Monday, August 13, 2007

Encountering Limits

As you age, you realize that many of your childhood dreams will never come true. You'll never be as strong as Superman, you'll never be as rich as Bill Gates, and you'll never be as clever as Dick Cavett:
Years later, as a guest on the Tonight Show, [Johnny] Carson told Cavett that his favorite joke Cavett wrote for him during his days as a writer was the humorous caption to a newspaper photo of Aristotle Onassis looking at the home of Buster Keaton which he was considering purchasing.

Cavett wrote: "Aristotle Contemplating the Home of Buster."

Just You Wait...

I was driving home Thursday night and, while waiting in the ferry line, I found my CD of the movie soundtrack of My Fair Lady in the door bin. I hadn't listened to it for a year or so, so I popped it in and turned up the volume.

I can think of no-one who approaches the lyric genius of Alan Jay Lerner (and Oscar Hammerstein [except, perhaps, Howard Ashman]). I was especially struck by how wonderful were the non-romantic songs in MFL.

For example, "I'm and Ordinary Man," in which Higgins is recounts the bliss of bachelorhood:
I'm an ordinary man,
Who desires nothing more
Than an ordinary chance,
To live exactly as he likes,
And do precisely what he wants...
An average man am I, of no eccentric whim,
Who likes to live his life, free of strife,
doing whatever he thinks is best for him,
Well... just an ordinary man...


Let a woman in your life,
And patience hasn't got a chance,
She will beg you for advice, your reply will be concise,
And she will listen very nicely, and then go out
and do exactly what she wants!
You are a man of grace and polish,
Who never spoke above a hush,
All at once you're using language
That would make a sailor blush,
Let a woman in your life,
And you're plunging in a knife,

Let the others of my sex,
Tie the knot around their necks,
I prefer a new edition of the Spanish Inquisition
Than to ever let a woman in my life.
Or the wonderful call-and-response between Higgins and Colonel Pickering in "Hymn to Him"
Why can't a woman take after a man?
Men are so pleasant, so easy to please;
Whenever you are with them, you're always at ease.
Would you be slighted if I didn't speak for hours?

PICKERING -- Of course not!

Would you be livid if I had a drink or two?

PICKERING -- Nonsense.

Would you be wounded if I never sent you flowers?


Well, why can't a woman be like you?

One man in a million may shout a bit.
Now and then there's one with slight defects;
One, perhaps, whose truthfulness you doubt a bit.
But by and large we are a marvelous sex!

Why can't a woman take after like a man?
Cause men are so friendly, good natured and kind.
A better companion you never will find.
If I were hours late for dinner, would you bellow?

PICKERING: Of course not!

If I forgot your silly birthday, would you fuss?

PICKERING: Nonsense.

Would you complain if I took out another fellow?


Well, why can't a woman be like us?

Why indeed?

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Incomprehensability of Wealth

Peg' O My Heart has this observation on our New Gilded Age:
The gap between rich and poor is great, and there is plenty of want, and also confusion. What the superrich do for a living now often seems utterly incomprehensible, and has for at least a generation. There is no word for it, only an image. There's a big pile of coins on a table. The rich shove their hands in, raise them, and as the coins sift through their fingers it makes . . . a bigger pile of coins. Then they sift through it again and the pile gets bigger again.

A general rule: If you are told what someone does for a living and it makes sense to you--orthodontist, store owner, professor--that means he's not rich. But if it's a man in a suit who does something that takes him five sentences to explain and still you walk away confused, and castigating yourself as to why you couldn't understand the central facts of the acquisition of wealth in the age you live in--well, chances are you just talked to a billionaire.

I write for a living. I write on-line help. Two sentences--guess I'm no billionaire.

Good Dog

Noted with only this comment: Jake lived only because of the love and dedication of Mary Flood.

Good, human, Mary. Good Human.

Click on the image to see a slideshow.

Sept. 11 rescue dog with cancer dies

NEW YORK - A black Labrador that burrowed through smoking debris after Sept. 11 and flooded rubble after Hurricane Katrina in search of survivors has died after developing cancer.

Owner Mary Flood had 12-year-old Jake put to sleep Wednesday after a last stroll through the fields and a dip in the creek near their home in Oakley, Utah. Flood said Jake had been in pain, shaking with a 105-degree fever as he lay on the lawn...

...Flood adopted Jake as a 10-month-old puppy. He had been abandoned on a street with a broken leg and a dislocated hip.

"But against all odds he became a world-class rescue dog," said Flood, a member of Utah Task Force 1, a federal search-and-rescue team that looked for human remains at ground zero.

On the evening of the team's arrival in New York, Jake walked into a fancy Manhattan restaurant wearing his search-and-rescue vest and was treated to a free steak dinner under a table.

Flood eventually trained Jake to become one of fewer than 200 U.S. government-certified rescue dogs — an animal on 24-hour call to tackle disasters such as building collapses, earthquakes, hurricanes and avalanches.

After Katrina, Flood and Jake drove from Utah to Mississippi, where they searched for survivors in flooded homes.

In recent years, Jake helped train younger dogs across the country. He showed them how to track scents, even in the snow, and how to look up if the scent was in a tree.

He also did therapy work with children at a Utah camp for burn victims and at senior homes and hospitals.

"He was a great morale booster wherever he went," Flood said. "He was always ready to work, eager to play — and a master at helping himself to any unattended food items."

She said Jake's ashes would be scattered "in places that were important to him," such as his Utah training grounds and the rivers and hills near his home where he swam and roamed.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Smell the Coffee

Bumped into this image at National Review Online.



With all of the to-do over the Heinlein Centennial, the Wall Street Journal has a nice tribute by Taylor Dinerman available on-line.

Mr. Dinerman writes:
"The list of technologies, concepts and events that he anticipated in his fiction is long and varied. In his 1951 juvenile novel, "Between Planets," he described cellphones. In 1940, even before the Manhattan Project had begun, he chronicled, in the short story "Blowups Happen," the destruction of a graphite-regulated nuclear reactor similar to the one at Chernobyl. And in his 1961 masterpiece, "Stranger in a Strange Land," Heinlein--decades before Ronald and Nancy Reagan moved to the White House--introduced the idea that a president's wife might try to guide his actions based on the advice of her astrologer. One of Heinlein's best known "inventions" is the water bed, though he never took out a patent...
[One of Heinlein's characters says] "The power to tax, once conceded, has no limits; it contains until it destroys. I was not joking when I told them to dig into their own pouches. It may not be possible to do away with government--sometimes I think that it is an inescapable disease of human beings. But it may be possible to keep it small and starved and inoffensive--and can you think of a better way than by requiring the governors themselves to pay the costs of their antisocial hobby." As they say on the Moon, "TANSTAAFL!": "There Ain't No Such Thing as a Free Lunch!"

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Passing of a Titan

Alas, the print business has been hard, lately. All of the great metropolitan dailies have been suffering with dropping readership. The New York Times has tracked more and more liberal to try and staunch it's loss of paying customers.

It seems as though that collection of tubes, the Internets, is claiming yet another victim. The Weekly World News:
Weekly World News, the tabloid that for 28 years has chronicled sightings of Elvis, extraterrestrial activity and the exploits of Bat Boy, is no more. Its publisher said Tuesday it would put out its last issue next month, maintaining only a Web presence.
The Constant Reader knows of my near squeamish fascination with the Weekly World News.

One of WWN's writers, Bob Greenberger, did not return a telephone call seeking comment, but he wrote on his blog that the paper's staff was alerted of the closure Friday.

"The reasons given make no sense," he wrote. "We're stunned and shell-shocked."

I don't know why Mr. Greenberger expected sense from a publication that gave us the story of Bigfoot's capture of a lumberjack that he kept as his love slave.

One thing's for sure: Americans' waits in supermarket checkouts will forever be changed.

Hmmm... Is the introduction of supermarket checkout-TV bear the responsibility for the loss of this American Institution? People are distracted away from the headlines to see Rachel Ray telling us how fun it is to cook Jerusalem artichoke?

Monday, July 23, 2007


Anyone who understands the meaning of the word debate knows that what are heralded as "Candidate's Debates" are anything but. They are really more of a joint press conference where the point isn't to exchange ideas or test ideas against one another, but to provide a pulpit for a recital of sound bites and stump-speech homilies to the media. (Any real give-and-take occurs later in the spin rooms.)

This Monday, the Democratic Party is holding a debate with the most foolish of premises: that one-shot questions from average folks will penetrate the hard shells of candidate's handlers, PR flacks and advisers, and will actually provoke them to say something honest and unguarded.

Stephen Green, the Vodkapundit, has submitted his hard-hitting, no-holds-barred question. In fact, he's zeroed in on what's been keeping me awake at nights as I contemplate the question "Who will next steer this mighty ship of state?"

Friday, July 20, 2007

Bald Eagles

The Bald Eagle may be rescued from endangered status, but that doesn't mean that Bald is Beautiful electorally.

The Economist points out that Fred Thompson has one underreported handicap: Americans haven't elected a bald man since I was a boy--Dwight Eisenhower.

To illustrate how Americans prefer a hirsute chief executive, they provide comparison images of Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan.

By all means--click on over to a disturbing rogue's gallery.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Holy Smokes!

Here they are, the Wholey Trinity of Democratic front-runners, Barak, Hillary!, and John.

"Polls conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life show that Americans believe the Democrats to be less friendly to faith than they had been even a few years ago. Yet a donkey with a halo over his head graces the cover of Time magazine this week and the story inside chronicles "How the Democrats Got Religion." From faith working groups to faith breakfasts, Mr. Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards are all participating in what strategist Mike McCurry tells Time is "a Great Awakening in the Democratic Party." --Wall Street Journal

Is this the end of the Republican lock on Evangelicals?

"Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women, is probably less than excited by such initiatives. She recently said in a speech, "I don't want a progressive evangelical movement any more than I want the conservative one we have right now."

I guess not. Republicans have been, for the last 20 years, the party beneath an ever-growing tent. This has lead to some of the current fractious (yet healthy) debate over the priority of issues in the public arena. Is the Global War on Terror the top priority, or is it immigration? Or are these two sides of the same coin? What about health care? Medical insurers, threat or menace?

But the Democratic party has one hell of a donnybrook coming when the increasingly-militant secularists start to wrestle with people of faith for control of the party.

Bring popcorn. A circus is not the same without popcorn.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The Heav’n-Rescued Land

I wonder these days how many people know the first verse of the national anthem? I wonder how many people know that The Star-Spangled Banner has four verses?

I know, friends and neighbors, because I once sang all four verses to get out of a tight spot.

I was a young fellow, and a trainee at the U.S. Army Signal School's Ceremonial Unit. The unit was run like a kind of fraternity with several weeks of initiation where the pledge's lives were made miserable by the older team members. A common punishment was to order the trainees to drop for endless pushups. (I left the unit a year later with arms like Popeye.)

One particular fellow, PFC Peake, had made it his mission to make me spend as much time as possible doing pushups. After three weeks I knew that the situation couldn't go on. I knew that we were headed for a showdown. And so I began to memorize the entire national anthem.

Sure enough, a few days later I walked into the unit's dayroom and into a circle of older team members. On seeing me, PFC Peake yelled "Drop trainee!" So I assumed the pushup position. But, before he could assign me a specific number of pushups to do, I began singing The Star Spangled Banner. Of course everyone in the room saw the joke and played along, coming to attention (including me).

As I reached the first refrain, "O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave," Peake's eyes lit up. I had played my joke on him, but now whatever number of pushups had been ready to assign, it had now doubled.

As I sang, "O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave," I coud see the group start to relax. Before they could drop from attention, I began the second verse:
"On the shore, dimly seen thro’ the mist of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes"
Again, as I reached the refrain, the group prepared to see Peake's aweful vengance. But then came the third verse and refrain--then the fourth.

By the time I sang (with a cracking voice) the final refrain, "And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave," the atmosphere in the room had changed. They knew that they had been topped. As I finished PFC Peake gave me the command, "Carry on," and I went about my business. Two week later I passed my tests and inspections and became a unit team member.

I think that it's good for us to see the full text of Key's poem that so swept a nation that it became it's national anthem. And if we find some of the words hard reading, we need to measure ourselves against the text, not measure the text against what we think it should be.

So here it is, in it's non-politically correct form, The Star Spangled Banner:
O say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;

O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen thro’ the mist of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected, now shines on the stream

’Tis the star-spangled banner. Oh! long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave,

And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation,
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heav’n-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our Trust"

And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Imagine All the People...

...Living for today.

You don't have to be a dreamer, because these people seem to exist. They are called the Pirahã (pronounced pee-da-HAN). They are described in this New Yorker article:
...They playfully tossed my name back and forth among themselves, altering it slightly with each reiteration, until it became an unrecognizable syllable. They never uttered it again, but instead gave me a lilting Pirahã name: Kaaxáoi, that of a Pirahã man, from a village downriver, whom they thought I resembled. “That’s completely consistent with my main thesis about the tribe,” Everett told me later. “They reject everything from outside their world. They just don’t want it, and it’s been that way since the day the Brazilians first found them in this jungle in the seventeen-hundreds.”

But his [Dan Everett, an American linguistics professor's] work remained relatively obscure until early in 2005, when he posted on his Web site an article titled “Cultural Constraints on Grammar and Cognition in Pirahã,” which was published that fall in the journal Cultural Anthropology. The article described the extreme simplicity of the tribe’s living conditions and culture. The Pirahã, Everett wrote, have no numbers, no fixed color terms, no perfect tense, no deep memory, no tradition of art or drawing, and no words for “all,” “each,” “every,” “most,” or “few”—terms of quantification believed by some linguists to be among the common building blocks of human cognition...

Unlike other hunter-gatherer tribes of the Amazon, the Pirahã have resisted efforts by missionaries and government agencies to teach them farming. They maintain tiny, weed-infested patches of ground a few steps into the forest, where they cultivate scraggly manioc plants. “The stuff that’s growing in this village was either planted by somebody else or it’s what grows when you spit the seed out,” Everett said to me one morning as we walked through the village. Subsisting almost entirely on fish and game, which they catch and hunt daily, the Pirahã have ignored lessons in preserving meats by salting or smoking, and they produce only enough manioc flour to last a few days...

...Everett hypothesized that the tribe embodies a living-in-the-present ethos so powerful that it has affected every aspect of the people’s lives. Committed to an existence in which only observable experience is real, the Pirahã do not think, or speak, in abstractions—and thus do not use color terms, quantifiers, numbers, or myths. Everett pointed to the word xibipío as a clue to how the Pirahã perceive reality solely according to what exists within the boundaries of their direct experience—which Everett defined as anything that they can see and hear, or that someone living has seen and heard. “When someone walks around a bend in the river, the Pirahã say that the person has not simply gone away but xibipío—‘gone out of experience,’ ” Everett said. “They use the same phrase when a candle flame flickers. The light ‘goes in and out of experience.’ ”

To Everett, the Pirahã’s unswerving dedication to empirical reality—he called it the “immediacy-of-experience principle”—explained their resistance to Christianity, since the Pirahã had always reacted to stories about Christ by asking, “Have you met this man?” Told that Christ died two thousand years ago, the Pirahã would react much as they did to my using bug repellent. It explained their failure to build up food stocks, since this required planning for a future that did not yet exist; it explained the failure of the boys’ model airplanes to foster a tradition of sculpture-making, since the models expressed only the momentary burst of excitement that accompanied the sight of an actual plane. It explained the Pirahã’s lack of original stories about how they came into being, since this was a conundrum buried in a past outside the experience of parents and grandparents.
No cultural art...I don't want to come off as a kind of cultural imperialist here, but this really tests the boundaries of my understanding.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Something Scary about Fred Thompson

This guy has his ex-wife and former girlfriends campaigning for him. This makes Karl Rove's mid-control ray-gun look like a Pez dispenser.

IN the battle for the women’s vote, Fred Thompson has a secret weapon against Hillary Clinton - the legions of former girlfriends who still adore him and who want him to be president.

The Hollywood actor and former Tennessee senator racked up an impressive list of conquests during his swinging bachelor days in the 1990s, but he appears to have achieved the impossible and kept their friendship and respect.

Lorrie Morgan, a country singer who dated Thompson and considered marrying him in the mid1990s, told The Sunday Times: “I couldn’t think of a bad word to say about Fred if somebody put a gun to my head...."

...he was also able to reassure them that he was on excellent terms with his first wife and home-town sweetheart Sarah Knestrick, whom he married in Tennessee at 17 and divorced 26 years later. Thompson said he had just spoken to her and she was intending to campaign for him.

“It says a lot about his character that his ex-wife and ex-girlfriends think he is fabulous,” said Mosbacher. “Character is important in a president.”


Morgan blames herself rather than Thompson for the break-up of their “serious” relationship. Although she is a Republican, the country singer believes that she was too politically incorrect to suit the role of senator’s wife. “Country music is all about glamour and shine and politics is a little more reserved,” she said. “I felt I had to change my whole wardrobe.”

Thompson not only charmed her but also the women in her family. At the time, she had two young daughters who are now in their twenties. “My children thought the world of Fred and my mother thinks he’s the greatest thing since sliced bread,” Morgan said. “He has such charisma. He can go to a down-home Southern-fried chicken dinner and later that evening eat the best caviar and drink wine with an ambassador.”

So not only does this guy alley-cat around in his 50s, but his ex-girlfriends and their mothers love him!

Don't point that ray at me Fred!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Can No-one Stop Them?

Hard on the heels of reviews that Rattatouille is the best Pixar-Disney film since Monsters, Inc., comes news about their 2008 release: WALL * E.

You know, I'd have bad deja-vu about Short Circuit, but so far it seems that Pixar won't let themselves release a dog.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

He's Got Global Warming in His Hands...

The Constant Reader knows of my dismay when Churches leave the realm of bearing witness to the Good News and enter the realm of trying to get on the Nightly News. This dismay is illustrated in the following snark from National Review Online's Planet Gore blog.

Stephen Hawking Opposes Designated Hitter Rule [Jim Manzi]

Apparently the Southern Baptist Convention has just approved a statement that questions the role of humans in creating global warming, and has come out against government-mandated limits on carbon emissions. I assume this is at least in part a response to the National Council of Churches June 7th statement that the unequivocal role of human activity in creating global warming demands, among other things, legislation to reduce US carbon emissions by 15 – 20 percent by 2020.

In related news, NASA has released a statement affirming the Trinitarian nature of God, and the Modern Language Association has published a new Global Climate Modeling textbook — presumably as a direct response to Paris Hilton’s recent research papers questioning the lack of robust Bayesian analysis of parameter uncertainty in long-term temperature forecasts.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Jeff's Dead

Few reading this blog (with the exception of Mrs. Panjandrum) remembers Jeff. Jeff was my best friend in High School and my first years of college. We were opposites in many ways but shared the alienation of being outsiders to the popular crowds at school. We were Marching Band geeks. We both had crushes on Joyce Wright.

Jeff was one of the few people I knew at my own wedding. That was the last time I saw him.

We were a Mutt and Jeff team (and Jeff often pointed out that he was, after all, Jeff.) I was tall and thin, Jeff was short and round. While I looked at the world like a wounded puppy dog, Jeff affected and air of sophisticated cynicism. I was Art Carney, Jeff was Jackie Gleason.
Gleason is tremendous; if you’re my age you grew up with Gleason as the TV variety show fellow with the away-we-go schtick. You learned about the Honeymooners later, at which point your appreciation expanded greatly. Gleason had that same skill Roscoe Arbuckle possessed in such amazing quantities: lightness and grace. But Gleason had gravity, too. Modern fat comics haven’t had that skill; Belushi was just amped and revved, which is different from having, uh, inner buoyancy.... John Candy was heavy, period. Chris Farley was an overinflated kickball still bouncing off the walls an hour after it was thrown. Gleason was different. He had – what’s the word? Buoyant innards.
That was Jeff.

I remember summer days when we would hop in his old Ford Econoline van, fill up on $0.35 gas and drive aimlessly all over Southern California -- from Grapevine Hill to the Mexican border, from watching girls in bikinis on Huntington Beach to shooting cans on the high desert with a .357 magnum. We would have wide-ranging conversations that multiplexed from music to metaphysics to what we saw ahead for our lives.

Jeff, a Jack Mormon, introduced me Beefeater's gin and Black Watch cigars. I never did take a shine to gin.

Jeff came up with a brilliant plan to sneak hooch into our Senior Party. The party was a multi-school event to be held in Disneyland. Jeff knew that there would be a shake-down at the gate for contraband that night, so we paid to enter the park the day before, packing several flasks of Beefeater's. We rode the Storybook Land Canal Boats ride and, as it passed near the bank in a secluded spot, stuck the bottles in the shrubbery. The night of the party, we rode the ride and grabbed the flasks. Good times.

It's often said that guys never form friendships as close as ones formed in school years or in the military service. I can attest that this is the case with me. For respiratory health reasons Mrs. Panjandrum and I moved away from Southern California in the early 1970s. With the demands of a new career and family and the tyranny of the immediate, it was very easy to let contacts slip away. Pre-internet it was difficult to re-establish contacts.

But for a couple of years I have been trying to re-establish those ties with family members and friends. So I googled Jeff's name now and again. Last Thursday I came across a site that was an on-line forum for alumni of my old high school. Once again I scanned the registered members looking for Jeff's name. Then I saw a scan of a program for a 30-year reunion dinner. I browsed the photos, trying to pick out familiar faces. On one of the last pages was a "Memoriam." There on the list of departed classmates was Jeff's name.

I was shocked at how much I was shocked. My cohort is now well into the half-century mark and news of another passing is a more and more frequent occurence. But I was really saddened that I won't be able to catch up with Jeff.

Kim Jong-il Contemplates The Silken Pony

I'm so far behind these guys, I'm embarrassed.

From Reason Magazine's Hit & Run blog, quoting Shawn Macomber:
Poor John Edwards. His personality cult is all personality and no cult. One imagines Kim Jong-il sitting in an undisclosed hermetically sealed room somewhere in Pyongyang lecturing an audience of apparatchiks. "Can you believe this Edwards guy?" he squawks, lifting his sunglasses to show his own wide-eyed shock. "Is his ego out of control or what?"

Strategic Pork Reserves

Sometimes the real world outstrips my poor ability of mocking.

via Best of the Web:

Lard Have Mercy

The New York Times reports that China is in the midst of "an acute shortage of pork," which is affecting the international economy:

Steep increases for pork loins and bacon are the most tangible sign that after a decade in which prices have fluctuated but not moved significantly upward, inflation is creeping back into China. In response to this pressure at home, Chinese companies are starting to raise prices for exports, removing what has been a brake on inflation in the West...

Prime Minister Wen Jiabao visited the pork counter at a supermarket in Xian in central China on May 26 and called for local governments to pay pig farmers to increase production. The commerce ministry has raised the possibility of distributing pork from China's strategic pork reserves.

Strategic pork reserves? Let's hope the U.S. Congress doesn't get any ideas.

Good Riddance

And shame on those that gave this bad man a pulpit to pound:

He wasn't an Army Ranger. He didn't earn a Purple Heart. He didn't witness war crimes in Iraq.

The truth about Jesse Macbeth? He's a fraud, and he's now facing prison.

Macbeth, 23, pleaded guilty in a Seattle federal courtroom Thursday to making false statements to the Department of Veterans Affairs and altering his discharge papers.

Kicked out of boot camp after 44 days, Macbeth instead portrayed himself as a decorated soldier who served in both Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, and was discharged due to post-traumatic stress disorder...

For several years beginning in 2003, Macbeth became a star of the anti-war movement by claiming he saw and participated in war crimes in Iraq.

He gave interviews to news reporters and was popular in blogs and the alternative media. In a video that was widely distributed on the Internet, a frail Macbeth dressed in camouflage told of killing hundreds of civilians. "We would burn their bodies ... hang their bodies from the rafters in the mosque," he said.

As part of the plea agreement, Macbeth admitted he had been lying. Anti-war Web sites have pulled his video.

Jetson's Fashions

At Rio Fashion Week:

The Gratuitous Humiliation of our Would-be Kings

Charles Krauthammer gives two-and-a-half cheers for our seemingly endless political primaries:
In Britain, Canada, and other civilized places, national elections are often called, run, and concluded within six weeks. In America, election campaigns go on forever.

While we can grow weary of the endless stumping, it does serve a purpose:
The final function of the endless campaign, and perhaps the most psychologically important, is to satisfy the American instinct for egalitarianism. We have turned the presidential campaign into a pleasingly degrading ordeal — pleasing, that is, to the electorate. The modern presidential campaign is meant to be physically exhausting and spiritually humbling almost to the point of humiliation. Candidates spend two years and more on bended knee begging for money, votes, and a handshake in a diner.

Why do we inflict such cruel and unusual punishment? Because our winner is not just chief magistrate but king. True, the kingship is temporary, but its glories and perks are beyond compare — the pomp and pampering of a head of state, married to the real political power of controlling the most important state on the planet.

The bargain we offer the candidate is this: We will make you Lord, circling celestially above us on Air Force One, but because we are flinty Jeffersonian yeomen, we insist that you flatter us first with a very extended show of camaraderie and commonality with the Iowa farmer, the New Hampshire alderman and the South Carolina good ol’ boy. Aboriginal tribes have slightly different rituals for those who pretend to kingship, but the idea is the same: ordeal before dominion.
As similar thought concerning local politics is expressed in this cartoon by David Horesly:

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Latest Democratic Primary Debate

Actually, no. But it would have been a lot more fun this way. Japanese contestants try to say a tongue twister under "duress."

Or, why I'll never appear on a Japanese Game Show, Part XIII

In other commentary:

...a key constituency among Democratic primary voters in 2008 will be insane people.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Dead Conservatives

Peggy Noonan writes on the "Weeping Reagan" Time magazine cover:
Could I be correct that they only front-page weeping Republicans, and only laud conservatives when they're dead?
Peg o' My heart, you are completely correct.

Old, dead Republicans are kind of wonderful:
Once, it was the party of pragmatic Main Street businessmen in steel-rimmed spectacles who decried profligacy and waste, were devoted to their communities and supported the sort of prosperity that raises all ships. They were good-hearted people who vanquished the gnarlier elements of their party, the paranoid Roosevelt-haters, the flat Earthers and Prohibitionists, the antipapist antiforeigner element.
Fifties Republicans were giants compared to today’s. Richard Nixon was the last Republican leader to feel a Christian obligation toward the poor.
Hey! Time passes. The 1980s are the 21st century's 1950s.

An Ever-Constricting Circle

Dean Barnett reflects on living with a progressive illness in wake of the news about John and Elizabeth Edwards:
THROUGH THE YEARS, I’VE COME TO VIEW SERIOUS and progressive illness as an ever constricting circle with oneself at the center. The interior of the circle represents the contents of one’s life. As the circle gets smaller, things that were inside get forced out. Some of these things are dearly missed; other items that were once thought precious get forced to the exterior and turn out to go surprisingly unlamented.

At the innermost point of the circle are the things that really matter: Family, faith, love. These things stay with you until the day that you die. At the very end, because the circle has shrunk down to its center, they’re all you have left.

But as we approach that end, we finally realize that all along they were what mattered most. As a consequence, life often remains beautiful and worthwhile right up until the end.
I have dealt with the passing of siblings, cousins and one parent, but I've never had the experience of the long twilight of a progressive illness. I do pray for the Edwards.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Great Global Warming Swindle

Please don't ask me about global warming. This program should be required viewing in all schools.


We've all heard the jape: "The lottery is a tax on doing poorly in high school math class;" or Annie Libowitz's line, "Your odds of winning the lottery are almost the same whether or not you buy a ticket."

Benedict Carey has a smart essay over at the New York Times about why people play the lottery. Here's the line that gave me the "Aha!" moment:

“The people who denigrate lottery players are like 10-year-olds who are disgusted by the idea of sex: they are numb to its pleasures, so they say it’s not rational,” said Lloyd Cohen, a professor of law at George Mason University and author of an economic analysis, “Lotteries, Liberty and Legislatures,” who is himself a gambler and a card counter.

Dr. Cohen argues that lottery tickets are not an investment but a disposable consumer purchase, which changes the equation radically. Like a throwaway lifestyle magazine, lottery tickets engage transforming fantasies: a wine cellar, a pool, a vision of tropical blues and white sand. The difference is that the ticket can deliver.

And as long as the fantasy is possible, even a negligible probability of winning becomes paradoxically reinforcing, Dr. Cohen said. “One is willing to pay hard cash that it be so real, so objective, that it is actually calculable — by someone, even if not oneself,” he said.

Exactly! A ticket in the $390 million lottery is not about an expectation of winning (not to a rational player), it's just a ticket to a daydream about what you would | could | should do if you won. It's a tenth the cost of a ticket to the movies and it plays behind my eyelids as I wait in the ferry line.


Years (the early 1980s) ago I worked with a chap who had written a pretty cool software package that would do some interesting mathematics stuff, freeing users from some pencil-and-paper drudgery. He was pretty honked about people giving copies of his code to their friends, denying him the royalties. I asked him what he thought was at the heart of this crime (for crime it was), and he said:
"Anonymity. If people could rob banks with the anonymity that they swipe my hard work, this country's economy would collapse tomorrow."
The older I get, the more I agree with him. That made this comment from Greg Gutfield resonate strongly with me:
“After a few years of blogging, I've hit on one essential truth: there are millions of cowards willing to say things about you online that they'd never say to you in a bar...Blogging has created a chorus line of cowards."

-Greg Gutfield

Friday, March 09, 2007


Several bloggers have posted this video by the Olympia Movement for Justice and Peace of their attempts to block a shipment of military equipment from the Port of Tacoma to Iraq.

The opening seconds of the video have someone (perhaps the camera operator?) chanting "No justice, no peace," so lifelessly that it sounds like a George A. Romero movie.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Seven Words

InstaPunk proposed an experiment :
"I propose an exercise to be perfomed by those who have the software and expertise to carry it out. The exercise is this: Search six months' worth of content, posts and comments, of the 20 most popular blogs on the right and the left. The search criteria are George Carlin's infamous '7 Dirty Words.'"
Patrick Ishmael at Bit Bucket responds:
And this is what I found, using what I deemed -- through a mix of TTLB and 2006's Weblog Award lists -- to be the 18 biggest Lefty blogs, and 22 biggest Righty blogs. I couldn't account for the 6-month time period, and I even gave the Lefty blogs a 4 blog advantage. But it didn't make much of a difference.

So how much more does the Left use Carlin's "seven words" versus the Right? According to my calculations, try somewhere in the range of 18-to-1.

But this was obvious to anybody who reads the blogs. (Not to denigrate Mr. Ishmael's work, it was smart and necessary.)

The left side of the political blogosphere is really not a friendly place, nor is it a place to air differences and follow reason to a conclusion. It is a place to demonstrate your authenticity by demonstrating your anger. Once again:
“New Anger is a spectacle to be witnessed by an appreciative audience, not an attempt to win over the uncommitted....If in your anger you reduce your opponent to the status of someone unworthy or unable to engage in legitimate exchange, real politics comes to an end....Whoever embraces New Anger is bound to find that, at least in the political realm, he has traded the possibility of real influence for the momentary satisfactions of self-expression.”

Newt takes Manhattan

It looks as though Newt's refusing to announce that he is a candidate is crazy like a fox.

Just as the Hillary-Obama dustup was settling down, John McCain puts his foot in his mouth.

Meanwhile, Newt delivers "a scathing and often hilarious" speech at New York’s Cooper Union.

Newt is avoiding:
  • Bringing his (unofficial) campaign under F.E.C. financing guidelines.
  • Being the in the focus of the media microscope for gaffes.
  • Wearing everyone out with the same old stump speech.
If the primary campaigns on the right become even half as vicious as the ones on the left, he is going to look pretty good in September.

Iowahawk EcoPals Network

Holy smokes, this is funny.

The constant reader knows that my minivan (Orinoco) is without bumperstickers. This will change. I printed out a few of these and I'm going to wear them proudly.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Stewart Brand - My Hero

I've been a fan of Stewart Brand for many years. Though I was never a hippie, I was a computer hobbyist back in the 1970s and a believer in space habitats in the early 1980s, so I regularly enjoyed the free-for-all in the pages of CoEvolution Quarterly.

One of the great things about Mr. Brand, one of the things that makes him a hero, is summed up in this statement:
“Any time that people are forced to acknowledge publicly that they’re wrong, it’s really good for the commonweal. I love to be busted for apocalyptic proclamations that turned out to be 180 degrees wrong. In 1973 I thought the energy crisis was so intolerable that we’d have police on the streets by Christmas. The times I’ve been wrong is when I assume there’s a brittleness in a complex system that turns out to be way more resilient than I thought.”
How refreshing!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Curses! He Gets It!

A level-headed internet voice on the political left? Great Scot! This could cause a rupture in the space-time continuum!

The blogger bomb-throwing may be good for inflaming the activist base, and, as they demonstrated in the 2006 Lieberman-Lamont Senate primary race in Connecticut, for occasionally blowing up the opposition. It’s not bad for bullying your friends, either, as the liberal blogosphere did last week in pressuring Edwards to not fire the two bloggers who penned the offensive anti-religious posts.

But the typical blog mix of insults and incitements is just not an effective strategy for persuading people outside of your circle of belief – be they moderate Democrats, moderate Republicans, or the swelling number of independents – to join your cause. In fact, it’s far more likely to alienate than propagate them.

Something else most liberal bloggers fail to appreciate – we as Democrats can’t afford to repel those middle of the road, largely non-partisan voters.

The Iraq war notwithstanding, which has temporarily tilted the political landscape in our favor, the long-term electoral math is stacked against us – surveys show conservatives currently outnumber liberals three-to-two. Thus, if we want to win the White House and become a majority party again, it’s not enough to excite our base. We must also expand it.

One sure way to do the opposite, and consign our party to minority status, is to broadly tar Christians in general and Catholics in particular as “Christo-fascists” and misogynists, as the Edwards bloggers did.

Catholics are one of the biggest and most important swing-voting blocs in this country. They often tend to decide elections. So it’s probably not the smartest idea for a leading Democratic presidential candidate to hire people who openly defame Catholicism’s sacred figures by talking about the Lord filling the Virgin Mary with “his hot, white, sticky spirit.”

That so many leading bloggers could not see or acknowledge that point suggests at a minimum a giant blind spot on their part – after all, these guys are the first to protest the notion that Democrats are in any way hostile to religion and denounce it as a conservative canard.

But more than likely it just indicates that these bloggers didn’t see anything wrong with the bigoted rants of their peers – and that the far left’s disdain for people of faith is not only alive and well, but has gone digital.

Howard Dean, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the party leadership recognize this religion problem is real, and much to their credit, they have made it a priority to reach out to faith-based voters over the last few years and show them that they are welcome in the Democratic fold.

One has to wonder what they thought as they watched their blogger wards, whom they have lately been favoring with public praise and special access, trample the godly garden they have been trying to re-seed.

In the long run, the only way to prevent embarrassments like this from escalating and causing greater damage – and more importantly, to fulfill the rich potential of the blogosphere as a persuasion and organizing tool – is for the voices of reason within the Netroots to stand up to the smack down artists and prod their peers to trade their juvenile accusations for mature arguments.

Don't listen to that man! LA LA LA LA LA!

Democrats just don't understand that many people, Libertarians and Republicans, were driven from the Democratic party in the the last 40 years.

Every time I hear Democrats gassing on about their "faith" I remember all of the insults that Christians have endured from their fair-haired children and I just say, "You lost me there, Skippy."

For a good example of what I'm talking about, check out the comments to the linked article. Nasty, nasty.

Reaping the Nutroots

There is something perversely satisfying about this video of Washington State Senator Patty Murray being heckled, harassed, and served with an "arrest warrant" by antiwar activists.

It reminds me of this quote from A Bee in the Mouth: Anger in America Now:
“New Anger is a spectacle to be witnessed by an appreciative audience, not an attempt to win over the uncommitted....If in your anger you reduce your opponent to the status of someone unworthy or unable to engage in legitimate exchange, real politics comes to an end....Whoever embraces New Anger is bound to find that, at least in the political realm, he has traded the possibility of real influence for the momentary satisfactions of self-expression.”
Calling Patty Murray a war criminal pretty much embodies this concept. But the fact that she and her colleagues played to these people and used these people during their political campaigns is sweet, sweet schadenfreude.

Like my Mama always says, "You lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas."

Monday, February 26, 2007

Put Not Your Faith In Princes

I am a big fan of James Cameron. Or I was. Until today.

I think that Aliens is the best stand-up science fiction shooter in the history of the Solar system. It rocks.
"Just tell me one thing, Burke. You're going out there to destroy them, right? Not to study. Not to bring back. But to wipe them out."
But now he's turned from being the man who created The Abyss into Geraldo Rivera.

Sic transit gloria mundi

Friday, February 23, 2007

Another Set of Boxes

(via Jane Gault)

Because I find the traditional "Left vs. Right" typology describing the political spectrum simple-minded to the point of imbecility, I am curious of new ways to slice and dice the electorate.

The Pew Research Center for People and the Press has a test in which that they try to get beyond "left-right." Having been trained by years of schooling and of being pestered by Mrs. Islander to take those "test your man" quizzes in women's magazines I stepped up to bat.

So how does this test classify me?


Based on your answers to the questionnaire, you most closely resemble survey respondents within the Enterpriser typology group. This does not mean that you necessarily fit every group characteristic or agree with the group on all issues.

Enterprisers represent 9 percent of the American public, and 10 percent of registered voters.

Basic Description
As in previous studies conducted in 1987, 1994 and 1999, this extremely partisan Republican group’s politics are driven by a belief in the free enterprise system and social values that reflect a conservative agenda. Enterprisers are also the strongest backers of an assertive foreign policy, which includes nearly unanimous support for the war in Iraq and strong support for such anti-terrorism efforts as the Patriot Act.

Defining Values
Assertive on foreign policy and patriotic; anti-regulation and pro-business; very little support for government help to the poor; strong belief that individuals are responsible for their own well being. Conservative on social issues such as gay marriage, but not much more religious than the nation as a whole. Very satisfied with personal financial situation.

Who They Are
Predominantly white (91%), male (76%) and financially well-off (62% have household incomes of at least $50,000, compared with 40% nationwide). Nearly half (46%) have a college degree, and 77% are married. Nearly a quarter (23%) are themselves military veterans. Only 10% are under age 30.

Lifestyle Notes
59% report having a gun in their homes; 53% trade stocks and bonds in the stock market, and 30% are small business owners – all of which are the highest percentages among typology groups. 48% attend church weekly; 36% attend bible study or prayer group meetings.

2004 Election
Bush 92%, Kerry 1%. Bush’s most reliable supporters (just 4% of Enterprisers did not vote)

Party ID
81% Republican, 18% Independent/No Preference, 1% Democrat (98% Rep/LeanRep)

Media Use
Enterprisers follow news about government and politics more closely than any other group, and exhibit the most knowledge about world affairs. The Fox News Channel is their primary source of news (46% cite it as a main source) followed by newspapers (42%) radio (31%) and the internet (26%).

Let's see:
  • "Not much more religious than the nation as a whole." A clean miss. I am very religious.
  • "48% attend church weekly; 36% attend bible study or prayer group meetings." Does that contradict the previous point?
  • "Predominantly white (91%), male (76%) and financially well-off " Well, two out of three. Check my photo and you'll see that "well off" doesn't photograph.
  • "Very satisfied with personal financial situation." That stuffs it.
  • "59% report having a gun in their homes;" Nope. I support my right to have one, though.
  • "81% Republican, 18% Independent/No Preference" Yep, that's me--about 81% Republican.
These tests, at best, ask me if I think government is too powerful, and, when I say, "Yes," tell me that I favor smaller government. Hmmmm.... There is also the problem with the forced dichotomy of the questions. What if I think neither of the statements, "The government should do more to protect morality in society," or "I worry the government is getting too involved in the issue of morality" really characterizes my position?

The important thing to remember is that you only get out of these things what you put into these things (minus entropic losses.)

For the record, I like the Pournell Political chart because it jars many people out of the "left-right" dichotomy.

And of course I enjoy Stephen den Beste's take on the left-right fallacy.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Here Comes Newt!

I am embarrassed to note that that old toe-biter, Dick Morris has a gushy column in The Hill devoted to my personal favorite, Newt Gingrich.
Enter Newt. Hungry for new ideas and desperate after losing Congress, Republican voters seem to be rallying to the only real genius in the race — the former Speaker. The statute of limitations seems to have expired on his personal scandals and Gingrich is striking a responsive chord among conservatives.
If only it were so, Dick! I would pay good money to see Newt step into the debate.

Crying in New Hampshire

The Washington Post has an article by Harold Meyerson drawing yet another parallel between the election of 1972 and 2008. Even I, who have been drawing many parallels between the anti-war movements of the 1960s and the 2000s had not gotten to that point.

A specter was haunting Hillary Clinton as she campaigned in New Hampshire this weekend: the specter of Ed Muskie.

As the ancient or merely studious among us will recall, the Democratic senator from Maine, who'd been Hubert Humphrey's running mate in 1968, entered his party's presidential contest in 1972 as the front-runner. His prospects were dashed in the New Hampshire snows, however. As popular memory has it, an indignant Muskie started crying while refuting a silly attack on him (though whether he was genuinely upset or merely sniffling during a frigid outdoor news conference was never authoritatively resolved). Muskie's more serious problem, however, was the Vietnam War, which he opposed.

His opposition, though, had none of the fervor or long-term consistency of another Democratic senator and presidential aspirant, George McGovern. By 1972, seven years had elapsed since the United States had sent ground forces to Vietnam, and Richard Nixon, through his invasion of Cambodia and stepped-up bombing campaigns, had made clear that the road to de-escalation would entail periodic escalations, at least as long as he was president. The Democratic base was in no mood for temporizing on Vietnam.

Party voters wanted out, and they wanted a nominee who'd been right on the war (almost) from the start: McGovern. Sic transit gloria Muskie.

Today, Hillary Clinton seems almost uncannily positioned to become the Ed Muskie of 2008. She opposes the U.S. military presence in Iraq but not with the specificity, fervor or bona fides of her leading Democratic rivals. As Muskie did with Vietnam, she supported the legislation enabling the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and she has been slower and more inconstant than her party rivals in coming around to opposing the continued U.S. occupation.

Mr. Meyerson does note two differences:
Entering the race, Clinton has institutional advantages that Muskie could scarcely have dreamed of -- an unparalleled network of financial and political supporters, a universal level of public recognition. But, like Muskie, she is out of sync with her party's -- to some extent, her country's -- voters on the major issue of the day...

Indeed, so strong is support for a withdrawal that Edwards and Obama would by no means face the general election wipeout that was McGovern's fate. (Besides, Nixon ran against the antiwar movement and the fomenters of social tumult. Today, while opposition to the war is widespread, there isn't really an antiwar movement -- not one resembling what emerged in the '60s, anyway -- for hawks or Republicans to run against.)
So far, so good. But Mr Meyerson then runs off the rails with:
And should Americans still be fighting and dying in Iraq when the next election rolls around, the Democrats probably could win with Dennis Kucinich as their nominee.
Sorry. That was a bridge too far.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Quantum Computers Now?

Is it possible that a Vancouver, Canada company has produced a quantum computer decades ahead of schedule? Or is 2007's version of Cold Fusion?

A pointer to this story sent me over to the company's website.

I guess we'll find out February 13th.

Why is this so important? A couple of reasons spring to mind:
  • If this is a real product, these goes encryption standards!
  • Some meteorologists and climate scientists feel that failures of prediction aren't due to system complexity (chaos), but poor models. Putting bad models on a quantum computer will just turn out bad answers faster. This may encourage better modeling.
Want to read more about just what the heck Quantum Computing is? Meet Mr. Wiki.

Negative Campaign Ads

As we enter this amped-up, early kick-off campaign season, we are going to be hearing that evergreen complaint against "attack ads."

Not from me.

Andrew Ferguson points out:
"The difference between a positive ad and a negative ad is that the negative ad has a fact in it."
(Thanks to Jim Geraghty.)

Friday, February 09, 2007

Edwards and the Christian Left

Following up to my previous post about the Edward's campaign's misstep:

Apparently the affair has upset some on the Christian Left. I really feel for these people--especially those that have been laboring for years in the fields of social justice.
"We're completely invisible to this debate," said Eduardo Penalver, a Cornell University law professor who writes for the liberal Catholic journal Commonweal. He said he was dissatisfied with the Edwards campaign's response. "As a constituency, the Christian left isn't taken all that seriously," Penalver said.

"We have gone so far to rebuild that coalition [between Democrats and religious Christians] and something like this sets it back," said Brian O'Dwyer, a New York lawyer and Irish-American leader who chairs the National Democratic Ethnic Leadership Council, a Democratic Party group. O'Dwyer said Edwards should have fired the bloggers. "It's not only wrong morally – it's stupid politically."

...O'Dwyer e-mailed a statement to reporters saying: "Senator Edwards is condoning bigotry by keeping the two bloggers on his staff. Playing to the cheap seats with anti-Catholic bigotry has no place in the Democratic Party."

The Christian Left has led the way for many years in the Democratic Party, some are alive today that spoke up and stood up and marched in the 1950s and 1960s civil-rights era. Hated and vilified by the Dixiecrats, they stuck to their beliefs and were vindicated when the nation had a change of heart. They have been a conscience to the party (and at the best of times to the entire country.)

And now some nasty little haters have stepped in and not only taken a high place at the table, but taken it after shouting that the Religious have no real place at the table.

I do disagree with much of the Christian Left and I speak out when I feel that they are missing the mark. But I am glad that they do not seemed to be disheartened. We need their voices, now more than ever, on the other side of the aisle.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Second Big Primary Gaffe

I was surprised when some low-level yutz in the Washington State Democratic Party decided that Christians weren't a constituency worth worrying about. But at least the Dem Pols at the state level have the decency to be ashamed. But when a National Candidate blows it...

I assume that the Constant Reader has been hearing about John Edward's campaign retaining the blogging services of Amanda Marcotte (Pandragon) and Melissa McEwan (Shakespeare's Sister).

This whole thing has been examined and dissected on many, many sites. The latest word from the Edward campaign site is that John Edwards has made the decision to keep them:

The tone and the sentiment of some of Amanda Marcotte's and Melissa McEwan's posts personally offended me. It's not how I talk to people, and it's not how I expect the people who work for me to talk to people. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but that kind of intolerant language will not be permitted from anyone on my campaign, whether it's intended as satire, humor, or anything else. But I also believe in giving everyone a fair shake. I've talked to Amanda and Melissa; they have both assured me that it was never their intention to malign anyone's faith, and I take them at their word. We're beginning a great debate about the future of our country, and we can't let it be hijacked. It will take discipline, focus, and courage to build the America we believe in.
Two points:

First, this is a piece of doubletalk.
  • Writing, "...that kind of intolerant language will not be permitted from anyone on my campaign..." and in the next sentence tolerating it.
  • Writing, "I've talked to Amanda and Melissa; they have both assured me that it was never their intention to malign anyone's faith, and I take them at their word," and ignoring the plain language of their previous writing.
  • Writing, "...I also believe in giving everyone a fair shake," at though this was an unfortunate one-time outburst, instead of an on-going trashing of Christians ("godbags").
At the national level, politicians know that all they have is their public image. There is no way that they can connect personally with even 1% of the voters that they need. So politicians craft a public persona that represents what they want to communicate to the voters whom they cannot meet.

Senator Bob Dole was terrible at his public persona. His speeches always oscillated between sounding like the grouchy old man down the block that yelled at the kids to get off his lawn and a kind of plaintive whine that Bill Clinton was getting a free pass, "Where's the outrage?"

When the election was over, he appeared on some talk shows and was very personable and funny--but you would never have know that from his persona.

Hillary Clinton is the current champion at crafting a campaign persona. In fact, she's so good that she runs the risk of having the press make the crafting of her persona the story of the campaign, rather than the melodrama of the Pioneer Who Became the First Woman President.

But Edwards has followed Joe Biden in starting his campaign with a gaffe. If Edwards had fired his blogmasters, he would have alienated his netroots activists; but by keeping them he chances alienating "people of faith" (i.e. devout Catholics and Protestants) as well as anybody to the left of Ralph Nader that's feeling touchy. Edwards has got to be thinking, "It's activists who win you the primary." So what's the breakdown?

Category: Unoffended, agree with Marcotte's views.
Action: Will applaud keeping them. Become more motivated.
Comment: This is the payoff group. Corral these ponies into pulling the bandwagon.
Result: Score!
Category: Offended, but believe that Edwards best represents their agenda.
Action: Hold nose and vote for Edwards anyway.
Comment: His core group.
Result: Score!
Category: Offended, Catholics and Protestants
Action: Won't vote for Edwards
Comment: Were going to vote for Obama anyway.
Result: No fault--no foul!

Second, I am glad that Edwards has kept Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan. As Senator Edwards says:
We're beginning a great debate about the future of our country, and we can't let it be hijacked. It will take discipline, focus, and courage to build the America we believe in.
This is true. We need a debate, an airing of views and opinions. We need discipline, focus, and courage. We cannot allow that debate to be hijacked by the candidate's personae. We need to look at the people in the team the candidate assembles to craft their message so that we can properly judge the candidate.

If I had said this kind of stuff in my workplace, I would be out the door. If I had written a blog with this kind of stuff and it became known to my employer's customers, I would be out the door. And I'm not trying to sell an image of myself as my main product.

These two women were hired on the basis of what they were: active bloggers.

The weaselly non-apologies offered by the Marcotte and McEwan are completely pathetic:
"It has never been my intention to disparage people's individual faith, and I'm sorry if my words were taken in that way," McEwen's statement said.
It's not her fault if you can't get the joke.

But thanks for keeping them Senator. You have made the decision about whether to vote for you in the general election easy. You (or rather, your blogmasters) have pre-written a huge chunk of you opponents oppo-research.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Big Early Endorsements

It's only February 2007 and this race has already pulled outta Oddburg and taken the interstate for Bizzaro Springs, CA.

Chuck Norris has come out for Newt Gingrich.

First of all, I make no secret of my fondness for Newt, and I have every respect for Chuck Norris and his roundhouse kick.

But Holy Tamale, Chuck is quoting a 1790 sermon by Rev. Daniel Fosters! Chuck, I didn't know that you were familiar with the 18th century Great Awakening.

I feel as I did when I was a small boy and wandered into a hall of mirrors.

Monday, February 05, 2007

A Reason to Vote for Hillary!?

Via James Toranto:
...So she's going to end the war and give health insurance to everyone--all in the last 11 days of January! Okey dokey, artichokey.

...My daily newspaper recently included, in a diatribe against Hillary Clinton, that she often says -- I hope you'll forgive me for repeating this expletive -- "okey-dokey artichokey."

Hey, what's wrong with "okey-dokey artichokey"? First of all, this is the only endearing thing I (for one) have ever heard about Mrs. Clinton. Whether it is superlatives from the left or brickbats from the right, she is usually described in the warm glowing terms one reserves for a sci-fi movie's android. She is either the most brilliant mass of protoplasm ever gathered together in one organism, or else the most evil being since Lucifer voluntarily resigned from Heaven, citing creative conflicts over the future direction of the cosmos.

But there's something likable about someone who says "okey-dokey artichokey." This is a human being who sometimes just likes to say something a bit different from the ordinary cliches. Someone who just likes to say something corny, even if it is not likely to win her any points in the opinion polls, or sway focus groups.

Friday, February 02, 2007

The Vader Sessions

I cried. Like a little baby, I cried.

The Vader Sessions

Like he says: "Someone clearly has a lot of time on his hands, but at least he's putting it to good use."

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Wabbit Season!

Duck Season!


Very cool. About 40 years too late for me; yet very cool.

(Via Alarm-Alarm) An article in the New York Times Magazine about conservative Christian Colleges hosting dances on campus.

Mark Oppenheimer writes as a very thoughtful outsider. When confronted by the question, "Didn't these people preach hellfire against dancing?" he makes this insightful comment:

If you want to know why J.B.U. students didn’t dance until now, it makes more sense to look out your window at Siloam Springs than to look down at the Bible on your desk. The Bible doesn’t say you can’t dance. For that matter, it doesn’t say that you can’t drink or can’t smoke. The rules against these vices are what evangelicals call “prudential” rather than scriptural: they don’t have the force of commandment, but you follow them just to be careful. These rules arose as part of a Protestant subculture so determined to eradicate sin that it began to interdict behaviors that might be baby steps on the road to perdition. This subculture is not mandated by the Bible, but it’s the marrow of towns like Siloam Springs and schools like John Brown University.

Despite their professed commitment to Scripture as the sole basis of the Christian life, radical Protestants have always policed themselves even more strictly than the Bible prescribes. New England Puritans, 19th-century Sabbatarians and 20th-century temperance activists all advocated rules against one biblically permissible activity or another...

It’s hard to say which came first for conservative Christians: the cultural prohibitions or the scriptural justifications. The rules against smoking and drinking have a plausible basis in Paul’s metaphor in I Corinthians 6:19 of the body as “a temple,” a sacred site not to be despoiled: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” But other prohibitions seem rooted entirely in prudential culture — where else would we get the notion, enshrined in the rules of some Christian colleges, that boys must keep their hair cut short, lest they confuse gender roles? And how can dancing be prohibited? For Miriam dances after the victory at the Red Sea, and David dances after the ark’s return to Jerusalem. Ecclesiastes tells us there is “a time to mourn and a time to dance.”

Traditionally, the answer was that dancing, like long hair on men, might have been appropriate in biblical times but did not fit with contemporary understandings of temperance, modesty or prudence. But within this answer was a tacit concession that as culture changes, some rules change, too. That understanding has allowed for an extraordinary transformation in how evangelicals perceive dance: impossible as it would have seemed 50 years ago, many of them now believe that dancing is particularly desirable. In the first half of the 20th century, various swing dances, like the jitterbug and the lindy hop, were often associated with juvenile delinquency and miscegenation, what many parents feared. Swing still seems like an artifact of the ’40s and ’50s, but now that era has become, in the evangelical mind, a prelapsarian age before the pill, the Crips or gay marriage. Parents who themselves were forbidden to dance now urge their children toward what has become, standing against the muck of popular culture, a wholesome pastime.

Thursday, January 25, 2007


Yes, I'm a fan of Newt Gingrich.

Not because I think he is has a snowball's chance of being elected in 2008, but because he is such a colorful idea generator.

Newt's response to the question, "Are you running in 2008?", is to say that he's more excited to be generating ideas than to be campaigning. If in September 2007 there is no clear leader in the Republican primaries and his ideas have won a following, he will consider entering the race.

What wonderful sophistry! As though a mighty army of nerds and wonks will rise up, bear him on their shoulders down Pennsylvania Avenue, and install him in the White House by acclamation. Although, when given the choice between a old-line demagogue and Newt Gingrich, boy wizard, give me Newt.

But as Daniel Drezner points out:
Gingrich intrigues me -- he's far more complex and interesting a thinker than the nineties stereotype of him suggested. And if Hillary Clinton can remake herself as someone who's learned from past mistakes, I see no reason why Gingrich can't as well.

However, I can't shake the feeling that because I'm so interested in a Gingrich, he's doomed to fail.
UPDATE: Jim Geraghty, over at The Hillary Spot has this to say about long-shot Newt:

Newt Gingrich: I’ll just note that for those of us annoyed by the state of American discourse – where “Make America a better place to live, work and raise a family,” is taken seriously as a message for a campaign — a Gingrich presidency would instantly make our national dialogue at least fifty percent smarter.

(You have to love a candidate who, when asked by a snotty teen at an MTV forum whether he wears “Boxers or briefs?” responds, “That is a very stupid question, and it's stupid for you to ask that question.” The only way it could have been better is if he made the little punk cry.)

Long before the tech world was contemplating the $100 laptop as a possible solution to alleviate world poverty, Newt was thinking out loud about giving laptops to the homeless. Newt seems like the kind of guy who has twelve ideas before breakfast every morning, and at least some of them are likely to be good ones.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Samurai Sword Mania

Those Scots.
Samurai sword terror as five stabbed

FOUR teenagers were among at least five people stabbed in a street battle linked to gangland wars in north Glasgow.

Samurai swords and knives were used by youths as young as 15 as the Milton area erupted into violence.

As someone who is engaged in a serious study of Japanese Swordsmanship, I find myself torn between curiosity, amusement, and disgust.

What kind of swords are they using? There are at least five different kinds that can be called "samurai swords." The one people are most familiar with is the katana, so I'm guessing that's what they are using.

Where are they getting these things? But I should not be surprised. I was walking by a tobacco store the other day and saw several sets of swords on display. I walked in and confirmed that they were junk, created to be put on display (and not looked at too closely.) But even a scrap of metal can be sharpened to a razor edge and be very dangerous.

How are they affording these things? I bought my own sword (a student sword, called an iaito) in 2005. It cost me ~$600. A real katana would cost in the ~$8000 - $10000. Again, not to be surprised--I just plugged "katana" into Google and found many places that would sell me a "real samurai katana" for less than $200.

Why are these guys getting away with it? Don't the police have that great anti-katana weapon, the pistol? Not to boast, but I'd take any of these guys on one-on-one with a jo (a walking staff.)


Taleena has emailed me a link about, well, some kind `o hero:

English Samurai Saves Police

Real-Life Super Hero Cuts Down Crime

Perhaps inspired by Pulp Fiction (or any number of comic books), a mysterious vigilante with a samurai sword rescued two police officers from a gang of toughs in South Shields, England, last week. It all started when as many as five assailants, armed with knives, chains and a hammer, allegedly forced their way into an apartment and began ransacking the place. Outside, two off-duty detectives, who happened to be passing by, heard the screams of a woman and entered the premises to investigate. They confronted the intruders, but, being out-numbered and out-armed, quickly lost control of situation. Accounts vary, but it appears that just as one of the robbers drew his knife and lunged at one of the cops, a mustachioed do-gooder appeared out of the blue brandishing a three-foot samurai sword.

He cried out, "Leave him alone, he's a police officer!," and then went on a rampage swinging his blade "wildly back and worth and wounding at least one of the robbers." Disoriented by his attack, the gang panicked, allowing police to gain the upper-hand. But, as superheroes tend to do, the South Shields Samurai vanished in the ensuing chaos as quickly as a he had appeared. Police are now seeking his whereabouts and, while not condoning vigilantism, admit "[t]here is no doubt this person assisted." Looks like Batman may have some competition!
Well, it wasn't me. I don't swing my blade wildly back and forth. But you gotta love the "mustachioed do-gooder."

...And you know that the South Sheilds Police would arrest this guy in a New York Minute.

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Astronaut Farmer

I clicked over to this to see if someone was trying to muscle into Robert Heinlein's Farmer in the Sky territory. Instead, it's the story of a guy who wants to build his own spaceship and how the government tries to stop him So it's Rocket Ship Galileo.

Lots of big, wide shots, heartwarming athems building, and Virgina Madsen.

I'll be see it.

Friday, January 05, 2007

What We've Been Missing, Why We're Proud

In the Wall Street Journal's opinion page, Peggy Noonan comments on the funeral of former President Gerald Ford:
The Marines snap their salutes and bear the flag-draped coffin up the marble steps and we hear the old hymns--"Going Home," "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God," "The Navy Hymn": "Oh hear us when we cry to thee / For those in peril on the sea." We don't hear these songs much in modern life, only at formal occasions like this. We lock them in a closet until a state funeral, and then they come out and we realize how much they meant, and how much we miss them.
Man, do I miss those hymns. The best of them contain a great theology lesson in verse form.

Ms Noonan ends her essay with a scene from the House of Representatives:
Time moves, life moves, we grow older together. And now a new era begins, and with another great ceremony. As I write, a new Democratic speaker of the House is about to be sworn in. The great hall of the House is full and teeming--members have brought their children in brightly colored dresses and little jackets and ties. Nancy Pelosi in a russet suit and pearls is standing, laughing and holding a grandchild.

Now a clerk with a high voice is reading, "Therefore the Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi is duly elected . . ." and the House has erupted in cheers. She is escorted to the back of the chamber. And now the first woman to lead the House of Representatives is being handed the gavel by John Boehner, the leader of the opposition. He kisses her. She holds it high. And now she speaks. "I accept this gavel in a spirit of partnership . . . for the good of the American people." "In this House", she says, "we may be different parties but we serve one country."

And so again we remind ourselves who we are. We "show an affirming flame." We are a great republic and a great democracy. We are a great nation and a great people. We peacefully--gracefully--pass power from one group to another. And we start this new time on the right foot, with a cheer.
And this is what America can brag of. Not of her armies, which are the finest and most powerful in history; nor of her navies which sail where they will and defend freedom of the seas for even our sharpest economic rivals; but for the political culture that nurtures and celebrates the peaceful transition of power between parties.

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