Dada is the sun, Dada is the egg. Dada is the Police of the Police.

5/07/2005

Holy shit

This comes as something of a surprise. This man's capture was touted as an indication that the U.S. was right on bin Laden's tail. From the Sunday Times via Steve Gilliard:

Captured Al-Qaeda kingpin is case of ‘mistaken identity’

THE capture of a supposed Al-Qaeda kingpin by Pakistani agents last week was hailed by President George W Bush as “a critical victory in the war on terror”. According to European intelligence experts, however, Abu Faraj al-Libbi was not the terrorists’ third in command, as claimed, but a middle-ranker derided by one source as “among the flotsam and jetsam” of the organisation.

Al-Libbi’s arrest in Pakistan, announced last Wednesday, was described in the United States as “a major breakthrough” in the hunt for Osama Bin Laden.

Bush called him a “top general” and “a major facilitator and chief planner for the Al- Qaeda network”. Condoleezza Rice, secretary of state, said he was “a very important figure”. Yet the backslapping in Washington and Islamabad has astonished European terrorism experts, who point out that the Libyan was neither on the FBI’s most wanted list, nor on that of the State Department “rewards for justice” programme.

Another Libyan is on the FBI list — Anas al-Liby, who is wanted over the 1998 East African embassy bombings — and some believe the Americans may have initially confused the two. When The Sunday Times contacted a senior FBI counter-terrorism official for information about the importance of the detained man, he sent material on al-Liby, the wrong man.

“Al-Libbi is just a ‘middle-level’ leader,” said Jean-Charles Brisard, a French intelligence investigator and leading expert on terrorism finance. “Pakistan and US authorities have completely overestimated his role and importance. He was never more than a regional facilitator between Al-Qaeda and local Pakistani Islamic groups.”

According to Brisard, the arrested man lacks the global reach of Al-Qaeda leaders such as Ayman al-Zawahiri, Bin Laden’s number two, Khalid Shaikh Mohammad, the mastermind of the September 11 attacks, or Anas al-Liby.

Although British intelligence has evidence of telephone calls between al-Libbi and operatives in the UK, he is not believed to be Al-Qaeda’s commander of operations in Europe, as reported.

...

No European or American intelligence expert contacted last week had heard of al-Libbi until a Pakistani intelligence report last year claimed he had taken over as head of operations after Khalid Shaikh Mohammad’s arrest. A former close associate of Bin Laden now living in London laughed: “What I remember of him is he used to make the coffee and do the photocopying.”

...

Some believe al-Libbi’s significance has been cynically hyped by two countries that want to distract attention from their lack of progress in capturing Bin Laden, who has now been on the run for almost four years.

Even a senior FBI official admitted that al-Libbi’s “influence and position have been overstated”. But this weekend the Pakistani government was sticking to the line that al-Libbi was the third most important person in the Al-Qaeda network.

The spirit of the people

Lewis W. Hine, "Eight-year-old children shucking oysters" (click to enlarge):





Hine was a photographer working in the early part of the 20th century, and is probably most strongly associated with the art movement known as the Ashcan School. The movement started as a backlash against Impressionism, led by painter Robert Henri, who declared that painting ought only to "consist of the presentation of real and existing things." Typically, this meant the straightforward depiction of the often desperate life of the urban poor, as in Hine's work on child laborers.

The strong and serious political sentiment of the Ashcan School served as a precursor for the Social Realists of the 1930s. Not to be confused with so-called "Socialist Realism," the Social Realists did not countenance the sentimentalization or lionization of the working class; quite the opposite. Moses Soyer, a painter and key figure in the Social Realism movement, told his fellow artists: "Yes, paint America, but with your eyes open. Do not glorify Main Street. Paint it as it is--mean, dirty, avaricious."

The political agitation of the Social Realists included lobbying for federal assistance for the poor who were hurt by the Depression, as seen in this painting by Ben Shahn:


The image “http://photos1.blogger.com/img/9/3002/640/socialreal_shahn.years.lg.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.


Eventually, the realist art of the 20th century ended up being overshadowed, deservedly or not, by more esoteric artistic currents like Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism. But the realist impulse has remained a constant presence, with more contemporary artists like 'Photo-realist' painters Chuck Close and Richard Estes continuing to carry the realist torch.

A Mother's Love

From Girl with an Alibi:

There is a very old photograph of my mother. She is about 19 or 20 and she is holding an infant. A little white boy with slick black hair. She keeps that photo in her special photo album, the one with important pictures, of people, places and moments she never wants to forget.

For years I hated that baby. I just burned every time I saw that picture. Why? Because of the look on my mom’s face. She looks at him with this look of utter adoration and love – like he’s the freakin’ baby Jesus or something. So whenever I would see that picture as a kid I’d look at it with scorn and turn the page as quickly as possible to get to pictures of me.

Read the whole thing:

The Little White Boy In The Picture

With your bitch-slap rappin' and your cocaine tongue

Pope Benedict XVI on Axl Rose on John Milton.

I am Krug-man

I found this 'quiz' at The Next Left that asks:

Which New York Times Op-Ed Columnist Are You?

Despite the warning of Jonathan at Next Left, I managed to avoid being Maureen Dowd (phew!).





You are Paul Krugman! You're a brilliant economist with a knack for both making sense of the current economic situation and exposing the Bush administration's lies about it. You somehow came out as the best anti-war writer on the Op-Ed staff. Other economists hate your guts for selling out to the liberals. To hell with 'em.

Ready for battle



Strip clubs in Norway are kind of trippy




From Yahoo News.

The revolt against God's design

Via Creek Running North, here is more evidence that the agenda of the Religious Right isn't limited to eliminating abortion, but actually seeks to eliminate childlessness (and therefore contraception) in general. Emphasis added:

Deliberate Childlessness: Moral Rebellion With a New Face
by R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Joe and Deb Schum of Atlanta aren't worried about baby proofing their house or buying a car seat. As a matter of fact, the couple doesn't ever intend to have children and they are proud of their childlessness. According to the newspaper's report, "the Schums are part of a growing number of couples across the country for whom kids don't factor in the marriage equation."

The paper also pointed to the fact that the nation's birthrate fell last year to an historic low of 66.9 births per 1,000 women age 15-44. That represents a decline of 43% since just 1960. "Many childless couples," according to the report, "revel in their decision, despite badgering from baffled mothers and friends. Others struggle with the choice before keeping the house kid-free."

The Schums just don't want kids to get in the way of their lifestyle. They enjoy cruising to the Georgia mountains on their matching Harley-Davidson motorcycles. They love their gourmet kitchen, outfitted with the very latest stainless steel appliances and trendy countertops. Deb Schum explains, "if we had kids, we would need a table where the kids could do homework." Clearly, children aren't a part of their interior design plan.

This pattern of childlessness has caught the attention of others in the media. The left-wing internet site Salon.com actually published a series of articles entitled, "To Breed or Not to Breed." This series of articles featured couples and individuals who have decided that children are not a part of their chosen lifestyle.

One woman wrote that parenthood just isn't a part of her plan, regardless of cultural expectations to the contrary. Motherhood just doesn't fit her self-image or her schedule. "I compete in triathlons; my husband practices martial arts; we both have fulfilling careers; we travel the world ... we enjoy family and friends; we have a fun, intimate relationship." For others, the bottom line is simply financial. One woman asked: "What would the return be on the investment? Are there any laws that would require my children to pay for my nursing home when I am old? Are they going to be a sufficient hedge against poverty and loneliness?" A return on investment?

Some who have chosen to be childless have actually formed organizations in order to band together. The group "No Kidding" was formed in Atlanta four years ago as a social outlet for couples choosing to have no children. Traci Swartz, an occupational therapist in her thirties, joined "No Kidding" with her husband Jeremy, a 32-year-old computer analyst. "When you don't have children, you are not involved in any activities like a lot of other people, like soccer and ballet," said Traci.

She explained that "No Kidding" members are more likely to talk about pets, travel, or other common interests. Kids rarely come up as a topic of conversation. "People think we sit around and talk about how we hate kids, but we almost never mention kids," Traci explained. No wonder.

Another woman in the Atlanta group explained, "you focus those motherly feelings elsewhere. For us, our dogs get all that love." That worldview is sick, but more and more common.

Christians must recognize that this rebellion against parenthood represents nothing less than an absolute revolt against God's design. The Scripture points to barrenness as a great curse and children as a divine gift ...

Morally speaking, the epidemic in this regard has nothing to do with those married couples who desire children but are for any reason unable to have them, but in those who are fully capable of having children but reject this intrusion in their lifestyle.

...

The sexual revolution has had many manifestations, but we can now see that modern Americans are determined not only to liberate sex for marriage [and even from gender], but also from procreation.

The Scripture does not even envision married couples who choose not to have children. The shocking reality is that some Christians have bought into this lifestyle and claim childlessness as a legitimate option. The rise of modern contraceptives has made this technologically possible. But the fact remains that though childlessness may be made possible by the contraceptive revolution, it remains a form of rebellion against God's design and order.

Couples are not given the option of chosen childlessness in the biblical revelation. To the contrary, we are commanded to receive children with joy as God's gifts ... Those who reject children want to have the joys of sex and marital companionship without the responsibilities of parenthood. They rely on others to produce and sustain the generations to come.

This epidemic of chosen childlessness will not be corrected by secular rethinking. In an effort to separate the pleasure of sex from the power of procreation, modern Americans think that sex totally free from constraint or conception is their right ...

The culture is clearly buying into this concept. Legal fights over apartment complexes and other accommodations come down to the claim that adults ought to be able to live in a child-free environment. Others claim that too much tax money and public attention is given to children, and that this is an unfair imposition upon those who choose not to "breed." Of course, the very use of this terminology betrays the rebellion in this argument. Animals breed. Human beings procreate and raise children to the glory of God.

...

The church must help this society regain its sanity on the gift of children. Willful barrenness and chosen childlessness must be named as moral rebellion. To demand that marriage means sex--but not children--is to defraud the creator of His joy and pleasure in seeing the saints raising His children. That is just the way it is. No kidding.


Link.

These people simply cannot stand to mind their own fucking business, can they? Not to mention the willingness of their 'God' to stick His divine snout where it doesn't belong.

One advantage of being a female blogger

If you share intimate details of your sex life, lots of people will want to read your blog. 'Sex sells,' as they say.

Libertarian 'Girl' tried this and it seemed to work. But I bet that it would only work for women. I, for one, am not particularly interested in knowing anything about Instapundit's sex life, if he indeed has one.

And obviously it is not an option for asexual non-organisms.

5/06/2005

Don't kill the messenger

Apparently, the latest manifestation of blogosphere self-obsession is a bizarre backlash against blogrolls, of all things, as well as the Truth Laid Bear Ecosystem, which ranks blogs in terms of how many other blogs are linking to them. I haven't been paying too close attention to this, but I think it started with a post from Shelly at Burningbird:

NZ Bear, you are hurting us. With your Ecosystem, you count links on the front page, which give precedence to blogroll links over links embedded within writings, and then classify people in a system equating mammals and amoeba. Your site serves as nothing more than a way for higher ranked people to feel good about themselves, and lower ranked to feel discouraged. There is no discovery inherent in your system — no way of encouraging new voices to be heard. So NZ, you are, also, hurting us.

Yes, how dare you, NZ Bear, so blatantly and insensitively create a system that accurately reflects reality!

This reminds me of the silly accusations that Brian Leiter's Philosophical Gourmet Report is 'damaging' the profession.

Look, is it true, or is it not, that some blogs are more popular than others? Is it true, or is it not, that some philosophy departments are regarded more highly than others?

As much as you might not like these facts, that is what they are--facts. So you're going to attack NZ Bear for reporting them and making the information available? Why?

Does the availability of this information affect the nature of the blogosphere? Probably. Opinion polls during election seasons probably affect the nature of the campaign. But that doesn't mean we should do away with polls. The Ecosystem is very straightforwardly providing us with information--which blogs get linked to the most. If you don't think this information is relevant, or helpful, then fucking ignore it. No one's forcing you to keep a daily vigil to see if you've been upgraded from a 'Marauding Marsupial' to a 'Large Mammal'.

But at least I can understand the hostility toward the Ecosystem. What I don't get, though, is the anger toward blogrolls:

In fact, to every weblogger who has a blogroll: you are hurting all of us.

Rarely do people discover new webloggers through blogrolls; most discovery comes when you reference another weblogger in your writings. But blogrolls are a way of persisting links to sites, forming a barrier to new voices who may write wonderful things — but how they possibly be heard through the static, which is the inflexible, immutable, blogroll?

So for all of you who have a blogroll, you are also hurting us.

If I had a wish right now, I would wish one thing: that we remove all of our blogrolls and take down the EcoSystem and the Technorati 100 and all of the other ‘popularity’ lists. That whatever links exist, are honest ones based on what has been written, posted, published, not some static membership in a list that is, all too often, stale and out of date, and used as a weapon or a plea.

I would suggest the same for your syndication lists, too–when did you last update it to reflect those sites you really read? I would be content,though, if centralized aggregators such as Bloglines stopped publishing the number of subscriptions for each feed. After all, what true value is this information?

Then we would all start fresh. It would be a new start, and the emphasis would be less on who we know and who we are, then what is being said.


So you don't find the information valuable, therefore it should stop being published. WTF? And let me say that it is bullshit that people rarely discover new blogs via blogrolls. I know that for myself, at least, a good proportion of new visitors do in fact get here by clicking on a link in someone's blogroll.

Disturbingly, this anti-blogroll madness is spreading. Feministe:

I’m no longer including a link list on the blog. Having thought about the points that Shelley made about blogrolls and linking practices, I decided that not only was my blogroll becoming too lengthy to be of use on the blog (and terribly difficult to load on my dial-up connection), but that those that I link will be statistically better off with my regular roundup posts.


Okay, for one thing, get a fucking DSL connection. For another, what Chris said:

But it seems a little odd to me that some people who denigrate the "A-list" bloggers seem to do so because they want to become "A-list" bloggers themselves. And because maybe two dozen self-important and largely overrated bloggers occasionally say inflammatory and stupid things about those below them on the big metaphorical fire escape, the people on the periphery of the "A-list" are starting to demand that the mechanism that propelled them to their current position be dismantled because they found a wall when they got there.

...

I guess I'm not hep to the cool blogging jive. To me, it looks a lot like the rising class fighting the ruling class by punishing the proletariat. Blogrolls don't work well to get you from the "B-list" into the "A-list," so you respond by taking away the thing that allows us "Z-list" bloggers to find one another ...

I've got an alternate solution. Criticize the old boys' network. Link to other blogs that do so. Revel in your "toenail fungus" status in the Cross Eyed Bear Ecosystem. (Only the biologically ignorant disdain microörganisms. Microörganisms rule the earth.) Barrage Kevin Drum with clever insults when he says yet another insanely stupid thing about women bloggers. Send people to other blogs, and other sites, in whatever way is the most efficient for you.


I've got yet another alternate solution for the anti-Ecosystem, anti-blogroll folks: Get over yourselves. Write about what you want to write about, be grateful for the visitors you get, even do what you can to get more. But don't launch hysterical attacks on people for being popular (like Kevin Drum), or on those who document their popularity (NZ Bear). Look, the reason Instapundit sucks is because he's a fucking dumbass, not because his blog is ranked as a 'Higher Being.' And people can bitch about Atrios all day for not 'putting enough effort' into his posts and just throwing up a link with 'Oy' or 'Bobo's World' as a caption, but there's a reason that he can do that--because he built a following by creating a quality site which has grown into a community. This is why he gets 600 comments on an open thread.

But maybe I'm being too harsh; maybe I'm just in a pissy mood and there will be an apology here tomorrow.

Less chemistry, more alchemy

Via Kevin Drum, this is a paragraph from an LA Times article about the recent battles over the teaching of evolution in Kansas:

The hearings in Topeka, scheduled to last several days, are focusing on two proposals. The first recommends that students continue to be taught the theory of evolution because it is key to understanding biology. The other proposes that Kansas alter the definition of science, not limiting it to theories based on natural explanations.

As Kevin points out, that would indeed change the definition of science, as it would expand it in such a way as to include stuff that isn't science.

Perhaps we can also alter the definition of history, not limiting it to accounts of actual historical events, and maybe also of math, to allow for non-computational theories.

In fact, why should 'education' be limited to actually educating? Let's take this to its logical conclusion.

Hey, that sounds familiar

Slacktivist has a post up that is suspiciously similar to a rather notorious one I wrote a while back.

Hmm...


... oh yeah, I found this at Atrios.


... and just to head off any misunderstanding: I'm not really accusing anyone of ripping me off. Sorry; I know it's annoying when people point out that they are being sarcastic/facetious--it kind of defeats the purpose. But I've made a mistake thinking the sarcasm was clear before, and I'd hate to do it again ...

Alyssa Milano

... has a website.




I mention this for two reasons. One, I am attempting to follow the advice of Steve Gilliard and be less of a news snob. Two, the design at 'Lyssa's site is absolutely gorgeous.

5/05/2005

Jackass Manifesto

Via Steve Gilliard, this is an 'open letter' from the college student who was recently arrested for heckling Ann Coulter. All emphasis mine.

Open Letter to Anyone Who Gives a Shit About Justice
by Ajai Raj

I'm writing this in response to the spectacle that occurred in the LBJ Library on Tuesday, May 3rd, 2005, when Ann Coulter, a diabolical, ignorant, but nevertheless charismatic right-wing pundit, came to speak at the University of Texas at Austin. Ms. Coulter--yes, Ms, I'd personally think such a vocal female conservative would be making Bubba a meat loaf instead of addressing a politically-minded collegiate audience, but whatever--is the author of relentlessly mendacious anti-liberal books, such as Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right and Treason: Liberal Treachery From the Cold War to the War on Terrorism. She's famous for having an ass that stores so many lies it makes clown-car designers envious. Like her or not (and if you do, I'm surprised you can read) she's a Big Fucking Deal.

The title of the Daily Texan front-page story covering Ms. Coulter's speech was "Arrest Made at Coulter Speech." You could also have caught it on CBS or in the Austin-American Statesman. The general idea is that some jackass made a scene, and Ann Coulter was also there.

I am Ajai Raj, and I am a jackass.

In his article, which I enjoyed and commend him for, Mr. Sampath quoted the former president of the Student Events Center, the organization which arranged the event. He wrote:

"The person had been disruptive the entire event," said Matt Hardigree, former Student Events Center president. "He took the opportunity to say something lewd and offensive and then made masturbatory gestures as he exited."

And what do I have to say in rebuttal? Not a goddamn thing.

Matt Hardigree got it spot-on! From the beginning I was yelling obscenities along with my friends, roaring at Ms. Coulter's right-wing bullshit festival the way no one else had the balls to. Mr. Sampath writes in his article that (and this is my take) the protestors were told to be good all along. They were told to sit in the back and hold their signs and leave quietly. No wonder hippies get such a bad rap nowadays; protestors today might as well be ornaments on the Rightmobile. When I want someone to know I'm pissed off, I'm going to throw down and give them a good shit-ruining. I wanted to show Ms. Coulter that people are down if she wants to hold a circle-jerk, but we're not gonna do it her way. Not me, at least.

So yes, the Q&A session came around, and it was pathetic. Her slack-jawed fans got up and licked her face so she could pat them on the head--one schmuck offered to be her bodyguard, and she smiled, doubtlessly making a mental note that she wouldn't touch his nether regions if she were King Midas. Liberal protestors posed well-intentioned but woefully timid questions and got shot down in a hail of ignorant shitfire from the She-Dragon. Standing in line awaiting my turn, I watched her send a moderate Republican, who had questioned the sheer incendiary magnitude of her rhetoric, walk away in tears when she tore him apart for daring to question her.

So yes, I saw my "opportunity to say something lewd and offensive." And I took it.

She had just said something about gay marriage, the typical rightwing bullshit spiel that is still convincing people that the Bible is really the Constitution. Knowing that taking the time to say something insightful, specific, or even slightly critical would get me a lame comeback and a ticket back to my seat, I realized that the only way to win this battle was to fight fire with fire. Or bullshit with bullshit. So, as reported in yesterday's Texan, I fired:

"You say that you believe in the sanctity of marriage," said Ajai Raj, an English sophomore. "How do you feel about marriages where the man does nothing but fuck his wife up the ass?"

And the crowd fell silent. Ms. Coulter stood stunned atop her stage, unprepared for a jackass to say something so utterly crude and to the point. Her pompous and mean air is enough to stump questioners into timidity; I wasn't about to let her stop me. The audience members looked at me with raw disbelief; later, even friends who know me well admitted that they'd been surprised at how vulgar I'd been. The others in line for Q&A, mostly liberals, looked at me like I'd set their cause back forty years.

Did I give a shit? No. If I had a message, it's that the whole thing was a joke--hell, our whole political scene today is a fucking joke. Everyone's out to either pat themselves on the back for being right or whine about how they're being wronged without ever lifting a finger to fight for it.

So rather than dignify anyone else, I "made masturbatory gestures" as I exited. Again, bingo! I danced a jig and set my hand a-jerkin' at crotch-level, sneering for the crowd and letting them know I was ready to roll. I yelled to my friends that we were gonna split and made for the door.

Two cops approached me. I figured they were going to tell me I had to leave, so I said "You can't fire me, because I quit!"

"You're under arrest."

It was my turn to be shocked. I tried to ask them what for; saying "fuck her in the ass" at a college isn't a crime, last time I checked. They apparently mistook my inquiries for aggression, and grabbed me roughly and slammed me into the door. Within seconds the backmost two or three rows were surging forward, following the scene as the cops dragged me out the door. They yelled and chanted; my friends were more outraged than I'd ever seen any of them before. As they pushed me into the car, I heard my good friend Jeffrey Stockwell scream, "THIS ISN'T A JUSTICE SYSTEM! YOU CALL THIS PROTECTING AND SERVING?!" The crowd took up a chant at the UTPD officers: "Shame! Shame! Shame!"

Shame is fucking right. When I asked the cops why they thought I needed cuffing, they told me that they didn't even see anything that happened, they were just doing as told.

As a good friend pointed out to me, it's a scary thought that people who are given weapons and the authority to forcibly detain people can act without knowledge of a situation.

...

I have no regrets. Was I jackass? Yes. Oh Christ, yes. But here are the questions people ought to ask themselves: Did I deserve to be arrested? Did the cops need to rough me up for saying bad words at what was at least masquerading as an open dialogue? Do the people of Texas--hell, of America--feel that "potty mouth" belongs on the list of punishable crimes along with "aggravated assault" and "armed robbery"?

...

This isn't about politics anymore, however it might have come about ... This is about drawing a line in the sand. It made me proud to see people standing up and calling bullshit when bullshit needed to be called. All politics aside, people ought to ask themselves, how far should our representatives of "justice" be allowed to go? Do the American people believe in censorship rights for the rich and famous?

I know I didn't slay the insidious evil that is Ann Coulter, but I did give her pause. She can easily go to another college or hoedown or whatever and spew her tired rhetoric without worrying about me. But I'm not the only one who feels this way. Other people will call her on her shit.

And hey, Ann, don't come back to UT. We're better than your bullshit here. And I can think of at least one jackass here who can dish it out better than you.

This, by the way, is a real instance of a violation of free speech, as opposed to the imaginary ones that Republicans are always bitching about.

It also hints at a good idea: college students, when someone like Coulter or Horowitz is invited to speak at your campus, always make sure to do whatever you can to turn the event into a complete mockery. I've said it before and I'll say it again: we can only lose by taking these buffoons seriously.

What the hell were my fellow left-of-center bloggers thinking?

John Hawkins at Right Wing News has surveyed a number of "left of center" bloggers, asking them who their favorite columnists are. Today, he tells us the top 15.

I was one of the bloggers surveyed. Only 5 of my choices made the top 15 (Paul Krugman, Molly Ivins, Joe Conason, David Corn, Eric Alterman). Most of the other ten are decent enough, though. But there are a few that make me wonder about my fellow lefty bloggers. For instance: Michael Kinsley?? The title of his latest article was:

Bush Gets B+ for Honesty, Even Courage, on Social Security

OK, for one thing, Bush has never done anything courageous in his life. For another, Kinsley's analysis of Social Security is completely wrong, as demonstrated here.

And Maureen Dowd? First of all, just look at her. Plus, I can't think of a 'liberal' columnist who has trumpeted more GOP lies than Dowd.

And Christopher Fucking Hitchens?!? (And he got two first-place votes!) If you a liberal/leftist/Democrat, your favorite columnist should not be an enthusiastic Bush supporter and war monger like Hitchens.

Puzzling.

Grammar

Yesterday I posted a bit about the 'Usage Wars', the debate between Prescriptivists, who believe in the normative force of grammatical rules, and Descriptivists, who believe the lexicographers should stick to describing language the way it is actually used. This got me thinking about language-related matters. I'm a pretty strident Descriptivist on this issue, so I tend not to get to bent out of shape about these things.

One thing that is bemoaned by nearly everyone who knows better is the usage of the phrase "begs the question" to mean something like "raises the question," as opposed to its traditional ('correct' if you're a Prescriptivist) meaning (presupposing (usually covertly or unconsciously) that which you are trying to prove, a.k.a. circular reasoning). Even Descriptivists like myself lament this, since "begging the question" is such a useful phrase, and it would be a shame to lose it.

(A similar case is the use of the word "deconstruct" to mean "analyze" or "critique" (usually for the sake of denouncement). For example, Powerline's Ass Missile recently referred to "Hugh Hewitt's deconstruction of a column by the Washington Post's Terry Neal." Assuming Hugh Hewitt is not a Derridian, he's not really 'deconstructing' anything. No one seems to really care about this slip in usage, though, probably because, unlike 'begging the question,' 'deconstruction', as a concept, is not really useful in any way.)

One grammatical change that I, for one, welcome with open arms is the increasing acceptance of the use of 'they' as a third-person singular pronoun. The resistance to this seems to me to be based solely on an irrational clinging to a tradition that isn't even all that traditional.

This site, in addition to listing common 'errors' in usage, provides some examples of grammatical rules that ought to be phased out. One is the prohibition against the use of 'ain't':

This rule has more to do with ideas about class and social standing than it does with grammar. "Ain't" has traditionally been seen as a low-class thing to say; the prohibition against its use is based more on an idea that "people who are educated should never use such a low-class word" than it is on any serious rule of grammar or usage. William Shakespeare used the word "ain't;" that's good enough for me!

Of course, what goes unmentioned here is that almost all grammatical rules have everything to do with 'ideas about class and social standing,' as David Foster Wallace indicates in his treatment of the dialect of Standard White English.

Other rules we could live without:

"No split infinitives."

Of all the rules of English grammar which serve little purpose, the most obvious and least useful is the rule which says "thou shalt not split an infinitive." An infinitive is the "to" form of a verb; "to look," "to go," and so on. A "split infinitive" is a phrase in which some word appears between the "to" and the verb; "to boldly go," for example.

This particular rule was actually invented by one person, Bishop Roberth Lowth. In 1762, he published a book on English grammar, which has exerted an evil influence on English ever since. His reasoning for prohibiting a split infinitive was--get this--it's impossible to split an infinitive in Latin, so it shouldn't be done in English either.

I kid you not. That's the reason you've been told you must never, ever split an infinitive--because it's impossible to do in Latin, and in 1762 some yoyo decided that English really ought to look more like Latin, so anything you can't do in Latin you shouldn't do in English either.


"Never end a sentence with a preposition."

The rule that one must never end a sentence with a preposition is just as silly as the rule that one must never split an infinitive, and in fact the prohibition against ending sentences with a preposition often forces the speaker to use weird and awkward sentence structures. This point was most nobly illustrated by none other than Winston Churchill, who upon being told he couldn't end a sentence with a preposition, replied "[That] is the sort of bloody nonsense up with which I will not put." That says it all, really.


"Punctuation goes inside the quotation marks." (This one is a huge pet peeve of mine, because often it is blatantly illogical.)

This rule can create weird situations:

Did he really say "We will be there soon?"

The entire sentence is a question, but the part inside the quotation marks is not; writing according to the conventional rules of grammar is misleading, because you're counting on the reader to infer that the quotation was a statement, even though it ends in a question mark.

The rule that I'd most humbly like to propose is this: Punctuation belongs inside quotation marks if and only if that punctuation is actually part of the quopted literal; otherwise, it goes outside.


I'm sure there are others, but I can't think of any right now.

Move on

Atrios puts the smack down on Democratic 'moderates' (like professional jackass Marshall Wittman), a.k.a. Joe Lieberman Democrats, a.k.a. New Republicans, who are still bashing the left wing of the Democratic Party, a.k.a. Deaniacs, a.k.a. 'the MoveOn crowd', a.k.a. 'The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party':

Look, fuck off folks. You were wrong about the Iraq war. Your fault, not theirs. Intelligent people learn from their mistakes and move on (ha ha). Little children and drunks lash out and blame everyone else for them.

Hear, hear.

5/04/2005

Nobody thinks you are dumb hicks; now could you kindly stop voting GOP, please?

Neil the Werewolf gives us the take of his red-state friend on what the Democrats can do to improve their electoral prospects:

Look, here's what I think that style really needs to address. Red-staters (myself included) have a serious inferiority complex with respect to people on the coasts. Whether easterners consider themselves elite or not is really besides the point. The fact is people in the Midwest (I don't know the South) suspect that easterners think we're just a bunch of ass backwards hicks, and we worry and worry about showing that (i) we're not, and (ii) we don't care what they think anyway. Part of the reason Bush goes over so well in the Midwest is that he's one of "us" -- yeah, yeah, he's privilleged, but he speaks naturally in religious terms, which counts for a lot. Voting for Bush is actually a sort of populist move for many red-staters: it's a way of saying fuck you to the elite easterners who think they know everything and put us down.


Well, okay ... here's a couple of things I don't understand, though:

1. If Midwesterners are worried about showing Coasters/Blue-staters that they are not a bunch of ass-backwards hicks, then why don't they vote Democratic? That would presumably go a long way in convincing Blue-staters of their non-hicktude.

2. Given that this inferiority complex is not based on anything Blue-staters actually say or do, but is instead created out of whole cloth, is catering to the delusions of Midwesterners really the wisest strategy?

Hey look, the new Pope has a blog

And his Holiness is apparently dissatisfied with the Vatican toilet paper.

Language games

Max Goss complains about Random House telling him to use more 'sensitive' language:

Apparently Random House uses something called an "Offensiveness Quotient" to determine how to categorize certain dictionary entries. We learn from the "O.Q. Chart" that, among other things, harelip and cripple "indicate a lack of sensitivity," ... and that housewife and Miss are "taken as showing mild disapproval or lack of respect."

Random House's Editorial Director says, "Our first duty as dictionary publishers is to describe accurately what words in fact do exist in the language." I guess their second duty is to tell us when we lack sensitivity and recommend better words than the ones we might be inclined to choose.


Neil the Werewolf responds:

Max does the conservative thing where you criticize politically correct language reforms. Really, I think a lot of the terms he rejects are better than the ones he likes ... Overall, I'm pretty happy with the trade society has made over the past few decades. I have no desire to use language that perpetuates unwholesome stereotypes.


Max's response to this response:

My point ... is that it is not the place of a dictionary maker to tell me whether my uses of various expressions lack sensitivity or should be replaced by "better" ones.


These posts got me thinking about an article I read a few years back--April 2001 to be (somewhat) exact--by David Foster Wallace called 'Tense Present' (published in Harper's), which introduced me to the dark side of contemporary lexicography--the 'Usage Wars.'

(David Foster Wallace is my favorite fiction writer going away. His most famous work is his 1996 novel Infinite Jest, a 1,088 page epic about drug addiction, Quebecois separatism, mass media, corporate hegemony, and tennis. Just as good are his short story collections Oblivion and Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, as well as a book of essays called A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again.)

Apparently, the Usage Wars pit Prescriptivists--those who argue, like Neil, that the purpose of dictionaries ought to be impose certain norms or standards on language--against Descriptivists, who, like Max, believe that a dictionary's job is to document the language as it is actually used, not to tell us how to use it. And like most wars, it isn't pretty. Wallace:

Did you know that probing the seamy underbelly of U.S. lexicography reveals ideological strife and controversy and intrigue and nastiness and fervor on a nearly hanging-chad scale? For instance, did you know that some modern dictionaries are notoriously liberal and others notoriously conservative, and that certain conservative dictionaries were actually conceived and designed as corrective responses to the "corruption" and "permissiveness" of certain liberal dictionaries? ... Did you know that U.S. lexicography even had a seamy underbelly?

...

We regular citizens tend to go to The Dictionary for authoritative guidance. Rarely, however, do we ask ourselves who decides what gets in The Dictionary or what words or spellings or pronunciations get deemed "substandard" or "incorrect." Whence the authority of dictionary-makers to decide what's OK and what isn't? ... simply appealing to precedent or tradition won't work, because what's considered correct changes over time. In the 1600s, for instance, the second-singular pronoun took a singular conjugation — "You is." Earlier still, the standard 2-S pronoun wasn't "you" but "thou" ... Who's to say which changes are natural and which are corruptions?

...

You'd sure know lexicography had an underbelly if you read the little introductory essays in modern dictionaries ... But almost nobody ever bothers with these little intros, and it's not just their six-point type or the fact that dictionaries tend to be hard on the lap. It's that these intros aren't actually written for you or me or the average citizen who goes to The Dictionary just to see how to spell (for instance) meringue. They're written for other lexicographers and critics, and in fact they're not really introductory at all but polemical. They're salvos in the Usage Wars that have been under way ever since editor Philip Gove first sought to apply the value-neutral principles of structural linguistics to lexicography in Webster's Third. Gove's famous response to conservatives who howled when Webster's Third endorsed OK ... was this: "A dictionary should have no traffic with ... artificial notions of correctness or superiority. It should be descriptive and not prescriptive." These terms stuck and turned epithetic, and linguistic conservatives are now formally known as Prescriptivists and linguistic liberals as Descriptivists.

...

"Correct" English usage is, as a practical matter, a function of whom you're talking to and how you want that person to respond — not just to your utterance but also to you. In other words, a large part of the agenda of any communication is rhetorical and depends on what some rhet-scholars call "Audience" or "Discourse Community." And the United States obviously has a huge number of such Discourse Communities, many of them regional and/or cultural dialects of English: Black English, Latino English, Rural Southern, Urban Southern, Standard Upper-Midwest, Maine Yankee, East-Texas Bayou, Boston BlueCollar, on and on. Everybody knows this. What not everyone knows — especially not certain Prescriptivists — is that many of these non-SWE [Standard White English] dialects have their own highly developed and internally consistent grammars, and that some of these dialects' usage norms actually make more linguistic/aesthetic sense than do their Standard counterparts.


Wallace brings these issues to bear on the topic of Neil and Max's discussion: 'politcally correct' terminology:

... pussyfooting has of course now achieved the status of a dialect — one powerful enough to have turned the normal politics of the Usage Wars sort of inside out.

I refer here to Politically Correct English (PCE), under whose conventions failing students become "high-potential" students and poor people "economically disadvantaged" and people in wheelchairs "differently abled" ... Although it's common to make jokes about PCE (referring to ugly people as "aesthetically challenged" and so on), be advised that Politically Correct English's various pre- and proscriptions are taken very seriously indeed by colleges and corporations and government agencies, whose own institutional dialects now evolve under the beady scrutiny of a whole new kind of Language Police.

From one perspective, the history of PCE evinces a kind of Lenin-to-Stalinesque irony. That is, the same ideological principles that informed the original Descriptivist revolution — namely, the sixties-era rejections of traditional authority and traditional inequality — have now actually produced a far more inflexible Prescriptivism, one unencumbered by tradition or complexity and backed by the threat of real-world sanctions (termination, litigation) for those who fail to conform. This is sort of funny in a dark way, maybe, and most criticism of PCE seems to consist in making fun of its trendiness or vapidity. This reviewer's own opinion is that prescriptive PCE is not just silly but confused and dangerous.

... With respect, for instance, to political change, usage conventions can function in two ways: On the one hand they can be a reflection of political change, and on the other they can be an instrument of political change. These two functions are different and have to be kept straight. Confusing them — in particular, mistaking for political efficacy what is really just a language's political symbolism ... — enables the bizarre conviction that America ceases to be elitist or unfair simply because Americans stop using certain vocabulary that is historically associated with elitism and unfairness. This is PCE's central fallacy — that a society's mode of expression is productive of its attitudes rather than a product of those attitudes — and of course it's nothing but the obverse of the politically conservative ... delusion that social change can be retarded by restricting change in standard usage.

Forget Stalinization or Logic 101-level equivocations, though. There's a grosser irony about Politically Correct English. This is that PCE purports to be the dialect of progressive reform but is in fact — in its Orwellian substitution of the euphemisms of social equality for social equality itself — of vastly more help to conservatives and the U.S. status quo than traditional ... prescriptions ever were. Were I, for instance, a political conservative who opposed taxation as a means of redistributing national wealth, I would be delighted to watch PCE progressives spend their time and energy arguing over whether a poor person should be described as "low-income" or "economically disadvantaged" or "pre-prosperous" rather than constructing effective public arguments for redistributive legislation or higher marginal tax rates on corporations ...

As a practical matter, I strongly doubt whether a guy who has four small kids and makes $12,000 a year feels more empowered or less ill-used by a society that carefully refers to him as "economically disadvantaged" rather than "poor." Were I he, in fact, I'd probably find the PCE term insulting — not just because it's patronizing but because it's hypocritical and self-serving. Like many forms of Vogue Usage, PCE functions primarily to signal and congratulate certain virtues in the speaker — scrupulous egalitarianism, concern for the dignity of all people, sophistication about the political implications of language — and so serves the selfish interests of the PC far more than it serves any of the persons or groups renamed.


The entire article (which is really worth reading if you're interested in this kind of thing) can be found here.

He was so irrational ...

Do yourself a favor and check out this slide-show/essay from Slate about Max Ernst, the German painter who was affiliated with Dada and Surrealism.

You can also read a bit about Ernst here.

Doom and gloom

From Yahoo News:

Pentagon says Iraq war erodes military's abilities

The U.S. military's operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have constrained its ability to tackle other potential conflicts, making any future war more likely to be longer and bloodier, according to America's top general.

In an annual classified [Ed.-Uh, apparently not all that classified.] report required by Congress, Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said stress on manpower and equipment could limit the ability to win other possible wars as quickly as the Pentagon had previously forecast, defense officials said on Tuesday.

Myers stated in the report that U.S. armed forces would "succeed" in any future major conflict but "may be unable to meet expectations for speed or precision."

Any future armed conflicts "may result in significantly extended campaign timelines, and achieving campaign objectives may result in higher casualties and collateral damage," the report stated.

Potential hot spots include Iran, the Korean Peninsula and across the Taiwan Strait.

...

The United States has about 138,000 troops in Iraq and another 17,000 in Afghanistan, and has shifted troops from such places as South Korea, where they guarded against aggression by communist North Korea, to maintain force levels to combat the Iraqi insurgency.

There are 1.4 million active-duty U.S. troops and another 1.2 million in the Reserve and National Guard.

The White House emphasized that the report maintained the U.S. military remained fully capable of meeting any threat posed in the world.

Many troops have long and repeated deployments to combat zones and more than 40 percent of those in Iraq and Afghanistan are members of the part-time Reserves and National Guard. The Army and Marines have run into acute recruiting problems in recent months and military equipment is subject to heavy wear and tear.


No ulterior motives here, by the way; just seemed interesting and important.

President J-Lo

In honor of Steve Gilliard's call for lefties to be less snobish about the news they deem important enought to discuss, here is a blurb about the presidential aspirations of one Jennifer Lopez, who I understand is popular with the young people.

Jennifer Lopez wants to be first female US president

After conquering Hollywood and the pop charts, Latina superstar Jennifer Lopez says she is ready to wrestle George W. Bush out of the White House.

"I'm a total powerhouse. If you ask me, I'd like to become the first female president -- that would be really cool," J.Lo told German celebrity glossy Bravo in an issue to be published Wednesday.

"The first thing I would do is redecorate the White House -- it doesn't look very cozy."

"La Lopez", 35, said the best break from her growing entertainment empire is housekeeping.

"Believe it or not -- I clean my house! All the stress disappears when I'm straightening up," she said, in comments published in German.

Lopez said she was sure after two divorces and her "Bennifer" engagement debacle with actor Ben Affleck that her marriage with singer Marc Anthony would last.

"I have a very good feeling and am sure that we will never part," he said.

"I think he would father beautiful children."


She's got my vote--or at least she would, if I had one.

Less All Things Considered, more E! True Hollywood Story

Steve Gilliard, in the course of defending himself against charges that he has devoted too much attention to the 'Runaway Bride' story, says that we lefties need to stop being news snobs:

That's one of the problem with people on the left. After losing yet another election, they act outraged that people care about murders and runaway brides. They keep hoping for some kind of revolution where serious news matter. Have you ever seen English newspapers? You have tabloids and serious papers. But you don't hear people whining about it.

...

The folks are Romenesko were debating why they covered Krispy Kreme openings a couple of years back. They complained that it was just free advertising for the company. Now, while these folks had their noses up in the air, you had hour's long wait for these donuts as they hit new markets in the Northeast and West. The snobs missed the point that this was news ... If 50 people line up for a fucking donut, asking why is a good start. You cover what happens, not what you think should happen, and goddamnit, if people stand in line at 5:30 to get hot dounts, you should find out why, even if it is a free ad.

... Instead of wishing it wasn't news, we need to subvert it. We need to discuss it in wider terms, class, race, sex. We need to bring depth to the debate. ... But if you don't engage it, bring different perspectives to it, the media gets away clean again ... If they want to talk about runaway brides, let's talk about runaway brides, but intelligently, questioning the sex roles of men and women and the economic cost and pressure in a large wedding. There is fertile ground for smart people, but they have to seize the target and change the debate.

One of the great tricks of conservative pundits was to talk about ANY topic. No matter what it was, they had an opinion, got face time and then book deals. They saw this as fertile ground to extend the debate. We have to engage these issues and bring new perspectives on them.

...

There's a sort of snobishness about news on the left. I don't watch TV, I only read the Guardian. Give me a fucking break. Most people think Angel comes after Guardian and when you don't watch TV, you might as well say pinko hippie. If you want to change minds, you have to speak their language and it's in things people care about.

If you don't have an opinion on the latest circus, your opinion on more serious matters will not count. You don't have to spend every day repeating Eonline, but you have to understand the culture, even the vulgar parts, to change it. If you do not engage the debate at hand, you will become irrelevant. Even if the debate is not a big deal in the end. Walking away, as we did so many times before, is no longer an option.


I don't know if I agree with everything here, but Steve is dead on about the ability of conservatives to not only talk about any subject, but to be able to use any subject to advance their ideological agenda. This is why stupid shit like Runaway Brides and Elian Gonzalez and John Walker Lindh often works in their favor. Most people don't pay much attention to the news, and when they do, it's for stories like these. They hear a conservative spin put on all of them, and often this spin involves casting aspersions on our side. They don't hear shit from us, because we're on NPR talking about the World Trade Organization.

I'm not saying this is necessarily bad; there might very well be good reasons to continue focusing only on the actually important stuff. But there's no denying that this has a certain effect on public perception.

Hitchhiker's Guide to Wikipedia

I've never read Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and I don't really know anything about it (except that it is the origin of Majikthise's handle). But Paul Boutin at Slate sees an analogy between the Hitchhiker's Guide (written by recently-deceased Douglas Adams) and Wikipedia, the online 'open-source' encyclopedia:

The parallels between The Hitchhiker's Guide ... and Wikipedia are so striking, it's a wonder that the author's rabid fans don't think he invented time travel. Since its editor was perennially out to lunch, the Guide was amended "by any passing stranger who happened to wander into the empty offices on an afternoon and saw something worth doing." This anonymous group effort ends up outselling Encyclopedia Galactica even though "it has many omissions and contains much that is apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate."

Adams actually launched his own online guide before he died in 2001, but it was, he wrote, "still a little like the fossil record in that it consists almost entirely of gaps." Wikipedia is a colossal improvement—it's just like the fictional Hitchhiker's Guide, only nerdier. Wikipedia is the Web fetishist's ideal data structure: It's free, it's open-source, and it features a 4,000-word exegesis of Dune.

For decades, software-makers competed to build complex collaboration systems. These high-end tools, like Lotus Notes, let companies specify who can edit which documents and establish complex approval procedures for changes. In 1985, software researcher Ward Cunningham destroyed the hierarchies by designing a site, the WikiWikiWeb, that anyone could edit. (Wiki-wiki means "quick quick" in Hawaiian. Cunningham saw it on a Honolulu Airport bus.)

Wikipedia, with more than 1 million entries in at least 10 languages, is the mother of all wikis, but there are also wikis devoted to quotations, the city of Seattle, and Irish politics. (Check out this wiki of wikis, which lists more than 1,000 sites.) Instead of enforcing rules, wikis trust that groups can behave. Anyone can edit or reorganize their contents. If you realize something's missing, incomplete, or incorrect, you can fix it yourself without asking permission. "People told me that the experience changed their lives," Cunningham said via e-mail.

...

Like the Guide's lengthy entries on drinking, Wikipedia mirrors the interests of its writers rather than its readers. You'll find more on Slashdot than The New Yorker. The entry for Cory Doctorow is three times as long as the one for E.L. Doctorow. Film buffs have yet to post a page on Through a Glass Darkly; they're too busy tweaking the seven-part entry on Tron.

But excessive nerdiness isn't what's keeping Wikipedia from becoming the Net's killer resource. Accuracy is. In a Wired feature story, Daniel Pink (kind of) praised the hulking encyclopedia by saying you can "[l]ook up any topic you know something about and you'll probably find that the Wikipedia entry is, if not perfect, not bad." But don't people use encyclopedias to look up stuff they don't know anything about? Even if a reference tool is 98 percent right, it's not useful if you don't know which 2 percent is wrong ...

Just because the Wikipedia elves will probably fix those errors by the time you read this article doesn't mean that the system is inherently self-healing. Not everyone who uses a wiki wants to hit from both sides of the plate. The subset of enthusiastic writers and editors is orders of magnitude smaller than the group of passive readers who'll never get around to contributing anything.

Bashing Wikipedia is nearly as risky as bashing Scientology. I know that I'm going to get barraged by the Wikivangelists—"If an entry's wrong," they'll say, "stop complaining about it and fix it." But if I were truly conscientious, I'd have to stop and edit something almost every time I use Wikipedia. Most people are like Douglas Adams' characters—we resolve firmly to stay and fix it after work then forget the whole episode by lunchtime. Wikipedia is a good first stop to get the basics in a hurry, especially for tech and pop culture topics that probably won't ever make it into Britannica. I'm just careful not to use it to settle bar bets or as source material for an article. I made that mistake exactly once.


The crucial question, though, which is obvious to me at least, but which Boutin doesn't address, is whether Wikipedia is any less accurate than other reference sources or encyclopedia. He complains that even if it is 98% accurate, its usefulness is compromised by the 2% uncertainty. But is he assuming a 100% rate of accuracy for 'traditional' encyclopedias? If so, that seems highly dubious. I suspect that the frequency of error for Wikipedia isn't all that different from that of Encyclopedia Britannica.

I could be wrong, of course, but that's sort of the point. Without a context in which to judge Wikipedia's accuracy, it's meaningless to complain about it. If Wikipedia gets things right about as often as its traditional-format competitors, I'd give Wikipedia the edge based on the ease and speed of correction. If it gets things wrong at a much greater rate, then perhaps we can question its usefulness. But until we have some idea how it stacks up against other similar sources of information, there's no way to make any final judgments.

5/03/2005

Most Americans: Iraq = bad idea

From CNN via Atrios:

Poll: Most in U.S. say Iraq war not worthwhile

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A majority of Americans do not believe it was worth going to war in Iraq, a national poll reported Tuesday.

Fifty-seven percent of those polled said they did not believe it was worth going to war, versus 41 percent who said it was, according to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll of 1,006 adults.

That was a drop in support from February, when 48 percent said it was worth going to war and half said it was not.

It's also the highest percentage of respondents who have expressed those feelings and triple the percentage of Americans who said that it was not worth the cost shortly after the war began about two years ago.

...

Asked how things are going for the United States in Iraq, 56 percent said "badly" or "very badly," up from 45 percent in March.

Forty-two percent said "well" or "very well," down from 52 percent in March.

Americans appeared evenly divided over whether the decision to send U.S. troops to Iraq was a mistake, with 49 percent saying yes and 48 percent saying no. The sampling error was plus or minus 5 points.

...

The number of U.S. troops who have died in the Iraq war stands at 1,587, according to the military.


I'm not entirely sure how to square the 57% saying Iraq wasn't worth it with the only 49% who say it was a mistake, though. Either way, it's clear that public sentiment is not where the Bush administration would like it to be.

It's probably all the fault of the liberal media, though, for only reporting the bad news out of Iraq. I mean, do you realize how many people in Iraq didn't die today? You won't hear that number on CNN.

5/02/2005

"More terrible than anything suffered by any minority in history"

Again, I want to point this out. Pat Robertson has declared that the Democratic Party, with its minions the media and the homosexuals, are persecuting Christians to an extent unsurpassed in human history.

Just like what Nazi Germany did to the Jews, so liberal America is now doing to the evangelical Christians. It's no different. It is the same thing. It is happening all over again. It is the Democratic Congress, the liberal-based media and the homosexuals who want to destroy the Christians. Wholesale abuse and discrimination and the worst bigotry directed toward any group in America today. More terrible than anything suffered by any minority in history.


Again: this man, a popular figure among Republicans and a strong ally of President Bush, believes that Christians, in America, are suffering a fate worse than that of Jews during the Holocaust, worse than blacks during the days of segregation, worse even than that of Christians in ancient Rome. It's right there: "More terrible than anything suffered by any minority in history."

(Incidentally, Christians are in no sense a 'minority'. Not only is Christianity the faith of an overwhelming majority of Americans (76%), it also has more adherents worldwide than any other religion.)

Again: he thinks that modern-day, American Christians are enduring a fate worse than that of any group in human history.

Is there anyone out there who would defend such a claim? Anyone who would argue that this is anything but delusional insanity on the part of Rev. Robertson?

Clowning around

John Hawkins at Right Wing News (the same outfit that called yours truly a Nazi for arguing that David Horowitz deserved to get hit in the face with a pie) has a post about the 'South Park Conservative' phenomenon, responding to Damian Penny who asked "Is South Park really a conservative TV series?" (Incidentally, Damian is also upset about the endorsement of Dennis Kucinich by a cartoon dog.) John says yes:

South Park isn't totally friendly to conservatives. It's vulgar, obscene, a bit deviant, and the show certainly doesn't bend over backwards to give Republicans a pat on the back. Moreover, South Park is generally (but not totally) hostile & dismissive of religion. So given that, what's the show's charm to conservatives? It can be summed up with one quote by Matt Stone, one of the co-creators of the show:

"I hate conservatives, but I really f*cking hate liberals."

And he does.

The show ruthlessly skewers liberals on a regular basis --- whether you're talking about environmental wackos, PETA, know-it-all celebrities, illegal immigration, hate crime laws, sexual harassment, the rain forest, feminists, vegetarians, you name it...


Yeah, whatever. Here's what I'm really wondering about, though. With respect to the crassness of the show, John writes:


I spent my high school and early college years listening to gangster rap by bands like 2 Live Crew, NWA, & the Ghetto Boys and I still listen to the Insane Clown Posse. So, I'm not offended by the lewd topics or bad language in the show.


Did you catch that? Look at it again.

"I still listen to the Insane Clown Posse."

In case you are fortunate enough not to have previously heard of the Insane Clown Posse, they are a rap duo who dress and act like evil insane clowns. They look like this:



Apparently their fan base mostly consists of teenage boys who aren't sophisticated enough for Marilyn Manson. In case you were wondering, there is absolutely no indication that this is any kind of ironic joke on the part of the insane clowns. They mean it. Here are the lyrics to a song by the insane clowns called 'I Stab People':

I stab people, 4 or 5 people every day
I tried to see a shrink to stop that shit
But there aint no fuckin way
I stabed 'em, this nurse and his fuckin cat
Stabbed 'em, stabbed 'em all like that!
I stab people i know, i stabbed alex my mannager
He was like "what tha fuck!"
I stabbed 'em in the gut!
I order food just to stab the guy when he gets there
I don't care, i stab anybody anywere
I stabbed the mailman he was pissed
He tried to mase me
I'm too quick with the stab, come on come on chase me
I stabbed twiztid, jamie madrox, i stabbed 'em
Myzery stabbed me, ahh god damn 'em
I stab old people, old ladies, little kids, i don't give a fuck
I stabbed the fat guy in the butt, hehe what
I stabbed pete rose, i stabbed 'em twice in his nipple i'm violent j and i stab
people


Here's a song called 'Fuck the World':


Fuck you, fuck me, fuck us
Fuck tom fuck mary fuck gus
Fuck daris, fuck everybody on the west coast
And fuck everybody on the east
Eat shit and die, or fuck off at least
Fuck pre-schoolers, fuck rulers,
Kings and queens and gold jewlers
Fuck wine coolers
Fuck chickens, fuck ducks
Everybody in your crew sucks punk motha fucks
Fuck critics, fuck your review
Even if you like me, fuck you!
Fuck your mom, fuck your mom's mamma
Fuck the beastie boys and the dahli llama
Fuck the rain forest, fuck a forest gump
You probably like it in the rump, fuck a shoe pump
Fuck the real deal, and fuck all the fakes
Fuck all 52 states, oooh
And fuck you

Fuck oprah, fuck opera, fuck a soap opera
Fuck a pop locker and a cock blocker
Fuck your girlfriend, i probably did her already
Fuck kyle and his brother tom petty, jump steady
My homie fuck 'em what are ya gonna do
Fuck that bitch man fuck you
Yeah well fuck you to
Don't bother to analyze these rhymes
In this song i say fuck 93 times
Fuck the president, fuck your welfare
Fuck your government and fuck fred bear
Fuck newgent, like anybody gives a fuck
You like to hunt a lot, so fuckin what!
Fuck disco, count a monty crisco
Fuck cisco, and jack and jerry brisco
And fuck everyone that went down
With the titanic, in a panic
I'm like, fuck you all!!!!

Fuck celine dion and fuck deion walrick
You both make me sick, suck my dick
Fuck the berlin wall, both sides of it
And fuck lyle luvitt, whoever the fuck that is
Fuck everybody in the hemisphere
Fuck them across the world and fuck them right here

(By the way, I just C&Ped those lyrics from fan sites, so don't blame me for any spelling errors. And don't blame them either; really, what else did you expect? I could go through and clean it up, but (a) I don't feel like doing that and (b) it's funnier this way.)

There is no indication that John Hawkins is a 13-year-old boy with ADD, so it's kind of disturbing that he is a fan of the 'ICP' (as their fans call them). What's even more disturbing is that he doesn't seem to realize that that is not something he should admit to the entire world. It's bad enough that you are listening to this stuff; at least do it in the privacy of your own home, and don't go blabbing about it on the internet.

What would Lynne Cheney think?

Then again, Lynne Cheney does dabble in lesbian erotica, so maybe she wouldn't mind. And now that I think of it, most Republicans are in fact insane clowns, so maybe it's only proper that John is a fan.

La Shawn Barber admits her conservative readers are racists

OK, that might be over-stating things a bit. But look at this (note: Alicia Hardin is the black college student who sent fake racist mail to other black students in an effort to convince her parents that the school was unsafe; Jenifer Wilbanks is the woman who disappeared right before her wedding and then made up a story about being kidnapped; Wilbanks is white):

If nineteen-year-old Alicia Hardin is facing charges stemming from her fake hate mail campaign, Jennifer Wilbanks had better be charged for faking her own kidnapping. If not, I’m afraid my conservative readers will be disappointed with subsequent posts. They will be rants about the apparent racial bias between the two cases.


So let me see if I understand: this is a case of legitimate racial bias, but if you point that out, you expect your conservative readers to be upset? Why on earth would they be upset about your calling attention to a genuine instance of racism? Unless, that is, they are racists.

Now, I'm not saying they are racists; La Shawn Barber is (saying that). Anyone who has a problem with someone complaining about true racism must themselves be a racist. Yet the prospect that a significant part of her readership (she is a conservative blogger; presumably most of her readers are conservatives) are racists doesn't seem to bother La Shawn (who herself is black).

Link.

Why does Pat Robertson hate America?

Via Atrios:

Federal judges are a more serious threat to America than Al Qaeda and the Sept. 11 terrorists, the Rev. Pat Robertson claimed yesterday.

"Over 100 years, I think the gradual erosion of the consensus that's held our country together is probably more serious than a few bearded terrorists who fly into buildings," Robertson said on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos."

"I think we have controlled Al Qaeda," the 700 Club host said, but warned of "erosion at home" and said judges were creating a "tyranny of oligarchy."

Confronted by Stephanopoulos on his claims that an out-of-control liberal judiciary is the worst threat America has faced in 400 years - worse than Nazi Germany, Japan and the Civil War - Robertson didn't back down.

"Yes, I really believe that," he said. "I think they are destroying the fabric that holds our nation together."


Full article is here.

As Atrios points out, could you imagine what the reaction would be if a Democrat said that his political opponents were worse than Al Qaeda and the Nazis?

This isn't the first time Robertson has used rhetoric which, if used by someone on the Left, would have the wingnuts screeching to bring them up on charges of treason. His comments after 9/11:


We have allowed rampant secularism and occult, et cetera, to be broadcast on television. We have permitted somewhere in the neighborhood of 35 to 40 million unborn babies to be slaughtered in our society. We have a Court that has essentially stuck its finger in God's eye and said, 'We're going to legislate you out of the schools, we're going to take your Commandments from off the courthouse steps in various states, we're not going to let little children read the Commandments of God, we're not going to let the Bible be read -- no prayer in our schools.' We have insulted God at the highest levels of our government. And, then we say 'why does this happen?' Well, why its happening is that God Almighty is lifting His protection from us.


Oh, and for anyone who still doesn't understand that the Religious Right's persecution complex is an insult to those who have been truly oppressed, Robertson said the following to Molly Ivins:

Just like what Nazi Germany did to the Jews, so liberal America is now doing to the evangelical Christians. It's no different. It is the same thing. It is happening all over again. It is the Democratic Congress, the liberal-based media and the homosexuals who want to destroy the Christians. Wholesale abuse and discrimination and the worst bigotry directed toward any group in America today. More terrible than anything suffered by any minority in history.

I dare anyone to try to defend such a remark.

Reductio ad absurdum

What's weird about Religious Right types is that they don't want you engaging in any form of sexual contact until you're married, but as soon as you are married, you're expected to fuck like bunnies and produce as many offspring as is biologically possible. This fetishizing of reproduction is taken to its ridiculous logical conclusion by Nancy Campbell, the 'editress' of a web site called Above Rubies (don't ask me), whose essay "PROTECT YOUR WOMB!" comes to us via World O' Crap. Here are some highlights for your reading pleasure.


PROTECT YOUR WOMB!
By Nancy Campbell

Let's see what God says about our womb in His wonderful Word, which is called the "Wisdom of God." (Luke 11:49) I like that name, don't you? We can find God's wisdom relating to every matter in His Word, even in such feminine matters as the womb and breasts.


1. IT IS OUR DISTINGUISHING IDENTITY.

... Webster's 1928 dictionary explains that the word 'woman' is a combination of the words, 'womb' and 'man.' Woman therefore means 'womb man' or 'man with a womb.' When God created woman, he put within her a womb. The womb is God's beautiful gift to women. In fact, God designed our whole reproductive cycle especially for us. Because it is His design and purpose for us, we should embrace it with all our hearts. We should not resist it. We should embrace every part of our reproductive system - menstruation, ovulation, conception, gestation, parturition and lactation. God was preparing you for motherhood even in your mother's womb. By the time you were born you had over a million eggs, prepared and waiting for your destiny of motherhood.

...

We must positively seek to protect our womb. There is an unprecedented attack against the wombs of women today, which is inspired by the enemy [Ed.-She means Satan]. We must be aware of his tactics ...

Satan hates the womb. He knew that through the womb of a woman would come the Messiah, the Saviour of the world, who would destroy his head [Ed.-???]. He knows it is through the womb of the woman that the 'godly seed' still comes to destroy his works. Satan comes to "steal, kill and destroy."

...

Did you know that both the Pill and the IUD are abortifacients? Did you know that more babies are killed in the womb through the IUD and the Pill than even the holocaust of abortion? Your doctor doesn't tell you this. Your pastor or minister doesn't tell you this. Thus, many God-fearing people are ignorantly aborting their own babies. The womb, which is a sanctuary to nurture and protect life, has become an extermination camp. Satan is having a heyday!

...

Permanent contraception such as Tubal ligations where the barren womb is denied the life it was created to nurture. When we decide on permanent contraception such as tubal ligation we are in actuality saying, "God, I don't appreciate the way you made me. You did the wrong thing when you gave me a womb. It doesn't suit my present lifestyle so I will make sure it can't be used." ... Proverbs 30:15,16. God has created the womb to yearn for life.


Okay, this is where it really starts to get crazy:


The sins of the parents from past generations can bring a curse upon the womb. It can also come upon us through our own sin or negative confession. We should be careful not to speak negatively about any of our reproductive organs. Guard how you speak about menstruation. When you call it 'the curse' or other negative names, you give an opportunity for the curse of barrenness or other disorders to come to your womb. A curse on the womb can be a failure to menstruate, painful or irregular menstruation, cramps, cysts, tumors, continual miscarriage and inability to conceive - in fact, anything that affects your reproductive organs. Now please don't get me wrong. I am not saying, that if you have one of these disorders that it is because of a curse. There are often other factors involved. But there could be a possibility. If you feel this is the case, you may like to pray this prayer:

"Dear Father, I come to you in Jesus' name. I confess I have not received my womb as a gift from You. I have ignored the power of my womb and my womanly functions. I repent. Please forgive me and cleanse me in Jesus' name.

In the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, I renounce all negative words, even jokingly, that I have spoken about my womb, about menstruation, about pregnancy and about my womanly functions. I renounce any curse that has been placed upon my womb or reproductive organs from my parents, grandparents or great grandparents on both sides of my family.

...

Genesis 3:20 TLB says, "The man named his wife Eve meaning, The Life Giving One!"

Eve in Hebrew is 'Chavvah' meaning, 'Life Giver!" Eve was the prototype of all women - the first of her kind. She was a life giver. We also are life givers! We have the privilege of conceiving, nurturing and bringing forth a miracle of life from within our womb. Eve certainly obeyed God's command to "be fruitful and multiply." Hebrew tradition says that Eve gave birth to hundreds of children! Wow, that's hard to believe isn't it, but remember, she did live for hundreds of years. [Ed.-A HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!] The Bible only mentions the names of Cain, Abel and Seth but she gave birth to many sons and daughters and began the population of the earth. Genesis 5:4. No wonder she was called the "Mother of all living."

...

It is especially important to protect your ovaries. Not only do they release the egg each month, but also they release estrogen, which has a big bearing on your emotions. Don't allow a doctor to take out your ovaries just because they 'might' become cancerous. Protect them at all costs.

...

Many women confess to loss of sexual satisfaction after their womb has been removed ... A woman that experiences uterine orgasm rather than clitoral will be more severely affected by a hysterectomy...

...

IT IS A WEAPON AGAINST SATAN.

It is the womb that conceives and nourishes the 'godly seed' who will come forth to be the light in the darkness and who will destroy the works of Satan in this world. God is looking for an army. The greatest threat to Satan in this world is godly parents who understand God's intentions and who will bring forth and train a godly seed to fulfil His eternal plans.

...

The womb is a holy place and the entrance to the womb is holy. It is a type of the temple in the Old Testament where the Holy Place was separated from the Holy of Holies by a thick veil. The only person who could enter the Holy of Holies was the High Priest. God has also created the hymen in a virgin to protect the entrance of the womb. It is a type of the veil that protected the Holy of Holies and could only be entered by the High Priest.

The hymen, the protection to the womb, should only be broken by one man. God’s plan is that on the wedding night, two virgins come together and the hymen (the veil) is broken by the one who will become her husband – the priest of her home. Read Deuteronomy 22:13-21; 1 Corinthians 3:16,17; 1 Corinthians 6:18-20; 2 Corinthians 6:17,18.


I think this passage is my favorite:

Hebrew tradition says that Eve gave birth to hundreds of children! Wow, that's hard to believe isn't it, but remember, she did live for hundreds of years.


What?!? How the fuck could someone have hundreds of children! Why, such a thing is biologically impossible, an absurdity!

Oh, you say she lived for hundreds of years? Well why didn't you tell me that!

For more gory details, go here.

Pro-life or anti-sex? (part II)

Via Body and Soul:

Will cancer vaccine get to all women?

DEATHS from cervical cancer could jump fourfold to a million a year by 2050, mainly in developing countries. This could be prevented by soon-to-be-approved vaccines against the virus that causes most cases of cervical cancer - but there are signs that opposition to the vaccines might lead to many preventable deaths.

The trouble is that the human papilloma virus (HPV) is sexually transmitted. So to prevent infection, girls will have to be vaccinated before they become sexually active, which could be a problem in many countries.

In the US, for instance, religious groups are gearing up to oppose vaccination, despite a survey showing 80 per cent of parents favour vaccinating their daughters. "Abstinence is the best way to prevent HPV," says Bridget Maher of the Family Research Council, a leading Christian lobby group that has made much of the fact that, because it can spread by skin contact, condoms are not as effective against HPV as they are against other viruses such as HIV.

"Giving the HPV vaccine to young women could be potentially harmful, because they may see it as a licence to engage in premarital sex," Maher claims, though it is arguable how many young women have even heard of the virus.


I guess cancer is considered an appropriate punishment for these harlots.

Could we now officially stop referring to these people as 'pro-life,' please?

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