Professor Froward's Slough of Despond

Proud purveyor of flawed generalizations and vacuous tautologies.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

The "International Freedom Center"

The "International Freedom Center" at the WTC site has been 86ed. Now, I'm not excited by the way that this story attributed to "Reuters, AP" repeats the IFC crowd's spin outside of quotation marks, as "fact"; that's business as usual:

[Some 9/11 families] said it would dishonour the victims by fostering debate about the attacks and other world events.

They didn't say that, and I doubt very much that the reporter really believes they said it; he's just in a snit because his side lost and he's kicking the bereaved because, well, that's what the bereaved are for, if they're not willing to be politically useful.

This is just as good: They say the IFC was about...

...presenting the September 11 story in a broader context of a global struggle for freedom over the centuries.... Martin Luther King Jr....

How very delicate of Reuters and/or the AP, not to mention that the people the IFC equated with MLK Jr. were, in an ironic twist, fascist/theocratic mass-murderers, savagely opposed to everything MLK Jr. ever believed in.

So that's all well and good, but here's the punchline: The IFC people have been denied center stage, but they were offered another venue somewhere at the site. On being informed, they threw a tantrum and refused to settle for anything less than everything:

...less than an hour later, organisers of the planned centre said there was no other location worth looking at... "We consider our work, therefore, to have been brought to an end."

They're adults! They're six years old! They're our moral and intellectual superiors, self-appointed! They're... the left!

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

"What do they know? They don't live on the estate"

What really killed the left, I think, was when it moved up-market. Back in the days when middle-class kids turned lefty by way of pretending to "join" the working class, those kids may have been silly, but now it's middle-class kids turning lefty to reaffirm the fact that they're privileged, college-educated "intellectuals". There's also a leavening of working-class kids kids joining for the sake of cultural upward mobility: Leftist radicalism is a quick and easy way to pass for middle class, if you're from the wrong side of the tracks. In college that can mean a lot. And that's how you get a bozo like Ted Rall bragging about how leftists like him are superior to the working class, because he makes more money and buys better consumer goods.

And you get this report via Norm Geras about some folks from Respect/SWP/whatever calling the actual working class (or poor, or whatever) "class traitors" for... wanting better housing? Hard to be sure; it seems the SWP showed up somewhere to act as the Voice of the Downtrodden, but the actual Downtrodden showed up too, with their own voice, and the SWP told them to shut the hell up and not interrupt their betters.

Sobering reality check

In the cold light of (relatively) hard information, how much of what was reported about New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina was accurate?

A lot of us fell for some real nonsense. It's natural: You want to believe you know what's going on. You want a frame to put the story in. You want a "good story", too, and fiction usually beats reality by that measure.

"Natural" or not, we should have done a lot better. This time next year, we'll know more than we do now, and Gateway Pundit's list will have to be revised.

The "first draft" versions, the myths, are much more colorful and exciting than the facts, aren't they? More appealing, if you're up for a dramatic break from the everyday routine — as long as it's happening to somebody else. "Myth" is exactly the word: Infotainment is one of the older professions. The uninformed speculation and the rumors made flesh will live on in conspiracy theories, of course. In Conspiracy World, there are no debunked chow-line rumors, only supressed facts. Their favorite version is always the one with the least hope of accuracy. Some people are more desperate to escape their everyday routine than the rest of us.

UPDATE 9/28/3005: And again, chez Blair: "What I saw in the Superdome was just tremendous amounts of people helping people." Are we too eager to believe the "good news after all"? Oh, jeez. Ask me in a year.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Catching up with Instapundit...

...after a few days away from the 'net.

Via Insty: Heh, heh, and double-heh in the last paragraph.

And this:

As I said before, if there were an authentic grassroots anti-war movement, then the rallies wouldn't be dominated by fringers.


...I'm not afraid of an intellectually and morally serious antiwar movement.

Yeah, well, I'm not afraid of the Wicked Witch of the West. Not afraid of zombies either, nor the Green Men of Mars.


Back from vacation.

I don't waste much time watching TV news; not having a TV helps. But I happened to be subjected to an hour or so of it last night. Some yap about "anti-war" "protesters", of course, but not a word about this "pro-troops protest" covered on Instapundit. To be fair, it's not clear whether the "Washington" in question is DC, or somewhere north of Oregon; judging from the scenery in the photos it could very well be the latter.

In other TV-news news, some wretched news show had a pro-war lady saying that we should support the Commander in Chief because... well, she just seemed to think it was pretty important that he was the Commander in Chief, or something. The host also claimed that in polls, 63% of Americans now favor immediate withdrawal from Iraq, which bears astoundingly little resemblance to poll numbers I heard last week. So I was really rolling my eyes over all this crap, and then their counterpoint to the pro-war lady came on. They didn't get Cindy Sheenan, of course, because Sheehan has those little "episodes" on camera. They don't need some werewolf yodelling about "occupied New Orleans". They did, however, find another lady who was a Gold Star Mother, or who claimed to speak for them, or something, but who was stable (or medicated; she looked a bit Berkeley to me) enough to stay on message. And you know what she had to say? Pretty much what the first lady had to say: Feelings. Fluff. No facts, no logic, no nothing, just fluff. And then they switched to some jackass with tenure and a beard who sat in front of a backdrop of the Esplanade in Boston (yay!) and rambled aimlessly about Vietnam.

Kill. Your. Television. I'm serious. That garbage would insult the intelligence of a goddamn coelenterate.

I did, however, catch an episode of a comedy program called Seinfeld, and it was very funny. They tell me it's been around for years. Go figure.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Dumb Bumper Sticker Watch

Davis Square, Somerville, MA: A center of hogwash production second only to Cambridge, around these here parts.

Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.

Hog. Wash. If there is any "highest form" of patriotism, that'd be signing up to get your ass shot off for your country. It would not be sitting around fat dumb and happy in a coffeehouse in Somerville, telling yourself how much better than everybody else you are because you don't like George Bush. Passive self-congratulation is not the highest form of anything worth mentioning, Beavis. But that's the left: It's all about striking dramatic poses in front of the mirror. Narcissism elevated to a form of theology.

Well, this time around, the fool probably at least bothered to vote. So he's got that going for him.

I've only seen that one once. You see "Dissent is patriotic" stickers around here regularly, and that's a less aggressively absurd form of the same sentiment, though still risible. Say for example you "dissent" from the notion that the US should continue to exist, or from the Bill of Rights. How about the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments? Some "dissenters" don't like them one damn bit. How about if your "dissent" takes the form of passing nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union? What about the German American Bund, who "dissented" in favor of Hitler during World War II? I'm sorry, but that's not "patriotism". It may be a lot of things, but "patriotism" is not among 'em.

Instances of dissent may be patriotic, but they are not necessarily patriotic. Dissent and patriotism correlate1 arbitrarily2 at best.

Catskills Dept.: Oh, hey, and isn't patriotism "the last refuge of scoundrels", therefore making dissent the highest form of scoundrel-refuge, or something? Rimshot! I seem to have heard that one recently from some folks off to my left. Well, you know, hardy har har and all that.

1 Look it up.

2 Look. It. Up.

Levees not up to spec?

In ongoing Katrina news, hmmm:

"This should not have been a big deal for these floodwalls," said oceanographer G. Paul Kemp, a hurricane expert who runs LSU's Natural Systems Modeling Laboratory. "It should have been a modest challenge. There's no way this should have exceeded the capacity."

If he's right, that's a hell of a way to find out the contractor stiffed you. Haven't people been saying the spots that gave way had been fixed recently?

UPDATE 9/21/2005: More detail over at Mudville.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Just say "please".

You'd think that at some point, the EU would lose interest in letting Iran make fools of them.

Now the EU plans to "table" a resolution (as in "put forward", not "set aside") at the IAEA, but not ask the board to take any action on it. For the EU, this is a highly pro-active and aggressive move: They're not just going to sit there thinking about bleating helplessly. They're going to talk out loud about bleating helplessly. But don't worry, don't feel threatened: They won't actually bleat. That would be rash. And vulgar.

Their plan to eclipse the US as the major world power consists solely of strategies for getting their name in the paper. That's their entire foreign policy: Create a millimeter-thin impression of importance by grabbing lots of headlines. I never thought of Europe as an irrelevant backwater until they started trying to prove otherwise.

The "political class" over there are not adults.

UPDATE 9/22/2005: They've dropped their "threat" to talk about whimpering impotently.

Pull the other one

Fashion retailer H&M has dropped Kate Moss because she's a cokehead.

Yeah, nobody ever associated cocaine with the fashion industry before. Good thing they nipped that one in the bud.

Meanwhile, the last H&M ad campaign I noticed involved a stunned, bruised-looking young lady who could hardly stand. Imagine Keith Richards after a rough six-month weekend, but without the charm. So make a note of that: Stick with opiates and you'll make a better impression.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Earnings per share

The Great Burger King Ice Cream Flap is overrated, I believe. The fools threatening jihad do need to get a grip (threatening to decapitate random civilians over an ice-cream cone? The Catholics would just sell the damn thing on EBay and get on with their lives), but big companies cave on that kind of nonsense pretty lightheartedly if they think it'll cost them money not to. That's really all there is to it. In the words of John Fort, who preceded Dennis "Employee Loan" Kozlowski as CEO of Tyco (and followed, after the indictment):

The reason we were put on Earth was to increase earnings per share.1

Within the law, thankyouverymuch. But that is their job, and when they do their job, your pension fund wins, their employees win, and they win. This game is called "it's not the Middle Ages any more, okay?"

1 "Earnings per share", not "share price". There's a big difference. I like that guy. He's an engineer. The quote is from The New Yorker, February 17 & 24, 2003, page 135. I keep that issue around for a killer John McPhee piece that hasn't been collected yet, but the Fort line is nice to have too.

See you in eight years and four months, Dennis

Superstar crook Dennis Kozlowski has been sentenced to twenty-five years in prison. He'll be eligible for parole in eight years, four months.

Glad to hear it.

UPDATE 9/19/2005: Maybe he should try it in Canada next time.

UPDATE 9/20/2005: Roughly speaking, Prof. Bainbridge thinks the Kozlowski case is arguably a matter of stupid, rather than criminal, business decisions. My understanding has been that Kozlowski was engaged in what amounted to embezzlement, which isn't often considered a legitimate business practice on this planet. However, I'm not familiar with precisely what exact offenses he was charged with (that'd be why I'm hedging so frantically here), and Bainbridge is the law professor, not me. But if Bainbridge gave a few more specifics I'd be more sure what he was getting at.

Of course, there are some shambling knuckleheads who want Kozlowski in prison simply because he had a job. Or maybe they suspect him of bathing? There's not much you can say about people like that.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

What I Saw at the Hearings

SENATOR QUAGMIRE: What about robbery, if the... the defendant is accused of [consults notes] robbery? Guilty, or not guilty?

JUDGE WHATSISNAME: I promise to convict, sir.

SENATOR QUAGMIRE: Very good. I'm... The American people and a... have a right to know, to rely on that. I would like to share with the people of this great land... [indistinct] of [indistinct] and I am opposed to robbery, staunchly opposed to robbery. And [slurred, unclear] impending, consequential uhh... derivative with... or under [indistinct] propagating [indistinct, indistinct, unprintable, indistinct] as a member of the fine Party I have the honor to represent.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


From The American Enterprise, which seems to be a publication of the sublimely non-partisan1 American Enterprise Institute, a factoid of epic proportions:

An analysis of recent census numbers indicates that white immigrants to New York (the vast majority of whom are from Europe) represent the largest number of contributors to the net growth of educated young people in the city. Without the disproportionate contributions of these young Europeans, New York would actually have suffered a net outflow of educated people under 35 during the late 1990s.

NYC is a very silly place. Stands to reason nobody but Europeans wants to live there. When the novelty wears off, they'll bail, too. I grew weary of the dump years ago. Imagine being surrounded by New Yorkers 24/7; in Indiana, that only happens if you violate too many commandments, and even then only after you're dead.

Yeah, well, it's probably just that it's so freakishly expensive to live there, is all. Like Yogi Berra said: Nobody wants to live there any more; demand has driven the price out of reach.


1 As very great American used to say, "that's a joke, son". While we're on the subject, Google's translator gives you a "printable version" link, when what I usually want is an unprintable version. They call this "not being evil"?

Monday, September 12, 2005

Don't bother signing in.

The first sentence is the joke and the punchline. See how many misconceptions (and for all I know, conscious lies) you can count in those twenty-seven little words.

Go, Krugman, go!

I used to make a hobby of writing parodies of paranoid political extremist nonsense. This guy is a real craftsman. Unless he's serious. Then he'd be pathetic.

P.S. Lefties really love the word "contempt" these days, don't they? But usually it's their own contempt (or that of Our Betters™ in Europe) for the rest of the human race, not George's contempt for anybody. But hey, what the heck, when the deadline looms, you've use whatever words you can remember. Krugman's paid to be pissed off, not to make sense.

Sunday, September 11, 2005


Sorry if this "inflames" anybody.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Dumb Bumper Sticker Watch

Where else but Cambridge, MA?

Praise the children and they will bloom.

Raising our own little Noble Savage, are we? How clever.

Painful disappointment for the left

"Fewer Bodies Than Expected Found in Sweeps".

If this development pans out, conservatives are going to be very pleased, but we should try to understand the anger and frustration that many on the angry left will feel at being denied the body count they were hoping for. Be sensitive and gracious. Consider their feelings. Don't rub it in.

UPDATE 9/11/2005: Changed "left" to "angry left" in second paragraph. As some commenters observed, the generalization was maybe a little too flawed.

The "Where are they now?" file

What ever happened to all those New Orleans residents who evacuated before Katrina came ashore? Most of them were black, but "racism" doesn't seem to have robbed them of the means or the foresight to get out while they could. It wasn't "the black population of New Orleans" that stayed behind; it was a fraction of the black population of New Orleans along with a fraction of the white population of New Orleans.

What happened to the majority who bugged out? How are they doing now? Where are they staying? It's as if they simply vanished.

Unexploited Meme Alert

It appears that as of the last time Google updated its cache, nobody online had yet called the Superdome mess an "intifada". C'mon guys, it's a natural, isn't it? Members of a designated victim group inflicting mindless violence on random civilians! They're not "looters shooting at rescue workers"; they're "resistance fighters". Please make a note of it.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Clown at Huffington Post...

...mistakes good manners for weakness.

Yeah, morons do that a lot.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

No rest for the weary

So people are reporting — fragmentarily, without serious confirmation — that things in the Astrodome are starting to go to hell as they did in the Superdome.

Okay, so they tell us the situation in the Superdome was caused by flooding, lack of food and water, lack of FEMA employees, and the like. Not a single one of the refugees can ever be held responsible for anything, we are commanded to believe. But the same ugly minority of refugees is reported to be behaving the same way in Houston, and once again (if the reports are true) too few of the peacable majority are banding together to put a stop to it. Most are waiting for somebody to fix it for them.

I wonder how much worse this is than an average night three weeks ago in underclass neighborhoods in New Orleans. Worse, definitely, what with dislocation, confusion, and no front doors to lock.

Am I "blaming the victim"? If somebody's sitting next to a dead body that he doesn't care to be near, and he continues to sit there for three days without moving the body himself, and he's complaining the whole time about how somebody should do something about it, then what are you to make of that guy's attitude? Unless there's a whole lot more to the story than meets the eye (if he's quadraplegic, he's got my undiluted sympathy — but then why isn't anybody else helping?) I'm not saying the guy deserves the things he can't conceivably control, but if he's going limp on the things he can control, there's something wrong. And there are always things you can control, or at least influence. Always.

Most lefties would be very upset with me for saying these things. That man is a victim, isn't he? They're all victims. Therefore, they get a blank check. Their Moral Authority Is Absolute, right?

Wrong. Not all of them. Not the ones who couldn't be bothered banding together for mutual defense (many did, just not nearly enough). People who help each other in disasters deserve not just sympathy (with its undercurrent of contempt), but plain admiration: How about the eighteen-year-old kid who comandeered a bus, filled it with refugees, and drove it to Houston? Who taught himself how to drive it along the way? Now there is a man who did not sit down and complain. He's one of the best of us, the real thing, like the ones who started in a small corner of Kenya and dominated every environment from the Cape of Good Hope to Tierra del Fuego, with nothing but stone tools, travelling on foot, in the space of a few thousand years, eating every damn animal that crossed their path along the way. Those guys didn't get to make excuses. If they had a problem, they had no option but to solve it themselves, or die trying. They did their best with what they had, and they didn't lay down and die just because what they had looked inadequate at first glance (N.B. many of you will never believe this, but you can often make the inadequate more than adequate by ingenuity and determination). When you're a hunter-gatherer, you don't get to hand teacher a note excusing you from hunting that day. "Teacher" is nature, and nature doesn't care. You're on your own out there.

The left would have us believe that the descendants of those paleolithic ass-kickers and name-takers are, if they happen to have more melanin than the average lefty, inherently incapable of looking after themselves unsupervised. The left thinks these folks are inherently incapable of feeding themselves without white middle-class liberals to hand the poor dears a check.

That's crap. People are people are people, and once they get used to the idea, people can feed themselves just fine. Everybody on earth survived for tens of thousands of years, in conditions generally harsher than modern Americans can even begin to imagine, before white middle-class liberals existed in their modern form.

Nobody genuinely needs the Great White Father. You (you personally) were born with the potential to kill wooly mammoths for dinner. You were not destined at birth to require a gilded nursery like welfare or tenure to protect you from the elements. The left, after all, is as dependent in their own way as the "minorities" they patronize (most of the rest of us are more upholstered than we ought to be, too). They blame everything on Bush because they think the Republicans are the grown-ups, the ones who take responsibility and get things accomplished. They really do think he's responsible for everything. They're the grasshopper, conservatives are the ant. When the left fights tooth and nail against flood control for decades, when they loudly ridicule any effort at disaster preparation as fearmongering and survivalist lunacy, they're doing these things in the sincere belief that it's all just play. They don't really believe Daddy will actually let them screw themselves. Not really. Daddy wouldn't let us experience consequences, would he? He'll always fix it somehow, right?

Right? That's what they're all shrieking about right now: "Why didn't you protect us from our own irresponsibility? Isn't that your job?"

Monday, September 05, 2005

Well, aren't we creative!

In the Jerusalem Post, Khaled Abu Toameh reports that a Muslim mob has attacked Christian village in the West Bank:

...The incident began on Saturday night and lasted until early Sunday, when Palestinian Authority security forces interfered to disperse the attackers. Residents said several houses were looted and many families were forced to flee to Ramallah and other Christian villages, although no one was injured.

The attack on the village of 1,500 was triggered by the murder of a Muslim woman from the nearby village of Deir Jarir earlier this week.


"More than 500 Muslim men, chanting Allahu akbar [God is great], attacked us at night," said a Taiba resident. "They poured kerosene on many buildings and set them on fire. Many of the attackers broke into houses and stole furniture, jewelry and electrical appliances."

"Triggered by the murder..."? Sounds like the usual sad story: People from ethnic or religious group A are accused of murdering somebody from group B; members of group B form a mob and retaliate against randomly selected members of group A. Right?

In this case, wrong: The woman was murdered by her own family, and everybody knows it. A perfectly normal everyday "honor killing". And that is why the murdered woman's village attacked the other village.

The 30-year-old woman, according to PA security sources, was apparently murdered by members of her family for having had a romance with a Christian man from Taiba.

Somehow I don't feel refreshed by the break from routine here.

The IDF is responsible for security around there, but they didn't respond. Should they have? In this case, I doubt that trucks full of heavily armed Jews would have calmed the Muslims down. The Muslims would have opened fire and/or thrown firebombs at the troops, people would have been killed, and the whole mess would have turned into a triumphant tranzi/UN/media finger-pointing frenzy. The Christians in the village would have lost more than they did.

In the long term, I'm not even sure the Christians would be better off if they'd shot back. They're a hopelessly outnumbered minority that exists only on sufferance, and there is no law for them to turn to. If they resisted, they'd be wiped out: A couple years ago, one village in Egypt organized an ambush with automatic weapons and murdered virtually the entire male population of another village. And that was only an ordinary feud, not an Islamic thing. As it is, the Christians have to put up with property loss now and then, but at least they're still alive. You can expect people to risk their lives for liberty and self-respect, but this more like "certainty" than "risk".

Via LGF.

Canard du jour

Some anti-self-defense activists claim that it's wrong to stop a burglar or a rapist by shooting him, because the law doesn't provide for the death penalty for those crimes.

Okay, what can you do?

Can you hit him over the head with a frying pan? No. That might kill him, and even if it doesn't, surely we don't see bailifs hitting convicts over the head with frying pans and then setting them loose, their debt to society having been paid. That would be cruel and unusual.

Can you hit him with anything else? Nope, same reason. Stab him? Of course not. Same again.

How about punching him? No. Our just laws wisely forbid corporal punishment, unless your cellmate inflicts it.

What can you do?

Can you lock him up for ten years, with a TV and a gym? As long as you let him out in five? Nope. That'd be kidnapping, if you do it; the state and the individual aren't the same at all, as far as the law is concerned. N.B.: The left wishes me to inform you that you are absolutely forbidden to imagine that the preceding statement might have any wider bearing on the issue at hand.

So. Let's leave aside the difference between a private citizen dealing with an intruder at 3:00 AM in his underwear, and a judge dealing with a handcuffed defendant in a courtroom full of cops. Let's not mention the difference between prevention and punishment. We won't even get into the fact that a mugger pointing a loaded gun at your head hasn't shot you yet, and so arguably hasn't committed any crime (you really think a lefty wouldn't argue that?).

There is absolutely nothing that you can conceivably do in self-defense which would qualify as a legal punishment under United States law. Nothing.

So let's not hear any more about how "it's not a capital offense". Neither is it a punching offense, nor a stabbing offense, nor a blow-to-the-head-with-a-rubber-mallet offense. Whatever it is. If he hits somebody over the head with a rubber mallet, he will not be punished by being struck on the head with a rubber mallet in return, nor even by having a nun throw chalk at him. He will not be spanked, slapped, or even yelled at.

If anything you might do in self-defense is forbidden, self-defense is forbidden. That's the meat of the matter. Are people who use the not-a-capital-offense argument sincerely opposed to self-defense in all cases, in principle? Probably not; they support self-defense in principle; it's just that they always seem to end up opposing every single real-world instance of self-defense (like anti-American "patriots", who approve of the US in principle, but just happen to find some particular localized reason to consider it worse than Hitler every time anything happens in the real world). Most of them think it's a valid argument, that's all. They're just confused. A "commendable excess of zeal", a lefty might call it.

But really. The argument is crap.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Remember when...?

Shortly after Fonzie went the way of the hula hoop (remember the hula hoop?), but well before the Red Hat IPO, remember... the "Webby Awards"? Of course you do. used to make fun of them (remember Sigh...). They were lame, and irrelevant even by the shatteringly low standards of the late '90s, when people theoretically bright enough to feed themselves genuinely cared about

Still, a few clueless baby boomers at rags like Newsweek (mis-)took them seriously for a little while, the same way the previous generation at Newsweek used to interview nehru-jacketed squares like Tom Wolfe to find out what the hippies were up to. Trying to get in touch with the kids, you know. Take the pulse and all that. "It's something with computers now, Bernie, who'd'a thunk it? You ever seen one o' them? Yeah, me neither..." But an awards show, that was safe and familiar. The oldsters could "relate", as they used to say back when Donovan strove with diplodocus in the primeval swamps. These were the same oldsters who used to write articles about dot-coms without mentioning the URL. They didn't know what URLs were; they "researched" those pieces over the phone.

Well, the Webby Awards still exist, by golly. Some poor dumb bright-eyed bastard is still trying to push that ghastly atavistic endeavor uphill, and still getting nowhere. Awards shows are so... old media, ahhhn't they? Squaresville, baby. A stone drag.

They at least got Vint Cerf to show up this year, and that's cool. Cerf's not small potatoes, but he was the only real "somebody" they could get their hands on. The rest of the guests were B-list nonentities, desperate to get their pictures taken, even by C-list nonentities like the Webby people. Al Gore, for example. I guess Leif Garrett was busy that week. Or is he dead?

Puppet Show


Former Vice President

You know how the Romans used to say "23 Skiddoo", right?