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April 30, 2004

A cousin confab

Today I had lunch with Dave Cornutt and his lovely wife Charlotte at a little Mexican place in Chelsea. You may recognize him as Cousin Dave from the comments here at COTB. We've decided there's a family connection somewhere, given the similarity of the names, but didn't take the time to explore it today. Instead, we talked about NASA (he works at a company that does contract work for NASA in Huntsville), we talked about management styles (Charlotte is a crackerjack manager at her lab company), and we talked about the state of academia and academics. Heady stuff. The quesadilla wasn't bad either.

I've rarely been disappointed when meeting blogger folk for the first time, and this definitely goes in the "win" column. Unsurprising - I find that people are in person much as they seem online, especially if you've known them a while and they're fairly open people. Of course some people don't project a true image of themselves, but I find that those people often find some way to weasel out of real life meetings. I will admit, though, that I prefer to meet people in ones or twos, mainly because I'm not a group kind of person.

Our meeting today was the first time that Dave had met a real life blogger in the flesh. He didn't seem traumatized. In fact, we briefly discussed the possibility that he could do some guest posts here on COTB. His areas of expertise are very different from mine, so it could be quite interesting. We shall see.

The rest of the day, I graded papers, bought plastic 3-drawer carts at Wal-Mart, played with sweet little nieces, and put together the second Staples bookcase. It appears I may sometime in this calendar year actually have all my boxes unpacked and my duplex in some semblance of order.

I'm not promising the yard will be mowed before 2005, however.

Posted by susanna at 11:59 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Religious bigotry?

Alan at Theosebes notes the president of the Florida Senate, Jim King, apologizing to his colleagues because the minister doing the invocation to start the session mentioned God, instead of giving a "nondenominational blessing".

This is just insanity.

First, do you think that if a rabbi mentioned G-D, or a mullah mentioned Allah, King would have apologized? I don't think he would. Nevermind, of course, that each of the three religions claim to worship the One God, using different paths and with somewhat different understandings of who He Is and what He's done. In that sense, one prayer covers all three, if you're of an ecumenical mindset (which I'm not). Of course, then you're offending the pagans and Wichans and atheists and agnostics and Buddhists and...

Second, I'm just annoyed at the whole concept of a "nondenominational blessing". What's the point? Prayer is about talking to God. If all you want to do is wish everyone a good day, then have someone start the session yelling out, "Ya'll have a great day! Do good! Pay attention! Have fun!" If you want to have an invocation, if you want to bow your head and behave as if you're appealing to some Higher Power, then that immediately opens the whole issue of who that Higher Power is, how you approach Him, what you say, why does it matter anyway, etc. There is no amorphous Higher Power; everyone has their own beliefs about who and what it is, if they think anything at all. The ones who have no definition of it just don't want to narrow it down until it has real-life consequences, but that's a philosophy too. In my judgment, it's a far greater insult to ask someone who truly believes in God to set aside his beliefs to pretend there's some other Higher Power, or a generic Higher Power that he's just personalized for his own reasons that actually serves as everyone's god, just puts on different hats depending on their wants. That is actually praying to a different god, which is explicitly prohibited in the Bible I go by. It's called "idolatry". And it would be doing so for the crassest of reasons - so as not to offend other people with your faith. Yes, that kind of bowing to pressure to deny God is going to get you right into heaven, no problem!

If you want to be truly ecumenical about it - and don't get me started on that - then switch out who does the invocation so that you've got the same percentage of blessers as you do Senators with that same belief system. And on the days for atheists, et al, have an atheist say, "Guys, it's all about you and this good earth. Do it up right." Be truly ecumenical. Otherwise, you're going to be engaging in some type of religious bigotry, albeit not the selective kind recognized by the liberals amongst the religious, but genuinely "making a difference based on religion". Actually I don't have a lot of trouble with making distinctions, since as a Christian I think that's the best choice, but I'm not the one getting my shorts all in a wad about someone being offended that I (gasp) said GOD in an invocation. (Perish the very idea)

As for me, no matter who's leading the prayer, I'm praying to my God. If I don't agree with the sentiments and beliefs of the one leading the prayer, I just tune it out and say my own. No harm, no foul. Don't apologize for me, Alfie. I'm busy saying a prayer for your soul.

This didn't fit in the main post, but it's a point I wanted to make. I led one of those prayers one time, an "ecumenical nondenominational blessing". I was chosen because the people in the organization having the meeting knew I was religious. And yet they specifically asked me to say a blessing that didn't refer to God, so what did it matter? It was a last minute request, and I bowed to pressure. I said it. And it's been a bad taste in my mouth, and a sorrow in my heart, ever since. I think I know the faint outside edges of how Peter felt when Christ looked at him after the third cock crow.

And that's completely separate from the whole issue of women leading public prayers. And it is an issue, for me. But I won't go there today.

Posted by susanna at 11:00 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Horrific, but not representative

Following a reader's link - one he didn't think I'd follow, based on his comments on his own site - I found the photos of Iraqi prisoners mistreated by American soldiers, in uniform. It's sickening. I want to know more - how it came to happen, what punishment will be given to those who did it - but if it is indeed as it looks, those American soldiers are the lowest kind of thug, and should be sent to prison for a good long time. Just as shooting a soldier or a policeman should bring a longer sentence because of what they represent, a soldier or policeman who does such horrific things as these photos depict should get a longer sentence than a civilian who does them, because of the trust they broke.

Here's an article about it. Here's another, and another showing the consequences of this kind of ammunition. But this is the money quote for me:

"The first thing I’d say is we’re appalled as well. These are our fellow soldiers. These are the people we work with every day, and they represent us. They wear the same uniform as us, and they let their fellow soldiers down,” says [Brig. Gen. Mark] Kimmitt.

“Our soldiers could be taken prisoner as well. And we expect our soldiers to be treated well by the adversary, by the enemy. And if we can't hold ourselves up as an example of how to treat people with dignity and respect … We can't ask that other nations to that to our soldiers as well."

“So what would I tell the people of Iraq? This is wrong. This is reprehensible. But this is not representative of the 150,000 soldiers that are over here,” adds Kimmitt. “I'd say the same thing to the American people... Don't judge your army based on the actions of a few."

There are 150,000 soldiers there. If 1/2 of 1% of them did horrible, awful things, that would be 750 soldiers rampaging. We'd know about it. What about 0.1%? That's 150, still quite a few. How about 0.01%? That is about 15, which is apparently about what we have here. There may be, probably are, a few more than that here and there. But it's still a tiny percentage. The 40,000 officers that make up the NYPD shouldn't be judged as evil because of what Justin Volpe did to Abner Louima - a crime shattering in its evil and callousness. And our 150,000 coalition troops shouldn't be judged by the works of these few.

I'm waiting for more information. But the photos are damning.

[Link via a post by insomnia at transmigrant, which has some of the photos. Warning: Graphic and very disturbing.]

Posted by susanna at 09:59 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Some editor should have caught that

I found out today that Lance Armstrong and Sheryl Crow are an item. Boy, I'm slow. Anyway, I was reading an old article about it, and came across this section:

He recently finalized an emotionally difficult divorce and misses his three children back in Austin.

"I'm in a good, happy place," he says. "I've never been happier."

Either the reporter is clueless about leading into a quote, or the copy editor is a brainless twit who messes up other people's copy. Which happens. Makes for a good chuckle, though, in a weird way.

Posted by susanna at 12:25 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

April 29, 2004

Busy, busy

Sorry to be almost MIA lately. Tuesday I gave the last exams in my classes, so now I'm grading. Also, I just had two bookcases from Staples delivered, and I ordered business cards online and joined AAA before my trip to Kentucky next week. Trying to get bills out, etc, you know how life gets. But I'll be back later.

Carry on.

UPDATE: Well, I'm such the DIYer! (That's "Do It Yourself-er", to those of us who move through the day with a cordless drill in one hand and a hammer looking for a nail in the other). I got a board to finish out the shelf in the office closet, successfully measuring, ordering and installing (which consisted of resting it on the supports already there). I got a 1 1/4" diameter dowel rod for my 10' long window in the living room, plus dark walnut stain. I'll stain it, get brackets and finials, and I'll be set, for much less than the $70+ I would have had to spend otherwise.

While we chose stain, the lady at the Ace Hardware store started telling me how to stain the dowel rod, then said, "I'm probably telling you something you know already." I just shook my head, and said, "If you're talking about painting and wood and things, there's nothing you can tell me that I know already."

I also now have a piece of board 4' x 12" x 1" that I need to figure out something to do with. I feel a new shelf coming on.

Posted by susanna at 02:01 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

A spirited challenge

The blog challenge to raise money for Spirit of America is extending its deadline to midnight tonight, PST, as it hits the home stretch toward a new, improved, very exciting goal: $50,000 total across the three alliances. Right now, at 10:30 CST, the total is $45,068.83 - that is, assuming that's correct and not awaiting update. If you've considered donating, I encourage you to do so today, making haste to improve the conditions in Iraq.

I will confess that I'm not able to donate now, for all my begging for donations, so I understand if now is not the time. Sometimes your budget is just stretched too thin for one more thing. But even if that's the case, there's no reason why you can't contribute something else - your time. I've been in communication with the SOA folks, to get some supporting materials about the effort. Starting in about two weeks (I'm going to be out of pocket next week), I'm going to begin canvassing my town for donations. Right now, my plan is to use what little I can spare to actually print up packets of the information SOA sent to me, putting them in nice little folders. Then I'll make appointments with some promising groups - say, the local chapter of VFW, women's groups, etc - and take my packets to them with a request for donations. I don't know how successful I will be, but it won't be for lack of trying.

Like you, I'm pretty busy and pretty poor right now. But this is something we can do that will immediately and materially improve the situation in Iraq. Ever wonder what you would have done to help out during WWII, had you lived then? Ever feel frustrated by the anti-military, anti-US, anti-success-in-Iraq naysayers in and out of the media, but feel helpless in your own little world to make a change? I've heard repeatedly that one of the major battles is for the minds of the Iraq people - helping them believe both that the intentions of the US and its allies are sound and good, and that there is reason for hope. Initiatives like Spirit of America can fight that war as well or better than our government - because it comes from the heart, from the very soul of America.

Be a part of that soul. Donate. Volunteer. Talk to your friends. And know that when Iraq is functioning and growing stronger, making a positive difference toward peace in the Middle East, that you had a real, direct role in it.

Posted by susanna at 10:54 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 28, 2004

That whole Kerry military thing

Kerry continues to melt down like medals thrown on a fire. Interesting to watch. At the gym I've been going to for the past few weeks, I've struck up a conversational acquaintance with a gentleman of somewhat senior years who was career Marine. He pulled four tours in Vietnam, amongst other things. I asked him what he thought about Kerry.

He said, "I wish you hadn't asked me that." The rest of what he said was uncomplimentary. Summary: He's unimpressed and thinks Kerry is ... less than truthful. I won't give a direct quote since he wasn't speaking for attribution.

I have the impression that the Kerry folk think Kerry's record will impress moderate vets and draw them into the Dem fold. The problem is, the vets who would follow Kerry now are the same ones who followed him in the early 1970s - which is to say, not very many of them and none of the moderates. Don't even go there about the conservatives. The vet I talked to today said he loves GW, and loved his dad too. We had quite the little Bush fan club going there for a few minutes.

The Marine vet also thanked me for pointing out that John Kerry is living on and campaigning with the family money of a deceased Republican senator. I'm sorry, but I can't help but think every time I look at Teresa Heinz Kerry that she's betraying her first husband with his own money. I just can't work up any respect for her.

But I have to admit that the race is getting more interesting.

Posted by susanna at 10:56 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Hot music, served fresh!

Brent of The Ville has a new CD out with his band, The Shooting Gallery. Brent is a great guy, you know I think that, but I'm not just playing out a friendship when I say he's also an excellent musician. I've heard some music by his band, and they're really good. I encourage you to visit the band's web site for more information, check out some samples, at CD Baby too, and if you like what you hear, fork over the $10 for a copy.

I know I will.

GarageBand says they sound like "Chuck Berry, The Band, Neil Young, Merle Haggard, [and the] Drive-By Truckers". What more could you want? Besides, you have to like the title: Dark and Bloody Ground. That's what the Indians called Kentucky, by the way, before the white man moved in.

(Note - Brent's the one in the blue jean shirt. If you wondered.)

Posted by susanna at 06:28 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

A poor choice

Ashley Judd makes a poor choice, and Michelle Malkin calls her on it. Thoroughly.

[Link via Theosebes]

Posted by susanna at 01:28 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 27, 2004

Behind the curve

I dutifully linked over to Hugh Hewitt's blog from a link on Instapundit. Good posts, fun to see Kerry decompensating rapidly. But then I hit on this:

Then he referred darkly to the "neocons," widely understood as the left's code for Jews.

Did I miss a memo somewhere? I'm not saying he's wrong; likely he's right, because he's a Grand Muckity Muck and I'm just an average lower-case muck. But last I knew, neocons were a hip, mod version of conservative who were a little looser about that fiscal overspending thing and more expansionist than your typical tight-lipped, humorless, purse-pinching, isolationist paleocon. The type you'd see with a National Review under his arm as he chuckles with his girl over the latest nonsense from Janeanne Garofalo.

And now, somehow, "neocon" means "Jewish" and dissing them is anti-Semitic.

Say what?

I'm so confused. Last I knew, many Jews were liberals, albeit highly disgusted with the cozy relationship between liberal leaders and Arafat, and outright outraged (with good reason) with the left's flagrant support of Palestinian self-immolating mass assassins. Certainly I think Jews* would be comfortable in the more mod and updated sector of conservatives. But... how did neocon get coopted?

Is it Jonah's fault?

I'm just asking.

UPDATE: I've been informed that "the neocon movement was started by Irving Kristol and other leading Jewish writers". Goes to show why I'm just an average lower-case muck. I don't think about those things, and perhaps I should. It's possible that I'm on an anti-hivemind track even when evidence indicates a hive mind may be in operation. But I tend to think that people choose philosophical positions because of independent consideration of the issues in question. They may appear to be a hive mind because they cluster in groups, but that's because it's only natural that people with similar values and history will often arrive at similar conclusions. So, just because a group of people who are culturally and religiously Jewish reached similar political conclusions doesn't mean that political stance is then a "Jewish" one.

That's enough. I'm confusing myself now. Good night.

UPDATE II: For the record, if you care, I'm paleo with neo rising. And I was kidding, theosebes, ease up.

* I really don't like to refer to groups as some monolithic hive-mind. I think in most situations where we tend to identify groups as some hive-mind, they're actually pretty different within the group. I'd say on most issues there are as many differences between various Jews as there are between various Christians, or blacks, or moms, or white Euromales. And that's another reason I'm not really happy about this co-opting of the term "neocon" - it's just one more label that once had some specific and useful meaning that is getting all twisted and tainted for no good reason I can see.

Yes, I'm a language grump.

Posted by susanna at 11:37 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Blowing it out

On Sunday night I popped another hole in my muffler. Now my little beat-up Sentra sounds like a hotrod. Or at least that's what I tell myself - a friend told me that when it's idling it sounds like a sewing machine. That's not as romantic as a vision of my silver compact growling over Alabama highways in a miniature version of the black Camaro I drove in college.

Today is a beautiful day, temperature in the 70s, a bright sun and blue blue skies. The trees are on the edge of their lush summer green. And it's the last day of classes for this semester; I gave all my students their final exams. So after class, I opened my sunroof, cranked up the classic rock station and sent my silver menace booming through the back roads.

I might not be in high school, and have no desire to go back, but some days it's beautiful to feel that last day of school feeling.

Posted by susanna at 07:06 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 26, 2004

So what's the option?

It seems that John Kerry is getting a taste of what it's like to be a presidential candidate instead of a pampered Senator hiding behind the twin bulks of Senior Mass Senator Ted Kennedy and the Heinz ketchup money. He's having a meltdown over his medals (did he or didn't he?) and now a meltdown because he was actually questioned about it in a reasonably journalistic way. A commenter on Silent Running asked these pertinent questions:

The man is meat. So there's only two questions left: who do the Dem's nominate when they Torricelli Kerry? And who delivers the news to Kerry?

My answer? Hillary. Yes, can't you just see it? Close to the Dem convention, Kerry finally completely implodes - it's building already. Hillary very reluctantly agrees to take the nomination when Kerry, promised some party favors, cedes his delegates to her. See, Hillary will just be doing it for the good of the party. She's the only person with the name recognition and goodwill of the Dems who can step in at this late date with Dubya looming like an evil shade over the future of the country. She must do it, even if it means going back on her word to the people of New York state - who will, of course, forgive her since they would love for her to be prez. This gets her into the field without all the messy work that goes into the primaries, and with just three months to go before the election. There isn't enough time to build an all out defense, or for her refusal to speak to the issues in any substantive way to catch up with her.

Interesting. What do you think?

[Links via Instapundit]

UPDATE: Trevor notes in comments that Hillary would have to "do everything above board" to get on the ballot, pointing out that Torricelli in NJ had a sympathetic court to help him along. But would she really have to do it above board? The Dems like to think that GW got where he is by improperly using the courts, so I think they'd basically say, well, turn about's fair play. They'd have no problem circumventing procedure. As for a sympathetic court, do you think there isn't one out there for Hillary? She's a lawyer, her husband's a lawyer, some of their biggest supporters are the slimiest shyster lawyers around. And you think they've not got it figured out how to make this work?


UPDATE II: Kevin McGehee is checking into the process and legalities of the Dems replacing Kerry on the ticket even post-convention. He's keying off a sort-of precedent from 1972.

Posted by susanna at 11:20 PM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

Own a piece of infamous history

Dean Smith is auctioning a piece of history to help the troops:

I'm sure you remember the big story of a couple of weeks ago about how the St. Petersburg Democratic Club took out a full-page display ad in a local paper, saying
And then there's Rumsfeld who said of Iraq "We have our good days and our bad days". We should put this S.O.B. up against the wall and say "This is one of our bad days," and pull the trigger.

Copies of this paper are, I would imagine, pretty rare. It's not a very large circulation paper, and by the time the scandal hit, the edition in question was just about elapsed. I drove over to Gulfport that same day and picked up several brandy-new copies.

But now YOU CAN HAVE YOUR OWN ORIGINAL COPY of the ENTIRE ISSUE of The Gabber that contains the now-famous ad, complete with incitement.

And there you have it! Rush right on over and dominate the bidding! You know you want to, and you'll help our troops help the Iraqi reconstruction in the process!

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

Maybe they had too much sun

A prominent dermatologist has been fired from his teaching position because he advocated people getting "a little sun" each week - amounting to a few minutes two or three times a week.

It's the politically correct police, determined to keep you healthy or kill you in the process, doing their dirty deeds again.

With my honey-blonde hair, blue eyes, and light light skin from my Scots, Irish, Welsh and Dutch ancestry, I'm amongst those who should worry themselves silly about exposure to the sun. I had a couple of blistering sunburns as a young teenager, more red-hot sunburns than I can count, and was never even seriously tempted to get a tan. I can't tell you the number of times my mom either smashed a hat on my head or harangued at me enough for me to put one on myself - because I'm so pale. So the dangers of exposure to the sun are something I'm quite familiar with. And I think, as the spector of melanoma rises darkly behind me, that getting some sun is essential.

I know that's anecdotal. But enough anecdotal becomes science, doesn't it?

I don't like heat. I don't like baking in the sun. But I do need lots and lots and lots of natural light. The last two places I've rented have won me over because of the number of big windows. Natural light wakes me up every morning. And at least a few times a week, I go out on my side porch and bask in the sun. It's amazing what a pick-me-up it is. Very refreshing, almost like a nap. Am I worried about the sun exposure? Not really. I'm more likely to die of a stroke because I'm so angry with PC idiocy than because I've gotten too much sun.

Something the good [fired] doctor notes rings very true with me: We've lost the concept of "moderation" in our society. Sun in "moderation" is good - not "sun until you look like old brown leather shoes" - just like eating fats in "moderation" is good, not "eating them until you can be rolled about like a child's ball". Apparently someone needs to tell his bosses that their reaction is just as "irresponsible" and "dangerous" as they claim he is - they need schooling in the "moderation" that allows honest differences of opinion.

[Link via Instapundit]

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

April 23, 2004


Just got back from the neurologist. He says I have tendonitis. I'm not surprised at the diagnosis, although pleased that it is not a serious problem. The bonus is that he was also able to tell me that I have no nerve damage in that arm, nor do I have carpal tunnel syndrome. Given how much I type, and the fact that last year for a while I took to wearing wrist braces at work because of soreness in my left forearm, I was very happy to hear that.

The bad news is, I may have to stop typing for a week or so to let it heal. We'll hope that doesn't happen.

In the process of figuring out my problem, they sent electric shocks through my forearm and into my hand (ouch!), stuck a needle in the back of my hand (ouch!) and then stuck it in again in my forearm close to the elbow (ouchhh!!). That was not fun. My arm is still feeling it some. However, it was very cool to hear the static on his machine, which was actually the needle recording my nerves sending signals. Imagine! My body electricity making static! It brought home all I've been telling my general psych students this spring - that all our body functions have a chemical and electrical component.

It was a nice silver lining to that particular small, not-very-stormy cloud.

Posted by susanna at 04:57 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Honor to whom honor

A truly honorable man died today.

Pat Tillman, who gave up a lucrative NFL contract with the Arizona Cardinals to join the Army Rangers, was killed in action in Afghanistan, military officials said Friday.

In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Tillman decided to turn down a three-year, $3.6 million contract with the Cardinals to enlist in the Army.

He gave up a lifetime dream to volunteer for America. He might have gotten a contract when he returned, but he knew he could also die or be injured such that his career would be over. In a world where no one would have condemned him for not going, and where pampered athletes behave like petulant lesser gods, he showed he was a man of honor and character.

Hundreds more have died in this war, and to their families they were no less important than Tillman. But this gives us a familiar face to connect to. Why not take a moment to thank the soldiers and their families for their sacrifice? Say a prayer for their safety too.

[Thanks to Ty Clevenger for the link]

Posted by susanna at 11:08 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 21, 2004

Word is getting out

Here's an article in The Scotsman today about the Oil for Food scam that's currently under investigation.

It's a good article, actually, but I was curious about the headline:

British politician may face charges in oil-for-food 'fraud'

Whence the quotes? Perhaps they're trying to indicate that the fraud is yet to be proven, but it doesn't do that. Rather, it calls into question whether there was wrong doing at all - "that so called fraud" is the tone.

I was glad to see this point, although it was at the very very end of a lengthy article, so likely in the jump section in the dead tree version - so fewer people saw it than saw the headline.

He believes investigations will show that France and Russia, both staunch opponents of the Iraq war, were the greatest beneficiaries of the scheme.

I'm glad they're getting the word out about the venal nature of our "allies".

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

Helping out in Iraq

If you're like me, you've wondered what you can do to help the Iraq reconstruction. I'm too old and too contrary to join the military, my skills are not what they need there so I can't join some private corporation that's working there, and I don't have a lot of money. So what can I do?

The Spirit of America is an organization that formed as an answer to that question. Founder Jim Hake and those who are working with him - including bloggers Dean Esmay , Michele Catalano and John at Argghhh!!! - are pitching in to raise enough money to outfit Iraqi television stations so the citizens there will have something to watch other than the bloody anti-American Al Jazeera, which has served as a conduit for Osama bin Laden since the beginning of this conflict.

So what can you do? First, contribute. This week is a competition between John, Dean and Michele, to see whose group can raise more funds - a way to spur readers to action. It's an excellent opportunity to be sure that whatever funds you can spare will go to the job that needs doing in Iraq without a lot of overhead - 97% of everything donated goes to the Iraq efforts. It's a way for your $5, $10, $25 to be mulitiplied into something that can make a huge difference.

Second, volunteer. There's got to be something you can do in your neighborhood, town, city. Fundraising is a tough thing, but when you're passionate about your cause, it gets much easier. Think about it.

But mostly, think about the soldiers in Iraq who want to come home, the Iraqi people who just want to live in peace and arrange their own lives without monsterous leaders draining them dry and killing their loved ones. Think about the need for stability in the Middle East, and most especially the need to root out terrorists so we will never again suffer another 9/11.

It's a simple thing to do. Just go to the Liberty Alliance donation page and pony up. Show what Americans are made of.

Posted by susanna at 08:22 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 20, 2004

Columbine, psychopathy and Michael Moore

In my criminal justice class last week, we watched the first half of Bowling for Columbine. Today, a classmate of mine - Tamryn Etten-Bohm - spoke to them about gun violence, and statistics that stand at odds with gun control. More about that later. Her talk presented a very different picture of the US and guns than Michael Moore did, although Tamryn is very much a liberal and pro gun control. Why was the picture so different? Because Tamryn is an honest researcher who can separate fact from opinion, and present the former untainted while still making good arguments for her own position.

Today as well, we discussed personality disorders in my general psychology class, including antisocial personality disorder, AKA psychopathy. Imagine my delight (if that word fits properly in a discussion of death, lies and evil) when I read this article in Slate, linked from Instapundit. In it, Dave Cullen deconstructs the motivation behind the Columbine killers, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. It's an excellent article, carefully constructed and supported. One of the conclusions is that Eric Harris was a true, evil-to-the-core psychopath who quite probably would have gone on to even more heinous acts if he had not planned an apocalyptic exit as a teenager. In the course of describing it, the psychologists give a concise, chilling outline of what psychopathy is.

Both of my classes will be getting copies of the article on Thursday.

Of additional interest is the extent that the article debunks Moore without mentioning him. He focuses on the bullying and the violent culture of the US as causes. The psychologists make it clear that neither is germane. Following the article is a list of what Cullen calls "myths" about Columbine, which he debunks as well. Included in the list is the way some focused on Marilyn Manson as a contributing cause. Moore interviewed him. Cullen says Harris detested Manson and loved Techno music. More examples of distortion - although much of it, as Cullen points out, was not so much deliberate distortion on the part of the media as it was that inaccuracies got out in the first wave of media coverage and were never corrected by subsequent coverage.

Now, back to Tamryn. As I mentioned, she's a liberal and not a gun fancier at all, although she isn't a Bradyite either. Her dissertation research tracks the development of gun control legislation in Florida, quite fascinating. What was even more fascinating were some of the research points she has collected that she shared with the class. Here are some in bulleted form:

* In the US, there are about 1 million successful gun-related crimes per year.
* The estimates for successful Defensive Gun Use incidents range from a low of 750,000 to a high of 2.2 million. These are based on research, not guesstimates. In this context, Defensive Gun Use is defined as brandishing or using a firearm to stop a criminal act against a person. It does not include the crimes that didn't happen because the criminals thought you might have a gun and didn't even try it.
* In the UK, more than 50 percent of home burglaries are so called "hot" burglaries - they occur when the home owner or renter is actually at home.
* In the UK, guns are highly controlled and criminals know that.
* In the US, "hot" burglaries account for a very low percentage - about 12%
* In the US, it's well known that a lot of home owners are armed. Alabama is among the states with the lowest hot burglary rate in the US. (Go, Alabama!)
* These facts taken together seem to indicate that hot burglaries would increase in the US if gun control increased.

There's more. Obviously I should make this into a real post, not a bulleted thing. I'll talk to Tamryn about it. But this is all research or reasonable conclusions based on research, not some filmmaker with an agenda going out and mocking middle America.

Just thought you'd be interested. Oh, and the final exam is Tuesday. Don't miss it. This will be on it.

UPDATE: Corrections made after Tamryn reviewed the post and caught some errors. She also linked several source articles that go into these issues more deeply:

An editorial with stats from the US, UK and Australia - Gun Control Doesn't Work (note - I've not looked closely at this site, but it seems to have a religion connection. I trust Tamryn's judgment, so I'm sure at least this article on the site is legit and grounded.)
Interview with Dr. Gary Kleck, who Tamryn identified as the top researcher on gun issues and gun control in the US - PRIVATE FIREARMS STOP CRIME 2.5 MILLION TIMES EACH YEAR, NEW UNIVERSITY SURVEY CONFIRMS
Journal article by Kleck et al - Armed Resistance to Crime: The Prevalence and Nature of Self-Defense with a Gun

MORE UPDATE: Tamryn has a few more corrections for the post, so I'm just going to paste in the text of her email here - to make sure it's right. She's the woman who knows this data, who has lived and breathed it for a decade, so she's the best to tell you:

One million figure is gun incidents. (did I say crimes?) This is combined accidents, suicides, homicidents and violent incidents. It's a "garbage can" figure pretty much because it fluctuates yearly. I was just giving it to contrast with the DGUS so they could see the volumes are similar. Reports of UCR gun crime vary e.g. 300,000 in 1988; and Tom K. says 500,000 to 600,000 annual (see below), which I assume is for most recent year.

When you give the "one million" -- inflated figure (the highest possible
counter balance to the DGUs), it still pales in comparison to 2.2-2.5
million DGUs.

Here are stats from Tom K's report:
o Each year in the U.S. there are about 30,000 deaths each year due to
guns (about 48% are suicides, 46% are suicides (sic "homicides"), 4% are
fatal gun accidents, and 1% due to legal intervention)

o There are about 125,000 nonfatal gun shot wounds, and 500,000 to
600,000 nonfatal (excluding homicides) violent crime incidents involving
offenders armed with guns.

Second, you say "successful" gun crimes. this doesn't really have legal
meaning, but certainly would imply "completed." I don't think you can say
that. See clarification above anyway. "Gun-related incidents" would solve

And there you have it.

Posted by susanna at 07:29 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Arm update

I went to the doctor today about my arm. She's sending me on to a neurologist to investigate the pinched nerve possibility. Specifically, they're going to put needles in my arm like a pincushion and figure out what nerves are getting all testy.

Sounds quite charming. She said, "They tell me it doesn't hurt, but I've referred patients for it before and they say, 'It does hurt'". Truth in advertising. I get to anticipate it for three days. Meanwhile, I have muscle relaxers and a referral for physical therapy.

I'm getting tired of this.

Meanwhile, typing continues to be a strain. But we will persevere.

Posted by susanna at 06:54 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Blogging - a money-making proposition?

The NYT has speculation, in this article about BloggerCon II. Short answer: yes. Long answer: Not a lot, unless you have mucho traffic.

Jeff Jarvis, naturally, has more on this (on the second link, scroll down for many more posts).

But hey. Every little bit helps, yes? And while I'm on the subject, I've been gifted with an Alison Krauss CD (thank you!!), a Cuisinart pot (I love it!) and a cash donation of $10 (no name given :() in the past couple of months. I'm not in this for the money, obviously, and I love all my readers, but it's such a thrill when people send you gifts. It's a rare enough occurrence for me that I don't expect it at all - every gift is a delight and the highlight of my day. It'd be nice to make money, of course it would, but I think I'm blessed already.

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

Little city politics

As a former employee of the Urban County Council in Lexington, KY, I'm fascinated, amused and sometimes horrified at what they're up to these days. I know a lot of the players still, since it's only been 5 years since I worked there. And it's amazing how things play out precisely like I could have predicted.

Teresa Isaac, or "TI" as she's known to most people, is now the mayor - she was vice-mayor when I was on staff. She's a very personable, warm, friendly woman who is also an unrepentent leftist with the political finesse of a wrecking ball. Her latest behavior is to privately appoint a political ally to fill an unfinished council term. It's caused quite the little dustup amongst the council, since they are at odds with TI on most everything. I don't know the new councilmember or her opponent for the fall - who wasn't considered for the interim position, likely because he's against what TI is for.

I personally haven't any problem with her appointing a political ally - in fact, I'd be surprised if she didn't. That's how things are done. Her secretiveness with it isn't very bright, but classic TI - do what you want, present the folks with a fait accompli, and play least-in-sight until the wind of disapproval dies down.

What horrifies me even more is that Al Mitchell, the councilmember whose leaving created the position, has been appointed the state fire marshall. On the surface, this looks smart: He's a retired firefighter with several years of experience in politics as a councilmember in Kentucky's second largest city. However, having worked as a research analyst in the council office, I can say that my impression of him is that he's not particularly bright, he's argumentative and he doesn't reason well. Maybe in a non-policy making position he'll do well. But I don't see him as being a good administrator - he certainly was no great shakes at it in the council office. What was the governor thinking? Yeesh.

And there I go, dishing on former employers. Some of the councilmembers were great. Not many. Nice people, some of them, but it was while working there that my confidence in government nearly bottomed out. And I'm including people on both sides of the aisle, here. The things they took into consideration...!!

So, in that context, why shouldn't TI appoint a political crony? It's not like the councilmembers already there are in their positions because they're non-political.

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

April 19, 2004

This is red-state America

Jimmy at Welcome to Rantville has posted photos of an 18-wheeler rig painted with the names of all those who died on 9/11.

The trucker borrowed money to get the design done. It includes images of the WTC, of the planes that hit the buildings, and of the firefighters raising the flag at Ground Zero, among others. Pretty impressive, and heart-felt.

I don't think the Dem leadership "get" this kind of thing. It's too Nascar, too simplistic. They don't realize how deeply so many in the United States felt not just the pain of the people who died so terribly, and their families, but also the pain of having their beloved country attacked. Red-state folks have bumper stickers saying, "Love it or leave it". It's the same love of place that caused Southerners who were against slavery to fight for the Confederacy against the invading Yankees who called them names and ravaged their homes. It's the same commitment to democracy and the USA that drew middle America to rally behind the troops in WWII, while the intelligentsia sat in coffee houses bemoaning the country's failure to embrace communism. And while today's intelligentsia, as morally bankrupt and intellectually blinkered as those in the 1930s and 1940s, bemoan the failure of multi-lateralism and long for the approval of Jacques Chiraq, that same middle America puts bumper stickers on their trucks, flags in their front yards and murals on their 18-wheelers. It's not a sign of simplistic hearts and minds. It's a sign of thankfulness for their blessings and commitment to preserving this country not just for themselves, but for their children and grandchildren too. It's about unashamed love for country and for the principles it embodies.

I salute John and Amy Holmgren, true Americans - not so much for the mural itself, but for their willingness to wear their heart on their sleeve. Or truck, as the case may be.

Posted by susanna at 01:39 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

I may go blind

I've been diligently working out at a local gym for the past two weeks, three times a week, pinched nerve notwithstanding. It's a small gym, so everything is packed together closely. I almost always do my cardio on the elliptical machine, which faces the bench for the free weights bench press, about 15 feet away. Normally this isn't an issue, as when I'm there with my friend, not many other people are.

This morning... two guys were taking turns bench pressing, helping each other, for the whole time I was doing cardio. Mind you, this is directly in my line of vision. If I'm looking straight ahead, I'm looking straight up the legs of whomever is bench pressing at the moment, and getting a nice view of his spotting buddy standing behind him as well. And yes, they were nice looking men, about my age, one of them a redhead - a weakness of mine. I didn't want to get caught staring, and I also didn't want to blow out my heart rate monitor, so I can honestly say I watched Katie Couric nattering on the TV more intently today than I think I have ... ever.

Behaving is such a chore, sometimes.

Posted by susanna at 10:10 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

April 18, 2004

Maybe Gibson should have called it "Kill Christ"

I was amused at the hypocrisy of most of the movie critics I read when they moaned and whined about the violence in Mel Gibson's The Passion of The Christ. John Rabe and Little A have gone beyond amused, and actually compared reviewers' takes on The Passion as compared to uber-violent Kill Bill 1 & 2.

Great work, guys.

Posted by susanna at 11:00 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

A Southern Sunday

It was a day of sunshine, blue skies and living life.

Rushing out of the duplex this morning, on the edge of late to church, I discovered that I'd put the key ring on my finger before picking up my purse and two bags of needlework. In my other hand, I was balancing a mug filled with cereal and milk on the notebook I was taking to church. How to lock the door? A dithery moment later, I realized it all had to got down - so I started putting it on the porch, only to have the mug overturn and send wet cereal over the notebook, my Bible and the porch. Back inside for paper towels, late late late. I wiped off the notebook and Bible, locked the door and left the paper towels soaking up milk on the front (cement) porch. I raced 60 mph through the back roads of Alabama, squeaking in as the announcements were about to begin.

This is how I live my life. Something different every day, but always something.

Today was unusual in other ways, though. The afternoon was whiled away drinking Peach Mango Tea and eating cake at a wedding tea, surrounded by women in spring Sunday dresses. The bride-to-be greeted us all at the door, the gifts were opened and arranged by a contingent hiding out in the master bath, and servers waited to give us our choice of Lemon Curd Pound Cake, Pecan Pound Cake, Angel Food Cake or one of several other types - topped with fresh strawberries and real whipped cream. A steady stream of women came through the door, were routed through the cake room, and then sent on the tour of the china (master bedroom), pots, pans and microwaves (boys' room) and kitchen and bedroom things (daughter's bedroom). I contributed a pizza pan, pizza cutter, 8" skillet, hot pads and pizza recipes. Mmmmm... pizza.

Tonight my sister in law performed with the Birmingham Concert Chorale, which she joined several weeks ago. The music was beautiful - to me, there's no musical instrument as amazing and heart-stirring as the human voice. Several times I closed my eyes and felt the chords vibrant inside me.

I love the music, and I've considered joining the Chorale (if they'd have me - not a sure thing), but I think my ability and inclination lies with more folk, bluegrass, Celtic kinds of things. Or maybe shaped notes singing. I've always sung 4-part a cappella at church, so it feels natural. The history of shaped-note singing appeals to me too.

A lovely day, all told. Now if I can just remember to sweep the dried cereal off the porch in the morning...

Posted by susanna at 10:22 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 17, 2004

Just one of those days

I spent most of today with Molly Katherine while her sister and parents were out running around. We played outside, read a lot of books and watched Disney's Sleeping Beauty movie. Well, she watched the first 45 minutes or so, then wandered off to color. I of course was hooked and had to watch the rest to see how it ended.

So suspenseful.

The last hour has been devoted to trying to hang a curtain rod for the single window in the living room, a prelude to installing a rod for the 10' window on another wall. I've discovered that I don't know where the recharger cord is for my cordless drill, and I'm contemplating installing by hand. But now I can't find my hammer, to make a beginning hole for the screw.

Quite stressful.

All in all, it's been a day that makes posting online seem distant, although there are things I'd like to comment on. And my left arm is still tingling, still got the muscle knotting in my upper back. The latest word on that is - probably muscle spasm pinching a nerve, and the typing position is probably the worst for it. Naturally. I'm going to check with my doctor on Monday and hopefully get a referral for physical therapy and a prescription for muscle relaxers.

But never fear. Daily posts here regardless, some even substantive.

See you tomorrow.

UPDATE: Success! The curtain rod is now hung, and the curtain hanging from it, looking most lovely. For those of you who know me well, yes, I did measure everything, and placed the rod holders precisely. Five inches from the ceiling, four out from the window trim. I did use my quilting ruler, but hey - it worked.

Posted by susanna at 08:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 16, 2004

It's just not safe out there

I turned on my television to watch a little while fixing dinner, and there was Katie Couric, drooling all over Hillary Clinton on a Dateline interview. I promise you, Katie was like a giggly girl on a date with the BMOC. If Hillary were single, I think Katie would have proposed. Quite distressing.

Then I turned on the computer to check my stats, only to find... I'm the 81st listing for the search string "feminized girly boys" on Yahoo! Canada.

Yeesh. I think I'll go read.

Posted by susanna at 07:40 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

A place of the heart

When I lived in New Jersey in the early 1990s, I had a little apartment under the eaves of a 1 1/2 story bungalow in Washington, NJ. It was a small town similar in size and location to Columbiana, AL, where I live now. The duplex I'm in now is much roomier, convenient and attractive than my apartment then, but I don't think that explains why I'm so much more content here than I was in Washington.

I was thinking of that today as I drove 60 mph along the backroads of middle Alabama. The sun was shining through my open sunroof, and the flowery spring showed signs of giving way to a lush, green, hot summer. At times, when curving around this bend or cresting that rise, I would see low hills in the distance. And I just felt happy in a way I don't think I ever did in New Jersey, even those times when I truly enjoyed being there.

Why is that?

I think there's something in me that clicks into place when I'm in the South, something that's always slightly out of sync anywhere else. I've never lived in Alabama before, have not spent significant amounts of time here prior to moving. Yet it already feels like home.

Part of that is that some of my family are close - I see Alan, Traci, Haydon and Molly Katherine at least three times a week, at church. Usually I stop by on the days I teach, because my way home goes through their town. Yesterday I visited for about an hour, reading the girls books, talking to Traci about her new business, riding the girls on my legs, playing the "May I pull your nose?" game with Molly Katherine (the answer is "no", but she lets me kiss her elbow if I ask).

And another part of it is that the people at church are warm and welcoming. It's a small group, about 75 most services, and it truly feels like a family. They're also enthusiastic about God, and about improving their own lives, and that's encouraging.

But neither of those things make that final piece click into place. I've come to believe it's something ingrained in me from a childhood spent riding bicycles in the country, a place that looks very like this one. It's hearing the accents that have the same cadence of the people around me when I was growing up, my grandparents, people at church, people at school. It's looking out the window and seeing green, and knowing that when I leave the people I speak to will be Alabama versions of people from Manchester, Kentucky.

That's not to say I couldn't be happy in other places, around other people. I can and have been. But somehow this goes deeper. It's as if each day, week, month, some other place inside me unknots and I settle deeper into this place. It makes me realize the extent that I held myself tense and separate from those other places, not always as a matter of choice but often as a matter of self-preservation. Some people like the edge that gives them; they feel more alive somehow. That's fine; different personalities respond to environment in different ways. But it reinforces to me that I am and always will be a homebody, someone who connects to place as much as people.

And the South is my place.

Posted by susanna at 01:14 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Did you hear... ?

Did you hear the latest about Mel Gibson's movie?

The Passion of the Christ was so successful, they're going to come out with a book version.

(ba dum)

Meanwhile, Hollywood continues to prove it's clueless by purchasing a movie treatment about

...a regular man who is told by God that a second great flood will be coming. God instructs the man to build an Ark like the one Noah made thousands of years ago.

People went to see The Passion because it was a part of the Bible brought to life, as closely as humankind is likely to get. It's not a signal to come out with a bunch of hokey pseudo-religious films. Now, if they want to do a movie about the real Noah, following as closely as possible the real Biblical account, I'd fork over the money to see it. But never fear, that won't happen - Hollywood thinks even the Bible can be improved upon. I'm sure political correctness would be the order of the day.


(Not only is the information from Theosebes - the joke comes from Alan's last sermon! Hey, I thought it was funny. [He informs me that it's actually a Jay Leno joke. I musta been watching Dave that night.])

Posted by susanna at 12:17 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Commendable responsibility in an odd place

Recently I went on a riff about how political correctness can impede efforts to slow or stop the spread of HIV. While checking out Drudge today, I came across an article about an adult movie actress who has tested positive. Intrigued, I checked it out - and found that at least some segments of the adult movie industry are responding to the spread of HIV in a very responsible way (NOTE - adult content on the page, in advertisemnts):

Veteran performer Darren James was diagnosed as HIV-positive today, and Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation (AIM) went immediately into motion to make sure that the virus is contained, quarantining 12 women who have been identified as first-generation performers, women who have slept with James since his last negative HIV result.

Performers who have slept with members of the first-generation are also quarantined, technically voluntarily, and AIM is working to identify other performers in that generation as well.

Of course, sex is not just a pasttime for the adult movie industry - it's a business. So containing HIV is a business necessity. However, that doesn't diminish the fact that they're taking an open and responsible approach to containing any strains found - and are very technical about tracking it:

First-generation performers must wait 30 days, the amount of time it could take for HIV to appear in measurable quantities, before taking another PCR-DNA and RNA HIV test. If those tests come back negative, the first-generation performers will be declared “clear,” and they will no longer be quarantined.

I found this intriguing as well:

James is also eligible for the AIM scholarship program so that he can pursue vocational training or a college degree.

So performers who test positive are provided the means to find alternate employment. That's excellent.

Obviously anyone who reads my blog consistently knows I have major moral issues with the sex industry, be it movies, prostitution or pornographic magazines or websites. However, that doesn't mean I shouldn't recognize and compliment responsible behavior - especially in such a bastion of irresponsibility.

Western Oregon University would do well to learn from them.

UPDATE: Well, it's not as good as it sounded, which goes to show how much I know about it. Here's some more pointed insight into this outburst of HIV. Warning: very explicit language in parts of the post.

I guess I should have stuck to my first sense that the porn industry is founded on irresponsibility.

Posted by susanna at 12:00 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

April 15, 2004

My email to Thomas Kean

Several people suggested sending emails to Thomas Kean about his lack of transparency, so I decided I should do so. Below is the text of my email, which I sent to his Drew University address.

President Kean -

I recognize that serving as chair of the 9/11 Commission is a difficult and stressful task. It's also an opportunity to serve our country in a way few other men have, so it has the potential for great honor and impact.

I'm disappointed that you've chosen to hold yourself and the Commission to a lower standard than you've held the others the Commission has interviewed.

For example, the Commission interviewed Dr. Condoleeza Rice in closed session, but in the interests of transparency and the public's right to know it then essentially forced her to give the same testimony in public - and in the process subjected her to obvious political grandstanding by Commission members. Again, the Commission had classified access to the August 6 PDB, but in effect forced the Bush Administration to release it publicly - ostensibly in the interests of transparency and the public's right to know.

Then questions arose - legitimate questions - about a conflict of interest for Commission member Jamie Gorelick, who wrote the memo which apparently set in place the information wall between the FBI and the CIA. Did you seek transparency? Did you recognize the public's right to know, and address with seriousness the concerns about Commissioner Gorelick?


Instead, on Fox News, you said "Stay out of our business!"

President Kean, I respectfully say to you: It is my business, as an American who saw the towers burn on 9/11, who walked the streets of Manhattan while the smell of burning still held sway, who still may be at risk because of terrorists who want to kill Americans. It is my business, as a taxpayer who pays your salary as a Commissioner, as a taxpayer who wants to know where this country's intelligence money has gone in the last decade or more. It *is* my business. And your statement was a slap in my face, and that of every other concerned American.

I suggest you reevaluate your role as chair. You are a public servant, President Kean. I would appreciate your acting like one.

Susanna L. Cornett
former NJ resident

cut on the bias

So there you are. Did you send one?

Posted by susanna at 11:33 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

It is my business

There's a lot of concern over 9/11 Commission member Jamie Gorelick's conflict of interest - specifically, that she wrote a memo requiring a separation between the CIA and FBI that later became a hot-point of discussion. Some say that disconnection had a role in why we didn't know that the 9/11 attacks are coming. And now Gorelick is sitting on judgment about what went wrong. It is an obvious conflict, and apparently she has recused herself on that part of the deliberations.

But while I think her conflicts are a major concern, and the attention is warranted, I'm today most annoyed at Commission Chair Thomas Kean, former Republican governor of New Jersey (which is to say, not much of a Republican at all). When questioned on Fox News about Gorelick and other possible conflicts in the commission, Kean said that everyone should "Stay out of our business."

Stay out of our business??

Excuse me?!

What this commission decides is my business, as an American and a taxpayer. If conflicts bias the commission to find that certain things are not problems - when really they are - then yes, it's definitely my business because my safety and the future of my country are at risk. His attitude is damaging, and certainly makes me think his point is more about arrogance than transparency.

What the commission is exploring is how our highly-sophisticated, highly-financed federal intelligence, law enforcement and executive sectors managed to miss the planning of a major terrorist attack - one that was diffuse, long-running and complex. That means there were a lot of information threads that could have led to discovery that weren't followed or were not properly interpreted as problems. It's a complex inquiry, and one that demands honesty, incisiveness and transparency on the part of the commission.

And Thomas Kean says internal commission conflict that can damage its ability to succeed are not my business.

Commission members have hammered the Bush administration for more transparency - to have Dr. Rice testify in public about things she had already testified about in private. To release a classified memo that they already had private access to. The commission's point there is that it is the public's business to know.

And Thomas Kean says the commission has no responsibility to be transparent itself.

Gorelick's conflicts, and those of other commission members, are germane to the central purpose of the commission. They should be aired, and explained. I think it would be difficult to find people for such a commission that didn't have some connections that could be problematic. Gorelick's seem egregious, but it's possible they could be explained away appropriately. But Kean seems to think that's not the public's right.

I say, transparency begins at home.

Posted by susanna at 09:31 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

April 14, 2004


I've been listening to Air America for a little while - the Randi Rhodes show is on. I've yet to hear anything substantive. What I did hear, amongst other things, was her opinion that GW and Laura don't have sex.

Incisive commentary. Woohoo! Rush oughta be scared.

Posted by susanna at 06:02 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Audrey Seiler charged

Audrey Seiler, the Wisconsin coed whose disappearance sparked a four-day search, has been charged in connection with lying to police:

A college student accused of faking her own kidnapping last month was charged Wednesday with lying to police in what they suggested was a desperate attempt to get her boyfriend's attention.

How pathetic is that? She knows it, too:

"I set up everything. I'm just so messed up. I'm sorry," they quoted her as saying. But she later recanted the statement, insisting she had been abducted.

This girl does need to serve time. She also needs counseling, but she knew what she was doing, she planned it, and she sustained it for four days while everyone in the area was frantic. The police spent nearly $100,000 in the search, but that's nothing compared to the emotional horror of those who love her, or went out of their way to help her.

I feel sorry for her parents. And I feel sorry for her boyfriend. His situation reminds me a little of the poor guy who married Laurie Dann. At least he can walk away from this. Her parents now have to deal not just with a thoroughly messed up daughter, but with the very public humiliation of what she's done.

Lock her up.

Posted by susanna at 05:44 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

How scary and sad

A little five year old girl survived on Ramen noodles and Gatorade for 9 days after she and her mother were in a car accident in California:

California Department of Transportation (search) workers repairing a road barrier Tuesday morning found the girl, her mother's body and a wrecked Ford Taurus 150 feet down a ravine off the 60 Freeway...

That's horrible enough. But this just wrenches your heart:

Ruby also said her mother was alive for "a couple days" after the crash...

What an awful death for the mom. What a terrible memory for the girl. And how many people drove by on the road above? They couldn't know the two were down there, but if I'd been one of those who drove through, I'd be feeling sick right now.

And look at the first quote - the workers were fixing a road barrier. Is it possible that the road barrier was the one the girl's mom drove through? If so, why wasn't it checked out sooner?


Posted by susanna at 05:36 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 13, 2004

I Love President Bush

I watched the President's speech and the press conference. I notice it's been dissected around the blogosphere, and I'm glad to read their comments. But I really haven't a lot to say. I'll give you my little list of thoughts, though - heaven forfend I don't comment even when I have nothing to add:

1) He came off honest and earnest and trustworthy. He always does.
2) He seemed resolute and determined. He always does.
3) He confirmed what I already thought about how things are going.
4) The Washington media reinforced their image as lazy, unoriginal and anti-Bush
5) Don Gonyea reeked partisan elitism. But then, he's NPR - it's required.
6) Bush needed a haircut.

I enjoyed watching him. I like him. Not just as a leader, but as a person. I just admire Bush. I don't always agree with him, but I trust him.

Not that I'm partisan myself.

Posted by susanna at 10:01 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

If it's not one thing...

A few weeks ago I was having tingling in my left hand, on the back of my thumb and index finger, as well as some pain on the outer side of my elbow and in my chest. I went to the doctor, and she said it was likely minor muscle tearing in my chest, and possibly a pinched nerve causing the arm problems. She gave me two weeks of Vioxx. That's gone, and the problem isn't. My left arm is actually worse, and I'm wondering if I'm going to have to wear a sling for a while to let it heal. That would be a bad thing.

I'm sure it didn't help that I started up weight training against last week, and yes, I did do upper body work a couple of days. I'll have to stop it for a week. Of course, typing also uses those muscles. Sigh.

As for my exam on Friday - thanks for asking, those of you who did - I think it went very well. My original answer was 8 pages long, and I expanded it by another 8 pages, so if length is any measure, I did answer it more completely. I feel good about it. We'll see if my professors agree. And I hope this time it won't take 2 months to find out!

And yes, staring at the wall did help. It always does. Or staring into infinite space with unfocused eyes. I do that rather well too.

Posted by susanna at 09:49 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

When reason fails

Which is more important to you?

1) That you don't get AIDS

2) That a gay man is offended at being asked if he's had sex with another man

Think about it for a minute.

If you said (2), you must be one of the "political correctness over health" types at Western Oregon University:

The American Red Cross may soon be banned from holding blood drives on one university campus because the organization prohibits some gay men from donating blood...

At issue is one of the dozens of questions used to screen donors. Men are asked if they've had sex with another man — even only once — since 1977.

Some student government leaders say the question is homophobic and has no place on campus, even if that means less blood available to those who need it.

"There may be less blood in the blood supply, or we can continue to have a world full of hate and discrimination," said Shauna Bates (search), student senator at WOU.

Did she just transfer from Berkeley?

It boggles the mind that someone in college is so completely devoid of either reason or sense. But then, I know better than most that even a PhD is no sign of intelligent life (and at times seems to have a negative correlation with sense).

The empty-headed students at this university would rather people die than have the American Red Cross ask a perfectly legitimate question to determine whether someone is a member of a proven high risk group!

Federal officials say more signs of "prevention fatigue" are reflected in the latest report on AIDS - a 17 percent increase in new HIV cases among gay men over the past three years.

"HIV is not over in the United States," said Robert Janssen, director
HIV/AIDS prevention division for the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention. "The fight is as urgent as it was 20 years ago."

During 1999-2002, the CDC reported 18,843 men with new diagnoses of the
virus that causes AIDS, an increase of 7.3 percent over the previous
three-year period.

The CDC said the infection rate among heterosexuals and intravenous drug
users did not change significantly
. But the increase in HIV among gay men
was worrisome. (emphasis added)

Notice where the increase is. And it's not a trend that's likely to reverse any time soon:

Syphilis rates rose dramatically for the second straight year in the United States, particularly among gay and bisexual men, a finding that has health officials worried about an increase in HIV/AIDS cases in the coming years...

The rise in syphilis infections indicates a growing number of gay and bisexual men are having unprotected sex, which worries health officials because the men could be spreading other diseases, including HIV/AIDS...

AIDS takes a while to show up, so this could be an HIV bomb ticking.*

And maybe, using their kind of reasoning, we could accuse them of wanting black women to die:

Public health officials have identified an HIV outbreak among black male college students in North Carolina, with the number of newly diagnosed cases suddenly increasing over the previous four years...

Researchers found six HIV cases among male college students ages 18 to 30 in 2000; 19 cases in 2001; 29 in 2002 and 30 in 2003. Of the 84 total new cases during that period, 73, or 88%, were among black men, and 11, or 13%, were among white men, the Times reports...

Researchers interviewed the men and found that in the year prior to their diagnoses, 4% said they had sex only with women, 58% said that they had sex only with men and 33% said that they had sex with both men and women, according to the Times (New York Times, 2/11)...

Dr. Peter Leone, a study co-author, said that because 40% of the college men with HIV in the study reported having sex with women, "a substantial number of heterosexual college women are at a significant unrecognized risk for HIV infection."

Is it reasonable to connect the WOU ban attempt to racism? No, it's not even reasonable to connect HIV in the blood supply with the increased risk of the spread of HIV in black women. And that's the point. In the hysteria of political correctness, decisions are made on feelings and perceptions, not on legitimate risk assessments using scientific data - which is not, from anything I can tell, biased. It's more important not to hurt Person A's feelings than it is to do all you can to prevent Person B from dying.

Of course, that's the legacy of the AIDS epidemic anyway - rather than following the methods of containing other contagious and deadly diseases, we've insured that more people will die of AIDS by protecting those who have it from any kind of public interference in their activities. It's like taking Typhoid Mary on a tour of local buffet restaurants instead of quarantining her.

But that's another post. For now, it's enough to say... Western Oregon University, you're a disgrace to higher education.

* Although not necessarily - this article notes that San Francisco has not yet shown an increase in HIV despite an increase in syphillis in recent years.

Posted by susanna at 10:00 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

April 12, 2004

Rooney is at it again

Did you know that our military folk in Iraq aren't heroes?

Yep. They're just normal people, like you and me. Huh. Who'd a thunk it.

Treating soldiers fighting their war as brave heroes is an old civilian trick designed to keep the soldiers at it. But you can be sure our soldiers in Iraq are not all brave heroes gladly risking their lives for us sitting comfortably back here at home.

Our soldiers in Iraq are people, young men and women, and they behave like people — sometimes good and sometimes bad, sometimes brave, sometimes fearful. It's disingenuous of the rest of us to encourage them to fight this war by idolizing them.

Shockingly enough, it was... Andy Rooney who wrote those words. He does try to mitigate it further down:

America's intentions are honorable. I believe that and we must find a way of making the rest of the world believe it. We want to do the right thing. We care about the rest of the world. President Bush's intentions were honorable when he took us into Iraq. They were not well thought out but honorable.

But it's much much too little, way too late. He's already impugned the motives, honor and value of our soldiers. It's enough to make you wish for a national mandatory retirement age (Rooney is 83).

This is the point he misses: What makes our men and women in uniform "heroes" isn't that they are doing fancy, extraordinary things, saving dozens of children in one heroic act, or holding off 300 insurgents with nothing more than a slingshot and a bag of walnuts. What makes people heroes is their willingness to do what must be done, to face the things that would make any person of sense feel fear and a deep desire to be elsewhere - and they go right on and do their job. Yes, some military actions bring higher risk, and there are degrees of heroism. But the things Rooney mentions as evidence that our military isn't full of heroes are precisely the things that make them heroes. Rooney is trying to make a point by using a fairytale definition of "hero".

Rooney's real point is that he is against the war, and will use any tool at his disposal to turn public opinion against it - even denigrating our soldiers.


[Link via Drudge]

Posted by susanna at 04:38 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

A good idea

We've talked a lot about bias in the media, and ways to make coverage more fair and honest given that no person is free of bias. This article at Poynter, speaking specifically of coverage of the gay marriage issue by gay journalists, has a lot of good things to say.

All conflicts are not created equal. There is no arbitrary test by which a conflict can be judged to determine if it rises to the level that precludes a journalist from covering particular stories. Instead, what becomes important is the process by which conflicts -- all conflicts -- are examined in newsrooms.

The first step of this process, the one often skipped over, is to ask everyone in the newsroom to examine his or her conflicts of interest. What is it about my beliefs or experiences that might compromise my ability to be fair? It might sound unnecessary, impractical, and even painful...

But it doesn't have to be that way. Openly discussing potential conflicts could be a part of daily newsroom life. It could become as reflexive as fact-checking a story, writing a budget line, or brainstorming for new story ideas.

I think that's not only right, but necessary in this society. Do I think gay journalists should be precluded from covering the gay marriage issue? No, for two reasons: One, you don't have to be gay to support it, so it's setting up a false line. Two, they're going to have insights into the situation, and access to or knowledge of specialized information, that someone who isn't gay wouldn't, so they do add important details to the mix. However, someone also shouldn't be blocked from covering it who is strongly against it. The point is not objectivity, as we've discussed, but fairness and transparency. In this situation, the people with strong views on the situation should be identified as such. Perhaps in issues so volatile, the news outlet could identify a team: Someone for, someone against, and someone who really doesn't have a dog in that fight. If the journalists themselves are fair and have integrity, such a team is going to hit all that needs to be hit without villifying or aggrandizing either side.

Of course, there has to be an understanding on the part of the newspaper that an issue has two sides, and that their journalists are susceptible to biases that they are professionally encouraged to deny or to view as "normal" that in fact can lead to slanted reporting. I think the war coverage shows that clearly. But the article brings out that somewhat too:

...[J]ournalists must find the threshold where individuals are disqualified from reporting, editing, or influencing a particular story. One threshold should be when fairness cannot be achieved. Another threshold involves public perception. When a journalist enters into the public debate, he gives the public cause to doubt his ability to report the news fairly...

Looking only at the journalists who embody the conflict in their identity creates a double standard. It is looking at the obvious for all the wrong reasons. Yes, journalists should avoid becoming part of the story. But when newsrooms worry only about the most evident conflicts, we sew a flimsy safety net.

We ask the second question, "What if the readers or viewers found out?" but we ignore the first question, "Can we be fair?" So it becomes more likely we won't discuss the conflicts hidden from the audience but liable to seep into our journalism unchecked.

By creating a process in which conflicts are routinely handled without punishment, we make the discussion a normal part of gathering the news. Turning our heads and ignoring the many conflicts present among the staff in every newsroom in the country will create a more familiar problem. The public will stop trusting us.

I think the public already has stopped trusting media. This is an excellent article about how to begin rebuilding that trust by admitting what the public already sees and media is blindered to for its own arrogant reasons. I'm encouraged that an article like this is on Poynter's website, and I hope her recognition of the problem and recommendations for solutions get wide consideration - and implementation. It's not perfect, but it's a huge step in the right direction.

Posted by susanna at 01:34 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 11, 2004

I want a dozen

My uncle sent this to me - it's apparently making the rounds. I want to see it really in a button.

foreign leaders for John Kerry.bmp

Or maybe a t-shirt?

Posted by susanna at 11:24 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 10, 2004

I'm tempted to take a vacation

PETA is noxious. This isn't new information, but what's amazing is that they can't seem to get that their tactics are alienating the majority of people. The only ones who wouldn't be offended by PETA's tactics are teenagers without two brain cells to rub together, or adults who are halfway in their camp already.

The rest of us just want to fly over their headquarters and drop Big Macs.

The latest activities seeking to "encourage" veganism include dressing a cow like the Pope to be unveiled on Easter, and comparing murdered Canadian women to pigs killed for meat:

"Street teens" have been hired to plaster the city with controversial anti-meat posters linking the fate of 61 missing or slain women from the Downtown Eastside with the slaughter of pigs, after local billboard firms refused to rent space to the radical group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals...

The PETA billboard features pictures of a young woman and a pig, with the caption: Neither of Us Is Meat.

It refers to recent revelations that remains of some of the missing women may have been fed to pigs -- later butchered for meat -- on the farm of Robert Pickton, who is charged with murdering 15 of the women.

"If you're eating a corpse, you're eating a corpse, whether it's a human being or any other animal," Mr. Friedrich said.

PETA's headquarters are in Norfolk, VA. I wonder if we could get a permit to have a street fair outside it? One that features all kinds of barbeque, meat tasting booths, leather and bone crafts, and a contest where the biggest pig wins a prize from a meat company - and is taken off to become the next ham on your plate. Perhaps we could stand outside their headquarters and anytime someone comes in or out, we could hand them a toy chicken leg from a child's bbq set. We could put together gift packets of certificates for hamburgers, chicken and pork. We could make a statue of a cow and draw a grid on it showing where different cuts of beef come from. We could pass out meat cookbooks to passersby, and have a presenter talk about the importance of including animal protein in your diet. We could set up a contest where every 10th person who enters the PETA headquarters wins a pork tenderloin, or a pound of hamburger. We could give away hunting trips, and set up a photo display outside their headquarters of people with the deer they've harvested.

I wonder if they would feel that they were being invaded? Improperly targeted? Made to see things that they don't want to see? Do you think they'd be offended? And do you think they would feel they had a right not to be offended? Hmmm. I'm sure not. After all, their whole reason for being is to use offensive materials to affect attitudes.

I think I'd take a vacation to arrange that kind of fair.

Posted by susanna at 09:19 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

April 09, 2004

Note to media

When attempting to portray things as going badly in Iraq, do not select an overweight woman saying, "I was hungry under Saddam, and I am hungry now."

People might think you were trying too hard.

Posted by susanna at 10:14 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

I'm done.

I took the exam this morning, and I think I did it right this time. We shall see.

Now I'm going to go stare at the wall for a while. Regular posting will resume this evening.

Posted by susanna at 01:30 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

April 08, 2004

Condi! Condi! Condi!

It's no secret that I think Condoleezza Rice is an amazing and admirable woman. Just incredible. I wish she could be on the 2004 Bush ticket, but I also like Cheney and realize that's a good team.


Scott Ott, the inimitable Scrappleface, made it happen anyway.

That's my kinda ticket. I'll be distributing these soon.

Posted by susanna at 06:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

You may find this interesting

Go watch this.

Then read this (pdf file).


Click below for mine.

I'm not a reactionist who says that Planned Parenthood is the scourge of the earth, and should be shut down tomorrow. I'm tempted to say that, but I won't. Without researching it, I'll just say I'd be very surprised if they didn't do a lot of things that I agree with and think are important. (Although I could be wrong.)

On the other hand, I do heartily resent that this organization gets many millions of dollars that they spend a goodly chunk of to come up with ways to demonize and mock my values. I'm not a Falwell or Robertson fan, and I've not heard enough from Ralph Reed to really judge. Pat and Rush, I have mixed feelings about. But I do know that the way they're depicted in that little snotty sketch is not an accurate representation of the right-wing - I'd say less accurate than the Pat Robertson quote about feminism is. But I guess it's okay to demonize if the ones being demonized are the ones who disagree with you.

It's classic leftist slimy garbage, although presented humorously - and yes, like Katherine Lopez, I thought it was somewhat amusing. But it's not funny at all that almost $200 million tax dollars (and probably more now) goes to shore up this kind of attitude - and they're taking it to the world.

Remember that little cartoon the next time you hear a leftist whiner going off about faith-based government programs trying to indoctrinate its clients.

(Cartoon link via The Corner)

Posted by susanna at 03:04 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

It's comfort food time!

All of us have foods we seek out when life is just harder than it has to be, or we need help over a mood hump, or just some companionship and consistent high blood sugar levels while studying. My friend Tamryn eats Oreos. I lean toward Doritos and Pepsi. But when the studying goes on for days, you need backup.

Yesterday, I made backup. And here's the recipe - a staple of potlucks where I grew up.

Blueberry Salad

1 6 oz (or 2 3 oz) packages grape Jello
2 cups boiling water
1 20-oz can crushed pineapple, drained
1 21-oz can blueberry pie filling

Boil the water, and pour it over the Jello in a large bowl. Stir to dissolve the Jello, then add the pineapple and pie filling. Stir until well mixed. Pour into a 13 x 9 " casserole dish and refrigerate until set.


1 8 oz package cream cheese
1 8 oz carton sour cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Mix the cream cheese and sour cream together well. Add the sugar and vanilla. Mix well. Spread over the top of the Jello mixture. Sprinkle with chopped pecans and refrigerate.

Eat. And eat. Which is what I'm doing right now.

There are other versions of this online, but I'm skeptical.

Posted by susanna at 02:32 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Just so you'll feel sympathy

Here's a quote from one of the articles I'm reading today, preparing for my exam tomorrow:

The work of assembling an occasioned corpus consists in the ongoing "corpusing and decorpusing" of elements reather than the situation retrieval or removal of a subset of elements from a larger set transcending any particular setting in which that work is done. (Zimmerman and Pollner, 1970: 94-7)

Now, in context this is not as bad as it seems, and actually adds sense to the discussion. But man, sometimes it's like pulling yourself loose from a briar bush to peel the meaning from these articles.

I persevere.

UPDATE: Another quote, from the same Molotch & Lester article, which shows that sometimes the writing is not only germane but perfectly clear:

...[O]ne approach to mass media is to look not for reality, but for purposes which underlie the strategies of creating one reality instead of another.

I think this is exactly right. The media is always creating reality, not in the sense that they're lying or even deliberately misleading (although sometimes they do). But rather, given the vast array of information available about any situation, and the limited resources available to the media, constructing a journalistic account by definition requires making choices to use this array of information rather than that array. And that creates different realities. You can, using only facts, create very different pictures of the same situation. Acknowledging that in media circles would go a long way to helping media regain whatever credibility they had to begin with.

For those of you who care, the cites:

Article I took it from:

Molotch, H., Lester, M. (1974) “News as purposive behavior: On the strategic use of routine events, accidents and scandals.” American Sociological Review, 39:101-12.

Article they're quoting:

Zimmerman, Don and Melvin Pollner. (1970) "The everyday world as phenomenon." Pp. 80-103 in Jack Douglas (ed.), Understanding Everyday Life. Chicago: Aldine.

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

Interesting connections

Right now, Condi Rice is answering questions from 9/11 Commission member Fred Fielding. Just curious about who these people on the Commission are, I did a little Google search and was quite surprised by the result:

Chatterbox is looking at a January 1981 clipping from the Washington Post headlined, "Nixon Ex-Aide Named Counsel to Reagan." The ex-aide in question was Fred Fielding, whom William Gaines and his journalism class at the University of Illinois have identified as Deep Throat, Bob Woodward's famous Watergate source.

There are a lot of other links available too. According to the Daily Illini, Fielding is still quite connected:

Fielding, currently an attorney at Wiley, Rein & Fielding in Washington, D.C. has given several talks on ethics in government. He was a member of the Bush-Cheney transition team and appointed to the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks.

Curious. GW Bush's demand for personal loyalty is well known, so is that an argument against Fielding being Deep Throat? Or is it a matter of bygones being bygones? Who knows. It's an interesting little aside to the 9/11 Commission hearings, though.

And, just in case you didn't know, Condi rocks. I love that woman.

UPDATE: Curiouser and curiouser. Look at this info on the gentleman sitting next to Fielding, Richard Ben-Veniste, who just played attack dog during his questioning of Dr. Rice (and she did a good job handling him):

Mr. Ben-Veniste was chief of the Watergate Task Force of the Watergate Special Prosecutor's Office from 1973 to 1975...

Hmmmm... Roots go deep in Washington, don't they? And you truly don't know who you'll be working with, in what capacity, somewhere down the road.

Posted by susanna at 09:25 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 07, 2004

I feel so techie

My duplex is still chaos, with boxes everywhere, especially the area I am (optimistically, at this point) calling "my office". So I've had to prepare for Friday's exam in the "dining room", actually one end of the living room. After functioning for months with just my laptop - not even a printer - I finally am all set up. Fancy, even.

And I did it myself. I'm so techie.

When I got the laptop, I knew I'd want to use it a lot at home as almost a desktop replacement ("almost" only because I refuse to get rid of my actual desktop). So, to make it as convenient as possible, I got this handy-dandy port replicator, which has the additional advantage of having two more USB ports than the laptop itself. It also prevents me from having to disconnect the laptop from all its little peripherals - printer, mouse, keyboard, Internet - each time I take the laptop with me somewhere. And, finally, because I'm such a gadget freak, I got the stand that holds the port replicator AND the laptop, allowing me to set the laptop screen at eye level.

I had been remiss in connecting everything, but today I just got frustrated when I had to unplug the printer to plug in the keyboard. So I hauled out all the pieces of this fancy schmancy setup, and put it all together.

I'm now cookin' on gas, as my former boss and life-long Southern belle Isabel Yates would say.

And did I mention my printer? A LexMark 5150, pretty cheap, with B&W and color printing, as well as photocopying and, according the directions, some remote capability to fax. How cool is that?

I feel so professional.

Now. Back to getting ready for the exam.

Posted by susanna at 02:59 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 06, 2004

Not to worry

I'm not on hiatus again, I'm just in panic mode over my exam which is Friday. I may post some short things. But I've canceled my classes for Thursday so I can prepare for the exam, so I don't know that I can justifiably take much of that newly-freed time to post here. However, there will be something, and after Friday - well, it'll be Katie bar the door* again.

* In this instance, meaning I'm going to flood the page with posts, so you'd best stand back or be overwhelmed. There's trouble ahead, in other words.

Posted by susanna at 05:15 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 05, 2004

Scrappleface gets a Rush

Today, Rush Limbaugh praised Scrappleface on his radio program and read a parody on the air.

Now, how cool is that?

Have you heard of the website ScrappleFace? It's a fabulous parody website, actually created in my own image. This is EIB quality...

I'd have to take issue with the "created in my own image" - Scott can be a lot funnier than Rush. But what wonderful accolades, and on national radio with an audience of millions! Couldn't happen to a nicer, more talented guy, and I mean that sincerely.

(Scott, I'll take that in certified check, please.)

Posted by susanna at 09:29 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Freakin' me out

I'm still adjusting to this small-town life again. It's been over 10 years since I lived in a town this small, and even then it was in New Jersey, so it wasn't the same thing, either in tone or population. So for counting purposes, let's make that 1987 - 14 years - since I lived in a town like this.

The latest saga: I've been emptying boxes, and as you can imagine they've been piling up. So on Friday I called city hall to find out when to put them out, and in what condition. She said they'd be by to pick them up on Monday. So I carried them all outside, about 15 of them in various sizes and stages of being broken down, plus a few trashbags of packing materials. I tucked them behind the huge holly bush at the corner of the duplex, where they couldn't be seen from the road, and planned to haul them to the street this morning.

Well, I was sitting here innocently reading Fred First's blog, and posting a comment about how shy I am (yes, you read that right), when I saw the garbage truck trundling by and stopping next door. So I raced out to get my boxes to the curb, and...

They were gone. They were already at the curb! Did you get that? While I was asleep this morning, someone came, found my boxes, and moved them to the curb! I was completely oblivious. I have no idea who did it. I am assuming it was the advance guard for the garbage people, but who knows? This is a town of 3,300, and I am literally 1/2 mile from city hall. For all I know, the mayor did it on his way to work!

I'm grateful, of course I am. But this is not what would have happened in NJ. And it'll take a while to get used to what it's like here.

But I think I'll manage just fine.

Posted by susanna at 09:50 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

April 03, 2004

A very very very (did I say very?) bad idea

I can't believe anyone suggested this with a straight face, much less managed to make it happen:

Rather than sending jobs to India or China, telemarketing firms are increasingly finding hired help in prisons.

Businesses say the inmates make good, hard-working employees in an industry plagued by high turnover. The prisoners are never late, absent or on vacation — and do the job for only about $130 a month, or less than $1 an hour. Companies also don't have to offer them benefits.

For many inmates, it's a chance to redeem their dignity, become more responsible and change their criminal ways.

And why is it such a horrible idea? For exactly the reason that it's been criticized:

But critics of the practice warn that some prisoners have abused their access to personal information. In Washington state, for example, a jailed rapist harassed a woman with calls and cards.

Think about this for a minute. Who goes to jail? Someone who has been found guilty of rule-breaking, often because they don't quite see why it's a problem to take away someone else's property, money, health or life. They aren't very good at recognizing boundaries, or at impulse control. And those are the better inmates. Some just enjoy hurting other people, or proving their superiority, or making lots and lots of money no matter how many others are hurt in the process. Those are the people that telemarketers are handing your name, your home telephone number and your address to. It doesn't say in this article - perhaps in the linked video report which I didn't watch - but I hope they don't also allow them to take orders, which means obtaining your credit card number.

I think it's great for inmates to have a chance to learn viable job skills in prison. I don't mind their getting college degrees, or having special technical training. While it's expensive to provide those programs, society as a whole benefits much more than that cost if those inmates live crime-free after their release. I would hire an ex-con as a plumber, or a mechanic, or a firefighter, or a carpenter, or a computer programmer - as long as I had a good idea that he or she really had made the turn to the right path. And it's not as if being a caller in a telemarketing setting is a hot career path that I'm crassly denying them.

My concern is that we are providing these people with personal information that could be used very easily to further criminal activity. The possibilities range from an elaborate scheme where an inmate provides information to an outside accomplice who would then rob the people, to the kind of harrassment mentioned in the article. Yes, it's possible that non-inmate telemarketing callers could do the same things. But with inmates you're dealing with a set of people who have already done similar activities. The chance of their doing it again must be significantly higher than the risk that the average non-inmate would. And the people who are getting calls from them will most likely be ones who in no way agreed to be on the telemarketer's list and thus take that risk willingly.

I was appalled that they allowed a convicted rapist to call women at home. At the very least they should screen out sex offenders. But who else is in prison? Check forgers, wife beaters, drug dealers, robbers, murderers? Drunks, dopers, shoplifters, embezzlers? Which of those do you want to have your number? It's not that those people can't change - they can. But having personal information like that is a position of trust, one that should be earned by appropriate, non-criminal behavior outside of prison. I personally think that no currently incarcerated person should have that information. And I think all telemarketing callers should be screened for a criminal record, and not allowed to take the job until they've been out of jail or prison for a certain amount of time - 3 years, 5 years - without any reoffending.

I hate telemarketing calls. Now I have reason to hate them even more. This is very bad policy, and I hope it gets stopped soon. But I don't know if I would count on it. The prison systems are likely getting top dollar for providing this service - the article doesn't mention it, but I'm sure not only are the inmates getting paid only $1/hour, the prison system is getting paid a tidy sum for providing their services. It will take some horrible crime connected to it to shake this practice out of the system, unless citizens start making it known that they don't want their personal information provided to convicted felons.

Posted by susanna at 10:05 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

April 02, 2004

Well, well, well... it is Fraudrey

I just watched the press conference by the acting police chief of Madison about Audrey Seiler, and... well. She apparently not only wasn't abducted, she planned the "abduction" scenario.

Here's a summary of what's being said now:

Before the "abduction", searches were done on Audrey's computer for wooded areas in Madison and for five-day weather forecasts for the time period. She bought rope, duct tape, cough medicine, and a couple of other items from a local store, and they have that on tape. Then she went missing, filmed in the lobby of her apartment buildling pacing at 2:30 a.m. then disappearing outside. During the time she was "missing", someone used the computer at her apartment - and the police admit they "weren't there all the time". Apparently they also didn't seal it as a crime scene.

Two witnesses have reported to police that they saw her walking around freely during the time she supposedly was missing. When a nearby worker reported seeing her in the marshy area, the police converged and found her. She told them immediately that a man with a gun had brought her there, and they searched the area with more than 100 police officers, K-9 units and helicopters with heat-detecting equipment. Later interviews with Audrey brought a description of the abductor that was fairly generic; a sketch was made and released yesterday. She also told them that rope, cough medicine, duct tape and other things were used to take and subdue her. The police began to track the inconsistencies in her story, including that initially she said she was abducted from her apartment, but then couldn't explain why she was videoed in the lobby of her building. Then they learned that the items she said were used against her were the same ones she had been filmed purchasing last week.

Obviously the disappearance was not an abduction. It seems likely that not only did she plan this one, but that the attack in February was also staged. The police chief said they had "talked to the district attorney", who would be the one to bring charges against her for the faked disappearance and misleading the investigation, but no decision has been made yet. Fox News reported that the chief has also consulted with Madison's city budget office to obtain an estimate of the cost of the investigation. They apparently are considering going after her civilly for reimbursement.

All very very odd. Seiler is a seriously disturbed young lady. I'm sorry for her parents, who looked like such nice people and so happy for their daughter to be home. I'm sure we'll be learning a lot more about her, and about them, in the weeks to come. This story won't end here.

Looks like "4" was the answer after all.

Posted by susanna at 01:30 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Pizza bomb update

Writing about the Seiler case reminded me of the pizza bomb case last fall. I'm sure you remember - Brian Wells, a loner in Erie, PA, went to deliver a pizza in an isolated area and returned with a bomb collar around his neck. He robbed a bank, was caught by police, and was killed when the bomb went off before the bomb squad arrived to get it off him. He had said someone put the bomb on him and told him to rob the bank or he'd be killed, but he didn't give any details.

The main source of news for this is, which unfortunately charges you for everything in its archives past a certain date. This is a search page with summaries of recent articles. The main news is:

It's not been solved.

His family plans to sue over his death. Just who they plan to sue isn't in the lead, and I'm not inclined to pay $3 to find out.

The police declared it a homicide in February 2004.

Police released the 9-page note he had in his possession, ostensibly from the person who put the bomb on him, in hopes the handwriting or style of the note would bring in clues to his identity.

I'll keep checking back on this, but it's looking like a cold case file for now.

Posted by susanna at 12:59 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

The mystery around Audrey Seiler

I hesitate to speculate more about the conditions around Audrey Seiler's kidnapping and return. But here is the latest from the cops:

There may be inconsistencies in the probe of a University of Wisconsin (search) sophomore's abduction, Madison police announced Thursday, but they are still on the hunt for a suspect.

Assistant Police Chief Noble Wray refused to take questions from reporters at a briefing Thursday evening on the disappearance of Audrey Seiler (search), who was found alive yesterday. He said it was not the role of police to speculate during an investigation such as this.

"Like in every other major investigation, there may be inconsistencies," Wray said. "But we are continuing forward with this investigation."

...Seiler was involved in another mysterious incident Feb. 1, when she told police that someone struck her from behind and knocked her unconscious. She told police that she was then moved about a block from where she was attacked but was not sexually assaulted or robbed, authorities said.

Police refused a request by The Associated Press to release the police report from that incident. Capt. Richard Bach said officers believe the information might be connected to the latest investigation.

They've also released a sketch of the assailant.

We'll see what happens.

Posted by susanna at 12:47 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

April 01, 2004

May I have some lies with my delusions, please?

Alan Wolfe is a self-confessed liberal and director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life and professor of political science at Boston College. He's also apparently quite self-delusional and incapable of thinking logically. It's especially disconcerting in this piece, because he sounds very authoritative and reasonable in sections of the article, and then he suddenly shifts into sheer lunacy.

The premise of his article is that modern American conservatives, especially those known as "paleoconservatives", are living out the philosophies of German philosopher Carl Schmitt, who not incidentally joined the Nazi party in the 1930s. The reasoned part of the article is Wolfe's explanation of who Schmitt is and his general philosophies - and maybe I think that sounds normal because I don't know any better. Apparently Schmitt had a take-no-prisoners political philosophy, which Wolfe says conservatives emulate - and liberals in the US have a tough time responding to them because they (liberals) are just too nice.


Here's an excerpt:

Schmitt argued that liberals, properly speaking, can never be political. Liberals tend to be optimistic about human nature, whereas "all genuine political theories presuppose man to be evil." Liberals believe in the possibility of neutral rules that can mediate between conflicting positions, but to Schmitt there is no such neutrality, since any rule -- even an ostensibly fair one -- merely represents the victory of one political faction over another...Liberals insist that there exists something called society independent of the state, but Schmitt believed that pluralism is an illusion because no real state would ever allow other forces, like the family or the church, to contest its power. Liberals, in a word, are uncomfortable around power, and, because they are, they criticize politics more than they engage in it.

That's right. Liberals are "uncomfortable around power". That's certainly been my impression of oh, say, Hillary Clinton. That woman! She'd sooner bake cookies than run the world! But she has a certain responsibility to humanity.

There's so much wrong with Wolfe's analysis there. Liberals are about rules? Only if they set boundaries as liberals want them set - and I'm sure rules that don't agree with liberal philosophy, Wolfe would identify as not "neutral". The rest isn't much better.

And here's another direct comparison between liberals and conservatives; note the absolute lack of any evidence, examples or proof of any sort that these bald statements are correct. In fact, the only "evidence" he cites anywhere in the piece is a mini-diatribe against Ann Coulter.

Liberals think of politics as a means; conservatives as an end.

Um, no. I think both sides think of politics as both means and end.

Politics, for liberals, stops at the water's edge; for conservatives, politics never stops.

Actually, politics never stops for liberals. Need convincing? See: Burke, Martha. Or Peterson, Connor. Golf courses and dead unborn infants become political battlegrounds. Of course, Wolfe doesn't identify what "the water's edge" is there - clever, because he can then adjust the water line to just past wherever a liberal is.

Liberals think of conservatives as potential future allies; conservatives treat liberals as unworthy of recognition.

Now that's a steaming pile. Is putting together and sustaining a left-wing faculty at a major school of social thought seeing conservatives as "potential future allies"? Who is acting as if the other is "unworthy of recognition"? No evidence from him of instances where liberals compromise and conservatives don't.

Liberals believe that policies ought to be judged against an independent ideal such as human welfare or the greatest good for the greatest number; conservatives evaluate policies by whether they advance their conservative causes.

See what I mean as delusional? "Human welfare" and "the greatest good" are not "independent ideals" in the sense of "ideals with stable definitions". Both are very much open for debate. I'm what Wolfe would call a "paleoconservative", yet I think the war in Iraq is an example of something that is advancing "the greatest good for the greatest number". See? I'm concerned about it. I just think it's different from what he thinks it is. As for advancing their causes - see: Judges, liberals blocking appointments.

Liberals instinctively want to dampen passions; conservatives are bent on inflaming them.

That's certainly been my sense, in this wartime. The anti-war protests have all been about dampening passions; The Daily Kos, a prominent liberal blog, is also intent on dampening passions.

Liberals think there is a third way between liberalism and conservatism; conservatives believe that anyone who is not a conservative is a liberal.

Where does this come from? Since when do liberals accept a "third way"? The only "third way" they accept is "stand out of the way".

Liberals want to put boundaries on the political by claiming that individuals have certain rights that no government can take away; conservatives argue that in cases of emergency -- conservatives always find cases of emergency -- the reach and capacity of the state cannot be challenged.

This is totally backwards! Who is it that wants the state in everything you do? The liberals. And they don't wait for emergencies. I'm not saying that the conservatives don't sometimes overreach, as complaints about the Patriot Act have made clear. But to cast liberals as, essentially, libertarians and conservatives as fascists is just... well... you do the math.

Clearly this man is one of four things: 1) Drunk 2) Drugged 3) A blithering idiot 4) Incapable of seeing the truth about his own side. There may be liberals who are as he describes, but if there are, I've never met one, and neither have I seen one running for office.

And of course war makes an appearance:

No wonder that Schmitt admired thinkers such as Machiavelli and Hobbes, who treated politics without illusions. Leaders inspired by them, in no way in thrall to the individualism of liberal thought, are willing to recognize that sometimes politics involves the sacrifice of life. They are better at fighting wars than liberals because they dispense with such notions as the common good or the interests of all humanity... Conservatives are not bothered by injustice because they recognize that politics means maximizing your side's advantages, not giving them away. If unity can be achieved only by repressing dissent, even at risk of violating the rule of law, that is how conservatives will achieve it.

Politics doesn't necessarily require the sacrifice of life, but liberty often does. The kind of liberalisim Wolfe apparently espouses would find its followers sitting in prison at best and dead on the streets at worst in pretty short order, if there weren't a few who understood the sacrifices liberty requires and were actually willing to give that sacrifice. We had 8 years of that kind of liberalism, which brought us WTC I, the Cole, Somalia and 9/11. As for injustice... well, I'll let you do that one. My brain is hurting.

And about repressing dissent. Wolfe himself would not, of course, participate in such activities:

When I served as the dean of the graduate faculty of political and social science at the New School for Social Research in the 1990s, the efforts of the decidedly left-wing faculty to play host to a conference on Schmitt's thought...

The point of that story is not my point in posting it, so I truncated the quote. Notice that Wolfe was dean of the faculty of a school of political and social science, which he describes as decidedly left-wing. Now, do you think it's decidedly left-wing because there are no right-wing political and social science professors? Or maybe because their hiring practices were stacked to bring in only more leftists? That, of course, is not "repressing dissent". It's probably a humanitarian urge not to subject their tender students to the ugliness, the hatefulness, the - dare we say it - Nazi philosophies of conservatives. Wolfe was dean, he could have integrated the faculty, sought out some philosophical diversity. No sign that it happened, and he is obviously oblivious to the possibility that a totally left-wing faculty is a bad thing.

Another interesting point - the article is in the Chronicle of Higher Education, a journal for professors and others involved with or interested in higher education. This is the kind of drivel they put forward, this kind of absolute bunk presented as scholarship. I suggest that next time Wolfe submits an article, that they ask him for a urine test before they consider it.

(Link via Arts & Letters Daily)

Disclaimer: I'm not slamming all liberals here, just idiots like Wolfe. There are some good liberals, just like there are some really really nasty conservatives. And by "good" I don't mean, "more likely to agree with me". I mean "genuinely nice people with reasoned albeit incorrect positions who don't reflexively hate me because I'm conservative." (Hi, Dory!)

Posted by susanna at 11:10 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Officer, I'd like a donut

Tuesdays and Thursdays are busy days for me; I teach three classes, from 10:50 through 3:30, and usually I'm also working on my lectures until the last minute, talking to students and grading papers. So posting will likely take a hit on those days.

Since it's the end of day, and we're all tired by now, I thought a fun and interesting link would be a nice way to end the day.

A restaurant opening in Fremont, CA, features burgers, fries - and donuts. The name? Cops Donuts.

Customers will order food at the sergeant's desk, where a Cops Donut officer in uniform will take orders. They'll chow down while listening to big-band and swing music while Bonnie and Clyde wanted posters adorn the walls.

The menu includes combos like "Cops Feast" -- a dozen glazed and a dozen assorted doughnuts...

Fremont police Detective Bill Veteran said most officers these days preferred bagels and croissants, anyway. "We have a much more sophisticated palate," Veteran said.

So which is the better image - a cop eating a donut, or a croissant?

(Link via The Obscure Store)

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