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September 30, 2003

Okay, this made me cry

This man deserves... something wonderful:

Ford Smith tracked down his late father-in-law's 1978 Porsche 911 Targa and bought it as a birthday gift for his wife, Malena Garcia-Smith.

That's the caption to the photo with the story, but you need to go read the whole thing.


[Link via Romenesko's Obscure Store]

Posted by susanna at 02:24 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

No doubt fine lying theater

Tim Robbins has written a play about journalists embedded with the troops in Iraq. It's a fine, even-handed look at the struggles of maintaining objectivity while the men and women in uniform around you are your life-savers, friends, comrades in war, and subjects of your writing.

Wait! Wait! Sorry. I had a brain hiccup that allowed me to think for an instant that Robbins was something other than a mush-for-brains leftist hack. Here's what it's really about:

Robbins' publicist and the theater company's management declined to discuss the specifics of the piece, or how he researched it, but speaking in Long Beach, Calif., earlier this month, Robbins said the play "tells the story of embedded journalists in Iraq and the manipulation of truth on the part of our government with regards to the war."

No mention of who's going to play Eason Jordan in the scene where he licks Saddam's feet while off-camera more Iraqis are tortured to death.

Posted by susanna at 02:17 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

A modern morality tale

A French musical artist kills his lover, a French actress, in a fit of rage, ending for them both lives of sexual excess.

It could have been 1600, 1738, 1852, 1967 - but it was 2003, and Theodore Dalrymple, writing in The New Criterion, sees nothing new in this old tale reprised by those who think themselves the carriers of a new, improved morality:

Seldom does life imitate art, or at least pretensions to art, with such fidelity as in the death of the French actress Marie Trintignant. She died recently of the head injury that she suffered in a Vilnius hotel room, after a quarrel with her latest boyfriend, the rock singer Bertrand Cantat. The post mortem suggests that she received several savage blows to the head...

...for her own real life, she had four sons by three different fathers, and had been living with Cantat (not one of the fathers) for a few months before she went to Vilnius...

Cantat was popular in France not just for his music, but for his political attitudes, or perhaps I should say his political attitudinizing... His view of virtue was that of modern man: it is more a question of expressing the right views than of submitting to the discipline of good behavior. Armed with the right views, therefore, a man can do no wrong, and the more vehemently he expresses them, or the more successfully he disseminates them, the better man he is. Cantat’s moral complacency makes Mr. Podsnap seem like an incarnation of Voltairean skepticism.

Of course, Cantat was not the first French public intellectual of “impec” political views to have found that it is harder to be good to the person in your bedroom than about the suffering masses of a thousand miles away...

Both Althusser and Cantat illustrate the new moral law for modern man: that moral concern rightly increases as the square of the distance from the person expressing the concern. Only thus can a man be utterly selfish and egotistical on the one hand and a moral exemplar on the other...

The lamentable case of Marie Trintignant and Bertrand Cantat was deeply emblematic, as the French liberal newspaper LibĂ©ration correctly recognized. “An intimate tragedy transformed into a collective nightmare,” it said: a nightmare for those, that is, who believed that the social changes of the sixties represented an advance rather than a retrogression. It was, said the newspaper, a sordid end to “the ideal bohemian couple, a marriage of music without concession and cinema without compromise that was fit to carry the dreams of a generation.”

I hate to lower the poetic tone, even by a little, but the case was loud with the sound of chickens coming home to roost.

It's a fine essay on fame, moral relativism and the immutability of humanness, ending with a backhanded kindness that is all the more scathing for its restraint:

Cantat is a victim as well as a perpetrator: a victim of the gimcrack ideas propagated at the time of his birth in 1964, at once pietistic and libertine, that he had not the seriousness, the experience, or the intellect to reject, but which he swallowed whole, as Etna swallowed Empedocles. In this, of course, he was not unlike 99 percent of his contemporaries.

There's just nothing to add. Go read.

Posted by susanna at 02:11 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Son of a gun poor loser

All I can say is - when you ask is often as important as what you ask.

Posted by susanna at 01:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Neutral about bias

This morning I was talking to the librarian at my school. She is a very smart woman, top in her field, and very very liberal. We were discussing my dissertation topic, media and policing, and also my goal of building a criminal justice research website for popular reading. I specifically mentioned that I want to present current research in plain language, not technical or methodological language, so that journalists will have a place to go for the newest information without having to stop for a course in stats on the way. She agreed that it would be good, and then said, but sometimes they don't want to know. You have to account for bias.

So far so good. Of course I agree.

Then she gave an example of potential media bias...

... from Fox News.

Of course my immediate reaction was to think, "She thinks it's biased because she's liberal. It's her bias happening here." But I listened. I made a point to really hear what she said. And she was right - the example could have been a case of Fox News choosing to present a more inflammatory part of an interview and deliberately cutting out a modifying excerpt. It reminded me that when you deal with bias, you have to be careful not just of left-leaning bias, but also right-leaning bias - and your very own, which ever way it leans. Just because something presents what seems right or logical to you doesn't mean it is right or logical. I hope Fox News has not engaged in the type of egregious pandering that CNN and others have done in places like Iraq. But it's highly unlikely they're without fault in the media bias arena.

It all gets back to admitting bias, and working toward neutralizing excessive manifestations of it (when it's a bad thing, like in covering Iraq). That's the only way to begin rebuilding trust in media. I don't know that it would work, though, because the entertainment imperative is still in operation.

Posted by susanna at 11:56 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 29, 2003


It's important for us to remember that although the frequency is lessening considerably, our military men continue to die in Iraq and Afghanistan weekly. The Spokesman-Review is keeping a database of all the killed and missing in Iraq, as a part of their warblog (maintained by Ryan of Dead Parrot Society, who is their weblog guru). I started a site to do that too, but I don't have the AP database as resource, and had to set it aside for now (I plan to get back to it and make it a permanent memorial). Starting today, I'm going to feature one of our brave fallen on my site, linked to the S-R blog database - both photo and text will come from there. I encourage you to take some time once or twice a week to browse through it, and thank those who've died by caring enough to know their faces and who they were.

Some of them die in battle. Some die in ambush. Some die from boobytraps. Some die from accidents - but they were where the accident happened because they are fighting our war. They are no less a loss. Here is the first one, chosen at random (and I won't be following any kind of chronological order):

Sgt. Sean Reynolds

sgt sean reynolds

Status: Dead
Age: 25
Date of death: 5/3/2003
East Lansing, Mich. U.S.
Service branch: Army
Service force: Active duty
Unit: 74th Long-Range Surveillance Detachment, 173rd Airborne Brigade
Svc. unit location: Camp Ederle, Italy
Status: Army
Date of incident: 5/3/2003
Details: Reynolds was killed when he fell from a ladder and his rifle accidentally discharged.
Cause: Accident (land)

Posted by susanna at 03:48 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 28, 2003

The Garden State?

It's Sunday afternoon, and my parents are both napping - a typical Sunday pasttime in my family. We've had a great couple of days, seeing parts of New Jersey that are more reminescent of why it's called "The Garden State" - photos to follow. Yesterday was yard sale day. New Jersey has great yard sales as a matter of course (and one of my favorite pieces of furniture is an oak reclining chair I scavenged from someone else's garbage). My parents' van is now replete with NJ finds: an old floor radio that Dad got for $5, a small writing desk Mom got for $20 that she's going to refinish and give to me (yay, Mom!), old tools, ornate serving trays, and - for my little foray, spending a whopping $10 - several pairs of earrings, a 4" gold lame heart sewn with pearls all over the front, books and two rectangular pillows for $1 each that I'll cover with some fabric from that much lauded stash of mine. Dad also got a bicycle free that he's ridden all over the campground.

A good time is being had by all.

It did rain aggressively yesterday afternoon, and again last night. I slept through it all - a mere rainstorm doesn't disturb me after sleeping through 2 a.m. cab hornblowing for four years - but Dad says the cars started trailing out of the campground about 2 a.m. as the rain came down in sheets, no doubt having taken their tents down with it. This morning the mist rose over the lake, and the weak sun shown on rows of empty campsites. Dad scavenged some abandoned firewood from a nearby site (are we seeing a theme here?), so we'll have a fire tonight when we get back.

Showering has been one of the biggest adventures. Mosquitoes are everywhere, as are big moths that like to dive around the lights in the shower stalls at the campground. The shower is set up to spray only when your hand is actively on the pushbutton. I sympathize with their not wanting it on for hours before it's discovered, but I don't think 30 seconds a push is too much to ask. I've gotten my morning stretches in both days contorting to rinse off everything while still keeping one hand on the water button. And I've learned that it's difficult to dry a wet towel when everything is damp from days of rain. Fortunately, I've also rediscovered that you can dry with a damp towel, as long as you don't really mean "dry", and the towel is drier than you are (to start with, at any rate).

I whined about the showers to my dad, and he laughed at me. Which isn't new. He and mom reminded me that when they grew up, they had to take sponge baths (especially my mom - they didn't have indoor plumbing until after she married). Dad recited my great-grandmother's bathing advice: First wash as far down as possible. Next wash as far up as possible. Then wash possible.

Ha. My great-grandmother, the humorist. Unfortunately she wasn't joking.

We drove back to the urban Jersey for church this morning, and to my apartment for between-church napping. We're going to Liberty State Park and then back to church, finally ending up at the campground tonight wrapped in blankets and toasting marshmallows at the fire. I'll leave early tomorrow to get back to work, and they'll head off across Pennsy for home.

It's nice, having a life sometimes. Maybe before long I'll have one more often.

Posted by susanna at 04:06 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 26, 2003

All Hail King Charles!

Deep in the category of "What were you thinking?!" is my participation in Dodd Harris's Fantasy Football league. The fact that I don't watch football, can't play it, don't know the teams OR the players, and think tailgating means riding someone's tailpipe on the NJ Turnpike, did not in any way deter me.

This year, I didn't even choose my players! I had no clue, and couldn't log in, and then when Dodd graciously told me how (without once saying, you brainless female twit!), I ... well... I didn't. But somehow, I wound up with players. And being a competitive sort, I happen to think that my mysteriously chosen players will, naturally, whomp the stuffing out of any other team they happen to "play".

I even named them "Kearny Krushers". Clever, eh?

Well, Charles Austin, the Sine Qua Nonpundit, is also a member of this august league. He put some smackdown on me before our "game", and claimed he would stomp my Krushers. I said, HA! They will live up to their name!

Apparently, their name morphed to "Kearny Krushed" while I wasn't looking.

So I have to pay my dues to Charles, who said I had to say how wonderful and fantastic and totally beyond amazing he is as a Fantasy Football Coach. So, here we go.

Charles, The Amazing Sine Qua Nonpundit As Coach-King of the World!!

Rama V 1873.jpg

He is great! He is awesome! He is THE FANTASY FOOTBALL MAN!

This is Susanna Cornett, biasfodder, The Wasteland Of Fantasy Football Knowhow:

dust1 susanna fantasy football.gif

That's right - A Wasteland! I'm Empty Of Knowledge! My Krushers Are Krushed! I AM DIRT!

(collapsing into sobs)

I think I need a couple of days to recover.

Posted by susanna at 09:52 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

September 25, 2003

Calvin does Bias 101

E.L. Core has a priceless Calvin and Hobbes cartoon about selection bias.

After going there, go here.

Compare and contrast.

(And yes, this is always how image management is done - the media don't have a lock on that market.)

Posted by susanna at 08:14 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

September 24, 2003

And now I bring you ... down time!

My parents are here visiting through the weekend, camping at a campground out in west Jersey. I'll be more there than here for the duration, after work tomorrow, although I may nip in from time to time. Things have also gotten busy at work, with the countdown to Alabama started and my feeling I need to get my projects to a certain point before I hie off to the land of cotton (away! away!). In the midst of studying for my core area exam, drafting a dissertation concept paper and applying for student loans, I'll be organizing a move and getting rid of half the stuff I own so I don't pay hundreds of dollars to move canceled checks from 1987 and jewelry that would make Tammy Faye blanch (not that you could tell). Right now, I think I could even part with my Colorful Set of Foam Dilbert Characters. Somehow I think three tubs of assorted fabrics will stay intact, though. And my collection of Dean Koontz books. The stone gargoyles will make the trip, as will the faintly flowerish looking metal and glass lamp my friend gave me that doesn't work. But it will!

Three items that will make the trip: the Bybee pottery pitcher and bowl, the cheerful gargoyle, and any remaining tangerine or mandarin lotion or bath gel I have. If it seems the gargoyle is sitting on a shelf grayed by dust, that would be because he is.

Today's question: Should I or shouldn't I send the inflated exercise ball to my parents house for safe keeping until after I move? Of course another option would be to deflate it and pack it in a box. But either of those choices would also mean admitting that I really won't start a full course of strength training next Monday.

This meandering post is really meant to say that my thoughts will be meandering and more scattered than usual for a few months, ditto my time to post, so expect an even more bipolar cycle of posts and nonposts, deep posts and fluff so poofy you have to hold on to the screen while you read it.

Make sure you wipe it with anti-bacterial soap first, though. Don't want to get germs.

UPDATE: Hey! Looks like I'm on the leading edge of a new bloggish meme - stopping to smell the roses! Or, put another way, "having a life offline". Not only am I taking a few days off to visit with my parents, I'm leaving a whole state so I can find roses!

Actually, what Glenn and Stephen talk about is a lot of why I'm moving to Alabama. The other day my boss said, "So, what can we offer you to stay? A $20,000 raise?" Now, he didn't mean that much, but they've offered me a substantial one and probably would go higher if I negotiated. But my only reply was, "Only if you move the whole department to Alabama". My income will likely take a nasty little plunge at least at first - I may have to use dialup even (horrors!) - but I'm going for quality of life. And I'll get the money, eventually, at least as much or more than I have now. I'll never make millions (unless my book sells to Hollywood) but that's never been my goal anyway.

Would I be getting a graduate degree in a social science if money was my point?

Posted by susanna at 11:24 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Dixie Schticks

From the "And this is new.... how?" department:

The Dixie Chicks say they don't want to be a country music band any more.

Violinist Martie Maguire told Spiegel magazine: "We don't feel part of the country scene any longer, it can't be our home any more."

I have to admit that this whole Dixie Chicks thing bothers me in part because I do like some of their music. And I'm capable of separating politics from art unless an artist uses her (or his) status as an artist to assume a mantle of political activism. If it weren't for their art, who would care what Barbra Streisand or George Clooney thought? They'd be nothing more than man-on-the-street interviews on a slow Sunday news day. But their arrogance and their disgust for things that are important to me, rubbed in my face with an imperious manner, make my appreciation for their art take a sudden plunge. It's as if someone smeared feces on the Mona Lisa - you still appreciate the artistry underneath, but the overlay will send you out of range pretty quickly.

And that's what's wrong with the Dixie Chicks now. They're peevish, whiney, and full of themselves, tainting their (in my judgment) quite obvious talent with a noxious overlay. I can think of a lot I'd like to say, but Jonathan Last at The Weekly Standard has (as usual) said it so aptly that there's nothing more to add:

There are three possible explanations for this latest fit of Dixie Pique. None of them are particularly flattering.

The first, and kindest, is that they're simply sore losers...

The second is that this is the endgame in a calculated marketing shift...

The third explanation is that the Dixie Chicks have decided they don't like the people who buy their records...

When asked how she felt about creating the Bush fracas, Maines told Entertainment Weekly, "It's sort of felt how people say it is when someone dies, how you go through every stage--angry, disappointed, confused. Some days I just feel proud." Later, recounting how one of their tour bus drivers quit in the wake of her comments, Maines said, "It seems unfathomable that someone would not want to drive us because of our political views. But we're learning more and more that it's not unfathomable to a large percentage of the population." Of course Maines is part of that large percentage, too, since she no longer wants to associate with country music...

AT LEAST PART of the impetus for their leaving country music seems to be finding a listeners who will agree with them politically. As Maines gleefully told Entertainment Weekly, "We surprised [the rock] audience as much as the country audience. They never in a million years thought that we wouldn't want to go to war." Most of the time, audiences seek out musicians they like. The Dixie Chicks are shopping for an audience they find palatable.

And Last calls out their future too: thing's for sure: By turning their backs on country, the Dixie Chicks are in danger of mutating into a left-wing boutique act whose audience is more interested in supporting a brand of politics than enjoying music.

I think he's nailed it. We'll revisit this in five years.

Posted by susanna at 12:50 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Note to self

Do not put active dry yeast in the breadmaker in the evening with all the other dry ingredients, then get up in the morning to start the machine. Your bread will turn out looking like some cylindrical ancient volcano that blew its top centuries ago, leaving a deep, sad and lumpy crater in the center surrounded by a smooth high slope.

There is a reason active dry yeast is sealed in foil and plastic.

Action plan: Croutons?

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

September 23, 2003

Amy got married

Tonight I was watching a show about Elizabeth Haysom and her boyfriend, both in prison for killing her parents (they each say the other did it). I thought... I wonder what they're doing now? I looked up Haysom and found that just this past spring she began writing a column for The Fluvanna Review, the local rag for the town where her prison is located. It created a bit of a stir.

Naturally that made me think of Amy Fisher, the Long Island Lolita who shot (but didn't kill) her married lover's wife in 1992. While on parole, she began writing a column for The New Island Ear; it's since become the Long Island Press, and Fisher is a columnist there. And, just last week, Amy got married.

She may have actually reformed in prison; married, a three-year-old son, a steady job. She mostly stays out of the limelight, and they don't carry a photo of her on the Press site. But be prepared - she's going to be a poster child soon:

...her parole was complete this past January, she announced that she would be working on a cause she is too familiar with—keeping handguns away from minors. She is currently working on a book project about kids and violence.

Look for it in the New York Times Review of Books with an ecstatic review as soon as it hits a bookstore near you.

And Joey Buttafuoco, the randy scum who made it with Fisher while she was under age? He apparently is freaking out women in exercise gyms*, these days. Sadly, he and the missus, Mary Jo Buttafuoco (who really is an innocent in all this), got a divorce earlier this year.

(I love the Internet. It's such an addiction for an information junkie like me.)

I don't know that this is describing a real event; it could well be someone's idea of being cute. But it sounds plausible, doesn't it?

Posted by susanna at 10:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Cleanliness is next to impossible

An interesting (to me) question:

Does living in a somewhat germ-y and bacteria-laden environment give a person more resistance to disease?

When I grew up, we ate a lot of food right out of the garden. Sometimes we just picked something and ate it right there – wiping dirt off a strawberry on my pants leg first, at most. Now, we were very clean. My mom kept a tidy kitchen, and house as a whole, our clothes were clean, the typical middle-class way of life. But dad didn’t (and doesn’t) get too exercised over things like finding a hair in something (pull it out!) or even a bug or two (Just adds a little body to it), if the balance of the product, whatever it was, was in good shape. Cut rotten bits out and eat the rest. Don’t get too picky. Yes, we washed our hands, but you know kids – not always as quickly or as well as we should have, probably. I’d say I put away quite a few little wiggly bacteria with disease potential when I was growing up. And as an adult, I still don’t get too caught up in clinical cleanliness – the health department wouldn’t close me down, but I’ve been known to pick up a dropped chocolate, rinse it and eat it. (Okay, I’d rescue chocolate from a mud pit, but that’s another post.)

We Americans are freaky about cleanliness in general. Even someone like me, who is fairly relaxed about germ warfare, is probably a lot more clean in general than people in some other countries. It’s a cultural as well as a knowledge-about-disease thing. And nowadays we have anti-bacterial handsoap, laundry detergent, household cleaner, floor mop soap, dishwashing detergent, dishwasher soap, etc ad nauseam. So here’s the corollary to the above question:

Are we too clean today?

I don’t get sick very often (what I do get is weird things like an eye stroke and a backside cyst, but again, another post). I wonder, am I just lucky? Or on to something in my refusal to see every hair* in the soup as a contaminant as disgusting and dangerous as botulism? Is it possible I’ve built up some level of resistance to minor illnesses?

*(NOTE! It always depends on whose hair. Some people carry the detritus of years in their thin swinging protein. That hair would contaminate not just the soup, but the entire meal.)

Some reading material:

Answers to your questions about the hazards of antibacterial cleaners
Is antibacterial soap any better than regular soap?
Seaweed inspires antibacterial - Stopping bugs communicating can keep them apart
Honey as a topical antibacterial agent for treatment of infected wounds (Who knew in 9 1/2 Weeks that they were actually engaging in ancient first aid? Don't link to photos of the movie at work!)
Antibacterial soap 'may not work'
Garlic as an antibiotic (Do bacteria have a sense of smell?)
Are antibacterial cleaning products safe?

And, last but surely not least:
Penguins have 'antibacterial stomachs' (So if you're ever lost in Antarctica without your SubZero WetOnes, just kill a penguin and plunge your hands in his stomach before dinner)

(Okay, I have to get into a little diatribe about "9 1/2 Weeks". It's not all that. It's a wannabe. I saw it, and later thought, "That's it? That's edgy and sexy? They're phoning it in!" Could have been that I saw it just a couple of years ago, instead of in 1986 when it came out. But I think the average imaginative couple could come up with more erotic tension, no problem. I found myself thinking, what a waste of good food.)

[And I bet you couldn't write a logical post that includes hair in soup, a penguin and Kim Basinger covered in honey.]

Posted by susanna at 12:31 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Sending toys to Iraq

Chief Wiggles is asking for toys to be shipped to him for distribution to children in Iraq.

He probably doesn't know what he's in for. I hope he has a lot of help lined up.

He has a list of no-no toys, which is fairly logical: think "poor fundamental religious families in a war zone", and you'll figure out what isn't good - no toy guns, no "Britney Spears Barbie", nothing that requires batteries, you get the picture.

Chief offers some suggestions for toys in his post, and readers add a lot more suggestions in the comments. Some don't know what to send, and have suggested Chief puts a donation link to Toys R Us. If he does that, I'll link it here too.

I think this is a great idea. We wonder what we can do, we send piles of things to our military, we feel a need to be a part of things over there. I have it from one who knows that the military has enough - Lt. Smash said the other night that when he left the Sandbox, there were boxes of toiletries and other things from care packages stacked up waiting for the new wave of personnel. Just too much for the ones there to use. But I doubt seriously that we can send more toys than the children can use.

If you wonder what to send, think about someone you would like to honor by it. When I saw the suggestion of paper and pens, I thought of my artistically talented grandmother who grew up so poor they didn't have paper for her to draw on. She told me about how exciting it was when the family received a letter in the mail, because her parents would give her the envelope to open and smooth out for drawing, and even sometimes the back of the letter. How many artistic Iraqi children thirst for a big supply of paper and art chalks or paints? How many are scientifically bent and would find scientific supplies - a magnifying glass, a science kit - an enthralling gift? Educated and curious-minded individuals are, I think, the necessary foundation for a successful democracy. We can help lay that foundation.

Americans have big hearts, and helping the children of Iraq is an unambiguous good. I'm going to send art paper and pens with a note that it's in honor of my grandmother. What are you going to send?

Posted by susanna at 10:13 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Latest on the pizza bomb case

Not much is happening in the investigation of the death of a pizza man from a collar bomb someone else apparently put on him. Or, if something is happening, no officials are talking. In the most recent article*, that very fact gives rise to the story:

People don't keep secrets. And Edinboro University of Pennsylvania criminal justice professor Jim Fisher believes the secret surrounding the collar-bomb death of Brian Wells is too good of a secret.

That's why Fisher wonders why the public hasn't seen more of the evidence the FBI and other investigators have gathered in their ongoing search for answers into why Wells robbed a bank with a bomb locked to his neck and later died when the device exploded...

The apparent absence so far of a tip that can break the case suggests to Fisher that one or two things are at play. The first possibility is that Wells and Robert Pinetti, a friend and co-worker of Wells who died three days after the robbery, are connected to the case in one way or another and took all the information with them when they died, he said.

The other possibility is that all of the preparation for the crime took place out of town, which is why investigators seemingly have gotten no good information about the collar bomb, he said.

"Initially I think we all presumed this was the act of some strange local people and just showing the collar and bomb would be enough," Fisher said. "But as it turns out, this is a much more covert crime."

I agree with the covert part. It does seem a bit difficult to crack if it was a simple crime, especially with 50 agents working it, as was reported before. On the other hand, a very simple, straightforward crime can be hard to crack just because there's not much hanging out there to investigate.

We'll keep on eye on this.

In other Erie news, a local woman is apparently involved in the shooting death of her boyfriend, although she says from jail that her handyman and ex-boyfriend was the one who "killed him and touched his body and put him in the freezer". We are assured by authorities that this case is not connected to the pizza bomb case:

Erie County District Attorney Brad Foulk said the killing does not appear related to the case of Brian Wells, a pizza deliveryman killed when a bomb locked around his neck exploded Aug. 28.

Rothstein's home is at the start of a dirt road Wells drove down to make his last pizza delivery the day he was killed.

Me, I'm ready to move to Erie myself - nice safe quiet town, lovely neighbors. Anyone want to join me?

* No deeplinking at, and of course no really good way to figure out where old stories went either. It's a sorry sorry excuse for a website. Anyway, this article was linked in the "Yesterday's Most Popular Articles" section at the very bottom of the page, at 8:23 a.m. Who knows where it will be later - it certainly wasn't on the "» !!! Brian Wells Case Stories" page this morning.

Posted by susanna at 08:27 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Forging a new Iraq

Ann Scott Tyson of The Christian Science Monitor is in the middle of a thoughtful three-part series on the potentials and trials of constructing a new nation without rendering the old one into ashes. Here is the first article; here is the second. The third will run tomorrow.

Posted by susanna at 07:48 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Libertarianism and fighting foreign wars

Ron Bailey, Christopher Hitchens, Christopher Preble, and Ivan Eland discuss libertarian philosophy, the war on terrorism and the war in Iraq on

The bottom line is that a libertarian foreign policy ultimately recognizes that support for genuine freedom fighters is the best self-defense.

So what do you think, all ye libertarians who think our military should be defensive only? Does this fall under that heading?

Posted by susanna at 07:43 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Jackson: NYT is administration patsy

William Jackson Jr., a foreign affairs analyst, writes a scathing analysis of NY Times reporter Judith Miller's coverage of the search for WMDs in Iraq, and beats up on the Bush administration in the process:

Did Miller break credible hard news -- or only flack for hawks in the government, an all-too-familiar role for her over the last two years as she wrote a batch of stories supporting allegations that Iraq was developing and producing chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons?

...When I interviewed military officials and journalists located in Iraq regarding the conduct of Miller during the quest for WMD, they did not mince words: "Nobody could stand her." She had an "imperious manner." "She's lucky we didn't shoot her." "She wore a uniform." "She had an exclusive deal with the Pentagon" -- which undoubtedly caused resentment all around.

There would seem to have been no better-qualified American reporter than Miller to follow the quest for WMD in Iraq. However, Miller's journalistic product, and not just her personality and methods, became the most criticized of the war (with the exception of Geraldo Rivera) and the succeeding occupation.

There is some irony in New York Times' Baghdad correspondent John Burns' pronouncement (E&P Online, Sept. 15) that "there is corruption in our business," when he then proceeds to illustrate the underreporting of Hussein's crimes against Iraqis before the war but fails to comment on the over-reporting of administration falsehoods and half-truths in hyping the WMD threat posed by Iraq -- by his own newspaper.

Who is Jackson? Does it matter? I'm sure his assessment is measured and as factual as possible, with no agenda hidden or otherwise. Why do you need to know...

Oh, okay. If you insist.

William E. Jackson Jr. was executive director of President Carter's General Advisory Committee on Arms Control. He writes about American foreign policy and hosts a TV political talk show in Charlotte, N.C.

Like I said - doesn't matter. Does it?

Posted by susanna at 07:32 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Greenpeace - violating tax laws?

Is Greenpeace in trouble for a form of money laundering?

A watchdog group that monitors non-profit organizations has filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service, alleging that the environmental group Greenpeace is "knowingly and systematically violating U.S. tax laws."

Public Interest Watch of Washington, D.C., formally filed the IRS complaint Monday, asking the federal agency to investigate Greenpeace's non-profit financial practices...

According to PIW's report, the tax-subsidized division of Greenpeace failed to follow federal non-profit tax guidelines regarding its educational and charitable activities.

The PIW report maintains that Greenpeace diverted over $24 million between its various entities over a three-year period for activities that did not qualify under federal law as tax exemptions. The report said Greenpeace engaged in such non-tax-exempt activities as blockading a naval base to protest the war in Iraq and padlocking the gates of a government research facility.

"Greenpeace has devised a system for diverting tax-exempt funds and using them for non-exempt - and oftentimes illegal - purposes. It's a form of money laundering, plain and simple," Hardiman explained.

Sounds plausible to me, knowing how federal grants work. Greenpeace, of course, won't have it:

"It's completely false and without merit," said Melanie Janin, Greenpeace USA's spokeswoman.

"Greenpeace is considering this an attack by a fringe group," Janin added.

That's pretty funny, considering that Greenpeace is a fringe group to a lot of us. But let's move on:

Greenpeace USA also accused PIW of having a "clear anti-NGO (non-governmental organization) agenda," pointing to the recent lawsuits by PIW against groups with similar political philosophies to Greenpeace, like the Rainforest Action Network, the Dogwood Alliance and the anti-war group,

"While PIW will not disclose its funding sources, Greenpeace strongly suspects that PIW is funded by American corporations, many of which may be under scrutiny for anti-environmental behavior by environmental organizations like Greenpeace," the press release stated.

And having an anti-liberal-NGO agenda is bad because..............? Even if they have it, which they deny:

Hardiman also denied that his group only goes after environmental groups like Greenpeace, pointing to several conservative organizations against which PIW has filed IRS petitions.

"Greenpeace selectively only chose the lefty groups we went after. We also went after conservative groups as well," Hardiman said. He mentioned the Pat Buchanan-led group, the American Cause, and the anti-immigration group, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, as examples of conservative organizations PIW has targeted.

It'll be interesting to see what an investigation reveals. A lot of government grants are very loosely monitored (which annoys me mightily), so I find this at least plausible. We'll see. For right now, I'm just glad someone has bitten Greenpeace on the butt. It needed doing.

Posted by susanna at 07:19 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 22, 2003

Sweet, but kind of funny

Jonathan loves Erin. Erin loves Jonathan. It's a tender match with all the twists and turns of a Harlequin novel.

Except it's real, and in your very own NY Times.

Jonathan Frankel and Erin Richards married last Saturday, and the NY Times article on it is just... well... sweet but amusing. Frankel, a journalist, is the son of a former NY Times managing editor, and Richards, a stay at home mom, the widow of a 9/11 victim. The article reads like a book synopsis for a romance publisher. That's the sweet and the funny. Why did they think the average person would be interested? Who is Frankel? Who is Richards? A famous name, a familiar face, a woman in distress and a connection to a national horror. I read the article, expecting at some point to find the point, but... there was none. Just sweet. Just amusing.

I wish them all the best.

Posted by susanna at 08:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Just something to think about

Meryl Yourish is highly annoyed with her electric company for not having her electricity back on several days after Hurricane Isabel. And well she should be.

But reading about her trials and tribulations made me think... it's going to take more than a week for a major utility with thousands of workers, pots of money and a stable and safe infrastructure to restore power to 300,000 people whose homes are already wired and waiting. Now, why is it so bad that just a few months after the end of major hostilities in the Iraq war, the people of Iraq don't have dependable service? After all, the infrastructure is questionable, the number of workers is not high, the environment continues to be dangerous, terrorists are actively sabotaging the work, and even average every day thieves are taking what components are installed to sell on the black market.

Just something to think about.

Posted by susanna at 08:17 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Speaking of objectivity

Famous journalist Seymour Hersh (living on his laurels, like Bob Woodward) thinks embedding was bad - bad!

...Seymour Hersh, the legendary investigative reporter who broke the story of the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, had a different take on the embedding system. “It gave us a great view,” he told the SPJ audience. “Unfortunately, it was not the right view.”

“I really sort of hate to pee on the parade here,” continued Hersh. “But embedding puts us in the place of being advocates. Our job must be adversarial.”

First we have to have a moment to deal with our disappointment that he lied to us - he didn't at all hate to pee on the parade. He did it with relish! He arced high and modeled as if he was going to be plastered on the back window of every souped-up pickup in the South by week's end! He drew a line in the dust with it and then looked proudly back at us, pointing at his bold statement!

Calmed down now? Okay. Let's move on.

Hersh misses some important points here: He does not know what the "right view" is. In fact, there are multiple views and the more information you have the better able you are to see the whole picture. (See, elephant, the describing of by blind men.) The view from inside the military units is just as valid as, say, the view from inside the bar of the Palestine Hotel, where the showered non-embedded journalists gorged on hot meals in their clean clothes chatting about what to make news the next day, in between forays out no more than a few blocks from the hotel to talk to people who may or may not be who they said they were. Would it have been a bad thing for all the war news to come from embeds? Yes, if for no other reason than it would have been a very narrow view. But for Hersh to say it was bad to have embeds at all is very clear evidence of his own bias.

And then comes his little comment about what the press should be: adversarial. In every setting? On every topic? Just what does he mean by adversarial anyway? The times the press actually is adversarial, it's usually when they think there's a career-making scoop hidden away; when the issue or person doesn't close the circle for the journalists' confirmation bias; or when they're showing off for their friends. Yes, there are honest and dedicated reporters. But more than they like to admit are not thoughtful collectors and imparters of news, but rather are fraught with biases, botherations, agendas, career aspirations, jealousies, and a shallow understanding of what they're covering. They pick and choose when to be adversarial. And they usually reserve that attitude for the Big something - Big Government, Big Business. If the organization or situation is something that itself is adversarial to those entities, then much of the media takes an, "The enemy of our enemy is our friend" approach. So to say the media must always be adversarial is to say nothing useful or true at all, because it is not practiced neutrally or evenly at all.

Odd too that Hersh would so harshly criticize the embeds when he himself would probably have liked to have on-the-ground information from such a source when reporting a skirmish in Afghanistan where his reported facts were hotly disputed by the Pentagon. The value of having embeds in that situation was even pointed out by Eason Jordan and Walter Isaacson of CNN. And speaking of Eason, how can Hersh criticize embeds for fraternizing with the subjects of their writing without also excoriating virtually all the journalists who worked in Baghdad prior to this spring's war? Jordan has admitted that his network deliberately left atrocities unreported so they could keep reporters in the country (and to what point? having a presence is of no value if your coverage is systematically skewed as a result - and it is actively lying to your public if you don't admit that skew). Perhaps Hersh would benefit from a sit-down with John Burns, another well-respected journalist who both fought the good fight to cover the truth in Iraq pre-war, was embedded during, and reported unflinchingly the betrayal of America's trust by journalists that was a part of the daily fare of pre-war Iraq coverage.

And along the way to his dubious "high ground", Hersh not only lost his reason, he lost his humanity. Referring to one of the former embedded reporters who were speaking with him at a panel during the Society of Professional Journalists meeting, Hersh had this to say:

Once, when coming under heavy fire, a young Marine turned to Sanders for advice. The reporter encouraged the Marine to have confidence in his abilities.

At the SPJ meeting, Hersh criticized Sanders for crossing the journalistic line by advising his subjects.

That's right. Sanders may have helped save that Marine's life, but Hersh thinks it's just a horrible thing. How is that more dishonest than this, which occurs daily without any acknowledgement by the media? It is much more honest and humane to reach out in the extremities of the battle, and then report it. Because that is truth That is what happens there. And in Hersh's world, where do you draw the line? Do you knock the gun out of the hand of someone about to shoot another, and you have both the strength and opportunity to do so? Or do you just report the shooting? Do you stop an adult from beating a child, or do you just report on the sad condition of the human soul that would hurt a child?

Hersh's criticism of embeds, and his plaint that it compromises the adversarial role of the media, draws from the same well as the endless barking of the objectivity crowd. And no less a personage than yet another famous journalist, Pulitzer Prize winner Walter Pincus of the Washington Post, himself no friend of the establishment, had this to say about objectivity on yesterday's NPR On The Media program* (paraphrased): Today's media isn't like the old time media, which I think was better. But they're getting more comfortable with showing their opinion. (The interviewer asks, are you saying they should just admit their biases and put them out there?) Yes, they should admit their biases.

I suggest we start with Mr. Hersh and which parades he chooses to pee on.

[SPJ link via Romenesko]

* The one titled "Four and Twenty Blackbirds"

Posted by susanna at 08:00 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

"I'm just so jealous I can't stand myself!"

When I had dinner with the Smashes Saturday night, they told me that they were meeting Peggy Noonan for dinner on Sunday night. Well. I was so jealous. But I'm not who I'm talking about in the headline.

Reading about the Smashes' visit with Noonan made me curious again about her son, and who she was married to. I never hear that discussed. So I did a Google search for "Peggy Noonan married". And found this.

Oh, honey. It is the funniest thing I've ever read that didn't mean to be, full of snarks and hypocrisy and whining. What is it? Two classmates of Noonan's from high school who are very liberal set out to put the record straight on Little Miss Thinks-She's-Hot-Stuff-Now. It's so small town, so vicious and personally hateful. Here's a good example - a recounting of when one of them, Monica Finch, now a journalist in Massachusetts, went to see a speech by Noonan and spoke to her for the first time in many years:

I stepped up and looked right into her eyes. Not a glimmer of recognition. "Hi, Peg. Remember me?" I could see her casting back, wildly flipping through her mental Rolodex. Finally I said in an exaggerated faux "Joisey" accent "It's me, Peg. Nikki Finch." Her face broke into a wide smile and she surprised me by giving me a long hug. I had the feeling she was desperately trying to figure out what to do with me. She asked me what I was doing there. We were both trying to read one another. I quickly explained my mission. "You haven't changed a bit since high school," she said. I did not take this as a compliment...

I raised my hand and asked Peg to name other writers who influenced her. First of all, I was surprised when she called on me by name. Later when answering another question from the audience, she said, "When Nikki and I were in high school, we studied …" I couldn't understand why she was making such a point to include me. I was baffled by her attention -- a whiff of noblesse oblige?

After the program, I met her on the stone terrace overlooking the garden and grounds. I took some photos, asked more questions -- all business. Other local reporters took turns getting their stories. Peg was like a turtle with its head stretched out basking in the sun. Obviously she still loved the attention, even at this small-time gathering. After the others left, we spoke personally for a few minutes. She asked about my brother. I mentioned that my mother had recently been treated successfully for breast cancer. She said, "I'll pray for her." It was difficult to gauge her sincerity.

It was getting late and I was on deadline. Peggy had drifted off into gaggles of admirers who pressed around her. I sought her out to say good-bye. She said it was good to see me, blah, blah, blah. I smiled and looked her straight in the eye -- "Peg, don't let them take any more pieces out of you." She looked stunned, as if I'd struck something deeply hidden in her. I turned and walked out. I believe I could feel her eyes on my back.

I'm sure Noonan was stunned - that this former classmate was venturing to comment on her life when Finch hadn't been a part of it for decades (and wasn't very nice to her even then). It was extremely rude, and shows that Finch thinks everything is all about her. Certainly it didn't occur to her that Noonan may be a genuinely nice adult person.

Both women accuse Noonan of, essentially, getting above her raising, yet both make a strong point to paint Noonan's origins as shameful and to be despised - odd for liberals, don't you think? And Gloria Lalumia, the other former classmate, gets in high gear with the "she isn't and never was as cool as me!" teenager mode:

Peggy and I were members of the class of 1968 at Rutherford (NJ) High School. She had transferred in from somewhere unknown at the start of her sophomore year. My mother was a teacher at RHS and she was in her social studies class. Her recollections of Peggy--long, limp hair, a loner who didn't say boo, a B student, someone living over a stationery store downtown, definitely not from the tonier side of WASP Rutherford. As I recall her, she was smart, but could be snippy and superior. In fact, in the caption for her yearbook picture she described herself as "Cool and poised"..."Crusader"..."Very argumentative" with a "Satirical wit" and a future in "Journalism." And, for good measure, she stated that she was a member of "The Resistance."

There's only one problem with this last item: Peggy Noonan was NOT a member of "The Resistance."

Those of us in the VERY small group calling itself The Resistance were, obviously, not among the "in group"--i.e., the football-cheerleader crowd. We were the “nerds” and artists, interested in pushing the envelope in a very conservative time and place: for example, I was editor of the paper, getting hauled into the principal's office for trying to print an article on the crummy state of the boys' and girls' rooms.

Peggy wanted to be in the Resistance, but she was never formally admitted. In fact, none of us trusted her. She was sneaky. She always seemed to have an eye trained on my boyfriend, the most talented artist in the school. You never knew what she really was thinking and she seemed cold and distant even as she spoke to you. I can remember a moment standing at the back of the auditorium, as she earnestly talked to me, seeming overly intense, yet detached.

Since she was not a member, she did not accompany us, the three senior members of the Resistance who cut the baccalaureate service before graduation and burned a sacrificial copy of the literary magazine in protest against the censorship we had had to fight to get the damned thing published. However, in the ultimate proof of her untrustworthiness and blind ambition, she dishonestly named herself as a member of said Resistance in the yearbook!

Was it a desperate attempt to gain acceptance?? Did we drive her to it by not naming her as part of the only Resistance group in the school?? Was this early rejection by her radical high school peers the cause of her going off the deep end and becoming a right-winger of the most obnoxious and toxic sort?

People, they graduated in 1968! The piece is copyrighted 2001! Is 33 years not long enough to get over almost anything that occurred in high school? I would question whether Lalumia's interpretation is correct, I'd say Noonan would have a different memory. The difference is, Noonan probably doesn't remember - she, unlike these two, has moved on.

Here's Finch locked in the 60s:

The most persistent memory of Peggy Noonan while we were in high school is her constant need for attention. She was an indefatigable suck-up with the teachers or any authority figure, a regular female Eddie Haskell. However, our high school the guidance counselor may have thrown down the gauntlet when he responded unenthusiastically to Peg's aspirations to become a writer - "Go to secretarial school." In fact, she did; even worked for an insurance company for a time. But Peggy had a lot of showing up to do.

It's only been 24 years since I graduated from high school, but I don't think I could drum up this level of bitter jealousy for anyone I knew then, no matter what their accomplishments as compared to my dismal state. Sheesh. Lalumia's final line is classic - if you didn't figure it out before, she tells you right where they're coming from:

...each time she comes on TV and just before I switch the channel, for a brief moment I go back to the time when she made eyes at my boyfriend, lived above the store, and WASN'T in The Resistance...I know where you come from, Peggy, even if you've forgotten...

Like a little cheese with that bitter self-hating whine?

Posted by susanna at 01:32 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

On Reagan

TIME magazine puts up front this week a new book featuring some of the 5,000 letters found of those Ronald Reagan wrote over his lifetime. That's a book I may buy. This on his religiosity:

While Bush is widely seen as one of the most genuinely devout modern Presidents, Reagan was sometimes charged with being a phony, one who talked up religious values but was actually a divorced, nonchurchgoing Hollywood type who was remote from his own kids. He tells one pen pal that he would go to church more if he could, but the Secret Service argued that because of terrorism threats he presented too big a risk to other parishioners. Yet elsewhere, Reagan sounds better equipped to lead a congregation than join one. In a 1978 letter, he argues with a California pastor about the divinity of Jesus: "(E)ither he was what he said he was or he was the world's greatest liar. It is impossible for me to believe a liar or charlatan could have had the effect on mankind that he has had for 2000 years. We could ask, would even the greatest of liars carry his lie through the crucifixion, when a simple confession would have saved him? ... Did he allow us the choice you say that you and others have made, to believe in his teaching but reject his statements about his own identity?"

It was suggested to me that Reagan's argumentation here has shades of C.S. Lewis. Certainly it's a more hardline approach than many "religious" have today (and some very good questions too).

And here is something 99.999999999999999% of politicians, as well as others in public life (such as, say, academics), would do well to emulate: may be that one secret to his success, his ability to persuade people, was that he took his beliefs more seriously than he took himself.

I think that is another thing Reagan and G.W. share, but it's not limited to conservative politicians. It's characteristic of people who are genuine, from any perspective, and it's something most politicians today can't quite grasp.

Posted by susanna at 06:57 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Born in Korea the USA


LOS ANGELES ― In an apparent crackdown, U.S. authorities have arrested 10 Korean mothers who traveled to the United States to give birth so that their babies would be eligible for American citizenship.

The women were held on visa violations, charged with having come to the country for reasons other than stated on their entry permits. U.S. immigration authorities also detained a Korean broker operating here and charged the person, who was not immediately identified, with arranging the trips for the mothers-to-be.

The Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an agency under the Department of Homeland Security, and other bureaus including the Internal Revenue Service are focusing on businesses in the Korean section of Los Angeles set up to serve pregnant travelers, U.S. officials said. Korean women, who give birth while on a tourist visa, can exempt their sons from the draft in Korea and gain access to U.S. public education.

The practice by Koreans has been ongoing for years, but now the U.S. government is making an effort to stem it...

As thousands of pregnant Korean women sought to go to the United States to give birth, an industry specializing in helping them was spawned in Los Angeles. No official statistics are available, but industry insiders estimated that about 5,000 births by Korean visitors occurred last year, and another 8,000 as of August this year. A two-month trip costs roughly $20,000.

Explain to me why someone gets US papers just because his mom was in the US when he arrived on the scene? I know it's law, and common - a friend of mine had dual Nigerian/USA citizenship because her parents were working as missionaries in Nigeria when she was born. But at least that made a little more sense; they actually lived there, they weren't just on safari. Or there for the purpose of giving her Nigerian citizenship.

And in this world of terrorism, why is this allowed? We've seen long range planning on the part of terrorist groups - how useful would it be to have a whole cohort of children from Yemen or Syria or Saudi Arabia or Indonesia or any other country that harbors terrorists who want to bring down the US have US papers so they can come and go as they please, come to the US for school, move here, after being raised to hate the US in their own country? I'm not saying these Korean women are associated with terrorists, and there are lots of other ways terrorists can get in. But that's one way to get a Trojan horse behind the gates.

Sometimes I get almost fatalistic about our future as a country. On the one hand we have an amazingly effective military, and on the other we keep giving our enemies more and more tools to kill us. This country won't go down because we can't protect ourselves militarily; we'll go down because we didn't all love our country enough to save it.

[Link via Interested Participant]

Posted by susanna at 06:44 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

September 21, 2003


Last night I PATHed into Manhattan to meet the redoubtable Lt. Smash and his charming and lovely wife, Mrs. Smash. He and I have emailed a lot, about the war and politics and such things, so it was one of those interesting evenings made possible by online interaction - spending time catching up with old friends you've never met. They are both as intelligent and attractive as you've thought, and yes, the good Lt. did repeatedly during the evening call attention to just how lovely, and interesting, and great his wife is. Since he is only a few weeks back from a very long absence, that's to be expected. Fortunately for me, she is in fact objectively those things, so I joined the fan club without so much as crossing my fingers behind my back.

Actually, I bring that up not to embarrass Mrs. Smash (which it undoubtedly will), but to say that is was a lot of fun to be around a couple who so obviously admire each other. They make a good team.

We ate at an Italian place, after they told me "anything but Italian - we had that last night and will have it again tomorrow night". Later I was trying to guide them through Greenwich Village to one of those to-die-for little pastry places down near Carmine Street, but even with a map I got all tangled and wound up taking us in a circle. So dessert was pie at a little diner. A direct quote from Lt. Smash, "I've had good key lime pie. This isn't it."


It's remarkable when you can meet someone for the first time, really, and connect so you do feel like old friends. I hope to make it out to their part of the world before long. Because...

Well, because the Smashes are just smashing.

Posted by susanna at 04:15 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 20, 2003

Not that I would ever make fun...

I just signed up for one of those track your classmates things, and came across a couple of posts by a woman who must have been in school with me, given her age, but I don't remember her. However, she's pretty funny. Here she is on why she joined the military, in a section on wonderful teachers:

Memorable to say the least [gives the name - and no, you can't know] ( a visionary) and a wonderful English teacher. She took us on many journeys without leaving the classroom. Gone with the wind, I could visualize Rhett Butler. She introduced us to Danielle Steel, a beautful, strong female writer that inspired me to join the Air Force and fight! Margarett Mitchell was a 35 year old housewife who wrote about the civil war. Imagine this me..holding my M-16 in the Desert,.. a female. After all I had been in Atlanta and survived the cowboy nights, the dust,the Indian raids, and grill fires with Rhett, and Scarlett Hara's temper tantrums!!!. She has shown us the beauty and strength of a beautiful mind.

And here she is in response to a post on the message board by a guy looking for gay men in the area:

In response to the gay guys in [the] County. I never met any. I lived there 19 years. My family never met any and my friends never met any. If we were to meet one, I guess it would frighten us.

Clearly, this lady did not ask, and no one told her, while she was in the military.

Oh, and she describes her politics as "very liberal". I guess I would have to ask, "As compared to who?"

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

September 19, 2003

About today and life

I have a backlog of things to post about, but things keep happening. So here's some of it.

I've decided to move to Alabama. I think I mentioned something about it before, I can't remember, I know at least to some of you I have. My brother moved there with his family earlier this month, and they already love it (even though it's not Kentucky). I reached the end of my rope in New Jersey about 18 months ago, and the knot I tied at the end is beginning to fray. I want to be closer to my family; I want to be able to go over and eat popcorn and watch a movie, to babysit my nieces, to have a picnic on Independence Day, to shop with my sister in law and spar with my brother face to face. And it's also closer to my parents and sister's family.

And it's southern. There's a lot to be said for Yankees, most of it in language I don't use. Ha. Just kidding. Some of the nicest people I know live here and are from here. But I'm a southerner, a country girl, and a Yankee metropolis is no place for me to be. I want to drink ice tea on the porch without hearing a car alarm, I want to be able to say "sir" and "ma'am" without people thinking I'm mocking them, I want to be around people who don't think "grits" is something you do with your teeth when you're mad.

But I don't have a job there. I've been busy the last little bit tracking down things to do to bring in $$, because I'd rather not have another full-time regular-hour job until I'm done with my dissertation. There's a good chance I'll be an adjunct prof at a community college, and I'm looking into freelance grant writing opportunities. It's time to start that freelance magazine writing career too. Part of my time away from here has been taken up with job hunting.

And then there's school. I want to take my core area exam this fall, and write a concept paper for my dissertation so I can get a go-ahead from my dissertation committee chair before I head to the hinterlands. Things are coming together there too, but obviously it takes time and will begin to take more. My goal is to graduate no later than Spring 2005, and maybe - just maybe, if I win the lottery and don't have to work at all - Fall 2004. Then I can get a real job, teaching and writing. And being paid a living wage.

And finally, work continues to be weird. I don't want to get into it particularly, but when I started there three years ago there were 4 full-time people and three interns working in the section. Now I'm the only one left of those 7, and only two additional people are there. The office feels like a ghost town. Just today an intern who had already given notice, on his last day at the office, was fired and escorted out of the building. Freaked me out. So that didn't leave me in the mood to post.

It's a bureaucracy too, all governments are, and I spend a lot of time pushing against walls of civil servants protecting their own little area and not much interested in what needs doing. I can't claim to be the lone little worker bee in the place - a lot of people work hard, and I don't necessarily do as much as I could or should. But it makes it even harder to do what's right when you just get tired of pushing for every little inch when you do.

Plus, and I hate to complain (not really, but it sounds better to say that), but I'm still not completely healed from the minor surgery I had two months ago. That wears you down too.

And then, also today, I had a talk with The Big Guy at work, who hadn't called me in for a sit-down since he ascended to The Job, and he asked me if I was looking for a job. I stammered and said I wouldn't mind having a new job. I hate those situations, I just freeze and go into self-protect mode and find some way not to answer. He says he's going to get me a raise. I said the position needs it. I made it clear that I wouldn't be in that position much longer, but not just how little "much longer" is in this instance. The conversation ranged over a variety of other topics, work related, that made me very very edgy but I can't discuss them here.

So. That's my life. Did I mention I'm working on a baby quilt and a patriotic quillow, in my sporadic spare time? And sometimes I just sit and stare at the television.

But I promise I'll post, at least once a day, through it all.

Posted by susanna at 11:59 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

September 18, 2003

John Burns scorches the media

On Monday, E&P ran an outstanding oral history excerpt from journalist John Burns, who covered Iraq for the NY Times before as well as during the war this spring. The excerpt is from the book, Embedded: The Media at War in Iraq, an Oral History by Bill Katovsky and Timothy Carlson. Burns is caustic in his criticism, although it's clear that he is not down on journalism as a whole:

Terror, totalitarian states, and their ways are nothing new to me, but I felt from the start that this was in a category by itself, with the possible exception in the present world of North Korea. I felt that that was the central truth that has to be told about this place. It was also the essential truth that was untold by the vast majority of correspondents here. Why? Because they judged that the only way they could keep themselves in play here was to pretend that it was okay.

There were correspondents who thought it appropriate to seek the approbation of the people who governed their lives. This was the ministry of information, and particularly the director of the ministry. By taking him out for long candlelit dinners, plying him with sweet cakes, plying him with mobile phones at $600 each for members of his family, and giving bribes of thousands of dollars. Senior members of the information ministry took hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes from these television correspondents who then behaved as if they were in Belgium. They never mentioned the function of minders. Never mentioned terror.

In one case, a correspondent actually went to the Internet Center at the Al-Rashid Hotel and printed out copies of his and other people's stories -- mine included -- specifically in order to be able to show the difference between himself and the others. He wanted to show what a good boy he was compared to this enemy of the state. He was with a major American newspaper.

Yeah, it was an absolutely disgraceful performance. CNN's Eason Jordan's op-ed piece in The New York Times missed that point completely. The point is not whether we protect the people who work for us by not disclosing the terrible things they tell us. Of course we do. But the people who work for us are only one thousandth of one percent of the people of Iraq. So why not tell the story of the other people of Iraq? It doesn't preclude you from telling about terror. Of murder on a mass scale just because you won't talk about how your driver's brother was murdered.

It's nice to see a professional, obviously talented and competent journalist nailing Jordan for his self-serving op-ed that earned him a coy, "You are so bad, Eason! even from such critics as the ethics group leader at Poynter Institute (whose comments I trashed here and here). And what's even more refreshing is seeing him actually reporting on journalists like they purport to report on everyone and everything else - straight and unflinchingly.

It comes as no surprise to us - or shouldn't - that journalists were catering to Saddam and his crowd while they were in power. Some were likely doing so because the perqs were fun; some because they saw it as necessary to advance their own careers (as getting tossed out of Iraq for being truthful might not); and some because they dislike the US, and have a "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" mentality. A follow up piece by E&P says that Burns' comments were widely covered after they were published - as well they should be - and added that E&P had received more email on this article than any other they've run. And they reprint some of them. All are worth reading, but you'll like this one:

John Burns' "There is Corruption in Our Business," is a brilliant, important contribution to American journalism at a critical point in the history of our country ... and our craft. A salute to him for writing it, and to you for publishing it. It is my hope that this outstanding piece of work will reach the widest possible distribution and readership.

Dan Rather
CBS News, New York

Yes, ole Dan Rather. Praising criticism of the media.

Now, praise is cheap. One of the best ways to get around having to change something is to fawn and gush over the person who criticizes you, then carry on as usual - most people don't have the attention span to realize that they were just snowed. To deny or resist often calls more attention to it. So possibly journalism won't change.

But I think this kind of transparency is going to become more common, now that the Internet takes all manner of news straight to the people, and legions are tracking media misbehavior. Suddenly the opaque profession, the ones who stand behind the mirror they hold up to society, find they are now standing behind clear glass, and we can see all they do. Disconcerting for them, pushing the profession toward more honesty which is better for us. This, you see, comes on top of Jordan's admission, which was followed by the whole Jayson Blair debacle. Wham. Wham. Smack. Oh yeah.

What needs to happen next is that someone tracks down who did those things Burns identifies, and fries them just like Jayson got it. It'll only happen if someone external to the media outlets involved does it, though. The media giants have to measure the damage to their brand name of revealing that their correspondent was a lying Saddam patsy. They don't want to see it - collectively, anyway. There may be a few, like Burns, willing to take the heat such bravery brings. Very few, though, with sufficient statue like Burns to protect their jobs.

Bernard Goldberg comes to mind. Of course he does, especially since Dandy Dan was so vicious about Goldberg's book. The main reason for the different reception is this: Goldberg's book was an ugly backhand across the mouth to people he felt had wronged him; he was personally hurt, and the book - to me, anyway - sounded vindictive and petty. I didn't finish it. I'm not saying that he wasn't treated badly, and I do believe he identifies precisely the major source of bias in the media - it's not a deliberate effort to mislead usually, but a worldview that is so pervasive in their circle of colleagues and acquaintances that it seems neutral and mainstream even while it is flagrantly liberal to people outside their circle - which is most people. Their reporting reflects their worldview, and they are too blinkered to see its skew.

Burns speaks with an anger and passion because he thinks his profession was damaged, truth ignored and a horribly ill-used people left to their own devices while Western media kowtowed to their oppressor. You don't get the sense that these people hurt him personally and he is speaking of them vindictively. The intensity of emotion is the same; Burns' take is, actually, more journalistic - a reporting of what he saw, and his reaction to it, without making it about him. Perhaps that will come, if vilification follows his honesty.

I see this as very encouraging. And you will find, as the years progress, that this war just past created a rift in the world of journalism - there are those who were embedded, and learned that perhaps their world view was not the only valid one; and there are those who did not embed, and see something shady about eating MREs with an American military man but nothing wrong with eating caviar with a man who kills children and cuts out the tongues of poor family men.

Which would you rather hear from?

There were, of course, non-embedded journalists who covered the war honestly and morally. They will be more neutral in the rift, although the more honorable will lean toward the former embeds. It has the potential to be a sea-change in journalism. I hope the tides flow toward truth and honesty, no matter how it affects a career or reduces the perqs.

[Kevin McGehee had a few words on Burns' article here]

Posted by susanna at 03:06 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Gross - yet satisfying

Jim Bowen of NoWatermelons, knowing my grisly* interest in all things forensic, alerted me to the Autopsy Report, the blog of a pre-med student interning with a medical examiner's office. He talks about the cases he's worked on, and answers questions. It is most incredibly cool. BUT NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART AND STOMACH! Nor, actually, for those of tender sensibilities.

Now, I am actually well-endowed with all of those things - tender heart, stomach and sensibilities. I get nauseated using microfiche (the scrolling gives me motion sickness), and have little interest in the entertainment value of things like executions (the notorious Faces of Death videos, for example). Action movies, yes. Real life cruelty in process, no.

But the human body, what effect various happenings have on it, how scientists unravel the mystery surrounding the incidence of death - now that's enthralling.

So, check out Autopsy Report. And if you're really interested, check out The Virtual Autopsy. Here's photos of a real autopsy. If you're completely engaged by the body in death, check out these photos of a cadaver several days dead at WARNING! VERY GRAPHIC! I MEAN IT!

I read through those things last night just before going to bed. Very bad idea. Very very. Ack.

And sorry for the general lack of posts this morning. I came in to find my desktop overtaken by ants. So I have been conducting my own execution mission with bug killer (safe around Food! Children! Pets!), rubber gloves and rags. Seems to be under control. For now.

* Just a peeve about grisly. That is GRISLY with an S! Any time it is spelled with a Z, it means either a type of bear or a shaggy person who looks bearish. So. A grisly death scene. A grizzly bear. A grizzled man. There is no such thing as a "grizly scene" - unless a lot of bears are involved.

(Climbing off my soapbox)

Posted by susanna at 12:20 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 17, 2003

I'm a prayer-slut!

Remember Revolve, the new biblezine for fast-track teens who find the Bible "freaky" and too long? Christianity Today has a great article analyzing both the phenomenon of such products, and looking at what Thomas Nelson Bibles embedded in the 'zine for its own benefit. And those of you who aren't interested in religion will still find it a fascinating marketing tale:

On page 186, the girls can find "Top Ten Great Christian Books." C. S. Lewis and Dorothy Sayers haven't made the list. Top honors go to Witnessing 101 by Tim Baker and published by Transit Books. In fact, all of the top ten books have been recently published by Thomas Nelson, most of them through Transit Books.

Here's another curiosity: The eighth of the top ten great Christian books is titled Why So Many Gods? Its authors are Tim Baker and Kate Etue. Kate Etue is also the senior editor of Revolve. She was the one promoting the biblezine on CNN recently.

On page 231, in a blurb called "Issues: Religion," teens are told about "a cool book called Why So Many Gods? that will explain a lot of it for you." It's the same book that made the top ten list!


At least Thomas Nelson doesn't claim it's "just a Bible":

It's not a magazine. It's not a Bible. It's not even a study Bible, Whaley told me. It's "an inspirational and motivational Bible product."

There you go. A Bible product. Kind of like a cheese product - cheese but not really. So this is a Bible but not really. And as is clear to anyone operating with clues (which not all teens do), any Bible with commentary in it is advocating a certain philosophical position about what the Bible says. This one goes a little far even for me:

Add to this a great sense of caution over girls and guys praying—yes, praying—together present throughout the book. The editors published the opinion of a boy in "Guys Speak Out" who believes that girls and guys should not pray together before engagement! Another boy, when asked if girls and guys can pray together, advises everyone not to "get carried away."

There you go. I've prayed with men I'm not related to, and I've married none of them. I'm a prayer-slut.

The article makes the good point that some people may start a serious search for God after an introduction to the Bible through this 'zine. That's all for the good, and I don't diminish the value of that. But that has to be measured against the harm it can cause, in a variety of ways, not the least of which is trivializing the Bible's message. Perhaps they could have achieved their goal with a little more class - and reverence.

[Link via - of course - Theosebes]

Posted by susanna at 01:20 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

You don't say

I just sent an email back to a government agency I deal with regularly, and noticed this on the end of an official notification email from that agency:

Again, please do not reply directly to this message as your reply will not reach us. (Please Note: if you respond to this email do not change the subject line, thank you)

Our government: holding your future in the palm of its hand. Don't you feel comforted?

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

September 16, 2003

Jobs? Jobs, anyone?

Looks like things are looking up:

Unemployed? Worried about your job security? Scared by the negative stuff you read in the papers and hear on television? Most of these concerns reflect the recent past.

But I'm here to tell you there's strong reason to believe the Great American Jobs Machine is about to crank up yet again. In fact, there are seven strong reasons:

Tax cuts are reinforcing rising consumer income.

Government spending is rising rapidly on defense and homeland security.

Interest rates are still very low, so credit’s cheap.

Corporate investment spending is beginning to recover.

The stock market is rebounding, restoring wealth and confidence.

Inventories are unusually low, so factories need to increase production just to meet demand.

And after several adverse shocks -- corporate scandals, Wall Street scandals, foreign wars -- it seems the worst is over.

This list doesn't even include the most frequently cited reason for believing in an employment recovery: Jobs always surge in the wake of recession...

Much better economic conditions are unfolding right now, and these will lead to solid job growth in the immediate future.

Now, what was that I was hearing about Bush's bad economy?

Posted by susanna at 10:22 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

John interviews Milt

John Hawkins scored an interview with Milton Friedman, and it's really really good. Go read.

This little nugget amused me:

Roosevelt's policies were very destructive. Roosevelt's policies made the depression longer and worse than it otherwise would have been. What pulled us out of the depression was the natural resilience of the economy + WW2.

So many people revere FDR, but I've always been skeptical - both because the horrible legacy of many of his policies, and because my grandfather, one of the most honest and unrelentingly logical people I've known, detested him. Thought he had done... well, precisely what Friedman said he did do. Those of us who didn't live through a particular time can only know about it through the historians - and they aren't precisely lacking in agendas (see Bellesiles, Michael). Just like modern day news, you need to triangulate and research your history. Or at the very least know the source they're using for their data.

Uhoh, I feel a bias sermon coming on, complete with footnotes. I'll spare us both and go eat dinner.

Posted by susanna at 06:59 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack


Well, I spent much time writing a piece on principled stances, moral purity and selective approval of same, but then got so tangled in my own brain that I couldn't get back out again. I'm sorry! Maybe if I take some scissors to it tonight I can get it back into submission.

Meanwhile, read these:

On why sometimes torture isn't a bad thing.

It's not always good to wait to halftime to do what the wife says.

The New York Times Review of Books finds itself "non-political, non-partisan, informed, concerned" - yes, The New Criterion staff spewed Pepsi on their keyboards too. Metaphorically speaking. Of course.

E&P reports a dispute in California where a gay newspaper editor stands accused of assault on a 17-year-old; he says it's a deliberate smear campaign, the prosecutor recused himself to emphasize that it is not. Without reading further I can't make a judgment about the believability of either side, but it's interesting that the editor named the then under-age youth in a front-page column in his newspaper.

The Joseph Approach? In Orion Online, Rutgers biologist David Ehrenfeld details his idea, ripped from the pages of the Bible! on how to solve the energy "crisis". It involves rationing. (And that would be Joseph the son of Jacob, not Joseph the father of Jesus.) Nice how the Bible is all that when it can be used to support liberal causes.

And Molly O'Neill argues for "serious" reporting about food in Food Porn, in the Columbia Journalism Review. I say, "Take that!"

Posted by susanna at 01:44 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Mel's Passion

The New Yorker on Mel Gibson's movie on the life of Christ.

A couple of quotes stand out to me:

“The film, per se, is not anti-Semitic,” [the Jewish Anti-Defamation League's Abraham] Foxman said...

“You know, the Gospels, if taken literally, can be very damaging, in the same way if you take the Old Testament literally,” Foxman went on. “It says, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' Now, has the Jewish state, or have Jews, practiced the Old Testament by taking an eye for an eye? No. So a literal reading of almost anything can lead to all kinds of things."

In my view, either you take God's Word as He says it, or why bother? Yes, there are contextual issues and language issues to consider. But, just as Foxman points out that "with any literal reading of the New Testament, its message of love could be twisted into something hateful," trying to wring the hard sayings and the historical truths out of it in the name of a facile version of real love is also twisting the Bible into something it's not. It sounds to me like Gibson has done a fine job of walking a difficult line in a world that has little use for the unvarnished truth of God, even among those claiming to be religious.

[Link via Theosebes]

Posted by susanna at 11:23 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 15, 2003

Is that Hank I hear?

Three songwriters, each claiming to channel Hank Williams.

Who does the best job?

Go here and listen to the three, then vote. Hurry along now, you only have until midnight.

Link via Tim Blair, who suggests you vote for Trish Anderson 'cause she's an Aussie. (An Aussie Hank? A female Aussie Hank? Oddly it works.)

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

Pizzaman bombing update

The latest in the pizzaman bombing update, from our annoying you-can't-deeplink-us friends at - for the actual articles look to the box on the right, where it has "!!! Brian Wells Case Stories". I'm uncertain about what the exclamation points are for, unless it's a Horshack "ooo ooo ooo pick me!" moment.


State troopers stopped traffic in two areas where suspiciously-behaving men were seen after the bombing week before last. They originally released sketches of one black man and one white man, but the black man has since come forward and been cleared. Now there is a second white man on the "persons of interest" list, and those two are the ones they asked about last Thursday. Apparently they got good information, but they aren't talking:

State police troopers who randomly stopped vehicles traveling along a stretch of Route 19 in Summit Township and Interchange Road in Millcreek Township on Thursday afternoon collected a wealth of potentially helpful information.

"More than what we originally thought," state police spokesman Cpl. Mark Zaleski said Friday. "It's just a matter of whether that information has anything to do with (the Wells case)."

An excellent point.

Zaleski said he could not comment on what information motorists were able to give troopers Thursday afternoon. He said all of that information was forwarded to a 50-member task force, made up of FBI agents, state police and others, that have been working on solving the Wells case.

The FBI would not comment on any aspect of the ongoing case. The sketch of the dark-haired man, which was given out Thursday, is the only thing investigators have to release at this time, FBI Special Agent Marti Evelsizer said Friday.

A 50 member task force? Now you tell me - does that seem like the size of a task force seeking to solve one localized homicide? Or a task force formed because of suspicions that this has longer tentacles that could bring down other criminals or prevent other crime?

And of course this type of thing always brings out the idiots:

Evelyn L. Ranes thought of Brian Wells when she decided to try to solve her money woes, police said.

Ranes, 49, of Holt, Mo., was in federal custody Friday afternoon after she was accused of robbing a bank Thursday in a nearby town by claiming someone put a device around her neck and threatened to set off a bomb outside a school.

The "device" turned out to be a croquet wicket wrapped in tape, which investigators said Ranes had made herself. The bomb threat turned out to be just as bogus.

I think she'll find that the prison time isn't in the least bogus.

No new articles in the NY Times, WaPo or the Philadelphia Inquirer. Not to worry, I'll keep you posted.

In other news, I ordered a pizza Friday night - ham and pineapple, with extra pineapple. Domino's, the only reliably good pie that delivers nearby. I thought about asking the delivery guy what he thought of the whole Erie thing, but decided it probably was not judicious.

Posted by susanna at 10:57 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Do as I say... sorta... not as I do... usually...

Alan at Theosebes finds a mother concerned about the influence of sex talk on her young daughter.

The kicker is who that mother is.

Posted by susanna at 10:16 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Not as I recall...

John Hawkins has the ultimate bloggish look at the California recall, in his symposium with "Scott Ott from Scrappleface, Betsy Newmark from Betsy's Page, Scott "The Big Trunk" Johnson from Powerline, & California resident Madison "Moxie" Slade from The Moxology".

Any discussion of the recall that includes Scrappleface has got to be good - and probably more accurate than anything else.

Posted by susanna at 08:17 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A cost comparison

Cox & Forkum get it right (of course).

I've heard a lot about how awful that the war in Iraq is costing us so much in lives and money. Yes, it's bad. Yes, I'd rather spend that money in other ways. And I'd sure rather those brave dead soldiers were home with their families living long, healthy and joyeous lives.

But remember what 9/11 did. And think about what another 9/11, or something worse, would do.

From a 2002 UK Guardian article:

The terrorist attack of September 11 could cost New York up to $95bn (ÂŁ60bn), according to the city's own independent financial watchdog, making it more expensive than America's largest ever natural disaster.

Those numbers are echoed in this USA Today article.

From a NY Daily News article:

Insurers will pay out an estimated $40.2 billion for losses stemming from the Sept. 11 terror attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, a top insurance trade group reported yesterday.

With a little time to devote to it, I'm sure I could substantiate that the numbers were even greater - impact on the airline industry, on costs for heightened security nationwide, and costs in the ways that individuals spend their own money. What cost the war in Iraq? Well, like many things in life the decision of whether to do has to be made on moral, not financial, grounds. But the alternatives to the war on terrorism as fought by our military would be in the long run a much greater loss in both lives and money.

We can't look at it as if the option is to spend $83 bn in Iraq or spend nothing, with actually less risk to us in the latter instance - although that's what the naysayers would have you believe, implicitly if not explicitly. There are arguments to be made about how the funds are being spent in Iraq, and about how the US is approaching reconstruction. But there are no valid arguments that spending nothing is an option. Sometimes it is because of war that there is peace. This is one of those times.

Posted by susanna at 06:53 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 14, 2003

Another Cornett Crimefighter update

The latest: There are now four men in custody for the theft at my great-uncle's home, and he has all of his guns back, including the one given to him by one of his brothers before his death. It was a crushing blow to lose that one, so he's very happy. Not all of his other things have been found, but the things still missing are mostly replaceable.

In other news, my dad and uncle are considering taking up second careers in law enforcement. Hey, my dad's only 66!

Posted by susanna at 09:36 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Summer in the city

To entertain you even further on a Sunday - here are photos from my drive home last Friday. I left work early to go to Rutgers-Newark so I could get the password on my school account changed. I left the campus in downtown Newark about 5:20 or so. It's two miles from my apartment - I've clocked it, because I used to walk it. There were drill team and band members from a local high school milling about in front of the Newark Bears stadium on my way home, which told me some of the traffic may be because of a game there. There was construction right past it, at a bus stop that's always busy, so traffic narrowed to one lane on my side with buses trying to run over me to get passed it. Then on the intersection where I usually turn right off Broad Street to head toward Harrison and then home, a police motorcycle sat parked in the lane I needed to turn in to - so I had to go straight, cut across four lanes of traffic, circle around three blocks away, and come back through on a street at right angles to where I started, which crossed over to the street I needed.

I won't even discuss the three other intersections or the crowded bridge.

To save those with dial-ups, I'm putting the photos in MORE.

The Drive Home - September 12, 2003

Heading down Washington Street, at the intersection with Central - two blocks from school.

Washington at Central - two blocks from school 9-12-03.jpg

After turning left on Broad Street from Washington, this is what I see in front of me:

Washgtn and Broad in Newark lkg north 9-12-03.jpg

And this is what I see looking south. Well, my camera was pointed south, as I reached up through my sunroof to take the photo. I was facing north, and saw this only in my rear view mirror. Which was enough.

Broad at Washgtn lkg south on Broad 9-12-03.jpg

Here's the drill team - very bright. I think they're from either East or West Orange. Of course.

The drill team - west orange maybe 9-12-03.jpg

And naturally there was construction not a block further down. This is always a bottleneck place anyway, with the buses stopping, people walking across all the time, the right turn to I-280 just under the bridge, the entrance from it just past that... you get the idea. So they do construction during rush hour.

Construction at the I-280 bridge 9-12-03.jpg

Now I've done my little circle around and I'm finally headed toward the Clay Street bridge, which crosses into Harrison. Traffic seems unchanged. In fact, I'm beginning to think I'm in a computer graphic and these are all actually the same cars replicated.

Traffic heading toward the Clay St bridge 9-13-03.jpg

At least someone has a sense of humor about it - these guys saw me taking photos out of my sunroof and windshield, and hung out their truck window yelling, "cheese!!". So of course I couldn't resist.


There's more to show, mainly the bridge. But let's end on a cheerful note. And be thankful that this morning, because nobody goes to church anymore, my trip to East Orange will be very low traffic.

Posted by susanna at 08:40 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

My kind of Sunday comics

Begging to Differ has the dream team of Sunday comics - go check it out.

Posted by susanna at 08:03 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 13, 2003

A 9/11 memoir

Tilly tells her 9/11 story at LGF - from the WTC 59th floor all the way to Mississippi.

It's just amazing.

My friend Dory travels into Manhattan daily from Jersey City for her job, and before 9/11 she always went into the WTC station. She would walk out of the building and down the block to the nearby subway station for a line that didn't originate at a WTC platform. On that day, she left the WTC just as the first tower was hit, and stood transfixed as the bodies began to fall from the air. Then she got the burst of energy, raced to the subway station and grabbed a woman on the way who was also staring - her only thought to get far away, and take someone to safety with her.

Tilly mentions the Borders escalator. I often took that one when I went to Manhattan via World Trade; I hung out in that store, bought my then-boyfriend's Christmas gift there. The downstairs portion, off the underground mall, was right across from the pretzel stand that had caramel pretzels. The Borders first floor was small, really only about the size of the pretzel place, more a presence on that level to draw people up the escalator to the main floor. On that day, it drew people up to safety.

Although I've seen the hole in the ground, it's still difficult to believe that the place is gone. It's so clear in my mind, the huge bank of escalators coming up from the subway level, the Godiva chocolate store on the corner, the Duane Reade drugstore, the Ecce Panis store and the wide hallways always bustling with hundreds of people. To be in the lower reaches of the WTC during rush hour was like the off-road equivalent of the NJ Turnpike.

One thing I remember so clearly was the huge concrete planters they put out in the street in front of the Borders WTC exit, there so no one could drive a truck full of explosives up close to the building. I remember threading through them. They never thought to protect the top. I guess there was no way they could.

Go read Tilly's story.

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September 12, 2003

The stages of grief

A friend of mine lost her father two weeks ago; he died peacefully, at almost 90. We talked about how even when you expect it, and are somewhat prepared, you're never really prepared. Death closes a door that can't be reopened. It severs a connection with your past that can't be regained.

This week is one for remembering the dead of 9/11, those who lost their lives suddenly and in mid-stride. What are the stages of grief for that? What do you do with the pain? A lot of people say, "get over it", especially to those who were not a part of the lives of those who died until their death made us all family. But how long do you grieve?

My father's father died over 12 years ago, when he was 81. I grew up living not 1/4 mile from his house; he and my grandmother were an almost daily constant. When he died I felt as if, at 29, I had finally left my childhood. I really couldn't go home again.

Shortly before his death, my grandfather spoke about his childhood and life at a meeting - I can't remember if it was a classroom, or an historical society. But someone made a cassette recording of it, and after his death someone else gave copies of it to his grandchildren. I still have it.

I haven't listened to it.

I can't yet.

It's been 12 years.

I can hear his voice sometimes in my mind, how I know he probably sounds. I remember it in life quite clearly. But I get tearful just thinking about it, still. I don't dwell on it, I'm not maudlin about it. But I can't listen yet. It's been 12 years. I know I will some day, I'll grab a box of tissues, curl up on my bed or the couch and listen. I'll cry. When it's finished, I'll cry harder. And then I'll mop up my face, blow my nose, smile because it was so good to hear his voice, and I'll be glad I listened. I'll probably listen to it several times.

But I'm not there yet.

And it's nobody else's business how I grieve, about that - or anything else.

Posted by susanna at 11:20 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Post-bias agenda

Marc at The Genius I Was (or, The Blogger Formerly Known As Juan Gato) calls bias on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and their coverage of concealed weapon legislation.

Posted by susanna at 09:17 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Goodbye to the Man in Black

Johnny Cash is dead at 71:

Cash died early Friday of complications from diabetes at Baptist Hospital in Nashville, hospital spokeswoman Nicole Bates said...

Whether singing about outlaws of the Old West, murder and prison ballads or mountain laments, Cash sang in an unadorned, frank baritone about the plight of the common citizen.

"My roots are in the working man," Cash told the Music City News in 1987. "I can remember very well how it is to pick cotton 10 hours a day, or to plow, or how to cut wood. I remember it so well because I don't intend to ever try to do it again."

Maybe it's time to expand your CD collection, in honor of the Man in Black.

An amazing talent. He will be much missed.

Posted by susanna at 08:11 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Crimefighters - gettin' it done

I posted day before yesterday about my dad, uncles and cousins all getting involved in tracking down who stole a lot of things from my great-uncle's house. Well, it worked: The interrogation of the one suspect arrested during their foray under cover of darkness led to other suspects, four now having been arrested. Word is that the place where the suspects were arrested was a real hole. It was an enclave of trailers without electricity, junked cars piled around and stolen goods literally flung into the grass or stuffed in the rusting cars. A cooler of frozen meat they stole from my great uncle sat thawing and rotting. All the worst stereotypes of backwoods roughness, ignorance and meanness conveniently centered in one place.

I don't know whether there were pigs around.

I do know that one of my great-uncle's guns wound up just thrown into the weeds, where it was recovered. So far they've found about half his things. That's very very good. I understand that the suspects arrested all had records, at least some had served time previously, and you know they were likely supporting themselves - however roughly - by preying on others just like my great uncle. So it's a great service to the community besides being a boon to my great uncle. And as far as I know, the local law enforcement hadn't come up with any plans of their own to do stakeouts or spend major effort on the case. So without my family, nothing may have been resolved.

My family - my heroes. This is pretty cool.

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Best words for the day

Read Lileks:

...standing on the porch I thought: day's done, family's fine, and the trees are having a drink. I'm grateful for this.

Note to self: be grateful more often.

Yes. Me too.

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September 11, 2003


We remember.

UPDATE: The photos in this entry are quite large, so I've moved them to the MORE section. But just like my feelings about 9/11, they're right there and easy to get to when necessary.

blue light vert2 cropped 9-10-03.jpg

So many to remember.

WTC wall of missing 9-17-01_11 cropped.jpg

Each life a treasure.

WTC missing 9--01 cropped.jpg


Rest in peace.

we will not forget


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September 10, 2003


The Internet connection at work has been down for two days, which is the reason for the lack of daytime posting. And now I have a project to do tonight that I must finish by tomorrow morning, so no posting tonight either. However, I will post a photo of my project tomorrow morning.

As well as a couple of other things.

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The Cornett family crimefighters

My parents live out in the country among the hills of Eastern Kentucky. It's fairly isolated, although not difficult to get to, and the population base is small so the number of law enforcement officers available to patrol and respond is likewise small even though the land mass is sizeable. People live in communities there, often with relatives nearby, and families stay in close proximity for generations.

My great-uncle Denver, who has lived out of state most of his adult life, built a vacation home close to my parents' house several years ago. In fact, you can easily see it from my parents' front porch, as you can see my grandparents' barn, the church my parents attend, and a house built by my great-aunt before she moved away to be closer to her daughter, all nestled in the hills and valleys of the Appalachian foothills. Everyone keeps watch on everyone else, which gives the little community a feeling of safety.

Sometime last week, thieves broke into my great-uncle's home and stole a lot of his things, stored there while he was home in another state. My Dad and my uncle Landis (we call him Scrappy, but I'll use his given name here) discovered the theft on their usual inspection of Denver's property, and called the police. Not much we can do, the detective said, we'll try.

A few days later, Landis and Dad realized that Denver's house had been robbed again. And this time they did a little scouting. The two of them own a couple hundred acres of mostly wood and pasture along that section of the road, and they discovered that cars had been driving up a holler down the road from Denver's house - through brush, since there is not even a dirt road cutting through it.

A holler is a narrow valley between two hills, often twisting deep into the woods. Landis owns that holler, which happens to give back access to Denver's house - the front entrance is blocked by a locked gate. Since the thieves had already scavenged twice, so comfortable and callous about their work that they ate part of a carton of ice cream out of the freezer and left the rest to melt, Landis and Dad decided they might return at least one more time. Although Denver and his wife are not wealthy, the thieves were finding a lot they wanted to take - up to and including frozen squirrel from the freezer.

As it happens, my first cousin Joe - Dad and Landis's nephew - is a local prosecutor. They had already talked to him about the theft, and he promised to help out where he could. Then the Two Intrepid Cornetts talked to the police, letting them know they would be keeping watch for the thieves to return. All was in readiness.

Night before last, Dad and Landis went to bed with their alarms set while my uncle Danny and Landis's son Ryan kept watch on the front porch of my parents' house, all lights off. It's very quiet and dark in those hills at night; you can hear frogs calling from the streams, bats flutter through the night, and the water rushing in the creek at the edge of the front field makes a steady shhusshing sound when the summer has been wet, like this year. Sound carries easily. The main road runs about an acre away from the house, parallel to it and the creek. Danny and Ryan sat and talked softly, sometimes sitting silently, from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. Only two cars passed by, and they didn't stop. At 1, my Dad and Ryan's brother Beau - Landis's other son - took over watch duty.

They sat in the deepening night, my Dad feeling almost in a stupor from having wakened from a sound sleep in the early morning, then sitting still surrounded by darkness. Occasionally they talked, but tiredness makes conversation less interesting. Then, a little after 2 a.m., Beau whispered, "I can hear a car!" Dad perked up, listening. EuurrRRRR EeuuurrRRR! It was the sound of a car digging its way over difficult ground, slowly and persistently. The noise came from the holler they had identified earlier as the thieves' access route.

That brought action out of the late night defenders. Dad called 911, and talked to a dispatcher who was already clued in to their plans. She sent out two police officers, and Dad waited at the bridge beside the main road to jump in their car to show them the way. It wasn't long before the police car was nosing its way up through the brush, until the officer thought nothing was there. And just beyond that point, they found it: A car backed up against the side of the steep hill, a man inside. At 2:30 a.m. The officers immediately apprehended him, checked his identification and asked him why he was there. To meet a woman, he said. He was arrested for a variety of vehicular violations, and (although I'm not sure) probably for trespassing as well - since he was well beyond the public eye onto my uncle's land.

By 4 a.m., my Dad, my uncle Landis and my cousin Beau were sitting on my parents' front porch again, too excited to sleep. The suspect was on his way to jail; the car had been impounded and towed. So they sat, mulling over the night's events - how interesting, how invigorating! My uncle nailed the feeling:

"This is better than deer hunting!" he said.

You have to understand - all three of them would rather go deer hunting than eat Thanksgiving dinner. This is high praise indeed. They're now contemplating careers in law enforcement.

My cousin Joe has taken over now, working with the police to interrogate the suspect and track down any co-conspirators. Today the detective will be over at my great-uncle's house, collecting evidence. When they're done, the family will go over and clean it up, seeing what can be salvaged. Denver and his wife JoAnne are back in town now, so they'll be sleeping in the house tonight.

It's just another September in the Cornett clan.

I love my family.

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September 09, 2003

A mini-rant on academic diversity

I had a long conversation the other evening with another woman who is finishing up a PhD in my same field. She is black, and from a Californian blue collar family. I am white, from a relentlessly middle class family of educators in the hills of rural eastern Kentucky. We have similar religious beliefs although I am more conservative than she; the same is also true of our politics. What part of our discussion centered on is the fact that what questions are asked is an essential part of getting closer to "truth". Because of her heritage and personality, she is going to ask some different questions than the ones I will ask about the same phenomena. We'll also ask some similar ones, in areas where we're similar.

It's for this reason that I do not ever want the liberals to be pushed out of the colleges or open public discourse, no matter how radical they get. They are going to ask questions that I don't even think of. And that is very very important. However, the same is true of me. I will ask questions they don't think of. I will have solutions, ideas, approaches that are foreign to them because their frame of reference is limited by their heritage, experiences, personality and training. And that is why I think it is so important that conservative people, religious people, push forward into the intellectual marketplace, including academia. And that is why I am continually disappointed that the people who set themselves up as honoring diversity and tolerance are the ones who are most vociferous about shutting up others with very different views.

Another matter we touched on was whether religious ideas could be the foundation for academic research. As I mentioned, she is a religious woman and committed to her faith - I don't question that. But she was immediately bristly about separation of church and state. You can't do that, she said. She seemed to feel it wasn't good science. It took a while for me to point out what I was saying. I'm not saying, Let me use the Bible in a graduate classroom as the final word on something. I'm saying, accept that for me it's valid to inform my views on, say, the behavior of humans by reading the Bible. For example, Proverbs has a lot to offer about how people behave and why they make the choices they do. I could see synthesizing that information into a psychological theory and testing it empirically, in an accepted academic process. That's all I mean. In fact, when I was teaching psychology classes it occurred to me how many of the aspects of psychological theories that actually worked were echoes of Proverbs.

Critical criminology, drawn as it is from Marxism, is about as far from my own worldview as you can get and still be relatively sane. But I think their research and analyses have contributed greatly to criminology as a discipline. What I wish is that the academic sciences would make room for the opposite end of the spectrum.

Just as a side note, I'll point out that Biblical archaeology is a thriving discipline, and not treated with disdain (unless you go looking for Noah's Ark, which I saw harshly criticized recently). That's because for the most part it's pretty cut and dried - the Bible says a city was in this or that place, and it either is or isn't. I think a similar model in other disciplines is not too much to ask.

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

This is how media bias works

Jeff Jarvis does a wonderful job of dissecting how a man with an agenda made the tragedy of 9/11 into a condemnation of anti-globalization - with the money of PBS behind him.

When I talk about bias, remember that I'm not saying being biased is always, or even usually, a bad thing. What's bad is when bias is presented as neutrality, which is what most media outlets - especially public television and radio - do. Only when the presence of bias is understood as ubiquitous, and its manifestation becomes an open part of any discussion of media in a matter-of-fact, non-defensive way, will we move closer to whatever can be understood as "truth".

Posted by susanna at 08:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Well, now that's helpful

Here are the promised composite sketches of the two men wanted for questioning ("person of interest", of course - not "suspects) in the investigation of the pizza deliveryman bomb in Erie, PA:

FBI pizza bomb people of interest 9-03.jpg

They don't look very useful to me, mostly because they're fairly generic - especially the one of the black man. I can name pretty quickly about five black men I know personally who would fit it, with the shades and hat on, and I know for sure none of them were in Erie. The white man ... well, what's with that hair? According to the description, his hair is so pale as to be almost white too, which the drawing doesn't indicate. It will be interesting to see if they help. Here's the description from the article:

Bob Rudge, the agent in charge of the FBI's Erie office, described one as a muscular black man and the other as a white man with stringy, straight hair so blond as to be almost white. Rudge said the FBI wants to talk to the men or anyone who saw them Aug. 28.

There you go.

(As usual, this material is from the undeeplinkable

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

Compare and contrast

Yesterday, firefighters memorialized Michael Paul Ragusa:

Under yesterday's clear late-summer sky, flanked by two thousand firefighters frozen in white-gloved salute, nine men in dress blue uniforms slowly pulled a wooden casket from a fire truck and carried the box containing what remained of their final lost comrade into St. Bernard Roman Catholic Church.

Inside the coffin lay no body in repose, only one finger-size vial of Michael Paul Ragusa's blood, given years ago to a bone-marrow clinic in one of the many selfless acts that his family and friends say characterized Firefighter Ragusa's 29 brief years.

Firefighter Ragusa, of Engine Company 279, yesterday became the last of the 343 firefighters killed in the aftermath of World Trade Center terrorist attack to be officially memorialized. In a way, the small vial, unseen and encased in wood, seemed to capture the ambivalence his uniformed comrades held in their hearts about this final funeral for a 9/11 firefighter: It was all there was, but it was hardly enough.

Now consider this: Yesterday a group of atheists in New Jersey began agitating for the cross at the WTC site to be removed, and not included in a memorial of the site. They cry "separation of church and state", of course, which is a construct of the latter half of the 20th century, not a Constitutional fact.

I heard about it on the radio, and dug around all four NYC papers, FoxNews, the NJ papers and WaPo without finding anything about it. But Ron Kuby, a lawyer and talk show host on WABC radio in NYC - himself an atheist and communist - denounced the effort. He said that, in his judgment, the cross was neither inappropriate nor unconstitutional: the former because it represents a lot of people who died in the WTC attack, and the latter because it would be a part of a larger memorial that is broad in scope.

I'm not big into iconography - I don't wear a cross, I don't have cross representations in my home, and where I attend church we don't have crosses displayed. It's a heart thing to me. But the story behind this cross, formed of beams from the WTC that tore from the building and fell in place standing in a steely memorial seemingly straight from God, is very moving and has meant a great deal to a lot of people. It is important to both the spirit and the history of the WTC story. The atheist group is just trying to ride the wave of the Alabama brouhaha to their own moment in the media sun. I think they'll get it, and I think they'll find themselves scorched rather than haloed in golden glory.

This group is obviously either a part of or similar to the American Atheist Society, which is IMHO a group of religious atheists, which is to say ones that take the basic premise of believing there is no god, and making that philosophy and its spread the center of their lives. They are a religion in a doppelganger kind of way. Here is their website, complete with a list of events. Look at this and tell me that they aren't just the flip side of any traditional American denomination you could name:


September 6, 2003
Pennsylvania Nonbelievers Meeting
September 7, 2003
Salt Lake Valley Atheists At The Firehouse Grill
September 10, 2003
Salt Lake Valley Atheists Coffee & Chat
September 16, 2003
International Atheists Meetup
September 27, 2003
San Francisco Atheists Meeting
September 28, 2003
New York City Atheists Meeting
October 5, 2003
Michigan Sunday Brunch
October 5, 2003
Salt Lake Valley Atheists At The Firehouse Grill
October 8, 2003
Salt Lake Valley Atheists Coffee & Chat

You see the trend. If that's not a knowing parody, then they're also a humorless bunch. But then any group that could take what gives grieving and heartsore people some degree of comfort, something that no one is trying to make them agree with, is not just humorless but heartless. And wrong, wrong, wrong.


I saw this cross during Thanksgiving week 2001, when I toured the whole site on a golf cart driven by a NYPD officer, with a friend of mine who is a sheriff's deputy in Oregon. I saw it up close, when there were still bodies to be found and the stench of scorched wood, metal, bone and flesh hung heavy in the air. I cried. It just felt like a message of sorrow and hope from One who knows so much more about both than I can know. As if He was saying, I'll take care of things from here.

Rest in peace, Michael Paul Ragusa. We'll keep watch.

Posted by susanna at 08:23 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

September 08, 2003

It's official - I'm right

The pizza deliveryman didn't act alone - Option 1 is out:

Investigators said Monday they were confident a pizza deliveryman did not act alone when he robbed a bank with a bomb locked to his neck that went off moments later and killed him.

But whether Brian Douglas Wells (search) was a willing participant or somehow "duped" into participating remained a mystery, FBI agent Bob Rudge said.

"We still don't know if it's a murder investigation," Rudge said.

The idea that Wells acted alone is now the "least likely scenario and we are to the point where we have discounted that as a possibility," he said.

So options 2 and 3 are still on the table.

I still think it's 3, but if it is 2, Wells wasn't involved in the planning - he was lured into doing it by a promise of money once he got to the place he was to deliver the pizza.

The investigation seems to be progressing. Police may have a suspect:

Officials investigating the case of a pizza deliveryman killed by a bomb after robbing a bank last week searched a woman's garage yesterday and showed her a photograph of a man, the woman said.

Investigators would not comment on any aspect of the search. It was unclear how the woman is connected to deliveryman Brian Douglas Wells, if at all, or who the man in the picture is.

Marilyn Torres, 37, said no one in her family recognized the man in the photograph. She said only she, her 21-year-old son, her boyfriend and his father had access to the garage, which was kept locked.

Her boyfriend, Willie Feliciano, 40, said investigators took some tools, including screwdrivers, duct tape, a piece of a rug, and bolts and ratchets from the two-car detached garage two miles west of downtown Erie.

Feliciano said investigators believe the man came to the garage often. They also asked Feliciano if he'd seen a red Lincoln Continental with whitewall tires. He said he had not.

Hmmm... Tools? Do they think that's where the bomb and stick gun were made?

The plot gets thicker:

A man whose tools were seized in the investigation of a pizza deliveryman, who died after a bank robbery by a bomb locked to his neck, said he has never met the deliveryman and is being wrongly targeted by the FBI.

"There is no relationship. I don't know Brian Wells," Jimmy Johnson, 46, of Erie, told the Associated Press yesterday.

And thicker:

Johnson insisted that he had never been to the garage and that he did not know the couple. Investigators also searched Johnson's second-floor apartment on Friday, taking tools and his laptop computer.

Johnson said he and his live-in girlfriend, whom he wouldn't identify but said was Wells' cousin, spoke to FBI investigators last week. He said neither was involved in the case.

Emphasis mine. Interesting developments. Could Johnson be involved in drugs? Watch CSI? Or is he completely innocent?

I don't know whether the "cousin of Wells" thing is important. How would they know that Wells would be the one to deliver the pizza? I've not seen any reports on whether there were several pizza deliverymen awaiting tasks, so I'm not sure what the likelihood was. Also, in a town the size of Erie where a lot of people probably have families going back generations, Wells likely has cousins all over the place. So while it's provocative new information, it's not necessarily an "ah ha!" moment.

And the Erie newspaper has breaking news - the FBI released composite sketches of two people they want to question, and those will be in the newspaper tomorrow. In addition, more details of the instruction note Wells carried has been released. Since the site won't let you deeplink, I'll give you the newsbrief:

The FBI is trying to find two men to question in connection with the bombing death of pizza deliveryman Brian Wells on Aug. 28. Officials released composite sketches of the pair -- one a muscular black man and the other a white man with straight hair -- at a 30-minute news conference today. The FBI has not called the men suspects, but said agents want to question them because they were seen running in the area around Peach Street and Interchange Road at the time of Wells' death. The FBI today also said that Wells carried a multipage note that told him where to go after he robbed the PNC Bank branch in the Summit Towne Centre on upper Peach Street. Wells robbed the bank and got to one of the designated locations -- a McDonald's near the bank -- before the bomb locked to his neck exploded at 3:14 p.m. The other locations were the woods near the northbound ramp of Interstate 79 at the Interchange Road exit; the woods near the McKean Township sign in the southbound lane of I-79; and the Grubb Road overpass in the eastbound lane of I-90. The FBI was to post the photos of the two men on the FBI Web site no later than Tuesday. The sketches will appear in Tuesday's Erie Times-News.

The brief is linked right now in the upper left corner under "Latest News", posted at 6:57 p.m.

In all of this, I can't help but feel that Brian Wells continues to emerge as a tragic figure. Even if he was a part of it, from other things said about his approach to life and mental capacity I think it's apparent that he wasn't capable of planning it and may have been susceptible to persuasion by someone he knew. He's a victim either way. also says that by midweek authorities should have the toxicology on Wells' coworker, Robert Pinetti, who died of an apparent drug overdose on the Sunday following the Thursday when Wells died.

(My previous posts are here, here and here.)

Posted by susanna at 10:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Something for Tom Ridge to read

Management is not my best skill, although on a small scale I can handle it. If I had to do it, I'd probably be okay. But the thought of something on the scale of what Tom Ridge has to handle with Homeland Security is quite daunting, I'd think for anyone, from the perspective of both task and staff. That's why I think someone should slip this article by Malcolm Gladwell from July 2002 onto his bedside table for a little nighttime reading (yes, it's about Enron and their talent recruiters, but has broader application):

The broader failing of McKinsey and its acolytes at Enron is their assumption that an organization's intelligence is simply a function of the intelligence of its employees. They believe in stars, because they don't believe in systems. In a way, that's understandable, because our lives are so obviously enriched by individual brilliance. Groups don't write great novels, and a committee didn't come up with the theory of relativity. But companies work by different rules. They don't just create; they execute and compete and coördinate the efforts of many different people, and the organizations that are most successful at that task are the ones where the system is the star.

There is a wonderful example of this in the story of the so-called Eastern Pearl Harbor, of the Second World War. During the first nine months of 1942, the United States Navy suffered a catastrophe. German U-boats, operating just off the Atlantic coast and in the Caribbean, were sinking our merchant ships almost at will. U-boat captains marvelled at their good fortune. "Before this sea of light, against this footlight glare of a carefree new world were passing the silhouettes of ships recognizable in every detail and sharp as the outlines in a sales catalogue," one U-boat commander wrote. "All we had to do was press the button."

What made this such a puzzle is that, on the other side of the Atlantic, the British had much less trouble defending their ships against U-boat attacks. The British, furthermore, eagerly passed on to the Americans everything they knew about sonar and depth-charge throwers and the construction of destroyers. And still the Germans managed to paralyze America's coastal zones.

You can imagine what the consultants at McKinsey would have concluded: they would have said that the Navy did not have a talent mind-set, that President Roosevelt needed to recruit and promote top performers into key positions in the Atlantic command. In fact, he had already done that. At the beginning of the war, he had pushed out the solid and unspectacular Admiral Harold R. Stark as Chief of Naval Operations and replaced him with the legendary Ernest Joseph King. "He was a supreme realist with the arrogance of genius," Ladislas Farago writes in "The Tenth Fleet," a history of the Navy's U-boat battles in the Second World War. "He had unbounded faith in himself, in his vast knowledge of naval matters and in the soundness of his ideas. Unlike Stark, who tolerated incompetence all around him, King had no patience with fools."

The Navy had plenty of talent at the top, in other words. What it didn't have was the right kind of organization. As Eliot A. Cohen, a scholar of military strategy at Johns Hopkins, writes in his brilliant book "Military Misfortunes in the Atlantic":

To wage the antisubmarine war well, analysts had to bring together fragments of information, direction-finding fixes, visual sightings, decrypts, and the "flaming datum" of a U-boat attack—for use by a commander to coordinate the efforts of warships, aircraft, and convoy commanders. Such synthesis had to occur in near "real time"—within hours, even minutes in some cases.

The British excelled at the task because they had a centralized operational system. The controllers moved the British ships around the Atlantic like chess pieces, in order to outsmart U-boat "wolf packs." By contrast, Admiral King believed strongly in a decentralized management structure: he held that managers should never tell their subordinates " 'how' as well as what to 'do.' " In today's jargon, we would say he was a believer in "loose-tight" management, of the kind celebrated by the McKinsey consultants Thomas J. Peters and Robert H. Waterman in their 1982 best-seller, "In Search of Excellence." But "loose-tight" doesn't help you find U-boats. Throughout most of 1942, the Navy kept trying to act smart by relying on technical know-how, and stubbornly refused to take operational lessons from the British. The Navy also lacked the organizational structure necessary to apply the technical knowledge it did have to the field. Only when the Navy set up the Tenth Fleet—a single unit to coördinate all anti-submarine warfare in the Atlantic—did the situation change. In the year and a half before the Tenth Fleet was formed, in May of 1943, the Navy sank thirty-six U-boats. In the six months afterward, it sank seventy-five. "The creation of the Tenth Fleet did not bring more talented individuals into the field of ASW"—anti-submarine warfare—"than had previous organizations," Cohen writes. "What Tenth Fleet did allow, by virtue of its organization and mandate, was for these individuals to become far more effective than previously." The talent myth assumes that people make organizations smart. More often than not, it's the other way around.

That's the guts of what I think is pertinent to Ridge - basically, you can't assume that people who think they are smart and have been doing something for a while really know what they're talking about. You have to be task specific as well as talent conscious. And it's axiomatic that success is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration. I worry sometimes that the FBI, CIA, and other federal law enforcement agencies are more concerned about protecting their turf and reaffirming their ascendence than accomplishing the task - which would require a little humility and precedence of task over affiliation.

Here's another part that is interesting:

Carol Dweck, a psychologist at Columbia University, has found that people generally hold one of two fairly firm beliefs about their intelligence: they consider it either a fixed trait or something that is malleable and can be developed over time. Five years ago, Dweck did a study at the University of Hong Kong, where all classes are conducted in English. She and her colleagues approached a large group of social-sciences students, told them their English-proficiency scores, and asked them if they wanted to take a course to improve their language skills. One would expect all those who scored poorly to sign up for the remedial course. The University of Hong Kong is a demanding institution, and it is hard to do well in the social sciences without strong English skills. Curiously, however, only the ones who believed in malleable intelligence expressed interest in the class. The students who believed that their intelligence was a fixed trait were so concerned about appearing to be deficient that they preferred to stay home. "Students who hold a fixed view of their intelligence care so much about looking smart that they act dumb," Dweck writes, "for what could be dumber than giving up a chance to learn something that is essential for your own success?"

In a similar experiment, Dweck gave a class of preadolescent students a test filled with challenging problems. After they were finished, one group was praised for its effort and another group was praised for its intelligence. Those praised for their intelligence were reluctant to tackle difficult tasks, and their performance on subsequent tests soon began to suffer. Then Dweck asked the children to write a letter to students at another school, describing their experience in the study. She discovered something remarkable: forty per cent of those students who were praised for their intelligence lied about how they had scored on the test, adjusting their grade upward. They weren't naturally deceptive people, and they weren't any less intelligent or self-confident than anyone else. They simply did what people do when they are immersed in an environment that celebrates them solely for their innate "talent." They begin to define themselves by that description, and when times get tough and that self-image is threatened they have difficulty with the consequences. They will not take the remedial course. They will not stand up to investors and the public and admit that they were wrong. They'd sooner lie.

That section almost gave me a cold chill. I grew up in an atmosphere of "you can do anything you want to do!" which translated into my little childbrain as "we have great expectations!" Failure becomes such a horrid fear that you (I) vacillate between two extremes: refusing to admit failure, or living in perpetual failure because success breeds expectations that can balloon into unsupportable burdens. Yes, I've gotten help to deal with this :D. And I don't blame my parents for anything. But sometimes I think there must be something like intellectual anorexia - no matter how outwardly successful (thin) you are, all you can see is failure (fat), until you end up consuming yourself. The ability to admit fault and failure without being crushed by it is, I think, the foundation of a true success - one measured by a sense of pride in having done your best in what you want to do.

A soapbox! I'm climbing down now. I'd say there's some of that going on at the organizational level in federal law enforcement too, to bring the topic back to the original point. A little admitting of fault and analysis of failure would be a good start for success in the war on terror.

Posted by susanna at 02:34 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

It's a bugilicious day!

Kevin McGehee posts a piece about black widow spider infestation in a Georgia prison, then gives his own tale of spider murder. My sad tale of a stealthy spider and skin necrosis is in his comments section.

I may later, in the spirit of Tom Sawyer, offer views at a photo of my scars. If you give me a nickle.

UPDATE: Well, Paul has offered to toss a quarter my way - such largesse! Paul, how much do I lose in the exchange rate from Canadian?

Anyway, in the MORE section (to avoid offending people who don't have some freakish interest in things like necrosis) is a photo of the larger of the scars, and more explanation. (WARNING: It is not attractive. It is, in fact, grossly magnified.)

Never let it be said I don't let you in on the intimate details of my life.

Here we go:

My biggest sac spider scar 9-8-03.jpg

You can tell how much this is enlarged - that's my eyebrow up above it. Scary, isn't it? All those little lines and lumps and bumps. Ew. But you can see the scar; I mucked about with it in Photoshop to get a good enough contrast for you to see. I'm guessing this is the area where the original venom was injected and pooled; the other two bites were much much smaller, and progressively so. The actual scar is about the size of my littlest fingernail. You can see from the photo that the top layer of skin is gone; unlike most scars, which develop a slick place even with the surrounding healthy skin, this is pitted where the venom destroyed the skin. The second largest scar is about the size of a small candy Nerd.

And yes, my skin is very very pale, and I have freckles, so in high magnification it looks freakish. Live with it. We're doing science here.

Paul, I prefer Paypal over Amazon. They take out a smaller cut.

Below is my comment from Kevin's site, so you'll have the whole story

It doesn't take a black widow or brown recluse to do damage, although they will do more and more surely. Almost two years ago I was bitten by something three times - on my upper eyelid (just under the brow), on the bridge of my nose and on the tip. I noticed a dime-sized swelling one morning, and by that night the swelling was about to close my eye and was creeping up my forehead. I could almost see it puff. Very scary. I went to the emergency room, and they gave me mongo antibiotics; they said if I hadn't come in it could have sent infection into my brain. Charming. It took almost a month to heal, and left a pitted scar on my eyelid and the bridge of my nose. Another souvenir of NJ - the larger scar is about the size of my little fingernail, and is shaped like NJ. Go figure.

The doctors were clueless as to the cause, although they said, "Probably a spider". After some online research, and consulting the state entomologist, I concluded it was a yellow sac spider. And its bite caused necrosis - the top layer of skin in the area of the bites was destroyed and didn't grow back.

And yes, you're welcome for all the detail :D.

Can you tell that I'm currently on a forensics kick?

Posted by susanna at 12:04 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Just in time for lunch


One of the books I’m reading now is a fascinating look at the scientific search for a way to pinpoint time of death for humans. It looks at how the body itself responds after death as well as various exterior pointers such as the progression of insect infestation as decomposition begins breaking down the body. It covers the beginning of forensic anthropology and forensic entomology in particular. I’m going to be doing a review of it when I finish reading it, but I couldn’t resist sharing this little bit with you – just because of its extremely high gross-out factor. Be thankful for modern sanitation and medicine, is all I can say.

Nor was myiasis, or fly infestation, strictly a veterinary problem. As far back as the late 1800s, Charles Valentine Riley, the founding curator of the National Museum’s Department of Entomology, received regular correspondence from country doctors desperate for help, as in a letter from Dr. Fred Humbert, of alton, Illinois:
A farmer’s wife, 35 years of age, was attacked on Monday, September 27, 1875, with a headache and flushed face. From this time, the pains in the region of the frontal cavity at the base of the nose and below the eye extending to the right ear increased. At times the pain was more severe than at others, but it never entirely left. This pain was described as preventing hearing and breathing and so excruciating that at intervals day and night her cries could be heard at a great distance from the house.

Tuesday evening blood mucus began to run from the right nostril which was somewhat swollen, the swelling extending by Friday over the whole front side of her face. On this day, the fifth of the complaint, four large maggots dropped out of the right nostril. When I was first called to the patient, Monday, October 4, only the right lip and nostril were swollen, the acrid discharge having somewhat blistered the lip below. After each discharge, maggots dripped from the nostril, until the twelfth day, 140 or more maggots having escaped.

On Monday, September 18, 1882, I saw a patient in the same neighborhood suffering from the same malady. At that time 280 maggots had been discharged…

I thought originally about saying, “We should be glad that we in the 21st century don’t have to deal with this,” but then it occurred to me that it’s likely that in some third world countries there probably are still people periodically dropping maggots out of various body orifices. If I’m not mistaken, I linked on this very page a while back an article about a little boy in India who was excreting living flies out of his penis. Probably, then, it would be better to say: Thank goodness for people who have the knowledge, skill and interest – as well as a high gross-out threshold – to be able to figure out how and why these things happen.

Next on my reading list: A whole book on maggots and another on flies.

Posted by susanna at 11:44 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

So much to read...

Michael Van Winkle has a good post on the unreliability of poll reporting on The Chicago Report - worth a read.

Also, Sparkey reports on post-religionists and the NY Times, another fine read.

Both are meaty and delicious, a good way to start off your Monday.

Theosebes reports that James' tomb may have been found, and that Alabamans still support Judge Roy Moore.

And if you need even more - why not? it's a beautiful Monday to read the blogs - Kelley at Suburban Blight has a great list of links to all you need to read, in her Cul de Sac.

It's hectic here at my place, though, so probably will be lunchtime before I get a chance to say more.

Posted by susanna at 09:52 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 07, 2003


Last night I gave you people a chance to ask me questions. Here they are, with answers:

If a liberal were out in the woods complaining with no one to hear her/him, would she/he still be wrong?

(My keen eye was able to discern that this is a trick question, because the questioner uses "him/her", an obvious PCism. Therefore, the answer is encoded to confuse.)

What is the one thing you did wrong as a kid that you STILL have not admitted to your mother?

That's evil (and also, what do you mean "the one thing"? I have a laundry list.)One answer is in MORE (my mom doesn't know how to open it).

Would your mom log on as Paul to find out something you have not told her?

How do you know my mom's name isn't Paul?

Alan Cole:
He totally took advantage and asked a bunch. Since I've done this very thing myself, I can't complain. My answers are in italics.

Do you play an instrument? Which one(s)?

I took piano lessons for five years, and... mouthed a clarinet for five years in band. To say I played either is to give me too much credit. I was field commander for two years. But they were bad bad years for the band.

Do you speak French? Spanish? Italian?

Non, no, no. I did take two years of German, but ich spreche nicht Deutsches.

What city is your home base?

City? I live in the town of Kearny, but it's the NYC metro area. That absorbs everything for miles like kudzu in mid-summer.

Have you sold anything via eBay? What?

I tried to sell some books. Nobody wanted them. I gave them to Goodwill.

Are you waitng for somebody to write the great American novel some day? Or do you think it's already been written: The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn?

I'm going to write it, in my spare time. Soon, soon.

Do you listen to Schickele Mix on the radio?

I thought that was something crunchy you served at parties. With, you know, seasoned salt and peanuts. Are they broadcasting people eating it?

What's the most important idea you believed as an adolescent that you no longer believe as an adult?

That I could make myself safe through my own efforts or being around certain people.

On a cross-country bus trip, would you rather be seated next to David Lee Burke or Carl Hiaasen?

I've been on a cross-country bus trip. I'd rather not sit next to anybody; I want the extra seat to stretch out on. If I had to choose one, I'd choose... well, who is David Lee Burke? If you mean James Lee Burke, then him. Although either is fine. Dean Koontz beats both, no contest. Although I'd have to feign a love for dogs for the full trip to avoid an untimely demise.

There you go. Maybe I'll do this again sometime. Maybe not.

Thanks for participating! Your secret decoder rings are in the mail.

Answer to Paul's question:

Once a box of individual ice creams disappeared from the refrigerator freezer, when I was about 10 or so. My mom accused me of eating them. I denied it adamantly. She believed me, and decided they had disintegrated into thin air.

I ate them.

I still feel very very guilty about lying to her.

Maybe I'll buy her a new box next time I'm home and come clean.

Posted by susanna at 10:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Jimmy - stay safe, come home

Jimmy Ballard, the moody, pugnacious yet somehow loveable mayor of Welcome to Rantville, is heading down to Houston on the first leg of a year's adventure in the Middle East. He's accepted a job with one of the companies working on the reconstruction, and will most likely be in either Iraq or Afghanistan. He promises to keep us up on what's going on via his blog, so be sure to bookmark it.

He's been emailing a bunch of us about it for a bit, and while I must say I'm apprehensive for him, at the same time I think he's a brave soul for doing it - and he has good reasons. Not the least of which is he'll get paid very handsomely for his time. We need people like him to move those countries forward into the 21st century. Bravo, Jimmy.

Work hard, stay safe, be good, come home. You'll be in my prayers (even if that makes you nervous).

[Why don't you all go over and wish him well?]

Posted by susanna at 07:45 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 06, 2003

Overnight bonus

Have a question? The blog is open for queries from now until 7 a.m., when I'll be staggering bleary-eyed to the computer to see what happened in the world overnight. So all three of you who will show up between now and then can ask any question you want, and tomorrow I'll answer it. Keep it clean - my mother reads this blog.

UPDATE: Okay, it's Sunday morning. Comments are now closed. Answers will be forthcoming this afternoon. You all took it easy on me!

Posted by susanna at 11:25 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Very proud

Sean Busick, a close friend of my brother's who teaches at Kentucky Wesleyan College, has had a revised version of his dissertation accepted for publication as a book:

Sean Busick, assistant professor of history at Kentucky Wesleyan College, recently completed a book manuscript entitled, “A Sober Desire for History: William Gilmore Simms as Historian” - a revised version of his Ph.D. dissertation. His manuscript was accepted for publication by the University of South Carolina Press and is scheduled for publication in the fall of 2004.

William Gilmore Simms (1806-1870) of South Carolina was one of the most popular and accomplished authors of the nineteenth century. He wrote almost eighty books and is best known as a novelist. However Simms also wrote several important histories and biographies, including biographies of Francis Marion and John Smith.

Busick’s manuscript, the first book-length study of Simms as a historian, shows him to have been an important advocate of approaching history as a humanistic art, instead of as an impersonal science. In addition, Busick argues in his book that Simms’s historical writings, which focus on the American Revolution, tell us as much about his own time as they do about the Revolution - seeing a South struggling to define itself and its place in the nation.

Busick a B.A. from Purdue University, an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina.

Sounds like an interesting topic, especially for the historians among you. Congratulations, Sean!

Posted by susanna at 01:55 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

You better not cheese me off!

The Eurotrash are at it again:

They're cheesed off in Wisconsin over a European scheme to ban foreigners from using popular cheese names like feta, Parmesan and Gorgonzola.

Europeans claim that certain products are part of their heritage, and next week they will ask world trade officials for exclusive rights to 13 cheese names...

And it's not just cheese. Europeans want to require that any wine called bordeaux come from France's Bordeaux, or it must be called something else. Same with Chianti, Champagne, Beaujolais and Parma ham.

Europeans have argued to the WTO that they are tired of foreign products "free riding on the reputation" of European originals.

Ahhh... so they want to make it easier for US citizens to boycott their products, and more likely at the same time?

The Wisconsin cheese makers are fighting this, and well they should. It's absolutely stupid. Europeans obviously think that Americans will shift their usage to "authentic" cheese, wine, etc., from Europe, but... wrong! Just ask the French wine makers who are experiencing a sharp dip in sales while Americans enjoy excellent vintage from South America, Australia and right here in the good ole US of A.

And if they succeed with their restructuring, as well they might in one of those anti-American New World Order groups? Then I say we take back all of our words, every single product word with origins in the US. Somehow I'm thinking we'd come out ahead of the game.

But then we always do. And that's really why they hate us.

Posted by susanna at 11:00 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Speaking of bias...

Sometimes it's nice to have a big deep belly-laugh in the morning.

And it's thanks to The Trustworthy, on the chat site True Conservatism, that I started today that way:

OK I want all opinions about bias. Good as bad, true or false, I want to hear what people have to say about it.

I think it's a kind of lie, even if it not, because they don't tell the whole true.My understanding of bias is that they tell you JUST the good thing in something, but they don't tell the consequences about it. For one example, check this site: (030905). On that site you can see a lot of bias about Hitler etc. I want a lot of thoughts about this guys! Thank you!

Well, TT - can I call you TT? The Trustworthy seems so formal. Let me help you out here. Bias is about presenting just the parts of a situation or event or idea that tends to confirm your pre-decided take on it. It can be deliberate or inadvertent - basically, sometimes our prejudices so blinker our vision that we literally can't see mitigating facts about the situation. And we're all subject to bias; it's the default position for the human condition. The best we can do to combat it is to recognize we have bias, and actively seek out differing views with an open mind to see if somewhere we misunderstood.

There's a difference too between bias and prejudice.

Bias is a preference for something which brings with it a concomitant dismissing of other versions of that thing. It can be an unknowing bias, emerging organically from your experiences, upbringing and personality, or it can be a preference based on a long and thoughtful examination of a topic. For example, I have a bias toward the conservative viewpoint because I have explored political philosophies and decided that is the most appropriate. Therefore I also have a bias against its doppelganger, its evil twin, liberalism.

Prejudice is also bias, but one based on a lack of knowledge, a knee-jerk reaction - note the root of the word: pre - judge. It's making a decision based on incomplete evidence and often without conscious thought. It too is generally organic in nature. It is a subset of bias. In modern society, it is often used - albeit incorrectly based on its origin - to indicate a negative bias toward any person, idea or situation.

Are you understanding better, TT? Because, you see, you used bias when you referred to my blog in your comments:

...check this site: (030905). On that site you can see a lot of bias about Hitler etc.

Now, precisely what do you mean "bias about Hitler"? Do you mean I am against him? Yes, that would be true. Do you also mean that my "bias" is a negative, that I should not be against him? We hope not.

By selecting that one post on my blog to refer to out of the 28 posts available when you made your selection, you exhibited bias. You did not give a fair indication of the true contents of the page, and may have inadvertently (or deliberately, TT, for all that we're buddies now I don't know you well enough to tell) indicated that my blog is focused on Hitler. This would be an untruth that almost reaches the boundaries of "lie". But I'm sure in your case it was just convenience. Right? Nothing bad intended?

As for understanding bias, your follow commenters could do worse than to search my archives for examples of media bias and other types. If you want to look at broader areas of societal bias, I highly recommend www.discriminations. us, which is an excellent and erudite look at, well, discrimination.

Need some help with that? Discrimination is really a neutral term at its base, meaning recognizing the differences between two things or groups of things. However, in our society discrimination often is used to mean that when you identify one thing or person as different from another, you also assign a value to each which finds one to be of less value. Typically your assignment of value is due to bias or even prejudice.

Isn't it nice how that all neatly comes together? Please, make yourself free in my archives, link around, make yourself at home. Because I'm not biased against even people who desperately need lessons in manners, discernment and spelling.

Posted by susanna at 10:06 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

NGOs under scrutiny

This is good news:

Spurred by conservative rumblings over the growing clout of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), the Australian government is taking a closer look at such groups' activities at home and abroad. Earlier this year, Prime Minister John Howard offered to investigate all aid agencies working in Indonesia using Australian government funding, following complaints by President Megawati Sukarnoputri. And in a move that critics see as politically motivated, his government has hired a conservative think tank to investigate NGO influence on some government agencies...

IPA is not the only group scrutinizing NGOs. In June, IPA joined with two organizations in the United States - the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), known to be close to the Bush administration, and the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies - to launch The site will monitor the operations of international NGOs and their relations with corporations and government...

They have even been warned that they are also likely to miss out on some reconstructive contracts in Iraq.

"Why should NGOs like Oxfam, which were adamantly against the war in Iraq, be given money to work there?" asks Nahan. "They would in fact be a liability there as they would have to deal with the military, whose presence they so despise."

A very good question.

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

Roots of terrorism

Suicide bombers in Israel aren't poor and uneducated.

Among Hamas and PIJ members, Berrebi found, only 20 percent were poor - fewer than the 32 percent who qualified as poor among a similar slice of the general Palestinian population between ages 18 and 41. But among suicide bombers, the contrast was even more pronounced: Just 13 percent were from poor families.

Educational backgrounds of people aligned with those groups showed similar results. Among suicide bombers, 36 percent had finished at least secondary school. Only 2 percent had not gone past primary school. It looked as if the pundits might be wrong: The suicide terrorists were fairly well educated and were far from being poor.

Krueger and his co-researcher, Jitka Maleckova, found similar results among Hizbullah's militant wing during the 1980s and '90s. In a recent issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education, the pair wrote that their research and Berrebi's findings "provide no support for the view that those who live in poverty or have a low level of education are disproportionately drawn to participate in terrorist activities."

It's useful information, and it runs directly counter to the crying from media and pro-Palestinian groups. As it turns out, a number of research findings illuminate motivations and behaviors of terrorists, but we don't see that information accurately in the media.

This article in the Christian Science Monitor looks at researchers whose focus was changed by 9/11, and details some of what they've learned. Read it.

Posted by susanna at 09:18 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 05, 2003

There's always beauty

I work in law enforcement, so my office building is one some people would like to get into, for various reasons. My office has two huge windows, about 8 feet high by 3 or so feet wide. Lots of light, but not the view you'd expect. Partly that's because the windows overlook a flat roof and a parking lot tucked away behind townhouses. But even then I should be able to look up at the sky.


Well, you aren't taking into account urban security measures. The glass in the windows has what appears to be a small gauge chicken wire embedded in it. And behind it is a steel grid in a diamond pattern. So here is what I see:


This is about half a pane of one bottom section of a 12-pane window, cropped to show detail. Even when I manage not to "see" the grid, it casts a gray haze over everything I see. Does it depress me to look out those windows? Yes, often. But... you know... there's a certain beauty to the design too.

At least I tell myself that, when I've had another frustrating day or I'm just sick of urban life and want to fling myself through the window but realize that whatever winds up on the other side would most closely resemble sausage. I take deep breaths, think calming thoughts, and then gaze into the window instead of through it.

Nice chicken wire. Nice grid. Charming. I love my office.

I love my job.

Posted by susanna at 07:26 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Dead man's hand

First the US did it. Then an Israeli newspaper. And finally a pro-Palestinian website.

Putting the faces of your enemies on playing cards has become the parlor game for the global war on terror. Whether the illustrated cards have helped U.S. soldiers identify and round up key members of Saddam's regime is a matter of conjecture.

But one thing is certain: the Saddam playing cards have been an enormous public relations success, even as the rest of the U.S. war effort bogs down. Open the newspaper, click to the Web site, or flip on the television and see the deck of 55 Iraqi fugitives shrink.

Two weeks ago, when editors at Ma'ariv, Israel's second-largest circulation daily, were faced with public outrage over yet another bus bombing and the government's stepped-up campaign to wipe out Palestinian militant groups, they turned stateside for inspiration.

"In the past, we used to just lay out the lists of [wanted militants] on the page just as photographs, but since the Americans came up with this gimmick in Iraq, it was something that came to mind," Arik Bachar, Ma'ariv's foreign editor, said by telephone from the paper's offices in Tel Aviv.

The resulting full-page spread hit Israel's newsstands on Aug. 22. Under the headline "Kingdom of Terror" were 34 playing cards, each adorned with the face of a Palestinian militant whose name had been supplied by Israeli security officials. The joker was Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, and the ace of hearts was Hamas founder and spiritual leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin. The face of Ismael Abu Shanab, a senior Hamas official, was crossed out in red -- Israeli forces had killed him the day before in a missile attack in the Gaza Strip...

Not to be outdone, a pro-Palestinian Web site operated by a group calling itself the Palestine Information Center followed suit last week, showing playing cards framing the faces of 16 current and former Israeli officials, set against the provocative background of a burning bus. In this Palestinian version, Sharon is the joker, and his image is placed between the barrels of two rifles aimed by two masked fighters with their tell-tale green Hamas headbands...

Bachar, the Ma'ariv editor, acknowledges that the success of the illustrated playing cards -- at least their novelty -- has spawned imitations and that it may not be long before America's foes in Iraq devise their own deck of cards. But he doesn't worry that the cards put an overly playful gloss on war, least of all the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"I don't think anything can trivialize this war. This is a real nasty war with lots of people getting killed in a gruesome fashion," he said.

I'll let you write your own commentary.

Posted by susanna at 03:29 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Liberal bias in the media?

Larry Elder finds it:

C-SPAN, last week, listed with voice-over the top best-selling non-fiction books: "'Living History,' the memoir by Hillary Rodham Clinton is first on the list. It is followed by 'Treason,' conservative pundit Ann Coulter's book. . . . Barbara Ehrenreich looks at the unskilled labor market in No. 3, 'Nickel and Dimed.'" Hold the phone. As to Hillary Clinton, C-SPAN neither called her "liberal," nor "extremely liberal," nor "leftist," nor even "progressive." Barbara Ehrenreich writes for a number of publications, including one of the country's most liberal periodicals, The Nation. Indeed, Ehrenreich is honorary chair of the Democratic Socialists of America. Yet while C-SPAN correctly identified Ann Coulter as "conservative," Ehrenreich just got the good ol' Barbara Ehrenreich -- no adjective necessary -- treatment.

He gets into other examples, and holds Walter Cronkite up for some needed scrutiny. It doesn't explore deeper examples of liberalism, but it's an interesting read.

Oh, did I mention? Elder is a "libertarian talk show host". Sorry not to give you that reference point earlier.

Posted by susanna at 03:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The pizza man: his life, the investigation

Both the NY Times and the Washington Post have biographic articles today about Brian Wells, the 46-year-old pizza deliveryman who died last Thursday from the explosion of a collar bomb.

The general consensus is that Wells was somewhat simple, not a good student, dropping out of high school at 16 to work. He was quiet, kind to animals and children, without ambition and content to live alone. No one understands how he could have done this. Of course, we almost always hear that about the most heinous killers, but Wells doesn't appear to have been secretive, nor intelligent enough to make the bomb and gun-cane he carried in the robbery. This supports my conclusion that he did not do this alone.

The Erie newspaper, the Erie Times-News, has two more articles that give excellent detail about both the robbery itself and the videos taken of Wells while he was handcuffed and waiting for the bomb squad to arrive. (As noted before, the Erie paper's Net interface is not amenable to linking individual articles; you'll have to go to the main page and click over. Very very annoying.)

Some additional interesting details from the Erie paper: Wells carried something that looked like a cane, which was actually a kind of gun which appeared homemade. It was apparently a single-shot, but he didn't threaten anyone with it in the bank. He demanded $250,000, and when the teller couldn't give him that much he said he would be back later to get it. He may have mentioned something about "22 minutes". While attached to the police car's bumper, Wells said, ""He pulled a key out and started a timer. I heard the thing ticking when he did it."

Investigators are apparently looking into reports that one of Wells' coworkers at the pizza place is dating one of the bank employees. That could be a lead, but in a town of 103,000 it's just as likely to be coincidence. And according to the NY Times, "Mr. Wells had told the police that a dark-skinned man attached the bomb to his neck, clicking it closed with a combination lock that seemed to set a timer. Mr. Wells had also said the man told him he must rob the bank and return with the money before the bomb would be defused.".

It seems to me that Option 1 in my original post (here's the second one) is pretty much out. Option 2 is possible but unlikely; if Wells was involved, I think it would be just someone taking advantage of his simple nature and telling him he would get a lot of money without being hurt. I still think Option 3 is the most likely - that someone else did it, that Wells didn't know about it until he arrived with the pizza, and likely was at least coerced into doing it, if not directly forced by having the collar bomb put on him against his will.

I think the person who did it may have been working with an accomplice, but I don't think it's likely - if, for instance, the pizza coworker with the bank girlfriend was involved, he would have known that the bank opened its vaults at 3 p.m., making that the best time for the robbery. The person is obviously adept at working with metal, and most likely has a fairly lengthy criminal career but is not a mental heavyweight himself. He's been the second man, or one underling of several, in any previous crime schemes this complex. He probably has drug connections, because of the type of bomb used (similar to those used by drug lords in Colombia and Venezuela). He's from the area, although he may not have always lived there. Any crimes he's done have been mean, unsophisticated and grounded in his desire to live an easy life without real work. He holds at best a blue-collar job, and probably is not consistently employed - if he is, it'll be a come-and-go type job like construction.

So that's my analysis. We'll see if it holds up.

Posted by susanna at 01:44 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Art, politics and the aesthetics of Hitler

(Cross posted on Blogcritics)

Terry Teachout has a wonderful essay in the current issue of Commentary about art and politics which also serves as a review of Frederic Spotts' new book, Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics. There's nothing I can add that would enhance or clarify it, so I will instead give you a few excerpts:

...(W)ith few exceptions, biographers, historians, and commentators have seldom... consider(ed)... the possibility that Hitler’s artistic interests might have been central to his character, or have had a significant effect on his political career...

Spotts contends that Hitler’s “aesthetic talents,” far from being peripheral to his achievements as a politician, were in fact at the heart of his political self-understanding.

Hitler believed, according to Spotts, that “the ultimate objective of political effort should be artistic achievement.” He meant this in a literal sense: “Once he had won his war and established an Aryan state that was a dominant world power, he intended to devote himself to the creation of cultural monuments that would change the face of Germany and immortalize himself.” But Hitler was no mere builder of temples celebrating the triumph of his iron will. As Spotts goes on to explain:

The Hitler of this book is someone for whom culture was not only the end to which power should aspire but also a means of achieving and keeping it. . . . Using a new style of politics, mediated through symbols, myths, rites, spectacles, and personal dramatics, he reached the masses as did no other leader of his time.

Not only does Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics serve as a useful corrective to earlier Hitler biographies, it also supplies a thoroughly unsettling account of what, for lovers of the arts, is one of the most unsavory features of the Third Reich: the seeming eagerness of so many noted German artists (as well as more than a few of their counterparts in Nazi-occupied countries, especially France) to collaborate with Hitler and his henchmen. What was it about Hitler that appealed to them? Were they simply afraid not to support him? Or were they responding to the siren call of a deeper urge?

...Hitler, in short, was a deranged idealist, a painter who sought power over others in order to make his romantic dreams real, then grew ever more bloodthirsty when the human beings who were his flesh-and-blood medium resisted his transforming touch.

...To read Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics is to reflect not only on power but on the various ways in which artists through the ages have responded to power, and more specifically to the politicians and political ideas of their time.

In Nazi Germany, this response, as Frederic Spotts reminds us, was overwhelmingly positive. The list of distinguished non-Jewish artists who left the country after Hitler came to power is brief to the point of invisibility when placed next to the rogues’ gallery of those who stayed behind, in many cases not merely accepting the inevitability of Nazi rule but actively collaborating with the regime...

The relationship of these artists to the Nazi regime remains relevant to this day. Though artists vary widely in their political awareness—from total indifference on the one hand to passionate involvement on the other—many, perhaps most, find it hard to resist the blandishments of politicians who appear to take an informed interest, however specious, in the arts...

It is tempting to try to excuse this as mere foolishness. As Hitler himself once remarked, “Artists are simple-hearted souls. Today they sign this, tomorrow that; they don’t even look to see what it is, so long as it seems to them well-meaning.” But as he knew—better, perhaps, than any other politician of the 20th century—ideas have consequences, and the artist who succumbs to the temptation to dabble in ill-digested political ideas, be he a Nazi, a Communist, or a pacifist, is as morally responsible for their ultimate consequences as any other human being. In the end, beauty excuses nothing, least of all mass murder.

The piece is fascinating both for its historical context and for the light it shines on art today - including the media arts such as acting. I don't think Teachout or Spotts - and for that matter, me - is advocating that artists stay out of politics. Certainly politics and current events give us some of our most moving art, such as Picasso's Guernica (I don't agree with his overall sentiment, but the painting is one instance where I think the modernism of his art conveyed the emotion and tragedy of the moment better than realism). But I do think this as one of the larger points is well taken - art cannot be fully understood outside of its political and historical context, and artists do not operate in some divine sphere that removes their motivations from the taint of self-interest or even evil.

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

Blogging makes the big time

Well, some would say it already has. But it's heavily featured in the September/October issue of Columbia Journalism Review, which most of you may already know but I didn't. Matt Welch writes the lead article on blogging, which is perfect - he's a Real Journalist but also a blogger, so we don't get the goofy um duh diss is cool, the brainless it's a buncha diarists with cookie recipes or the snarky who do these lame losers think they are, saying they're as good as me articles. Besides which, Welch is just a good writer.

The overall theme is The New Alternatives, and one article I'd like to see isn't available online - about Indymedia edging away from anarchy. Maybe, but only to crowd the precipice into freakish conspiracy theories and hatespeech.

Posted by susanna at 11:10 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

It do get tangled

Kenneth Waibel, a Catholic priest in Lexington, KY, was arrested and convicted of exposing himself at Jacobson Park on the outskirts of Lexington. Feeling "no longer wanted and that my ministry was no longer desired" (imagine that), Waibel affiliated himself with the Orthodox Catholic Church of America, an unrecognized offshoot of the Roman Catholic Church.

So, naturally, the RCC excommunicated him.

Now Waibel is the priest for "St. Mychal the Martyr" parish, named for Mychal Judge, the priest who was the first on the ground to die in the WTC attacks who the article says was openly gay. Judge has been made a saint by the Orthodox Catholic Church.

I think the RCC did precisely the right thing in excommunicating Waibel - he was out exposing himself (in a notorious cruising place for gay men; you don't go in Jacobson Park as dusk moves in if you don't want to see the cruising), he was apparently unrepentent, and he affiliated himself with another group. But still he whines about feeling "no longer wanted". Well, doh. The RCC officially condemns homosexuality. It requires sexual chastity of its priests (officially - we can discuss unofficially some other time). And it requires that its spiritial leaders not affiliate themselves with another religious group with opposing doctrines. Sounds like their action was reasonable.

Now you tell me, do any of you who aren't religious or aren't Catholic think it unreasonable to dump a sexually active priest who's exposing himself in public, possibly engaging in liaisons for sex with strangers, and openly denouncing the doctrine he just recently proclaimed from a pulpit? And yet he whines, and the newspaper quotes him like it's reasonable.


Posted by susanna at 10:53 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Writers, living together

Jealousy is always an issue when you have artistic egos vying for personal space in a relationship - although it's not something unique to the artistic. Robert Fulford looks at an essay by writer Kathryn Chetkovich about her own struggles with her work and herself when her partner, Jonathan Franzen, hit popular and literary success with his book, The Corrections.

I never knew Margaret Millar was married to Ross MacDonald, in his real-life incarnation - Ken Millar.

Posted by susanna at 10:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Two wrongs... well, you know the rest

A car drives by.

It's pelted with rotten tomatoes.

It drives by again, the driver threatening the tomato throwers.

They pelt the car with more rottenness.

The driver comes by a third time, gets out and threatens the throwers with a gun.

They pelt him with rotten tomatoes.

He shoots into their hiding place.

One of the tomato throwers dies.

Now, who's at fault here?

I'm sympathetic with anger at the death of the tomato thrower. But don't talk to me about "harmless prank" and "tradition", nor "Amish" and "Mennonite" as if that casts the tomato throwers into some saintly category where their motives can never be suspect. This is almost right:

Wayne Miller, an Amish man from nearby Kidron, said the young people “shouldn’t have been throwing tomatoes.”

“But if people start shooting people for throwing tomatoes, this country’s in bad shape,” he said.

They've not found a suspect for the shooting, just "a vague description of a middle-aged male of medium height" driving "a Lincoln or Cadillac". Absolutely the driver of the car is most at fault here - he should have driven off after he was hit with tomatoes the first time. He should never have threatened them with a gun. And he sure shouldn't have shot anyone. The man deserves prison, for a very very long time.

But the Amish "boys" - the one who died was 23 - weren't precisely engaging in a harmless prank. Even if the tomatoes were soggy rotten, they could have tossed one in an open window and caused the person to wreck. If the tomatoes were harder, they could cause body damage, or crack a window. Certainly it would frighten someone driving alone along a quiet road. And what's this about a paint gun? That's a little more aggressive than a squishy tomato, don't you think?

You just don't throw things at cars. Any car. Any thing. Any time it's moving. It's not a prank. It's dangerous. And at 23, you should know better. They should have limited their targets to buggies.

It's tragic. Completely tragic. But don't paint the "pranksters" as little innocents. They were provocative and meant to be. They just didn't think calling the driver's bluff would end in death.

Posted by susanna at 10:07 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Alabama is good for him

Alan at Theosebes is back to heavy posting now that he's settled in his new Alabama home. He's looking at home schooling, Bob the Tomato - busted, and a new film based on the Gospel of John.

I didn't see any Skynard, though.

(And I know I won't see any Neil Young, Alabama or no.)

Posted by susanna at 09:46 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Martin the Martian - a Saturday Narcissus

According to Bob Wallace, the old Loony Toons have a few things to tell us about classic philosophy:

Marvin is perfectly rational, but he's also insane. He's a megalomaniac who wants to conquer the Earth, and like all megalomaniacs, he has no conscience. Anyone who gets in his way and makes him "very very mad" runs the risk of wafting away in the breeze after being returned to his original atomic elements, courtesy of Marvin's disintegrator raygun, which is almost as big as he is.

In modern psychological terms, Marvin suffers from a psychotic or schizoid disorder. The writer Geoge Burden claims Marvin has a delusional disorder of the grandiose type. In the psychiatrist's Bible, DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual), this would be diagnostic code 297.1.

I am a believer in what Alfred North Whitehead wrote: "Fundamental progress has to do with the reinterpretation of basic ideas." People in the past were as smart as we are. Maybe smarter. They just thought in a different context. They didn't have DSM-IV, but they knew a nut when they saw one.

Since Marvin is deluded, remorseless, grandiose and wants to conquer the world, what mythological archetypes does he fit? For one, he fits the Greek myth of Narcissus, from which came the modern disorder known as Narcissistic Personality Disorder. In a sentence, a narcissist is someone grandiose who sees others as things.

It's a fun read, but be warned - it's sandwiched between mini-rants about television and neocons (wherein Bill Kristol is a Babbling Idiot). Hey, it's Lew Rockwell. But sometimes they hit a good stride.

Posted by susanna at 09:40 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Marriage and monogamy as capitalist oppression

Do you remember the old commercial where someone eating from a jar of peanut butter collided with someone eating a bar of chocolate, and in the process discovered the flavor of Reese's Cup? A true marriage of tastes. Well, this collision of feminism, Marxism and plain old bitterness is more like the theoretical equivalent of a stalker's fantasy - a bizarre distortion of reality as viewed through a determinedly deluded mind:

...40 years after Betty Friedan, Laura Kipnis has arrived with a new jeremiad, Against Love: A Polemic, to tell us that this hope was forlorn: Marriage, she suggests, belongs on the junk heap of human folly. It is an equal-opportunity oppressor, trapping men and women in a life of drudgery, emotional anesthesia, and a tug-of-war struggle to balance vastly different needs...

Kipnis' essential question is: Why? Why, in what seems like an age of great social freedom, would anyone willingly consent to a life of constricting monogamy? Why has marriage (which she defines broadly as any long-term monogamous relationship) remained a polestar even as ingrained ideas about race, gender, and sexuality have been overturned?

Now, take a minute, relax, channel a little Tammy Wynette, get yourself another icy glass of Pepsi, and get ready to learn the answer to life's age-old question - why get married?

Kipnis' answer is that marriage is an insidious social construct, harnessed by capitalism to get us to have kids and work harder to support them. Her quasi-Marxist argument sees desire as inevitably subordinated to economics. And the price of this subordination is immense: Domestic cohabitation is a "gulag"; marriage is the rough equivalent of a credit card with zero percent APR that, upon first misstep, zooms to a punishing 30 percent and compounds daily. You feel you owe something, or you're afraid of being alone, and so you "work" at your relationship, like a prisoner in Siberia ice-picking away at the erotic permafrost.

Meghan O'Rourke, the author of this review of Kipnis's book, does call foul a little on the premise:

Let's accept that the resolute public emphasis on fixing ourselves, not marriage, can seem grim, and even sentimentally blinkered in its emphasis on ending divorce. Yet Kipnis' framing of the problem is grim, too. While she usefully challenges our assumptions about commitment, it's not evident that we'd be better off in the lust-happy world she envisions, or that men and women really want the exact same sexual freedoms. In its ideal form, marriage seems to reify all that's best about human exchange. Most people don't want to be alone at home with a cat, and everyone but Kipnis worries about the effects of divorce on children. "Work," in her lexicon, is always the drudgery of self-denial, not the challenge of extending yourself beyond what you knew you could do. But we usually mean two things when we say "work": The slog we endure purely to put food on the table, and the kind we do because we like it—are drawn to it, even.

While it's certainly true that people stay in an unhappy relationship longer than they should, it's not yet clear that monogamy is more "unnatural" than sleeping around but finding that the hum of your refrigerator is your most constant companion. And Kipnis spends scant time thinking about the fact that marriage is a hardy social institution several thousand years old, spanning many cultures—which calls into question, to say the least, whether its presence in our lives today has mostly to do with the insidious chokehold capitalism has on us.

It seems to me that Kipnis's premise falls on its own merits, and hardly needs me to dissect it. She ignores essential aspects of the human condition - the needs for affection, security, connection and meaning in life. She ignores an essential factor necessary for society to survive - social cohesion. And she advocates a self-centric worldview that would reject any claim by any one - family, friend, lover, community, society - on our lives or efforts, any situation where curbing a self-gratifying impulse would benefit the greater good. It appears to me that in the process she also ignores a central tenet of Marxism - the subordinating of the self for the good of the whole, which is foundational in socialism (in theory - we know that in practice it is actually a ruse to justify elite rule and wealth).

In my opinion, what has resulted in the increase in divorce is precisely the blinkered self-absorption that Kipnis thinks should be the default approach to life. As someone whose grandparents were married 57 years before my grandfather died; whose parents have been married 46 years; whose sister has been married 25 years; and whose brother has been married for 8 - all happily - I think I can speak to what makes happy relationships. It's about choosing the right person, for the right reasons, and then making it your business to be a partner in a relationship. Of course a marriage won't work if the couple don't put each other first, or if either one sees the relationship merely as a means to fulfill his or her own desires (for romance, sex, admiration, money, children, status, whatever). As with any successful endeavor, it takes work, commitment and sacrifice; like any successful endeavor, it takes the right raw materials; and like any successful endeavor, the rewards are greater than the effort put into it, in the long run.

I think a book like this says more about the author than the subject. Kipnis, a communications professor at Northwestern who teaches film, is apparently a throwback to the 1970s bitter feminists that I've been assured no longer exist. Somebody give the girl a Reese's Cup to sweeten her up a little.

(Cross posted on Blogcritics, with reading and listening suggestions you'll enjoy. Read in "MORE" below for a little side-rant on feminism.)

A side note on feminism, since I got chided in comments to my Christian feminism post. I agree with the basic premises of feminism as Barry (Amptoons) presented them:

1) Believes that there is current, significant, society-wide inequality and sexism which on balance disadvantages women.

2) Advocates for the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.

I'd say, though, that I would disagree on the extent, genesis and solution the inequality and sexism, and most likely would also disagree with at least some of the solutions to the social, political and economic inequality. The solution is not to force women into the work world, it's not to denigrate marriage as oppression, and it's not to "empower" women to focus on themselves and let the rest of the world hang. I think recognizing there are differences between men and women, genetic differences affecting behavior patterns and physical capabilities, is a good place to start. Then we could open up the world to the possibilities inherent in finding ways of tapping the resources men and women bring that recognize their differences without finding one better than the other (as a matter of course - certainly in specific situations one may be preferable to the other). It's scary to acknowledge differences because to some it may seem like setting up women to be discriminated against and judged inferior. But I don't see how raising a generation of women to believe they could live their lives just like men and find fulfillment in that is any less damaging. It's just another form of oppression.

As a woman who has benefited tremendously from the plethora of opportunities available to women in today's society, I think I can say honestly that I'm a feminist in the purest sense - one who does what Barry lists above. But too often those in the forefront of feminist activism push not just for women to have choices, but for women to make the choices the feminists prefer. Kipnis is just the latest in a long line of them.

And I also think that the Bible gives the best template for feminism, but that's another post.

(And Judith - I appreciate what feminists have done, especially the ones in the early 1900s, many of whom held views very different from the ones in the 1970s. The latter were just so oppressive about it. And yes, the feminist movement is tainted by the fact that a substantial percentage of the most vocal are ranting leftists - who aren't decried by what apparently would be "mainstream" feminists. I applaud women's groups that advocate for women in other countries, as well as here, as long as they don't try to carry with them an anti-man, anti-US agenda - Christine Cupaiuolo at Ms. magazine makes a good point in her post, and its well taken. Spare us any claims that all feminist groups are focused on those good deeds, though - there's plenty more where Kipnis comes from. And speaking of Ms. Magazine - I'm linked on their blog, and have had several good email exchanges with Christine. Not precisely a refusal to engage, is it?)

Posted by susanna at 07:59 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

September 04, 2003

Surf, 'toons and Joisey politics

I'm really covered over today, so no long posts until I get home. Here are some things to read, though, that you might find interesting:

Thunderstruck is a Farkish linkblog by Steve Beard, a southern California Christian surf 'n rock 'n roll dude who somehow managed to wash ashore in a small Kentucky town. Lots and lots (and lots and lots and then more) links, on a variety of topics, featuring a lot of surfing, religion and rock 'n roll. Right now there's a very nice photo of a Virgin Mary tattoo on the site. [Link found at Theosebes, who found it via this article on religious blogs.]

Our very own and much admired Chris Muir, the cartoonist who gives us Day by Day, will be LIVE! ON! RADIO! tonight, 8 pm EST, on Radio Free Republic.

And finally, I've been diligently looking for something to link on the latest NJ governor Jim McGreezey crisis, and haven't found it in the Newark paper, the Bergen paper or the NYTimes. According to WABC Radio this morning, the gov is being investigated for ethics violations because he took his family on a vacation to Puerto Rico paid for by the longshoremen's union (which you know about if you've been keeping up with COTB). The pertinent state legislation says such a violation is subject to a $500 fine and up to 6 months in prison (actually, of course, jail - prison is for terms of over 1 year). The state attorney general, Peter Harv3y, is supposedly investigating the vacation, and Ron Kuby at WABC assured us (repeatedly, ad nauseum) that Harv3y is very reputable and trustworthy (and I will note that I've met Harv3y, heard about him and seen him a number of times and have no reason to doubt Kuby).

There's a catch, however - there's always a catch. The pertinent legislation says the people subject to the ethics law are those elected or hired into any state agency - and McGreezey's attorney is claiming that McGreezey is thus excluded because the governor's office is not a state agency. This is now being pondered by legal scholars, and if in deed that's the conclusion, some state legislators are (naturally) standing by to correct the oversight - but too late to use it on McGreezey and his Puerto Rico jaunt. Are New Joisey politics fun or what?

One final point: the state will be reimbursed for the Puerto Rico getaway by some private concern, either McGreezey's campaign fund or the NJ Democrat party. Hey, that's why I contribute to a political campaign - so the politician can take his family on a tropical vacation where he will speak to the gathered doyens of a (at least historically) mobbed-up union! Yessirreebob!

(If it seems to you that I'm deliberately misspelling the gov and AG's names, it's because I am. Paranoia - I'd rather no zealous Joisey politicos with a Google talent tracks down my blog. Not that I've said anything you can't find on the mainstream media. Although I'm more interesting. :D)

Posted by susanna at 04:06 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 03, 2003

Pizza guy update

New information is starting to emerge, albeit slowly, about the pizza guy case. They've found some mechanism also in the collar that appears to be a type of gun, and investigators are trying to figure that out. And there's a very odd new twist:

FBI agents said this type of collar bomb has not been seen before in the United States.

“This occurred one other time down in Bogota, Colombia, a number of years ago, and the victim and the two bomb technicians that were trying to dismantle the bomb were killed when the bomb went off,” McCabe told Fox News on Tuesday. “That type of device is the most dangerous device for a bomb technician to try to render safe because they have to actually go in with their hands and work on that bomb.”

Bogota? The agent seems to be saying more that this is a dangerous type of bomb rather than highlighting the Bogota connection. But I'm very curious about that. Could there be a drug connection? Colombia is a pit of drug lords; what if the person who did this to Wells is either a drug runner from South America or someone who had occasion to learn about this trick from one?

Certainly someone here could be ingenius enough to figure out that a collar bomb may give the one wearing it more ability to move around freely without jostling it. But would someone clever enough to figure out the mechanics of such a bomb from scratch also be dippy enough to kidnap some random pizza guy and ship him in to a bank in town, with only an hour on the timer? Seems very peculiar. If that's the case, then I'd say the bomb maker is not an experienced robber.

It just gets curiouser and curiouser.

And the robbery note is now identified as "an extensive, multipage note", where " (o)ne part of the note was for bank employees, demanding cash during the robbery, and the other part was instructions for the robber". The latter part is further support for my Option 3 in the previous post - why would Wells write out elaborate instructions for himself if he was running the show or involved in the planning? It gets back again to the disconnect of a strong intellect necessary to put together the bomb and plan such an elaborate plot that he even writes a note to himself as if someone else is running the show, vs a distinctly not-so-bright choice to put something on himself that could kill him which he couldn't take off easily.

And why an elaborate letter? Very controlling.

Also, they're saying that they've not found a link with Wells' coworker who died of an overdose, although they're also not eliminating any possibilities yet.

I was going to make a prediction as to who it was, but wussed out. I'll write something up and email it to someone, so we can look at it later to see if I figured it out.

There's a possibility, you know, that they'll never solve it.

UPDATE: Well, as I was writing this, A.W. left a link on the previous post to an MSNBC story asking the same question - is there a Colombia link? Interesting. MSNBC also has some more information. I'll see if it changes anything I've said.

I'll go out on a limb after all, tonight, and tell you what I think they'll find at the end of their suspect search.

Posted by susanna at 06:39 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Queer marriage from a liberal perspective

Why aren't liberals as a whole clamoring for the rights for same-sex marriage? Richard Goldstein thinks he has the answer, in an article in this week's Village Voice about the proposed constitutional amendment to ban it:

There's been no crush of Hollywood celebs at fundraisers for this cause. The radical cadres that march against globalization and war haven't agitated for marriage rights. "There is virtually no opposition from progressive groups," says Evan Wolfson of the advocacy group Freedom to Marry. "The problem is a failure to speak out and get involved." From a movement noted for its passion about social justice, this lack of ardor demands to be addressed...

Why the reticence? In part, it's because the right has attached this issue to fears about the future of the family, and some progressives are all too willing to fall for that line. In part, it's a question of style. Ever since the days of Emma Goldman, marriage has been icky for radicals. Their image of gay culture as a "site of resistance" is threatened by the thought that these sexual outlaws might hew to the narrow if not the straight. Underlying these concerns is the fundamental reason why many feminists and sex radicals are cool to gay marriage. They worry about the unintended consequences.

"In seeking to replicate marriage," Judith Levine wrote recently in the Voice, "reformers may stall the achievement of real sexual freedom and social equality for everyone." Queer theorist Michael Warner regards marriage as part of a larger push toward gay normalcy, and he sees this trend as a threat to the variety that has flourished in the queer community, "with its ethical refusal of shame or implicitly shaming standards of dignity." Warner calls marriage "selective legitimacy."

Both feminism and gay liberation have developed a potent critique of matrimony, exposing its relationship to repression and patriarchal privilege. Activists who cut their teeth on this reasoning are guided by it (and anyone headed for the altar would be well advised to check it out). But institutions change, and—thanks largely to agitation by radicals—marriage today is (or can be) different from the prison many older feminists escaped...

So, Goldstein says, the reason why the left, especially the radical left, isn't vocally behind the same-sex union movement is because they see it as a step back, as a rejection of all the "freedom to love whom and how you will" memes of their radical youth. But he says, don't worry:

It's understandable that advocates for gay marriage would portray it as a tribute to normalcy, and in the short term it probably will look like that. But as gay people grow accustomed to this option they will shape it to suit their particular needs. You'll see leather weddings, boi-on-boi unions between queers of the opposite sex, trans matches that defy the boundaries of gender—all in cahoots with rice-throwing, trip-to-Niagara realness. Queers won't stop being queer just because they can get hitched. The tradition of open relationships won't cease to exist, nor will the boundless exploration of identity and desire. Marriage won't change gay people, but merely affirm them as they are—and that, in all its profane glory, isn't so different from what straight people have become.

In other words, marriage won't become a limit to queer relationships - it will instead mold itself to the way the queer community already likes to live their lives.

I can't imagine why that prospect would concern anyone who values family cohesiveness and honoring vows.

Goldstein also apparently knows why conservatives want the amendment:

If the right succeeds in barring gay marriage, the fallout will do much more to set back sexual freedom than any wedding vow. The proposed amendment stipulates that no state constitution can be read in a way that extends the "incidents" of marriage to same-sex couples. In other words, all domestic-partner arrangements and civil-union statutes that come by court order will be voided. Only laws that emanate from legislatures or policies enacted by private companies would be valid. The result will be a patchwork of procedures varying so dramatically that no unmarried couple will be sure of the right to inherit assets, retain custody of children, carry a partner's health insurance, or even visit a loved one in the hospital. (It's worth noting that even in New York City the tradition of forcing lovers to identify themselves as siblings in order to be with their mates in the intensive-care unit is still alive.)

The panic over gay unions obscures this hidden agenda, but rest assured that the real object of the right's campaign is straights who stray. The same people who are agitating for the amendment don't intend to stop there. The next thing they will go after is what they call "divorce on demand." Feminists who recoil at the thought of supporting marriage rights should consider what America will be like if everyone except homosexuals is coerced into matrimony.

I'm not quite sure where he gets this analysis, since as a conservative I wasn't aware I had this agenda. Note that he is using this unsubstantiated generalized intent of the right as a boogieman to scare straight liberals into supporting gay marriage - because if we don't move forward, the right will use that victory as leverage to come after you next. But wait. Goldstein's real concern is buried elsewhere:

In weakening the role of the judiciary, this amendment would be a powerful tool in halting the advance of civil rights. All potential victims of discrimination should be aware that, for the first time ever, the Constitution would restrict the ability of judges to fight inequality. What's more, courts stacked with conservatives could strike down decisions that have nothing to do with marriage, applying the logic of this amendment just as liberal judges have used the Bill of Rights to establish many of the liberties we enjoy today. The principle so eloquently articulated by Justice Anthony Kennedy in his ruling against sodomy laws—that the Constitution allows each generation to expand the terrain of freedom—will be effectively moot once that process has been abridged.

In the final analysis, then, what really concerns Goldstein is not precisely the issue of gay rights, or divorce, or even that monster-under-the-bed conservative agenda. What worries him is putting the decisions about what is and is not legal in this country in the hands of the elected legislatures rather than in the hands of a judiciary, which he thoughtfully points out has been the leading activist in pressing the liberal agenda. It's fascinating that he is not even the least bit subtle about making it clear that he does not want conservative judges to have the opportunity to do what liberal judges have done for decades - legislate from the bench.

Goldstein is a talented and thoughtful writer, and I think you should read his whole article if you're interested in any of these areas. But in the process of presenting his arguments, he makes the arguments of a lot of those who oppose him. He makes it clear that - in his opinion - marriage in the queer community would not be restrictive but rather just a means to social status and legal access to each other's assets and decision-making in emergency situations. In fact, the moral mores he identifies as common to the queer community (and by that he, and I, mean gay, lesbian, transgendered and whatever other non-heterosexual categories that list misses) will not change in the least toward the traditional marital promise of monogamy and fidelity. He offers approval of same-sex marriages as a way to loosen up marriage for heterosexuals. In fact, he foresees it opening a door to a "menu" of marital options:

It's debatable whether allowing gay people to wed will open the floodgates to recognition for other relationships. But certainly civil unions present a model that can be broadly applied. I'm not thinking of Rick Santorum's specter of incest and polygamy, but of the elderly who live together and don't want to sully the memory of their deceased spouses with another formal marriage. Civil unions might suit them, along with siblings who want to commemorate their bond (and join their assets). Down the road we may see groups of people sharing the custody of children, or geriatric communes seeking a legal tie. Each of these contingencies will involve its own process of agitation, and it will be up to society to accept or reject each claim. But the result could be a menu of possibilities, ranging from trial unions to so-called covenant marriages that are very difficult to leave. People may elect to pass from one category to another as their attitudes change. This begins to look like the kind of world radicals want to see—a world of choice.

Conservatives say the tradition of marriage is under fire. Liberals say it's not under fire, just broadening to admit those who want to commit to traditional marriage with a non-traditional partner. Goldstein calmly, reasonably, and persuasively says conservatives are correct - and that is exactly why liberals should support "a world of choice" in legal partnerships now called "marriage":

If we see gay marriage in that light—as an emblem of variety and freedom manifest in love—we can understand why the right feels compelled to crush it. And we can see why the left must defend it, if only for its potential as a radical act.

I don't think same-sex marriages should be legal; I'm less hard-line about civil unions but would vote against it if it came to that. Precisely the kinds of issues that Goldstein raises as positives are a lot of why I'm against it. Not health care, or being kept out of the hospital room where someone you love is dying, or even the issue of children in poverty - all of those can be addressed other ways. And I also think that some people who are gay are committed to their partners, have relationships as deep and sincere as many heterosexuals, and are generally committed to pursuing the good of society as a whole rather than hellbent on ripping it to shreds. But while those people are the ones who are the poster children in support of same-sex marriage, it's rather like using those who are pregnant from rape or incest as a wedge to get abortion on demand for everyone - the examples used are not the predominant cases, nor is the stated intent the full underlying intent. It is leverage, pure and simple, and as Goldstein points out, admittedly so. He reassures his readers that that is the case.

It really is a culture war, and the lines are drawn. As with all wars, the hotter the fighting, the more stark the extremes. Both sides want it canted strongly in their favor, and each hard pull from one side causes an even harder pull on the other. We're rapidly losing any middle ground to meet on. And that is a failure for both sides.

Posted by susanna at 03:32 PM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

Lessons not learned

Jayson Blair discusses his NY Times downfall in the October issue of Jane, due on shelves in September 9. According to the brief on it in the NY Post's Media Ink, don't expect true insight:

He mentions some of the problems that led to his downfall and advises people not to do likewise. For instance? "If you take the company car from New York to Maryland for a personal trip, you might not want to get a speeding ticket and then throw it in the trash - only to have the business administrator discover it when a late notice arrives."

He also advises people to wait a few years and build up some good will before letting their eccentricities show: "I guess I could have done the fur-coat-Persian-head-wrap-Kermit-the-frog stunt after a couple more years."

Somehow I'm thinking there'll be no advice to "do what you say you'll do, write only what's true and live honestly."

[Link via Romenesko]

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

Iran clears interrogators in journalist's death

Last summer Zahra Kazemi died after being arrested in Iran while photographing a prison during the student protests in that country. A Canadian citizen but an Iranian native, Kazemi was buried in her home town in Iran by her mother, against the protests of her son and the Canadian government - effectively preventing an outside investigation in her death. At first Iranian officials claimed she died of a stroke, but later admitted her death was due to head injuries. Later her interrogators were charged in her death.

Prosecutors now have dropped the charges against the interrogators:

Tehran prosecutors on Monday rejected charges issued last month against two Intelligence Ministry agents in the slaying of an Iranian-Canadian photojournalist.

An independent judge had charged the agents with complicity in Zahra Kazemi's "semi-premeditated murder." The 54-year-old photographer died July 10 after sustaining head injuries while in custody...

In a statement Monday, Tehran's deputy prosecutor general, Jafar Reshadati, returned the indictments issued Aug. 25 against the agents and called for "further investigations" into the charges.

The decision effectively means that no one is currently charged in Kazemi's death. The independent judge, Javad Esmaeili, will be expected to reinvestigate the circumstances surrounding the crime..

Iran's Intelligence Ministry has criticized the accusations that the agents, both interrogators, were involved in Kazemi's death as "sheer lies." The Ministry also accused a judiciary agent of beating Kazemi to death.

Such charges and countercharges have characterized Iran's probe into the photographer's death, the latest battleground in the power struggle between elected reformers and the hard-liners who control Iran's police force, judiciary, and security agencies.

It's a good look inside that country, and I hope Canada keeps putting the pressure on. While Canada refuses to act in cases like the war in Iraq, they may see this as a chance to redeem themselves and prove they can be aggressive when their own are killed. Certainly at the very least their pressure will serve as a protection for other foreign journalists working in Iran, which in turn may result in more accurate and frequent coverage of the Iranian government in world media. Sometimes a small wedge securely set can lead to the destruction of a tall strong wall.

Kazemi was apparently beaten to death during that interrogation, which would be a horrible way to die. I have hopes for the larger implications of the struggle resulting from her death, but I also hope there is justice for Kazemi. And that at some point, her body comes home to Canada so her son will have a place to mourn her.

Posted by susanna at 10:02 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

He'll be disappointed

Paul Hill is in for disappointment:

Paul Hill never left any doubt about his feelings on the subject of killing abortion doctors. He was all for it...

Three months after Griffin's life sentence for murder in 1994, Hill went from commentator to killer. He fired a 12-gauge, pump-action shotgun into a pickup truck outside the Ladies Clinic in Pensacola, killing physician John B. Britton, 69, and security escort James H. Barrett, 74.

Hill, now 49 and so unrepentant that he said today he would kill again, is scheduled to die by injection Wednesday evening for the double murder. Barring a stay, he will be the first person in U.S. history to be put to death for killing an abortion provider...

"I expect a great reward in heaven," Hill said. "I am looking forward to glory. I don't feel remorse. . . . People have asked me if I would do it again; if I was put in a similar circumstance, I believe I would act similarly."

In my judgment, people like Hill who think it's open season on abortion doctors are of the same caliber as the terrorists blowing up people and things in the Middle East. It's not for Hill or his ilk to take things into their own hands and use God as their justification for killing. I'm very much against abortion, and I have no respect or liking for people who make their career performing them. But there is no excuse for what Hill did, or any of those who use aggressive physical means to combat abortion. There is no "end justifies the means" in Christianity.

Hill will get his reward. But it won't be what he's expecting. It'll be a bit toastier than that.

UPDATE: Alan at Theosebes has a few thoughts on this as well. It appears we agree. Shocking, that.

Posted by susanna at 08:19 AM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

September 02, 2003


You'll have to go here to find out what that means.

And yes, my sense of humor was tweaked by how it looked, even though it's not what it appears to be. You knew that already. Don't even start with me about the TOE either.

Posted by susanna at 08:26 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Collar bomb

Is anyone else freaked out about the pizza guy in Erie, PA, killed by a collar bomb after robbing a bank last Thursday?

Agents investigating the bizarre death of a pizza deliveryman are now focusing on the collar-like bomb that was locked around his neck, authorities said at a press conference Tuesday.

The triple-banded metal collar is "unique and sophisticated," FBI Special Agent Bob Rudge said, adding that it appears to have been specifically designed for this incident and features four locks and a dial combination.

But it remains a mystery how the collar became locked around the neck of Brian Douglas Wells (search), 46, who answered a delivery call Thursday to a mysterious address in a remote area and ended up about an hour later at a bank wearing a bomb.

There's just a limited number of options here:

1) Wells masterminded an elaborate ruse to rob a bank, and got caught by his own cleverness.

2) Someone else masterminded it, used Wells as a knowing patsy, possibly offering to give Wells part of the money once the ruse was successful.

3) Someone called a pizza place, ordered a pizza, kidnapped the pizza man, put a bomb on him and sent him into a bank to rob it. With apparently only about an hour on the timer.

All of these options are ingenuous yet monumentally stupid; the last option is also unthinkably cruel. And that's the one I'm leaning toward. Bear with me while I go over each one.

Wells did it himself, alone: To make this work, he would have to claim that someone forced him to do it (which he did), and then escape without being followed by the police. Once he got loose of the bomb, he would have to hide the money and make up some plausible person who escaped with the money after turning him loose. It's true that people have done more stupid things, so it's not outside the realm of possibility, but I have two problems with it:

1) He could have accomplished the same goal (robbing something) with a lot less effort and less focus on him, thus making it more likely he would get money and get to keep it.

2) If he did put the bomb on himself, then he also would have had to know how to take it off. Otherwise, how did he plan to get out of it after the robbery? If he knew how to take it off, why didn't he either do so or tell the cops how to do it? He did neither - and he died.

So I think this one is out.

Wells and an accomplice planned it together: This seems more plausible, especially if the other person masterminded it. Wells then might not know how to get the bomb off himself, and might see it as a way to score a lot of money while being cast as the victim. Not to be disparaging, but someone who earns a living delivering pizzas at 46 is not a rocket scientist or, at least, has come down in the world seriously if he is. So he may not have the education or logical thought patterns to really understand his danger. However, I see two big problems with this:

1) If he did plan it with someone else, and it was clear he was about to die if they didn't get the bomb off (which he obviously, and rightly, thought was the case), why didn't he tell the police everything right there so they could go get the person who knew how to get the bomb off?

2) Why wouldn't he make the other person show him how to get the bomb off, just in case this very thing happened?

I'm not sold, or even mildly convinced, on this one either.

Someone else put the bomb on him without his consent: This seems the most plausible to me, mainly because he didn't tell the police anything that would help them get the bomb off (at least, not that's recorded in the newspapers). This scenario also seems to fit the facts as we know them best. Someone called to order a pizza. The boss answered, took the order, gave the phone to Wells to get directions. Wells drives out. He's next seen robbing the bank. He's caught by police and tells them there's a bomb that will kill him. He doesn't tell them how to get it off. He dies.

But if it is this way... there's someone out there who is a very seriously evil and inventive sort.

There are a lot of unanswered questions here. A 43-year-old coworker of Wells' died in his bed on Sunday of undetermined causes, three days after the bomb killed Wells. The coworker was a known drug user, so it could have been an unconnected accidental overdose - or something more sinister, either a suicide or murder. If it was the coworker who attached the bomb, why didn't Wells say so? And if he didn't know, because the bomber wore a disguise, then we're back to Scenario 3 only with a suspect.

Also, Wells did not tell anyone at the bank that he was coerced, and he did show them the bomb. It was only after he was stopped by police and handcuffed that he told them that it was going to go off. Does that indicate complicity? Or does it support his story?

The Erie newspaper covers it better than Fox, but they still spend almost as many inches telling their readers all about how the major media is covering it as they do telling about the crime. The additional detail there is more scene setting with locations, and tying it to home with interviews with locals, although there is one good chart with a map and timeline. Here's the link, but you'll have to dig around - the site is not link friendly, operating with frames so you have to go to the front page and link to the individual articles from there.

I couldn't find anything new or pertinent in either the Cleveland Plain Dealer or the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. And that's pretty bizarre to me too.

The NY Times has a short bit about today's FBI press conference, which again doesn't add much. The latest Washington Post article is here.

If I was a newspaper reporter, I'd be camped in Erie, PA, investigating. But that's just me.

Posted by susanna at 07:41 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Times ombudsman - likely to be truly free to criticize?

Theo Lippman Jr. invokes H.L. Mencken in a great column about the likely freedom to criticize that the new NY Times ombudsman will have:

After the scandal of its faked reporting, suspect datelining, favoritism and PC imperatives, The New York Times announced that it will name a "public editor." The paper's story on the announcement described that as an "ombudsman [with] license to write about issues of our coverage and to have those independent uncensored commentaries published in our pages."

With the approach of the Enoch Pratt Free Library's annual Mencken Day speech Sept. 7 (this year by Terry Teachout, author of the latest Mencken biography, The Skeptic), let me say this about the Times' forthcoming "independent uncensored commentaries": Yeah, right.

H.L. Mencken couldn't do it, and if he couldn't do it, nobody could. As journalist and journalism critic Richard Pollack once put it, "Mencken practically invented journalism criticism." He was an ombudsman when there was no such word except in Sweden...

Once the Times had a sort of de facto or ad hoc ombudsman. That was Sydney Schanberg, who won a Pulitzer Prize as a foreign correspondent, then wrote an op-ed column on metropolitan issues in the 1980s.

Schanberg wrote that the Times was "venal" in dealing with the city's business establishment in connection with a disputed development proposal. The then-publisher, the senior Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, charged him with having "peed" on the Times, fired him as a columnist, and he resigned.

There's an old Swedish saying: An ombudsman who can't pee on his own paper from time to time is no ombudsman at all.

That's the beginning and end of the column, so yes, I've taken the bang out of his close. But the middle is just as worthy of reading, so live with it.

[Link via Romenesko, who also has another great link to this interview with Bob Kohn, the author of a book on the NY Times named (surprise!)Journalistic Fraud. I'm sure it wasn't an email interview. That's not journalism, you know.]

Posted by susanna at 11:31 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Courts have themselves to blame for Alabama brouhaha

Stuart Taylor, in his Opening Arguments column in the September 2 National Journal, gets it right:

The antics of Moore, and of the House, call to mind a broader question: In its drive to purge the public square of endorsements and even accommodations of religion, has the Supreme Court stretched the Constitution's ban on "establishment of religion" too far? The answer is a qualified yes, in my view. While the lower courts have been quite right in Moore's case, and while the Supreme Court's major establishment-clause decisions seem correct on their facts, some of the justices' opinions exude indifference, or even hostility, to the interests of religious believers in maintaining innocuous ceremonial traditions that have long been sponsored by governments. Clowns such as Moore would have a harder time rallying such large constituencies if the high court justices mustered a bit more common sense and tolerance...

While Roy's rock is gone, some of Moore's many fervent supporters hope that he will run for governor next. If he does, he will owe at least some of his support to understandable popular outrage at other, more questionable court decisions, especially the 9th Circuit's effort to excise "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance and the 4th Circuit's ban on supper prayers at VMI. Unfortunately, both rulings are plausible interpretations of the Supreme Court's overly sweeping denunciations of government-sanctioned endorsements of religion in its decisions barring state-sponsored prayers at public school graduations (in 1992, in Lee v. Weisman) and football games (in 2000, in Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe).

Taylor nails it for me, anyway. I didn't follow the Moore brouhaha closely (which is to say I didn't read everything out there about it), but I did cringe at the religious groups choosing this hill to die on when the issue at hand was, by itself, not of particular moment. At the same time, I had tremendous sympathy for why they were reacting that way - for precisely the reasons Taylor says. It seems to me that those who are PC, who are anti-religion to the point of militant atheism, who are against any kind of moral influence in society, are actively playing the US court system and the Constitution to get religion excluded from the public square - most especially Christianity. I personally think their behavior is unconstitutional, because they are essentially oppressing the religious by telling them that they are not welcome to exercise their religion except in private, designated places, and they are not fit to hold public office (can you say "John Ashcroft"? "George Bush"?) if they have strong religious beliefs, beliefs they actually act on. (It's only okay to act on strong beliefs if you're, say, PETA or the NAACP or NOW. Otherwise you're a freakish idiot that should be locked in a dark room somewhere.)

Yes, I'm angry about it. And while I wouldn't be out on that public square with Judge Moore, I can't find it in my heart to criticize those who do for feeling as threatened as they do. And I think it's time that the religious in this country pushed back. I don't want anyone feeling they have to agree with my religious doctrine for any reason other than they're convinced of its reason and validity, but at the same time, I'm tired of being told I'm unconstitutional for wanting my religious observances and evidence of the history of religious influence on public policy and law allowed free reign in the public square.

(And yes, that's probably why I see a sly anti-religious implication in the column referenced here.)

UPDATE: Doug posted his comment here on his site (or vice versa, anyway, it's in both places with a little more on his site). TheYeti, who sent my original post to Doug and stirred things up, then posted an answer to Doug on his own site, which has in turn triggered quite the little discussion in his comments. The focus is not so much the Moore/Alabama situation, but rather the issue of religion in the public square.

Posted by susanna at 11:09 AM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

Email interviews a no-no?

A lot of bloggers will be depressed (or not) about this:

"I don't think you should ever do an e-mail interview," says Justice Hill, senior writer at, the official site of major league baseball. However, Hill acknowledges using e-mail to get specific information from Mark Shapiro, general manager of the Cleveland Indians. "First, though, I will have tried to call Mark and if I can't get to him, I know that his computer is always on," Hill says...

Ed Williams, a journalism professor at Auburn University in Alabama and adviser for The Plainsman, bans e-mail interviews in his classes and plans to add a statement about the ban to his writing syllabi. "E-mailing is not reporting," he says. However, even Williams acknowledges that e-mail can be useful when reporters are researching attitudes, practices, or other round-up related topics.

Emailing isn't reporting. Did you know that?

It's actually a good article (if a bit awkward in the reading) with useful pointers for bloggers too. But it's just amusing that the people in the story who say "it's bad! it's not journalism!" then turn around and say, "but yeah, we use it". Of course you lose context with emailing, and it makes it easier for sources to hand off the grunt work of answering to underlings. But how many reporters honestly think that when they talk to, say, a politician face to face that the politician hasn't had an underling prepare a position paper on whatever topic is at hand?

I agree that face to face is better, for a lot of reasons. But ... best never to say never, even about email journalism.

Posted by susanna at 10:43 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

This would be fascinating

I'd like to read through these:

The Afro-American Newspapers of Baltimore said they will digitize their 110 years of archives in a deal with Cold North Wind of Ottawa, Canada.

Founded in 1892 by former slave John Henry Murphy Sr., the Afro-American Newspaper today prints Baltimore and Washington, D.C., editions.

The archived, full-page images will be available online at

Publisher John Oliver Jr. said the archives' stories, columns, cartoons, and advertisements provide a unique look at African-American history.

It would be interesting to read about American history and the fight for equality from the perspective of black journalists, and to track the change in their own attitudes and approaches to news over time.

Posted by susanna at 10:33 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Christian feminism?

Theosebes comments on Wendy McElroy's column about feminists whose feminism emerges from the Christian tradition.

It's an interesting concept. In the pure sense, I would say I'm a feminist - I believe in the essential equality of men and women, and believe that women should be treated in the marketplace the same as a man doing similar tasks. But I decidedly disagree with most of the modern feminist platform, which is anti-man and in many contexts anti-Christian. I think it's quite positive for women who seek equality, not claim superiority, to take back the feminist movement and label the radicals for the hatemongers they are.

Posted by susanna at 10:23 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

September 01, 2003

Insanity defense?

Robert A. Martin, a newspaper editor and publisher in Montgomery, AL, who worked with the two Alabama Supreme Court justices who preceded Judge Roy Moore, has offered an interesting alternative to Moore completing his term:

That court has several options under our constitution. It may "(1) remove from office, suspend without pay, or censure a judge, or apply such other sanction as may be prescribed by law, for violation of a canon of judicial ethics, misconduct in office, failure to perform his duties, or (2) suspend with or without pay, or retire a judge who is physically or mentally unable to perform his duties."

Some court officials here have told me they belief Moore has "lost it," that he is mentally unable to perform his duties. They also tell me he truly believes what he's doing is right. That bothers me perhaps more than if he were doing it for money or politics because it means he has lost rational thought If such is the case there is the provision noted above, under the judicial disciplinary process, to protect the people from the mental incapacity of a judge.

First, note Martin's sources that Moore has "lost it" - "some court officials". Compelling credentials and basis for credibility there. Next, note that it's a bad thing for Moore to believe he's doing the right thing - better that he's lying, doing it only for political advantage! We could all feel better then! Gives more insight into Martin's politics than Moore's rightness of mind. And while Martin isn't very clear about this, it appears that Moore's wrong here is believing something is right that others think is a clear violation of law. It seems to me that if all judges who did that were removed from the bench for mental incapacity as a result, courtrooms all over the country would suddenly be emptied and at least the 9th Circuit would be completely deserted.

Yes, I realize that there are issues of following judicial rulings here, but I don't see Martin making that argument. Quite frankly, it seems to me that Martin is shading toward anti-religion here - implying that at least part of Moore's "insanity" is belief in God.

And you also wonder just how this opinion has colored Martin's newspaper's coverage of the issue. Not at all, I'm sure.

Posted by susanna at 09:51 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack