Log

Cold Country
It snows...

This page has been archived. The current log and the log archives are available.

Foiling curses

3.29.2004

(Scams)

profane 1. Not connected with religion or religious matters; secular. 2. Not initiated into the inner mysteries or esoteric knowledge of something. 3. Not hallowed or consecrated. 4. Showing disrespect or contempt for sacred things; irreverent.
obscene 1. Offensive to one's feelings, or to prevailing notions, of modesty or decency; lewd 2. Disgusting; repulsive

-Webster's New World Dictionary: 2nd College Edition

"The f-bomb has to be used for a very good reason," Fulton said. "I don't want to see it used casually in any of our stories."
Though Fulton said "this isn't a case of City Weekly being brought to its knees" by Wal-Mart, he acknowledged the incident increased his vigilance on the language in the paper. "It took Wal-Mart and a Christian person to get my attention that I wasn't watching it thoroughly."
From now on, Fulton said, unless the word is in a direct quote, "I'd like to see dashes there."
Other words also will be "out of bounds," Fulton said, including "bitch," when not applied to canines.

-Salt Lake Tribune

Today, when a newspaper quotes someone who is using a particular obscene word, "you can read the 'f' and the 'k', so everybody knows what word they're using, but we're not allowed to read the two letters in between," cracked Carlin on "Real Time." "Same with TV and radio. We hear the 'f...' sound, but the rest is bleeped out. So who are they fooling?" Carlin, who brings his stream-of-consciousness stand-up act to Hill Auditorium on Sunday, has long been probing the absurdities of language, show business, politics, social mores and life in general...

"More of the same, more of the same," said Carlin during a recent interview. "What are we, surprised? The whole problem with this idea of obscenity and indecency, and all of these things - bad language and whatever - it's all caused by one basic thing, and that is: religious superstition.

"There's an idea that the human body is somehow evil and bad, and there are parts of it that are especially evil and bad, and we should be ashamed," said Carlin, who for years has been skewering organized religion in general, and the Catholic Church in particular. "Fear, guilt and shame are built into the attitude toward sex and the body. ... It's reflected in these prohibitions and these taboos that we have."

-Kevin Ransom, Carlin still chuckling over 'dirty words'

The Federal Communications Commission overruled its staff and said an expletive uttered by rock singer Bono on NBC was both indecent and profane. It marked the first time that the FCC cited a four-letter word as profane; the commission previously equated profanity with language challenging God's divinity.
...the decision was criticized by the Parents Television Council, a conservative advocacy group whose complaints led to the FCC's review.

''Bono may have used the F-word as an adjective, but today's FCC ruling turned it into a verb directed at American families,'' council president L. Brent Bozell III said. He said the decision ''does nothing to hold NBC accountable for this obvious breach of commonsense decency standards.''

The FCC received hundreds of complaints about the Golden Globes broadcast after Bono, the lead singer of the Irish rock group U2, said, ''This is really, really, f------ brilliant.'' The enforcement bureau said last October that Bono's comment was not indecent or obscene because he did not use the word to describe a sexual act.

-Jonathan D. Salant, FCC cites Howard Stern and Bono for indecency

Dear Chairman Barton and Ranking Member Dingell:

We are writing to express our concern about H.R. 3717, the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act of 2004. The bill would dramatically increase fines for obscene, indecent, or profane broadcasts, sending a widening chill into the atmosphere of free expression protected by the First Amendment.

The heart of our objection to the bill is that it relies upon the FCC's definition of "indecency" which is already vague.[1] Because of the vagueness, speakers must engage in speech at their peril, guessing what the FCC will determine to be prohibited. Increasing fines merely exacerbates the problem, particularly for small broadcasters. Rather than face a potentially ruinous fine, smaller broadcasters are more likely to remain silent.

Under H.R. 3717, guessing incorrectly can have important ramifications for a broadcaster, including huge fines and possibly loss of its broadcasting license. Vague laws and interpretations create traps for broadcasters because they are unsure what conduct or speech will constitute indecency. Rather than have broadcasters act at their peril, the law prefers reasonable notice of what conduct will give rise to legal consequences, so that the speaker may act accordingly. Vagueness results in chilling of communications that may well NOT be indecent or profane, simply because the cost to the broadcaster of being wrong is too great. Vagueness encourages silence instead of robust debate. "Uncertain meanings inevitably lead citizens to 'steer far wider of the unlawful zone' . . .than if the boundaries of the forbidden areas were clearly marked."'[2] The bottom line is that broadcasters enjoy First Amendment protection. The uncertainty inherent in the definition (or lack thereof) of "indecency" will inevitably lead broadcasters to avoid certain speech because that speech may later be deemed indecent, and the broadcaster faces tremendous liability because of the increase in the fines provided for in H.R. 3717....

Initially, it is important to note that, unlike obscenity, indecent speech is protected under the First Amendment. Id., at 746 ("Some uses of even the most offensive words are unquestionably protected. . . .Indeed, we may assume, arguendo, that this monologue would be protected in other contexts.") The ability to regulate indecency in the broadcasting medium is an exception rather than the general rule. In many other contexts, the Supreme Court has invalidated efforts to restrict indecency.[3] In Pacifica, the Court applied a slightly different standard for broadcasting, but that decision cannot be read too broadly.

...although technology has radically changed in the intervening years since Pacifica, society has also changed drastically. Gone are the days when a husband and wife could not even be shown in the same bed. This change in society has led to differing audience expectations and have contributed to different broadcast standards and practices. Whether that is seen as "good" or "bad," it is a fact, and reflects changes in the contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium.

Last, and perhaps most importantly, the law itself has evolved since 1978. In Pacifica, three justices who joined the plurality opinion suggested "indecent" speech was subject to diminished scrutiny because it was "low value" speech.[8] Approximately twenty-two years later, the Supreme Court rejected that notion, holding that "indecent" speech is fully protected under the First Amendment, and not subject to diminished scrutiny as "low value" speech. The Court stressed that "[t]he history of the law of free expression is one of vindication in cases involving speech that many citizens find shabby, offensive, or even ugly," and that the government cannot assume that it has greater latitude to regulate because of its belief that "the speech is not very important."[9] Additionally, the Court since Pacifica has invalidated government-imposed indecency restrictions on cable television, despite its "pervasiveness." While Pacifica noted the pervasiveness of broadcast television as part of its rationale, the Court in striking such regulation in the cable television context found specifically that "[c]able television broadcasting, including access channel broadcasting, is as 'accessible to children' as over-the-air broadcasting, if not more so."[10] Thus, the rationale in Pacifica is undercut by the Court's later decision. And, finally, and most importantly, in Reno v. ACLU, the Court for the first time subjected the indecency definition (in the Internet context) to rigorous scrutiny, and found it to be seriously deficient.[11] All of these later decisions undercut Pacifica's rationale and raise serious questions about its vitality.

We understand there may be an amendment proposed to allow the FCC to regulate "violence" or "gratuitous violence" in the media. We urge you to reject any such amendment, as any definition of violence will undoubtedly be too vague to provide any guidance to broadcasters...

Shielding children from violence ignores reality and ill-prepares them for participation in a world that embraces violence: "Violence has always been and remains a central interest of humankind and a recurrent, even obsessive theme of culture both high and low. It engages the interest of children from an early age, as anyone familiar with the classic fairy tales collected by Grimm, Andersen, and Perrault is aware. To shield children right up to the age of 18 from exposure to violent descriptions and images would not only be quixotic, but deforming; it would leave them unequipped to cope with the world as we know it."[16]

If not all violence is bad, then any regulation must accomplish the gargantuan task of distinguishing between what is "good" violence from "bad" or "gratuitous" violence. The task is even more difficult, because, as the Federal Trade Commission noted in September, 2000, those who research the effects of media violence inconsistently define "violence."[17] If the researchers cannot concur on an objective definition, then how will any regulation provide truly objective definitions that please all parents?

It is simply impossible to constitutionally distinguish between "good violence" and "bad violence." As the Supreme Court has stated, "What is one man's amusement, teaches another's doctrine."[18] Americans do not want the government to serve as their "taste police."

-ACLU Letter to the House Expressing Concerns about H.R. 3717, the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act of 2004. (Text of 4 versions of H.R. 3717)

The bill lists eight separate forbidden words or phrases, and then specifically outlaws their use in other grammatical forms, enumerated as follows: "verb, adjective, gerund, participle and infinitive." That elaboration was in reaction to the FCC's decision on the Bono case, which Ose considered "absurd": The FCC said the rocker's language was crude but not obscene because he was using "[expletive]ing" as a modifier, not as a verb describing, you know, the act of [expletive]ing. As the FCC explained it, Bono used the word as an "adjective" to "emphasize an exclamation."

Now here's what's interesting: The FCC did make a mistake, but not necessarily the one Congressman Ose deplores. The mistake was that Bono's bad word was not, in fact, an adjective. Because it modified the adjective "brilliant," "[expletive]ing" was technically being used as an adverb.

But this went unnoticed. And so, as currently written, H.R. 3687 doesn't specifically outlaw adverbs! So even if the bill passes, it might still be possible to say whatever the heck you want on the air, so long as you choose the right part of speech.

Wouldn't that be [expletive]ing brilliant?

-Gene Weingarten, Word Games

To write adverbs is human, to write 'he said she said' is divine.

-Stephen King, On Writing

To amend section 1464 of title 18, United States Code, to provide for the punishment of certain profane broadcasts, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That section 1464 of title 18, United States Code, is amended--

(1) by inserting `(a)' before `Whoever'; and

(2) by adding at the end the following:

`(b) As used in this section, the term `profane', used with respect to language, includes the words `shit', `piss', `fuck', `cunt', `asshole', and the phrases `cock sucker', `mother fucker', and `ass hole', compound use (including hyphenated compounds) of such words and phrases with each other or with other words or phrases, and other grammatical forms of such words and phrases (including verb, adjective, gerund, participle, and infinitive forms).'.

- H. R. 3687

The conservative zeitgeist that emerged after September of 2001 has some seeking to implement every tenant of their faith before the country slides into the middle ground again.

I don't recall any time in my childhood where a word hurt me. Schoolyard taunting did not break any bones and it included more than those deemed worthy of half a million dollars in fines. I was not a special case and I've never, ever heard of a child damaged by hearing a word that wasn't even directed toward him or her. The use of the word "profanity" suggests that hearing certain words will somehow corrupt one's soul. This idea is oblivious to the changing nature of language and our society. It ignores that in a secular society that which is profane is protected and that which is irreverent is protected in a free society.

Are we damned for daring to have favorites amongst the foul or asking it of others? Do we really want organizations like the PTC determining what is acceptable?

The PTC agrees that parents have the greatest responsibility when it comes to monitoring the viewing habits of their children, but the PTC challenges actors, writers, producers, musicians, game-makers and advertisers to get serious about the vital role they play in shaping America's culture. The gratuitous sex, foul language, and violence on TV (along with stories and dialogue that create disdain for authority figures, patriotism, and religion) are having a negative effect on children.

-Parents Television Council

The italics are mine. Children should not blindly obey authority figures; too many children get kidnapped by creeps posing as them. Besides, fighting authority is as American as you can get and too much patriotism would of had us all still bowing to the Queen.

In The PTC's top 10 worst shows the organization shows unintentional humor and inconsistency.

4. NYPD Blue
ABC/ 10:00 p.m. (ET/PT) Tuesday -- not ranked last season

NYPD has never been appropriate for children and remains steadfastly mature in its content. But because the series has generally aired during the last hour of prime time and is not pitched to children, it has managed to avoid ranking on this list for much of its run.

This year, however, the series took a decided turn for the worse. NYPD Blue has always used some of the most explicit language to be heard on broadcast television, including "prick," "dick," "bitch," "asshole," and the like. This year, new words were added to the series' obscene lexicon – including "bullshit."

NYPD Blue has also never been shy about featuring steamy sex scenes that include shots of the actors' naked buttocks, but the series' producers have become bolder this season by making the sex scenes more explicit. In one episode from this season, Connie, a recurring character, is shown completely naked for an extended period of time. The camera grabs a close up of her exposed buttocks and her exposed breasts in profile. When Detective Sipowicz's young son Theo walks in on her as she's about to take a shower, she turns around and is shown at full-length, barely covering her breasts with one arm and her pubic area with her hand.

I would think that the turn would be towards some measure of marketing towards children or an earlier time slot that would draw their concern, but instead it's "bullshit" and barely showing a naked women. It shows that we can see Sipowicz's buttocks, but all bets are off when breasts are involved.

Despite its young target audience, Angel routinely features gory violence and graphic sexual encounters. Scenes frequently involve intense fighting, blood, decapitations, and more. The series also sends a dangerous and irresponsible message to teenage fans by equating violence with sexual excitement. In many scenes, characters become aroused by fighting. For example, in one episode, Lilah bites Wesley's ear and shoves him to the floor. After a bit of rough foreplay, she and Wesley are lying on the floor together. Wesley's head moves out of the frame toward her legs. She smiles with pleasure and breathes heavily, suggesting that he is performing oral sex on her.

They are completely insane! Ear nibbling is not fighting. His head went towards her legs because everyone knows that ear nibbling leads to toe sucking. These people are projecting! They even take Friends's "shark porn seriously!

Their Top 10 best list features pro-mullet Doc and the punishment of Sue Thomas F. B. Eye.

For radio the threat is very real now that those that complain don't actually have to produce evidence and that opens up the ability for organizations like the PTC to create infractions with shows they don't approve of.

Commissioners noted that they acted against Clear Channel on the complaint of a listener who did not have a transcript or tape, a departure from past practice. ''Complaints should no longer be denied because of a lack of tape, transcript or significant excerpt,'' Commissioner Kevin Martin said.

Commissioner Michael Copps dissented from the decision, saying the commission should have moved to revoke the stations' licenses. ''The time has come for the commission to send a strong message that it is serious about enforcing the indecency laws of our country,'' he said.

-Jonathan D. Salant, FCC cites Howard Stern and Bono for indecency

I don't completely dismiss those that are against the use of these words, but I have not experienced any instance of harm exceeding embarrassment. If the bill passes, it might even promote creativity. But they should respect that not everyone thinks that bawdy language is something to worry about.

All of us have got some kinds of feelings and thoughts about sex, but the only genre connected to it is this grubby, shameful one. That's a real pity. Sex is glorious, it's how we all got here, and it's most people's favourite activity - I felt it deserved something a bit more elevated than Anal Grannies.

I saw no reason why you couldn't create a work of pornography that adhered to all the same standards as the best art or literature. The big difference between art and pornography is that art, at its best, makes you feel less alone. You see a painting or read a piece of writing that expresses a thought that you had but didn't express, and you suddenly feel less alone. Pornography, on the other hand, tends to engender feelings of self-disgust, isolation and wretchedness. I wanted to change that.

-Alan Moore

This fear of words is based on a lie about sex passed down and believed without questioning the authority of its source. Ours is a society that is already too full of lies.

HOLBROOK (as Twain): You know when I talk about the decay, in the art of lying, I'm talking about the silent lie. It requires no art. You simply keep still and conceal the truth.

For example it would not be possible for a humane and intelligent person to invent a rational excuse for slavery and yet in those early days of the emancipation agitation in the North, those agitators got small help from anyone, argue and plead and pray as they might, they could not break the universal stillness that rain from pulpit and press all the way down to the bottom of society.

The clammy stillness created and maintained by the lie of silent assertion, the silent assertion that there wasn't anything going on in which humane and intelligent people ought to be interested. Well when whole nations of people conspire to propagate gigantic mute lies like that one in the interest of tyrannies and shams, why should we care anything about the trifling ones told by individuals? Why make them undesirable? Why not be honest and honorable and lie every chance we get? Why should we help the nation lie the whole day long and then object to telling one little, insignificant private lie in our own interest? Just for the refreshment of it and to take the rancid taste out of our mouth. No there is no art to this silent lying, it is timid and shabby.

[END VIDEO CLIP]

MOYERS: The silent lie.

HOLBROOK: Yeah. It's interesting. You have chosen a moment that has quite an interesting history in the show. Of course doing that in the Civil Rights period in the heat of it all was quite something. I was the guinea pig at Oxford, Mississippi back in 1962…

MOYERS: After they integrated the university with James Meredith as the first black…

HOLBROOK: Yeah. James Meredith. The first black. And I was on my way there, from out on the west coast. And I called from Chicago to my manager. I says, "What am I supposed to do? I mean, you know they're having riots there. And I'm supposed to go down there tomorrow, you know?" And he said, "Well they haven't said 'don't go,' Hal." So we go down, my stage manager and I. We find… to make a long story short, that I am the guinea pig. I am the first thing the school is going to be allowed to assemble for.

They've canceled a football game. Big deal at Old Miss, and everything. And I am the guinea pig. And they've got federal men in the audience, and you know, they've got the NEW YORK TIMES, the HERALD TRIB, THE WASHINGTON POST. Everybody's in the motel. What are you doing to do, Hal? What are you doing to do?

To make a long story short, I was scared. They had federal men backstage. They gave me a fire extinguisher and showed me how to defend myself. They had an escape route, out the stage door to the girl's dorm. They didn't know what would happen. If Meredith was there, etcetera.

And I was going on. And just before I went on, some stagehand hoping to be funny maybe, I don't know, he says, "Hal…" 'Cause there was big windows in the thing. It was like an old church, you know that was now the auditorium. They said, "Watch out for the guys with squirrel rifles in the trees." Well you know, before I went on, it… they really scared me.

MOYERS: And you had this part in the piece about… in the performance about the silent lie of slavery.

HOLBROOK: Yeah. And that was… so when we got to this point, I decided to go for the heavy stuff. And give the audience the toughest stuff I could. And this was the beginning of the second act before Huckleberry. And I did it. And I take that long walk at the end of it. "It is timid, and shabby."

[VIDEO CLIP]

HOLBROOK (as Twain):It is timid, and shabby.

[END VIDEO CLIP]

And I take the long walk to the lector, and I let them sit with that hot potato. Whether it's today's audience or any. You know, let them sit with that hot potato in their hand.

And the audience applauded. Three times in 50 years an audience has applauded at that moment. Three times. The first time was in Hamburg, Germany in 1961. The second time was in Oxford, Mississippi in 1962, I think it was. And the third time was in Prague behind the Iron Curtain in 1986.

MOYERS: Three different people growing up and living under the tyranny of a lie. A great lie.

HOLBROOK: Yeah.

-Now with Bill Moyers, an interview with Hal Holbrook.

There was something else at the end of that interview that really got to me. Hal once sailed 2,400 miles across the Pacific in a 40 foot boat—alone.

MOYERS: What do you think about when you're out there on a long trip like that and you're alone? What do you think about night in and night out? Day in and day out?

HOLBROOK: You think about getting somewhere. Getting… hoping you get to where you're going. You think about that a lot. You think about; is the boat okay? Is everything working right? Could there be a leak somewhere I don't know about? You double check, you triple check.

We have a rule on the boat; you always know where the knife is. You never put anything back in a different place. You have to be able to know, in an instant, where that knife is to save your life or something else. A plug for a hole to save your life. And basically you're out there in the embrace, and not tender either, of this great world. This huge, not empty, great silent force. And you're in that embrace and you have to survive in it.

You have to know how to keep yourself from going down. And you can't fight it. You have to learn not to fight nature. You have to learn to give to nature just enough to stay alive and stay upright.

MOYERS: A final, personal question. Mark Twain wrote about the woman who boasted she didn't drink, smoke, or curse. He said, she was a sinking ship which had no freight to throw over.

Lose weight off your wallet

3.19.2004

(Scams)

I am really sick of those diet pill commercials and I decided to check up on a few. Losing weight without diet or exercise had to be a scam.

Some products are more obviously bogus than others are. CortiSlim™ can barely conceal its BS.

Ingredients: Vitamin C, calcium, chromium, Cortiplex Blend (magnolia bark extract, beta-sitosterol, theanine), Leptiplex Blend (green tea extract, bitter orange peel extract), Insutrol Blend (banaba leaf extract, vanadium).
The first three ingredients can be had much cheaper ($49.99 for 1 month supply—yikes!). Theanine and Magnolia bark do fight stress. Beta-Sitosterol is more likely to help your prostate. Vanadium "is thought, however, that we obtain enough vanadium from our diets." The banaba leaf actually might affect weight loss, but the connections are slight due to small and unpublished studies.

Even if Dr. Shawn Talbott's claims about stress and weight are correct, his credentials are suspect.

Dr. Talbott is one of America's leading lifestyle experts. Through his extensive writing and speaking engagements, Dr. Talbott has educated tens of thousands of people around the world (on 4 continents) about the practical approach to achieving optimal health.

Dr. Talbott holds a Master's degree in Exercise Science from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and a Ph.D. in Nutritional Biochemistry from Rutgers University. He is a Fellow of both the American Institute of Stress and the American College of Sports Medicine and serves as an Editor and Expert Reviewer for numerous health-oriented websites and scientific journals. Dr. Talbott has counseled professional- and Olympic-level athletes on using nutrition to achieve optimal performance – and as an athlete himself, he has competed at the National and International levels in rowing and triathlon. Currently, Dr. Talbott is an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Dept. of Foods and Nutrition at the University of Utah.
If he is currently an Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Utah, wouldn't they list him? Quackwatch claims they did list him once as a lecturer. They also offer this handy guide to spot quacks.

Clinical Studies Don't Lie!

Current Therapeutic Research Volume: 60, Issue: 4 April, 1999. "Effects of a Standardized Guggulsterone Phosphate Supplement on Body Composition in Overweight Adults: A Pilot Study"

The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of a guggulsterone phosphate salt compound on body composition and mood states in overweight adults. In a double-masked, randomized, placebo-controlled study, 20 subjects with a body-mass index >25 kg/m2 were separated into 1 of 3 groups. The experimental group received guggulsterones 750 mg and phosphate 1650 mg daily, the placebo group received maltodextrin capsules, and the control group received no treatment for 6 weeks. Subjects were instructed to follow the American Heart Association Step One diet and a 3-day-per-week circuit exercise program. Body weight decreased significantly in the experimental group (3.2%, P < 0.05) and fat mass decreased significantly in the experimental (20.6%) and control (8.6%) groups (P < 0.01). However, between-group differences in weight loss were not statistically significant. Profile of Mood States (POMS)-fatigue decreased significantly in the experimental group (63.7%, P < 0.01), whereas POMS-vigor increased significantly in the experimental group (32.3%, P < 0.01) and decreased significantly in the placebo group (15.6%, P < 0.01). Results of this study suggest that ingestion of a guggulsterone phosphate salt compound concurrent with regular exercise will result in a significant loss of body weight and improved mood states.

- from the Abstract

It's the tiny study that launched a ton of ads and confusion over the study. I can't get access to the full study, but right away I'm suspicious. They took 20 people and put them into 3 groups. That's odd.

The claim is 3.2% weight loss and 20.6% decrease in fat mass compared to 8.6% fat mass reduced in the control group. The confusing part is that despite the 12% difference in fat matter the "between-group differences in weight loss were not statistically significant" and yet, the last sentence claims a, " significant loss of body weight." Maybe this is more clear within the actual study, but with the range of statistics given about the study I kind of doubt that.

Leptoprin-SF ($153.00):

The Leptoprin-SF group experienced a significant decrease in overall body weight — an incredible 830% greater than the group who participated in the diet and exercise program alone! Even more amazing is Leptoprin-SF's influence on actual body fat: the average loss in the active group was just shy of an astounding 10 pounds... 62% greater than the placebo group, and 63% greater than the control group!

ANOREX SF ($79.50):

Clinical Studies Don't Lie In a recent clinical trial, subjects who were given the active Anorex-SF compound (in conjunction with modest caloric restriction and exercise) experienced eleven times (1100%) more weight loss and 63% more fat loss than those on diet and exercise alone.
After Six Weeks, the Study Results Were Independently Reviewed and Verified The Anorex-SF group experienced a significant decrease in overall body weight —— an incredible 830% greater than the group who participated in the diet and exercise program alone! Even more amazing is Anorex-SF's influence on actual body fat: the average loss in the active group was just shy of an astounding 10 pounds... 62% greater than the placebo group, and 63% greater than the control group!

ThermoGenics Plus ($39.97)

At the conclusion of the six week study the data was independently verified and reviewed. The results were astounding! Group A (the Phosphosterine™ group) experienced a significant decrease in overall body weight -- an incredible 830% greater than the group who followed the diet and exercise program alone!

Even more startling is the fact that the average loss of actual body fat in the Phosphosterine™ group was just shy of a whopping 10 pounds. That's a loss of actual body fat 62% greater than the placebo and 63% greater than the control group!

The favored inflation is 830%. Anorex claims both 1100% and 830%. They also are marketing a diet pill that sounds like an eating disorder, which is sick.

Since the "between-group differences in weight loss were not statistically significant" all I have is the experimental group's 3.2% weight loss. Making sense of this is not possible. I don't even want to get into fat loss numbers except to say that other than the "--", the ThermoGenics Plus people showed punctuation restraint in the face of their "—" and "..." using competition.

Now price of these fraudulent products is another score for ThermoGenics Plus, but if you just consider the guggulsterone then YOGI Slimmer is the clear winner. You can also meditate on that magic price of $19.95. Plus, it's buy one and get one free!

The choice is clear. The cheapest way to waste money is YOGI Slimmer!


The Climate of Curse

3.13.2004

(Politics)

Is there something in the air around here that causes presidential candidates to gaffe? Back in 2000 in a west suburb of Chicago called Naperville, George W. Bush had an "off mic" chat with Cheney.
"There's Adam Clymer -- major league asshole -- from the New York Times," Bush said.

"Yeah, big time," returned Cheney.

-Salon

But that was nothing compared to the horrendously foul slur that Kerry uttered in Chicago recently. It created a tidal wave of shock and disdain from republicans. Marc Racicot, Bush's campaign chairman said, "Senator Kerry's statement today in Illinois was unbecoming of a candidate for the presidency of the United States of America, and tonight we call on Senator Kerry to apologize to the American people for this negative attack." Senator Bill Frist, choked back tears while saying, "If he wants to step off and start the campaign on this type of a note, it's too bad, it's really sad on the state of politics." Tom DeLay was dazed for hours and then it hit him as he thoughtfully explained, "I think America got a glimpse of the real John Kerry."

That's right America. You've seen the ugly underbelly of Kerry and to rub salt in the wound of our sensibilities he's decided to be unapologetic. "I have no intention whatsoever of apologizing for my remarks," Kerry said with a satanic glint of defiance in his eye.

What was this negative attack? Make sure you are siting down before reading this.

Seemingly unaware that his microphone was still on, Sen. John Kerry used uncharacteristically harsh language Wednesday to describe Republicans as "crooked" and "lying" during a quiet exchange with several workers at the Hill Mechanical Group in Chicago's Ravenswood neighborhood.

As one worker urged Kerry to "tell it like it is" and to "keep smiling," the presumptive Democratic nominee told the man not to worry.

"We're going to keep pounding, let me tell you. We're just beginning to fight here," Kerry said. "These guys are the most crooked, you know, lying group I've ever seen. It's scary."

-The Chicago Tribune

Shocking, I know.

It opens the stage for a long campaign of politicians calling politicians liars and then lying about it. "To call people liars and crooks when you're off mike just shows who the real person is," said Tom Delay shortly before a "real" person handed him a dictionary with "crooked" highlighted.

But seriously now, it also opens up a couple of questions.

Why should John Kerry be sorry for saying that a group of republicans are lying in their attacks against him when they clearly are?

Kerry's campaign spokesman, David Wade, mentioned the faked photos of Kerry with Fonda (There was a different one showing them at the same peace rally). He also mentioned that they say he shot a prisoner of war in Vietnam. There are more like the phony affair dredged up by Matt Drudge, but the "Kerry as crazy Killer in 'Nam" story doesn't have a snopes article yet.

The charge comes from Thomas Lipscomb, the publisher of Admiral Zumwalt's, On Watch.

Taking a look at Mr. Kerry's much-promoted Vietnam service, his military record was, indeed, remarkable in many ways. Last week, the former assistant secretary of defense and Fletcher School of Diplomacy professor,W. Scott Thompson, recalled a conversation with the late Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt Jr. that clearly had a slightly different take on Mr. Kerry's recollection of their discussions:

"[T]he fabled and distinguished chief of naval operations,Admiral Elmo Zumwalt,told me — 30 years ago when he was still CNO —that during his own command of U.S. naval forces in Vietnam,just prior to his anointment as CNO, young Kerry had created great problems for him and the other top brass,by killing so many non-combatant civilians and going after other non-military targets.'We had virtually to straitjacket him to keep him under control,' the admiral said. 'Bud' Zumwalt got it right when he assessed Kerry as having large ambitions — but promised that his career in Vietnam would haunt him if he were ever on the national stage." And this statement was made despite the fact Zumwalt had personally pinned a Silver Star on Mr. Kerry.

Why would Thomas lie? Aside from the fact that his claim that this, "examination of the truth behind this disagreement is not an attack on Mr. Kerry," when that's exactly what it is. Who cares? W. Scott Thompson is the guy making the claim and he wrote about this in the Taipei Times.

He now makes much of his decorations from the war in Vietnam, to appeal to centrists and conservatives, without reminding those audiences that he for long was a leader of Vietnam veterans against the war. Indeed, assiduous searchers, looking for his vulnerabilities, will find much of interest in that period of his life. For example, the fabled and distinguished chief of naval operations (CNO), Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, told me -- 30 years ago when he was still CNO -- that during his own command of US naval forces in Vietnam, just prior to his anointment as CNO, young Kerry had created great problems for him and the other top brass, by killing so many non-combatant civilians and going after other non-military targets.

"We had virtually to straight-jacket him to keep him under control," the admiral said. "Bud" Zumwalt got it right when he assessed Kerry as having large ambitions -- but promised that his career in Vietnam would haunt him if he were ever on the national stage.

It is that sort of thing that senators don't have to worry about. But if they become a front-runner for president, the whole ball-game changes. Their past is scrutinized with a fine-tooth comb. In Kerry's case, for example, he has shown precious little interest in Asia since his tour in Vietnam, and there is little doubt that he will follow the standard Democratic party, pro-Beijing, line. But every word he's ever spoken on it will be scrutinized.

This puzzles me. Why would Zumwalt reserve this juicy bit for a former assistant secretary of state of Reagan's administration? Why would an honorable man like Mr. Thompson wait until after Zumwalt's death to drop this in the midst of the Kerry campaign? Why would Zumwalt support Kerry after he "had created great problems for him and the other top brass"?

He led with distinction the five-man crew of a small craft that patrolled and provoked his Viet Cong enemy in a web of inland waterways throughout the Mekong Delta. Kerry was wounded lightly three times - he might as easily have been killed - and decorated for valor. And, like many other GIs in Vietnam, Kerry's conscience about the war began to trouble him in the execution of his duties, especially the incessant, indiscriminate fire directed at apparent non-combatants.

He witnessed the inadvertent killings by fire power under his command of an innocent child in a sampan traveling in violation of a nightly curfew, and of an old papasan farmer who bolted when he should have froze. Kerry personally killed an enemy under circumstances that are not entirely clear, but probably sanctioned by war's ambiguous rules of engagement. The incident, finessed somewhat clumsily in Brinkley's account, surfaced during Kerry's re-election campaign for the Senate in 1996 when he was questioned about having shot a wounded guerrilla who had already fallen. Kerry rallied several high profile Vietnam veterans, including retired Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, Senators Max Cleland and Bob Kerrey, to defend his lightening decision to shoot an adversary who, while down, remained armed and potentially deadly.

I can't figure it out. Let's go to my other question.

Why is it that when Bush lies about Kerry it is exaggeration?

President Bush, in his first major assault on Sen. John F. Kerry's legislative record, said this week that his Democratic opponent proposed a $1.5 billion cut in the intelligence budget, a proposal that would "gut the intelligence services," and one that had no co-sponsors because it was "deeply irresponsible."

In terms of accuracy, the parry by the president is about half right. Bush is correct that Kerry on Sept. 29, 1995, proposed a five-year, $1.5 billion cut to the intelligence budget. But Bush appears to be wrong when he said the proposed Kerry cut -- about 1 percent of the overall intelligence budget for those years -- would have "gutted" intelligence. In fact, the Republican-led Congress that year approved legislation that resulted in $3.8 billion being cut over five years from the budget of the National Reconnaissance Office -- the same program Kerry said he was targeting.

The $1.5 billion cut Kerry proposed represented about the same amount Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), then chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, told the Senate that same day he wanted cut from the intelligence spending bill based on unspent, secret funds that had been accumulated by one intelligence agency "without informing the Pentagon, CIA or Congress." The NRO, which designs, builds and operates spy satellites, had accumulated that amount of excess funds.

Bush's charge that Kerry's broader defense spending reduction bill had no co-sponsors is true, but not because it was seen as irresponsible, as the president suggested. Although Kerry's measure was never taken up, Specter's plan to reduce the NRO's funds, which Kerry co-sponsored with Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.), did become law as part of a House-Senate package endorsed by the GOP leadership.

-Walter Pincus and Dana Milbank treat Bush with kidgloves in their article, Bush Exaggerates Kerry's Position on Intelligence Budget

I guess we have to say that the Bush administration exaggerated the case for war and that they overpredicted job growth every time they tried. They exaggerated the kind conditions at Camp X-ray and exaggerated the threat of gay marriage.

That leaves me with one last question.

If the real John Kerry is about calling a spade a spade, what is the real George Bush about?


What we miss while we fight

3.11.2004

(Politics,Religion, Science)

In great moments life seems neither right nor wrong, but something greater, it seems inevitable.

-Margaret Sherwood

MOYERS: Four years ago he suffered a stroke, fought back, and last year, when his heart began to fail, learned that he has little time left. Time enough, however, for that one last book, CREDO, on the fire and passion that have driven his life and witness and taught him how to go gentle into that night without ever giving up.

MOYERS: When you had your stroke, many of us were really worried you were not coming back from that. And yet here you are.

COFFIN: Well, there are different kinds of strokes, you know. Some of them are rather minor, and some are major. For me, I lost my speech, just about. I did. I really did.

MOYERS: How long ago was this?

COFFIN: Four and a half years now. And, it took quite a time, a lot of work.

MOYERS: How did you do it?

COFFIN: My wife. She sat down with me two hours every day.

MOYERS: Randy did?

COFFIN: Yeah. And with great patience. And she did more than I did.

MOYERS: What did you do?

COFFIN: Practice, practice. You just say all kinds of words that are very hard to say. For instance L's are very hard now, and R's. "Reverie" is a very difficult word for me to say. Or "religion." So you have to keep working on it. And I consoled myself with Mark Twain's observation about Wagner's music, "It's better than it sounds." But it took a lot of work.

MOYERS: Two hours a day every day.

COFFIN: Oh, yeah, at least. And then I went to the hospital at Dartmouth for a speech therapist too. I must say, it was great going to the hospital because I ran into all kinds of codgers, older than I was, who had wonderful things to say.

One of them said to me, "You know, I wonder when my wild oats turned to shredded wheat." Very seriously. Another one said, "You know, when I bend down to tie my shoes, I wonder if there aren't other things I should be doing now that I'm down there."

So you know, life is always interesting, even when you can't speak, if you can listen, you know? And your curiosity and humor and compassion stays alive, you can do as well as you can do.

-Now with Bill Moyers (transcript March 5th, 2004)

I keep thinking about this and a few months back when my father had a stroke. He had expressive aphasia. He seems to have fully recovered, but it was quite a sobering experience to see a man so known for his ability to speak at length rendered to near speechlessness.

I worry sometimes that he's not taking care of himself and that it's making it harder for me to work on myself. I sit down and I can't think. I can't write.

The death of Spalding Gray got me thinking about how powerful depression can be. It doesn't matter how smart you are when you are in its grasp. I had focused on the negative for so long that I had all but blocked out hope. It's amazing to come out of that fog with not only a different outlook, but in love.

So I rant away here for what purpose? Is it for practice or just pointless procrastination?

Life is thick sown with thorns, and I know no other remedy than to pass quickly through them. The longer we dwell on our misfortunes, the greater is their power to harm us.

-Voltaire

Perhaps it's for momentum and it helps to fight for what you believe in. It's a good thing I live in a country were this is still possible, but it seems like some are working against that.

BRANCACCIO: Dr. David Maxwell is the President of Drake University. Drake is a liberal arts school in Iowa. A quiet center of learning in the heartland. So imagine his surprise last month when a grand jury subpoena showed up for documents from an antiwar conference that had been held on campus.

MAXWELL: I think the most unsettling thing was that it seemed to be focused on a legitimate activity of the university.

BRANCACCIO: The subpoena ordered the university to turn over "all records and documents" from the conference "hosted by 'the Drake chapter of the National Lawyers Guild,'" an activist student organization. Not just records of the November antiwar conference the group had sponsored, but names of "participants in the meeting," agendas and other documents going back to 2002.

MAXWELL: We're being asked to do something that makes a basic activity of the university look as if it's illegal.

BRANCACCIO: Here's one meeting at that campus anti-war conference last November, taped by a local news crew. Students and activists planning peaceful civil disobedience at the Iowa National Guard Base the next day.

A dozen protesters were arrested for trespassing.

Three months later, organizer Brian Terrell of the Catholic Peace Ministry received a subpoena commanding him to testify before the federal grand jury. An experience he found intimidating because of the business card that came with it.

TERRELL: The person who delivered the subpoenas left a card identifying himself with the FBI Joint Terror Task Force.

BRANCACCIO: The U.S. Attorney later denied the subpoenas were part of any investigation by the Joint Terrorism Task Force. But Terrell says he was surprised to get that subpoena to begin with because the police had been invited to the conference.

TERRELL: The agenda was public and the agenda and program was sent to the Des Moines Police Department. And we told them they were welcome to come.

BRANCACCIO: It turns out that two Sheriff's deputies did come. But undercover, according to documents unearthed by an attorney defending the protestors. The undercover officers' confidential report included the names of seven individuals who'd discussed strategy during the planning meeting.

TERRELL: I think what was going was they were trying to find some way to pin the label of terrorist on us.

BRANCACCIO: After making national headlines last month, the subpoenas were withdrawn. But the names of those seven people — and likely many more — remain in government files.

TERRELL: Word gets out. The FBI Terror Task Force is looking at a meeting that happened at Drake University. Would you go to that meeting? Would you go to the next one? Are people gonna want to come to that?

MONDALE: We have a right and a duty in these agencies to protect America. But one of the things that ought to be protected is this crucial and sacred right of Americans to protest.

BRANCACCIO: How widespread is government infiltration and monitoring of citizens? The experience of the city of Denver offers a clue. Two years ago, the Denver police were forced to reveal that the department had collected surveillance and intelligence files for decades… files with information on more than three thousand individuals and close to a thousand organizations.

The files included groups the police labeled "criminal extremists." One was The American Friends Service Committee. That's a pacifist group. And it's run by the Quakers.

-Now with Bill Moyers (transcript March 5th, 2004)

Unsavory tactics seem to be the norm for this administration that seeks to criminalize dissent.

Why does the government want to repeat the mistakes of the past and waste their time with activists when they should be dealing with criminals? Politics? Is this the same politics that has the Republican National Convention trying to muzzle Move On?

Is this the same politics that seeks to consolidate opinion?

When quasi-hysterical fearmongering replaces reasonable debate, dark forces can be set in motion that outrun anyone's intentions, and that is especially true when the question involves a segment of society that has long been subject to irrational bigotry. To define the wish of homosexuals for equal access to marriage rites and rights as a mortal threat to the social order, as Bush does, is to put gay people themselves in an unprecedented position of jeopardy. Bush and a conservative punditry, out of crude self-interest, are working hard to reverse the evolution of attitudes that has blurred the boundary between blue America and red. Bush wants that boundary bright. In an election year, it may work. But it is dangerous.

The phrase "culture war" comes from "Kulturkampf." That word was coined in the 1870s when Germany's George W. Bush, Otto von Bismarck, launched a "values" campaign as a way of shoring up his political power. Distracting from issues of war and economic stress, the "Kulturkampf" ran from 1871 to about 1887. Bismarck's strategy was to unite his base by inciting hatred of those who were not part of it.

His first target was the sizable Catholic minority in the new, mostly Protestant German state, but soon enough, especially after an economic depression in 1873, Jews were defined as the main threat to social order. This was a surprising turn because Jewish emancipation had been a feature of German culture as recently as the 1860s. By 1879, the anti-Jewish campaign was in full swing: It was in that year that the word "anti-Semitism" was coined, defining not a prejudice but a public virtue. The Kulturkampf was explicitly understood as a struggle against decadence, of which the liberal emancipated Jew became a symbol. What that culture war's self-anointed defenders of a moral order could not anticipate was what would happen when the new "virtue" of anti-Semitism was reinforced by the then burgeoning pseudo-science of the eugenics movement. Bismarck's defense of expressly German values was a precondition of Hitler's anti-Jewish genocide.

- James Carroll, The risks of waging 'culture war'

The battle lines are not only cultural.

...the most salient divisions are not religious, political, or "cultural" but generational. To talk to younger people is to realize that for most of them, including many young conservatives, such notions as the idea that homosexuality is shameful, that it is a voluntary and/or contagious "life-style choice," or that it is some sort of threat to something or other (public order, the family, civilization, God) are simply bizarre curios from the past, like the belief that masturbation causes blindness. And, for what it's worth, anecdotal impressions are confirmed by opinion research. One particularly striking CBS News/New York Times poll, taken last year, asked respondents if they would favor or oppose "a law that would allow homosexual couples to marry, giving them the same legal rights as other married couples." Among adults under age thirty, 61 per cent said they would favor such a law and 35 per cent said they would oppose it; among sixty-five-year-olds and up, 18 per cent were in favor and 73 per cent opposed. The numbers vary from poll to poll, but the huge age gap is always there.

-Hendrik Hertzberg, WEDDED BLITZ

Of course Hertzburg doesn't seem to know about teachers like Beth Dixon:

Beth Dixon didn't mince words when asked why she drove from her Ohio home to Boston for Thursday's cliffhanger gay marriage debate.

"I'm here to support 5,000 years of Judeo-Christian heritage of one man, one woman," said Dixon, a 52-year-old schoolteacher, who said she made the trip with 20 other members of a Christian group to defend the definition of marriage from the "homosexual minority."

"There is no separation of church and state," she said.

That's funny, because the first amendment seems pretty clear on this.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Such paralogical behavior must explain why some kids don't adhere to Hertzburg's idea

Just down the hall from Strandford, a group of teenagers from the Amazing Grace Christian School in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Boston chanted, "One man. One Woman. God's Plan" outside the Senate Chambers.

Lakeisha Harewood, 15, said the students wanted to make sure the voices of young people were heard.

"I'm representing Jesus and to let homosexuals know that Jesus loves them, but hates their sin," she said. "Even the younger generation doesn't believe this is right. One man and one woman is God's plan."

I think it's safe to say that the "younger generation" that she speaks of come from Christian Schools or from homes where parents practice "home-schooling." Where else will we get the scientists to head up the President's science council?

In being concerned about the content of these reports, neither of which makes any recommendations for legislative or policy actions, are we worrying too much? We think not. Indeed, already, sadly as a result of the way the sections on aging research in the report were written, the myth that longevity has an inevitable tradeoff of diminished fertility is now gaining a further foothold: witness the January 26, 2004, issue of the The New Republic. In it, an article about this report of the Council falls right into the trap: it states, "But changes come with longer life. Worms and mice that are altered for extended lifespans become sterile, or barely reproduce." The public is done a disservice when science is presented incompletely; myths are then perpetuated.

-Elizabeth Blackburn and Janet Rowley, Reason as Our Guide

Leon Kass, chairman of the President's Council on Bioethics, defended the council in the Washington Post.

This council is easily the most intellectually and ethically diverse of the bioethics commissions to date. We have worked with mutual respect while not papering over our differences. No one who has attended any of our meetings or read the transcripts can believe that we do anything but serious and careful work, without regard to ideology, partisan politics or religious beliefs. Many of the remaining members are on record as disagreeing with the president on stem cell research policy. The council was and remains diverse by design.

As the council enters its second two-year term, there have been a few changes in our membership. Council member William F. May, having recently entered retirement, indicated his interest in stepping down at the end of the two years he had agreed to serve. May has been a stellar member of the council, universally respected. To our great pleasure, he has happily agreed to serve as a senior consultant for the council's new work on aging and the care of the elderly. In addition, one distinguished scientist on the council -- Elizabeth Blackburn, an expert in cell biology -- has been replaced by another distinguished scientist-physician -- Ben Carson, chair of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Medical Center. Although her important work kept her from attending many council meetings, Dr. Blackburn contributed a great deal of expertise and insight, and charges that her replacement is in any way connected to opinions she expressed are simply false -- as any review of the council's meetings or work, or of the views of other remaining members, would reveal.

Kass point out that, "One newspaper story on the day of our first meeting even went so far as to compare us to the Taliban." The "American Taliban" is becoming less associated with John Walker Lindh, much to the chagrin of those trying to have debates that rise above name calling. Others point out that it's a matter of degree in deed or that "[r]adicalization of the left is the problem here...", but the words and sentiment of a radical right are already here.

"I tell people don't kill all the liberals. Leave enough so we can have two on every campus - living fossils - so we will never forget what these people stood for."

- Rush Limbaugh, Denver Post, 12-29-95

"If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual gay sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything. All of those things are antithetical to a healthy, stable, traditional family and that's sort of where we are in today's world, unfortunately. It all comes from, I would argue, the right to privacy that doesn't exist, in my opinion, in the United States Constitution."

- Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA), Associated Press, 04-22-03

"I would warn Orlando that you're right in the way of some serious hurricanes, and I don't think I'd be waving those flags in God's face if I were you. This is not a message of hate; this is a message of redemption. But a condition like this will bring about the destruction of your nation. It'll bring about terrorist bombs; it'll bring earthquakes, tornadoes and possibly a meteor."

- Pat Robertson, speaking of organizers putting rainbow flags up around Orlando to support sexual diversity, Washington Post, 06-10-98. For the record, Orlando remains undestroyed by meteors.

"Environmentalists are a socialist group of individuals that are the tool of the Democrat Party. I'm proud to say that they are my enemy. They are not Americans, never have been Americans, never will be Americans."

- Rep. Don Young (R-AK), Alaska Public Radio, 08-19-96

"Get rid of the guy. Impeach him, censure him, assassinate him."

- Rep. James Hansen (R-UT), talking about President Clinton, as reported by journalist Steve Miner of KSUB radio who overheard his conversation, 11-01-98

"We're going to keep building the party until we're hunting Democrats with dogs."

- Senator Phil Gramm (R-TX), Mother Jones, 08-95

"My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times building."

- Ann Coulter, New York Observer, 08-26-02

"Homosexuals want to come into churches and disrupt church services and throw blood all around and try to give people AIDS and spit in the face of ministers."

- Pat Robertson again, The 700 Club, 01-18-95

"Emotional appeals about working families trying to get by on $4.25 an hour are hard to resist. Fortunately, such families do not exist."

- Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX), House Majority Whip, during a debate on increasing the minimum wage, Congressional Record, H3706, 04-23-96

"Chelsea is a Clinton. She bears the taint; and though not prosecutable in law, in custom and nature the taint cannot be ignored. All the great despotisms of the past - I'm not arguing for despotism as a principle, but they sure knew how to deal with potential trouble - recognized that the families of objectionable citizens were a continuing threat. In Stalin's penal code it was a crime to be the wife or child of an 'enemy of the people.' The Nazis used the same principle, which they called Sippenhaft, 'clan liability.' In Imperial China, enemies of the state were punished 'to the ninth degree': that is, everyone in the offender's own generation would be killed and everyone related via four generations up, to the great-great-grandparents, and four generations down, to the great-great-grandchildren, would also be killed."

- John Derbyshire, National Review, 02-15-01

"I know this is painful for the ladies to hear, but if you get married, you have accepted the headship of a man, your husband. Christ is the head of the household and the husband is the head of the wife, and that's the way it is, period."

- Pat Robertson again, The 700 Club, 01-08-92

"Why is this man in the White House? The majority of Americans did not vote for him. Why is he there? And I tell you this morning that he's in the White House because God put him there for a time such as this."

- Lt. General William G. Boykin, Deputy Undersecretary of Defense, New York Times, 10-17-03

"We need to execute people like John Walker in order to physically intimidate liberals, by making them realize that they can be killed, too. Otherwise, they will turn out to be outright traitors."

- Ann Coulter, at the Conservative Political Action Conference, 02-26-02

"Quit looking at the symbols. Get out and get a job. Quit shooting each other. Quit having illegitimate babies."

- State Rep. John Graham Altman (R-SC), addressing African-American concerns about the 'symbol' of the Confederate Flag, New York Times, 01-24-97

"Two things made this country great: White men & Christianity. The degree these two have diminished is in direct proportion to the corruption and fall of the nation. Every problem that has arisen (sic) can be directly traced back to our departure from God's Law and the disenfranchisement of White men."

- State Rep. Don Davis (R-NC), emailed to every member of the North Carolina House and Senate, reported by the Fayetteville Observer, 08-22-01

-part of a post by troutfishing from the book Take them at their Words by Bruce Miller.

Some are worried that we are flirting with theocracy. I'm not sure how slippery the slope is. One person in that thread cited the events that occurred in Charleston, West Virginia, 1974.

Alice Moore, wife of a fundamentalist pastor, became the movement's candidate for the school board in 1970. She said sex education was part of a "humanistic, atheistic attack on God.'' Church groups poured money into her campaign. She won and became the board's ayatollah, supporting Bibles for students and expulsion of pregnant girls.

Moore's moralizing had minor effect until 1974, when new textbooks were up for adoption. She denounced the books as irreligious, and a protest grew. A group of 27 born-again clergymen called the texts "immoral and indecent.'' (Rascals like me hunted for indecency in the books, but found only ordinary school topics.)

On the night of the adoption vote, 1,000 protesters surrounded the board office. Despite this menace, members voted 3-2 for the books. Afterward, a group called Christian American Parents picketed a discount store chain because its president, a board member, had voted yes.

When school opened, evangelists urged "true Christians'' to keep their children home. Attendance fell 20 percent -- moreso in the poor eastern end of the county. The Rev. Marvin Horan led a rally of 2,000 protesters. Mobs surrounded schools and blockaded school bus garages. Teachers were threatened. So were families who didn't join the boycott.

About 3,500 coal miners went on strike against the texts, and began picketing Charleston industries. Flying rocks, screams and danger were constant. Frightened people in some regions began carrying pistols. Many school buses couldn't run -- and then textbook pickets halted city buses, leaving 11,000 low-income people without transportation.

Pickets surrounded a truck terminal, and a terminal janitor fired a shot which wounded one. Other pickets beat the janitor savagely. The next day, an armed man panicked when pickets surged toward him. He fired a shot that wounded a bystander. Two book protesters were jailed for smashing windshields. The school board got a court injunction against disrupters, but it didn't help. Finally the superintendent closed schools, saying the safety of children couldn't be guaranteed. Schools also closed in neighboring counties.

Network TV crews swarmed to Charleston. A cameraman was trounced by protesters at a born-again rally. The Rev. Ezra Graley led a march on the state Capitol and filed a federal suit against the textbooks. Graley and other ministers were jailed for contempt of the court injunction.

Schools reopened. The boycott resumed. The Rev. Charles Quigley prayed for God to kill the board members who endorsed the books. A grade school was hit by a Molotov cocktail. Five shots hit a school bus. A dynamite blast damaged another grade school. A bigger blast damaged the school central office.

Near-riot conditions continued. Robert Dornan of California, a pornography foe, addressed a crowd of 3,000. Protesters started evangelical schools. A fundamentalist magistrate led an attempt to make eastern Kanawha a separate county.

-James A. Haught, The great West Virginia holy war

Unfortunately, 1974 was not very long ago and now we have more than just a "dirty" textbook for the radically religious to rally around. They also have political allies willing to focus on the ravings of the fanatical left instead of taking the high profile attacks of prominent conservatives to task.

Michelle Malkin would rather dredge the bottom of the Democratic Underground for a lack of compassion towards John Ashcroft. She also brings in a bad Bill Maher joke as further evidence and assuming that we don't know the difference between a joke and sick DU posters.

I have a hard time telling the difference between DU posters and freepers that aim at more than just the left. It becomes less clear which group is more sick and paying attention to either only is a way to score quick brownie points.

These alliances that initially join up to better each other's agenda often end up hurting us all. It's not just the denial of constitutional rights, but of environmental science. For some reason this adds a lot of libertarians to the mix. They stubbornly hold on to a cornucopia hypothesis so they can maximize their profits.

The numerous indicators of climate change fall on deaf ears.

In a strong bid for irony Reason magazine displays a facade of truth. They consistently promote one side of the debate while cherry-picking points from the other.

When reviewing Edward O. Wilson's The Future of Life Ronald Bailey criticized Wilson for not arguing for privatizing the natural areas we need to protect. He downplayed "that property owners may sometimes want to use their property in ways that do not maximize species preservation goals." The "reason" he gives is that "our responsibilities as citizens toward property owners is the same as for any other use public use of their property: They should be compensated." Even though he recognized that "species preservation is a legitimate national and international public good" and that Wilson "lauded the efforts of private conservation organizations to buy and preserve areas in developing countries" he suggests "this assumes that governments in developing nations will protect and enforce property rights." Why this would be any different for his private owners is conveniently left out.

Also what's missing is why we all benefit by keeping these regions as intact as possible. A single rare species could be extremely valuable.

It is no exaggeration to say that the search for natural medicinals is a race between science and extinction, and will become critically so as more forests fall and coral reefs bleach out and disintegrate. Another adventure dramatizing this point started in 1987, when the botanist John Burley collected samples of plants from a swamp forest near Lundu in the Malaysian state of Sarawak, on the northwestern corner of the island of Borneo. His expedition was one of the many launched by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to search for new natural substances to add to the fight against cancer and AIDS. Following routine procedure, the team collected a kilogram of fruit, leaves, and twigs from each kind of plant they encountered. Part was sent to the NCI laboratory for assay, and part was deposited in the Harvard University Herbarium for future identification and botanical research.

One such sample came from a small tree at Lundu about twenty-five feet high. It was given the voucher code label Burley-and-Lee 351. Back at NCI laboratories, an extract made from it was tested routinely against human cancer cells grown in culture. Like the majority of such preparations, it had no effect. Then it was run through screens designed to test its potency against the AIDS virus. The NCI scientists were startled to observe that Burley-and-Lee 351 gives, in their words, "100 percent protection against the cytopathic effects of HIV-1 infection," having "essentially halted HIV-1 replication." In other words, while the substance sample contained does not cure AIDS, it can stop cold the development of the disease symptoms in HIV-positive patients.

The Burley-and-Lee 351 tree was determined to be a species of Calophyllum, a group of species belonging to the mangosteen family, or Guttiferae. Collectors were dispatched to Lundu a second time to obtain more material from the same tree, with the aim of isolating and chemically identifying the HIV inhibitor. The tree was gone, probably cut down by local people for fuel of building materials. The collectors returned home with samples taken from other Calophyllum trees in the same swamp forest, but their extracts were ineffective against the virus.

Peter Stevens, then at Harvard University, and the worls authority on Calophyllum, now stepped in to solve the problem. The original tree, he found, belonged to a rare strain named Calophyllum lanigerum variety austrocoriaceum. The trees sampled on the second trip were another species, explaining their inactivity. No more specimens of austrocoriaceum could be found at Lundu. The search for the magic strain widened, and finally a few more specimens were located in the Singapore Botanic Garden.

-Edward O. Wilson, The Future of Life (p123-4)

The word "bioprospecting" is nowhere to be found in Bailey's review, but it offers a clue as to how we can influence governments to help protect these regions.

Only a few of the thousands of such traditional medicinals used in tropical forests around the world have been tested by Western clinical methods. Even so, the most widely used already have commercial value that rivals farming and ranching. In 1992 a pair of economic botanists, Michael Balick and Robert Mendelsohn, demonstrated that single harvests of wild-grown medicinals from two tropical forest plots in Belize were worth $726 and $3,327 per hectare (2.5 acres) respectively, with labor costs thrown in. By comparison, other researchers estimated per-hectare yield from tropical forest converted to farmland at $228 in nearby Guatemala and $339 in Brazil. The most productive Brazilian plantations of tropical pine could yield $3,184 from a single harvest.

In short, medicinal products from otherwise undisturbed tropical forests can be locally profitable, providing markets are developed and the extraction rate is kept low enough to be sustainable. And when plant and animal food products, fibers, carbon credit trades, and ecotourism are added to the mix, the commercial value of sustainable use can be boosted far higher.

-Edward O. Wilson, The Future of Life (p126)

The confusing and, in the end, often conflicting alliances made to score a few votes, grab a few dollars, or convert a few people keep us all busy. Are we too busy to notice the significant discoveries happening around us? Mars is barely a blip on the national radar.

Water makes the possibility of finding fossils more likely. On top of that we've got an anomalous SETI signal showing there might be more evidence of life than what's on Mars and yet getting there might be more important that many realize.

Finally, there's that damn asteroid. When a rock the size of Switzerland is coming right at you, there's no elbowing to the back of the crowd. If we stay only on Earth, humanity will die someday — in a flash. Mars can be our back up memory — the last surviving outpost of a very, very bad day — and that fact is going to start eating at us until we do something about it.

That's what water on Mars means. That's why we're going there now. And that's why maybe we should remember Tuesday, March 2, 2004.

-Michael S. Malone, Icarus Rising: Why the Discovery of Water on Mars Is Great Turning Point in Human History

This great moment is beyond right and wrong. It is an inevitable extension of life from our little part of the universe. It makes the feeble bigotry over sexuality and the greedy power grabs shrink in significance. It puts the human race in its place and at the same time rewards its patient curiosity and commitment to science.


Priests Peculiar Paralogical Points and Politican Pandering

3.2.2004

(Politics,Religion)

Many a meandering discourse one hears, in which the preacher aims at nothing, and—hits it.

-Richard Whately (1787-1866)

No true civilization can be expected permanently to continue which is not based on the great principles of Christianity.

-Tryon Edwards (1809-94)

The echoes of past preachers fall in tune with some of the current generation.

Civilization requires the regulation of human sexuality and relationships. No society--ancient or modern--has survived by advocating a laissez faire approach to sex and sexual relationships. Every society, no matter how liberal, sanctions some sexual behaviors and proscribes others. Every society establishes some form of sexual norm.

Pitirim Sorokin, the founder of sociology at Harvard University, pointed to the regulation of sexuality as the essential first mark of civilization. According to Sorokin, civilization is possible only when marriage is normative and sexual conduct is censured outside of the marital relationship. Furthermore, Sorokin traced the rise and fall of civilizations and concluded that the weakening of marriage was a first sign of civilizational collapse.
Inevitably, once marriage is redefined as something other than a heterosexual pair, there is nothing to stop further redefinition but sheer arbitrariness. Once marriage is no longer "one thing," but now "another thing" as well, there is nothing to stop marriage from becoming virtually "everything." Put simply, if marriage can be redefined so as to allow same-sex pairings, there is nothing in the logic of this transformation that could justify discrimination against those who would transform marriage in other ways. Why just two people? If the consent of all partners is all that is requisite, why laws against incest, polygamy, or any number of other alternative arrangements? We can be certain that proponents of these transformations will be waiting in line for their turn to use the courts to reverse what they claim to be unlawful discrimination.

-Albert Mohler, The Case Against Homosexual Marriage

Allen points out that consent is something that already goes beyond the Bible's treatment of women as something close to chattel. We're all supposed to ignore Lot when Mohler mentions incest too.

Among the many logical fallacies Mohler employs is the straw man argument that would suggest "the consent of all partners is all that is requisite." When society breaks from the convoluted, contradictory carcass of Biblical law it can employ reason and logic to its own law. We are informed by biology to steer clear from incest. We understand that polygamy undermines equality for women. Some have offered up bestiality as another side of the slippery slope, but can a sheep sign a marriage license or "baaa" out an "I do"?

I always get a bit suspicious when Priests invoke philosophers to prove points. Sorokin, while brilliant, was not without flaw and its ironic to use "a conservative libertarian, a Christian anarchist," to argue about giving the government more power. What Mohler likely bonded with was Sorokin's decent into dogma and doomsday prophesy.

It begs the question of where Mohler lifted the warning that "the weakening of marriage was a first sign of civilizational collapse." Was it in his earlier works or in his later clamoring about The Crisis?

Two of his works in the forties, Sociocu1tural Causality, Space, Time (1943)and Society, Cu1ture and Per- sonality (I947) still continued in the tradition of his earlier contributions, but the titles of other books published during and after the forties indicate his now prepotent inclination to serve as a prophet of doom and disaster: Crisis of Our Age (1941), Man and Society in Calamity (1942), Reconstruction of Humanity (1948), A1truistic Love (1950), Social Philosophies of an Age of Crisis (1950), Explorations in Altruistic Love and Behavior (1950), S.O.S. The Meaning of Our Crisis (1951), The Ways and Power of Love (1954), The American Sex Revolution (1957), and Power and Morality (I959). Whatever their value as tracts for the times or as prophetic indictments of the sins and errors of his contemporaries, they do not warrant analysis in a work devoted to sociological theory.

-Coser

Mohler shows little imagination by resorting to tired and ludicrous arguments that can be countered without much effort.

The heterosexual union of a man and a woman in monogamous marriage is the rightful context for procreation. When reproduction is severed from marriage, the society reaps the breakdown of both kinship and parental responsibility. Put most simply, even secular historians are aware that marriage is what explains why a father remains committed to the care of his own children. Societies that devalue marriage provide an automatic incentive for young males to act irresponsibly, fathering children without ever assuming responsibility as father.

Marriage is indispensable for the successful nurture and raising of children. Both boys and girls define themselves and establish their own identity and expectations based upon their observation of both father and mother, husband and wife--male and female.

To recognize that homosexual members of society have the right to engage in committed relationships and be recognized by the courts does not affect heterosexual procreation in any conceivable way. Homosexual marriage does not rule out procreation nor does it promote child abandonment. Marriage doesn't factor into a father caring for his children, otherwise every divorce would result in dead-beat dads. Societies that value marriage for all provide an incentive to act responsibly.

If "marriage is indispensable," would Mohler suggest children be transferred to two-parent homes once a divorce is finalized or after the death of a spouse? Perhaps he thinks that children from single-parent homes should be seen as "handicapped" and given special state aid.

The extension of the family through other kinship relations links one marriage to another, with the entire family finding its identity and security in the integrity of those marital bonds. The breaking of these bonds leads to social dissolution as well massive economic, legal, and psychological ills. The integrity of marriage is essential for children to know the security necessary for their own self-identity and sense of belonging.

I get it. He wants to go back to outlawing divorce. Separating children would mess with identity and integrity too much.

Just as the tax code discriminates in favor of homeowners (because the government rationally sees homeownership as a common social interest), a set of financial and legal incentives is directed towards a social preference for marriage. In the same way, even as the law protects corporations in order to encourage financial activity, the government also favors marriage (and thus married couples) in order to encourage procreation, childrearing, and cultural stability.

Nevertheless, government does not have the right to reorder this most basic institution of human organization. Marriage predates the establishment of government, and any governmental authority that would presume to redefine marriage apart from its inherently heterosexual nature will do so at great peril.

Gay marriage can uphold his three points of "procreation, childrearing, and cultural stability." Since many have seen the pictures of gay couples with children the first point is obviously no more a problem than that faced by infertile couples. Childrearing of two parents of the same sex would be no different sex-wise than a single-parent situation and I see no law against them. Cultural stability is a dubious "value" at best and one need only look at the history of marriage to see that it has never been a stable institution.

If there is a threat to any government or civilization, it is in its inability to resist change.

The redefinition of marriage in order to accommodate same-sex relationships would not mean the mere transformation of marriage--but its dissolution. The very concept of marriage cannot survive such a denial of its inherent meaning and historic structure.

This may sound absurd. However, as a Christian theologian, he is "absolutely bound to declare the inherent sinfulness of all sexual activity outside of the marital bond." You can wash down this appeal to authority with a shot of fear, because "to tamper with this divinely-established institution is to risk not only social peril but the divine judgment that will most surely come."

The eventual acceptance of gay marriage may be the end of many Churches as they choke on the fact that gay marriage had no negative effect on the rest of society. The ignorant claim that homosexuality had any affect on the fall of any civilization throughout history will hopefully be buried with the remains. Their hysterics will turn many away in the effort to seek saner shores.

The fight is continuing on other fronts. The Oklahoma House's 96-0 decision to include a laughable disclaimer shows that politicians have fallen on their knees to appease the fundies. This outright attack on scientific fact shows the desperate corner their rigid adherence to dogma has led them. Their staunch denial of reality in face of the facts stokes fear and mistrust towards them. The Passion of the Christ hasn't made this any less than Frailty did. Fear tactics and denial leave many bitterly opposed to religion in any form.

I don't accept the currently fashionable assertion that any view is automatically as worthy of respect as any equal and opposite view. My view is that the moon is made of rock. If someone says to me "Well, you haven't been there, have you? You haven't seen it for yourself, so my view that it is made of Norwegian Beaver Cheese is equally valid" - then I can't even be bothered to argue. There is such a thing as the burden of proof, and in the case of god, as in the case of the composition of the moon, this has shifted radically. God used to be the best explanation we'd got, and we've now got vastly better ones. God is no longer an explanation of anything, but has instead become something that would itself need an insurmountable amount of explaining. So I don't think that being convinced that there is no god is as irrational or arrogant a point of view as belief that there is. I don't think the matter calls for even-handedness at all.

-Douglas Adams

Once the State unites with the Church to the detriment of a group of people they are opposed for religious reasons, once the state takes on extra-constitutional powers in the name of security while uniting with the Church to remake the constitution, once the State and Church work hand in hand to shape science, are they moving us to fascism?

Given their built-in weakness and their willingness to swallow the most outrageous Big Lies emanating from the propaganda ministry and the media, most Germans were fruit waiting to be plucked by the Nazi harvesters. "They still fall for anything. After all that, I do not see that one can blame the majority of Germans who, in 1933, believed that the Reichstag fire was the work of the Communists. [The Parliament burned down and a convenient Communist arsonist was fingered, which the Nazis used as the excuse to unleash police-state tactics against all opponents.] What one can blame them for, and what shows their terrible collective weakness of character clearly for the first time during the Nazi period, is that this settled the matter. With sheepish submissiveness the German people accepted that, as a result of the fire, each one of them lost what little personal freedom and dignity was guaranteed by the constitution; as though it followed as a necessary consequence."

In short, what should have been a strong political and moral opposition movement to Hitlerian policies, meekly acceded to the destruction of their country's institutions of law and social harmony. The result in society was a clear leaning toward the dynamic, muscular policies advocated by the Nazis, and a seething "anger and disgust with the cowardly treachery of their own [opposition] leadership."

Of course, fear of police-state action always was operative. "Join the thugs to avoid being beaten up. Less clear was a kind of exhilaration, the intoxication of unity, the magnetism of the masses. Many also felt a need for revenge against those who had abandoned them. Then there was a peculiarly German line of thought: 'All the predictions of the opponents of the Nazis have not come true. They said the Nazis could not win. Now they have won. Therefore the opponents were wrong. So the Nazis must be right.' There was also (particularly among intellectuals) the belief that they could change the face of the Nazi Party by becoming a member, even now shift its direction."

All of this follows the normal range of psychology, Haffner says. "The only thing that is missing is what in animals is called 'breeding.' This is a solid inner kernel that cannot be shaken by external pressures and forces, something noble and steely, a reserve of pride, principle, and dignity to be drawn on in the hour of trial. It is missing in the Germans. As a nation they are soft, unreliable, and without backbone. That was shown in March 1933. At the moment of truth, when other nations rise spontaneously to the occasion, the Germans collectively and limply collapsed. They yielded and capitulated, and suffered a nervous breakdown. The result of this million-fold nervous breakdown is the unified nation, ready for anything, that is today the nightmare of the rest of the world."

-Bernard Weiner, Germany In 1933: The Easy Slide Into Fascism

—Or is Weiner another Sorokin writing crisis papers?

I would like to think that the flow of history might, on occasion, eddy under the influence of stubborn snags of dead log ideas that will inevitably be cleared away under the pressure of progress. For that is only natural and good. The more we damn up the truth, the greater the force of its inevitable crash.

In southern Louisiana, the bed of the Mississippi River is so far below sea level that a flow of at least a hundred and twenty thousand cubic feet per second is needed to hold back salt water and keep it below New Orleans, which drinks the river. Along the ragged edges of the Gulf, whole ecosystems depend on the relationship of fresh salt water, which is in large part controlled by the Corps. Shrimp people want water to be brackish, waterfowl people want it fresh—a situation that causes National Marine Fisheries to do battle with United States Fish and Wildlife while both simultaneously attack the Corps. The industrial interests of the American Ruhr beseech the Corps to maintain their supply of fresh water. Agricultural pumping stations demand more fresh water for their rice but nervily ask the Corps to keep the sediment. Morgan City needs water to get oil boats and barges to rigs offshore, but if Morgan City gets too much water it's the end of Morgan City. Port authorities present special needs, and the owners of grain elevators, and the owners of coal elevators, barge interests, flood-control districts, levee boards. As General Sands says, finishing the list, "A guy who wants to put in a new dock in has to come to us." People suspect the Corps of favoring other people. In addition to all the things the Corps actually does and does not do, there are infinite actions it is imagined not to do, and infinite actions it is imagined to be capable of doing, because the Corps has been conceded the almighty role of God.

John McPhee, The Control of Nature (1989, page 23) [more on The Old River Control Project]


Sanctity or Semantics?

2.28.2004

(Politics,Religion)

The President declared a threat to the very foundation of our civilization. Kerry concurred and gave another to the list of reasons why the politics of "anyone but Bush" has backfired for the critics of the President.

The gay marriage issue has some resonance with Gibson's movie about Jesus. The New Testament message about love would seem to be the most important thing to cover, but it's lost to disturbing visuals of flayed flesh and angry crowds. Similarly, the celebration of love that marriage should be is not found in broadcast television game shows, drunken Las Vegas celebrity hitch-ups or mass Moonie stadium events. The only 'sanctity' to be found is the exclusiveness of the participating genders. Preserving its sanctity by stressing the right gender is like closing the barn door after all but the homosexual horses have left.

The sanctity of marriage is a matter to the faithful alone. The rest celebrate their unions in a secular sense of mutual trust, respect, and commitment.

The English language is strong enough to carry multiple definitions of a word. It was not that long ago where every marriage was expected to be gay. Does anyone think that because the Flintstones were having "a gay old time" that Fred and Barney were homosexuals lovers that married their lesbian wives in order to make Bam-Bam?

Any homosexual man who can persuade a woman to take him as her husband can avail himself of all the rights of husbandhood under the law. And, in fact, many homosexual men have done precisely that, without any legal prejudice at all.

Ditto with lesbian women. Many have married men and borne children. And while a fair number of such marriages in recent years have ended in divorce, there are many that have not.

-Orson Scott Card, Homosexual "Marriage" and Civilization

I'll leave further Card debunking to Ezrael. Gary "homosexual behavior is fraught with adverse health affects." Bauer debunking goes to Josh.

While John Edwards supports the idea of gay marriage, he's sure America is not ready. So I propose a strategic withdrawal.

A while ago I wrote about the Equal Rights Amendment. It's been passed in 35 of the 38 states needed. The critics of the bill imagined up a list of things it will make possible that rivals in its hysteria the ravings of Card. One of the things that didn't make it to that list is that they believe the ERA will "contribute to constitutional protection for homosexual marriage."

We could free two birds with one vote for the ERA!

If you have HBO, you can watch the story of Alice Paul (author of the ERA) with their new movie, Iron Jawed Angels.

A person's character is but half formed till after wedlock.

-Charles Simmons

It seems like quite a lot to deny a person. In the end, they only want to strengthen their families and marriage has long been seen as the best way to do that. It should be seen as a validation of the importance of marriage and in the process it will help society.


Left, Right. Fight! Fight! Fight!

2.22.2004

(Politics,Science)

Some people talk in their sleep. Lecturers talk while other people sleep.

-Albert Camus

What is more boring? It is when I write about politics and religion or when I get gushy over love?

Of the latter I offer no excuse even though scientists are working on it.

...understanding the neurochemical pathways that regulate social attachments may help to deal with defects in people's ability to form relationships. All relationships, whether they are those of parents with their children, spouses with their partners, or workers with their colleagues, rely on an ability to create and maintain social ties. Defects can be disabling, and become apparent as disorders such as autism and schizophrenia—and, indeed, as the serious depression that can result from rejection in love. Research is also shedding light on some of the more extreme forms of sexual behaviour. And, controversially, some utopian fringe groups see such work as the doorway to a future where love is guaranteed because it will be provided chemically, or even genetically engineered from conception.

-Economist, "I get a kick out of you"

Yes, but can science mend the rift between conservatives and liberals?

For a while (ever since the Bakke decision), it was the left that flew the diversity banner and put it to work in the service of affirmative action, speech codes, hostile-environment regulations, minority hiring, and more. Now it is the right's turn, and Horowitz himself has mapped out the strategy and laid bare the motives:

"I encourage [students] to use the language that the left has deployed so effectively on behalf of its own agendas. Radical professors have created a 'hostile learning' environment for conservative students. There is a lack of 'intellectual diversity' on college faculties and in academic classrooms. The conservative viewpoint is 'under-represented' in the curriculum and on its reading lists. The university should be an 'inclusive' and intellectually 'diverse' community" ("The Campus Blacklist," April 2003).

It is obvious that for Horowitz these are debating points designed to hoist the left by its own petard; but the trouble with debating points is that they can't be kept in bounds. Someone is going to take them seriously and advocate actions that Horowitz would probably not endorse.

-Stanley Fish, 'Intellectual Diversity': the Trojan Horse of a Dark Design

The Bill of Academic Rights to promote 'intellectual diversity' sounds strange coming from the likes of David "Why are leftist such liars about such basic things?" Horowitz. Politics is stuck in the realm of opinion and the real issue should be separating opinion from fact in the classroom. This might be hard for anyone leaning far to either political side. Yet, the debate has snowballed from Duke University after this "DCU sparks varied reactions" article was published. Letters in response were published and Robert Brandon responded.

This prompted a snark-saturated post by Andrew Stuttaford of The Nation, which John Holbo dissects. Then Belle Waring offers a story, which you can match against the tale of Matt Bettis.

Gerald Wilson, a history professor at Duke University, says a student's question on the first day of class last semester caught him off guard: "Do you have any prejudices?"

Unsure what the young man meant, Mr. Wilson decided to reply with a joke. "Yeah, Republicans," he recalls saying. (He found out later that the student was asking about writing styles.)

"Everybody laughed," the professor says.

Well, not quite everybody.

Matt Bettis, a senior in the class, thought the comment among others was inappropriate and sent an e-mail message to Mr. Wilson telling him so. The professor apologized to Mr. Bettis, who had dropped the course, "American Dreams/American Realities."

"I was absolutely dumbfounded," Mr. Bettis later wrote about Mr. Wilson's comments in a letter to Students for Academic Freedom, a national group that is collecting stories about political bias on campuses. "What worried me was the excited and proud manner in which he stated it, thus implying that his politics would be a large part of the classroom experience."

-Sara Hebel, Patrolling Professors' Politics

Are Republicans the new nerds on campus? Bettis emails Wilson instead of coming up to him and asking him directly, which I imagine would have resolved the situation. I think he just wanted to pitch a fit. Now that Horowitz jumped on it, it would seem ridiculed Republicans are coming out of the dorms to tell their stories.

This is college, not High School. I thought they were supposed to be mature. Everyone has a teacher they don't like and some people are more vocal about their politics than others. So far the students speaking out don't impress me. Meaghan McCarty says, "There should be less of their own opinion and more facts from both perspectives." Since when did different perspectives provide different facts? Facts don't belong to a party.

We all agree that no one wants to stifle political differences on campus. There are issues here worth addressing, but these students need to get used to the idea that some people do not agree with them and they need to grow a thicker skin concerning the jokes (don't even try to equate them with racial, etc. jokes). If they feel that there are not enough right-leaning professors then maybe they should sign up for the job. That said, it is worth investigating whether or not qualified republican professors are being turned down in favor of others of lesser or equal qualifications. It is also worth investigating if professors give lower grades to those they disagree with politically and if their behavior goes beyond feeble attempts at humor.

[More Information and comments]


All you need?

2.16.2004

(Opinion)

Go with Peace, Love, and Harmony...Love one another!"

- Ladysmith Black Mambazo's Joseph Shabala closing request after every concert.

I saw them perform Saturday in the Ramsey Auditorium at Fermilab. Sitting there listening one cannot help being affected by their exuberant energy and joy. They radiate warmth that's completely absent from the majority of contemporary American music.

Their gentle theme found resonance in my heart and made me realize how much love has taken over my life. Love has changed my beliefs, hopes, and attitude. It has gotten me to grasp again that realization that had almost completely slipped from my thoughts in days where wanting anything but war is equated at best with stupidity and at worst with betrayal of country.

I had become swept away and traded barbs with those braying barbarians over the details of partisan politics while both parties had near equal shares of corruption and blood on their hands.

Technology lets us exchange fear and hate worldwide in perfect, disconnected, face-free form. These ever-echoing anger chambers channel competitive creeds for civilization. Is it truly civilization that's at threat or a trillion-dollar defense budget that bears only a false fruit of safety?

"When you simply destroy that which you cannot understand," I told him, "it will come back to you again and again and again, each new form worse than previous. But if once you can understand what motivates your enemy, you can often help him discover superior ways of accomplishing his deeper purposes."

-Ken Carey, Return of the Bird Tribes (1988)

Fear has become the central guiding force. It is the antithesis of freedom and the natural brother of war. We have acted in haste through fear because we live under color codes of fear engineered for maximum uneasiness and uncertainty. We are led to believe that nations, religions, and GNPs matter. Therefore, we fear when any of these things seem threatened or are in someway deemed lacking.

What better example of the utter contempt for compassion than to have a President speak for Jesus one day and declare war on another? Fear is the only thing that could cause people to think, "you are with us or with the terrorists" rhetoric was anything but a way to allow them unhindered progress towards an escalating conflict instead of an escalating peace.

I am not preaching pacifism, but I am not convinced that war is the only way. A real effort for peace has never been attempted and it is quite beyond the Perle's, Frum's, and Rumsfeld's of the world. It is important to ask ourselves some questions: "Why have we tolerated tyranny and genocide throughout the world until a desperate act of terror finally reaches our soil? Why do we think war will win hearts accustomed to our apathy?"

I know only my own heart and that as sure I was of certain things, love turned those beliefs around. I wish it would work for everyone.


A fine line between opinion and lie

2.1.2004

(Politics)

Sometimes it's not a matter of lying liars verses truth tellers. It's just a matter of opposing opinions. J.D. Cassidy seems have trouble with this in his article, Lies My Teachers Told Me.

The first lie is calling America an imperialist nation. It's possible that Cassidy is simply ignorant of the definition of "imperialism". To me "the extension or imposition of power, authority, or influence" is shown here and here. There's no need to tap Howard Zinn's points. Cassidy is intolerant of anything but a strict and selective definition of "imperialism." This is the only way he can get away with calling it a lie.

The next lie is that socialism works better than capitalism. It's sounds like an opinion rather than a lie. After all, what are the criteria? According to the author it's achievements like space exploration fueled by pay incentives. Sweden has low crime, a high literacy rate (99%), no poverty, and only 4% unemployment in a highly skilled labor force. It sounds like a nice place to live.

Of course, Sweden is neither capitalist or socialist. It's both. So is the USA, Canada, and the UK. This false dichotomy form of argument is a waste of time for Cassidy and his professors.

The third lie is calling the US Constitution a "living document." If you thought his previous points were weak, this one is weaker than Michael Jackson's chances at becoming a scoutmaster.

In response to this lie, you should ask your professor why the Framers boldly state in the Preamble to the Constitution that the document is intended to "secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity… ."

It really could not be any clearer than this. The Constitution was designed to protect the freedom of those who would be born after the Framers. The Constitution, then, is not "alive" in the sense that its various parts can be ignored or intentionally twisted by a Federal Judge.

Everything hinges on his "in the sense..." subjectivity. The Constitution has goals, but to meet these goals the document must "live" by changing.

After that one, you might suspect that Cassidy is "fishing" for anything that offends his delicate world-view. You're right! The next lie is that America was founded on racism and genocide. What is peculiar here is that he doesn't actually come up with any evidence other than having a different take on slaughter and slavery as steps in a story of progress. To claim that Americans weren't able to build this nation in such a relatively short time by exploiting free labor is speaking in stark contrast to the facts. He doesn't even try to refute what happened to Native Americans, but focuses on slavery. In fact, he's only arguing the point of emphasis. He can't accept that our country was founded on racism and genocide in the name of progress. Looking at the dark side of history doesn't take away from the good nor is it lying.

Our next stop is the lie that Palestinians are victims of Israel. There is nothing good that can be said of the situation there. The Palestinians are victims of those that want to expand Israeli settlements. The Palestinians are victims of Arafat's "leadership." The Palestinians are victims of those among them that turn to terrorism. The Palestinians are victims of the British government that abandoned them without the means to make a place of their own. The Palestinians are victims of USA's unwavering economic support of Israel that stops at their border. The Palestinians are victims of those pundits like Glen Reynolds that use Palestinian terrorism that springs from occupation as a catch-22 justification for saying "they don't deserve a state." The few friends the Palestinians have in the Arab world "help" them by promoting their own suicidal/homicidal deaths.

It is a lie to say all of Israel is united in its victimization of the Palestinians. It is a lie to say all Palestinians do not deserve a state or are terrorists. There are victims on both sides. It is a lie to think that taking sides will end this conflict.

Was Marx a genius? Well, not according to Cassidy. He manages this feat by making the requirements "making something that works." Unfortunately for Cassidy the rest of the world defines "genius" in different terms. You can be wayward genius. See Freud, Jung, Socrates, Nietzsche, etc.

Finally! After slogging through all that crap we get to an actual lie! The Vietcong were bad guys. Of course, in the course of being the good guys we did bad guy things, but I hear God will sort it out in the end.

If atrocities are the bar from which we measure a side's rightness, then the picture becomes less clear. Maybe the lesson is that war can start with clear boundaries between good and bad. After that, anything can happen.

Cassidy gets another one. It's true that the Republican Party is not the party of racism. No party is completely free from racism. Determining which party has been more racist is a partisan masturbation exercise.

That's all. One full article for only two lies. That is two out of eight that he claimed. This curious inflation of misinformation is the result of Cassidy's curious calling of a crisis to our nation. The crisis to him is liberal professors expressing—get this—liberal views.

UPDATE (2-20-2004): Brian Leiter finds another example of the fear of leftist professors. This time the taint of Tech Central Station naturally adds lies of a loony libertarian.


This site: