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The Therapy Sessions
Friday, February 25, 2005

No tolerance

Oh my Lord:
A 13-year-old student in Orange County, Fla., was suspended for 10 days and could be banned from school over an alleged assault with a rubber band, according to a WKMG Local 6 News report.

Robert Gomez, a seventh-grader at Liberty Middle School, said he picked up a rubber band at school and slipped it on his wrist.

Gomez said when his science teacher demanded the rubber band, the student said he tossed it on her desk.

After the incident, Gomez received a 10-day suspension for threatening his teacher with what administrators say was a weapon, Local 6 News reported.

'They said if he would have aimed it a little more and he would have gotten it closer to her face he would have hit her in the eye,' mother Jenette Rojas said.

Oh my.

From Best of the Web.

Thursday, February 24, 2005


Walid Jumblatt is not the sort to be described as a friend of the United States, much less of the Bush Administration. In November 2003, the Druze leader and Lebanese parliamentarian described Paul Wolfowitz as a 'virus' and regretted that the Deputy Defense Secretary hadn't been killed in a terrorist rocket strike on his Baghdad hotel the month before. So it says something about the changing face of Middle East politics that Mr. Jumblatt seems to have converted to Mr. Wolfowitz's way of thinking.

'It's strange for me to say this,' he recently told Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, 'but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq. I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, eight million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world. The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing.'

Let the momentum build.


The downside of democracy

Democracy is not all good. In its rawest form, it is nothing more than mob rule.

In the midst of the euphoria over the successful Iraqi elections, we need to remember the reason we were forced to go into the Mideast in the first place: this is a deeply diseased region. Decades of dictatorship and censorship has caused irrational levels of rage in the populations of many of these countries, and we can't remove every dictator out there.

Eventually, the people may get their voice and vote. But the danger is that they may only get one chance to vote: the same kind "one time-one vote" elections that brought violent dictators like Hitler, Milosevic and Arafat to power.

In their rage, they may vote themselves new dictators, worse than the ones they replace.

Joseph Braude has an excellent article on this:
The stakes in Egypt are higher than some might realize. The apparent success of the Iraqi elections--despite sweeping gains by Shia Islamists--might incline some Americans to believe that Islamist victories are an acceptable price to pay for the arrival of democracy in Muslim countries. And in some places, they'd be right. Egypt, however, is different. By contrast to some Shia Islamist parties, which began making conciliatory gestures toward the United States months before the invasion of Iraq, the Muslim Brotherhood--a Sunni, Egyptian-dominated international movement--has been ratcheting up its anti-American rhetoric. Just a few days ago on Al Jazeera, I watched Abd Al Mun'im Abu 'l-Fattuh, a Cairo-born leader of the organization, affirm his support for the Iraqi insurgency, restate his opposition to the Camp David accords between Begin and Sadat, and appeal for nationalist-Islamist unity in the Arab world in order to confront 'our real enemy,' the United States.

Democracy is a necessary - but not sufficient - prerequisite for healthy development in Mideast.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Baghdad rules

Thomas Friedman is a man whose opinions I respect, even if he is aggravatingly inconsistent. He was for the war - seeing it as an opportunity to remake the Muslim world - until it got tough. Then he waffled and declared all was lost: he blasted Bush and praised Kerry for his Iraq plans (which were?). And now he is optimistic again.

Still, he always has an interesting perspective:

When Syria's Baath regime feels its back up against the wall, it always resorts to "Hama Rules." Hama Rules is a term I coined after the Syrian Army leveled - and I mean leveled - a portion of its own city, Hama, to put down a rebellion by Sunni Muslim fundamentalists there in 1982. Some 10,000 to 20,000 Syrians were buried in the ruble. Monday's murder of Mr. Hariri, a self-made billionaire who devoted his money and energy to rebuilding Lebanon after its civil war, had all the hallmarks of Hama Rules - beginning with 650 pounds of dynamite to incinerate an armor-plated motorcade.

Message from the Syrian regime to Washington, Paris and Lebanon's opposition: "You want to play here, you'd better be ready to play by Hama Rules - and Hama Rules are no rules at all. You want to squeeze us with Iraq on one side and the Lebanese opposition on the other, you'd better be able to put more than U.N. resolutions on the table. You'd better be ready to go all the way - because we will....

...What else can the Lebanese do? They must unite all their communities and hit the Syrian regime with "Baghdad Rules," which were demonstrated 10 days ago by the Iraqi people. Baghdad Rules are when an Arab public does something totally unprecedented: it takes to the streets, despite the threat of violence from jihadists and Baathists, and expresses its democratic will...

...Nothing drives a dictatorship like Syria's more crazy than civil disobedience and truth-telling: when people stop being intimidated, stand up for their own freedom and go on strike against their occupiers. The Lebanese can't play by Hama Rules and must stop playing by the old Lebanese Rules. They must start playing by Baghdad Rules.

Baghdad Rules mean the Lebanese giving the Syrian regime - every day, everywhere - the purple finger.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

We see the light! Turn away!

For a brief second, the scales fall from the eyes of the editors at The Washington Post, and they see Iraq as it really is:
THE 8.5 MILLION Iraqis who turned out to vote two weeks ago have elected a national assembly more suited for the task of nation-building than many would have expected.

For many in the blogosphere, the election was exactly what was expected.

We weren't distracted by the bombings and killings (Of course terrorists can do these things! It is all they can do. They can't win elections).

Bloggers listened to opinion poll after poll from the people of Iraq and Iraqi blogs. (For every Riverbend, there are ten freedom blogs).

There was a clear message coming from them: we are the people of Iraq. Don't worry about us.

The message from the news reporting elites was clear as well: Run! Hide! The insurgents have BOMBS and they are going to USE THEM!
An alliance backed by the Shiite clergy won a plurality of the vote, and it may command a bare majority in the 275-seat body. But fears that Iraq's new government will be monopolized by pro-Iranian factions bent on religious rule seem unfounded.

They always have been. The people who want a religious theocracy in Iraq have always been small (less than 10% of the population) and they have been divided between Shiite and Sunni.

Don't get me wrong: the clergy will be an important factor in Iraqi politics for quite some time. They are the only non-Baathist leadership in Iraq that Saddam was afraid to kill. Iraq's secular leaders populate the mass graves.
The Shiite block will be balanced by an almost equal number of secular legislators, and its leaders acknowledge the need to compromise with Kurds, Sunnis and other groups. It is likely that the new prime minister will be secular and Western-educated, and his cabinet may contain some of the same politicians handpicked by the United States for Iraq's first postwar government.

And from there the Post returns to its regular diet of gloom and doom. Sure there is room for this. But it needs balance. At least this article was a start.

In my opinion, the dire predictions that the Post puts forward are not as likely as something the Cranky Liberal worried about: after working together for a few years, the Iraqi government would be consumed by partisan bickering and the country would break up.

I think this underestimates Iraqi nationalism and human psychology: as long as they have a common enemy (the insurgents) and a common goal (their eradication and the end of the coalition occupation), I don't think that will happen.

Now it is time for the partisans to quick their bickering.

As a conciliatory gesture, people who favored the war need to acknowledge mistakes were made. We need be forthright about the faulty intelligence about WMD, the very high costs of the war, the corruption in Iraq, and the probability that the terrorists will use Iraq for attack training (which isn't that bad considering they could get a visit from the USMC at any moment).

War opponents need to acknowledge that the US is now firmly behind the idea of democratic reform in the Mideast (as opposed to propping up corrupt tyrannies). This is a good thing for the long term, because the region is inherently unstable.(But strategically, it still doesn't mean we can afford to take on all the tyrants at once.)

Some people are already making this assessment:
And finally, most liberals and New Yorkers suspect that we may be too smart for our own good. It is a form of self-flattery as self-criticism. During these past few years, I have heard it said again and again that liberals’ ineffectiveness derives from their inability to see the world in the simple blacks and whites of the Limbaughs and Hannitys and Bushes. (Why else, the argument goes, did John Kerry lose?)

Maybe. But now our heroic and tragic liberal-intellectual capaciousness is facing its sharpest test since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Back then, most of us were forced, against our wills, to give Ronald Reagan a large share of credit for winning the Cold War. Now the people of this Bush-hating city are being forced to grant the merest possibility that Bush, despite his annoying manner and his administration’s awful hubris and dissembling and incompetence concerning Iraq, just might—might, possibly—have been correct to invade, to occupy, and to try to enable a democratically elected government in Iraq.

At a media-oligarchy dinner party on Fifth Avenue 72 hours after the elections, the emotions were highly mixed. The wife of a Democratic Party figure was (like me) unabashedly hopeful about what had happened in Iraq. Across the table, though, the wife of a well-known liberal actor was having none of it; instead, she complained about Fahrenheit 9/11’s being denied an Oscar nomination. And a newspaper éminence grise seemed more inclined to discuss Condoleezza Rice’s unfortunate hairstyle than the vicissitudes of Wolfowitzism. It was the night of the State of the Union speech, but as far as I know, no one (including me) ducked out of the dining room to find a TV. Who really wanted to watch Bush take his victory lap?

We need to unite behind the idea that a peaceful and democratic Iraq is good for the region and the world, and it will make the world a better place.

Is that such a hard thing to grasp?


Great quotes

"You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift. You cannot help small men by tearing down big men. You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. You cannot lift the wage-earner by pulling down the wage-payer. You cannot help the poor man by destroying the rich. You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than your income. You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred. You cannot establish security on borrowed money. You cannot build character and courage by taking away men's initiative and independence. You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves."

--William Boetcker

Exactly. Via Vandy.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Looney blogs

Ahh, the looney blogs of the idiot left.

I'm not talking about the occasional lefty blogger who wants to rationally argue that the Iraq War will make terrorism worse. I'm talking about the real crackpots: the people who believe George Bush is working with the CIA to make America into a police state that will attempt to rule the world as an imperialist hegemonster puppet of the corporations...yadda yadda.

They are a treasure. Like a cross between Mother Jones and the Weekly World News.

I love to screw with 'em.

I go into their comments:

"This is a message from Special Agent Seutonius X of the resistance.

Well done, blogger, you have seen through the haze of the government fog machine and uncovered the truth that your government doesn't want you to know.


The resistance will be broadcasting a message to all truthseekers out there.

Today. At 10:00 AM sharp.

In order to receive this message, you must fashion a hat out of tin foil. Place the hat firmly on your head. Stand in the middle of an open field and spin in circles until you have received the full text of the message.

Remember, this is important, because Bush = Hitler.

We need people like you.

Thank You,

Special Agent Seutonius X

P.S. Fuck Bush."


I know that drug


Some current or former troops sent to Iraq (news - web sites) claim that Lariam, the commercial name for the anti-malarial drug mefloquine, has provoked disturbing and dangerous behavior. The families of some troops blame the drug for the suicides of their loved ones.

For once, I acutally have some experience with one of these drugs. I took Larium when I was in the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone. It gave me some vivid dreams, dreams that took me an uncomfortably long time to distinguish from reality.

One case was particularly bad. It was late at night when I was startled awake by the thunder.

My house had thin walls and a steel roof, and it was located on top of a hill near the edge of a long sloping plain of peanut and cassava fields. Off in the valley it was wet. Somtimes there was a stream. There were some rice paddies there, and this was also where my students bathed. On the plain there was an old rusting radio tower that did not seem to work.

When the thunderstorms rolled in, my house absorbed the brunt of their energy and noise. I have never lived through a mortar attack, but the thunder made me feel like I had. The house shook. Things fell off the walls and tables; sometimes it sounded like parts of the house had collapsed.

It was a great way to wake up at 3:00 AM.

On one occasion, I dreamt my mother had died. I saw certain things clearly: I knew I had received a phone call from my father telling me of her passing. I was reasoning out how I was going to get to Freetown in the morning, and how I was going to find a plane after that.

But there was something wrong, and I couldn't figure it out.

After about a half hour, I remembered that there was no phone in Magburaka. I remembered that I hadn't been to Freetown in at least a month. No Peace Corps vehicles had come to my house recently to deliver news. I knew this because I knew all the drivers and I would have invited them in for a visit had they come to my house.

My mother couldn't have died, I reasoned, but the emotions were still there.

Other volunteers had similar stories of vivid dreams. I was out of country five years before I started seeing news stories about the side-effects of this drug.

Larium is a scary drug in that sense. But I never got malaria, and that is what I took it for. For preventing malaria, it was (is?) the best drug out there.

I wouldn't have soldiers take it unless it was absolutely necessary.

What is the malaria incidence in Iraq anyway?

Friday, February 11, 2005

Singles ad

She sounds like a fun date:

Clearly my "hiatus" has lasted long enough for me to peel off the bitter, "dating SUCKS!" attitude that was starting to form. We start again with the hopefulness.

I think I may start with the "crack ho" ad. It's something fun I like to post when I'm feeling extra saucy. I've found that the men who respond to this ad are intelligent and fun. Or just plain crazier than a shithouse rat.

Title: Won't be single for long

I am a: woman
Seeking a: man
Interested In: Friendship, Dating, Serious Relationship

Age: 30
Location: (Classified)
Country: United States
Area Code: (Classified)
Occupation: Crack Whore
Education: College Degree
Ethnicity: Caucasian
Religion: Spiritual
Star Sign: Aries. I am catnip for Virgo's, and I have no idea why. I'm just sayin'.
Relationship Status: Single
Have Children: No
Want Children: Maybe

Last great book I read

"They Don't Have To Be Attractive, As Long As They're Rich - A Guidebook for Today's Crack Whore"

Most humbling moment

When my friend "Big Tina" had a better mug shot photo than me.

Favorite on-screen sex scene:

On-screen? Where's the fun in that?

Celebrity I resemble most:

Brittney Spears. What? Why are you laughing?

Best or worst lie I've ever told:

"I'm a Crack Whore"

Fill in the blanks:

humor is sexy; intelligence is sexier

In my bedroom, you'll find:

My attorney tells me I'm not allowed to divulge that information, as it is still under investigation.


Are you looking for a wild and crazy beautiful young woman? Well the crazy part is right.


A man that knows what he wants and isn't afraid to beg for it. Had to reinstate the No Loser Policy after the last one, so if you're a loser, please don't respond. Skier with hot tub preferable but would consider someone who likes to dance and fix things. Not looking for a run down the aisle, but we'll see what happens.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

The sinking German ship

From an article in the WSJ (subscribers only) via a friend:
Willkommen to Hobbitland

February 10, 2005

In a recent television survey, Germans chose the epic "Lord of the Rings" as their favorite book. In so doing, they were paying homage not only to J.R.R. Tolkien's literary abilities but apparently also to their own emotional state. A large portion of German society would prefer to live in the hobbits' pastoral idyll, surrounded by windmills and small-scale rural technology -- far from Mordor, the mirror of western industrial society, where evil wizards challenge nature.

Unfortunately, Middle Earth has a few problems. Windmills don't create enough prosperity. It's getting uncomfortable in Hobbitland. For some ten years, wise economists have been pointing out that the foundations of the German welfare state must be modernized. Committees and advisory boards have debated for thousands of hours and produced tons of papers; talk shows on the issue resemble a babbling, infinite loop.

Agreement exists that things can't continue as before. But there's no sign of an awakening; more like submission to fate. The country is about as excited as a sick person giving his permission for an operation. Usually, the word "reform" conjures images of progress, stepping forward into a brighter future. But to German ears, the word "reform" sounds as threatening as the theme music of "Jaws." No other nation is as pessimistic as the Germans. In an international Gallup poll, only 13% believed the future would be better than the present.

A fog of negativity obstructs the view of the possibilities. Only few citizens really want more responsibility and less state. Most would like the government to take care of its little hobbits. The future should preserve as much as possible of the present. The taste of freedom and adventure scares Germans; the future should have the cozy smell of Grandma's recipes. This is what happens in a society where "progress" has become a dirty word. Technology is perceived only as a sinister threat.

The German motto is "don't take any risks" (except for 250 kph on the autobahn). The land of the economic miracle, the land of inventors and entrepreneurs, has turned into Hobbitland. The most daring vision of the future is to optimize the system of deposits on bottles. Germany is being left behind at the station, waving good-bye to progress as it chugs away....

Messrs. Maxeiner and Miersch, freelance authors, regularly address the German state of mind on their website, www.maxeiner-miersch.de. Belinda Cooper translated this article from the German....


Franken to run for open MN senate seat?

Karl Rove is licking his lips:
Just one day after U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton decided not to run for a second term, comedian Al Franken may be throwing his hat into the ring.

Last year, Franken said he wanted to run for the Senate in 2008. But last night he told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that he is now considering his candidacy for next year.

Franken, a Minnesota native, plans to make an announcement live on his national radio show in Washington D.C. 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS will be in the studio with Franken for that announcement.

This will be a key test, if it happens at all.

Do the Democrats realize that Minnesota is a pretty tightly contested state? Can a liberal lightening rod like Franken get nominated by the deranged parts of his party?

My prediction: if Franken runs and is nominated, he will be destroyed.

National commenters usually learn - as did Alan Keyes this year - that their support is miles wide, but only ankle deep.

Democrats would be wise to nominate somebody with a little more reserve.

Stick to sinking radio networks, Al.

UPDATE: He's not running.


Rough time lately

My mother-in-law has been living with us for the last month and a half. But that's not the source of my troubles. She's great, actually: she takes care of Timmy during the day. She enjoys taking him for walks and playing with him, and we enjoy saving $800 a month on daycare. We also enjoy being able to go out to restaurants when we want. Ah, free babysitting. Seriously, it's kinda cool.

But there is one problem.

I took my XM receiver out of my car and put it in the house. My mother-in-law loves it. She listens to old time country, bluegrass, and music from the '40's. I love that she loves it (and considering all the help she gives us around the house, I wouldn't have it any other way). I fact, I haven't even let her know that the receiver is missing from my car (she would probably insist that I put it back).And of course, I'm too cheap to buy another receiver.

But I still miss my XM! I miss the cool new strange music of XMU, the main line altenative rock of Ethyl, historic alternative rock of Fred, and even the alternative "hits" of Lucy. I miss the real-time Philly traffic and weather. I miss the near perfect recption.

I miss it all.

Philly radio is horrendous. I can no longer listen to Y100. I swear to God, I think monkeys write their playlist: a 15-year-old Nirvana song, an annoying DJ, three minutes of ads, a Creed song, two minutes of ads....and the topper: an ad for the whole concept of terrestrial radio! (This ad is amazing - telling me "Radio. You hear it hear first." The only thing I'm thinking is: look buddy, the only thing I've heard in the last half hour is a bunch of crap and you're trying to tell me I should be happy about it?).

I cruise the dial, eager to find anything to listen to. I occasionally listen to talk radio. I kind of like Michael Medved. Even though I disagree with him about a thrid of the time, he seems open to debate and he takes lots of calls from people who - like me - disagree with him.

The other day while flailing from one station to another in the morning, I came across Bill Bennett, the nation's old drug czar. He's like a crusty old grandfather; a little to doctrinnaire for my tastes, but I listened anyway (NPR had pissed me off with its relentless bias).

Anyway, he talked about the passing of John Vernon, aka: Dean Wormer, of Animal House fame.

Bennett was laughing at memories of that movie.

Bill Bennett? Laughing at movie moving with promiscous sex, alcohol abuse and drug use? Whaaaaaa? I was surprised by that, because the whole movie seemed to me to be about rebellion against people like...well...Bill Bennett. You know, crusty old school types.

I was struck by this thought: up until that point, I thought Bill Bennett was Dean Wormer!

I know it's crazy. But have you ever seen them in the same room together?

Well, I guess I was wrong. Wormer's dead, and Bill is still talking.

Just a thought.


Apple flubs one

I was once a huge fan of Apple Computers. So many things made them easier to operate than clunky PC's. But over the years, I have become convinced that no matter how fashionable and trendy Apple makes its computers, Apple is doomed long term as a computer maker. It's not just opinion. There are major technical issues that Apple will not be able to overcome.

I agree with Steven Den Beste (whose writing I seriously miss) that Apple's Ipod is an exit strategy. And as far as escape hatches go, it's not a bad one. But it has to change with the times.

Apple will come to regret this:
Mel Karmazin, chief executive officer of Sirius Satellite Radio, has had discussions with Apple about incorporating satellite radio into iPods, although there is currently no interest in adding such a feature.

Mr Karmazin told a conference in New York that Steve Jobs, chief executive of Apple Computer, currently did not believe iPod users needed anything other than the ability to download thousands of songs.

Huge mistake.

I considered buying an Ipod a year ago. I loved the operating system. I loved its built in FM modulater, aloowing it to broadcast itself onto the dial of any nearby radio.

But there was one major problem: it could not do real-time mp3 recording.

Why was this a problem?

My wife and I have a huge CD collection. But when you listen to music 8 hours a day (yes, I listen at work), even 8000 songs are going to a get a bit stale after a year or two. At this point, you want radio: new music and different music constantly thrown at you.

But commercial terrestrial radio has gotten so bad I can't listen to it anymore: too repetitive, too many commercials and too many DJ's who think you want to listen to them.

A few years ago, I got XM satellite radio. It is the greatest thing ever.

Unfortunately, I can't get satellite reception in my office or lab. (Wy windows open to a sunny atrium (great) but the attenna can't see the satellite from there).

The real-time mp3 recording capability of some mp3 players offered the next best thing: hundreds of files of half-hour snippets of radio music (I record them myself when I have free time). The files play randomnly, interspersed with my own music. (These files are good quality, but they are not perfect. Piracy issues are not a factor with files recorded in this way.)

I ended up buying this, and I haven't regretted it.

It's like having my own radio station. And whenever I hear a shitty song, I only have to hear it once.

If I was an advisor to Steven Jobs, I would tell him this:

The new Ipod should have the FM modulater and the cool operating system. In addition, it should have satellite radio (XM or Sirius) with the ability to record the radio signal directly onto its hard drive.

Oh yeah, and it should have about 40 GB of memory.

That would be really cool. Way cooler than what I have now.


Silly tests

What Famous Leader Are You?
personality tests by similarminds.com

So why did I get a "D" once in AP Physics?

I've got to stop taking these stupid tests.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Male versus female

It is easy to see why the politically-correct prudes who hold authority in American universities absolutely detest George Will:
Forgive Larry Summers. He did not know where he was.

Addressing a conference on the supposedly insufficient numbers of women in tenured positions in university science departments, he suggested that perhaps part of the explanation might be innate -- genetically based -- gender differences in cognition. He thought he was speaking in a place that encourages uncircumscribed intellectual explorations. He was not. He was on a university campus.

He was at Harvard, where he is president. Since then he has become a serial apologizer and accomplished groveler. Soon he may be in a Khmer Rouge-style re-education camp somewhere in New England, relearning this: In today's academy, no social solecism is as unforgivable as the expression of a hypothesis that offends someone's "progressive" sensibilities.

Someone like MIT biology professor Nancy Hopkins, the hysteric who, hearing Summers, "felt I was going to be sick. My heart was pounding and my breath was shallow." And, "I just couldn't breathe because this kind of bias makes me physically ill." She said that if she had not bolted from the room, "I would've either blacked out or thrown up."

Is this the fruit of feminism? A woman at the peak of the academic pyramid becomes theatrically flurried by an unwelcome idea and, like a Victorian maiden exposed to male coarseness, suffers the vapors and collapses on the drawing room carpet in a heap of crinolines until revived by smelling salts and the offending brute's contrition.

Here's a shock: I think men and women are very different. It's true! Not just in their biologies, but in the way they approach the world and attempt to understand it.

Why is this thought so troubling?

Men and women are clearly different in their sexual desires, mainly because of biological imperatives. A woman needs one man for a long-term relationship, because bearing and raising children is hard work.

Men would - if all societal and moral constraints could be removed (and willing women could be found) - act like sexual brutes, having sex as many times with as many women as possible. In areas of US society where such constraints have been removed, there is chaos that is not conducive to raising children.

But most men are not like that. In the interests of society, men repress their predatory sexual natures and (usually) settle down with one woman.
Reason - insofar as reason informs culture and morality - conquers the savage. The brutish sexual nature is little more than an annoying itch to most men, committed as they are to living in monogamous loving relationships and raising children. This act - men getting married - is the cornerstone of functioning modern society.

Male-female differences are almost all nature and very little nurture.

Unfortunately, modern liberalims has wagered alot on the nuture side of things. Many liberals believe that it is mostly nuture: that is, people are capable of being molded into scientists or writers or politicians. (Or perfectly tolerant little liberals). For this reason, liberals are naturally eager to control institutions that are meant to educate and inform (i.e. train) people (schools, journalism, the mainline churches).

Unfortunately for them, it is also part of their problem: There is a parochial aspect to contemporary liberalism that "common" people (those stupid sexist redneck red-state brutes) find just a little offensive.

Of course, the idea - that people can be completely molded from their natures - is a losing argument. If it is all nuture, for example, then it stands to reason that certain cultures will excel in producing certain kinds of people. For example, it may very well be that Asian families - very close-knit and respectful of knowledge - produce scientists at an above average rate.

Liberals may be inclined to accept such evidence with a shrug until they realize that such reasoning overturns the very tortured logic of "Affirmative Action:" it justifies why more science-minded Asians should be over-represented in the sciences, in numbers far above their percentages in the general population.

Of course, while both nature and nurture play a role, there is no denying that male and female start with different natures, different biological imperatives and different roles in the world. This does mean that they are not equal before the law, or that they should not have equal opportunities to excel as far as their talents can take them. The women scientists I have known are every bit as capable as their male counterparts.

We are speaking of general trends, not absolutes. I'll be the first to admit that my wife, for example, has a much more logical mind than I do - a fact that makes her different from most women. This aspect of her personality is one of the things I find most appealing about her.

But the inherent male-female differences mean that we should not approach things like the male-female disparity in the sciences with a jaundiced eye. Certainly, some of the female underrepresentation can be explained away with sexism. Society should always seek to eliminate such outright bias. But the disparity should be studied without preconceptions about the biases of society.

We should view these disparities as data, and data is meant to inform the open mind.

Females, from a very young age, tend to be more interested in understanding interpersonal relationships. Perhaps young girls play with dolls and host tea parties because society tells them to do so. But it is quite possible that if they were isolated from the invisible sexist hand of society, they would still do such things - just as they do in every culture in the world. Even die-hard feminists do not expect their little girls to act like boys, planning attacks on enemy forts beyond the brambles and getting into fights.

Now imagine a man saying this: I "felt I was going to be sick. My heart was pounding and my breath was shallow." And, "I just couldn't breathe because this kind of bias makes me physically ill...I would've either blacked out or thrown up."

It is virutally inconceivable that a man would say such a thing. And it is inherently unscientific to approach unwelcome thoughts by throwing up.

Let us study them.

Monday, February 07, 2005

New levels in spinelessness

Oh my: The Dutch are afraid to flay their flag in their own country.

It might offend somebody:
Cals College in IJsselstein has prohibited two of it's students to have Dutch flags on their bags.

The 16 year old boy and his friend where told by the director of their school that they "urgently should consider" to remove the Dutch flags from their bags, it could provoke other students, mainly Moroccan students.

My goodness! I thought that Dutch had learned something from the murder of Fundamentalist Muslim critic and film-maker Theo Van Gogh.

Or at least I hoped they had.

If the Dutch don't stand up for who they are, somebody will define who they are for them.

This postvetebrate Dutch culture is fertile ground for tyranny, and the agents of that tyranny are already there - clearly showing more self confidence and pride than the Dutch dare to exhibit: no one thinks of banning the Morrocan or Algerian flags, worn proudly by Muslim students.

I feel like I'm watching a horror movie unfolding. An innocent sweet young heroine has just done something really stupid and has wondered off by herself.

The sinister music has started.

Holland! Go back! Go back!

Jesus people! Grow a pair!

Story via Kim du Toit.


The Superbowl

Well, the Superbowl is over and the Eagles lost. I watched the game and the boys, at least until they went to bed. For my wife in the other room, it was probably interesting listening to things coming out of my mouth:

"Aaawww! Come on!"

"Sean give Timmy his truck! Now."


"Timmy! Away from the stairs!"

"Yeah!" (Loud clapping)

Dad's voice, higher than usual: "Sean, it's no nice to hit Daddy there! Boy's don't hit other boys there!"

My wife hates football, and she managedto get her digs in. During the halftime show, I went to take a dump (what better time could there be?). When I was done pitching the deuce, I returned to find that the TV channel had been changed to PBSKids, and I was watching Barney. And she had taken the dog upstairs.




In the summer of 2000, I went to Haiti to visit an old Peace Corps friend who was doing volunteer work. In the course of our travels around the country, we went swimming at a very nice hotel about thirty miles form Port-au-Prince.

My friend showed me a beautiful balcony that overlooked Petionville. This place, she told me, was the place where CNN's Christianne Amanpour reported from when she came to Haiti. The funny part was that Amanpour always signed off her reports by saying "reporting from downtown Port-au-Prince, Haiti."

Of course, it was not even close to downtown. Almost everyone at the hotel was upper class or foreign, or they were employed serving these people. This was one of the worst vantage points from which to learn anything about what was going in the slums of Port-au-Prince. Who might Amanpour's sources have been? It is very unlikely that she would have been able to get the whole story from this vantage point.

Yet, Amanpour had done this repeatedly. Perhaps she does in other countries as well.

In a similar way, it has been very difficult to find out what is going on in Iraq through the mass media. The media reports how terrible things are, but opinion polls throughout Iraq paint a much brighter picture. Blogs from Iraqis or our soldiers serving in Iraq tend to be far more upbeat than the reporters.

Events like the elections completely took the mainstream media by surprise, even though they were completely predictable. Even by the likes of me!

When I see the reporters today in Iraq, I think about Amanpour on her balcony in Haiti.

Might something similar be going on in Iraq's Green Zone?


Groundhog Day

Inspired by a post at Ginny's Many Words You Shouldn't Live By was this groundbreaking thought: Groundhog Day makes no sense.

I never got this groundhog thing: if he sees his shadow, six more weeks of winter.

If he doesn't, spring comes early. Early would be mid-March (at least around here). You can't get much earlier than that!

But mid-March is about six weeks away.

I mean... WTF

Thursday, February 03, 2005

"I wanna know what love is...."

"I want you to show me.."

Alright, cut the music and crap. I know what love is.

Love is being woken up by a crying toddler at 11:15, and not wanting to eviscerate the little turd.

Love is bringing him into your bed with your wife by about 11:45, and finding out that he is awake for good. (And curious too: in this case, about his mom's boobs.)

Love is putting him back to bed at just after midnight, and listening to him scream until he wakes up his older brother.

Love is dosing the little fucker up with Infant's Advil, knowing won't do a damn bit of good when powerful narcotics are called for.

Love is volunteering to take said little fart downstairs to watch a tape of old Teletubbies episodes (oh joy) for an hour or two in the middle of the night.

Love is sitting here writing a stupid blog entry when you should be sleeping.

Yes, I know what love is...and I can tell you right now that sleep now looks preferable.

My Timmy:

I have an idea, you little turd. Now that it's getting on about 1 am, why don't you go to sleep?

For an hour or two, my wife (now upstairs sleeping) and I (bugging out) have been playing the guessing game: what is wrong with Timmy?

There was an omninous development apparently today, one that I knew nothing about until about midnight. My wife was getting Timmy a prescription for a slight eye infection and the doctor asked if he had been having any trouble sleeping. Why no, my wife answered. Keep an eye for that, the doctor cautioned, often eye infections are accompanied by earaches - and they keep children up late at night.

Well I can vouch that the doctor is right. They do.

I expect we'll be calling the doctor tomorrow:

Earache drops! Now!

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

The savages

Not content with the run-of-the-mill kidnappings and beheadings, the terrorist insurgents have now seized an American icon: So-called U.S. hostage appears to be toy GI Joe doll.

To add insult to injury, his own toy gun is pointed at his head.

Such depravity. And it gets worse: word is that a Rambo doll is also missing and feared kidnapped.

Ken and Barbie are holed in the Green Zone, anxiously awaiting word...


Party evolution

(The following contains forward-looking statements about the evolution of the political parties in the US. I know that it is folly to predict the future, but hey, it's fun.

Somebody can point out how wrong I was in the future).

While all the debate in Washington is over the long term viability of Social Security (a serious, but manageable, problem), the growth of the malignant tumor that is Medicare continues. And Washington looks away.

Actually, if they just looked away it might be preferable. But they seem inclined to speed Medicare's malignant growth, by larding the scope of its entitlement with all kinds of unneccessary therapies: Medicare to Cover Drugs for Impotence.

Medicare will be far more expensive, and far more difficult to deal with politically, than Social Security. It is in deeper trouble right now, and it will go into the red much sooner.

The crushing fiscal burden is coming. It is avoidable. But I don't want to dwell on that. My question is this: what kind of effects will this have on the US political landscape?

I think they will be profound for both the Democrats and the Republicans. I'm betting this will cause one party to marginalize, and it will cause the other to split - in their characters, if not in their names.

First, the Democrats. I must find an agreeable definition of their brand of contemporary liberalism, and I come up with this: the Democrats are motivated by a belief that the problems of society can be cured by a benevolent government employing new and innovative government programs, paid for by a system that redistributes wealth from the rich to the poor.

Can we agree that this thinking is now the basis of the modern Democratic Party?

But what happens when this thinking starts eating its young? That is, what happens when the costs of existing government promises are so high that new and innovative government programs cannot even be considered? The costs are so high that in order be electable, even Democrats must start promising to cut other government programs to pay for more popular ones?

The answer is that you will get stagnation, and we may already be seeing some of that in the current Democratic Party: there are so many things that they want to promise (national health care, child care programs, expanded educational opportunities), but they cannot. They hint at these things, but they are unwilling to promise them. They would, naturally cost money, and that would mean taxes.

Democrats have had this painful lesson pounded into them in election after after election, and they may be about to learn it: it is very difficult to get elected by promising to raise taxes, even on the rich. Most Americans don't hate the rich; they aspire to be rich. And everyone knows that the rich can hire the best accountants to find all the juiciest deductions in our crazy tax code anyway. (This was the absurdity of the Kerry-Edwards ticket: two spectacularly rich men who paid around 12% of their income in taxes promising to raise taxes on the rich. To what? Higher than the 35% they were supposed to pay? Raise them to 50% and see if we can get people like Kedwards to pay 20%?)

Thus, the Democrats end up beating the old horses that have worked for them in the past: we will protect reproductive freedom, guarantee fair opportunity for all, and by God, we will keep those government checks flowing...

Year upon year, that will (has?) become boring. (And in a time when national security is again a priority with Americans, it becomes irrelevant: it is not enough to say "oh yeah, and we'll keep the country safe too.").

Parties must have long term visions; objectives that motivate the swing voter and the hard core wingnut alike. National health care once had that kind of appeal. But I think most people realize that the day is rapidly coming when the sole social function of government will boil down to little more than mailing out checks for Social Security and Medicare. Every department in Washington will be pared to meet this overwhelmingly need, and quite frankly, tangential departments (Commerce, HHS, Interior (EPA), Education) are going to be hit much harder than "essential" departments (justice and defense).

Unfortunately for the Democrats, their true believers - the hard core liberals who run their get-out-the-vote campaigns - will not be motivated by such limited vision. These are the people who are now pulling the party in the direction of Howard Dean; if moderate Democrats allow it, they will make the party virtually unelectable - a combination of weakness on national security and carelessness on spending.

But the moderates may have no choice: their party needs these people.

One way or another, the hard core of the Democratic Party is moving left. They will either break from the Democratic Party entirely and become a new party of modern-day "Know Nothings," or they will take the party's name with it and make it unelectable.

Where does liberalism go then? The way of the Dodo bird?


There is a fault line in the Republican Party that will increase in prominence as the liberal Democrats fade in significance. It is the difference between people like me (fiscally conservative, socially libertarian, foreign policy Jacksonian...i.e. those annoying "neo-conservatives") and them: the social conservatives, who believe that it is the job of the government to mandate their vision of morality. This fault line is going to become increasingly polarized as the real national debate occurs inside the Republican party over issues like immigration, abortion, drug policy, gays and trade.

I don't really think the Republican Party can have a big enough tent to accomodate all that sparing. In effect, they will split as well.

The disaffected Libertarian wing will meet the disaffected moderate Democratic wing in the center of American politics. I can't tell you whether this group will label themselves as Republican or Democrat, but I believe that it will be where the votes are. I believe the political views of this cohort will middle-of-the-road on most issues; they will advocate a strong foreign policy, and they will be ambivalent toward issues like abortion and gay marriage. Circumstances will dictate that they will not propose new government entitlements or programs, but will go about the necessary work of redefining what government is supposed to do (many government jobs will have to be privatized or eliminated to accomodate the huge expenses of the baby boom generation and the entitlements it has voted to itself). There will still be huge debates within this party about trade and immigration.

For lack of a better example of this kind of political force in action, look no further than California's Arnold Swarzenegger: as unlikely and comical as his political rise has been, his politics represent the increasing potency of this moderate wing of governance. I know nothing about Arnold's chances for re-election, but the dreadful fiscal state of California is where Washington is headed. Just as the Democrats there couldn't seem to govern (they weren't able to cut programs or raise taxes - while Arnold is doing both), the old school Democrats in Washington will soon find "business-as-usual" to be a loser politically.

Who will take this political tide national into the presidency? My bet is that it will be John McCain. As wrong as he is on issues like campaign finance, he fits the mold that this moderate group of voters will be looking for: strong on defense, a fiscal conservative and a social moderate (And he is a lot more likeable and intelligeable than the current occupant of the White House).

It is only natural that the entitlements crisis will cause a sympathetic seismic shift in American politics. That will happen.

Will be my vision become reality?

We'll see.

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