Thursday, February 28, 2008



A personal note, a couple of quotes, and a few links.

I became a Republican at 16 years old, when I received my first minimum-wage paycheck out of which was drawn Federal Taxes, State Taxes, union dues and a union initiation fee, all of which were mandatory. I became a real conservative in the late 1970s when I encountered Mr. Buckley's television show, Firing Line.

On Firing Line I saw manifest the "marketplace of ideas." And the delight, the joy, the brio with which Mr. Buckley engaged his liberal guests gave me a model to follow. Quite frankly, after watching Firing Line every other conservative talk fest has more than a whiff of pro wrestling about it.

I saw Mr. Buckley speechless only twice.

Once was when his guest was Mother Theresa. He asked, as television hosts will, to what address could his viewers send money to support her mission. She said that she didn't appear on his show to raise money, but to communicate what God would have her share. Mr. Buckley tried again, personalizing it to try to elicit a response, "Where would I send money for your work?"

Mother Theresa said, in that quavery voice, "I don't want you to give money. I want you to go out and look into the face of the poor."

To which Mr. Buckley had no reply.

A couple of quotes:
...if there were nothing to complain about, there would be no post-Adamite mankind. But complaint is profanation in the absence of gratitude. There is much to complain about in America, but that awful keening noise one unhappily gets so used to makes no way for the bells, and these have rung for America, are still ringing for America, and for this we are obliged to be grateful. To be otherwise is wrong reason, and a poetical invitation to true national tribulation. I must remember to pray more often, because providence has given us the means to make the struggle, and in this respect we are singularly blessed in this country, and in this room.

I was in a radio exchange with the senior U.S. liberal, Professor Arthur Schlesinger Jr., who in a casual survey of technology stunned me by saying that, in his judgment, "Word processing is the greatest invention in modern history." Suddenly I was face to face with the flip side of Paradise. That means, doesn't it, that Professor Schlesinger will write more than he would do otherwise?
And a quote by Jonah Goldberg about Mr. Buckley's place in history:
In the next few days, there will be a wave of liberals — Frank Rich comes particularly to mind — who will use WFB's memory to beat up on today's conservatives....Liberals today bemoan how wonderful the conservatives of yesteryear were, solely to lament how terrible they are today. [My link -ed.] The recent bout of Goldwater nostalgia on the left was a perfect example. The strange new respect liberals have for Ronald Reagan would be another. And you can be sure they will use Buckley to that effect too.

That said, I'm delighted to have conservative heroes become simply American heroes. But it's at least worth pointing out that Goldwater, Reagan and, of course William F. Buckley were subjected to vicious criticism from the left in their day. That they belong to all Americans now is no small testament to their success in the face of often unrelenting opposition.
And for links, the best come from the online presence of Mr. Buckley's magazine:

From the Editors "It has been said that great men are rarely good men. Even more rarely are they sweet and merry, as Buckley was.

A Symposium of Conservatives "The scene was slightly surreal, but it was an adventure and we were having fun. The gift of turning life into adventure was one of his charms, which helped attract young and old alike, but particularly the young, to his side. By merrily refuting liberalism, he gave birth to a conservatism, shaped in his own image, that avoided the drearily doctrinaire."

UPDATE: Nodding to Jonah Goldberg's point above (or, since this is in re: WFB, supra), Ross Dothat in The Atlantic writes:
Liberals tend to find kind things to say about men of the Right only once they're old and out of the arena, the better to contrast the decent conservatives of yore with the supposed right-wing pygmies of the present. But in Buckley's case the contrast is accurate, so long as we make it bipartisan: He was a giant, and no contemporary commentators, be they left or right or something else entirely, can hope to live up to the example he set, or the enjoy the impact he had. He didn't quite stop history, as he vowed half-jestingly to do, but he did manage to change it, and he will cast a long shadow over political journalism, and our politics in general, for as long as American history runs onward.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Tom Leher had a line in one of his concerts:
"It is sobering to realize that by the time Mozart was my age, he had been dead for three years. It's those kind of people that make you realize how little you have accomplished."

Forty years ago I studied the (French) Horn. I even had ideas about turning pro and saw myself doing studio work, staying up all night for recording sessions, saying goodbye to fellow musicians over waffles before sleeping all day.

But I made different choices.

I still love horn music though; and this kind of thing makes me wonder how good I could have been:

Let me note that she is, as my Texan relatives would say, a little bitty thing. But the sound she puts out is wonderfully full.

I didn't realize that Bill Clinton Throws Like a Girl

I know that it's old news, but were talking legacy here, kids.

Exhibit A:

By the way, in little-boy speak the phrase "throwing like a girl" refers to the way the former president it preparing to fling the ball, pivoting on his elbow. Watch a major league pitcher and you will see that their elbow leads their wrist through the throw and that a lot of power comes from rotating their shoulders.

Pure, Intense, Brilliant Pain

There is an index to measure insect sting pain?

Of course there is, my dear.

The bullet ant sting scores highest on the Schmidt Sting Pain Index, a rating created by entomologist Justin Schmidt, director of the Southwestern Biological Institute, which compares the ouch factors of different insects.

How does he know how much these insects' stings hurt? He's willingly endured each of them himself.

Schmidt's rating gives a poetic description of the bullet ant's sting: "Pure, intense, brilliant pain. Like fire-walking over flaming charcoal with a three-inch rusty nail in your heel."

There's a job that's gotta make it hard to get out of the bed Monday morning.

Foriegn Policy Experience

I'm just wonderin'...

One of the big memes of the Clinton campaign has been "experience." Mrs. Clinton touts her experience in the White House, said experience consisting of being a family member of the President. She is going after Mr. Obama about his inexperience.
“We’ve seen the tragic result of having a president who had neither the experience nor the wisdom to manage our foreign policy and safeguard our national security,” Mrs. Clinton said in a speech on foreign policy at George Washington University. “We can’t let that happen again.”
Two points:

What foreign policy experience did the President with whom she shared the White House have before his election?

If being a family member counts as experience, doesn't George W. Bush come with a much fuller nepotistic resume? His father was a member of the house of Representatives, Chief Liaison to Communist China, director of the CIA, ambassador to the UN, Vice President for 8 years and President for four years, during which time the US saw the fall of its cold-war adversary, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and conducted a UN-sanctioned campaign in Iraq.

Again, I'm just sayin'...

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Enduring Popularity of HP Calculators With Geeks

Many people don't realize that technophiles can be the most conservative of people.

In the drive for miniaturization and ease of use, there are those who smile and stand aside:

While not the sexiest consumer product out there, our engineering audience will likely see the appeal that HP's latest scientific calculator had for me. The 35s, which this new model is dubbed, is similar in many ways to the 15c I bought twenty-some-odd years ago when I entered engineering school... There's no doubt that the 15c was the premier calculator of its time. Just about everybody in engineering school seemed to have one...

I bet many of you are smiling to yourselves saying the same thing, "yeah, I bought one of those, too." But the kicker for me, and I'd bet for many of you, is that my 15c is still going strong. In fact, it still serves as my everyday calculator. And it doesn't get lost like many of the other objects on my desk, such as the tape dispenser, stapler, and scissors, thanks to its use of reverse Polish notation (RPN). My family members take the attitude that it's easier to find another calculator than to learn RPN. And that suits me just fine...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Why We Can Never Have Another Clinton Presidency

These are dry times for conservatives like me. I see that the current tack of the Republican party (which began with the election of George W. Bush) is taking to a more mainstream course. I know that the world has changed almost immeasurably since 1980, and that those that long for the second coming of Ronald Reagan both do not know what they want and would not accept it if it came.

I have my strong doubts about Obama. He lacks executive experience and will rely on teams of advisers. Who are these advisers? Perhaps they should be making policy speeches.

But in all this there is to me one constant: There can never be another Clinton in the White House.

Many Clinton haters will to this day gas on and on about the Rose Law firm and Whitewater billing records. These issues display in the Clintons a small-minded meanness.

Others will cite the White House Travel Office scandal. In this Hillary showed that she saw the office of the president as a a spoils machine, there to dole out plum jobs to cronies.

Others point out the trifecta of Clinton supporting the independent-counsel law; supporting and signing a law that enhanced and extended the ability of victims of sexual harassment to compel testimony; and Bill's feeling that he, as usual, was above the law.

All that pales next to the Clinton's actions in the closing days of Bill's presidency, when he released from prison 16 terrorists.

Debra Burlingame runs down some history that I am sure Hillary doen't want springing up on any of her carefully managed "listening tours" or "town halls."

On Aug. 7, 1999, the one-year anniversary of the U.S. African embassy bombings that killed 257 people and injured 5,000, President Bill Clinton reaffirmed his commitment to the victims of terrorism, vowing that he "will not rest until justice is done." Four days later, while Congress was on summer recess, the White House quietly issued a press release announcing that the president was granting clemency to 16 imprisoned members of FALN.

The FBI cracked the cases with the discovery of an FALN safe house and bomb factory... FBI agents obtained a warrant and entered the premises, surreptitiously disarming the bombs whose components bore the unmistakable FALN signature. They found 24 pounds of dynamite, 24 blasting caps, weapons, disguises, false IDs and thousands of rounds of ammunition....

Federal law enforcement agencies considered these individuals so dangerous, extraordinary security precautions were taken at their numerous trials. Courthouse elevators were restricted and no one, including the court officers, was permitted to carry a firearm in the courtroom.

Given all this, why would Bill Clinton, who had ignored the 3,226 clemency petitions that had piled up on his desk over the years, suddenly reach into the stack and pluck out these 16 meritless cases? (The New York Times ran a column with the headline, "Bill's Little Gift.")

Hillary Rodham Clinton was in the midst of her state-wide "listening tour" in anticipation of her run for the U.S. Senate in New York, a state which included 1.3 million Hispanics. Three members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus -- Luis V. Gutierrez (D., Ill.), Jose E. Serrano, (D., N.Y.) and Nydia M. Velazquez, (D., N.Y.) -- along with local Hispanic politicians and leftist human-rights advocates, had been agitating for years on behalf of the FALN cases directly to the White House and first lady.

Initial reports stated that Mrs. Clinton supported the clemencies, but when public reaction went negative she changed course, issuing a short statement three weeks after the clemencies were announced. The prisoners' delay in refusing to renounce violence "speaks volumes," she said.

The Clintons were caught in an awkward predicament of their own making. The president had ignored federal guidelines for commutation of sentences, including the most fundamental: The prisoners hadn't actually asked for clemency.

To push the deal through, signed statements renouncing violence and expressing remorse were required by the Justice Department. The FALN prisoners, surely relishing the embarrassment and discomfiture they were causing the president and his wife, had previously declined to accept these conditions. Committed and unrepentant militants who did not accept the authority of the United States, they refused to apologize for activities they were proud of in order to obtain a clemency they never requested.

So desperate was the White House to get the deal finalized and out of the news, an unprecedented 16-way conference call was set up for the "petitioners" who were locked up in 11 different federal facilities so that they could strategize a response to the president's offer. Two eventually refused to renounce their cause, preferring to serve out their lengthy sentences rather than follow the White House script.

Mr. Clinton's fecklessness in the handling of these cases was demonstrated by the fact that none of the prisoners were required, as a standard condition of release, to cooperate in ongoing investigations of countless unsolved FALN bombing cases and other crimes. Mrs. Clinton's so-called disagreement with her husband on the matter made no mention of that fact. The risk of demanding such a requirement, of course, was that the prisoners might have proudly implicated themselves, causing the entire enterprise to implode, with maximum damage to the president and potentially sinking Hillary Clinton's Senate chances.

Meanwhile, Puerto Rican politicians in New York who'd been crowing to their constituents about the impending release of these "freedom fighters" were enraged and insulted at Hillary Clinton's withdrawal of support. "It was a horrible blunder," said State Sen. Olga A. Mendez. "She needs to learn the rules."
I don't think that we need to doubt that Hillary has learned the rules.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Change! Can You Spare Some?

The People's Cube Has this great Obama graphic.

One of the great things about teh internets is that we no longer have to settle for 12-generation xerographic copies of great visual jokes. We get to see the original.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

A New National Motto

James Lileks was harrrumphing over the NYT Freakanomics Blog's contest: Create a new 6-word motto for the United States.

(Of course the USA already has a wonderful three-word motto, "E Pluribus Unum," that is, "Out of Many, One."

Mr. Lileks cuts loose:
It was no doubt tendered in good faith, but reading the suggestions is like licking a corroded battery. The latter-day sub-Menckens will always get off the sharpest lines, of course; you can’t draw a laugh with something Grandma might knit on a pillow, and drawing a laugh – or a mirthless snort of appreciation, which counts as a laugh nowadays – is the prime objective. Go on: read. It’s not just a lefty thing; the hard-core Ron Paulites are there as well, luxuriously immersed in simon-pure certainties.

Hundreds of snippets of derisive snark. You can picture the satisfied little grins on the authors’ faces; you can imagine the whole tableau – the computer (which most people in the world will never touch, let alone use, let alone own) the TV in the corner connected to a network that has channels catering to every taste, the iPod stocked with music hoovered up free of charge without consequence, the fridge stocked with food – the light comes on when you open the door, too, unless it’s burned out, and then you go to the store and get another one; they always have another one. The soft bed, the coffee machine, the well-fed pet, the vast panoply of free information and unfettered opinion flowing 24/7 from the internet. You can drink alcohol without being sentenced to death; you can be a girl alone in a room with a man without earning a public stoning; you can stand up in a room and argue for the candidate of your choice without being arrested; you stand in a society that allows for astonishing amounts of freedom, comfort and opportunity. But.

But. Someone somewhere is a practicing Baptist and someone somewhere else is eating a hamburger larger than you’d prefer, and other people are watching cars go around a track at high speed.

Actually, while lots of them are miserable bile-spew, I found some of them quite funny. Here are a few that stuck me:

“Land of the six word motto”

That’s MISTER America to you, pal!

Enlightenment scientific rationality meets puritan morality (This is the secret to American exceptionalism! -ED)

“Liberals hate it–must be good.”

Everyone hates US; immigration way up

USA - “That hot girl who ignores you”

“50 states, 2 parties, 1 dollar”

“We are the world’s rich uncle.”

“First to the moon and last”

“Home of Hollywood and New York”

“We don’t need no stinkin’ motto!”

“Politically: Representative democracy. Economically: Chaotic meritocracy.”

“If you live here, you’re home.”

Like Ancient Rome, with flush toilets.

“Luckily, our parents left your country”

When pigs fly, cows are jealous.

Mitt Stands Aside

Mitt gives a speech at CPAC, announcing that he will not fight on to the convention.

So to the people that told me that I was wasting my Washington State primary vote by choosing "Thompson," I say, "Poo."

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Fifty Years on the Threshold of Space

There has been some small to-do over the fact that January 31st was the 50th anniversay of the launching of Explorer 1, the United State's first orbiting satellite. Rand Simberg has posted a great retrospective piece about the 50 years from then till now.

I celebrated the day by putting in the DVD for one of the finiest films ever made about the Sputnik era, October Sky.

This is also the film that made me a Chris Cooper fan, and one of the three or four movies guaranteed to make me cry.

Friday, February 01, 2008

I Miss Fred

My Washington State primary ballot arrived. I could do nothing but mark in Fred Thompson.

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