Let me say publicly that DonBoy’s answer exudes a combination of intuitive genius and confidence that make me think DonBoy is going to do big things in his life. -- Steven D. Levitt (Freakonomics blog)
Thursday, August 28, 2003

From this:

Ashcroft had planned on launching the anti-obscenity initiative back in 2001, but was sidetracked by the 9/11 terror attacks. Now the issue is once again a priority for the Justice Department.

Thank God that terror thing is all fixed then.
Sunday, August 24, 2003
Don't hold back, Dave, what do you really think?

David Neiwert (Orcinus) has a masterpiece of controlled fury up today, on the difference between "Clinton haters" and "Bush haters". It's quite long, starts out at "calmly angry" and ends up at "as angry as one can get and still be completely clear and convincing". The thing I admire is how long he holds this latter note, without ever become -- as they say -- shrill. His conclusion:
Contrast this, then, with the accusations inveighed by Clinton-haters -- all of which were utterly without foundation and predicated on vicious smears and wild accusations, and all of which were about the Clintons' personal characters, not about their policies or their abilities at conducting it.

Like the Clinton-haters, "Bush haters" think his presidency is illegitimate. The difference, however, is that the "Bush haters" have rational grounds for claiming that. Clinton-haters argued that Clinton was "illegitimate" because he only won a plurality of the popular vote; however, after 2000, they stopped arguing that point. Funny, that.

What may surprise these conservatives -- as well as the DLC types like Al From who preach a nice, spineless brand of Democratic activism -- is that "Bush haters" don't really hate Bush. Oh, some do. But most are simply very angry at the fact that he holds the office, and are determined to see him removed.

They don't necessarily think Bush is despicable. They believe he is incompetent

They don't think Bush is a Nazi or a 'New World Order' conspirator. But they do believe he is manifestly unfit for office.

In 2004, guys like Rich Lowry will learn the meaning of that difference -- and why it matters to millions of middle-of-the-road, perfectly centrist "Bush haters."

Because reality has a nasty habit of biting back at the people who think they can control it.

From his lips to God's ear.
Saturday, August 23, 2003
A white hat virus?

I was noticing that ZoneAlarm was reporting piles and piles of pings to my machine, all from I went over to the home of Shields Up, to retest my Internet invisibility, and read this:

Although no worm designed to infiltrate and make uninvited modifications to a user's computer can seriously be called "good", researchers have discovered a new Internet worm which attempts to remove the previous worms and patches the vulnerable system by downloading and installing Microsoft's DCOM/RPC updates.

As a side effect of its scanning for vulnerable machines, this new worm generates a great deal of ICMP traffic, which firewall log watchers are seeing and have been reporting.>

So..uh...good on them! I guess.
Whatever happened to Instapunditwatch, anyway?

The thing about Instapundit, sometimes, is how obvious the counters to his positions are. Here's a couple from the last 24 hours:
IT WASN'T EVEN CLOSE: Al Franken won his publicity victory lawsuit with Fox. No surprise. He was right; they were wrong.

Now if he were just funny. . . .

Like that "publicity victory" crack? Makes you think for a second that getting sued by one the world's media powerhouses had been Franken's sneaky idea, which it wasn't. Also, Glenn, when you sigh that the people satirizing your side just aren't funny, dammit, it's not very convincing. Yes, I'm sure you're the soul of impartial humor judgement.

Moving along: this one isn't his own, but quoted approvingly:
A cement truck laden with explosives plows into the Baghdad headquarters of the United Nations and, presto-chango, there are "terrorists" in Iraq. That's right, not "guerrillas," not "resistance fighters," but "terrorists." And the press is appalled at their wickedness. Suddenly journalists and pundits who could scarcely bring themselves to utter the T-word now find themselves compelled to use it. Strange how when a U.S. serviceman is killed while guarding a hospital or when Israeli women and children are obliterated on a city bus, the perpetrators are often referred to as "militants," "extremists," or simply "bombers" and "gunmen." But when U.N. officials are the victims... Pardon me. Considering who does the talking, it isn't strange at all.

Oh, horse doody. First of all, if anyone thinks that "bombers", "gunmen", or even "extremists" are neutral terms, they're not good at reading nuance. Second, if we're talking about if there are terrorists in Iraq, dragging in coverage of suicide bombings in Israel isn't relevant, but gosh it's a powerful example, isn't it? Third, since we're supposedly talking about terrorism in Iraq, then, yes, servicemen getting shot isn't terrorism; blowing up a civilian office building is. Fourth, to play this game, you're supposed to give us links: saying that some people called something guerilla warfare last week, and some (other?) people called something else terrorism this week, doesn't wash.
Friday, August 22, 2003
Also, the 'K' sound is always funny

Fox News proves conclusively that it has no sense of humor by including this sentence in their reaction to their court smackdown today:
"We don't care if it's Al Franken, Al Lewis or Weird Al Yankovic," he said. "We're here to protect our trademark and our talent."

No, no, no. Those 3 Als are roughly equal in amusement. It's got to be something like "We don't care if it's Al Franken or al Jazeera". See, that was easy.
Whaddayou, some kinda conspiracy nut?

According to Balloon Juice, the idea that clandestine US forces bombed the UN in Baghdad in order to assassinate Sergio Vieria de Mello is ludicrous conspiracy thinking. OK, I think so too.

On the other hand, according to Roger Simon, quoted approvingly by Instapundit, it's perfect reasonable specualtion that the UN itself blew up its own compound, to destroy the evidence of the UN's purported massive corruption -- Simon names Kofi Annan specifically, which makes it even nicer. So I guess that's not wacky conspiracy nuttery.
Wednesday, August 20, 2003
Interesting bad argument

There's a very long (and heated) (and closed) (and kind of old, but I just saw it recently) thread up at "Mrs. Du Toit" that starts with an argument that's stuck in my head, because although I think it's wrong, it's wrong in an interesting way, and is similar to some arguments on the other side that are right. Here's the opening volley:

Let's imagine for a moment that a 45-year old man decided he no longer wanted the responsibilities of being an adult and wanted to surrender his adulthood. He found another person who was willing to go along with the idea and support him--that the man could call "Daddy." He decided that he no longer wanted to be referred to as an "adult" and insisted that everyone refer to him as a "child". Further, he demanded that the government recognize his decision and the decision of the "Daddy," and demanded that he receive the social security death benefits entitled to other "parents."

Now this "child" decides to go to court to become the legal adoptee of the pseudo-parent. He intends to be placed in day care, and wants the employer of the "Daddy" to be forced to pay the bill (since they extend day care benefits to other parents).

Sound nuts? Of COURSE it's nuts!!!!!

Should this person get to redefine what a "child" is? Should they get to redefine what a parent is? Should they get to redefine what benefits they are entitled to (both from the government and private companies who extend benefits to people) based on certain definitions? They can certainly redefine it for themselves, but do they get to insinuate THEIR definition on EVERYONE ELSE?

But that is exactly the situation that has been set in motion with the "gay marriage" issue.

Here's what I find interesting about this: all of the effective work in the argument is being done by one thing, which is the idea of a fully-grown man putting himself in day care. I agree that there's no way to stretch the meaning of "child", as opposed to "adult", to cover "45-year-old who wishes to declare himself a child". Grownup in daycare, eew eew eew. But the next move is to use that "eew" to discredit the idea of redefining "child", as in "child of another", to include more than what might be called its core meaning. Now let's write another analogy:

Let's imagine for a moment that a 45-day old infant is abandoned by its parents, either by their choice or by their death. Some married couple becomes aware of this situation, and volunteers to to be called the infant's "mommy" and "daddy". Furthermore, they demand that the government recognize their decision, and demand that the infant (eventually) receive the social security death benefits entitled to other "children".

Now the "parents" intend to place in infant in day care, and wants the employer of the "Daddy" to be forced to pay the bill (since they extend day care benefits to other parents).

OK, you probably got the point on that way before the end. Obviously, I've just described adoption, which consists of taking the idea of "parent" and stretching it beyond its meaning of (loosely) "one who gives birth to, or fertilizes the egg of one who goves birth to, someone else". We don't have a Defence of Parenthood Act that insists that no such relationship can be called "parenthood".

So some relationship words, at least, can be stretched, and we get to choose, collectively, what stretches we can accept. If you don't accept this one, you don't, but you can't simply justify that by throwing out all flexibility. Consider also that the law recognizes corporations as persons in many contexts, which is to mind a much bigger stretch than relaxing gender restrictions in a marriage.

Mrs. Du Toit also goes on into that most beloved of arguments, the dictionary argument, in which she quotes several sources in order to establish that which nobody has denied, which is that current dictionaries define marriage as a relationship between a man and woman. Yes! We know! Thanks! We're discussing whether we should change that. I imagine people like this in urban renewal meetings:

A: We're thinking about putting in a road between the river and this bridge. Do you think that would be a good idea?
B: Don't be ridiculous. There's no such road on my map.
A: Yes. I know. We're talking about building a road there.
B: Look, can't you read a map? [Waves map around].


Update: I think a key difference between the two cases here is that one attempts to redefine the word "child", as a stand-alone concept; the other attempts to redefine the words "parent" and "child" as a relationship. Maybe can mess around with relationships better than we can with pure definitions.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003
Enemy of the state

Interesting (week-old) posting, on Lawrence Lessig's blog, from guest-blogger Dennis Kucinich. Excerpt:

I find myself having to explain to people why I, as a Presidential candidate, am repeatedly shuttled off to that special line of selectees identified by the SSSS stamped on my ticket. The transportation security agents inform me that a computer has made this decision. I want to know who programs the computer. Is it John Ashcroft?

Even though I don't feel as though I'm getting special treatment or that I'm entitled to special treatment, it makes me wonder how much of a threat I must be since I really do intend to replace the entire government. So when people occasionally recognize me getting the magic metal detector wanding and dutifully submitting to searches of my person, extending my arms and my legs spread-eagle, I explain with a smile, "I'm running against George Bush."

Friday, August 15, 2003
Report: Sauce for goose may not be sauce for gander

LA Weekly columnist Nikki Finke has a column in which she takes a contrarian view of the Arnold candidacy, calling it good for Democrats:
This post-millennium rarity of Republican Party leaders and pundits around the country rushing to embrace a show-biz celebrity campaigning in a political race -- even if this is only a semi-sane one -- has huge ramifications for the coming 2004 presidential and congressional elections. Because it re-enfranchises actor activists, who, if they've supported Democratic candidates or causes during the George W. administration, have been Bush-bullied to shut up, or sit out, or at least realize their stumping can be a PR nightmare.
Hard to believe it was only last year that Ohio Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tim Hagan, married to Star Trek: Voyager actress Kate Mulgrew, was harmed by a Republican fund-raising letter charging his campaign benefited “from friends in the Kennedy family and his connections to Hollywood.” In the case of Schwarzenegger, he’s married to a Kennedy and he’s the personification of Hollywood.

Even Fox News Channel and its clone MSNBC can’t miss the obvious hypocrisy of, on the one hand, discouraging Americans from listening to the political views of the steroid-salaried entertainment elite and, on the other, urging Californians to hang on every
public-policy word Schwarzenegger has yet to utter.

Which is why film and television producer Robert Greenwald, co-founder of the Hollywood anti–Iraq invasion group Artists United To Win Without War, is pointing out the inconsistency. “I look forward to all the folks on the Fox Network who busily attacked actors for having an opinion about the war coming forward and attacking the Terminator for running for office with no ideas, no plans and no platform.”

Which is all terribly logical and completely misses the point. "Liberal Hollywood" is a concept that's out there. "Liberal Hollywood" are the people who have no business having political opinions. People in Hollywood who are conservative aren't part of Liberal Hollywood, and they won't count.

(Stipulating that AS is conservative, which is hard to read from his explicit views but getting clearer as his team shapes up. No idea what's up with Rob Lowe.)

Credit: pointed to by Mark Evanier, who is spending way too much time writing imaginary stories for a non-existent 1960s Gold Key comic of the Dick Van Dyke Show. I'd call it fanfic but there's no Buddy/Mel action. Yet.
Why people have lost faith in polls

From Kristoff's Friday column:

Yet despite the lack of scientific or historical evidence, and despite the doubts of Biblical scholars, America is so pious that not only do 91 percent of Christians say they believe in the Virgin Birth, but so do an astonishing 47 percent of U.S. non-Christians[emphasis DonBoy].

So these people believe that JC was conceived under supernatural conditions, but are not "Christians". Does this mean that they believe that he was the son of God, but that the organized religion called Christianity doesn't represent him properly? Or do they believe everything in the basic Christian worldview as I understand it -- original sin, doomed to damnation, saved by the grace of God -- and just can't commit?
Tuesday, August 12, 2003
Nice work if you can get it

So far, Arnold Schwarzenegger's one campaign message has been: They're going to smear me, the scum. And maybe they are...but it depends what you mean by "smear". If we're talking about lies, that's one thing. But a lot of what he's worried about are things that are true but should be irrelevant: his father's Nazism, the drugs in his past (we'll assume) and sexual history. See, it's not fair to bring these up, because they have nothing to do with being Governor.

But none of his positives have anything to do with being Governor, either. He's running on fame, and nothing more. So he's trying to set it up so that irrelevant factors in his favor are on TV all day, every day, but irrelevant factors against him are not allowed. Slick, Arnie!
Sunday, August 03, 2003
Just being snide

Did you know that Glenn Reynolds is against jumping to conclusions? You wouldn't know it from the rest of his work.
Old Home Week

This is the reply Larry got when he sent mail to 41 Lanark Rd (our old house in London) asking permission to see the inside when he and Marian go over there next month:

Dear Larry

Thank you so much for your letter, and, greetings from 41, Lanark Road.

My name is Isobel B-------- and I live here with my husband, Richard and 2 year old daughter, Grace. We moved in during the summer of 2001 and absolutely love it - although sometimes the stairs exhaust me!! We bought the house from an Italian family who had 8 children so, as you can imagine with only 4 bedrooms, things were a tight squeeze and, after we moved in, we kept discovering secret beds fallings out of cupboards and flipping down from walls. As it turned out - the Head of the Italian family turned out to be a Terrorist who was behind some murders in the 1970's, so our neighbours were very pleased when we moved in as we are (relatively) normal.

You are most welcome to come and visit during your trip to London - I quite understand your curiosity. My parents recently sold the house in which me, my brother and my sister grew up and we are totally devastated - we did live there for 29 years though so it was an enormous wrench when they decided to sell.

The only time not suitable is between 9 and 11 on the morning of September 11 as my daughter is starting nursery school that day and I will have to spend a little time settling her in to the new environment.

My telephone number here is [redacted].

We look forward to seeing you.

Kind regards

Isobel B--------

Italian terrorists? Offhanded mention of Sept. 11? Very suspicious.
Department of Whatever

It's undisputed that the the department of "Homeland Security" is badly named -- "Orwellian" is the world most often used. I don't think it's been noted that one of the causes for the bad name is that at least 2 accurate names were already taken: "Department of Defense", and anything to do with "National Security". These two ideas have both been used to refer to projection of American military power in foreign countries for so long that the government had nothing left to refer to the concept of keeping Americans from being killed by national enemies in our own country. That's the truly Orwellian part.
Saturday, August 02, 2003
12 percent

If California recall law applied at the Federal level, it would take 12,643,596 signatures, collected over a period of 160 days, to force a recall. Think we could do it? (Y2000 election results here.)
Friday, August 01, 2003
Blogger to cops: Seek professional help

Interesting post at Slacktivist, covering familiar ground about people who are accused of crimes but are definitely, positively, provably inncocent...which can never be wholly prevented -- but this proposal is new:

Confronted with proof that the suspect is -- in fact and beyond any reasonable doubt -- innocent, police and prosecutors afflicted with Javert Syndrome seem to relive the trauma of the crime. They react to the exoneration of the initial suspect with the same gut-wrenching revulsion and resentment with which they reacted to the crime itself.

When this occurs, police and prosecutors need help -- and, yes, I mean help of the psychological and counseling kind -- to cope with the trauma they are experiencing and to rechannel their appropriate but misdirected desire for justice back into the reality of the case and the pursuit of the actual perpetrator. The enduring effects on the police and prosecutors suffering from this syndrome can be seen as a third kind of injustice. These personnel can be consumed by irresolvable resentment, anger, guilt and trauma. Like Hugo's Javert, they are not fated for a happy ending unless they find a way to change their course and escape from the emotional and professional cul de sac in which they find themselves trapped.

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