Jordan Cliffs Trail

In about 11 hours I will be hiking the Jordan Cliffs Trail in Acadia National Park. I don’t have anything substantial to say right now. I’m just pretty excited.

It looks like this but with snow.

Second-class citizenry

Missouri Highway Patrol Cpl. Dennis Engelhard was hit by a vehicle that lost control in the snow on Christmas day. His partner will not see anything from the state.

Under the rules of the state pension system that covers the Missouri Highway Patrol and Department of Transportation workers, if a trooper dies in the line of duty, his or her spouse is eligible for lifetime survivor benefits.

The yearly benefit is equal to half of the officer’s average salary during the officer’s highest-paid three years as a trooper. For Engelhard, the benefit would have been $28,138 a year.

Engelhard’s partner, Kelly Glossip, was at the hospital when Engelhard was pronounced dead. He mourned with the other troopers – just as they would have mourned for their own wives. The difference is that Missouri condones bigotry, so Glossip will not see any of that pension.

“I’d take 100 Dennis Engelhards. He was an outstanding trooper,” said Capt. Ronald Johnson, head of the Highway Patrol troop that covers St. Louis and surrounding counties. “His lifestyle had no bearing on his career.”

J.D. Salinger

It’s a rare instance that I agree with Boston radio host Howie Carr – and today is one of those instances. His website has a daily poll and he reports the results each weekday. Obviously, the conservative position wins at least 80-20 every time and Carr pretty much is always with that majority. But today was different. The question was “Is ‘Catcher in the Rye’ overrated?”. The numbers were something like 60% “yes”. Carr responded, “No. It can’t be overrated. Don’t judge the book by your high school English teacher, people!” (paraphrased).

He’s absolutely right. Catcher in the Rye is one of the greatest books ever written. Maybe it’s because it’s usually cool to say ‘That’s not cool’ about whatever happens to be really popular – especially if it’s popular for a long time – that drives people to erroneously declare the book overrated. It isn’t. It can’t be.

Personally, this book ranks at the top of my list in a close fight with Animal Farm for the number two spot (All Quiet on the Western Front is my number one). The literary world is far better off with this book than without it.

That’s why it’s so unfortunate to hear that J.D. Salinger has died at 91.


Thought of the day

I suspect that not one person in the history of humanity has ever reached early adolescence and made a conscious decision about what stimuli trigger a little hormonal surge.

~PZ Myers

The French march on the burqa

The French just seem to hate the burqa. A parliament report has recommended a ban of the burqa in certain circumstances.

In the end, the commission called on parliament to adopt a resolution stating that the all-encompassing veil was “contrary to the values of the republic” and proclaiming that “all of France is saying ‘no’ to the full veil”.

The National Assembly resolution would pave the way to legislation making it illegal for anyone to appear with their face covered at state-run institutions and in public transport, for reasons of security.

Women who turn up at the post office or any government building wearing the full veil would be denied services such as a work visa, residency papers or French citizenship, the report said.

It’s obvious this proposal has been inspired in part by fear of Islam, but it seems that there probably is some genuine concern for the equality of women.

I can sympathize with that concern; it’s obvious that the burqa is a tool used to tell women they are inferior. That’s it. Pat Condell goes off on this at some length. And I can sympathize with the need for national security. Where it is relevant, by all means ban the damn thing – at certain points within airports, in banks, etc. But where my sympathy for the French is entirely lost is with the rights and personal liberties of the individual. At no point should a government be allowed to intrude upon the right of any individual to dress in any sort of harmless manner. I hate the burqa as much as the next rational person, but I would hate to see it illegal for someone to freely practice her (or his) belief.

Sarkozy set the tone for the debate in June when he declared the burqa “not welcome” in France and described it as a symbol of women’s “subservience” that cannot be tolerated in a country that considers itself a human rights leader.

It is precisely that: a symbol. And should a woman be forced to wear this symbol by another person, that is a human rights violation. But if the woman chooses to wear an ugly mask, no government has the right to tell her otherwise.

Thought of the day

Joe Biden has a million dollar smile.