Saturday, April 28, 2007

Overreacting to tragedy

(Crossposted at Protein Wisdom)

What is the secret to being a liberal hysteric? No secret: just treat adults like children, and treat children like adults. Require adults to ask the government "mother may I" for every least little thing, from hair-braiding to leaf burning to motorcycle helmets to whether or not you want an explosively-inflating airbag in your passenger seat, thus denying your own children the pleasure you had as a child of "riding shotgun". And call the police, file suit, and start expulsion proceedings if a kindergartner hugs a classmate, or if a first-grader draws a picture of a relative in the service, or if a third-grader points a chicken finger and says "bang".

The chain of events that led to the psychopathic Seung-hui Cho murdering nearly three dozen students at Virginia Tech couldn't fail but prompt wise, level-headed school administrators to take a good hard look at possible danger signs in their schools. Unfortunately, it also prompted liberal hysterics to do things like this to students like Allen Lee. His future has been materially harmed. He'll probably be the cause and object of anti-Asian bigotry, which we had so far managed to avoid much of this past couple of weeks.

So, what did this 4.2 grade average senior and United States Marine Corps recruit do? Apparently, just what his teacher told him to do: use his imagination:

The teacher told students: "'Be creative; there will be no judgment and no censorship,"' [attorney] Thomas Loizzo said. "There was never any warning from the teacher that if she determined the paper to be offensive, she would then pass it along to the authorities."

I remember a little bit of how I was, back when I used to have an imagination. My teachers were quite indulgent of my spewings. This young man was in that class for several months, presumably, and the teacher had ample time to get to know him. Would it have been unfair, a hardship, or out of the ordinary in some way for her to, like, ask him Sup Wit Dat?

Smoking gun here. Smoking ears here and here and here

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The American dream, the mystery of sin, the fascination of proximate notoriety, and Sanjay Kumar

If I were to try to come up with a way to foul up my children's lives, I don't think I could beat this: go to prison for a decade during their young adult years, just when they need a father's steadying hand the most. And yes, he'll probably be out in a couple dozen months, like Michael Milken and Ivan Boesky were. But still...

I knew Sanjay Kumar briefly, slightly, a long time ago. I don't think he'd recognize me--there's no reason for him to--without a lengthy, memory-jogging introduction, not even if he were to click on my photo, up there. I only remembered him when I walked past the magazine rack and saw his name on the cover of Business Week, a few years ago. A quick skim through the article confirmed that it was indeed the same man I remembered. A few months ago, out of idle curiosity, I looked him up again and saw that he was taking the fall for one of the biggest accounting frauds in U.S. corporate history, and had been sentenced to ten years in prison. At present, reports say, he's selling off his portfolio, yacht, Ferraris and whatnot to satisfy an investors' settlement. Then, at the end of summer, off to Club Fed.

Having wasted more of my modest potential in my life than I care to reflect on, I really hate to see this befall him. Sanjay Kumar is an American success story straight out of Central Casting. Born in a village in Sri Lanka, a war refugee immigrant to America at 14, a talented computer mind who dropped out of a prestigious college to start his own business, and...well, and he just rode that skyrocket right to the top. What a country!

Surfing around the business blogs, I've seen some people who got a rough ride from him, or who were smacked around in the blowback of his accounting fraud, crowing over his fall. But none of them have said he lacked for capability and accomplishment. Based on what I've read, he did not lack for personal gifts. Vision, drive, smarts, generosity, he had all those qualities a top CEO should have, and more. He was assured and kind when I knew him, too.

But here tragedy, in the classic sense, intrudes. The crucial quality that was lacking was, apparently, honesty. Cooking the books, good god... "Everybody does it" is a teenager's defense; like the old Amoco commercial says, you expect more from a leader. Why? For god's sake, why? He could have had everything he wound up having--the gale-proof portfolio, the swank conveyances, the estate, the wonderful family, influence, honor, respect--he could have had it all honestly, and just as fast. A willingness to take some less-than-rosy quarterly reports on the chin, and he'd still have been clad in silk forever, and never seen the inside of federal court, or prison. Now his name, the name his parents bequeathed him, is in danger of becoming a by-word for white collar corruption. During the Iran hostage crisis, he used to wear a T-shirt that said "I'm not Iranian". Now, maybe there's a market for H1-C visa holding Indian guest workers to buy shirts that say "I'm not Sanjay Kumar". He's too talented and has done too much good with his charity work to be consigned to the fringes of American business, with Milken and Boesky. But, thanks to this tragic flaw in his character, that's what'll happen.

You may wonder why I should care. This isn't a business blog, and I no longer have any connection with him personally. So far as I know, his crime didn't cost me any money. Well, I'm wondering, too. I found myself feeling appalled at what he'd done to himself, his family, his business and his investors. But I also found myself feeling oddly protective of him, solicitous of his well-being, a most unwarranted and impracticable attitude, and one I'm sure he would rightly reject, beyond the core element of simple sympathy. It's partly a natural reaction of rubber-necking at a car crash, partly being aghast when some disaster involves someone you know. And schadenfreude? No. A thousand times, no. Not me. Projection? What would I have done in his place? I don't know. If I were suddenly turned into a leopard, would I be fierce or tame? I don't know. You can't know, until you're brought to the time of testing. All we can do is be aware that the tests are out there, and pray God to fit us for them.

Castro on the Mend, says NPR

All Things Considered today reported that El Jefe is not quite the goner that he seemed late last year. They were gracious enough not to sigh in relief. They did natter on about what a shame the continued U.S. embargo is, how little hope there is of the United States "softening" its position towards one of the only two remaining stalinist dictatorships in the world. And why should we "soften" our position? Why instead shouldn't the communists "soften" their own tyranny against their own people?

Because no matter how many people he drives away, imprisons, or murders, Castro is still a symbol of the Sixties Left's vanished youth. And what spoiled, self-absorbed First World radicals will ever think ill, entirely ill, of the days of their own youth?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

When Christianists attack

Of course my standards are out of date. That's why they're called standards!
-- Alan Bennett

This was no doubt planned before-hand, but hurrah for these kids anyway. Nice to see an audience with both taste and courage. And here's the artist in question, Mike Daisey, reveling in his martyrdom to free speech. (Also here.)

Because you do know, don't you, that failure to sit through sewage like that is the same as censorship? He's going to have a terrible case of whisker burn, after he peels off the virtual duct tape they virtually plastered over his virtual talent. Click on the links before the Christers have him disappeared!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Dr. Sanity shrinks the killer's brain

Dr. Sanity (no relation) has some interesting psychopath-profiling bloggage up here and here and here and...well, pretty much everything she's written this past week. Who forgot to remind me to put her in my blogroll?

I don't agree with beating up on the students for not fighting back, though. The very fact of their lack of response to this killer is proof of what a peaceful land we live in, the punditry notwithstanding. They were taken completely by surprise, by something utterly out of their experience. Even the UA Flight 93 passengers needed to have time to think it over, before they rushed the 9/11 hijackers.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The BIG assumptions behind gun control

Okay, it's been a whole 85 hours or so since this horror began; now I give myself permission to deal with the reflexive demands for gun control from the usual sources. First, read this:

A permanent possibility of selfishness arises from the mere fact of having a self, and not from any accidents of education or ill-treatment. And the weakness of all Utopias is this, that they take the greatest difficulty of man and assume it to be overcome, and then give an elaborate account of the overcoming of the smaller ones. They first assume that no man will want more than his share, and then are very ingenious in explaining whether his share will be delivered by motor-car or balloon.
-- G. K. Chesterton, Heretics

That's from 100 years ago, before there were any socialist countries. Remarkable how prescient he was. But the present point is the wishful thinking in bold, above. No one should want more than his fair share. Therefore, no one does want more than his fair share. Now all we have to do is divvy up the pie.

The same leap of credulity is at the root of most gun control arguments that I've heard. In a good world, there shouldn't be a need for self-protection. Therefore, the "thinking" goes, there is no need for self-protection. After wishing the big stumbling block away, they then proceed to the smaller details of criminalizing ownership of firearms, bit by bit, only to inevitably founder on the blunt fact that criminals don't obey firearm laws.

Much finer & more informed bloggage on the wrong-headedness of gun control can be found at Clayton Cramer's blog.

And trivia: Out of respect for the Virginia Tech victims, the Republican-controlled state government here in Georgia just postponed a vote on a bill to loosen concealed weapon restrictions. Compare that to Bill Clinton, who was indeed gracious, sensitive and presidential immediately after Columbine, but soon thereafter was hot on Congress's case to pass "common sense" gun control legislation.

Army Ranger call to the Neal Boortz show

Here's the audio. If the link doesn't work, email me and I'll forward you my Boortz Blast newsletter, with the link.

Should the Cho Seung hui videos have been aired by NBC?

My initial take: may as well. Everybody is already shocked, grieving, and angry. The criminally impressionable types are probably already impressed. And this would all have leaked out on YouTube and LiveLeak anyway. Might as well get this last bit of awfulness a thorough airing out, and move on.

Trivia: Was Cho "A Boy Named Sue"? Koreans of my acquaintance say that "Seung-hui", as rendered in Hangul, the Korean script, is a girl's name. Wonder if that played any part in his lack of mental stability. I know of a male Korean physician who also has a female given name, and he's nothing but wonderful. So, by itself, surely not. But taken in combination...?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Koreans fear backlash from shooting rampage

I'm very sorry to hear this.

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea's Foreign Ministry said Tuesday the government hoped the Virginia Tech shootings, allegedly carried out by a 23-year-old South Korean native, would not "stir up racial prejudice or confrontation." [...]
Kim Min-kyung, a South Korean student at Virginia Tech reached by telephone from Seoul, said there were some 500 Koreans at the school, including Korean-Americans. She said she had never met the shooter Cho. Fearing retaliation, she said South Korean students were gathering in groups "as it could be dangerous."

I trust not. Put me down for whatever this is worth: there will be no reprisals against Koreans at Virginia Tech. Maybe they've got a cowboy vigilante image of Americans stuck in their subconsciouses. From experience, I know that Koreans tend to lump people into stereotypes, but really hate being the object of said lumpage. I am confident that this low opinion of the American students at VT will prove to be completely unfounded, and I hope the Korean students remember it.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Virginia Tech shootings, inadvisability of riffing on...

This is very well put, and deserves wider notice:

As with the Columbines of this country, people will stare into the pool seeking answers. Some will see reflections and try to generalize from them about the nature of the shooter and the victims, but the reflections they see will only be their own. Interest groups will look into the pool and see their causes, filling the talk shows with spokespersons who will say that if we had only done "x" the event would have never happened. Others will take a longer view trying to peer into the depths of the pool seeking confirmation of trends historical, social and psychological. They too will see only their own reflections.

Virginia Tech shootings

Image is from the Hokie engineering deparment

My prayers are with the university and its community, the victims and their families. God, the poor parents...

Newsweek apologizes for Imus flap!

The article in Newsweek on the Imus/Rutgers thing is surprisingly heavy on self-flagellation. According to Weston Kosova, quite a number of face cards at Newsweek quite enjoyed the ego massage of appearing on Imus In The Morning, basking in the glow of hipness by association. Maybe you are familiar with that peculiar sense of double satisfaction that comes from enjoying a vice, and then beating yourself up for it. The simple passage of time will crown a new creator of media A-lists, maybe in talk radio, maybe in another format, and we'll all be off trying to crash the party once again.

Nice of Newsweek to own up, anyway.

Durham In Wonderland takes a victory lap

Here's an enjoyable profile of Professor KC Johnson, the proprietor of the Durham In Wonderland blog, which has been hosing down the overheated accusations against the Duke lacrosse players this past year. That blog has been a prime example of first-rate citizen journalism, which any of the rest of us would do well to emulate. So I thought, until I got to this bit:

On its best days, the blog attracts about 15,000 visitors, says Prof. Johnson, He did not do all of his legwork from afar, but spent thousands of dollars travelling to North Carolina. He was there last Wednesday to cover the big news, rushed back to Brooklyn to teach on Thursday, then popped up in Raleigh on Friday to cover Mr. Nifong's request for the State Bar to dismiss ethics charges against him.

Which lets me out of that league of bloggers! Apart from one instance, the most legwork I ever do for this blog is to take a notepad to the living room when I'm watching Frontline on PBS. So, congratulations and thanks to Dr. Johnson, for keeping his wits while his colleagues in academia were losing theirs, in this disgraceful case.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Is there a War On Easter? And as for that Amazonian tribe.... the War on Christmas? This First Things blog post suggests as much.

This Lent we have seen the Discovery Channel airing a documentary about the “Lost Tomb of Jesus,” a New York confectioner making a life-sized Jesus out of chocolate, Newsweek boldly asking “Is God Real?,” and the New York Times discussing both theism as the outgrowth of brain architecture (subscription required) and the myth of the Exodus. The History Channel graced Easter Sunday night with “Banned from the Bible,” two hours about all that nifty stuff that was “deemed unfit to grace the pages of the sacred scriptures for Jews and Christians . . . heresy or hidden truth?”

I haven't seen much evidence of secular activists really trying to shut Easter down, like they've been trying to do with Christmas. Disdain is not the same thing as censorship, let alone persecution.

But, if (or rather, since) secular leftist goodthink calls for sneering at Christianity, that explains something I heard on NPR over the Easter weekend. They had some diverse clergy on to speak about the meaning of Easter, all harmless and fair enough. Then they followed it with a story about a linguist whose contact with an Amazonian tribe caused him to give up his Christian faith.

From NPR News, this is WEEKEND EDITION. I'm Liane Hansen.

Dan Everett is a former missionary turned linguist. He's currently a professor at Illinois State University, but he spent the last 30 years studying the unique language of the Piraha Indians in northwest Brazil.

Everett says the Piraha converted him from Christianity to a scientific worldview, and he says their language challenges some widely held ideas of human nature and linguistics. Independent producer Robert Pollie explains.

Explain he does.

POLLIE: Everett had a knack for languages, and after more visits over the next few years, he was conversing with ease. But his proselytizing was going nowhere. When it came to the Gospel, the Piraha had nothing but questions.

Prof. EVERETT: A guy died and he came back from the dead? That's amazing. We've never seen anything like that. So what did he tell you when he came back from the dead? Well, I didn't actually see him. I mean, the and so then they said, well, why are you telling us about it? I mean, you didn't see it and you don't know anybody who saw it. And so they were they lost interest in the story completely.

POLLIE: The Piraha, Everett says, are the ultimate empiricists, demanding evidence for every claim. And under their cross-examination, Everett began questioning his own religious beliefs. In the end, it was the Indians who converted the missionary.

Gee, I hope I never get blind-sided by any of that science stuff, in my life. I'm rather fond of my Christian faith, and would hate to have it get all battered and dented by the real world. It would be terrible, having life contract to just your fingertips.

Faith is the evidence of things not seen.

Duke and Imus? No, Duke and Kobe

Many commentators have been comparing the exploded Duke lacrosse rape case with Don Imus' firing. The parallels are tortuous and due mostly to their simultaneity, IMO. I think that a better counterpart for the Duke case is the Kobe Bryant alleged rape case a couple of years ago. Check the particulars: Rich privileged male has his way with a woman who later claims she was victimized. Her flooziness is established, which tips the scales when no crime can be proven to have occurred. Race is bruited about, even though it doesn't really have anything to do with the legal matter. I think that has more to do with the Duke case than the Imus thing does.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Don Imus fired

I tried to listen to him here on 1230 AM from time to time over the years, but I just never got into his show. It's like NPR said, he seemed to want to be a shock jock on segment and Charlie Rose the next. Plus, to me at least, he sounded like he was drunk.

So I don't have much to add to what's already been said, except that sometimes the envelope pushes back.

Doubtless he'll show up on another network if he's lucky, on satellite if he's really lucky, and on shortwave if he's washed up for good.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Random Rock Bloggage

Put a glide in your stride and a dip in your hip,
And come aboard the Mothership!

I was never a huge fan, but this was constantly on the radio and all around me, when I was coming up in my small southern town. It's part of my past, so I'm imprinted. In real life, I'm about as funky as Sergent Joe Friday. But even after all this time, I still get a smile out of some of this stuff. I hope you enjoy some of it too, before the copyright cops find it.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Ranger sergeant calls Neal Boortz show

There was a searing phone call to the Neal Boortz show today. An Army Ranger sergeant called up to urge him to pressure Congress to continue the Iraq mission. The sergeant had spent 21 months in Iraq, training Iraqi forces and combatting insurgents & al-Qaeda. The man made an absolutely impassioned appeal for support. "I'm a Ranger! I do not fail!" He spelled out what's going on over there, why we're over there, as simply and powerfully as I've ever heard it. He nearly worked himself into tears, so complete was his dedication to his mission. Boortz, who has little tolerance for run-on callers, let him go on, and barely said a word. I've never heard him defer to a caller like that before.

Boortz doesn't put audio of phone calls on his website, but he does send choice calls out bi-weekly in his email feature, Boortz Blast. He said he'll send that one out, and trust me: It's worth signing up for his newsletter, even temporarily, just to hear this one. I am not affiliated with Boortz, btw--not that it'd ever really matter.

Update: Matter of fact, if you don't want to suscribe to Boortz's newsletter to hear this audio, I'd be glad to forward you my copy. Just email me with an addy, and I'll send it along when I get mine.

Update the 2nd: Here's the audio

Little Mosque on the Prairie

It's rather galling, having jihadists blow us up, slit our throats, and kidnap us all over the world, while their "moderate" co-religionists scold us for noticing. (I'm referring to this pity-party of a TV series posted at YouTube, not the YouTube user I've linked to.)

Waiting for the spread of moderate Islam

These reformers of Islam may be right. The intention of Mohammed, in what he said of jihad, may have been misunderstood and misrepresented. But into this question we do not desire to go. For what we are considering is, what Mohammedanism is and has been--that is, what orthodox Mohammedanism teaches concerning jihad, founding its doctrine on a certain definite interpretation of those passages in the Koran which speak of jihad. Until the newer conceptions, as to what the Koran teaches as to the duty of the believer towards non-believers, have spread further and have more generally leavened the mass of Moslem belief and opinion, it is the older and more orthodox standpoint on this question which must be regarded by non-Moslems as representing Mohammedan teaching and as guiding Mohammedan action.
-- W. R. W. Gardner, "Jihad" Moslem World #2, 1912

Yes, 1912. That is from an essay collected in Andrew Bostom's excellent The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims, 2005

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Never, Never Forget

Not ever.

UPDATE: Although, in fairness, the Adagio for Strings would lend gravitas and poignancy to a hot dog eating contest, if you set it as the soundtrack. Still...

I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds

En route to looking up something else, I happened across a creationist website, which included this picture of Eta Carinae. Eta Carinae is a nearby gigantic, unstable star, which may blow itself apart at any time. It is indeed beautiful, but I wonder if the creationist would still consider it so reverentially if he knew that one day it could irradiate Earth, perhaps lethally.

In which I exorcise that nagging whisper of cultural relativism in your ear...

If you were Iran, wouldn’t you want the Bomb? Wouldn’t you believe you needed the Bomb for self preservation? If you were Iran, wouldn't you believe that you had as much right as the Western, former colonial powers to have one, and certainly as much right as the Great Satan itself to have one?


If you were Iran, would you believe that it was necessary to impose an Islamic theocracy, fund Hezbollah terrorist kidnappings and attacks, foment civil war in a neighboring nascent democracy, and openly jubilate about the prospect of overthrowing Britain and the U. S., and destroying Israel?

Yes, you would, because you’d be Iran, and not Joe Westerner in a turban.

You're welcome. It is not one world, as Paul Harvey says.