Saturday, December 30, 2006

Death of Saddam

If one needs proof that the Americans are not in control in Iraq, it's in the fact that Saddam Hussein did not sit on death row for 20 years waiting for appeal after appeal. Due process is such a bourgeois, Western concept.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Gerald R. Ford: 1913-2006

To my dismay, I was far from my computer when I first learned of the death of former President Gerald R. Ford.

I was dismayed because I would have liked to have written something about this story while it was breaking. Instead, the news has already appeared on the front pages of newspapers. While it was not the top headline, it was above the fold on the Daily Progress delivered to my front lawn this morning; it was the top story in the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, which I picked up at a Sheetz on the way home from Washington. Both those papers used the AP report.

The news was announced too late (11:45 p.m. EST) for it to make the print editions of the Washington Post and Washington Times available this morning in Charlottesville.

On its web site, however, the Post has a historical review of Ford's life by J. Y. Smith and presidential biographer Lou Cannon (who has produced multiple volumes on Ronald Reagan); it also has an audio remembrance by veteran political reporter David Broder, as well as a photo slide show of his life and career.

The Post has also published the statement by President Bush issued by the White House, in which he says:

President Ford was a great American who gave many years of dedicated service to our country. On August 9, 1974, after a long career in the House of Representatives and service as Vice President, he assumed the Presidency in an hour of national turmoil and division. With his quiet integrity, common sense, and kind instincts, President Ford helped heal our land and restore public confidence in the Presidency.
Vice President Dick Cheney, who served as White House chief of staff during the Ford Administration, issued a statement of his own:
President Ford led an honorable life that brought great credit to the United States of America. Throughout his career, as a Naval officer, Congressman, Vice President and President, Gerald Ford embodied the best values of a great generation: decency, integrity, and devotion to duty. Thirty-two years ago, he assumed the nation's highest office during the greatest constitutional crisis since the Civil War. In that troubled era, America needed strength, wisdom, and good judgment, and those qualities came to us in the person of Gerald R. Ford. When he left office, he had restored public trust in the presidency, and the nation once again looked to the future with confidence and faith.
For its part, the Washington Times has an obituary by Jennifer Harper. It begins simply:
Gerald R. Ford, the nation's 38th president, has died.

He was 93.

"My family joins me in sharing the difficult news that Gerald Ford, our beloved husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather has passed away at 93 years of age," Betty Ford said in a brief statement issued from her husband's office in Rancho Mirage, Calif., yesterday. "His life was filled with love of God, his family and his country."

The statement neither said where Mr. Ford died nor gave the cause of death. Mr. Ford, the longest-living president, had battled pneumonia and heart disease in recent years.
I have written several times about Gerald Ford and my admiration of him for his principles. He was a Goldwater Republican who truly believed in limited government and used his veto pen to check the profligacy of Congress. (When one compares the Congress controlled by Democrats in the mid-1970s to that controlled by Republicans for the past several years, those Democrats of 30 years ago seem downright frugal.)

My most recent blog post on Gerald Ford came on the occasion, just last month, when he became the longest-living American president, surpassing the lifespans of Ronald Reagan and John Adams.

Earlier this year, I had the privilege of attending an awards luncheon at the National Press Club
where Vice President Dick Cheney spoke at a luncheon honoring the recipients of the annual Gerald R. Ford Journalism Prizes. Cheney, you'll recall, served as Ford's White House Chief of Staff before serving in Congress and both Bush administrations.
In August 2005, I wrote about Dr. Yanek Mieczkowski's book, Gerald Ford and the Challenges of the 1970s, which provides a much-needed re-examination of the Ford Administration.

Ford was underestimated in terms of his intellectual abilities and his political skills. Seen by many as a transitory figure -- a caretaker president, if you will -- he had strong beliefs about the proper role of government (hint: circumscribed in both the economic and social spheres of life) and how to work with Congress and the press when both were hostile to his views and approach.

Ford, unlike most recent presidents, had a great deal of respect for journalists. He made himself accessible to them in ways unthinkable today. (Ann Compton of ABC News commented on this characteristic during radio broadcasts this morning.) He also had a great deal of respect for the American people. There was nothing smug or arrogant about him.

I hope to write more about Gerald Ford before the day is out.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Hodie Christus Natus Est

Creche in the sanctuary of the Cathedral of St. Thomas More
Arlington, Virginia

Christmas 2006

Friday, December 22, 2006

Carnival of the Mundane - Christmas 2006

As previously announced, this week we are privileged to host the biweekly Carnival of the Mundane -- the last of this series for 2006.

I think people are preoccupied with the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season. (Only 2 shopping days left!) Why? There was not much of a response to the call for entries. But there's nothing wrong with that: the Carnival of the Mundane is all about daily life, and most potential contributors have their own daily lives requiring their attention.

Let me admit to my own Christmas rush: Today I had to take my car in for servicing (the fourth time since Thanksgiving), which is mundane itself, on a dreary, rainy December day (that's morose, not mundane), but I also braved the crowds at Wal-Mart and the Fashion Square Mall (that's not mundane, that's meshuge). Hence I was away from my computer for most of the day today, leading to this late posting on the due date (today, December 22) for the carnival.

Here, in order of submission, are the featured posts for the latest Carnival of the Mundane:

Muse, one of the bloggers at Me-Ander ("Original 'out of the box' musings on life & Judaism") describes something much like the day I had today in "Sometimes the timing is just perfect."

Yet another Wal-Mart incident is described in "Christmas Hell," posted by la diabla at String Cheese, "a blog about a girl who wants everything...."

Under the label "Nonsense," Kingfisher of Fishing in a Dry Wash (slogan: "Casting Random Lures with No Chance of Success) offers a parody of the small talk that accompanies the commentary before televised football games, "There's a Game in There Somewhere."

In the spirit of the season, humor columnist Madeleine Begun Kane provides us with a useful and instructive contract for husbands and wives under the title, "Mad Gift Giving Guide."

The end of the year is usually the time for lists of "best ofs ...." and "worst ofs ..." and awards of all sorts. The Sam and Becky Boo Show has decided it is time to "to reassign a couple of key 2006 awards and queue up ideas for some of the upcoming 2007 ones" in a post called "Better Know a Blogger," with, naturally, a shout-out to Stephen Colbert.

That's what we've got this time around. Visit the home of the Carnival of the Mundane for news about future carnivals and where they might be found.

Thanks to all who contributed and a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all Mundanites, past, present, and future! See you all in 2007!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Pot Top Crop

The Los Angeles Times reported today that marijuana is the number one cash crop in the United States, worth $35 billion per year.

Correspondent Eric Bailey writes:

For years, activists in the marijuana legalization movement have claimed that cannabis is America's biggest cash crop. Now they're citing government statistics to prove it.

A report released today by a marijuana public policy analyst contends that the market value of pot produced in the U.S. exceeds $35 billion — far more than the crop value of such heartland staples as corn, soybeans and hay, which are the top three legal cash crops.
This is evidence of two things: (1) government efforts at eradication of marijuana are failures and (2) prohibition drives up the price of prohibited goods.

It also shows that the government is missing an opportunity that could benefit taxpayers where it counts: in each of our individual pocketbooks. The expenditures on law-enforcement could be replaced with revenues from taxes on legal marijuana, a net gain for everyone.

Here's why:
Jon Gettman, the report's author, is a public policy consultant and leading proponent of the push to drop marijuana from the federal list of hard-core Schedule 1 drugs — which are deemed to have no medicinal value and a high likelihood of abuse — such as heroin and LSD.

He argues that the data support his push to begin treating cannabis like tobacco and alcohol by legalizing and reaping a tax windfall from it, while controlling production and distribution to better restrict use by teenagers.

"Despite years of effort by law enforcement, they're not getting rid of it," Gettman said. "Not only is the problem worse in terms of magnitude of cultivation, but production has spread all around the country. To say the genie is out of the bottle is a profound understatement."
The report itself recommends:

It’s time to debate the legalization of marijuana in the United States. Skeptics argue against legalization as a way of reducing teenage access, for example, by citing teenage access to alcohol and tobacco in a legal market despite age restrictions and related penalties. However unlike marijuana teens do not have a profit motive to sell tobacco and alcohol to one another. Effective control over production of tobacco and alcohol are prerequisites to both controlling access to those drugs by teenagers and the implementation of successful educational and discouragement campaigns. Replacing the façade of control provided by current policies with effective regulatory policies is also the first step in enacting effective policies to reduce teenage marijuana use.

Key elements of marijuana legalization policies should include federal and state excise taxes on production, distribution, and sales along with licensed market participation, age restrictions, and prohibitions on advertising and marketing to minors. Current regulatory models for tobacco and alcohol provide suitable examples upon which to base legislation to enact effective marijuana controls under federal and state laws.

Under the policies of the last 25 years marijuana has become the most widely produced illegal drug in the United States and the nation’s largest cash crop. The ten-fold increase in marijuana production from 1,000 metric tons in 1981 to the contemporary estimate of 10,000 metric tons undermines all drug control programs; with results like these it is difficult to take assurances of long-term effectiveness in any federal anti-drug program seriously. Taxation and regulation of marijuana is in the public interest. The refusal to implement a regulatory program for marijuana in the United States is irresponsible and a violation of the public trust.

The ten-fold growth of production over the last 25 years and its proliferation to every part of the country demonstrate that marijuana has become a pervasive and ineradicable part of our national economy. The failure of intensive eradication programs suggests that it is finally time to give serious consideration to marijuana’s legalization in the United States.

Rob Kampia of the Marijuana Policy Project commented on Gettman's report in a news release:
"The fact that marijuana is America's number one cash crop after more than three decades of governmental eradication efforts is the clearest illustration that our present marijuana laws are a complete failure," said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C. "America's marijuana crop is worth more than our nation's annual production of corn and wheat combined. And our nation's laws guarantee that 100 percent of the proceeds from marijuana sales go to unregulated criminals rather than to legitimate businesses that pay taxes to support schools, police and roads."
Of course, the United States is not the only country in which marijuana is a significant cash crop. This is a worldwide phenomenon. A lot of poorer countries could also benefit from a re-legalization project, with farmers benefiting from payments for a crop that is in demand and governments better able to balance their books with legitimate tax revenues rather than the graft and corruption that result from marijuana prohibition.

The late Milton Friedman, among other distinguished economists, showed how marijuana prohibition has adverse economic effects and that legalization would be the best course to take. Perhaps all those members of Congress who voted to praise Dr. Friedman earlier this month will actually pay attention to what he taught as this new study re-emphasizes his wise counsel.

While we're on the subject of pot, here is a stupid criminal story with an added soupçon of seasonal silliness. The AP reports from Jay, Oklahoma:
Police arrested a woman after finding marijuana in a Christmas card she tried to give her jailed boyfriend. Dawn E. Smith, 44, of Grove, was arrested in connection with the incident at the Delaware County Jail.

She is accused of trying to distribute a controlled substance and bringing a controlled substance into a jail.

Her boyfriend, Steven McRae Jones, 26, pleaded guilty on Nov. 1 to charges that he repeatedly rammed Smiths car and took a swing at the arresting officer.
That story is so juicy on so many levels, I can't even begin to comment on it. Just savor it for what it is.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Small Pool

Last week, the Washington Post's ombudsman, Deborah Howell, devoted her Outlook space to the question of diversity (racial, ethnic, gender-based) among the Post's opinion (and section) columnists.

This week, she reports on some of the reactions to her recommendations, from both readers and colleagues.

One reader makes a suggestion that he might like to rethink:

Andy Moursund of Kensington said the paper is too establishment: "I've been a Post reader for -- let's just say forever -- and that sense of corporate impenetrability has always been a sticking point for a lot of people, regardless of demographic category. A good newspaper shouldn't restrict itself to the affiliated elite." He would publish more letters and "print only letters from people with no political, business or interest group affiliations. I guarantee you that will uncover a new talent pool of writers and columnists from all races, sexes and points of view, who until now have looked upon The Post as just another gray, corporate institution with a big, wide moat around its castle gates."
Letters only from "people with no political, business or interest group affiliations"? That would be a small pool, indeed, since virtually everybody has one or another of these affiliations. Everybody who is breathing and not in a permanent vegetative state, that is.

Think about it: Do you have a job? Are you retired from one? Is your spouse employed even if you are not? Do you have investments individually or through a pension fund? You have a "business" affiliation.

Do you pay taxes? Drive a car? Belong to an alumnae association? Have a kid in school? Own a home? Rent one? You have an "interest group" affiliation.

Do you vote? Own a gun? Want stronger gun control? Do you pay taxes? Do you live in the United States? You have a "political" affiliation.

Mr. Moursand seems to think that one has to pay membership dues to an organization to belong to -- be "affiliated" with -- it.

Each one of us, by dint of being human and active, has at least one political, business, or "interest group" affiliation. "Interest groups" are ubiquitous because "interests" are universal -- we all have them, whether we admit to them or not.

If the Post were to follow Mr. Moursand's suggestion, it would have an empty letter-t0-the-editor section.

Literary Gaydar

The other day, as I was reading the Style section of the Washington Post, a book review caught my eye, perhaps because of this first paragraph:

Mark Grosfeld, the hero of Robert Marshall's "A Separate Reality," is not like other boys. As a 12-year-old during the election year of 1972, he reads Carlos Castaneda, not J.D. Salinger.
I continued reading because, although I was not 12 years old in 1972 (I was 13), I was acutely aware that year about the presidential campaign. It was the first election year in which I was truly paying attention. So I continued to read.

Then something curious happened, as I began to absorb the review. Each time David Levithan (the reviewer) brought up a tidbit about the character of Mark Grosfeld, I became more assured that the character was gay.

It might also have been the title of the book at hand, A Separate Reality, with its echoes of A Separate Peace, John Knowles' 1960 homophilic novel of coming-of-age during World War II, which I first read when I was about 13 years old. (Though I did not learn until years later how Knowles had toned down the eroticism that had been in the novel's predecessor short story, "Phineas".)

But the evidence of young Mark's homosexual orientation kept piling up, in my estimation, in the paragraphs that followed, for instance:
In fact, he brings "The Catcher in the Rye" with him to summer camp only because he's afraid "the other books might look too weird."

He tries to read it on the plane but is paralyzed by what Holden Caulfield might think of him. This makes sense; instead of the rueful, deeply pained nature of the usual Caulfield-clone narrator, Mark's view of the world is impressionistic and spiritual.
As a youngster, I, too, was reluctant to read The Catcher in the Rye. (I never did finish it, and somehow avoided English classes that required it.) More from the review:
When his mother lumps him in with his father and brother as "you boys," he observes, "The words stung. Boys: a chalk mark across the family, assigning me to Dad and Jason, keeping me from her and Sharon. We worked in the backyard; they did laundry."
Since Mark lives almost entirely in his head, readers must live there, too. Ultimately, the book hinges on our reaction to his voice. When Mark acts somewhere near his age, Marshall has a wonderful way of getting at truths. Take this pitch-perfect scene with his father, which is as good an encapsulation of adolescence as you're likely to read:

"The next day I told Dad I was sorry.

" 'I accept your apology, Mark.'

"But the next night he asked why I was looking like such a martyr.

" 'Because you're being such a fascist.'

"I was sent to my room."
And finally:
It's funny when Mark measures the success of his own epic poem by whether it has grown longer than "The Waste Land." And it's insightful when he observes that "saying what you mean is an immense task -- you're honest and then no one understands." But it would be more believable if he were in high school. (We are told often that Mark is old for his age. Some readers will buy it; some won't.)
Now, to someone who has never been a gay teenager (which would be true for most people reading this, and for most people reading the book review in the Washington Post), none of these disparate items drawn from a 429-page novel would add up to much with regard to being gay (or being straight, for that matter).

But for someone who did live through that period of questioning, uncertainty, awkwardness, and (above all) sense of isolation, these are all pointers in a single direction.

Yet, as I was reading along, I began to think that my assumptions were wrong, since most book critics would mention if a protagonist -- especially a very young one -- were gay.

Then, in the review's penultimate paragraph, my literary gaydar was rewarded. There is no spoiler here, though Levithan seems disappointed by author Robert Marshall's sense of timing:
An awkward scene at the beginning of the book tells us that Mark grows up to be a gay man in New York, a revelation that gives away the ending before the story really begins. Perhaps it would have been better to leave Mark on the cusp of understanding.
The last quotation David Levithan takes from A Separate Reality has a sentence that seems apt in regard to my notes here: "My intuition is becoming more powerful, I thought."

Gaydar -- a form of intuition, to be sure -- generally works best in person, when one can observe another's facial expressions, gestures, posture, and tone of voice (among other aspects of one's personality). Yet it seems it can also be accurate through observations of the printed page, as well.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Bill of Rights Video Blog

As announced earlier today, the Jefferson Area Libertarians sponsored a reading (out loud) of the Bill of Rights on Charlottesville's Downtown Mall this afternoon. The occasion was the 215th anniversary of the ratification of the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

The weather cooperated nicely: temperatures were in the 50s (perhaps even the low 60s) and the sun was just beginning to set, giving the setting a nice, even light that was neither too bright nor too dull. This resulted in some good photos, like this one taken near the big city Christmas tree at Central Place:

I was at the event and managed to get most of it recorded with my handy cell phone. Unfortunately, while the audio is pretty good, the video is rather blurry. Still, it's the words that are more important than the images.

The three gentlemen who conducted the ceremony were John Munchmeyer, Jim Lark, and Arin Sime. (Arin is also a candidate for the Virginia State Senate, running in the 2007 election in the 24th District.)

The ceremony was introduced by John Munchmeyer:

Then the three traded off in reading sections of the Bill of Rights, including the seldom-referenced preamble:

This was followed by comments by Jim Lark:

Arin Sime then spoke briefly about the threat to the Bill of Rights from eminent domain abuses:

Finally, John closed out the ceremony with a few summary remarks:

I thought it noteworthy that the commemoration took place just an hour or so before the beginning of Chanukah (at sunset), which may be the most libertarian of religious holidays, in that it memorializes a righteous uprising against tyranny.

Bob Barr Joins Libertarian National Committee

Former U.S. Representative Bob Barr (R-Georgia) has surprised the political world by formally affiliating himself with the Libertarian Party and dissolving his ties to the Republican Party.

A news release on the LP web site explains that Barr has accepted a position on the Libertarian National Committee, as a regional representative of the party's equivalent of a board of directors.

The news release states in part:

LNC Chair William Redpath stated, "Bob Barr's willingness to serve as a leader of the Libertarian Party represents a significant and positive development for our organization. The Libertarian Party played a pivotal role in key races in 2006 and has emerged as a strong and principled political force."

Redpath continued, "The antiquated two-party system was dealt a blow today as we have welcomed a patriotic statesman into our ranks with the intent of using his vast experience and widespread respect to help recruit and elect Libertarian candidates of his caliber."

Barr's first official action as LNC representative will be to organize a meeting with state party leaders to address party building and political goals for 2007.

After accepting the position, former Congressman Barr stated, "I'm pleased to assist the Party of Principle in this capacity and hope to further our political success as we move closer to the 2008 election cycle. Being a member of this body is a serious and long-term commitment that I gladly accept. As importantly, I'm happy to announce that I am now a proud, card-carrying Libertarian who is committed to helping elect leaders who will strive for smaller government, lower taxes and abundant individual freedom. I encourage other Americans from across the political spectrum to join me."
The LP's news release also provided background information on the former legislator, who is the most prominent individual to join the LP in recent years. (Republican Congressman Ron Paul of Texas was the Libertarian candidate for president in 1988, when he was in retirement from Congress. In 1996, he regained a congressional seat despite virulent opposition from the GOP establishment.)

According to the LP,
In addition to having served eight years in the House of Representatives, Barr serves as a Board Member of the National Rifle Association and is Chairman of Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances. He also is a member of The Constitution Project’s Initiative on Liberty and Security at Georgetown University. He advises a variety of public policy organizations, including the American Conservative Union and the American Civil Liberties Union. Barr is President and CEO of Liberty Strategies, an Atlanta-based consulting firm with offices in the Washington, DC area. He practices both civil and criminal law.
Reporting on the Barr/LP announcement, the Associated Press said:
Barr became a darling of conservatives over his persistent attacks on President Clinton in the 1990s.

At the same time, Barr showed an independent streak that at times frustrated Republicans.

He has frequently criticized President Bush over privacy concerns stemming from the Patriot Act and other federal anti-terrorism efforts.

Georgia Republican Party Chairman Marty Klein called the move disappointing, saying -- quote -- "We're leading based on principles here in Georgia."
(The Washington Post has a somewhat different version of the AP story on its own web site.)

Although the AP also noted that "Barr said he has no plans to run for office," one has to wonder whether he might not be persuaded to seek the LP's nomination for a congressional (or Senate) seat in Georgia or even for President in 2008. We'll wait and see.

My question is: Has Barr reversed his pro-drug war positions, which he has defended so vociferously (such as in debates with radio talk-show host Neal Boortz)? I hope so; he's too smart to continue supporting such a miserable failure.

Bill of Rights Day Commemoration

Today is the 215th anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights to the Constitution, which took effect upon the approval of three-quarters of the states on December 15, 1791.

It should come as no surprise, but did you know that, at least since 1990, the U.S. Congress has not once issued an official commemoration of this historic event? (I looked it up on Thomas. Nada.)

We can be grateful that a local activist group, the Jefferson Area Libertarians, wants us to remember the Bill of Rights and its importance to Americans. Today in both Waynesboro and Charlottesville, the JAL will be conducting a bit of street theatre in the form of an "acclamation" of the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

Here's their announcement regarding Waynesboro:

The Jefferson Area Libertarians will hold a "Bill of Rights Acclamation" on Bill of Rights Day (Friday, December 15th, 2006). The event will be held in downtown Waynesboro from 12:00 to 12:30 p.m. at the Municipal Building at the corner of Main Street and Wayne Avenue. JAL members will read aloud the Bill of Rights, speak about its profound impact on freedom, and of recent events injurious to its purpose.

Location: Municipal Building
Corner of Main Street and Wayne Avenue
Waynesboro, Virginia
JAL member Jim Lark -- faculty advisor to Students for Individual Liberty at the University of Virginia and former national chairman of the Libertarian Party -- was a guest this morning of Jane Foy and Rob Schilling on WINA-AM. Dr. Lark noted the planned acclamation in Charlottesville later this afternoon and discussed some of the contemporary threats to the Bill of Rights, including the Kelo v. New London decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, the Military Commissions Act of 2006, and the McCain-Feingold campaign finance "reform" law.

Today's Bill of Rights Day celebration in Charlottesville, will be at Central Place (Main St. & 2nd St. East, next to the fountain) on the Downtown Mall and not -- as one would expect -- at the Free Speech Monument near City Hall, from 4:00 to 4:30 p.m. (just before sundown):

I realize this is rather late notice to my Charlottesville readers (and those across the mountain) but I hope many of you will join the Jefferson Area Libertarians to proclaim, loudly and proudly, that the Bill of Rights is still relevant and vibrant after 215 years.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

But I'm a Carnivore!

An article from WorldNetDaily that asserts soy-based food products cause homosexuality -- tofu in particular -- is taking a beating in the blogosphere. When I sent a copy of the article to a group of friends, the first response I got was: "This has got to be satire."

Sadly, it's not.

Still, one might get the impression from its headline that the article originates from The Onion: "A devil food is turning our kids into homosexuals." I should say, from the original headline when it was first posted on line. The editors at WND must have caught wind of what a laughingstock the piece is and they have since changed the headline to read "Soy is making kids 'gay'." Not much better, but somewhat less diabolical.

Written not by a physician or nutritionist or any sort of scientist, but rather by James Rutz, a self-appointed minister at "Megashift Ministries" (which sounds like the name of a 1970s-era gay bar), the opinion piece makes some astounding claims:

The dangerous food I'm speaking of is soy. Soybean products are feminizing, and they're all over the place. You can hardly escape them anymore.

I have nothing against an occasional soy snack. Soy is nutritious and contains lots of good things. Unfortunately, when you eat or drink a lot of soy stuff, you're also getting substantial quantities of estrogens.

Estrogens are female hormones. If you're a woman, you're flooding your system with a substance it can't handle in surplus. If you're a man, you're suppressing your masculinity and stimulating your "female side," physically and mentally....

Soy is feminizing, and commonly leads to a decrease in the size of the penis, sexual confusion and homosexuality. That's why most of the medical (not socio-spiritual) blame for today's rise in homosexuality must fall upon the rise in soy formula and other soy products. (Most babies are bottle-fed during some part of their infancy, and one-fourth of them are getting soy milk!) Homosexuals often argue that their homosexuality is inborn because "I can't remember a time when I wasn't homosexual." No, homosexuality is always deviant. But now many of them can truthfully say that they can't remember a time when excess estrogen wasn't influencing them.
Rutz ends on a somewhat hopeful note, for those of us who frequent Asian restaurants:
Soy sauce is fine. Unlike soy milk, it's perfectly safe because it's fermented, which changes its molecular structure. Miso, natto and tempeh are also OK, but avoid tofu.
I do avoid tofu, not because it's "feminizing," but because it's unappetizing.

Real scientists have already debunked Rutz's ridiculous ramblings. Vivian Paige points to a rebuttal (if I can call it that -- a rebuttal should be reserved to reply to an authentic argument) at Science Blogs that says, in reference to Rutz's assertions about delayed menarche in girls and puberty in boys, that
I searched PubMed, and there's nothing on soy and menarche or menstruation; I found a few articles on soy and puberty, and they say things like "The literature offers no evidence of endocrine effects in humans from infant consumption of modern soy-based formulas" and "To date, no adverse effects of short- or long-term use of soy proteins have been observed in humans and exposure to soy-based infant formulas does not appear to lead to different reproductive outcomes than exposure to cow milk formulas" and "Available evidence from adult human and infant populations indicates that dietary isoflavones in soy infant formulas do not adversely affect human growth, development, or reproduction." There are many more papers on its putative effects on breast cancer and the symptoms of menopause, and even there it's a study in ambiguity: some reports of slight positive effects, many more stating that there isn't a detectable effect.

There doesn't seem to be any strong evidence that eating tofu will turn your sons into girlie-boys, I'm afraid; there are better grounds to be concerned about known endocrine disruptors like atrazine and PCBs.
Andrew Sullivan, meanwhile, goes back to Alfred Kinsey himself to knock down Rutz's assertion that homosexual men have small genitalia. Quoting a 2004 article in the Archives of Sexual Behavior ("The Relation between Sexual Orientation and Penile Size") that examined a Kinsey survey of the 1940s, he says:
The relation between sexual orientation and penile dimensions in a large sample of men was studied. Subjects were 5,122 men interviewed by the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction from 1938 to 1963. They were dichotomously classified as either homosexual (n = 935) or heterosexual (n = 4187). Penile dimensions were assessed using five measures of penile length and circumference from Kinsey's original protocol. On all five measures, homosexual men reported larger penises than did heterosexual men. Explanations for these differences are discussed, including the possibility that these findings provide additional evidence that variations in prenatal hormonal levels (or other biological mechanisms affecting reproductive structures) affect sexual orientation development.
(I know I'm now going to be inundated with visits derived from Google hits for "penile size," "larger penises," "penile length," and "penile circumference." Those will be high on the list, along with "Jeremy Sumpter nude," "creationists circumcision," "granddad sex movies," and "Alex Trebek shirtless." I hope those readers stick around to read some more, but I digress ...)

Waldo Jaquith also got a nice discussion going on this topic, in which he makes the equally plausible claim that evangelical megachurches cause homosexuality (at least in their pastors).

Just when you think you've seen it all, now the third-graders will have a new name to tag their less-than-butch friends with: "tofu-eater!" (And when I say "third-graders," you know who I mean. And him, too.)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

J. Donald Freeze, S.J.: R.I.P.

Sad news comes to Georgetown University alumni from Philadelphia, where Father J. Donald Freeze, S.J., passed away on Sunday, December 10. He was 74 years old.

Father Freeze was provost of Georgetown University during my undergraduate years and through the 198os. (I believe he retired in 1991, though I am open to correction.)

Although the provost's job is to oversee the teaching faculty of a university, Father Freeze was always accessible to students. He lived in a student residence hall as a campus minister, his door always metaphorically open.

Ironically, despite the many academic accomplishments that Georgetown could claim during his tenure, he will probably best be remembered for "Freeze's Breeze," the Mass he celebrated at 10:00 p.m. each Sunday in Copley Hall's St. William's Chapel. It came with a guarantee to students who participated -- that it would last no longer than 20 minutes. Anything that was optional (such as a homily) was left out. There are a lot of Georgetown alums who probably would have forsaken their weekly obligation had the option of Freeze's Breeze not been available late on Sunday evenings.

There will be a viewing on Friday, December 15, from 2:30 to 4:00 p.m. at Saint Joseph's University Chapel, 5600 City Avenue in Philadelphia, and another on Saturday, December 16, from 9:30 to 11:00 a.m. at Loyola College Alumni Memorial Chapel, 4501 N. Charles Street in Baltimore. The funeral will follow at 11:00 a.m., also at the Loyola Chapel.

Father Freeze will be missed.

Update: Here is more information, as it appears on the Georgetown alumni web site:

J. Donald Freeze, S.J., longtime provost of Georgetown, passed away on Dec. 10, at Manresa Hall Jesuit Community, St. Joseph's University, Philadelphia.

Freeze first came to the Hilltop in 1971 as assistant dean for Georgetown College, and was named assistant vice president for academic affairs to Rev. Aloysius Kelley in 1974. He served in that post until being appointed provost by then-President Timothy S. Healy, S.J., in 1979. After his resignation in June 1991, Freeze served as the academic director of Georgetown's Villa le Balze in Florence, Italy, for the following academic year. Under his leadership, the gift of the Villa and its use as a Georgetown study abroad program was developed. Subsequently, he was appointed rector of Loyola Retreat House in Faulkner, Md., and then treasurer of the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus.

During his tenure at Georgetown, Freeze addressed a wide range of issues facing the university, such as undergraduate curriculum revision and the physical renewal of campus facilities. He was a valued senior administrator and often acted as the president's closest assistant. "His hallmark was his concern for students and faculty," says Georgetown Provost James J. O' Donnell. "He was accessible, responsive and effective. Father Freeze's Christian concern and saving humor were rich gifts."

A Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated by Rev. Aloysius Kelly, S.J., on Dec. 16, at 11:00 a.m. in the Loyola College Alumni Memorial Chapel, 4501 N. Charles Street in Baltmore. There will be a wake at the chapel preceding the Mass from 9:30 to 11:00 a.m.

Arrangements are being made for a memorial Mass to be celebrated on the Georgetown campus in January 2007.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Carnival of the Mundane Coming Soon ...

I have volunteered to host the bi-weekly Carnival of the Mundane on Friday, December 22. This carnival will have a Christmas theme, but if you'd like to contribute, don't feel constrained by holiday-related topics.

For those unfamiliar with the Carnival of the Mundane, here is a description in 100 words or less:

The Carnival of the Mundane is a bi-weekly forum for bloggers who write tales of daily life. You may think your latest post about how you accidentally backed into your garage door isn't very interesting, but you're wrong. We're interested, and there are lots of us out there. The Carnival of the Mundane is the only blog carnival to have its own blog. We are open to all bloggers and readers, and everyone is welcome to take a turn hosting.

The Carnival of the Mundane was created by Dean and is organized by Dean with help from Postmodern Sass.
Guidelines for submissions to the Carnival of the Mundane can be found here.

About 200 people have, cumulatively, contributed to the Carnival of the Mundane in the past. We'd be happy to have new faces and bylines -- and now is your chance. Send me your stories of daily life, including (but not limited to) pleasant (or slightly twisted) anecdotes of Christmas.

Any questions? You know where to find me.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Congress Honors Friedman

It was little noted -- except as a passing snigger in a story syndicated by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch -- but the U.S. House of Representatives last week passed a resolution honoring the life and work of Milton Friedman, who died last month at the age of 94.

Introduced by Representative Cliff Stearns (R-Florida), the resolution had 55 cosponsors and passed on a voice vote on December 6. As a non-binding resolution, it was not conveyed to the Senate and will not require the President's signature.

One of the cosponsors, Scott Garrett of New Jersey, said in a news release from his congressional office:

“Millions all over the world have benefited from this dedicated man’s work. I am pleased to introduce this bill with my colleague, Cliff Stearns of Florida, honoring a noble life,” said Garrett. “I will continue to work to further the effort he began: expanding people’s liberty and improving their opportunities to live out their dreams for a better life.”
The resolution, designated H. Res. 1089, states in part:
Whereas Doctor Milton Friedman is widely regarded as the leader of the Chicago School of economics, and the developer of the theory of monetarism that stresses the central importance of the quantity of money as an instrument of government policy and as a determinant of business cycles and inflation;

Whereas Doctor Friedman's writings and ideas have influenced Presidents, other world leaders, entrepreneurs, and students of economics, and he gave himself generously to public service as an economic adviser to Senator Barry Goldwater's campaign for the presidency in 1964, Richard Nixon's presidential campaign in 1968, the Nixon Administration, Ronald Reagan's 1980 presidential campaign, and the Reagan Administration as a member of President Reagan's Economic Policy Advisory Board;

Whereas Doctor Friedman is a 1976 Nobel Laureate economist and received the John Bates Clark Medal in 1951 honoring the top economists under the age of forty, the Grand Cordon of the First Class Order of the Sacred Treasure by the Japanese government in 1986, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1988, the National Medal of Science in 1988, and honorary degrees from universities in the United States, Japan, Israel, and Guatemala;

Whereas Doctor Friedman's ideas were the model for the free market reforms undertaken in eastern European countries as they emerged from communist domination in the early 1990s, helping extend the blessings of prosperity to millions who had long been denied them;

Whereas Doctor Friedman was a prolific producer of both scholarly and popular articles, essays, books, and broadcast media, including the books Capitalism and Freedom and Free to Choose, tri-weekly columns for Newsweek, commentaries in the Wall Street Journal, and two multi-part Public Broadcasting Service television series;

Whereas Doctor Friedman was one of the world's foremost champions of liberty, not just in economics but in all respects;

Whereas Doctor Friedman will be remembered both as one of the most influential economists in history and as one of the twentieth century's greatest heroes of freedom...
It concludes:
Resolved, That the House of Representatives, on the occasion of the death of Doctor Milton Friedman--

(1) mourns Doctor Friedman's passing and expresses its deepest condolences to his family, including his widow Rose Friedman, who is herself an accomplished economist and was instrumental in co-authoring some of his major works; and

(2) honors Doctor Friedman's lifetime of achievements and recognizes his outstanding contributions to freedom, the study of economics, the United States of America, and the world.
One must only hope that the Members of Congress who voted for this resolution actually understand what Milton Friedman said and what principles he propounded. (At least three of the H. Res. 1089's cosponsors -- Jeff Flake, Ron Paul, and Dana Rohrabacher -- surely do understand.)

Looking at this resolution somehow brought to mind an essay written by former Vice President Dan Quayle when he was in his first term as a member of the House of Representatives. It appears in a slim volume published in 1979 by Hillsdale College as Volume 6 of The Ludwig von Mises Lecture Series, entitled Champions of Freedom. (That volume seems to be out of print, but Volume 33 in the series, published in January 2006, is available at As a historical note, the other contributors to that volume were former Treasury Secretary William E. Simon, former CIA director George Bush, and economists Benjamin Rogge and Alan Reynolds.

In his own essay, "Von Mises Looks at Congress," Quayle quoted the distinguished Austrian economist as saying:
As Professor von Mises proclaimed, "The idea that political freedom can be preserved in the absence of economic freedom, and vice versa, is an illusion. Political freedom is a corollary of economic freedom. It is no accident that the age of capitalism became also the age of government by the people. If individuals are not free to buy and sell on the market, they turn into virtual slaves dependent on the good graces of the omnipotent government, whatever the wording of the Constitution may be" (p. 4).
A few pages later, Quayle offers some observations in his own words. Keep in mind he was writing in the dark days of stagflation and the Carter administration; Ronald Reagan's election was still more a year in the future. Then-Congressman Quayle noted at the time:
We must reassert the capitalist system. We have drifted -- and what we have now is not capitalism, but a strange perversion in which the government can and does step in and dictate the rules of the game. Business must always obey. Under these circumstances, business is never free to compete. It must take into account during every business transaction the unknown factor of government interference and regulation. Business cannot plan for the future when a supply of capital can be so threatened by restrictive tax law changes, or when the profits needed to survive can be curtailed at any time by wage and price controls (p. 9).
If anyone wants to see how things have not changed much in the nearly three decades since Quayle was writing, take a look at this front page story from Sunday's Washington Post, which demonstrates how powerful business interests can persuade Congress to punish competitors through regulation, subsidies, and coercion: "Dairy Industry Crushed Innovator Who Bested Price-Control System." (That this sad episode occurred during the Republicans' control of Congress provides little hope or consolation for the future under the Democrats -- or the distant future under the Republicans again.)

Anyway, Quayle went on to say:
We do not have an easy road to travel. Von Mises understood what we must now understand if our economy is to make the changes necessary for its survival. Economic freedom is not just the ability of businesses to operate at will -- it is the absolute freedom of the individual to make decisions for himself regarding the conduct of his own life. It is the freedom to own property, to enter into business transactions, to grow and to prosper. We must learn again -- and the whole world with us -- that economic freedom is the indispensable prerequisite for individual political freedom. You cannot have one without the other (pp. 9-10).
Milton Friedman couldn't have said it better himself.

I have always maintained that Vice President Dan Quayle was severely underestimated. He was the true champion of freedom (to coin a phrase) in the Bush 41 administration, standing up for classical liberal principles when others around the Cabinet table failed to do so. He was (and is) also highly intelligent. Unfortunately, his treatment by the press and by late-night comics deep-sixed any future he might have had in political leadership. Our country is poorer for that.

Now a lot has changed in the 27-plus years since Quayle lectured in memory of Ludwig von Mises. The Soviet Empire collapsed and countries like Estonia are among the freest in the world. China -- Red China, that is -- is opening up its banking industry to foreign investors. The United States and Vietnam have regularized trade relations. Fidel Castro is on his deathbed (Santa, there's one thing you can do for Cuban boys and girls this Christmas...)

And, in the United States, we still live with the legacy of the Reagan years. Regulation has been (somewhat) reduced. Tax rates are (somewhat) lower. Productivity and employment are at record high rates. The cost of living is lower than ever, the middle class has expanded, and Americans enjoy more luxury products at lower prices than at any time in history. But that doesn't mean we should be complacent. The lessons taught by Friedman, von Mises, and even Quayle still need to be heard and heeded.

Will members of the 110th Congress follow the advice of Dan Quayle during the 96th Congress?

A Listener's Message to WINA

This post is of particular concern to readers in Charlottesville, and even more specifically to those in Charlottesville who, like me, stay up late into the night listening to the radio.

It is a message to the programming department at radio station WINA-AM: Bring back Joey Reynolds!

You see, I learned last week that WINA has replaced its long-running overnight program, The Joey Reynolds Show, which originates live from WOR-AM in New York City, with a pre-recorded piece of pap called The John and Jeff Show.

I realize that WINA -- like most radio stations -- has few listeners in the middle of the night, so the programmers are unlikely to hear from many of us regarding the programming change that took effect this week.

When I turned on the radio early last Tuesday morning, I thought an engineering error had resulted in a different program from The Joey Reynolds Show being broadcast. So I let it pass. When I tuned to WINA as soon as I passed Airport Road on my way back from Washington at around 3:00 a.m. on Wednesday, however, I had the shock of learning there was no mistake -- something that was confirmed by checking WINA's web site.

I wrote to program director Jay James, to whom I described my reaction as both shocked and disappointed. I told him I have been a faithful -- essentially daily -- listener of The Joey Reynolds Show since moving to Charlottesville in 1999 and finding WINA. (So far I have not received a reply to my email.) To have the show canceled, with no warning, was distressing to me.

The Joey Reynolds Show brings a sophisticated mix of talk, music, and entertainment that is sorely missing from most talk-radio stations. He actually has lively conversations involving multiple participants, not just interviews with the author- or celebrity- or politician-of-the-day. (Though interesting and informative interviews are part of his format, too.) These conversations ramble, go off-track, explore the nooks and crannies of their subjects (when they have one!), and -- because of or in spite of all that -- are wonderfully vibrant.

Listening to Joey Reynolds is like being a guest at a dinner party, with many regular participants, including legendary guitarist (and inventor of the electric guitar) Les Paul. Other frequent guests are biographer (most recently of Jimmy Stewart) Marc Eliot; Broadway producer (Hairspray, The Wedding Singer) Adam Epstein; borscht-belt comic Mickey Freeman (Pvt. Zimmermann from the original Sgt. Bilko show with Phil Silvers); The Amazing Kreskin; and David Randolph, the nonagenarian conductor of New York's St. Cecilia Chorus and Orchestra. UVa grad Jack Donahue, an actor, nightclub singer, and theatre director, has also been a guest on The Joey Reynolds Show, in addition to up-and-coming Broadway stars like Raul Esparza, Alice Ripley, and Melissa Errico.

Joey, with the help of regular Myra Chanin, books guests you simply don't hear on other programs: young poets, artists, and musicians who are playing their first gigs in New York; playwrights, psychologists, psychics, and policy analysts (yes, Tim Carney of CEI was there to talk about his book, The Big Ripoff: How Big Business and Big Government Steal Your Money); and people with engaging stories to tell about their lives, from inventors of gadgets to survivors of genocide.

The Joey Reynolds Show is a rare island of urbanity in the otherwise vapid sea of talk radio. It provides the sort of civil conversation so prized by WINA's afternoon chat host, Coy Barefoot -- just in a different, less lucrative time slot.

Joey Reynolds himself has a great story to tell. Once the most highly-paid DJ in the country during the rock-and-roll '60s (he helped discover Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons), he later got into the backstage side of the film industry, attended the same Southern California church as Ronald and Nancy Reagan, and returned to radio after a rocky relationship with drugs and alcohol. (His own memoir, Let a Smile Be Your Umbrella...But Don't Get a Mouthful of Rain, provides the details.)

My point is, The Joey Reynolds Show is the kind of programming that best suits discerning insomniacs.

I hope that the radio station's management will reconsider this programming change and bring back The Joey Reynolds Show to WINA. It will take some work to do so, with listeners who care about this making their views known. So, if there are any Joey Reynolds fans reading this, please call Jay James at WINA's office (434-220-2300) or send him a fax (434-220-2304) or email ( with the simple message: Bring back Joey Reynolds!

As I told Jay in my own message, I tend to stay up late nearly every night, and if the current change becomes permanent, I'll just turn my dial to another station (probably WVTF-FM to listen to classical music) or search the Internet for a station that streams the Joey Reynolds Show live. Without a reversal of this decision, the upshot will be that WINA will have fewer dedicated, night-time listeners.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Jeane Kirkpatrick Dead at 80

I heard a breaking news story on WMAL-AM in Washington just a few minutes ago: Former Georgetown professor Jeane J. Kirkpatrick has died. She was 80 years old.

Best known as the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations during the Reagan Administration, Kirkpatrick had an acerbic style that endeared her to anti-Communist conservatives and drove her political opponents up the wall. A neo-conservative when that term did not have negative connotations, Kirkpatrick was one of the Scoop Jackson Democrats who joined forces with the Republican party in the late 1970s and early 1980s on issues related to the Cold War.

Kirkpatrick was a solid intellectual force who was a popular teacher in her years on Georgetown's campus (both before and after her tenure as UN Ambassador). Her speech at the 1984 Republican National Convention put the term "San Francisco Democrats" into the nation's political lexicon years before anyone had heard of Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Fox News reports that Kirkpatrick's death

was announced Friday at the senior staff meeting of the U.S. mission to the United Nations.

Spokesman Richard Grenell said that Ambassador John Bolton asked for a moment of silence. An announcement of her death also was posted on the Web site of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative-oriented think tank here where she was a senior fellow.

Kirkpatrick's assistant, Andrea Harrington, said that she died in her sleep at home in Bethesda, Md. late Thursday. The cause of death was not immediately known.

Earlier this year, I wrote about Ambassador Kirkpatrick's commencement speech on the day I was graduated from Georgetown University.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Ayn Rand in the Funny Papers

Objectivist philosopher and novelist Ayn Rand turns up in the most curious places -- most recently in this past Sunday's comics pages.

Somehow I think Mayor LaGuardia would have had some problems explaining this one over the radio to the kiddies, though the sentiment expressed may apply to more people than the folks at ARI would care to admit.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Seasonal Silliness

Seeing the editorial pages of the Washington Times and Washington Post in agreement is a rare thing. Even rarer is to see an editorial on the same day, in the same location on the page, in each newspaper making the same point.

The issue in question was the decision by bureaucrats in Fairfax County, Virginia, to require that individuals and churches who feed the homeless must have health-department-approved, commercial-quality kitchens, or else be subject to civil penalties. The reasoning, apparently, was that it is better for people to go hungry than to risk food poisoning (as if the alternative, dumpster diving, is e coli-free).

Here's how the Washington Times put it in its December 1 editorial (titled "C'mon, Fairfax County"):

What's really happening here is the bureaucratization of charity. County officials have spotted inconsistent application of a law -- and they can't stand it. They see that churches and grandmas are allowed to donate below the regulatory radar, whereas others are not. So, per small minds and hobgoblins and all that, the Gradgrinds in Fairfax want the same rules to apply to everyone.

That's logically consistent, but unfriendly to spontaneous charity and common sense. The goal of homeless shelters continues to be a simple one: Feeding people who need to be fed. Let's not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
Meanwhile, at the OP (that's what Timesers and old Washington Star scribes call the Washington Post, "the Other Paper"), news has reached the editorial writers that Fairfax has already reconsidered. The editorial ("Food Folly," also on December 1) said:
WHEN FAIRFAX officials tried to put the kibosh on donations of home-cooked food to homeless shelters, they didn't figure they would get egg on their faces. Thankfully, though, common sense prevailed, and a worthwhile program to help the homeless will be allowed to continue....

The policy was overturned when Gerald E. Connolly (D), chairman of the Board of Supervisors, recognized its absurdity. No doubt he did not relish that Fairfax had become a national laughingstock....

We have no doubt that the zealous officials in this case were well-intentioned. But it is worrisome that they didn't realize that the very thing they said they were protecting -- the public health -- was undermined by their actions....
Halfway across the country, in Chicago, city officials reached a supremely silly decision: Prohibiting the marketing of the new movie called "The Nativity Story" from the annual Christkindlmarket (that's "Christ child market" in German). The purported reason? Promoting a film with a religious theme is "too commercial" for a public space filled with vendors hawking trinkets, gifts, food, and Christmas decorations.

Here's what the Chicago Tribune editorial page had to say, calling the action "a clumsy attempt at political correctness":
The city refused to allow film clips from "The Nativity Story," a movie that depicts the biblical story of Mary, Joseph and the birth of Jesus. The filmmaker also was dropped as an event sponsor. Officials say the movie is too commercial.

Too commercial? In a downtown market where capitalism is in full throttle? That's like saying the Nativity display itself (and there is one, by the way, in the plaza) is too religious.

Veronica Resa, spokeswoman for the office of special events, told the Tribune earlier this week: "This particular incident is about a movie studio aggressively marketing a movie and trying to sell tickets to that movie."

Jim Law, the city's executive director of special events, initially called this a sensitivity issue for festival-goers. He said that showing scenes from the movie would be "insensitive to the many people of different faiths." That's people of different faiths who knowingly and willingly attend a traditional Christmas festival that includes carolers and a "holiday" tree, as well as an Islamic crescent and a Jewish menorah.
There are still 22 shopping days 'til Christmas. Stay tuned for more seasonal silliness. It's bound to happen.