The Barbershop has re-located

The proprietor has moved the shop to ChicagoNow, a Chicago Tribune site that showcases some of the best bloggers in the Chicago area. You can logo on to the Barbershop home page here. The ChicagoNow home page is here.

You'll still be able to post comments with the same ease as in this location. The proprietor also will keep this web site alive if you wish to review old posts.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

More Language Glop From the Left

By Dennis Byrne

Spitting in reality’s eye, some journalists still are referring to Elvira Arellano and other illegal aliens as an “undocumented worker.”


Arellano, who has become the darling of the abolish-all-immigration-laws crowd, is holed up in a Chicago storefront church, claiming a non-existent sanctuary right against being deported for crossing the Mexican border, for the third time, illegally.

Of course, we’re no longer allowed to call her an alien because to do so hurts feelings. Even though the dictionary simply defines alien as a foreigner, especially someone who isn’t a naturalized citizen. I suppose we could call her an illegal foreigner, but foreigner, too, soon may be the next standard English word to be deposited in the trash by the political correctors.

Despite the precise meaning of illegal alien, we instead get language glop.

Continue Reading at Human Events

Monday, August 28, 2006

Plan B's Junk Science

By Dennis Byrne

Repeatedly we are told that "science" has concluded that the over-the-counter sale of emergency contraception pills is safe for 15-year-old and younger girls because it does not increase their risky sexual behavior.

This is bunk. This assertion is based on research that says no such thing. Not even close.

Yet, the public is remorselessly fed this line, especially after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration decided last week to allow pharmacies to sell Plan B tablets without prescriptions to women 18 and over. The FDA sensibly declined to allow their sale without a prescription to young adolescents because the manufacturer had not provided enough evidence that they would use the drug safely and effectively without supervision.

Will the drug lead to more risky sexual behavior, such as increased unprotected intercourse and sex with multiple partners? Will it allow older men to pressure 14-year-olds into sex--protected or unprotected--because this magical pill will "take care of everything"? Common sense alone suggestions these are among the risks.

But Plan B advocates, reproductive rights ideologues, manufacturers and marketers firmly deny the existence of any such risks, because "science" tells us so, as if that shuts the door on any further discussion. But, in fact, "science" tell us nothing; the "telling" is done by people who do science.

And the "scientific claims" about the impact of Plan B on the sexual behavior of younger teens are dubious at best or, worse, outright distortions--distortions that have been picked up and endlessly repeated by the media. Without examining the "science" of the claims.

So, let's do so.

Read more at RealClearPolitics.



9/11 conspiracies are a crying shame

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Tribune

The fifth anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, is two weeks away, but the screeching from the conspiracy monkey house already is upon us.

The "9-11 truth squads" are planning a three-day gala in New York City to inform the world that Sept. 11 was a "catalyst" designed to set in motion a "global domination project" by overthrowing the American government, says NY911Truth.org. Which would be true, if you were talking about a plot by Islamic fascists. But they say it was by President Bush himself, "as a pretext for the current Middle East aggression."

The organizers of the conspiracy jamboree urge "all movements for transformational progress" to converge on Gotham thusly: "If we want to put an end to war, use our treasury for productive purposes domestically, restore our Constitution, have a law-abiding government, create cooperative rather than antagonistic relationships with the rest of the world, heal our environment and be the creators of our own destiny, understanding 9/11 is required," say these "truth" activists.

The blogosphere is buzzing with the things they want us to understand.

Start at 911research.wtc7.net and follow the links into paranoia hell.

Among other things, airliners didn't crash into the Pentagon (it was an American missile) or the World Trade Center, and even if they did, they didn't cause the towers to collapse--it was the result of "controlled demolition charges" placed by Bush agents in the buildings before they were struck. That the named hijackers were not the hijackers, if, that is, the planes actually were hijacked or even existed.

Most incredibly, this intricate plot was pulled off by the world's most stupid head of state, George W. Bush.

Such theories require extensive fabrications to back them up, such as the assertion that the towers collapsed at free-fall speed (false), and that one floor falling on top of another couldn't possibly "pancake" the buildings (actually it was scores of floors collapsing on each floor).

The conspiracy nimrods, of course, won't be there alone. Mainstream media nimrods also will attend in great numbers. TV anchors will solemnly speak of "disturbing new questions" about Sept. 11 and break to interviews with charla-tans, incompetents, nut cases and the gullible, all united as fools.

And they'll all be playing to the many Americans who take it seriously. More than a third suspect that federal officials either took part in or knowingly took no action to stop the Sept. 11 attacks, according to a Scripps Howard/Ohio University poll. The poll also found that 16 percent of Americans believe the bit about how secretly planted explosives collapsed the twin towers.

Conspiracy documents are a hot read on college campuses and in Europe.

Loonies come in all shapes, from the conservative Paul Craig Roberts (Ronald Reagan's supply-side guy) to, well, so many on the left. That's because the conspiracy theory resonates with their psychotic hatred of Bush, whom they can easily believe would engineer a deadly attack on Americans.

Of course, by this theory, W. also engineered the attacks on the Marine barracks in Lebanon, the U.S. Embassies in Africa and the Navy warship, the USS Cole. All while he was a slobbering drunk.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair also is alleged to be a part of the plot against America, just as he, the U.S., Israel and Rupert Murdoch's media empire have now supposedly cooked up the plot to blow up American-bound airliners.

The self-described "9-11 truth community" will try to appear reasonable by calling for an "independent" investigation"--which means that the committees still sniffing out the conspirators in the JFK assassination will have to clear out of the hearing room for the next four decades.

No expert investigation, such as one by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, will be "independent" enough to suit them. Not that the professional engineering groups shouldn't be more forceful in rebuttal. I suppose they fear that speaking out would give the wackos credibility.

But it is silence that gives them credibility.

Failing a unified debunking by professionals, Popular Mechanics magazine took up the challenge. Popular Mechanics doesn't have the proper cache, so the theorists will ridicule or ignore its work, even though it's the most extensive rebuttal I've yet seen. Judge for yourself at popularmechanics.com/science/defense/1227842.html.

Unless you believe that the magazine, too, is in cahoots with Bush.

Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Immigration issue indeed one of morality

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Tribune

It has been a long time, but Slim Coleman finally has his mug back on television and in the papers.

It took Elvira Arellano--the picked-upon illegal immigrant who as of this writing is holed up in Coleman's tiny Humboldt Park church--to do it, but us scribblers have got to stand in admiration. The publicity-seeking Uptown "activist" Coleman managed not just to yank himself out of decades of local obscurity, but instantly land himself on national TV.

Wow.

I imagine (or hope) by the time this appears, the media will have gotten around to detailing Coleman's background, which may have been obscured by the fact he is now going by his given name, Walter. It was in 1985 that columnist Mike Royko pulled back the covers on Coleman, who was bounding around Uptown, City Hall and wherever he could attract a camera, posing as a hillbilly activist. He gave himself the name Slim to better appear to be one of the many Appalachian good old boys and their kin residing up yonder around Wilson and Broadway.

In fact, he was a son of well-to-do Texas parents and a Harvard University philosophy student, according to Royko. While in his Snuffy Smith mode, he made the news by such stunts as trying to attack former Chicago Ald. Eddie Vrdolyak in the City Council. Since then, few of us realized that he had been laboring for the salvation of souls in the local vineyards, until he was mentioned at the bottom of a story a couple of years ago as being among the "religious leaders" who "decried" U.S. "torture" of war detainees.

Slim continues in the same vein with the Arellano stunt, with the same results: a PR disaster. Yes, conventional wisdom says that claiming church sanctuary is masterful PR, putting immigration officials in the Hobson's choice of dragging a woman and her young son out of a church, or letting her flout the law. But already it has hardened feelings against illegal immigrants and created some doubts among their supporters. Clearly, it didn't prove the need for "legalization" of illegal immigrants, as provided in a Senate-passed bill. (For utopians who think the Arellano affair demonstrates the need for the Senate's "reforms," do you think that she and millions of others would, as the bill requires, show up to pay a $2,000 fine and back taxes, then wait five years to apply for citizenship, contingent on a criminal background check, steady employment and no criminal conduct--other than sneaking into America?)

But, come, let us not doubt Coleman's purity of purpose. Let's concede that Arellano, Coleman and their supporters truly believe their assertion that deporting her would be "immoral." She is defying an "immoral" law, just as civil rights pioneers asserted when they defied civil authorities to protest clearly immoral Jim Crow laws. Moral, they say, trumps legal. I agree.

But just how are restrictions on legal immigration immoral? Just saying it doesn't make it so. A few do make a stab at explaining it: For some, it is immoral to "deny opportunities" to lawbreakers. Others say "social justice" requires that the laws not be enforced. For some, simply being "mean-spirited" or "insensitive" is immoral.

Is it moral for a nation to create a ready supply of easily exploitable and underpaid peons? Is a cash-only system of tax evasion, shifting more of the tax burden onto taxpayers, moral?

Is it moral to regard human beings as primarily a unit of labor important to our nation's financial health? Is it moral to depress the wages of those who are here legally? Is human smuggling moral?

Yes, the moral imperative to care for everyone applies equally to Arellano. And if moral choices simply applied to individuals, Arellano would stay. But morality is more complex, involving such concepts as the "common good" and doing what's right for an entire community, even if that entire community is as big as a sovereign nation.

Thus, immigration officials, in seeking to expel Arellano, are acting not only legally, but also morally. Because without such moral actions, our country would be a mess.

Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

New Flying Rules Are Actually a Godsend

Rather than ruining flying, the new no-liquids-on-board rule is a godsend

By
Dennis Byrne

Think about the two most annoying experiences about flying today: The long wait to get your carry-on baggage searched and the longer wait while obese fliers clog the cabin aisle while struggling with their equally obese carry-on bags.

Carry-on baggage in hands of inexperienced or self-absorbed passengers is a curse. How many times have you been stuck behind someone trying to squeeze, pound and implant their over-stuff suitcase into the overhead bin? How long does it take you to get off the plane while some fool—always at the front of the cabin ahead of you and scores of other passengers—struggles to extricate the same suitcase from the bin’s confines?

While outwardly the rest of us patiently cool our heels, I’d love to know how many are secretly wishing that the offending passengers themselves would get stuffed into the bins.

What is it with these people? Their precious things can’t be out of their sight for even an hour or two? Their conceit that their time is so much more important than ours that they can’t wait for checked luggage?

Read more at Human Events

Monday, August 14, 2006

Widening the racial divide

Opportunists distort boy's tragic shooting

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Tribune

Residents of the Near North Side Cabrini-Green low-income housing project may have a lot to complain about, but not the shooting of a 14-year-old boy who menaced police officers with a gun.

It doesn't matter that the boy was wielding "only" a BB gun that happened to look like the real thing. When you show police officers any kind of weapon, fake or otherwise, you shouldn't be outraged when cops defend themselves. Even if the weapon can "only" fire a projectile at 400 feet a second.

As Mayor Richard Daley said, it was a tragedy that the boy was shot, and we hope for his recovery.

But, it is no reason to storm City Hall and the police station, peacefully or otherwise, with complaints about everything from inadequate housing to police brutality.

But that's what the usual band of opportunists are doing, taking to the streets and media, attempting to drive another wedge between the races. In their protests and warnings, they too easily equate an apparently justified defensive response by police to years of outrageous police torture. A complaint about a single event becomes elevated into blanket statements of condemnation and disgust.

Talk about "disproportionate" responses.

Talk about demagoguery.

For some, the temptation to elevate an individual event into universal statements about white or black people and law enforcement is irresistible.

It's more than intellectually dishonest or ignorant; it jeopardizes the workings of our civil society. It drives the community and police further apart, and makes law enforcement, especially in the neighborhoods that need it most, all the more difficult.

As are the attempts to turn this into another "blame-the-victim" episode.

The boy, we are tutored, is a victim of poverty and racism, of an environment of police brutality, and of a gentry plot to force residents out of Cabrini.

Therefore, we're further tutored, you can ignore his displaying a BB gun that looks identical to a 9mm handgun to police who were investigating an attempted arm robbery just minutes before.

The cycle of poverty and ignorance will never end as long as this dodge is deployed for every upsetting or tragic event.

Funny, while I was researching this latest cause celebre among the racial dividers, I came across something else, something positive, that has received virtually no attention. Responding to community concerns, police in early August announced that they had shut down two open-air drug markets and charged 21 people in separate undercover investigations on the West Side. For the racial dividers, this good news has no substance.

But maybe we can learn something from the racial dividers, when it comes to Salomeja Januska.

They had nothing to say about the 94-year-old woman who was mugged in her old Marquette Park neighborhood she had dared to revisit to purchase some Lithuanian groceries. Outside an old favorite deli, a 30- to 35-year-old man "came out of nowhere," grabbed her purse and then pushed her to the ground, shattering her right arm. She's expected to recover after undergoing surgery at Holy Cross Hospital.

Ironically, the mugger escaped by running down the gangway of her former home, which she had moved from three years ago to escape the growing number of muggings and sexual assaults.

Januska is white. The police said the attacker is black, a fact that didn't make it into many, if any, stories.

Now, if the racial dividers were white, they'd be turning this attack into a universal statement. About how it proves that crime goes up with the appearance of blacks in the neighborhood. About how young black men are preying on old white women. About how blacks are ruining the city. And so forth.

You might hear this in bars and rec rooms. But you didn't hear much, if any, of this in the media, because saying such things is inexcusably racist. Even though these are empirical questions, which may or may not be true.

The point here is an old one: You can openly march on City Hall making the most outrageous claims about how an individual event involving a black "victim" proves the most racist hypotheses. And the press will dutifully report those claims, often sympathetically.

But stretching an individual event, such as a black man's attack on an old white woman, into sweeping generalizations about race is intolerable, never to be publicly uttered.

Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Illinois Races Draw National Attention

By Dennis Byrne
Human Events

Voters in Chicago’s west suburban sixth congressional district, long represented by venerable and retiring Henry Hyde, are caught in the crossfire from the adjacent districts of two of the most powerful House members in both parties.

The cannon to the right of them, as Tennyson might write, are those of dug-in House Speaker Dennis Hastert. The cannon commanding the heights to the left of them are those of the doggedly aspiring Rep. Rahm Emanuel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

For more than a year now, voters there have been pounded by some of the heaviest artillery that both sides can muster—massive amounts of out-of-district campaign contributions and campaign stops by the likes of Vice President Dick Cheney. Hastert and Emanuel each would dearly love to sweep down through the valley and claim it as its own, giving the victor a huge symbolic and strategic triumph. The spoils of victory could well be control of the House.

The GOP has reason to fear an epic loss. It’s not for nothing that this race has drawn national attention. No less important, but less visible because the district isn’t flanked by two high-profile politicians, is the nearby battle in the traditionally Republican 8th district, where the “moderate” Democrat Melissa Bean, who ousted the former Rep. Phil Crane, holds the incumbent’s advantage over Republican challenger, David McSweeney.

Continue at Human Events
, the national conservative weekly, where I am a newly added contributor.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Key to energy reform: Let our oil prices soar

It will take tough love and market realism to spur alternatives to America's dependency on petroleum

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Tribune

I'm rootin' for higher gas and oil prices.

And honest environmentalists would admit that they are too.

Am I insane? No more insane than folks who would wait until the oil gauge is on empty and gasoline is at $80 a gallon. Having higher oil prices now is the only way to brake oil consumption and develop other ways to fuel America. No amount of government decrees will do it. No recycling or conservation. No appeals to give up Humvees and other rolling tanks. Money being the biggest economic motivator, $5- to $10-a-gallon gasoline would be crippling now to a world economy built on oil. But it would be the only way to set off an energy revolution of the sort that changed American in the mid-1800s when we began our oil dependency.

This time, revolution will be harder. Changing the energy-consuming habits of nearly 300 million Americans producing a gross domestic product of $12 trillion will be significantly harder than it was to get 31 million Americans and their $74 billion economy to shift from horses to petroleum.

But if we wait until the oil gauge hits zero, it's not unreasonable to predict a worldwide economic meltdown and a return to an agrarian society.

Cities with horse-drawn carriages and streetcars. Suburban wastelands, with the wind blowing through abandoned big-box stores; weeds on the interstates and massive deforestation as millions of people chop wood for heat.

The project by Tribune correspondent Paul Salopek on "The Twilight of the Oil Age" in the July 30 Chicago Tribune lays it out in fearful detail.

So, better to get the economic shock over with well before then. That will happen only if we start to pay the real cost of energy. Salopek quotes one economist who believes that the true cost is $8 a gallon, and runs as high as $11 when the cost of war to protect our Middle East oil sources are thrown in. At that price, Americans might finally get serious about making fundamental changes.

Only when American consumers demand energy alternatives will the business world start providing economical and workable alternatives. The current level of demand for hybrid cars won't come close to doing it. Neither will higher government-imposed mileage standards. Clearly, $3 a gallon hasn't done it.

So, how can Americans be billed the full amount? For one, we can take the politics out of pricing. Here's a great example: Michigan's Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm is running for re-election on a platform of keeping gasoline prices "low," whatever low is.

She'd cap "outrageous profits" and issue the usual "call on Washington to do something, because it hasn't done enough," whatever enough is. Such gasoline populism, with its fake promises, only worsens the calamity when the tank runs empty.

In other words, politicians should stop feeding public expectations that lower prices are normal, and can be achieved by a political process. They need to restrain themselves when they're tempted to blame conspiracies for shortages and higher prices, such as those created by Hurricane Katrina.

Environmentalists and others who crab about the scourge of the suburbs should openly support higher prices. How better to end suburban creep across the countryside and encourage the resettlement of the city neighborhoods and inner suburbs? (Of course, that would increase the demand and force up prices, thereby reducing the supply of affordable housing--something that affordable housing advocates shouldn't overlook.)

This pre-1950s Utopian vision of the metropolis is, of course, naive. It doesn't take into account the computer and telecommunications revolution, which reduces the need for physical proximity and face-to-face communications in our daily affairs. Thus reducing the need for travel.

Some people, who still require close contact in their social and business lives, would gravitate back to the city, but I believe we've entered an increasingly footloose society.

Instead of the suburban blob slowly spreading and inundating the countryside, I see a different future: more Americans settling in more livable, human-scale satellite towns, spotted throughout the countryside.

Of course, while we wait for settlement patterns that more realistically reflect our technologically advancing society and as we shift toward more efficient means of energy production (yes, it has to include nuclear), pain--a lot of it--will be felt. Government's job, to the limits it can, will need to create policies that ease that pain.

"Market forces" aren't always the best way to magically eliminate what economists call "dislocations." But continued pretending that prices won't or shouldn't go still higher will bring us all to ruin.

Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Stem Cell Advocates Tread Dangerous Ground

By Dennis Byrne

University of Chicago law professor Geoffrey R. Stone objected to President George W. Bush's veto of funding for embryonic stem cell research because it's not worthwhile protecting human life that's "smaller than a period on this page."

From this we should conclude that the comparative worth of human life is determined by size. The smaller you are, the fewer human rights you get; when you're the size of a dot and you have none. That's bad news for shorties. Stone, writing in an op-ed column for the Chicago Tribune, never gets around to saying how big a person must get before being endowed with the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Years ago, I was discussing this point with a liberal editorial board colleague at the Chicago Sun-Times. She insisted that a woman's "reproductive rights" trumped any fetal rights because "it" wasn't yet a person. So, I asked, when did you become a person? Her pause indicated an intellectual void on the topic, until the answer came to her with sudden and absolute clarity. "Well, at birth," she proclaimed. She reasoned that at birth the fetus no longer is intimately dependent on the woman.

From this we are to conclude that the comparative worth of human life is defined by the degree of dependency. Which isn't good news for the developmentally disabled, the failing elderly and even newborns.

Continue reading at RealClearPolitics.com