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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

MAGIC NEGRO LYRICS

"I have to tell you, you know, it's part of reporting this case, this election, the feeling most people get when they hear Barack Obama's speech. My, I felt this thrill going up my leg."
-Chris Matthews

Because of the controversy surrounding this song I thought it would be a good idea for people to know what it actually says so they can comment more intelligently and accurately. Or at least know better when they do not, which might be all we can ask for.

Barack the Magic Negro:
(Sung to "Puff the Magic Dragon" by Al Sharpton)
Barack the Magic Negro lives in D.C.
The L.A. Times, they called him that
‘Cause he’s not authentic like me.
Yeah, the guy from the L.A. paper
Said he makes guilty whites feel good
They’ll vote for him, and not for me
‘Cause he’s not from the hood.

See, real black men, like Snoop Dog,
Or me, or Farrakhan
Have talked the talk, and walked the walk.
Not come in late and won!

Oh, Barack the Magic Negro, lives in D.C.
The L.A. Times, they called him that
‘Cause he’s black, but not authentically.
Oh, Barack the Magic Negro, lives in D.C.
The L.A. Times, they called him that
‘Cause he’s black, but not authentically.

Some say Barack’s “articulate”
And bright and new and “clean.”
The media sure loves this guy,
A white interloper’s dream!
But, when you vote for president,
Watch out, and don’t be fooled!
Don’t vote the Magic Negro in –
‘Cause —

’Cause I won’t have nothing after all these years of sacrifice
And I won’t get justice. This is about justice. This isn’t about me, it’s about justice.
It’s about buffet. I don’t have no buffet and there won’t be any church contributions,
And there’ll be no cash in the collection plate.
There ain’t gonna be no cash money, no walkin’ around money, no phoning money.
Now, Barack going to come in here and ........

The insistence by many on the left is that this is horribly insulting to Barack Obama, and that simply is unforgivable - he's not even in office yet! How could you even think such a thing!?

Putting aside the savagery and hatred directed at President Bush even before he was nominated for President, let alone not yet in office during Al Gore's failed attempt to cheat his way into the White House, the song isn't about Obama at all. It is about the perception of Obama by people and the frustration the election of a black man to president causes race hucksters and con men like Al Sharpton.

I've written about Magic Negroes before, as have many others - in short it is the phenomenon in Hollywood where a bit character played by a black man or woman has supernatural knowledge, leadership, or wisdom to help the white hero succeed. Often they show up out of nowhere with no logical connection, such as a janitor that just speaks up and shares wisdom, or a ghost that teaches the white guy how to win. Morgan Freeman specializes in these roles.

In Barack Obama's case, the term comes more from the creepy worship and adulation that people cast at his feet, the disturbingly obsequious quasi-religious attitude toward this Chicago machine politician that leads to people calling him things like "lightbringer" and putting him in the role of a saint on a votive candle or pictures of him as Jesus, or riding a unicorn to save us all. As I said, creepy.

The song mocks those people and the race-hustlers, not Obama himself. And if the term "negro" is so offensive it must not be spoken, someone ought to tell that to the ghost of Martin Luther King jr, who used it proudly and loudly to call for justice and equality on the steps of the capitol building in a stirring, historical speech.

No, ultimately, this is just one more device used by the left to attack the GOP, to smear all Republicans (and by extension all conservatives) as racist bigots who mock blacks and are one rope away from lynching you. It is crass manipulation, and while that's hardly surprising from politicians and pundits, it is disturbing to me how effective and reliable the technique is.

GREEN RELIGION

"The earth is the LORD's and all it contains"
-Psalm 24:1

Green Bible
I've poked some fun at how for some people, environmentalism is essentially a religion; a dogma that defines their worldview and ethics. True, for most it is not organized but it is religion nevertheless - it is their faith and defines their philosophy and spiritual outlook on the world. It even has a deity: the self, able to manipulate and save the planet.

Yet there is a reversal going on: in some quarters of organized, established religion, environmentalism is creeping in. For example, in 2007, the National Organization of Evangelicals released a “Urgent Call to Action” statement signed by scientists and leaders in the NAE. More recently, a "green Bible" was released. Here are the details, courtesy Ned Potter at ABC:
Released by HarperCollins Publishers this fall, the Green Bible emphasizes environmental messages laced throughout the pages (the book's Web site says it includes 1,000 references to Earth in the Bible, compared to 490 to Heaven and 530 to love). In addition to highlighting Earth-related passages in light green, the book is printed on recycled paper with soy-based ink.
Well, I'd say that has as much legitimacy as printing the words of Jesus in red as if the rest of the Bible is in contrast to what He said. Another story in the news lately of this shift in some religious areas is the Anglican Church spending 200 million dollars on Al Gore's investment group. George Conger at the Website Religious Intelligence has the tale:
On Nov 18 the First Church Estates Commissioner, Andreas Whittam Smith reported that in late September the Commissioners had placed the funds with Gore’s boutique management firm which follows an “environmentally sustainable global equities mandate.” Funding for the investment came from “cash and Treasury bills”, he said, and not from the sale of UK equities as initially planned.
...
Generation Investment Management was founded in 2004 by Mr Gore and David Blood, former head of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, and had almost £5 billion under management before the market collapse.

The firm invests in companies that follow “socially responsible” business model such as insulin manufacturer Novo Nordisk, Swiss food conglomerate Nestlé, and San Francisco’s New Resource Bank --- a “green” lender in the US.
So the Church of England has decided to spend its money on "green" investments.

What is interesting to me is that this effort is at the time when the theory of human-caused global warming and the looming disaster that hysterics such as Gore predict is unraveling most rapidly. Science is turning against AGW as scientists learn more about the atmosphere, the sun, and how they interact to influence climate. The prevailing and, at least the last two winters, empirically obvious state of the climate trend right now is cooling, not warming.

I don't mind the idea of Bibles printed on recycled paper, I don't mind the idea of calling attention to how strongly and repeatedly God calls for care and responsibility when dealing with the environment. It is frustrating to me that the Christian church - which based on its theology and scripture ought to have been in the forefront of environmental stewardship - is sluggishly following the secular world.

However, using church funds to help a con man feel significant and important while padding his already bloated wallet based on bad science just makes Christianity look foolish and behind the times. Gore's investment schemes are the work of a huckster, someone finding a trend and making a buck off it, while trying to scare people into giving more. Granted, hellfire and damnation pastors in the past have used the same sort of schemes to pad their wallets, so the connection is not particularly surprising or new, but it highlights a disturbing trend in the mainstream churches.

Rather than being directed by the word of God and their faith, these organizations are being directed by the culture. When the prevailing culture scoffs at environmentalism, so do these organizations. When it becomes trendy to be "green" well, they're lining up to show they are too. Instead of being a leader, a spiritual guide, a beacon to the lost and the hopeless, these churches are being lapdogs to popular culture, offering them nothing they cannot get elsewhere, and without that uncomfortable stuff about sin and salvation.

Things like the "green Bible" are just crass attempts to make a buck off genuinely concerned or interested people. They can act as a calling card for how much you care about the environment and are trendy stunts like the "ebonics" Bible put out in the early 1990s. That publishers would put something of this sort out isn't surprising; they are in the job of printing things they believe will sell.

The problem comes when instead of worrying about salvation of souls and the result of Christ's love, churches and individual Christians begin worrying primarily about salvation of wallets and their personal comfort in a world they fear is becoming unstable and warming too rapidly. Churches should be teaching the grace of God in Christ Jesus, the doing and dying of the savior and then through that our response in gratitude that will naturally and spontaneously include serving our neighbor - needy or not - and being responsible stewards of the planet.

But for churches, the ultimate focus must be on God, not on cultural trends. The efforts must be Christ-centered and grace-driven, not popularity-centered and trend-driven. Every single time the Christian church has committed its worst sins it has been the result of listening to the culture around it rather than the word of God. And that's what I see happening once more here.

WATN GREATEST HITS: Cheesecake Tragedy

Like Naughty Cheerleaders, below, this post gets a lot of hits but not for its content. The image of Tiffany Teen as a coy schoolgirl is a regular search, particularly on weekends - again, largely from the middle east. The sad thing to me is both articles are about how troubling it is for these girls to put themselves in this situation and the cost of such an act, yet the interest is primarily driven by the desire to exploit these girls. Apparently miss Tiffany is now married and has given up the modeling business.
"NEWSFLASH: It’s 2007. Every white girl is naked on the internet."

Tiffany Teen
One of the more unfortunate effects of the internet is the unbelievable availability of pornography. In years past you had to make a deliberate effort to go get porn from specific places, places you didn't care to be seen most of the time. Even milder forms of porn like Playboy would be behind the counter and covered up in stores, you had to request them. Now you run into porn without even trying to on the internet. Even going to sites otherwise tame enough you see banner ads with explicit sexual content on them.

There's a whole industry of teenage girls posing for pictures and videos on the internet, from the relatively mild cheesecake variety to the hardcore sexual acts kind. Last year, one of the more successful girls who went by the name Tiffany Teen quit when her identity was published on the internet, along with High School photos. More tragic and recent is the case of Zoey Zane.
A missing Kansas college student believed to be the victim of foul play apparently led a double life as an Internet porn star by the name of Zoey Zane.

Nude photos of 18-year-old Emily Sander appeared on a Zoey Zane Web site before she vanished, and investigators are looking into whether her modeling had anything to do with her disappearance last Friday.

"She enjoyed it. She is a young teenage girl and she wanted to be in the movies and enjoyed movies. She needed the extra money," Nikki Watson, a close friend of Sander's at Butler Community College, told The Associated Press on Wednesday. "Nobody in El Dorado knew besides her close friends."
Her boyfriend vanished at about the same time, and blood was found in her apartment. Things do not look promising for the young miss Sander. At Protein Wisdom, Dan Collins points out that she apparently had not been at this very long, and commenters discussed the apparent death of both the girl and of modesty in society:
Just saw this and was looking for news. While it’s a shock to her family and friends to have her underground life pop up like that - you can’t say she may not have been savvy and in control of what she was doing. And I’ll bet it paid better than waitressing…
-by james


I doubt that she was as savvy or in-control as she felt, James.
-by Dan Collins


I just read a story that said her website had 30,000 subscribers at $40 a month. That’s $1.2 million a month. It said her contract was for 45%, but that she got 5% with the rest put in escrow at first until she met terms (not specified) of he contract. 45% of $1.2 million is $540,000. A month. Even 5% is $60,000/month - $720,000/year (if the person quoted in the article is correct.) I guess porn pays better than waitressing.
-by stovetop


You may be right, stovetop, but something tells me this naive little girl was not getting anything like that much money, certainly not from the vultures who run these sites. I think Lee is right; this whole thing is very sad.
-by Cave Bear


As a former waitress, I say the “price” you pay waitressing is less than doing porn. I once heard a stat for how long most “exotic” dancers lasted dancing only, before they turned into prostitutes. It was like, three months or something shocking.

not to go all “narrative” on you, but I would say the “pornification” of our society is what has lead young girls to doing such a thing as “Zoey Zane”. And, I would think most of us would agree that putting beaver shots up on the web isn’t something we’d want our daughter’s to do (someone else’s daughter - well I guess that is all right?)

Used to be, the women who chose to do such a thing were a specific margin of society. The margin is getting bigger, and I don’t think that’s a good thing. These porn “clearinghouses” feed off of these women. It makes me sick. I don’t know who I blame - or who it is helpful to blame. But, I think it’s time parents seriously started watching what their kids watch, wear, listen to, etc … so that their little Emily doesn’t become the next star on porn-web.
-by Carin


Carin, don’t infer from what I said that I disagree with you. I shudder at the thought of what I’m going to have to do to keep my future daughters safe and upright.

In fact, the only codicil I would add is that the old double standard ought to bear its part. Hate to come one like a feminist, but it’s easy to get to say “Oh, what was that sweet young thing doing in that horrible business” and ignore the millions of drooling idiots slapping cash down like descalped rats hitting the pleasure button to see her jubblies. As long as that opening’s around, someone’s gonna fill it, so to speak (I got a great corkscrew…hey, this is a hip crowd…)

...the media (old and new) circus would hit all the same notes, make all the same animals to all the same things, and then fold up tents and get out of town. It’s getting to the point where I can set my watch to what happens whenever there’s a school shooting.

So if we really want to end the exploitation, we have to make it not okay to enjoy, not just not okay to do. If we raise our sons to read Hustler, can’t blame our daughters for wanting to be on the cover.
-by Andrew
As of yesterday, it appears that the body of this poor young lady has been found. The scenario I fear is most likely is a jealous boyfriend who couldn't deal with his sweetie showing off her naughty bits to the world and a fight that went very badly. Personally I can't blame the guy for not wanting his sweetheart to be every middle aged sweaty subscriber's late night download, but this appears to have gone beyond an argument.

While the commenter I picked my tagline for exaggerates, one does wonder just how many young ladies of every part of society have not shown off themselves on the internet. I wrote a few months back about the college cheerleader who took all those shots of herself for a guy and saw them all end up online. At some point you have to move past whatever flaws their parents may have had and the inundation of sex in society and ask a few questions.

Is there just a power and temptation in the internet and technology we have now that young people just aren't ready to face that kind of power and choices?

Is there room for state and local regulation and limitation on internet access or at least certain kinds of technology?

Are we past the point where we can make anything new restricted or illegal any more? What I mean is this: if the car was invented tomorrow, would it be possible for anyone to pass any laws requiring licenses to drive one? Or have we gotten to the point of license and rejection of limitations in society that we would reject it on libertarian principles?

Is it wrong to have such laws, or are they a proper limitation on liberty to protect us and others?

And are we at a place in our society where we can even begin to have that kind of debate any more?
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WATN GREATEST HITS: Naughty Cheerleaders

This is one of the posts I did deliberately using a title I knew would get me hits. I get five to ten hits a day from around the world on this article, making it one of the most popular I wrote. However, unlike most of the others I am putting in these greatest hits reposts, it isn't popular so much for the content as the title and the salacious hopes of readers. This post gets a lot of hits from the middle east, by the way.
"Anyhow, it's like all the tattoos young folks get these days, when they're 60 it won't be 'cool' at all."

OK I admit it, that headline is just to troll for more Google hits. That said, the topic is valid, as the Ace of Spades HQ tells it, pictures of a college cheerleader have been posted on the Internet, pictures that clearly some she took and some another person took - possibly her lover. At least some of them are nudes, and some are very hardcore x-rated pictures. I'm not going to link the pictures and the site that has them will likely take them down soon as they violate the host's policies.

Now, Ace is hardly a puritanical fellow, in fact he's more inclined to laugh at this than I would but even he stopped a moment to consider the implications of these pictures:
Something has seriously gone wrong in this culture. God knows I'm not a super-strict virtuecrat or anything, but a steady diet of MTV sex shows, Sex & the City, and the like now has many, verging on most, young girls pretty much behaving like gutterwhores.

But Why Blame MTV and Sex & the City? What About the Internet? I don't think the ubiquity of porn has much of an impact, because in order to sell this behavior, you have to sell it as cool, chic, hip, an attractive "lifestyle choice."

Internet porn, and porn in general, hardly does that, does it? Hell, I'm sickened by it half the time, and I'm nasty.

Nah, you need to accompany it with fabulous digs like on The Real World or a fabulous job like Carrie Bradshaw has.
Ace points out that ten years ago you'd have had a hard time even bringing up the idea of taking pictures of a young girl, let alone getting them posted for the world to see. Where does this come from, and how far will it go? Commenters discussed the thought:
Ladies, here's a tip: someday, you might want to get married to a guy you really love. This guy may surf the internet tubes, and may run across that embarassing little video you did a few years ago when you still did "that kind of stuff". (Or your new guy's friends might help him out and just mail him the link or give him the DVD. 'Cause that's what friends do -- crush each other's hopes and dreams, and then laugh about it.) Your beau may not like the fact that his fiancee was famous for giving bjs to two guys at once, or dancing naked and drunk on a balcony while a group of guys groped her. I'm just saying. It's not the kind of thing that promotes the trust and matrimonial bond that makes for a long and happy marriage.

Everybody has a history; you don't get to be an adult without having made one or two (or a hundred) dumb mistakes on your way up. But for Christ's sake don't film it. The internet has a long, long memory, and those youthful indiscretions can and will cause you misery later in life. (Plus any doctor can tell you that genital warts, herpes, and chlamydia are more than just annoyances, and AIDS will simply *#&@ing kill you.)

Fair? No. But (ahem): Life Is Not Fair.
-by Monty

Monty is so right.

This generation of girls will SO REGRET the things that are posted forever on the net of them. I knew some wild girls in college who are the best moms now (ok, some aren't) and would be MORTIFIED if their little ones ever saw some pictures of what they did. And nothing they did was as bad as what is commonly shown on MySpace or Facebook. These girls are as foolish as they skanky.

And Ace is right about this never happening before. It is beyond sad that the "paris hilton" mentality is alive and well. No one seems to be paying attention and we are all shocked when it is exposed.

What we use to call "wild" is mild by comparison.

I feel sorry for these girls, I really do. They have no idea how much they will regret these foolish choices.
-by RightWingSparkle


It's not new. There have always been exhibitionists. There have always been dirty pictures, home movies, poloroids. What is new is that people can now publish this stuff to the world instantly.

Not fifteen years ago there was no way to get a photograph to someone without actually putting a dark room developed photograph in the mail. And video? There wasn't even such a thing as video 25 years ago. It is tough to virally spread a Super 8 film can.

Maybe I am missing something, but aren't there actually a lot of pictures of naked women on the internet? I wouldn't know on account as I am married, but I heard rumors.

What is new is non-porn related websites (such as this one) linking to porn based on the illusion that the person photographed is in the public domain because she is an actual celebrity a la Britany Spears or a likely hot non-celebrity such as a cheerleader for a large university.
-by seattle slough


seattle slough,

You're wrong as to scope. Yes, there have always been "dirty" pictures and cavemen probably drew moustaches on each other's drawings. But, no, this trend is only recently pervasive across a broad spectrum of society.

I've known a number of women of questionable repute (or worse) through the years. However, each of them was discrete. But now when something happens that should be a private affair (even if it happens in front of a room full of people) many women and men no longer object to a camera recording the act for later jollies.

And that's a big difference.
-by Birkel


Anyone even remotely surprised or disheartened by this most recent reminder of the whorification of our society need only take a quick tour of Facebook or MySpace to become truly disheartened. Or aroused, one of those.

I'm 29 and I like the ladies, but I'm scared to death about raising a daughter in this society. Maybe decorum and the whole "not showing your hoo-hah at every opportunity" thing will make their way back into our culture when this generation grows up and regrets the youth they spent as internet harlots, but that won't happen for quite a while.

In the meantime, while I'm relatively young and have no kids....I shall continue to enjoy every second of it.
-by World B. Free


Yes, of course there have always been dirty pics ect. That isn't the point. It's the age of the girls and how it seems to not be just the "wild" girls of my generation, but a common thing.
-by RightWingSparkle


There always has been & always will be people out there that simply don't have enough sense to ever regret anything. Paris Hilton, Brittney Spears, Dennis Rodman, Mike Tyson for a few. It's just now we have the internet to spread their bad behavior world wide in a matter of minutes.

Anyone want to come up with some more famous examples?
-by CAD Daddy


RWS you are so right. When I was in high school you would have never talked about your sex life, or most likely didn't even have sex for fear of being branded a slut.
Now they announce it on TV and sell things like BRATZ dolls to our daughters, which my girl will never be allowed to own.
Of course right now she doesn't know they exist.
-by Pajama Momma


Something has seriously gone wrong in this culture. God knows I'm not a super-strict virtuecrat or anything, but a steady diet of MTV sex shows, Sex & the City, and the like now has many, verging on most, young girls pretty much behaving like gutterwhores.

This makes me pine for the days when Hypocrisy Ruled the Earth. When sexual impropriety, if it were discussed at all, was denounced vociferously in public and especially in front of women, but in private, behind the scenes, it sometimes was a different story.

But along came the Sexual Revolution that, totally misreading Freud, preached loudly and in no uncertain terms that it was unhealthy and dangerous to "repress" any of our sexual impulses for any reason whatsoever.

And now we have Britney Spears flashing her ****** for the cameras and girls barely out of their teens putting up raunchy pictures of themselves on the internet.

But at least we got rid of that evil old "repression" thing. That's justifies everything.
-by OregonMuse


Of course technology plays a part in this but that's not a refutation of what ace was saying.

50 years ago, many fewer women engaged in anything even close to this kind of sexual behavior because it was thought to be completely unacceptable.

As technology has improved, this stuff has become more and more acceptable for the very reason that it's easier to do and there's more of it out there.

This does two things:

1. It gets more women to participate in this behavior because they don't view it as wrong since it is so prevalent.

2. It pushes the line of what is unacceptable further and further out to the extreme.

I'm sure there were women 50 years ago that had the reputation as a chick that would give a bj and I'm sure that was shocking.

Now that's nothing. Today, in order to be shocking you have to wrap your ****** around a telephone pole. Or something.

Technology plays a role for sure but you can't deny that this type of behavior isn't more accepted (and therefore more widespread) today than 50 years ago.
-by Rosetta


I have to wonder what world some of you live in?

What we see happening today is not just function of digital technology. Technology is a contributing factor, yes, but the phenomenon is more about culture than anything. What we've experienced throughout the past 20 or so years in this country is the death of shame

I invite all of you contrarians to sit down and watch an entire weekend of VH1 and MTV programming. What you will see will shock you. It's like piping raw sewage into your living room.

Parents need to take control of their sphere of influence and keep this shit away from their children. Failure to do so is allowing the scumbag media executives to define your children's values.

Kids look to parents to set the rules for them. They aren't capable of forming healthy values for themselves without guidance. Clearly we are failing. Just look around you. Take a trip to the mall sometime and see what we're raising.

God knows I'm no prude. I got into a lot of sh*t in my younger days and probably would have ended up dead or in jail if my father weren't such a strong male influence on my upbringing. But what I see today appalls me. It's going to be a struggle to raise my son right in today's environment.
-by Warden


It wasn't that long ago that I was in grad school, and my wife is currently wrapping up another degree. Something is different.

When I was doing my first pro opera tour, my colleagues and I were close enough to my home stomping grounds that we made it down for the weekend just prior to Mardi Gras. One of my colleagues got completely trashed, separated from us, and wound up with a new t-shirt and a good 45 seconds on Girls Gone Wild. (Swear to God- no lie)

The horrifying thing is that her mother couldn't have been prouder.

There has always been porn, and there have always been exhibitionists. But you've never had such instantaneous access to all of it like you do today, right down to what particular flavor you like. The shit you used to see, people used to get paid to do. Now, you have idiots flashing cameras just so they can get on TV and have their fifteen minutes of fame. Hell, doing live shots after McNeese football games, parents would tell their kids, "Okay, now go get on TV." They didn't tell them how- they just told them to do it.

As usual, Sandy, I think you're right on- you can get as much hardcore as you want, and women willing to do any sex act imaginable, at any time. It used to be quite a feat to get your hands on porn not even ten years ago.
-by tmi3rd


It's all about technology. Two technologies in fact: birth control and abortion. Traditional sexual morality was all about making sure there would be someone to take care of the babies. Now that it's possible to have sex without making babies the old rules are slowly being thrown out. That was inevitable.

Years from now this girl will be showing these pictures to her bored grandkids and saying "I know it's nothing now, but you wouldn't believe what a fuss people made over this stuff back then."
-by schizoid


A while back, someone wrote that they thought the big contributors to lack of sexual morality was the twin technologies of abortion and birth control. I would add welfare to that list. The rules a growing number of women live by seem to be:

1) If your kid has a 'practicing' father, you don't get squat.
2) If your kid has an absent father, you get a government check.
3) The more kids you have, the more money you get.

If you're not bright enough to understand what a horrible life you're setting yourself up for, being a welfare brood mare seems like a viable way to make a living.
-by Cautiously Pessimistic
As a commenter pointed out, Playboy has been running "college girl" photo spreads for some time now, but they were considerably more tame, and usually one or two pictures. These are rather extensive and clinical. Commenter CraigC reminds us of the Norfolk VA cameraman and reporterette a few years back:
I don't know if you guys remember a woman named Allison Williams. She was a news reporter for a station in Norfolk, VA who got fired because she and her cameraman made a porn video, and I do mean porn in the live truck while they were at a shoot. Maybe it's because I used to work in TV news, but that floored me. Mind you, it was incredibly stupid, but the fact that this otherwise-normal-seeming young woman felt comfortable enough to do that is evidence of the sea-change that's taken place recently.
The key thing here is not that there were no such actions in the past, nor that pictures were never taken of lovers. It is instead that it was done in private, there was shame involved, it was less widespread, and less accepted, especially among youth. That has changed, and no amount of "but people did stuff in the past" exclamations can change that fact. How far will our culture go? How low can morals get and how shameless and sinful will young people become in the name of liberty and fun?

I'll close with this quote that another commenter posted by C.S. Lewis decades ago in the Abolition of Man (a book I cannot recommend highly enough):
In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.
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Quote of the Day

A lie told often enough becomes the truth.
-V. I. Lenin

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

HEARTS AND MINDS

"Wasn't this kind of decline inevitable?"

Debt
Home prices skyrocketed over the last eight years to unheard of highs. The house I live in went up by over four times as much as it was worth when my brother first bought it, homes were being built everywhere far in excess of actual residents in the city. Now house prices are dropping, which is hard on home sellers and even the economy, but there's something to this I don't think many people are thinking about. Megan McArdle looks at retail sales over the last six months and suggests what I have in mind:
But it seems to me that this is actually good news for consumers and, in the long run, the economy. Americans are massively over their heads in debt, and have been consuming beyond their means for a long time. The data shows them cutting back their spending to more reasonable levels, and cutting back the most in the most discretionary categories. I feel bad for Hermes and all, but we couldn't keep propping them up forever.
There's two sides to most issues, and while dropping sales, potential inflation, and the reduction in prices of homes is hard and is resulting in a tough economy, there's this other aspect that has to be considered.

Houses cost too much. I mean objectively they were more expensive than they were worth, driven up beyond the equilibrium level to the point at which they had become too costly. When this happens, a reduction in prices is inevitable - and good. Market forces (and, in this case, pressure from outside the free market by government) caused the prices to rocket up, but now they're sliding down to a more proper level.

Similarly peoples' spending habits had gone on too long beyond their means. Socking yourself forty, fifty, a hundred thousand dollars in debt is shocking to me, but not uncommon in America. According to the Federal Reserve board, courtesy Steadfast Finances, the average American is $79,000 in debt. That includes home, car, credit cards, student loans, etc. According to the same report, 24% of Americans are debt-free, which suggests that a lot of Americans have a very large debt to push the average to nearly eighty grand.

That kind of sustained debt is not just unwise, it's unhealthy for the economy, it is poor use of resources and dangerous to the nation as a whole. It is too easy to rack up huge debt using credit cards alone. Even I get credit card offers: I have no job and a horrific credit record. Anyone who'd offer me credit is a company I don't want to do business with.

Part of the reason this can happen is a complex system of loans and selling debtors to larger companies which I don't fully understand and am not going to explain in depth, but basically it works like this: smaller banks and creditors can bundle accounts owing them money and sell them to companies who are bigger and can absorb the debt, or have better resources to collect it. This system allows people to give loans to people who really aren't ready or willing to pay off what they owe, moving the entire system along.

In the short term it makes the economy seem to roar with vigor: look at all that consumin' goin' on! The problem is, eventually all of that has to come due; this year we've seen a chunk of it come due and our government is trying to fix it so it doesn't have to be paid yet. Some people are horrified of the national debt. I'm not; who can collect it? I'm worried about this effect. Some day all that will come due, and who will pay it?

Lower spending might moderate or slow the economy and cause some problems in the short run, but its better in the long run for people to stay closer to their means. Some debt is inevitable; disaster or emergency can ring up quite a debt. Buying a house or car is such a great expenditure that few can pay it up front. Going to college is so expensive that almost everyone goes into such crippling debt that it takes them over a decade to pay it off, even with a great job. I can understand that kind of debt. I can understand temporary debt: buying something on the first of the month you pay at the end. I can understand small debt where you buy something and pay it off over the year.

The problem is people treat debt as a way of getting what they cannot afford. Buying another car, a plasma television, a bigger house, a new x-box, paying for all the cell phone use, all of those debts that even seem small individually but heap up terribly over the year. Luxuries, frivolities bought because you "deserve it" or just want something really bad that's extra. That's where the problems begin and some day may end.

The problems are only partly at the governmental level. Laws and policies can only go so far to explain what has happened. All these govermental measures would have meant nothing without people willing to take advantage of them, and that's where the real problem... and solution... lies.

A culture that teaches everyone that their highest goal is personal comfort, happiness, and health will inevitably lead to this sort of behavior. When you abandon, even mock and attack concepts of personal responsibility, self sacrifice, and working for your goals it is inevitable that we see overspending for trivial things. It's expensive but you're worth it.

Changing that attitude, moving back to a time when work was noble, when self-sacrifice and personal responsibility was virtuous, when doing good mattered more than feeling good, and when you understood that your immediate happiness was not the end all and be all of mankind would all go a long ways toward fixing these problems.

It is easy to call for governmental tax policy and incentives to save and not spend so much. It is easy to call for major governmental changes, that's someone else who has to change. It is easy to call for revolution, to blame politicians, to cry havoc. Easy, but not very helpful. The real solution and the real sin lies within us, and facing up to that is the first step toward fixing this problem. A nation who is virtuous and ethical will result in a government that is at least more so - and negate many of the problems any goverment attempts to create by proper behavior and attitudes of the citizens.

Throwing money or politics at the problem won't fix it. It's a good step, but what we need is a change of hearts and minds.

WATN Greatest Hits: Grand Can'tyon

This is my biggest achievement at WATN. I got a height of 4000 hits one day because of this article, it was linked on Tim Blair and FARK on the same day, and has since been linked and sent around quite a bit. The fervor has died down, and the rumor has apparently gone away - I'd like to think this work at least helped kill the lie - but it still gets attention. The original article (linked in my Weekend Essays section to the right) has comments in it, but I clipped them out for this because it cluttered up the article.
"Terry lane is now officially deemed a Google-dodger."

Grand Canyon
There is a factoid on the Internet that pops up once in a while on message boards and blogs about the Grand Canyon and the park service. Recently, it became part of an Australian columnist's latest work:
There is a good America. A great America. But it is not Bush's America. Or his father's. Or the America of Reagan, Nixon and Kissinger.

Here's an amusing example of the divide between good and bad America. A recent press release from the organisation Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility draws attention to the fact that rangers in the Grand Canyon National Park are forbidden to answer visitors' questions about the age of the canyon because the truth will upset Bush's fundamentalist supporters. However, Bush's National Parks Service refuses to withdraw from sale in the park bookshop a book that explains how the canyon was formed by Noah's flood.

Mr Rudd might care to explain how it is in our national interest to have an alliance with a government that is a self-evident force for stupidity as well as cruelty.
I've read this several places, always asserted without the slightest effort to support the position. Sometimes people even claim they just came back from the national park, breathless from the run and had to dash to a keyboard to type in this horrible fact. Now, given that this is by columnist Terry Lane, who was so willing to believe the sad tales of Jesse MacBeth that he didn't bother to take the slightest effort to research the validity of these tales he wrote about it in a previous column.

When caught short, he offered to resign because he'd failed to do his job as a journalist and study the case before presuming it was true - a case of confirmation bias, where you believe something because you want it to be true or it fits what you believe to be true, rather than based on any study. It confirms your opinions, so you figure it to be accurate. Terry Lane's way of putting it was "I fell for it because I wanted to believe it." The Age, the paper Mr Lane writes for, refused to accept the resignation, and Mr Lane plugs on.

It appears he's done it again. Here's an excerpt from the Grand Canyon National Park website in their History and Science section:
Geologic formations such as gneiss and schist found at the bottom of the Canyon date back 1,800 million years.
And from the History and Culture section:
The oldest human artifacts found are nearly 12,000 years old and date to the Paleo-Indian period.
Odd, I thought they were prohibited from saying such a thing. I live about 1,500 miles from the Grand Canyon so I can't drop by for a visit any more than Terry Lane can, but thankfully on the website there's a phone number for information one can call as well as several email addresses. So I called and got hold of the public affairs director Maureen Oltroge. I asked a few questions and this is what she had to say (this is summary, not quotation, I did not record the conversation but have tried to keep the summary as accurate as possible):

First off, is the rumor that that park employees and those who work on the park lands are not allowed to talk about the estimated geological age of the canyon true?
Incorrect, and further the PEER writer [the material quoted by Terry Lane] never called the park to research this allegation.
She then referred me to the website, which I quoted above. I asked her how often she was asked about these rumors:
Quite often, both at the Grand Canyon offices and at the National Parks Service office.
Have you ever had a major news source interview you or ask about this rumor?
Several local and national news services, I believe the most recent was at the Washington office from ABC.
Have you ever heard of the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility?
Yes, and I am very disappointed in them.
Since President Bush was elected in 2000 have there been any official changes in park policy, anything you've been ordered to do from the executive department or congress?
There has been no official order for the park to do anything at any time since 2000, although policy is set at the National Park Service.
The regional director at the National Parks Service LaTonya Parks is out of the office as of this writing so I couldn't contact her.

I understand you have a book in the bookstore that gives the Creation Science explanation of the canyon, is this true?
Yes it is, this book is in our inspirational section. The book was approved three years ago.
She referred me then to Brad Wallis who is in charge of the book stores, so I called him, and he was glad to help, again this is as accurate a summary as I can manage rather than exact quotes:

How many books do you have in the bookstore? Of them, how many are from a different perspective than the CS one?
We have in our biggest store from 800 to 850 books. Of them 300 are science based or scientific in nature, and none are from a young earth/Creation Science perspective.
He went on to reiterate that this book was in the inspiration section, and that this section has poetry and other works in it. He also pointed out that there are also books with the Native American stories of how the canyon and the world were created, as well as theories postulated by early explorers as to the canyon's origin. I didn't think to ask if the tall tale of Paul Bunyan's axe dragging on the ground was included in these origins.

Mr Wallis also pointed out that there is no one clear official scientific answer to how the canyon was formed. There are five major theories, and no one is certain because the best work is still largely estimation based on events that happened long, long ago. As I've stated before, there's no Science Pope who has the final say on these things. If you want to look into this more closely, the Grand Canyon Park had a symposium in 2000 which produced the book The Colorado River Origin and Evolution which looks into these theories in greater scientific depth. Mr Wallis wanted to make something very clear:
Three years ago, the Associated Press reported that this book was placed in the science section and was then upon public pressure moved to the inspiration section. This is false, this book has always been in the inspiration section from when it was first approved for sale.
Was this decision made due to outside pressure or official orders?
No, the decision was made locally there was no outside pressure whatsoever. This book is not published by the Grand Canyon publishers, we have an in-house publisher which has put out at least fifty titles over the last sixty years.
In other words, almost every single part of these rumors is 100% false. There is a Creation Science book on their shelves - just like there is a book relating Native American creation stories - but that is the only shred of truth in the entire story. PEER should be ashamed of themselves for this, and both Gary Trudeau and Nathan Terry Lane more so for perpetuating the myth.

Lane's Research?
Now, why would people say that the Grand Canyon National park prohibits guides and workers there from talking about the age of the canyon? Lane's column gives a hint: Bush is stupid and a fundamentalist Christian to boot, he's a Jesus freak and we all know they hate science. The presumption is of course President Bush would do such a thing, he's one of those dumb "Christianists" that Andrew Sullivan talks about and besides he probably believes the world is only 5,000 years old. This sad presumption is about the only kind of permissible bigotry left in the PC world.

Tim Blair wrote that Lane's column seemed unusually delayed, then when it finally came out, he quoted part of the section on the Grand Canyon. As one of his commenters noted, the press release he used as his source is from an incredibly slanted, activist organization that is trying to shape public policy but is essentially unaccountable. This was all Mr Lane chose to go by, he either didn't bother checking or did and ignored what he found. I can't decide which is less professional, but at this point, who's surprised by this kind of work in a major media source?

*UPDATE: two corrections in the text thanks to helpful comments!
**UPDATE: Blithering Bunny in Tim Blair's comment section pointed out that Skeptic online magazine bought the PEER report hook, line, and sinker, without checking to see if it was true as well. When this error was pointed out, they then did the research required to find out, interviewing several people at the Grand Canyon National Park. More to my point, however is this line:
Unfortunately, in our eagerness to find additional examples of the inappropriate intrusion of religion in American public life (as if we actually needed more), we accepted this claim by PEER without calling the National Park Service (NPS) or the Grand Canyon National Park (GCNP) to check it.
Unfortunately, indeed. This is just one more piece of evidence of confirmation bias mentioned above: it said what they wanted and figured to be true, so they didn't bother to check. Those crazy Christians were ruining everything again, it was further evidence of too much religion "as if we needed more." Skeptic Magazine was a healthy voice of doubt and examination of scientific claims, such as Anthropic Global Warming, but their tone has changed over recent years and this is just one more step in that direction. The editor of Skeptic magazine (and writer of this article) Michael Shermer is no friend of Christianity, having in the past been on Penn&Teller's cable show recently to argue that the Bible was myth.
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WATN Greatest Hits: Plastic Turkey Myth

This article gets a lot of hits still, and there are plenty who still insist, against all evidence and information, that the turkey served on that Thanksgiving day was plastic, an icon of the falsity of the Bush administration and the mission in Iraq. The main frustration for me, as I note at the bottom, is that the NYT website cycles its corrections, so that the link to the correction I quote in its entirety is not there any longer.

*GREATEST UPDATE: Tim Blair found the correction online. He also links this correction at the bottom of moonbat knucklehead Joel Stein's article.
"By the end of the Bush presidency, there will be as many Lefties believing in the plastic turkey as there are that believe that islam is a religion of peace."

Bush Serving FoodIn 2003, President Bush visited the troops in Iraq in a surprise Thanksgiving dinner tour. He was shown with the turkey, and morale was definitely boosted. The troops tend to love President Bush, especially those who served when the previous administration was in power. The difference in attitude toward the military was stark and many remember and appreciate it.

One of the memes that went around at the time was that the turkey President Bush was photographed with was fake. That it was plastic, a faux turkey. Given the plastic age we live in and the astonishingly staged and fake photo ops that the Clinton administration engaged in, this always struck me as an odd point to criticize anyone on. The truth is, the turkey wasn't plastic, it was quite real and quite edible - the troops ate it, in fact.

Even the New York Times admitted the turkey was real, in 2004:
An article last Sunday about surprises in politics referred incorrectly to the turkey carried by President Bush during his unannounced visit to American troops in Baghdad over Thanksgiving. It was real, not fake.
To a point, I understand their ignorance about the bird, the NYT ran a big story about the turkey being plastic, then did a correction buried in their paper about it being real. Few people find, let alone read the corrections, so false stories and misleading information lives on, and papers like the Times don't have the honor or courage to clarify the situation.

Over the years, Tim Blair has been all over this story, every time he sees someone mention the myth, such as John Kerry, Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed, ABC Correspondant Nick Grimm, outhern Illinois University physiology instructor Mick Youther, Australian Greens member of Parliament Michael Organ, CNN correspondent Suzanne Malveaux, bloggers Daniel Patrick Welch and Marc Perkel, media monitor Yamin Zakaria, The Nation's Naomi Klein, Slate's William Satelan, SF Chronicle's Mark Morford, New York Post columnist Matt Taibi... the list goes on and on.

Why this detail? What difference would it make if the president posed with a fake turkey for a photo op, does that somehow negate his trip to Iraq? Would the troops then hate him? What about this detail fascinates people so much that they won't take the slightest effort to research and understand the truth about this issue?

Now there's a column out at the Capitol Times by David Benjamin, where the plastic turkey appears again. He writes of five fake events in the Bush administration, and number five?
Plastic Turkey for the Troops. On the first Thanksgiving of the Iraq war, Dubya surprised the troops with a turkey dinner. Except, well, the turkey, which photographed beautifully, was fake. And Dubya didn’t actually hang around for dinner. Nice uniform, though.
Here were the other four:
  1. "Mission Accomplished"
  2. "The Jackson Square Light Show"
  3. The failed attempt to steal the 2000 Election by Al Gore
  4. "Dubya's Ground Zero Grandstand Play"
More on those in a minute. First, Tim Blair's commenters, after he noted yet another person who really ought to know better repeated the myth:
All five events are entirely defensible and presidential in this media age. Pseudo-events only to a pseudo-intellectual.

“The Life and Times of the Last Kid Picked”? The title of his book sounds like a memoir.
-by JDB


It’s a shame we can’t arrest a “professional journalist” for fraud when they write something that’s so easily shown to be false.

If a stockbroker said the same sort of thing about their offerings as many “pro” reporters did about their subjects, they’d be up on federal securities charges.
-by cirby

And Dubya didn’t actually hang around for dinner.
No, he just manned the chow line and served food to the troops. The President of the United States slingin’ hash for the grunts.

I guess Benjamin missed the pictures.
-by Dave S.

"No, he just manned the chow line and served food to the troops. The President of the United States slingin’ hash for the grunts."
Now while that was a pure photo op, I’d just like to point out the sheer significance of said foto op for any trolls or unbelievers nearby.

The man universally recognised as the ‘Leader of the Free World’ or ‘The Most Powerful Man on Earth’ (apologies to Rove McManus The Dark Lord Karl Rove), is serving up food to his ‘footsoldiers’ in the same fashion as the folks who normally do this ‘lowly’job. (No-one who is truely hungry thinks they’re less important than the shooters, but thats another story...)

However, can anyone recall Joe Stalin, or Chairman Mao, or Ho Chi Minh, or even Mick Gorbachev commiting a (remotely) comparable act?

RE: #5, Can anyone link me to something that proves Sen. J. McArthy was right more often that the KGB? I’ve heard Joe had about a 75% sucess rate, whereas the KGB was about 55% with spotting spies…
-by the Wizard of WOZ


Time for glance down memory lane. There’ve been more plastic turkey discussions, analyses, poems, & lyrics, here than can be reasonably linked to, though, by using previous efforts, one can try. Certainly all the following is worth sending to David Benjamin.

Turkey was not plastic:
“The Bird Was Perfect But Not For Dinner,” Washington Post, Dec. 3, 2003, at (note changed URL) http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A33090-2003Dec3
Dec. 4, 2003 7:07AM entry at Instapundit http://www.instapundit.com/archives/012856.php

Photos of Bush serving, yes, edible turkey from behind counter to troops in Baghdad:
Visual II, The Corner, National Review, Dec. 6, 2003, 9:15 AM
Touching Turkey, The Corner, National Review, Dec. 6, 2003, 9:12 AM

Important events around that time, which many media critters love to obscure with their plastic-turkey myth and decorative-turkey consolation hysteria:
Nov. 19, 2003 - Bush’s “Three Pillars” speech at Whitehall Palace in London.
Nov. 27, 2003 - Bush & Condi Rice fly into Baghdad to visit the troops and reassure Iraqis of US resolve.
Dec. 5, 2003 - Anti-terrorism march in Baghdad, “Iraqis march in salute to U.S.,” Washington Times, Dec. 6, 2003.
Dec. 10, 2003 - Anti-terrorism marches in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities, “Thousands of Iraqis call for end to violence,” Maureen Fan, Knight Ridder via the Seattle Times, Dec. 11, 2003; also, “Iraqis for the ‘Occupation,’” Walid Phares, FrontPageMagazine.com, Dec. 11, 2003.
Dec. 13, 2003 - Capture of Saddam Hussein.

The plastic turkey myth has shown considerable persistence, and, at Tim Blair’s sites, its debunking has correspondingly become a long-lasting vein of humor.
Dec. 5, 2003 - GOBBLE GOBBLE
- WHO’S THE TURKEY NOW?
- BUT DID SHE HOLD A DECORATIVE TURKEY?
Dec. 6, 2003 - THE GUARDIAN’S PLASTIC TURKEY
Dec. 10, 2003 - SHE DON’T GET NO RESPECT
Dec. 13, 2003 - ALAN RAMSEY, KING TURKEY
Dec. 14, 2003 - HISTORIC MOMENT
Dec. 16, 2003 - SURE, WE’VE CAUGHT SADDAM ... BUT PLASTIC TURKEY!
Dec. 21, 2003 - G.O.B.B.L.E. MEMBERSHIP INCREASES
Dec. 25, 2003 - IT’S ALL ABOUT TURKEYS
Dec. 28, 2003 - REALISM AND SAUL LANDAU
BONUS GOBBLEFEST:
March 10, 2004 - JOHN F(AKE) KERRY

Plastic Turkey Tales Addicts’ Corner: At each month’s archive page, do a simple browser search on the word “turkey” to find the relevant threads. It is unfortunate that not all further articles linked from within those threads remain. The blog Deeds for instance is gone.

Dec. 2003 http://timblair.spleenville.com/archives/2003_12.php (the Unforgettable Month)
Jan. 2004 http://timblair.spleenville.com/archives/2004_01.php
Feb. 2004 http://timblair.spleenville.com/archives/2004_02.php
Mar. 2004 http://timblair.spleenville.com/archives/2004_03.php
Apr. 2004 http://timblair.spleenville.com/archives/2004_04.php
Etc.
-by ForNow
The only plastic turkey in 2003 was John Kerry.

Now let us peek at these other "fake moments" David Benjamin lists in his Pseudo Events:
1. "Mission Accomplished." Ah, the USS Abraham Lincoln. The glorious landing. The flight suit. The boyish smirk. The banner. The declaration of triumph in Iraq, with only 2,500 more American kids (give or take a thousand) left to kill. Brilliant! Dazzling! Mwah!
This is a common talking point of the left, "He said mission accomplished and they're still dying over there! It's longer than WW2!!!"Indeed it has been longer than the battle portion of WW2. Not longer than the occupation, however, which was nine years after the war was declared over. After the mission to defeat the Axis was declared accomplished. Those of you with some historical understanding will see what I'm getting at here.

The mission was to defeat Saddam Hussein and Iraq's army, to win the war and occupy the country. Then the next mission started: calm the country down and help Iraq build a stable democracy for its self. We're still working on that, and by WW2's calendar we have about 5 years to go before we've been there too long.

The real reason the Mission Accomplished scene annoys the left? Bush looked incredibly presidential, triumphant, and it was an incredibly potent image. They had to tear it down so it wouldn't linger and inspire.
2. The Jackson Square Light Show. Three days late (again), Dubya coptered into the Big Easy. Stagehands set up a thrilling array of klieg lights, powered with giant generators. Dubya knitted his brow, clenched his fist, made a speech and blew town. Then the stagehands packed up the lights and took away the generators. Rescue teams went back to hunting for dead bodies in the dark.
First, the light given by the Kliegs was only for the small area President Bush was at, and they were set up by the press for that event. If anyone should be yelled at for the lack of lights, point at the press, and at the Governor of Louisiana and the Mayor of New Orleans for not doing what they should have years before the hurricane hit, not to mention the two-day period before it hit. The President didn't show up for a few days, and the cries were "where is he?? Doesn't he care??" When he shows up the cries become "He only showed up, doesn't he care??"

This was quite simply because it never was about President Bush caring or not, it was about how much damage they could cause him in the press. That incident in American history was spectacular for the lies, unsubstantiated, false rumors reported, and shoddy work by the press, not to mention outright deliberate effort to make the administration look bad.
3. Bush v. Gore. The perfect TV pseudo-event. Talking heads suffered a case of the collective vapors while reading the Supreme Court decision that handed the 2000 election to George W. Bush. You could cut the suspense with a knife, but only if you neglected to note that all the justices on Dubya's side (except, of course, for William Rehnquist, proud product of Tricky Dick) had been appointed by administrations in which Bush's father was president or vice president.
Yes, I can see why when Al Gore was carrying his concession speech to give, then changed his mind and ran to the Florida Supreme Court to unconstitutionally extend the time for counting and to overturn the Secretary of State's final statement on the election. The Supreme Court of the US pointed out that the Constitution plainly gives the power to decide how elections are conducted and timed to the state legislatures, and the Secretary of State was simply obeying the laws set down by previous, Democratic legislators.

Pseudo event? Yes, Gore's attempt to steal the election by using the courts was. The allegations of ballot problems was. The deliberate attempt to make Florida voters look like morons was.
4. Dubya's Ground Zero Grandstand Play. Bush got years of media mileage for showing up at ground zero in New York three days late. Dressed like a manly man and yelling through a megaphone as firefighters cheered and cops wept, Bush promised to hunt down Osama bin Laden and avenge this outrage. Since then, Bush has exploited the victims of Sept. 11, cut funding for first responders (firefighters and cops) and, um ... Osama? Still out there.
Yeah I can see why this would upset leftists like Mr Benjamin: he looked incredibly capable and like a very great leader, he was exactly the man we needed, he said exactly what needed to be said, and it was yet another incredibly iconic moment they desperately need to tear down lest it be a positive memory and part of the national psyche about a hated Republican.

President Bush didn't cut funding for any responders, those are not only state-funded (and unconstitutional for the federal government to spend money on), but legislative, not presidential power. That's like blaming a doctor for the lights flickering in the hospital. Osama Bin Laden is still out there? If he's alive yes. Need I remind people of the mafia boss who eluded capture on the small island of Sicily for over 2 decades? When President Bush stood up and made that speech, he was talking to all terrorists of global reach, all the previously-neglected monsters and murderers and promising we'd take the fight to them, that we'd deal with them.

Of all the scenes here, this is the one the modern left needs to attack most. The memory of that day and the response it requires and demands is what they most need to ignore, forget, and demolish. People who remember it and people who think about it remember what the war on terror is about and why we're fighting. For the radical left and the anti-war isolationist right, that simply must be blotted out.

*UPDATE: The New York Times does not hold its corrections online, so the link goes to the most recent correction page rather than the original. The quoted material is what they posted on that page before updating for newer corrections.
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WATN Greatest Hits

Over the last two and a half years I've written some pieces that people have found at least intriguing enough to link and visit fairly often, yet they are quite buried in my archives. In the interests of making these more readily available to present readers, I'm going to link over the next few days some of the "greatest hits" of Word Around the Net.

Originally, WATN was a comments blog, I searched out and posted the comments people made to various blog articles that I thought were informative, humorous, interesting, or just important. Comments, as I've said in the past, are a vital part of the blogosphere and the discussion on the internet. Sometimes they are more insightful and intelligent than the original article, and often the discussion brings up new or added information that helps make more sense of the discussion.

Yet that format was not as interesting to readers as I had hoped, for few seemed to share my interest in comments, so I've since largely abandoned the format. You'll notice many of these older posts are in that format however: I linked the post in question, gave some commenter highlights, then went on to my thoughts and analysis. It seemed a more humble way of approaching the issue.

So as you read the next few days, you'll see some things that are familiar, and that's on purpose.

Quote of the Day

"I'm not sure I want popular opinion on my side -- I've noticed those with the most opinions often have the fewest facts."
-Bethania McKenstry

Monday, December 29, 2008

THE HIDDEN COST

"All of the plants operate normally. If their turbines do not move, they are storing the energy. It doesn't mean they are not functioning"
-Agung Mustika

One of the hidden victims of the AGW hysteria that appears to be drawing to a welcome end are smaller, developing countries. I've written in the past about Liberty Offsets where nations ruled by tyrants and thugs are paid through "carbon offset" schemes and use that money to stay in power and maintain their comfort. I've written about how developing nations are being pressured to not develop because it would involve cutting trees down and creating industry. I've written about how starvation and deprivation are occurring because of schemes to grow biofuels. Yet there is another cost.

Because the terrors of world ecological disaster are sold so strongly by nations that are more technologically advanced, nations such as Indonesia don't doubt what they're told. After all, these are the guys who went to the moon, they'd know, right? So when they're told they have to work toward renewable energy and reduce pollution or we'll all suffer, well many of them respond by vigorous new plans to cut their pollution and build new energy sources based on the advice they get from western voices. Case in point, Jakarta:
Seven wind turbines launched in Nusa Penida, an island southeast of Bali, during the United Nations Framework on Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC) in December 2007 have failed to deliver any of their promised power to local residents.

A solar plant was also opened during the conference, as a demonstration of the administrations commitment to renewable energy. The solar plant continues to perform efficiently, producing up to 30 kilowatts of electricity per hour. The wind farms, however, have stayed silent.

Head of Nusa Penida district Wayan Sumarta acknowledged that the seven wind plants have never been operational.
These wind mills cost 3.5 billion Rupiah ($US325,000) and each would produce 80 kilowatts per hour, while the average home computer takes 6 kilowatts per hour to run. In other words, these eight wind mills produce enough power to run just over 100 computers. When they work, which they never have.

Nations like Indonesia hardly have the extra cash to spend on this sort of project, and even if it was working at top capacity it would have an impact that would be nearly impossible to measure in a nation that uses an estimated 110.7 billion kilowatts per hour. This kind of expense might look good when you go to a conference in Europe, but it is a horrendous waste for a nation in reality, effectively a tax on the nation to try to appease larger and more developed countries.

A TALE OF TWO PRESIDENTS

Newsbusters covered this well and in depth but I had to pass the contrast along here as well in case you hadn't seen it.

The Associated Press wrote a glowing and worshipful story about how Barack Obama keeps in shape, with pictures they happened to get of him walking shirtless in Hawaii. It was full of adoration:
A German newspaper took advantage of this habit by stationing a reporter at a gym Obama might use during his European trip during the summer.

The reporter, posing as just another person working out, got her picture taken with Obama and wrote a breathless story about how fit and handsome he was.
Oh, but its not just German reporters. ABC News had this embarrassing crush-like report:
A photographer on Hawaii's Kailua Beach snapped this photo of a shirtless President-elect Barack Obama Dec. 21, 2008. Obama, on vacation with his family, regularly clocks 90-minute workouts, as his chiseled abs and chest attest.
Yet as Newsbusters points out, contrast that with the reaction of the press to President Bush's regular workouts and efforts to stay healthy:
Bush says exercise helps sharpen his thinking.

But some of his critics view his exercise obsession as an indulgence that takes time away from other priorities.
...
Bush has an obsession with exercise that borders on the creepy.

Given the importance of his job, it is astonishing how much time Bush has to exercise.
Creepy. Obsessive. An indulgence that takes him away from the work of the presidency, that's what it is like when a Republican works out. When a Democrat does, he's described in almost lustful terms and reporters get giggly trying to have a picture taken with him.

Do you know about the gross, over the top media love of Obama and clear bias for him? If you've been reading blogs like this one you should. Yet it never hurts to remind people. This is how the press thinks and acts around him, keep that in mind every time you read a report... and consider that when you remember past reports of other presidents that they didn't like so much.

FALSE DAWN

[after Aslan roars in Trumpkin's face] Do you see him now?
-Lucy Pevensy, Prince Caspian

Caspian and Susan
In 2005, Disney produced the first modern film of the Chronicles of Narnia. Costing about $180,000,000 to film, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe pulled in more than $745,000,000 worldwide. When you make three quarters of a billion dollars, you know you've got a popular product. The sequel cost a bit more, around $200,000,000, but it pulled in about $420,000,000 worldwide. Neither of these totals includes DVD sales and rentals.

Citing this drop in profits from around 565 million dollars to a mere 220 million, Disney has announced it will not fund and produce the next installment of the series. The Voyages of the Dawn Treader promises to cost even more to make, as it is a sea story with dragons and ocean battles and greater spectacle than ever. At the Los Angeles Times, Claudia Eller reports:
Though the budget of the movie came in significantly below the $200-million cost of "Prince Caspian," the second film in the "Narnia" series, it could still escalate during production, and that made Disney wary, according to a person close to the movie. Disney was partner with Walden Media, which owns the rights to the books, on the first two "Narnia" films.
Yet finances weren't the only reason that this film has not seen production yet. Disney saw things differently than the people who own the rights to the books. Both movies have made some changes in plot and story, with the second being even more changed than the first. Disney wanted changes in this installment as well, changes Walden Media did not care for:
One person close to the matter said there were also "creative" differences between Disney and Walden, and that the two disagreed on when to release the film in 2010.
The story claims that the film didn't make back its cost on ticket sales, which I find an odd claim given the two hundred million dollar profit reported worldwide. Add that to the DVD profits and you've got a winning property.

One has to wonder how much finances had to do with this decision and how much story content and Disney execs wanting to change it did. Were they unhappy with the segmented, serialized feel of the third book? Was the story too long and they simply disagreed on how to edit it to a single movie? It is possible also that the change in cast - several of the main characters in the first two movies are not in the third except in very small roles - made them uncomfortable.

It is also possible that Disney decided that the Christanity of Lewis' books was too pronounced and they weren't comfortable making that kind of movie any longer. In a Hollywood culture that thinks with the election of Obama all the horrible rightward tilt of the nation for the last eight years has been erased and reversed, they might have decided that faith-based or influenced properties simply aren't for them any longer.

There was, after the gigantic success of The Passion of the Christ, a big move in Hollywood to have more religious themed movies. Separate production companies were formed to produce more traditional, faith-based films, and a few were made. However, they were poorly done, sappy, and uninteresting and Hollywood decided that was proof the interest wasn't really there. And in the modern mood of secular America, it wouldn't surprise me at all to find that Disney simply doesn't care to subsidize anything Christian any longer.

After all, it does conflict rather strongly with the worldview and many themes in their movies of late.

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Quote of the Day

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it."
-Aristotle

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Songs I Like: I Heard the Bells... (Longfellow and Calkin)

And in despair, I bow'd my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said

In 1864, poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's son was wounded in battle during the American civil war. Just two years earlier, his wife had died in a fire. He penned a poem entitled Christmas Bells which tried to work out the trials of faith and hope with the difficulties and sorrows of life, how one can celebrate the coming of the prince of peace during war and how all the promises of the messiah can be understood in light of the hardships of life.

That poem was adapted and put to music by John Baptiste Calkin and has been set to several different tunes, most recently and well known by Johnny Marks in 1950s and many artists have sung that version. Typically verses four and five are omitted by modern singers, but in context of Longfellow's pain, they make perfect sense.

The potent memories of church bells ringing out in celebration on Christmas morning is the theme of more than one carol, giving testimony to the cultural impact of such a simple concept. The pealing bells of churches announced either disaster and warning or a signal of terrific celebration. Silencing those bells, or a culture that no longer cares to hear them, is an equally powerful voice of secular anger, rejection, or even hatred toward this peal of hope that Longfellow wrote about. I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day is a powerful song of hope and sadness and finally triumph, which is why it's one of my favorite carols.

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play.
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of Peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how as the day had come
The belfries of all Christendom
Had roll'd along th' unbroken song
Of Peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair, I bow'd my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song,
Of Peace on earth, good will to men."

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound the carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearthstones of a continent,
And made forlorn, the households born
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep;
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With Peace on earth, good will to men."

*This is part of the Songs I Like series.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A HUMBLE SUGGESTION

Sweet little Jesus Boy
They made you be born in a manger
Sweet little Holy Child
Didn't know who You was
-Sweet Little Jesus Boy*

Manger Scene
This season is more known by pictures of a fat elf in a red and white suit than it is for manger scenes, angels, and baby Jesus. This transformation is in a way not surprising, as America is becoming increasingly hostile toward Christianity and any public displays of Christian faith. At the same time, the commercialism of the nation has become even more pronounced so the image of a gift-distributing myth better fits the culture than a self-sacrificing savior of love and peace.

Yet I have a suggestion for parents. Instead of teaching your children about Santa Claus, instead of telling the story of a magic fat bearded elf who shows up once a year with a reindeer-pulled sleigh, try a different story. Tell your children about Jesus. I know, its radical, but hear me out.

Those of you who are Christians consider possibly telling your children the story of Jesus Christ, of his miraculous birth, his saving mission, his loving parents, the adoring shepherds, the tales of his youth. Tell them about the greatest drama on earth, so they know what Christmas is about. Teach them of the incarnation of God in humanity to live and save and teach and die for salvation and love.
Didn't know you come to save us, Lord?
To take our sins away
Our eyes was blind, we couldn't see
We didn't know who You was.
Those of you who are Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Christian Scientists, and other religions who either consider themselves Christian or heavily borrow from Christian origins, think of the same thing. Even if you have problems with some of the basic Christian doctrines of God and man in one flesh, teach them the story in the Bible, because it is part of what you believe, and Santa isn't.
Long time ago, you was born
Born in a manger low
Sweet little Jesus Boy.
If you are Muslim, then teach them the scriptures as well, teach them of when Jesus came and the stories around his arrival. Read to them from the Bible, because Muhammad taught that it was scripture as well.
The world treat You mean, Lord
treat me mean, too
But that's how things is down here
We didn't know t'was You.
If you are Jewish or Hindu or some other religion, teach your children about Jesus because he was a historical person who walked the earth, teach them the tales about Jesus because the season doesn't make sense without understanding what is said. Teach them the stories about Jesus even if you don't believe them because of the history of western culture and the impact on the world makes it a useful, important thing to know.
You done showed us how
We is trying
Master, You done showed us how
Even when you's dying.
If you are atheist or agnostic, if you think the Bible is a myth and Jesus was just a guy - if he lived at all - teach your children anyway. Teach them about the Jesus myth if that's what you think it is, because if you're going to tell your children a fantasy, why not tell them about the fantasy of Jesus Christ so they understand all those carols and why people celebrate his birth this time of year? It is, as I noted above, an incredibly historical event, a deeply significant thread of the history of the world that has had such transformational power over cultures and years that it cannot be ignored without damaging history and literature.
Just seem like we can't do right
Look how we treated You.
But please, sir, forgive us Lord
We didn't know 'twas You.
Teach them about Jesus instead of a fat elf, because Jesus really lived and is so foundational to our past and our culture, while Santa Claus is a myth largely created by department stores trying to drum up more sales. Santa Claus is a story extremely loosely based on the life of a Christian man in the distant past who would be absolutely horrified at how his legacy is being presented. The Santa we know now is almost completely a commercialized creation, a massive trans-company advertising gimmick that has become so embraced and embedded in culture that it is pushing aside Jesus Christ.

Yes, I know Jesus probably wasn't born around this time of year but now is when we celebrate his birth. Yes, I know some of you think Santa is so cute and fun for the kids, but so is the amazing story of Jesus. Yes I know you think Santa is an irreplacable part of giving gifts and the "spirit of Christmas" but he's a pale, weak shadow of the ultimate gift which encourages giving and the true Spirit that shone on that day long ago. Children love Jesus, believe me.

Just a humble suggestion to consider. Forget Santa. Forget the socks on the mantle. Forget reindeer, red-nosed or otherwise. Teach Christ.
Sweet little Jesus Boy
Born long time ago
Sweet little Holy Child
And we didn't know who You was.
*Sweet Little Jesus Boy is an old negro spiritual from the south that slaves sung about Jesus and his birth. The themes of forgiveness, cruelty of man, longing for freedom, and the love of Jesus are powerful today, even long past the ending of slavery.

Quote of the Day

"Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions."
-Albert Einstein

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

MECHANICS OF YESTERYEAR

PM Cover
When I was a kid, my dad had lots of old Popular Mechanics magazines. He had scores of them, collected from when he was in the military and shortly after, in the 40's and 50's. It was a smaller back then, and thicker like a Farmer's Almanac. The stories and content were largely the same, how to and fix it articles, articles on new gadgets, articles on how things were made, schematics and blueprints, and lots of interesting ads in the back.

What happened to all those magazines I do not know, I wish I had them to look at today. They were not just a connection to what was to me a distant past (and really only a decade or so before I was born), but a connection to my father.

Thus, when Instapundit linked to a site with an archive of old Popular Mechanics magazines on it you can read, I was very pleased. They have archived copies of the magazine courtesy Google books all the way back to 1901, and you can read every article. I remember many of the covers in the linked section, and I remember being fascinated by some of the articles.

I still like Popular Mechanics, but those old ones have a special place for me. go take a look at yesterday's future gadgets and the articles of the past!