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January 30, 2005

Congratulations to the Iraqi people

The news from Iraqi's elections sounds encouraging, with high turnout and (relatively) low harm.

IraqtheModel photo of inked fingers 1-30-05.jpg

Inked fingers
of the brothers
from Iraq the Model

The jubilation is clear on Iraq the Model:

We would love to share what we did this morning with the whole world, we can't describe the feelings we've been through but we'll try to share as much as we can with you.

We woke up this morning one hour before the alarm clock was supposed to ring. As a matter of fact, we barely slept at all last night out of excitement and anxiety...

We could smell pride in the atmosphere this morning; everyone we saw was holding up his blue tipped finger with broad smiles on the faces while walking out of the center...

I walked forward to my station, cast my vote and then headed to the box, where I wanted to stand as long as I could, then I moved to mark my finger with ink, I dipped it deep as if I was poking the eyes of all the world's tyrants.

I put the paper in the box and with it, there were tears that I couldn't hold; I was trembling with joy and I felt like I wanted to hug the box but the supervisor smiled at me and said "brother, would you please move ahead, the people are waiting for their turn".

It's a beautiful thing, for sure. I encourage you to read other accounts, check the usual places - Instapundit, Buzzmachine - and any number of others. Cigars in the Sand is photoblogging, and many Iraqis are giving their thoughts: The Mesopotamian, Free Iraq (by Ali, brother of the Iraq the Model bloggers), Democracy in Iraq, Hammorabi, and many more listed here.

And don't forget that Friends of Democracy will be producing a live broadcast from 2 - 4 p.m. EST today, both on C-Span and a webcast from their website.

Posted by susanna at 08:33 AM | TrackBack

January 29, 2005

More reasons to love Kentucky

Not that you needed any, right?

Okay, none of that.

The Cincinnati Enquirer article talks about two men who've dedicated great chunks of time investigating the weirdness of Kentucky. And there's a lot of it. Jeffrey Scott Holland's site, Unusual Kentucky, hit the sorta big time and stripped out its bandwidth allowance, so he cut it back. (And you'll find, if you click there now, that he's stripped it out again. Try back Tuesday.) Vince Staten has kept his contributions on the printed page. But there are samples of both in the article.

I can say I remember Tombstone Junction - I was there more than once. And I've seen Bondurant Pharmacy a number of times and never thought much about it. But I've never been to Static.

[Thanks to Dave Menke for the link.]

UPDATE: Once upon a time, Dodd Harris had a site similar to Holland's, only his was photos from his trip from California to KY. Very cool, and also a Yahoo! Site of the Day once upon a time. It was still up a year or so ago, but I diligently searched his sites this morning and couldn't find it. Odd, because Dodd removes Internet clutter like I remove household clutter - that is to say, he doesn't. I'm sure I missed it. Dodd, give us the link if you read this!

(Now we'll know if he still reads my blog. Heh.)

Posted by susanna at 09:01 AM | TrackBack


My friend Desiree tries to keep me in line. She's not the friend in the previous post; Desiree and I have been friends for (this is scary) 25 years, and we are very alike in our world views. If anything (and I don't mean to frighten my liberal friends), she is even more conservative than me, in some ways, although she's perfectly acceptable to take out in company.

The best thing about our friendship is simultaneously the worst thing - we know each other awfully well. That means that when she suggests something, sends me an article about whatever, it's not a shot in the dark. She knows precisely what my issues are, and my interests, so it arrows right in. And this week she sent me a questionnaire about clutter, by that Goddess of The Clean House, Flylady. Specifically, it was a questionnaire in the Chicago Tribune about how much clutter is in your house.

I won't embarrass myself and scare you by revealing the truth about that in my house. What caught my attention was this question:

If you have books on your shelves that you never read but intend to someday, would you say there are: a) 1-5 b) 6-10 c) more than 10

There are two things about this that must be pointed out. First, are they saying unread books are clutter?? This in a country where we hear about creeping illiteracy. Books should be encouraged! People should get awards annually for buying/saving/reading books! The more books the better! should be our motto. Don't call them clutter!

Second, what's up with "more than 10" being the top category? What person worth their B&N discount card has fewer than 10? Whoever wrote this questionnaire is Not To Be Trusted. I told my brother about this abomination, and his response was succinct and unequivocable: "philistine".

Precisely. Precisely! I am suspicious of people who don't have books. If they don't have books or magazines, I begin looking around for the docking station where they recharge their robotic selves, because they aren't human as far as I know.

How did I answer that question? I low-balled it pretty badly - I said, "50-100".

In my living room, I have three full bookcases; I own more than 70 cookbooks alone. In my office I have two full bookcases, one with criminal justice materials and one with needlework and writing books. That one has books stacked flat on top of the standing books. In my guest room, I have one tall bookcase, full; three short wide bookcases, full; and one short narrow bookcase, full. There is another tall bookcase standing empty, which will be half full when I get around to unpacking a couple of book boxes. One always needs to have room for expansion.

Did I mention that about half the shelves - those with paperbacks - have double rows of books?

I don't have bookshelves in my bedroom (I must remedy that), none in the kitchen (I conceded the space to a pie safe for appliances), and none in the bathroom (that needs adjusting too), so you can't say I'm overwhelmed with books. They're my friends, my favorite decorating accessory, and my surest buffer against boredom. They're a window into other worlds, a chance to hear the other side, a guide into new realms of knowledge, a tutor in so many areas. They entertain, and sadden, and fill with resolve.

It's just... bizarre to think of books as clutter.


P.S. Desiree, that dream was just weird. You creeped me out. Can't you dream about me marrying Prince Charming or publishing a novel or something that doesn't involve screaming and coffins?

Posted by susanna at 12:45 AM | TrackBack

Not safe at any speed

I have a friend who has been dear to me for 15 years. She is one of the finest people I know - warm, loving, funny, talented, smart. We have a lot in common, and enjoy many of the same things, like shopping for cool food at the farmer's market, eating all kinds of different foods, watching movies, laughing, helping each other out. We're also very different. I'm a practicing Christian, she's a non-practicing Jew. She's a health nut, I'm ... not. :D She loves all kinds of music except - you guessed it - the kinds of music I like, country and Celtic and bluegrass. She grew up in a huge city and lives today in a major metro area, loving every minute of it (well, almost). I'm a country girl, as you may have discerned if you read this blog much.

And I'm a hard-line conservative, so much so that I consider George Bush perilously liberal, while she's a dyed-in-the-wool liberal who cried when Bush won. By unspoken yet mutual agreement, we didn't talk on the phone for about a month before and a month after the election last fall. We both knew the talk would turn to politics, and things might get ugly. We try to avoid ugly.

It was from this friend that I learned a truth: Sometimes it's just better to keep your mouth shut, because nothing you say is going to change her a whit. And let me hasten to note that she learned the same thing from me. The issue where this came home was abortion. She is solidly pro-choice, unsurprisingly. I am, just as unsurprisingly, vehemently pro-life. We talked about it a few times, it did get ugly (although not hurtfully so), and I realized for the first time that on many issues my thinking is so completely different from hers - and others like her - that there's really no common ground to establish. She can say all her wonderful arguments, that sound so bone-deep convincing and condemning to her, and I just blink. They mean nothing to me. It's so much wind trying to blow sand in my face. When it's my turn to talk, no matter what examples I use or words I send flowing over her in passionate waves, she remains untouched. In that arena, her priorities are not mine.

So it has become something we don't talk about. I have mentioned it in passing once or twice, and she has fixed me with a sharp look that said, Don't go there. And I stop. I know she is a wonderful person, and sometimes I have difficulty reconciling the goodness that I know permeates her character with some of the political positions she takes. Although we've not discussed it - I guess it's on our unspoken list - I'm sure she feels the same.

What made me think of this was a comment I just left on my friend Terry's blog (and I won't link the post because I don't want to start a thread). She reminds me of my other friend. She too is kind, and loving, and a good person. And yet - as the post and my response show - we are diametrically opposed on that issue. I genuinely puzzle about how she can't see what I see. But I think I need to let it rest, and apply the Liberal Friend Rule - to Terry and to Jeff as well, who is likewise all of those things I mentioned and on whose blog I have railed unadvisedly. I'll keep my mouth shut, folks. If I can't bear it, I'll rail on my own blog and try to keep from tossing rhetorical bombs in the blogyards of friends.

I'm just talking about the Unreconcilable Issues, btw. I'll still make my presence known otherwise. You didn't think I'd completely hush, did you? You're smarter than that.

Posted by susanna at 12:11 AM | TrackBack

January 28, 2005

Talkin' 'bout my de-evolution

One of my problems with revolutionaries of various sorts, especially the ones who want to change the government or even mankind into something different, is that generally they don't have a lot to say about what the "something different" would look like. They are interested in something "not being" rather than in something else "being". After reading what activist Ward Churchill envisions, I can see why it's politic to be vague.

Reading Churchill's words is enough to make me go barking around the house like a dog at the moon, out of sheer frustration. The ideas and their expression are so convoluted that I found myself rereading constantly to make sure I got the point, whatever it was. Clearly he's perfected the skill of an academic who wants to sound important and profound without actually making himself clear, because clarity would expose the fundamental vacuity of what he has to say. Here's a good example:

People engaged in the activity that is engendering the repression are the first people who need to be supported—not have discussion groups to endlessly consider the masturbatory implications of the efficacy of their actions or whether or not they are pure enough to be worthy of support. They are by definition worthy. Ultimately, the people debating continuously are unworthy. They are apologists for the state structure; [and] in [effect], try to convince people to be ineffectual.

In case you now have a howling headache, this is a translation: "The people who are trying to end an establishment activity they don't like should be supported whether or not they are good people, use good methods or are successful. And anyone who even thinks about 'judging' them is a patsy of the government."

More clear, less reasonable. It's a trend. But one thing you can say for Churchill is that he actually has a vision. He is, you see, a NATIVE AMERICAN. One must use all caps because it is clear they are the INDIGENOUS PEOPLE who have FIRST DIBS on everything in the United States. Churchill has forged a career out of writing about the "genocide" the US committed against the Indians, and what should be done now to atone. He's not talking about reparation. He's talking about de-evolution.

I’m actually a de-evolutionary. I don’t want other people in charge of the apparatus of the state as the outcome of a socially transformative process that replicates oppression. I want the state gone: transform the situation to U.S. out of North America. U.S. off the planet. Out of existence altogether...

There’s no U.S. in America anymore. What’s on the map instead? Well let’s just start with territoralities often delineated in treaties of fact—territoralities of 500 indigenous nations imbued with an inalienable right to self-determination, definable territoralities which are jurisdictionally separate. Then you’ve got things like the internal diasporic population of African Americans in internal colonies that have been established by the imposition of labor patterns upon them. You’ve got Appalachian whites. Since the U.S. unilaterally violated its treaty obligations, it forfeits its rights—or presumption of rights—under international law. Basically, you’ve got a dismantlement and devolution of the U.S. territorial and jurisdictional corpus into something that would be more akin to diasporic self-governing entities and a multiplicity of geographical locations. A-ha, chew on that one for awhile.

There’s no overarching authority other than consensus or agreement between each of these. There has to be a collaborative and cooperative arrangement rather than something that’s centrally organized and arbitrarily imposed.

Translation: The United States dissolves. All lands that indigenous peoples (Indians) held when the white man came will go back to them. Any left over bits, the encroachers from the past 400 years can claim. Otherwise, they have to live under the rule of the indigenous peoples as the indigenous people have lived under them for centuries. Any association between the groups, now individual nations - 500+ of them - will be negotiated in treaties between the groups.

He doesn't mention who gets the casinos.

It's insanity. Let's imagine, for the sake of argument, that the dividing up process went smoothly (which it wouldn't, there would be bloodshed and probably a lot of it) and now there are 500+ nations in the former US, the majority headed by indigenous peoples but some pockets are Appalachian whites or Alabama blacks or NJ Italians or Minnesota Lutherans. Each nation must negotiate its own trade and its own rules within their boundaries. One group would have something - oranges in winter, oil, salmon - that another group doesn't have, values highly and wants badly. There will be fights over those things. And with modern technology as it is, and human nature what it is, before long the majority of the little nations would be run by criminals or would be mired in ongoing efforts to get rid of them. It would become what much of Africa is today. Quickly. And with nothing to stop them - because just as the EU can't get it together militarily in sufficient numbers to actually protect itself, neither would these disparate groups - the wolves and vultures from other parts of the world would move in. Even if, as I said, all the dividing up went easily, within a generation little would be left of peace, order or prosperity. And one reason would be because there would be no "superpower" to keep things down to a dull roar.

A bleak picture? Yes, very. But it's a recognition that great nations always build their greatness on the backs of a strong military and a strong government. I am a proponent of states rights, and the federal government dabbles in social policy much too much for my tastes. But I recognize the value of the alliance of states, and the power of that alliance to provide the order and safety needed for the nation as a whole to prosper. I also recognize the importance of those states sharing many common laws and engaging in free trade. All that would wash away in Churchill's world.

I agree with Churchill that the Indians were treated badly many many times, and the path to the current US is littered with broken treaties. I wish that had been different. And yet... and yet I wonder if the world would be in as good a shape as it is now if the US had stopped at the borders of Indian nations to the west, with chunks of the east carved out for more Indian nations. We won't ever know. And the history of the Indian nations isn't a peaceful one, even before the advent of Europeans. The only reason they didn't fight more is because there was so much land and so relatively few of them. Who's to say what would have evolved here if the Europeans had stayed home? I'm confident it wouldn't have been 500+ little indigenous nations peacefully co-existing.

The ultimate result of a vision like Churchill's, which he himself must realize is not only impossible but improbable even without European intervention, is to destablize the current order for marginal and temporary benefit to the group he identifies with most. He thinks the US hurt the Indians, so he wants to hurt the US even if it ultimately results in dealing a fatal blow to the Indian nations too. And it would.

I do appreciate Churchill establishing a goal, and wish more revolutionaries de-evolutionaries would articulate them (even if they're so convoluted as to be nearly impenetrable). At least then you can engage them in a grounded argument.

(I read the interview with Churchill after following a link from Instapundit (it's an Instapundit kind of day), where Glenn's main point was to make fun (again, and with cause) of Churchill's appearance. He's very much a 1960s revolutionary in his presentation of self, despite the fact that he somewhat rejects the image in the interview. Given that a main focus in the interview is a discussion of whether it's appropriate to use violence in furtherance of a cause, it's significant that Churchill is pictured with an automatic weapon.)

Posted by susanna at 07:05 PM | TrackBack

Disingenuous failure to understand

Instapundit linked to this article in Editor & Publisher, which details the tussle between Powerline blog and Minneapolis Star-Tribune columnist Nick Coleman. It's a pretty even-handed piece, letting Coleman have his say but not presenting Powerline writers John Hinderaker and Scott Johnson as nutcases (and why does no one mention Paul Mirengoff, aka Deacon? He does a good job too.). I recommend you read it; even the Powerline guys say it's "fair and reasonable".

What caught my attention was this quote at the end, from Star-Tribune ombudsman Kate Parry, who has gotten involved as well:

For ombud Parry, both sides should be warned to be careful dealing with the effects of blog-newsprint battles. "I have yet to find anywhere in the mainstream media anyone who really has a handle on bloggers," she asserts. "We are dealing with a relatively new phenomenon."

What is intriguing about that is the admission that they don't have "a handle on bloggers", the excuse being that it's "a relatively new phenomenon." However, blogs have been around for a long time (in technology terms), and have been on the mainstream media radar since at least 9/11. Dozens of articles and broadcast stories have been done about blogs and bloggers, and in the past year bloggers are increasingly appearing as writers in print media and commentators in broadcast media. Increasingly mainstream media types are bloggers themselves. So not "hav(ing) a handle" on blogging can't be lack of knowledge or exposure. The "handle" they don't have isn't knowledge, it's understanding. Despite an increasingly intense awareness of "the relatively new phenomenon", the mainstream media is admitting they don't understand.

One reason that this is so significant is that the mainstream - even in this article - presents itself as the group in the know, the ones who know about news, what is news, how to present news, what news means, and bloggers are some undefinable, baffling upstarts wreaking havoc on a good and competent system. But their very admission that blogging is confusing to them belies that main premise. If after years of exposure, coverage, talking, conferences, chats at the water cooler, ruminations in major magazines, scandals, scooping up the best for their own use, generally puzzling over the "phenomenon", if after all that time of thought, the mainstream media don't have a handle on blogging - why is there any reason to think they have a handle on anything else?

That's at the core of my amusement and frustration about journalists' attitudes toward blogging. I've been a journalist, so I know the amount of time the average journalist has to produce a story on something new: very little. If they have a specific beat, then yes, they can become expert to an extent, but even then the fact of massive face time with an issue doesn't translate into genuine "understanding", although that's what they want us to believe. Most journalists are quick studies, and do a more than adequate job covering a wide range of topics - it's hard, if you do it well and care about it. However, they are not experts, generally, and are reliant on three things: the people they quote; the clip file/Internet cache of others' articles on it; whatever raw materials they have time to absorb, like watching a trial or reading a brief or researching documents. Even then, they can fail spectacularly because of their own agendas - see Mapes, Mary.

The problem with the mainstream media isn't so much that they don't understand blogging as a process - I think they actually understand it well enough, because it's what they do every day in a more structured way. What they don't understand is the motivation behind it. For the first time, the lack of knowledge that many journalists bring to their work is being exposed on a grand scale, and when they have agendas, those too are frequently exposed. As Nick Coleman amply demonstrates, it's perceived as a personal attack - and to the extent that a specific journalist is targeted, it can sometimes be that. However, what's happening is something that goes beyond journalism, and yet at the same time deeply underlies its founding premise: truth-finding.

The traditional process of journalism emphasizes this: You are to go to original sources, either documents or people, as much as possible. You try to discern underlying motivations in those things that may skew the "truth", whatever that is. You talk to people and view information from different perspectives, trying to find what remains consistent and will hold up as "truth". And then you report it as best you can, subject always to human error and the limitations of both time and space/airtime for the coverage.

Blogging, from that perspective, is journalism. It's just not paid, and it's being done by people who have not been trained in journalism's traditions - although, as in the case of Hinderaker and Johnson, they've often been trained to seek truth in very similar ways for quite different reasons. But now the journalists are the object of journalism, and it makes them mighty uncomfortable. Their sources, both people and documents, are appearing online in great detail and frequently unfiltered. Suddenly their relative skill in quickly getting a handle on a topic is stripped down to its essentials for everyone to see. Some of them, unsurprisingly, think it's a brazen attack on journalism itself. They're supported in that thinking by the fact that some bloggers are explicit in their goal to do just that. What they don't see is that those bloggers are doing journalism about journalism, some of them quite talented at it.

I see paid MSM journalism and blogging as a somewhat symbiotic relationship that will grow more so as time passes. The best journalists will begin to use the blogosphere to make their own work better. The worst ones will continue to flail against exposure of their deep weaknesses. The best bloggers will add to the general search for "truth", wherever it is, by presenting what they know to be true or researched and believe to be true, without intent to harm beyond the realization that not pulling their punches will sometimes hurt the ones proven wrong. The worst bloggers will deal in innuendo, lies, attacks and ugliness - much like some journalists do now. As the public becomes more sophisticated users of the burgeoning streams of information, they will learn how to filter both so they too will come closer to truth. And sometimes, the public will become bloggers so they can fact check the fact checkers.

That's a good thing.

Meanwhile, the disingenuous "we don't understand blogging" excuse thrown up repeatedly by the MSM will continue to show the fact that they haven't cared to try to understand. And it will highlight the truth that even when inundated with information, sometimes the mainstream media remains obstinately clueless.

Posted by susanna at 11:25 AM | TrackBack

January 26, 2005


Do you play the game of "what if"?

Sometimes I think about what my life would be if I had made other choices - gone to a different college, married young, become a police officer or stayed with journalism. Perhaps it's an artifact of turning 44 this year, well and truly at middle age and past the place where some paths can be chosen. I've discovered that living life the best way you know how brings regrets and sadness and mourning the loss of things you were never quite sure you wanted, or don't even know now if you want them. It is the narrowing of possibilities that hurts, the knowledge that if you did decide you wanted a certain path, it is already irrevocably closed to you, slipping away behind you when you were looking for something else.

I have those regrets, and I've spent some time and tears mourning the things that never were and now never can be no matter how much I might wish for them. You hear about midlife crises, and when you're young they seem baffling, because when you're young you think by the time you're where they are, you'll know the answers and what kind of lame person doesn't? It's only as you age that you realize that change doesn't encompass the core of who you are, you're always you and never perfect. You begin to understand exactly what it meant when your grandmother, graying, still strong but so old in your eyes, told you that at 70 or 75 or 83 inside she felt the same as the 16 year old girl who married with such dreams and delight inside that she couldn't sleep.

Life begins to take on the inevitability of good fiction, yet the best of lives always contain the edge of possibility that we usually read as hope. And no matter the regrets, at least for me, when I think about the life that I have lived I can't imagine what part I would give back to earn the thing I never chose. If I had married young, or become a police officer, I likely would never have lived near New York City, never learned how well I can adapt or just where the very last edge of my patience for urban living placed its line in the sand. I would have learned other things, and if in the next life I am given - like Scrooge - the chance to see those parallel lives unrolling as if they happened, maybe then I'll find that the life I chose was not the best one. But it's the best one I know, and while some choices are closed to me now I feel the most important ones are always open.

I think, in the end, the issue is not what I have chosen until now. It's uncertainty about what to choose for the future, whether the sense of inevitability is less a truth than just that I can't see over the sides of the rut I'm in. I begin to see that my problem is not so much that choices have closed, but rather a failure to actually choose at all. Is it the flexibility to take advantage of new opportunities? Or is it a mercurial nature easily drawn aside from one path to pursue another, and another, and another, a jane of all trades but master of none? Is it the road less traveled, or the path of least resistance?

The reflections of a life lived. I don't have the answer.

Posted by susanna at 12:18 PM | TrackBack

January 24, 2005

'snow joke - what a difference a year makes

Yes, it's been a cold and deep weekend back in the Northeast, where my old town of Kearny was in the 18-24" belt of snow. Now, I like snow, and one of the things I don't like about Alabama is that it doesn't get at least one good 2-4" snowfall each winter. When it was in the 70s last week, well, that was just wrong. However, it's difficult not to compare and contrast. Here was the scene outside my window in Kearny on December 6, 2003, just before I moved, after a snow that dropped only about 8" on NJ:

Outside my window 3 pm 12-6-03.jpg

Kearny, NJ
December 6, 2003

And then we have the shot taken today - actually about 10 minutes ago - out my front window here in Alabama:

Front window resized 1-24-05.jpg

Somewhere, Alabama
January 24, 2005

I'm reliably informed that the temperature here right now is 25 degrees; however, it's supposed to be in the high 40s in the afternoon, and be up into the 60s by Wednesday. I don't think I'll be complaining. Meanwhile, it's 11 degrees in Kearny, and Wednesday the high will be 33 degrees, with snow flurries.

Picnic, anyone?

Posted by susanna at 08:41 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Right now on Drudge, the teaser headline is:


Right below it is a huge picture of people digging a tunnel through 3 feet of snow with drifts over head-high, with the headline:


Now, I have no way of knowing whether Drudge was meaning irony. But he did good with it, even if it was unintentional.

I've decided probabilities and statistics needs to be taught from elementary school, at a level suitable for each learning level, of course. People need to get the point that pretty wide variations in the behavior of any number of things - people, weather, stocks - can still fall within the margin of "happenstance". In fact, they not only "still can", they "absolutely will". We look at mean averages a lot, but that's pulled all out of kilter by outliers, for the most part. Median is better, but really no average shows a good picture of "normal" - that is, a true picture of the range that is within the margin of "happenstance". It shows us the "middle" from different perspectives, but a whole lot of things that aren't in the middle aren't unusual either.

The rate of crime is a good example. While some policies may actually send it down, and some social circumstances may send it up (and vice versa), for the most part we can't identify definitively where fluctuations come from. There was a swelling of violent crime in the late 1980s into the early 1990s, and right now we're in a trough of sorts. Why? Good question. If you figure it out, give me a call.

Weather, from what I understand from reading about it sporadically but with interest over time, is subject to the same types of fluctuations, only on a much grander scale. You know about the ice ages, and the warm times, that much of the northern US was once under ice and Alaska was once tropical. On this chart of highest and lowest temperatures ever recorded in the world, if you exclude Antarctica the most recent highest temperature was in 1942, in Israel. Antartica in the 1970s recorded two of its highest - 59 degrees at Vanda Station, 7.5 degrees at the South Pole. But the lowest temp in Antartica was recorded in 1983 (129 degrees below zero). In fact, four of the lowest temps recorded in the world occurred since 1970.

What does that mean? Not a lot, in the huge cycle of weather, but it just makes the point that you can't aggregate such information and present it free of the larger context and expect your point to carry weight. I'm sure the weather fear-mongers have a frightening explanation for the information in the above graph, but I'm not inclined to listen to them because they're operating with an agenda that has nothing to do with science.

Now, is it possible that we're moving into a natural cycle of generally higher temperatures that will have a major impact on our world as we know it? Absolutely, and I'd be willing to listen to information on that. But until the fear-monger forecasters strip the leftist politics from their rhetoric, and place their prognostications on some kind of long-range reasonable footing, I'll continue pointing out massive snowfalls in Boston and record low temps all over the place.

UPDATE: Let's call this a "serendipitous" find (via the always useful Instapundit):

Scientists have traditionally viewed the relative stability of the Earth's climate since the end of the last ice age 10,000 years ago as being due to natural causes, but there is evidence that changes in solar radiation and greenhouse gas concentrations should have driven the Earth towards glacial conditions over the last few thousand years...

Anthropologist Dr Benny Peiser, from Liverpool John Moores University, said: "If the research findings are correct, a radical change in the perception of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions will be required.

"Instead of driving us to the brink of environmental disaster, human intervention and technology progress will be seen as vital activities that have unintentionally delayed the onset of a catastrophic ice age."

Do I believe this on its face? Well, they do look at a very long term trend, so that's much better than, say, 100 years or even 300. You can get the big picture going back thousands of years. However, I'm not a climatologist, nor am I familiar with their scientific traditions, theories or methods, so I can't judge. I could come closer with a review of their methodology, but I don't have that. However, it appears to be a peer reviewed journal (I can access the online version through my Rutgers library database connection), which jumps up the credibility a few notches. So, let's say at least if not substantially more believable than the greenhouse hysteria, and vast volumes more credible than anything the UN has ever produced.

What I would like to see is someone with a scientific knowledge but a fair head (no ideological axe to grind) take all the pertinent research on this issue and explain it to me. So much of science is in flux that I don't expect anything definitive. But we can get closer than "he said/she said". Possibly that very article is out there, and if so PLEASE give me a link. But unfortunately too often those scientists who emerge from their ivory towers to engage in such interpretive writing for popular audiences do it precisely because they have ideological agendas.


Posted by susanna at 07:05 AM | TrackBack

January 23, 2005


You must go read this letter. Now.

Why are you still here??

Posted by susanna at 10:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 21, 2005

What was I thinking!

Here I've been in school for most of my life, slaving in the education mines (okay, sporadically slaving, but that's another post) for sundry degrees, and all I had to do to get ahead was become a federal employee and have taxpayers pick up the tab for unaccredited degrees. Soon I too could be making over $100,000 a year! Sheesh. Wish someone had told me. How cool to get a bachelor's, master's, AND a PhD in under a year?

(And yes, I'm very annoyed by this. Nobody should be hired for a position that requires a degree unless the degree is from an accredited school. As you go up the ladder, your degree status from each school should be confirmed with the school in question before you're hired. And transcripts should always come directly from the school to the potential employer, not forwarded by the potential employee. It just boggles the mind, the idiocy.)

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January 20, 2005

So what's up in the high north of Great Britain?

In keeping with my recent obsession with all things Orkney, I've been reading the local newspapers online. Besides quirky things (from my perspective) like calling salt trucks "gritters", it seems pretty similar to what we have here only with different topography.

Case in point: Near the bottom of today's front page of The Orcadian (and you'll have to scroll down, no individual links), there's a photo of a car off in a ditch after hitting a slick spot on the road. How common is that? But there's hardly any snow, the car is a mini-Cooper (don't see those in Alabama much), and the vehicles are on the wrong side of the road.

Orkney seems to be about the size of a county in Alabama, and the population runs about 22,000. It has very few trees, as you can see from the photo, because the sea winds scour the land constantly. And it's not "The Orkney Islands", as those of us in the know understand, because the name "Orkney" means "Seal Island". We wouldn't want to call them "The Seal Island Islands", now would we? Also note just under the car photo the notice about Orkney's first citizenship ceremony - a Phillipino and a Canadian are taking the dive. One wonders if the Canadian abandoned his/her homeland because of the influx of blue Americans.

There's a little more trouble north of Orkney, in another set of islands called The Shetlands. Some lads have been drink driving, and the courts nailed them with substantial fines. Good on them! It went a little easier on Ian Leask, who was growing a little mary jane to help his depression:

A MAN who grew a forest of cannabis in his Lerwick flat narrowly escaped a jail sentence when he appeared at Lerwick Sheriff Court yesterday (Wednesday).

Last April police raided the flat in Pitt Lane after officers noticed a peculiar aroma while walking up the lane.

Inside they found the premises had been turned into a hot house where 39 year old Ian Leask had managed to grow enough cannabis to fetch £10,000 on the street. The plants were being grown using hydroponic equipment and the walls had been lined with silver sheeting to increase the growth rate.

Last month the court accepted that the two kilos of home grown grass were for personal consumption. Mr Leask was using the drug to self medicate for depression, finding it more effective than prescription drugs or alcohol.

There was very little floor space for anything but the plants, the court had heard.

...[H]e was ordered to carry out 220 hours community service, put on a six month “restriction of liberty” order where he will be electronically tagged to make sure he stays at home at night. He was also put on probation for two years.

Apparently Mr. Leask had serious depression problems, which I venture were increased by this:

The 44 items which were taken by police to be used as evidence against Leask, including £500 worth of hydroponic horticulture equipment, was confiscated.

I'm surprised they let him slide on the marijuana because of depression, but then took his equipment - thereby both removing his means of self-medicating and possibly precipitating a sharp slide into the very thing he was trying to combat. Merry Old England - a harsh environment for some.

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January 19, 2005

The top ten things...

The Diplomad has a great top ten list. Go read!

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Cops, cops everywhere!

Through the linky process that is familiar to you all, yesterday I came across two new-to-me blogs by law enforcement officers, one in England, one in Some City, USA. Both are entertaining storytellers and good writers, and both give you the real inside scoop on what it's like to be a law enforcement officer. I think I'm going to require my Intro to Criminal Justice students to read them - well, at least I'll inform them that their bonus questions on their exams will come from those blogs. Heh. Don't worry, I won't just say "those blogs", but will point them to specific posts.

Here are the blogs:

Cerebus Blog, by, yes, a police officer code named Cerebus, in Some City, USA. Here's a good "day in the life" post - "Can't you give me a break, just this one time?". And here's another - "I'm trilingual, actually". Both of them are very funny. The first will show you why police officers get pretty testy sometimes. You would too. And the second reminds me of being a Southerner working in Jersey City, where my co-workers were a mix of NJ suburban whites and inner city whites, blacks and Hispanics. Talk about dialects! And that just includes the ones that ostensibly had English as a first language. I got pretty good at understanding everyone, while still keeping my ear for SSE (you'll have to read the post to figure out what that is).

The other blog is, simply enough, The Policeman's Blog, by a police officer in Great Britain. This is fun in part because you can see the differences in the two, especially in the language (translation again!). He's great at sarcasm - see "Probably the Worst Force in the World - Ever!" - and this commentary on Christmas decorations.

Both are worth reading soup to nuts, and likely I will as I have time. I've already been digging into their archives. It's policing from the inside out.

As for me, my posting is sporadic but shouldn't be. I'm sorry. There are two things operating here: One is, I just can't figure out what to write about anymore. It's not that I have nothing to say - no chance of that happening while I draw breath. It's that I see so many people commenting on the news of the day, and doing such a good job of it, that I wonder, what can I possibly add? I mean, I have things to say, but I don't know that it's something you can't bear to live without. A lot of the things I want to write about seem almost impossibly esoteric for a blog. And as you may have noticed, my brain has the focus of a deflating balloon shooting around a room as it dies. Today I care about Rathergate, tomorrow I care about the genetic history of mankind, yesterday I was all lathered up about Orkney and the lack of websites about Japanese American surnames, but you don't know that because I didn't post on it. And aren't you happy about that!

Second, I'm actually getting a lot of work done. !!! Shocking, I know. I've done more on my dissertation proposal in the last couple of weeks than I have in the same amount of time in a long time. I'm developing and writing the content for a health-research organization's website (for $$, and don't we love paychecks). I'm teaching a class. And I've reinvigorated the mystery novel I started a while back, and am all excited about that. Did I mention I've joined Sisters in Crime, and their local affiliate, Southern Sisters? They do a cool mystery day every year, Murder in the Magic City. The key to getting a lot of things done, I've found, is to leave my house. I've been parking myself and my laptop in sundry libraries and coffee shops, to the benefit of all projects but this one.

So. What's the solution? As you can tell, my comments are still down, and likely will be permanently (that's the impression I get). I may install Haloscan soon, because I miss the comments a lot. I encourage you to write emails :D. Meanwhile, I'll sort out this junk room I call a brain, and see if I can set up a box called "blog" that I add to regularly. I can't promise focus, though. If it's any consolation, my entire life has about the same level of consistency that this blog does. :) I find that doing a little on multiple parallel streams during a day is the best way to eventually get where I need to be. Working 10 hours straight on the same thing causes me almost physical pain.

So go read about cops while I haul my laptop to the school library.

(Oh, did I mention that I'm quilting some every day to finish an important project?)

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January 17, 2005

Chromosomal shifts in the genetic patterns of Celtic- and Basque-speaking populations

Did that title make your head hurt? Me too. But despite that, if you have any interest in history, anthropology, geneaology, etc., I suggest you read this rather complex, scientific article with the unwieldy name, "Genetic evidence for different male and female roles during cultural transitions in the British Isles". If you're like me, great chunks of it will make no sense at all. However, the chunks that do will be fascinating.

My understanding of the main point (for my interests): The ancient ancestors of both the Celtic-speaking natives of Orkney in Scotland and the Basque-speaking natives of Spain came from common roots. There is a discernible genetic identity trackable to those ancestors, which is distinct in Orkney from both the Nordic ancestry from invading Vikings and the Scottish ancestry from consistent migration in recent centuries. These ancient ancestors include the Picts, the native tribe overwhelmed by the Norsemen when they settled in Orkney.

Those kinds of things are fascinating to me, and really just now possible to study because of advances in genetics in recent years. I've also found genetic studies of native Americans quite interesting. From a Smithsonian leaflet:

Evidence for diverse migrations into the New World also comes from Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) research on living American Indian populations. These studies have consistently shown similarities between American Indians and recent populations in Asia and Siberia, but also unique American characteristics, which the very early crania have also shown. Evidence for only four mtDNA lineages, characterizing over 95 percent of all modern American Indian populations, may suggest a limited number of founding groups migrating from Asia into the New World. Recently, however, a fifth mtDNA lineage named "X" has turned up in living American Indians and in prehistoric remains for which there does not appear to be an Asian origin. The first variant of X was found in Europeans and may have originated in Eurasia. Naturally, generations of conflict, intermarriage, disease, and famine would influence the genetic makeup of modern Native Americans. Further work with mtDNA, nuclear DNA (which is more representative of the entire genome), and Y-chromosome data, the male-transmitted complement of mtDNA, will permit better estimates of the genetic similarities between Old and New World groups and help to determine when they would have shared a common ancestor.

Taking it even further back, this article discusses the entire ancestry of mankind, with engrossing details. It even explains what a haplogroup is, which is prominent in the first article. My favorite bit?

Dr. Wallace remarked that since he started working on mitochondrial DNA in the late 1970's: "What I have found astounding is that it clearly shows we are all one human family. The phylogeny in Africa goes back to the origins of our species, but the fingers of L3 are touching Europe and Asia, saying that we are all closely related."

I could have told you that.

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The Blue Debris floating in the Red Sea - Part I

The Washington Post sent out a veteran writer to explore The Red Sea, aka the areas where GW Bush voters live. His article has gotten quite a bit of blogospheric attention. Here's Part I of my entry - a fantasy tour of The Blue Debris. It's quite long (writing short would take to much time from my day, sorry), so much of it is in "More".

The closeness of the last presidential election came as an unpleasant surprise to the people in my town. Some of my neighbors were in tears, and at least one shot up the STOP sign across the front field from his trailer, where someone played a cruel joke one dark night by pasting on it a Kerry for Prez bumper sticker. Recognizing this as a cry to know more, realizing its responsibility to help the community understand why the country came so close to being so stupid, the editors of my paper, The Godly Republican, sent me on a bicoastal, 700 mile tour of the Blue Debris.

You know what I mean: In the US county-level map of the Bush-Kerry election, Bush voters swelled in a sea of red, while Kerry counties bobbed like so much blue debris after a shipwreck – with the notable exception of blue slivers in the west, and a lump of blue in the east.

I wasn’t a stranger to these sapphire streaks and dots; as a young graduate student living in New Jersey, I’d taken my share of subway rides with the junkies and the many-pierced rebels. I’d gone on my own hunt for the best bagel in Manhattan, and knew my way from the Central Park Zoo to La Mela in Little Italy. I’d survived a snowstorm in New Hampshire, passed up lobster for spaghetti in Maine, and even stopped traffic in Hollywood just so I could take a photo of the hillside sign, clinging to the drab green slope like Ben Affleck’s last hope of relevance.

Day One found us landing in Los Angeles. Everywhere I turned, there were brown people – Mexicans, blacks, Middle Easterners. Even the white people were chocolate brown, but I couldn’t tell if it was because they were tanned or had just touched up their sympathetic walnut stain. I walked into the airport lounge with my photographer Mike, another blonde blue-eyed Red Stater like me, and began asking for interviews.

Nothing moves a Blue Stater like a white woman from The Godly Republican asking for an interview. Soon the only people left in the room were an Hispanic man busing a table, and a Filipino woman typing busily on laptop in the corner.

“Do you speak English?” I asked the Hispanic man slowly. He turned to look at me, his caramel toned skin glossy against the glittering expanse of sun-drenched window.

“Um, yeah, I grew up in Anaheim,” he said, rolling his eyes. “My dad owns this restaurant, and if I don’t haul these dishes into the back he’s going to take the keys to my Beamer. I ain’t got no time for you, lady.”

“Hey, wait, who’d you vote for for president?” I yelled at his undulating, muscular back just before it disappeared behind the swinging doors.

“Who voted?” came floating back.

Disgruntled, I led Mike over to the Filipino woman, young, attractive and very very busy.

“Ma’am,” I said, “Who’d you vote for in the presidential election?”

She looked at me coolly. “Who wants to know?”

I nearly fell over Mike’s foot, and he yelped. “Michelle Malkin!? Is that YOU?!” I screeched. Peeling her hands from her ears, flinching, she said, “Yes, and you are…?”

A few minutes later, an autographed copy of her latest book in my backpack, I left Malkin and walked purposefully toward the cab stand. There had to be a gen-u-wine Kerry voter somewhere, I thought. And I bet I knew where to find one. I walked outside.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow… no, wait. Wrong blue state. Charcoal-gray asphalt stretched in shimmering heat on both sides of me, disappearing and reappearing under the waves of banana-yellow taxis driven by more brown people, many with head wraps that made my scalp itch in sympathy. I was glad to experience this evidence that a Red Stater could feel the pain of a Blue Stater. Mike the photographer informed me that the turbaned taximan was a Sikh, and I was amazed that a Red State white-bread homeboy knew such things. I contemplated the sweeping marches of flat land, small houses and scrub trees stretching into the horizon, thinking that Red and Blue can meet, somewhere.

Shortly my photographer and I were wending our way to Malibu, home of the bluest of Blue Staters, Barbara Streisand – who lives in one of the largest contiguous slices of blue in the country. We flowed with traffic, often unable to see the sights from inside our rented sedan, surrounded on all sides by monstrous SUVs plastered with bumper stickers: “Don’t blame me, I voted for Kerry” and “Green by nature, Blue by choice”. It took only two hours to go the 32 miles to Malibu, and soon we were downing grande lattes at the only Starbucks in town, just off the Pacific Coast Highway.

That’s where we met Marci, an actress slumming as a Starbucks latte maker between roles. Leaving Mike to wrestle with the intricacies of deciding whether to emphasize her 30 earrings or the combination of eyebrow ring, nose-ring, chin stud and spiked dogcollar, I asked her who she voted for.

She looked at me blankly. “Kerry. I wouldn’t even grunge my mouth saying that other guy’s name,” she said, jostling a caramel apple cider under the mixer. Why Kerry? I asked. She popped a lid on the apple cider, handed it off to a tall thin braless woman with FEMINIST blazoned on her t-shirt, then looked at me as if I was an insect of a particularly noxious sort.

“He believes in women. He supports blacks in this country. He doesn’t like the war because he knows what war is like, not like that other guy.” She was clearly just getting up steam. “He wouldn’t shut down Social Security and Medicare and welfare benefits just to go massacre more brown people in the Middle East for their oil. He would talk to the insurgents and negotiate peace. And he’s not some god-loving homophobic bigoted brain-dead daddy’s boy.”

“So what do you think of George Bush?” Mike muttered under his breath as he finished taking both views of Marci. She ignored him.

“I mean, I’m thinking of moving to Canada,” she said, starting up a grande chai tea. “I don’t think I want to live in a country where more than half the people are idiots.”

Waving goodbye to our new friend, we set out to find other Blue voices. Seeing a sign for TofuAdventures, we parked in the vegan restaurant’s lot and went in for lunch. After ordering Roasted Tofu on a Bed of Arugula, Bean Sprouts and Artichoke Hearts, with a side of avocado and a dessert of Whipped Lemon Tofu Pudding, we asked the black man beside us in a robe and rope sandals who he had voted for.

“Look at my skin,” he said sonorously. “Need you ask?”

“Yes, but Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice are Bush supporters,” I note. “Are you saying that all other black people are for Kerry?”

He looked livid. “I cannot help it if some people abandon the cause of right and justice for the sake of getting ahead for themselves,” he said, his voice rising. “Any black who voted for, works for, or can abide That Man is no better than black foreman on a plantation, whipping the skin off his own brothers for the praise of a white massa.”

“So any black person who disagrees with you is a sellout?” I ventured, wanting to make sure I got his point. He leaned over toward me until I could smell the curry on his breath.

“He. Is. A. Traitor.” The words were enunciated with precision. “We must fight until the superiority of the black man is vaunted in the halls of power, until we are repaid for the years of oppression. Anyone who voted for That Man has assassinated Martin Luther King Jr. again.”

“Didn’t King plead for equality of white and black, linking our destinies so the success of one requires the success of both?” I asked, gifting him with my own latte-laced breath. He stiffened and drew back.

“Waiter! My check!” he bellowed, standing and turning his back to me. “I find this place has acquired a stench.”

As he walked out the door, the waiter came up with our orders – in 20% post-recycled paper takeout boxes. With long lank hair pulled in a ponytail, a lip ring that kept pulling down his lip so it showed his teeth, and hugely baggy jeans that held up only by some grace of gravity, he looked like a good boyfriend for Starbucks Marci. With a sneer, he slapped the boxes on the table and shoved a check in our faces.

“We don’t want your kind here,” he said. “The boss says pay and leave.”

And so we did, leaving as a tip the business card of a Dial A Bible Moment ministry in Alabama.

With time running short, we headed back south to catch a plane for New York City, our next stop. On the outskirts of town we saw a group of people with signs standing in front of a bulldozer, and stopped to see what was going on.

“What’s going on?” I asked a short wiry white man in jeans and a t-shirt that said “Prune the Shrub – vote Kerry”. His sign said, “Save the Striped Slime Snail!”

“We’re trying to preserve the diversity of nature and the planet’s viability,” he said, speaking fast with vowels so stiff and clipped that I knew he’d spent his own stint in the mid Red States. “This… this capitalist is trying to destroy the habitat of the Striped Slime Snail, and We Must Prevent It for the good of us all.” Abruptly he flung himself against the shovel end of the dozer, which was unmoving and silent, and then began screaming about Nazi tactics as blood from a new cut ran down his cheek.

A man in dusty jeans, workboots and a t-shirt advertising Hooters leaned against a fence pole a few feet away, fingering an unlit cigarette and watching the bouncing chests of the women protestors. As we walked up to him, he grinned.

“Now that’s entertainment,” he said, nodding toward the seething unwashed mass. “Are you with the media? ‘Cause I ain’t talking, my boss’ll be here in a few.”

“We’re media, but not about this protest,” I said. “I want to know – who did you vote for last fall?”

He looked at us suspiciously. “Is that a trick question?”

“No,” we assured him.

He canted his dark eyes left and then right, clearly trying to see if anyone was within hearing distance.

“Bush,” he said. “But I’ll deny it if you tell anyone, and I won’t give you my name. I’d be out of work if that got out.”

“Why Bush?” I persisted. He grunted, and nodded his head toward the protestors again.

“You see that and ask why?” he said. “They sure like their cars and their bars and their planes and fancy flown-in ‘natural’ food, but they get riled if construction threatens a snail that came over from China under a cabbage leaf 50 years ago. I keep hoping Bush will bring some common sense to the place. I know Kerry wouldn’t.”

A pickup rolled up and a man in Levis and workboots climbed out. “My boss,” the dozer driver said. “Gotta go.” We drove off as the surging protestors surrounded the boss and a television crew kicked up their lights.

The next installment – finding Blue New England – will be posted later today.

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Teddy Kennedy, A Man of Faith

In the gullibility of the American people, at any rate.

Alan at Theosebes posts about the Dems getting religion. It's a hoot.

I don't question that a lot of people who voted for both Al Gore and John Kerry have deeply held religious beliefs that they live by, putting their own preferences under the authority of God. I know some, the first one coming to mind a lady in New Jersey who is one of the finest Christians I know - she voted for Gore because she thought he would "be better for black folk", and I didn't argue with her. It wasn't a point we needed to dwell on in our relationship, although I did then and do now think she was wrong in her reasoning. And, conversely, I know there are a lot of Republicans who wear the mantle of Christianity for political gain. It's not exclusive to any party.

But it's pathetic from anyone of any political persuasion to try to reshape the Bible to say what fits your political need of the moment. It says what it says, and frankly sometimes I don't much like the limitations or don't quite see the harm in things it condemns. But God is God and I am His creation - it behooves me to trust Him completely or not at all. And to take His Word as a whole or leave it alone.

Unfortunately, I don't think the Dems in this "faith" push share my philosophy. God is a tool to them, not a Creator, a Savior or an infallible, immutable Guide.

UPDATE: Paul at Wizbang blog posts about this article too, with a few pertinent points. The comments on the post are worth browsing too.

And it's illuminating to read this interview with MLK Jr.'s niece on the holiday celebrating him - she makes it very clear where he stood on religion and God, in the context of a reply to a question on whether he would support gay rights:

Coretta Scott King has said that if Martin Luther King were alive today, he would be a champion of gay rights.

No, he would champion the word of God. If he would have championed gay rights today, he would have done it while he was here. There was ample opportunity for him to champion gay rights during his lifetime, and he did not do so. His daughter, Elder Bernice King has been recorded as saying, “I know in my sanctified soul that he did not take a bullet for same-sex marriage.”

While MLK Jr. was not the saint he is often painted to be, he was a pivotable figure and one who did much good. It's sad to see the politically craven of today evoking his memory in support of things he would denounce.

Posted by susanna at 01:17 PM | TrackBack

Not that I'm surprised

What is your weird quotient? Click to find out!

Your score is:


Of all the weird test takers:

7% are more weird,
2% are just as weird, and
90% are more normal than you!

(Hat tip to Terry at I see Invisible People. However, you won't find her score there, which is btw 117, because she's switched to a new face and I can't get a permalink to go to the right post on her old one.)

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Amber alert issued for King legacy

If you read nothing else today about MLK day, you must read this by Scott Ott at Scrappleface.

As always, he cuts to the heart of the matter.

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January 15, 2005

And that's the way it is...

Peggy Noonan delivers the best analysis and summation of both the Rathergate aftermath and the altered future of the MSM. I suggest you go read.

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January 14, 2005

Chattin' over the Cracker Barrel

One of the first people I connected with as a blogger was Kevin McGehee, then of blogosFERICS (which, I confess, I was never sure how to either say or spell), now of Yippee-Ki-Yay!. He often commented on my blog, I did on his, we linked back and forth, and emailed occasionally. That was almost three years ago. At the time he and his wife Chris (who now has a cat blog) lived in Georgia and I was in New Jersey. Then last year I moved to Alabama, and suddenly, instead of being almost 1000 miles apart, we were only 140 miles away from each other! Well, that called for a meeting.

And today it happened, at a Cracker Barrel almost exactly equidistant for us, just outside of Anniston, AL. As has usually been my experience in meeting bloggers, I hit it off immediately with both Chris and Kevin. We chatted through lunch, outlasted all the other diners, and finally moved out to the rocking chairs on the porch. There we stayed, rocking and talking, until the air took on a chill and the sun dimmed on the horizon. Nearly four hours, total. It's hard to say what we talked about - jokes, weather (Chris works for the NWS), food, Alaska... many things, although not blogs or what's going on in the blogosphere except in passing. And that's not unusual either - I find that I have lots in common with other bloggers besides the medium we choose as our portal to the world.

It was a lovely afternoon, and I hope we do it again soon. If you've not met other bloggers I encourage you to do so. I doubt you'll be disappointed. And if you have - do it again! It's worth your time.

UPDATE: Here's the McGehees' version - and I made a mistake! How shocking is that? It's corrected above, so you'll have to go there to find out what it was :D.

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January 13, 2005

"Is it because I'm lesbian?"

I've watched the original Law & Order probably since its inception, although I can't remember back that far. At least, I recognize all the women who played Assistant DAs, so that must count for something. And tonight, still another ADA, Serena Southerlyn (Elisabeth Rohm), goes the way of the others - she's off the show.

But what a freakishly bizarre scene it was.

As I said, I've followed the show for a very long time, and haven't missed many episodes. Rohm's Southerlyn has always been very passionate, very very very liberal, a bleeding heart foil to Sam Waterston's ADA Jack McCoy, who's a tough hombre. More than once, Southerlyn has flounced away from a conversation with McCoy because she thinks he's allowed legal pragmatism to beat down principle, and she doesn't like it one little bit. Of course, the times she's disliked it, it's been because McCoy's pragmatism resulted in a principle she cherishes being harmed. Other times, she pleaded or argued for a relaxation of law if it served her principles. She's definitely an advocate with philosophical preferences beyond the letter of the law. It's also resulted in some clashes with Fred Thompson's DA Arthur Branch.

That's why I wasn't really surprised tonight that Southerlyn's sayonara came when Branch fired her for her emotional, advocate style of lawyering. He told her she'd be happier in an area of law where she could be passionate about her cases, and this was not it. I'm not good with personal confrontations, so I squirmed during the conversation that led up to his saying "You're fired". It was clearly going there, and the scene was played very well - she "got it" gradually, and her pretty eyes were swimming in tears at the end. A good place for it to end, maybe with her flouncing out one last time. I waited for it. Instead...


It spun off into a "The WHOLE LAST SEASON WAS A DREAM WHILE BOBBY WAS IN THE SHOWER!" Dallas kind of world. Not that elaborate, just that weird. All the stupidity with none of the intricacy!

What happened? you may well ask.

Well, after Branch said, "You're fired." and Southerlyn soaked it in a few seconds, she looked at him and said, "Is it because I'm lesbian?"

"Is it because I'm lesbian?"


What train track did that derail from?

At no time in the 3 1/2 years Rohm/Southerlyn has been on the show has there been an indication that she is gay. In fact, unlike the other L&O franchises, the original one deals very little with the private lives and loves of the characters. It's all about the plot. I've never seen her giving a hot eye to anyone, man or woman; I've never seen her give special wink-wink preference to a gay character; I've never seen any single miniscule microscopic subatomic particle of evidence that she was gay. Now, granted, there were no flashing signs saying, "THIS CHARACTER IS HETEROSEXUAL!", but then, Andrew Sullivan notwithstanding, heterosexuality is still the default position.

And lest you think that I'm some blinded super-heterosexual homophobe who wouldn't recognize gay/lesbian proclivities if it was enacted on my front porch (apparently one of the arguments for why at least one contemporary of Abraham Lincoln didn't realize HE was gay, because, of course, he was, if you believe this guy), here is an excerpt from an article on L&O on a lesbian site, "". It deals specifically with the lesbian following of Detective Benson, Mariska Hargitay's character on L&O-SVU, but has this to say about the whole franchise:

Although there are no explicitly lesbian characters on any of the Law and Order shows...

That was posted in May 2004, as Rohm/Southerlyn was wrapping her 3rd season on the show. One of the main points of that website is to identify lesbian role models/visible lesbianism in the entertainment world. They look for that kind of thing, and the article clearly chronicles that they look really really really hard to find it. For them to say it's not shown up by May 2004 means - honey, Southerlyn ain't been eyein' the broads for three seasons.

So where did it come from? WHERE? What was the point? It's true that my niece called during this show, so I may have been distracted long enough to miss some passionate girl-kiss on this episode, but I don't think so. I was still watching, even though I wasn't listening.

In the final exchange, after Southerlyn asks Branch if he's firing her because she's a lesbian - which obviously she is supposed to think is a real possibility because she's asking him - he assures her it's not, in a very caring, sincere way (I nearly retched). Then she just nods, still tearful, and says in this die-away voice, "That's good." And they cut away to scenes from next week.

So what happened there? If they're going to make some huge issue of her suddenly-revealed lesbianism (I guess she "came out of the closet" on national television), why would she believe that this conservative hard-nosed politician who was firing her for being passionate about what she believes would tell her the truth if he did fire her for being a lesbian? Is he going to tell her, "Why, why yes, Serena, I think your lifestyle is noxious and I won't have some lipstick lesbian mucking up the payrolls in my office. If I'd know sooner you'd have been out on that pretty little bum before now. Clear out before I have to fumigate the office."

My jaw literally dropped when she said that. And I'm still completely lost as to why they did it. There were zero episodes building up to it, there were zero plot devices about it in the specific show, there was zero evidence for assigning her to either team beyond the default position. As a plot point, it was a clunker. I also don't see how it could serve any value to lesbian activists, if that was the point, because she hadn't lived a lesbian lifestyle up to that point, and she sure didn't fight her firing as being a result of it. It served no useful purpose to anyone at all.

I'm bumfuzzled. Can anyone figure it out? Rohm herself offers no clues. I'll have to read the comments tomorrow to see what stir it causes.

UPDATE: More evidence. Here's an excerpt from an article posted in April 2003 (scroll down to "Law & Order Romance?") where Rohm (who plays Southerlyn) says she thinks ADA Jack McCoy and her character would "acquit themselves nicely in the sack". I'm very happy not to have seen that - I actively avoided "Sex in the City" because I don't want to see that - but it underscores my point that Rohm's character has not been some closeted lipstick lesbian for her whole time!! Or any time, for that matter.

It's... it's as reasonable as her saying something like, "Is it because I'm the love-child of Madonna and Hitler, conceived in a laboratory petrie dish from seed frozen in Germany all those years ago"? It's a non-sequitor! It's like Colin Powell asking GW if he was fired because he caused Brad Pitt and Jennifer Anniston to break up!

I'm going to bed. This is hurting my brain.

Posted by susanna at 12:39 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 11, 2005

Happy to oblige

I've been meaning to do a post about the comments section, but have been quite busy and just didn't do it. In case you didn't know, they're inoperable. My understanding is that someone was hammering the comments with garbage, and Dodd, who hosts this blog free, had to shut them down in defense. Fixing the problem would require an upgrade neither he nor I have the cash laying around for right now. Given that Dodd has hosted this blog for free for almost three years, including doing some design work on it, upgrading a few times and generally responding courteously and promptly to any of my concerns, I have no quarrel with his decision not to upgrade. The fault lies with the slimy 'Net scum who get their jollies from causing trouble.

I do miss your comments very much, and encourage you to send me emails. Some of them I will post here. In essence, I'm now like the big blogs such as Instapundit and Powerline blog, who do not have comments sections at all. I have no problem with a lack of comments section, other than that I like to read them, because nothing is stopping anyone from setting up their own blog, even an anti-Susanna blog, and blasting away to a fare-thee-well. It's a free country, and an even freer Internet, if you hook up with Blogger.

But there are always trolls, the scaly warts on the face of the blogosphere. One of them saw fit to find deep meaning in my disabled comments section, and wrote me this little love note:

How brave of you to post your claptrap on he internet and refuse to give the "reading public" a chance to respond. You paragons of the "right" are really that way aren't you?

Next thing you know, you'll be accusing people opposed to George Bush's war in Iraq of succoring terrorists! Or *gasp* even being fans of Hitler! (No, you'd never stoop that low would you? Even someone as warped as you are would never stoop that low, would you? Oh, that's right, you already did.)

Please, just keep posting your evil and hate-filled nonsense! It amuses us all!

Have a great day!

As you can see, it's not even particularly coherent. But he clearly wants his moment in the sun, so here it is. His name, btw, is given as "John N.", and his email address is How's that for transparency, Johnny? If you want to keep sending me love notes, I'll set up a regular weekly "John N loves me" post cycle. Yes, I really am that way.

Posted by susanna at 09:57 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 10, 2005

RatherGate report issued: Employees take the fall

The Rathergate report has been issued by the committee of two selected to review the 60 Minutes debacle. Here's my version of the basic conclusion:

CBS News is not biased. Some producers and executives were incompetent or slow to do their job. We've dumped them and are setting up another layer of oversight. Meanwhile, we're not willing to say the documents are actual forgeries.

It's just come out so there's not a lot posted on it yet. I'll link analyses here as I find them. It's clear that four people have been chosen to bear the brunt of the damage, in an effort to save the organization from an accusation of institutional bias and poor journalistic behavior. The lack of seriousness in the report is shown by the failure to admit that the documents can not be authentic. I'm unsurprised yet somehow shocked, given the preponderance of evidence of forgery, that the report refuses to identify them as such. I've not read the whole thing, but even the CBS article on it shows an internal contradiction in the report. Note first this sweeping conclusion:

While the panel found that some actions taken by CBS News encouraged such suspicions, “the Panel cannot conclude that a political agenda at 60 Minutes Wednesday drove either the timing of the airing of the segment or its content.”

However, just above that, the articles says this:

The report said at least four factors that some observers described as a journalistic “Perfect Storm” had contributed to the decision to broadcast a piece that was seriously flawed.

"The combination of a new 60 Minutes Wednesday management team, great deference given to a highly respected producer and the network’s news anchor, competitive pressures, and a zealous belief in the truth of the segment seem to have led many to disregard some fundamental journalistic principles," the report said.

Emphasis mine. Now what could "zealous belief in the truth of the segment" be other than political bias, when the documents were clearly not adequately authenticated and were actually seriously questioned by authorities prior to the airing? What would give someone a "zealous belief" in something like that? If you were neutral about an issue, you wouldn't become "zealous" about it based solely on the existence of unauthenticated and very suspicious documents. However, if you already believed something, if you were already zealous - which is to say, biased - then you'd be quick to believe documents that said precisely what you'd thought to be true all along. That conclusion is supported by the constant yattering you see on liberal shows and blogs about how the documents may be "false but true" - in other words, forged documents that are actually accurate in content. But there is no proof of accuracy in content. All they have is "zeal".

Which is to say... political bias.

But we're assured that CBS News was not biased.

Pull the other one, committee-of-two. It's apparent the goal here was to protect the reputation of CBS News as much as possible, not to honestly investigate and report the unbiased truth.

Posted by susanna at 09:55 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 08, 2005

Happy birthday, Mark!

I'm only a couple days late with this - Thursday was the birthday of Mark of Furtive Explorations, the owner of Jade, the server where this blog is hosted through the kind offices of Dodd Harris of Ipse Dixit. So...


Actually both of them do. Next month marks the 3rd anniversary of my blog, and June will mark the third anniversary of my blog on Jade. Their kindness in hosting and troubleshooting is very much appreciated, daily, and I encourage you to visit both blogs and thank them for me.

Now I'm off to act like I do in fact have a life.

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Caste on the waters

Amit Varma writes about what is needed to bring India out of its deepest poverty:

To my mind, democracy and free markets must go hand-in-hand to achieve prosperity. But I would venture to say that the way democracy works in India is not the way it should. In theory, people should elect their leaders on the basis of who will govern them the best, and existing governments should be held accountable on that basis. But governance hardly matters in India, and large swathes of the country vote on the basis of caste dynamics and factors that have nothing to do with governance. Identity politics is still the most powerful force in elections...

To get an accountable government in the true sense of a democracy, we need development, but to develop as we should, we need governance. The way in which we are moving now, limping along ineptly towards a globalised economy, is taking too long, and the poor are complaining that they don’t see the impact of globalisation, and so it must be bad.

He thinks India Prime Minister Manmohan Singh could be the person to achieve what is needed in India. I do hope the country moves in the direction of greatest benefit for the most people - and I agree with Varma on what that is.

Although, I must confess, I still am annoyed when my call from Columbiana, AL, for some kind of service gets answered by someone with a clearly Indian accent styling himself "Bill" or "Mark". I'm not thinking that's his birth name.

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

Andrea Yates, mother of the year

The conviction of Andrea Yates for killing her five children has been overturned on the most nonsensical grounds; now a higher court will determine if the conviction should be reinstated. If they say no, then the prosecution will have to decide whether to try her again - and I'd say they will.

This new development has caused a resurgence in discussion about the case, including this post by Jay Tea at Wizbang blog about whether Yates was treated the same as a man in similar circumstances would be treated. As it happens, I posted a lot about this back in the early days of my blog - before I came to Moveable Type, even - so I thought I'd link those again so you can check them out.

The most extensive treatment I did was comparing Yates to Adair Garcia, a father in Los Angeles who killed his five children. It discusses the big issues of why men are treated differently. A few days later, David Skinner at The Weekly Standard wrote an article comparing the two as well, and it's still available online.

Anne Taylor Fleming, a liberal essayist, sang a peon of motherhood for Yates. I take her down line by line.

A brief commentary after the verdict, which includes this great quote:

Prosecutor Kaylynn Wilford said after the verdict: "It's very important to realize what these children went through. Everyone is trying to make this a woman's issue or a political issue, but the issue to me is five dead children."


Here's a brief discussion of Thomas Sowell's comments on Yates's conviction.

Here's my take on women vs men killing their children in general, with links to several other posts including an article by Dahlia Lithwick on it.

Posted by susanna at 10:42 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 07, 2005

The view from the "turd" world*

It's difficult to grasp the horror of the devastation in Indonesia, Thailand, India, and other places slammed by the December 26th tsunami. When you talk about the grand scale of nearly 150,000 dead, with the number likely to still increase, all those destroyed lives just blur into an inchoate swirl of distant misery. In standard journalistic style, most Western media focus on the Western interests - who from here died or was affected, what's happening to our money, what are the political players we know doing there.

Here is where bloggers come in, and I am recommending two (both originally found via Instapundit) that have become daily reads for me and I think should be for you as well.

The Diplomad is by "career US Foreign Service officers" who are currently working in the tsunami disaster efforts. They're Republicans, so they match my political philosophy, but I haven't found them to be Bush shills at all. What they've been doing is talking about what it's like on the ground there, and highlighting the absolute perfidy, arrogance and elitism of the UN. Most recently, and giving the name to this post, is their post on "The "Turd" World And The High Priest Vulture Elite", aka the UN. If this were published in newspapers throughout the US, there'd be an upswell of demands for UN accountability. And there should be.

The second one is India Uncut, by Amit Varma. He writes beautifully, so his posts are a pleasure to read just for that reason. But he is one who will help bring this tragedy to its personal level for you, speaking of the natives of the land scoured and wounded by the tsunami. He shows that it's not just the dead and dying, but others who live very close to the land and sea who now are dealing with not just a loss of material possessions, but their very faith in the land and sea that nurtured them:

On the road to Semmamguppam, in Cuddalore district, we stop at one place and walk towards the river Uppanar. There is no village here, but we can see two thatched huts besides the river a couple of hundred metres away.

“These are fisherfolk who are not with any village,” says Arul, a social worker accompanying me, “but they have lost their nets and catamarans. The government is not recognising their loss, or putting them on any of the compensation lists. So we are doing all that we can.”

...It is a beautiful place, and the stretch 50 metres from the shore is idyllic, the kind of grassy plain, lined with coconut trees, with a beautiful river alongside, that you’d want to go to for a romantic walk on your honeymoon. And indeed, this is a romantic place in more ways than one.

Palanivel, who stays in one of those two huts, used to live in a village named Pettanagar. One day, he fell in love. The girl, a short, dark, chirpy woman called Selvie, wasn’t from his village, and his community did not approve of his choice. So he left, and brought her here. They made this small hut by the river, and started building a new life for themselves.

Unlike the Irulas, these folks aren’t riverine or estuarine fishermen. They tie together logs of wood and make catamarans with which they go out to the sea to fish. But the tsunami took away their catamaran and all their nets with it.

Palinivel takes the stove we offer him, and the bag of relief supplies, but he does it with a certain reluctance. It is plain to see that there is an internal struggle within him: he needs these supplies to get by for a while, but he is a proud man, and at any other time we would have been his guests, and Selvie would have offered us some tea, or maybe some fish.

Palinivel and Selvie wave goodbye as we walk away, their back to the water. When they came here, leaving their villages and communities behind, all they had was each other and the sea. But they’re not so sure of the sea now.

Palinivel and Selvie's story is a simple one, on the outer fringes of the horror that hit December 26. But it shows the extent of the devastation, and how truly it took so many people down to nothing. Varma tells it beautifully.

I would encourage you to read Varma's other posts too, such as this one on the ongoing devastation caused by unregulated industry in the area. There you see flashes of detail that harken back to why the Diplomad agreed some areas could be called "turd" world - the smells. And there it's not people living uncleanly, but industry pushing gouts of chemicals and effluents into their water and air.

I'm not a big fan of environuts who want to regulate everything up to and including the cigarette smoke outside your home. But I do think governments need to set minimum pollution standards for industry, and apparently that's not happening here. If this tsunami draws collateral attention to such ongoing harm, that's a good thing, and perhaps the UN countries that care will put pressure on India's government to clean it up.

I've had a great fondness for India since I became close friends with a man from Bombay in graduate school. He was wonderful, and since then I've had numerous other friends from there. It's high on my list of places I want to go. I hope when I do go - and I will, sometime - I will find it in better shape than Amir Varma finds it today.

* I used the term "turd" world from the post on Diplomad. It is, of course, a child's mispronunciation of "third" world, which Diplomad uses to link to the pervasive smells in some less-developed countries. I used it as a link between the two posts I link, as both mention the smells, but also as a reminder that many people see those countries and their poorer people as less than themselves. They are people to be condescended to, used as Example A in whatever latest liberal effort is afoot, but not to be genuinely embraced as people with lives as important to them as ours are to us. As I mentioned, I love India, have read a lot about the country, its culturals and its people, have had friends from India, and always have felt the kind of connection to it that I do to England, Scotland, Ireland and Australia - a family kind of feeling. The term was a dig at those who see it as a means to their ends, and thus treat it and others like, well, turds. Unpleasant as that is.

And this explanation is for those who are always looking for someone to accuse of racism or feelings of superiority. It's just not there.

Posted by susanna at 11:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 04, 2005

Hey, Nick Coleman went after me too! (Um, sorta)

Nick Coleman, a columnist at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, has a personal vendetta going against the guys at Powerline blog. His most recent effort is a pile of potshots, which has resulted in a volley of much more effective shots heading back his way - from Pejman, the Powerline guys (several times), Eugene Volokh, etc. They don't need my help to take him down.

But when I read the column in question tonight, I realized that Coleman took the time to fire one my way too. Well, not to me personally, but you'll see what I mean:

Time magazine's "Blog of the Year" is not run by Boy Scouts. It is the spear of a campaign aimed at making Minnesota into a state most of us won't recognize. Unless you came from Alabama with a keyboard on your knee.

Uhoh. Smacked twice in the same sentence! Of course you know I now live in Alabama, but you may not know that his clever "keyboard on your knee" is a riff on the Oh, Susannah! phrase about coming to Alabama with "a banjo on your knee". He maligns my state! He maligns my song! This cannot stand!

It's clear that Nick thinks Alabama is no place a self-respecting Minnesotan would visit, much less move. One can only speculate as to why, based on his hammering of the Powerline blog guys. Perhaps he thinks Alabama is full of right-wing freakos. Hmmm. Well, I suspect he would find me to be one of those, so I guess he's correct since I seem to be in the majority here. I'm sure he also thinks Alabama is religious to a frightening degree. None of the reserved religion of Lutherans here - it's fire and brimstone and preaching to hell, most Sundays, or at least in the mind of a Nick Coleman, who no doubt envisions pompadored men sweating and handling snakes while homely fat women moan and thrash in the throes of the spirit, rolling in the church aisles. I'm sure I could find him a few of those, if he wanted, although more likely in Kentucky or Tennessee. But he'd be right about people taking their religion seriously here, and being more outspoken than in other places. But liberals are supposed to like outspokenness, right? Wrong, at least if it's outspokenness in support of that old time religion.

What else might he have meant about Alabama? No education? Missing teeth? Racism, poverty, meanness? He'd find all of that, but he'd find it in Minnesota too, so maybe not. We know he wouldn't just pull a clever reference out of thin air without any research about whether it's valid, operating on imagination and stereotypes rather than, oh, say, actual facts. We know he wouldn't place more importance on a resonant turn of phrase than on whether he was maligning a few million good people. And we realize that as a Mainstream Media Guy, his job explicitly is not to make life easy for Republicans. No, sir! Anything but that! So he has an Obligation to take shots at any target he deems Republicanish. And there stood conservative not-like-him Alabama, with its very own song by Stephen Foster just waiting for a smart liberal Minnesotan to use it for his own ends.

And here I sit, in Alabama with a keyboard on my knee (well, a few inches above my knee, but over it, so I'll claim poetic license). And Coleman's correct - I don't recognize Minnesota, at least the one in his vision, as a place I want to be. But I suspect my Alabama would fit most of his readers more than his Minnesota would.

Posted by susanna at 01:32 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Where the family tree doesn't branch

Much is made of the marryin' cousin syndrome supposedly rife in the South. I've seen some of it, although not much and usually not very close kin. But still, there are some twisty kinships that result from living in an area with a limited number of families over a long period of time - my grandfather's niece married my grandmother's brother, so my dad is at the same time their children's first cousin and first cousin once removed. I'm their first cousin once removed and first cousin twice removed. Confused yet? Me too. But the niece and the brother, while creating an interesting exercise in tracking kinship, were not themselves related. At least that we know of.

Not so my Dad and Mom. You see, parts of our family have been in the US for over 250 years (and other parts for... well, probably 400+). After so very long, and with both sides of the family coming from eastern Kentucky, it is inevitable that somewhere back there the kinship got tangled. In their case it was with William Cornett, a bona fide Revolutionary War soldier who was married twice. My father is descended from a child born to William's first marriage to Rhoda Gilliam; my mother is descended from a child born in William's second marriage, with Mary Everage. Therefore, my Great-Aunt Gertrude on my Mom's side, and my Aunt Gail on my Dad's side, who never met each other, are both members of the Daughters of the American Revolution as a result of the soldiering of the same man, William Cornett.

Confused again? Or maybe still? Me too. But it's interesting, isn't it?

Tonight I found online a transcript of the Revolutionary War Pension statement made by William Cornett in 1832, at the age of 71 and four years before his death, attesting to his War service so he could get a pension promised through an Act of Congress in 1832. He was living in Perry County, KY, with his second wife, Mary Everage Cornett, who also testified for a pension and signed her testimony with an X. There's a little more about him here and here - this last link includes a narrative of William and Mary's courtship, although I can't vouch for its accuracy. It certainly sounds very plausible, for the time.

William served two six-month stints, in 1779-1780, and then 1780-1781, in Virginia. He was born in Henrico County, VA, and was 18 when he began serving. The first link also includes his tombstone, where I learned that he was born in 1761 - 200 years before I was, in 1961. Somehow that makes the connection feel stronger.

Here's a little history on the Cornett family, including speculation on the origin of the family name. The one I heard was that we descended from King Canutte II of Denmark (aka "Canutte the Great, b 995, d 1035), who was also the first Danish King of England. The site gives an alternate possibility, that the name is French in origin and the family came to England with William the Conquerer sometime in the late 1060s. Apparently the majority (if not all) of the Cornetts in the US descended from seven Cornett brothers who came to the US in 1740 as indentured servants. Unsurprisingly (to me), Kentucky has the highest concentration of Cornetts in the US; I suspect that the highest concentration there is in eastern Kentucky, where I was raised and where you trip over Cornetts all the time. And by the way - the mountain pronunciation is CORE-nit, not core-NET. When I met the Kentucky writer John Ed Pearce, he knew immediately I was from eastern Kentucky by how I pronounced my last name.

One website has a Cornett coat of arms, complete with a knight's headgear, which seems a bit high falutin' for a farmer in Southhampton whose seven sons came to the US as indentured servants (pre-US, of course). But maybe that's an artifact of the days of Cornett supremacy, when we were closer in years to King Canute or, alternatively, William the Conquerer.

And don't even get me started on the rest of my ancestry. That would take us back to Pocahontas*...

* Although current Powhatan Chief Roy Crazy Horse assures me that my blood is only 1/16384th Powhatan, so I'd best not be trying to horn in on that Native American benefits thing. For those interested in such things, I'm a descendent of Pocahontas through a Bolling.

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