Saturday, December 29, 2007

Thinking of Dad

This is my favorite version of my favorite hymn (you can ignore the Little House on the Prairie video; I just like Amy Grant):

This is also a nice version and I like the pictures:

I discovered this hymn when my mother was sick with cancer 12 years ago. It helps me keep life in perspective; good or bad, God is still in control, and even when I don't understand why things happen, He does.

It is funny how rapidly life can change--for the worse or for the better--in just a few days. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, my siblings and I were discussing, tentatively, funeral arrangements for my father. That's how sick he was. Yesterday, physical therapy had him sitting in a chair. He's alert, feeding himself, and he knows who we are (he has Alzheimer's, so that is always a blessing). There's even talk of him making it to a rehab hospital by the middle of next week where they can work aggressively to get him ambulatory.

These events have also illuminated, yet again, the importance of our relationships with those we love best and often take for granted. It's easy during the hustle and bustle of Christmas to forget that the most important thing you do is to be together and enjoy each other. For the last 12 years (since my mother's death), my sometimes rocky relationship with my father has come to define the boundaries of my world. There are things my husband and I might have done but chose not to because I wanted to be here for my dad. There are also other things I chose to do for the same reasons. Regardless of what happens in the future, I can cherish what we've had in the past.

Friday, December 28, 2007

The "Greatest" Story Not Being Told

Chris Bowers makes the argument that the Generation Gap between Boomers and others is between Christians and unbelievers.

According to a 2005 study by Greenberg Research, only 62-63%% of Americans under the age of 40 self-identified as Christian, compared to over 80% of previous American generations. Further, fewer than 50% of the younger generations now self-identify as either Protestant or Roman Catholic...

If Christianity is being abandoned by younger generations in large amounts, surely that seems worthy of a national news story. However, apart from an academic paper at the University of Chicago, and a bunch of conservative whining about the secularization of America, there is very little information about the increasing number of Americans who do not self-identify as Christian...

I have to admit, I just don't get why few other seem to be talking about this one. Demographically speaking, this is a generational gap at least equal to anything that separated the Boomers from their parents. On a national level, it is reshaping America much more rapidly than immigration. However, instead of even so much as a peep about this in national news outlets, over the last few years places like CNN have hired "faith and values correspondents." Maybe news outlets are too cowed by the Republican Noise Machine to report on this trend, or perhaps seeing their children attend church once a year has too easily placated editors and producers. Whatever the cause, no one is telling this story. The rise of non-Christians in America is truly a silent revolution.

Bowers makes a mistake common among atheists and agnostics: inflating the importance of his own beliefs or lack thereof.

First, 60% of those under 40 identifying as Christian isn't a small thing. It still represents millions and millions of Americans who self-identify with the religion of Christ.

Second, there are many factors involved in why so many people under 40 don't identify themselves as Christians, and Bowers' post doesn't even begin to discuss them. For one thing, there has been a boom in the number of Muslims in the U.S. (and those converting to Islam), as well as a rise in various pseudo-religions like Scientology or New Age stuff. And this doesn't include practitioners of other sects like Buddhists. In other words, our society has become more pluralistic and the spiritual options have greatly expanded for the post-Baby Boom generations.

We live in a far less homogenous society than we once did, and with that heterogeneity comes new religions and more options for spiritual expression. Bowers makes the mistake of assuming that the 40% of Americans not self-identifying as Christians must be atheists or agnostics. That isn't so. Bowers would be better off recognizing that the hiring faith and values correspondents by television networks is actually in response to a rise in spirituality of all types in the U.S., rather than a misguided and stubborn attempt to cling to what was.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Texas Leads in Executions

This New York Times piece tries to smear Texas for having the audacity to follow its own laws and court decisions.

For the first time in the modern history of the death penalty, more than 60 percent of all American executions took place in Texas.

Over the past three decades, the proportion of executions nationwide performed in Texas has held relatively steady, averaging 37 percent. Only once before, in 1986, has the state accounted for even a slight majority of the executions, and that was in a year with 18 executions nationwide.

But enthusiasm for executions outside of Texas has dropped sharply. Of the 42 executions in the last year, 26 were in Texas.

I have no problem with other states deciding they don't want to use the death penalty. That's the glory of our system. But you have to wonder about the purpose of a NYT story which boils down to "Texas is still enforcing its laws."

Oddly enough, the reason there are so many executions in Texas is because--gosh!--we carry out the decisions made by juries all over the state.
The rate at which Texas sentences people to death is not especially high given its murder rate. But once a death sentence is imposed there, said Richard C. Dieter, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, prosecutors, state and federal courts, the pardon board and the governor are united in moving the process along. “There’s almost an aggressiveness about carrying out executions,” said Mr. Dieter, whose organization opposes capital punishment.

Shame on those juries for thinking their decisions will be carried out! We need more liberals telling us that we don't really mean what we say. We need more nullification of juries, like what happened in New Jersey.
Similarly, New Jersey’s abolition of the death penalty last week and Gov. Jon Corzine’s decision to empty death row of its eight prisoners is almost entirely symbolic. New Jersey has not executed anyone since 1963.

Liberals would be screaming about abuse of power if President Bush were to decide to ignore a law. Funny how we don't hear that about executions.

If other states want to ignore their death penalty options, that's fine by me. Maybe being the death penalty enforcer will discourage rapists and murderers from messing with Texas.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

Here's a video that reminds me of Christmases past (before I became respectable). ;)

Merry Christmas!

Dallas Morning News Endorses Mike Huckabee...Which Tells You What's Wrong With Him

I've never been a Dallas Morning News fan for an amalgam of reasons logical, illogical, personal and professional (a subject for another post), but the DMN's endorsement of Mike Huckabee for the GOP presidential nomination just confirms my negative opinion about them.

It's not that I dislike Mike Huckabee. I'm not crazy about any of the Republican nominees, which is why I haven't bothered with an endorsement. I have problems with each of them and know I'll just hold my nose and vote for whoever isn't a Democrat.

And, truth be told, I was actually leaning toward Mike Huckabee back in October. The problem is, the more I've learned about Huckabee's positions, the less I agree with them. And, laughably, the supposedly conservative (by newspaper standards) Dallas Morning News likes Huckabee for all the reasons I've come to cock an eyebrow at him.

Mr. Huckabee established a respectable record of fiscal responsibility in Arkansas. Rather than run up deficits, he backed raising taxes to pay for needed infrastructure, health care and education. That's called prudence, and it was once a Republican virtue.

Mr. Huckabee is not an ideal candidate. Once a Bush-style Republican on immigration, his recent hard-right turn smells of opportunism. He too often wings it on foreign policy. But Govs. Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush also took office without foreign-policy experience. Much depends on the quality of a president's advisers. A chief executive's core foreign-policy convictions matter most, and on those, Mr. Huckabee is a standard conservative.

First, Huckabee raised taxes in Arkansas because the state requires a balanced budget. It's not like he had a choice of "running up deficits." And, personally, I don't know that it's particularly "fiscally responsible" to raise taxes rather than reining in government.

Second, Huckabee's immigration stance has been completely at odds with not only most Republicans but most Americans. Americans don't want illegal aliens to be given in-state tuition or scholarship money. They don't want sanctuary cities and they don't want lax enforcement of immigration laws. If anything, Huckabee's stance on immigration, like President Bush's, is a strike against his candidacy.

Finally, the argument about foreign policy is laughable. What the editorial board fails to acknowledge is that both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were elected after the fall of the Soviet Union, when we deluded ourselves that we needn't worry about foreign policy anymore. And Ronald Reagan was never naive about foreign policy. In fact, it was his tough talk and action that helped bring down the Soviet Union. As Hugh Hewitt has pointed out, Huckabee's foreign policy philosophy looks much more like the failed Jimmy Carter strategy than Ronald Reagan's.

The Morning News wraps up its endorsement claiming that what caused the editorial board to choose Huckabee was "a sense that of all the Republicans, he is the change agent the nation most needs," whatever the hell that means. If the argument is that Huckabee won't be as "mean" as other Republicans, I'm not sure I want a guy unwilling to stand up to the folly proposed by a Democratic Congress. What we need isn't merely an agent of change. What we need is someone tenacious enough to get Democrats to pass the right legislation (or veto bad legislation) and strong enough to stand up to Iran. Huckabee hasn't shown that he's that person yet.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Maybe Real Life Should Intervene More Often

My dad's been in the hospital for the last couple of weeks, so, between work, Dad, and various Christmas obligations, I haven't spent much time messing with my blog.

Imagine my surprise to find my ranking on The Truth Laid Bear to have gone up exponentially. I guess I must've written something particularly insightful or interesting over the last week or so. Either that, or I've been Google-bombed and didn't notice. ;)

In any event, posting will continue to be light for the forseeable future while my family deals with my dad and his health issues. And keep linking. I like it!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Solving the Illegal Immigration Problem One Alien At A Time

This story in the Tucson Citizen is supposed to make us feel sorry for illegal aliens forced to go home because of stricter enforcement of our immigration laws. At least, that's what I think it's supposed to do.

First, the human face.

On Mexico 15 on the outskirts of Nogales, Son., the Francos were getting ready for the final leg of their journey from Arizona to Ciudad Obregon, their hometown six hours south of the border.

Jorge, 34, was driving an extended-cab Ford F-150 pickup that was so overloaded with the family's belongings that the vehicle no longer looked safe for highway travel. The bed of the pickup sagged under the weight of a full-size refrigerator, an air-conditioning unit, a television and a microwave oven, while the Francos' three young children grew restless inside the cab.

Franco's wife, Liliana, 25, drove a second vehicle. Her Dodge minivan was packed just as full, with clothing, toys and household items. Several suitcases that didn't fit inside had been lashed to the roof.

The couple said they had lived in Wickenburg for the past five years. They and their two children had originally entered the United States legally with tourist visas and then stayed beyond the expiration dates. The couple had no legal status to work in the U.S., but both were able to get jobs using fake documents, Jorge at a small landscaping company, Liliana at a Burger King. Two years ago, their third child, Michael, was born in Arizona, making him a U.S. citizen.

The couple said life for them in Arizona began to unravel earlier this year when Congress failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform. The collapse caused the Francos to give up hope that Congress would pass a legalization program anytime soon. Then, Gov. Janet Napolitano signed Arizona's employer-sanctions law.

The law threatens to suspend or revoke business licenses from employers caught knowingly hiring illegal immigrants. It also requires employers to use a federal computer program to electronically verify the employment eligibility of new hires.

The law takes effect Jan. 1, and several business groups are suing to have the law tossed out, claiming it is unconstitutional. Nevertheless, thousands of illegal immigrants have been let go as worried employers conduct reviews of I-9s, the federal forms employers are required to use to verify the employment eligibility of their workers.

In November, employers checked the Francos' employment records and discovered they had used false documents to get their jobs, the couple said. Both were let go.

The Francos tried getting other jobs but were turned down every place they applied.

"Everyone wants a good Social Security number now," Liliana said.

Imagine that. Everybody wants to comply with the law.

I wish I could say I feel sorry for the Francos, but I don't. They came to this country legally, then broke multiple laws to stay, from overstaying their visas, using false Social Security numbers and getting jobs (which is forbidden under tourist visas). They knew they were breaking the law and did it anyway. Now they are going home, which is what they should have done when their tourist visas expired. If they wanted to work, they could have applied for work visas and gotten in line with everybody else trying to come to the U.S.

What happens to the jobs illegals were doing? Other people will do them. Perhaps employers will have to pay more, which will increase the costs to consumers. Perhaps people who haven't been working will now take these jobs (liberals should like that, since they are always complaining that the unemployment figures don't count people who have given up). In any event, jobs will be done, either by individuals (who may have to mow their own lawns) or by paying someone else more than before (because the job is now worth more).

We have laws. Now we need to enforce them.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Why I Think America Still Isn't Ready for a Woman President

When I saw the picture of Hillary Clinton that had been posted on the Drudge Report, my first thought was, "Oh, brother. More proof Americans aren't mature enough to have a woman president."

I've made this argument for years. In our perfection- (specifically, female perfection-) obsessed society, a woman will have a more difficult time being elected president. I don't say this because Americans think women are incapable of handling the office. I say it because Americans can't stop discussing hairstyles, clothing sizes (including whether a First Lady is pear-shaped), and now wrinkles. Now, even Rush Limbaugh is discussing the American obsession with physical perfection.

Guess what, people? Everybody gets wrinkles when they age. And Hillary Clinton in 60 years old. Frankly, I thought she didn't look bad for her age.

Such furor over wrinkles angers me not only because of its inanity but because it supports feminist notions of our sexist society. First we have Jennifer Love Hewitt's butt and now we have to discuss whether a 60-year-old woman should have wrinkles. It drives me bonkers.

I have no respect for people who are so looks-obsessed, both those who participate in Botox and lip injections and the audience that comments on it. If you don't agree with Hillary Clilnton's policies or ideas (and I don't), then fine. But don't discount Hillary because she has wrinkles.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

"When the chips are down I think democracy is a less important goal than is the protection of the planet."

So says Mayer Hillman, senior fellow emeritus at the Policy Studies Institute, regarding a carbon rationing scheme in Great Britain.

Transport policy-makers should start preparing now for a dramatic reduction in motorised travel that will be brought about by carbon rationing, one of the country's leading environmental thinkers told LTT this week.

"Just start reading the runes because what's going to happen is the demand for road, rail and air travel is going to start falling away just as soon as we have rationing," says Mayer Hillman in an interview with the magazine.

Hillman, senior fellow emeritus at the Policy Studies Institute, says carbon rationing is the only way to ensure that the world avoids the worst effects of climate change. And he says that the problems caused by burning fossil fuels are so serious that governments might have to implement rationing against the will of the people.

"When the chips are down I think democracy is a less important goal than is the protection of the planet from the death of life, the end of life on it," he says. "This has got to be imposed on people whether they like it or not."

Remember, taking away your freedoms is in your best interest!

As Flopping Aces points out, the environmentalist movement isn't so much about saving the planet as it is in punishing America for being successful. Through boondoggles like the CO2 Tax, they plan to redistribute wealth "to preserve Earth," since they can't get enough dolts to buy into wealth redistribution otherwise.

Thinking of Dad

There are several versions on YouTube, but I like this one because it shows some of the places I remember going when we'd visit.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Journalistic Snobbery Rears Its Ugly Head Again

I always chuckle when I read articles like this one by David Hazinski decrying the "citizen journalist." The pearl-clutching is priceless.

The premise of citizen journalism is that regular people can now collect information and pictures with video cameras and cellphones, and distribute words and images over the Internet. Advocates argue that the acts of collecting and distributing makes these people "journalists." This is like saying someone who carries a scalpel is a "citizen surgeon" or someone who can read a law book is a "citizen lawyer." Tools are merely that. Education, skill and standards are really what make people into trusted professionals. Information without journalistic standards is called gossip.

But unlike those other professions, journalism — at least in the United States — has never adopted uniform self-regulating standards. There are commonly accepted ethical principals — two source confirmation of controversial information or the balanced reporting of both sides of a story, for example, but adhering to the principals is voluntary. There is no licensing, testing, mandatory education or boards of review. Most other professions do a poor job of self-regulation, but at least they have mechanisms to regulate themselves. Journalists do not.

The arrogance in this statement is palpable. Unlike journalists, who, at most, need a 4-year degree to practice their craft (and many older journalists don't even have that), surgeons and attorneys must have advanced and specialized educations in order to apply for admission to their prospective regulated professions. One can't get a degree in French and go hang out one's shingle as a family law attorney. You can't major in political science and get hired at the local hospital as a surgeon. You can, however, have a 4-year degree in practically anything and get hired as a journalist.

I don't say that rashly, and I'm not trying to put down fellow journalists, many of whom are truly talented and well-trained beyond the B.A. level. But I knew plenty of reporters and editors when I worked in the field who had degrees in lots of things besides journalism. And many fine writers didn't have degrees at all, except the sort one gets from the school of hard knocks.

In fact, my high school journalism teacher told us that, in order to be a good journalist, you shouldn't specialize in journalism, but should show extreme curiosity about lots of other subjects. Her philosophy was that journalism classes could teach you how to write and how to edit, but only by becoming interested in many different subjects would a person display the inquisitiveness necessary to make a good reporter.

Hazinski displays the paranoia and arrogance of many longtime journalists who are both afraid of innovation and disdainful of practitioners. Threatened by even faster mediums than radio and television, journalists wring their hands at the idea that...ordinary people might make mistakes in reporting!
False Internet rumors about Sen. Barack Obama attending a radical Muslim school became so widespread that CNN and other news agencies did stories debunking the rumors. There are literally hundreds of Internet hoaxes and false reports passed off as true stories, tracked by sites such as

Having just anyone produce widely distributed stories without control can have the reverse effect from what advocates intend. It's just a matter of time before something like a faked Rodney King beating video appears on the air somewhere.

I'd be very surprised if Hazinski has never had to write a correction in his journalistic career. Reporters and editors make mistakes all the time. That's what the "corrections" column is for. Actually, it's the place where reporters and editors try to blame someone else for the mistakes they make in print, but that's a subject for another post.

And, can Hazinski honestly ask, with a straight face, about fake news? How many fake news stories have we been presented with over the years? From Janet Cooke to Jayson Blair to Dan Rathers "fake but accurate" story, journalists are making stuff up often enough that they shouldn't be wasting time fretting about other people making stuff up.

Citizen journalists may never replace the career kind, but it isn't because average, ordinary people can't witness and accurately describe or depict the things that happen around them. It's mainly because journalism requires a dedication to the craft day in and day out, whether a story is exciting or boring. Every journalist has had at least one top-tier breaking story in his or her career. But for every story like that, the same journalist has sat through endless boring school board meetings and new library dedications. They've tried to make face-of-Mary-in-dog-food stories interesting and written about controversies regarding new parking meters.

In short, citizen journalists cover certain niches, whether those are local happenings or specific topics. Professional journalists (that could be an oxymoron in some cases) have the time and commitment to cover other stories. Guys like Hazinski shouldn't be so jealous that some people get to cover stories while wearing their pajamas.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Softer Side of Sexism

I gave Echidne grief in a previous post for complaining about the arguments leveled against some of the sillier grievances of feminists (such as Mitt Romney's use of male nouns in his speech last week).

I called the gripe a tempest in a teapot, primarily because I've never liked the feminist attack on language. Getting insulted by the term "chairman," which comes from the Latin "mano" for "hand," undermined feminist arguments about actual sexism, IMO. Does it truly matter whether one says "manned" or "staffed"? Does it change who does which job and when?

Personally, I'm far more concerned about the sort of sexism discussed in this article, Fighting the Subtler Side of Sexism. The article discusses the problems women have advancing in law firms. Those problems are not exclusively about gruelling hours and mommy tracks, but also about the way law firm business is conducted and mentoring.

Consider the partner preparing for a trial in 12 months. Does he add the female associate to the team? No, he strikes her from his list because she has a young family, and he figures committing the time down the road would be too hard...

Here's another example of the slights that, eventually, derail careers. A woman goes into a big meeting, says (Lorilei )Masters, (president of the Women's Bar Association of the District of Columbia), and she raises an idea. "The conversation continues. Suddenly, 10 minutes later, a guy raises that same idea," and everyone loves it.

"It's an accumulation of those kinds of incidents," Masters says. "It's the accumulated drip-drip-drip."

I'm sure there are plenty of men who have had that happen to them and I'm not arguing that it doesn't happen in other circumstances. But, as Echidne pointed out in her post, it happens to women. A lot. Is there a way of pointing it out, getting credit for one's ideas, without sounding like a whiny little kid? Most women would like to know that, if it's possible.

The impact of subtler sexism is enormous.
Masters' point ties in with a report released just last month by the National Association of Women Lawyers. The group's second annual survey on the status of women in law firms found (big surprise) that "women advance into the upper levels of law firms with only a fraction of the success enjoyed by their male classmates." Those fractions are well-known: The NAWL found, for instance, that an average of 16 percent of the firms' equity partners are women. Compare that with national numbers offered up by NALP (formerly the National Association for Legal Professionals) from 2005, when 48 percent of summer associates and 44 percent of first-year associates were women.

Even more interestingly, the NAWL survey (which questioned 200 of the country's largest firms and received responses from 112) found a significant salary gap as women advance through the ranks. Male and female associates, for the most part, make about the same amount. But male of counsel earn about $20,000 more than female of counsel, male nonequity partners make about $27,000 more than their female counterparts and male equity partners bring in almost $90,000 more than female equity partners.

What gives? It goes back to the theory of assumptions and slights. The NAWL survey wonders "whether women lawyers are given as many choice assignments, introductions to key firm clients and other opportunities to grow their own practices" as the men.

Success in law is based as much on one's ability to sell to clients as it is to prowess in the courtroom. Without the opportunities, women lawyers will flounder and, eventually, leave a firm for better chances elsewhere. Perhaps this helps explain why so many women lawyers go into solo or small practices.

Does Drug Use Disqualify One for President?

It's always amusing when I find myself agreeing with lefties, but I agree with Blue Texan at Firedoglake about the sleezy innuendos issuing from the Hillary Clinton camp about Barak Obama's drug use.

IMO, we're about at the point in this country where past drug use is no longer a disqualifier for president. After Bill "I did not inhale" Clinton's presidency, I'm far more concerned with past behavior as a predictor of present behavior (bimbo erruptions) than I am with someone's drug use as a teenager.

Does this mean I approve of drug use? Absolutely not. I never tried anything (including "not inhaling"), so I don't have a lot of sympathy for people who have. But I'm also a realist and recognize that a sizable portion of the adult population has experimented with drugs, and as long as the POTUS isn't meeting his dealer at the backdoor to the White House, I'm not going to make too big a fuss. I'm only partly kidding here.

I have a lot of problems with Barak Obama, mainly everything he says and everything he does. I don't have to go digging around in his past to know I don't want to vote for him. Of course, the same goes for Hillary.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Overly Sensitive?

I've said before that Echidne is a bit overly sensitive to criticism, but her latest temper tantrum on those meanies mocking her anger over Mitt Romney's speech is is a show-stopper. She must be populating a corn field with all her strawmen.

(O)ppression, rape and even being killed for their gender in some countries, are somehow all problems that only the feminists should try to solve. The rest of the society can just sit back and criticize the feminist attempts, almost like those ice-skating judges at the Olympics. Though of course they would applaud should the feminists actually solve all those frighteningly large problems, without much external funding and while being criticized of nitpicking and various forms of lunacy. But are these problems not the responsibility of the rest of the humankind to solve? It appears not. Only the feminists are expected to fix the world for billions of women...

It even matters when a politician gives a speech with references to great statesmen, not to stateswomen, and it matters because of what the images might be that our brains create from that speech, and how those images then become expectations having to do with how a politician should look (masculine)...

But a concise answer to that accusation might be that it is the Rush Limbaughs and their feminazi labels which have made feminism less popular than it really should be, given that people, including women, don't actually love to be hated. Though right now I think that the idea that feminists are to fix the world, without pay, for all women while the rest of humans sit in the audience giving style points and drinking beer is also a very good reason not to come out as a feminist.

Boldface is hers.

Gee, want a little cheese to go with that whine? Where to start?

Well, for one thing, I know of no one who says only feminists should be concerned about the real atrocities committed against women around the world. In fact, quite a few men--and non-feminist women--are concerned about those things, too. The criticism is that crying about the use of male nouns in a speech given by a man is childish, immature, and shallow when there are actual problems that need attention. For example, I could understand (although I didn't agree with) the concerns of atheists with Romney's speech, but worrying about his decision not to use PCisms to pacify feminists truly is, as I told her, a tempest in a teapot. Some people try to use gender neutral language. Some people, particularly of a certain age, still believe that "mankind" and "humanity" include both men and women. Some people still believe in "God the Father" and don't think that excludes women.

Complaining about a politician's use of male nouns is a bit like sitting at a sumptuous speech and complaining there are no green beans present. You can choose to focus on the feast or focus on what's missing; what you focus on says more about you than about the feast itself.

Secondly, Echidne, as most feminists, is extremely hung up on Rush Limbaugh. Perhaps she has a secret crush, given the amount of time she talks about him. The truth is, Rush Limbaugh has made a career out of reading actual news items, then comments (sometimes seriously, sometimes humorously) on them. In other words, the reason Limbaugh even started talking about "feminazis," a term he hasn't used for years, is because feminists have done a lot of silly or nasty things in the name of advancing women. If feminists dislike the portrayal, perhaps they should look at their behavior as opposed to the parody. That might be good advice for Echidne, as well.

Do You Need a Gun? Why Not?

Peter Clothier has a holier-than-thou column in the HuffPo claiming he doesn't need a gun because

I myself am enough in tune with Buddhist teachings to believe that the taking of life is wrong in any circumstance--and, yes, that includes the saving of my own. I'm not naïve enough to believe that I wouldn't resort to violence in order to preserve my life, but I would not prepare for that contingency with the purchase of a gun.

Curiously, Clothier must've either killed or endorsed the killing of animals and plants to preserve his life. Nor does Clothier mention the idea of using someone else's gun to preserve his life. Or someone else using their gun to save his life.

Of course, the stupid Mr. Clothier doesn't acknowledge the fact that other people owning guns--and their willingness to use them--has kept him safe throughout his life. After all, cops have always carried guns in this country and they are sworn to preserve the lives of even ingrates like Clothier.

The stupidity of Clothier's argument becomes clearer the farther one reads into his column. The truth of the old addage about giving a guy enough rope to hang himself becomes more obvious just a couple of more grafs into the column.
In this context, I find it strange and profoundly unsettling that in all the news media reports on the recent senseless killing sprees in Nebraska and Colorado, I have heard virtually nothing about the guns that were used. If anyone has been speculating about how a deadly assault weapon ended up in the hands of a teenager who was well known by authorities to be mentally unstable and a young man whose rage and hatred were already on record, I have not heard or read it.

It's hard to believe Clothier hasn't heard about the teenager who stole his stepfather's gun. And gun control laws already in place are supposed to prevent the mentally ill from obtaining weapons. What stopped the last rampage wasn't less guns but more guns.

I've watched gun control arguments unfold over the last couple of weeks and they typically point to the success of gun control laws in New York City. But the decrease in crime in NYC cannot be attributed solely to gun control laws; there was an increase in the number of police officers on the street and other laws, such as anti-vagrancy laws, that helped lower crime in that city, In all honesty, gun control laws tend to ensure that criminals get guns while law-abiding citizens do not.

And still, banning guns doesn't stop people from killing each other. People killed each other long before guns were invented and, in places where guns are banned, determined would-be murderers just use other weapons. After all, a steak knife can kill someone, too.

Clothier should be thankful that he has the option not to own a gun but that others choose to do so. Their vigilence could just save his life some day.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Are You Getting Older...

When your son comes in and tells you to turn down your music so he can go to bed? :)

When Guns Save Lives

The tragic church shootings recently have fueled new rounds of gun control proposals from the left. I've engaged in a couple of those discussions, but they usually come back to the idea that "only if" we had fewer guns would these tragedies be stopped.

As Michelle Malkin points out, what stopped the gunman was an armed security guard.

I haven't seen the leftosphere tackling this fact and don't really expect to. What you do see are comments like this one:

Is anyone else really annoyed that the coverage of the shootings in CO Sunday default to the first victems were defacto "good" because they we missionary or in missionary training, as if one could not be religious and "bad" or even unthinkly hurtful? It is as if these people could never do anything to enrage an unbalanced person and thereby deserve to be shot, implying unlike others who are less godly.

It's hard for me to understand this level of cynicism, but maybe that's because, as a Christian, I understand that no one is "good." That doesn't stop me from feeling sorry for anyone who is injured or killed in these events.

The guard, Jeanne Assam, says "God guided and protected me."

Evidently, the gunman, who was carrying 1,000 rounds of ammunition, "hated Christians," which might explain some of the "good people" stuff complained about by the moonbat quoted above.

The Perils of Free Speech

Brendan O'Neill discusses the anti-free speech laws starting to emerge in Great Britain. The list is frightening and makes one ponder the future of free expression.

Today it is reported that Brighton and Hove in southern England might soon become the first city in Britain to prohibit art that ‘incites racist, homophobic or sectarian violence’. Ostensibly, Brighton council’s target is ‘murder music’: Jamaican dancehall and rap songs that have anti-gay lyrics. If the council’s proposals are ratified next week, then any venue that plays ‘murder music’ will have its licence revoked...

Dee Simson, chairman of Brighton council’s licensing committee, says: ‘I’m a firm believer in freedom of speech but I’m against the incitement of hatred against minorities.’

Such assaults of free speech are always well-intentioned. Let's face it; good people really don't want anyone offended. We want everyone to be happy. We want people to feel good.

Unfortunately, these types of bans wind up doing more harm than good. What if we'd had "hate speech" bans during the Abolitionist Movement and declaring slavery barbaric was included? Could Uncle Tom's Cabin have been racist because of its stereotypical portrayals? What about other classics like Huckleberry Finn?

I'm a big fan of free speech, including the right to protest things one dislikes. If Brits truly dislike Jamaican murder music, they can protest in front of stores which sell the stuff. They can disallow it in their own home and teach their children why it is wrong. They can blog about the disgusting nature of the music. They can write letters to the editor and columns on the subject, maybe even getting on the news. But ban it? That's, well, un-American. ;)

O'Neill's column has more and is fabulous.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Check Out GetReligion

I've discussed the wonderful GetReligion site before, but this week, they seem to have done a particularly spectacular job covering the business of journalism covering religion.

Unlike some other religious sites, GetReligion's purpose is the cover the way journalists cover religion, not the religions themselves. It makes for some thought-provoking reading when Mollie Hemingway or Terry Mattingly (just to name a couple of the fine writers) dissect the way journalists cover, say, Mitt Romney's speech or the ongoing breakup of the Episcopal Church.

It was the latter story that most interested me today (there's plenty of Mitt Romney everywhere and anywhere). Anyone who even a passing interest in religion in America probably knows about the disintegration of the Episcopal Church here. In a nutshell, many congregations are seceding from the American Episcopal Church (a very liberal organization) and joining more traditionally Anglican organizations, such as the church in Uganda. In response, the Episcopal Church is suing these congregations for money and property, barring them from using the church buildings in which they have always worshipped. I don't wish to delve into the rightness or wrongness of this, but the interesting thing about the coverage is how reporters seem to only find quotes from the minority who want to stay connected to the American church.

Nearly nine out of 10 members of the church voted to leave, so I find it interesting that the reporter uses an anecdote from the minority. The story is not about what happens to the losing side in votes to split from national church bodies (a most worthy angle) but, rather, about how the rifts have flooded courts with civil lawsuits over church property. The only other congregant quoted in the piece is likewise part of the minority who voted to remain affiliated with the Episcopal Church:

Speaking to her congregation on Oct. 14, just before congregants voted on the decision to disaffiliate with the Episcopal Church, Janet Stone, 63, a member of Christ Church since 1975, pleaded for unity.

“I beg you to stop this fight and seek reconciliation,” Ms. Stone said. “It would be a powerful witness.”

Moments later, 87 percent of the congregation voted to support the split

Maybe next time the reporter can find one person from the 87-percent faction to discuss how they feel about being sued by the Georgia Diocese. Otherwise the entire human interest aspect of the story seems more than a bit one-sided.

It would be refreshing if journalists tried a bit harder to cover a story objectively. In this case, the reporter surely could have found someone to offer up a quote in support of the measure, couldn't he?

Friday, December 07, 2007

The Soft Religious Bigotry of Liberals

I've been watching (and sometimes participating) in the meltdown at Echidne's site regarding Mitt Romney's Faith in America speech. I call it a meltdown because Echidne produced no less than five separate posts on the subject. Essentially, every aspect of the speech deserved a separate post.

--One post discusses the awfulness (according to her) of linking freedom and religion.

--One post works up into a lather because Mitt Romney--a man, by all accounts--dares to use the male pronouns when referring to generalized man.

--One post practically licks to death this David Brooks column because it agrees with her previous opinions.

--One post complains that in a speech directed at religiously oriented people, Mitt Romney actually used Biblically-centered language. *gasp!*

--One post complained about two conservative columnists who liked Romney's speech because they liked it too much.

Everybody is entitled to obsess about whatever their heart desires. For instance,
this link in a post about paranoid meltdowns is sure to send Jeromy Brown out to defend himself, even when there's nothing there to defend.

In this case, however, both Echidne and her usual commenters let the mask slip and expose their own anti-religious bigotry. Why do I say that? Because in both the posts and the comments, an inordinate amount of time is spent discussing Mormonism and what is wrong with it (a few asides just bash Christians in general, as well). The reasons for this discussion are obvious: like the religious conservatives to whom the speech was directed, they are bigoted against religious people, particularly if religion actually influences the behavior of those people. Here is an excerpt, emphasis mine:
If my reading is correct, Mitt argues that secular freedom (where? only in the marketplace?) should be combined with some kind of a religious authoritarianism. The latter would actually not be freedom at all, but a set of rules which limits the freedom people are actually allowed to have. Now, given the misogynistic nature of most of the older religions, this could well mean that men can have freedom and a religious blessing for it, while women can have freedom only if the religious rules allow them to have it. Which would be rather seldom.

Echidne is referring to a portion of Romney's speech where he discusses John Adams' statement that "We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." The problem with her "religious authoritarianism" take is that it completely distorts Adams' words. The idea that "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people" isn't referring to persons associated with an organized religion. He's referring to the idea of a people who are conscientious and moral.

This interpretation of Adams' quotation makes sense when one examines the views of other Founding Fathers with regards to government and religion.
"The great pillars of all government...[are] virtue, morality, and religion. This is the armor, my friend, and this alone, that renders us invincible." -- Patrick Henry

"The laws of nature are the laws of God, whose authority can be superseded by no power on earth." -- George Mason

"[W]hile just government protects all in their religious rights, true religion affords to government its surest support." -- George Washington

" The general principles upon which the Fathers achieved independence were the general principals of Christianity… I will avow that I believed and now believe that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God." -- John Adams

And another John Adams quote: "[July 4th] ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty."

"We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We’ve staked the future of all our political institutions upon our capacity…to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God." -- James Madison

This isn't to say the Founding Fathers wanted an intertwining of religion and government or that they recommended a religious test for holding office. Rather, it suggests that what the Founding Fathers recognized was the positive effects religion has on public life.

Sadly, what I noticed most about the discussions at Echidne's site was the considerable Mormon-bashing or Christianity-bashing that took place (this was aside from the pearl clutching because Romney used masculine pronouns). My understanding of liberalism (at least, as it used to be practiced) was that religion should be neither an enhancement to one's political resume nor a detriment to it. That one's religion helps shape one's judgment (which should be scrutinized) may be correct; but bashing religion isn't constructive when discussing political candidates or their speeches.

UPDATE: Not to pile on Echidne, here's the hysteria at Pandagon because a speech on faith in America doesn't discuss the faithless, complete with the usual "there's no religious test in the Constitution so don't admit that your faith actually influences the way you live" meme.

The High Cost of High Taxation

Liberals frequently display disgust at capitalism and those "greedy" people who think they should spend their incomes as they choose, not as the government chooses. They really don't want to believe that high taxation causes people to leave.

Well, if they don't believe it, they just need to look at Denmark, where highly educated Danes are leaving in droves for lower taxation countries.

Young Danes, often schooled abroad and inevitably fluent in English, are primed to quit Denmark for greener pastures. One reason is the income tax rate, which can reach 63 percent...

Denmark is the home of "flexicurity," the catchy name given to a system that pays ample unemployment and welfare benefits but, unusually in Europe, imposes almost no restrictions on hiring and firing by employers. The mixture has served Denmark well, and its economy barreled ahead in 2006 by 3.5 percent, one of the best performances in western Europe. The country is effectively at full employment.

But success has given rise to an anxious search for talent among Danish companies, and focused attention on émigrés like Sorensen. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which is based in Paris, projects that Denmark's growth rate will fall to an annual rate of slightly more than 1 percent for the five years beginning in 2009, reflecting a dwindling supply of a vital input for any economy: labor.

The problem, employers and economists believe, has a lot to do with the 63 percent marginal tax rate paid by top earners in Denmark - a level that hits anyone making more than 360,000 Danish kroner, or about $70,000. That same tax rate underpins such effective income redistribution that Denmark is the most nearly equal society in the world, in that wealth is more evenly spread than anywhere else.

Ah, yes. Income equity, the brass ring of liberal theology. It's nice if everyone has an equal piece of the pie, but why should one person bust their ass so someone else gets a free ride? And how well are you really living if you make $70k but only get to keep less than $20k of it?

How Big Can a Size 2 Butt Be, Anyway?

It is extremely rare for me to agree with anything at Pandagon, but it must be a Halley's Comet kind of event for me to agree with something from Pandagon and Feministe. As painful (and it is, it is!) as it is to agree with them, I do agree with them regarding the Jennifer Love Hewitt has a big butt controversy.

For those of you who missed it, TMZ ran a rather unflattering photo of the size 2 Ghost Whisperer star and, anonymous commenters being who they are, the commenters went nuts. To her credit, Hewitt's response included all women, since all women are judged to some degree on their looks, regardless of age, orientation, or marriagability.

Indeed, it doesn't matter whether commenters are liberal or conservative, women are subjected to this scrutiny (as I found out when I commented on Iowa Liberal's blog about insurance and the discussion became "how overweight are you?"). No, women, in general, are subjected to this and it comes up regularly for discussion.

This isn't to whine about that occurrence or even suggest, as the feminists do, that Teh Patriarchy is keeping 'em down again. It's more to marvel that size 2 is, evidently still fat. At what point are we not fat?

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Rebuilding the President's Reputation

Emmett Tyrrell has an interesting column at today on President Bush's resurging reputation. In a nutshell, President Bush should be fondly remembered by history for his steadfastness and tenacity.

Through the past three years of gloomy news, he has been called "bullheaded," but the evidence from Iraq, the economy and various other precincts -- for instance, advances in stem cell research -- suggests a different adjective, to wit, "resolute." Moreover, in Iraq, we see not only a resolute president but also a flexible president. Last spring, he changed his tactics in Iraq, and the change has been successful.

Liberals are loathe to admit the surge has worked--they constantly want to point to barometers measuring 2005 as opposed to 2007--mainly because to admit that the liberation of Iraq is going well or was worth the costs would require them to admit their shortsightedness and partisanship.

But the signs are everywhere that Iraq is more peaceful and even the government is starting to get its act together. Congress' game-playing with troop funding has backfired (remember the slow bleed strategy?), and now they are scrambling to find a new way to lose the war, as sick as that idea is.

Tyrrell goes on to note that President Bush's success goes beyond the war, into other various skirmishes.
The economy is strong with steady growth, low unemployment, low inflation, low interest rates and only one sector in doubt -- housing -- which, in an economy as enormous as ours, can be endured for a while. The president's reluctance to fund federal research on embryonic stem cells has been vindicated with the announcement that scientists have discovered how to use normal skin cells to serve their research purposes. And now comes a National Intelligence Estimate, concluding that Iran decided to abandon a 15-year program to develop nuclear weapons just months after our invasion of Iraq. At the time, Libya gave up its nuclear arms program, too. What desert potentate wants to suffer the fate President Bush arranged for Saddam Hussein?

It's been interesting watching the lefty blogs try to spin the NIE into a defeat for the president when the information contained therein doesn't support that conclusion. What it does support is the notion that Iran had spent 15 years working on its nuclear weapons but abandoned the program after "shock and awe." And even at that, the NIE says Iran could have nuclear weapons as soon as 2009. Do liberals actually think we should wait until Iran has nuclear weapons before we do anything about it? And how good is the NIE anyway? Democrats scoffed at the NIE which said Saddam Hussein had WMDs. Do they seriously expect us not to notice the political gamesmanship they engage in here?

The truth is, no president looks as good in the present as they do in hindsight. President Bush was elected in 2000 as the "not Clinton" candidate in large part because he promised not to waiver and govern by polls. He's kept that promise, even when others have condemned him for it, whether the subject was Iraq, stem cell research, the economy, or tax cuts. Future generations will wonder why so many on the left opposed him.

UPDATE: So much for the Democrats tying strings to troop funding.

Bloggers Regurgitated White House Talking Points? Really?

I swear, they never contacted me. I almost met George W. Bush once when visiting Austin, but I didn't even get that. And I only offer up stuff I agree with in the first place. Even lefties do that, although they
seem to think this is different from just letting 'em tell you themselves.

Frankly, Dan Barlett is just plain wrong on this one. Sure, rightwing bloggers quote the administration...when they agree with the administration. But that hasn't stopped any rightwing blog from taking the president to task when he's waaaay off. As Captain Ed points out, if the rightwing blogs just regurgitate administration talking points, how does he explain Harriet Miers, Dubai ports, and George Bush's immigration debacle?

Boy Scouts Lose in Philadelphia

Philadelphia has kicked the Boy Scouts of America out of their historic home in the Beaux Arts building.

I hope depriving hundreds of children the opportunity to attend camps and programs is worth it to the city. Yet one more reason to avoid Philadelphia, along with crime and dirt.

Support the Boy Scouts of America here.

Ann Althouse has some interesting and thought-provoking commenters.

Now They Trust the NIE

Moonbats are howling that the latest NIE directly contradicts administration claims that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program. But why do they trust this report more than previous reports which didn't support their positions? Talk about selective intelligence!

UPDATE: John Bolton has an excellent op-ed piece dissecting the NIE.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Nanny State Strikes Again

If you needed evidence of nanny state encroachment, Highland Park, a tiny, well-to-do enclave in Dallas, has enacted a cell phone ban in school zones which took affect yesterday.

Is there really nothing more important to do in Highland Park than worry about people talking on cell phones in school zones? How many people have been killed in school zones by people talking on cell phones?

There's no information supporting the idea that children in school zones are in more danger from someone talking on the phone than from someone changing CDs in their stereo or eating a Whataburger taquito, but that didn't stop University Park (another Dallas suburb) from enacting the same stupid ban today.

What has happened to my wonderful state? I mean, Texans tend to support smaller, less intrusive government and more individual freedom. You can carry a shotgun in plain sight here as well as kill intruders on your property...even if it's twice in the same month.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of busybodies (cue David Harsanyi here) who think we're too stupid to take care of ourselves. That's why you get sites like this one trying to rationalize yet another attempt to legislate common sense.

Personally, I see these new nanny laws as utterly unworkable. How do the police prove you were on the phone? Are they really going to subpoena your phone records for a $75 ticket? I doubt it. It seems like it would be easy enough to beat this ticket.

The truth is, you can't legislate common sense, and some people are not logical when they are behind the wheel of a car. That's why you periodically see the stories about people eating, hunting CDs, swatting their children, reading, applying makeup, or doing any of a dozen other things while driving a car. It's simple There's already laws against reckless driving. Just enforce those and you won't have to worry about whether the person was refereeing a fight in the backseat or talking on the cell phone.

A Bear Named Jesus

We haven't talked about The View since nutbag Rosie O'Donnell left, but the Bear-Named-Mohammed controversy has brought the crazies out of the woodwork.

Via HotAir, Barbara Walters tries to compare the Muslims who wanted to cut off Gillian Gibbons's head with Christians who might object to a teddy bear named Jesus. Thank God, Whoopi Goldberg brought some sanity to the discussion (never thought I'd say that) by saying a teddy bear named Jesus would be considered a good thing.

There might be some people who would object to someone naming a teddy bear Jesus. There are always people objecting to just about anything one does. But it wouldn't be the first Biblical name used in modernity (for the record, I once named a cat Jezabel, but there's a whole other story behind that). And even if some Christians objected to a teddy bear named Jesus, they wouldn't call for the arrest of the person who did it, nor for that person's execution.

Liberals need to quit trying to equate Christianity--even in its most radical forms found in the U.S.--with radical Islam. There's just no equal threat from Christianity, particularly as it is practiced in this country.

Here's the clip:

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Jefferson Must Not Have Read Roe

According to Thomas Jefferson,

"Laws are made for men of ordinary understanding and should,
therefore, be construed by the ordinary rules of common sense.
Their meaning is not to be sought for in metaphysical subtleties
which may make anything mean everything or nothing at pleasure."

Of course, the same could be said about all those courts "finding" gay marriage rights in their state constitutions, as well. As I told Jeromy Brown, if they didn't discover the right for 200 years, it wasn't there.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Subprime Lending and Predatory Practices

This Wall Street Journal article points out an interesting side note to the current housing crunch: many of the people in subprime loans could have qualified for conventional ones.

The reasons someone would go for the riskier loans are complex, but mostly boil down to risk-taking. Many people simply thought they could beat the system.

Of course, anyone who's gone to Las Vegas knows that the odds are stacked against them. That doesn't stop thousands of people from wasting their money in casinos and slot machines anyway. Subprime mortgages seemed a similar risk for some people.

The terrible part of the mortgage process is that lenders aren't required to give you the best deal for which you qualify. Like the car salesman who sold my 81-year-old father (Dad has Alzheimer's) a car over the phone, mortgage dealers just had to make sure borrowers signed on the bottom line.

There are calls for the government to "do something." Some sites compare the housing bubble burst to the Crash of 1929. I don't think this is anything like that, but it seems to me that some of these predatory practices do need to be curbed. Borrowers aren't necessarily that smart when they are dreaming.

Ahh, Songs from the 80s

National Debt Grows at $1 Million per Minute

That's the scary headline for this AP article.

The national debt — the total accumulation of annual budget deficits — is up from $5.7 trillion when President Bush took office in January 2001 and it will top $10 trillion sometime right before or right after he leaves in January 2009...

Over the next 25 years, the number of Americans aged 65 and up is expected to almost double. The work population will shrink and more and more baby boomers will be drawing Social Security and Medicare benefits, putting new demands on the government's resources.

These guaranteed retirement and health benefit programs now make up the largest component of federal spending. Defense is next. And moving up fast in third place is interest on the national debt, which totaled $430 billion last year.

Aggravating the debt picture: the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates could cost $2.4 trillion over the next decade.

Oddly, while the story talks about the contributions the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan make to the national debt, and even discuss the looming problems of Social Security, there's no mention of the earmarks Democrats have tried to stuff into every piece of legislation they've passed. Nor does the article point out that war requisitions are temporary, unlike, say funding for the hippie museum or the money Congressmen send home to their districts just to make them happy.

Selective outrage? Could be.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

It Must Get Tiring Being So Paranoid

A man with a history of mental illness took hostages yesterday and some commenters jump to their usual conclusions:

Swampcracker: Although it is not logical to blame the actions of a disturbed person on the political leadership of this country; nevertheless, I do blame the leadership for their "take-no-prisoners" partisanship of the past 7 years.

The Republican field of candidates have been especially two-faced in joking about the use of the "B" word and pandering to it when they should have condemned it.

This kind of political rhetoric appeals to our worst instincts ... and the most unhinged and emotionally unstable elements within our society.

It turns out the man is mentally ill and was scheduled for a domestic violence hearing yesterday. He wanted to talk to Hillary Clinton about mental health care.

Unlike the kook fringe, I figured that this man went to Hillary's campaign headquarters for reasons other than that he was a white man, a redneck, a Republican, a misogynist or...well, you get the idea. But, unfortunately, if your ideology is based on paranoia and fear, then you assume everybody else is the same way.

It's a good thing Republicans have better mental health than others. We don't have to do this stuff.

UPDATE: Americanneocon, in the comments, points to this terrific analysis by Ann Althouse of Hillary Clinton's reaction to the event. I agree with her 100%; Hillary's reaction is totally inappropriate. She could have used the opportunity to say something political ("I'd like to include mental health care in my plan," etc., etc.), but, instead, went to the emotional ploy, which I don't think works for her anyway. She says she reacted "like a mother." WTH does that mean? I don't want a Commander in Chief reacting emotionally when making foreign policy decisions. I want someone shrewd and calculating, constantly concerned about America's interests. Save the tears for private life.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Republicans Have Better Mental Health Than Others

Remember those studies liberals like to link to that call conservatism a disease? Well, maybe liberals think it's a disease, but Republicans actually report much better mental health than others, including liberals.

Republicans are significantly more likely than Democrats or independents to rate their mental health as excellent, according to data from the last four November Gallup Health and Healthcare polls. Fifty-eight percent of Republicans report having excellent mental health, compared to 43% of independents and 38% of Democrats. This relationship between party identification and reports of excellent mental health persists even within categories of income, age, gender, church attendance, and education.

Unsurprising, really.

Something That Fits My Mood Today...

And I love Rascal Flatts!

Book Review: That's Not News, That's Fark

When I first saw Drew Curtis's book at the library, I knew just from the subtitle it was going to be a great book. The subtitle is How Mass Media Tries to Pass Off Crap as News.

Curtis runs, a site devoted to all the garbage the networks, newspapers, cable, and radio try to pass off as news. Now Curtis has put together a book categorizing this junk into lists ranging from "Fearmongering" to "The Out-of-Context Celebrity Quote" to "Equal Time for Nutjobs."

You don't have to get far into Fark before you start recognizing the stories. Remember those stories about how bacteria is going to kill us all? Or the runaway bride (my God, she's got a Wikipedia entry!)? Or Justice Scalia's rude gesture? Yep, those are all examples of the crap media parades for us as news.

It's easy to identify the junk. Every top 10 list qualifies as well as every natural disaster, even those that didn't quite live up to expectations. And let's not even start with the how to articles.

Walter Cronkite once stated that almost everything that appears on the nightly news isn't news, it's filler. He was right when he said it, and the news has only gotten worse since then.

What Curtis points out (in his very humorous way) is that real news could be boiled down to a (roughly) 5 minute broadcast. The problem is, of course, that the 24-hour news cycle has created a need for news whether that news is real, fake, manufactured, or "fake but accurate."

Fark is a fun read and makes me remember some of my funnier moments in journalism. In fact, reading Fark is a bit like sitting in a bar nursing a beer with Curtis (I'd find that entertaining), only without the beer and, well, the bar. Very few books make me laugh out loud or say, "Honey, listen to this," but Fark has both. I'd recommend Fark to any recovering journalist (like me) or anyone interested in news. Even if you didn't learn anything, you'd be entertained. Which is a little like junk news, eh?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Were We Right Not to Trust the CNN/YouTube Debate?

I originally had that title as a statement, but now that I've thought about it more, I'm not so sure. Michelle Malkin has the round-up of plants at the CNN/YouTube debate. Sadly, it was predictable that the "questioners" weren't really interested in Republican candidates at all. There were multiple Democrat candidate supporters among the supposed "independents."

Mary Katherine Ham has more.

Captain Ed thinks the questioners were suspect but the questions fine. I tend to agree that our candidates need to be able to handle the tough questions. I don't like obfuscation, though.

It's Fun Watching Liberals in a Snit

Echidne of the Snakes got her panties in a wad (yes, Echidne, that word choice was intentional. Now go make a whole post on how misogynist it is) because I pointed out that the way she gives thanks on Thanksgiving is by giving a "thoughtful" (some would say "puckered") view of life which included blasting multiple groups with which she disagrees. So exemplifies liberal "thanksgiving."

Judging from her comments, what bothered her most was that I had the audacity to criticize her at my own blog. The horror! It's not like that sort of thing doesn't happen all the time when lefty blogs have a bone to pick with me. But revealingly, she was most upset that I said I wouldn't tolerate "twisting my arguments" in my comments. Now, in classic style, challenging her arguments is twisting them.

On a recent thread, one concerning how badly women are faring in Iraq, she stated,

I was opposed to the Iraq invasion for many reasons, and especially for the reasons of avoiding unnecessary blood-letting(.)

My response was
So, the blood-letting under Saddam Hussein was necessary?

According to Echidne this was "twisting her argument." As I tried to explain, there was no twisting involved; we had a ruthless dictator who gassed his own people, invaded his neighbors, supported terrorists (by paying their families), and attempted to have the POTUS assassinated as head of state in Iraq. If there were ever "unnecessary blood-letting," I would say that qualified and that, by comparison, the pain of war was more understandable (if not "necessary").

Echidne has gone on to set up a few strawman arguments to support the contention that I was "twisting" her argument as opposed to challenging her assumption, but the point is the same. What is "unnecessary blood-letting" and who decides? Must one make a list of "World's Most Ruthless Dictators" and cross each off the list in order before one can consider action anywhere?

What I mainly noticed was that Echidne avoided my original question: was the blood-letting under Saddam necessary?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Dear Hollywood

Dear Hollywood,
Have you gotten the message yet? Has the complete failure of every anti-American movie you've produced over the last two years driven home the news that Americans won't support anti-American war movies?

You'd think when Syriana tanked that those greedy Hollywood moguls would have understood. But no, they just kept producing terrible film after terrible film, portraying American soldiers as rapists and murderers. They star big Hollywood names, which is usually a box office draw. But no, Americans still refuse to watch that propaganda. And Hollywood can't even blame the writers' strike for their woes.

Maybe what you need is some therapy, Hollywood. You know, for your Bush Derangement Syndrome? For your hatred of our liberation of Iraq from a ruthless dictator? It's funny (well, not really). I thought the left cared about human rights. That's why you were so against human rights abuses (the real kind, I mean. You know, where people get stuffed into woodchippers and things like that). But no. You're too busy making stuff up and saying that it's emblematic of what Americans are doing in Iraq.

It's sad, very sad, watching Hollywood destroy any remaining credibility on its BDS. Maybe in 50 years, they can produce a movie that actually shows Americans doing something right for a change. Until then, we'll just have to keep boycotting their crap.

Bill Clinton Lies Again...Is Anyone Surprised?

Bill Clinton just flat out lies about his thoughts on Iraq in this New York Times piece.

During a campaign swing for his wife, former President Bill Clinton said flatly yesterday that he opposed the war in Iraq “from the beginning” — a statement that is more absolute than his comments before the invasion in March 2003.

Before the invasion, Mr. Clinton did not precisely declare that he opposed the war. A week before military action began, however, he did say that he preferred to give weapons inspections more time and that an invasion was not necessary to topple Saddam Hussein.

At the same time, he also spoke supportively about the 2002 Senate resolution that authorized military action against Iraq.

It's hard to support a resolution authorizing military action then assert that you didn't support invasion, but Bill Clinton--the man who didn't know what the definition of "is" is--tries again.

Sweetness & Light has video from 1998 when Clinton ordered bombing in Iraq. Some speculated that it was an attempt to distract from his impeachment hearings (heavens, no!), but let's suppose he really meant it when he said:
Saddam Hussein must not be allowed to threaten his neighbors or the world with nuclear arms, poison gas or biological weapons.

It's hard to square that statement--or his support of the Senate resolution authorizing military action--with the idea that he "never" supported the war in Iraq.

Remember, we'll get four to eight more years of this crap if you elect Hillary. And conservatives aren't the only ones groaning at the thought of this. Liberals are too.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Why Do States Legalize Marriage?

Stephen Coontz asks that question in this piece at the New York Times today. His conclusions, however, are both simplistic and naive.

Coontz characterizes the origins of legal marriage accurately. Nearly anything was considered a "licit" marriage by the early church, including the simple act of living in the same house. It was only as the state started recognizing various obligations and benefits that the idea of "legal marriage" came into being. And by the 1950s and 1960s, the state was using marriage as the vehicle to determine a variety of benefits.

The Social Security Act provided survivors’ benefits with proof of marriage. Employers used marital status to determine whether they would provide health insurance or pension benefits to employees’ dependents. Courts and hospitals required a marriage license before granting couples the privilege of inheriting from each other or receiving medical information.

Coontz points out (quite correctly) that marriage was easy shorthand for legitimacy since very few people cohabited. But, he argues, marriage shouldn't be that marker any longer because so many people do cohabit these days.

The problem with this argument was that people used all sorts of shorthand to signify marriage because there was no standard available to them. And let's face it; if you were 50 miles from the nearest clergy, jumping the broomstick would seem to satisfy the bill.

But that's not true of today's cohabiting couples. They can marry any time of the day or night (if you go to Vegas) and there are nearly no restrictions on who can marry whom. There aren't even blood tests required in most jurisdictions anymore. So, why not get married?
As Nancy Polikoff, an American University law professor, argues, the marriage license no longer draws reasonable dividing lines regarding which adult obligations and rights merit state protection. A woman married to a man for just nine months gets Social Security survivor’s benefits when he dies. But a woman living for 19 years with a man to whom she isn’t married is left without government support, even if her presence helped him hold down a full-time job and pay Social Security taxes. A newly married wife or husband can take leave from work to care for a spouse, or sue for a partner’s wrongful death. But unmarried couples typically cannot, no matter how long they have pooled their resources and how faithfully they have kept their commitments.

Possession of a marriage license is no longer the chief determinant of which obligations a couple must keep, either to their children or to each other. But it still determines which obligations a couple can keep — who gets hospital visitation rights, family leave, health care and survivor’s benefits. This may serve the purpose of some moralists. But it doesn’t serve the public interest of helping individuals meet their care-giving commitments.

Coontz doesn't address the real reason the state uses marriage as a determiner for benefits: the marital designation signifies a permanency (however fictional this may be in modern times) of the relationship. In other words, shacking up with someone may be nice for a few months or so, but nothing tells the state you plan to stick together like marriage. This is, after all, one of the arguments gay marriage supporters use: that they desire the government to recognize the permanency of their choices.

But above all, the state has the right to determine which relationships it will encourage and which it will simply remain neutral about. That's essentially the difference between cohabiting (or gay relationships) and marriage. The main reason the state sanctions marriage is because of its beneficial effects for children (and also adults). Because parents caring for their own children tend to be less of a burden for the state, it is logical for the state to encourage this relationship.

But cohabiting couples don't necessarily have the same beneficial effect on society as married couples do. And contrary to popular belief, cohabiting couples are less likely to get married than couples who don't live together.

It's sad that we live in a time where people genuinely don't seem to understand why marriage is an important marker, both for governmental purposes and more private ones. But then again, maybe that reinforces the argument used against altering marriage laws: marriage is supposed to mean something, not be just another "licit" act.

Taking Competition Too Far

I've heard beauty pageants are very competitive, but I never realized people resort to sabotage to win. But that's what happened in Puerto Rico:

Beauty pageant organizers were investigating Sunday who doused a contestant's evening gowns with pepper spray and spiked her makeup, causing her to break out in hives.

Beauty queen Ingrid Marie Rivera beat 29 rivals to become the island's 2008 Miss Universe contestant, despite applying makeup and wearing evening gowns that had been coated with pepper spray, pageant spokesman Harold Rosario said.

Rivera was composed while appearing before cameras and judges throughout the competition. But once backstage, she had to strip off her clothes and apply ice bags to her face and body, which swelled and broke out in hives twice.

"We thought at first it was an allergic reaction, or maybe nerves," Rosario said. "But the second time, we knew it couldn't have been a coincidence."

Rivera's clothing and makeup later tested positive for pepper spray.

Someone also stole Rivera's bag containing her gowns, makeup and credit cards. And a bomb threat forced pageant officials to postpone the last day of competition on Thursday, said Magali Febles, director of the Miss Puerto Rico Universe pageant.

Sounds a little too competitive to me.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Is What It Takes Really What It Takes?

Mark Halperin questions the current political theology: that the candidate who does best in the race is the best person for president.

Halperin takes our most recent presidents (Bill Clinton and George W. Bush) and uses them as examples for why being the best candidate might not make one the best president.

For instance, being all things to all people worked wonderfully well for Bill Clinton the candidate, but when his presidency ran into trouble, this trait was disastrous, particularly in the bumpy early years of his presidency and in the events leading up to his impeachment. The fun-loving campaigner with big appetites and an undisciplined manner squandered a good deal of the majesty and power of the presidency, and undermined his effectiveness as a leader. What much of the country found endearing in a candidate was troubling in a president.

I think Halperin is right about Clinton's government-by-polls approach to governing. While it sounded nice originally (who doesn't want a president that is responsive to the people?), eventually, it became very problematic when President Clinton wound up backtracking late in his presidency over issues he seemed to embrace earlier (I personally gave up on Clinton the day he said the 1993 tax hikes--which many of us had defended to family and friends--might have been too big). In short, most people aren't consistent in their opinions from day to day. Governing by those opinions is bound to lead to trouble.

This was also one of the reasons many people flocked to George W. Bush as a candidate who "said what he meant and meant what he said." It was refreshing to have someone who wasn't going to equivocate over the meaning of the word "is" or bring a trail of sordid scandals through the White House. But Halperin discusses the downside of Bush's style.
As with Mr. Clinton, though, the very campaign strengths that got Mr. Bush elected led to his worst moments in office. Assuredness became stubbornness. His lack of lifelong ambition for the presidency translated into a failure to apply himself to the parts of the job that held less interest for him, often to disastrous effects. The once-appealing life outside of government and public affairs became a far-less appealing lack of experience. And Mr. Bush’s close-knit team has served as a barrier to fresh advice.

Unfortunately, whenever we get into these "the system is broke" arguments, there never seems to be a better option than the one we already exercise. Sure, it would be nice if we could rely on the primary system to actually pick the best president, but that doesn't seem to work that well. But what is the alternative?

Archbishop: U.S. "Worst" Imperialist

Sometimes, you want to tell the clergy--politely--to spend its time dealing with some of its more pressing problems as opposed to pontificating on things it obviously doesn't understand and cannot control.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has said that the United States wields its power in a way that is worse than Britain during its imperial heyday.

Really? Worse than the way Britain treated its American colonies, for example? Worse than the abuses which led directly to our third amendment or the Boston Tea Party?

Oh, the Archbishop wasn't talking about the way the British treated us. He was talking about India.
He contrasted it unfavourably with how the British Empire governed India. “It is one thing to take over a territory and then pour energy and resources into administering it and normalising it. Rightly or wrongly, that’s what the British Empire did — in India, for example.

“It is another thing to go in on the assumption that a quick burst of violent action will somehow clear the decks and that you can move on and other people will put it back together — Iraq, for example.”

Oddly enough, I don't recall President Bush ever suggesting that we would use "a quick burst of violent action" and then "move on." I hardly think the trillions we've spent in rebuilding Iraqi infrastructure can be accurately characterized as "moving on" and letting "other people" put the country back together again.

Oddly enough, if the Archbishop had spent his time dealing with the impending split in his own church, he might not stand accused of waiting for "other people" to put it back together again.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Conservatives Just Aren't Fun, According to Zogby

Want to know who to invite to your next party? According to this Zogby poll, invite a bunch of liberals and moderates. The conservatives are all a bunch of prudes.

Ok, it doesn't say that exactly, but here's how it describes conservative entertainment:

People with a “red” entertainment preference think a lot of programming is in bad taste and doesn’t reflect their values. They don’t like a lot of things on TV, but their two favorite channels are Fox and Fox News. They like sports, especially football and auto racing, and they watch news and business programming. They don’t like most contemporary music and they don’t watch VH1 or MTV. They don’t much like late-night TV. They like to go to sporting events, and when they do go to the movies – which is rarely – they seek out action-adventure films. They’re not big book readers, but when they do read, they prefer non-fiction. When they read fiction, they often select mysteries and thrillers. They are more likely to listen to country and gospel than other people, but their favorite music is classical. They don’t play a lot of video games, but when they do, Madden NFL and Mario are their favorites. They think that fictional TV shows and movies are politically biased, and they believe they can predict a person’s politics if they know the person’s entertainment preferences.

Talk about a bunch of sticks-in-the-mud! When I see poll results like this, I have to question who got polled and when. I don't find it hard to believe, for example, that conservatives don't like much of what's on TV. There's not really much there to like unless you like political brainwashing, lowbrow humor, or political brainwashing disguised as drama. It's no wonder conservatives lean toward reality shows; it's harder to get the liberal storyline into those.

I take issue with some of the other findings. For example, conservatives like classical music more than country? Maybe in New York City, but not anywhere else. And it's small wonder conservatives like non-fiction better than fiction. Conservatives tend to be analytical and reflective.

And who should wonder that conservatives think TV shows and movies are politically biased? Anyone who's looked at the box office over the last few months would notice a certain pattern. If Hollywood wants conservatives to start going to the movies, produce more movies like Bella and make movies where our soldiers aren't the bad guys.

Unlike the conservatives, who (I guess) sit around picking their toenails for entertainment, liberals love the entertainment media.
People with a “blue” entertainment preference like many of (sic) different types of programming, even if it doesn’t reflect their taste or values. They shy away from a lot of primetime programming, especially game shows and reality TV, but they like comedies, drama, documentaries, news, and arts and educational programming. They love 60 Minutes, PBS, HBO, Comedy Central and The Daily Show. They go to the movies, where they often see comedies, and they like to go to live theater and museums and galleries. They read books more often than most people – they prefer fiction to non-fiction, but their favorite genre is politics and current events. They enjoy entertainment with political themes, and they feel like they learn about politics from entertainment. Sports are less interesting to them, but football is their favorite, and they’re more likely to follow soccer than other people. They like lots of different kinds of music (except country) and they watch MTV and VH1. They play video games a lot more than other people – Mario and The Sims are favorites.

Again, I have to wonder how this poll was done. Are people simply self-identifying? When I was more liberal, I thought I liked watching, reading, and listening to a variety of opinions, too. The problem is that most of those opinions actually came from the left, whether it was watching 60 Minutes, listening to NPR, or watching a political thriller (which invariably had a conservative bad guy that I thought was just true to life, not a stereotype). And I have no doubt liberals think they learn about politics from entertainment since entertainment is full of their values and beliefs.

Finally, there were the moderates, a group Zogby called "purples."
People with “purple” entertainment preferences like all the broadcast networks and a lot of primetime programming, including police procedurals, game shows and reality programming. They watch a lot of Fox News and they like daytime and children’s programming more than other people. Moderates like to read non-fiction, including self-help books and biographies, but they like mysteries and thrillers best. Rock music is their favorite – they don’t like classical or folk music as much as other people. Their favorite video games are Mario, Donkey Kong and Madden NFL. They don’t seek out entertainment with political themes and they are far less likely to read books about politics or current events than other people. They are less likely than other people to think that they can predict a person’s politics based on their entertainment preferences.

So, moderates don't know anything about politics, like to watch children's programming and read self-help books. That pretty well sums up the stereotype of a moderate, doesn't it?

Again, I'm not sure who Zogby actually talked to for this survey. It doesn't sound like they talked to any real conservatives because almost everything stated about conservatives sounds either stereotypical (they find political bias around every corner!) or just plain wrong (they prefer classical music!). And given the widespread popularity of games like World of Warcraft and other games, I find it impossible to believe that conservatives don't play games.