Quantcast

Merry Christmas

snowmanvegetable.jpg

Killing Blog Spam Dead

This Web site has been flooded with an unspeakable level of spam in the comments section from jerks using automated spam-bots to promote everything from porn and viagra to vacations and car rentals. No more. It’s over. MT-CAPTCHA is now fully installed and operational.

From here on out, in order to post a comment you will have to manually enter a numeric code that first appears as a graphic. (Open the comments box and you’ll see what I mean.) Humans can read and enter the code. Spam-bots can’t. No more will that jerk who sends 1,000 spams at a time for mortgage refinancing be able to boost his business on the back of my bandwidth.

James Seng wrote the CAPTCHA plug-in and it’s free to download and install. (CAPTCHA stands for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart.)

It’s a four-hour procedure, and that’s if you know what you’re doing. My Unix skills are pretty rudimentary so I paid Anthony Perez-Miller (who first installed it on his site) to install and set it up for me. If you have a blog and want to take care of this problem once and for all, send him an email. Hire him. He knows what he’s doing, he’s fast, and you can trust him.

The Worst Christmas Article

James Wolcott picked a fight with James Lileks over Christmas. I wouldn’t have done that. Not only because I’d hate to have Lileks rip me to pieces, but because Lileks is an eminently reasonable person. He’s not the kind of guy you’re supposed to pick fights with. You can disagree with him, sure. You can discuss things with him, yeah. But engage in a long-running public trading of insults? No. I’d advise against that.

Wolcott’s biggest error is in talking about Lileks as though he is this guy, Donald R. May, who wrote what is easily the worst Christmas article this year:

The Christmas Deconstruction Alliance just does not get it. They are dumbfounded as they have not been able to secularize Christmas. They throw tantrums because of the tenacity with which the vast majority of us hold onto our Christian beliefs and traditions. They do not understand why the United States does not roll over, accept the abolition of Christmas, close down our churches, and remove the crosses from our cemeteries.

I’d like to know…who is doing this? Who wants to abolish Christmas? Anybody? Who wants to close down our churches and remove crosses from cemeteries? Seriously. I’d like to know. But he doesn’t name names.

The (separate) argument about whether Christmas songs should be played in schools where non-Christian students attend is tiresome but, I suppose, worth having. But this is an argument about watering down the public culture to a lower common denominator. It’s not about abolishing Christmas. No one (at least to my knowledge) wants to open the school doors on December 25th so they can turn the kids into pagans. (Yes, Mr. May actually says “The liberal elite think their superior wisdom, and their control of education and the media, should convince us to become a bunch of pagans.”)

I thought about fisking his entire piece but decided to heck with it. This hysterical article (which Town Hall should be embarrassed to have on its Web site) isn’t worth my time or anyone else’s.

But I do want to zero in on one point he made because I’ve seen plenty of other people say the same thing.

Just what are some of the things opposed by those who would eliminate our Judeo-Christian heritage?… We definitely can’t acknowledge we are a God-fearing nation who’s Constitution is based on The Ten Commandments.

He really thinks the Constitution is based on the Ten Commandments. He and millions of others. So let’s go through the commandments one at a time.

1. I am the Lord thy God. Thou shalt have no other God before me. The first ten words of the First Amendment explicitly knock the First Commandment aside: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…”

2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image. This one is also knocked aside by the First Amendment since it protects the freedom of speech. Making a graven image isn’t technically speech, but it’s expression, and it’s protected.

3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain. See above. Speech is protected by the First Amendment.

4. Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. You know what’s wrong with this one, Constitutionally speaking? The same thing that’s wrong with all the others. It’s a commandment. Unless I’m forgetting something, the Constitution doesn’t tell individuals to do anything. It certainly doesn’t tell them to slack off on Sunday.

5. Honour thy father and thy mother. Good advice, if your parents aren’t violent drunks or child molesters. But the Constitution doesn’t address family matters. It addresses matters of state.

6. Thou shalt not kill. A fine law, even if it’s not in the Constitution. Every nation – Judeo-Christian or not – prohibits murder. So the idea that we have this law on the books because it’s in the Ten Commandments strikes me as dubious at best.

7. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Adultery isn’t a crime in the United States. It’s not a good thing, and it can land you in trouble if you find yourself in divorce court. But you won’t go to jail and you won’t be fined if you cheat on your spouse.

8. Thou shalt not steal. Again, a fine law. Also, again, every nation – Judeo-Christian or not – prohibits stealing. So the idea that we have this law on the books because it’s in the Ten Commandments strikes me as dubious at best.

9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. This one is against the law, too. But, again, it’s not in the Constitution, not anywhere that I’ve been able to find. (If I’m wrong, show me where.) I don’t know for certain if bearing false witness is prohibited in every nation on earth, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it is.

10. Thou shalt not covet. This one is definitely not in the Constitution. The last thing the Constitution does is regulate the private thoughts of citizens. Only totalitarian regimes even try to do that.

I don’t see any overlap between these documents anywhere. But, hey, maybe I’m wrong. If the Constitution has some fine print that says something like Thou shalt have no other God before me I’d love to have someone quote the relevant text. Until then, I’ll assume anyone who says the Constitution is based on the Ten Commandments is either wallowing in wishful thinking or, as is obvious in Mr. May’s case, suggesting heathens like me are somehow not real Americans.

One other sentence stands out for its inanity:

We can’t have joy since the liberals and terrorists always are angry about something.

The conservatives and terrorists always are angry about something, too. Atheists and agnostics, for starters. Leave us alone. And understand this: most of us celebrate Christmas.

Meanwhile, Jonah Goldberg published a vastly more sensible article in the same online magazine. And he concludes:

Simply because there are more Christians than Jews or Muslims or atheists, doesn’t mean that Christians should always get the shaft. That said, Christians — or at least the politically organized ones — don’t do themselves any favors when they start talking like just another identity politics group. Christians seem to be complaining more this year than usual about the war on Christmas, even as they are finding more success. Arnold Schwarzenegger renamed the governor’s “holiday tree” a Christmas tree. George Bush is the first president ever to include a quote from scripture on his Christmas card. Besides, once “Merry Christmas” becomes a political statement, everyone loses.

What he said.

Fear of Santa

Click the image to see the funniest Christmas photo gallery of the year.

Scared_of_Santa.jpg

(Hat tip: Callimachus.)

21st Century Dilemmas

Roger L. Simon found a speech by Haim Harari caled A View from the Eye of the Storm that was delivered and published in April. I missed it then and so did he, but it’s as valuable now as it was then.

The whole thing is worth reading, but here’s an excerpt:

The civilized world believes in democracy, the rule of law, including international law, human rights, free speech and free press, among other liberties. There are naïve old-fashioned habits such as respecting religious sites and symbols, not using ambulances and hospitals for acts of war, avoiding the mutilation of dead bodies and not using children as human shields or human bombs. Never in history, not even in the Nazi period, was there such total disregard of all of the above as we observe now. Every student of political science debates how you prevent an anti-democratic force from winning a democratic election and abolishing democracy. Other aspects of a civilized society must also have limitations. Can a policeman open fire on someone trying to kill him? Can a government listen to phone conversations of terrorists and drug dealers? Does free speech protects you when you shout “fire” in a crowded theater? Should there be death penalty, for deliberate multiple murders? These are the old-fashioned dilemmas. But now we have an entire new set.

Do you raid a mosque, which serves as a terrorist ammunition storage? Do you return fire, if you are attacked from a hospital? Do you storm a church taken over by terrorists who took the priests hostages? Do you search every ambulance after a few suicide murderers use ambulances to reach their targets? Do you strip every woman because one pretended to be pregnant and carried a suicide bomb on her belly? Do you shoot back at someone trying to kill you, standing deliberately behind a group of children? Do you raid terrorist headquarters, hidden in a mental hospital? Do you shoot an arch-murderer who deliberately moves from one location to another, always surrounded by children? All of these happen daily in Iraq and in the Palestinian areas. What do you do? Well, you do not want to face the dilemma. But it cannot be avoided.

Suppose, for the sake of discussion, that someone would openly stay in a well-known address in Teheran, hosted by the Iranian Government and financed by it, executing one atrocity after another in Spain or in France, killing hundreds of innocent people, accepting responsibility for the crimes, promising in public TV interviews to do more of the same, while the Government of Iran issues public condemnations of his acts but continues to host him, invite him to official functions and treat him as a great dignitary. I leave it to you as homework to figure out what Spain or France would have done, in such a situation.

The problem is that the civilized world is still having illusions about the rule of law in a totally lawless environment. It is trying to play ice hockey by sending a ballerina ice-skater into the rink or to knock out a heavyweight boxer by a chess player. In the same way that no country has a law against cannibals eating its prime minister, because such an act is unthinkable, international law does not address killers shooting from hospitals, mosques and ambulances, while being protected by their Government or society. International law does not know how to handle someone who sends children to throw stones, stands behind them and shoots with immunity and cannot be arrested because he is sheltered by a Government. International law does not know how to deal with a leader of murderers who is royally and comfortably hosted by a country, which pretends to condemn his acts or just claims to be too weak to arrest him. The amazing thing is that all of these crooks demand protection under international law and define all those who attack them as war criminals, with some Western media repeating the allegations.

Those who care about international law must do two things. First, fix international law and make it actually relevent to 21st century problems. Second, remember that some people don’t care a whit for international law because it gets in the way of fighting this war – so they won’t do the job for you.

New Column

My new Tech Central Station column is up: Marching Towards a Democratic Iraq.

Aquarius Then and Now

Christopher Hitchens reviews a series of books on the 60s, hippies, Vietnam, and the commune movement for the New York Times. Lots of good stuff came out of that era, civil rights being only the most noted and obvious. (Also, Vaclav Havel – one of my absolute favorite people – considers himself a 60s person. That doesn’t mean nothing.)

But not all was well, and much of the era’s detritus is even worse. Just as I did yesterday, he’s not afraid to use the word reactionary.

If you look back to the founding document of the 60′s left, which was the Port Huron statement (also promulgated in Michigan), you will easily see that it was in essence a conservative manifesto. It spoke in vaguely Marxist terms of alienation, true, but it was reacting to bigness and anonymity and urbanization, and it betrayed a yearning for a lost agrarian simplicity. It forgot what Marx had said, about the dynamism of capitalism and ”the idiocy of rural life.” Earlier 18th- and 19th-century American communards had often been fleeing or preparing for a coming Apocalypse, and their emulators in the 1960′s and 1970′s followed this trope as well, believing everything they read about the impending crash, or the exhaustion of the world’s resources. The crazy lean-to of the Unabomber began to take dim shape at that period, even if many of the new pioneers were more affected by the work of the pacific Tolstoy or of C. Wright Mills (who used to recommend, if memory serves, that people should build their own cars as well as their own houses).

Is there a moral to point out here? Of course there is. Maybe more than one. The first is that, as Agnew deftly notes, more of her friends ought to have read about the Joad family before setting out. The second is that not all was wasted or futile. Everybody in society now has a better idea of our relationship with the natural order and our kinship with animals, and we are no longer so casual about what once seemed the endless bounty of our environment. In some ways, we have the ”love generation” to thank for this. Meanwhile, though, the anti-globalization movement has started to reject modernity altogether, to set its sights on laboratories and on the idea of the division of labor, and to adopt symbols from Fallujah as the emblems of its resistance. Conservatism cannot and does not, despite itself, remain static. It mutates into something far more reactionary than anything from which the hippies were ever fleeing.

I don’t know what anti-globalization has to do with Fallujah, but Gene over at Harry’s Place noted the movement’s connection to Hezbollah yesterday.

And God Rolled His Eyes

I have little time for writing tonight, so let me just hand it over (so to speak) to Jeff Jarvis for the moment. He wrote an essay on his blog about God, Christmas, and their discontents called And God Rolled His Eyes. He finds the right balance, I think, between the two often ridiculous sides in our annual holiday culture war.

Cities in Amber

If a place is frozen in time, how many years have to pass before it can fairly be called reactionary?

I lived in the Midwest in the mid-1990s. (Iowa City, in case you’re interested. Nice town. Not what most people on the coasts imagine when they think of Iowa. Kurt Vonnegut lived, wrote, and taught there for a while.)

Several of my left-liberal friends liked to make fun of Muncie, Indiana (a city which I have to admit I never visited) because it was supposedly stuck in the 50s. Maybe what they said was true, and maybe it wasn’t. I don’t know because, like I said, I never went there. But if it really was stuck in the 50s at the laughably late date of the mid-1990s I think it would qualify as reactionary. Four decades out of date is long enough. It’s longer than I’ve been alive.

Dr. Frank is reading The Voice of Guns, a book about the Symbionese Liberation Army, published in 1977. (I actually know one of the members of the SLA because I inadvertantly hired him.)

Frank cites an excerpt that describes the decade-old time warp that Berkeley was back in the 1970s. He says, and I agree with him, that Berkeley still hasn’t changed. (I have been to Berkeley recently, so I think I can say this.)

Berkeley is the ghost town of the Movement, the morgue of the New Left. It is a city dominated by the huge University of California Berkeley campus; a college town uniquely caught up in its own peculiar atmosphere in which swift, turbulent currents of the sixties still swirl, settling well outside the American mainstream. Once the premier capital of the counterculture, Berkeley is still mecca for those seeking to discover or re-create the angry, hopeful anarchism that surged across the nation in the youthful rebellion of the last decade…

Here the Revolution never failed, it merely fell into limbo… Among themselves, they created a time warp, an enchanted-village effect in which much of what constitutes time seems frozen in 1969.

I think it’s time we stop thinking of Berkeley as progressive and designate it reactionary instead. It’s the Muncie, Indiana (assuming the old Muncie really was the old Muncie) of our time. Four decades out of date is long enough. It’s longer than I’ve been alive.

Progressive Patriotism

George Orwell is one of my favorite writers, not so much for his novels (which are great) but for the essays he wrote during World War II. One of the pleasures of re-reading his work is to see how the more things change the more they don’t change at all. Also, as a side note, though it’s not what he intended, he shows better than most how closely England resembles America.

In England Your England he wrote about the divorce of patriotism from leftism.

In intention, at any rate, the English intelligentsia are Europeanized. They take their cookery from Paris and their opinions from Moscow. In the general patriotism of the country they form a sort of island of dissident thought. England is perhaps the only great country whose intellectuals are ashamed of their own nationality. In left-wing circles it is always felt that there is something slightly disgraceful in being an Englishman and that it is a duty to snigger at every English institution, from horse racing to suet puddings. It is a strange fact, but it is unquestionably true that almost any English intellectual would feel more ashamed of standing to attention during ‘God save the King’ than of stealing from a poor box. All through the critical years many left-wingers were chipping away at English morale, trying to spread an outlook that was sometimes squashily pacifist, sometimes violently pro-Russian, but always anti-British. It is questionable how much effect this had, but it certainly had some. If the English people suffered for several years a real weakening of morale, so that the Fascist nations judged that they were ‘decadent’ and that it was safe to plunge into war, the intellectual sabotage from the Left was partly responsible. Both the New Statesman and the News Chronicle cried out against the Munich settlement, but even they had done something to make it possible. Ten years of systematic Blimp-baiting affected even the Blimps themselves and made it harder than it had been before to get intelligent young men to enter the armed forces. Given the stagnation of the Empire, the military middle class must have decayed in any case, but the spread of a shallow Leftism hastened the process.

It is clear that the special position of the English intellectuals during the past ten years, as purely negative creatures, mere anti-Blimps, was a by-product of ruling-class stupidity. Society could not use them, and they had not got it in them to see that devotion to one’s country implies ‘for better, for worse’. Both Blimps and highbrows took for granted, as though it were a law of nature, the divorce between patriotism and intelligence. If you were a patriot you read Blackwood’s Magazine and publicly thanked God that you were ‘not brainy’. If you were an intellectual you sniggered at the Union Jack and regarded physical courage as barbarous. It is obvious that this preposterous convention cannot continue. The Bloomsbury highbrow, with his mechanical snigger, is as out-of-date as the cavalry colonel. A modern nation cannot afford either of them. Patriotism and intelligence will have to come together again.

Patriotism and intelligence will have to come together again. Can they? Of course. But I can’t say it’s an encouraging prospect considering how very long ago he wrote those words.

That doesn’t stop some of us from thinking about it, though. Via Roger L. Simon I discovered a new blog called Done With Mirrors. The blog’s author Callimachus wrote an essay called Progressive Patriotism. It is your required reading over the weekend.

The Martial Art of Book-Burning

A few days ago I wondered aloud on this page if any prominent conservatives would take on the “right-wing nanny-state jerks in their own party.”

I realize that libertarian Republicans do this on a regular basis. But libertarians are not conservatives. They are “classical liberals.” Many of them (like Glenn Reynolds) are basically centrists. Others (like Matt Welch) tend to lean to the left. What I want to see are actual capital-c Conservatives publicly challenge the right-wing authoritarians in their ranks.

If conservatives want to claim they stand for freedom, they need to actually stand for freedom. Arguing only with leftist opponents of freedom isn’t good enough. It comes across as cheap partisan opportunism that’s more anti-leftist than anything else.

Blogger John Coleman, self-described member of the religious right, seems to agree.

[I]n perhaps the most discomforting moves I have encountered in recent years, [a Republican] is burying books to “protect” our values. This of course, has been tried before, but to see it happen in the country that has served as a cove of comfort for writers from Rushdie to Solzhenitsyn is saddening. Even more frightening is the fact that so few of us have dared to respond. [My emphasis.]

I am not a prominent conservative; but I am a conservative. Moreover, I am a member of the religious right and a southerner by birth (born and raised in the heart of Georgia), and while my opinion matters little, I am ashamed that policies like this are allowed to persist in the party to which I often grant my support.

[...]

What happens when the party of the right leans away from the defense of liberty and toward the despicable martial art of book burning?

The question answers itself. Good for you, John, for asking it. Now if only you can convince Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity to do the same.

UPDATE: Unsurpisingly, Andrew Sullivan picked this up. Anyone else want to take this on without waving their hands and saying “nothing to see here”?

SECOND UPDATE: Roy Edroso accuses me of being a psuedo-liberal. Guess what, Roy? I plead guilty. I’m a psuedo-liberal! Just as I’m a psuedo-conservative.

I really don’t understand why these guys don’t just say “fuck it” and announce themselves Republican.

Haven’t we been going over that for the past several days? I swear to you, Roy, there are more than two points of view in this country. Try really really hard and you might scrounge up enough of the popular (yet somehow elusive!) nuance required to grasp this.

To the Woodshed, Once More

Jeff Jarvis takes Juan Cole out behind the woodshed for yet another well-deserved thrashing. He calls the professor pond scum and a hate blogger – and that’s just in the title and the first sentence.

(I’m having dinner with Jeff next month in New York. I hope I don’t rankle him much between now and then. Somehow I think I’ll be okay.)

Neocon Tree Huggers for Gay Marriage

When I read stuff like this I’m tempted to simultaneously declare myself a neocon and throw my support behind a ban on clear-cutting trees just so I can irritate people who deserve to be irritated.

(Oh, and just for the record, I’m not kidding about the trees. I live in Oregon and really don’t like clear-cutting.)

Protect Alabama. Bury Alice Walker.

There are several reasons I’m not a Republican, but the biggest one, the top of the list, is the fact that the Religious Right is a faction in good standing.

Although I’m an atheist/agnostic, I really don’t care that the Religious Right is religious. Nor do I care that the Religious Right is right (so to speak). What I just can’t abide is the reactionary authoritarian impulse that lurks at the heart of it.

From a Guardian story last week:

What should we do with US classics like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof or The Color Purple? “Dig a hole,” Gerald Allen recommends, “and dump them in it.”

Who is Gerald Allen? Some nut on the fringe that doesn’t deserve my attention? Don’t I wish.

Earlier this week, Allen got a call from Washington. He will be meeting with President Bush on Monday. I asked him if this was his first invitation to the White House. “Oh no,” he laughs. “It’s my fifth meeting with Mr Bush.”

Bush is interested in Allen’s opinions because Allen is an elected Republican representative in the Alabama state legislature. He is Bush’s base. Last week, Bush’s base introduced a bill that would ban the use of state funds to purchase any books or other materials that “promote homosexuality”. Allen does not want taxpayers’ money to support “positive depictions of homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle”. That’s why Tennessee Williams and Alice Walker have got to go.

I’ve tried to understand the opposition to gay marriage. I’ve listened to the arguments, at least the sane ones. And I’m convinced that opposition to gay marriage is not evidence of bigotry. For one thing, there are just too many people who oppose gay marriage but do support civil unions. Bigotry can’t explain the difference between my opinion and theirs — at least not in all (or even most?) cases.

But burying Alice Walker in a hole in the ground goes way beyond mere bigotry and slouches toward something far worse.

“Traditional family values are under attack,” Allen informs me. They’ve been under attack “for the last 40 years”. The enemy, this time, is not al-Qaida. The axis of evil is “Hollywood, the music industry”. We have an obligation to “save society from moral destruction”. We have to prevent liberal libarians and trendy teachers from “re-engineering society’s fabric in the minds of our children”. We have to “protect Alabamians”.

I don’t know if Mr. Allen actually referred to Hollywood and the music industry as part of an “Axis of Evil” or if the writer inserted it for effect. This is the Guardian we’re talking about here, so I wouldn’t be surprised either way.

But there’s more.

Would Allen’s bill cut off state funding for Shakespeare?

“Well,” he begins, after a pause, “the current draft of the bill does not address how that is going to be handled. I expect details like that to be worked out at the committee stage. Literature like Shakespeare and Hammet [sic] could be left alone.” Could be. Not “would be”. In any case, he says, “you could tone it down”

I hardly even know what to say. This guy (who unsurprisingly can’t pronounce Hamlet correctly) isn’t even able to defend William Shakespeare. We rubes “could” end up being allowed to check out the bard’s books if the committee feels like it. Then again, maybe not! Shakespeare might end up being declared a “liberal” or a “fag” who somehow threatens “the children.”

When conservatives rail against “nanny state” liberalism they get my attention. Just once I’d like to see prominent conservatives other than Andrew Sullivan call out the right-wing nanny-state jerks in their own party. Any takers? Or are only liberals and centrists going to keep an eye on this crowd?

Patterico Wins

It turns out that I didn’t win the Wizbang blog award for which I was nominated. Somebody cheated on my behalf and voted for me more than 280 times. I’d say “thanks for trying” but that sort of thing really isn’t okay. Why should I be grateful for the effort? I thought I won, and it turns out I didn’t. And I don’t want to win anything if I don’t deserve it.

Patterico obviously runs a pretty good blog or he wouldn’t have won. So why don’t you hop on over and check him out. I don’t have much else to say tonight because I’ll be busy watching this DVD which finally came out today. (50 extra minutes. Woo hoo!)

rotk.jpg

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Michael J. Totten's blog