Friday, December 29, 2006

Is God Messing with my Ipod?

I got my first Ipod (Nano, 2nd generation) for Christmas -- well, for some unidentified winter holiday (my folks didn't specify) -- and I'm a little weirded out right now.

(Sorry, somewhat lengthy) background: I'm a Jewish agnostic. I have a certain emotional tug toward belief in some sort of Involved and Caring Presence. I see no compelling intellectual justification for believing in the tenets of any religion I know of (despite the smooth and occasionally tricky arguments of C.S. Lewis).

One reason I'm not an atheist is my awareness of the dictum that you can't be angry at God without in some way believing in him. My parents are, by some definitions, Holocaust survivors (they fled just barely in time, and most of their extended families didn't make it). From the holocaust to tsunamis to horrendous diseases, I have a hard time believing in a God who is both good and anywhere remotely close to omnipotent. My own life, while not trouble-free, has been a very good one so far, and I sometimes feel, in relation to any God there might be, the way the favorite niece or granddaughter of Josef Stalin might feel. Grandpa Joe has always been loving and generous with me -- in between starving millions of peasants to death and so forth. How should I feel about Grandpa? How is it right to feel?

I must acknowledge the argument (was it Lewis who made it, or Jonathan Kellerman in Conversations with Rabbi Small?) that free will allows people to choose to do evil, and evil hurts the innocent -- that's what makes it evil. One can certainly find enough free-will choices behind the Holocaust, and various individual choices made the havoc wreaked by the 2005 tsunami worse, etc., etc. . . . I'm still not entirely won over.

So, finally, to the Ipod, which I'm playing mainly in my car (with a neat gizmo that uses the cassette tape player). I'm still learning how to use it. I accidentally turned off the volume during Tom Paxton's "Home to Me", and missed a few bars. I felt briefly wistful about it. Then I left the car and turned off the Ipod while Simon and Garfunkel's "Benedictus" was playing, and somehow messed things up so that when I got back to the car, the shuffle started over with something else. I was thinking about going home and playing "Benedictus" on the computer when the current song ended and up popped -- "Benedictus". Oy. Coincidence, or a tap on the shoulder?

A song or two later, along came -- "Home to Me". Alright, already! And the next song -- from Handel's Messiah, "I Know that My Redeemer Liveth." ALRIGHT, I GET IT!! Although, of course, I still don't know whether I do.

I have to admit that along with fear of being irrational, there is the fear of the implications of belief. . . .

The next song was Bob Dylan's "Lay Lady Lay" -- which could be interpreted theologically, I suppose, but I don't hafta.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Note to Elder Daughter

To my teenage daughter:

On those occasions when I kick myself in the butt hard enough to make myself vacuum, it would be helpful if I could actually gain access to some appreciable portion of your floor, without needing to move papers and clothes about (possibly, in the process, noticing something you'd prefer to keep private).

(No, I didn't find anything interesting -- this time....)

Puppy and Puppy

When my younger daughter was about 9 months old, and going through the trauma of being required to sleep through the night, she attached herself to a stuffed dog. With our usual minimalist approach to naming things, this toy was named "Puppy". We have since acquired a backup called "Puppy's Sister", but Puppy reigns supreme to this day. Puppy is naturally somewhat threadbare, and stuffing-bare, and generally worn -- but is still recognizable and basically whole.

Our real live dog is now well past one year old, but we still tend to call her "the puppy" and to address her as "Puppy". She used to sleep in her crate in the guest room, but when we actually had guests coming for a change, we put her in my daughter's room, where she sleeps on the bed. The other morning, when I came in to wake girl and dog, Puppy was curled up next to Puppy. They looked very sweet together.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Our assignment from God?

My husband, the Hoosier Gadfly, has an interesting take on the question of life after death. He suggested the other day that if there is a God who in some manner created homo sapiens sapiens, he might be expecting us to figure out how to become immortal. He/She/It got us started -- the rest is our job. An exercise for the student, as it were.

We might, for example, figure out feasible procedures for the electronic storage of personality and memory, in programs able to interact with each other, with the outside world, and with other data storage banks. You can see this idea explored in depth in Frederick Pohl's Heechee Rendezvous and The Annals of the Heechee.

I thought my husband should blog about this, but he hasn't been blogging much these days. He has an excuse at the moment -- the all-too-common cold.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Morning conversation

On weekday mornings, I get up just after my 15-year-old daughter, mainly to make sure she makes it out the door on time. She has to be at the bus stop down the street by around 7:05 a.m. We often have a few minutes to chat while she drinks tea, though she is not always awake enough to talk.

One morning recently, we had an exchange something like this (I'm K, daughter is L):

(L) It was pretty spooky waiting for the bus yesterday. I thought there was a swirling vortex of death behind the trees. There was a lot of movement.

(K) It was probably a deer.

(L) Would a deer make loud moaning and hissing noises?


(K, brightly) It might if it was caught in a swirling vortex of death....

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Almost healthy, and well fed

The universe is being kind to me for a bit. It's unseasonably temperate and pleasant this week, and I can sleep later on the holiday weekend, so the day is not so cold when I first take the dog out. I suspect that's why this is the first day in some weeks that I've hardly coughed at all. (Little cough.)

We had Thanksgiving at a restaurant with a buffet -- hence no leftovers from the holiday meal itself. I took several steps to avoid feeling deprived: I had turkey and dressing twice at a local cafeteria earlier this week, and I made turkey (a breast and four drumsticks in the crock pot) on Wednesday and yam casserole and stuffing today. (Well, Alissa did at least half the work on the yam casserole, though she has no interest in eating it.) Tomorrow we make pumpkin pie. So there will be lots and lots of leftovers.

Only wrinkle was, after our restaurant feast, I had very little interest in leftovers, and not much in food. I resolved to clean out the freezer and make room for some turkey, yam casserole and stuffing.... However, it's been a few hours, and I can actually contemplate eating tomorrow, and even eating leftovers.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Chicken Soup

I have been sick. Quite. If it wasn't the flu, it was close enough. The up side was that my family was driven to be helpful in unaccustomed ways. My husband, who has not willingly relinquished the era when people let their dogs roam freely, finally took the dog out for walks on a leash.

My mother of course prescribed chicken soup. We had some packaged chicken noodle soup, but the instructions looked too challenging (in that standing, reading, and keeping track of anything were all beyond me at that point). I mentioned this fact to my husband. Shortly thereafter, my 10-year-old stood before me asking me how to make chicken soup. Turned out my husband had presented the girls with a choice: either walk the dog in the rain, or make Mom some chicken soup. I told my daughter that she'd need to figure it out with her big sister's help. Paul took the dog out; I went to take a shower, while sounds reminiscent of a Three Stooges routine floated after me....

Dog, husband, kitchen, and girls all survived (as did I), and the soup was the best thing I'd eaten in days. I ate almost all of it. (The dog got the rest.)

Sunday, October 29, 2006

one of my creative daughters

I've thought of nothing to write for ages, but at least I have creative daughters. The younger one had pancakes at our usual Sunday morning restaurant, and took most of them home. On the takehome box, she wrote many rapturous slogans about waffles and how wonderful they were (including the claim "Chickens eat waffles!"). Then, in teeny-tiny print in a corner, she wrote, "This container does not contain waffles.". . .

Thursday, October 12, 2006

In other news, Mom likes the dog

I never had a pet as a kid. I wanted a dog, but my mother -- raised in rural Poland -- saw dogs as farm animals, and we didn't have a farm. In our overlapping lives up until now, I only knew her to like one dog -- a beautiful Samoyed named Lapa, belonging to a family friend.

Well, my folks visited us for the first time since we became a family-with-dog. Davida is shy -- loudly shy -- of strangers. She barked at my folks for about a day. Then she settled down, except when she'd just woken up or they turned up in pajamas, and then she'd bark again.

A couple of days before they left, my mother announced that she would miss the dog! And when Davida would beg for food, my mother would tell her, "I like you, but no."...

Amazing! (Although Davida is a pretty appealing animal, I must say.)

MLF Lullaby, redux

In the short term at least, it sounds like good news that Japan may rearm itself in response to North Korea's nuclear saber-rattling. But I keep remembering Tom Lehrer's classic "MLF Lullaby". The MLF, or multilateral force, was a US proposal during the Cold War. Submarines and warships armed with nuclear missiles would be manned by international NATO crews -- including Germans. Quoth Lehrer:

Sleep, baby, sleep, in peace may you slumber
No danger lurks, your sleep to encumber
We've got the missiles, peace to determine
And one of the fingers on the button will be German....

Once all the Germans were warlike and mean
But that couldn't happen again
We taught them a lesson in nineteen eighteen
And they've hardly bothered us since then....

(Follow the link for the full lyric.)

Friday, September 29, 2006

Disturbed and Uncertain

I was going to do a passionate denunciation of the recently passed detainee bill, but I'm now not sure that what I thought was its most outrageous aspect is actually in there. Nonetheless, there is plenty I either dislike or am queasy about. Although the question of how to interrogate suspected terrorists, and what to do with them afterwards, is not easy either conceptually or morally (or legally).

I'll post more analysis when I have time and energy, but on the subject of the statute's removing federal court habeas corpus jurisdiction and otherwise restricting federal judicial review:

--I gather the issue of when non-citizens have habeas corpus rights may be complex, or maybe I just haven't seen the right sources explaining it.

--Whatever the scope of habeas corpus, the Constitution says it can't be suspended except in cases of rebellion or invasion. Neither of which is happening. The Constitution (Article III, Section 2., second paragraph) does say that the U.S. Supreme Court has appellate jurisdiction, as to both laws and fact, over a host of matters "with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make." Lower federal courts exist only "as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish" same -- which could be read to allow that they be established with the same sorts of "Exceptions". Also, it's not entirely clear that the Founders intended the U.S. Supreme Court to have the power to declare statutes unconstitutional. HOWEVER -- now that we have hundreds of years of case law saying that the federal courts do have that power, then it seems to me we cannot read Article III, section 2. as making it perfectly OK for Congress and the Executive Branch to conspire to pass unconstitutional laws by prohibiting the courts from calling them on it.

By the way, appellate jursidiction as to fact is part of what the detainee statute explicitly purports to take away. Which leaves detainees without recourse if the military commission makes utterly unsupported findings of fact -- unless you can call that a legal issue, or unless the statute's own procedures say that factual findings must be supported. (I don't have the energy right now to read it through looking for the latter.)

UPDATE: a reasonable way to read the "exceptions and regulations" language is that Congress could, in some initial legislation, have done some fine-tuning of the Supreme Court's jurisdiction, as long as it didn't outright remove any of the broad categories of jurisdiction listed in Article III, sec. 2. That'd be quite a different kettle of fish from passing a statute later on that violated some part of the Constitution, and then tacking on a tailor-made exception to keep the Court from entertaining challenges to that statute.

Friday, September 15, 2006

My New Slogan

Here's my latest slogan, ready to put on a bumper sticker or T-shirt:

"JUST SAY NO . . . to the Caliphate."

As for what I'm talking about, see this article by Daniel Pipes of the New York Sun., or this one by James Brandon for the Christian Science Monitor.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Caveat re Constitutional Law

To clarify a slightly earlier post: I wrote (in general terms) about the significant differences between the ACLU principles I grew up with (as I then understood them, at least), and constitutional law as it has been shaped by the U.S. Supreme Court. I do not mean to say that when ACLU and USSC are in conflict, I always agree with the USSC. For example: not that anyone cares, but I do not endorse the degree to which 4th Amendment protections have been eroded during the drug war. I have also felt for many years that the right to peaceably assemble is under-protected in comparison with the rights to freedom of speech and of the press. ("Time, place and manner" regulations of an assembly are intrinsically more burdensome than "time, place and manner" regulations of primarily verbal expression.)

And I emphatically do not endorse the decades-long weakening of the fundamental principle of limited federal powers, with the concomitant drastic expansion of the scope of the Commerce Clause. I was cheering for the turn toward constitutional reality that U.S. v. Lopez seemed to herald. Raich v. Ashcroft (aka Gonzales v. Raich - ??) largely squelched that hope, and the Rapanos/Carabell cases were not much more encouraging.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Mission Statement

Here's a mission statement I'd like to see from Bush & co.:

"We are fighting those who want to establish an Islamic theocracy over most of the world. It is necessary to fight them because, even though they're religiously batshit, not all of them are technologically batshit or logistically batshit."

Friday, September 08, 2006

Bureaucrats and Secular Puritans

I'm not surprised, but I'm still ticked off -- even though it doesn't directly affect me.

The local public schools, based on what they say is state law, are telling parents not to bring home-baked goodies to school on their kids' birthdays -- because home kitchens aren't Inspected the way commercial kitchens are. And because sugar is sinful, anyway. Not their language, but that's the underlying feeling, as I read it.

We've got an unholy coming-together (damn, I know there's a word for that!) of governmental nannies and busybodies who think every human activity needs their oversight and regulation, and the contemporary secular equivalent of Puritans, who don't want people indulging in anything that's fun instead of wholesome. (Hey, guys, remember that chocolate is good for you after all!...)

And again I say DAMN! -- Americans should be able to sell or give away food from their kitchens without interference! Are we supposed to be unable to figure out that people's kitchens vary, and that there's some slight theoretical risk that a particular household is too sparing with the disinfectant? Or must we march on toward the utterly impossible goal of risk-free living?

Shopping while hungry

So this is what happens when I eat breakfast too early and go to Marsh at 10 a.m.:

--polenta (which I have eaten in restaurants once or twice and don't know how to prepare -- but the package says I can just "heat and serve"...)
--breaded chicken livers
--half a spinach quiche
--3 ounces of smoked salmon, which must be kept at 38 degrees F or lower, and I have no idea how cold my refrigerator is, except I think it's pretty cold
--half a chocolate cake (my eldest had requested this one)
--grape tomatoes, even though I had some, because the ones I had were getting wrinkly

Now I'm trying to stall eating it.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

An Echo of my Past

I'm just now getting around to posting my reactions to a Molly Ivins column from late August. She's discussing the opinion by federal district court judge Anna Diggs Taylor, holding the NSA warrantless surveillance program unconstitutional. Ivins notes that many "soi-disant" (self-styled -- I had to look it up) legal scholors are complaining that Judge Taylor's opinion was not well written. (More on that in a moment.) Her response: "Nevertheless, warrantless spying is illegal. Did it ever occur to these literary critics that Taylor has a lay-down hand? The National Security Agency program is flat unconstitutional . . . ."

Ivins doesn't appear to be troubled by even a hint of doubt about what the law is. She betrays no sign of knowing that the case involved -- and should have turned on -- several very complicated legal issues. Assuming that she's not being disingenuous, I think I know where she's coming from.

I grew up in the ACLU the way Catholics grow up Catholic. The creed I absorbed was quite straightforward. I wouldn't have stated, in so many words, that civil liberties were simple and absolute, because those terms would have suggested the possibility of limits and complexities. (Disclaimer: I'm not saying that ACLU's lawyers held or hold such views. I can't say the extent to which my parents, extremely intelligent laypeople and first generation Americans, saw the shades of gray that I didn't even imagine.)

It was a significant shock to get to law school, take constitutional law, and discover that the case law of the U.S. Supreme Court did not always uphold what I believed to be our constitutional rights. I wish I could remember more details about that encounter with cognitive dissonance. I'm not sure how Molly Ivins has protected herself against similar disorienting experiences -- but it appears she has managed it.

As for Judge Taylor's opinion: here are links to a few comments from the "soi-disant legal scholars", otherwise known as law professors whose widely read blogs regularly include technical legal commentary.

--Prof. Ann Althouse's op-ed in the New York Times;
--an August 17, 2006 post by Prof. Eugene Volokh;
--Prof. Orin Kerr's August 18, 2006 post about the opinion, the criticism of the opinion, the criticism of the criticism, and how the opinion's defenders are unwittingly echoing the arguments of President Bush's supporters.

UPDATE: see more recent post, "Caveat re Constitutional Law".

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Heads gotta roll

Call me an armchair overseas military planner, but I do believe something drastic had better happen in the Israeli military. They rested on their laurels and forgot how to be the amazingly effective fighting force that Israel still needs. Major housecleaning and redirection of energies is indicated. Someone is a lot more likely to call the next bluff, so it had better not be all bluff.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

the ones that didn't get away

I've been too sluggish and too busy (not a great combination) to blog, even though I've had a few ideas for a change, and now I can't remember all of them. So here's what I can still dredge up:

--Braces are a whole different critter than when I had them. Elder Daughter is now sporting what I'd call tooth jewelry. It's delicate, rather pretty, and directs attention away from the crookedness of the underlying teeth. What I wore certainly merited the term "metal mouth".

--It is Not Good to start five days out of seven with the bone-deep knowledge that I shouldn't have to be awake yet. This is at the top of my gripes with the school year (my kids', that is). And of course, it is a terrible idea to get my night-owl insomniac teenage daughter out of bed at 6:35 a.m. -- which leaves barely enough time for her to make the bus.

I assure you that those ideas that have gone a-glimmering were more profound. Even.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

A Moment of Peace Dearly Bought

Is there any way to look at this Israeli-Lebanon ceasefire other than, "Hezbollah wins"? Or less succinctly: "Many Israelis and even more Lebanese died so Hezbollah could win"?

I hope to G-d we didn't pressure Israel into this. That would bode extremely ill for our own future in the war against Islamist jihadism.

I can find a silver lining or two. Israel now knows, though I hope its intelligence forces already knew, how sophisticated and well-prepared Hezbollah has become. The rest of the world knows it too. That's a mixed bag, but may eventually come in handy.

And maybe there's some complex and under-the-table way that this is preparation for some move by somebody against Iran or Syria. But I ain't betting on it.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


Once a year, at least -- rarely, twice -- my daughters and I go to visit my parents and much other family in Los Angeles, CA. And every year, as our date of returning to Indiana bears down on us, I get to explain to one or both daughters just why my husband and I decided to leave Los Angeles and start our family so far away.

This year, my younger daughter's anguished questions focused on just why we didn't fully appreciate how weird and wrong it would seem to spend so little time in a place that feels so like home, full of family we love. She hasn't quite focused yet on the fact that every time we visit, it may be the last time my parents or aunts or uncles are there, or are healthy, or are able to enjoy our visit and their own lives.

I try to remember the reasons and the way we weighed them -- the way I weighed them. My husband had disliked southern CA from the moment he got there (seeking a major change of scene). I didn't see it as the best place to raise a family. Bloomington, IN sounded like it might be a better one. I'd lived away from my parents and the other L.A. relatives for much of my adult life up to that time. I was younger, all the relatives were younger, this part of our lives ws dimmer in the distance. My parents didn't have a slew of doctors they would have to live near, and we knew less about why they wouldn't be comfortable in Indiana -- not that I think we thought about that very much.

If I hadn't been willing to relocate, Paul and I might well have parted -- our bond was still tentative then. And of course, if anything -- even far less major events -- had been different, our children would have been conceived at different moments and they wouldn't be the same children....

It's still not right, even if I can't say (as if it would matter if I said) that I want the alternate never-leaving-L.A. future with all its implications.

two hands

On the one hand, it's frustrating and too bad that this last week of summer vacation, I'm too busy and too jet-lagged to enjoy sleeping late.

On the other hand, it's a good thing I have this last week to recover from jet lag before I have to resume getting up at a ridiculous hour.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Did Israel decide Iran had enough rope?

So Israel has decided to treat the latest act of war by Hezbollah as, by gum, an act in a war, and is fighting a war in return. Israel's ambassador to Washington is also talking very tough about Iran's part in Hezbollah's activities.

I wonder if this is as much about how to solve the problem of Iran-about-to-have-nukes as about Hezbollah. Perhaps Israel has been biding its time, waiting for Iran's interference in Lebanon to become blatant enough that (a) there'd be sufficient provocation to go into Lebanon and (b) attacking Iran would be a logical next step. If Iran's nuclear program wasn't sufficient casus belli, now Israel has a better one.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Meme offered -- jobs you'd be lousy at

As I was wondering what the heck I could post, since I haven't been posting often enough for anyone to keep checking my blog, I recalled occasional past thoughts of being a columnist. Clearly I don't have something to say often enough to be good at that job. Hence the meme: what jobs would you be lousy at, suck at, be promptly fired from?

--Cook. I barely and rarely cook, even after producing a daughter who claims to want to be a chef. When I do cook, it's either assisting her, or using the crockpot. I'd say I generally assemble meals rather than cook them.

--Taxi driver. I have overcome a fear of driving that haunted me through and beyond my 20's, but I still have no sense of direction to speak of. I could get people places, but I'd spend too long studying maps.

--Truck driver. I do not like driving anything big. My CR-V is at my limit.

--Teacher of masses of young children. I have insufficient patience, am not very playful (except verbally, to some extent), and have no idea how to control more than three kids at a time. (I have two.)

--Waitress. In college, when people typically brought coffee back to a tableful of people in the dining room, I could barely manage two cups. I do not have much upper body strength and couldn't balance anything tricky with one arm. I have a fairly bad memory, and I constantly forget what I left or entered a room for. The diners would lynch me before my first shift ended.

--Anything that requires a lot of physical strength/lifting ability.

--Con artist. I'm a lousy liar and dislike trying to lie.

Anyone else want to play?...

Friday, June 23, 2006

There shouldn't be a way to get there from here

OK, here is how the National Academy of Sciences summarizes its recent report on global temperature over the centuries:

"There is sufficient evidence from tree rings, retreating glaciers, and other "proxies" to say with confidence that the last few decades of the 20th century were warmer than any comparable period in the last 400 years, according to a new National Research Council report. There is less confidence in reconstructions of surface temperatures from 1600 back to A.D. 900, and very little confidence in findings on average temperatures before then."

And here's how the Associated Press summarizes the same report:

"It has been 2,000 years and possibly much longer since the Earth has run such a fever.
The National Academy of Sciences, reaching that conclusion in a broad review of scientific work requested by Congress . . . ."

Scuse me?? !

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Not only in biology

I gather there has been some recent support for the hypothesis that too clean an environment is bad for children's development. If kids don't have bacteria and dirt to exercise their growing immune systems, those systems don't, in effect, learn what they're supposed to be doing, and instead go apeshit about the wrong stimuli. Result, the ongoing increase in allergies and asthma.

Is it too cute to draw a parallel between this problem and the effect of our overall societal obsession with safety? If people don't grow up in an environment with a certain baseline level of risk, if they don't learn how to handle some risk as a matter of course, what may be the permanent distortions in their social and political development, and what sort of society will they produce?...

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

the Dixie Chicks are dissing me

I was not particularly hot and bothered about the infamous Dixie Chicks remark (something like "we're embarrassed the President is from Texas") -- although I didn't think much of their (well, her -- the lead singer's, I guess) judgment in making this crack to an audience outside the U.S. I don't know whether it was more self-expression or pandering to an anti-Bush audience. Certainly, some of the reported reaction was way out of line. (Boycott, sure, if you feel like that. Death threats, go lock yourself up.) But I think I am by now fed up with the angry smugness and offhand condescension that has been showing up in their interviews. They seem to be making a point of telling country music listeners that the Chicks are too smart and cool and progressive to want their patronage.

So why is their new album -- consistently reviewed as not really country in sound -- going to debut as #1 on some country music chart(s)?? Do that many listeners miss their music that much??

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Publicity is not always the obvious answer

So. We have personal data on millions of veterans in a laptop computer. It's stolen in a routine burglary. The chance that either the thief or the fence knows they have a gold mine of data: pretty small. Eventually, some user may stumble on this data. Chance that this user, this purchaser of a hot laptop, will have the know-how and mindset for massive identity theft, or for marketing the personal data: hard to determine.

If I had to decide whether to alert millions of veterans, giving them a chance to protect themselves but greatly increasing the chance that some bad guy would know what s/he was sitting on -- it wouldn't be an easy call, and I probably wouldn't make it overnight.

So maybe we should cut the VA some slack on this one.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Open Bed, Insert Child

My daughter liked that description of how quickly I would put her to bed if I allowed her to stay up and watch a late-evening television show on a school night. (Her usual bedtime ritual is a good deal more prolonged.)

Saturday, May 06, 2006

About that wolf

I consider it simplistic and inaccurate to label Bush's actions re Iraqi WMD as "crying wolf". However, even accepting that formulation for the sake of argument, and considering the threat posed by Iran in that light, there is a fairly important aspect of the original fable that people should keep in mind:

The last time, when the villagers didn't come running, a real wolf showed up.

And the flock Bush is guarding is us.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Nice Jewish dog

It turns out our dog is well situated in our more-or-less-Jewish household. We had our seder the other night, and the dog loves both gefilte fish and matzoh ball soup.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

slightly sheepish about Daylight Savings Time

I was adamantly and loudly opposed to Indiana's going on Daylight Savings Time -- especially if we were to remain in the Eastern time zone, where we don't really belong. I made a point of asking whether perhaps Gov. Mitch Daniels' mother should have said more often, "I don't care what all your friends are doing. If your friends were jumping off a cliff . . . ."

So I feel compelled to report that I am enjoying having light so late in the evening. Taking the puppy outside at 8 p.m. and not needing a flashlight is pretty neat.

I am still indignant on behalf of the schoolkids walking to, and standing at, school bus stops in darkness or near-dark. But I must acknowledge that I'm getting something good out of the change.

Bambi and Hitlerjunge Quex

I was pondering the anti-human undercurrent in many environmentalists' world view, and wondering where it comes from. What leads people to view their own group as the enemy? One answer is: propaganda. Bambi is perhaps the clearest, but far from the only story anthropomorphizing animals and omitting any humanity from the human portrait.

I happen to know from family history that this sort of storytelling can have the effect I speak of. My father grew up a Jew in Nazi Germany (in Berlin). At age 12 or 13, he, like all Berlin's schoolchildren his age, were taken to see the Nazi propaganda movie Hitlerjunge Quex. This was the story of a young German boy with Communist parents, martyred because of his loyalty to Hitler and National Socialism. My father found himself profoundly moved by the film, identifying with the boy, and -- briefly -- hating those villianous Jews....

My husband, the Hoosier Gadfly, notes that religions preaching self-abnegation have had an appeal for centuries, with Medieval Christianity an important example.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Are Harvard and Stanford as bad as Yale?

I've read a few news stories and blog posts about Yale's welcome of the former Taliban spokesman (the context definitely does NOT suggest the word "spokesperson"), Rahmatullah Hashemi, as a student. The common theme of the (few) responses from both students and the administration is moral relativism. As Penraker points out, the Yale community is more than ready to be morally intolerant of various domestic figures and positions, but where a foreigner is concerned, perish the thought.

I was a Stanford undergrad and went to Harvard Law School. (I don't usually admit the latter straight out -- for some reason I usually adopt the customary circumlocution that I went to law school "back East" -- but my point precludes adhering to that silliness here.) I wonder whether either Stanford or Harvard has a less appalling political/moral environment than that to which Yale has descended.

Fed up with yet another aspect of Islam

OK, this is f---ing ridiculous. Afghanistan, post-"liberation", is getting ready to try and quite possibly execute someone for the capital crime of converting from Islam to Christianity. What kind of religion depends on death threats to keep its adherents? What the hell is this kind of judicial set-up doing in a country with any connection to the modern world? Where are the protests from "moderate" Muslim leaders worldwide? (Maybe I just haven't heard about them yet. Any bets?) And are we, the U.S., going to apply any diplomatic muscle to get this guy sprung?

robberies and filibusters

I've noticed that in many robberies of banks, stores, etc., there's no weapon displayed -- and the news reports don't indicate that any was even mentioned. It appears to be common these days to hand someone a note saying "This is a robbery", and immediately get cash handed over. I understand that the rob-ees don't want to ask "Well, are you armed?" and get a fatal, nonverbal reply. I believe that most employers tell their employees to be very cooperative with robbers to reduce the chance of violence. Reasonable as those attitudes may be, they still feel somehow odd to me. I'm reminded of filibusters. Back when, a filibuster was work. You had to actually stand up and pontificate for hours on end. Now, a senator essentially hands the Senate a note saying "This is a filibuster", and the Senate rolls over and gives up the intended legislation. In both circumstances, neither the victim's powers of resistance nor the determination of the perpetrator are tested. Am I being an old crank to sense a whiff of decadence?

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Any good enough translation software yet?

I haven't kept up on translation software -- but if there are any programs that're more than halfway decent, for translating Arabic to English (or to any other widely read language), let's give 'em a crack at the newly available trove of Saddam documents! (They are in Arabic, aren't they?)

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Guantanamo and marijuana policy

I wish I could believe that anytime soon, the U.S. government would acknowledge that a number of the prisoners at Guantanamo don't need to be held, and release them. I strongly suspect that is so -- not necessarily of a majority of those held, but of some not-trivial percentage. However, any such acknowledgement would be an implicit admission of having overreacted, cast too wide a net, skipped a crucial weeding-out step (to mix my agricultural metaphors). Admitting that a government policy was a goof doesn't come naturally to governments. Continuing a misguided and counterproductive policy to avoid such an admission comes far more easily. Hence we still have not only a drug war, but an active war against possession, growth and sale of marijuana. When the DEA admits that marijuana should be taxed and sold in liquor stores and served in tea shops, I'll hope for a thorough and accurate review of detentions at Guantanamo.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

pet euthanasia and capital punishment

Is there any doubt that the injections used to put sick dogs and cats to "sleep" are essentially painless? If so, a lot of pet owners would want to know it. If not, would that be a simpler approach than the multi-stage "lethal injection" for condemned humans, now the subject of several court cases?

Related question: why do states insist that lethal injections be administered by the one group -- medical professionals -- whose code of ethics prohibits doing harm? I suppose it'd be impractical to have "executioner" as a non-medical technical career -- there wouldn't be enough work to keep anyone fully employed. One hopes.

Meme: pet names for pets

I'm sure we're not the only family that gives pet names to pets. Our dog is "Sweet doggy-dog" to one, "Puppalicious creature" to another.... Anyone care to confess to any such?

Monday, February 20, 2006

Jihadists and Greens -- room for temporary alliance?

My husband, the Hoosier Gadfly, now and then comments that environmental extremists are the greater enemy, but that it appears we'll have to deal with Islamic jihadists first. It occurred to me this morning that there is some possibility we'll at some point be dealing with them simultaneously. If bin Laden and Saddam Hussein could contemplate some mutual assistance, despite fundamental differences in their world views, then mightn't these two groups, both of whom are deeply suspicious of scientific and technological progress (though willing to use same for their own purposes), both of whom are nostalgic for eras several centuries past, find ways to help each other out in the short term?

I am more worried than I used to be about the worldwide vigor of an Islam that wishes not to tolerate various democratic freedoms. The chance that environmental extremists will try to tap that energy or benefit from it in some way may not be huge, but it exists.

Climb in and stay a while

This morning my husband and I and younger daughter had the day off, and my older daughter did not. And it was very cold out. So in addition to getting up and making sure she made it out the door to the school bus, I drove her there and waited until the bus came. (This is harder to do when I have to get ready to take daughter #2 to school.) Then I came home and got back into bed, and spent some time contemplating beds, sleep, sleeping positions, expensive mattresses we don't have that may be very comfortable, etc. One thing that occurred to me is that most of the pleasure of getting into bed (leaving out any sexual possibilities) comes from knowing you'll be allowed to stay there for a while. It's an anticipatory pleasure. Having a young child or (as in our case) puppy in the household makes the prospect of staying in bed somewhat iffy.

Monday, February 06, 2006

OK, Mr. Hewitt

Hugh Hewitt asks bloggers who are discussing the cartoon controversy to answer the questions: "Are we at war with Islam? Do you want a war with Islam?" He goes on, "My answers and the answers of any sensible person ought to be 'no,' and 'no.' "

It may be almost that simple, but not quite. We are not at war with Islam in general in anything like the sense that we are at war with radical Islamic jihadism. But if Islam, in some monolithic general way, requires an end to any political commentary that could offend religious sensibilities, then it seems we are or should be at war with that demand. Using the term "at war" in this context is unnecessarily inflammatory -- unless it turns out that the Islamic world as a whole takes this demand seriously enough to condone and organize violence in support of it. I hope and so far believe that this is not the case. But let us stay tuned.

Iranian nukes, space shuttles, and the Cold War

An article in some MSM today, I forget which, indicated that many people are shrugging their shoulders and saying that well, the Iranians will get nukes sooner or later. They're counting on the roomier estimates of when, and hoping that something lucky happens by then to change the Iranian leadership or its intentions.

This is a continuation of Cold War thinking. It's a "well, we've lived with nukes this long..." approach. The difference is that it's hard to deter people who think that glorious destruction of self and populace is a good second best to glorious victory, with either outcome highly acceptable to Allah. It also reminds me of the thinking that contributed to both space shuttle disasters. Each time, those dealing with the shuttle got used to seeing certain anomalies. They weren't per spec, they weren't supposed to happen, but they kept happening and the shuttle kept making it home. Rather than blessing their good luck while feverishly trying to solve the problem before next launch, they redefined what was acceptable to include the anomalies -- since, after all, they hadn't caused any problems so far. (I'm oversimplifying, but it's that or never get it written.) (And no readers will explode as a consequence, at least not literally.)

Wake-Up Calls

The latest eruption of militant Islamic intolerance, this time over the cartoons featuring Mohammed, has served as a much-needed wake-up call to many in Europe. I won't exactly say "Ain't it great?" about intimidation and arson, but the impact these events have had, and the refusal of many European media to roll over submissively, is a nice silver lining, to say the least. Of course, not everyone wakes to a wake-up call; some just mutter a rejection of unpleasant reality and keep sleeping.

I was ready to blast the State Department for failing to defend and explain freedom of speech, but it does seem that the higher-ranking spokesfolk did do some of that, and that the reporting here at home re State Department statements has been (once again) misleading. See this post at the Volokh Conspiracy, and the discussion currently at the top of the Media archive page at Right Wing Nuthouse, entitled "More Lazy Reporting from the Media". However, as Instapundit noted, "this was not a time for nuance." Or at least not for confusion and internal contradiction. One can acknowledge that some might be offended, and still not suggested that the world would be better if everyone trod too carefully to cause such offense.

After I'd already drafted some of this post, my husband, the Hoosier Gadfly, sent me the link to this article at RealClear Politics, which semi-scoops my conceit of a wake-up call. So I'm being fair and linking to it....

Friday, February 03, 2006

T-shirts are one way to petition government

I more or less detest Cindy Sheehan, despite the magnitude of her loss, but it was outrageous of the Capitol cops to disturb her, let alone arrest her, because she wore a T-shirt with a political message. It was delightful karmic retribution that the same force then had to figure out what to do about a T-shirt with a less disagreeable political message, worn by the wife of (so I read) an influential member of Congress.

Note to everyone connected in any way with any branch of government or law enforcement: the First Amendment specifically protects "the right of the people . . . to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." If a law enforcement officer has occasion to shout "Protester!" when spotting a political T-shirt, it should be in respectful recognition of a citizen exercising this basic right -- saying "Right on!", if you will.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

If Bush is happy...

In his recent Kansas appearance, and some other recent appearances and speeches, President Bush has seemed to be in a good mood. I can't imagine he'd be in a good mood if he had given up on defanging Iran, and was going to let the international muddlers handle it or fail to do so. So maybe we will be invading Iran, after all....

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Warmongering, or What I Sent the President about Iran

Well, this post on the Belmont Club scared the hell out of me, just by summing up what I more or less knew so well -- so despite the insignificance of such drop-in-the-bucket actions, I sent the following email to the White House.


Dear Mr. President:

I write urging you, in the strongest terms, to take whatever military action is necessary to stop Iran from becoming the first – but hardly the last – Islamic jihadist nuclear power.

Invading Iraq was good long-term strategy. Invading Iran – and it will take full-scale invasion – is far more critical. Once Iran has nuclear weapons, other Islamic regimes and terrorist organizations will follow. We will have a far more dangerous situation than the Cold War, because these religious fanatics will not all, always, be deterred by the possibility of nuclear retaliation.

God helps those that help themselves. If we sit back and allow the Islamic jihadist movement to acquire nuclear weapons, what will prevent them from pursuing and quite possibly realizing their dreams of a resurgent Islamic theocratic empire in Europe and beyond? The survival of Western democracy, and of the United States, is not inevitable – but it is still achievable.

If you have a destiny, if you are President at this time for a reason, that destiny and that reason is to stop the Islamic jihadists from becoming a nuclear juggernaut. And time is short. Nor will half measures suffice. This is the most important battle – no, war – for this country since World War II at least. If we do not use all the force necessary, even if that is every soldier and bit of armament we can spare, we will only reduce our strength without reducing the threat.

I hope that this email is unnecessary, and that you have been preparing for just such action as I am urging. God be with you as you steer our course.


Karen A. Wyle


I'm not as religious as this message suggests, but the President is, and I can get into that mindset with not too much imaginative stretching.

Monday, January 02, 2006

All Right, My Horizons Have Expanded

The Dog has led me places I might not otherwise have gone. Like our back yard. It's more of a back forest, and for the last (blush) 16 years or so, since we moved here, I've avoided climbing around in it. Which is how I thought of it. Within a couple of weeks of our acquiring Davida, she led me back there, and I found that it was not actually intimidating. One can walk around in the fairly sparse forest, and it's not all steep and thorn-filled (though parts are).

Today, in celebration of finding some lost toys, my 9-year-old headed back there as we took the dog out for fresh air. It has been delightfully and unseasonably warm, all the way up to the upper 60's, which feels like due payback for winter coming several weeks early. Anyway, we headed down the slope toward the creek at the boundary of our property, which my daughter didn't even know was there. Davida and I went most of the way; Daughter made it all the way, triumphantly stuck a finger in the water, leaned against a tree and contemplated her achievement in happy satisfaction. Thanks, dog.