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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Friday, August 31, 2012

WORD AROUND THE NET

"It is also worth noting that the current administration is against coal, natural gas, nuclear power and dams."

What is the clerisy? Joe Kotkin at New Geography writes about them and how they are affective American culture and the upcoming election:
This largely well-heeled “middle class” still adores the president, and party theoreticians see it as the Democratic Party’s new base. Gallup surveys reveal Obama does best among “professionals” such as teachers, lawyers and educators. After retirees, educators and lawyers are the two biggest sources of campaign contributions for Obama by occupation. Obama’s largest source of funds among individual organizations is the University of California, Harvard is fifth and its wannabe cousin Stanford ranks ninth.

Like teachers, much of academia and the legal bar like expanding government since the tax spigot flows in the right direction: that is, into their mouths. Like the old clerical classes, who relied on tithes and the collection bowl, many in today’s clerisy lives somewhat high on the hog; nearly one in five federal workers earn over $100,000.

Essentially, the clerisy has become a new, mass privileged class who live a safer, more secure life compared to those trapped in the harsher, less cosseted private economy. As California Polytechnic economist Michael Marlow points out, public sector workers enjoy greater job stability, and salary and benefits as much as 21% higher than of private sector employees doing similar work.
If you ask people if they are better off now than 4 years ago, chances are if they say 'yes' they are in the modern clerisy.

Like chocolate? It seems like either you love it more than air or you can take it or leave it. Well some research suggests that chocolate may reduce the risk of stroke. It certainly seems to make people smile.

Democrats are dropping in general popularity according to some polling data. You should all know I have little patience with polling but they can over a time period show trends, if properly done. In this case, it confirms something we already know: both parties are losing popularity and are losing membership, Democrats faster then Republicans. And from where I sit, that's a good thing.

Don't tell anyone I'm a conservative! Actually I don't care, but if you work in Hollywood its long been known you have to keep your mouth shut on politics if you disagree with the left, if you want work. However, there are a lot of other areas where that's true as well. At Instapundit, readers keep saying something like "I would ask that if you do anything with this, you do not associate my name with anything. It would pretty much destroy me professionally." Other readers commented:
If you are Black, Hispanic, work in Hollywood, Journalism, Law or Academia you must hide your true beliefs or your life/job will be targeted. This is the real battle for the future.

Identifying with conservative issues, and I’m not even talking social issues, is professional death in the non-profit world. So, please, if you use this, don’t use my name.

My wife, on the other hand, works in a liberal profession. The few times she’s let her true feelings show, she’s been met with disdain, antipathy and outright disgust. She’s afraid to put a Romney sticker on her car for fear of it being vandalized in the employee parking lot.
Data is not the plural of anecdote, but does anyone seriously doubt this effect is real? The establishment will not tolerate dissent.

Mark Regnerus at University of Texas wrote a paper on a study that showed children are better off with a mother and a father, instead of say, two fathers. The university immediately began an investigation into scientific misconduct and ethical violations by this awful person. They recently dropped the investigation, noting that there was no misconduct and the research does suggest this conclusion.

Low interest rates are a boon for big banks and are great for rich people to borrow and invest with, that's why they love Quantitative Easing. But for regular folks, it just means .35% interest on savings. Glenn Reynolds in an opinion piece in USA Today writes:
Some years ago, when earning say 5% on your money was realistic, a $360,000 portfolio of CDs would produce $18,000 a year in interest — that's $1500 a month. Couple that with an unexceptional Social Security payment of about the same amount, and that's $36,000 a year, $3,000 a month. Nothing fancy, but enough to get by.

Now change that 5% to 0.9% and you're earning $3,240 per year, or about $270 a month. Add that to $1,500 a month in Social Security and you've got $1,770 a month to live on; just $21,240 a year. That's a brutal 41% cut in income. And it is why many senior citizens around the country are being forced to draw down savings to make ends meet.
But if they raise the interest rates with 16 trillion in debt, the interest payments become overwhelming. We're already seeing the debt increase a trillion in less than a year - and accelerating - with present interest rates. This is unsustainable, to use a popular leftist word.

Are we running out of auto mechanics? This story in the USA Today suggests so, but Instapundit reader Dan Dressel disagrees:
I work directly with auto part stores and repair shops, and all I can say is don’t believe the hype. A lot of shops have closed the last two years due to the recovery, and there are a lot of young, trained mechanics out there doing other things. As soon as a good job turning wrenches opens up (and they can’t go back on unemployment after working six months), they’ll leave whatever service position they have and get back under the hood.
Dressel suggests perhaps the article is meant to direct young people to attend, say, GM mechanic schools which are heavily advertised. Mobility in an economy is a strength, allowing people to get work in another field when theirs suffers or collapses.

Andrew Ferguson at The Weekly Standard didn't much care for Romney. Me either, really. As I've written in the past, he seems too self-awarely a politician, too willing to say what people want to hear, and his campaign a little too mechanically precise and clinical. But last night's convention, which I didn't watch but checked live blogs on, is changing that for Ferguson and me, and I suspect a lot of others. Romney's life is almost a caricature, the kind of person an editor would reject in a book as being too unbelievable. He saved lives, he gave away his multi million dollar inheritance and built himself up from scratch, he pulled people out of burning buildings, he shut down the Bain office to help find a missing girl, he gave money to people just to help them. He's either been incredibly skilled at building a persona for political gain, or he really is that nice a guy.

That doesn't mean I agree with all of Romney's politics or that negates his two-faced tendency to make speeches, but it does change his persona. And for people that only knew him as the robotic job killer at Bain and the white millionaire, that's only helpful for the Romney campaign.

Economic news may be bad but the legacy media has worked hard at making it seem not so bad, under a Democrat president. Ed Driscoll sums it up at Pajamas Media:
Actually, the MSM has most of those bases covered. High gas prices? Good news says NBC, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Politico. High meat prices? Helps fight global warming, says “Scientific” American. Heck, the whole flatlined economy helps the environment, according to Democrats John Kerry and Claire McCaskill. Think of retirement as a permanent case of what the L.A. Times called “funemployment” in 2009, and the joys of what Virginia Postrel dubbed the MSM’s serious case of “Depression Lust,” at the end of 2008.
Should Romney win in November, expect the coverage to... adjust.

There is some good economic news, though. Manufacturing in America has been picking up, and while this sector is not booming exactly, its doing better than elsewhere in the world:

ManufacturingI expect unemployment to drop and growth to pick up in the last quarter of this year.

What is the Masonic handshake? For centuries this cryptic method of connecting fellow members of the semi-secret society has been only speculated at by non members but Weird Universe reveals the code:
  • Sunday sign: right hand in pocket of breeches, with thumb out, pointing to the left side.
  • Monday sign: left hand in left pocket, thumb out, pointing to the right side.
  • Tuesday sign: right hand in right waistcoat pocket, with thumb out, pointing left.
  • Wednesday sign: the reverse—left hand in left waistcoat pocket, with thumb out, pointing right.
  • Thursday sign: right hand in right coat pocket, with thumb and forefinger out, pointing downwards.
  • Friday sign: exactly opposite—for right, read left.
  • Saturday sign: putting the first three fingers of the right hand to that part of the right eyebrow next the ear, and so drawing it along till the 3rd finger touches the nose.
Don't do this at the ballpark, the guy at bat might bunt.

MSNBC has abandoned all attempt at seeming like an actual news network and spent the entire RNC finding evil in every single situation, showering it with contempt, and a barely-sane Chris Matthews muttering about racism constantly like Gollum. They specifically cut away from or just outright skipped every single speaker that was a minority for two days, but finally showed most of Marco Rubio's speech. Fox News skipped several of these speeches as well for the bigger names, but showed some, and their commentary didn't continually focus on racism they secretly pulled out like numerologists finding messages in a text. Its clear that one was showing what they figured would pull in advertising and viewers, and the other was trying to avoid anyone getting the impression that perhaps Republicans aren't hateful bigoted racist monsters. NBC carried the torch as well, clipping all minorities out of their Tuesday Night speech page.

GOP womenObama's reelection team put out another ad, this time featuring women who once were Republican but now just cannot vote for Romney this year because they found out that it opposes abortion at all possible stages of pregnancy without restriction! Why, who knew? Except at least half of the women in the ad are... Democrats. Poor trolling. Meanwhile at the Mega Independent, a few more of these Republican women for Obama were found.

Remember ACORN? As I've written about several times, its still around (and still getting federal dollars, despite a ban from congress), its just split up into many different names. Cause of Action has released the various names of activist groups formerly known as ACORN, 174 of them, and they're very active still.

Internet commerce is largely untaxed right now. You have to pay sales tax if you live in a sales tax area, but otherwise the transactions are untouched by federal, state, and local government. And governments hate that. Perhaps inspired by Chief Justice John Roberts, the IRS is looking at a plan to implement a new broadband "fee" to get some more of that sweet internet cash. Don't bother writing your congressman. Vote for someone who'll stop this and other attempts to take internet freedom away.

An architect took a look at various popular entertainment sources and laid out blueprints for their homes and environments, such as the apartments from Friends, the Sopranos, the Brady Bunch house, and so on. Ever wonder what the town of Mayberry looked like, or Al Bundy's home was laid out? Now you can see. You can buy framed prints, too, which could be fun. But not cheap.

Believe it or not, Joe Biden thinks he has a shot at the presidency in 2016. He's working on a team and thinking about it and The New Republic writer Noam Scheiber is taking him seriously. I think Joe needs to find some good caretaker and retire to comfort.

Four soldiers plotted to take over an army base, then kill the president to create a new revolution and change the country. Haven't heard of this story? Wonder why its not front page number one news during a presidential election? Me too, and here's a hint: the press is describing them as an "anarchist militia." See how they don't mention right wing or conservative, or even Republican there? Yeah.

Some folks, usually academics on the left, keep calling for an IQ test to vote. Clearly, they argue, only a mongoloid idiot would vote Republican and if we clear out the sub-normal IQ crowd Democrats would rule. There's a problem with this theory that these folks haven't really considered very closely: minorities tend to test poorly in IQ tests (largely due to the nature of the tests and too common minority culture - its white to study and be good in school, homes!). Jim Goad ran the numbers at Taki's Magazine and if you dumped anyone under 100 IQ from voting... Democrats suffer massively in elections. For example, the McCain/Obama vote in 2008? McCain wins by 51-49.

After films such as Waiting for Superman and the general anger of the public against poor, shoddy education and teachers keeping jobs they shouldn't have, Teacher's unions have taken quite a beating lately. As with all public employee unions, I'm totally opposed to teachers unions, and it turns out that more and more teachers are, too. According to Stephen Sawchuck at Education Week:
By the end of its 2013–14 budget, NEA [the National Education Association] expects it will have lost 308,000 members and experienced a decline in revenue projected at some $65 million in all since 2010. (The figures are expressed in full-time equivalents, which means that the actual number of people affected is probably higher.)
It should be very difficult for a teacher of good conscience to stay in these unions.

Why isn't President Obama doing better in this election? Why does the polling trend toward Romney and away from him? Well President Obama thinks he knows: its your fault, Obama supporters.
But the folks asking me about this don’t want an explanation — they want to know what I’m going to do about it.

And the fact is that solving this problem is up to you ….

We’re losing this air war right now.

I don’t have as much time to campaign this time as I did in 2008, so this whole thing is riding on you making it happen.
Of course what he really means is "you aren't giving me enough of your money." Given your track record with money, President Obama, maybe they're just not trusting you to use it wisely.

Circumcision, once standard and presumed, is less common these days and there are some who think it is an evil barbaric practice. However, a recent report by the National Academy of Pediatrics seems to confirm what supporters have argued all along: its cleaner, helps protect against disease, and overall beneficial. Maybe God knew what he was doing all along.

According to the federal government too few of you are living on the dole. Unhappy that people who are eligible to be on food stamps and other government assistance aren't signing up as much as they could, USA.gov is reminding people they don't have to stand on their own or get help from neighbors and family. They won't rest until everyone is on the teat.

What does your electric car run on? Oh sure, you plug it into the wall, right. But what's that socket connected to? Coal and natural gas, mostly. About 30% of the power generated in America is coal, 40% natural gas, and 9% each hydroelectric and nuclear power. That's right, your Volt runs on coal and petrochemicals. You just take it second hand.

And that's the Word Around the Net for August 31, 2012. See you in September.

I'VE GOT MR OBAMA SITTING HERE

"I haven't cried that hard since I found out that there is 23 million unemployed people in this country"

Clint
Clint Eastwood spoke at the Republican National Convention last night, and it was the only speech I actually watched. I wasn't so much interested in the politics as I was curious what he'd say - and I think a lot of other people were, too. And the response has been curious to me.

"Baffling," "Awkward," "Rambling," and so on are all used by various pundits - not coincidentally those leaning to the left - to describe the speech. And it was confusing at first because everyone expected him to bring his Dirty Harry/Gunny Highway persona to the stage. Instead it was the real Clint Eastwood, the actual man rather than the actor and he was a modest, ordinary sort of man instead of some tough guy icon caricature.

His use of the empty chair made many think of comedian Bob Newhart's brilliant phone call sketches, and I got the strong sense that Eastwood was thinking of this as well. And it worked brilliantly. I don't say that because I like the content of what he said, but because of who his targeted audience was. Clint Eastwood wasn't trying to reach the under 50 crowd and he certainly didn't care about the college age ironist and the hipster 30 something. He was after the over 65 crowd.

Clint Eastwood's speech was about two things: stripping down the image of Obama as a nice guy trying his best and letting older voters know its okay to vote for the other guy. The post-Korea generation was hammered during Truman and Ike's force integration that "we owe it to these men to let them grow." And that was right, but for decades now older people have been shamed into fearing the appearance of racism. Words and statements they grew up with being comfortable with make younger people stare at them in shock.

They fear being perceived as racist. They think Obama may be doing a lousy job but he seems like such a good fellow and he says he's trying hard. The older you get, the more forgiving you tend to get, remembering your past mistakes. You tend to be less absolute in your judgments and especially in trusting your instinct. The times you were wrong, sometimes disastrously wrong, loom larger in memory than when you were right. And young people are continually telling you that you're mistaken, foolish and old. So you don't want to be that guy again.

Clint Eastwood gently and with no small humor reached out to those people with brilliant targeting and let them know not only is this Obama guy not necessarily the nice fellow everyone says, but that he's had his shot and he blew it. We tried out this slick talking neophyte, the guy with no experience but great patter. He's lousy at the job. Its okay to let him go, you aren't a bigot for doing so, its just common sense. Time for someone new, maybe a businessman, perhaps?

As Richard Fernandez puts it at the Belmont Club:
...it wasn’t one of those “I take this platform tonight with pen in hand, bearing in mind the immortal words of Clancy M. Duckworth” type orations. It wasn’t the speech of someone who was running for office.

Rather it might have come from Mr. Weller down at the corner office musing on simple things to not very important people. How it wasn’t good form to mess things up continuously. How one might lose faith in a man who made one broken promise too many. How at the end of the day everyone either did the job or quit out of decency. Even Presidents.

There was no malice in it. Just a tone of regret. But it was redolent of memory too. Of simple things a world away from the Mountaintop; of sentiments a light-year from dramatic arcs, and of ordinary happiness in a universe apart from grand bargains and high-flown rhetorical visions. They were truths that everyone who has ever worked knows but has somehow forgotten because it was so ordinary.
If you're a 30 year old Manhattan socialite or a 19 year old college student he probably seemed like a strange, doddering old man. If you're older, you remember Bob Newhart, you get his references and delivery, and you understood his message just fine. He was basic, heartland America, like a comforting grandfather who said it's time for someone else in a way that got attention and a smile. That worked great.

The fact that urban socialite leftists didn't get it or thought it was awful is just one more indication it worked.

*UPDATE: And the urban leftist hipster demonstrates how totally they didn't get it, by "Eastwooding" by treating the empty chair as someone to yell at. The New York Daily News article declares the speech "bizarre" in the headline and quotes an urban hipster:
“Clint, what happened? You was always the man,” he said.

When he was done, though, the 60-year-old Manhattan man felt more dejected than fired up.

"That didn't feel good. It was depressing," Counts said.

"I have always looked up to Eastwood and it's sad. If you're for Romney that's fine, but don't go all zombie on me ... It's a strange thing. That's not the Dirty Harry that I know."
Can you pronounce Shibboleth?

**Another thought: I wrote recently about the way mockery has displaced wit in our culture. Clint Eastwood showed how to engage in satire without mockery, to use humor to teach and educate. And tin-eared left leaning urban young people just didn't get it.

GET MEDIEVAL ON THEM

"It's about adversarial perception, timing, distance, leverage, and technique, all used in good martial spirit."

Sword Fighting
If you have heard any geek or teenage boy discussion of blades, you probably have heard (or participated) in a debate over which would be the more dangerous warrior: The romantic European knight or the stylish Japanese Samurai? Europeans usually are declared the loser because they're supposedly slower and more clumsy and their swords aren't as good, etc.

Except research is starting to show that almost all our understanding of medieval European knights is in error. We know their behavior wasn't as courteous and chivalrous as the more romanticized tales of King Arthur would have you believe, but what's changing is the understanding of basic elements of medieval warfare.

For example, when an athletic man dons an appropriately sized suit of proper armor, they're quite mobile. Yes, it took a crane to put a man in jousting armor on his horse and the decorative suits you can find are very heavy and thick, but those weren't combat outfits. Jousting was recreative sport, and the armor worn for that didn't have to be mobile or light, all it was for is show and to protect the rider from a direct, crushing hit from the front.

Two horses charging at each other at a combined speed of 30-40 miles an hour, concentrated onto the blunted point of a lance generates a tremendous amount of impact. The point was to see who was the better lancer, not to injure or kill your opponent. You wanted to dismount, not impale. So the armor was incredibly heavy (particularly from the front). Comparing jousting to regular combat is like comparing, say, a football player to a martial artist. Its a completely, but superficially similar different activity.

Knights were able to vault onto the back of their horses. They could jump over a fence, do just about anything a normal person could. I watched men do just that in period accurate armor on a television program showing research into medieval armor. These guys weren't clanking tanks, they were as agile as today's soldiers in body armor. If a knight fell down, he could get back up, he didn't need a squire.

And the weapons were much better than is generally understood as well. The katana is a very fine sword made of multiple layers of different kinds of metal to generate strength and flexibility, with a harder section at the blade to retain sharpness and a softer at the spine to allow the blade to bend. This results in a very sharp, very strong sword that does not break easily. The process is very difficult and time consuming, involving folding and pounding the weapon, using a cooling and heating process that greatly strengthens the metal and blends in various elements.

And researchers have discovered that's exactly what European blacksmiths did as well. The art was lost over the centuries as broadswords became obsolete and became the rapier and foil, which have an entirely different construction. But old swords, manuscripts, and information from the medieval period have revealed folded blades with the same concept: a softer central core and harder, sharper portions for the cutting edges. The reason we know so much about the Katana is that they were still being made and used as late as the 1800s, and even were used by Japanese officers in World War 2. Their technology and skills weren't lost in time, replaced by the gun.

In other words, the medieval broadsword was a sharp, strong, and flexible as the katana. The biggest differences are the shape and use, not the tool. And it makes sense, both cultures developed their weapons for the same reason: they wanted a good weapon to kill their enemies with. In time, they found better and better techniques, discovered that heating and cooling seemed to generate a superior metal, found that folding created patterns and allowed the weapon to be designed a specific way, and so on. As the centuries rolled by, the skills increased.

So its not as if Japan had a unique patent on the Katana's technology; European knights had it, too. It is generally accepted that a curved blade is superior to a straight one, for slashing attacks, but a straight one is superior to a curved one for piercing (thrusting) attacks. A curved blade pulls away better so you tend not to get your weapon stuck in one enemy while another approaches. But it doesn't punch through armor as well, because you cannot direct as much force to the point, its deflected slightly by the curve.

And here's where the main difference comes in. Japanese Samurai were primarily interested in the mounted attack, passing by an opponent, infantry and archers on the ground. Peasants, for example. They needed a weapon that would work well for a cavalry charge, and trained to make a single, lethal attack from drawing their weapon. The single edge worked well for this kind of assault, and the curved shape assisted in a smooth, effective draw of the sword.

Knights had a different sort of task. They did fight from horseback, but often used other weapons for that task, such as a mace or axe, and the lance (not that big heavy jousting one, a light one with a real bladed point). And the fighting style of the knight was quite different from the samurai.

Weapon BlockMedieval scholars have found old texts that are illustrated almost like a martial arts book today, or a comic book. It has figures with stances and proper weapon technique, done with the art style of the day. While the images are stylized (flat perspective, for instance), they do show the basic patterns of medieval combat. From these writings and other documents of the time period, scholars have discovered a great deal that was unknown for centuries.

For example, watch a movie swordfight some time, not the fencing type from films like Princess Bride but, say, Excalibur. They're doing it all wrong, almost everything is wrong. They're fighting for style and to look good on camera, but its based on the swordfights you used to have as a kid if you were like me. You're swinging at the other guy's sword most of the time.

Now, that's fun and you're less likely to get hurt but you also aren't going to win that way. Its like playing tennis and hitting the ball directly at your opponent. The point of tennis isn't to volley forever, its to put the ball where your opponent cannot reach it. And the point of sword fighting isn't to spar, its to kill. Medieval combat scholar John Clement writes at io9:
What we know now about sword-fighting from the documented historical teachings and methods is that in earnest combat: You don't stand still. The sources specifically tell us to be in constant motion. You don't just dance around. The sources specifically tell us to cover and close in. You don't just parry and riposte. The sources specifically tell us not to try to block. You don't attempt to be passive or stay defensive.

The sources tell us in particular to be aggressive, audacious, and take the initiative. You don't try to just win the range and timing by sneaking out blows and feints. You seek to displace the adversary's blows with counter-strikes timed in the middle of their action. You don't just hit out wildly, or bash on their weapon. The sources tell us specifically to intercept and stifle their attacks, by binding on their weapon and using body leverage. And you don't try to receive blows of their edge on your own edge in a static fashion — but set them aside with your flat, or better still, counter-hit them with your edge against their flat. And lastly, both thrusting and cutting as well as grappling were always recognized as integral components for wielding all swords and weapons — armored or unarmored, on foot or horseback.
Instructional books from the time period depict knights holding their broadsword - and especially two handers like the claymore - like a staff, blocking attacks and using the pommel to strike with. The combat was fluid, mobile, and fast. Knights weren't ponderous clods banging way on each other with swords until they got too tired to lift their arms, they were warriors showing dazzling skill. When your life is on the line, you learn to do it well or you die.

In other words, the medieval knight learned martial arts, just not the eastern kind. And since that became obsolete due to gunpowder, people stopped teaching it and it faded away. The west tends to do that: we abandon what doesn't work anymore and don't whine about lost culture, we pick up what's better. That's why the Japanese were still fighting with swords in the 1800s and the west had rifles and steam ships. Eastern culture tends to be one of deep reverence for tradition and strong opposition to change and the new.

So in the end, the Samurai and the Knight would probably match up very well toe to toe. The final result would be skill and luck, not one overwhelming the other due to some particular aspect like weapon quality or martial arts training.

PICTURE OF THE DAY


This pony has stockings. This pattern is called a "black framed overo" and apparently they're really rare - particularly one this striking - and expensive.

Quote of the Day

"None of us have to settle for the best this administration offers – a dull, adventureless journey from one entitlement to the next, a government-planned life, a country where everything is free but us. Listen to the way we’re spoken to already, as if everyone is stuck in some class or station in life, victims of circumstances beyond our control, with government there to help us cope with our fate. It’s the exact opposite of everything I learned growing up in Wisconsin, or at college in Ohio. "
-Paul Ryan

Thursday, August 30, 2012

HISTORY WILL TEACH US NOTHING

"our models show that there was also a cold snap at that time, which lasted a few days and drastically lowered the temperature."

Jesus Saves Peter
One of the stories in the Bible that people like to dismiss is the one about Jesus walking on the water. Its one of those supernatural tales that folks cut out of the Bible like Thomas Jefferson, preferring to keep only the parts they like and want to believe.

A scientist in Florida State University in Tallahassee has another approach: he wants to explain it away. Amitabh Avasthi at the National Geographic writes:
"A rare set of weather events may have combined to create a slab of ice about 4 to 6 inches [10 to 15 centimeters] thick on the lake, [making it] able to support a person's weight," said Doron Nof, an oceanographer at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida.

His findings appear in this month's issue of the Journal of Paleolimnology.

Nof bases his theory on a unique freezing mechanism he calls "springs ice."

This forms when warm, salty springs flow into a freshwater lake, preventing the lake from freezing entirely in cold weather.

Springs linked to this kind of freezing are found in Tabgha, Israel, a region where many archaeological features associated with Jesus have been found.
Nof goes on to explain the various conditions that might have created a patch of ice and Jesus just walked out to the boat on that. This is one of those explanations that requires people in the past to be basically stupid and gullible. There are a lot of terms for it, such as "stupid Semite" but basically it all boils down to this: stupid, unscientific people in the past were so unsophisticated that they didn't know what ice was and attributed walking on it to supernatural powers.

Now, people in the past weren't any smarter than we are now, but they weren't any dumber either. Something a lot of people don't seem to realize is that it snows sometimes in Israel, and those people knew what ice was. Its not like they lived in the Sahara and were totally unfamiliar with ice. They'd have recognized it. Nobody would attribute someone walking on ice to godlike power. Nobody would have been shocked or confused by it. These were fishermen and they were quite familiar with how water looks and behaves.

This kind of attempt at explaining things is creative enough, but it requires people from the past to have been morons, gullible twits confused by everyday phenomena, the kind of people who attribute magic to fire. The truth is, folks in the first century Palestine were no stupider than you or I. They were less scientifically capable but were far more familiar with the natural world and how it works than almost all of us.

I just shake my head when scientists try this kind of thing out. No, Moses didn't cross the Red Sea during low tide on a particularly dry year, they would have known what that was like. No, the burning bush wasn't a natural gas vent that mysteriously erupted then went out and never was repeated.

Look, you don't have to believe the supernatural stuff in the Bible - that takes faith. Just don't make goofy flailing attempts at defining way the supernatural stuff that requires people in the past to be idiots. Its a comforting myth to think that your generation is the wisest, smartest, most educated, most evolved people that have ever lived but you're just as goofy and silly as everyone before you. We just have different things to be goofy about, is all.

*Hat tip to American Digest for the Nat Geo story.

CHRISTOPHER TREE

"Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree."
-Martin Luther

Bios
When I die, I hope people forget me and I don't really care what they do with the body. Its just a chunk of decaying meat at that point and it can be thrown on the city dump for all I care. However a recently designed product has caught my interest.

Its by Estudimoline, the design company of catalan artist Gerard Moline, and its called . Essentially you take the cremated remains of someone, put them in this biodegradable container with some seeds, plant the whole thing and keep it watered. It becomes a tree over time, from the ashes.

That seems like a pretty good thing to do with a body. I believe that there were Southwestern Indian tribes that would do this as well, use the body for nutrients so they could grow plants. Beats being packed full of chemicals and stored in a box in a special yard forever. What's the point of that?

Someday maybe people come visit the Christopher Tree some time, if they feel compelled to have some sort of memorial. God only knows why you would.

PICTURE OF THE DAY


Clouded Leopard kitten is depressed.

Quote of the Day

"We don't need a party that has led while poverty and hunger rose to record levels to give us lectures about suffering."
-Artur Davis

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

SCARY MONSTERS, SUPER FREAKS

As I've been seriously struggling with my health lately (I'm doing better, just need a lot of rest) I've been having a hard time getting content up on my blog. I just stare at the page blankly and feel like an idiot. So here's some art for a book I've been trying to work on as I lie in bed hours every day. They're images for my Fantasy Hero Bestiary, mostly monsters for the player characters to fight in a Fantasy Role Playing Game.

I have been updating my work to 6th edition rules for Hero System and there's thousands of pages to work on. At least it keeps me fairly busy. So here are some monsters to consider.

Dryad Combat FormTerror
Mumak
Fox Clan Beastman

Bloodthorn
Blacksnake
Walrus Clan Beastman
Rat Clan Beastma

All images copyright Christopher Taylor and Kestrel Arts blah blah blah people will copy and use them anyway.

U MAD? LOL AS A WORLDVIEW

"If you find it hard to laugh at yourself, I would be happy to do it for you"
-Groucho Marx

James Lileks went to the fair recently, and he watched an episode take place. It wasn't a very dramatic scene, just one that you spot every so often and it says something about society. A couple of high school guys spotted a girl talking to a cop:
She was attractive, and not in the standard style - she had glasses, big black ones, which mean she might have been Alternative. You know, one of those interesting girls who’s into cool stuff.

“He’s making some time,” said one of the guys.

“Yep, this is a real Taser,” said the other, slipping into a caricatured macho voice. “Had to tase a guy the other day. Tased him right down to the ground.”

They both made fun of the cop in the same mocking voice, then fell silent. When they started talking again, it was about band. One of them was in pep, but he wasn’t going to do marching again. But pep was great because you could play at, like, women’s volleyball.

“Definitely,” said the other.

Ah, the quiet desperation of the beta males. Damned world with cops who impress their kind of girl. Damned world. Mockery counts for nothing, and they know it.
I suppose if you're a pep rally kind of guy, the world seems unfair around you, but their response is not to have pride in what they do, but to be bitter and mock others. And that's all too common a response today. In the place of humor, we have frivolity. In the place of wisdom, we have sarcasm. In the place of critical thought, we have mockery. And that's all across the culture. Watch any ten advertisements and you'll see it again and again, belittling others for humor, mocking people just to get a laugh or attention. Everyone is a pathetic, out of touch loser unless they're just like you.

I can't help but think of a line from the classic novel Ben Hur in which Lew Wallace introduces the character Messala:
As philosophy was taking the place of religion, satire was fast substituting reverence; insomuch that in Latin opinion it was to every speech, even to the little diatribes of conversation, salt to viands, and aroma to wine. The young Messala, educated in Rome, but lately returned, had caught the habit and manner; the scarce perceptible movement of the outer corner of the lower eyelid, the decided curl of the corresponding nostril, and a languid utterance affected as the best vehicle to convey the idea of general indifference, but more particularly because of the opportunities it afforded for certain rhetorical pauses thought to be of prime importance to enable the listener to take the happy conceit or receive the virus of the stinging epigram.
I don't know if that was true at the time - it certainly has a powerfully authentic ring - but its true now. People aren't any smarter, or even more sophisticated today than in, say, 1940. All they have become is more bitter, sarcastic, and full of mockery.

And mockery doesn't achieve anything except a sense of superiority. You don't build anything, create anything, support anything, or achieve anything through mockery and sarcasm. You tear down, you belittle, you trample under foot. Instead of trying to become better, we try to rip others down so they aren't better than us. I suppose in a relative sense you're taller than the man you stomp on.

There is a place for mockery and sarcasm, as for all things. The problem is modern society inserts these into every situation and place. Its always time to make fun of everything, its never the wrong time for sarcasm. Satire is often thought of being in these categories, but it is another creature entirely: satire is instruction through humor, it exaggerates and pokes fun at something in the process of enlightening and teaching. Sarcasm simply is a bitter, sneering response.

But when you feel powerless and your life feels empty, bitterness is all you have left. And that's what too much of the culture has been reduced to. Trolling for laughs, attacking everything, rejecting reverence as pathetic and stupid, mocking everything dear and important. Because if you can't build up, at least you can rip things down to make your emptiness feel less unique. If everyone is empty, then at least you have company.

A MODEST VICTORY, or, THE MODERATE MANDATE

"What is a moderate interpretation of the text? Halfway between what it really means and what you'd like it to mean?"
-Antonin Scalia

Although I still fear somehow it will happen I do not see any reasonable scenario by which President Obama enjoys reelection to the presidency. We'll see come November, but if Mitt Romney wins the presidency as I expect, I hope its not by too much.

I want to see Romney win, but only by a modest margin of victory. I want a win wide enough that the "disenfranchised recount the votes Diebold!!!!" crowd can't get any traction, but not too wide. I do understand the desire to see Obama defeated in a massive landslide. If this were another candidate, say Ryan himself or some other conservative, I'd be all for a 50-state shellacking by 15% of the popular vote. I get the wish for having the socialist idiots in congress and the White House beaten by such a titanic margin that people give up the idea of leftist economic policy for another 70 years and the talking heads in the legacy media are put on suicide watch.

The problem is, a landslide victory for Romney would send the wrong message to the Republican Party. What they'd get out of such a victory is not "wow, Americans must have really despised what the Democrats were doing" but "see, Moderates work, we need more moderation in our moderitude with moderization on the side of a big helping of moderizing." For fifty years the GOP would insist that 2012 proved conservatism is poison and the American people want moderates, moderates everywhere.

When the newly elected Romney got to the White House the continual refrain would be moderation. The ACA? We can't just scrap that, it would be too radical. Take the moderate path, modify it slightly and keep it. Fast & Furious? It would be extreme and partisan to dig into that, let sleeping dogs lie. All those executive orders? Only a radial would reverse them, leave them as is, because we need to act in moderation; perhaps just a few minor changes. On and on.

And the legacy media would pick up on this in less than a heartbeat. Clearly, the will of the people, the overwhelming mandate is for moderation, for the middle path, to be cautious in change. Don't change what Obama and the Democrats did, that would be immoderate. Leave everything in place, Republicans, or you're not being moderate and the people demanded moderation. Oh we're going to get that anyway, you can be absolutely certain that the legacy media will cry "changing anything back is radical extremist evil!" But they'll have a stronger case with a landslide.

So I want a win, but not a big one. A win big enough that nobody ties it up in court and with recounts, but not so big that the "moderate mandate" theme gets any real traction. Just enough to send a message: Americans don't care for what you did.

As for congress? I want a tide of red tea to crash over that place and wash it entirely out by gigantic margins. I want long-term congressmen of both parties defeated by so much they hide from the public the rest of their lives. But if Romney wins, lets avoid that.

PICTURE OF THE DAY



Quote of the Day

"The economy has performed less well than the White House led us to expect, despite a bigger increase in national debt than it led us to expect."
-Niall Ferguson on why to vote for Romney

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

THE SHOWS THAT FAILED

"Just let it go!!!"

Shark Jumping
Its sad to me that so often television can't seem to keep the quality up. There are several shows I used to watch and enjoy that I just don't care for any longer. It seems like 3 seasons is about the limit before they either run low on ideas or have played out their main storyline and are just filling in to make a few more bucks before being canceled.

Take Burn Notice. This was a brilliant, entertaining show. Not only was the premise interesting, but the main character is very well acted and the style was fascinating. Throw in great secondary characters and you have a winner. Except over the last few seasons its gotten less and less watchable, and even the "spy tip" voiceovers have gone from fun and interesting to annoying and lame. Once our spy regained his status, the show was basically over. Now they're just plugging in idiotic, contrived storylines just to keep him in the area against all reason and character. Let it die.

The Glades took even less time. I never liked the main love interest girl, and instead of being something that failed, they're dragging it out endlessly to keep a romantic conflict going far beyond any plausible value. The first season presented a very interesting, engaging main character, then they abandoned what made him interesting and have focused instead on the romance with hackneyed, poorly crafted mysteries on various Florida location themes just to keep the semblance of a cop show going.

White Collar
still keeps me interested, but they've sort of lost their way as well. The main story arc - the missing treasure - is over, and was bizarrely unresolved. The last season ended very interestingly, but was resolved in what was probably the most unsatisfying two episode waste I've ever seen. What should have taken an entire season to resolve was thrown together in a sad contrivance and its back to normal again, for no apparent reason. And to make matters worse, the show has become an endless Very Special Episode with longing after lost parents and wanting to find out who they are by learning about their past. Mozzie weeping because his parents didn't love him was beyond my endurance. And the teaser for the next episode? Mozzie with a baby dressed like him.

It just seems like these writers lose their focus, or have only limited ideas and then scramble to fill in. Just let them go. Once you finish your main story, drop it. End the show, and next time you have a story again, start it up once more. BBC does this all the time, instead of running eternal shows they will stop at the end of a story arc. Don't drag it out to everyone's misery until your main character is in a leather jacket waterskiing over a shark because Jaws is popular.

E-BEER

Beer Coupon
I have an idea for an internet business but neither the contacts nor the knowledge on how to go about making it happen. Maybe someone can do the work and get it going themselves.

My idea is e-beer. It would work like this: if someone does something you particularly admire, or enjoy, you can buy them a beer. You pay the site and the site delivers them a voucher or coupon that can be redeemed for a beer at the local bar or store. Some details would have to be worked out, such as what to do if it costs less than what you donated, for example. Some options would be to give the excess to charity, or to have it go to the person in question.

You'd have to work out the way to get vendors to accept the coupon, the banking connections, the secure servers, and you would need a way to make connection easy without needing to actually know how to contact someone directly. That way you could buy, say, flowers for a girl without knowing her email so she gets the flowers but doesn't need to expose her contact information to a stranger. Then if she wants to she can send contact information though the thank you note.

And beer would just be one option, it could include flowers, chocolate, movies, lots of different options. Have some pizza on me, that was an awesome comment. For more expense you could throw in delivery as well.

I think it actually would be a viable business, but it would take a lot of ability and effort I don't have to offer. Someone should pick up on this.

TAKE ME HOME, COUNTRY ROAD

I don't want to know, I don't want to go,
I don't want to go back into the city.
It's just a long long long lonely taxi ride
Going nowhere
Mark Almond - "The City"

Priyat
Why do we even have cities any longer? If you think about it, all the reasons cities came into being have slipped away in the 21st century. Cities were primarily a place to be safe from marauding bad guy, invaders, and enemies. You were safer inside the walls than without. Cities offered opportunities for education, employment, and socialization. Cities were founded by people gathering to take advantage of the presence of others, and to be safe.

But none of that is particularly part of being in a city any longer. We don't need walls to be safe, and they wouldn't help these days anyway. We don't need neighbors to interact, and you can do so without being packed together in a city anyway. We don't need to be in a city to get an education, to find work, or to engage in commerce.

Cities offer culture that is rarely available elsewhere, but that wasn't why cities came into existence. It was a byproduct of the density of people and diversity of population. Operas, night clubs, art galleries, parks, zoos, and so on all are city constructions. You can go five blocks in New York City and find clothing stores with Nairobi themes, restaurants with Egyptian food, and furniture stores with Chinese culture.

Yet I can get all that from my home through the internet. True, its not the same as being there, but I don't have to fight through traffic, pay for parking, endanger myself with muggings and carjacking, breathe smog, and pay exorbitant rent for the privilege.

I wonder if Detroit isn't so much a disaster as just a forebear. This is where cities are headed: why live there any longer? Will they dissipate over the next few decades as high speed internet gets easier to connect to in rural areas? Will the cities just drain out people into the suburbs and surrounding areas as people just give up on lousy politics, corrupt government, crime, excessive cost, and smog?

It seems likely to me. There's not much reason to actually stay in a city other than the romance of being urban. And urban lifestyle seems to lack any real future. Self destructive, narcissistic, constructing nothing, almost always working jobs that produce nothing tangible, and without thought of the future or offspring, its a culture that commits suicide. Being urban for the sake of being urban might appeal to the young and hip, but for how much longer?

PICTURE OF THE DAY


Progress?

Quote of the Day

"As long as there are history books, Neil Armstrong will be included in them"
-Charles Boden

Monday, August 27, 2012

RIP ARMSTRONG

"But enough about me. Tell me something you like about me."

Neil Armstrong has died, which is just sad to me and the whole world. As Richard Hammond from Top Gear tweeted, he was a proper, proper hero. Armstrong seemed like a very good man, a humble man who accomplished astounding things in his life. President Obama has this on his official Tumblr page:
Neil's spirit of discovery lives on in all the men and women who have devoted their lives to discovering the unknown - including those who are ensuring that we reach higher and go further into space. That legacy will endure - sparked by the man who taught us the enormous power of one small step.
Yeah that must be why he gutted the manned space program, because he's so inspired by Neil Armstrong's example. Still, the statement is good. The problem is, here's the accompanying image, courtesy The Daily Caller:


Somehow it always ends up being about Obama, doesn't it?

HOOK UP GIRLS

"Is that so bad? Or is there, maybe, a different way to analyze the scene that had just unfolded?"

Sluts
I haven't been in college since 1985, and back then Docksiders, Miami Vice, and the Thompson Twins were all popular. MTV had VJs and showed videos back then. Cable TV was around but it was mostly USA network and WGN reruns, with the movie channels. Reagan was still president. And back then, girls said "no" and waited for you to make the first move.

According to Hanna Rosin at the Atlantic (language in the article not safe for work) that's all changed. Obama is president. 50 cent and hoodies are popular, and Big Bang Theory are big. And girls, well...
I found barely anyone who even noticed the vulgarity anymore, until I came across a new student. She had arrived two weeks earlier, from Argentina. She and I stood by the bar at one point and watched a woman put her hand on a guy’s inner thigh, shortly before they disappeared together. In another corner of the room, a beautiful Asian woman in her second year at school was entertaining the six guys around her with her best imitation of an Asian prostitute—­“Oooo, you so big. Me love you long time”—winning the Tucker Max showdown before any of the guys had even tried to make a move on her. (She eventually chose the shortest guy in the group to go home with, because, she later told me, he seemed like he’d be the best in bed.)
She describes the women in the bar scene as being complete sluts, rejecting any sense of commitment because it would interfere with her career and be annoying. Women who deliberately pick juvenile men because they'll be wild and exciting and never, ever want to settle down. Aggressive women who are looking for a "hook up" or one night stand, just someone to have sex with and forget about.

"It’s like, ‘Hello.’ ‘Hello.’ ‘You wanna hook up?’ ‘Sure.’ They are so aggressive! Do they have hearts of steel or something? In my country, a girl like this would be desperate. Or a prostitute,” one Argentinian man describes the situation. Yet, Hanna Rosin seeks to find a positive in this, or perhaps to justify it.
But this analysis downplays the unbelievable gains women have lately made, and, more important, it forgets how much those gains depend on sexual liberation. Single young women in their sexual prime—that is, their 20s and early 30s, the same age as the women at the business-­school party—are for the first time in history more success­ful, on average, than the single young men around them. They are more likely to have a college degree and, in aggregate, they make more money. What makes this remarkable development possible is not just the pill or legal abortion but the whole new landscape of sexual freedom—the ability to delay marriage and have temporary relationships that don’t derail education or career.

To put it crudely, feminist progress right now largely depends on the existence of the hookup culture.
She tries to blame the crudity and oversexualization on men, but I suspect if the women didn't like it, didn't put up with it, and insisted on it stopping, it would.

And further, given the incredibly litigious, sexual harassment culture, I'm skeptical that the workplaces she describes are really packed with men leering and making disgusting suggestions to women, showing them porn on phones and so on. Every major company and office has endless seminars, sensitivity training, and special executives whose entire job is to find and stomp out any discomfort for women, minorities, and other specially protected groups.

So I don't buy the stories I read in this article, a company that had this kind of thing going on would be rapidly sued out of existence. But probably some of that takes place, and while Hanna Rosin wants to blame men exclusively, women have to take some of the blame. If you shrug at crudity or even reward sexual advances with a "hook up" then you're going to get more of that behavior. People do what they are rewarded for.

And in a culture where men are given no reason to grow up, encouraged to stay perpetual teenagers, and women reward them for it, should anyone be surprised this is what we're reduced to? I recall reading about stone age primitive cultures that are essentially defined by sex, at all ages, between all members of the tribe. There was an Indian tribe that Lewis and Clark spent their first winter with on the way to the Pacific Ocean, the Mandans, believed that if a woman had sex with a man, his power passed on to her, and she could pass that on to her husband. The result was rampant sexually transmitted disease.

I don't have to write here about how women were traditionally the guardians of virtue and morality, that they were the civilizing influence on men, forcing them to mature and grow up, do I? That women protected themselves and expected men to protect them, right? That's largely gone in some areas, and women are suffering for it.

Like most feminists, ms Rosin thinks girl power = sexuality, as if women have no other ability or distinct power in their lives. And even were that true, sexuality only has power if you control it. If you give away the free milk, nobody is going to buy the cow, as it were. And the lack of understanding that women have significantly more ability to shape their culture and those around them in ways other than sex is pathetic in someone who allegedly celebrates womanhood.

Ms Rosin wants to paint this slut behavior as some sort of victory but I just don't see it. I see it as a terrible loss not just for those young ladies but for the civilization as a whole. Yet it seems to be largely restricted to big cities and certain colleges. The rest of the nation seems to reject this, and things are quite different in some areas where the concept of modesty, a father protecting his daughter, and men as guardians of women are experiencing a serious resurgence.

And between those two cultural movements, I can guess which is more robust, which has a future, and which will be productive, useful, and valuable to the surrounding world.

MISSING THE SOUTH

Look away, look away, look away, Dixieland...


Not long ago I wrote about the Confederate Constitution, which was basically a more specific and updated US Constitution with a sad section tacked on about slaves and the slave trade. There were many good aspects of this document, things I wish the founding fathers had made part of the original constitution, and some that were simply pointless, misguided, or awful.

The Civil War was largely that way too: the South was right in many ways - they were fighting partly for state's rights and against federal encroachment on liberty. They were fighting against the same thing the founding fathers did; a government that was beginning to ignore basic rights and liberties for its own power. At the same time, they did so for very bad reasons too. The reason slavery is enshrined in the Confederate Constitution is because they were so determined to keep that institution as long as they wished against all possible question. Slavery was such an institutional part of their culture and the way of doing business they were willing to fight and die over it.

The South nearly won. For a while, they were beating the North comfortably, humiliating overconfident and contemptuous northerners. The North saw the South much as they do now: a bunch of ignorant, inbred, bigoted hicks. When the first battles were fought, the South pounded the North comfortably because they were better with their weapons and hardier people more used to outdoor and rural life, on the whole.

Over time, the South's limited manufacturing ability, weak Navy, and lack of diplomatic ties were their undoing, but it was a very near thing. Even Gettysburg almost was a win for the South, and with that, it would have turned the war around. Its even likely that against Lincoln's wishes, the government would have sued for peace. All the South wanted was to create their own country, a Confederate States of America. If the North stopped fighting, the South would have just pulled back, so they argued. And that would have been a lot more persuasive if the North faced disaster in the battlefield again.

The problem is that would have just been the start of problems. Several states such as Kentucky wanted to be neutral - even declared neutrality - and the Confederacy was having none of it. Confederate forces invaded Kentucky, and Union forces from the North invaded to fight them. States such as Kansas and Missouri were ripped to pieces by internal fighting and murderous raids trying to force them to join one side or the other. So its not clear that the Confederacy would have been content to let states choose or stay within certain early borders, nor that the North wouldn't try to flip states back into the Union, continuing the conflict.

Further, later conflicts would have been heavily influenced. The Spanish-American War was largely one of Americans trying to expand into an empire of their own, largely by displacing Spanish interests in the west, although part of it was also an enforcement of the Monroe doctrine. The US viewed its self even that early as the dominant power of the western hemisphere and ordered European nations to stay out of the area. Spain refused, and kept meddling in western countries, so the US Responded, helping revolutionaries fight Spanish control in places such as Cuba.

Without Southern soldiers, ports, and agriculture, this would have been difficult. It is hard for me to imagine that the individual state conflicts and animosity between the Union and Confederacy would have ended by 1898 when the Spanish-American War took place. That would mean the Confederacy might have even helped Spain just to poke the Union in the eye or weaken its ability to defend or control states the South wanted to flip.

And consider World War II. Fought just 77 years after the Civil War, its unlikely that the Confederacy and Union would be on friendly terms. By that point, the states would probably have locked into which nation they were part of, and the infighting would probably have ended. But the Southern states to this day hold a heavy grudge over the Civil War (with good reason, given how they were treated afterward), that's not likely to have been any less pronounced just because they won. Decades of fighting over border states and new territories would have prolonged the conflict, I believe.

And why would the Confederate States of America have a problem with Pearl Harbor being bombed? Its not part of their nation. Sure, its a neighbor's nation, but not one they particularly like. They would very likely consider the conflict a European problem, none of their business. They almost certainly would have continued trade with Japan and Germany, because it would be good money and it would annoy the Union.

And without the Southern states, their men to fight, their industry to help with supplies, without the bases there, the ports, and the money from taxes, the entire war could have turned out differently. Needing to blockade Confederate ports and air travel to keep them from trading with Union enemies would have weakened the war effort. That's just not a pretty thought in any sense. And certainly it would be significantly easier for German and Japanese spies, saboteurs, and agents provocateur to work from a neutral Confederate States of America. They already were working through Mexico - Germans at least.

Slavery was a crumbling insitution already by the time of the Civil War, and it likely would have been ended for good by the 1940s even in the Confederate States, although its possible there would be some still kept in very wealthy homes. The problem is its unlikely many would be very wealthy in the Confederacy. Faced with a nearly hostile Union on its border, ravaged by war, and limited in its manufacturing ability, the South was already very dependent on the North. Rebuilding after the war would have been hampered by a lack of larger federal funds, deliberate interference by Union diplomatic efforts, and a continual desire by the North to make the Confederacy collapse and rejoin the Union.

There are those in the North who think that a Confederate victory would have been good, though. Ilya Somin at Volokh Conspiracy writes about how some on the left dream of a country without those more conservative southerners causing problems for their schemes in Washington DC. Without Southern congressmen to cry states rights and liberty, Northeastern leftists would have had a much easier time of pushing their agenda. Roosevelt continually battled southern congressmen and judges appointed from the south. Without that heritage, how different would the United States have been politically and culturally?

It is not inconceivable that the waning Union would have fallen into weakness and disrepair we generally think of in the south, and the Confederacy would have exploded with economic power and world influence. Manufacturing could be built in the south, they certainly have the space, manpower, and resources. Some of the best ports in the USA are in the south, and there's a reason we fire rockets off from Florida: the weather and nearness to the equator. Make no mistake, losing the Confederate States would have severely harmed the Union both economically and politically.

So a lot of things would have been different, and few of them very good. Its just too bad that the Civil War was fought to begin with when it could have been avoided, and that having been fought the North were so evil in how they dealt with southern states. We treat enemies we've defeated overseas better than we treated the would-be confederacy.

PICTURE OF THE DAY


Horse hugs

Quote of the Day

"It’s a leftist cliché that money corrupts politics. These leftists, however, believe that their politics somehow purifies money–that writing a check to Obama for America is an act of moral money-laundering."
-James Taranto

Friday, August 24, 2012

ALTERNATIVE TO WHAT?

"In a rebellious culture, rebellion is meaningless."

Vampire Bush
Matt Groenig, creator of the Simpsons and Futurama got his start in alternative publishing. These cheap newspapers and magazines carry odd and radical writing and cartoons like Politnessman, Life is Hell and so on were published by these small outfits. That's where stuff like The Nation came from, and local publications like Willamette Week are still being put out in cities. Usually free and stacked outside coffee houses and used CD shops, you can get them to read while you snack.

Some of these outfits are dying out though. The Village Voice is going out of business, for example, and its one of the first and most well known of these publications. What has happened to cause these publications to collapse?

Well in part they're facing the same problems as any publication: people don't read magazines as much any more. Most are free, though, so subscription loss is less of an issue. Another reason is that advertisers are tending to go to online instead of buying anything from a paper. Its free to advertise on Craig's List, as opposed to just cheap in Alternative Weekly. And of course, costs have risen, so its difficult to afford to publish.

But another major reason is given by the site Sultan Knish (courtesy American Digest). Daniel Greenfield writes:
But the real reason that the Village Voice is dead is because the alternative media is dead and the alternative media is dead because there is nothing for it to be an alternative to. New Yorkers can just as easily read shrill rants about the NYPD in the Daily News, pretentious movie reviews for artsy films at The Onion and leftist denunciations of the War on Terror in the New York Times.

The way that the
Village Voice used to cover Republicans is now the way that every media outlet, but the handful that aren't part of the liberal collective, covers Republicans.
You used to have to go to these alternate rags to get theories about how Romney is a felon for not paying taxes, for screeds about how Ryan wanted to redefine rape, and so on. You couldn't get someone accusing Republicans of Racism for saying the president was athletic outside the pages of an alternative magazine, you didn't get lunatic screeds like MSNBC regularly features in ostensibly mainstream productions.

Greenfield blames President Bush, and I think he has a point. Its not that Bush was so awful that the world went crazy, its that the left went completely nuts at that point. In the 8 years Bush was in office the left, the legacy media, and the Democratic Party which all intersect so much went utterly insane. Now what was once restricted to the fringe has become mainstream. The first real indication of this was putting Howard "the scream" Dean in charge of the Democratic Party. And its gone downhill since then.

Now the most crazed and outrageous comments are mentioned with a completely straight face on national TV. CNN will report and comment on the kind of thing that wouldn't have been seen outside alternative publications. Its as if the super radical right wing took over the media, as if the kind of thing you'd see in Soldier of Fortune magazine's back page ads is on the front of the New York Times now.

Its odd to watch, but that means the radical has become the common and Village Voice just doesn't have an audience any longer. And because the left is trying to mainstream their fringe, because the entertainment media is made up of people who buy into the 9/11 conspiracies and Bush AWOL forgeries, that makes ordinary America seem demented and outrageous by comparison.

I think that's why things such as the Chik-Fil-A controversy happened. Mayors so cocooned into this sort of ideology, surrounded by radical left thought believed it was perfectly reasonable to use government power to shut out and punish a company for the ideas of its owner. And I think the reaction by people who stampeded into the restaurant by the tens of thousand to make a statement was a response to this shift in the culture.

Its not that Chik-Fil-A was some moral titan or people necessarily supported the owner's ideas - although I suspect many did - its that ordinary Americans are getting plenty sick of the radical left pushing their extremist idea of the world on everyone and said ENOUGH.

The Democrats are planning on turning the Democratic National Convention into the rape and abortion festival, they want to hammer this all three days like a drunken bum ranting about bugs in his beard. And the more they push this, the more annoyed and offended regular America will beecome, I suspect. I think they're going to Wellstone this convention, pushing something beyond what people find acceptable in a mistaken idea that they have a terrific opportunity to turn things around for their president.

Maybe they're right. Maybe I'm old and out of touch and America really has changed all that much but... I doubt it. I think this is a serious misstep on their part. Time will tell. But I often find myself wondering what on earth happened to the world these days. I feel so totally out of place and lost compared to the culture around me.

WORD AROUND THE NET

"the law is a ass—an idiot."
-Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist

Volt
Restaurant chain Boston Market is making a change. They are removing the salt shakers from their tables in the name of health. Mind you salt is absolutely critical for dozens of different biochemical reactions in the human body; without salt, you die. They still have salt available at the beverage counter, so you can get it when you want, its just more difficult. Any good cook knows you salt food when you cook it, but let people season the food to their taste at the table.

Close on the heels of sexual harassment lawsuits, ten agents from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency are suing Janet Napolitano directly. Why? Because they claim that she ordered them to violate federal immigration law.
The suit was filed Thursday in Texas federal court by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials. It challenges recent directives allowing some illegal immigrants -- particularly non-felons and those who came to the U.S. as children -- to stay and, in some cases, get work permits.
Either change the laws or enforce them as they are. You can have unusual and rare exceptions based on judgment but not by policy. Justice requires even and consistent application of law.

William Jacobson at Legal Insurrection wants to know why the Republicans aren't running as hard on the Democratic Party's enthusiastic support of rape-laden, violent, and destructive Occupy movement as the Democrats are on Aiken. I'll tell you why: because the Occupy movement doesn't embarrass the Democrats, and because unlike Republicans, Dems won't pile on their own people. Plus, the media won't assist the attack.

Why is the Occupy movement a problem for the Democrats? Well putting aside the vandalism, filth, disease, rapes, and even deaths in the camps, they have guys like this as part of the movement. Union Activist Mike Goulash recently said at an Occupy meeting:
Progressive Labor is a revolutionary communist organization. Its objective is to make revolution in the United States, overthrow the capitalist system and build communism. . . . An organization has to be built which can bring down capitalism . . . a disciplined organization made up, not of a few people, but of millions and millions of people, can bring down capitalism.
Goulash is part of the "Progressive Labor Party" which is a maoist communist organization that formed in the 1960s. Americans just love to hear that kind of rhetoric, like they love being kicked in the shins.

British television is more strict than the US, at least when it comes to US-based content and ads. The UK Government has ruled that the latest GM ad for the Volt is so untrue that they have banned it from showing in the area. The problem? Well for one thing it claims the car has a 360 mile range, which is not true, and in lab testing only was true when you use up the gas in the Volt's backup gas motor. Second, the ad implies that the Volt doesn't use gas as opposed to the Ampera, sold by Opel and Vauxhall in Europe; that's not true, they both use gas and electricity. Like most ads, they greatly oversell the efficiency of the car - you'll almost never get the kind of gas mileage they claim in a lab for any car.

Previously, the Obama administration started to insert praise for the president in biographies of previous presidents in a bizarre cult of personality stunt. They made the praises less part of the bios and more a footnote to them, but its still there. Now its been revealed that the State Department has begun issuing "fact sheets" all about what a great guy Obama is in various documents. So far he has not required executive branch employees to refer to him as "Dear Leader."

While the housing market is still in terrible shape, the mentions of a housing recovery have experienced a boom. At Business Insider, they did an analysis of legacy media mentions of the phrase "housing recovery" and came up with this chart:

Housing Recovery MentionsThere's not really any such recovery but you wouldn't know that if all you did was look for mentions of it. Boy, I wonder why the press wants to give the impression there's a recovery of some sort going on this year?

Billy Idol isn't as big a musician as he used to be but he's still rocking and I do like his music. He's going to be doing a concert in Seattle, Washington in response to a request by a major fan named Michael Henrichsen. Henrichsen has been trying for two years to get Billy Idol to play on his birthday and finally got his wish. I can't help but think of Jeff Spicoli's wish to have Van Halen plan at his birthday bash.

Gawker recently ran an article all about how we should have a "maximum wage," a point at which people just cannot be paid any more. While its a nice thought to have George Clooney and Bill Gates earn no more than the $5 million maximum wage Hamilton Nolan calls for, its just a really bad idea all the way around. Not only would this tend to depress productivity and work, but it would just be ignored by giving increasing benefits, stock options, etc to employers. And really its none of my business how much money a certain person makes, unless they're stealing it from me directly. Plus, it would drive businesses overseas where they had no such maximum, and besides it would cripple tax revenue, which is earned from wages. Just a dumb, middle-school-level idea.

San Antonio was the sight of one of the dumbest burglars ever. He tried breaking into a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) gym and robbing it at 3 AM. Except a few of the MMA guys were in there finishing up a late night practice session and they heard him breaking in. So they invited him in for... a chat. They grabbed weights to throw at the burglar and he fled once he saw huge, tattooed guys with metal in their hands, and cops grabbed him soon after.

Somewhat related is this story of a Portland man whose bicycle was stolen. He later spotted a bike that looked suspiciously like his on Craig's List, and since it was a $2500 racing bicycle, he went to get it. It turned out that the bike was really his, and he recovered it from the thief with the local cops helping him out. Except... the cops charged him with suspicion of theft and let him go. At least he got his bike back but this is why thieves exist: you generally get away with it.

Johnny Northside is a blogger in Minnesota who wrote several pieces about a guy he was trying to get fired. The pieces were all true and accurate, but his target took him to court for defamation and libel. The judge in the case ruled with the angry man and ordered the blogger to pay $60,000 in damages. Which is utterly ridiculous, because the truth is an absolute defense in American law since the early 1800s. A later court overturned the case, ruling that you can say whatever you want in a blog, if its true. The defamed man in question worked for the government, which probably helped him with the initial court case.

Hate Crimes are a ridiculous category to begin with, but cases like this demonstrate how their absurdity is more than an abstract problem of definition and consequence:
It's being investigated as a hate crime -- someone scattered pieces of bacon over the New Dorp Beach field where the borough's Muslim community celebrated the end of Ramadan Sunday morning.
Oh no, not bacon!!!

Every month in the summer Phoenix holds a "first friday" festival downtown with events and vendors. The temperatures soared up to 112 degrees, and a Christian organization visited the area with water bottles and started handing them out, for free. They were willing to talk to people about their faith, but were there mostly just to help thirsty people beat the heat. They were descended upon by officials who ordered them to stop, because they had not purchased a license to be vendors at the event. The real reason they were approached by authorities? Local shops and the event booths had drinks for sale, and if you give away water, that hurts their bottom line, damn it.

Recently an organization studied 50 years of books and discovered that the standard use of male pronouns (he, his, him) were being replaced more and more by feminine ones. In the English language, male pronouns are generic. When I say something like "in most cases, returning lost goods will make him happy" it doesn't mean that necessarily mean a guy, it means "a person." In the 70s women suddenly decided this generic use was offensive and demeaning to women, and so more and more books are using female pronouns.

The D&D rulebooks, for example, use all feminine pronouns as generic in every instance. This is jarring to me, since I think it means a woman rather than a generic person - and I'm hardly alone in this. While eventually this might become standard and just normal to represent generic humanity with feminine pronouns, it isn't right now. And if its demeaning and offensive to use male, why is it okay and proper to use female? Why make that change to begin with?

Throwing a birthday party? If you're in Virginia, you might want to get a permit first. Martha had a ten year old birthday party in Faquier County, and since she didn't get a special events permit, the farm has been fined. The county found out about the birthday party through Facebook and fined the farm where she had it. They also fined the farm for selling produce directly to visitors without going through a market. Why? Because they want more control and you to have less liberty. This is one of the reasons the Tea Party movement got started.

Anders Breivik stated in court that he was sorry, apologizing to radical nationalists that he... hadn't killed more children in his murderous attack that claimed 77 lives. The court put its foot down, sentencing the man to a massive 10-21 years in prison, the maximum allowable sentence in Norwegian law. In theory, the state can extend the sentence if they decide a convict is a danger to society, so its likely he'll spend more time than that in prison... unless Norway's culture continues to decay and becomes even more permissive of crime.

There has been a shooting at the Empire State Building today, with two dead, including the shooter. Unfortunately, several others were wounded, and initial reports suggest that at least some may have been injured by the police. Its amazing that all these no-gun, high gun control areas keep having shootings, its almost as if these laws don't stop murderous monsters who want to shoot people, or something.

Portland is also the scene of an apartment building which has a strict no-pets policy. A woman living there was told she should get a dog for therapy for her depressed and anxious child, and so she tried to get it into her apartment, but the owner pointed to the contract and the apartment's policy. She responded not by moving, but by suing the apartment complex and won, getting a $75,000 judgment against the building. Look I'm all for getting a kid a pet, but move where they're allowed with all that money you spent on court costs.

According to one of the members of the US cycling team who was busted for using drugs, his former teammate Lance Armstrong used to do so all the time. Continually tested, particularly after winning so often, Armstrong never once was caught using any illegal techniques or chemicals, but on this man's word, his 7 titles are being removed by the US Anti-Doping Agency. Did he cheat? I don't know, maybe. But I would be a little more reluctant to take the word of one angry guy who got caught.

President Obama supposedly has almost 19 million followers on Twitter, but according to a recent study, over 40% of them are fake. Fake accounts are usually advertising tools, not meant to have any followers but to send ads and information to people they follow. Still, 9 million is quite a few. That says more about how Twitter works and what advertisers are up to than anything about the president.

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