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.

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