Wednesday, October 31, 2007

We're all racists now (UPDATED AGAIN)

All white people, that is.

From FIRE:

The University of Delaware subjects students in its residence halls to a shocking program of ideological reeducation that is referred to in the university’s own materials as a “treatment” for students’ incorrect attitudes and beliefs. The Orwellian program requires the approximately 7,000 students in Delaware’s residence halls to adopt highly specific university-approved views on issues ranging from politics to race, sexuality, sociology, moral philosophy, and environmentalism. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is calling for the total dismantling of the program, which is a flagrant violation of students’ rights to freedom of conscience and freedom from compelled speech.
Why is this program so appalling? First of all, a public university is using compulsion, threats, and intimidation to force a certain set of beliefs on students. And secondly, the content of those beliefs is more than a little questionable:
“A RACIST: A racist is one who is both privileged and socialized on the basis of race by a white supremacist (racist) system. The term applies to all white people (i.e., people of European descent) living in the United States, regardless of class, gender, religion, culture or sexuality. By this definition, people of color cannot be racists, because as peoples within the U.S. system, they do not have the power to back up their prejudices, hostilities, or acts of discrimination. (This does not deny the existence of such prejudices, hostilities, acts of rage or discrimination.)"

“REVERSE RACISM: A term created and used by white people to deny their white privilege. Those in denial use the term reverse racism to refer to hostile behavior by people of color toward whites, and to affirmative action policies, which allegedly give 'preferential treatment' to people of color over whites. In the U.S., there is no such thing as 'reverse racism.'"

“A NON-RACIST: A non-term. The term was created by whites to deny responsibility for systemic racism, to maintain an aura of innocence in the face of racial oppression, and to shift responsibility for that oppression from whites to people of color (called "blaming the victim"). Responsibility for perpetuating and legitimizing a racist system rests both on those who actively maintain it, and on those who refuse to challenge it. Silence is consent."

It's a fascinating (if stomach-turning) look into what becomes of "movements" when they achieve major goals. New issues must be championed; new enemies must be identified; the work has to continually grow -- otherwise, how will the money keep coming in? How will organizers keep their jobs if they can't keep the supporters perpetually outraged about something? Look at what's happened to groups like NAACP or MADD or CSPI or Planned Parenthood. They have to look harder and harder to find social issues to turn into crises which are threatening our rights and our way of life!!! Notice that's the way rights get expanded, too. People have the right not to be offended or inconvenienced or even potentially harmed by anything ever.

Is there racism in America? Sure. But to listen to modern "race experts" you'd think we still had Jim Crow laws, poll taxes and white citizens' committees. Racism is alive and well -- mostly on college campuses, in minority-studies departments, and in diversity training programs. The ghosts of the past are constantly summoned to never let us forget how horrible we are.

"Never forget" is an appropriate slogan for Holocaust remembrance because Jews live in a world still poisoned with anti-semitism. There are real terrorists funded by real nations who really want to wipe Israel off the map and murder all the Jews they can. "Never forget" is a reasonable worldview when surrounded by enemies who want to repeat history and fire up the gas ovens. But there really is no significant movement or institutional power which wants to return to Jim Crow, segregation, or slavery. Israelis don't have to go looking for anti-semitism; the rockets are a pretty good reminder. Who is that is actively trying to demean, disenfranchise or destroy black Americans? What actual institutional structures exist to keep black people down? And if you could find any, how would they compare in impact relative to the policies, programs, and laws which do exist to help minorities?

Frankly, I think this racist victimhood mentality is a destructive pathology in American culture. It has no place in a serious academic environment except as a case study of dangerous and bankrupt sociology, like Nazism or communism. I'd prefer such things were consigned to the dustbin of history, only to be studied as examples to be avoided.

But we live in a free country. If students want to waste their time, cripple their moral reasoning, and squander their parents' money being indoctrinated into this kind of ludicrous hate speech, they're free to do so.

Schools, though -- especially public schools -- have to recognize that they have no right to compel students to be brainwashed into a pathetically naive, intellectually dishonest, self-serving, racist worldview.


UPDATE: Blogfriend Michael Reynolds of Sideways Mencken ("Politics, blasphemy and self-indulgence" -- now there's a masthead!) gives me an 80% approval rating, but points out painful examples of alive-and-well racism in America. You really ought to go read his piece and follow the link there to an incredible documentary.

80%! I'm more than twice as popular as Bush, and 5-7 times better than Congress. Of course, that means I'm still less well-liked than Kim Jong Il. Oh, well.


UPDATE (11/2): Under the pressure of public scrutiny, the University of Delaware first tried to lie and obfuscate, but then quickly dropped its thought-crime reeducation program. Of course, the guy who initially defended the program will now be in charge of identifying "the proper means by which residence life programs may support the intellectual, cultural and ethical development of our students." He thought the existing program did that, so let's not hold our breath.

Hot Air has video of FIRE's President talking about the issue. The University was apparently working to hide the documents from the public for several years.

DIsney modifying "It's a Small World" ride

Can you guess why?

  • It's not political correctness. They're not adding, changing or deleting any of the little characters.
  • It's not safety. Apparently that song hasn't driven anyone to the point of homicide (yet).
  • It's not theming. They're not updating the ride with newer dolls or mention of how the Internet is making the world a smaller place.
No, it's none of those things. The reason?
The problem, quite simply, is that the flume that the boats ride in, and the boats themselves, were designed and built in 1963 on the assumption that the male adult riders would average 175 pounds and the women about 135, which they pretty much did at the time...

The Small World ride now must accommodate adults who frequently weigh north of 200 pounds, which it often cannot do. Increasingly, overweighted boats get to certain points in the ride and bottom out, becoming stuck in the flume.

The ride monitors attempt to leave empty seats on many boats to compensate for the hefty, but this routinely antagonizes the hundreds of paying customers waiting in line. When a boat does bottom out, a long line of other boats backs up behind it, their passengers slowly going mad from listening to the ride’s theme song.

The ride monitors must then track down the stuck boat and attempt tactfully to help a rider or two to exit at one of the emergency platforms, which the riders in question do not always deal with graciously.

Perhaps there should be suggested weight limits? "You should not go on this ride if you are pregnant, have a history of back or heart problems, or can't fit in the boat."

"Small World" is not the only ride Disney will have to modify to accommodate larger patrons.
But it seems somehow fitting that the first Disneyland attraction to actually succumb to “weight problems” would be the Small World ride. If for no other reason, just because of the irony.
Too large for "It's a Small World"? There's not any true irony in there, but that's one odd coincidence.

Or maybe Disney is making a statement by starting with this ride. Somehow I doubt they'll stop selling sodas in the park, though.


(h/t: Consumerist)

Word of the Day

Bust.


Online Etymology Dictionary says the verb form as a variant of "to burst" is from 1806. I'm bringing this up because a radio spot for a local hospital mentioned that they're "busting diabetes." It just sounded wrong.

I don't particularly care for "bust" as verb, but I understand it to have the sense of breaking or bursting (as noted above). I can understand busting through a wall, busting down barriers, etc. How do you bust a disease? I blame Akroyd and Ramis.

Am I wrong here?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

First, they came for the salt...

I wrote last week about CSPI and their drive to eliminate sodium from everyone's diets. Now CSPI wants soda bottlers to warn kids about the dangers of caffeine and sugar.

The Center For Science In The Public Interest (CSPI), and the International Association of Consumer Food Organizations (IACFO). have joined together to start the "Global Dump Soda" campaign.

... they're asking governments around the world to require soda companies to change the way they do business. They want more low-sugar alternatives to soda, smaller portion sizes of existing high-sugar sodas, prominent display of calorie information, and warning labels that warn consumers to drink water to quench thirst. (emphasis mine)

In addition, they're asking that soda companies "stop promoting and selling sweetened beverages, including sports drinks and fruit flavored beverages and teas, in all public and private elementary, middle, and high schools" and to instead sell fruit juice (in container sizes of 250 ml or less.)

No doubt kids drink too much soda, but how naive and stupid can you be? "We'd like you to 1) ask kids not to buy your soda, and 2) make them drink juice boxes instead." Yeah, that will work with teenagers. And what's with fruit juice? Did nobody tell CSPI that it's loaded with as much sugar (or high fructose corn syrup) as soda is?

You know what? Kids eat too much fatty food, watch too much television, listen to music I don't like, and wear stupid clothes. Maybe we can force Hanes to put labels on their underwear: "Pull up your pants -- you look like an idiot." Or we should make Frito-Lay put warnings on all their snacks: "This stuff is terrible for you -- really. Go eat a banana or something."

The real problem is that CSPI doesn't go far enough. People are not only eating things that are bad for them, they often buy that stuff with money they don't have. I think every company should have to actively dissuade people from purchasing their products. Failing that, maybe the government could issue everyone a consumer identity card which tells what products and services you're allowed to purchase, based on health and financial data.

It's dangerous letting people make decisions -- they will often do things you disapprove of. The alternative is to regulate or outlaw everything somebody doesn't like.

Why do I get the feeling that's really the ultimate goal?

Jesus said in the gospel of Matthew:
If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
Christ is speaking with obvious hyperbole. He's saying that we should be so concerned not to sin that we will remove from our lives whatever tempts us. The ancient hermits took this seriously. They went out into the wilderness or into caves to fast and pray, withdrawing from the temptations and distractions of the world in order to draw closer to God. Their devotion was commendable, but most of them found that the problem was inside them, not in the world.

Notice that Jesus didn't say to stone the attractive woman that your eye is drawn to, or to cut off everyone's hand. Savonarola couldn't stand the immorality of Florence and thought to purify the city with a bonfire of the vanities. The new prohibitionists can't stand the idea that people don't use their freedom to eat and drink responsibly, so their solution is to take away people's freedom. These modern-day ascetics want everyone to fast and wear a hair shirt. They want the whole world to become a cave.

They're welcome to live in their own smoke-free, fat-free, gluten-free, non-alcoholic, unsalted, diet, decaffeinated world -- but let them leave this one (and me) alone.

Do you care enough to smoke? (UPDATE)



It's for the kids.

(h/t: Instapundit)


UPDATE: The theme song for SCHIP:

Monday, October 29, 2007

"It's not my fault!"

There's a painful and poignant scenes in Forrest Gump where Jenny, Forrest's childhood friend, is slapped by her boyfriend after an anti-war rally. He tries to make up, saying later, "It's just this war and that lying son of a bitch, Johnson!I would never hurt you. You know that."

It's a perfect picture of childish narcissism -- self-pity, blame-shifting, impatience, rage, violence and self-righteousness. It's the behavior of a spoiled three-year-old.

Adulthood, in contrast, is defined by self-control and a willingness to accept responsibility for one's choices and actions.

This, then, is not encouraging:

angrybird: Have the Bush years taken a toll on your relationships?

I wrote a diary a short time ago about how the Bush administration helped ruin my marriage ...

Please share your stories about how the bush administration has taken it's [sic] toll on your relationships; they can be stories from economy related to the personal. I promise you will feel better if you share :-)

begone: Before my head began exploding a few years ago in response to Busharama, I'd exercise a lot... Now I come home with a slight frown on my face and come here to hear the news & be a mojo-mama even if too tired to comment ... Bush, I blame you for my new-ish extra 20 pounds ...

delphine:
I haven't had a relationship since he took office.

cowgirl:
... Eventually, their support for Bush got to the point where talking with them simply infuriated me ... I'm not a violent person, but the last few times I discussed politics with them, I had the strongest urge to thump them upside their pointy little heads...HARD. Good riddance to bad rubbish, I guess.

meldroc: Bush has also damaged my mental health ... Frequently, I'm so intensely angry that I hit things. I just broke my bookshelf today because I hit it ... By all rights, I should be getting help, but I'm not going to.

redtravelmaster: I've had several personal relationships destroyed due to bu$hco and rethug politics.

pluto: Damaged all my relationships because I am being forced to expatriate. (I know too much about the future to stay here.)
"Bush ruined my marriage!"
"Bush made me fat!"
"Bush damaged my mental health!"
"Bush got me fired!"

If we could weaponize Bush, we wouldn't even need a military.

It would be humorous if it weren't so sad and pathetic.


(h/t: Right Wing News via Never Yet Melted)

Friday, October 26, 2007

No issue so complex ...

that we can't over-simplify it with our single-vision focus.

In the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings, some people believe that the best way to prevent such tragedies is to allow students and teachers the right to carry concealed weapons.

College students across the country have been strapping empty holsters around their waists this week to protest laws that prohibit concealed weapons on campus, citing concerns over campus shootings.
While that suggestion has the appeal of a certain simple logic, I'm not sure that's the best answer to campus violence.

Of course the response from gun-control advocates raised the bar in its simplicity:
"You don't like the fact that you can't have a gun on your college campus? Drop out of school," said Peter Hamm, a spokesman for the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
Hmm. That is a solution. The only problem is that they could leave campus and still vote. Maybe we should just kill all the gun rights people so we won't have to hear from them ever again.

I'm guessing there's no point in inviting Mr. Hamm to debate the issue.


(h/t: James Taranto)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Thursday fun links

"Football bowling" at Bits & Pieces

Rare Bill Watterson cartoons - for those who appreciate Calvin and Hobbes (via BoingBoing)

"The Supertest" - "The Superest is a continually running game of My Team, Your Team. The rules are simple: Player 1 draws a character with a power. Player 2 then draws a character whose power cancels the power of that previous character. Repeat." (via Neatorama)

The truth about your cat - via Ambivablog

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

WIllow Creek: "Oops"

Few would disagree that Willow Creek Community Church has been one of the most influential churches in America over the last thirty years ... outside Bill Hybels’ office hangs a poster that says: “What is our business? Who is our customer? What does the customer consider value?” Directly or indirectly, this philosophy of ministry—church should be a big box with programs for people at every level of spiritual maturity to consume and engage—has impacted every evangelical church in the country.

So what happens when leaders of Willow Creek stand up and say, “We made a mistake”?
Willow's Executive Pastor, Greg Hawkins, explains their philosophy of ministry: "Participation is a big deal. We believe the more people participating in these sets of activities, with higher levels of frequency, it will produce disciples of Christ." Those activities are all good and necessary: worship, small groups, outreach, caring for others, serving in ministry. But are they sufficient?

The results of Willow's multi-year qualitative survey show that “increasing levels of participation in these sets of activities does NOT predict whether someone’s becoming more of a disciple of Christ. It does NOT predict whether they love God more or they love people more.”

Senior Pastor Bill Hybels said:
Some of the stuff that we have put millions of dollars into thinking it would really help our people grow and develop spiritually, when the data actually came back it wasn’t helping people that much. Other things that we didn’t put that much money into and didn’t put much staff against is stuff our people are crying out for.
It turns out that going to world-class programs to address every need doesn't necessarily make anyone love God or other people more, doesn't necessarily change people's hearts or actions, and doesn't necessarily help people grow spiritually.

Kudos to Bill Hybels and Willow Creek Church for having the courage to admit they've been doing some things wrong and have wasted a lot of time, energy and resources on things that don't actually work. That's a hard thing to admit.

But these results demonstrate a couple of big problems with American evangelicalism which I don't think Willow Creek is addressing.

First, it's frustrating that Willow is just now figuring these things out because they could have learned this years ago by listening to other people. One of the dangers of going your own way is that you have nobody to learn from. From all accounts, Bill Hybels is a very smart, dynamic, and strong leader. He's no fool and he's no slouch. But when you decide you're going to reinvent church, you often do -- for good and for bad. People who insist on going their own way often end up reinventing the wheel. Go-it-alone-leadership often comes with this kind of cost. Hybels talks a lot about "leadership." Whom is he following? Who teaches him? This is the problem of churches which are answerable to no one but themselves.

Second, Willow (and mega-churches like it) have had a profound impact on the commodification of Christian faith. Mega-churches are the Wal*Mart Supercenters of Christianity. Everything can be found under one roof, with greater convenience and at lower prices. We've known for a couple of decades that just as smaller businesses are bring killed off by mega-stores, smaller churches are being killed off by mega-churches. That's an understandable trend in business and shopping, but it's a disaster when it comes to Christianity -- which is supposed to model community, service, commitment, and love. Better music, bigger children's ministries, and programs to answer every imaginable need lead believers to hop from church to church looking for the best "deal." I'm not arguing for bad music, poor preaching, or ineffective ministry. But when people come to church looking only for what they can get instead of what they can give, that's unhealthy.

The biblical perspective is that every Christian has been gifted and called to ministry. Every believer has an important and necessary role to play in the church. I know from personal experience that big churches have more musical talent, more teaching ability, more giftedness and experience than they can literally use. So gifted people sit on the sidelines in big churches while small churches go begging and have to keep the same people serving when they need a break. Eventually those people get burned out and will likely end up going to bigger churches where they, too, can blend in anonymously and simply consume. And instead of having a healthy church in every neighborhood, people have to drive 30-60 minutes to come to a mega-church which has no impact in their community.

Third, smaller churches, then, feeling the pressure of competition, try to reproduce what mega-churches are doing. The larger churches encourage this through books, seminars, leadership conferences and ministry networks which all essentially say, "We have the secret! Do what we did and you'll get the results we got." There is a lot of good to be gained from these resources, but a lot of them also play on a mixture of pride and fear. The implicit message is "You, too, can be as big and successful as we are. If not, well, you can always sell insurance."


Willow Creek has seen a lot of people come to faith in Christ. They've also discovered that they're not doing a very good job at helping people grow spiritually. And along the way, the programs which they thought would produce spiritual maturity haven't, and have instead pulled people out of other congregations and led other churches to follow a model which doesn't work.

I hope Willow will look at more than just a better way to make disciples. I hope they stop to consider some of the unhealthy dynamics of their model of ministry and the impact it continues to have on Christianity.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Good for Pete Stark

Rep. Pete Stark apologized for his intemperate comments regarding the President.

"I hope that with this apology I will become as insignificant as I should be and that we can return to the issues that do divide us but that we can resolve in a better fashion."

Good for Pete Stark.


Of course both wingnuts and moonbats are outraged, but that probably means something good happened.


(h/t to Gateway Pundit and LGF - more wingnuttery in the comments there)

Greed and the sub-prime mortage fall out (UPDATE)

KT has a couple of good posts featuring an angle on the sub-prime "meltdown" you probably aren't hearing much about.

If lenders have been deceptive or discriminatory, that's obviously wrong and should be addressed. But I get credit card offers all the time. I don't expect the government to make Visa stop sending me promotions because I might make a bad decision. It's not the state's responsibility to manage my finances or keep me from making bad decisions.

Of course companies want to lend me money. They're in business to make a profit, and they have a product to sell. In principle it doesn't matter whether the product is cars, credit cards, loans, or leases. If you don't understand the contract, don't sign. If you can afford it only nothing ever goes wrong, you probably shouldn't sign. And if you're willing to take out an unsecured interest-only loan worth four times your salary that will eat up 50% of your monthly income simply because some guy told you it was a good deal, you've got problems government can't solve.

It's the government's job to make sure that businesses aren't lying or cheating. Laws should protect people from dishonest business and deadly products. But it's your job to understand your finances and determine whether you can afford what you're tempted to buy.


UPDATE: Sorry, we've just been informed that it is up to businesses to make sure you can pay for what you buy:

House Democrats introduced legislation on Monday that would for the first time let homeowners sue Wall Street firms for relief from mortgages that the borrowers never had a realistic chance of repaying...

The legislation, introduced by Representative Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts and chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, would require any mortgage lender to verify that the borrower has a “reasonable ability to repay” based on documented income, credit history and debt level.
"You poor babies. You can't be expected to manage your life. Don't worry, though; we won't let those mean old men make you borrow money." When will I stop getting credit card offers? That's what I want to know.
“The people who package mortgages and sell them into the secondary market were a major cause of the single biggest world financial crisis since the Asian crisis” of 1997-8, Mr. Frank said, “and it’s unthinkable that we would leave that undisturbed.”
Yes, it's unthinkable that the government wouldn't do something! I forgot, did we outlaw tornadoes, frowny faces, and sad endings yet?

More than two million people took out subprime loans in the last two years that offered relatively low initial rates but are to jump sharply when the introductory periods expire...

Under the House bill, people who can show that they never had a reasonable ability to repay the loans would still have to pay for their homes, but would have new statutory power to demand better deals from the lenders. They could demand that their original mortgage lender offer a better loan. Or they could demand relief from the Wall Street firm that bought the mortgage and resold it to investors.

I guess we are going to outlaw sad endings! Okay, ARM = Adjustable Rate Mortgage. That means -- hang in with me -- the rates get adjusted. If people were deceived about that reality, that's fraud. I'm pretty sure we have laws to deal with that. Apparently Democrats want to rewrite basic contract law because some people made stupid financial decisions.
... about half of all recent mortgages in recent years — and the vast majority of subprime loans — were made by lenders and brokers who fall outside the federal banking system...

Under the new bill, states would be required to set standards for mortgage brokers and lending. States that do not develop a standard would be subject to relatively strict federal standards, to be developed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, that would require mortgage brokers to act “solely in the best interest” of the consumer.
Let that last line sink in. The federal government is going to require a business to operate "solely in the best interests" of consumers. That'll work great.
  1. Government, of course, knows so much about efficiently serving consumers' needs. Who will come up with the standards, measurements and definitions? What will the consequences be?
  2. We have something like that already. They're called not-for-profits. You can start one any time you like.
  3. You pull stuff like this and businesses will close down. People will take their money out of that market and invest somewhere else with a lower risk of having contracts overturned and businesses run by meddling idiots in Washington.
  4. Say it with me: "This is a federal issue, how?"

God save us from Congress. That kind of "help" we don't need.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Cruelty is neither artistic or delicious

  • Amba links to an almost unbelievable story: an "artist" in Nicaragua paid a couple of kids to get a stray dog which he is now starving to death as an art installation. Interet Ronin has a link there to sign a petition condemning the artist and calling for the revocation of his selection to represent his country at a prestigious event.
  • Neatorama links to video of a unique form of sushi preparation: specially-trained chefs filet and gut the animal without killing it. It is then served on a plate, sliced, with the heart still beating. Link at Neatorama features disturbing video of fish cut open and mouths still gasping for water.
What is the human fascination with heartless cruelty?

I hesitate to publish stories like this, but I think there's value in being aware of them so they can (hopefully) make us more sensitive to cruelty and more committed to expressing kindness towards others.

Consumer group asks gov't to wipe your rear and chew your food for you

Foodconsumer.org:

The Food and Drug Administration said Friday it would hold a hearing to consider a consumer group's petition that the agency regulates use of salt in food...

The hearing scheduled for November 29 is a response to the petition by the Center for Science in the Public Interest that the FDA limit salt in processed food and require detailed information on salt and sodium content of foods. (emphasis mine)
Funny, that. I'm looking at a can of store-brand beef ravioli right now. Let's see ... "Calories," "Total Fat," "Cholesterol." Hang on, I know it's here somewhere. Ah, yes, "Sodium" -- in big, bold print, no less. What do you know? It's right there on the label after all.
Early in 2005, the consumer advocate group petitioned the FDA to classify salt as a food additive, which is currently “generally recognized as safe."
A "food additive"? It's a naturally-occurring mineral compound. We mine it out of the ground. Here's a clue, guys: if it's in your spice cabinet and it shows up in recipes, it's an ingredient. It's not cereal filler, it's not potassium benzoate; it's salt. And nothing is safe if you take enough of it.
Tens of millions of Americans suffer hypertension and cutting salt intake can improve the condition, according to the petition, citing the American Heart Association.
Well, why go halfway? Let's outlaw salt, then. There's no reason I should have salt if it could make someone else ill.

Wait, here's another idea -- what if we taught people to read food labels instead of regulating absolutely everything that could ever be harmful to anyone? No, that would never work.
Often times, daily intake of the mineral exceeds the need of a person's bodily functions.
Often times, my daily intake of nanny-state idiocy exceeds safe levels, too. Any hope of getting rid of do-gooders who want to use government power to run my life?

That can of beef ravioli has a whopping 1100 mg of sodium per serving (two servings per can). If I eat the whole thing, I will have had my entire recommended daily allowance. Right next to my can of high-sodium beef ravioli is a can of Healthy Choice Country Vegetable soup. It has only 480 mg of sodium per serving.

Just to annoy CSPI, I'm going to go eat that whole can of beef ravioli.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Saturday laugh

Mitt Romney:

"By the way – a few of you may have heard that I'm a Mormon. I understand that some people think they couldn't support someone of my faith. That may be because they've listened to Harry Reid. "
I'm neither in favor of nor opposed to Romney, but that's a good line.

While not quite in the same league, it did remind me of Reagan's classic line in '84 which he used to dismiss concerns about his age: "I will not make age an issue in this campaign. I'm not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent's youth and inexperience." Even Mondale had to laugh at that.


(h/t: Instapundit)

Friday, October 19, 2007

Word of the day

Rendition.


It's not just for your favorite versions of songs anymore!

Why would we let "friends" do what we won't do?

From the AP:

Lawmakers apologized Thursday to a Canadian engineer for his seizure by U.S. officials who took him to Syria where the man says he was tortured in what he called an "immoral" American anti-terror program called extraordinary rendition...

Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian citizen, was detained by Homeland Security agents ... Days later, he was sent by private jet to Syria where, according to Canadian officials, he was tortured...

I do not support torture. I think the Administration is trying to draw a line between aggressive interrogation (which include physical discomfort) and actual torture. Reasonable people can debate what are legitimate interrogation techniques for terror suspects.

But there are things which we agree are clearly out of bounds -- whipping people with electrical cable, for example. So if we're not willing to do those things ourselves, why will we ship people overseas to places where others will?

Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., also apologized, but said he would fight any efforts by Democrats to end the practice of extraordinary rendition ...

... U.S. authorities say they get diplomatic assurances the person will not be tortured before turning them over.

Oh, well, if Syria says they're not torturing people, that's good enough for us. I know I feel better already.

The Administration's answer is nonsensical. If we're not sending suspects overseas to get more "aggressive" interrogation than we would pursue, then why send them at all? Sending suspects to foreign locations where we're not directly responsible is a fig leaf to cover up what we wouldn't condone on US soil.

America cannot be in the business of torturing people -- regardless of whether we do it ourselves or outsource it.

Paranoid Schizophrenia or Bush Derangement Syndrome?



______ is a chronic mental illness. People with ______ don't perceive and respond to the world as most other people do. People with ______ hold untrue beliefs (delusions) or hear things others don't hear (auditory hallucinations). Although there's no cure for ______ , medications and well-coordinated mental health care services can help people manage the disease.

When people have delusions, they believe something to be true that essentially no one else in their culture believes. A person with ______ misinterprets experiences and then holds on to those interpretations despite evidence or reasoning to the contrary.

Delusions are commonly focused on the perception of being persecuted and often result in the mistrust of other people ... Delusions can become complex stories, and interpretations of experiences often "confirm" the person's view of reality. For example, a traffic officer blowing a whistle is alerting FBI agents on the trail of the person with ______ . A man who looks at the officer is an agent. When he uses his cell phone, he's reporting the person's location.

Delusions may result in a violent outburst if a person believes a perceived threat creates a dangerous situation in need of self-defense.

A person with ______ may also have delusions of grandeur — holding the belief that he or she has superhuman skills, is famous, has a relationship with a famous person or is a historical figure. These delusions can be dangerous...


NOTE: A person with ______ isn't likely to seek treatment because the delusions and auditory hallucinations are perceived as real. If you believe a family member or friend is exhibiting signs of ______ , help that person seek medical advice. Instead of identifying delusions or hallucinations as problems, you may suggest that he or she see a professional to help cope with recurring anxieties or fears.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Word of the Day

Ingratitude.

Chris Matthews: Agnostic about the troops

Cal at Done with Mirrors links to a Hot Air video of Chris Matthews interviewing David Crosby and Graham Nash.

The obvious parts are Crosby slandering our troops as baby killers and Nash pontificating about music festivals opening up dialogue and bringing peace. That we expect. The part that took my breath away was Matthews' relating this reaction from a recent visit to St. Patrick's cathedral:

"The Archbishop of New York ... is the chaplain of the all the military, so we pray for the soldiers going into a new operation, some new campaign in Iraq or Afghanistan, and I kept thinking, 'Sure, I'm for these guys,' but it seemed like an odd thing to pray for a campaign, a military campaign."
Okay, let's get this straight. In a worship service in St. Patrick's, the Archbishop, as a military chaplain, asks for prayer for the soldiers embarking on a dangerous mission. Chris Matthews doesn't know if this is a good idea.

"Sure, I'm for you, in some vague and non-committal sense, but go to church and ask God to protect you while defend my freedoms and fulfill your duty to your country? Well..."

I happen to know a 20-year-old Ranger in Iraq -- a member of our congregation, a very good young man; a friend and a son of a friend. I don't have a moment's hesitation praying for him, his safety, and his mission.

I, too, long for and pray for peace. I also pray our troops carry out their duty with courage, bravery, and confidence. I pray that God will give them success. I pray they may do the right things and honor their country. I pray their country will honor their service and sacrifice. I pray they will some home soon, safe, and strong. I pray God will give them wisdom, understanding, and peace about the hard things they have to do so that others may sleep in safety and without fear. I also pray that God will protect our nation from enemies without and within.

Chris Matthews isn't sure that God wants him to pray for our armed forces, but he has no hesitation in providing a platform for an America-hating hippie burn-out to slander that young Ranger and his comrades in arms.

Neither Matthews nor his guests are worthy to wash the dirty socks of the men and women who defend their freedom and secure their peace.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Possession of camera with intent to film

The Oregonian's blog reports on disturbing events in Portland:

Frank Waterhouse is suing for unlawful seizure with excessive force, alleging that police fired a Taser and bean bag rounds at him on May 27, 2006 because he was videotaping their search of a friend's property ...

Officers wrote in their reports that Waterhouse ran off, they chased and then bean-bagged and Tasered him. One officer wrote, "He had refused to drop the camera which could be used as a weapon."

Waterhouse was arrested, accused of criminal trespass and disorderly conduct. A jury acquitted him of all charges.

Yeah, the video camera could have been a dangerous weapon against police armed with guns and Tasers.

Regular readers know I'm a law-and-order guy. I think police should have fairly broad discretion in carrying out their duties and that people who risk their lives for public safety should be given the benefit of the doubt.

But that power requires both trust and responsibility. If there's a law against taping ongoing police searches, then enforce it. If the guy was a criminal suspect, then charge him with resisting arrest. But you can't Taser a guy and accuse him of holding a dangerous weapon just because he's annoying you. That's a dishonest abuse of power which erodes public support for the police and the laws they're supposed to enforce.


(h/t: Reason, via BoingBoing)

There's nothing like paying for something twice

From Reuters:

Pennsylvania's Transportation Department and the Turnpike Commission have signed a 50-year lease for Interstate 80 and asked the federal government to let them add tolls to the major thoroughfare, Gov. Edward Rendell said on Tuesday...
I don't live in Pennsylvania, so I don't know the condition of I-80. But it sounds an awful lot like the state is saying they don't have the money to take care of the road -- the question is, Why?

Aren't state governments supposed to be in the business of, you know, managing state resources? That road belongs to the people of Pennsylvania. How did the managers get the right to unilaterally declare that they're simply going to default on their obligations? "We screwed up the job you gave us -- so we're going to outsource it and make you pay twice for it." That's infuriating.

Well, there's always the argument that if you don't like driving on the toll road, you don't have to.

Interstate 80 is the Turnpike's main east-west competitor, running roughly parallel 70 miles to the north.

Ah, so now there will be no free east-west interstate in Pennsylvania. Good job, guys.

Violence falls in Iraq; poor hardest hit

Well, poor cemetery workers, that is.

"As violence falls in Iraq, cemetery workers feel the pinch"

No, really. That's the actual headline.

NAJAF, Iraq — At what's believed to be the world's largest cemetery, where Shiite Muslims aspire to be buried and millions already have been, business isn't good.

A drop in violence around Iraq has cut burials in the huge Wadi al Salam cemetery here by at least one-third in the past six months, and that's cut the pay of thousands of workers who make their living digging graves, washing corpses or selling burial shrouds.
Well, there's a dark cloud to any silver lining in Iraq, isn't there?


(h/t: Instapundit)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

And we condemn the Barbary pirates, too

From the Washington Post:

A proposed House resolution that would label as "genocide" the deaths of Armenians more than 90 years ago during the Ottoman Empire has won the support of a majority of House members...
You don't have to deny the genocide happened or be a supporter of Turkey to wonder, Why now? The Ottoman Empire ceased to exist 90 years ago. And it's not as though the US government hasn't already recognized the genocide and condemned the murders.

It's one thing for Congress to declare that ice cream is a delicious treat we can all enjoy during National Ice Cream Month. It's something else when they start trying to interfere in foreign affairs for what appears to be partisan advantage over a President and a war they hate -- because they're not just sticking it to Bush, but to American interests and our armed forces.

That's not just my opinion. From NPR:
Rice said the resolution now "would be very problematic for everything we are trying to do in the Middle East."

Gates was more specific. He said top military brass, including Gen. David Petraeus and Adm. William Fallon, head of U.S. Central Command, fear a backlash by Turkey could harm the war effort in Iraq.

"About 70 percent of all air cargo going into Iraq comes — goes through Turkey," Gates said. "About a third of the fuel that they consume goes through Turkey or comes from Turkey."
Administration stooges? How about this?
All eight living former secretaries of state have signed a joint letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) warning that the nonbinding resolution "would endanger our national security interests." Three former defense secretaries, in their own letter, said Turkey probably would cut off U.S. access to a critical air base.
When Madeleine Albright and Al Haig can agree that something will endanger our national security interests, do you think it might be worth reconsidering?

Give the governor a "Harrumph!"

Governor Le Petomane is serious about gun crime. From the SF Chronicle:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed the nation's first law requiring semiautomatic pistols sold in the state to leave a unique imprint on bullets that are fired, giving police another way to try to link shootings to the criminals who carry them out.
"We've got to protect our phony baloney jobs, gentlemen! We must do something about this, immediately. Harrumph, harrumph."

Let's see...

1) Of course nobody will be able to figure out how to alter the marking mechanism, steal guns and throw them away, pick up spent shells, or drop someone else's.
2) Good thing nobody gets shot by revolvers, shotguns, rifles, or miniguns.
3) I'm sure people won't commit crimes with any of the tens of millions of existing semi-auto pistols.
4) When the state builds a gun-owner database we can be sure it will only be used for criminal investigations.

Any guesses on how many gun crimes this will help solve, and at what cost? Is this really just a way to make guns less attractive and more expensive for law-abiding citizens? Maybe it's really an under-the-radar environmental law intended to make shooters pick up their brass. It must be something, because this law will do just about nothing as far as accomplishing its stated purpose.

But there's no problem so serious we can't invent a useless, wasteful and burdensome government solution for it.

Monday, October 15, 2007

"We're going to take things away from you for your own good"

-- but not your teeth. Those you can take out yourself.

Does anyone really want a nationalized health care system like in Britain -- where people who can't find an NHS dentist resort to pulling their own teeth or re-gluing broken crowns?

Oh, it's not all that bad:

"Where NHS dental services are available, people are happy with the quality of treatment provided..."
I don't know if there's a shortage of dentists in Britain, but it sounds like it. That wouldn't have anything to do with the government telling medical professionals how much money they can earn, would it?

HillaryCare -- coming soon to a nation near you. I recommend slip-lock pliers and bourbon, myself.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Sanchez to be tapped for "Anti-war General" post (UPDATED)

Watch for Retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, coalition commander in 2003 and 2004, to become the new darling of the media. Sanchez recently spoke at the Military Reports and Editors luncheon in Washington and had some harsh words for failed policies in Iraq.

He said the Iraq war plan from the start was "catastrophically flawed, unrealistically optimistic," and the administration has not provided the resources necessary for victory, which he said the military could never achieve on its own.

Still, he said, the U.S. cannot pull out of Iraq without causing chaos that would have global implications...

Sanchez pointed to what he said was "neglect and incompetence at the National Security Council level" which has put the U.S. military into "an intractable situation" in Iraq.

The media outlets are already jumping on this story, and you can bet you'll hear about Sanchez' criticisms.

What you probably won't hear, though, is the first half of his speech, in which he sharply criticized political opposition to the war and biased media reporting (formatting is from the transcript):
THE BASIC ETHICS OF A JOURNALIST THAT CALLS FOR:

1. SEEKING TRUTH,
2. PROVIDING FAIR AND COMPREHENSIVE ACCOUNT OF EVENTS AND ISSUES,
3. THOROUGHNESS AND HONESTY

ALL ARE VICTIMS OF THE MASSIVE AGENDA DRIVEN COMPETITION FOR ECONOMIC OR POLITICAL SUPREMACY. THE DEATH KNELL OF YOUR ETHICS HAS BEEN ENABLED BY YOUR PARENT ORGANIZATIONS WHO HAVE CHOSEN TO ALIGN THEMSELVES WITH POLITICAL AGENDAS. WHAT IS CLEAR TO ME IS THAT YOU ARE PERPETUATING THE CORROSIVE PARTISAN POLITICS THAT IS DESTROYING OUR COUNTRY AND KILLING OUR SERVICEMEMBERS WHO ARE AT WAR.

MY ASSESSMENT IS THAT YOUR PROFESSION, TO SOME EXTENT, HAS STRAYED FROM THESE ETHICAL STANDARDS AND ALLOWED EXTERNAL AGENDAS TO MANIPULATE WHAT THE AMERICAN PUBLIC SEES ON TV, WHAT THEY READ IN OUR NEWSPAPERS AND WHAT THEY SEE ON THE WEB. FOR SOME OF YOU, JUST LIKE SOME OF OUR POLITICIANS, THE TRUTH IS OF LITTLE TO NO VALUE IF IT DOES NOT FIT YOUR OWN PRECONCIEVED NOTIONS, BIASES AND AGENDAS.
That's the thrust of half of his remarks: There's plenty of blame to go around. You won't likely know that from media reports.

The press may criticize the military, but the military may not criticize the press. When generals denounce the administration's foolish policies and naivete, the reporters can't take notes fast enough. But when generals denounce an imbalanced and agenda-driven press as having blood on its hands, the pens stop moving for some reason.

"All the news that fits the narrative."

Would this make anyone wonder what else the press isn't telling us? And does anyone else love the delicious irony that the press reporting of his speech proves exactly what he said?

Count on hearing more from Sanchez, but don't be surprised if you don't hear this part.


UPDATE: Scott Ott hits another home run: "Sanchez Releases Top 10 Least Newsworthy Remarks"
In response to the Sanchez quote list, the Society of Professional Journalists released the following statement: “Apparently, Ricardo Sanchez didn’t hear the same speech that the reporters in attendance heard, so it’s just one man’s perception against the eyewitness accounts of dozens of professional journalists."
Heh.


(h/t: Instapundit and Powerline)

Friday, October 12, 2007

Word of the Day

Burlesque.


1. A naughty revue with jokes;
2. A comical parody;
3. Synonym for curlicue (obs.);
4. Of or related to Burl Ives

Gore's Peace Prize overturned on appeal

Do not drink while reading. This may cause you to spew liquids out of your mouth:

"Gore Wins Nobel Prize; Court Gives It To Bush"

(2007-10-12) — Although former Vice President Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize this week for his work as a global-warming performance artist, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled early today that President George Bush would receive the gold medal, the diploma and the $750,000.

Mr. Bush, who was narrowly defeated by Mr. Gore in the 2000 presidential election, thanked Justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito “for swinging the vote my way."
Hopefully the Court will also remedy the injustice of Gore's Oscar and award it to Bush as well.

You can read the whole thing (and much more) at Scrappleface. It's hard to keep satire funny and relevant for any length of time. Scott Ott is gifted.


Here's my imitation of James Taranto:

You'd think they'd plant it in lower elevations
"Uphill climb for Rice on Mideast peace" -- headline, Christian Science Monitor, Oct. 11

Who knew they had any in Pittsburgh?
"PA releases 25 Hamas prisoners" -- headline, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 11

"Lay off the
(urp) broads and the booze, kid."
"What Gore might learn from Teddy" -- headline, msnbc, Oct. 12

Bottom story of the day:
"Giuliani bends truth in debates" -- ad at msn.com for Slate, Oct. 11

Goracle!

Bwaahaha! Gore won. Un-freaking-believable. Al Gore actually won the Nobel Peace Prize for narrating a scientifically questionable documentary and giving speeches!

Former Vice President Al Gore and the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change jointly won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize Friday for their efforts to spread awareness of man-made climate change and to lay the foundations for fighting it...
Good gravy! Now you can win for "efforts to spread awareness"? I'm not sure why the Peace Prize Committee wants to throw away its little remaining credibility on this. As one commenter at Althouse put it:
The best thing to do with the Congressional Medal of Honor now would be to give it to the person who did most to bring peace to some war-torn part of the world, since the Nobel Peace Prize is apparently no longer available for that purpose. War heroes could get the Pulitzer Prize instead. We'd make it up to the people who write the best newspaper stories by awarding them the Stanley Cup. The best team in the NHL would get the donations George Soros used to give to prominent lefty spokesmen before that function was taken over by the Nobel Peace Prize.
But this is Al's moment. Let's give him the last word:
''We face a true planetary emergency. ... It is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity,'' he said. ''It is also our greatest opportunity to lift global consciousness to a higher level.''
Oh. My. Heavens.

People have wondered what Al will do next. Well, if you're leading the chrage against a "spiritual challenge to all of humanity" which will "lift global consciousness" to a higher level, not even winning the White House would be enough. No, to contain this ego and fulfill his self-deluded, pseudo-spiritual quest, the next step is obvious.

The only thing left for him is a set of keys and a three-crowned miter.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Word of the Day

Incontrovertible.

Is there a Nobel Prize for junk science?

Or puffery?

Speculation is rife as to the recipient of this year's Nobel Peace Prize. Excitement over the possibility of Al Gore winning has CNN all atwitter:

"An Inconvenient Truth," a documentary featuring the former vice president captured two Academy Awards in February...

Last month Gore picked up an Emmy -- the highest award in television -- for "Current TV," which he co-created...

On Friday, Gore finds out if he's the winner of this year's Nobel Peace Prize.
The last 2/3 of the "article" talks about the "Draft Gore" movement in the Democratic Party (and Al's dreamy hazel eyes).

I recognize that the Peace Prize isn't exactly based on hard science, but you'd hope the award would have some basis in fact and/or have something to do with, you know, peace.

But if the Prize Committee is really considering celebrity documentaries pushing politically-correct causes du jour, that opens the field considerably.

What about that Super Size Me guy? Think about it -- he's definitely got the America sucks/anti-globalization angle going for him. Plus, obesity is the next AIDS (at least in the West; AIDS is still the old AIDS elsewhere). But he's still early in his career.

The sure-fire topic has to be Iraq. War is indeed terrible, and no one displays that more seriously and with greater thought and care than Brian De Palma in Redacted. What could be more peace-generating than America withdrawing precipitously from a troubled country teetering on the edge of either a tenuous democracy or a murderous chaos? US out of Iraq yesterday! Then bad things will never happen there again.

Yet there's someone with a truly killer resume (two Oscars, four Emmys, eight Grammys, and nine Golden Globes), plus international recognition, and a movie exploring an important social, political and economic issue -- gun control.

Really, shouldn't Babs be going to Stockholm Oslo?

(D'Oh! Why did I think the Nobel Institute was in Sweden?)

Rowing shells...

...in Oklahoma City.

I grew up in Oklahoma more than anywhere else and graduated from high school in OKC. The city has been working hard to revitalize the downtown, particularly the formerly run-down Bricktown area. There's a nice minor league ballpark, and now, the Chesapeake Boathouse on the Oklahoma River.

Fess up -- you didn't even know there was a river in Oklahoma City, did you?

The new boathouse features a beautiful design, and the website is attractive, too.

Admittedly, boating is not what comes to mind when (if?) one thinks of Oklahoma City. Here's hoping they can make a go of it.


(I forgot earlier to give a tip of the hat to Maggie's Farm for the link. Now rectified.)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Word of the Day

Desultory.

Earth-destroying hippies

Pat at Stubborn Facts points to an article in Breitbart which says pot growing accounts for 6% of British Columbia's energy consumption.

The labor-intensive crop is an energy sponge thanks in large part to the 1,000 watt halogen lights, fans, irrigation pumps and other equipment needed for their cultivation. As a result, the pot growers' energy bills are about three times that of the average consumer. (emphasis mine)

Those energy consumption patterns drew the notice of authorities, who have benefitted from a 2006 law allowing BC Hydro, the area's main power company, to share its residential power consumption records with local officials.

While I'm not crazy about the state inspecting people's electric bills for usage patterns, I can't help laughing at Pat's comment:
Not to perpetuate any stereotypes, but perhaps if Al Gore supporters would quit toking up, we could cut carbon emissions significantly.
Hey! Tennessee cops should investigate Gore's mansion!

Since he's so committed to saving the planet, his home can't just be inefficient -- Gore is probably a pothead. That would explain some things.

"It is better to marry than to burn with passion"

The AP reports:

An Italian priest who publicly declared his love for a woman has lost his job, the diocese said Tuesday.

The Rev. Sante Sguotti can no longer work as pastor in his Monterosso parish and cannot hear confessions from the faithful, the diocese of Padua said in a statement. Sguotti remains a priest and can celebrate Mass, however.

Sguotti made headlines in August when he went on national television to say he was in love with a woman and wanted to be her boyfriend publicly while remaining chaste.

Clerical celibacy was part of a reform movement addressing several real problems near the end of the first millennium -- the control of the church by the rich and powerful through the sale of church offices and the related potential for passing on offices to children.

But for nine centuries before Leo IX's reforms, priests married and had children. The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 9 about his right to take a believing wife along with him in his ministry. In writing on sexual morality in 1 Corinthians 7, Paul commends celibacy (if possible), wisely recognizing that marriage brings commitments and responsibilities which make one less free to serve Christ. But he also describes celibacy as a gift which some have and others do not. So it's not that celibacy is wrong or that marriage is more desirable; but neither does celibacy in itself make one closer to God.

Of course the Roman Catholic church is free to make its own rules, but I wonder if clerical celibacy has outlived its intended purposes and created problems of its own.


(h/t: Althouse)

"I am the lawgiver!"

I don't play World of Warcraft (or any online games), but I think this Toyota ad is a clever take on RPGs.



They got the "Leeeeeeroy Jennnkins!" feel down perfectly. I just wonder how the demographic for WoW players lines up with that of Tacoma drivers...


(h/t: Neatorama)

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Word of the Day

Inauspicious.

All you have to do is stink less

Tony Romo "led" the Cowboys to a close victory last night over the Bills (1-4), despite throwing five interceptions.

His first pass was intercepted and returned for a touchdown. His last set up Nick Folk's 53-yard field goal as time expired. And in between, Romo did just enough to keep Dallas (5-0) from collapsing despite his mistakes.

"I can't believe the game went the way it did," Romo said. "I'll never be a part of a game like that again."

He should hope so.

The best quote of the night came from Cowboys coach Wade Phillips:
Asked whether he considered benching Romo after the fifth interception, Phillips quipped, "Well, he didn't throw six."
Some days you have great victories. Some days you suffer agonizing defeat. And some days you win just by being less bad than the other guy.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Columbus Day

Is it still a holiday? I don't think kids even learn about Columbus anymore, except as an example of bloodthirsty colonialism.

At least Denver still has a Columbus Day parade. As you might expect, though, there were angry protesters with bullhorns. And fake blood. And dismembered baby dolls. You can't have a parade in America without somebody protesting our evil past.

Columbus was brave, and he did bad things. The same is true of the British and French, and Native Americans, Germans, whites, blacks, Muslims, Christians, Jews, atheists, capitalists, socialists, kings, commoners, civilized, barbarians, and every other collection of sentient beings who have ever walked the planet. Some were worse, some were better. Human history is the story of various groups of people fighting each another for land, resources, and power. Everybody has taken turns stomping on others and being stomped on in return. None are guiltless.

America gets trashed regularly by all kinds of people because it's our culture that has survived and is currently at the top of the heap. If I were a Native American, I'd probably hate Columbus Day, too. But building your identity around an attitude of perpetually outraged victimhood doesn't change history, doesn't help anyone, and keeps you stuck in the past. It's a sad way to live, and a sorry way to remember history -- both the good and bad.

Word of the Day

Schadenfreude.


(Note: Not unique to northern Europeans, but then again the Dutch saying seems especially cold -- "There's no better entertainment than seeing others suffer.")

Schadenfreude

Heard on the radio this morning:

"And in baseball news, the Cubs were swept in the divisional playoffs last night. That means the Cubs won as many post-season games this year as the Cardinals."

Ouch.

Friday, October 05, 2007

"Reclaiming America for Christ"? (UPDATED)

D. James Kennedy, a Presbyterian minister in Florida, died recently. He did a lot of good work, but he also strongly supported the idea of "returning America to its Christian roots." Christians who follow this school of thought are big on the Puritans (I've noticed they talk much less about the Cavaliers and the Quakers). I'm not sure even many Christians really want to live in a Puritan world. But much is made of the statements by the Puritans and the Founders which seem to express not only personal faith in Jesus Christ, but an apparent desire to see America shaped and led by Christianity -- often with the help of the state.

As Cal writes so persuasively and graciously, the Founders were certainly not hostile to religion and most appreciated its value in society. They certainly believed in the necessity of virtue for the running of a republic, and most would have agreed that religion was important in the moral direction of the individual and the culture. But they were interested in creating a state religion or a Christian nation. Apart from what they wrote in private, the most obvious evidence is that they could have created a state religion if they had wanted to, but they didn't.

I've criticized Kennedy's ministry in the past for encouraging defensive and divisive attitudes with its "Reclaiming America for Christ" conferences. I would argue that the Founders wisely believed that religion (like the family) is so important that it's best left out of the government's hands.


UPDATE: See the related thoughts from Ronald Cherry at American Thinker on "Judeo-Christan Values":

Our Founding Fathers separated church from state, but they wisely did not separate God from state; they acknowledged God as the source of our rights...

This does not represent some form of tyranny of the religious majority or an injustice; it was in fact the wisdom of our Founding Fathers to stand in opposition to tyranny and injustice by acknowledging the source of our rights -- those rights originating from God rather than from King George III, or for that matter from the Soviet or Chinese Politburo, or a courthouse, or a legislature. It should be self-evident that if our sacred human rights are derived from government, they can also be removed by government.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Batman's moral instruction

The "Batman" Tribute Pages features a great section of Batman quotes from the old TV show ("Let's go, Robin. The longer we tarry, the more dire the peril."). But none are better than Batman's frequent moralizing directed towards Robin.

Dick Grayson: "What's so important about Chopin?"
Bruce Wayne: "All music is important, Dick. It's the universal language. One of our best hopes for the eventual realization of the brotherhood of man."
Dick Grayson: "Gosh Bruce, yes, you're right. I'll practice harder from now on."

Robin: "You can't get away from Batman that easy!"
Batman: "Easily."
Robin: "Easily."
Batman: "Good grammar is essential, Robin."
Robin: "Thank you."
Batman: "You're welcome."

Robin: "Boy! That was our closest call ever! I have to admit that I was pretty scared!"
Batman: "I wasn't scared in the least."
Robin: "Not at all?"
Batman: "Haven't you noticed how we always escape the vicious ensnarements of our enemies?"
Robin: "Yeah, because we're smarter than they are!"
Batman: "I like to think it's because our hearts are pure."

Dick: "Gosh, Economics is sure a dull subject."
Bruce: "Oh, you must be jesting, Dick. Economics dull? The glamor, the romance of commerce... It's the very lifeblood of our country's society."
There are dozens of howlers like these. It makes you think the shows were written by a committee from the Hayes Code Enforcement Office.

Batman was the ultimate authority figure. He was as Establishment as you could get. I know it was intentionally campy -- but I would bet his silly, endless, irrelevant moralizing effectively highlighted the generational divide. Parents probably loved this stuff; teenagers no doubt groaned and rolled their eyes. Batman sounded like their dads, the gym teacher with the crew cut, and the local pastor. Batman was impossibly clean and totally L7 -- Squaresville, man.

The Church (tm) is also about as Establishment as you can get. Christians are supposed to be all about morality. But self-improvement is really a secondary concern. Jesus isn't calling people to religion or moralism, but life -- better and truer life than any of us have ever known, a life full of joy, purpose, hope, security, and love. Jesus does want to help us change. There is a yoke which Jesus offers; but His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

God doesn't expect you to learn hieroglyphics, have perfect grammar, be able to identify tree bark, or take one thousand works of literature, a botany collection and a desk on vacation with you. God is not lecturing you about cleaning up your act. God is not a cosmic moralist, but the giver of true life.

Come on in; the water's fine. You don't even need Bat-shark repellent.


(h/t: Neatorama)

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Free ponyism (UPDATED)

XWL kindly links to this piece on why we can't have everything, and coins a great phrase -- "free ponyism." Go read his analysis of free ponyism related to global PS3 pricing.

On the issue of health care, my wife got into an online discussion with some Canadians who were boasting about their wonderful national health care system. I freely admit that I am not an expert on the topic, so if I'm wrong on any of the following, please correct me. But I encouraged my wife to remind her friend of several things. I've added a few other relevant items:

1) Rationing exists in any system -- other systems just ration differently then we do. There are plenty of tales of people waiting months for tooth extractions or simple surgery in Britain and Canada. There are no free ponies, even in Canada.

2) A good deal of the cheaper meds in Canada are subsidized by Americans. Bringing a drug to market is an incredibly long and expensive process with a high failure rate, and somebody has to pay for the R&D. The Canadian government tells Abbott what price it will pay for their drugs, then Abbott passes its unrecovered research costs on to us south of the border.

3) Entire social welfare systems in the western world are subsidized by the USA. As the global police force, we dedicate a large portion of GDP to defense. That frees Canada and Europe to spend lavishly on other priorities. The British Navy just announced plans to cut its fleet in half. Gee, I wonder whom they expect will provide safe oceans and guarantee their national defense? Europeans scorn American militarism, but are very glad to live practically rent-free in the safe neighborhood we secure and defend. And despite all the subsidization we provide for other economies, citizens of other industrialized nations are still weighted down with higher tax burdens than are Americans.

4) American health costs are artificially inflated by malpractice insurance and the threat of lawsuits which drive doctors to practice defensive medicine and order unnecessary tests. Doctors are getting fed up with the annoyances, the risk, and the costs, and leaving the system. The last thing we should be doing is driving talent out of the market.

5) Health care costs in the US are also distorted by a large number of uninsured people. I would bet that many of the millions of illegal immigrants use emergency rooms for their health care without having paid into the system which is supposed to reimburse hospitals for that care. There are also millions of uninsured people who see no need to buy health insurance because they're young and healthy. There are also lots of uninsured children and poor folks who should have decent health care in a rich country but can't afford it.

There's a lot that needs to be changed in our health care system. It's not broken, but there are some looming crises. If we want to fix things, we have to move beyond free ponyism to address the issues and hidden costs.


UPDATE: Apparently Canadian law says people shouldn't be allowed to buy better or faster health care even if you can afford it. Heather Cook summarizes:

Canada’s Health Act is the backbone of the health care system that – in theory – guarantees “free” health care. But there’s no guarantee for when you will receive it, and it’s not actually free ... The Canada Health Act also states that no one should pay for a health service in Canada if others get it for free. So no matter how bad you need surgery, no matter how much money you have, you still need to wait in line like the rest of us.
The Honourable Belinda Stronach is a Canadian MP and has served as Minister of Human Resources. She has argued against private care and going outside the system, most notably in a 2004 interview:
Carole Macneil: Ok, and would having a system whereby if you could afford it you get speedier access, would that respect the principles?

Belinda Stronach:
No, that’s a two-tiered health system, which I said I’m not in favour of a two-tiered health system.
Will anyone be surprised to learn that when Ms. Stronach was diagnosed with breast cancer she came to the US for surgery?

Private health care for me, but not for thee.


(h/t: Maggie's Farm)

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

How do you want it?

We used to have a saying in business that applied to any product or service:

"Do you want it good, fast or cheap? You can pick any two:
* Good and fast won't be cheap.
* Good and cheap won't be fast.
* Cheap and fast won't be good."

Bird Dog at Maggie's Farm quotes a physician who writes similarly about health care:

... I agree with the formulation that health care can be:
• Universal
• Affordable
• High Quality

Pick 2 out of 3
In other words, universal and affordable won't be high quality. Affordable and high quality won't be universal. And Universal and high quality won't be affordable. Even in the richest country in human history, there are still basic laws of human behavior which we can't rewrite.

Yet many people continue to talk and act as though we can ignore the way the world actually works. It's frustrating when most of the discussion about health care boils down to how big and what color everyone's free government pony should be.

"Blood sport television" (UPDATED)

Jill Parkin writes in the Daily Mail about the increasing cruelty and manipulation of entertainment reality shows:

She is obese, she cannot sing and she is totally deluded. She is surrounded by her hugely overweight family who all share her belief that she has a wonderful voice.

They are not very clever, but they are desperate for her to appear on television. What do you do?

Do you let them down gently, and explain that it would be kinder for all concerned if the young girl was not encouraged to humiliate herself in front of millions?

Or do you clap your hands in delight, certain in the knowledge that your boss, the multimillionaire despot, is waiting with his courtiers in a room nearby - and this young girl is the kind of contestant that pleases him most?

... Send in the fat kid and let the blood sport begin.
Parkin makes a convincing argument that reality TV is the new freak show of the 21st century. Programs are designed not to find and reward talent, but to display a procession of weak, vulnerable, and socially challenged people whom we can gawk and sneer at. Shows like "Big Brother" and "Survivor" intentionally force opposites together in hopes that a volatile reaction (or even an explosion) will give a big ratings payoff.

Except we're talking about people, not chemicals. I understand that the participants know what they're getting into -- well, mostly, anyway. The minimum age for contestants on "The X Factor" has been lowered from 16 to 14, all the better to take advantage of adolescent awkwardness and emotional vulnerability.

I have a sneaking suspicion that the endless supply of people willing to humiliate themselves is at least partly generated by a society addicted to Stuart Smalley-like self-affirmation. That there are plenty of narcissistic, deluded people in the world doesn't mean we have to delight in maliciously bursting their bubbles. The proper response to unwarranted pride is not intentional cruelty.

And I know we all still have the choice not to watch it, but still, it's hardly encouraging to see "reality television" become more and more ugly, demeaning, and dehumanizing. I believe that media reflect and shape the culture. Neither is good in this case.


UPDATE: In his youth, Michael Reynolds went to an actual freak show. He reflects on the experience and writes with poignancy about the ugliness of cruelty:
God knows I was as oblivious and insensitive as only an adolescent boy can be. But I knew I had made a mistake. I knew I had done something wrong. I had committed what I can only think of, even now, as a sin.

I don't know how Lobster Boy felt about himself or his life. I don't think my shame-faced staring hurt him, I'm sure he was used to it. It hurt me.
Just about all the deadly sins are on display in these shows and our watching them -- pride, greed, anger, lust, envy, sloth, and even gluttony. Be sure to read Michael's whole piece.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Gobsmacking -- the "easily offended" edition

The Daily Mail reports:

Muslim supermarket checkout staff have been given the right to refuse to sell alcohol to customers.

At least one chain has allowed workers to call in a colleague to take their place when customers are buying beer, wine or spirits.

Understood that this is a store's policy and not a government mandate, but still.

XWL, a good online friend who points out the particularly "gobsmacking" stuff, comments:

The truly pious live their lives piously, even amongst the iniquities around them, if you can't maintain your piety while surrounded by the unfaithful, it's your faith that needs strengthening and examining, not de-secularizing the society around you.
Indeed.

Nobody needs to go out of their way to offend others, but neither does anybody need to go out of their way to be offended.

Worst file photo ever?

Malaysian doctors have reattached a man's nearly severed penis after his first wife, enraged by his comparison of her sex skills with those of his younger second wife, decided to chop it off with a kitchen knife.

Okay, I do have a little sympathy for the editor who had to pick a file photo to go with the story, but don't you think s/he could have been a little more sensitive to the male readers?

I can only hope they were going for humor, but still -- ouch.

Word of the day

Suet.


(see here)

Fear and Faith

Charlie Lehardy is a very thoughtful and funny writer.

His latest piece explores the things we fear most and how faith in the risen Christ addresses our deepest fears.

There is a faith lived out on the margins of God's story, a docile faith of Sunday church services and sweet, familiar hymns, of comfortable ritual, friendly smiles and kind words. It is a faith whose story ends in the sadness of a cold, damp tomb.

Then there is a faith lived out in the middle of the unfolding narrative of God's story, a faith that breathes deep from the transforming pneuma of the Spirit, a faith that walks in the footsteps of the Son of God, a faith that has been humbled by the power of the resurrection.

... I'm still afraid of roller coasters. But I am not afraid of death, nor illness, nor things that threaten the status quo or move me out of my comfort zone. Following Jesus, the resurrected Son of God, is gradually calming my fears.

How about you? What are you afraid of?

"The LORD is my light and my salvation -- whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life -- of whom shall I be afraid?" (Psalm 27:1)


Read more!