Saturday, February 16, 2002

More sanity. Louder Fenn has a couple of great insights on the porn discussions. I particularly liked this thought:
While evidence of damage can alert us to and help us establish the badness of a thing, such evidence -- whether anecdotal or statistical -- is never determinative. A thing is bad not because it causes damage; a thing causes damage because it is bad. Proving damage is only subsidiary to proving badness. In other words: It is the philosophical and moral proof that matters in the end. Convincing others of that proof is especially hard these days, since so many people believe no more than: "Moral = Pleasing; Immoral = Painful." But that is only the Philosophy of the Animals and we are all of us better than that.
I, for one, am looking forward to a next installment, Mr. Fenn.
Problems I seem to be having problems with Blogger and/or blogspot this morning.
Golden at Last. Now that the Olympic officials have rectified a wrong, it's time to do the same for Roy Jones, Jr.

Friday, February 15, 2002

Concur on ROE. I'd like to concur with Prof. Reynolds comments on having attorneys involved in the application of the Rules of Engagement ("ROE"). If I disagree, it would be in also having lawyer write them. The last thing our Marines need to be carrying when they hit the beaches is the frickin' IRS code. Of course, maybe that's what happened at Tarawa, not the tide and the reef.
It happens that I am currently reading an interesting novel on the ROE in Somalia in December 1992. More on this book later.
Slavery and States Rights, II Tennessee Volunteer Rich Hailey and I are in mild disagreement regarding the proximate cause of the Civil War. As you may recall, I took issue with "so-called libertarians who... defend the [C]onfederacy and states rights, all of which were argued so that a government could maintain a system of laws whereby one man could enslave another man." I believe that slavery, not states rights were the proximate cause of the Civil War.

Hailey responded
State sovereignty was an issue long before slavery became an issue. Remember, nullification was raised as an issue over tariffs, not the slave trade, and it was a very close fight. The Union chose to portray slavery as the issue driving secession, as it gave them a semblence of the moral high ground. As long as the fight was about slavery, Lincoln could keep support for the war. When the issue drifted to State sovereignty, the war lost support. Slavery was an issue, and an important one, but it was not the proximate cause.
I agree that nullification was about tariffs and the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, which laid the groundwork for nullification, was in response to the passing of the Alien and Sedition Acts. However, we still disagree over the proximate cause issue. If the States had left the union at the end of the 18th century (not that there was any threat of that), the proximate cause would have been the Alien and Sedition Acts and the vehicle for departing would have been the theory set forth in the Va and Ky resolutions. Similarly, in 1832, had South Carolina withdrawn, the proximate cause would have been tariffs and the vehicle would be nullification. In the civil war, it was slavery, more particularly the foreseeable abolition thereof, which prompted the States to climb in their vehicle and depart from the Union.

Any way, that's the way I see it, but I've lived in Northern Virginia for a long time -- and NoVa hasn't been considered part of Virginia since the feds seized the Custis-Lee mansion.

And one more thing. Isn't in correct to say that if the individual States have any power and authority, they draw it "from the consent of the governed?" The source of the power and authority of the Constitution of the united States is set forth in the very first clause: "We the people of the United States..." When I read the different documents mentioned above, as well as others, I see reference to this source. For example, in the South Carolina declaration of 1832, the state sets forth the source of its authority: "We, therefore, the people of the State of South Carolina, in convention assembled..." However, we all know that the assembly was only selected by a portion of the adults residing in South Carolina. Specifically the free males. So how valid does that make any declaration of secession?

It is argued that individual States have the authority to withdraw from the Union. The first state to secede from the Union, South Carolina, in its Declaration stated:
The people of the State of South Carolina, in Convention assembled, on the 26th day of April, A.D., 1852, declared that the frequent violations of the Constitution of the United States, by the Federal Government, and its encroachments upon the reserved rights of the States, fully justified this State in then withdrawing from the Federal Union; but in deference to the opinions and wishes of the other slaveholding States, she forbore at that time to exercise this right. Since that time, these encroachments have continued to increase, and further forbearance ceases to be a virtue. [emphasis added]
Further on in this Declaration, SC states:
They further solemnly declared that whenever any "form of government becomes destructive of the ends for which it was established, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government." [emphasis added]
Similarly, Georgia began its Declaration: "The people of Georgia having dissolved their political connection..."

Now, it would be nice to say that Mississippi also began by talking about people of Mississippi, but they didn't. Instead, the Mississippi Declaration in the second paragraph advises us:
Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.
Texas does return to the "people" formulation, but also adds in its declaration:
[Texas] was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery-- the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits-- a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time.
* * *
In all the non-slave-holding States . . . based upon an unnatural feeling of hostility to these Southern States and their beneficent and patriarchal system of African slavery, proclaiming the debasing doctrine of equality of all men, irrespective of race or color-- a doctrine at war with nature, in opposition to the experience of mankind, and in violation of the plainest revelations of Divine Law. They demand the abolition of negro slavery throughout the confederacy, the recognition of political equality between the white and negro races, and avow their determination to press on their crusade against us, so long as a negro slave remains in these States.
I should have started off quoting these, instead of looking at them at the end. Maybe it's because it's not an area I spend a lot of time on. Anyway, I think I'm right when I say the proximate cause of the Civil War was the institution of slavery.
More Baseball. (Isn't it time for pitchers and catchers yet?). Brer Orrin Judd disagrees with my choice for best baseball novel(s). In his opinion (links to his reviews), the Kid from Tomkinsville series by John R. Tunis, Shoeless Joe by W. P. Kinsella, the Southpaw series (including: Bang the Drum Slowly) by Mark Harris, Universal Baseball Association... by Robert Coover, You Know Me, Al by Ring Lardner and The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant are all better choices. I have not read all the above books, but I do agree that Shoeless Joe is a wonderful book. However, I would pick the Iowa Baseball Confederacy, also by Kinsella, as my third favorite book.

So let me give you a short explanation for my top three, and you'll see that I am subjective enough to be an international skating judge (although not significant enough to be pressured). When I was a pretty young kid, I remember thinking 'wouldn't it be fun to re-write the King Arthur Story as a baseball story. I didn't find out that Bernard Malamud had pre-empted me until I was a junior in high school, when I had a friend who became a Malamud fan after reading The Fixer. Malamud's book was far different than what I had been contemplating, but I fell in love with it. So many highs and lows and wonderful devices like Wonderboy and Pop Fisher. In any event, based on his review of the Natural, I don't think his dispute is my picking that one, rather it is picking The Great American Novel by Philip Roth. Now I concede that the book has its critics and its flaws (see the NYTimes review for an example of a mild critic). But it is so packed with baseball history, legend, and lore, a rollicking story line, and zany humor, that I love it. Not to mention the subtle and not-so subtle fun it has with literature in general (one of the key players is Gil Gamesh, get it?). The opening lines poke fun at Melville, ("Call me Smitty."), there's a brief essay (or a long monologue) on triples by Luke Gofannon, and the Wandering Ruppert Mundys. Almost every page had me laughing out loud -- and I was constantly flipping through a baseball encyclopedia to check his references (but it's fun -- and accessible without that).

Okay, my third choice is also kind of sentimental. My mother is from Iowa City, IA, from which you take a short ride on the baseball spur to Onamata (once known as "Big Inning"), the fictional city where The Game takes place. The Game is an epic exibition game between the all-stars from the local baseball league and the Chicago Cubs on July 4, 1908. It seems that in Johnson County, Iowa, there are "cracks in time... weaknesses, fissures..." and through one of these, Gideon Clarke and his best friend, Stan, go back to that game -- the game that lasts over 2,000 innings (and over 40 days). There are all kinds of wonderful Iowa City references, (Pearson's Drug Store "Tall chocolate malts, thick as cement, served in perspiring glasses" and the Black Angel, to mention but two) and Kinsella's writing is lyrical:
"If you're lucky, in a lifetime you get one moment in which you'd like to live forever," my father said each time he recounted the story to me. "One moment when you'd like to be frozen in time, in a landscape, a painting, a sculpture, or a vase. That was my moment. If I had it all to do over again, Gideon, I'd do it the same way. Even if I knew then what I know now."

BTW, like the main character in Shoeless Joe, I often wanted to track down and elusive author, although in my case, it wasn't Salinger, it was Kinsella himself. I keep thinking the W.P. must be the same as my W.P. -- William Patrick.

Thursday, February 14, 2002

Prosecuting Slobo. Robert Harris (is this the novelist who wrote Fatherland and Enigma, among others?) writes comparing the trial of Slobodan Milosevic with that of Hermann Goering.

Convicting Goering turned out to be much more difficult than the Allies imagined, as Harris indicates. This surprised me when I researched the Nuremberg trials. I have long been a fan of (Justice) Robert Jackson and had the opportunity to watch about 5 or 6 hours of videotaped cross by Jackson (with captions) and was dismayed at how poor Jackson turned out. I kept thinking I could do better than this. But litigating can be very difficult -- I agree with Harris, this is going to be a difficult prosecution (well, unless you have the international skating judges at the Hague).
Valentine's Day, India, and a bank. This morning, a co-worker who is from India asked me about the origins of Valentine's Day. I vaguely recalled it was related to a very early Christian martyr who had sent love letters to his family, or something. He asked because he said that he was watching several news reports from India on his new satellite dish and saw reports of "fundamentalists" protesting the appearance of Valentine's Day in the larger cities. He indicated that he thought it wasn't so much a protest for religious reasons as it was cultural -- concern about the dilution of culture.

I'm probably burying the lede, but I think satellite dish TV is going to have a big impact on culture in the future. My friend said that he can now get at least three channels from India (IIRC, they were Zee TV, Sony, and Bollywood). At the very least, I think it will have a greater impact than the Enron debacle, despite what former Enron adviser Paul Krugman says.

By the way, does anyone remember Penn Square Bank? I was in Oklahoma city last November and had lunch at a shopping mall in Penn Square, when it dawned on my that this was the location of the bank that nearly took down the banking system. Yet how many remember Penn Square today?

Wednesday, February 13, 2002

The Bus Froze. Waylon Jennings, who gave up his seat on the plane 43 years and 10 days ago, just passed away. Rest in Peace.
Still Out. But skimming through Kathy Kinsley's blog, I saw the link to Eve Tushnet's mention of Phillip Roth. Which means that I have to put in a plug for Roth's The Great American Novel, which, in my opinion, ties with Malamud's The Natural for the Best Baseball Novel ever.

Tuesday, February 12, 2002

Out for a little bit. Tuesday nights are very busy for me, then tomorrow is Ash Wednesday (the day that Christians burn all their porn, accounting for all those ashes. v/b/g). And Thursday is Valentine's Day. I might be in and out, but if not, that's why.

Oh, and Friday is Susan B. Anthony Day, so I'll need to get together with the Radical Left Feminists to think up new ways to bedevil everyone.
Porn Redux. First, thanks to Kathy Kinsley and Natalija Radic for their responses to Kevin Holtsberry's thoughts on pornography. I'm also grateful to be included in the discussion (and not just to get hits, although that's always nice, isn't it?). Without meaning to sound like a Weekly Standard parody, I appreciate the point raised by Kinsley, and echoed by Dale Amon, that it's interesting to see two men attacking porn and two women defending it. However, I think that Amon's relegating all those oposed to pornography as either Radical Left Feminists or Extremist Right Christians is simplistic (but I agree with his comments about Tom Lehrer).

Okay, now let me respond directly to Kinsley. Her inital comments are directed to Holtsberry, so I'll pass on those, with one exception. She writes
I think the whole disagreement between Kevin and Natalije really hinges on her statement that "the truth is that sometimes sex is the banquet at the wedding feast and sometimes it is just a quick trip to McDonalds." I see sex the same way Natlije does, as a natural human urge -- not sacred. Kevin sees it as something sacred, and understandably sees pornography as -- essentially -- blasphemous.

Perhaps this is the case -- I'll let Kevin take that on. However, perhaps there's a third way. To quote ("I always have a quote for everything, it save original thinking" - Dorothy Sayers) G.K. Chesterton: "All healthy men, ancient and modern, Eastern and Western, know there is a certain fury in sex that we cannot afford to inflame, and that a certain mystery and awe must ever surround it if we are to remain sane." Elevating sex to the level of the sacred will lead to the error that Kinsley mentions. (As an aside, I have the same problem with elevating the flag, the state, mom, apple pie, etc. to the level of the sacred.) Yet, perhaps dropping sex to the mundane will cheapen it. Does it really have to be as common as puddles after a rain?

Ms. Kinsley doesn't like my definition of pornography; as to where I got it, I did include a link to show where I got it from -- -- the legal dictionary at Yes, I did choose it because it was most supportive of my argument -- but I also thought it was the most detailed and least euphemistic. Pornography isn't limited to just gauzy photos of beautiful men and women. It extends out and encompasses pictures and writing of bestiality, incest, rape, degradation, humiliation, domination, dismemberment, excretment and probably a few other fetishes that I'm leaving out.

I have encountered people who have had their lives wrecked by pornography. Yes, you can dismiss that as "anecdotal evidence," I guess I see it as testimonial evidence and we disagree. I understand you need more for persuasion. I understand. Perhaps I will gather it -- perhaps not. Perhaps I should ask what level of evidence, if any, will persuade that some pornography is bad. Or would you persist in labeling it all good?

Last, as to Radic's statement that "...women overwhelmingly agreed with me whereas men were more evenly divided," I might guess that has to do with the way we are hard-wired. Maybe men and women react differently to it, and that accounts for the differing reactions.

Anyway, thanks for listening.

Monday, February 11, 2002

Sweet Sweep. Hail to Powers, Kass, and Thomas.

And, in other sports news, why would anyone want to coach in Tampa Bay? I mean, they fire a guy that took them to the playoffs consistently, then their ownership plays games with their coaching prospects. Sheesh.
Libertarians ♥ Slavery? Now, having made clear my great affection for libertarians, it's time to return to the fray. In a post today on Samizdata, Johnny Student makes the following statement:
6. The US Civil War started over the role of the state versus the role of the federal government – not slavery.

Okay, let me be clear -- this is the sixth point of the argument that JS makes -- and some of these points have subpoints. I know the argument y'all are making -- I've read it all -- the Articles of Confedration, the Constitution of the Confederacy, with its line item veto, six-year presidential term, and ban on international slavery (yes, it's in the Constitution - Art. I, Sec. 7). I'm deeply familiar with Calhoun and nullification and all that.

Nevertheless, it is impossible to deny that slavery was the proximate cause of the Civil War.

But that's not my immediate concern. My main point is I can never get over the number of so-called libertarians who will defend the confederacy and states rights, all of which were argued so that a government could maintain a system of laws whereby one man could enslave another man. Please, you can argue all that other stuff, just don't defend the right of the government to defend slavery and try to call yourself a libertarian. You don't love liberty.

[update: In my fatigue last night, I made a horrible error, which I amended.]
I ♥ Libertarians. Please don't get me wrong. Despite my seemingly endless anti-libertarian posts of late, I really love libertarians. First, libertarians never try to impose their belief system on you. Sure, by nature they might want to, but once they've become a full convert to it, they won't impose it on you. Second point, God is a libertarian. But that's the subject for another day.

I think the reason for so many of my posts in opposition of late is that I do spend a lot of time considering that particular point of view -- I don't really waste much time at left-wing blogs, or right-wing blogs. So, if I seem to harp on it, maybe that's why.
Bloody Gold. This story gives a new meaning to blood doping. I think it has to be a really sick form of an urban legend.
What were they thinking? When I read that a federal judge had to issue an order permitting a 5-year old to say grace before her meal at a government school, I must conclude that the ACLU and its band of overzealous bigots, er, lawyers have too many school boards and teachers unnessarily cowed.
Porn is bad. To recap, Puritan (j/k) Kevin Holtsberry wrote a note setting forth a brief argument explaining "Why porn is bad." in which he started off writing "Porn is bad because it is a unhealthy, unnatural, and often dangerous business that leads to emotional and often physical damage." He concluded by stating
Now, I am not advocating making every type of pornography from Playboy to strip clubs illegal but I do think that a society that welcomes porn as if it were just another lifestyle choice is deeply unwise and its aquiessing in its own destruction.

To which, Natalija Radic responds (albeit without the courtesy of noting the name of the person to whom she is responding):
Porn has been around longer than written language. It has been around since humans first started drawing on cave walls. If porn is unnatural, then so is writing and agriculture and high heels and teddy bears and antibiotics. As for causing emotional and physical damage, you could just as easily be describing most close personal relationships, or football, or being a war correspondent or riding a horse come to that. Are these also things to be 'discouraged'?.
And then she concludes her rant thusly:
I don't have a problem with pornography because unlike many conservatives and their socialist-feminist friends, I do not have a problem with the reality of human nature. I just wish those conservatives and their statist allies on the left would stop trying to use the force of law to impose peculiar world views on everyone else.

Both Holtsberry's and Radic's essays should be read in full.

I have three initial problems with Radic's defense of pornography. First, she confuses sex (or sexual relations) with pornography. Second, she assumes everything natural is also good. Third, she makes a jump to "force of law," which Holtsberry explicitly disavowed.

In the first place, porn or pornography is derived from the Greek pornographos, an adjective, "writing about prostitutes, from pornE prostitute + graphein to write."
Pornography is defined as
n. pictures and/or writings of sexual activity intended solely to excite lascivious feelings of a particularly blatant and aberrational kind, such as acts involving children, animals, orgies, and all types of sexual intercourse. The printing, publication, sale and distribution of "hard core" pornography is either a felony or misdemeanor in most states. Since determining what is pornography and what is "soft core" and "hard core" are subjective questions to judges, juries and law enforcement officials, it is difficult to define, since the law cases cannot print examples for the courts to follow.

It is understandable that Radic would rather define pornography as Playboy and Vogue as opposed to bestiality and the rape of underage children. Because if she does so, she has to go on record as saying these things are "not bad." Remember that Holtsberry's original point was that "Porn is bad"

Second, by assuming that everything occurring in nature is good, Radic has to assume that war, famine, pestilence, and NFL referees are all good. In Radic's world everything is good and only "conservatives and their statist allies on the left" are evil (being things that don't occur in nature, I assume). Holtsberry, in his response to Radic, addresses her contention noting "Evil entered the world early and has been here in abundance ever since. Murder has been around since the beginning, but I hope Natalija is not set to defend it."

In her conclusion, and my third objection, Radic seems to have kicked in some sort of libertarian autopilot so she could go get the latest issue of Vogue. I hope Ms. Radic will respond with a degree of honesty that Holtsberry's two post demands rather than with a phoned-in off-the cuff statements. Show us that you are worthy of the faith that Instapundit vests in you.

Update. Ms. Radic has a response to Mr. Holtsberry's response. Two additional points, one minor (unless you are Kevin, I guess). The minor point is that she still doesn't acknowledge the original author. My more substative concern is that she still does not acknowledge some pornography can be bad, which was the point Mr. Holtsberry was originally making. Look, I don't want to ban food, but I acknowledge that some foods can be bad. Can't you at least go that far Ms. Radic?

Aside: Do you think that maybe mentioning Britney Spears and porn will boost my numbers?
Buckley on Scalia. When the elder Catholic and Conservative thinker takes on the younger Catholic and Conservative thinker, it's important. Read what William F. Buckley has to say here.

One side note, at the conclusion of the essay Buckley asks whether prospective "jurors who are Catholics should be asked if their faith would affect their reasoning on whether a defendant should be executed." It's my understanding that this can currently be done pursuant to Wainwright v. Witt, 469 U.S. 412 (1985), where the Court held that the standard for excluding a juror because of his or her views in opposition to the death penalty is "whether the juror's views would 'prevent or substantially impair the performance of his duties as a juror in accordance with his instructions and his oath.'" Id. at 424 (quoting Adams v. Texas, 448 U.S. 38, 45 (1980)).
Follies. Shortly after the 9.11 attacks, I was at a seminar in which the head of OSHA (John Henshaw) spoke. He noted the difficulties of imposing OSHA rules on the rescue and recovery efforts. Basically, he indicated that while an emergency search and rescue situation was in effect, the more stringent rules would not be applied. However, once it switched to a recovery phase, the rules would be back in place, to protect the workers. Sometime after the seminar, I saw the switch take place and the number of workers, firefighters in particular, were curtailed at Ground Zero. What surprised me was that the media covered it as if the Guiliani and Bush administrations were denying the firefighters the right to honor their fallen colleagues. There was no mention as to why this policy was imposed, nor that it was an OSHA driven policy. (If the media were GOP staffed, I'm sure the angle would be those faceless, heartless bureacrats at OSHA deny . . . etc.)

So now, why am I not surprised to see that a number of these firefighters have filed claims against the city.