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Dateline: Ripley, West Virginia

Ripley. I just realized that I'm in a town that bears the same name of one of the biggest kick-ass movie heroines of all time. (Well, if you stop with Aliens, and don't even go to Alien Cubed or that Frankenstein monster with Winona Ryder.)

Anyway. Everything that could go wrong today, did, so I started three hours later than I'd planned. And, uh, I don't think that word means what you think it means. That's my favorite phrase from The Princess Bride. It means I was dead wrong on the amount of drive time from Richmond, VA to Columbus, OH.

Anyway, I noticed something about West Virginia that I thought I'd share with you all: Man, does this state have a lot of mountains. Is there any part of West Virginia that does not have mountains? I mean, yeah, it makes for a damned pretty ride (pictures to come tomorrow), but I gotta tell you, driving through the mountains is a lot of work. Which brings me to a really bad joke:

So, how was your trip through the mountains?

Eh. It had its ups and downs.

I thought that one up all by myself, because I never did get around to taping my new CDs, and W.VA radio stations suck. That's suck with a capital STINK. I didn't get a new rock station until I hit Charleston, and I wasn't going to stop in Charleston because of that weird sniper shit going down. I went straight through. Nuh-uh. DC Sniper, been there, done that, do not want the t-shirt.

Tired. Early to bed tonight, so I can get my free Continental breakfast from the Holiday Inn Express (already saved about half the AAA fee on the discount I got here). I like the hotel a lot, except their Internet connection is, uh, you get to put a phone line into their phone. There are two phone jacks in the lamp. They do not connect to a phone. I tried them. They are useless. Perhaps they're actually some sort of decoration on the base of the lamp.

On the other hand, there's a fridge in my room, a recliner—comfortable! I already tried it—a coffee maker, and the service is excellent, though the two guys behind the desk look barely old enough to shave.

More tomorrow. I'm going to put my feet up in the recliner and maybe see if there's anything good on the hotel TV. I saw a satellite dish out there.

Boy, do I feel dumb

I put a new rule in my email filters. It directed nearly all of the email I've been getting the last three days into a junk folder. I think I typed O's instead of zeros. (I was trying to get rid of Nigerian scam email and other email with money in it.) So I haven't been getting much email since Wednesday. (Update: Oh, this is really embarrassing. I didn't mistake letters for numbers. I just didn't realize that three zeros weren't enough. Every email has 2003 in it, and another zero somewhere, and the filter really executes a crappy search. So nearly every email got slagged.)

Whoops. And here I was feeling a bit lonely and left out, thinking nobody loved me because I didn't have any email.

Anyway, I've just gone through it, and if any of you are wondering why I've been so rude, that's why. Well, unless I didn't want to answer you, in which case, there's no excuse for my being rude. Or I simply didn't want to answer your email, which is not necessarily rude. It's all relative.

Tomorrow is a travel day. (I'm writing this Friday night, but dating it Saturday, so I should be saying, "Today is a travel day," because it's that time-warp thingie that I've had since I make my own permalinks and they're not datestamped. Help! I think I'm stuck inside a parenthetical statement and can't get out!)

Ahem. I hope to have some kind of Internet connection when I finally stop driving for the day. We'll just have to see how modern Best Western is these days. (Actually, I'm not quite sure where I'm going to stop. But I can guarantee it won't be one of those fancy hotels Instapundit gets put up in when he goes from city to city, expounding on the Internet phenomenon.)

I'll be posting about my fabulous trip west on I-64. Wind Rider was waxing so poetic about it, I got to wishing he'd just shut up because his telling me what a sucky drive it was was making me dread it even more. Not that he should feel guilty about it or anything. Oh, hell, of course he should. Feeling guilty yet, huh? Huh?

Good. You can buy me a drink when I get back, then. Next weekend.



It's that juvenile scorn thing, Ms. style

It is my current misfortune. I am being misunderstood, misused, and misandrized (or is that misogynized, and why does that sound really dirty?). I have been misquoted, mistaken, misread, missed not at all, misted by the goddamn rain (actually, it was more like poured on, but "poured" doesn't begin with "mis" and I simply have to fit the theme here), and misspent far too much of my time on this misery-disguised-as-mischance.

My thoughts and words have been misapplied, misbelieved, misarranged, misdirected, misreported, misjudged, and probably even misnomered. In the ensuing mise en scene, misericords emerged, as a result of a miscalculation on the part of the mister who mistook stirring up a little mischief for what is closer to both misconception and miscoloring, causing the missive to miscarry.

One would have to say that the original thought was misadvised. One might even say there was a miscalculation involved. But rest assured, this misdeed was no mischance or misdeal, though an argument can be made that it was misbegotten, misemployed, and miscreated.

Be that as it may, this Ms. misestimated the mischief making. My mistake. However, I did not missay, though others have mislabeled me that way.

If you have been throughly misdirected by the misemployment of the many "mis"es above, then don't sweat it, you haven't misunderstood a thing. (Wow, did you know that "misogamy" means "hatred of marriage"? Who knew there was a word for confirmed bachelorhood?)

Anyway, I just thought I'd whine in public. All of the cool kids are doing it. Ah, misery, misery. It was a mishap, I swear. I was miscast as the villain! Misconduct? Not me. It was a mistake, perhaps, but due to your misinterpretation.

I would have to say, in conclusion, that if you can't take the heat, get your barefoot, impregnating ass out of my kitchen.


I'd rather not be in Columbus

I'm going to a conference on Jewish education tomorrow, and will be gone for a few days. There is a pre-conference option that I declined, which would have had me arriving sometime yesterday. (I had no desire to spend a full week in Columbus. Yeah, I'm a northeastern-born snob; once you've lived in the New York Metro area, the rest of the country has to work harder to keep your attention.)

Just imagine: I'd have arrived in Columbus sometime after 4 p.m. EST, so the blackout would have been in full force for several hours. Stuck on a college campus in August with no power.

I am so glad I declined the pre-conference activities.

Fair and balanced

By the way, today is the day the blogosphere laughs at Fox News' stupid lawsuit against Al Franken.

Because we're fair and balanced. (And Spike, too!)

Shudna Watch: How many ways are there to break agreements?

When it comes to the PA, the ways are infinite. Now they're adding "confiscated" Qassam rockets to their inventory of weapons.

Israel Radio Territories Correspondent Avi Yissakharov reported on the noon news program that Palestinian security sources claim that have confiscated ten Qassam missiles as well as mortars in the Gaza Strip.

"Since the Palestinians have made no indication that they plan to follow the Roadmap and transfer the weapons to a third party (e.g. America) for removal, it would appear that if the Palestinian report is correct that they have come up with a novel way to arm their security forces with weapons systems that are beyond those permitted in the Oslo agreements," Dr. Aaron Lerner, Director IMRA (Independent Media Review) told The Jerusalem Post.

And while we're checking, let's see how the cease-fire is going:

In Gaza, two IDF positions in Rafiah and Gush Katif came under Palestinian automatic weapons fire.

The IDF did not return fire and reported no causalities in both incidents.

Palestinians fired two Kassam rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory early Thursday. The rockets, which were fired from Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip, fell in an open field.

Yep. It's the Israelis who are threatening the "peace" of the hudna.



Power out, pundits still punditing

So I'm switching from network news to network news to network news, and I'm currently watching CBS, which Dan Rather says is broadcasting from New York City, and my question for him is: How?

Yeah, yeah, yeah, backup generators. I know. So I guess we won't be treated to the spectacle of our favorite news anchors sweating like pigs as they report on the blackout.

On the other hand, if I remember correctly, we were told that this kind of blackout was never supposed to happen ever again. I suppose it's a good thing that the FBI isn't running the power grid, because then nobody would get fired after they figure out who screwed up.

Oh, and by the way, did I remember to mention how glad I am that I live in Richmond now, where my AC is going nicely, thanks, and not Montclair, NJ, which is probably out. (If Newark is out, money says Montclair is out, too.)

If I were working in NYC, I'd probably find someplace to eat dinner, and take my sweet time at it. Because this is one of those moments where you're going to have a minimum three-hour wait at Port Authority to get on a bus home. I imagine the wait will be even longer than normal, since the trains aren't running.

Fighting like cats and dogs

Marduk thought that my post on Worf's counter-surfing tendencies were a slur on dogs in general. So he put up a series of pictures proving that his Golden is, well, a Golden. (I won't impugn the intelligence of Goldens, because obviously, Marduk has manage to train his. I expect it was an expensive undertaking.) Well, in spite of his libels, I was merely pointing out something that is a trait of the Rhodesian Ridgeback species, not insulting dogs as a whole.

They are not fussy eaters and have cast-iron stomachs - and you thought this was a good thing -- NOT! It also means they will attempt to eat anything that doesn't eat them first. They are master counter-surfers...nothing is spared and they are fast. Ridgeback owners have a tendency to overfeed their dogs, causing gas - not the most pleasant aspect of dog ownership. Remember, a Ridgeback always thinks it’s hungry! You have to feed on schedule and stick to your plan.

This, however, may be the part you need to see, Marduk:

Ridgebacks are not Labradors or Golden Retrievers in short coats. They are hunting dogs and have a high prey drive. Translation: They are quite independent -- they don’t fawn over your every word, they can be oblivious to being called and require a lot of positive motivation to train them in traditional obedience. Many people are just not prepared for the stubbornness and hard-headedness in this breed.

Gee. That sounds almost like, well, cats. No wonder I like Worf.

In closing, I leave you with this (unPhotoshopped) picture:

Worf with my sneaker

Obedience. Sure. Worf dropped my sneaker—after Sorena and I cornered him and she grabbed hold of his muzzle and pulled the sneaker out.

More on Robert E. Lee

David Lee (no relation) sent me a letter with more information on General Lee and President Jeff Davis. (By the way, Davis is buried in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond. Nice tomb. Big statue.)

Yes, my last name is Lee, yes I'm Caucasian, native Virginian, no, I'm not directly descended from Robert E. Lee (actually, I'm descended from a New England branch of Lees, but that's another story...).

It's interesting how opinions on great and evil Americans always set off rounds of historical revisionism. If you read contemporary accounts of Robt. E. Lee, you will find that even in his lifetime, he was widely admired in both the north and south. Northerners often lamented that they lacked leaders of Lee's calibre, and understood quite well that his leadership was a major factor in prolonging the war. He was revered by his men and feared by his enemies, no small achievement during such a divisive period in our history. The Civil War forced many people to make difficult decisions, especially those living in border states, or who had a foot in both worlds (agrarian/slave-owning South, and industrial, libertarian North). Lee made it clear that he had little sympathy for the southern planter aristocracy, but he simply could not wage war against his native "country" of Virginia. He also knew the south was hopelessly outmanned and outgunned, and stood little chance of achieving an outright military victory. His hope was that the north would see the cost of the war as too high and sue for peace. He knew full well that Gettysburg was the "high water mark" and the issue would be settled or lost there. His judgement probably was somewhat clouded, given the stunning victories he had recently achieved at Spotsylvania and Chancellorsville, and the growing war-weariness in the north. He accepted full responsibility for the south's military performance and made no post-war attempts to blame others for the fate of the Conferderate Army. At Appomattox he urged his men to lay down their arms and become law-abiding citizens, and accept their defeat as manfully as they had fought.

Leadership involves far more than a grasp of tactics and maneuvers. Men must be willing to go into battle, endure prolonged uncertainty and hardship, fight effectively, and risk their lives. Few other Civil War leaders were able to achieve this over any prolonged period of time (most, in fact, failed miserably at it). Contemporary American politicians and corporate chieftains would do well to read a biography of Lee. Above all, Lee was not in it to gratify his ego, line his pockets, or humiliate his adversaries. His tactical mistakes were amazingly few, given the logistical difficulties faced by the south. Lee is probably the ultimate tragic hero in our history, a great military leader and widely admired man who, unfortunately, fought on the wrong side.

As for Jeff Davis, he has probably been a bit over-vilified and scape-goated, as key political figures on the losing side usually are. He was a member of the southern planter aristocacy, a deeply religious man, an effective politician, but not a particularly inspiring leader. In the end, history decided that he represented the worst elements of the southern "cause". Most Americans today probably couldn't even name another Confederate politician. As for being called evil, there are a number of ante-bellum legislators from Georgia and South Carolina who are probably more deserving of that distinction.

Finally! A list that isn't stupid!

Robert Prather decided to invite people to make thoughtful contributions to a list of greatest Americans, using an ordered methodology. And guess what? I don't think the list is sexist, or foolish, or suffers from any of the previous problems the various other lists have had.

Go ahead, check it out. I've been slow in posting about it.



Jeff Davis and the Worst Americans list: I stand corrected

Starhawk sent me an email about why Jeff Davis deserves to be on the list, but Robert E. Lee does not.

I think Davis was much more central to the confederacy than you give him credit for.

Had Lee been in that position he would have tried to find a way out short of war. Lee was not a great general. A great military leader I will grant you, more like Ike than Patton.

Lee always seemed not to know when to quit. More than once he won a battle and wasted men trying to take a strongly held position after the union had retreated. At Gettysburg he totally blew it.

I can think of 3 generals on his side that were probably better tactically. He was a good soldier and a good soldier follows orders. That those orders and the cause he fought for was bad should not be held against him.

Okay. I know very little about the Civil War beyond what I was taught in school, the articles I have read about it since, and, of course, the Ken Burns documentary. On the other hand, I know some Kiwis who are pretty knowledgeable about it, and Tom Paine thinks I was baiting him. (Nope, Tom, I don't do that. I truly didn't know.) But here's what Tom has to say about why Davis belongs on that list:

Why is he a villan while Lee gets a pass? Well, Davis was one of the instigators of the rebellion, believed in slavery, and headed the only serious challenge to the survival of American democracy since...well...ever really.

[...] Lee fought on the Confederate side, but he had no time for slavery, and essentially felt he was defending Virginia, his "country" as many people thought of their home states at the time. The irony is that if he hadn't been such a great General, perhaps the Confederacy would have collapsed earlier, and saved who knows how many lives?

While I see Davis as someone who deliberately made choices which led to a terrible destiny, I think there are elements of the tragic in Lee's story. Concepts of personal honour seemed to play a large role in his decisions, not all of which he might have agreed with from a coldly dispassionate viewpoint.

To which my answer has to be: Oh.

Thanks, Tom. (By the way, I'm going to be sending a CD with the photos of your trip to VA your way. Email me your address.)

And while you're at Silent Running, don't miss Wind Rider's post on why the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There are some rather frightening casualty estimates in that post.

You know, there are two incidents in 20th century American history that I'm fairly well-versed on, and both are because I had a superb teacher for American History in my senior year of high school. I took part in a class debate over Lt. William Calley's role in the My Lai massacre, and wrote a paper on the dropping of the atomic bombs. Both of them made me research both sides of the argument, and figure out for myself what I thought about them. In neither case did my teacher try to indoctrinate us into thinking her way. And she was young, fairly fresh out of college, which put her squarely in the middle of the sixties protests. I don't remember her name, but I'll never forget what a wonderful teacher she was. One might well call her fair and balanced. The Fair and Balanced Spike Blog

I'm adding a subtitle to my weblog. Because it's funny. And it proves a point. And while I'm at it, Spike Lee can come and get me, too.

Bring it on, boys.

With great power...

Via Occam's Razor, a fascinating essay on America as the world's hyperpower, titled "Gulliver Unbound: Can America Rule the World?"

This giant, a kind of Über-Gulliver, is different from its predecessors in a number of other ways.

First, unlike Rome et al., he can intervene-without the help of allies-anywhere in the world, and almost in real-time, as those B-52 bombers demonstrated that rose in Missouri, dropped their bomb load over Afghanistan and then returned home, all in one fell swoop. Bases, as during the Second Iraq War, are useful and important, but not vital, as the closure of Turkey to the passage of American troops demonstrated earlier this year. No other power could ever project so much might so far so fast and so devastatingly.

Second, the US economy is the world's largest, but in a fundamentally different way than, say, Habsburg's. The Habsburg Empire was like Saudi-Arabia-essentially an extraction economy, a one-horse hegemon. When the silver from Latin America dried up, so did Habsburg's power. For all of its failings-from the Enron scandal to rising current account deficit-the American economy seems better positioned to conquer the future than any of its current rivals, for at least two reasons.

One, it is more flexibly organised, hence better prepared to respond to ever more rapid shifts in demand and technology. Two, it enjoys an enormous competitive advantage in the acquisition of today's most important factor of production-which is knowledge. It is not just the global predominance of Harvard and Stanford, Caltech and MIT, but something more profound and less obvious. This is a culture that keeps drawing the best and the brightest to its shores-which, by the way, is true for the English-speaking nations in general. No longer is it Metternich, Hitler or Stalin who are driving talent across the Atlantic. It comes entirely unpropelled, attracted by the wealth of opportunity and the speed of advancement. How this most precious resource will be able to clear the barriers of the Patriot Act is an issue America has not yet begun to tackle.

A third mainstay of American preponderance is cultural. This is another significant contrast with past hegemons. Whereas the cultural sway of Rome, Britain and Soviet Russia ended at its military borders, American culture needs no gun to travel. If there is a global civilisation, it is American. Nor is it just McDonald's and Hollywood, it is also Microsoft and Harvard. Wealthy Romans used to send their children to Greek universities; today's Greeks, that is, the Europeans, send their kids to Roman, that is, American universities-and to British boarding schools. Why this peculiar twist? Maybe, it is the fact that America is the 'first universal nation', one whose cultural products appeal to so large an audience because they transcend narrow national borders. It all began a hundred years ago when Russian Jews from the Pale started making movies in Hollywood that interpreted the 'American Dream' to the rest of the world.

To recapitulate: This Über-Gulliver packs a threefold set of uniquely big muscles-military, economic and cultural, and there is nothing on the horizon of political reality that suggests the speedy demise of his hegemony. Certainly, it will not be the kind of over-extension that felled Rome, Habsburg et al. In the last hundred years, average military spending as proportion of GDP has been four percent-with the Second World War and the Vietnam War as significant exception. Four percent is a far cry from the estimated 25 percent spent by the Soviet Union in the 1980s, the decade before its collapse.

Don't just read the excerpt; read the entire essay. There's a point made only briefly (I put it in boldface) that reached up and slapped me on the head. The easy access immigrants and visitors have had to America is being changed due to 9/11. One of the mainstays of America's vitality is our status as a nation of immigrants. We're going to have to tread carefully with any changes in immigration laws to prevent long-term damage to ourselves. To put it selfishly, it is in our best interests to continue the brain drain that takes the world's best and brightest and turns them into Americans. Which is not to say that we would necessarily stagnate—but we could lose an Einstein if we're not careful.



This one's for Marduk: The dog days of August

Counter-surfing: No food here, move alongRhodesian Ridgebacks have a habit politely known as "counter-surfing." Less politely, it's called "stealing food." Every night after dinner, Heidi cannot leave the kitchen without dogproofing it. And the dogproofing has gotten more and more difficult, because Worf has grown into a bigger and better thief. He eats fruit now, which he never used to, so forget about leaving that bowl of fruit out in the open. He tries to raid the garbage and compost cans on a regular basis. He has gotten into cooling birthday cakes, knocked down the dog biscuit jar (that I gave them for Christmas) and ate all the buiscuts, licks the dishes as they go into the dishwasher, he tries to lick pans that held food, and if he could figure out how to use a ladder, he would.

While I was at Heidi's over the weekend, I caught a shot of Worf counter-surfing. Prior to this shot, he was surveying the kitchen from his other surfing position, with his hind legs on the ground and his forelegs on a kitchen chair, so he could stand up to full height and look for food. Unfortunately, he moved before I could get the full picture. But I did get this one.

Alas, it's before breakfast. The kitchen is clean. Nothing to steal.

What they're saying

Lynn's been in fine fettle (isn't that a cool word?) lately. Her latest on several subjects: Bill O'Reilly and secular conspiracy theorists (that's the first time I've heard the Jews bunched into a secular conspiracy), the shudna (we're such fatalists, she and I), and the Esmay gratitude bullshit. (Hm. Swearing again. Why is that, I wonder?)

Mac Thomason has the latest episode in The Adventures of Captain Euro, which he calls "the least action-packed adventure ever." Mac, Mac, Mac, you really are going to have to learn how to plug your characters better. (This one involves smelly Frenchmen. But of course.)

Lair Simon has a really funny alphabet song based on the order of the gazillion candidates for governor of California. And he sings it himself!

Speaking of that, did anyone else notice that Lileks changed the words to "puhmanent link" in his Arnold post? Scroll down to the bottom of the page, and look to the left. Subtle, and hilarious.

And again, terrorist attacks. What cease-fire?

Two suicide bombers struck in Israel today. One was in a suburb of Tel Aviv. The second was in the West Bank.

Suicide bombers killed two Israelis and wounded more than a dozen in two attacks within a half hour of each other this morning.

A shopping mall in Rosh Ha'ayin, an eastern suburb of Tel Aviv, was the scene of the first attack at about 9 a.m. One Israeli was killed. Rosh Ha'ayin is several miles west Elkana, where the security fence that is under construction ends at the moment.

A second Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up at the entrance of the West Bank town of Ariel, killing one and wounding two others.

One of the consequences, which I'm sure we'll hear Arafat screaming about:

Buses carrying more than 70 Palestinian prisoners to release were turned around in the middle of their trips and returned to prisons.

All prisoner releases have been halted.

What cease-fire?

The irony of ignorance

The Steve Hinkle case, where a student is being disciplined for putting up a flier that "offended" several students in the [public] meeting room where he attempted to post it, has been discussed on a number of blogs. Joanne Jacobs led me to the transcript on the FIRE website, where I found this gem:

AT: Did Steve Hinkle’s actions disrupt the meeting for you?

S2: Oh, yes, definitely. I mean, even when we did finally start Bible study, our minds were not really focused on the Word. I mean, the lesson was dealing with how we’re supposed to feel about our neighbors, but, you know, when something like that happens, you kind of, like, wonder why have to deal with some of the crap you have to put up with, you know. And so definitely very disruptive, but very disturbing, just gotten into, so, just beyond, you know, the normal mindset so just beyond like the Word, the [indistinct] and the mindset.

The irony is almost too funny for words. The Bible study was supposed to be on how you're supposed to feel about your neighbors, but they were too busy being unneighborly and upset to get back to that particular Bible lesson.

When I read things like this, I often wonder how some people manage to dress themselves in the morning.

I told you lists are stupid

The left side of the blogosphere has answered John Hawkins' call for their opinions on the 20 worst Americans in history. As I predicted, the list makes them look about as petty and foolish as the list right-wing bloggers made.

Of course, Ronald Reagan made the list. So did George W. Bush and Richard Nixon. But then, so did Richard Mellon Scaife, Pat Robertson, and Oliver North. Jerry Falwell made honorable mention.

I have an idea. Can we change the name of the list to "The 20 Worst Americans And While We're At It, People We Disagree With and, Uh, Hate" list? Because none of those men come close to deserving to be on that list.

On the other hand, I don't find this one sexist at all. Ann Coulter didn't even get an honorable mention. Guess liberals don't have as much of a problem with women as conservatives seem to have.

I'm really curious, though. How can you have Jeff Davis on that list, but not Robert E. Lee? If the south didn't have Davis, nothing really would have changed. If the south didn't have Lee, the war would have been completely different. And the concept is the same: Jeff Davis was the president of the Confederacy. Robert E. Lee led the troops. If one belongs on that list, the other surely does.

Then again, there's very little logical about a list that turns into an "I hate this guy, so he's got to be one of the 20 worst Americans in history" list.

I'll pass on any future lists, thank you.



A boy dies, Gil's on standby

Gil is in the IDF reserves, like many Israelis. He has this to say about the Hizbullah attack that killed a sixteen-year-old boy:

The anti-aircraft shell exploded on the ground, how come? The answer is very simple – it was set to detonate on the ground.

This one of Hizballah’s dirty tricks. The Israeli Air Force resumed reconnaissance flights over Lebanon shortly after Hizballah violated UN decision 425 (which Israel fully fulfilled by withdrawing from South Lebanon) and kidnapped 3 IDF soldiers from the border.

There is no presence of Lebanon’s Army in south Lebanon, Hizballah has control there. Although financed and helped by the Syrians and Iran Hizballah doesn’t stand a chance of hitting IAF jet planes. I doubt if they can hit anything flying with their anti-aircraft shell.

So they found a smart way to harass the Israelis living near the border. They set the fuse of some of the shells they fire in a way that the sell will not explode in the air but on the ground. They also shoot the shells in such an angle that leaves no chance for it to even get near a jet, but it is an excellent angle to reach to Israeli towns and villages near the border. Another thing is that they usually don’t fire those shells when a plane flies by, sometimes they do it hours after planes have passed.

Imshin is vacationing on the Mediterranean coast. You know, when I get my finances in order, I'm heading out to Israel for a visit. That's a promise.

My best friend is very worried that I may never come back to the U.S. She has good reason. The call of aliya is getting stronger and stronger.

While we're on the topic, Eugene Volokh made today's Jerusalem Post.

A blog of many things

Crossing the Rubicon is a weblog that I've seen in my referrers once or twice. I'll be stopping to read it a lot more frequently. There is simply too much to link to, just go and start reading, and give yourself some time, because you're going to be as hooked as I was. (I'm starving. Must--have--food. And yet, I couldn't stop reading.)

I think this is rather a perfect poem for the current controversy about gratitude. I found it on Gail's weblog.

A man said to the universe:
"Sir, I exist!"
"However," replied the universe,
"The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation."

-Stephen Crane

All right, I lied. I can link to some more. The lead post is a poem about breast cancer that simply takes your breath away. Gail sure knows how to pick them. (Boy, that last link sounds familiar to me, and will doubtlessly strike a chord with Michele.)

Controversy and responses

Professor Eugene Volokh is answering Roger Simon and Charles Johnson regarding his taking (or not taking) a stand on the Berkeley incident:

1. As best I can tell, Mr. Simon and Mr. Johnson (and some other people who likewise responded to me) think that Prof. Kadhim's response is patently unsatisfactory. In fact, it seems to me that they think his response actually demonstrates that he behaved badly, and continues to be unrepentant about his bad behavior. I assume they think that many other objective readers would share the same view.

If I'm correct on this, then it follows that I have presented, using Prof. Kadhim's own words, something that strongly supports Messrs. Simon's and Johnson's side of the debate, and something that (in their view) strongly discredits Prof. Kadhim (much more strongly than any mere expression of opinion on my part might have done). Presumably Messrs. Simon and Johnson would approve of this result. Why then should they be "appalled" and "disappointed" about that? Perhaps they should instead be pleased at the effect of my post.

2. I take it, though, that they think that I had some obligation to express my opinion on this matter. Prof. Kadhim's statement, they presumably felt, was self-indicting; I should have concluded that this was so; and I should have said so.

But why would that have made sense? If Prof. Kadhim's self-defense is so weak, then it seems likely that readers would be more likely to reject Prof. Kadhim's arguments if they just came to their own conclusions than if I explicitly made that argument.

David Bernstein answers his critics on the issue as well.

I stand by Volokh on this one: his detractors are aiming for the wrong target here. Sorry, Roger. Sorry, Charles. You picked the wrong dog in this fight.

On another issue, Judith Weiss responds to Dean. I don't believe he's going to like the response.

It's not Dean's opinions that bother me - I agree with some and not with others. It's the fact that he makes wildly ignorant and provocative statements and then gets mad when you correct him.

Kate's got a pretty funny and brief answer to my post from yesterday. But Kate, I'm still not seeing any factual cites. The burden of evidence is on the person who brings up the theorem. Otherwise, we're just chatting, well, AIMlessly.

Happy Monday, all.

The attitude on gratitude

Dean and Rosemary think that women should say thank you to our male forebears and peers for being so gracious as to give us the right to vote, equal opportunity in the workplace, the ability to hold the same jobs as men, and the freedom to choose our own careers. Dean buttresses his argument by pointing out—hold on to your hats here, this is a startling revelation—that all women don't think the same way. Apparently, some women didn't think that women should have the vote. And these were strong, intelligent women of the time! Why, it's almost as if they had a brain and could think for themselves. He uses as evidence two political cartoons from the era that, er, let's quote:

These cartoons probably give a truer portrayal of the issue as it was seen by countless men in America in the 1800s and 1900s. We really need to be rid of this pernicious notion of "brutal men oppressing women" that's in so many people's heads.

Hm. Two political cartoons can do that much? Say, let's go use our own two cartoons. Let's see what Tony Auth's latest cartoon on the Israeli separation fence and this old Nazi cartoon says about attitudes towards Jews in 21st century America and 20th century Germany, shall we? I mean, going by that example of scholarly research, we've got some great theories we can cook up.

Dean further uses as evidence a book written in 1897 by (gasp!) a woman, which he has browsed, who disagrees with much of what the Suffragists claim. One browsed book, two cartoons. Our factual case is made, we can stop now. (By the way, I browsed it, too. I think I read, like, two whole pages. Seemed to me like the writings of a resentful anti-Suffragette. But I may not have browsed enough. Or perhaps I'm just busy building a straw woman to tear down.)

All of this is frankly distraction from the greater point. The point is gratitude. Dean says we should be thankful to our forebears for giving us the vote, and to men today for passing the equal opportunity laws that allow us to work in the same jobs as men. He also seems to think we should be grateful to him, but I'm really missing that connection. He says he's not whoring for links, but I'm still not seeing a link to Judith or me in his original post. Rosemary, guess you didn't do such a good job cleaning up after your husband.

So the issue is gratitude. There are many good comments by people like John Kusch and this guy David, who get their asses handed to them for daring to have "lefty" opinions. Let's take a quick look at those lefty opinions (David uses the name "mithras" in these comments):

Rosemary is confusing power with rights. Basic rights are inalienable and shared equally by all humans. Power is unequally distributed through society. Just because a certain group has not had power in the past, or worse, another group affirmatively use the power they had to oppress a group without power, does not mean the group without power aren't automatically entitled to their rights.

So, when whites freed blacks from slavery, whites deserved no thanks. It was like the act of a repentant thief returning stolen property. Similarly, women owe men no thanks.

That doesn't look like a lefty opinion to me. It looks like, well, an opinion. But wait, there's more name-calling. Dean says:

Spare us the sexist condescension toward my wife, please.

[...] Interesting. I'd say you only have rights because the rest of us pretty much agree that you should have them. Which requires a certain level of consensus, and a certain level of mutual respect, wouldn't you say?

Um, Dean, I'm thinking the only sexist, condescending remarks here are being spouted by you. Rights are given by consensus, are they? How—condescending.

But getting back to the gratitude thing: Rosemary made some pretty big assumptions regarding my quoting Ilyka yesterday, and also managed to cherry-pick the quotes I used and leave out the most pertinent part. This is her take on women's rights:

Why aren't women grateful? What is our fucking problem?

If the early cavewomen didn't NEED the men to go out and kill the food, make the fire, and protect them from the elements. Then the men wouldn't have evolved as protectors and providers of the "weaker" sex. If women started out EQUAL then they wouldn't have needed "Equal Rights", they would have always had them.

As society evolved, women were better able to compete with men and that is why they were given their rights. We had to prove that we deserved them.

Yeah, whatever. Prove that we deserved our rights. Uh-huh. Sure. Now, children, if you're very, very good during your doctor's visit today, I'll treat you to ice cream on the way home! Okay? Would you like that? Good!

If that's not the infantilization of an entire gender, I don't know what is. So once we proved we deserved those rights, then we're supposed to be grateful to men for giving them to us?

Once again, I'm going to quote a man, John Kusch (oh, my, the UltraFeminist Squad is going to send their Hit Femmes after me and throw me into Sexist Mind Control Recovery until I stop doing this):

I understand the point you want to make: 1) that conscientious and well-meaning men made it possible for women to vote, even over the objections of many women who were appalled by the idea; and that 2) groups of Americans who have achieved their civil liberties with the help of the majority in power -- that being white men -- should show more gratitude toward the people who, essentially freed them. There also seems to be a subtext that we should be mindful of who gave us our freedoms, as those freedoms could also be taken away.

I don't deny that men did the right thing when they gave women the right to vote; yet at the same time, advocates against domestic violence and rape within marriage in the latter half of this century were by and large women who had to make their case to society at large and work their asses off to raise awareness before social and legal change could happen. While women should thank the men who helped jump-start their liberation, I think there are plenty of women who deserve plenty of thanks as well -- and there are women world-wide (since the lot of women isn't equally liberated around the globe) who are *still* working their assess off and who deserve thanks today.

So: yes, men did the right thing, and thank you. Yet how much thanks is in order? Was this a generous gift bestowed upon women by men, the anniversary of which should be commemorated yearly in a kind of inter-gender Thanksgiving? Or is the reality that women were not being treated fairly or equally in our society and that enough men saw that the problem needed correcting that they corrected it. In the same way that the Emancipation Proclamation began the righting of a wrong, the 19th Amendment righted a wrong.

I think the question here is: are rights a precious gift from the majority to the minority, who must be thanked on bended knee for their generosity? Or are rights something inalienable to human beings, something human beings are due simply by virtue of being alive, something which cannot be rightly denied?

Turning a queer eye on this issue, I personally am not thankful to white heterosexual men for allowing me to exist. Some have been allies, helping us reach our proper place in society, for which they deserve specific thanks, but do I start each day with a grateful prayer, giving thanks to the people who don't persecute or imprison me? Not hardly. Gay liberation -- like women's liberation -- has been bought with the blood, sweat, tears and lives of its advocates. While it's a good thing that we made our case to the majority, it's not something I think of as worthy as constant and resounding praise.

Here's a metaphor, using some of Dean's own language: imagine you've spent most of your life with a jack boot pressing on your face. Then, after a long process of rigorous argument, you convince the owner of the jack boot to lift up their foot. How often do you thank them for no longer stepping on your face?

While yes, we should thank our allies, does that mean that our enemies somehow cease to exist? Isn't it possible to say, "Thank you to those men who gave us the right to vote all those years ago," while simultaneously saying, "Screw you those men who continue to abuse and oppress us"?

I suppose it's possible, John, but I'm of the opinion that it will be a cold day in hell that I thank someone for "giving" me what our founders quite clearly described as "inalienable rights." The fact that they didn't include women and blacks does not take away one whit from the fact that those rights are due all people, and both genders. And yeah, while I'm at it, sexual orientation as well. Gay rights? Yep. And I'm not even going to ask you to prove you deserve them.

I'm not a resentful feminist, Dean. I'm a feminist. However, I'm sensing that both you and Rosemary have issues with feminists. One might even say you resent them. Life's a bitch, ain't it?

Sex and sexism

I wrote this last night, before Dean and Rosemary added their latest posts. I'll get to those later.

So those two posts that I mentioned yesterday, the first where Dean asks women what they like about men, and the second where he and Kate have a discussion about women, have descended into the post from Dean below, which was originally written by him as a comment to Judith Weiss. It's rather a vitriolic response to Judith, so I think I'd have to say that if I'd read that comment first, I wouldn't have been as sweet to Dean as I was here. Wow, does he have issues with feminists or what?

Dean: I'm a feminist, and proud of it. I'm sorry that you feel threatened by women who admit to and like being feminists. I'm sorry that you think we ought to be grateful that men "gave" us our civil rights. I'm even more sorry that you think whites "gave" blacks their civil rights. Because what happened is exactly what Ilyka said on his blog (which I reference below), and what Jerry Kindall said in your comments:

... the American view is that rights are inherent in the individual, not granted by government.

It's right there in the Constitution, in fact. Look at the ninth and tenth Amendments:

Amendment IX
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

I have nothing more to add to that, except that I am extremely grateful to the Framers for being such wise and far-seeing people. And that's about all the gratitude you're going to get on this issue.

As for Dean and Kate's conversation on women, first, this excerpt:

EsmayDean: Man, women are weird.
EsmayDean: You realize, don't you, that while women typically have many female friends, that most women are misogynists? :-)

VenomousKate: Heh. Yeah, we are. That's why folks who know me offline call me the "Chauvinist's Poster Girl"
VenomousKate: OTOH, I adore men.
VenomousKate: But what is it about women that makes you think they're misogynists?

EsmayDean: Are you kidding?

VenomousKate: No. Not really. We hate other women - but I think evolution explains that.

EsmayDean: It is my observation that, with 90% of the distaff population, there are two kinds of women: a) close and beloved friends, and b) all the other women, who they hate.

VenomousKate: Yep, that's pretty accurate. Except that we tend to lump any female we "mesh" with for more than 30 minutes into (a), then rush to put them in (b) at the first misstep.

Talk about generalizing: Anecdotal observations, no factual cites anywhere (though there's one that can back up your argument and nail it to feminists at the same time—a tale of the infighting that occurred in the women's movement over the decades, reviewed by Salon ages ago).

Frankly, what Dean and Kate's conversation resembles more than anything is a couple of high schoolers talking about the evil bitches that they can't stand. I can give you the opposite anecdotal evidence, having worked for both men and women, and having been in charge of both men and women. My worst bosses have been men. But that's not convincing evidence for a theory that men make lousy bosses.

Feminism was gaining major footholds when I was a teenager. I was a feminist from early on, partly because my mother was a divorcée when women simply didn't get divorced, and raised three children on her own with minimal financial and other help from my father. (My father, by the way, was as sexist as they come.)

My mother was my and my brothers' role model. Well, my younger brother says I was his role model, too. (His wife never thanked me, perhaps I should be like Dean and tell her how grateful she should be to me.) And I remember hearing in high school that some feminists—not all of them—were trying to say there were no differences between the sexes. We laughed at that, young as we were. You'd have to be pretty stupid to agree with it, we thought. This view was held by a tiny minority—can you name two or three well-known feminists who hold this view, Dean? I can't —yet it's been thrown in our faces for thirty years. Using this issue to tar feminists is like saying Ann Coulter represents mainstream conservative views. It's a pretty crappy debating tactic.

Now, Dean may be blowing smoke out of his ass on this whole topic because it generates links and pisses off a lot of women. Or he may mean what he says. I'm pretty sure Kate means what she says. But they both need to come up with more than anecdotes if they're going to expect me to buy their argument. I'm thinking that women in an African village living on subsistence farming aren't going to act like modern American soccer moms at all. I'm thinking that Chinese peasants in a mountain village aren't worrying too much about whether or not their best friends are doing them wrong. I'm thinking that the last thing an Afghan woman has to worry about is if her female boss is treating her right. Whoops, no female bosses in Afghanistan. My bad.

As to what I like about men: Besides the obvious physical differences (I think the male torso is the most beautiful form in the world), I'm mighty fond of a man who doesn't feel threatened by a strong, feminist woman.



Dean Esmay, gender provocateur

Gee, ya think Dean's trying to piss me off? Or do you think he's just whoring for more links? I can't decide. Probably both. You'll notice he didn't link Judith or me, though he mentioned us.

But then, he actually brings up an extremely good point. American women could not have gotten voting rights had the men of American not "given" them to us. Should I, then, say thanks to Dean's (and my) forebears for voting yes on the 19th Amendment?

Well, Ilyka wrote about that very concept last week. I think I'll let her speak for me, as her words are so appropos for Dean's little incitement.

"Well congratulations, we gave you everything you asked for."

Gave me. YOU gave ME. MEN gave to WOMEN. WHITES gave to BLACKS.

That's the entire problem right there.

Because this is the internet, and every time you begin a sentence with an all-purpose term like "women," or "men," some twit comes around to snark "not all women, not all men," I'll just gently suggest that, possibly, some women are sometimes angry because we shouldn't have had to ask for the basic rights, respect, and courtesy that should be generally extended to all human beings . . . and some men are still running around wondering why some of us aren't more grateful that they deigned to grant our requests!

"We gave you everything you asked for" . . . but at the same time, "women made that bed, not men." You did this to yourselves, I believe is what that says, but by giving you everything you asked for, we essentially let you do it.

LET me.

LET me have an alternative to an early marriage and four kids that I may not have wanted, but would have been economically compelled to seek, a mere fifty-odd years ago. LET me have some pride in being self-sufficient, in earning my own money, in choosing WHEN and IF I'll seek "a job and a family," and how I'll balance them if I choose both. Well, thanks, asshole, for LETTING ME have what you have never in your life been without, and thanks for reminding me every chance you get that it is only in your infinite goodness and mercy that you LET ME have any of it at all.

Now, I have some serious problems with Ilyka's bad apple theories, and I frankly disagree entirely with her take in the next post in the series—but it's oh so nice to tweak Dean right back, without having to have written the words myself.

Ah, Dean. If only you were as well-read as I, perhaps you would stop pulling the tiger's tail. But hey, Ilyka, thanks for saving me the trouble of doing it myself.

What's it like to not hear your baby cry?

Meryl K. Evans, a.k.a. the other Meryl, or my name-twin down in Texas, had cochlear implants. And of course, she blogged it. There's a whole weblog devoted to the story before, during, and after the implants. And there's this post on how it felt to hear through them for the first time:

She started talking and I could hear different sounds reflecting her voice. But it doesn't sound like the typical voice. More like a sound that appeared when she spoke and she spoke softly to help me get used to it. Time passed and I adapted to her voice. My mom started talking and I could hear her. While this may be an exciting moment for some, it isn't exciting for me yet because I heard her voice far better with my hearing aids than the CI. Then, Paul started talking but I couldn't hear him at all. Of course, we made the joke that I've learned to tune out the husband.

The baby cried during the session because he was in the middle of his feeding being burped. He doesn't like it when he has to take a burp break and cries. I didn't hear him and haven't been able to hear him well enough to define it's him.

Go and read, because this is the kind of information that blogging does best: The human side of the story, from a first-person point of view.

Beat that, Rush.

Too much to do, too little time

There are a lot of things to discuss today, but damn, I'm tired. And I've got errands to run, resumes to send out, things to do. So I'll post later. (Damn! My delete key is working again, after a week of no deletes and no dashes or sixes! Yay!)

For now, there's Judith Weiss' one-year anniversary at Kesher Talk.

Blackavar of The Warren disagrees with my post on Lindbergh, as do some correspondents (letters to come).

Update: The Supergenius disagrees with me, too.

By the way, if you're not reading The Warren, you're missing one of the best new entries to the blogosphere. Yes, I'm publicizing the blog of a blogger who disagrees with me on an issue that's near and dear to my heart. That's why I'm so much better than the other schlubs. (It may be time for another "Better than you" post.) Oh, that, and the fact that Blackavar doesn't sling insults, but uses rational arguments to disagree with me. That's all I've ever asked from a dissenting opinion.

Apparently, there's an interview-the-blogger fad going around. I would like to save you all a considerable amount of time by posting my answers to your questions: None of your business, none of your damned business, and none of your effing business.

Hope that helps.

Robert Prather responded to my post on the sexism of the 20 worst Americans list, but I got sidetracked and didn't answer him. (Another one on the "to-do" list.)

The Philosophical Cowboy has a Kuwaiti review of what it's like to vacation in Saudi Arabia. No, really.

And I think I am now caught up on my linkage and correspondence for the nonce (oooh, kewl Shakespearean word thrown in for the hell of it), so I'm outta here (oooh, cool 20th-century slang thrown in so you don't look like a dork).

You see, there really is no need to sling insults at me. I do that just fine on my own.


Last week's blogs are archived. Looking for the Buffy Blogburst Index? Here's Israel vs. the world. Here's the Blogathon. The Superhero Dating Ratings are here. If you're looking for something funny, try the Hulk's solution to the Middle East conflict, or Yasser Arafat Secret Phone Transcripts. Iseema bin Laden's diary and The Fudd Doctrine are also good bets if you've never been here before.