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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Friday, November 28, 2008

Chapter 20

"I shall never be ashamed of citing a bad author if the line is good."
-Seneca

A discussion came up last night around a dinner table that groaned under the weight of a Thanksgiving feast. My mom mentioned that she hated books that jumped back and forth between people and places, other people said they liked that. I suggested it was easier for the author to build dramatic tension and move diverse parts of a story along at the same time that way.

Yet at the same time, often I can't stand that sort of story either, which is odd, since that's what I've ended up writing here. Instead of a constant, smooth narrative, it leaps between several different characters and even locations to nudge them along a bit. The time is even odd, Cezar and Anika are a day or so ahead of the other characters, which means I'll have some catchup to do.

Still, it is a useful tool for what I'm trying to do, the "disaster movie" approach to storytelling where you introduce multiple characters and then bring them together in some ghastly event that tests men's souls. Hopefully its working here, because it is such an integral part of the story I can't discard the device.

*I've deleted the story portion, as the book is going to be published soon and I don't want to give away too much for free.

SHOW BOMBS

"If the TV variety format weren't already dead, the ghastly ego trip of NBC's Thanksgiving-eve turkey Rosie Live would surely have killed it."
-TV Guide

Rosie
Rosie O'Donnell, the lunatic truther leftist, had a variety show on last night. Don't feel bad if you missed it or didn't know; most people missed it. It was tied for the lowest ratings of the day, it bombed. Not only do variety shows almost always fail, but who thought a Rosie O'Donnell spectacular was a great idea? Who has ever said "you know what I need? More Rosie O'Donnell, that's what would make my day."

That it failed is no shock. That the guy who greenlighted the show still has a job, that's a bit hard to fathom.

I can only guess that the execs at NBC thought "well, Obama is president elect now, everything has changed! Rosie is hot!" If they thought at all.

WHEN BLACK FRIDAY COMES

This is why sane people (primarily men) stay home the day after Thanksgiving:
A Wal-Mart worker died after being trampled when hundreds of shoppers smashed through the doors of a Long Island store Friday morning, police and witnesses said.

The 34-year-old worker, employed as an overnight stock clerk, tried to hold back the unruly crowds just after the Valley Stream store opened at 5 a.m.

Witnesses said the surging throngs of shoppers knocked the man down. He fell and was stepped on. As he gasped for air, shoppers ran over and around him.
Well, that and the fact that we're overstuffed and drowsy still.

And no, no obligatory "where's my recession dude?" quote; most people already know the economy isn't as tough as they're being told, yet at least.

QUICK AND DIRTY?

“Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Wednesday that she expected a quick resolution to a wide-ranging House investigation into ethical questions surrounding Representative Charles B. Rangel, the powerful Democrat from New York.”

Yes, Nancy, we all do too. What we don't expect is justice, ethics, and accountability.

Surprise us, break the Democratic Party mold.

OVERPAID

“Jimmy Connors plays two tennis matches and winds up with $850,000, and Muhammad Ali fights one bout and winds up with five million bucks. Me, I play one-hundred and ninety games, and I'm overpaid!”
-Johnny Bench

There is a lot of commentary about CEOs and bonus packages and caps and restrictions and such. As I've noted in the past I think any company that pays a CEO hundreds of millions of dollars for one year's work is idiotic and self destructive (as they're beginning to learn) but any call for laws or government action to cut this kind of compensation package is doomed not just to failure but even worse excesses, in a different way. It's like trying to grab a fist full of water, you can get some, but the rest goes a different direction: there's always a loophole. And really, the more government becomes involved in almost any aspect of life, the worse it gets.

Yet CEOs really aren't the most overpaid people in the world. That crown goes to another group of people, those who offer almost no benefit to society, have no impact on history, and have little skill or talent to show for their amazing paychecks.

For example, the highest paid model in the world? Giselle Bunchen, beautiful German model who made $41 million last year alone. This isn't for a few years work at a megacorporation, this is every year like clockwork. This article of the highest paid models on earth gives a glimpse of this sort of life.

Johnny Depp made $72 million dollars in his last year of work, for standing around and reading other peoples' words. Previously it was Will Farrell who was the highest paid actor, but Will Smith actually made more: $80 million a year. Of course, his last eight movies have made more than $100 million dollars each. Of actresses, Reese Witherspoon makes considerably less, around $20 million a movie.

Rock bands make big money too, the band U2 made $110 million in 2006, the Rolling Stones $90 million, but then they have to split that money between band members, too. Being a rock star doesn't pay as well as these other jobs; at least not in monetary compensation.

That's not the most, though. Tiger Woods, between tournament victories endorsement deals, and public appearances made $115 million last year. He plays golf for a living. Michael Jordan, now retired from basketball over a decade and basically unknown to young people other than Hanes ads, makes tens of millions a year.

Then there are public "servants." Case in point, one Helen Jones-Kelley who after ordering the private records of Joe the Plumber examined without cause and in defiance of the law (because he hurt then-Senator Obama's election chances) was suspended without pay for a month. Usually being fired is the response to abusing public trust and violating the contract you sign when you take office, but a month without pay was considered a terrible blow. Why? The Journal-News explains:
Gov. Ted Strickland suspended Director Helen Jones-Kelley of the Job and Family Services Department for one month without pay after a state Inspector General's report found Jones-Kelley improperly authorized searches of state databases and used her state e-mail account for political fundraising.
...
Based on her annual salary of $141,980, the suspension will cost Jones-Kelley, 57, of Clayton, $11,831.
She makes almost $142,000 a year for running a government department for a state that complains annually about not having enough revenue. Apparently there's good money in being a government bureaucrat, who knew? Most of us would call that "overpaid" and the lack of greater punishment for abuse of a private citizen for political purposes "unjust."

Quote of the Day

"Any event, once it has occurred, can be made to appear inevitable by a competent historian."
-Lee Simonson

Thursday, November 27, 2008

GIVE THANKS!

The feast
I don't suppose there is one holiday in America as commonly celebrated as Thanksgiving. Christmas has become a time of contention with Hanukkah and Kwanzaa competing for attention and multiculturalists pushing for the mention of Christmas to be excised in favor of generic "holidays." The 4th of July is not celebrated so much as an excuse to blow things up and have a picnic. Easter is almost exclusively Christian, other than egg hunts for children.

But thanksgiving is very American and shared by all. It doesn't matter what political bent or ethnic background you have, even the people who decry the evils of Pilgrims and moan the oppressed Native Americans, even the vegetarians have their soy turkey served for the day. It is an unusual event that brings all Americans together. We call it turkey day and complain about how fat we get, we feel bad for the NFL football Lions who are particularly awful this year, we eat too much and get sleepy, then blame the turkey. But we almost all do it.

It is probably tradition and the chance to have a huge meal more than anything. The core of the holiday has been mostly lost, but the idea of getting together and having a huge, tasty meal as a special occasion still appeals. Roast turkey, cranberry sauce, fresh bread, stuffing, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, yams, and so on, the menu is strikingly similar in almost every house. Sometimes the stuffing is made from cornbread, sometimes they mix in some ethnic dishes, but it is a pretty consistent array of foods.

What isn't consistent is an understanding of thanks giving. As I've said before, you can't give thanks without having someone to thank. The entire concept of thanking by definition requires an object of that thanks, a source that was benevolent and thus deserves acknowledgment. The season has bizarrely become a pattern of vapid, empty thanks to no one as if that has any meaning whatsoever. Just be thankful!

And look around you. As poor as you might be, as awful as your life may very well have turned out - at least at the moment - as rough as the economy might be shaping up to be, you have things to be thankful for, and someone to be thankful to. It might not seem so, but as is often the case, it is a matter of contrasts and relativity that tells the tale.

When the Pilgrims landed on the soil of what would become Massachusetts, they had big dreams and big ideas, and the certainty that they were right and through righteousness they could not fail. They met with the local tribes and were on friendly terms, they set up their little colony, and shared everything equally. Whoever would work in the fields did so, whoever would mill the grain did so, and all was shared in communal love like they believed the early Christians did in Jerusalem.

By winter, they had not stocked up enough food and were unready for the cold. Most of the colony died. They were so helpless and pathetic, so unready for this new life after the comforts and benefits of civilized England that the local tribes helped them out. They showed the Pilgrims fertilizing techniques, the local foods that could be eaten, the best way to fish the local waters, how to make warmer homes and goods to survive.

When June of the next year came around, a proclamation was announced because the survivors now could face another winter, they would be ready this time. Their dearly hoped for dream of a colony in the New World with freedom to worship and live as they chose would come true. The proclamation was stark but full of faith:

The Holy God having by a long and Continual Series of his Afflictive dispensations in and by the present Warr with the Heathen Natives of this land, written and brought to pass bitter things against his own Covenant people in this wilderness, yet so that we evidently discern that in the midst of his judgments he hath remembered mercy, having remembered his Footstool in the day of his sore displeasure against us for our sins, with many singular Intimations of his Fatherly Compassion, and regard; reserving many of our Towns from Desolation Threatened, and attempted by the Enemy, and giving us especially of late with many of our Confederates many signal Advantages against them, without such Disadvantage to ourselves as formerly we have been sensible of, if it be the Lord's mercy that we are not consumed, It certainly bespeaks our positive Thankfulness, when our Enemies are in any measure disappointed or destroyed; and fearing the Lord should take notice under so many Intimations of his returning mercy, we should be found an Insensible people, as not standing before Him with Thanksgiving, as well as lading him with our Complaints in the time of pressing Afflictions:

The Council has thought meet to appoint and set apart the 29th day of this instant June, as a day of Solemn Thanksgiving and praise to God for such his Goodness and Favour, many Particulars of which mercy might be Instanced, but we doubt not those who are sensible of God's Afflictions, have been as diligent to espy him returning to us; and that the Lord may behold us as a People offering Praise and thereby glorifying Him; the Council doth commend it to the Respective Ministers, Elders and people of this Jurisdiction; Solemnly and seriously to keep the same Beseeching that being persuaded by the mercies of God we may all, even this whole people offer up our bodies and souls as a living and acceptable Service unto God by Jesus Christ.
They were giving thanks to God because through their trials they had survived. They were giving thanks because they had food, they had shelter, and they had the beginnings of a dream they could pass on to their children. Even as they mourned they gave thanks for what they had, realizing they deserved nothing and earned nothing. They gave thanks for the help the local tribes had given them, they gave thanks for the bounty of the land they lived in.

They had reason to give thanks, although they had less than the poorest person you know. They had no car, no television, no cell phone, they had no running water, no heating blanket, no heaters, no electricity. They had no police, no firemen, no hospitals. They had no mail, no roads, no grocery stores. They barely had enough to survive, but they knew that what little they had was a gift and they'd see how much less they could have had.

They gave thanks, and in our worst hours and saddest moments, we still have cause and reason to give thanks.

Oh, and for those of you for whom this is just another Thursday? You have things to give thanks for as well. This is not an American holiday, although it has such basic roots in US culture. It is a holiday everyone ought to have: a time to set aside with family and give thanks for all that we have and could have and hope for. It doesn't matter where you live or what culture you are in.

Give thanks - and think about who you give thanks to.

Chapter 19

"Being an author is having angels whisper in your ear - and devils, too."
-Graycie Harmon

I can't stand Christian books.

I suppose that requires some explanation; there are books by Christians I like, and books that are expressly Christian which I read and enjoy. What I mean is the kind of book that is a poorly disguised evangelical tract, an excuse for rosy-cheeked upstanding citizens to quote scripture to each other and give the four spiritual laws in long essay form with the cheap tatters of a story around it to make it seem like fiction.

The kind of story where the only person who does wrong is someone who swears once or a Christian who sins one time then has to seek redemption. The sort of story where, fearing the disapproval of their typical reader, the writer avoids situations and behavior that might be shocking to a very secluded and prudish old woman.

A proper Christian book, particularly fiction, will closely resemble great old books in the past that were stories of redemption and triumph over evil, but were filled with hardship, flawed sinners, and believable situations and characters. The kind that might not even mention God or the Bible, yet were plainly written from a Christian worldview. The Lord of the Rings is such a book: not a "Christian" book, but a book by a Christian that carries that stamp. Not a book written specifically to be Christian, but a book written to be a fine work of art by a Christian.

Such books have characters doing things they shouldn't, for bad reasons, because we do that every day. Such books would show the sin and need of salvation that Christianity is all about - in a form that is God-glorifying and edifying to readers, through a plausible and believable story. That's the kind of book I want to write.

*I've deleted the story portion, as the book is going to be published soon and I don't want to give away too much for free. 

Quote of the Day

"The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts. No Americans have been more impoverished than these who, nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving."
-H.U. Westermayer

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

BLACKLISTED

"The bottom line is if he contributed money to a hateful campaign against black people, or against Jewish people, or any other minority group, there would be much less excusing of him."

As Hollywood becomes more openly leftist, there has developed an effective blacklist. Nothing so official as an actual list of banned movie workers or an office that handles the topic. It just ends up being the way things work by tacit agreement, as Andrew Breitbart noted:
The environment is not so much unfavorable to the Grand Old Party as it is utterly totalitarian. There's simply no lifestyle choice that receives a worse response at dinner parties.

Convicted murderer? Has anyone optioned the rights to your story?

Avowed Marxist? Viva la revolucion!

Scientologist? Do you take Visa or Mastercard?

Syphilitic drug abuser? Let's talk!

Conservative? You should go.

Only proclaiming one's self a practicing Christian is met with greater disdain - making Christian Republicans the gold standard in Hollywood pariah status.
In the wake of the public support and passage of Proposition 8 in California, the situation has gotten worse. According to Rachel Abramowitz and Tina Daunt at the Los Angeles Times:
Should there be boycotts, blacklists, firings or de facto shunning of those who supported Proposition 8?

That's the issue consuming many in liberal Hollywood who fought to defeat the initiative banning same-sex marriage and are now reeling with recrimination and dismay. Meanwhile, activists continue to comb donor lists and employ the Internet to expose those who donated money to support the ban.

Already out is Scott Eckern, director of the nonprofit California Musical Theatre in Sacramento, who resigned after a flurry of complaints from prominent theater artists, including "Hairspray" composer Marc Shaiman, when word of his contribution to the Yes on 8 campaign surfaced.

Other targets include Film Independent, the nonprofit arts organization that puts on both the Los Angeles Film Festival and the Spirit Awards; the Cinemark theater chain; and the Sundance Film Festival.
There is some debate, however. Some are concerned about issues of religious freedom, tolerance, and free speech. Others merely see it as a civil rights issue: gays should get whatever they want or they are being abused by the man. For them, the point is clear, it is a case of cruel tyranny by the people. You wouldn't stand by if someone passed a law saying blacks couldn't marry whites, would you? It is plain and unmistakable bigotry and hatred to them.

To the others, they see it a bit more complicated. While they disagree with the decision, they also respect the people's right to have their say, and further they understand need to respect religion and tolerate differences of opinion. Religious issues are important, even if they are disagreed with, they argue.

What's missing, of course, is the first question that never gets asked: is what the homosexual activists seek proper and reasonable to begin with? There never is an attempt to convince and persuade, only to intimidate, to force by judicial fiat, and to insist upon with insults and personal attacks.

For at the basis here is an argument that says "I have the right to marry the exact person I wish, and you must not merely allow it, but support it." Naturally, no one has this right, even if you falsely presume a right to marriage in the first place. I cannot marry exactly whom I wish, I have to work within certain restrictions.
  • I cannot marry another man.
  • I cannot marry a kitchen table.
  • I cannot marry someone who is already married.
  • I cannot marry someone who does not wish to marry me.
  • I cannot marry a close relative.
  • I cannot marry more than one person.
  • I cannot marry someone who is deceased.
  • I cannot marry someone who is too young.
The fact is, all of us have the same restrictions on whom we may and may not marry. The argument cannot be between marrying whomever you want or not. The argument merely has to be whether a given existing restriction is reasonable, proper, and just. Yet that argument is never made, it always sloughs off into side issues and personal attacks and cries of bigotry and discrimination (as if no one discriminates when they marry), and illogical nonsense.

Because at heart, the homosexual activist really isn't all that interested in marriage its self. Sure, they would like the option, but that's merely a side benefit, like getting a nice stereo when you buy a new car. What they want is the legal powers granted more easily by marriage, and more importantly the financial benefits - insurance, etc. And over all that is the need to impose upon society not merely tolerance of homosexuality, but legal and cultural sanction and support. To ease the guilt and discomfort that they mistakenly believe is imposed from society and not coming from within. I feel bad and its your fault. If only people wouldn't be so mean I'd feel fine about all this.

And in today's culture, nobody wants to stop an ask if maybe, just maybe they feel bad because they're supposed to.

Meanwhile the protesters ignore the majority black and Hispanic groups that supported and helped Proposition 8 pass, ignore the Muslim groups who donated and worked for it, and target... Mormons.

FOLLOWING ICELAND

"They don't have our trust and they are no longer legitimate."

The Answer
This is elsewhere on the internet, but I wanted to post it here to give it the most exposure I can. Email this around if you want as well, better that more people hear about this. That's where I got it; an email from my brother, although it's from Barry Ritholtz' The Big Picture blog originally:
If we add in the Citi bailout, the total cost now exceeds $4.6165 trillion dollars. People have a hard time conceptualizing very large numbers, so let's give this some context. The current Credit Crisis bailout is now the largest outlay In American history.

Jim Bianco of Bianco Research crunched the inflation adjusted numbers. The bailout has cost more than all of these big budget government expenditures – combined:

• Marshall Plan: Cost: $12.7 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $115.3 billion
• Louisiana Purchase: Cost: $15 million, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $217 billion
• Race to the Moon: Cost: $36.4 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $237 billion
• S&L Crisis: Cost: $153 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $256 billion
• Korean War: Cost: $54 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $454 billion
• The New Deal: Cost: $32 billion (Est), Inflation Adjusted Cost: $500 billion (Est)
• Invasion of Iraq: Cost: $551b, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $597 billion
• Vietnam War: Cost: $111 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $698 billion
• NASA: Cost: $416.7 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $851.2 billion

TOTAL: $3.92 trillion

People complained about the expense of the Iraq invasion and war, people have pointed to the vast cost - particularly when adjusted for inflation - of endeavors such as the Marshall plan to rebuild war-ravaged Europe after WW2. People have complained about the expense of the New Deal and other costs. But all of these combined with more besides do not add up to as much of an expense as all of these bailouts.

Need that to be brought down a little closer to home, a smaller number? How about more than $24,000 per person in America - man, woman, child, of all ages, everywhere, every single person. That's how much they're costing you. If it wasn't for the price of gas dropping in half, we'd already be in a horrific recession or worse.

What, exactly, does the dollar become worth when the government just invents some to throw at big business? What is the point of bankruptcy laws if you can just ignore good business sense, careful use of resources, and wise financial policy because you know the government will just make it all okay with magical bailout money which didn't exist a few years ago?

I know of no one who likes these bailouts except congressmen who get kickbacks from these businesses in the form of campaign contributions, and the overpaid CEOs who cratered these companies to begin with. Oh, and the unions. That's who is being helped out with auto bailouts: the unions whose contracts destroyed the companies to begin with. This is an effort to, temporarily at least, let the unions keep going. When the companies they disease and destroy like a virus die, they die as well: no jobs no auto union if the automakers collapse.

You can bet that whoever took over the auto making in the US wouldn't sign the same godawful, suicidal contracts. This is a deliberate attempt to prevent these companies from suffering the consequences of their poor judgement and actions, and the unions from the same.

What should our response be? Well, along with trying to find a job when the dollar drops to a fraction of its present worth, other than trying to find a way to feed our families and find clothing and houses, we should utterly gut the present government. It is abundantly plain that nobody in office is worthy of retaining their job. None of them. We need to take Iceland's approach:
Thousands of Icelanders have demonstrated in Reykjavik to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Geir Haarde and Central Bank governor David Oddsson, for failing to stop the country's financial meltdown.
It was the latest in a series of protests in the capital since October's banking collapse crippled the island's economy. At least five people were injured and Hordur Torfason, a well-known singer in Iceland and the main organiser of the protests, said the protests would continue until the government stepped down.

As crowds gathered in the drizzle before the Althing, the Icelandic parliament, on Saturday, Mr Torfason said: "They don't have our trust and they are no longer legitimate."

The value of the Icelandic krona has been cut in half since January.
Thousands of people have vowed to keep protesting every day until the government resigns. We need to step up and make that happen here, and combine that with a complete overturn of every single politician in Washington, doing so until they start to listen again. The federal government has demonstrated its self to be wholly unworthy of power, unwise with its money, and undeserving of office - in both parties - and they are absolutely taking the wrong path in this financially troubled time with your money.

All those calls for fiscal responsibility, all those demands for cutting spending, all the concern over debt and overspending have suddenly vanished. We as a people have lost control over our government and it is time that was reversed. Small wonder gun ownership has skyrocketed.

Need more reason? Comprehensive Immigration Reform (amnesty) is coming back, despite incredibly loud, wide spread and party-boundary ignoring opposition by the public. Courtesy Senator McCain and the Democrats.

Seriously what, exactly does congress have to do before people get rid of them all? They are not really to blame, when it comes down to it. When we are in a democracy, we are to blame for our government. You and I. When it comes time to vote, will you yank that lever for the same bum as last time, again? Will you keep sending the scum who does this to power over and over?

What will it take?

And who among us will step up, finally, to take their place? When will reasonable, decent citizens run for office once more, gifted folks who set aside their regular life temporarily to serve the people? Who will show the leadership to set this ship on course before it hits that iceberg?

Quote of the Day

“I think the media performed flawlessly during the two year election cycle. They managed the story, shielded their candidate, attacked the opposition, sat on damaging stories, and in short did everything a good state run media should do during an election cycle.”
-Rich Hailey

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Chapter 17

"Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass."
-Anton Chekhov

As my brother has rightly pointed out, a lot of these chapters are rather short as chapters go. In fact, several could be combined into a larger chapter, thus bringing the count down significantly. Partly this is deliberate; I write until I need a break and stop. Partly it is out of inexperience, and editing would fix a lot of that. The last chapter I wrote was lacking quite a few details that were I feeling better at the time I probably would have included. Where are the other soldiers that Major Stompf brought with him? What is the countryside like? What is going on with the weather? Why not more description of the men, the horses, the reaction of the soldiers?

That is the kind of thing that rewrites and editors would add in, and rightly so. Yet the gist of the chapter is in place, even if it is a fragment of a chapter, and so I plod on. After all, this is about getting content down more than the highest quality; I'm plenty good at procrastinating and delaying because things aren't quite right, I hardly need more practice at that.

*I've deleted the story portion, as the book is going to be published soon and I don't want to give away too much for free. 

INDIGNITY

"A judge's right to free speech is subject to limitation by the Canons of Judicial Conduct"

John Cleese Judge
There was a time when you could rely on the leadership of a country, those in power, to display dignity and behave in a respectable manner. That the conduct of those in political power would be a model of decorum and that politeness and manners were the hallmark of someone the higher in the ranks of government they achieved because of the dignity and import of the office they held.

Some time in the early 1990s, that was lost. Whether it began with Bill Clinton on MTV (?) talking about his underwear or with Vice President Cheney telling a pesky and annoying colleague to "f**k off" on camera, or President elect Obama flipping off his opponents in a manner typical of a grade school child, something was lost. The leaders, the ones who should be the most mature and dignified among us are besmirching their office with childish, undignified behavior. The eternal frat boy attitude of modern pop culture is leaking into the highest offices and leaving the country poorer for it.

It was this solemnity that made Monty Python's portrayal of judges as ludicrous, effeminate queers, and so on work: it was a shocking disconnect with comfortable reality, it was contrasting with the known and the understood that built the humor.

Case in point: Justice Richard B. Sander of the Washington Supreme Court, one of the highest judicial appointments in the country, let alone the world. An office of such gravity and importance that strict careful procedure is to be followed and specific ritual is followed each working day, a position of power that can change the entire legal landscape of the country with a decision, has a man who did this in a speech by US Attorney General Mukasey:
There was a weird moment last night even before the attorney general collapsed.

A man at a table near ours stood up, early in the speech, and shouted, "Tyrant! You are a tyrant!"
Who was this man? Well it appears to have been Justice Sander, who got up and left part way through the speech:
On Friday's episode of Fox News Channel's "The O'Reilly Factor," Wendy Long of the Judicial Confirmation Network identified the heckler as Justice Richard B. Sanders of the Washington state Supreme Court. We emailed Sanders last night asking if he was the heckler. We have not received a response.

We were seated close enough to the heckler to note that he was at Table 50--Sanders' assigned table, according to the dinner program. Although we did not recognize the heckler, we observed that he had white hair and a mustache, as does Sanders in the photo on his personal Web site and in this Cato Institute video. Of the five men assigned to sit at Table 50, we are acquainted with, and would have recognized, three.
When asked if he was the one who did the heckling, Justice Sanders responded that he did not believe Mukasey heard the shouting and that he left before the Attorney General collapsed. Which obviously is not any sort of denial. And he's far from the only judge to act in such an undignified manner.

It is not terribly surprising to see this kind of behavior, however. In modern culture of America, being rude, selfish, self-focused, narcissistic, and obnoxious is not condemned, it is often praised as showing initiative, passion, and being a rebel spirit who questions authority. Solemnity, dignity, honor, and maturity is mocked as lifeless, humorless, and pompous, if not hypocritical. Learning is mocked as pointless and useless in life, and intellectual pursuits are considered a waste of time if not stupidly self-indulgent and unlikely to lead to comfort, pleasure, happiness, and health which is considered the proper goal of all humanity.

Meanwhile another story popped up that is related, in which it is found that public servents know even less than the general public - which is a woefully low level already - about American civics. According to the Intercollegiate Studies Institute:
US elected officials scored abysmally on a test measuring their civic knowledge, with an average grade of just 44 percent, the group that organized the exam said Thursday.

Ordinary citizens did not fare much better, scoring just 49 percent correct on the 33 exam questions compiled by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI).

"It is disturbing enough that the general public failed ISI's civic literacy test, but when you consider the even more dismal scores of elected officials, you have to be concerned," said Josiah Bunting, chairman of the National Civic Literacy Board at ISI.
Some of the failed questions included the function of the electoral college, who were the combatants in WW2, and who has the power to declare war. These are simple enough questions that anyone who has passed the citizenship test would easily know, but people in government seem unaware of.

And for many of them, the reason is quite simple: they aren't in government to serve the people, honor its history, and uphold the constitution. They are there to make the world a better place. They may not know who declares war, but they know who is the oppressor. They might be hazy on American Civics, history and constitution, but they're well versed on political correctness, multiculturalism, and relativism. Who cares about these tests, the deeper truth is what matters - defined by the latest leftist dogma.

Schools certainly aren't helping anyone learn about the former, but they are certainly pushing and indoctrinating the latter. Lenin's primary idea of education (where the term and concept "political correctness" originated) was to form ideal citizens for the socialist state, to politically and culturally shape students rather than educate them so that they could form their own conclusions. The school system of America has embraced this concept with every arm they had and a few they borrowed, and the results are not surprising.

This level of ignorance contributes to a degredation of dignity and maturity in office. If you know little about what the country is about, its history, and the civics of a nation, then your respect for the office will necessarily be degraded. If your primary goal is to achieve some utopian dream of political power rather than serve the people with respect and honor for the past and the nation its self, then you will tend to treat the job and people with disrespect as well. Combine that with a popular culture that celebrates irresponsibility, indignity, frovolity, and a lack of maturity, and we have our present situation - one that is almost certain to get worse before it gets better.

RANGEL WATCH

"We don't windsurf in Harlem."
-Charles Rangel

Charles Rangel
How much scandal, corruption, lawbreaking, and hypocrisy can a Democratic Party politician get away with and keep his job? So far we've seen someone blatantly guilty of taking bribes get cushy committee appointments (William "freezer cash" Jefferson), someone repeatedly guilty of sexually harassing their underage male pages get reelected (Congressman Stubbs), and someone famously guilty of hiring hookers avoid prosecution entirely (Governor Spitzer), and in the first two cases keep their job. B

Both Jefferson and Spitzer are amazing cases, since the guys who bribed Jefferson and the madam who supplied Spitzer with high-cost hookers were convicted of their crimes. Bribe a politician, see jail time. Be the politician who was bribed? Still free and working. Get hookers for a politician, see jail time. Be the politician who got the hookers? No trial, walk free.

So let's watch Charles Rangel, Democrat representative from New York. After all, Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) said "elect us, hold us accountable, and make a judgment and then go from there." So how accountable will Rangel be? Let's count the ways he should be held to account:
-Harlem Rep. Charles Rangel took a "homestead" tax break on a Washington, DC, house for years while simultaneously occupying multiple rent-stabilized apartments in New York City, possibly violating laws and regulations in both cases.

-As The Post reported yesterday, the Harlem congressman - who chairs the powerful House Ways and Means Committee - took a "homestead" property-tax deduction on a house he owned in Washington, DC, until 2000.

Problem is the deduction only applies to a home that is an individual's "principal place of residence" - and the law explicitly bars members of Congress from taking the break.

-Congressional records and interviews show that Mr. Rangel was instrumental in preserving a lucrative tax loophole that benefited an oil-drilling company last year, while at the same time its chief executive was pledging $1 million to the project, the Charles B. Rangel School of Public Service at C.C.N.Y.
Basically Representative Rangel is guilty of multiple counts of tax law violations, congressional law, corruption, and assorted ethics violations. Will there be any consequence? Time will tell, but it is clear that the reporting on this was restrained until the election was over. Now that the election cycle is over for 2 years, well its okay to report bad things about Democrats.

*More on congressional corruption from WATN:
Most Ethical Congress ever?
Diane Feinstein conflict of interest
Law and the Democrats
Mahoney gets some on the side
The Friends of Angelo

Quote of the Day

“California is now a valuable touchstone to the country, a warning of what not to do. Rarely has a single generation inherited so much natural wealth and bounty from the investment and hard work of those more noble now resting in our cemeteries—and squandered that gift within a generation.”
-Victor Davis Hanson

Monday, November 24, 2008

Chapter 16

"Our passions shape our books; repose writes them in the intervals."
-Proust

I'm not feeling so hot today. That's not unusual, the days I feel good I count less often than full moons, but some days its worse than others. I knew this would happen sooner or later, and yet I've made a commitment to write. The point of this month's experiment is to get something down on paper, so to speak, regardless of the content or quality, to get a book written each working day of the month. So the quality might suffer, but it gets done anyway and I can rest later.

When Laura Hillenbrand wrote the book Seabiscuit she became so debilitated she ended up writing it in bed, and finally just took months to recover once it was done. History is replete with writers who wrote themselves to death - or more commonly drank themselves to death while writing. People who just kept going regardless of the cost because their art and their work demanded it. Because what they had to say burned in them so fiercely they could not ignore it. I have to admit that I'm not that driven, it is probably the dividing line between some talent and real genius, between the writer and the artist. I fall comfortably short of that line.

So if this part is weaker or shorter than it ought to be, at least you have a reason if not a proper excuse.

*I've deleted the story portion, as the book is going to be published soon and I don't want to give away too much for free. 

THE GREAT CULTURAL DIVIDE

"As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly"
-Arthur Carlson**, WKRP in Cincinnati

Palin and the Turkeys
I have grown up in the country at the fringes of a large town most of my life. I never really lived in rural areas, nor did I live in cities, I was in a twilight blend of rural and urban, with the benefits of both. For the best of my youth I grew up on a 50 acre farm just outside the city limits in a lush forested area of unbelievable beauty. I have some feel of the rural life as well as the city, and that's what gives me such a sad head shake when I watch what's happening lately.

I've written several times about the cultural divide in America and around the world. Most people put it in terms of politics or religion, but the fact is, the real divide is between rural and urban. If you want to know a country's real culture, get out of the city and see how people live in the rural areas. That is the culture of the country. Urban areas share 90% of the same culture regardless of the country they belong to. Paris and London and Tokyo and Moscow, New York City and Sao Palo, wherever you go, the urban culture is largely shared in a way that these countries do not in rural areas.

Few incidents recently could illustrate this as well as the shocked, horrified, and sarcastic articles about Governor Palin's recent press conference. While there always is a layer of "we must destroy her" in the legacy reporting of the governor, the reason for their need to destroy her is revealed in how they react. Here are a few headlines:
  • TURKEYS DIE AS GOVERNOR PALIN TAKES QUESTIONS FROM MEDIA
  • GOV. SARAH KEEPS TALKING WHILE TURKEYS GET SLAUGHTERED BEHIND HER
  • GOV. PALIN APPARENTLY OBLIVIOUS TO TURKEY CARNAGE OVER HER SHOULDER
  • Oh, the turkanity! What happened? She talked to reporters while on camera with a turkey packing plant behind her. They actually were killing the birds! The horror! It was unimaginable, that someone could kill those birds with such callous disregard! Fifty years ago, they showed birds being beheaded on national television in specials for children about the annual US Thanksgiving celebration. Today a turkey being fed into a machine by a belt is too horrific to consider. Oblivious, she was, lacking the proper look of moral outrage and horror. Or even worse, she thought it was completely appropriate and reasonable.

    This divide is so bizarre to rural people, to hunters, to farmers, to people who actually know where their food comes from. For the urbanized metrosexual, meat comes in neat bloodless plastic packages or cans, there's no connection to a living bird. They rarely see any living animals other than pets and pigeons, let alone consider how they might be edible. The fact that pigeons were introduced to cities as a food source is unthinkable to them. The idea that an animal must be killed, plucked, and hacked apart to be ready for them to eat is simply blotted out from their mind.

    This divide explains why part of the country cannot even imagine how a hard left politician with radical ties to terrorists and America-haters who openly stated he wants to raise taxes and quotes Marx on economic policy could possibly have been elected. Meanwhile, the other part of the country is shocked and dismayed that anyone could possibly support a President who actually says he prays and reads the Bible (can you believe, in this day and age?) or a ballot measure that defines marriage as one man and one woman.

    There was a very popular (and insightful, for the most part) book in the early 90s entitled Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus that tried to explain the battle of the sexes and the confusion in relationships with the fact that we're basically different. That we think differently - even radically so - and the only way to reach out to one another is to learn these differences and make allowances for it.

    There's a real need for a similar book regarding urban and rural peoples. It is as if two separate species live side by side, externally similar, but alien to one another. The language is similar sounding, but when one says words like patriotism, dissent, and country, they mean something entirely different than the other. This cultural disparity has grown and accelerated in the last decade or so to the point where it is almost unbridgeable.

    THE WHORE OF BABYLON
    It is this divide that explains the horror and hatred of Governor Palin. She's an accomplished, well-spoken, and professional woman who has achieved greatness and epitomizes that which the feminist movement stated they wanted and fought for. I remember the movie Fargo in which the main character Marge Gunderson was a homespun folksy type who was also very capable, wise, and patient, a woman who was great at her job and independent while having a great, loving relationship with her husband. The feminists and urbanites loved her, she was fun and wise and great and they considered her a terrific character.

    Yet when the real thing comes along, they treat her with contempt, even hatred. They lie openly about her, spread horrific slanderous rumors, demonize and mock her. They treat her like the worst evil on earth, anathema, an object of profanity and bitter spite. They act like she's a moron, a freak, a hayseed. Why?

    Because Governor Plain is the rural voice, because she's a threat to the urbanized view of life. Because she connects so well with so many people in a powerful way. Because she lives the antithesis of their lives: in the country, hunting, fishing, camping, she is in the country and doesn't just enjoy it, she's not ashamed of it. She's proud of her life and how she lives. The divide of cultures couldn't be more plainly and obviously stated, she personifies that split and is hated for it.

    Because she reaches so many people, is such an effective speaker, and is a rural conservative, she's too effective, too potent. She might shift the country against the urbanites who at present control not just entertainment and popular culture, but the news media and now government. The loss of that means a loss of what the urban culture holds dear, wants to achieve, and believes in. President Bush was bad enough, he was far too much of the ruralite, but at least he was not all that conservative. Governor Palin is too much, by far.

    INTRAPARTY
    The strange thing is, you can see this divide evident inside parties. There are Democrats who are rural as well as urban - the urban wing simply controls the party right now. Most of the new young congressmen who were elected in 2006 were rural Democrats, "blue dogs" who were largely conservative socially and fiscally and ran on that platform. As time goes on the divide and the disagreements will become more clear and noticable.

    Meanwhile, in the Republican party, the same fight is going on, in a more open and strident manner. The Wall Street Journal and other urbanite Republicans are calling for the rubes to be silenced or removed from the party. Shut up about social issues, they cost the election, they cry (without logic or factual basis). There are cries for the party to be moved to the center socially, to focus on fiscal issues and quiet about abortion, immigration, and God. Some are sarcastic, bitter, and angry about it - some of them showing the identical hatred and fear of Governor Palin as on the left.

    Because this isn't a party split, or a political split. How this will develop and who will win in the short and long term we'll see. I'll just offer that urban ideology is not helping them much in practical terms; just take a good look at any big city some time and tell me that philosophy is a winner.

    *For more thoughts on how this works out practically; how the divide affects American culture, read Victor Davis Hanson's recent column of 10 Random Politically Incorrect Thoughts.

    **Edited to correct the attribution, thanks to Mitch in the comments.

    MORE SAVY SAYIN'S

    For some men, it was too late to get wise the day they was born.

    Marry a woman with brains enough for two and you'll come out even.

    If you want to stay single, look for the perfect woman.

    What you cain't duck, welcome.

    Drownin' your sorrows only irrigates them.

    Sweat never drowned no one.

    Married men don't like history too close to home.

    When a hen cackles, she's either lyin' or layin'.

    THE BUSINESS OF AMERICA

    "We have to invite the saudi rulers to an international dialogue to combat the evils of porkophobia."

    Perils Before Swine
    Gold'n Plump is a meat packing plant that focuses primarily on chicken and chicken products. They range from cut meats to finished packages such as chicken tenders and rotisserie cooked full chickens for restaurants. The company was founded in 1926 and over the years developed into a major business in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

    Although the company works with chicken it also does some work with other meats such as pork, and as a result they had a policy of hiring people with the understanding that they would be possibly handling pork products. In the interests of full disclosure and making sure everyone who worked there knew this, they required all employees to sign a release form that indicated they understood they would be handling pork at times.

    Some Somali workers objected.
    The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today announced that a federal district court in St. Paul, Minn., recently approved consent decrees that settle two religious discrimination lawsuits against a leading St. Cloud, Minn.-based chicken processor, Gold’n Plump Poultry, Inc., and an employment agency, The Work Connection, which referred workers to it.

    Under the decree preliminarily approved in the Gold’n Plump case, the employer will add a paid break during the second half of each shift which -- in addition to a break early in the shift and lunch breaks otherwise required by applicable law -- will accommodate the religious beliefs of Muslim employees who wish to pray during the course of the work day. The timing of the added break will fluctuate during the year so as to coordinate with the religious timing for Muslim prayers.

    In addition to other related relief, Gold’n Plump will provide $215,000 in monetary relief to a class of Somali Muslims who claimed religious discrimination, including discharge and discipline. An additional $150,000 will be paid to class members under the consent decree entered in The Work Connection case..
    See, because they are Muslim, the Somalis are prohibited by their religion from handling pork. So instead of looking for another job, which they are free to do, they sued the company for requiring them to sign the paper in order to work there.

    And won.

    Not only did they win the right to refuse to do some work at the job, they a huge settlement of cash for their horrible torture and further won the right to take extra breaks during the day to pray, even though the Koran does not require the prayers to happen at any certain times - it just compels believers to pray three items in the day.

    This is a twofold problem. First, it is one more victory by Muslims using the systems and tolerance of the west against it to slowly conquer it from within. This case sets precedent and by law requires businesses to give prayer breaks to Muslims at least in some businesses. It also effectively bans businesses from requiring their workers to do anything their religion prohibits, yet also bans them from firing or refusing to hire people on that basis. In other words, you can't refuse to hire a Muslim to your pork company because he won't handle pork, or to put it another way, you have to be willing to hire someone despite the fact that they will not do the job.

    As a commenter at Dhimmi Watch points out:
    Are there any employers then who will continue to hire Somali muslims?

    Posted by: carpediadem
    They might be forced to, if there are any Somali Moslems in the area looking for work.
    For many years, in the company I worked for, the personnel department worked under the rules of a federal court order which specified that all hiring of new employees, and all promotions, had to comply with federal (EEOC, I believe) rules against discrimination. There was even an EEOC office, with a couple of staff, attached to the company personnel office, to make sure that an acceptable number of minority applicants were hired. Of course, the company had to pay the costs of these EEOC drones.

    No wonder companies locate plants outside the U.S. It's not just to escape high wage costs. It's to escape this kind of government harassment and government-enforced expenses.
    -by Ebonystone
    For Somalis and Muslims, this ruling makes it more likely that businesses will find other reasons to not hire them. Not enough experience, poor hygiene, bad attitude, other person more qualified, etc. Why take someone on that is going to be such a problem for the company?

    Why do I say this is deliberate? Because no one would take the job in the first place who was so religiously compelled to avoid pork that they would not touch it. Take the case of the cashier at a grocery store in Minneapolis (same area - in fact in an earlier story, a Somali cab driver wouldn't pick up passengers because they had alcohol) who wouldn't touch bacon, wouldn't scan it, wouldn't bag it. This is an intregal part of the job, not some extra added on work. This is not something you are unaware of going into the job each day. These refusals are deliberate efforts to manipulate society to fit their whims rather than adapt to their new society.

    The second problem is broader and older; it is that the EEOC is a slightly weaker and quieter version of the Canadian Human Rights commissions and that laws such as the Civil Rights Act and the employment laws are worded so broadly and interpreted even more broadly by judges and commissions that they are abused and destructive to commerce and society.

    When laws meant to prohibit improper discrimination are used as a lever to prevent any discrimination, the culture suffers. For example, if I show up at work in a shirt with profanity on it, abuse the interviewer, and leave halfway through, I should be passed over for the job: clearly I'm unready for work and disruptive. The interviewer would be discriminating against me by not hiring me: and well he should. Discrimination simply means showing discernment, choosing between various choices.

    Yet it is theoretically possible that I could then sue the company for not hiring me under these statutes and through the EEOC because I have Tourette's Syndrome or Attention Deficit Disorder, or some other syndrome my lawyer and some doctor concoct, and thus I was discriminated against for my illness. Because that's how vague and open the laws are and how they've been interpreted over the years.

    Again: President Bush's biggest failure was not cleaning these various branches and offices up, not replacing personnel and leadership with more responsible, cautious, and judicious appointments and workers. Failure to do so is causing the United States to suffer where it did not need to.

    This damages business and yes, small surprise these companies are fleeing the country for more work-friendly climates where you can do your job without a bureaucrat and lawyer breathing down your neck and trying to wreck your business - all in the name of well meaning.

    The business of America used to be business. Now it's catering to the loudest special interest group and caving in to political correctness at the point of a gun held by leftists who know better than you.

    Quote of the Day

    "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before."
    -Rahm Emmanuel, President Obama's chief of staff

    Friday, November 21, 2008

    I'M A PEPPER

    "Wouldn't you like to Be a Pepper too?"

    Dr Pepper Logo
    Doctor Pepper is a strange concoction of fruit juices including prune juice originally created and marketed as a health drink. By now it's known to be packed with caffeine and sugar which may give you pep but is not exactly a health boost. Still, it tastes great and it was one of my favorite soft drinks, at least when I could drink sugared beverages.

    The vice president of marketing for Dr Pepper made a rash statement in public once, and now he's got to make good on it:
    "We never thought this day would come," Tony Jacobs, Dr Pepper's vice president of marketing, said in a statement. "But now that it's here, all we can say is: The Dr Pepper's on us."
    What was the promise? Well this ties into something really unrelated to soft drinks: the band Guns 'n' Roses. Since 1994, the band has been working on an album entitled Chinese Democracy and it's been delayed more than a Boston album. The band has lost two of its most talented members (Izzy Stradlin and Slash) but still has volcanic and unpredictable front man Axl Rose. Tony Jacobs was at a press conference in March when he promised that everyone in America a Dr Pepper if the album came out this year.

    Well it's late, but tomorrow Best Buy will begin selling the new Guns 'n' Roses album, and the next day you will be able to go to the Dr Pepper site and get a coupon for your free 20-ounce Dr Pepper. No word yet on whether it will apply to all of the 23 flavors of Dr Pepper or just the original, best flavor, but all you will have to do is register and print off the coupon, then take it to a local store.

    Enjoy.

    Chapter 15

    "There are thousands of thoughts lying within a man that he does not know till he takes up the pen and writes."
    -William Makepeace Thackeray

    There are a lot of Gypsies in this story. Generally speaking, Gypsies are roundly disliked and mistrusted by just about everyone on earth. There is some reason for this, as the Rom tend to be deceptive, thieving, and try to trick and con everyone who isn't in their clan. At the same time, they are fascinating, with an interesting and unique culture as well as being a significant presence in eastern Europe. Everyone hears of the horrid evil done to the Jews during Nazi control of Europe, but not what was done to Gysies, who suffered horribly as well - and no one really cared because they liked Gypsies even less than Jews.

    The research on this was very fun to do, because it consisted of reading two of Gores' entertaining Dan Kearny Associates books 32 Cadillacs and Cons, Scams, & Grifts, both of which heavily involve Gypsies. Gores did a great deal of research, and I'm using his work as my guide, which as far as I know is very accurate and certainly is informative. I recommend reading his books; Joe Gores was a Private Investigator and a repo man for years before starting his writing career and it shows in his stories.

    *I've deleted the story portion, as the book is going to be published soon and I don't want to give away too much for free. 

    CLIMATE CHANGE CHANGES

    "Unless we announce disasters no one will listen"
    -Sir John Houghton, first chairman of IPCC

    Blank Sun
    It is interesting to watch two divergent trends. On the one side, the Democrats have taken firmer control of Washington and are using it to prepare for a strong anti-global warming agenda. Representative John Dingell (D-MI) was chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee which handles environmental and energy issues, but in a secret vote he was thrown off the committee and replaced by hard left environmentalist Henry Waxman (D-CA).
    Obama, in one of his first policy statements as president-elect, told a climate-change conference in Los Angeles this week that "delay is no longer an option" in taking action against global warming. He pledged support for mandatory emissions controls and a renewed international effort to tackle the problem.

    He also praised California and other states that took action to curb emissions while the Bush administration for eight years resisted those efforts. "Any governor willing to promote clean energy will have a partner in the White House," Obama said.

    At a news conference Thursday with four other Senate Democrats on her committee, [California Democrat Barbara] Boxer was ebullient about the dramatic shift in political power — Obama's big victory, at least seven more Democrats in the Senate and Waxman as the House point man on climate change. She called Waxman "a strong ally."
    ...
    In January, Boxer said, her committee will push a $15 billion grant program to boost clean-energy, and then begin debate on a long-range cap-and-trade system designed to meet Obama's goal of cutting emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

    The plan would require all sources to reduce their carbon emissions to get under a cap that shrinks each year, or purchase credits from others who implement pollution-controlling technology. The plan is designed to set a price on carbon and make alternative fuels more affordable.
    Meanwhile, Dr Hansen at NASA "accidentally" logged October as the hottest October on record ever, when it was in fact quite cool. The problem? His office was using September's data - an act that does not exactly build confidence in their ability to handle their job. This would not be the first time that Dr Hansen has doctored the data to help the Global Warming cause.

    Meanwhile, the world just isn't cooperating with the AGW hysterics. For example, since President Bush took office (the "worst environmental president in history") the global temperature has apparently dropped:


    In Europe, the anti global warming hysteria is beginning to stumble, primarily because in tough economic times, countries are realizing this would demolish their already shaky economies:
    Efforts to forge an agreement on the package have run into opposition from a group of 'new' member states, led by Poland, who say the plans could wreck their industries and lead to massive job losses, particularly in the context of economic recession.

    Many countries from the former Soviet bloc claim they are being punished rather than rewarded for emitting less CO2 during the transition from Communism in the 1990s than more developed EU member states during the same period. At issue is a proposal by the Commission to base emissions reductions calculations for 2020 on the base year of 2005 rather than 1990. Brussels says this is necessary, since 2005 is the first year for which reliable data is available.
    Environmentalists in the EU leadership are pushing to get the stringent emissions requirements passed before the presidency of the EU passes to Poland in 2009; at present France is in charge. The problem is that the hard left radical Chirac government was hurled from office and a more centrist Sarkozy presidency is in power, which means there's no guarantee that the French leadership is friendly to this plan anymore.

    In Asia, the home of the Kyoto accords, the momentum is fading as well, for the same reasons:
    Last year, the top priority was reviving stalled global trade negotiations, at 12 percent, but climate change came close at eight percent. Global warming did not even figure among the top priorities this year.

    "We've been swamped by bad economic news and you don't have to look at our survey results alone to see that the interest and focus on climate change has dissipated somewhat," said Yuen Pau Woo, co-author of the report.

    "You see the same shift in focus in the public away from climate change questions to questions of economic survival and growth," said Woo, president of the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada.
    You'll note if you read the article several glaring falsehoods:
    1) they call the economic crisis America-bred when it was a global shared problem with loans and investment (that's why European banks were bailed out before the US ones).
    2) they say that President Bush was responsible for the US not signing on to the Kyoto Accords, when it was President Clinton's administration that was in power when the Senate almost unanimously voted to reject the treaty. President Clinton signed the treaty, it is up to the Senate to ratify the thing, and they have refused. President Bush has nothing to do with it.
    The problem with the AGW hysterics is the sun. It has been more or less established now that solar activity controls global temperature - shock of all shocks - and that the sun is remarkably calm and free of storms.

    TURNABOUT IS CORROSIVE

    "Now you're gonna get yours!

    Question T
    When stuff like this inevitably starts showing up, it is kind of amusing, but at the same time makes me wonder about a few things.

    First, what will the left do when all their slogans are turned against them? After all, they've been crying that "dissent is the highest form of patriotism" and falsely attributing it to Thomas Jefferson. The pattern established firmly with tolerance is unashamed hypocrisy and a stubborn double standard: that only applies to our enemies. That is what turned people against political correctness so much that even many on the left mocks the term and its uses.

    Second, why is it suddenly okay for conservatives to use these terms and tactics? Some of the same people who decried this behavior now eagerly rub their hands together and grin about it being their turn. All those protests, all that slander, the Bush=Hitler madness, the lies, the smears, now its our turn to use them all, get ready suckers, you set the template! Why is that suddenly okay? Dignity, honor, and honesty all compel the right to be consistent and show integrity in this: do what is right, even when it costs you - especially when it costs you.

    Third, is it really good for the country to tear apart the president in a mocking manner by everyone and anyone who has a voice? Disagreeing with policy is one thing, but juvenile attacks are another. Satire is a great tool to reach the ignorant and skeptical, but childish attacks and mockery just lowers the tone and harms the country by eroding respect and honor. The office of the president deserves respect, even if the man in it does not. While I agree that we ought to question authorities - even the Bible says to do that - the approach should be one of respect for the office and mature concern, not sniping and bitching because you're not in power.

    One of the most foul and unattractive things the left did was to constantly complain without offering any alternatives, to always finding fault without suggesting better. It was the act of an angry, petulant child, the words of someone throwing a tantrum, always bitching, never constructing. There's no leadership in that, and that's what the nation needs: leadership, particularly as we're looking at economic tough times. The right has a chance to stand tall here and look mature. I'm not seeing a good start yet.

    VI DAY

    VII
    VE: May 7th, Victory in Europe Day
    VJ: August 15th, Victory over Japan day
    VI: November 22nd, Victory in Iraq day.

    We've won. Get used to it.

    Quote of the Day

    "Our only choice is a collective suicide for the glory of socialism."
    -Cultist Jim Jones as he prepared the Kool Aid
    [technorati icon]

    Thursday, November 20, 2008

    Chapter 14

    "Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them. There's many a best-seller that could have been prevented by a good teacher."
    -Flannery O'Connor

    One of my least favorite kinds of books is the romance novel. I don't have any particular problem with romance, I am rather romantic myself when given occasion. My problem is that the romance novel is like an argument novel or a boxing match novel. It isn't enough to carry an entire story, it is one portion, one event of a larger story. The problem with this becomes evident rather rapidly when you read one.

    Lacking any real conflict or story, the writer has to contrive some sort of conflict in order to have more than boy meets girl. There's a third party involved, or one of the people is inexplicably cold and distant even though secretly they are madly in love, or they get into some big fight and the plot is how they reconcile the fight. Romance isn't enough to carry a story any more than action is. It's just a piece of a story, yet they sell like crazy by giving a fantasy life for lonely people to vicariously enjoy and fill their heads with absurd and unrealistic versions of romance and people.

    As I've written in the past, romance novels are as bad about distorting human nature and love as pornography is. They're just a lot more acceptable in popular culture. That said, romance is a great element to place into a real story line and structure - if not overdone. The story's primary arc and focus needs to remain prominent, the romance should be a portion of that to advance the plot and tell the story.

    *I've deleted the story portion, as the book is going to be published soon and I don't want to give away too much for free. 

    H8 THE COURTS

    "If it's not for voters to decide then who is it for. Is this a nation of we the people or not?

    Well, California is one of the most left leaning state in the union, consistently leading the way with the latest goofy leftist policies and ideas (and paying the price in their budget and business climate). Yet twice now when the state has been asked to vote on how they want to define marriage, they have by a strong voice said "one man, one woman." A previous law passed by the vote of the people ( with a 2:1 margin) was thrown out by the courts as being "unconstitutional" so a new law was drafted and put before the people.

    The gay activist left in California were certain they'd win proposition 8, preventing the definition of marriage being added to the constitution. When they lost, they went berserk, becoming violent in some cases, protesting Mormons, demanding apologies from people, boycotting and picketing businesses, and so on. They've conspicuously avoided the two groups most responsible for the passage of Prop 8, however: blacks and Hispanics. Instead, they're targeting small, politically incorrect and safe targets, as usual, such as churches.

    Hate (H8) they call the amendment. Sanity, the majority of the population calls it.

    What is different this time is that Proposition 8 is a constitutional amendment. It adds the definition of marriage to the California constitution, thus making it by definition constitutional and outside the realm of a court decision. However, the screaming, frothing, rabid gay activist supporters have managed to get a case before the California supreme court anyway.

    How? Well the approach is a bit different this time, and far more wide-reaching and critical. The lawsuits all claim that voters have no right or power to amend the California constitution. In essence, they are arguing that propositions of this sort are unconstitutional to begin with, that it is not legal or permissible for the vote of the people to change the constitution in the state.

    What's the logic behind this? Well the activists bringing the lawsuit argue that this decision violate the rights of a (tiny but loud) minority, that the people do not have the authority to do this. There is absolutely no precedent for such a position, and the fact is, the majority of people routinely make decisions that negatively affect the minority - we put criminals behind bars by the will of the people, and criminals make up a minority of the population. There have even been constitutional changes in various states that do so.

    This not only would overturn proposition 8 but every other constitutional amendment of that sort, ban any other attempts, and permanently prohibit voters from deciding how their constitution is changed unless no minority group is affected negatively. This isn't just a bad idea, it is an extremely unAmerican idea. This may be appealed all the way to the US Supreme court, somehow, which could potentially detonate every state's proposition system and affect all voters in all states.

    The idea of the people deciding what their destiny will be, of the rule by the individual citizen rather than a small group of the powerful, and the entire concept of democracy is under attack here. When I say un-American, I'm not using heated rhetoric. The entire concept of the American system is under direct assault here because it happens to annoy a tiny portion of the population who has gained the support of the hard left and popular entertainment. Under no circunstances should this succeed.

    Yet with California's often hard left courts, the outcome of this is not certain, regardless of logic or legal fact. So the rest of the nation watches to see if California will heed its population or whether it will go insane and the tyranny of lawyers in black robes will violate everything the nation stands for.

    Will the US be governed by the will of the people, or the hate and slander of a tiny portion?

    MANALOG: Paper Models

    “The mother art is architecture. Without an architecture of our own we have no soul of our own civilization.”
    -Frank Lloyd Wright

    Land Ironclad Blueprint
    I love models, and I like to make models. The problem is, I'm not very good at it: I can complete the work but it's not very impressive looking. That poor outcome is what keeps me from working on models as much as I might like to, that and the lack of a real work space to keep it up for days to finish the job properly. Still, most people seem to like making models at least at some point in their life, simple or complex.

    That's why when I heard about a website with paper models I was intrigued. When I looked at it, I was fascinated. The site is Currell Graphics, and the paper models are a mix of free downloads you can print off to card stock and a cheap purchase with graphics on the models. The content of the models is even more interesting. They have basic models like a plane and building, but they have picked some of the most interesting types of buildings and planes, and they're all made of folded paper.

    The IllinoisFor example, they have a model of the H.G. Wells' Land Ironclad, his concept of what would eventually become a tank. And the V1 Doodlebug rocket the Nazis experimented with. Frank Lloyd Wright's conceptual mile-high skyscraper. The Graf Zeppelin airship, that kind of thing.

    So if you're looking for a unique gift for men this Christmas, especially those more crafty sorts who are good with their hands and miniature work, this is a unique present that can be pretty thrifty.

    Quote of the Day

    "We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and private: and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship."
    -C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory
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    Wednesday, November 19, 2008

    Chapter 13

    "No author dislikes to be edited as much as he dislikes not to be published."
    -Russell Lynes

    Since I've not made an outline of this story I do not really know how long it is. I have a basic sketch in my head, but the stuff in between is a bit hazy and I've already added new complications that I'd not considered to begin with. In theory I have 8 more chapters to put up, even though Thanksgiving takes up one of those week, which would make the story a full 21 chapters assuming I wrap it up by the end of National Novel Writing Month.

    So far I have several questions to answer: what happens to the monster? Will the Romanian catch him? What will the resistance do about this all? Will the doctor catch the monster and find out how to mass produce them for the German army? And why does Hitler want the monster dead rather than captured? I think a lot of plotting is about answering questions, at least that's my approach. I already had to figure out why on earth Cezar let himself be captured to begin with, and why he waited until he was in the showers to go nuts.

    This entire story started out with a simple concept: a werewolf in the showers at Auschwitz, something awful breaking out and making the men who murdered those people pay for their evil. I didn't think through why or how, just that idea. The rest has developed as I've written and asked questions. Maybe by the end I'll know why it all happened, even if its not expressly told. And maybe I'll even have a name for the story.

    *I've deleted the story portion, as the book is going to be published soon and I don't want to give away too much for free. 

    ISSUES ETCETERA

    "This is not your grandfather's church."

    LCMS logo
    *UPDATE: Issues, Etc apparently is being broadcast on the radio in some markets, particularly St Louis, according to a commenter.

    One of the things I appreciate most about the internet is that I can listen to shows and programs from around the world online, when I want to. There are online radio stations that exclusively broadcast across the internet, existing radio stations that also broadcast their feed online, and shows that are played on both then stored so you can listen to them later, downloading the program for your convenience.

    Issues, Etc was one of those programs, one I always enjoyed listening to. It was started by Don Matzat in 1991 as an alternative to shows such as All Things Considered and other radio culture and news programs, interviewing pastors, writers, and public figures from a Christian perspective. Issues, Etc quickly grew and attracted a large audience with 100 radio stations carrying the program every night and soon it showed up online.

    In 1998, Don Matzat left the show to return to preaching, and Todd Wilkins took his place on the show. Then, early this year, Issues, Etc was canceled and its host and producer fired. Mollie Hemminway at the Wall Street Journal explained:
    But when the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod canceled its popular, nationally syndicated radio program "Issues, Etc.," listeners were baffled. Billed as "talk radio for the thinking Christian," the show was known for its lively discussions analyzing cultural influences on the American church. It seemed like precisely the thing that the Missouri Synod, a 2.4-million-member denomination whose system of belief is firmly grounded in Scripture and an intellectually rigorous theology, would enthusiastically support.

    Broadcast from the nation's oldest continuously run religious radio station, KFUO-AM in St. Louis, and syndicated throughout the country, "Issues, Etc." had an even larger audience world-wide, thanks to its podcast's devoted following. With 14 hours of fresh programming each week, the show was on the leading edge of what's happening in culture, politics and broader church life. The Rev. Todd Wilken interviewed the brightest lights from across the theological spectrum on news of the day. Guests included Oxford University's Dr. Alister McGrath, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary's Albert Mohler and more postmodern types, like Tony Jones, national coordinator for a church network called Emergent Village.

    On its last show, on March 17, listeners learned about the life and faith of St. Patrick; scientific and philosophical arguments in defense of the human embryo; the excommunication of two Roman Catholic women who claimed ordination; and the controversy surrounding the sermons of Barack Obama's pastor, Jeremiah Wright.

    Despite the show's popularity, low cost and loyal donor base, Mr. Wilken and Jeff Schwarz, the producer of "Issues, Etc.," were dismissed without explanation on Tuesday of Holy Week. Within hours, the program's Web site -- which provided access to past episodes and issues of its magazine -- had disappeared. Indeed, all evidence that the show ever existed was removed.
    They had the money, they had a huge audience, they had dozens of stations carrying the program, what happened? The station claimed it was canceled for business reasons, the Lutheran Church synod in charge of KUFO claimed the ratings were low in St Louis and the internet listeners were not very numerous. They also claimed the show lost $250,000 a year.

    Those sound like fairly good reasons, except they don't appear to be true.
    The Rev. Michael Kumm, who served on three management committees for the station, said that the explanation doesn't add up. " 'Issues, Etc.' is the most listened to, most popular and generates more income than any other program at the station and perhaps even the others combined. This decision is purely political," he said.
    Like many large denominations in America, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod is undergoing an ideological battle. There is the path the denomination has long followed: orthodox, very reformed Christ-centered theology and traditional worship, and the path the new leadership wants to follow: seeker-sensitive, market-driven and less concerned with theology. They want to abandon historical confessions for slick campaigns and 70s-era music based entertainment services. Self-help and self improvement psychological messages are to replace Biblical sermons, prayers, and hymns. Oh, and stop calling yourself Lutheran, that's old, boring, and turns off seekers.

    Issues, Etc was not shy about criticizing this shallow, populist, and market-driven abandonment of the history of the church and doctrines. And that probably best explains what happened to the station. It was a sore point for the new ideas of the LCMS leadership, it was opposing their plans and ideas with powerful arguments, Biblical theology, and persuasive speakers. The show was unrepentantly Christian, boldly Lutheran, and openly traditional and theologically conservative. That was something that the synod leadership would not tolerate any longer.

    And there's another reason. KUFO has a very valuable radio license from the FCC, in a very lucrative market (St Louis, Missouri). If the station tanks badly enough - which is more than a little possible after taking its most popular show off the air - the Missouri Synod leadership can sell the station for big bucks.

    As soon as Issues, Etc was off the air, listeners were enraged. They demanded to know what happened, they deluged KUFO with letters, emails, and calls. An online petition sprung up to condemn and protest the decision to pull the show off the air. More than 7000 people signed (sadly, I didn't, because I never knew the petition was out there). After several months, the show came back, this time online only.

    You can listen to Issues, Etc, and its carrying on what it always did, openly Lutheran and openly Christian, unshamed of the gospel and the Bible and their faith, while critically and intelligently examining modern issues with interesting and learned guests. The old archives are still out there too, you can listen to online shows as far back as 2003. Every day for two hours, Todd Wilkens continues his work and you can listen for free - but they can use the donations.

    I recommend Issues, Etc even if you're not a Christian. The perspective is fresh and intriguing, they examine issues not from a left-right political spectrum but from ethical and theological bases: is this right, not will this work. Is this proper and does it serve the cause of good? Give it a try some time, you will find it interesting and informative.

    For more reading on the topic, check out these blogs:

    Save the LCMS has a hilarious comparison of how much the synod is paying their marketing consultant vs the cost of Issues, Etc.

    In the comments of Outer Rim Territories, a commenter notes the KUFO downloads that are stupendously in favor of Issues, Etc over any other content they have.

    *Incidentally, I'm a member of the Christian Reformed Church which is having the same sort of struggles, not the LCMS.