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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Quote of the Day

"Shorter #SCOTUS - Govt can require proof of insurance, but not proof of citizenship."
-Governor Jindal

Friday, June 29, 2012

CHICK SCIENCE

"Leave it to females to worry about fashion at a software conference."

As I was building my Word Around the Net roundup today, I ran across two science articles that were related. This seems to happen a lot, where a couple different things will collide and give me something to write about, particularly on Friday. Sometimes I'll start up a bit on WATN and realize its going to be too big to just be a little mention and deserves its own post.

These two articles were both about women in science, and the push to get more chicks involved. This seems to matter desperately to some people, who think something horribly wrong has happened if there aren't at least as many of x demographic group involved in every activity as in the general population.

It matters so much that Larry Summers was drummed out of his position as President of Harvard university for suggesting that maybe there aren't as many girls in some areas because they just don't want to be in those areas. Outrageous! The only possible answer must be the brutal tyranny of the white male oppressive dominance of western culture!

So the first story I saw was about a Google conference on science, where they were pushing to get more girls involved. Ryan Tate writes at Wired:
Google I/O hadn’t even started when critics began unloading on how the developer conference was being run. A forward-thinking Google panel on how to get more women in tech became a flashpoint for whether the t-shirts handed out at Google I/O are patriarchal.

“They gave me a t-shirt and it’s a size small, men’s,” said Alex Maier, a community manager and heavy user of Google’s products, during a Q&A session with the panel. “That makes me feel unwelcome. I don’t want to make this a big issue or confrontational thing…. But the thing is, I show up, and I want my shirt, and I don’t want to be told that I can sleep in it.”

What, Maier asked, was Google going to do about its one-gender-fits-all clothes in the future, given that women at Google I/O are already vastly outnumbered and prone to feeling excluded?

The audience of roughly 100 women applauded the question exuberantly.
Now, this is what leaps out to me here. If your primary or even high secondary interest is in science, computer programming, and technology you don't give a damn what the shirt you're wearing is. You don't care if it was a child's large, you don't even care what color it is most of the time.

The Wired article totally misses this point, they just don't get it. They're so focused on the narrative of "women being unfairly kept from jobs" they just don't even notice the hilarity of women fixating on fashion while insisting they are just like the boys.

Then there is this story in the London Telegraph by Nick Collins about a European Commission film called "Girl Thing" which again is trying to make science interesting and attractive to girls, because darn it they just won't get involved in the politically correct ratios. It seems the video tried to make science girly, and people were outraged:
The film, published by the European Commission, describes science as a "girl thing", and combines generic pictures of beakers and words like "hydrogen" with pictures of skinny models wearing designer sunglasses.

But its pink background, lipstick-style logo and techno music soundtrack appeared to have missed the mark with viewers who branded it as "offensive" and "insulting".
...
While the campaign's other films had drawn praise for featuring interesting and intelligent women discussing their careers in scientific research, the video took a different approach featuring three models giggling and blowing kisses against a bright neon backdrop.

Viewers said it contained no scientific content whatsoever, save for a handful of images of beakers, test tubes and formulas interspersed with pictures of lipstick and nail varnish.
Now, clearly they're missing the point as badly as the Wired article. This tries to turn science into a pillow-fighting jammy-wearing sleepover and acts like girls will like tech and scientific jobs if only they are pitched to boy-crazy 14-year-olds. At least its not as bizarrely racist and surreal as the Kill Bill ad the EU put out.

But it does seem to comprehend something basic: women do like different things than men do, on average. The problem is they don't carry it far enough and extend that to their job choices. Yeah, its a bit overboard, but girls do like lipstick and girly stuff a lot more than guys. And guess what?

They aren't as fond of science, math, and tech as guys are either, on average. And that's not a crisis or a problem.

DECODING KENNEDY

"There is no grand unified theory for Justice Kennedy’s jurisprudence"
-Viet Dinh

People are confused by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. His decisions and how he'll go on a topic seem to be almost random, as if he decides by what the weather is like outside when he wakes up or something. Frustrated by his inconsistency, some have speculated he decides based on what will give him the most notice or importance.

Except there's a pattern, if you look closely enough. David Boaz looked closely at the Cato Institute and here's what he discovered, in a Time article on the man:
Instead of grounding abortion in a “right to privacy,” which is never mentioned in the Constitution, Kennedy declared it to be part of the well-established right to liberty….

[In the Texas sodomy case] Kennedy wrote broadly, “Liberty protects the person from unwarranted government intrusions” and “includes freedom of thought, belief, expression, and certain intimate conduct.”…
He's not totally consistent, but Boaz sees a pattern here. On fiscal issues, Kennedy is right leaning. On social issues, he's left leaning. There's a political term for someone who is very keen on personal liberty and has these tendencies: libertarian.
And it’s not like the idea of Justice Kennedy’s libertarianism is a deep, dark secret. The writers might have consulted Helen Knowles’s book The Tie Goes to Freedom: Justice Anthony M. Kennedy on Liberty. Or Frank Colucci’s book Justice Kennedy’s Jurisprudence: The Full and Necessary Meaning of Liberty. Or Randy Barnett’s Cato Supreme Court Review article on the Texas case, “Justice Kennedy’s Libertarian Revolution.”
Justice Kennedy is probably the only libertarian judge on the panel. As I said, he isn't completely consistent but he's more so than any of the others.

And that's something that tends to really annoy conservatives, because his rulings tend to lean far left on social issues, which are more dear to our hearts than even fiscal ones. People don't much like Kennedy on the right, because he is so volatile, but at least with this information you can predict a bit better how he'll likely go.

WORD AROUND THE NET


"We had a chance to cover it right. And some people in here don’t get what a big deal getting it wrong is."

Obama Phone
Lately it seems like the justice department can't get anything right. From blown cases by hapless or sloppy federal prosecutors to idiotic schemes, its been ten years or more since the FBI and other law enforcement agencies seemed like they've know what they are doing. The latest fiasco is the Megaupload case. A federal judge has ruled that the FBI illegally sent clones of the online storage company's hard drives to the US, failed to have a properly prepared warrant and thus raided "Kim Dotcom's" house illegally, and held material they had deemed irrelevant to the case. Sloppy? Lazy? Too used to just getting away with lousy procedure and getting caught these days? Who knows.

Yet another procedure using adult stem cells has been developed. This one involves creating disease in cloned human tissue samples, so the researchers can closely study how the disease develops and how to combat it. The stem cells used were adult but treated so they had the same properties as embryonic ones. Embryonic stem cell research meanwhile has continued to be nearly worthless and highly controversial and ethically challenged.

Can we at least agree that a bill that deals only with health insurance is not a bill about health care at all? Stop calling this debate health care please. Stop using that phrase. Its just insurance. All this is about money and who controls the cash flow, not how good the care is.

Unfortunately in the cable news business, haste can get you into some serious trouble. The need to beat out competition and especially the internet to get your news out first has created problems in the past, but CNN really stepped in it recently. Michael Hastings reports at Buzzfeed:
A producer inside the courtroom, Bill Mears, communicated the information to a relatively junior reporter, Kate Bolduan, the face of the network's coverage outside on the courthouse steps.

Bolduan then reported, on air, that the invidual mandate was “not valid,” citing producer Mears.

“It appears as if the Supreme Court justices struck down the individual mandate, the centerpiece,” of the law, she said.
CNN had "individual mandate struck down" in text at the bottom of the screen for seven minutes, although the legislation wasn't actually thrown out by the court, it was ruled a tax instead. Of course the Buzzfeed piece focuses on how little experience and how pretty the reporter is and how MSNBC (andfoxnews) got it right.

Probably not helping CNN's image is the recent reference to the sensationalistic fictional Dan Brown books as authoritative in depicting the Roman Catholic Church, which is like using Dr Seuss to describe cuisine.

Attorney General Eric Holder has been held in contempt of Congress for his stonewalling on Fast & Furious documentation, not to mention his lies and reversals. 15 Democrats joined the Republicans, and Holder scoffed at it. The Congressional Black Caucus walked out in protest, suggesting that they're racist (they wouldn't have done this if Holder was white). The vote is largely symbolic, congress can't really do anything about it.  The agency that would take them to task legally is... their own agency, which shock of all shocks declines to take action.

Walter Russel Meade argues that while the President not long ago admitted no project was "shovel ready" for the "stimulus" spending despite his speeches to the contrary trying to get it passed, in truth nothing is shovel ready these days.
The time between planning a project and actually carrying it out stretches into decades. To those who bemoan the lack of “shovel-ready” infrastructure projects in America: this is why.

Even if you are a Keynesian and believe that deficit spending helps the economy to grow, infrastructure projects won’t do the trick anymore. By the time you’re actually actually able to get the project off the ground, the recession has been over for years.
Between bureaucratic delays, environmental studies, protests, lawsuits, and delaying tactics, planning, and corruption, it takes ages to get any major product started.

Temper, temper. A group of idiot hooligan teenagers threw a milkshake at a woman (possibly just throwing it out the window, but probably just "ha ha watch this"). She retaliated by throwing the only thing she had in hand: her alligator skin purse, which flew through the window of the Range Rover, containing her personal effects and $2000 in cash. Is that technically robbery?

Peter Orzag, head of the White House Office of Management and Budget recently called for a law to force everyone to vote. His argument is that it would reduce negative campaigning and the cost of get-out-the-vote spending, but the real reason is likely that Democrats aren't as motivated to get out and vote for Obama this time.

Lost in the deluge of the recent Health Insurance bill ruling is the fact that the "Stolen Valor" act was thrown out as well. This bill made it illegal to wear or lie about gaining military honors such as a Purple Heart or Medal of Honor. Intended to protect the honor of these awards and the men who have earned them, the court ruled that it was an impermissible limitation of free speech rights. Then the members of the court went out and kicked puppies, giggling with glee.

Unemployed, a man was at the elevated train when he saw a gust of wind drive a baby carriage containing a baby onto the tracks. Without thinking about it, he says, he jumped down, got the baby to safety, and went on with his business. A company heard about it and hired the guy because of his character, they said.

Nearly 80% of the so-called "Farm Bill" that the Senate passed with Republican support consists of Food Stamp money. What exactly this has to do with farming is not immediately apparent, but this yearly legislation has long been a favorite to pack with various other spending and get through based on its farming content. Given the rest is stuff like subsidies, price support, and wetlands conservation projects the whole monstrosity should be shot down.

Black teens mobbed an Albertson's grocery store in Oregon, robbing and terrorizing customers. At least forty hoodie-wearing punks were involved, from ages estimated at 13-15. The store employees say the kids were bragging about how they could do anything they wanted, and the employees were overwhelmed. This is part of a chain of previous events in the Portland area and nationwide, where black youths rob, beat, and terrorize particularly white people in mobs.

Climate Change computer modeling is a total, utter, and objectively proven failure. They fail to model past events when the data is plugged in, they give radically different results based on which is used (but always wrong), and they are often pre-loaded to give specific results such as the "hockey stick" model. Ross McKitrick writes at the Financial Post about a study done by the Journal of Forecasting, which studies predictive efforts. Their study gives a score of 0 to a perfect model, fewest errors like golf:
The climate models, by contrast, got scores ranging from 2.4 to 3.7, indicating a total failure to provide valid forecast information at the regional level, even on long time scales. The authors commented: “This implies that the current [climate] models are ill-suited to localized decadal predictions, even though they are used as inputs for policymaking.”
then, climate change alarmism isn't the only failure when it comes to predictions. Political "science" second only to "sociology" as a false science, is lousy too. Jacqueline Stevens writes at the New York Times:
It’s an open secret in my discipline: in terms of accurate political predictions (the field’s benchmark for what counts as science), my colleagues have failed spectacularly and wasted colossal amounts of time and money.

[examples snipped]

How do we know that these examples aren’t atypical cherries picked by a political theorist munching sour grapes? Because in the 1980s, the political psychologist Philip E. Tetlock began systematically quizzing 284 political experts — most of whom were political science Ph.D.’s — on dozens of basic questions, like whether a country would go to war, leave NATO or change its boundaries or a political leader would remain in office. His book “Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? How Can We Know?” won the A.P.S.A.’s prize for the best book published on government, politics or international affairs.

Professor Tetlock’s main finding? Chimps randomly throwing darts at the possible outcomes would have done almost as well as the experts.
Because inelegant, messy complications such as grievances and inequalities are very difficult to quantify, they're just ignored. And the situations are too complicated, open ended and unpredictable to... predict.

Want an Obama Phone? Yeah, the cell phone program where the US Government gives poor people a cell phone has been around a while, despite being completely insupportable by common sense or constitutional law. But they're calling it specifically the "Obama Phone." This is not a joke. This is not a parody. This is a real program that started in 2008, and the Obama administration specifically pushes the idea of this being connected to the president.

In order to get a license to drive a taxi in New York City, you have to buy a "medallion" for your service. This medallion is one of the least disguised systems of corruption, favor-brokering, and graft in government today, as Jeff Horowitz and Chris Cumming write about in Salon. Its a big money maker - over a million bucks for one last year - and as many New Yorkers have noted its no protection for quality of service. What's funny is that the article first complains about the cost of a taxi ride and how little drivers make then turns around and complains the Bloomberg wasn't able to force the taxis to be hybrids, which would have skyrocketed the costs.

According to the White House National Renewable Energy Laboratory, president Obama's "green economy" initiatives created jobs at the cost of over nine million dollars each. As Ezra Levant points out, this isn't a GOP ad, its from the White House its self. And despite this huge pile of cash thrown at them, the companies keep collapsing, going bankrupt, and leaving the country.

Steve Maley at RedState points out through careful research and helpful images that while fracking has the environmental movement screaming and tearing its hair out about the damage to water supply (damage which has never yet demonstrated to have taken place anywhere), actually the non-fracking model of drilling for oil is more likely to affect the water supply. But why should that let people stop panicking? This isn't about the water supply or environment, its about blocking a new energy source to keep gas prices going up and move people away from fossil fuels.

China's house-of-cards economy is teetering even more, if this story is accurate. Keith Bradsher writes at the New York Times:
As the Chinese economy continues to sputter, prominent corporate executives in China and Western economists say there is evidence that local and provincial officials are falsifying economic statistics to disguise the true depth of the troubles.

Record-setting mountains of excess coal have accumulated at the country’s biggest storage areas because power plants are burning less coal in the face of tumbling electricity demand. But local and provincial government officials have forced plant managers not to report to Beijing the full extent of the slowdown, power sector executives said.
Corruption and lying by Chinese officials? Never!

Although Robert Parker died last year, his Spenser novels are still popular (even if the last couple went downhill pretty badly). Now writer Ace Atkins has been tapped to carry on the popular mystery series. Hilariously, some Spencer fans are outraged that someone other than Parker write these books, given how he wrote several (frankly poor) books about Raymond Chandler's detective Phillip Marlowe.

Babysitting is an old tradition in America at least, and having an older sibling care for the younger ones is quite common. However, the SEIU recently tried to get that job unionized to control it (and failed), and recently a mom was arrested for letting her 13 year old babysit her other 3 children. Because parents aren't really in charge of their kids or family, its government which has the power.

Businesses once they get past a certain size are basically forced to lobby and give gifts to the federal government - tribute, if you will - to survive and prosper. Timothy Carney writes about how this worked for Microsoft in America, in the Washington Examiner:
...it grated on Hatch and other senators that Gates didn't want to want to play the Washington game. Former Microsoft employee Michael Kinsley, a liberal, wrote of Gates: "He didn't want anything special from the government, except the freedom to build and sell software. If the government would leave him alone, he would leave the government alone."

This was a mistake. One lobbyist fumed about Gates to author Gary Rivlin: "You look at a guy like Gates, who's been arrogant and cheap and incredibly naive about politics. He genuinely believed that because he was creating jobs or whatever, that'd be enough."

Gates was "cheap" because Microsoft spent only $2 million on lobbying in 1997, and its PAC contributed less than $50,000 during the 1996 election cycle.

"You can't say, 'We're better than that,' " a Microsoft lobbyist told me on Friday. "At some point, you get too big, and you can't just ignore Washington."

"You can sit there and say, 'We despise Washington and we don't want to have anything to do with them,' " the lobbyist said. "But guess what? We're going to have hearings about the [stuff] you do."
Lobby or we'll go after you. You must kiss the ring of congress. Its essentially a cost of doing business for big companies in America, but too many think it goes the other way, with corporations in charge and politicians cowering before them. Who is John Galt?

Meanwhile, lawyers continue to go crazy, cost us all millions, and make life miserable:



Indeed. Nor is the problem confined just to a few models. In a 2010 paper, a co-author and I looked at how well an average formed from all 23 climate models used for the 2007 IPCC report did at explaining the spatial pattern of temperature trends on land after 1979, compared with a rival model that all the experts keep telling me should have no explanatory power at all: the regional pattern of socioeconomic growth. Any effects from those factors, I have been told many times, are removed from the climate data before it is published. And yet I keep finding the socioeconomic patterns do a very good job of explaining the patterns of temperature trends over land. In our 2010 paper we showed that the climate models, averaged together, do very poorly, while the socioeconomic data does quite well.
They're worthless, dealing with something far more massively complicated than the scientists are interested or able to model, all pushing for a specific outcome to get more of that sweet research cash, fit in with their alarmist friends, and help push a political outcome.

But
  • There is now one lawyer in America for every 257 people. In 1950 that ratio as 1:750, and that's still too many.
  • A New Jersey woman is suing a little league baseball catcher after he threw a ball into her face. The 11-year-old was warming up a pitcher and overthew the ball; she wants $150,000 in damages.
  • Museums and art scholars are pretty quiet about the validity of works these days, out of fear of lawsuits. If you say something is fake and get proved wrong, you're open to a suit.
  • The Committee of Bar Examiners of the State Bar of California is arguing before court that an illegal alien should be admitted to the bar and allowed to practice. Sure, a lawyer is an officer of the court who must obey the law or be thrown out but does being illegal really count? Not in California, it seems.
  • New Jersey, a judge ruled that Netflix must have close captioning available on all their content. In fact, he made it clear from the beginning that's exactly how he was going to rule, no matter what.
Readers of this blog know I mock the press pretty hard for their failures, and the coverage of Egypt was one of the big failures. And the BBC recently admitted they did a lousy job of it.
Head of news Helen Boaden admitted that her journalists got carried away with events and produced ‘over-excited’ reports.

She told a BBC Trust report that in Libya, where reporters were ‘embedded’ with rebels, they may have failed to explore both sides of the story properly.

Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen was among those criticised in the study into coverage of the uprisings, which found that ‘excitement’ did sometimes ‘infect’ the reporting, which some viewers described as ‘too emotive’ and ‘veering into opinion’.

The document, published yesterday, also raised concerns about the corporation’s use of footage filmed on mobile phones and other user-generated content. It noted that the BBC failed to warn viewers with ‘caveats’ about the ‘authenticity’ of such footage in 74 per cent of cases.

It also warned that the corporation ignored events in some countries as it concentrated on ‘big’ stories.
Excitement over the idea of the glorious revolution and the people overthrowing tyrants led many n news outlets into this kind of stupidity, but at least the BBC has come clean about it.

Border patrol agents are being taught to duck and cover when confronted by illegals, according to a new report. Well, I guess that would cut down on the police casualties from Fast & Furious.

Our local newspaper the Statesman-Journal would be a tenth its size (and mostly ads) if the AP or UPI wires stopped working. There's just virtually no local reporting in it, which is cheaper, I suppose but pretty weak for a newspaper. And they're hardly alone in this practice; a recent report out of Australia notes that
Fairfax sites theage.com.au and smh.com.au shared a monthly mean of around 97% of their content with at least one other metro, while at Brisbane Times mean sharing was 88% and at WAtoday, 95%. In comparison Melbourne’s heraldsun.com.au was the highest average news-sharing site studied in the News Digital network at 13.6% monthly. The couriermail.com.au was next highest at 7.2%, the dailytelegraph.com.au at 5.1%, and perthnow.com.au shared a mean of 3.5% of its stories in our two categories of top and national news.
By total coincidence, the more left leaning the news source the more it simply uses wire reports.

Prominent San Francisco homosexual activist Larry Brinkin has been arrested for child molestation and child porn charges. The actual evidence in the case are pretty awful and I won't repeat them here, but he clearly lusts after young boys. But then... how's that wrong, based on the usual homosexual activist set of morality? Where's the evil in this if you think love conquers all and we shouldn't judge people? Yeah I know blah blah consent, but as I've said many times before consent is a legal structure.

Oregon is trying to replace the very limited coal burning power generation the state uses with biomass. The theory is that this will pollute less, but while anthracite is compacted in highly efficient, concentrated black bits, biomass isn't so much.
Converting the Boardman plant to run on biomass could also change the way agriculture is done for 50 or even 100 miles around, PGE says, because growing enough giant cane to meet that demand around the clock would take more than 60,000 acres, triple the area of Manhattan and a substantial share of the irrigated farmland near Boardman.

The boiler would need to burn 8,000 tons of plant material each day to keep its water steaming and its turbine spinning.
Why even bother? Well Oregon law mandates that utilities must also get 15% of their electricity from "renewable" sources by 2015, and up to 25% in 2025. Even if its stupid, inefficient, expensive, and ultimately can't be done.

German politicians think they have the answer for blackouts, rising energy prices, and other consequences of the "renewable" energy demands they keep forcing on people.
VdK Social Association of Hesse-Thuringia is demanding social tariffs. VdK chairman Udo Schlitt says that without a price rebate, more and more people with low incomes are going to have their power shut off. He proposes:

"Therefore all power producers must be mandated to offer binding social rates by law.”

So in summary, here’s Germany’s latest energy plan: 1) Force power companies to buy exorbitantly-priced, inefficient and intermittent-supply green energy on one side, and then force them to give it away, or sell it at a low price, on the sales side!
Brilliant! This can't possibly go wrong!

Judaism is illegal in Germany. That's a bit of an exaggeration, but German courts just ruled religious circumcision as illegal, a fundamental and ancient Jewish religious ceremony. Of all the countries on earth, you'd think that GERMANY would want to avoid that kind of thing.

Sixteen-year-old Becky has gone missing. She was last seen at Occupy Chicago with a guy who called himself "Nemo" and no one can find her. The Occupy movement has been working to find her without contacting the police, probably to avoid publicity that an underage girl has vanished in their midst, and in no small part due to a hatred of police. Nemo says she isn't with him and will show up, but now Occupy is looking for Nemo, too. And the cops got involved eventually because the girl's mom contacted them. Letting your daughter go to an Occupy event is practically child abuse.

Although some tried to portray it as such, the Roberts Supreme Court has been the least activist in modern memory, according to Gabriel Malor at the Ace of Spades HQ. His thesis is based on overturning laws:
(1) The Warren, Burger, and Rehnquist Courts overturned precedent decisions at an average rate of 2.7, 2.8 and 2.4 per term, respectively. By contrast, the Roberts Court overturned precedent only at an average rate of 1.6 per term.

(2) The Warren, Burger, and Rehnquist Courts overturned laws at an average rate of 7.9, 12.5, and 6.2 laws per term. By contrast, the Roberts Court struck down only 3 laws per term.
By the way, before the decision was announced yesterday, many on the left were wailing that a 5-4 decision showed how politicized and horrible the courts had become. Funny, you don't hear them saying that now about the 5-4 decision in their favor.

Although a lot of companies block much of the internet and discourage social media use on the job, some are starting to encourage it. Kamelia Angelova writes at Business Insider:
Companies will soon start implementing social media literacy training that would become as common as ethics training and diversity training.

Some corporations, such as PepsiCo, have already allowed easy-sharing options in their company newsletters that encourage its staff to promote internal company news, thus, harnessing the social media power of over 300,000 employees.
How could this possibly go wrong?

Last week, I noted that an ABC report said that activist Christians at a Dearborn Islamic festival were causing problems and resulted in Muslim retaliation. This week, some more news: cops stood by and did nothing as the Muslims attacked the Christians. Then they threatened the Christians with arrest and ordered them to leave. This is why Dearborn had to pay a gargantuan settlement last time around; its one thing to stir up trouble, its another for the police to shrug when bad things result and pick on the Christians only. But then, the bulk of the population of Dearborn is Muslim, so that outcome is almost predictable.

Scott Johnson at Power Line has a question:
Has the Supreme Court ever served as a bulwark of constitutional liberty when the chips were down?
Expecting the Supreme Court to protect American citizens from outrageous or excessive legislation and defend their liberties is not just foolish, it is counterproductive.

Its being hammered and is difficult to load, but Roll Call has the story where Congressman Issa (R-CA) has read the wiretap data they've managed to obtain from the Justice Department about the purpose of Fast & Furious. Here's an excerpt:
The tactic, which was intended to allow agents to track criminal networks by finding the guns at crime scenes, was condemned after two guns that were part of the operation were found at U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry’s murder scene.
You get that? They were hoping to track the guns by finding them at crime scenes. Its just possible that the Obama administration instead of trying to back door gun control was just so unbelievably, inexcusably stupid as to think this was an effective, proper way to track guns. That they'd just be rounded up in raids and drug busts, not at murder scenes and mass slaughters by drug gangs.

Which means instead of being evil, they're just inconceivably idiotic and naive to the point of being dangerous to all humanity. And given how idiotic the left views the world? I'd say this is even likely. I may have been wrong about the motivation all this time. Except if this was the motivation, why didn't they just say so?

And finally, if you like movies, there are over five hundred free-to-watch public domain movies online you can view at your leisure. These films range from the excellent to the horrible, and all of them are guilt-free to watch.

And that's the Word Around the Net for June 29, 2012.

PICTURE OF THE DAY

Not a tax

Quote of the Day

"History is indeed little more than the register of the crimes, follies and misfortunes of mankind."
-Edward Gibbon

Thursday, June 28, 2012

PICTURE OF YESTERDAY

In the movie Back to the Future II Marty McFly had to race to the future to save his family... and he went to yesterday:

BTTF2
Where's my hoverboard??

COMMON KNOWLEDGE: Reagan and AIDS


"The most serious epidemic we've ever faced."
-Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA)


The first case of AIDS in the United States was identified in 1981. It spread to this nation from Africa, primarily through a homosexual flight attendant, and was a mutated variant of a disease apes suffered from. Since then almost 600,000 people have died of the disease in America - although always from another complication such as pneumonia - and almost 30,000,000 worldwide.

Experts estimate that 5% of the population of Africa suffers from HIV, and while recent medical breakthroughs have discovered ways to limit the disease's deadly nature, greatly reducing its lethality, it still is a terrible plague, mostly on the third world.

When AIDS was identified and its spread noted by the American officials, President Reagan was in office. He was said to be slow to respond, reluctant to do anything to help gays, and basically didn't care if a plague was killing them. President Reagan's response was called "halting and ineffective" by biographer Lou Cannon, and he was said to have been influenced, if not controlled by the "religious right" in the guise of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. Allen White wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle:
With each passing month, death and suffering increased at a frightening rate. Scientists, researchers and health care professionals at every level expressed the need for funding. The response of the Reagan administration was indifference.

By Feb. 1, 1983, 1,025 AIDS cases were reported, and at least 394 had died in the United States. Reagan said nothing. On April 23, 1984, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced 4,177 reported cases in America and 1,807 deaths. In San Francisco, the health department reported more than 500 cases. Again, Reagan said nothing. That same year, 1984, the Democratic National Convention convened in San Francisco. Hoping to focus attention on the need for AIDS research, education and treatment, more than 100,000 sympathizers marched from the Castro to Moscone Center.

With each diagnosis, the pain and suffering spread across America. Everyone seemed to now know someone infected with AIDS. At a White House state dinner, first lady Nancy Reagan expressed concern for a guest showing signs of significant weight loss. On July 25, 1985, the American Hospital in Paris announced that Rock Hudson had AIDS.
Recently homosexual donors visited the Obama white house with their checkbooks and gleefully posed in front of the Ronald Reagan portrait there, flipping him off. It is generally understood, especially among the homosexual population, that Reagan hated homosexuals, didn't want to do anything about AIDS, and its all his fault that it spread so quickly and powerfully.

And that says a lot about the homosexual perception of responsibility, government, and life.

Almost immediately it was understood that this was a sexually transmitted disease. It was also known to be an almost exclusively homosexual disease, spread from one homosexual man to each other, mainly in San Francisco. Intervenous drug use was eventually also discovered to be a primary cause of spreading the disease.

Eventually, it moved into the heterosexual population, but never in the degree that hysterical pundits claimed and feared it would. To this day, the disease is mostly among homosexuals and needle users except in the third world.

The truth is, Ronald Reagan unsurprisingly was a friend to homosexuals. He was an actor and in that community you're surrounded by homosexuals and tend to be more accepting as a result. Mike Flynn writes in Big Government:
Apparently they don't realize that Reagan did more for gay rights than any other President. Moreover, Reagan campaigned on behalf of gay rights before he was President at great personal risk to his future political career. In 1978, conservative California state Senator John Briggs pushed an initiative onto the state ballot to prohibit the hiring of homosexuals as teachers. Keep in mind, this was the height of Anita Bryant's crusade against homosexuals and much of the conservative grass-roots were decidedly opposed to the concept of "gay rights." Reagan had been out of the governor's office for several years and was preparing to run again for President. Support for the initiative was very strong initially and every political calculus would have argued that Reagan stay out of the fight. But, Reagan wasn't a normal politician.

Out of personal conviction that individuals should only be judged on their merits, Reagan campaigned against the initiative. He even went to so far as to pen on op-ed against it in the closing days of the campaign. The initiative was soundly defeated.

David Mixner, a leading gay rights advocate who organized opposition to the initiative was unequivocal in his credit to Reagan on the victory:

There is no doubt in my mind that the man who put us over the top was California Governor Ronald Reagan. His opposition to Proposition 6 killed it for sure.
The truths is, Ronald Reagan was not opposed to homosexuality, and was not a very socially conservative president, particularly for the times. True, he did have advisers who were strongly anti-homosexual, saying AIDS was "no more than they deserve," according to C. Everett Koop, who fought hard to raise awareness of how AIDS was transmitted and how to stop it.

But Ronald Reagan was not silent on the disease or its spread. Koop was busy early on telling people to use condoms, avoid sharing needles, and how the disease spread, as was his job as Surgeon General. The CDC released a report warning about the disease, how to prevent it, and what to do in 1981, as the government required.

The problem is that San Francisco leftists blame the government for their own behavior. AIDS didn't spread because Ronald Reagan didn't strap on his superman outfit and catch all the virii, throw them in a volcano, and hug every homosexual in the Castro District. Ronald Reagan didn't see it the federal government's business to tell people how to live or what to do. It spread because homosexuals, knowing a deadly plague was among them and how to prevent it, ignored the warnings and lived la vida loca. And the reason they blame Reagan is that the government spending didn't erupt in dumptruck loads of cash on research so they could keep living that lifestyle without fear.

Sure, the president can only sign bills, not pass them. Sure, congress controls the budget and spending. Sure, the president can only work with what he's given by congress. But congress was controlled by Democrats - allies - and the president was a Republican, so he was the guy to blame. And its always easier to blame someone else for your lack of self control.

The biggest problem with the AIDS epidemic is that when it became so obviously a drug-user and homosexual-sex spread disease, it became political. Identifying it as primarily driven by certain behavior meant people would think ill of those behaviors, condemning homosexuality. And that got in the way of the push to normalize homosexual activity, so it was quashed. Duane Lester reminds us of how it went back then:
Gay rights activists in government compounded the problem. Pat Norman was the Director of the Office of Lesbian and Gay Health in San Francisco’s health department. She was also the chair of the Coordinating Committee of Gay and Lesbian Services, which compared the screening of blood donors as “reminiscent of miscegenation blood laws that divided black blood from white.” They even compared it to the internment of Japanese during World War II.
This became so politicized that even reasonable attempts to control the spread of the disease were opposed. Even diseases that cannot be spread like most forms of leprosy are quarantined or even denied entry into the United States, but AIDS, which is so easily spread, was given a pass, because it would seem like evil discrimination against homosexuals. In other words, political activism actually enhanced the spread of the disease because the cause trumped human life.

It wasn't until the mid 80s that a small community with a disease had spread to the point of being a minor epidemic and was a threat to people. Until around 1985, AIDS wasn't a major issue. Most people hadn't even heard of the disease until about that time, and reporters weren't bringing it up, asking the president about it, or writing about it because most didn't even know much about it. Because of stupid, self-destructive behavior it was spreading like wildfire in San Francisco and other homosexual communities, but it was mostly isolated from the rest of the country.

Aids chart

Brent Bozell writes about how Reagan signed on to plenty of federal spending on the disease:
AIDS funding skyrocketed in the 1980s, almost doubling each year from 1983 – when the media started blaring headlines – from $44 million to $103 million, $205 million, $508 million, $922 million, and then $1.6 billion in 1988. Reagan’s secretary of Health and Human Services in1983, Margaret Heckler, declared AIDS her department’s "number one priority." While the House of Representatives was Democrat-dominated throughout the 1980s, which Democrats would quickly explain was the source of that skyrocketing AIDS funding, Reagan clearly signed the spending bills that funded the war on AIDS.
Could Ronald Reagan have done more? Sure, he could have made a speech in 1981 to tell everyone about a disease that had popped up in one area of America among a small community involving behavior 98% of the population didn't engage in. But why would he? And how do you end up blaming the president for what you're doing to yourself? That's like getting mad at the governor of your state for how you pulled a muscle lifting that refrigerator with your back.

The truth is, AIDS spread because stupid people made it happen despite knowing better in almost every case. Sometimes they did it on purpose. There were horrible examples of it being spread through unscreened blood but homosexual activists strenuously opposed screening for AIDS as noted above.

And in the end, AIDS didn't end up the "new black plague" that swept across the world. It wasn't pandemic, or even an epidemic. It has remained almost exclusively within small communities driven by their stupid behavior, like Parkour specialists and broken bones. AIDS is a tragedy, a horror of watching someone wither away slowly unless they can get vastly expensive boutique drugs, and it eventually still is almost always a death sentence, either way.

But that's not Ronald Reagan's fault. Those guys should have been flipping off a mirror.

As a note, its hilarious to read about the reaction to AIDS hysteria. These days people blame it on "medical professionals looking for money" and "religious extremists" but the primary driving effort behind the hysteria was ignorance combined with political activism.

To avoid this being identified as a disease driven by homosexual and drug-using behavior, the story was pushed as being something we were all threatened by, the great looming doom that government must save us from. So it became a terrifying pandemic, worse than the black plague. And now, suddenly, its Jerry Fallwell's fault it didn't turn out that way.

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

GUNN IT

Martha Harrington: Mrs. Harrington. People say you're for hire.
Peter Gunn: Anything within reason.
Martha Harrington: What about murder?
Peter Gunn: That doesn't sound very reasonable.

Need a break from politics? I have something you might enjoy, and you probably already know the song. Even if you haven't ever seen a single show, you likely know the theme song to Peter Gunn. Written by Henry Mancini and used in the video game "Spy Hunter," Peter Gunn's theme is one of those classic songs with a driving repetative beat and killer horns that fits any nostalgic cool video setting. Bands like Duane Eddy, Brian Setzer Orchestra (in a medley), and even the Blues Brothers have played this song and its pretty familiar to most people.

Peter Gunn is basically a mercenary, a gun for hire that works the mean streets of an unknown town. He loves jazz, he is cool as dry ice, and is deadly. He's not so much a private eye or a hero as a very dangerous, hardcore guy who will help you if you are in need, and doesn't care very much how he gets the job done, as long as its for the right cause.

And you can watch his show online. The Peter Gunn TV show ran from 1958 to 1961, and every episode is available on YouTube (for now), thanks to the Sagacioius Iconoclast. Each episode is about a half hour long, and has babes, booze, jazz, guns, and tough guys aplenty. Here's the first episode:



Someone tried to bring Gunn back in 1989 but it just didn't work. Supposedly John Woo and Paramount started work on a movie version but that has been stalled for over a decade. Some ideas only work in their original setting. Incidentally, Sagacious Iconoclast has a lot of other shows compiled, such as Car 54, Where Are You? and Are You Being Served? If you have some time to kill and want to just forget about life and its troubles for a while.

CONSTITUTIONAL?


‎"The power to tax involves the power to destroy."
-John Marshall

Spending Quandary
I haven't read the decision yet, but it appears that the Supreme Court of the United States has upheld the Government Health Insurance Takeover Act as constitutional, at least in part. Like most complicated legal issues, this is probably a very complicated decision that isn't as obvious as its being made out to be, so I'm not going to comment much on this except to consider why they might have come to such a patently false conclusion.

Timothy P. Carney at the Washington Examiner sheds some light on the way decisions of this sort come about:
Nobody looking at the plain language of the Constitution would say, "Ah, this obviously empowers Congress to force everyone in America to buy health insurance on the state-by-state individual market."

But a permission structure has been built in the form of legal precedent -- including many bad decisions by liberal judges -- slowly making it possible for Washington to do what sounds absurd on its face: forcing us into intrastate commerce in the name of regulating interstate commerce.
Its how the Supreme Court could have decided that a bill largely silencing political speech right before an election is somehow not a violation of the first amendment (McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform). Its how a lot of bad judicial calls are made: precedent and legal decisions one by one moving steadily away from logic and common sense toward a direction that lawyers prefer.

See, the problem is that if the Supreme Court just wholesale threw out the entire bill as being obviously not permitted under the very limited powers of the US Constitution, it would have massive, wide-ranging repercussions for many, many other pieces of legislation in the past. This bill is based on an interpretation of the "commerce clause" which has been used to let the US congress do many things the founding fathers plainly did not want the federal government to do.

Ace at his HQ puts it this way:
Here is the crux of the question: The federal government does a lot of things the Constitution doesn't grant it power to do. It does so through the fiction of "state-federal partnership." The federal government can't do it, but the state can, so a "state-federal partnership" is created, permitting federal governments to act in ways they could not otherwise act.

Now, if this is not a partnership at all -- if the government can simply dictate to the states what they shall or shall not due, with the threat of withholding large amounts of federal money (collected from state citizens -- doesn't this expose the "partnership" for what it is, an end-run, a dodge, a pretext to hide an unconstitutional exertion of federal power?

Shouldn't that fail, too?
Now, from initial reports, supposedly the decision deliberately tries to avoid this entire debate, which isn't surprising. Supreme Courts are very, very careful to never, ever step on the toes of a previous court. If there's one thing every court agrees on, its how very important and sacred courts are, and they just do not like to bring into doubt the decisions and statements of their peers. To my knowledge, the Supreme Court has never, ever overturned a previous decision of its self, even though it is the only court in the land that can do so. And its made some horrendously bad decisions in the past.

Stating that the US congress has grossly overstepped its constitutional limits by declaring its self able to mandate commerce in any way whatsoever, claiming it is for the good of the public, opens up the court to thousands of challenges, based on that decision, against things like medicare, social security, farm subsidies and a host of other common spending items on every budget since the early 1900s.

And the Supreme Court just doesn't want to open that can of worms. They probably just could not find any way to throw this out without also cracking that can open, and so they tried to find a way to explain how this one somehow still was okay, regardless of the plain meaning of the founding fathers in the US Constitution.

And that, my friends, is why you cannot rely on the courts to do the right thing here. We cannot trust the courts to be the backstop to prevent abuse by congress, because their understanding of jurisprudence or restraint will lead them to not stop certain things even though they plainly should be.

So while we don't know exactly what this ruling entails, it appears to be keeping the legislation intact and not throwing a single piece of it out, based on murky legal precedent and careful definition of terms.

And that means this bill stays law and crushes the US economy, handing a fifth of it to the federal government. No way will a further congress overturn this because it hands so much money and power to government and neither party wants to give that power up. Not only that, but the primary concern of nearly every congressman - if not all - is being reelected. They will not vote against this for fear of being portrayed as hating the poor, hating elderly, hating minorities, wanting people to die, and so on.

So it stays, and all those businesses holding their breath hoping they won't have to destroy their profits paying for the massive increases in insurance costs now know they will.

*UPDATE: Incidentally, it appears the court decided this law was perfectly fine because it is a "tax." What's interesting is that the Obama administration and Democrats in congress kept swearing up and down it was not a tax, largely to avoid being a vast tax increase and making them look horrible to the public. Well, more horrible. Now it is a tax?

And consider this: the Court has ruled that you can tax inactivity - failure to buy insurance. That means that the government, through penalty, can dictate both action and inaction. That means they have total control of you no matter what you do, through legal sanction. That's just a guess, based on what we now know but if true its a pretty chilling, evil thing to have happen to the US. We had a nice run, for about 200 years.

**UPDATE: A great summary of the basic flaws with this decision regarding taxation and the constitution from Ace of Spades HQ by commenter "Stuck on Stupid":
According to Chief Justice Roberts laughable decision, Obamacare is Constitutional because it's a tax. But even so anyone with half a brain can see through this ruse easily.

First, if it was a tax then the court had no jurisdiction to rule on it and none of the people bringing the case before the court would have standing to do so thanks to the Anti Injunction Act. You can't oppose a tax until it's actually opposed on someone. Since the "tax" doesn't go into effect until 2015, by law the Court would have had to set it aside until then.


It gets worse, of course. The 16th Amendment gives Congress the power to levy a tax "on income". Obviously this is not a tax on income.


It also cannot pass muster as either a direct or excise tax either. As an excise tax it would have to be the same for every state. It isn't, it varies by location. As a direct tax it would have to be appropriated to the states evenly. It isn't.


So even if you accept Robert's completely ridiculous assertion that this is a tax, Congress doesn't have the power to levy it. It's still unconstitutional.
Its just a mess any way you look at it. Roberts, in an attempt to avoid throwing out a law in a demented sense of judicial restraint, was being too clever and screwed it all up. It was simply shameful.

PICTURE OF THE DAY


What Calvin taught about salvation, in a graphic. How can a sinful man be made right with God? Here's how.

Quote of the Day

"The more often a man feels without acting, the less he'll be able to act. And in the long run, the less he'll be able to feel."
-CS Lewis

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

WHAT OF WESTPHALIA?

"All of a sudden, almost without anyone noticing it, the entire world is experiencing a 'democratic deficit'."

At the the Washington Post, Henry Kissinger brought up a piece of history I knew only a little about and made it make more sense in the setting. It was one of those events that changed the world but probably nobody truly understood it at the time. It was the Treaty of Westphalia.
The modern concept of world order arose in 1648 from the Treaty of Westphalia, which ended the Thirty Years’ War. In that conflict, competing dynasties sent armies across political borders to impose their conflicting religious norms. This 17th-century version of regime change killed perhaps a third of the population of Central Europe.

To prevent a repetition of this carnage, the Treaty of Westphalia separated international from domestic politics. States, built on national and cultural units, were deemed sovereign within their borders; international politics was confined to their interaction across established boundaries. For the founders, the new concepts of national interest and balance of power amounted to a limitation, not an expansion, of the role of force; it substituted the preservation of equilibrium for the forced conversion of populations.
Basically, the Treaty of Westphalia created nations as we now understand them. Instead of just being a kingdom or an area dominated by tribes, boundaries and borders were created where inside them they were sovereign and could decide their own destiny, and outside it was none of your business.

This is interesting because it helps make sense of how nations formed and the understanding of international politics and countries we now take for grated came to be. But it also helps understand something else. The reason the treaty had to happen was that the Protestant Reformation created a genuine, powerful opposition to the primary dogma of the day with the Roman Catholic Church. In truth they weren't so very far apart, but they were opposed in enough basic concepts that war actually broke out across Europe.

And the reason this war took place is because nations didn't consider what they did within their borders to be sacred and sovereign. If someone committed heresy on a wide scale in the nearby nation, then it was the job of your army to punish them and stop it. Religion didn't drive this so much as the idea that faith transcended national boundaries, that countries were not permitted to disagree with your dogma, and should be stopped with force if need be.

The critical thing here is the idea that what you do in your own country isn't your own business, especially when it comes to ideology. That if you are sufficiently wrong in your thinking and faith, then it is my duty to fix that. It was considered perfectly reasonable and proper to take an army into a nearby kingdom and stomp on them until they worshiped properly - for both Protestants and Roman Catholics.

Henry Kissinger points out that this all changed with the Treaty of Westphalia, that everyone agreed that what you did in your own borders was your own business, unless it became a direct threat to another nation. From then on, if you invaded someone else, you were likely to be attacked by all the other countries as a potential threat to them unless you could demonstrate a pretty good reason.

Its why even Hitler gave lip service to excuses to invade Poland and France. Even he pretended to follow this treaty, centuries later. And now, its changing back. Kissinger goes on:
The diplomacy generated by the Arab Spring replaces Westphalian principles of equilibrium with a generalized doctrine of humanitarian intervention. In this context, civil conflicts are viewed internationally through prisms of democratic or sectarian concerns. Outside powers demand that the incumbent government negotiate with its opponents for the purpose of transferring power. But because, for both sides, the issue is generally survival, these appeals usually fall on deaf ears. Where the parties are of comparable strength, some degree of outside intervention, including military force, is then invoked to break the deadlock.
As Richard Fernandez at Belmont Club (where I saw the Kissinger piece) puts it, "Nations — and those who formerly controlled them through the vote in countries where they voted — ain’t what they used to be. They’re in the way now." Fernandez points out that the EU cannot survive without what people are calling "political union," or a single powerful government to control policy between the various states. Its sort of like having the United States without the federal government, it just doesn't work to pretend this is one body.

The argument makes sense; the Euro, and in fact the entire EU, is dragged down to oblivion by states such as Spain, Greece, Portugal, Ireland, and so on whose profligate spending, short work days and careers, heavy welfare system, and lack of productivity are being propped up by nations such as Germany. They're playing three card monte with debt in the EU, bailing out nations in an endless circular pattern. Spain bails out Greece, then has to be bailed out by France, who'll need bailing out soon. Behaviors, policies, and spending have to be controlled to have this even hope to succeed, and that simply will not happen without being forced on these countries.

But if you force nations to take certain policies to fit how you think they should... you're violating their sovereignty and detonating the entire principle of the Treaty of Westphalia. No longer is a nation state its own entity to live and die by its ideals. No longer are countries to stay out of the business of others unless its a matter of survival and threat.

Oh, but it goes much deeper than just Europe's failing struggles to save the Euro and the EU. Fernandez writes:
To those who say matters pertaining to America’s involvement in foreign wars are limited by a Congressional Declaration of War should note two things. First, the President didn’t think it was necessary to even ask Congress about the Libya operation, nor was it in the loop with the regard to the Arab Spring. Second, the President has in general been disinclined to require anything from Congress if his executive action, the reasons for which are protected by executive privilege, will do. For more on this subject, refer alas, to Pravda.

The next and obvious question is why anyone would need Congress any more than one needs a government in Madrid? Remember, it’s for the children.
All the structures and systems in place to sustain democracy, peace, and maintain order between nations are falling to pieces because they get in the way of ideology. And that's why the Treaty of Westphalia came about to begin with: chaos, death, and misery brought about by enforcing ideology at all costs. Instead of Roman Catholicism facing what it considered heresy, now we have Politically Correct leftists desiring to enforce their ideology on everyone, whatever the cost.

Socialism is failing in Europe? Then its time we had more power to make it work. President Obama wants to get democracy in Libya? Then he simply orders the attack, directly and specifically violating exactly what he condemned President Bush for doing - and worse, he didn't even try to go before congress.

This didn't start with Obma, though. President Bush the elder sent troops into Somalia to rebuild the place and stop the violence. It was an awful place that was going to hell but it didn't have a thing to do with American or NATO interests. Going into Somalia was a violation of the Treaty of Westphalia, in the name of humanitarian interests. Then President Clinton did the same thing in the former Yugoslavian republics, in the name of doing good. Its the same pattern the old wars were about: this is wrong and we must intervene to stop it, even if we have to kill people to do it.

Some argued that the invasion of Iraq was the same kind of thing for President Bush, and condemned his violation of the basic principles of war. You don't invade another nation unless it constitutes a direct threat to you. And while President Bush went to great pains to try to convince people that there was a threat, the mood stayed and grew: you just did it because you didn't like how they treated your daddy. You just hate brown people. You hate Muslims. You're a warmonger. Its about oil.

The invasion wasn't about any of that, it was finishing off the business started in the first Desert Storm, responding to over a decade of nearly continuous violation of a cease fire agreement and dealing with a terrorist-creating nation. Yet there was that element of ideology involved. Humanitarian reasons were brought up - enough for leftists to support previous military action, but not this one. And there was that element of imposing Democracy on the region so that it would calm down and stop being a hotbed of terrorism.

President Obama just took that a step further. This time instead of going to the UN and congress as previous presidents had, he just did it. He simply ordered it to take place because he wanted it to happen. Libya's dictator had to go, and so off went the troops.

Not long ago, memos were revealed proving that the labor government in England was deliberately and systematically encouraging increased immigration, particularly from certain areas, in order to build a voting bloc of dependent and supportive people to help them retain power. It really was that direct, crass, and manipulative. I'm not making this up. But at least this was within their own nation, within their borders.

And recently, the European Union's "Migration Chief" Peter Sutherland stated that the EU should "undermine national homogeneity" through immigration. You read that right, he specifically wants nations to be changed by EU policy regarding immigration, to stop Sweden from being so disgustingly Swedish. To stop France from being French. Multiculturalism isn't just considered a virtue, its the law if this guy gets his way. He frames it as a matter of survival because these countries aren't breeding enough to replace their population but either way, its a direct call to violate national sovereignty and indeed national identity.

And this attack on basic Democratic structures isn't just overseas or in foreign policy. President Obama is ignoring congress, the constitution, and over two centuries of established structure and law because it gets in the way of how he thinks things ought to be. Just weeks after telling Hispanics he cannot simply apply the Dream act without going through congress, he does so. Hispanics were slipping away, partly thanks to his instant knee-jerk response to George Zimmerman's shooting of a black man. Turns out Zimmerman might have a Jewish name but he looks and is Hispanic as tacos and that hurt President Obama's reelection chances.

Fernandez is right, this is a corrosion of democracy and all that has held civilization together, building an unprecedented, inconceivable level of peace, prosperity, and progress over 400 years of history. Anyone who has played a 'god game' such as Civilization series knows that war demolishes progress and advancement in technology. Instead of developing literacy, now you have to focus on developing superior weaponry. Now instead of spending money on power plants and sewer systems you have to buy walls and bullets.

In the name of imposing an ideology - no less so than religious wars over Justification by Faith and Transubstantiation - the entire principle of national sovereignty is being attacked. And that idea has long been despised by the left. Nationalism, they argue, is evil and the cause of war and destruction when it has actually been the existence of the nation state which has created peace and construction. But these stupid nations who want to do their own thing get in the way of the utopian ideal of the left. So it must go.

Who cares if you destroy democracy and the successful pillars of civilization that have created our incredible world today? You have to break a few eggs, and all that. And we're so smart, so right, and so enlightened that we can fix it all. You won't need democracy where we're going, they say.

Some say democracy is suicidal, that inevitably the very system of freedom and input that make it work leads to its own destruction. That peace, comfort, and liberty inevitably lead to the kind of thing we see today where liberty is taken to license, and then used as an excuse to destroy freedom in the name of doing good. Perhaps that's the case. Its clear that the experiment, the dream of the founding fathers in the United States is in ruins.

I can't shake the feeling that we're watching the entire world structure and everything that has given us modern civilization being undermined to the point of complete collapse by leftist termites who have been burrowing under the walls for decades. They've so completely chewed through the foundations that they're boldly showing their hideous pale grubby faces unmasked for the first time, grinning in triumph as the wood groans and stones crumble over their heads.

But when it all comes down, it won't just fall on them.

GIRL COMICS

"Her lips were sweet, the inside of her mouth food and drink for a hungry and thirsty man."
-Karen Rose Smith, Love In Bloom

A few times I've mused on how women can read what is essentially soft (or even hard-core) pornography in the guise of "romance novels" and nobody really seems to think ill of them. They can read a graphic depiction of sex acts in public in a paperback but if a guy whipped out a Hustler people would throw things at him - and rightly so.

The reason I bring this up is that the banner ad at the top for Amazon keeps putting Shades of Gray up as a potential book, which is just bondage porn for women. Its really popular today, and its just a strange aspect of society. I may remove "fiction" from the categories just to try to clean that out. The last thing I want is somebody's kid poking that and getting the product page from my blog.

But it occurred to me that these romance books - naughty or not - are like girl comic books. They really are. They feature implausible, stylized events of romanticized figures doing absurd deeds that you thrill to and imagine yourself doing. Boys love comics because they think it would be cool to be Superman or Spider-Man or Wolverine. Girls read romance books because they'd love to be that girl who is swept away by the handsome, rugged, boyish yet tough Gypsy/Prince/Cowboy with the heart of gold.

And the parallels go much further. Playing the online MMOG City of Heroes is fun but it does drive home some basic problems with the superhero genre in a way you wouldn't consider otherwise. You can get around by "superleap" which is basically what the Hulk does in movies: jump for a half mile or more at a time. It works great in the comics.

But in City of Heroes you quickly spot the problems. You miss the spot you meant to land on and slam into the side of a glass office building. Or you just catch the corner of an ornate stone structure with all your force. Or even if you manage to land properly, you just hit the ground with tremendous force on an area almost exactly a square foot. I'm no math whiz, but that's a tremendous amount of force - especially if you're eight feet tall and weigh 1200 pounds.

Or if you have super speed, you can run at 90 MPH around a corner and hey! Its a car! Or worse, a pedestrian. You can be flying along and hit a power line without even seeing it until its too late. You can punch a villain so hard he goes flying... into a crowd of civilians watching and filming it with cell phone cameras. Or so hard he just dies. Life is hard for a super hero.

Superheroes are innately absurd and unrealistic, but there's another layer of implausibility on top of the idea of flying people and women with truth-serum lassos. Its the basic problems of life that are ignored in these comics, or rarely touched on. There's a scene in Watchmen where the heroes discuss how they changed their costumes to make it easier to take a bio break, but that's rarely even considered. Characters do absurd things regularly and don't face consequences; it was only recently that The Incredibles showed how lawsuits would ruin superheroes in modern life.

And these romance novels are the same thing. Not only do they postulate an absurdly romanticized, fake world but the people do things that you really can't in real life. An ad for Zoosk.com dating hilariously depicted this recently:



All those bodice tearing scenes might be fine in imagination but unless you have a carefully prepared shirt like Hulk Hogan, they just don't tear off without a lot of really ridiculous looking work that ruins the mood. And panties don't just tear off either, they give the girl a massive wedgie which isn't exactly going to encourage her to respond positively.

Kissing so hard you bruise someone's lips, pulling hair and all that might sound sexy and maybe its fun once in a while but you know variety is the spice of life, that kind of thing would get old fast, and frankly its exhausting. That really hot guy who is frustrating but passionate in the book would enrage you in a relationship.

Frankly, ladies, guys are hairy and smell funny. We burp and fart and get a cramp in our side, we get a nasty cold and look awful. We have bad days, we get tired, we get angry, act stupid. We aren't always super ripped hunks who tear your clothes off in furious passion. And you don't really want us to be, either.

My mom has always said that romance novels stop at the wrong time. They fade away with happily ever after, and she says that the romance begins when you get married, and that's where the real story is. And I think she's right, but its also where the hard part stops, and there's a reason romances stop at that point. Now its real life, not the fantasy. Now you won the love you were after and you have to put up with their crap.

So its funny, women will mock men for liking comics, call it childish and yell at guys to grow up. And maybe they should but... women? You're doing the same thing. Your childish fantasy is just socially acceptable and allowed. And while our silly stuff gives us an unrealistic look at justice and fighting evil... yours gives you an unrealistic look at love, romance, and men. And that's sometimes a real troublemaker in real life.

TEACHERS I REMEMBER WELL

"In teaching you cannot see the fruit of a day's work. It is invisible and remains so, maybe for twenty years."
-Jacques Barzun

teacher!
I spend a lot of time tearing down teachers and the education system on this blog, and its for good reason. There are not a few awful teachers and the modern education system goes from bad to absolutely horrible. Yet in all the political correctness, multiculturalism, and lack of focus on education there are good teachers still out there struggling in a terrible system to try to do their jobs.

And they do good work. They still can teach kids despite the miserable system, and they are usually remembered well by their students. Because of these teachers, young people begin to learn and understand the world. Because of these teachers, some students have a chance to step outside the boundaries of their schooling and gain a good education.

So here are some of the great teachers I have had through the years, for different reasons.

Hazel Green
Mrs Gastineau. She was my first teacher, at Hazel Green Elementary School. This little four room school in the country was humble and small but Mrs Gastineau was an unusual person. The first day I went there was the first day I'd spent away from home and I was devastated. She held me in her lap as I cried and comforted me for a few minutes, then I started school.

My best memory of Mrs Gastineau was a project we had, a picture of a rocket. We were told we had to color the rocket in, then cut it out. So I slashed my crayon across the picture fast and evenly, all over the picture to get the rocket covered in red. Mrs Gastineau asked me why I didn't color within the lines and I said something like "we're going to cut it out so it doesn't matter."

Now here's a place where a teacher could react several different ways, but Mrs Gastineau broke out laughing and told me gently that the point of the exercise was to teach us to follow directions, which I then understood and we went on with school. She could have gotten upset at me. She could have thought I was being sassy (I wasn't, I was just being honest). She could have read me the riot act which would have made me feel absolutely horrible and broken my spirit. Instead she thought it was wonderful and gently taught me what I was supposed to be doing.

It was Mrs Gastineau who worked to get me to move up to grade 3 since by the end of the first year I was reading 6th grade level and had cruised through the stuff I was supposed to do that second year. That was mostly my parents, who had taught me to read very early. Apparently had I demanded to know how to read since all my older brothers were doing so. She was a good teacher, a kind heart, and a wonderful person. She was older even then and I doubt she's alive any more but I do really remember her and her warm, loving soul.

Flash Cards
The second teacher I remember well is a guy named Mr Noble who taught mathematics at Whiteaker Junior High (called Middle School these days). He was a light hearted guy who tried to make the experience fun for people, and he put up with silly comments from me in the classroom. When he talked about measuring something I had been reading a lot of Pogo at the time and I yelled out "feets!" when he gave a measurement in feet. Without a pause he corrected the measurement to "feets" instead. Because he thought it was fun, and the class might enjoy it.

I struggled with the multiplication tables. For some reason division made good sense to me but memorizing all those tables I just was terrible at. My brain doesn't readily leap to math very well and I just couldn't seem to pass that test that was required to move on. Mr Noble helped me out, pushed me, and worked with my mom to get me to pass it and finally I did. It was the first time in my education I'd had to really struggle at all and he drove me to get past this difficulty. I remember well the flash cards and memorizing all those numbers.

He taught me the patterns in math, such as the nines in the multiplication table. The numbers go up for the first digit and down for the second. See:
1x9 = 09
2x9 = 18
3x9 = 27
4x9 = 36
5x9 = 45
6x9 = 54
7x9 = 63
8x9 = 72
9x9 = 81
10x9= 90
The first digit goes from 0 to 9, the second goes from 9 to 0. They swap at 5-6. Just remembering that made the pattern easier to figure. All of the multiplication tables are in patterns like this, although some are easier to pick out than others.


Patterns
But it wasn't until high school that math ever finally made sense to me. I had an algebra teacher there named Mrs Allen who loved math. She would see patterns in phone numbers that helped her remember them (555-1269 would jump out to her as 1+2+6=9). She helped me learn patterns, to see math as more than columns of numbers but more the engineering of reality so I could decode what was there instead of just remember formulae and tables.

She was the first person that pointed out to me that any number you can add up and divide by three is overall divisible by three. In other words, if you have a number, say 49272, you can add all the digits up (4+9+2+7+2) and get a number (24) which is divisible by 3. So that big number will 100% guaranteed be divisible by 3 (49272/3=16424) to get a whole number, with no fractions. Math is full of weird little things like that, and it made the whole exercise more interesting to me.

In a way it was frustrating because I became aware that if I was only clever and mathematical enough I should be able to figure out anything in math. After all, someone figured all this out, why shouldn't I? But I couldn't. My mind doesn't work that way, I'm not smart enough. But I learned to understand math under Mrs Allen.

The Fork
Mr Forkner is the next guy - again in math. This time it was Geometry, and I was failing his class. The problem wasn't the math, its that Geometry wasn't about math. It was about logic and structure reason. You started with fundamental presuppositions (called postulates) and built from those conclusions about shapes through a highly systematic method of calculation. It was math without numbers, math based on philosophical concepts.

And I just was not grasping this. It wasn't anything I'd even tried to understand before. I was smart enough to understand it, but it was so new and so unusual I was having a terrible time. Mr Forkner was a former minor league baseball player who we could sometimes get to start telling stories about his days in baseball. Nowadays I wish I'd listened because he'd have played with some greats; superstars of the 80s were minor leaguers in the 70s. But I treated it as a chance to do something else like write up AD&D monsters, to my regret.

Mr Forkner worked with me to help me understand the principles of geometry rather than just the lesson plan, and my grade crept up until I got a B at the end. And through it, I learned to think. I believe every child who can possibly handle it should be compelled to study and understand geometry because it teaches logical thought. It teaches you to think through a problem step by step using reason instead of emotion, and it teaches rational comprehension of an idea rather than gut instinct. Knowing this helped arm me against nonsense and has been the single most important learning experience in school I have ever had.

I owe Mr Forkner a tremendous debt of gratitude, which is probably why I remember his name so readily and several others I had to look up or call around to find. Without his teaching of reason and logic, I would have never been the man I am today. Sure, I'd have learned it eventually but getting it so early (age 15 or so) made a huge difference in how and what else I learned.

CALVIN
And finally there's Mrs Walters. I failed her class at college. I failed and pulled D's in a lot of classes there. By the time I got to college, I'd pretty much given up on the entire idea of school, I was sick of it and shouldn't have ever gone. But I learned a lot, so in one sense it was a good idea. I grew up a lot in college, isolated from home and everyone I knew for the first time in my life for such a long period of time. I had no friends. I had no family. I was in an entirely different setting, state, region, and climatic zone. 2000 miles from my home, I was isolated and lonely.

So I learned a lot about myself, about interacting with others, about life, and about people in general. And under Mrs Walters, I learned a lot about writing. Until I took a class at Calvin, I had skated through school. It was, frankly, easy except for a few bumps mentioned above. I hardly had to work at it. I got A's on my essays and papers without a second draft. I tore through writing assignments with comfortable ease.

Then I hit Mrs Walters. She demanded not just a solid concept delivered on paper, not just a convincing argument or an intelligent examination of the topic but proper writing. The spelling and grammar were no problem but the structure and delivery had to be right as well. I turned in my first paper (based on something I'd written for high school) and got it back with a big fat D on the top. I was astounded, never before had I gotten anything but A+ with glowing comments.

Mrs Walters required the paper be well-written, not simply effective and spelled properly. She insisted that the ideas flow naturally and easily from one to another, that the introduction properly set up the thesis without clutter, that the conclusion succinctly deliver the summary and close the written piece up rewardingly and conclusively. In other words: she required that you be a good writer, not simply a technically proficient one.

I bombed in her class, I got bored and annoyed and just stopped going after a while. But the lessons she taught and the shock of getting that first paper back stuck with me and changed how I wrote. I got As from then on again, but only because she taught me how to write. And I'm sure she'd mark red all over my posts here, to this day. I wish I'd stayed in her class and tried harder, to learn and to understand. I could have learned a lot more from her, I think.

And that lesson has endured with me for decades, helping shape what I do for pay - such as it is - now.

I had some lousy teachers in my time. I had some annoying and stupid ones. I had some that were not really there to teach at all - Mr Chapman comes to mind. Yes, he taught me Russian and German, but his real purpose, I'm absolutely convinced, wasn't so much to teach foreign languages as it was to be a recruiter for intelligence services - military, or CIA. I know that sounds nuts, but you'll have to take my word for it. I think about contacting him sometimes to see if my idea is true but I doubt he's even in town any more. He'd still be alive, assuming nothing bad happened to him.

But the good teachers, the ones who did their job well, challenged me, forced me to stretch and think... those teachers were the ones who I remember and who helped shape me into who I am today. I'm not so strong physically, I struggle with illness, but my mind is sharp largely due to the education I got in the past, and these men and women feature very strongly in that experience.

And if you're a teacher, don't give up. Don't feel miserable because you can't seem to reach the kids, you have no concept what is getting through or what they have learned from you. 99.9% of the time teachers have no idea what good they have done for a student. Years later, most of these teachers are probably dead now, and I can't thank them for their work. But I wish I could.

Just remember: I flunked out of a class and still learned a tremendous amount from one of my teachers.