Friday, November 22, 2002

"Moist" housing: Most shelters for homeless alcoholics require that residents be sober while living there. The idea is simple: give people an incentive to clean up. You get to trade your cold street corner and filthy clothing for a warm bed and a washing machine, but only if you don't drink.

Seattle is building a 75-unit apartment for street drunks--which won't have that requirement. The principal opposition to the plan comes from neighbors of the proposed building, who understandably don't want their immediate surroundings to have a high concentration of incapacitated and possibly mentally ill homeless. I'm pretty unsure about the concept in general though--it seems like enabling.

Well, along comes Robert Jamieson of the Seattle PI, who captures my feelings exactly. It might be better for downtown shoppers, who will face fewer smelly panhandlers, but is it better for the people it's "helping"?

I have to think not, but I hope someone who knows more about this can enlighten me.
How sexist is James Bond? Berry and Brosnan are depicted in bus ads holding two different guns--Berry a little Beretta .25, and Brosnan a full-sized 9mm or .40 whose make I don't recognize.

Let's set aside the gratuitous-violence problem, and the irresponsible gun handling problem, both of which are real and relevant.

Is Hollywood saying that women are only capable of handling wimpy "chick guns," rather than real, full-power handguns? What kind of message is that sending to our daughters? You can be a great secret agent and sexually agressive vixen, but the recoil on an effective manstopper is too much for your dainty little wrists?

Hell, my wife is only 5 feet tall (I can hear her yelling at me) and she has no trouble at all with a subcompact 9mm. It's time we put and end to these destructive, outdated stereotypes.

(And yes, I'm kidding)
THIS PISSES ME OFF!!! 12-year-old boy fatally shot by 'best friend'.

What we have here is bad parenting. First off, Lock up your fucking guns, OK? For Christ's sake, I don't have kids, but I DO have a gun safe.

Second, some facts about .38 Spl. revolvers: 1) It is easy to see if they are loaded with a casual glance. 2) Firing one requires either a long (1 inch) trigger pull against heavy (about 12 pounds) of resistance, or manual cocking and a short (1/8"), 3lb pull. In other words, this gun didn't "go off," the kid intentionally pulled the trigger while pointing it at his friend. These two facts together indicate that this kid knew NOTHING about guns.

According to the family, he was told never to touch his (deceased) father's guns. Gee, can you imagine? A 12-year-old who disobeys mom? A boy who is fascinated by guns? What a shock! Not good enough, folks! He was old enough to be taken to the range and taught to shoot--that's the age when I first fired a gun. Buy the kid some hollowpoints and let him blow some apples to bits. One day of doing that and he'll NEVER point a gun at a friend (plus he'll be able to tell loaded from unloaded).

To recap:

--Lock up your guns

--Provide age-appropriate shooting instruction ("Don't touch!" works for 5-year-olds, shooting experience for 12-year-olds)

This sort of totally unnecessary tragedy--cause by parental irresponsibility--makes me sick.
I'm back, temporarily: Well, I've gotten through a really busy phase and I'm back to full-strength blogging. For today. I'll probably be gone Thanksgiving week, but back on Dec. 2.

Speaking of comebacks, it's been a month since Ted Barlow made his last post. There seems to have been a lot of blogger attrition lately--possibly caused by the election--and I would really hate to see Ted hang up his keyboard forever. We disagree probably 90% of the time, but there are only a few liberals I can read and respect, so it sucks to lose one.

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Infomercial? From Foxnews: "Two women's groups and a media watchdog organization on Tuesday asked CBS not to air the Victoria's Secret fashion show, calling it a "soft-core porn infomercial.'"

Infomercial? Gee, maybe I'll have to watch and see what important information they distribute. This is interesting, though: "Concerned Women for America, the National Organization for Women and the Parents Television Council were among several groups protesting the televised fashion show..." CFW and NOW are on opposite poles of the political spectrum--nice to see them agreeing on something. Still, I'm surprised that NOW doesn't regard this as a wonderfully liberating display for women, by allowing them to excercise power, or celebrate their femininity, or some such nonsense.

Here's an interesting contrast:
"What purpose does the special serve except to overly sexualize women and use this to bolster the networks' demographics for young men?" they asked in a joint letter to CBS President Leslie Moonves...

CBS is giving the show a TV-14 rating, an indication that the material may be unsuitable for children age 14 and under.

It seems to me if you're worried about sexualizing women, you should declare the show off limits to those over 14. After all, "sexualization of women" will likely pass right over the heads of 8-year-olds. It's the older kids who will get the real point.

Anyway, I won't be watching. My wife would probably allow it, but supermodels don't appeal much to me. Too many bones; not enough meat; bizzare expressions on their faces. Kind of like sucker fish, now that I think about it.
Paul Krugman, again: Krugman is at it again, bashing Bush. He think's Bush's plan to privatize some government jobs won't save much money, but will increase corruption. You see, he claims that Jeb Bush's privatization plan in Florida has resulted in big contracts going to Republican contributors:
What's interesting about this network of contractors isn't just the way that big contributions are linked to big contracts; it's the end of the traditional practice in which businesses hedge their bets by giving to both parties. The big winners in Bush's Florida are companies that give little or nothing to Democrats.

I dont' know if these factual assertions are correct; let's just assume they are. Apparently Jeb Bush is givng taxpayer money to Republican donors--just terrible, right? Well, check out what Opensecrets.org shows as the #1 political donor in the country: American Fedn of State, County & Municipal Employees. That is the name of the our public employee union. And how does the union's political giving break down? 98%-99% Democratic. In other words, even if Jeb (and George) are fixin' to hand out tax money on the basis of political patronage rather than by some better measure, the Democrats are already doing the same thing!

Oh, and who's the #2 donor? The National Education Association, with 95% of donations going to the Democrats! Don't take my word for it--click on the links and see it all there in black and white.

Does Krugman consider this form of patronage problematic? Of course not! After all, only Republicans are corrupted by soft money--Democrats are too intelligent and public-spirited for that! Mind you, I'm not endorsing the action of either party here--but spare me the whining about how awful Bush is. The creation of the TSA was a great boon to Democrats' coffers, and everyone knows it.

Why is it that this man is so revered by otherwise respectable bloggers?

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Party Time! I just got my 1,000th visitor (not all unique, of course). It looks like I get about 20 a day from the same people--so thank you all my readers!
Anti-gay prejudice: Andrew Sullivan asks an interesting question:
But the issue that genuinely perplexes me is the fear and panic that many straight men display when they think another man might find them attractive. I can understand why they might find this awkward or unwelcome - but I don't understand the violent emotions this kind of thing triggers. When a woman finds me attractive, I'm flattered, even though there's always a little discomfort. But I don't want to beat her up or kill her. So why is that so often the reaction among straight men toward gay men?

Let me be entirely clear before I start to answer. NOTHING justifies anti-gay bigotry and violence. But since Andrew asked, I'm going to try to reply. I'l start by honestly admitting that the thought of a gay man finding me sexually attractive is really creepy and I don't like it one bit.

I've been trying to write a piece on manhood, and what it means to be a man. I haven't been able to finish it yet, but maybe sometime after Thanksgiving it will go up. But there's a short answer to Andrew's question: penetration.

Straight guys don't like the thought of erect penises. Oh, we like sex well enough--when we are the ones doing the pentrating. But if it were our daughter's body being penetrated by her boyfriend? Or our wives with another man? Or--God forbid--us, with the business end of a gay man bouncing against our cheeks? Think about the expression "who wears the pants in this relationship?" For most men, being the one doing the penetrating is an essential part of their identity as men. My wife doesn't understand the male fear of homosexual sex, either, but how could she? For many straight men, you can't be penetrated and still be a man.

Why is rape so common in prison? Is it because most criminals are gay? Nope--it's because penetration is a way to establish hierarchy, a way for the boss-man to humiliate and oppress his subordinates. I've watched a female dog mount a male dog and thrust her hips--because sexual position, and who's on top, mirror power relationships, and men want to be in power. Men are biologically driven to compete for status, to try to be #1. Penetrating someone--whether a man or a woman--is one way to assert superiority, strength, manliness, etc. Being penetrated--especially against his will--is a deeply humiliating thought for a man who, like most or all men, desperately wants to be on top. Most straight guys view penetration by another man as a couple of steps lower than being exposed as a moron on national television. Having strangers point at you and laugh in the street would be preferable to being a bottom for most men's egos--certainly that is true for me. The thought that someone else is excited--sexually excited!--by the prospect of inflicting that kind of ego-destroying act on them naturally leads straight men to antipathy.

So Andrew, I don't know what the worst possible kind of humiliation would be for you--but you do. Suppose you met someone who masterbated while thinking about inflicting that on you. Would you not be a touch nervous around that guy? Wouldn't you have to suppress the urge to punch him for getting such perverse pleasure at the thought of your pain? Wouldn't it make you kind of angry that someone could achieve orgasm by wanting to utterly destroy your ego?

I'm not saying that all gay men are rapists. I'm saying that a gay man who admires a straight man wants something which the straight guy finds so incredibly repugnant he would probably die before he submitted. This isn't the same a racism--we can't help it, Andrew. We are instinctively horrified by what gay men do for pleasure. That doesn't begin to justify anti-gay violence, and I've had gay friends myself. As a philosphical and political matter, I don't give a damn what anyone does behind closed doors. But I just can't help wanting to avoid men who find me attractive--it's too much like trying to be friends with a guy who constantly embarasses you in public. (Lucky me, no gay man has ever--to my knowledge--found me attractive. But if he did, I would ask that he pleast NOT share with me. I DON'T want to know.)

And, as a final note, I strongly suspect that a gay man who only wanted to be penetrated by a straight man--who wanted to be a "bottom," not a "top," would be far less frightening to even the most stridently anti-gay men.

(BTW, regarding gays in the military, there's a hell of a difference between linguists and guys in a foxhole--pity they can't make that distinction.)
Happy National Ammo Day: Nov. 19 is National Ammo Day! Stick it to the gun-ban lobby and buy 100 rounds today.

For my part, I rarely buy ammo anymore, so I'll be loading 100 rounds instead.
Does Eugene Volokh think we're all idiots? He writes:
IT'S OFFICIAL: The Volokh Conspiracy is now the #2 conspiracy in the whole world (or at least its google-reachable portions), easily beating out the vast right-wing conspiracy, the international Jewish conspiracy, and who knows how many others. That's right -- if you do a google search for Conspiracy, we're there, in #2, right after "Conspiracy Net."

Um, Eugene, the reason you beat out both the vast right-wing conspiracy and the international Jewish conspiracy at Google is that you are obviously a member of both!

Duh...

Monday, November 18, 2002

Jeff, you should know better: Let's do a little excercise in logic.

Premise: Jeff Cooper is a lawyer (or a "blawger," as he likes to say).

Premise: All lawyers have gone to law school.

Conclusion 1: Jeff Cooper went to law school.

Premise: All law schools require applicants to take the LSAT.

Conclusion 2: Jeff Cooper took the LSAT.

There may be some issues with my premises--maybe Jeff's degree is from a diploma mill, and he's smart enough to pass the bar anyway--but there is nothing wrong with my conclusions, which follow from the premises. Let's just assume for the moment that Jeff did, in fact, take the LSAT. In that case, he should have been exposed to the concepts of Necessary and Sufficient, as applied to logical excercises such as the above.

Now let's look at Jeff's post on Homeland Security:
Lest anyone think that the absence of civil service and collective bargaining protections is a sure prescription for accountability in the proposed Department of Homeland Security, Nathan Newman points to a DOJ inspector general's report suggesting that the FBI (which lacks such protections) is rife with buck-passing, cover-ups, favoritism, and other failures of accountability.

As I've written before, the president's insistence that the power to fire or discipline all homeland security employees at will is necessary for the new department's success is belied by the experience of the FBI.

Jeff, head straight back to your LSAT study books and spot the flaw in your argument. The FBI's problems prove that stripping workers of civil-service protections is not sufficient to guarantee good performance--you also need to actually use the power you have. It may, on the other hand, be necessary, and the failings of the FBI don't have too much to say on that point. Still, ask yourself this question: would Byzantine rules regarding hiring and firing make the FBI even better? I doubt it.

What's funny about the whole debate is the reality that this is all about partisian jostling for advantage dressed up in even more sactimonious rhetoric than usual. Both sides know full well that public-employee unions vote almost 100% Democratic. After all, if you're a worthless mouth in a big-government bureaucracy, naturally you want to vote for the party that favors expanding your (and every other) department rather than the one that periodically threatens to lay you off (even if the threats usually come to nothing). But will the pundits say this? Oh, no--liberal pundits treat us to long, flowery speaches about how hard-working and wonderful those dedicated public servants are, which makes you wonder if they've ever applied for a permit to build a deck in the back yard. And, of course, they compare the secretaries of the National Tea Tasting Board (amazingly, this program did exist, and was cut in 1995 after the Republicans took Congress) to firemen and police officers--as though the two forms of public service were the same.

Meanwhile, conservatives cheerfully ignore the problems of government without the unions--which, for all their flaws, serve as a brake not only on accoutability, but also on patronage and corruption--for the chance to screw the Democrats out a few more votes.

Jeff is worried that Bush's move on Homeland Security is pure union-busting. I say: bring it on. Unions aren't some kind of universal good that must be preserved at all costs. It doesn't make much difference as far as terrorism goes, since a bureaucracy isn't going to protect us anyway (unless it's the procurement bureaucracy buying bombs), and if it means fewer Democrats voting themselves pay raises, I'm fine with that.
Gun Control in retreat? Clayton Cramer:
In a lot of ways, the gun control movement is in serious decline. They know, I think, that they are fighting a rearguard action, trying to preserve the baroque system of gun controls that were originally adopted to disarm blacks, Chinese, Mexicans, and labor organizers, and now exists primarily to discourage law-abiding adults from owning guns. I will be charitable, and assume that their goals aren't, primarily to disarm minorities, but this embarrassing and largely ineffective tool is the only thing that they have available to them. A direct assault on gun ownership by the masses has been tried, and failed, so the best that they can do is keep rehammering the old, disreputable laws that they have into new forms, while hoping that lawsuits against gun makers will eventually bankrupt them.

So, is Cramer right here? Is Sarah Brady really the last gasp for a dying movement? I'd like to think so, but I doubt it--gun control has such momentum throughout the world, it's hard to believe we can ever really kill it here. The real rearguard action is being fought by decent, law-abiding adults throughout the entire world outside of the United States--they'll be lucky if they can hang on to grandpa's break-action 12-gauge, since grandpa's service Webbly .455 and the Garand he got from grateful American comrades are already both gone. We are truly the last redoubt of widespread gun ownership, with all that that implies in the relationship between Individual and State. I hope that it will always be that way--the world needs us and our example--but I can't write off the gun-banners yet. We could be looking at a tactical retreat, and it would be a disaster to mistake it for defeat