Archive for February, 2005

Generally speaking, anything that annoys animal rights activists, especially PETA, is cool. The following item falls into that category:

TRENTON, N.J. — Animal rights activists are disgusted by a new candy from Kraft Foods Inc. (KFT) that’s shaped like critters run over by cars — complete with tire treads.

The fruity-flavored Trolli Road Kill Gummi Candy — in shapes of partly flattened snakes, chickens and squirrels — fosters cruelty toward animals, according to the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

I happen to think this is utterly hilarious. Partially flattened gummi animals with tread marks on them? That’s effing brilliant! Where was this stuff when I was a kid?

Remember bubble gum cigarettes? I used to chew those. I don’t smoke. The idea that candies lead kids into the adult vices they copy is fundamentally dumb. I used to eat Pixie Stix, too, and I don’t snort coke. Big League Chew was awesome. Did it lead me to start dipping? No. One might as well conclude that eating orange Lifesavers would lead someone to put a Cesium isotope emitter disk (which looks remarkably like an orange lifesaver) in their mouths.

Roadkill happens. Everybody’s seen it. It’s accidental. Nobody goes out of their way to run over animals on the road. Also, cartoons typically make fun of incidents like being run over by vehicles, leaving part of the cartoon animal flattened with tire marks. Then he gets up and in the next scene he’s fine. Kids understand this is fantasy. You’re a liar if you never laughed at the Coyote being run down by one of his own ACME products, or a random truck in a tunnel, or a train.

People really need to lighten up. But annoying PETA is so much fun.

This needs to stop:

The New York City Department of Education, red-faced over Brooklyn sixth-graders who slammed a GI with demoralizing anti-Iraq-war letters as part of a school assignment, will send the 20-year-old private a letter of apology Tuesday.

The GI got the ranting missives last month from pint-sized pen pals at JHS 51 in Park Slope.

Filled with political diatribes, the letters predict GIs will die by the tens of thousands, accuse soldiers of killing Iraqi civilians and bash President Bush.

Teacher Alex Kunhardt had his students write Jacobs as part of a social-studies assignment.

Lovely. And what articulate, well-thought-out words of criticism did these 12- and 13-year olds have for our hard-working, brave, dedicated soldier Pfc. Rob Jacobs?

One girl wrote that she believes Jacobs is “being forced to kill innocent people” and challenged him to name an Iraqi terrorist, concluding, “I know I can’t.”

Ah yes. Some 12-year-old can’t name an Iraqi terrorist and thus concludes that there aren’t any. Clearly her taxpayer public education is covering all the bases.

Another girl wrote, “I strongly feel this war is pointless,”

Guess what? Feelings aren’t a perfect guide to the truth. I blame only your parents and teachers for failing to educate you about why wars may sometimes be necessary, and that we didn’t start this fight.

while a classmate predicted that because Bush was re-elected, “only 50 or 100 [soldiers] will survive.”

50 to 100? Of the tens of thousands that are over there? When our soldiers outnumber the terrorists something like 100 to 1 (or more)? Even when I was in 6th grade, I was a better critical thinker than that.

And since when does a 6th grader have an opinion about a Presidential election? Kids don’t care about things like that, when left to their own devices.

A boy accused soldiers of “destroying holy places like mosques.”

Well, when the enemy is inside them, shooting at you from there, and using holy places as storage for weapons and safe hideouts for terrorists, the building forfeits its right to amnesty. In fact, the Geneva Conventions are very specific about this. Would it be any different if Christian terrorists were using churches to store weapons and use as a hideout?

It also should be noted that mosque raids in Iraq are being carried out by Iraqi troops, and not coalition. They certainly don’t have a problem with it.

Even one kid smitten with soldiers couldn’t keep politics out of the picture, writing, “I find that many extreme liberals are disrespectful to you.”

And the kid should be commended for thinking for himself. He appears to have made an observation about the behavior of others, rather than simply parroting what he was told.

“I want to think these letters were coached by the teacher or the parents of these children,” Jacobs said in an interview from Camp Casey, Korea.

“It boggles my mind that children could think this stuff.”

They don’t. Obviously they are being coached. Or brainwashed, if you prefer a more accurate term. Attitudes and phrases like this don’t result from objective education based on facts and looking at both sides of the picture. These kids are being indoctrinated by the school and by their parents (or the parents are failing to counter the indoctrination, which is just as bad).

Using children as proxies in social and political conflicts is beyond disgusting, and reveals the true cowardly and dishonest nature of the perpetrators. I have ranted before about PETA doing this kind of thing, but it is a more general, widespread disease in our educational system.

This needs to stop. Both sides need to repudiate this child abuse, and stop using the innocent as pawns in our own arguments and conflicts. Only a coward hides behind the innocent. Let the enemy come forth and be seen, and be engaged on the battlefield.

An elementary school girl made a red, white and blue bead necklace to wear in honor of her uncle, who is serving in Iraq. Apparently, this constitutes “gang attire”.

Raven, 12, made the necklace over the Christmas vacation and wore it on her first day back to school on Jan. 4. She said it was to commemorate Barnes’ [her uncle] move into a danger zone and that it is her way of trying to protect him.

Schenectady school officials immediately banned her from displaying her unique neckwear in a belief such “gang-related” jewelry violates policy, court papers alleged.

Raven was threatened with suspension if she continued to wear the beads.

Bob Keach, a lawyer who specializes in civil and constitutional rights violations cases, said several of Raven’s friends also have been told not to wear the beads even though the Mont Pleasant dress code does not mention beaded jewelry as a banned item.

And the mascot for the Schenectady City School District is a patriot, he pointed out: “So school colors are red, white and blue.”

Classic. The school colors are red, white, and blue. Does that mean the school advocates gang violence? How is that any stupider than not allowing a child to wear a necklace with those same colors?

The school board responds with a statement that includes this:

Early last year, police advised us that youth gangs were wearing colored beads as identifiers and to code messages. Police and gang specialists recommended we ban the display of colored beads in our secondary schools, so we did. We do not believe that the law allows us to enforce this policy subjectively and decide some colors are good and others not. While we understand that a student wore red, white and blue beads to support her relatives in Iraq, we also understand that the law does not permit selective enforcement. We can’t simply exempt well-meaning children from school rules while enforcing them with others.

We further understand that patriotic gestures – flying U.S. flags, wearing lapel pins, or posting yellow ribbons – do help others to remember the men and women who sacrifice while serving overseas. Our children are not only permitted but, in fact, encouraged to do all of these things. This student simply decided to choose one of the very few forms of expressing patriotism that goes against our carefully considered rules.

I personally support the troops and, just as importantly, I support their mission against terror in Iraq and in the world. As long as I have anything to say about it, such sentiments will never be suppressed in our schools. However, I cannot support children imitating the criminals that are in gangs, so we have to strike a balance.

This is stupid. Is that how the board views this girl’s actions? “Imitating the criminals that are in gangs”? She’s not imitating them. She wearing a patriotic necklace. Everybody knows that. School rules include a lot of leeway in determining whether or not the rule is violated. The Schenectady District’s Student Code of Discipline includes the following under “Dress Code” (emphasis in italics mine):

1. Students’ dress, grooming and appearance, including hair style/color, jewelry, make-up and nails will be safe, appropriate and not disrupt or interfere with the educational process.

4. Student will wear appropriate footwear at all times. Footwear that is a safety hazard will not be allowed, which includes but is not limited to steel tip boots, slippers, and heels of an unsafe height.

8. Students will not wear any clothing deemed to be gang related, included but not limited to bandanas, colors or flags.

It also includes this rule, which I mention here just because it’s weird:

9. Students will not wear coats inside during the school day.

What’s that about? Kids can’t wear a coat if they’re cold?

Now surely with words like “appropriate” and “deemed” in those rules, there is room for staff interpretation about whether an item of clothing violates the rule or not. For Raven to be punished for wearing a “gang related” item, somebody had to “deem” that necklace to be indicative of her involvement in a gang, or an attempt to communicate in gang code, in spite of 1) being told otherwise by her and her mother, and 2) common sense.

These school officials are all basically saying, “My hands are tied — rules are rules”. Well then change the fucking rules. This isn’t about applying rules fairly to everyone. Honestly I’m not sure exactly what it’s about, but that’s not it.

I want to know who the first school staffer was who saw that necklace and thought, “She shouldn’t be allowed to wear that.” What kind of bitter, humorless, uptight person do you have to be to have a thought like that and actually follow through on it? What does it mean that no one else in the district staff stood up and said, “This is dumb”?

I’m also irked by the line, “We do not believe that the law allows us to enforce this policy subjectively”. The law? What law? School district regulations are not laws. They are not subject to the same standard of analysis or enforcement. I’ve been reading more and more stories like this, where the word “law” is used to refer to a policy or a rule. People need to knock it off and get a grip on reality.

In the wake of the November elections there’s been a fair amount of what can only be described as Republican triumphalism. Certainly the past decade has been very good to the GOP, and bad for the Democrats, and that trend doesn’t show many signs of reversing in the immediate future. More broadly, the years since 1980 do show a longer-term trend towards the Republicans, as I noted here. But even if the claims of realignment are correct, does that mean that the nation is actually moving to the right?

This story from The Economist (HT: Redstate) suggests not. On many key issues younger voters are perceptibly more liberal than older ones.

This ties in with my sense that the shift in political fortunes has had more to do with changes in the parties than in the electorate. Anecdotally, it’s easy to find people who started voting Republican in the past several years who describe the change using words like “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party; it left me.” It’s not hard to find GOP supporters today who sound a lot like John F. Kennedy. (Bush himself sometimes sounds like JFK; there are passages from JFK’s first inaugural address that could just as easily have been placed into GWB’s second inaugural.) At the same time, radical left-wing moonbattery has become much more mainstream within the Democratic party in recent years than it ever was in the early 1960s. And Goldwater-style limited-government conservatism seems to be a waning force in the Republican party.

Putting the point another way, had Kennedy not been assassinated the 1964 election would have had Goldwater on the right side and JFK on the left. In 2004 we have a JFK-alike on the right side and Kerry/Dean/Pelosi on the left. The Republicans are turning into the Democrats and the Democrats are turning into the Greens. While this may be a promising development for Republican party operatives as they win elections, it isn’t such a good thing for pro-freedom, pro-individualism, limited-government folks like me.

Ayn Rand was, once again, right. The fundamental forces pulling America towards totalitarianism are philosophical. Without a philosophical shift in the culture we’re winning political battles while losing the war.

I see in the news today that Mary Kay Letourneau and her boyfriend, Vili Fualaau are engaged to be married. You may remember them as the couple from the “34-year-old teacher rapes 12-year-old student, goes to jail, caught screwing him again in a car after being released, now has 2 kids by him” news story of a few years ago.

They have both insisted the whole time that they are in love. The boy doesn’t view himself as a victim. Apparently the boy’s family is okay with this development. He is now 22 and she is 43. They have a bridal registry at Macy’s, and that gave rise to a comment from “Almighty” on Fark:

“I’m sorry, but any union that would produce dishes that ugly cannot be natural. I mean come on people, green and yellow?”

The dishes in question:

I have to agree that they’re awful.

I’ve never been entirely sure what to think of this entire situation. It initially seemed like a pretty straightforward child rape case. But the fact that they have stuck together, even through Letourneau’s prison sentence, leads to only two possible conclusions. Either they really are in love, or they’re both mentally ill. Possibly both.

Letourneau was married and already had kids at the time she began molesting Vili. Her husband divorced her more or less immediately after her crimes became known, and if I recall correctly, he was completely disgusted by the whole thing (not that I blame him). I feel sorry for her 6 kids caught up in this whole mess. The 2 that Vili fathered were raised by his mother. The 4 from her first marriage are estranged from her, probably at their father’s insistence. All 6 of them are going to be in therapy for a while.

I just stumbled across a comment on this post on the Brothers Judd blog which made my jaw drop:

Is there anything scarier than a human being armed with a moral code that he can live up to without being a hypocrite?
Posted by: David Cohen at February 7, 2005 10:07 AM

Think about that for a moment. Cohen is (if I understand him correctly) saying that a proper moral code is, by necessity, one that people are incapable of following. Morality has contradictions and ongoing frustration built into it at the foundation, and as a result people are never going to be judged good.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Christianity.

A moral system that is appropriate for human beings is built on standards that are consistent with human needs and abilities. Because of that, it will be possible for humans to live up to the standards prescribed by such a code. It won’t necessarily be easy, but it won’t be impossible in principle.

My immediate reaction on being told I should adopt a moral code that it is impossible to live up to is to reject the code as flawed. I refuse to assume the obligation of doing the impossible.

Anne adds:

That last sentence particularly struck me, because it is at the root of so much human misery, not necessarily religious in nature. So many people grow up instilled with obligations and moral rules that are impossible to fulfill. Pleasing unpleasable parents, saving people who can’t be saved, preventing things that can’t be stopped, trying to rescue everyone in need.

It’s one thing to pursue these goals with the understanding that 100% achievement is impossible, but to do the best you can because it helps, or because you want to help others. But it’s very easy to fall into the rut of “How can I be happy when there are still people out there suffering?” or “Why can’t I make my father love me?” and allowing that despair to consume you.

Trying to attain impossible goals is doomed to failure from the get-go, and at some point masochism and/or self-sabotage comes into play. People stay in this rut because they feel they don’t deserve the accomplishment in question. Since it’s impossible anyway, they continue to suffer and endure what they perceive as “earned” punishment. Women who repeatedly choose men who abuse them are one example of this phenomenon in the concrete world. But it has more subtle manifestations that can sometimes be seen below the surface of certain kinds of social nihilism.

While driving to a local restaurant, I noticed a ‘fitness nutrition’ shop called “Max Muscle” that just opened next to a furniture store called “Laz-E-Boy”. This being America it goes without saying that the Laz-E-Boy store was significantly larger.

The Volcker investigation has fingered Benon Sevan in UNSCAM to an extent that even Kofi Annan cannot ignore. I remain somewhat unimpressed, however, by the UN’s reaction so far:

Based on the report, Annan has decided to discipline Sevan and another U.N. official, Joseph Stephanides, said Mark Malloch Brown, Annan’s new chief of staff. Malloch Brown said the type of disciplinary action would be announced early next week but gave no details.

Brown acknowledged that there was limited action Annan could take because Sevan had retired. But Annan could discipline Stephanides, who was chief of the U.N. Sanctions Branch and deputy director of the Security Council Affairs Division in the U.N. Department of Political Affairs. The Volcker report found that Stephanides manipulated an Oil-for-Food contract.

Volcker and his panel were unable to conclude if Sevan actually took bribes because they were prohibited from issuing subpoenas.

Okay, so you can’t exactly fire a guy who’s already retired. But what Sevan and Stephanides did was illegal according to the laws of pretty much any country. Surely the World Court at The Hague would be interested in pressing charges. These guys need to go to prison for a long, long time. And if the World Court were to hand down an indictment, they sure as hell better not ignore it, or risk undermining the legitimacy of their precious international legal body (not that that would be a bad thing).

But if that doesn’t work, there’s always the law of the country of jurisdiction. I’m not sure which country that would be in this case. Where was the UN program considered to be incorporated? Belgium perhaps? They need to start arresting people and giving them more than another UN slap on the wrist.

Lately it has become chic for women to wear jeans with rips, holes, and worn spots on them. This has resulted in a challenge for me, because it’s already difficult for me to find jeans that fit well. But now there’s the added obstacle of finding some jeans that actually look new, and not like they’ve been washed 500,000 times, run over by a truck repeatedly, and savaged by wild dogs.

Old Navy is a good place to find these worn jeans. To their credit, they also don’t charge much for them, either.

But there is the other end of this spectrum. The jeans pictured below are “Chip and Pepper” brand. They cost $178.00 at Nordstrom. No, that’s not a typo. One hundred and seventy-eight dollars.

This strikes me as something akin to lottery tickets; a stupid tax. Only for jeans, it’s a tax on the stupid rich instead of the stupid poor. I can’t tell the difference between these jeans and the $19.99 ones available at Old Navy. Do people really think that these are somehow “better” because they cost $178 and came from Nordstrom?

Of course, the whole “trailer trash/unwashed hippie” look is very popular for some reason. I truly fail to understand this. Perhaps it’s a manifestation of rich liberal chic? They’re actually affluent but trying to look like the downtrodden proletariat, and wouldn’t be caught dead in a K-Mart?