Archive for January, 2006

Vox Populi

Tuesday, January 31st, 2006

Vox Populi

We’re fortunate to live in a country where popular opinion is so important. In fact, of all the news stories that clamor for our attention, probably none is so important as the reaction of the public-at-large to all those news stories…that’s probably the biggest one of them all.

This creates an interesting dilemma for us, living as we do in a nation where we have the absolute God-given right to form whatever opinion we so choose to form, independent of outside coercion. Do we? Do we, really?

Two things happened yesterday. One, the attempted Senate filibuster against Samuel Alito, was permanently consigned to the mists of history as it became clear Democrats lacked the 41 votes needed to sustain it. This raises the question: What was that all about? It was not about popular will, because if it was, a filibuster would not have been needed. It was not about “loyal dissent,” since the threshold for obstructing Senate action through that loyal dissent, surpassed what could be ginned up by a margin of thirteen votes. Nor was it about the principle of the thing, because for every principle believed to be “defended” by the filibuster, even by the most intellectually reckless, there were two or three more principles to be defended by getting Samuel Alito on the Supreme Court where he belongs. The Judiciary Committee had a whole week to show us how Alito would fail us on the Supreme Court, and all they managed to show was how much Alito had to teach them about American constitutional law.

The other thing that happened, with the filibuster episode safely relegated to the sands of time for all eternity, was that the opinion poll machinery came out of hibernation, brushed its fur, scratched its back against a tree, and started looking for fish and honey. Extra! Extra! Bush support down to 42 percent in poll!

The rating is the worst for a president entering his sixth year in office since the Watergate scandal downed Richard Nixon and reflects war fatigue, persistent discontent on the economy, ethics concerns and rising interest in Democratic alternatives in a midterm election year, ABC reported.

Funny, I didn’t see one single opinion poll about whether the Democrats were on the right track filibustering against Alito.

I would argue that a filibuster poll is more newsworthy than a Presidential approval-ratings poll. If the filibuster is protecting the right of the minority to dissent…don’t we deserve to know what kind of minority that is? Shouldn’t we know whether it’s an almost-majority minority, or a moonbat-minority? Or a flat-earth, “we never landed on the moon” minority? Or…a “handful of senators who are worried sick about raising funds for the midterms” minority? Would that not have been an important thing to know?

President Bush, meanwhile, appears to be doing exactly the same thing about the War on Terror, and about the economy, that any responsible President would be doing, Republican or Democrat. Oh, I’m sure there are millions of people who disagree with me about that…but they’ve had four-years-plus to get their 527 groups started and make the case to me exactly what a better President would have been doing, and all I’ve heard is a lot of “YEEEEEEAAAAARRRGGGHHH!!!” and “Bush LIED!!!” and rumors about Haliburton and Skull-n-Bones. So if my opinion stands that the whole War on Terror is just something any President would do…after one discards the downright irresponsible Presidents we could be having, and thank God we don’t have one of those right now…how does the opinion poll even matter? To say nothing of the fact that, according to the Constitution, President Bush can’t be re-elected again.

We are supposed to be thinking for ourselves in this country. We have the right to do so. All established institutions, private and public, are supposed to be supportive of us in exercising that right — regardless of who disagrees with whom.

And we are supposed to be jealously guarding that right, to form opinions of our own. In fact, if & when we find ourselves agreeing with a great multitude, that’s supposed to be a coincidence…or what happens naturally, when self-evident facts are impressed upon a large number of intelligent, preceptive, independently-thinking conciousnesses.

And yet, our print media tells us when Vox Populi matters. Without much justification. How long do you really have to wait before the next Presidential approval-ratings poll? You’ll see dozens of them, before Memorial Day, and everybody knows this. We expect it. Nobody questions it anymore.

And by omission, it also tells us when Vox Populi is entirely irrelevant. Had we had a Democrat President, and a Republican Senator uttered the syllables “fili” — you would have seen an opinion poll, a la Clinton Impeachment, 1998, before he got to the “buster.” This go-round, however, the press somehow just didn’t find the time to get one going. Too sleepy. In effect, our media decides for us, when we are supposed to be concerned about what everybody else is thinking, and when we are not.

We let them.

Why?

Feelings First, Education Second II

Sunday, January 29th, 2006

Feelings First, Education Second II

I submit that this is being done by highly intelligent and ethical people who have accumulated vast amounts of experience in the print media…acting with the absolute best of intentions.

And yet.

On October 31, the Sacramento Bee printed a story called “Young Futures on the Line,” subtitled “First in an occasional series on the California High School Exit Exam and its impact on the class of 2006″ (link requires registration). The Bee began following around a handful of high school seniors with lukewarm gradepoint averages, and started to monitor how their school careers would be affected by the California State Exit Exam.

Page A1 above the fold, of course. What could be more important than the future of our children.

By January 25, the students, eagerly looking forward to the graduation ceremony, got back the results of the Exit Exam. Some passed, and some failed (link also requires registration). The Bee followed up with a special installment to the series, probing the emotional impact involved when young people are told their best isn’t good enough. An interesting leitmotif bubbling to the surface of this particular installment, several times, was that the conundrum was a consequence of California having an Exit Exam. It was not a consequence of kids screwing around, or a local education system failing to deliver the goods, or parents creating a home environments encouraging bad study habits. The test was the problem. Kill the messenger.

I note the following:

1. The January 25 installment really doesn’t have a lot to do with the young “futures.” It has to do with the present. As in, the feelings of disappointment involved when you fail to pass the Exit Exam. The implication is that the students have experienced, for the very first time, an episode in which they have failed to perform, and this has an impact on their prospects of getting something they want. This concept appears to pack a lot of novelty for students who are in their final year within the K-12 system. That is really, really disturbing.

2. The real concern that was addressed in the story, was the prospect of graduating with the class. That is not a “future” concern, except to say the actual commencement ceremonies are technical a few months into the “future”. Most of us, when we use the word “future” with regard to young people and their educational careers, refer to something quite different, and quite a bit more important.

3. Retaking the Exit Exam can be done in February and again in May. Should the students pass in February, they have a good shot at graduating with the rest of the class, which means nothing will have been changed by the Exit Exam except for the arrival of a momentary, perhaps well-needed little scare — permanently relegated to the past.

4. Should the February scores fail, the failing students will have yet another chance to take the Exam in May, at which time, should they then pass, they will receive an actual high school diploma — not a GED. They will suffer only to the extent that they will not receive this diploma with the rest of the class.

5. Should they take the Exam in May and fail at that time, then they’ll have to pursue diploma equivalents such as the General Educational Development (GED), or the California High School Proficiency Exam. The California State Exit Exam is needed only for the actual diploma, not for the diploma-equivalent alternatives.

6. As I recall, the way this story was actually printed on the paper, you became aware of #1, above, by reading the first page. You would not have been aware of #2, #3, #4 or #5 unless you took the time to complete the first page and break the newspaper open to pursue the story somewhere inside. I do not know if that was deliberate, nor does it very much matter.

7. The very first paragraph of this installment documents an incident of a named minor deliberately damaging public property. It appears the public is expected to take note of that only for purposes of identifying how frustrated the student is with the notice that he has failed the math portion of the Exam.

8. Further down in the story (and floating over the story in large, bold type, as I recall) is the quote “That ain’t my goal, to go to no night school and not walk the stage.” Someone working at the paper thought it was important for readers to become aware of this quote. The impression that this particular quote conveys to some of us, I suspect, is different from what was intended by whoever chose to include it.

9. As is always the case in the Sacramento Bee, I’m being summoned to feel sorry for poor people who wear much, much, much nicer clothes than I usually wear, especially the shoes which are top-of-the-line, brand-spanking new, and in this case even get a mention at the top of the story.

Now, I don’t mean to imply that people who work in the print media are stupid. Some of them are a lot smarter than I am. Probably, a whole lot of them. But their thinking is flat. It is insect-like; what one of them thinks, it appears that all of them think. That is a great pity, because one of the basic tenets long cherished by the “hive” is that diversity is a positive attribute and, heck, our hive is as diverse as anybody else’s, if not moreso.

But how diverse are they in the field of ideas? Nobody stopped to think that the quote, cited in #8, made the poor high school senior look like a dumbass.

Once you read between the lines, you see this is nothing more than a hit piece on the Exit Exam. We gotta get rid of it, it hurts the kids’ feelings. What this piece does to actually support the Exit Exam, potent as it may be, is unintentional. I’m going to go waaaay out on a limb, and just guess at that.

Such experienced, intelligent, and talented people can collaborate together and put so much effort into putting out Message A, and contrary to their intentions, end up broadcasting Message B. Message B, quite the opposite of A, specifically pointed out that we have these kids whose diplomas would have meant nothing, had the Exit Exam not rescued them by throwing a tiny little bit of personal accountability their way, probably for the first time in twelve years and maybe for the last time in decades. How is it that the experienced, intelligent, and talented people seem to be so oblivious to this? Our print media enjoys First Amendment protections well above-and-beyond what is enjoyed by people in the electronic media…certainly, above-and-beyond what is enjoyed by professionals in talk radio! They’re supposed to have this protection, and the reason for it is that we, their readers, should be introduced to ideas to which we otherwise would not have been exposed.

But we have this fire-ant thinking going on. In the print media, worse than what one hears on talk radio. Nobody in the newspapers, particularly in the large metropolitan areas like Sacramento, seems to be searcing for the salient point that nobody has made quite yet. Nobody’s going after the better-mousetrap. And based on what’s appeared in print in front of me, here, it doesn’t look like “diverse” mindsets are being herded into conference rooms to get into intellectual conflicts and emerge with products that offer robust, multi-directional viewpoints on the news that can offer the reader some perspective.

They just covered their front page with a bunch of doom-and-gloom about kids who feel bad because they might not be able to graduate with the rest of their class…kids who use “ain’t” when asked how they feel about failing the Exit Exam, and sprinkle so many multi-negatives into one sentence that you can’t interpret from the actual word structure what they’re trying to say.

If you read the whole story, you’re left thinking “Hooray for the California State Exit Exam.”

And the people who wrote the story, remain clueless. They think they just scored a big hit on it.

Amazing.

Feelings First, Education Second

Sunday, January 29th, 2006

Feelings First, Education Second

A British school has passed a policy forbidding students from raising their hands, and forbidding the teachers from calling on those students if the students do raise their hands.

A school in London has banned children from raising their hands in class and teachers from calling on students with their hands raised.

“It is every child’s instinct and every teacher’s instinct as well because it is ingrained in us,” said Andrew Buck, the school’s principal.

“Some pupils are jiggling so much to attract the teacher’s attention that it sometimes looks as if they need the lavatory, then when it is their turn they often don’t know the answer. Boys — and it is usually boys — are seeking attention, so they put their hands up before they have had time to think about the question.”

Buck said the same children often wave their arms in the air, but when teachers try to involve less adventurous pupils by choosing them instead, it leads to feelings of victimization, the Daily Telegraph reported Saturday.

To spare embarrassment of the students who do not know the answer, the school has incorporated a “phone a friend” system, allowing one child to nominate another to take the question instead.

I don’t think I quite understand that last paragraph. The teacher calls on a student who did not raise his hand, and the student, in turn, calls on another student? This would be the egghead of the class every time, wouldn’t it? The brainy kid? Bob sits there all day answering questions while everyone else just redirects to Bob?

What a great bullying tactic that would be…with the force of school policy behind it. It would never cease to be a source of amusement.

Crank Up The Volume, Lose Your Car?

Sunday, January 29th, 2006

Crank Up The Volume, Lose Your Car?

St. Louis is moving a bill along that, if it becomes law, would authorize the police to impound your car if you play the music too loud.

These things are always controversial, and I have a tough time understanding why, because I’m not inclined to appreciate music that makes my head throb. But I do try to understand the other side of things.

Impounding a car for playing loud music is too severe, opponents said, and ripe for abuse.

“It’s almost idiotic for us to take somebody’s car for something like that,” Alderman Stephen Conway said.
:
Bob Pfeiffer, who has been installing custom car stereos for 23 years in St. Louis, said the ordinance could destroy his business.

“I might as well lock my doors now,” said Pfeiffer, who operates Automotion Alarm and Car Stereo on North Broadway.

Not all “tricked out” stereos are used for cruising and thumping music, said Pfeiffer, whose his clients include jazz musicians.

“What a crock,” Pfeiffer said. “It’s really a bogus bill.”

Well, I understand the ripe-for-abuse argument, but it really all comes down to what the environment is like. And this is one of those situations where it’s probably a good thing that I don’t get to decide if this is good or bad, because I don’t live in St. Louis. As usual, though, if called upon to form an opinion, I look first toward the things one side alleges that nobody on the other side disputes, for whatever reason they choose not to. The article makes mention that previous ordinances have carried exactly the same definition of the “auditory graffiti,” as the councilman who wrote the new bill calls it, although the penalties have stopped short of confiscation. That councilman, Graig Schmid, makes mention of windows rattling.

Other aldermen said loud music coming from cars is among their top complaints from constituents. Nobody in the entire article bothered to say “naw, c’mon, it’s not that bad.” Maybe they would have, if asked. But I can only go by what I see here.

No, the opponents to this bill are focused on whining.

But the new measure would outlaw possessing or installing any car stereo with a speaker over a foot in diameter; having more than one speaker 10 inches in diameter; more than 10 speakers overall; more than two amplifiers; and any amplifier over 300 watts.
:
On Friday, some aldermen complained that the measure is heavy-handed. Stephen Gregali, who represents the 14th Ward, questioned whether police would get rulers to measure the length of speakers.

“It’s like killing an ant with a howitzer,” Alderman Charles Q. Troupe said of the measure.

Gosh, Alderman Troupe. Golly, Alderman Gregali. I’m not sure I understand what the complaint is. Ten inches? Police with rulers? City councils pass ordinances based on inches, feet, ounces, tons…all the time. When things are outlawed, there are measurements involved. That’s a good thing, too. You wouldn’t want to have a speed ordinance in your neighborhood that says “Don’t drive TOO FAST through here, m’kay,” leaving that up to the interpretation of whoever enforces or adjudicates every single violation of that ordinance. That would be a mess.

It would also be a mess to base it on decibels…which a lot of cities do nonetheless, and for all I know, maybe there’s some language about decibels in this ordinance too. Imagine coralling witnesses to a noise infraction, and having people who don’t even know what a decibel is, say “yeah, whatever it is you’re talking about, that guy was definitely over it.” Ten inch speakers on the equipment — that is about as measurable, and therefore about as fair, as you can get.

Again: nobody in the article is saying that’s too stringent. Nobody in the article is questioning whether that is a problem. They’re arguing against the concept of actually doing something about it…while constituents are complaining, and windows are rattling.

The Most Liberal Movies

Saturday, January 28th, 2006

The Most Liberal Movies

About six months ago I took out a subscription to TOTALFARK, the premium service provided by the Fark.com website. FARK is so awesome, because it has a format that encourages participation from its users, and this has caused it to explode as a presence on the innernets over the last few years or so. Articles are linked from FARK — and web servers collapse. FARK has become an eight hundred pound gorilla.

The other cool thing about FARK is that it is flooded with liberals. Snotty, self-righteous liberals who think they’ve become political geniuses because they watch The Daily Show. Liberals who don’t know or care about the difference between a fact and an opinion. Liberals who patrol the innernets as self-appointed Thought Cops, looking for evidence of opinions different from their own, be they legitimate opinions or not, so they can “correct” those “wrong” ideas and make sure the “right” ideas always have The Last Word.

So as a paid subscriber, how in the world could I resist linking The Political Teen’s list of the 100 most liberal movies of all time. Political Teen compiled the list by tabulating the amounts of money contributed to liberal causes by each well-known actor in recent times, and then compiling a database of who appeared in what film. From this, a point system was devised where each liberal movie was assigned a negative number, and then the list was simply sorted — with “American President” on top.

The consensus came back rapidly: The list is stupid. The content was stupid, and the concept was stupid. One guy offered a comment, with which I had to agree, suggesting “what about judging the movie based on content, rather than the polictical affiliation of the actors or directors invovled? …me thinks someone has a small penis.”

I don’t know about the penis thing. Mine is anything but small, of course, but more to the point, I have to take similar issue with Political Teen’s list. If the object of the exercise is to keep money out of the pockets of Hollywood liberals, then by all means, the criteria is correct. But let’s be realistic. Robert Redford is not going to the poorhouse anytime soon…and if he ever does, I can guarantee nobody close to him is going to say “you’d be rolling in it if you were a Republican, Bob.” No, Hollywood stars go supernova when the plastic surgery stops working. When they make the wrong enemies. Besides, not that I know any movie stars personally, but I get the impression they’re not known for blaming themselves when things turn sour.

But if the goal is to protest Hollywood’s service as a satellite office of Liberal America, and its investiture as a self-annointed High Priesthood of Truth, presuming to tell the rest of us what opinions we’re supposed to have, a simple change to the criteria can help achieve this. And the FARK person quoted above is right on the money. Content is important. Much more difficult to monitor across thousands of movies, but still important.

Therefore, I offer, just as a rough draft, my own list of “liberal” movies. But just ten, instead of 100.

1. The Contender, which appears nowhere on Political Teen’s top 100.
2. Fahrenheit 9/11
3. American Beauty
4. Philadelphia
5. Fried Green Tomatoes
6. A Few Good Men
7. Dogma
8. The Rainmaker
9. The Pelican Brief
10. Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones

I don’t claim this to be scientific by any means, but it is based on some kind of a “point” system, processed by the computer that is my gut. I might easily have missed…several hundred.

  • Historical References: Subtle references to real-life history in American politics. For example, there is a line in the Star Wars movies likening one of the lead characters to President Clinton, and the desire by some for Clinton to be allowed to run for a third term.
  • Down with Mayberry: This is a truly brain-damaged practice in which the story pretends to be promoting something, when it’s really declaring war on something. For example, although American Beauty pretends to be complicated, it’s really not much more than an attack on what some would call “family values.” There really wasn’t too much point to Dogma other than an exercise in annoying Christians. A Few Good Men could easily have come in as an hour’s worth of solid movie story, if the hatred for the military were to be stripped out of it.
  • Horse Blinders: Movies dealing with entire political offices and the people who occupy them, like The Contender, have shown a strong tendency to present a single political issue as the entirety of what’s at stake if person A gets into that office as opposed to person B. In real life, of course, most high-profile political offices that have a bearing on one issue, have a bearing on many other important issues as well. The Vice President of the United States has to make decisions about other things besides abortion rights — assuming the VP has much of anything to do with abortion. And you wouldn’t know it from watching The Pelican Brief, but a Supreme Court justice decides on a lot of other issues besides environmental protection.
  • Left-Wing Whining: This is where the movie’s story depends mostly, or completely, on the dictum that conservative politicians or powerful corporate conglomerates are out to screw the little guy. My habit of avoiding these movies doesn’t have quite as much to do with conservative activism, as judicious spending of my entertainment dollars. I’ve found once a movie has pushed a story involving hearty, threadbare and ethical people being pushed around by greedy, profiteering white males, such movies don’t appear to be pressured to do too much else. By itself, that’s not the way I want to spend three hours and nine dollars.
  • Couldn’t Have Said It Better Myself… II

    Saturday, January 28th, 2006

    Couldn’t Have Said It Better Myself… II

    And so I shan’t.

    Travsite.com: The “Impeach Bush” Van

    What Big Brass Ones

    Thursday, January 26th, 2006

    What Big Brass Ones

    Obviously, today is a Samuel Alito day.

    Sean Hannity mentioned this just minutes ago, and it took lots of floundering around with Google to find a link to back it up. But here it is. Sen. Kerry calls for filibuster of Alito.

    You’ve got to hand it to Kerry. He has got balls. He’s also living proof that that is not always a good thing.

    Update: The clock was somewhat unkind to James Taranto, OpinionJournal.com. The New York Times editorial calling for this filibuster made his cut-off time, but Sen. Kerry jumped and asked “how high?” a little bit too late to make today’s Best of the Web. Nevertheless, “Best” is, as always, fresh, topical, enlightening reading.

    Update: I’m instructed by my senator what opinion I’m supposed to have on a Wednesday, and on Thursday another senator announces his intent to filibuster just to make sure things happen the way the first senator said they should. Yeah that’s right. Agreements are violated without a second thought, elected representatives dispatch opinions down to their constituents rather than the other way around, dividers call themselves uniters while calling the uniters dividers.

    Had to say something.

    Dear Sen. Boxer,

    Two weeks ago I wrote to you, pointing out how fractured our nation’s political discourse had become. I pointed out that since President Bush had sent to the Senate the nomination of Samuel Alito, Jr., who is acknowledged by everyone paying attention (including you) to be highly qualified for the Supreme Court — this was an historical opportunity to unify. Had you chosen to support this nominee, we would have seen our President and our Democrats in Congress putting aside their differences and finding common ground, to work together.

    Your reply said many things, most notable among these things that 1) you chose to oppose Alito’s nomination, and 2) Bush’s nomination of this judge was the incident at fault for dividing us, and not uniting us. In short, you chose to embrace the concerns with which I had written to you, and the course you chose was one hundred and eighty degrees off from tne one I requested.

    With all the respect due to you and the office you hold, Senator, I don’t know what you’re thinking. My logic was sound; when Republicans and Democrats put aside their differences and work together, reasonable minds may disagree about what’s being done, and I suppose some may say what’s being done is a bad thing. That’s a case of being entitled to your own opinion but not to your own facts. Division is division, and unity is unity. Obviously, you and I both prefer the latter of those two — but since you’ve chosen to oppose a candidate I have persuasively argued is a good fit for the Supreme Court and would be a unifying force, I am, or you are, terribly confused. It has to be one or the other.

    Well, who is confused? You are the one who said “I do not deny Judge Alito’s judicial qualifications. He has been a government lawyer and judge for more than 20 years and the American Bar Association rated him well qualified. He is an intelligent and capable person.” You are also the one who said, “We certainly do not need Supreme Court justices who do not understand this fundamental [Fourth Amendment] constitutional protection.” When you call the same judge “well qualified,” “intelligent,” “capable” and then offer the opinion he does “not understand this fundamental constitutional protection” — I think most people would agree that looks like confusion.

    You’re asking me to believe the President has shown himself to be a dividing force by nominating an intelligent, capable, and well qualified candidate — and you are uniting us by opposing that intelligent, capable, and well qualified candidate. Run that by me again?

    Senator Kerry of Massachusetts has given you one more chance to unite the country, if this is the issue by which it is done, according to this CNN report posted just minutes ago: http://www.cnn.com/2006/POLITICS/01/26/alito/. Sen. Kerry has gone on record asking for a filibuster against Alito.

    This constituent looks toward you, so he can find out if Democrats and Republicans can work together. President Bush has been highly encouraging; he could easily have nominated an intellectual lightweight, determined to swing the Supreme Court to the extreme right, “just because,” and intellectually incapable of answering any probing questions as to why. I think you’ll agree Judge Alito has exceeded that kind of performance, in spades. You, on the other hand, have been a disappointment. Please answer how you’ll handle the filibuster, should Democrats violate the agreement they signed and move to deny Alito an up-or-down vote. Now that you have specifically cited the Senate’s constitutional authority spelled out in Article II, will you make sure the Senate fulfills the obligation that is inextricably intertwined with that authority? Or will you show yourself to be among the senators who believe power can be removed from the associated responsibility, as a banana is removed from its peel?

    Is your Article II power a weighty burden to be shouldered through thick and thin, in the spirit of public service — or just something you get to brag about to your constituents when they write in and try to convince you to do what’s right?

    Since Article II confers on the Senate the power to advise and consent — I ask you to fulfill the constitutional obligation. Dislodge the Kerry bottleneck. Consent. I can’t think of anything more divisive than constitutional officers who refuse to lead, or follow, or get out of the way.

    Sincerely,
    Morgan K. Freeberg

    Participating

    Thursday, January 26th, 2006

    Participating

    Throughout several years, I’ve learned that people who offer opinions at the water cooler are far, far, far more numerous than people who contact their elected representatives who could actually do something about the issues that arouse their concern. I don’t understand why that is. Perhaps it’s because most people are more practical than I am, and figure out that when their representative is just a pinhead left-wing hippy — better to sound off to a co-worker with an open mind, but lacking any power to do anything about the issue, than someone with a closed mind, even if the latter person does have that power.

    Maybe I just have a learning disability and can’t come to understand that. It seems that a lot of our representatives are, indeed, far more responsive to the internal machinations of their parties than they are to the desires of their constituents, but it also seems to me that that’s a self-fulfilling prophecy when those constituents fail to participate in the process. And I don’t mean “vote on election day” when I say participate. I mean take the time to let your representatives know of your concerns.

    Hey look, the congressmen and senators will pretend they listened to you whether they did, or not; whether they’ll be honest when they do so, is up to the people who decide to speak up — or decide not to.

    January 11:

    Dear Sen. Feinstein,

    As you are aware, there are several voters in California who, like me, are legitimately worried about innocent women and children being able to defend themselves when in close proximity to dangerous people.

    We have reason to maintain this concern. Last week, Judge Edward Cashman of Vermont, suspended all but sixty days of the sentence of a habitual child molester. You read that right: A man sexually abused a little girl, at least three times over the last four years, and for this will be required to spend only two months in prison. This has been defended as a clever maneuver to make the offender eligible for “treatment,” but of course there is no guarantee that this treatment will be successful compared to the simple and time-honored recipe of simply keeping the perpetrator where he belongs. Away from children!

    Because of this, and other legal wrangling by our legislatures and judicial officers, both at the state and federal level, we continue to view the task of defending oneself, and one’s dependents, as well as innocent bystanders, just as much a personal obligation as a function of government — if not even moreso. The reason this should be of concern to you, is simple: As a member of the Senate judiciary committee, you sit in judgment of the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito to our nation’s highest court.

    The home page on your website indicates you have serious concerns about Judge Alito’s alleged reticence toward maintaining Congress’ traditional, yet unlegislated, authority to regulate firearms. As your constituent, I implore you to “throttle back” on this concern for two reasons:

    a) To show your respect to the Bill of Rights, amendment by amendment, as each amendment was written. As you are aware, the text of the Second Amendment specifies the right of The People was not to be infringed. It does not prohibit any particular party from doing anything, nor does it extend any guarantee to any party except for The People. The meaning of this law is clear: We, the People, are to enjoy this guarantee, completely, in perpetuity. It is government’s sacred obligation to us to safeguard this guarantee, so historically, the government has not been lax in dismantling this right; if anything, it has been lax in maintaining it.

    b) President Bush has presented to you, and by extension to the concerned voters of California, a unique opportunity to “heal the rift” between blue-staters and red-staters. The committee hearings have made it abundantly clear: Judge Alito would be a fair-minded jurist serving on our nation’s highest court. He would use his authority to do, essentially, what people of conservative and liberal leanings both say they want done on the bench: interpret law, as opposed to inventing new law (or unilaterally gutting old law).

    Senator Feinstein, I implore you to do your part to heal our fractured nation. Recognize the excellent candidate who has been placed before you. Restore our confidence that our leaders, of different parties, can work together. Send Judge Alito’s nomination to the Senate floor for a full vote. Oppose any filibuster, be it actually initiated or merely suggested, and vote to confirm Judge Alito for the Supreme Court.

    Thank you for your consideration,

    Morgan K. Freeberg

    January 12:

    Dear Mr. Freeberg:

    Thank you for writing to me about the nomination of Judge
    Samuel Alito, Jr. to replace Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on the
    Supreme Court. I appreciate hearing from you and welcome this
    opportunity to respond.

    Now that the President has put forth another nominee to succeed
    Justice O’Connor, the Senate Judiciary Committee, of which I am a
    member, must fulfill its obligation to thoroughly review his record, read
    his opinions and evaluate his judicial philosophy.

    This new justice will be critical in the balance with respect to
    rulings on Congressional and Executive authority, as well as a woman’s
    right to privacy, environmental protections, and many other aspects of
    Constitutional law. Since Judge Alito has been nominated to fill Justice
    O’Connor’s seat, the extraordinary importance of this nomination
    cannot be overstated. Having said that, I intend to reserve judgment until
    our due diligence and the formal hearings in January are completed.

    Once again, thank you for sharing your views with me. I will be
    sure to take them into consideration as the nomination process moves
    forward. Should you have any additional comments or questions, please
    feel free to contact my office in Washington, D.C. at (202) 224-3841.

    Sincerely yours,

    Dianne Feinstein
    United States Senator

    January 11:

    Dear Sen. Boxer,

    It appears likely that soon, the nomination of Judge Samuel A. Alito to the Supreme Court will proceed to the floor of the Senate for a vote.

    I’m sure you share the concerns that I, as one of your constituents, have about the fracturing of our country’s political dialog. It seems lately that very little of what a Republican political figure has to say anymore, has any intellectual applicability to any one of his constituents who “lean left,” nor does the material put out by a Democratic leader have any use to a constituent who favors the “right.” This has been getting worse in recent years.

    President Bush has presented to you, and by extension to the concerned voters of California, a unique opportunity to heal the rift. The committee hearings have made it abundantly clear: Judge Alito would be a fair-minded jurist serving on our nation’s highest court. He would use his authority to do, essentially, what people of conservative and liberal leanings both say they want done on the bench: interpret law, as opposed to inventing new law (or unilaterally gutting old law).

    Senator Boxer, I implore you to do your part to heal our fractured nation. Recognize the excellent candidate who has been placed before you. Restore our confidence that our leaders can work together. Oppose any filibuster, be it actually initiated or merely suggested, and vote to confirm Judge Alito for the Supreme Court.

    Thank you for your consideration,

    Morgan K. Freeberg

    January 24:

    Dear Mr. Freeberg:

    Thank you for writing to me about President Bush’s nomination of Judge Samuel A. Alito to serve as Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

    As you may know, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the nomination of Judge Alito on January 24, 2006. Below please find a statement that I delivered in opposition to Judge Alito’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court:

    Following that Sen. Boxer attached, in total, a statement I found on her website through a search engine. You can read it here.

    You Aren’t Kirk, And Kirk Wasn’t Always Right

    Wednesday, January 25th, 2006

    You Aren’t Kirk, And Kirk Wasn’t Always Right

    How many times have we seen this…

    Captain Kirk quickly determines that a planet must be explored, and takes two or three of the highest-ranking officers on his entire starship, plus a guy in a red shirt never seen before, to the surface. They happen to “beam down” to a point on that surface within fifty feet of the guy in charge of running the entire planet, some distinguished-looking caucasian geezer, who promptly introduces himself and speaks perfect English. The guy who runs the planet is a Viceroy, or a Proconsul, or a Tsar, or an Emperor, or an Ambassador, and wears Old-Testament style flowing robes. He has exactly one (1) gorgeous, nubile daughter who has never seen men before and finds Captain Kirk fascinating. The planet is completely lacking in old women, young men, and handrails. The guy in the red shirt dies a horrible, gruesome death. Kirk demands answers. Kirk teaches the nubile daughter how to kiss.

    Then the show gets philosophical. Viceroy Flowing-Robes blames some monster, or underclass, or political dissident faction, for the plague, famine, drought, disease, lack of access to vital medicines, violence, or climate change. Kirk thinks it’s possible to reason with the monster/underclass/faction, and Viceroy Flowing-Robes insists that physical force is the only way to prevail. They argue. At this point of the show, there is some plot twist that varies from one episode to the next, culminating in some tricky situation Kirk and Spock can’t possibly survive. Break for commercial. After the commercial, Kirk and Spock triumph against the odds, and as frosting on the cake Kirk manages to negotiate a seemingly-impossible truce between Viceroy Flowing-Robes and the monster/underclass/faction. Viceroy Flowing-Robes bows to Kirk’s superior wisdom, and after Kirk and Spock beam up, McCoy makes some smartass remark. Credits roll.

    I’m reading through the letters to the editor about the missile strike in Pakistan, and I’m also reading some of the postings in response to the film clips that show the things Saddam did before he was removed from power (shocking video, not safe for work, view in private, turn down volume, not for squeamish). When the events in our news get ugly, I’m seeing a common theme in the comments offered by those who take the “ostrich approach” to the ugliness. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it has a lot to do with “not descending to their level.” Lots of finger-waggling. Lots of cluck-clucking. Lots of “catch more flies with honey than vinegar” sermonizing.

    I think we need to round up all the old episodes of Star Trek, and do something with them. Bury them in a time capsule until we’re mature enough to watch them again. I’m not saying Captain Kirk’s message wasn’t good, for the time in which it was produced. Racial tensions, civil rights issues, war protests…in a climate like that, it has a beneficial effect on society when you can get the word out that “just because you don’t understand something, doesn’t make it automatically evil.” It’s a good message, one for the ages.

    But probably not a good message for this age. Or more precisely, for the enemy we face. Call me nuts, but I’m having a hard time looking at a fellow with darker skin who is trying to secure the right to vote that was guaranteed to him a century before…or a jew trying to escape persecution, or a woman trying to earn a fair wage, or a homosexual who doesn’t want to be beaten up…and seeing them on equal footing with terrorists. I think since anything that’s a “dialog” by definition involves two parties, you need two votes to keep that dialog on a higher moral road. Pacifism on one side, isn’t good enough. One of the signs that you’ve fallen short of those two votes, is when the other guy is killing innocent civilians just to make a political point. There are other signs, too. Lack of participation in a higher dialog, or demonstrated lack of capacity. If this were not true, we wouldn’t order exterminators when we find termite damage or ant infestation. Sometimes you need two votes…or else, down to the “lower level” you go, and you shouldn’t lose sleep over it.

    So yeah, in real life sometimes I think Captain Kirk is wrong and High Commissioner Flowing-Robes has the right idea. In fact, in real life, there would be more than a few episodes where Spock would take the side of Flowing-Robes, and lecture his peacenik boss about the folly of subordinating logic to emotion. We’re living in one of those episodes now…and the people who have obsessed too much about the social messages from Star Trek, are very likely to get some of us killed.

    Healthcare Redux

    Tuesday, January 24th, 2006

    Healthcare Redux

    Hopefully, the Republicans have already won the 2006 elections. Those won’t be happening for another eight months, but there is good reason to hope this. Powerful Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton, looking around for some reasons people might possibly have to vote for Democrats this year, has settled on bitching about our healthcare system.

    She’s right to bitch, because our healthcare system certainly needs work. But two years ago Democrats learned that when you bitch, the bitching isn’t enough, and voters — damn those voters! — actually want to see a plan before you’ll get enough votes to put you over the top.

    Maybe that will come later. For now, it’s just the bitching. It’s all pissing and moaning. It’s…

    But she added, “Today, we’re making things worse with deliberate neglect and flawed policies that are diminishing the coverage that Americans have.”
    :
    Clinton’s comments on health care were the latest in a series of sharp criticisms of the White House. Last week, she took aim at the administration’s handling of the nuclear standoff in Iran, just two days after saying it would go down as “one of the worst” presidencies in U.S. history.

    There are some awfully smart people who know more about politics than I do, and make good money managing campaigns, who obviously disagree with me with what I’m about to say — but history backs me up. If you want to take down the status quo and replace it with something else, badmouthing the status quo won’t get you there. In fact, you’re better off saying good things about the status quo you want to displace. It’s called “The Kiss of Death,” and Democrats, for whatever reason, can’t use it. George Bush wouldn’t even be President right now if Democrats had what it takes to say “the guy you got now is doing an okay job, heck, he’s better than okay, but I think we can do better.

    There is a movement afoot in the Democratic party to use the last four words of what I just wrote, “we can do better”. This is not new. “We can do better” has always been a powerful statement, because it appeals to instincts hard-wired into us: After we finish what seems to be a herculean effort today, we should refine things so that tomorrow the same work is second-nature, and the results much more assuredly positive. And, of course, once that is done, tomorrow we should find ways to do what seems impossible today.

    Hillary obviously thinks we can do better, but a central theme going through all her speeches now is that this is the only direction where we can go, because things are so bad. Flawed policies. Deliberate neglect. One of the worst administrations in history.

    It wasn’t always done this way. Take a look at how Hillary’s husband used “we can do better,” during, for example, his State of the Union addresses. You’ll notice he didn’t use “we can do better” in quite the same context that Democrats use the same phraseology today.

    2000: We also can’t reward work and family unless men and women get equal pay for equal work. Today the female unemployment rate is the lowest it has been in 46 years. Yet, women still only earn about 75 cents for every dollar men earn. We must do better, by providing the resources to enforce present equal pay laws, training more women for high-paying, high-tech jobs, and passing the “Paycheck Fairness Act.”

    1999: SAT scores are up. Math scores have risen in nearly all grades. But there’s a problem: While our fourth-graders outperform their peers in other countries in math and science, our eighth-graders are around average, and our 12th-graders rank near the bottom. We must do better.

    1996: As workers increase their hours and their productivity, employers should make sure they get the skills they need and share the benefits of the good years, as well as the burdens of the bad ones. When companies and workers work as a team they do better, and so does America.

    1995: We need to help move programs down to the point where States and communities and private citizens in the private sector can do a better job. If they can do it, we ought to let them do it. We should get out of the way and let them do what they can do better. Taking power away from Federal bureaucracies and giving it back to communities and individuals is something everyone should be able to be for.

    1994: Every plan before the Congress proposes to slow the growth of Medicare. The difference is this: We believe those savings should be used to improve health care for senior citizens. Medicare must be protected, and it should cover prescription drugs, and we should take the first steps in covering long- term care. To those who would cut Medicare without protecting seniors, I say the solution to today’s squeeze on middle-class working people’s health care is not to put the squeeze on middle-class retired people’s health care. We can do better than that.

    1993: Two decades of low productivity and stagnant wages; persistent unemployment and underemployment; years of huge government deficits and declining investment in our future; exploding health care costs, and lack of coverage; legions of poor children; educational and job training opportunities inadequate to the demands of a high wage, high growth economy. For too long we drifted without a strong sense of purpose, responsibility or community, and our political system too often was paralyzed by special interest groups, partisan bickering and the sheer complexity of our problems. I know we can do better, because ours remains the greatest nation on earth, the world’s strongest economy, and the world’s only military superpower.

    Look at what you’ve got going on here. Bill Clinton, the guy who actually won a couple of times, almost never said “it is a neverending morass of muck and mire and surrounded by the putrid stench of failure and when one wades into it his eardrums swell with the sound of weeping, wailing and the gnashing of teeth and I know we can do better.” President Clinton nearly always found a little bit of sugar in the status quo. We had the world’s best military, our fourth graders were already outperforming other fourth graders in other countries, and the female unemployment rate was at a record low. (Look over those excerpts again; where Clinton says “do better” without commenting on the status quo, he’s commenting on the concept of doing better, which resonates with people just as well.)

    I’m feeling much more optimistic now than I did after the special elections in California a couple of months ago, at least when it comes to my hopes and dreams of Democrats continually losing until they go away. Part of the reason for my optimism is that while Republicans remain disorganized and while the electorate nurtures an embryonic apetite for “a little bit of hammer-and-sickle redistributionism,” no Democrat who is big enough to get his name in the limelight seems capable of doing what Bill Clinton did. They can’t say “there is a lot that’s good about the status quo but there are shortfalls too, and we can do better.” If they said that, they’d do what Bill Clinton did: Win. This is such an intoxicating elixir, when you say “you done good — let’s see if we can improve some more.” People can’t get enough of that.

    Hillary and crew simply cannot do this. When they use the word “flaw” in describing status quo, they aren’t talking about subtle defects that force that status quo to fall short of perfection; they’re talking about something that plunges that status quo into the depths of untreated human waste. What they don’t realize, or don’t care to respond to, is that this moves their criticism into an entirely different realm. If they can’t say anything nice about things the way they are, that means when they talk of “doing better” all they’re talking about is retreat.

    People need to satisfy a much higher burden of proof before they support a strategy of retreat. Even in their depths of their subconsciousness, people realize when you talk about retreat, you’re talking about three big up-front costs: 1) stopping, which means whatever momentum you’ve built up, must be surrendered; 2) identifying a new course, which must mean identifying whatever factors led to the old, wrong course, and getting rid of them before a new bearing can be identified; 3) spending time and effort building momentum again, which otherwise would have been used on things you can do once the momentum is built up.

    Result: When your clarion call is a strategy that involves retreat, you can prove to me beyond any doubt that a cul de sac is ahead and retreat is the only option — and I still might not be convinced of your strategy. Selling such a strategy is a real uphill battle. That’s why President Clinton almost never did it.

    But the Bill Clinton way of organizing the Democratic party seems to be over. Anyone who finds a silver lining in the status quo will be fired! Look at what they have going on here: George W. Bush can’t do anything right, and everything is his fault. George W. Bush is a big stupid doo-doo-head who is too much of an imbecile to tie his own shoes. And yet, George W. Bush is an evil genius who has taken over the world by fooling us all.

    Have they given any thought to what this would say about us? That we can be fooled so easily by a man too stupid to tie his own shoes?

    Hillary, then, is gearing up to sell a healthcare plan, which is an echo from the past, in which her healthcare plan cost her husband a friendly Congress. Being “co-President” with a man who was smart enough to talk about “doing better” at least in somewhat glowing terms before describing his reforms, she talked healthcare, and gave her husband his one big black eye from all those years.

    And now, she’s doing the same thing, except without talking about the status quo in glowing terms. It’s like someone on her staff decided it would be a great idea to take everything from the past that didn’t work, and carefully strip it from all the stuff that did work. This is insane. It’s like throwing out the baby and keeping all the dirty diapers.

    Blame it on knuckleheaded advisors, or blame it on groups that weren’t around twelve years ago like Moveon.org. It’s clear that Democrats need maneuvering room in order to succeed, and they just don’t have it. Whether they know what they’re doing or not, their plan is to keep what doesn’t work, get rid of what does, and hope to do better than last time.

    We want these guys to run our country?

    What The Hell Happened?

    Friday, January 20th, 2006

    What The Hell Happened?

    The One For Whom My Affection Is Unlimited sent me an e-mail this morning. It was too good not to link, so I hit the search engines with the most remote hope that I could possibly correctly give credit where it is due.

    I have failed. The oldest link I can find is to April Shenandoah, writing for the American Partisan in September 2003, and she as much as states she is not the original author. Interestingly, Shenandoah recites this in exactly the same politically-incorrect way I came across it this morning, although the newer recitations appear to have “spruced it up” for wider consumption — you’ll see how at the end.

    Below is a list of our taxes that I received from the Internet — and recently heard on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show.

    Accounts Receivable Tax
    Building Permit Tax
    Capital Gains Tax
    CDL license Tax
    Cigarette Tax
    Corporate Income Tax
    Court Fines (indirect taxes)
    Dog License Tax
    Federal Income tax
    Federal Unemployment tax (FUTA)
    Fishing License tax
    Food License tax
    Fuel Permit Tax
    Gasoline Tax (42 cents per gallon)
    Hunting License Tax
    Inheritance Tax Interest expense (tax on the money)
    Inventory tax IRS Interest Charges (tax on top of tax)
    IRS Penalties (tax on top of tax)
    Liquor Tax
    Local Income Tax
    Luxury Taxes
    Marriage License Tax
    Medicare Tax
    Property Tax
    Real Estate Tax
    Pistol Permit Tax
    Septic Permit Tax
    Service Charge Taxes
    Social Security Tax
    Road Usage Taxes (Truckers)
    Sales Taxes
    Recreational Vehicle Tax
    Road Toll Booth Taxes
    School Tax
    State Income Tax
    State Unemployment Tax (SUTA)
    Telephone federal excise tax
    Telephone federal universal service fee tax
    Telephone federal, state and local surcharge tax
    Telephone recurring and non-recurring charges tax
    Telephone state and local tax
    Telephone usage charge tax
    Toll Bridge Taxes
    Toll Tunnel Taxes
    Traffic Fines (indirect taxation)
    Trailer registration tax
    Utility Taxes
    Vehicle Sales Tax
    Watercraft registration Tax
    Well Permit Tax
    Workers Compensation Tax

    In PA there is a “right to work tax.”

    NOTE: Not one of these taxes existed 100 years ago and our nation was the most prosperous in the world, had absolutely no national debt, had the largest middle class in the world and Mom stayed home to raise the kids.

    What the H— happened?

    Now if you want to get philosophical about this, which most people don’t, the answer is a little complicated. The income tax came along years before women got the right to vote, which in turn happened generations before it became widely accepted for women to go out and work.

    Women working didn’t cause anything to happen. Women working was a symptom of something else, and all these taxes, also, are a symptom of something else. It was the industrial revolution. Things just plain work differently in an industrialized world. And people come to be concerned about different things.

    Prohibition is a great example. We didn’t give women the right to vote and then stand by and watch as they outlawed booze. The amendment was actually ratified before womens’ suffrage became effective. But — those who were allowed to vote on passing that amendment, and ratifying it, did what those in government always do: They foretold. They anticipated. They read the tea leaves.

    And even that is different, since being an elected representative has different connotations in an industrial environment than it does in an agricultural one. Our Founding Fathers (whoops! — sorry, gals) did all kinds of stuff, once elected into the government they started, that no modern politician would do. These things would have been too “dangerous.”

    Therefore — and this is just my opinion, I can’t prove it — it was pre-determined that if we were to outlaw booze through a constitutional amendment, it would happen inside of a year or two of women’s suffrage. We could somehow go back in time and start the whole experiment all over again, and it would happen that way. Again. And again. And again.

    That’s because when society is modernized, people get uppity about their rights relative to the rights other groups of people have. And politicans start making a career out of being a politician. It’s human nature. When the republic started, if you served in the Senate, you served in the Senate and…went home and harvested cabbage and squash so your family would have something to eat. If you were a Supreme Court justice, you served on the Supreme Court and…harvested cabbage and squash. Thomas Jefferson invented stuff, founded colleges, served two terms as our President and…plowed. That’s just the way it worked.

    You know, think about it. It’s February, and you have to worry about the October harvest. Maybe insects will eat your crops. You do have some fluidity…you could have a good year of sugarbeets and a lousy year for potatoes, and if your neighbor ends up with lots of potatoes and is short on his beets, you can swap. But maybe there won’t be any rain. What will you do then?

    Some golf club isn’t admitting women? How is it you have time to worry about such things? If you need more work to do, I have extra plows. You wanna eat, right?

    It’s a continuing source of amazement to me, as I read the biographies of people who were alive at that time, how immersed they were in the continuing practice of reading and writing. Today, we don’t have to spend any actual time actually doing much of anything. What would Thomas Jefferson give up for a luxury like that? You’d think we could read and write up the yin-yang.

    And yet I can write 2,700 words, and people who somehow have time to scour the innernets “policing” everybody’s opinions to make sure nobody disagrees with them, see fit to bitch about the 2,700 words.

    It just goes to show. Once a standard of living increases, you get this situation where you round up a hundred randomly-selected, widely repeated complaints — what you end up with is maybe one valid complaint and ninety-nine sacks of bullshit, minus the sacks.

    Thing I Know #7. A lot of what passes for bad news in a technological society, wouldn’t be discussed in an agricultural one because it would be a waste of time.

    Are You Up To The Challenge

    Friday, January 20th, 2006

    Are You Up To The Challenge

    See if you have what it takes to simply read the news, and figure out what’s really going on. And no, I’m not talking about “why don’t you go fishing with Michael Corleone’s bodyguard” means something else, or anything like that. I’m talking about simply reading the news, and figuring out what the stated truth is.

    Item:
    Interviewed by Wolf Blitzer on CNN, Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean insisted there is no connection, whatsoever, between scandal catalyst Jack Abramoff and any Democrat, whatsoever. “There are no Democrats who took money from Jack Abramoff…not one. Not one single Democrat. … There is no evidence that Jack Abramoff ever gave any Democrat any money and we’ve looked through all those FEC reports to make sure that’s true.” BradBlog has video.

    Item:
    Clarence Page, writing for the Washington Times, does his homework and figures out Howard Dean is absolutely correct.

    Unless you’ve been on the moon for a while, you probably have heard that Abramoff is a formerly well-connected Republican who has pleaded guilty to federal charges tied to his lobbying operations. Right-wing bloggers and others pounced on Dean and flailed away, since a number of Democratic senators and congressmen already have given Abramoff-associated money to charity. How, then, could Dean say otherwise? Right? But, I checked it out and, guess what? Dean was right.

    Item:
    Gateway Pundit reports, citing an article from PowerLine, which links back to the Republican National Senatorial Committee, that 40 of 45 Democratic senators took Abramoff money. (All these links are just bookmarking for posterity; if you somehow miss them, it really shouldn’t take much to hit a search engine and verify all of this.)

    Item:
    For issuing a 27-page government funded report called “Republican Abuse of Power,” and actually singling out 33 GOP senators, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid issues a written apology.

    “The document released by my office yesterday went too far and I want to convey to you my personal regrets,” Reid said in a letter. “I am writing to apologize for the tone of this document and the decision to single out individual senators for criticism in it.” Reid came under attack Wednesday over the report, which was issued by his staff on Senate letterhead, even as he and fellow Democrats released ethics overhaul proposals. “Researching, compiling and distributing what amounts to nothing more than a campaign ad on the taxpayers� dime raises serious ethical questions,” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, one of the lawmakers named.

    COMMENT:
    It has become awfully trendy lately to cast a jaundiced eye toward government. That is a good thing — or to state it more precisely, it would be a very bad thing to purge ourselves of this healthy cynicism. But if any particular agent must be present in one place to keep bad stuff from happening, that agent must be present in other places to keep bad stuff from happening too, no?

    Have you exercised your healthy suspicion of people who actually bring you the news lately?

    I’ve got four links up there. Two of them make Republicans look bad and two of them make Democrats look bad. Which ones do I endorse? None of them. They’re all lying by omission.

    Your assignment, dear reader, should you choose to accept it, is to figure out which hairs are being split, and how. Who, if anyone, is guilty of technically lying, and who is committing the far more egregious violation of lying in spirit while carefully adhering to a meaningless truth word-for-word.

    You could choose to pass this up, but be advised that there really is no other reason to vote for Democrats this fall — that’s not just my opinion, that party has steadfastly refused to trot out any other national agenda (“I hate Bush” doesn’t count). Therefore, in nine months we’re going to be arguing about “Abramoff is a Republican scandal!” “No it’s not!” “Yes it is!” “No it’s not!”

    You’ll run into it at work. At the hardware store. At the Friday night block parties. At Thursday night bowling. You won’t hear it all the time, but it’ll be a little bit difficult to get away from it. So it pays to be informed.

    Kind of an easy call.

    Overwhelming Majority Of You

    Thursday, January 19th, 2006

    Overwhelming Majority Of You

    From a culture elsewhere on the planet where you apparently can’t even pick your nose or squeeze a zit without signaling your strength and/or weaknesses to anyone watching — Osama bin Laden sends two messages to us. a) He’s about to kick our asses, and 2) he offers a truce. Pretty freakin’ weird.

    It’s the third message buried much further in the transcripts that raises my eyebrows a little:

    Your President Bush has been misleading you. He has lied when he said that the people are behind him. Opinion polls have indicated that the overwhelming majority of you want him to pull the troops out of our land.

    Okay, let’s noodle this one out. Who is bin Laden talking to about these opinion polls? Is it the “overwhelming majority” who want the President to pull out of Iraq and effectively surrender, or the underwhelming minority like me who are in favor of winning? Maybe he’s going after both?

    To resolve that, let’s shift the topic to something else to help tone down the emotional glare. Suppose bin Laden sends a tape to us so he can let us know that, gee whiz, if we haven’t gotten around to seeing that new movie “The 40 Year Old Virgin” we should probably get with it because it’s a real hoot! Ha ha! That Steve Carell, he’s so funny that we don’t know what we’re missing. C’mon you old fuddy-duddies living in the Great Satan that is America, get the sticks out of your butts and have a good time for once. Besides, polls say the overwhelming majority of us have seen the movie and agree with bin Laden. Funny, funny, funny!

    See, if you’re bin Laden you wouldn’t do that. Osama’s a sharp enough guy to realize that sure, we got some people here stateside who see things the way he does, and we got some people who don’t — and there really isn’t anyone ready to advance the argument that bin Laden’s a big dummy, although millions of people feel that way about their own President. But when it comes to persuading people to come ’round to Osama’s way of thinking, he doesn’t pack a lot of endorsement punch. Put another way, if I like to hang my toilet paper over the roll instead of under it, I’m not likely to change my mind because Osama bin Laden sends me a message, “I put it under the roll, and the vast majority of your fellow Great Satanists do the same.”

    I’m not going to change my mind about a movie I decided not to watch, because bin Laden sent me a message saying hey, trust me, it’s a crack-up.

    And the same principle applies for everything all the way down the list. I like to use a spoon to crack open hard-boiled eggs. I’m not going to start banging eggs against the side of the pan because Osama bin Laden cracks his against a rock, and the vast majority of Americans do, too. I like strong black coffee with no cream, and if Osama bin Laden tells me the vast majority of Americans prefer a Vanilla Latte Mocha Machiatto…you get the idea.

    And the principle applies to the war in Iraq.

    Osama bin Laden is politically astute enough to realize all this, so it’s pretty silly to take this part of the tape at face value and interpret it as a “c’mon, all you Americans who are opposed to pulling troops out…get with it. You’re in the minority.” He’s not using peer pressure to persuade the hostile audience, or even for that matter, to persuade the unconvinced.

    This is a pep talk for Americans who already agree with him. The anti-war pinheads. Keep at it, guys. Don’t forget that you’re in the “overwhelming majority.” You might see some discouraging signs soon, so just keep your majority status in mind. Who ya gonna believe, CNN and your buddy Osama, or your lyin’ eyes?

    A Ton of Cronkite’s Opinion

    Wednesday, January 18th, 2006

    A Ton of Cronkite’s Opinion

    Two thousand pounds of Walter Cronkite’s opinion went sloshing around I-5 near my old stomping grounds of Everett, Washington, and got spilled.

    It stunk to high heaven, according to nearby sources. Some of it sloshed over into the cab, oh what a glamorous job, and some of it spilled into the southbound lanes.

    Seattle Post-Intelligencer has more.

    If you think traffic stinks where you are, just be thankful you weren’t southbound Tuesday on Interstate 5.

    About 2,000 pounds of treated human waste with the consistency of fresh cow manure spilled into freeway about 11 a.m. when the driver of a southbound tractor-trailer rig braked suddenly to avoid a stopped vehicle about 25 miles north of Seattle, Washington State Patrol investigators said.

    The trailer had only a cloth top, and much of the waste sloshed over the truck cab and across a wide section of the road, patrol Sgt. Craig H. Johnson told The Herald of Everett.

    “It stunk,” Johnson said.

    It took until 4 p.m. — after the start of the evening commute — to finish vacuuming up the mucky waste, which was being hauled from a wastewater treatment plant on Fidalgo Island near Anacortes to be made into compost in Tenino, near Olympia.

    You know how I would have worded the first sentence of that article? Instead of making reference to “if you think traffic stinks where you are,” I would have said something about “if you think you hate your job…”

    Speaking Your Mind

    Wednesday, January 18th, 2006

    Speaking Your Mind

    Eight months ago this blog took a look at a much-lauded performance by Rosie O’Donnell on Geraldo Rivera’s show, which she somehow managed to get in while Rivera showered praise on her like a firehose of flattery. The transcript of this exchange disturbs me just as much today as it did back then. And it’s not because I disagree with O’Donnell’s comments, because I hear comments just like hers every day. It’s not because O’Donnell is an ugly woman, because I can & do hear comments from ugly women all the time. And it’s not because O’Donnell is a Hollywood pinhead with a big mouth and a tiny brain, because there are others in that camp as well.

    What bugs me is this neverending adoration for “speaking your mind.” Just that and nothing more.

    The time has come to revisit this, because now extravagant compliments are being shoveled out in Walter Cronkite’s direction, again for the simple act of “speaking your mind.” The final paragraph of this laudatory essay is “No wonder he’s some kind of hero” and up until that final sentence, you get to read about what makes Walter Cronkite a hero.

    I’m dissatisfied. I don’t think the case has been made.

    I want to be very precise in my criticism here. After all, writing a blog is all about “speaking your mind” but then again, nobody’s handed me any compliments just for doing that, neglecting the consideration of whether my opinion was actually valuable or not — nor would I accept such a compliment if it were handed to me.

    An opinion is an opinion, nothing more, nothing less. By itself, the opinion proves nothing. We have no shortage of them. We really don’t. If opinions was gasoline, I could trade in my rice rocket for a Hummer and go traipsing around the wine country every damn day.

    Here at the blog nobody reads, we have a very specific opinion about opinions, and this opinion about opinions runs afoul of the opinion the rest of the world has about opinions. That sentence, immediately preceding, is a real challenge; if you need to read it three times or more, go ahead and do it. Now that you understand what’s being said, I will explain.

    We are entering a very dangerous time. A popular consensus has emerged about how we entertain opinions and measure the worthiness of those opinions before we repeat them, and before we act upon them. This consensus is problematic. The consensus that has emerged has something to do with identifying who stated the opinion and which political party that source identifies as being his/her own. Or…whether you have seen that source in a movie somewhere. We have other ways of evaluating opinions, independent of who presents them to us. We like to evaluate how the opinion makes us feel. Some of us give more weight to opinions that make us feel good. Some of us like to feel guilty, and therefore assign more weight to opinions that make us feel that way.

    There is only ONE thing that makes an opinion worth anything, and that is a fact. Facts lead to opinions. Opinions resting upon something else, are…noise. That’s all. It doesn’t matter who says them.

    It doesn’t matter.

    The author of the article heaping praise upon Walter Cronkite, multiple times, for being “the most trusted man in America” doesn’t realize it but he’s wallowing in the Dark Ages. Walter Cronkite became the most trusted man in America during the “Daddy’s home!” generation of television news. If you’re my age, you were a young squirt during this generation. You would have been home from school for a few hours, you would have gone out and played if the weather was nice, it was getting on toward six o’clock, and Dad would come home. He’d get a drink, plop down in front of the TV, and watch the news. That meant everybody did.

    And this is why I think even though the article is mistaken, it’s very important. During that entire generation, which ran on for forty years or more, this was the link between commoners and reality. Newspapers were not part of it. Newspapers were things your Grandpa read. Your immediate family tuned in at six o’clock, and after you went to bed, maybe they tuned in again at ten o’clock. That was it.

    Do you feel good about that? Do you look back on these hours spent in your childhood, and the hours spent from the lives of your parents, all between six and seven in the evening — and say to yourself “that is when we really found out the important stuff that was happening in the world”?

    Well, I don’t. I look back on those one-hour sessions with feelings best described as a mix of shame for how I chose to spend my time, and some measure of betrayal. I look back and I see a deadly faction of crazy Islamic extremists was rising up in the far east, while we argued back at home about whose proposed tax policy would soak the evil rich people among us to the extent “we” felt was just and proper. I see that when our government failed to protect innocent citizens from serial killers, rapists, kidnappers and sadists, we slaked our thirst for “justice” by watching make-believe movies about “vigilantes” gunning down “hoodlums,” usually in the subways of New York City, while we completely, utterly, overwhelmingly failed to bring this frustration into our judicial branch where it could have saved some lives.

    In short, while pretending to be concerned about some very important domestic and overseas issues, we relied on this one-hour-an-evening to connect our intellects to reality. We were neglectful in settling for this. And the stewards of this umbilical connection, including “the most trusted man in America,” entirely failed us.

    Two years ago we started a presidential election. The blogging community went to work on the “media” like a jackhammer on a porkchop. Dan Rather lost his job.

    That happened because the media suddenly started having problems in 2004? I doubt that like hell. The media didn’t have a watchdog before 2004…not quite like what they had that year, anyway. Who knows how much stuff the blogging community missed, owing to the nacent phase that still enshrouds their collective development process, in that year? Who knows how much stuff the blogging community would have caught in decades previous, had they been around?

    After the Tet Offensive, Cronkite went on television and said “the bloody experience of Vietnam is a stalemate.” America evaluated the worthiness of this sentiment not by the facts that had been presented just before it, but by who said it.

    Now, some of Cronkite’s critics make the charge that at this time, the war was going well. Cronkite, therefore, used public opinion to sabotage a military operation on the political stage, that was actually succeeding out in the field. Vietnam has gone down in history as a failure, so it’s easy to offer the opinion that Vietnam was already getting fouled up and Cronkite was simply stating the obvious. Except I don’t see anyone with a reputation worth protecting (other than Cronkite himself, whose reputation seems to have been galvanized beyond any possible effective assault) actually putting their testicles on a block, so to speak, and attaching their own name to the statement that Cronkite was speaking a verifiable truth. Yeah, they call him a hero and they say he speaks his mind.

    But nobody really debates on an intellectual and factual basis whether his words had verity. It would make great sense to do so. Here. Now.

    Well, rest-of-world, you do whatever you want. This is the blog that nobody reads. And over here, I think opinions are opinions. Famous people offer good ones, and they offer stupid ones. Spoken opinions are good here, bad there, good somewhere else, bad somewhere else. Unpoken opinions are valid sometimes, invalid at other times.

    There’s no correlation between whether a person is outspoken, and whether or not he/she makes sense.

    But the connection between how much your opinion is worth, and how much you’ve researched the evidence upon which that opinion is based…is rock-hard.

    The bottom line is, everybody has a right to their opinion — but how much that opinion is worth, is the unique, invididual responsibility of the person speaking it.

    Even if that person’s name is Walter Cronkite.

    I Support Anti-War People

    Tuesday, January 17th, 2006

    I Support Anti-War People

    There sure are a lot of people who think it’s a valid mindset to “support the troops, but oppose their mission.”

    A recent letter to the Editor of the Ste. Petersburg Times makes the assertion that you can support the troops while opposing the war, expounding, “support the troops means letting them be safe and getting them home.”

    The main web page for Veterans Against the Iraq War (VAIW) sports a masthead boldly intoning that people should “Support the Troops, Oppose the Policy.”

    Last fall, on BobGeiger.com, a CBS poll was highlighted, which was extrapolated as “while the American people may support the troops, they do not want them in Iraq” and headlined, “Americans Support The Troops, But Not The War.”

    An article that appeared in the online Bozeman Daily Chronicle shortly after the invasion of Iraq, identified a number of groups — including VAIW — “are, at least for now, drawing a fine line — support the troops, but not the mission.”

    For thirty clams, you can buy a hooded sweatshirt proclaiming to all who see you wearing it, that you “support our troops, BUT NOT THE WAR”.

    Someone somewhere made a proclamation about this that was opinionated, maybe biased, stated relative personal values in absolute terms, and I think it was on the radio. Notwithstanding those problems, assuming you think they’re really problems, his statement about “supporting the troops but opposing their mission” carried something that was, for me, an epiphany: “just wanting the troops to come out of this okay, is not enough!”

    Maybe it’s not. This blog, which nobody reads anyway, shies away from instructing readers what opinions they’re supposed to be thinking — at least, here, we try to give you reasons for thinking what we want you to think. I’ll leave it to the readers to decide if that’s “enough” or not.

    Some will say it is indeed enough. Some will agree with all the people quoted above, and insist they support the toops but oppose the war. They’ll insist they want the war to end A.S.A.P., regardless of the outcome, so that our troops can come home healthy and whole.

    Let me just say this about those people. I support them. The same way.

    I support our anti-war people. I want them to stay healthy. I want them to live, every single one of them.

    And I oppose their mission — their mission of cut-and-run. I want the United States to win.

    Yeah, I support the peaceniks, and I oppose their mission. It’s a perfectly valid mindset. I’d love to see one of these “support troops not war” pinheads argue that I’m cutting that too finely. It would make my day.

    Unfit For The Gavel

    Tuesday, January 17th, 2006

    Unfit For The Gavel

    The less-famous counter to Tookie Williams has now been executed. I associate Clarence Ray Allen to Stanley “Tookie” Williams for a number of reasons:

    • He was executed;
    • He was executed in my state, which is known for finding silly pussified reasons to avoid executing people who need executing;
    • He was executed for ordering the murder of innocent people, with whom he had no beef, save for his narcissistic mission of eradicating witnesses.

    Of course there are two things that make Allen substantially different from Williams. He was a Choctaw Indian, not a black man, and because he’s ineligible for the protections offered by certain advocacy groups, we haven’t been hearing his name lately even in the final hours before he stopped being the oldest prisoner on Death Row.

    So there’s something that’s busted right there. The law, which I hold to have worked here just fine and dandy (albeit slowly), shows signs of having worked just fine and dandy because in the final analysis Williams and Allen were treated pretty much the same. The court of public opinion, or at least the chattering that goes on when said court is in session, is terribly diseased, disfunctional and wombat-rabies crazy. Assuming that Tookie Williams was a victim of cruel and unusual punishment, and therefore his case is a legitimate target of outrage, you would have to grant that Allen’s case is an equally legitimate target of outrage. A legitimate target of outrage is a compulsory target of outrage, since the outrage is based on moral indignation — so where is the outcry?

    There’s no outcry here, for either one of these psychotics. Homicide, for the express purpose of eliminating witnesses, manifests a pressing danger to the innocent like no other brand of homicide possibly can. You catch a guy in bed with your wife and blow them both away with a shotgun, you’ll probably be entitled to certain protections and you’ll probably be allowed to plead mitigating circumstances. For the purpose of determining the residual danger you present to society by your continued existence, you probably should be entitled to these protections…maybe.

    But reasonable people of all ideological stripes should be able to agree that this argument does not, and cannot, apply to a murderer who murders simply to get rid of witnesses.

    Now, I don’t mean to imply that nobody has been talking about Clarence Allen. Since I live in the state where he was incarcerated, I’ve been able to read up about it. Allen, you see, was convicted for a handful of murders in 1980 — said murders winding up a string of tying-up-of-loose-ends from a robbery he and his son had committed six years earlier. He ordered the murder of a woman who was involved in his 1974 robbery, and then he got busted conspiring in her murder. He got LWOP’d for that (life without possibility of parole), and continued to conspire to eliminate witnesses, which is how the 1980 murders came about.

    This should be talked about a lot more than it is. How many times have we heard the argument “so and so shouldn’t be executed because he represents no danger to society…he’s locked up…he’ll never get out, never, never, not ever.” We heard it a lot with Tookie Williams’ case. We’ll hear it again with other cases involving the stripped-gear set. Many times. But Clarence Ray Allen proved that this may not mean very much. While his heart kept beating, people-at-large were in danger. It’s about as simple as that.

    But now we come to the part that really disturbs me — especially now, debating as intensely as we have been debating it lately, what it takes to “qualify” an Associate Supreme Court Justice to sit on our nation’s highest court. Unlike what I recounted above, you can read this anywhere, in any story that mentions a mere paragraph or two about Clarence Allen’s sordid tale.

    Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer issued a dissenting statement, citing Allen’s age, bad health and the fact he had been on death row for 23 years as reasons to stay the execution.

    “I believe that in the circumstances he raises a significant question as to whether his execution would constitute cruel and unusual punishment. I would grant the application for stay,” Breyer said.

    Findlaw has captured a more complete quotation of what Breyer said (at this time, I cannot find the actual dissent document or the case number).

    …Justice Stephen Breyer filed a dissent, saying: “Petitioner is 76 years old, blind, suffers from diabetes and is confined to a wheelchair, and has been on death row for 23 years. I believe that in the circumstances he raises a significant question as to whether his execution would constitute cruel and unusual punishment. I would grant the application for stay.”

    Now, this is a very strange way for a Supreme Court Justice to announce his resignation, I must say. That is what Justice Breyer is doing here, is it not? After all, when the Supreme Court meddles in the God-given right of the people to protect themselves from the stripped-gear set, they derive their authority to do such meddling from one thing and one thing only: that the punishment needed to enforce this protection would show an irreonciliable inconsistency with the United States Constitution those justices have sworn to uphold and protect.

    Breyer is asserting, here, that the execution of Clarence Allen violated the Eighth Amendment’s cruel-and-unusual clause — or, at least, that there is a lingering problematic question of whether there was a violation. Except he isn’t saying what a Justice would say if he really believed that.

    Anyone believing what Stephen Breyer says he believes, would have to confer upon Allen the benefit of any doubt regarding the applicability of the Eighth Amendment. You’re sitting on the Supreme Court, you are approached by counsel for Allen saying “this execution would be cruel and/or unusual” — maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. Breyer says there is “question,” so there’s question. You don’t know. Clarence Allen deserves to be spared at least until the intricate details can be hashed out.

    So you’d say you dissent from the majority opinion of the court, because the question of conformity with the Constitution is unacceptable. You would hold it to be your duty to grant the petition. My point is that if it is your duty, it is also the duty of the other eight justices. The Supreme Court failed to uphold its sworn obligation. You would believe this — because if you did not, then you would necessarily doubt your authority to hold up the execution.

    How serious would that be?

    Serious enough to entirely eclipse issues involving you, Clarence Ray Allen, or any one person. The Supreme Court is not on the job! That’s what you would have to talk about. So you wouldn’t say “I would grant the application for stay.” It’s not about you. Therefore, it’s my opinion this isn’t what’s on Justice Breyer’s mind. What he’s doing, is looking for an occasion by which he can manifest his sympathy. He isn’t applying logic to figure out if something’s going on that is inconsistent with the protections provided in the Constitution.

    After all, if he were doing the latter instead of the former, what is it that does the trick, Justice Breyer? You cite the petitioner’s age of 76 years; his being blind; his diabetes; his use of a wheelchair; and his being on death row for a long time. What arouses the question? All of these factors? Some of them? One of them?

    A caller to Armstrong & Getty made a great point a few minutes ago about this “blind” thing. Quoting from the San Francisco Chronicle article about Allen’s final minutes before the execution:

    He was a burly man, but when he put his thin arms on the sides of the gurney, he had little difficulty hoisting himself up and laying flat. And once he’d been strapped down and fit with the needles that would inject poisons into his tattooed arms, he vigorously craned his head and made eye contact with several people in the room. [emphasis mine]

    He smiled broadly, calling out first, “Where are you?” and then, “I love you,” as he raised his head several times to gaze at his former daughter-in-law, Kathy Allen, and four other supporters who came to watch him die. They smiled back, and when one of the women waved, he nodded his head.

    What’s this deal about “eye contact”? We just had a sitting Supreme Court justice comment that his case should have been heard in the nation’s highest court because, or partially because, the dude is blind. Now, granting that Allen appeared to have trouble seeing if he has to ask where people were — how blind was he?

    How blind does he have to be, anyway? There are a lot of people who, like me, don’t understand the argument.

    Some guy with 20/20 vision blows you away with a shotgun (or orders your hit) — I want that guy dead.

    Some blind guy does the same thing — I want him just as dead.

    Not sure where Breyer was going with this. But it seems definite that he doesn’t have the stomach for doing what needs to be done in his office. His argument, as I read the excerpts provided to me, as an “Aw geez, c’mon” argument. There is no room for such thinking in the high office occupied by Justice Breyer. He should go.

    Judging Sam Alito

    Sunday, January 15th, 2006

    Judging Sam Alito

    One of the things that is a neverending fascination to me, perhaps to the neverending boredom of people kind enough to make the effort to read the stuff I write, is the continuous use of bourgeois ignorance as a communications device by the liberals to promote their agenda. I’m particularly fascinated in this method when its exercise can be easily calculated, in advance, to be unprofitable but is exercised anyway. For example, what possible long-term political benefits could Hillary Clinton, or her husband’s administration, have drawn from any insinuation that she was named after Sir Edmund Hillary? If I’m Hillary Clinton, what would be going through my head just before I decided to do this?

    But that was over a decade ago. Nowadays, the charlatans no longer rely on ignorance on the part of the commoners. Not exclusively, anyway. It’s a new century, and more & more they seem to be relying on ignorance on the part of elitists who fancy themselves to be in charge of telling those commoners what those commoners’ opinions are supposed to be. It’s certainly not news to anyone paying attention that if you want to be informed, and well-informed, relying exclusively on the “Newspaper of Record” for your news is probably a step in the wrong direction.

    Here, however, we have the Priesthood of News putting out verifiably false stuff (link requires registration). Do they know better, and figure they can get away with it? Are they wrong, and cognizant that they could be wrong, but figure the concern is irrelevant so why bother to double-check? Or do they think their reputation is so hammered and battered at this point, that little benefit has to be recognized before sacrificing what’s left of that reputation becomes a worthwhile enterprise?

    Either way, they’re just plain wrong. And if it matters to the New York Times that its editorial page is wrong, in a way that makes its resulting position problematic at best, they haven’t done a lot to demonstrate that this really bothers them much.

    The White House has tried to create an air of inevitability around Judge Alito’s confirmation. But the public is skeptical. In a new Harris poll, just 34 percent of those surveyed said they thought he should be confirmed, while 31 percent said he should not, and 34 percent were unsure. Nearly 70 percent said they would oppose Judge Alito’s nomination if they thought he would vote to make abortion illegal – which it appears he might well do. [emphasis mine]

    Gosh, New York Times. Sorry to point this out, but Supreme Court justices cannot and do not “make abortion illegal”. It’s simply not the way our system works.

    It’s just a fact.

    They’re On To Me!

    Saturday, January 14th, 2006

    They’re On To Me!

    Uh oh. Someone’s finally nailed my hide to the wall.

    The Top Ten Blogger Lies:

    1. I don’t consider myself an A-Lister.

    No, but I turn up for speaking gigs at all the big conferences anyway. Uh-huh.

    I’m not entirely familiar with that term. It sounds like somebody else lists your blog. This is the blog that nobody reads, so it goes without saying that nobody lists it. Not sure at all what’s meant by the speaking gig thing, so I think this one doesn’t apply to me.

    4. I started blogging back in 1999.

    Of course, back in 1999 a Flash-animated, brochureware homepage was considered a blog. Kinda sorta.

    Ha ha! I’ve actually seen this one a few times. One noteworthy boaster was, well, being an idiot. Which is another way of saying he was disagreeing with me. I like this one.

    5. My blog has no commercial agenda.

    I’m far too sexy to care about money. Exactly.

    Oh, I’m not going to sit here and tell lies. My blog makes zero dollars. And if it made a bazillion dollars a month, I wouldn’t turn it down. Guess that means I’m not sexy.

    8. I’m proud to be a D-Lister.

    Even though I spend 7 hours a day writing the thing. Right.

    Here at this blog, what we are “proud” of is the arrival of reasoned inferences derived from established, verifiable facts. A little over a year ago, Dan Rather showed us all how you can get everyone to kiss your ass and make you into an “A-lister” after you’ve taken some unestablished, unverifiable facts, and used them to form what you think are reasoned inferences, but which are actually silly inferences because the facts upon which they rest are fraudulent. (His defense, if you’ll recall, is that the inferences were good even though the underlying facts were bull feces). Of course it cost him his job, but he did show us.

    The point is, “A-listers” make good points all the time, and they make stupid points all the time. So do “D-listers.” There’s no correlation. What makes the blogosphere unique, is that we’re all just kind of…out there. Our listedness does not decide the validity of what anyone says, nor does any accredited institution, corporate watchdog agency, court of appeals, network executive, or rabid anteater. It is all up to the reader.

    For now.

    It’s an idea whose time has come. Although, throughout recorded history, I see, this vision of grassroots-validation has been enshrined and embraced for each new mass-communication technology that has come along. Maybe, just maybe, with the blogosphere, it will hold true.

    10. I really admire what she’s doing for the blogosphere.

    I’ve noticed that she’s currently single.

    Heh. I’m really, really happy with the one I’ve got. So as long as I’m good enough for her, this one doesn’t apply either.

    Dixon In Reverse

    Thursday, January 12th, 2006

    Dixon In Reverse

    There was this guy who was tried for a murder he didn’t commit. The jury found him guilty, and he was sent to death row. He continually protested that he was innocent, but after his appeals ran out, they put him in the chair. The call from the governor’s mansion never came. They pulled the switch, and fried him like a strip o’bacon.

    And new scientific DNA evidence has proven he was innocent after all.

    Tragic, isn’t it? Just imagine how the poor fella must have felt, knowing he was being executed for a crime he didn’t commit. Well guess what. It hasn’t happened. Never, not once.

    You think you’ve heard of it. You remember seeing a Time Magazine cover, essentially shouting it from the highest rooftops. Well, what really happened was that our prestigious picture-magazine was speculating that Roger Keith Coleman, who declared himself innocent of murdering his sister-in-law right up until the moment of his execution of 1992, was indeed innocent.

    I hope they didn’t bet a lot of money on it.

    Because scientific DNA testing has just confirmed, that Roger Keith Coleman…was guilty as charged.

    The report from the Centre of Forensic Sciences in Toronto concluded there was almost no conceivable doubt that Coleman was the source of the sperm found in the victim.

    “The probability that a randomly selected individual unrelated to Roger Coleman would coincidentally share the observed DNA profile is estimated to be 1 in 19 million,” the report said.

    A finding of innocence would have been explosive news and almost certainly would have had a powerful effect on the public’s attitude toward capital punishment. Death penalty opponents have argued for years that the risk of a grave and irreversible mistake by the criminal justice system is too great to allow capital punishment.

    Had it gone the other way, it would have been explosive news. As it is, it’s a fitting story for places like…like the blog that nobody reads.

    Now take a look at what you’ve got going on here. Roger Keith Coleman was an icon. A symbol. The flagship of the anti-death-penalty flotilla. The biggest balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day anti-death-penalty parade.

    And the asshole was guilty.

    It’s like Jeanne Dixon in reverse. You remember who Jeanne Dixon is, don’t you? She predicted that the President would be assassinated…and he was. In the years afterward, she predicted a lot of stuff. Some of it came to pass, some of it didn’t. When she got it right, it was big, big, big news. Nobody kept track of how many times she got it wrong.

    This is the same phenomenon, backwards. Read this part of the article again:

    The case had been closely watched by both sides in the death penalty debate because no executed convict in the United States has ever been exonerated by scientific testing.

    Got that? Did you know that before today? I didn’t. Let’s repeat that one more time.

    …no executed convict in the United States has ever been exonerated by scientific testing.

    Nobody’s gonna talk about that. Nobody. It isn’t “explosive news,” as they say.

    Well, it’s explosive news to me.

    Personally, I am proud of my fellow countrymen who are concerned about preventing innocent people from being executed on death row. And I’m proud of that good feeling they get deep inside when they think they’ve achieved something that makes it a little less likely this will happen. I’m just not willing to sacrifice innocent women and children to give them that good feeling.

    And based on what I see in the news…like, for example, this story…we don’t need our justice system to get any friendlier with the perverts, psychos, weirdos, and sickos. The stripped-gear-set has had its day in the media sunshine, and so far, just about every important tidbit of “news” suggesting that they’ve been handed some kind of a raw deal, has turned out to be either a mistake, a distortion of truth, or outright fraud.

    Meanwhile, innocent men, women, and little itty-bitty kids are really being taken out into remote fields, violated, shot, stabbed, chopped up into pieces, and buried in shallow graves. Really. We don’t even say “oh, golly” when it happens anymore. It’s just kind of expected.

    It’s just expected to happen to somebody else, that’s all. That’s the thing. Right there.

    Thing I Know #16: A man’s determination to punish the guilty tends to wax and wane with his prospects for living amongst them.

    More Things I Know

    Monday, January 9th, 2006

    More Things I Know

    Last summer I posted a list of twenty-five “Things I Know,” with the one-liner “My mind’s made up that these things are so, although why they are, is something of which I’m not always entirely certain.” A little bit of even-handed, critical reading will clear up the confusion caused by the muddled writing. They’re opinions, and they’re decided with substantial certainty, subject to no further significant question. Why these things are the way they are, may be a complete, or partial, enigma. But they are the way they are.

    I don’t know why they are so. Not completely. Certainly not always. And what to do with the knowledge that they are so, to help yourself or others, is a matter on which I have no comment at all. But they are so.

    An even more descriptive theme common to the twenty-five things, is that apart from the blog that nobody reads (which is this), very few people are ever going to take the time to tell you any of the twenty-five things, nor are you well-advised to put much weight on it if any outside source does see fit to tell them to you. You gotta learn ‘em yourself. They’re things I know now, that I did not know when I was a little kid, nor could I have. We all have things like this, and although very few people comment on it, these things are priceless to us. After all the blood, sweat & tears we shed through the process of living, these things are all we have to show for it, apart from our material possessions…and when you die, they make you give up the material possessions.

    Well, what can I say? We only learn these things by getting old, and I’m five months older now than I was five months ago.

    I have twelve more things:

    26. There really aren’t too many things in the arena of human existence louder than a pair of women recognizing each other at a Starbuck’s coffee shop.
    27. Information has a tendency to flow one-way, which greatly increases the effort involved in noticing little details, while one is engaged in attention-whoring.
    28. People who drive great big cars don’t mind following other great big cars, but they absolutely have to get out from behind a little itty-bitty car even if it involves passing over a double-yellow line.
    29. There is substantial, and mutual, potential benefit to be realized from scrutinizing questions — unwelcome as they may be — anytime you’re advised “you are not supposed to” do something.
    30. A lot of people who crusade against absolutes, employ absolutes quite frequently, especially while crusading against absolutes.
    31. He who does a noble, brave, heroic thing, tends to draw a seething hatred from he who could have done the noble, brave, heroic thing — but chose not to.
    32. There are a lot of people walking around among us who like to re-define the baseline obligations carried by others, particularly toward them, simply because they find it painful to say “thank you”.
    33. If you see a lot of bugs crawling all over the computer lately, it might be a good idea to go into that room with the refrigerator and the sink and see if there’s something that hasn’t been cleaned for awhile.
    34. We are a tribal species, and it comes much more easily to us to bear silly grudges against entire cultures, than legitimate grudges against individual persons.
    35. The individual attribute ascribed to the aggregate entity, manifests a weak argument ripe for re-thinking.
    36. The words “public good” are very, very rarely applied to self-directed criticism, certainly not as often as they are used in criticism directed toward others.
    37. The first time someone asks you a question and then interrupts during the answer — from that point onward, you are best off smiling, nodding, and suddenly remembering you have something you need to go away and do.

    Update 1/19/06: The news is piled high once again with ethical issues, and people loud-of-mouth and weak-of-mind peeling off with that word “should”, forsaking even the minimal foresight into the questions raised by that weighty word. Their insistence on selective morals, applied bumptiously to Target A but gracefully slithering over Target B, inspires yet another Thing I Know.

    38. Where smoke of outrage rises from a fire of moral indignation, all targets presented as legitimate, must also be compulsory.

    Someone Has Daddy Issues

    Sunday, January 8th, 2006

    Someone Has Daddy Issues

    In the days and weeks before my impromptu “Family Council” with my eight-year-old son, I hadn’t done everything right, but then again if life was perfect nobody would need Family Councils, would they? My shortcoming, in this case, was — and isn’t this the way it always goes — I simply had allowed myself to become spread a tad thin, and hadn’t allocated enough time for the boy. This was foreseen and unavoidable. But before I knew it, here was this boy who was my son, whom I hadn’t spent a night under my roof since before Christmas, and already we’re six days into the New Year. That’s two major holidays gone forever. So at ten o’clock I picked him up, and we made a day out of it. With nothing penned in on the calendar, and with a whole weekend in front of us in the dead of winter, what better thing to do than go to the movies?

    So with one rug rat — just one — thirty-five clams go sailing out the window. We went to see the flagship of the family-movie-genre that is out right now, which happens to be “Cheaper by the Dozen 2,” sequel to some other movie neither one of us had seen and about which neither one of us particularly cared. It was loaded with sight gags to provide amusement for the pre-teen set, and tastefully garnished with a couple of over-the-toe-head tidbits for the benefit of the parents.

    Guess what? The really big problem of the story was the conflict raging between two dads. The daddy figures were messing up everything for everybody by actually behaving like dads, and it was up to the women and kids and dogs and mice to straighten ‘em out.

    Gee whiz, how refreshing. I wonder where we’ve seen that before.

    You know, I’m just chock full o’patience when it comes to watching the world spin all wobbly on its axis and waiting for it to straighten out, but underneath my roof the time had come for us to have a little bit of a father-son conference. Here we were with fairly insignificant personal foibles — a little too much time apart, right before the pinewood derby race. Hollywood was imposing on us its own “Daddy Issues,” which seem to be one notch shy of driving Hollywood up a water tower with a high-powered rifle. And just as frosting on the cake, Hollywood was playing amateur psychiatrist, lecturing to us how we needed to straighten out.

    It’s enough to make one want to jump into the movie screen and yell at whoever’s on the other side “EXCUSE me, out here in real-world land we happen to like fathers who care enough about their kids to be involved, committed and concerned. We don’t see them as villains, problems, doofuses, dorks, comedy relief, stupid idiots, numbskulls, boneheads or bad guys.”

    So we made a list. A list of movies with dorky dads. Just to make sure we covered everything, we went on FARK and enlisted the help of anyone there, to help flesh things out. The FARK community was pretty enthusiastic about this, many among the membership being dads themselves, who had noticed the issue and been wondering “Is It Just Me, Or…?” I set the goal of the list at a hundred movies, and volunteered “Cheaper by the Dozen 2″ for Slot #1 on the list. Man, FARK is great. What amazing energy.

    Now as the list began to flesh out, two things happened, both in my living room and inside FARK. One, we both began to see the problem wasn’t quite so much doofus dads, it was something a little bit darker that required us to modify the criteria for the list. It seems you can’t move a story along in a movie, even in a light-hearted comedy movie, without a really, huge, glaring problem. The problem has got to be somewhat, or completely, out of control of everyone — at least out of control of the “good guys.” Without that you don’t have a plot. Our criteria gradually evolved to include any movie where The Problem depended upon the undesirable behavior of Dad — the protagonist’s dad, the central-character’s dad, the hero’s dad, or the dad of someone who is simply a marginal but sympathetic character.

    Therein lies the problem, or at least, the subject matter that receives our focused interest. You have an umbra zone of movies that are family comedies, wherein Dysfunctional Dad is actually the star; and the plot is, Dad figures out he’s a stupid idiot jackass who is messing everything up. The credits roll after the happy ending, in which, at the insistence of Mom, his kids, maybe his own parents, and/or some magical woodland creatures, he figures out the only solution to the problem is to stop being Dad. Lighten up, be a pal, go away, or lighten-up-be-a-pal-go-away. After that, life is perfect and wonderful, Hatfields and McCoys hug, there are rainbows, mullahs and rabbis play jump rope and hopscotch in the street.

    Then there is a penumbra zone involving different genres, some of them scary, with a bushy-hair-stranger running around carving people up. Or maybe the genre is the classic action/adventure, with helicopter crashes, cars falling off bridges, ninjas — sharks with freakin’ lasers on their heads. Or, it’s simply a family drama that isn’t even supposed to be funny. But there’s still a plot involving something going wrong, with a dysfunctional Dad messing up everything he touches, kind of a King Midas in reverse.

    Both of these zones remain fairly restrictive. You would think it would be hard to find too much box office material falling within them. You would be wrong. Hollywood seems unable to turn out anything outside of them.

    I began to wonder if we were making the wrong list. Maybe it would be quicker to make a list of movies that do not qualify.

    The other thing that happened, was that I was pleasantly surprised at the mental resources my son was able to marshall toward this evolving project. He almost became a pest! “Dad! What about…” and then there would follow something of which I would never have thought, not in a thousand years. “Kicking and Screaming.” What is that? I had never seen it. He gave me a very thorough run-down of the plot, and oh, boy, did that ever sound like part of the problem. Okay, in it goes.

    “Dad, you forgot The Great Santini!” Oh, calm down. We didn’t watch the whole movie, and even if we did it’s almost tame enough to show to an eight-year-old, by today’s standards. I became obliged to rent it after I described the cream-of-mushroom-soup scene at the beginning, and I’m glad I did. That’s comedy gold right there. But Bull Meecham is a Doofus Dad if ever there was one.

    By the time we had trouble thinking of more things to add, I must say, I was a little bit creeped out. Something is going on here. What makes me wince with a little bit of discomfort, going over this mosaic, is the resurfacing again and again of certain patterns. Like, for example, can someone please tell me what in the hell is going on with Christmas? What’s up with Dad in the Christmas movies? Are we going after the “gotta visit the relatives for the holidays even though I don’t want to” movie market? Or has some executive anticipated that kids are just a little bit more bratty that time of year, and it’s the right season to drive a wedge?

    Certain faces also bubble to the surface in this homemade movie stew, many more times than what would make me feel comfortable. The Governor of my state, for example, seems to have had some pressing need to churn out this kind of product, as does Chevy Chase. And…Steve Martin. And…Robin Williams. What’s going on with you guys? Did Dad take your car keys away one too many times? Take the door off your bedroom after he caught you smoking grass? By the time you’re in your fifties & sixties, you know…y’ever think about maybe getting over it, once and for all?

    I mean, it’s not like your childhood issues are affecting much. Just a highly volatile, reliable-as-a-bouncing-football, bazillion-dollar-a-year career in the most lucrative occupation ever known to man.

    Is it a political agenda? I doubt it. Or perhaps it is, but only in the sense that when kids panhandle money from their parents to go to the movies, it’s the nature of the mom to beef up the budget for this outing, and for the dads to ratchet it back down again. If that is the case, it would just make good business sense for Hollywood to get the word out, that Dad just isn’t cool. Help Mom win the argument. Hey, our liberals just love to remind us over and over again than when greedy, profiteering, private enterprises have too much control over our personal lives, bad things happen. They’re right. And I see no reason why Hollywood shouldn’t come under the umbrella of greedy, profiteering, private enteprrises. Not here.

    But there is more than social engineering going on. There’s also the matter of telling a decent story. You can’t have a compelling plotline, even in a little kid’s movie, without some suspense, and the maintenance of authoritarian structure is the antithesis of suspense. So it just naturally follows that some kind of an attack will have to be engineered against authority, and the patriarch is the entity most closely associated with authority throughout human history.

    And yes, there is political correctness. But think for a minute about the alternative. What if Momma is the one out-of-control, messing things up for everybody, either intentionally or not? See, unless you’re making a movie that is off-the-deep-end dark, that just doesn’t work. That would be “Mommy Dearest” (1981), suitable only as an “Other-People’s-Problems” movie, so popular during the early eighties, not so much now. Not a date movie. Definitely not a kid’s movie.

    See, when Mom is out of control this way, you’re stuck with her. That is the REAL problem. When Dad does things you don’t want him to do, you can always get Mom to dump his sorry ass and get him replaced. So even though we all know Dad’s going to shape up before the final credits roll, and realize how wrong he had been all the way through, there never was a real problem because in Hollywood, fathers are accessories. Mommy is the engine, Daddy is like a windshield wiper or beverage holder or seat belt hook. You’ve got a real problem when something goes wrong with the engine. When an accessory acts up, off to the pick-n-pull you go. No big.

    So it’s a kinda-sorta problem. An itty-bitty problem. A dull-roar-in-the-background pain-in-the-ass, not a major catastrophe. Just the perfect thing to provide the suspense and plot in a feel-good, family movie. Something has come loose and started to rattle around in an accessory, which, if it’s too bad of a problem — just keep this in the back of your mind — there is always a quick fix.

    Then there is the matter of personal issues, both on the matter of the person making the film and the person going in to watch it. Moviemakers are human like anyone else. Walt Disney himself was said to have spent his childhood in a rural, farm setting, with strict parenting controls in place that tended to discourage his artistic leanings. The list churned out by my son and me, so much longer at the end of the project than it was at the beginning, has a disturbing strain of Disney movies popping up here and there throughout.

    What of the audience? It has often been said that people go to movies to escape the exigencies of real life. Well, as stated above, Dad is a manifestation of authority, and certainly authority is one of those exigencies. Do people not want to escape Mom’s authority as well? There’s actually a timeless saying named after Mom, “time to cut the apron strings,” and another one, “cutting the cord.” It would fit…but there is one major problem. You don’t feel good about yourself when you’re trying to get away from your mother. Dumping Dad? It’s been a fantasy of literature since the time of the ancient Greeks. Zeus killed Cronus, and Cronus overthrew Uranus. You might say we’re genetically wired to displace our dads. But leave Mom’s nest? Aw…that might hurt her. We all have that voice going off somewhere in the back of our heads, “you never call, you never write.”

    There may be a lot of other things going on here. Not all of them have to do with some insidious politically-correct plot to eradicate dads, and/or render their societal role irrelevant. But the point is, all these motivations have one thing in common: They are misguided. Where there are dysfunctional Dads, the motivations have very, very little to do with making him functional again.

    Hey Hollywood. You make zillions of dollars through your creativity, while we slave away for our weekly bag o’peanuts, building up our reservoir of fatigue that is going to translate into more money in your pocket as soon as that Friday work whistle blows and we yell Yabba Dabba Doo. You are an oasis of creativity in our society that is a desert of drudge. How about, just to shake things up…being creative? For once?

    Respect Their Choice

    Thursday, January 5th, 2006

    Respect Their Choice

    Tucked away in a fairly innocuous defense of a burgeoning local Ukranian immigrant family within this morning’s Letter to the Editor section of the Sacramento Bee (link requires registration), is a nugget that I had to go back and re-read several times. I thought for sure this was a joke. I’ve bolded this oasis of “OHMYGOD” lying within a small desert of fairly mundane argument, and from that boldening you can probably figure out where I’m going to go with this.

    A loving family
    I know Vladimir Chernenko. He is a big, good-hearted man who speaks very little English. I teach at the charter school where he works full time.

    Most of his children were born in Russia, where religious persecution was and is still very real. One letter writer actually blamed the Chernenkos for ruining our ecosystem! Another suggests that if this family gets a large amount of assistance someone else’s family will suffer. Our system guarantees that the unwed mothers with multiple kids born from different fathers will always get their well-deserved checks.

    Know this: All of the Chernenko children were born into a loving family where both parents are married. They will grow up cherished in a loving home, regarded as gifts from God.

    Finally, there is more than one “choice” – respect theirs.

    A little background: On December 16, my local newspaper published a story about this local family of immigrants which, the week before, had welcomed into the world their 9th son and 17th biological child. The family appears, to the best of my knowledge, to have achieved a new status as the largest family in the United States.

    Let’s get the sugary stuff out of the way first. By all accounts, Vladimir and Zynaida Chernenko, as far as I can tell, run a household filled with exceptionally hard-working people. Everybody who knows them, including the author of the above letter, vouches for them. They are held up by their church as an example of familial devotion and faith in God. One daughter has married and moved out of the house, and several among the older children pitch in and help out. According to a quote from the mother in the article, the family tries to give back to the country that has helped them so much. That’s all good.

    And there’s nothing combative, so far as I know, about the Chernenkos or about the Bee staffers who wrote about them. The story appeared in the Family section. You know, every metropolitan newspaper has a “Family” section. Sometimes they call it Scene, or Focus, or Time and Money, or Style. It’s where you find out what belly-button gems are in fashion, what Ann Landers thinks about taking that philandering husband back, and how to make toilet seats out of macaroni.

    So that’s another point. The Chernenkos were written about as a story. As glurge. They weren’t spoiling for a fight. Frankly, I feel kind of sorry for them for being thrust into a controversy they clearly didn’t want. Alas, two days after the Bee story, USA Today picked it up, and Yahoo News followed the day after. Now the Chernenkos are in the middle of a little bit of a firestorm.

    I’ve ignored it because I don’t like to criticize people who, so far as I know, are fundamentally good.

    But the criticism is deserved.

    They don’t speak English.

    They drive around in a 15-seat passenger bus.

    They receive public assistance. And while they show gratitude, whereas other beneficiaries of public assistance sometimes do not, nothing has been said about limiting the family to seventeen children. Obviously, Mom and Dad are ready, willing and able to make an eighteenth.

    That’s wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

    So no, Mister Letter Writer guy. I don’t respect their choice, nor do I feel morally compelled to do so when they depend on public assistance to support the I-don’t-know-how-many youngest of the seventeen children. Because when that happens it is not really “their” choice, is it?

    I’d be feeling a lot more positive about it if they were making ends meet with donations. That would be a completely different thing. If that were the case, I’d even be on your side, helping to chastise those who criticize the Chernenkos. I’d be out there saying “Hey, if you don’t like it, don’t have seventeen children of your own, and DON’T DONATE.”

    But this is public assistance that comes from taxes. So I can’t say that.

    So i can’t join you.

    These taxes are taken — by force, if necessary — from families that must limit themselves in terms of perks, toys, and size, so that they can pay those taxes.

    How does this get ignored by people like you? I’d really like to know.

    Let’s proceed now to the boldfaced OHMYGOD stuff. Well-deserved checks? Unwed mothers with children by multiple fathers?

    Let me see if I got this straight now. An unwed mother has a child by a man who will not accept financial responsibility for that child — because, after all, she has to get that “well deserved” check, which implies there was a vacuum of responsibility for the state to fill. So something must have happened. He took off, he was too young to take a job, he left the country, he was never told of the pregnancy — whatever.

    But wait! You said “multiple kids born from different fathers.” So then, this happened again, and probably again, and perhaps still yet another time. For each of these “multiple kids,” a “well deserved check” is needed, so again, for one reason or another, all these dudes are unready, unwilling, or unable to accept responsibility for fatherhood.

    She’s spreading the legs for them. All of them.

    Sir, this reduces our available possibilities down to very few. She’s irresponsible, she’s got a thing for the bad-boy, she’s dumber than a sack of hair, or some combination of the three. Her checks are well deserved?

    Needed, I can buy. Bad things will happen if the checks aren’t cut, okay. Advantageous to society in the long run, would be answered by me with simple cool-headed skepticism, and an open mind for hearing the argument.

    But well-deserved?

    Are you out of your freakin’ gourd?

    Hammer of Mental Jerking-Off

    Thursday, January 5th, 2006

    Hammer of Mental Jerking-Off

    I live on Earth. Where I come from, if you and I are having an argument, and I look you in the eye and say “I’ve been forming an opinion about your show without watching it, I don’t know what you’re talking about, I don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m just going by feelings here, I’m not smart enough to debate you point by point, I have the feeling 60% of your stuff is crap, but I pretty much just pulled that out of my ass and can’t back it up” — when I say that, you won the argument. YOU WON. How could you not have? I just admitted I’m engaging in mental masturbation, I haven’t done any homework, certainly not enough to contest what you’re saying. I’m going by what feels good at the moment. In that scenario, I lost; you won.

    But that is Earth.

    We got a Planet-Blue-State that is in orbit right here in the Good Ol’ USA, in which feelings trump thought. That is not my characterization; it is David Letterman’s. During his now-famous exchange with Bill O’Reilly (video behind link, Political Teen), in the very sentence his fans are holding up as evidence that he beat the Fox commentator black-and-blue, he said, “I�m not smart enough to debate you point to point on this, but I have the feeling…about 60 percent of what you say is crap. But I don�t know that for a fact…I’m just spitballing here.”

    It’s a great line. Great line. Because, you see, all over the innernets today, bloggers who want to instruct their readers to believe Letterman “won” the exchange, like my good friends at Hammer of Truth, use this line to prove it. Bloggers who want to instruct their readers to believe O’Reilly “won” the exchange…also use this line.

    This blog, the blog that nobody reads, will also use the same line. Dear reader, you may draw your own conclusions.

    But it kind of strikes me as interesting. David Letterman, paladin for the day of the Blue States and their hatred of George Bush, freely admits, without reservation, that he cannot follow the argument point to point. In fact, anyone who refuses to accept this admission of defeat from him, need only rewind the video a minute or two to watch him squarely duck a sincere, straightforward, good-faith salient question from O’Reilly. Having thrown the match, in the arena of exchanging reasonable opinions based on solid, established facts — he just manufactures a quotient on-the-spot: Sixty percent. Can’t back it up. Sixty percent. It’s an important number, because this is where his sympathizers declare his victory. Look at all that applause from the audience, he must be right. Hammer of Truth evidently thinks so (although they might take me to task on this later).

    Eh — when the conversation started, what was the “point” that Letterman really wanted to drive home? Something about, Why are we there? Something about going in on “bad intelligence”?

    This is what I don’t understand about the Bush-bashing blue-state crowd. If they want to make a difference in the elections this year, they have a very good chance of doing so if they can demonstrate the Bush administration had opportunities to gather superior intelligence — verifiable intelligence, that would have illuminated a prospective Iraq invasion as a really bad idea — and failed to gather it (or act upon it). To date, their best shot at doing this has been Joe Wilson’s trip to Nigeria, and this has been shot full of holes. But if they can pull up fresh meat that substantially supports the conclusion that Bush had evidence the Iraq invasion would be a mistake, and he chose to ignore it based on his feelings…if they can do that, I think 2006 midterms will be a cakewalk for them.

    The foregoing is an opinion, not a fact. It is just my opinion. What makes my opinion important, is that the blue staters agree with me about it. They understand this prospect is lucrative for them. They go out of their way to imply the theory I’ve described, all the time. Consider the Downing Street Memo. Consider the celebration of Richard Clarke. Consider the “Bubble Boy” media campaign. You really don’t have to go far to bump into more talking points that say: The Bush presidency is a special chapter in American history, because of its insulation from reality.

    They know that Americans cannot tolerate, will not tolerate, being sold something that the salesman, himself, when the rubber meets the road and facts become really important, would not buy.

    And yet — what would you call this exchange in the video clip?

    Ignoring the evidence based on your feelings.

    Mental masturbation.

    Engaging in an exercise purely for the value of self-gratification, choosing to do it unproductively, so as to conserve the effort that would be spent gathering an outside resource that would have been needed to engage the exercise more productively.

    David Letterman, no doubt representing many, has the feeling that 60% of what O’Reilly says is crap. I don’t doubt his sincerity at all. I think he does have that feeling. How much of a feeling? How much money would Letterman be willing to bet that his feeling can be born out by facts revealed subsequently? That’s the real question.

    I have the feeling, and I can’t prove this, that Letterman isn’t really quite as sure of the sixty-percent quotient as George Bush was, that going into Iraq was the right decision. Because to continue my vulgar, prurient analogy, what the Bush administration did wasn’t purely self-gratification. Bush went out and got the best intelligence that was available to him.

    He got ‘er to think he was kind of cute, bought her flowers, met her parents, took her out to dinner-and-a-movie, then brought her home and banged the daylights out of her.

    And now, three years later, we’re having a debate about whether she’s good-looking or not.

    While David Letterman, Hammer of Truth, and people who think likewise, continue to spank the monkey. Indulging in feelings that feel good, without gathering evidence to back ‘em up, because to go out and get it would be too much work.

    You doubt me? Hammer Of Truth’s editor, Stephen VanDyke, will be on my blog any day now, snivelling away in the comments section about how long the post is and how hard it is to read.

    But I don’t know it for a fact. I’m just spitballing here.