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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Friday, April 30, 2010

PICTURE OF THE DAY


That's a real newspaper with a real picture. Here's the caption:
Don't let the virulent hatred of the president - veiled in "policy differences" - fool you. Just ask someone raised around bigotry.
The Philadelphia Inquirer ran that exact picture, about Tea Partiers, with an opinion piece by an Italian guy talking all about how he could tell what a batch of bigots anyone who thinks the US government should heed the constitution must be. The People's Cube has the story.

OVERPAID?

“We know this is Chicago, but isn’t $63,000 quite a lot for a no-show job?”

President Obama recently said "At some point I think you've made enough money." A lot of people are upset by this statement, particularly when combined with others he's made in the past such as his "take from you for your own good" statement to Joe the Plumber. Personally I happen to agree with President Obama: at some point some people have made enough money. Certainly Barbara Streisand, Al Gore, George Soros, Matt Damon, and many others have made enough money to survive and not need more.

The difference here is that I'm just voicing an opinion: you have plenty, do you need more? Not really. When the President of the United States says that, it isn't just opinion, its policy and he's emphasized this repeatedly with different policy decisions such as wanting more taxes on wealthy people, wanting to cap salaries, and other stranger statements such as the one that Michelle Malkin quoted from the same speech:
(Y)ou can just keep on making it if you’re providing a good product or providing good service. We don’t want people to stop, ah, fulfilling the core responsibilities of the financial system to help grow our economy.
Only one "ah" in there, it was a particularly smooth period in Obama's speech. The problem here is that its none of my business how much someone else makes. I can voice an opinion that they've made plenty and don't need any more, but that's their business and they're free to earn more if they choose. Its also none of the president's business. I understand he's a socialist and thus is deeply wracked with jealousy over the wealth of others, but honestly it doesn't matter how much other people make. It only matters how they make that money. The amount a robber steals is irrelevant; the crime is his theft. The amount a businessman makes is irrelevant, only if he's doing so by crushing others and breaking laws or not.

Who, pray tell, chooses what is "good" in the sense that President Obama is saying above? Plainly he means "good" in the sense of "that which advances socialism and social justice" not "that which is ethically righteous in an objective sense." This kind of statement and policy is why hiring hasn't taken off and the economy is largely stagnant. He scares companies and businessmen into being very careful with their earnings. Who knows what's coming next from these guys?

John at Power Line quips:
Federal employees now are paid much more money then their counterparts in private industry. Is Obama willing to acknowledge that they earn "enough" and should forgo future pay increases? Obama himself earned more than $5 million last year. Is that "enough"? George Soros has made countless millions from currency manipulations that many regard as little better than extortion. Does he have "enough"? I suspect that "enough" will prove to be a standard that is both highly flexible and intimately related to political influence.
Too much money, it seems, only applies to people who aren't sufficiently leftist, politically correct, and unwilling to support Obama's socialist plans. I think a CEO who makes 15 million dollars a year is making too much money, and any company that pays someone that much is idiotic. But its their money and if they want to spend it stupidly, then they are free to do so.

WORD AROUND THE NET

"Laws provide against injury from others, but not from ourselves."
-Thomas Jefferson

As you're probably aware, Santa Clara county commissioner Ken Yeager wants to ban toys in kid's meals at fast food restaurants. The resolution passed, 3-2, due to concerns about kids being overweight. Not long ago, another county commissioner tried to ban fast food restaurants period from the inner city, because it was unhealthy and thus racist to the locals. That one didn't go anywhere. This new ordinance now must face approval at the Board of Supervisors meeting in May, which probably won't happen. Anyone who opposes this, according to LA Times blogger Karen Kaplan, has sinister motives:
Not surprisingly, the toy ban has angered folks who resent government efforts to help Americans eat healthier.
Yeah, couldn't be they think that its unethical for government to get involved here or simply idiotic, they must be opposed to making Americans healthier. This is called "calumny" and it is simply presuming the worst of one's opponent. Calumny is easy to engage in, makes you feel better about yourself, and saves you the trouble of actually finding out why they disagree, but its almost always wrong and is always malicious and unethical.

Unlike Ms Kaplan's insulting presumption I share concerns about the health of young people, but I have a different approach. Maybe, now just work with me here, maybe if we stopped drugging all kids because they have more energy than a sloth, maybe if we stopped banning games because people might get hurt, stopped removing playground equipment because they might be dangerous, and stopped suspending and punishing children for showing energy and creativity, maybe they might not be so overweight? Anyone ever see Wall-E?

Having changed its name from Sci Fi channel to the absurd SYFY, the cable network is now going to ditch science fiction as much as possible. Already home to one or two decent shows and a festival of awful made for TV crap like Mega Piranha, SYFY has long ago lost contact with its original programming and intent which ran shows such as Star Trek, Babylon 5, and other big science fiction hits and movies of the past. Now they want to focus on cooking, sports, and wrasslin' according to Ree Hines at MSNBC Today:
If the recent announcement that “Top Chef” alum Marcel Vigneron would be joining the network for a cooking show called “Marcel’s Quantum Kitchen” wasn’t proof enough, Syfy’s acquisition of “Friday Night SmackDown” should be.

Not that Syfy really wants anyone catching on to that fact. Much like shoehorning the word “quantum” into the title of Vigneron’s upcoming gastronomic offering acts as a symbolic nod to traditional viewers, Syfy’s president, David Howe, hopes he can even convince fans that wrestling somehow fits the old and largely abandoned genre, too.

After all, World Wrestling Entertainment’s “SmackDown” marks “the ultimate in imagination-based sports entertainment,” according to Howe.
Yeah, that ought to be a big winner.

Really I can't add much to this headline from the Associated Press:
Illegal immigrants plan to leave over Ariz. law
Maybe just add what my brother said upon reading it: great, that sounds like its working!

Another idiotic Arizona immigration headline? This one from CBS:
The Law makes it a crime to be an illegal immigrant
How you can be so incredibly vapid to even consider typing that out in any manner but sarcastic or mocking is beyond my capacity to understand. Arizona's governor, far from being reviled and hated by the largely Hispanic population is now supposedly more popular, and other states such as Texas, Utah, Georgia and Maryland are working on similar bills. Look, whatever flaws might be in this legislation, what do you expect states to do, if the federal government will not do its job?

Also at Ace of Spades HQ where I saw the above immigration stories is this amusing comparison of hysteria with reality by DrewM:
Eugene Robinson has a fairly typical column on the supposed horrors of Arizona's new law.

(Arizona Governor Jan) Brewer, who caved to xenophobic pressures that previous governors had the backbone to resist, should be ashamed of herself. The law requires police to question anyone they "reasonably suspect" of being an undocumented immigrant -- a mandate for racial profiling on a massive scale. Legal immigrants will be required to carry papers proving that they have a right to be in the United States. Those without documentation can be charged with the crime of trespassing and jailed for up to six months.

Oh the horror! "Legal immigrants will be required to carry papers proving that they have a right to be in the United States" Why it's Nazi Germany all over again.

Wait, hold on a second. This just in...that provision has been part of the US Code for quite sometime.

Every alien, eighteen years of age and over, shall at all times carry with him and have in his personal possession any certificate of alien registration or alien registration receipt card issued to him pursuant to subsection (d) of this section. Any alien who fails to comply with the provisions of this subsection shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and shall upon conviction for each offense be fined not to exceed $100 or be imprisoned not more than thirty days, or both.

My God! We've been living in a xenophobic, racist, Nazi police state all this time. Why didn't someone tell me?

All it really takes is a few minutes to stop and think about this before blowing a gasket. Then again, if states start taking real action to stop illegal immigration, then the left loses a lot of potential voters and stats on the welfare rolls. After all, the more people on food stamps, the bigger the budget (and thus power for those in charge of it) has to be, right?

Burglars in Holland broke into a jail. Why? Because they wanted some of the stuff prisoners have, such as the televisions. I think its safe to say that not only is this not a secure enough facility, but that the prisoners there are enjoying perhaps a few too many amenities. Knowing Dutch leftist politicians, they will consider this a clear call for better TVs for everyone else at the expense of taxpayers.

Overreaction is probably the most charitable term to use for a recent event. Tea Partiers over the age of 60 gathered near where President Obama was to protest taxation, spending, and unconstitutional overreach by the federal government, and Obama sent... A SWAT team out to keep things under control. This was the same speech where Obama said that some people earn too much, and outside grannies were holding signs and knitting. Dangerous grannies, singing "God Bless America." I cannot help but see parallels between how the Nixon administration reacted to hippies and how President Obama reacts to ordinary Americans. I understand that decades of following Alinskyite tactics has reduced the left to believing their hysterical lies about the left, but this was just astonishingly heavy handed. Oh, and conspicuously missing from the legacy media.

Swedish climate expert Dr Goldberg looked at the data on CO2 without presuming any conclusions and discovered something that every climate scientist should have noticed a long time ago (scroll down to April 27th, they haven't worked out permalinks apparently):
Goldberg said there is a nearly 1000 year cycle in climate change but there is a downward trend indicating that we are going towards a new ice age within 4000 years. During the Viking era or the medieval Warm Period it was warm enough to grow grapes and cereal in England, he said. “We had a new peak in high temperature in 2002 after a solar activity maximum, now the temperature is going down again. So we are heading into a cooling period.”

“If you look at the last 150 years, we had a warming period from 1910 to 1940 and then a cooling period from 1941 to 1977. Then it was a warming period from 1977 to 2002,” Goldberg said. This shows a 60 year cycle correlating to the ocean current PDO in the Pacific Ocean.

During the depression period 1929-1933, the production of CO2 went down by 30 percent. But due to the increase of the global temperature, the CO2 increased in the atmosphere because of the heating of the oceans thereby emitting CO2. In 1991, there was an eruption of the Pinatubo volcano, one saw the reduction of CO2 because the volcano ash blocked the sun causing a cooling of the oceans. Goldberg said this is an indication that it was the solar activity that decides the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.
Got that? Warming causes greater CO2 saturation, as the ocean releases it. Like I've said here several times now in the past. He also pointed out that the pools of heat and CO2 around large urban areas seriously distorts climate studies and makes their conclusions basically useless.

The Guardian is an old UK newspaper, and in it they have a section called "comment is free" which is home to some of the most idiotic, vapid, and ignorant leftist tripe imaginable. However, a recent article in the paper was not in this section. It only should have been.
Wildlife documentary makers are infringing animals' rights to privacy by filming their most private and intimate moments, according to a new study.

Footage of animals giving birth in their burrows or mating crosses an ethical line that film-makers should respect, according to Brett Mills, a lecturer in film studies at the University of East Anglia.
Now, I've long wondered why these shows always seem to desperately need to show animals humping, like some demented fixation on zoophilia. Its inevitable, they show the life of the Warbling Bee Rat, and at some point, rats having sex show up on the screen. I don't really want to see this, I doubt many people do, but those documentarians just love this stuff. Sometimes I wonder if they don't have a big film loop of all the sex scenes for private time. "He crash-lands on top of a likely looking lady. There's a bit of luck! One thing's for sure: this boy is horny!" goes one such documentary. Really? Are you sure its not you that is horny film boy?

But to take the position that this violates some mythical right of animals to have privacy is simply insane. Not only do animals have no rights but they simply show zero interest in privacy to begin with. Who here hasn't had wailing cats wake them up, going at it on the back porch? Its not like they go find a nice quiet place and build a bower to keep things to themselves, they're animals. Simply absurd. And, of course, funded by taxpayers.

The guy who came up with this theory? East Anglia University. Home of Hadley CRU and the Piltdown Man hoax.

Johnny Whiteside over at Big Hollywood has an article up which I found interesting and highly plausible. His thesis? The same one as Joni Mitchell when she recently said:
Bob [Dylan] is not authentic at all. He’s a plagiarist, and his name and voice are fake. Everything about Bob is a deception. We are like night and day, he and I.
Mitchell sounds a bit bitter here, but Whiteside goes through and itemizes an amazing amount of plagiarism and at best "borrowing" from other musicians and poets throughout Dylan's unbelievably overhyped, over-rated career. I like some of Dylan's stuff, but most of the time I just cannot get the worship this man gets from hippies and hipsters alike.

Economists at the National Association for Business Economics (NABE) are the ones most trusted for and relied upon for determining when recessions end and begin. They also are considered experts on jobs, employment and unemployment. They made a pretty clear statement recently by more than a 2/3rds majority of the members: the "stimulus" package did no good for the economy. Hibah Yousef at CNN reports:
NABE conducted the study by polling 68 of its members who work in economic roles at private-sector firms. About 73% of those surveyed said employment at their company is neither higher nor lower as a result of the $787 billion Recovery Act, which the White House's Council of Economic Advisers says is on track to create or save 3.5 million jobs by the end of the year.

That sentiment is shared for the recently passed $17.7 billion jobs bill that calls for tax breaks for businesses that hire and additional infrastructure spending. More than two-thirds of those polled believe the measure won't affect payrolls, while 30% expect it to boost hiring "moderately."
But the president says he saved a gajillion trillion mabillion jobs!

President Obama recently made a speech appealing to voters to vote Democrat so they can continue their hard left agenda of change. His appeal seemed to make a lot of people think he was being racist, or at least hardly the post-racial president he campaigned to be, but Bruce McQain at Q and O points out that this was really a cry for help. See, these specific groups that President Obama indicated are moving away from supporting Democrats, which means electoral death for the party. Why? Over at US News and World Report, Ron Bonjean lists the reasons:
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that African-American unemployment jumped to 16.5 percent in March, up from 15.8 percent in February. Hispanic unemployment rose to 12.6 percent. These numbers are much higher than the nation’s unemployment rate, which still hovers at 9.7 percent.
  • America’s young workers haven’t seen positive change. According to a report by the Economic Policy Institute, one of these groups is workers age 16-24, whose unemployment rate peaked at 19.2 percent. And African-American 16-24 year-old workers had the highest rate, starting 2010 at 32.5 percent, followed by Hispanics at 24.2 percent.
  • The percentage of investments made by the Small Business Administration supporting Small Business Investment Companies in minority-owned firms has dropped from 26 percent in 1998 to about 7 percent today.
  • Some 80 percent of Hispanic seniors making less than $20,000 per year were enrolled in a Medicare Advantage program, according to 2007 data--and yet the Obama healthcare law cuts $132 billion from this program. A Medicare analysis released last week shows at least half of all Medicare Advantage enrollees will lose their plan, while others will see higher premiums and lower benefits.
These points do not include the many bad policy proposals that have yet to become law, such as President Obama’s 2010 budget, which cuts $85 billion in education funding to Historically Black Colleges and Universities at a time when they are underfunded during a recession.
Basically, the present economy and many decisions by the Obama administration are frustrating and upsetting these specific groups, and the president is trying to appeal to them to vote Democrat anyway, based on his campaign rhetoric. The problem is, while that might have worked, once, to elect him, its not going to help people vote for congressmen they are enraged at, nor will it likely work again even for President Obama.

Finally, the blogger controversy. Some Apple employee left a new-model IPod in a diner by accident recently, and a blogger picked it up. She commented on it and was arrested for theft. Apple went berserk over having one of its products previewed without their iron clad, absolute control. This became interesting when it was revealed that there is a New Jersey state shield law to protect journalists when they do this kind of thing: do something possibly questionable legally to report a story. So the question that arose was "are bloggers journalists" and the New Jersey judge Anthony Parillo ruled:
There is, of necessity, a distinction between, on the one hand, personal diaries, opinions, impressions and expressive writing and, on the other hand, news reporting.
There's some debate about how accurate that is, and I hope soon to write about just that topic (showing activities of reporters in the past and how much they are like bloggers now), but Scott Hogenson has a different reaction to the story. He doesn't think she was acting as a journalist, either:
Based on the available information, Hale found herself in hot water with a New Jersey software company for an entry she wrote in the comment section of a blog regarding the company, which subsequently sued her for defamation.
She wasn't blogging at the time. She was commenting on a blog, and not reporting anything. Even if reporters are protected by law, they aren't protected when not engaging in their job as a journalist. If some reporter finds out that the governor of New Mexico is actually an alien by breaking into his house, if they twitter that or write it on a bathroom wall, that's not being a journalist and I can't see how the law would protect them. Commenting is not blogging.

I think the question should be stated more like this: "should journalists be protected any more than any other citizen?" And I find it very difficult to say yes to that, even though I consider myself to be journalism on occasion here. And I think Apple is an overbearing company that puts out overrated gadgets for exorbitant prices which gullible hipsters are compelled to own. They should have gone out of business long ago based on their insane need to control everything, but they got clever by giving their products to Hollywood and education types, making them as idiot proof as possible so that even people like Julia Roberts can figure out how to use one. Its not that their products are awful, its that they are grossly overpriced and the business is almost fascist in its need to control every single aspect of their products and prevent anyone anywhere from benefiting from it without them being in charge.

And that's the Word Around the Net for March 30, 2010

RELAX LIKE AN EXPERT

"You are feeling sleepy, very sleepy"

As readers here might have guessed I have the kind of mind that runs about a thousand miles an hour, leaping from point to point making connections without any effort or conscious intent. I can't take credit for this, I was just born this way, like someone born short or with curly hair. In some ways it is a big benefit: it can sometimes make me seem very smart (when I just think fast), but in other ways it is a drawback. For example, when I want to go to sleep. It used to take me an hour or more to actually go to sleep, no matter how tired I was. In fact, the more tired, the longer it would usually take.

Because of this, I had a choice of having fewer active, productive waking hours, or sleeping less. So I started to work on ways to help relax better. In addition, as I've mentioned before, I suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which is a nebulous sort of "we aren't sure what's going on but something is clearly wrong" diagnosis doctors give a large group of unknown ailments. To make a long story short (read the link above for the long story), I will sometimes, apparently without reason or pattern, crash and need a great deal of rest. To get that rest, I needed to learn to relax as completely and quickly as possible.

So although I'm no medical professional nor do I have a degree of any sort (medical or otherwise), I want to pass on a few helpful hints, ways to relax.

The first and most obvious is to notice signs of excitement and nervous distress. If you keep yourself from getting too wound up to begin with, it will take less time and effort to let that spring inside you release and go back to its relaxed state. (I'm using an old watch analogy, kids: you used to have to wind watches, tightening a spring inside which would keep the watch going; if you wound it too much you could break the watch). So be aware of your state, pay attention. Is your stomach clenched, your jaw tight, are you scowling or squinting? Do you have clenched muscles, and do you feel even jumpy and shaky? Just spend a few seconds relaxing, let your muscles go, just take a deep breath and step back a moment. Little things like this can help a lot later, because long periods of heavy stress or nervous tension can seriously hinder rest later on.

To do this means you have to be a lot more aware of your body than many people are. It means paying attention to little clues your body is giving you, thinking about why you feel how you do and what you can do to address that. I don't mean obsessing over your physical health, just being willing to listen. You might not be aware of what it feels like to be really "wound up" like that watch; take some time to find out and isolate each little thing. Does your scalp tense up, do your toes curl, what is it that gives you a sign you're getting too upset and nervous? Take each one and relax it. If you take a few seconds just to do this, you'll be surprised at how effective it is at helping you calm down.

When you do finally get to a place you can rest, make sure its restful. That means no telephone nearby, no games, no people running in and out, just something that is very calm and relaxing. What relaxes people varies a great deal, for example my mom relaxes by doing crossword puzzles. Some people find music can be relaxing, but ultimately silence is the most relaxing because it gives your brain the least to do. Watching television actually requires less brain activity than sitting and doing nothing, so sometimes that can help but it really is best to not have any distractions. For most people that means a quiet, dark comfortable place to lie down in and rest.

Now, when you're in your restful spot, here's where the really useful techniques come into play. If you really need to learn to rest, or you want some tips to relax better, read on.

One of the tricks I've learned is to lie still. I know that sounds infantile, but it is actually something that takes discipline. What I mean is to find a position that is comfortable and stay in it, not moving at all for half an hour or more. Whether you mean to or not, doing so long enough will put your muscles into a rest state and let you calm down. When my CFS gets too bad, I have to do this lie like a corpse and just suffer until it starts feeling better. Nothing else works, so I had to learn to pull it off. The tough part about this is that it can get boring, especially since if I go to sleep when I'm feeling that bad, I'll just wake up feeling worse in a short time, so I have to stay awake until the icky stuff goes away. Another problem is that there's some perverse part of my brain that suddenly decides different parts of my body now need to itch. I don't know if its part of the relaxation, or sleep gnomes or what but it almost always happens. Ignore them; they go away after a while. Yes, its really difficult but they do really go away if you are relaxed enough. Unless a spider is biting you or something.

Another trick is the countdown. I use this a lot when I'm trying to go to sleep. Count down from 100, backward. Don't ram through the count, do it slowly, thinking about each number. The reason this works is two fold. First, it forces you to think about something other than the thousand odd things that might slip through your mind. If they start, focus on the next number instead. Let a second or two pass between each number, say them clearly in your mind, slowly like someone is writing the numbers down. Counting backward helps this focus, because typically people do not count in reverse, so it takes more concentration.

Second, counting down seems to have a psychological effect of moving from one state to another; that final "1" has a sense of completion to it, whereas counting up can go on for infinity. That means you're moving toward something while letting yourself rest. I usually pause a while at 50 to check how well its working, then move on. Count down, without moving, and rest while you do so. Force your brain to focus on one thing as much as you can, and do it in a relaxed, calm way.

Another trick is to force each part of your body to relax. What I do while lying motionless is to start at my toes and relax them, sometimes they'll curl up or tense up. Let each one separately relax and stay that way. Then the soles of your feet, relax them. Your ankles, your calves, your knees, and so on, slowly up your body. Every so often stop and make sure the previous parts are calmed down. Move slowly to your head, lying perfectly still. When you've gotten your whole body relaxed, chances are you're going to feel pretty sleepy - if you're really good at going to sleep, you might already be so. This doesn't just make sure you aren't clenching any muscles but again it forces your brain to focus on something calm and simple instead of darting around randomly and madly over the previous day or what you've been working on. Discipline your mind to obey your will, by giving it something direct and simple to do.

A third trick is the immersion technique. This doesn't involve water, but it does sort of feel that way if you do it right. I imagine myself being slowly, slowly lowered into water. Every part the water touches relaxes and calms. As I am lowered more, more of my body relaxes. This exercise works much the same way as the above, but has a more symbolic and abstract way of doing so, which might work better for some than specific parts.

The last trick is to blank your mind. This is really not very easy to do, and ultimately, you cannot really shut your mind off. What you do is every time something pops into your head, think about calm emptiness. When your mind jumps to something else like "hey I'm thinking of emptiness" move away from it. Keep doing this long enough and you'll find it is easier to do. Eastern religions use this to meditate, trying to achieve a state of nothingness which they believe is closer to ultimate consciousness and nirvana, but all you're really doing is making your brain as calm as humanly possible. That will help you relax otherwise, and if you have your body relaxed, its useful sometimes to do this too.

There is, by the way, a state you can get your mind to, if you're careful and learn, which is very close to sleep and you can force yourself to go to sleep very rapidly that way. I have only been able to do it once or twice, as it is very elusive to find that exact state, but its handy. The only problem is I cannot explain how to do it - just like I cannot explain how to slow or speed your heart rate up (which I can do). It just takes time, practice, and a keen awareness of your body. I'm not some freakish martial arts expert, just someone who had a lot of reason to learn to relax and a lot of chances to do so over my life.

I don't know how common it is for people to have a hard time relaxing or getting sleep, but I do know at least some other people than I are in this position, so maybe these ideas can help a little. If we all were a little more like cats, nobody would need to know any of this; nothing in the world relaxes like a cat.

Quote of the Day

"A certain section of medical opinion, in late years, has succumbed to the messianic delusion. Its spokesmen are not content to deal with the patients who come to them for advice; they conceive it to be their duty to force their advice upon everyone, including especially those who don't want it. That duty is purely imaginary. It is born of vanity, not of public spirit. The impulse behind it is not altruism, but a mere yearning to run things."
-H. L. Mencken

Thursday, April 29, 2010

LINKITY

I don't have time to give this a full treatment and I think he handled it better than I did, so I'm going to encourage everyone to check out my friend Lance's blog and the article he wrote on Williams Syndrome. I'm uncertain this is a valid, genuine thing (they seem to find a syndrome and medical condition for everything) but if it is, I'm highly skeptical of their "chemicals are behind everything" attempt to explain it. Here's an excerpt:
I heard an interesting piece this morning on NPR about a syndrome called Williams Syndrome there are several ways in which this manifests itself but what I found most interesting in the piece as they were talking to the mother of a little girl that has it. Was that in the, words of the piece on NPR this morning.

"But also, kids and adults with Williams love people, and they are literally pathologically trusting. They have no social fear. Researchers theorize that this is probably because of a problem in their limbic system, the part of the brain that regulates emotion. There appears to be a disregulation in one of the chemicals (oxytocin) that signals when to trust and when to distrust."
Read the rest at Lance's One For the Ages blog.

PICTURE OF THE DAY


I doubt he's even opened the book, honestly. I encourage you to.

BATTERED LEFTIST SYNDROME

"And even then, I understood. I couldn't blame them for what they were doing."
-Robert Fisk

Back before he went around the bend on homosexual "marriage," Andrew Sullivan coined the term "fisking" by mocking a leftist. Robert Fisk went to Afghanistan and got himself beat up by radical Muslims. His response? Write a column about white guilt and how much he deserved it, because as a white man he represents oppression and as a British man he represents colonialism. Sullivan roundly and rightly mocked this absurdity so well that a new term was created to describe the line by line annihilation of someone's idiotic statements.

That sort of self abuse, claiming that you deserve mistreatment due to some leftist dogma is disturbing to behold. Like a scumbag who claims a woman deserved rape because of how she dresses and acts, Fisk took that on himself. I had it coming because of my heritage! He cried. One would think that level of irrationality would be limited to just one particularly demented leftist but no.

Recently leftist women have come to light expressing this same irrationality. The first is from Ace of Spades HQ, originally written on a site called - I kid you not - Caucasians United for Reparations and Emancipation (CURE). Here's part of her story:
In 2000, I was jumped by a group of eight Black women outside of a club, so I also understand what you are saying about being fearful and in some cases being discriminated against. As a white journalist who has worked for Black newspapers and who has experienced reverse discrimination firsthand, I definitely agree that White people often find themselves in an awkward position. But what I have come to understand and to believe is that those of us who are chosen for this work are often forced to experience situations that might be reflective of the ones that Blacks have had in America so that we can begin to understand the pain that they have endured. Though it took a couple of years to come to terms with it, I have come to grips with the fact that what I experienced was the wrath of not only eight individuals who might have had unjust dealings with Whites in their own lives, but who also bear the weight of over 400 years worth of similar experiences on their shoulders and in their psyches as well.
See, blacks for 400 years have been beaten by the white man, so being jumped and beaten up by Blacks only helped her understand their pain. White people have been so very mean to Black people for so long that her minor incident was of no consideration. But wait, there's more! This woman, named Amanda Furness-Kijera, claims she had another experience, this time in Haiti (courtesy Stacy McCain):
Two weeks ago, on a Monday morning, I started to write what I thought was a very clever editorial about violence against women in Haiti.

Ever committed to preserving the dignity of Black men in a world which constantly stereotypes them as violent savages, I viewed this writing as yet one more opportunity to fight “the man” on behalf of my brothers. That night, before I could finish the piece, I was held on a rooftop in Haiti and raped repeatedly by one of the very men who I had spent the bulk of my life advocating for.

I pleaded with him to honor my commitment to Haiti, to him as a brother in the mutual struggle for an end to our common oppression, but to no avail. He didn’t care that I was a Malcolm X scholar. He told me to shut up, and then slapped me in the face.

Black men have every right to the anger they feel in response to their position in the global hierarchy, but their anger is misdirected.

Women are not the source of their oppression; oppressive policies and the as-yet unaddressed white patriarchy which still dominates the global stage are.

Not once did I envision myself becoming a receptacle for a Black man’s rage at the white world, but that is what I became. While I take issue with my brother’s behavior, I’m grateful for the experience...
One more time: she had it coming and she was grateful because it helped her understand their pain and anger. Good thing those violent stereotypes of Haitian thugs weren't so true.

Then we come to the Ayers incident. Bill Ayers, unrepentant terrorist and radical is a professor of education at Illinois University in Chicago and both friend and adviser to President Obama. By all accounts he's also a terrible person. It is about this man we get our next example of the battered leftist woman, courtesy Front Page Magazine:
It was at the Undergraduate Library at the University of Michigan on a Friday night in November 1965. I was a sophomore and was living in a sorority house — Alpha Epsilon Phi. Billy Ayers was standing on the first floor and started talking to me

He asked me to go to a party with him and I did... I think he got quite drunk and I suppose I drank too.

I met Bill’s roommate who also worked at the children’s school. I also met Bill’s younger brother Rick. Bill was a year older than I and his brother was a year younger. He spent a lot of time at Bill’s apartment.

I guess it was one of those evenings — maybe on the way back from the library, maybe just to get out of the sorority house, I don’t remember exactly. What I do recall is that when I was getting ready to leave Ayers told me I couldn’t go until I slept with his roommate and his brother. At this point Bill and I had slept together just once. I was sexually inexperienced, having had only one serious boyfriend with whom I had recently broken up.

At first I thought Ayers was joking. I got up; and went to the door. He moved quickly to block me at the doorway. He locked the door and put the chain on it. I went to the couch and sat down and told him that I had no intention of having sex with his roommate and his brother or him. He said that I had no choice but to do as he said if I wanted to get out of there. He claimed that I wouldn’t sleep with his married roommate because he was black — that I was a bigot. I had gone to school with black kids and had them as friends all my life. I couldn’t believe he was saying that to me

I felt trapped. I had to get out of the situation I was in and because he was so effective a guilt-tripper,
I also felt I had to prove to him that I wasn’t a bigot.
Why, clearly it would be bigoted to refuse to be raped. Still, this was in the past, so Ayers should be forgiven his youthful high spirits, right? That's what we're told about his murderous activity in the Weathermen.

Still, when I read these accounts - and I'm guessing they are likely accurate - I can't help but think of the women I've known in the past who, despite being with a man who is abusive, even physically violent, stayed with him. They were afraid to leave because of how angry he'd get and had developed a pattern of avoiding upsetting him because of the violence and abuse. But there was something else.

They loved these men, despite their pain and broken bones. They loved the one who was being so abusive, who made them feel like dirt and never missed a chance to grind them down. These women loved the men who were so awful to them, and even sometimes considered their actions an example of that love. It was their love that curled their hand into a fist, they deserved it, somehow. This "battered woman" syndrome is not uncommon in a situation of this sort. It is usually driven by a large helping of guilt.

After all, you have two choices: either you are such a loser you picked someone violent who abuses you to love (even marry) and thus have absolutely no judgment or intelligence in the one area most women consider themselves experts in: relationships... or you must be doing something to make him so very mad - and the man never misses an opportunity to encourage this belief by continually criticizing the woman. If only she'd stop nagging, if she'd stop whining, if she'd take better care of herself, the house, the kids; and so on. So guilt fills the woman in many cases, making her feel as if deep down, she really deserves this treatment.

Its the same sort of madness these leftist women are expressing. Deep down, just by being born Caucasian, they deserve this kind of treatment. Their ethnic background taints them forever with the sins and believed sins of their ancestors. A White man once mistreated a Black man, so forever after, all Whites are guilty of that mistreatment. The logic can be pretty tortured (just read that full article on CURE to see the byzantine madness in defense of reparations), but they cling to it like a life raft in a stormy sea.

In a way I suppose its a sort of coping mechanism: this helps make sense of the senseless attacks they suffered. Without this one bit of explanation they'd have no way of comprehending why it happened, because it makes no sense in their worldview. To be sure, the Biggest Victim game is played a lot on the left: women vs blacks vs gays and so on. But in general, they all try to back each other's play to change society toward a leftist utopia. These women had a choice:
  1. Admit that their chosen identity group included some very bad people who did awful things
  2. Decide that it was somehow their identity group oppressing the other which caused this
And that first choice is so very unattractive because it requires an admission that it is something inside us, not our culture which prompts acts of evil. It violates the basic tenets of leftist ideology: humans are basically decent, but are twisted by outside forces such as civilization, technology, or evil Republicans, to do bad things. Black men aren't ever bad, they are forced to do things which some call bad because of 400 years of oppression by White men.

The mental gymnastics required to believe this kind of thing aren't just useful, but required for someone on the radical left to really buy into their worldview. They have to believe this kind of thing or begin to doubt their basic understanding of reality. And that's too frightening to even consider.

So not all leftists who get mugged turn into conservatives. Some turn into even more whiny, idiotic leftists who defy any sympathy by their incredibly vapid understanding of reality.

Quote of the Day

"We're asking for big government"
-Sting at an Earth Day rally

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

PICTURE OF THE DAY

And now for something completely different, a kyoot skunk:


Apparently skunks make pretty good pets, once you de-stink them.

GM GOES DEEPER

"They whined and b*tched all through the Bush years about “corporate welfare,” yet here we have a clear case of it."

I wrote a little bit about the GM "loan repayment" scam in the Word Around the Net for last week but I had to put an update here.

In brief, GM made an announcement that they'd paid off their government loan so people should buy their cars now. They even have ads coming out with that pitch. The truth is not so great. Not only did they only pay off 6.7% of their bailout back, but they paid it using TARP funds, which they have to pay off. So its like they took a credit card to pay off another. They still are working with government bailout funds, its just that they took a different bailout (which is legally only to be used for keeping banks afloat).

Well as more information has come out, we find that its even worse than the initial news indicated. Bruce McQuain at Q&O has the story courtesy a Forbes Magazine article:
When this story was first reported, it was claimed that TARP money was used to pay the loan. That’s true, but not exactly how you might have imagined it. Remember, GM reported a $3.4 billion fourth quarter, and a loss for the year. Where did it get $6.7 billion to pay off the loan? Here’s where:
As it turns out, the Obama administration put $13.4 billion of the aid money as “working capital” in an escrow account when the company was in bankruptcy. The company is using this escrow money–government money–to pay back the government loan.
Yes, that’s right, they used a taxpayer funded escrow account to pay off the loan.
And its even more tricksy than that. GM got the money from a fund used to help auto manufacturers survive increasing CAFE (fuel efficiency) standards, and that loan is cheaper than the original bailout to pay back. As McQ puts it:
In short, GM is using government money to pay back government money to get more government money. And at a 2% lower interest rate at that. This is a nifty scheme to refinance GM’s government debt–not pay it back!
Whose idea all this was is in some question, although since the Unions and US government are majority share holders and run the General Motors, its not hard to guess. This attempt to make GM look better to annoyed customers who didn't care for the bailout - or most of GM's products - makes them look worse than ever.

BAD STUFF

"click here for a free screen saver!"

Symantec has been fighting malicious software such as adware (makes ads pop up on your system), spyware (keeps track of your internet activity and sends it to someone), and even viruses for decades now. One of the industry leaders, they also have been watching trends and keeping track of statistics. For example, the internet faces more than 100 attacks a second by malicious computer programs. BBC news reported on some other data:
The number of malware (malicious software) samples that Symantec saw in 2009 was 71% higher than in 2008.

This meant, said Symantec, that 51% of all the viruses, trojans and other malicious programs it has ever seen were logged during 2009. In total, Symantec identified almost 2.9 million items of malicious code during that 12 month period.
Part of the problem is that the vile scum who create these programs have actually invented toolkits that you can download or buy to help you build your own malware - some even with phone help lines. This takes the malware industry out of the hands of the technogeek and puts it into the hands of just the average internet user. So there's been a gigantic surge in the dangerous stuff out there trying to infect your computer and Symantec estimates that every 4.5 seconds it succeeds, somewhere.

Another major aid is the growth of social media, which makes it much easier to gain information about potential targets, and access to their computers. For example, as I've written about before, Facebook has many different possible openings to malware. Yet it really does only take a little common sense to avoid 99% of the problems. There are three major causes of bad stuff on your computer:
  • Going to bad websites. You know the kind I'm talking about, and how to avoid them. If this is a website you don't want anyone knowing you went to, avoid it; they are the most likely to carry malware.
  • Clicking on stuff. If some window pops up insisting you click on it, don't. If it won't go away, shut down the browser. If you cannot then hit Control-Alt-Delete, select the program from the Applications list and shut it down. Do not hit "cancel" do not hit the x in the corner.
  • Downloading anything you aren't sure about. That means anything someone sends you in an email, anything suggested in Facebook, anything that claims its found a problem on your system, anything you didn't mean to get but was thrown in for free.
Avoid these three basic mistakes and you can have a pretty safe computer. There are other security things you can do like a regular scan and good firewall, but these are pretty simple tools to avoid malware.

MY TEA PARTY SPEECH

I've never been asked to speak at a Tea Party rally (or any other) and I expect the people who organize these things have never heard of me. I've been to a couple of these events and each time in the Salem rallies I've been frustrated with how its been mostly one Republican politician after another (with a few libertarians scattered in) rather than just folks. The movement isn't about politics its about the constitution, and it isn't about politicians, its about citizens. The Salem guys don't seem to understand this.

If I made a speech at one of these rallies, it would go something like this:
Good afternoon everyone, I'm glad to see so many people here. I'd like to ask everyone here a question, if I might... how many people here have read the United States Constitution? Just a show of hands... (presumably several would have, given the content of the rally). That's great, quite a few. It isn't a very long document, and it is actually easy to read for a legal paper. That puts you above most of the legislators and politicians in the capitol here (gesture behind me) and in Washington DC. (allow for crowd muttering)

When recently confronted with the question of where exactly in the Constitution congress was permitted to take control of health insurance, Democratic leadership was largely stumped, but a few tried to say it was in one clause or another, even if they had to invent one. Yeah, I know, that's pretty bad. After all, these are supposedly representatives of the people, chosen to do the job of governing in our place, according to our will and needs, so they ought to be at least as well-informed as the rest of us, right?

There's just one thing: we live in a Democratic Republic. Everyone who is serving as a representative in a political office in this nation was elected by you or me - or temporarily appointed by a duly elected politician. That means each of these people were chosen based on our votes, and put into power by our will. If they don't know what they are doing, if they don't understand the constitution or haven't read it that's our fault. It is far too easy, if justifiable, to throw rhetorical stones at the US Congress for their arrogant disregard for the will of the people and for their blatant disinterest in dealing with the issues we care most about. It is another thing entirely to look at the glass house of our own voting habits and care in selecting candidates.

I can hear some of you muttering "look at the crap we have to choose from" and you're right, usually we have a choice between one ignorant, unqualified bozo and another who is even more so. The last presidential election was one of the most painful examples of this in my lifetime: I didn't want either one in office; one was worse than the other. Yet again, whose fault is that? Yes, the party system tries to force on us one career lawyer after another lifetime politician, both of whom are good at being politicians but not so good at being representatives and statesmen. There is a lot of room for blame in the parties; their desire for power outweighs their interest in service. Their pragmatism far outweighs their integrity and far too easily honor is cast aside for compromise.

Yet the parties try to pick people they figure are most likely to be elected; they are looking for the person most likely to succeed, and they tend to be run by the people most driven by an interest and understanding of the system and how it works, not by people driven by a love for their nation and a desire for what is right and true. These aren't horrible people, they aren't crass cynics, they are simply the ones left over when the rest of us go home. They are the ones who'll bravely charge through the grinding gears and awful slime of the political system and after enough of that most people start to lose focus. These people didn't, and they end up in the positions they are to influence what happens.

Ultimately, in the system we enjoy in America due to the liberty bought for us at so dear a price over centuries of struggle, hard work, and even bloodshed, the only person we can blame for the government we get and the leadership we find in office is you and me. I can point at the fools in office with one finger, but three more are pointing right back at me, and rightly so. We have to try harder, do better, study more, and understand more completely the politicians offered up to us. We need to know the system better, know our laws better, and know our constitution better than any age before us. Thankfully, we have all the tools we need at our fingertips for just that effort.

We have a long, hard struggle ahead of us, as liberty always requires. Yet we have everything we need, if only we reach for these tools. Each of us can access the internet quickly and easily, even if you personally do not have an internet connection in your home. That vast sea of information and sleaze also is a storehouse of every document in American history of political, legal, and educational importance. What's more, it has the very things we need most to understand why Thomas Jefferson and James Madison concluded what they did about liberty and how the US should be constructed. It has the writings of Locke, Montesquieu, Rousseau, and more ready to read and study.

Without knowing the basic ideas of the founding fathers and understanding why they came to the conclusions they did, all we do is echo and parrot what others have said before us. And when we do that, we not only cannot truly understand the implications of what the founding fathers said and bled and died for, but we cannot pass on that understanding to others. Like I said before, this is a long struggle, we have to undo almost a century of continual work by those who would undermine the very foundations of the United States and everything the founding fathers and Constitution stand for. It will take a long time - generations, even - to repair that damage.

The only way we can hope to do so is to, every one of us, in every opportunity, make sure we and everyone else knows what must be done and why. Those of you blessed by God enough to be parents - although God knows at times it may not feel like a blessing - have the greatest burden of responsibility. Your children are being educated by the world around you with a continual ocean of leftist ideology and rejection of the ideals that built this country up to what it is. Even if you home school, the entertainment media and even the educational materials you may use all try to slip a system of thought alien and contrary to what the founding fathers built for us to enjoy into the most innocuous of topics. Your kids will one day face the world without your guidance and when they fly free, they need every single tool and understanding to face that world without being overwhelmed.

Each of us have friends and family members and co workers, all of whom may not understand this country and its founding as they ought. Each of us can take every civil and reasonable opportunity to help them understand. The US Constitution really is a living document, in the sense that it grows and lives in the hearts and minds of every US citizen when it is understood and passed on. And there's something else we can and must do as far as our abilities permit.

Its all well and good to find good politicians to vote for and to support. There's just more every citizen has a duty to do in America, and that's to be involved in the system. Conservatives and Libertarians alike have spent most of the country's history standing on the sidelines, working hard and doing our jobs, but not getting into the ugly, nasty, staining guts of the actual political system. We let others do that while we keep the nation actually functioning. That's well and good, when things are working well. That time has passed; things aren't working well and this country desperately needs more than just an honest day's work for an honest day's pay.

Who among us knows enough of the world around us and the constitution to run for office? Who among us has the drive, the health, and the dedication to face the opposition and grinding animosity of the left to serve their country as a representative? The time for you to sit aside and talk about it has passed, it is time to step up. There are more serious people running for office now than I remember at any time in my life; that's good. We need even more. Because that's what the primary system is about.

Who among us will step up and become involved in the party system? Almost every position is voluntary, and that means only the most zealous or stubborn will actually get involved. If you don't care for how the Republican Party backs candidates, spends its money, advertises, and presents its self publicly, then this is your opportunity to make a difference. If you don't care for how the Democratic Party has abandoned its original charge of federalism, helping the little guy, and reaching out for the future, then this is your opportunity to make a difference. The local precincts elect the next highest rank in the party, who in turn elect the next highest, and so on. By getting involved locally, you affect the party nationally.

This means taking extra hours in a day, it means doing things we really don't want to do, and it means sometimes serving your fellow man when you'd rather go home and rest. Believe me, more than most I understand this. The Tea Party movement is well and good, but these rallies do not mean anything if all it does is meet on sunny days to carry signs around and listen to speeches. We have to get into the battle and fight hard, wherever we can and however we can, to make what we're upset about and opposed to change.

This November, many incumbents in Washington DC are about to feel our unleashed, collective wrath at their arrogance, corruption, and outright contempt for the American people. That's good; they serve at our desire, not the other way around. Yet after that happens, will you put down the signs and go home? Because electing more Republicans to congress will not make the problems go away. We have to stay involved, stay passionate, and stay active or we cannot win the battle. D-Day was an awful, bloody fight, but it was a long, long way from Victory. We cannot turn away once we've won a single major battle - and that means being involved everywhere and with everyone we can, to win the long war.

Thank you for your time.

Quote of the Day

“It’s a stark illustration of the inequities of capitalism that organized labor can only afford to buy one political party, but Wall Street can buy both of them.”
-Mickey Kaus

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

PICTURE OF THE DAY

RED LIGHT FIGHT

"They're not going to bring that up. It's about the money."

In the past I've written a few times about red light cameras, how they are used primarily to make money by the cities who install them - even to the point of shortening the yellow lights to catch more people running reds. These cameras are ostensibly to nail people running lights, something most people try not to do (unless they are taxi drivers late at night - they pretty much just ignore lights and traffic laws in general). Yet are they helping with public safety at all?

A survey of studies by the University of South Florida suggests that the lights do not actually increase public safety at all. In the St Petersburg Times, Michael Van Sickler reports:
One such study was by the Urban Transit Institute at the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. It compiled 57 months of before-and-after data that showed red light cameras were associated with a 40 percent increase in accident rates and no decrease in severe crashes. Two other studies the researchers deemed reliable showed crashes climbed after cameras were installed.
Others at the university dispute the paper and the studies inside. They want the University to make it clear that they do not all stand behind this paper and want everyone to know they're behind red light cameras. The primary voice of opposition in this is a man named Mierzejewski who is the director of the university's Center for Urban Transportation Research. His research on the topic? Google. Still, he brings up some valid problems with the research used in at least one of the studies as well.

Whether this data was properly gathered or not, and whether the cameras enhance safety or not really is beside the point for cities and towns. One anecdote from the report helps illustrate this:
Trauma center hospitals, facing budget cuts, were in search of revenue. They had been approached by vendors of red light cameras to support bills in the Legislature that would make them legal in the state. In exchange, they'd get a cut of the money...
Red Light Cameras are revenue enhancement plans, and particularly in times when most places are facing revenue shortfalls, they just aren't going to cut back on such a cash cow. Like the mafia who's willing to put up with an awful lot from someone because they're such a great "earner" the city shrugs at evidence which makes their cameras look bad.

Because the alternative is cuts, and that's just not on the table.

*Hat tip Instapundit for this story

TO THE VICTORS

"We sent a clear message to the West regarding the red lines that should not be crossed."
-Organization of the Islamic Conference

There was a show on TV once which had a cartoon version of Muhammad, Lao Tsu, Jesus Christ, Buddha, Joseph Smith, and more portrayed as superheroes. In this long ago period, the show portrayed all of these characters openly and without fear or censorship.

Times have changed since then, as we all know. Comedy Central's South Park has been forced to censor appearances of Muhammad in later portrayals - oh I didn't mention that? Yes it was South Park. Muhammad actually has shown up several times on the cartoon, but since 2006 Comedy Central has forced them to censor the character lest Muslims be offended.

Russ Douthat in a recent New York Times column opined:
But there’s still a sense in which the “South Park” case is particularly illuminating. Not because it tells us anything new about the lines that writers and entertainers suddenly aren’t allowed to cross. But because it’s a reminder that Islam is just about the only place where we draw any lines at all.

Across 14 on-air years, there’s no icon “South Park” hasn’t trampled, no vein of shock-comedy (sexual, scatalogical, blasphemous) it hasn’t mined. In a less jaded era, its creators would have been the rightful heirs of Oscar Wilde or Lenny Bruce — taking frequent risks to fillet the culture’s sacred cows.
And he's right, South Park goes out of its way to be offensive, iconoclastic, disrespectful, and insulting to everyone, with no limits to its targets. Frequently on shows they will mock and attack both sides of a given cultural debate, with foul-mouthed children leading the way.

The first episode that Comedy Central censored Muhammad's appearance in also included a scene where Jesus, President Bush, and the American Flag all had human feces thrown at them by a Muslim. That scene (over a minute long) made it into the show, but not an image of a silent Muhammad merely walking in the door. Mr Douthat notes other western cowering before Islamic wrath:
In a way, the muzzling of “South Park” is no more disquieting than any other example of Western institutions’ cowering before the threat of Islamist violence. It’s no worse than the German opera house that temporarily suspended performances of Mozart’s opera “Idomeneo” because it included a scene featuring Muhammad’s severed head. Or Random House’s decision to cancel the publication of a novel about the prophet’s third wife. Or Yale University Press’s refusal to publish the controversial Danish cartoons ... in a book about the Danish cartoon crisis. Or the fact that various Western journalists, intellectuals and politicians — the list includes Oriana Fallaci in Italy, Michel Houellebecq in France, Mark Steyn in Canada and Geert Wilders in the Netherlands — have been hauled before courts and “human rights” tribunals, in supposedly liberal societies, for daring to give offense to Islam.
Why? Well obviously fear plays a major part but there's another emotional reason: they want to appease the enemy. The idea is if we stop making the Muslims so mad, they'll stop doing mean things and we'll all join hands and sing a Beatles medley. Think I'm exaggerating or unfairly characterizing leftist entertainment and media types?

Look at the timing involved: before 9/11, mere months before the terrorist strike on America, that religious-figures-as-superheros episode ran. It was okay then, before the terrorists hit America. After? Now its banned. What's the only thing that changed? The left was terrified when 9/11 happened: the heart of leftist culture and thought was hit: New York City, the Jerusalem of leftists in America. It could happen again, anywhere! No where was safe from the Muslim radicals! That's why Gore screamed about President Bush playing on their "feeaarrrs!!!!" Because they were so scared when this happened they went along with anything.

Yet their response isn't to fight the terrorism and stop it at its source, they don't want to defeat this evil and prevent any more strikes. They want to appease it and make nice with terrorists, on the idiot assumption that the only reason they are so very mad at us is because we've been so very mean to them. So if they prevent images of Muhammad from being shown, well maybe they won't be so upset. Bow to the Saudi King even though he said nobody should bow to him. Don't criticize the Iranian government for crushing their own people seeking liberty. Don't try to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons. Urge the US to pull out of Iraq because the Muslims seem to dislike our presence there.

This combination of fear and appeasement (and the latter follows the former) essentially means that western popular culture and academia - if not the actual people - have surrendered to the terrorists. Its easy to say 'if you do x the terrorists have won!' but there is a sense in which caving in to Islam to prevent its adherents from doing the things which scare you is their victory. If you can make fun of every single icon and object of respect in the world except for Islam, then Islam is de facto the one thing you respect, fear, and honor.

Like the Muslim leaders in the 18th century who thought the rest of the world feared, respected, and obeyed them because other nations would bring chests of gold to them in tribute to stop Barbary pirates, today the Islamic leaders can think no different: we command, and they obey. We threaten, and they cringe. The west is weak, they surrender to us, terrorism works.

When even the cartoonist who went out of her way to call for "Draw Muhammad" day backs off and claims it was stupid to even mention it, you know that's a victory for the Muslim radicals she fears.

In a world where people think there is no absolute right and wrong and there is nothing save what we can touch, measure, and scientifically prove, then threats to someone's life and health are the most powerful weapon a man can wield.

South Park wields satire and sarcasm, usually in the crudest, most infantile way possible, as a different weapon; and they've made the cringing, pathetic western pop culture movement look really weak and stupid. Again.

Quote of the Day

Humor is the only test of gravity, and gravity of humor; for a subject which will not bear raillery is suspicious, and a jest which will not bear serious examination is false wit.
-Aristotle

Monday, April 26, 2010

ARCHIE AND KEVIN

Isn't it Bromantic?

Archie comics aren't as popular as they once were. Lets face it, comics in general aren't as popular as they once were, but Archie is pretty much only bought by a granny at a checkout aisle thinking "ooh, Billy would like this" and grabbing it off the rack. The comic is still just as silly and occasionally worth a chuckle as it once was, which is to say not that fun, but they are trying really hard to get more readers.

The first trick tried by the Archie guys was to remake Betty and Veronica. Now for decades, they've looked pretty much like this:


These characters showed up in the 1940s and have been consistently drawn ever since, but the Archie geniuses decided to "fix" their look to be more modern. The redesign looked like this:


It was a miserable failure, and the link on the Archie website is now dead - never happened, we shall never look back, like Highlander 2.

Now they've hit on another scheme: Kevin. Kevin is gay, the first openly gay character in Archie's little town. Because people who read Archie were just waiting for that development. Breitbart reports:
Now the teenage characters are to welcome a new gay classmate, Kevin Keller, in a move designed to reflect the reality of the modern world, Archie Comics co-chief executive Jon Goldwater said.

"The introduction of Kevin is just about keeping the world of Archie Comics current and inclusive," Goldwater said in a statement.

"Archie's hometown of Riverdale has always been a safe world for everyone. It just makes sense to have an openly gay character in Archie comic books."
I don't begrudge the owners of this title wanting a bigger audience or to make more money. Its their product to do with whatever they want. Times have changed since 1940 Riverdale, although Jughead still tends to wear the little crown hat (which believe it or not was actually popular with some kids around that time). And its not like Archie is some revered and sacred American icon. Honestly the comic pretty well sucks.

I also don't doubt that this will get people talking about Archie for the first time perhaps in their lives. But will it get anyone to buy Archie comics and read them? Even the gay camp scene isn't likely to pick up Archie as a new icon or Kevin as their new symbol of gay pride. So this isn't likely to help them much - in fact, granny might be significantly less willing to buy a copy for Billy now. But hey, its their company and their money.

No, they can do whatever they want with their business, even stupid or self destructive things, that's something I've long argued here. My problem is with the ideology behind the change. I suspect its mostly "we need a broader audience and to seem more modern and relevant," but the public statement given above gives me hives. "The introduction of Kevin is just about keeping the world of Archie Comics current and inclusive," he said. Inclusive? Not only is that one of the more obnoxious buzz phrases thrown about, and you can tell this guy speaks corporate lingo like a pro, but its asinine.

Homosexuals are not new, nor are they more numerous than ever. There's still a consistent 1 1/2-3% total in the population that there's always been. Its a tiny minority that's always been around, and will always be around on this earth. It isn't suddenly time to have gays in comics because there's some seismic shift in the population or demographics. Its just suddenly, unlike the vast bulk of human history, demanded that homosexual behavior be culturally acceptable.

And here's my problem - its like the GOP suddenly deciding they love the GOProud movement of gay Republicans. Why? Where do you choose who is just fine to be part of you and who is not? What is the criteria by which you make that call? Homosexuality is still, among the bulk o the world, considered not just icky but immoral. Every major religion on earth still condemns homosexual activity as morally wrong (yes, even Buddhism, although they basically think all sexual activity is wrong).

When you're up against that kind of reality, what compels these guys to think its time to embrace homosexual normality? I understand the entertainment and arts community has a disproportionate percentage of gays, and I understand that they also tend to tilt left, which has decided recently that homosexuals are an oppressed minority. I also understand that younger people tend to say that they have less a problem with homosexuals than older people, when pressed for an answer. At least, in public.

What I don't understand is why this particular type of group is now suddenly so acceptable its become so mainstreamed its in Archie comics, the most white bread American icon since ... well white bread. How is this choice made, other than "well people seem to be fine with it and all my buddies are pressuring me to give in?"

Because it looks an awful lot to me like this is just one more step in the continual pressure to normalize homosexual behavior which represents a tiny minority of people, against the general will of the majority without any attempt to persuade or convince. Its just being asserted and insisted upon. Its only inclusive, after all.

ALMOST LIVE

"Be like billy!"

There was a show on television for over ten years in the Seattle Area called Almost Live! It was home to several people you probably know but didn't realize their origin, such as Bill Nye (the science guy), Pat Cashman (who does a lot of voice over work such as for Bill Nye's show and National Geographic's Amazing Planet), but a lot of people on it dropped out of show business such as the main host John Keister.

For those of you who lived outside this area or didn't manage to catch the short run on Comedy Central, you missed an absolute gem. Like Second City, this was a comedy troupe who were just consistently funny and likable and worked very well together on a small budget. The shows were always fun to watch and often so funny my gut hurt by the time the show ended. In the honor of Almost Live and to help those of you who never have seen this incredible show, here's a few representative skits to give you an idea what it was like and what you've missed.

First, the High Five'n White Guys, the whitest guys you know:




Next, Speed Walker! Seattle's health-conscious superhero, played by Bill Nye:




Then, another continuing character and bit: Mind Your Manners With Billy Quan. This had fun with kung fu movies and kids educational television while being hilarious:




Another repeating bit was the Lame List, where they'd ask local headbanging rockers about different topics to get their reaction: usually this was the (then little known) band Soundgarden. Often this was inside joke stuff like the haircut of a local woman:




Then they tackled both inept business meetings and management with terrorism and made it funny with Middle Management Suckups:




And finally, they made fun of political correctness, which even then was a serious annoyance:



Some of the skits were so local they wouldn't make sense to people outside the northwest - or even Seattle. The parody of Heidi with a girl and her pet slug is a Northwest inside joke, but the "Linwood school of beauty" makes little sense outside the Seattle area. Still, even if you aren't part of the inside joke they still made it fun to watch and I never once saw them do anything offensively political or insultingly biased.

If you can find these guys to watch, even one of the many Youtube videos, give them a shot, you won't be sorry - even if some of the jokes are a bit old or too inside. Like SCTV they made a lot of fun of network television and entertainment, and even more fun of themselves. Because not everything is political and serious.

THE POLITICS OF DIVISION

If anyone wanted to make some money, they’d come up with a new bumper sticker for people who have QUESTION AUTHORITY plastered on their car. It would read HOW DARE YOU, and would go right in front of the old one.
That's how James Lileks opens up his Pajamas Media article, and it gets better from there. His topic is the ridiculous, self-parodying reaction of the left to the Tea Party movement; a shocked stare of fear and horror that someone might protest and question their president, that someone might utter dissent from the established and elected authorities! Why, its unprecedented!
Now that things have changed, here are some things to keep in mind:

1. Discussing the threat posed by militant Islam and its innumerable anti-American manifestations, based on a long record of attacks: fear-mongering designed to make us accept a police state, and opportunism of the most despicable sort.

2. Discussing the threat posed by citizens who dispute budgetary and legislative initiatives: temperate analysis. Remember, Timothy McVeigh had an AM radio in the vehicle he drove to carry out his attack, and Rush Limbaugh was on AM radio. You have to deny science to say that’s not true.

3. All efforts to roll back any initiatives of the Obama administration are RACIST. Example: say they’re opposed to increasing the penalty on late-reporting of data relating to a Medicaid billing that may have been due to an interpretation on the wording about whether an in-patient procedure required an examination or a consultation. But it’s really about the melanin content of the guy who signed the bill, although he probably has no idea which provision you’re talking about.

4. Bringing up the way some investors in GM got the drive-shaft in the take-over is a subtle threat to violence, because history shows most cross-burners drove to the scene of the crime.

5. Saying you want to “defeat” President Obama is eliminationist rhetoric, a code word that recalls WW2, when everyone knew that “defeating” Germany meant putting Hitler on trial and hanging him.

6. Anyone who describes himself as a “Christian” and a “Patriot” is probably a “Christian Patriot,” which means they probably stay up nights discussing fertilizer bombs via ham radio with Aryan Nation cells in Idaho. Or, writing lesson plans for Sunday school about how marriage should really be about a man and a woman. Six of one, half dozen, etc.
It is truly bizarre to me how people on the left, many of them, are genuinely concerned that any protest or rising up of the people opposed to the left (not necessarily even right wing) must involve violence, assassination, brown shirts, and fascism. That there cannot possibly be anyone who disagrees with their enlightened brilliance unless they are an unstable gun-clinging freak who is one step away from armed revolt.

The fact that these rallies are orderly, calm, polite, and dignified is irrelevant to this narrative; the fact that the only violence so far has been from leftist union thugs attacking Tea Party members is meaningless. The right is dangerous, radical, freakish, and extremist. According to these people, when the left says "revolution" they mean a change, even by the most peaceful, gradual means. When the right says "revolution" they mean violence, killing, guns, explosions, and tyranny. Mind you, that's the opposite in actual practice, just ask unrepentant terrorist and Obama adviser Bill Ayers.

It's not that there aren't violent right wingers out there - they are called anarchists, not the faux organized "anarchists" like the black block infants who run around in black shirts breaking things and calling for stronger world government while pretending to want less. I'm talking about the real kind: the kind that tried to blow up the parliament building long ago in England, the crazy guys with bombs who want to destroy all government and build from scratch a society where any man can do anything he wants without any restrictions whatsoever from anyone, anywhere. That's what the radical right wing looks like (Nazis are left wing). Its just that the Tea Parties are anything but that.

I'm honestly stunned at the incredible degree of self deception and deliberate blindness by the left here. Sure, some of it, as Mark Steyn points out in a recent column, is a desperate attempt to frighten at least enough moderates to help them eke out a narrow win in November. They need minorities to view anyone who dares disagree with the left as bigoted hate-filled violent racists. And, reprehensibly, some of the language is ridiculously contrived and deliberate.

But a lot of it, I fear, is not.

It is born of a genuine fear of the right gaining power. Look at the stark, unhinged madness and terror when the Republican Party controlled congress and the white house recently. No evil, no rumor, no tooth-gnashing fear was too extreme to be believed, every possible bad thing would come from this. The fact that none of it did was completely irrelevant: these people were the epitome of everything which is bad with this world. Because people who disagree with "progressive" thought aren't mistaken, confused, misled, or misinformed. They are malicious, hateful, warmongering, bigoted, and filled with everything wrong in the world; or so we're told by the left.

HOW WE GOT HERE
How on earth can you come to view your opposition this way? Is is some basic psychosis, are leftists mentally deranged like several leftist studies have tried to claim about the right? I think there are three reasons. Keep in mind these are broad generalizations. Any given leftist might have only one or two of these ideas in their head, few have all three. And none of us are consistent, I try to be rational and thoughtful about actions but I can fly off the handle emotionally with the best of them. Nobody is always all one way or another. Yet I think these explain most leftist behavior - and more than that, what's happened to political rhetoric and the union of the "United" States.

The first and I believe most obvious is the basic approach toward problem solving and understanding life that the left tends to cling to. Instead of examining ideas and situations, policies and peoples in terms of reason and fact, they tend to use emotion and feeling. Rather than decide based on what is true and reasonable, they tend to decide based on what feels right, makes you seem more caring, and appearing to be a good person - as defined by fellow leftists. Sure, that policy has been an utter failure and may have even caused more problems than it could have ever solved (welfare, for example), but its the caring thing to do and opposing it makes you seem hard hearted. This is not an original thought by me, many people have often pointed this out. It isn't that the left is irrational, its that they left feelings and well-wishing trump reason.

A leftist wants what's best, they feel more for people, they love others, and want only peace and justice. The leftist thinks that's genuinely true, and what's more they have a gut feeling, that warm fuzzy comfort of being right inside that is stronger than cold hard fact. So if you disagree or present a contrary opinion, you aren't just differing, you're deliberately mean. You don't mean well, you don't want to help them, so you must be heartless and hateful and awful. So you are a monster for disagreeing, not merely someone with a different opinion.

Why the left does this is because of a basic overarching worldview which I've written about a few times: relativism. Post modernists reject the basic ideals of absolute right and wrong, they reject objective beauty and truth. Truth is as you see it, in your "narrative" - that is, how you grew up and your culture and ethnic identity matters more than reality; what is true for Jamaal Jacquillle is just as true as for Joe Bob Beuchamp, even if they are utterly contradictory. If the Black Studies prof say that Egyptians invented the airplane and the Wright brothers stole it from them, well that's his truth. Few people take it so literally and to that extreme, but the basic idea of truth being ... flexible... infects the left's worldview.

So when reality and logic dictate one thing, but feelings, emotion, and well-meaning dictate another, well truth bends to match what they wish to be true. Whether this is due to education and culture pushing them one way or a natural inclination, I can't say - perhaps both - but I do know that some grow out of it. I did. Yet this worldview allows someone to have the facts explained to them, to even agree and appear to change their minds then later go back to what they thought before, in defiance of all reality and reason. Because reason is flexible, and truth is relative, and you have your truth and I have mine.

And if you aren't flexible and nuanced, then you're inflexible and dogmatic. You aren't willing to "grow" by adapting to other peoples' ideas, you are demanding everyone be like you, and that's just tyrannical. You don't love freedom like the left if you insist everyone thinks your way! It doesn't matter if logic, truth, common sense, and reality dictate that way, you're wrong to insist on that, because it violates other peoples' narratives and oppresses them, probably offending them and making them feel bad.

For more on relativism and truth, I've written a couple of essays on the topic.

AN ALINSKY CORRUPTION
The third major problem with the left's worldview and why things have gotten this way explains not just their ideas of the right but of why the divide has gotten so very brutal in western civilization, not just America. It's bad enough that right and left tend to have very different basic worldviews - relative vs absolute, that tends to cause a constant clash over almost any topic. Left and Right often are like two trains on parallel tracks, they can seem to be going the same way but they'll never meet because their basic understanding is so different and even the words they use mean totally different things. In time you can reach understanding, but the division is so deep that it takes that time over and over, and who has time and patience to do that with every leftist they meet? Especially when they often revert anyway because their worldview allows them to deny objective truth?

Yet this third issue is what most directly explains the present animosity and divide, and it can be traced down to one man and one book: Rules for Radicals. Saul Alinksy didn't come up with something totally new and fresh, nor was he the first to conceive of such a writing, but he was the one who wrote all the ideas down in one place at the right time to impact the most people in the most potent way. This book lays out the way to undermine authority, crumble the establishment, evade truth and reason, and defeat your enemies without even having to bother make a single argument or persuade anyone with logic and truth.

Alinsky's book gave the left the tools to accomplish what they dreamed of without violating their worldview. And what's worse is that the method involves the most infuriating, divisive, and mocking way possible. Its as if at every turn he chose between two paths and always picked the worst. In the place of maturity, reason, calm thought, persuasion, and truth he instead chose mockery, satire, attack, belittlement, emotion, and manipulation. Rules for Radicals is the codification of how an angry 13 year old argues, but in the most effective, useful ways possible to get your own way without ever having to win an argument.

When confronting an opponent, you are encourage not to engage them with fact and reason, but to find ways to make them look bad. You don't debate, you mock and manipulate and try to destroy the messenger so that the message is thought irrelevant. You always stick up for your side no matter how monstrous and awful, and always attack the other even if you'd normally agree, in order to present a continuous and consistent front. Rules for Radicals is the ultimate guide in logical fallacies, in violating every rule and basic ideal of rhetoric to the most effective manner, persuading people not by truth but by feeling and belittlement.

The left didn't just take this to heart and spend decades carrying it out, they started to believe what they said. Its one thing to claim your enemy is a fascist, it is another to start to, after continual repetition and reinforcement from peers, to start to buy into the lie. And in time, the myth became the truth, and it was printed. So when the left sees a right wing rally, they don't see fellow citizens engaging in 1st amendment rights to dissent just like the left does when they are in disagreement with government. They see a gathering of freaks, radicals, and extremists who want to destroy all freedom, force everyone into the dark ages, stone all gays, chain all women to the kitchen sink, enslave all Blacks, and even burn all the Jews.

It isn't that all the left thinks rationally and sequentially all of that through, its that the rhetoric of decades piles up and the reflexive reaction comes out without even considering its origin or significance. Fear them, they are violent and dangerous. They see the Tea Party as "an underlying antipathy to the core fundamentals of our political system and institutions" as an otherwise smart and reasonable leftist said in comments on this very blog. There's absolutely no logic or factual basis for such a wild accusation, but that's what he feels to be true, reflexively, based on decades of continual reinforcement and repetition. That same leftist admires Alinsky and praised Rules for Radicals.

AN ALCOHOLIC PATTERN
Now, I ask you: what happens when someone continually uses the most manipulative, underhanded, hurtful, sarcastic techniques to undermine you, make you look bad, ignore your arguments, and belittle you to others? What happens when someone continually calls you the worst possible names in every instance, ignoring what you say or try to explain, to deliberately demonize you to everyone, especially your friends and supporters?

Anyone who is familiar with alcoholism and what it does to their families - especially their non alcoholic spouse - knows exactly what that's like. It doesn't just set up a basic divide and antipathy between the two, it makes the one react negatively to anything the other says, on both sides. It creates an unbridgeable anger and frustration that builds and builds continually and until one side or the other changes, cannot be reconciled.

Psychologists have all sorts of phrases and terms for this relationship such as codependency and so on. People who lived through it or saw it in others can see the painful, horrible scars it leaves even when things change and the hate it generates while in place. America has been experiencing this for over forty years now. Debate is healthy, discussion of ideas is part of what the country was founded on. Understanding, tolerance, and even love for your neighbor is what makes a society work. Liberty requires these virtues to continue.

But you cannot debate someone who rejects the very principles of reason and truth. The Rules for Radicals approach to taking over society inevitably, necessarily results in animosity. When you belittle and attack someone for long enough, you make them your enemy and what's worse is that they become an enemy in your mind as well. The political divide in this nation always has existed, and at times was bitter and angry - it even resulted in war, once. Yet in general, debate and ideas tended to rule the discussion. I understand why the left would prefer that not be the case, in the realm of ideas, logic, truth, and reason the left tends to lose. So they changed the game, eliminating the terms by which they lose.

RULED BY RADICALS
This cannot be fought or changed by adopting the same tactics. The right cannot find victory by abandoning reason and truth for the tactics of the left. People who claim the left won because they used these tactics are fools; they won a battle, but are losing the war violently at present. You can find temporary victory by shouting that your debate opponent is a child-molesting sodomite, but that will not in the long run persuade anyone that his ideas are false. The right must abandon this sudden fascination with the tactics of the left.

The only way to win in the long run, if this is to be won at all, is to teach and educate, to lead by example and virtue, to work hard and long and show integrity. To live a life which makes it difficult if impossible to prompt charges of hypocrisy. To do what is right, even when it costs you. To teach your children what the truth is, and why it matters. To reach out to those in need around you, negating the need for government power to do so. To undermine the very foundations of the leftist culture we find ourselves in with countercultural solidity, truth, reason, hard work, virtuous life and ethical ideas.

If we fight on their terms, in their battle field, the left wins, if by no other method than corrupting and infiltrating our worldview. Liberty requires truth and reason behind it, argued by ethical people who live lives of honor and virtue. That is the only way to win, with the right tools, consistent with our worldview and beliefs. It will take a long time - it may not be possible to win - because it took a long time to destroy everything the founding fathers fought for and believed in. It took a long time to crush the momentum of America's liberty and ideals to a shuddering halt. It will take a long time to get that momentum built up again.

And as I said, we might not win. I fear we will not, and perhaps cannot. Yet the battle its self has a certain virtue in it. And doing the right thing is always what we should strive for, even if we lose. We don't fight to win. We fight because that's the right thing to do. So we should always and in every instance do it in the right way as much as is possible within our power.