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July 31, 2004

And now, the dresses

In the ten years I've been talking to people online, I've been blessed many times by the connections I've made. I've dated several men I met first online, I've worked on quilts with women I've met online, I've learned so much and made many friends. I've driven to Canada, Michigan, Pennsylvania (twice), Washington DC, Virginia, Ohio and Tennessee to meet Internet friends, female and male, most of whom became real-life friends. I've given and gotten gifts. I have piles of fabric that came from online quilting groups, an electronic connection that became physical in dozens of little envelopes each bearing a lovely square of cotton. Most recently another Internet friend, Jimmy Ballard, sent me some things he picked up in a bazaar in Afghanistan, where's he's working for a year in the reconstruction there. I'll be shipping him some cookies next week as a thank you. We've never met, and may not ever meet, life being what it is, but that's okay too. Because I've learned in the past 10 years that you can become real friends even with people you've never seen in person.

Earlier this week, Linda Seebach - a regular reader and occasional commentor on this site - contacted me about two dresses she has had in her closet for many years. She knows, from my site, that I love old things, especially Victorian things, and that fabric is a passion of mine. The dresses in her closet were worn by her former husband's grandmother, Edna Mae Loomis, in 1897 - one her wedding dress, the other her going away dress. She checked with family members and with the college where Edna Mae earned a degree during a time when college educated women weren't common. For various reasons they didn't want the dresses. So Linda asked me if I did.

I said yes. Actually, I admit to gushingly saying yes. As it happens, Linda is also a columnist for the Rocky Mountain News, a newspaper based in Denver, CO. Her column about Edna Mae, me and the dresses is here, posted today on the newspaper's site. You can read for yourself just how much I gushed.

I'm very excited about the dresses. I love to decorate with authentic things, and these are as authentic as it gets. Linda has sent me a lot of history about Edna and her family, and I feel that I'm not just getting something to decorate with, but that I'm helping preserve a small slice of the intimate history of our country. I was particularly struck by this passage from Linda's column:

Edna's older sister, whom Beth called Mama, cared for the child. "Mama said of my mother that she never knew anyone who wanted an education so badly. She had to work her way through college," Beth wrote in her memory book.

Another woman who loved education as I do, and who didn't have the opportunities I did and do. Sadly, Edna Mae didn't get to enjoy her education for long - she graduated in 1896, married in 1897, bore her daughter Beth in 1898, and died of tuberculosis in 1899. She was 29 years old.

Linda has sent me copies of the information she has about Edna Mae, and emailed me a photograph of her with her college graduating class - she was the only woman. I plan to get prints of the photos of Edna and her husband, and hang them in the corner where I display the dresses. I think it will inspire me to appreciate what I have, the blessings of my life and living in this country at this time in history. Part of that blessing is the gifts that have come to me over the Internet.

And I'm not speaking of the physical ones.

Below, in the MORE section, is a photo of Edna, and one each of the two dresses on hangers.

Edna Mae Loomis

Edna who wore the 1890s wedding dress cropped.bmp

The two dresses are obviously not displayed to their best advantage. However, you can see the basic style, and the fineness of detail. I'm going to see if I can find dress forms to fit them so I can display them that way. If not... I'll have to reconsider.

The wedding dress


The going away dress


Imagine them in the corner of the room, with the sleigh bed nearby, the walls around them painted cream, and soft curtain sheers hanging beside them (the corner they will be in is next to the windows). Lovely.

Thank you, Linda.

Posted by susanna at 11:43 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

July 30, 2004

The bed and the quilt

I mentioned before that last weekend I got the bedroom suit I've been wanting for a long time. Yesterday my brother came over to help me move the mattress set from the other bedroom onto this bed, since I can't afford a new mattress set right now. The bed is queen size, and the mattress set is full size, so the mattress looks like it's swimming in this sea of dark wood. But at least I get to sleep on it!

In "MORE" is a photo of the bed and the old quilt top I bought on eBay that I'm using as a bedspread. There's also lots of nattering about both, but I'll spare those of you who really don't care.

The Bed and The Quilt

Bed with quilt.jpg

As you can see, the bed takes up a great deal of the bedroom; the corner of the dresser is in the right foreground. There's not a lot to say, other than I love it more every time I see it.

The bedroom... well, you can see that it's not overwhelmingly lovely. This is the most noxious paneling in the duplex; none of the rest of it is actively offensive, and is actually growing on me. This paneling looks like some disease, a light gray-brown with blemishes from previous tenants. A task this fall - when I'm more flush and it's cool enough outside to leave the windows open all day - is to paint it some pale color, including that cement block wall that is the shared wall with the other half of the duplex. My eventual plan is to not only paint all the walls a matching pale color (maybe just ecru), but also to get some sheer chiffon to pleat and cover the cement block wall. I think that would look wonderful, especially with a restrained tasseled trim at the top. I'm not sure about the window covering either; perhaps subtle tapestry-ish valance with color sheers on each side, similar to what I want to do around the shower area in the bathroom.

Finally, the quilt. This quilt top I bought on eBay for less than $20. It's very Victorian both in color and intent. The Victorians loved bright, strong colors and luxurious fabrics. They also adored the funerary arts, like hair jewelry (Victorian-era hair bracelet and more examples); this graveyard quilt* is my favorite late Victorian-style quilt. My quilt here is in graduated squares made of narrow ribbons with a center block of figured satin. The ribbons are actually taken from old funeral arrangements, apparently collected for years by the woman who eventually made the quilt top (which is, interesting in its own right, foundation-pieced onto muslin including at least one printed muslin feed bag). The quilt isn't finished, just partially tacked onto sheet backing with pink embroidery thread. To finish it I will likely take out the tacking, toss the old sheet, have the top dry-cleaned, then add a border (so it will fit a queen-sized bed) and a backing with new tacking. Foundation piecing makes too thick a layer for hand quilting, and I'm not going to machine quilt something like this!

So that's the full story. I'm personally very happy with both bed and quilt. What do you think?

* The graveyard quilt was made by Elizabeth Roseberry Mitchell; the link above is to an almost-exact copy made recently. Mitchell made the quilt with a center block representing a cemetery, the actual one where her two sons were buried. She placed a coffin for each in the center cemetery. Eventually she placed additional coffins along the sides of the quilt, and as relatives died she would put their name on a coffin and move it to the center. This was a labor of love for her, and in a time when death lived closer than it does now, it was not particularly morbid.

Posted by susanna at 12:04 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Amen and amen

This says exactly what I think:

If we do not find it within ourselves to identify the terrorism inspired by radical Islam as an unequivocal evil—and to pronounce ourselves morally superior to it—then we have lost the ability to identify any evil at all, and our democracy is not only diminished, it dissolves into the meaninglessness of privilege.

The moral ambiguity of the last 40+ years in this country has landed us in this place where a large number of Americans not only can't call evil "evil", but suspect that evil as an abstraction doesn't exist (unless its name is George Bush). The article from which this quote came, by Tom Junod in Esquire, is a must-read, especially given that it comes from a liberal and is printed in a liberal publication.

[Link via Roger Simon]

Posted by susanna at 09:06 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 29, 2004

Somebody needs time-ouutttt!

I watched part of the Kerry speech, as well as the video preceeding it. I even watched some of Max Cleland's speech. However, over the course of about 30 minutes, the electricity in my neighborhood went off and came back on five times, so I did miss chunks of the speeches. My take: It was a feel good moment for them, and people heard what they wanted to hear regardless of whether it was good or bad.

I thought the video made John Kerry seem very American and less scary, although Roger Simon was not impressed. Perhaps his expectations were higher. I didn't believe the image they projected in the video, or at least I didn't believe that was all of who John Kerry is, but the way it was juxtaposed made me think that I might not hate him the minute I met him, and I might could even hold out 10-20 minutes. That's an accomplishment. It would have been more powerful had I not known a lot of the Vietnam video was staged because even then he was planning to run for president one day.

Kerry's speech was boilerplate vote-for-me. He should have stopped with the video. I missed the salute (electricity went out), but I saw the sweat and the wussy fist at the end. What is it about those wussy-fists? Kerry and Edwards both, when they make fists that they pump in the air, make them like some girl getting her first lesson in fisticuffs. They look like nothing any fighter would make. There's no force in them or behind them. And as odd as it may seem, I can't get past it. How can I trust in the ability of someone to keep me safe if he can't even make a decent fist? How hard is that?

The Kerry Wussy-Fist

Kerry fist.jpg

Sorry. That's my little soapbox I've been meaning to crawl onto for days. Now that I'm sensitized to it, I'll be watching the Republicans to see if there are similar wussy-fists there. I may just build a bunker and move in if there is.

In a rather amusing note, Drudge has an audio posted of the DNC Convention director, Don Mischer, using the "f" word at the guys who were supposed to let down the balloons. While I don't use or condone using that particular word (as much as I love words in general), it's very funny that Mischer got caught using it. Two reasons - first, because just yesterday they had some little 12 year old chicklet yammering from center stage about how Dick Cheney needs to go to "time out" for using the "f" word at Senator Patrick Leahy on the Senate floor.

The California seventh-grader, addressing a packed convention hall, chided Republican Vice President Cheney for using "a really bad word" recently.

"If I said that word, I would be put in a timeout," Ilana said. "I think Cheney should be put in a timeout." The Democrats roared their approval.

Are they now going to get chicklet out there to put Mischer in time out?

And second reason - Mischer sounds so goofy. Like a guy who wouldn't know how to make a good fist. Who enunciates so carefully when cursing at somebody? I'm sorry, it just sounded a bit too precious (and I don't mean gay). "Don't mess with me, boys, I am IM-POR-TANT!" Say that while enunciating each word clearly, emphasis on the t's. Ewwww.

UPDATE: Here's Drudge's transcript of the comments, but you really need to listen to it to hear the voice too. Although, obviously, you will hear the bad language if you do.

UPDATE 2: Another entry in the wussy-fist alert:

Kerry Wussy-Fist II
wussy-fist 2.jpg

Now, seriously. Could you do any damage with fists like that? And how staged can you look?

UPDATE III: Mischer has apologized for his "balloon rage". Was it before or after the time out?

Posted by susanna at 11:18 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

What's going on ?

Bryan Preston of Junkyardblog has an excellent article up on TechCentralStation, about the Proliferation Security Initiative and Caspian Guard. I didn't know anything about either one before reading it, so I found it fascinating. But then, Bryan always does a good job.

Posted by susanna at 09:56 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A layering of ironies

Although I'm a bit behind the times in getting to it, Dr. Frank has a great post about Pete Townshend and Michael Moore. As you likely know, Moore wanted to use a Townshend song in his 9/11 movie, and Townshend wouldn't let him. Dr. Frank points out the layers of irony in the whole situation, something to amuse and amaze you this early morning.

And while I'm at it, have a great time on your Europa tour, Dr. Frank - the Euros are in for more of a treat than they deserve.

Posted by susanna at 12:06 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 28, 2004

Not that I'd notice...

...but isn't everyone in this photo pointing right? At least, John Edwards' right. Could it be that they're trying to help him realize where he needs to go politically?

Yes, yes, a completely unwarranted reach. But these things amuse me, nonetheless.

Posted by susanna at 03:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Palestinian argument

As someone who is concerned about the Israel/Palestine conflict, I've often wondered how the Palestinian side justifies its actions. I know there are highly intelligent and thoughtful Palestinians, people who should have solid analytical skills, so how do they condone the carnage? I've read some discussions of it from a Palestinian perspective, trying to understand, but they're usually so full of anger and venom that I give up in disgust.

This article by Ali Kazak, an ambassador from Palestine to Vanuatu and East Timor, does what those other articles did not: gives a relatively dispassionate outline of the Palestinian's viewpoint of the conflict and its origins. I'm not endorsing it as an accurate assessment of the situation as a whole, but it seems a good assessment from the Palestinian side. One of Kazak's primary points is that anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism. Without agreeing with his conclusions generally, I must say that I do think it's reasonable to make that distinction - I know a number of people who question Israel's policies, even existence, who are by no means against Jews as a people or as individuals. Based on what I've seen, I doubt the average Palestinian makes that distinction, however. And I get the strong impression from his article that he makes that argument not because he passionately feels the injustice that is anti-Semitism, but rather because he knows it strengthens his argument overall not to be seen as unilaterally anti-Jew as opposed to anti-Israel.

The most difficult part of the article is the obvious fact that he not only does not condemn suicide bombing, but rather tacitly defends it:

Opposing Israel and Zionism is not anti-Semitism and fighting occupation, oppression and racism is not terrorism, and must not be confused with terrorism.

That's the only reference I could find to the current fighting, and he's apparently giving blanket approval to any means necessary to get rid of Israel. There is no justification for the suicide bombings, so it's smart of him not to be more explicit about his support. There's much to disagree with in the article, but still it's a readable explanation from the Palestinian side. You also get a taste for how the issue is currently being played on the world stage. Interesting how he disclaims anti-Semitism as a reason behind his own position, or as a reason behind the general Palestinian, Arab or Muslim hatred of Israel, and yet he turns around and warns Israel and Jews worldwide that anti-Semitism is a natural outgrowth of what's happening in the Palestinian/Israel conflict. "Hey, this is not how I feel, but just wanted you to know it's gettin' bad out there," he seems to be saying.

He also makes much of the fact that 60% of Europeans "regard Israel as the greatest threat to world peace". I don't know where that came from, since last I knew the United States was the greatest threat. Perhaps Israel and the US tied for top spot? It's an empty argument, though, if he's wanting to convince Jews or Americans (or American Jews) that they're in error - we've long gotten past caring what the majority of Euros think, given their other policies and opinions. And threatening the Jews with European opinion doesn't seem smart historically either, since a major impetus for forming Israel as a modern country was what happened the last time European opinion went the way of anti-Semitism. Invoking the rise of anti-Jewishness in countries either responsible for or impotent in the face of the Holocaust is actually counterproductive. If the world is becoming more hostile to Jews, how much more do they need their own secure place?

So take it for what it's worth. I do recommend it if you're interested in what's going on there. I suspect that, for all its flaws, it's the least angry and ugly discussion of it that you'll find from a supporter of the Palestinian side.

And thanks to John at Crossroads Arabia for the link.

Posted by susanna at 09:07 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

July 27, 2004

Not my problem!

I can't reveal why this is an issue for me today, but I suspect you'll figure it out after reading it.

It is not my responsibility as a college professor to build up anyone's self-esteem, up to and especially including my students!

Whew. I feel better already.

Perhaps I should write an open letter for my next class:

Dear students,

As we undertake this semester together, I think it's important that we understand the roles each of us will play. Of foremost importance is the syllabus. This is the contract between you and me. I tell you what we will study, and how I will determine your grade. You attend class to hear what I say, you study the material, you turn in your assignments, and you will likely leave with a grade that satisfies you. I promise not to suddenly add a 20 page paper, or three more exams, or a field trip to NYC that you have to pay for.

But it's important that you realize what my job is. This is not kindergarten. This is not elementary school. This is not even high school. This is college. My primary job is to make you think critically. My secondary job is to make you think about whatever topic we're discussing. I will give you definitions of terms, and explain concepts. But it's unlikely you'll see any test questions asking you to define terms and explain concepts. What you will be asked to do is apply your knowledge. Knowledge is a tool, and it serves no useful purpose to have a tool if you don't know what to do with it - rather like giving a lumberjack an eyelash curler, or handing a sewing machine to an infant. We'd only be wasting each other's time.

You are an adult now, and you must begin to act like one. I'm not going to lose sleep over whether you "got" what we talked about today; I'm going to assume that because you didn't ask for clarification, because you didn't come up to me after class for more information, because you didn't email me with a question, you got it. The fact that I have gone perhaps too far beyond the call of duty by posting my very own lecture notes online for you to download and study, gives me additional assurance that I've done my duty by you. So if I seem unsympathetic that you failed the exam, it's probably because I am.

I'm not heartless. In fact, I have repeatedly been told by other college professors that I am too lenient, that I give too many breaks, that I "baby" my students. And I do, to the extent I can in good conscience and still feel that I am teaching a college class, not feeding pablum to babies. But I have my limits, and at any intimation that all I've done is not enough, I'll shoot right past them. So walk gently when you complain. Your grade is still in my hands.

Finally, I want to disabuse you of the notion that I care about your self-esteem. I don't. Honest. If I think you've done a good job, I'll say, "Good job!" on your paper. When I do that, I'm expressing an honest opinion about your achievement. I'm not stroking your ego. If you feel a sense of good self-esteem because I said, "Good job!", I'm happy for you. But I don't make decisions on lectures, assignments or grading based on how it's going to make you feel. I can't say this strongly enough: Your self-esteem is not my concern. I don't care what your high school teacher said, or what they say at church or at home or on TV. You don't have a right to a good self-esteem. You need to earn it.

If you pay attention in class and learn what I have to teach, you will leave my class better equipped not just in the subject matter, but in how you approach life in general. You will think more clearly and analytically; you will be a better problem solver. If you don't pay attention, or work to succeed, you'll probably fail. I will truly be sorry, but I won't hesitate to provide the school with the grade you've earned.

And I may mention that I'm teaching the course again next semester.

Now, let's get going!
Susanna Cornett
Adjunct Professor

I may just modify this and really use it.

Posted by susanna at 07:51 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

If it ever crossed your mind...

... to drop me a line, now is a good time.

That isn't to say compliments. Just whatever's on your mind to say.

Posted by susanna at 10:43 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

July 26, 2004

Column, revised

I posted last week about my opportunity to write a column from the conservative position for a newsletter at the school where I teach. I posted the first draft of my column, and asked for comments. Several of you made excellent points, and I have incorporated them. Thank you! The revised version is in the "More" Section. I will be turning it in tomorrow. Any additional comments you would like to make are welcome.

It is decidedly improved already from your suggestions.

Spiraling liberal hypocrisy

Here’s a great joke for you to share with former US Ambassador Joseph Wilson should you see him anytime soon:

Q: What did Saddam Hussein want for his birthday? A: Nigerian yellow cake.

“Nigerian yellow cake” refers to a form of uranium ore that can be refined to use in making nuclear bombs. In early 2002, Wilson was sent to Niger by the CIA – at the recommendation of his wife, a CIA employee – to investigate reports that Iraq had tried to procure yellow cake from Niger. Based on his and other reports, the intelligence community decided it was likely true, and that information formed part of the decision to go to war against Iraq last year.

During the State of the Union address in January of this year, President George Bush said the famous 16 words that caused a firestorm of protest from the left:

“The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

When the statement came into dispute, it quickly became the centerpiece of the anti-war left’s efforts to convince Americans and the world that President Bush and his administration deliberately lied in an effort to support the war. Wilson himself stepped forward to deny that Iraq had sought Nigerian yellow cake, and thus became the darling of the movement, appearing on television, publishing a book with “truth” in the name, and becoming a martyr by claiming that his CIA-spy wife was maliciously “outed” by the administration. This summer, he signed on as a foreign policy advisor to John Kerry, and Kerry’s campaign was paying for a website where Wilson supported Kerry – a website called “” which has since been removed from the Kerry site.

I’ll let William Safire, in a column in the New York Times on July 19, tell you the bad news about just how much honesty there is in Wilson and his claims:

“Two exhaustive government reports came out last week showing that it is the president's lionized accuser, and not Mr. Bush, who has been having trouble with the truth.”

The reports specifically state that not only did Wilson lie about the yellow cake after Bush’s speech – several reliable sources indicate that Saddam did try to get yellow cake from Niger – but he also lied about what he himself said in his report. He lied about his wife, saying she did not recommend him for the mission, when the Senate report includes information from a memo written by Wilson’s wife outlining why he would be a good candidate for it. And an article in the July 26th issue of the conservative political magazine The Weekly Standard includes this quote from the Senate report:

“…when asked how [Wilson] "knew" that the Intelligence Community had rejected the possibility of a Niger-Iraq uranium deal, as he wrote in his book, he told Committee staff that his assertion may have involved "a little literary flair."”

The anti-war liberals and leftists are so intent on demonizing Bush and “his” war that they are willing to swallow any kind of rhetorical excess – even lies - to make it happen. Wilson is just one example. John Kerry says he will try to bring the French into the coalition to rebuild Iraq, but says nothing about the fact that one of the reasons the French tried to block the war was because their oil companies were making millions through an oil-for-food scam worked with Saddam. No Saddam, no millions. The liberals pant for the day when Iraq and Afghanistan are handed over to the United Nations to manage, conveniently ignoring that where the U.N. is in control now, on-going investigations are tracing millions of dollars that apparently disappeared into U.N. officials’ private pockets (including that of U.N. leader Kofi Annan’s son), and finding evidence that refugees in Africa and elsewhere are routinely terrorized and sexually brutalized by U.N. “peacekeeping” forces. There’s even evidence that the U.N. is directly responsible for the continuing battles in Iraq that are killing Iraqis and Americans daily. This from the July 19th New York Post:

“American officials believe that millions of dollars Saddam Hussein skimmed from the scandal-plagued U.N. oil-for-food program are now being used to help fund the bloody rebel campaign against U.S. forces and the new Iraqi government, The Post has learned.”

Vigorous debate and political disagreements are cornerstones of the freedoms in this country, and should be encouraged. But when leftists and liberals support horrific policies and engage in venomous rhetoric for the sake of undermining not just our President but our country, then it’s gone too far. They become hypocrites, spouting platitudes of love for the world while encouraging policies that bring harm to the most vulnerable.

Perhaps we should have a new bumper sticker for the John Kerry for President crowd to send to Niger, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Bosnia, and any other country the liberals and the U.N. want to control:

“Let them eat yellow cake”.

Further sources: For more information on these issues, see the following:,1886,16-177906-,00.html

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

"I don't get it"

Ann Coulter was hired by USA Today to commentate on the Dem convention from a conservative viewpoint, but they "summarily rejected" her first column last night and have now hired Jonah Goldberg as her replacement.

They've hired Michael Moore to similarly commentate on the Republican convention.

The online magazine Human Events has a column from Coulter talking about her removal, and it includes the disputed column with notes in all caps from the USA Today editor who reviewed it. As you know, Ann Coulter is not my favorite commentator and I don't generally read her material. It's too over the top, and I just don't enjoy it. But I do "get" it, which is more than can be said for the USA Today editor. It's very instructive to read the editor's comments, because it tells you volumes about his/her own frame of reference. Here's a prime example both of Coulter's over-the-top imagery and the editor's cluelessness:

[Coulter's column] My pretty-girl allies stick out like a sore thumb amongst the corn-fed, no make-up, natural fiber, no-bra needing, sandal-wearing, hirsute, somewhat fragrant hippie chick pie wagons they call "women" at the Democratic National Convention.


Obviously, USA Today. My first reaction to reading that editing comment was that the editor concerned either is just such a hippie chick pie wagon, or is married to/dates one (final option, is longing to date one). The thing is, Coulter breaks no new ground in her column. She doesn't come up with startlingly new imagery. She actually manages to cram amazing amounts of standard liberal-slurs from the right into a short column, using her classic lemony wit. It's vintage Coulter. It's even poor vintage Coulter. How off the docks would the editor be if Coulter had actually managed something innovative?

Clearly whoever hired Coulter either didn't communicate with the editor or never actually read her work before hiring her. Either scenario is asinine. And while Jonah Goldberg as a replacement is acceptable, even as aserbic as he gets sometimes he's no match for the kind of venomous, lying nonsense we'll see out of Moore in August. At least Coulter can rival Moore in sheer nastiness (although I haven't seen any indication that she is married to outright lying like he is).

And what Coulter and Human Events says about Moore is quite right as well:

“My guess is they will ‘get’ his humor” said Coulter. We agree.

Me too.

I do have to say, though, in response to a line in the Human Events article that tacitly implies the refusal to print Coulter's column is an effort to "censor" her: It's not censoring. Her column is now up at World Net Daily and Human Events, so it's even suppressed. Censoring must always involve negative consequences applied by the government. This is just cowardice and bias - the latter charge resulting from their decision to tone down the coverage of the Dem convention while planning to forge ahead with coverage of the Republican convention. What Moore has to say will doubtless make Coulter's column sound like a kindergartener yelling "Neener neener!"

And USA Today will "get it".

Posted by susanna at 06:34 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


I wrote a long, involved and impassioned post about President Bush, Bill Cosby and the ideological crossroads faced by black Americans. It was really good. And through a series of convoluted savings and deletions, I deleted it.

I'm very depressed. I'm going to go brood about it for a while.

Posted by susanna at 01:58 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

What is a journalist?

This first one came from a link on Instapundit, about the luxury of "neutrality" in journalists (or at least the illusion of neutrality). The whole article is powerful, but this point distills the essence of it:

Only in a highly developed and reasonably secure political system do journalists have the luxury of thinking apolitically about their work. Only when democracy and the rule of law have won, historically, is it possible to "lose" your political identity as a journalist and go around saying things like "we're just reporting the news." Or I'm a professional and so my politics don't enter into it.

That's especially interesting in light of another pair of links from Ed Driscoll on Saturday:

Howell Raines, February 20, 2003:
"Our greatest accomplishment as a profession is the development since World War II of a news reporting craft that is truly non-partisan, and non-ideological, and that strives to be independent of undue commercial or governmental influence....But we don’t wear the political collar of our owners or the government or any political party. It is that legacy we must protect with our diligent stewardship. To do so means we must be aware of the energetic effort that is now underway to convince our readers that we are ideologues. It is an exercise of, in disinformation, of alarming proportions, this attempt to convince the audience of the world’s most ideology-free newspapers that they’re being subjected to agenda-driven news reflecting a liberal bias.”

Daniel Okrent, July 25, 2004:

Is The New York Times a Liberal Newspaper?

Of course it is.

Gee, that only took 70 years to admit.

The links to the sources on each quote are at Driscoll's site. And a nice finish to this set is from Jeff Jarvis's site, where he asks the question, What is a journalist?

Tom Rosenstiel in today's Boston Globe asks and answers the question, what is a journalist?
A journalist tries to tell the literal truth and get the facts right, does not pass along rumors, engages in verifying, and makes that verification process as transparent as possible.

A journalist's goal is to inspire public discussion, not to help one side win or lose. One who tries to do the latter is an activist.

Neutrality is not a core principle of journalism. But the commitment to facts, to public consideration, and to independence from faction, is.

A journalist's loyalty to his or her audience, even above employer, is paramount.

...I'd say a journalist is one who communicates news and information. What do you say?

Jarvis has a few more pertinent comments I ellipsed out. It's not an academic exercise to consider these questions. The way that the media presents itself is a commercial commodity in our times. It also has a powerful impact on how the average American assesses his or her "received knowledge" - already filtered and vetted and digested for them by these "objective" journalists. Most of you reading this blog already know and understand this. What we're fighting for is a shift in how the general public sees media, along with developing in the public the tools to evaluate information critically.

Posted by susanna at 01:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Not that I'm surprised

Who would have thought?

You speak eloquently and have seemingly read every
book ever published. You are a fountain of
endless (sometimes useless) knowledge, and
never fail to impress at a party.
What people love: You can answer almost any
question people ask, and have thus been
nicknamed Jeeves.
What people hate: You constantly correct their
grammar and insult their paperbacks.

What Kind of Elitist Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Shockingly enough, my brother Alan is the same thing, although I can in fact vouch that, as he says on his site, he does sneer at a lot of what I read. And the music I listen to. He's more elitist than me. I generally don't mock what people read (unless it's, say, Al Franken and they're approving of it), I'm just grateful that they read. You can always find something to talk about with someone who reads a lot.

Alan learned of the quiz at Curmudgeonry, where Jordana is a different kind of elitist altogether. But despite that, I know she's a book person too, so she's all right by me. I've been to her home and seen the bookcases.

I'm actually shocked when I go into people's homes and don't see bookcases. Nada zilch. And those who do have bookcases all too often have them filled with encyclopedias and old Reader's Digest abridged anthologies that they swiped from their parents to fill their shelves. I know somebody out there reads, and some are even as freakishly attached to books as me. I see those homes occasionally, and I immediately feel a connection to whomever it is. But as much as I love some people who just don't read very much, I always wonder at their mental landscape, and what it looks like in there. It has to be very different from mine.

Not that that's a bad thing, given what mine is like.

Books have been my best friends and companions since I knew how to hold them. As a child I would stick one in my back pocket when I went bike riding, stopping occasionally to tuck myself in some isolated patch of creek bank to read. I always had one in my purse (often still do), and would read on the bus, while waiting for the bus, when class got boring, when people got boring and, on at least one memorable occasion, at a high school ballgame where my sister yelled at me for reading instead of watching. I always have two or more books in progress at any one time, reading before bed, while enthroned, when stopped at traffic lights, while waiting in line, and when eating in restaurants alone. That's besides the times I just sit down and spend an afternoon reading. I've never been too busy to read for leisure at least some during a day, and it baffles me to hear a formerly avid reader say, "I just never have time to read anymore. It's been months since I've read anything for leisure!"

Huh? To me, that's like saying, "It's been months since I've breathed!"

So I suppose it's not surprising that I would register as a book snob. And I do correct grammar. I took a proofreading test at Manpower when I signed up as a temp worker recently (not that I've gotten a nibble yet), and I rated "excellent". Meanwhile, I found a couple of mistakes in their application.

But then, I found a mistake in the quiz too.

Posted by susanna at 11:47 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

July 24, 2004


Three new posts are up at The Crime Resource Room, which, yes, I'm working on again.

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

This is it! I mean it!

This week has been about reshaping some of my spaces. My new furniture is to arrive today, and I also finally got my computer table and a couple of bookcases for my office. Right now it's still a mess but things are shaping up. I'm quite happy, but busy and a bit sore from the lifting and packing. I have at least another week of work before it's to my liking (and that's not counting any painting I may do, but that wouldn't be until the fall).

A few weeks ago I noticed that various people were posting photos of their blogging stations (computer desks). Knowing that this is the best mine will ever look, as it's only had three days to accumulate clutter, I thought now was a good time to join in.

My computer desk, from the side

Computer desk from side small.jpg

I took this next photo first, but for obvious reasons it wasn't the best for seeing the desk. However, it's great for seeing my flag - at least as well as I see it. This window faces the road, so everyone passing by sees my flag. If I didn't have such cheap ($10) roller shades, I'd probably be able to make the shade go up enough to see all of it myself.

My computer desk, with flag

computer desk with flag small.jpg

One of yesterday's projects was to partially cover that great white cement block wall in the office. I had the clever idea of hanging a quilt top I purchased off eBay a year or so ago, which I've not finished yet. I screwed cup hooks in the molding and hung curtain rings with clips on them. The quilt top wouldn't cooperate, and kept falling out of the first clips before I could get the last clips engaged. Finally I pinned safety pins along the top of the quilt top and hung the pins on the clips. Viola! A lovely folk-arty statement. The elliptical trainer is a kitschy piece of modern art for a counterpoint (okay, I bought it to use but haven't in a while. I'm going to the gym instead! Leave me alone!).

The House Quilt


And finally, lest you think I've forgotten my true reason for being:

Haydon and Molly Katherine with Alice

Girls Aliceclose cropped and resized.jpg

Have a lovely weekend. I'm off to make chicken salad for the returning brother and family, and forge a path through the detritus for the furniture guys.

Posted by susanna at 12:09 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Speaking of lawyers...

This is to anyone out there with experience in copyright law. Yes, I know I'm asking for professional information that normally I'd have to pay for. I'll barter with you - you can read my blog free in perpetuity. How's that?

The situation is this: I have another blog, which I'm trying to get fired up again, called The Crime Resource Room. One of the things I want to do there is summarize current criminal justice journal articles so that the average person can read and understand what the latest research in the field is, without having to wade through piles of statistics and jargon. My question for the lawyer is: Do I have to get the permission of the journals in question in order to do this? I'm not going to republish their abstracts, but rather read the article in question and write a one or two graph summary about it. I would of course give a full citation to the actual articles, the majority of which will not be online, and even those that are online are for the most part unlikely to be open access.

What say you? If you're really on top of it, I might be persuaded to part with homemade cookies as a further thank you.

Now, I have to go rescue my house. It is currently filled with smoke because I put a chicken in to bake at 500 degrees, just as the recipe said, then promptly forgot about it and went to blog. Thirty minutes later my house looked like a San Francisco dock in the pre-dawn hours of a muggy day. And my smoke alarm did not go off. This is something to think about.

Posted by susanna at 11:38 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

And this is new because....?

Some lawyers are complaining because celebrities are getting the kid glove treatment by the courts. Here's how it's being played:

"The idea that you have justice and then you have celebrity justice is really offensive," said Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. "Does the public understand what preferential treatment these people are receiving from the system?"

What she wants you to believe is that celebrities getting preferential treatment is some big new development. How shocking! We must do something about it! Of course anyone who is marginally aware of the criminal justice system knows that your ability to play the system rises exponentially with the amount of money you have to spend on lawyers to obfuscate and tie up the system. That's not to say the lawyers so doing are working outside the law - they're generally not. But they're very very good at playing the game.

If anything, celebrities are as if not more likely to have troubles with the criminal justice system now than ever before. And the reason is partially because of the very thing that this is really about. The rest of the same woman's quote:

"If they decide celebrities are entitled to a different kind of justice," Dalglish said, "we have lost press oversight of the system. Without that, we will never know if the rich and famous are getting the same justice as the rest of us."

Emphasis mine. You see, the preferential treatment she's complaining about here is the secrecy with which many of the proceedings are done (or at least she's claiming things are done in secret). What she wants is more press access. But why the secrecy? Is it because the Big Celebs want every little detail to be private?

In Jackson's child molestation case in California, the judge has sealed almost all documents and has imposed a sweeping gag order. In the Bryant rape case in Colorado, a gag order also restricts comment by the two sides, and many hearings on the accuser's sex life are held in secret. In New York, Stewart's judge closed jury selection to the media and the public.

In all three cases, the judges cited fears of sensational publicity tainting the jury and interfering with a fair trial.

Emphasis mine. Are the judges acting unreasonably? Is there a likelihood that with the celebrity cases, there will be huge intrusive get-every-word-out-to-the-public-before-the-jury-is-selected press coverage? I only have one response to that:

O.J. Simpson.

Maybe sometimes it's a bad thing that, as Loyola University Law Professor Laurie Levenson said in the article, " 'the actions taken in high-visibility cases end up defining the law' for everybody else". Maybe sometimes things that need to get out to the public don't (and the article cites as an example the case of jury selection in Martha Stewart's trial, which was closed). But what Ms. Reporter isn't acknowledging is that all the information will come out in trial, that everything that should legally be known will be presented to the jury in open court. And the attorneys on both sides will be vociferous and ferocious in their advocacy of their side, all the more because it's a celebrity. Every defense attorney wants to be Johnny Cochran. No prosecutor wants to be Marsha Clark.

What Ms. Reporter also doesn't acknowledge is the reason why the judges feel compelled to grant such secrecy, to impose gag orders. It's because it's been proven repeatedly that it's absolutely necessary. The rulings are not to prevent responsible press coverage. They're to prevent the 24/7 scrambling for new information by hundreds of reporters hungry for notoriety and ratings.

Yet again the press is not willing to accept that any limits on former press freedoms are not a result of the stifling of their First Amendment rights, but a direct consequence of their consistent and irresponsible trampling of every single right of the average person that stands in their way. I'm not saying that sometimes the courts go too far; I'm sure they do. But the press is a direct cause of that overreaction in far too many instances.

Posted by susanna at 11:14 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Computer update

My desktop works! After everyone agreed I needed an adapter for the mouse, or I needed a new one, I thought, this is the mouse I used in NJ! I must have an adapter somewhere already... After digging around, I found it, plugged everything in properly, booted the computer, and it worked! So now I'm a two-computer woman.

Is there better in life than this?

Posted by susanna at 10:45 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Armed Forces Tribute

This is a very moving combination of a Ricky Skaggs song and a slide show of soldiers in Iraq, with a voice-over by a little girl. Meant to be a tear-jerker, and it works in a good way. It's making its way around right now via email.

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

July 23, 2004

It's all about timing

Drudge is indicating that the Pentagon today released the records of President Bush's National Guard service that were earlier supposedly destroyed. Here's the quote from Drudge:

The Pentagon on Friday released payroll records from President Bush's 1972 service in the Alabama National Guard, saying its earlier contention the records were destroyed was an 'inadvertent oversight.' The records cover July through September of 1972, when Bush was working as a campaign volunteer in Alabama...

Interesting. The search was going on now because of an Associated Press open records request. The article says the AP is "evaluating" the records now, which means they're reading them.

Now we sit back and wait for who will yell about the timing. If the reports show that Bush served as he was supposed to, the Dems will yell about timing. They'll say the Bushies knew all along they were there, and only hauled them out this close to the election to minimize focus on Kerry's military service vs Bush's. If the records show some discrepancies and some not-so-favorable information, look for the Republicans to yell foul about their being conveniently "found" so close to the Dem convention. They'll be looking for some cuckoo bird Dem operative as the culprit.

It is curious that they showed up now; the Pentagon is claiming that they weren't found earlier because the searchers were using the wrong index number. Deliberately? Or not? Sometimes there are coincidences. This could be one. And then again, it could be something else.

UPDATE: Told you so.

Posted by susanna at 04:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Document this

WaPo has an amazingly thoughtful and even piece about the liberal predominance in the making and release of documentary films. Naturally it keys off Moore's latest, but it doesn't stop there. It demonstrates how - and explains why - the liberals have a lock on the medium. However, it's not "pro" any one side, unless you consider it taking sides to include a good proportion of quotes from people concerned that the liberal lock on documentaries does a disservice to the voices of a lot of Americans.

My favorite quotes:

"The people who make documentaries very often come from the left," agreed LA Weekly critic Ella Taylor, "mostly because conservatives are not particularly socially conscious people looking to change the world."

I'd be really interested to have a count of how many genuinely conservative people she actually knows personally and considers friends. Clearly she's repeating some liberal meme here with no personal experience of the group she's labeling. And then there's this:

Not all filmmakers recognize a left-leaning tradition. "The vast majority of documentaries have no political leanings," said Barbara Kopple, the director best known for two Oscar-winning films, "Harlan County U.S.A." and "American Dream." "The ones that do are simply exploring social issues, and different types of storytelling emerge from different crises. So, no, most documentaries do not come from the left."

I would argue most do, even some seemingly innocuous ones. Last night while putting together a bookcase and working on a cross-stitch, I watched most of several documentaries on A&E and PBS. One of those on A&E was called, "Washington Wives", which you would assume would cut across the political spectrum. You would be wrong. It featured Teresa Heinz Kerry and Elizabeth Edwards, plus Howard Dean's national finance director, Stephanie Shriock, and more-socialite-than-journalist Sally Quinn. During the part I watched (only about 45 minutes of the 2 hours), the part featuring the wives was not highly ideological. However, Quinn came off as both smugly partisan and arrogant about her position in the Washington social whirl.

Another documentary was about the burning of Rome during Nero's time (it's part of a series called "Secrets of the Dead" that is quite fascinating). It looked at the destruction revealed through archaeological digs, and speculated about the fire's origin and purpose. The mainstream theory seemed to be that Nero wanted to rebuild the city to his preference, so when the powerful Senators bucked him and refused to give over their elaborate homes to him for demolition, he just had the whole place burnt down and started over. Interesting, albeit (as they noted) difficult to prove at this distance. Much was made of Nero's decision to blame the Christians for it, which resulted in horrific persecution of the faithful. Then, toward the end of the program, another historian introduced his theory: that, because of prophecies in Revelation, Christians did set the city on fire deliberately to destroy the city that Revelation calls "the whore of Babylon". In his scenario, Nero's persecution of the Christians was not a cover up, but rather the appropriate Roman response to arson. To those of you who don't follow - or don't care - about various historical theories associated with behavior of Christians in ancient times, they are often negative about the Christians, positing behavior that goes directly against Biblical edict (arson, leading to wide-spread killing, including of their own people, is not a Christian act). In this case, it was presented toward the end of the program, and then given credence by another historian who had gained the audience's trust by his prominence throughout the program. And there the documentary ended, with the radical new groundbreaking theory that Christians were arsonists and Nero just another emperor going about his legitimate business.

Do I generally object to the presentation of material this way? Of course. It's not particularly fair many times. But at the same time, it's not always so egregious as to make the documentary unbearable, and usually enough information is included that is either neutral or balanced. No one is going to agree with anyone else's interpretation of things all the time, and it's good to challenge your beliefs and received knowledge on a regular basis. Shocking as it may seem to some of you, I am not always correct. Recognizing that, I seek out new information and evaluate it based on what I know to be true or believe to be right. In other words, I'm adult enough and sentient enough to separate wheat and chaff.

But some people, I'm sorry to say, are not. I've taught college courses to freshmen and sophomores for five years, and the lack of critical thinking skills is horrible. And that's one of my main problems with documentataries like those described above. It's not that they exist, it's that they exist with the self-aggrandizing claim of truth that a lot of people viewing them either don't have the skills or the inclination to question. That's why I would like more documentaries - on the big AND small screens - that approach things from a conservative perspective. I don't want people to blindly follow conservative views any more than I want them to blindly follow liberal views. What I do want is for them to have something to weigh against the other. I want them to be forced into critical thinking.

And meanwhile, back at school, I want critical thinking required as a college class in the freshman year.

Posted by susanna at 12:42 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 21, 2004


I've successfully set up my new computer table and moved all my computer equipment over to it. That includes setting up my old desktop for the first time since mid-December of last year, when the movers took away my monitor.

Therein lies a problem.

I have keyboards and mouses (mice?) for each computer. The desktop has two USB ports as well as round plug-in places marked for keyboard and mouse. Both keyboard and mouse I have hooked up to it now are in the USBs. The mouse is the same one I used in NJ, the keyboard the one that came with my laptop (I'm using the natural keyboard from my desktop with the laptop now). The problem is, when I turn on the computer it says, "Windows did not detect a mouse attached to the computer. You can safety attach a serial mouse now. To attach a mouse to a PS/2 mouse port, you must first turn the computer off." This stops the start-up just before the desktop appears. Even "control-alt-delete" from the keyboard won't work, so I have to just turn off the computer.

Any suggestions? I'd rather not go buy another mouse with one of those little round plug-in things. I seem to remember having an adaptor maybe at one point? Who knows. It's been 8 months!!

Posted by susanna at 05:40 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack


I signed up with Blogads this morning, not that I'm expecting to be able to quit my (non-existent) day job as a result, but because I thought, hey, why not? Of course I can't figure out whether I've done it right. At the same time I thought I pasted my Sitemeter counter on my individual post archive so it would count hits to links to archives, but I don't see it either.


I haven't time for this.

My furniture comes on Saturday and my house looks like it's been ransacked. Not that that's unusual, mind you. Just that there's not room for new furniture in the living room right now, much less the back bedroom. So today will be about wrestling some semblance of order into the mess and also grading the exams my classes took yesterday.

I may post later. I may not. It depends on whether or not the police come to place me under involuntary commitment.

UPDATE: And just to show you how thoroughly odd I am, I spent about 20 minutes last night looking up my favorite shows online and constructing a date and time grid on Excel to show when they air during the week. It covers only prime time, and it's distressing (or maybe good) that it's less than half filled. But at least I won't miss any L&Os.

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

July 19, 2004

This just nauseates me

And I'm sure you'll see why very quickly: this year's election, there is a hidden high-tech twist. Rutkus and Harris are out to "map" the political demography of this neighborhood, trolling in the service of a quasi-science called "database targeting."

Houston's answers will bounce from Rutkus's clipboard to a computer in the state Democratic Party's offices here, and then 400 miles away to computers housed in the Democratic National Committee's headquarters in Washington.

Like rivulets flowing to rivers and rivers to the sea, this information will join an enormous data torrent streaming toward Washington from all around the country. Houston's "profile" is just one of 166 million -- or one for every registered voter -- that the DNC is constantly updating in a huge digital cache known as DataMart. The Republican National Committee tends a similar information trove, dubbed Voter Vault...

"You could ask me about any city block in America, and I could tell you how many on that block are likely to be health care voters, or who's most concerned about education or job creation," said DNC Chairman Terence R. McAuliffe. "And I could press a button and six seconds later you'd have a name, an address and a phone number for each of them. We can then begin a conversation with these people that is much more sophisticated and personal than we ever could before."

Those of you who've been with me a while probably remember this post on grocery savings cards, which led to a few additional comments from Glenn Reynolds. My point here is not about any terrorist use, but definitely about the fact that there's just too much information collection going on. It's nobody's business! You can talk to me all you want (Jim Bowen!) about how it's too complex a process to sort through all the information, but did you notice that the political databases are crunching data on 166 million people?

I don't want my grocery list matched to my credit card purchases matched with my credit record and bank statement and political affiliation and education and online commentary and and and! It's nobody's business!

I know I'm trying to whistle down the wind here. But the technology's likely to arrive sometime in the next century where all that information could be in one database that I could search from my handheld computer with wireless Internet connection. All that's already intact except maybe for the consolidated database and generalized access.

It's enough to make me live off the grid, make purchases using only cash, and refuse to give any information about me to anyone. Maybe even including my Mom.

(Just kidding, Mom!)

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

Hassoun speaks

US Marine Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun spoke to reporters today outside the Marine base at Quantico, stating that he did not desert and was held by anti-coalition forces for 19 days. The Marines are reportedly allowing him to decompress before interviewing him as part of the investigation into his whereabouts during his absence.

I'm still skeptical. But I promise to make a full apology to Hassoun (well, on my blog anyway) if he's exonerated of any wrongdoing.

Posted by susanna at 07:01 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Confession time

I was sitting there watching MT-Blacklist delete a dental-insurance comment spam when I realized I had to confess to you all. Remember when I was moaning and groaning and whining almost daily about comment spam? How I fumed at having to delete every spam and rebuild every post? Remember how surprised some of you were that MT-Blacklist wasn't handling that?

Well. Confession time. I never de-spammed! That's correct. I would add the spam URL to the MT-Blacklist, and then would go back to my blog and delete it manually, wondering why MT-Blacklist was so great. Then one day I thought, hmmm... I wonder what happens when you hit de-spam? So I did, and the program sucked out dozens of nasty little hidden spam-critters. It was such a joy to click "delete"! And then MT-Blacklist rebuilt it all itself.

What a delight.

What a total dunce I am.

I need a large "L" tattooed on my forehead.

But don't try it. The closest I'll get is confessing to you. And yes, the next time you don't understand why something that supposed to work well won't work well for me, it is logical to assume user error.

Posted by susanna at 05:24 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Counterpoint to a flaming liberal

I've been asked by the librarian at the school where I teach to write a political column from the right. She's starting a little library-newsletter and wants to include views from both sides, I assume as a regular feature. She kindly allowed me to read the column submitted by her liberal writer, which was a foaming indictment of Bush and why he should be considered a war criminal. It involved Guatanamo Bay and White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, as well as pointing out what he obviously saw as the sheer lunacy of impeaching Clinton for a little sex on the side and not indicting Bush for "torturing brown skinned terror suspects". I won't reproduce it here, because it's not been published yet and I don't have his permission. When she prints it, I'll post it here.

I thought for a while about what to write, and decided not to directly respond to his column. For one thing, he won't have a chance to rebut me before publication, and it's just not fair to rip him up in a blindside. For another, I felt I could make the necessary point in the midst of a broader based column. (I'm also nearly forcibly restraining myself from ripping up his argumentation and lack of actual support for his assertations. I'm trying to be nice here. It hurts.)

Here is what I've written. The available space is small. The assumed audience is the faculty, staff and some students of a community college in rural Alabama, where the average person knows politics mostly from watching television. In other words, I'm not assuming many of them know who Joseph Wilson is. Any and all commentary is appreciated; I intend to submit this tomorrow.

Spiraling liberal hypocrisy

Here’s a great joke for you to share with former US Ambassador Joseph Wilson should you see him anytime soon:

Q: What did Saddam Hussein want for his birthday? A: Nigerian yellow cake.

“Nigerian yellow cake” refers to a form of refined uranium ore that can be used to make nuclear bombs. In early 2002, Wilson was sent to Niger by the CIA – at the recommendation of his wife, a CIA employee – to investigate reports that Iraq had tried to procure yellow cake from Niger. Based on his and other reports, the intelligence community decided it was likely true, and that information formed part of the decision to go to war against Iraq last year.

During the State of the Union address in January of this year, President George Bush said the famous 16 words that caused a firestorm of protest from the left:

“The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

When the statement came into dispute, it quickly became the centerpiece of the anti-war left’s efforts to convince Americans and the world that President Bush and his administration deliberately lied in an effort to support the war. Wilson himself stepped forward to deny that Iraq had sought Nigerian yellow cake, and thus became the darling of the movement, appearing on television, publishing a book with “truth” in the name, and becoming a martyr by claiming that his CIA-spy wife was maliciously “outed” by the administration. This summer, he signed on as a foreign policy advisor to John Kerry, and Kerry’s campaign is paying for a website where Wilson comes out supporting Kerry – a website called “”.

I’ll let William Safire, in a column in The New York Times on July 19, tell you the bad news about just how much honesty there is in Wilson and his claims:

Two exhaustive government reports came out last week showing that it is the president's lionized accuser, and not Mr. Bush, who has been having trouble with the truth.

The reports specifically state that not only did Wilson lie about the yellow cake after Bush’s speech – several reliable sources indicate that Saddam did try to get yellow cake from Niger – but he also lied about what he himself said in his report. He lied about his wife, saying she did not recommend him for the mission, when the Senate report includes information from a memo written by Wilson’s wife outlining why he would be a good candidate for it. And an article in the July 26th issue of the conservative political magazine The Weekly Standard includes this quote from the Senate report:

…when asked how [Wilson] "knew" that the Intelligence Community had rejected the possibility of a Niger-Iraq uranium deal, as he wrote in his book, he told Committee staff that his assertion may have involved "a little literary flair."

The anti-war liberals and leftists are so intent on demonizing Bush and “his” war that they are willing to swallow any kind of evil to make it happen. Wilson is just one example. John Kerry says he will try to bring the French into the coalition to rebuild Iraq, but says nothing about the fact that one of the reasons the French tried to block the war was because their oil companies were making millions through an oil-for-food scam worked with Saddam. No Saddam, no millions. The liberals pant for the day when Iraq and Afghanistan are handed over to the U.N. to manage, conveniently ignoring that where the U.N. is in control now, millions of dollars are disappearing into U.N. officials’ private pockets (including that of Kofi Annan’s son), and refugees in Africa are routinely terrorized and sexually brutalized by U.N. “peacekeeping” forces. There’s even evidence that the U.N. is directly responsible for the continuing battles in Iraq that are killing Iraqis and Americans daily. This from the July 19th New York Post:

American officials believe that millions of dollars Saddam Hussein skimmed from the scandal-plagued U.N. oil-for-food program are now being used to help fund the bloody rebel campaign against U.S. forces and the new Iraqi government, The Post has learned.

Apparently it is “all about the ooooiiiillll” for some people, and they don’t really care about the “brown-skinned” humans who are in their way. But it’s not President Bush or the Republicans who want to give them control over millions more innocent lives.

Perhaps we should have a new bumper sticker for the John Kerry for President crowd to send to Niger, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Bosnia, and any other country the liberals and the U.N. want to control:

“Let them eat yellow cake."

I did a search for the information on TotalElfFina, the French oil company, and didn't find it. Do any of you know a source that speaks of their efforts to block the war, and the ways they benefited while Saddam was in power? Also, any links to the U.N. "peacekeeping" force atrocities. I'll keep looking too.

I wish I could see the liberal columnist when he reads my column.


Posted by susanna at 04:56 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

July 18, 2004

Life and pictures

Thanks to the generosity of my excellent parents, I recently ordered a new bed and dresser. I've wanted a sleigh bed for almost 20 years, literally; I nearly bought one at an antique store for $600 back in 1987, but it was a bit out of my budget. I'm glad I didn't, because I've moved all over the eastern US since then and it wouldn't have fared well. But I feel settled now, and I'm beyond delighted to get it. (If you're interested, this is it - the sleigh bed, dresser and mirror.)

The duplex I'm in has three bedrooms: One is my office, one is a guest room and one is my bedroom. Knowing I was getting the new bedroom suite, I put my old one in the room I chose for the guest room, and all the overflow boxes went into the bedroom I wanted for mine. I'm sure you see how this is shaping up. Yes, I now have to clean out the back bedroom in time for the furniture to arrive. When I ordered the furniture two weeks ago, they said, "Six weeks to get it in". I thought, great! I'll put in an hour or so a night and it'll be spiffy by mid-August. HA! I got a call from the saleslady on Friday, saying brightly, "It's in! When do you want us to bring it?"

I don't think she wanted to hear, "Mid August?"

So the last few days I've been diligently unpacking boxes, putting things away, and even packing up things to send to Goodwill. For a change of pace, I stopped for a while yesterday and installed a curtain rod in my kitchen. I just finished up that job this afternoon, installing the other two. The back bedroom continues to mock me, however, and I shall most likely need to hit it for a few more minutes after church.

Who knew I had so many old cassette tapes? Do I really want one of Kenny Rogers? And I have about 30 old record albums in a plastic bin, despite the fact that I haven't had a record player since mine was stolen in 1988, with Elton John's "Too Low for Zero" on it at the time. Maybe those should go to Goodwill too, although I don't know if I can part with my Donny Osmond albums. Old ones, mind you, before his voice changed. I also found that I have approximately 20 clear glass candle holders of various sizes, in addition to three dozen linkable white-ceramic tealight holders from IKEA. We won't discuss the three bags of 100 tealights each.

In the midst of digging out, I haven't a lot of time to write anything coherent for here. (No comments, Alan.) Therefore, I'm going to gift you with more images of my nieces, always worthy subjects for any and all attention.

First, here is one taken during a picnic at a local small park. It was a great sunny day, warm but not stifling. I thought it was a great photo.

UPDATE: The rest of this post was dropped into "MORE" to take the photos off the front page. That's because I put new ones up top!


Haydon, Molly Katherine and Amanda at Beeswax State Park, June 2004

This next one was taken at the tea party I mentioned in the last set. I love it because of the way Molly Katherine looks like she's dishing some great dirt at a hen party.

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Molly Katherine dishes

Finally, this is a great shot of Haydon, for two reasons. First, it's just a very pretty picture of a beautiful little girl. Second, it shows what a little girly girl ham she is. She loves to pose, will do it in a heartbeat, and gets that pensive look all on her own. Molly Katherine doesn't strike me as quite the same kind of personality, although she's quite a girly girl too (and I mean that in a good way). Haydon is just... studied about it already, sometimes, which is quite amusing. Molly Katherine is likely to see a butterfly in the middle of her posing session and she's gone.

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Haydon shows her pretty pensive side

Jordana left a comment on the previous photo set saying that her little girl wouldn't leave in her ponytails like Molly Katherine does. I think that's one of the advantages to Molly K of having an older sister. Molly Katherine is convinced that having ponytails make her beautiful, and she'll cry sometimes if she doesn't get them. And she is beautiful. Also, I think Traci uses little rubber bands that MK couldn't get out if she tried. That also helps.

Well, I'm off to prepare for Bible class and then probably tackle the back bedroom again.

Posted by susanna at 03:19 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 16, 2004

Family photos

I finally got my Nikon camera set up so I can download all the photos I've been hoarding for weeks. I thought you'd enjoy a little pleasant viewing for today, and if you're lucky, more over the weekend.

UPDATE: I've dropped the photos into the "MORE" section, because I added additional ones above this and I don't want to drive those with slow connections
into throwing the computer out the window.

Aren't they lovely?

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Molly Katherine, Amanda and Haydon

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Haydon at a grown-up tea party

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Molly Katherine playing with a balloon

Posted by susanna at 04:35 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

No, no, NO!

Whoopi Goldberg, in defending her blue remarks at a Kerry benefit in NYC that recently resulted in her being dropped as a Slimfast spokesperson:

"America's heart and soul is freedom of expression without fear of reprisal," she said in a statement. [Emphasis mine - slc]

No, no, no!

It's a common misconception, and more common amongst liberals, in my experience. The only "reprisal" that the Constitution promises us freedom from is reprisal from the government. As long as Goldberg was not quick-marched to jail, expelled from the country, or shot, she has no complaints that her Constitutional rights - in either fact or spirit - were violated. No one has made any effort to stop her. However, her remarks did have consequences, which means that other Americans were exercising their rights to free speech. Apparently she thinks no one else in the country (at least those who disagree with her) have "free speech". Where was the defense from Goldberg and other liberals when Trent Lott made his little admiring speech about Strom Thurmond? Didn't Lott have as much right to "freedom of expression without fear of reprisal" as Goldberg does? Or are some people more equal than others.

I think you know the answer to that.

And it's a little amusing that of course there had to be a racial element tossed in:

Diversity promoter Asa Khalif, who has made headlines for accusing celebrities of insensitivity, cried foul in the Goldberg firing. "I smell racism from beginning to end," said Khalif, head of Racial Unity USA in Pennsylvania. "SlimFast must realize that black women have every right to voice their views."

Khalif must realize that white women, black men, white men, Hispanic men, Hispanic women, Asian women, Asian men - you get the picture - have every right to voice their views too. Goldberg did voice hers. Now other people are voicing theirs as well.

And since Khalif - and the Daily News, by virtue of quoting him - introduced black women into the mix, I'll just say this: I could produce with little effort dozens of black women of my personal acquaintance who would be horrified and sickened by what Goldberg said. Race isn't the point; morality is. And I might also note that at least one of the women I'd produce voted for Al Gore in 2000. It's not all about politics either.

But that's a typical dodge. Behave outrageously, make your name by behaving outrageously, choose behaviors because people would find them outrageous and you want to offend them, specifically target all manner of American values and shoot them down with evident glee, show clear and mocking disdain for people who hold those American values (like decency), and then, when they point out that you are behaving outrageously and they don't like it, accuse them of lack of tolerance and acceptance.

Yes, it's all about "America's heart and soul", isn't it?

Posted by susanna at 11:13 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Contributing to media bias

Do journalists contribute to political campaigns? Of course they do, and quite a lot of money, as Michael Petrelis shows clearly in his list of media personalities, their contribution amounts and their recipients.

Taken from the Federal Election Commission records, the list is heavily biased toward Kerry, with a lot of Dean and Gephardt thrown in. And out of 100 people, only one contributed to the Republicans (a few did to McCain, but I consider him a RINO). Petrelis's list is not comprehensive of all media outlets; he said "More than fifty newspapers, magazines, wire services, and names of publishers, were searched." He doesn't go more deeply into his methodology, so I don't know if he searched everyone in each publication, but a sample of 100 should at least give some idea of the way the wind blows. For it to be so thoroughly skewed to the left, the whole population would have to be at least somewhat skewed, unless he did a purposive sample selecting for likely liberal leanings. He seems to indicate that is not the case.

So we have some reason to give his list credence, and to assume that it does reflect a real tendency toward a certain behavior even if the sample selection amplified it beyond reality. The strength of his findings - which confirm what many people already thought - leads Petrelis to a common conclusion:

I'm don't know if any of these publications or news services have policies barring political contributions, and if they do, then journalistic ethics are being violated. If publications lack such prohibitions, now might be a good time for the outlets to consider implementing such a policy.

I disagree. The media is all about freedom and transparency - or so they say - and I think their actions as private citizens should be both free and transparent. Don't have any official rules. None. Nada. Let them do whatever they want to do. And then we'll find out who truly is neutral, who truly reigns themselves in through an understanding of journalistic cough cough ethics.

I remember how lonely it was sometimes when I was a journalist. You have to be wary in every association you have, private or professional, because you may find yourself tomorrow reporting on whomever you had dinner with last night. For journalism to be the calling it purports to be - and I felt that calling, trying to meet its stern dictates - you have to be both conscious of your biases and committed enough to truth to reign in your first instincts. That extends to people and ideologies, not just events. None of us can completely separate ourselves from our preferences, our logical conclusions, our sense of right and wrong. We shouldn't be required to. But we should expect of journalists the same detachment in covering news that we expect of scientists conducting research. As a social scientist, I may believe that the reason people commit crime is that they just choose to. But my dedication must not be to my own theory, but to the truth I'm trying to illuminate by developing a theory. It does my theory no benefit if I doctor my research to support it when it isn't supported otherwise, and I've done grievous injury to my central goal - truth - in the process.

I see journalism much the same. Truth is often elusive, and we can't know every moment that what we're saying or doing or seeing is "truth" in its purity. Usually it's not. But journalists have a responsibility to grapple with that problem honestly and with unblindered eyes. The first step of that for a journalist is knowing himself and his biases without arrogance. The first step for the media-consuming public is holding journalists accountable for their honesty.

And since we live in a world where no human drawing breath is free of biases, prejudices, preferences, history, loves and hates and arrogant disdain, the better we know a journalist, the more readily we can truly hold him or her accountable. The hidden message in having "no contributions" policies for journalists is that if they don't contribute, then they don't have a bias. That's patently ridiculous. It doesn't remove the bias, it just keeps it out of sight and thus out of the accountability reckoning.

A quality journalist, one who truly does have ethics and means to do right by his or her audience, is not going to have his or her craft diminished by a $200 contribution to John Kerry or George Bush. Or $2,000, for that matter. That's because his reporting is based on comprehensive research and analysis on the matter at hand, with extra effort to present the issue fairly precisely because he knows his tendency is to believe one side or the other. To use a more comparable example, I have a strong tendency to assume that everything Bill and Hillary Clinton do, up to and including sneezing, has some malevolent intent that will harm America. However, as an honest person, I also have to admit that (if I took the time to research it) they likely did many good things as leaders of the country, and at least as many neutral things that neither helped nor harmed, just kept things going. Likewise, I have a tendency to like George W. very much, and Laura too, and I want to believe that everything they do is right and good and best for the country. Without much research, I could (unfortunately) show you things both have done that give me great pause. As a journalist, I would have to impose that analytical honesty on myself in the course of my work. That shouldn't stop me from saying privately that on the whole GW is better for the country, and putting my money where my mouth is.

I think the two greatest harms to the media in this country are the fantastical myth of objectivity and the assumption they make that the 1st Amendment gives them godlike powers beyond that of ordinary citizens. Neither is remotely true, yet journalists are trained in that mystique from the time they set their foot in a newsroom. If we could replace those myths with truth, that they are public servants exercising the Constitutional rights we all have, and they have an obligation to honesty beyond their own prejudices, then we will have moved a long way toward acheiving a better media.

I'm not holding my breath. It's just too beautiful to be this latter day Upton Sinclair or Lincoln Steffens, an Ida Tarbell or Edward R. Murrow (who, by the way, left journalism to join the Kennedy administration). Or even Bob Woodward, who isn't even himself these days (not that he was the self he portrayed himself to be even then). It's more glamorous and less work to be elite rather than honest.

Lest someone think I'm indicting the entire profession, I assure you that I'm not. I knew some really excellent journalists when I was one of their number, and I think there are many now. But they are the minority, I fear, and even well-intentioned media types are draw into the myths of their profession. To shatter the myth, we as the public need to hold them accountable for their misrepresentations.

Because what is impeding journalism is not bias, it's arrogance.

Posted by susanna at 10:36 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 15, 2004

Moore noxious

Not that we should ever be surprised at the depths to which Michael Moore will gleefully plunge, but the hypocrisy, disrespect and sheer arrogance of this boggles me again:

The family of U.S. Air Force Maj. Gregory Stone was shocked to learn that video footage of the major's Arlington National Cemetery burial was included by Michael Moore in his movie "Fahrenheit 9/11."

Stone was killed in March 2003 by a grenade that officials said was thrown into his tent by Sgt. Hasan K. Akbar, who is on trial for murder...

The movie, described by critics as political propaganda during an election year, shows video footage of the funeral and Stone's fiancee, Tammie Eslinger, kissing her hand and touching it to his coffin.

The family does not know how Moore obtained the video, and Gallagher said they did not give permission and are considering legal recourse.

[Kandi Gallagher, Stone's aunt and family spokeswoman] described her nephew as a "totally conservative Republican" and said he would have found the film to be "putrid."

Moore postures as the champion of the "little man" who is being exploited by the Republican administration, yet he repeatedly disrespects and uses the average citizen and soldier. The mother of Major Stone nailed it:

" sister, Greg's mother, is just beside herself," Gallagher said. "She is furious. She called him a 'maggot that eats off the dead.'"

Sometimes he doesn't even wait for death. He's content if they are only unable to fight his lying media juggernaut.

Posted by susanna at 10:57 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 14, 2004

Packin' heat in Virginia

Things are getting clarified in Virginia in the wake of a new law that reinforces the right to carry a gun in public:

Turns out, packing a pistol in public is perfectly legal in Virginia. And three times in the last month, including at Champps on Sunset Hills Road, residents have been spotted out and about in the county, with guns strapped to their hips, exercising that right...

In Virginia, as in many states, carrying a concealed weapon requires a permit, issued by a local court. But no permit is required to simply wield a gun in the open, a right reinforced by a state law that took effect July 1. Not so in the District and Maryland, unless you're a police or federal officer...

Although legal, it is disconcerting to some people.

"This just shows you the extreme nature of what they're trying to do," said Bob Ricker, head of Virginians for Public Safety. "You don't want to go to Starbucks or Reston Town Center and see somebody with a firearm strapped on," he added, referring to two locations where armed patrons were found. "It's just something that I think is completely unreasonable. We all understand the concept of self-defense," he said. "But when you're talking about Fairfax County, you have to look at what is reasonable."

I'm all for the new law, but I am sad to say that I think Ricker in this instance has a point. I support people's right to carry guns, but I don't think they need to become the new jewelry. Of course, Ricker and his cohort, Kristen Rand of the Violence Policy Center in Washington, slid completely off the reason rails by the end of the article. First, Rand:

"This is the gun lobby's vision of how America should be. Everybody's packing heat and ready to engage in a shootout at the slightest provocation."

Slightest provocation? To my knowledge, there've not been any shootouts in Virginia since the law was passed, and I'm sure there's been provocation. Such as, for instance, Rand's silly comment.

Then Ricker adds his snarky little bit:

Ricker said the gun owners "are probably doing their cause more harm than good by raising this issue. It raises an awareness and gives people who are more rational thinkers the opportunity to go to their legislators and make their views known."

I don't think Ricker is doing his cause much good by identifying anti-gun types as "people who are more rational thinkers". Um, the Founding Fathers weren't rational? Oh, sorry, I guess Ricker is "more rational" than they were.

It's a pity that there's brainless twits on both sides of the issue, because it makes it difficult to refrain from exasperation. But in this case, the authorities need to ease up and the gun owners need to stand down a little.

Posted by susanna at 11:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bad news, good news

I was cruising through my Site Meter referral list, playing the "what search strings are finding me now?" game. You get some pretty weird ones, occasionally. Now, before I tell you about one I found today, let me emphasize that what I know about military hardware would fit in the eye of a #12 quilting needle. That's mighty tiny, for those who know military hardware instead of quilting.

This is what I found:

french manpads in frederick

Okay, all together now: eeeewwwwwwwwwwwww!!!!!!

To understand my reaction, you must also understand this: when I see "pads" in that context, I think one of two things - a place to live or something women use during that time of the month. So "manpads" to me sounded like something a metrosexual male would buy, and I wasn't sure I wanted to know what for. And for it to be French manpads...!! It had to be something highly revolting. Oh, oh, oh! Why do these freakish sorts wind up on my page?? The only other possibility I could think of was some kind of too precious new living arrangement taking hold in Frederick, Maryland.

Boy, was I wrong.

I did go to the search, and learned that it wasn't "manpads" but "MANPADS", that is to say, an acronym. What's even more bizarre is that I not only had the word on my old blogspot blog, I even have a photo! Well, that was some relief. It turns out, btw, that MANPADS stands for MAN Portable Air Defense System, and the reason it's a concern is because terrorists can get their grimy little paws on them and take down our aircraft, especially helicopters.

Now I am, of course, embarrassed. But not so much so that I won't share the story and let you laugh at me. Go ahead. It's almost as funny as my unplugging the phone in the middle of a call to computer tech help yesterday. That's a story for another day.

The good news is - I found a new (to me) blog in the course of my digging around about manpads! It's called Lean Write, and is a very good blog by an ex-Democrat who came over to the light after 9/11 (although I suspect I'm still several clicks to the right of him). He claims to be very much a military buff, so we'll hope he won't harm himself laughing hysterically if he is led back to this post from his own referral log.

Posted by susanna at 10:54 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

How did they live without it?

I have always been warm natured. As a child I would toss and turn at night, trying to find a cool place in the bed. I welcomed the move to a bedroom in the basement of our ranch house because it was always one of the coolest parts of the house. Anything over 80 degrees made me uncomfortable, and anything over 90 was misery. When other teenage girls glowed from excess heat, I sweated. A lot. Not a lovely thought, or sight, which is why I'm unlikely to go on a date that involves the outdoors between May and September.

Today is one of the hottest days so far this summer, and I anticipate that it's merely a preview of the fun in store. The temperature reached the mid90s, with a sticky, sultry heat, a summer day embracing its excess like a sullen diva of old in sweat-spotted satin, lying back on a stained velvet chaise. Beauty, yes, but one that loses its appeal with closer experience.

And that image would not have been uncommon only a few generations ago, when my grandfather was born in 1910. No air conditioning, precious little ice, and clothing that sanctimoniously covered those flushed and steaming limbs. How did they stand it? I can hardly bear it wearing little and sitting in front of a fan in an air-conditioned space. I quail at the thought of putting on a long sleeved dress reaching to my knees, much less the full complement of petticoat, corset and chemise, drawers and stockings. The only saving grace would be that my hair was coiled on top of my head.

Were I a country woman, and surely I would be because my ancestors were, I might dispense with the corset, petticoat, stockings and maybe even chemise, in my daily costume. Knowing me, I would surely dispense of shoes. But still I would be left in a long-sleeved, ankle-length dress that would block any breeze and cling to my damp legs when I walked. How to stand it?

And that's not even touching on the odor, the build up of days as I alternated maybe two dresses during the week, bathing only on Saturday, washing the dresses only on Monday. Even if I sponged bathed every day, and had the knowledge and money to use baking soda for the odor, still it would be a powerful stench after a week. And I would be cooking over a stove with an open fire, or maybe stoked coals. It doesn't bear thought.

And we won't even discuss the fragrance of men working in the field in clothes they've worn for a week.

I know we acclimate. It is much hotter going from 70 degrees inside to 95 degrees outside, than going from 85 inside to 95 outside. Yet when the temperatures rise inside, I find myself slowing until it is a question whether I would beat the tortoise in any ill-conceived race. My whole body moves in slow motion, like walking through warm water. I resent movement. I question the wisdom of any activity that requires stepping outside. I keep my shades closed to preserve every last degree of coolness.

I know if I had lived 50 or 100 or 200 years ago, I would function and be glad. It would be all I know. But if ever I think longingly of "simpler times", or wonder about the merits of any other time in history, two words stop any fantasy in its tracks:

Air conditioning.

Posted by susanna at 06:13 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack


I suppose politics could be the reason behind the catty snarkiness of this article about the Bush twins and their current foray as Vogue covergirls. But it sounds more like it was written by someone who has weathered a hard-scrabble climb from obscurity only to find that she (he?) will perpetually be an outsider at the debutante ball of life:

The president's daughters have emerged from their media-free zone of comfort into the flattering spotlight of Vogue...

The 22-year-old twins look like debutantes, minor royals, or that particular New York species of well-groomed, pedigreed and socially connected woman known as the "Bright Young Thing." For much of the time their father has been in the White House, they were kept under wraps. Occasionally they emerged from their protected world to be snapped attending a fashion show or traveling with their mother. The only significant ink on them has been on police reports detailing their ill-advised underage drinking...

The people who appear in Vogue never look like their true selves -- they look better. They become their own fantasy. The magazine put Oprah Winfrey on its cover in October 1998 and the media mogul admitted that at long last she was convinced of her own beauty. When Hillary Clinton appeared on the cover in December of that year, during the impeachment proceedings, her spirit got such a boost that she thanked the magazine's editor in her autobiography. When Marion Jones appeared in 2001, the photographs not only reiterated the sex appeal of the athletic female physique but also pronounced it fashionable in the most rarefied worlds. And when Vogue shot Sean "P. Diddy" Combs at the haute couture shows in Paris in 1999, the spread helped legitimize Combs to the fashion establishment as an ebony-skinned Cary Grant and pronounced young minority millionaires among the logical heirs to couture.

In Vogue, there are no pimples. Everyone glows. People are more elegantly groomed and styled than they will ever be again. In the instant that their photograph is taken -- when the stylists, the makeup artist, the hairdresser, the lighting person, the assistants have all stepped out of the frame -- there is perfection. Not stilted or stodgy, but an unreal perfection nonetheless...

In [the Bush twins'] life story as told in public photographs, they've gone from indiscreet college students to Stepford daughters. One longs for photographs that tell of the intellectual curiosity that took them abroad or of the "natural effervescence" that Reed found so compelling...

I personally don't know how there could be a photo showing "intellectual curiosity" that was any less posed than the ones with the Vogue article. Be that as it may, clearly the writer here, Robin Givhan, finds "reassurance in warts, foibles and missteps", and as a result this bitter little riff tells more about her (him?) than either this article or the Vogue article likely tells about the Bush twins.

Vogue is about glamor, about larger than life. Why does everything have to be gritty to be valid? I seriously doubt that any "foible" laden article would give a more rounded picture than the Vogue piece. We each are composed of various parts, personality facets that emerge depending on the situation, on our comfort zone, on the purpose we are seeking to fulfill. It doesn't have to be lying to emphasize any one of those facets; it's only lying if you pretend there are no other facets. I don't think anyone reading Vogue will assume that the Bush daughters spend their days in designer dresses, lounging on Victorian antiques with their hair in rippling waves over their shoulders. Part of one day, occasionally, maybe, and how is that a lie? How does that make them "Stepford wives"?

At least Givhan is equal-opportunity snarky. Why is it a bad thing for Oprah to be convinced of her beauty? She is beautiful, in her unique way. Why is it a bad thing for Hillary to feel good about herself, to be picked up in the middle of a debilitating scandal? I don't like Hillary personally, but I don't hate her or begrudge her the pleasure of seeing herself at her fantasy-glamour best.

I will read the Vogue piece on the twins and enjoy it. I'll read other things on them and learn more about them. Over time, I'll get to know them better, although never as if I knew them personally. That's okay, I don't feel cheated, nor do I feel they owe me more than that. Obviously, Givhan does.

But at least now we know all we will ever need to about Givhan, and what must eat at her (his?) jealous heart in the darkness of an unrealized life.

Posted by susanna at 03:24 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 13, 2004

Too much going on, not enough going on

The first half of the title refers to my life.

The second half refers to my brain.

The two halves combined explain my recent low posting.

One hopes that soon one or the other half will return to previous levels. Or both at least half way.

Posted by susanna at 10:17 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Curmudgeonry moves (back)

For some reason that escapes apparently everyone concerned, Dave at pulled the plug on his hosted blogs without warning. Jordana at Curmudgeonry, always a trooper, has returned to her old digs at Blogspot, so catch up with her there.

For a moment of poignancy, or perhaps irony, go here.

I must say I have more confidence in Dodd and Mark, who host my blog. Although it probably wouldn't be a bad idea to save my archives periodically nonetheless. Even Dodd and Mark, the maestros, could have a server crash and burn.

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

July 10, 2004

Video mania

Note to self: If you firebomb a house, make sure the next door neighbor isn't filming it. (Be sure to watch the video.)

Very interesting story on the value of video surveillance cameras on private residences. But do you want them all around? The standard police line, "If you aren't guilty of anything, you have nothing to worry about", might work here. But it just amkes me edgy.

And I'm not sure of the legality of things like using the tapes in a civil suit not involving the person doing the filming. What if a woman suspected her husband was having an affair and learned that a neighbor across the street had video surveillance of his property that included shots of the house where she thought her husband was going? Could she use that video in, say, a custody phase of a divorce proceeding? If the person who filmed it didn't want to give her the tapes, could she subpeona them?

I think we'll be hearing a lot about those kinds of things as private surveillance cameras became more common.

Posted by susanna at 11:53 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

July 09, 2004

Suffer for beauty

My sister in law is already teaching her girls the truth: sometimes you must suffer for beauty. This is what she says to them as she pulls their hair into pigtails, which they love and ask for and ask you to admire when they have them, but which they frequently complain about during the construction phase. It's good they're learning young, because as they get older and run into high heels, girdles, underwire bras and curling irons, it's only going to get worse.

And that's one reason that this piece by Emily Yoffe in Slate is so funny. She's a past-all-that (suffering, that is) married woman who never thought she'd go through the agonies of walking in 5" heels in front of an audience. Yet with a stiff (and heavily painted) upper lip, she's preparing to enter the Mrs. America contest as a sacrifice to her readers.

I spent the next few days by myself trying to purchase the rest of my pageant wear. After trying 32 bathing suits, I found a black one for $73 that not only sucked in my stomach but was topped with a pair of enormous rigid domes. My actual breasts floated inside like a pair of guppies in an aquarium. To fill things out I stuffed in the Whipped Silicone Push Up Pads ($13) and the Original Oxygen Lift Push Up Pads ($10). I did feel guilty about insulting my breasts this way. Both my mother and grandmother had breast cancer, and all I ask of my breasts at this point in life is that they don't kill me. The pads were busting my budget, and I had a better idea. I went home and retrieved a bag of shoulder pads I'd cut out of dresses. I put on my bathing suit, stuffed four pairs of shoulder pads into the domes, stepped into my high heels ($50), and paraded around the bedroom for my husband.

A later column will chronicle her actual pageant experience. It should be good.

Now, excuse me while I go subject my head to a blast of high heat wind.

Posted by susanna at 11:05 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 08, 2004

And then sometimes scientists are wrong

I found this interesting:

A rare glimpse back in time into the universe's early evolution has revealed something startling: mature, fully formed galaxies where scientists expected to discover little more than infants.

"Up until now, we assumed that galaxies were just beginning to form between 8 and 11 billion years ago, but what we found suggests that that is not the case," said Karl Glazebrook, associate professor of physics and astronomy in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and co-principal author of a paper in the July 8 issue of Nature. "It seems that an unexpectedly large fraction of stars in big galaxies were already in place early in the universe's formation, and that challenges what we've believed. We thought massive galaxies came much later."

..."There are obviously some aspects of the early lives of galaxies that we don't yet completely understand," Glazebrook said. "We do find fewer massive galaxies in the past, but there are still more than we expected. This result is giving us a big clue as to how stars form from invisible gas in the hierarchical model, which is something not well understood under current theories. Some new ingredient is required to make more stars form earlier in the big galaxies. But what that ingredient is, we don't yet know."

I might hazard a guess as to what "that ingredient" is.

Posted by susanna at 11:17 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

July 07, 2004


It's too early to say. But this is quite interesting:

The strange disappearance of Marine Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun, reportedly kidnapped in Iraq nearly three weeks ago, grows even more mysterious.

Senior Pentagon officials tell NBC News, a man claiming to be Hassoun, called his family in Lebanon and the U.S. embassy in Beirut, saying he was — "released by his kidnappers somewhere in Lebanon" and that he was "waiting to be picked up."

But in Washington, Secretary of State Colin Powell said U.S. officials remain in the dark. "We have received reports that he may be in contact with various individuals and there are other reports that he might be in Lebanon. But we cannot confirm any of these at this time," said Powell.

Late Wednesday, FBI agents showed up at the Hassoun family home in West Jordan, Utah. And Pentagon officials tell NBC News that the Navy has now launched a criminal investigation into Hassoun's disappearance, and the possibility that his kidnapping may be part of an elaborate hoax.

As I noted earlier today, shades of Audrey Seiler. If it is a hoax, then Hassoun needs the book thrown at him. Maybe the whole library. And possibly the building it sits in. Just unconscionable, especially given both that other people really are dying in that way, and that publicity about it could have (and possibly did) harm the effort to make Iraq safer more quickly.

My posts on this: starting here, an update, then after he was reported dead, then earlier today.

I was shocked when he was reported dead, because I really didn't think from the beginning that it was real. Not because I didn't think the terrorists would take him, but because the story of his kidnapping was very odd. I guess now we'll find out the truth.

Posted by susanna at 11:12 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

It's a family thing

Impressive and frightening at the same time:

The Scherzberg brothers did everything together growing up, but they never could have imagined their togetherness would extend to serving their country from the other side of the world.

The Scherzberg brothers — Jeff, 27, Brett, 23, and 21-year-old twins Matthew and Justin — will head to Iraq later this month as members of the Iowa National Guard's 915th Transportation Company, based at Council Bluffs.

Their mother, Connie Scherzberg, said she was terrified when she first learned that all of her boys would be headed out together.

"I called and said, 'You know, this isn't what your mother wants.' But then I had pride … I knew it was a wonderful thing to do and I'm very proud of my children for doing this," Mrs. Scherzberg said on ABC News' Good Morning America.

I wish them well, and hope they all come home safely.

Posted by susanna at 10:59 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Death on the Donaldson spread

Three bodies have been found on newsman Sam Donaldson's ranch:

Three bodies were found at a New Mexico ranch owned by ABC newsman Sam Donaldson, and authorities said they were treating the case as a triple homicide.

The bodies of a man and two women were found Tuesday on Donaldson's remote ranch north of Hondo, the Lincoln County Sheriff's Department said.

It sounds like it was his ranch manager, although they're not saying yet:

Donaldson called the sheriff's department at 5 p.m. Tuesday after he went to the house of his ranch manager and found an "obvious crime scene," Sheriff Tom Sullivan said...

The victims' identities were being withheld pending notification of relatives.

Donaldson is not a suspect.

UPDATE: Donaldson's ranch manager, his wife and stepdaughter are dead; the ranch manager's son has been charged. Here's a report from an Albuquerque TV station, with a link to a video report on it.

Posted by susanna at 06:34 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

More on Hassoun

I've held back from further comment since I heard that Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun, a US Marine allegedly kidnapped and murdered, had in fact not been murdered. Now they're saying that he was released after promising not to go back to the US military.

I just watched a news segment saying that Hassoun reportedly called his family in Lebanon today, and the US Embassy (I think also in Lebanon). The US military is now saying that Hassoun was openly talking about leaving the military, and noting that the group that took Hassoun is not known in any other context.

It's getting more tangled, and sounding a lot to me like the case of the girl allegedly "kidnapped" from her apartment building, who investigators later found had faked it for her own reasons. I'm not saying Hassoun faked it, but I am saying it's fishy on a lot of levels.

That doesn't change the fact that the practice of kidnapping Americans and others and killing them in an effort to force specific actions by governments isn't horrible wrong. It is, and should be handled aggressively and decisively. But we have to know the truth too.

Posted by susanna at 05:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Not that I love Lance

Closing in on six!

Their body language said it all when the United States Postal Service riders crossed the finish line today after a long team time-trial: broad smiles, backslaps, handshakes, embraces and arms thrown into the air in joy.

The jubilation over their victory was affirmed a few minutes later, when Lance Armstrong found himself in the familiar position of standing on the winner's podium and pulling the yellow jersey of the Tour de France's overall leader over his head...

The Texan, who has won the last five Tours de France and is seeking a record sixth victory, leads his teammate George Hincapie, in second place over all, by 10 seconds, with Floyd Landis, another teammate, in third place among the 183 riders, 16 seconds behind. It is the first time in the 101-year history of the race that Americans have ranked one, two and three.

Lance Armstrong is a tremendous athlete, with just incredible powers of concentration and focus. I admire him a great deal, and I'm pulling for him to make it six wins of the Tour. I would even pull for him if he wasn't an American, given his story, but his being an American makes it that much better.

A little of the shine came off him this year, when he divorced his wife and took up with Sheryl Crow. Obviously our hero is not without significant flaws. But when it comes to his sport, he's rock solid.

Goooooo, Lance and the team!

Posted by susanna at 05:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Just last week I was telling my psychology students that women are born with all the eggs they're going to have. It turns out science may prove me wrong*:

Cells that are capable of making new eggs have been isolated from adult mouse ovaries. The finding supports an earlier suggestion that mammal ovaries could produce eggs throughout life, and may shatter the dogma that women are born with a finite supply.

The researcher who isolated the cells hasn't shared his process with other scientists, nor has there been any published effort to find if humans can benefit from this knowledge. But it's intriguing. I've always thought it unfair that men can have children into their... well, whenever they die, while women's fertility ends sometime in their 40s. I understand the social concerns of having babies born in any significant numbers to women 45 and older, but... it might make for some better decisions earlier if women didn't wake up frantic to the sound of that ole biological clock sometime in their late 30s.

Something to keep an eye on.

* Which we know has never happened before.

Posted by susanna at 02:32 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

You have to do before you can redo

If you can imagine an age, there is someone out there selling the body of someone that age for sexual use. Doesn't matter the age, although in the US pre-pubescent children aren't as readily available as they are in other countries. Prostitution is a difficult crime to combat, and even more difficult to overcome for those who have lived the life. How do you grow up to live an average life when you were turning tricks for a pimp when you were 11?

The court system in Brooklyn, NY, is trying to find some way to answer that question:

Now, Ms. Jaus and her fellow prosecutors in Brooklyn have a program they hope will help girls leave the street life for good.

The program, to be announced today, will offer nonviolent teenagers and young adults arrested for prostitution a choice: stand trial and risk going to jail, or enter a six-week education and counseling program modeled on the so-called john school for customers of adult prostitutes. That program has all but eliminated rearrests among its participants...

The program will be offered to male and female prostitutes ages 16 to 21, an age range representing about 200 of the roughly 1,000 prostitutes arrested in 2003. The vast majority of cases involved young women, law enforcement officials said.

The offenders, whom the district attorney's office also views as victims, will be offered six weeks of high school equivalency degree programs, medical care, therapy and career counseling. "Hopefully, we're going to help the gals see that there is another way," said Sister Ellen Patricia Finn, an associate executive director at Catholic Charities, which will help run the program at a Downtown Brooklyn community center.

The district attorney's office hopes to expand the program, called Saving Teens at Risk, to Family Court, which handles cases involving prostitutes younger than 16.

I think that's a wonderful idea, and I hope it's given the funding and attention it needs to be fully implemented. Whether it succeeds depends in part on the young people who go through it, the extent to which the new lessons can sink in. And they'll need support, emotional and vocational, for some time beyond the end of the program to help those new behaviors take root.

Programs like this address part of what I think is one of the most serious flaws in how the average American thinks of rehabilitation. The general thought is, we want criminals to "return" to law-abiding good citizens. We structure our programs with that in mind, and once we've given the miscreants what we see as all the chance in the world to succeed, we throw up our hands when they reoffend. So what's wrong with that picture?

It's imbedded in the term itself. What has to have happened before you can rehabilitate someone? He has to be habilitated to begin with - that is, you have to have some former law-abiding lifestyle before you can be returned to it. And that's just not the case with a lot of criminals. What we are asking many of them to do is forge a completely new lifestyle, one that probably doesn't echo anything they've experienced, much less lived. Is it possible? Absolutely. But I think a lack of real understanding on the part of average America makes it more difficult to institute the right kinds of programs and also for the person who's done the crimes to make it in a law-abiding world.

There are, I think, a few different types of criminal, and each needs a different approach to succeed in a non-criminal lifestyle. The one closest to most of us is someone who was raised in a law-abiding family, one who has knowledge of how to live straight and just, for whatever reason, slid off the path into criminality. Rehabilitation truly does apply to them, because we want them to go back to what they were before. Ken Lay or Winona Ryder fit that image. For that kind of criminal, appeals to "doing the right thing" and the threat of social ostracization from mainstream society - or, often, knowing they are objects of pity - can pull them back into line. Some prison time, some social program, time for reflection on the consequences of their actions - that can work.

Then you have people who like a life of crime, who either were raised in it or like the excitement, the rush, the pleasure of getting one over on people, the power and often the sheer volumes of money. How do you "rehabilitate" them? They may have a background of training in mainstream values, but it never stuck; they've actively and openly rejected it. With those types of people, "rehabilitation" won't work because they have no attachment to law-abiding society. To stop their crimes, they need to be incapacitated until they realize the cost of doing their business is higher than the benefits. And they may never get there. People in this category include mobsters, high-level drug dealers, and others who have what could be rightly termed a "criminal career".

Next is a class of criminal that through either childhood abuse or personal inclination have lost the essential core of humanity that keeps most of us from preying on our fellow humans. Serial killers, predatory child abusers, serial rapists, all of those would fit this category. There is nothing left to rehabilitate. That's a difficult lesson to learn for the average American who believes in redemption, whether spiritual or human. That isn't to say that they couldn't go through some training or teaching that would help them see the error of their ways, because some (not all or most) could benefit. But even they themselves would admit that left unsupervised, they will reoffend. That's the main point behind requiring sex offenders to register with the local police department, although I don't know that it's being done precisely correctly.

Then there's a class of criminal that could be termed "rough folk". They are raised in environments were criminality is a fact of life, not as a part of a grand scheme or a selected career, but because that's the environment and it's easiest to fall into it. Drug use is rampant, criminality (including prostitution) is often centered on supporting the drug habit, few people hold real jobs, at least for any significant length of time, and there's generally a feeling that upward mobility isn't possible. Of course that's not really true, and a significant number of people establish happy, law-abiding lives despite emerging from those circumstances. But it's a difficult thing to combat, because it is a combination of learned behaviors and attitudes that simultaneously devalue the person (you can't make it) and the goal of law-abiding life (too "limiting", too "hard", too "white", there's any number of excuses). These people haven't been "habilitated", in the sense that they know what it's like to live without crime. If they don't do it, their friends do. Change may require not just learning whole new habits, but also rejecting much if not most of thier childhood context. How easy would that be for you to do?

There are other categories, but I think this covers the bulk of them, or at least makes the point: rehabilitation can't be a one-size-fits-all proposition, nor can it ignore the lives of its clients beyond the formal programs provided through our criminal justice system. We need to view the problem holistically, instead of piecemeal. We need to use the knowledge we've gained through research and years of programs to shape what we as a society do, not just our middle-class law-abiding sensibilities. We need to figure out how to help an 11 year old prostitute learn to value both herself and the law, and to find a way to live within the law.

The criminal justice industry sucks down huge chunks of our public funds. It promises to eat up even more in the future. And that's not the full expression of what crime costs in our society: think of loss of life, loss of goods, loss of work hours, loss of a feeling of safety, loss of brainpower that gets destroyed by drugs. I'm not advocating a jumped-up drug war, tougher penalties, or sweeping social programs. What I want to see is a criminal justice system that operates with some internal coherence, with some broad-based acknowledgement of both what the goals are and how we can best achieve them. We can't keep building prisons, toughening punishments, and pouring money down the intermediate sanctions rabbit hole without trying to understand whether those things actually work toward that ultimate goal. And we as average, law-abiding, voting citizens can't keep advocating criminal justice responses that make logical sense to us - as in, if I were faced with that response, it would make me stop whatever it was. We aren't the problem. We have to advocate responses that cause change in the population of concern.

And it sounds to me like the Brooklyn DA's office is on the right track, at least in this small, foundational way.

UPDATE: An example of the "nothing left to rehabilitate" category - Gary Gilmore. I watched a biography of him yesterday on A&E, and it was very sad but scary too. His father was extremely abusive, inflicting harm on his children for no reason. According to a cousin, he would even hid sometimes and jump out on his children to beat on them, including using a leather strap. He beat on his wife too. And Gary was his special target, as often is the case - abusers tend to have one favorite victim, and will often abuse that victim to the exclusion of other available targets.

So it's no surprise that Gilmore acted out in frustration, with violence and a lack of concern for others. He had little in the way of examples of self-restraint, kindness and love, it was not modeled for him or shown to him. Not all or most people choose the path he did, but it's very possible he would have chosen a different path if he had not been abused. Oddly, his father worked to keep him out of jail, which may have been a pride issue. Certainly the most attention and affection Gilmore got was when he was in trouble with law. And that's a lesson to learn, isn't it?

But by the time he was in his teens, he started doing time, and things just escalated. Some of us have personalities that are more vulnerable to derailment through disruption and violence. We already struggle with impulsivity, short attention spans, sensitive emotions, a resistance to repetitive tasks and discipline, and a deep need for approval. It appears likely that Gilmore was a vulnerable personality, and every flaw in him was magnified by his father's abuse and then his own choices and actions. Everything spiraled, underlaid by the time he was in his late teens with a disconnect from emotional attachment to other people. I would say by then he was lost. It just took a few more years for him to do something worthy of death, partially because he spent a lot of that time in jail.

Gilmore was, at the end of his life, an extremely dangerous and uncontrolled man. That doesn't mean he wasn't talented (he was an excellent artist), or intelligent, or rational, or even fun and at times a good companion. But he had no limits on his behavior, and a volatile temper that whooshed outward to destroy everything in his path when ignited. He killed, wantonly. And he died, with his eyes open, accepting and even welcoming it. He knew he could not live in this world safely, for him or anyone else. I think you could safely call it a type of state-aided suicide. But that doesn't mean he should have been kept alive. I think he would have killed again, if he had been.

Everyone, I believe, has the ability to choose the right path. But I also believe that some people lose the will and inclination to do so very young. And that will not change. It's another truth we need to accept.

Posted by susanna at 11:47 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Less is more

The Eurotypes may have to work more hours in a week, and might even have to give up some of their vacation time.

It's a tragedy.

Not really, but somewhat amusing, as is the reasoning behind the shorter hours to begin with:

...shorter hours, once seen as a way of spreading work among more people...

There you go - if you need so many manhours to produce something, and you reduce how much a person is allowed to work, then of course you increase the number of people needed. Right? Well, since salaries (most likely) didn't go down with the hour decrease, and paid vacations continued to go up, somehow the other side of the equation - capital to pay for the raw materials and the salaries themselves - didn't get freed up in the same way. Imagine. But they're starting to get it:

"We have created a leisure society, while the Americans have created a work society," said Klaus F. Zimmermann, the president of the German Institute for Economic Research in Berlin. "But our model does not work anymore. We are in the process of rethinking it."

From the 1970's until recently, Europe followed a philosophy of less is more when it came to labor, with the result that Europeans work an average of 10 percent fewer hours a year than Americans. Germans, with the lightest schedule, work about 18 percent fewer hours.

I'm quite high in leisure time myself, but I recognize that you must make economic sacrifices to gain leisure time - work = pay, no work = no pay. I guess the Euros are finding that out now.

Posted by susanna at 09:26 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 06, 2004

A flareup of warmth

Sunspots have been spiking up more in past 60 years than at any time in the previous 1,150 years, according to scientists at the Institute of Astronomy in Zurich.

They still manage to find some evidence of global warming that's our fault, but it's difficult to parse the evidence so it denys that much of the change is due to changes in the sun. It seems the activity has leveled out over the past two decades, which is good news - I don't anticipate our being able to have much impact on the sun's cycles.

It's a fascinating article, not the least because of the explanations of how we can know what the weather was in 1715 or 1400 or 1039.

Posted by susanna at 06:43 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Kerry picks Edwards

From, well, all kinds of places this morning (but specifically this article):

Senator John Kerry today chose Senator John Edwards to be his running-mate, turning to the North Carolina Democrat whose strong campaign skills and engaging personality made him the top choice of many Democratic leaders, Mr. Kerry's aides said this morning...

In making the decision, Mr. Kerry chose a relatively new face to American politics, and a man who was Mr. Kerry's longest-lasting major rival in the Democratic presidential contest. Mr. Edwards is a first-term senator from North Carolina who stayed in the Democratic primary through the first week of March.

Kind of sucks all the wind out of the argument that the two Republicans atop the other ticket are just wealthy boyos out for themselves, doesn't it? It'll be fun to see how the Dems spin their team, given that their financial situations are at best as privileged as the Republicans - Kerry's dairy farm memories notwithstanding.

And they're so... so... Anglo-Saxon Euromale!

We'll see how it flies.

UPDATE: I meant to mention this earlier. I'm just waiting for the first Republican reference to the new Dem ticket as "the two Johns" which also makes the connection to "john" as a nickname for a prostitute's customer. I'm not doing so, mind you. But it's going to happen. And whether or not he's first, I'm voting for Mark Steyn to do it eventually in this run up to the election. Of course, when he does it, it will be a part of a fully reasoned, amusing yet compelling argument about why the two men have prostituted themselves in some way to get where they are. Not that we can think immediately of any issues where Kerry has apparently shaped his stance depending on which audience he's addressing.

Also, we'll be seeing people racking up points for predicting - or recommending - that the two Johns go for it together. Then there'll be all that rounding up of comments comparing the two back when they were rivals for the nomination:

A tussle with John Edwards would be the perfect antidote for Kerry's weaknesses. It would be lovely to see the two of them debate. Edwards is Kerry's bookend as a candidate. He is too shiny by half, inexperienced in foreign policy and uncomfortable on the attack (even against the President), but there is a classic American self-improved sunniness to the man, an optimism that leavens his slightly overwrought us-against-them populism. Edwards' campaign has been distinguished by a carefully calibrated and easily explained series of positions on domestic policy issues. After describing a problem, Edwards brightens and says, "Here's what we're gonna do about that."

And almost involuntarily, his audiences are swept up in his enthusiasm. Edwards' solutions are not the usual Democratic Party pap. He does not overpromise: his College for Everyone plan demands that poor students take part-time jobs—waiting tables, sweeping floors, unloading trucks—in return for tuition assistance. "I did it," he says, "and it didn't hurt me any."

...The Senator from Massachusetts remains a stranger to much of the country. He is at his best under fire (without a crisis, he slips into elitist autopilot), and he is a strong debater. Edwards' sunny solutions would force Kerry to edit his prolix gloominess. If the two stuck to the issues and away from personal nastiness—as is likely, given their mutual respect—both might prosper.

I'd say that's as good an evaluation of the two men and how they will work together as any you'll see now.

Posted by susanna at 07:24 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

July 05, 2004

When Washington surrendered

Lane Core has photos from a July 4th weekend reenactment of the only battle where George Washington surrendered.

Posted by susanna at 02:28 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Yes, No, Maybe so

John Kerry has either reformulated his position on abortion, or come out against his own beliefs. In either case, there's not a lot of moral strength going on. Captain Ed explains, and right well.

[Link via Instapundit]

UPDATE: Tom Maguire has more on Kerry's flip-flops. Who knew he had a shoe fetish? At least it's not cigars...

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

July 03, 2004

Time to get tougher

The Islamist terrorists are saying they've killed Wassef Ali Hassoun, the American Marine they apparently kidnapped last week. Earlier I speculated that Hassoun's story not what it seemed to be, and we still don't know. But regardless of his personal situation, his captors intended to kill an American Marine and they have, in this most horrible of ways. They all deserve to die, and soon.

I just wish the US would make it happen.

I'm getting tired of this deadly drumbeat. It's one thing to lose people in battle, in the heat of the moment. That's tragedy enough. But for these men to do what they've done - they're not human. I don't see the US responding harshly enough for my tastes, or (in my judgment) for their deterrence.

The only positive that could emerge, dark and bloody, from this act is that Muslims with good hearts may finally realize that these terrorists are not concerned about Islam, but with blood lust and hate. Hassoun was born Lebanese, and came to the US as a young teenager. He was Muslim. When you see the hand on his shoulder in the Fox News picture, it's the same color as Hassoun's face. The only material differences between Hassoun and his killers were that Hassoun is American and disagrees with the bloody overthrow mentality of the terrorists. There is no safety from these men unless you bow to them. Anyone who feels safety because they too hate America, or they are also Middle Eastern, or they are also Muslim, needs to take note. That's not enough. Your sense of security gives them more room to cause devastation. And then it will be your turn. Make no mistake. It will be your turn, it's not a question of if but when.

Posted by susanna at 06:29 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

How a criminologist looks at violent death

This is sad:

Jersey City man was killed in a vicious early morning beating attack yesterday on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, officials said.

Robert Hanah, 47, of Stevens Avenue, died shortly after 2 a.m., when he was found on his back at the corner of Warner Avenue, said Hudson County Prosecutor Edward DeFazio.

That's too young to die, and a violent death is always more difficult for the families. But what, as a criminologist, caught my attention about this homicide?

The first thing was wondering where it happened. I'm fairly familiar with Martin Luther King Drive, from my time in Jersey City. And it wasn't the cross street that clued me it; this sentence told me:

"He had been physically assaulted by, we believe, a number of individuals," the prosecutor noted. "Some of the incident was picked up by the (closed circuit television) cameras in the area, and that is a valuable tool which will be used in the investigation."

It was in a part of town where there were closed circuit cameras on the streets. That identifies it as in a fairly small section of the city in the South District, where crime is highest and the most persistent in the face of police action. The cameras themselves were a source of some political push-pull. The advantage was that the storefronts would be more protected, people on the street more protected, and criminals more readily caught because they'd show up on a camera somewhere in the vicinity of their crime. The negative aspect - politically - was the loss of privacy. Would you want to know that every time you were on the street in front of your home, or walking down the block to get a donut, or waiting for the bus, that you were on camera for some bored civilian watching a monitor 10 miles away? The cameras were set to catch the first floor of all buildings, so software had to be developed where the windows of first floor private residences could be successfully blocked out.

The non-political negatives of the system became clear quickly. Citizens with bad intentions quickly learned where the cameras aimed, where the blind spots were, and focused more of their activities there. Some went so far as to kill a camera, and Jersey City being Jersey City, there wasn't funds to replace it right away. Part of what encourages crime is the sense that you won't get caught, touched with more than a little arrogance that you can outwit "the man". Taking down a camera that isn't fixed scores one for the street.

But in the case of this crime, it appears that at least part of the beating - or the incident leading up to it - was caught on camera. Therefore, the detectives have a place to start, people to get identification for and then interview. If they actually caught someone landing a blow, they've got ammunition to turn one of the group who would then give them the rest of the gang.

The question for the public is: is the loss of privacy worth the gain in safety?

Of course, the fact that the person giving out official information is the county prosecutor is also interesting. It's because in Hudson County, where Jersey City is, the prosecutor's office took over all major crime investigations a while back, at least (I think) as far back as the 1970s. When there's a homicide, robbery, rape, the uniforms secure the crime scene and call the prosecutor's office. They have a full detective division who works the crime hand in glove with the prosecutor who will try it. A very different structure from most jurisdictions in other states.

Another part of the story that caught my attention:

DeFazio said investigators believe Hanah had been in a nearby tavern before the assault, where an altercation may have started. The motive for the attack is not known.

Most criminologists (and cops), reaching this point, would go, "Ahhhh....." So often homicide is the result of an altercation that just kept escalating; if you're an average man, it's healthiest never to get in a barroom brawl, or start an altercation there, because you just grossly heightened your likelihood of an untimely death. That's especially true if you aren't involved in high-risk criminal behavior otherwise (like drug dealing). (If you're a woman, on the other hand, it behooves you to learn a man's history before getting very involved, and watching his personality and possessiveness. He's your most likely killer.)

Barroom altercations also have the nasty habit of cycling crazily between who has the upper hand. There are studies that focus on the context of homicide, exploring degree of blame for the event that led to the death. In a convenience store shooting, the clerk isn't the one who instigates the altercation, even though he or she may escalate it and have a role in its conclusion. But in a barroom brawl, it's a dice throw as to who dies vs who started it. Criminologists often find the one who died is the one who started it. Is that person then responsible for his or her death? To an extent, you'd have to say yes. The research question is framed rather like a civil court case where the first question is, Did the harm claimed actually occur? And once you've answered that "yes", then you go to the second question, How much blame do each of the parties carry? The question is framed somewhat differently in criminal court, although it's explicitly there in the degree of a crime the offender is charged with. If I go into a bar and start yelling and hitting someone there, who in turn whacks me over the head with a liquor bottle and (me having a fragile skull) actually manages to kill me, then that person will face a lot lower charges than if I had come in off the street and shot him. It speaks to intent. And if the prosecutor has the defendent dead to rights - for instance, having a video of him engaging in the attack - then the defense attorney is going to focus on the victim's role in the attack. What's more, it's not just a legitimate defense but a morally acceptable one, given that many times the victim does play a role in the escalation of an event that results in his (or her) death. We often don't like to think about that, given our reluctance to blame the victim.

And that opens a whole other area of study. There's so much to know and understand about even the simplest and most straightforward of crimes. It's no wonder criminology is such a fascinating field.

Posted by susanna at 11:10 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 01, 2004

Kerry: Endangering thumb?

John at Discriminations has a great post about John Kerry in an ad depicting him as "everyman", including a scene with him as hunter that may have quite a few problems. Don't miss it.

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

Laws and limits defined at the extremes

In my Intro to Law Enforcement class, we discuss laws and how they're interpreted on a regular basis. Most of my students obtained their knowledge about policing from seeing local cops on patrol and pulling people over, and from watching television news and entertainment shows. My task is to give them a realistic understanding of what policing is, the humanity of the people serving and the push-pull of rights and limits involved in any effort to maintain order in a society.

The latter task is one of the most difficult. Few of them, if any, have thought critically about laws, why we have them, and how we are affected daily by them. Only if they run afoul of one do they think to complain, and they don't have a concept of the fact that laws that don't touch us directly and personally can still have a major impact on not just our lives but the direction our country will take. I try to shake them loose of that very shallow vision and give them a broader scope. One of the ways I do that is to discuss police use of force, when it's appropriate, how we should assess specific episodes, and what the fallout is - both good and bad - when further limitations are put on police.

While we have a solid core of law in this country, built primarily on British common law but expanded exponentially over the years, there is always lawmaking going on (the legislators have to prove their worth somehow) and always judicial interpretations (ditto). As with issues affecting law enforcement, the outer reaches of interpretation in all areas of law are always in flux as some groups try to lock down their area of interest with new laws and limits, and other groups battle to keep their freedoms. It's part of what makes us a democracy.

It's a sometimes esoteric endeavor, dealing with abstractions and possibilities that seem far-fetched or alarmist to most of us. And yet we should be alert, because by the time those issues become a matter of intimate concern to the average American, they're frequently settled at the boundaries and difficult to alter. It's the way special interest groups have managed legislation for years - and it behooves us to recognize that at times the federal government contains special interest groups more concerned about narrow goals within their purview than with our larger freedoms as citizens.

Such is the case with the Patriot Act, which for my sins I've not spent much time reviewing. I tend as a pattern to be pro-law enforcement, pro-military, pro-Justice Administration, pro-crack down on the baddies. I don't necessarily question that their desired laws could in the long run have a negative effect on society as a whole, and I should. This article by Jarett Decker in Reason is a case in point. He writes of Lynne Stewart, a leftist criminal defense attorney on trial for allegedly aiding the planner of the 1993 WTC attack communicate with his followers, essentially issuing a statement for him that authorized his followers to conduct deadly attacks. She was his defense attorney, and the question is whether her actions were themselves defensible under her authority as his defense attorney, or if she overstepped the bounds and committed a criminal act. I'm somewhat familiar with Stewart's case, since it's a NYC issue and one of her close friends is Ron Kuby, a Manhattan leftist defense attorney who cohosts a morning radio talk show in Manhattan with Curtis Sliwa of Guardian Angel fame. It seems very likely both from those discussions and from Decker's article that she did overstep her bounds.

But that's not the concern with her case.

What Decker is alleging is that the Justice Department is trying to stretch the boundaries of their ability to prosecute defense attorneys to the extent that it will chill the attorneys' overall efforts to vigorously defend their clients. And he claims that the Patriot Act was structured specifically to provide for that:

It may seem fanciful to suggest that criminal charges would be brought against a lawyer for nothing more than representing a client in court proceedings, and in fact that power is unlikely to be exercised routinely. But the Justice Department’s history suggests that charges may be used, or threatened, against lawyers who represent the government’s prime targets too often or too well. And the mere existence of the law and the possibility of charges may chill the zeal of all but the bravest defenders. There is reason to believe this was not an unintended consequence of the PATRIOT Act but the realization of a longstanding Justice Department goal.

Section 805(a)(2) of the PATRIOT Act, the provision that allows prosecution of lawyers, did not spring from nowhere. It has a history in the Justice Department’s quiet campaign during the last 15 years to create precedents and obtain legislation that would give federal prosecutors broad power to bring charges against defense lawyers for alleged misconduct in criminal cases. To put it simply, federal prosecutors would like to be both players and referees in the adversarial game of criminal litigation, with authority to penalize their opponents at will...

On October 26, 2001, just six weeks after the attacks on the Pentagon and the World

Trade Center, the 107th Congress passed the 350-page legislative excretion known as the USA PATRIOT Act. As has often been remarked since then, the bill was fed to Congress whole by Justice Department draftsmen and then dumped into the U.S. Code in haste, largely unread and undigested by those who voted for it. It is a fool’s errand to ascribe any particular intent to Congress in passing the PATRIOT Act, beyond the desire to be seen as taking strong measures against terrorism. The specific provisions of the act are almost entirely the work of the Justice Department.

One provision that passed without scrutiny was Section 805(a)(2), which expanded the definition of "material support" to foreign terrorist organizations. Under the AEDPA, "material support" already included financing, weapons and explosives, lethal substances, training, personnel, facilities, lodging, safe houses, communications equipment, transportation, and "other physical assets." The PATRIOT Act added a new item to the litany of the banned: "expert advice and assistance." There is no legislative history to explain why the addition was necessary, or what the Justice Department draftsmen had in mind. That would not become clear until the prosecution of Lynne Stewart.

It's difficult for most of us to grasp that a defense attorney vigorously defending a porn king or a murderer or even a terrorist is in a sense protecting the outer borders of our own rights. But it's true. The order in our society is sustained through clearly understood rules that we willingly follow. We submit to the rules because we tacitly concede that, on the whole, we as individuals are better for their existence. If the vast majority of us did not obey the rules generally without rebellion, our nation would quickly descend into anarchy. One of our most cherished freedoms, a right guaranteed by the Constitution, is that we won't be hounded into jail - or kidnapped from our homes at night to never be seen again - but instead will have full opportunity to hear what the charges against us are and to defend ourselves against them. The majority of us are so inured to following the rules, so accepting of their necessity, that we will never test that provision. But it wouldn't take long for our rights to begin degrading if the rights of those who have broken the rules, sometimes in quite heinous ways, are abrogated. That includes terrorists and those who aid them.

I am inclined to give John Ashcroft and his minions the benefit of a doubt. At the same time, I have to understand that even the best people can make egregious mistakes for the best of reasons. None of us see clearly all the time, which is why debate in society is so important. It is important for each of us to set aside our first response of support or fault-finding for whatever the government does, and really explore the what's being said and done. It sounds like the Justice Department may have overstepped its bounds as surely as Lynne Stewart did. And it also sounds like the US Supreme Court is on the case. We need to keep an eye on this, and not let it slip past because, after all, why do we care if terrorists go to jail on poor evidence? Aren't we safer then?

I would say no.

Posted by susanna at 10:29 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack