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"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

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Tuesday, 29 March 2005

Topic: The Media

On wanting to kill anyone who does not share your views?.

I understand from a well-placed source at CNN (really) that this Associated Press item is being circulated around news organizations today. Of course it is. The concept is fascinating, or would be of interest to the cable news folks who worry about ratings.

Man Sells Device That Blocks Fox News
Friday, March 25, 7:39 PM ET
Emily Fredrix, Associated Press Writer
It's not that Sam Kimery objects to the views expressed on Fox News. The creator of the "Fox Blocker" contends the channel is not news at all. Kimery figures he's sold about 100 of the little silver bits of metal that screw into the back of most televisions, allowing people to filter Fox News from their sets, since its August debut.

The Tulsa, Okla., resident also has received thousands of e-mails, both angry and complimentary ? as well as a few death threats.

"Apparently the making of terroristic threats against those who don't share your views is a high art form among a certain core audience," said Kimery, 45.

Formerly a registered Republican, even a precinct captain, Kimery became an independent in the 1990s when he said the state party stopped taking input from its everyday members.

Kimery now contends Fox News' top-level management dictates a conservative journalistic bias, that inaccuracies are never retracted, and what winds up on the air is more opinion than news. "I might as well be reading tabloids out of the grocery store," he says. "Anything to get a rise out of the viewer and to reinforce certain retrograde notions."
Yeah, well, we are told a Fox spokeswoman at the station's New York headquarters said the channel's ratings speak for themselves.

So be it. They get the most viewers, and I hear from my source in northern Iraq that Fox is just about the official news channel of the military. Of course.

But what exactly is the motivation driving this man from Tulsa?
Kimery's motives go deeper than preventing people from watching the channel, which he acknowledges can be done without the Blocker. But he likens his device to burning a draft card, a tangible example of disagreement.

And he's taking this message to the network's advertisers. After buying the $8.95 device online, would-be blockers are shown a letter that they can send to advertisers via the Fox Blocker site.

"The point is not to block the channel or block free speech but to raise awareness," said Kimery, who works in the tech industry.
Perhaps. But those who would buy the thing have already have had their awareness raised, one would think. And marketing this seems just an in-your-face insult to those who actually believe Fox News presents the only real, and only patriotic alternative to the America-hating liberal bias of all the rest of the media. When you insult people they threaten to kill you. Isn?t that how everyone responds to insults?


Anyway, you can buy one here if you?d like. But if you buy one, you probably aren?t watching Fox News anyway. Any beside that, you could just select a different channel and save the money.

Ah, one more liberal novelty item, much like this.

On the left Eric Alterman has a take on this here -
It?s not just a David Kelly fantasy. Sam Kimery says he's sold about 100 of the little silver bits of metal that screw into the back of most televisions, allowing people to filter Fox News from their sets, since its August debut. Of course, he has also received death threats from Fox fans, who naturally wish to kill anyone who does not share their views.

? We also note, for fairness? sake, that Kimery doesn't use the device himself; his remote is programmed to only a half-dozen channels. Plus he occasionally feels the need to tune into Fox News for something "especially heinous."
Fox fans naturally wish to kill anyone who does not share their views?

Ah, only some of them. So far.

You find my views "especially heinous?? I kill you!

Well, that's one kind of discourse.

Posted by Alan at 19:13 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 29 March 2005 19:19 PST home

Topic: In these times...

Polarization: The Effect of Washington?s Intervention in Florida Regarding the Woman with No Brain Waves for the Last Fifteen Years

At the Betty Bowers site you can buy mugs and t-shirts and such that say Dear Red States: To be honest, we do look down on you - and you can order those here.

So? Those of us who live in California are supposed to be happy that we do.

Variations of the letter below can be found here:

You're FIRED
Pink slip for the Red States
David Donnell - January 26, 2005

Abusive Relationships: Breaking Up Is Hard To Do, But Staying Together Is Suicide
by Citizen of South Canadian Republic Friday, Nov. 05, 2004 at 3:48 PM

This is the version going around the web now, and was forwarded to me from a friend at a prestigious Wall Street law firm -
From: Blue Girl (
Subject: Letter from a New Yorker: Dear Red States
Date: November 9, 2004 at 2:39 pm PST

Dear Red States:

Congratulations on your victory over all us non-evangelicals. Actually, we're a bit ticked off here in California, so we're leaving. California will now be its own country. And we're taking all the Blue States with us. In case you are not aware, that includes Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, and all of the Northeast.

We spoke to God, and She agrees that this split will be beneficial to almost everybody, and especially to us in the new country of California. In fact, God is so excited about it, She's going to shift the whole country at 4:30 pm EST this Friday. Therefore, please let everyone know they need to be back in their states by then.

So you get Texas and all the former slave states. We get the Governator, stem cell research and the best beaches. We get Elliot Spitzer. You get Ken Lay. We get the Statue of Liberty. You get OpryLand. We get Intel and Microsoft. You get WorldCom. We get Harvard. You get Ole' Miss. We get 85% of America's venture capital and entrepreneurs. You get all the technological innovation in Alabama. We get about two-thirds of the tax revenue, and you get to make the red states pay their fair share.

Since our divorce rate is 22% lower than the Christian coalition's, we get a bunch of happy families. You get a bunch of single moms to support, and we know how much you like that.

Did I mention we produce about 70% of the nation's veggies? But heck, the only greens the Bible-thumpers eat are the pickles on their Big Macs. Oh yeah, another thing, don't plan on serving California wine at your state dinners. From now on it's imported French wine for you. (Ouch, bet that hurts!)

Just so we're clear, the country of California will be pro-choice and anti-war.

Speaking of war, we're going to want all Blue States' citizens back from Iraq. If you need people to fight, just ask your evangelicals. They have tons of kids they're willing to send to their deaths for absolutely no purpose. And they don't care if you don't show pictures of their kids' caskets coming home.

Anyway, we wish you all the best in the next four years and we hope, really hope, you find those missing weapons of mass destruction. Seriously. Soon.

With the Blue States in hand, the Democrats have firm control of 80% of the country's fresh water, over 90% of our pineapple and lettuce, 92% of all fresh fruit production, 93% of the artichoke production, 95% of America's export quality wines, 90% of all cheese production, 90% of the high tech industry, most of the US low-sulfur coal, all living redwoods, sequoias and condors, all the Ivy and Seven Sister schools, plus Harvard, Yale, Amherst, Stanford, Berkeley, CalTech, IIT and MIT. We can live simply but well.

The Red States, on the other hand, now have to cope with 88% of all obese Americans (and their projected health care cost spike), 92% of all US mosquitoes, nearly 100% of all tornadoes, 90% of all hurricanes, 99% of all Southern Baptists, 100% of all Televangelists, Rush Limbaugh, Bob Jones University, Clemson and the University of Georgia. A high price to pay for controlling the presidency.

Additionally, 38% of those in the Red states believe Jonah was actually eaten by a whale, 62% believe life is sacred unless we're discussing the death penalty or gun laws, 44% believe that evolution is just a theory, 53% that Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11 and - most hard to grasp - 61% believe that Bush is a person of moral conviction.

So we drift apart. The country is more divided that it has ever been ? unless you count that Civil war back in the early 1860?s ? or as they sometimes call it south of the Mason-Dixon Line, the late unpleasantness between the states.

Ah well, perhaps we should split.

But the folks in the red states are serious. South Carolina may actually secede. See this from World Net Daily on May 24, 2004 ? on the plans for states succeeding to form a Christian traditional-values nation of their own. And we see who is first - "? after originally considering Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina due to their relatively small populations, coastal access, and the Christian nature of the electorate, Burnell says South Carolina has been selected as the target location."


All this was discussed in Just Above Sunset last September here.

Now, thanks to events in Florida, momentum is no doubt building.

Posted by Alan at 17:12 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 29 March 2005 19:07 PST home

Monday, 28 March 2005

Topic: The Culture

The Uses of Philosophy

Teaching is getting dangerous ? see this - an item by someone (Jacqueline Marcus) who teaches philosophy at a college in Florida.
In the Florida legislature, House Republicans, on the Choice and Innovation Committee, recently voted to pass a bill that threatens to restrain academic scholars. The law would allow students to sue teachers for beliefs that do not concur with conservative perspectives. If, for example, professors argue that evolution is a scientific fact instead of a theory, and if they don?t devote equal time to creationism, under this bill, initiated by conservative David Horowitz?s campaign, students can sue the professor for being biased.

Although the bill has two more committees to pass before it can be considered by the full House, it represents a growing threat against the very foundation of scholarly research. The intended goal of this bill is to portray professors as tyrannical monsters who terrorize Republican-conservative students, rendering them into poor, helpless victims under the authority of those, ah yes, Brutal Liberal Dictators!

Indeed, the phrasing of the bill is comical. It turns the essential meaning of ?liberal education? upside down: ?leftist totalitarianism? by ?dictator professors? in university classrooms. How?s this for an Orwellian twist? The bill is titled ?The Academic Freedom Bill of Rights,? sponsored by Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala.

In this rather oppressive atmosphere, particularly if one lives in a conservative county, as I do, teaching philosophy is a dangerous occupation. It?s not quite as dangerous as being a liberal journalist, but it has its risks.
Whine, whine, whine ?

But a good anecdote here -
A conservative student actually tried to push me aside at the beginning of class, dressed for the occasion in his tie and suit, with a digital camera, to deliver his Thou SHALL Kill presentation. It never occurred to him to discuss his proposal with me after class or during my office hours. He simply presumed that he was at equal status with the teacher, and that he has the ?Academic Freedom? to take up precious class time with his flaky opinions on interpreting the word ?kill? in the 6th Commandment.

I explained that students are paying to learn from an accredited teacher with degrees in philosophy/humanities. They?re not paying to hear HIS opinions. The test will be on Plato. He stormed out of the class and then dropped out the next day. (Praise the Lord!)

Here?s a follow-up question for Republican legislators: Some students still believe that Saddam was responsible for 9/11. Now if I were to tell them that even the Bush administration has announced that Saddam was not responsible for 9/11, under this bill, if passed, would students have the right to sue me because I clarified fact from fiction? Do I now become a Big Bad Liberal Dictator for challenging misinformation?
Hey, kids don?t want to learn what they don?t know to be true.

What?s the point in that?

Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis, asks questions ?
- Will a professor be able to counter-sue the student on grounds of terminal stupidity?

- What's stopping these students from getting their full does of 'creationism' in Sunday school? Or, are they lazy - wanting 'creationism' in school so they can cut Sunday school?

Give them a good used toaster!
And over at FAFBLOG the Medium Lobster has this to say -
Freedom is ever-marching, and its latest target for emancipation is none other than the Gulag Academia, where millions of students are held hostage by totalitarian educators whose cruel practice of teaching them things they don't already believe could soon be put to an end.

Florida Republicans are considering passing an "Academic Freedom Bill of Rights" which will give college students the power to sue "dictator professors" who offend their beliefs by teaching material which contradicts them. The Medium Lobster hails this as a measure long overdue. For far too long, higher education has been concerned with "education" and "instruction," mere euphemisms for harsh indoctrination into the totalitarian ideology of Fact. But now students will be given the tools to fight back, to free themselves of their oppressive enslavement to a world in which life evolved over millions of years through natural selection, dinosaurs weren't wiped out six thousand years ago by the flood of Noah, and the evil Xemu was not responsible for the existence of body thetans.

Will students learn more in such an environment? Of course not. If any thin-skinned adolescent can mau-mau his educators into avoiding any subject that fails to reinforce his own prejudices, universities will be engaged in the antithesis of teaching. But this is precisely the point: America has done so much to oppose tyranny in the form of earthly despots that it can only proceed to liberate humanity from the greatest dictator of all: Reality, which tyrannically insists that man acknowledge That Which Is rather than That Which Would Be More Convenient For Us.

Freed from the tyranny of Reality and the dangerous threat of its advance guard, Information, America's youth will be free to live in a world consisting solely of their own pre-existing beliefs, where messy ideological review and examination of fact have become unnecessary. As usual, the Bush administration has been admirably and ably leading the charge in this direction for years.
America's youth will be free to live in a world consisting solely of their own pre-existing beliefs, where messy ideological review and examination of fact have become unnecessary? So be it.

Posted by Alan at 20:03 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 29 March 2005 08:35 PST home

Topic: Couldn't be so...

Fahenheit 911 vindicated?

See this item on the wires...
The FBI played an active role in arranging chartered flights for dozens of well-connected Saudi nationals -- including relatives of Osama bin Laden -- after the 9/11 terror attacks.

The New York Times reported that the documents show Federal Bureau of Investigation agents gave personal airport escorts to two prominent Saudi families who fled the United States, while several other Saudis were allowed to leave the country without first being interviewed, citing newly-released US government records.

The Saudi families, in Los Angeles and Orlando, had requested the FBI escorts out of concern for their personal safety in the wake of the attacks. ...
The flights DID take off BEFORE the nation's commercial fleet was allowed to resume flying.

Michael Moore has it right? Who’d have thunk it?

Not that it matters now.

Bob Patterson, columnist for Just Above Sunset, the parent weekly to the web log, comments below...
CBS radio is reporting that FBI papers obtained through the "freedom of information" act show that members of Osama bin Laden's family were permitted to leave the USA during the flying ban right after 9/11 (as was alleged in Michael Moore's documentary film "Fahrenheit 911.")

It's time to change the Freedom of Information act.

Can't Bush do it with an executive order?
Well, yes. But he doesn’t need an executive order.

See this from October 11, 2002
... In his October memo, Attorney General Ashcroft recognizes "it is only through a well-informed citizenry that the leaders of our nation remain accountable to the governed and the American people can be assured that neither fraud nor government waste is concealed." Then he talks about "other fundamental values" including "safeguarding our national security, enhancing the effectiveness of our law enforcement agencies, protecting sensitive business information, and not the least, preserving personal privacy." In instructing agencies dealing with FOIA requests, Ashcroft pointed out that "any discretionary decision... to disclose information protected under the FOIA should be made only after full and deliberate consideration of the institutional, commercial and personal privacy interests that could be implicated by disclosure of the information."

Ashcroft assured agencies that should they decide to withhold information, they will be fully supported by the Department of Justice "unless they lack a sound legal basis or present an unwarranted risk on the ability of other agencies to protect important records."

At a mid-March conference in Philadelphia on computer-assisted reporting sponsored by Investigative Reporters and Editors, some journalists reported that the number of FOIA request refusals is on the rise, along with the time it takes to hear from the government. In a report in the March/April 2002 issue of Columbia Journalism Review, John Giuffo writes that "It's not just access to sensitive data about infrastructure and water supplies... that is being blocked." Barbara Fought, a Freedom of Information law officer at Syracuse University, during one of four panels convened to discuss the impact of the Ashcroft memo said that "We're beginning to hear about a few problems, which I think signal a different tone with the Bush administration and the Attorney General." ...
Ah well.

Posted by Alan at 19:58 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Topic: The Culture of Life

Thinking of toasters in Rochester?

I have a friend in upstate New York who might actually know Steven Landsburg. Landsburg seems to be an ?Adjunct Associate Professor? of economics at the University of Rochester - and I used to live in Rochester. Landsburg writes a monthly column for SLATE.COM and calls himself a libertarian economist ? whatever that means.

Here he suggests one could look at the still living body of that woman with no brain waves as one looks at a used toaster. It?s a curious argument.
? the same argument that applies to the disposal of a dead body applies as well to the disposition of a living but permanently unconscious one. Thomas Jefferson (one of those dead wise men who we sometimes go to for advice) admonished us that the Earth belongs to the living. Once Terri Schiavo essentially stopped living, it became frivolous to care about what she might prefer.

Now on to the preferences of her husband and parents. This is essentially a fight about what to do with her body: He wants to dispose of it; they want to feed it. And the question arises: Once someone has decided to dispose of a resource, why would we want to stop someone else from retrieving it? If I throw out a toaster, and you want to retrieve it from my trash, there's a net economic gain. If Michael Schiavo essentially throws out his wife's body and her parents want to retrieve it, it seems pointless to prevent them.
Perhaps you should read the whole thing. It actually makes sense, in a very odd way.

Imagine Terri Were a Toaster ?
An economist considers the Schiavo case.
Steven E. Landsburg - Posted Monday, March 28, 2005, at 12:27 PM PT ? SLATE.COM

Since Swift, one knows the essence of irony is keeping one?s readers guessing as to whether you are serious, or you are not. Here? You decide.

Then go read Swift?s ?A Modest Proposal.? Same sort of thing.


Bob Patterson, columnist for Just Above Sunset, the parent site to this web log, comments ?
Used toaster?

I recently bought a used copy of "Driving Mr. Albert: A Trip Across America With Einstein's Brain" (from 2000) by Michael Paterniti. (The Dial Press.) It seems they may make a movie based on this non-fiction book.

The guy who did the autopsy of Albert Einstein took the brain for scientific study? (Wistar Institute is a University of Pennsylvania "facility once famous for its vast collection of brains and bones.") Michael Paterniti was an editor who wound up with the opportunity to drive Thomas Harvey and (honest!) Einstein's brain across America. "On the Road" for Goth geeks?

This is an amazing book. It's like "On The Road" for science nerds. I will do a Book Wrangler column about it soon.

Does any one remember a movie titled "Hitler's Brain"?

There may be some good reasons to cremate Terri Schiavo, but I sincerely hope they do an autopsy before the cremate her.
Why? What?s the point?

One might consider this - Schiavo: case closed (Keith Olbermann)
? Through his attorney, Mr. Schiavo announced that after his wife?s life ends, he will delay the planned cremation of her body, and ask the Chief Medical Examiner of Pinellas County, Florida, to conduct a full autopsy on the cause of her now impending death.

If he, as some blood relatives of his wife now suggest after a decade of suggesting otherwise, somehow abused her, or he led to the heart stoppage that put her in her present state, it is not likely to be missed by the autopsy.

If he, as his in-laws and all of his critics now suggest after nearly a decade of suggesting otherwise, had an ulterior motive in seeking to end her treatment, it is not likely to be missed by the autopsy.

And if the part of her brain that makes her her was not irreparably damaged (in fact, turned to liquid)? as examination after examination and court after court has found? it is certain not to be missed by the autopsy.

In short, Mr. Schiavo has just given his critics three opportunities to prosecute him by authorizing, in fact requesting, the autopsy. If he?s been lying, or the doctors have been wrong, or any of the hysteria stirred up by those operating both in good faith and bad in this case, is true? then he is a complete idiot.

This case should now be considered closed. Obviously it will not be. It will be perpetuated by a few good, sad people who do not want the woman they know as daughter, sister, or friend, to die. It will be perpetuated by others who cannot come to grips with the incongruity of part of her brain still acting automatically, like a stoplight in the middle of a desert. But mostly it will be perpetuated by people who do not and have not given a damn about Terri Schiavo, or her parents, or anyone but themselves and the opportunities to exploit this situation for their own personal or political beliefs.

Michael Schiavo?s insistence on an autopsy will resolve more than just how hopeless his wife?s situation really has been. It will also be an autopsy on the credibility of those who have tried to manipulate her insentient condition. For, unless Michael Schiavo is a battering spouse or murderer, and a complete idiot, his public critics will be revealed as snake-oil salesmen who have not only exploited his wife, but also thousands of Americans who? just like me, and no doubt just like you? would love nothing more than to see Terri Schiavo rise from her bed and go home, happy, healthy, and fully restored.
I suppose it?s the not-yet-really-retired newsman in Bob than wants a scoop ? the husband wants her dead and cremated to cover a murder he committed in cold blood, or some such thing ? but it seems to be just a sad story of unhinged people.

And our friend Vince comments ? ?And by unhinged people - of course - you refer to Karl Rove and fellow persecutors??


Posted by Alan at 19:48 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 29 March 2005 08:37 PST home

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