Friday, August 31, 2007


"Well, that's just your truth"

President Sarkozy
One of the now-abandoned talking points that the anti-war left and Democrats used to complain about Iraq was that the US was being "unilateral" and "going it alone" into Iraq. Despite the fact that troops representing every continent on earth except Antarctica and almost 50 different nations were involved in the invasion, the complaint was that the US was defying the world. What this complaint really meant was that the US had not gotten the approval of France.

France is considered by many on the left to be the ideal nation, a country with a history of atheist humanism and socialism so far to the left it nudges up against Lenin. A nation that habitually opposes the United States in almost any action, is known for its art, decadence, and wine, and which eptiomizes leftist ideals. Mind you France as a reality often violates leftist cant, such as its ghastly dehumanizing prisons, it's post-colonialist empire building, it's nuclear power, and its attacking Greenpeace. But they say the right things, oppose the United States, and seem to really feel the right feelings, so that all is OK.

So when the United States led a multinational coalition into Iraq in defiance of the incredibly insulting and arrogant French opposition, the US was wrong, it was going it alone - meaning "without France."

Recently, France elected a more right-leaning president in Nicholas Sarkozy who has repudiated the policies, statements, and attitude of the previous leader Jacques Chirac. This new administration backs the United States, is acting like an ally - something France has not done for more than 60 years - to the point of even threatening Iran for it's continuous war drum beating and attempts to build a nuclear weapon.

The response of the left? Well, here's what the New York Times said:
French President Nicolas Sarkozy made the wrong gesture at the wrong time by brandishing the possible use of force against Iran’s nuclear weapons program in his first major foreign policy address. The United States and its allies need to be stepping up their efforts to resolve the serious dangers posed by Iran through comprehensive negotiations and increased international economic pressure, not by talking about military action...
What's even funnier is that this op-ed (by the NYT editors) even claims that diplomacy works better without threats:
Tehran made a deal this month with U.N. inspectors to resolve questions over its nuclear program that is just another pretense of addressing international concerns. China and Russia, the main obstructionists on the Security Council, will try to use that deal as another excuse to resist tougher sanctions. The United States and its allies must creatively push for the maximum sanctions possible. This is the time for robust diplomacy, not threats.
How robust diplomacy can be without any threat behind it is difficult to comprehend. At Tigerhawk, he points out that this is part of an ongoing attempt to shape policy in France:
Well, you do if your most important intended audience is the French electorate. Sarkozy's speech was obviously intended to build support within France for a sanctions regime that will not come cheap to the French economy.

Considering that the New York Times constantly accuses the Bush administration of propagandizing to build support at home for its forward foreign policy, you would think its editors would notice when the leader of another democracy does the same thing.

And Commenters responded:
Forgive me if this seems frightfully naive, but what makes diplomacy "robust", if not threats?

What could the last sentence possibly mean?
-by James of England

I suppose they take the threat of layoffs, RIFs, firings, etc - before negotiating with their unionized employees?
-by Brendan

Gawd, they say it themselves.

The United States and its allies need to be stepping up their efforts to resolve the serious dangers posed by Iran through comprehensive negotiations and increased international economic pressure, not by talking about military action...

is concluded with this:

Tehran made a deal this month with U.N. inspectors to resolve questions over its nuclear program that is just another pretense of addressing international concerns.

Talk doesn't work? No problem apply MORE TALK.
-by Gordon

What's more, the NYT contradicts itself:

Suggesting the U.N. is the key to unlocking a nuclear-free Iran, the article says that the U.N. Security Council has to "remain united". Then, 2 sentences immediately thereafter, the article refers to Russia and China as "obstructionists" who will continue to resist efforts at meaningful economic sanctions.

How is the U.N. Security Council "united" at all in the first place, if 40% of the Council is "obstructionist" and clearly not cooperating with diplomatic efforts to punish or persuade Iran?
-by QuickRob

Maybe incoherent is the wrong word, in terms of its connotation. I use that word to describe the letters my mentally ill cousin sends to me. There is certainly a degree of logical inconsistency, which happens when there are too many cooks in the kitchen and there are multiple drafts. Could there be mild disagreement among the editorial page editors at the NYT? Is a deviation from the orthodoxy happening? Even the Politburo had its factions.
-by Escort81

All talk about international diplomacy from the NYT has the American electorate as its audience. Whether Diplomacy Method A or Diplomacy Method B actually works better out in the world is of no importance. There is a narrative that the NYT believes which would help to elect, uh, certain people. Their goal is to convince you of the narrative.

They're just helping out by warning us, you see, or we might go astray. People might get the wrong ideas about how the world works if journalists didn't provide context for us.
-by Assistant Village Idiot
The sad thing is that this points out the lie that the "unilateral" complaint was all along. This was never about France as a nation joining in. It was just about "I oppose President Bush no matter what and here's an excuse." Once France signs on, well it's time to oppose France, not support President Bush.

The ideal for the deluded leftist is a world where you can talk to anyone and convince them to stop doing their evil deeds, preferably with gifts and kindness that shames them into acting better. Note, this is only used against the really evil, horrible people in the world - against political enemies or people who are safe to deal with but disagree, other tactics are certainly permissible. It comes down to a sad moral cowardice, where the threat of having to actually follow through with violence or force is unacceptable, they might get hurt!

This is all part of the relativist philosophy that believes you can hold two totally contradictory positions at the same time without problem, combined with the delusion that people deep down are basically decent. All you have to do is appeal to this and bring that good side out and everything will be ok! The complaint France wasn't signed on had nothing to do with the argument at it's core. They were opposed to using force to actually back up what you said, no matter what the cost or situation, especially by a Republican President.

The sad thing for people like this is that some people are not good at all and that their evil and madness will simply consume you and all you hold dear unless they are stopped.

I should add a caveat here: there are some that people like this think are innately and unrepentantly evil. They consider President Bush to be a horror and an evil that cannot be saved, a creature so wicked that every deed, even those normally praised and lauded in others, must be considered suspicious and for dark, conspiratorial reasons. President Bush only does things that seem right for evil reasons.

This is, again, the problem of relativism: you can both hold that all people are basically decent and that some are inherently evil and monstrous. You can believe that all can be reached through proper talk and gifts, and that some can only be disposed of or shut away (preferably in "reeducation camps") because they cannot be reached. The contradiction isn't a concern because truth is relative, you see.
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"It’s inherently ironic when a politician like Ellen Tauscher complains about 'slime,' regardless of the subject."

Dumb Troops
Democratic congressmen who went to Iraq are unhappy with how the ungrateful troops have spoken about them. After all, they traveled at the public's expense all the way to Iraq and wandered around a few hours looking at buildings, met with some officials, and came home. That kind of self-sacrifice and effort for the cause of liberty should be honored by all, particularly by troops so dumb they couldn't figure out how to avoid going to Iraq.

At least, that's the impression you get when you hear Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) complaining about how she was treated:
"This is beyond parsing. This is being slimed in the Green Zone."
What did these troops do? Well, the soldiers who were escorting several of the congressmen had a bit of information, bios printed out about who they were with. These bios included select quotes by the congressmen such as these:
"This has been the worst foreign policy fiasco in American history."
-James P. Moran (D-VA)

"Our forces are caught in the middle of an escalating sectarian conflict in Iraq, with no end in sight."
-Ellen Tauscher
The bios had information on the latest Iraq vote (for withdrawal) of each congressman as well as how to pronounce their names and information about them. The congressmen were upset at having the facts of their actions told to the soldiers. As Don Surber pointed out, if they were being slimed, it was with their own words. I can see why a politician might not care for what they say to be readily available to everyone, but the truth sometimes hurts.

Commenters discussed this event:
None of the troops I speak with here in Baghdad would give the time of day to the politicians who are sabotaging their efforts. Believe me, the surge is working and A LOT of progress has been made. This is not the time to give up. I’ve been here working on rebuilding two power plants outside the green zone for over one year. The change around us in noise level is remarkable. We are sleeping a lot better, and longer, at night now.

Thanks, Don, for all your support. Great website.
-by Robert B

Anyway, none of these politicians making their visits are doing anything outside of the green zone. It’s very hard to see what’s going on “on the ground” when you’re within the walls.

This current batch of congressional visitors, plus the ones who went earlier this year, and most of the journalists who are reporting from there, are not doing anyone a service by pretending to be in-country when reporting from within the green zone.
-by Carla Lynette

The article brings back memories when I served. GIs haven’t changed a bit. They love to stick it to a politician when they know the politician is trying to stick it to them. I hope to see more episodes such as this.
-by Gene Hall

I can’t believe that you guys are questioning their bravery, they went into the green zone the most dangerous part of Iraq for anti-troop democrat, there is no one from AL Qaeda in Iraq to protect them.
-by Rob W
It is hard for me to feel much sympathy for congressmen in general, but in particular for congressmen confronted with their own deeds. I can understand their unwillingness to face troops who are aware of what they've said about these men and women and their task, it's embarrassing. Best to avoid that by keeping them in the dark about your back stabbing back home, right, congresswoman Tauscher?

These are real men and women doing a real hard job in danger of their lives for people like you to sit at home and characterize them as losers in a failure. It might be tough to get eye contact with them after all that, but there's nothing unsavory or wrong about them being aware of your pernicious behavior and words. Your very reaction, congressmen, indicates the guilt and misgivings you feel about what you're doing in the name of political power and personal gain.
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"Workers of the world, unite!"

On this day in 1980, polish dock workers led by Lech Wałęsa rebelled against their employers and went on strike. Now, given the communist roots of many unions in the early 20th century, most people find it shocking that trade unions are the first thing communists ban. It was surprising to me to even learn that there was such a thing in Poland - it was illegal, of course. However, this event was the first clear rent in the iron curtain, the first visible indication that the entire corrupt, tottering Soviet Union was finally going to collapse.

Wałęsa was arrested in 1970 for a previous attempt to organize a strike, and through the 1970s was unable to work because he'd been blacklisted by the communist Polish government. The cause? He had sent a petition around trying to get a monument built commemorating workers who'd died working at the Gdansk docks in 1976. Nothing bad happens in Communist countries, you can't have anything that points to accidents, shoddy working conditions, and danger at the workplace!

But it was in 1980 that Lech Wałęsa climbed over the wall around the Lenin Shipyard of Gdansk and led a strike that shocked the communist world and amazed the rest of the world. The strike was joined by various organizations around Poland, and the Polish government government signed an agreement with the Strike Coordination Committee to allow legal organization, but not actual free trade unions. By 1989, this had become actual trade unions, and when the Soviet Union finally fell, Lech Wałęsa helped form a non-communist political party. Wałęsa eventually went on to be the president of Poland for five years.

Let's remember this day, and what it stood for, not just for Poland and people under the crushing boot of Soviet oppression, but for the world in terms of liberty and justice.


"He who has the gold makes the rules... or in this instance, simply ignores them."
-Golden Rule 2.0

Corrupt Greedy Politician
Senator John Edwards (D-NC) speaks about two Americas, where there's one country where the wealthy and comfortable live that's doing well and another where people are poor and miserable and things are getting worse. The message gets decent media attention but other than mockery, it's not getting any traction. There is, however, a sense in which there are two Americas.

If you are sufficiently wealthy and/or popular enough, you can get away with things that other people would not. Consider the O.J. Simpson trial, where a blatantly guilty murderer walked away by affording the most expensive lawyers he could find. Or in a different context, consider campaign finance fraud. George Soros is the activist billionaire behind, an allegedly non-profit organization dedicated to political change. In the 2004 elections, this group took advantage of a loophole in campaign finance laws that happened to be left behind after the McCain-Feingold bill was passed. They ran a vigorous, very expensive campaign, with George Soros alone spending $50 million to try to oust President Bush.

Because of this effort, Senator Kerry (D-MA) won almost 49% of the popular vote despite being one of the least electable candidates in American history. President Bush still retained office with the largest popular vote count in American history. However, something else happened in that election: broke campaign finance laws. MoveOn failed to register and file disclosure reports as federal political committees and accepted contributions in violation of federal limits and source prohibitions, according to the FEC. violated campaign finance laws because they expressly stated their desire to influence the presidential election in their fundraising, their public statements or their advertisements. Such activity, according to the Federal Elections Commission, could only be conducted by political committee registered with the FEC that abide by contribution limits and public disclosure requirements. MoveOn was fined $150,000 for their illegal activities in the 2004 US election.

Sister organization ACT (America Coming Together - another Soros backed organization that is now defunct) was also fined because FEC found most of that cash came through contributions that violated federal limits. That fine was bigger: $775,000. Both of these organizations worked with the Kerry campaign - Senator Kerry's wife was even seen attending fundraisers.

Over 900,000 dollars seems like a lot of money, until you realize that George Soros alone has more than $7,000,000,000 to spend. That's like an 14 dollar fine to someone making $100,000 a year. In the case of the ACT fine, Soros was personally fined, but the MoveOn fine went to the organization with its many donors. After 3 years, this is the worst that Soros has to face for violating the law and trying to manipulate an election.

As John Hawkins puts it at Right Wing News, this shows how toothless campaign finance laws are, and it demonstrates two Americas at least in this sense:
When it comes to campaign finance laws, there's a rich man's justice and a poor man's justice and neither of them does a good job of being fair, "keeping the money out of politics," or respecting the tradition of political free speech we have in this country.
McCain-Feingold effectively shut up the little guy, the poor person, the individual and the citizen. But it gave free reign to billionaires, the legacy media, and the candidates themselves. This is America?

Lest you think this is merely an attack on the left wing, the Swiftboat Vets for Truth was fined in the 2004 election as well for failure to disclose all its donors. Their fine was double what MoveOn had to pay, and they don't have a multi-billionaire backer. SBVT used the loophole in the campaign finance laws as well, running attack ads on Senator Kerry for the dubious Vietnam record he incessantly mentioned.

Consider the kinds of fines and payouts that businesses have to pay out. British Airways colluded with other airlines to fix prices, and are facing a $300 million dollar fine. Three businesses that defrauded the US Navy paid a $65 million fine. And breaking the law while manipulating a presidential election is worth less than a million dollars? To a multi-billionaire?

Most recently, we have the news of the Paw family and the fugitive from justice (living in plain sight) named Norman Hsu who were donating money to Senator Clinton (D-NY) and her bid for president. The Paws donated more money than they earned each year, over several years donating more money than their entire home is worth. The FEC is investigating to find out just where (coughChinacough) this money came from. Campaign finance and election fraud are a knife to the jugular of liberty and democracy and must be stopped, must be punished in the most severe, public, and swift manner possible.

The fines at present are so small and meaningless that they are easily worth the price of doing business for even men far poorer than George Soros, particularly if you can successfully manipulate an election to your liking - because then the people elected owe you. Even after failing to win the 2004 election, MoveOn's director famously cried that they "bought" the Democratic Party. And given the party's actions, it's hard to argue with that perspective. The point of a fine is to punish, not be a symbolic gesture. That means the fine has to exceed the cost of doing business, it has to be worse than not having done the crime, something that penalizes and hurts someone. For an ordinary person or citizen's group, $925,000 is devestating. For billionaires, it's chump change worth paying. That disparity means that the mega wealthy can violate the law with virtual impunity.

This must change, or the republic will not survive, I'm not being dramatic here. If the people lose all confidence in the vote and believe that their efforts are meaningless, then we lose democracy and slouch into plutocracy: rule by the wealthy.
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Quote of the Day

"It is amazing to observe how in a crisis the most sophisticated often act like imbeciles."
-Arthur Koestler
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Thursday, August 30, 2007


"nations must have borders; a citizenry should have a single uniform official language; assimilation and integration must be encouraged, and separatism and tribalism shunned."

Hedonist dude
One of the words you hear bandied about, often as a perjorative by the radical left, is "neocon." What the word actually means is rarely considered, it's just used by some to attack and others to identify the Bush administration, and others of lesser intellectual firepower repeat the word unaware of it's definition.

Victor Davis Hanson ran into the word recently, at 10,000 feet up in the mountains:
So what is a Neocon?

Heard that up at 10,000 feet as well. The slur seems equivalent to the charge of being a child-molester. Apparently to be called a “new conservative” no longer refers to a way of thinking first identified with a group of influential New-York leftists who tired of their own doctrinaire liberalism in the late 1960s and 1970s, and turned on the Great Society. Nor in matters of foreign policy does it mean that these once liberal / now conservative skeptics were suspicious of both the realpolitik of supporting tyrants and the liberal appeasement of terrorists that amounted to the same thing through inaction.

Instead, to be frank—and I speak as one who supported the idea of removing Saddam and staying on to foster constitutional government there—it is now a thinly-veiled slur against supposedly sneaky, scheming Jewish intellectuals who likewise supposedly got us into a surrogate war for Israel. And this conspiracy theory persists despite the fact that former realists like Bush, Cheney, Powell, Rice, and Rumsfeld are neither Jewish nor easily hoodwinked—and ultimately made the final decision to go to war after receiving overwhelming authorization from the US Congress, including a majority of Democrats and stirring saber-rattling speeches and warnings about WMD from the likes of Harry Reid, Hillary Clinton, and John Kerry.

I have disagreements with neo-cons on things like open borders, but on the Middle East ultimately I think they will be proven correct: that we must find a way to distance ourselves from dictators and yet reply militarily to those who harbor terrorists. In the long term, the forces of globalization and modernism are far more lethal to jihadism than 7th century Islam is to us, but in the dangerous short-term, Bush-I realism and Clintonian cruise-missiles will only lead to another 9/11.
Neocon is a word that means what it looks like it means: neo (meaning new) and con (meaning conservative). It is someone who was once a liberal who abandoned this to embrace conservatism, usually in repulsion from what the left has become over time. In a policy sense, it stands for people who are looking for an alternative to the failed and disgusting realpolitik policies of Kissinger, Carter, Baker and others. Neocon policy rejects the idea that one fights evil by allying with other evil that's at least opposed to one's enemy, the neocon idea is to fight evil and build a new coalition of like-minded people who love liberty.

Will it work? I don't particularly care, what I care about is what is right to do. Commenters discussed this and VDH's later comments on farming, wisdom, and the lessons of the past:
I am not of the camp that likes to compare our United States to that of the Roman empire. However I supose that certain paralles could be drawn between the fall of Rome and the seemingly downward spiral certian folks are determined to push us into. Mass immigration with out haveing to learn even basic communication skills in our brand of english, why we'll just print everything in the language you most comfortable with. Farming our of all of our "unwanted" jobs to third and second worl countries so we can got o the big box mart and get them cheaper. The devaluation of life, not just abortion but there is a great many people who place animal welfare above that of "us". The list goes on and on, unfortunatley Iv'e come to the conclusion that what we need is another knock down drag out fight in the vein of the the two great wars in order to wake people up.
-by Kelly Overmyer

The one common thread is again short-term bounty and convenience at the expense of long-term disaster. An odd thought: I wish I could say that had we more farmers in this society, who are born, live, and die in the same place, and depend on what works over decades rather than what seems to work over a few years, we wouldn’t be in such dilemmas.
With the above paragraph, I sensed that Dr. Hanson was about to launch into a curmudgeonly rant about what we have lost in this country due to the century long decline of farmers in the nation, and caught himself, having covered this phenomenon in his books on agriculture. Too bad. A curmudgeonly rant is in order.
There is nothing odd about Dr. Hanson’s train of thought at all. What is “odd” and perhaps catastrophically so, is the mindset that has incrementally infected this country from top to bottom for 40 years, the notion that we can get, and deserve to get, “something for nothing”. As “Something for Nothing” continues to be the rallying cry of the nation, evidenced by the current crop of presidential candidates, (with the possible exception of Ron Paul and other ”fringe” candidates) pandering relentlessly to the entitlement mindset, expect little to change.
As a 50-something hobby farmer, son and grandson of farmers, there is hardly a week goes by that I don’t thank those now deceased gentlemen for disabusing me early on about what I “deserved” as opposed to what I earned. And there was nothing special about my upbringing; the idea of merit versus entitlement was so commonplace in the rural Iowa of my youth, as to be an unquestioned truth, like cold in winter.
-by Ivanhoe

I identify with how you felt on top of that mountain and talking with the other hikers about politics.

I don't like how things are going in Iraq. Nobody does. However the other side in this debate don't offer a viable alternative. Instead the debates go from evil Bush in Iraq to other agendas about health care, global warming, cultural sensitivity etc. without stopping to address real solutions to our current predicament.

The left is failing miserably. Bush is at his nadir, intuitively there should be a strong base of support united against the status quo. However instead the left is a patchwork of dissatisfied Americans competing with special interests and extremists. This is bad for everybody.
-by anonymousoregon

"There used to be certain laws about mortgages" - there also used to be laws against usury (interest). Good rules of thumb and common sense aren't exactly the same as US Code or state law, Victor. You know better than that.

And by the way, scarce labor leads to mechanization, not higher prices. Examine tomatoes for a specific case. I come from Coalinga so I know about those things - its what my girlfriend in high school did for summer work. Mechanically picked tomatoes cost less in real terms now than when they were picked by hand.

And as for all the farmers who knowingly hire illegals (and that's about all of them since they don't really bother to check their green cards), to hell with them. Sun Maid members like my deceased father-in-law whined about what's happening to the country, then proceeded to dump the medical and other costs of their workers on the rest of us. And yeah he lived in the same place (or within 15 miles of Del Rey) for all his life and he still broke the laws knowingly - as do most of the other farmers. Start putting the employers in jail and then things will change. The politicians won't do that because they'll lose campaign contributions, Victor.

Drop me an email Victor and I'll give you an earful and name names. Let's try a couple on for size, my cousin by marriage's name is Jim Mills. If your know your California politics you should know that name. My mom went to school with the Coelhos from Riverdale and our family lawyer worked for the Harris family too.
-by RKV

"There used to be certain laws about mortgages" - there also used to be laws against usury (interest). Good rules of thumb and common sense aren't exactly the same as US Code or state law, Victor. You know better than that.

And by the way, scarce labor leads to mechanization, not higher prices. Examine tomatoes for a specific case. I come from Coalinga so I know about those things - its what my girlfriend in high school did for summer work. Mechanically picked tomatoes cost less in real terms now than when they were picked by hand.

And as for all the farmers who knowingly hire illegals (and that's about all of them since they don't really bother to check their green cards), to hell with them. Sun Maid members like my deceased father-in-law whined about what's happening to the country, then proceeded to dump the medical and other costs of their workers on the rest of us. And yeah he lived in the same place (or within 15 miles of Del Rey) for all his life and he still broke the laws knowingly - as do most of the other farmers. Start putting the employers in jail and then things will change. The politicians won't do that because they'll lose campaign contributions, Victor.

Drop me an email Victor and I'll give you an earful and name names. Let's try a couple on for size, my cousin by marriage's name is Jim Mills. If your know your California politics you should know that name. My mom went to school with the Coelhos from Riverdale and our family lawyer worked for the Harris family too.
-by Cornhead
I suspect Dr Hanson wrote this entry under one of those glooms I sometimes get into. The ones where I shake my head staring into the distance wondering exactly how things got this insane, where truth is rejected for madness, where history is mocked as meaningless, where up is down and Joanie is Chachi, to crib Professor Goldstein. A world where modesty is mocked and derided and immorality is held up as a virtue, a world where hard work is considered foolish and the shallow and frivolous clung to with mad fervor to avoid seeing the truth.

I said ten years ago to a girl I cared for that we were living in the last days of the Roman Empire, which are much more interesting to read about in a history book than live through. The more history I study, the more I read from writers of those days the more I believe this to be true. A once great nation that was the light of civilization with dim, irregular flashes of the greatness it was built on and once known for.

A commenter named Mark L suggested a poem by Rudyard Kipling called God of the Copybook Headings, a clever bit about how reality and truth keeps coming back to bite people no matter what insanity they slouch off into deluded by comfort and ease. Here's the poem in its entirety:

As I pass through my incarnations in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market-Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.

We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.

We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market-Place.
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.

With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings.
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.

When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Heading said: “Stick to the Devil you know.”

On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “The Wages of Sin is Death.”

In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “If you don’t work you die.”

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew,
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four—
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man—
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began —
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire—

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!
-Rudyard Kipling,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings

What are the Gods of the Copybook Headings? Numbers, math, and accounting follow absolute rules, your copybook can be doctored to lie, but still deals with absolutes, and the rules that this follows are like the rules we live under but rebel against. Rules of life that you can break against, but not break. Sure, it might take a while, just like leaping off a cliff takes time to remind you that you've not defied gravity. But in the end, the result is the same.

There are certain undeniable truths of life that you can defy for a time but eventually must face; not the least of which is that truth is not relative. Only someone deluded by the madness that comes from excessive ease, isolation from trouble and work, and drugged by constant comfort and pleasure can act like much of western culture does today in the face of evil and the destruction of everything they take for granted and love.

It's far easier to hide under the covers than face the scary world outside. Huge, catastrophic events force us to do so, for a time, but then the warm comforting womb of delusion calls us once more. What next horror will we be forced awake by? And can we not, for once, stay awake without paying such a ghastly price?
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omgwtf: dude, where are you?
1337h4x: i'm in ur base, killing ur d00ds

In the past I've mentioned the horror of d00d speak and its origins, and over time while the phenomenon has lessened, text messaging and online games have kept it alive. Generally I find abbreviations like ur for your and the use of lol to be obnoxious, but there is one area that it simply makes me laugh and smile. To understand this genre, we have to look back a bit to its origins.

There are several humor websites on the internet where a lot of the net slang and tropes come from, such as Fark and Something Awful. Using manipulated images, weird news, clips of humorous events (intentional and otherwise) and anecdotes, people post on these websites to amuse and entertain each other. From them come various events and trends, but the most oddly endearing that has shown up is the LOLCats.

Something Awful has regular photoshop competitions as well as the usual ones on the forum that show up regularly, often to mock other people. These images and themes tend to be often obscene and sometimes gratuitously involve nudity of pretty girls, and the Something Awful team decided to have a all cute, no naughtiness contest, which ended up with lots of pictures of pets doing absurd and humorous things with strange captions. Many of them were cats with captions of d00d speak and for some reason it just... fit.

It was as if cats really would talk like that if they were able to speak English, that's as well as they could manage and they'd be all proud of themselves, thinking they were tough and cool for using the language in this manner - much in the way people are when they do.

cheezburger?From this spawned the website I Can Haz Cheezburger? which rocketed to an internet sensation with the simple device of posting humorous cat pictures. It's the largest Wordpress blog on the internet with half a million hits a day (a full third of all total hits on Wordpress), and has ads starting at $500 dollars. Cheezburger started in January, and is one more example of how odd stuff can really take off on the internet. There is a competitor site LOLCatz that does quite well too and has great stuff.

There is something just funny about teenage and college age guys taking a break from beer, porn, and video games to take cute pictures of their cats and putting humorous labels on them - usually quite family friendly.

There are several repeated themes that show up in these LOLCat images:

In ur printerThe original which is taken from the Starcraft chat quote at the top, a variant of In Ur Base. The cat is in something, doing something to you that you don't appreciate
Long CatThe long cat, usually taken with a kitty held up dangling loosely, although sometimes photoshopped to be exaggerated
Can't Reach BrakesThe odd location, such as a cat on the roof swatting someone walking by or driving
Computer RepairThe Computer cat, an obvious combination for computer users taking pictures of cats, usually a cat in some odd position or location involving computers and periferals
Dunk CatThe invisible action cat, a cat leaping or tossed so that it appears to be engaged in some task involving an invisible object
Cookie?The Kyoot Kat which usually involves an adorable kitten in some situation or another, often ironic
Monorail CatThe x Cat which positions the cat in an interesting place or manner and makes them seems as if they are another object, like a monorail or a submarine

There are thousands of these examples out there, if you want to you can spend all day just looking at the pictures and what people have come up with. They are even more fun than the motivator posters, which also are pretty fun.

I don't know why I like these cats so much, but I really do enjoy them - and the hampsters, dogs, possums and whatever else people use for these pictures. I think they just are a welcome break from the serious or prurient side of the internet, and are just plain clean fun in almost every instance. LOLCats. Look for them on TV soon, used poorly.
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Quote of the Day

"There is more in common between two deputies, one of whom is a communist, than between two communists, one of whom is a deputy."
-Robert de Jouvenel
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Wednesday, August 29, 2007


The food police, they come to me in my lunch.
(come to me in my lunch.)
The food police, they're coming to arrest me, oh no.

Food Police
One of the more pressing things we need to deal with in the United States is an understanding of what liberty and rights are. The country holds both concepts in very great reverence, but has so lost touch with the meaning of these words that people are able to misuse them or hold them up and manipulate the public. Lacking a real comprehension of what either concept means, but clinging to a visceral love of both, Americans can be steered into all sorts of tyrannies and foolishness by merely evoking each one.

Worse yet are the examples of when people have free exercise of rights and liberties taken away because they are too ignorant to know what they should fight for. This is usually done by well-meaning people, not by those seeking dominance and power. The arguments are not "give up your liberty so that I may control you" but rather "this is bad for you so we all should do without." The most recent example of this is fatty foods. Like in Demolition Man, trans fatty foods have been determined bad for you and thus people should not have them. By law.

New York City's nanny mayor Bloomberg has managed to get a law passed where no restaurants in town may legally cook foods with trans fatty acids. That means a lot of the products used to cook food which make it taste good are banned. OK fine, I live in Oregon, who cares what the idiots in New York City do, right?

The problem is, that doesn't just affect us. Businesses, instead of taking a Patrick Henry approach are instead changing to fit New York City. If every restaurant and food producer said "I think not" in New York City, they'd have to either change the law or ban every restaurant in town. That might cost the businesses a lot, but it would cost New York more, and the law would change. Instead, there's a ripple effect:
Dunkin' Donuts, the food-on-the-go chain whose name celebrates a treat that's symbolic of unhealthy eating, is trying to refresh its image by largely eliminating trans fat across its menu.

Dunkin' planned to announce Monday that it has developed an alternative cooking oil and reformulated more than 50 menu items—doughnuts included. The Canton, Mass.-based chain says its menu will be "zero grams trans fat" by Oct. 15 across its 5,400 U.S. restaurants in 34 states.

About 400 locations nationwide that took part in a four-month test already have made the switch to a new blend of palm, soybean and cottonseed oils. That includes all restaurants in New York City and Philadelphia, which are forcing restaurants to phase out their use of artery-clogging trans fat.

The ice cream chain Baskin-Robbins, another unit of Dunkin' Brands Inc., plans to be zero grams trans fat by Jan. 1.

But wait, there's more! Order trans fats out of New York City and you get franchises world wide as well!
Burger King said Friday it will use trans-fat-free cooking oil at all its U.S. restaurants by the end of next year, following in the footsteps of other leading fast-food restaurants.

The world's second largest hamburger chain said it was already using zero trans-fat oil in hundreds of its more than 7,100 U.S. restaurants nationwide.

Burger King is known for its flame-broiled burgers, but uses cooking oil for its french fries and most of its chicken products.
McDonalds had done so already a few years back. So what's the problem, we'll all be healthier, right? Well, not exactly. First off, trans fats or not, eating donuts and french fries is just not healthy. Anyone going to a fast food or pastry shop for healthy food is like using a hammer to put your shoes on; you're a self-destructive idiot who ought not be unsupervised, in public at least.

The FDA has ruled that trans fats are "generally recognized as safe" and what's worse, moving away from these oils means for many businesses moving back to using lard to fry food in. Tastier, but more expensive and generally considered even less healthy. There's another problem here, though. Letting one over zealous mayor exercising his power to limit liberties "for the public good" dictate policy to the entire nation's businesses to stay open in that city is not healthy for any of us in the long run.

I'm reminded of the decision in Quebec that ruled all signs and products sold there had to be in French and English. To make it cheaper than having Quebec-only packaging, they simply put french on all their packaging and labeling. The alternative would be to say "tough luck Quebec" and not sell anything there until they caved in (which wouldn't take long), but businesses are not particularly confrontational and losing the entire province for even just a few weeks would be expensive.

The problem is, the price we all pay in loss of liberty is worse. Maybe eating x substance is bad for us, but is that a proper place for government to exert it's power? Is simply being bad for someone individually (probably, after time) enough to ban a substance? Where do you draw the line - we as a society have decided that drugs such as heroin are so certainly destructive to someone and society as a result that they need to be illegal. But fried foods? Where is our liberty to make choices, even stupid choices? This seems like a small point, but any overreaching of government power is wrong and dangerous - more than with any other entity, giving them an inch means they reach for a mile. This is an area I stand tall with my libertarian brothers.

Government power must always be constantly and carefully watched to restrain its natural tendency to attempt to grasp more and more power. It is up to individual citizens as well as businesses to resist this and fight it, to maintain our individual liberty as much as possible in the face of incremental tyranny, even if it is "for our own good." As Ronald Reagan said, the most frightening words in the English language are "I'm from the government and I'm here to help."
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"So... G.I. Joe meets the 'Global Test.'"

GI Joe 1967 Model
Nostalgic modern media types have a problem. Too many of their childhood memories, their favorite childhood toys are so painfully un-PC. You can't give your kid the stuff you grew up with, that would be just... wrong! I mean, cap guns? Toy soldiers? Children might get the idea that violence is sometimes needed. Take G.I. Joe, the action figure (boy's doll) personification of the US soldier. A Real American Hero! So jingoistic, so patriotic, so violent!

We have to tone that down, it just doesn't fit today's modern leftist dogma, it's so un-PC! There's a new movie coming out, a GI Joe movie that will almost certainly be awful, but the movie is taking a deliberate turn away from the toy's long past:
The studio's live-action feature film version of G.I. Joe will no longer revolve around a top-secret U.S. special forces team but rather an international operation.

In a follow-up to their confirmation that Stephen Sommers will direct G.I. Joe, Variety offers this new description of the team: "G.I. Joe is now a Brussels-based outfit that stands for Global Integrated Joint Operating Entity, an international co-ed force of operatives who use hi-tech equipment to battle Cobra, an evil organization headed by a double-crossing Scottish arms dealer. The property is closer in tone to X-Men and James Bond than a war film."
G.I. Joe is Belgian now. They are global, not American! Why the change?
Hasbro and Paramount execs recently spoke about the challenges of marketing a film about the U.S. military at a time when the current U.S. administration and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are at a low-point in global polls. When a studio makes a film as expensive as G.I. Joe will likely be, they want to know that as many people as possible around the world will want to see it. In other words, G.I. Joe -- "A Real American Hero" -- is a tough sell.
This isn't the first time G.I. Joe changed, originally he was just a grunt, just an infantry soldier. He had soldier's stuff. It was in the 1980s that the whole COBRA enemy and secret strike force stuff began, with A-Team firepower that went everywhere and hit nothing. But at least they'd kept the American soldier concept. Now? Can't have that.

Cassy Fiano at Whizbang looked at this with a deep sigh:
Nothing is sacred to liberals. Nothing patriotic or American is worth preserving. And I'm sure it never crossed their little liberal minds that perhaps if Hollywood made movies in the vein of those released during WWII, in which America, the military, and our soldiers were portrayed as strong, patriotic heroes, rather than today's military movies in which the United States is always the bad guy, war is always "wrong", and our soldiers are morally corrupt, people wouldn't have such a negative outlook on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (the mainstream media should get that memo, as well). They could be supportive and make movies that showed America, our troops, and their mission in a positive light. But that would go against the liberal agenda. What's even worse is that one of the scripts they had was evocative of the patriotic G.I. Joe, but they chose to go with a script that was less militaristic, described as "X-Men meets Mission: Impossible".

Of all things to turn into a liberal fantasy, why did they have to choose G.I. Joe? From what it sounds like, they are taking everything that was great about it, and the Real American Hero line, and ruining it. I mean, this is worse than making G.I. Joe an "eco-warrior" in the early 90s. It is a sad indication of where our country could be headed when making a patriotic movie featuring a Real American Hero is considered a tough sell, and shelved so easily.
She does bring up a good question - why even make a G.I. Joe movie in the first place, and if so, why change it so significantly? Commenters discussed this:
It isn't that its a tough sell. Its that de-Americanizing it doesn't draw any negative press.

Nothing much public will be made of it and parents who remember GI Joe will expect it to be the old GI Joe. So they won't avoid it. They may not notice, but those who do will be ticked but there will be nothing that can be done.

Basically the US market is easy to be taken for granted especially if the negative press would require the press to have any affinity to America.
-by jpm100

You know what I find kind of odd? That they worry more about overseas markets than domestic.

It's not like we've had a whole lot of war movies - either pro or con. Perhaps it's because the war in Iraq, expensive as it is, percentage-wise is nowhere near the cost of wars in the past. Perhaps because a lot of folks have deluded themselves into thinking this is an optional war, and not important enough to even pay attention to.

We've come a long way from WW2. And Hollywood's come a long way from Frank Capra's "Why We Fight".

I hate to say it - but the freedoms that we enjoy aren't anywhere near so threatened by fighting the WoT as they would be by not fighting it. We've already seen instances of media being forced to apologize/retract/abase themselves for content that isn't liked by Muslims. (And I have noticed that if Christian groups don't like something, they're told basically "Tough S**t". Could it be a lack of headhacking Christians? Perhaps a dearth of angry mobs? I remember the modest furor over "Last Temptation of Christ" - and Christian groups were basically laughed at. Goes to show there's nothing like a few well-publicized murders to get the proper respect for your beliefs. /sarc)

How long would it be, with a continual low-level threat from the Muslim community about 'inappropriate material' before Hollywood starts self-censoring all content? There's already a trend in the news that if a person's picked up for suspicion, and the person is Muslim, their religion isn't mentioned. But you can be darn sure if someone was picked up for plotting to bomb an abortion clinic, if they were Christian their religion would lead all other data...

Hmmm. All things considered, I guess it's kind of hard to have a war movie when you don't dare describe who the enemy is.
-by JLawson

At least Hollywood produced the Transformers this year and showed the military in a good light. It felt like a 2½ hour recruitment film for the Air Force. It was great seeing practically the entire inventory and that the Air Force saved the day. As a Soldier said, "The whole thing was action packed and I loved seeing the A-10 'bringing the rain' the way they always came to help us out while I was in Iraq. Some of my fellow Soldiers and I were talking about it's funny that with all the movies out there, it took a movie about alien robots invading the planet to get the military stuff right."
-by DSkinner

Brace yourself. I've just read the fall preview of movies from Entertainment Weekly, and the slate of anti-war movies is incredible. Reese Witherspoon plays a woman whose Egyption husband is sent to a secret torture camp in "Rendition." In "The Brave One," Jodi Foster plays a woman whose Arab-looking husband is murdered by rightwingers. There's some horrible looking thing starring Robert Redford and Tom Cruise that is all about the evils of Bush and the Iraq war.

May they all fail at the box office just like every other anti-war movie has failed. May the studios lose so much money they go out of business, may the writers have to work at McDonalds, may the actors have to beg for roles in B list horror movies.

They can make "G.I. Joe," but Americans don't have to see it. They made a Superman movie where he didn't stand for "Truth, Justice and the American Way" and it bombed, too. Idiots.
-by Frazetta_Girl

Here's part of what's wrong.
A lot of you youngsters see GI Joe as Cobra Commander, Destro or even Sgt. Slaughter, for god's sake.
Those aren't GI Joes. Those are shrunken, 4 inch, multi national, non-partisan pseudo soldiers. Perfect for fighting 80s style non- denominational faceless bad guys with unidentifiable pseudo guns.

Real GI Joes were foot tall American soldiers, sailors and Marines with copies of real guns, grenades and combat equipment. Real Joes fought real bad guys like Russians, Germans & Japs.

The long slide towards turning Joe into a pussy started with the Adventure Team Joes, a fuzzy haired, bearded homo looking character that had "exciting" adventures like finding a mummy or some such crap. Not killing mummies, finding mummies.
From there he just got smaller and smaller, just like the balls of the people running the country.

In a real GI Joe movie, Joe would hunt down Osama and bring his head back to Washington in a bag.

Anything else is just typical Hollywood liberal feelgood crap.
-by Ray
Captain PlanetRemember Captain Planet? In the 1990s, WTBN under uber leftist and Christian basher Ted Turner put out one of the most woeful cartoons this side of Hannah Barbera's 70s work featuring five international kids with elemental powers (earth, fire, water, air) and one with the elemental power of...heart (?). They could combine to summon the Captain who would save the day from evil corporate executives, polluters, and developers. The show was the worst kind of clumsy and patronizing propaganda, it was weak even by the standards of cartoons.

More recently, Dino Squad has come from the minds of animators at CBS, with kids who turn into different dinosaurs led by a scientist professor and fight an evil velociraptor bent on causing global warming so the age of the dinosaurs can return. I kid you not. Presumably the raptor and the kids in dinosaur form are mutants unharmed by the cooler planet at present. Missing is the question of why global warming is bad if it results in the return of previously extinct creatures.

So, why these kinds of efforts? I mean, aside from the compulsion by many on the left to force their opinions on everyone else and change society to fit their ideals, why so often targeted at children?

Because you can't reeducate adults, they know too much, are too skeptical, have too much information, and will question you. It's the same reason the military prefers young men over older men - because the older men may laugh at the drill sergeant, but the younger men are terrified of him. Because if you convince kids of something they will hound their parents until the parents give in, at least in the case of most modern parents. If you can terrify and convince kids of something young, it may be decades before they learn the truth - if ever, depending on how well you control the information as they age.

I don't care much about G.I. Joe, I never owned one, never wanted one. What would I do with a doll? I played with Lego and blocks and tinker toys and the whole outdoors, not with action figures. What I do care about is the sad capitulation (at best) or deliberate assistance (at worst) of Hollywood to bash America, their clear and strenuous efforts to avoid anything that might remotely support the war on terror, to oppose any idea of presenting the US in a positive light, and their complete and almost pathological avoidance of having any bad guys that are Arabic or Muslim.

The bad guy in this movie is Scottish? What happened, did they have a meeting and decide that the only ethnic group that wouldn't complain is the Scots - or at least if they complained no one would notice, because it's more or less constant anyway? What does he do, drink fine Whiskey and hang on to his money better than the Belgians? Does the Scotch burr somehow engender feelings of evil in movie execs? Were they so traumatized by fearless scenes of heroism and self-sacrifice for the cause of liberty in Braveheart that they feel compelled to attack the nation in response? This is just pathetic.
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"There is no sanctuary so holy that money cannot profane it, no fortress so strong that money cannot take it by storm"
-Marcus Tullius Cicero

Sanctuary Cities
The Roman Catholic Church has a long tradition of being a sanctuary for fugitives, a place that people who flee punishment or retribution can hide. This follows the pattern established in the Torah of sanctuary cities built in Israel where someone who accidentally killed another could flee to and live safely from vengeful relatives. The idea of church as sanctuary is ancient, but does not extend to all criminals.

The general idea is that someone who is innocent and falsely accused can find sanctuary in a church while they plead their case, or someone who is fleeing an angry mob can find safety until a real trial can be held. Today, some churches still attempt this, but it is not common. In the United States, there are whole sanctuary cities.

Many large cities such as Los Angeles, California, Portland, Oregon, and New York City, New York are these sanctuary cities, where the police are banned from turning over illegal immigrants to immigration authorities. Many states actually prohibit police from even asking about the immigration status of someone they interrogate. The end result of this is that such areas become flooded with illegal immigrants, contributing significantly to the immigration problems the US now suffers from.

Recent events such as the triple murder in Newark, New Jersey have prompted some to rethink this policy of being a sanctuary city. Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN) recently wrote about the basic problem with these cities is for the rule of law:
The situation in Newark didn’t happen in a vacuum. It isn’t new, nor is it relegated to just this one community. An alarming number of cities and towns throughout this nation have similar sanctuary policies on the books -- including both Minneapolis and St. Paul in my home state of Minnesota. In these cities, local law enforcement officials are barred from so much as inquiring about a suspect’s immigration status and passing along their concerns to federal authorities for follow up action. The rationale for this practice is as antiquated as the practice itself. Yes, it is important to maintain good relations between immigrant communities and local law enforcement, but we must not hide behind that as an excuse for letting lawbreakers off the hook. In a post 9/11 world, the evidence has shown the consequences of sanctuary city policies can reach beyond just one community. Take for example Mohammed Atta, leader of the 9/11 hijackers. In 2001, he was stopped and ticketed for driving without a license in Florida. His visa was expired and yet he was simply allowed to continue on his way.
Senator Coleman proposed an amendment recently that would remove the ban on asking about immigration status from law enforcement officials - restoring their full responsibilities that states have taken away.
Opening the lines of communication between local and federal law enforcement officials is essential to protecting the security and safety of our citizens. Sanctuary cities like Newark, Minneapolis and others hinder that communication and prevent us from taking action against criminals before they act. In Minnesota, police officers have told me they feel their jobs could be threatened if they asked about immigration status in routine investigations. Simply put, our officers should not be handcuffed in their ability to protect the public.
The bill was defeated by a narrow margin, primarily democrats voted against it. Commenters responded to Senator Coleman's column:
I commend your efforts Sen., however, this administration has trumphed every effort to enforce border security at every turn in the road. What are We the People to do when the very government that has sworn to defend this country against enemies foreign and domestic,and secure the liberties of it's people refuses to take that oath seriouly. Do we them form vigilante groups and police our streets, do we too refuse to obey select laws as well? You folks up there in la-la land must get it through your political heads that this issue will come down on you soon like a giant bolder, and it will crush everything in it's way. We are tired of excusses and that's all there is to it. What are you folks going to do when the next attack comes from our islamic/jihadist friends, will you then strip away more of our rights to ensure your job security, what then when there is no country to defend anymore. I pray then and have been for years that all of you in the so-called leadership roles actually lead, follow or get out of our way. You can't have it both ways, We are tiring of the double talk coming out of the D.C. area. The time for action is now, saving your political butts through so-called party lines will get none of you's anywhere when the snot hits the fan, and Good Sen. its getting ready to do just that.
-by Sgt John Zimmer

Sancturary cities are a joke and a shame. You mean there are areas of the nation where laws aren't enforced against certain people?

We need to ask ourselves a question. Do we want to still be a country or not? If so, a country needs borders and laws that are consistently enforced.

Illegal immigration is about one thing: cheap, illegal, black market labor for the purpose of lowering wages due to increasing the labor pool. Mexico needs serious political/economic reform. We can not accept 20, 30, 40 million of Mexico's peasants just because restaurants, hotels and lawn care firms want it.
-by Nessus

Sanctuary cities should have all federal funding stopped. I'm sure that liberal city politicians who like to violate federal law by passing idiotic laws to protect illegals, will think twice if they know federal monies are going to be withheld. libs can't live without taxpayer money, it's their life support.
-by BAS

When you were the Democratic mayor of St. Paul, I don't remember you changing the local policies to allow the cops to talk to immigrants then. Was it not an issue at the time, or have you flip-flopped on this issue just like you have on so many others since switching party affiliations?
-by ME

Sgt. Zimmer is spot on. With the exception of a few in Congress (Tancredo, Sessions, Bilbray, Hunter, and a few more) there is no one in government paying anymore than lip service to illegal immigration. Americans have lost jobs, seen our hospitals and schools ruined, our neighborhoods turned into day labor camps and in some cases gang hangouts, and have then had to stand back and watch millions of illegals take to our streets carrying the mexican flag "Demanding" their rights to be legal US citizens. It is just too much, and law abiding Americans aren't going to stand for this much longer. Deal with the problem Senator, take care of it once and for all. We have the means, and the American public most certainly has the will.
-by Becky

Senator Coleman, I applaud your efforts, however, there is another informational wall that needs to be torn down as well. That wall exists between the IRS, the Social Security Administration, and the Department of Homeland Security. The IRS and the SSA know who is here working illegally under false SSN's, but they are precluded by law from sharing that information with each other or with DHS.

Another issue is the false idea that the Border Patrol has that it's primary responsibility is not to stop cross border trafficing in humans and drugs, but instead it exists to stop terrorists. So Sayeth the Chief Patrol Officer of the Laredo Texas sector, Carlos X. Carrillo, in the Laredo Morning Times two weeks ago.

Meanwhile we have US Attorney Johnny Sutton, throwing good BP officers and border LEO's in prison for doing their jobs and cowing the others into just sitting in their trucks and ignoring the stream of people and drugs flowing past them because to do otherwise would invite a prison sentence.
-by Rorschach
MexGang punksThere's a problem in US government at all levels with this issue. The lure of easy, cheap labor makes businesses lobby for no change or symbolic change, the lure of voters signing up for a political party makes politicians want to look the other way or even encourage illegals, and the more obscure desire to transform Mexico into a stronger trading partner prompts others to shrug at the law and human rights with the hope that things will get better one day.

In the mean time, immigration laws are all but ignored while pandering to Mexican politicians and government who designs cartoon books telling how to get across the border and attempts to sue the US for trying to control it's Southern border. According to the US National Intelligence Director, terrorists have already been caught trying to cross the Mexico-US border. This suggests two things to me: first, the complaint that its too big an area and too many are crossing to know what is going on is at best doubtful, and second that they likely haven't caught all the terrorists, just these.

In the world we live in today, how on earth can anyone justify such a porous, unprotected border like this? Millions a year cross the border into the US, ignoring the laws that control the growth of population and assimilation of new immigrants into the US. All for cheap lettuce and potential new voters? The US government is failing it's citizens, and while the nation is a long ways from a popular uprising or taking matters into its own hands, the government should consider the consequences of it going that far and whose blood would be on their hands for inaction.

The rule of law is absolutely necessary for liberty to continue, for democracy to survive. If the cities and states of the union disregard the law, it is to their peril - and the peril of the entire nation.
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Quote of the Day

"It is not enough to have the right opinions. You must have them at the right time, and you must express them in a way that reflects people's desire to feel good about themselves."
-Glenn Reynolds
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Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Just watch out for Morlocks

Sewers. They're beneath most of us and we give them virtually no thought until one backs up or city workers start tearing up the street to get at one where you have to drive. Sometimes, you'll see Mike Rowe on Dirty Jobs down in a sewer. That's about it for most of us, it's an aspect of life we'd prefer not to think about.

At the same time, sewers are not just a critical part of our infrastructure dating back to Rome, but they sometimes are an example of impressive architecture and engineering. Toronto's Michael Cook took a trip through the storm drains, sewers, and waterways of Canada armed with his camera against the rats and mosquitos. The results are among other urban structure explorations on his website Vanishing Point (which at the point of this writing is down).

At the Building Blog, Cook was interviewed by Geoff Manaugh in an article laden with his photography.
BLDGBLOG: What do you actually bring with you? Do you have some kind of underground exploration kit? Full of Band-Aids and Advil?

Michael Cook: I have a pair of boots or waders, depending on the circumstances. I’ll also bring one or more headlamps, and a spotlamp, and various other lighting gear – plus a camera and a tripod. That basically sums it up.

I also have a manhole key – that’s basically just a loop of aircraft cable tied onto a bolt at one end and run through a piece of aluminum pipe that serves as a crude handle. Most of the manhole lids around here have between two and twenty square holes in them about an inch wide, and they’re reasonably light. Assuming the lid hasn’t been welded or bolted into the collar of the manhole, it’s relatively quick and painless to use this tool to pull the lid out. It’s only useful for light-weight lids, though. In Montreal, for instance, most of the covers are awkward, heavy affairs that sometimes need two people, each with their own crowbar, to dislodge safely. Real utilities workers use pickaxes – but those aren’t so easily carried in the pocket of a backpack.
BLDGBLOG: A lot of these places look like surreal, concrete versions of all the streams and rivers that used to flow through the city. The drains are like a manmade replacement, or prosthetic landscape, that's been installed inside the old one. Does the relationship between these tunnels and the natural waterways that they've replaced interest you at all?

Michael Cook: Oh, definitely – ever since I got into this through exploring creeks.

At their root, most drains are just an abstract version of the watershed that existed before the city. It’s sort of this alternate dimension that you pass into, when you step from the aboveground creek, through the inlet, into the drain – especially once you walk out of the reach of daylight.

Even sanitary sewers often follow the paths of existing or former watersheds, because the grade of the land is already ideal for water flow – fast enough, but not so fast that it erodes the pipe prematurely – and because the floodplains are often unsuitable for other uses.
The interview and his photography excise the stench, spiderwebs, and slime involved in these explorations, and make the experience interesting, like urban spelunking. Commenters plumbed the depths of this topic:
Wow, what amzing photos of incredible places! I can't help thinking that the designers of Half Life 2 spent a lot of time looking in these very tunnels - the resemblances are truly striking!
-by Dave Morris

Ahh, great to see such a pioneer getting such great coverage. Ontario has some of the largest and most impressive drins ive seen and Mike has done an awesome job over the years finding so many of them, specially considering a lot of his traipsing has been via Torontos Public Transit.
-by siologen

It's terrific to see someone so considerate and thoughtful on what is so often presented as simply "weird." I'll definitely be checking out Vanishing Point-- the underground world isn't my cup of tea, but the ideas here are certainly worth examining further.
-by DaveX

Incredible! Images of Orson Welles running through the sewers of Vienna in The Third Man come gushing forth. It's always a wonderment to see what lies beneath us. Thank you.
-by Robbo

alistar, someone already has made a documentary about New York's mole people: Dark Days.
-by Geoff Manaugh

Hello Mike and Geoff - very nice interview, interesting topic and great photography. I had also noticed that your VP server was struggling.

One thing I might point out, as an engineer who is often involved with construction and safety - you'd be wise to invest in a small portably oxygen meter and vapor meter. Actually, in the U.S. maintenance and construction workers can't enter these structures for work without something called a "confined space entry plan" (OSHA requirement). The problem is these places aren't well-ventilated, so you can have decreased oxygen environments and noxious fumes. Probably one reason for headaches that Mike cites among some explorers.

If you are interested in your counterparts in Moscow (where there are EXTENSIVE and legendary tunnel systems, metro, stormwater, sewer, bunkers, and other) you might want to check out this posting on my blog.
-by Shedd

Cook's explorations are fascinating, and his desire to document the enormous works under the city is encouraging.

Such a project -- to trace the determinate role of often-invisible infrastructure in the shaping of urban development -- would be far more informative than the tendentious speculation about "the nature of space" or "liminality" that is unfortunately used to frame the interview. To treat storm drains as architectonic objects misses the point entirely, and is particularly irritating when the engineering and public health discourses, not to mention the often entertainingly corrupt turns of municipal politics, which directed their construction remain rich and unexplored terrain. This mystical, aestheticizing compulsion obstructs a better understanding of the built environment.
-by Anonymous

While it's important that OSHA confined space regulations don't differentiate between different kinds of spaces in order to protect the lives of all workers in all situations, the environments that we're generally exploring aren't the sorts of spaces where workers die from oxygen deprivation or poisonous gases. Maintenance and inspection needs push workers into places that we would never go and which we have no interest in going.

The tunnels and other spaces talked about above, and which you can see on the site whenever the boingboing barrage peters out, have active airflow and are not serious atmospheric hazards. Bad air can be a lethal concern in comms and electrical vaults and small sanitary sewers. In large pipes that are self-ventilated by flowing stormwater or combined sewage, with multiple openings to ground level, the atmosphere -- while not always ideal -- tends to take care of itself.

So yes, I'm cognizant of the concerns you're raising, but the vast majority of these places are safe enough to not require the rather severe investment that a good-quality gas detector represents. Even in The Skin of a Lion (the brick-lined combined sewer I talk about above), the air was fine, and the only safety concern we had was not getting washed into the interceptor which we knew lay somewhere up ahead.

Same goes for the exploration of collector sewers in Montreal that's been taking place of late, combined sewers which are far more hairy than anything we've yet opened up in Ontario. The air by and large has been fine; of far greater concern have been the physical risks posed by the powerful flows of sewage in some of those systems.

So nutshell: we always pay close attention to the air, but apart from occasionally stirring up some H2S and skipping whatever lies beyond it (usually not much since it's produced by stagnant water and decaying organic matter), our practical experience falls outside both the letter and spirit of OSHA regs and we're okay with that. In twenty years of drain exploring in Australia, no one has died from bad air, and based on what we've inhaled so far we don't expect the record to be any different here in Canada. For specific applications where we had reason to question the air, I'd use a gas detector. For the drains and sewers we're generally finding our way into it, it would just end up as one more expensive piece of electronics for me to drop in the water.

(On the other hand, if anyone would like to send us one, I'll try very hard not to drop it...)

The photos that accompany the interview are all single exposures, most shot on consumer-grade Canon digital SLRs (some on 300D, though I'm now using a 20D exclusively) -- a few date from 2003-2004 and were actually shot on an S30 compact digital. Digital post-processing consists of levels/sharpening/colour correction (mostly to absolve my own chronic failings wrt exposures).

The variety of colours mostly comes from the dynamics of the portable fluorescents we've been using lately, which when shining on the right materials can often be pushed white, green or blue depending on what's most appropriate for the shot. It's a fairly conventional colour correction though, as is the range between near-white and blood-orange that I can get out of our halogens in the right circumstances. Oh, and anything that is bright red and isn't strapped to someone's head is a road flare.

There's no HDR or other multiple exposures trickery going on here (though I'd imagine I could get some better results if I'd work out how to do the latter). Exposure times for the properly underground shots are usually in the range of 5-30 seconds, though the frame from the Rankine wheelpit in which I appear repeatedly was an exposure several minutes in length.

From a technical standpoint, I'm no expert and the photos, while sometimes arresting, do show this, so I can't really comment on what merit they are actually due, but let me know if you have any other questions about my process.
-by Michael Cook

Wonderful interview and images, thanks.

I love Michael's comment and attitude: every building is on a trajectory. Everything we see is in in a single moment of its ongoing deterioration, or, in the case of renovation projects, an attempt to slow the process. I wish I could drum this sentiment and world view into the brain of every architect and architecture student that I know, as well as into the minds of the general public. The built environment lives and breathes around us, reflecting our desires back to us, and I feel like most people don't feel it.
Exploring these spaces is like exploring outer space - I'm glad to see that spirit of discovery happening. Again, absolutely beautiful, thank you for doing it.
-by Donna
In my home town, supposedly the city engineers do not know exactly where all the pipes are and they haven't been really renovated on a big way since the early 20th century at the latest. New York City recently rebuilt their main water pipes (as shown in progress in Die Hard With a Vengeance), and the work involved in that was awesome and impressive. All this engineering is under our feet, and in big cities, its big enough to walk around in.

Watershed FallsJust be careful, as commenter Shedd notes - you won't run into alligators, but you might fall and bash a head, get into bad air, or get trapped by a sudden surge of water. I can't recommend digging around in these storm drains and sewers, but I can suggest looking around your home. Chances are, even if you're in a city, there are sights to see and secret places that will charm you tucked away.

Whatever you do, don't miss the pictures accompanying this interview, they are stunning. This guy has to get a book deal.
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