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Monday, June 26, 2006
I Think I See The Problem Here

"If we double the size and cut the mileage in half, sales are sure to increase!"

It was a kind of watershed when it happened: the Toyota Camry recently became the best-selling passenger car in America. Toyota now seems certain to pass the Big 3 and become the largest automotive producer on Earth.

It is a remarkable reversal of fortune and a symbol of America's continuing decline as a manufacturing power. It's no secret that Toyota is taking over the American car market because of their ability to produce a very reliable, fairly economical and passably stylish car for a good price. It's something American companies once did better than anyone else.

The decline, of course, began in the 1970s, when Detroit insisted on building homely, unreliable gas-guzzlers even after the public made it clear that they didn't want them anymore.

After many years of struggling against the tide (and after a government bailout of Chrysler), American companies began doing better. One success story has been the Chrysler PT Cruiser, a relatively stylish and economical vehicle which has sold more than a million models since it debuted eight years ago. But Chrysler, unable to resist the lure of the thanatos, knows just how to improve the product:

Part of the Cruisers character is its small size. It's built on a modified form of the now defunct Dodge Neon's small car platform.

But Chrysler might opt to make the new PT Cruiser substantially larger, according to the reports. That might mean sharing its underlying structure with the redesigned Chrysler Sebring, Klegon told WardsAuto.com.

That would provide the possibility of offering a V-6 engine, Chrysler Chief Operating Officer Eric Ridenour told Automotive News. That would answer critics' complaints that the PT Cruiser, particularly with its base engine, is too slow.

A larger PT Cruiser with a V-6 engine would also fit better into the Chrysler brand's renewed focus as a luxury marque, said Mike Jackson of the auto marketing consultancy CSM Automotive.

"They can move it upmarket a little bit," he said.

So once again the geniuses at Chrysler think they know better than the consumer. But I suspect the next time Chrysler needs a government bailout -- and that might be sooner than you think -- they're going to find a frostier reception in Congress than the one they got in 1979.

Friday, June 23, 2006
Come Back, Little Nemo!

The elusive Nemo prepares to post once again on The Lost City.

I hear it all the time from other Lost Citizens: where's Nemo been?

The city founder has been on a sabbatical of some sort, but he claims that he's just about to post a lengthy missive on economics or history or public policy. It never seems to appear.

I often speculate that Nemo is in Tibet, learning the power to cloud men's minds so they can't see him. I say that because it is what I wish I was doing.

However, I have it on good authority that Nemo is still in town and that he is not hiding out in his house, Howard Hughes style. He is not shuffling around naked with overgrown fingernails and he is not storing his urine in milk bottles. He apparently walks the streets, goes to his job, and even has conversations with other people.

You may remember that Nemo vanished from the blogosphere shortly after installing the fabled Sempron chip in his computer, so perhaps that has something to do with it.

The Sempron chip, you will remember, has such a dazzling clock speed that no other computer can keep up with it, so perhaps Nemo has become like Rod Taylor in The Time Machine -- he's been thrown ahead into some future version of the Internet, fighting off virtual Morlocks somewhere.

I have also heard that Nemo still uses The Lost City as his home page. If that's true Nemo, good afternoon! Where you been? We'll keep the light on for you.

Thursday, June 22, 2006
Whitewash At National Review
As the reauthorization of the 1965 Voting Rights Act stalls in Congress, the National Review is making loud, defensive braying sounds. They insist they're not against reauthorization of the bill per se; but are only against certain "controversial" aspects of the bill, such as the possibility of enforcing it.

Sensing that the magazine is skating on thin ice, given its history, NR's John Fonte penned an interesting bit of revisionist history:

In examining the crucial civil-rights issues of the 1960s we should: (1) revisit the role Republicans (and particularly conservative Republicans) played in the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, and (2) reexamine the original intent of the bill itself. Contrary to popular amnesia, it was the congressional Republicans, not the Democrats, who were most responsible for this great victory for equal civil rights for all Americans.

This is thoroughly misleading, and Fonte knows it. His rhetorical sleight-of-hand requires that his reader knows little or nothing of the civil rights movement and how it fractured the Democratic party, or how the Republican's "Southern Strategy" of the 1960s led to their eventual majority in Congress.

Today "Democrat" and "Republican" are understood to be the liberal party and the conservative party on social issues respectively, and they are; but in the mid-twentieth century both parties had liberal and convervative wings. The Democratic coalition was made up of northern liberals and southern conservatives; the Republicans counted many northeastern liberals -- the "Rockefeller Republicans" so despised by the Taft / Goldwater wing -- in their ranks. Both parties were coalitions and as such, they tended to govern as moderates; there was a great deal of continuity between the Truman and Eisenhower administrations, and between the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations. Similarly, while civil rights legislation was passed with bipartisan majorities, they revealed a sharp distinction between congressional liberals and conservatives of both parties

The civil rights movement changed that. The 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act -- championed and signed by a Democratic president -- alienated southern conservatives, breaking the Democratic coalition. The Republicans eagerly courted the South and many of the old Dixiecrats -- including George Wallace and Strom Thurmond -- eventually switched their allegiance to the Republican party. Meanwhile, the Republican liberals were sidelined, or pushed out of the party altogether.

But Fonte's charade is necessary in order to prop up his implication that conservatives supported the original 1965 Voting Rights Act. They did not. The National Review itself bitterly opposed it, grinding out editorial after editorial predicting the end of the Constitution itself if it was passed. James Jason Kilpatrick, for instance, wrote this in April 20, 1965 issue of National Review:

No reasonable man would deny that in times past, the South has sinned against the Negro; here and there, in times present, the abuse continues....to this indicment, the South can enter but one honest plea -- guilty, with extenuating circumstances. Over most of this century, the great bulk of southern Negroes have been genuinely unqualified for the franchise. They emerged illiterate from slavery; they remained for generations, metaphorically, under the age of twenty-one. To this day, such is the apathetic state of rural politics in the South, the problem is not merely that registars deny, but that Negroes seldom ask. The evidence would show this....

Throughout most of this period, whatever social and economic and political values have been created in the "Black Belt" counties through the machinery of local government, the white property owner has created them. In those rural counties where white families have been outnumbered three and four to one by Negroes, it has been the white leadership that has kept the machinery going -- paid the taxes, provided the capital, met the bills. To have yielded political control of these functions to a mass of relatively uneducated Negro voters, easily led, unequipped for public administration, would have meant total disintegration of the whole establishment

The title of the article, by the way, was "Must We Destroy The Constition In Order To Give The Negro The Right To Vote?"

I'm assuming it was a rhetorical question.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Pragerian Analysis
Most times I read the kind of garbage guys like Dennis Prager routinely spew, and I just shrug. Prager's rhetoric is of the World Nut Daily school, a sort of alternate universe of public discourse, in which Ann Coulter is regarded as a thoughtful moderate.

But sometimes I wonder if Prager buys into it himself. He clearly wants to convince others -- the nutters and the cranks who pay to read this nonsense -- that what he is saying is true. But how could he (a man who presumably wears shoes and socks) believe it?

For example, here's Dennis explaining why liberals are concerned with global warming, while conservatives are not:

People who don't confront the greatest evils will confront far lesser ones. Most humans know the world is morally disordered -- and socially conscious humans therefore try to fight what they deem to be most responsible for that disorder. The Right tends to fight human evil such as communism and Islamic totalitarianism. The Left avoids confronting such evils and concentrates its attention instead on socioeconomic inequality, environmental problems and capitalism. Global warming meets all three of these criteria of evil. By burning fossil fuels, rich countries pollute more, the environment is being despoiled and big business increases its profits.

-- The Left is far more likely to revere, even worship, nature. A threat to the environment is regarded by many on the Left as a threat to what is most sacred to them, and therefore deemed to be the greatest threat humanity faces. The cover of Vanity Fair's recent "Special Green Issue" declared: "A Graver Threat Than Terrorism: Global Warming." Conservatives, more concerned with human evil, hold the very opposite view: Islamic terror is a far graver threat than global warming.

-- Leftists tend to fear dying more. That is one reason they are more exercised about our waging war against evil than about the evils committed by those we fight. The number of Iraqis and others Saddam Hussein murdered troubles the Left considerably less than even the remote possibility than they may one day die of global warming (or secondhand smoke).

Now, I understand that this is just red meat designed to whip up the base, but come on. The left is "more likely" to "worship" nature? Care to provide any evidence for that? How about for the assertion that liberals "fear dying" more than conservatives? Or the assertion that conservatives are more concerned with "human evils" like Islamic terrorism or Communism (Prager tellingly omits Nazism from his list of "human evils" that conservatives are willing to stand against). Don't ignorance and short-sightedness -- which have caused most ecological disasters in history -- count as "human evils"?

And the revisionist history shouldn't surprise us either. In Prager's essay, conservatives supposedly don't worry about global warming because they're too busy fighting the manly fight against Islamic radicals (well, they're not. Someone else is. You know what I mean). Fighting global warming, he implies, is a luxury we can't afford in the post-9/11 world.

But of course, conservatives didn't care about global warming in the pre-9/11 world either.

Now, I've often wondered at conservative's innate hostility toward science, not to mention the planet we live on. And perhaps I can take a stab at Pragerian analysis in order to explain it.

1. Conservatives don't believe global warming is a problem because the Apocalypse should be along any time now, therefore any efforts to save the earth are either futile, or will delay the second coming;

2. Conservatives only feel threatened by things that can be bombed to rubble from a safe distance away, preferably by someone else;

3. Conservatives believe that "human evils" can only be things other people can do to us, never things that we can do to ourselves;

4. Conservatives care only about themselves, and not about their children, who will be dead soon enough anyway (see #1).

See? Pragerian analysis is easier than I thought.

I'll Stop Feeding On The Rancid, Festering Carcass Of The Blogosphere When It's No Longer Fun, Part 2
Very good article in the New Republic (via Andrew) that takes on the techno-libertarian assumptions of many bloggers, particularly Glenn Reynolds.

Reynolds, who wrote the gee-whiz polemic Army of Davids, sees the blogosphere as eventually supplanting the dinosaurs of mainstream media. Technology, Reynolds argues, allows for any individual to own his own printing press, and as a result a libertarian "we-dia" will emerge to topple the elites who control the flow of information and opinion.

But the TNR article tags Reynolds -- and by extension most bloggers -- as being nearly content-free:

Reynolds's blog consists largely of links to news or opinion articles and other blogs followed by comments consisting of such profound observations as "Heh," or "Read the whole thing," or "Indeed." (These are recurring tropes whose centrality can't be exaggerated.) What Reynolds lacks in analysis, he makes up for in abundance of content. On any given day, he'll provide his readers nearly 20 entries--or, if you can stomach it, more....Reynolds's terse, almost meaningless commentary may make him the reductio ad absurdum of the blogosphere's worst tendencies. But these tendencies happen to be its ubiquitous ones.

Heh. Indeed.

Read the whole thing.

Friday, June 16, 2006
Indulging Your Inner Ape

I have pinpointed the fabled Brink of Madness.

In the movie business, it's been an article of faith for years that theatrical release is just an advertisement for the DVD release. Studio profits have been fat for DVD sales, and discs are routinely crammed with commentaries and deleted scenes designed to make the product more attractive to the fans.

But the salad days of DVD sales may be over. Sales have been flat for a couple of years now, and studios are trying every stunt they can think of to get potential buyers to part with their money.

The most outrageous stunt of DVD packaging is -- without question -- Fox's unbelievable Planet of the Apes Ultimate DVD box set.

It's not just a box set. No, no, no. It's the 800-pound gorilla of unnecessary DVD extras. It's a staggering, mind-bending act of simian madness.

Why do I say that? Behold, human! Just look at what you get when you buy this $175.00 set.

-- The original 5 Planet of the Apes films -- Planet of the Apes, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Escape From the Planet of the Apes, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, and Battle For the Planet of the Apes, with commentary by Composer Jerry Goldsmith and Commentary by Actors Roddy Mc Dowell, Natalie Trundy, Kim Hunter, make-up artist John Chambers and text commentary by Eric Greene, Author of Planet of the Apes as American Myth;

-- The entire Planet of the Apes television series, which ran on CBS from 1974-1975;

-- The entire Planet of the Apes animated television series;

-- The 2-hour documentary Behind the Planet of the Apes;

--Behind the Planet of the Apes Promo (1998)

-- Planet of the Apes Makeup Test with Edward G. Robinson (1966)

-- Roddy McDowall Home Movies (20 minutes)

-- Planet of the Apes Dailies and Outtakes (no audio)

-- Planet of the Apes 1967 National Association of Theater Owners (N.A.T.O.) Presentation

-- Planet of the Apes Featurette (1968)

-- A Look Behind the Planet of the Apes (1972)

-- Don Taylor Directs Escape from the Planet of the Apes

-- J. Lee Thompson Directs Conquest of the Planet of the Apes

-- Publicity: Original Theatrical Trailers, Planet of the Apes Teaser Trailer, Planet of the Apes Trailer, Beneath the Planet of the Apes Trailer, Escape from the Planet of the Apes Trailer, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes Trailer, Battle for the Planet of the Apes Trailer

-- Film Reviews: (1968) 34 stills

-- Theatrical Posters: 7 static images with 28 seconds audio

-- Galleries: Original Sketches by Costume Designer Morton Haack 9 stills with 36 second audio & Photo Gallery 17 stills

But wait! There's more!

You also get the 2001 Tim Burton version of Planet of the Apes, along with:

--commentary by Tim Burton, Danny Elfman, Tom Rothman, Richard Zanuck, & cast/crew bios.

-- 23 featurettes, 6 documentaries - "Apes School", "Make-Up Testing", "Costume Testing", "Shooting on Location", "Scoring the Film" and " Ape Movement";

--8 interactive multi-angle sequences that "Put you in the Director's Chair"

--4 quadangle/4 way audio split vignettes of make-up testing

--Apes reactive testing, costume testing, Apes movement/stunt testing;

--5 extended scenes

--HBO "The Making of" Special

--TV spots, trailers and a music video.

A music video?

Yes, a music video.

But that's not all! You also get a plastic bust of Caesar the Ape, who helpfully stores the entire 14-disc set while fixing you with his baleful, accusatory stare.

Who would want that?

Well, okay -- me. But what normal person would want it?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006
The Evitable Conflict
Cliff May of the National Review is apparently one of those gutsy masters of reality we've been hearing about for the last few years. He fixes his gaze upon steely reality and -- rrrrrrrk!-- it bends and flexes to the power of his will!

Don't believe me? Check out this bit of revisionist history:

[Bush] asked CIA director George Tenet whether Saddam had a stockpile of WMDs. Tenet said it was a “slam dunk.” On that basis, Bush told his generals to topple the dictator.

Perhaps Bush would have made a different decision if Tenet had replied: “Nah, Saddam deep-sixed that stuff years ago, “ or “Our sources say he shipped the load of it to Syria” or even “Uh, well ... geez … search me, boss!”

We can’t go back and change any of that. The reality is that for the last few years the most lethal al-Qaeda force has been in Iraq, attempting to thwart U.S. goals and take over the country or at least establish a new base there.

Oh, just imagine the scene, brethren. Bush calls George Tenet into a meeting during the runup to the Iraq war. Bush no doubt had a pet name for Tenet. I'm not sure what it was....probably something like "Spooky".

Bush: Spooky, what's going on with this WMD thing? The last thing I want to do is drag America into an unnecessary war. So think carefully. Take your time. Based on the intelligence you're seeing, does Saddam have 'em?

Tenet: Mr. President, our intelligence is murky and outdated. I really can't say.

Bush: I can't send our soldiers into harm's way based on that. The invasion's off.

Pure undiluted, USDA-approved horseshit.

The President has dragged this country into a ruinously expensive Middle East quagmire. He went out of his way to do so. You can't fob it off as bad staff work. The only reason Bush asked Tenet the question is because he knew Tenet would give him the answer he wanted to hear. That's how Bush operates, and that's why this country is in the mess it's in.

I understand that we can't change the past. But we can learn from the past. The question about how we got into this mess isn't just some pointless academic exercise. We shouldn't sweep the matter under the rug. And we shouldn't let this administration's apologists do it either.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006
A Strange Dream
Last night I dreamed that Saddam Hussein had been released from prison and had been appointed the new Iraqi energy minister. This was done, the TV commentator said, in order to placate the Sunni factions in a bid to stop sectarian violence. But it was also clear from the TV report that Saddam would soon be back running the country; it was only a matter of time.

So vivid was the dream that I had to check cnn.com this morning, just to make sure it hadn't happened. Luckily it hadn't.

Speaking Of Eating Crow....
This morning Karl Rove's lawyer announced that there will be no indictment. This apparently is right from the horse's mouth. Sorry Kossacks, no Fitzmas.

The hissing sound you hear in the background is Jason Leopold evaporating.

Monday, June 12, 2006
Crow For Everybody
I often disagree with John Derbyshire, but I must admit that the guy has integrity.

Unlike the rest of the jokers at National Review, Derb is willing to cook up a tasty crow now and then and eat it:

Since the Iraq war was obviously a gross blunder, is it time for those of us who cheered on the war to offer some kind of apology? Here we are—we, the United States—in our fourth year of occupying that sinkhole, and it looks pretty much like the third year, or the second. Will the eighth year of our occupation, or our twelfth, look any better? I know people who will say yes, but I no longer know any who will say it with real conviction. It’s a tough thing, to admit you were wrong. It’s way tough if you’re a big-name pundit with a reputation to preserve. For those of us down at the bottom of the pundit pecking order, the stakes aren’t so high. I, at any rate, am willing to eat some crow and say: I wish I had never given any support to this fool war.

I am spared major embarrassment not only by the slightness of my own reputation, as by the fact that while I supported the invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of the regime, I never thought much of the nation-building exercise that followed. It took me a while to figure out that the administration actually believed all the guff about “establishing democracy in the Middle East,” but once it had sunk in, and the party enthusiasms of the 2004 election season had subsided, I was calling for withdrawal. (The first time I gave over a column to it was, I think, in mid-September of 2004.) I wish I had done so earlier. And, yes, I’ll admit, I wish I hadn’t supported the invasion in the first place.

Keep in mind that Derb still thinks the invasion was the right thing to do. Like many wingers, he liked the idea of bad-ass America reaching out its mighty fist and smiting lesser countries that looked at us funny.

This is a sort of barroom theory of American foreign policy, with America as the big muscle-bound guy in a wifebeater and steel-toed boots. America struts around the barroom, looking for an excuse. All the other guys in the bar are weaklings who are afraid to look us in the eye. What'd you say? You talkin' to me, Iraq? You want a piece of me? Huh? Well do ya, punk? It's a power fantasy, a worldview that many wingers find enormously satisfying.

Derb rejects the hoary old you-break-it-you-buy-it axiom. He thinks that if you simply walk out of the bar after the fight's over, there won't be any consequences.

But sooner or later, one way or another, there will be consequences.

But setting that aside, I really do respect Derb for speaking up when it would have been easier to remain silent.

Suppose all the winger predictions about Iraq had come true -- suppose the Iraqis had thrown flower petals at the feet of our troops, and borne them on their shoulders, and re-named streets and towns after George W. Bush; suppose that democracy flourished and Bush gave a stirring address before a jubilant and grateful Iraqi parliament on the third anniversary of the U.S. invasion.

Given those circumstances, would I have been able to do what Derb did? Would I be able to admit, however galling and humiliating it was to say, that I had been wrong?

Sunday, June 11, 2006
Another False Dawn?
After the news broke Thursday that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had been killed in a U.S. airstrike, I was interested to see if Dear Leader was going to climb into a flightsuit and go for another "Mission Accomplished" speech. So far it hasn't happened. I guess the previous false dawns in the war have chastened this bunch a bit. Hard to believe, but it seems to have happened.

You will remember that when Saddam's sons were killed, the administration voiced confidence that the few "dead-enders" who were causing trouble would now lay down their arms. It didn't happen. Similarly, when Saddam himself was captured, the wingers crowed that now that we had The Most Evil Man In The World behind bars, the Iraqi people would now be free to throw flower petals at the feet of our troops. That didn't happen either. Each election in Iraq, and each symbolic handover of power, was also supposed to quell the violence once and for all. But reality -- that stubborn and inconvenient thing -- kept getting in the way.

The truth is, this war has had more turning points than a square dance. After Zarqawi's death was announced, we heard more pronouncements from the wingnut hordes that this news -- to use the phrase endlessly shouted from telescreens in Orwell's 1984 -- "may well bring the war within measurable distance of its end". But on Sunday alone it was reported that more than 40 people were killed in sectarian violence. I suppose this just proves the insurgency is in its last throes.

I had been hoping that the news would bring Nemo back into the fray, but it hasn't happened. Nemo, of course, has forgotten more about Zarqawi that I'll ever know, and I keep hoping he will resurface here in the Lost City.

No sign yet. I will continue my vigil for him. And hope that you will too.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006
The Unkindest Cut Of All
Poor Ramesh Ponnoru can't get a break.

He publishes a Regnery anti-abortion screed called The Party of Death, and the mainstream media ignores it. They don't even bother reviewing it; they can't get past the title. Eventually the Wall Street Journal publishes a review; they pan it. Then NR colleague John Derbyshire publishes a review. Even Derb pans it. Ramesh publishes a rather petulant rebuttal, and the rest of the NR staff leaps to the Party of Death's defense. But I'm sure it still stings.

For the record, I often disagree with Derbyshire, but I regard him as the only full-blooded libertarian on the NR staff. The guy is intellectually honest, unlike Ponnoru and Goldberg and the rest of the Usual Gang of Idiots over there.

It's clear that NR regards Derbyshire's review as an act of treason to "the movement", but early in the review Derb worked hard to find nice things to say about the book. The problem was, there weren't that many nice things to say.

The cruelest cuts come at the end of the review:

Who, actually, is the Party of Death? Here I see a woman who, having missed her period and found herself pregnant, has an abortion, comes home, downs a stiff drink, and gets on with her life. With her life. Here I meet a man whose loved wife has gone, never to return, yet her personless body still twitches and grunts randomly on its plastic sheet, defying years of care and therapy. Let her go, everyone begs him, and his own conscience cries; and at last he does, whichever way the law will permit. Here I find a couple who want a lively, healthy child, but who know their genes carry dark possibilities of a lifetime’s misery and an early death. They permit multiple embryos to be created, select the one free from the dread traits, and give over the rest to the use of science, or authorize their destruction.

The RTL-ers would tell me that these people, and the medical professionals who help them, are all moral criminals, who have destroyed human lives. They support their belief with careful definitions, precise chains of reasoning, and—I do not doubt it—sincere intentions. Yet how inhuman they seem! What a frigid and pitiless dogma they preach!—one that would take from the living, without any regard to what the living have to say about it, to give to those whom common intuition regards as nonliving; that would criminalize acts of compassion, and that would strip away such little personal autonomy as is left to us after the attentions of the IRS, Big Medicine, the litigation rackets, and the myriad government bureaucracies that regulate our lives and peer into our private affairs.

At least Derbyshire understands the difficult choices people face in the real world, and has compassion for them; the "frigid and pitiless dogma" of the right-to-lifers is rightly criticized; and he asks that most important of questions -- aren't the people who are forced to make these choices doing so under painful circumstances? Are they not deserving of compassion, don't their thoughts and feelings count in this?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006
Now, Let Us Each Take A Moment To Pray For Ann Coulter
I was brought up to believe that God is just, and that sooner or later he will punish the wicked. That's why I'm worried about Ann Coulter.

She has a new book out today, called Godless: The Church of Liberalism. Today is the book's official launch date (06/06/06, get it?)

Townhall.com has helpfully published the book's first chapter. It's all you really need to see. I have to say, Ann seems to have broken a new land speed record -- in lies-per-second, if nothing else:

Liberal doctrines are less scientifically provable than the story of Noah’s ark, but their belief system is taught as fact in government schools, while the Biblical belief system is banned from government schools by law. As a matter of faith, liberals believe: Darwinism is a fact, people are born gay, child-molesters can be rehabilitated, recycling is a virtue, and chastity is not. If people are born gay, why hasn’t Darwinism weeded out people who don’t reproduce? (For that, we need a theory of survival of the most fabulous.) And if gays can’t change, why do liberals think child-molesters can? Pedophilia is a sexual preference. If they’re born that way, instead of rehabilitation, how about keeping them locked up? Why must children be taught that recycling is the only answer? Why aren’t we teaching children “safe littering”?

Is the theory of evolution less scientifically provable than Noah's ark? No. Do schools teach that child molesters can be rehabilitated? No, and no liberals that I know of believe such a thing. Why doesn't natural selection "weed out" gays? Read a textbook on evolutionary biology sometime, Ann, and find out. I can't speak to the liberal take on "safe littering". I feel confident in saying, however, that it's a phrase that doesn't appear anywhere in the Bible.

Liberalism is a comprehensive belief system denying the Christian belief in man’s immortal soul. Their religion holds that there is nothing sacred about human consciousness. It’s just an accident no more significant than our possession of opposable thumbs. They deny what we know about ourselves: that we are moral beings in God’s image. Without this fundamental understanding of man’s place in the world, we risk being lured into misguided pursuits, including bestiality, slavery, and PETA membership. Liberals swoon in pagan admiration of Mother Earth, mystified and overawed by her power. They deny the Biblical idea of dominion and progress, the most ringing affirmation of which is the United States of America. Although they are Druids, liberals masquerade as rationalists, adopting a sneering tone of scientific sophistication, which is a little like being condescended to by a tarot card reader.
Let me ask you a question: would a "moral being in God's image" write a paragraph like the one Ann just wrote? Does Ann think that's the way Christians behave?

It seems clear that to her, Christianity is just a means to an end, an exclusionary, us-versus-them bludgeon that is cynically used to divide people and to sell books. Jesus told us to love our enemies, and to pray for those who persecute us. I guess that means we should love Ann too, and pray for her.

Jesus never said it would be easy, you know.

Red Rain

A closeup of the Kerala "cells". They have unusually thick walls, contain small amounts of aluminum, and can reproduce at temperatures up to 300 degrees centigrade.(Source: CCAB, Cardiff University)

In late July and early August of 2001, a strange red rain fell on the Indian state of Kerala. A biologist named Godfrey Louis collected some of the rainwater and examined it under a microscope. What he saw astonished him.

The rainwater was teeming with small red, thick-walled cells a few microns across. They reproduced prodigiously, even when subjected to tremendous heat, but contained aluminum and seemed to lack nuclei. In fact, the cells seemed to lack DNA altogether.

Louis knew that the rains began shortly after people had witnessed a meteor fall nearby. He began to suspect that the microorganisms swimming on his microscope slide were extraterrestrial in origin.

The cells are still being examined, but should Louis' hypothesis be borne out, the implications would be staggering. All life as we know it has DNA. If these organisms don't have it, then Louis might have stumbled on to something so alien it would make prokaryotes look like a sweet and familiar member of the family. These organisms might introduce us to a whole new method of genetic coding.

It would also provide a lot of evidence to support the panspermia hypothesis, which I have never found particularly plausible. It's always seemed to me -- purely from an Occam's Razor point of view -- that our planet had plenty of time and plenty of material to create life on its own; an interstellar deux ex machina isn't necessary.

Panspermia was also an idea championed by the always entertaining but somewhat nutty Fred Hoyle. You're usually safe in assuming the late Dr. Hoyle was always wrong. But just as you can't always be right, you can't always be wrong either.

Monday, June 05, 2006
Newt! Newt! Newt!
The geniuses over at Powerline bragged about live-blogging at the Minnesota GOP state convention last week. But somehow they neglected to mention this:

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who engineered the Republican takeover of Congress a dozen years ago, got a boost Friday from Minnesota conservatives who want him to run for president in 2008.

Gingrich was the top vote-getter in a straw poll of GOP activists at the state party convention. But the vote is at best a limited reflection of Republican sentiment in the state. The ranks of the 1,275 delegates had thinned down considerably by the time the poll was taken, and only 540 valid votes were cast.

That was about 10 hours into the second day of the convention, hours after the day's marquee event: the endorsement of Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

Several conservatives pushed for Gingrich, circulating a letter saying he could block moderates such as Arizona Sen. John McCain and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani from getting the party's support.

"If either were elected president, the principles and policies we support would fade into the woodwork," said the letter, signed by former gubernatorial candidate Brian Sullivan, former state party Chairman Chris Georgacas, Taxpayers League of Minnesota President David Strom and others.

Granted, this was just a straw poll, and it happened late in the convention. But it's an indicator that the winger base of the party won't stand for anyone who isn't crazy. Technically, Gingrich isn't running, but I suspect he would like to be drafted. And it seems clear that an extreme conservative will emerge as the anti-McCain or the anti-Giuliani -- probably Allen or Romney, but just possibly Gingrich.

We live in hope.

Thursday, June 01, 2006
Balderdash! Poppycock! Yawn! Next!
It's interesting that the big brains at the National Review spend so much time praising Martin Luther King. Jonah Goldberg did it the other day at The Corner. I wanted to reach through my computer screen and bitch-slap the guy.

Here's how it started: Goldberg wrote an NR column praising the Goldwater "extremism in the defense of liberty" speech, and talking about the value of -- well, extremism, I guess. I'm fine with that. Knock yourself out, Jonah.

But a reader reminded Goldberg that a possible inspiration for that line was Martin Luther King, who wrote about the necessity of extremism in his "Letter From a Birmingham Jail". This caused some consternation from readers, and in reply Goldberg posted this:

I didn't mean to say that I thought the above reader was right that Goldwater got the "extremism" quote from MLK. I know that Harry Jaffa is credited with penning it and that it's an invocation of Cicero and that Karl Hess wrote the rest of the speech. I merely meant that I like the quote from MLK and wish I had incorporated it as a point in the column.

That burned me. I see red whenever these jokers at NR says anything laudatory about Martin Luther King. They go out of their way to do so because they know their shoddy history on this topic. So I sent a nasty email to Goldberg (which, by the way, I never do:)

"I like the quote from MLK and wish I had incorporated it as a point in the column."

Nice try. Actually, the National Review's stance on MLK is well-documented -- this, for instance, is from the September 1965 issue...

"For years now, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and his associates have been deliberately undermining the foundations of internal order in this country. With their rabble-rousing demagoguery, they have been cracking the ‘cake of custom’ that holds us together. With their doctrine of ‘civil disobedience’ they have been teaching hundreds of thousands of Negroes … that it is perfectly all right to break the law and defy constituted authority if you are a Negro-with-a-grievance… . And they have done more than talk. They have on occasion after occasion, in almost every part of the country, called out their mobs on the streets, promoted ‘school strikes’ sit-ins, lie-ins, in explicit violation of the law and in explicit violation of the public authority. They have taught anarchy and chaos by word and deed."

It could have been written by the White Citizen's Council. But then, I guess it was, wasn't it?

Well, not the snappiest thing I've ever written, but I was angry, as I said. I really just wanted to badger and annoy Jonah Goldberg. And apparently I succeeded, because he sent this reply:

Yawn. I see. Even though I've never written a word along those lines about MLK or civil rights, and despite the fact not sould at NR agrees with that stuff anymore, I must be lying because people who are almost all dead or gone from the magazine wrote that four years before I was born. I guess everyone at the New Republic are stalinists and eugenicists then?

I'd say nice try back at you, but it wasn't even that. It was stupid.

I love how these NR guys -- particularly Goldberg -- start off so many rebuttals with "Yawn". "Yawn"? Be honest now: isn't that a little childish, Jonah? I don't think Buckley would have allowed any of his "Firing Line" guests to get away with that one.

Equally amusing is Goldberg's insistence that NR's writings on civil rights issues are now lost in the mists of history, as if Buckley and his minions had not been recently feted at the White House on the occasion of NR's 50th anniversary. It was in 1956, after all, that Buckley climbed atop history and shouted "Stop!" -- and the civil rights movement was one of the things he was talking about.

NR hasn't been around quite as long as the Atlantic or The Spectator. The truth is, National Review has a rather short intellectual pedigree. NR is the Alpha and the Omega of the modern "conservative movement". The only reason the NR writers aren't bashing King today is because it's no longer politically expedient for them to do so. Now they want to make him shill posthumously for their crackpot political philosophy.

It's wrong. And these bastards shouldn't be allowed to get away with it.

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