5:50 PM|W|P|Nathan|W|P|

No Title

Well, I was going to post something at least as controversial as the last few, but since no one is responding, maybe I'm going in the wrong direction...
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I didn't know all this...did you?

By Gregg Easterbrook over at the tnr.com (just put a www in front of that)

Here's a front-page story from the Alternate Universe Tribune: "BUSH ADMINISTRATION MAKES ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION EARLY THEME." Ridiculous, right? We all know the new administration is engaged in "the most alarming rollbacks in environmental efforts that we have ever seen" (Richard Gephardt). Or, as Hearst newspaper columnist Helen Thomas "asked" at Bush's most recent press conference: "[Y]ou have rolled back health and safety and environmental measures. This has been widely interpreted as a payback time to your corporate donors. Are they more important than the American people's health and safety?"

Yet the Alternate Universe Tribune has it right. On almost every environmental issue, Bush has upheld the Clinton-Gore position. The new president is guilty of a few missteps, which are getting reams of attention, and has accomplished important advances, which are being ignored. Journalists and liberal commentators have had so much success in recent years pillorying conservatives as foes of the environment that it's become a kind of reflex. But this time the evidence isn't there.

First, take Bush's much-mocked decision to postpone a reduction in the maximum allowable arsenic in drinking water. This was indeed a mistake, as the scientific case for tighter rules is strong. But Bush has not acted to "allow more arsenic in drinking water," as commentary has erroneously asserted, nor to force Americans to consume "poisoned drinking water," as a New York Times editorial claimed. All he's done is delay the date on which trace levels of arsenic are cut. This is precisely what Bill Clinton and Al Gore did for almost eight years--postponing any tightening of the standard until just before leaving the White House, because new rules are stridently opposed by a few localities where arsenic naturally occurs in water, such as Albuquerque, New Mexico, where the mayor is a Democrat. Clinton's delay was unfortunate, as was Bush's, but not catastrophic, since arsenic is not one of America's leading environmental problems. It occurs in drinking water at worrisome levels in only a few areas of the country, and public health estimates show at worst a 1 percent increase in the odds of late-life cancer for someone who consumes such water for decades.

Contrast the media furor over Bush's arsenic decision with the near silence regarding his action on diesel-fuel reformulation. One of the president's first actions was to uphold a sweeping, expensive regulation that requires petroleum companies to remove most pollutants from diesel fuel. Unlike the arsenic standards, which would have benefited a tiny percentage of the population, the diesel-fuel rule has broad environmental and public-health consequences. Recent research has shown that the "particulates" in diesel exhaust lead to 20,000 or more premature deaths per year and contribute to the rise of asthma in cities. Bush's strict new diesel rules will spare many lives and reduce urban haze; in fact, they represent the most important anti-air-pollution advance in a decade. The reform will also cost billions of dollars, and it came over the howls of the petroleum industry, whose pocket Bush supposedly is in. Yet W.'s move has received virtually no recognition--after all, the diesel-fuel decision interrupts the doomsday script.

Consider another act for which Bush has been damned: his request that Congress suspend for one year the filing of lawsuits demanding that more plants and animals be listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). On its front page, The New York Times portrayed this as a horrifying step backward. Yet the Clinton administration did almost exactly the same thing: Last year Clinton suspended the classification of plants and animals as endangered, saying the Fish and Wildlife Service, which administers the ESA, was so snowed under by frivolous or dilatory lawsuits that it couldn't get its work done. The Times account was craftily written to depict the Bush decision as an unprecedented departure, not mentioning Clinton's similar policy until the fourteenth paragraph, and then only obliquely.

Bush has also been attacked for merely considering overturning regulations requiring big increases in the energy efficiency of air conditioners, washers, dryers, and other appliances. But when he announced that the appliance standard would be upheld and the air-conditioner standard only mildly loosened, less attention was paid. He's been similarly scolded in the Times and other papers for considering reversing Clinton's eleventh-hour decision to reduce logging in national forests; but when Bush then appointed, as head of the Forest Service, a man instrumental in drawing up the less-logging policy, the Times buried the article on page A15. Bush also won little praise for upholding most of Clinton's eleventh-hour designations of new national wilderness areas, set-asides that were highly unpopular in much of the West. Bush decided this week to keep strict new limits on construction in wetlands--angering developers, another natural Bush constituency, who hate wetlands rules with a white passion--and also to impose strict standards regarding lead emissions. These moves were widely depicted as puzzling departures from form. But it only seemed that way because the media had misconstrued so many of Bush's other decisions.

Then there is Bush's abandonment of the Kyoto global-warming treaty, for which he's been hammered as an antediluvian. Yet the president might plausibly have said, "I have decided to continue the Clinton-Gore approach to global warming," since the previous administration took no binding action on Kyoto either. Clinton never submitted the Kyoto agreement to the Senate because he knew it stood no chance of ratification. In a 1997 test ballot, the Senate went on record 95 to zero against a Kyoto resolution; it didn't get a single Democratic vote.

In other words, the deal was history well before Bush took office. Any lingering hope ended last fall, when the European Union essentially rejected America's attempt to add to the agreement an international "carbon trading" system, which economists almost unanimously view as the best hope for near-term, affordable greenhouse-gas reduction. Canada's environment minister, David Anderson, has said the European Union rejected carbon trading specifically to make Kyoto fail: "Europe adopted a position they knew would force the United States to pull out." Why? Because Europe didn't want to do anything about the greenhouse effect but wanted the United States to take the blame. American commentators have happily parroted Europe's line.

Bush's father harmed himself when he turned from pro-environmental (backer of the 1990 Clean Air Act) to anti-environmental (snarling about spotted owls) as the 1992 campaign began; Newt Gingrich and the 1995 House Republicans saw their popularity sink in part because of their efforts to repeal environmental laws. From these episodes, Democrats, enviros, and reporters seeking an instant-doomsday slant have grown adept at bashing Republicans with preposterous overstatements and phony claims of ecological crises. The White House's inability to see this coming is bad politics. For example, the current legal maximum for arsenic in drinking water is 50 parts per billion; the proposed rule Bush delayed would have made it ten parts per billion, a level some studies suggest is regulatory overkill. Bush could have split the difference and announced a new standard of 25 parts per billion, saying he was making the rule twice as strict.

But bad p.r. and bad policy aren't the same thing. With the exception of oil exploration in Alaska, so far there are no meaningful differences between Bush's environmental goals and those of Clinton and Gore. This is surprising and to Bush's credit. It's time the press started giving him some.
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Yet another good comment worth stealing

This one is from Dennis Prager over at Townhall.com.

He points out that he believes that people are not basically good. He believes people are a mixture of good and evil impulses. This is one of my own dearly-held beliefs, as well. He points out, though, that if you believe that people are basically good, you will make several assumptions that neither of us can support. Among them are the following two points:

Third, if you believe that people are basically good, God and religion are morally unnecessary, even harmful. Why would basically good people need a God or religion to provide moral standards? Therefore, the crowd that believes in innate human goodness tends to either be secular or to reduce God and religion to social workers, providers of compassion rather than of moral standards and moral judgments.

Fourth, if you believe people are basically good, you, of course, believe that you are good -- and therefore those who disagree with you must be bad, not merely wrong. You also believe that the more power that you and those you agree with have, the better the society will be. That is why such people are so committed to powerful government and to powerful judges. On the other hand, those of us who believe that people are not basically good do not want power concentrated in any one group, and are therefore profoundly suspicious of big government, big labor, big corporations, and even big religious institutions. As Lord Acton said long ago, "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."
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Copyright Laws and You

Phyllis Schlafly at Townhall.com

December 31, 2002
Copyright extremists shouldn't control information
Copyright extremists are working to control as much information as possible. Almost every week we see a new example of how they are thwarting the free flow of information.

The leaders of the copyright lobby are the Hollywood movie distributors and the major music corporations known as music labels. The latter don¡¯t create any music; they just market and distribute CDs with music after they acquire control of the copyrights.

The major music labels operate through a lobbying organization called the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) to maintain their monopolistic interests and stifle the online distribution of music. Its five largest members, which sell 85 percent of all CDs, were found by the Federal Trade Commission in 2000 to have unlawfully kept the retail prices of CDs high.

The RIAA has pressured colleges into policing the computer networks used by their students. It has subpoenaed computer network providers in order to track people listening to music. The U.S. Naval Academy seized 100 student computers suspected of containing unauthorized music and threatened the Annapolis midshipmen with court-martial and expulsion. These fine students are training to fight a war in behalf of our country, and they should be allowed to listen to a little music in their spare time.

The copyright extremists argue that essentially all downloaded music is illegal. They successfully lobbied Congress into extending copyright terms to life of the composer plus 70 years, and now they claim that copyright owners can dictate how, where and when people listen to music.

The U.S. Supreme Court is currently considering a challenge to the constitutionality of the latest copyright extension. Congress has extended the time period 11 times in the past 40 years.

All authority for copyright law comes from the U.S. Constitution, which states that the purpose of copyright protection is ¡°to promote the progress of science and useful arts¡± and that copyright protection is granted only ¡°for limited times.¡±

The RIAA tried to put small radio station Webcasters out of business while secretly giving National Public Radio affiliates a sweetheart deal not available to other radio stations. Only last-minute intervention by outgoing Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., gave small radio stations the legislative right to play music while paying reasonable royalties.

A teenager is on trial in Norway for figuring out a novel way to play DVD movie discs on his personal computer. He should be commended for his ingenuity, not punished.

Adobe (a U.S. computer software company) persuaded U.S. law enforcement to throw a visiting Russian scholar in jail after he revealed some shortcomings in an Adobe e-book product at a public conference in this country. He was eventually released on condition that he testify against his own company.

The company has just been acquitted in a jury trial. Adobe could not find any example of anyone using the Russian software improperly. Major retailers are now using copyright law to try to stop Web sites from posting advance information about sales. It¡¯s understandable that retailers want to keep it secret that they might be cutting prices after a holiday, but that is not the purpose of copyright law.

Microsoft now uses its Windows license agreement to try to limit criticism by its customers. It says, ¡°You may not disclose the results of any bench-mark test of the .NET framework component of the OS Components to any third party without Microsoft¡¯s prior written approval. ... All rights not expressly granted are reserved by Microsoft.¡±

The CEO of Turner Broadcasting says that television viewers are guilty of stealing if they skip the commercials. She said, ¡°Your contract with the network when you get the show is you¡¯re going to watch the spots.¡±

Eight Hollywood studios have filed suit against local retailers who buy their videos and DVDs and then delete the nudity, violence and foul language for the benefit and at the expense of their customers. Hollywood doesn¡¯t lose any sales from this practice; Hollywood is just determined to force viewers to watch the lurid sex and violence.

Copyright extremists are committing all this mischief under current law. Yet, the music labels and Hollywood argue that current laws are not strong enough, and they are lobbying for an assortment of new anti-consumer legislation.

One proposal would allow them to vandalize computer networks that they believe might be transmitting unauthorized content. Another proposed bill would force computer equipment makers to rig their computers so buyers can only see and hear what is authorized, and another proposal would give copyrights to privacy-invading databases.

The purpose of copyright law is to provide incentives and protection to authors to create and publish original works, not give corporations the power to control the flow of information. We should not permit copyright extremists to exploit current laws for that goal, and we should reject their demands that Congress give them even broader power to control and license information.

My take on this

Copyright law is not a question of the rights of the musician as much as the question of what technology will allow you to do.

For most of history, musicians were not able to control the performance of their music. They wrote a song, had it performed, published the music, and that was about the extent of their earning power. There were no radios in Mozart's time, no way to record the sound. Fortunately for the artist/composer, most people couldn't afford to hire a small orchestra to perform at their whim. The advent of the mass-production piano really changed the musical landscape, as it allowed people to perform great musical works in their own home (limited only by their ability). Chopin was immensely popular at this time (as well as many other pianist-composers), but still died poor, because his ability to profit from his efforts was limited. On the other hand, he made music because of his love of music.

With the combination of radio and records, the earning power of recording music hit its golden age. Many people became rich. Occasionally even the artists and composers profited as well.

Tapes and the recordable CD hurt the music business. They survived, just as the movie business survived the advent of the recordable videocassette. But the internet really raised the hackles of the music industry, because now files could be shared. The files were small enough to make mass reproduction a viable option.

We are returned to the day when the ability of an a musician to earn money from his efforts is limited to live performance. But the music business, having grown fat from reaping easy profits, wants to use technology to block your free access to music.

Look at it this way. There are only 12 notes, repeated in several octaves. There are a limited number of ways these notes can be combined. Variations of melody, harmony, rhythm, style, lyrics, and timbre increase the possibilities, but how can you grant a copyright to the composer of a Britney Spears tune without ignoring the great debt that song owes to the pioneering efforts of Bach, Beethoven, Liszt, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Schubert, etc? There is very little that is truly new; the granting of a copyright is but illusion, a mere sham designed to hoodwink the unwary.

Furthermore, the music industry claims they have the right to control how music is disseminated and used. Am I now in copyright violation if I whistle the tune to the latest Sheryl Crow song? If I have the musical ability to hear the entire tune in my head from memory, am I breaking the law? How about if I transcribe the song and record it with myself playing the instruments for personal concerts for friends?

My understanding of Fairness in Copyright Rules follows the NFL disclaimer in spirit: you can do anything with someone else's product except make money with it. So it's not illegal for a friend who taped all of the Kansas City Chiefs' football games can send me a copy of that collection, but he can't sell them on Ebay for $100. You can argue that using the internet to not pay for music is morally equivalent to theft. Maybe. In the short time that the internet has permitted the wholesale downloading of music, there have already been numerous stories of people who have earned a great deal of money by giving away their songs for free to spur ticket sales to concerts (which puts a higher percentage of the money into the artists pocket rather than the music industry, by the way). And as soon as Sam Goody starts carrying 10CC's "Deceptive Bends", Styx's "Crystal Ball", and Night Ranger's "Big Life" (three albums I really want on CD), not to mention even putting Tommy Shaw's three solo albums ON CD in the first place, I'll be happy to buy it from them. Until they do, I'm forced by their inadequate marketing scheme to use internet downloading in order to fulfill my needs.

Rather than using technology to dictate to the populace what they decide to let us have, we should rely on the market to determine what we are willing to pay for. If the music industry wants us to buy CDs, they can lower the price to a more reasonable rate (seeing that it costs less than $.25 to produce a CD they sell to us for nearly $20), or they can find ways to add value to the store purchased CDs (like autographs or other extras). For the "poor starving musician trying to earn a decent living from their efforts", I can only recommend one thing: live performance.

No one wins when choices are limited by ridiculous copyright laws.
I'm not advocating breaking the law. I'm not saying downloading music from the internet approaches Gandhi-like levels of civil disobedience. I'm just going to go about my business and ignore the shrill wailings of music industry fatcats who are out of touch with reality.
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Nice point made here

From "Confessions of a Right Wing Isolationist", found here
So how the hell did we end up with our fingers in every bowl of soup from Bahrain to Brazil? It's because we're not content to sit around on our behinds while the entire planet collapses without us. If we actually did kick back in our hammocks for a ten-year rest the Middle East would explode, Taiwan would get swallowed by China and France and Germany would probably be at each other's throats again. Hell, if we took twenty years off it wouldn't surprise me to look at a map and see nothing but a giant swath of China red covering all of Europe, skulls & crossbones covering all of Africa, and nothing but a green patch with the words 'Forbidden Zone' where the Middle East used to be. We're the only thing keeping the planet from reverting back to an early 1800's style plunder, war, and rampage philosophy.

If you want put it in perspective, it's like we're the guy who ended up being the designated driver for the planet. Sure we'd love to sit back and drink ourselves into a stupor with the rest of the globe but we're responsible for getting as many people home safe and sound as possible. Every so often while we're sitting around wishing we could kill a few beers like the rest of the planet, a sloppy drunk, drooling, Europe comes over to where we're sitting. Then they take another swig of Vodka straight out of the bottle and tell us not to worry about a thing because they'll drive everyone home in their 'international law' van. But we know if we go ahead and drink up that we'll just get a call at 4 am asking us to bring our tow truck and the 'jaws of life' to clean up the bloody mess on dead man's curve. That's the burden of being an American.

Unintentional Guest Writer

I'm taking advantage of the freedom of the web to post some views I like by a writer I like, John Derbyshire. Basically, he says many of the things I would say if I were a better writer. But I don't agree with everything...some of his stuff is included mainly to spark debate. If you don't like something, feel free to comment, and I'll let you know where I personally stand on the issue.

If posting all this makes you think I'm morally reprehensible, well, I'm conservative, so that's redundant to the people whose thinking I generally oppose.

So here are the articles.
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John Derbyshire on Religion

(Any atheists want to respond? --Nathan)

As a large general principle, I think the more religion there is in the world, the better. That includes the uncivilized part of the world. In fact, it especially includes that part. To be sure, horrid things have been done in the name of religion ¡ª things like 9/11. That is to be expected, though. Religion is a human thing, and partakes of the weaknesses and follies that inhere in all human things. I don't think there is any question that on balance, the human race is better off with religion than without it. We take our cues from our times, and I take mine from the 20th century, whose greatest, most prolonged horrors all arose from godlessness. While people believe in God, there is always hope for redemption and improvement. If God is dead, everything is permitted, as Dostoyevsky noted, and as the 20th century abundantly demonstrated
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Final Note on Homosexuality by John Derbyshire

(read the next this and the next 2 posts in reverse order, please)

All of which proves what, exactly? That male homosexuals should be jailed? Run out of town on rails? Surgically altered? Burned at the stake? Of course not. In a free society, the things people choose do do with each other in private, even if unhygienic and unhealthy, are nobody else's business. They become someone else's business only when the people concerned go into the public square and start advertising their tastes, and recruiting to them. If my neighbor wants to be buggered in the privacy of his home, I wish him joy of it; if he wants to get on my school board and agitate for the establishment of a "gay" students club at my son's school, I shall have something to say about it. These elementary social principles seem to have been mislaid in recent years. Look: in a civilized modern society, majorities owe a debt of tolerance to harmless minorities. But minorities also owe something to the majority: a decent respect for its tastes and opinions, and careful restraint in challenging them. The second part of this arrangement seems to have been forgotten. The issue, as one current joke has it, is not whether society is willing to tolerate homosexuals, so much as whether they are willing to tolerate the rest of us.
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Another John Derbyshire article on Homosexuality

Whoever Causes One of These to Sin

I am going to take issue with my colleague Deroy Murdock. Reluctantly and respectfully, since I love Deroy¡¯s stuff, and I also love the fact that a tiny alteration to his first name gets you started on my last name. And in fact I¡¯m not even sure I¡¯m taking much issue, rather filling in something important I think he left out of his piece on homosexuals being re-oriented by therapy (Gays Can Go Straight , 5/14/01 on NRO).

To begin with, let me quote, with permission, an email I recently received from Lawrence Henry, who is a columnist for Enter Stage Right and a person of much worldliness and wisdom. This email was one of several in some exchanges we were having about homosexuality. Here is what Larry wrote (except that I have changed a name and a city).

My best friend in college was a wonderful-looking young man named Gerry, who studied modern dance with Merce Cunningham and Martha Graham. He was really very good. I visited Gerry's home with him once on a school break. He lived in Richmond. His father was the rector of one of the oldest downtown

Episcopal churches.
During that visit, his father told me (perhaps suspecting an attachment that did not exist between Gerry and me) that Gerry had come home from a high school vacation spent at a dance camp or conclave of some kind, and had told him he had been propositioned by a homosexual, and had asked him what to do about it.

"I told him," the old rector rumbled in self-righteous satisfaction, "'Gerald, it's up to you.¡¯"
I thought then, and still think, this was one of the most extraordinarily cowardly acts I ever heard of.
Adolescence, of course, is a time of such powerful sexual desires that adolescents can be persuaded to attach themselves to almost any set of images, objects, or ideas ¡ª especially when appeals are made to the equally powerful adolescent insecurities and desires to belong to some seemingly attractive group. Lee Trevino, describing himself as a young man, said, "I'd f--- a rock if I thought there was a snake under it." W.H. Auden, asked in old age what it felt like when his sexual desires diminished said, "It's like being allowed to get off a wild horse."

To exploit that adolescent complex of desires is about the most despicable thing I can think of. "Whoever causes one of these to sin, it would be better if a millstone were hung about his neck and he were cast into the sea," just about summarizes it.

Before I proceed to my main point, let me say that I think the whole issue of homosexuality is a very difficult one for social conservatives. For some of us, anyway. If you¡¯re a Christian or Jewish fundamentalist, it¡¯s a no-brainer: the proscription is right there in Leviticus 18:22, and there is nothing more to be said. Most of us, however, are not fundamentalists. I myself am a not-very-observant Episcopalian. (Which, from a strictly pastoral point of view, leaves me wide open on this topic. A colleague of mine who once served time in a Jesuit seminary told me the following joke, which apparently has them slapping their thighs round the refectory table. Q: How many heterosexual Episcopalian ministers does it take to install a bishop? A: All three of them.) For people like me, who think that homosexuality as a social phenomenon ¡ª whatever we may think of individual homosexuals, or wish them to think of us ¡ª is deplorable, or at least regrettable, there is some explaining to do, especially to the homosexual friends and colleagues all of us have. I have no space to do that explaining here, though I think what I¡¯m going to say covers some of the territory. What I mainly want to do is just unpick one single thread from Deroy¡¯s Monday piece, and pull on it to see how much unravels.

In that piece, Deroy discussed the controversy over a recent study asserting that ¡°highly motivated¡± homosexual men can be ¡°turned¡± by appropriate counselling and therapy. Deroy quotes some of the angry reactions to this study from homosexual-rights activists, and points out that their protests are based on the widely-held beliefs that sexual orientation is firmly fixed at birth, and that a person is either 100 per cent gay, or 100 per cent straight. He then explodes those beliefs by raising some counter-examples, for example of heterosexuals like James Hormel, the former U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg, who went in the other direction after fathering five children. Deroy concludes:

Perhaps it's best for gays and straights to agree that it's OK for every American to follow whichever sexual frequency suits his fancy, whether he tuned in at conception or switched channels as an adult.

Perhaps it is; but what, exactly, does the phrase ¡°every American¡± encompass? Every American above the age of ... what? Obviously it does not include my son, aged, as he will be pleased to tell you, five and three-quarters. What about ¡°Gerry¡± in Lawrence Henry¡¯s little story ¡ª is he included, as his father seemed to believe? Young people ¡ª and I would include college-age under ¡°young¡± ¡ª need some guidance and authority to turn their raging romantic and sexual urges into healthful and socially desirable channels. They know they do ¡ª what is Gerry doing but asking for guidance? So what guidance should we give? Is homosexuality healthful? Is it socially desirable?

Well, in the first place, there cannot be much dispute about the fact that male homosexuality is seriously un-healthful. There was not much to dispute about this even before the rise of AIDs, though this has been pretty much forgotten now. Leaving that aside, is homosexuality ¡ª male or female ¡ª socially desirable? Is any kind of entirely private behavior any of society¡¯s business?

That, of course, is where the interesting arguments begin. Social conservatives like myself rest their case on the common experience of humanity across the ages. You can¡¯t have much of a society ¡ª let alone a civilization ¡ª without some reasonably stable system for nurturing and socializing children, some system sanctioned by custom, fortified by law, and granted preferences and privileges to assist it. The only system with much of a track record is the man-woman family arrangement. There might be individual records of success with other schemas; but statistically speaking, homosexual partnerships are way too unstable to serve the nurturing and socializing purposes, and the single-parent family gets you what we see in our inner-city ghettoes. (And while polygamy and polyandry might, for all I know, both work, they are both grossly and obviously unfair.) It follows that while homosexuality can be, and in my opinion ought to be, tolerated as a fringe activity for people who are determined to follow that inclination, attempts to proselytize and normalize homosexuality ought to be resisted, even if it could be shown that normalization is possible, which I don¡¯t think it could.

The common attitudes of humanity reflect these (as it seems to me) obvious truths. Very large numbers of people agree with me that homosexuality is not socially desirable. Polled by Gallup in February 1999, in fact, 43 per cent of respondents to the question ¡°Do you think homosexual relations between consenting adults should or should not be legal?¡± answered with ¡°Not legal.¡± This is much sterner than my own position ¡ª I can¡¯t see any point in laws against homosexuality, nor can I see how such laws might be enforced ¡ª but it¡¯s obviously how an awful lot of people feel.

Now, you might say that widespread beliefs prove nothing. You might say ¡ª well, you probably wouldn¡¯t say, but you might very well think ¡ª that the only thing proved by Mr. Gallup is that 43 per cent of the American public are unenlightened bigots in need of some serious re-education. They are homophobes! (A stupid word, which, if it meant anything, would mean ¡°having similar fears¡±, as in: ¡°She and I are homophobic; we¡¯re both scared of spiders.¡±) You might add that a majority of citizens in 16th-century Spain probably supported the burning of heretics, and that until quite recently, a majority of people everywhere believed that the earth was flat. Sure, sure: but look at the sheer stubborness of these attitudes. By 1999, the American public had been marinated in pro-homosexual propaganda for thirty years . Movies, TV sitcoms, magazines, newspapers, celebrities, colleges and even high schools have been preaching the gospel for an entire generation. Tolerance! Diversity! Could be your own child! Gay is just as good as straight! Yet after all this ¡ª in the teeth of all the propaganda, all the proselytizing, all the sanctimony and intimidation and lawyering and moral blackmail ¡ª the U.S. public obstinately refuses to believe that homosexuality is just fine. Close to half of them think it should be ¡°Not legal¡±!

Whether you think they are right or not, one important fact undeniably follows: that homosexuals are an out group (no pun intended). They are an unpopular minority ¡ª unpopular, at least, with huge numbers of their fellow citizens, and likely to remain so for a very long time to come. If thirty years of relentless propaganda by the massed forces of the U.S. media, education and entertainment industries have still left 43 per cent of us wanting homosexuality ¡°Not legal¡±, when, exactly will homosexuality be taken as ¡°normal¡±? Homosexual activists are in complete denial about this. Like British generals in WW1, they believe that one more propaganda Big Push ¡ª one more Philadelphia, one more Queer As Folk, one more Mathew Shepard atrocity ¡ª will swing the public to their side, will suddenly have everyone believing that, by gosh, yes, gay is just as good as straight! I have news for these activists: it ain¡¯t gonna happen. You are stuck in the trenches. For ever. Again, you may think this is a grave injustice, and you may be right: but unjust or not, it¡¯s a fact as plain as the nose on your face.

So what does a wise adult say to a young person like Gerry, who is wondering whether to take a ride on the gay side? At the very least, he should say this. ¡°The common opinion of humanity is, and always has been, against homosexuality, in almost all times and places. (And the exceptions are not very exceptional: see, for example, K.J. Dover¡¯s Greek Homosexuality .) There are strong social reasons for this, and probably some biological ones, too. You may be wiser than the rest of humanity, but this is not a priori very likely. If you commit yourself to homosexuality, you are committing yourself to a life apart from the main current of society, to being despised and sneered at, mostly but not entirely behind your back. The generality of people, always and everywhere, feel that male homosexuality is mildly disgusting, and female homosexuality mildly ludicrous. You might have the luck to settle into some social niche ¡ª certain of the performing arts, for example, or the women¡¯s professional golf circuit ¡ª where the sneering is at a minimum, but no-one can, or should, live altogether apart from the larger society. People in whom the homosexual impulse is irresistibly strong put up with this outsider status. Some of them even like it ¡ª to a certain personality type, there is a thrill in being an outsider, a trangressor. It¡¯s not probable that you are that type, and in any case this is not the time to try to find out. At your age, you should be sampling the ordinary pleasures that most people have found fulfilling and satisfying, and the proper pursuit of which helps hold society together, and has provided the raw material for most great art and literature down through the ages. If you find those pleasures irksome, there will be plenty of time in your adult life to experiment with others. Before you can break the rules you must master them; before you can create abstract art, you must cut your teeth on still lifes and landscapes; before you can write free verse, you must cope with sestinas and sonnets. Yours is not the age for transgressions ¡ª especially not for trangressions that spread disease and dysfunction, as male homosexuality does. Your best shot at a happy and fulfilled life is bourgeois normality, unless you are an exceptional case. Whether or not you are such a case simply cannot be decided at your age, certainly not by you yourself. Stay away from that guy!¡±
|W|P|86769768|W|P||W|P|5:44 PM|W|P|Nathan|W|P|

John Derbyshire on Homosexuality

(interestingly, most of this is true for me as well, except for the part about having written a novel)

What I want to talk about here is the fact of my disliking homosexuality.
Let me first take a baseball bat to the pop-Freudianism crowd: ¡°Ah, the reason you dislike homosexuality is that you yourself are unconsciously homosexual and haven¡¯t the courage to face it.¡± There has been a slight increase in these kinds of emails since my novel Fire from the sun came out. One of the principals in that novel is a homosexual, and so is one of the secondary characters. Both are drawn sympathetically (though I kill them both off ¡ª gunshot, AIDS ¡ª before the end). Well, at least someone¡¯s reading the thing: but it is an infantile error to deduce anything so direct about a fiction author from his productions. Charles Dickens was not an orphan; Daniel Defoe was not a whore; Vladimir Nabokov was not a child molestor; Robert Graves was not a Roman Emperor; Mario Puzo was not a gangster. As a matter of fact, both my homosexual characters are Chinese, another thing I am not (except by marriage). The point of writing fiction is to make stuff up. Freudianism is crap: pop-Freudianism is crap Ph.D. (i.e. piled higher and deeper).

My feelings about homosexuality are in fact rather mild, and are the same as those held by most of the human race, in most times and places. Even in modern America, after a 30-year tsunami of relentless pro-homosexual propaganda from all media outlets, dislike of homosexuality is widespread. You can see the numbers for yourself on Gallup . I don¡¯t wish homosexuals any harm, and I doubt anyone but a minority of lunatics does. I do think that homosexuality is freakish and slightly disgusting, though, and I seem to know a lot of people ¡ª very ordinary, hard-working, thoughtful and civic-minded Americans ¡ª who, in private, express the same opinion. That opinion was, after all, well-nigh universal 30 or 40 years ago. (And please don¡¯t drag in analogies with racism ¡ª not until you¡¯ve tried them out on a roomful of working-class black people.)

What I object to is the assumption, rapidly becoming universal, that those of us sharing this opinion should keep their mouths shut if they know what¡¯s good for them, and should feel ashamed of thoughts that seems to me commonplace and reasonable. To put it another way, I object to the assault the homosexual lobbies are conducting on our most fundamental and instinctual feelings, sensibilities, and, yes, religious beliefs ¡ª the relentless effort to portray those feelings, those sensibilities and those beliefs as illegitimate, deplorable and wicked. Distaste for homosexuality is about as fundamental a feature of human nature as you can find. It is nothing much to do with Leviticus, whatever the hate-God crowd tell you ¡ª it is, for example, widely felt in China, where nobody has even heard of Leviticus. The really striking thing about those Gallup graphs is how flat they are, in spite of all the propaganda. What irritates and annoys me is the dishonesty of homosexual propaganda ¡ª the massive campaign to pretend that human nature is something different from what it, in fact, is. I just don¡¯t like massive, organized lying.

All that aside, though, I can¡¯t say I care much about homosexuality one way or the other. If I examine my own motivations for saying anything at all on this subject, the main thing I am aware of is just contrarian cussedness. I get so goddam sick of all the movies, TV shows and, yes, emails telling me how goddam wonderful homosexuals are, and how goddam normal homosexuality is, and how goddam cruel and bigoted and intolerant it must be not to whole-heartedly approve of homosexuals, and cheer them on, and applaud the things they do. Well, I know myself well enough to be sure that I am not cruel, or bigoted, or intolerant. Nor am I aware of anyone who knows me that believes be to be any of those things. Like Thomas More: ¡°I wish none harm, I say none harm, I do none harm.¡± Do as you please in the privacy of your chambers, but for heaven¡¯s sake stop pushing it in my face, stop telling me how wonderful you are, stop lying about the fact that the things you do have health consequences (were in fact responsible for introducing a horrible plague into our society), stop mucking up my language by introducing illiteracies like ¡°homophobe¡± and imposing the stain of salacity on perfectly decent old English words like ¡°gay¡±, stop telling me that the things I say might be taken as incitement to crimes of violence. (What words that anyone says about anything might not be thus taken by some lunatic somewhere? What would we be permitted to talk about, on that criterion?) And don¡¯t even think about proselytizing your ¡°lifestyle¡± to my kids.

All of which is prefatory to the following little Yuletide olive (not mistletoe) branch. It really is possible to hate the sin while loving, or at least not minding, the sinner. If you¡¯re homosexual and something I¡¯ve written has ticked you off, look at it this way. I am ticked off, pretty much daily, by the aggressive and dishonest propaganda of the homosexualist lobbies, by their attempts to stifle my freedom of speech, and by the efforts of their extremist elements to recruit innocent kids to their practices. Millions of other people are ticked off in the same way. If you¡¯re not a member of those lobbies ¡ª most homosexuals aren¡¯t ¡ª and are not one of those extremists ¡ª the overwhelming majority of homosexuals aren¡¯t ¡ª I have no beef with you, and I can¡¯t see why you should have any with me. You are just a person who does weird things at home, which I¡¯d be extremely grateful not to know about. I don¡¯t know what half my friends do at home, and couldn¡¯t care less. And I wish you ¡ª I really do, sincerely wish you, whether you accept my wishes or not (mostly not, I imagine, if you¡¯ve read this far) ¡ª a very happy Christmas with the person you love.
|W|P|86769717|W|P||W|P|5:42 PM|W|P|Nathan|W|P|

Unpleasant Truths

(The article in its entirety can be found here)

Unpleasant Truths
Most of us will die in poverty. There is no way that systems devised to provide for mid-20th-century retirees will be able to cope in the mid-21st, with imploding demographics and a centenarian on every block. ¡°Defined-contribution¡± pension plans will have to be baled out by the federal government, if private enterprise is to survive. The dollars we get from them will therefore be massively devalued. Since there is no-one to bale out Social Security, benefits will soon be restricted to citizens more than 80 years old. Similarly for Medicare. In fact...

Quality health care for all is not possible. Quality health care is what rich people get. (Actually, according to one of the depressingly tiny number of rich people I know, even they have trouble getting it.) The rest of us must wait on line to be mis-diagnosed by ill-trained, paperwork-swamped, litigation-shy doctors, assisted by nurses imported from the less hygienic parts of the Third World, and unionized hospital staff with no-way-you-can-get-me-fired attitudes. This could only change if the U.S.A. devoted her entire Gross National Product to health care; and even then, it probably wouldn¡¯t stay changed for long.

Pop culture is filth. It is now completely degenerate. Why do you never hear anyone humming a current pop song any more? Because none of them is hummable, or even worth bothering to remember. What is the main topic on TV sitcoms and ¡°dramedies¡±? You know what. Why do you stand in the aisle in Blockbuster muttering to yourself: ¡°There isn¡¯t a single damn movie in here I want to watch¡±? Because Hollywood produces nothing but crap, crap, crap.

The environment is collapsing. The U.S. will get the blame for it, of course, but the main culprit is the Third World. Take a trip to China: the air is a soupy smog, even in quite remote places. Vast dust storms sweep periodically across the north of the country, sometimes continuing right on across the Pacific. (And in one case last year, the Atlantic, too!) The rivers run purple, orange and turquoise. People tell me India is worse. The inhabitants of Africa are busily stripping their continent of all vegetation, having already pretty much exterminated the fauna, except in a few tourist reservations. The oceans are being fished out, and near-earth orbit is filling up with lethal junk.

Science has stopped. None of the really major scientific advances that you have been reading about since 1970 as ¡°just over the horizon¡± is ever going to happen. Cheap fusion power; the colonization of Mars; artificial intelligence; supersonic air travel you can afford; contact with extraterrestrial civilizations; the conquest of cancer, tooth decay or the common cold; fuhgeddaboutit.

Not all groups are equally good at all things. East Asians will continue to win Olympic diving events, and runners of West African ancestry will continue to win the 100-meter dash. Similarly, nobody will ever be able to devise a test of knowledge or understanding on which groups with different population-genetic histories all record identical statistical profiles. You can have meritocracy, or you can have equality of outcomes by ancestry-group, but you can¡¯t have both. Which one do you want? It seems we have already made up our minds.

Nothing will be done about immigration. Business leaders and economic decision-makers all believe (perhaps correctly) that mass immigration is the main reason for this country¡¯s continuing economic vitality. The Left sees poor immigrants as clients. Huge numbers of Americans are now ¡°Hispanic,¡± and believe that anti-immigration activists hate them. The Joint Chiefs have no intention of letting their commands be used to police the southern border, understanding perfectly well that they would never be allowed to open fire on anyone ¡ª which is the main thing that trained soldiers are trained to do, and the inability to do which leads to collapsing morale and cratering recruitment. (It is also, of course, the only thing that would have any actual effect.)

China will get stronger and richer, without moving one inch closer to constitutional government. The Chinese Communist Party has got ¡°over the hump¡± into a plateau of stability that, barring severe environmental catastrophe (see above), will last for decades. Rich and confident, unrestrained by electoral considerations or Judeo-Christian ethics, or any other kind of ethics, they will do all the things we dare not do: human genetic experimentation, culling of ¡°useless mouths,¡± militarization of space, minor wars of aggression, etc. In particular...

Taiwan will be re-united with the Motherland. ...by some combination of economic carrot and military stick. The U.S. will grumble ineffectually, up to the point where the Chinese Ambassador loses his patience and asks the U.S. Secretary of State point-blank: ¡°How many cities are you willing to lose over this? We ourselves are willing to lose three or four.¡± Then we will stop grumbling.

The next version of MicroSoft Windows will be even buggier and more counter-intuitive than the last. That one you know perfectly well, of course ¡ª I don¡¯t know why I bothered to include it. Further bad news on this front: e-mail will be rendered completely useless by spam, all that wonderful free information on the web will gradually be shut off into fee-paying sites, and NRO will start posting my photograph again.

Poverty and hardship build character; prosperity and security destroy it. Look around you.
The U.S. constitution is incompatible with a war on terrorism. It is absurdly easy to commit a terrorist act in the U.S.A. This state of affairs could be changed only by abandoning key constitutional protections. We shall be very reluctant to do this; but if deaths from terrorism reach a certain number, we shall do it anyway. That number has either seven or eight digits.

Justice is dead. As the last of the generation of judges who actually believe in the law heads into retirement, the administration of justice will be divvied up between avaricious trial lawyers and ideology-addled graduates of lefty law schools. Their morale destroyed by ¡°brutality¡± and ¡°profiling¡± hysteria, police forces will sink into corruption and paper-pushing. Ambitious public prosecutors will concentrate on framing up law-abiding citizens with ¡°hate crime,¡± ¡°corporate corruption,¡± ¡°dangerous product¡± (guns, fast food) or ¡°child abuse¡± charges. Actual crime ¡ª murder, rape, robbery, burglary and assault ¡ª will skyrocket, but it will be illegal to talk about it.
|W|P|86769675|W|P||W|P|5:34 PM|W|P|Nathan|W|P|

On the other hand...

From Jay Nordlinger's Impromptus at National Review Online

Democrats...most cherished pretension is that the Republican party is racist: that they are the party of racial compassion and understanding and that the Republicans are the party of racial callousness and venality.

Everywhere, it was said that Republicans ¡°exploit race.¡± Are you kidding? It is practically the reason for being of the Democratic party to exploit race. That¡¯s one of the reasons ¡ª maybe the main one (apart from its stance on the Cold War in the last stage of that struggle) ¡ª I think so little of it. To cite just one of ten million examples, Al Gore stood in front of the NAACP and bellowed, ¡°They don¡¯t even want to count you!¡± He was referring to the skepticism of certain Republicans about a method called ¡°sampling¡± in the Census.

Republicans nominate blacks and the Democrats work doubly hard to defeat them. They consider it a special affront: that the GOP should have a black nominee, or that a black person should think outside the box in which the Left insists on placing him. When Gary Franks was in Congress, the Democrats couldn¡¯t wait to get rid of him ¡ª he was a personal rebuke to them. And they did ¡ª get rid of him. When Bill Lucas was the Republican nominee for governor in Michigan, no one in the national press cared. He would have been ¡°the first black governor since Reconstruction¡± ¡ª but that phrase wasn't trotted out until a Democrat (a black Democrat) was nominated in Virginia (and that was Doug Wilder ¡ª whose ¡°black¡± credentials were certainly no better than Lucas's).
|W|P|86769507|W|P||W|P|11:23 PM|W|P|Nathan|W|P|


Okay, I seem to be over the blahgs and finding time to post stuff. Probably never as prolifically as I did the first few weeks, of course.

But I wonder what it takes to attract and hold readers. Do you like controversial subjects? I can be controversial. Do you like to hear the niggling annoying details of my life, a la Tony Woodlief and James Lileks? I warn you, I lack their scintillating style and humor...

(sings) I gotta beee mee! (/sings)

Okay, no more singing. That's clear.

Okay, here's my controversial stupid idea of the day:

I gotta tell ya, I get so irritated with Liberals/Left/Democrats sometimes. I know we all have our little inconsistencies and self-contradictions, but the ones I see on the other side are so blatant, I just want to scream and pull my hair out!!!

My main example is regarding guns. Full disclosure: I do not own a gun of any kind. So I'm not some gun nut.

But swimming pools kill more children every year than guns do. Why don't we see Hollywood stars and moguls campaigning against the evils of swimming pools? After all, you can't put a trigger lock on a pool.
Car accidents kill nearly 40,000 people a year. That dwarfs the deaths from guns (which are inflated because they include suicides...if guns weren't available, a suicide would find another equally deadly method) by more than 20 to 1. Yet I don't see Rosie O'Donnell using her talk show as a forum about that.
The one that really gets me: LLDs (Liberal/left/democrats) want to have every gun registered. They want to outlaw certain types of gun uses, like weapons that can fire on full auto or have large magazines. They also want to make manufacturers responsible for gun deaths. But even though more people are under a death sentence from AIDS (temporarily saved only by drugs that are being rendered useless by continuing promiscuous activity by HIV-positive individuals), there was never any chance that HIV-positive individuals would EVER have their names registered, nor will anyone be held responsible for infecting someone else.
Think about that a second. People have died simply because their sexual partner didn't feel like protecting them from AIDS by wearing a condom or getting tested or even refraining from risky behavior. At least if I carry an assault rifle, anyone can see it and take steps.
Sexual freedom trumps the right to defend yourself.
And the final inconsistency I cannot fathom: Many of the same people who want tougher gun laws are the same ones who say we already incarcerate too many people and give too many harsh sentences. Even if you don't recognize the effectiveness of indivuidual gun ownership in deterring crime, what's the point of passing more gun laws if you don't want to convict people in the first place? Are you intentionally pushing for laws you don't want enforced, or do you just want to enforce laws against a certain demographic and let others go free to make room for the evil gun owners?
When I do finally buy a gun, I'm going to put up one of those signs:
"This home protected by a gun; but my neighbor is against private gun ownership. I promise not to use my guns in his defense."
How many anti-gun activists would enjoy having that sign next door?

Yeah, sure, I'm being short-sighted and unfair. So what? I'm having a good time. Bring on the statistics if you want to argue.
|W|P|86736900|W|P||W|P|11:05 AM|W|P|Nathan|W|P|


Yep, we cover nearly any topic imagineable here at Brainfertilizer!

Actually, I just wanted to point out that another difference between China and the US is in what we expect from/in our houses. The biggest difference is in the kitchen. While the kitchen is often the centerpiece of a house in the US, in new houses in China it is usually small, cramped, dirties easily, and set apart from the rest of the house by a door. I'm not sure why there is this difference. Maybe because expectations are lower? I know that until the recent housing boom, most people lived in houses that were literally centuries old. When you have groutless stone floors and wooden counters, maybe there's no way to get it clean, so you only expect preparation surfaces to be clean? I don't know.

Throughout most of the houses, as well, they use materials that seem to be easily stained and hard to make look clean... It's something I'll be looking into. If you ever get the chance to go, you'll see how many buildings only a few years old look like they were built in the 50s. Part of it is the ubiquitous dust and pollution in Beijing, I'm sure. But part of it must be the materials and cleaning methods they use.
|W|P|86707222|W|P||W|P|10:57 AM|W|P|Nathan|W|P|


We just got our first real snow of the winter. By "real" snow, I mean one that doesn't start melting as soon as it stops falling. I shoveled the driveway (yeah!) and today we built a snowman, nearly 6 foot high!

I love winter. Between my parents, some of my own choices, and the military, I've been away from the North for 17 years. I haven't seen a real snow in that time (although I did experience 2-3 faux snowfalls). I feel like I've been in exile.

Those of you from the South, you don't know how bad you have it. Sure, it gets cold in the North. But you get snow as compensation. I've been pretty much everywhere in the US except Alaska and Maine, and the only place you can escape unpleasant cold in the winter is Hawaii and some parts of Florida. So you're going to be miserable anywhere in winter...at least in the North you aren't miserable in the summer, too.

And the world looks so beautiful after a snowfall. I love skiing and sledding and snowballs and hot chocolate and hayrides with carolling and roaring fireplaces and everything! It's wonderful.

But then, there is one thing I don't like about the North: the fact that it gets dark so early in the day. It bugs me. But you can't have everything, I guess.

May I never have to leave the Northwest again!