Wednesday, February 29, 2012


'The judge introduced the concept of "libeling Islam" into an area of the law in which it was wholly alien.'

Last week, news broke of a man who wore a zombie Muhammad costume and went to a Halloween parade and got beat up. No he wasn't beat up because his costume sucked so bad he had to wear a sign identifying himself, he upset and angered a Muslim immigrant.

That's not exactly surprising, Muslims are notoriously lacking in a sense of humor when it comes to their holy figures, and well known for violence against those who mock Islam. Basically the guy was asking for it. Ernest Perce is an atheist who thought he'd make fun of the whole religious thing people find so dear to their lives and came up with the costume as a fun thing for Halloween.

However, that doesn't make what was done to him right, and its still assault to beat someone up even if you felt especially provoked. So the case went to court. The judge ruled that the assault wasn't a problem, that free speech didn't protect mockery of Islam. The judge threw out the assault case and lectured Perce on religious tolerance. Basically he ruled that if you beat up someone for mocking Islam, its not assault. He said:
"Having had the benefit of having spent over two and a half years in predominantly Muslim countries I think I know a little bit about the faith of Islam. ... In many Arabic-speaking countries something like this is definitely against the law there. In their society in fact it can be punishable by death and it frequently is in their society."
The man who leaped on his back in the parade and beat and choked him apparently thought that Sharia law applied everywhere and was just applying the proper punishment to Perce. And now, he's going to think that's still true - and in this judge's court, apparently it is. In the audio that was taken (illegally) at the trial, the judge's lecture includes a claim that he personally is a Muslim.

Later, a few statements came out supposedly from the judge himself. At the Volokh Conspiracy, Eugene Volokh has the full statement which includes these lines:
This story certainly has legs. As you might imagine, the public is only getting the version of the story put out by the “victim” (the atheist). Many, many gross misrepresentations. Among them: I’m a Muslim, and that’s why I dismissed the harassment charge (Fact: if anyone cares, I’m actually Lutheran, and have been for at least 41 years).
He said that I kept a copy of the Quran on the bench (fact: I keep a Bible on the bench, but out of respect to people with faiths other than Christianity, I DO have a Quran on the bookcase BESIDE my bench, and am trying to acquire a Torah, Book of Mormon, Book of Confucius and any other artifacts which those with a faith might respect).
In short, I based my decision on the fact that the Commonwealth failed to prove to me beyond a reasonable doubt that the charge was just; I didn’t doubt that an incident occurred, but I was basically presented only with the victim’s version, the defendant’s version, and a very intact Styrofoam sign that the victim was wearing and claimed that the defendant had used to choke him. There so many inconsistencies, that there was no way that I was going to find the defendant guilty.
Apparently there was video of the assault, but the judge refused to allow it in court. Also note that the court ruling said nothing about insufficient evidence or lack of ability to decide, but that he would have been killed in another country.

Here's the basic problem with the judge's approach. There is a principle called "fighting words" in which free speech is limited by expressions which are so offensive and outrageous that they will normally result in violence and outrage. In other words, your freedom of speech does not allow you to do or say something so incredibly outrageous that normal people will rise up in spontaneous violence against you.

But that principle is for American culture and norms. Its what would normally and predictably result in that kind of response for this culture, not for another. How people would respond to speech in another culture is totally irrelevant to the case. Throwing out the complaint because someone would have been killed in Saudi Arabia is not just stupid, but criminally false in the US. It simply does not apply.

In addition, CNN interviewed the judge, and while it was a very friendly interview, some lines came out of the event which I find problematic:
CNN: … There are some who believe you were failing to protect that right.

Judge Martin: No, I don’t think so. Here’s the thing: It’s a right, it’s not a privilege, it’s a right. With rights come responsibilities. The more that people abuse our rights, the more likely that we’re going to lose them.
As Volokh notes, its more likely we'll lose rights if you deny protection of them than if someone does something others find offensive. But the judge doesn't seem to understand the distinction between privileges and rights, or at least what a privilege is.

Rights cannot be taken away, by anything or anyone, ever. All you can ever do is limit the free expression of a right. If you kill someone you haven't taken away their right to be alive, you've just taken away their ability to exercise that right. If you put someone in jail, you haven't taken away their right to liberty, just their free expression of that right. They still have the rights, they just can't enjoy them as freely.

Privileges are by definition something special extended to another by someone in authority. For most people, this is how they understand the definition of rights, that you have a "right" only because a law or someone in power lets you have it. That's completely false. governments and authorities can neither create nor remove rights, they cannot be extended to someone or taken away. Privileges can. So you can have the privilege of being president, but not the right. You can have the privilege of birth control medication, but not the right.

This judge seems to think that privileges cannot be taken away but rights can be. Further, he seems to think that free speech is limited to the extent that it interferes with Islamic law. But this isn't uncommon. Free speech is regularly limited and assaulted by people who feel someone has been offended. Saying certain words to certain people can get you jailed in some areas.

This nation has taken a leap backward from the liberties and rights fought so carefully for over its existence. The high point seems to be the 1970s when blacks and women were finally extended full societal protection for their civil rights, but before political correctness, campus speech codes, and "hate crimes" legislation reared their ugly heads. Now we're sliding back toward repression and loss of civil rights again, all in the name of politeness and well meaning.

And its not just in America this is happening. Consider this little story from Australia, in the Herald Sun:
David Jones, 67, commented on the ease with which a woman with her face covered by a hijab had walked through security controls, the Daily Mail reports.

"If I was wearing this scarf over my face, I wonder what would happen,'' he said to an official as he went to pass through an X-ray scanner at Gatwick Airport.

To his surprise he was met on the other side of the barrier by officials who detained him for an hour in an attempt to force him to apologise for making an offensive remark.

Police were also called.
The Security guard was a Muslim and she felt offended by his statement. His statement and the concern behind it seems perfectly reasonable to me.

Or consider EPSN sports writer Anthony Federico, fired for using an extremely common term hundreds of other sports writers have used in the past, referring to a gap in defense or a weakness on a team. Like the use of the word "niggardly" it suddenly was banned and considered so vile that the man had to lose his job because it sounds like a racial slur.

There's a reason blogs like Ace of Spades will have all sorts of foul language on them but censor the word "nigger" these days. Because using the F word repeatedly is considered "genuine" but using racial slurs is considered unrepentant evil. Control the language, and you control society and thought. Obscene language that would have gotten your face slapped a few years ago is considered not just acceptable but even preferable by many now, but other words are so horrible they may not be spelled out.

People lose their careers and have to go on huge apology tours for saying something the correct, protected group finds offensive these days. Respected and talented producer Brett Radner lose his production work at the Oscars for saying "Rehersals are for fags" and is running around apologizing and groveling in hopes of getting work again some day.

You can say anything you want in Hollywood about Christians or Republicans, white people or conservatives; you can say any four letter word in any combination and nobody even notices, but if you say something that someone in a protected group finds offensive, you're doomed. Its the same kind of ridiculous hypocritical corruption that always has been in that town, but the targets have shifted slightly.

And it all boils down to this: the establishment culture and the people in charge have their moral structure and their set of commandments. If you break them, you suffer. And after 9/11 in a perverse, suicidal overreaction, the left has decided Muslims are to be protected even more than most other groups. They are so afraid of seeming racist and oppressive to the "other" that they're being oppressive to their own culture.

I don't know if this judge is Muslim or not, its difficult to know what to believe, since he both claims he is, and claims he is not. Did he slip up in court and tell the truth, then run to backpedal? Did he say something stupid he didn't mean in court for effect, or misstate and now is telling the truth? Who knows. All that matters is that he's trampling all over the very principles of freedom of speech, defending criminals in the process, and should be immediately impeached because he cannot do his job properly.


"I didn't really do anything; I was just doing my job."

Mr Compton
In the miniseries Band of Brothers, Lieutenant (later Captain) Winters stands tall and is a historic figure of greatness and leadership. However, he also had some very capable men working under him, and none more capable and steady than Buck Compton. Without men like Compton, Winters couldn't have carried out his plans and would have amounted to nothing.

And Compton went on to great things after the war. He walked away from World War 2 with a purple heart and a silver star, then went into law. Dennis McLellan at the LA Times tells the story:
As a Los Angeles deputy district attorney, Lynn D. "Buck" Compton was known for heading the three-man team that successfully prosecuted Sirhan B. Sirhan for the 1968 slaying of U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.

And after then-Gov. Ronald Reagan appointed him to the 2nd District Court of Appeal in 1970, he was known as one of its most conservative jurists.
He never stopped fighting for justice and finally, at the age of 90 has died of a heart attack after a long and meaningful life. Like all the men who fought in that war, he simply saw himself as a soldier trying to do his job and get home.

The rest of us saw him as a hero, for his whole life. And I'm sure his family never lost sight of that, either. Although they were apparently amazed at his sudden fame after Band of Brothers came out.

Band of BrothersCompton was played by the very underrated Neal McDonough who now is working as a crazed, grinning mobster in the third season of Justified (up to its first season standards). I think he did Compton justice in the show, but could never live up to that caliber of man no matter how great an actor he may be.


"If we continue down this course, this is the way any society ends up — with a valueless currency"

Something that comes up often in the news, if you look closely, is that whatever outrage, annoyance, or crazy leftist scheme the federal government comes up with, state and local governments have been doing so longer and crazier. If you gnash your teeth at frustration with how radical the Democrats act in Washington DC, your head will explode when you look at what they're doing in, say, Berkeley, or San Francisco, or Manhattan, or Seattle.

The truth is, loony extremists at the high levels of government come from loonier, bigger extremists at local government. And without slowing or stopping the crazy right where you live, you can't stop it when it gets away from your direct vote.

Which is part of the concept of localism or the "new agrarian" movement. There is a small but I suspect growing trend in America to close in and localize, to turn away from the national scene and toward your neighborhood, your town, your state. The principles behind this are simple: I cannot fix congress, no one can. But I might be able to fix my neighborhood, and maybe if enough of us do, our town, and our county.

You can't stop Behemoth Industries from polluting in another state but you can stop The Ma and Pa Shop from doing so in your town. You can't get the governor of another state to pick better judges, but you can work toward that in your own area. You can't run the national party you belong to, but you can run the local wards and districts.

Working locally means you can affect real change and for the most part local areas can ignore the federal government. If you can get your local area to prosper, then it doesn't matter so much how stupid, self destructive, and wasteful the feds are.

But it goes beyond that. Recently Wyoming state representative David Miller introduced a bill to the legislature. Jeremy Pilzer writes at the Casper Star-Tribune:
Wealthy Americans are fleeing the country, he says, and confidence in the dollar has taken a hit around the world.

If America’s economic and social problems continue to escalate and spiral out of control, Miller said, Wyoming needs to be ready. So, he’s introduced legislation to create a state-run government continuity task force, which would study and prepare Wyoming for potential catastrophes, from disruptions in food and energy supplies to a complete meltdown of the federal government.

It would even look at the feasibility of quickly providing an alternative currency in Wyoming should the U.S. dollar collapse entirely.
The principle behind this bill is that the state needs to be ready in case everything goes horribly wrong at the federal level, something becoming increasingly plausible, if not likely. This kind of thing was once called paranoia and craziness, but its becoming more common as of late. People are buying guns and ammunition at a rate totally unprecedented in American history.

The idea of collapse and chaos is not unthinkable, and it is, I suspect, part of what is driving the "zombie apocalypse" popularity; a sort of entertainment way of dealing with anxiety about the future.

More and more people are starting to not care so much what happens in Washington DC and focusing on what they can do about surviving where they are. In a way its like the Y2K scare, but without the reassurance of computer experts who point out how easy it is to fix and how they've been working on it years before the press learned about it.

If things get as bad as some fear and predict, then its wise to be ready because even if it doesn't happen, being ready for disaster and not having one is better than the opposite. Wyoming shot down the preparedness bill, at least in part because it would be expensive to implement, and partly because they didn't take it seriously.

But we can, where we are. And I think focusing more on your local government and neighborhood is a wise reaction to a situation which would have had the founding fathers running for their guns and calling for revolution.


Swing kitty is content.

Quote of the Day

"You have taken your cowardice for good sense, and have found comfort in deceiving yourselves."
-Fyodor Dostoevsky

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


"Its great to stop or delay a few of these individual items on the CO2 emissions buffet but we actually have to do this at the Macro level or it just won’t matter."

Smug Alert
When environmentalists blocked the Keystone XL pipeline extension, they were ecstatic. Between that and intimidating a private organization into donating to another private organization, the left has felt grand lately. But the Keystone decision is strangely misunderstood by the left. Take this piece by Bill McKibben at Talking Points Memo as an example:
We’ve got to stop projects like this, just as we united to fight Keystone. In fact, we’ve got — as soon as possible — to stop fighting bad things one by one. We don’t have enough fingers to plug every hole in the dike; we need to change the basic underlying economics, by charging the fossil fuel industry for the damage carbon does in the atmosphere instead of just letting them continue to use the atmosphere as an open sewer for free.

The fact that there’s more coal than tar sands doesn’t change the math of the Keystone debate. As the scientist who did the study pointed out, this is “not a get out of jail free card” to the tar sands industry, and added that he also opposed the proposed Gateway pipeline to Canada’s Pacific coast.
See, the reason they wanted the pipeline stopped and are glad it was is because they consider the oil taken from this area to be "dirty." They wanted it blocked so that the oil wouldn't be harvested and sold because it involves even more carbon emissions than normal oil due to the method of collecting the oil.

There is a flaw in this argument, however. First is the most obvious: they're selling it anyway, just to China mostly now. And as readers of this blog know, instead of using a safer and more secure pipeline, Warren Buffett's train interests will be shipping the oil to the gulf coast for refining.

But the biggest flaw is actually in the TPM blog post its self. Here's where it is:
If you burned all the tar sands we know about now, you’d raise the planet’s temperature more than half a degree — i.e., half again as much as the global warming we’ve already seen...
He then goes into speculation and some extremely hazy science about ocean acidity which hasn't actually worked in the real world (the ocean hasn't gotten 80% more acidic due to previous warming), but this is the main point. Collect and burn every single drop of oil sands in the planet in a big bonfire, and you have almost no effect on the world's temperature, even assuming their models and calculations are correct - an extremely questionable assumption.

In other words, by their own assumption, they accomplished virtually nothing, and their assumptions are completely faulty both in science and in practice: they didn't stop a thing.

And they're crowing?


"They have to kill them (Westerners), beat them and capture them to give them a lesson to never dare desecrate the holy Koran again."
-Taliban message

Some American servicemen burned a few Koran containing radical editing while disposing of other materials in Afghanistan. Word spread and the place went berserk, killing scores of fellow Muslims in rioting and other activity and a few soldiers in the process.

President Obama quickly apologized for the action, since the official protocol for disposing of a Koran is to either put it into moving, clean water to be swept downstream or bury it in a holy place. Interestingly enough, Muhammad never gave any special instructions about the text, nor does the Hadith containing traditional stories of his life. The reverence for the physical book of the Koran came later - Muhammad seemed to only care about the words, not the pages they were printed on.

Now, a lot of people are mocking and deriding President Obama for apologizing, but I think that he should have apologized. However, that said, he's going way too far. A simple "sorry we didn't dispose of your holy book in the manner you prefer" would be enough, because that's all the situation deserves. Any more than that shows fear and reverence for a faith that we do not fear and revere as a nation, and he represents America.

Particularly if he's going to go on a week-long apology tour, make repeated televised apology speeches, visit mosques to apologize, and send a three page letter of apology to the president of Afghanistan. And in particular if he's going to call for "hold[ing] people appropriately accountable."

Because I don't think he means "appropriate." I think he means "excessive, in order to appease our enemies." President Karzai wants NATO to arrest and try the soldiers and further claims he's been contacted by NATO and told that such a trial will take place.

All these men are guilty of is disposing of trash in a manner that violates protocol, a minor disobedience of rules. This is like not making your bed properly or throwing food out back of the mess hall instead of in the trash. Its not something warranting a formal trial, nor even a trial at all. It warrants immediate action by superior officers because it is failure to follow specific orders, but that's it.

This going overboard on such an issue sends the wrong message: it sends a message of fear, weakness, and capitulation, of obedience to radical Islam and the idea that America is giving in and obeying Muslim rules. And that's not exactly what we need to be showing the world, let alone maniacal Islamic terrorists who commit acts of terrorism in order to bring about that exact result.

In other words: we're giving the terrorists exactly what they want, we're creating the results their actions were intended to bring about, which is like giving in to a tantrum-throwing 3-year-old: do you figure you'll see fewer tantrums as a result?

I'm all for respecting other peoples' beliefs. That's why I think its right to have special rules for dealing with a Koran and punishing people who don't. That's why I think it is correct for the president to apologize to Muslims for burning their sacred book when they don't want it burned. But this goes far beyond respect to obeisance, and that's exactly the wrong way to go.


"I think religion should never receive that level of protection or sensitivity."

Recently BBC chief Mark Johnson admitted that Christianity gets less sensitive treatment than "other" religious. This is borne out by the sort of programming that BBC runs, such as a show mocking Christianity and showing Jesus in a diaper a few years back. Some complained, noting that the BBC would never run a show disrespecting Muhammad in such a way, for example.

In a display of momentary honesty, Johnson also admitted that, courtesy Paul Revoir at the Daily Mail:
He suggested other faiths have a ‘very close identity with ethnic minorities’, and were therefore covered in a far more careful way by broadcasters.

But he also revealed that producers had to consider the possibilities of ‘violent threats’ instead of polite complaints if they pushed ahead with certain types of satire.

Mr Thompson said: ‘Without question, “I complain in the strongest possible terms”, is different from, “I complain in the strongest possible terms and I am loading my AK47 as I write”. This definitely raises the stakes.’
In other words, Christians are safe to attack. They are perceived as being white and unlikely to harm you for upsetting them (or as he puts it, Christians have "broad shoulders.") Which is true: you're much less likely to have your office bombed or burned if you anger Christians, and Christians are typically much more tolerant of attack and mockery than Muslims - its part of the code to turn the other cheek and expect abuse as a Christian.

But this does highlight something you've probably been aware of for a long time in the news. Think back to any crime news you've seen in the past. When the person arrested is identified, they always use the words "alleged" and "suspect." The guy could have been caught on 51 different independent cameras hacking apart an old lady on the street at random, bragging about it the whole time and admit he's guilty repeatedly on record, but he's still called alleged.

Why? Because its policy in every news organization on earth, due to the fear of lawsuits. Being unhappy at a news office they sort of giggle at and enjoy. Being unhappy and threatening something they care about - their money or their lives - and they will adapt to your point of view.

They'll try to cover it up in terms of sensitivity and racial concerns, couched in the usual language of multiculturalism and political correctness, but it all comes down to the same thing: fear and capitulation. One group will yell, the other will yell and hurt you. And despite the bragging about courage and the films of noble, daring reporters facing down all danger, the profession is basically craven. They'll cave if they really are genuinely threatened.

Which essentially ruins the validity and utility of news broadcasting. There's still some value there, but you know for certain that if a news organization or reporter feels sufficiently intimidated, they'll change their reporting. And that goes a long ways: feeling like you're being left out of a group you want to identify with or admire can make reporting change too. They'll go along with the pack, not rock the boat of their friends.

I don't know as I'd be any different in their place, but then I don't present myself as a bold arbiter of truth and crusader out to change the world, and I don't mock people for "Islamophobia," either.


How it would look if you took major European and Mideastern cities and juxtaposed them onto a map of the USA:

And this is what it would look like if you did the opposite, US cities on Europe:

Which gives a pretty good idea of size comparison, and shows you where in longitude you are found in Europe or the US.

Quote of the Day

“Let’s give the president credit for one domestic policy that worked. He wanted higher gas prices and he got ‘em."
-Governor Mitch Daniels

Monday, February 27, 2012


"It's an exponentially more dangerous program than Libya. We are talking about legitimate WMDs here -- this isn't Iraq."

I was conflicted on posting this news bit for a variety of reasons. I don't like to crow, and I am not absolutely certain of the content so it might not be what it looks an awful lot like it is, but I can't let it go.

Remember those WMD that the UN knew Iraq had, but couldn't find? A lot of folks such as myself suggested that they were moved into Syria before the invasion. Because we gave Iraq a month or more to prepare, they were able to move things and hide things quite well. A few days before the attack, a convoy of semi trucks left the country and drove to Syria containing... what?

Well the US State Department under President Obama and Hillary Clinton might have a suggestion, thanks to Josh Rogin at Foreign Policy:
This week, the State Department sent a diplomatic demarche to Syria's neighbors Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia, warning them about the possibility of Syria's WMDs crossing their borders and offering U.S. government help in dealing with the problem, three Obama administration officials confirmed to The Cable.
Now, Syria has a chemical weapons operation and used to have a nuclear power plant before Israel erased it, but the fact is, they don't have much going on there in terms of WMD, but the warnings are of a significant stockpile.

I recall in 2005 reading a news story where terrorists were caught in Jordan planning a poison gas attack on the country. The weapons were traced back to Syria, but they were said to be Iraqi in origin and type. Then I lost the link in a computer meltdown and have never seen the story again. There have been hints and whispers out there, but they get in the way of the "Bush was wrong!!! Bush Lied!!!" narrative.


There was a time they were called movies. As the audience appeal started going down, they began calling them films. When things really tank they call it “cinema.”

I didn't watch the Oscars show last night. I've never watched an entire show, and haven't even tuned in to part of one for a decade or more. Rich, narcissistic, arrogant jerks giving each other prizes for doing their job just doesn't interest me. I didn't care for the waste-of-time yearly awards at offices I worked at on occasion.

But I did have to laugh at this particular bit from Bill Katz, courtesy Powerline:
And how quickly we forget how Hollywood has declined.

Consider this year’s nine nominees for best picture, expanded from five several years ago by the bean counters in the business: The Artist, The Descendants, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Help, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, The Tree of Life, War Horse. They’re allowed up to ten, but apparently couldn’t find a tenth.

Now consider the best picture nominees for 1939: Gone With the Wind, Stagecoach, Wuthering Heights, Dark Victory, Love Affair, Ninotchka, Goodbye Mr. Chips, Of Mice and Men, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The Wizard of Oz.

I rest my case.
I haven't seen any of the movies nominated this year, and only Moneyball interests me for viewing. I've seen almost all of the movies listed for 1939 and they range from dazzling entertainment to incredibly good movies. That really was a banner year - which one would you choose? Sure, Wizard of Oz isn't great filmmaking but it was groundbreaking and amazing. Mr Smith is a bit sappy and manipulative, but its a classic for a reason. I doubt even one movie put out this year will have the staying power all ten of those films from 1939 have to this day.

If Hollywood wants to know why they are losing status and viewers, look no further than this comparison and the price of a ticket these days.


"Is Obama a illegitimate child or the son of a bigamist?"

Sad Obama
As soon as President Obama was elected, I cringed at the comments and angry posts on right-leaning blogs I read. The common, although not universal, theme was this: we must destroy him like they destroyed Bush! Their tactics worked, we should do the same! No prisoners!

For the left, no evil was unbelievable when applied to Bush. Nothing he was accused of was questioned or doubted. It wasn't enough to simply disagree with the man or his policies, he had to be evil, horrible, corrupt, monstrous, satanic. He was a Nazi, a rapist, a bloodthirsty warmonger, a chimp, a moron, a puppet, everything. Anything and everything was thrown at him at once.

And now that Obama is president, so many are doing the same thing with him. President Obama is deliberately trying to destroy America, he's sabotaging the economy, he's not really America, he's Muslim, he's actually Malcom X's secret bastard son (yes, I read that once), he's corrupt, he's evil, he's communist, he's the puppet of George Soros, he's fascist, on and on.

I had problems with President Bush, such as his inability to veto any Republican spending, his apparent desire to bloat the government with huge new programs, and his incompetence in defending his policies and selling his ideas to the people, and so on. I could admit his problems while supporting his strengths - but if a real conservative had run against President Bush instead of just being a social conservative, I'd have voted for him instead.

But it seems like in politics too many people have to go miles beyond mere opposition. Its not enough to just say "I think we can do better, and here's where the problems are with this guy" he has to be completely and utterly evil to the core without the slightest virtue or positive feature.

President Obama really believes in what he's doing, and he follows through on it. He thinks this is the right thing to do and is willing to carry it out whatever the opposition. He's a good speaker, sometimes excellent, although the content of his speeches ruins the effect for me. He's good with his wife and kids and they all seem to love each other. He has never had any sort of affair or strayed on his wife, as far as I can find, which puts him far ahead of some of the GOP candidates who were running to replace him. President Obama has done pretty well in the war on terror, aggressively targeting terrorist leadership. And he's cracked down on illegal immigration more than President Bush did.

Yes, he has his many flaws, and yes I think he's lousy at the job, clearly in over his head, and a radical leftist. Yes, he's involved in some pretty horrible stuff such as the Fast and Furious scam and he's pretty clearly trying to deliberately raise energy prices as he promised he would. Yes, he's awful as president and I want him out of office so badly I'll vote for guys I can't stand because I'm confident they would be marginally less terrible at their worst.

But that doesn't mean I have to think of him as evil to the core. And that's what the problem is here. Too many of the people opposing President Obama are as psychotically extreme as the ones who thought he was a glowing messiah who would cause global warming to reverse and deserved a Nobel prize just for being alive. You take an idea too far and it backfires on you - look at how President Bush is being perceived more and more by people.

You can beat someone without turning them into Satan. And its dishonest, at best, to attempt to do so. It says something pretty ugly and wrong about you personally that you think you have to or even try.


Such scholastic, inelastic,
Abstract yardsticks we deny.

Evolution Spoof
C.S. Lewis wasn't beyond parody and satire when the mood took him, and as a brilliant and highly educated language and history professor at one of the most prestigious universities in the world, his work was usually pretty powerful. At some point he decided to poke some fun at the attitude some have toward science and in particular evolutionary theory with a poem.

This poem is based on the Anglican hymn Lead Us, Heavenly Father, Lead Us. It kind of reminds me of the Monty Pyton song All Things Dull and Ugly, but in the opposite direction; a sort of gentle poke at the sillier parts of someone's arguments or ideology.

Lead us, Evolution, lead us
Up the future's endless stair;
Chop us, change us, prod us, weed us.
For stagnation is despair:
Groping, guessing, yet progressing,
Lead us nobody knows where.

Wrong or justice, joy or sorrow,
In the present what are they
while there's always jam-tomorrow,
While we tread the onward way?
Never knowing where we're going,
We can never go astray.

To whatever variation
Our posterity may turn
Hairy, squashy, or crustacean,
Bulbous-eyed or square of stern,
Tusked or toothless, mild or ruthless,
Towards that unknown god we yearn.

Ask not if it's god or devil,
Brethren, lest your words imply
Static norms of good and evil
(As in Plato) throned on high;
Such scholastic, inelastic,
Abstract yardsticks we deny.

Far too long have sages vainly
Glossed great Nature's simple text;
He who runs can read it plainly,
'Goodness = what comes next.'
By evolving, Life is solving
All the questions we perplexed.

On then! Value means survival-
Value. If our progeny
Spreads and spawns and licks each rival,
That will prove its deity
(Far from pleasant, by our present,
Standards, though it may well be).

Its odd to me how very seriously and angrily people will respond to any question about this particular scientific method of interpretation. This poem probably enrages some people, although if you poked fun at - say - the Bernoulli Principle or the Pythagorean Theorem they'd just shrug and maybe laugh along with it. So much invested in something so meaningless to their lives.


Time Goof
Time, desperate to be relevant and move copies, put out this pandering issue recently with various pictures of people on the cover. They meant to show how diverse the Hispanic population of America is, but they made a little mistake.

See that guy under the "M" in the title? He's got one white parent and one Chinese parent. He's not remotely Hispanic, but they used him anyway cause he apparently looks sort of exotic to the photo editor. His name is Michael Schennum and Time has since apologized for the error.

Schennum says they never asked him his heritage and never said what the picture was for, although Time claims they made sure everyone said they were "Latino" and says they are all registered voters.

Quote of the Day

“Let’s give the president credit for one domestic policy that worked. He wanted higher gas prices and he got ‘em."
-Governor Mitch Daniels

Friday, February 24, 2012


“I was just asking a question. I didn’t mean it to be nasty”

Saucy Wenches
Amine El Khalifi is a Moroccan who was arrested by the FBI for plotting to carry out a suicide bombing at the US Capitol. Two things jumped out at me from this story by Tim Blair. First, the man had been in the US for 13 years after is Visa expired, yet the FBI thought they would set up a sting to nail him rather than just deporting him for overstaying his visa. Second, the FBI felt compelled (like the press often does) to say that this man "followed a twisted, radical ideology that is not representative of the Muslim community in the United States." Funny how that never comes up when someone claiming to be a Christian goes nuts.

Christine Keeler was the poster girl for the 60s swinging England scene. Part of a scandal in the UK government in 1963, she was photographed for men's magazines and was involved in various naughty activities with government types (one of which ended up being later revealed as a Russian spy). Now matronly and 70 years old, she says about the experience:
‘I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll ever bother with a man again,’ she says wearily.
"All that Swinging Sixties. It didn't do anyone any good, did it? Easy sex and the Pill. Marriages were ruined. I never did approve. I never really enjoyed the sex."
Yeah well the image and the idea usually is a lot more fun than the experience for most of these kind of things.

Doug Ross has one of the best headlines of recent events ever:
The White House: laser-focused on making condoms more easier to get than jobs
Don't have a job? What matters more to you: finding work or finding a condom? Like Investor's Business Daily puts it, the world's brokest nation fusses about sex.

Although this happened last year, its indicative of the Obama Administration's approach to energy. 28 birds were found dead near oil waste lagoons, so the North Dakota federal attorney has hauled the companies to court to sue them.
Continental Resources is accused of violating the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act because “on or about May 6, 2011 in the District of North Dakota” the company “did take [kill] one Say’s Phoebe,” of the tyrant flycatcher bird family. Brigham Oil & Gas is accused of killing two Mallard ducks. The Class B misdemeanors carry fines of up to $15,000 for each dead bird and up to six months in prison...
According to estimates by the American Bird Conservancy based on Fish and Wildlife Service data, wind turbines kill over 40,000 birds a year and have never seen any prosecution.

Second City TV was hilarious and cutting edge in the 1970s, which was over 30 years ago. Sadly, they're still cutting edge in their humor with bits like this on racism:

That was back when the left had a sense of humor and was willing to question their basic presumptions.

NOAA is the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and they are big time global warming alarmists. Recently, the NOAA purchased a fishing boat, valued at $300,000. You might say "well they do oceanic work they need boats" which is true, but their budget provides for boats, and this one is a bit luxurious for scientific study. Senator Brown (R-MA) gives details, via Gateway Pundit:
It would be bad enough if they had purchased this boat with taxpayer dollars.

But they didn’t. They paid for it with money that should belong to our struggling fishermen. They paid for it out of the fines that fishermen pay into the pot when they mistakenly catch the wrong kind of fish. Those dollars are supposed to stay in fishing communities to help the fishermen.

Here’s the boat. For a government vessel, that’s pretty flashy. Take a look inside. That’s a fully-appointed bar, the latest in on-board entertainment systems, and leather furniture complete with the ice chest and tackle rack.
The especially nasty twist is that the boat is paid for by fines levied on fishermen. So what's this boat for, exactly?

Elliot Dearlove in England asked another little boy on the school playground if he was from Africa since the boy had darker skin than he did. Little Elliot was hauled before the school officials and grilled on his racist tendencies and his mom was told to sign paperwork about her kid's evil attitude and okaying the school to go to higher authorities. She refused to sign it and tried to get her kid moved to a different school.

Canada, striving to end their miniscule gun problem, instituted a gun registration program in 1995, telling voters it would cost $2 million Canadian, and the cost would be offset by registration fees. $2.7 billion dollars later, the Canadian Parliament voted to end the program this month, noting that it hadn't managed to solve a single murder in the country, since killers tend not to register their weapons to begin with.

Washington Monthly ran a piece by Ed Kilgore with the headline: “Santorum to Mainline Protestants: You Are Satan’s Spawn.” At no point did Santorum say any such thing, especially not in the speech the magazine quoted, but they have yet to have even suggested a retraction. What he did note is that its Satanic influence for a lot of mainline churches to say Jesus isn't God, that the Bible contains some truth you can choose for yourself, and Mary wasn't a virgin when she conceived Jesus, for example.

Joblessness is a continuing problem in the United States, with at least one agency rating the unemployment in February at over 9%. Yet we keep being told jobless claims are dropping, how can that be? According to a report by Janet Whitman in the New York Post, a lot of people are just shifting government agencies.
As of January, the federal government was mailing out disability checks to more than 10.5 million individuals, including 2 million to spouses and children of disabled workers, at a cost of record $200 billion a year, recent research from JPMorgan Chase shows.

The sputtering economy has fueled those ranks. Around 5.3 percent of the population between the ages of 25 and 64 is currently collecting federal disability payments, a jump from 4.5 percent since the economy slid into a recession.

Mental-illness claims, in particular, are surging.
With some judges more than willing to hand out disability claims and an administration gleeful at having more people reliant on the federal government, this is a viable option for people whose unemployment has or will soon run out.

Netflix is moving slowly away from DVD mailers to direct streaming, and they took a giant leap toward that with the Weinstein Company. Now, Netflix can stream movies from this company before cable TV gets them, something that probably has the cable giants shaking in their boots. This means that Netflix gets all Dreamworks movies first, starting in 2013.

As a federal agency, the IRS is a powerful tool for partisan interests to punish their enemies and help their friends. For example, the Richmond Tea Party has been waiting 2 years for tax-exempt status, and recently was told they had to jump through a series of added bureaucratic hoops to get there, despite these not being required by law. Dave Martosko at the Daily Caller writes:
Those demands, Radtke said in a press release, included the answers to “12 additional questions in 53 separate parts.” The Richmond Tea Party was also ordered to hand over a list of all its donors and volunteers.

“The IRS,” Radtke added, “states that such information will be made available for ‘public inspection.’”

The Daily Caller has obtained copies of two letters to the organization from the IRS, dated September 10, 2010 and January 9, 2012. The earlier letter contains 17 separate requests for information, including “copies of your materials on Face Book [sic]” and “copies of any sponsorship agreements.”

The more recent letter, which Radtke addressed, does indeed contain 53 additional demands for information before the IRS can designate the group as a 501(c)(4) tax-exempt organization.
A Virginia state representative has asked the House of Representatives to investigate.

As gas prices ratchet up to what some fear may be higher than $5 a gallon this year, here are a few quote courtesy Jim Geraghty at The Corner:
“If drilling [in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge] were approved today, it would be ten years before oil arrived in refineries.” — Sierra Magazine, January-February issue, 2002

“Oil extracted from the Wildlife Refuge would not reach refineries for seven to ten years and would never satisfy more than two percent of our nation’s oil demands at any one time.” — Senator Maria Cantwell (D., Wash.), April 17, 2002

The Bush plan to drill in ANWR offers “no real action to bring oil prices down now, no real prospect of freeing ourselves from dependence on big oil and foreign oil.” — Al Gore, Sept. 30, 2000.
There are several more at the link. Imagine what we'll be looking back at ten years from now. And President Obama is mocking the idea of actually attempting to get more oil as gas prices go up and up and up since he took office in 2009.

Meanwhile, as we consider the gas prices, looking back over the years we notice as the prices went up in 2007 under President Bush the press was a lot more concerned. Julia Seymore at the Media Research Center examined the press data:
The Business and Media Institute analyzed broadcast network news references to gas or fuel prices between Jan. 20 and Feb. 20, 2012 and from March 24 and April 24, 2008. BMI found that in the 2008 period there were more than 4 times as many gas prices stories, news briefs or news headlines on ABC, CBS and NBC as there were in 2012 (97 to 21).
And the tone was significantly more critical of the president. We're all just shocked, shocked to find this out.

Warmonger, that's what Bush was called. Bloodthirsty, and so on. President Obama, on the other hand, was voted a Nobel Peace Prize before even taking office. Here's a news story to read while you ponder that difference of perception:
U.S. troops helping in the fight against a brutal rebel group called the Lord's Resistance Army are now deployed in four Central African countries, the top U.S. special operations commander for Africa said Wednesday.

The U.S. announced in October it was sending about 100 U.S. troops - mostly special operations forces - to Central Africa to advise in the fight against the LRA and its leader Joseph Kony, a bush fighter wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.

Rear Adm. Brian L. Losey, the top U.S. special operations commander for Africa, said the U.S. troops are now stationed in bases in Uganda, Congo, South Sudan and Central African Republic.
When President Bush the younger called for an invasion of Iraq, some claimed it was because his daddy was targeted by Saddam Hussein for assassination. What do we call this activity by the Obama administration?

Loretta Harper is a school teacher in Nevada who was recently appointed co chair of the Reelect Obama campaign in Nevada. In a totally unrelated story, we learn that Ms Harper gave high school class credit to students who helped Nevada Democrats get elected in 2010. Yes, just Democrats.

Recently Rush Limbaugh looked at some Reagan speeches and quoted a bit from the Evil Empire one that drove leftists nuts at the time, comparing it to reactions to Santorum's Satan speech:
That shrewdest of all observers of American democracy, Alexis de Tocqueville, put it eloquently after he had gone on a search for the secret of America's greatness and genius, and he said, "Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the greatness and the genius of America. America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great." I want you to know that this administration is motivated by a political philosophy that sees the greatness of America in you, her people, and in your families, churches, neighborhoods, communities, the institutions that foster and nourish values like concern for others and respect for the rule of law under God.
I don't have to tell you that this puts us in opposition to or at least out of step with a prevailing attitude of many who have turned to a modern-day secularism, discarding the tried and time-tested values upon which our very civilization is based. No matter how well-intentioned, their value system is radically different from that of most Americans. And while they proclaim that they're freeing us from superstitions of the past, they've taken upon themselves the job of superintending us by government rule and regulation. Sometimes their voices are louder than ours, but they are not yet a majority.
Let us pray for the salvation of all of those who live in that totalitarian darkness. Pray they will discover the joy of knowing God. But until they do, let us be aware that while they preach the supremacy of the state, declare its omnipotence over individual man and predict its eventual domination of all peoples on the earth, they are the focus of evil in the modern world.
Yeah, and he was president. Remember: according to Carter administration insiders, Jimmy Carter was overjoyed that Reagan won the nomination because he was a crazy radical hard right who kept saying crazy stuff. That worked out really well for Carter.

People have started to notice that while Ron Paul will defend Romney at times, he has absolutely nothing to say against him, and attacks those who are doing better than Romney in the polls. As it turns out, there's a pretty tight relationship between the two, ever since they became friends in 2008's electoral run. Rick Santorum says they're working together, and the evidence certainly points that way, down to a possible high end cabinet position for Paul in the potential Romney administration. I used to think Paul was running to get his ideas out there. Now I don't think its quite that noble.

Afghanistan erupted in violence and protests after it was leaked that the US forces there burned several copies of the Koran which had been specifically edited to include radical and extremist passages and ideas. President Obama quickly apologized (but the burning of Bibles there garners no concern). Meanwhile, the Muslims there studiously ignore the thousands of Muslims being massacred in Syria by its own government. Burn a doctored copy of a book? Go insane. Thousands of fellow worshipers murdered? No particular cause for concern.

Emperor Penguins were said to be dying out in 2008, and of course global warming was blamed. Now, it turns out that the Emperor Penguin population is exploding. So far no one has credited global warming except Andrew Bolt.

US District Court judge Ronald B. Leighton (a Bush the Younger appointee) has thrown out a Washington State law requiring all pharmacists to carry birth control medication. The court noted that this law violated religious freedom and the conscience of the workers, and may impact later rulings about Obama trying to compel the Roman Catholic Church to pay for contraception for workers.

Dennis Fleming came home to find his home burglarized. He looked out the window and spotted a guy climbing out of his neighbor's window and ordered him to freeze, shot into the ground, and held him at gunpoint until the police arrived. He was arrested for firing the warning shot because its illegal to discharge a firearm in city limits. Police seized the pistol, and every other gun he owned. He faces a trial and possibly years in prison for foiling a robbery.

Although Tesla is looking very shaky financially, they're looking for another loan to follow up their $365 million one from 2009. Because electric cars are such a great investment, and the US is so flush with cash it can throw money at companies like this. Sure the US Constitution doesn't allow the federal government to spend taxpayer funds to prop up politically approved companies, but its for a good cause, right?

Have you ever accidentally left a dome light on or the headlights on your car and found the battery drained the next morning? It sucks, although you can charge the thing up, get a jump, or if you have an old stick roll start it, sometimes. Yeah, not so much with an electric car. Well Tesla Motors notes that if their car (and not just theirs, almost any electric car) runs flat on juice, its worthless:
Tesla Motors’ lineup of all-electric vehicles — its existing Roadster, almost certainly its impending Model S, and possibly its future Model X — apparently suffer from a severe limitation that can largely destroy the value of the vehicle. If the battery is ever totally discharged, the owner is left with what Tesla describes as a “brick”: a completely immobile vehicle that cannot be started or even pushed down the street.
Of course you can just buy a full new suite of batteries, which costs up to $40,000. Or a new gas powered car which costs $15,000. Buy two, and still save money.

Prosecutors want to be able to force people to decrypt their computers to access data for their case, but the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that this is a constitutional violation. They didn't seek some penumbra of privacy, but instead pointed to the 5th amendment's protection against self incrimination. Basically you don't have to help the government bust you. So why is it illegal to destroy materials that might be used in a criminal case or lie to a federal officer, hmm?

Ever been to the Dollar Store? I love the place, you have to be discerning because some of their stuff sells for under a dollar elsewhere, and a lot of it is just cheap crap but sometimes you can really get great deals. During the Great Depression of the 20th century, Woolworths became a huge business and moneymaker by selling things super cheap. And today, Dollar Stores are booming as well. While other businesses are closing and stumbling, these operations are booming, expanding, and growing. Good for them, but not such a great sign for us.

And that's the Word Around the Net for Feburary 24, 2012.


"I'm going to investigate getting a waiver from DC--maybe I'll find a legal solution to all this"

Something interesting that I've seen at the few comic book conventions I've been to is how guest artists will do sketches for people. You can pay them a small fee and they will whip up a sketch at your request, and people usually ask for characters they're working on at the time or something famous. Like Superman and a caricature of you, or Spider-Man dealing cards or whatever.

Comic book artist Sean Gordon Murphy at Deviant Art recently looked at this effect and pondered it:
I hate to bring down the party, but clearly the issue is in a legal "gray" area. Read the fine print of copyright law: even if you're not making money, you could still get into trouble. So everyone reading this has to make their own choice on what to do. If you decide to continue making sketches/prints/sketchbooks of characters owned by Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, Lucasfilm, Capcom, or any other corporation, then you'd better memorize the following statement, because this is essentially what you're saying:

I call it the Artist Alley Accession...

"I understand that sketches/prints/sketch books are in a legal gray area, but I'm going to continue doing them in hopes that the rightful owners of the characters decide to continue looking the other way. The long-standing tradition of convention drawings, and the fact that almost everyone in comics is doing this, IN NO WAY protects me from legal action that a corporation might one day take. If that day comes, I'll pay the price. But for now I'm hoping I'll get away with it because I feel it would be silly for a corporation to ruin the fun of convention sketching."
Marvel Comics recently released a statement about this kind of thing, saying in effect "we're glad people like sketches of their favorite characters" which doesn't mean "so you can draw them if you want." You have to remember Disney owns Marvel Comics now, and Disney is almost rabid in its copyright protection. They literally maintain a staff of lawyers who's exclusive job is to find people using their property without permission and send them Cease and Deist letters.

Fans and many artists (some of who rely on the income from sketches to pay for gas money to get to the convention) figure they're just doing free advertising for the company, that they're simply helping out Marvel when they draw a sketch of The Hulk in a tutu. The problem is that companies have to vigorously protect their copyrighted property or unsavory types can use that lack of protection to argue they aren't copyrighted any longer and will start using them.

I do understand the artist sketch concept and process makes money for artists and is a long standing tradition of the convention experience, and so does Marvel, whose publisher recently said in an interview:
We in no way want to interfere with creators at conventions who are providing a positive Marvel experience for our fans. We want fans to speak and interact with the creators who wrote, penciled, inked, lettered, colored or edited their favorite stories. Part of that positive interaction is that a fan can walk away with a signed memento or personalized sketch from an artist.
But what they don't want is for that sketch to be one of their copyrighted characters, nor do they want someone to make money off their product without them getting the bulk of it, and then only by permission.

I understand their position, to a point. Its their product, they own the images, they should get to control it and get their share. The problem is, like any Disney effort, they take it too far. Sean Gordon Murphy goes on to tell of an experience he had with Marvel Comics:
Last year I drew the Wolverine ABCs. When it was done, I printed out around 200 sketchbooks of them to hand out to industry friends. I knew enough about copyright law to know that I was in the gray area, even though they were only meant to be given away as gifts. I also gave them to people and editors who worked at Marvel--clearly I wasn't trying to hide what I'd created. Because I was a pro and because I wasn't selling them, I figured I'd be fine. After three conventions of EVERYONE telling me I should sell them, I broke down and sold some. At the last show that season, I sold the remaining 40 copies or so.

Then Marvel called. I explained that I didn't have a warehouse of sketchbooks, I only made around 200 (or close to that) and mostly I gave them away. I explained how none of the Marvel editors complained when I handed them one, and my lack of hiding the ABCs should show the innocent nature of my endeavor. I even offered to sign a Cease and Desist, and pay them the money I made selling the last 40. But Marvel wanted the rights to the ABCs--they wanted to own them and pay me nothing. I wasn't willing to do that, so I got a lawyer. And we eventually came together and agreed to drop the subject if I simply removed them from my site and promised not to make any more sketchbooks.
Now, I understand Marvel not wanting someone to use one of their most popular characters in a book and handing out and even selling them at a convention. Its one thing to make a parody (that's protected under copyright law) but just a direct, clear use of their character for a work is another thing entirely.

But they took it to the next level: they wanted the books. They wanted to use them, sell them, and give him nothing. And there are deeper levels here.

A man by the name of Gary Friedrich tried to sue Marvel for using a character he created, named Ghost Rider. What he wants is a cut for the continual use of his creation in movies (a sequel is coming out, the first was pretty bad but this one looks less awful) and in comics. He argues that since the character was his creation, he ought to get a share.

He was shot down in court, since it has been law for a long, long time that if you create something for someone else on contract for their business, they own it unless you work out some kind of special deal. So you he had no legal standing. But his complaint isn't entirely without merit: artists and creators at comics are paid pretty poorly and the companies are making quite a bit of money. When a comic is created, the artists involved get paid a flat fee, then the comic book company owns that property for eternity and can use it and reprint and get money off it forever.

And the people who actually did the work get nothing, forever. And that seems ethically wrong, to me.

But it goes even deeper. Consider the case of Disney. Walt Disney himself has been dead for almost fifty years (he died in 1966). He created Mickey Mouse in the late 1920s, and the first Mickey Mouse cartoon was put out in 1928. After almost a century, the character has become so ubiquitous and such a part of not just American culture, but the world that it is basically owned by everyone.

Were this a few hundred years ago, Mickey would have been considered public domain. That image of the three circles and a smile would have become the property of everyone, to be used as we chose. Yet Disney has been incredibly careful in attempting to control even the use of the words "Mickey Mouse." If there ever was a character which should now be out of copyright, its that little mouse, but Disney will never let it go as long as they can legally keep it. And the way copyright laws are, it could be until the world ends.

Copyright laws have been a problem like this for a while now, and they're getting worse. Instead of a copyright lasting a few years after the creator's death, they can be continually renewed by the creator's estate and be maintained indefinitely. Instead of protecting the creator, now copyright laws are instituted to protect the cash flow. They aren't something to protect art, but to protect a company's earning power.

And corporations want to make them even more stringent, even more protective. That's where the whole SOPA and PIPA controversy came up from. Companies want to protect their product in any conceivable use and shut down anyone who might be violating copyright without any sort of legal action, then sort it out afterward.

The problem is, we live in an age where old copyright concepts just don't work any longer, and companies instead of trying to find a way to work within that change are trying to fight it like a buggy whip company suing car manufacturers. And that battle is not one they're going to win.


And now I bring you the theme song for the Occupy movement:

Everybody's got nice stuff but me
Everybody's got nice stuff but me
Everybody's got nice stuff but me
Everybody's got nice stuff but me

Look at that girl she makes me sick
She's got a wad of bills 6 inches thick
Got a brand new stereo a new TV
Everybody's got nice stuff but me
I want a stereo I want a TV

Everybody's got nice stuff but me
Everybody's got nice stuff but me
Everybody's got nice stuff but me
Everybody's got nice stuff but me

People in nice cars how'd they get em?
I close my eyes try to forget em
Went out swimming got hit by a jet-ski
Everybody's got nice stuff but me
I wanna car I wanna jet-ski

Everybody's got nice stuff but me
Everybody's got nice stuff but me
Everybody's got nice stuff but me
Everybody's got nice stuff but me

She's got eyes of deepest blue
He's got hair that's green
Everybody's got nice stuff but me
I wish I had the kind of cash
To make heads turn when I walk past
I wish I could live in luxury

Everybody's got nice stuff but me
I want cash, I want money

Everybody's got nice stuff but me
I want a stereo I want a TV

Everybody's got nice stuff but me
I want a car I want a jet-ski

Everybody's got nice stuff but me
I want hair that's blue or green

Everybody's got nice stuff but me
Everybody's got nice stuff but me
Everybody's got nice stuff but me
Everybody's got nice stuff but me

-The Dead Milkmen


It could work...

Quote of the Day

“You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”
-Winston Churchill

Thursday, February 23, 2012


Since the comprehension of sweet sound is our most indefinite conception, music when combined with a pleasurable idea is poetry.
Music without the idea is simply music. Without music or an intriguing idea, colour become pallor, man becomes carcass, home becomes catacomb,
and the dead are but for a moment motionless.
-Edgar Allen Poe, Letter to B-

I'm not a big fan of poetry. I like it fine when its accompanied by music, because then the stylized method if writing makes sense: it has to fit the meter of the song. All too often, poetry is pretentious, its writing something in a deliberately obscure method instead of saying it right out and plainly.

People take classes where they read a poem which says nothing deep or makes little sense, then spend hours talking about what it really, actually means in some cryptic fashion only an expert can unravel. Which means it was said very poorly, if that's what the author was doing instead of just writing something they thought sounded interesting.

But there are some poems that truly speak to me, and the advantage of poetry is that often you can quote a few lines and encompass the whole work for someone who knows it. Consider these:

"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!"

To be... or not to be, that is the question.

Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred

If you know the poems, or even are just somewhat aware of them, you only have to hear these lines to know the rest. They are shorthand for a longer, deeper concept, and literature has used this principle to great effect in the past. A character drops a line from a poem to explain his feelings or an event and you can grasp a whole world of truth from it.

One such poem I find so powerful due to a specific line is "To Lucasta, Going to the Wars" by Richard Lovelace. His poem is about honor, and the significance of it in a man's life. Honor is a pretty battered and beleaguered concept in modern life. Honor makes modern man sneer and mock, the principle that it is better to lose doing right than win doing wrong is considered stupid and even possibly unAmerican, with our pragmatic culture.

But honor is what makes man greater than a beast, greater than a mere human, and greater than what he too often is want to slouch into. Honor keeps us doing right when all is so hard, honor gives you the reason to go on when all are against you, and honor is what makes you stand tall when others around you slump.

To Lucasta, Going to the Wars is a short poem, addressed to a man's wife as he heads to fight in a war. He is trying to explain why he is going to a woman who declares - as so often has happened in the past - that if he really loved her, he'd stay. Honor, he explains, is why I love you.

TELL me not, sweet, I am unkind
That from nunnery
Of thy chaste breast and quiet mind,
To war and arms I fly.

True, a new mistress now I chase,
The first foe in the field;
And with a stronger faith embrace
A sword, a horse, a shield.

Yet this inconstancy is such
As you too shall adore;
I could not love thee, dear, so much,
Loved I not honor more.

I don't know if this is a male/female divide or just me, but my mom hates that last line, and I love it.

I could not love thee, dear, so much,
Loved I not honor more.

How could he say such a thing! He just said he loves something more than her! He's abandoning her because he loves honor? How unthinkable!

But consider: the man he is, the man she adores and wants to stay, the man she fell in love with and wed, that man is defined by his honor. His honor is part of his character, and its part of what makes him who he is. Loving him means loving that honor, too. And in reverse, his honor and his love of it makes him love her.

His love of honor is part of him, and it drives him to love her, because she fits his understanding and drive for honor. He love her because he loves honor. And to ask him to abandon that for her is to ask him to abandon the very thing that makes him who he is and why he loves her.

The terms are antiquated, the setting is odd to us now, but the sentiment should ring through the ages to every man, and through him, to every woman who loves him.

SONGS I LIKE: One More For My Baby (Frank Sinatra)

This torch that I've found
Must be drowned or it soon might explode

I'm not a big Frank Sinatra fan, but everyone has to respect the guy's career and determination. Several times over decades he became popular and became square and unpopular. Several times he had a comeback and was huge. He was so poor at times he had to borrow money to pay rent, then within years had hit singles and lived large. By the time of his death, Frank Sinatra was such a respected icon in singing and American music he was finally given his due, but there were some hard times along the way.

Sinatra by the end wasn't really that great. In live shows, supposedly he'd forget some of the lyrics and fill them in with jazz scat. He was a much better singer when young, but he got comfortable and perhaps a bit lazy and his later stuff was not very dynamic or even that great. But he put out some amazing music over the years, and this song is one of them.

Sinatra can really belt them out ("My Way" being the usual example) but for "One More For My Baby," he's very low key and subtle. He sounds meloncholy and contemplative, a man sitting on the barstool, slowly putting them back as he feels his pain seep through his whole body. You can almost see the bartender listening quietly as he tells his story, waiting for the place to close so he can finally go home, alone.

Originally recorded in 1947, the music is very simple; just a piano and a bass, played low and quiet. You get the impression they're somewhere else in the bar, not really even related to the song. "One More For My Baby" was used in the film Young at Heart, and the video accompanying this was probably from his TV show, but its perfect: exactly how I imagine it.

It's quarter to three
There ain't no one in the place except you and me
So set 'em up, Joe
I've got a little story you ought to know

Were drinkin', my friend
To the end of a brief episode
So make it one for my baby
And one more for the road

I got the routine
So drop another nickel in the machine
I'm feeling so bad
Wish you'd make the music pretty and sad?

Could tell you a lot
But you've got to be true to your code
Make it one for my baby
And one more for the road

You'd never know it
But, buddy, I'm a kind of poet and I got a lot of things to say
And when I'm gloomy, you simply gotta listen to me
Until its talked away

Well, that's how it goes
And Joe, I know you're gettin' kinda anxious to close
So thanks for the cheer
I hope you didn't mind my bendin' your ear

This torch that I've found
Must be drowned or it soon might explode
So make it one for my baby
One more for the road
The long, its so long, the long....

This is part of the Songs I Like series.


“You must remember that only a trick of fate has brought you so far from your homeland, but there must be no question of your loyalty. When Japan calls, you must know that it is Japanese blood that flows in your veins.”

In this series I've tried to find stories and commonly held beliefs about the past and events which are at least partly if not completely false. I like to find out this kind of thing, perhaps because it verifies by cynicism, and perhaps just because I want to be correct. Certainly given the state of journalism in the US (if not worldwide) its no surprise many basic presumptions about events are utterly false.

There are so many of these I could write for months, but too many of them are so small and short I'd be padding just to make a full blog article out of them. So here are a lot of these short takes to look over. How many of these had you heard wrong in the past?

  • William Randolph Hearst didn't start the Spanish-American war, despite Citizen Kane. There zero evidence, and Hearst always denied it.
  • Kennedy didn't win the race based on his performance at the televised debate with Nixon, he only got a 2% bump in the polls, which is within the margin of error.
  • Johnson probably never said "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost America;" he wasn't even watching the news when Walter Cronkite treacherously declared the Vietnam war (despite all evidence to the contrary) to have been lost. Johnson continued to be upbeat about the war and condemned people who called for withdrawal.
  • For that matter, the Tet Offensive was a disastrous, ghastly defeat for the Viet Cong, which in effect ceased to exist after it because the US military totally obliterated them, reversing their temporary gains in a matter of days.
  • The press didn't bring Nixon down. Even Bob Woodward calls that horse(bleep). It was the special prosecutor and the supreme court, not the press, but the "heroic journalist" narrative is too sweet for the media to pass up.
  • Following the Watergate scandal, there was supposedly a doubling of journalism students, making reporters hot for the first time in history... except that never happened. There was a very slight gain, but the doubling had already taken place.
  • JFK wore a hat to his inauguration, in fact he was the last president to wear the traditional stove pipe hat.
  • Michael Moore's entire movie Roger And Me was based on his not being able to get into talk to the president of GM... but he did, but just didn't bother showing that in the film, since it would ruin his entire thesis.
  • One in Four women in college have not been the victim of attempted rape
  • 30% of women's visits to emergency rooms do not come from domestic abuse
  • The "rule of thumb" does not refer to the size of a rod that could be used to beat women legally.
  • There is no rise in domestic violence on Superbowl Sunday.
  • Sacco and Vanzetti were guilty.
  • Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were guilty.
  • Alger Hiss was guilty.
In fact, you could do a whole article on people the left defend as innocent who were actually, really guilty. I probably will, with greater detail. There are a lot more of these.

Just remember, having heard something all your life and had it repeated to you by people you trust doesn't necessarily make them true.

*This is part of the Common Knowledge series.