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Friday, October 31, 2003

Julie Burchill: Mind the gap

A big thank you to Glenn for pointing out this gem of a column in the Guardian, regarding the hypocrisy of the hip. You absolutely must read the whole thing; that is an order. It's impossible to excerpt this without violating all sorts of "fair use" restrictions, but I'll try:

But unenlightened, repressed people have an excuse for being hypocrites - that they are unenlightened and repressed, and so presumably don't know any better. No, it's the hipocrites who fascinate and repel me; the enlightened, unrepressed, liberal thinkers whose deepest governing belief would appear to be "Do what I say, not what I do", and who seem to believe that the rest of us are too thick to notice the yawning credibility gap opening up between their feet as they pontificate. ...

You expect Ms Dynamite and Justin Timberlake to mouth off against American war in Iraq/US cultural imperialism just before signing massive deals with Pepsi and McDonald's. You expect Catherine Zeta-Jones to say stuff like, "I find divorces repulsive. I grew up in a small, strictly Catholic fishing village on the coast of Wales. The people there have a different attitude to life than those in Hollywood - people stick together" - having left said Eden at 15 in order to fulfil a destiny that included going to Hollywood and marrying a divorced ex-sex addict. Was his divorce repulsive? Or just everyone else's?

If that's not enough to make you read this column, how about this ... the next target is Sean Penn.

Aha. Made you look.

Thanks, Glenn. Now if you'd just mention me, just once, dammit ... Good night, everyone.

10:16 PM in Humor | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Defector: N. Korea's Kim Is World Problem

In keeping with Roger Simon's challenge, here's what North Korea's highest-ranking defector says:

The only way to combat North Korea's dictator is for the world to unite against him as it has against terrorism, North Korean's top-ranking defector said in an interview with The Associated Press on Friday. ... On his first trip to the United States, Hwang Jang Yop also said he believes North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is fully prepared to start a war and that there's no telling whether Kim will ever give up his nuclear program.

"It's like ... asking whether a venomous snake will bite or not," Hwang said in the interview.

Roger feels, and I agree, that the pledge made in 1945 -- never again -- has transformed definition from 'never allowing genocide to happen again' to 'never recognizing genocide again'. We missed it completely in Cambodia after the much-derided "domino theory" came to pass. We missed it in Rwanda, and we're missing it in the Congo. We stopped it, eventually, in the Balkans, and we deposed Saddam but only years after his massive slaughters had begun, and even at that we're still learning just how extensive they were. Kim Jong-Il may not be killing an ethnic minority, but he is starving his own people to death in a country that is little more than a concentration camp writ large.

"Kim Jong Il has sacrificed a lot — the economy, the people," Hwang said, referring to a famine that has killed estimated millions. "And all the sacrifices were for the expansion of his military. I don't believe he was (just) trying to display them and brag about the fact that he has these things. He really intends to start a war," Hwang said.

I believe Bush can concentrate more on North Korea now that he isn't pinned down in a diplomatic stalemate with Saddam Hussein any longer. We need to pressure Russia and China, who seem open to cooperation with us, into understanding that a nutbar like Kim Jong-Il threatens their stability at least as much as Japan's, and to take action to ensure North Korea never goes nuclear. But, regarding that, we are rapidly approaching the time when we won't have the luxury of allowing possession of nuclear weapons to stalemate us. We can't let the Irans and North Koreas of the world continue to wreak havoc and support terrorism just because they have a nuke or two. We faced down the Soviets; surely we can face down a tinhorn dictator and a few mad mullahs.

09:30 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory

The Republican National Commitee appears ready for a public-relations disaster in demanding that CBS allow them to preview the Reagan miniseries prior to broadcast:

The Republican National Committee Friday asked CBS to allow a team of historians and friends of former President Ronald Reagan and his wife to review a miniseries about the couple before it airs. ... Gillespie said that if CBS denies the request, he will ask the network to run a note across the bottom of the screen every 10 minutes during the program's presentation informing viewers that the miniseries is not accurate.

Well, ouch, won't that hurt! Is the RNC the last group of people on Earth that hasn't figured out that Hollywood is almost never historically accurate? Here's a list of educational items if they've just stumbled onto this:

* The British did not burn down churches full of people during the American Revolution (that was WWII Nazis), and free blacks were illegal in South Carolina during that era, let alone them having beach villages full of laughter, dancing, and carefree moments for lovestruck lead actors. (The Patriot)
* The Americans did not secretly capture an Enigma device from a German submarine during WWII; that was the British. (U-571)
* Bobby DeLaughter did not singlehandedly convict Byron De La Beckwith of Medgar Evers' murder. (Ghosts of Mississippi)
* In JFK, ... nah, way too easy.
* Pocohantas married, traveled to London, where she died as a young woman. (Pocohantas)
* And in The Untouchables, an otherwise entertaining film is marred by the fact that Eliot Ness wasn't the man who put Al Capone away (it was an entirely different group of people), none of his men were ever killed during the duration of their task force, Frank Nitti took over for Capone instead of being tossed off the courthouse roof, and of course Kevin Costner stunk, which if you see enough of his films, qualifies as a certain sort of historical accuracy.

No one in their right mind would expect Hollywood to turn out a historically accurate film on anything -- if Warner Brothers produced a film on the Boston Red Sox, they'd show them winning the 1986 World Series. The only practical result of this RNC grandstanding is to generate a hell of a lot of publicity for what promised to be a mediocre and thoroughly forgettable effort (c'mon, it stars James Brolin, for Pete's sake), and to allow the left-wing elements associated with the film to argue that Republicans stifle free speech ... which certainly seems to be the case here. The notion that CBS will run a crawl every ten minutes explaining that the film is not historically accurate stretches the limits of credulity. What's next, a demand for equal time whenever The American President or The Contender is shown on broadcast TV?

Perhaps someone at the RNC can fill us in on the Grand Strategy at play here. Because unless the idea is to depict Republicans as tight-assed, self-defeating paranoids, they've gone off the rails. Wouldn't their time be better spent on generating support for Justice Brown and thereby promoting free speech?

UPDATE: Check out this post at Jessica's Well, a great blog, if you want information on contacting CBS to express your views on this subject. CBS management, and stockholders, will be much more impressed with howls of outrage from millions of viewers than petty and unlikely demands from the RNC.

06:30 PM in Television | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

This Accident Brought To You By ...

As Warren Brown says in this column, I'm a free-market kind of guy, but there are limits:

Some Internet entrepreneurs, apparently more interested in cash than in road rage, or the possibility of a fatal crash, have been offering MIRT and MIRT knockoffs for $300. Their pitches are quite tempting: "Never wait for a red light again!" and "Tired of Waiting for Red Lights?" and "Changes Stop Lights From Red to Green in Seconds." Of course, there are buyers; and at the moment, the commerce is legal.

MIRT transmits an infrared beam, instead of a radio wave. The Federal Communications Commission regulates the use of radio waves. Infrared transmission falls outside of the agency's purview. As a result, currently, there are no federal laws restricting civilian use of MIRT technology.

Federal regulation would help keep these off the market, but individual states can and should make sale, possession, or use of these devices illegal for anyone except public-safety personnel, such as police or fire departments. Another option would be to convert existing systems to radio-wave technology, but the change would be costly, and the wider transmission pattern could set off other traffic lights accidentally.

Private use for selfish purposes causes unnecessary danger to all drivers, as Brown illustrates:

It is rush hour. Cars are stacked up waiting for traffic signals to change. Someone gets tired of waiting. He pushes a button on his dashboard-mounted MIRT transmitter, which is plugged into his car's 12-volt outlet. The device, using 15 watts of energy, sends an infrared beam 1,500 feet to a traffic-light receiver installed at the intersection. The red light facing his line of traffic instantly turns green, much to the surprise of motorists already moving through the intersection on an opposing green signal.

At best, there'd be one heck of a case of gridlock. At worst, someone gets killed or injured.

Actually, it doesn't turn it instantly to green; it forces the other direction to red quickly first, but it's the same effect, and it's still very dangerous in high-volume traffic areas.

There will, of course, be a contingent of people who claim that regulating this equipment will be tantamount to government oppression and start talking about black helicopters, the UN and one-world government, and blah blah blah, but they will be few and entertaining. States shouldn't wait for Congress to act -- they should take action on their own ahead of federal regulation.

04:02 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Crime-Fighting Captain

By day, a mild-mannered blogger ... by night, a legendary crime-fighter ...

Captain Ed

01:55 PM in Games | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Definition of Insanity ...

... is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result:

Senate Democrats yesterday blocked President Bush's selection of Charles W. Pickering Sr. for a federal appeals court after a two-year struggle that evoked conflicting interpretations of the past, present and future of race relations in Mississippi and Pickering's role in them.

It's far past the time that Senate Republicans should have forced the Democrats to really filibuster a nominee, instead of the Filibuster Lite that they've allowed so far. Force the Democrats to shut the Senate by continuous speechifying, all the while on C-SPAN, preferably with that political cartoon of Justice Brown on the dais behind them. If the Democrats choose obstructionism, force them to do it for real. Let the country see what they are.

Either that, or dump the nominees and find new ones, because this process has been grossly unfair to them.

01:14 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Video cell phones causing unforseen issues, pardon the pun

Quite frankly, this issue never occurred to me until I read this article:

It's a health club patron's nightmare: Someone surreptitiously snaps a digital photo of said patron in a shower or locker room, then shares the snapshot far and wide via e-mail or by posting the picture on a Web site.

The likelihood of this happening has dramatically increased in the past year or two as digital cameras have shrunk in size and become inconspicuous parts of everyday devices such as mobile phones.

Now, local health-club chains are scrambling to preempt such mischief. The latest is Eden Prairie-based Life Time Fitness, which has just banned any cell-phone use in locker room areas. Northwest Athletic Clubs and the YWCA of Minneapolis also have instituted similar bans, according to a check of area clubs by the Pioneer Press.

Health clubs have banned film and video cameras in the past for these reasons, but cell phones have become so ubiquitous, and so necessary for those of us on 24-hour call. Pagers are nowhere near as convenient, and being out of touch for an hour or two may not be an option.

08:08 AM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Death Penalty: Reason Has Nothing to Do With It

Power Line posts a provocative essay on the death penalty, using a column by George Will as a springboard:

He reaches this conclusion after juxtaposing the views of Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (pro death penalty) and attorney-novelist Scott Turow (against it). Romney cites three reasons why the death penalty should be used in some instances -- its deterrent effect will prevent some murders; it expresses and reinforces society's "proportionate revulsion" against the most heinous crimes; and its presence can induce criminals to turn state's evidence in order to avoid execution.

Deacon argues, in a dispassionate and intelligent manner, that the death penalty saves lives overall. After all, murderers kill in prison, and have been known to kill when released from prison. The death penalty removes that oportunity. In Will's column, Governor Mitt Romney argues that the death penalty is a deterrent, which may have been true at one point but doesn't seem like much of one in the past twenty years. Will goes back and forth but finally decides that since the system is imperfect, he cannot support the death penalty. Deacon decides that the death penalty is the lesser of two evils and supports it, but makes an excellent point when he says:

What I meant, though, is that there are reasonable policy and moral arguments on both sides of the death penalty debate, and that neither side can demonstrate that the other is morally or pragmatically wrong. Where one ends up on this issue depends on what one thinks society should look like. Reason can take us only so far in this debate.

I'm not going to make an argument stating categorically that anyone is morally wrong, but I will tell you why I believe the death penalty is wrong -- not ineffective, not arbitrary, but wrong. As I've posted in the past, it's my belief that life is holy and sacred and that most of the problems of the past century have followed from a general decline of this belief. Once we stop treating life as holy and sacred, we open ourselves up to all manner of life-disposal mechanisms: abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, pulling the plug on people like Terri Schiavo where people like the New York Times lecture us on "meaningful" lives as opposed to those not worth living, and the death penalty.

The reason people have trouble understanding the death penalty in the same context is because the people executed deserve to die for their crimes. Assuming that the system is perfect -- which it demonstrably is not -- and that the death penalty is equitably applied -- which it also is not -- these people would deserve to die for their crimes. But life isn't given by the state, and therefore should not be taken by it either. Taking on the prerogative that the state can decide whose life is worth living, no matter what the circumstances, puts the state and individual humans in that position. It opens the door to allowing individuals to decide which other lives are worth living, in other circumstances. Life isn't sacred or holy anymore; we start valuing life for its practical use only. It's like the old joke about the guy who asks a girl if she will sleep with him for a million dollars, and she says she will. He then offers her a hundred dollars for the night. She says, "What do you think I am?" He replies, "We've already established what you are. Now we're just haggling over price."

Lock them away for life, throw away the key; I have no problem with that. In those cases, we've properly judged people for their actions. Don't let them back out, build better prisons; I think incarceration is one of the few functions that governments rightly have. But if we expect society to treat life as sacred and holy in certain circumstances, then we'd better treat it that way under all circumstances. Otherwise, we've already established what we are, and now we're just haggling over preferences.

06:08 AM in Songs of the Shining Wire | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Next up, we'll ask if he had a lawnmower

Does this qualify as breaking news at ABC?

ABC screened the special for some reporters and religious leaders on Thursday. The program is based on the best-selling novel, "The DaVinci Code," which claims to be partly grounded on historical fact. The book asserts that Mary Magdalene was Jesus' wife — not a prostitute, as in some teachings — and that she fled Jerusalem with his child following his crucifixion. ... The show unravels like a mystery perpetuated by secondhand gossip. Vargas said ABC found no proof that Jesus had a wife, but couldn't completely discount it, either.

Here's a list of other things they couldn't prove as well:

* Did Jesus have an Easy-Saver card?
* Did Jesus have a black-velvet painting of Elphaes ben-Presley?
* Did Jesus have the heartbreak of psoriasis?
* Did Jesus have a good singing voice?
* Did Jesus have a wristband that said WWMD? (What Would Moses Do?)

C'mon ... you can't prove that he didn't have any of these either. In fact, you can't prove a negative, so it's a colossal waste of time and effort to debate such things. If ABC News has time for this stuff, why does their war coverage suck so much?

UPDATE: Check out Amy Wellborn's post on this topic, too.

09:31 PM in Humor | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wait ... Michael Moore tells lies?

Quite frankly, I'm having a little trouble deciding for whom to root:

James Nichols, the brother of Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols, says he was tricked into appearing in the documentary "Bowling for Columbine," according to a federal lawsuit filed against filmmaker Michael Moore. Nichols also alleges in the lawsuit, filed Monday in Detroit, that Moore libeled him by linking him to the terrorist act.

Nichols accuses Moore of libel, defamation of character, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress. His lawyer is asking for a jury trial and damages ranging from $10 million to $20 million on each of nine counts, the Detroit Free Press reported.

It's sort of like trying to figure out, at a Oakland Raiders - St. Louis Rams game, who you want to see lose more: Al Davis or Georgia Frontiere.

09:10 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack