Friday, January 31, 2003

Liberals Against Wind Power

We all know that liberals like Ted Kennedy, RFK Jr., and Walter Cronkite are against oil and coal, not to mention nuclear, electric power production. These men side with organizations like Greenpeace against the big, bad, conservative oil companies, and take every opportunity to support so-called renewable energy. Why, then, are they against Greenpeace's latest cause celebre, a wind farm in Nantucket Sound? NIMBY!

Yes, they want renewable energy, but not in their own back yard. You see, they have paid a fortune for their palaces on Nantucket Island, and don't want their precious view marred by windmills. This looks like an April fools joke, but it is all too real. Walter Cronkite I can understand, since he is a private citizen. But the Kennedys? They are public servants, after all, and quite a bit of their demonization of the right is centered on air pollution and oil politics. But when they are asked to sacrifice something for the cause, even just a part of the view from their summer house beach, they can't show the courage of their convictions.

I can't wait to see how long it takes the media to take up this story. Hypocrisy, thy name is Kennedy.

Thursday, January 30, 2003

Bug Chasers Update

The "Bug Chasers" story reported in Rolling Stone magazine and mentioned in this space about a week ago has. predictably, caused quite a brouhaha in certain circles. Of course the gays have mobilized to deny the story. They have such a bug in their bonnet that some have even taken the time to repeatedly email little old me for a retraction. After some consideration, I felt that the subject had to be revisited.

Jann Wenner, publisher of Rolling Stone, and himself openly gay, and Gregory Freeman, writer of the story, both stand by the story. Other sources have attacked only the number of cases of theis bizarre behavior. No responsible source I could find refutes the fact that there are some gay men who seek out infection by the virus. Only the numbers, which were quopted as either 10,000 cases per year, or 25% of all cases, have been disputed. The larger phenomenon of gay men who don't take any precautions to avoid infection is also not disputed. In fact, one of the most popular bloggers has been outed, by gays, of course, as an HIV positive man who sought out "bareback" sex himself, and he is one of those in the forefront of denying the "Bug Chaser" story.

Once more the Emperor is seen to be without raiment. The obvious truth is that gay men participate in behavior that the rest of this society sees as bizarre, and that breaks some of our strongest taboos, every day. No doubt there are other behaviors that some gay men participate in that we would also find strange. But there is no disputing the fact that some gay men willfully pursue the virus, others fly so close to the flame that they defy the virus, others are in denial about the mere existence of the virus, and some claim that the virus itself is harmless. What amazes me is the degree to which some people are willing to go to deny these obvious truths. I have some gay friends, and most of them are willing to just mind their business in sexual matters. I am a straight man, and I don't make an issue of how, where, why, and with whom I have sex, or even if I ever indulge in the sex act at all. But there are some people who make quite an issue of their, and other's, sexuality. I say: it's a free country, and we are free to say and believe whatever we like. And to my new correspondents: don't expect any more of a "retraction" than that.

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Bush Hits Home Run

The speech has been delivered, and the results are in. At least three quarters of the American people agree with the commander in chief that war is warranted to deal with the madman in Baghdad. The one quarter that is still against him now are the looney left: Kennedy and Daschle, and assorted others from the looney right: isolationists and Ostrich Anarchists. Even Hillary Clinton stands with the President.

May God have mercy on our enemies. We won't.

Sunday, January 26, 2003

Public Deployments on CNN

If an enemy of the USA, or anyone with the curiosity to know about it, for that matter, wants to know about the deployments of United States forces in the Persian Gulf region, needs only to click on this link. I dunno if this gives aid and comfort to the enemy, or is calculated to have the opposite effect, but it seems to me that this is way more information than any member of the public has a need to know. While I find the info interesting, and am in favor of transparency in how our government operates, I really wonder if this is necessary.

As with much that is going on in this country since 9/11, we seem to be having many more "grin and bear it" moments lately. I guess that all good Americans must have confidence that our government is sudenly imbued with an aura of efficiency, and that everyone involved has our best interests in mind. or maybe something really wrong is going on here. Pick one....

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Bug Chasers

According to the latest Rolling Stone Magazine, which hit my mailbox this morning, many Homosexual men actually seek out HIV infection. Amazingly, these men believe that the infection that is linked to Acquired Immune Deficiency Disease, or AIDS, and which used to be called GRID, or Gay Related Immune Disorder, is more of a secret club or a red badge of courage than a medical scourge. It is one thing for some to be accused of being HIV positive and seeking "bareback" sex, as a famous blogger has been accused of doing, but it must be taken in a different light when one realizes that the "recipient," or "bottom" is a more than willing partner. There is, as reported in Rolling Stone,
an intricate underground world that has sprouted, driven almost completely by the internet, in which men who want to be infected with HIV get together with those who are willing to infect them. The men who want the virus are called "bug chasers," and the men who freely give the virus to them are called "gift givers." While the rest of the world fights the AIDS epidemic and most people fear HIV infection, this subculture celebrates the virus and eroticizes it. HIV infected semen is treated like liquid gold.... The virus isn't horrible and fearsome, it is beautiful and sexy.... In this world, the men with HIV are the most desired, and the bug chasers will do anything to get the virus - to "get knocked up," to be "bred" or "initiated into the brotherhood."
Pretty amazing stuff. Aside from their assertion that the internet is a necessary part of this abberation (I guess that the editors at Rolling Stone never heard of the personal ads) the rest of the article seems to be well researched. I know that the gays have become a protected victim class and can't be criticized, but this is over the top. The cost to society is tremendous. This is not just some behavior between consenting adults. I wonder what Andy will have to say about this one?

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Frog Boiling Continues...

United Nations weapons inspectors have found a dossier in a scientist's home in Baghdad that proves that Saddam Hussein has continued to pursue the creation of nuclear weapons. As the article says:
In their eagerness to get into the scientists' homes, some of the inspectors had been seen jumping over a garden wall. Once inside they found what one Western official has described as a "highly significant" batch of documents which, on closer inspection, revealed that Saddam's scientists were continuing development work on producing an Iraqi nuclear weapon. Although these documents are this weekend still being examined by IAEA experts to establish the current state of Saddam's nuclear weapons programme, the discovery could well turn out to be the "smoking gun" that officials in the Bush administration have pinned their hopes on obtaining in order to justify launching military action against Baghdad.
On the same day, UNMOVIC revealed that Saddam had a dozen chemical weapon warheads. While Blix and Co. were at pains to claim that the warheads were empty:
"I'm not sure what the blazes it is that inspectors and the world's diplomats expect in terms of a smoking gun," said Richard O Spertzel, a former head of the UN biological weapons inspections unit. "If it's loaded munitions, this is a waste of their time. How many filled munitions did we find in more than seven years? None."
The clock ticks on, and our frog must sense the water heating up around him.

Monday, January 20, 2003

North Korea: Now What?

The most troubling problem for the world today, indeed the greatest peril to humanity for the last half century, is the impending proliferation of nuclear weapons. The idea that irresponsible despots of the ilk of Kim Jong Il and Saddam Hussein might hold, make threats with, and actually use nuclear weapons must be frightening even to the cowards of the looney left who cling to inchoate mental Ostrichism rather than face the responsibility that comes with being the world's most globally involved nation. The question boils down to this: does it ever make sense to yield to blackmail?

Even philosophers have little to argue over that question. Blackmail is not a tree in the woods. Blackmailers will always pull the trigger, whatever the victim does. There is little to debate here, merely history and experience. Blackmail is like Pandora's box or toothpaste: once the threat is out, the situation is irrevocably changed. If the blackmailer is serious, only the timing of the realization of the threat is in question. If the threat is a bluff. it must be called. Like a hand of poker, the cards must be played the same, regardless of their value. Any poker player must agree that anyone who plays a weak hand differently from a strong hand will always lose.

So, what do we do about North Korea? To those who, like me, believe that there are three sides to any story, (your side, my side, and the truth) most arguments can be made more ordered and logical if the two sides are put in the light. Therefore the truth is somewhere between: "A": accepting Korea as a nuclear power and "B": having North Korea's Kim Jong Il meekly dismantle his nuclear reactors and weapon materials. While there might be sane people who believe that "A" is possible, or even desirable, "B" can only become true after a war that no sane person welcomes.

One point of view holds that we in the Western Hemisphere, and even in Europe (of which only a small slice is in the Western Hemisphere) should leave the problem for the "locals" to deal with. Leaving China, Russia, Japan, and South Korea to their own devices may seem attractive to the head-in-the-sand set, but that point of view denies the fact that Kim has delivery systems that can directly threaten us, and also has shown a willingness, even a zest, for selling these weapons to others. This scenario also forces a period of instability in Asia, with many possible outcomes. Instability between the Asian nuclear powers threatens worldwide nuclear holocaust. One can easily forsee that, even if war is avoided, what will emerge is an Asia in which there are a half dozen nuclear powers, with Japan sitting on immense plutonium resources already, and a possibly reunified Korea becoming a formidable force to be reckoned with. China and Russia will not stand for that. Or so one might think. Russia recently proposed a plan for mollifying the despot, offering economic benefits in return for a nuclear free Korea.

The path to "C", which appears to me to be the creation of some form of a non-nuclear Korea without resorting to warfare, will be very difficult to achieve. History offers no instances of appeasement leading to peaceful outcomes. And Bush's recent vacillation does not inspire confidence. Only one thing is certain: war with North Korea, especially before the crisis with Iraq is over, must be avoided, because it is unwinnable. And without clear victory, the outcome is unthinkable.

Thursday, January 16, 2003

Sheryl Crow

I have given Andrew Sullivan a rough time in these pages. He went through a period where his fixation on his sexuality made his blog a little tedious. I removed him from from my blogroll at that time. He's back up there now. His piece in Salon on Sheryl Crow's meanderings against the war-to-come are right on point. Read the whole thing, but I must quote a little bit of it:
Doesn't it sometimes get a tad bit embarrassing being on the left these days? I'm not talking about legitimate left-liberal beliefs - that income inequality is wrong, that corporations are evil, that governments are better judges than individuals about what's good for the world, etc etc. I'm talking about the way in which otherwise legitimate left-wing causes tend to get embraced by, well, the intellectually challenged. I mean actors and celebrities and pop stars and others not exactly known for being the brightest bulbs on the Christmas tree - almost all of whom seem to drift into the camp of the knee-jerk left. I mean people like Barbra Streisand, who doesn't know the difference between Iraq and Iran, and who at this point must have done more to discredit Hollywood liberals than an entire bookshelf of National Reviews. I mean Sean Penn, another man who just helped Bush win more support for war. I mean, well, Sheryl Crow.
Read the whole thing. And read Andrew's blog. Lucky for me, i live on the West Coast these days. I get to read him every night, just before I go to bed. With my wife.

Friday, January 10, 2003

Lileks Says It Right... Again

James Lileks, the best writer in the blogosphere (1630 inbound links can't be wrong), once again puts what many of us are thinking in a way that few if any of us could manage, and he does it every day. In today's "Bleat" he comments on the propensity of otherwise talented Hollywood creative types to add their two cents to the national debate. The piece starts out as a critique of Scorcese's latest effort "The Gangs of New York," but then he adds this priceless bit:
You know what I’d like to hear, just once? ?As a New Yorker, I remember too well the death and destruction that arrived on our doorstep that day in September. As an American, I worry about regimes who possess both the means to kill innocent citizens and the devilish will to do it. As an artist, I value the freedom I have in a pluralistic, secular democracy, and I realize that these traits are not only rare and worthy of defense, but deserve to be extended to people in other nations. As a student of history, I am impressed by how our military - which has the ability to annihilate cities and nations - has spent billions to develop weapons that destroy a single building. Surely this says as much about us as our crass and extroverted culture; what other nation with our abilities would take such care? Presented with enemies who build weapons factories next to kindergartens, we invent missiles that take the former and spare the latter. This may not mean we are right, but it surely means we are are bound by a notion of decency our opposites lack. As a human being, I mourn the loss of innocent life that will surely attend any war - but I must admit, if we could have prevented 9/11 with a military action that cost a dozen innocent lives, I would have supported it with the reluctance that must attend any act of organized violence. And finally, as a filmmaker who lives in a special kind of isolation, surrounded mostly with affluent like-minded people from the arts community, I must admit that when it comes to foreign affairs and military matters I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about.
Absolutely priceless. I am sure that most of us would like to hear Scorsese, Penn, Baldwin, et al say something similar, just once.

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

Boiling the Frog

It is said that the way to boil a frog is to increase the heat slowly. If the temperature rises too fast, the frog will jump out of the pot. But, if the temperature is increased slowly, the frog will just sit there until he's the main ingredient in a froggy stew. That seems to be the case with our frog, Saddam Hussein's Iraq. We bomb his air defense radars and other targets are hit as well. Some sources have us hitting fiber optic lines and logistical sites. The Turkish army is slowly occupying Northern Iraq, a little more each day.
Turkish newspapers report that between 10,000 and 15,000 troops have been deployed along the frontier and units have crossed into northern Iraq, although the military command denies there has been a major military buildup... ?But there are more soldiers posted on the hilltops around the town and we hear of trucks full of soldiers crossing the border in the past few nights.? has some similar observations. Our buildup of troops continues daily, with little announcements of a few thousand troops here, a command battallion there, and about half of our Navy seems to be deploying to the region, one ship at a time.

Meanwhile, our frog plays footsie with the UN inspectors and the diplomatic community, wondering where the little whisps of steam and tiny little bubbles are coming from. You'd think that Saddam might start making plans to move in next door to Idi Amin, a fellow traveller in the Outrageous Despots club, "in an exclusive community outside Jiddah, the capital" of Saudi Arabia. But his buddy Idi needed to be overthrown first. So we wait for the water to boil.

Monday, January 06, 2003

Were Holiday Shopping Numbers Bad Or Not?

If you read the papers you might get the impression that this holiday buying season was a bust, with reports like this common:
Economy Inching Forward The holiday shopping season, while not a disaster, was one of the weakest in memory, with U.S. chain-store sales up a scant 1.5 percent from the year before, according to a Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi estimate. (from
But if you read the technology news, you might read something like this:
Online Holiday Spending Jumps 24 Percent - Report Online spending during the holiday season, excluding travel, rose 24 percent from a year earlier to $13.7 billion, Goldman Sachs, Harris Interactive and Nielsen/NetRatings said in a joint report released on Monday.
So, which is it? Is the online economy part of the "real" economy? Are we witnessing a mere paradigm shift, where mainstream media is still picking up and reporting old fashioned, government generated statistics, while the economy is better than the raw data seems to indicate? This seems to be a classic instance of the philosophic argument of the search for the "truth." Is the truth the tale of what actually happened? Or is the truth actually merely our perception of what happened. If a tree falls in the woods, should a bear shit on it?

More basically, does anyone really know if we had a bad or a good holiday shopping season? Is the economy good or bad? These seem like simple questions to me. Yet entire forests will be destroyed to provide the paper upon which this debate will be recorded and published. Sometimes I think that much of our national discourse is a huge make-work project, and many of the pressing issues of the day might be settled easily if only I were king, or the star Chamber was really a committee that actually ruled the world. Are the rest of us in some sort of Orwellian rat race where we are forever running running running on an endless wheel and never getting anywhere, but staying busy and feeling important? Other times I feel that all I have to do is get better at predicting the movement of a few stocks, and to hell with philosophy. Is the idiot the guy who spends his time writing missives like this, or the guy who reads them? (As both a writer and a reader of blogs like this, I'm an idiot either way.)

And if we are just cattle in some giant cosmic feedlot, who buys all of the beef?

Friday, January 03, 2003

Arab Reparations for Jewish Expulsions?

Since the foundation of the State of Israel about 900,000 Jews were forcibly expelled from their homes in Arab lands. Since the 1970s about 12,000 claims have been made by Jews whose property was taken. Included in these land claims are some previously agricultural plots that today compose most of the downtown area of Tripoli, capitol of Libya. These claims have been widely seen as a counterbalance to palestinian claims that are expected to be a part of any negociated solution to the current situation.

But now it appears that some of these claims will actually be paid. The mega-insurance company AXA seems ready to consider the payment of claims to properties that were insured at the time they were taken. The factual basis of these claims not disputed, so it seems that a few families that were lucky enough to have kept their paperwork and insurance policies all these decades might finally be seeing some light at the end of the tunnel.

Don't confuse these claims with the claims of Arabs who previously lived in lands that are today part if Israel. First, they left their property voluntarily, or at the urging of their own religious leaders, prior to the commencement of warfare against the nascent Jewish State. After the war concluded, with Israel the victor, these lands became, under international law, spoils of War, and therefore, they were seized legally. This is not to be confused with hostile citizens running Jews out of their homes in Arab countries, while their governments and police either did nothing or actively participated in these pogroms. And never forget that the majority of the lands that make up the State of Israel were legally purchased from their rightful owners by the early Zionists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Wednesday, January 01, 2003

Charlie Rangel: Another Specious Position

Now Charlie Rangel, African-American congressman from Harlem, has announced another legislative initiative that appears to be, once again, a fraudulent political position. He claims to be ready to offer legislation reinstating the draft. His stated reason? Not, as one would suppose, to fill in depleted ranks. No, he says that the presence of hundreds of thousands of draftees would make it politically impossible for G.W.Bush to wage war on Iraq. This position gets him in the news, but it has no chance of passage. A draft is only instituted, in a free society, when manpower needs for the nation's military can not be met by a volunteer force. That is not the case today. Add to that, with women in uniform today, women would need to be a part of the draft as well. Anyone who believes that will ever happen is at least a few slices short of a loaf.

We can all be proud of our all-volunteer armed forces. They constitute the finest military force ever assembled on the face of the planet. Warfare is not video games, with all of the bells and whistles prividing the strength. Warfare is waged by highly trained and motivated men and women who are willing to risk their lives to accomplish their mission. The armed forces are not a jobs program, nor a carreer-enhancing resume item, although some may use it that way. Our armed forces are the place where some of the best and brightest of our young people go to serve their country, and it helps to produce some of the finest men and women that we have. The draft is, in peacetime, nothing more than a political football with which some of the less principled of our "leaders" play a very dangerous game. A power game played with the very lives of our young men and women.

Previously, Charlie Rangel is well known for his statement that legalizing drugs would constitute genocide against the black race. as if only blacks are subject to the ravages of drug abuse. Those who think deeply about drug prohibition either favor harm reduction, or support the huge money train that prohibition brings. Most all others who are in favor of prohibition agree with the policy because, well, drugs are bad. They have never really thought about the issue, past the point where they believe that drugs are bad, therefore they should be illegal. In fainess, there are those in the drug abuse treatment industry, and some recovering addicts as well, who believe that prohibition is a useful tool for keeping recovering addicts on the right path. But I believe that those who believe this are in the minority, and most of them would favor "harm reduction" strategies anyway (like needle exchange and reducing prison sentences to treatment protocols). Those who believe that drug addicts should serve multi-decade prison sentences are all on the side of continuing prohibition for the immense economic benefits that prohibition brings.

Of course the easy availability of drugs of abuse might increase the number of drug addicts. Then again, other methods than supporting hugely profitable criminal drug purveyors might be more effective at curtailing drug abuse. We don't know, since we have never tried any other system. And since those in positions of authority gain so much power from prohibition, they avoid even the discussion of alternatives to making drug abuse a crime. Even the counting of the votes of a harm reduction initiative has been stopped (in Washington, D.C.) by dedicated prohibitionists. Recently one of America's staunchest prohibitionists, Dan Burton (R-IN), shocked many on Capitol Hill when he came very close to calling for looking at legalizing drugs when he stated in a congressional hearing that he thought that Al Capone would have been a much less dangerous character had he been deprived of the huge income that prohibition afforded him. If even Dan Burton (on his last day as committee chairman) is starting to wonder what would happen if the profit were removed from the trafficing in drugs, you know that some sort of a change is coming. But the Charlie Rangels on the world will be against harm reduction until they are no longer in a position to profit from the sequelae of the trade, or be politically hurt by supporting an unpopular position. Charlie is a pathetic creature, really, advocating the reinstatement of the draft, because he has no other idea that will get his name and face in the news. He has even announced that he will no longer even talk about the issue of drug prohibition or harm reduction.

Don't get me wrong. I like Charlie, although I haven't seen him since he was a state assemblyman in 1969. That was just before he won nomination to Congress from a wounded Adam Clayton Powell's, Jr. Back in the 1960s, everybody liked Charlie. That was part of the method he used to get nominated by the Democrat machine to the sinecure of the 15th district in Harlem. Charlie gladhanded everyone, and was quite a personable character. I'm sure that he still is. But when a man, near the end of his career, who could not be defeated in an election unless Jesus ran against him (as long as he receives the democrat nomination) supports a pathetically specious position like this one for the reinstatement of the draft, just to get attention, it is very sad. I wouldn't hope for a courageous statement of principle from Charlie, but I do wish that he would at least keep quiet.