Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas!

I'm not completely back yet, but I hope you've liked the top 21 inventions list. I will post the last five in the next few days. For now, enjoy these Christmas pictures.

Friday, December 23, 2005

History's Greatest Inventions, 10-6

#10: Chia Pets

Nothing rocks harder than the song on the commercials: “Ch-ch-ch-chia!” The crowd holds their lighters in the air. They want more! Okay, an encore: “Ch-ch-ch-chia!”

No, but seriously. For anyone who has ever confused flora for fauna (or vise versa), this invention is what you can point to and say, “See, everyone. It’s not always cut and dry.” As a young lad I saw the commercials for these venerable pets, and thought that it was a fad that would stick around for a year and then disappear. I don’t know if other kids think that way. But these things are still around today, and as far as I know they haven’t changed that rockin’ jingle. So I salute the Chia Pet for its extraordinary resilience and staying power in a very tough market.

#9: The Staple Remover

It’s hard to pull out staples by hand, and often you can hurt yourself by doing so. Therefore, we salute this scariest-looking of office supplies for protecting our fingers by striking fear into the hearts of staples everywhere.


#8: Low-Ball Glasses

OK, maybe it’s just me, but the low-ball glass is, in my opinion, the premiere drinking container. Not only is it easy to figure out how much ice/liquor/etc. to put in it, but it’s really easy to clean. Try to reach your hand to the bottom of a high-ball glass. I’ll wait for you.

. . .

OK, now go to the hospital and have them take it off. You may need stitches, because I suspect they may have to break it. I’ll still be here when you get back.
Obviously, one wouldn’t drink beer out of a low-ball (a pilsner—or the bottle—is a much better option there) but for any cocktail it is the ideal. And you don’t even need a cocktail. Just add ice and Irish Crème or whiskey, and you’ve got yourself a classy little beverage. Now, many people aren’t aware of this fact, but you don’t even have to use alcohol! Kool-Aid is a fine alternative, as is chocolate milk.

#7: Alcohol

Well, it’s related to the low-ball glasses. And it’s good. Check out the recommended products links in my sidebar to find some good, not cheap, but affordable alcohol products. Martin Luther once said that beer is proof that God exists. It’s sure a lot better than the ontological argument, as far as I’m concerned. And how could you argue with this guy?

Considering he was German (and a one-time law student), I certainly understand his sentiment.

#6: ?????

Nobody really knows what the sixth greatest invention of all time is. I suppose it’s just one of those mysteries that will never be solved.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

History�s Greatest Inventions, 15-11

#15: The Internet

Where else can you get the latest movies, cable TV shows, and music without paying for them? (Well, that is, besides Wal-Mart. And there you’re risking a run-in with the security guards.) And that’s not to mention the free news and e-mail, and the revival of the town square that is blogging. But the best part about the Internet is the pop-up ads! I’m still waiting on my free iPod, and my $10,000, and my new car, and all the other things, but I sign up for all of those free pop-up deals every chance I get. Now, if only I could check my e-mail . . . I have no idea how all those spammers got my e-mail address.
And for the more lecherous among you, there’s lots and lots of free porn to be had! No more will you have to deal with the shame of walking into the store with the boarded-up windows and/or brightly colored signs and walking out with an opaque bag while looking around your shoulder to ensure that you haven’t been seen by anyone you know. You can indulge your perversions from the comfort of your own home! Just make sure nobody else sees your cache. It’s not so much that there’s porn there. The problem is the kind of porn that you’ve been looking at. Sicko.

#14: Chainsaws

Chainsaws are probably what won the West. I don’t know. What the hell do I know about the history of the Old West that wasn’t related to me in Tombstone? Anyway, chainsaws are really cool, and they make a really cool noise. You can really freak someone out if you take the chain off of it, rev it up, and then assault them with it. But please, do it outside, because they may soil themselves (and prepare yourself with legal counsel). Of course, chainsaws have many more practical applications. For instance, they can be used for cutting branches from trees, or cutting down the trees themselves, in the instance of a smaller tree, or for mowing down cheerleaders at a slumber party. Heck, while they’re not quite as good as a berserker pack, they can even be used to kill some pesky imps and demons when you run out of chain gun and shotgun ammo and you need to save your rockets for the cacodemons and revenants.

#13: The T-1000

Although technically it hasn’t been invented yet, one of them was sent back in time to the early 90’s to eliminate John Connor. It failed, but we can all plainly see the potential there.

How many other robots can take a punishment the way the T-1000 can? Not many, and out of them, only the T-1000 can fit in a Volkswagen, let alone pilot a helicopter or mimic your shape before poking a finger through your skull.

#12: The 1966 Pontiac GTO

You think the wheel is a good invention? This is the ultimate use of the wheel. This is the first true gas-guzzling giant beauty of a muscle car. And its curves make it sexier than 80% of the women you’ll ever see. My uncle had one of these once, but alas, they were working on it when the machine shed caught fire. There was scant left to salvage. This was a tragedy akin to the Hindenburg, or maybe even the canceling of Hellsing after the first season. When movie-makers wreck one of these, it’s a crime against God.


#11: Indoor Plumbing

It just struck me that the word “indoor” is kind of unnecessary. Is there such a thing as “outdoor” plumbing? I mean, yes, there is outdoor plumbing, but not in the sense of outdoor toilets that flush. I don’t think that a hole in the ground really qualifies, in any normal sense of the word, as “plumbing.” Anyway, as a member of the second generation of my family who grew up with indoor plumbing (not counting some of my dad’s older siblings), I salute whoever came up with it. If we didn’t have it, I would be in mortal fear of having to number two at two in the morning in the middle of a blizzard. That would expose me to frostbite in ways that take all the fun out of frostbite.

Monday, December 19, 2005

History's Greatest Inventions, 20-16

#20: The Clapper

Despite the fact that a woman sued the makers of the Clapper because she hurt her hands by clapping too hard, this is certainly one of the best convenience-enhancing inventions ever made. What would we do without it? Well, I suppose you could have a remote control, but good luck finding it. Evil gnomes stole it and hid it in their lair under the couch cushions! And God forbid we have to get up off our lazy asses and walk over to the switch . . . that would be un-American!

#19: The Trebuchet

What is a trebuchet? you may ask. Pronounced treb-yoo-shay, it is nothing less than the only useful thing the French have ever contributed to society. Here’s a picture:

According to this site,
From about the middle of the thirteenth century, the trebuchet in great measure superseded the catapult. This preference for the trebuchet was due to the fact that it was able to cast stones of 300 lbs. and more in weight or five or six times as heavy as those which the largest catapults could project.
Cool! Let’s see you do that. What’s that? You can’t? Well, now you see why the trebuchet is so freakin’ cool. You want some more? Here you go:
The stones of 50 to 60 lbs. thrown by siege catapults would no doubt destroy towers and battlements, as the result of the constant and concentrated bombardment of many engines. One huge stone of 300 lbs., as slung from a trebuchet, would however shake the strongest defensive masonry and easily break through the upper parts of the walls of a fortress.
If the Big Bad Wolf had one of these, he probably wouldn’t have lost the Bay of Pigs invasion.

#18: The Rubber Band

What else would you fling at classmates in elementary school? Certainly not your own feces, you dirty animal. This invention combines the pain-infliction abilities of a stapler with the humiliation factor of a spitwad, but with flight capabilities that surpass even the most advanced paper airplane designs. Take a bag to your first day of school and make a good impression on your hot teacher! And when she tells you to stay after school for detention, slap her on the ass and say, “I saw a porno that started like that. And I think you were the star.”

#17: Edible Underwear

Finally, we have a decent excuse not to wash our underwear. At the end of the day, take a midnight snack before you go to bed. Or, for the person on-the-go who rarely has time for breakfast, munch on yesterday’s underwear on your way to work. Add cream cheese or jelly to taste. Or, for a little more of a kick in the pants, put a few drops of Tabasco sauce on your unmentionables. (CAUTION: DO NOT add Tabasco sauce to your intimate apparel before you put them on or while you are wearing them. . . . I wish somebody would have told that to me.)

#16: The Enema 2-Pack

Some of you are no doubt wondering why the 2-pack of enemas is more important than the enema itself. There are four possible answers:
1. Do you really want to suffer the embarrassment of buying one of these things twice when you could do it once?
2. Sounds like it would be rather difficult to self-administer. You might need help. And they might require the favor to be returned.
3. It’s a party-pack, for you and a friend to have a good time.
4. . . . Once you pop, you can’t stop?
Side note: has anyone else been a cashier at a major retailer (Target/Wal-Mart/ShopKo/K-Mart, etc.)? Or more likely at a pharmacy? In my six years at Target, I only had the good fortune to ring up one of these. You just can’t make eye contact with a person when they walk up to the counter with it. And in my situation, they didn’t even try to hide it among hundreds of other items, as many do with condoms. What do you say? “Did you find everything okay?” It’s not like when someone comes up with a movie, tortilla chips and salsa. “Looks like you have big plans for tonight.” No. “I really like this brand. You never can trust your colon to an off-brand.” You can’t utilize any of the tips they gave in the Target training video on “schmoozing.”
Side note 2: I wonder what the diagram in the instructions looks like . . . .
Side note 3: a guy I knew in high school said he and some friends got some of these and tried them out, in private, I presume, but at a gathering. I assume it was one of those weird things you just do in high school (like my adventures with lawn ornaments and car chases in Creighton, a town of 500), and he was the kind who perhaps shared too much. Anyway, he said it gave him a small taste of what being gay is like. And he added that he didn’t “recommend it.” I couldn’t even bring myself to try out a bidet when I was in Spain, so I’m certainly not looking forward to prostate exams.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

History�s Greatest Inventions

Many people have put forth their own lists of the most important inventions. Be it the greatest inventions of the century, the millennium, or of all time, all these lists will fall before this one and tremble, in awe or otherwise.

See, I’m no expert on what you might call “science,” or “engineering,” or “common sense,” or any of that other nonsense. I’m a practical person when it comes to inventions. I know the wheel is apparently a “good” thing, at least until someone realizes that the octagon allows for greater stability.

So, I’m going to do History’s 21 Greatest Inventions. Why 21? Because that’s all I thought of before I decided the list was finished.

And now, a teaser: you just get #21 today.

#21: Leather

It’s tough, it lasts forever, and it looks cool. There is really nothing better to wear on your body than leather. Yes, indeed, a full-body leather suit is the way to go for me, with a zipper over the mouth and no eye holes. Of course, if that’s not really your “thing,” then you could always wear a leather jacket, leather gloves, and leather shoes. And if you ride a motorcycle, then for the love of God wear leather pants/chaps too. The reason real bikers wear leather all year around is not just because it looks cool. It’s armor. It protects from road rash.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

It Hit Me

I'm done with all my tests, and I think I did okay on them. It's really impossible to tell when it's graded on a curve. I went to my apartment yesterday after hitting the bar so I could get some stuff together for about a week's absentia from Lincoln. I took big baskets of clothes and put them in my trunk and drove to Laura's house. After she left to head north (I leave today) I brought those big baskets of clothes in and placed them on the floor of . . . my bedroom. That's when I realized that it's MY bedroom the next time I see it. It never really hit me until then.

"Marriage is a duel to the death which no man of honour should decline."
-- GK Chesterton

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Substantive Due Process: an Oxymoron

In my near-continuous discussion of the issue of substantive due process, the doctrine used to make philosopher-kings of the Supreme Court Justices, I have neglected to point out the most obvious criticism of the whole concept.

The Eighth Edition of Black’s Law Dictionary defines substantive law as
The part of the law that creates, defines, and regulates the rights, duties, and powers of parties. Cf. PROCEDURAL LAW.
It necessarily directs us to what is considered the opposite to substantive law. It defines procedural law as
The rules that prescribe the steps for having a right or duty judicially enforced, as opposed to the law that defines the specific rights or duties themselves.
The Fourteenth Amendment guarantees in its text only “Due Process of law.” It says nothing about “Due Substance of law,” as Justices Blackmun, Brennan, and numerous others would have you believe. Substance and process are two completely different things, as different as cow and milking. Back to Black’s, the definition of substantive law includes the following quote:
“So far as the administration of justice is concerned with the application of remedies to violated rights, we may say that the substantive law defines the remedy and the right, while the law of procedure defines the modes and conditions of the application of the one to the other.” John Salmond, Jurisprudence 476 (Glanville L. Williams ed., 10th ed. 1947).
So what’s the problem, Supremes? Do we need to buy a law dictionary for all of you? It’s not like you don’t understand the difference. Granted, the two often overlap, but judges have to sort it out all the time when they apply the Erie doctrine, so it’s not like they don’t know how. And the Court makes no pretense at being confused on the issue. They just create some kind of chimera in the law and call it something analogous to dog-cat, or liberal conservatism, or tasty lite beer.

As Justice Scalia notes in his dissent in Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558, comparing a law against homosexual sodomy to laws prohibiting prostitution, adult incest, adultery, and bestiality,
The Fourteenth Amendment expressly allows States to deprive their citizens of “liberty,” so long as “due process of law” is provided . . . .
(Emphasis in original.)

And the best part about the doctrine, from their perspective, is that on its own terms you can’t beat it. No argument that anyone can make can ever sway the decision from side to side because it is completely irrational and subjective. Lawyers (and legislators) are equipped for conventional courtroom warfare, not for tactical nukes and terrorism.

Back to Scalia’s dissent in Lawrence:
Today’s opinion is the product of a Court, which is the product of a law-profession culture, that has largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda, by which I mean the agenda promoted by some homosexual activists directed at eliminating the moral opprobrium that has traditionally attached to homosexual conduct. . . . [T]he Court has taken sides in the culture war, departing from its role of assuring, as neutral observer, that the democratic rules of engagement are observed. . . . Let me be clear that I have nothing against homosexuals, or any other group, promoting their agenda through normal democratic means. . . . But persuading one’s fellow citizens is one thing, and imposing one’s views in absence of democratic majority will is something else. . . . One of the benefits of leaving regulation of this matter to the people rather than to the courts is that the people, unlike judges, need not carry things to their logical conclusion.


D/P is a not only a common shorthand for Due Process, but is also porn industry slang for “double penetration,” a fitting metaphor for what the Supremes are doing to the Constitution every time they use it.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Korn: See You on the Other Side

On Tuesday Korn released their first album as a quartet, now in the absence of Brian “Head” Welch. In short, the band never disappoints. They have continued to evolve and experiment with new sounds on their seventh studio installment.

The album cover is telling, to an extent. It is a Through the Looking Glass-esque musical experience. Their traditional unbridled rage and fury is gone. In its place is something entirely different—it’s like Tool-meets-Snoop Dogg.

Korn has always had a hip hop influence, but until now it was greatly overpowered by the metal-ness of the riffs. While it is still unarguably metal, (listen to “Coming Undone” or “Liar” for example) and the riffs have not disappeared, they have perfected the hip hop element of their sound. The rhythm, which Korn has always been conscious of, has taken precedence over the riff. Perhaps this is out of necessity, since now they only use one guitar, or perhaps Head wrote most of the riffs, or perhaps it’s simply the natural musical evolution of the band. The rhythms, of course, are still almost exclusively performed by the band with their normal instruments, and another blessing is that on this one they have not invited any rapper to mangle one of the tracks in place of Jon Davis’s vocals. But there is some electronic music in this one, which adds to the very atmospheric sound of the album, hence the feeling that you may have met the band on the other side of the mirror (perhaps a reference to their last studio album, Take a Look in the Mirror).

In any event it is certainly a fitting title and album cover. It is a musical experience akin to watching Spirited Away or some other bizarre animated flick.

It’s a little like Tool, but less pretentious and more accessible.

It’s a little like Snoop Dogg, but less cocky and more interesting (and with talent).

Bagpipe fans also will not be disappointed.

Finally, if you decide to buy the album, do so at Target. If you buy it on any time through Saturday, it’s only $9.98. Sure, you might be able to get that price elsewhere, but at Target you get an access code to an exclusive download track that you can’t get anywhere else.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

"Finals Week"



Well, I haven't posted any new photos lately. I haven't even touched my camera in well over a month, and it's sad. But here's an old one with a pertinent title.

Image © 2005 Kelly Hoffart

From Actual Court Records

This was on my calendar the other day:
Lawyer: Did you actually see the accident?
Witness: Yes, sir.
Lawyer: How far away were you when the accident happened?
Witness: Thirty-one feet, six and one-quarter inches.
The lawyer is trying to undermine the witness’s credibility by attacking his capacity to see the accident, like when you ask the witness whether they were wearing their glasses. At this point, of course, the lawyer thinks he has the witness trapped into backing up a bizarrely precise claim.
Lawyer: Well, sir, will you tell the jury how you knew it was exactly that distance?
Witness: Because when the accident happened I took out a tape and measured it. I knew some annoying lawyer would ask me that question.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Thanks to My Readers

OK, I’m not trying to be sappy here or anything, but to everyone that is a regular reader of my blog: thank you. I put a lot of work into this, and I enjoy it immensely, and I’m glad that you enjoy it too. I know you appreciate it. Every time I’m worried about posting something, it turns out that you enjoy it. First, I was worried that a little low brow humor would turn people off and turn them away from the site. It turned out to be one of my most popular posts. Then I posted a proposed tax system that I feared would make me nothing more than someone who blogs about his own pet peeves. And it turned out to be okay. And then I posted on a highly controversial and emotional issue, worrying all along that I would be labeled a mindless bigot. Again, it turned out I was wrong. Finally I did something that makes many blogs boring: I talked about my own life. And it turned out to be a big hit, too.

So from now on I will take all of your encouragement to heart, and post whatever I want to post. I will continue to strive for the most interesting writing style and topics possible, and to ensure that you, who make the blogging worthwhile, are not disappointed.

That said, my first final is today, and I have one Thursday, and Friday, and next Tuesday and Wednesday. Each one of them is 100% of my grade for the class. And then I get married and go on a short honeymoon. I won’t be around a whole lot after next Friday and for the following week or two, but I will turn over the reins to Moise (assuming his offer stands), the guy who got me into blogging in the first place, who will post some things that I’ve been working on so you won’t be totally without my input.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Further Discussion of War

The following quotes were at the end of the Jet Li movie Hero, which is, in all honesty, probably one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. Maybe I’ll talk about that some other time, though.
To reconstitute political life in a state presupposes a good man, whereas to have recourse to violence in order to make oneself prince in a republic supposes a bad man. Hence very rarely will there be found a good man ready to use bad methods in order to make himself prince, though with a good end in view.
Nor will any reasonable man blame him for taking any action, however extraordinary, which may be of service in the organizing of a kingdom or the constituting of a republic. It is a sound maxim that reprehensible actions may be justified by their effects, and that when the effect is good, it always justifies the action. For it is the man who uses violence to spoil things, not the man who uses it to mend them, that is blameworthy.
A prince should therefore disregard the reproach of being thought cruel where it enables him to keep his subjects united and loyal. For he who quells disorder by a very few signal examples will in the end be more merciful than he who from too great leniency permits things to take their course and so result in chaos and bloodshed; for these hurt the whole state, whereas the severities of the Prince injure individuals only
It is essential therefore, for a Prince who desires to maintain his position, to have learned how to be other than good, and to use or not use his goodness as necessity requires.
Everyone sees what you seem to be, but few know what you are.
-- Niccolo Machiavelli

To what extent, if any, do the ends justify the means?

In a democracy, politicians tend to act in ways that make themselves appear better, rather than being free to act in ways that they consider best. Is democracy then not the ideal form of government?
Is the United States Supreme Court, being given life tenure and therefore free from worrying too much about what is popular, an example in favor of or against Machiavellian politics?

Friday, December 02, 2005

(Just?) War

As promised, today I discuss the subject of war. I will discuss this complex subject in the most logical and abstract way possible, making as few judgments about past or present wars as possible.

Usually I try to simplify things and clear them up so people can discuss the issue intelligently and re-examine their own beliefs. I still want you to re-examine your beliefs, but for once I hope this actually makes the issue less clear than it was before. So many people have black-and-white views on the subject. But the issue of war just isn’t that simple. There are far too many factors that can make a war more or less justified than it was before, and it comes down to things that good arguing (and lawyering) are all about: characterization of factual situations and line-drawing.

The most interesting concept when speaking about war is the concept of a just war. A just war is one that is justified, i.e. there are good reasons for the war. It will be useful to think about the reasons for going to war on a spectrum from 0 to 100:

Least Just 0_______50_______100 Most Just

There are few people, I think, that would argue that a war is never justified. For example, a defensive war is almost always just in most people’s eyes. When X Nation attacks Y Nation, there are only a few peacemongers out there who would say that Y Nation should not fight back. So we’ll put defensive war at the far right end of the spectrum (100). At the far left, we’ll put a war for the sole purpose of killing and destruction (0). I think most can agree on these placements.

Beyond this point is where it gets a little tricky. War for the purpose of training soldiers or testing weapons may be around 1-10, and war for resources/territory may be somewhere between 11-20. On the higher end of the spectrum we have war to defend a non-aggressing nation against an aggressor, somewhere between 90-99. Beyond that is where things get more difficult, but for the sake of argument let’s say that the middle ground is a war of retaliation/revenge for a previous war, somewhere in the 45-55 range.

What else is near the top end of the spectrum? Well, let’s think of other things that are similar to military aggression between nations. One that comes to mind is government oppression. If Z Nation treats its people very poorly (tortures them without reason, starves them, etc.) then that is at least similar to X Nation’s unjustified attack on Y Nation. So let’s put that in the 80-89 range.

At this point we can already identify three areas where reasonable minds can differ.

1. No doubt some think that war for resources is more just than war for retaliation. And some people think that it’s all black-and-white, but surely that can’t be true. You may want to mess with the scale I’ve set up in all kinds of ways. There is no easy way to decide what makes a war more/less just.
2. Where do you draw the line? In other words, at what point on the scale do you go from saying “This war is unjust” to saying “This war is just”? Is it at 100? Surely that’s unreasonable. Or maybe 90? 75? 50? 25? There must be a point at which a war becomes “just,” but where is that point?
3. And finally, in the real world, how do we decide where a particular situation lies on the spectrum? To take the Iraq war as an example, is it simply a war for oil (somewhere in the 11-20 range)? Is it a war of retaliation for 9/11 (45-55)? Is it a war against terrorism (60-69)? Is it a war to free the people of Iraq from oppression (80-89)? If the last one, is their oppression maybe not that bad, dropping it to the 70-79 range? Not only that, but surely most wars have more than one motive. Does it take on the ranking of the best motivation? Does it take on the ranking of the primary motivation? Or does it fall somewhere in between? The American Civil War was about slavery (80-89), wasn’t it?

Thus far, however, we have only discussed the motivations for war. But there is another factor: tactics. No matter how just your motivations are for going to war, if you target civilians your war becomes less just. Attacking only military targets is more just. Also, any tactics that reduce the total number of casualties (on both sides) are more just. But even these are just general statements. Imagine this hypothetical: three tactics are available. Each of them will result in the following casualties:
A. 1000 friendly, 1000 enemy, 0 civilian
B. 400 friendly, 400 enemy, 100 civilian
C. 100 friendly, 1000 enemy, 100 civilian
Tactic A results in 2000 total deaths, but none are civilian casualties. Tactic B results in 900 deaths, fewer than half of Tactic A, but 100 are civilian deaths. Which is more just? In other words, how many civilian lives is each soldier’s life worth? The exchange here is 12 soldiers for every 1 civilian. Is that worth the difference? And finally, Tactic C results in 1200 total deaths (300 more than Tactic B), but far more are enemy deaths. Surely no one would fault a nation for using a tactic that results in more enemy dead than friendly dead, but when the exchange is not 1-for-1, at what point does it become unjust? This is a 1-for-2 exchange. Is it just? What about 1-for-5? To illustrate, three more examples are in order:
D. 0 friendly, 50,000 enemy, 0 civilian
E. 0 friendly, 10,000 enemy, 50,000 civilian
F. 10 friendly, 100 enemy, 50,000 civilian
Tactic D would be an ideal war for the winner, wouldn’t it? Isn’t it great when none of “our boys” have to die? To compare it to Tactic A, it’s a 1-for-49 exchange, with no civilians dead. Is it worth it? What about when you throw in costs? Tactic D is obviously a very high-tech (and therefore expensive) war. If you agree that this is a fair tactic, given a perfect 100 motivation, would you still agree if it cost $1 trillion more than Tactic A?
Tactic E looks a lot like a nuclear strike. Sure, it doesn’t sound good, with the high total number of deaths and especially the high number of civilian deaths. In an absolute sense it doesn’t sound just. But that may change when you consider the alternatives. In WWII, for example, they estimated millions dead on both sides in a ground war if the U.S. were to invade Japan. Does it therefore become just?
And Tactic F looks a lot like a massive terrorist strike. Does any motivation ever justify this result? What alternatives would make it look better?

And what if the result isn’t what you expect? All these tactics look better if you assume that the war will be resolved at the end. But what if it triggers retaliation instead? Essentially, is that the only thing separating Nagasaki from the World Trade Center?

Now, to synthesize the motivation with the tactics. It’s a cost-benefit analysis. The tactics are the cost and the motivation is the benefit. As the costs of war increase, a better motivation is needed to go to war. Assume that in the year 2010 the number of deaths from a war will be 25,000. Let’s say that we can agree that a motivation of at point 80 on the scale will make that war just. In 2020 the number of deaths will reduce to 20,000, making a motivation of 75 just. Is there any point at which a motivation of 5 will be just? To make it more concrete: in the year 2100 we have the opportunity to gain all the world’s gold by killing only 10 enemy soldiers. Does a war become “just” when you can say that it’s “just” war, that is, that war is no longer all that bad? Or does the scale simply stop at some point, after which the costs are irrelevant? Is that even logical? Does that make the whole analysis fall apart?

Finally, what bearing does global overpopulation have on the issue?

And now my command: discuss.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Both Sides of the Story

The "I love bacon" side

Idiot activists were arrested in New Zealand for chaining themselves to a bacon delivery truck. Look, if you don't think it's nice to eat meat, then don't eat meat. My brother will be happy to refer you to the campaign: if you eat with a vegetarian/vegan, you must eat meat from three animals rather than one. This way it defeats their moral crusade.
Note, too, that the site calls itself "independent news." Yes, it's so independent that it's blatantly biased in favor of the idiot activists.

The "I love animals" side

A terrier chewed through a refrigerator cable, sustaining severe injuries. Her owners now call her "Sparky," and she will recover with some permanent injuries. The disturbing part about this article is that "they took her to the vet's a few days later." Why did they wait? Is it for the same reasons that Black Sabbath hasn't been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame yet?

More Movies I Want to See

Boogie Knights
Starring: Mark Wahlberg
Follows the rise and fall of Galahad the Chaste, Knight of the Round Table by day, porn star by night.

Halloween: H3O
Director: John Carpenter
Starring: Michael Myers
Michael Meyers is back! This time, he’s played by the former Saturday Night Live star.

Law Clerks
Director: Kevin Smith
“I’m not even supposed to be writing this memorandum!” Details all the bad things that happen when the protagonist has to write a memorandum that was assigned to someone else. Jay and Silent Bob hang out around the attorney’s office selling drugs and quoting George Lucas movies.

Twelve Angry Women
Remake of the classic Henry Fonda film. Instead of talking about the facts of the case, they call each other bitches and get into cat fights. (Burn! Take that, fairer sex! If there was ever a good way to get comments on a post, this is it. Now, to figure out how much traffic I have, I just have to multiply the number of flame messages by two.)

You won’t get these unless you study law:

Terminator 4: Summary Judgment Day
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger
The machines send a new, advanced lawyer-bot back in time to sue John Connor. The humans send a reprogrammed robot (Schwarzenegger) back to defend the suit. Both get clothes by suing the pants off of people. The climax of the movie comes when the machines lose on a summary judgment motion because there is no factual issue in dispute (their evidence doesn’t yet exist).

Titles for the next Star Wars trilogy:
Episode 7: The Phantom Mens Rea
Episode 8: The Empire Files Countersuit
Episode 9: Anticipatory Repudiation of the Sith

Rambo: First Blood (remake)
Starring: Sylvester Stallone
This time, instead of getting out of jail on the vagrancy charge and then killing everyone in the forest, Rambo gets a good lawyer and challenges the vagrancy law all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court!

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Black Sabbath in the Hall of Fame

Black Sabbath is to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March.

That's not the real news. The real news is that up until now they weren't in it.

Seriously. Did they think that maybe this whole "heavy metal" thing will just blow over? They had to wait to be inducted at the same time as freaking Blondie, who started about ten years later than they did.
Artists are eligible to be inducted into the Rock Hall after at least 25 years have passed since their first record was released.
Oh, that explains it. . . . Wait, they released their first album in 1970. That means that they've waited ten years too long. Are they going to make Metallica wait until 2018? If I'm not mistaken, Randy Rhoads was already inducted. And he was Ozzy's guitar player starting about ten years after Tony Iommi. What exactly is the holdup?

“I Wish I Could Do That”

In high school some of my friends and I started a band. We sucked (and I particularly sucked on bass) but it was fun, and an excuse to hang out after school.
Anyway, one day we finished practicing and went downstairs. My friend’s dog was licking his genitals (some would say he was “on vacation”). The conversation went thus:
Friend X: “Man, I wish I could do that.”
Friend Y: “I don’t know . . . that dog looks pretty mean.”

I still laugh when I think about that. Just in case you don’t get it (and it won’t be funny now if you didn’t), the implication of Y’s statement was that he understood X to desire the ability to lick the dog’s genitals.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Gender Roles

This began as a response to this post on sexism in language, but it got way too long and so I transplanted it here.

Excellent post, LG, (you got me on the "man on the street") and everyone has made excellent comments. But alas, too many people are in agreement, so I feel a need to stir things up.

As to the rape/date rape distinction:
Recently in my Evidence class we discussed certain federal evidence rules that make it much easier to convict alleged sex offenders. What struck me was the assumption, by each female (and most male) student who took part in the discussion, that the alleged offender was guilty. Therefore they believed all of the rules that made this easier a good thing.
But why this assumption? In no other area of the law is there this assumption. If I walked into my state legislature today and asked them to pass laws making it easier to convict alleged murderers, how would that go over? The rules assume guilt, and I find this abhorrent.
I think this PC way of speaking about rape has led us all to believe that no woman would file a false report of a rape. While I will not dispute the figures that tend to show a large number of unreported rapes, I would argue that reported rapes are much more likely to be fabricated, whether a lie or a regret turned to altered memory. This is especially true in a date rape situation. But does it make sense to make it easier to convict innocent people because so many guilty people go free?
One of the rules in particular makes it more difficult to attack the character of the alleged victim. Which I suppose is good if you want to encourage people to report crimes. But what if the "victim" is a pathological liar, or a sex addict, or bi-polar? Any of these could easily lead to a false date-rape claim, and I suspect that there are probably other personality characteristics which could also lead to this result.

As to sex roles:
I think SusieQ is perhaps on the right track. If we can agree that there are biological differences between men and women, does it not also follow that there are other differences? Isn't it logical to assume that men may be more suited to different roles than are women? Is there inherently anything wrong with that as long as it is not misused in a degrading way?
My fiancee and I recently spoke with my pastor in a pre-marriage counseling session. He described the husband a the wife's head. The head does not abuse the body or use it for its own ends. The head does what is best for the whole of the body, and coordinates the actions of the whole so that each part does what it is best suited to do.

This brought to mind what I believe is an ancient Chinese statement: that the man is the head but the woman is the neck, and she can make the head face in whatever direction she pleases. Who is more degraded in this metaphor?

And that brings me to the western proverb "the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world." What is wrong with ruling in this way?

And finally, I would like to make the point that many women abuse the gender roles as well as do men, by using sex for personal gain or by abusing the over-protectiveness of men over women. It's simply biological fact (hormones and tissue development) that makes it easier for men to abuse women. I submit that if women were physically as strong as men the incidence of women abusing men would be nearly as high as the more familiar situation.

William L. Prossner Quote

Your lawyer in practice spends a considerable part of his life in doing distasteful things for disagreeable people who must be satisfied against an impossible time limit in which there are hourly interruptions from other disagreeable people who want to derail the train; and for his blood, sweat, and tears, he receives in the end a few unkind words to the effect that it might have been done better, and a protest at the size of the fee.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Ironic

Apparently, Ronald MacDonald is the Hamburglar.

Talking About Myself for a Change

When people use their blogs mostly to talk about themselves and their lives, it’s usually boring. So normally I eschew that in favor of more entertaining and educational ventures.

And this Friday I promise to post about a big subject in many people’s minds today: war.

But with my wedding coming up in about three weeks, I thought that just for once I could discuss where I’ve been and how I got here. It’s my blog, after all.

To save you a lot of time talking about what a dork I was as a kid (I have pictures to prove it, but not in digital format), or how cool I thought I was in high school wearing my fedora and driving around in my Towncar smoking cigars and listening to (*gasp*) Kid Rock, I’ll start at my college days.

The Early College Chapter

When I got to college I was already cool, as you can plainly see from this picture.
(This is the best excuse for a goatee I could come up with.)
That was taken my freshman year with my spiffy webcam, which I have never installed on my new computer. That year and the next I skipped a lot of classes, watched a lot of movies and played a lot of Starcraft. My usual day had me waking up at noon or one and finally going to sleep any time from three to six thirty in the morning.
I was very much into body modification.
Moving counterclockwise from bottom left: my first piercing in my lobe, given to me by my friend Adam, my second piercing which I gave myself in the bathroom of my dorm, and the cartilage piercing I got at Wal-Mart.

And finally, the eyebrow piercing I gave myself in my dorm room sophomore year.
And let’s not forget my three tattoos. Here’s the evolution of one of them:


I was definitely a dork, as I am now, and probably a rebel. Check out this badass ring, or something, which my friends and I affectionately called the “Death Claw”:

And let’s not forget the goofing around I did, this time with a guy named Dan.

(Yes, I painted my fingernails black.)

The Walter Fisette Chapter


But that all changed when I started working for Walt. He had been in the moving business for thirty-some years, and he always had something to say about everything. He appreciated all kinds of people and could get along with anyone. I worked with him for two summers, and they were probably the best two summers of my life. We moved doctors, pastors, power company workers, soldiers, and even a cattle baron. We went to Albuquerque, New Mexico; Colorado Springs, Colorado; Billings, South Dakota; Iowa City, Iowa, and Manhattan, Kansas; among other places. It was hard work, but rewarding, to lift all kinds of heavy stuff, emptying a whole house, and then helping someone start anew. Walt in many ways convinced me to realize my potential and stop screwing around. By the way, in that picture he is driving in a parade in a truck for the Orphan Grain Train, a charity that helps a lot of people, mostly in Russia. He drove the first truck ever for that charity.

Over Thanksgiving break my junior year I was helping him with another move, this time in York, Nebraska. A day (or was it two?) before Thanksgiving, we were sitting in the truck waiting for it to warm up. I was lying in the top bunk trying to get some sleep before we left. And Walt was having a bad case of acid reflux, so he was waiting for it to subside before departing. He couldn’t get over how bad the pain was, and he thought he was going to throw up. He said, “Harold, get a bag, quick!” (Harold was a long-time helper of Walt’s.) After that he passed out and started gurgling. His wife Louise started administering CPR (she’s an RN) and Mike, another helper (Walt said he’s good for a day or two, but if you work past four or work him for more than two days he’s worthless), dialed 911. The ambulance arrived and took him away. I went home, with blind and complete faith in our medical professionals and the advancement of medical science. I got a call from Dennis (my dad’s best friend from high school and a dispatcher for Andrew’s Van Lines) a few hours later. He asked me how I was doing. I said I was ok. He said he thought I’d take it worse than that. It was then that he informed me Walt had died at the ripe young age of 52.

I’m not really sure what to say about that.

At the funeral, I cried. Clayton Andrew, the 90-some-odd-year-old owner of Andrew’s, stood up and talked about what a great, reliable guy Walt was, and how he will be missed. Other people stood up and talked about how he knew a lot of things and could talk your ear off, and about how he really cared about what he was doing and knew that he was working with people’s lives. Harold, the quiet-spoken farmboy, however goofy-looking he may be, looked nice in a suit. Louise handled it well, I think. I even met Walt’s mother and sister. His mother has the most beautiful German accent, and it’s rare to see someone that sad. His sister has Downs syndrome, and I don’t think she completely grasped what was happening.

Walt had a huge impact on my life. Not many people can say that about their boss at a college job. He’s certainly much better than the lying bitches who smoke every fifteen minutes and meth manufacturers that I worked for and with at the deli in Pac ‘N Save.

One last thing:
On the way from Seward (my college town) to Hadar, Nebraska, for Walt’s funeral, it was probably the most beautiful day I have ever seen. The ground was covered in pristine white snow and the trees were lovingly frosted by a benevolent God.

Finally, to My Bride-To-Be

I was already dating Laura at the time Walt died. She knew how hard it was for me.
She has continued to be a good influence on me in Walt’s stead. Just look at how much more clean-cut I am in the picture. She loves me, and I love her. She’s a good small-town Nebraska girl, and she’s smart. And most importantly, she loves dogs almost as much as I do. What more could I possibly ask for? Now she has her BSN and is working as an RN. She ultimately gave the suggestions that put me over the edge and made me decide to go to law school.

And now look at me.
I’m all clean-cut and dressed up with nowhere to go. Of course, that’s because I took the picture after oral arguments for Legal Writing class. And check out the samurai sword set and the bamboo. And that amazing receding hairline! What could be sexier than a bald man in a suit wielding a katana in one hand and a legal textbook in the other?

Well, that’s it. I’ll try not to talk about myself for a while, if only to keep people coming back to the blog.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Hypnotize

I picked up the new System of a Down CD, Hypnotize yesterday. And I have to say, it's very good. It continues in their tradition of bizarre, eclectic styles and their highly relevant lyrics. They also continue to use nonsensical lyrics for the sheer sonic effect of those lyrics. The song that stands out the most so far is "Vicinity of Obscenity" because of the nice funk riff in there.

It is intended as the second CD in a Mezmerize/Hypnotize two-disc set. And in that vein, it's right up there with others such as the Smashing Pumpkins' Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness and Metallica's Load and Reload. The two mesh well, with no significant departures in style or production. And since "Soldier Side (Intro)" opens the first and "Soldier Side" closes the second, there is a beatufiul sense of closure when you finish listening to the pair. Incidentally, they would actually both fit on the same 80-minute disc.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Lawyer Advertising

The Florida Supreme Court isn't going to allow a law firm to use pit bulls as a mascot/advertising scheme/phone number. Read about it here, if you want.

Apparently they're also worried about lawyers being compared to sharks. Like that would ever happen. :)
So, apparenlty the First Amendment doesn't apply to lawyers.

Can I use a Terminator as a mascot? Or what about a ninja? A noble samurai warrior, perhaps?

Stupid Miranda Rules

Miranda v. Arizona excludes evidence of anything you say, while under arrest, until after the officers tell you that you have the right to remain silent. Doyle v. Ohio, to make this a real right, disallows prosecutors from commenting on the silence of a defendant who has been read his rights. But Jenkins v. Anderson, on the other hand, allows prosecutors to comment on a defendant’s pre-arrest silence when he has not been read his rights. And Weir v. Fletcher says that they can comment on your silence even after arrest, but before the warnings are given. So, before they read you your rights, you don’t have the right to remain silent, but you have the right to say anything you want (although it can be used to impeach you at trial). After they read you your rights, you have the right to remain silent, but anything you do say can be used against you.

Why does your right depend on whether they told you about it?
Why are the rights reversed (and ill-protected) upon receiving warnings?
Doesn’t this put people who know their rights at a disadvantage?

This stupid mosaic of law is brought to you by the politicians in cheap robes, and the number 9.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Giant Robots

Giant robots are really freakin’ cool. So much so that I can’t even put it into words. So I’ll have to make up a new one: spiffy-dynamitacularasticalesque. And even that word doesn’t completely capture the awe and majesty that giant robots inspire, because, well, it’s kind of a silly word. And there is nothing silly about giant robots.
I’ve always wanted my own giant robot, ever since my youth, when I watched Transformers, Robotech, and even the sub-par Gundam Wing. But that’s just the thing. You can take any show or movie, and add giant robots, and it’s at least 84% better (as studies have shown). This is particularly impressive when you realize that ninjas only make fiction 76% better, pirates 24%, and hobbits a mere 2%. Only Kurt Russell has a larger effect, making all fiction 91% better than it would have been without him.
When I was in sixth grade, I read the BattleTech novels, and before that I even had a computer game based on that franchise. I also read the Robotech novels in the fifth grade (long before I saw the television series). Hell, I even watched a really crappy movie called Robot Jox, and, you know what? It was at least eighty-five percent better than it would have been without the giant robots. And let’s not forget the AT-ST’s and AT-AT’s of the venerable Star Wars trilogy. Or their short appearance in The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.

Video games on the subject also capture our imagination, for example, the MechWarrior series (based on the BattleTech universe) and the Armored Core series.
Even today, in the early years of my adulthood, giant robots are still fascinating. I particularly recommend Neon Genesis Evangelion, a superbly written (and above-average animated) anime series. It combines giant robots with Biblical Apocalyptic themes (which have been known to make fiction 43% better, yet still failed to make Left Behind readable at all).

Let me know if I failed to mention any giant robot stuff that’s worth mentioning. I know about Nadesico but I’m not really familiar with it. Terminator and Ghost in the Shell don’t really count because the larger robots play a minor role.

What many people don’t know is the long history of giant robots. In Japan, for example, they have been a regular part of daily life for thousands of years, as this famous Hokusai painting illustrates:


They’ve also been a big part of American history:


But the history goes back even further, as you can see from this primitive cave painting of a Timber Wolf OmniMech (Mad Cat to you Inner Sphere dogs):


Today, giant robots don’t seem like such a big deal. They’ve become as American as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. We even elect them to public office!


Now, to get your giant robot noticed, you have to add some extras. Pimp them out, to use the vernacular.


Where do we go from here? Do we make bigger (dare I say gianter?) robots than before? Or do we concentrate instead on regaining the long-lost Jedi powers that humans once had? The sky’s the limit now that all the world’s problems have been solved.

(I make no pretense that any of these pictures are my own. They have been lifted from Fark and Something Awful.)

For more robot-related (some giant, some not) information, look here and here.

Thus ends a post about longed-for childhood dreams.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Where Did Tort Reform Go? or, Torts Are Funny

Tort reform was a big part of Bush’s original campaign. After 9/11, however, it seems to have disappeared off the map entirely, while Social Security reform is probably just recharging its power scooter. Perhaps Bin-Laden and his flunkies sat around and said, “You know, American tort law is really screwed up. Let’s distract them, and eventually it will bring down their economy.” Far-fetched? At least as much so as a world with a jet pack in every home (which would be pretty sweet), but maybe it’s not entirely off the mark.

The Purposes of Tort Law

Tort law is intended as a method to make someone whole again when they are injured. If, for example, Tortfeasor sits next to you in class, and he kicks you in the shin (like the bastard he is), you will be injured. (Thanks Vosburg v. Putney.) Assume your leg breaks. You have a doctor bill, and tort law makes Tortfeasor foot the bill. Assume also that you are a field goal kicker for a professional football team, and the season opener is tomorrow. Your contract is not very good for you, so you miss out on some pay. Tortfeasor will also have to pay all of this back. Tort law doesn’t care that Tortfeasor works in a factory for $40K a year and you still make $1mil even after the injury. But it does do one thing right: you are obligated to try to find comparable work to mitigate the damages. There probably is no comparable work to playing football, but let’s assume you work at McDonald’s anyway for $10K (and you’re lovin’ it). Your damages from lost wages will be reduced by that amount.

The Problems with Tort Law

Of course, I have a problem with the current state of tort law and some of the assumptions it makes. Take the hypothetical situation of X and Y. (Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.) X and Y are driving their cars. X and Y are both talking on their cell phones. Y hangs up his phone, and ten seconds later X and Y collide. X will probably be found negligent because he was talking on his phone, and so he will have to pay for Y’s damages. But this is about as fair as a fight between Kurt Russell and Metal Gear Ray. The Metal Gear doesn’t stand a chance. Both of these guys were talking on their cell phones, as many people do when they’re driving. It was purely coincidence that X was still talking when the accident happened. We’re all negligent every day. Hell, I’ve seen my torts professor talking on her cell phone while driving. Not to minimize the victimization of the injured party, but the other party is also a victim of the system. (Although, I do have to admit that a kind of social insurance program would be at least equally as reprehensible.)

Now assume Y became a quadriplegic. X will have to pay Y’s lost wages for Y’s full life expectancy. Recall that the purpose of tort law is to make the injured party whole again. Let’s look at it this way:
Before the accident: Y worked for his wages.
After the accident: Y gets free money for just sitting around and watching TV!
Let’s not forget pain and suffering damages. Yes, I’m sure that pain and suffering is worth something, but juries tend to inflate it unrealistically, to the point that Y can buy a nice big screen TV and a mansion to ease his suffering.
And there will also be loss of enjoyment, because now Y will never again know the pure joy of scratching an itch, or of playing hopscotch. These damages are similarly difficult to quantify.

Now, let’s assume that Y died in the accident. The executor of his estate gets to sue X for Y’s lost wages as well as other things. Funeral costs are one that particularly irks me. Y would eventually have died and had a funeral anyway. If anything, Y is actually saving money on funeral costs, because they go up annually as surely as Santa Claus delivers presents or George Lucas ruins Star Wars with a new edition every year. (I heard that next time he’s going to change Leia’s slave girl outfit into a wookie costume.)
Oh yeah, and Y’s wife also gets to sue for loss of consortium.

Let’s take one final hypothetical, more related to the topic of tort reform as Bush saw it. Hypothetically, let’s just say there is a car manufacturer. Let’s call it Ford, just for fun. Also, let’s assume that they built a car that explodes when it’s hit from behind. Let’s just call that car a Pinto. Let’s further assume that Ford decides not to recall said vehicle. Now, let’s assume that a guy named Poor Bastard suffers third-degree burns in the accident and dies. His next of kin, Lucky Bastard, sues Ford. In many states, not only will he get all of the damages I’ve set out above, but also punitive damages, assuming that the jury decides Ford’s conduct was egregious enough. This is where Ford’s wealth comes in. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that this is a multi-billion dollar company. The punitive damages, instead of being designed to make the victim whole again, are designed to be, well, punitive. So the jury thinks a $100million award might punish Ford a bit. And Lucky Bastard, being no one in particular except for a guy whose brother bought a damn ugly car, gets all that money. He will, of course, by a Volvo with that money. Yeah, right.

Conclusion

Well, the only conclusion I can make is that tort law starts out with an excellent premise, and then turns the tortfeasor into the real victim. Most of the time it’s just somebody who was a little careless, as we all are. And he better hope that he makes twice as much at his job as the other guy, otherwise he won’t have any money left for himself. And, of course, we can’t forget all the Lucky Bastards out there who get a windfall profit out of the deal.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Exactly a month from today, I will be married.
Any advice, tips, comments, well-wishing, cries of despair at knowing I’m taken, or insults and curses welcome.

CBS’s “Tribute” to Johnny Cash

Warning: this is both a review and a rant.

Last night, CBS did a “tribute” to Johnny Cash, which is just another way of saying that they wanted to capitalize on the CMA awards from the night before and the upcoming movie I Walk the Line.

You’d think that a tribute would involve paying homage to the man and his music. But country star Brad Paisley decided to dance around on his grave to the tune of “Folsom Prison Blues.” I always thought that “I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die” was kind of a downer of a line, as is the whole song. But Mr. Paisley decided that it was a good song for a hoe-down, turning Cash’s usual downbeat style into some kind of upbeat, twangy thing that most people hate about country music (and Johnny Cash was never twangy).

Sheryl Crow then came out on stage. And you’d think dancing around on his grave would be bad enough. But no, one of rock music’s worst performers (and definitely the most overrated) decided that she would dig up Cash’s body and sodomize his corpse with her 9-inch member (you know it’s true), all to the tune of “Ring of Fire.” She tried way too hard to be country and failed miserably at it. One would think that her “All I want to do is have some fun” song would be Crow’s worst performance ever. One would be wrong.

I apologize for any hermaphrodite Sheryl Crow nightmares that you may have. But I’ve had to live with them for years, so you should too. I promise the rest of the post is less scary.

Martina McBride decided to put some class and respect back into the show by performing “I Still Miss Someone.” Her rendition was decent, and at the very least her style fit the song’s message and feel.

Jerry Lee Louis then began a fast version of “I Walk the Line,” and I have to say that up to this point it was the best performance on the show. It was very much listenable. But then Kid Rock crashed the party like some drunk sorority slut, completely eschewing harmony in favor of being Kid Rock. He was tolerable at best when “singing” his own lines, but the two should have stuck to singing separately. Kid Rock would have been much more in his own game if he would have done “A Boy Named Sue.”

U2 then performed a song that I didn’t recognize. Overall they seemed faithful to Cash’s style, but it was about as entertaining as watching sloths mate. Also, the simple fact that it was U2 annoyed me. It’s like they think they’re God’s gift to rock music, when in reality they’re just cocky liberal activists that have just played their instruments decently for a long time.

Next up was Montgomery Gentry performing “Get Rhythm.” It wasn’t too bad, actually. My only complaint is that it seemed a little on the homosexual side, not something that mixes well with country music. And why can’t they play their own guitar solo?

Norah Jones then came out with what was to that point the highlight of the night, with her rendition of “Home of the Blues.” She has a good voice, and she was true to Cash’s subdued tempo and mood. Kris Kristofferson joined her on another song immediately after, one which was originally a duet with June Carter, but which I didn’t recognize. It too was enjoyable.

Then came the best performance of the night, “Sunday Morning Coming Down” by Kris Kristofferson and the Foo Fighters. I really don’t know what to say about it except that it was truly fitting of the term “tribute.”

Allyson Kraus and Dwight Yokam came out with their rendition of “If I Were a Carpenter,” and it wasn’t bad at all. The tone and tempo were good.

Finally, Jerry Lee Louis came back out with a song I recognized, but for which I don’t recall the name. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either, especially since most or all of the other performers joined him on stage in an attempt to ruin it.

Well CBS, I hope you’re happy now that you’ve let Sheryl Crow destroy Cash’s lifeless pelvic bone. It doesn’t matter how many tolerable/good performances you bring out after that. You can never repair the damage. Thanks for the most mediocre and insulting “tribute” possible. If you wanted to do a real tribute to him you should have asked Glenn Danzig to perform at least one song, perhaps “Thirteen,” which he wrote for Johnny Cash (and which appeared on Unchained) and later performed himself. Or how about Nick Cave? Or freaking Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers for God’s sake. They were his backup band, or didn’t you remember that? Why didn’t anyone perform any of his later songs? “The Man Comes Around” is definitely one of the top ten songs Cash ever wrote, and yet there wasn’t anything from his days at the American label—the only time when his producer and label let him do whatever he wanted. Your speakers were also poorly chosen. I doubt they even asked Rick Rubin to come.

Your speakers made a big deal (correctly) about the fact that Cash defied categorization and appealed to all generations of lovers of both country and rock. So why did everyone go out of their way to be country? In all honesty, while Elvis Presley was considered rock, he has had a much larger influence on country. Likewise, while Cash was considered country, he’s influenced rock music to a much larger extent.

In any case, this was not a tribute by any stretch of the word. It was a blatant promotional scheme.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Peacemonger

As I was driving to school this morning, I saw a mini-van with a large bumper sticker on it. The single word on that sticker was "Peacemonger." I assume that this soccer mom thought it was rather clever. But the word strikes me as odd. Indeed, I would rather be a warmonger than a peacemonger. A warmonger seems to be someone who advocates going to war when it is not the best answer to the situation. A peacemonger, on the other hand, would be someone who would either never advocate going to war, or who would only accede to the demands of others to go to war when it's already too late.
War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.
--John Stuart Mill (1806 - 1873). And, to quote a friend and colleague:
I also believe that when John Lennon sings "nothing to kill or die for" he has created a world in which there is conversly nothing to live for.
--Moise. And finally, a quote which he pointed out to me:
We make war that we may live in peace
--Aristotle

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Outrage

HR Giger has been ordered to remove one of his Alien sculptures from in front of his museum. Read more here. This angers me, because I'm a huge fan of his work. You know, he could have put something a little worse out in front, like Necronom V or one of his many other disturbing erotic images.

You think you're a hardcore sports fan?

You're not. At least not like Geoffrey Huish.
Jobless Geoffrey finally collapsed with blood pouring from his groin as horrified drinkers put his testicles in a pint glass of ice.
Suddenly, your team logo tattoo doesn't seem so hardcore, now, does it?

Snow

It's snowing for the first time of the year here in Nebraska, and it's only about 15 days late. And instead of the beautiful white, fluffy snow that many people hope to see on Christmas, it's wet, wet, wet, and sloppy. When I brushed it off my car this morning it stuck to the brush. A big chunk of it fell of the roof of my building and landed on my leg, instantly soaking me. It's disgusting, and it will be even worse in a couple of days, after the car exhaust starts to settle in to whatever's left of it. That is, assuming it doesn't all melt.

Monday, November 14, 2005

iBuzz

She added: "The iPod is this era’s must-have accessory, while a vibrator is a timeless addition to every girl’s gadget drawer."
What do these two things have in common?

Starcraft Anecdote & Sentence Structure Analysis

I’m not sure about the twisted inner workings of my mind, but it’s possible that this post was partly inspired by Copernicus Now’s post here.

The Story

Much of my freshman year at my undergrad was spent playing the real-time strategy game Starcraft, by Blizzard, the makers of the most addictive games known to man. My friends and I would play over the network (that was before the jerks in IT put “switches” between all the Ethernet ports, effectively preventing all such network gaming). For those who don’t know, in Starcraft you start with a few builder units, and must collect resources and make buildings so that you can build up an army to take on other armies. I think I learned more about that game that year than I learned in all of my classes combined.

We always played cooperatively, usually with three of us against five computer opponents. Of course, there is always the fear that one or more of your allies will “backstab” you. All they need to do is change your status from ally to enemy, and run an offensive. It’s often most effective if you let your target take the brunt of the damage from the common enemy (pretending that you’re having trouble with controls), and just before that enemy is defeated you turn your weapons in your friend’s direction.

One time, just before we were ready to go on the offensive, I received a private message from someone we will call X. X suggested that he and I should backstab C, our other ally. I informed X that I agreed with his diabolical little scheme. Immediately I informed C of the plan, and that’s where the real fun began.
C in fact took much of the damage when we attacked the common enemies, and just before victory, X and I started heading toward C’s base. When we arrived, X’s forces began attacking the base. Thinking I was his ally, X’s forces didn’t last long against mine, and C’s forces easily destroyed X’s base.

Where am I going with this? Well, immediately afterwards, I was in C’s room, along with C’s roommate, and we were laughing pretty hard about the ordeal. X barged in, furious, and pointed at each one of us in turn.

“F*ck you! F*ck you! And F*ck you!”

He then proceeded to lock himself in his room like a little girl. Come on, if he was willing to backstab someone then he can hardly have his feelings hurt when we backstab him instead.

”F*ck You”: An Analysis

That sentence strikes me as odd. “F*ck you.” It has a verb and a direct object. That is, the “f*cking” is to happen to “you.” But what else do we know about the sentence? If we had more verb conjugation in the English language it would probably be clearer.

At first it seems to be an imperative sentence, that is, it’s giving a command. This is usually the case in the English language when the subject of the sentence is implied. (As in “Drink this” as opposed to “I drink this” or “He drinks way too much for his own good.”) But this can’t be, because the object of the sentence would then make no sense. It should be reflexive (I believe that’s the correct term) as in the Spanish masturbarse. If this is the case, it should be “F*ck yourself.” And imperative sentences are always phrased in the second person, so it can’t be directed at anyone else.

It clearly is not an interrogatory sentence (a question), so the only other possibility is a declaratory sentence. The verb “f*ck” would agree with just about any subject, as long as it’s not third-person singular. So, it could mean, “They f*ck you,” “I f*ck you,” “We f*ck you,” or “You f*ck you,” but not “Big Jimmy over here f*ck you.” Of course, these nouns are never implied in English. If you had a houseguest at the bottom of a pit in your basement, you wouldn’t say “Puts the lotion on its skin,” now, would you?

So clearly this sentence is an anachronism in the English language, and follows none of the standard rules. It could be that it’s like the sentence “Damn you,” in which case it’s an imperative sentence directed at God. Because no one else can damn anybody, it may be acceptable to imply the subject. So in this case it would mean that “f*ck” actually means “damn.” But if it doesn’t, then it doesn’t make any sense because just about anybody can f*ck you, rich or poor, gay or straight, Chinese, Kenyan, or even Canadian. Or it could be a more generalized statement, like “I hope you get f*cked,” but in that way it might sound like they’re wishing you well.

At least the sentence isn’t commonly phrased as “F*cks you,” because that would be even more damn confusing.

I wonder if the Language Guy would (perhaps) lower himself to address this question. Perhaps it’s a carry-over from a language where it makes more sense, in view of the heavy influences of German and French on the English language. My background in communications has nothing to do with linguistics (you’d think the two would be more related, since both have close ties to philosophy, sociology, and psychology).

Anyway, I hope that someone f*cks X in a bad way, like Shawshank Redemption style. He was a lying, disgusting, bastard. (And since he’s a bastard anyway, it’s okay to point out his physical shortcomings. So he’s a lying, disgusting, fat bastard.) He got kicked out of school because he never went to class after getting addicted to another Blizzard game, Diablo II, our sophomore year. Maybe I’ll post on that some other time though.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Gay Marriage vs. Smoking & Gambling

Edit: some people seem to think that anything less than unquestioned acceptance is a criticism. My discussion is limited to the sole question of what judges should do. Legislators can do whatever they want, as far as I'm concerned, in this arena. My goal is to get people to think about their own arguments and come up with better, more well-reasoned arguments in the end, regardless of which side they fall on (and maybe even to jump the fence).

The other day I heard the beginning of a conversation on the radio morning show on KIBZ 104.1. (Normally I plug my iPod into my car stereo, so this was rather fortuitous.) They brought up the subject of a legal challenge to Nebraska’s gay marriage ban (at least, I think it was Nebraska’s). Then they raised the interesting question:



What makes gay marriage more worthy of judicial protection than smoking and gambling when the majority has spoken?

By raising smoking they are referring to Lincoln’s ban on smoking in bars or restaurants. This subject can of course be dismissed out of hand because smoking affects people other than the one who partakes. (Although personally I am sympathetic to a bar owner’s claim of right to choose on this issue.) A different issue might be raised in a challenge to an employer’s disallowance of smoking off the job, but I won’t discuss that here.

But when you compare gay marriage to gambling, the question gets very interesting. I would like to point out that, based purely on Supreme Court precedent, any state’s gay marriage ban would be upheld, even in light of so-called “right to privacy” cases. That is, of course, unless the Supremes want to extend that right.

Gambling can normally be illegalized under what is commonly referred to as the state police power, generally defined as the power a state has to protect the health and general welfare of its people. Laws like this are upheld as long as the legislature had a rational basis for concluding that gambling is harmful to health, the economy, or yes, even morals. There is enough empirical information that gambling is harmful in order to uphold laws against it, even if the state legislature never looked at that information. Even masses of information to the contrary can’t change this result. Even if a court thinks that other data, in favor of gambling, is more convincing, they can’t substitute their own judgment for that of the legislature as long as there is information in support of its decision. Gambling laws are relatively uncontroversial, so let’s go on to the gay marriage issue.

A state could easily conclude that it wants to reserve marriage for a man and a woman on the basis that marriage is, to that state, primarily for reproductive purposes. (I believe a statute forbidding marriage between first cousins was actually struck down in a southern court because the likelihood of having birth defects isn’t significantly higher among that group. Don’t quote me on that.) And, like gambling, there is a wealth of information pointing to adverse health and psychological effects of homosexuality (or at least male homosexuality) such as throat cancer, higher incidence of STDs, depression, and “gay bowel syndrome.” Whether you want to believe that information or the contrary information, a state legislature is free to believe it and act accordingly. (Side note: many of you may be surprised that there is such a wealth of information, probably because of the strong gay rights lobby, but of course my undergrad adopts it whole-heartedly. Some academics compare homosexuality to alcoholism, and the similarities are striking as long as you believe the studies, which, as far as I can tell, are at least as fairly administered as the studies which reach the opposite conclusion.)

While it is certainly debatable, a state could certainly conclude that homosexuality is actually worse than gambling. So the only thing that gives gay marriage a better foothold in the courts is the “right to privacy.” But I pose this question: why is the right to privacy seemingly limited to sexuality and reproduction? (It has been used to strike down laws forbidding the sale of contraceptives, abortion, and anal intercourse.) The subject of sexuality isn’t mentioned in the Constitution, so why does it get special treatment by the courts? It seems to me that anything you do in your own home should get some protection from this right as long as it’s recognized. So in that sense, take the case of two women. Why do the courts protect their right to get frisky with each other while they don’t protect their right to bet $100 on the Superbowl? Or to make it even more equal, their choice to play strip poker as opposed to their choice to bet quarters on the same game of poker?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Sick

OK, this is sick. People find my blog by searching for the wrong things. Like the person who lives in Pinellas Park, Florida, who searched for "naked 13 year olds" on MSN, and ended up at this post. This has happened many, many times. So, here you go.
Now a picture of your place is here, too.

Anti-Gravity

A patent has been issued for an anti-gravity device, in flagrant disregard for the laws of physics. Isaac Asimov reportedly turning over in his grave.

You see, if there is no gravity, then particles fly apart. They might even turn into energy, although I'm not entirely clear on that point. Mr. asimov wrote a story about something like this. Two physicists were often in competition with each other. Physicist A was a nice, quiet guy and a serious scientist. Physicist B was a showoff who just worked on making inventions without understanding everything behind them. B made an anti-gravity device, and invited a bunch of important people to see it. He asked A to help him demonstrate it by shooting a pool ball into the anti-gravity field. (They also competed on the pool table, as you might expect physics-types to do.) When the ball entered the field, instead of floating in place as a non-physicist might think, it shot out at just under the speed of light, flying directly through the head of B. A explained later that when matter has no gravity, it must travel at the speed of light. I didn't quite understand that, but it was pretty cool nonetheless.

Multiple Jesus Phenomenon

I’ve noticed a certain phenomenon within my own mind. I am a Christian. Yet, I find humor involving Jesus to be not offensive, but humorous, as long as they aren’t done in a mean-spirited way. This includes the movie Dogma as well as images like the following, lifted from a Fark Photoshop contest:

(In case you don’t get it, I’ll post why it’s funny in the comments.)

Why do these not offend me? Is it a symptom of dissociative identity disorder? No, I don’t think so. For one thing, many jokes done in very bad taste are extremely amusing to me, like Photoshopped pictures of the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby playing together in a band or the woman in the “slave” shirt standing over a dead Kenny from South Park.

Also, as someone training to be an attorney, I need to be able to separate myself and my own opinions from a situation. But you’d think that since Jesus is a more personal matter, it would be more likely to offend. But it doesn’t offend me, and I call this the Multiple Jesus Phenomenon. Allow me to explain.

In my mind, Jesus has become two separate and distinct entities: the Biblical Jesus and the pop culture Jesus. They are as different as the character Jesus in The Passion and the actor who played the Christ in that movie, or Christ as depicted on the crucifix as compared to Buddy Christ. The pop culture Jesus is a caricature of the historical and Biblical Jesus, picking one aspect of the Bible’s story of his life and exaggerating it to suit whatever story that pop culture wants to tell. It’s not entirely unlike the distinction between Godzilla in the movies and the historical Godira, which is, as few people know, the real reason for Hiroshima and Nagasaki.



Ok, I wasn't going to post this because it's off topic, but it's too good to keep to myself, so here you go.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Raccoon

I saw a raccoon last night on city campus. He was happily munching on garbage near a busy sidewalk, apparently not bothered by the proximity of many two-legged types. He let me get about ten feet from him (Lord knows where he got all those feet) before he calmly put a bit more distance between us. I’ve never seen a living raccoon before, as far as I can remember. It was fascinating.

Attorney Misconduct

Jack Thompson, the highly publicized anti-video-game lawyer, has been removed from a case against Sony and other defendants.
Thompson's withdrawl follows a motion by filed by Blank Rome, the defendents' law firm, that Thompson be removed from the case as well as have his license to practice law in Alabama revoked for ethical lapses such as "attacking and threatening" the Blank Rome attorneys as well as accusing the firm of conspiracy. According to Blank Rome's Jim Smith, Thompson "[couldn't] proceed with the civility the rules require. All lawyers have to conduct themselves with honesty, integrity and civility. This isn't a street fight."
Let's hope he gets disbarred, because not only has he threatened other attorneys, but he has filed complaints in bad faith against the good people of Penny Arcade. Jack Thompson, you give lawyers a bad name.

New Tax System

[I had some qualms about posting this, qualms of the qualmiest sort, the kind that qualm about out of fear that I will come off as pretentious or dull. But, you guys seem to like the posts that I’m scared about posting, so here you go.]

Be it enacted, by the People of the United States of America:
(a) The Income Tax, as it applies to individuals, is hereby abolished.
(b) An Asshole Tax of fifty dollars per instance shall be imposed on any person who
(1) Vandalizes another person’s vehicle;
(2) Parks in handicapped spot without the proper permit;
(3) Uses the middle urinal in a public restroom;
(4) Abuses a dog; or
(5) Promotes the terrorist organization known as Cobra.
(c) An Idiot Tax of one dollar per instance shall be imposed on any person who
(1) Listens to “pop” or “rap” music at any volume which can be heard by neighbors or other drivers;
(2) Plays Dance Dance Revolution while drunk;
(3) Posts on an Internet message board for the sole purpose of having the “first post”;
(4) Rents or buys any movie, other than Pitch Black, in which Vin Diesel is the star; or
(5) Drives a Mini Cooper.
(d) A tax return may be had on up to half of the taxed dollars for any individual in the amount of two dollars per instance for any of the following acts:
(1) Adopting an animal from a pet shelter;
(2) Helping an elderly person in need;
(3) Holding a door open to allow others to pass;
(4) Buying a round of drinks for everyone; or
(5) Putting a link on his or her site which links to Full Metal Attorney.
(e) To supplement the National Treasury, the Secretary shall have the authority to put slot machines on any property owned by the Federal Government, and to establish any casinos that he deems necessary.
Amendments to this statute can be proposed in the comments section.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Is the picture at left too distracting? I think it looks nifty-riffic, so let me know.

Wacky Domain Names

Source for these domain names:
Who Represents? (and a gift for your bitch)
Experts Exchange (and you wouldn't want an amateur cutting down there, now would you?)
Pen Island (you get all your ball-points there, but watch your balls)
Therapist Finder (find not only the person to help you through your problems, but the bastard that took advantage of you)
Mole Station Nursery (I don't think I'd want to take my kids there)
Power-Gen of Italy (because it's so much better than the manual kind)