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October 31, 2003

Happy Halloween!


Haydon and Molly Katherine with pumpkins carved by their mom Traci

Posted by susanna at 11:47 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

A book to die for

Have you ever seen a coffin go by?
If you did, you’re the next to die.
They wrap you up in a bloody sheet
Throw you down ‘bout six feet deep.
The bugs crawl in
The bugs crawl out
The bugs play peeky boo on your snout
Your head falls off
Your tummy turns green
Stuff comes out like whipping cream
You spread it on a piece of bread
And that’s what you eat when you are dead!

Halloween is the perfect time for a childhood chant about the horrors of death, a topic few of us find comfortable. The thoughts of flesh turning green, insects burrowing deeply inside, the indignities that our physical being goes through after our spirit has fled – we turn from those, yet spend billions on horror movies and Halloween costumes, slowing to see a bad wreck, sending shows like Forensic Files, CSI and others high in the Nielsen ratings. It is a ghoulish fascination that makes us cover our eyes with our hands – but make sure to open our fingers so we can still see what’s happening.

The science of death – especially time of death – threads through all those fascinations, asking and trying to answer important questions: What qualifies as death – brain death? Cessation of body functions? How long has this person been dead? What killed him, was she left in this position, did she die before she was dumped? The answers are not as set as you may think, as Jessica Snyder Sachs details in her riveting 2001 book, Corpse – Nature, Forensics, and the Struggle to Pinpoint Time of Death.

The book opens with a horrible multiple murder, and the question of who did it. The subsequent trial, a battle of medical experts, sets up the premise of the book: The science of determining time of death is advanced, but not infallible. The first chapter deals with the history of forensic pathology – the official name of the science of death – starting with descriptions from the ancient Greeks and Egyptians of two “body clocks” we still use today. Sachs defines them: rigor mortis, or postmortem stiffening, and algor mortis, body cooling. But the knowledge of the ancients didn’t stop there – the first known forensic handbook was written in 1247 China by Hsi Yuan Chi Lu. Sachs handles a tremendous range of science and time with a deft hand, moving quickly through the history with enough detail to set the stage for the advances of modern science without bogging down the reader. And that is a hallmark of this book – precision in detail coupled with a conversational tone that draws a reader in.

The rest of the book will enthrall anyone who’s ever curled up with a Kay Scarpetta novel by Patricia Cornwell, or watched old reruns of Quincy. Sachs explores the value of lividity vs body temperature as a means of determining time of death. She introduces Bill Bass, the University of Tennessee anthropologist who started and runs an outdoor death research facility known colloquially as The Body Farm, after a Scarpetta novel of the same name – bodies donated to the school are placed in different positions on the scrap of land, and researchers record how being burned or placed in a car or covered with brush affects their decomposition. She covers the activities of a cadre of death researchers including entomologists, who toss out pig carcasses and monitor the insect activity on them as they rot. Her language is always accessible, no mean feat given the scientific nature of her topic, and her imagery is compelling, as this excerpt (pg. 176) shows:

…as the tiny first-instar larvae of blow flies and flesh flies mature into chunkier second and third instars, as they settle down to the serious work of devouring a human corpse, they can turn into something else entirely. They can swarm. The resulting activity becomes not so much that of individual maggots, but that of an all-consuming pack. The teeming mass churns and roils within the cadaver, with thousands of maggots diving for food, then rolling to the surface for air and plunging down again. The maggot mass becomes an ecosystem unto itself. It becomes the source of the ghoulish steam that has risen from cold battlefields since the beginning of man’s inhumanity to man. The resulting heat – whether from the friction of their roiling movements or the combined chemical spark of ten thousand tiny, flesh-filled guts – can sustain larval growth even in subfreezing weather.”

The book is full of such scenes which, coupled with the personality sketches of the main characters in modern forensics, makes what could be a dry scientific tome interesting and – dare I say – lively. And those of us schooled on television shows and mystery novels have much to learn. Determining time of death is far from an exact science, and the scientists exploring it find their conclusions challenged at every turn. Yes, the victim had a hamburger and French fries for dinner – they’re right there! In his stomach! – but was it from yesterday, or the day before? Placement of the body, time of the year, cause of death, surrounding environment – all can confuse a straightforward rendering based on digestion. So what about insect infestation? Surely that would be less susceptible – but was the body tucked inside a freezer for a time before being dumped where the maggots could do their grisly work? Did a frost descend that night, was the body treated with chemicals? Each time scientists find a definitive method, it doesn’t take long for its cutting edge to blur with exceptions – and Sachs meticulously chronicles each permutation.

This book is not for the faint of stomach, but if science or mysteries, medicine or history consistently draw your interest, then Corpse is a book to die for.

(Cross-posted on Blogcritics)

Posted by susanna at 11:42 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

As always, he's younger

Happy first blogiversary to Theosebes, my brother Alan's excellent blog. He's got great posts, as always, so check it out.

Posted by susanna at 08:48 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 30, 2003

Don't know much about economics

When it comes to economics, I'm a good quilter. Which is to say, I make no pretense to any expertise or even baseline knowledge. I'm off doing something else entirely. So when I hear news like this, my immediate reaction is, "YAY! Um, what does it mean?"

Fortunately, there are lots of people in the blogosphere who not only are experts in economics, but write about it in interesting, cogent ways. Scary, I know. I was first drawn into this post by Victor at Dead Parrot Society, which is about both economics and a political coming of age. He linked to Daniel Drezner, who in turn linked to all sorts of people including - naturally - Megan McArdle. So I highly recommend all of them.

Excuse me, now, I have some sewing to do.

Posted by susanna at 07:10 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

This is a bad thing

We've been hearing about military personnel returned stateside for injuries or illnesses who have not been getting adequate medical care.

Here's another article, this time about Ft. Knox, KY.

I want to know more about this. We need to be taking care of our military people.

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

Calfornia shaking and burning

California isn't just burning, but it's having earthquakes too.

Small ones, but still...

Isn't that more than enough?

[Link via Drudge]

Posted by susanna at 12:25 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Chief Wiggles officially recognized

The US Central Command has issued a press release about Chief Wiggles.

I think that's very cool. And of course you know that he was on MSNBC's Scarborough Country this week.

At least some of the good things are getting out there.

[Cent Com link via Chuck]

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

Help me think

As a happy part of my transition into an almost-full-time-student again, I'm getting a laptop (dude, she's gettin' a Dell!). The ordering for same will occur next week. So... suggestions of what I need? I'm totally not in the loop about gigs and bytes and bits and hertzes. I know generally that more is better, but I don't want to hand over piles of money just to kill a mite with a sledgehammer.

So here's what I want to do with my new toy:

First and foremost, this will be a work computer for my dissertation. I will haul it about, and I will use Word, Excel, some type of database for tracking my content analysis, possibly a statistical package like SPSS if my dissertation committee forces me to do statistics (ew). I will be recording lots of data ("lots" meaning "100s of article summaries and notes"), and will need to have several windows open at one time.

Secondary use - some writing and design work, using Word, Pagemaker or Publisher, and Photoshop.

Writing/presenting lectures for my classes - using Word and Powerpoint.

Internet - but you knew that. I want wireless capability, to use at home and also to plug into whatever happy place has it free (think "Starbucks", think "campus library", think "B&N").

Networking - I have a desktop that I will keep operational at home too. Is there any reason at all to network the two? It's not like there's someone else to use the other one while I'm at one.

Some games - I want to get a couple of cool games, but they won't be the type where you have a joystick and rapid-fire commands going on. I don't do rapid-fire, except when I'm talking. I am not wired for hyperspeed. Except for talking. Did I mention I talk fast?

Grow-ability - I want a computer that is going to handle everything I'm going to need for at least three years. Yes, I know, but I'm not cutting edge like a lot of you. My almost 4-year-old desktop still provides most of what I need, except (obviously) portability.

And now for some random questions: Do I need a hard case for it? Do I need a backup battery? Do I need Windows XP? What about the CD drive - I know I need rewritable, but what's all this 4X 2X this and that?

I was playing around on Dell's website the other day and had a system costing $4700 in no time at all. I think that's probably a bit (ok, a lot) much. But I'd be willing to go up to about $3000 if it really would make a difference in achieving some of my goals - like having more than one window open when I'm using a big program.

I'm also considering getting an MP3 player, but I'm even more useless there - I don't even know what questions to ask.

And finally, I'm getting a new cell phone and system, will be T-Mobile I know, but what about the phone? I'm sorely tempted by the camera phones, but... are they worth the cost?

What say you, oh mighty techno ones?

Posted by susanna at 11:25 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Britney's full of bull

Newsweek's Lorraine Ali zings Britney in this month's mag; even the photo caption is a jab:

Britney's new album is crisp and impressively produced. The only thing missing is a singer

Oooouch. The whole article is pretty devastating, painting Spears as a clueless, sweet all-American girl who hasn't the depth or brain power to get that she's now a slut. I've never listened to her music, never watched one of her videos, only saw her dance on the Pepsi commercial. I have no brief for Britney, and actually agree with the general conclusions, but that article is a major slice 'n dice.

And of course what most interested me was some little obscure point in passing. While talking about the shoot for the Esquire cover, where she bares her butt (Spears: "I wouldn’t want my kid, at 21, to be dressing like that.”), she said this:

“I did feel kind of weird after those photos,” says Spears, sounding sheepish for the first time during the interview. “I was in a moment. I had, like, eight Red Bulls and said, ‘OK, let’s do it.’ ..."

And I thought... what's a Red Bull? It sounds like a beer or a type of drugs, but would she talk about that to a Newsweek reporter? So I did a web search and... well, ouch again! It's an energy drink that's supposed to give you a boost of many things, not just caffeine, but it's a standout in that category: A can of Mountain Dew has 55mg of caffeine; regular Pepsi has 35; Jolt has 71; and Red Bull has 80. So Spears drinking 8 Red Bulls is like her drinking almost 20 Pepsis. Can you say major caffeine buzz?

And yes, it's about the same as coffee, less than espresso or drip coffee. But how many of you drink six espressos straight? or five cups of drip coffee? Or, for that matter, pop three Vivarin at one time?

I guess I'm more horrified because I know how I am with caffeine. One Pepsi after noon and I can't sleep well that night. I'd say a couple of Red Bulls and I'd have a buzz that would have someone thinking I was on speed, given that sans caffeine I'm already inclined to buzz-y moments. Eight Red Bulls? I'd be way past the peel-me-off-the-ceiling stage and well into suspicions-of-psychotic-state.

Yes, yes, I know. She's probably built a tolerance to a degree. But even she associated her behavior at Esquire with the Red Bulls. I have a suggestion:

Let's take away Britney's Red Bulls. I think the world would thank us for it.

Posted by susanna at 08:02 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

October 29, 2003

Sometimes the smoke is just a stinkbomb

Ryan at Dead Parrot Society tracks a news tidbit about the White House website through the liberal blogs and onto sites that actually had real information.

It's a nice little look at framing and selection bias. And those are things the right isn't exactly innocent of themselves.

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

I have the plague!

And I'm happy about it.

A new left-wing think tank — the Center for American Progress (search) — unveiled itself Tuesday as the Democratic vaccine to what center supporters say is a plague of conservatism now dominating America.

Yippee! Finally a boutique disease I can support.

"We think the debate has been unbalanced in the country," center president John Podesta, a former chief of staff to President Clinton, told Fox News.

Only because the leftists are unbalanced. Conservatives are plumb, as always.

"The conservative movement has really built up an infrastructure of not just ideas, but the ability to kind of get out there and do the kind of hard communications work to sell to the American public," he added.

It helps to, you know, be right about ideas. Good product sells better. Maybe you should retool?

The center made its debut sponsoring a conference along with the Century Foundation (search), which has been around since 1919. Among the headliners was Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark.

Oh, he's someone to rally around! Keep it up - I'd love for Bush to face off with Clark.

Clark, who is almost as new to the presidential trail as the center is to Washington, explained why both decided they had to get into the act.

"Going forward, we will need new labels and new ideas. Many of them will be created right here at the Center for American Progress," Clark said from New Hampshire in a speech beamed into the conference via satellite.

So you are retooling! Let me guess - it will be mostly either new facades for old failed ideas, or new ideas even further to the left. Oooooo.... I'm scared!

But conservatives say labels won't stick when they have nothing on which to back themselves up.

I kind of get the point here, but this is a journalist glitch - hard to figure out what's being said because the writing is so poor. So we'll move on.

Think tanks earn their credibility by being able "to deliver accurate timely information" to policy and lawmakers that will help them "understand where they may be going wrong and hopefully allow them to go in the right directions on a whole range of very important policies," said Michael Franc of the Heritage Foundation (search).

Uh oh - problems already. "Accurate"? If they have to be accurate they'll be a right-headed think tank inside of a month.

"[Credibility] is something that this think tank can't just assume is going to come its way by some kind of virtue of entitlement. You have to earn that," Franc said.

The Dems never get this. Entitlement is their mantra and political mainstay; it's how they get most of their votes. What's a Dem without entitlements? A Republican who's finger slipped in the voting booth. Sounds like the new think tank is wanting to catch on the coattails of that fabulously successful new startup, liberal talk radio.

Podesta said his group is in the business of "thinking through those new ideas, doing the long-term policy analysis," but it also plans to focus its attention on explaining to the public through direct communications "where we think conservative policies are taking the country off in the wrong direction."

I'd be happy if they tried to explain it, because I certainly haven't been able to see it.

Podesta insists that conservative institutions like the Heritage Foundation don't have better ideas, but are merely better at marketing. He said he is confident his center can take over the marketplace of ideas with notable innovations such as a big media staff that will push the center's thoughts onto the Internet, television and radio.

Um, John... (knock knock knock) JOHN!!! (pounding) You already have that - it's called "the mainstream media, Hollywood and fatcat rich Dem politicos". Except for the radio. That's free and egalitarian. Which is why the right does so well.

Of course, having substance instead of flashy media campaigns might be useful too. Just a thought.

"We don't have a war room, but we do have a communications platform. We've got a lot of terrific talented people who's job it is in the end to get that product, that analysis, that critique — get it out there to the American public," Podesta said.

Who will yawn and turn on FoxNews.

But Franc said so far the center has proven to be "all war room and no think tank.

"You don't start off a think tank with focus groups and a spin team before you figure out what you stand for. You have to. Think tanks begin with an idea, or a set of ideas, with a mission to advance coherent ideas in Washington," he said.

Wait! Wait! I said this already! I should be in a think tank. How many ways can we say this? "All flash and no photo". "All froth and no beer". "All whipped cream and no pie". "All kiss and no committment".

That should be my advertisement for the Dem agenda - a photo of some Dem politico with a label, "All monopoly and no clue".

Many Americans say they believe the media are already skewing left of center, and Washington doesn't suffer a shortage of liberal-leaning thinkers perched inside established halls of research.

Which begs the question: Why do they need yet more of the same? Could it be gasp that their ideas are wanting?!

The real challenge for liberals and Democrats, then, may not be getting their voices heard, but getting control of the White House and Congress, which most frequently frame the discussions.

As long as Republicans control both, Democrats say, few places exist in Washington for their ideas or marketing strategy to take hold.

Of course it's about regaining power. As for that last paragraph - I say, without the least edge of hyperbole or irreverence - thank God.

Posted by susanna at 09:29 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Meryl, Joe, Charles - call your office

Little Green Footballs, and Winds of Change have been front and center in addressing the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Vocal and vociferous, they've railed against the wickedness of suicide bombings and offered ideas for solutions.

Guys, you just missed the point.

You needed Danny DeVito to carry your message!

I'm anticipating peace in, oh... three weeks, tops.

Posted by susanna at 07:45 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Keeping an eye on MoveOn

I signed up for as a ringer, and get their emails daily. Periodically I'll post some of them here, so you can keep up with what they're doing. Right now, it's putting together ads against Bush:

Dear MoveOn member,

Today, Voter Fund is launching Bush in 30 Seconds, a political TV ad contest to help us find the most creative, clear and memorable ideas for ads that tell the truth about George Bush's policies. You don't have to be trained in the art of filmaking to participate, you just need to be ready, willing, and able to turn your clever ideas into a real 30 second ad. We want to run ads that are of the people, for the people, and by the people.

Joining us in this effort is a great panel of celebrity judges, including Jack Black, Michael Moore, Donna Brazile, Gus Van Sant, Michael Stipe, Margaret Cho, and Moby (there's a full list on the site below). MoveOn members will pick 15 finalists; the panelists will pick the winning ad and help generate some good press coverage for it.

The prize? Just in case getting your work seen by our judges and thousands on our web site isn't enough, we'll put the winning ad on TV during the week of Bush's State of the Union Address. All 15 finalists will also be featured in an email to the MoveOn membership. The ad doesn't need to have TV production values -- it's the idea that counts. We'll reshoot the winning ad if we need to in order to air it.

Last week, we launched a fundraising campaign to to take the truth about George Bush's policies to voters in battleground states. The response has been phenomenal -- over $2.3 million of our $10 million goal came in in under three days. Your contributions will help us get our first ads on the air in swing states in a matter of days. Now we need your help to ensure that the campaign is truly creative.

Interested in making a 30-second spot for Bush in 30 Seconds? Check out the website below for more details. Know someone who might be willing and able to make a great ad? Please pass this message on.

You can learn more about the contest and get the complete guidelines at:

If you have an idea for an ad, but not the time or the equipment to shoot it, you can post your ideas on our discussion board at:

Willing to help spread the word? Download the poster at the link below, print up a bunch of copies, and post it where likely participants might see it.

$25 donation by $25 donation, MoveOn members are changing the political landscape. We're reminding the political establishment of the immense power of people working together. But even more powerful than our money are our ideas. The next "Daisy" ad is out here somewhere. Please help us find it.

Good luck and have fun!

--Carrie, Eli, Joan, Noah, Peter, Wes, and Zack
The Team
October 28th, 2003

How Farkish is that? These people know how to plug into the Internet generation. Bush et al would do well to take a byte from their eBook.

Let's do a mini-version here. In comments, put your idea for an ad about the truth of the Dems - any prez candidate, or the parts of their agenda that you find most risible. We'll vote and I'll send the results to the Bush camp.

I'm pondering my entry.

Posted by susanna at 07:30 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

October 28, 2003

How long before we glass over Syria?

Here's a headline you like to see first thing in the morning:

Car Bomb Kills Six in Fallujah

A suicide bomber blew up a car near a police station in the flashpoint Iraqi town of Fallujah on Tuesday, killing himself and four civilians, police said. The attack came a day after suicide bombers killed 35 people at the Red Cross headquarters and at three police stations in the Iraqi capital.

The Palestinians have tutored well the murderous filth of the Middle East, haven't they?

The style of attacks and reports that at least one of the attackers was from Syria suggested the latest violence was the work of foreign fighters in Iraq, a U.S. general said.

All they know how to do is kill and maim and beat and torture. What of value do these people bring to the world? Nothing that I can see. To call them animals is to disparage animals.

I really struggle with trying not to hate these people. By "hate", I don't mean "dislike what they do intensely". I abhor their behaviors completely, and I find them wholly without conscience, morals or mercy. The people in this country who support them in any way I find contemptible. What I mean by "hate" is that feeling that makes me want to bring a Sodom & Gomorrah-like destruction to their entire countries - just drop bombs until it's glassed over. And send their US supporters over there before the bombs start falling.

To be honest with you, I don't know that such an action wouldn't be morally defensible. I think I could make a strong moral argument for it, in an ultimate, apocalyptic way. But I know there are thousands if not millions of people in those countries - led by wicked people, suffused with an evil ideology - who want nothing more than to live peaceful lives, earning a living, watching their children grow up happy and healthy, and worshipping as they think is right without killing everyone who disagrees with them. And I want those people to have that life. I just wish they had clear enough vision to see the evil in their own and excise it.

Can we Marshall Plan the entire Middle East? Please?!

Posted by susanna at 07:43 AM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

October 27, 2003

Please, PLEASE have a clue!

As most of you know, I'm moving to Alabama. Of course my bosses know this, and recently they put an ad in the newspaper advertising my position, with the intelligent intent of getting someone in here I can train before I leave. The ad has actually run twice, and released a flood of resumes. A lot of them I haven't seen, but the ones I have seen....



If your work history began with busing tables at McDonald's, moved up through driving a delivery truck for Pepsi and currently you're a lobster fisherman in Maine... why do you think a grant writing position is a good fit for you? And if it would be - that possibility always exists, a lot of writers go the circuitous route - how do you expect me to see that in your resume if you don't TELL ME where it is?

And what's with these goals for your employment future, lovingly detailed on your resume, that have nothing to do with this position's tasks and responsibilities?

Are people really that clueless?

Or do they not care?

Are they scatter-shot applying so they can keep getting unemployment?

I thought "how to do a resume" was so deeply embedded in the American psyche by now that a kindergartener could do a good one for getting into first grade. You know, things like, "Your resume should detail experiences that are at the very least within shouting distance of the position you're applying for", and "A two page resume in 9 pt type will always be tossed, even if you are Dick Cheney looking for a position as CEO, because no one will read it to find out that it is Dick Cheney". And another thing. If you're applying for oh, say, A WRITING JOB!!!, do you think you could take the time to run your resume through spell check?

Is that too much to ask?

Apparently so.

In the interests of pumping up the wave of employment in our burgeoning economy, let me give you my suggestions on this.

Susanna's Resume Recommendations

- Keep your resume on a diskette or your computer. Revise it for every position you apply for, so it highlights what in the jobs you've done before relates to the one you're seeking now.

- Don't tell me about every cup of coffee you made in your other jobs. I don't care.


- The cover letter can be as important as the resume. That's where you explain why your particular collection of experience makes you uniquely qualified for the position you want. That's especially important if your resume isn't at first glance full of pertinent job experience.

- Did I mention SPELL! CHECK! ?

- If at all possible, contact the company and find out what specific person to address the letter to. Have the person who tells you the name to both spell it out and pronounce it clearly. Write it down phonetically in case you ever have to talk to that person. Do it with every contact.

- Don't be flowery in your language. I'm not going to be convinced by superlatives if the substance isn't there. Make statements of competence and then back them up with allusions to the experience detailed on your resume.


- If you don't take the time to customize your approach to me, I don't think you care very much about working for me.

That's all. Probably much more to say. But I feel better now.

Posted by susanna at 05:14 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

The effects of media bias?

I've not followed the nomination of Justice Janice Brown to the federal bench, except for the background noise on blogs and the conservative radio I listen to, which all give the impression that she is very qualified and being trashed by the Dems because she's a conservative. And at least one website devoted to black issues openly uses stereotypical black caricatures to denigrate both Brown and Clarence Thomas. It's not pretty.

This weekend I had a conversation with a friend of mine who is a black woman with a social science PhD, religiously conservative but socially liberal. I mentioned Brown, and how annoyed I was that she was being trashed. My friend said, oh, but I hear she's not qualified at all. She's actually poorly qualified and is just being put forward because she's a token conservative black nominee for the Bush Administration.

Neither of us have sought out information on Brown, have not made it a project to research her record or to track down media coverage from various perspectives and tease out the truth. So our viewpoints are really a result of our standing political views as informed by our preferred media sources - the ones we pay attention to on a regular basis. I think Brown is being very unfairly treated, to put it mildly; my friend thinks the media is just revealing the very real inadequacies of a poorly qualified candidate.

I read conservative blogs, Fox News and The National Review for a lot of my news, and listen to conservative talk radio almost all day every weekday.

My friend listens almost exclusively to... NPR.

Now you tell me. Is there media bias?

For a bit more information on Brown, from folks I consider reasonable and not flamingly partisan, check out Eugene Volokh's thoughts on the cartoon on The Black Commentator website, and a take-down by David Bernstein of a NY Times editorial.

Maybe I should send my friend some links.

Posted by susanna at 10:04 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Early scoop on 2004 election

Still a year out, and it's already getting hot out there in the presidential campaign. Just after the Dem debate in Detroit, John Hawkins has come out with the definitive symposium on the 2004 Election. Don't miss it! His panelists:

-- Mike Hendrix from Cold Fury
-- Daniel Drezner, who is a monthly contributor to The New Republic Online & who was an unpaid foreign policy advisor for the Bush-Cheney 2000 campaign
-- Steve Martinovich, the editor and chief of Enter Stage Right
-- Bryan Preston from JunkYardBlog

Go forth and be enlightened.

Posted by susanna at 07:09 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 26, 2003

Three fine things together

I thought this was a pretty good summary of what's important in life:


Haydon and Molly Katherine on a marker with Alabama's state motto

Posted by susanna at 06:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 25, 2003


go marlins!

(i have to say it quietly... i live too close to nyc)

(it must be very very cool to be josh beckett about right now)

(or his parents)


Posted by susanna at 11:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

About blogging journalists by a blogging journalist

The spread of blogs into mainstream media outlets continues apace, and Ryan Pitts of Dead Parrot Society chronicles how it's working in this article for J-Lab.

And in case you didn't know, Ryan is... well, I'll just let J-Lab remind you:

Ryan Pitts is an online producer at, and also writes about media and blogging. He maintains a personal blog at

And an excellent personal blog it is too.

Posted by susanna at 07:10 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 24, 2003

Thumping the melon(head)

Mike at Cold Fury takes down John Cougar Melonheadcamp's* leftist drivel. JCM is so lame that it feels like Mike didn't even work up a good sweat in this slice 'n dice extravaganza. You can leave the Rolaids in the drawer.

(And don't forget to click on "Main" to go to Mike's main page, where he's all scary for Halloween.)

Yes, I know it's Mellencamp

Posted by susanna at 03:35 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Blogs as collateral damage in terrorist attack

Know how you've not been able to get some big blogs off and on recently? Instapundit, A Small Victory, Tim Blair? Michelle has the goods, and it's even made it in Newsday:

Law enforcement officials are probing a "significant" series of computer attacks launched in the last week, including one that took down some of the most popular web logs, or "blogs," on the Internet, an AT&T spokesman said yesterday.

But the best-known of the affected sites, including Glenn Reynolds' "Instapundit" and the Long Island-based "Command Post," apparently weren't the intended victims of the so-called denial of service" attacks.

But those sites were taken out when unknown hackers went after an obscure Web site belonging to a group called Internet Haganah, which tries to get service providers to boot terror-connected Web sites off the Internet, according to Annette Howard, co-owner of Haganah's ISP, Hosting Matters.

Kind of brings the war to your computer room, doesn't it? And it makes me want to contribute - or at least link - to Internet Haganah:

The head of Internet Haganah, Aaron Weisburd, said yesterday that he believed the incident aimed at his group was directed by hackers associated with Yussuf al-Ayyeri, one of Osama bin Laden's closest associates since the early '90s. Until he was killed in a gun battle with security forces in Riyadh last June, he maintained a network of Web sites for recruiting, fund-raising and communications.

Weisburd said he shut down more than 20 Web sites controlled by al-Ayyeri, and 299 sites altogether. "It's really a straightforward process. When they sign up for a Web site, no one knows who they are. We call up their service provider and say 'You're hosting a discussion on how to build a better bomb belt.' Generally they're pretty decent and take the site down."

In response, al-Ayyeri issued a cyber-fatwa, or religious edict, about a year ago, Weisburd said, urging his technically proficient users to try to shut down "Al Haganah." They've tried, off-and-on since then, to block his service, Weisburd said, discussed how to do it on various bulletin boards and succeeded last week. Since then, mirror sites he set up have also been attacked.

It might not hit us like the soldiers in Iraq, but we are on one of the front lines in this war. And we'd do well to remember it.

Posted by susanna at 10:40 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Stream of consciousness

You know I like to provide you with the latest in psychological research. Well, whoever developed the research that resulted in this finding truly knows men. Probably far too well. It frightens me to think what they may know about women.

Click on MORE to find out (warning: It's bathroom humor. But clean.).

schipolurinal smaller.jpg

Hey, it's Friday. If I want to post about urinals, I will!

[Another link from Alan, who's quite prolific (and knows my predilection for bathroom humor). Good thing for me that he doesn't post this kind of stuff.]

Posted by susanna at 10:17 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Strict constructionist

Scalia on strict interpretation of the Constitution, judicial activism and gay sex.


[Link courtesy of reader Alan Cornett, who also runs Theosebes.]

Posted by susanna at 08:48 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

October 23, 2003

Pizza bomber update

Apparently the pizza bomber case was featured last night on The John Walsh Show, an offshoot of America's Most Wanted that, well, I don't understand the reason for. At any rate, here's the latest:

Brian Wells may have known his killer, but misjudged how dangerous he was.

That's the opinion of the FBI, which also told producers of "The John Walsh Show" that the person who "oversaw" the design and implementation of the bank robbery and bombing of Brian Wells is still out there and poses a serious threat to the community — especially to people closest to him.

FBI officials made the statements to staff members of the television talk show host last Friday, five days before a show addressing the Wells bombing case aired Wednesday on national TV...

Rudge said the FBI office in Erie is still working the case exclusively, and members of a multiagency task force set up to investigate the events surrounding the day of the bank robbery and bombing, Aug. 28, are still following leads that continue to come in through a toll-free tip line set up a few days after the bombing...

The FBI goes on to describe the person they are looking for as someone who mistrusts others and views them — "particularly during this time of stress" — as a liability.

"This person is a manipulator who enjoys controlling people and situations," the statement reads. "He watches the media in order to monitor the investigation and adjusts his behavior."

The official FBI release actually identified Wells as a victim, so even if he was knowingly involved it was tangentially and not as a planner. Interesting. The focus of the investigation seems to still be in the Erie area, so apparently they think the person responsible is there and going about his business as usual.

Do you think they'll ever find him?

Posted by susanna at 12:26 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The myth of the partial-birth-abortion myth

William Saletan in Slate says partial birth abortion is not a birth:

I'm no fan of second-trimester abortions. They're horrible, and if you can avoid having one, you should. They can be particularly disturbing when they're done by extracting the fetus intact, in a manner that looks like birth. But they aren't births.

Why not? Saletan explains:

That's just false. This procedure doesn't take place anywhere near the appointed hour of birth. If you paid close attention to the Senate debate, you might have noticed the part where Santorum said the procedure was performed "at least 20 weeks, and in many cases, 21, 22, 23, 24 weeks [into pregnancy], and in rarer cases, beyond that." He didn't clarify how many of these abortions took place past the 20th week. A full-term pregnancy is 40 weeks. In 1992, the Supreme Court mentioned that viability could "sometimes" occur at 23 or 24 weeks. Santorum described a 1-pound fetus as "a fully formed baby," noting that while it was only at 20 weeks gestation, it had a complete set of features and extremities.

We'll ignore that medical technology has advanced tremendously in 11 years, and what seemed impossible in 1992 is often routine today. We'll just go with what Saletan then has to say about how many fetuses are viable at one pound of birth weight, which he seems to agree is common at 20 weeks:

...according to the National Center for Health Statistics, the survival rate for babies born weighing 500 grams or less—that's 1 pound, 1 ounce or less—is 14 percent.

So Saletan is admitting that 14% of 1 pound, 20-month-old fetuses are babies, can survive and grow up to be a Slate columnist. How many does that translate to? Here is a listing of numbers of abortions in the US from 1970 through 1996. According to the same site - Baptists For Life, obviously a pro-life site - in 1986 9,030 abortions were performed in the 21st week or later. Using the CDC numbers, there were 1,328,112 abortions total in 1986, so late-term abortions formed 0.68% of them. Given that overall abortion numbers have remained relatively stable for two decades, it seems reasonable to use the same percentage on the 1997 year: that translates into 8,065 late term abortions in 1997. Using Saletan's 14% statistic from the National Center for Health Statistics - and again assuming that 20 weeks gestation = 1 lb birth weight - that means that 1,129 babies would have been born alive and survived had they not been killed in the course of the abortion.

My high school had 1100 students.

The police department where I work has about 1100 employees, sworn and non-sworn combined.

The largest passenger airplane proposed for commercial flight is in the design stages at Airbus. It will hold 555 passengers.

Why don't we get Saletan to fill up two of them with babies, and then crash it into the ground? Every year. Shouldn't take more than a weekend.

We could call it "Reality Sucks, but Hey - That's Life - or Not".

Saletan skewers himself with his own data. And he isn't honest enough to even see it.

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Note to rock stars ranting about politics: Don't quit your day job

Here's a great essay on why rockers need to (and mostly do) stick to their guitars, by WaPo music critic David Segal, writing a review of a new book called, "We All Want to Change the World". A sampling:

The reality is that most artists keep at least three bodyguards between themselves and any agenda more complicated than hanging on to fame. Why? Economically speaking, ignoring politics makes sense. The vast majority of rockers--more than 90 percent--are lucky if their careers last three albums, which means they'd be foolish to spend any of their goodwill trying to convince fans to buy something other than their new CD.

Segal hits the Dixie Twits a glancing blow, and points out that even in the 1960s political stew rock didn't provide much rhetorical meat. And I'm now going to start saving my pennies to buy The Complete Works of the Doors:

"I think the only vehicle for political change is going to vote,"says Ray Manzarak, former keyboardist for the Doors. "I don't see how rock can affect the propositions on the ballot, or the list of candidates in the national election."

He's so smart he's scary. I bet he spells better than Babs, too.

Posted by susanna at 11:37 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Suicide bombings - an acceptable means of protest?

Richard Wolin has a disturbing but excellent essay on suicide bombing in The Chronicle of Higher Education. It addresses both the 9/11 attacks and the Palestinian attacks in Israel, framed with a discussion on a book by philosopher Ted Honderich that could be perceived as an apologetic for the tactic. The article isn't tightly focused, so you may have to work to stay with it in a few places, but it's something you should really read from start to finish. I'm a strong supporter of Israel's right to exist, and I have never really been able to understand the logic behind those who think suicide bombings are not just acceptable but admirable. Wolin explains, without in any way condoning, the view from the other side, and places current events in the context of history and international law.

I found this particularly thought-provoking:

The military or strategic gains that have accrued from the suicide bombings seem negligible. All evidence points to the fact that their overall effect has been to bolster the political power of Israeli hard-liners -- a regrettable outcome for Palestinians and Israelis alike... From the standpoint of a constructive and equitable resolution of Palestinian-Israeli territorial disputes, the terrorist actions have been flatly counterproductive.

The complete lack of proven instrumentality in the attacks has been part of what convinced me that not only are the attacks abhorent on their face, but they're not even being done for the stated purpose. It's lashing out in hate, and that is a problem that cuts so deep that any peaceful resolution seems unlikely.

Any time I get a chance, I ask people who know more than me what they think about resolutions in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This past weekend a friend of mine was playing hostess to two of her cousins from Israel. Both women - sisters Miriam and Ruth - are in their 50s, daughters of a Jewish couple who emigrated from the US to the land where Israel is before it was formed as a country in 1948. Between them they have five children, all of whom have served in the Israeli military. They don't live in the areas where the majority of the attacks have occurred, but as they said, that doesn't mean they're safe. Ruth lives in a kibbutz; Miriam in their childhood homeplace. They said they avoid crowded places when they can, because those are more often targets. They don't ride the buses much, but their children (all adults) do, and they worry. They were both smart, warm, interesting women who live around the chaos of their country with an equinimity I could only admire.

I asked them, what do you think about the chances for peace? What needs to happen, will it happen? Ruth shook her head in an expression of frustration. Miriam said, I think making two countries is the answer. But the hard-liners on both sides won't let it happen.

When I read Wolin's essay, I thought, he agrees with Miriam.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has become so much more than a border dispute between two peoples. It is a lightning rod for currents of disagreement in many contexts, religious, political, historical, philosophical, economic. So many on both sides of the issue have chosen sides as a means of advancing their own agendas. That is a huge burden for any issue to carry, and so difficult to resolve when the solutions must stand proxy for the resolution of so many other ideas and hopes. And it's tragic that innocent people continue to lose their lives while the world wrangles over their fate.

UPDATE: Bill Bennett and Seth Leibsohn indicate in The National Review that Palestinian terrorism did have instrumentality in the 1970s and 80s - it gained Arafat world attention and UN legitimacy. Charming.

UPDATE II: Big Arm Woman adds some pithy observations to the discussion.

[Wolin link via Arts & Letters Daily]

Posted by susanna at 10:58 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 22, 2003

On being a girl

I'm having a down day, a stare-at-the-wall kind of day, so what did I do to make myself feel better?

Shoe-shopped online.

I'm such a girl.

Wanna see my options? Here's a few of them:

Boots. Boots. Flats. Mules. Slip-ons.

Of course what I really want are these:

Manolo Blahnik's Orientalia Pearl Mule

And some little part of me really really likes these and these and even these.

I've been longing for a pair of these too.

So many choices.

I feel better already.

(That's it for today, folks. I promise to do better tomorrow. But it just isn't in me today.)

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

October 21, 2003

Update on the state of the Arab states

This article is interesting:

Women need rights' guarantee to enjoy peace: Queen Rania

AMMAN: Women need legislation that guarantees their rights before they can enjoy peace, Queen Rania told a gathering of female lawmakers yesterday. "The absence of war does not necessarily mean security and peace for the woman," Rania said.

"To enjoy peace, the society should provide her with the necessary laws and legislation to guarantee her rights." She said the laws should not contradict the education and religion of the society.

Some 200 women from 30 countries -- including Finland, Germany, Israel, Italy, Turkey and several Arab countries -- were meeting at the 4th Euro-Mediterranean Forum of Women Parliamentarians.

Additional information comes from "(t)he Arab Human Development Report 2003, written by Arab experts and academics... commissioned and launched by the United Nations Development Program in Amman". Here's a section on report co-author Clovis Maksoud:

Arabs want to participate in decision making, not "remain marginalized and frustrated," said Maksoud, who was born in Lebanon and lives in America.

If this continues, there will be a "real explosion." The report said following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, some countries adopted extreme security measures and policies as part of the "war on terrorism." Such policies "exceeded their original goals" and eroded "civil and political liberties in many countries," particularly America, resulting in poor welfare being provided for Arabs and Muslims living, studying or travelling abroad.

Cultural and educational exchanges between the Middle East and the West were interrupted or cut. The number of Arab students attending US colleges fell by about 30 percent between 1999 and 2002.

That number of Arab students needs to be parsed for details - how much of that 30 percent were ostensibly students but not really attending universities with the goal of getting an education? (Unless, of course, you count flight schools.) And someone needs to define what "poor welfare being provided for Arabs and Muslims" means.

Here are a few more interesting details:

* Women can run for election in Bahrain and six women, including a Christian, are appointed to parliament's upper house. Female lawmakers serve in Egypt and Syria and two women were elected this month to Oman's advisory council. Kuwait has an elected parliament, but women can't vote or run for office. Its Cabinet decided this month to let women vote and be elected to Kuwait's local council.

* The Arab region has 18 computers per 1,000 people, compared to the global average of 78.3 per 1,000 persons. Only 1.6 percent of Arabs have Internet access, compared with 79 percent in America.

* The report cited an "Arab brain drain," where roughly 25 percent of 300,000 Arab university first-degree graduates in 1995-96 have immigrated, while 15,000 Arab doctors did likewise between 1998-2000.

Looks like it's a good news/bad news scenario. So to help their progress I suggest we fund a Voice of America-like effort to teach everyone in the world to read English, and then get them online. Sound like a plan?

And no, I'm not serious about teaching everyone English and indoctrinating them with American ideologies. Although I also don't think it's a bad idea. As long as the ideology we teach is mine and not Paul Krugman's. :D

Posted by susanna at 12:24 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


(Be warned - this post gets increasingly rant-ish as it progresses. I finally tweaked it into some semblance of coherence, but the tone just built during the writing and I decided to leave it as is.)

One of the joys of the blogosphere and the accessibility of major media online is the ability to track stories and reactions to them through several iterations and fact- or philosophy-checking. This morning is a very good example.

It all started with Paul Krugman. Yes, I know. Glenn Reynolds is my source for all three of these links, by the way. First I read about Krugman calling Don Luskin a "stalker" on Hannity & Colmes, which brought Luskin into full voice explaining what really happened. That led to this great post by David Hogberg about Krugman's apologia for anti-Semitic remarks made by Malaysian leader Mahathir Mohamad. Next came a column by philosophy and law professor Keith Burgess-Jackson about the definition of hatred, and the evidence that Krugman actively and obsessively hates George W. Bush.

One reason many liberals dislike or even hate Bush is that not only is his religion openly acknowledged, but it actually - wait for it - guides his policy decisions. That isn't to say he gets phone calls from God every morning, but his philosophies and priorities are founded on his belief in God and in the Bible as God's roadmap. The same kind of anger is being vented on General Boykin, who spoke out in churches about his religious beliefs and how they affected his approach to his work as a military commander. He didn't use anti-Muslim stereotypes, or ugly language. He didn't denigrate Muslims as a people at all - he said that he thinks Christianity is superior to Islam (no shock there, if he didn't then he'd be a Muslim). The stew over this has gotten so bad that Fareed Zakaria is calling for him to be fired. And yet his comments are nothing to the venom spewed by Mahathir Mohamad, which Krugman defends as a necessary part of Mahathir's domestic diplomacy:

"The Europeans killed 6 million Jews out of 12 million. But today the Jews rule this world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them." So said Mahathir Mohamad, the prime minister of Malaysia, at an Islamic summit meeting last week. The White House promptly denounced his "hate-filled remarks."

Indeed, those remarks were inexcusable. But they were also calculated — for Mr. Mahathir is a cagey politician, who is neither ignorant nor foolish. And to understand why he made those remarks is to realize how badly things are going for U.S. foreign policy...

So what's with the anti-Semitism? Almost surely it's part of Mr. Mahathir's domestic balancing act, something I learned about the last time he talked like this, during the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98.

Krugman says Mahathir's words are "inexcusable" and then spends nine paragraphs excusing them. That is acceptable on the left, to excuse bigotry as bad or worse than the bigotry that led to lynchings in the old South, bigotry that today actively seeks to kill Jews wherever they can be cornered, because that bigotry is expressed by a group dedicated to hating the US. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

And who is my enemy? The United States under George W. Bush. So we'll go after a general who exemplifies the kind of faith Bush espouses (which is to say, one that guides your life). Here's Hugh Hewitt on the story behind the story - where did the information on Boykin come from, and how did it wind up in the LA Times?

From Hewitt's 10:05 a.m. post yesterday:

Howard Kurtz writes about the Boykin controversy in the Washington Post today. The Tribune Company needs to obtain and make available the transcripts that William Arkin relied upon and to fully disclose how the story came to be given first to NBC and then run as "news" by the Los Angeles TImes.

And then at 2 p.m.:

My producer has talked with William Arkin twice today. In the first call Arkin curtly refused my latest request for the transcripts on which he based his story about General Boykin's "jihad.". He told my poducer that I had misquoted him, and hung up. Upon being informed of this, I instructed my producer to call a second time to extend Arkin an invitation to appear on today's show. Arkin declined and stated that I was attempting to create a controversy where there wasn't one, and he didn't want any part of it.

This is absurd, and Arkin hasn't been misquoted. Earlier today I received a request for a copy of my interview with Arkin from Fox News and gladly provided it. The fact remains that Arkin is hiding the transcripts on which he based his story, and hoping the media moves on before anyone forces the disclosure of those transcripts or obtains them from other sources. He wanted a hit-and-run on General Boykin, with not too much attention paid to his methods.

Arkin's dodging of a simple request for the transcripts --which he agreed to last Thursday-- is a huge giveaway, but whether Howard Kurtz's or Fox News' interest will flush the transcripts out remains to be seen. I hope the details emerge before the Los Angeles Times looks up from its trench and can examine the issue ahead of a third party.

Then Hewitt challenges Zakaria:

I await condemnation by Zakaria of the Malaysian Prime Minister or other speakers of the harsh words routinely reported by LGF from a variety of sources. General Boykin gave his personal statements of faith in private settings and the mob has set upon him --because it is easy for elite opinion to demonstrate their high-mindedness by attacking evangelical Christians, and especially safe to do so when the target is a military man.

And finally, this morning, Hewitt links to an attack on Christianity's central premise - that God is the One God, the only true God:

The Boston Globe's James Carroll broadens the attack on General Boykin into an attack on any religion with a claim to exclusive truth, arguing that "Boykin has it wrong -- but so do legions of his fellow believers, from the Vatican to those revival tents to the Oval Office. The general's offense was to speak aloud the implication of a still broadly held theology."

Carroll continues: "But that theology is dangerous now. A respectful religious pluralism is no longer just a liberal hope but an urgent precondition of justice and peace. In the 21rst century, exclusivist religion, no matter how 'mainstream' and no matter how muted the anathemas that follow from its absolutes, is a sure way to religious war."

And which of you would say that Christianity as a religion isn't under attack? Quite frankly, all religion that isn't "pluralistic" - which means accepting the belief that spirituality is a human trait of reaching for higher meaning, and has no basis in objective truth, thus one "god" is as good as another - is under attack. So let me be very blunt about this: Any person who does not believe that the God of the Bible is the one true God, and is not the same as the Muslim god, is not a Christian. Full stop. Because to believe otherwise is to disagree with the Bible itself, and if you disagree with the Bible then you are self-evidently not a believer. I don't see what's hard about that.

Does that mean that I hate - or even dislike - people who don't believe in the Bible? No, and anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that's true. Does that mean I wouldn't vote for someone who isn't a Bible believer? No. Does that mean I in any way want anything but the best for non-Bible believers in general or Muslims in particular? Absolutely not. And I wouldn't have much respect for the religion of any Muslim who didn't think my beliefs are wrong. Some things are mutually exclusive by definition and efforts to make them otherwise end their distinctiveness. It isn't the belief in one god that makes a religion hateful; it is belief that your religion condones or even demands the subjugation or death of non-believers that makes it hateful. And that is not Christianity nor, according to many Muslims, is that the heart of Islam (although one would be forgiven for having some doubts in that quarter).[/mini-rant]

It's all quite tangled and yet very illuminating, this Gordian knot of information, fact and slight of hand. Krugman's apologetics for a bigot and paranoia about a critic are allowed to slide at the nation's Newspaper Of Record. Meanwhile, a man expressing his religious views is vilified by the left while the origins of the story are hidden by the media. And Christianity's central premise is lambasted by a major (NY Times-owned) newspaper (more on that in longer rant in MORE). It's a charming world we live in, where good is called bad, and bad good.

Here's a little more from Carroll, in case you missed it:

It was unfashionable of him to speak aloud the implications of his ''abiding faith,'' but exclusivist claims made for Jesus Christ by most Christians, from Vatican corridors to evangelical revival tents, implicitly insult the religion of others. When Catholics speak of ''salvation'' only through Jesus, or when Protestants limit ''justification'' to faith in Jesus, aspersions are cast on the entire non-Christian world.

Let me repeat: If you don't make exclusivist claims for Christ, then you aren't a Christian by Biblical standards. What Carroll is trying here is nothing less than restructuring Christianity.

People try to edit the Bible all the time, and twist it to say what they want to believe. I'd be the first to say that studying the Bible and understanding it is a life-long task, and one that couldn't be completed even in a Methuselah-length life. But many things about it are pretty straightforward and self-evident, and one of the most prominent of these is that God Himself says He is the One God, and belief in that is foundational to being a follower. This "pluralist" view is malarkey and deeply anti-Biblical. And for Carroll to implicitly say that everyone who believes that God is the One God is a slippery step away from bloody religious war is, in my judgment, libelous to the point of being actionable.

And before andy and his companions haul out their, "But Christians did this and Christians did that", etc., first, Christians today are under the New Testament so actions by God's people in the Old Testament are not acceptable comparisons to today. Second, religion is very powerful and there will always be people who are driven by power rather than truth or ideology - and the same is true of any philosophy, religious or secular. The very very most that non-religious people can claim is that atheists or agnostics haven't done much more killing than the religious; they can't claim any higher moral ground. The Catholics may have the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition, but the atheists are ideological brothers (religiously thinking) with Lenin and Stalin. Does that mean that atheists today espouse the views of Lenin and Stalin, and admire their murderous ways? I'd say most do not.

There's a lot more to say about Carroll's viewpoints, but I'm trying not to preach a sermon again. Suffice to say that it's shocking that such an indictment is printed in a major newspaper today, saying things much worse about Christianity than Boykin said about Islam. That's today's left. What an ugly world they live in. And I pray - literally - that they never gain the upper hand in this country, or it will cease to be anything worth saving.

Posted by susanna at 11:49 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

October 20, 2003

Huzzah! to copy editors

Reading Friday's Lileks just now reminded me of something I fail to say often enough. As is obvious from my post earlier today, I get disgusted with the media frequently. But that's because I have expectations of greatness, and I'm disappointed when they repeatedly fail, like all humans, to get there. The truth is the core of journalism is sound, the concept is crucial, and the majority of journalists work their butts off and do a decent job.

This particular post is in honor of copy editors.

Have you ever seen a chef go about his duties? Slicing fat from a steak, chopping those onions so fast no one has time to cry, crafting a radish into a rose so lovely you want to dip it in gold and give it to Mom for Mother's Day? That's a copy editor at work, taking the good and making it excellent. I worked with a range of them while a journalist, and the best ones are so good it almost makes you cry not to have them supervising every word of yours. Lileks has one, as he describes in this bit about the Current Difficulties of General Boykin:

My Strib editor, Bill, has an exquisitely tuned BS detector; he finds stuff that’s wrong in AP copy. The idea that a Pentagon official would call for “jihad” would set off a carillon in his head, and he’d ask, quite nicely: is that really what the guy said?

Copy desk is the last line of defense. In my last Newhouse column, for example, I said something about Amazonian lemurs; my editor informed me that copy desk had checked, and they don’t have lemurs. How about substituting another critter? I was stunned.

“Without copy desk,” I said, “life itself would be impossible.”

The moment a writer ceases to respect the desk is the moment he starts to screw his head into his own navel. Rule of the business: The worse the writing, the more untouchable the writer.

No paean to editors would be complete without mentioning Max Perkins, who edited, among others, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Thomas Wolfe. Book editors don't just order authors about, and get them published. They take what you have and make it better. There's nothing I've written that wouldn't have been much better for the attentions of a good editor. And the same is true of Stephen King.

Copy editors at newspapers are, in my judgment, one of the most skilled yet least honored of the journalism profession. Watching them work is like seeing that chef with his knife flashing - a thing of beauty and awe. Of course they're not always top notch (I once had an editor who gutted a metaphor without stitching it back together, leaving the article a bloody mess). But when they're good....

We in the blogosphere pride ourselves often on not having editors, which we tell ourselves means we're spontaneous, and raw, edgy and uncensored. All that's true. But it also means we have more errors, and the beauty of our prose is not fully revealed. A good editor is a person to be treasured. I hope you all, some day, get to work with one. It will change how you see your writing.

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

Graphic representation

This man starved himself for 44 days:


This woman is an icon of beauty:


Who has sharper cheekbones?

Posted by susanna at 05:09 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

National Media Sophistication Update

We're the best, but maybe they're not so bad

Remember last week when I poked at the national media over their arrogance about the regional media not having the cohones or sophistication to interview the president like The National Media would? Just a quick reminder:

...some in the national media say the White House strategy amounts to shopping for softer questioning. "It's much more often the case in doing local or regional interviews that reporters come to the interview at least a bit star-struck, at least a bit less prepared for how to focus the interview on questions and answers in the public interest and a bit more willing to accept what the White House position is on matters of controversy," said Mark Halperin, ABC News political director. Halperin said he intends no slight to regional reporters but that Bush is "more sophisticated" about avoiding the national media "than anybody who has ever held the job."

Now, on to the transcript from yesterday's Reliable Sources on CNN, with Howard Kurtz as host, where some National Media admit that The Locals didn't do so badly after all:

KURTZ: The president may view us as a filter, but national news organizations provide something of a reality check, and the reality in Iraq, unfortunately, continues to be troubling.

Well, joining me now is Dana Milbank, White House correspondent for "The Washington Post." And still with us, former CNN Washington bureau chief, Frank Sesno, also a former White House correspondent. Dana Milbank, the president decides to bypass the White House press corps and take his message to regional TV reporters. Were your feelings hurt?

DANA MILBANK, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I am deeply offended. The interesting thing, Howie, is that there was so much buildup and so much protest about this, that the regional reporters were being used as stooges, that if you actually tuned into these regional reporters' broadcast, they were asking the tougher questions than we were. They were cynical in their presentation. The president making an obvious naked effort to get around and put out some pollyannish fluff. It was really something that we wouldn't even do.

KURTZ: So, why is there still a perception that local and regional reporters are not as smart and not as sophisticated as the people who camp out in Washington?

SESNO: Well, it's not that they're not as smart or not as sophisticated, but they're not as involved in the inside-the-Beltway chit-chat and process. You know, the White House and others have said for a long time, and not unjustifiably, that here in Washington, we focus on who's up, who's down, horse race, nasty questions coming at you, try to do gotcha questions, and there's something to that, because it actually means something.

In America, with real people and correspondents and anchors who live closer to them, I think they're going to get questions that are broader in scope perhaps, and allow the president to go over the head of these process-prone folks.

Note first that Dana Milbank is "deeply offended". Welllll... I've been "deeply offended" by a lot of the national media coverage for a long time, and Dana doesn't seem particularly perturbed by that. Then note what Milbank sees as evidence that the regional media weren't "stooges": "They were cynical in their presentation." That's right. Cynicism in presentation is evidence of quality and truth. Therefore, you should believe everything I say about the national media because, believe me, it's usually presented with quite a bit of cynicism.

So as it turns out, The National Media was wrong about whether The Locals would drool, fawn and softball the prez. But notice this little objection from Frank Sesno:

In America, with real people and correspondents and anchors who live closer to them, I think they're going to get questions that are broader in scope perhaps, and allow the president to go over the head of these process-prone folks.

You see, it's a bad thing that "real people" and the "anchors who live closer to them" (an astonishing admission, by that way, that The National Media are clueless about "real people") ask questions "broader in scope" than the "who's up, who's down, horse race, nasty questions coming at you, try to do gotcha questions" that "actually means something". I couldn't have written a more scathing condemnation than these panelists give themselves, meaning to cover themselves in glory. And Sesno has something else interesting to say:

...this is not new. You know, I mean, John Kennedy discovered he could hold a news conference and be charming and be humorous and take responsibility when he was in trouble, and it worked with the American people...

Hmmm... you mean to say, JFK, the Icon Of Democrat Presidents, also went to the "real people" and didn't play hardball with the media? Shocking!

We were wrong about the facts, but not the intent! We're psychic!

Meanwhile, Glenn Reynolds and his minions find that The National Media isn't exactly as On Top Of Things as they like to portray:

The columnist, Tom Brazaitis of The Cleveland Plain Dealer, then falls back on the "but Bush implied it!" defense. Except that, as he's just admitted, Bush didn't imply it, but expressly disclaimed it.

What the "Bush implied it" claim really amounts to is an astonishing admission that the corps of journalists and pundits who cover national politics, and who pride themselves on their sophistication in doing so, got the story wrong

What's more, they got it wrong in the face of explicit statements from the President, and others.

That's far more humiliating than any retraction. It's an admission of outright professional incompetence. These guys claim to be able to get to the truth when the President is lying. Meanwhile, they can't even get to the truth when he's explicitly telling the truth. How pathetic is that?

Read the whole post, which includes the columnist's direct admission that he got it wrong, and then his nice little 180 spin to deconstruct it into "but he meant to!"

Everyone has filters, dear, except for me and thee, dear, and even thee has a little one, dear.

Finally, on a related but separate point - the use of filters to determine news, and how that affects what's shown. First, Milbank says:

It's really the president who is putting the filter on news.

Now here's Kurtz's response and Milbank answering:

KURTZ: But you're looking at it the other way around. You're saying you're giving a fair and balanced -- forgive the phrase -- report, and the president is filtering the news.

MILBANK: Well, of course. I mean, that's what -- everybody is a filter. Look, I mean, if we presented every fact that is seen out there, our paper would be thousands of pages long each day. So, of course, we have to sort through the facts. It's the president's job to filter the news with the best possible spin for him. That's not interesting or new. The fact is we have to balance that with all of the other...

And then Sesno agrees:

Everybody chooses their filters. They choose their own comfort level, and they choose, you know, where they're going to go with it.

So the president filters, of course he does, but the media does too and how do they construct that filter? On what basis do they determine that their filtering and framing are not skewed by their personal beliefs and biases? There is an implicit attitude that the media, using anecdotal evidence and operating on a "it's news" imperative, are nonetheless at least fair and at most objective. Look at this:

KURTZ: But particularly for television, Frank Sesno, because how do you show, how do you visualize that the electricity is staying on longer and the streets are cleaner, when obviously the dramatic footage is about today's attacks?

SESNO: Well, that's not hard to do, Howie. I mean, you can go out and you can look at the telephone poles and the lights that are on, and you can talk to people if things are changing. The problem is if you turn the lights on, on Monday, is it still a story on Thursday? And the fact of the matter is that if a bunch of -- if troops are attacked on Monday and they're attacked again on Thursday, it's news both days.

And that shows a different kind of bias - not one really of liberal or conservative ideologies, but rather of the news cycle imperative. Events are news more than static conditions. So you get this:

Monday: Lights are on! Soldiers are killed! Tuesday: Soldiers attacked! Wednesday: Schools opened! Soldiers attacked! Thursday: Soldiers attacked! Friday: Soldiers attacked!

So what do you take away from that? Fighting is what's most important, what is most serious. Nevermind that the lights are still on, schools continue to open, areas become safer, life becomes more normal. The news imperative says, report what's new and what will draw readers/viewers. It's not a new school opening, it's someone attacked. That's a news bias.

Think about all these things the next time The National Media present themselves as Sophisticated And Fair Purveyors Of What You Need To Know.

Posted by susanna at 12:19 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 17, 2003

Don't ask, don't tell

Theosebes links and comments on the brouhaha over a US Lt. General talking to prayer groups about his religious beliefs and their connection to his thoughts on the war on terror, while in uniform.

It seems that people are clamoring for a "don't ask, don't tell" provision for the religious in the military. You can believe what you want, just don't let anyone else know about it.

How tolerant of them.

Posted by susanna at 11:01 AM | Comments (23) | TrackBack

Picture this!

A teenager offers a wide screen "plasma high definition picture" for sale cheap on eBay.

Four buyers bite to the tune of $11,726.

He sends them a picture of a high-definition television.

The authorities are not amused.

(But I am.)

[Link via Romenesko's Obscure Store]

Posted by susanna at 10:50 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

The joys of flirting

Here's a lovely article in WaPo that essentially says women do better in relationships when they act like women.

That is to say, engage in traditional female dating behavior, including flirting.

What's wrong with this picture as precursor to a respectful, loving and mutually supportive relationship?

It's Saturday night in front of the Regal Cinema, a hangout in Rockville, and the high school girls are working it... A ninth-grader in a denim miniskirt exchanges conversational barbs with a boy leaning against a post, then fakes a little scream as the young man steps toward her and pulls up her skirt, putting her panties on display.

That, IMNSHO, leads to this:

Many men have stopped feeling responsible for relationships, the Rutgers study and others suggest.

"This mating culture is oriented to men's appetites and interests," Popenoe and Whitehead say.

Obviously I'm not alone in that conclusion. But there's a way to get it back.

"Flirting is the great equalizer," Rich, a marketing consultant, said in an interview from her home in Gainesville, Ga. "A woman not considered a great beauty can skillfully employ charm."

Romantic flirting, like social flirting, "makes other people feel good about themselves and about you," she continued. "It acts as kindling in a relationship, producing a slow, sure, hot fire. When you cut to the chase instead, there's not much of a fire."

Before someone goes there - and someone is sure to - there's a difference between flirting and sexual teasing. Flirting is letting someone know you think they're attractive and interesting, and that you want to let them know it. Flirting eases the way into an exchange where you can find out about each other without either embarrassment or commitment - both of you walk away feeling better about yourself, if it's done correctly. Flirting lets you slip your toe into the sexual undercurrents without being pulled under before you catch your breath. And it doesn't have to be elaborate or faking to be effective - in fact, IMNSHO, the best flirting is a genuine, sincere revelation of interest playfully expressed.

And it works. I can only speak as a woman, but I've found it quite effective and very fun. It even works online. I used to frequent a chat room for writers on mIRC, where one of the men in the room used the nick of a fantasy fiction character. I happened to love that same series, and found this guy interesting. So we chatted a couple of times in channel, and I changed my nick to the name of that character's love interest in the series while talking about the books. Well. That led to a few minutes exchange as if we were those characters, which led to private messaging, which led to real life dating which finally led three months later to a marriage pre-proposal (which is to say, a declaration that marriage was his goal in the relationship). He told me once that my changing my nick in that way - given that he already found me interesting - was what really perked him up and brought him into pursuit. It conveyed several things - a certain playfulness, a clear yet non-threatening interest in him, a common taste in fiction - that he enjoyed, and he wanted to find out more. And yes, flirting was a part of the relationship as long as it lasted (which is a long story and no, I'm not telling it).

There was nothing demeaning in our flirting, I wasn't in any way not in control of my destiny or pandering to societal mores. I was having fun. He was too. And that's a good place to start a relationship, without the overt sexual posturing and expectations that can mask a person's true character. Flirting isn't the whole answer; there's an entire approach that it exemplifies, as the article details; naturally it's an approach that reaches its zenith in Southern women. Being straightforward is good, but flirting sweetens the pot.

I highly recommend flirting. And I also recommend this article. Check it out.

Posted by susanna at 10:39 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Come on, baby! Let's do the twist!

Andrew Sullivan thinks that Rush's use of addictive drugs that give you a high may have helped him do a good show.

Randy Barnett agrees.

Both moralize about, well, moralists who object to legalized drugs, and pontificate about a better society where all drugs are legal. Why, they can even help the conservative party by energizing their top radio commentator!

And Victor at The Dead Parrot Society gives both the attention they deserve.

But let me give them jussstttt a little more attention.

Barnett says:

"Prohibition is an unjust and highly destructive policy (see my argument in the sources linked to above), but many reasonable people, somewhat inexplicably to me, persist in believing that the benefits of discouraging use by threatening punishment are worth the terrible price paid by those prosecuted and by society at large."

I know some of you libertarian sorts read my blog, and you'll be testy about this. Fine. Argue away. But this business of saying that those prosecuted and society generally pay a "terrible price" aren't really looking at the terrible price addiction exacts. The point appears to be that a lesser price in the aggregate would be paid if drugs were legalized. I say, (and you can quote me), "Ha."

First let me say that doesn't mean that I think the War on (Some) Drugs, as several of you like to style it, has covered itself in glory. It hasn't.

But just because enforcement efforts are not stellar doesn't mean the intent behind it isn't correct. We don't enforce domestic violence laws so that the problem has cleared up, but we'd be in a lot worse shape if there were no such laws. There is a net deterrent effect that actually does occur, and the laws also set a societal boundary of acceptability that is, I think, necessary.

Why shouldn't powerful, addictive drugs be legal? Several reasons. First, legal substances will be abused to a damaging degree. Any kind of substance that we can get a desirable effect from is not just subject to abuse but is abused. Think about alcohol. Think about coffee - how many people run around jittery all the time because of it? I'm not saying outlaw coffee, I'm just saying - here's a very low level drug and people use it for mood altering as a matter of course. So should the morning coffee give way to the legal morning speed pill? And think about the issues of self-control in our society. Lately the biggest hammer-it-home issue - now that smokers have become pariahs and a legally discriminated-against class - is the increase in the numbers of people overweight. Food serves so many functions in our society beyond nutrition. It's an energy booster, a reward, a status symbol, a security blanket, a source of comfort, a source of relaxation and pleasure. We know that its overuse will kill us early, and we do it anyway. Killing ourselves slowly. (And I use the inclusive deliberately.) Why should we posit with any confidence that if these powerful drugs were legalized, they would not be just a neutral element, but actively improve society? I think that's deeply wishful thinking (I would say almost hallucinogenic).

So, what would legally available highly addictive and behavior-altering drugs do? In a society lacking in self-control, lacking in any sense of postponing self-gratification for the sake of a longer term goal, lacking a sense of proportion in what you're willing to do to "get ahead" - why would we assume that abuse wouldn't be epidemic, even more so than now? Alcohol is a good example. Yes, there are many people who drink occasionally and responsibly. But there are millions and millions who do not. How many die every year because of drunk driving? How many children are beaten, friends murdered, marriages destroyed, work hours lost, talent unrealized, because of alcohol? You can say, "Those people already have problems, that's why they abuse alcohol to begin with." Yes, that's likely true - abusing alcohol is a coping mechanism. But drugs would be even more so.

Another issue is the range of behaviors that could be precipitated by drugs, and the lingering effects. Should PCP or LSD be legal? Is it a benefit to society to have legalized hallucinations happening, complete with a lifetime of flashbacks as a bonus? And don't tell me that kids who've dabbled with marijuana or even harder drugs in high school wouldn't branch out into their parents' full pharmacopia like they do their liquor cabinet now. What's more, frat guys who think it's hysterically funny to force plebs to drink until they puke their guts out in the street - or get alcohol poisoning - will also probably think it side-splittingly funny to feed them hallucinogens and watch them humiliate themselves at greek parties. Woohoo!

And now for crime. If drugs were legalized, think of all the people we could save from jail! Think of the lives ruined for just a little drug running! Think of people with a record for toking, or snorting just recreationally! Oh, the cost, THE COST to society! It's enough to make you sob in a ditch. And that's not even mentioning the folks who wouldn't commit crimes to either steal drugs or get the money to buy drugs. Think how great it would be if all of that ended!

I just have this to say: You're insane if you think that will stop.

Someone who is heavily into drug use is not going to be able to hold down a job to even pay for over the counter brain candy. So what will they do to get the money? Commit crimes. Let's look at a few numbers associated with alcohol.

The British Institute of Alcohol Studies makes this point about Britain:

An All-Party Group of MPs investigating alcohol and crime was advised by the British Medical Association that alcohol is a factor in:

60-70% of homicides
75% of stabbings
70% of beatings
50% of fights and domestic assaults

The Police Superintendents advised that alcohol is present in half of all crime.

According to a FBI Uniform Crime Report analysis of family violence, over 13% of murders involved alcohol; 14% of rapes; 18.5% of aggravated assaults; and 18.7% of simple assaults; in every instance, that percentage was higher in family settings. And in every instance, the involvement of drugs was much much lower. Do you think that if drugs were legalized, the net involvement of substance abuse would distribute evenly amongst available mood altering substances, remaining at the same aggregate level, or even go down? I seriously doubt it.

As an additional note, much of the crime committed in association with drugs and alcohol come about not through efforts to get them, but as a result of using them. If you substantially reduce the crimes associated with getting drugs (which won't necessarily happen, see above), but the legalization increases overall use, wouldn't the crime just shift from the "obtaining" column to the "using" column?

And there is evidence that lowering the bar of access will cause usage to flow toward the substance representing the lesser penalty. A 2001 study by Conlin, Dickert-Conlin and Pepper, entitled, "The Effect of Alcohol Prohibition on Illicit Drug Related Crimes: An Unintended Consequence of Regulation", found that:

...(A)llowing local alcohol access decreases crimes associated with illicit drugs. We also find that prohibiting the sale of beer to persons under 21 increase the fraction of drug-related arrests involving juveniles more in wet counties than in dry counties. Because access decreases the implicit price for alcohol and increasing the minimum drinking age is likely to increase the implicit price of liquor more for juveniles in wet counties relative to those in dry counties, our results suggest that alcohol and illicit-drugs are substitutes.

So making alcohol more available through local legalization or lowering the drinking age brings down drug arrests. People flow to the vice with the least legal penalty. It seems reasonable to assume that if drug laws were lifted, a significant proportion of the drinking public would flow to formerly illicit drugs.

And the cost of alcoholism and drug use is not limited to crime or accidents or lost work hours or family beat-downs. The National Institute of Health says in a 1998 report:

...(T)he economic cost of alcohol and drug abuse was $246 billion in 1992, the most recent year for which sufficient data were available. This estimate represents $965 for every man, woman, and child living in the United States in 1992. The new study reports that alcohol abuse and alcoholism generated about 60 percent of the estimated costs ($148 billion), while drug abuse and dependence accounted for the remaining 40 percent ($98 billion).

A sizeable portion of that cost is not crime.

There is general agreement among researchers in the field of alcohol costing that the major social costs from alcohol use and abuse are due to mortality and morbidity from illnesses linked to drinking. These costs consist in part of direct costs for treatment, but, where this has been estimated, lost productivity due to death and ill health has consistently been found to be by far the greatest alcohol-related cost to society. Recent estimates from studies carried out in the United States, Australia, England and Wales, Japan, etc. consistently place mortality and morbidity costs at over 80 % of all alcohol-induced costs borne by society (e.g. Adrian, 1988; Collins & Lapsley, 1991; 1994; McDonnell & Maynard, 1985 ; Nakamura et al., 1993; Rice et al., 1990, 1991).

By comparison, the share of total costs attributed to alcohol-related crimes is small, typically below 10 percent, even when traffic-related crimes are included in the cost.

And that would change for the better how if now-illegal drugs became legal?

The twists of reasoning by Barnett and Sullivan, using Rush as a springboard to a wholly unwarranted leap of logic, just need a little music to rival Chubby Checker. Leaps and twists. Sounds like American Bandstand... on speed.

Posted by susanna at 07:54 AM | Comments (24) | TrackBack

October 16, 2003

Only the lonely

I just had a wave of homesickness worse than I've had in quite a while.

My brother is preaching at the congregation where my sister attends, so he and his family are staying with her family this week. My parents went up for a couple of nights too, so the whole family was under one roof.

Well, with one notable (or not, depending on your opinion) exception.


I've missed every family gathering in the past four years except maybe two a year when I'm visiting. This makes me very unhappy. But I thought I had to stay up here, for whatever reason, so I've just shut down those emotions. Now that I'm going to move back to where almost daily contact with some family, and fairly frequent contact with the rest of my family, is a given, it's like some emotional padlock has broken and missing these gatherings is harder than it's been in... a long time. I'm essentially a homebody, fire & hearth type, up for adventure but glad to go back. I feel like an exile allowed to come home. Except nobody exiled me but me.

This ruminating mood (which my friend Melody will hate, and will tell me so: "YOU ARE SO SAPPY! Yuck.") is likely also a result of the current situation at work. We used to have seven civilians in here, and we all worked pretty much the same hours. Now there is one civilian - me - and three police officers. They work 7-3, so they're all cleared out by 3:30. I work 9-5, so every day I sit in a completely empty office for almost two hours. My office is even tucked off at one side of the office suite, so sometimes during the day I may see other people only 3-4 times.

Geez. I need to move.

Oh. I am.

Happy happy. :)

Posted by susanna at 05:12 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Bad poetry honored by left

"Slam" poet Alix Olson is getting quite a reputation - she's reached a pinnacle of sorts for "an outspoken lesbian and an advocate for grassroots truth in a rich, white male world" - she's being admired by the left for having been chosen as one of the 10 most dangerous women by the conservative Concerned Women for America (although I couldn't find it on their website, and neither article that mentions it has a link). I'm not quite sure what they would find dangerous about her, given that her "poetry" is leftist dreck:

With her big mouth and mischievous grin, Olson dominated the stage. She turned her head to the side, covered the mic with her hand, and in a nasal voice mocked the tone of an in-store announcer: "Attention Shoppers! America's On Sale!" And she went on: "We've unstocked the welfare pantry to restock the Wall Street Gentry / It's economically elementary because values don't pay! Yes, American Dreams are on permanent layaway (there was limited availability anyway)."

There you go! Of course we'll ignore that the Wall Street Gentry were raided to stock the welfare pantry to begin with. It's poetry! She's got a big mouth! What's not to love? I mean, just look at this:

She also takes on the media and other "pirates" in the poem of the same name: "So the hypodermic media shoots us up until our brains are entombed, petrified, lying side by side next to our 401 K's and our SUV's, chainstored in the chamber of a Wal-Mart mummy freeze / And outside that sarcophagus of American flags and 'god bless's,' our collective conscience is brought right down to its knees / Praying forgiveness for this nation exporting numbness / For treasure looting the oil, the ozone, the airwaves and the grain / These are our true colors running, and they are running away with everything . . ."

And she even waxes sentimental about her roots:

She writes in her poem "Womyn Before": "I was still sucking my thumb the first time I sang 'we shall overcome.' " This poem relates how Olson joined a union picket line with her mother. "I asked her 'why are we so mad?' / And she parked her head down in the freezing rain and saw me / So serious and small with my big Mack Truck union sign / She smiled to herself, pondered the politics of fingers curled / 'This is solidarity,' she whispered to her baby girl."

I just hope I can overcome her "poetry" in time to eat lunch.

It's actually pretty funny, and amounting to unknowing self-parody - not just for her, but for those who think She's! Just! Awesome!

And what, you ask, is "slam poetry"? Glad you asked - I didn't know either.

A poetry slam is an amplified, competitive poetry reading. Performances are theatrical and sometimes accompanied by a musician or two. Poets duel with each other, using their words and rhythms as their weapons. Individual poets form teams to compete against others. Olson joined the Nuyorican Poets' Café slam team.

Sounds like the definition of "raucous cacophony" to me.

Sounds to me like the only danger Miss Alix poses is to one's tender ears or poetic sensibilities.

Posted by susanna at 11:42 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Criminal justice information

Would you seek out information about criminal justice research if it was written in an interesting, non-academic way?

Yesterday our library at the Rutgers School of Criminal Justice was dedicated to Don M. Gottfredson*, a founder of the school and its first dean. He was at the school, although not the dean, when I started there, and he passed away last year. He was a wonderful man, and a fine exemplar of what an academic should be: rigorous in his research, creative in his thinking, and confident yet humble in his interactions with others. The dedication ceremony included a short symposium discussing issues in corrections and in research on decision-making - Dr. Gottfredson was a trailblazer in decision-making research in criminal justice contexts, and was a pioneer in recommending sentencing guidelines.

One of the speakers was Laurie O. Robinson, who served as an Assistant US District Attorney during the Clinton administration, where she headed up the Office of Justice Programs, a major federal grant-awarding agency. Her talk was about the need for a better bridge between criminal justice researchers and policy makers/average citizens. She said the natural tendency of researchers is to think in terms of statistical methodology - where nothing is ever proven, only "significant at the .05 level" (which is to say, the likelihood that the effect you found occurred by chance is .05%). A legislator doesn't want to hear, "We think this program works, but we need more research - it'll be about three years". He has to vote next Tuesday. What's he going to base his decision on?

This bridge building is something I've wanted to focus my career on for a while. It was part of the reason I went to graduate school to begin with, back in the dim mists of time, and something I've been thinking more and more about in recent months. In fact, I started The Crime Resource Room as a prototype of what I think needs to be done (and no, I've not updated it in quite a while; I'll get back to it).

So now I have a question for you: I consider my readers - and blog readers in general - to be exactly the kind of people who always vote, who think about important issues on deeper levels, and will take the time to do at least cursory Internet research on those issues when they have to make a decision about them. So envision this scenario for me: Your state legislature is considering a crime bill. They are wanting to cut funding on a couple of CJ approaches and add more funding for others - say, cut some rehabilitation programs and build a new prison. Knowing that your goal is not just punishment but if possible deterring future crimes, you decide you want to know more about what really works in deterring crime.

If you knew there was a website where all the recent research was summarized in 2-3 graphs per journal article in real-people language (i.e. you wouldn't have to wade through stats and methodology), something on the education level of a newspaper analysis piece, and the database of research was searchable by keywords - would you go to that site and read up on the latest research and use that as a part of your decision-making process about the legislation?

Those of you who are journalists, would you use such a database to find out information about the issues in that legislation, both for insight in the workability of the programs, and for names of experts to interview?

And if any of you work with legislatures, or community groups, would you use that resource in preparing your analyses of proposals, or developing proposals themselves?

One story Robinson told that amused me (and is so true): She holds briefings on criminal justice issues for legislative aides in Washington. She distributes a 4-page summary about current research at the meetings. She said she has never had such a briefing where a legislative aide didn't come up and ask if she had a one-page summary of the 4-page summary.

So that's what you have - legislators making decisions based on briefings by aides who want no more than one page of information on the topic at hand. Would you rather that information be from researchers who have studied an issue? Or from what the aide and her buddies concluded over cocktails after work, exchanging anecdotal information?

That's why I want to get the information out in digestible form. Because as much as academia makes me (us) crazy sometimes, they have truly important information they've collected with great attention to detail, and I think legislation developed with an eye to research will be better and more effective.

(On a related issue but not directly: After Robinson's talk, one PhD student asked a quite pertinent question - given that tenure and respect in the field hinges on publishing in refereed journals and doing academic things, how can a criminologist build a career both writing for academic publications and for popular publications? Implicit in her comment was the understanding that not only does writing for non-academic outlets take time away from writing for journals, but such non-academic writing is actively looked down on by many in academia. It isn't rigorous, you see. Your audience is not discerning. One panelist, John Jay School of Criminal Justice professor Todd Clear (extremely well known in correction research), said he thought academics who write for popular publications and work with policy makers actively are gaining more respect in academia, and tenure decisions take into account helping the community as well as publications; thus, in the new generation of academics, it might not be so problematic. The reply from another panelist, Alfred Blumstein - a criminal justice icon in his own right - was to establish your career and get tenure, a 6-9 year process, and then go more to popular writing. I discussed this later with a fellow PhD student, and she pointed out that by the time you've gone through a PhD program and done research/ academic writing for 6-9 years, you've been pretty well socialized into the world of academia, and it might be difficult to start then to shift back and forth between academic and popular writing.

This may sound like so much academic kerfuffle to you, but it's very important in my judgment. Most universities are subsidized by huge amounts of federal funding, and the vast majority of research by academics is also funded by the federal government. Yet there is a real resistance to translating the results of that research into an admittedly imperfect yet eminently more useful "popular" publication accessible to decisionmakers and voters. It's not as if there isn't a precedent - the health sciences do a marvelous job of communicating cutting edge research in every day language.

Something to think about.)

* Bizarrely, I can't find a bio page on Dr. Gottfredson anywhere. So here's a summary from this page on one of his books:

Don M. Gottfredson is Richard J. Hughes Professor of Criminal Justice Emeritus at Rutgers University. He is Past President of the American Society of Criminology. The former editor of Criminal Justice and Behavior and the Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, he has received numerous awards for research, administration, and education in criminal justice. Gottfredson is the author or co-author of more than 140 research reports, articles, and books on criminal justice and criminology.
Posted by susanna at 11:09 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

October 15, 2003

Political-religious myths

Here's a good article from Slate looking at some myths about how religion plays out in political choices. The tone of the article interests me too, but I'm not going to bias your reading by commenting on it. Yet. Maybe later.

Also worth noting is the correction at the bottom of the article. Apparently the article is several days old, and the original version had a significant factual error. Slate corrected it, then added a full disclosure correction. Smart, when you know Google cached the original version somewhere. The BBC would be smart to take note.

Posted by susanna at 08:45 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Michael Moore - if he was any more wrong, he'd be Barbra Streisand

Bryan at Junkyardblog explains why Bush's numbers went up, and pounds another nail into the coffin of Michael Moore's never-robust integrity.

Posted by susanna at 09:04 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 14, 2003

Maybe I'll move to Alaska. Or North Dakota. Maybe Wyoming. Or Uta...

Here's a great chart showing how each state voted in the presidential elections from 1972 through 1996. And here's the list of electoral votes per state for the 1992, 1996 and 2000 presidential elections.

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

Something to see

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

One of these artists (B) is paid for his work.

One is not.


UPDATE: Yikes! Barry of Amptoons, a fine cartoonist and self-described lefty feminist who seems a reasonable (if usually wrong) man, gave Dave Sims as an example of a cartoonist he finds very talented even though he abhors his politics. Curious, I went to see what this Dave Sims is about.

Yikes! Did I say "yikes"?

What I found was not his cartoons, but an essay about how women are just ... well... okay, I'll give you an excerpt. This essay, Sims says, is to show that modern feminism is wrong. I would find a lot to agree with in that flat statement. He starts out ... not so yike-y:

In the arena of intellectual opinion, when it comes to these hard questions, asking Dave Sim, "Why do you hate women so much?" is irrelevant when my subject is feminism's lack of sound intellectual footing. It is irrelevant whether I hate women. It is irrelevant whether I love women. It is irrelevant whether I consider women in any emotional context whatsoever, just as - when my question is directed toward feminism's lack of sound intellectual footing - it is irrelevant whether I hate ice cream, whether I love ice cream or whether I consider ice cream in any emotional context whatsoever. All That Is Relevant, when the issue at hand is my contention that feminism lacks a sound intellectual foundation, All That Is Relevant, Germane and/or Pertinent is the intellectual foundation - or lack of same - upon which feminism rests.

Things go south pretty fast thereafter:

All I got out of that research, I already knew: a) women want to be raped by rich, muscular, handsome doctors b) women are completely self-absorbed and, thus, see themselves in everything around them and c) feminism is no different from communism in that all of its literature is founded upon convoluted syntax, bafflegab and academic jargon which paints a false (albeit attractive) picture of an unattainable utopia which can be achieved - easily! - by everyone in the world simply and simultaneously (in both feminist and communist literature the "crux point" is invariable) changing their basic nature overaight...

The research which most contributed to my "ideas about women" was the series of informal interviews I conducted with mothers and daughters ... It was really the first time in my adult life that I spoke to women who I found physically unattractive and the first time I spoke to women with any motive besides getting them into bed...

...I don't know what you would call it. It wasn't oommunicarion in any meaningful sense of the term as I understand it. It was a kind of "emotional badminton." I acted happy, sympathetic, interested and cheerful and then it was her turn to act happy, sympathetic, interested and cheerful and then it was my turn, etc. She might accidentally say something interesting where I could, with sincerity, say that I found what she had just said interesting. This temporarily escalated the level of her cheerfulness but, alas, that is all that it did: whatever was being said ranking a very distant second to maintaining and escalating the level of cheerfulness...

I just found that I couldn't live that way. A woman is going to do whatever makes her cheerful at the moment and that, in my experience, is the extent of her perception of ethics. In order to maintain a relationship with an emotion-based being it is necessary to be cheerful about anything that makes her cheerful. Coupled with a "woman's right to choose" as central ethic - or, rather, "ethic" - this involves a wide and variegated spectrum of feminist actions and behaviours and opinions. At one time, I rated sex as being very, very, very high on my list of life's pleasures. Ultimately, for myself, the spiritual toll which was exacted by maintaining a rictus grin in the face of all feminist actions, behaviours and opinions across the full range of that spectrum made the price of sex too high - which, considering how highly I once rated sex as a pleasure is really saying something, I think.

The obvious suggestion is that he find a non-feminist type to date, but I suspect that wouldn't help him a great deal. I just read part of the first of five parts of his "Tangents" on women. Maybe it got better. I wouldn't put money on it.

Barry, you owe me for even bringing this guy up.

If you want to know more about Sims, here's a link to his comic, Cerebus, here's excerpts of his writings, and here's one about him.

Posted by susanna at 12:21 PM | Comments (34) | TrackBack

National journalists get testy, show arrogance

President Bush has given interviews to several regional news agencies, and the national media are miffed and snippy:

...some in the national media say the White House strategy amounts to shopping for softer questioning. "It's much more often the case in doing local or regional interviews that reporters come to the interview at least a bit star-struck, at least a bit less prepared for how to focus the interview on questions and answers in the public interest and a bit more willing to accept what the White House position is on matters of controversy," said Mark Halperin, ABC News political director. Halperin said he intends no slight to regional reporters but that Bush is "more sophisticated" about avoiding the national media "than anybody who has ever held the job."

Translation: Those hayseed rubes are gullible, not very bright and surely not as professional as we are.

This reads to me precisely like the ongoing tension between the FBI, which considers itself to be the pinnacle of law enforcement in this country, and local police departments, which often call the FBI "the feebs" and find more than a few of the FBI agents arrogant, unknowledgeable about local issues/concerns, and inclined to dismiss local police work as by definition less sophisticated or competent as anything done by the FBI. The truth there, as with the national media, is that among the locals are folks just as capable, if not more so, just as trained, if not more so, and just as sophisticated, if not more so. This little national media snit is laughable, especially considering the railing we've heard in recent months about how the White House press corps isn't doing its job. So who in their mind is? Apparently anyone who approaches the Bush Administration with the preconceived belief that they're doing an awful job and it's the media's responsibility to reveal it.

This whole article is just a sleazy little piece of work, denigrating the Bushies, trashing local media, and generally trying to reinforce that hard disbelief is the only way to approach the President with integrity. Need more proof? The third through sixth paragraphs of this article details the form letter kerfuffle, where letters showed up at newspapers in the US ostensibly from individual soldiers but actually part of a form letter that apparently wasn't properly handled. The media is using that fact to imply that things are not going as well in Iraq as the President and the letters said - but those of you who read in the blogosphere can all point to several blogs and websites where actual soldiers (one of whom I've met in person) have been telling the truth as they see it there. Do the media cover that information? No. No, it's suspect unless they have tracked it down and asked the questions themselves, self-selecting their sources and bringing their bad attitudes like another camera lens.

I'm not saying that the Bushies aren't putting as positive a spin as possible on what's going on. Of course they are! But that doesn't mean that what they say isn't true. And there are collaborating sources outside the Bush influence. Where is that? Where do you see coverage of that?

I don't expect the media to be cheerleaders for any administration. And I don't think the majority of journalists carry an anti-Bush filter fitted solidly over their perceptions. But I do think some have gotten so into their perceived role of watchdogs that they don't realize it skews their objectivity. And I also think some know precisely what they're doing, and mean to do it.

Martha Kumar, a Towson University professor who has studied White House relations with the media, said reaching out to regional media "can give you a temporary lift." But, she added, "I don't know in the long run what it really buys you. The president's problems now are policy problems, not communications problems."

I think that tells you more about Kumar than about Bush. What is her basis for saying policy is the problem? Nothing I see here. And this nice little closer let's you know what the journalists who wrote the article approve of:

The report yesterday on WBAL in Baltimore, owned by Hearst-Argyle, mixed Bush's words with reminders of the violence in Iraq and the failure to find weapons of mass destruction. "The president is trying to paint a brighter picture of Iraq despite the deaths of more U.S. soldiers today and another deadly car bombing over the weekend," the report began.

Has anyone there read David Kay's report? Has anyone associated with this article or Hearst-Argyle compared lives lost to the Gulf War? Or considered the context of what's happening in Iraq rather than apparently equating Baghdad with Des Moines? Or even tried, even thought of, trying a little objectivity in presenting information that's there, and let their readers make decisions about whether it's a good thing or a bad thing?

I'm sorry, I was having a brief waking dream of them doing their jobs. Maybe they should bring in some community reporters from weeklies in the sticks who actually know how to report on what's actually happening, without some kind of memo from Journalist Hive Mind Central.

Posted by susanna at 12:07 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

October 13, 2003

Does intimacy kill sex?

The Utne Reader, another "not exactly conservative" (ha) publication, has a good article on couple intimacy and sex, to add another perspective to the post below. Internet pornography is included as a means to avoid intimacy (or at least something that uses up the energy that would otherwise go to developing intimacy):

It amazes me how willing people are to experiment sexually outside their relationships, yet how tame and puritanical they are with their partners. Many of my patients describe their domestic sex lives as devoid of excitement and eroticism, yet they are consumed by a richly imaginative sex life beyond domesticity -- affairs, pornography, prostitutes, cybersex, or feverish daydreams. Having denied themselves freedom of imagination at home, they go outside to reimagine themselves, often with random strangers. Yet the commodification of sex can actually hinder our capacity for fantasy, contaminating our sexual imagination. Furthermore, pornography and cybersex are ultimately isolating, disconnected from relations with a real, live other person.

I'm not giving a blanket "amen!" to the whole article, but I think it makes a very good point: Sometimes intimacy makes sexual experimentation or intensity less safe. The more important someone is to your emotional well-being, the less likely you are to either risk losing them by pursuing less conventional sexual expression, or to accept that some of the mystery and risk that made the early relationship so exciting still remains. Worth reading.

And just one more point: Parents who go to either extreme in managing their children's sexual development are laying the seeds of dysfunction - either by allowing them to parade about at 12 like a Taxi Driver casting call reject, or by getting so uptight about sexual things that the child always associates it with guilt and anxiety.

Okay, one more. The Bible gets it right. The Song of Solomon is one of the most erotically beautiful writings in history:

[Chap. 7] 1 How beautiful are your feet in sandals,
O prince's daughter!
The curves of your thighs are like jewels,
The work of the hands of a skillful workman.

2Your navel is a rounded goblet;
It lacks no blended beverage.
Your waist is a heap of wheat
Set about with lilies.

3Your two breasts are like two fawns,
Twins of a gazelle.

4Your neck is like an ivory tower,
Your eyes like the pools in Heshbon
By the gate of Bath Rabbim.
Your nose is like the tower of Lebanon
Which looks toward Damascus.

5Your head crowns you like Mount Carmel,
And the hair of your head is like purple;
A king is held captive by your tresses.

6How fair and how pleasant you are,
O love, with your delights!

7This stature of yours is like a palm tree,
And your breasts like its clusters.

8I said, "I will go up to the palm tree,
I will take hold of its branches."
Let now your breasts be like clusters of the vine,
The fragrance of your breath like apples,

9And the roof of your mouth like the best wine.
The wine goes down smoothly for my beloved,
Moving gently the lips of sleepers.

The guidelines the Bible gives for sexual self-discipline and marital intimacy are really a perfect roadmap. It's not easy, but then, what worth anything is?

Posted by susanna at 05:22 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Not that we saw this on the horizon

(Warning: Graphic discussion and description ahead, don't go there if you will be offended. You've been warned.)

Pornography is benign, right? A way to relax, kind of like a drink when you get home from work. Or a way to get excited when it's gotten boring with your latest partner, or your spouse of many years. People who caution you about it are just prudes, wanting to impose their Puritanical lemon-twisted ways on you.

Suddenly, cyberporn seemed to be everywhere Jonathan went. While in the recording studio, he found that the producer, “a real straight-up guy,” was constantly procrastinating with Internet porn. “Sometimes I’d drop in unexpectedly, like when he was supposed to be mixing my stuff, and he’d be at the computer, staring at pornography, going, ‘Oh, I’m sorry, I’m sorry,’ ” Jonathan recalls. “At first, he had the attitude like, Look at how awful this is, because, obviously, we were both supposed to be these educated men. And I’d say, ‘Yeah, that’s awful.’ But the whole time, we’d be exchanging these knowing glances like, But it’s kind of cool, too, isn’t it?”

It became a once-a-day habit—one that, these days, Jonathan admits has gotten somewhat out of hand. For instance, before most dates, he finds himself logging onto, one of many sites that cull and categorize free porn daily, “so I’m not so anxious.” He now jokes about the Internet as “the vortex of self-hatred” because of how it can turn mere diversion into a self-destructive act: “I’ll have a ton of papers to grade, but instead I’ll be like, Let’s jerk off to the Internet first. So I go online, but then I despise myself. I look up, and my computer says I’ve been online for 47 minutes and I’m like, What the hell have I been doing?!”

Pornography is, of course, a good way to learn about the intricacies of sex, to learn technique or take the edge off so you can concentrate on your real partner without whitehot need clouding your mind. And people can differentiate between orchestrated sex involving digitally enhanced women and men. Of course they can, and do. We're all adults, right?

Over beers recently, a 26-year-old businessman friend shocked me by casually remarking, “Dude, all of my friends are so obsessed with Internet porn that they can’t sleep with their girlfriends unless they act like porn stars.” A 20-year-old college student who bartends at a popular Soho lounge describes how an I-porn-filled adolescence shaped his perceptions of sex. “Looking at Internet porn was pretty much my sex education,” he says. “I mean, in school, it was just, ‘Here’s a gigantic wooden dildo, and now we’re putting a condom on it,’ whereas on the Internet, you had it all. I remember the first time I had sex, my first thought as it was happening was, Oh, this is pornography. It was a kind of out-of-body experience. I was really uncomfortable with sex for a while.”

Dr. Ursula Ofman, a Manhattan-based sex therapist, says that she’s seen many young men coming in to chat about I-porn-related issues. “It’s so accessible, and now, with things like streaming video and Webcams, guys are getting sucked into a compulsive behavior,” she says. “What’s most regrettable is that it can really affect relationships with women. I’ve seen some young men lately who can’t get aroused with women but have no problem interacting with the Internet. I think a big danger is that young men who are constantly exposed to these fake, always-willing women start to have unreal expectations from real women, which makes them phobic about relationships.” Also, she surmises that cyberporn may play a role in what she describes as “the truly stunning things women today feel obliged to do sexually with a man—whether it’s something like anal penetration or simply not bothering to please themselves.”

Alarmist? She's being an alarmist! Men love women, no avoidance there. After all, self-help isn't quite the same thing as gettin' it real.

If you hang out at Suite 16, the trendy Chelsea lounge popular with Britney Spears and every impossibly lithe model in town, there’s a good chance you’ve seen Rick. He is 24, has shaggy blond hair and a body sculpted from three days a week at New York Sports Club, and, when he goes out, tends to sport a dapper pair of black Calvin Klein slacks and a crisp white Hugo Boss button-down. A graduate of one of the country’s top universities, he is on the rise at a good midtown law firm and shares a Williamsburg loft with two roommates. He hangs out at Suite 16 because he likes “to be part of the scene” and also because the girls—in their teeny tank tops—“are simply ridiculous.”

But, speaking of the girls, there’s one small problem: Rick, despite his good looks, is intimidated by them...

Rick has a solution—of sorts. “Thing is, you can find a million girls just like them online,” he says. “And they’re naked, doing whatever you want them to do.” And so he’ll often find himself stumbling home at four in the morning and going online to search out digital copies of the women he’s just seen gyrating on the dance floor. Rick admits his isn’t exactly the healthiest outlook on dating. “I think it’s a substitute for reality,” he says. “What you can’t get through real life, you can get through porn.”

...Though Rick, who has never had a serious girlfriend, doesn’t consider looking at cyberporn a problematic pastime, he will admit that it has affected his interactions with women—and not just those apparitions at Suite 16. “I think it’s made me more picky,” he says. “These girls on the computer are just so hot. Obviously, you want to get with a girl like that. So you may be at a bar with a girl, and she’s really cool, but she’s not a ‘10,’ you know? She’s cool, she’s cute, but you quickly start to notice flaws.”

This concern is just overblown. No pun intended.

During a recent rant about the blackout on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, the cantankerous comedian Lewis Black huffed, “Now, I always heard that the biggest souvenir of any blackout was unplanned pregnancies. Well, I didn’t have any sex during the blackout. How could I? My computer wasn’t working.”

You know, it's very healthy to be open sexually, to talk about sex and search it out online, make pornography a part of your day and think that's just grand. No harm, no foul, right?

...his once-a-day habit was having some peculiar effects on his relationship with his girlfriend. He was in love, yes, and had been committed to her for over four years, but their sex life remained, for him, let’s just say, “missionary.” However, the thought of discussing this with her made him jittery—after all, in all other respects, the relationship was working—and so, he says, “I’d use Internet pornography to get what I wasn’t getting sexually. Say I was really horny. Well, I’d go out with my girlfriend, and then, after, I’d look at it.” On other occasions, he’d peek at it beforehand, much the way certain men rely on Viagra, “and then I’d be like an animal with her, trying to superimpose her with all these images in my head.” Then, during a “break” from the relationship, he found himself in bed with another girl and inquiring, out of nowhere, if he could photograph her nude and post it on the Internet. (No thanks, she said.) “It was like a drug,” Dan says. “I just started to feel so bad about it. I’d think about how these girls I looked at were being exploited, but then I still couldn’t stop. It was totally screwing with the way I thought I should be seeing women.”

And, even if it were a problem, which of course it's not, at least women wouldn't be drawn into bad attitudes as a result. That means there may be some hope.

Now that Jill is single, she finds that porn has also complicated her general outlook on men. “The other day, I was on a date with a guy and somehow it came up that he didn’t look at Internet porn,” she says. “I was shocked! I mean, my general notion is that every guy does.” And there’s something else she finds disconcerting: “The few experiences I’ve had with guys who don’t look at it, the sex hasn’t been very good.”

And men need porn to learn how to do it right, don't they? We wouldn't want to damage the future of the world by making all sex boring. Spice it up! Add a little porn! What can it hurt? Jill certainly has no concerns:

“I think it will be really rare, and hopefully it will happen, that I can meet a guy who will be happy with only me.”

(The prudish magazine this article was found in would be Christianity Today Christian Coalition Monthly New York magazine.)

Posted by susanna at 12:27 PM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

Against the Times

Conservatives weren't the only ones testy about the timing of the L.A. Times allegations about Arnold Schwarzenegger:

The Los Angeles Times' decision to publish several articles revealing sexual harassment allegations against Arnold Schwarzenegger just days before the California recall election will make it easier for other newspapers to report potentially damaging information closer to Election Day, predicted Larry Sabato, a leading political scholar. He condemned the Times stories as a case of "piling on."

"The fact that it happened has set a precedent of airing tough allegations three or four or five days before an election," Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, told E&P Online. "The timing was a problem. Hitting people with allegations that generate a strong emotional response that affects the vote should be done only in extreme cases."

My only question about his conclusion is where he got the idea that this sets precedent - which indicates it's not been done before.

Posted by susanna at 10:38 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Laugh out loud

Just in case you haven't been reading Chris Muir daily (and your excuse for that is....? Okay, that's not good enough) - you must read it today. And send it to Michael Moore. Express mail.

Posted by susanna at 10:02 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Reason #13,291,874 for leaving NJ

Getting up at 6:30 a.m., pulling on the first relatively clean clothes that come to hand, dragging down three flights of stairs and emerging in the crisp morning to walk two blocks to my car so I can move it before 7 a.m., because when I got home last night at 8 p.m. the only parking space was in the load-only zone of the local Catholic elementary school. Moving my car by driving around the block and executing a three-point turn (not easy with closed eyes) so I can park my car this time across the street from my apartment building facing toward the direction I will have to drive to work in under two hours.

Drag back upstairs. Contemplate driving to work. Contemplate crawling back into bed and staying there until mid-December.

Posted by susanna at 06:55 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 12, 2003

While I'm at it

Since I preached a sermon earlier today, I'll just keep to the theme and preach another mini-one. This is absolutely abhorent:

The Rev. Fred Phelps plans to commemorate the fifth anniversary of Matthew Shepard's murder in his own unique style.

The 73-year-old Topeka, Kan., pastor has designed a granite monument engraved with Shepard's face followed by these words chiseled in the stone: Matthew Shepard Entered Hell October 12, 1998, at Age 21 In Defiance of God's Warning: ``Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind; it is abomination.'' Leviticus 18:22.

Shepard, a freshman at the University of Wyoming, Laramie, was tied to a fence and beaten into a coma allegedly because he was a homosexual. He died five days later. The murder shocked the nation, leading to pleas for tolerance about gay and lesbian issues. The two attackers were sentenced to life in prison.

Phelps, who screamed ``God hates fags'' at Shepard's funeral here, is demanding his 6-foot-high monument be placed in Casper's City Park not far from where the victim grew up.

In case anyone reading this blog regularly hasn't realized it, I think same-sex romantic relationships are clearly identified in the New Testament* as wrong. But I also think the behavior of people like this Phelps and his ilk is deeply sinful. I would not call them Christians; I would say they "profess Christianity", but their actions show little godliness.

I feel about Phelps and the two men who killed Shepard as I do about so-called "Christians" who kill abortion doctors: they're no spiritual brothers of mine. There is evil that walks the world cloaked in spurious righteousness, and that is more dangerous than an evil that greets you with a snarl and snapping jaws. Seeing the things these people do, nominally in the name of Christ, makes me literally ill. My heart hurts. The damage they do is incalculable.

It's inevitable that anything as powerful as religion will draw evil ones seeking eternal glory for their dark deeds - we certainly have seen it in radical Islam, and the Spanish Inquisition is another example. Phelps is a wicked man, and I suspect he's going to that less desirable place he so gleefully sees others going. He's certainly not living a life that will send his soul anywhere else.

* Before someone starts quoting OT passages to me, I don't believe the laws of the OT are still in effect for Christians today. Only NT laws are my guidance.

Posted by susanna at 04:04 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Clergy should stay out of politics

I've made my religious views very clear on this blog, and one of them is that Christians should be involved in politics. We need to be a part of the public debate, we need to vote, we need to not be intimidated by those who would shut us down by twisting the Constitution into a leftist screed. It's not just important, it's crucial.

That said, I think clergy as clergy should stay out of politics.

I'm not saying that someone who is also a clergyman shouldn't be an elected official, shouldn't speak his mind, should stay out of public debate. Not at all. But what I object to is religious leaders presuming to speak out on non-religious issues with any kind of authority or sense of representing Christians as a whole. I've yet to hear a single one who espoused political positions in the same way or for the same reasons as a whole that I would. And yet their rhetoric makes all Christians political targets - they're often easy to shoot down, and those who do the shooting think they've taken down Christianity on whatever topic it is. That's just ridiculous. But people are reluctant to fight it on a wide scale because they're often portrayed as making some dichotomous choice - getting behind the "Christian leader" or rail against him as some horrible person, thereby giving the antis some more crowing material (Look at that! They can't agree on anything! Where's my pencil? That's one more mark for us!). The truth is, political discussions are not religious discussions, and political disagreements are not grounds for making conclusions about religion.

What triggered today's little rant is the latest from Pat Robertson. He said, in passing, that a certain author's book said the State Department was so bad he wanted to nuke it; the article says the book doesn't say that, so I'm not sure who suggested what. But to have that discussion, to mention it as a possibility, is not just stupid, it's horribly irresponsible and not using speech "with grace, seasoned with salt" as the Bible requires. But it also gives cause to mock, and it is blown all out of proportion by the media. Why would they even report it? Because Robertson paints himself as some Christian guru.

There's some legitimacy in one respect for someone like the Pope to speak for all Catholics, because they nominally follow him as their religious leader and promise allegiance to him and their church. But that is an earthly situation, not a Biblical one, and he definitely doesn't speak for all Christianity, not by a very very long shot. God approved of only one earthly theocracy - one where He ruled, not man. In the Old Testament, the Israelites were in a true theocracy when God lead them through the prophets, actually giving them laws and exacting a form of tax via tithing. God was not happy when the Israelites begged Him to give them a king "like all the other countries have", and told them they would regret it. They did. Men do not rule speaking for God very well; they tend to get above themselves, with bad results. What men should do is rule according to God - using His laws as foundation for theirs. And operate always with humility, something I have seen little of among the usual "Christian leader" suspects.

The responsibility of a Christian is to live godly in this world. Part of living godly can be involving yourself in the political process, and I think we should do so, vigorously. I don't think we should canonize religious leaders as political leaders. If they want to comment, fine, but their commentary should carry no more weight than that of anyone wise and studied in the Scripture - less weight if they've proven themselves imprudent and less motivated by God than their own egos, as I think is the case with Pat Robertson. The man is a menace.

What's more, the State Department is nuts for getting all huffy about this. All they're doing is upping his legitimacy in the eyes of some. Ignore the man as he deserves.

And that's today's sermon. Enjoy your Sunday.

Posted by susanna at 09:29 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

October 11, 2003

Reason enough not to see "Kill Bill"

I just saw a mini-interview with director Quentin Tarantino about his new movie "Kill Bill", which was described by a reviewer as "possibly the most violent movie ever in American filmmaking". Tarantino said this:

"I wanted to see if [my talent] had a ceiling."

I can assure you it does. I can't say the same for his ego.

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

Traces of geek

I just synchronized my computer and PDA to Greenwich Mean Time. Well, the minutes/seconds part, anyway.

Posted by susanna at 12:02 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 10, 2003

67 days and counting

I've not wanted to beat somebody up so badly for a long time, as I did the guy in traffic today.

As you exit the Holland Tunnel going west, traffic moves up in six lanes that split off into twos, with the two on the farthest left going toward downtown Newark, Newark Airport, and all the little towns east, west and north of Newark. As you can imagine, those two lanes are always the most crowded, especially during rush hour. And people are always in the wrong lanes as we go up the incline to where the sections divide, so they push their way into the already crowded left lanes.

Today I was near the front of the row of cars waiting to go up the incline, already in my proper lane - I don't like fighting my way into a new lane, so when I turn left onto that part of the road I immediately go into the same lane I need to be in for my exit a mile away. As soon as the light changed, six lanes of traffic raced for the incline. As I started up, in the second lane from the left, I was advancing on a white SUV in the lane to my right, a blue SUV was behind it, and a West Point bus (tour bus?) was in front of it. To my left, a couple of car lengths ahead of me, was a white Maxima mostly in the left lane but almost 1/2 of the way in mine. Just as I came up on him, the West Point bus started merging into my lane, the blue SUV whipped out of the right lane and in front of me, nearly swiping the white SUV and then nearly getting pushed into the far left lane by the bus which didn't slow in any way its own progression into the lane the blue SUV was in. And still the Maxima split the line down the middle. As the blue SUV nipped past the bus, which nearly nipped me, with the car behind me sitting on my bumper and the white SUV crowding me on my right, I laid on my horn to get the white Maxima into the left lane. He didn't budge; by this time I'm frazzled, angry and ready to line up every single person on the road and slap them. Hard. I'm right beside his car now, he's got the window down with some blonde chicklet in the passenger seat (I hope not his wife, poor thing), he's some hot Italian looking thing with dark curly hair, and I look at him and yell, "GET OUT OF THE ROAD!" Well, you can imagine. Let's just say his car temporarily turned blue. Things eased up in front of me, I zipped on by with (what's left of) my paint job intact, and - you guessed it - he got behind me.

And blew his horn. For about half a mile. While sitting on my bumper. In heavy traffic going through a long tunnel-like underpass. Flashing his lights. Finally settling on brights with his car angled so the lights hit my mirrors. I ignored him.

I took my exit. He followed me. He crowded me as I made my merge into the next road. He hung on my bumper, blew his horn a few more times, then came up beside me (traffic being less heavy at this point). I continued to ignore him. He hung beside of me for about a block, waiting for me to look, which I didn't do. So then he yelled a lot of obscenities, with "f- b-" and "m-f-" and "f- you" prominent amongst them, then sped on ahead.

Poor poor blonde chicklet.

What an absolute swine he was. NY tags, btw, starting with either CFA or CEA, white Maxima, fairly new model. Numbers began with 3.

Have I mentioned lately just how thoroughly I'm coming to hate New Jersey? It has so much to recommend it, really it does, even though I'm not an urban sort. But repeated, almost daily versions of this drive home, and similar attitudes on the street, in stores, just about everywhere you turn but in church, have made me a much more tense, less nice and way more combative person than I ever was before. I have nearly zero patience, especially in traffic, and I'm starting to feel competitive with just about everyone.

Goodbye, New Jersey. Goodbye, swine in white Maxima and all your nasty little brothers and sisters (like, for instance, the old wrinkly guy riding on a Harley, all decked out in insignia leathers, looking like a prune in a tack shop, who sat in the go-straight-or-turn-left lane to my left at the Five Corners traffic light in JC this morning and as soon as the light turned green, pulled right in front of me, then zipped on a right turn through the intersection).

67 days and counting.

Posted by susanna at 06:30 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Happy, happy birthday, baby!

Vicky is One Year Old today! Yay! Happy blogbirthday!

Go give her some bloghugs.

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NY Times bias, Part 9,724,917.2

Marc at The Genius I Was (or, The Blogger Formerly Known As Juan Gato), nails the NY Times, and gives another example of how media bias works.

Posted by susanna at 03:35 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Rush admits addiction

Given the specificity of the accusations, it comes as no surprise that today Rush Limbaugh admitted on his program that he has been and still is addicted to pain killers. The problem began when he had back surgery that was unsuccessful. He had this to say to his audience and released it to the press. Here's an excerpt:

"You know I have always tried to be honest with you and open about my life. So I need to tell you today that part of what you have heard and read is correct. I am addicted to prescription pain medication...

"Immediately following this broadcast, I am checking myself into a treatment center for the next 30 days to once and for all break the hold this highly addictive medication has on me. The show will continue during this time, of course, with an array of guest hosts you have come to know and respect.

"I am not making any excuses. You know, over the years athletes and celebrities have emerged from treatment centers to great fanfare and praise for conquering great demons. They are said to be great role models and examples for others. Well, I am no role model. I refuse to let anyone think I am doing something great here, when there are people you never hear about, who face long odds and never resort to such escapes. They are the role models. I am no victim and do not portray myself as such. I take full responsibility for my problem.

To the end, honest and straightforward, and making no excuses. I've loved his program for 15 years (despite his recent dissing of bloggers, which quite distressed me), and have a great admiration for him, although I don't always agree with him. A lot of people will be crowing and laughing at him now, and all I can say about them is that they show the depth of their selfish and cruel little souls when they do. Rush was wrong to become addicted. He mentioned that an investigation is ongoing so he couldn't say anything more about it; I expect he'll be up front about that, and if he engaged in any wrong-doing in supporting his habit, he's wrong for doing that too. I don't make excuses for him either. But even with his failings, he still has more character than 100% of those who will smirk and enjoy his public embarrassment and comeuppance.

You'll be in my prayers, Rush.

Posted by susanna at 03:27 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Is this me?

Conscious self
Overall self
Take Free Enneagram Personality Test
Enneagram Test Results
Type 1 Perfectionism |||||||||| 34%
Type 2 Helpfulness |||||||||||||| 60%
Type 3 Ambition |||||||||||| 50%
Type 4 Sensitivity |||||||||| 35%
Type 5 Detachment |||||||||| 34%
Type 6 Anxiety |||||||||||| 45%
Type 7 Adventurousness |||||||||||| 47%
Type 8 Hostility |||||| 30%
Type 9 Calmness |||||||||||||| 55%
Your Conscious-Surface type is 2w3
Your Unconscious-Overall type is 2w1
Take Free Enneagram Personality Test

The Big Five Personality Test
Extroverted |||||||||||| 50%
Introverted |||||||||||| 50%
Friendly |||||||||||||||| 66%
Aggressive |||||||||| 34%
Orderly |||||||||||| 46%
Disorderly |||||||||||||| 54%
Relaxed |||||||||||| 48%
Emotional |||||||||||||| 52%
Intellectual |||||||||||||||| 70%
Practical |||||| 30%
Take Free Big 5 Personality Test

In the discussion on the latter, it said:

Overall, you scored highest on Intellectualness and lowest on Orderliness.

Sounds about right.

[Link via CG Hill]

Posted by susanna at 01:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

But can it cause heart attacks?

Those wacky Dutch! What will they come up with next?

Dutch scientists have developed underwear that calls an ambulance if the wearer has a heart attack.

The Philips Research Laboratories in Eindhoven has developed bras, vests and pants that register and analyse the wearer's heartbeat.

That's actually pretty cool (are "vests" t-shirts, and "pants" panties and briefs?), but will they be something Victoria's Secret sells?

Posted by susanna at 10:24 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Jumping off the Golden Gate

Tad Friend writes an interesting piece on the people who jump from the Golden Gate bridge, and the community that for decades has refused to put up a suicide barrier there.

Posted by susanna at 10:19 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Don't strain your muscles patting yourself on the back

David Corn may need physical therapy soon, although he's getting enough help from E&P to where he may escape serious injury:

Some say the Washington press corps is biased toward the left or right. David Corn agrees there is bias but believes it is a "bias towards officialdom. ... It includes the White House, Congress and people in the cabinets." D.C. reporters, he says, are simply not comfortable doing "anything that could be seen as challenging the agenda or anything that could be seen too much as crusading."

Corn, Washington editor of The Nation, is often credited with being the first to report that Robert Novak's controversial "leak" column may have contained information given to him by White House officials in violation of federal law. Corn was also the first to surmise that the information may have been leaked to Novak as part of an effort by White House officials to punish or discredit Joseph Wilson, whose wife was "outed" as a CIA worker by Novak. The theory is that someone in the administration was trying to discredit Wilson's criticism of Bush's Iraq policy...

He credits his distance from the traditional Washington press corps, as well as personal knowledge of the CIA and intelligence laws, for allowing him to see the story behind Novak's column. According to Corn, it is the close relationship between the press and the White House, and the fear of tarnishing this relationship, that kept reporters from looking at Novak's column under a critical light and reporting about it until recently.

"Here was Novak being used," Corn says. "Maybe it's because I'm not from that form of Washington journalism that the exploitation stuck out a bit. Since I don't get the handouts, I got to scrape my own stuff together. I got to look at the Washington terrain with a different set of eyes and try to find the things. And this thing was quite low-lying fruit."

Of course, no one at E&P are gathering the low-lying fruit behind this story - that Corn's bias is anti-officialdom, especially when that officialdom involves the Bush White House. No intimation anywhere in the article that The Nation is a hard-left publication.

And this is a nice sentiment:

Corn believes that while anonymous sources are important for journalists, reporters must avoid spreading unaccountable lies or becoming pawns for a political agenda.

So who watches these watchers? They say, nobody, we police ourselves. Not a condition they'd allow any other societal heavy-hitter to maintain, is it?

Posted by susanna at 10:15 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

More volleys in the gay marriage debate

David Warren discusses why gay marriages are not good for society, explaining from a societal rather than religious perspective.


A group of legal scholars and gay advocacy groups are calling for marriage to be de-legalized in order to make the distribution of benefits more fair for people who aren’t married, including gay couples.

That gives lie to the pronouncement that those pushing for gay marriage only want to partake in traditional marriages with just a little twist, that their desire for the right to marry is about respecting marriage, not wanting to bring down the institution. This latest push smacks of societal blackmail, not that this would be first time that's happened - "You accept what we want or we'll tear down what you have!" Now go back and read Warren's piece again.

For some, the status of homosexual marriage vis a vis religion is amply clear.

Posted by susanna at 09:57 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Making fun of Janeane

Just because it's kind of a pick-me-up for your day, I give you a photo of Janeane Garofalo in an outfit that is a physical version of her anti-war argumentation - that would be old, slouchy and full of holes. The best, though, is the snarky little commentary that goes along with it. I don't think she's been funny either. Well, not intentionally.

And then there's Sheryl Crow. Apparently the two Great Minds Of Hollywood shop together for more than just reprehensible ideologies.

Posted by susanna at 09:32 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 09, 2003

A nice day after all

I've not been sleeping well lately, anxious because I have so much to do. I get overwhelmed, and then get paralyzed and can't do anything, then I get depressed which makes it all worse... sound familiar to anyone? For five days I've had headaches, and other maladies too delicate to mention. So today I stayed home half a day, got in three hours more sleep, and felt some although not completely better.

But then I met my friend Dory for dinner. After picking up food for her dogs from the vet, we squeezed my little car into a just-vacated space in Hoboken, the one-mile-square city where Frank Sinatra was raised, quite a tony little town these days and gifted with about 93,728 cars per available parking space. Flush with victory, we strolled around looking for a restaurant, considering the Thai place but deciding no because I had Vietnamese earlier this week. Finally we came on a small trattoria where she'd eaten before; she had the mahi mahi with shiitake mushrooms, I had the chicken breast with prosciutto, spinach and fresh mozzarella in brown gravy with a side of spaghetti tossed with garlic and basil. I always have the feeling that I'm on a movie set when I'm in Hoboken, which feels very Greenwich Village-y to me. The street is right there, and between us is a constant flow of people walking dogs, talking on the phone, holding hands. Tonight two police cars did rapid three-point turns right beside us, lights flashing, zipping back the way they'd came. I speculated that someone was shot, then decided that in a town that size a speeding ticket might bring out the whole force.

We headed to The Frozen Monkey for ice cream (Tastee Delight!) after dinner, carrying our leftovers in little white bags. I spotted a funky little shoe store still open, so we went in to check it out - a sale! a sale! I walked out with a pair of pointy-toed t-strapped flats, she had a very cool pair of leather boots. Black leather, of course; Dory is nothing if not a Manhattan dresser. Tonight she wore a little black sleeveless dress, the hem hitting her somewhere about mid-thigh, with black tights, black thick-soled loafers and a black sweater. She's a spinning instructor (cycling, not couch throws), so she's very toned and wears her clothes well. As we walked down the street with our purchases, I noticed that at least half the people we saw had that Manhattan stride, and looked like they shopped at the same stores as Dory does.

An hour later I got back to Kearny, where I spent 10 minutes looking for a parking space and finally wound up stashing my little wheels three blocks away from home. A man with baggy pants and a doo rag walked his dogs without a lease, and I petted the one that came snuffling after me. I'm usually afraid of big dogs, but Dory has two Rhodesian ridgebacks so I've learned how to act around them. These were okay, non-threatening after all, but the owner didn't so much as acknowledge that it's not much fun for me to be snuffled by strange dogs on a dark deserted street.

So here I sit, feeling better after an evening of friendship and bonding over shoes and ice cream. I'm wearing my shoes, must break them in. They don't look good with my khakis, but who's here to see?

Sleep well. We'll talk important things tomorrow.

Posted by susanna at 11:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 08, 2003

Dodd, here's one for you

Finally the WOT really has gone too far.

Posted by susanna at 06:39 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Something to chew on

Think about this a little:

Menachem Begin is one man who took preemptive action: In 1981, he bombed that nuclear reactor in Iraq. (The reactor was in Osiraq, and it was French-supplied — leading the Israelis to nickname it "O-Chirac.") The whole world condemned Begin. No one likes a preemptor. He didn't wait for Saddam to get nuked up; he, in his situation — in Israel's situation — couldn't afford to. Begin was denounced at the U.N., including by the United States, led by our beloved Jeane J. Kirkpatrick.

But, of course, he was right — he did us all a great favor. How could the U.S. and its allies have gone to war in the Persian Gulf, exactly ten years later, against a nuke-ready Iraq? You might say — without stretching matters too much — that Menachem Begin saved the Kuwaiti people.

And I'd say that's not all he saved.

Posted by susanna at 01:51 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

City vs country

Here's some great maps about the divide of votes in the California election:

Should Davis be recalled?

Who should be governor if he is?

Proposition: Stop collecting race data.

It's very interesting to look at the first two in relation to the third - no one can say there's any attempt to disenfranchise the minority voters, which is precisely what they would say if the above proposition passed (not that I agree with that conclusion, but it would be the lament). Also, note that the counties right up against Mexico were as solidly against Davis and for Ahnald as the rest of the state. Those areas are more heavily Hispanic than the northern reaches, but the voting was similar. In fact, the similarity runs to city vs country rather than minorities vs whites.

The problem here is that even when there's a huge number of people in a city environment who, for instance, are for getting rid of Davis, there's a greater concentration of people who are against it. While in local elections this isn't so much a problem, in the presidential election where we're dealing with the electoral college, it can be. It's a dilemma. Here are the numbers for Los Angeles County:

Shall Gray Davis be recalled?
Yes 877,955 49.0
No 911,811 51.0

And here's Imperial County, the farthest south and east (which is to say, next to Mexico and not very close to a major city):

Shall Gray Davis be recalled?
Yes 12,309 62.4
No 7,423 37.6

Although they were a bit tighter on the question of governor:

Imperial County
Arnold Schwarzenegger Rep 7,890 44.7
Cruz M. Bustamante Dem 6,905 39.2
Tom McClintock Rep 1,695 9.7

They were more decisive about the race data proposition (I wonder if it means anything that the numbers are so similar to their vote re: Davis):

Imperial County
Yes 5,632 37.2
No 9,490 62.8
You can also see where the most liberal part of the state is - here's downtown San Francisco:
Shall Gray Davis be recalled?
Yes 45,783 19.6
No 187,450 80.4

Something to think about. And this is interesting too - the percentages of votes for and against were precisely the same for the two propositions, 35.9 for, 64.1 against. The numbers are very close too, given the number of votes cast. It would be interesting to know how many voted for one and against the other. I'd wager it's vanishingly small. I'd also bet that when people don't understand the propositions, they're more likely to vote no just because it feels safer - even if it's something they would be for if someone explained it to them well. And if that's true, I would blame the media.

Of course I would.

[State stats via Instapundit, who got it from Dave Winer]

Posted by susanna at 12:36 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

A good idea that doesn't go far enough

Diseases and distresses of the mind can't be diagnosed as readily as physical problems, and proper treatments are even more difficult to develop, test and implement. More than any other discipline, psychology/psychiatry teeters on the dividing line between the hard and soft sciences, the "soft" part being precisely the difficulty in definitively nailing down what the problem is and whether it's been treated. Some are more amenable to objective measurements, like schizophrenia or obsessive compulsive disorder, but those tend to be the more serious illnesses. And when there's money to be had coupled with people with problems, every kind of garbage solution conceivable will flood into the arena of possibilities.

That's where a new book, Science and Pseudoscience in Clinical Psychology comes in.

This review by Brandon A. Gaudiano is a good summary of both the problem and the ways the book tries to address it. Basically, prominent research clinicians in psychology tackle the primary areas of their discipline that are susceptible to pseudoscience, and both debunk the garbage solutions and outline what research says about what really does work. If you're interested at all in psychology, or have yourself struggled in that realm, it sounds like a good book to read.

But therein lies another problem. From Gaudiano:

The editors have presented the evidence in as fair and balanced a way as possible. They urged contributors to remain objective and dispassionate in their presentations, attempted to provide constructive criticism, and chose not to only debunk these techniques when necessary, but also to discuss techniques that are scientifically supported. Furthermore, each chapter contains a glossary of terms to aid the reader in the sometimes dense terminology. Although the book is accessible to the nonprofessional, the volume is most appropriate for the mental health professional or student.

One of the reasons that pseudoscience gets a foothold in society is the lack of a crossable bridge between scientists and lay-people. "Objective and dispassionate" sounds like "boring and superior" to most people (including me), and that impression is supported by the fact that this contains a glossary for "the sometimes dense terminology". I think it's fantastic that they've tackled the therapies they call "pseudoscience" straight on, but regretable that very few people who could actually use the information will ever find it penetrable. They need to find a way to make a real bridge, one that invites understanding, not impedes it.

Posted by susanna at 10:12 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The latest permutation of the Nigerian e-mail scam

All of you know everything you need to and more than you want to about the Nigerian email scammers that keep showing up in your email inbox. Today I noticed a new permutation - a "Dr. Patrick Donald" using the Lockerbie disaster as a hook. He's claiming to be an official with the organization distributing the money to victim's families, and he's going to arrange for you to pretend to be a victim family member so you can scoop up $1.5 million while you help him and his family of three move to the US. He even gives two links to major news outlets with articles on the Lockerbie payout.

This represents a new low to me. Have they no shame? Um, don't answer that. We know the answer, don't we.

He also gives this as an email address: . That keys to this Islamic website in English that has free email. Now, of course they're going to use whatever free email address they can get their grimmy paws on, but that made me think: Are some of them using the money they make from this to fund radical Islamic causes? (And they do make money - for some bizarre reason people believe these emails; I'm sure the article links will give this plea more legitimacy in the minds of those gullible enough to think it may be true.) And this is comforting - the verse of the day on the Islamic website: Let those fight in the cause of Allah who sell the life of this world for the Hereafter, To him who fighteth in the cause of Allah - whether he is slain or gets victory - soon shall We give him a reward of great (value).

I'm about to the point where I think all emails originating from Nigeria should be shut down. I know, I know, not fair, there's a lot of good and decent people there. But these scammers are a foul slime on their body politic.

Posted by susanna at 07:06 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

October 07, 2003

The mind boggles

There's nothing I can say about this that won't get me in trouble with somebody:

The Japanese government will investigate reports hundreds of Japanese tourists took part in a sex orgy in a Chinese hotel that stoked anti-Japanese sentiment in China, Japan's top government spokesman has said...

According to Chinese media, about 400 Japanese tourists and 500 local prostitutes were involved in the orgy.

There so much I could say, though.

Posted by susanna at 04:32 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Does this sound familiar?

Attorney Laurent Levy, an atheist but culturally Jewish, is in a tussle with the French government over the right of his daughters - both of whom have embraced Islam - to wear head coverings to school. The school has told the girls their headwear is "ostentatious" and not appropriate, so they are barred from entering the building unless they remove the scarves. Levy is furious:

"The secularists invoke the 1905 law separating church and state. But that was supposed to stop the French republic protecting one religion - Catholicism. It was a way of opening up religious freedom for individuals - not a statement of official atheism.

"The teachers at their school said to me: 'But you don't understand how painful it is for us to stand there in front of children dressed like that', to which I replied: 'So it's a tough profession - you chose it!'" he said.

Sounds like the teachers are claiming that the students' religious practice is offending them. I think secularism taken to that level becomes a religion of its own.

It'll be interesting to watch. You know that some teacher in the US is going to get this idea sometime before long, if they haven't already. And it's not just a question of Islam. Jewish boys often wear little yarmulkes all the time, and many religious women - for instance, those who are the more fundamental Mennonites - wear little net caps. A number of women who are members of the church of Christ (which I attend) wear a head covering during worship services (I don't), and some believe they should wear one any time they pray too (here's a relevant article - I don't know that I agree with this woman, but it's pertinent to the discussion). So that could be a public act, including at a school. I think an issue of security* comes in at some point - I don't think women should be allowed to wear face coverings when their photos are taken for drivers licenses - but this is clearly an anti-religion attitude.

But then, it's France, that bastion of tolerance and harmony.

[Link via The Volokh Conspiracy]

* I found this while searching for a photo of Mennonites with a covering on; it also explains why I didn't find one:

Like people in other rural farming communities, people in Casey County rely on their cars and trucks for almost all their transportation needs. But for Beachy, a bishop in an Amish-Mennonite congregation, and others in his religious community, driving has created a new problem.

Their faith allows them to get behind the wheel, but not to sit for a driver's license photo as state law requires. Members of Beachy's enclave — one of at least three in the state — must now decide whether to bow to the demands of national security and keep driving or stand firm for a religious principle.

"It would open the door to what we consider unscriptural," Beachy said. "I can see the state's concern, but I am not convinced that the state granting us an exemption on a religious basis would endanger the situation."

State law has for years required Kentucky motor vehicle licenses to bear the owner's photo.

Some circuit court clerks, however, have quietly and unofficially exempted people who had religious objections.

Following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, state officials cracked down. For the sake of security, state Transportation Cabinet officials ordered clerks not to issue licenses without photos...

For many Amish-Mennonites, photos are a symbol of self-admiration and pride, contrary to their beliefs. Taking a picture is tantamount to creating a graven image — a sin in their faith.

People should not have to compromise their religious convictions to qualify for state benefits, said John Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute, a religious freedom organization in Charlottesville, Va.

"You have to protect these people or they get wiped out," Whitehead said. "And they shouldn't have to violate their beliefs to get a driver's license."

Within the larger Mennonite church, Amish-Mennonites are more modern than old-order Amish who ride in buggies and don't use electricity, said Al Keim, director of the Valley Brethren Mennonite Heritage Center in Virginia. Nevertheless, their convictions are strong, he said. "They take very seriously the biblical injunction that they are not to make any images of themselves," said Keim, who grew up Amish.

Here's another article with a similar theme. Amish-Mennonite, as it points out here, are on a continuum from the Old Order Amish to the modern Mennonites who while not religiously opposed to modern technology do tend to choose simple (and pacifist) lifestyles.

Here's a photo of a little Amish girl. I'm not quite sure why these photos are allowed when there's an issue with drivers license photos, and I don't have time to chase down the information. Anyway, notice her bonnet - the Mennonite women I know from eastern Kentucky wear something that looks like a doll's version of that, in netting and without the ties. It perches on the back of their heads like a Jewish man's yarmulke, usually covering the buns they wear because they don't cut their hair.

Religious observances in public life is a broad and deep subject - and one that the average American rarely thinks about. We should, or we'll be faced with the French model and not quite know how to respond.

Posted by susanna at 02:52 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Pizzaguy bombing update

The latest from

An Erie handyman, William Rothstein, suspected of involvement in the death of another man apparently wrote a suicide note where he denied involvement in Wells' death. Rothstein may have been involved in the death of James D. Roden, whose body was found in a freezer in Rothstein's home; police suspect Roden's girlfriend, Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong, also had a role in Roden's death. Rothstein did not commit suicide, and passed a polygraph test about whether he was involved in Wells' death. Rothstein's home, where Roden's body was found, is on the same road as the address Wells went to for his last pizza delivery before the bank robbery. (Is this tangled or what?)

The FBI has posted a $50,000 reward in the Wells case. They've also released information from an FBI profile of the killer:

The FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit developed a profile of behavior the person or people involved in the plot would be likely to exhibit. Rudge outlined that profile Thursday afternoon and asked the public to report anyone who might exhibit some of the characteristics.

Rudge asked the public to be on the lookout for:

n someone skilled at woodworking and metalworking and who might have learned those skills in a vocational/technical school.

n someone who might have been able to work in secret, in a place that's off-limits to others, to build either the collar that locked the bomb to Wells' neck or the canelike gun Wells carried during the robbery.

But the person who made the gun likely would have made more than one and probably showed one off to others, Rudge said. The person would have explained to others that he made the gun for fun and not to be used as a weapon.

n Someone fascinated with building or acquiring weapons or implements of war, and with lethal products that could kill people or animals. That behavior likely would have progressed over the years.

n Someone who is secretive and deceptive.

People who know of someone with such behavioral characteristics should not hesitate to call the FBI, even if the person doesn't display all the characteristics, Rudge said.

The newspaper interviewed the remaining pizza deliveryman at Mama Mia's - there were three, this summer, but Wells died from the collar bomb and a few days later Robert Pinetti died of an apparent drug overdose. Bill Johnson understandably finds that disconcerting.

And ABC Primetime Thursday conducted interviews and took video in Erie for a segment which apparently ran last week.

[The individual articles on are now mysteriously linkable, where they weren't before. Did someone read my repeated yelling about it? Hmmmm... Curious. Stuart Buck had kindly already told me how to get deep links in such a situation already, so I was prepared - and a little disappointed that I didn't get to try it out. But I'm glad they've entered into the 21st Century.]

Posted by susanna at 12:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

In other news, the Dead Sea is salty

A real "doh" moment:

The quality of films seems to have deteriorated in the last 20 years, a panel of producers and directors said during a salute to American filmmaking in the 1970s.

Oh, and it's the audience's fault.

I'd say the last 50 years, but that's just me.

[Link via Drudge]

Posted by susanna at 12:33 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Because I love my male readers too

As a woman, I tend to view things from a woman's perspective - shockingly enough. That means that I may not realize the kinds of crises that men go through on a regular basis, just in being men, because... well, because I'm not one. So in the interests of letting you know that I do care, and I want to address those issues that touch you most intimately, I'm linking to this discussion on Dave Barry's blog. Just start there and scroll up. There's lots to read.

What's it about? Men's restroom habits, including forays into the urinal vs stall question, traumas resulting from a recent fashion move to remove flys from both briefs and boxers, and general questions such as why some guys lean against the wall behind the urinal with both hands while taking care of business.

Actually, that last issue is broached but not addressed. We'll monitor the discussion for further insight.

(And I confess that I actually was fascinated by this whole area of concern that I never knew existed. If I thought about it at all, I would have thought it a simple and angst-free situation. And I would have been wrong. I'm sure there are similar traumas in the life of a woman that most men don't even suspect, much less understand. Most likely don't want to, either.)

Posted by susanna at 12:18 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Very very cool

I had never seen this before, but came across it on Romenesko's link list - it's a daily posting of the front pages of hundreds of newspapers all over the world. Check it out.

Posted by susanna at 10:43 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Not that I would point this out, but...

So here is what the Village Voice has to say:

Everyone knows Clark is kiss-ass to Clinton, and quite naturally now he's being touted as Hillary's best bet as a veep. Hillary says she's not running this time, but tell that to the conservatives.

And then there's this from the Federal Election Commission.

Interesting. Don't you think?

[Hillary! link via Instapundit, who seems to have a major scoop here]

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

Are there any seats left?

I don't know how I missed this bus:

Led by Julia Butterfly Hill, a group of activists and musicians are travelling the country in a bus fueled by vegetable oil, discussing wide-ranging issues such as peace, human rights, and the joys of being vegan.

The We the Planet Tour is the brainchild of Hill and her Circle of Life Foundation, which she founded after climbing down from a northern California redwood tree she had protected for more than two years...

...Hill invited the audience to join the conversation. Students and local activists lined up at the microphones to discuss issues ranging from the military to biodiesel to re-usable menstrual pads.

I don't even want to contemplate that last.

You know, I'm actually very open to finding alternative fuels and energy sources, and cutting down on throwaway things. But I don't know that I could ever take seriously someone who lived in a tree for two years in an effort to save it. Talk about symbolism over substance.

But I'd say the concert by Tracy Chapman was excellent. That woman has a voice that just about bypasses your ears and goes straight to your heart.

Posted by susanna at 10:30 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Wishing Charles well

Charles Austin is having a crisis.

He's sick physically, and also just sick of politics and the idiocy of people. He's claiming he may come back to posting if he can sort it all out.

Charles, that's a pretty tall order. We need you to help us sort it out! It's a mutual endeavor.

Anyway, go read what he had to say, because it's worth your time, and then offer up good wishes for his return to physical and emotional well being.

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

October 06, 2003

Doing my part

It's always important to me to do my part to advance the political health of this nation. That's why I always vote, that's one of the reasons for this blog, and that's why I'm going to help out on the election in California. No, no, no need to thank me. It's just who I am.

Today, I am going to to do two helpful things in one effort. See, I'm also efficient! Remember back when we all signed up to to send spoiler faxes to Congress folk? Well, I'm still registered with them so I keep getting their emails. Last week they asked people to call! voters! to! stop! Arnold!, so - being patriotic - I agreed. Tonight I have a list of 20 names and phone numbers, and probably will be able to get more. At 9 p.m. my time - dinner time in California - I'm going to start calling.

And asking them to vote for Ahnald.*

Yes, I'll use the MoveOn list against them.

No, no, don't thank me. Just the glow of doing good is enough for me.

And because I'm a good hearted soul who also wants YOU to have a good evening too, I'm posting below the text of an email from MoveOn that they want everyone to forward to their friends. I'm doing better than that! I'm posting here on my blog for hundreds to read!

When do I get my citizenship award?

Seven Reasons Why You Absolutely, Positively MUST Vote on Oct. 7: [from a email]

1. Your vote matters. If you don't vote, Schwarzenegger becomes your governor. It's that simple. A poll conducted Wednesday through Saturday showed support for the recall and Schwarzenegger dropping fast. This election could be decided by a very small number of votes. We can win this, but your vote is absolutely necessary. (The Mercury News)

2. Arnold Schwarzenegger is a Pete Wilson sequel. Governor Pete Wilson grew state spending much faster than Gray Davis ever has. Worse, he championed energy deregulation and in 1996 signed the bill that deregulated energy in California. Wilson opened the gates to let his energy pals rob the state blind. And now he and his former team are running Schwarzenegger's campaign and choosing his policies. Even more troubling: Schwarzenegger seems to be in bed with the same energy interests as Wilson (See #7). We want to see Terminator 4, not Wilson 2. (Horowitz, Conason)

3. We have no idea what Schwarzenegger is going to do with California, and neither does he. He doesn't have a plan to balance the budget. He hasn't said what cuts he'll make or what taxes he'll raise. California needs a real leader, not someone who plays one in the movies. You may be frustrated with the way things are now -- but if Schwarzenegger had a plan to make them better, don't you think he would have told us about it?

4. He lied about taking money from special interests. The night he announced his candidacy on the Jay Leno show he told us, "As you know, I don't need to take money from anyone. I have plenty of money myself." He then turned right around and accepted over $10 million not from "special" interests, but rather, as he explained it, "business and individuals, absolutely. They're powerful interests who control things." (Saramento Bee, CNN)

5. Arnold Schwarzenegger might belong on the sex offender registry, but not in the governor's mansion. So far 15 credible women have come forward with stories of being physically assaulted by this man -- some only a few years ago. He has not denied some of the stories (in fact, he said "where there's smoke, there's fire"). He has tried to chalk his mistakes up to "rowdiness." But these incidents constitute a string of crimes that would land anyone except a multi-millionaire actor in jail and on the sex offender registry. (Los Angeles Times, Newsday)

6. The Nazi stuff is serious. Who cares how long ago it was that Arnold Schwarzenegger said that he wanted to have an experience "like Hitler in the Nuremberg stadium, and have all those people scream at you and just being in total agreement with whatever you say." That's scary! And now nuns are being roughed up at Schwarzenegger rallies. A film maker who worked closely with Schwarzenegger in the '70s says he saw him playing "Nazi marching songs from long-playing records in his collection at home." At his 1988 wedding Schwarzenegger toasted a confirmed Nazi war criminal, Kurt Waldheim, saying "My friends don't want me to mention Kurt's name, because of all the recent Nazi stuff and the U.N. controversy, but I love him and Maria does too, and so thank you, Kurt." Where there's smoke, there's fire! (New York Times, Slate, Sacramento Bee, Los Angeles Times)

7. Because Schwarzenegger STILL hasn't explained why he met with Enron's Kenneth Lay at the height of the energy crisis. Schwarzenegger attended a meeting of top business leaders and Republican politicians on May 17, 2001 that was apparently held to thwart a Davis-Bustamante plan to recover $9 billion from energy companies. He still hasn't explained why he was there or whether his candidacy for Governor was discussed at that meeting. And he's refusing to talk to reporters in these last days of the campaign. (San Mateo Times, FTCR)

There are links in it, but I'm too lazy to go dig them out from the Hotmail frames. If you want them, let me know and I'll forward you the email.

I do have a question - why are the libs so hot about the Nazi connection when they hate Israel anyway? Is their hate a nicer hate? "When the Nazis hated Jews, that was bad! When we hate Jews it's justified!" Interesting.

(NOTE: There are people who are not in any way anti-semetic who disagree with either Israel's existence or policies. But the lib elite in the US and Europe, especially, have proven time and again that they aren't just anti-Israel. They're flatly anti-Jewish.)

* I debated this. Should I ask them directly to vote for Arnold, or should I be so annoying and obnoxious in asking them to vote for Davis that they vote for Arnold just to spite me? Quite a dilemma. I finally decided that the best option was to ask nicely for a vote for Arnold. I don't do annoying and obnoxious very well over the phone. I'm much better at it in writing.

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

Moving the debate

Okay, I've been accused of over-reacting and bad behavior, so I'm going to copy the comments here and add whatever I want, to keep from taking up any more of Razib's comment box.

The post in question is the one on Bobby Jindal, which I linked earlier. Before I go further, let me say that if you read the comments on Gene Expression you'll see that Razib answered my concerns and we ended up in agreement. So this is not about Razib. It's about my reaction to other commenters. You really need to read the whole exchange to get the complete picture, because the two commenters I responded to were keying off other discussions. Anyway. Here is what they said, with godless in there for clarity:

Mm. Republicans are "a bit anti-secularist". No shit. You mean a Jerry-Falwell-Pat Robertson bit? That's a meg.

Seriously, the Republicans are very heavily influenced by extraordinarily retrograde elements. Almost everyone on this board agrees about the two I just named. Whenever the Republicans have to choose between Jerry and Pat on the one hand, and some secular moderate or libertarian, the choice is automatic and immediate.

You also have Grover Norquist with his historic Taliban affiliation. The Democrats are the secular party and there's no way at all around it. Most moron bigots would never vote for a Democrats for that reason.

Posted by Zizka at October 5, 2003 09:33 PM


But the Democrats are also the party of militant anti-religion fanatics, the type that alienates more than half the country by picking useless fights over 10 commandments monuments. Razib and I are not cut from that cloth.

Posted by godlesscapitalist at October 6, 2003 01:13 AM

Godless, are you insinuating that we should just let the fundies go ahead with their plan to allow the posting of the ten commandments all over public buildings? I don't think so. Give 'em an inch, and they'll take a mile.

Posted by Chris W at October 6, 2003 03:02 AM

As you can imagine, I had something to say about it:

Chris, Zizka, when rabid froth spews from the mouth it's difficult to tell leftist from far right zealot - neither shows much sense or reason. Send me your addresses - I'll ship you some Bounty to help with that. It's the quicker picker upper, you know, even on rabid froth.

Posted by susanna at October 6, 2003 06:50 AM

Ha ha ha! Some didn't find it funny:


"The lady doth protest too much, methinks."

Before you ship the Bounty to Ziska and Chris, look in the mirror. You seem to have your share of rabid froth.

"You see the sliver in your friend's eye, but you don't see the timber in your own eye. When you take the timber out of your own eye, then you will see well enough to remove the sliver from your friend's eye."

Posted by Liberal Lurker at October 6, 2003 10:49 AM

So I clarified:

Hmmm... No rabid nothin' here, just a bit of amusement at people who drive for tolerance by stereotyping and then demonizing an entire group of people. Do any of you actually know personally someone who could be called a "fundie"? If not, let's do lunch next time you're in town - because I'm one. I'm politically to the right of Rush Limbaugh,and religiously to the right of Billy Graham. I'm your worst nightmare, apparently, which is also amusing. Boo!

For the record, I don't even listen to Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson, so I can't follow them. And anyone who doesn't think Noam Chomsky and his ilk aren't "extraordinarily retrograde elements" obviously is quite ideologically blinkered. My point with the Bounty remark wasn't just that Ziz and Chris (and I guess now Liberal Lurker) are sounding hysterical, but that people on both ends of the ideological spectrum lose all reason past a certain point. You can't talk to them. In case you missed it, I was being negative about far right types as well as far left. "Hey! Mikey! She's kinda saying we're right!" But by dumping all fundies (*bowing*) into the same pot, you miss all opportunity for meaningful dialogue with someone who disagrees with you.

I think Razib and godless and I could have a great discussion about politics, science, religion and any number of things, and leave with a respect for each other despite some pretty major differences in some areas. Sounds like Chris and Ziz (and LL) would be so all aquiver about what they think a "fundie" like me is like, they couldn't have a reasonable conversation.

Posted by susanna at October 6, 2003 01:31 PM

And of course someone else had something to say:

susanna, no one here attacked you personally before you started shouting at people. Chris and zizka said nothing to you, and LL only called you out for your premature and exaggerted response to them.

Posted by Jason Malloy at October 6, 2003 01:42 PM

So now let me respond to Jason. In a forum like comment boxes, you don't have to be addressed specifically to respond to a concept - for example, nobody rattled Jason's chain, yet he felt perfectly justified taking me to task. Both Ziz and Chris expressed strong negative viewpoints about groups I belong to (Republicans and fundamentalist Christians) that I disagreed with, and I made a sarcastic response. Liberal Lurker apparently thinks sarcasm = rabid froth, which indicates a fairly delicate emotional constitution. So (because Chris too expressed befuddlement, by copying my first comment and adding, Huh?), I wrote the next comment in response. Quite clear, I thought, both in why I responded, and what I think about the actual issue at hand. Then Jason showed he is confused by the entire concept of a message board/comment box. Just to clarify, again, for Jason's sake: First, when Ziz and Chris went after Republicans and Christians, they went after me. I said they were being excessive and unreasonable (that's what my sarcasm meant, if you didn't get that), and I still think that's true. Second, I was less personally negative than they were, I just went for the sniper shot rather than strafing the bushes. Finally, Jason, I don't have to wait for a "and susanna, this means you!" at the end of a comment in a comment box or a message board for legitimacy to respond. And either you already get that point, since you came after me when I had said nothing to you, or you aren't bright enough to realize that you are chastising me for doing something you were doing at that very moment.

That's all. A lot of buildup for not much commentary, but I wanted to say exactly what I thought and didn't want to get into any further disagreements in the comments on someone else's blog. I guess you could say it's the blog equivalent of "take it outside".

Posted by susanna at 05:24 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Calling for fun!

How many of you have found MoveOn just so annoying you can hardly stand it?

Count Bob McManus of the NY Post among your numbers. And thank him for this:

Novak, who may (or may not) have blown the identity of a CIA agent, is, in MoveOn's view, unfit to practice his trade. Thus did Noah Weiner, of MoveOn, call last Tuesday afternoon: Does the Post intend to fire Robert Novak? he asked, tendentiously.

I responded in that spirit:

I said, "No," and I hung up.

Silly me.

Presently, Weiner stirred MoveOn's rank-and-file.

He cast my name, my crime and my office-desk phone number into cyberspace.

And for three days, continuing into the weekend, the phone calls arrived - in the aggregate, several hundred...

He has a right to marshal his worker ants, he said in words or substance, because he's serving a higher good - in this case, the muzzling of a journalist of 40 years standing. And, by extension, the defeat of President Bush next fall.

And I, the target du jour, have no rights worth respecting - certainly not the right to do a day's work without unceasing harassment.

Well, that cuts two ways.

"This is Noah Weiner of," he said - in a smug have you had enough yet? tone - into voicemail late Thursday. "Please give me a call at (718)832-6459 . . . "


What the hell.

He asked for it.

Swarm him.

Did you get that? (718)832-6459 Again: (718)832-6459 One more time? Sure! (718)832-6459. Now, go forth and call.

But please, be original. We wouldn't want to sound like mind-numbed robots.

Posted by susanna at 03:35 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

As if you needed proof

This review of several recent books on George W. Bush and his administration serves as a very nice summary of the kind of attitude the more left elements of the Dems have toward religious people:

In addition to working out and getting to bed roundabout the time The West Wing is coming on, his daily routine includes talking to God. What’s more, God talks back.

How the last came to be is the subject of Stephen Mansfield’s The Faith of George W. Bush, the most sympathetic of these volumes (not counting Mr. Bush’s own book, a compendium of utterances selected by the National Review). By far, it’s also the scariest. A Nashville-based specialist on such inspiring topics as "the liberating philosophy of Booker T. Washington," Mr. Mansfield reports that Mr. Bush’s journey from Jack Daniels to Jesus Christ commenced with his attendance of a 1984 revival meeting conducted by evangelist Arthur Blessit, holder of the Guinness "longest walk" crown, for having hauled a 12-foot cross 38,800 miles across 284 nations. A memorable (briefer) stroll on a Kennebunkport beach with Billy Graham followed ("Are you right with God?" Billy inquired; "No," George answered); then Bible-reading sessions with the president of a Midland bank. Conversion was complete when Mr. Bush fell in with Fort Worth evangelist James Robison, a rabid anti-abortionist who not only chats with the Almighty but jots down what He says.

The political consequences are easy to spot. A few examples: Mr. Bush asserted that the Supreme Being, not the Supreme Court, tapped him to be President. He backed the Texas anti-sodomy statute ("a symbolic gesture of traditional values," he called it). His crusade for "regime change" in Iraq was sealed by an Oval Office kneel-down with Reverend Robison. (According to Mr. Mansfield, Mr. Bush’s decision-making in this case was divinely simple: "Saddam is evil …. Evil-doers have no legitimacy. Removing Saddam is a moral act. Case closed.")

The tone of mockery, derision, and superiority is not even thinly disguised here. It's clear that many (if not most) of the Dems are solidly against Christianity if it's taken at all seriously. A spirituality that's fostered for the sake of greater self-actualization, and is manifested by a pious self-righteousness in adhering to the Dem political agenda rather than any religious text, is a-okay with them. But claim to be influenced by - god forbid - the God of the New Testament - outrageous! Frightening! Not to be allowed! Horrors! Far better the religion of an adulterer who carries his Bible prominently on his way out of church to keep an appointment with an intern under his desk.

They would do well to understand the truth of what Razib said in comments on his post on Bobby Jindal:

...some religious folk have become so fixated on pushing the secular humanists off their pedestals that they don't realize that there aren't that many secular humanists (the main problem is actually the apathetic christian majority from a religious conservative perspective)...

One of the reasons why religious freedom works in this country is because the religious people in the majority are for it. If the apathetic Christian majority ever got riled up and banded together... But you see, even if they did that wouldn't be a problem - because the majority of that majority are people who believe in the principle of freedom of religion - and they are people who behave in accordance to principle. That's what true religion is all about.

And on a political note, the NY Observer review also gets spittle-flecked about Bush's policies:

Remember the good old days, back when the worst anyone could say about George W. Bush was that he was a dope? Remember the fun watching Will Ferrell imitate him on Saturday Night Live? The dazed, deer-in-the-headlights look? The way he said "stra-teeg-er-ie"? Remember how harmless the smirking frat boy in the cowboy hat seemed? Dubya was the best yuk since Gerry Ford.

Well, no one’s laughing anymore. Not with Arlington filling up; three million jobs gone phfft; Antarctica melting; the deficit north of half a trillion; Osama and Saddam nowhere to be found; Ronald Reagan fondly remembered as a moderate; and The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire starting to read like a self-help book.

Actually... actually, that's not true. What's starting to happen is that the Dems are beginning to sound like Chicken Little.

Posted by susanna at 11:21 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Much as I hate to admit it

Glenn is right about The NY Times:

...we pick on the Times not least because we have a vision of it that's perhaps more optimistic than that of anyone who actually works there. And, in fact, the Times is the best overall newspaper on the Web...

He has more to say, all correct, and a couple of good links too.

I guess now's a good time to repeat my journalism bias disclaimer. I get particularly testy about how journalism manifests itself because I'm an idealist, and I have a vision of a journalism that's done honestly, comprehensively and interestingly. And in a not insignificant percentage of cases, it is done that way. Only when you have high expectations are you disappointed when something fails. I don't rag on inaccuracies or biases in the National Enquirer because I never had any hopes in that direction. I do have hopes that if we hold up a mirror to journalism long enough, the profession will began to see some overlooked truths about itself.

So my criticisms and critiques are emerging from a fundamental love for and appreciation of journalism. It's difficult to do well and do right, it's subject to the vaguaries of personality and power, it engenders a certain arrogance and untouchableness that always, always damages the truth of what journalism is supposed to do. Just as media sees itself as adversarial to government (to an unnecessary degree, IMHO, but that's another post), the public is in a sense adversarial to the media - we know the truth, and we are the ones who must police the policers.

Not that we aren't subject to some of the same failings. We are. And that's why it's important to have so many voices, because with so many ripping away the lies, at some point a close approximation of the truth will likely emerge. Or at least be an accessible option.

We hope.

Posted by susanna at 10:05 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 05, 2003


Not that everyone else hasn't already said it, but ... if anyone needed any confirmation that the Dems are after power, not principle, they can just compare the stacks of information on Bill Clinton's sexual exploits, which include some solid accusations of sexual assault, to the recent "revelations" of Arnold's sexual exploits, which in the world of Hollywood probably don't rate a second thought. In the former instance, the Dems got wildly furious that the conservatives were so concerned about Bill's sex life - "it's just sex!" was the cry. Now it's all about how Arnold is unfit because of his sexual "exploits" - which in truth were much less, apparently, than Clinton's. Where's the "it's just sex"! Dems now? They're out getting a new coat of whitewash.

UPDATE: This is juicy - prima facie evidence of bias by the LA Times, as well as support for the hypocrisy charge above:

Since at least 1997, the Times has been sitting on information that Gov. Gray Davis is an "office batterer" who has attacked female members of his staff, thrown objects at subservients and launched into red-faced fits, screaming the f-word until staffers cower.

I published a lengthy article on Davis and his bizarre dual personality at the now-defunct New Times Los Angeles on Nov. 27, 1997, as well as several articles with similar information later on.

The Times was onto the story, too, and we crossed paths. My article, headlined "Closet Wacko Vs. Mega Fibber," detailed how Davis flew into a rage one day because female staffers had rearranged framed artwork on the walls of his office.

He so violently shoved his loyal, 62-year-old secretary out of a doorway that she suffered a breakdown and refused to ever work in the same room with him. She worked at home, in an arrangement with state officials, then worked in a separate area where she was promised Davis would not go. She finally transferred to another job, desperate to avoid him.

He left a message on her phone machine. Not an apology. Just a request that she resume work, with the comment, "You know how I am."

...After my story ran, I waited for the Times to publish its story. It never did. When I spoke to a reporter involved, he said editors at the Times were against attacking a major political figure using anonymous sources.

Just what they did last week to Schwarzenegger.

Weeks ago, Times editors sent two teams of reporters to dig dirt on Schwarzenegger, one on his admitted use of steroids as a bodybuilder, one on the old charges of groping women from Premiere Magazine.

Who did the editors assign, weeks ago, to investigate Davis' violence against women who work for him?


The paper's protection of Davis is proof, on its face, of gross bias. If Schwarzenegger is elected governor, it should be no surprise if Times reporters judge him far more harshly than they ever judged Davis.

And that's how biased reporting happens. This article is like lifting a rock and seeing the pale wriggling worms of hypocrisy burrowing into muddy self-righteousness. This on the heels of the Plame/Wilson flap, where journalists are claiming some special privilege to do what they excoriate unnamed others for doing, is illuminating again the path journalism has taken, already highlighted this year by Jayson Blair and Eason Jordan. And the disgustingly biased coverage of the war in Iraq and its aftermath is beginning to be noticed even in the ranks of journalism itself. How much longer can the myth of objectivity be sustained even in the minds of journalists?

[Thanks to Alex in comments for the Gray Davis link]

UPDATE II: Subscribers are canceling their LA Times subscriptions over the Schwarzeneggar coverage:

Since publishing an article Thursday that described allegations by six women that Schwarzenegger groped them or made inappropriate comments, The Times has come under attack on talk-radio stations and television, and has been the target of vociferous complaints by the Schwarzenegger campaign...

But the greatest volume of outrage has come from readers, who have flooded the paper with calls, e-mails and letters.

"To me this is a fairness issue," said Debbie Mahoney, a 52-year-old Northern California resident who said she has read the paper periodically for the last five years. She said The Times has demonstrated "true bias" in its coverage of Schwarzenegger.

"You don't even call him by his name," she said. "Whenever I see coverage of Schwarzenegger, I see 'actor.' He's not running as an actor. He's running as a businessman."

As of Saturday evening, about 1,000 readers had canceled their subscriptions to protest the handling of the Schwarzenegger story. In addition, the newspaper had received as many as 400 phone calls critical of its coverage — many angry, some profane.

About 800 people had written to praise the newspaper's coverage, many apparently motivated by a liberal Web site that urged readers to register their support.

Now I'm all curious - what is that liberal Web site? MoveOn? TrueMajority? Doesn't appear to be them. Hmmm...

Posted by susanna at 06:19 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Speaking of racism...

TheYeti at Tales from the Yeti Suit has been waxing philosophical about Southernness, which brought out the trolls about racism. Natch. And that makes me testy. Natch. So if you want to read about it, go here and then go here. I make my appearance in comments.

I will note that I apparently was wrong in one instance. I said, "My family didn't own any slaves, as most of the Southerners didn't." My brother informs me that I am inaccurate. He said, our ancestor "T.T. Garrard owned slaves but fought for the North." (More here and here.) So there you have it. Don't hear much about Northern soldiers and leaders owning slaves, now, do you? Hmmm....

And for anyone who cares, my family goes back in the US to before the American Revolution, and relatives of mine fought in that war. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Neither - it's just an interesting thing. I bear no guilt or glory for what my people did so long ago. I think it's kind of cool, but I don't think it makes me more of an American than someone who's family came in 1850 or 1910 or 1973. And I don't think the fact that someone's ancestor was a slave here makes them more or less an American than me. We can be proud together of what we've wrought together. We've made mistakes, we've corrected them, we'll make more and I hope we'll fix those too. But we're all Americans. That's all. Just Americans. Judge me by my actions, not by my ancestors. And I'll return the favor.

Posted by susanna at 12:40 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

October 04, 2003

Tell me again about racist Republicans...

Look at this:

Something is happening in Louisiana.

Twelve years ago, the race for governor pitted an ethically challenged incumbent against a devotee of the Ku Klux Klan. Both now reside in federal prisons.

This year, with a first round of gubernatorial voting on Saturday, the front-runner is a 32-year-old former Rhodes scholar with an Ivy League pedigree, a gold-plated record in public service and unchallenged integrity whose rivals -- when they are not murmuring their admiration for his intellect and good manners -- are stammering that his career advancement may possibly have been too swift.

He is Bobby Jindal, a son of Indian immigrants who served as a senior Bush administration health policy official and ran Louisiana's biggest university system as well as its largest cabinet-level department, all by the time he was 30. Now, as a Republican newcomer to electoral politics, he is not only leading the pack but doing so partly by staking out conservative positions that appeal to the same rural whites (Bubbas, in the local vernacular) who backed Klansman David Duke in 1991.

That the sensation this political season in Louisiana is a dark-complexioned young policy wonk who neither hunts, fishes, drawls nor feeds from the public trough has astounded every political pro in the state -- to say nothing of his five major opponents, all of whom are old enough to be his parent.

Maybe the reason it's surprised everyone is because they're operating out of a particular bias? Could be the same reason that despite the fact that you continue to see minorities taking genuinely signficant roles in Republican administrations, Republicans are considered to be anti-minority. Sounds to me like Bobby Jindal is a fantastic candidate, and I know I'd support him if I was in Louisiana. There are a lot of Indian doctors in eastern Kentucky where I grew up, these days, and I think it'd be great if one of their children grew up to be governor of Kentucky. The point is viewpoint and competence, not race, that should win the day. The Dems never quite get that, and that's why they remain the more truly racist of the two parties.

Not that they didn't start out that way to begin with anyway. They never really got that far from their roots; they just started calling it different names.

Go, Bobby Jindal, go!

UPDATE: Shanti pointed me to this post by Razib at Gene Expression, also on Bobby Jindal from a bit different perspective. Very interesting, and the comments are good reading too. Razib and I disagree on religion, but he is always sharp, smart and perceptive, and has thought-provoking things to say. You really should be visiting there regularly anyway, to read Razib and his co-bloggers. And Shanti's blog too, of course, but I've already told you that.

Posted by susanna at 12:09 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

October 03, 2003

Incommunicado in the technology age

I have a telephone at home. I have a telephone at work. I have a cell phone. I have 13 gajillion email addresses. I have a computer at home. I have a computer at work.

And somehow no one can get in touch with me.

It goes like this: I used to have three phones at home but two of them were cheap and messed up my line, made it all static-y. So I threw them out but didn't replace them. That leaves one phone, in the bedroom. Imagine my apartment thusly - four rooms of equal size, two in front, two in back, a narrow hallway down the middle with doors opening to the two back rooms and one to the left front room. The bathroom is at one end of the hall, a closet at the other. The television is in the right front room. The bedroom is the right back room. The telephone is in the back of the bedroom. When I'm watching television, I can't hear the telephone. When I do, I think it's on the television. Yes, I need to hook up the princess phone I bought months ago, but I haven't.

Then the cell phone. I am a motormouth, so my anytime minutes are usually gone by two weeks into the month. At that point I turn off the phone, only to be used on nights and weekends. That's what the situation is this very day.

Now, the phone at work. It doesn't ring anymore. Apparently some computer card in the switching station up in the computer room has blown out its ringer thingy, so although the phone works the ringer doesn't. People can call in fine, I just don't know they are. I have to check my voice mail to find out. I'm told the guy who fixes the telephone computer thingy is out until mid-October. Yippee-ki-yay.

So. The computer at work. I used to be able to check email, do whatever online. As of last week they blocked Hotmail. (And eBay, but that's not important to this unless you're going to post a message for me to bid on.) The only way to talk to me via computer at work is to send an email to my work account, which I don't use except for business, or talk to me in chat. Which I'm not always on. But I use MSN Messenger, when I am online from work, and it sends me little popup windows when a new email arrives in my account. What a tease! And I can't read it until I get home! Argh. Today I was talking to my brother on Msgr when I got an email from a business contact. I made him log in for me and paste the email text into the chat box, then pasted my response in the chat box for him to send back. Sheesh.

Finally, the computer at home. That works fine, but it doesn't help when I'm at work or in my car. And the people who want to talk to me don't use their computers. At least not for chatting. I also keep the speakers turned off so even if I was logged in but not at the computer desk I wouldn't know they'd come online, and they couldn't ding me.

In this technology age, I am an island. Sort of.

Posted by susanna at 07:15 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

France rots from the inside

And some of its people are beginning to take notice:

A growing sense of France's decline as a force in Europe has developed here.

The idea's novelty is not the issue itself. Rather it is that for the first time in a half century that the notion of a rapid descent in France's influence is receiving wide acknowledgement within the French establishment.

At its most hurtful and remarkable, and yet perhaps its most honest, there is the start of acceptance by segments of the French intellectual community that French leadership, as it is constituted now, is not something Europe wants - or France merits...

[Three recent French books] project the image of a decadent France, adrift from its brilliant past, incapable of inspiring allegiance or emulation and without a constructive, humanist plan for the future...

...Bavarez charges that the failure of French policy on Iraq and Europe - resisting the United States with nothing to offer in exchange, and attempting to force the rest of Europe to follow its lead - "crowns the process of the nation's decline" and leaves France in growing diplomatic isolation everywhere."

Everywhere, that is, except among the American left and the Euro-elites.

Posted by susanna at 04:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Ted Rall's Wet Dream

To start your weekend off well:

Haughty as it was, George W. Bush's request for United Nations help in Iraq deserves credit. It is, after all, his first tacit acknowledgement that his war is a fiscal, political and military catastrophe. Democrats and Republicans differ on how much command authority to cede to the U.N., but everyone agrees that we should replace as many of our besieged occupation troops as possible with peacekeepers from other nations...

Let's apologize! Here's how:

"Being American has meant never having to say 'you're sorry,'" Bush should tell the U.N.. "We've long been powerful enough to do as we please. But a great country must learn from its mistakes. And we are brave enough to admit that we made a mistake in Iraq.

"The invasion was the result of a terrible error in judgment...

"On behalf of my Administration and the people of the United States, I am truly sorry. If I could go back to March of this year, I would. I wish I could bring back the 300 American servicemen and the thousands of Iraqis who died as the result of our horrible mistake. But what's done is done. No one can change history.

"As a Christian, however, I believe that one is required to make penance for his sins. That means asking forgiveness for what one has done wrong--while doing as much as one can to reverse the damage one has caused. I have given serious consideration to what the United States should do to make penance for its war against Iraq.

"First, we must rebuild Iraq's economy and provide real security so that its people can rebuild their society and take control of their own destiny. Unfortunately, our occupation force is composed of the same American soldiers who killed and maimed innocent Iraqis during the invasion, and whose swaggering presence continues to provoke anger... They should be replaced by 400,000 U.N. peacekeepers--ideally led by those from Arabic-speaking countries--to police the streets. We ask for no control and no input in this operation. Send us the bill. We'll pay whatever it costs, for as long as it takes...

"Finally, those who wage war before attempting to resolve conflicts through diplomatic means must face personal responsibility for their actions. Therefore, I will immediately turn myself, my vice president, the officials of my cabinet and certain members of Congress over to the international tribunal at The Hague for prosecution for war crimes in connection with our illegal invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. In accordance with this decision, I hereby resign the office of President of the United States, and respectfully await instructions from Secretary Annan as to where to present myself for surrender."

You know about that thing you do when you're really nauseated and just can't hold back anymore? Instead of "hurling", I suggest we should start calling that "ralling".

Posted by susanna at 04:28 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Do we know what we think we know, or is what we know not really what we heard

Here's a great article - quite lengthy - navel-gazing about why the average American thinks he knows what's going on in Iraq but really gets a lot of it wrong. Since it's in the American Journalism Review, there are of course swipes at Fox News and President Bush, but on balance it's a good analysis of what Americans think they know, what the media thinks they should know, and what the media thinks about why they don't know it.

Next: What is "is"?

Posted by susanna at 04:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

It's getting annoying

Dell Computers is starting to seriously annoy me.

It's that "Easy as Dell" slogan. Now, you know, and I know, that "easy as Dell" is a play on "easy as hell". What's more, they know we know, or there would be no point in using it. Apparently that was fine when they were appealing to the hip young things who are always on the cutting edge of technology, but now that they want everyone to buy, including folks who take hell seriously, they kind of want to tone things down a little. So... their recent commercials change the inflection of the slogan. It now sounds almost noncommittal - and it makes no sense! It's at best a circular argument. Dell is easy, so they'll compare Dell to Dell, which means it's easy as Dell. Did you follow that? Me either.

If they're going to use something because it triggers thoughts of a culturally widespread saying, then use it so it sounds like that and make the pun. Otherwise, use something else!

May I suggest: Dumb as a box of Dells.

Posted by susanna at 03:41 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

It's an ugly story

Orchestrated disenfranchisement of Third World countries, stifling dissent, organized takeovers of venerable institutions - it's not pretty. Well, maybe pretty ugly. Theosebes has the scoop.

And welcome home, Alan. Next time, use the laptop for posting as well as reading email.

Posted by susanna at 11:41 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Jimmy is so cool

I've mentioned it before, but it's worth mentioning again. Jimmy Ballard, the blogmayor of Welcome to Rantville, is on his way to Afghanistan to work with a private US contractor doing work in the reconstruction there. He'll be gone for a year, and if what he's posted so far is any indication, he'll be a rich source of what it's like "in country". Jimmy tells it like it is, especially if the "is" has a lot of rough edges, so I expect to be informed and entertained. Here's an excerpt of his posting so far, as he waits in one of the 'stans to go to his final workplace:

[WARNING! Jimmy is never politically correct, and often seeks deliberately not to be. So if you have delicate sensibilities, you've been warned.]

i was chatting with one of the other guys about our trip thru Rome. we were going to take off and we were put on a bus to be shuttled out to the plane. the bus driver looked like a crazed substitute science teacher. soon as he stops the bus he opens one side of the doors and then JUMPS out running alongside waving his arms and screaming in italian. hoo boy that kept us at bay. then we got another guy who comes up to our side of the bus. he rattles off something in italian and since it was me and 3 other guys standing there we just stared blankly. he looks at us then says "i tell you again in english." we promptly nod, "ooooooh....ok." so then he busts into a little number...... "i'm-a so sorry, we gotta fuel-a de plane. she's-a not ready to fly. we getta da fuel for da plane 4, 5, maybe 6 minutes. we cannot-a have you leave-a da bus though, if a police sees you, i get a ticket and no want a ticket so please stay on-a da bus. graci."

it was funnier in person i guess.

And another:

black guys are a rare thing in Uzbekistan. while i was out in the market i went with 3 other guys. a hispanic guy Mark, who looks more hispanic than yours truly. also along here 2 black guys, Andre and Byrd. Andre has dredlocks. not long but long enough. it was pretty wild being the center of attention. Mark summed it up best "it's like being the hot chick at the club" the other funny thing was that as byrd and andre walked by some of the locals would point and shout "Mike Tyson!!" or "what up yo?". another thing about the town, they LOVE the rapper "50 cent".

crazy i tell ya.

And of course my favorite:

think when i get back from over here i'm going to be like Yakoff Smirnoff.

"no going to bathroom in port-a-john? america, what a country i love it!!"

So put him on your daily read list and keep up with An American Male In Afghanistan. It promises to be the hit of the season.

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

Typical bureaucracy

Having worked in or around government for 20 years, I thought this pretty amusing and typical:

City resident Charles Renda has worked over 3,000 hours on the city's parking situation. Now he wonders where it all went.

He spoke to the City Council at its Wednesday meeting about the lack of implementation of a three-year report from a city parking commission.

Renda was one of eight members appointed to the Parking Permit Commission in April 1999 to study the parking situation in the 2nd, 5th and 6th Wards.

He estimates the members spent over 3,000 hours through meetings and discussions before submitting 36 recommendations to the council in October 2000.

The council passed only four of the 36 submissions, and only two of those were implemented, Renda said. The two that went into effect raised the amounts of fines and booting.

This article, btw, is from the student newspaper at Rutgers-New Brunswick, and I can vouch for the fact that parking in New Brunswick sucks. But then, it's New Jersey. Parking everywhere sucks unless you're out in the sticks (and there are at least three sticks in NJ, believe it or not).

Committees, commissions, advisory councils and such are generally for the purpose of making the community think it has a role while rarely actually having an impact on the decisions the councilmembers make. "Let's set up a committee!" was a common response to problems when I worked for a city council in Kentucky. Oh, the hours I've spent in meetings! The only times it made any difference was when one of the councilmembers was behind the issue under discussion and lobbied for passage of its recommendations. Absent that, it was whistling down the wind.

The 3,000 hours thing is misleading, though. The lead indicates that Renda himself spent that many hours on it; deeper in the story you see it's a cummulative number across commission members. Good thing they clarified that - the commission ran for 19 months, and 3,000 hours is 75 40-hour weeks, or almost 18 months working full time. That's still a lot of hours. Must have been a huge commission.

Posted by susanna at 07:32 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Rushing to defend

In response to those who say that Rush didn't just put voice to what other sports folks were thinking, I give you sportswriter Allen Barra, in Slate:

Limbaugh is being excoriated for making race an issue in the NFL. This is hypocrisy. I don't know of a football writer who didn't regard the dearth of black NFL quarterbacks as one of the most important issues in the late '80s and early '90s. (The topic really caught fire after 1988, when Doug Williams of the Washington Redskins became the first black quarterback to win a Super Bowl.)

So far, no black quarterback has been able to dominate a league in which the majority of the players are black. To pretend that many of us didn't want McNabb to be the best quarterback in the NFL because he's black is absurd. To say that we shouldn't root for a quarterback to win because he's black is every bit as nonsensical as to say that we shouldn't have rooted for Jackie Robinson to succeed because he was black. (Please, I don't need to be reminded that McNabb's situation is not so difficult or important as Robinson's—I'm talking about a principle.)

Consequently, it is equally absurd to say that the sports media haven't overrated Donovan McNabb because he's black. I'm sorry to have to say it; he is the quarterback for a team I root for. Instead of calling him overrated, I wish I could be admiring his Super Bowl rings. But the truth is that I and a great many other sportswriters have chosen for the past few years to see McNabb as a better player than he has been because we want him to be.

Rush Limbaugh didn't say Donovan McNabb was a bad quarterback because he is black. He said that the media have overrated McNabb because he is black, and Limbaugh is right. He didn't say anything that he shouldn't have said, and in fact he said things that other commentators should have been saying for some time now. I should have said them myself. I mean, if they didn't hire Rush Limbaugh to say things like this, what they did they hire him for? To talk about the prevent defense?

And there you have it.

Posted by susanna at 07:14 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

October 02, 2003

Rushing to judgment

Rush Limbaugh is under attack.

Yes, to some degree he brought it on himself. His comments about Donovan McNabb were provocative, and meant to be - although I don't think he put on some attitude he didn't feel for the sake of attention. But when you look at what he actually said, it's not racist. It's an acknowledgement of a truth: That sometimes minorities or underdogs of all stripes get a pass in the media, or in some organizations, because the promotion of that person's minority status is more important than the advancement of the organization's task goals. Jayson Blair is just the most recent and obvious example. It didn't sound to me that Rush was saying McNabb wasn't competent or capable because he's black; he was saying, this person is getting more attention than his performance deserves for reasons other than his performance, and that is an artifact of a liberal mindset that's permeated sports coverage.

I don't know if Rush is right about McNabb - maybe he's the best quarterback that ever tossed a pass. But Rush thinks he's overrated, and offered a plausible reason for why he remained in his position given that he isn't the best (in Rush's opinion). It was valid, and stated in a straightforward manner. This coverage is a clear example of the media-as-rabid-dogs.

I want to add, however, that I saw excerpts of McNabb's press conference, and I have to say that the man is a class act. I don't know about his "skilz" as a quarterback, but what I saw of his comments was just outstanding. He refused to take offense, he refused to play to the bias of the crowd, he just said, I'm surprised, sad he said it, but I'm not getting into your riff. I'm a football player, not a pundit or a politician. You make up your own mind. I'm going to do my job.

Now, the drug allegations from the Daily News and the National Enquirer. Ouch. The details seem mighty specific to be anything other than somewhat true or carefully constructed of whole cloth. Without corroboration from official sources, I'm inclined to think it's more myth than fact, but I'll reserve judgment.

You can already see that this will jack up the feeding frenzy by those rabid media dogs a few more notches, no doubt fed by the liberals who would love nothing better than to tar Rush with the image of a racist drug-crazed hypocrite. I'm going to be saying a few prayers that he can stand strong through the frenzy, and that the allegations are not true. If they are, to any degree... I want to know more before I decide what to think about that. Certainly it's damaging, but it doesn't mean what he says isn't still true.

And is this like William Bennett and the gambling? Not really, not completely. Rush doesn't go around painting himself as a lifestyle moralist. Doesn't mean the behavior would be less wrong, just that his engaging in it isn't also rank hypocrisy. It would just be tragic.

For me, the most interesting and, doubtless, disgusting part of this will be watching the foaming-mouthed leftists and liberals feeding on Rush.

Posted by susanna at 11:23 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

October 01, 2003

Ow! Ow! my head hurrtttss!!

As some of you may know (that is, those of you sentient and not new readers), I'm moving to Alabama in December (yay!). Doing so, however, requires that I actually move my belongings there (boo!). In the past I've made all my moves with the help of friends and my parents, and let me tell you some of them were not fun. At all. And hauling all that I have - not that much, really, compared to an average household, but still mucho - down to Alabama, driving a crappy U-Haul truck (they're always crappy) is more than I'm willing to do this time around. Or, for that matter, pack it either. My apartment is on the third floor, and I AM NOT going to run up and down them carrying boxes ever again.

So that leaves two options: A full service mover, or a u-pack-it mover. I'm getting estimates now from the full service guys, and the u-pack-it folks say they'll haul what I have for about $600, if it covers no more than the linear feet I've predicted. However, that doesn't include packing the truck, so that's another $600 to another company for that. You with me so far?

When I first move down I'm going to stay with a friend and her family, basically tucked away in a spare room in the basement, until I get oriented and find a place I want to live in. This is good, because I want to find something I'll really like, for a good price, in an area with both DSL and night chirping frogs (calling House Hunters! oh, wait, they don't do rentals. nevermind). But that means in the interim the bulk of my belongings will be in storage in Alabama. The remaining things - my clothes, my computer, my television, my dissertation materials, etc - will have to be with me.

So I have several dilemmas, and since it's 2 1/2 months before I move I have time to ask you what you think, instead of just having a screaming meltdown all by myself in my living room. Here we go:

Should I go full service moving? What is your experience?

Should I go u-pack-it moving? Have any of you? (Here's a website of the one that gave me the estimate)

What should I do about the things I want with me? I'd rather NOT let the movers take my television, computer, or stereo with them, but I don't have room in my tiny car (1996 Nissan Sentra) for all those things AND my clothes AND my dissertation stuff AND whatever detritus will of course accumulate and insist on going to Alabama with me. One option is to get a small U-Haul trailer, which would also entail getting a hitch put on my car. The trailer would cost $400; a rental hitch would cost $45. Of course, the three smallest trailers are all the same cost, so it would behoove me to get the largest of the smallest. But that holds quite a bit of stuff - maybe not more than I'd want to take that way, though. I could toss in my favorite books and all my tubs of fabric too. Another factor to consider: the u-pack-it movers charge by the linear foot, but they have a minimum amount they'll do. I don't know that all my things would completely fill that space, much less my things minus whatever I pack in an auxilary U-Haul.

Argh. Do you see why my head hurts?

The u-pack-it/hired loading people/small-u-haul-trailer combo would run me $1600. We'll see what the full-service companies will do for me.


Posted by susanna at 07:55 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Media, myth and presidential power

David Greenberg weaves an interesting essay about the Washington press corps and the Nixon and Clinton presidential scandals in his review of two new books about Nixon and Watergate. Greenberg, himself a Nixon biographer, finds that Woodward and Bernstein were glorified a little too highly for what they actually did [although their contribution was not unimportant], and thinks that the outcome of the two scandals had little to do with press attitudes towards the presidents involved:

While the acknowledgment of the power of the press is welcome, if not overdue, what's most surprising about its behavior in both the Clinton scandals and Watergate is its modest influence on the ultimate outcome. In both cases, a few journalists did heroic--even historic--work. Others performed their job creditably. Many more were suggestible and sheep-like. The difference between 1974 and 1998 was not the changes in the press corps, but the fact that Nixon had committed serious abuses of power. Nixon--not the press--brought himself down.

Greenberg's analysis is especially germaine in light of an article by Rachel Smolkin in the new issue of American Journalism Review, which reveals all in the headline:

Are the News Media Soft on Bush?

No one reading that will reflexively think, "No... no, I don't think so." It is a question that almost sets up a strawman all on its own, with no embellishment, and Smolkin lives up to the billing:

That pre-war press conference crystallized critics' frustration with coverage of Bush. While complaints about reporters' treatment of a president are as widespread as political polls, these protests cannot be dismissed merely as the howls of liberals stranded in the wilderness.

Reporters have handled Bush gingerly, particularly after the September 11 terrorist attacks prompted a surge of patriotism. The administration skillfully capitalized on that sentiment, just as it excelled at controlling information, staying on message and limiting access to Bush from the nascent days of his presidency.

Bush and his allies also have benefited in press coverage from having a weak opposition party. Democrats foundered after 9/11; then the discordant voices of 10 presidential candidates diluted attempts at a unified message.

And as voices from the right saturate radio and cable talk shows, the media have become increasingly sensitive to the venerable conservative shibboleth of liberal bias, a development that also favors the first Republican president in eight years.

These factors softened the adversarial coverage that defined Bill Clinton's presidency--at least until July, when 16 words from Bush's January State of the Union address sparked the first sustained negative coverage of the president since the terrorist attacks.

Smolkin uses loaded phrases that clearly indicate the direction of her views: "these protests cannot be dismissed merely as the howls of liberals stranded in the wilderness"; "Reporters have handled Bush gingerly"; "The administration skillfully capitalized... excelled at controlling"; "voices from the right saturate radio"; "the venerable conservative shibboleth of liberal bias". She especially has it in for Fox News:

Frank Sesno, former CNN senior vice president and Washington bureau chief, says the rising influence of Fox News Channel and concerns about allegations of liberal bias also have shaped coverage. "American journalism has been Foxified essentially, especially television," Sesno says. "The combination of the Fox influence, and the overhang from 9/11, and the overall presumption in America that the media have leaned terrifically left, have made it harder for tough questions to be asked."

The presumption came from somewhere, and it predates Fox News - I would say that the presumption birthed both Fox News and the talk radio "saturation" of conservative voices, and are responsible for its success. And the answer from the mainstream media is not a clear-eyed assessment of itself, but a reflexive attack to protect the status quo. The skepticism of the media is not aided by things like the current flap over columnist Robert Novak releasing the name of a CIA operative, and whether he got the information from someone in the Bush administration - the media has swarmed like maggots on roadkill to a story that could damage the Bush administration, screaming for an official investigation, yet at the same time vehemently supporting Novak in not releasing any of his notes or personal knowledge. (About which noted First Amendment scholar and law professor Eugene Volokh - no flaming conservative himself - opines that legally Novak should have to testify.)

It's easy to draw comparisons between coverage of this latest scandal wannabe and Greenberg's assessment of the media. He notes that while the media did do a yoeman's job in many ways during the Watergate scandal, they did not always or even usually cover themselves in glory:

Nonetheless, to credit "the press" for investigative tenacity in Watergate is too generous. In the first stage of the scandal, a mere handful of reporters joined Woodward and Bernstein in their pursuits. In the later stages, starting in April 1973, a multitude of others jumped on the bandwagon. Although this swarming coverage did help rivet public attention on the scandal, we often forget that it also had its unseemly side. In this respect, it foreshadowed the press' sometimes inglorious behavior during real and imagined scandals of later years...

"The documentation makes untenable the charge that liberal politicians and a liberal media drove Nixon from the White House," Olson asserts. Yet it's also true that in the hothouse environment, critically minded reporting often gave way to a simple hunt for lies and misdeeds. Zeal encouraged errors. In May 1973, Walter Cronkite opened the CBS Evening News erroneously charging a Bethesda bank run by Pat Buchanan's brother with Watergate money-laundering. The AP incorrectly reported that John Ehrlichman was present at a key cover-up meeting. ABC's Sam Donaldson had to apologize for implicating former White House aide Harry Dent in Nixon's campaign sabotage efforts. Other news outlets overplayed trivial items, as The New York Times did by placing on the front page a three-column story--ultimately inconsequential--about the possibility that Nixon's campaign had received gambling money from the Bahamas...

Even during its heyday, then, the press corps showed itself capable of--if not structurally hard-wired for--the kind of collective prosecutorial mentality that frequently substitutes for tough-minded investigation.

Contrast that with this critique from Smolkin, about a study that she notes is from the "nonpartisan Council for Excellence in Government":

The study also found that although Bush was covered more favorably after 9/11, overall coverage of his administration became more critical. But the report, which purports to be objective because it crunches numbers, does not distinguish between appropriate skepticism--the role of an engaged press corps--and unjust negativity.

This rather sneering tone - "purports" - is intended to cast into doubt the study's conclusion that Bush's coverage is no more or less negative than that of either Reagan or Clinton. Clearly Smolkin has decided that someone was the object of appropriate skepticism (Bush?) while someone else (Clinton?) was slammed with unjust negativity. Of course, "crunching numbers" is precisely what a study is all about, and is one aspect of that "objectivity". Defining what is "appropriate" and what is "unjust" is not a task for a number cruncher, unless those terms can be clearly defined in both identifiable and mutually exclusive ways, thus rendering them both countable and crunchable. She could have made her point that the "negative" coverage was not categorized using value judgments without impugning the objectivity of the study as a whole.

It's a good example of how Greenberg and Smolkin differ in their analyses - not in their conclusions, necessarily, but in their approach to their topic. Smolkin goes in with a point to prove, which is that the media is too soft on Bush, using primarily liberal or (supposedly neutral) media sources, along with a token conservative (Tucker Carlson). I don't discount Smolkin's premise out of hand - there may be some truth to what she says - but her piece is uneven, swinging from dispassionate recounting to open hostility, like bursts of journalistic Tourette's. Greenberg is more evenhanded, building a case and drawing conclusions from his presented evidence. That isn't to say that others wouldn't disagree with his conclusions, but they would be hard-pressed to find personal malice in his discussion.

I recommend you read both pieces, for contrast as well as content. I think it would be well worth your time.

Posted by susanna at 03:34 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Wholly lame Brit

Not to belabor the too-thoroughly plumbed depths of the Vast Actor Arrogance Untainted By Intelligence that we're so often subjected to, but Brit actress Alex Kingston of ER is just... well. Wholly lame. Just look at some of what she says in an interview with The Independent in Britain:

Despite all those years surrounded by psycho-babbling lifestyle gurus, I'm mightily relieved to say that she has not gone all Californian on us. That is most obviously demonstrated by the actress's outrage that in the US virtually all criticism of Bush's policies has been deemed "unpatriotic" and suppressed. So when she was over here visiting family earlier in the summer, Kingston started reading The Independent's coverage of the war in Iraq and was reminded what the phrase "a free press" really means.

"It's so refreshing to read a different point of view. You realise how in America your opinions are controlled by a press that does not give you the full facts. When I read The Independent, I remembered that journalists are allowed to say what they feel about the government. The Bush administration may think it's always absolutely right, but it's good to be aware of alternative opinions. I miss that freedom of the press. I've been away from that for too long."

In addition, she is livid about the McCarthyite witch-hunting of anyone who dares voice criticisms of the US President. "It frustrates me," Kingston asserts. "And it's not just because I'm European - thousands of Americans share the same frustrations. A comic called Bill Maher hosted an irreverent current-affairs talkshow called Politically Incorrect, where celebs would come on and discuss topical subjects. In one edition, he wanted to provoke a debate, so he said that while the terrorists who had hijacked the planes on September 11 were many things, they weren't cowards. His show was instantly axed, and Maher lost his livelihood. Isn't he allowed to make an inflammatory statement in order to get a reaction?"

Um. Yeah. No point is made that Ms. Kingston would get her sorry butt kicked out of the country if her allegations were actually true, given her own criticism. This woman is so left and anti-US that she's almost French. But that doesn't keep her from enjoying "her very comfortable life in the US" which gave her "a global profile that she could never have attained if she had stayed in this country [Britain]".

And of course she was in her home country to film a movie about ancient Celts that - wait for it - has overtones from today's politics:

Many strands of Andrew Davies's biopic about the feisty Celtic warrior queen could have been ripped from today's headlines. The wily old writer's script is full of such current buzz-phrases as "brute force - it's the only language these savages understand," "read my lips," "client state" and "the peace process".

At one point the Iceni leader, Prasutagus (played by Steven Waddington), is furious when Catus (Steve John Shepherd), the ruthless procurator with the marauding Roman army, suggests that the Ancient Britons are terrorists. "What you call terrorism," Prasutagus fumes, "we call defending our home." Prasutagus' even ballsier wife, Boudica (portrayed with characteristic spiritedness by Kingston) then wades in, urging her husband to resist the brutal invaders: "This is our land, and we'll fight for every last inch of it. If we die, we'll die a glorious death." Do these words sound at all familiar?

The sheer topicality of this tale of a defiant people fighting back against an imperialist invader proved irresistible to Kingston. "Andrew [Davies], in his usual naughty way, draws modern parallels," laughs the 40-year-old actress, who boasts the same stunning mane of hair as Boudica, but looks far more groomed and soignée now that she has finally cleaned off the woad. "He cheekily puts President Bush's words into the mouths of the Romans. In an early draft, the Emperor Nero even called his enemies 'the axis of evil.'

"Given what's happening in the world at the moment, you could easily liken the Romans to the Americans. I'm certain that Andrew was influenced by world events as he was writing Boudica," she says, before adding with a mischievous smile: "I will be fascinated to see the American reaction to the film."

Oh, yeah, that's what I long to see - the Ancient Celts as Iraqis (or Palestinians, or whomever) and the Romans as Americans (or, probably, Israelis). The depth of historical accuracy is breathtaking, the willingness to allow the true story to stand on its own without witty modern political overlays is deeply admirable. And The Independent doesn't just toot its own horn too loudly, but also characterizes the pig-whistle that is Kingston as an entire horn section:

There will doubtless be a lot of attention focused on Boudica in America because, thanks to ER, Kingston is now a major-league star over there.

"Major league"? Not in the ballgame on this side of the Atlantic. When I saw the name, I first thought it was a man. Then when I realized it was a woman, I had to go look at her photo to see who she was. I did recognize her, but vaguely. I can't imagine anyone would flock to see her on either the wide screen or television screen starring as "Hillary Clinton as A Defiant Iraqi Woman-Behind-the-Throne cleverly submerged in a characterization of Boudica the Celtic Queen Fighting The Wicked Rome/United States". Yeah, that's going to get a lot of mileage from the average American.

And you know what? It's actually quite sad, because I would like to see a real honest movie about the Ancient Celts. Kingston does look like someone who would look the part, and may even be a decent enough actress to do well in it. And I probably could overlook her politics while watching the show (see Mortensen, Vigo for directions on how to do that) except for the fact that the writer is putting words like "axis of evil" in the mouths of ancient peoples.

Feh on the lot of them.

[Link via Tim Blair, who was able to ignore her, unlike me.]

Posted by susanna at 10:49 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

The Scarlet Pimpernel um, no... I Spy no... oh, well: The Plame/Wilson Affair

I've read some on the Plame/Wilson issue, although I've not followed it closely. However, Tom Maguire has and is, and is the man for the moment on that topic. As always, he's highly readable and credible, so go there. And he links to this post by The Counterrevolutionary, which neatly explains how the disconnect in the media over whether or not Ms. Plame is a real honest to trenchcoat spy may have happened.

It seems to me that this is a Dem tempest in a teapot. But it is a serious matter, it raises some useful issues we need to consider about both security and journalistic ethics, so the dialogue is good. I just hope the average American hears the information with skepticism.

Posted by susanna at 10:14 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sneaky Smash

Way back in another reality, before the Iraq war, I got to be blog buddies with Scott Koenig, the Indepundit. He was a sharp and perceptive observer, a fine writer and a man with a sense of humor and a very apparent appreciation for his wife. In other words, the kinda guy I think is cool. So I was distressed and fussy when he decided to take on a new opportunity with his employer, one that promised much travel and responsibility but little to no blogging. I thought it was a clear example of the cruelty of corporate America. He promised to come back to blogging, though, so I grumpily hushed.

As the war loomed larger, and the American military with its allies moved steadily into Kuwait, a new blogkid showed up - L.T. Smash, a sharp and perceptive observer, a fine writer with a sense of humor and a very apparent appreciation for his wife. He blogged from the Sandbox, telling us things the major media weren't, giving us an inside glimpse of what our guys and gals were going throughover there. It was a while after he began blogging that I discovered his blog, but I soon became a frequent visitor - as did many many others.

Meanwhile, I occasionally went back to Indepundit to see if Scott was back. He wasn't. ^%#@%!!!

Finally I was moved to write an email, one of those gushy "Thank God for you and the other military Americans" etc. et al things, to L.T. Smash. Imagine my surprise when he wrote back and said, basically (I paraphrase), "GEEZZ!! Nice sentiments, but why you talkin' to me like that? You know me! Don't give me this hero stuff!" Well. That put a whole different complexion on things.

And I was clueless. CLUELESS!! I was still going over to Indepundit occasionally, still reading L.T. Smash regularly, still admiring the same things about both bloggers, and I had to tell L.T. that I was... clueless. So he gave me hints, and finally, finally, it clicked.

Indepundit Scott Koenig = L.T. Smash.


And naturally, Meryl Yourish figured it out. !!! She's one smart cookie. Me, I am apparently a chocolate on the vinyl backseat of your old junker, sitting in the sun during the hottest day of the year. Soft in the head. Melting down the seam gutter. My brain on summer-heated car seat. Nothing to see there! Move along!

Given that I liked Scott in both his incarnations, and thought his wife a fine and sharp lady, it wasn't surprising that we got along great when we met recently in NYC. Showing kindness, neither mentioned my [brain matter = melted chocolate] situation. Lovely people.

And now L.T. Smash has merged with Indepundit, forming the much anticipated Citizen Smash, The Indepundit. I'm sure it'll be doublicious.

He has a reputation to maintain, after all.

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