"You have a point. An idiotic one, but a point." (from "All About Eve," 20th Century Fox, 1950)

Terror – Your Verdict

By Cyberquill 10/22/20166 Comments

Defying direct orders from his superiors to not engage, a German air force major takes it upon himself to shoot down a hijacked commercial jetliner headed for a packed soccer stadium in Munich. By taking the deliberate action to kill the 164 people aboard, he presumably saves 70,000 lives in the stadium. Nonetheless, the major is put on trial for 164 counts of murder.

This sums up the premise of a televised courtroom drama, titled Terror—Ihr Urteil (“Terror—Your Verdict”), that aired in German-speaking countries earlier this week. At its conclusion, the home viewers were invited to play jury. In Germany and Austria, 86.9% of those who called or texted in their verdicts voted to acquit, as did 84% in Switzerland.

The case presents us with a vexing moral dilemma: can it ever be justified to kill few to save many? Under what circumstances, if any, does it behoove us to play God, as it were?

Modern ethics teaches that every human life is infinitely precious. It follows that two human lives—or a … Read More →

Piling on The Don

By Cyberquill 10/16/20162 Comments

If, as one female MSNBC morning anchor has stated, the fear of being branded a liar indeed clocks in as the primary reason why many women hesitate to come forward with sexual assault allegations, then three weeks before a presidential election seems like the absolutely worst time to open up about having been indecently assailed by one of the candidates, for at that point every self-styled assault victim airing such tales is practically guaranteed to be branded a liar, a dupe, and an attention strumpet by up to half of the American electorate.

One lady, sobbing in the arms of damsel-in-high-profile-distress counselor in chief Gloria Allred, a gaggle of microphones and cameras pointed at her as she sniveled her way through her abuse story, said she had decided to speak up because she “just wanted to be able to sleep at night.” So apparently, the poor woman hadn’t slept since 2007 (the year of the alleged assault), and that nine-year-long sleep deficit had finally … Read More →

To Wall or Not to Wall

By Cyberquill 10/11/20164 Comments

Mikhail Baryshnikov said that “forty two years ago I left a country that built walls to come to a place without them.” Echoing this theme, President Obama, in his farewell address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York, warned that “a nation ringed by walls would only imprison itself.”

When you’re in prison, you are indeed surrounded by walls. Oddly enough, though, when you’re at home in your living room, you are also surrounded by walls. And if you’re like most people, the walls of your house or your apartment feel very different from prison walls—but how come? If walls are walls, as the ballerino and the president appear to imply, then why don’t all walls imprison?

Obviously, different walls serve different functions. Prison walls prevent you from getting out. The walls in your home, by contrast, in conjunction with one or more doors for which you hold the keys, not only permit you to enter and exit at your discretion but also protect you from unbidden visitors by … Read More →

How Native to Florida are Burmese Pythons?

By Cyberquill 06/21/201639 Comments

Alligators are native to Florida. Burmese pythons are not … or are they?

While pinpointing the genesis of the Sunshine State’s burgeoning Burmese python population has proven elusive, it appears that at some point in the second half of the 20th century an unspecified number of imported pet pythons either escaped or were dumped into the Everglades.

First sightings date back to the 1980s.

Perhaps some recovering reptile aficionado woke up one day and resolved to trade his private constrictor collection for something a little more low maintenance. Because Al Gore hadn’t invented the Internet yet, googling “how to properly dispose of pet pythons” wasn’t an option, and so he loaded his scaly friends onto his pickup, drove them out into the Floridian wetlands, where he assumed—quite correctly, as it turns out (and to the detriment of the local mammalian fauna)—they’d feel reasonably at home, bid the slithering knot of serpents a heartfelt … Read More →

The Donald and the Judge

By Cyberquill 06/08/201610 Comments

Speaker Paul Ryan, reacting to dontopedalogist*-in-chief Donald Trump’s assertion that Mexican-American Judge Gonzalo Curiel’s judicial stance in the Trump University matter derives from anti-Trump bias born out of a general Mexican displeasure with the specter of a Southern border wall that would complicate the evasion of immigration check points for those that prefer to cross the U.S.-Mexican border on the q.t., declared that “claiming a person can’t do their job because of their race is sort of like the textbook definition of a racist comment.”

* Dontopedalogy—the art and practice of putting one’s foot in one’s mouth

As we speak, pundits and politicians are practically falling over one another decrying Trump’s comments about Judge Curiel as “racist.”

But how is it necessarily “racist” to call into question a person’s impartiality because of their national descent, prejudiced and baseless as doing so may be?

Last time I checked, Mexico was a country, not a race. Just as Austria is a country, not a race. It seems … Read More →

Defining “Survivor”

By Cyberquill 05/30/20164 Comments

Late last year, Hillary Clinton tweeted that “[e]very survivor of sexual assault deserves to be heard, believed, and supported.”

Who could possibly argue with that?

Ms Clinton’s pronouncement is as non-controversial as it is cleverly phrased. One expects nothing less from a lawyer/politician than to excel at crafting statements that say one thing but seem to say another, so that at some later point s/he can refer to having ” very clearly” articulated either this or that.

Of course, every survivor of sexual assault—or any assault, for that matter—deserves to be believed and supported.

The tricky part, which the tweet so cagily dodges, is to distinguish between assault survivors and individuals that made bogus assault claims (and who, therefore, are not assault survivors as pertains to the alleged assault(s) at issue).

Although the tweet sounds like suggesting that every person purporting to be a survivor of sexual assault … Read More →

Young at Heart

By Cyberquill 05/20/20164 Comments

Jerry Lewis, then going on eighty, once put his real age at about nine. “If I had scissors, I’d cut your tie,” he told the interviewer.

No matter the degree to which Little Jerry may have been joshing or exaggerating as pertains to himself, why shouldn’t it be possible for a person to remain forever young at heart, to use a somewhat prosaic cliché?

Might you, in fact, feel so young at heart that you genuinely identify as a ten-year-old immured in the body of a grownup? And if so, why should you be charged full price wherever minors get in for half? Wouldn’t having your true age discounted in favor of the age of the vessel you inhabit constitute arrant discrimination?

After all, who are you really? Your spirit or your shell?

One problem, of course, would be the inherent unfalsifiability of your claim that your aging castle houses a perennial child—a problem entirely unrelated to the … Read More →

The Sexist Pronoun

By Cyberquill 05/10/20166 Comments

Anyone who has ever dabbled in writing has likely encountered the vexing conundrum of having had to select—without running the risk of distracting his/her/his or her/their readers from the actual substance of the text by prompting them to try and glean the writer’s socio-political leanings from his/her/his or her/their selection—the aptest pronoun to refer back to a non-specific individual of undefined sex, as in Before you entrust a physician with your health, you may want to ask him/her/him or her/them if he/she/(s)he/he or she/they know(s) the difference between a femur and a spleen.

In cases where it would be impractical to preemptively sidestep this literary land mine altogether by simply pluralizing the noun in question and then using they, the hallowed The Elements of Style, published several decades ago, squarely recommends going with the traditional—and nowadays arguably sexist—he over the activist-sounding she, the thrice longer (“Omit needless words!”) he or she, the numerically mismatching and … Read More →

The Artist Currently Known as The Boss

By Cyberquill 04/25/201615 Comments

Earlier this moth, Bruce Springsteen canceled a concert in North Carolina in protest over its government’s religious freedom legislation, which allows Christian businesses to refuse service if providing it conflicts with their faith, and bans individuals from using public bathrooms that match their stated gender identity rather than their biological sex.

Yet last night, opening his show in NYC with a cover version of Purple Rain, Mr Springsteen chose to pay a manifestly heartfelt tribute to a—by all accounts—very devout and active member of a church (Jehovah’s Witnesses) that expressly opposes same-sex marriage, regards homosexuality as a sin, and teaches in the least mistakable of terms that “God created humans to engage in sex only within the arrangement of marriage between a male and a female.” (I’m quoting straight, pardon the pun, from their website.)

Methinks if one feels that an artist like Prince shouldn’t be reduced to his religion and hence doesn’t deserve to be excoriated and shunned for some of its arguably bigoted tenets, one might as well be of the mind that an entire state and its people shouldn’t be reduced to and shunned for some of its arguably bigoted laws.

I’m not quite sure I follow the boss’s logic (assuming he has one) when it comes to genuflecting versus boycotting.

Fortress Europe

By Cyberquill 03/20/201612 Comments

Opposition to a so-called “Fortress Europe”—i.e., the enforcement of designated points of entry, a requisite corollary to the outlandish concept that a country, or a union of nations, should be in a position to ascertain the identity and regulate the flow of new arrivals—appears to rest on the daringly sanguine premise that the number of migrants entering through unsecured borders will never exceed a certain limit at which Europe’s capacity to distribute and integrate newcomers in a humane and orderly manner would be exhausted and all-out chaos would ensue.

In other words, that no matter how many famines and civil wars break out on this warming and ever more drought-ridden planet of seven billion people—to which, at the present rate, another billion is added every thirteen years—the number of refugees and asylum seekers pouring into Europe will always remain manageable (at least assuming the E.U. were to eventually get its act together on the equitable distribution front).

That the number will cap itself, as it were, commensurate with Europe’s ability to handle the … Read More →

Playing with Matches

By Cyberquill 03/15/2016Leave a Comment

Anytime a woman was, or felt, sexually molested in some way, it is the mother of all unforgivable no-nos to imply, be it ever so subtly, let alone to openly suggest, that she—via her apparel (or the economy thereof), her arguably flirtatious manner, her state of inebriation, etc.—may have sent a wrong or mixed signal that an individual with low impulse control and a proclivity for aggression could conceivably have mistaken for an invitation to engage in improper conduct toward her.

Even if a young lady, no matter how many sheets to the wind, rips off her clothes and launches into a racy pole dance at a drunken rager, enlightened people will agree that in doing so she is in no way whatsoever “encouraging” indecent advances by any of the onlooking frat boys. Period. End of story. If bad things happen, and you were to sink so low as to dare insinuate that her behavior, although not having outright provoked them, may not exactly have been conducive to preventing those … Read More →

How Do You Know I’m Not a Woman?

By Cyberquill 03/09/20164 Comments

On Monday, New York City’s mayor signed an executive order requiring that people in city-owned buildings be allowed to use bathrooms and locker rooms based on their gender identity, regardless of their anatomy, and without having to present any kind of proof-of-gender documentation.

I have discoursed upon this subject before, but its intricacies continue to fascinate me, so may the rare return visitor pardon the deja read.

Let’s say I enter a gym, sign up for a membership, pay my fee, the receptionist welcomes me to the club, wishes me a great workout, points me in the general direction of the locker rooms, but instead of walking into the men’s locker room, I walk into the women’s locker room and start changing into my workout clothes.

Presumably, it won’t be long before someone approaches and politely (or not so politely) informs me that … Read More →

Affirmative Acting #OscarsSoWhite

By Cyberquill 02/26/20168 Comments

Racial minorities—blacks in particular—and women form the two major historically discriminated-against classes of people in the United States. (Hard to say which is worse, sexism or racism, but ideally you wouldn’t want to be accused of either.)

The bad news is that this year’s Academy Awards feature exactly zero non-white nominees in the acting categories.

The good news is that, as always, exactly 50% of acting nominees are female; and, as always, half of all acting Oscars will go to women.

Obviously, by way of segregating actors by sex, a gender-based quota system was effectively built into the very fabric of the Academy Awards; one that fairly accurately reflects the proportion of the sexes among the general population; whereas no such mandatory quota has been introduced for … Read More →

Too Many People

By Cyberquill 01/04/20164 Comments

For the mother of all looming calamities, all but guaranteed to put paid to civilization and mankind as we know it in the not too unforeseeable future, compared to some of its ineluctable side effects like environmental destruction and mass migrations, the global overpopulation disaster itself appears to cause surprisingly few tongues to wag and scant ink to spill by way of sounding the ground proximity warning system in humanity’s cockpit.

One of Mahatma Gandhi’s most popular aphorisms may provide the most plausible explanation for the universal reluctance to call a spade a spade, as it were, when it comes to global overcrowding. Gandhi famously decreed that “we must be the change we want to see in this world.”

In other words, if we think there are too many people in the world, we’re obviously one of them. It follows that the most intuitive measure to take in keeping with … Read More →

The Right to Self-Identify

By Cyberquill 11/26/20156 Comments

We live in a society that places ever more importance upon respecting the way individuals self-identify.

If someone refers to herself as a woman, it’s not in our place to question her femininity simply because she lacks certain assets traditionally associated with being female, or because, as per our blinkered expectations, some of her anatomical appurtenances squarely contradict her claim to womanhood as we’ve been conditioned to define it.

And if someone is 90% one race and 10% another, the progressive and hence enlightened stance is to regard that person as whichever race he or she identifies with, not whichever race we may intuitively assign him or her based on percentages and stereotypes. (This goes so far that we’ve had a somewhat serious debate over whether an all-white lady ought to be granted her wish to be accepted as black because that’s how she views herself.)

Yet then we’re told that violent jihadists aren’t really Muslims no matter how much they … Read More →