Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Show Goes On As Scripted

So Barack Obama is "outraged" by the comments his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, made recently? Big surprise. Obama clearly can't disavow what Wright said while Obama was sitting in the pews (although he can claim not to have been there), but he can say "This is too far" now that Wright has retired. It gives Obama his Sister Soujah moment. I have a hard time believing that Jackson, Sharpton, and so on are truly against him; I think they're trying to show that Obama's not [just] a candidate for black racists.

I really wish the Democrats would put up a non-scumbag one of these days; by my recollection the last one they nominated was Michael Dukakis.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Not What It Looks Like

Check this out. (Seemingly disturbing, but not actually so.)

(via commenter "Hollowpoint" at Ace's (language warning))

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Why Not Tibet?

Ben Domenech recently posted about China's crackdown on Tibet and wants to know why conservatives have essentially ignored the issue. It's true, he points out, that this is normally seen as a left-liberal issue, but he can't find any sort of ideological reason for the political right to be silent (although a few voices here and there are found).

He's right, of course: this is a case like Sudan, where the human rights of a religious and ethnic minority are very clearly being violated by a repressive regime. He doesn't mention it in his post, but similar persecution occurs regarding Christians (including forced "ordinations" of Catholic "bishops") and the Muslim Uighur population in western China, plus the Falun Gong which everyone's heard about.

I'm going to say that the reasons are practical, rather than political (don't think I'm criticizing Ben: he's a smart cookie and knows that this is the reason). It's practical out of both political necessity and out of human nature.

On the one hand, America has a lot on its plate. We've got uncontrolled immigration from Mexico on our southern border, a War on Terror going on, tinpot dictators in Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea, and Iran threatening to overthrow the Great Satan and install either a Worker's Paradise or Sharia law and dhimmitude, a weakened dollar, a huge national deficit, a trade imbalance, and...well, you can probably add another half-dozen things off the top of your head. China isn't an immediate threat to us and doesn't appear to be on the verge of invading (or re-invading...) Taiwan, Vietnam, Siberia, or the Korean peninsula. We've got bigger fish to fry, politically speaking. We're saying "nice doggy" right now because our stick is otherwise engaged: we only barely managed to attack Iraq while still officially at war with it and couldn't even muster any sort of will to stop the genocide in Darfur. What does anyone expect our government to do versus a country with about a fifth of the world's population and who is a huge trading partner of ours?

Yes, the idealists would say that we should declare an official boycott, not to mention skipping out on the Olympic Games in Beijing this summer. I wish we could, but with all that's going on we don't need the a billion screaming Chinese ticked off at us as well. They know that they can physically appropriate any of the countries/regions around them if they put their mind to it and we're in no position to expel or even stop them short of maybe South Korea.

This gets us to both the solution and the second part of the problem. The solution is for we as ordinary Americans to declare an unofficial boycott of Chinese products. I already do this, wavering between an outright ban and only buying things Made in China if I can't find an alternative. The problem is that human nature, especially among Americans, has a hard time staying focused on a distant, foreign threat for too long. The girl in your class you want to ask out is of very high importance to us, but the possibility that the slippers you're wearing might have been made by the slave labor of pro-democracy protesters isn't very high in people's minds. An awareness campaign might help, but who would do it? Social-issues groups are focused on domestic matters. Among those more economically minded there's a Catch-22: China is "Communist" so the political left supports them, but they also make production less costly so the political right doesn't want to spoil a good thing, either.

What's needed is for everyday people to demand that their things be made elsewhere. This is going to be tough: you can probably find a reason not to buy from just about anyone if you search hard enough. However, it's not impossible. Most of the rest Asia and Central America have manufacturing capacity (not to mention, you know, ourselves...). If everyone, for instance, who bought a hammer decided to get the one made in Taiwan or the Philippines instead of the one made in China and left a comment card saying why they did so, you'd see store managers factor this into their decision-making.

It's not that easy, though: some things only seem to be made in China these days (sandals and dumbbells come to mind from my own experience), while things sold online rarely list the country of origin unless it's Made in the USA. You can't really expect people to call a fistfull of companies every time they want to buy a new vacuum cleaner or toilet plunger (besides, if you need a toilet plunger and the grocery store only has ones made in China...well, you've got yourself a dilemma, haven't you?). Chinese stuff is also inexpensive, and that's an important factor as well.

I had an idea to start a website where people could check where the products they want are made. Contributors would take it on themselves to cover a niche and report back; I did this before buying my laptop and discovered that only Dell and Fujitsu make their computers in places other than in China (although being Taiwanese companies, I suspect Asus and Acer do so as well). This is obviously easier for things like appliances and harder for toilet plungers and dental floss (although given recent events I wouldn't dare put anything made in China into my mouth).

In short, there's just no real support for the matter because it's out of sight and would involve an awful lot of effort to remedy. If we can help lay a foundation, it might give an exposure effort more traction. Taking on all of China is political suicide, but forcing a chain like Target or a brand like Sony to certify their products as "Human Rights Safe" would be helpful. If people can shop for "organic" food and "fair-trade" coffee then they have the will to do this as well.

There are some problems with this idea, it should be pointed out. The biggest is that if done wrong it could be like the radical Abolitionists who were a major factor for the sparking of the Civil War; this needs to be not only a peaceful protest but one with a reasonable scope of action. We're not going to solve this in a year or even probably a decade.

What do you think?

Amazon Humor


That said, I'm fascinated and entranced by my Leatherman Micra. Now I just need to find a use for it...


May America be blessed as Italy is, and may both nations be further blessed by similarly-principled physicians.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Upgrading from Vista to XP

Well, I was going to, but apparently you can only do that if you have Windows Professional and I have Windows Home. Tragic.

I've got 2GB of RAM in this computer and despite this my programs are getting sketchier and sketchier in their execution by the day. Half-Life 2 is choppy on even the lowest settings; this is odd in that it's a 2004 game that even my old laptop could handle without fuss.

My guess is that this stems from one of the updates that Windows Updater seems unable to install. Update KB938194 failed to install last August and things have been getting weirder and weirder since then. Of course, with finals coming up, I'm not willing to mess around too much, as several of my friends have lost all their notes and course outlines lately and I'm in no mood to have the same happen to me.

Microsoft: You're 0-for-2 lately. You'd better pick up your game or I'm off for the world of Open Source.

The TribalPundit Guide to Wine, Women, and Song: Classical Music: Byrd's Infelix Ego

I'd like to recommend to you the piece "Infelix ego" by William Byrd, especially as sung by Oxford Camerata (yes, it's the album I recommended in the post below this).

William Byrd was one of the foremost composers of Renaissance sacred music. Byrd and his mentor, Thomas Tallis, are notable not merely in that they are the two foremost English composers in the Renaissance style, but that they composed sacred music during the English Reformation and managed to stay on the good side of the Roman Catholics, Anglicans, and Protestants. Which group Tallis agreed with seems to be hard to pin down, but Byrd was emphatically a Catholic (in his Mass for Three Voices, he has all of the voices normally doing their own thing come together for the word "catholicam" in the Credo and the again drifting apart). The view at the time was that musicians were no threat to the social harmony and so Byrd was tolerated.

"Infelix ego" is a meditation on Psalm 51 written by Girolamo Savonarola, a zealous and strict Dominican friar who became ruler of Florence from 1494-1498 before being excommunicated and deposed. He was tortured into signing confessions of heresy and other crimes; it was in remorse for this that he composed "Infelix ego," which means "Unhappy [wretch] [that] I am." This writing was one of the handful of Savonarola's works which escaped being put on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum and was set by many composers, especially in England. I couldn't find the Latin words online (here's the English translation), so I copied them down from the booklet accompanying another album with a different version (I'm going to go out on a limb and say that whatever claims to copyright may have ever existed are long gone by now).

Infelix ego, omnium auxilio destitutus, qui coelum terramque offendi. Quo ibo? Quo me vertam? Ad quem confugiam? Quis mei miserabitur? Ad coelum levare oculos non audeo, quia ei graviter peccavi. In terra refugium non invenio, quia ei scandalum fui.

Quid igitur faciam? Desperabo? Absit. Misericors est Deus, pius est salvator meus. Solus igitur Deus refugium meum: ipse non despiciet opus suum, non repellet imaginem suam.

Ad te igitur, piisime Deus, tristis ac moerens venio, quoniam tu solus spes mea, tu solus refugium meum. Quid autem dicam tibi? Cum oculos levare non audeo, verba doloris effundam, misericordiam tuam implorabo, et dicam: Miserere mei, Deus, secundum magnam misericordiam tuam.

Find and listen to the version by Oxford Camerata. I've heard the version by Stilo Antico, and while it's good, there's an important difference between the two. To me, Stilo Antico's version is a little more down-to-earth: it's slower, and the climax of the song is done less hauntingly. In the Oxford Camerata version, the climax occurs with "Miserere mei, Deus" at 11:42, but please trust me when I tell you not to go there immediately. That climax is one of the most beautiful moments in all of music; I had the album playing in the background as I was working and when it happened I was just frozen and transfixed by it. You need to listen to the piece as a whole to get the most of it, though.

I downloaded it from eMusic, but Napster and iTunes have it as well. Remember that it's the version by Jeremy Summerly & Oxford Camerata, and that it's by Byrd, not Lassus.

Zuned Out

You know, I was prepared to get a Microsoft Zune 8GB and like the heck out of it. I don't like how iPods won't play WMA files, and so I thought it'd be great to use a device which lets me just plug into my computer. Well, no. Microsoft, you fail.

I don't like that I have to specifically use Zune software; why can't I use Windows Media Player (try and guess who manufactures this program, if you can) to sync? Well, I figured, no huge deal: I'll just install the Zune player and let it work its magic. It's kind of skimpy, though: there's not even a way (that I could find) to sort music by genre. This is odd, as the version of Zune that I already had (and was forced to upgrade from before I was allowed to transfer music) let me do this. So does Windows Media Player. Even this was tolerable; I use WMP to play my music anyway so a tiny bit of extra hassle in sending the files over isn't the end of the world. What pushed things over the edge is that all the time-intensive editing I did on my classical and sacred music isn't recognized at all. Let me explain.

Some albums are simple: they have one work (such as Bach's Mass in B Minor) and all I had to do was change the tags so that the album artist was "Bach, JS" and the album title was "Mass in B Minor (The Sixteen)". Other albums, however, include several works. I tend to prefer to listen to the works separately, so that this album (which I very highly recommend) is divided into "Mass for Four Voices", "Infelix ego", and "Mass for Five Voices"; it's even harder when the works aren't all by the same composer. I'm not a complete nut, though: I only do this when several of the tracks are part of a larger work; compilation albums stay pretty much as they are.

Zune puts everything back as it originally was. Did I say that a better genre than "Classical" for Bach's Mass in B Minor was "Sacred"? Zune don't care. Did I divide an album of two works by two different composers? Zune don't care. Am I going to put up with this? Nope: the Zune gets returned tomorrow.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

One Year

I don't know if anyone came here yesterday looking for commentary on the one year anniversary of the shootings at Virginia Tech; I apologize if you were hoping for my take on things. I think I've pretty much come to the conclusion that I don't really want to talk about it. Don't think I don't appreciate the kindnesses that have been shown to me and to Virginia Tech over the past year; I remember things like that for a very, very long time. Just as an example, I remember that University of Virginia students had an Orange-and-Maroon Day and painted one of their bridges in memory of our loss. Most conversations I have just seem to go "Yes, I was there. No, I wasn't a student. Yes, it's sad." That may have just been me being worn out over the matter. It would be profoundly ungrateful not to acknowledge the humbling amount of support there's been, so as just one Hokie let me say it: Thank You.

It's weird: there are plenty of things that can make me sad, but not in a way that just hits me. I can be just driving along, find myself thinking about Tech, and before I know it my eyes are suddenly watery and I have to think about baseball or tax policy or something I'm not very interested in so as not to break down. It's stupid, as I wasn't in Norris Hall and I only knew one of the victims even slightly. I didn't get this way over September 11th.

After one year, though, it feels as though there's less of a weight, as though a period of mourning is finally over. The sentiment among Hokies over the past year has been "We are Virginia Tech. We will prevail." I think we can change the tense of the second part of that; we are prevailing.

That said, I'm still bitter about the ban of firearms on campus. Most classrooms, including most at Virginia Tech and many here at William & Mary, are absolute deathtraps. I have no idea how even they're even safe in case of fire, let alone a gunman. People seem to think we'll have the Wild West if guns are allowed; I have trouble staying high-road in my thinking when this argument is made. Let me say it one more time: the Virginia Tech and William & Mary policies only disarm the very students who are most likely to be responsible. Virginia Tech's administration has blood on its hands; I hope the same can never be said for William & Mary's.

That said, I'm working on seeing what kind of options are available here. I know that the current policy allows only one exception: permission by the Dean of Students. I don't believe she's likely to grant it. The Board of Visitors has the ability to alter the Code of Conduct; I have yet to speak with them. I don't know whether anyone higher in the administration could compel the Dean of Students to grant permission. Obviously, I don't believe that a public university has the right to forbid citizens with Concealed Handgun Permits to carry (under threat of academic discipline). However, I'm willing to work within whatever framework is necessary to solve this problem.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Some Things I've Learned in Law School

1. The police are not obligated to attempt to come to your aid. If someone mugs you and a cop is standing right there and decides not to intervene, that's your problem.
-Castle Rock v. Gonzalez (2005)

This means that if a mass murderer comes into my classroom and starts shooting at me and my classmates are legally on our own (it already being established that the College of William & Mary has declared campus a Second Amendment -free zone). Then again, maybe I'm paranoid. It's not like anyone would ever shoot up a law school or a public university in Virginia, and certainly not this decade.

2. No matter how well-kept your property is, if your neighbors have let their places fall apart, the state can take your property under eminent domain by claiming "community redevelopment."
-Kelo v. City of New London (2004)

Especially while at Virginia Tech, I did a fair amount of volunteering with a group of Evangelical missionaries up in Chester, PA. One of the main things they did was operate a mission school for those in the Chester-Upland School District (last-ranked in all of Pennsylvania) that basically said "Pay what you can; we'll find a way to cover the rest." They had two buildings: Douglass, where the elementary school (and when I first started volunteering, a small middle school program) were operating, and Carver, across the street, where they were hoping to eventually start a middle and high school. In the wake of Kelo, the city decided that a better use for Carver would be a parking lot for the horse-racing track they were hoping to build. They eventually used it to build low-income housing after taking it from the missionaries.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Democratic Nomination

Look, Barack Obama is not going to get the Democratic nomination. Hillary Clinton is. Polls, delegates, and so on don't matter: she has it in her sights and will obtain it. Now, she may get crushed by McCain in the general election (although possibly not), but she will have it. She'll destroy what's left of Bill Clinton's "legacy" among Democrats, and Obama will be consigned to the Senate for the rest of his career (although I think he'll eventually go back to academics).

I think the Democratic Party will ultimately be glad they didn't run him, too.

As TS O'Rama notes in the comments, mine is a pretty darn bold prediction, and so I feel as though I should give a better account of my reasoning.

The way it seems to me, it's just a function of how much Hillary Clinton wants the nomination in relation to all other factors. This is her raison d'etre. I can't say it was the case from the beginning, but certainly by 1992 her marriage with Bill was largely, and perhaps completely, one of mutual political benefit: she acts as the proper wife-prop for a President, and in return he uses his charisma and capital with the Democrats to get her to high office (and allowing her to pursue policy while he's in office; her quote "I want domestic" in exchange for not divorcing Bill for his affair with Gennifer Flowers). She was essentially given a Senate seat and it was known that she'd eventually have her turn to run for the Presidency with the Democratic nomination. I strongly suspect that the reason Hillary threw an ashtray at Bill (the sitting President of the United States!) upon learning of Monica Lewinsky wasn't for his unfaithfulness but for damaging his image and her future chances.

However, in the primaries another not-while-male candidate who had been gifted a Senate seat and was being groomed for greater things showed dazzling charisma and his message of "hope and change" resonated more powerfully with the Democratic base (if not necessarily centrists and political independents). I also strongly suspect that for Barack Obama 2008 was meant to be a warm-up, either to be Clinton's Vice-President or to run in 2012 or 2016 once he had some more US Senate experience under his belt (as his political resume is pretty thin). Edwards was the socialist from the losing 2004 ticket, and was never a serious threat. Nor was Bill Richardson, who while being a governor and being hispanic, wasn't very exciting (not to mention how hard it must be to gain traction as the "First Hispanic President" with a last name like his). Obama had an exotic name, a great stage presence (his voice is different now...early in the campaign it sounds like he was trying to imitate David Palmer), and was a fresh new face.

This leaves the Democrats with a problem: Clinton was supposed to be the nominee. The skeletons are (presumably) out of her closet and she's a seasoned politician (and a woman!). Whichever old white guy the Republicans put up, especially in the wake of two relatively unpopular Bush administrations, presumably would get creamed. This election was theirs for the taking. However, Obama's sudden and unexpected ascendancy screwed up the timeframe. Instead of a potential sixteen years of uninterrupted Democratic Party control over the Executive Branch, they risk another four or even eight years of the GOP.

Hillary Clinton has sacrificed everything for this chance. I can't see how she could be bought off: she's not fit for the Supreme Court (not to mention that the Chief Justice is relatively young) and Senate Majority Leader isn't much of a prize. If she doesn't get the nomination, all the years of the cheating husband, the knowing smirks, the pretenses require politics will have been for, in the end, nothing. MAYBE she could run in 2012...but only if Obama loses in the general election. This is her chance, and if it means clawing her way over Obama's political corpse then so be it: the Democratic party obviously isn't going to simply sit out the election; it'll be forced to rally behind her. Besides, she's the wife of the "Comeback Kid" and in her mind she's just as capable (and probably more) than he is.

Bill Clinton also can't afford for her not to get the nomination: he's also staked everything on it. Before, he was the beloved elder statesman of his party, with the base pining for the years of his administration. Now...he's lost that. He's somewhat despised, and for a man reportedly concerned so much about his legacy that's clearly unacceptable.

To the Clintons, there is no tomorrow. The upstart Obama must be crushed...either he'll agree to run as VP or he'll be brought down in a hail of scandals and suspect political affiliations.

Some have mentioned Al Gore as a potential "compromise" candidate, but what this ignores is how polarized the primary has become: it's seen as the historic race where either a woman or a minority will finally break the long streak of white men. Al Gore is...a white man. His nomination would be seen as a betrayal by both Clinton and especially Obama loyalists, who may simply sit out the general election or vote for a third-party candidate.

The Democrats know what they face: a centrist Republican war hero with (presumably) no skeletons in his closet. He still fairly spry, but he's old: it's conceivable that his VP could take over due to future illness or death of McCain and maybe even be elected in his own right once...or even twice. Obama, assuming he's not a charred corpse by June, isn't going to win enough of the center. Gore would lose some of the base, even if he did pick up some of the middle. Clinton, for all her faults, is seen as at least sorta-kinda on a similar footing with McCain: centrist-ish Senators with years of political experience. Running Clinton is the "safe" option: she has a shot at winning, and even a loss wouldn't be too terrible: the Dems could take credit for running the first female candidate for president. Having finally exorcised her from their future, they would probably still have Obama as a viable candidate (and this time with experience) next time.

Clinton is the safest bet for the Democrats and the one by whom they'll lose least in terms of political capital.


Let me tell you: the energy shot drinks like Five Hour Energy Drink both work and have side effects. They do work: I'm awake and don't feel tired at all. On the other hand, I kind of want to stand up, yell, and run a lap around the law school and then swing from a tree. So yes, there are side effects.

A Realization

This is not my beautiful house.

This is not my beautiful wife.

How did I get here?