April 30, 2002
YES, IT'S TIME
YES, IT'S TIME: Chris Caldwell's Weekly Standard cover story on French anti-semitism, Liberte, Egalite, Judeophobie, is on the web. It's quite long; I haven't finished it yet. Far more concise was the Saturday Night Live take on the wave of anti-semitism in France, which asks "With all that's going on in the world, isn't it about time we got back to hating The French?" Someone put it on the web (thanks to Best of the Web Today); it's of course funnier if you watch it, but for those of you without the technical capabilities to view the clip online, I've made a full transcript. Enjoy.
April 28, 2002
WHY EBERT IS A YUTZ
WHY EBERT IS A YUTZ: I have another quibble with Ryan Vooris, but this one is a lot more fun to talk about. Yes, Roger Ebert does turn the occassional phrase, but he has an unforgivable flaw as a movie critic: extremely bad taste in movies. Even Ryan brings up the Meet Joe Black three-star outrage, but the two recent reviews he cites are wildly off the mark, too. Ebert's smug slam of Jason X (is that "ex" or "ten?") makes him look like an idiot. Jason X is essentially a comedy, and this enjoyable bit of hilarity appears to have all gone over Ebert's head. The audience laughs at the preposterousness of it all, and there's absolutely no mistaking that this is what the filmmakers intended. This is the kind of movie that is generally considered "critic-proof"; the Jason X filmmakers and the audience have a bond that most critics can't understand because they've come to Take Films Very Seriously. Most audiences, on the other hand, just want a fun night, and Jason X does nicely. (The one complaint I have is with the ad campaign "Evil Gets an Upgrade!"-- given that the world is in the grips of a battle with real life evil, it's a bit unnerving to see the word tossed around like that in a context that ought to evoke escapism.)
Then there's his Changing Lanes review. Everything that ruined this movie, which could have been a fine film if it hadn't felt the need to devolve into a lecture on the Evils of Rapacious Capitalism, plays right into Ebert's leftist prejudices. He loves, loves, loves the line "You think those factories in Malaysia have day care centers?" Sooo clever. Giving jobs to people who would otherwise starve is so exploitive, as all Good and Decent People at the dinner parties Ebert frequents know so well.
Meet Joe Black, you see, was not an anomaly. It's an anomaly when Ebert gets his reviews right. One more example, and this one's especially for you, Ryan-- one of your favorite movies (and mine), the Special Edition Box-Set of which you own, The Usual Suspects: ONE AND A HALF STARS!
YIKES: Someone found this site by running a Google search for "digitally simulated teen sex video." I feel like taking three or four showers now.
A final word (for now) on this issue: before I could really stake out a position on virtual kiddie porn, I'd need to see some research. Does the availability of child pornography seem to make children on balance less safe, by whetting the pedophile's appetite, or more safe, by satiating it? Or neither more or less safe? This is no different than gun policy, as I see it-- let analysis of consequences, not emotions, guide policy making. Real child pornography necessarily involves abuse of children (of course, some of the illegal stuff involves teens who would be legally consenting if they were a bit older, but the consent line has to be drawn somewhere; I see no problem with erring on the older side); virtual porn does not. But what are its effects?
If it can be shown empirically that child pornography encourages sex criminals, then the virtual variety should indeed be proscribed-- with a law less broad then the one that the high court struck down. I'd suggest hinging it on "obscenity," into which community standards and artistic value figure, rather than simply listing various acts that may not be simulated, as this law did; I would also advocate passing it on the state or local level, not the federal level, as the variations in community standards across the country mean that a federal law couldn't be applied equitably (unless the absurd notion of a nation-wide community standard were to be applied), thus introducing Fourteenth Amendment problems.
If, on the other hand, it can be shown that exposure to simulated child pornography decreases a pedophile's chances of committing a sex crime, then the stuff ought not be banned just because we find it repugnant. Gun control zealots find guns repugnant; some of the policies they advocate would increase gun violence. Feelings alone shouldn't guide policy.
This isn't a topic I particularly want to think a whole lot about, but if anyone can find any research along these lines, I will look at if you send it to me.
April 25, 2002
YAWN: Well, that was dull. Just watched the Factor segment. As is always the case when John Kasich sits in for Bill O'Reilly, there was no real argument, just a "state your views" snore-fest. The Bias-Related Incidents Comittee at Ithaca College is an absurd abomination. I know that, most of IC knows that, and now Factor viewers-- at least, the ones who watch when Kasich's on-- know it, too. Suggestion to my friends in Ithaca: if you own stock in any corporation, see if you can get Ralph Nader's Earth Day speech at IC declared a bias-related incident, too.
YOU'RE STILL WRONG, RYAN
YOU'RE STILL WRONG, RYAN: My Star Wars-obsessed friend refers me to an Ann Coulter column to showcase the argument against vitual kiddie porn. Sigh... Picking apart a Coulter column is almost too easy to bother, but here goes:
...the law simply extended the reach of the federal child pornography laws to computer-generated "virtual" images of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct. Without this law, it will be impossible, in practice, to prosecute any child pornography cases.Lie! Kiddie-porn sickos get prosecuted all the time. In his concurring opinion, Justice Thomas noted that the argument that prohibiting the virtual stuff is necessary to prosecute the real stuff is the only one that would be valid, but since no pornographer has ever used the "it's fake, honest!" defense, this is completely speculative.
Justice William Rehnquist points out in his dissent that both "American Beauty" and "Traffic" [which contain scenes well within the law's definition of "simulated" sexual activity involving minors] were made (and given awards) while this precise child porno law was on the books.Irrelevancy! The Clinton Justice Department, as has been pointed out by many (including Coulter herself), was famously lax in enforcing Federal obscenity laws. The notion that Reno not prosecuting American Beauty means that no A.G. would is like saying anyone would have burned Waco and seized Elian. 'Tain't so.
Moreover, the actress who played a teen-age girl in the crucially important simulated sex scene in "Traffic" was not, in fact, a minor.Irrelevancy! The law applies just as much to a girl who appears to be, or is presented as, a minor as to one who actually is. That's part of what "simulated" means.
This is the same Ann Coulter who once argued that a website with lots of bloody imagery celebrating the deaths of abortion doctors and listing their home addresses was protected speech (It seems to have been purged from the NRO archive); she later claimed she was being denied her "First Amendment rights" because an editor wouldn't publish something she wrote that was sub-par. Bottom line: regarding free speech, Ann Coulter has no idea what she's talking about.
BIGAYLA VS. BAY
BIGAYLA VS. BAY: Word is, some sandalista from BIGAYLA, Ithaca College's Bi- Gay- Lesbian- Alliance, will be going up against Bay Buchanan on tonight's O'Reilly Factor (a brief summary of the Buchanan silliness is here, a more detailed one here). Should be interesting; I'm going to miss it in primetime (dinner plans) but I'll catch it when they replay it later.
April 24, 2002
PAGLIA UPDATE: I did check the newstand-- Camille Paglia's listed a contributing editor in the masthead of Interview, but she has nothing in this issue. Newsgroupies in alt.fan.camille-paglia note that she did have a piece in the February issue, talking about the history and meaning of heroism-- maddeningly tantalizing! I've tried and failed to find an online version. If anyone succeeds in finding that or any other recent-vintage Paglia, please tell me.
The Paglia find has brought me some attention: Insolvent Republic of Blogistan potentate Justin Slotman (who also has a permalink listed alphabetically right between Andrew Sullivan and Tal G. in Jerusalem, a great spot to lure slippery-moused visitors) has linked, as has the VodkaPundit, Stephen Green. A warm welcome to all the new traffic.
April 23, 2002
KRUGMAN PILE-ON: Mickey Kaus and Andrew Sullivan both slam Paul Krugman's latest excretion; Kaus say's Krugman's "abandoned thinking," and Sullivan calls the inferred comparison of Bush to the fascist le Pen "a new low in abuse." For my money, though, Dave Weigel's evisceration is the best, delving pretty specifically into the flaws. Says Weigel of one outright factual error, "I can only assume that some monkey-related practical joke created that editorial addition, because if Krugman wrote it he should be humiliated." Nice.
April 22, 2002
PERNICIOUS CROSSFIRE: The last item here is short enough that you needn't follow the link:
The GOP whisper campaign to boycott CNN's political show Crossfire has become official policy. Top leaders have told members not to go on the show because they feel cohosts and Democratic activists James Carville and Paul Begala are unfair to them and their views.
Actually, since its inception Crossfire has hurt Republicans-- but not because of "From the Left" pundits, but because of "From the Right" ones. Pat Buchanan and Bob Novak are terrible representatives of conservatism; they are both fairly unappealling, and anti-Israel, which really distorts the debate in the casual viewer's eyes (Republican administrations have always been better to the Jewish State, but you wouldn't know it from watching a Buchanan or Novak episode of Crossfire). This is no doubt one part of the reason (though cultural issues and inherited leftism also play a role) why four out of five Jews is a Democrat.
Well, I tracked down the lesbian libertarian academic legend via the Usenet group alt.fan.camille-paglia. Turns out she's attached now to Interview magazine, which unfortunately has no web presence. You can apparantly read her regular column in the magazine, but on the web, someone has posted a copy of an interview she gave in the December issue, in which she deals with 9/11. Naturally, she makes some good points, since she's brilliant. (Not as feisty as Fallaci, though.) I'll be heading to the newstands to try to track down Interview.
THE FRENCH CONNIPTION
Now, will Chirac (who will beat the far-right le Pen in a walk in the run-off that Jospin got shut out of) respond to the French people's obvious discontent with less squishy policies? Probably not, unless the Socialists lose the parliament later in the year, which would also be quite an upset.
PANIC ROOM BOOM?
PANIC ROOM BOOM?: Howie Kurtz's latest column, besides delving into the world of blogging (fairly and accurately, which is at this point atypical), notes the spate of stories on the "growing trend" of panic rooms, like the one Jodie Foster hides in in Panic Room. (The movie's PR kit suggested the media pursue this story.) Thing is, nothing has particularly changed recently in terms of panic room-building. As Jonah Goldberg recently wrote (re "binge" drinking studies), "If they started looking for evidence of bears crapping in the woods, the New York Times would report a 'sudden and alarming rise in ursine fecal matter in America's national forests.'"
By the way, Panic Room is a fun guilty-pleasure flick with some inspired scene-chewing by Jared Leto and Dwight Yoakam, the latter of whom spends most of the movie behind a ski mask. Director David Fincher is big on the cool digitally-created impossible camera pans which he previously used in Fight Club, and the openning credits (which float in the air and cast shadows on New York buildings) are the coolest I've seen in a while. Dave Kopel pointed out that the movie illustrates that "pure defense isn't as safe as defense combined with counterforce capabilities. So consider keeping a firearm in your safe room." If Jodie had a gun, the movie would have been a lot shorter.
April 21, 2002
LEAVING LOS ANGELES
LEAVING LOS ANGELES: The San Fernando Valley may secede from L.A., if an initiative that appears likely to get on the ballot passes. I'm in favor of this, just because it would make Chicago the true Second City once again.
PUERILE GIGGLING ABOUNDS
PUERILE GIGGLING ABOUNDS: Names will be withheld to protect the guilty, but I know that some of my friends (though not I) "celebrated" 4/20. The LA Timestracked down the origin of the whole 420 thing (it has nothing to do with police codes or any of the other rumors). It goes without saying that the illegality of this is absurd (as the San Francisco police department's laissez-faire approach to pot, and the fact that civilization has not collapsed as a result of it, illustrates).
AND TO YOUR LEFT...
AND TO YOUR LEFT...: You'll notice a lot more stuff in the left-hand column, including some perma-links to some of my articles which you might have missed and a list of links to other blogs-- the glue that holds the blogosphere together.
April 20, 2002
OBLIGATORY PORN POST
OBLIGATORY PORN POST: I'm not the first to note that Mike Lynch's Reason column has a great opening paragraph, but it's worth repeating; besides, the column explains the decision well:
"What the Supreme Court has said here is that ‘child pornography’ has to involve children,’" Mark Kernes, a senior editor at Adult Video News, told The New York Times. "And what a shock that is."My friend Ryan Vooris completely misread the opinion in an item he posted on Tuesday, which you'll have to scroll down to because he doesn't have his archive configured correctly for linking. (Fix it, Ryan!) Also, his blog address changed slightly since the last time I linked (he emailed to tell me a few days ago, but this is the first time I've gotten around to updating this page since), which is the real reason (apart from the schadenfreude of humiliating a friend) I'm even mentioning that he thought the ruling was about real child porn, not the fake kind. A conservative vs. libertarian discussion of the case on Tuesday in The Corner between Jonathan Adler, Mike Poterma, and Jonah Goldberg delved a bit deeper into the questions about virtual kiddie porn a little (scroll upwards to follow the conversation in order).
April 18, 2002
SOCIAL ENGINEERING FOLLOW-UP
SOCIAL ENGINEERING FOLLOW-UP: As promised in a parenthetical remark below, I'll give a rough outline of why I think social engineering is wrongheaded. This is a theme I'm sure I'll develop more fully in a longer piece some day, but here's my basic thesis: any time you use a distant authority to advance a social goal-- I'm thinking of the Federal government especially, but the principle might apply in certain large and diverse states-- you're playing with fire, because you legitimize the use of that distant authority to achieve social goals, and not everyone has same goals. This is the genius of federalism; you don't have to outlaw porn shops in San Francisco, nor do you have to allow them in Great Bend, Kansas. Upset that unstated covenant, and you might not like what happens when the dust settles. (As I said, more on this in the future.)
April 16, 2002
NO SHADES OF REASON
NO SHADES OF REASON: Ryan trumpets this column, which quotes him, from the Cornell Review. Joe Sabia's No Shades of Gray column did helpfully explain the IC Republicans/Bay Buchanan silliness (also summarized on the Campus Nonsense blog), and I agree with the basic point that the IC Republicans shouldn't have apologized for the poster. But in the latest column, as is often the case, Sabia comes off as a smug, misogynistic creep, and is wrong to boot. Kulturkapmf purism is no way to advance any item on the Republican agenda in a place like Ithaca, and Sabia has a recipe for alienation. Mirroring the incisive Onion satire "Gay-Pride Parade Sets Mainstream Acceptance of Gays Back 50 Years", Sabia's story could be "Cornell Conservative Confirms Stereotypes, Scuttles Hope of Republican Inroads in Leftist Enclave."
It's true that "moderation" is no way to steer one's politics. Gerald Ford and Bob Dole, among others, had nothing special to offer the electorate and got nothing back from it. But the truth is there are very few "moderates" outside of political circles. Normal humans are centrists, libertarians, populists or other species of independents, but a moderate-- one who determines his views by splitting the difference between the extremes-- is not a naturally occurring being, and can make an effective legislator but rarely an effective executive. A college Republican club isn't an executive administration, though, and if it means to have an agenda, it had better know how to pick its battles; that's not the same thing as watering down stances. A campaign against property taxes (which are oppressive in Ithaca and stealthily fleece rentors) could be the basis of a broad-appeal campaign that would attract people to fiscal conservatism; calling fellow students whores, though, is no way to advance an agenda. (More on the wrongheadedness of social engineering of any political flavor later.)
The Cornell Review, if I remember correctly, was founded in part by alum Ann Coulter, and it's a shame that her shock-value-over-persuasion formula has infected it, because a reasoned, persuasive voice serving as an alternative to the lefty-academic conventional wisdom (what The Ithacan editorial page was for a couple years) would do that town some good.
A GRANDBLOG IS BORN
A GRANDBLOG IS BORN: Recently InstaPundit Glenn Reynolds listed the weblogs he inspired; about a month ago, he asked bloggers to tell him if they were inspired by InstaPundit, because a reporter asked him, and yes, my blog made the list (I noted in the email I sent him that I was equally inspired by Andrew Sullivan and Virginia Postrel). He mentioned that some reported "'grandblogs,' weblogs created by people who started them because they were inspired by weblogs inspired by InstaPundit."
Well, Glenn has another grandblog, because my friend Ryan Vooris has started his own blog, and credits me for introducing him to Blogger. "Ryan's Triple Play," as the blog is called, has a novel twist: sports (baseball commentary, more precisely). I don't believe I've seen much of that in the blogosphere.
April 14, 2002
MY CARTOON ALTER-EGO
MY CARTOON ALTER-EGO: My face, as seen though the eyes of the Northwestern Chronicle's cartoonist Min Xiu Wu, is now online. Cute, no?
April 12, 2002
WHAT IS THE HIGHEST HONOR...
WHAT IS THE HIGHEST HONOR THE US CAN BESTOW UPON NON-CITIZENS?: These Kabul University nuclear scientists, who hid nuclear material from Al Qaeda, should receive it.
GOLDBERG LAYETH THE SMACK-DOWN
GOLDBERG LAYETH THE SMACK-DOWN: Jonah Goldberg's new G-File is a well-deserved attack on the vile Cynthia McKinney, with the priceless lede: "I don't mean to be such a pain in the ass to Cynthia McKinney (D., Ga.), but it appears this is the fastest route to her brain." I first heard about Rep. McKinney's Bush-behind-9/11 theorizing from Dave Weigel, the esteemed Chron editor. This wasn't the first time I heard the theory itself, though; I watched my own Rep., Jan Schakowsky, listen diligently to the local left-wing wackos spouting this insanity back in December.
TO YOUR HEALTH
I actually drink even less than the semi-fictional framing device I use implies (my imbibing is generally limited of late to special occassions such as vacations abroad), but that doesn't change any of the piece's basic points. (All syntax errors are, as always, the fault of the editor. Just kidding, Dave.)
By the way, there are some errors in my biographical information, which in the print edition reads "John Tabin is an Ithaca College sophomore and lifelong Evanstonian." Actually, I'm on leave from IC as a junior, and while I am from the North Shore, I grew up in Highland Park, not Evanston. So if "sophomore" means "on-leave junior" and "lifelong" means "since October," it's correct. The online bio, besides linking to my old website instead of this one, actually says that I go to NU, but I'm guessing the template required that somehow.
TECHNICAL NOTE: www.johntabin.com and johntabin.com now point to this site properly. I'd been trying to fix that.
April 08, 2002
RINO HUNT: Stephen Moore goes hunting for RINOs-- that is, "Republicans In Name Only." Moore's Club for Growth is an excellent organization, one of the few instances of truth-in-advertising in a political group (a sharp contrasts to any group touting the Orwellian phrase "Economic Justice.") Says Moore:
In judging who were the biggest RINOs in the party in 2001, we took into account votes and advocacy of policy positions that deter economic growth. Such policies include:
• Votes for tax hikes and/or against tax cuts
• Votes for expanding the size and scope of government
• Votes for more regulations that fail a benefit/cost analysis
• Votes against giving taxpayers more individual choice in the economic decisions that effect [sic] their own lives
In otherwords, because the Club for Growth cares not a whit for social policy, these are the least economically conservative Republicans-- and often the least libertarian of any politicians. A look at the issues profile of one of their "winners," Gov. Don Sunquist of Tennesee, bears this out. In addition to pushing for a state income tax (which he said on the survey I've linked to that he wouldn't do), he's against marijuana decriminalization, gay marriage, and gambling, and for zero-tolerance against drugs and weapons in schools (which in practice has resulted in expulsion for aspirin and penknives) and lowering blood-alcohol-content limits defining drunk driving (an anti-drinking crusade which has nothing to do with actual levels of driver impairment).
What I'd like to see is a list of Democrats with a libertarian economic outlook, which I suspect would be pretty short. I'll go ask the Democratic Freedom Caucus about it.
April 06, 2002
This week at the Wall Street Journal...
This week the Wall Street Journal is unveiling a redesign (link requires NYT registration), with a bit of color on the cover. Virginia Postrel (who's in-progress follow-up to The Future and Its Enemies will be about aesthetics) thinks this'll be the design equivalent of New Coke, but the Asian edition (which I've been reading lately) already has the blues and pastels they're describing (we're not talking about USA Today color here), and it's a suprisingly subtle difference. We'll see.
April 04, 2002
JAPANESE REVISIONISM: Just got back from the Edo-Tokyo Museum, which meticulously chronicle's the history of this city (which was called Edo until the 19th century) from the 17th century on. The houses that Edoites lived in, their economic systems, what they read, the collapse of the Tokugawa shogunate and the Meiji restoration, everything is chroncled with extensive descriptions (with English translations, unlike some of the museums here), cultural artifacts, and extremely detailed models. Then, when we get to the 30s, something strange happens: war "approaches." The Pacific War "begins" in 1941. There is not a word about the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. Tojo's name isn't mentioned. Naturally the Rape of Nanking and the slaughter of 10 million Chinese civilians is skipped-- and there's no mention of Pearl Harbor! The destruction in Tokyo by American bombs is detailed, however, and the death figures even looked a bit inflated. It's as if the war was a destructive force, much like the many earthquakes and fires that have hit this city except wrought by Americans instead of by nature.
It's become a cliche, but there is truth to what Santayana said: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Japan continues to dodge official acknowledgement of the horrors of its past. Every time they're asked about China they change the subject to the A-bombs (which probably saved more lives than they took, given how bloody an Allied invasion of Japan would have been). Now that they're remilitarizing in the wake of Sept. 11 (instead of depending wholely on the U.S. for defense, as they have since WWII), it might be time to demand that they set the record straight.
Incidentally, the Japanese are some of the nicest people I've ever met; it's hard to imagine them perpetrating genocide, but it happened. Such is the nature of man.
April 03, 2002
TOKYO DIARIST: For a country whose economy has scarcely grown in a decade, this place is amazingly vibrant. The deflation is having its effect, but I mostly see it in the newspapers. The banks have tons of bad loans, which might have something to do with why it's so hard to withdraw cash with an American card-- cash scarcity makes it not worth their trouble. (We finally found a bank we could use, but we were starting to get worried.)