Sunday, June 30, 2002
LBG Politicians in the News

Today's WaPo features this story about a lesbian legislator in Georgia. The story goes into the issues and situations she's had to deal with from both stereotypical conservative types and stereotypical left-leaning gay types.

She was elected two years ago and is unchallenged in this year's elections, so she'll be serving two more years. Good luck to her, regardless of the details of her politics.

The story also mentions the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund which provides electoral help to LBG candidates. I haven't read their endorsement desires yet, so this isn't my endorsing them. Just pointing out their existence.

9/11 Benefits for DP Survivors

I didn't get around to the big, but burried, news last week that President Bush had okayed 9/11 benefits to the domestic partners of victims of the attach. That, of course, is a very good thing.

Saturday, June 29, 2002
The Consequences of "Under God"

Christian fundamentalist types frequently express their concerns about "this country going to hell", etc. Just recall the Falwell-Robinson statements after we were attacked last fall. We've all heard the line that it's been nothing but downhill ever since the Supreme Court ruled that institutionally-organized prayer in public school was not permissable under the Establishment Clause of the Bill of Rights.

Well, that ruling is, in many senses, cotemporaneous with the statutory changes in The Pledge, The Motto, etc. If everything has gone downhill -- not that I believe that for one minute -- maybe the causal behavior was in trying to make the country more religious by statute, not by protecting individuals' rights not to have religion shoved down their throats.

Actually, one of the things the religionists claim has gone downhill is order and discipline in public schools. And that may be the case, but it's not because of a lack of institutionally-mandated prayer: it's because attitudes of parents that "my child would never do that" have effectively tied the hands of teachers to engage in appropriate disciplinary action on misbehaving children. Those same parents likely blame school administrators and teachers for the lack of discipline. There's some degree of correctness in the aspects of the discipline problem having to do with the attitudes of educational professionals, but let's get real here people. If kids are given appropriate and reasonable discipline at home, teachers and administrators don't have as much disciplining to do.

But don't blame lack of discipline in school on The Supremes.

Pledge Reflections

Well, this Pledge of Allegience ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has certainly gotten folks in a tizzy. Add to that the ruling by the Supreme's about vouchers, and you've got aspects of the long-awaited-by-many culture war within the USA.

And what great timing, eh? Right when we ought to be conducting an all-out war with the ones who want to decide who does what on this planet based on their not-too-ideosyncratic interpretation of Islam and its 5th century (Christian Era!) rules, we here in the USA get to deal with our internal inconsistencies in trying to reconcile overwhelming Judeo-Christian dominance of the culture (and by "Judeo-Christian", I mean the post-WWII three-part Protestant-(Roman) Catholic-Jewish religious framing of US civic culture) with our sometimes-ignored Constitutional prohibition on the establishment of religion.

Here's an idea. Let's go ahead an roll back the clock. Let's take active political steps to return the state of The Pledge and the motto of the US to what they were before those who wanted their beliefs to be the official beliefs of the US government got ahold of them. Remove "under God" from the official version of The Pledge, make "E Pluribus Unum" the official motto of the US Government, and take "In God We Trust" off of all US Currency and any other government documents and devices on which it appears.

Let's return to complete secular government with complete protection of individuals to practice their individual beliefs without government intrusion. And let's do it by using the political, not the judicial process. It is such a shame that since our politicians have been such total weenies in the face of lobbying pressure from religious institutions for fifty or sixty years now that individuals who are offended by the improper government adoption of such phrases have to resort to the judiciary for consideration of their grievences. (Yes, this is somewhat in contradiction to what I wrote previously. Further reflection sometimes results in such states of affairs.)

Given the situation with current politics, it is likely difficult for many individuals running on a Freedom from Establishment of Religion platform to get very far very quickly. But if we are ever to get back to reduce the undue influence religion in general (and certain particularly-vocal Christian sects, in particular) have over our government, politicians are going to have to start vigorously supporting the idea that the government of this nation is secular, makes no distinction betwen individuals who believe in zero, one, or multiple gods, and that it refuses to favor any one belief-based set of institutions over another.

Web Technology and Polytheism

Here's a story (wire-service based) from the Daytona Beach Snooze-Journal about how Hindu folk are using the Web to connect the appropriate one of their several thousand deities.

Thursday, June 27, 2002
The Pledge

A long time ago, when I was in prep school, several of us figured out how to say the Pledge of Allegience without using the words "under God". When you get to that part, you don't say it.

I haven't had time to read much commentary on this matter, but all I can say is good effing grief. There has to be some constitutionally-protected way to let the vast supermajority who believe in God have their belief without getting all pissy about it if you don't believe. To me, the Pledge was clearly a better instrument of completely appropriate civic indoctrination before the introduction of "under God," but having the "under God" there has it's utility in teaching free thinking simultaneously with civic indoctrination.

Oh shit. Entwistle is dead.

John Entwistle, Who bassist extraordinaire, is dead. Here's an AP obit, via CNN. He was found dead in his Vegas hotel room. The group was supposed to open there tomorrow (Friday). I didn't even know they were touring again.

The Who Sell Out is one of the CDs in my car's changer right now; it has been for about a week now. Entwistle's neat mix of walking parts plus octaves, coupled with Super Well-Defined Punchy Bass Tone made him my favorite rock bassist.

Wednesday, June 26, 2002

Just sent the following note to Mickey Kaus referring to the inline ad that Slate slides into each and every page.

Hi, Mickey,

The following was just copied and pasted from your corporate masters' Today's Papers page.

The End of Equality - Mickey Krous
2nd Edition

An inside joke, or just a plain old screwup.

Best wishes,

Tim Wilson

Saturday, June 22, 2002
Wolfram Update N+1

My reading of Steven Wolfram's book, A New Kind of Science, got put on hiatus during my recent travelling days. I've finally had a chance to return to it, finishing Chapter 6 yesterday. If you thought I was a big old posseur for talking about reading it and had punted, that's not the case (although it's been tempting at times!).

It's first in Chapter 7 on randomness that Wolfram stops giving examples of simple systems displaying complicated properties and moves primarily into connecting the fact that simple systems display complicated properties with aspects of the universe as we know it. I'm hoping that the rate at which I'm able to read this tome will pick up now that I'm into this part of the book, but how fast I'm able to read is likely to be highly variable with the particular content being disucssed and my relative lack of knowledge of that area.

The First Blogger?

Kaus says Charles Peters (whodat?); InstaPundit says Malcolm Forbes.

Hasn't InstaPundit previously suggested Izzy Stone as a protoblogger? What about Kipplinger and his letter, too?

The Next Entrepeneurial Class?

As part of my recent travels -- a road trip to Tennessee and Alabama immediately followed my trip to Chicago -- I found my self in a convenience store / gas station / Subway somewhere at an interchange on I-75 in south Georgia.

The local customers were, as one might expect from the demographics of the area, predominantly black. For the short time I was there, the primary transaction seemed to involve scratch lottery tickets (note to self: come back to the lottery issues someday). Travellers and locals were buying gas and Cokes, too. I was having lunch in the Subway part of the store.

What stood out was who was running the business. It wasn't some old white guys who had owned the place forever. It wasn't Koreans or Arabs as one sometimes sees running such establishments, at least in more densely populated area. It was Mexicans.

I didn't do an interview, so I know I'm drawing some conclusions that are suspect, but my impression was that the guy behind the checkout was the owner of the store, and that the kid making sandwiches was his son. Outside of labor contracting and Mexican restaurants, this was the first example I had seen of entrepeneurship by this largest class of new -- or soon-to-be-new -- Americans. Of course that this was my first instance of such doesn't mean it's totally new. And, for all I know, these could've been just as native-born Americans as myself; they may have moved there from LA, for all I know. But work with me on this. Okay?

It would be hard for me to find any kind of argument that this is not a good thing. The only lingering concern I have is the longstanding national failure to inculcate a similar spirit of can-do and entrepeneurship into certain cohorts of non-immigrant Americans. For example, it's highly likely that some of the locals of that store had just as much or more capital at the time the store was last sold as these (likely) immigrants did. And there are, likely, US Gov't programs that would even assist those same locals in finding and financing such capital.

To me, this is almost certainly a socio-cultural issue. It's been, what?, going on forty years since the Monihan report, but we, as a nation, still haven't really closed the deal on moving towards a more uniform distribution according to race and to locale of entrepeneurial spirit. (I'm not in any way suggesting that the distribution should be uniform on an individual level: that would defeat the point of entrepeneurship.) There has been progress, especially in nurturing a black middle class (even in rurul areas), but there are still plenty of opportunities for improvement in these regards.

Friday, June 21, 2002
They were probably jealous of the Taliban

Drudge provided a link to this WaPo brief item about how some religious right-wing types are upset (sob! Poor babies) about the Department of Justice having an internal homo pride event.

"After all the work we did to stand up to the liberal mudslinging during Ashcroft's confirmation fight, this is what we get?" asked Robert Knight of the family institute. "I have to ask: Why is Mr. Ashcroft, a committed Christian, using his official capacity to celebrate sin?"

Oh, maybe because in the governance of this country, unlike the governments those who are trying to kill us would put into place, we don't impose our personal religious beliefs on others when we get power. Not even by Ashcroft, who is often taken by many on the loony left to be the big scary monster who would take away the right to privacy and replace it with mandatory Christian worship.

Rooby Roo!

Contrary to some reports, the Scooby Doo movie is not bad. It's dumb fun, but it is fun.

I'm sure there are plenty who would, but why would anyone go to a movie based on a cartoon series not expecting dumb?

Left-Libertarian or Militant Centrist?

ESR points to this little quiz on political orientation. The results?

Years ago (twenty or so), I used to market myself as a Militant Centrist. Don't know if I'd use "militant" these days, but either "left-libertarian" or "centrist" does seem to work.

Don't make any assumptions about what that might mean regarding any particular policy issue, though.

Thursday, June 20, 2002
More on Pederasty

In my comments on Eric S. Raymond's piece (his piece, here; my comments, here), I never really addressed his question of whether homosexual men are either biologically or culturally more likely to engage in pederasty with young men or older boys or in pedophilia with little boys. I have no expertise in the matter of developing accurate statistics to characterize such, but I do know anecdotally of two episodes of pederasty that happened in my own little redneck town of origin. While my knowledge of those events is clearly sketchy, I think they, coupled to what we know about what might've happened in the Roman Catholic Church in the US, tell us a lot about the kinds of social structures in which pedophilia and pederasty are more likely to occur. Hint: They're not gay bars.

The first episode concerned the local scoutmaster at the time. I was, in fact, in this guy's troop for all of a couple of months. On the only camping trip I went on with the troop, he stayed up until the wee hours with the older boys and a collection of Playboy magazines (and other possible porn?).

It was several years later, after I'd gone off to prep school, that I found out that this guy had been run out of town for inappropriate behavior of a pederastic nature. I never heard the details, but it's not too hard to imagine what might have been, given his station as scoutmaster.

Even with my obviously incomplete knowledge, I doubt very strongly that this guy was part of any gay community. I doubt if he even identified to himself that he was homosexual. I could probably find out more -- like if he dated women (attempted to or was successful at it) -- and I might.

The second case was a school teacher at the middle school, junior high level, if I recall. I wasn't there when this one unfolded; in fact, I read about it as one of the daily state-by-state blurbs in USA Today. Anyway, it seems like this teacher in the fairly densely settled but still unincorporated eastern part of the county (closest to Nashville) had either photographed or done something with numerous -- hundreds, if I recall correctly (always suspect) -- boys. And had the pictures when they busted him.

I think they put him under the jail. To my knowledge, again incomplete, based on what folks from back home told me, I don't think this guy identified as gay, either. Instead, he was the confirmed bachelor schoolteacher type.

My point here is not to develop statistics about the likelihood of someone, gay-identified or not, of molesting children. It is to point out that what is in common -- and most people without some kind of subtextual homophobic agenda seem to recognize this -- is the power relationship between the perp and the victims.

I'll repeat what I said in my earlier post on these matters: It creeped me out to find out that some of the alleged perp priests were part of gay communities in their locales. But I think it's very likely that a substantially greater fraction of pederastic and pedophilic perps are isolated individuals, not part of any community when it comes to their criminal activities.

The whole issue of the Roman Catholic Church, its organization and its history, may mean that that kind of analysis doesn't apply, though, because if you have an institution that is protecting the kinds of behaviors we're talking about here, then there may be entire collectives of perps, at various institutional levels, who look out for each others' backs and the like. There clearly seem to be networks of pedophiles who connect via the Internet, so it's not unimaginable that there are or have been networks of pedophiles that connect within the Roman Catholic Church in the US.

If one honestly wants to look for an understanding of social structures that hide, support, even nurture pedophilia or pederasty, you look first to institutions where adult men have various types of power and authority over young men, older boys, and little boys -- the priesthood and ministry, secondary and lower school teachers, correctional officers in juvie facilities, etc. -- before you start laying the blame on the gay community or gay-activist groups.

The People's Republic of Cambridge

A member of the lovely and talented ensemble (Tapsters?) published as Tapped in this piece closes its defense of how it can be liberal and still like David Gergen sometimes with, "As for Gergen, maybe Cambridge, Mass. is getting to him. It sure got to us!"

It got to me, too! I lived there, oh, nine or so years from 1982 until sometime in 1991. My favorite recollected highlight of Cambridge politics is a local candidate telling me, in the lobby of the rent-controlled apartment building I lived in, how one of the goals of the election coalition he belonged to was to "expand the rent-control constituency."

That is, they were in favor of expanding legalized graft in a form which exchanges subsidies from landlords to tenants in the form of below-market-value rents for votes! What a brilliant system for entrenching one group -- the pro-rent-control ensemble -- into power. Not that it wasn't done on a national level with transfer payments from the federal government to the poor since the New Deal into the Reagan years in a way that kept the Dems in power for years.

I know times have changed since I left there. I'm not sure they even have rent control any more in Cambridge. The rent control board was so loose with letting landlords raise rents, they may have well not have at times while I lived there. (Ya gotta understand that the rent on the 1 BR 1 BA apartment in question in 1987 was $235. Yow!!) Cambridge was due both for a return to more market-driven economics as well as an end to the domination of the neighborhoods by old-guard doctrinaire leftist remnants of the Vietnam War era.

Now if I had only scanned that photo of that mural of The People opposing the Federal Government's building I-95 or some branch thereof on the back of what used to be Stop and Shop in Cambridgeport to link to. Maybe someday soon.

Anyway, Cambridge taught me everything I needed to know about why doctrinaire post-Vietnam leftism wasn't good policy or good politics. From seeing Chomsky and his toadies in action at MIT to the locally-used rank-ordered voting scheme, just about everything about Cambridge politics at the time was wrong for this one.

"Do It Once...", etc.

Kaus also took off recently on the approach the LA Times took to news. Kaus says:

The way to not quickly get at the truth is to follow the unbloggish motto of the L.A. Times' editor of several decades ago: "Do It Once, Do It Right, And Do It Long." That philosophy was why the LAT of that era blew its coverage of scandal after juicy scandal. They waited to "do it once." Sources didn't come forward -- and by the time they finally did it once, nobody cared.

The context is Woodward and Bernstein as bloggers. (Apparently, many think that naval gazing on blogging is one of the preeminent functions that people who are blogging can do. And the sheep say: "Blogging good! Journalism bad!")

Of course, during the same time frame, the LAT had good, in depth, articles over a number of topics that weren't breaking news. Would that my brain could recollect at least one in particular for an example, but it's been almost twenty years since my first trip to LA and of my experience of buying an LAT out of a newpaper box in front of a Bob's Big Boy, going in for breakfast, and marvelling at some two-page, six- (eight-?) column dissection of some matter of interest. One could argue that such articles are/were better suited for something like a newsmagazine, but compared the the Boston Globe of the time (1985), which was my daily paper back then, it was refreshing to see such in-depth coverage.

It's not that Kaus doesn't have a point; it's that there are other metrics besides "fast" or even "accurate" to use in measuring the quality of published information. Sometimes "depth" is one of those. Like almost everything else in this (i.e., the larger) universe, it's not a one-size-fits-all situation.

Kaus Keeps Score

Also in Slate, the most recent Kausfiles entry points out how premature declarations of success of Israel's incursion into the West Bank might have been.

The declarations of success might have been premature, but that doesn't mean that the long-run impact of the policy won't be overall positive. I find it hard to argue with a policy that says "We're going to go and find and remove the ones who are trying to blow us up," in distinction to a policy which says, "Oh, you're trying to blow us up? Please, stop. Here, would you like some land? How about a nice piece of East Jerusalem?" Blech.

The New Israeli Policy

This piece by William Saletan at Slate explores the new Israeli policy. The framing of the new policy as taking back land in response to the mass murder by suicide bombing attacks as an appropriately complementary response to the "land for piece" aspect of the Oslo "peace process" helps small-brained me understand it better. He also goes into both how far can Israel take the policy and also the internal divisions in Sharon's government about what the policy actually is. Recommended reading.

Wednesday, June 19, 2002
What to do about Amtrak

The WaPo is reporting (here) that Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta is going to outline the administration's plan for Amtrak in a speech tomorrow. It sounds like what they're talking about doing is spinning off the profitable Northeast (Bos-Wash) Corridor operations and threatening to cut off routes unless the states pony up to continue subsidies for the money-losing operations. There are also mentions of "managed competition" (sans details), as well as farming out what are currently union jobs to contractors.

A recent piece, "Amtrak Must Die" (here), in the NYT Magazine detailed Amtrak's problems, from employee (bad) attitude to congressional pork. The author is a self-described rail fan, or "foamer" (as in, "at the mouth" about trains) who has come to the conclusion that something drastic has to be done about Amtrak.

Home Theater Blues

The current issue of IEEE Computer has an excellent commentary by Don Norman on the problems anybody "beyond early adopters and technological thrill seekers" would have putting together and operating a souped-up home theater system (HDTV, satellite, THX audio, DVD player, TiVo, etc.). This is the kind of article that the IEEE ought to be distributing on the web, as soon as it's published, for free, but it's unavailable at the Computer Society web site.

However, there is an earlier edition of the same article available from Don Norman's web site.

Enjoy. While you're at his site, you might also enjoy his article on "Toilet Paper Algorithms".

Another Mass Murder by Suicide

Today's instance of an insane method of negotiation killed at least 6 (WaPo: story here).

How can our US administration be thinking at all about progressing as if this isn't happening? As if creating a Palestinian state now is anything but a reward for this horrible strategy?

The "Who's With Drudge" Game!

See the picture of Drudge above (as featured at his website today)? Who's missing to his left?

  • E. T., the Extra-Terrestrial? ("Maaaaaatt. I'll be right here. Always.")

  • Brian, from Queer as Folk?

  • A drunken sailor?

Send your ideas to meanoldtim@netscape.net! Don't delay; send today!

Why I Am Pro-Israeli

My father, Kenneth M. Wilson, was in the garment business. When I was little, he owned a sewing factory (Kenneth M. Wilson Co., Inc.) back in my hometown of Centerville, Tennessee. He had started there as a plant manager for the then owner (Breezy Winn, from Knoxville), and had somehow managed to buy it and run it and make good money with it while providing good by local standards livings for the people who worked for him (and who, by and large, adored him, and my mom and my brother, who ran the plant after my dad died)).

(How he came to end up in the sewing business is something I don't know and may never learn. He was a government inspector in sewing factories before and during WWII, but I never learned how he got into that. He's been dead since 1974, and there are fewer and fewer people around -- all his sibblings are gone -- who knew him at those times. Somehow, he made if from Jellico, Tennessee, a coal-mining town (at that time) on the Kentucky-Tennessee boarder, via Chattanooga, where his family moved, to Florida, where he met my mom (who was from Sand Mountain, in northeast Alabama, about sixty miles from Chattanooga) in Gainesville in 1946. They moved to Centerville in 1948, I believe, and he bought the factory there, I believe, in the year I was born (1956).)

Being in the rag business, he came to do business with quite a few Jewish folks. Particularly, one Larry Tannenbaum of New York. Somehow, Mr. Tannenbaum and my dad became great buds. I remember my folks going to NYC to visit them during the '64 Flushing Meadows World's Fair.

In June 1967, the Tannenbaums were visiting us in Centerville. At the time, Centerville was probably about 2000 people; the county it's the county seat of, probably had about 10,000 people. (I used to love it when I went off to the prestigious technological university in the northeast how people from places like Hicksville, New York (on Long Islang, population then (early 70s) about 50,000) would tell me they were from small towns.) As far as I know, at that time there had never been any Jewish residents of Hickman county, which is not the case these days. At that time, you could hear Church of Christ (Cambellite, not Congregationalist) ministers on the local radio station reminding everyone of how "the jay-ewes ka-yelled Jay-ezus." (I am not making this up. I heard it with my own ears on more than one occasion. I certainly heard the sentiment from more than a few white locals of whatever protestant persuasion (i.e. Church of Christ, Methodist, Baptist, Cumberland Presbyterian, or Nazerene). And while the same locals didn't hold the Roman Catholic Church responsible for their savior's death, they certainly held the Catholic Church in the same contempt.)
So it was while the Tannenbaum's were visiting Centerville that the Six Day War broke out. I can remember Florence Tannenbaum shushing me ("zip your lip, Timmy") as she watched the debate of the U. N. Security Council, which was telecast live at that time (on more than one network, if I'm not mistaken).

It's not that Mr. or Mrs. Tannenbaum ever took me aside and explained to me what had happened just a little over twenty years previously as the world was by-and-large silent as the Nazis murdered millions -- millions, six million, do we all understand that? -- Jews. I was only ten at the time, and I doubt I would've understood. It was later in my life that I grasped that the existence of Israel was something that was very tentative, but very worthwhile. That there were enemies of Israel in the world, and that those enemies, were, by-and-large, nations that didn't share things that we Americans take for granted, particularly freedom of religion and freedom of expression.

The Israelis, on the other hand, embraced at least freedom of expression. Yes, the older I get, the more difficulty I have with any kind of political state based on a religious framework, but I also understand that Jewishness, the quality of being a Jew, does not equal Judaism, the religion of the Jews. Jewishness is like being an Arab; Judaism is like Islam. I don't claim to understand the interrelationships between Israeli political and legal structures and the rabbinical codes of Judaism. I know they're there, but I wouldn't begin to try to explain. I don't think, though, that the existence of that connection removes the legitimacy of the Israeli state.

Later that summer, we went with the Tannenbaum's to Expo '67 in Montreal. My mom and dad and I flew to NYC -- my first commercal flight, a Braniff (bright green, if I remember correctly) Boeing 727. We spent one or two nights there, before heading off to Montreal aboard the SS Shalom, Zim Lines, registry Israel. We were among the few goyem on the ship, which carried, if I recall correctly, about 950 people. So, the little hick kid with the Tennessee twang from Centerville was put in the midst of largely a huge number of New York Jews.

It was incredible. I learned not to ask for milk for dinner on Fridays, that getting a cheeseburger was problematic for some, that older women played something called Mah Jonng with funky tiles that weren't dominoes, that there was a dance called the Horah (or something) that you did to a tune called Hava Nagila (please forgive any spelling errors). They had a live show at the night of the halfway point called "A Salute to Israel" and another the night before getting back into NYC called "A Salute to America".

We went to the World's Fair in Montreal where we saw the US exhibit and the USSR exhibit (we cheated the long lines by sneaking in through an exit door from the restaurant) and the Canadian exhibit (and more, I'm sure), as well as took a tour of Montreal that included the Notre Dame in Montreal.

I know that the situation with the Palestinians sucks. If I could go back 120 years, I would plead with the founders of Zionism to reconsider what they were doing. I accept that most of the land occupied by Israel was gained fair-and-square by the rules of the time of either purchase or of war, but I also understand that that likely makes no more sense to a randomly selected Palestinian than Jews being a stateless people would've made sense to a randomly selected Jew. In either 1880 or 1918. Or 1945.

But do not pretend to me that the current Israelis are "terrorists" or "Nazis". For any faults that have occurred at the founding of the Israeli state (certainly there are issues involving terrorism at that time), they are not the faults of the current Israelis, even the government of Sharon. The current Israelis, even though drastically different in demographic from the US Jews like the Tannenbaums who were so wrapped up in the support of the Israeli state, are still my friends.

I have had Palestinian friends, too, but I regret that they, to a one, have bought hook, line, and sinker, the bogus, corrupt Arafat crew as their representative for their hopes and dreams. Regardless of the degree to which I respect those hopes and dreams, I can't support any kind of culture, society, or state that turns mass murder by suicide into a kind of cultural norm. To call that some kind of nobility is Orwellian doublethink. It should be denigrated, treated as disgusting, at every instance of its occurrence.

More Mass Murder by Suicide Bomber

Charles Johnson reports (here) of yet another crazy Palestinian suicide bombing of Israelis in Jerusalem.


The Israeli Response and the Putative Palestinian State

Steven Den Beste has two pieces today about the Middle East situation. This one is about the Israeli response to the most recent bombing. It's his take on what the Israeli government seems to be trying to accomplish by the approach they're taking (i.e., confiscating territory controlled by the Palestinian Authority). His take is certainly sensible, although I'm not sure I've thought it all through well enough to say I endorse it.

The second piece is about the current U.S. administration's just plain not seeming to get that there's something brain damaged about continuing down this road of a tentative (or putative or hypothetical or something) Palestinian state while this sequence of murder by suicidal bombings continues. I agree completely that there seems to be a high "just doesn't get it" factor going on between the White House and the State Department, but I also think I see an upside to constructing a Palestinian proto-state that's more of a legit government than the current (Oslo) arrangement with the Palestinian Authority (i.e., those theiving, murdering, Soviet-era-remnant bastards).

What happens when two states go to war? When the murderous actions of the government or citizens of one state result in another state responding militarily, a possible outcome is the seizure of a chunk of territory of the attacking state by the responding state. I don't claim to be any kind of expert in the legalities of war, but I do believe (and I welcome corrections if I'm wrong) that that kind of loss of territory from the aggressor is considered a perfectly legit outcome of the results of military defensive actions.

Of course, by that standard, we ought to recognize that the previous Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and Golan Heights occurred as a legitimate outcome of the June 1967 Six-Day War. The international-law niceties of whether that means they can reoccupy those territories post-Oslo is something I definitely don't know. But, if there was a recognized Palestinian government, then Israeli military response, including reoccupation, would assume a new kind of legitimacy. At least to this one.

Still, even delaying the announcing of some kind of plan by the current administration that includes this putative Palestinian state until just next week given the murderous action yesterday seems just clueless. I can understand that the administration would not want to set a public deadline that N days have to happen without a bombing for such an announcement because it gives any group that could pull off another bombing, whether Fatah or Hamas, a veto over the plan, but I would expect the administration, if only the president, to have a secret deadline saying no more bombings in a time frame on the order of months, not days, before proceding with any kind of plan recognizing any kind of Palestinian statehood.

Tuesday, June 18, 2002
Two Stories I Never Thought I'd See, much less in one day.

Saudi Arabia Arrests Suspects Linked to Al-Qaeda Planning Terror Attacks (WaPo-AP) (or Saudi Arabia Arrests Al Qaeda Terror Suspects (NYT-Reuters)), and Key Figure in Sept. 11 Plot Held in Secret Detention in Syria (WaPo).

There's also the story about Pakistan detained US nationals. The story is at the NYT site here. The dominant media culture (see below) seems concerned that the detainees haven't been checked up on by the State Department.

Monday, June 17, 2002
Raymond's Elephant

Eric Raymond's current piece (as of this writing) is supposedly about the current scandal in the Roman Catholic church. You remember, the one about priests diddling little boys and young men (as if anyone could forget). It's also supposedly about how the "dominant media culture" (he really uses that phrase) is giving a pass to the pretty obvious to anyone with half a brain fact that the scandal is about priests diddling little boys and young men. What the piece is, though, is a festering poot of fear and loathing based on bad reasoning, received "wisdom" viewed unskeptically, and fairly disgusting hyperbole.

It took me multiple tries before I could get through the piece. It took self-reminders that Raymond is someone who usually shows a degree of thoughtfulness about what he's discussing, not a garden-variety homophobe. (Yes, InstaPundit and others who've pointed to this, "homobhobia" is a figure of speech that doesn't literally mean it describes a phobia.)

It's tempting to do a Usenet-like pointing out item-by-item of the ridiculously high number of stupid claims in Raymond's post. But, it's probably better to separate his several complaints and deal with them in their larger senses without getting caught up with every single one of his statements.

His first point that I disagree with is this "dominant media culture" business. He seems to believe that the mass media in the US is giving gay folk some kind of pass. He's ostenstibly focused on some kind of protective journalistic behavior which is supposedly suppressing the fact that what the scandal is about is the fact that priests have been abusing their authority to come onto or diddle little boys and young men. While I'm sure there's a big distribution of how much randomly selected people get from what comes across the tube or shows up on the web or the front page of randomly selected media outlet, and while I believe that people can, both en masse and as individuals, be incredibly stupid, I don't believe for half a minute that people in the US haven't grasped, by and large, the idea that the scandal is about priests coming onto and diddling little boys and young men, or that a goodly chunk of those priests identify as homosexuals, that part of the problem that the US church is having in dealing with this is what to do about gay priests in general as well as what to do with those who abuse little boys and young men. When I've heard about these priests and their lovers and their being well-known members of gay communities in some towns, it's really creeped me out. Ugh.

Raymond's point about the free pass mentions those comments about several NYT staffers who are gay having a certain degree of influence on the front page. He seems to take it as a matter of fact that gay men with editorial responsibilities are of necessity trumpeting gay causes, suppressing embarrassing stories about gay people, etc. And this gets to Raymond's big overall mistake in his piece: He's not dealing with individuals; he's describing collectives as if the behavior of every individual in the collective is going to be the same.

Still on the media kick, he throws out these claims: "because one of the rules of the U.S.'s dominant media culture is that Homosexuals Are Not To Be Stigmatized (I think it's carved in stone right next to `Environmentalists are Saints' and `Gun Owners are Redneck Nut-Jobs')." Well, we're on the borderline fruitcake regime here. Instead of understanding that every lousy newspaper has its own lamo editor, its own lamo reporters, its own lamo headline writers, etc., Raymond blames it on what's obviously a bogey: "the U.S.'s dominant media culture". Now I don't mean to be stupid here and pretend that a small number of media outlets don't have a lot more clout than quite a few others do, but to attribute monolithic collective behavior to collectives that by their very organizational nature (e.g., aspects of a competitive economy) prohibit their acting like a collective with enforced rules and expectation is goofy.

If the big-bad media is so gay friendly, how come later this month we'll all be treated to the usual scenes of drag queens, dykes on bikes, leather men, etc. as quasi-pornography to sell newspapers, 30-second spots on the evening news, etc. when Gay Pride happens? If the big-bad media is so gay friendly, how come you can count on police actions, accompanied by local TV news crews, at cruisy places during sweeps weeks?

The next of Raymond's yahoo-seeming comments has to do with pederasty and pedophilia in the main and secondarily about gay activists. I'm off my original tack, but let's let his words speak for him again: "pederasty has never been a marked or unusual behavior among homosexuals, and even advocates of outright pedophilia are not shunned in the homosexual-activist community." He has a reference (here) for his claim that young men and boys have been the preferred partner in homosexual relationships since time immemorial. This is the kind of received "wisdom" that gets spouted about by self-appointed cultural watchdogs from Raymond to Camille Paglia. The trouble is: how do you determine the relative frequency of sexual behaviors in the past, or now, when sexual behaviors often have lots of associated cultural baggage -- or, hey, they might even be illegal. So, there may be examples like the Afghan one or ancient Greece where pederasty has a certain social normalcy about it. How do you go from that to determining that other forms of homosexual behaviors, including adult male to adult male partnerings, don't happen. Lack of evidence is only lack of evidence, not evidence for the lack.

So the entire thread of his post that suggests, sometimes quite slyly, that pederasty and pedophilia is some kind of norm among gay males is suspect. "If the prevalence of homosexuality in the Catholic priesthood is the elephant in the sacristy, the homosexuality/pederasty/pedophilia connection in gay culture is the elephant in the bath-house. No amount of denying it's there is going to make the beast go away," Raymond says. But his argument that the pederasty and pedophilia connection is there is badly argued, based on incorrectly interpreted evidence, so his conclusion is weak, too.

The last of his three big bogeys is gay activists and NAMBLA. Uh, Eric, I hate to have to tell you this, but portryaing the comments of most self-appointed gay activists, much less NAMBLA, as if anyone outside a very limited group of politicos and journalists pay attention to them is not exactly evidence of rigorous argument. And trying to suggest that groups like NAMBLA are embraced by some larger gay community is just trying to make points that have no basis in fact. Taking down NAMBLA is like shooting fish in a barrel, but in this case, fish in a barrel that no one pays attention to. Almost every gay man I've ever met thinks that NAMBLA is a bunch of pathetic old creeps and dweeby creepy little boys that need to have some sense slapped into them to get away from those creepy old men. If NAMBLA is afforded opportunities to participate in gay celebrations and the like, it's only -- and almost certainly begrudgingly -- because of freedom-of-speech issues.

It seems like what Raymond is really trying to say -- and badly at that -- is that the NAMBLA-okay absurd point of view was embraced in certain RC seminaries which ended up being hothouses for the rape and abuse of boys and young men. If that's what he's saying, fine. It may well be the case. But if he's trying to say that the larger gay community embraces those NAMBLA-okay values, he's just completely off base.

He finally puts all this together in several closing paragraphs.

Are gay men biologically or psychologically prone to rape boys at a level that makes a gay man even without a known history of abuse into a bad risk around boys? Does queer culture encourage a tendency to rape in gay men who are put in authority over boys?

Here is where the question becomes practical: were the Boy Scouts of America so wrong to ban homosexual scoutmasters? And here we are with a crashing thud back in the realm of present politics. After the numbing, horrifying, seemingly never-ending stream of foul crimes revealed in the scandal, even staunch sexual libertarians like your humble author can no longer honestly dismiss this question simply because it's being raised by unpleasant conservatives.

The priestly-abuse scandal forces us to face reality. To the extent that pederasty, pedophilic impulses, and twink fantasies are normal among homosexual men, putting one in charge of adolescent boys may after all be just as bad an idea as waltzing a man with a known predisposition for alcoholism into a room full of booze. One wouldn't have to think homosexuality is evil or a disease to make institutional rules against this, merely notice that it creates temptations best avoided for everyone's sake.

Notice how he purportedly asks a question "Are gay men...prone to rape boys...?", and answers it, supposedly in the conditional with, "To the extent that pederasty, pedophilic impulses, and twink fantasies are normal among homosexual men, putting one in charge of adolescent boys may after all be just as bad an idea as waltzing a man with a known predisposition for alcoholism into a room full of booze." (Gag: Homosexuality as alcoholism. How effing old.) But he does so without any real attempt to determine whether gay men really are more likely to rape boys than straight men are likely to rape girls. Or boys. He's not asked an honest question, given the framework he's constructed in the rest of the post which sets up the idea that the gay community -- okay, he repeatedly and sneakily says "gay activist community" -- is sympathetic to, protective of, such behavior.

Look, I know I haven't lived a life that's terribly deeply involved in the gay community, much less the gay-activist community. I've known some of these folks, though, have corresponded with some, have participated on Usenet with some, and I just don't think Raymond's claims -- whether it's the dominant-media one, or the pederasty and pedophilia is a norm in the gay world one, or the NAMBLA and their creepy agenda is widely accepted in the gay (activist) community -- hold up. But then, I've never met masculine-identified gay men who wear make up (as depicted in The Birdcage). I've probably missed a lot. But at least I'm a gay man who's missed a lot, as opposed to Eric Raymond who thinks he knows a lot about what gay people are about, but doesn't seem really to know much at all.

Update: In e-mail, Eric S. Raymond (missed the `S' first time around), says he wasn't trying to be sneaky in his word choice. I have to take that at face value. I think the phrase "gay activist groups" would work better, would never cons up the issue of "why is he using that phrase?", than "gay activist community," because "gay community" has a certain well-used quality about it (the words "gay" and "community" link up anyway around "activist" in his phrase, to me at least), but, hey, it's his piece, it's his word choice.

Wednesday, June 05, 2002
Fullness of the glass depends on your editor, your reporters, and your headline writer. A brief case study.


  • Headline: "'90s Boom Had Broad Impact"
  • Subhead: "2000 Census Cites Income Growth Among Poor, Upper Middle Class"
  • Lead paragraph:"The economic boom of the 1990s raised the incomes of the poorest Americans, held the size of the middle class steady and swelled the ranks of those with six-digit incomes,according to census data released yesterday."
  • Link: Here.


  • Headline: "Gains of 90's Did Not Lift All, Census Shows"
  • Lead paragraph: "Despite the surging economy of the 1990's that brought affluence to many Americans, the poor remained entrenched, the Census Bureau reported today. The bureau's statistics for the 50 states and the District of Columbia show that 9.2 percent of families were deemed poor in 2000, a slight improvement from 10 percent in 1989."
  • Link to story: Here.

Just plain indiscriminate murder.

In this most recent -- could almost write "today's" -- bombing of Israelis, it seems likely that the bus that was blown up was carrying both Israeli Jews and Israeli Arab passengers. A story in today's Washington Post includes the following:

The bus had left from Tel Aviv, on the Mediterranean coast, and was making several stops in northern Israel. The route passes a number of mostly Arab towns, and both Arabs and Jews were believed to be on the bus, authorities said.


Today's Papers-esque comment: The lack of parallelism at what seems to me to be the right level between "Jew" and "Arab" stands out (on reflection). Are the Arabs mentioned in the story Israeli Arabs or Palestinian Arabs? My immediate conclusion, based on what little I know about the geography, is Israeli Arabs. And I know that "Jew" works on some levels like "Arab" and on others like "Muslim". But it seems to be something deserving of a context-driven care in usage.

Tuesday, June 04, 2002
"Course and guttural, one syllable, Anglo-Saxon."

That was how the Minutemen described the word "fuck." Dahlia Lithwick and Eric Raymond describe "fuck"-included, linguistically related, but quite distinct possible responses to terrorism.

The title of Raymond's piece, "We Are All Jews Now," is a gem.

Blogging in Persian.

Found this blog as one of the most recently updated. While I certainly can't understand what it's saying, I did find a link in it to the Iranian Students News Agency site (complete with a picture of boogyman Khohemini (who, guess what?, figures into my getting dubbed Timatollah at some point)), mirrored from a site somewhere in Iran.

Of coures I don't have the slightest idea what the blogger is commenting on, whether it's agreeing with what's at the Iranian Students News Agency site or not. I'd hope it's refuting every bit of propaganda coming out of Iran.

Honestly, it's discomforting to me. Surely the idea that blogging technology could be used to facilitate attacks on US nationals on US territory (or elsewhere) has crossed someone's mind who can do more about it than I can before.

Weirdness in Memphis.

Okay, so that should be "More than the usual weirdness in Memphis." In an entry here, InstaPundit takes note of lotza weirdness happening in Memphis. Here's the take on the most recent weirdness, the acid burning and binding in barbed wire of the coroner by a still-unidentified assailant in the Memphis Commercial Appeal (last time for a while... "More commercial than appealing"). The story has made it to the New York Times (article here). Both the CA and NYT stories point towards the perp as likely being the same person who has written vehement letters to several folks protesting the innocence of Philip Workman in the killing of a Memphis police officer during a robbery gone wrong 21 years ago.

Memphis is a wonderfully funky place. It was a hard place for me to live in -- parts of Memphis have never gotten over the murder of Dr. King ("parts" referencing both physical and social geography). From white folks kindly sharing how much they were happy my lover and I (we're white) had moved into their mixed-race neighborhood ("so, you like homos better than black people?"), to black folks shucking and jiving, Memphis has one leg planted firmly in the past. At the same time, with a nearly fifty-fifty black/white racial demographic, the citizens of Memphis also confronts the realities of race in America on a daily basis in ways that folks in some haughty look-down-the-nose-at-the-American-south northeastern American cities seem to avoid doing. It does have some reasonable but progressive leadership among both racial communities who seem to understand that they have to provide a vision of where Memphis can be in the near future, even as it has this wonderful-terrible past.

Overall, I found living there disappointing, but that likely says more about me than it does about Memphis. But I miss the Elvis fixation and hearing people say, unconciously, "Thank you. Thank you very much."

Monday, June 03, 2002
Airport "security."

Okay, this is totally unscientific, anecdotal observations, but... Does it seem to anyone else that those poorly-trained security people at the airport gates are picking more older women for their "random" search quota than other types of passengers? You know, the cohort whose members are most likely not to pitch a fit about how ridiculous the process is?

Convention time.

Monday means that weddings are over for now, and that the hotel is back to convention world. Right now, as I type, there are hundreds of conventioners -- hell, I don't know what the convention is. It's not mine -- in the hotel atrium listening and singing along to "God Bless America".

I'm not a believer by any stretch of the imagination, but I think that having someone sing either "God Bless America" or "The Star Spangled Banner" (my personal pick) is a good thing.

This past Saturday.

This past Saturday was June 1. It seemed that the saved dollars of a gazillion dads and moms were in play as weddings seemed to be the order of the day in the Chicagoland -- I loved that word when I was a kid listening to WLS (Art Roberts) way back when it was Top 40 and "Clear Channel" meant something other than some front for Rupert Murdoch -- that day.

The hotel I'm staying at seemed to be hosting receptions for a large fraction of that gazillion. One particular reception in the atrium seemed to go on for a while. They had a two-man band who were stand ins for the Svenge (sp?) brothers (SCTV, you remember?): one guy played snare drum and trumpet, the other a MIDI accordian. The MIDI accordian almost never sounded like an accordian: it was almost always controlling some synthesizer patched to sound like a way cheezy organ.

The tune selection was pure Chicago: Multi-ethnic, multicultural in the truest, most all-American, "a quilt, not a melting pot" fashion. "When Irish Eyes Are Singing," "Roll Out the Barrel" ("everybody polka!"), "That's Amore." Okay, multi-ethnic, multicultural in a kind of post-WWII way that could've used a little African-American and Mexicano (especially given that this was in Chicago) or other Latino influences, but that still was moving to this one who appreciates just what an accomplishment even that level of assimilation was.

Chicago is, of course, one of the great multicultural American cities. They were showing some PM Magazine-esque local show last night about the taping of "Wheel of Fortune" here, and they were doing a shpiel on Pat Sajak, local boy done good. (Sajak was the weatherman in Nashville years ago, and that's why he got Dan Miller, who if I remember correctly was flopping at his gig as local newsguy in LA, but who had been the local anchor in Nashville, as his sidekick during his short-lived foray into late-night teevee.) The local host asked him if his old neighborhood was still the same, and Sajak replied, "Si."

But one should absolutely not deny the incredible strides that have been made in resolving racially- and ethnically-based issues in the USA. We've come so far as a nation since the necessary actions of the civil rights movements as well as the riots of the 60s. It's impossible not to see that progress here in Chicago.

I can remember visiting my aunt and uncle who lived here when I was a young one (early teens). He was a native; she was a native of East Tennessee. They were of a generation that wasn't the least bit ashamed about decrying things like interracial marriages. I just have a very striking memory of my uncle (who's 97 years old, and who I love dearly, but who is from another time) telling me how awful such relationships were.

We may not have made a perfect world, and clearly there are yahoos -- religious fanatics in particular -- that have to be dealt with and made to understand that they do not have the option of destroying the freedoms we have worked responsibly to create and to maintain. But we have made slow and steady progress in making this a better world to be in regarding matters racial and ethnic based -- and gender, too. We still have room to go regarding sexual orientation, but there is no reason to believe that we won't improve that situation, too.

So keep believing and keep working and keep smiling.

"So if I use a homophobic term . . . I'm not homophobic."
Mike Tyson has spoken. It's actually subtly sensible. Read the Commercial Appeal (more commercial than appealing) story here.

If you must have false gods, make them Larry King.
Read this.

Saturday, June 01, 2002
Blogging from Chicago. Hello, world! Probably little blogging over the next few days. In Chi-town on bidnis.