Thursday, June 29, 2006

Letter to Elected Representatives

Dear Ms. Murray (Cantwell and Mr. Larsen),

I am writing because I am very concerned over the efforts of prominent news organizations, namely the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, to undermine the safety of our armed forces abroad and citzens here at home. However the populace feels about the legitimacy of the war in Iraq, the War on Terror has been substantially harmed by the exposure of the NSA wiretapping story as well as the SWIFT program. More over I do not see the harm balanced out any good wrought from "the public need to know." Indeed, concern is too mild a word for the emotion I feel - rage is more apt.

I urge you to seriously investigate the leaks to the NYT and the LAT. The leakers should be held accountable for damaging the security of our nation and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. I further urge you to publicly censure the NYT and the LAT for their disgraceful conduct. I will be sending similar letters to my other representatives and be publishing this letter on my (we)blog.


Berry Picking

The kidlings and I went strawberry picking the other day. Unlike our friends who picked 26 pounds of strawberries, we picked barely enough to cover the bottom of our basket- about four pounds.

It was the perfect day, sunny , warm, lightly breezy. The kids bounced around. Navy planes were flying low as they prepared to land on base. The Verbalist jumped up and down squealing, "Navy Plane! Go Navy!!"

The Muralist was more focused, she was hunting for "the perfectus, juciest, reddest berry for daddy."

"What about me?" I ask. "Are you going to find one for me?"

"No," she replies dismissively. "Find your own. You're good at berry picking."

Well. That puts me in my place. She ran up and down the rows parting leaves and peering at the berries.

The Shreiker sat in the stroller and glanced interestedly around. She accepted the bounty of berries given to her with good cheer. Heaven help us if we were not fast enough. A preemptory shout of displeasure would ring down the road. I detailed the Verbalist on Shreiker berry duty.

*Screech* (Shreiker)

"Here baby," pipes the Verbalist placing a berry somewhat near her hands as his eyes scan the skies expectantly. "NAVY PLANE!!!!! Go Navy!!"


"Oh. Here baby..."

Rest in Peace

Jim Baen has died. The innovative sf publisher was only fifty years old. David Drake has an obituary up.Link

My connection to Mr. Baen is slim. I submitted stuff to his new magazine for publication hoping to get one of the coveted "Introducing" slots. I exchanged an email or two and a Baen Bar exchange or two and that's it. What it doesn't do is describe the incredible morale boost it was to an aspiring author who struggles to write in the midst of the chaos of three children.

Thank you Jim, you'll be missed.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Summer Movies

Ross Douthat over at Slate's summer movie review extravaganza tries to pinpoint the death of the epic film:
There was a moment in Hollywood in 2001, soon after Ridley Scott's Gladiator took home several hundred million dollars and a best picture Oscar, when the sweeping, stirring, blood-and-Technicolor historical epic seemed poised for a long-overdue renaissance. In the digital age, conjuring up castles and cavalry charges no longer required a cast of thousands or sets the size of Egypt: Technology alone could offer moviegoers a glimpse of ancient Greece or medieval Europe, the battle of Gaugamela or the siege of Petersburg. Directors, stars, and studios scrambled to commission their own period pieces—to do for Arthurian England, feudal Japan, or even the topless towers of Ilium what Scott and Russell Crowe had done for Rome.

Five years later, the DVD release of another Scott film, Kingdom of Heaven—in a pathetically lavish four-disc "director's cut" box set—rings down the curtain on the historical-movie moment. The rush to produce big-budget visions of the past—which gave us The Patriot, Gangs of New York, Troy, The Last Samurai, Master and Commander, Cold Mountain, King Arthur, Alexander, and finally Kingdom of Heaven—appears to be petering out, a victim of middling box-office and worse reviews. For the foreseeable future, Hollywood's encounters with history are likely to be occasional and idiosyncratic, such as Terence Malick's The New World or Sofia Coppola's forthcoming Marie Antoinette. The studios had the technology, it turned out, but lacked the vision thing.

To understand what went wrong, it's worth enduring the three-hour-and-10-minute cut of Scott's Crusades epic.

Douthat goes on to hammer Kingdom of Heaven (which I failed to make it through, BTW) and works up to what he sees as one of the two big reasons these movies are failing:
But based on the evidence of the last few years, the rank of current actors who can convincingly portray a premodern hero starts and ends with Russell Crowe.

But like Cruise studying Bushido, or Farrell wandering in the Hindu Kush, Bloom never looks like anything but what he is—a handsome, unreflective 21st-century guy dropped down in a medieval setting, with none of the hardened masculinity or the defiant otherness that would make you believe that he belongs to a different time.

Having worked up a head of steam he barrels on to the second point:
The past's otherness—in dress and mood, belief and attitude—hasn't just created casting problems for epic-makers; it's ruined plots as well. Gladiator, like Braveheart before it, succeeded by keeping its story simple: a wronged man with a dead wife and a tyrant to overthrow. But subsequent epics wandered from that formula, allowing pixelated carnage or politically correct revisionism to overwhelm the human drama, and lost their way in the thickets of the past.

Both fine points, and I agree mostly with Mr. Douthat. Russell Crowe is not the end all of fine period heros. Clive Owen was the shining bright spot in King Arthur. Karl Urban - Lord of the Rings' Eomer, Viggo Mortensen, Jim Caveisel, Christian Bale, Daniel Day Lewis, and Liam Neeson have all turned in great performances as epic and period heros with as much, if not more, charisma that Crowe.

I love epics, especially sword and sandals, but an epic requires more than just a pretty face it requires big themes and the definative good vs. bad guys. The problem Douthat notes of pc revisionism can be attributed to the inability of the movie makers to take an unambiguous stand. Comic book movies are all the rage right now because we have good guys and bad guys. The successful ones clearly delineate who to cheer for: Spiderman-good, Green Goblin-bad. Even when the villian has a sympathetic side, Doc Ock or Magneto, we still understand that they are bad.

As much as Douthat despairs that the epic has died he contradicts himself in the last paragraph by pointing to the remaining successful epic maker:
It's encouraging, then, that the only quasi-epic due out this year is Mel Gibson's Mayan-language Apocalypto, about the collapse of a Mesoamerican civilization some time before Columbus. With The Passion of the Christ, Gibson proved that he could woo audiences, if not the critics, with a hallucinatory, blood-drenched trip into ancient Palestine, without big-name stars or even English-language dialogue to mitigate the strangeness of his vision. He may not draw similar crowds for Apocalypto (there's no Christianity this time, or culture-war controversy), but at the moment Gibson is the historical epic's last best hope. He seems to understand that the movies can be a time machine, but only if you treat the past like the foreign country it is.

Gibson is not afraid to take chances -real chances- with his movies. He clearly delineates the villians, heros, and gawking masses. He takes chances with lesser known actors rather than the box office names and Teen Beat heartthrob du jour.


In response to inquiry, I am not advocating that the government be able to dictate what newspapers print. When I said that I hoped Keller et al. got jail time I was thinking jail time a la Judith Miller, who didn't want to give up her source and for aiding and abetting the commission of a crime, that crime being leaking of national secrets.

The compromising of national security for no other reason than spite and self aggrandizement is a foul and traitorous thing to do and deserves punishment. Yes, I said traitorous I do not think thst it too harsh a word. I do not think that you can possibly equate exposing the SWIFT program with exposing the perfedies of Nixon or Clinton, no matter how ardently their shades are invoked. Bush is not investigating his political enemies, he is tracking down head lopping 11th century wanna-bes who hate Grandma getting her hair set at the beauty parlor, and my 3 year old singing "Jesus loves me" at the playground. So don't tell me I am overreacting.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Open Letter

Dear Mr. Keller, Mr. Lichtblau and Mr. Risen:

I do not consider myself and my fellow citizens idiots incapable of understanding basic facts.

Fact One: Terrorists have bank accounts, they do not carry all their funds in shiny metal briefcases.

Fact Two: "following the money" is a tried and true investigatorial tactic.

Fact Three: US Government already knows plenty about domestic transactions, we provide annual updates every April 15th.

Fact Four: The NY Times has been (mildly stated) unhappy with the Administration since it's inaugeration January 2001.

Fact Five: The NY Times has already had bad juju with compromising classified information.

Fact Six: "Loose Lips Sinks Ships" is an aphorism for a reason.

Now those are out of the way you need to ask yourself some questions:

1. - Are you a citizen of the United States?
2. - Do you believe that we are engaged in a war?
3. - Do you believe that the purpose of the Constitution, including the provision for a free press, was formed to safeguard US citizens?
4. - Do you believe it is the Government's duty to safeguard it's citizens?
5. - Do you believe your newspaper is read outside of US borders?
6. - Which is more threatening to the health, happiness, and welfare of US Citizenry: a well armed terrorist or a governmental flunky sifting through international fiscal transactions.

By your own article you conclude that the program was effective, legal, and properly oversighted to check abuse. You had no compelling reason to compromise my safety for your ego. I hope you all see jail time. To be pithy: Fuck you and the horse you rode in on. That is all.

T. Sinclair
Whidbey Island, Washington

See also Hugh Hewitt, Gateway Pundit and Humorists iowahawk, SeeDubya

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Summer Reading

Island Passage is soliciting suggestions on a good annual summer read:
But the lapse of a year allows the ideas and themes of the novel to grow roots in your mind; and re-reading the novel allows new growth to experience of reading. . .And, that, I think is the key. The annual desire to reacquaint ourselves with books that changed how we viewed the world.

And my annual summer read?


It used to be The Lord of the Rings, but I have set that aside for a while. I'm looking for the next big, complex narrative, loaded with the frieight of ideas and new viewpoints that will be worth re-reading.

Any suggestions?

For those that are unaquainted with my reading habits, I read alot. Every year though I reread 4 books that shaped alot of my thought processes and are sheerly enjoyable on top of that. They are: To Kill A Mockingbird, Till We Have Faces, Fahrenheit 451, and Have Spacesuit, Will Travel. A rather odd assortment of books, but then, I have a rather odd mind.

To Kill A Mockingbird is the best American novel ever written. There are many fine novels out there, many influential ones but TKAM does something wonderful: it preaches without being preachy. Racism, and especially racism typified by the Jim Crow American South, has become an epithet hurled into political arguement these days. I suggest that people who cry "racist" at the drop of a hat reread Mockingbird. Atticus is the embodiment of hope and the model Harper Lee sets up, not just for Scout and Jem, but for her readers and Americans as a whole. Atticus sets the standard but does not condemn his fellow townsfolk for not being as enlightened as he is. He treats everyone with unfailing courtesy and understands that change comes slowly. He does what he can, influences where he can and does not shirk from duty.

Till We Have Faces, by CS Lewis, is one of those novels that teaches something new each time it is read. The myth of Psyche and Eros it explores the nature of love, self-love, identity, forgiveness, and how all of those are affected by our relationship with God.

Fahrenheit 451 is a denunciation of the trivial. It is infatuation with the trivial which blinds Bradbury's society to the destruction of their heritage and their very existence. Books are only the medium Bradbury uses to convey the denunciation. Guy Montag thoughtless in trivial pursuits in the beginning becomes the steward of the Book of Ecclesiastes in the end.

Have Spacesuit, Will Travel seems, at first, to be an strange addition to this list. Bob Heinlein's perhaps fluffiest juvenilia it follows Kip and Peewee through space pirates and interstellar tribunals. It emphasises optimism, individualism, hard work and perserverance.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Solar Eclipse

The kids are mercifully quiet right now. This is like an eclipse, intellectually you know it happens but it is rare enough that you marvel at it when it does. More, none of them are napping-it's like a solar eclipse!

The Verbalist made about 5 contraptions all designed to knock things over. Long complicated ramps which zig-zagged, windup walking toys, rolling balls - all with the grand purpose of knocking something over. His former contraption designs (such as the Santa trap - the Aradaro) will be the culminations of his efforts.

The Muralist dug out a long abandoned coloring book and is coloring away. She is finally attempting to stay within the lines but not to the point of realism when shade and hue are important. She is coloring a bear red because it's mad and another bear pink because it's good. Each item on the page is assigned an emotion, even the grass (which is happy; fulfilling its unique grassy destiny I suppose).

The Screecher has pulled some wooden puzzles off the (low) shelf and is blissfully shoving random pieces at random holes. Her brow is furrowed in concentration.

The Dog is laying in the shade panting happily. She counts it a success that she "drove off" the trash collectors.


The kids are out riding bikes now. Round and around the bottom of the driveway they go. Occasionally one of them labors halfway up the slope to the road then takes their feet from the pedals and coasts, whooping, back to the flat. It is the kid equivalent to a rollercoaster. They pedal maniacally trying to ram each other. Rarely do they catch each other, they laugh like loons as they narrow the gap, the laughing saps concentration which in turn lengthens the gap again. At last puffing and out of breath they run to the front door and demand sustenance.

Sustenance in this case means Otter Pops (tropical mix). Hot day. Fast Bikes. Sugary Ice. Summertime Kidhood typified.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Pictures Worth 1000 Words

The President swung by Seattle and the protesters were out with their signs. While they are not as virulent as some of the San Francisco protesters, I did want to link to a few.

No drums, I beg of you.

I always knew Turtle Bay was it's own mad country.

Clever! Except it's 2006 and Bush is not a candidate

Spoonerists Unite!

Remember, Angry Protest=Smiley Faced "U"s.

Eloquent, pursuasive. PIck A CAse

Friday, June 16, 2006

Political Ideology Quiz

Via Hugh Hewitt comes this quiz on political ideology. Unsurprisingly, I fall out on the line between conservative and libertarian. I believe that private individuals can do most things better than our government does (see Katrina -FEMA & state agencies vs. Red Cross).

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Losers and Sportsmanship

Eugene Volokh points out this AP article which reports:
Any Connecticut high school football coach who runs up the score in a game now runs the risk of being suspended.
The football committee of the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, the state board that governs high school sports, has adopted a "score management" policy to keep teams from winning by more than 50 points.


The rout is considered an unsportsmanlike infraction and, beginning this fall, the head coach of the offending team will be disqualified from coaching the next game, said Tony Mosa, assistant executive director of the Cheshire-based CIAC.

Volokh says:

The problem, it seems to me, is quite real: It is indeed dispiriting and embarrassing to be so badly beaten. One possible solution (which the story describes, but which wasn't adopted) is to stop the game when the score gap gets too large. Another is to split the league into divisions in each of which the teams would be more closely matched, though that might not work well for a small league. There are other reasonable alternatives as well.

But the solution of requiring the winning team to essentially stop competing effectively strikes me as worse than the problem.

I don't think that playing well is unsportsmanlike. I don't think that it is right to penalize a talented team and an effective coach. Lord knows the highschool I attended had an mediocre football team at best and there were times we were soundly trounced by more than fifty points. I recall pep assemblies where we would cheer our team but were also encouraged to be good sports to maybe win the "Spirit Award", the award for neither being braggarts for winning or whiney gits for losing.

The story references a powerhouse school and coach that precipitated the rule:

Still, some around the state have dubbed it the "Jack Cochran rule," after the New London coach of the same name.

During halftime of New London's 60-0 rout of Tourtelotte/Ellis Tech last season, opposing coach Tim Panteleakos was arrested on breach of peace charges. With his team sitting on a huge lead, Cochran called a timeout just before the half, and that apparently riled Panteleakos.

He allegedly hit a New London security officer and tried to hit a New London assistant coach.

Cochran's teams logged four wins of more than 50 points last year.

"It's basically the Jack (Cochran) rule," Hyde Leadership-New Haven football coach John Acquavita told the New Haven Register. "For one guy, you're putting the stress on the entire state. It's the most asinine, insane thing I've ever heard of in my life."

The asinine thing is that these people have lost sight of what sports are about: teamwork, exercize, healthy competition and fun. Sure it's no fun to lose but golly it's always a possibility. Don't tell me the kids have no idea that they are going up against the powerhouse school. Instead of penalizing the coaches and students that do well, the coach that is punching someone should have swallowed the bitterness and modeled sportsman like behavior for his team. He should have encouraged them to have fun while they played and commended them for playing hard.

My dad always says if it's not fun then don't play the game. Sounds like this coach needs to walk away for a while. Part of being an adult and something that sportsmanship teaches is that sometimes you lose big no matter how hard you try. You either learn, move on and strive to be better or you change the rules and throw a pity party.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Gitmo...That's Guantanamo....I Knew That One

In today's NY Times, Mourad Benchellali, a French citizen and former Gitmo detainee, weighs in on the suicides of the inmates there. Before I delve into this much further let me share this little tidbit The US prison suicide average per year is:
Nationwide, the prison suicide rate is about 13 deaths per 100,000, compared with 11 deaths per 100,000 in the general community, said Hayes, a project director with the National Center on Institutions and Alternatives.

So in 4 or 5 years that enemy combatants have been held at Gitmo we have only had 3 suicides. Now obviously, there are only 465 detainees or so so the ratio of suicides to prisoners is a lot higher than the nation average, but if we really were torturing detainees hideously you'd think that suicide rates would be higher. Waterboarding and stress positions seem to be the worst things we've done to those guys, and while I am not going to make the call on whether or not they should be considered the legal definition of "torture" that's a world away from the rusty saws and rape rooms of the Taliban and Saddam Hussien. Anyway, let me get in to the meat of the op-ed.

Says Mourad:

In the early summer of 2001, when I was 19, I made the mistake of listening to my older brother and going to Afghanistan on what I thought was a dream vacation. His friends, he said, were going to look after me. They did — channeling me to what turned out to be a Qaeda training camp. For two months, I was there, trapped in the middle of the desert by fear and my own stupidity.

As soon as my time was up, I headed home. I was a few miles from the Pakistani border when I learned with horror about the attacks of 9/11. Days later, the border was sealed off, and the only way through to Pakistan and a plane to Europe was across the mountains of the Hindu Kush. I was with a group of people who were all going the same way. No one was armed; most of them, like me, had been lured to Afghanistan by a misguided and mistimed sense of adventure, and were simply trying to make their way home.

I was seized by the Pakistani Army while having tea at a mosque shortly after I managed to cross the border. A few days later I was delivered to the United States Army: although I didn't know it at the time, I was now labeled an "enemy combatant." It did not matter that I was no one's enemy and had never been on a battlefield, let alone fought or aimed a weapon at anyone.

Leaving aside the "dream vacation" spot that was Taliban controlled Afghanistan, where soccer stadiums were used to showcase beheadings and the punishment for wearing nail polish is the removal of fingers and fingernails, leaving that insanity aside let's assume that young Mourad is really that ignorant and take his story at face value. What do we know about young Mourad?

* He spent months training to be an Al-Qaeda terrorist (whether he planned to put the knowledge to use or not)

* He has close family ties to an Al-Qaeda recruiter

* He was traveling in a party with other men who trained to be Al Qaeda terrorists, a portion of whom knew what they were getting themselves into

From his own words we know that there is reasonable grounds for assuming that he would be a terrorist. As for his words:

It did not matter that I was no one's enemy and had never been on a battlefield, let alone fought or aimed a weapon at anyone.

Would you have believed him? If a young American man went through Basic Training, whose brother ran a Army recruiting post (store? facility?), and who was travelling with other Army guys in a foriegn country would you believe him if he said he wasn't in the Army because he had never actually seen action? Unlike the Army though, these guys don't wear uniforms, they will kill anyone who gets in their way, and they do not distinguish between 4 year olds and 24 year old Marines.

Still, give him the benefit of the doubt, he's a stupid kid caught up by circumstances:

You repeat yourself over and over again to interrogators from the military intelligence, the F.B.I., the C.I.A. The first time you hear "Your case is being processed," your heart, seizing on the hopeful possibilities in those words, skips a beat. After months of disappointment, you try to develop an immunity to hope, but hope is an incurable disease.

I remember once an interrogator warming me up during several sessions for a polygraph test I was going to take, that was, according to him, infallible. After I took the test, I was left alone in the interrogation room; an hour later, the interrogator returned. "Congratulations," he said grimly. "You have passed the test." And he gave me a box of candy.

In the outside world, I thought, the difference between telling the truth and lying, between committing a crime and not committing it, is the difference between being in jail and being free. In Guantánamo, it is a box of candy.

I was eventually released and I will go on trial next month in Paris to face charges that I've never denied, that I spent two months in the Qaeda camp.

They were assorted cremes and he wanted nuts damn it! Goodness gracious, what if they were Danish chocolates offensive to Mohammed! So here's a stupid kid who managed to weave his way through government beauracracy in 2 and a half years (lightning quick in government circles - just ask Brent Kavanaugh who was sitting waiting to be confirmed to an appellate court for 6 or is it 8 years?). Never mind that he has potentially extremely valuable information about who he was with in that training camp, or who his brother's associates might be - those 2 years were horrible because they couldn't believe he was that stupid.

Can we look at another story of Gitmo detainees? Three Afghanistan boys who say:

The boys never spoke to Guantanamo's other prisoners - "lots of Arabs and Afghans," according Naqibullah.

Meanwhile, their own interrogation became a predictable affair. "I said, 'Look, I don't anything about the Taliban'," said Asadullah. "But anyway, the Taliban were the government so lots of people worked with them. Just because you were Taliban it doesn't mean you're a criminal."

Hmm. Not a criminal eh? How about their inhumane time at Gitmo?

Naqibullah's first 10 days in Guantanamo were the worst of his life, he said. He was put in a tiny cell with a single slit-window as his interrogation continued. Then everything changed. "I was taken to an American general who said, 'We will educate you and soon you will go home'. And my situation improved."

Naqibullah, Asadullah and Mohammed Ismail were moved into one large room, which was never locked. They were taught Pashto (their own language), English, Arabic, maths, science, art and, for two months, Islam. "The American soldiers ate pork but they said we must never do that because we were Muslim," said Naqibullah. "They were very strict about Islam."

The boys played football every day, and sometimes basketball and volleyball with their guards. Asadullah said his particular friends were called Special Sergeant M and Private O - their real names were kept from him. Officially, he was called Prisoner 912. "But my friends called me Asadullah, which made me happy."

After five months, Naqibullah wrote home for the first time. Taking this first letter, written on Red Cross notepaper, from his pocket, he now reads it aloud. "My greetings to beloved family, to my beloved father, to my beloved uncles, to my beloved cousins, to my beloved brothers. I am in good health and happy. I am in Cuba, in a special room, but it is not like a jail. Don't worry about me. I am learning English, Pashto and Arabic." The next two lines of the letter were scrubbed out by the Guantanamo censor. Asadullah said he couldn't for the life of him remember what they said.

No Powerpoint though

The Verbalist runs into the room when I call him.

"Put on clothes," say I. It is 10 am, his cousin is visiting and everyone else is dressed.

"I can't, Mom. I'm late for my staff meeting - I have a presentation." He runs off and I am speechless. Staff meeting? I detect father emulation.

Drifting in from the other room comes the Muralist's dulcet tones:

"Make a space: I brought doughnuts." Ahhh, my kind of staff meeting.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Murphy's Law

I start big changes on the blog and my hard drive dies. Sorry folks.

Monday, June 05, 2006

While Dad's Away

Dear Husband is out of state attending a memorial service for his granddad, Curt. His granddad was one of those big personalities; he filled the room. Those are the kind of people you can't conceive of as not being there or sickening. When I last saw him, I felt a strange disconnect. He had been spiraling downhill in health, everytime I saw him he was progressively worse, but I still experienced that jolting shock anew. My mental picture of him always reverted back to the loud, bluff man from my early memories and erased the failing octegenarian. Anyway, it's weird that he is gone.

So DH has been gone and the kids have been playing the "when dad gets home" card. When dad gets home....I'm going to have ice cream. When dad gets home....we are going to stay up past bed time and play legos. When dad gets home....we are going to charm him into breaking the rules that mean old mom puts down.

Ah yes, the rules, those harsh cruel ones like: dinner before desert, don't run up and down grocery store aisles shreiking like banshees, put you bikes under the breezeway. Say please and thank you, let seniors go through the door first, DON'T POKE THE BABY. My goodness - don't poke the baby.

Incidentally, Glenn and Helen interview James Lileks (author of Mommy Knows Worst: Highlights from the Golden Age of Bad Parenting Advice) and Cathy Seipp on child rearing. It's well worth listening to. One of the questions they ask is why are large families less obsessive about safety than small families? Cathy thinks it's because large families see the different stages of ability and it's easier to give the elder's autonomy. My answer: the more kids you have, the more wisely you pick your parenting battles. As a parent you only have so much energy to funnel into things. I tend to funnel my energy into things I think are essential rather than battle my strong willed kids over convenience issues. Ultimately, it doesn't really matter if the Muralist wears a garish pink tutu over her jeans and yodels "A Dream is a Wish your Heart Makes" at the top of her lungs going down Highway 20.

Friday, June 02, 2006


From the Washington Times:

The long-fought Senate immigration bill that opponents say grants amnesty to 10 million illegal aliens is unconstitutional and appears headed for certain demise, Senate Republicans now say.
A key feature of the Senate bill is that it would make illegals pay back taxes before applying for citizenship, a requirement that supporters say will raise billions of dollars in the next decade.
There's just one problem: The U.S. Constitution specifically prohibits revenue-raising legislation from originating in the Senate.
"All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives," according to the "origination clause" in Article I, Section 7.
Republicans -- including the bill's supporters -- say this will kill the bill, and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist says he's offered a simple solution. He wants to attach the immigration bill to a tax bill that has already passed the House. It would then proceed as planned to a "conference committee," where negotiators from the House and Senate hammer out differences between the two chambers' immigration bills.
"This is a procedural issue that we could overcome," said Carolyn Weyforth, spokeswoman for Mr. Frist.
But Minority Leader Harry Reid won't go along with that fix. His office said yesterday that the concerns raised by Mr. Frist and House Republicans are "technical in nature" and can be ignored.

You know the US Constitution is so pesky about those details. Not that I epect much better from the Senate, they spat out the egregious McCain/Feingold Act which kills political speech inspite of the First Amendment "technicality".

To skirt the ban, Republicans say, the Senate easily could agree to attach the immigration bill to the House-approved tax legislation. They see Mr. Reid's refusal to fix the problem as an attempt to scuttle the bill, and thus deny the Republican Congress a "victory" for passing immigration reform before this fall's elections.
"We can solve this constitutional issue if Harry Reid would drop his obstructionism and allow the comprehensive immigration legislation to move past the Senate," Ms. Weyforth said.

Now I don't like Harry "Love the Fights" Reid much, but I am glad to see this bill scuttled. It's a bad law that the majority of citizens oppose. I know "Tickets are not a Bribe" Reed is not doing this for any other reason than political grandstanding but I am glad it is happening.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

U of O, Diversity, and a Silly Abstract

Mike Adams takes a stick and pokes at the University of Oregon's new 46 page "diversity plan". Now Dear Husband attended U of O as have many of his family members, so this particular article caught my attention when a story highlighting Yale might not. Mike's column is formatted as an open letter to President Frohnmeyer and questions the assumptions and muddy thinking that pervade the "diversity plan" - including it's inability to articulate what "diversity" is.

But, of course, all of this discussion of diversity is moot unless UO can decide just what diversity really means. The following footnote in your report suggests that no one can be certain what anyone is really talking about when the subject of diversity is broached:

We recognize the difficulty of using a term like diversity that is subject to multiple interpretations. We intend to be inclusive when we use this term. The risk of listing examples of diversity is that no list can be all inclusive. In defining diversity for use in this document, we do not intend to leave out any group. In this document when we discuss persons "of diverse backgrounds or experiences" we mean by that description to refer to the broad range of diversity intended by our definition here. Further, when we discuss "underrepresented groups" we intend to refer again to the broad definition of diversity.

UO ought to be embarrassed by that definition. And any taxpayer reading your report should demand that you de-fund all of your diversity initiatives until you decide exactly what “diversity” really is. I don’t have a good definition of “diversity fund” but I do have a synonym. It is called “slush fund.”

I immediately thought of that little jingle: "one of these things is not like the other...." Diverse according to Merriam-Webster is simply unalike. How a person identifies themself often falls outside of the neat little catagories that the staff at U of O have decided are diverse. So the U of O has decided that some elements of identity are more important than others but declines to call it a value judgement. As a woman I am under represented, as a white I am not. As a woman I am valued by U of O as a descendant of European immigrants I am not. Says the U of O:
Programs such as Ethnic Studies and Women's and Gender Studies provide courses, opportunities for advanced study, and scholarly work of interest to students and faculty from underrepresented groups. Strengthening these and other programs that focus scholarship and teaching on issues of diversity will serve to strengthen diversity at the University.

Oh please. Gender and ethnicity define parts of identity but are not what make me unalike. It doesn't matter what facet of identity is thrown into the equation, defining the value of individuals by a single characteristic is like saying all equations with irrational numbers in them are better than others. For a silly example:

What makes me unalike, diverse, is that I am a clarinet player. The ratio of clarinet players to the rest of the campus are diminishingly small and if you think clarinet players are never discriminated against just ask yourself- why is it that oboes always get the privilege of tuning the orchestra? No one is going to defer to me for being a clarinet player, though you probably don't think of yourself as being a clarinetist bigot. Let me ask you some questions:

Have you ever made a disparaging remark about clarinets?
Have you ever felt uncomfortable in a room with someone who plays the clarinet?
Have you ever shown a preference for another orchestral instrument?
If the first clarinetist got up to lead the orchestra would you think, "hey! that's the first violin's job?"
Would you deny your discomfort has anything to do with that person's clarinetist affiliations?
Would you rather I not make a big deal about my clarinet playing?

At this point some of my readers are shaking their heads and saying, "Stop being idiotic, no one has ever killed a clarinetist for being a clarinetist."

Au contraire, say I, they did in Mao's China.

Says the U of O:
Cultural competence is an active and ongoing process of self reflection, learning, skill development, and adaptation, practiced individually and collectively, that enables us to engage effectively a culturally diverse community and world. Cultural competence allows us to recognize that our statements, convictions, and reactions are conditioned by the culture in which we live.
Persecuting clarinetists isn't a moral wrong, it's only cultural conditioning according to the U of O, if you follow it's logic to a Swiftian conclusion.