And I still don't think I owe anybody anything.

Posted by susanna at 01:27 PM | Comments (12)

Racism on the bench

A reader who is an attorney came across this case that is certainly an eyebrow raiser. In July, a six-judge majority of the 8th Circuit US Court of Appeals reversed and remanded a decision by U.S. District Judge Charles Shaw of St. Louis; Shaw, who is black, in turn accused the appellate judges of racism in making their decision. Here’s the basics as summarized by my lawyer-reader:

Shaw…sat on a case where one of his friends was a defendant, he didn't disclose this to either party, and he refused to recuse himself from the case once it was discovered. Then he refused to let the case go to the jury by granting judgment as a matter of law against the plaintiff…

The plaintiff was a white police sergeant who had pretty good evidence that the police chief (who is black) and other defendants had tried to scapegoat him for the false arrest of a black, mentally-retarded teenager. They brought criminal charges against the sergeant (he was acquitted) and ultimately he was demoted and suspended for a time without pay.

But there was one big problem with the case against the sergeant: he wasn't even on the scene until AFTER the teenager was arrested and allegedly assaulted. The officers who actually arrested the teenager (and ergo allegedly assaulted him) were never charged and were only suspended for a few days, but the sergeant was indicted and demoted.

…the majority reversed Shaw and remanded, and he responded by accusing them of racism.

I read through Shaw’s decision and the accusation of racism is explicit:

“…a majority of six white men conclude that Moran established a plausible case of, among other things, “improper considerations of his race” by a police department headed by an African American… [Section III, Item 8, pg. 10]

“The appellate minority of four judges, two white men, one white woman and an African-American man, disagrees with the majority’s substantive due process analysis…”

and states the majority introduced race into the equation itself, without support from the case. [Section III, Item 9, pg. 10]

Judge Shaw goes on to make it more explicit, after additional discussion of the case and his impression of the thoughts behind the appellate majority’s decision. Note that the context is the appellate majority’s recommendation that Shaw recuse himself from the case:

The undersigned is left with the deeply troubling impression that had I been white, or had plaintiff Moran been African-American, and all the other facts of this “hard case” remained the same, the majority’s opinion on the recusal issue would have been significantly different.”[Section III, pg. 11]

Shaw then does recuse himself, but because he says “these concerns have caused this court such extreme discomfort that it is inappropriate for the undersigned to have any further involvement in this case.” [Section IV, Conclusion, pg. 13]

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch did cover* Shaw’s response but focused on Shaw’s accusations without exploring the appellate decision or going deeper into the possibilities that their decision was the right thing.

From what my reader said, the racism in this case from beginning to end is fairly flagrant, and I don’t mean on the part of the appellate majority of the 8th Circuit. And my reading of the decisions seem to support his conclusions. My question is, how does the federal court system deal with evidence of racism on the part of one of its justices? Reverse all the facts so that the white judges and the police sergeant are black, and Shaw, the police officers and police chief all white, and see how the facts and the decisions read to you then. Can you imagine a white justice going after an appellate majority that was all black, accusing them of racism? Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Bill Clinton and Cynthia McKinney would have been on the next plane to St. Louis to denounce him – and for once I’d agree with them. There would be a hue and a cry in the media, and pressure for the justice to step down. But not in this instance, because Shaw is allowed to play the race card. What about the reputations of the six appellate justices who have been accused of racism? They cannot get down in the ditch with Shaw and fight about whether his accusation is legitimate, and the media isn’t going to help them, as evidenced by the St. Louis-Dispatch article that focused on Shaw’s “anguish” with only sufficient summary from the appellate decision to give his “anguish” context.

It’s just a shame that this is allowed to happen, and that the media left it lying there. We see so much about white police officers going after black offenders (or alleged or assumed offenders), and sometimes the attention is legitimate. We rarely hear of black officers using inappropriate force on black offenders, although it happens (as this case bears witness). And when the case winds its way through the system with a federal district judge accusing federal appellate justices of racism toward him, it just gets, well, frightening. We need to feel confident in our court system, as much as we are able, and confident as well that the justices are in fact color-blind in their assessment (even when a case involves racism as a charge, the justices need to consider the case on its merits, not bringing their own biases to the case). It seems to me that in this case, it wasn’t the appellate court that was seeing things through the wrong world-view.

* The Post-Dispatch article is now in its pay only section; if you want the full text, write me an email and I will forward it to you. I tried to link the buy-it page but couldn't get it to work.

UPDATE: Events summary edited per my original source: the race of the officers who allegedly did the beating is not stated; the sergeant who was accused and acquitted was not fired, but demoted.

Posted by susanna at 09:03 AM | Comments (4)

August 17, 2002

Cool anti-theft campaign

Brent at The Ville spots a different kind of hacking in the rough.

Posted by susanna at 01:53 PM | Comments (4)

Internet hoaxes

We all periodically get emails telling us of the new virus, or a little girl who is dying and needs us to send out emails for her, etc. These are, as most of you Internet savvy folk realize, hoaxes. It's frustrating to keep receiving them as if they're real, though. So I suggest each of you set up a master email response with links to the following websites, to inform the gullible of their error:

Internet 101 - a master list of hoax sites
Symantec hoax center
Don’t Spread that Hoax

Posted by susanna at 01:31 PM | Comments (1)

Fisking arrogant pacifists

Mark of Ad Orientum posts a photograph of a banner at The Peace Abbey, a group of radical, ecumenical pacifists in his Massachusetts town. The banner says, in a clever manner, that war is terrorism. Mark's discussion of his reaction to it is moving and quite illustrative. He suggests that we all write The Peace Abbey an email telling them what we think of their moral equivalence.

The Peace Abbey website is quite illuminating itself. Here are a few points of interest:

The Peace Abbey History

...the community of peacemakers at The Peace Abbey is given to interpret the occasion as an edict to "rebuild," not only "my church," but also "my temple, my synagogue, my mosque, my shrine, my meetinghouse" and wherever worship of God takes place.

The "rebuilding" we seek is through loving the ways others love God. We are the church, the temple, the synagogue, the mosque and the shrine, the rebuilding must take place within each one of us. As Gandhi once said, "we must become the change we seek in the world" and for us, The Peace Abbey is a vehicle for this change.

Don't miss The Veganpeace Animal Sanctuary :

The Veganpeace Animal Sanctuary is a permanent home for food production animals that have escaped from slaughterhouses.

Goats, turkeys, and cows - including the famed slaughterhouse escapee Emily - live in peace in the barn and the acreage behind the Peace Abbey. An integral part of the educational programs of the Peace Abbey, Greater Boston Vegetarian Society, and the Strawberry Fields Alternative High School, it is also part of a larger movement that includes organizations such as Farm Sanctuary.

In reference to their anti-war banner, here are a few of Mark's comments:

...what they’re preaching is not noble. It is not brave. It is contemptible.

Chesterton put it well when he described pacifists as "the last and least excusable on the list of the enemies of society."

They preach that if you see a man flogging a woman to death you must not hit him. I would much sooner let a leper come near a little boy than a man who preached such a thing.

The Peace Abbey has a Mahatma Gandhi peace memorial. Scott Helg, one of the commenters at Mark's site, dealt with that handily:

I think it's a shame that they put up a statue of Gandhi next to this dreck. Here are some Gandhi quotes they would do well to read:

"My non-violence does not admit of running away from danger and leaving dear ones unprotected. Between violence and cowardly flight, I can only prefer violence to cowardice...

"Cowardice is wholly inconsistent with non-violence. Translation from swordsmanship to non-violence is possible and, at times, even an easy stage. Non-violence, therefore, pre-supposes ability to strike. It is a conscious deliberate restraint put upon one's desire for vengeance. But vengeance is any day superior to passive, effeminate and helpless submission."

Amen to that. Check it out, and send an email if you have the time. Oh, and here's a little bit more from Mark - noting the irony of a group:

animated by a leftist loathing for the American society that allows them to freely voice their opinions from a cozy ashram in one of the priciest communities (average property value $505,621) in Massachusetts.

I don't think there's anything I can add to that.

Posted by susanna at 12:56 PM | Comments (1)

August 16, 2002

Murderers as bad guys

Eugene Volokh fact-checks a book on the politics of gun control which claims that most murders are committed by people who otherwise are not criminal. Volokh sets the record straight.

Posted by susanna at 05:39 PM | Comments (2)

Not that I'm surprised...

You are 49% geek
You are a geek liaison, which means you go both ways. You can hang out with normal people or you can hang out with geeks which means you often have geeks as friends and/or have a job where you have to mediate between geeks and normal people. This is an important role and one of which you should be proud. In fact, you can make a good deal of money as a translator.
Normal: Tell our geek we need him to work this weekend.

You [to Geek]: We need more than that, Scotty. You'll have to stay until you can squeeze more outta them engines!

Geek [to You]: I'm givin' her all she's got, Captain, but we need more dilithium crystals!

You [to Normal]: He wants to know if he gets overtime.

Take the Polygeek Quiz at

UPDATE: I'm in good company.

[Link via Dodd]

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

The day Elvis died

Elvis Presley has been gone for 25 years; had he lived, he would be 67, which is odd to think about. We don't have an image of old Elvis - just a rapid-fire progression in film and music of his life from hot-rocking young man to flashy aging caricature of his younger self. Yet even the "aging" part seems unreal to me - he was 18 months older than I am now when he died. Somehow that makes it even sadder, to me, because I know I expect to have several more decades filled to the brim with life. He didn't have that. What would he have been if he'd lived?

We won't know. But Mike at Cold Fury posts some early photographs that remind us of what he was, and thoughts about why he was a truly innovative musician and performer. Take time to read it, and sample a few Elvis tunes while you do.

UPDATE: Mike adds Part 3 to his Elvis series, this time highlighting the genius of Sam Phillips, founder of Elvis's first label, the legendary Sun Records.

Posted by susanna at 11:30 AM | Comments (1)

Could Republicans woo traditionally Democrat blocs?

Stuart Buck, keying off a Fox News article on Republicans and labor unions, says the Republican party is a more natural home for labor unions and blacks who vote party line, given the way the Democrat party is moving philosophically.

Posted by susanna at 10:01 AM | Comments (4)

High speed along the dirt roads

Rural America is showing its ingenuity in getting high-speed Internet service where the companies won't go. Just goes to show that the best problem resolutions come from ordinary people with a need to fill - not necessarily big corporations, and certainly not the government. Can you imagine the cost of this rural service if the government decided it was a Right to have high-speed Internet everywhere?

Posted by susanna at 08:47 AM | Comments (1)

Bad drivers or bad science?

CNBC has a list posted today called Are you a dangerous driver? 10 ways to tell. Since I tend to be somewhat aggressive on the road, I checked it out. What I found was more about bad science than bad driving.

The list was derived from a focus group of people who have bad driving records. Specifically, it was:

30 drivers from Boston who have collectively been involved in 84 accidents over the past three years and received 49 speeding tickets, 39 moving violations and 92 parking tickets.

They don't tell us how those people were selected, so you can be pretty sure it wasn't a random sampling even of bad drivers. I have a premium rating with my insurance company - so how do I stack up with these folks?

Of the list of 10 habits of bad drivers, I consistently exhibit seven. Oh no! Take away my car insurance! How can it be that I share all those traits yet don't have their record? After all, insurance companies use profiles all the time to make decisions about who gets insured, and since I have 7 of 10 identified bad traits, that should put me firmly in the "junk insurance" bin.

The answer has to do with how they did the "study", which really wasn't a study but a focus group:

They exclude a control group so they can't see what baseline behavior is in comparison to what the bad drivers do.

The selection of drivers likely isn't random (they don't say), so we don't know what kind of bias is introduced into the study by their selection method.

The "study" selected out behaviors the people who ran it assumed were causal factors in a bad driving record, introducing their own bias. They don't identify why these behaviors would have caused the record, just "these people with bad records do this". Maybe people with bad records also regularly are late to places and drink cappacino, but that doesn't cause their bad record. Again, without a control group or a question that specifically ties the behavior to accidents/violations, we don't know which correlations could possibly actually be a contributor.

The context was a focus group, which is to say group discussions guided by a facilitator. That's a far cry from a carefully constructed, neutrally administered questionnaire. Focus groups are common these days, and useful as a means to identify issues for further investigation or to flesh out more formal means of collecting data. They can even be selected fairly rigorously, giving their results some weight. But the numbers are typically too small for generalization from their conclusions, and the potential for contamination from leader bias or peer bias is great.

There's more, but that gives you some idea of how to assess the value of a focus group's results. The list itself is interesting but more for patterns than specific behaviors. Here is a summary of the 10 points; bad drivers:

Don't come to a full stop at stop signs when no else is coming, and think generally that they should be able to break traffic laws when alone on the road.

Talk on the cell phone while driving.

Eat and drink while driving.

Focus intently on finding a parking space in a crowded lot to the extent that they don't see what else is around them.

Hate driving behind SUVs or other large vehicles that obstruct their view

Drive differently when police are around.

Are distracted by music playing in their cars, and think loud music tends to make them more aggressive on the road.

Curse, make hand gestures or get into confrontations with other drivers as a result of their own or the other driver's poor driving behavior.

Have nearly fallen asleep while driving.

Turn their head and talk to others in the vehicle while driving, especially when small children are in the car.

Do you see yourself there? I see myself. The underlying points from the list are - don't get distracted, don't think you own the road, keep both hands on the wheel, don't let yourself get angry. No joke. I think it's likely that more rigorous studies would find some variation of these themes to be a factor in a lot of traffic violations and accidents - not because you're eating an Egg McMuffin in the car on the way to work, but because you made bad traffic choices while doing so. I talk on the cell phone all the time while driving and it's not a hands-free device. New Jersey is a wild place to drive, too. But when I get in heavy traffic, or have to do some type of more intricate maneuver (like merging), I put down the phone until I'm done. Maybe a driver with a bad record wouldn't do so, thus engaging in a riskier form of the same behavior - the problem there being level of risk-taking, not the implement involved in the risk. This kind of "study" doesn't tease out how drivers with bad records are different from drivers with good records, it just highlights what the researchers thought anyway and had confirmed in their discussion.

Just as a note, my anecdotal examples don't carry scientific weight either - they just show how the same general behavior doesn't necessarily mean a bad driving record. The point is - we can't know, from this study, what the "red flag" contexts truly are.

And that's supported by the disclaimer at the end of the article:

While the study is based on a small group and should be considered a hypothesis rather than a conclusion, "our study identified several personality attributes that seem clearly linked to accident involvement," says Donald Bashline, one of the owners of RightFind [which commissioned the study]. "Witnessing these focus groups was a revelation."

Emphasis mine. It's not a conclusion, it is, just as I noted above, a way to get issues on the table to develop an hypothesis, or question, to study. Is that bad? No. But it is misleading to present these findings as if they are the result of a scientific study rather than just the first stage of exploring a question.

Posted by susanna at 08:34 AM | Comments (6)

August 15, 2002

Newsflash: Bush is Moses!*

The Indepundit is on the case.

* Actually, probably closer to a reverse Elijah with a smattering of Noah, but who am I to quibble.

Posted by susanna at 09:47 PM | Comments (1)

War and irrelevance in the Academy

Tony Woodlief skewers self-righteous leftist academics who refuse to help the military and deride those who do help. I can't do justice with an excerpt; it's all good. Check it out.

I would like to expand on one point. He mentions an academic with the military (not all academics are lefties) who noted she was free to do research without censorship. That's a very powerful statement. College professors are judged by what they publish and where it's published, so they are at the mercy of "the Academy" at various turns, as well as the government - which often is run by more liberal types in the grant-awarding units. The first hurdle is getting funding, and those with the money to give are shopping for someone to research their issue - be it the government or a private foundation - not often just what the researcher wants to do. Sometimes researchers and funding agencies match in issues, so it's not always a problem. But if your research is non-PC - say, looking at how races differ in their metabolizing of alcohol - even if it may have real value to the population it could have a tough time getting funded. Once something is funded, the academic researcher has to find a refereed journal to publish in. What if your research goes against the grain of the discipline? You'll have a tough time publishing. And what if you publish but your findings bring the wrath of special interest groups on the university? It can affect your chances at tenure or even cause you to lose your job.

This is especially true in the social sciences where ideas are the currency and most "facts" are subject to a framing bias informed by all the above forces - funding agency, publication preferences, referee committees, university forces and departmental tenure committees. Ideally research will be judged on its merits - solid theories (meaning testable and based on some logic) investigated with strict scientific rigor. But the potential of censorship is at every turn.

It's a sad commentary on the state of the Academy. But as I said before, it's not by accident that the term, "That's academic" has come to mean "that may be interesting, but it's unimportant", or even, "You're being nitpicky". The kind of attitudes that Tony skewers can only reinforce that popular view.

UPDATE: This latest Instapundit update on Bellesiles is a good reminder of just how ethically pristine those ivory towers are.

UPDATE: And yet still more: Consider what Tony has to say, and what is going on with Emory and Bellesiles, in light of what Camille Paglia says in an interview with Andrew Sullivan:

Our national security is threatened by the failure of prestige universities to encourage or respect military careers. When our best and brightest expect a servant class to shed their blood in the nation's defense, we're starting to look like late imperial Rome.

Why do you think we are failing to encourage the best and brightest to go into the military? Could it have something to do with who is teaching them, and the integrity of the institutions they attend? It's pretty obvious where the best and brightest got their imperialistic ideas. (See Woodlief, Tony, for more on this matter.)

My obligatory caveat: There are many excellent professors in the Academy today, who value integrity and innovation in their disciplines more than the accolades of their elitist peers. There are others who are less likely to disagree on principle with the ones like those on Tony's listserv, but who are willing to listen, to genuinely hear, ideas that challenge their own. We need to find ways to encourage those people, instead of rewarding those who seek to undermine America and force-feed liberal ideas to their students rather than educating them in critical thinking and integrity.

Posted by susanna at 06:52 PM | Comments (4)

Explain this to me

From Poynter Tidbits weblog:

Ken Hamidi is being sued by Intel, his former employer, for trespassing — with e-mail. Hamidi was fired by Intel in 1995, and he reacted by criticizing the company in thousands of e-mails he sent to his former co-workers. Intel sued him, and now, the California Supreme Court is being asked to determine whether unwanted e-mail "is a form of electronic trespassing, as Intel contends, or an expression of free speech," the Wall Street Journal reports. Intel already has won three rounds in court...

While the case is obviously years old, and a lot of you may have heard of it, I haven't seen it before. The WSJ article is subscriber-only, but I found more info here and here, and Hamidi's site is here.

From reading briefly through this, it seems that Hamidi has been harassing the company, but I don't understand how it could be identified as trespassing. That seems to open so many doors to bizarro world. Why isn't this man jailed for harassment rather than chased down for trespassing? While I would certainly prefer not to get dozens of spam emails a day, I would never consider it trespassing.

Any insight from those more familiar with it than me?

Posted by susanna at 06:02 PM | Comments (3)

The Autobiography of an Anonymous Blogger

In response to my earlier post, Media Minded spills about his life. Or does he? Sounds awfully pat to me, especially the casually dropped references to Dennis Rodman and John Cusack. And just who is this Amazing Techie Girlfriend? I'm beginning to think she's actually a back-of-the-magazine mail-order android, but I haven't wanted to pursue that line of thought [what a waste - he sounds cute!]. I think there's lots of hidden meaning in his post, possibly even his name somewhere like a Word Search puzzle... I need to deconstruct this further. In the meantime, however, if you want to take it at face value (sucker) it's a nice glimpse into the life and [wild] times of MMmmmmmm. MM, I like mushrooms too - only I go more for morels.

Posted by susanna at 02:24 PM | Comments (1)

Gone faster than a Big Mac at the Clinton household

One day it was there, next day it wasn't. Just makes you want to travel there to get a Value Meal, doesn't it?

Posted by susanna at 12:51 PM | Comments (1)

It's all about tone

You just gotta hate when the whole nation mourns the death of thousands from an act that catapulted us into war. I mean, it was a whole year ago! Get over it already!

I'm sure that's not what columnist Bill Steigerwald of the Pittsburgh Times-Tribune meant to say, but that's the effective result of his snitty little piece about how the media will wallow in 9/11 from now until after the anniversary. He's right, of course, about the media's propensity to overdo anything with marketable attributes, and anniversaries rank right up there with Halloween 34,892: Freddie Meets Jason on the Alien Ship for repeatability and ease of production. Any shame he wants to call down on the media for enthusiastically using 9/11 to make money is fine with me. Bring it on.

But in the process, he also dismisses the whole celebration of anniversaries. Do we need to, as a nation, mourn the loss of Elvis yearly? Not really. Do we, as a nation, need to mourn annually the losses of the Civil War, the two World Wars, the Korean and Vietnam wars? Yes. Should we celebrate our nation's founding yearly? Yes. Some things we do need to remember, because those things are what makes us as a nation and a people who we are. The media is a profit-making industry, but the most responsible of those will make memorials that are respectful and appropriate. The rest will have no shame, but in a way that's kind of the American way too, isn't it? That they can. So we remember, we mourn, we reject the crass for the respectful, and we go on strengthened for touching the roots of our culture.

So what did Steigerwald say that was so distasteful? Here: case your visions of 9-11 have mercifully blurred, the big anniversary packages are starting to show up in places such as Vanity Fair and Atlantic Monthly.

My vision of 9/11 hasn't mercifully blurred. Nearly every day I see the skyline where the WTC towers used to be, and often I see in my mind the smoke coming from them, and hear the story a police officer told me of finding a leg lying in a pile of debris near the site, the day after. I think of the woman who, only a couple of months ago, finally reached out to friends after secluding herself since her firefighter husband died in the collapse of the buildings. We don't need shallow snack-anger that enjoys the emotion for its own sake - and that's the feeling many media outlets feed. But revisiting the reality of painful times, or very good times, makes us better.

He continues:

The next few weeks are going to be an inescapable drag for lots of folks, but don't blame the News Industrial Complex. It really can't help itself.

Yeah. It's a drag to be reminded. Damn those media types!

Still more, describing the coverage in Vanity Fair:

Yet from their unique angles — from the water and 3,000 feet up — the frozen image of an airliner about to fly into an office building and a skyscraper full of people turning into a fountain of smoke pack fresh emotive power.

Now, isn't that lovely imagery? And what is he trying to do with his description? Could it be - perish the thought - keep his readers interested and thus making himself a part of the News Industrial Complex? Certainly he's not very respectful of the event, so he can't be using the words to help people see the tragedy.

He closes the column with a nice plug for William Langewiesche's three-part series in the September Atlantic Monthly, and his tone is better there. But I think he would have been well served to target his derision more tightly to the media, and not let it flow into mocking comments about 9/11 itself.

[Link via Romenesko]

Posted by susanna at 10:09 AM | Comments (2)

Lost In Space

Rand Simberg explores what happens when a rarified business environment ruptures, releasing its tender children into the rough-and-tumble capitalist economy.

Posted by susanna at 09:17 AM | Comments (0)

Will the Catholic Church get RICO'd?

I've seen (I can't remember where) a couple of mentions that the Catholic Church might get nailed with RICO lawsuits as a result of this latest sex scandal. For those who don't know, RICO is an anti-racketeering Act aimed initially at busting Mafia criminal operations. Its use has since spread quite a bit into the civil arena. The question is, can it be applied to the Catholic Church?

Attorney TLB, Esq., at Unbillable Hours, explains why he thinks it's possible, and some ramifications it may have. I'm not saying it's a good thing, but it appears the Catholic Church may be in for trouble.

Posted by susanna at 07:25 AM | Comments (2)

Bloggish anonymity

This is the latest Hot Topic, but I'm going to briefly comment anyway. I considered using a pseudonym, but for reasons that are none of your business chose not to. Thus I am in sympathy with those who chose anonymity with the same attitude. In my World of Bias, I think everyone should be judged on their merits, and in this medium those merits are or aren't shown pretty soon regardless of whether the name is Susanna or Persnickity. Like some others, I've been online for a while (8 years, for me) and I have used a whole stable of nicks, again none of your business. Usually they've been pretty transparent to those I got to know well, but I'm comfortable with nicks online and don't see it as a moral flaw to use one. The only advantage to using real names that I see (other than that some people won't curl their lips and say, You Are Not Creditable Because I Don't Know Your Name!) is the instant weight your voice carries when you speak for your profession openly. On the other hand, one of the blogs I trust implicitly - Media Minded - is run by a guy who uses his pseudonym even in emails, and we've exchanged quite a few. Always honest, usually right, and generally polite even when I threaten to call him MMmmmmm! because he won't tell me his name. Do I need to know his name? Nah. Do I want to? Of course! I'm a snoop!

These thoughts were brought to you because I read these lovely posts this morning, by The Last Page and TLB Esq. , pseudonymous bloggers who seem pretty straight up to me. Well, maybe a little twisted, in Page's case, but straight forward, how's that?

UPDATE: I neglected to link Dr. Weevil's thoughts on anonymity, which got me thinking about the whole issue. So now I have. Go read it.

Posted by susanna at 07:17 AM | Comments (1)

August 14, 2002

Thoughts on 9/11

Keying off the photo I posted Sunday, Tom Maguire takes Just One Minute to think about the one year anniversary of the attack in a month, and how he's not "gotten over it" like he thought he had begun to.

Posted by susanna at 10:17 PM | Comments (0)

Can the Florida's child services agency be fixed?

Rilya Wilson has been missing for 20 months, and other problems continue to pile up at the Florida Department of Children & Families:

Last month a child welfare worker was arrested after police said she was passed out drunk in her car with a child in the back seat. On Tuesday, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, which reported over the weekend it found nine children DCF claimed were missing, filed suit to force the agency to open case files of 22 children missing under DCF care.

Now DCF's head Kathleen Kearney has resigned, effective September 3, and Gov. Jeb Bush has to replace her with someone who can fix it. I think this is a "rubber hits the road" moment - who Bush chooses, and what they do, will say a lot about his ability to govern Florida.

Let's hope it's not the Sunshine State version of Norman Mineta or Tom Ridge.

Posted by susanna at 01:31 PM | Comments (0)

Sex, murder and molestation: Oh, to live in Japan!

I went to the online English edition of a Japanese newspaper, The Mainichi Daily News, following the link to the story blogged below. I linked around it a bit and got an view of Japan you don't see much over here. Check it out:

A pretty sad thought

Japanese translations of "Satisfaction: The Art of the Female Orgasm" have skyrocketed since the work penned by sultry "Sex and the City" star Kim Cattrall went on sale June 29...

Employees at Artist House, which is distributing the book, say that 70 percent of its buyers are women in their late 20s or 30s, with men in their 50s being the most common male purchasers...

"I don't think that in today's Japan that there're many people out there trying to have a better sex life with their partner. Women will go with their skills, while guys will shut themselves off with their dreams. That's the situation with sex in today's Japan." [according to essayist Fuminori Yamaguchi.]

What was she doing with a baby?

WAKKANAI, Hokkaido -- A woman awaiting trial for the murder of a husband whose body she kept for years in a refrigerator in her home was Wednesday charged with murdering her baby son.

Akemi Inuma, 50, was charged with a second count of murder after investigators found the remains of the 2-month-old son she told them she had thrown out with her normal garbage in May this year.

Inuma admits to the allegations that she killed the 2-month-old boy in April 1999.

Women commuters in a real pinch

Government officials have come out in support for the latest plans by Kansai railway operators involving Women's Only carriages on commuter trains to combat rampant molestation...

Last year, there were 83 reported cases of molestation on Hankyu's Kyoto Honsen Line and 71 cases on Keihan's Keihan Honsen. West Japan Railway Co. (JR West) is considering setting up Women's Only carriages on its lines in Osaka...

Last year, there were 83 reported cases of molestation on Hankyu's Kyoto Honsen Line and 71 cases on Keihan's Keihan Honsen. West Japan Railway Co. (JR West) is considering setting up Women's Only carriages on its lines in Osaka.

They don't explain just what "molestation" means; I'm assuming it's groping, not attacking. I'm also wondering if this has any connection to all those women in their 20s and 30s, and men in their 50s, who are buying how-to sex books.

So when do we move to Japan?

Posted by susanna at 12:32 PM | Comments (3)

Think before you flip

Sometimes it's just not worth it:

KAMEOKA, Kyoto -- A teen-age motorcycle rider died Wednesday as he turned to give the finger to police officers who had given up pursuing him and slammed into a taxi, police said.

[Link via Bill Hedrick at Reason is Our Friend]

Posted by susanna at 12:05 PM | Comments (1)

Making cell phones illegal

For the past two days I’ve heard discussion on WABC talk radio in NYC about a city council member who is proposing to make cell phone usage illegal in movie theaters, restaurants and so forth. I can’t find articles about it in the online versions of the NY Times, the NY Post or the NY Daily News. I’ve not watched TV news lately, but I’m thinking it’s likely that if it’s not in the print media it’s not in the broadcast media either. So now I’m very curious about this. I’m assuming it’s true, given that it keeps showing up on the talk shows. Where are they getting their information? Am I missing something somewhere? Of course it’s a proposal I think is ridiculous, but I can’t slice and dice without details! I need details! Has anyone else heard about it?

UPDATE: Lori Anne Byrnes of Ruminations is on the case, and found an article about the cell phones in NY Newsday. Here's the guts of the proposal:

The bill would set a fine of $50 for using cell phones in "places of public performance" except in an emergency, and it would include museums and libraries.

And if you want to fume a bit about the mind behind it, here's what the council member proposing it, Philip Reed of Harlem, had to say:

"Public performances offer audiences a welcome escape from the rigors and gadgets of everyday life," said Reed, a Democrat, "while ringing cell phones and loud, one-sided conversations offer only headaches. And let's face it, that's not what New Yorkers want."

While they're at it, I want them to ban kissing, passing gas, cracking your knuckles, talking out loud to your companion, eating okra (the sight offends me), popping gum, adjusting your crotch and laughing loudly.

Posted by susanna at 09:32 AM | Comments (4)

Bias in the NY Times - are we surprised?

Erin Sheley at The Weekly Standard does a bloggish takedown of the NY Times, comparing its coverage of Bush with that of The Washington Post, exposing systematic negative bias toward Bush. It’s a good example of how to make those comparisons, and the types of things that direct opinion without always being flagrant (although some of the quotes are about as flagrant as it gets). I was amused to see she highlighted an article by David Sanger of the Times, who in every article of his I’ve read has trashed Bush in editorials thinly disguised as news. Her analysis is good, but it would be stronger if she noted the possibility of positive bias on the part of the Post. I’m not saying the Post does display a positive bias; I can’t tell from her coverage because she doesn’t explore that. But any time you use a control (i.e. neutral or normal) source as a standard to show excess on the part of what you’re studying, it’s best to establish why it’s reasonable to think the control is in fact neutral/normal. I would be more comfortable with the analysis if she at least conceded that she was just looking at two views; the implication is that the Post is some ideal. Even triangulation – using three sources in the analysis – would be stronger. Of course, it’s not an academic medium, so I’ll give her a pass. She does a good job; it’s worth your time.

[Thanks to Dodd for the heads up on this article.]

Posted by susanna at 08:36 AM | Comments (6)

An inside look

Wesley Dabney is in the US Armed Forces in Germany, and keeps an eye on things through his blog, The Color of Money. Two good posts to check out today - a discussion of Bush's motivation and actions regarding the war with Iraq, and how it is connected to the whole terrorist approach; and a look at North Korea's efforts to get more out of the US. Wesley says his next job is as a Korean Foriegn Area Officer, so he has reason to watch and analyze the US/Korea interactions. Interesting.

Posted by susanna at 08:13 AM | Comments (5)

August 13, 2002

Gone West

It seems that Cornel West brought his troubles on himself: NRO posts an article (keying off the same puff piece I mentioned earlier) which makes a good case for West starting his own troubles with Larry Summers at Harvard, based on West's own words. Looks like the term "gone West" could take on a whole new meaning.

Posted by susanna at 07:19 PM | Comments (0)

Clever, clever virus

I just got an email that turned out to be a computer virus. I use Hotmail exclusively for personal email, so I don't worry a lot about viruses. This one was very clever, though - it pretended to be an email from Hotmail itself, from the Postmaster sending back to me an email that didn't go through. I don't know if this is new or not, but it's the first time I've gotten it. Here's the scoop:

The address it's from: Mail Delivery System

The virus it carries: Exploit-MIME.gen

The email it sent me:

This message was created automatically by mail delivery software (Exim).

A message that you sent could not be delivered to one or more of its recipients. This is a permanent error. The following address(es)

For further assistance, please contact
If you do so, please include this problem report. You can delete your own text from the message returned below.

Copy of your message, including all the headers is attached.

And yes, I opened it, since all Hotmail attachments are run through McAfee. Sure enough it wouldn't open the attachment. Of course, another clue was that it came into my Junk Mail box.

Is this new? Am I the last kid on the block to get a virus again? Pretty bad if it came to someone without a virus checker - 'cause it'd be hard to resist opening an email supposedly notifying you of a returned email. (You'll notice I didn't resist.) There are diabolical little minds out there.

UPDATE: I found a message board where this virus was discussed in late June. At the time it was, according to them, incurable.

Posted by susanna at 04:21 PM | Comments (9)

Where there's smoke, there's ire

NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg, a Democrat in Republican clothing, is poised to force smokers into the street. But only temporarily. Then he's going to push them out of the street, off the beaches and eventually out of their own homes. A quote from today's New York Post:

The mayor gave up smoking nearly 20 years ago - sources said he favored "tipped" cigars - and, by his words and deeds in recent days, he's made it clear he's on a crusade to stamp out the nicotine habit in New York. Last week, he called smokers "crazy." Yesterday, he added "stupid."

Upping the ante, Bloomberg then warned, "It's not hard to see someday some child suing their parents if the child comes down with cancer. That's probably going to happen."

The sad fact is, he's probably right and it's also likely the child will win. It's a crazy world. The focus of the objections to banning smoking everywhere is health - health of the workers, health of the children, health of the fellow patrons. Hard to combat - we all know, of course, that every time a smoker lights up, he's saying, "Die, DIE, you smokeless scum!" to all the rest of us. And himself too, I suppose, but then smoking is a self-evidently self-hating, isn't it? Slow suicide?

No, I'm not serious, but likely someone will soon say all those things and will be serious. My question is, where are the people fighting for the right of choice? The NYC Council is acting as if rights are conferred by the state and they're taking this one back. NO NO NO! Rights belong to us and we should fight tooth and nail for every little one. This is insanity! I hear people saying, shaking their heads, "It's going to get worse. They're taking away cigarettes, then fast food, then my Twinkies, who knows what else." It doesn't have to be that way! Why are we being like so many sheep passively following the herd over the cliff?

Like my little rant on alcohol a while back, this is not about me. I don't smoke, I've tried it maybe five times in my life. It tastes nasty, it makes me cough, and it could kill me. I've spent a lot of unhappy time in closed smoke-filled rooms, and sitting near a smoker in full cloud invariably gives me a headache. And, in fact, my grandfather had his voicebox removed because of smoke-related cancer, and I got to sew dozens of the little patches that covered his permanent trach hole for the two years until he died of lung cancer. So I have no love of smoking.

But I do have a love for liberty and choice. I think smokers should think about the health of those around them, and I think most do. I also think it's fine to say, you can't smoke in this enclosed public space where others can't get away from you because they have to be there. But to say no public spaces can be used by smokers? Not even dedicated bars and restaurants specifically for smokers? To say someone can't smoke outside?

Lori Ann Byrnes of Ruminations, a NYC resident who smokes, has some choice words to say about Bloomberg and his goals. Here are stories from NY Post, the NY Daily News and UPI. So you tell me. How do we stop this rights-eating juggernaut?

Posted by susanna at 01:37 PM | Comments (6)

The Dead (Money) Zone

This is a very odd list. Forbes magazine publishes an annual list of those celebrities who bring in the most money each year despite being dead. Who's the top dead earner? Elvis. Of course. You knew that.

It's spooky, though. Dale Earnhart is on the list this year. If you're a celebrity, could you help but see it and think, I wonder if next year I'll be making bucks as a dead celebrity?

I'm happy to see JRR Tolkien on the list, no doubt as a result of The Lord of the Rings movie. He's someone I hope stays on The Top Dead Earners list for a long time. He is (sadly) dead, but Frodo Lives!

Posted by susanna at 12:24 PM | Comments (3)

Did you feel the love?

This humble backwater of the Internet has been reeling in shock from a total of 5500+ hits over the last two days, from a usual average of about 400 on weekdays, all because of the 9/11 photo below. Merciful heavens. It's been an interesting exercise in the ripple effect - first Instapundit linked it. Then others did - four blogs and two chat boards that I know of - which of course pushed me up on the Blogdex list (currently #23). This in turn brought me to the attention of some new-to-me blogs, some of which put me on their permalinks. So it goes. And aren't referrer lists just wonderful things?

But I'm wondering - does the ripple effect go beyond me? Am I a funnel or a dead-end alleyway? Do these people who visit here flow out to other places that I link? Those of you who are on my link list, or who I've linked for specific things over the last few days, have you seen an increased traffic flow from this? Just curious.

And I appreciate the links, and all the hits, although I must say that I am not the originator of the photograph, just its publicizer. I'm glad others saw in it the same mute testimony that I do.

UPDATE: Interesting (to me) corollary to the hits thing: I've put up 367 posts in the two months I've been on Blogfodder - that's 5.5 posts a day. I clearly need a life. OTOH, there have been 922 comments to date, which is 2.5 comments per post, just under 14 a day, so apparently I'm not alone in this. Life is good. And yes, as much as I hate math and statistics I am nonetheless compelled to perform them on a regular basis. I think it's a genetic flaw.

Posted by susanna at 10:34 AM | Comments (2)

Of bees and clouds

Start your day off by taking Fred First's Cloud Rorschach Test, and take a moment to look at his lovely photo of bumblebees on a sunflower. As we move into the dry, brittle end of summer, it's a reminder that even this is a good thing.

Summers lasted forever when I was a kid. I remember chasing junebugs in mid-summer, sometimes catching them and tying a string to one leg, then trailing behind them giggling, holding on to the string. July brought lush vegetation and still muggy days when playing in the creek was the best way to stay cool. The heat raised tar bubbles on the road, giving rise to my hobby of popping them with my bare big toe. Evenings we spent catching lightning bugs and putting them in jars while the grownups sat on the front porch talking and telling stories; I can see in my mind's eye my Papaw and my great-uncle Guthrie, in their overalls, telling tales from their childhood. In August nature began ripening into fall, blackberries full and sweet, mulberries delicious when you could reach them on the tree, potatoes earthy in their smell as you carried them by the bucket into the root cellar.


my own Kentucky home

There was something about August that spoke of a warm anticipation of fall, a waning of vigor into a sad yet vibrant beauty destined to drift to the forest floor. Fall is my favorite time of year, forever associated with new clothes, new notebooks, the excitement of a new year in school, Halloween then Thanksgiving, Christmas with snow not far behind. Every month after December seems a building of anticipation to the season of holidays. And so it begins now, again, the ripening into fall. And for me, the beginning of a new year.

Posted by susanna at 07:30 AM | Comments (5)

August 12, 2002

Bumping along

What the world needs now is guns, more guns.

Uh, you mean that's not what it said? Well, that's my entry in Tony Woodlief's Make a Leftist Bumper Sticker Sound Right (his post, my title). My favorite of his?

Meat is Murder, But The Animals Have It Coming
Posted by susanna at 10:35 PM | Comments (8)

Elvis, with love

My memories of Elvis, I'm sorry to say, are mostly of his schticky movies in the 1960s, and a few television appearances in the 1970s. My parents were not rock 'n roll fans - my dad loved Flatt & Scruggs, Eddy Arnold and Jim Reeves; my mom opted for Andy Williams and soundtracks from Broadway and movie musicals. This is not necessarily a bad thing - I still can sing almost the entire score of "The Sound of Music", and Jim Reeves singing, "Am I losing you?" can still give me goosebumps (but don't ask me about "The Great Speckled Bird"). As for me - well, sorry, folks, but my first music love was Donny Osmond. I was a groupie, wearing nothing but purple - his favorite color - and crying because our television antenna wouldn't pick up The Osmond Brothers Special. I eventually moved on to Barry Manilow, then the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac and Chicago. I liked rock, but had to sneak it because it often included words my momma didn't like - and she did follow through on a threat to break and throw away a record that used the word "hell", so you can imagine my rock forays were limited.

As a pre-teen, the Elvis fans I knew were the parents of a friend - he even wore an Elvis pompadour, slick with hair grease. I liked the early Elvis music, but it was hard to get around that image of my friend's sizable dad trying his Elvis grin with that slicked back hair. And they were suspect anyway, since they kept copies of Playboy and other skin magazines in their bathroom magazine rack (and yes, I'm sure they wondered why I always got "sick" at their house). So I watched Elvis movies sometimes, listened to some of the records, but didn't become an Elvis junkie.

In 1977, Elvis was scheduled to give a concert within driving distance of my home in eastern Kentucky; I don't remember now where, but my friend's mom had tickets. She was over the moon. She'd seen him before, but even a chunky Elvis in a Las Vegas jumpsuit made her swoon. I remember her excitement - and I remember her shocked disbelief when Elvis died shortly before she was to see him. Fans were told they could return the tickets for a refund, but I'm sure most - including my friend's mom - did not. It was the last piece of Elvis they would have.

The Elvis legend seems to have grown almost organically since then, with The Flying Elvises, all those Elvis impersonators, and the periodic sightings of him on this tropical island or that South American country, often with Jimmy Hoffa. When faced with a painting of the Las Vegas Elvis on black velvet, it's easy to forget just who and what he was, and what he meant to the world of music.

It was 25 years ago this Friday that Elvis died. It's a good time to think about the Real Elvis, the man who brought rock 'n roll home. Mike at Cold Fury, a musician in the rockabilly tradition himself, begins a week's worth of Elvis with a look at what made The King...well... The King.

Check it out, and don't forget to go back for Part 2... and 3...and...?

While you're at it, listen to Mike's band too.

UPDATE: Howard Owens opens a can of whoop(descriptor deleted, my mom reads this and I don't want her to break my computer) on Elvis detractor Tom Sinclair. Go, Howard!

(Note: This post is substantially edited from the original posted version, because my computer freaked, I had to reboot and I didn't want to lose what I had done so far.)

Posted by susanna at 07:33 PM | Comments (0)

Weighing into the Blogfodder family

Justin at The Weigh-In has joined Dodd Harris's Blogfodder domain at Hostile. Not only do I have a new niece, I have a new blog-brother! Cool. Check out Justin's site - he does good things. Although I have to say that the best today was a freaky link to Michael Jackson's face. No, that's all I'm going to say. You'll have to go there for more.

Stay tuned on The Six Little Blogfodders and How They Grew: Brent at The Ville, Page at The Last Page, Justin at The Weigh In, Sara at Something Else, Jeff at Brut4C and yours truly. If you want it short and sweet, check out our group blog, Blogfodder.

Posted by susanna at 06:07 PM | Comments (0)

More on evolution and abortion

Since we're working hard to stay away from controversial issues these days, I wanted to call your attention to a new post by Charles Murtaugh, answering a question in comments from a post on Rand Simberg's Transterrestrial Musings, about evolution. I'm not a part of that discussion, just pointing it out for those interested.

I am, however, knee-deep in a discussion below on abortion used as birth control. Meryl Yourish and Judith Weiss (of Kesher Talk) are skeptical that women would have abortions on any great scale for that reason; others of us are not skeptical at all. A lot of the action is in comments. If you decide to join in, please keep to the topic - it's not a discussion on whither abortion, but the reasons why those who have one do so. Links to Meryl's and Judith's posts are at the original post below.

And - not that any of you would ever cross the line - ugliness once will get your comment deleted, twice will get you temporarily banned.

UPDATE: Toren has an excellent post (not that I completely agree with him) at The Safety Valve; there, as here, a lot of the action is in comments so read them all.

Posted by susanna at 05:31 PM | Comments (1)

Tarred by association?

A little girl and her steer Big Red are the lede of this story in the NY Times on cheating at state fairs. Tom Maguire at Just One Minute thinks the lede makes it appear that the 10-year-old is a cheater - which the article later reveals is not the case. Maguire is fuming - and, I think, with good reason. Implying cheating by 10-year-olds as a means of drawing a reader into an article is pretty poorly done of the Times. But then, what isn't pretty poorly done by the Times?

Posted by susanna at 09:38 AM | Comments (4)

Preserve us all

Today's PC Patrol on has several great briefs that should make you fume. In light of the below photo, here's an excerpt about options for lessons dealing with September 11 on the one-year anniversary:

The National Council for the Social Studies, for example, recently created a lesson plan about "Osama," a young boy from Iraq who immigrates to the United States and is teased at school because of his name. And the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., is chiming in with its own Teaching Tolerance lesson plan to help teachers mark the Sept. 11 anniversary.

The American Forum for Global Education also has published "Terrorism: What Every Teacher Should Know" that includes a History of U.S. Government Actions to Limit Civil Liberties and suggests Alternet and the U.K.'s Guardian newspaper as sources of news about the war on terror.

Posted by susanna at 09:25 AM | Comments (2)

August 11, 2002

Eleven months ago today



(Note: This photo will stay at the top of the page all day. New posts, if any, will be below it. Photograph used by permission; you may link but not duplicate or use on another site without permission.)

Posted by susanna at 10:10 AM | Comments (6)

Blogging the military

A group of military types and friends have set up a website with blogs for each individual. Interesting reading. Wonder if they read Sgt. Stryker?

[Link via Spleenville]

(Posted at 5:30 p.m.)

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

I missed that Worldcom memo...

Tony Woodlief has discovered an important missing memo from Worldcom auditors to one of the biggest law firms in operation. It's a must-read.

UPDATE: Full disclosure - it's satire. Apparently that wasn't clear above.

(Posted at 8:30 p.m.)

Posted by susanna at 10:08 AM | Comments (2)

A re-invasion

Sgt. Stryker is back! Does this mean we're going to get a double dose? Hey, that's not a bad thing.

(Posted at 4:50 p.m.)

Posted by susanna at 10:07 AM | Comments (0)

Cornel West, my hero

It would be difficult for anyone to write a more fawning biographical feature than Lynne Duke’s piece on Cornel West in today’s Washington Post. If you want to see how it’s done, by all means read it. You’re left wondering if Ms. Duke kissed his ring before bowing out of the room backwards. It’s full of gushing accolades, and presents every criticism and difficulty West has faced in a manner where he comes out the hero – and not just a hero, but a downtrodden hero coming through the gauntlet unbowed, humble yet somehow majestic. With, of course, that ring for his acolytes to kiss.

One of my favorite passages:

That Summers would apparently backpedal for upsetting West really annoyed Shelby Steele, for instance. Though it was unclear whether Summers felt guilty or fearful, his behavior was all about white guilt and white fear of being viewed as racist, wrote Steele, a black conservative scholar at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. Steele, who has published far less than West, questioned West's scholarly credibility and called him an example of "black mediocrity" allowed to pass as achievement.

You see that? Steele has published less than West, so naturally he has no right to criticize West’s “scholarly credibility”. But Ms. Duke doesn’t seem to understand that “publishing” is not the same as “publishing scholarly work”, and number of texts cannot be counted the same as quality of texts. In fact, that's a lot of Steele's point. Also, it’s apparent from the way this is stated that West has not been prolific in recent years:

He considers his 1998 book, "The War Against Parents," written with Sylvia Ann Hewlett, a scholarly work, albeit not in his discipline.

West considers his book to be scholarly – does anyone else? And it’s not even in his discipline. He refers to other “scholarly” works from “the mid 1990s” – one wonders if that is mainly his 1993 book, Race Matters? So certainly the effort to dismiss Steele’s criticism is at best premature and at worst deliberately attacking a credible critic in an effort to divert attention from poor quality work. The whole article goes along in that vein. Here’s a bit of fawning for you:

But West is not comfortable merely studying and writing about esoteric things. He eschews the age-old tensions between the academy and the rest of us, and sees his lifework as an intellectual dialogue in the everyday language of regular folk…

West is well aware of how the star system serves him and constrains him. He is theoretically opposed to it, even as he benefits from it.

"People try to use me and my work, but each time I speak on television or radio I always acknowledge voices that are being hidden and concealed," meaning scholars who don't necessarily receive the broad attention that he receives. "But my own image is constructed in such a way that, you're right, it reinforces the star system."

Read the whole article. And keep your Emetrol handy.

And be sure you don't miss The Great Scholar Cornel West appearing as Counselor West in The Matrix II and III. I wonder if he'll put that on his vitae too?

[Thanks to Stuart Buck for the link.]

(Posted at 3:20 p.m.)

Posted by susanna at 10:06 AM | Comments (3)

The blogs have it

Bigwig nails the NY Times for a silly piece that glorifies leftist pamphleteers while dismissing blogs. Excellent post. My favorite line:

I don't want or care for objective reporting. I want honest reporting.

Truly objective reporting is a logistical impossibility. Honest reporting is the next best thing and is, as Bigwig notes, much more interesting than objective reporting would be. What passes for objective reporting today...well... isn't.

[Thanks to Mike at Cold Fury for the link.]

(Note: This was posted at 2:15 p.m. but timestamped earlier to keep the above photograph first on the page.)

Posted by susanna at 10:05 AM | Comments (4)

That's completely reasonable

The fine Cracker Barrel Philosopher busts on a casino that turned a jackpot winner into the INS. It's not that I object in principle to illegal aliens being sent home, but this quote from the article CBP cites is almost frightening:

The INS takes a tougher stance with immigrants who overstay their visas, Martinez said, than with someone who sneaks across the border with no documentation.

That's right, they're more concerned with people who stay longer than they are allowed, people who had to go through some form of investigation (unless they're Saudi) to get into the US, than with people who sneak in without any checks at all. Oh, joy.

Posted by susanna at 10:01 AM | Comments (0)

A leftie in full blame mode, circa 1997

While linking around this morning I found a 1997 opinion column by Bill Straub of the Cincy Post, printed just after a school shooting at Heath High School in Paducah, Kentucky, where three teenagers were killed. The shooting was tragic, and I don't mean in any way to diminish that. But Straub's column is a great example of a leftie rant against guns that is heavy on emotion and blame yet free of any real reasoning. You should read it all, but here's a taste:

WASHINGTON - After reading and viewing accounts of the tragedy earlier this week at Heath High School, it's becoming increasingly difficult to figure out what rationale the gun lobby is now going to foist on this bullet-riddled republic in its continued campaign to place a .45 in everyone's mitts...

The more guns you find out there, the greater chance they'll be used in some awful manner. It's common sense, regardless of how the National Rifle Association and others of a like ilk try to twist the situation. And baby steps like banning assault weapons aren't going to get the job done.

...The way the Kentucky General Assembly, and states such as Virginia, have chosen to address the problem is to make it even easier to possess a gun.

Under Kentucky's new gunslinger law, just about anyone can pack heat on their left hip as if it were just another cellular phone. Efforts by some in both the private and public sectors to deny access to those carrying weapons of destruction are met with bleats of protest, as if carrying an instrument that can end a person's life in the blink of an eye is the most natural thing in the world.

Actually, I think it's more unnatural to take away my money to support dozens of programs that I not only disagree with but think cause active harm. But that's another rant.

Posted by susanna at 09:05 AM | Comments (7)

It cuts both ways

Meryl Yourish has a couple of good posts about the responsibilities of both men and women in preventing pregnancies, in the context of a discussion on men's rights once their sex partner gets pregnant. One paragraph caught my attention in particular:

You want to stop situations where a man has no say whatsoever in whether or not his baby is born? Fix the system where it's already broken—before there's a baby to be fought over. Make men more responsible for preventing unplanned and unwanted pregnancies. Until that happens, I simply don't want to hear about how the poor, downtrodden fathers-to-be have no say in the decision. They had a say in it. They chose not to exercise caution. Cry me a river.

I think this has a lot of validity - men should share responsibility for birth control, and just because pregnancy is an unintended consequence doesn't mean he automatically gets a say. Meryl and I agree here.

However, I think the validity extends beyond men and birth control - this is basically how I feel about women who use abortion as birth control. Don't talk to me about women who are raped, who are pregnant as a result of incest, even those who are genuinely fearful of harsh social repercussions of a pregnancy out of wedlock. I would say those are very much the minority of women getting abortions. Just like a man keeping it in his pants is an absolute prevention for a pregnancy where he has no rights to prevent an abortion, a woman keeping her pants zipped is an absolute prevention against a pregnancy that she doesn't want. In neither case does the child have any say in whether or not he or she is conceived. Why should that child be the one who pays?

UPDATE: Judith Weiss questions whether the average woman would go through the pain and difficulties of an abortion just for birth control.

Two women I know who have had abortions both had them as birth control - they just didn't want the baby. One didn't want to interrupt her life's trajectory, the other is unmarried and thought four children was enough. Anecdotal, but there you are.

Weiss says this:

Abortions, even safe early ones, are surgery. They aren't pleasant. They aren't like taking a pill. Even RU-486, which is 2 pills (and which the religious right tried to make sure Americans couldn't get) essentially induces a miscarriage. It's safer than surgery, but sitting on the toilet passing gouts of blood from your vagina is scary and painful.

True. But women have major surgery for cosmetic purposes all the time. It's surgery, and it's scary and painful, to have your nose made smaller, your thighs liposuctioned. But they do it anyway.

Also, it's not that we're saying that women routinely have abortions instead of using less invasive forms of birth control, such as the Pill, diaphragm, condoms, etc. Rather, if they forget, or those methods fail, then they have to fall back on an abortion if they get pregnant. And birth control is precisely what that is, unpleasant though the procedure may be - because they are doing it for the purpose of getting rid of the baby, not because the pregnancy endangers them, or because the circumstances of the pregnancy were so horrific (rape, incest) that to carry the child to term would cause severe psychological harm.

What else is that, if not birth control?

UPDATE: (8-13-02) Meryl Yourish says I'm dealing in semantics (in comments) because, she says, I'm calling abortions "birth control". I guess my question is, what else do you call it if the reason to have an abortion is because you don't want the baby? And why would having more than one abortion be a dividing line for saying it is or isn't birth control? Release me from my semantic nightmare and tell me what else to call it.

As for statistics, I found the information below today on the website of The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform; it is a pro-life organization - do not go to their "about" page if graphic photos disturb you. The stats page (with no photos) is here. While they are pro-life, much of their information apparently comes from The Alan Guttmacher Institute, which as best as I can tell is a pro-choice organization. That gives the statistics some degree of neutrality. Consider:

1% of all abortions occur because of rape or incest; 6% of abortions occur because of potential health problems regarding either the mother or child, and 93% of all abortions occur for social reasons (i.e. the child is unwanted or inconvenient).

Worldwide, the lifetime average is about 1 abortion per woman.

If the worldwide average is one abortion per woman, and I know I have not had one and probably not even 10% of my closest 20 female acquaintances have, you tell me - who is having them? And why? The other stat fact says 93% for "other reasons" (not rape or health reasons) - I don't have the path they followed to get that statistic, but it echoes similar ones mentioned in Comments. What are those "other reasons"?

Posted by susanna at 08:43 AM | Comments (20)

Hang on to your organs

Is the British Big Brother going to dip his hand into Brits' abdomens? It could happen - but only after they're dead. Now that's a relief.

UPDATE: Before someone chides me in comments, I think donating organs is a very good thing. But it should be an opt-in program, not opt-out.

Posted by susanna at 08:25 AM | Comments (4)

Will Torricelli win?

NJ Senator Bob Torricelli was "severely admonished" by a Senate ethics panel in late July for accepting gifts from a political supporter. Now polls show that he's neck in neck with his Republican challenger in the race for Senate this fall.

Why isn't Republican Forrester winning hands down? Why don't ethics problems result in Congressmen getting tossed out of office? And how can Torricelli be found innocent in court and be only "severely admonished" by the Senate when the person who gave him gifts is in prison for doing so?

It boggles the mind. Well, mine, anyway.

The fact that Forrester isn't doing better in the polls says to me that the Republican party has again abandoned New Jersey. It's frustrating to live here, especially when I get donation solicitations from the Republican party on a weekly basis. My question, as I throw them away, is - why bother? You don't care about my state!

Is it just ineptness? Last year Republican Brett Schundler ran a decent campaign against Democrat Jim McGreevey, and I volunteered about four times to help with the campaign. Did anyone contact me? Not until a week before the election. The year before, I volunteered several times to help with the Bush campaign here; no one ever contacted me. That makes me think that either they've given up on NJ, or they're just incompetent and should lose.

I know you have to pick your battles. But Republican Christie Todd Whitman was governor here, albeit a more liberal one than I prefer, so NJ is not without hope. Yet when the Senate is in the balance, ethics-challenged Torricelli is managing to stay in a virtual tie with the Republican challenger.

I would volunteer to help Forrester but, well, you know.

Posted by susanna at 07:30 AM | Comments (5)

August 10, 2002

You can say that again

In an article about fuel cell technology as the wave of the future for vehicles, in Fox News:

The Hydrogen1, a GM prototype that runs entirely on fuel cell technology, for example, comes with a current price tag of well over a million dollars...

"We've got to bring the cost down," said Neil Schilke, General Director of Engineering at GM's Public Policy Center...

Posted by susanna at 07:13 PM | Comments (8)

Who woulda thunk it?

Lawrence Haws discovers that Michael Newdow, famed No-God-in-Pledge activist, is actually a comic-book superhero. Or at least, that's the best case scenario.

Posted by susanna at 03:01 PM | Comments (4)

Medical record rules, the Times and all the bias that's fit to print

The Bush administration has rolled back some Clinton administration limits on access to personal medical records, eliminating an absolute requirement for patient signatures before "using or disclosing personal medical information for treatment or paying claims". I found the opening paragraphs of the article alarming, because, as you know, I think there is too much easy access to personal information by people who have no business having it, like marketers or the government. But digging through the article itself, I found more bias than troubling fact – so much so that I still am not sure whether the Bush policies are good or bad, but I do know that the NY Times detests the Bush administration.

Check it out:

The new rules, the first comprehensive federal standards for medical privacy, will affect virtually every doctor, patient, hospital, drugstore and health insurance company in the United States.

This wording makes it sound like it’s some draconian measure out to sweep up hapless Americans en masse into… something. But it’s a federal rule about medical records – of course it’s going to affect everyone. And why this cautionary tone? Has the Times forgotten how much they wanted Hillary’s Health Care, which would have affected all those listed a great deal more?

Most health care providers and insurers have to comply by April 14 or face civil and criminal penalties, including a $250,000 fine and 10 years in prison for the most serious violations.

This is notable because it’s very high in the article – the third paragraph – and it’s really not information that I think is essential to the piece. Why is it there? I think to frighten – Oh No! Not only do they Want Your Information, but they are going to Send People To Jail who don’t do it their way! Again, ridiculous. Regulations without sanctions are empty air. The only way this is valuable information is if it is compared to the sanctions on other regulations and shown to be out of line.

The article goes on to explain that “(t)he administration decided to abandon the core of the Clinton rules”, the written consent requirement, noting that patient advocates and others protested the change. It isn’t until the sixth paragraph that the secretary of health and human services, Tommy G. Thompson – in other words, not until after the Times set up the image of doctors, pharmacists and others across the country going to jail for not releasing personal information to someone, we don’t know who, it’s just implied, but someone bad, no doubt.

Part of the attitude is clear in this quote:

But at the same time, it [the new Bush rules] also set new standards for the use of personal information to market prescription drugs and other health care products.

This is in the first paragraph, after the writer indicates the Bush administration damaged our protections gained under Clinton’s rules. We could be forgiven for not realizing immediately that the Bush rules limit the use of personal information for marketing – a very good thing – because it (deliberately, I think) doesn’t give information on the direction of the change. In fact, it isn’t until the 15th paragraph that we see this:

The rules appear to set strict standards on using personal data from patients for marketing. They prohibit drugstores from selling personal medical information to a drug company or other business that wants to sell products or services.

Notice that it says “appear”. That’s right, that’s how it looks, but the Times is suspicious.

And remember those Clinton rules that were so protective? Funny how they aren’t referenced in the next paragraph to the one above:

In the last few years, some drug companies have paid pharmacies for customer health information and used it to try to sell products to individuals with conditions like osteoporosis, diabetes or depression.

So the Bush rules block this kind of flagrant marketing! Hallelujah! But the Clinton rules allowed it? Apparently so. Again, we don’t see this until halfway through the article. And what comes above that? Why, Terry McAuliffe trashing Dick Cheney and the energy task force! What does this have to do with anything? Even the transition into the quotes from Kennedy and McAuliffe is lame:

The issue of medical privacy now goes to the political arena. Some Democrats are already making an issue of the new rules.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, said the administration was "favoring the interests of powerful corporations over those of ordinary Americans."

In a recent speech, Terry McAuliffe, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said the White House seemed to worry less about the privacy of medical records than about the secrecy of Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force.

Under this administration, Mr. McAuliffe said, "it's O.K. to reveal personal medical information about the American people, but when the oil companies meet with policy makers to ask for special favors, that's guarded like a state secret."

Not only is McAuliffe not fairly representing the rules change, but he’s using it as a platform to insert his own unconnected agenda - and the Times is not only letting him, but digs out a recent speech to do it! It's not even a quote they called him to get; the writer apparently went looking for it. There is no legitimate connection between the two issues, yet McAuliffe gets two paragraphs to bluster about Cheney.

A true discussion of the privacy concerns doesn’t show up until the end of the article, and from what the Times says it sounds like the Bush rules are reasonable (and that’s reading between the lines – certainly they don’t want you to think that). However, I’ll have to go to another source to figure it out for sure. The Times spends more energy giving McAuliffe a platform, slapping the Bush administration and trying to frighten the hoi polloi than it does reporting the facts. The “pro” types are mostly HMO representatives, clearly identified as Big Medicine. But the praise for the marketing rules – remember the ambiguous sentence in the first paragraph? – comes from a Democrat:

Representative Edward J. Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, said the Bush administration had made some improvement in the marketing rules, but left some loopholes.

"The final regulations appear to shut down some of the existing avenues of commercial exploitation of personal medical data by third parties without the knowledge or consent of the patient," said Mr. Markey, who is co-chairman of the Congressional Privacy Caucus. "But the regulations still allow a drug company to pay a pharmacy to act as its agent and allow the pharmacy to do the marketing without disclosing the financial arrangement."

Just from this, Mr. Markey sounds like a fair and reasonable man, and I share his concerns about marketing through pharmacies (marketing allowed by the Clinton rules). But why was Markey buried in the 18th paragraph of a 32-paragraph article? And at the very end – paragraph 31 – we get this:

The federal rules establish minimum protections for medical privacy. State laws providing more protection will still apply.

The states not only have the ability to restrict access more, but apparently some already have! It sounds to me like the federal/state separation of authority is working quite well – the federal government shouldn’t be the final word, the states should be. So, ultimately, the Democrats are complaining because the federal government isn’t the one setting all the regulations, rather than because enough regulations aren’t in place.

Sounds to me like the Democrats and the NY Times are complementary companions – handy for them, I suppose, since they’re certainly already bedmates.

Posted by susanna at 08:16 AM | Comments (2)

August 09, 2002

William Safire, call your office

Eugene Volokh defines "fisking".

Posted by susanna at 09:52 PM | Comments (2)

Is that your final answer?

I’ve reread my posts from this week on the evolution question, as well as Godless Capitalist’s email, Razib’s posts on Gene Expression, Charles Murtaugh’s post on his blog, and Rand Simberg’s brief comments. It’s amazing how much they have to say about what I didn’t say. (I’m going to let you scroll around, everything is linked below. I’m too tired to relink everything.)

The primary points that I made in my original post and the two subsequent ones are these:

1) The scientists who classified the new skulls seemed to be classifying based on what was needed to support the theory, not on established, objective criteria.

2) The fossils supporting the fossil record are not precisely overrunning warehouses.

3) It appears that hard scientists could be blinded to real connections by an overzealous adherence to a theory.

4) I am neither threatened by nor seek to suppress scientific endeavor in whatever form it takes, I just ask that it be honestly conducted and fairly interpreted.

5) I believe in intelligent design, and in God – both as an intelligent power that brought the universe into being, and as the God revealed in the Bible. I don’t explicitly support the theory of intelligent design (distinction explained below).

In Godless’s response, he basically made the point that scientists believe in evolution because of hard data, giving examples from his expertise as a geneticist. Fair enough. I know my post didn’t go into sufficient detail about my views on evolution for him to know what those views are other than I’m skeptical of scientific devotion to it as a paradigm to the extent that they shape their data to fit it at times. So he addressed the general tone of my post, but didn’t address any of my main points.

Razib went into a lot more detail, but most of his post was really constructing straw men by extrapolating from my post, rather than addressing my core questions. He first implied that I got my knowledge about evolution from popular news magazines; I responded to that already. The next section I admit partial responsibility for – I used the term “intelligent design” rather loosely, given that it is an actual theory (or attempt at one, Razib, don’t go off again). When I say “intelligent design”, I’m not invoking all the books on the theory of intelligent design. I mean precisely what it says – that the world, to me, shows evidence of a purposeful design by some entity, whatever that may be, and I am assuming an intelligence at least somewhat beyond my own. The theory is a formalization of that idea, but I am not an adherent (even though I may agree with some of it). At any rate, I didn’t make that distinction clear, so Razib ripped apart the whole theory of intelligent design as explicated in various books (you can go to his post for links). I found it very instructive. However, he also implied a lot of things about my beliefs which were not true, creating the rhetorical strawmen that he then tore down. He doesn’t know what I believe about miracles, or how our earth came to be the way it is today. A simple, “Susanna doesn’t detail her own views on (whatever), but typically this theory says…” or “others who believe in intelligent design have said…”, would have taken care of that. I don’t mind being called to account for what I say, but don’t impute to me beliefs, thoughts and ideas that I have not indicated are mine.

Razib goes on to talk about falsification, and to set up more strawmen who are demon-possessed and moved by miracles. Those are his extrapolations, not my beliefs either stated or, actually, in fact. He keys off my discussion of looking at theory, and the need to not allow previous conclusions to cloud your judgment about interpretation of new data, in what is really a rather interesting leap of non-logic. And the strawmen keep coming; he’s really a perpetual motion idea machine. He does concede, in a backhanded way, that my concerns about classification are valid. But then he goes back into a defense of evolution, and points out that there are classification problems in a variety of scientific contexts but only in the human line are they questioned. Well, Razib, I was responding to an article on human lineage, not finches or sweetpeas. They tend not to make the NY Times.

I’ve never said – either now, or when I was involved with the discussion with Rand Simberg a month or so ago (he links it) - that we should abandon the theory of evolution as a scientific framework. All I ask, and I’ve bent myself into a pretzel to make it clear, is that the data be dealt with honestly and the theory be taught as a theory.

The next pinch hitter is Charles Murtaugh, a gentleman and a scholar. He comes closest to the correct interpretation of my involvement with the theory of intelligent design by saying I give a “plug” to it, which I did. Murtaugh then quotes one of Razib’s strawmen, and continues the discussion about the reasonableness and necessity of the theory of evolution. He makes more explicit references to the theory of intelligent design, constructing his own strawman of a theistic bent, which he then tears down. Again, all very instructive but not addressing the basic points of my original post beyond defending the theory of evolution against my general tone of skepticism. Murtaugh focuses heavily on responses to Phillip Johnson, who I never mentioned in any of my posts. I also, for the record (and you know this if you read my posts), never said the theory of intelligent design was a mechanism to bring people to Christianity. I never discussed the connection between Christianity and the origins of earth or man at all.

I thought all the posts were instructive, and interesting. I am disappointed that they are so reliant on discussing issues I never raised yet are connected to my post as if I brought all those things up on some lack-witted rampage. The things I really brought up aren’t touched on much at all.

UPDATE: I've removed the paragraph referring to Rand Simberg's post. He has indicated in comments that he did not mean it the way I took it, which I accept.

Posted by susanna at 07:09 PM | Comments (13)

I get tossed to the dogs

Rand Simberg (Rand, no h in Susanna) and Charles Murtaugh have joined the evolution discussion. Rand just calls attention to it, Charles digs in deeper. Thanks, guys, love you. Appreciate the traffic.

I haven't had time to go back through and read all the posts that have gone up this week since my original post; I haven't even read Charles's in detail, just saw one was up, but since he's always a gentleman as far as I've seen, I'm sure he continues to be in this. Meanwhile, you all enjoy yourselves. It's certainly the way I wanted to start my weekend.

And for those of you visiting from Rand's and Charles's sites, be sure to check out a few of my other posts. I actually do have a logical, coherent thought on occasion, but you might have to dig for it.

Posted by susanna at 02:58 PM | Comments (1)

Memories in the stars

This weekend, the Perseid meteor shower will be its strongest over the Northern Hemisphere. It's worth seeing on its own merits, but it was also the subject of the first newspaper article I ever had published as a professional journalist, way back in August 1983. I think I may try to make it out in the middle of the night this year, to commemorate.

[Link from Sara on Blogfodder.]

Posted by susanna at 11:00 AM | Comments (0)

Don't we have fun

Yes, I know it's almost 10:30 a.m. and this is my first post of the day. But you just don't know how much sympathy I deserve!

As you know, I'm walking a friend's dogs this week while she's out of town. Not usually an issue, since I work in Jersey City where she lives - I just go early, and get ready there. You see, one of her dogs is quite elderly, and suffers... incontinence if not taken outside early enough. I learned that earlier this week when I was a little late getting there. Soaked doggie mattress, penitent dog. Yech.

So today, I have the day off, going to the library at school this afternoon. I have to drive to JC anyway, to walk the dogs. 7:20 a.m., I'm driving down my street heading toward the main road (that's Manhattan's skyline in the far distance):

Wilson Ave toward Manhattan 2.jpg

Within 10 minutes I'm on the overpass close to the bridge into Jersey City. Traffic jam:


By now I'm envisioning a doggie mattress getting damp. I busy myself with my usual stopped-traffic activity. The traffic circle is packed:

Mid-circle beginning to merge 8-9-02.jpg

Finally I merge off to the right up Newark Avenue, rather than trying to go by the Holland Tunnel. Naturally, my camera ran out of juice. Rats. Weave my way into the neighborhood of brownstones where my friend lives. Bypass a parking space to get one across from her apartment. Don't look at the parking sign because it's Friday and who sweeps streets on Friday?

Inside, doggie mattress is wet. I take out the dog and the mattress. Younger dog struggles to get outside too. She's a rowdy dog, and I just push her back and take out elderly dog. Beautiful day, strolling along, picking up poop with a hand wrapped in a plastic grocery bag. Back to the apartment, open the door... Sniff...sniff... ewwwww. Younger dog has made both liquid and solid deposits in the (thankfully tile-laid) foyer. Apparently the frantic desire to get out was not about rowdiness. Charming.

Clean up mess. Take younger dog out, sniffs everything, tries to get off the leash, lunges at girl on bicycle. Bring younger dog back. Clean up a little more, take wet mattress out back. Feed dogs. Hear beep beep! of the parking enforcement guy in front of the sweeper. Ignore it - another street. Gather my things. Walk outside. Parking enforcement guy is parked beside my car, sweeper behind it. Grrrrr... Race to car, parking enf. guy points to the ticket under my windshield wiper. Sneers at me. I sneer back, then notice another girl moving her car. She has beautiful hair, is getting out of a Mercedes, wearing only a thigh-length bathrobe and high-heeled slides. She has a nice tan. My hair's pulled back in a tight ponytail, and I'm wearing old red legging-shorts, baggy white t-shirt and half-sneakers. I have no tan. I have an anti-tan.

I throw everything into my car, make it home without incident. Whine to my readers. They all abandon me to go read Metafilter.

I'm afraid to consider the rest of my day. I think I'll go back to bed.

Posted by susanna at 10:41 AM | Comments (3)

August 08, 2002

The little beauties

There are no words.


Haydon and Molly Katherine
Posted by susanna at 01:33 PM | Comments (3)

Oh, yeah, this is news

Saddam says that the attackers of Iraq will die. We are, I assume, supposed to be frightened by this. But what else would he say? "We hope you won't come in and kill us, here, have some oil on us"? Of course he's going to threaten us back. And I don't think it's an empty threat - he really will fight with all he's got - but I don't think he's got very much. It feels like a cold Afghan winter to me, not another Mogadishu.

If we go in to Iraq - and it seems likely - it has to be a killing blow. No holding back. And we have to remember what we're fighting - not good people, but virulent ideas that have taken hold of people who want to kill or rule all those not like them. Don't think so? Read this.

This paragraph in the NY Times/Reuter's article on Saddam caught my eye:

Saddam saluted Palestinians, who began an uprising in 2000 against Israeli occupation, and other Holy Warriors.

No quotes around Holy Warriors. No indication that the description of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict was Saddam's interpretation. Presented pretty much like fact, isn't it? Simple enough to say, "Saddam praised what he called, 'Holy Warriors', including the Palestinians and their 'uprising' against Israeli 'occupation'." Now, how hard would that be? Apparently too hard for the always-neutral NY Times to do. As it stands, it appears to give credence to Saddam's interpretation.

Posted by susanna at 12:51 PM | Comments (2)

August 07, 2002

Paging security

Uh oh. Somebody thinks it's not airport security that's milking the system.

I will point out that I don't object to tasting, just the "drink it all" thing.

Posted by susanna at 11:38 PM | Comments (0)

About the nukes question

Back in June, Bryan Preston at Junk Yard Blog wrote several long thoughtful posts about the nuking of Japan in WWII, its implications then and the lessons for us now. Besides being an excellent writer, Bryan is also a former military man who met his Japanese wife while stationed in Japan. He writes with the insight and sensitivity of a man whose two most loved people in the world - his wife and son - are descendents of the Japanese who fought in WWII. His conclusion is - nuking was the right thing to do. If you haven't read his posts yet, I think you'll benefit from doing so - not just historically, but for insight into the hard decisions we are now faced with in the war against those who would see us all dead.

Start here, then go here, here and here.

Posted by susanna at 08:05 PM | Comments (4)

The Little Princess

My niece Haydon should have a new sister by sunrise tomorrow. Her mom Traci, my sis in law, is in labor even as we speak. I thought it fitting to post a photo of Haydon taken during her last few months of only-child-ness.

haydon july 2002 flower2.jpg

When I talked to my (older) sister this morning, I said, "Haydon the little princess will be dethroned today." My sister said, "Why do you say that? Maybe she'll still be princess - only now with a subject."

Okay, now I'm having nightmares. My sister Laurel is two years older than me, and until I was 11 we shared a bedroom. I was her "subject", although I admit not a very satisfactory one. We were and are very different. When Mom made us clean our room, Laurel would do so neatly; I was a disaster. Laurel finally ran tape across the floor to divide up the room into her side and my side. We shared a double bed too, and while sometimes it was very cool - we always recited "Twas the Night Before Christmas" to each other on Christmas eve while Mom and Dad rustled up and down the hallway beyond our closed door, sounding muffled HoHoHos - other times it was... difficult. Like the time she literally kicked me out of bed because I refused to get her a glass of water. (She denies that to this day.) She married at 18, has two kids 18 and 21, while I have neither husband nor kids, not even a cat (which she also has). But for all the differences, we share a lot of memories, and there's no one in the world who remembers everything about our growing up years except the two of us. Haydon's father, our brother Alan, was born almost nine years after me, which added a whole new dimension.

Haydon will be two and half years older than her soon-to-emerge sister, Molly Katherine. Will they be as different as Laurel and me? Haydon is very neat, very precise, smart as can be and an avid reader. What will Molly Katherine be?

Having a new baby in the family is like starting to unwrap a present that keeps revealing surprises for years and years. I'm excited. Can you tell?

UPDATE: Perhaps I overstated when I said Haydon is "an avid reader". At 2 1/2, she would truly be precocious. Books are her favorite thing, though, not surprising given what book nuts her Dad's side of the family are. Naturally Aunt Susanna nurtures this, including springing for a book club that sends her books monthly. I remember the days that the Scholastic Book Club orders arrived at school as among the most anticipated of my childhood. I would like Haydon to always identify books with that same feeling. And of course Molly Katherine too. We'll have to see about signing her up for a baby book club...

UPDATE: Haydon has a sister! Molly Katherine was born at 8:15 p.m., 7 lb, 10 oz, 19 3/4" long (tall?). Her proud father said she "looked all scrunched up like babies do". They'll post a photo on the hospital's website tomorrow; I'll post a link since I'm certain all of you are clamoring for it.

UPDATE: I talked to my sister this morning and told her about posting the "kicked me out of bed" thing. Not only is she now admitting it, she also said, "It worked, didn't it?" She got her water. Now is that evil, or what? We won't even start on the time Mom let us actually go at it in a knock down drag out pulling hair pinching hand-to-hand combat fight because she was sick to death of our fussing. (It was a draw - I'm bigger but she's meaner.)

Posted by susanna at 07:28 PM | Comments (9)

John Cole reveals culinary void

While top of the line versions might be innocuous, John Rocker's latest insult obviously referred to the band-fundraiser kind.

John Cole must not have answered the door when the local high schoolers came to his home, or he'd realize just how heinous Rocker's latest jab really is.

Of course it took me a few seconds to realize why "football bat" didn't sound right, so who am I to judge?

Posted by susanna at 06:17 PM | Comments (0)

Martha, Martha, I've been thinking...

A Republican lawyer friend, Ty Clevenger, wrote to say he thinks the House GOP chasing Martha is a waste of time:

I'm no Martha Stewart fan, mind you, but can't the Congressional Republicans find something more productive to do than investigate the diva of domesticity? Is Congress going to open its own investigation every time a celebrity is accused of the latest, trendiest crime-of-the-week?

The FBI, DOJ, SEC and all the other federal acronyms are already on the case, and it's not like there aren't more substantive Democrats the House GOP could go after for corporate crime, e.g. DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe for Global Crossing. Martha just bakes cookies and holds fundraisers. What are they thinking?

OTOH, Page thinks it might be a good thing.

What I want to know is: Can I have custody of her kitchen equipment while she's in jail?

Okay, okay. It does seem a bit excessive for the House to get involved, but we know why they are, don't we? Where celebrity goes, cameras go. Where cameras go, there's a chance for grandstanding. Where there's a chance for grandstanding, politicians will gather like flies around roadkill.

Martha's pretty good at making silk purses from sow's ears though (as I continue with my bad analogies and cliches), so we'll see what she can whip out of this mess.

Posted by susanna at 05:41 PM | Comments (2)

The milk of human stupidity

A woman flying from NYC's JFK airport to Florida was forced to drink three bottles of her own breast milk before airport screeners would allow her on the plane.

The woman called Curtis & Kuby, hosts of a talk show on WABC Radio in NYC, yesterday morning to report it. She's now Kuby's client.

Here's the story, which is on NewsMax and WABC Radio's website:

Airport Screeners Order Mom to Drink Breast Milk

In the latest in a series of airport security nightmares, a woman flying from New York to Florida was forced to drink three bottles of her own breast milk before being allowed to board a flight at JFK International Airport - in an incident that has one prominent New York civil rights attorney ready to sue.

Elizabeth McGanny of Oceanside, NY called WABC Radio's Curtis Sliwa and Ron Kuby Tuesday morning to relate the story.

Guards at JFK's Delta terminal first "patted me down and made me take my shoes off," McGanny told the morning radio duo. "One security guard took my four-month-old out of my arms and then they went through the baby's diaper bag."

There the guards discovered the three suspect bottles, McGanny said, and promptly ordered her to drink the contents.

"I'm not drinking that. It's breast milk," she replied. "They said, 'Either drink all three bottles or your not getting on the plane.'"

McGanny said that when she asked the guards why they were putting her through the ordeal, they explained, "There could be explosives in the baby bottles and I could throw something at the stewardesses."

"I asked them if I could just taste it; if I could just show them how you would check a baby's bottle - that it was warm milk and everything. And they said, 'No,'" ordering her to "drink it all."

The nursing mom then offered to feed the milk to her baby as the guards looked on but they refused.

After hearing the tale, Kuby, who doubles as one of New York's most celebrated civil rights attorneys, suggested that McGanny call his office.

"How much money do you smell here?" Sliwa asked his radio partner.

"If I get a jury of nursing mothers - a lot," Kuby replied.

How much more of this kind of thing has to happen before we rise up and revolt?

Posted by susanna at 04:23 PM | Comments (0)

I get hammered again

But that's okay! Really! Razid over at Gene Expression dismantles my evolution post from yesterday. I need some time to puzzle over it, and I'm at work so it won't be now. But I wanted to point you over that way, if you're interested in the discussion.

And yes, I do prefer getting hammered to not opening the discussion. I'm not a hard scientist like these folks are, so I'm at a severe disadvantage - I'm fighting on their turf. But I'm learning, understanding more, and I'll keep pointing out what I see as logical inconsistencies.

One thing Razid says I wanted to answer, in reference to my comment that evolution is taught as an immutable truth:

Yes, if what you know about human evolution derives from the glossy sensationalist nuggets in Time and Newsweek...

Um, actually I rarely read those, but anyway, where I got that is from textbooks that I have taught from in psychology and sociology. A lot of information is presented in an evolutionary context - which is to say, classic evolution as the prima facie understanding of human development and thus as the bedrock on which some major psychological and sociological theories are built. And you tell me - how is evolution taught in elementary and high school biology classes? As a complex tangle of information with spirited debate about what it all means, or as a mature, structured, law (by implication) of origin?

I find no fault with a dynamic, questing science - that's the essence of true science. That's why scientists don't say "X is true" but rather "There is a 99% probability that X did not occur by chance" - there's always that little bit we don't know, and always a need to keep learning. I'm just asking for honesty. Teach it as "these are the facts, this is what we think they mean" rather than "these are the facts and they mean this."

Posted by susanna at 01:51 PM | Comments (6)

More on evolution

My post below on evolution and the discovery of two more prehistoric skulls brought a thoughtful and complex email from Godless Capitalist. I was torn between delight that not only did he read my post but took the time to write a lengthy, detailed email in response, and frustration that he didn’t deal with one of my main points, which is that the paleontologists were classifying something based on where it fit their theory rather than where their own classification system told them it went. However, on a careful reading of the email I decided to stick with delight, because it’s precisely the type of discussion I want to have. Godless is a geneticist and, as I’m sure you can deduce from his nick, not heavy into the God thing and big on evolution. His entire email (with correction made that he emailed later) is posted in the MORE section, and I encourage you to read it.

What Godless does is explain how DNA sequencing can be used to track the change (evolution) of organisms, identifying which are closely related and which are further apart. Fascinating, and impressive that he can make such a complex thing quite understandable to a layperson like me. He gives several links, which I haven’t had time to explore yet (remember the walking the dog/going to work/working at night week I’m having?) but will do later this week. I encourage you, if you’re interested, to investigate them yourself.

Godless’s approach – explaining why his work supports his belief in evolution – is a very good one. He presents fact and shows why it supports his theory. However, he doesn’t explain why that disproves an intelligent design theory. I understand that evolutionists are frustrated by the fact that you can’t disprove God, that any physical manifestation in the universe can be explained as a result of God if you posit God as all powerful, all knowing, etc. I’m not asking them to engage in such a slippery enterprise. What I am asking is that they disconnect the theology of evolution from the scientific facts that they then extrapolate as fitting evolution. The theory of evolution is itself evolving constantly, and findings such as the skulls repeatedly require major revisions. I want them to make a case for evolution, not present it as immutable truth that we are uncovering bit by bit. Maybe it is immutable truth, and maybe at the end of the day I’ll be the one restructuring a belief system. I don’t think so. But at least be honest about the status of evolution.

I recognize that I’m not a hard scientist and every time I bring this up I get hammered. I also have noticed that when I do everyone but the hammerers are strangely silent even though I suspect some readers here agree with at least some of what I say. I just want to point out that I’m not the only one beating this drum, and that there are credentialed, credible scientists out there who have very serious questions about evolutionary science – not the specifics of, say, DNA research, but how it is all put together to make a picture out of a jigsaw-puzzle truth with far more pieces missing than found. I don’t argue with the science, I argue with the conclusions. Godless’s email is excellent in that regard. He says, this is what we’ve found. This is my conclusion from it. And that’s all I ask. Make a distinction. Don’t overstate your case just because you believe it so strongly. And I’ll do the same.

(For one credible questioner of the theory of evolution, check out William Dembski; here as well. He of course is criticized, which you can check out here. I'm not into hiding criticisms; I want everybody's cards on the table with no bluffing. What disturbs me is the condescension and mocking that many evolution scientists bring to the table. GC brings neither, which I appreciate.)

The following is an email from Godless Capitalist, in its entirety edited as he noted in a later email:


I'm a practicing statistical geneticist, and I saw the following quote on your blog:

"Again, the same should be true of evolution – if you’re going to posit it as truth, at least have the honesty to say “I don’t know” or “We could have been very wrong for a very long time, we need to rethink this without preconceptions.” But it seems to me there is no amount of information that would shake these people loose from their evolutionary canon, even when they have to twist themselves into objects of mockery to protect it."

If you want to know why reasonable scientists believe in evolution, I suggest you read a bit about molecular phylogenetics, which is the study of evolutionary relationships at the level of individual DNA molecules. I've included some links below, but the basic idea is as follows:

-I assume you've heard of DNA. DNA, if you'll recall, carries the information required to produce life in the sequence of base pairs that comprise the double helix. Certain blocks of DNA are called genes. Here's a picture

-Rather than drawing the full structure, we usually represent a DNA molecule by a sequence of A's, G's, T's, and C's, like so:


Usually only one strand is written at a time, with the understanding that the other strand can be determined by determining the complement of this strand (i.e., changing A to T and C to G and so on.)

-There are many ways that changes in the sequence of base pairs can occur. One of the ways this happens is when a copying error is introduced, and a sequence such as:




Note that the 5th letter/base has changed from a C to a G (starred).

-This kind of molecular change in the DNA sequence can cause changes in the organism, which over time can lead to accumulation of new functions and/or loss of old functions and eventually speciation. (Note that there are MANY other kinds of alterations in DNA sequence beyond a simple one base change, including deletions, insertions, duplications, and the like, but for simplicity I'm not going to cover those.)

-A critical point is that we can have multiple changes that accumulate. For example, over time our sequence could become:


-In this example, base pairs 5, 8, and 4 changed in turn. We could of course have base pairs revert back to their original state (i.e., the fifth base G could go back to a C), but this would be less likely than having some other base pair change if we have random mutagenesis, because it's unlikely that we'll hit the same target twice.

-The point of all this is that one can track evolutionary change by looking at sequence relationships and figuring out which ones are closer and further apart. A rough concept of this can be gleaned from the above - it's clear that in some sense, sequence 2 is "closer" to sequence 1 than sequence 4 is, because LESS mutations are required to go from sequence 1 to 2 than from sequence 1 to 4.

-Thus (for example), if we looked at a human gene, a mouse gene, and a baboon gene for (say) myoglobin, we would find that the human and baboon genes were closer than the mouse gene in sequence space. Here's a real life example (based on the associated protein sequence rather than the DNA sequence; here is a link that explains how you get one from the other:

Human Myoglobin: mglsdgewql vlnvwgkvea dipghgqevl ...
Baboon Myoglobin: mglsdgewql vlnvwgkvea dipshgqevl ...
Mouse Myoglobin: mglsdgewql vlnvwgkvea dlaghgqevl ...

As you can see, there is only one letter difference between human and baboon sequence, but two letters different between human and mouse sequence. These are only pieces of the whole sequence, but they are representative: human myoglobin is closer to baboon myoglobin than mouse myoglobin.

-It's true that one or two sequences alone are insufficient to determine evolutionary relationships with great confidence. But when we have tens of thousands of sequence relationships, such as those determined from genome sequencing projects, we can find clear evidence for the tree of life from the sequence information.

-The problem of figuring out where the "missing links" belong can also be solved with these methods, as long as we can get some intact DNA from the specimen's bone fragments. We can simply look at the DNA sequence and determine where it fits into our evolutionary tree.

I hope this was clear. Please tell me if anything was not, and I'd be happy to clarify.

Here are some more links on this topic.

Myoglobin as a probe for molecular evolution:
NCBI primer on phylogenetics

Posted by susanna at 11:03 AM | Comments (13)

August 06, 2002

Sending the wrong message

Scrawled graffiti is increasingly returning to the New York City urban landscape, which some identify as the beginnings of a return to the chaotic times of the 1970s and 1980s, before Rudy Giuliani and Bill Bratton. Some NYC councilmembers are concerned, and with some cause, but they're trying to address it the wrong way:

Leading the doomsayers is Martin Golden, a Republican member of the City Council from Brooklyn who, with Council Member Michael Nelson, introduced a resolution calling on the state to reclassify graffiti as a felony.

“Graffiti is on the move, and it’s not being acted on,” Mr. Golden said. “It’s starting to get out of hand, and if this crime is going to get out of hand, then there are going to be others that get out of hand.”

“It’s 1989 all over again,” Mr. Golden said, noting that putting graffiti writers away for hard time would “send a message.”

This Republican propensity for tossing hard time at a crime problem is akin to the Democrats tossing money at virtually everything - it makes no sense, fiscally, scientifically or practically. It needs to stop.

The foundation for the Giuliani/Bratton approach to crime reduction was the Broken Windows theory, first put forward by George Kelling (one of my professors), and James Q. Wilson, in an article in The Atlantic, and later expounded further in a book. The core principle is this: Chaos draws chaos. If you take care of small disorders, larger ones are less likely to occur - if you fix the broken windows on a house, the neighborhood kids are less likely to break out the rest. And that's the reasoning behind cleaning up the graffiti, because it's a broken window, a sign of disrespect. If you leave it there, the theory goes, then other more serious offenses against property and persons are more likely to occur because potential offenders think those in authority either aren’t watching or don’t care about that particular area. The corollary to that is that if you pick up small-time offenders, you're likely to stem or prevent larger offenses because you've put the most likely offenders - people who've already committed a low level crime - out of commission or at least on notice. And when the policy of nabbing the least offenders became commonplace, the police found that often the small-time offenders had big-time records or outstanding warrants for more serious crimes. While the "zero tolerance" policy grew out of that approach, it is not a necessary extrapolation, just as making graffiti a felony is not an expression of the theory behind the Giuliani approach.

But Golden is concerned – on what basis?

“Graffiti is on the move, and it’s not being acted on..."

So his concern is not that people are doing it, getting caught, then let go, and finally doing worse things - he's mad because "it's not being acted on". It sounds to me like his beef is with whoever is supposed to clean it up, not with the graffiti "artists". Naturally he wants them to stop - but making the penalty harsher is not going to change the "not being acted on" part. All it’s going to do is cause some kid to go down for a life-changing felony on the rare occasion someone is caught for it. And it’s unlikely to stop the crime – it’s a sign of bravado and disrespect for property already. What makes anyone think making the penalty harsher makes it any less those things? How would graffiti-as-felony make the city act on it more quickly?

But why not make it a felony anyway? It’s damaging people’s property, it’s disrespecting authority – shouldn’t we stop them now before they move on to bigger things? Isn’t that what the Broken Windows theory is?

No, no, and no.

Our system is supposed to be about justice – we even call it “the justice system”. We like to toss around phrases like, “make the punishment fit the crime”. But we get ourselves all in a tizzy about some crimes and insist on huge penalties with no understanding about whether that penalty really deters, while letting other crimes – that I would consider more serious - go less punished. An example would be a mandatory sentence of 10 years for a drug crime that could apply to someone who, for instance, was a courier, a mule, for a drug-dealing boyfriend. Suddenly, after doing it one time, or maybe even a few times, she’s in the lockup for 10 years. Meanwhile, someone else may have committed murder and gotten out in six years. That to me is injustice. In my judgment, crimes should be evaluated based on harm – and we would need a public debate on what constitutes “harm” – then scaled accordingly. There might be overlaps between categories, but you wouldn’t have someone getting the same jail time for spray painting his name on a building as someone gets who stole a car or beat up his girlfriend. We need to look at whether a penalty is just as well as whether it deters. That philosophy is ostensibly imbedded in our system – if deterrence were our only concern, we would long ago have just locked up all first offenders and lost the key.

And deterrence is an iffy thing anyway. Sociological and psychological research on behaviors show that the speed and sureness of a response is more effective in extinguishing an undesirable behavior than is harshness. Think about this scenario: If you knew that every single time you went down a certain stretch of road, you’d get a $15 ticket if you went over 60 mph. Every time. It would arrive in the mail the next day and if it wasn’t paid within a week you’d lose your driver’s license. How often would you speed there? On the other hand, if you knew the penalty for driving through there over 60 mph was $150 fine and three days in jail, but as far as you knew the cops were only there a few hours a month and you’d never heard of anyone getting caught at the time of day you were there… would you speed? If you’d gone over the limit there 30 times and never gotten caught, would you speed the next time through? While the harshness may deter some, I think you would agree that more people would speed in the second set of circumstances. And that is what Golden is setting up with his felony proposal.

What we need is not more prisons with longer time but more surety and speed in dealing with all offenses, including minor ones. It’s classic behavioral conditioning. The way we do it now is also classic conditioning – it’s associated with the best way to harden a behavior.

I’m not “soft on crime”, the slam made against everyone who disagrees with harsher penalties. In fact, I’m pretty hard nosed about crime, as my college corrections class students would tell you. What I am is strong on justice, on reasonableness, on logic that looks at what result we want and works back to discover what solution will give us that result. And slapping a felony on a graffiti offender is not in any way the right answer.

Posted by susanna at 04:43 PM | Comments (2)

Across Time

The New York Sun goes after the moral equivalence of a NY Times editorial (which I haven't read, and they don't link) on the killing of Salah Shehada. The Sun editorial is quite good, but this point resonated: a just war, the low road of neutrality — which the Times has taken in the war between Israel and her enemies — almost never leads to the moral high ground.


Posted by susanna at 03:38 PM | Comments (0)

Blinded by science

Two ancient skulls were found in July that apparently will reshape human paleontology, one of the cornerstones of “the evidence-disadvantaged field of human evolution.”

…said Dr. Bernard Wood, a paleontologist at George Washington University(,) "This really exposes how little we know of human evolution and the origin of our own genus Homo."

But wait! I thought we knew all that! It’s been taught for years as immutable truth.

Every decade or two, a fossil discovery upsets conventional wisdom. One more possible "missing link" emerges. An even older member of the hominid group, those human ancestors and their close relatives (but not apes), comes to light. Some fossils also show up with attributes so puzzling that scientists cannot decide where they belong, if at all, in the human lineage.

At each turn, the family tree, once drawn straight as a ponderosa pine, has had to be reconfigured with more branches leading here and there and, in some cases, apparently nowhere.

"When I went to medical school in 1963, human evolution looked like a ladder," Dr. Wood said. The ladder, he explained, stepped from monkey to modern human through a progression of intermediates, each slightly less apelike than the previous one.
…a tangled bush has now replaced a tree as the ascendant imagery of human evolution. Most scientists studying the newfound African skull think it lends strong support to hominid bushiness almost from the beginning.

Hmmm… Could it also mean that several species appeared, say, all at one time through, perhaps, an intelligent design? That these modified over the years, without interbreeding or developing into something completely different from how it started?

Nah. After all, conventional wisdom is usually rig… oops. Well, at least scientists agre… oops.

A few scientists sound cautionary notes. Dr. Delson questioned whether the Toumai face was complete enough to justify interpretations of more highly evolved characteristics. One critic argued that the skull belonged to a gorilla, but that is disputed by scientists who have examined it.

Huh. Well. At least the classification system stands, we have good connectors between species and our approach is appropri… oops.

the Chad skull was found off the beaten path of hominid research...

...Dr. Lieberman said(,) "...This fossil is a wake-up call. It reminds us that we're missing large portions of the fossil record."

To the discoverers, the skull has the canine teeth and face of Homo habilis, a small hominid with long apelike arms that evolved in Africa before H. erectus. And the size of its cranium suggests a substantially smaller brain than expected for H. erectus.

In their journal report, the discovery team estimated the cranial capacity of the new skull to be about 600 cubic centimeters, compared with about 780 and 650 c.c.'s for the other Dmanisis specimens. That is "near the mean" for H. habilis, they noted…

Dr. G. Philip Rightmire, a paleontologist at the State University of New York at Binghamton and a member of the discovery team, said that if the new skull had been found before the other two, it might have been identified as H. habilis.

Dr. Ian Tattersall, a specialist in human evolution at the natural history museum in New York City, said the specimen was "the first truly African-looking thing to come from outside Africa." More than anything else, he said, it resembles a 1.9-million-year-old Homo habilis skull from Kenya.

For the time being, however, the fossil is tentatively labeled Homo erectus, though it stretches the definition of that species. Scientists are pondering what lessons they can learn from it about the diversity of physical attributes within a single species.

Oh. I see. It looks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck, but since it was found where we don’t expect ducks to be, and to admit it is a duck would throw our whole classification system and timetable into an uproar, we therefore declare it an emu. That’s right. It’s an emu. And now we are settling in to discuss amongst ourselves how amazing the variations among emus are. Who would have thought?

And they have so much to study! Remember how in your statistics class, you learned that a large random sampling of a population was the most accurate way to understand the opinions and demographics of the population as a whole? That the more people you talked to, or samples you took, the more likely you were right? That one or two or three just didn’t give you a whole lot? We’ve based almost a whole society on such probabilities. It’s comforting to know that the science of evolution holds the same standards:

We have now a very rich collection, of three skulls and three jawbones, which gives us a chance to study very properly this question" of how to classify early hominids, Dr. Lordkipanidze said…

Such bounty! Why, we’ll have the entire evolutionary process nailed down by Labor Day, I’m just sure of it.

I’ve been taught, as a social scientist, that you look at behavior, or evidence of various sorts, and ponder about it until you come up with an explanation. Then you devise a test to see if your explanation fits. If it seems to, you develop a whole theory, testing the various pieces. When obvious digressions from the theory begin to pile up, you start looking to see how the theory needs to be modified so all the pieces fit in harmony. If they don’t fit, you don’t name them something that makes them fit. At the very least, you set them aside as a “we don’t know” and work to determine whether they are outliers or a part of the center of the thing. You see, in science – and “hard” science even more so than the “soft” sciences – you are reaching for a truth. The world is - we’re trying to understand what that is is. The truth about the world isn’t going to be different because something I learn about it doesn’t fit my theory. That’s the case whether I’m an evolutionist, a creationist, or a design theorist without any attachment to Biblical creation as an explanation. You strip down the facts, release them from their interpretive pigeonholes, then reconstruct an explanation around them.

I’ve made no efforts to disguise or hide that I believe in an intelligent power that brought the earth and the life it sustains into being. I also believe that the intelligent power in question is the God of the Bible, but that is a different issue – one is science (mocked though it may be), and one is religion. I’m fine with that. But even if I were an agnostic, I would be concerned about the tendency of evolutionary scientists to squish all their information into their preconceived notions even if they obviously don’t fit. I’m completely behind finding truth – I don’t see any advantage to me of trying, in the name of religion, to suppress exploration. In fact, the more we know the happier I am. If it presents a challenge to my faith, well, then, I have to think about that because, like it or not, faith is a theory just like evolution is a theory. If my faith is founded on a real truth, then the new information won’t substantially change the bones of my faith even while it possibly substantially reshapes the flesh; if my faith isn’t based on a real truth, then that’s something I want to know and the sooner the better. Again, the same should be true of evolution – if you’re going to posit it as truth, at least have the honesty to say “I don’t know” or “We could have been very wrong for a very long time, we need to rethink this without preconceptions.” But it seems to me there is no amount of information that would shake these people loose from their evolutionary canon, even when they have to twist themselves into objects of mockery to protect it.

And that shows a little bit of bias, wouldn’t you say?

UPDATE: Tom, can't you be serious for Just One Minute?

Posted by susanna at 02:05 PM | Comments (4)

August 05, 2002

I'm going to be tied up this weekend...

Well, not me specifically. Although I could be, if I could afford it. Talk about your survivalist training. It does kind of make you think, though...

Well. Just never you mind. After all, the children, you know.

Posted by susanna at 09:53 PM | Comments (1)

Somewhere in a park in NYC

We sat on a park bench, munching chicken gyros and watching a little old lady, bent with age, chatting easily with a friend, a middle aged woman in a wheelchair. Two younger people – in their early 30s – stood nearby. The park was busy with Saturday afternoon pedestrians, half clad college students spread over their blankets in all the sunny spots. A good-sized white dog, with a harness on but no leash, sniffed and nudged all the interesting smells. Two well-groomed men dressed for walking in the park strolled by, one holding the red leash of a well-groomed small black dog, prancing and delicately doing some exploring of his own.


Suddenly the white dog lunged at the black one, which growled and lunged back. Snapping and snarling, they engaged, the white one trying to come down on the back of the black one, whose owner pulled its leash.

“Someone get that dog off!” he yelled.

The woman in the wheelchair pulled herself over to the fighting dogs with her feet.

“Stop it! Stop it!”

“Don’t hurt my dog!” the little old lady screamed.

My friend Ben shouted, “Kill the dog!”

By now the white dog had the black dog’s neck in his mouth, starting to crunch. The little old lady’s 30ish male friend dived into the melee and wrapped his arms around the white dog, rolling away with it as the smaller dog’s owner reeled in his leash. A brief yelling match between the black dog’s owner and the wheelchaired woman ended with a few ugly words, then he picked up his dog and left quickly. The little old lady turned to a man next to her and punched him in the stomach.

“Why’d you hurt my dog?” she snarled up at him, the man easily topping her by 18 inches.

The youngish woman leaned in and said, sotto voice, “That’s your friend’s cousin.”

“Oh.” The little old lady sniffed, and then they all fell to complaining about the owner of the black dog.

I turned to Ben.

“Did you yell, ‘Kill the dog’?”


“Do you want to DIE or something??”

“No. But I didn’t see how they were going to get the white dog off. He wasn’t on a leash.”

I rolled my eyes.

“You don’t yell ‘Kill the dog’ around dog owners. Unless you want to die.”

He rolled his eyes. We got up and left, passing the white dog wandering around in his harness, without his leash on, while the little old lady reminisced with her wheelchaired friend.

Posted by susanna at 09:12 PM | Comments (5)


This is going to be a very hectic week, so posting will be sporadic (although I hope to post something daily). I'm walking a friend's dogs every morning this week while she's out of town and I have to work three evenings, so there goes a lot of my blog time. Keep checking back, though. Something is bound to get my Irish up.

Posted by susanna at 01:10 PM | Comments (4)

And you thought your week was bad!

Read this and you'll kiss your air conditioner and hug your boss. Don't forget to read the continuation.

It's a rough life you lead, Mike, but it sure is fascinating from this end. When I'm reading it in my air conditioned apartment, that is.

Posted by susanna at 10:21 AM | Comments (1)

August 04, 2002

Eaten up with themselves

There's trouble among the groups who won a settlement from McDonald's for using beef products in their fries while claiming that they used 100% vegetable oil to fry them. The original lawsuit was filed on behalf of "U.S. vegetarians" - the question now is, who is that? Who gets the money?

Well, the attorneys get $2.5 million up front. We are not surprised. But look at who else is mad:

Animal-rights activists say they're being excluded from the big payout in favor of vegetarian groups less outspoken in their criticism of McDonald's. Muslims are objecting, saying they should have been included along with the Hindus, Sikhs and Jews originally named in the settlement...

More than 100 organizations, varying from a Pennsylvania cow sanctuary to a yoga meditation center have applied for part of the settlement...

PETA requested money from the settlement to distribute its Vegetarian Starter Kit and was turned down, [Bruce Friedrich, Director of Vegan Outreach for the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA]said...

Muslims have launched an e-mail campaign objecting to their exclusion from the settlement. Muslims have strict dietary laws.

Abdul Malik Mujahid, head of SoundVision, which sells Islamic educational materials on the Internet, said the 6 million to 8 million Muslims in North America "must be recognized as an offended party. Everyone has a right to know what they're eating."

Well, yeah. But if you're talking about monetary harm, I'm not thinking any of them have a case. The whole article is pretty funny, including the tussling between the attorneys involved over who is ethical and who isn't - I won't take any shots at that, it's too easy.

My solution? If there's 16 million vegetarians in the US, plus the Muslims, plus the Jews and Hindus... assuming some overlap between the religious and vegetarian groups... would you say, oh, maybe ... 30 million people? Give each of them 35 cents, and let the vegetarian and religious organizations earn their money by asking for donations. Seems only fair to me - it's presumptuous to give X amount to active vegetarian groups when the most actually harmed may have been the religious people. So, be fair. Give it to all of them. And let them decide how to support their causes.

I'm thinking they'll likely go in together to buy a Super Size of the new veggie-only McDonald's french fries, rather than PETA.

Posted by susanna at 01:32 PM | Comments (8)

Man bites dog

Well, not really, but the definition of news means only the unusual gets notice. And so it is with me. Today's Maureen Dowd column is actually worth reading - it's a nice little slam on Hollywood. Reminds me of the stories I've read about Marie Antoinette and her court living simple by dressing in (custom made) shepherdess costumes and gamboling about the countryside. Accompanied by servants, of course, PLEASE, one can stand only so much.

UPDATE: It's even worse than I thought - and I should have known the obvious had to be excessively obvious for Dowd to get it. This interview by FoxNews's Bill McCuddy with co-star Blair Underwood destroys any vague lingering thought I might have had of seeing the movie even in video:

It's a dream team cast assembled by one of Hollywood's hottest directors, but no one seems to understand Full Frontal.

Is it an indulgent little experiment? Star-baiting workshop in offbeat filmmaking? A cosmic Hollywood in-joke? Perhaps all that and more.

But when I sat down with star Blair Underwood, he couldn't shed much light on what Steven Soderbergh had in mind...

McCuddy: What do you tell people when they ask: 'What's this movie about?'

Underwood: (Laughs) What I tell people -- so that it hopefully makes some kind of sense -- is that it is a movie within a movie within a movie...

Underwood: (Laughs) Coleman Hough, the writer, made a great analogy, I thought. She said 'This film is not formulaic.' It's not your mainstream film by Hollywood standards. And she likened it to breast-feeding a baby. She said, 'You feed a baby formula too long, they forget how to breast-feed, which is very natural, very raw.' And, you're right, (Soderbergh) is the 800-pound gorilla and he can do kind of whatever he wants. And he decided to go for kind of the breast-feeding again, just kind of make it natural and just try to find things. I think you used the best word, it's a 'workshop.' Let's experiment, let's have fun, let's play around and see what happens.

McCuddy: We're breast-feeding.

Underwood: Right...

Underwood: know we did a press junket last week and the two of us [Underwood and Soderbergh] had the whole morning together and a number of people came in and said that -- very honest. 'I didn't get it.' 'It didn't make sense to me.' And he says, 'Well, that's OK.' He's so self-effacing anyway, real honest and direct and I think he gets a kick out of the fact that some will get it, and if you don't, that's OK... And he said it's like he saw the UFO and nobody else saw the UFO but they had to trust him that the UFO was up there. It was kind of like that.

You know, it's like, I made so much money that suddenly I, you know, had no obligation to actually make sense which was kind of fun, that people would, you know, pay money to see something that not only didn't make sense but I didn't mean for it to make sense, which, you know, was kind of actually the point. It cuts so deep, like, totally to the heart of the Hollywood thing and yet resonates with the whole country without kind of actually saying anything, it was such a pivotal experience for us all. I mean, kind of, totally cutting edge, because even Julia Roberts drove herself to the set every day so it was kind of so real, like, she didn't even have her own trailer. So people, not understanding, it's like, that's when they're getting it, you know?

Posted by susanna at 08:41 AM | Comments (2)

More dead in Israel

A bus has blown up, killing 9 Israelis (and the bomber). A Palestinian shooter near the Old City killed a security guard before he was killed by Israeli soldiers; an Arab bystander died in the crossfire. So why is the photograph with the NY Times article of an injured Palestinian?

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

August 03, 2002

What comes after

An article in the NY Times magazine, dated for tomorrow's issue, looks at the lives of those who survived the crash of Air Florida Flight 90 on Jan. 13, 1982.

It's a nicely done piece, exploring emotions and lives with a delicate touch; it is especially touching as insight into what faces the survivors and families of the dead from September 11.

Check it out.

Posted by susanna at 11:42 AM | Comments (0)

This just in: Newspapers make mistakes

Here's a very interesting transcript from NPR's On The Media, dealing with media inaccuracies:

JOHN SOLOMON: ...A poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press late last year found that only 47 percent of the public think the press quote, "gets the facts straight," unquote. That perception appears to be reality. Studies have continually shown that about half of all stories have an error in them. The newest analysis, a recently published academic survey of news sources of the Raleigh, North Carolina News Observer found that 59 percent of the articles printed in early 1999 had at least one mistake.Obviously, the first draft of history is not going to be perfect. Between spelling, statistics and precise quotations, hundreds of facts go into every story, usually written by human beings on deadline. While many errors are understandable, Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, says they shouldn't all be acceptable.

TOM ROSENSTIEL: The problem with accuracy is not that we get names misspelled but it's what inaccuracies say to the public about the press, and they say that maybe we're slipshod in general --that we're not entirely trustworthy as a profession - not because there are inaccuracies per se, but because we just don't seem to worry about this stuff.

Well, actually the "inaccuracies per se" are an issue, when they seem to have a bent in one way. The article doesn't say whether systematic ideological bias seems to be in operation, but it does say this:

JOHN SOLOMON: ...The Pew survey revealed that in the eyes of the public, inaccuracy is second only to bias as a reason to distrust the press, and bias actually may be more a problem of accuracy than ideology. In fact, when news sources were polled in the study of the News Observer, those who complained about bias usually blamed process more than politics. University of Oregon journalism professor Scott Maier authored the study which was published in the Winter 2002 issue of Newspaper Research Journal.

SCOTT MAIER: I don't think they saw it as a political bias or agenda-setting but rather that the reporter just didn't take the time to put that story in context and to be fair and to present all points of view.

Is he not thinking about what he's saying? What is bias? Sometimes it's a direct and open attempt to reshape what you're presenting, but as we've discussed many times before it's also a world view that's expressed through process. One of the newspapers is having a retired editor review the newspaper daily for errors, then generate a quarterly error report for each section. Do they have him also checking whether the errors show any systematic tendency to inaccuracies toward one ideology or group vs another? It takes a goodly bit of self-knowledge to realize that you have a generally biased approach to life (we all do), and to have identified where your biases lie so you can compensate to present a fair article.

I think it's good that the media is investigating this. I'm just sorry that it seems to be a bottom-line equation - winning back the trust of the public so as not to lose readership - rather than a foundational desire for reporting with integrity.

[Link via Romenesko.]

Posted by susanna at 08:49 AM | Comments (2)

I'm shocked, SHOCKED

Well, my whole day is ruined:

Has good-girl teen idol Britney Spears gone bad?

...Spears' recent antics have left some wondering whether the 20-year-old pop icon is trying to exchange her wholesome image for a more devilish persona. But some fans and Britney experts refute that theory.

"I don't think it's a publicity stunt," said Damon Romine, editor of Teen Beat and Tiger Beat magazines. "In reality, it's just Britney being a girl her age."

It seems implausible to me that Britney would choose to be a bad girl. I mean, who would? And I used to subscribe to Tiger Beat, 30+ years ago, when I had an imperative need to know if Donny Osmond would date a non-Mormon, so I'm inclined to go with Romine's interpretation.

(Okay, does everyone see my tongue firmly in cheek there? What I really think is, "Somebody thought Britney was wholesome?")

Posted by susanna at 08:25 AM | Comments (6)

schneiden Sie auf die Vorspannung

That's Cut on the Bias to you. My referrer logs included a link that translated the top section of my site into German, which looks pretty cool but unreadable despite the three semesters of German I took in college. It does remind me, though, that German language rules make compound words become unmanageable fast. A good example from the link:


Best I can tell, that means "non-custodial family members". Take a moment today and be thankful for the English language. It gets funky sometimes, but at least we know when to stop. Usually.

NOTE: If you're linked on my page, and you link through to your page from the German version of mine, your page will appear in German. How cool is that?

Posted by susanna at 08:14 AM | Comments (3)

Quote of the day

Paranoia is just good planning.
-- Quana Jones, of Eristic, in comments

A woman after my own heart.

Posted by susanna at 07:35 AM | Comments (0)

August 02, 2002

Thank you for all the birthday wishes. It's been a great day, and you not the least of it.

Posted by susanna at 10:33 PM | Comments (4)

Of course it's true - I saw it on TV

Stay off the beaches - you'll get eaten by sharks. Keep your kids locked up - killers are on the prowl. Empty your pockets in the donation basket - we're overrun with homeless.

It's all true - we saw it on TV. Read it in the newspaper. Heard it on the radio. And Maxine's mom's second cousin's boss saw a shark fin in the water off Miami Beach. What more do you need?

Statistics would be nice, actually. Michelle Cottle takes the media to task in an excellent article in The New Republic on The Kidnapped Kid phenomenon this summer:

Remember last year's summer of the shark? Welcome to the summer of the abduction. All it took was a couple of gruesome kidnappings in California for the media to visualize a story with the potential to whip viewers into a coast-to-coast frenzy of fear and suspicion...

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that, even in a non-epidemic year, 100 children nationwide are abducted and either murdered, held for ransom, or simply never returned. FBI stats put the number of failed attempts at 150,000 a year.

...back in the 1980s, we were averaging 200 to 300 stranger abductions--considerably more than the current 100. This, in a country of 59 million children...

You should read the whole article. Her point, obviously, is that there really isn't an epidemic of child snatchings; if anything, they're decreasing. And even in the worst years, the vast majority of snatchings are done by non-custodial family members, usually the non-custodial parent. A detective in a police juvenile unit told me that child snatchings by non-custodial family members make up about 90% of all snatchings.

So why the panic? The answer, in this instance, is the media and their entertainment imperative, in this case the result of a slow news summer, constructing crime waves. So how do they develop?

Research on crime waves goes back at least to the late 1970s, and has shown three types of waves: actual increases in crime, such as when crack cocaine took off; police-constructed waves, where arrests increase not because the crime is committed more, but because the police are focusing on it; and media-constructed waves, where media coverage spikes and recedes in a pattern for the most part unconnected to the actual fluctuations of a particular crime.

Increased reporting on a specific crime isn't necessarily a bad thing - before the spate of articles on elder abuse and crimes against the elderly a few years ago, few people were aware of the seriousness of the problem. Yet the coverage indicated a sharp rise, which unnecessarily frightened a very vulnerable population. What is needed - as always - is context.

All natural behavior - be it weather or criminality - fluctuates in an inconsistent pattern over time. One of the big debates in criminal justice in recent years has been whether the Guiliani crime-fighting measures actually reduced crime in NYC, or whether the reduction was just a natural fluctuation that happened to coincide with Guiliani's administration - serendipity, not causality. I tend to say, some of both - because crime did come down nationwide during his terms, but not as much as it did in NYC. But how much you know about whether Guiliani's crime reduction was caused or just happened depends on which media you read, and how effective they are at providing context.

The same is true of child kidnapping. Behavior fluctuates. Just like some summers you get hotter days in a longer string for no apparent reason, some years you get more child abductions with no discernible cause. Does that mean we should be less vigilant? No. But it also means we shouldn’t assume that something caused the change. And that’s the tough part. Unless you know the cause of something, you’re not going to be able to pose a good solution - and may in fact cause harm through improvident legislation or actions. And without a good sense of the history of a particular phenomenon – the context media seems so loathe to provide – you can’t properly judge the risk and thus respond with the proper adjustments in your behavior.

And that’s the harm the media does with their focus on what Cottle calls “the epidemic du jour”. Parents aren’t told the real risk of harm to their children, nor are they given competent guidance in alleviating what risk exists. They become afraid to let their children outside, afraid to let them participate in activities, afraid to leave them with a babysitter. It’s just too much anxiety, which conveys itself to the children and makes them fearful as well. And for the most part, the changes and trauma don’t even have an appreciable impact on the level of the crimes, while possibly distracting parents from more likely fates– such as drowning in a pool, or dying in a car accident because the child wasn’t in either a seatbelt or a car seat.

Of course it’s terrible that children die at the hands of strangers. But far more children die at the hands of their parents, and that isn’t making the news, is it? Let’s not allow the media to create bubbles of fear solely to feed their bottom line.

[Link from The Last Page, who has excellent comments herself.]

Posted by susanna at 10:28 PM | Comments (1)

Somebody is making money online

A report from the Online Publishers Association indicates that American spending on online content jumped 92% over 2000 levels.

The top domains by consumer content revenue were,,,,,,,,, and

So people want to lose weight, meet someone and start putting together their cache of community property while gettin' down with their favorite music. Sounds about right to me. Encouraging that the Wall Street Journal is high on the list of those successfully marketing their product online. I personally wonder if the is related to the - do you check out the ancestors of a potential date before saying "yes" to meeting?

Of course, the focus is "online content", which is to say, words and ideas, not something to wear on your feet or hang on your wall. Intellectual property.

I think it's not incidental that these sites provide "value added" content, not just entertainment. I have a subscription to the online Consumer Reports, and I have no interest in subscribing to a hard copy. I want to have their searchable database, and I use it enough in the year to where I feel the money is worth it. Weight Watchers has recipes, and makes connections, that would be difficult to organize offline. Compare to, oh, say, Salon - what does that add? I like to read entertainment or long informative pieces away from the computer, and usually print them out when I find them online. If I have to pay for it, I'm going to subscribe to a hard copy so I can tuck it in my purse or leave it in the bathroom magazine basket.

I think we're beginning to learn what will work online and why. What we need is an analysis of how people use what they get online. Note to publishers: make lengthy online content printer friendly. It's tough balancing a laptop on your knees in the bathroom.

Posted by susanna at 06:18 PM | Comments (4)

August 01, 2002

More privacy talk

Others have posted some good comments on this as well - check out Kim du Toit and The Eleven Day Empire.

Posted by susanna at 09:13 PM | Comments (1)

What a difference two days make

Remember Tuesday, when I was less than happy with my workplace? Well, today it was a party, cake, ice cream, flowers from the chief and kisses all around. And tonight starts a long weekend. Life is good afterall.

The occasion? Ah. Your Proprietress Extraordinaire celebrates her birthday tomorrow. There may be profuse posting, there may be none at all, it depends on my mood - I'll be around home starting my new year off right. Saturday is a Manhattan kind of day, with museums, Strand bookstore and meeting up with Ben the Conscience, if he can drag his sorry butt away from rebuilding yet another telescope dug out of the local junk store. OTOH, if he starts asking uncomfortable questions about how much I worked on my core area bibliography this week, I may stuff him into a telescope. It's tough to pull the wool over the eyes of someone who's not just done what you're trying to do, but did a harder version of it - Ben the Conscience has a PhD in physics (yes, Ben, I know - material science. Whatever.) so I can never sigh dramatically and murmur about how hard it is to juggle it all, because he'll call me on it. I hate that.

But, nonetheless, it should be a fine weekend, a needed break after the longest short week I've had in a while. The flowers are beautiful, btw. And I get to take the leftover peanut butter ice cream home. Yum.

Posted by susanna at 06:27 PM | Comments (8)

So much for that British vacation I was planning...

Apparently British men are benchwarmers in the game of love.

Soon American men will be shipping off to Britain like lower-48 women ship off to Alaska - there's nothing like being a highly desired commodity in a very active market.

UPDATE: Well. It seems that the sweet young Canadian thing that wrote the snitty article about British men as losers at love has gotten her (rather gentle) comeuppance at the hands of one of her English dates. Thanks to Andrea for pointing this out in comments.

My link to the piece apparently touched another chord in comments, so I must make the disclaimer that it is all in good fun and I never mistook Ms. McClaren for an anthropologist releasing a deeply researched treatise on the British male's dating behavior. I could come up with a few horror stories from my own dating experience, without very much trouble, which I wouldn't see as an indictment of all American males.

Besides, I started reading Harlequin romances when I was 10, and for the longest they were just reprints of Mills & Boon romances from Britain and mostly set in England or Australia. So I grew up with a very favorable impression of the romantic natures of British men (brooding and strong) and Australian men (gruff and strong) which is not precisely diminished by the likes of, say, Mel Gibson. And I have been infatuated with Paul McCartney since I was 11, when I used to stare out the window at a high school guy named Mike, as he walked to his car after school each day before we were released. He looked so much like Paul that I was a quivering mass of 11 year old lust (which is to say, quivering but not really sure why). I still think Sir Paul is gorgeous even though his politics often make me impatient.

Besides, who wouldn't want to date a man with such a cute accent?

Posted by susanna at 01:55 PM | Comments (5)

If you say so

the Which van gogh painting are you? quiz by bethany

That's all very well and good and sometimes true if a bit boring. I'd put more stock in it though if that bedroom looked more like my real bedroom, which currently looks like someone came in, dumped the contents of the drawers onto the bed, then shoved it all off into the floor so they could go to sleep. (Ok, that someone was me.)

OTOH, I could solve all the world's problems, given complete authority, lots of chocolate and "Barracuda" on endless loop. My motto: The Earth - love it or leave it. I'd even have spaceships at the ready to enforce it. That's one way to advance space exploration - after all, it worked for Georgia and Australia, didn't it? (History aside: Both places were initially settled as penal colonies.)

[Link via Andrea Harris's World Domination Headquarters.]

Posted by susanna at 11:45 AM | Comments (4)

You like me! You really like me!

Well, that might be overstating the case, but at least you don't think I'm yesterday's roadkill on the blog highway. Today is a link-love day, with an Instapundit pointer to my paranoia-post below, the Site of Day mentioned below and, now! Joshua Claybourn has mentioned me (also for the paranoia post) in his Pundit Roundup on the new Blogs4God linklist. I am, btw, on their Pundits list -naturally.

Cut on the bias - sharing the link-love.

Posted by susanna at 11:28 AM | Comments (2)

Jesse "The Christian" Ventura?

Well, no. He's not changed his stripes. But he did sign on the wrong dotted line. Or, at least, his rep did.

Some are suggesting it's providential intervention.

Posted by susanna at 11:02 AM | Comments (0)

I'm honored (I think)

It appears that I am Site of the Day over at The People's Republic of Seabrook. I'm not very familiar with it, but since Lauren Coats, one of my favorite readers and email buddies, was the one who nominated me, I suppose it's not dangerous to be connected with the site. The proprietor, who remains nameless best I can tell, is in Texas, home of my longest-running best friend (Desiree, take a bow for 20+ years of longsuffering friendship), one ex-boyfriend (happy wedding day in two weeks), assorted really cute hot sweaty cowboys and Quana. OTOH, it's hot, flat, uses "Ridge" in place names a lot when they ain't no ridge in 300 miles, has residents who call undiluted Tabasco sauce "chili" and is the single most boring state to drive across east to west, especially on a Greyhound bus in July. It's also the home of Laurence Simon of Amish Tech Support, and I can't decide whether to put him in the "Yay, Texas!" list or the "!#@% Texas!" list, so I'll separate him into a list all his own, accompanied only by the notation that the TPRS proprietor also writes as Northstar for The Next Bad Samaritan, where actually I had read previous essays of his.

Then again... it is Site of the Day, which means I'm one of an elite 365 weblogs in his estimation. And for this he gets a link?

Posted by susanna at 10:52 AM | Comments (3)

Shred your super-saver card

I've been saying this would happen for a long time:

While that customer loyalty card at the supermarket might perceivably save you a few pennies at the checkout counter, your buying habits could end up in the hands of government agents.

According to one privacy expert, at least one national grocery chain voluntarily handed over to the government records from its customer loyalty card database in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

And others say customer databases -- including those culled from travel, financial and insurance industries -- are routinely shared with the government for surveillance purposes.

I'm usually quite paranoid about such things, and resisted getting a Super Saver card at my local supermarket for a long time just for that reason. Do I have a lot to hide? Some things I'd find embarrassing to have known widely, perhaps, but nothing that I could be locked away for. That's not the point. The point is - it's not anyone's business what brand of cereal I use or whether I'm buying ham when I claim to keep a kosher home. I also refuse to get EZ Pass for tolls despite how ubiquitous tollbooths are in NJ - it's no one's business when I go where and how long I stay there. Even if I never do anything more exciting than go to church.

But we're getting more and more used to these types of invasions, the kind of knowledge of our personal lives that is often a necessary byproduct of modern technology. Of course you understand that for your few pennies off groceries, the supermarket gets huge amounts of data about what types of customers they're getting, what type of groceries each demographic is buying (because you can bet they run the stats using the personal information from your application, even if it's not attached to your name), and what configurations of the store work best to sell to favored demographics. That's annoying enough, and one reason I'm always quick to hand off my card to someone who forgot theirs - in my admittedly often boring life the thought that I'm throwing the supermarket's statisticians a bit of a curve gives me a warm fuzzy. (And now that I think about it, that card gets shredded tonight.)

But this goes beyond a store's marketing efforts into deep invasion, something I highlighted as well in my email to Instapundit Glenn Reynolds that he used as the basis for a recent column on computer chips embedded in humans to regulate and track health factors. Who gets the information when it's downloaded?

We know that the FBI wants library records. We know they want supermarket records. We know they have access to credit card records, phone records, school records, medical records, credit records. It would take very little to construct most of your life on paper for their viewing pleasure. Is this a problem? I think so. And a bigger one once that futuristic computer chip is tucked behind your right ear.

Because information has a way of getting around. The first question to an objection is, why don't you want us to have it? Do you have something to hide? So of course we feel guilty and are sure we look suspicious if we don't agree. And bit by bit our right to privacy is destroyed.

What does the future hold? Certainly, like I wrote to Glenn, civil courts will try to get the information - can you imagine the havoc a divorce attorney could wreak with all that data?

Think about this scenario: Your insurance company wants to know if you are a decent risk. They contact a centralized database, similar to but much more comprehensive than a credit rating company, where they learn that you drive too fast (as measured by how long it takes you to travel between toll booths where you used EZ Pass), you eat an unhealthy diet (as evidenced from your grocery slips), you've been checking out books from the library lately on skydiving and rock climbing without ropes, you've gone to four bars over the last two weekends where you've spent an awful lot on liquor, and you've bought three packs of condoms - are you into promiscuous sex? High risk of sexually transmitted disease.

All this information would be gathered and analyzed without your sayso. All you know is that even though you're in good health, have no history of disease or injury and are under 30, you're denied insurance.

The possibilities are endless because, face it, the technology is there to collect the information and someone will want to use it to further their own purposes - whether it be the government or private industry.

I don't mean to be a Chicken Little about this. The sky has not fallen; the FBI probably won't be scrutinizing your shopping list any time soon. But the potential is there and now is the time to put the safeguards in place to protect our privacy.

I'm not a Luddite. I think technology is wonderful, amazing, exciting. I love it. But we have to curb our enthusiasm to look hard at the impact the information about us available through that technology can have. We need to require that limits be placed on it - better legal minds than mine can work on that, but a model could be the background checks done for those wanting to purchase guns, where the data is expunged after a certain period. I know that law enforcement agencies will grind their teeth over the lost opportunities, but we have to establish and protect the larger principle of privacy. This isn't 1984, and this isn't a focused and controlling Big Brother. But it is something that poses a danger, an increasing one. Look, finally, at this excerpt from the FoxNews article:

Jim Harper, a privacy lawyer and head of, said Americans should be warned that many private entities may be perfectly willing to share information without a warrant.

"What it shouldn’t do is cause us to scrap the (loyalty) programs," he said. "But we do need to make sure that private data is private and is not used as a resource for law enforcement."

Let's not sell our birthright - privacy - for the thin stew of an uncertain safety.

Posted by susanna at 12:10 AM | Comments (9)