Five Years Later

I don’t want to belabor any of the obvious points about this anniversary. We all know what today is. We were all there in our own way to witness the horror, wherever we were that morning. Today is different only because we have the perspective that time alone can bring.

What irks me about today is that we’ve had a clear failing in leadership. It would be easy to pick on the president or some other member of the administration or in the Congress. No, that’s the wrong answer. We’ve had a failure in leadership among every politician who has used that day to sell us fear rather than answers. We’ve had a failure in leadership by every government official charged with keeping us safe who has acquiesced to believing that the ongoing threat is so existential that the ends justify any and all means. Worst of all, we’ve had a failure in leadership among every voter who has accepted the fear and the acquiescence to obtain some sense of safety, no matter how irrational or illusory.

Despite the rhetoric to the contrary immediately following the events of that day, I should’ve expected the nature of the partisan political desire to provide the only solution and to claim credit before achieving success. That’s the nature of the job, although it doesn’t have to be. And government officials are charged to follow orders, despite the options to defy unconstitutional orders built into the system through years of need. Again, this is not surprising. The failure to lead in any of these positions is foreseeable. It’s this failure in ourselves to reject elected representatives who care more about their careers than our lives that I think about most today.

This failure is not in politicians of any specific party. The Republican quest for a permanent majority has blinded them to their supposed core principles of liberty and limited government. They want us secure from attack, but not secure in our minds. They wish to walk the balance of these two contradictions by using fear as a campaign tactic to assure us that pulling the (R) lever every November is the only way to prevent that day from happening again. This is crass and shameful, not deserving of even a temporary majority.

The Democratic quest to oppose an administration they’ve hated since 2000 blinds them to the clear need for opposition to provide a vision of success when the majority has strayed. They forget that good people can possess bad ideas. Someone must remind them that the failure of this president is not desirable. Too many Democrats believe that opposition should rejoice in the majority’s failure. They have also settled for believing that America can act as a turtle and retreat to the apparent safety of our shell. They are wrong. They do not deserve to replace the Republicans.

But we accept this. We believe it’s more important to know who to blame for government failures leading to that day than to know how we can fix those problems before they fail us again. We hate President Clinton or we hate President Bush. We believe we are in a religious war or we believe that we are fighting a few fringe lunatics who justifiably hate us for our alleged arrogance. Those coarse generalizations are insidious. The truth, of course, is somewhere in the middle. We know this even when our representatives pretend that we don’t. But we do nothing about it. The venom has carried on for nearly five years. This is dangerous.

When the inevitable push for November begins, with its parade of symbols from that day, we must say that we’ve had enough. We must say that we do not believe that day’s lesson should be permanent fear and hatred. We are strong for the principles we stand on. They have led us to our power and standing in the world. We must show that our ideals are true. Revenge against our enemies, across oceans or across the street, does not serve us. Justice and peace are all that matter.

We must demand that our representatives lead. If they refuse to be accountable, we must vote them out and find new representatives. We must expect solutions instead of fear and blame. We are all on the same side. Disagreement does not equate to a desire or willingness to lose. We showed that we could be united following that day. We must return to that. That is the way to respect America and our continued strength. By leading we find a safer future.

That is how I want to honor those who died that morning.

Time management skills might work better

The notion of widespread academic doping worthy of a major media news story sets off my crap detector:

A 15-year-old girl and her parents recently came in for a chat with Dr. James Perrin, a Boston pediatrician, because they were concerned about the girl’s grades. Previously an A student, she was slipping to B’s, and the family was convinced attention deficit hyperactivity disorder was at fault — and that a prescription for Ritalin would boost her brainpower.

After examining the girl, Perrin determined she didn’t have ADHD. The parents, who had come in demanding a prescription, left empty-handed.

Perrin, a professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, and other physicians say this is an increasingly common scenario in doctors’ offices around the country, though there are no hard statistics on it.

Reading that sends chills through my libertarian spine. I don’t doubt the story, but the preferred triumvirate of politicians everywhere – drugs, children, and fear of an “epidemic” – stands out, waiting for some imbecile in Congress to decide that this is a federal issue rather than a local case of parental and medical ethics gone nuts. The thought of the press conferences alone makes me want to vomit.

“I spoke with [some] colleagues the other day and they mentioned three cases recently where parents blatantly asked for the medication so that their children would perform better in school, yet there were no other indications that the child had ADHD,” says Dr. Nick Yates, a pediatrician and director of medical ethics for Mercy Hospital in Buffalo, N.Y.

Yates isn’t entirely surprised that parents ask for it. He believes that most families simply have a heartfelt — if shockingly misdirected — desire for their children to do their best.

Aside from this likely being overblown, this is where medical doctors must exercise their professional expertise and experience. No doubt some doctors will fall back to a misguided interpretation of “parental choice” and prescribe drugs they know the child does not need and should not have. Most will not, and that should be our assumption. We should not impose draconian policy designed with any notion of doctors being guilty until proven innocence, as much of the drug war is designed. This is disgusting behavior from parents, but it is not a national crisis warranting government intervention.

Where’s the green slime?

I don’t have much to add on this development that I haven’t already said:

Television broadcasters won a temporary victory yesterday when a federal appeals court told the Federal Communications Commission not to enforce an indecency ruling it imposed on several television shows earlier this year.

“We are gratified that the court has taken the first step in recognizing the serious First Amendment issues raised by the FCC’s new enforcement policies,” CBS said in a corporate statement.

The FCC also considered yesterday’s ruling a partial victory. The agency said it made the March indecency rulings to give the broadcasters guidelines on what can be said on television. But when the broadcasters complained, the FCC acknowledged that it had not followed its usual procedure in declaring the shows indecent. The agency asked the court to send back the indecency decision so it could be reconsidered, which the court did yesterday.

A precedent enforcing the First Amendment would be wonderful, but I guess it takes more courage than anyone in government possesses to understand that bullshit is not going to lead to rotting child brains. If the FCC must think about the free speech ramifications of its actions before it acts, that’s a chilling effect I’m willing to live with. More than anything the Constitution protects the people from government intrusion, not through government intrusion. It’s worth remembering.

I’m accustomed enough to this wave of censorship that I’m resigned to fighting it rather than getting upset. However, 2½ years is not enough time for this quote to do anything other than make my blood boil.

“Hollywood argues that they should be able to say the F-word on television whenever they want,” FCC spokeswoman Tamara Lipper said in a written statement. “The commission continues to believe they are wrong, and there should be some limits on what can be shown on television.”

It would be easy enough to just use the F-word here and pretend like that’s a victory. I know it’s not, although I do take (minimal) joy in knowing that every person who reads that quote will think of the actual four-letter F-word. Saying and writing the F-word doesn’t sanitize reality, no matter how many horseshoes and rainbows busybody social conservatives want to wish upon to pretend it does. Ha! Point, my side.

What disgusts me is the tone and implication within Ms. Lipper’s statement. Trotting out “Hollywood” is a useful tactic because we all know they’re leftist liberal weenies who need to be stopped from corrupting our innocent, angelic little children. But I want my government to have just a smidge less contempt for the notion that it serves me. I do not care for the idea that the government may decide what can and can’t be shown. It is not in the Constitution, and it is not in our ideals. Next thing we know, the government will dictate what we can and can’t say on television about it and our elected leaders. Oh, wait.

Once given power, government tends to assume more and wield it in broad strokes. Ms. Lipper and the FCC demonstrate our need to better adhere to limited government principles as stated in our Constitution, lest we lose what rights are naturally ours.

We hold these truths to be subject to warrantless wiretapping


President Bush urged Congress today to give him “additional authority” to carry out a controversial warrantless eavesdropping program directed against international terrorists and to approve “broader reforms” in the 1978 law that regulates domestic surveillance of foreign agents’ communications.

I’m not a legal scholar, but I’m fairly certain that Congress does not have the authority to override that feature of the Constitution without an amendment to the Bill of Rights. Of course, the Bush Administration has pliable courts at its disposal, so I suspect this push is only for show. The administration didn’t let the Constitution trouble it during implementation. Our do-everything-but-what-is-federal-and-important Congress isn’t likely to fight back.

Employment is not daycare

At my last job, I witnessed management issuing stupid, condescending guidelines on “business casual” attire similar to this dress code offered by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel:

Last month, the agency devoted part of its employee newsletter to “Business Casual” do’s and don’ts. Tight pants, short skirts and long fingernails are out; khaki trousers — for everyone! — are in. Any among the 100-plus staff of lawyers and investigators who have spent their careers blind to the sartorial signals of official Washington were told: “You are not trying to stand out for the cutting edge look, but for your good judgment.”

Next came two pages of tips for achieving the good-judgment, non-cutting-edge look.

Men: Avoid sneakers for receptions, leave earrings at home and strap on a “conservative watch.”

Women: Wear the conservative watch, plus tailored pants, tailored shirts, tailored sweaters, and “a tailored purse . . . that hangs on your shoulder is often advantageous as it frees your hands for greetings (hand shakes) or holding a beverage.” For those who cannot master this, “leaving your purse locked in the trunk is preferable.” Also “make certain you can walk comfortably in your shoes.”

Etc, etc. Now people are either mocking the agency or feeling offended. I’m more dismayed at the message such drivel sends, and more importantly, why employees continue to put up with this.

I certainly mocked the dress code guidance issued by my former employer (sweat pants are not business casual), but that kind of treatment factored heavily into my decision to leave. Pay me to do a job, and I will do it. Like most employees, I am not stupid. I’m more than capable of figuring out how to model the dress code of my superiors. Respect me enough to assume that. If I fail to demonstrate that ability, speak to me separately about it.

Infantilize your entire workforce, and you eventually have a workforce incapable of thinking for itself. Kinda like socialism and its paternalistic form currently spilling out from legislative bodies all across America.

Visitors winning 13-0 in the bottom of the 9th

This editorial from Townhall is more than a month old, but I just found it today. It doesn’t need a lot of commentary; its logic is silly enough to be readily dismissed by anyone undecided on this issue. But consider a few lowlights:

But why are radical homosexual activists losing the fight?

Simply put – it’s a Godless proposition they are putting forth and the vast majority of Americans – even some liberals are not ready to bankroll a completely bankrupt values agenda.

Remember, God-fearing is the only way to vote, no matter what the Constitution says. But that’s not why I begin with this. This is:

Presently the reason homosexual activists are losing on the battle to redefine marriage is simple – it’s just plain wrong.

I know, it’s not a popular position to take. Neither is telling the uncle who is always drunk how alcohol might kill him someday. But if you really loved your uncle – wouldn’t you at least try? And you certainly let him get behind the wheel.

I’m baffled. The vast majority of Americans won’t accept a “Godless” proposition, but stating that the Homosexual Agenda&#153 is “just plain wrong” isn’t popular enough for that vast majority to say. Assuming there really is a “vast majority”, why should I listen to a bunch of meddlers who have a conviction (not rooted in our Constitution, mind you) but not the courage to stand by it publicly? Leadership through weakness is not family values at its finest.

On a minor note, I didn’t edit the last sentence of the excerpt that states “And you certainly let him get behind the wheel.” That is from the original, posted on July 31, 2006. More than a month later, that and the many other grammatical disasters remain. I suggest less focus on the love interests of others and more attention to learning English.

Most amusing, though, is this:

People all over the globe understand intuitively that two daddies will never be able to provide the needed guidance for a young girl that only a mommy and a daddy can bring. People understand easily – without argument – how a boy growing up with two mommies will never have the definition of what real manliness is by it being lived out in front of him. It just defies common sense to attempt to argue otherwise.

I can’t imagine a good, God-fearing situation in which a boy could be raised by two mommies. Aside from the successful example I’ve witnessed in my family, no other boy has ever been raised by multiple women. Say, a mother and grandmother. But that’s not fair, I know, since they’re not both acting as mommies in a loving, committed relationship. And yet, I can’t help myself from thinking. If the author’s problem is that the boy will have no successful role model in the house, should we do more than simply save traditional marriage? Perhaps a quick addition to family law that requires anyone with kids to provide a positive same-gender role model in the home for children.

Ridiculous? Maybe. But maybe opposition to recognition of same-sex relationships and marriage as neutral public-policy is just disguised bigotry, with a copious disrepect for individual rights to flavor the mix.

The mildly agreeable contrarian

In today’s Opinion Journal, this article discusses what the Republican majority should try to accomplish in Congress between now and November’s election. To show that I can actually agree with something, consider my reactions to the following suggestions:

Military tribunals. In Hamdan, the Supreme Court invited Congress to rewrite the rules for military tribunals for terrorists, and Republicans can help President Bush and the war effort by doing so. Senator Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) is the main obstacle as he courts media flattery by opposing Mr. Bush’s proposed language. His colleagues should make it clear that the language will move with or without him.

Okay, so the agreeing isn’t starting yet. Something should be done about military tribunals, but I suspect the Journal and I are on opposite sides of due process and general Constitutional principles.

Spending restraint. One reason many GOP voters are in a sour mood, and may stay home in November, is the lack of spending discipline. Republicans can lighten that blot on their record by passing reforms that stem the worst abuses–namely, more transparency for special-interest “earmarks,” and a line-item veto to allow a President to delete specific spending pork.

Goal, yes. Method for achieving that goal, not so much. Eliminating earmarks would be nice, but the line-item veto is not in the Constitution. If the President dislikes spending, he’s free to reject the entire spending bill. Might that have a more productive effect, forcing Congress to think proactively about what it should and should not send to the President? The current veto structure, and how President Bush doesn’t use it, illustrates more about the President than Congress, of course.

Health insurance. The latest Census data finds that 46.6 million Americans lack health insurance, with the cost of coverage rising. The House has already passed a popular bill to let small businesses and associations offer lower-cost insurance the way that Fortune 500 companies can. Liberals in the Senate are blocking it precisely because it might reduce the ranks of the uninsured and thus reduce the demand for government health care. Why not force Democrats to vote up or down?

This is not really the problem with healthcare and insurance; this bill seems destined to institutionalize the problem further, if that’s possible. Pass it if it’s all they can do, but understand that fixing it later is more likely to end up in single-payer hell with a stupid plan now.

Gas prices. Gasoline prices are falling nationwide, but with oil prices still near $70 a barrel now is the time to open new sources of domestic energy supply. The House and Senate have both passed bills to expand drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf, and there’s no reason they can’t be reconciled in conference. The House has also passed faster permitting for new gas refineries, and Senate Democrats should also be forced to kill that if they dare.

This is mere brinksmanship on who cares more about consumers. It’s petty and no real solution.

Property rights and judges. The Supreme Court’s Kelo decision has provoked bipartisan outrage against the taking of private property for private development. But Congress still hasn’t taken the popular opportunity to do something about it. The House long ago passed a measure to block federal dollars from financing local projects invoking eminent domain. But the Senate has sat on its hands, thanks mainly to Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter.

Popular opportunity sounds like a euphemism describing action for the sake of action. No thanks. Federal dollars shouldn’t finance local projects, anyway.

And speaking of Judiciary, whatever happened to pushing more judicial nominees for a floor vote? The White House recently resubmitted five appellate court candidates to the Senate, and they deserve a vote in what could be the last time in this Presidency that Republicans control the legislative calendar.

Whatever. I’m just happy activist didn’t appear here.

Taxes. Democrats who oppose making the Bush 2001 and 2003 tax cuts permanent are arguing for one of the largest tax increases in American history. The average family with children would see its tax payment rise by $2,084 a year. A vote in both houses on making these permanent is good policy and politics. Ditto for another vote on repealing the death tax, to remind voters in red states about where their tax burdens will head if Democrats take control.

I’m not the average family with children, but my taxes are high enough. Lower taxes would be great, but targeted tax cuts aren’t enough. I’d go further than this suggestion. Of course, I’d wake up when I was done dreaming of its passage.

An extremely long rebuttal

When I wrote this post, I hoped for a reply. Archie at Archontan responded with a few answers as to why male and female circumcision are not equivalent, which are important to him as a clarification that permits the former and not the latter. As you should expect, I disagree. This discussion requires two distinct lines of debate, but they run parallel and intersect in conclusion. I’ll deal with them separately in my attempt to address his response.

Before beginning my rebuttal, I must state that I understand Archie is not calling for universal circumcision of male infants in America. My responses are more geared to how some individuals have irresponsibly suggested that the findings of recent studies on the foreskin and HIV are as relevant to the United States as they are to sub-Saharan Africa. Archie has made the opposite claim, that his defense of male circumcision should not be read as a call for universal circumcision in America. It is an important note, one I made here. It bears repeating, as my arguments here are not meant as combative against Archie, or anyone else who supports parental choice regarding non-medically indicated circumcision, in this case to lower the risk of female-to-male HIV transmission through sexual intercourse. I aim only to refute the logic structure that supports such parental choice, particularly in the United States, but also in Africa. End of disclaimer.

First, the medical consideration for foreskin removal as an HIV preventative is incomplete. I do not mean to deny the findings of the study linking removal of the foreskin to reduced female-to-male HIV transmission. I accept that finding as reasonable conclusions; less skin, less exposure. As bizarre as implementation is, I’d be a fool to pretend otherwise. But the results are hardly unequivocal, as Archie challenges. From the study linked (indirectly) by Archie and (directly) by William Saletan, consider the conclusion on the number of HIV infections that routine circumcision could prevent in Africa:

This analysis is based on the result of just one RCT, but if the results of that trial are confirmed we suggest that MC could substantially reduce the burden of HIV in Africa, especially in southern Africa where the prevalence of MC is low and the prevalence of HIV is high. While the protective benefit to HIV-negative men will be immediate, the full impact of MC on HIV-related illness and death will only be apparent in ten to twenty years.

The line of demarcation in that paragraph is important. Too many want to focus on the projections, estimated based on the Auvert study. However, what’s stated before the first comma is vital. One randomized controlled trial does not provide scientific proof, so it’s premature to call the results unequivocal. Wishing is not enough. But I quibble over distractions.

The proper medical analysis must include the risks of circumcision. Like any surgery, these are real every time a doctor cuts into a patient’s flesh. With every circumcision the boy being cut faces the possibility of complications, including, but not limited to, excessive bleeding, infection (HIV included, since aseptic procedures aren’t common in Africa), penile damage, partial or complete amputation, and death.

The frequency of complications is open for discussion, but whatever the actual complication rate, they exist. I’ve been involved in discussions where those favoring circumcision comprehend “potential benefits and potential complications” as “potential benefits and potential complications.” No. Potential is the key word on each side. As such, a thorough cost/benefit analysis must be involved. How much will we spend treating those who get infected with HIV? How much will we spend circumcising every male? How much will we spend correcting surgical complications? How will men circumcised as infants view their complications, should any arise? Will the greater good of HIV-protection satisfy their objections? The list goes on. In the “circumcision prevents HIV” debate, it has not begun. We have intellectually punted the notion that male and female genitalia are qualitatively equal and deserve equal protection.

The ethical debate is where support for circumcision of non-consenting individuals for HIV prevention most readily fails. What is medically possible and what is medically acceptable are not the same thing. If the foreskin link to HIV bears out, we’ll readjust our present justifications, beyond that which has already occurred, and continue circumcising our infants. But why stop there? If we remove the breast tissue of infant girls, they’ll face a significant reduction in breast cancer. Considering it’s much more likely for a girl to face breast cancer in her lifetime than it is for a man to face any such catastrophic disease affecting his foreskin, there is medical validity for taking such an action.

That scenario is preposterous, and I do not intend it as a policy recommendation or anything beyond rhetorical. I intend it to show that life has risks inherent in normal anatomy. We chase potential problems without indication because we fear disease. We make assumptions not based in reality, allowing radical surgery to take hold as a valid response to what our friend’s cousin’s boss’s third ex-husband faced one time. It’s cultural stupidity for which boys, and boys alone, must sacrifice a healthy, functional part of their genitalia under the surgeon’s knife.

Rational thought exists. As Archie states:

In the West, there is a small population of girls and women who have had their clitoral hoods removed or modified for strictly medical reasons, due to congenital defects and other problems.

Congenital defects and other problems are all we allow as reason for female genital cutting. I do not believe anyone would disagree with that as ethically sound and a perfect limitation. Why is it not just as ethically sound to limit male circumcision to those infants with a congenital defect of the prepuce, or another foreskin problem that can’t be solved with less invasive means? It can’t be because we can medically prevent potential medical problems in the future, unless we wish to revisit the vicious circle of the infant mastectomy argument. I can imagine no scenario of non-medical necessity in which the child’s individual rights exclude his foreskin from this ethical evaluation.

When reading his original post, I did not believe that Archie suggested hoodectomy as a valid possibility for consideration, despite its obvious anatomical comparison. His preferred comparison is qualitatively logical:

Also, during intercourse that large surface area of mucosal tissue [inner mucosal surface of the foreskin] has prolonged exposure to the partner’s fluids and tissues. In female sexual anatomy, the vulnerable mucosal tissue with a large surface area and prolonged exposure to the partner’s fluids is not the clitoral hood but the vagina. In other words the vagina is, as far as HIV transmission is concerned, the functional analogue of the male foreskin. Besides male circumcision, there is no surgical means to signific
antly reduce the vulnerability of the receptive partner, whether female or male.

Again, duly noted, with agreement. But why is it the man’s duty to give up his foreskin to protect both of them? Neither of them has an excuse to abdicate responsibility to practice safe sex, whether through choosing monogamy or condoms, just because a doctor cut away his foreskin. Yet, if we assume the man must lose his foreskin at his parents whim, is it not reasonable to assume that they should decide whether or not to trim their daughter’s labia, since that could play a role in HIV infection? I know I’m venturing back into the comparisons between male and female circumcision that many dismiss, but the only criteria I read here is mucosal tissue directly involved in sexual intercourse. If that’s not narrow enough, all I can guess is that ease of access for the doctor’s scalpel is the vital deciding factor. If so, that’s dumb.

Granted, female genitalia is mostly internal, especially in infancy. But so is male genitalia. To circumcise a male infant, his foreskin must be forcibly separated from his glans. The synechiae keeping the two structures together will not separate naturally for several years at least. Where is the distinction that allows tearing the foreskin from the glans but prohibits meddling with female genitalia? The basic structure of the infant penis indicates that the foreskin is not meant to be retracted, probed, or amputated.

Carrying the anatomical structure back into the ethical realm, I wrote this last month:

Children do not engage in sex until well beyond the period in which they can be taught responsible behavior and an understanding of consequences. Their intact genitals do not expose them to HIV. They do not need to fret over whether or not condoms will provide them adequate protection. For each boy, HIV will not jump onto his penis, crawl in between his glans and foreskin, and burrow through the susceptible cells. His intact foreskin will not create a public health crisis.

Nor will it create a personal health crisis for the boy. So what’s the hurry?

I do not favor banning¹ male circumcision, for that position is far too generalized. I favor banning the forced circumcision or genital cutting of non-consenting individuals, male or female. Again, Archie stated that he is not calling for universal male circumcision. It is an important point, and one I did not miss, despite any such implications in this post. My primary focus is male infant circumcision in America, of course. What adults choose to do to their own body is up to them. If an intact adult male in America or Africa believes himself to be at risk for HIV because he is intact, and he thinks his foreskin isn’t worth the potential infection risk, he should have the surgery. That’s conveniently the best time, as well, since his foreskin has separated from his glans. He can provide input to his doctor on how much foreskin to take or leave, as well as how to treat his frenulum.

But no one has the right to impose circumcision on another, no matter how many men are lining up to have the surgery performed on themselves². With respect to infants, parents are guardians, not property owners. The quantitative comparison between male and female circumcision most often provides a tremendous disparity, which is why girls are protected in America. What is not recognized is their qualitative equivalence. Medically unnecessary surgery on a non-consenting individual is wrong, no matter how “minor” the procedure or well-intentioned the motive. The proper perspective is not what the circumcision might prevent. The proper perspective is what the child needs. He does not need genital surgery. Should the need arise with his future self, that is the time for him to make or not make that decision.

¹ This link is much more appropriate for the Ninth International Symposium on Circumcision, Genital Integrity, and Human Rights than the link Archie provides. As I said in my rebuttal to William Saletan’s recent Slate article, I attended the symposium. I consider myself qualified to judge the applicability of a news story about the symposium to the actual symposium. And if attending the symposium brands me a kook, so be it. My writings already indicate that I think outside the mainstream on this topic. I can still be correct outside the mainstream.

² I addressed this point in my rebuttal of Mr. Saletan.

One more vacation entry

I didn’t find anything interesting today that I care to write about. Instead, I’ll just ease into the holiday weekend with a bit of vacation wrap-up. I won’t blabber about all the minute details, because they’re mostly interesting to me and Danielle alone. Instead, here are a few final observations, with multimedia accompaniment.

First up, we saw Penn & Teller at the Rio. I can’t recommend the show enough. Aside from being fantastically libertarian, they’re good showmen. I know what we saw was illusion, but it’s well-done illusion. And definitely sit in the front row, if you can get the tickets. Teller called me out to participate in a card trick. I got to keep the 9 of diamonds that I pulled from the deck, which both Penn and Teller signed after the show. And I heard Teller speak! Recommended.

Next, I promised a bit on George Takei. I recorded the Q&A panel he participated in (with Walter Koenig and Nichelle Nichols), so I have audio. Mr. Takei was engaging in his talk. I haven’t edited most of it for blog placement, since I don’t know who would be interested, but just for the sheer joy of it, you must listen to the three sing “God Bless America”. I only caught a bit of the song because it came at the end of the show, after controversial topics. The rest of the audio would explain it, but you don’t need it to enjoy the clip. Behold:

God Bless America

Personally, Mr. Takei was quite engaging when I had my photo-op. (So worth the $35…) It’s supposed to be wham-bam-thank-you, but he stopped to talk to me when I mentioned Artie Lange and the William Shatner roast. It was brief, but he was engaging and gracious when he didn’t have to be. I appreciated that, especially since I don’t care two bits about Star Trek.

At one point, I stood between Greg Evigan and Robert Culp. Star Trek conventions in Vegas rock. I also saw Felix Silla, who played Cousin Itt and Twiki (from Buck Rogers). If you’ve never been to a Star Trek convention, go. It’s a great experience. Did I mention that I don’t like Star Trek? Yeah? That’s how awesome the conventions are.

Everything in Vancouver was quite literal. Witness:

Signs like this will make you take notice:


And finally, because my sense of humor is still four-years-old:

Celebrities and juvenile humor. There’s no better way to spend a vacation.