Friday, December 21, 2001

HERE'S WHAT REALLY HAPPENED on 9/11. It's amazing.

Reader Chad Orzel compares Mind Over What Matters favorably to Andrew Sullivan and Josh Marshall on his links page:
Jay Zilber's weblog: Political blog with a rightward tilt, though not as annoying as Sullivan's, and not as well-written as Marshall's. Also useful as a convenient index of other political blogs I look in on from time to time.

Much as I'm appreciating the compliment of being mentioned in the same breath as Sullivan and Marshall -- even if I'm "not as good" as the latter (what the hey, it's an honor just to be nominated!) -- I'm also forced to come to grips with Chad's description of me as tilting rightward.

Me? Rightward? Yipe. Whatever you do, don't tell my mom -- an unreconstructed Pete Seeger liberal from way back, who once took me on a drive-through tour of the low-rent district in Columbus, Ohio, to make sure I knew that poor black people were living in slums less than three miles from the quiet, white suburban wonderland I called home. Mom had enough of a shock when, at age 12, I announced my preference for Richard Nixon in 1968 because he seemed like a more sympathetic candidate than her guy, Eugene McCarthy. But I digress. (Hi, Mom. Jus' trying to make you proud.)

There is, of course, the temptation to make a doleful observation that "after 9/11, we're all right-wingers now," or that a right-winger is merely a left-leaning moderate who's still sweeping up accumulations of free-floating World Trade Center demolition dust from his office after three months. But I think the personal growth dynamic you're seeing here, in these pages, is that I'm being forced to reconcile a great deal of generally liberal dogma -- with which I still acknowledge some emotional sympathy -- against the grotesquely dishonest manner in which it is so often packaged and delivered.

On issues like gun control, for example -- emotionally, who can argue with the traditionally liberal view that it's Objectively Bad to allow guns to be easily procured by Bad People? But the transformational events of this year have served to lay bare how brazenly some gun control lobbyists put forth patent falsehoods in order to solicit funds -- and when you realize that their livelihood actually depends on maintaining the status quo, so that they may rail against gun ownership in perpetuity, one can't possibly take their arguments seriously. Strict gun control is a perfectly sound, commonsense idea when the only statistics you present are the numbers of tragic, accidental shootings and deranged, suicidal postal workers. But when you take the trouble to think through what gun control would really mean to this country, it's not such a pretty picture either.

This is not -- never was -- a struggle of liberal and conservative principles. Rather, it is -- always has been -- a war between intellectual honesty and those who would corrupt public policy for their own craven purposes. It is only in that context that one can begin to explain why, for example, someone like Sen. John McCain registered such a strong appeal among registered Democrats (including myself) last year: Not because McCain is a liberal (which he is not), but because one can sense in the man a virtue rare among professional politicians: He appears to be capable of intellectual honesty. One can easily imagine John McCain, in private consultation and contemplation, considering both traditionally liberal and conservative arguments and weighing them fairly against one another, before making consequential policy decisions as President.

(Whereas, who -- even among the rational wing of the conservative punditocracy, like William Kristol and Christopher Caldwell -- seriously believes that George W. Bush ever actually sweated bullets as he rationally determined that stem cell research was moral up until a certain date, and immoral thereafter?)

Now, how I could rationalize voting for Sen. Hillary Clinton -- which I did -- is a whole 'nother story which I'll save for another day. Anyway, thanks, Chad -- not just for the kind words, but for clueing me in to Arts and Letters Daily, which will get a permanent sidebar link on the next revision-go-round.

SIGN OF THE END TIME: RuPaul has a Blog! Here's a scrumptuous sample:

up until fifteen years ago, the word “diva” really meant something special. that was before vh1, star jones and every pier queen on the hudson river, used the word to describe just about anyone with a weave and some attitude. the same is true for the word “grand”. there’s the “grand cherokee” by jeep, and the “grand ballroom” at the hilton, and of course “grandma’s” fried chicken franchise in georgia. all, of which, are not very “grand” if you ask me. but when used to describe that big slit in the middle of arizona, the word “grand” is an understatement. a more suitable description would be “ that mind warping, acid trippy, breathtaking, tear inducing, freaky-deaky, surrealicious, grand canyon”. actually, those words don’t even do it justice. i was not prepared for what i saw on tuesday. i had tears in my eyes, because i couldn’t believe how beautiful it was . the fact that there were four inches of snow on the ground, only added to this benchmark in my experience on this planet. i was BLOWN A-WAY ! what’s even more amazing is that i wasn’t jacked on coffee or virginia slims lights or any other stimuli ( ok, maybe i did have a snickers bar). unlike my past, i was totally present for the journey and for that reason, and that reason alone, i’m happy it took me so many years to get there. but just like the true addict that i am, i can’t wait to go back and do it again!!!

Ru even has a link to Blair ... but not that Blair ... this Blair!

LIKE, WOW! Good ol' reliable Drudge -- always on the lookout for bizarre deaths in the news -- called attention to this tragically ironic story yesterday:

A car driven by 21-year-old Dwight Samples of Dona Vista, Florida, collided with another vehicle while he was drag racing at speeds in excess of 100 mph. By coincidence, the driver of the car he rear-ended was his mother, Diane Samples, 45, who had been driving around a friend to look at Christmas lights. Young Samples' head went through the windshield, but somehow he managed to avoid ridding the gene pool of his noxious presence, and he is listed in stable condition. Mom and her passenger were pronounced dead at the scene.

Lt. Chuck Williams, a spokesman for the Florida Highway Patrol, remarked: "It's bizarre. His mom was doing an act of kindness taking this lady around to see Christmas lights. You think the probabilities for a phenomenon like this are, wow."

I mention this story only because the probabilities for a phenomenon like this are like, actually, far from astronomical. Certainly, the odds were no greater that high school senior Laura Welch would run a stop sign in 1963, striking another car and killing the driver -- 17-year old Michael Douglas -- a classmate and reportedly her boyfriend at the time.

(Miss Laura Welch, of course, grew up to be Mrs. George W. Bush. Like, wow!)

HAMAS has announced a suspension of its suicide attacks inside Israel and mortar bomb attacks against Israeli targets. The unrepentant terrorist organization, which would not refer to the State of Israel by name, issued a statement which read, in part, “We declare the suspension of martyrdom attacks inside the occupied land of 1948 and a suspension of mortar fire until further notice.”

Does this make them the good guys now?

Wednesday, December 19, 2001

STAR WARS Chapter II: Damian Penny wrote back to say, "...I still would not write off a [Missile Defense] plan being feasible. Arthur C. Clarke once said (and I'm paraphrasing here) that if a scientist says something is possible, he's probably right; if a scientist says something is IMpossible, he's probably wrong."

The problem with using Arthur C. Clarke as a reference is that, in his twilight years, Clarke has come to embrace some rather crackpot notions. Clarke is a devotee of cold fusion and other "free energy" schemes which have been pretty thoroughly de-bunked at this point ... and more recently, he put forth the notion that the pictures taken by the orbiting Mars Global Surveyor reveal fields of vegetation and trees, even though the imaging resolution is vastly insufficient to provide such detail. It'd be cool if that turned out to be true -- but he's just seeing what he wants to see. Or saying what the interviewer wanted to hear.

That said, the 70mm re-release print of 2001: A Space Odyssey which has been slowly making its way across the country has finally showed up in New York, and I managed to catch a screening. Hey ... I finally "get" the ending...!

WHO IS BILL JONES? Bill Jones is running for Governor of California. In his own words:

"When recession and crime hit the 1990s, I took tough action to turn California around. As Assembly Republican Leader, I negotiated the budget that was vital in pulling California out of the recession, eliminating a $14 billion deficit. I authored the “3 Strikes” bill that cut crime in California by twice the national average. As Secretary of State, I protected term limits, reformed the election system to save millions of taxpayer dollars and put people in jail for voter fraud. I'm a third generation Californian, husband, father, rancher and farmer."

Bill Jones has also spammed my mailbox -- and sent me the same unsolicited attachment with an .HTM extension -- four times this week.

Bad form, Bill ... really, really bad. Hasn't your campaign staff told you that only pornographers, mischievous virus authors, Ponzi schemers and unrepentant terrorists send unsolicited messages to to blind e-mail lists?

Bill Jones says he wants to hear from you! For some reason, he doesn't want to give out his own e-mail address -- his Reply-To address is spoofed as "" -- but you can go to his website feedback page and tell him how you feel about this kind of fundraising tactic.

Banner: Join the Bill Jones for Governor Team

(And I live in New York City! At least spend the extra fifty bucks for a State-specific mailing list, Bill. Sheesh.)

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: As Charles Darwin pointed out, "Vox populi, vox dei" is a highly unreliable principle. It assumes that there will never be three jackasses in the same place.

Tuesday, December 18, 2001

OUTSIDE LOOKING IN: Jonah Goldberg, self-appointed Libertarianism expert, offers up this golden tidbit:

Virginia Postrel suspects that my "anti-libertarian outbursts" stem from a desire to get her and other libertarians to link to my site. Well, we can put aside the suggestion that it's a web-traffic bonanza to get linked on something called "Libertarian Samizdata" (I actually lose traffic when I indulge my anti-libertarian bent).

Ahhh -- now I see how what I've been doing wrong in conducting the great "Getting Mentioned" campaign ... I should have been writing about Jonah Goldberg's obssession with pigeonholing people into categories and labels, and goad him into calling me thin-skinned and link-hungry!

But seriously -- why is Goldberg uncomfortable about letting his words stand (or fall) on their own merits? If he's as sure of his position as his attitude suggests, why does he feel compelled to question his critics' motives -- or worse, invent motives on their behalf -- instead of simply debating their ideas?

Whenever a columnist is tempted to write a follow-up piece to "clarify" a previous column and "correct" his critics' misunderstandings, he ought to first consider that his position might be a little shakier than he'd like to admit. Goldberg would do well to engage in a week of quiet introspection before he answers his critics again.

(Then again, I guess we can't all be as sure, sincere and free of hidden agendas as Jonah Goldberg, eh?)


(requires QuickTime -- but worth it!)

Monday, December 17, 2001

IF THEY SHOULD BAR WARS... The battle over Missile Defense rages over at Transterrestrial Musings ... but the pro-shield crowd seems utterly uninterested in addressing the obvious logical failing of any system we could possibly erect:

Whether we're proposing to hit a bullet with a bullet, or repel incoming missiles with a magical force-shield, it would make not a whit of difference to a truly determined terrorist or rogue nation. When future Osamas and Saddams are convinced that we can transmute their incoming missiles into daisies with 100% accuracy, isn't it patently obvious that they would instead seek to deliver warheads by some other means? They could render our $150 billion investment useless with a fleet of barges and Cessnas!

You don't have to be a chess grandmaster to play out this game one move ahead.

IWWECONCIWABLE ... DIFFEWENCES? Oh, Dwew, say it ain't twue!!!

BUSH TO NEW YORK: DROP DEAD! And the funny thing is, Bush probably could have carried New York and Jersey in 2004 -- and all he had to do was deliver the $20 billion in rebuilding aid he had pledged only three months ago. But now he's giving us that old song and dance ...."Sorry Joe, I ain't got the dough."

I dunno, pal ... maybe that'll play in the red states, but the blues are going to remember that you didn't use your limitless political capital to honor your own word.