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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Friday, February 27, 2009

Second Quote of the Day

"This isnt a budget. Its a declaration of war against people who produce."
-David on President Obama's proposed budget

LAW FUN

"Your honor, I'd like to fumigate my wiiiiissdom on the court!"
-Mo' Money

Lionel Hutz
There's a book out called Disorder in the Courts which is a compilation of vignettes and anecdotes from courtrooms where things went wrong, strange, or just silly. I got them in an email from a friend and just wanted to pass them on, because they were pretty funny stuff:
ATTORNEY: What was the first thing your husband said to you that morning?
WITNESS: He said, 'Where am I, Cathy?'
ATTORNEY: And why did that upset you?
WITNESS: My name is Susan!


ATTORNEY: What gear were you in at the moment of the impact?
WITNESS: Gucci sweats and Reeboks.


ATTORNEY: Are you sexually active?
WITNESS: No, I just lie there.


ATTORNEY: This myasthenia gravis, does it affect your memory at all?
WITNESS: Yes.
ATTORNEY: And in what ways does it affect your memory?
WITNESS: I forget.
ATTORNEY: You forget? Can you give us an example of something you forgot?


ATTORNEY: Do you know if your daughter has ever been involved in voodoo?
WITNESS: We both do.
ATTORNEY: Voodoo?
WITNESS: We do.
ATTORNEY: You do?
WITNESS: Yes, voodoo.


ATTORNEY: Now doctor, isn't it true that when a person dies in his sleep, he doesn't know about it until the next morning?
WITNESS: Did you actually pass the bar exam?


ATTORNEY: The youngest son, the twenty-year-old, how old is he?
WITNESS: He's twenty, much like your IQ.
ATTORNEY: Were you present when your picture was taken?
WITNESS: Are you sh*tting me?


ATTORNEY: So the date of conception (of the baby) was August 8th?
WITNESS: Yes.
ATTORNEY: And what were you doing at that time?
WITNESS: getting laid


ATTORNEY: She had three children, right?
WITNESS: Yes.
ATTORNEY: How many were boys?
WITNESS: None.
ATTORNEY: Were there any girls?
WITNESS: Your Honor, I think I need a different attorney. Can I get a new attorney?


ATTORNEY: How was your first marriage terminated?
WITNESS: By death.
ATTORNEY: And by whose death was it terminated?
WITNESS: Take a guess.


ATTORNEY: Can you describe the individual?
WITNESS: He was about medium height and had a beard.
ATTORNEY: Was this a male or a female?
WITNESS: Unless the Circus was in town I'm going with male.


ATTORNEY: Is your appearance here this morning pursuant to a deposition notice which I sent to your attorney?
WITNESS: No, this is how I dress when I go to work.


ATTORNEY: Doctor, how many of your autopsies have you performed on dead people?
WITNESS: All of them. The live ones put up too much of a fight.


ATTORNEY: ALL your responses MUST be oral, OK? What school did you go to?
WITNESS: Oral.


ATTORNEY: Do you recall the time that you examined the body?
WITNESS: The autopsy started around 8:30 p.m.
ATTORNEY: And Mr. Denton was dead at the time?
WITNESS: If not, he was by the time I finished.


ATTORNEY: Are you qualified to give a urine sample?
WITNESS: Are you qualified to ask that question?


ATTORNEY: Doctor, before you performed the autopsy, did you check for a pulse?
WITNESS: No.
ATTORNEY: Did you check for blood pressure?
WITNESS: No.
ATTORNEY: Did you check for breathing?
WITNESS: No.
ATTORNEY: So, then it is possible that the patient was alive when you began the autopsy?
WITNESS: No.
ATTORNEY: How can you be so sure, Doctor?
WITNESS: Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar.
ATTORNEY: I see, but could the patient have still been alive, nevertheless?
WITNESS: Yes, it is possible that he could have been alive and practicing law.
Lawyers get a lot of grief but let's be honest: they deserve it most of the time. Especially these bozos.

THE ROAD TO HELL

"...if I die before I wake..."

Scared Kid
Well we have it happening again. Well meaning teachers and adults scaring the living hell out of kids, for their own good. I expect this has long been a standard method of teaching, from warning that goblins will come and take you away if you go outside too late at night to warning that you'll burn in hell if you touch yourself there to drills and movies about nuclear war guaranteed to make you miss sleep. Global warming was the last child-terrifying effort, and now in a program to try to get kids to eat right, we're giving them psychoses about food. Abby Elin writes about it in the International Herald Tribune:
Sodium: that's what worries Greye Dunn. He thinks about calories, too, and whether he's getting enough vitamins. But it's the sodium that really scares him.

"Sodium makes your heart beat faster, so it can create something really serious," said Greye, who is 8 years old and lives in Mays Landing, New Jersey.

Greye's mother, Beth Dunn, the president of a multimedia company, is proud of her son's nutritional awareness and encourages it by serving organic food and helping Greye read labels on cereal boxes and cans.

"He wants to be healthy," she says.
Look I understand the desire to motivate kids to do what's right, I do understand the fear that American children are getting too fat. I realize that fear is a powerful motivator, and that the people doing this are trying to help, they are full of good intentions. The problem is that you're terrifying kids. There's a couple of other issues here (such as the misinformation that is being told these children) but the primary one is that teachers are scaring the crap out of children.

If you cannot teach without giving kids a complex, then you're a failure as a teacher. If you are a teacher and think it is your job to make sure kids don't eat too much or eat the wrong things at home, you're a failure as a human being: that's the job of parents, not teachers. Teach them the things they need to learn, the facts and knowledge that will help them grow intellectually and understand the world around them. Teach them to think - along with the parents - but don't teach them to believe or to live. That just isn't your job.

If kids are eating poorly, that's the fault of the parents. If kids are getting fat, that's the job of the parents to deal with. If the parents fail, that's unfortunate but none of your damn business if you're a teacher. This compulsion among teachers to be the overlord of every aspect of a child's life is not just mistaken, it is disturbing. Teachers are teachers, not master of a child's universe. Stick to what you're supposed to be doing in your job and let parents scare the kids.

Fear is a decent motivator and a little fear is good in everyone's life: healthy fear, of the right things. Terrifying children of some vague doom that eating poorly will result in is not just absurd (kids can eat pretty awful food and still thrive) but misguided. Teach them to fear doing the wrong thing and they'll do it when nobody can catch them. Teach them something horrible will result from a behavior they see others engage in without consequence, and they'll eventually stop believing you.

But if you, as parents, teach them to want to do the right thing and that will hold their whole lives. It will be part of their worldview, part of who they are and want to act. If they want to do something themselves, it will always be a part of them, even if they stray from it for a time. Teach good habits and self-motivating healthy behavior, and you'll have healthy kids. Mostly teach them by example. Teaching little Billy that he should eat fruit, not candy, then lounging on the couch munching on skittles all day is not going to teach him anything except that you lie - or at the very least that its okay to eat candy if you are a grownup.

If you live a healthy life, eat carefully, enjoy treats as a treat rather than a main course, and exercise, your child will see and learn from that much better than scaring them to death. Scaring is easier and doesn't require any personal self discipline, of course. So maybe we adults could learn a little too.

SCHOOLMARM

"What the teacher is, is more important than what he teaches."
-Karl Menninger

Schoomarm
Courtesy Country Extra magazine, there is this list of schoolteacher rules from a letter writer. They come from a set of rules for Casey County, Kentucky in 1872:
  • Teachers each day will fill lamps, clean chimneys
  • Each teacher will bring a bucket of water and a scuttle of coal for the day's session
  • Make your pens carefully. You may whittle nips to the individual taste of the pupils
  • Men teachers may take one evening each week for courting purposes, or two evenings a week if they go to church regularly
  • After 10 hours in school, the teachers may send the remaining time reading the Bible or other good books
  • Women teachers who marry or engage in unseemly conduct will be dismissed
  • Every teacher should lay aside from each pay a goodly sum of his earning for the benefit during his declining years so that he will not be a burden on society
  • Any teacher who smokes, uses liquor in any form, frequents pool or public halls, or gets shaved in a barber shop will give good reason to suspect his worth, intention, integrity, and honesty.
  • The teacher who performs his labor faithfully and without fault for five years will be given an increase of 25 cents per week in pay, providing the board of education approves.
The bit about the barber shop confuses me (girlie magazines? In 1872? Maybe it was just an unsavory place of gossip). Yet it is clear where the image of the prim and frosty old maid schoolmarm came from given these rules: fired if you get married? As the letter writer suggested, my how things have changed.

NO NEED FOR INVESTIGATION

"No comment"
-Representative Murtha

The PMA group, a lobbying firm that is at least as corrupt as the Abramoff lobby group that so damaged Republicans in the 2006 election, is being investgated by the justice department. It seems that, among other things, it sent election campaign money to congressmen through names of people that did not exist. Jack Murtha (D-PA) in particular has close ties to the company, along with other democratic legislators. The hypocrisy of the Obama administration investigating a company for doing this, given the fact that it raised millions for its campaign using the same technique, is striking.

Yet this occurrence, combined with many others, has prompted Representative Jeff Flake (R-AZ) to sponsor a bill. The concept was simple, the bill would call for the ethics committee to investigate any earmarks or legislation that benefits a company that recently donated money to that congressman's election campaign. Mosheh Oinounou at Fox News has the story of how that turned out:
The House decided to set aside the proposal by a mostly party-line 226-182 vote, though 17 Democrats joined Republicans in support of considering the measure.

The vote came just after the House approved a $410 billion spending to fund the government this year, which also contained $8.8 million on projects sought by client of the PMA lobbying group.
Turns out Jack Murtha (who voted against the bill) and others decided they didn't care to investigate themselves. You'd think, as the Democrats would be controlling the investigation and the ethics committee's findings rarely actually add up to any punishment (particularly under Speaker Pelosi (D-CA)) they would be more willing to follow through on this.

Yet they chose not to. Could it possibly just be party animus: a Republican dared propose a bill, therefore they just want nothing to do with it? Perhaps, but perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the "most ethical congress ever" is more corrupt than any congress in recent memory and wants no light of day shined no that fact, even a flashlight they hold.

Personally I'd settle just for Murtha's election to be investigated more closely. After insulting his own constituents, being repeatedly tied to corruption, and sued for blatantly and falsely defaming soldiers, he boldly predicted there was "no goddamned way" he would lose the election. Was that mere bravado, or did he know something that the voters did not? He was trailing by as much as 10 points in polls before the election, then suddenly wins by a comfortable margin in the end? Are you kidding me?

Hat tip Moe Lane (via Protein Wisdom) for this story.

Quote of the Day

"I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day."
-Abraham Lincoln

Thursday, February 26, 2009

SCARY MONSTERS

"This is one of the most dangerous spiders in the world, one bite from this and I'd die before I could say a word! I'm going to pick this beauty up with my eyelids to show you the huge venomous fangs it has."

Australia is an odd place, biologically speaking. Isolated from other countries yet vast in size, the country has a unique assortment of bizarre creatures such as the duckbilled platypus which fascinate scientists to this day. It also is, as anyone who ever watched The Crocodile Hunter knows, home to an amazingly large assortment of poisonous and lethal critters.

At the Australian, they recently put up a slide show of a dozen of these lethal Australians, and here are a few:
1. The Cone Snail. This undersea creature has a colorful shell, grows about the size of a teacup, and has a poisonous barb that can kill a human. Yes, this is a killer snail. Some varieties even form a tiny dart that is filled with venom and fire that at their prey or when frightened. The poison paralyzes fish almost instantly, In humans the venom paralyzes the respiratory system, causing suffocation and often death.
2. The Redback Spider. Very similar to a Black Widow spider, the Redback has its warning symbol on the other side of a glossy reddish black shell, on top. With a body about half an inch long, the Redback is larger than the black widow, but shares the tangled, random looking web and potentially lethal venom. Its bite is not often lethal any more since an antivenom was developed, but it causes goose bumps, headaches, swelling in lymph nodes, nausea, vomiting, pain, and even seizure, coma, and respiratory failure.

3. Funnelweb Spider. Yet compared to the funnelweb, the Redback is a minor nuisance. A bite from this spider can cause death within fifteen minutes, which seems excessive for a creature that eats only insects. Ranging in sizes up to two inches across, the funnelweb's venom causes spasms, nausea, confusion, even coma and death. This creature is known to have killed at least thirteen people in Australia.

4. Tiger Snake. Growing over six feet in length, this snake's venom is so deadly that almost half of anyone bitten dies from it unless swiftly treated. Paralysis and death follow the bite unless the antivenom is applied. There are over a dozen venomous snakes living only in Australia; this is just the most deadly.
This is in addition to the creatures that kill you the old fashioned way: chewing pieces off and swallowing them. Australia has crocodiles, great white sharks, dingoes and other fun creatures that will kill a human being for food.

Australia is a great place with fascinating creatures, friendly people, and lots to see. I'd love to visit some day and spend a while with the locals, learning about the country. But it does have more than its fair share of scary stuff that can kill you, even if the vast central desert doesn't.

ICE DOES A BAD THING

"If we are to believe that our immigration laws simply have no value, as our current policies would have us believe, should we then simply throw them all out, the entire lot of immigration law?"
-Representative John Linder (R-GA)

ICE Badge
The Immigrations and Customs Enforcement department has made its first raid since President Obama took office. The raid took place on the 24th of this month at Yamato Engine Specialists in Bellingham Washington and rounded up 28 illegal immigrants for deportation. Manuel Valdes at the Associated Press reports that the person in charge of immigration enforcement in the country is displeased:
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has ordered a review of a raid earlier this week at a Bellingham, Wash., manufacturing plant that ended with the arrests of 28 illegal immigrants.

Napolitano told lawmakers during a hearing in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday that she did not know about the raid before it happened and was briefed on it early Wednesday morning. She has asked U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which conducted the raid, for answers.

"I want to get to the bottom of this as well," she said. She said work-site enforcement needs to be focused on the employers.
Absolutely, best to get to the bottom of it, how dare ICE actually do its job, enforce the law, and capture illegal immigrants to deport. Forcing people to actually go through the system and enter the nation legally and in an orderly fashion is unacceptable, to Secretary Napolitano, apparently.

The expectation among illegal immigrant activists was that the Obama presidency would bring an end to law enforcement that upset them:
On Wednesday, immigrant advocates in Seattle called on Obama to place a moratorium on raids until there's an immigration reform from Congress. For many advocates, Obama's election gave hope that work-site raids would end.

"Our immigration system is broken," said Pramila Jayapal, executive director of OneAmerica, an advocacy group. "We need comprehensive reform that recognizes the crucial contributions immigrants make to out nation, considers demand for labor and enables employers to legally hire needed immigrants workers."
I can't argue with Mr Jayapal's thoughts here, the immigration system does need reform. It should be faster and easier to legally enter the US, and obviously the country can support a larger number of legal immigrants than it presently allows in.

That does not somehow mean that illegals should not be considered lawbreakers, should not be pursued, and should not be prosecuted when captured. That does not meant that businesses who knowingly and deliberately hire illegals should not be punished for their actions. And it does not mean that you should intentionally lie about the issue as Mr Jayapal does and call illegal immigrants just "immigrants" as if they are not somehow violating United States law.

There's no indication or hint that any wrongdoing or impropriety was engaged in by the ICE officials in the raid. It is apparent that Secretary Napolitano is of the same opinion as the advocacy groups: that the Obama administration marked a change in raid and immigration enforcement policy. Instead of backing her people and being on the side of the department she is in charge of, Ms Napolitano is making a public stand in criticism and opposition to the action taken and is trying to distance herself from the raid "I didn't know it was going to happen!" Not only is this bad leadership and lousy policy for the person in charge of security on our borders, but it sends a clear signal to illegals and the system that moves them into the country: start pouring em in, the government doesn't want to stop you.

Weak on law enforcement? Check.

SOME PERSPECTIVE

"How far would Moses have gone if he had taken a poll in Egypt?."
-Harry S Truman

Noel Shepherd at Newsbusters has a little bit of information that is useful to keep in mind when you watch or read sycophantic, propagandist coverage of President Obama from the legacy media:
Almost exactly eight years ago, then newly-elected President Bush's numbers were 62 percent approving his performance, 21 percent disapproving, and 17 percent having no opinion.
...
In fact, even ABC's director of polling reported Tuesday that Obama's current numbers are actually quite average with George H. W. Bush, John F. Kennedy, and even Jimmy Carter being more popular after just a month in the White House.
Just to give some much-needed perspective. President Obama is, based on polling, a popular president still. Just not as popular and certainly not as unusually popular as he's being portrayed in the press. Even stories about bad news try to portray the man as being beloved of the people, such as this one about the stock market:

stock plunge
High hopes in the population at large? Even if that's true, which I am at best skeptical of, did that need to be said or is it an attempt to portray the president in the best possible light and draw a distinction between Americans and those eeevil out of touch wall street fat cats (boo, hiss)? Again, most Americans own stocks and we are the ones making the sales and driving the stock market down, not some elite cabal of rich people living in New York City.

So next time you see a little push like this in a news story, next time the president's big poll numbers are noted, just think about how he rates compared to other (some now despised) presidents of the past. Maybe he'll go up, maybe he'll be loved and honored. I just want the facts out there, not because the polling data means anything, but because the legacy media is trying to paint a picture that is a deliberate lie.

Quote of the Day

"Today's scientists have substituted mathematics for experiments, and they wander off through equation after equation, and eventually build a structure which has no relation to reality."
-Nikola Tesla

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

THE ONE THAT DIDN'T GET AWAY

"We're gonna need a bigger boat"

Giant Stingray
The biggest freshwater fish ever caught with rod and reel is... well its a fish, technically, but most people don't think of one as being so. It was a stingray, caught in Thailand. The brute weighed over 700 pounds and was seven feet wide, a pregnant female that the biologist later let go. Jamie Pyatt at the Sun has the story:
He said: “It dragged me across the boat and would have pulled me in had my colleague not grabbed my trousers - it was like the whole earth had just moved.

“I knew it was going to be a big one.

“It buried itself on the bottom and the main fight was trying to get it off the floor.

“I tried with every ounce of power but it just would not budge.

“After half an hour my arms began shaking and after an hour my legs went.

“Another 30 minutes went by and then I put a glove on and physically pulled the line with gritted teeth and somehow I found the reserves to shift the fish.”
It took thirteen men to haul the giant out of the water to weigh and tag. His bait was a snakefish, and he pulled in the fish on the Maeklong river. Well, at least he has a good story to tell. The previous record holder was a Catfish weighing almost 650 pounds caught in 2005, also in Thailand. That one was eaten by villagers, who no doubt were happy for the feast.

Steve Irwin was not available for comment.

SELF SHOT MODELS

“Luckily, I'm doing other things besides just modeling, because frankly, I'm a little bored with it.”
-Rebecca Romijn Stamos

So what do top models do when they have a camera in their hands? Sports Illustrated gives us a look, mimicking the "self shot" mirror picture theme from some more seedy internet sites. Nineteen of the sport magazine's swimsuit models grabbed a camera and took pictures of themselves in a mirror. Some are more artistic, some are more down to earth, some are more sexy and some are very posed and deliberate. There is no nudity but some pictures are slightly suggestive.


I noticed a few themes in the photo series, such as how many of the models have a "model face" they use any time a camera is pointed at them (usually a hurt, angry expression that is meant to be sexy), several thought the "self shot" theme was more literal and were only partly clothed, and some looked like just regular girls taking a picture for fun or a friend. Some of them even seem to be making fun of modeling with overdone expressions and poses.

Sports Illustrated's site has the full 19 picture slide show, and most of them appear to be using the same camera which suggests the pictures were taken during the swimsuit issue shoot borrowing one of the photographers' cameras.

Why post about this? Well a pretty girl is always welcome. And when I saw it on Tigerhawk's blog I had to pass the site on.

Quote of the Day

"There's always somebody who is paid too much, and taxed too little - and it's always somebody else."
-Cullen Hightower

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

BOOKS TO FILM

"Man, this would make an incredible movie!"

Movies made from books almost always disappoint. There is an inevitable loss of the sensibility and richness of a well-written book when it is transformed into film, and almost always some of the story is left out either due to the impossibility to translate to a new media or problems with length. Often when you see a movie made from a book, it is just awful. More rarely, it is tolerable because of something the movie brings to add to the story, usually visuals, that a book cannot.

Sometimes, however, movies will result in something as good or even better than the original writing. Sometimes the translation to motion pictures lifts a written work to a new, better level and captures something the words could not, or translates a story into something superior. So here's my list of books that actually resulted in good movies (based on movies I've actually seen and books I've read).

First, movies that ended up better than the books, and why I think so:
Blade Runner - While Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep was an interesting book, it was very long and aimless with a very strange main plot, while the movie was powerful, on target, and incredible. The original release, not the weaker director's cut.
Bridge on the River Kwai - Good book, better movie because it was easier to visualize what was being done, and the element of the British commander trying to save the bridge was more powerful than how the book ended.
Guns of Navarone - Again, good book, but the movie was actually superior by trimming out some of the extra material.
Out of Sight - Took the great Elmore story and made it even more compelling and interesting. The attraction between the two characters made more sense in the movie than the book.
Get Shorty - This was the Elmore story most closely following the book than any other (and they've made a lot), and it ended up funnier and the sequence where Ray Bones gets caught made more sense in the movie than the book.
2001: A Space Odyssey - This book is confusing and bizarre, as was the movie, but at least the movie made a little more sense and the visuals helped a bit.
Last of the Mohicans - I know Cooper is a classic writer, but I can't stand his incredibly overwrought prose, he's very difficult to read.
These are movies that, although often different, were the equal of the books they tried to adapt and turn into film:
To Kill a Mockingbird
Where Eagles Dare
Maltese Falcon
Fellowship of the Rings
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Hunt for the Red October
The Fly (original)
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
Jaws
Sin City
Andromeda Strain
The Name of the Rose
And for good measure, here are a few failures that people think are great, movies that are beloved yet weren't as good as the books, and why:
The Big Sleep - The added sub plot of a love story between the two main characters was well written but jarring and did not fit the book.
Wizard of Oz - Great movie, but it left out so much and missed so much of the original book's intent and message to children that it ends up lacking.
The Two Towers - Don't even get me started. This was so wretched I have a hard time even watching The Fellowship of the Rings now, which I loved. So many ghastly, needless, and hateful violations of Tolkien's story it was unwatchable trash.
Jurassic Park - "I know this, it's Unix!" The little girl was actually more annoying and useless in the book, but the movie just blew off some of the best ideas and scenes in the book. Also too heavily stamped with Spielberg's manipulative directorial tricks.
Harry Potter movies after the first - the books got too long, so they had to leave more and more out and ultimately lost much of the charm and wonder although they are still entertaining movies on their own
There are a lot of other movies from books that have been made, such as Die Hard, Shawshank Redemption, Mambo Kings, and The Color of Money that I haven't read so I can't put on a list like this.

REVOLTING

You tell me it's the institution
Well, you know
You better free your mind instead
-Revolution, The Beatles

Revolution. That's what many on the right keep whispering, or thinking, or even saying. They look at the country and can't understand how it could possibly have gone so wrong, so fast. They think the nation has been taken away from its true roots and meaning, and that it is headed to disaster.

In short, the right is having more or less the same thoughts and worries, sharing the same concerns as the left did the previous eight years. The left was convinced President Bush was destroying the constitution, demolishing everything America stood for, feared what he was going to do, and whispered revolution.

The left staged various protests (most of which were arranged by the Worker's World Party - a communist organization - through their subsidiary International A.N.S.W.E.R) which over time gained in popularity but never suffered for media attention, went to psychiatrists complaining of depression because the world just didn't make sense any more, and felt betrayed by their nation.

Now the right is staging various events, not so much protests as rallies, and feels betrayed. Rush Limbaugh and other pundits speak of a rising tide of discontent and anger building in the nation, as polls (for what they're worth) show that the majority of the people oppose what the government is doing with bailouts and stimuli, not just Republicans. Now it is the right's turn to call for revolution like the left did. Yet both, I believe, are mistaken.

The United States changes governments regularly and peacefully every four to eight years. That's happened more than forty times in the history of the United States, and each time the policy has shifted, the leadership has had different priorities and ideas about how to deal with problems, and the mood of the country has been different. Presidents come and go, since 1789, and the nation has had different guidance and different governments all that time. Congress changes every two years and those changes reflect the will of the voters and what they desire and understand at that time.

I am not opposed to protests or rallies or publicity stunts to get the government's attention and try to shape policy. That's an expression of every citizen's basic duty to be involved in their government. What I'm concerned with is the child-like notion that we can fix everything through a single powerful moment. That a revolution will make it all better, that we can have tea parties and street protests and hold up signs and wear paper-mache heads and everything will be better and brighter and all our problems will be fixed.

It is this attitude of "get the right government in and all our problems will be solved" that betrays the very concept of America and conservatism (and classical liberalism, which is virtually identical these days) at its core. America was founded on the principle that government should be as small, unobtrusive, and frightened of the people as possible and that the people were to be self-reliant, self-starting, independent, and not require assistance from the government to deal with their problems.

As time has gone on, we've become more and more convinced that it is the people in Washington DC, not the people in the mirror and next door, to whom we turn to in crises. I was feeling under the weather and watched a few old John Wayne movies we have on DVD. They're from the 1930s such as Blue Steel and The Star Packer and each one features a western town with some trouble (usually a band of outlaws) that complains that the government never is any help, and in the end it turns out that John Wayne has been playing a government agent who rode in and saved the day. Hooray!

This theme of the feds saving the day because we just are too helpless to do it ourselves has been repeated and hammered and forced into our consciousness for decades, for generations until now the first instinct is to call for some program, some action by the feds to make things better, like children crying for mama to fix their scraped knee. Kiss it and everything will be better! Strap on knee pads, don't let me go outside, put me in a padded plastic bubble. I'll be safe, then.

Revolution almost never ends well. The American Revolution was an astounding aberration in history, a revolution that actually did what it was intended to do, led by wise, cautious men who followed through on their words and plans, and resulting not in equal or even greater tyranny, but liberty and justice. Almost every single revolution in the history of the world is best described by The Who in Won't Get Fooled Again. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. The only thing that really changes are the names and faces.

France exchanged a brutal tyrant in King Louis for a brutal tyrant in Robespierre. Then another revolution in smaller scale took place, and Napoleon took over, and became a brutal tyrant. Revolutions usually exchange one evil for another.

There's a good reason for this. Not only is the lure of power overwhelming and the character of people who tend to lead revolutions untrustworthy, but the reason revolutions happen and their goals are usually ignorant, foolish, and untrustworthy. To be certain they almost always happen in response to unbearable tyranny and because of deep frustration among the people. Yet they are usually led by and in the cause of something terribly foolish and misguided that sounds nice but is in the end utterly unworkable.

When communists take over a country, they do so by promises and ideals that sound great - equality, food for everyone, nobody telling you what to do, freedom to live your life, nobody poor, the rich are stopped, no exploitation - but never work out and in real life cannot work out. And what's worse, the people who tend to lead these revolutions are the kind who believe they have the best, most glorious idea, and anyone who disagrees is not merely mistaken or misinformed, but actually evil and destructive. That they the revolutionary leaders are especially enlightened and understanding, so that their every decision and idea needs not merely to be implemented, but absolute law.

The founding fathers of the US were more humble, more cautious, more driven by long considered ideas and principles. They were motivated by a desire to take power away from government and leave it in the hands of individual citizens. They longed for a world of opportunity, freedom of conscience, and a lack of government oversight that forced them away from the path of Robespierre. Instead of being driven by a sense of personal glory, entitlement, and enlightenment, they were driven by a need for liberty and to avoid personal advancement. George Washington set the tone well when he removed his chair from a higher platform, noting this was too much like a king, and he was a man among equals as the president.

The TerrorAll this talk of revolution makes me nervous, because when some patchoulli stinking leftist mumbles revolution in a gust of pot smoke, he's just making noise. When some angry gun-toting ex military guy growls revolution, there's teeth behind it. The reason we have President Obama in office now is because of the mumbles of revolution, the protests and the credibilty and professionalism-demolishing sellout by the legacy media to get him elected. They didn't care what he really thought or was like, as long as he could beat a Republican. They wanted their revolution and they'd worry about the consequences or what the results were later. Even Chris Matthews, mister "thrill up my leg" is now having some second thoughts about President Obama. Well Mr Matthews, the time for that has long passed. If you'd done your job originally and showed skepticism instead of revolutionary fervor, then perhaps people might have known more about the man. It's too late now.

And that's the problem with revolution. Driven by emotion, anger, and the passion of the mob sweeping through people, careful consideration and skepticism are not just pushed aside, but attacked and even brutalized. How dare you question our patriotism? How dare you fight against the mob?

The changes we need - and there are many - cannot be accomplished by revolution. The changes we need have to be changes in us, not just in government. The reason we have the government we now enjoy is because of us, not because of some external deviltry among us. We elect these men to office, we support these policies and ideas that are so damaging. We are the ones who seek comfort, riches, and ease at the cost of our futures and the liberties we say we hold dear.

Until we can abandon the infantile need for government to fix everything, until we can re-learn the virtues of our past, the ideals the nation was founded on, and face the hardships and realities of life without a comforting barrier of government programs to make it all better, no amount of revolution will make things any better. All we'd get is the same sort of nanny state with a different group of people in charge.

We have to recapture that independent, self-governing, personally responsible spirit that founded and built the US to what it became: the world's greatest superpower, the richest nation in history. We have to regain the virtues and ethics that maintain and support a democracy, abandoning the hedonism and immorality that corrodes it. We have to abandon the idea that the only way to help our neighbor is by paying taxes, and build the idea that it is our responsibility to help those in genuine need in our family and neighborhood - coupled with the pressure both inside and out to avoid living on and relying on the kindness of others.

Nothing we do will matter until we change those basic things. The nation will not be healed or fixed from the top down. We cannot make things all better by putting different guys in office. They'll corrupt the same as the previous ones, they'll make the same kind of unAmerican, liberty-demolishing decisions as the other congressmen until we as a people demand different and choose differently. As long as the federal government is so titanic that a trillion dollars seems like a reasonable price to pay there's no man alive who can resist the crushing power of all that money.

In short: I'm opposed to revolution. We need reformation. We as a nation need to abandon the policies and dogmas of the past that have built like weeds and barnacles on the bottom of a ship, slowing and weighting it down until it's nearly sunk beneath the waves. We need to scrape all that debris off, no matter how hard the work is or how painful it might be, and start anew, afresh, with a ship that dances across the waves and moves us into the future with flying colors.

Until that day comes - and I have absolutely no confidence it will - all this talk of revolution is simply madness. So go have your tea parties, your rallies, your speeches, your blog entries. Make committees and talk and pressure congress, run for office, and do your political duty. Just don't expect those things to fix our problems. The fix comes at home, with you and me, making a difference in our lives right now and raising our children differently than the past, with a renewed embrace of liberty, honor, and virtue that will, in time, make a difference.

The truth is, it took years, decades for us to slowly creep into the position we are in right now, and it certainly looks like everything is starting to fall apart, as many of us warned about in the past. It will take years to fix the problems we face, if at all.

LET'S TALK DEFICITS

“You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than you earn.”
-Abraham Lincoln

Spending against time
In 2008, the last year of the Bush presidency, the US deficit was $410 billion dollars. At the time, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) called this irresponsible and unpatriotic. The numbers were too high, think of the children! I happened to agree at the time - as did all conservatives - and called for reduced spending.

With the deficit for President Obama's first year likely to push 1.5 trillion dollars, both of these voices are quiet, even supportive. Meanwhile President Obama, after pushing the largest spending bill in the history of the planet, larger than the entire deficit in 2008 doubled is now making speeches about how he wants to cut spending and reduce the deficit. He says that by the end of his first four years, he'll get that nasty deficit down to half: $500-700 billion. Still greater than the last year of the Bush administration.

President Obama's brilliant plan is to cut military spending and increase taxes on the rich, which pretty well seals the "tax and spend liberal" label on him with titanium rivets. He's already fulfilled the "vastly increase spending and expand welfare" portions.

What is odd to me is how so many on the left complained about the cost of the Iraq war, which is at this point around $600 billion dollars at this point, but didn't blink an eye at a "stimulus" package that pushed past a trillion dollars, after two previous massive "bailout" bills adding up to half a billion. When Republicans warned about Social Security being in a crisis that had to be dealt with immediately, Democrats laughed at the idea.

Now we know why: when faced with a crisis, they just print money and go further into debt. Social Security can be paid for the same way, apparently: just throw more money we don't have at the problem and poof! Crisis dealt with!

Quote of the Day

"A judge is a law student who marks his own examination papers."
-H. L. Mencken

Monday, February 23, 2009

CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE

"I believe that an unjust law is no law at all."

Rev HoyeWell, here's another red meat story that will make a lot on the right go "arrrrrgg!" again. Let's take a look, first at the report from Life News. Steven Ertelt reports:
A pro-life African-American pastor has been sentenced to 30 days in jail for sharing a pr-life message outside local abortion centers. Walter Hoye was previously found guilty of violating what pro-life attorneys call an unconstitutional city law designed specifically to target him.
...
Hoye is an African-American pastor who feels a special calling to work for the end of abortion because abortion centers specifically target the black community.

As part of his efforts, he stands in front of an abortion center in Oakland with leaflets offering abortion alternatives and a sign reading, “Jesus loves you and your baby. Let us help.”

According to 2004 statistics from the National Center for Health Statistics, about 37 percent of pregnancies among black women end in abortion, compared with 12 percent for non-Hispanic white women and 19 percent for Hispanic women.
Reverend Hoye was given 30 days (or community service) and a $1300 dollar fine. Hoye has also been ordered to stay away from the abortion business and no longer help women find abortion alternatives. So to sum up, a guy stands quietly outside a business with a supportive sign, and has information for people who visit. And he's arrested, fined, given jail time, and told to shut up.

Aaarrrrrrrrgggh?

Now, lets look closer at this story. According to the Henry K Lee at the San Francisco Times (yes, not the most objective source, but then neither is Life News), Reverend Hoye was arrested under a new law:
A pastor at a Berkeley church was sentenced Thursday to three years' probation and fined $1,000 after becoming the first person convicted under an Oakland ordinance barring protesters from coming within 8 feet of anyone entering an abortion clinic.

Hing asked if Hoye would abide by an order requiring him to stay 100 yards away from the Oakland clinic, and the pastor said no.

The judge then imposed the stay-away order anyway, fined Hoye and sentenced him to three years of probation and 30 days in jail. Hoye can serve his time in a sheriff's work detail or by volunteering.

The "medical safety zone" around abortion clinics was set by the Oakland City Council in 2007. Abortion protesters must stay at least 8 feet from women, staff or escorts entering the buildings
.
Reverend Hoye claims the new rule was created specifically to target him, since his work was not covered by other anti-abortion protest laws. And make no mistake, these are laws specifically targeting protests against abortion; other protests such as military, academic, presidential and so on have no special laws written about them and are generally ignored by the police and government - if not joined.

A part of the story in the SF Chronicle story that is missing from the Life News story is this:
As women approached the door, he asked them, "May I talk to you about alternatives to the clinic?"
So he wasn't merely holding a sign and offering pamphlets. Yet according to all accounts, Reverend Hoye is a polite, decent man who fights against abortion largely because of how many black women are affected by the procedure. He was accused in the trial of harassing and grabbing women, but video proved that was not the case, and none of the women or "escorts" the abortion clinic hired could testify that it happened. Who are the escorts? Again, from Life News:
LLDF [Life Legal Defense Foundation] attorneys say the "clinic escorts" are upset by Hoye's presence and they surround him to impede his movement, block his sign with large sheets of blank cardboard, and make raucous noise to drown out his quiet offers of assistance.

Because their actions didn't deter Hoye, the Oakland city council approved the new law. The penalty for illegally approaching a person to talk or hand out a leaflet is one year in jail and/or a $2,000 fine.

At the pre-trial hearing, Hoye's LLDF attorneys cross-examined the victims.

The escorts admitted that Hoye never used force against them, threatened them, or blocked them. They proudly testified that they routinely block Hoye to prevent women from seeing his sign.
The escorts were basically thugs hired to stop anyone from hurting business by offering alternatives to an abortion. Hopefully in this tight economy they won't have to lay off any of these escorts.

Reverend Hoye is a bit confused by the restraining order:
My attorney even asked the judge what I was supposed to do when the escorts come up to me, and she said told him that I had to back away!

After hearing the escort say that I was "nice," I thought for sure that the restraining order would be lifted. How could you keep a restraining order on a guy who is guilty of trying to be cooperative and nice? The escorts testified that they were not afraid of me. But after hearing all the testimony, the judge ruled that the restraining order would stay in place.
This last piece of information helps complete the puzzle. Reverend Hoye was doing something that the left will not permit, and the powers that be in San Francisco made sure they punished him for it. He was giving women the loving opportunity to reconsider having an abortion. Like the groups that kneel and pray outside abortion clinics and the groups that hold candle light vigils and all the rest, these are folks who upset the system: they help women have second thoughts about abortion which is sacred to many on the left.

Reverend Hoye knew the law was in place, and he disobeyed it. This is one of the most basic principles of American citizenship: civil disobedience. It is when you know a law is unjust and defy it so that you can make a statement, get the light of press attention focused on the event, and pressure those in power to make a change, particularly through the legal system. The key ingredient that so many recent protesters don't comprehend is the willingness to pay a price for your disobedience. For men like Martin Luther King jr, going to jail for disobeying an unjust and unethical law was a badge of principle and honor. For too many modern protesters it is an inconceivable violation of their "me time."

Throttling free speech because it happens to say what the people in government don't care to hear is exactly what the first amendment was written about. It is precisely the kind of principle that the founding fathers fought for and the US revolution started over. Abortion is not somehow immune to protest or opposing statements, dissent doesn't become evil when it is in regard to this one topic. Yet the reaction to protests against abortion and the reaction to protests against, say, President Bush, is radically contradictory by many local and state government.

Protesters in Washington state pour concrete on train tracks to stop nuclear weapons from being delivered, and they are ignored. "Black block" protesters break shop windows, hold up signs calling for the death of the president, and blocking traffic are ignored. One man stands with a sign and offers an alternative to killing a child and he must be stopped! This is not healthy for liberty and all people who love freedom and the first amendment to the US constitution should stand up as one and sound a loud, inescapable shout of protest.

Yet of all the newspapers, news sites, and television channels that make up the legacy media, only the San Franscisco Chronicle mentioned this story. Good for them, but where are the rest of the defenders of liberty, the ones who fight the political powers when injustice and oppression occur? Where is the New York Times to champion this man's free speech rights? Where is the special report on CNN?

Conspicuously missing, so far.

CLIMATOLOGY BLUES

"Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite."
-President Eisenhower

Gag Order
Its hard out there for a scientist - if they won't toe the party line. Being a state Climatologist requires you to stay political, to say what the people who appointed you say, or at least not say what they'd rather you were silent about. Here are a few examples, courtesy Tigerhawk:
Taylor had long questioned glib statements about a 50 percent decline in Pacific Northwest snowpack, which were being made by climate alarmists worldwide. The 50 percent figure is only part of the story. That figure accrues if one starts with the data in 1950 and ends in the mid-1990s. If one uses the entire set of snowpack data (1915-2004 [the time period global warming is said to have been at its worst up until he resigned from the position]), a different picture emerges [Figure omitted]. Taylor was told to shut up as State Climatologist even though he was merely telling the truth.

Taylor resigned his Oregon State University position in February 2008.

David Legates, at the University of Delaware, was told by Governor Ruth Ann Minner (D) that he could no longer speak on global warming as State Climatologist. His faculty position is a regular tenured line in the geography department. He's free, as State Climatologist, to say anything about the weather, so long as there's no political implication. Unfortunately, as most State Climatologists will attest, most reporters specifically ask whether this or that unusual storm or unusually hot (or cold!) day is related to global warming. Scientists who refuse to answer that question don't get return calls.

Minner was upset because Legates was an author of an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court (Baliunas et al) in its first global warming-related case,
Massachusetts v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Baliunas et al. sided with the federal government (namely the Environmental Protection Agency [EPA]), which maintained that it was not required to issue regulations reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Justice Antonin Scalia cited Baliunas et al. in his dissent, as the court voted 5-4 that it was within the EPA's purview to propose and then enforce carbon dioxide limitations.

So Legates stopped speaking about global warming as Delaware's State Climatologist.

Out West, things got even uglier. The Assistant State Climatologist for Washington, Mark Albright, was fired because, despite his boss's orders, he refused to stop e-mailing -- to journalists, to inquiring citizens, to
anyone -- the entire snowfall record for the Cascade Mountains rather than the cherry-picked one. For e-mailing that record, the assistant state climatologist in Washington lost his job.

What had started with Oregon's George Taylor had migrated across the Columbia River.

State Climatologist Phil Mote terminated Albright. Both positions were in the University of Washington's atmospheric science department, one of the world's best. A senior member of that department, Professor Clifford Mass, commented, "In all my years of doing science, I've never seen this sort of gag-order approach to doing science."
The writer was told he could not use the title "State Climatologist" even though that's what he'd been hired as and the legislature passed a law funding. The problem? He was reporting what the science said and the information told him, which did not happen to support global warming hysteria.
I wasn't asked to do the impossible, merely the impossibly awkward. The University of Virginia Provost wrote to me:
You should refer to yourself as the "AASC-designated state climatologist" and your office as the "AASC-designated State Climatology Office," or if you prefer, "AASC-designated State Climatology Office at the University of Virginia." I recognize that the titles may be awkward but the message from the Governor's Office was very clear about what they expected.
Needless to say, this quickly became unworkable. Newspaper editors wouldn't suffer such encumbering verbiage, it didn't fit on a TV Chiron, and making a disclaimer every time I spoke, about climate that my views didn't reflect those of the Commonwealth of Virginia or the University of Virginia (despite their being correct!) would never fit a sound bite. So I had the choice of speaking on global warming and having my salary line terminated, or leaving.
Doctor Hansen (he of the manipulated data at NASA) claimed once that the Bush administration had gagged him after giving fifty interviews on global warming at various media outlets. These guys really are being gagged.

The thing that's always confused me about global warming hysteria is this:

We're told that, unless we wreck the economy, devastate culture, cripple technology, and reduce our expenditure of energy... that the weather might cause a catastrophe that wrecks the economy, devastates culture, cripples technology, and reduces our expenditure of energy.

Now, perhaps I'm not the smartest guy on the block, but I just don't follow that logic.

For more on the science and politics of climate change, check out my four part essay on the topic.

STIMULUS UPDATE

"Finally, Democrats have found a tax-cut they can support"

Hollywood Welfare
So what's the stimulus package that was passed last week doing so far? Well, nothing yet, but here's a couple of things it will be, courtesy Charles Hurt at the New York Post:
A provision in the current "stimulus" bill would allow Hollywood moguls to write off half the production and filming costs of big-budget films and TV shows.

Backed by Walt Disney and the Motion Picture Association of America, the provision amounts to an estimated $246 million Hollywood tax break over 11 years.

It's the least Democrats can do for some of their richest and most generous supporters, who gave nearly $20 million in campaign contributions to Democrats during the 2008 election cycle, according to OpenSecrets.org.

Currently, only the first $15 million of production costs can be written off - a rule aimed at keeping low-budget film-makers in the U.S.
This, after a year in which movie studios reported taking in more money than any previous year. What's that? You are wondering how on earth this is going to help stimulate the economy? Actually, it might. This is one of the few aspects of the debt package that would generate money and jobs, by hiring people to make movies. The problem is, like Uwe Boll's projects, this actually encourages making unpopular and disliked movies (such as Redacted) so the end result might not be very welcome.

Still, one has to wonder why, as Obama and the Democrats in congress call for higher taxes on the wealthy and on corporations, they seem to want the opposite for some rich, who just happen to be their biggest supporters - in a manner that helps them make more unpopular propaganda movies.

The second is from Nicholas Carson at The Business Insider:
thanks to the stimulus bill President Obama signed this week, he's also about to be as much as a billion dollars richer.

Here's how:
  • Allen owns a majority stake in cable provider Charter Communications.
  • Charter Communications this month said it would reduce its debt load by $8 billion and enter Chapter 11.
  • Normally, partners at a firm like Charter Communications would have to pay taxes on the amount of debt forgiven in this process, which is, in a sense a one-time income windfall. Tax law calls it a "deemed distribution."
  • But under the new bill, companies like Charter Communications will be able to avoid paying taxes on forgiven debt until 2014. Even then, Paul will have until 2018 to pay it completely off.
  • Paul owns about half of Charter, so his share of the Charter Communications' $8 billion debt forgiveness is around $4 billion. At a tax rate of 25%, Allen could avoid paying as much as $1 billion in taxes until 2014, tax expert Robert Willens told the WSJ.
How does letting Paul Allen not pay his taxes for almost a decade stimulate the economy? Well, again actually this is a way that could work. By removing the absurd windfall profits tax covering "deemed distribution,"at least temporarily, that will help companies restructure if they need to and have the funds to stay open and hire workers.

This almost certainly wasn't aimed at Paul Allen at all, it probably was aimed at other companies so that they can survive economic problems by restructuring until the economy picks up again and pay their taxes then. A much better and more obvious solution is to remove the deemed distribution clause entirely and stop taxing people for going bankrupt, but you can't expect congress - particularly a Democratic Party-controlled congress - to remove taxes in any remotest sense.

Even the "tax cuts" that were passed in the debt package are actually rebates, they don't remove the taxes, they just reduce them slightly for two years, then back up to where they ought to be. That is, once the Bush tax cuts end in 2010 and congress raises taxes on everyone in a bigger tax increase than any in US history. Sure, you can guess that a lot of those tax "cuts" will remain: the ones giving money to people who don't pay any taxes to begin with.

Some governors are saying they won't take much if any of the stimulus money targeted at them (such as Governor Palin in Alaska and Governor Jindal in Louisiana, who also noticed that there was zero Hurricane Katrina assistance in this bill, despite President Obama repeatedly attacking President Bush and Republicans in general for not sending more money to the area). But we'll see when the checks show up how mjuch they hold to these promises.

Quote of the Day

"Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build a bridge even where there is no river."
-Nikita Khrushchev

Friday, February 20, 2009

COAL DOH

"Doh!"
-Homer Simpson

Play-Doh
Children's toys sometimes have an odd or unusual origin. For example, Play Doh. This lovable (edible) clay compound in all the fun colors with the different machines to make shapes wasn't always a children's craft toy. It started out with a much more humble origin.

The Kutol company in Cincinatti had a clay compound the marketed to homes in the 1930s to clean soot off of wallpaper. It was soft and pliable and picked up material like soot very easily without damaging the wallpaper. At the time, wallpaper and coal heat was a very common combination in homes, so the product did well.

Over time, oil began to replace coal as the primary heat source for American homes, and the product's sales began to plummet. Instead of begging the government for a bailout, Kutol created a new division of toys (Rainbow Crafts) and marketed the clay as Play-Doh. To help with this effort, Kutol contacted Bob Keeshan, aka Captain Kangaroo, and asked if he'd feature the stuff on his show for 2% of the profits. The company also reached out to other children's shows such as Romper Room, and the rest, as they say is history.

There's a reason that Play-Doh picks up newsprint so well: it was designed to pull black gunk off of paper!

For more unusual secrets of toys, check out Mental Floss as they examine Lincoln Logs, Slinkys and more.

EUROPEAN DEFIANCE

We were told that the reason it was hard to get European contributions to Iraq and Afghanistan was because President Bush was such a cowboy and the US was so unpopular. We were told that Barack Obama was so popular, so able to work with our allies, so different and fresh from George Bush that he would win over the Europeans and they would be more willing to work with us.

Many of us knew better, and here's proof, from Jan Cienski in Krakow and Isabel Gorst at the Financial Times:
US hopes of securing more troops for Afghanistan from its Nato allies were disappointed on Thursday as European countries refused to offer up many more soldiers despite pleas from Robert Gates, US defence secretary.

At a two-day meeting of Nato defence ministers in the Polish city of Krakow, Mr Gates said the new US administration “is prepared to make additional commitments to Afghanistan. But there clearly will be expectations that the allies must do more as well.”
The problem was never President Bush offending the delicate sensibilities of the French or American arrogance and "cowboy diplomacy" repulsing the more sophisticated, enlightened Europeans. It was simply that the Europeans have neither the inclination nor the resources to send more troops.

Why should they? Not only do they not have the money to pay the troops or the material resources to send armies abroad, but the US has always been there for five decades. They don't need to worry about their defense, because the US is always there.

President Obama's popularity with Europe, I suspect, has much less to do with his specific policies and personality and much more to do with the fact that he's a leftist and would replace President Bush. They see him as the refutation of American strength, pride, and a president who just wouldn't play along with them the way they wanted. And it is possible that they like President Obama more than President Bush because they sense a weakness and a reluctance to act decisively that they can exploit. Like him or not, they aren't going to do things any differently. All that has changed are the excuses.

RISING BEAR

"There is no reason to believe that we can achieve better results by shifting responsibility onto the state."
-Vladimir Putin

Russian Glory
While the US, at least in the federal government, rushes blindly and headlong toward the socialism that has failed the rest of the world, other nations that suffered under a command economy are watching with trepidation. The US, with its massive riches and powerful armies, is the dominant power in the world, it is the only superpower at the moment. Where the US goes, the rest of the world tends to follow. If the US economy collapses, so does the rest of the world.

Vladimir Putin recently spoke at the annual Davos conference which typically has some goofy things said at it, but what Mr Putin said wasn't silly at all. It was deadly serious, for several reasons. Among the things he said was this, courtesy the Wall Street Journal (emphases mine):
This is why I would first like to mention specific measures which should be avoided and which will not be implemented by Russia.

We must not revert to isolationism and unrestrained economic egotism. The leaders of the world's largest economies agreed during the November 2008 G20 summit not to create barriers hindering global trade and capital flows. Russia shares these principles.

Although additional protectionism will prove inevitable during the crisis, all of us must display a sense of proportion.

Excessive intervention in economic activity and blind faith in the state's omnipotence is another possible mistake.

True, the state's increased role in times of crisis is a natural reaction to market setbacks. Instead of streamlining market mechanisms, some are tempted to expand state economic intervention to the greatest possible extent.

The concentration of surplus assets in the hands of the state is a negative aspect of anti-crisis measures in virtually every nation.

In the 20th century, the Soviet Union made the state's role absolute. In the long run, this made the Soviet economy totally uncompetitive. This lesson cost us dearly. I am sure nobody wants to see it repeated.

Nor should we turn a blind eye to the fact that the spirit of free enterprise, including the principle of personal responsibility of businesspeople, investors and shareholders for their decisions, is being eroded in the last few months. There is no reason to believe that we can achieve better results by shifting responsibility onto the state.

And one more point: anti-crisis measures should not escalate into financial populism and a refusal to implement responsible macroeconomic policies. The unjustified swelling of the budgetary deficit and the accumulation of public debts are just as destructive as adventurous stock-jobbing.
Mr Putin was speaking about what Russia will and won't do, but the implication is clear; the general impression of most when they read this is a stunned amazement at the turnaround in world events. Russians lecturing Americans on liberty and avoiding socialism? That alone should be a thunderous warning note for the nation regarding the current government in the US.

Yet upon close examination, there are other themes that are perhaps even more disturbing. The bulk of Putin's speech was on world economic disaster, but it carried an undercurrent that several people have warned about in the past. When Van Helsing posted about this speech on Right Wing News, commenter Mike_M took a closer look and here's his analysis:
Aside from the ominous hints at global authority (and the swipe at Georgia), this is an almost amazingly astute and economically solid speech from Putin. Most of it wouldn't seem out of place coming from a conservative Republican.

The urging of disarmement and calling out unnamed parties for pushing military spending are very curious. But it seems to fit with Putin's pattern of regional influence through oil and gas while using the Russian military more like a scalpel than a sledgehammer.

But what this speech really is, is a shot across Obama's bow and a bid to reestablish Russia as a go-to power for diplomacy and global affairs. He knows Obama is weak and confused and laser-focused on growing socialism, and there's no better time to step up and grow Russia's prestige and sphere of influence.

Our international power and respect aren't measured by how popular we are. It's measured by who listens when we talk. Countries are beginning to tune us out, and Putin is speaking clearly and powerfully for their attention.
Russia wants to be the big power, they want to be the ones who are respected, the world leaders, the prestige nation. They want to have the driving economy on earth, they want the Ruble to be the default currency for trade, they want Russia to be feared, respected, and powerful. Vladimir Putin has, for his entire political career, made it abundantly clear that is exactly what he has in mind.

Vladimir Putin wants the world to know that they're the new authorities, that they are charting the wise and cautious path, and that when people need a power to handle problems, that Russia is that power. He wants Russia to be the default nation that people approach when they need help, when they are trying to solve a diplomatic problem, when they need money, arms, or advice. He wants Russia to be the superpower.

Whether that will come to pass depends largely on future events, but how the Obama administration deals with world crises such as Russia's invasion of Georgia (which, in the campaign, he handled very poorly) and economic issues will contribute greatly to this decision. If the Obama administration and the Democrat-controlled congress of the US demolish the US economy in an attempt to humble the US, lower emissions, reduce the use of world resources, and bring the nation down from a superpower to just another one of the boys, then Vladimir Putin will have a much easier time of accomplishing these goals.

And, aside from Putin, is there anyone who wants Russia to be the world's sole Superpower? Perhaps President Obama, Senator Reid, and Representative Pelosi.

Quote of the Day

"When the eagles are silent, the parrots begin to jabber."
-Sir Winston Churchill

Thursday, February 19, 2009

NOTHING MIRACULOUS ABOUT IT

Miracle Whip by the Tub
They changed the recipe of Miracle Whip in 2006. By "they" I mean "Kraft Foods" of course. I remember when I was a little kid my mom used to buy the stuff and put it everywhere mayonnaise would normally go: tuna salad, sandwiches, salad dressing, etc. It was horrible stuff, but I didn't know any better. It's hard to describe the taste of this gunk if you haven't had any, but imagine mayo with several cups of sugar and some conflicting, unpleasant spices added.

Miracle Whip is one of those nasty fifties products that was marketed with dozens of recipes that James Lileks loves to mock. It is the same sort of bastard demon child of real food as Sandwich Spread and Spam.

Some people, dump this industrial waste into recipes such as cole slaw to get that nasty sweet assault on your senses. Some people, such as Jazz at The One True Tami even wish they could have the old recipe for this crap back:
So there's compromise; and even those of us who make the stuff miss the old Gold Standard. But the decision is out of our hands, out of R&D's hands probably out of Corporate or even Wal*Mart corporate's hands. The consumers don't want seem to want to pay a premium for the good stuff.I normally don't approve of the use of soy for anything except sauce, but in this case I will make an exception. Clearly the oil was a large part of what gave Miracle Whip its flavor and texture. There just isn't a good substitute. I was making a sandwich today and realized that I just can't enjoy them as much as I used to.

CURSE YOU KRAFT FOODS!
This isn't Coca Cola, where changing the reciple ruined a classic. This is like putting less salt in Spam and thinking that a wonderful thing was demolished. It's like putting different tires on an AMC Pacer and bemoaning the destruction of a work of art. Miracle Whip is horrific.

The day my mom stopped using this junk because it had sugar and dad was diabetic was a boon to the whole family. For the love of God and the sake of your families, put the Miracle Whip down.

MUSLIMS DENOUNCE BEHEADING

A few days I wrote about the Muslim founder of Bridges TV, who turned himself in to the police for hacking his wife's head off. In it I pointed out that there's a problem with the Islamic community in that there never is a strong or loud enough condemnation of this sort of thing.

Well, here's a good start, courtesy Beliefnet:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Feb. 18, 2009
Media contact: Wajahat Ali, 510-909-7506, wajahatmali@hotmail.com

American Muslims Call for Swift Action Against Domestic Violence

Murder of Buffalo resident Aasiya Zubair spurs American Muslims to forcefully address domestic abuse and violence against women; call on imams to address DV in Friday sermons

SAN FRANCISCO - A coalition of Muslim organizations, journalists, community leaders, imams, and other concerned citizens are calling for immediate action by American Muslim leaders and religious figures to address domestic abuse and violence in America, including that found in the American Muslim community, on Friday, February 20, 2009.

In response to the collective concern of the American Muslim community, imams and religious leaders across America have been asked to speak out against domestic violence to their congregations. They are asked to remind congregants of the Prophet Muhammad's abhorrence of harshness, abuse and violence, and emphasize solutions that strengthen families and ensure all members are treated with fairness and respect, free of fear of abuse or violence.

The paper goes on to denounce the actions of this man, and anything that prompted it, then lists many different groups and people that signed the paper condemning such domestic violence and murder.

Good for you: keep it up, and louder.

On the other hand, guys like this should spend a bit more time thinking and less talking:

Meanwhile, Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, a producer and host for Bridges TV who worked alongside the Hassans, said “now is not the time” to debate the cultural and religious context of the murder that appears to be an honor killing inspired by Aasiya Hassan’s desire to divorce her husband.

“There will be time for that later,” Hirschfield said in a statement obtained by FOXNews.com. “I will only say to those who leap to the conclusion that this kind of thing is intrinsic to Islam, ask yourselves if you think that drunkenness is intrinsic to Irish Catholics, or cheating in business is to Jews?”

Hat tip Dan Collins at Protein Wisdom for that bit.

*UPDATE: Indian Muslim leaders are refusing to bury the Mubai murderers, according to Thomas Friedman at the New York Times:
All nine are still in the morgue because the leadership of India’s Muslim community has called them by their real name — “murderers” not “martyrs” — and is refusing to allow them to be buried in the main Muslim cemetery of Mumbai, the 7.5-acre Bada Kabrastan graveyard, run by the Muslim Jama Masjid Trust.

“People who committed this heinous crime cannot be called Muslim,” Hanif Nalkhande, a spokesman for the trust, told The Times of London. Eventually, one assumes, they will have to be buried, but the Mumbai Muslims remain defiant.

“Indian Muslims are proud of being both Indian and Muslim, and the Mumbai terrorism was a war against both India and Islam,” explained M.J. Akbar, the Indian-Muslim editor of Covert, an Indian investigative journal. “Terrorism has no place in Islamic doctrine. The Koranic term for the killing of innocents is ‘fasad.’ Terrorists are fasadis, not jihadis. In a beautiful verse, the Koran says that the killing of an innocent is akin to slaying the whole community. Since the ... terrorists were neither Indian nor true Muslims, they had no right to an Islamic burial in an Indian Muslim cemetery.”

ABORT OBAMA?

"Dawg, Obama like, sucks, or something"

I'm opposed to most restrictions on political speech, I'm very leery of any "hate speech" comments because they almost always can be reduced to "stop saying things I don't like" rather than actual damage to society, and I fear that as a whole the nation's liberty is being eroded, particularly in terms of free expression.

However, this story, I believe, is not an example of those concerns:
An Oklahoma City police officer wrongly pulled over a man last week and confiscated an anti-President Barack Obama sign the man had on his vehicle.

The officer misinterpreted the sign as threatening, said Capt. Steve McCool, of the Oklahoma City Police Department, and took the sign, which read "Abort Obama, not the unborn."
The police officer gave him a receipt and said the sign is part of an ongoing investigation. He claimed the sign was a threat against President Obama's life, as abortion is killing someone. The man in the car chose a different, less common definition of "remove or terminate" like losing a job.

I doubt this guy really wanted President Obama to die. I doubt he was calling for the president to be killed by someone, and I expect like most of us, he'd be shocked, dismayed, and horrified if such a thing happened. I hated Ronald Reagan, but felt attacked personally as an American and terribly shocked when he was shot by lunatic John Hinkley, jr.

However, it is the job of the police to uphold the law and keep the peace. It is illegal to make death threats against the president, and it is dangerous to society to have people driving around with calls for death to the president. I didn't like it when people had this kind of thing against President Bush, and I don't like it when they do it against President Obama. Cheap, cheesy slogans do nothing but fill you with smugness and outrage opponents, neither of which is particularly constructive for polite societal cohesion.

The kind of stickers littering this post are exactly the kind we can do without, they are childish, deliberately provocative, and offer nothing in terms of substance, reason, or even logic. If you have a problem with what President Obama does then the proper thing to do is make your concerns know, work to change them, and let others be aware of the problem. Not put a cheap sticker on your car, especially one calling for him to be killed, or even "terminated."

This is not a fascistic violation of liberty, it is a police officer being perhaps a little too zealous in doing his job, but doing it nevertheless. People should be more thoughtful and less emotional about their political positions.