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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Thursday, May 31, 2012

COMMON KNOWLEGE: The Crusades

Marching through countries they'd never seen
Virgins with rifles, a game of charades
-Sting, "Children's Crusade"

Crusader
Ah, the crusades. A bloody, endless series of invasions upon peaceful Arabic peoples by imperialist white European Christians. Wave after wave of knights descended on the innocent folk of the middle east, driven by bloodlust, greed for treasure, and a need to dominate and force religion on people.

The crusades, we're told, were the worst example of Christian history, proof that Christians were at least as bad as the modern terrorist, and the root of why the terrorist exists today. Why, if it weren't for evil Christian knights from the west invading Arabic nations, they would not be so angry at us today. It all started with white Christian Europeans.

Watch any film or read any book about the crusades today, and it will be all about how horrible the knights acted - and how badly they were defeated by the Muslims. It is about hot sun making western armor unwearable, how Christians massacred thousands of innocent people, and about the Roman Catholic Church's greed and lust for the riches of the region. And, of course, the "children's crusade" when kids by the thousand climbed onto ships to invade the region, confident God would give them victory as cackling wicked bishops lined up on the shore, rubbing their hands in maniacal glee.

From the most recent attempt at Robin Hood, where Robin leaves the service of arrogant and power hungry King Richard to the evil knights in Kingdom of Heaven, lately it seems that Ridley Scott has a particular interest in this depiction.

Today, using the word "crusade" has a nasty sound to it, so much so that President Bush had to retract mentioning it in his speech on a fight against Islamic extremists. The pope recently apologized for the crusades, which happened centuries before his grandparents were born.

Like most of these, there's some truth to the common knowledge, and a lot of falsehood. For example, there was a "Children's Crusade" but it wasn't what is usually claimed.

The best historical data now available from studies of ancient documents reveals that there were two children's crusades, both in the early 1200s.

The first was started by a German shepherd who claimed he had visions of children being sold into slavery by middle eastern Muslims (which was happening - and still does) and a wave of Christians peacefully conquering the region by the grace of God. This shepherd named Nicholas led 7000 people over the Alps, where about 60% died from the hardship, and finally to Genoa, where he said he had a vision that God would part the Mediterranean and allow them to walk to the holy land. It didn't happen. The Genoans were impressed by the group though, and offered the survivors citizenship and many took them up. Eventually Nicholas gave up and headed home, but died on the journey and his father was hung by irate villagers over their dead relatives.

The second was another shepherd boy named Stephen, a 12 year old from France. He led about 30,000 adults and young people across France to the king who refused to see a child, and then to the coast, where they begged food (typical of pilgrims) and eventually dissipated despite the child's charismatic speaking ability.

However, the most modern research indicates that these "children" were most likely not as young as originally believed. Economic hardship in the time period resulted in large groups of wandering peasants who had to sell their land, and they were referred to as "children" by the general population, a semi-derisive term (think more calling a black man "boy" than referring to a young person). Both crusades appear to be made up largely of these sort of children, which led to later confusion and retelling of events, probably not in any small part by less than friendly voices. It only took a few generations for "children" to become literally little kids.

So yes, there were children's crusades, and they failed miserably, but they didn't involve waves of little children, sent to their doom by evil religious leaders.

Muslim ExpansionAs for the crusades themselves, well here's where there's a strange reversal. As Jonah Goldberg writes in Tyrrany of Cliches (excerpted at Big Government):
Until fairly recently, historically speaking, Muslims used to brag about being the winners of the Crusades, not the victims of it. That is if they talked about them at all.
The truth of the matter is that the Crusades were a response to Muslim aggression, fought to push back invaders. Islam began expanding by the sword in the 5th century, conquering Jerusalem in 638 after taking over the rest of what was then called Palestine (the Roman term for Israel). For centuries after that, Muslims took more and more land, taking Egypt, Tunisia, Rhodes, Sicily, even parts of France and Spain. Almost all of the former Roman Empire was conquered by Islam.

By the 11th century, Muslims had been driven out of France and the Byzantine Empire, although greatly reduced, was still surviving, and Byzantium had fought off several waves of Islamic invaders. Emperor Alexius I petitioned Pope Urban II in 1095 for help fighting the Muslims, to throw them out of what was referred to as the "Holy Land" for its Biblical history. A church council was held in Clermont, France, and a plea was sent out by the Pope to free the lands from Muslim invaders.

Now, you have to understand something about medieval warfare. To be able to fight to protect your lands or conquer others, you had to have a ready force, but that force consisted of landed, wealthy knights and specialist forces such as archers. These people had to be kept in training (thus the existence of tournaments where martial skill was demonstrated) and paid. Knights were virtually autonomous, and if they weren't kept busy at war tended to find mischief on their own and cause troubles for the king. So a chance to get these guys active and out of your hair was welcomed by many rulers.

Another feature of medieval warfare was plunder. All warfare for most of human existence was characterized not just by political goals and gains (territory, protecting your people, etc) but by the money. Soldiers were allowed to keep whatever they looted and found from their enemies. Kings got a cut of all the loot that was collected (the lion's share). Conquered knights and nobles were held hostage, kept until a ransom was paid to set them free again - often bankrupting the region. When the Pope sent out word, the response was enthusiastic.

And I don't mean to make this sound entirely mercenary. Nobody would have thought it that way at the time, this was a valid and proper way for a monarch to make money for the kingdom, and it didn't involve taxes. Most people in the 11th century had little money to pay the king anyway, taxes were largely in the form of labor and goods. But there was a certain religious aspect to this as well. Muslims had taken over the holiest place on earth, as the church understood it at the time. This is where apostles and prophets had walked and were buried. This is where Jesus Christ preached and died, now trodden on and conquered by people who, the Medieval people believed, taught a false faith.

So there was a sense of injustice and even blasphemy involved. But make no mistake, the Crusades were a response to Muslim aggression. Yes, it took a while, primarily because news and events traveled a lot slower back then. Most people had no idea that Muslims had taken over Jerusalem, let alone the rest of Palestine, until the Pope brought it up.

The first crusade had its problems. A "people's crusade" made up of basically unemployed people and zealots looted and burned their way across Byzantine lands, unclear on their targets, and were obliterated by Turkish forces. Another group was led by Count Emicho who either wasn't sure who Muslims were or just hated Jews and slaughtered Jewish Europeans across the Rheinland instead of going to the holy land.

Crusader StatesThe main armies of the Crusades were very successful, however, and focused on their task at hand. They conquered the city of Antioch, marched south and took Jerusalem in 1099, which was no small feat. Jerusalem was nearly impossible to beat due to its very strong walls and mountainous position. It took the Muslims almost 100 years to take the place, and Muhammad himself gave up after a try. The Crusaders headed south, taking city after city and often taking the Muslim armies by surprise, since communication was difficult and slow at the time. Indeed, that's how many of the Muslim victories were won as well.

There were slaughters (as there had been before, by Muslim conquerors). Turkish prisoners were beheaded at the base of Antioch's walls. Once in the city of Jerusalem, the Crusaders massacred the Muslim garrison and many Jewish inhabitants.

Again, a historical note here: sieges were horrific, and stayed that way well into the 19th century. Men died and struggled horrendously against the walls, and the longer and harder it was to make it through, the more berserk and enraged they were once they got through. Commanders could not control them, and they would simply ransack the town in a red mist of fury after their awful experience and the death around them. This was not unique to Christians or Europeans, it happened everywhere sieges were laid, by everyone. Any exceptions were extremely rare and astounding. That doesn't make it right, just not unusual for the time - and you'll tend to read it written as if the Crusaders were uniquely and distinctly horrible for this behavior. As Christian theology goes, they were, but as history goes... no.

The Crusaders had accomplished their goals in a surprisingly short time period, capturing the entire holy land as far south as Ascalon, setting up "crusader states" to hold the land while the bulk of the armies went home. They held Jerusalem for almost 100 years against repeated invasion, wearing their big metal armor plates (so did the Muslims, in different designs), despite the heat.

Over time, Muslim forces took the land back, then the Crusaders came and took more land and it went back and forth. However, after that initial success and the first crusade's triumphs, it became less and less about winning land back from a Muslim invader, and more and more about holding land for kings to get rich off of and getting rid of annoying or troublesome lords and knights.

The Middle East was the crossroads for three continents, and Israel in particular was the main crossroad. All the riches of Africa, Asia, and Europe would pass through these lands on their way between the continents, and as a result it became a disproportionately wealthy and influential region. Controlling that area meant control of a lot of money. And what's more, many rare and exotic spices, dyes, and other goods could be obtained in that area and no where else in Europe, so trade was very good for whoever controlled those lands.

Groups such as the Knights Templar (who controlled the Jerusalem kingdom) became very wealthy and powerful as a result. The knights of Malta did the same thing in control of the Mediterranean. So holding those lands and being the one in charge was worth a lot to the kings in question. It became not so much about throwing out the invader and more about fat bank, and fights between Byzantium and various kings in Europe were constant.

Eventually, though, the Muslims won. They did so primarly because of the lack of unity which so characterized the first crusade and the brilliant leadership of several Muslim leaders, particularly Saladin. Disorganized, squabbling and political game playing Europeans faced a zealous, united Muslim front and eventually were worn down and defeated. Nine crusades later, and Islam controlled the region, holding it until the 1940s.

evil Bush crusadesSo its a mixed bag,but one thing is absolutely clear: the Crusades were a response to Muslim aggression and conquest, not the reverse, as is usually taught. There were horrors and massacres and evils done by both sides, as always happens in war. War is evil, it is sheer hell, and every one has its especially hellish moments. But in the end, the common knowledge on this is just as flawed as it is in so many areas.

Other sources:
A timeline of the period in question is available at the Latin Library.
Raedts, P (1977). "The Children's Crusade of 1213". Journal of Medieval History
Russell, Oswald, "Children's Crusade", Dictionary of the Middle Ages, 1989

This is part of the Common Knowledge series: things we know that ain't so.

VIRGINITY: TREASURE OR BURDEN?

"If she had said, 'I’m doing this for myself, because I only want to be with one man,' I would’ve thought, 'Do your thing, sister.'”

Miley
In one of the strangest reversals in cultural history, being a virgin when you marry has gone from being the norm and celebrated to being so rare if someone famous claims to be a virgin, its news. Not being a virgin used to be a source of shame, now being one is a source of mockery and confusion. Sex has become such a dominating force in modern culture that refraining from it is considered surprising, even bizarre.

Consider the story of 29-year-old American track athlete Lolo Jones, who will compete in the Olympics. She said that getting into the Olympics wasn't as hard as her constant effort to remain a virgin until she finds a husband. She told Bryant Gumble:
“It’s just a gift I want to give my husband. But please understand this journey has been hard. There’s virgins out there and I want to let them know that it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life; harder than training for the Olympics; harder than graduating from college has been to stay a virgin before marriage. I’ve been tempted, I’ve had plenty of opportunities.”
I believe its been a struggle, especially with what I understand about the Olympic Village where the athletes live, its divided between training and an orgy, with crates of condoms shipped to the place. Young, attractive, athletic people living in the same buildings together, many away from home the first time, I suppose its not surprising.

Yet here's the response to her comments from Alexandra Gekas at The Frisky:
My personal philosophy in life is to live and let live. So if Jones’ decision is right for her, then not only do I say more power to her, but I am impressed that she has neither succumbed to the pressure nor the temptation.

However, my respect for Jones’ decision has one big “but,” and that is because of one little sentence: “It’s just a gift I want to give my husband.”

With this archaic notion of “value” placed on a woman’s virginity comes the belief that exclusive rights to her womb should be saved for the highest bidder; that it is a commodity to be bought (in most cases by her husband) and sold (usually by her father). And if she gives it away or, God forbid, it is taken from her, she loses value as a woman and as a human being.
Aside from being hilariously dramatic and an overreaction, there's something strange going on here. Reading further you get a good feel for what that something is. For example, Ms Gekas says:
"to “give” it to a man is to suggest that it is about him more than it is about her and that’s what irks me"
and
"that is certainly a step up from those creepy virginity balls where daddies take an inappropriate stake in the comings and goings of their daughters’ vaginas"
and finally
"but I just wish she’d made it clear that she’s doing this for herself instead of for him, whoever he turns out to be."
What this all comes down to is that she's mad that Lolo isn't thinking of herself enough. She thinks that a woman considering giving herself to her beloved is demeaning and upsetting. And she has a problem with the idea that saving yourself for one specific man is a gift to him. She understands the principle, noting that this is something special to have with only one guy - something she didn't bother with - but thinks that isn't a gift.

Why? Because its all about yourself, not the one you marry. Because sex is personal and achievement rather than gift and an expression of love. Oh sure, she'll make some gesture toward that, saying its "one of the deepest, most profound ways two human beings can connect" but her entire focus is on what she gets out of it.

This makes me suspect her relationships are, shall we say, troubled, since she's not about love directed toward someone else but inwardly focused. Getting mad at someone for wanting to give themselves to another is creepy, not fathers worried about their daughters virginity, Ms Gekas.

Then she praises Disney mini slut Miley Cyrus for saying
“The girls that really base how much they’re worth on the sexual favors they can do for somebody, that makes me really sad. Sex is actually really beautiful. It’s the only way we create, and it’s the only way the world keeps going. It’s ignorant not to talk to your kids about it or [not] make it seem as magical or cool as it actually is.”
Which is actually contradictory: make sex seem magical and cool, but girl shouldn't think sex makes them cool. Now, given Miley hasn't created anything (unless she's aborted the baby), but is having sex, her lofty statements about creation are just that - statements, even excuses, trying to make her leg spreads into something noble and poetic.

But again, its about yourself. Its magical, its beautiful, but its not about giving, love, and sacrifice It isn't about what you do to show love toward someone, its about "connecting" and "creating" (unless you didn't want to create, then just flush it out at the clinic). Its about "scratching the itch" instead of coming together in the most glorious statement of relationship and love we have as human beings. Becoming one, if just for a short time.

This woman's head is a mess. She's been packed full of feminist notions of woman roaring and not being owned by men and she's so inwardly focused I doubt she even really understands what love is. She's so full of grrl power and self actualization and finding yourself that it all becomes inwardly focused and selfish.

And she's hardly alone, these days. Because that's the thing most people don't seem to understand. Ultimately, sex isn't about you. Sure, there are parts of it that are, but its about giving yourself to someone else and becoming one, not about what you get. And its certainly not about "scratching that itch."

LUNCH BLOGGING

You can't have any pudding if you don't eat your meat!
-Pink Floyd, "The Wall"

Want a change of pace from politics and the usual arguments and frankly depressing stuff so often on blogs (such as this one)? Try Never Seconds, a blog by a little girl in Scotland about her school lunch. That's what she writes about: lunch at school, her own and others who send her their pictures.

Each school day she has a picture of what her lunch looked like, grades it, tells about what it was like to eat, and some added thoughts like "I love sweetcorn because I know the plants grow taller than Dad and he's really tall." Its fun to read because of her perspective, but I do have one thought on the matter; she eats like a bird. I know she's a little girl but... how on earth is she supposed to grow up on this amount of food:

Maybe my perspective is off because I'm a 6'2 man but that's not enough food to make it worth sitting down a the table. And compare this:



To this from an American school (a kosher Jewish school by the way) from a girl the same age:

I know ha ha American kids are fat, but... they aren't particularly as I've written before and that looks like its a better amount of food, if a bit heavy on the grains.

Maybe it is enough, I don't know. The girl calls herself Veg and she has pretty interesting meals, such as the croquettes in the top meal and shepherd's pie. I like burgers and tacos and such but a little variety is always good, especially in food.

Incidentally something fun that she does is when someone sends her a picture from a location, she looks up the location and records how long it takes her to find it (like 49 seconds for Atlanta, remarking "America is big!"). The whole blog is sweet and fun and diverting, and its worth reading. I hope she keeps it up over time, but she'll probably discover boys and forget about it soon enough.

PICTURE OF THE DAY

Presidents at work:


I'm seeing this image all over the place lately, such as at American Digest. It reminds me of the Obama bicycle picture, but for some reason that didn't resonate with people. These days I think this one does.

Quote of the Day

"The nation which forgets its defenders will be itself forgotten.”
-Calvin Coolidge.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

RIP DOC WATSON

Another genuine American folk artist - the real kind, not the whiny 60s bead wearing fake - has died. John Belushi would never have had to yank the guitar out of Doc Watson's hands and smash it on a wall. He'd have sat down and listened.

Watson was another amazing bluegrass and roots artist, a giant in the field along with Flatt&Scruggs and many others who are now gone or soon will be. Again, we're all diminished when men like this die.





Oh but go back to Rhiannon and Justin Bieber. So much better. Like eating a McDonalds fry someone dropped in the gutter instead of Chicken Kiev.

THE 3/5ths COMPROMISE

"The South asks for justice, simple justice, and less she ought not to take."


I've seen something come up every so often and it is annoying every time. When the founding fathers and the constitution are mentioned, inevitably some leftist will claim that it enshrined the concept of blacks being worth less as humans. The most recent example I've seen is at Ann Althouse's blog where she writes about a Garry Wills piece on Romney and Mormonism (asking all the same questions that were asked about JFK decades ago). Wills is just "asking questions" and he writes:
Does the First Amendment actually separate church and state, or does that not count, since it is merely an amendment, not the original word of God? But why, then, did a mere amendment change the first inspiration that made slaves less than full persons?
Now, I understand that many folks in America - especially on the left - have little real literacy when it comes to the US Constitution. That's inexcusable given how easy the thing is to find and how short and simple it is, but that's modern education for you. They know how to identify diversity and say they like homosexuality, but they don't know what the 9th amendment says.

The part he's referring to in the constitution is this:
Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.
That's in Article 1, section 2. The usual cry is that this reduces blacks to less than a full human being - just over half, by proportion. And that's simply idiotic.

Just looking at the context and reading the actual sentence involved tells the tale: this is about how to apportion representatives and taxation. It isn't about worth as humans, it is about statistics. A little history helps here. When the US Constitution was being debated and written, every state in the union had slaves - just like every nation on earth had slaves. Some states had more, particularly the southern agrarian states which relied on slave labor for their plantation work.

The US House of Representatives is proportional to the number of people in each state. So if you have more people in your state, you get more representatives. These slave-heavy states wanted to count all their slaves when it came to how many legislators they got in congress, thus increasing their power. The other states were disinclined to allow this, since the slaves plainly were not going to be represented by these congressmen and were powerless to vote. It was simply a trick to pack the House with southern legislators.

So a compromise was reached: this section was written so that slaves were somewhat represented, to mollify the southerners, but it also attached taxes to this proportion, so that slaves added more to a state's tax burden. The end result didn't make anyone happy, but it was tolerable enough that the document eventually got signed.

This had nothing to do with the relative worth of blacks, slave or free. It had nothing to do with perceived humanity - if anything, the south was treating slaves as more human than the north wanted to, in the sense of wanting them to count for representation. It was not a statement enshrining slavery in the constitution or demeaning blacks. It was a reluctant deal to get the document finished and signed representing the reality of the day.

Did the 3/5ths compromise get used later by ignorant people to argue slaves were less human? Yes. People misuse and confuse things regularly, especially ignorant, bigoted jerks. But the compromise had nothing to do with dehumanizing blacks or federally establishing slavery.

Note: Native Americans were not counted at all. Does that mean they were considered inhuman? No, it means they were considered separate nations and not represented in congress by legislators.

THE NEW MAN

"Fish know little of the water they swim in and the 21st Century Homo Americanus, fed racial mythology along with his mother's milk, often knows less."

There's a line that blacks used in the past which became somewhat of a joke over time. "The man is keeping us down!" Its not that there was no validity to it, the problem is this line was repeated and used in such inappropriate situations that it lost all meaning and power. Its like conservatives crying "media bias," particularly when its not really bias at all. Its becoming a joke rather than a lament.

The man (institutional government and society) was keeping blacks down, by refusing them full access into society, compartmentalizing them off into "separate but equal" categories Booker T. Washington never intended, and using laws and pressure to make sure blacks could never achieve much.

That's changed these days, and institutional racism against blacks is all but gone (there are a few holdouts such as some police). That's good but the "man keeping us down" line goes on, as a reason why things are hard and success doesn't come. And in a sad, strange way... they're right. The man is keeping them down.

The problem is, the "man," the establishment culture, is different these days. Gone is the Bull Connor Jim Crow law era. There aren't separate drinking fountains any more. In its place is something even more sinister. Daniel Greenfield at Sultan Knish writes:
Imagine for a moment that you didn't really have to work, that you were surrounded by ads offering you free food, endless free training programs and benefits, special opportunities to get everything from jobs to government contracts, without having to work for them. Imagine that at any job you held a "Get Out of Work" card by filing an accusation of racism. What's more, imagine if you were surrounded by ads and people encouraging you to do just that? Imagine if you had been brought up in a dysfunctional community by a broken educational system and its even worse entertainment partners to believe that all of this was just because you were oppressed by white people? Then go ahead and break the habit.

This isn't typical life for black people in America, but it's the background that's always there. Most black people know someone that lives this way. They've known people who behave this way at work or who go from job to job, or never hold down any job at all. And while they may not admire them, the blame is assigned to a white society which made them that way.
The man is keeping Black Americans down, but its not external like it used to be. Today the man keeps blacks down from inside, through the welfare state, through continual assurance that you have no chance, that ambition and education is "white," that "keeping it real" means not working hard to get out of your life, and that every problem you have is due to some external oppression.

The man - the culturally dominant force of the left in academia, entertainment, politics, and popular culture - is keeping blacks down with these forces. There's good money and power for the modern Man in keeping them down, as Greenfield writes:
The new generations of immigrants have hacked their way up through street-level retail, often in black communities, to finance their children's education and progress up the ladder, as the only remaining access point to the American Dream. But that's a narrow ladder, and not one to which Irish, Jewish or Italian immigrants were limited. Immigrants adapt, the black community has not. Instead, its adaptations have all been maladjustments, destructive responses that leave them with fewer options than before.

Black leaders, individually, wield a great deal of power, but the black community has little power. Their "helplessness" is an excuse for the exercise of power on their behalf. That "helplessness" is what makes men like Obama or Sharpton or the neighborhood fixer and machine politician so powerful. He wields a collective tool of group votes, racial grievance and simmering violence-- but the practical benefit of this is limited. Black communities receive a sizable proportion of taxpayer money directed at services and entitlements which leave them more maladjusted than before.
Its almost a sinister combination of history, culture, law, and government working together to make sure blacks have as little desire and reason to achieve and move out of their situation as possible. And trying to point this out results in the inevitable croak of racism. Pointing out that the way out is to ignore those forces and work hard results in people crying "cultural genocide."

It isn't that the modern Man is trying to hurt blacks, its all done in the name of helping out and fighting racism. Its like a parent who doesn't punish children out of fear of hurting their feelings and generating neuroses, or a woman who won't call the cops on her abusive husband because he would be hauled off to jail. They mean well but are misguided and hurtful, making things worse for the ones they want to help.

In the name of helping people in poverty, they make it easy to never get out. In the name of diversity, they ruin ambition and achievement by reducing standards. In the name of fighting racism, they teach people to blame others for all their problems. And the results are all too similar to when racism and bigotry oppressed minorities as an international institution (let's not pretend only America had these laws).

COFFEE HOUSE GLOW

"I can't help feeling what we once called a 'bummed vibe' radiating towards us from behind the counter as her hands carefully move her purse from the counter into a drawer and lock it."

Over at American Digest, Gerard Vanderleun relates an odd tale of a day in Seattle, where oddity is easy to find. He talks about a head shop and a word you can't say, but what got me thinking was this bit:
The corner curry houses are doing a desultory business in over-spiced stews, and in the various coffee houses with free WiFi young couples who used to sit and have "intellectual" conversations over cappuccinos are sitting together staring at their laptop screens. Perhaps they're having "intellectual" instant messaging with each other.
I live in Salem, Oregon, also in the Northwest of the United States. Its an odd sort of landscape up here, and coffee features strongly. If you have seen the show Portlandia you get something of a glimpse, if a satirical one. Downtown within a block of each other there are three coffee shops and they all do good business (yes, one is a Starbuck's. They don't have the best coffee).

In these shops hipsters, college kids, intellectuals, artists, and an occasional walk-in customer sit drinking coffee. In the past, people would sit and chat over various topics, read newspapers and books, and generally enjoy a few hours with some high quality brew. Just walking into these places is intoxicating because of the smell of roasted beans, Cinnamon, vanilla, and other fragrances.

Today? They're all lit up by the pallid glow of a computer screen. If its not a laptop, its a tablet or a cell phone. Most people aren't talking much any more, they're browsing or texting or watching videos. Sure, some of them talk, but they're the minority and usually older.

And it makes a kind of sense. The sort of people who'd go to a coffee shop and sit around in public discussing Big Ideas© tend to be the kind who think they are terribly important and smart. The kind that think if only people would listen to them, things would all be so much better. The kind that think if they just had a chance, they could talk down any terrorist and solve any problem.

The talk wasn't really ever about a conversation, it was just an excuse to seem important and smart to others, to share the brilliant thoughts you had instead of listening to a boring lecture.

And that sort of person deep down doesn't think they really need anyone else or their ideas. They just use other people as a springboard and a source of approbation for their thoughts. Someone to be their Watson and say "gosh you're smart" every so often. So being wrapped up in their own little world reading ThinkProgress and watching you tube videos of Jon Stewart Segments and people harming themselves with the word FAIL on the screen makes a sort of sense.

But why at a coffee house? Well its a kind of sanctuary for hipsters and leftist intellectuals. It is a place they can go and not be offended by the presence of someone insufficiently left leaning or too square. You won't find ma and pa here, at least not for long. Only like-minded comforting people who will never threaten your worldview. And maybe that kind of cute girl behind the counter with 8 rings in her face and more makeup than Tammi Faye Baker (but in somber, dark colors) will notice and you can share your pain living in a world where Rush Limbaugh is yet unlynched.

Its a way of socializing and getting out among others - safe, like-minded others - without having to deal with them. And besides the room mate was driving them nuts by listening to Reggae music again.

PICTURE OF THE DAY

It seems girls are finally waking up to the fact that comic books are filled with big, handsome, muscular men doing good deeds.


Why this wasn't true from the beginning I don't understand. Although Steve Rogers seems a bit dismayed and confused to find this stick figure girl in his arms.

Quote of the Day

"We're all equally responsible. Great power does not bring great responsibility, it brings great opportunity."
-Christopher Taylor

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

THE NEW MORALISM, CONTINUED

"For all the talk of Christians being rigid moralists, the dirty little secret is that the left is far more rigidly, arrogantly moralistic, and it is cheerled by our cultural institutions"

A few years back I wrote a piece for the Washington Examiner about the "subsidy" that oil companies were supposedly getting for drilling. Its a big talking point with the left, one that President Obama brings up every time oil prices go up, and its a red herring. As I wrote at the time:
The truth is, a tax break is not properly a subsidy. Subsidies are funds that governments give to someone to encourage and assist them to take an action. By reducing taxes for an action, that can have the same sort of effect, but it is more properly a tax break.

In the case of oil companies, the tax breaks in question are part of IRS Code Section 199, which allows any business to deduct certain expenses from their tax returns. The maximum allowable deduction is 9% of those expenses, and this is part of the tax code passed in 2004 under the "American Jobs Creation Act."

The idea at the time was to make it possible for businesses to take some risks and if those risks didn't pan out to get a tax break to reduce the pain and cost. This in theory would encourage businesses to expand and hire more.

These tax breaks apply to all businesses, not just oil companies, but the tax code specifically states that oil companies can only get a 6% break, not a 9%. Naturally since this is the tax code its a bit more complicated than a straight cut in taxes, but that's the basic gist of the law.
Oil companies pay almost $100,000,000 in taxes a day on average so its not like they're getting away with anything here. But notice: this applies to all business R&D, but oil companies specifically have a lower allowable break by law.

But President Obama strongly wants that "subsidy" to be cut and criticizes Republicans in congress as being greedy oil company patsies for not going along with his command. Which brings me to a more recent story, about Wall Street. Its a bit complicated but in essence it goes like this: when a company sells part of its assets, the profits are not taxed as income, but as "capital gains." This is standard for any business. Megan McArdle explains in greater detail in The Atlantic.

President Obama wants Hedge Fund companies to pay full tax rate and the Democrats in congress agree. The difference is significant. At the levels of money involved here, that means an increase from 15% to 35% taxation. And since Hedge Funds are all evil (unless owned by Democrats) and the source of all misery and equality on earth, if you believe some of the rhetoric, why that's just unfair. President Obama calls this a "loophole."

The pattern is pretty clear here. President Obama doesn't want the laws to change overall, he wants specific sorts of "bad" companies to be nailed by higher taxes. He wants to take individual portions of the economy and change the law specifically for these particular companies, not change the laws in general.

Because this sort of thing isn't really about government revenues; a year's taxes from these increases wouldn't add up to a single day of debt interest. It isn't about fairness, because these companies aren't getting specific unequal treatment under law (except maybe in the case of the oil companies, who are singled out for less of a tax write off).

Ultimately it has more to do with ignorance of law and taxes combined with an enemies list, a chart of good and bad sectors of the economy, the ones that need to be punished and the ones that need to be assisted. "Green" startups need cash flow to create a new economy of "sustainable energy," no matter how unfeasible that is. Hedge Fund guys and oil companies need to be struck down with an iron fist.

The odd thing is this is like having some super fundamentalist from 1910 in charge of government, choosing what sectors of the economy are wicked and sinful and which are holy and righteous. That company produces swimwear so wicked harlots can frolic on the beach showing their ankles, shame! This company produces hymnals and should be given extra tax breaks.

Its a system of morality that has decided that coal and oil are evil, hedge funds are sinful, and both should be punished. Its the same kind of rigid, bitter mindset which has a list of who's naughty and who's nice and is using the power of government - the gun - to try to shape reality by their command. This is how we got the Volstead act and prohibition: moralists demanding that the country be shaped to their worldview by the force of law.

And its being done by the very same people who insist that religion must keep silent in government, that the right wing wants to tell everyone how to live, and that double secret "dominionists" want to take over the country and make it a theocracy. Once more, the left accuses their enemies of wanting to do exactly what they are already doing.

WORKING HARD

"Save money whenever possible, and use all the resources you can,"

AOL Palo Alto
Lets say you own a company. Your security chief shows up and tells you a story.

It turns out that at your Palo Alto campus, some guy used a security pass issued to him during a High School incubator class at your company for computers to get into the grounds. He'd been there for several months, living on the campus. He ate at the commissary, showered in the gym and worked out there every morning, did laundry in the on campus laundromat, slept on the couches, and worked long days there. He stayed at the campus for more than a month - the

The security chief explains he kicked the kid out for treating the building like a dorm. What's your response?

Well this really happened. Daniel Terdiman tells the story at C|Net:
"I couldn't afford to live anywhere," Simons recalled. "I started living out of AOL's headquarters."
...
For someone with neither money nor an aversion to sleeping on others' couches, the AOL building had plenty of allure. "They had a gym there with showers," Simons said. "I'd take a shower after work. I was like, 'I could totally work here...They have food upstairs, they have every drink on tap. This would be a sweet place to live.'"

Note that Simons said he would work there. After his four months in the incubator, he was used to toiling away at ClassConnect inside the building, and with other programs, from the Stanford-focused incubator StartX to AOL's own First Floor Labs also taking up space there, there was no shortage of non-AOL employees shuffling in and out all the time. But Simons was intent on launching his startup, so why not find a desk and pound away for 12 to 16 hours a day?

"There were so many people going in and out each day," he said. "They'd say, 'Oh, he just works, here, he's working late every night. Wow, what a hard worker.'"
After working late there for a month or so as part of an education program, he just began staying there. He took over a locker, packed it with a few changes of clothes, and lived off the campus. Folks knew him but didn't pay much attention to his long hours. He'd head to the gym to work so the guards wouldn't find him sleeping on the couch in the morning, and work after everyone else headed out. He stayed there for free and churned out his own start up on AOL's dime.

You know what I'd do if I heard about this? Hire him. He's clearly a hard worker who is dedicated to getting work done. He's a self-starter with unusual discipline and creativity who uses the resources he's given well. That's an asset to a company.

And here's another story about a hard worker.

Diane Tran is seventeen and in high school. She's in the honor society, and gets good grades. She studies hard and works hard, too. Diane Tran has two jobs she works at to have a home and pay for her sister and brother. Their parents split up and abandoned the kids, leaving her in charge. Her brother is in college and her sister is younger, so she is the breadwinner.

Diane misses school sometimes because of her work, but she always gets the homework done and does extra credit to make up for her lack of attendance. She was arrested and jailed in Houston Texas:
Judge Lanny Moriarty said last month Diane Tran was in his Justice of the Peace court for truancy and he warned her then to stop missing school. But she recently missed classes again so Wednesday he issued a summons and had her arrested in open court when she appeared.
...
The judge ordered Tran to spend 24 hours in jail and pay a $100 fine. Judge Moriarty admitted that he wants to make an example of Tran.

“If you let one (truant student) run loose, what are you gonna’ do with the rest of ‘em? Let them go too?” Judge Moriarty asked.
Local authorities are using her as an example, some say, but Diane is worried this will hurt her desire to get a college education and become a doctor. I get that truancy laws are there to try to keep kids in school. I understand a judge doesn't want to let someone get away with a crime because they're nice.

But I don't really understand how this is an example of someone blowing off school. She's keeping an unusual schedule but she's clearly learning, attending, and getting the schoolwork done. She's clearly not who truancy laws are meant to target, and she's working hard in a really tough situation to get through.

I'm a bit uncomfortable with truancy and government schools anyway. Yes its good for society for kids to get educated, but is it really a criminal offense for a child to not get to school? Worth jail time and a fine?

And frankly I'm surprised AOL makes enough money to have that kind of campus still.

POWERLINE BLOG BIRTHDAY

Powerline blog is 10 years old. That's pretty old for a blog, few are older than 2 years and I have what is considered an old one by being around 6 years. This new media doesn't have a lot of history to it yet. There's a reason blogs like Powerline stay around and are so well respected and so often linked. Its good.

You can always rely on well written, intelligent commentary and news from Powerline. That's the blog that I first saw and read about the Rathergate memo controversy on, and they had the best coverage. Yes, Little Green Footballs had the nifty GIF graphic showing the word document and alleged memo, but Powerline had the facts, and had them earlier than most if not all.

If you haven't checked out the blog beyond a few links I recommend reading it. They have that annoying "magazine" style layout, but the site is well worth looking at each day.

PICTURE OF THE DAY


There's always room for one more cat.

Quote of the Day

"The Tea Party... at the end of the day, there’s a big bubble coming out of their heads saying, you know, ‘Can we just lynch him?’"
—Sean Penn

Monday, May 28, 2012

PICTURE OF THE DAY

Memorial Day

MEMORIAL

Why aren't you here?
I wake up every night.
I check the front porch light,
Making sure it's shining bright.

And I'll be there to shine the light
So you can find your way to me.
-Queensrÿche, "Home Again"

Goodbye
I know what its like to have a long distance relationship. Every single hour of the day, there's a gnawing emptiness in your heart, a longing for someone who is not there. Sometimes it is stronger, sometimes it is weaker, but it always is there like a piece of you has been carved out and the pain is like nothing you've experienced before. It isn't agonizing like physical pain, but it is a spiritual ache that doesn't go away until you see them again.

You can reduce that pain by talking on the phone or on a computer. A letter helps, photographs make you feel less distant. But until they're with you it never goes away. And I was only away for a few months at a time.

With that in mind I cannot conceive how families deal with a loved one away at war for a year or more. I cannot understand that kind of loss and fear. My loved one wasn't in a warzone and I could talk to her just about every day. Imagine being a wife in WW2, with your man in France or Germany or somewhere, thousands of miles distant and you get word once every few months. Some of those guys were gone for years. Many stayed under little white crosses.

Hard work helps distract you, liquor is said to dull the pain with a fog of slowed and confused mind, but nothing makes that pain go away. And on this memorial day, while we think of the soldiers who died for our freedom, to fight evil, and to bring justice, remember the families they left behind as well. Every time I see an old veteran, I think about his old wife who stayed by him and waited all those years. She served, too.

God bless them all for their sacrifice, for their pain, for their fear, and for going through it all for a better cause than themselves. Thank God we still have men and women who will endure that for us and for liberty. For those who serve: God be with you and keep you safe, come home soon, safe, and whole. For those who wait at home: God be with you as well. Keep you strong and brave and may you soon be united to your beloved so you can be whole once more.

Thank you all. We owe you more than we can express.

Quote of the Day

"Now listen, you queer, stop calling me a crypto-Nazi, or I'll sock you in your god damn face and you'll stay plastered."
-William F Buckley to Gore Vidal

Friday, May 25, 2012

THE BRICK WALL OF REALITY

"The euro has turned out to be a doomsday machine, a destroyer of jobs"

Boris Johnson is a hardcore leftist. He's so leftist that even in Europe, he's considered left wing. And he's governed that way as Mayor of London, one of the more powerful jobs in the continent. But even he can see some serious problems with the EU, the Euro, and the idea of Greece and Germany being considered economic equals. In a column at the Telegraph, he makes a lot of economic and historical sense:
Come with me through the streets of Athens, not far from Syntagma Square, and your mind will reel with the horrified realisation that history is not a one-way ratchet, that human progress is not guaranteed, and that a proud country can be reduced – by years of torture and bullying – to a state verging on total political, economic and moral collapse.

You will see businesses boarded up and windows smashed because no one has the money or the energy to fix them, and on almost every wall a riot of graffiti full of poisonous hatred for politicians. You will see people sitting on cardboard, heads down, hands out, or pushing trolleys full of scrap metal.
The problem is, Boris, that's where your economic policies lead: straight to Greece. You cannot keep giving other peoples' money away in the name of social justice and doing good, eventually it runs out. Then people you've been helping have nothing and there's no structure or social network to catch them when they fall. So they're far worse off.

Better to not do quite as well, but keep that, than do slightly better for a time and lose everything. And that's the sad, absolute fact of life. People who think we can make a world where nobody suffers, nobody goes hungry, nobody loses, nobody does without, and nobody is hurt are simply idiots.

Greece isn't some strange apocalyptic scenario, there is nothing uniquely problematic about the Greek people. This is inevitable in a socialist system. Johnson sees this in terms of unfairness, where hard working Germans force other nations to compete with them and fail. The truth is, the Germans didn't do this to anyone. They did this to themselves. The Euro didn't destroy Spain, Portugal, Italy, Germany, and other economies, they were faltering and collapsing before the EU was even formed.

The problem isn't competition or unfairness, it isn't the Euro establishing unreasonable standards on nations, its that these nations dove face first into socialism where you take from people who produce and give to people who do not, then systematically and deliberately remove every motivation to produce more and give more benefits for less work to everyone until it becomes utterly unsustainable.

Shorter work weeks, shorter work days, less work during the day, more vacations, with pay, and more benefits, and government programs to cover it all until businesses simply cannot keep going and see no reason to try. Eventually, you run out of the money and you're faced with a mass of people who think those absurd conditions and benefits are not just pleasant but their absolute, divine right and will riot if you try to take them away.

Politicians rose to power one after another promising more and more and giving more away, and inevitably they kept their jobs by doing so until the nation collapsed like a building eaten away by termites. Nations like Greece got there sooner than say, Norway, because their work ethic hasn't ever been as strong and their worldview is a lot more relaxed, shall we say. But all those roads lead the same place, eventually.

Johnson is right though that requiring Germany to continually bail out and prop up nations that are collapsing is simply unworkable and unreasonable. Germans won't put up with it even if there was a shred of logic behind it. Granted, that was the reason behind the EU to a large part: make it so socialism could stagger on a few more decades, but it just can't work.

In the end, these nations have to be cut loose because they simply can't make it until they change their attitude and their systems to a workable, sustainable solution. Its completely irrational to think that an entire culture can be built around working as little as possible, getting as much as possible, and expecting everyone else to foot the bill. They have to grow up, and the only way they're going to is when they get cut off, like a teenager you keep from the credit cards.

But a lot of countries have a vested interest in not seeing that happen, because if Greece is cut loose, so will they be in time. Eventually the bitter fruit of continual socialism will be their meal, and they'll see the riots, the chaos, and the failure of governments. And for those in power, putting that off as long as possible - preferably after they're comfortably retired elsewhere - is the best possible policy.

WORD AROUND THE NET

"I like the words we learn. I thought they sounded funny at first, now I think they sound cool”

Idiot Board
For me, the biggest story of the week is the docking of a private SpaceX craft with the International Space Station. Since the Obama administration has ended all manned space flight, humans cannot get from America to the station through NASA. So its good to see someone else pick up the ball from the incompetents at the US Government.

Mayor Bloomberg of New York City was already busted oversalting his junk food while ordering New Yorkers to eat healthier and use less salt. Now he's been caught flying his helicopter around on days when law bans the use of helicopters. Michael Grynbaum at the New York Times writes:
An amateur video, filmed by an annoyed Manhattanite and broadcast Tuesday on WABC-TV, showed the mayor landing and taking off several times over the weekend from the East 34th Street helipad, where trips on Saturday and Sunday have been expressly banned for more than a decade.
Bloomberg's office says he won't be doing it any longer. As annoying as he can be, I like the mayor on Blue Bloods a lot better.

Democrats have been trying their "war on women" angle for months now and it doesn't seem to be helping them at all. Maybe because of stories like this from the PJ Tattler:
Of the five senators who participated in Wednesday’s press conference—Barbara Mikulski (D., Md.), Patty Murray (D., Wash.), Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.), Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) and Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.)—three pay their female staff members significantly less than male staffers.
As usual this kind of thing doesn't tell the whole story (the female staffers tend to be in lower positions and work fewer hours, for example) but it does damage to the left's narrative.

Detroit continues to decay. Decades of corruption, leftist politics, nepotism, and graft have gutted what was once called the Paris of America, a shining beacon of industry and art. In an effort to save money, city planners are looking at shutting off half the city's street lights, road care, and so on. There are large sections of Detroit that are all but abandoned and the city can't afford to keep them up. Since almost half the streetlights are broken anyway (mostly robbed of copper and other materials by thieves), that won't be much of a change.

Meanwhile, gun deaths have overtaken automotive collisions for deaths in Detroit. You're more likely to get shot than die in a car crash. However, the Detroit Free Press story that reported this has a bit of a problem: they portray this as accidental deaths requiring government regulation to reduce. As Eugene Volokh writes:
The number of accidental gun deaths in Michigan in 2009 (the most recent year reported in WISQARS) was … 12, compared to 962 accidental motor-vehicle-related deaths. 99% of the gun deaths in Michigan that year consisted of suicides (575) and homicides (495).
People are getting shot a lot in Detroit, that's true. But not accidentally.

Almost 40% of homeowners in the Puget Sound area have mortgages costing more than the home is worth today. In fact, that's not unusual nationwide, I'm living in a house in that situation right now. Having an "underwater" home now is the result of a housing market that went berserk in the naughties, valued far above their reasonable cost. For this, I blame housing speculators and investors. Government regulations might have made it possible, but people playing games with real estate to get rich are what made it happen.

You may not have heard of the "Law of the Sea" treaty but it essentially surrenders national sovereignty over waters near a country to an international tribunal. They would settle disputes and decide how the water is to be used - the same sort of folks in charge of the EU, the kind that believe every hysterical leftist story of doom and rule based on that. The Senate is moving forward on ratifying it for the United States.

Remember Michael J Fox who looked amazingly more wretched at congressional hearings over Embryonic Stem cell Research (ESR) than he did in other settings? Rush Limbaugh speculated Fox skipped meds to be miserable, but I figure it was just acting to gain sympathy. Well he's changed his mind on ESR, according to his foundation's website. Now they're focusing on other research, deciding a cure for Parkinson's Disease is unlikely to come from ESR.

Boy, JP Morgan sure is bad, they lost two billion dollars, that sure shows us that corporations are bad and to blame for the economy, huh? Except... didn't congress just pass this Dodd-Frank bill (named after two of the biggest scumbags in congress) that was supposed to stop that kind of thing? I seriously doubt anyone outside Berkeley California thinks that companies cannot lose any money unless they're evil and corrupt, but just in case you might be inclined, consider this:
Medicare and Medicaid lose at least 35 times as much per year to fraud and other improper payments, and Medicare wastes even more on medical care that does nothing to make patients healthier or happier. This happens year after year after year.
Or this:
But over at the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), such losses are business as usual. USPS reported a typical (for it) $3.2 billion loss for the most recent quarter. Try that comparison on for size.
Yes, two billion is a lot and JP Morgan should have been more careful. But they're pikers compared to the US federal government. They'd be glad to lose only two billion a year.

Justice, what does that mean? Apparently the Department of Justice under Eric Holder and President Obama isn't exactly clear on the concept. Consider this latest story from the ATF (courtesy Conservatory):
The U.S. government has accepted 10 percent of the profits of the upcoming “Passion of the Christ” prequel in a plea deal with a Mexican drug smuggler, despite apparently knowing the royalties had been obtained illegally.

According to AP reports, Jorge Vázquez Sánchez, 34, pleaded guilty to money laundering and extortion last week but managed to get his prison sentence decreased from 40 years to seven after he gave the government his cut of the profits related to the screenplay “Mary, Mother of Christ”, a prequel to Mel Gibson’s 2004 movie about the crucification of Jesus Christ.
Said script apparently was written by someone who isn't being paid by the drug dealer). If you're rich enough, apparently the Holder Justice Department will take money in lieu of jail time.

Fears of genetically modified food aren't completely groundless, some testing is needed to see if there are any odd side effects or problems. But modifying plants to produce desired characteristics is how we got things like broccoli and ears of sweet corn long as your forearm. And a refusal to allow GM products to be used is killing people, as Matt Ridley writes in the Wall Street Journal:
“Golden rice”—with two extra genes to make beta-carotene, the raw material for vitamin A—was a technical triumph, identical to ordinary rice except in color. Painstaking negotiations led to companies waiving their patent rights so the plant could be grown and regrown free by anybody.

Yet today, 14 years later, it still has not been licensed to growers anywhere in the world. The reason is regulatory red tape deliberately imposed to appease the opponents of genetic modification, which Adrian Dubock, head of the golden rice project, describes as “a witch-hunt for suspected theoretical environmental problems…[because] many activist NGOs thought that genetically engineered crops should be opposed as part of their anti-globalization agenda.”
Hysteria over genetically modified foods is largely driven by farmers concerned about losing sales and profits, I suspect. Sort of how the French wine growers managed to demonize Absinthe so much it was banned all over Europe. Its not poison, it won't make you go blind or hallucinate. It just tastes crappy.

Colorado's state Court of Appeals has ruled that the Governor's prayer proclamation on the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional. Why? Because they argue that the proclamation treats people who pray as "favored members of Colorado's political community" and that's just not fair. Other disparate treatment such as affirmative action? Totally constitutional though.

Yet another fake "hate crime" has been staged. This time it was two lesbians who painted their own garage door then called reporters. The police noticed that the spray-painted "Kill the Gay" scrawl matched handwriting by one of the women and found other evidence they did it to their own house.

Although its not big enough for people to live on its back, a really huge turtle's remains were found in a coal mine in Colombia. The turtle is about the size of a smart car and was found in an area where the largest snake skeleton in the world was found as well, both prehistoric creatures. How such mammoth creatures managed to find enough food to survive is something scientists can only speculate on.

United States savings bonds are no longer documents. You can't buy bonds and hold them for your kids, its all electronic now, just waiting for a big enough solar storm or EMP to eliminate them. Hat tip to American Digest for this story. Somewhat related: China is now allowed to buy Federal Treasuries directly from the US Treasury rather than going through a broker like everyone else. Most favored tyranny. This helps keep the debt load and transactions secret from other investors and analysts.http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif

Andrew Bolt likes to compare past hysteria with present fact, such as this recent story about Greenland's ice sheet:
The big global warming scare in 2006:
Scientists have found that many of the huge glaciers of Greenland are moving at an accelerating rate - dumping twice as much ice into the sea than five years ago - indicating that the ice sheet is undergoing a potentially catastrophic breakup.
The humble truth in 2012, according to Science:
Our wide sampling of actual 2000 to 2010 changes shows that glacier acceleration across the ice sheet remains far below these estimates, suggesting that sea level rise associated with Greenland glacier dynamics remains well below the low-end scenario (9.3 cm by 2100) at present
Well, the idea of glacial melt and doom is a deeper, mythical truth than the facts tell us.

Unwilling to roll the dice on the Supreme Court, Missori's legislature has passed a bill protecting state companies from the Government Health Insurance Takeover Act's contraceptive mandate. In essence, it allows companies to refuse to pay for contraceptives in their health insurance plans if they have religious or moral objection to it. Think Progress interpreted the bill this way: "Missouri Legislature Approves Bill Allowing Employers To Deny Access To Birth Control." They'll kick your door down and take your condoms away! They'll prevent you from having access!

This is what is known as the Chicago Way of politics, from Patrick Howley at the Washington Beacon:
New disclosures show that one of President Obama’s bundlers is the wife of an executive at an energy company that received a more-than-$1.2 billion Department of Energy (DOE) loan guarantee for a solar power plant.

Arvia Few is a bundler for the Obama re-election campaign who has promised to raise between $50,000 and $100,000. She began bundling for Obama in the first quarter of 2012. Her husband, Jason Few, is an executive at a company that has benefited handsomely from the Obama administration’s clean energy spending, records show.

You scratch my back and I'll have the taxpayers scratch yours. But its ethical because: renewable energy!

China is trying to throw its weight around more. They think they're a burgeoning world superpower, say they can handle things, that they are smart and want to be treated with respect. Now they're trying to strong arm Australia:
One of the more startling pronouncements in this vein occurred last week when Song Xiaojun, a former senior officer of the People’s Liberation Army, warned that Australia cannot juggle its relationships with the United States and China indefinitely and “Australia has to find a godfather sooner or later. Australia always has to depend on somebody else, whether it is to be the ‘son’ of the US or ‘son’ of China. (It) depends on who is more powerful, and based on the strategic environment.” Noting the rising importance of China as an export market Song added that Australia depended on exporting iron ore to China “to feed itself,” but “Frankly, it has not done well politically.”
China needs Australia's coal a lot more than Australia needs China. They aren't anyone's son, they don't need a godfather. Americans are proud to have fought side by side with Australians for decades and consider the nation a strong partner, not a pet.

Remember those sex abuse priests, the ones that molested teenagers, mostly boys, and got shuffled around instead of defrocked most of the time? Sure, teachers outnumber them up to 200 times as many molesting cases, but it still was horrible and wrong. Well at least one of them has been hired by the TSA to grope search boys for explosives and weapons at the airport. I can't imagine what about that job would have attracted such a man.

Wisconsin's recall battle has had problems from the very start, from people bragging they signed the petitions over and over to this recent story courtesy Gateway Pundit:
Put Wisconsin First recently matched Wisconsin recaller’s names and addresses to Wisconsin Court Cases. There were over 400,000 matches of cases and charges from just over 900,000 signatures.
...
The website found everything from election fraud to a guy who is guilty of homicide with a modifier of not guilty by reason of insanity. The man is currently residing in a mental health facility. He signed and self-witnessed the form from the address of the mental hospital!
Yes well, this isn't about virtue or truth for the left, its about stopping any other state from doing what Walker did and using him as a warning. They have to win this and you know what they say: the ends justify the means. Over 50 of the petition signers weren't guilty of a crime though. They were found not guilty due to mental illness. Meanwhile, Walker looks sure to win and the state is doing very well as a result of his efforts.

White House spokesman Jay Carney has a terrible job. Because reporters rarely ask about good decisions, he has to face reporters every day and try to spin stupidity, corruption, incompetence, and poor decision making into smart, right, and good. In a recent press breifing, Carney was reduced to stuttering, confused incoherence by a simple question:
Wendell Goler: The President has voiced support for the Occupy folks in the past, or at least their goals, did their actions in Chicago sour his support?

Jay Carney: Well I think you’re making broad comparisons between uh uh different groups, what the President has said in the past is uh he has understood uh the frustrations Americans have about ((pause)) the ((pause)) failure in particular of Wall Street in some cases to uh uh, (pause) well obviously Wall Street’s role in the financial crisis that precipitated the worst recession since the Great Depression.
Yeah, rape, terrorism, murder, vandalism, disease, sexual assault, defacating on cop cars, that all adds up to something the president and the Democratic Party want to be identified with. They sure wanted to be back last fall, but today? Not so much. But they need those votes, so when confronted its not easy to find an answer.

Facebook's initial public offering (IPO) of stocks didn't go exactly as planned. Investors realized that the business doesn't produce anything, doesn't do anything, and is essentially just a toy. So by the end of the first day, Facebook stock was worth less than it was to start with. Part of the reason for reluctance is that Facebook revealed key elements of its profits and numbers only to a small group of big investors (probably violating finance laws in the process). Yet Facebook's stocks are a disaster, why isn't the same true of General Motors, as Mickey Kaus notes in the Daily Caller:
GM’s post-bailout IPO launched at $33 a share, and the stock is now trading at $22, after being repeatedly touted by the highest officials of the U.S. government. Yet the suckersinvestors who bought it aren’t having a cow. …
At least GM actually produces something and is a business. Sure, its run poorly, controlled by the unions and Obama administration, and is putting out mostly junk, but its a business.

When I was young, I used to walk to my little country school every day since around the 3rd grade to the 6th. I'd have walked to my middle school but it was too far away. I rode my bike or walked to high school every day. Today, my parents might be arrested for it:
Teresa Tryon said, "On August 25th my 10 year daughter arrived home via police officer, requested to speak to me on the front porch of my home. The officer informed me that in his 'judgement' it was unsafe for my daughter to ride her bike to school."
...
Major Verran of the police department returned Ms Tryon's call. She said he told me, "He had spoke with the District Attorney's office who advised that until the officer can speak with Child Protective Services that if I allow my daughter to ride/walk to school I will be breaking the law and treated accordingly.
Land of the free. Home of the brave.

According to the New York Post, an Upper Manhattan elementary school is requiring all students to learn Arabic. No, this isn't a Madrassas, it isn't a private school. It is a public school, part of the school district. Sabrina Ford writes:
Beginning next semester, all 200 second- through fifth-graders at PS 368 in Hamilton Heights will be taught the language twice a week for 45 minutes — putting it on equal footing with science and music courses.

One reason Principal Nicky Kram Rosen selected Arabic — as opposed to more common offerings, such as Spanish or French — is because it will help the school obtain a prestigious International Baccalaureate standing.
I have no problem with kids learning to speak another language, and Arabic is pretty cool as languages go. I do have a problem with in today's culture demanding that kids learn the language of Islam, however, and in America learning Spanish makes a lot more sense. However, the way Europe is going, maybe Arabic would be smart for little kids to know...

Another report I can only find in one source is out of India. Doctors there perform a lot of abortions, particularly sex-specific ones to help parents have a boy instead of a girl. However, since sex-selection abortions are not legal in India, India Today reports that these doctors are feeding the aborted babies to dogs to hide the evidence. Shocked? Horrified? You should be, but what's shocking you - that baby girls are being killed for convenience, or that they're being fed to dogs? Which is worse?

Canadian Human Rights tribunals are alive and well, and doing the same insane, tyrannical crap they've done for years. In British Columbia, a gym was ordered to pay $1900 in a fine to a man who was told he had to wear athletic shoes in the gym. He claims his doctor told him to wear hiking boots, and said his "dignity" was damaged by the gymnasium. Because feeling dignified is a human right, and he could only possibly do those exercises at that specific gym. Hey, guess what: athletic shoes don't damage flooring. Hiking boots can.

Hacking cell phones, some would have you believe only Rupert Murdoch knows how to do it and he personally teaches his newspapers to do it in private sinister meetings under candle light while sitting in a pentagram drawn in the blood of orphans. Totally unrelated is this story in which a TV presenter says that CNN anchor Piers Morgan taught him how to do it. Guess what: all sorts of news organizations have been doing this for decades, as far back as the early 90s.

Satire is dead, and for good reason: its almost impossible to find a way to satirize people these days in a way they aren't already acting. Case in point, this story in Right Wing News out of San Francisco, who wants the US Navy to name a warship class after deceased scumbag Harvey Milk. Milk was involved in murder and was a big fan of Jim Jones, but he was homosexual and was killed so suddenly he became a leftist saint. Well, the city of San Francisco held a seance and consulted a Ouija board to find out what Harvey Milk thinks of this effort. I am not joking. Maybe the psychological torture of wanting to name something after Milk yet hating war vessels made them even more crazy than normal.

London Mayor Boris Johnson has a question: Why is the Harry Potter theme park in Orlando Florida? Harry Potter is entirely British, why on earth isn't the theme park somewhere in England, a place you get to by taking a train from Kings Crossing? What's wrong with England that they let this go to America of all places? America doesn't even exist in Harry Potter's world.

And that's the Word Around the Net for May 25, 2012.

A NASTY LIE

“This chart — the truth — very clearly shows the truth undoubtedly.”
-Ed Schultz

Chances are, if you've been online recently, you've seen a chart that looks something like this:

And it seems terribly impressive... and counter intuitive. How did the debt manage to more than double in the time President Obama has been in office if he's spending so much less than other presidents?

We know for a fact that President Obama has overseen more debt in his term than every other president combined before him so what is with this chart?

Well there are a couple of problems with it. First look closely at that chart, see the dates next to the president's name? Obama's charted spending starts in 2010. Why? Because the man who came up with this chart (Red Nutting) attributes all spending up to October of 2010 to President Bush. But President Obama was elected in 2008 and inaugurated in 2009, you say? Indeed he was.

But Nutting is looking only at budgets, so he's attributing all spending before October 2010 to President Bush, because he signed the 2009 budget. So Nutting is blaming all spending during President Obama's first year and most of his second year to President Bush. In other words, Nutting blames the "stimulus" spending on President Bush.

Never mind that Obama was in office starting in January 2009, never mind the "Stimulus" package and other spending that took place that year and the next. He's deliberately avoiding all that to focus on the official budget.

And there's another problem. The TARP package passed in 2008 that President Bush pushed for and said he needed to violate free market principles to save the free market, remember that? As Ann Coulter points out:
By the end of 2008, it was clear the panic had passed, and Bush announced that he wouldn’t need to spend the second half of the TARP money.

But on Jan. 12, 2009, Obama asked Bush to release the remaining TARP funds for Obama to spend as soon as he took office. By Oct. 1, Obama had spent another $200 billion in TARP money. That, too, gets credited to Bush, according to the creative accounting of Rex Nutting
.

Oh, but there's more. There was a $410,000,000,000 spending bill on President Bush's desk that he refused to sign before he left office, a last minute thing the Democrats in control of congress shoved at him the last minute. When President Obama took office, he signed it into law. But Nutting blames President Bush for that too.

The crazy thing is the 2010 budget, passed in 2009, was the last budget that President Obama ever signed. So if you're going to chart spending based entirely on budgets and budgets alone, then you have to conclude that President Obama for three years has spent absolutely zero dollars. Why, he's the most fiscally restrained president in the history of mankind! Take that Tea Partiers!

Its simply a lie, from start to finish. The chart is a flat out utter lie that people look at and are confused by because it clearly is not representing reality in any remotest sense. Even the New York Times didn't print this thing. If someone shoves it at you, kindly and politely point out the basic error of starting Obama's spending in 2010.