Professor Froward's Slough of Despond

Proud purveyor of flawed generalizations and vacuous tautologies.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Chomskian bellylaugh of the week

Oliver Kamm notes two items:

  1. Chomsky demanded that the Guardian remove from its web site an interview with him in which the interviewer asked some tough questions, because he felt that his views were "inaccurately" represented.

  2. Chomsky believes that the "freedom of speech" of one of his journalist friends was atrociously violated because a publisher decided not to publish her book. The publisher's decision had a lot to do with people feeling that she had "inaccurately" represented certain recent historical events.


And it gets better: The "inaccuracy" Noamster was upset about was that the interview made it sound like he hangs out with people who deny genocide. His friend got into hot water for claiming that the Bosnian genocide was largely a hoax.

Chomsky likes to claim that all things absolutely must be said, indeed shouted from the housetops, whether they're true or not: It's the principle of the thing! A glorious universal principle! Actually I've heard of much worse principles, if it were pursued honestly. But it's funny, how few cases he thinks this principle actually applies to, and how much they have in common. And of course it never applies to anybody saying anything uncomplimentary about him.

The genius of democracy

The genius of democracy is a lot like that of capitalism: You can't get rid of ambitious loons, and if you did, the ambitious loons next door would move in and helotize you. So you harness them. You provide them with a relatively safe and convenient path to advancement, and you arrange it so they'll benefit everybody by getting ahead (in the case of capitalism), or, in the case of democracy, they'll at least do somewhat less damage than they otherwise would.

If you don't let people gain wealth or power more or less honestly, they'll do it as dishonestly as they must. Remember the Soviet Union?

The key is understanding that neither democracy nor capitalism is perfect, nor is intended to be. We have merely struck a deal with these people to get them more or less off our backs. Though if it gets to be too much less, with those clowns in DC, we may have to hang a few to encourage the others.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Gay Republicans

It's hideously sad when Democrats lash out at gay Republicans. We're at a point in time when most conservatives see the war as a very important issue: The dividing line between left and right these days is whether you hate the United States, or you don't. If you don't, you're One of Us. That's not interesting, coming from me; I never gave a rat's ass who you slept with anyway. But there are a lot of people in the GOP who, right now, have a compelling reason to accept gay patriots as "us". Who would you rather have a beer with, a queer who loves his country or a straight kid who loves Noam Chomsky instead? Who would you rather have swearing an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution? What's more disgusting, really, somebody who does gross things in private, or somebody who very publically calls on our troops to kill their officers? First things first.

Those gays who come out as conservatives are doing something inordinately valuable. If the GOP learns to live with gay Americans, who will be left in national politics to kick gay Americans around? Nobody. That might be a disaster for the Democratic Party, but it'd be a great day for everybody else.

Saturday, November 12, 2005


People pass the strangest laws, laws that can very easily be abused: In the UK, they now have the religious vilification law and the 28-day suspension of habeas corpus; in Canada, they can lock you up for "advocating genocide" or some such thing; in the US, we have RICO. When these things are being proposed and people object, the advocates always say that their law could be abused, in theory, but in practice it won't be.

Well, that's like saying that if you throw somebody out of an airplane, in practice he'll always land on a trampoline.

Veterans Day

What he said.

Friday, November 11, 2005

"Regards to everybody, no need to be desperate."

The last message written by Captain-lieutenant Dmitri Kolesnikov aboard the Russian submarine Kursk:

"It seems like there are no chances... Here's the list of personnel from the other sections, who are now in the ninth [compartment] and will attempt to get out. Regards to everybody, no need to be desperate. Kolesnikov."

Via Chicago Boyz. It reminded me of something I read over at Tim Worstall this morning.

Meg... making all kinds of sense. Go figure.

...we are not going to turn into a race of Spocks, and it wouldn't be a good thing if we did.


Thursday, November 10, 2005

Torture and the loss of our national soul

If you disagree about anything at all with some people who accuse the US of torture, they'll accuse you of supporting torture, no matter how often and how loudly you affirm that you oppose it. Of course, you shouldn't make the mistake of assuming that these clowns are necessarily wrong in opposing torture, just because they happen to be infantile, fanatical, and pervasively dishonest hysterics. Their disapproval of torture (unless it's done by Islamists or Communists, obviously) has nothing to do with whether torture is good, bad, or indifferent. You know what they say about broken clocks.

It's a bit of a minefield, is all. Over at the Corner, Jonah Goldberg takes a fine stroll through it, and addresses one of the more plainly absurd arguments we hear about the matter. Yes, he prefaces the thing with a ritual assurance that he's not arguing in favor of torture, but rather noting flaws in an argument against it. That distinction is far too subtle for the "nuance" crowd, obviously.

The argument that using horrible tactics will cost us everything is predicated on the assumption that such tactics have never been used. For if torture costs us our soul and destroys our civilization, how is it that we have a soul or a civilization to lose at this late date to begin with?

I like Jonah Goldberg because he's a wiseass, but I like him even more when he writes stuff like this. He recognizes nonsense as nonsense, and objects to it because it's nonsense. We live, these days, in the teeth of a howling blizzard of utter nonsense, most of it blowing in from somewhere off to the left. The left has, really, completely broken with reality: They consider it irrelevant and uninteresting.

UPDATE 11/13/2005: They're hammering away at him for "supporting torture" — regardless of how often and loudly he affirms that he opposes it.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Assimilationist France

Chez Naawm, Sophie Masson discusses something a lot of us tend to forget, if we ever knew it at all: France isn't suffering from "that multicultural crap" in the Canadian sense. Their official policy on immigrants is assimilation:

The French method of absorbing immigrants traditionally aims at effacing ethnic identity in the one, indivisible, secular French Republic.

The fact that they have a "method" on this is strange and depressing — benign neglect worked fine for the generations of US immigrants whose children and grandchildren run the country now — but they at least grasp the fact that a nation is something more than a purely arbitrary assortment of people who happen to have similar license plates.

But make up your own mind; read it. There's too much uninformed yap about this issue.

She also says what a lot of people have said, but says it better than most:

This ... is the traditional Paris mob, feared since 1789. And the government's reaction, veering in panic-stricken indecision from one wildly contradictory solution to another, is also traditional.

I'm not laughing at them, by the way. It really just isn't funny. Were the Detroit riots in 1967 amusing?

The Politics of Panic


Well, sure, but... that's a mighty big "if".

Via Instapundit.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Arab anti-Americanism

Amir Taheri takes a look at anti-Americanism in the Arab world:

A Kuwaiti friend withdrew his son from an American university to "protect him from [being] brainwashed into hating the United States."

The picture he paints looks improbably rosy to me, but what do I know?


No, really, just read between the lines:

Neighbors had complained of finding partly nude corpses in plain view...

Thursday, November 03, 2005

"Children matured sooner in Russia than in the West"

There aren't many lies too preposterous for your really devoted political theologian to tell himself — and you too, if you're willing to listen:

When the Kremlin gave the public order during the terror of the 1930s that not only the wives of the victims but children as young as 12 were to be shot, the French communists were reduced to arguing that children matured sooner in Russia than in the West.

Such servility seems incredible in retrospect, but one of the main points of Conquest's new book is that the human capacity for self-delusion is limitless in all eras.

Boy, is it ever. The servility seems downright homey, if you pay much attention to the Michael Moores and Ken Livingstons of the world. Plus ça change, eh, copain? The Left marches on.

Via Nawwm.

Levees, levees, levees

Remember the levees? In New Orleans? That, uhh, hurricane thing, the one Karl Rove caused with the weather machine?

Well, people are digging through decades of decisions on this stuff, and it turns out that the sole cause of the failures was not George Bush not having voted in Congress for an eight-year-long project four years ago, or whatever. In fact, the Army Corps of Engineers did something dumb in 1965, and "environmental groups in the 1980s derailed plans to erect a structure to block storm surges from Lake Pontchartrain", and Congress pulled a real boner in 1992. Those are some high points. Before, since, and along the way, everybody else did everything wrong, too.

Would a stronger central government have helped? There's nothing about "strong central government" that guarantees competence or good sense, while there's a lot about living in the actual flood plain that ought to inspire sincere interest in the levees (though in this case it seems it didn't). The lefties admire the way Cuba and the PRC handle evacuations; they also admire the way those two garden spots handle everything else.

Should we drop everything and devote all our national energies to dealing with hurricanes? Yes, by all means, now that the horse has bolted, let's put everything we've got into the barn door. At least until the roof blows off.

But that's not really fair, because we can fix the door and do other things, too. We can ignore the really deranged hyperventilators who want to keep our entire military home all the time, just in case a tree blows down.

Nations run into these things, and they deal with them without hiding under the bed.

By contrast, the Netherlands decided to protect itself against the worst storm possible in 10,000 years after more than 1,800 people died in a massive levee failure in 1953.

...and having built it, they now put a little time and money into maintenance every year and spend most of their time worrying about other things. Never mind the "contrast"; there isn't one. They had inadequate levees right up until over a thousand people died, and then they got to work on the barn door. Just like us.

Rioting in Froggy-sous-Bois

Hang on a minute. Nobody's reporting any fatalities at all, since the initial two kids were electrocuted.

Arson is not a harmless prank, nor is throwing rocks at cops. The French have a genuinely serious problem on their hands. But unless a lot isn't being reported, the rioters are not killing anybody. Those calling this a "civil war" or an "intifada" are a bit premature.

UPDATE 11/4/2005: Okay, it was premature yesterday, but not so much so today:

A handicapped woman was doused with petrol and set on fire by youths during another night of rioting in Paris.

That "Miranda Merde"

Never mind "Paul Cruce's" bizarre notions about the rights of the accused; I think Simon fell for a hoax.

On the whole, I'm not quite sure what to make of this post at Roger L. Simon. I'd like to see poll numbers to confirm his (admittedly anecdotal) impression of pro-Americanism. But here's the part I really don't much like:

The judges act as something of a grand jury with sentencing powers and can decide whether or not you get a jury trial. Thus the muslims who were arrested last Thursday night in Clichy-sous-Bois went to prison on Monday! None of that Miranda merde here!

Maybe the guilty are all Muslims, but I'm pretty sure that not all Muslims are guilty. Not all young Muslim men who get arrested are guilty. Not all people who wander into a riot and get arrested are guilty. Not all of a witness's next-day recollections of a riot are perfectly reliable. Even assuming the best will in the world on the part of the cops fingering the accused, it's hard to believe that all of those sentences were deserved. Oh, and I do like the right to a jury. I love the right to a jury.

If what this guy means by "prison" is what we'd mean in the US (tried, convicted, sentenced), then what he's describing is not justice as we know it. Under the circumstances it might make sense to declare martial law and throw a lot of people in drunk tanks (les réservoirs ivres?) for a few days until there's time to let them go or give them a fair trial, but you just can't go around putting people in prison on some judge's whim. It's madness.

UPDATE: I went back and read the comments. Quite a few objections on factual points; I wondered myself about what French soldiers were doing with AK-47s instead of those FAMAS things. I didn't know enough to have an opinion about the presumption of innocence issue.

I suspect it's fake, and Simon got taken in by a troll.

UPDATE #2: I forgot to mention "Paul Cruce's" bizarre misspelling of "Napoleonic": "Napoléanic"? The guy supposedly speaks French. Perhaps he can't spell? Yeah, maybe not, but when he gets everything else wrong too, you really have to wonder.

And read the comments. I don't believe it's real.

"Too good to check"? Sure looks like it. Let's see, Dan Rather still hasn't quite admitted that he screwed up after more than a year... So I'll be expecting a correction from Roger L. Simon no later than, let's say... Dinnertime today? California time? That sounds about right.

UPDATE #3: Okay, maybe we'll be waiting a bit longer than I thought for that correction. I hope this doesn't turn into one of those bad-penny stories, like the "anti-racist math in Newton, MA" thing.

UPDATE #4: Paul Cruce, or some American in Paris with that name and in the same line of work, has a blog. Go figure.