“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Friday, March 09, 2007

Ball Games

Pondering Fate, Chance and Destiny

For many people, life is all about the luck of the draw, the crumble of the cookie or the way the ball bounces. From the AP wires yesterday, here are three stories with the convergent theme of ball games. The first two are about people who benefited from the bounce of the ball. The third story is about a man who did not depend on chance, instead, he "made something happen."

Lottery Balls:

DALTON, Ga. — A Georgia truck driver stepped forward Wednesday to claim half of a $390 million jackpot, the richest lottery prize in U.S. history.

"I'm going to do a lot of fishing," Ed Nabors, 52, of Rocky Face, Ga., about 90 miles north of Atlanta, said in a deep Southern drawl. The other winning ticket in Tuesday night's Mega Millions drawing was sold at a liquor store in New Jersey, and the holder did not immediately come forward.

Nabors bought his ticket when he stopped in for his weekly cup of coffee at a convenience store in Dalton — the self-proclaimed "Carpet Capital of the World" — near a carpet mill run by his employer, Mohawk Industries.

He said he didn't learn he had won until 9 a.m. — about 10 hours after the numbers were announced — when his co-workers told them that someone bought the winning ticket in Dalton.

"I'm still numb," he said.

He elected to take his winnings in a lump sum instead of annual installments, and will get $116.5 million before taxes, or more than $80 million after.


LOS ANGELES — A man who was cleared of murder when outtakes from the HBO comedy "Curb Your Enthusiasm" put him at Dodger Stadium when the crime occurred will get $320,000 in a settlement with the city.

The Los Angeles City Council agreed Wednesday to settle the police misconduct lawsuit filed by Juan Catalan, who spent nearly five months in jail before footage from the show cemented his alibi.

Catalan, 28, was arrested for the May 2003 slaying of Martha Puebla, 16, outside her Sun Valley home. He told detectives he was innocent and was at a Dodgers game when the crime occurred.

His defense lawyer, Todd Melnik, went through footage of crowd shots from the televised game between the Dodgers and the Atlanta Braves, but did not find his client. Then he learned that the HBO comedy starring former "Seinfeld" co-creator Larry David had been shooting at the ballpark that day.

"There he was in the outtakes," said Gary S. Casselman, the attorney handling Catalan's lawsuit. "He's glad it's over."

The scene, which ended up on the cutting room floor, showed Catalan with his 6-year-old daughter and two friends. The footage was time coded, confirming that Catalan was at the ballpark shortly before the time of the murder 20 miles away.

Records of a cell phone call, made from Dodger Stadium, between Catalan and his girlfriend also helped persuade a judge to release him.

Someone else is now being prosecuted for the slaying, Casselman said.

Great Balls afire!

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. — Attempts to duplicate a movie stunt landed one man in the hospital with burned genitals and another facing criminal charges.

The men were trying to do a stunt from one of the "Jackass" movies, in which a character lights his genitals on fire.

Jared W. Anderson, 20, suffered serious burns to his hands and genitals, according to the criminal complaint. Randell D. Peterson, 43, who sprayed lighter fluid on Anderson and lit him on fire, was charged with felony battery and first-degree reckless endangerment Tuesday in Eau Claire County Court.

Witnesses told police that Anderson, who was drunk, volunteered to do the stunt Sunday after watching the movie, the complaint said.

After Peterson ignited Anderson, he ran into the bathroom, jumped into the tub and put the flames out, according to the complaint. He was taken to Luther Hospital, and eventually treated at the Regions Hospital Burn Unit in St. Paul, Minn., for second-degree burns.


  1. Before there was earth or sea or heaven, there existed only chaos: shapeless, unorganized, lifeless matter. There was no sun, no moon, and no air. Elements existed, but they had neither form nor character. The earth was without firmness, the water without fluidity, and the sky without light.

    There was opposition in all things: hot conflicted with cold, wet with dry, heavy with light, and hard with soft.

    Finally a god, a natural higher force, resolved this conflict, separating earth from heaven, parting the dry land from the waters, and dividing the clear air from the clouds, thus organizing all things into a balanced union. In the highest sphere he made a heavenly vault of weightless and untainted ether. The next lower region he filled with air, light but not without substance. Then came the heavy earth, which sank down under its own weight and was encircled by the sea.

    Thus did the god, whichever god it was, set order to the chaotic mass by separating it into its components, then organizing them into a harmonious whole.

    Then the god shaped the earth into a great ball and caused the seas to spread in one direction and the other.

    According to
    Greek and Roman Mythology
    The Metamorphoses of Ovid
    by D. L. Ashliman

  2. Then came Multiculturalism and PC, and it was back to meaningless chaos.
    Entropy Triumphs Again.

  3. Damn, you beat me to the Burning Balls Story, Whit.
    I'll leave my separate source link anyhow.
    Beer Me, Fridge
    Remote-control refrigerator tosses cans to inventive couch potato.

    In developing his beer catapult, Cornwell said he dented a few walls and came close to accidentally throwing a can through his television. He's since fine-tuned the machine to land a beer where he usually sits at home, on what he called "a right-angle couch system."

    "I did launch a lot watching the Super Bowl," he said. "My friends are the reason I built it. I told them about the idea and hyped it so much and I had to go through with it."

    A video featuring the device is a hit on the Internet, where more than 600,000 people have watched it at, earning Cornwell more than $3,000 from the Web site.
    Genitals Burned In 'Jackass' StuntVictim has to jump into tub to put out the flames.

  4. I'm thinking of launching a new product on Arabic Ebay. "Dr Mahmoud's Stress Relief Kit."

    I am hoping to partner with either the manufacturers of Anusol or Preparation H.

    It will sell for $19.95US plus $4.95US for shipping and handling. It will be advertised "As seen on American Television" The three piece kit will come with instructions for use. As an incentive for those who order within 15 minutes, I will throw in not one but TWO extra kits.

    To invest, contact me at the EB.

  5. I fogot to mention;

    "Dr. Mahmoud's Stress Relief Kit" will also be saturated on al-Jazeera.

    It's the humanitarian thing to do.

    Contact Whit at the EB for investment opportunities.

  6. Whit,

    As a prudent investor, does bubble gum come with the kit?

  7. Then, again, there are the ball- less.


    Just another way to tell who are the bad guys.

    “An apparent honor killing attempt on the life of Israel's first Druze beauty queen contestant was foiled this week by the Carmiel police.”


  8. Whit,

    Not one to tamper with the invisible hand of Mr. Market, but as an infidel I am having some problems getting my head, much less my mouth, around the idea of chewing gum that has been in fudge factory, so to speak. What does market research in the Muslim world tell us about this new gastric sensation sweeping the ummah, I wonder?

  9. Ash,

    re: ball-less contd

    Out of deep "respect" for the Druze community, the terrified beauty contestant has "quit".

    Having dishonored her ball-less uncles, however, she will not be safe. Right, Ash?

    Oh, there is no information on whether she has male sibblings to sexually abuse her prior to her mutilation in the name of Allah the Just, the Holy.

  10. Allen, "new gastric sensation" - LOL.

    Glad you enjoyed the Derek/Dominos. As mentioned previously, I live in ATL, so if you're just down the road from Macon, I'm just up the road from there. Funny thing about your comment re: Duane's and Berry Oakley's burial site. Having listened to that YouTube clip last night and then again this am to wake me up, while showering I said to myself, "Really need to go to Macon to see Duane's grave (not too far from Elizabeth Reed I understand), the Big House where ABB lived and visit the soul food cafe that fed those hippies before they made it big.

    It is a very small world!

  11. Powerline - Political Winds Shifting On Iraq? There's a video included in this post that you should not miss. A liberal Dem telling antiwar protesters they must be smoking something illegal. Incredible.

    To see how frustrated the Democrats are feeling, check out this video of Congressman David Obey going ballistic on a group of antiwar liberals. It's gratifying to hear Obey denouncing "idiot liberals" in terms like these:

    [quote from video of Congressman Obey ] How the hell do you think we're going to get the votes to cut off the war? ... If that's not good enough for you, you're smoking something illegal... You've got your facts screwed up...we can't get the votes! You see a magic wand in my pocket? How the hell we going to get the votes for it? We ain't got the votes for it. We do have the votes if you guys quite screwing it up.

  12. Saddam judge flees Iraq

    The Iraqi judge who sentenced Saddam Hussein to death has fled Iraq and sought asylum in the UK.

    Al Jazeera's correspondent in London quoted British official sources as saying that Raouf Abdel-Rahman, a member of Iraq's Kurdish minority, has requested political asylum in Britain with his family.

    Abdel-Rahman headed the Supreme Iraq Criminal Tribunal that heard Saddam's genocide trial and found the former Iraqi president guilty, leading to his execution.

  13. That is a sure sign of the reconciliation process moving forward in Iraq.

  14. allen,

    You seem obsessed with pointing out bad behavior committed by muslims. What is the point? One could easily recite a litany of absurd behavior done by orthodox Jews, or fundamentalist Christians. Is Judaism corrupt then? How many incidents need I parade about for you to accept Judaism is evil?

    I fully agree that there is many stooopid and ugly things done by fundamentalist muslims. I have a revulsion for all fundamentalist religious folks wishing to cram theilr ideology down the throats of others. So, what's your point?

  15. Ash,

    Perfect nonsense! Murderous Orthodox Jews, in their thousands, millions. On what planet is that?

  16. Returning to domestic Islamic terrorists:

    Mosque leaders get prison in sting

    By Jove, I've got it: deploy to Buffalo!

  17. Let US continue to fund the Iranian proxy government in Iraq.

    Let US continue to invite Iranian proxies to the White House for private meetings with the President.

    Let US continue to have the Wahabbists front for US in negotiations with Iran.

    Let US continue to allow Insurgent Sanctuaries to exist in Syria and Iraq.

    It's been a course of "Slow Failure", let US continue.

    The US Army's commander, on the ground, it's best General, says his troops cannot win in Iraq.
    Not without the Iranian proxies helping US to achieve political reconciliation with the Saudi funded insurgents.

    Reconcilation with the Insurgents, not defeat of the Insurgents. There is no Plan for Victory, no Plan to win.

    trish is right Victory is now defined as accommadation with the Mohammedans.

    Go Bandar Go!!!

  18. Whenever the argument is made that the Koran as well as the historical words and deeds of Islam’s prophet Muhammad and his companions evince violence and intolerance, the counter-argument is immediately made -

    What about the historical atrocities committed by the Hebrews in years gone by and as recorded in their scriptures (the Old Testament)? What about the brutal cycle of violence Christians have committed in the name of their faith against both fellow Christians and non-Christians?

    Thereafter two examples—one biblical, the other historic—are often cited as paradigmatic of the religious violence inherent to both Judaism and Christianity.

    The first is the genocide-like conquest of the land of Canaan by the Hebrews (c. 1200 BC).
    (Deuteronomy 20: 16-18).

    So Joshua [Moses’ successor] conquered all the land: the mountain country and the South and the lowland and the wilderness slopes, and all their kings; he left none remaining, but utterly destroyed all that breathed, as Yahweh God of Israel had commanded (Joshua 10:40).

    The second example revolves around the Crusader wars waged by European Christians between the 11th-13th centuries. To be sure, the Crusades were a “counter-attack” on Islam—not an unprovoked assault as is often depicted by revisionist history. A united Christendom sought to annex the Holy Land of Jerusalem, which, prior to its conquest by Islam in the 7th century, was an integral part of Christendom for some 400 years.

    Nonetheless, these Crusades were violent and bloody and countless atrocities were committed—all in the name of Christianity and under the banner of the cross. Perhaps the most infamous act of villainy perpetrated by these “fighters-for-Christ” is the 1204 sack of Constantinople, wherein Christian slew Christian in a violent bloodbath.

    In light of the above—one a prime example of violence from the Bible, the other from Christian history —

    Why should Islam be the one religion always characterized as intrinsically violent, simply because its holy book and its history also contain violence?

    Why should non-Muslims always point to the Koran and ancient history as evidence of Islam’s violence while never looking to their own scriptures and history?

    While such questions are popular, they reveal a great deal of confusion between history and theology, between the temporal actions of men and the immutable words of God.

    The fundamental error being that Judeo-Christian history—which is violent—is being conflated with Islamic theology — which commands violence. Of course all religions have had their fair share of violence and intolerance towards the “other.” Whether this violence is ordained by God or whether warlike man merely wished it thus is the all-important question.

    Old Testament violence is an interesting case in point. Yahweh clearly ordered the Hebrews to annihilate the Canaanites and surrounding peoples. Such violence is therefore an expression of God’s will, for good or ill. Regardless, all the historic violence committed by the Hebrews and recorded in the Old Testament is just that—history. It happened; God commanded it. But it revolved around a specific time and place and was directed against a specific people. At no time did such violence go on to become standardized or codified into Jewish law (i.e. the Halakha).

    This is where Islamic violence is unique. Though similar to the violence of the Old Testament—commanded by God and manifested in history—certain aspects of Islamic violence have become standardized in Islamic law (i.e. the Sharia) and apply at all times. Thus while the violence found in the Koran is in fact historical, its ultimate significance is theological. Consider the following Koranic verses:

    Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the pagans wherever you find them—take them [captive], besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due [i.e. submit to Islam], then leave their way free. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful (9:5).

    Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger [i.e. Islamic law], nor acknowledge the religion of Truth [i.e. Islam], from the people of the book [i.e. Jews and Christians], until they pay tribute with willing submission, and feel themselves utterly subdued (9:29).

    As with Old Testament verses where Yahweh commanded the Hebrews to attack and slay their neighbors, these Koranic verses also have a historical context. Allah (through Muhammad) first issued these commandments after the Arab tribes had finally unified under the banner of Islam and were preparing to invade their Christian and pagan neighbors. But unlike the bellicose verses and anecdotes of the Old Testament, these so-called “sword-verses” subsequently became fundamental to Islam’s relationship to both the “people of the book” (i.e. Christians and Jews) and the “pagans” (i.e. Hindus, Buddhists, animists, etc).

    In fact, based on the sword-verses (as well as countless other Koranic verses and oral traditions attributed to Muhammad), Islam’s scholars, sheikhs, muftis, imams, and qadis throughout the ages have all reached the consensus—binding on the entire Muslim community—that Islam is to be at perpetual war with the non-Muslim world, until the former subsumes the latter. (It is widely held that the sword-verses alone have abrogated some 200 of the Koran’s more tolerant verses.) Famous Muslim scholar and “father of modern history” Ibn Khaldun articulates the dichotomy between jihad and defensive warfare thus:

    In the Muslim community, the holy war [i.e. jihad] is a religious duty, because of the universalism of the Muslim mission and the obligation to convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force.

    The other religious groups did not have a universal mission, and the holy war was not a religious duty for them. They are merely required to establish their religion among their own people. That is why the Israeilites after Moses and Joshua remained unconcerned with royal authority [e.g. a “caliphate”]. Their only concern was to establish their religion [not spread it to the nations]… But Islam is under obligation to gain power over other nations (The Muqudimmah, vol. 1 pg. 473, emphasis added).

    Even when juxtaposed to their Old Testament counterparts, the sword-verses are distinctive for using language that transcends time and space, inciting believers to attack and slay non-believers today no less than yesterday. Yahweh commanded the Hebrews to kill Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites—all specific peoples rooted to a specific time and place. At no time did Yahweh give an open-ended command for the Hebrews, and by extension their descendants the Jews, to fight and kill gentiles.

    On the other hand, though Islam’s original enemies were, like Judaism’s, historical (e.g. Christian Byzantines and pagan Persians), the Koran rarely singles them out by their proper names. Instead, Muslims were (and are) commanded to fight the people of the book—“until they pay tribute with willing submission and feel themselves utterly subdued” (9:29) and to “slay the pagans wherever you find them” (9:5). The two conjunctions “until” and “wherever” demonstrate the perpetual nature of these commandments: there are still “people of the book” who have yet to be “utterly subdued” (especially in the Americas, Europe, and Israel) and “pagans” to be slain “wherever” one looks (especially Asia and sub-Saharan Africa).

    Aside from the divine words of the Koran, Muhammad’s pattern of behavior—his “Sunna” or “example”—is an extremely important source of legislation in Islam. Muslims are exhorted to emulate Muhammad in all walks of life: “You have indeed in the Messenger of Allah a beautiful pattern [of conduct]” (33:21). And Muhammad’s pattern of conduct vis-à-vis non-Muslims is quite explicit. Sarcastically arguing against the concept of “moderate” Islam, terrorist Osama bin Laden, who enjoys half the Arab-Islamic world’s support per a recent al-Jazeera poll, portrays the prophet’s Sunna thus:

    “Moderation” is demonstrated by our prophet who did not remain more than three months in Medina without raiding or sending a raiding party into the lands of the infidels to beat down their strongholds and seize their possessions, their lives, and their women” (from The Al-Qaeda Reader).

    In fact, based on both the Koran and Muhammad’s Sunna, pillaging and plundering infidels, enslaving their children, and placing their women in concubinage is well founded (e.g. 4:24, 4:92, 8:69, 24:33, 33:50, etc.).

    While law-centric and legalistic, Judaism has no such equivalent to the Sunna; the words and deeds of the patriarchs, though recorded in the Old Testament, never went on to be part of Jewish law. Neither Abraham’s “white-lies,” nor Jacob’s perfidy, nor Moses’ short-fuse, nor David’s adultery, nor Solomon’s philandering ever went on to instruct Jews or Christians.

    They were merely understood to be historical actions perpetrated by fallible men who were often punished by God for their less than ideal behavior.

    As for Christianity, much of the Old Testament law was abrogated by Jesus. “Eye for an eye” gave way to “turn the other cheek.” Totally loving God and one’s neighbor became supreme law (Matt 22:38-40). Furthermore, Jesus’ “Sunna”—as in “What would Jesus do?”—is characterized by passivity and altruism.

    And it is from here that one can best appreciate the Crusades. However one interprets these wars—as offensive or defensive, just or unjust—it is plainly evident that they were not based on the teachings of the New Testament or the example of Jesus who exhorted his followers to “love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matt 5:44).

    The Crusaders—not the jihadists—are the ones who have contradicted their religion.
    In fact, far from suggesting anything intrinsic to Christianity, the Crusades ironically help better explain Islam. For what the Crusades demonstrated once and for all is that irrespective of religious teachings—indeed, in the case of these so-called “Christian” Crusades, despite them—man is truly predisposed to violence and intolerance. But this begs the question: If this is how Christians behaved—who are commanded to love, bless, and do good to their enemies who hate, curse, and persecute them—how much more can be expected of Muslims who, while sharing the same violent tendencies, are further commanded by the Deity to attack, kill, and plunder non-believers?

    - Raymond Ibrahim

  19. J willie...
    "I live in ATL, so if you're just down the road from Macon, I'm just up the road from there."

    I really enjoy GA, although metro ATL is becoming one continuous sprawl. Visited both Marietta and Warner Robins fairly recently. As one leaves Macon, there is not much going on traveling down Hwy 16.

  20. Two words: Social Darwinism .. I can only hope that dude's unit is now so damaged that he won't be able to spread his genius seed around