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

Yes, Me Too

By Cyberquill 11/17/2017Leave a Comment

It happened when I was thirteen years old, not on the way to the forum but in the foyer of a small theater in Austria.

I was bidding good-night to a group of people after a show, and when my turn came for what I expected to go down in history as no more than a pedestrian handshake with a rather toothsome 19-year-old acquaintance, she suddenly, without warning or having ascertained my consent—which, even had it been sought and obtained, would have been irrelevant on account of my having been underage even by Austrian standards—pushed her lips against mine for a second or two.

Needless to say, given my budding puberty and the pulchritude of the predator, following the incident I sojourned on cloud nine for weeks.

For decades thereafter, I would remember and cherish the experience as my first kiss of sorts.

Of late, however, in light of escalating public awareness regarding objectionable transgressions of a … Read More →

The Fundamental Right to Buy

By Cyberquill 10/12/201710 Comments

The Trump administration has announced a rollback of the legal requirement for companies to include contraceptive coverage in their employees’ health plans.

This move is being widely denounced as an access restriction and hence as an infringement of a woman’s right to birth control.

Of course, having to pay for anything is an access restriction. My being charged eighty cents for a pack of Doublemint circumscribes my freedom to chew gum, a freedom proportional to my ability and willingness to pony up the cash.

Although reasonable people may differ on whether there exists a constitutional or otherwise fundamental right to chew gum, there does exist—love it or hate it—a fundamental right to “keep and bear arms,” which the Constitution explicitly instructs “shall not be infringed.”

Strangely, no one ever seems to decry as a fundamental-rights-infringing kind of … Read More →

The Purest of Evils

By Cyberquill 10/05/201717 Comments

Johnny Cash once recounted that when writing Folsom Prison Blues, he’d asked himself what would be the worst possible reason to kill someone.

The man in black came up with the memorable line Well, I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die.

Indeed, bad as terrorism is, there are still worse reasons for killing people.

Although the search for motives in the Las Vegas massacre is still ongoing, from the preliminary looks of it, to call this particular mass murderer a “terrorist” would be an insult to terrorists.

Herculean a task as it certainly seems to find something “positive” to say about terrorism, at least its perpetrators fight—and kill—for causes bigger than just themselves, generally speaking.

Those causes may be utterly absurd, like propitiating some deity; or arguably rational, such as drawing … Read More →

More, More, More

By Cyberquill 07/15/201726 Comments

Being interviewed along with his BFF and presidential successor at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas last Thursday, Bill Clinton lamented that

If you look at America, we’re only having a 2.1 replacement of our native-born population from natural births. We can’t continue to grow this economy unless we grow more diverse and take in more immigrants.”

The only good economy, we have been told ad nauseam, is a growing economy. Just as sharks must stay in motion in order to survive, economies must grow, grow, grow—but where to? What’s the end game?

Every gardener knows that, in order to prevent over-growth, growing things must be pruned on a regular basis: lawns must be mowed, brush must be cleared, hedges must be trimmed, trees must be cut back so as to minimize the danger of their being knocked over by a storm and crashing into the house, etc.; lest, at some point, one has grown an unmanageable jungle.

So why must economies, by contrast, … Read More →

Your Identity, Your Sex, and Your Pelvis

By Cyberquill 07/10/2017Leave a Comment

Except in the extraordinarily rare case of true hermaphroditism, there comes a moment immediately following a person’s birth when the obstetrician—or the midwife, or the midwife-turned-cabdriver, or whoever happens to be on hand assisting in the delivery—announces either “it’s a boy” or “it’s a girl.”

There comes another moment, a few centuries or millennia later, when an anthropologist digs up that person’s bones and seconds the original verdict, the pelvis being “the best sex-related skeletal indicator.”

In between those two events, i.e., during his or her lifetime, that person may vehemently contest said verdict and, with utmost sincerity, identify as the other sex, assume any or all of the trappings and behaviors commonly associated with the other, and even go so far as to undergo a range of medical procedures so as to approximate the other as best as possible.

As touched on in the previous post, why the transition from male to female in particular—i.e., the adoption of elements of a traditionally marginalized segment of … Read More →

My Kingdom for a Cogent Defnition

By Cyberquill 06/22/20172 Comments

Certain concepts, it seems, were cooked up by online content creators for the sole purpose of riling up that place known as “the Internet,” as in “the Internet erupts with outrage over [insert furor du jour].”

You can spot such concepts in that they are generally ill-defined and laden with half-baked inconsistencies, leaving it to the Internet itself to iron out the kinks until, at some point, an approximation of coherence may (or may not) emerge from the muddle.

As a shining example, let’s take a look at this barrel of drugged trout—thanks to the late David Foster Wallace for the foregoing locution—known as “cultural appropriation.”

So some company releases a poster (an ad of some sort) showing three non-Native-American ladies, including a Caucasian one, rocking war bonnets.

The Internet erupts with outrage. War bonnets, it insists, belong to the indigenous, and no one else has … Read More →

The Enemy Within

By Cyberquill 06/05/20175 Comments

Donald J. Trump’s “travel ban,” which he has now officially doubled down on calling it, may well be a most ineffective anti-terrorism measure for a variety of reasons, not to mention of questionable constitutionality.

Hands-down the oddest argument against it, though, is the oft-floated prediction that such a ban would do little to prevent the escalating problem of “home-grown” attacks, since these attacks are carried out not by immigrants and refugees from Muslim nations but by the—already natural-born—offspring of immigrants and refugees from Muslim nations.

On what logic is pointing to the threat posed by the second generation a rational argument in favor of admitting more of the first?

There are, of course, rational and compelling reasons for admitting more of the first, such as basic humanity and a moral obligation to help, even at the expense of sacrificing some of our physical security by offering others far more physical security than they’re used to. It may not be entirely outlandish to ask why we, owing to nothing but the geographical birth lottery, should be exempt from experiencing an occasional taste of the kind of violence that is par for the course in other parts of the world. What makes us so special that we ought to have a right to enjoy a level of safety unattainable to others?

But let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that we are not sacrificing some of our security by extending a helping hand to a people an ever so tiny percentage of whom appear extraordinarily susceptible to the peculiar notion that blowing up a mall will take them to paradise. (Keep in mind that one eighth of one percent is 1,200, and consider the national security challenge posed by even a paltry few hundred jihadist time bombs merrily plotting away in your country, be it the size of Germany or as large as the United States.)

In related news, earlier today, British Prime Minister Theresa May, campaigning for the general … Read More →

The Blogmaster at the Microphone

By Cyberquill 05/15/20172 Comments

The Barking of the Sheep

By Cyberquill 05/09/2017Leave a Comment

The other day, while channel-flipping my way through a commercial break, the TV screen suddenly filled up with dozens of bleating quadrupeds.

Because these critters looked so very adorable, I lingered awhile. I had come upon a documentary on free-range sheep farming.

A bearded shepherd was being interviewed about the joys and hardships of making a living off the raising of sheep in this day and age, and doing so organically, as he claimed to use neither pesticides nor herbicides on his pastures. He also talked about the emotional bond he had with his animals and how he knew each one of them individually. And about the skyrocketing rent per acre of pasture and the dark cloud this cast over the long-term sustainability of his profession.

Anyhow, cavorting among the sheep were what looked and sounded like a couple of cute dogs—I forget what breed, but some sort of herding dogs—whose job it was to … Read More →

Farewell to the Factor

By Cyberquill 04/22/20172 Comments

Holy macaroni!!!

They really did it. They really spiked my favorite show.

The reality of it won’t fully sink in until, come Monday, a program other than The O’Reilly Factor will occupy the 8 P.M. slot on Fox News.

Some ten years ago, I briefly had a premium membership on billoreilly.com. Alas, I soon got terminated and banned for life for having supposedly violated the site’s terms of use as laid down by Bill O’Reilly.

Now the man finds himself terminated as per his erstwhile employer’s new and improved terms of service. Oh well. Karma’s a bitch.

Sadly, though, by silencing its loudest moderate voice, Fox News has taken its largest step yet on its journey toward becoming unwatchable to anyone left of … Read More →

United Airlines — Try Fly With Us!

By Cyberquill 04/18/2017Leave a Comment

Presumably, most people will agree that airlines ought to operate in a manner so as to preclude right out of the gate (pun intended) the need to ever kick ticketed passengers off a flight due to overbooking or in order to accommodate deadheading crew members, as was reportedly the case in last week’s melodrama that resulted in a few missing teeth and a broken nose for one of four spontaneously deplaned individuals, not to mention a splitting PR headache for United Airlines.

In the unfortunate event, however, that an airline’s greed or mismanagement, or unforeseeable circumstances unrelated to ethical or managerial misfeasance, do necessitate the expulsion of one or more head of cattle from their class, what to do if the search for volunteers comes up empty or short no matter how many carrots are being dangled before the traveling livestock, and if one or more of the head ultimately selected for culling mulishly resist all verbally delivered entreaties to take … Read More →

Why the Case Against Voter IDs is a Case for Free Firearms

By Cyberquill 12/03/20164 Comments

Presidential election day is upon us … again!

Tomorrow (as viewed relative to this post’s date of publication), for the third time this year, Austria will take a stab at holding a successful runoff election. Counting the initial election that resulted in the runoff, Dec 4th will be Austria’s fourth presidential election day 2016, i.e., my personal fifth.

The result of the first runoff in May, won by nominally-independent-Green-Party candidate Alexander Van der Bellen, was subsequently undone and holden for naught by the Austrian Supreme Court on grounds of multiple procedural violations during the counting of the votes. The repeat runoff, scheduled for October, was called off preemptively after it had been discovered that some of the return envelopes mailed out with the absentee ballots had failed to seal properly due to faulty glue.

Whether Austria will come through on Dec 4th remains to be seen. Either way, given that the country has been doing fine sans president since July, and the point of having one waxes more elusive by the day, no one’s in a rush to get this … Read More →

Electoral Woes

By Cyberquill 11/17/20162 Comments

The morning after election night 2012—Barack Obama had just secured himself a second term in the White House—then-future President-elect Donald J. Trump, in one of his many fatuous tweet-from-the-hip outbursts, apparently believing (in error) that Mitt Romney had bagged the popular vote, declared the electoral college “a disaster for a democracy.”

Following the 2016 election, which indeed saw the keys to 1600 Pennsylvania pass into the hands of the runner-up in the never-fought contest for the nationwide popular vote, the president-elect appears to have softened his position, now calling the electoral college a “genius system.” Come election night 2020, in the as-(un)likely-as-Trump-being-elected-president-in-the-first-place event that President Trump is denied a second term in spite of reaping the popular vote then, odds are he’ll revert to his 2012 assessment of the EC.

The human propensity for failing to anticipate that one day the shoe might end up on the other foot never … Read More →

Proof that the U.S. Election is NOT Rigged

By Cyberquill 10/28/20162 Comments

At least not in favor of the Democratic candidate for president.

Earlier today, I stopped by my local post office with the intent to fulfill my patriotic duty as a currently exiled American and mail off my absentee ballot. The clerk placed my official election mail envelope, which contained the slightly smaller envelope that contained my ballot, on the scales and matter-of-factly announced the crushing verdict: €7.00! (That’s $7.64, as per today’s conversion rate.)

Now, if I were a currently exiled citizen of one of the battleground states like Florida or Ohio, where my vote could conceivably make a difference one way or another, it would be a different story. But as someone with an income of zero and a personal net worth of somewhere in the neighborhood of a half grand in credit card debt that I haven’t managed to pay down in over five years, I find myself disinclined to blow seven bucks and change on postage for casting a symbolic vote in a state—the Great State of New York, in my case—so deeply blue that Hillary’s bound to … Read More →

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 →