Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

New Location

I no longer blog at this site. I've moved to Bookworm Room. Please visit me there.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

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Saturday, March 18, 2006

I have moved to a new blog host

If you can read this, you're lucky. Blogger has been horrible this week, a plague that seems to be affecting many. For me, it's the straw that broke the camel's back, since I've been having lots and lots of Blogger problems over the last few months. While I'm incredibly grateful to Blogger for providing me with more than a year's worth of relatively easy, free blog hosting, I'm ready to start over. So -- my blog will henceforth be at WordPress. You can find it by clicking here. I'm struggling to figure out how to transfer all my data -- my stat counter, my Ecosystem information, my everything. So, if you've done this before, and you have advice, please send me an email at Bookwormroom@gmail.com. Also, please, please, please, if you'd be so kind: 1. Update your blogroll (assuming I'm already on it). 2. Let people know about my new address (I'd really appreciate that). Remember, henceforth, I'll be at http://bookwormroom.wordpress.com.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Who writes the history books?

DQ here, and my shows are at it again. This time it's Criminal Minds, who put forth an American Indian as a strawman. Of course the Indian turns out to be a hero, while the bad guy is a capitalist posing as a cult leader and his cult followers who are duped by him. Along the way we are treated to a history class told from the perspective of the Indians. You can imagine what that sounded like. For example, the reservations were described as "internment camps." But it brings to mind a question. The old saying is that the winners write the history books. This has the salutary effect of strengthening the culture and passing it on to subsequent generations in a positive light. So what happens when the losers (and, whatever else may be said about American Indians, they were the losers) write the history books? This is more than an idle question, since the Left, who has taken over American education, presents history more from the standpoint of the losers than the winners. Our kids are learning to hate the society they are raised in. What long term effects will this have on our society? I find it hard to imagine the effects will be positive.

Blech

Do you remember how, in 1960s sitcoms, there was a standard refrain of the amusing drunk? Bewitched had its stock drunk, who was always around to be witness to the various witches' comings and goings -- and, of course, no one believed him. The Dick Van Dyke show also liked to toy with drunks. Indeed, one of the funniest episodes ever had a hypnotist make it so that, every time the phone rang, Rob would act like a complete drunk, only to stop the next time the phone range, ad infinitum. Van Dyke's physical humor was perfect for this type of comedy. The only sad part watching this episode, with 20/20 hindsight, is to know that Van Dyke was sliding down into real dysfunctional alcoholism even as audiences of the time watched and laughed. The reason I'm thinking about this is because I went to a lunch party today and one of the guests got dysfunctionally drunk. It was not funny. It was embarrassing and disgusting. I'm not a great yardstick of these things, since I don't drink (I don't like the stuff, and I don't like anything that impairs my self-control, even minimally), but her conduct went beyond the pale to the point where everyone in the place was engrossed in the spectacle. What I wished, in a bizarre way, was that my kids could have had a glimpse of this. We've taught them, by pointing to friends who drink responsibly, that drinking alcohol can be a socially appropriate thing, but it's very hard to get them to understand why we place limits on that conduct. Seeing a sloppy, disgusting drunk is a great lesson about the downside of alcohol -- or, indeed, about the downside of abusing anything. UPDATE: When I wrote the above, I didn't realize that there is still a small group out there celebrating the "romance" of drunkeness. But so it is. I tuned into NationalReview Online and read the following:

At the beginning of his interview, Frank Kelly Rich apologizes for having missed an earlier interview we had scheduled. He was out conducting research for an article, he explains, and couldn’t be reached. By that he means he was out having a drink. Well, more than a drink. Actually, it was a “mini-bender.” It happens fairly often too.

“Sometimes they’ll be actual seven-day style ones, especially when I’m researching a story,” he said in a phone interview from his native Denver, Colorado.

Those kinds of work habits would get most people in trouble with the boss, but not Rich. Not only because he’s his own boss, but because his work literally demands serious drinking. Rich is the founder, editor, and guiding light behind Modern Drunkard Magazine.

Now in its tenth year, with a circulation around 35,000, the bi-monthly humor magazine celebrates all things related to drinking alcohol. For those who can’t find it on the newsstand, a compilation of its most popular articles was published last year.

Inspired by the likes of Frank Sinatra’s Rat Pack, poet Charles Bukowski, W. C. Fields, and countless others, Modern Drunkard recalls those earlier eras when getting hammered nightly was the height of coolness, not a cry for help. Its mission today is to preserve that culture against a rising tide of “neo-prohibitionism” that Rich says is slowly overtaking America.

He may be right about the "neo-prohibitionism" but, frankly, afterspending some time with a serious drunk, I'll take neo-prohibitionism any time. Talking to Technorati:

Thursday, March 16, 2006

I feel the eternal Caesar within me

This type of story is why I still like NPR -- you just won't hear this anywhere else and it's wonderful.

Be the first to know about the things that matter

Centcom has just published General Abizaid's statement about the 2006 posture of the United States Central Command. It's fascinating reading, insofar as it is both a log of accomplishments in three regions (Afghanistan, Iraq and the Horn of Africa), and a road map of plans and expectations for the coming year. To begin with, did you know how vast is CENTCOM's area of operations and responsibility?

The CENTCOM region spans 6.5 million square miles and 27 countries including Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Egypt, the countries of the Horn of Africa, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the countries of the Arabian Peninsula, Pakistan, and the Central Asian states as far north as Kazakhstan. It incorporates a nexus of vital transportation and trade routes, including the Red Sea, the Northern Indian Ocean, and the Arabian Gulf. It is home to the strategic maritime choke points of the Suez Canal, the Bab el Mandeb, and the Strait of Hormuz. It encompasses the world’s most energy-rich region – the Arabian Gulf alone accounts for 57% of the world’s crude oil reserves, 28% of the world’s oil production, and 41% of the world’s natural gas reserves. The more than 650 million people who live in the region make up at least 18 major ethnic groups of many nationalities and cultures. While predominantly Muslim, the region is home to adherents of all of the world's major religions. Human civilization had its birth in this region, with many cities dating back thousands of years. The diverse peoples of the region take understandable pride in their rich culture and history.
The statement doesn't hedge about the nature of the fight ahead of us. It's a tough one and a long one. (I can just hear the Democratic Senators in upcoming years saying that nobody every told them it was going to be a long war.)
Defeating al Qaida and associated ideological movements will require significant counterterrorism cooperation among our allies and partners not only within the CENTCOM AOR, but throughout the globe. It will also require the dedication of military, intelligence, and many other components of national power. Our network of allies and agencies will eventually defeat the al Qaida network, but we have yet to master the integration of national and international power to achieve success against this ruthless, borderless enemy. We have long experience with nation state warfare. We must, in the years ahead, learn to organize ourselves to defeat a stateless enemy capable of delivering state-like destruction without having state-like vulnerabilities. Defeating such an enemy requires a careful study of its clearly articulated strategy and vision.
I have to fault the report for having the usually PC pabulum about Islam being a religion of peace, but I suspect that, having described the conduct engaged in by its adherents, the General felt obligated to make a disclaimer:
This enemy seeks to topple local governments, establish a repressive and intolerant regional theocracy, and then extend its violence to the rest of the world. To effect such change, this enemy believes it must evict the United States and our Coalition allies from the region. Masking their true intentions with propaganda, rhetoric, and a sophisticated use of the mass media and the internet, this enemy exploits regional tensions and popular grievances. Al Qaida and its associated movements exhibit strategic patience and are willing to wait decades to achieve their goals. These extremists defame the religion of Islam by glorifying suicide bombing, by taking and beheading hostages, and by the wanton use of explosive devices that kill innocent people by the score. Their false jihad kills indiscriminately and runs contrary to any standard of moral conduct and behavior. The enemy’s vision of the future would create a region-wide zone that would look like Afghanistan under the Taliban. Music would be banned, women ostracized, basic liberties banished, and soccer stadiums used for public executions. The people of the region do not want the future these extremists desire. The more we talk about this enemy, the more its bankrupt ideology will become known. But more important, the more that regional leaders talk about and act against this enemy, the less attractive it will be. Osama bin Laden and Musab al Zarqawi cannot represent the future of Islam. Al Qaida and their allies are ruthless, giving them power beyond their relatively small numbers. They are masters of intimidation. Their depraved attacks menace entire communities and can influence the policies of national governments. They embrace asymmetric warfare, focusing their means on the innocent and defenseless. In Jordan, they target wedding parties. In Iraq, they murder children playing in the streets, doctors working in hospitals, and UN employees supporting Iraqi efforts to build their country. They respect no neutral ground.
Anyway, I won't quote the whole report, but I definitely think it's worth reading, so that you'll know at least as much as your Congressman.

Succinctly explaining judicial activism

Apparently Justice Ginsburg was recently in South Africa heaping disrespect on the American Constitution. (What is it lately with American public figures going abroad to denigrate America? Think Al Gore here.) Anyway, as noted in this Power Line post about Justice Ginsburg she summarized her whole judicial philosophy this way:

To a large extent, I believe, the critics in Congress and in the media misperceive how and why U.S. courts refer to foreign and international court decisions. We refer to decisions rendered abroad, it bears repetition, not as controlling authorities, but for their indication, in Judge Wald's words, of "common denominators of basic fairness governing relationships between the governors and the governed."
John, at PowerLine, comes back with the perfect response:
This is, to put it politely, nonsense. In our system of government, the courts are not called on to determine what "basic fairness governing relationships between the governors and the governed" requires. For legal purposes, issues of "basic fairness" were decided when the Constitution was authored and approved by the initial thirteen states, and when the document has been amended over the subsequent centuries. The real issue here is: what is the Constitution? Justice Scalia has famously noted that the Constitution is a legal document which, like all legal documents, says some things and does not say others. In Justice Ginsburg's view the Constitution is, on the contrary, a roving charter for nine individuals to decide what "basic fairness" requires. It should hardly be necessary to point out that the former understanding, which was universal until quite recently, is a charter of freedom, inasmuch as the people's representatives can vote on amendments. Conversely, the "basic fairness" approach is a form of tyranny in which a small elite can impose its policy preferences on the rest of us. It is also utterly unworkable. There is a reason why people reduce legal documents to writing: it's the only way to know what the deal is. Under Justice Ginsburg's approach, the "law" is ineffable. There is no way to know from one day to the next what it might be.
We can only wait for the day when Justice Ginsburg decides that she'd rather lie in the sun in her backyard and catch a few "Z's", than slog off to the Court every day. And we can only hope that we reaches this conclusion in the next two years. UPDATE: If you want to know how judges who are not judicial activitists view their responsibilities on the bench, and if you want to understand why their viewpoint is more consistent with the role the Constitution plays in America, read this article. Talking to Technorati: ,

No Ivy on my walls

My kids are still far away from college decisions, but I just loved Anne Morse's take on what's wrong with the Ivy Leagues, written as part of a longer article about why her son won't be going to Yale anytime soon:

There has always been a certain glamour attached to an Ivy League education, and many parents dream of seeing their children walk through those Ivy gates. But in recent years the tawdry behavior of Ivy League professors and administrators—at Yale and elsewhere — has tarnished that glamour. Harvard ousted a popular president for even entertaining the possibility of innate differences between men and women. At Princeton, one well-known professor advocates bestiality, while another allowed an artist to exhibit works blasphemous to Catholic students (while acknowledging that she would never permit Muslim students to be similarly insulted). Columbia naps while its professors engage in vicious anti-Semitism. During freshman orientation at Dartmouth last fall, students were ordered to stand and pledge allegiance to a gay pride flag. And on it goes. Parents expected to pony up their life’s savings, or take out crushing loans to fund such foolishness, cannot help wondering: Why are we even thinking of paying for this?
All I can say, you go, girl! Talking to Technorati: , , , , ,

This is why we shouldn't pay attention to the Hollywood types

It's a tempest in a teapot: George Clooney and Arianna Huffington are disputing whether the latter had the right to gather together a series of statements that Clooney in fact made, and then print them as "Clooney's blog." I won't bore you with the oh-so-petty-and-boring details. What had me laughing, though, was the statement from Clooney's publicist:

"It's not a misunderstanding, it's misrepresentation," he said. "She knows what she was doing. She was saying to people that she had George Clooney's blog and was printing it. George Clooney does not make statements. He answers questions." [Emphasis mine.]
I love that: "George Clooney does not make statements. He answers questions." First off, what the heck is that supposed to mean? Those of us who attend to the news regularly, or even casually, know that Clooney is constantly making statements about how noble he is, how evil the U.S. is, and how stupid President Bush is. The man never shuts up. And yet here we have the statement that, Godlike, Clooney cannot be expected to speak like an ordinary man. He can only be approached as an oracle. So you have to ask yourself again: Why in the world would anyone take this bubble headed, and bubble encased, Hollywood types seriously? Talking to Technorati: ,

Deny facts and teasing at faith

Marc, at American Future, points to an article called "Separating Truth and Belief," which André Glucksmann, a French philosopher wrote for Democratiya. Amazingly, for something written by a French philosopher, it's neither turgid nor pointless -- it's short, interesting and, as Marc says, important. I'm therefore honoring Marc's request that this get greater blog play and am printing it here in its entirety:

The anti-caricature campaign started by attacking a newspaper. It then focussed on Denmark as a defender of the freedom of the press, and now it has all of Europe in its sights, which it accuses of having a double standard. The European Union allows the Prophet to be denigrated with impunity, but it forbids and condemns other 'opinions' like Nazism and denial of the Holocaust. Why are jokes about Muhammad permitted, but not those about the genocide of the Jews? This was the rallying call of fundamentalists before they initiated a competition for Auschwitz cartoons. Fair's fair: either everything should be allowed in the name of the freedom of expression, or we should censor that which shocks both parties. Many people who defend the right to caricature feel trapped. Will they publish drawings about the gas chambers in the name of freedom of expression? Offence for offence? Infringement for infringement? Can the negation of Auschwitz be put on a par with the desecration of Muhammad? This is where two philosophies clash. The one says yes, these are equivalent 'beliefs' which have been equally scorned. There is no difference between factual truth and professed faith; the conviction that the genocide took place and the certitude that Muhammad was illuminated by Archangel Gabriel are on a par. The others say no, the reality of the death camps is a matter of historical fact, whereas the sacredness of the prophets is a matter of personal belief. This distinction between fact and belief is at the heart of Western thought. Aristotle distinguished between indicative discourse on the one hand, which could be used to reach an affirmation or a negation, and prayer on the other. Prayers are not a matter for discussion, because they do not state: they implore, promise, vow and declare. They do not relate information, they perform an act. When the Islamist fanatic affirms that Europeans practise the 'religion of the Shoah' while he practises that of Muhammad, he abolishes the distinction between fact and belief. For him there are only beliefs, and so it follows that Europe will favour its own. Civilised discourse analyses and defines scientific truths, historic truths and matters of fact relating to knowledge, not to faith. And it does this irrespective of race or confession. We may believe these facts are profane or undignified, yet they remain distinct from religious truths. Our planet is not in the grips of a clash of civilisations or cultures. It is the battleground of a decisive struggle between two ways of thinking. There are those who declare that there are no facts, but only interpretations – so many acts of faith. These either tend toward fanaticism ('I am the truth') or they fall into nihilism ('nothing is true, nothing is false'). Opposing them are those who advocate free discussion with a view to distinguishing between true and false, those for whom political and scientific matters – or simple judgement – can be settled on the basis of worldly facts, independently of arbitrary pre-established opinions. A totalitarian way of thinking loathes to be gainsaid. It affirms dogmatically, and waves the little red, or black, or green book. It is obscurantist, blending politics and religion. Anti-totalitarian thinking, by contrast, takes facts for what they are and acknowledges even the most hideous of them, those one would prefer to keep hidden out of fear or for the sake of utility. Bringing the gulag to light made it possible to criticise and ultimately reject 'actually existing socialism'. Confronting the Nazi abominations and opening the extermination camps converted Europe to democracy after 1945. Refusing to face the cruellest historical facts, on the other hand, heralds the return of cruelty. Whether the Islamists – who are far from representing all Muslims – like it or not, there is no common measure between negating known facts and criticising any one of the beliefs which every European has the right to practice or poke fun at. For centuries, Jupiter and Christ, Jehovah and Allah have had to put up with many a joke. The Jews are past masters at criticising Yaweh – they've even made it a bit of a speciality. That does not prevent the true believers of any confession from believing, or from respecting those of a different faith. That is the price of religious peace. But joking about gas chambers, raped women and disembowelled babies, sanctifying televised beheadings and human bombs all point to an unbearable future. It is high time that the democrats regained their spirit, and that the constitutional states remembered their principles. With solemnity and solidarity they must recall that one, two or three religions, four or five ideologies may in no way decide what citizens can do or think. What is at stake here is not only the freedom of the press, but also the permission to call a spade a spade and a gas chamber an abomination, regardless of our beliefs. What is at stake is the basis of all morality: here on earth the respect due to each individual starts with the recognition and rejection of the most flagrant examples of inhumanity.
Talking to Technorati: , , , ,

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Read it, please!

This Haim Harari speech, which appears as a FrontPage article, is far and away one of the best things I've seen about the troubles plaguing the Arab world; about the War they've embarked upon, with or without our awareness; about the weapons they use; and about the responses we have. It ranks, in my mind, as a must-read for anyone who wants to understand what's going on in the world today vis a vis Arabs/Muslims and the West (or, at the very least, for anyone who wants to know where I'm coming from when I blog).

Torture cultures

Laer asked "Why was Tom Fox tortured?" As you may recall, Tom Fox was the Christian peace activist who was kidnapped in Iraq along with a group of others from his organization. His body turned up a couple of days ago. He'd been shot multiple times in the head and indications were he'd been tortured before he died. And so Laer posed the question, "Why the torture?" My response was that I believe Muslim fundamentalists come from a culture that believes in torture -- which is an entirely separate idea from saying that the Muslims who actually carried out the torture happen to believe in torture. English Professor, in her comment to Laer's post, politely asked why I reached this conclusion. I thought about her question and here is my answer, expanded from the answer I left at Laer's blog. The first part of my answer is that there is an extraordinary amount of torture and violent death coming from the fundamentalist (and not-so-fundamentalist) side of the Muslim spectrum. Here's a random laundry list: 1. Ilan Halimi 2. Daniel Pearl 3. Nick Berg 4. Christian school girls decapitated in Indonesia 5. Saddam Hussein's prisons and his sons' use of those prisons. (Indeed, people are now buying videos of these horrible tortures to try to find the fate of their missing family members.) 6. The atrocities in the Sudan that the white Muslims use to purge Christians and black Muslims. 7. The way in which Theo Van Gogh was killed. Incidentally, Van Gogh's murder included body mutilation, which I consider a subset of torture, since it has within it the same impulse to humiliate and destroy, even after death. So you can add to this list the body mutilation on the American contractors in Fallujah. 8. The incredibly brutal rapes young women in Australia and northern countries have been suffering at the hands of young Muslim men. That's all I can think of off hand, but you get the idea. Of course, I know that some of you are saying, "don't be so holier than thou -- we have rapes, we have Gitmo, Israeli soldiers torture prisoners, Western women get raped on the streets and in their homes, etc." All of which is true, but ignores my second point. The second part of my answer is that torture cultures, rather than decrying these atrocities, celebrate them. Think of the furor and self-flagellation in America after we learned about what happened at Abu Ghraib. Westerns writhed in embarrassment and shame, and apologized a thousand times over. Whether people supported the war or not, whether they supported the military or not, whether they supported the President or not, they were united in their condemnation of what happened their, united in seeing that the malfeasors were punished, and united in ensuring that this didn't happen again. We see this same disgust when Westerners confront rape. Unless you're in the infinitesimally small group of Western men who commit violent rape, you view rape as a taboo, horrible thing. In the torture cultures, however, all of these atrocities, rather than being condemned, are celebrated. Some examples: 1. The Muslim-on-Western rapes I spoke of are viewed as appropriate activities in the Muslim community, since the bareheaded young women "deserve" this treatment. 2. You may recall dancing Palestinians, rejoicing in human suffering as the Twin Towers fell. 3. While we buy slick Hollywood videos (some good, some bad), popular videos on the Arab street show in glorious, gruesome, bloody detail the tortures and beheadings of Daniel Pearl, Nick Berg and others. 4. At MEMRI, you can read speech after speech of Arab speakers, speaking to Arab audiences, calling for the slow, painful death of their enemies (that would be us). 5. And recall that the contractors' death and mutiliation in Fallujah was a mob activity. I don't want to be too high and mighty here. Our Western culture has also had times of being a torture culture, with torture functioning, not just as a government tool, but as popular entertainment. I won't bore you with the Romans and their coliseums and crucifixes; the Spanish with their racks; the Western Europeans with their burnings, flayings, rackings, dismemberings, etc; the Nazis with their "all of the above" approach to torture. All those happened. Sadly, the urge to torture seems to be an innate part of the human psyche. However, our Western culture has decided that, whether the desire to torture the "other" is innate or not, it's a bad thing. We discourage it from happening and, when it happens, we decry it and punish it. The fundamentalist Muslim culture, however, celebrates torture as an act that is appropriately visited upon "others." And I'm going to be non-PC here and make a value judgment: I think we're right and they're wrong. I want to be on my side in this culture war and not theirs. And I think Tom Fox was tortured because he had the bad luck to fall afoul of a torture culture. Talking to Technorati:

Spinning a story

Yes, the MSM usually puts all the facts in an article. But as every lawyer knows, it's not just that the facts appear, it's how you spin them. If you'd like to see a perfect deconstruction of a very spun article about an event in Iraq, please check out this Cheat Seeking Missiles post.

I need to have my head examined

I really need to work on resisting my self-destructive impulses. I'm just hoping I don't regret giving in to this last one. What did I do? I got a dog. She's an 8 month old puppy, a mutt, from the pound. So far, in the less than 24 hours I've had her, she's proven herself to be smart (she's already learned to heel and sit, despite obvious unfamiliarity with the concepts) and friendly. She's also riddled with tapeworm, because the shelter forgot to treat her! The good thing about this infestation is that, from the kids' point of view, there's a legitimate reason Mom's keeping the dog locked securely in a crate and refusing to allow them to touch her. I've got a good two or three days of working with the dog and teaching her I'm in charge before my own two puppies begin seriously engaging with her. My hope and belief is that, in a month, I'll have a well-trained, well-housebroken, happy companion. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

How to get rejected

No time for blogging today (it's a 12 hour day packed into 6), so I'll leave you with a question that's been plaguing me since my 20s. You're a guy who is interested in a gal. You ask her out. Would you rather that she (a) fobs you off with a line about being busy, without providing an alternative date; or (b) says something along the lines of "I'm incredibly flattered that you'd ask me out but I'd rather not." Both are rejections, but they take very different forms. One is implied, one direct. Which is preferable?