A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Artemus, Two Moons Over Ninevah, part iii

[The Beginning] [The previous bit]

The next town proved no more hospitable than the last, nor the one after that. By dusk, Artemus was ravenous, and many miles beyond the last village he had been politely asked to not stop at. In one of the villages, Artemus had seen a small contingent of guards from Ninevah-- minotaurs and elves with their axes and bows-- but even with the added security of the city guard, the villagers were not interested in hosting Artemus for the night. In another, a pack of dogs had chased him out of the town for several miles.

On the plus side, Artemus knew he was making excellent time and getting closer to Ninevah proper much quicker than he had expected. On the minus side, his stamina-- which had seemed inexhaustible earlier in the day-- was waning, and his stomach was rumbling so loud he was afraid one of the passing peasants might mistake it for a wild animal. Ruefully glancing about in the gathering gloam of evening, Artemus realized he had little to fear on this account-- he was alone on the road.

As the sun set, the larger of Romendor's two moons became visible against the darkening sky. Nearly full, the moon bathed the road with enough light for Artemus to continue his journey. With the sun's descent, the heat and humidity of the day seemed to fade as well and Artemus caught his second wind. His hunger still gnawed at him, but his exhaustion diminished, and his pace picked up as he headed north in the increasing darkness.

Shortly after full dark, Artemus spied a garden near one of the larger farmhouses, and his massive hunger forced him to pause. As he gobbled the fresh tubers and berries growing in the ripening garden, Artemus also did his best to pull the weeds wriggling their way amongst the neat rows of vegetables. It was small compensation for the quantity of food he devoured, but it was the best he had to offer. Feeling guilty, but somewhat refreshed, Artemus returned to the road just as the second smaller moon breasted the horizon. It too was waning, only a few days past full.

Artemus continued that way through the night, stopping to eat berries or apples or vegetables when necessary. He tried to earn his repasts as best he could by the light of the twin moons. At one stop he stacked wood for his unknowing hosts, while at another he gathered the ripe pears he did not eat into a neat pile. Several times, he attempted to stop, but guard dogs chased him back to the road.

There were no other travelers on the now cobble-stoned roadway, and Artemus kept his ears and eyes alert for signs of the savage beast rampaging through the countryside—and for brigands and cutpurses. He doubted the beast would venture so close to civilization or that the brigands would frequent the well-patrolled Southern roads out of Ninevah. But it did not hurt to be careful.

While his legs took him further from the hinterlands of Ninevah Island and toward the mighty metropolis at its center, his mind wandered. He imagined what his former life might have been like—manufactured a history for himself where none existed in truth. Perhaps he had been an apprentice wizard, working in the cold, mountainous northern realms of the magi. Artemus tried to picture himself fashioning the finely crafted golems and gargoyles that the region was known for, and the image just seemed incongruous. Likely not a wizard, then.

Perhaps, a ranger, tracking through the woods and hills of Quarnin. It had a more natural feel to it, than had the thought of being a wizard. Artemus felt comfortable outdoors, more so than he did indoors, and his senses were keen. Still, the elves and dwarves of that region were a reclusive group, suspicious of outsiders, and Artemus knew that with his height and broad shoulders, he would never be mistaken for either race. It was not unheard of for humans to mix with the races of Quarnin, but it was not a common occurrence, either.

His skin wasn’t swarthy enough to be from the jungle regions of Eeko-Yah-Ap, nor sunburned enough for the volcanic areas of Visk-vashto. Which left the barbarians of Kiaq, the warlocks of the Underearth, or the knights of Isles of the King. Out of hand he discarded the barren lands, where the undead reigned and only the foolhardy and the desperate went. He still had blood in his veins. Life was still his, even if memory was not.

Instinctively, he rejected the idea of being a warlock. He was uncertain how a magician should feel, but he was reasonably certain that magical ability was not one of the things lost to the void of his memory. Besides, the warlocks were viewed with suspicion throughout the lands—purveyors of powerful magics and artifacts, they were knowledgeable and powerful. And completely untrustworthy. When you make a deal with a warlock, the old saying went, count your fingers after you shake hands to seal the transaction. Such duplicity and secretiveness did not seem to be part of Artemus’ nature. Well, at least it did not seem to be part of his current nature. He chuckled wryly to think that his understanding of his own nature appeared to be based on less than one week of experience.

Perhaps he had been a rogue, living off the land and the unwary? An overlord, holding sway over the blind hordes of troglodyte slaves? A murderer? Was that why he couldn’t remember—were the memories too traumatic? Too bloody?

He shook his head to rid it of such thoughts. For now, he must assume his character before was much like his character now—it was the only reference point he had, after all. Though powerfully built, he did not feel he would fit in well with the barbarian hordes of the rocklands. His speech seemed to be somewhat cultured, and his clothing was not made of animal hides as those of the tribes in the mountains were said to be. Which left the Isles of the King, where the knights resided and the peasants worked the fields. Of all the lands, the islands seemed the most likely to be his home, and he thought again of how the outer regions of Ninevah Island had reminded him, distantly, hauntingly, of a home he could not remember. The islands of King Brachtus were his most likely bet—but thinking about life as a squire, or monk, or even a young knight did not spring any memories from Artemus’ mind, and he could not be certain.

He sighed and continued his moonlit journey through the gradually less rural areas of the island, headed for the mighty city of Ninevah, built on the large bay on the northeastern edge of the island and easily the largest metropolis in any of the seven lands.

As the first rays of sun washed over the horizon, Artemus found himself high on a ridge overlooking a dazzling sight. Spread below him were rolling fields of golden grain, arching green groves of ancient trees and the sparkling azure of the Anhuztal River. A few billowy white clouds drifted on the faint breeze, their bottoms tinged with pink from the newborn sun. Several major roads bisected the fields, and already people were moving along them. All of the roads, including the one Artemus was on, eventually merged with a large thoroughfare that cut a straight North-South swath through the fields and trees. At the northern end of this road stood the shining white walls of Ninevah, like a beacon of hope to all outside their confines. For a moment, time stood still for Artemus as he gazed over the beauty of the scene. He was able to forget his troubles. Lose himself in the fresh scents of early summer, and the gentle washing of the wind amidst the boughs of stately elms and oaks.

Then his stomach rumbled, and suddenly Artemus found that he was weary. He felt spent in his every fiber, ready to sleep for a year. Perhaps forever.

Summoning strength from somewhere, Artemus slowly trudged down the road. At the bottom of the ridge he had been standing on, was another town-- almost a city in its own right. Artemus hoped that fears of the savage beast in the countryside did not extend to settlements this close to Ninevah. He needed a room, a meal, and lots of rest. Ninevah was only a few hours away, but he was in no condition to get there now.

As his fingers played with a scrap of paper in his otherwise empty pockets, he hoped also that he could work for his room and board after he rested.


Wednesday, March 30, 2005

It's good to be six

I must depart-- but I leave you with this, from last Halloween:

If Pocohantas and a purple fairy can get along, perhaps there's hope for the rest of us as well.

Limited Nazi Acceptability

Rod wants to know if it is still okay to call cable companies Nazis (scroll down). Good question! Yes, of course. The use of the term is acceptable when all parties can agree that the target of the label is clearly deserving of such disparagement. Since liberals and conservatives, greens and libertarians can all agree that cable companies are Nazis. This may be the one subject in the world today on which all political views will be in accord with one another.

It is also still acceptable to say, "I hate Illinois Nazis."

James Wolcott is a turd

This probably doesn't come as a shock to anyone who reads his stuff outside of Manhattan, but it still bears repeating from time to time. I can't read much of his dreck at any one time as the condescending pompousness is hard to trudge through, the logic is tortured and at times absolutely ridiculous, and the hypocrisy is rank and ever present, but from time to time it's good to check in on the worst of the liberal elite snobs, just to make sure they're still liberal elite snobs. Wolcott never disappoints.

Exhibit A: He can't even grant the Schindler's one iota of sympathy. You can disagree with their efforts, I do, but how can you not feel sympathy for them?

Exhibit B: He rips on Charles Krauthammer for his "bilious character-assasination" and sneer in the same SENTENCE that he uses bilious character-assasination on Krauthammer. And really, Jimmy, is there a single moment in your life when there isn't that self-satisified little smirk on your own face?

Anyway. I'm not sure why I throw that in here today except that I realized I hadn't bothered going to his blog in quite a while, and I wanted to see if he still sucked as badly as I remembered. Truthfully, I think he may be getting worse.

Sweeping Generalization Alert

Well, the title of Lee Siegel's media column at The New Republic pretty well sums up its content: Raging Bullshit. In all fairness, it's an accurate name for the column, as Siegel is clearly raging and the result is clearly bullshit. You do have to sign up for a TNR account to access the article, but there's no cost involved other than having to delete the periodic emailings from TNR. I'd like to reproduce the entire thing, but that would almost certainly be a copyright violation, so I will settle for highlighting some of the more egregious of his statements and my own commentary thereon.

Here's the gist of the thing as far as I can determine: somehow NBC's new show The Contender, which I have not viewed but involves amateur boxers fighting each other while we get to know their life stories and listen to dollups of wisdom from Sylvestor Stallone and Sugar Ray Leonard, is comparable to the Teri Schiavo situation. How, you rightly ask, can a made for TV "reality" show about boxers be comparable to the legal and moral quandry of the Teri Schiavo controversy? Well, it's tortured logic, and according to Siegel, the comparison is only really valid for the Christian right, and, and, well, I'll let Siegel try to make the case:

But there is something more. In a stroke of utter fascinating inanity, "The Contender" has made its motto Nietzsche's overquoted epigram, the war-cry of every hormonally imbalanced adolescent: "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." This seems to be the message extracted from Terri Schiavo's condition by the Christian legions. They don't, as good Christians would, want to leave Schiavo's death in God's hands and allow her to ascend to heaven. They don't, as no one has the courage to point out on the talk shows--the lions are throwing themselves to the Christians--see a contradiction between their opposition to stem-cell research and abortion on the grounds that God's will must not be tampered with by science, and their insistence that science must interfere with God's will and keep Schiavo alive. (And there was Senator Joe Lieberman on "Meet the Press" Sunday, describing America as having been founded on "Christian" premises. But the origins of the Constitution lie in the Enlightenment, in deism, and in Voltairean revulsion against religion. Is Lieberman now afraid to say so?) These Christians really think that if Schiavo is kept alive long enough she'll come out of her vegetative state--she'll win. Just as those poor pummeled guys on "The Contender" might win if they allow themselves to be pulverized enough. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger--even if it kills you. You realize that pulling punches on the show is like imploring death to pull its punches with Schiavo. In both cases, the spectacle of suffering is prolonged to the satisfaction of some observers.

Got all that? Well, let's break out the sweeping generalizations to make it easier to digest:

1) "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger" is the war-cry of every hormonally imbalanced adolescent. Yup, I can't count the number of times I shouted that as I charged into battle against the Man as an adolescent. And just as two small pedantic point, the quote is actually, "What doesn't kill me, makes me only stronger," and most folks are satisfied with putting just a z in Nietzche's name, eshewing that extra s.

2) "This seems to be the message extracted from Terri Schiavo's condition by the Christian legions." Really? Gosh, between the Christian legions and the hormonally imbalanced adolescents, it's a wonder I don't hear Nietzche quoted every ten minutes. Heading to the cafeteria I would expect to hear people contemplating the mystery meat shouting "What doesn't kill me, makes me only stronger!" Going to church last Sunday, it seems the other members of the Christian legion had also missed the memo, because I don't recall anybody rallying the troops with "What doesn't kill me, makes me only stronger!" Though that would've been an interesting sermon for Easter, don't you think?

3) "They don't, as no one has the courage to point out on the talk shows--the lions are throwing themselves to the Christians--see a contradiction between their opposition to stem-cell research and abortion on the grounds that God's will must not be tampered with by science, and their insistence that science must interfere with God's will and keep Schiavo alive." How did we get here from The Contender? How does this relate to anything? Where does he come up with the idea that Christian opposition to stem-cell research and abortion has to do with God's will rather than with sanctity of life? Ye gods, what is this type of over-generalized tripe doing in a friggin' media column? But wait, there's more:

4) "These Christians really think that if Schiavo is kept alive long enough she'll come out of her vegetative state--she'll win. Just as those poor pummeled guys on "The Contender" might win if they allow themselves to be pulverized enough. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger--even if it kills you. You realize that pulling punches on the show is like imploring death to pull its punches with Schiavo. In both cases, the spectacle of suffering is prolonged to the satisfaction of some observers." Oh, okay, there's suffering in The Contender and suffering in the Schiavo case, so the two are morally equivalent. Gotcha. And anybody that thinks that pulling Terri's feeding tube was wrong is doing so only because they want her suffering to continue. Wait. That can't really be what he meant, can it? Sadly, it is exactly what he meant as Siegel makes clear in his concluding paragraph:

So for the Christian right, Schiavo has become something like a human antidepressant. Her plight, perhaps, makes them feel better about themselves and not Left Behind by Hollywood, or by sophisticated Northeastern elites, or by urban decadence, or urban mores, or urban wealth. And by arguing, no, insisting that her story have a happy ending, they can cheer themselves up about the society they are helping to create every day, a society in which being able to celebrate the spectacle of the weak getting pummeled, and the weak wasting away from within in a vegetative state, is the measure of one's strength. Nietzsche and Christ, together at last.

Got that? I know it's hard to grasp the breadth of his stereotyping and the tortured nature of the logic, but it boils down to a simple premise. If you oppose the killing of Terri Schiavo, it isn't out of principle, it isn't because you believe in erring on the side of life, it isn't even that you believe that Michael Schiavo is a scumbag. Nope, if you oppose the killing of Terri Schiavo, it is because keeping her alive helps you feel better about yourself, because you enjoy watching the weak suffer, and because it helps you feel superior to all those Northeastern elites. You rotten, hate-mongering bastards, why can't you just embrace forgiving, tolerant liberalism and advocate killing this woman slowly in a tolerant, compassionate way?

If anybody is wondering why I have firmly renounced any association I had with liberalism, this kind of poison is the main motivating factor. And if anyone wonders why I think the mainstream media has a strong liberal bias, let this be exhibit A.

Blogspot server issues

I am having semi-regular trouble getting into the blogspot server. Hopefully they will get it fixed soon, but in the meantime, though I have several issues I want to blog about, the entries may be scattershot. I'm also not sure if the comments sections are working right or not, so if you've tried to post a comment and it hasn't worked, please try again.

Hey, you get what you pay for (blogspot is free).

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Brother, can you spare $40?

My school district has come begging. Seems they're short a little. $11.5 million, actually. And that's just for next year. So, they're having a referendum-- just a small little matter of around $40 on my modest, $125,000 house. No biggie. $40 for the children. There's even a picture of four cute first graders on the referendum flier. The children, man.

My children, actually. I have one in public school in the district, and the other will be there in two years. And I still think the referendum is a crock. Why? Because they asked us for money last year, and they said that this was vital for fiscal solvency, but it should take care of the problem. Only, not so much. Because now they're back, and they've apparently blown through the money they collected last year and have an even bigger deficit this time around.

Why? The teacher's union. If there's a bigger group of hucksters and charlatans around than the Wisconsin Education Association Council, or WEAC, they must be the unholy love children of P.T. Barnum and Harold Hill. I'm not talking about the actual teachers here, most of whom are wonderful, dedicated public servants. I'm talking about the union-- the folks that won't even consider having any of their members pay even a teensy bit of their insurance (you know, like 95% of the rest of us do) and then expect the public to pony up when costs sky rocket. The folks that want to close down the Wisconsin Virtual Academy.

And just to add insult to injury, the school district-- you know the one with no money-- mailed out a flier to me urging my support for the referendum. No big, you say? Well, maybe not except that they sent the exact same flier home with my daughter the day before! There's an efficient use of funds. Let's spend thousands of dollars doing a bulk mailing to people who have already gotten the flier.

So, I will be voting NO next Tuesday, and I will be voting for anybody but Jim Doyle next year, as he appears to be, to borrow a phrase from Charlie Sykes, a wholly owned subsidiary of WEAC. The only way public education in Wisconsin gets better is if we start reining in the madness of WEAC. The only way to start doing that is to stop ponying up every time the ridiculous benefit packages negotiated by WEAC force school district costs to escalate at perposterous rates. The truly despicable part of this, is that front-line teachers will likely lose jobs so that adminstrators and bureaucrats can keep their cushy benefits. And the children will suffer, but WEAC won't care because they can just point their fingers at me and everyone else who votes against a referendum and say it was our fault.

Thank goodness they're all for the children. Imagine what WEAC would do if they didn't care so much.

Turns out, Johnny Appleseed was an eco-terrorist

A while back, I had a brief email discussion with Jack Montag about the Kyoto protocols and the refusal of the U.S. to sign it. I fully approve of the decision, him not so much. It was interesting, and I think an important topic because I think energy policies, decisions, and technological breakthroughs are some of the most important issues in the world today. My biggest complaints with Kyoto are that it doesn't really do much to decrease warming, that we haven't proven even slightly convincingly that warming is bad, that China and India are exempted, and that the damage to the US economy could be substantial to no real purpose.

All of which points are reiterated by Orson Scott Card, one of my favorite authors, and an intelligent analyst on a variety of topics, in his recent post at The Ornery American. Card references an article in Scientific America (subscription required, sorry) that makes the case that the Earth should be cooling right now, perhaps enough to be of concern to all of us carbon-based life forms, but it isn't-- which may be a good thing rather than a bad thing. My favorite passage:

There are even suggestions that when human activities are sharply curtailed, the global climate begins to revert to its natural (based on solar radiation) ice-age climate. When the Black Death left Europe relatively depopulated and much land turned back into forest, there was a corresponding cooling of the climate. As the population bounced back and forest lands were again brought under cultivation, the temperature rose.

Sometimes one change in human behavior balances another. In America, for instance, vast regions that were once heavily farmed have reverted to forest, because it is now cheaper to grow all our grains in the midwest and ship them to the forested east and southeast. However, this has happened alongside a sharp growth in carbon dioxide emissions. So you could either say that forest regrowth has hidden the evil effects of industrialization -- or that industrialization has hidden the evil effects of reforestation.

Heh. Or, as Card argues in the next paragraph, maybe we should stop thinking about this in terms of good and evil and start actually compiling some data and doing some science. It's a thought.

Artemus, Two Moons Over Ninevah, part ii

[The Beginning] [The Previous Bit]

Artemus started awake. His heart was racing, and his hands were raised like claws in front of him. Eyes darting all around, he quickly determined that he was alone. No dogs were chasing him. No minotaurs were tracking him.

A dream. Just a dream.

Then his stomach rumbled, and he realized he was famished. Instinctively, he snatched a nearby meat encrusted bone and began gnawing on it. Only as the first chunks of flesh slid down his throat did he realize the meat wasn’t cooked.

With a look of revulsion, he held the bloody, stringy mass of flesh and bone away from his face. It was a sheep leg. And part of it had the curling wool of the animal still attached.

Artemus threw the half-eaten leg to the ground in disgust, yet even as he did so, his stomach rumbled again. And his mouth watered as his eyes tracked the path of the leg to the ground.

What is happening to me? Looking around, Artemus was appalled to discover the bones and remains of many sheep— and what must be cows— scattered amongst the underbrush of the small thicket in which he had awoken. What has happened to me?

He eyed his current home distastefully, then noted a small bundle near the bed of leaves he had awoken upon. With a faint stirring of memory, Artemus made his way to the bag, and became aware for the first time that he was naked. A light breeze sent shivers down his bare skin, and as he unwrapped the bundle he was not surprised to discover his clothes and his boots preserved within. Why do I remember wrapping these up? Why don’t I remember why I wrapped these up?

But he knew that the answer to his second question was unlikely to be forthcoming— he remembered very little beyond his name and his recent encounters at the Lazy Dragon Inn. A flash here of a beautiful woman with long, black hair and smoldering eyes. A flash there of an imposing older gentleman he both feared and loved. Fertile fields and huge spreading trees. The rest was a void— a gaping hole where memories of his childhood should be. Where his life should be. As he slowly put on the carefully bundled clothes, Artemus was unaware of the tears gently tracking their way through the grime on his face.

He finished dressing and slowly picked his way out of the thicket. It was a difficult task, and when he emerged from the tightly packed saplings and bushes, he noted that whatever creature had made the thicket its home had chosen very well. Looking back from where he had just emerged, Artemus was hard pressed to find the entrance. He wondered how he might have found the thicket in the first place, and gave thanks that whatever beast had slain all of those sheep and cattle hadn’t come home to its lair last night.

As he made his way out into the surrounding woods, he noted a paw print in the loose dirt. A big paw print— larger than his hand and made by a wolf from the looks of it. Artemus shivered and once again gave thanks he had escaped the creature’s notice.

Artemus soon reached a small clearing, and using the fading outline of Romendor’s second, smaller, moon, he was able to determine that it was six days after his strange encounters at the Lazy Dragon Inn. By the faint glow in the east, he had awoken just before sunrise.

Six days. More time lost, Artemus thought, mournfully. He remembered the fight at the Inn, the tremendous explosion of energy he had felt when the assassins had attacked. The way everyone else had seemed to move in slow motion while he moved easily among them, threw the assassins aside like they were weightless. The glee that had coursed through him as he tore the throats out of several of his attackers still made him shudder.

After the fight, he remembered the way that strange woman, Melian— dragon if Antionette was to be believed— had seemed to stare into his very soul. Melian had told him to leave Ninevah for a week, and for some reason, Artemus had instantly believed it important to follow her instructions. He remembered leaving the city in a rush, and again the way people seemed to be moving slower than he was— not as slowly as the assassins had, but slow none-the-less. For some reason, he had headed south, had felt it important to go that direction.

The first day away from the city, he recalled wandering the country lanes, admiring the beautiful rolling hills, and gazing out over verdant fields of grain. The sights seemed familiar to him, though he knew he had never been to the outlands of Ninevah Island before. He suspected that maybe his home had not been too dissimilar from these lands, that the people that worked the lands of his home weren’t unlike the farmers and blacksmiths and cobblers he met in the small towns outside the massive walls of Ninevah the city. He hoped this was what home was like, for he enjoyed the tour of the island very much.

The people seemed friendlier too, out in the country. He soon ran out of money, but the inn- and tavern-keepers never seemed to mind if he cut wood, or moved hay, or did some other chore to pay for his room and board. In part, this might have been from the incredible energy and power Artemus brought to the jobs— he seemed to be able to move things that took two or even three men normally— but he was sure part of it was just the more relaxed nature of country living.

By the end of the day after the fight, he was far out into the countryside, nearly to the wild lands. Now things started to get fuzzy, as his memory once again began failing him. He remembered staying in a barn that evening, rather than an inn, but he couldn’t recall why. Bad dreams had haunted him that evening, dreams of hunting, and of being hunted. But that was all he could recall, until waking this morning in the wolf’s thicket.

Shaking off the recollections, and his near constant craving for memories— any memories— Artemus oriented himself with the newly risen sun and headed north. Melian had said to return to the city in a week. If he started now, he should be back by evening of the seventh day after the fight at the Lazy Dragon.

He felt fit, though his stomach was still grumbling, and rested. Though the terrain here in the Ninevah’s wildlands was rough, strewn with brambles and fallen trees and overgrown in many areas by huge vines and ground creepers, he moved quickly. His tremendous strength and agility made traversing even the most difficult areas of ground fairly simple. As he made his way north, the vegetation began to thin, with larger trees but less undergrowth and more grass and open spaces between the ancient trees. Around mid-day, he happened upon a small thicket of tingleberries, and his now ravenous appetite forced him to pause and devour as many of the small, bluish-green berries as he could find. As their name implied, the juicy berries left him feeling tingly all over, and a little light-headed, but they momentarily quieted his stomach and he continued north, to Ninevah.

As he jogged through increasingly gentler terrain, Artemus rolled a small piece of paper between thumb and forefinger in one of his vest pockets. Written upon it, was a name— Jostan Higstiff. Artemus did not know this man, but Melian had given him the slip, and had told him the man could help him with his problem. Anybody who might be able to help Artemus fill in the huge void of his memory was worth seeking out.

Soon, signs of civilization began to appear. Fields began to dot the still tree-filled terrain, and a few small huts could be seen here and there. Distant plumes of smoke indicated where other dwellings were hidden amongst the woods. Ahead, Artemus spied a small road, more of a trail really, and he quickly made his way towards it. Once on the trail, he made better time, and by mid-afternoon he was once again famished, but also well into the more settled regions of Ninevah Island.

Oddly, there were few people about, and as he approached a small group of buildings, Artemus was surprised to find a good-sized group of people gathered with pitchforks and clubs near the entrance to the village. He slowed as he approached, though the group seemed to be in the middle of a heated discussion, and did not notice his approach until he was nearly upon them.

“We must find the beast and kill it!” yelled one man, and many others shouted encouragement when he did so.

“And wind up like old Ned Dithers?” shouted back another man. “With your throat ripped out, and your entrails eaten? Is that what you want?” He was a big man, and seemed to carry an air of authority about him. Several men and women near the larger man nodded their heads in agreement or murmured encouragement.

His angry questions quieted the crowd momentarily, but from the back, a small, wiry man took up the argument. “Well, what then Angus?" Do you suggest we all just cower in our homes and hope the beast bothers someone else? Do you mean to say we should allow it to kill all our cows and sheep the way it killed Ned’s?” This stirred up the majority of the crowd, and a new round of arguing appeared to be underway, until Artemus drew near.

His appearance quieted everyone, and soon all eyes were upon the tall man as he approached. The eyes were guarded, and angry. Fearful. They regarded Artemus suspiciously.

He stopped about ten feet from the glowering pack of villagers. “Greetings, good people,” he ventured. Stony silence was his only response. “I gather some great calamity has brought you all together here? Might I be of some assistance?” He wasn’t sure why he volunteered that last, but he hated to see these formerly happy people so nervous and suspicious. It was not as it should be, and if he could help restore things to their proper place, Artemus knew he would do what he could to assist.

His offer brought a gentle murmur from the crowd, and then the large man, Angus, stepped forward. “Greetings, young sir,” he said offering his huge hand to Artemus. “My apologies for the unruly nature of our town this day. We have indeed suffered a calamity, and though we appreciate your offer, there is little one man can do to assist.” His tone was sincere, and Artemus instantly liked him. An excellent leader, thought Artemus, and no doubt the village head here.

“Well, perhaps not, but who can say?” Artemus replied. He looked at the faces of the villagers. They were still fearful, but the stony glances had faded and a few smiles had appeared— mostly among the few women who had gathered for the ‘meeting’. “Why don’t we all retire to the inn and partake of some ale, and discuss it?” Artemus smiled his most charming smile.

Angus regarded him briefly, then his features hardened, and a stern look came over his face, “I am afraid not, young sir...”

“Artemus, but not sir, please.”

“Young Artemus. We are not normally an unfriendly village, but there is an evil abroad in this land, and we do not know you.” His tone was not harsh, nor unfriendly, yet both it and the look in Angus’ eyes were set and determined. He was protecting his village from the unknown.

“An evil?” replied Artemus. “If I can not assist, may I ask your indulgence in informing me on this evil of which you speak?”

Again, Angus regarded the younger man. Finally, he sighed, and his shoulders drooped slightly. “Certainly I can not send you out into the country unprepared, stranger or no. Three days ago, Ned Dithers, a farmer near the edges of the wildlands, was slaughtered by... something. His throat was torn out and then he was...” the large man shuddered at this point, and most of the villagers looked down at their feet. “Eaten. Eaten by whatever had killed him. His son found him. He also found their entire herd missing or eaten.”

“Oh Lord,” whispered Artemus.

“We believed it to be a wolf,” continued Angus, his voice hushed now, “because of the tracks near the house— near Ned. But it’s no common wolf— for the last two days guardsmen from Ninevah have hunted the wildlands with bloodhounds. They have found nothing. Nothing but more bodies of sheep and cattle. Whatever it is, it is smart— and very dangerous. It killed one of the tracking bloodhounds and left it hanging from a tree. Almost as if it were taunting its pursuers. Many believe it to be an apparition, and of this I am not certain. But I know of no wolf that can hang a dog from a tree. Do you, young Artemus?”

Artemus could only shake his head, mutely. The pain in the eyes of Angus and the rest of the villagers was too acute. He had no answer for them.

“Until this beast is caught, we are fearful. Untrusting. I do not believe you can blame us, and I think it would be best if you were to continue your journey.” Angus’ voice was hard now, covering the pain. “I am sorry.”

Artemus looked briefly into the larger man’s eyes. “I am sorry, as well,” he said. “For all of you, and most especially for Ned’s family.” He quickly nodded and made his way around the crowd of frightened villagers.

It was not until he was well out of town that his belly reminded him it had been hours since he had last eaten. And it was an hour after that, when Artemus finally thought to wonder why he hadn’t mentioned to Angus the lair of the wolf where he had awoken in this morning. He thought about going back, but his stomach was now a gnawing ache of hunger, and another small village could be seen on the horizon.

Artemus hoped it was less fearful than the last.

[The next bit]


Monday, March 28, 2005

Go U of I!

Well, I'm still hanging on to first place. But with folks close to me having Lousville and UNC, it's not in the bag yet. If Illinois wins out, I should be golden for 1st place, but if Louisville beats them next Saturday, or NC beats MSU and then Illinois, maybe not so much. Still, I look at it as living on borrowed time at this point. I wrote off my pool at about the four minute mark of the UI vs. Arizona game, at which point, the Illini were down by 15,000 (okay, so fifteen). They were done, and with their loss, so was my pool. Sniff, sniff, woe is me. I'll admit, I was pouting a little. I actually left the room and went downstairs and watched the end of Scooby Doo 2 with my kids, which really isn't that bad if you go into it not expecting a life-action version of the show to replicate what the cartoons did. Though Freddie Prinz, Jr. was terrible. I liked the CG Scooby. So sue me. Anyway, just as Scooby was saving the day with the world's only never ending fire extinguisher (there was enough CO2 to, apparently, put out the Towering Inferno in one go), my wife checks down to let me know the Illinois game just went into overtime. I thought she was messing with me. It took her about 30 seconds to convince me she wasn't messing with me, by which time "Those dratted kids and their dog" had saved the day again, and I could watch the overtime session.

Wow. What else is there to say. How do you come back from down 15 with four minutes to go. You just don't. Amazing. And that was after the rollercoaster ride of the first game between Louisville and West Virginia. Followed up the next day by double overtime between Michigan State and Kentucky (blast you Kentucky! If UK had pulled it out, I would've been 4 for 4 on picking the Final Four). So, I'm living on borrowed time as far as the NCAA's is concerned. But then again, so are Dee Brown, Luther Head, Bruce Weber and the rest of the Illini. 'Cause they were dead. So, hopefully they won't let themselves get buried again against Louisville. One thing I think I can safely say-- there will be a LOT of three-pointers raining down in Missouri next Saturday, since UI and Louisville combined to shoot 63 long balls in their regional final match ups.

Go Illinois!

Weekend Ramblings

It was a good Easter weekend. Went up to my in-laws house in Door County, right on Lake Michigan Friday night, and the moon was nearly full over the lake that evening. It was cold, too cold for the date, but it wasn't bitter, and the crispness of the temperature somehow cast the soft beauty of the moon reflecting down on the lake into a sharper relief. One of those moments where you just breathe deeply and enjoy a moment of solitude and reflection before re-immersing yourself in life. Saturday was spent with the kids and their grandparents and later, watching some truly remarkable basketball. Then Easter morning at a beautiful church in Door County before departing for my brunch with my folks, grandma, sister, aunt and uncle and cousins. Hectic, but nice. More awesome basketball back at my parent's house, where I diligently avoided several potential landmines in discussions about Terri Schiavo, public education and the evil Republican neocons. It was nothing like this (no, not the BLEAT graphic, though that is nice), but then again it was. Because it was family, and because time does this thing to all of us.

Which, to bring it all full circle, is rather the point of Easter.


Friday, March 25, 2005

Oh THAT Ivory Tower: Oh the humanity!

U.S. faculty members are implored to rally 'round that paragon of virtue, that defender of all that is right and good and just in the world, Ward Churchill. He's being dogged by the MAN, man, and, like, we have to stand up to the MAN. No blood for oil! Oh wait. That's not it. Wrong rallying cry. Hmm... how about, Stand By Your Man? Too twangy?

Enough already. First question-- were there no math faculty reading this letter that could've pointed out that having two #11's (but this one goes to eleven) and two #12's probably wasn't the best way to make the point that these are serious issues being presented by serious intellectuals?


As I'm sure you know, in recent weeks Ward Churchill's substantive critiques of U.S. policies and practices have been conveniently buried in a frenzy of increasingly ugly personal attacks.

The local media (along with Bill O’Reilly) and the political forces behind them have made no secret of their agenda to destroy Ward’s reputation and career, along with academic freedom, tenure and ethnic studies at CU.
A rousing start, no? With two little sentences, each so fraught with import they needed their own paragraph, Churchill's actual "critiques" have been 'conveniently buried', to borrow a phrase, and rather than Churchill having to take any responsibility for his statements, the fallout from said statements is now entirely due to shadowy political forces with quite the extensive agenda.

But time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin' into the future, and I must depart for the nonce. I hope to pick up this lovely bit of hyperbolic tripe and propoganda on Monday. In the meantime, weigh in on it if you wish-- there's plenty to rip on for everyone, so don't be shy. Dig in!

Happy Easter everyone!


One last Terri link

Okay, I may be lying. There may be more than just this one more. At any rate, some interesting thoughts and links from Andrew Sullivan:

THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT VERSUS MARRIAGE: Dahlia Lithwick highlights yet another conservative inconsistency in the Schiavo case. What this case comes down to is the right of a spouse to determine his or her incapacitated spouse's fate in the absence of a living will. Civil marriage is indeed a unique and special legal bond. The social right believes this. But they only believe it when it suits them. If it can be used to marginalize and stigmatize gay couples, they are insistent. If it is an obstacle to their absolutist views on feeding tubes for human beings who have ceased to be able to feel, think or emote, then they discard it. Here's a Tom DeLay quote that says it all:

"I don't know what transpired between Terri and her husband. All I know is Terri is alive. ... Unless she has specifically written instructions in her hand, with her signature, I don't care what her husband says."

So much for the "sanctity of marriage." With each passing month, the cynicism and power-lust of these people become clearer and clearer. Here's a principle: the government should stay out of living rooms, bedrooms and marital bonds. That used to be called conservatism.

If you haven't read Andrew's stuff, I encourage you to do so. Although I don't agree with all of his stances, he is a consistently thoughtful voice in an increasingly polarized and screed filled blogosphere.

UPDATE: I forgot this earlier. Troy suggested I provide links to online Living Will sites. Great idea! I have no idea how legitimate or cost-appropriate any of these places are, so Buyer Beware. The best idea is probably to contact a local lawyer, though I imagine it will be more costly.

UPDATE: A nice summation by Glenn Reynolds, I think. And I have one request for both sides of the political aisle in this and all other debates. Can we please, for the love of Pete, stop with ALL THE FRIGGIN' NAZI ANALOGIES! First we have the folks on the left calling Bush, Rove, Ashcroft and other Republicans Nazis. Now the unhinged faction of the Republican and conservative right have responded in kind by equating the Schiavo case with Nazi Germany's extermination of the mentally ill and disabled. Aye carumba. Step back for a moment folks and take a deep breath. Sheesh!

Next up-- still more on Ward Churchill! Faculty around the country are rallying to his defense. If only they could count....


Thursday, March 24, 2005

Some more Schiavo analysis

Not mine. Other folks. Most of these links confirm for me that since I play a libertarian on the internet, I made the right call in changing my initial support for congressional overreach on the Schiavo case. I wonder if this whole mess will resonate at all during the '06 mid-terms. I kind of doubt it, but you never know.

In addition, this case has resulted in Kos and Derbyshire being on the same side of an issue. I wonder if that has ever happened before. Seems somewhat unlikely. Oh, and I meant to ask-- if any of the liberals who have recently browsed the site followed the link to National Review Online, did your head actually explode? Just curious.

Librarian geekitude

In case you were curious what some, and I emphasize some, librarians do for fun, check this out. You'll never look at over-sugared marshmellow animals the same way again.

Well, crap.

Okay, it now appears that while Dr. Cheshire is not a quack overall, he may well be a quack when it comes to diagnosing Terri Schiavo. Nuts. The name should've tipped me off. Which changes none of my thinking on the actions of the various legislature and executive branches involved in the case, but does make me grudgingly admit that maybe the judicial branch has been right all along. Which is encouraging in the sense that the system worked the way it is supposed to-- despite the best efforts of two of the branches to overwhelm the third.

Which is a remarkable testament both to the durability of our political scheme and to the framers of the Constitution. If you have not read about the people involved in Colonial times, you really, really should. A more amazing bunch of personalities and minds has rarely been gathered in the same place at the same time in human history.

Some food for thought on Terri

A number of comments on the Terri Schiavo thread but I think there are some flaws and/or other perspectives that need to be highlighted. Which is not to say good points have not been made. I do agree with Troy that way too much money has been spent on this case, though most of my objection is to the court costs-- I'm okay with the health costs given the additional information I've dug up in the last day or so (see below). I also agree with Temporary Costello that it is shameful that so-called conservative, small government Republicans have totally tossed away any states' rights credentials they might have laid claim to previously. And I agree with Jack that folks are too afraid of death these days, and I think part of that can be laid on the cynicism that seems to permeate much of faith these days.


I take issue with some of the following commentary:

"...a brain-damaged woman who cannot respond to any stimulus..."
"Secondly, the brain damage in this case is not really related to the rabies case. It is not really just significant or partial damage. It is TOTAL. the poor woman's brain has atrophied and been replaced by spinal fluid. It's like ketchup soup. there's nothing there to recover. It's not just that a miracle, or something that the doctors don't expect, might occur, it's that it can't. It's like having the engine removed from your car and expectiing a new battery to start it up on a cold morning."
I would be okay with both of these comments if Terri Schiavo was, in fact, brain dead. But I remain unconvinced that she is. Why? Well, check out this affidavit from a Florida doctor (no, he's not a quack) and then tell me you're absolutely certain that Terri has no chance of recovery. Some highlights from Dr. Cheshire's affadavit (based on direct observations of Terri):

"There remain, in fact, huge uncertainties in regard to Terri's true neurological status....New facts have come to light in the last few years that should be weighed in the neurological assessment of Terri Schiavo."

"…Terri Schiavo demonstrates behaviors in a variety of cognitive domains that call into question the previous neurological diagnosis of persistent vegetative state. Specifically, she has demonstrated behaviors that are context-specific, sustained, and indicative of cerebral cortical processing that, upon careful neurological consideration, would not be expected in a persistent vegetative state.

"Based on this evidence, I believe that, within a reasonable degree of medical certainty, there is a greater likelihood that Terri is in a minimally conscious state than a persistent vegetative state. This distinction makes an enormous difference in making ethical decisions on Terri’s behalf. If Terri is sufficiently aware of her surroundings that she can feel pleasure and suffer, if she is capable of understanding to some degree how she is being treated, then in my judgment it would be wrong to bring about her death by withdrawing food and water…."

So, maybe Terri IS capable of responding to stimuli. Maybe that engine isn't missing after all, and maybe there's a bit more to that cortex than ketchup soup. Maybe, to stretch an analogy to perhaps absurd lengths, the engine is missing two cylinders and will never be able to produce more than 1/4 its previous horsepower, but is still capable of operation if someone puts a little time into trying. No one has tried to improve Terri's cognition or condition because Michael Schiavo doesn't want them to, for whatever reason. Would it be so wrong to try some new therapeutic techniques on Terri to see if she can improve? All the assumptions that she can't are based on the fact that she hasn't improved-- but no one is giving her the chance. It's rather like expecting a one year old to know how to walk when we never allow her to crawl.

What would be the harm, after all of this time, after all of this debate, in trying for a while to see if she can improve? If she doesn't, then the diagnosis of PVS (persistent vegetative state) is almost certainly correct and the complexion of the debate changes greatly. If she does, then the diagnosis was wrong, and the complexion of the debate changes greatly.

So, I reiterate my early position-- the best and the right thing to do is to put the tube back in and then try to determine if the diagnosis of PVS is right. Let's err on the side of life. But I also stand by my conclusion that the best and right thing to do is Michael Schiavo's responsibility. This makes me very sad, because I know that he will not do the right thing, whatever his motivation, and I can't imagine being Terri's parents or the agony they must be enduring. But it is not the government's job to attempt to right every perceived injustice. I don't want the government to be legislating people's lives in this manner, no matter how much I agree with their motivations in this particular case.

It is time for Jeb Bush, the Florida and federal legislature and all of those that feel for and love Terri to let it go. I wish that weren't the case, but it is.

"The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few."

"Or the one."

It is time to let it go. It is time to say goodbye.


Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Some philosophical ruminations

So, my brother sent out the blog link to a bunch of his friends (strongly liberal across the board, I think), many of whom check the thing out (thanks!). A day or two later, he send this:

The preliminary word is in. People don't think you're a libertarian. They think you're a conservative. How do you feel about that?

Ack! I've been exposed! Must spin, must spin. Oh wait, no. I hate spin. Here's my response:

I think it all goes back to my childhood... oh, wait. This isn't therapy.

Okay, really. Unsurprised. A friend of mine who has commented on the site and is a die-hard conservative thinks that I just might qualify as a conservative, but he still has his doubts. I'm definitely more conservative than liberal at this point. And I'm probably not really a libertarian. I'm not sure I actually want to be, since the official libertarian party was opposed to the War on Terror. I just very much am NOT a Republican or a Democrat at this point, and I like the concept of libertarianism-- limited government interference and the williness to let people do what they want provided it doesn't break the law or damage anyone else.

Mostly what I am, I hope, is someone who tries to listen to all sides, and is willing and able to find the strengths and weaknesses in those various sides. Ambitious, I suppose, but I really detest that much of the left is completely blinded by their hatred of Bush and unwilling to even consider that anything the Republicans do could be good or helpful and that much of the right is blinded by their belief that just because more people voted for them they don't have to listen to anything the other side has to say. Admittedly, at this point I am more disgusted by the left than the right, but I really, really wish someone still gave a damn about the middle. I know a lot of regular people do-- why the hell don't any politicians, pundits or other media people?

Which is why I hope some of your liberal friends do check in from time to time (one has already left a post on the Schiavo thing) even if they do think I'm too conservative. Democracy is at its best-- hell, people are at their best-- when their is an exchange of ideas and the various perspectives on issues are presented. We need to be willing to admit when we are wrong and to credit the other guy when she is right. Is that so frickin' hard?

Dialogue, bro. We need more dialogue and whole lot less pissin'. Way too many pissing matches going on these days. Makes the place stink and it doesn't accomplish a damn thing.

One of my hopes for the blog was to provide me with some balance, too. I think I have over-compensated with conservative viewpoints lately, which was okay since I was coming from pretty far off on the left, but now it's time to find some common ground and some equilibrium. So, I want all viewpoints. I want discussion. I want to breakthrough the "Ah, he's a liberal/conservative, why would I listen to him?" that seems far too rampant in our society. Brian is a good example-- he only reads liberal blogs, so he only hears what he already knows. There's no growth there, no chance to maybe see things differently. It's a great big echo chamber.

Consider it a challenge-- if you and your friends find me to be too conservative, make the case for the alternative(s). What am I missing? Where is my logic flawed? How else could this problem be approached?

Dialogue. We need a whole lot more dialogue these days.

Okay, my secret is out. Libertarian Librarian is just terribly alliterative, so I had to go with it. I am, however, still waiting for my "Vast Rightwing Conspiracy" badge. Probably got lost in the mail. But, then again, back in my far left moonbat days, I never got my "Reagan is the Anti-Christ" button, either. I'm not really a Democrat, Republican or Libertarian. Please don't hate me for my unpigeonholeability. Embrace my nonconformities and then try to convert me to your side if you wish, or perhaps just consider some alternative perspectives and dismiss them as the rantings of a delusional archivist stuck in the basement too long.

Whatever you wish, folks, but let's dialogue-- there's already a nice stream going on the Schiavo comments section, though it is currently exclusively populated by liberals. John, get in there! Ah hell, maybe I'll try a salvo or two.

A wise man gets more use from his enemies than a fool from his friends. ~Balthasar Gracian


A few more thoughts on Terri

Man, I wasn't kidding when I said this case has ramifications across a wide, wide section of thought and opinion. I received two interesting comments on my Schiavo post, and they've made me step back a bit from my initial post. Seems likely that I fell into the same trap I warn others against-- don't listen to just one side of the issue. I have mostly been hearing and/or reading those who think that Terri's feeding tube should be reinserted, and I remain unconvinced that this isn't the right thing to do. But I really don't know enough about the whole thing to make truly informed decisions-- I doubt most people do.

At any rate, even if putting the tube back is the right thing to do, it to be done by Michael Schiavo. Or he needs to transfer his authority to make that decision to his parents. Absent that, the best thing to do is to keep this a state matter, and I am officially reversing my earlier approval for what Congress did to try to keep Terri alive. This is not a case that should involve ANY legislature. It really isn't a case that should involve anybody from executive or judicial branches either. And yet it has engaged all three at multiple levels. If there is one good thing about this case, it is that the need to make clear your wishes can never really be done too early.

Got that, everyone?

The Madness is getting serious

I made the mistake of checking where I was in my Not-Office-Pool. Big mistake. I knew I was doing well, but it turns out I'm in first place. Yikes! Now I'm actually getting a bit nervous about the games tomorrow and Friday. If my sweet sixteen picks pan out pretty well... well, I'll just wait and see. Wish me luck. Go Louisville, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Duke, Kentucky and Oklahoma State. Illinois too, I suppose (I have them winning it all), but man it would be sweet if UWM made it to the elite eight. Ack! I have a conflict of interest. I must recuse myself. Oh wait, I'm not a judge. Phew!

My flatlander (i.e., person from Illinois) friend responded to my last post, and he makes a much better argument than last time. I still disagree with him, but I give his position a lot more credit than his previous snide commentary. Check out the discussion on the comments page.

I hope to post a bit later on my school district's current attempt to guilt all of us tax payers into giving them more dough-- and ask the question, "If the school district is short of money, should they really be sending out bulk mailers asking for more money?"

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Some thoughts on bias

And the comments keep pouring in! Well, okay, trickling is probably a more accurate evaluation, but what the hey. Are they comments about the really (no, really) spooky resemblence between Gloria Steinem and Ward Churchill? Nope. Commentary on the Terri Schiavo case which has ramifications across a veritable plethora of moral, judicial and political arenas? Nope. One is in regards to faculty bias (okay, I do talk about that a lot) and the other about my brief commentary on Bruce Pearl, coach of the UW-Milwaukee Panthers. Not what I would've expected, but hey, if that's what folks want to talk about it works for me.

Two new comments then, and they raise some interesting points, both directly and indirectly, on the importance of recognizing ones own biases, as well as those of others. Let's deal with the indirect point first, which is this comment in regards to Coach Pearl and my support for what he did 15 years ago:

Right. Bruce Pearl is principled--that's why the NCAA couldn't find anything--zero, zilch, NADA--to back up his spurious, lying claims. He's a RAT. Obviously the rest of the coaching fraternity realized this, as he was locked out of D-I for nine years.

The real story is

Pop quiz-- can anyone spot the bias here? Good work, good work. At least with this much bias it's not hard to see it, understand it, and factor it into your evaluation of what the person is saying. Clearly, this guy's feelings for the University of Illinois are strong, and he took what happened fifteen years ago very personally. Which I can understand to a point, I'm an avid fan myself and I'm no doubt biased in favor of UWM and Pearl, but the problem here is that his bias is making him believe that all that was wrong with the Illinois program was Pearl's fault. He has rationalized away any culpability for Illinois, its coaches and AD, and transferred that guilt to Pearl. Never underestimate the power of rationalization-- the human brain is quite adept at finding excuses and rationales when the subject is one the person cares deeply about.

As to the specifics, such as they are, of the comment. The NCAA did not specifically sanction Illinois regarding the taped conversation with Deon Thomas, true, but that does not mean there was nothing to be found there, nor that they were innocent. Just that it was insufficient to punish Illinois based on the tape. Rather like someone being charged with a crime and then not going to trial based on insufficient probable cause. It does not indicate guilt or innocence, merely lack of sufficient evidence. And the fact remains that Illinois WAS busted for a variety of violations separate from the Thomas affair. Violations that might never have come to light if Pearl's tape hadn't picqued the NCAA's curiousity. The fact also remains that Pearl was just a new assistant at Iowa at that time, and it was his bosses that asked him to tape the recruit. It was also his bosses that got him the equipment for the taping. But do Tom Davis or any of the others at Iowa in 1989 catch any flak? Not really, because Pearl was the guy with the recorder.

Okay, now onto the comment regarding direct bias. A reader turned my post on bias in academia on its head by inserting "military" and "conservative" for the words "faculty" and "liberal." The result is this interesting commentary:

No, bias is not inherently bad-- we all have them, and I appreciate knowing them ahead of time. There are two major problems with bias in the military these days.

The first is that the bias is far, far too heavily weighted to the right. A hugely disproportionate percentage of ranking officers/military members are republicans/conservatives, and much of that bias is now bleeding into the training, thus influencing recruits. Which would be okay if they received counter influences from the other side of the spectrum. But since there are few liberal voices in today's military, the ranking officer’s bias serves more as indoctrination than as one perspective on the world.

The second problem is that many ranking officers don't realize, or don't acknowledge, that they have this bias. This causes them to present their slanted viewpoints as "balanced and fair." Thus, any views that are more liberal than the ranking officer’s come to be seen as far-left or extreme. The whole spectrum of opinion winds up skewed way to the right, so that centrist positions seem radical, and extreme right-wing positions seem run-of-the-mill.

Which is a reasonable point, I think, and certainly somewhat true. I have little doubt that the military is skewed to the right, and articles like this October 21, 2004, one from the NY Times do lend it credence. Which is of concern. Yet, there is at least one difference between the two situations, and it's a pretty big one.

To my knowledge, and I feel pretty safe with this one, the military has never, ever claimed to be an institution dedicated to the free and open exchange of ideas. Quite to the contrary, those going into the military should have a pretty fair idea of what sort of culture to expect-- regimented, topdown structure with limited opportunities for those at the bottom to express themselves. This is one reason why, though I admire those who serve, I did not opt for joining the military. I do not believe that this is a good thing, nor do I believe that the military should be the near exclusive province of republicans (if it is), but there are no pretensions to the contrary.

U.S. universities, by contrast, pride themselves on their diversity, their openness, and their dedication to the quest for knowledge of all types. Except when it comes to conservative thought and priniciple. It's an important distinction from my perspective, because I think the biggest danger of biased reporting/viewpoints/discussions or whatever is when it purports to be absent any bias, fair and representative. As an example, when Ward Churchill spoke at UW-Whitewater not long ago, many complained and Whitewater chancellor Jack Miller responded:

"Regardless of the opinions of others, I believe that the academy is at its best when it serves as a forum to exchange ideas," Miller said. "I do not share the same fear of words that has apparently become more prevalent in today’s society."

Which is fine, except that Whitewater is only serving as an exchange for liberal ideas, based on their line-up of speakers. Now, I have nothing against any of these folks individually, but would anybody seriously consider any of them to be a conservative? Not a chance. Why not invite Sean Hannity, or David Horowitz or any of those other members of the vast right-wing conspiracy? Let the students compare and contrast. Instead, the university continues to present itself as an institution that advocates the free exchange of all viewpoints while clearly presenting only one perspective. I don't mean to pick on UW-Whitewater, which is a fine school (I worked there briefly), but it does illustrate the point, I think.

What was that point again? Oh yeah. Beware of bias, and particularly of folks who like to be pundits but claim to be impartial or neutral. To my mind, the biggest offenders in this area are the mainstream media and academia. I do not claim to be impartial, but I do try to examine issues from both sides. For whatever that's worth.

Keep the comments coming, folks. This is fun!


Monday, March 21, 2005

And the MADNESS continues

Two, count 'em two, teams from Wisconsin in the sweet 16. That's... um... SWEET. Both UW and UWM played great games in the second round-- and while UW clearly had the easier draw, you have to give them a lot of credit for beating a very good Bucknell team at a venue that wound up being probably 2-1 or 3-1 in favor of the underdog Bison from Bucknell. Still, a huge shout-out to Bruch Pearl and his team for taking down two top-25 teams. Can they beat Illinois? Probably not, but you never know. The game is in Chicago, which you would think would benefit UWM, but not so much when you're playing Illinois. Oh well.

And I am doing well in my Not-Office-Pool, losing only one of my elite 8 [Wake Forest], and getting 12 out of 16 of the sweet sixteen correct. Woot! As an added bonus, I have Wisconsin going to the Elite 8, and they have a pretty good shot at making it. Which is to take nothing away from N.C. State, which is a very talented club playing great ball at precisely the right time of year. But I think UW's inside-out game and defense will carry them through to a meeting with North Carolina. Of course, it would be fun to have an NC vs. NC State match-up in the round of 8, but I'd rather the Badgers kept moving on.

UPDATE: It seems there's a few underlying storylines to the UWM vs. Illinois match-up. The simplest of which is that Illinois coach Bruce Weber and UWM coach Bruce Pearl have the same first name. Wow!

Slighly more interesting is that Bruce Weber is a UWM graduate. A fellow alum! Bruce, we should do lunch.

The most interesting, and complicated, is that Illinois fans still hate UWM coach Bruce Pearl for having the audacity to not only claim that Illinoi's program was corrupt in the '80s, but to tape a prospective recruit stating as much. And then turn the tape over to the NCAA. The nerve of the guy! Actually trying to make the point that, you know, cheating is wrong. So, Bruce-- Pearl, not Weber-- will no doubt receive a chilly reception from the Illinois fans in their Thursday match-up. To which I would add additional comment except that Adrian Wojnarowski has already made the case for Pearl in his column in yesterday's The Record.

Key passage:
The Illinois fans should've been disgusted with the conduct of their own coaches in those days, but when they had the likes of Dickie V. calling Pearl "unethical" for recording the conversation and turning over the tapes, they had all the enabling that they needed to turn Pearl into a pariah. Thomas changed his story once it went public, and the NCAA could never get the Thomas violations to stick to the Illinois coaching staff. Yet, investigators turned up other trouble, landing the Illini on probation. Collins lost any chance to succeed Lou Henson at Illinois.

Even so, Pearl paid the steepest price within a coaching fraternity where most whistle-blowing happens in the shadows, without accountability attached. Pearl should've been celebrated, but he was pummeled. He went away to Division II for nine years, won a national championship and fought his way back to consecutive NCAA tournaments as Wisconsin-Milwaukee coach.
To which I can only add-- you go, Coach Pearl! It will totally screw my NCAA pool chances, since I have Illinois winning it all, but you and your overachieving Panthers go, baby! Rock on!

Terri Schiavo and Jeanna Giese

I wasn't planning on posting much about Terri Schiavo, as plenty of other people had, and I had very mixed emotions about the federal government getting involved with the case. Michael Schiavo strikes me as at best a shmuck, at worst, something much more sinister, and I feel greatly for Terry's parents. I also worry about the precedent the case sets on killing people who are disabled, and I do not like the judicial fiat power being exercised in this case. But that's how the system works, and I am also hugely opposed to the federal government imposing itself into traditional states' rights areas.

But this morning I heard a discussion on the radio with John Giese, the father of Jeanna Giese. If you haven't heard of Jeanna Giese, you should, as it is a remarkable story. She's the young Wisconsin woman who is the first known person to survive rabies without having any sort of vaccination against the disease. It had never happened before, but just last Monday, she returned to high school. Call it a miracle, I would, or call it an amazing scientific wonder, or call it luck and brilliance on the part of her physicians, but anyway you slice it, no one really thought Jeanna would survive, much less be able to return to school.

No one but her family. Today I heard John Giese talk about sitting in a room with a bunch of doctors who all told him and his wife that they needed to prepare themselves for the death of their daughter. They were going to do everything they could, the doctors said, but realistically the chances were non-existent. Recovery from rabies just didn't happen. The Gieses refused to give up. They prayed and got thousands of others to pray. They talked to Jeanna in the physician induced coma. They prayed some more.

And it worked.

To quote Jeff Goldblum from Jurassic Park, of all things, "Life finds a way."

So, I'm no longer on the fence in regards to the actions of Congress and the President. I hope they worded the thing well, and I hope it isn't twisted into giving the feds more power, though I imagine it will be, but life finds a way. And we need to err on the side of life. The fact that the liberal left can be all up in arms about the slippery slope of outlawing partial birth abortion, but do not seem concerned with the slippery slope inherent in allowing the killing of a brain damaged, but not machine dependent, women makes me more comfortable with my position. Well, to be fair, not all liberals are on board with letting Terri die.

One last thought. To quote from J.R.R. Tolkien's incomparable The Lord of the Rings:

Gandalf [In Moria, talking to Frodo about killing Gollum]
Many that live deserve death, and some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them, Frodo? Do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. Even the very wise can not see all ends.


Friday, March 18, 2005

March Madness, redux!

Have I mentioned I love this time of year? Tonight was awesome. My wife is at work (not that awesome, but necessary), so I had time to hang with the kiddies, got them off to bed by 8ish, and got to watch the last ten minutes or so of the Wisconsin vs. Northern Iowa game. All I can say is, 'Phew! Am I glad that game is over.' Though my alma mater is UWM, I've always been a Wisconsin Badger fan as well. So, rock on teams from Wisconsin!

On top of the joy of the Badgers winning was the joy of consuming frozen Thin Mints and milk while doing so. Life can be good. Thin Mints are mana from heaven in any case, but frozen, they take on an extra special something. The minty, crunching, almost plastic-like feel of the outside of the frozen Thin Mint is quite extraordinary. In the words of Mel Brooks, "It's good to be the king."

For anyone who cares, in my Not-Office-Pool, I am presently 24-4, having picked the entire Chicago bracket correctly. I will do the same for the Albuquerque bracket if GT can take care of GW. Not doing quite is well in the other two brackets, where I'm 4-2 in each, but so far I've only lost one sweet sixteen team, so that's pretty good. The games I've missed so far: Minnesota, New Mexico (my one sweet sixteen team to lose in round 1 so far-- how do you score 11 points in an entire half?), Syracuse (thankfully, I have them losing in round 2) and Iowa. I am currently rooting for Bucknell, because even though I picked Kansas, I have the Jayhawks losing in round 2 to Wisconsin. Go... err... anybody know Bucknell's mascot?

BTW-- I say Not-Office-Pool because most librarians really have no interest in sports. The Packers generate some interest amongst my peers at UW-Parkside, but basketball is barely recognized, and I'm not sure any of them even know that Wisconsin still has a professional baseball team. Well, it's the Brewers, so perhaps we don't. So, the pool is being run by a friend. I guess it actually is an office pool, just not my office. Anyway, a strong start-- hopefully the trend will continue deep into the tourney.

Oh That Ivory Tower, On the dangers of bias

A reader (wow, I have some!) left the following comment:

So, is bias inherently bad? Liberal or otherwise? If the faculty member signed neither letter, what is the real issue? Is bias really bad or is it really only bad when someone with an obvious bias masks themselves in objectivity? In this case, then, the faculty member was fairly blatant in his liberal bias. Others can take his opinion at face value and do with it what they wish.

Which is an interesting question. My response follows, but I just read an interesting analysis from Fred Siegel (not exactly a member of the vast right-wing consiparacy) that goes to the heart of the problem. It's a subscription link, so it may or may not work (and it's from the future-- it won't actually be published until Monday, March 21). Key point:

The reality, as Professor Post recognized, is that many professors now literally profess. Far from teaching the mechanics of knowledge, they are in fact preachers of sorts, spreading a gospel akin to that of Howard Dean. And if they are part of grievance- studies departments, like Ward Churchill or Joseph Massad, there never was any expectation of objectivity: They were knowingly hired as activists and are now puzzled as to why this has become a problem for some of their students and the larger public. After all, what they preach is built into the very orientation students are given when they arrive on campus. New students at many schools are quite literally given a new faith in which the world is divided into victims and victimizers, with little room for common ideals of citizenship or rationality, and no basis for debates that approximate the give-and-take of politics.

This is the danger of bias-- when it never meets any contrary arguments, when it simply is fed back to the speaker by all those around him or her, it becomes mantra, not perspective. It becomes undeniable in its ponderousness, and any who think that the bias is not an accurate reflection of reality are condemned, ridiculed and dismissed as irrelevant.

For what it's worth, here's my full response to the reader's comment:

No, bias is not inherently bad-- we all have them, and I appreaciate knowing them ahead of time. There are two major problems with bias in academe these days.

The first is that the bias is far, far too heavily weighted to the left. A hugely disproportionate percentage of faculty and staff are democrats/liberals, and much of that bias is now bleeding into the classroom, thus influencing students. Which would be okay if they received counter influences from the other side of the spectrum. But since there are few conservative voices in today's universities, the faculty's bias serves more as indoctrination than as one perspective on the world.

The second problem is that many faculty don't realize, or don't acknowledge, that they have this bias. This causes them to present their slanted viewpoints as "balanced and fair." Thus, any views that are more conservative than the faculty's come to be seen as far-right or extreme. The whole spectrum of opinion winds up scewed way to the left, so that centrist positions seem radical, and extreme left-wing positions seem run-of-the-mill.

Thanks for the comment!

Universities should be a place for free and open communication between ideas and concepts across the entire spectrum of perspective. Sadly, they usually are far from this ideal these days.

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Artemus, Two Moons Over Ninevah, part i

[The beginning] [The previous bit]

The dogs were baying in the distance, getting closer. He could smell them.

Running, running. Fast. A blur amongst the trees on the outer edge of Ninevah Island. Slap away the branches, snarling in anger and fear, as the baying continues and the trees seem to grab at his fur.

Ahead, there was water running. Tinkle, burble. The stream contrasting with the haunting howls of the pursuers.

His instincts told him to turn, to fight. He was a killing machine, with long, lethal claws. The dogs would be no match for his strength, his speed. He would dine on dog entrails and sate the hunger gnawing at his belly. He would breathe in the rich aroma of fresh blood.

But part of him, a small, rational part, knew better. Knew that it wasn’t just dogs pursuing him, but minotaurs with their huge axes and elves with their deadly bows. Dogs he could handle— the others would be death.

So, he ran. And that small, non-instinctual part of him told him to run in the middle of the stream for a while. Follow it downstream, at a right angle, when all he wanted to do was turn and fight. Or to run far and fast. Away from the hounds.

He listened to that small part because it kept him alive. Kept him one step ahead of his pursuers, and with a belly mostly full— or at least full enough to temper his nearly insatiable appetite. That small voice was smart, cunning. Smarter than the dogs, smarter than the elves, so he heeded it.

Most of the time.

He left the water now, back the way he had come, but at an angle south of the pursuing line of dogs. A dangerous maneuver, but also an unexpected one. He passed within a few hundred yards of his pursuers at one point, but he was downwind of them. They were too intent on the trail of his scent to imagine he could be doubling back upon them. He could smell the minotaurs, and the elves, and even a few lizardmen as he passed them. Left them behind.

He snarled deep in his throat, and imagined his fangs tearing at the throats of his pursuers. Drinking their blood and filling his body with their energy. He wanted to howl and charge them. Rip their limbs from their bodies. Prove his strength and feed his hunger.

But the voice whispered, ‘No, no. Too dangerous— you will die even as you kill. They are too many. We must run.’

And he heeded, for the voice had kept him alive. Had kept his screaming hunger at bay. He heeded even though all of the sinews of his body seemed to demand flesh and blood as he loped through the woods and swamps of Ninevah’s wildlands.

He did not howl at the twin moons looking down through the trees.

But he wanted to.

[The next bit]


Ward Churchill and Gloria Steinem-- separated at birth!

Okay, I missed the Bison Porn scoop, but I GOT this one!

Breaking News

March 16, 2005: Inside sources at the Libertarian Librarian have uncovered incontrovertible proof that Ward Churchill is the younger brother of feminist activist Gloria Steinem. One need only compare these two photos:

Spooky, huh?

There is no confirmation that Anthony Zerbe, who played Matthias in the 1971 Charlton Heston film The Omega Man, is also a member of this family. But considering this:

the possibility can not be ruled out. Rest assured the crack staff here at Libertarian Librarian will be working overtime to determine if the cult-like figure of Matthias is in any way related to the erstwhile Steinem/Churchill siblings. Investigations are also underway to determine just where exactly they got those sunglasses.

UPDATE: Welcome Lucianne readers, thanks for stopping by! Please poke around a bit and leave me your thoughts if you'd like-- in particular, check out the discussion of a possible alternative candidate to whomever the donkeys and elephants throw out there in '08.

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Thursday, March 17, 2005

March Madness!

And so that annual rite of spring begins-- 63 teams going home losers and only 1 left to celebrate at the end. My alma mater, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, is the very first game to tip off. Go Panthers! They were up by 13 over Alabama at halftime, but 'Bama has come out hot in the second half, and the lead is down to 8 with fifteen minutes to go. I fear some serious knuckle-biting is in store for me. If the Panthers can keep hitting their 3's (currently shooting over 50% from beyond the arc) they should win. If not... well, let's not think about that right now. Go UWM!

Update: Panthers still up by 8 with six minutes to go! Come on boys, finish the Tide off!

Update: Panthers by 11 with four minutes to go!

Update: 69-58 with 3:29 to play! Oh man, oh man, oh man. This would be so amazingly brilliant! Gonna be a long 210 seconds.

Update: No! A travel followed by a personal foul! What are you doing?! Don't let them score with the clock stopped. Argghh! 71-63 with 2:36 to go.

Update: Up 11 with 1:52 left! Go boys!

UPDATE: Final score, 83-73, UWM takes out the Crimson Tide! Woot! Double Woot! The only downside is that Coach Bruce Pearl is probably gone, but what the heck-- this is still awesome! Congratulations UWM!!


Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Oh THAT Ivory Tower, Summers' Censure

Of course, right after I post the previous bit on faculty bias, I read this. Sigh. Larry Summers is no saint. His managerial style does seem to be off-putting. There are more issues here than just the speech at NBER. But, come on. I think Brian McGrory got it right in his January 21, 2005 Boston Globe column:

It's been more than 20 years since I roamed a college campus, but I've always assumed that the strength of the academy is its ability to encourage difficult questions, to synthesize unconventional thought, rather than rant over it.

No longer does that seem to be the case, at least in Cambridge.

I can't say I'm surprised by the 218-185 vote by the College of Arts and Sciences faculty at Harvard. But I am saddened by it, and it certainly does not seem to bode well for rooting out academia's horrendous biases and double-standards.


Oh THAT Ivory Tower

Just wanted to drop in a small chunk from a faculty email during the Churchill vs. Summers discussion we had here at Parkside:

All that said, I sure wish some people would just shut the hell up (I won't mention any names Pat Buchanan, Pat Robertson, Margaret Spellings, Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh...).

To this faculty members credit, he did argue strongly that censoring anyone is dangerous, and he did not sign either the Churchill or the Summers letter. So, he's at least consistent. Given the list of folks he wished would shut up, however, it is pretty much impossible to avoid his liberal bias. Which is hard to believe, I know. To quote from Casablanca:

Renault: I am shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!
[The croupier comes out of the gambling room and up to Renault. He hands him a roll of bills.]
Croupier: Your winnings, sir.
Renault: Oh. Thank you very much.

Nope, no bias here at Parkside.


Tuesday, March 15, 2005

The Avenue of the Angels

Shortly before Christmas, my daughter's school requested that the parents send in a story about what they remember most about Christmas when they were a kid. Interesting idea. The teacher would then read the parent's stories to the students. Cool. So, the following is the piece I wrote for a first grade class, with only a few changes. I was curious if the teacher or the school would take issue with my overt use of religion in the story. They did not. Yay!

The Avenue of the Angels

Christmas was a time of tradition for our family, as it is with many families. Nothing fancy, no huge events, but things you could count on. Things that, as a kid, you looked forward to every year. Presents were, naturally, at the top of this list. My brother, sister and I would wake up very early Christmas morning and head for the top of the stairs. We weren’t supposed to go downstairs without letting mom and dad know, and they were still sleeping. But from the top of the stairs we could see the Christmas tree. We could check to make sure Santa had come. We could see the stockings, nearly overflowing with goodies, and we could see the presents spread out around the base of the tree. The top of the stairs was a good place to be on Christmas morning. Once we made sure that Santa had once again made it to our house even though we did not have a fireplace, we would try to guess what was in the many packages. When the waiting became intolerable, most likely about fifteen minutes, we would wake up mom and dad, and we would all head downstairs together.

But while the presents were the thing I looked forward to the most as a kid, they are not what I most remember about Christmas. Instead, I remember being in Christmas pageants on Christmas Eve and walking down the center aisle in the church in my shepherd’s costume looking for my family and hoping I wouldn’t forget my lines. I remember gathering later on Christmas Eve at my grandparent’s house. The kids would sit on the floor in the living room, occasionally joined by a grown-up or two. We’d play with our new toys while the big people talked and laughed around us. Grandma always had lots of candy out, including chocolate-covered peanuts, my favorite. That night was one of the few times we got to eat pretty much all the candy we wanted, yet no matter how much we ate, the candy dishes were always full.

I also remember the drive from church out to grandma and grandpa’s house on Christmas Eve. We’d go a different way than we usually did, a longer way, and even though we could hardly wait to get there, nobody minded taking a little extra time. Because the longer way took us down the main street in the city of Appleton. The longer way took us down the Avenue of the Angels.

They started just as you went past Lawrence University campus—a beautiful place itself, with a huge lighted Christmas tree, lots of wreaths, and a life-sized nativity scene. They started just as you entered downtown Appleton. Angels hanging from every streetlight. Gold and white figures, made from what seemed like giant pipe-cleaners, that blazed with twinkling white lights. They had golden halos, and delicate wings, and they hung in the air on both sides of the street, some with harps and some with their hands clasped in prayer.

Everyone in the car would try to spot the first one, but dad usually saw them first. “There they are,” he’d say, or maybe just, “There.” We’d all look where he was pointing and maybe ooh or ahh a little. They weren’t new—we’d all seen them before—but there was something special about them on Christmas Eve, the most special of nights. On Christmas Eve you could picture them hovering in the air over that tiny stable in Bethlehem. Just waiting for Christ to be born.

The best parts of the Avenue of the Angels were the intersections. At the intersections there were angels stretched out from each of the four corners towards the center. They looked like they were flying, and each one held a golden trumpet to her lips. Above them, right in the middle of the intersection, was a huge, gold and white star. They were celebrating, and they wanted everyone to know why.

I hated leaving those angels behind every Christmas Eve, even though it meant we were almost to Grandma and Grandpa’s house. The angels were worth waiting for every year because they were beautiful and because they were only there during the special time of the year when we celebrate Christ’s birth. They were, and are, special because they remind us what Christmas is all about—joy, hope, family, and most of all, love.
For more shots of the avenue of the angels, check out this site and keep scrolling down.

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