Daniel Okrent, the author of "Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition" joins the podcast to talk about the book -- and about his stint as the first "public editor" of the New York Times. He'll speak at the National Constitution Center on Monday night in Philadelphia; see the center's website for details.
Questions considered in this podcast:
• How did Prohibition happen in the first place?
• What was the role of race and gender in moving the movement forward?
• What lingering effects has Prohibition had on popular culture?
• What lingering effects has Prohibition had on our drinking culture?
• What's the relationship between taxes and Prohibition?
• What lessons can we learn from the last century about marijuana prohibition?
• Is the New York Times doing the right thing by publishing the WikiLeaks revelations?
• How has the Public Editor role at the Times evolved since Okrent originated it?
Music heard in this podcast:
• "I Drink Alone," George Thorogood and the Destroyers
• "Whiskey You're The Devil," The Clancy Brothers
• "Drinking Song From Hawaii," Andy Iona's Novelty Four
• "Little Brother," Grizzly Bear
• "The Drinking Song From De Fledermaus," The Blazers
Ben and Joel are joined by award-winning author Ron Chernow, author of the acclaimed new "Washington: A Life," which offers a compelling and exhaustive new examination of America's first president.
Topics considered in this podcast:
* Is there anything new to say about George Washington?
* Is it fair to modern politicians to portray Washington and his colleagues as near-demigods?
* Just how smart was George Washington?
* Was Alexander Hamilton a Rasputin-like power behind Washington's power?
* How wide is the gulf between the man and the myth?
* What are we to make of Washington's ownership of slaves?
* Those dentures weren't actually wooden, were they?
* Are Tea Partiers right to stake an exclusive claim on the Founders?
Chernow will appear Monday, Oct. 18 at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia to discuss the book.
I've got nothing against blasphemy -- in fact, I kind of love it.
I love "South Park," enjoyed "The Last Temptation of Christ" more as a novel than as a movie, think "Dogma" is overrated but enjoyable and, generally, like to see sacred cows nudged a little bit. I think it's wonderful, essential and necessary that we can do such poking in America -- and it pisses me off, frankly, when the "South Park" guys come under threat for depicting Mohammed. Or, looking abroad, when European cartoonists face violence, threats and censorship for doing the same.
Still, I didn't draw Mohammed today. And I won't be publishing any of the cartoons. At least, not for now.
Why? Simple. I have Muslim friends and acquaintances -- at least one of whom, I know, is very offended when Mohammed is drawn or otherwise depicted. Not to the point of threatening or undertaking violence, thank goodness, but still: It's an act that wounds her.
And that, I think, beyond strength in the face of censorship and threats, is part of "Draw Mohammed Day" is supposed to be about: Offense.
Some more hawkish and conservative types have pointed out -- rightly -- that Comedy Central, "South Park" and other American institutions have skewered Christianity for years without facing death threats. But I can't help but notice that many of the people who make that observation have also gotten the vapors -- or are closely allied with those who get the vapors -- about having their religious sensibilities trampled upon. And that many of those people are very, very gleeful about the chance to offend Muslims en masse today.
So yeah, there's a double standard. But I suspect the double standard goes both ways.
Me? I admittedly feel more comfortable blaspheming Christianity because, well, Christianity is mine to blaspheme: I grew up in it, was immersed in it and (yes) fell away from it. Even at a distance of nearly a decade, its rhythms and habits are still etched in my bones. And my own adventures in blasphemy were part of rebelling against a culture that had dominated my outlook and behavior.
But Mohammed was never my prophet. Between that and the fact of my friends' sensibilities, a day devoted to angering his followers seems ... rude. It seems too easy to me, even a little bullying, to blaspheme against somebody else's god.
And I'm weird: I've always felt my principles must be balanced and shaped by the impact that they have on real people. Right now, I don't think I have enough cause to hurt my friends.
Make no mistake: I still find the threats and censorship despicable. There may come a time when I feel that committing a little blasphemy against Islam's sacred cows is necessary. That day isn't today. I won't draw Mohammed.
That 1,000-point drop on Wall Street today? Guess how it happened?
In one of the most dizzying half-hours in stock market history, the Dow plunged nearly 1,000 points before paring those losses in what possibly could have been a trader error. According to multiple sources, a trader entered a “b” for billion instead of an “m” for million in a trade possibly involving Procter & Gamble [PG 60.75 -1.41 (-2.27%) ], a component in the Dow.
That set off a chain-reaction panic on trading floors. As Daniel Foster at National Review noted:
P&G's 37 percent nosedive was only responsible for 172 points of the 992.60 the Dow lost in the slump. The rest was market reaction — and part of that was computerized and automated.
You know, capitalism and free trade generally make a lot of sense. But our current method of allocating capital -- Wall Street being the big mover in that process -- keeps finding new ways to make itself look dangerously insane. Terminator was about how computers and robots set off an apocalyptic attack on humanity; turns out they don't need nuclear weapons to do that, just mindless programming instructions to start selling if somebody else is selling -- even if that sale is the result of a "fat finger" typographical error. Holy crap.
Note to would-be fugitives: Turns out, a manure pit is not a good place to hide out from the cops:
Police said that officers searching for a man wanted on methamphetamine charges found him hiding neck-deep in a liquid manure pit at a northeastern Indiana farm. Noble County sheriff's deputies thought they'd lost the man until an officer spotted him in the tank beneath an outbuilding floor on the farm near Albion.
Chief Deputy Doug Harp said the man, 52, had been neck-deep in the combination of hog and dog feces for at least an hour Tuesday evening. He later became combative and had to be shocked twice with a stun gun.
Oh, and after all that, the moron had to be treated for hypothermia, too.
"Murrieta police spent hours Monday night searching for a man who lost his pants in a bizarre botched carjacking, but the half-naked fugitive escaped capture, authorities said," reports Sarah Burge in the mighty Press-Enterprise.
I know what you're thinking: Aren't pants-less carjackers a dime-a-dozen in Southern California? Believe it or not, no. But the story probably wouldn't be worth sharing if not for this glimmering nugget of detail:
About 8 p.m., a passer-by flagged down officers to report a pants-less man running through a field. A police bloodhound sniffed out a pair of bloody boxer shorts that officers suspect the would-be carjacker snagged scaling a fence.
Anything you can think of, the Internet provides.
I mean: Really wanna be irritated?
Some mashups work because they're awesome. Some mashups work because they're funny. And some mashups, while technically proficient, suck. This is one of those.
I always liked the idea of JD Salinger more than I liked anything that Salinger wrote. Franny and Zooey was ok, I guess, but Catcher in the Rye is massively overrated. Generations of literary hipsters have named their children "Holden" because they saw Catcher's protagonist as the ideal; an authentic James Dean type, maybe, railing against the phoniness of modern life.
Me: When I got around to reading the book at age 17 -- during my year of reading classic novels that were often banned -- I simply couldn't believe what a whiny sonofabitch the kid was. I don't think it's because I had the soul of a College Republican; I was reading books like Johnny Got His Gun, Catch-22 and Slaughterhouse Five that year and they were greatly influencing me. I just think that Holden Caufield was a whiny sonofabitch. Which makes me suspicious of all those who idolize him.
Salinger, of course, withdrew from public life after Catcher. The glimpses we got of him over the intervening decades were not flattering; he apparently had a pretty creepy sex life. But there's something fascinating and inspirational about an artist who produces One Great Work and gives it to the world, then hides himself forevermore. Too bad the reality of JD Salinger could never, ever live up to the hype.
The "I Have a Dream" speech gets all the attention, but a friend of mine suggests today is a good day to take a few minutes to read -- or re-read -- Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter From a Birmingham Jail." He's right. An excerpt:
We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was "well timed" in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant "Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied."
We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, "Wait." But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: "Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?"; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading "white" and "colored"; when your first name becomes "nigger," your middle name becomes "boy" (however old you are) and your last name becomes "John," and your wife and mother are never given the respected title "Mrs."; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of "nobodiness"--then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court's decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all."
Now is always the time to fight injustice.
tip o' the cap to the funnily-named Baldilocks. Her blog is consistently good reading, from an interesting perspective (conservative Black woman who happens to share common tribal ancestry with Mr. Obama). But this is what caught my attention just now:
Organizers expect hundreds of local Muslims to join a silent protest Friday in Detroit outside the hearing for Flight 253 terror suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.
"This is people from all over Southeast Michigan coming together and saying we're against terrorism. Our message is going to be louder than the message the terrorists have sent. The masses will be speaking," Majed Moughni [told the local news agency]...
Good luck, Mr. Moughi
Our friends at Lake Superior State University have released this year's list of 15 overused words and phrases that should be banished from our beleaguered public discourse. Although it's difficult to argue with the vast majority of the school's picks, last year's list was notable for including "monkey," which drove Dr. Zaius into a poo-throwing frenzy. Nevertheless, Lake Superior has established a pretty good track record over 35 years, and the 2009 list features only one word -- app -- with which I would quibble.
The 2009 lexicographical legion of dishonor features:
• Shovel-ready: "A relatively new term already overused by media and politicians."
• Transparent/transparency: "In reality, political transparency is more invisible than obvious!"
• Czar: "First it was a 'drug czar' [banished in 1990]. This year gave us a 'car czar.' What's next? A 'banished words czar'?"
• Tweet (and all variations): "Pointless…yet has somehow managed to take the nation by storm. I'm tired of hearing about celebrity X's new tweet, and how great of a tweeter he or she is."
• App: "Is there an 'app' for making this annoying word go away? Why can't we just call them 'programs' again?"
• Sexting: "Any dangerous new trend that also happens to have a clever mash-up of words, involves teens, and gets television talk show hosts interested must be banished."
• Friend (as verb): "'Befriend' is much more pleasant to the human ear and a perfectly useful word in the dictionary."
• Teachable moment: "What might otherwise be known as 'a lesson.'"
• In these economic times: "Overused and redundant. Aren't ALL times 'these economic times'?"
• Stimulus: "It is no longer a grant, it's stimulus money, stimulus checks, etc."
• Toxic assets: "Whatever happened to simply 'bad stocks,' 'debts,' or 'loans'?"
• Too big to fail: "Just for the record, nothing's too big to fail unless the government lets it."
• Bromance: "Have we really reached the point where being friends has to be described in a pseudo-romantic context? Just stop it already!" (Not soon enough for me!)
• Chillaxin': "It should receive bonus points for its ability to exhort the opposite reaction from the receiver."
• Obama (as prefix or root): "Obamanomics, Obamanation, Obamafication, Obamacare, Obamalicious, Obamaland... We say Obamanough already."
Any other nominees?
Today is December 23rd which, as everyone certainly knows, is Festivus.
I will start with the Airing of Grievances. Despite tremendous patience on the part of Monkey Management, and a thoughtful post by Ben on The Atrios Rule, there appears to be one among our frequent commenters who is incapable of any measure of self-control, civility, and maturity.
Which brings me to the second Festivus tradition, the Feats of Strength. As a Festivus gift to "the rest of us," I am exercising my power as an Administrator to disable this person's account until they're ready to stop acting like a child.
Ben and Joel are joined by Lisa Schmeiser, who writes the "Filthy Commerce" blog and is the "Dollars and Sense" blogger for the San Francisco Chronicle -- and contributes to a whole host of other print and online publications too numerous to list here.
Questions discussed in this podcast:
• Are Americans going to be frugal during this recession-stained holiday season?
• Are new credit card regulations a good idea?
• How about simply walking away from your debts?
• Can you save money by going to a cash-only budgeting system?
• What does the rise of Etsy mean for craft producers and buyers?
• Is the "Sons of Anarchy" the best thing about popular culture in 2009?
• Or is it "The Fantastic Mr. Fox"?
• Or maybe the new "Star Trek" movie?
• Or is the new "Star Trek" movie stuck in outmoded sexist thinking from the 1960s?
• And is this the nerdiest Ben and Joel Podcast ever?
Music heard in this podcast:
• "White Winter Hymnal," Fleet Foxes.
• "Where the Hell's My Money," Mojo Nixon.
• "Cash on the Barrelhead," Gram Parsons.
• "Making Up for Lost Time," TJ Kong and the Atomic Bomb.
• "Enterprising Young Men," Michael Giacchino.
Never use these hackneyed phrases. Ever. Unless you are dead.
• Pick your brain
• Throw it against the wall and see what sticks
• Sweat equity
• It's not rocket science
• The ball's in your court
• Drill down
• I, personally
• Quite unique (and its compatriots "very unique," "really unique" and "most unique")
• Past history
• Urgent (and its frequent companion "crisis")
You could probably conjure 10 or 20 or 100 more, easily. But those make for a good start.
(Hat tip: Imad Naffa on Twitter.)
Its students are disloyal and subhuman.
(Click "read more" below for shocking photographic evidence.)
My former employer, The Washington Times, has announced a 40 percent staff reduction — and just in time for Christmas! The paper, which will be distributed for free, will reportedly only concentrate on national coverage now — meaning, it seems, the end of the Metro, Sports, and Business sections ... for starters.
Makes me glad I'm a former employee. But this is a sad day. I still have many friends at that paper, which even The Washington Post's Howie Kurtz admitted often "punched above its weight class." Indeed. We were out-staffed and out-resourced by at least a factor of 5 (if not 10) by our rivals, but rattled The Post and The New York Times — often making them follow our coverage.
I will forever be grateful for the opportunity TWT gave me to practice newspapering at the highest levels and beats — Congress and The White House. I don't want this post to be the beginning of a eulogy ... but it sure feels like it.
A friend there emails his lack of immense worry: "The cuts will all be people we never heard of, upstairs."
Another (very veteran reporter) is more nervous, emailing: "I'm not sure what the future holds and whether I'm in or out. Problem is, I don't think the managers know yet either who to keep and who to send packing. I can't imagine the product they envision, but there are few places to go if I don't like it."
No, I'm not talking about how California is "stealing" our property through high tax rates. And I'm not even referring to the state's decision to start taking an extra 10 percent in income tax withholding from Californians — though that is outrageous and possibly illegal. I mean California bureaucrats are actually stealing people's property, selling it off and tossing the proceeds into the general fund. This is happening in other states, too. According to an ABC News story:
The 50 U.S. states are holding more than $32 billion worth of unclaimed property that they're supposed to safeguard for their citizens. But a "Good Morning America" investigation found some states aggressively seize property that isn't really unclaimed and then use the money — your money — to balance their budgets.
Unclaimed property consists of things like forgotten apartment security deposits, uncashed dividend checks and safe-deposit boxes abandoned when an elderly relative dies.
Banks and other businesses are required to turn that property over to the state for safekeeping. The problem is that the states return less than a quarter of unclaimed property to the rightful owners.
Before I begin my invective-filled rant, a sober question: Why are banks "required" to submit what's in Aunt Rose's security deposit box when she dies "to the state for safekeeping"? Seriously. Why is this a law? Why does the government feel it can keep that property safer than a bank, which should at the very most be required to make exhaustive efforts to find next of kin to whom the property rightly belongs? That's the least the bank should do after collecting years of fees for simply offering a tiny box in their vault. But by what right does the state think this property should be quickly handed over to it?
Anyway, we now continue with our regularly scheduled outrage:
San Francisco resident Carla Ruff's safe-deposit box was drilled, seized, and turned over to the state of California, marked "owner unknown."
"I was appalled," Ruff said. "I felt violated."
Unknown? Carla's name was right on documents in the box at the Noe Valley Bank of America location. So was her address — a house about six blocks from the bank. Carla had a checking account at the bank, too — still does — and receives regular statements. Plus, she has receipts showing she's the kind of person who paid her box rental fee. And yet, she says nobody ever notified her.
"They are zealously uncovering accounts that are not unclaimed," Ruff said.
To make matters worse, Ruff discovered the loss when she went to her box to retrieve important paperwork she needed because her husband was dying. Those papers had been shredded.
And that's not all. Her great-grandmother's precious natural pearls and other jewelry had been auctioned off. They were sold for just $1,800, even though they were appraised for $82,500.
"These things were things that she gave to me," Ruff said. "I valued them because I loved her."
Bank of America told ABC News it deeply regrets the situation and appreciates the difficulty of what Mrs. Ruff was going through. The bank has reached a settlement with Ruff and continues to update its unclaimed property procedures as laws change.
OK. So BoA has some culpability in this matter, as well. But what was the bank to do when the government comes calling with a demand, citing the law, that the bank must hand over what is in that safe-deposit box? Does it want to refuse and risk the wrath of the state? No, it simply easier to just do what government demands and worry about catching the lighter flak from its outraged customers ... all while hoping, "maybe they're dead and won't notice." And how is this not outright theft by the state of a law-abiding citizen's private property?
So what does California law say?
Click "Read more" below to view the rest of this post.
Monkey-friend WryMouth didn't want to state the name of the "DC Sniper." But I will. His name was John Allen Muhammad — one of a string of American jihadists. I say "was" because Muhammad was put to death Tuesday in Virginia, thanks to the Commonwealth insisting on taking the lead on the prosecution from the weenies in Maryland who are queasy about the death penalty.
This is a sensitive and close subject for me and Mrs. Zaius. We lived in the DC area when that agonizingly long act of terrorism was going on. Specifically, we lived in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Our mayor was interviewed on Greta's Fox News Channel Show because one of the shootings happened in the city limits. Others were murdered just outside the city limits. All told, Muhammad killed 10 innocent Americans who were going about their routine daily lives.
Caroline Seawell was shot by John Allen Muhammad in front of a Michael's store in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. As my wife left the house for the day on Oct. 4, 2002, she told me that she planned to go to that Michael's — at exactly the time Muhammad shot Seawell. She got held up at work, and didn't go. Thank God ... and thank God Seawell survived the shooting.
It's hard to describe how fearful those who lived in and around DC felt in October 2002. Muhammad, and his accomplice Lee Boyd Malvo, were wholly random in their terror — though they focused in on innocent activities as targets. Gas stations (including one we frequented in Spotsy County), bus stops, and shopping center parking lots were their favorite venues of mass murder. Everyone within 90 square miles of DC thought they could be picked off coming out of a random 7-11. And it was the truth.
Muhammad was obviously mentally disturbed, but he was also seemed to be driven by anti-American jihad.
Burn and rot in Hell, John Allen Muhammad.
Duncan Black, who writes under the nom-de-plume "Atrios," once remarked on a subject he didn't understand: "Our discourse is so stupid."
That quip has made me smile for almost two years, and I enjoy linking to it -- not least because he was commenting on a project near and dear to Joel Mathis and me. Black was wrong about the particulars, but the line nicely encapsulated just about every cliché you've read about blogging and bloggers. Hence, "Atrios was right," even though he wasn't.
Lately though, it occurs to me that Black's observation accurately describes some of the comments here on Infinite Monkeys.
We never set out to have this blog be anything other than a place for this eclectic and changing group of people to spout off on any subject they like, whenever they like. I've always blanched at the idea that Infinite Monkeys is just another "libertarian/conservative" blog. The description is fine as far as it goes, but it doesn't go nearly far enough. Our political outlook is broader and our interests are more varied.
When it comes to comments, we've always encouraged discussion and we never wanted to establish any onerous rules. I've been a moderator before -- I was paid to do it. I'm not paid to moderate this site. I don't want to moderate it. In general, we prefer to give people plenty of rope with which to hang themselves and we're not inclined to ban commenters. We're not Little Green Footballs here. (Would that we had the traffic!)
Yet I've closed two comment threads and deleted one comment within the past hour today. I may be wrong, but I don't think I've ever deleted a comment that wasn't spam. Maybe once before, but it's not like I keep track.
So, here's the deal: We're not going to countenance loose charges of treason in the comments. If I see stuff like that again, it's getting deleted. If a commenter insists on leveling that charge, that commenter is going to be banned.
I'm also getting bored with the lazy ad hominem arguments and personal attacks in the comments. If you don't know the difference, read this. And if you have any doubts about whether your comment includes an ad hominem or personal attack, do us all a favor: Don't post it.
Finally, I'm going to be a lot more... well, liberal about invoking what will be known henceforth as The Atrios Rule. If the discourse becomes too stupid, I'm going to close down the comments on the post.
Don't worry, you'll still have ample opportunity to make monkeys of yourselves. Lord knows, we do it every day. But we're going to keep the poo-flinging to a minimum.
Thanks for reading.
The guy who lives across the street from me is a world-class jerk. You think you have mean, angry, jerkish neighbors? I'll put that clown across the street from me up against any of them. He YELLS at the top of his lungs at anyone who dares approach his house, and puts the sprinkler on so whoever parks in front of his house gets a wet car with lots of water spots. Oh, and he also continues to yell at you.
Here's a photo my wife took of the extreme measures Mr. Jerk took to keep trick-or-treaters away tonight.
(Click on image to see it bigger in all its jerkish glory.)
Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on whether the NFL properly protects its players from -- and educates them about -- the long-term risks of concussions and head injuries to its players. Ever since the suicide of former Philadelphia Eagle Andre Waters (and the earlier tragedy of the Steelers' Mike Webster) there's a growing question about the damage the game takes on those who play it.
John J. Miller weighs in this morning, decrying the "war on football":
If you don't believe me, check out Malcom Gladwell's latest article in The New Yorker, which compares the "suffering and destruction" in dogfighting to injuries in football. "We no longer find that kind of transaction morally acceptable in a sport," he wrote. So football = dogfighting.
There are of course genuine concerns about the health and safety of football players at all levels, from the pros to youth leagues. But does the sport require the intervention of Congress? This isn't a close call.
I don't buy the football = dogfighting comparison either: Nobody forces young men to become NFL players. (Ta-Nehisi has a slightly different take.) And I think it's true that there's a growing movement to consider the morality and propriety of building a business that puts young men in the position of sacrificing their bodies, health and long-term brain functioning for our entertainment. The big hits that fans love may not destroy lives right away, but they can and do over the course of a player's life. Me? I don't really watch or enjoy watching football much anymore.
But that's a different consideration from whether Congress should be getting involved. Miller is right: It's not a close call. Congress has the power to regulate interstate commerce -- and hoo boy, the National Football League is certainly involved in interstate commerce. The players union hasn't always looked out for the best health interest of its own constituency. So who does that leave? New York's Anthony Weiner explains:
“This is a worker safety thing — no different than if someone was coming off the assembly line at a production plant and 20 years later, they all had arthritis in their right knee,” he added. “We’d look at it the exact same way.”
Is this the most important issue on Congress' plate? Not by a long shot. But that doesn't mean it is unimportant -- given football's outsize role in our culture -- or inappropriate for Congress to be involved.
HealthDay News reports on yet another study that contradicts an earlier study purporting to show the benefits of moderate drinking. The headline is typical of the genre: "Drinking Your Way to Health? Perhaps Not"
Yeah, yeah. What's the lowdown?
The benefits related to cardiovascular health have become well-known. A study released in mid-July, for instance, found that moderate alcohol consumption reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease in women by increasing the amount of "good" cholesterol in the bloodstream and reducing blood sugar levels.
But other studies have linked a daily drink, most often wine, to reduced risk of dementia, bone loss and physical disabilities related to old age. Wine also has been found to increase life expectancy and provide potential protection against some forms of cancer, including esophageal cancer and lymphoma.
But don't invest in that case of Pinot noir just yet.
Experts with the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association say that though these studies do show some benefits to moderate drinking, the health risks from alcohol consumption far outweigh the potential rewards.
Experts with the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association say that though these studies do show some benefits to moderate drinking, the health risks from alcohol consumption far outweigh the potential rewards.
Look, I'm no doctor, OK? But these incessant studies and warnings are simply impossible to follow. It's too stressful. Who needs the aggravation? Relax. Have a glass of wine or two, live your life, enjoy what you have. Invest in that case of Pinot noir. Send me a bottle or two.
(Update, Sunday, 11/22/09: No vindication. The Lansingburgh Board of Education affirmed Whalen's suspension. Whalen's parents plan to appeal to the state. Read more here.)
(Update, Monday, 10/19/09: The Whalens have hired an attorney.)
(Update, Friday, 10/16/09: Superintendent George Goodwin digs in; Whalens plan to sue.)
Things worked out more or less fine for Zachary Christie, the Delaware first-grader who fell afoul of his school district's mindless, insipid "zero-tolerance" policy when the young Cub Scout brought a camping tool to his school.
But a 17-year-old Lansingburgh, NY, student faces "a rough road ahead" with his high school's stubborn, robotic administrators and -- perhaps -- the by-the-book bureaucrats in charge of admissions at West Point.
As I noted earlier, Matthew Whalen was suspended under his school's mindless, insipid "zero-tolerance" policy for having a two-inch knife in a survival kit the Eagle Scout kept locked up in his car. According to Fox News:
As a 17-year-old Eagle Scout continues to wait out a one-month suspension from his upstate New York high school for having a 2-inch pocketknife locked in a survival kit in his car, the U.S. Military Academy says the missed school days could pose a big problem when it reviews his application.
Pressure is mounting on a Troy, N.Y., school board to overrule Matthew Whalen's suspension from Lansingburgh High School, which was issued because of a zero-tolerance policy that is facing increasing opposition from parents and education advocates.
On Wednesday, West Point's director of admissions told Foxnews.com that Whalen's suspension alone wouldn't be a "show-stopper" and "didn't appear to be a big issue" for the youth, though it will appear on his record as the military academy considers his moral and ethical fiber.
"My concern would be, how does this impact on his academics?" said Col. Deborah McDonald, the academy's head of admissions. "Because 20 (school) days is a long time to be suspended."
But the Lansingburgh School District is not budging. A person reached at the home of a school board member referred all calls to the superintendent, who told a local newspaper he thinks the punishment was "appropriate and fair," and that it was necessary for the district to enforce its zero-tolerance policy evenly.
"Sometimes young people do things they may not see as serious," Superintendent George Goodwin told the Albany Times-Union. "We look at any possession of any type of knife as serious."
The lede on the story is somewhat misleading. The suspension "could pose a big problem," not because of the actual offense but rather because Whalen will miss a full month's worth of work that he will not be allowed to make up. Be that as it may, Matthew Whalen's life will be a lot more difficult in the coming months because of this dumb flap.
In other circumstances, the headline on this post might be "They can give you a gun and a badge, but they can't give you good judgment." But the police -- in this case, young Whalen's grandfather -- have displayed a great deal of common sense.
“I understand policies — I enforce them myself — but there’s common sense and I feel that common sense wasn’t used here,” Hoosick Falls Police Chief Robert Whalen told the Troy (NY) Record News. The elder Whalen said he was particularly “irked” at the additional 15-day suspension that administrators piled on top of the original five days that assistant principal Frank Macri had given. “I’m ashamed of Lansingburgh for taking it that far.”
Goodwin, the school district superintendent, told the Albany Times-Union "he is open to the possibility of contacting West Point to ensure that the incident does not affect Whalen's chances of admission."
Not good enough. What's the use of eyes if you refuse to see? What's the use of ears if you don't listen? And what's the use of a brain if you don't think? Instead of using sound judgment, school district officials are closing ranks and insist on defending the indefensible.
"In the past 200 years, America's gotten by just fine without zero tolerance," young Whalen said. "Why do New York state schools have to have it?"
Why do any schools have it? Set clear rules and apply good judgment fairly. Punish the guilty and admonish those guilty of little more than minor transgressions. Use your intelligence, for goodness sake. And if you lack intelligence, you shouldn't be in the "education" business or earning your living on the backs of the taxpayer.
Update: If Matthew Whalen doesn't get into West Point, it will be on his merits and not because George Goodwin is a soulless bureaucratic automaton. According to Albany's WTEN News (via the Washington Times's Water Cooler blog):
The military academy he's wanted to attend since first grade has told Matthew not to worry.
"The Director of Admissions at West Point called and told me that this would be a non-issue for my application there," Matthew says. That's no guarantee that he'll be accepted, but Matthew says it's an assurance that the suspension won't be the reason he doesn't get into the school.
A note about soulless bureaucratic automaton George Goodwin, the superintendent of Lansingburgh School District. The best that might be said of Mr. Goodwin is he only wants to do what's best for the staff, teachers and students under his supervision. The Albany Times-Union story to which I linked above paraphrases Goodwin explaining "the district has to equally enforce its zero-tolerance policy, even for students like Whalen who don't have any past record of misbehavior." And there is Goodwin's quote about what young people may or may not take seriously.
We're talking about a two-inch knife. I carry one from time to time. My father has kept one in his pocket for 25 years. It comes in handy for all sorts of things. A weapon isn't one of them. In fact, New York state law doesn't consider a knife like that to be a weapon.
So the knife is harmless and Whelan wasn't even carrying it. No police officer would arrest Whelan for carrying that knife. No reasonable person would consider Whelan's knife to be threatening or a risk to school safety. Which leads us to the conclusion that Lansingburgh's policy is unreasonable and Goodwin is not a reasonable man.
I don't care what Goodwin's intentions were or what his rationale may be. I don't care if he's a good man, or a caring husband or father -- I don't even know if he is married or has children. But I can see that such a man has no business overseeing schools in the public trust. Let him find gainful employment in the private sector. The bureaucracy is just as idiotic, only more limited in the harm it can do.
So says Energy Secretary Steven Chu. The Wall Street Journal reports:
Speaking on the sidelines of a smart grid conference in Washington, Dr. Chu said he didn’t think average folks had the know-how or will to to change their behavior enough to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.
“The American public…just like your teenage kids, aren’t acting in a way that they should act,” Dr. Chu said. “The American public has to really understand in their core how important this issue is.” (In that case, the Energy Department has a few renegade teens of its own.)
I thought about making a play on "sending Chu to his room," or some such. But what's the point? The outrage now playing out across the Internet
will likely prompt a mea culpa from Chu's office in a few days prompted a quick "clarification" (but not an apology!) from an Energy Department flack, who would have us believe that Chu didn't really say what he meant or mean what he said:
“Secretary Chu was not comparing the public to teenagers. He was saying that we need to educate teenagers about ways to save energy. He also recognized the need to educate the broader public about how important clean energy industries are to our competitive position in the global economy. He believes public officials do have an obligation to make their case to the American people on major legislation, and that’s what he’s doing.”
In fact, Secretary Chu was comparing the public to adolescents while explaining the need for a concerted federal effort to indoctrinate teens in the virtues of switching off lamps when they leave their bedrooms.
Anyway, if the Energy Department had tried to apologize, it should have been rejected out of hand. Chu's paternalism and contempt for Americans is shared by many of his Democrat colleagues in government, including the Speaker of the House and, of course, the president himself. Such moments of clarity and candor are rare. Which is why the government spokesman had to shuck, jive and obfuscate.
Update: The ever-helpful Heritage Foundation's Nick Loris chimes in with climate change "messaging even a teenager can understand."
I dreamed that Dr. Zaius and I were fighting off the zombie apocalypse ... and arguing about Glenn Beck.
What was that about?