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[Archive]

:: Friday, February 28, 2003 ::

I think I'm safe. I did Google searches on both "fundamentalist agnostic" and "fundie agnostic" and nothing of importance turned up.
:: Twistre 11:20 PM [+] ::
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Yes, I've changed my title. Two things have happened in the past few hours:

1. Someone who had an AntiPundit blog before me contacted me and asked me to change. Fair enough. The more I roll it around in my brain, the more I'm getting to like the expression "fundamentalist agnostic."

2. Glenn "AntiPundit" Reynolds LINKED TO ME. We'll see what that does to my traffic. Thanks, Mr. Reynolds - but as far as I'm concerned, the AntiPundit name you liked is someone else's property now.
:: Twistre 6:17 PM [+] ::
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:: Thursday, February 27, 2003 ::
Even though I often disagree with his politics and his opinions, I am happy to say that I remain a devoted reader of Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds. And, one thing that is coloring my perceptions of those bloggers who are Democratic-leaning (do the words "left" and "right" mean anything nowadays?) is the method they use to criticise him. He's demonstrated fairly well that accusing him of "McCarthyism" is nothing more than name-calling - and that it contributes nothing more to reasoned debate than, say, spewing the word "liberal" like it's a racial slur. Yet so many partisan Democratic bloggers quite happily use him as a target for insults that aren't even well thought-out - they just consist of political-hindbrain slurs like "McCarthyite."

One reason why I'm very happy to have found Oliver Willis is that Willis obviously respects Reynolds, and can disagree with him without descending into meaningless name-calling.

What I find extremely amusing is the fact that, if it weren't for (a) the possible war with Iraq, and (b) Reynold's opinion on gun control, there would be little reason for even the most partisan Democratic bloggers to oppose Reynolds. I concede that this is an almost meaningless sentence, but Reynolds is really not all that Republican.
:: Twistre 6:14 PM [+] ::
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This current article on Slate links to a four-year-old article that makes for some mighty interesting reading, if only for the similarity of rhetoric. It will have to be up to you and your own judgement, to figure whether it's the current crop of hawks or doves who look stupider in light of the fact that the GOP was saying much the same things in 1999 that the anti-war crowd happens to be saying now.
:: Twistre 5:18 AM [+] ::
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:: Sunday, February 23, 2003 ::
Am I too optimistic?

The President of the United States shows remarkably little respect for our intelligence. Am I too optimistic when I disagree with those people who think there's some kind of cognitive deficit at work inside his head?

The Vice President and the Attorney General have the unfortunate tendency to sound like the bad guys in a badly written Libertarian tract. Am I too optimistic to think that, personal political differences between them and me aside, they're genuinely trying to keep the country and its people safe, but they just happen to be rather tone-deaf to how their own words sound?

The occasional protestor at anti-war marches gives the definite impression of being more on the side of Saddam Hussein than America as a country. Am I too optimistic that this impression is created entirely by people who wish to shock, secure in the knowledge that their way of life isn't going anywhere soon, and is not a symptom of a wider rot among what is often called the Left?

The occasional reaction to large anti-war protests is that the protestors in general are anti-American, wish to see Saddam remain in power, don't want to support our troops, etc. Am I too optimistic that all this is just more political name-calling that we've all seen before, and isn't a symptom of increasing polarization in American society?
:: Twistre 5:50 AM [+] ::
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Fascinating Washington Post Outlook article on the probable future direction of the Democratic presidential nomination politics. And I will most likely be intently following the whole thing from here in Korea, even as I'm getting more and more jaded with American domestic politics. It's just junk food for my brain. I love it.
:: Twistre 5:21 AM [+] ::
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:: Saturday, February 22, 2003 ::
I can easily see why many people dislike Andrew Sullivan; the man annoys the hell out of me rather often. But sometimes it's useful to keep around an intelligent gay man who has no tolerance for sexual bigots, of the male or female persuasion. Witness his reaction to some of the quotes coming out of the Great Harvard Snow-Penis Scandal of 2003. Especially interesting is the repugnant Harvard Crimson letter he linked to. Let me list some of my own reactions to the views expressed therein:

1. Penises do not commit rape; brains commit rape. Regardless of what pop-culture witticisms may have led you to believe, penises do not have minds of their own.

2. I hope this does not come as a shock to anyone, but my body features a penis as an integral part. This penis is usually flaccid, but it has the capability to become erect (may it never lose this capability, knock on wood). I fail to see how, if my penis were erect, it would constitute an implied threat. If my erect penis is an implied threat, does this mean that I am a threatening figure of "male dominance?" Although (again) pop culture may have led you astray on this point, when a battle of wills commences between a male brain and an attached erect male penis, the brain always wins. Sexual assault is the product of a diseased mind, not an overly willful penis. Thus, if my erect penis is an implied threat, then I am a potential rapist and should treated accordingly. (Note: Granted, I may have the physical ability to rape a woman with my erect penis. I also have the physical ability to push people in front of subway cars, torture small animals, commit arson, and write bad checks. I do not actually recall doing any of these things in my lifetime, though.)

3. Logically following from #2, the letter writer is assuming that every man walking around with a penis capable of an erection is a possible rapist and is threatening. It is at this point that the burden of proof shifts to the letter writer, to explain why the word "bigot" should not be used to describe her.

4. Last year on the George Washington University campus, a rather large paper-mache vagina made an appearance. It made the cover of the school paper, although I forget exactly what the special occasion was that prompted its creation. Although it did not particularly interest me, I don't recall being the slightest bit offended or threatened by it.

That's about it. I especially like the quote, "The unwanted image of an erect penis is an implied threat; it means that we, as women, must be subject to erect penises whether we like it or not." Ugh yech yech. You don't imply that a part of my body that I can't help but have is "threatening" and should be forever hidden, even in snow-sculpture form, without making me actively angry. I pride myself on not becoming offended easily, and I wouldn't be offended if I thought that the letter writer was a member of a loony minority. But I suspect there are a lot of women who will advocate the same views - who will without remorse denigrate the male body, and make it a thing of derision.

SLIGHT DIGRESSION ALERT. And I suspect the letter-writer would call herself a "feminist" - proof in my eyes that the word has evolved far beyond (and far below) its original meaning. I once saw a female chauvinist declare that "feminism," by which she meant her own bigoted views, was the belief that women were human beings. What a disgusting bit of linguistic trickery. In other words, to believe that women are human beings is to believe that women are better than men. Now, for all I know, the letter writer wouldn't try to pull such a semantic bait-and-switch (thus the DIGRESSION ALERT) but what she wrote came awfully close to it.

Sorry if this has been somewhat of a rambling angry diatribe, but I believe very strongly that (a) I am a person, and (b) my female friends are people. And every person is a prisoner of their bodies, and every person should be proud of and happy with their bodies (this is why I support the idea of nudism in principle, though I don't think I'll actually practice it anytime soon). And my body is not something I should be ashamed of, and my female friends' bodies are not something they should be ashamed of.

And yes, I acknowledge that the letter writer wrote that she had once been the victim of a sexual assault of an undetermined nature. A white supremacist who was mugged by a black person is still a white supremacist.
:: Twistre 1:27 AM [+] ::
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:: Friday, February 21, 2003 ::
Heheheheheh.
:: Twistre 10:27 PM [+] ::
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Go read Oliver Willis. Like Andrew Sullivan and Glenn Reynolds, he's smarter than I am. Unlike Sullivan or Reynolds, his opinions are not far removed from mine.

And he's funny.
:: Twistre 10:24 PM [+] ::
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:: Thursday, February 20, 2003 ::
When an army was sent to punish Ke . . . the whole Empire said, "This is not coveting the Empire but avenging common men and common women."

. . .

In eleven expeditions [Tang] became matchless in the Empire. When he marched on the east, the western barbarians complained, and when he marched on the south, the northern barbarians complained. They all said, "Why does he not come to us first?" The people longed for his coming as they longed for rain in time of severe drought. Those who were going to market did not stop; those who were weeding went on weeding. He punished the rulers and comforted the people, like a fall of timely rain, and the people rejoiced greatly.


-Mencius, about 300 B.C.

Yes, I'm bringing this up in relation to the prospect of punishing the ruler in Baghdad. The more hawkish among you already see where this is going, no doubt, and are amazed at my tunnel vision. "You're going to point out that, among the fall off Allied bombs, those who are going to market and weeding won't be able to go on as usual. But you're forgetting that the nature of war has changed totally since ancient times; there are as a matter of necessity no more noncombatants in combat zones. We can't take out Saddam without taking innocent lives. War is hell. Deal with it."

But the thing is, Imaginary Sparring Partner Who Lives Only In My Head, pro-war commentators have been painting this possible conflict for weeks as a great liberation for the Iraqi people. They say to such an extent that the Iraqi people will be better off after Saddam's overthrow, that they take to claiming that anti-war protestors are anti-Iraqi people. (This, coming from commentators who would never dare call protestors anti-American or pro-Saddam.) They want to cast Bush as the Tang figure, but if he devastates the Iraqi infrastructure and kills civilians he won't be.

Incidentally, although I managed to snip it completely out, the main point of Mencius' anecdote is that the people of other nations held Tang in high esteem because he practiced good kingly government. Admitted, we don't live in the black-and-white world Mencius inhabited, and there is little Bush could do to have him liked by the common people (the "street") everywhere. But you have to wonder if he's handling that aspect of rule quite as well as he plausibly could.
:: Twistre 8:12 PM [+] ::
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:: Wednesday, February 19, 2003 ::
Statement of Views:

Is homosexuality unnatural? Yes.

Bear in mind, though, that to come to this country, I had to strap myself in a huge contraption that hurtled through the air at hundreds of miles per hour, whipping through the atmosphere at a tremendous height, while I stayed safe inside am artificially controlled environment.

Also, I'm wearing clothes at the moment.

Am I pro-life or pro-choice? Yes.

I think every human being has a right to be protected from harm. And the government of a modern State is to provide that, if and when the human being is too weak or helpless to protect itself. Obviously when it comes to abortion the question is, at what point is a human being a human being?

I'm not convinced that birth is the answer. But I'm not convinced conception is either - all you've got for the first few weeks is really a bundle of genetic material (this is the cue for witty wags to pipe up and say, "All a human being IS is genetic material!"), and I don't think that a predetermined genetic code is what determines when a being can be said to have rights. And yet, any other boundary line would seem to be even more arbitrary.

Standing uneasily alongside my belief that every human being deserves to be protected from harm, is my belief that every human being has a right to say what goes on in his/her own body. Period. Man, woman, neuter being, anyone. Our bodies are our prisions, and are ALL WE HAVE. So how do I reconcile my two beliefs?

Simple. I donate money to artificial womb research. Once we start growing babies in pods, there will be no more debate over abortion. Is there any other way?

What do I think of capital punishment? Remember what I said about human beings needing to be protected from harm? Deep down, I think that the modern, secular, impersonal State should not be allowed to strap down a helpless, however guilty person, and strip him/her of life.

And I'm very lucky to have the luxury of such a viewpoint. I have never lost a friend or relative to violence. I've always been the uninvolved bystander. So take what I say with a grain of salt.

I have to give kudos to the anti-death penalty movement, though, for their inspired choice of Free Mumia! as their slogan. As a fictional character, Mumia is the perfect symbol. Since he's not a real person, he doesn't have the messy baggage, the details, that are unconnected to the main issue but would confuse the case. And the man he supposedly killed, being a fictional character as well, likewise comes with no baggage that would only confuse the issue. Good Job!

How about gun control? Gun control is a wonderful idea if we can only make sure that there are NO GUNS, ANYWHERE. Of course, remove that assumption and we begin to run into problems. It's kinda like pacifism: pacifism is a wonderful philosophy, just as long as EVERYBODY IN THE WORLD IS A PACIFIST TOO.

Should the U.S. attack Iraq? I'm not going to pretend I know more than I actually know.

Should the U.S. attack Canada? Absolutely. If American armies aren't laying waste to Ottawa by summer, it will be the final proof needed that Western Civilization is on a rapid decline.
:: Twistre 6:19 PM [+] ::
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:: Monday, February 17, 2003 ::
I strongly suspect (feel free to replace "suspect" with "hope") that what the Bush administration most wants in Iraq is not a war - what they want is to squeeze the egg so hard it breaks. That is, frightening the Iraqi government to provoke a coup d'etat that puts a more accomodating faction in power.

That's all I can think of when I read the rumors of the heavy bombing campaign that the military is apparently planning, to kick off a war. Link: Shock and Awe. I can only hope this is to scare the living daylights out of any Iraqis in charge - though, to voice a more reassuring thought, if this were an actual plan, would we really know of its existence? (The frequency with which the media has been breathlessly informing us of what logically ought to be top-secret plans is, I think, insulting to our intelligence.)

If, indeed, we launch a massive attack on Iraq that kills a huge number of civilians, I hope at least the pundits who have said this war will benefit the Iraqi people will publicly reconsider their previous views. Else, I may have a hard time taking these same people seriously again.
:: Twistre 8:43 PM [+] ::
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I must remember to read Oliver Willis more often. He may actually fit my need of a Democratic-leaning political blogger who isn't an annoying irritant who talks sense only by chance. (Not that I would ever name names.)
:: Twistre 8:28 PM [+] ::
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:: Saturday, February 15, 2003 ::
Andrew Sullivan, Instapundit, and Little Green Footballs are all convinced that this dude is historically illiterate.

Maybe it's just my own upbringing, saturated with and fascinated by history, but I find that hard to believe. "Peace in our time" is a quote associated with great powers coddling the vicious little dictator because they either want to kick their problems down the road a few years, or they think the vicious little dictator will be pacified with a lollypop. I mean, even friggin' Babylon 5 knew that. And maybe I'm only burying my head in the sand while the sea of stupidity flows around me unnoticed, but I can't see how this dude could dredge up the quote without knowing where it came from and what connotations it has.

But then, if this guy was being ironic or sarcastic, what exactly was he doing in the middle of a demonstration? And if he was mocking the surrounding crowd, did they not notice? Maybe I really am overestimating the historical literacy of the human race.
:: Twistre 6:50 PM [+] ::
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Michael Waltzer on the American Left. I've never read Dissent, but the Brunchma boards pointed me towards this article. I found myself nodding my head "yes, yes, YES!" while reading it. Although I hadn't thought out the specifics quite as well, this piece largely confirmed, for me, what had been in my head.

As much as I insist that I don't understand what the "Left" and the "Right" are, I have to admit that, while the "Right" still eludes me, I'm beginning to see what people talk about when they speak of the American "Left." I don't know if this means I'm thinking with more mental clarity, or less.
:: Twistre 5:09 PM [+] ::
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:: Wednesday, February 12, 2003 ::
I'm not usually a big fan of Derf (his generic people have got to be some of the ugliest creatures ever seen in human artwork) but this is pretty damn funny. Found via Instapundit.

POSTSCRIPT: Twenty minutes after posting this, I stumbled across this. Figures.
:: Twistre 7:37 PM [+] ::
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:: Tuesday, February 11, 2003 ::
There are a couple of Republican-leaning columnists and prominent bloggers I read regularly (Andrew Sullivan, Jonah Goldberg, and although Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds isn't really Republican-leaning, in the current political climate he might as well be), but rather few Democratic-leaning columnists even though I suspect that I lean towards the Democrats myself. (Politics is such a vague and nebulous thing, that I don't know how to go about becoming a staunch and dedicated Democrat or Republican. To me, it would involve pretending to believe a lot of things I don't really believe.)

I'm not sure if I find the Democratic-leaning pundits uninteresting, unconvincing, or something else; in any event, there is no commentator on that side of the political divide that I find drawn to. Fortunately, there exist in this world online bulletin boards where extremely bright people with quite different views from those mentioned above come to congregate. The Brunching Shuttlecocks board is one of the most random boards on the Web. On its political forum, people much brighter than I am debate the issues with a unanimous away-from-the-GOP bent. I'm not entirely happy with the solidly Democratic-leaning board demographics (the one guy who claims to support Bush is obviously a troll, although I'm still unsure exactly what manner of troll he is), but there is enough of a diversity of views that some pretty interesting discussions can coalesce.

For some antidotes to right-leaning pundits, read this thread, this thread, and this thread (especially beginning on Page 3).
:: Twistre 7:21 PM [+] ::
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:: Monday, February 10, 2003 ::
Mickey Kaus has this to say about John Kerry:

They called [me] irresponsible for pointing out Sen. John Kerry's gross characterological deficiencies before Kerry had a chance to display them on the campaign trail. But it didn't take long! It's been barely two months since Kerry declared for president, and he's already 1) zig-zagged opportunistically on the Iraq war issue and 2) zig-zagged opportunistically on the dividend taxation issue.

I'm intrigued. Did I read that right, or is Kaus calling Kerry a politician?
:: Twistre 9:19 PM [+] ::
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:: Wednesday, February 05, 2003 ::
I've come to the conclusion that those people who point out that disasters which kill more than 7 people get far less attention than either the Challenger or Columbia disasters did, raise interesting points but aren't seeing quite the same "big picture" that others see. The body count isn't really the issue here. The 1993 World Trade Center bombing only killed a small number of people, for instance, but it was huge news because it did much to shatter America's sense of being encased in an indestructable shell. (Afterwards, unfortunately, the sense of invisible protection grew back.)

The feeling has been explained by others far better than I ever could. I feel, though, that it's one of people strapping themselves inside a gigantic deathtrap for the cause of human exploration and knowledge - and not coming back. I suspect it is more good luck than bad luck, that in 112 (is that the figure? something like that) flights, we've had two total catastrophes. I doubt that over a decade of fatality-free American space exploration fooled some of the crew members into believing their safe return was guaranteed. To put it bluntly, we admire their guts.

Space programs, be they American, Russian, or Chinese, give us a similar sense of expansion and pioneering as the naval explorations of several centuries ago gave the Europeans. Only difference is, this time there are no indigineous cultures to destroy. I can't see huge numbers of people living on the moon or Mars in the next couple of decades - we could probably colonize Antarctica or the bottom of the ocean more easily. And maybe the shuttle is an obsolete vehicle that ought to be retired. Maybe most of what astronauts do should be left to machines. Most, of what they do. If anyone should argue that money spent on the space program could be spent better here on Earth, I would counter by asking if that person seriously believes the money would be spent better here.
:: Twistre 7:33 PM [+] ::
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:: Saturday, February 01, 2003 ::
[angry parody]

President Bush, a Republican, has consoled the nation on live TV following the tragic deaths of 7 astronauts on the space shuttle Columbia. Similarly, it was President Reagan, a Republican, who consoled the nation after the deaths of 7 astronauts on the space shuttle Challenger. We get 12 years of Republican presidents - and a shuttle blows up. 8 years of Democratic presidents - and nothing happens. The first two years of a Republican president are barely over - and good-bye Columbia. Why isn't the GOP being asked some tough questions? Huh? Sick bastards! Those poor astronauts? What does the GOP have against Israelis, anyway?!?!?!

[/angry parody]

Sorry - just had to get the above paragraph out of my system. "A Modest Proposal" it ain't, but my nerves are shot after becoming maybe the last American anywhere to read of this horrible disaster. If I read one more jackass smugly implying that this wasn't an accident, without any supporting evidence or logic or anything, I am going to scream.

Sorry.
:: Twistre 6:10 PM [+] ::
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