Archive for January, 2008

On The 4A-GE

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

There might be a little bit of a deluge of car stuff in these parts in the days ahead. We’re going to go ahead and try to save Bessie. It is out of the question for me to do the actual saving, but I have managed to find just a few gentlemen who feel up to the challenge of doing a transplant. The bad news is…and this is probably just an excuse on their part…they’re all gun-shy about the cost side of the equation, and the who-knows-how-long wait in line to get a working 4A-GE DOHC 1.6L EFI.

Excuse or not, that one factor has scuttled every deal so far. And who can blame them.

Real WoodBut my research has landed me on a few pages worth bookmarking. There’s this guy…and this guy…and then a slightly-related engine transplant project, not exactly the one for which I’m looking, that made me chuckle.

Check out the broomstick hood suspension device here. It’s real wood!

We love a good engine swap around these parts, and, ever since the very first Project Car Hell, I’ve been interested in the Toyota-engine-in-Sprite/Midget idea. Not that I’d ever do such a thing, mind you… well, actually, I might! This site is a very well-written and carefully documented account of just how a total raving madman resourceful gearhead goes about stuffing a 160-horsepower Toyota 4AGE into a microscopic British car designed for 65 horsepower. Lots of good stuff here, engine swap fans!

As for Bessie’s second life…I dunno…I just don’t know. As popular as the old 4A-GE has been, well, that works on the demand side as well as the supply side. And they aren’t exactly growing on trees. Looks like a custom rebuild, and honestly, I don’t have the first clue about what that actually entails.

I got the Carfax report. Thirteen records. Most of them “failed emissions test…passed emissions test…failed…passed.” They seem to be under the impression I had 111k on her before I moved to California. But I distinctly remember that night I clicked past 100 on Greenback, between Madison and Main. On the other hand, it was fifteen years ago.

Toyota Finance Corporation found my record. That’s good. I need to resolve this title stuff before I can do anything…the release-of-lien is headed here, should be in hand by Monday.

Then I get to argue with the DMV. The Kah-lee-FOH-nee-yah DMV. My good friends…oh…hello, boys and girls. We just get along like oil and water, me and the DMV folks.

The Greatest Betrayal of All

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

Via Kathryn Jean Lopez, via Neo-Neocon, an item that begs to be parodied, but cannot be…since parody demands an assessment of the level of absurdity in the real thing, followed by a nudging-up by a couple notches. Said notches being simply unavailable.

This comes from NOW’s N.Y. chapter and just has to be quoted in full:

“Women have just experienced the ultimate betrayal. Senator Kennedy’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton’s opponent in the Democratic presidential primary campaign has really hit women hard. Women have forgiven Kennedy, stuck up for him, stood by him, hushed the fact that he was late in his support of Title IX, the ERA, the Family Leave and Medical Act to name a few. Women have buried their anger that his support for the compromises in No Child Left Behind and the Medicare bogus drug benefit brought us the passage of these flawed bills. We have thanked him for his ardent support of many civil rights bills, BUT women are always waiting in the wings.

“And now the greatest betrayal! We are repaid with his abandonment! He’s picked the new guy over us. He’s joined the list of progressive white men who can’t or won’t handle the prospect of a woman president who is Hillary Clinton (they will of course say they support a woman president, just not “this” one). ‘They’ are Howard Dean and Jim Dean (Yup! That’s Howard’s brother) who run DFA (that’s the group and list from the Dean campaign that we women helped start and grow). They are Alternet, Progressive Democrats of America, democrats.com, Kucinich lovers and all the other groups that take women’s money, say they’ll do feminist and women’s rights issues one of these days, and conveniently forget to mention women and children when they talk about poverty or human needs or America’s future or whatever.

“This latest move by Kennedy, is so telling about the status of and respect for women’s rights, women’s voices, women’s equality, women’s authority and our ability – indeed, our obligation – to promote and earn and deserve and elect, unabashedly, a President that is the first woman after centuries of men who ‘know what’s best for us.’”

Whining and complaining their way to global domination. Discriminating and hating their way to a discrimination-and-hate-free utopia. Championing choice, and refusing to let anyone anywhere decide anything any differently.

You do know what the etymology is behind the word “utopia,” don’t you? This is why we need NOW. They show us the reason why.

2008 Election Campaign Theme Song

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

I’m getting so old. I remember when voters demanded to be told the truth…or at least pretended to.

Update: If one searches for succinct characterizations of the direction in which we have been heading, and where exactly we are now, one can hardly do better than this nugget at Phil’s site:

What Democrats Want

So last night our local Libertarian radio host asked the question, “What do Democrats want? I know what Republicans want, I used to be one. What do Democrats want? I want to hear from the Democrats.”

So the first caller calls in … I don’t remember his excact words, but these are pretty close:

“Well I like Obama because he makes me feel good and all that. But as far as what I really want, universal health care. …. And I’m just starting to pay off my college loans. I think there should be free college tuition for poor families.”

He couldn’t think of anything else off the top of his head, he said.

But that seems to sum it up pretty well from where I stand. Democrats want a President that will make them feel good and promise to give them stuff.

The Perfect Wife

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

Better enjoy these while we can. Hillary just might win.

The Force Unleashed

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

And now for some junk food…since I know, if you’re like me, this non-lightsaber-related crap is starting to bore you silly.

Another True Believer Down

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

John Edwards is out of the race.

Last week I categorized all the candidates running as rock stars, wafflers and true believers. That is our new political divide, I argued, because the candidates weren’t running on platforms anymore — instead, they were selling us things, and the disagreement that separated them had to do with what there was to be sold.

Rock stars sell their names and their personalities. Let’s face it…none of Obama’s supporters can tell you his position on any more than a couple of issues. They don’t care. That isn’t what they bought. Ron Paul disagrees with his own supporters, on a great many issues. Issues aren’t important here. And Hillary…hell’s bells, nobody gives a crap about anything she says she’s going to do.

The wafflers sell their timing. They say the right things to the right people — but if they stuck to those positions as the audiences changed, they’d be dead ducks. And they know it. Their selling point is that they’ll “bring together” the “deeply divided” electorate, by “reaching across the aisle” on the issues you don’t really care about. The issues you personally don’t care about. But when they talk to the other guys…the story will be that they’ll do this reaching across the aisle, by jettisoning some other positions about which you care, very deeply. They change their tunes with the whistle-stops. Everybody knows it, we just pretend it isn’t so.

The true believers are true believers. If you disagree with them, they’ll admit it. Some of them will admit it in an “aw shucks, I hope I can still count on your support” kind of way…or, maybe their true beliefs have to do with you being the Hated Enemy, and they’ll tell you to stick it. But the important thing is that they’re going to stick to their guns.

Let’s give credit where credit is due. John Edwards has always been a True Believer.

Yes, it’s provable he’s a liar. He’s a rich guy pledging to close up the wealth gap between the rich and the poor — and nobody is even pretending to believe, even for a split-second, that any of his plans have to do with diminishing his own income and/or personal net worth. But you can be a hypocrite and a true believer. John Edwards has always had a true believe in a two-tier society, in which rich people like him get to stay rich, and rich people who aren’t like him have to be made poor.

I don’t mean to say let’s give him some respect for this. You can decide that for yourself. I’m simply pointing out what John Edwards really is…and it isn’t all bad.

In the post of mine linked above, I said…

The True Believer is the kind we all say we want, the guy who doesn’t vacillate. Positions driven by principles. And I’m afraid that the presidential campaign season in the United States has become a rather unhealthy ritual of weeding these guys out.

I think at this point where just about finished with that preliminary process, aren’t we? Who’s left? So we’re down to the rock stars and the wafflers. And January isn’t even over yet.

So Edwards would have been a horrible President, and was a truly awful candidate — on top of which, he never really had a chance at all, did he? Yet, his departure is still more a cause for weeping and groaning than for celebrating and cheering.

Wonderful…just wonderful…a nine-month mud-wrestling match among empty suits and two-face turncoats.

An Idea, Unlike Any I’ve Seriously Considered Ever Before

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

The one True Believer with decent beliefs, who had a shot, dropped out…I got the news as I was affixing postage stamps to my voter registration form.

WONDERFUL system we have. Makes me feel so…well…enfranchised.

All my life, I have always selected from out of the available candidates, and chosen the one, from among them, that best reflected my beliefs and whose slate of pledged actions upon inauguration most closely matched what I wanted to see done.

Now, here, we have a situation where none of the listed candidates have much of an idea about what they would do. I’m tellin’ ya, something is going on here. I’m not that old. I remember when that was what it was all about. But we’ve become so obsessed with full heads o’hair, sparkly smiles, twinkling eyes, charisma-charisma-charisma, the gift of jibber-jabber and making people feel good…what the hell do I know about any of these people? I mean, really?

Well, here’s an interesting idea that I’m pondering for February 5th…pondering seriously…

That’s the sum of it. If you can’t bring yourself to vote for the offerings in your primary, or if the eventual nominee is somebody you can’t stomach, don’t sit out, and don’t vote for the Democrat. Write in Fred Thompson’s name.

Why?

By doing so, you send a message that can’t be mistaken or spun. It is a message that says:

“I am a Republican who wanted to vote for a conservative GOP candidate, but wasn’t able to do so. I can’t vote for a Democrat, but I can’t vote for any of the Republicans, either. So I’m writing in the name of the candidate I wish I could have voted for, because he is the kind of candidate I could support.”

They have to learn that if they want conservative votes, they have to nominate candidates conservatives would want to vote for.

Now, a preposition is something you shouldn’t ever end a sentence with. But aside from that, the idea makes good sense.

I was very excited about Fred because I was supportive of his ideas. His ideas…and I fully believe, my candidate was pitched out of this perverted fustercluck of a process not because the country is hostile to his ideas, but because the country has become hostile to the idea of choosing a candidate on the basis of ideas. Hair. Smiles. Magic lilt in the voice. Race. Gender. He Lights Up The Room When He Walks Into It. Oooh, look at that tie!

And once a President is sworn in, what inspires a nationwide panic that “we’ve got to get rid of this administration?” Uh…pretty much the same sort of crap we demand from candidates who want that job in the first place, right? Emotional instability. “Fire in the belly.” Hostility directed at exactly the right undesirable people. Whooping. Hollering. YEEEEAAAARRRRGGGHHHH!!! And the lying…don’t forget the lying.

The guy who actually got the job says Saddam Hussein poses an eminent threat…it gets re-worded as an “imminent threat” so people can call him a liar…and on the basis of that threadbare definition of lying, why, we just won’t tolerate that. But any one of the candidates seeking to succeed him, from either party, can tell big fat whoppers all day long and we just eat it up.

Vote for Hillary, She’s a Lady, Running for President

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

Did I mention she’s a woman?

Don’t watch this on a full stomach…

Un-believable. Two minutes in, before anybody says a single word about what the candidate would do. And, don’t wait around for anybody to talk about how it’s funded.

Lots and lots of talk about how “she can do it,” about how “we can do it,” but in my lifetime “it” has always begun with lots of campaigning and lots of talking about what you will do once you get in…and how exactly that would work as a solution to the problems you’re supposed to be trying to solve.

Uh, here’s a question for the Hillary camp. The Constitution says the legislative power is invested in Congress, and the executive powers are conferred upon the President. Congress makes the rules, the President enforces them. If we want this universal healthcare coverage so badly, how come we’re trying to get it by electing a President?

Yes, Presidents badger Congress into sending this or that bill across — well, I still get to say it, don’t I — his desk…at which time he signs it. It does happen. But Congress botches it all the time. Bills die in Congress, that Congress would piss rusty nickels if it meant getting the bills through. That’s just the way large groups of people work. They fail to do things they want to do. It’s really the one hope this nation has for avoiding an even larger healthcare crisis; Congress will try to pass some dreadful universal healthcare regulation, and fail.

Last time we had a plan on the table for universal healthcare coverage, we had a Congress and a President sympathetic to the idea, even enthusiastic about it. Then Hillary stepped in and messed it all up.

Thank God, people like me say. Maybe we’re outnumbered…

…but if that’s the case, I find comfort in these doubts you Hillary-people cast upon your own intelligence, and knowledge of how the government actually works.

Few others have the balls to say this out loud, so I’ll just come out and say it: I hope Bill Clinton’s affairs get a whole lot of attention. And no, I’m not trying to damage the intellectual credibility of the national discourse, as some might think…let’s face it, if that was my motivation, there’s not a whole lot more harm I could do in addition to what’s already been done. No, if we’re going to seriously consider this candidate, her sham “marriage” is quite relevant.

We’re supposed to be all about rejecting racism and sexism. But who on Earth could possibly be more sexist than a Hillary supporter? Think about it. What if we already had a woman President, and she screwed around on her poor husband constantly…cunnilingus from the interns…back room trysts with randomly-selected men during campaign stops…

…and eight years after she’s out, the cuckold wants to run for his shot? They’d tell him where to go & how to get there. That is, if things ever got that far. Personally, I think if a woman President did half the crap to her husband that Bill Clinton did to his wife, Washington would run her out on a rail.

How wonderfully European. The men can cheat, the women can’t.

There’s your feminist movement in 2008 for ya.

Canada Abandons Durban

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

The Government of Canada has abandoned the United Nations Durban II anti-racism conference.

That’s not John Bolton…that’s not John Birch…that’s Canada.

The so-called Durban II conference “has gone completely off the rails” and Canada wants no part of it, said Jason Kenney, secretary of state for multiculturalism and Canadian identity.

“Canada is interested in combatting racism, not promoting it,” Mr. Kenney told The Canadian Press. “We’ll attend any conference that is opposed to racism and intolerance, not those that actually promote racism and intolerance.

“Our considered judgment, having participated in the preparatory meetings, was that we were set for a replay of Durban I. And Canada has no intention of lending its good name and resources to such a systematic promotion of hatred and bigotry.”

The 2001 World Conference Against Racism in Durban turned into “a circus of intolerance,” Mr. Kenney said.

One government official on Wednesday called the conference “a gong show.”

H/T: Boortz.

Best Sentence XXIII

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

Today’s Best Sentence I’ve Heard or Read Lately (BSIHORL) award goes to Ramesh Ponnuru, writing in the National Review Online, who writes about Caroline Kennedy’s Political Romanticism

She says that Obama could be a president like her father. I assume that means that he’ll be overrated, not that he’ll bring us to the brink of nuclear war. [emphasis mine]

H/T: Hot Air.

Another award goes out to Mark Steyn, or rather his non-U.S. correspondent, whose offering is worthy of inspiring reflection throughout this long, long, oncoming year. It is the “model stump speech for this primary season.” We learn of it courtesy of blogger friend Phil:

My friends, we live in the greatest nation in the history of the world. I hope you’ll join with me as we try to change it.

Har!

Ann Coulter earned an honorable mention last month when one of her many snarky snippet ricochets happened to hit reality dead freakin’ on

Liberals lie and lie and lie and then, the moment conservatives respond, they shout: OLD NEWS!

That was a one in a million shot, Annie. I’ll bet you used to bulls-eye womp rats in your T-16 back at home.

Update: I’d read of this study before, but I thought Larry Elder’s sign-off deserved a mention in the BSIHORL awards. The implications are so ominous you’d like for it not to be true. But it is very true, and it might be our country’s biggest problem.

You should read the whole thing from beginning to end…but the final uppercut deserves an excerpt here:

Bottom line: Conservatives consider liberals well-intentioned, but misguided. Liberals consider conservatives not only wrong, but really, really bad people.

Not In It For The Attention, Mind You… XVI

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

…but it would seem lately we have become a flappy bird.

We’ve been popping up & down this scale like a whore’s drawers, but a flappy bird is a notch higher than our previous record…assuming that prior status as “marauding marsupial” was just some kind of fluke, which seems to be the case. We’ll take it.

A Dowager Finds Rest

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

Reading about death is a relatively easy thing. This deals with mortality, which is slightly different, and considerably more difficult. This thing over here dies…that thing over there dies…but mortality is something we all have in common with each other. Death is an event, mortality is a condition. And deep down we all know we have it, and can’t get away from it. It’s part of us, and that’s the theme here — not for the timid.

I bought “Bessie” and drove her off the lot way back when she had 6.3 miles on the clock, and the maps were different. The Berlin Wall would fall in another four months. Hayden Panettiere was over a month away from being born. Batman had just been released, which inspired Bessie’s ultimate nickname — The Batmobile. The woman who would later be my wife, picked her out. I often joked this was the one choice that she made, ever, that wasn’t injurious to my prosperity…which wasn’t a joke. I’ve thought many times that when we split up and Bessie went with me, this was contrary to some master plan that was pursued much, and discussed little. I, and Bessie, represented a ticket to a “good life” for someone who had spent many years chasing it, but not honestly.

For Bessie to be at my side for so long, didn’t figure into my plans either. She was a leased vehicle, leased without any options. I just loved the way she coasted; when she was new, I used to take her out of gear and see how many miles would click on by, as the engine just idled away. It wasn’t until a couple years after that, when I was separated, neck deep in debt, during that wild and crazy summer of ’91 when the collection agencies were kind enough to inform me my wife was hanging bad paper all over Seattle in my name, that I realized — hey wait a minute. Nothing is working out here, financially. My boss is late on his payroll, and I suspect he’s in Vegas gambling something, trying to earn my paycheck from two weeks ago on Black 17. Or maybe he’s given up…maybe I’m just laid-off and I don’t know it. Everything sucks. Only one thing has panned out here, and that’s this little black car.

Final Odometer
The final odometer reading

And Bessie and I took on the world, like a lost soldier from the Civil War trying to find his regiment again, with his faithful horse. Us against the world. Seattle continued its slump, and when a new job prospect opened up in Detroit I was greeted by a rather wretched choice. Move away and turn things around, maybe, or see Mom a few more times after she got that tumor in her brain. There was much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth in our family over this, but pointedly, Mom was not participating in it. She could see people were putting life on hold for her, and she did not approve. Mom was all about life…yes, we should be together as a family, but we should live life first, as it is meant to be lived. Ultimately I did as she wished.

And that’s when this life we should be living, got really exciting — when I spent a year driving a Toyota in Detroit. Detroit, where the livelihood of everyone depends on the sale of American cars. They didn’t appreciate me. They let me know. Since that time, I’ve often commented that if I can do freeway lane changes in Detroit in a rice-rocket, I can do ‘em anywhere in anything.

The divorce came through in November of ’91, and I engaged my two thousand mile commute. To work. Three time zones away, in Detroit. In Bessie. Bessie, whose 60,000 mile warranty expired 20,000 miles ago.

Well, there are other cities where more fun is to be had, than Detroit. But I wouldn’t know one way or the other. I lived the life of a man who had none, who was instead trying to put the remnants of one back together. Working, sleeping, working some more…paying some bills…maybe eating…occasionally drinking. Drinking more than I should. I did have some fun…I learned how to sky-dive in Detroit. Life was such an empty proposition during those months, I’ve often thought that the timing was a little off. Thinking back to the moments where I looked up, and saw my chute deployed properly after all, I’m sometimes unsure if that rush of emotion I felt really was relief.

Fate interjected again, when a contract came up out here. And so, toward the end of ’92, this became my assignment: Sacramento. The family drama kicked into high gear by then, as Mom outlived diagnosis after diagnosis, but it was clear if she made it to the Christmas that was coming up, it would be her last.

Bessie was shipped out to me. This was a condition of my accepting the Sacramento assignment; I had planned for her to facilitate my journey home for the holidays. But it seems someone had been saying whatever needed to be said to get me off the phone, and had instead resolved to talk some sense into me at some later time. Which meant — on December 22, Bessie was not en route according to plan. She was in the Motor City. I was in Sacramento. Immobile. It was far too late to book a flight for Mom’s final Christmas…or catch a Greyhound…or…whatever. My reaction to this was not pleasant. Something had been building up in me during these previous two miserable years. And over the phone, I released it. I know not how. I know not what I said. I knew nothing but rage.

But I do know at 10:00 in the morning on December 24, 1992, Bessie was delivered, Detroit to Sacramento, one way.

I hopped in, gassed her up, and drove like hell. Bellingham, WA: 864 miles. Redding by two in the afternoon, Ashland by that early midwinter nightfall…somewhere up there I stopped for some grub, and reached Portland by eleven-ish. Welcome to Washington. Onward we go. Kelso. Olympia and Nisqually basin, deep into the wee hours of the morning…just drive…

What follows is a sickeningly-sweet Hallmark commercial, where the parents rise for Christmas morning at six, to find coffee being made by the wayward son who just finished an all-nighter to get home in time for Christmas. Mom hadn’t seen me for over a year by now. It was to be the last time.

For the funeral, once again, people tried to talk sense into me, and again I made the mistake of listening. I went by air. I left Bessie parked up in Reno, and took a thoroughly miserable three-leg itinerary up to Bellingham. It took twenty hours to do what I had previously achieved in fourteen…and this inspired a cynicism toward air travel that continued for many years afterward. After that, my point of diminishing returns was thrown WAY out there. A thousand miles or so. Up to that point, the travel agent could rest. Bessie would handle things for me.

And she always did…all those years, if the key turned, the engine would start — no ifs, ands or buts. It was shortly after Mom’s burial, which put some closure on all the drama taking place up north, when I began to settle into something of a normal life in the Big Tomato…where Greenback meets Madison in Orangevale…in the wee hours of the morning, late spring to early summer of ’93, she crossed 100 thousand miles.

And I resolved to learn a bit more about her. The Toyota Corolla GTS was produced as a three-year family, from ’87 to ’89. The engine was a naturally-aspirated double overhead cam 1587cc inline-4 with EFI, a novelty back in those days. It was a third-generation 4A-GE, a popular one for refitting for auto racing. When the lease came to an end, I bought her out. She ran problem free, until — in the summer of ’95, oil started to fall on the exhaust manifold. At 150 thousand miles, she got a new valve cover gasket. That is as close to the heart as any repair ever came throughout her long life — the only procedure ever performed on the engine, regular maintenance aside.

Then I got someone pregnant. About this time it had became trendy and fashionable for people, when they learned of such impending arrivals, to shove expectant fathers into their anticipated life-changes, celebrating the male angst and discomfort in the new role. They came from all over, zooming in like angry hornets, upon whatever parts of the former bachelor’s life he found most pleasing — and in my case they put Bessie in the crosshairs. And so one well-intentioned goo-gooder after another nudged, cajoled and coerced that I should “upgrade” towards one of those trendy minivans.

By 1998, as the boy completed his first year, I came close. But I demanded to see something to show me that the new vehicle for which Bessie would be exchanged, was to be as reliable, and peppy, and carefree, as she had been. The salesmen showed less than overwhelming enthusiasm to demonstrate this to me, and so we walked. Bessie became a family car, albeit an unlikely one.

By this time, we had our little adventure with wrapping Bessie around the tree, miraculously getting her back again. That was another instance of defying the odds. She wasn’t “wrapped around,” instead she was cut in half with the tree rammed square between the headlights. The engine was spared but the radiator was destroyed. It was that dreaded fool-behind-steering-wheel problem that comes up from time to time.

This was the start of a mild decline…although she did snap out of it, in a sense. New parts were found, and plugged in again — and we kept finding out the mechanics didn’t do it quite right. There was that adventure in Williams that we had after it became clear the new radiator had been plugged in all cockeyed.

Bessie continued to service our daily transporation needs, and we continued to service her. New timing belt at 216. New clutch at 238.

I remember during that dramatic breakdown in Williams, we were on our way to visit Dad. I remember we tried again, later that summer, and that was when Bessie crossed a quarter million.

I remember three hundred thousand happened just after “Kidzmom” and I had split up. We tried to keep the home together for the boy’s sake, but in the end, it just amounted to a wonderful lesson for both of us that all people cannot necessarily share their lives with all other people. We’d made our plans in late ’03, during which time it turned out Bessie’s new radiator from the tree-wrapping incident was substandard. A pinhole, in the neck. I was far less distressed about depriving my son of a united household, than I was about doing the smog test to find out if it was worth getting a new radiator. Fortunately, it was…although by now, everyone was convinced I was nuts. February ’04 came, the Mom moved out and took that dreadful stupid dog with her. Life got bleak. I saw very little of the boy over the next three or four months. And then I set up a new household and life got somewhat “normal”…June, his seventh birthday…and that August is when the Big Three Oh Oh happened.

At that point, the life of a single-dad began in earnest, and Bessie’s mileage demands skyrocketed. Fourth of July of ’04 was unforgettable. It was the first father-son thing we did after the split. We piled into ol’ Bessie at three in the morning, and headed out to the Balloon launch. I think it was in Willits. Saw the new Spider Man movie, then waited up for fireworks. It was a good lesson in what a twenty-hour day is like when you’re 38 years old — not the same as when you’re 26.

Single parents treat their cars a little differently. When ya gonna pick him up. When ya gonna drop him off. You forgot to bring his coat. School needs you to pick him up. He wants to see you tonight. Are you taking him this week. This is your weekend. We can’t meet you, can you pick him up here. This one is not your weekend, but do you want him anyway. We won’t be home, can you drop him off over here.

Bessie, by this time, was over fifteen and she handled all these demands with less complaint than a brand new car would’ve. She handled them like she was expecting them. It was an amazing thing.

Looking back on it, I think the final decline came with a single event…the way it does with people who are blessed with longevity, you know? Grandma caught a cold a year before she passed, or she broke her arm, or she slipped on something…and from that point was never the same again. Well, that’s how Bessie went. I parked Bessie unwisely it turns out. Someone backed in to her, destroying the hood. The radiator was unscratched, but the bracket that held it in place was destroyed.

By this time, she was past 330. The insurance company of the woman who didn’t look where she was going when backing up, pronounced this latest repair to be well above the car’s worth. And this, at last, was fresh ground for Bessie. I had to salvage her.

The DMV sent me through this daunting process this last Christmas, and I was working to get it all tied up within the sixty days. She’d need a new set of plates. Little pain-in-the-ass things became items of concern, as they would have caused the inspection to fail. So it was off to the junk yards to get replacement parts for an eighteen year old car.

Bessie (left) lies in state, next to her replacement (right)
Bessie (left) lies in state, next to her replacement (right)

Well…

…it was exactly like something my mother would have done. Who knows, maybe that was her in there all this time — some otherwordly scheme for the Perfect Grandmother to actually see her grandchildren. Just like Mom, Bessie seemed to understand the trouble that was being taken on to keep her going, had risen above some threshold that was no longer acceptable. It was as if something deep inside her reasoned that while life was worth living, for her it came at the expense of others living less of theirs, and she cared not if this sacrifice was freely given or not — she would not accept it. If there was an awful choice to be made, and others would not make it, she would.

On Friday morning, the boy and I hopped in the faithful jalopy to drop him off at his Mom’s one more time. I turned the key and the starter eagerly pushed on the engine…

…and for the first time since the Soviet Union fell, the engine pushed back.

I realized immediately that something had just gone terribly wrong. I checked for the cheapest problems first, but the battery was full of life. You could feel the car lurch slightly when the engine was supposed to turn over. This was the first problem, ever, inside the power plant.

After “Kidzmom’s” new husband drove down to collect the boy, I gave it another whirl and she started right up. The repair shop was about ten miles away, and she was running alright now…except I saw coolant vapors in the exhaust. Not good.

I chanced it.

I made it part of the way. To The Spot. The spot, which I’d spent a decade wondering where exactly it would be…now I have my answer. Latitude 38° 38′ 38.40″N, longitude 121° 09′ 28.05″W, final mileage 341,092.3 — never an inch above that. The idle had suddenly lost what smoothness it had. And then the power fell away. The coolant temperature gauge began nudging treacherously upwards. I powered down one last time…and coasted to The Spot.

End of an era.

My son’s involvement in the salvage operation gave him a new understanding of how faithful this machine had been to us, and he had a tough time with it when he finally realized what happened. It wasn’t like losing a car at all, it was more like losing a very dear pet, or relative. The lectures I found myself dishing out were exactly the same…except for that bit about machines being machines, someday they’ll go, they don’t heal.

But really, are the machines so different. People are the same way. Just like machines. Built to fall apart. Born…terminally ill. We don’t live forever, we just live to see another day.

Bessie navigated her way through a stretch of time that had swallowed up so many other things. But — her time did come, and it will eventually come for us all.

In watching its pendulum
Swing to and fro,
Many hours had he spent while a boy;
And in childhood and manhood
The clock seemed to know,
And to share both his grief and his joy.
For it struck twenty-four
When he entered at the door,
With a blooming and beautiful bride;
But it stopped short
Never to go again,
When the old man died.

On Gas Prices

Monday, January 28th, 2008

I just finished a car-shopping experience for the first time in many years (more on this later), and I was pleasantly surprised about what’s available. I even had to eat a few of my own words about the newer cars; things are not the way I had imagined them to be.

The supply differs strikingly from the demand. If you want a car that gets 35 miles a gallon, you can have it right now. And you don’t have to sacrifice anything at all.

But that isn’t what people are buying. When I look at a highway, there’s really no way to misinterpret what’s going on there. Navs. Explorers. Hummers. Trucks that you can’t possibly call “pickups,” because a pickup is something that holds half a cord of wood and can be parked fairly easily. That simply isn’t what a “truck” is today. In this era of Inconvenient Truth when we’re all oh so worried about polar bears losing their ice, a truck is a gargantuan beast that requires a stepladder even if you’re Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. And nobody bats an eyelash at you for driving to work in one, five days a week, with no cargo in tow whatsoever save for a possible “chocolate bar” cell phone.

But the gas prices, they are to ruin us are they not?

A Wall Street Journal reader writes in with a dose of badly needed perspective…

In 1960 cars got an average of just over 14 miles per gallon and gas cost around 31 cents per gallon, making for a cost per mile driven of about 2.2 cents. Today with gas around $3 and cars getting an average of 22 miles per gallon, it costs nearly 14 cents per mile to drive. But from 1960 to 2006 consumer prices went up around seven times, which means that 2.2 cents in 1960 now equates to more than 15 cents.

Virtually nobody talked about “high” gas prices in 1960. Today, alas, that is all we hear from all too many people, even though driving is actually cheaper.

I do have to take issue with part of this — the logic depends on the improvement in gas mileage over those 48 years, to 22 miles a gallon. Now, I think 22 is a reasonable estimate of the average rating of what I saw in the lot over the weekend, available for my purchase — it is not a reasonable estimate of the average of what I see prowling the highways. Don’t believe me? Try it yourself. Go to a shopping mall. Okay maybe that’s not fair…those people expect to carry something home.

So just go to work. Go to a place that employs a couple hundred people, and go to the employee parking lot — see what’s there. Now, you take that 1960 average of fourteen miles a gallon. Would that be out of place among the gleaming metal beasts you see parked side by side? It looks to me just about dead-on, as a ballpark average. Sure, some of the “mid-sized” vehicles get 19 or 20. There are far more that get 11. Some get 8.

But the letter still makes an important point, one not commanding all the attention it should while we bitch about gas prices. The size of our cars is decisional.

We make conversation with each other by pissing and moaning about gas prices.

Our cars are freakin’ huge.

They aren’t all necessarily built that way. We buy ‘em that way. For the purpose of carrying…no freight. None at all most of the time — very little, some of the time.

Clue?

Memo For File LII

Monday, January 28th, 2008

Item!

Caroline Kennedy has been looking for a candidate like her father…and by doing so, one would presume, speaking for millions.

OVER the years, I’ve been deeply moved by the people who’ve told me they wished they could feel inspired and hopeful about America the way people did when my father was president. This sense is even more profound today. That is why I am supporting a presidential candidate in the Democratic primaries, Barack Obama.

My reasons are patriotic, political and personal, and the three are intertwined. All my life, people have told me that my father changed their lives, that they got involved in public service or politics because he asked them to. And the generation he inspired has passed that spirit on to its children. I meet young people who were born long after John F. Kennedy was president, yet who ask me how to live out his ideals.

Her reasons are patriotic, political and personal, and all three are intertwined. Hmmmm…

I’m fascinated with this passion for selecting one candidate over another, coupled with a seemingly blissful ignorance and apathy about positions. This editorial is ten paragraphs long, and every single syllable is about mood. Nothing, the all important make-me-happy issue aside, about what this candidate will do that that candidate will not…or what this candidate can do that that candidate cannot.

And that isn’t just my interpretation. Second paragraph from the end, Caroline comes right out and tells us what she wants in a President:

I want a president who understands that his responsibility is to articulate a vision and encourage others to achieve it; who holds himself, and those around him, to the highest ethical standards; who appeals to the hopes of those who still believe in the American Dream, and those around the world who still believe in the American ideal; and who can lift our spirits, and make us believe again that our country needs every one of us to get involved.

A President with the capability of telling us what we want to do.

Fox guarding the henhouse if ever there was one.

Item!

Gerard Van der Leun cites a parallel between Brave New World and the…uh…malaise:

Electile Dysfunction: “The inability to become aroused over any of the choices for president put forth by either party in the 2008 election year.”

Quick, break out the Soma!

“Awful? They don’t find it so. On the contrary, they like it. It’s light, it’s childishly simple. No strain on the mind or the muscles. Seven and a half hours of mild, unexhausting labour, and then the soma ration and games and unrestricted copulation and the feelies. What more can they ask for?” — Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

HT: The Homchick Report

Ah, Huxley. I have another passage to list as my personal favorite:

“And there you are,” Dr. Gaffney concluded.

“Do they read Shakespeare?” asked the Savage as they walked, on their way to the Bio-chemical Laboratories, past the School Library.

“Certainly not,” said the Head Mistress, blushing.

“Our library,” said Dr. Gaffney, “contains only books of reference. If our young people need distraction, they can get it at the feelies. We don’t encourage them to indulge in any solitary amusements.” [emphasis mine]

Item!

Millswood Middle School in Lodi, enforces a strict one-way hallway policy, with detention for violators:

Since the school opened in 2004, Millswood Middle staff has enforced the school’s one-way-only policy inside the main building on campus.

Once inside, students must follow the school’s circular hallways on both floors and on the school’s three staircases. Teachers and staff say the campus’ one-way-only policy cuts down on fights, hallway traffic and general chaos that comes with having 800 middle schoolers in one place.

“If everybody’s going the same direction, you can’t bump shoulders and you can’t give dirt looks, because you’re looking at the back of somebody’s head,” says Principal Sheree Perez.

But…but…but…if kids go through a K-12 curriculum that places such an inordinate weight upon their ability to co-exist and all head in the same direction, just to be herded around more easily…what is to prepare them for an adulthood, in which every now and then they’ll be required to go against the grain? To do the right thing?

Ah, but there’s the rub.

When it comes to preparing children for adulthood, a great deal of talk is made about teaching them how to “do the right thing” — but when’s the last time you ever heard of a child being encouraged to judiciously swim against the crowd? How many years has it been?

How old were most of us, when we finally figured out the frequent fallibility of the majority view? Some unfortunates make it all the way to the crypt never quite figuring it out. And we can’t rely on our schools, it seems — they are now at the point of dishing out punishment, for walking against the crowd. Inconceivable to imagine the school would permit thinking against the crowd…certainly, to imagine it would provide any encouragement for same.

And what of the adults? What is required of us, along the lines of that selective thinking-for-onesself?

It seems we are increasingly being called upon by our leaders…not to do…but to be. Indeed, I’m left struggling to figure out what distresses Caroline Kennedy so much. Umptyfratz presidential candidates have toured our state primaries, debating, advertising, giving speeches — trotting out their respective versions of this dream — adapting to a New America, in which the electorate no longer tells the leaders what to do, but rather, the other way around.

And as these candidates for President have told us what they want us to do, so few active verbs have come out of any of it. Just a couple, really: believe — and — sacrifice.

We’re there. Nobody expects anyone to do…everyone expects everyone to be. To be happy. To be enthused. To be clockwise. It’s gotten so bad, that our political leaders, like ourselves, are expected to be everything, but to do very little, if anything at all. All they are expected to do, is — expect. Expect things out of us. Expect us to be, and not to do.

Brave new world, indeed.

Soma all ’round.

Married Couples Who Fight Live Longer

Saturday, January 26th, 2008

This is one phony white-coat-propeller-beanie-wearing pocket-protector clipboard-carrying got-beat-up-in-high-school egghead study I can certainly believe…

Preliminary results of a 17-year study of 192 married couples indicate that couples who argue live longer than those suffering in silence.

Early mortality results from “mutual anger suppression, poor communication (of feelings and issues) and poor problem-solving with medical consequences,” the researchers write in the January issue of the Journal of Family Communication. The couples ranged in age from 35 to 69.

“When couples get together, one of their main jobs is reconciliation about conflict,” said researcher Ernest Harburg, professor emeritus with the University of Michigan School of Public Health and Psychology Department. “Usually nobody is trained to do this. If they have good parents, they can imitate, that’s fine, but usually the couple is ignorant about the process of resolving conflict.”

In this post-cold-war world, the culture of the western world has lost an important ability, and this ability has been a keystone to our most unimpressive but fundamental personal achievements — existing in a healthy way in a marriage, eating in a healthy way, sleeping in a healthy way.

That ability has to do with graciously peeking at your neighbor’s test paper. Borrowing techniques from others without fanfare.

We guard our privacy with zeal and jealousy. But privacy about what? How we argue with our spouses…the contents of our grocery carts. Whack your bratty kid on the seat of his pants, and it’s everybody’s business.

We need professionals to inject their wisdom into marital spats, and household diets. Professionals…who might have the same problems…or worse. Somehow, it’s become culturally unacceptable to say — “hey, so-and-so seems to have a happy marriage, what is it they’re doing that we don’t do?” Or, “hey, those friends of ours don’t huff and puff when they get up from a chair, and they can see their shoes when they stand up straight and look down. What are they eating?”

You see people succeeding where you fail, and resolve to find a difference, that might involve keeping your own individual values. When you “seek professional help” to guide you in these problems, society can filter out these professionals for you. And exert pressure on the professionals that aren’t so filtered.

As the war on the individual continues, we like to define “privacy” as a difficulty involved in communicating with one another…without the intervention of a professional. And so it has become commonplace for people, even people lacking any experience in such a situation, to sing the praises of the professionals and the wonderful things the professionals can do — but entirely rare for anybody to specifically cite the wonderful things the professionals do.

So without them, we are discouraged from taking in any new information about how to live. For a younger couple that is inexperienced in the ways of human conflict, this leaves two options — the ever popular “seek counseling,” or do more and more fighting until you get a divorce.

And most counseling is about paying a professional to find more complaints about the man, on the way to the divorce.

In my own brief marriage, I could see I’d been hoodwinked in childhood — brought up to believe, without anyone outwardly stating it, that everybody’s compatible with everybody else, or at least if they work at it they ought to eventually become that way. It just isn’t so. But I’ve strongly suspected, in the long years since then, that I’m not the only one fooled this way. We desperately want to believe that we all possess uber-compatibility with each other, or at least the makings of it.

It’s our heritage. The class-ism from Middle English society. We have this instinctive egalitarian desire to evolve beyond it.

The tricky thing about egalitarianism, though, is that it can only work on a foundation of other things. What we’re doing is trashing individualism, and expecting zero consequences for doing so when in fact there are consequences. An individual may believe that the point of having money, is to spend it. Another individual might believe the point is all in the saving of it. As individuals they can cope with life just fine, in their own way — but two such individuals cannot built a home together, even though they might have been raised to believe this should be do-able. Not without one of them undergoing a profound structural change in the way they look at money.

I expect this is an important study…because I expect this is the way thing are typically done. Couples marry, and then hope whatever inventory there is of foundational differences in the way they look at life, will work itself out. In our desire for more egalitarianism, we parents tend to neglect to teach our kids that people are different. And then the household does things according to the will of one of the spouses, or the other. Usually the woman. Let’s face it…women are smarter at interacting. People want to interact with them. Television commercials are aimed at them, salesmen talk to them, counselors tailor their marriage advice in such a way that the woman will find it pleasing.

And so the man is left to stew in his juices. And go fishing.

They fight. Or not. They get divorced. Or not. But they’re aggravated by the knowledge that their parents and grandparents didn’t go through any of this…why is that?

There used to be some shame involved in divorce. In fact, there used to be shame involved in just fighting. People did both…but culturally, less was thought of them when they were caught doing it. So the previous generations did some stewing in their own juices as well.

But shame can have a useful side as well, and this is the part I think most people miss. For example — consider this definition from the House of Eratosthenes Glossary

Arguing in a Vacuum (v.):
An attempt to persuade another mindset which 1) has not agreed on the facts to be considered or 2) already agrees on the thing to be done (see Thing To Do).

…and think on the second of those two clauses. Persuading another consciousness — your spouse — when s/he already agrees on the thing to be done.

I can think of a great example just off the top of my head. My son was born at twelve pounds…his mother had resolved to breastfeed him — but as he approached his second week of life, she had to abandon this because he was being a little piglet.

Now, I’m a dude. Maybe that makes sense. Maybe it doesn’t. I dunno.

I did notice in my years with his mother, that everything that could possibly cost money, did. But the point is, if she can’t make enough milk for the little monster…she can’t do it. I’ve long had the same reputation about arguments that she had about spending money…if an argument can be made, I’ll make one. Well, it isn’t true. I went off to the store and got formula. Looking back on it, maybe a little arguing would have been helpful. Formula isn’t cheap.

But that story has a point to it. When you disagree on what’s good and what’s not good — and believe me, off in mommy-land, there is a white-hot cultural war going on vis a vis the merits of breastfeeding versus formula — arguing might have a chance at being practical if you disagree about the thing or things to do. Otherwise, it is arguing in a vacuum.

And so shame does have a place. In times of old, husbands and wives had a tendency to “not do this” if there was agreement about the thing to do, or not to be done. Why haggle over the reasons why?

Nowadays, every principle that is meritorious, must be articulated…one more time. Every one that has emerged from The Dark Side, must be denounced…one more time. Silence may not be kept. We do tend to do less stewing than generations past, and we do tend to do more yelling…the statistics do say we live longer.

But I can’t escape the feeling that there seem to be conflicts that did not exist previously. And as an adjunct to that, I also can’t escape the feeling that much of this is arguing in a vacuum. Arguing over the merits of doing the things we’re going to do, or not do, when we’ve already agreed on the important stuff, the things to be done, or not done.

I Made a New Word XII

Friday, January 25th, 2008

Bot Market

A market that exists in transaction movement only, producing no wealth.

In a stricter definition, a wealth-neutral market created from government regulation, which the players in that market, then take an active role in creating and refining. A market built around a vicious cycle of lobbying and legislating. A market that exists in a parasitic relationship to the rest of us, as opposed to a symbiotic one.

Human Bot FlyNamed after the most horrifying of the beasties on Cracked’s list of the five most horrifying bugs in the world, the Bot Fly, which feeds itself by tunneling through animal flesh. It fits very well…

There are dozens of varieties of Bot Fly, they’re each highly adapted to target a specific animal, they have delightfully descriptive names like Horse Stomach Bot Fly, Sheep Nose Bot Fly and, hey, guess what. One of them is called Human Bot Fly.

And this is inspired, in turn, by a story (about which we learn courtesy of Rick) putting us on notice of a brand new legal specialty: Environmentalism. Try on $700 an hour for size.

Lawyers are becoming some of the best-paid environmentalists. Twenty of the 100 highest-grossing U.S. law firms have started practices advising Companies on climate change, according to a Bloomberg survey of the firms’ Web sites. The attorneys help clients finance clean-energy projects and lobby Congress, typically billing $500 to $700 an hour.

Firms including Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, Heller Ehrman and Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton joined the global warming cause as real-estate and structured-finance attorneys lost jobs to the worst U.S. housing slump in 27 years. The move into climate-change law is gaining traction as Congress considers a mandatory carbon market to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Yeah, George Bush gets blame for the rapidly weakening U.S. dollar. He deserves a great deal of this. You spend money like it’s going out of style…you confront the enemy, at enormous financial cost, as we have been needing to do for a long time, but to buttress your “political capital” you refuse to veto any NEW spending…lemme repeat that, any NEW spending…yes, the dollar will tank.

Yes, a lot of it is Bush’s fault.

But how strong will a market ever become, when it feeds on itself? These lawyers are making money by killing business. No, wait, it’s worse than that — lawyers have been doing that for generations.

These lawyers, though, make the money by talking the businesses into committing suicide.

The world carbon-trading market tripled to about $30 billion between 2005 and 2006, according to the World Bank. Such a market in the U.S. may reach as much as $300 billion by 2020, Peter Orszag, director of the Congressional Budget Office, said in U.S. House testimony last year.

The model proposed by Warner, a Virginia Republican, and Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut, is similar to the European Union’s emissions program. Heavy polluters must buy credits to comply, while cleaner Companies can profit by selling them.

How many millions of people do we have in the United States who are “into environmentalism”?

How many of them are purely useful-idiots — making no money from it? People who see it as nothing more than a fashion statement?

How many of them drive big, big cars so they can sit way up high? Even when commuting to work? By themselves? With a lunch box, a badge with which to get in the front door, and nothing else? No kids, no soccer gear, no camping equipment…just a sandwich and an apple and their own ass? Eleven miles a gallon?

How many of them bitch about the gas prices?

How does an oil company pay for carbon credits? Built into the system, right? The system…which is funded by a gas company…which makes money from gas…which is sold to the useful-idiot environmentalist guy in his big ol’ Navigator driving his own ass and nothing else to work.

Waiting for the day George W. Bush leaves office. Just like the lawyer making $700 an hour producing nothing. Except the useful-idiot environmentalist, is looking forward to Bush’s exit because he’s counting on gas prices going down

We are being SO had.

Update: Went back and checked my notes to figure out how I learned about the dreaded Bot Fly. It was linked in an unusually verbose and action-packed post from Duffy…which has lots and lots of other good stuff.

Most Diversity Training Ineffective

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

Via Washington Post, via Gerard

Most Diversity Training Ineffective, Study Finds
Sunday, January 20, 2008; Page A03

Most diversity training efforts at American companies are ineffective and even counterproductive in increasing the number of women and minorities in managerial positions, according to an analysis that turns decades of conventional wisdom, government policy and court rulings on their head.

A comprehensive review of 31 years of data from 830 mid-size to large U.S. workplaces found that the kind of diversity training exercises offered at most firms were followed by a 7.5 percent drop in the number of women in management. The number of black, female managers fell by 10 percent, and the number of black men in top positions fell by 12 percent. Similar effects were seen for Latinos and Asians.

The study found a big difference insofar as whether attendance in the training was mandatory or voluntary.

“When attendance is voluntary, diversity training is followed by an increase in managerial diversity,” said Alexandra Kalev, a sociologist at the University of Arizona, who led the research. “Most employers, however, force their managers and workers to go through training, and this is the least effective option in terms of increasing diversity. . . . Forcing people to go through training creates a backlash against diversity.”

Kalev said many trainers and executives told her they were not surprised by her findings. What this means, she said, is that many companies are not just pursuing poor policies, but are doing so even though their own experts know the training is ineffective or counterproductive.

Several experts offered two reasons for this: The first is that businesses are responding rationally to the legal environment, since several Supreme Court rulings have held that companies with mandatory diversity training are in a stronger position if they face a discrimination lawsuit. Second, many companies — with the implicit cooperation of diversity trainers — find it easier to offer exercises that serve public relations goals, rather than to embrace real change.

You mean — w-w-we can’t change the way people think about things, by scaring them with lawsuits?

Marc Bendick, an economist who researches diversity at Bendick and Egan Economic Consultants in the District, said his surveys suggest there is a role for conventional sensitivity training. But he agreed that the training is likely to be effective only in the context of an organization genuinely interested in cultural and structural change.

“If you ask what is the impact of diversity training today, you have to say 75 percent is junk and will have little impact or no impact or negative impact,” Bendick said.

I think I can bottom-line this in a way the Washington Post story does not…since it seems to be tip-toeing around an obvious truth.

When the training is simply a manifestation of an underlying belief, it is effective. Which means it is not — it is the underlying belief that is effective, not the training. And, of course, when the training is intended to instill a belief that did not exist previously, of course it has to be ineffective.

In other words, the training — by itself — is ineffective all the time. Companies will become diverse when they want to.

Next task…defining what “diversity” really means. Is it a race-neutral term? That one is completely up to the reader’s guesswork, since at no point does the story dare to supply evidence suggesting one answer or the other.

My Favorite Fred Thompson Columns

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

Well, he’s out.

And I’m left with three great questions that inspire only mediocre answers, if indeed there are any answers that can be provided at all:

One, why vote against Fred? I don’t mean why did they; I mean why should they have. The best answer I ever heard came from our friend in New Mexico, that Iron Eagle III was a bad movie. The answer I hear most frequently has something to do with “fire in the belly.” This is vastly inferior to the Iron Eagle answer, because fire in the belly is a quality best shown by voters, not by candidates. And here’s a news flash: When you go shopping for a car, and you start making your decision based on the twinkle in the salesman’s eye, and the sparkle on the salesman’s teeth — as opposed to whether you’ll be pleased with the car a year from now — that, there, is a symptom that you’re missing some fire in your belly.

Two, why vote for Huck? The best answer I’ve heard to this question, came from Chuck Norris, I think. Something to do with being younger than 84. No, seriously why vote for him? Why should he have received the votes in South Carolina that Fred was seeking? More “animated”? He’s an ex-preacher? His southern accent is more convincing? Please. Am I to believe this was a process of predicting who’d stand the best chance against a democrat in November? Seriously? I’m to believe our thin-skinned secularists would not be agitated by statements like “that’s what we need to do — to amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards”?

Three…lacking some kind of reform, does our electoral process have any better chance of installing a quality leader at the head of our government, than a game of roulette? I’ve not heard anyone passionately defend this part of the campaign, where the early-states get to cull the herd before said herd has been inspected by anyone else. Nobody’s tried to improve the process either, other than through this absurd game of leapfrog in which the states move up their primary election dates to one-up each other. The effect thus far: The length of the campaign season has roughly doubled, from just shy of a year, to just shy of two.

I heard on the radio that the one “True Believer” in the presidential race, was pulling out. Now all we have is a bunch of smooth-talkers and professional wafflers, Republican and democrat…people who’ve raised millions of dollars by showing much greater concern about hairstyles and voice inflections, than about the content of what’s coming out of their mouths. And why shouldn’t they be so concerned. They’re still up, Fred’s down. The least cynical conclusion I could draw about the process we have, is that it’s biased toward candidates who are not listed in Iron Eagle movie credits. And y’know, call it a hunch…but I don’t think that’s it.

But the fact that Fred’s out, doesn’t upset me nearly as much as what comes next. Know what I was doing at the very moment I got the word? I was affixing postage stamps to my voter registration form. Millions of Americans just like me never had a say in this thing.

Well, I have some ideas about what to do going forward. I can’t vote for Fred. But I know why I wanted to — it wasn’t that Fred agreed with me on every single position, although he did on many. It’s that Fred represented things. He had the balls to put it in writing.

At this time, I’ll have to ask…seriously…if this is not the “fire in the belly” we really all want. Because I think it is. It takes gonads to write columns, spelling out exactly what your beliefs are. Especially in the year you’re running for President of the United States. This nation was founded by men who had these kinds of cojones. It is a “paper” nation, not a bumper-sticker nation.

Well, whatever personal attributes Fred Thompson has, are non-issues now. But his beliefs are relevant to the decision we still need to make.

Therefore, I’d like to propose a little game at this time with my blogger friends.

Here is the archive to Fred’s statements from his campaign website. It’s very fashionable now when you support a candidate who represents nothing, to evade the truth by uttering those four magic words “Go To His Website” to find out what the charlatan-candidate’s position is. But at Fred’s website, you find something different. You find real positions on issues…archived, signed, and dated. That’s right, Fred is a blogger. One of the most fearless.

And here is the archive from Fred’s column on National Review Online.

The little game I’d like to play, is to simply snip from your favorite ones. Fred does the writing, you do the choosing. And when you’re done, ask some of your blogger friends — whoever is known to you to be dissatisfied with the conservative choices — to do the same. I’ll bet when we’re finished, we’ll have just a few columns that can be easily seen to enjoy widespread support. From those like me, who backed Fred, and from others who…whatever. Didn’t like Iron Eagle. You know who you are — the guys who think Huck or Rudy or Mitt “might do more good than harm,” or “are just as good as anybody else.” Those of you who are struggling to pick the right candidate to get the message out. I know you’re frustrated just like me. Spend a few minutes defining the message.

Let’s find out where the common ground is among us. Maybe by the time we’re done, God willing, someone will be in a position to ask the remaining candidates what they think about all that.

Here are my favorite Fred Thompson columns. They’re sampled from the issues that mean the most to me. I wonder if he said something that resonates with anybody else?

Real American Idols, April 5, 2007

If you tune into the news, you’re going to end up hearing or reading at least the headlines of stories you’d probably rather not know about. Somehow, I know that Paris Hilton may have violated her parole. I’m not sure how it happened, but I even know a little about Britney Spears’s hairdo, divorce, and trip to rehab. These bits of cultural trivia, I really wish I hadn’t digested.

What I’m not going to do now is scold editors for spending more time on Anna Nicole Smith and Lindsay Lohan than the details of our federal budget. To begin with, it would have about as much impact as it would for me to tell some pop starlet, who has more money than I ever will, to put on some decent clothes and behave herself.

I do think, though, that we should be worried when our children are shown over and over again that people who are rich and famous, and are presented as “idols,” get even more rich and famous due to behaviors that would be rightly deemed tragedies in most families. So, instead of telling our news sources what not to publish, maybe I could make a few suggestions for additional programming.

There are young women who are succeeding because of all the old virtues that we want our children to learn and emulate — women whose stories are just as compelling and entertaining as Britney Spears’s. One is Candace Parker, the 20-year-old forward for the University of Tennessee’s Lady Volunteers — who just won the NCAA women’s basketball championship.

Candace has complained in the past when journalists focused solely on her, the Lady Vols’ high scorer, instead of her entire team. I wouldn’t want to offend her, so I will point out that Shannon Bobbitt and the entire team also did what had to be done to win this year — drilling and working out hard in the off season when other teams were taking it easy. Still, Candace is the kind of role model I would want my daughters to look up to. She’s earned academic honors while putting in the time necessary to win Tennessee’s first championship in nine years, and will stay in school despite being eligible for the pro draft. My wife, by the way, is proud just to share her hometown of Naperville, Illinois.

Another role model critical to the Lady Vol’s accomplishment is head coach Pat Summitt, who has more victories to her credit than any other coach in NCAA basketball history — men included. Summit has just earned the first contract for a women’s basketball coach worth more than a million dollars a year.

Now, you may be asking yourself if I’m not just bragging about the Lady Vols because I’m a Tennessean, and I might not even argue with you if you said so. In fact, I’ve found myself humming “Rocky Top” ever since the team took the NCAA cup, but both of these women, and the other Lady Vol team members as well, have shown the discipline, sacrifice, and desire that anyone can and should aspire too. For the sake of our daughters, they ought to get at least a fraction of the coverage our media gives embarrassing, dysfunctional celebrities.

Sanctuary Cities, August 14

If you listen to folks who oppose immigration and border enforcement, you get the feeling they think we put locks on our doors to keep everybody out. The truth is we have locks so we can choose who comes in.

An example of what happens when we don’t make the choice took place August 4th when three Newark, New Jersey, college students with great promise were executed, gangland style. The killers’ ringleader was apparently an illegal alien indicted twice in 2007 for felonies, including the rape of a kindergarten-aged girl.

Why would such a person be set free instead of being handed over to authorities for deportation? The answer is that Newark is a “sanctuary city” which bans cooperation between local officials and federal immigration officials. More than 60 sanctuary zones, including 30 of America’s largest cities, provide a national networked haven for foreign and organized criminals who recruit and operate outside those areas as well. These sanctuaries include Cambridge, Massachusetts; Los Angeles, California; Detroit, Michigan; Chicago, Illinois; Austin and Houston, Texas; Denver, Colorado; and New York City.

Plutonic Warming, March 22

Some people think that our planet is suffering from a fever. Now scientists are telling us that Mars is experiencing its own planetary warming: Martian warming. It seems scientists have noticed recently that quite a few planets in our solar system seem to be heating up a bit, including Pluto.

NASA says the Martian South Pole’s “ice cap” has been shrinking for three summers in a row. Maybe Mars got its fever from earth. If so, I guess Jupiter’s caught the same cold, because it’s warming up too, like Pluto.

This has led some people, not necessarily scientists, to wonder if Mars and Jupiter, non signatories to the Kyoto Treaty, are actually inhabited by alien SUV-driving industrialists who run their air-conditioning at 60 degrees and refuse to recycle.

Silly, I know, but I wonder what all those planets, dwarf planets and moons in our SOLAR system have in common. Hmmmm. SOLAR system. Hmmmm. Solar? I wonder. Nah, I guess we shouldn’t even be talking about this. The science is absolutely decided. There’s a consensus.

A New York State of Mind, August 22

When I was working in television, I spent quite a bit of time in New York City. There are lots of things about the place I like, but New York gun laws don’t fall in that category.

Anybody who knows me knows I’ve always cared deeply about the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. So I’ve always felt sort of relieved when I flew back home to where that particular civil liberty gets as much respect as the rest of the Bill of Rights.

Unfortunately, New York is trying, again, to force its ways on the rest of us, this time through the courts. First, they went after U.S. gun manufacturers, seeking through a lawsuit not only money but injunctive control over the entire industry. An act of congress in 2005 blocked, but did not end, that effort.

Now, the same activist federal judge from Brooklyn who provided Mayor Giuliani’s administration with the legal ruling it sought to sue gun makers, has done it again. Last week, he created a bizarre justification to allow New York City to sue out-of-state gun stores that sold guns that somehow ended up in criminal hands in the Big Apple.

Reclaim Greatness: Lower Taxes. Enforce Laws, November 30

I believe there are millions of Americans who know our security and prosperity are at risk if we don’t address the challenges of our time – the global threat of terrorism; taxes and spending that will bankrupt future generations; and a government that can’t get the most basic responsibilities right for its citizens.

In 1994 when I first ran for the Senate, I advocated the same common-sense conservative positions I hold today. They are based upon what I believe to be sound conservative First Principles, reflecting the nature of man and the wisdom of the ages. It is a basic recognition that our rights come from God and not from government. Essentially, it’s about freedom. A government big enough to do everything for us is powerful enough to do anything to us.

These principles lead me to believe in lower taxes, free markets, private property and fair competition. These principles made America great, and we should rededicate ourselves to them, not abandon them.

Second Amendment: A Citizen’s Right, November 21

Here’s another reason why it’s important that we appoint judges who use the Constitution as more than a set of suggestions. Today, the Supreme Court decided to hear the case of District of Columbia v. Heller.

Six plaintiffs from Washington, D.C. challenged the provisions of the D.C. Code that prohibited them from owning or carrying a handgun. They argued that the rules were an unconstitutional abridgment of their Second Amendment rights. The Second Amendment, part of the Bill of Rights, provides, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

The District argued, as many gun-control advocates do, that these words only guarantee a collective “right” to bear arms while serving the government. The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected this approach and instead adopted an “individual rights” view of the Second Amendment. The D.C. Circuit is far from alone. The Fifth Circuit and many leading legal scholars, including the self-acknowledged liberal Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe, have also come to adopt such an individual rights view.

I’ve always understood the Second Amendment to mean what it says – it guarantees a citizen the right to “keep and bear” firearms, and that’s why I’ve been supportive of the National Rifle Association’s efforts to have the DC law overturned.


Wishful Theorists
, March 27

So they’re going to dig up Harry Houdini. They want to see if he was poisoned by a powerful league of spiritualists for exposing their phony séances. The doctor who’ll examine the remains also exhumed Jesse James’s coffin a few years ago — to see if the outlaw outwitted authorities by having another man buried in his place.

People love a good conspiracy theory, which may be one of the reasons that actor Charlie Sheen is going to narrate a documentary about how the World Trade Towers were brought down by the U.S. government. About the same time, Rosie O’Donnell added her credibility to the project.

It was an interesting coincidence that their announcements hit the news just as the military released Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s confession regarding his role in planning the 9/11 attacks — and a lot more. Of course, we didn’t really need his confession, because his career has been so well documented.

Iran, Nuclear Weapons, and the NIE, December 6

The new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran’s Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities doesn’t change my view of that we need to restrain Iran. The NIE confirms that as recently as the fall of 2003, Iran was covertly working to develop nuclear weapons. Perhaps they have since halted their covert nuclear weapons work, but meanwhile they continue to aggressively pursue a uranium enrichment capability, despite the fact that it makes no economic sense as a civilian program.

This program was begun secretly as part of their larger nuclear weapons program and could be converted to bomb-making in short order. The knowledge and equipment necessary to enrich uranium for civilian nuclear fuel is identical to that used to enrich uranium for a nuclear bomb; making fissile material for an atomic weapon just takes a little longer. Iran developed this program covertly and illicitly (in violation of its Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty safeguards obligations) and pursued it for years before the United States and others found out about it. Iran’s transgressions are numerous: it failed to declare its activities, hid key portions of its program, and acquired material and technology illicitly, among other things. Much of this continues to this day.

As recently as two weeks ago, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that Iran is not fully cooperating with the agency. IAEA Inspectors continue to have limited access to Iranian nuclear sites and their knowledge of Iran’s nuclear activities is “diminishing.” Iran has rejected the further transparency measures the IAEA has requested. Tehran has also refused to bring into force the Additional Protocol—an agreement that would give IAEA greater access to Iranian facilities to determine whether illicit activities are occurring. If all secret work has ended and Iran’s enrichment program is really for peaceful purposes, why this continued secrecy? What is Iran hiding?

Update: Kathryn Jean Lopez nails it shut.

He raised the bar for detailed policy prescriptions. You get the impression from what he says and from how he says it that he’s got consistent conservative instincts. He’s grounded.

You believed him when he said Saturday night, “It’s never been about me. It’s never even been about you. It’s been about our country and about the future of our country …. Our party is being forced to look in the mirror….” If it was about him he’d probably have kept his comfortable Law & Order paycheck and let someone else brave the Iowa State Fair heat and reporters’ comments on his Guccis and golf cart.

They say he had no “fire in the belly.” As he’s put it: If the worst thing you can say about him is that he does not want to be president desperately enough, that’s not a bad position to be in.
:
“He’s a depth guy,” is the way Rush Limbaugh described the senator. Much, much worse could be said. He has something politicians ought to emulate, who too often have their thoughtfulness media-trained right out of them from the get-go. You saw it in his policy positions; you saw it when he debated our Ramesh Ponnuru on federalism last year; you saw it at times during the debates — especially the last one in South Carolina, where he was clear, commanding, entertaining — and, of course, conservative.

H/T: IMAO.

Tagged:
IMAO
Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler
Exile in Portales
Brutally Honest
American Digest

Top 10 Terrifying Women in Movies

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

Here is the list

…looks like Nurse Ratchet didn’t make it.

And, the Top 10 Sci-Fi Hotties are over here.

Memo For File LI

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

Every now and then a state holds a primary, and I hear of concerns about “voter turnout.” It’s too low. I see and hear about people voting who I don’t think have taken the time to educate themselves about what’s going on and what the President would be able to do about it, so I’m not so sure low voter turnout is a bad thing. But if it’s been plummeting in recent years and this really is a problem, I think I have an explanation.

It’s the two-party system. It’s not that it’s too important to us, it’s that it has ceased to be. America’s two-party system has been secretly replaced. Back in the olden days, those hated partisan “R versus D” days, people voted just fine & dandy.

The dirty little secret about the 2008 elections is that we aren’t voting on Republicans versus Democrats. We aren’t voting on positions on the issues. We’re voting on what exactly a candidate is supposed to be selling us, in order to get our vote. We are, in effect, voting on how the process is supposed to work. The process…that comes to an end in the first week of November. What we want to have happen once the candidate is sworn in, is something that isn’t on the minds of very many people anymore.

It’s kind of like picking numbers in a lottery in which you don’t win anything. You wouldn’t miss an old re-run for that, would you…no, you wouldn’t. So it’s no wonder voter turnout is low.

You can hear it in the candidates’ names, when discussed by those who have made the decision to vote for them. Nobody is ready to support Barack Obama; instead, they think the best choice is Barack Obaaaaaaaaaaaama. And Ron Paaaaaaaaaaaul. In the discussion that ensues, and boy howdee, these people will make damn good and sure it will ensue indeed, we are regaled with glorious descriptions about the Chosen One’s position on…one issue. Maybe two. And there is passion there. A pet peeve. A bug up the butt.

If we undertake to pepper this supporter with questions about the Chosen One’s position on five or six other issues, it won’t take long, here it comes…that look. The deer-in-headlights look. And then that wonderful intonation that we should “go to his/her website to find out about that.”

Okay, so those among us who nurture the greatest passion — even they don’t know what they’re going to get out of this deal.

The CandidatesI think we’d all be healthier upstairs if we chose now as the time to admit, with some of these candidates, it isn’t about the issues. It’s about the name. These aren’t really even “supporters” — these people would be more appropriately and accurately described as “fans.” They have chosen an identity for themselves, and the identity is that they want to vote for this person. That’s why one of these names, a name we have been hearing for sixteen years now, is now pronounced Cliiiiiiiiiinton.

Say Hello to 2008: Year of the “Rock Star” candidate. What would he/she do in this situation? Who knows? Who cares? All I care about, and all you should care about, is that there won’t be a name change any time soon. I’m on the bandwagon and you should be too.

There are other candidates selling something different — they aren’t selling their names. There really is no “McCain” phenomenon taking place and there is no such thing as “Romneymania.” These candidates are, indeed, position-based — just as our most lukewarm candidates have always been. These are the poll-driven. They sell the readiness, willingness and ability to betray with grace.

This is the classic politician who has to look around and see who is in the room before he announces his position on something. From time to time, if you pay attention you can see him waffling, but he’ll always deny waffling. His statements are always taken out of context. He constantly thinks ahead to the general elections. He’s a wonderful unprincipled centrist. During primary season he is “The Democrat Who Can Beat (blank),” insert the name of a Republican for (blank), or he’s “The Republican Who Can Beat (blank),” insert name of democrat. Positions? His position on each issue is whatever is going to win.

He wins by “reaching across the aisle,” as they call it. If he’s chosen carefully, he’ll give up the fight on some positions that don’t matter. Sell off some acres nobody really wants. The party-faithful will look at his acquiescence and, he hopes, say to themselves “well, I can live with that.”

The True Believer is the kind we all say we want, the guy who doesn’t vacillate. Positions driven by principles. And I’m afraid that the presidential campaign season in the United States has become a rather unhealthy ritual of weeding these guys out.

How did we get here? The process has the look of legitimacy about it, because True Believers tend to be ideological extremists. John Edwards is a wonderful example of this. Yes, he’s a lawyer who gets rich off of questionable lawsuits against medical insurance companies, and that sounds pretty unprincipled, but he does have principles. He’s been consistent about them. He wants to punish rich people for the “crime” of being rich — except for him and people he knows. He wants two different rules in place insofar as whether we put up with rich people, and he’s always been consistent about this. But he doesn’t really have a shot. And so his party needs to eliminate him and people like him, so they can think about candidates more likely to attract broad support.

The Primary Season is, among other things, a bunch of state conventions in which the party faithful calculate who’s got the best shot at prevailing in a general election. But, of course, there are other considerations mixed in as well. There is that “Press Vote” that is so coveted. The People may love your party’s candidate to death, but it’ll all be an uphill battle if the newspapers don’t love him too. Why go through the ordeal if you don’t have to?

So to the extent the two-party system still exists, during Presidential election campaigns it exists in the form of organizations, not in the form of the left-wing or the right-wing. Certainly not in the form of principles. It is somewhat like…I would say it is exactly like…television networks putting things on the teevee in competition for Nielsen ratings.

This one produces two comedies and one drama, that one produces two dramas and one comedy. Everybody wants to be able to say they watched a documentary, but nobody does.

Deep down, we all understand after somebody is sworn in and after the hand is taken off the Bible, we’re all going to have to live with how this person was chosen. This is, probably, more important than the organization that produced this President — more important than the “R” or “D” that comes after the name.

Yes, sure, every now and then you’ll read a snarky editorial about how our new President “was elected on a platform of” — and then a snide comment or two about how the mandate isn’t being carried out.

But we also understand deep down this won’t matter very much. The wafflers, once elected, are elected on the ability to waffle. So they can carry out whatever mandate they want. They are professional negotiators.

The Rock Stars are even worse, because they aren’t elected on any position at all. In negotiations, they are elected not to compromise, but to triumph. That’s why their last names are draaaaaawn out by their supporters, or rather, by their “fans.” They aren’t there to do anything; they’re there to simply be. Everybody likes to be associated with a winner. Even a “winner” who doesn’t really have a shot, like Ron Paul. Ron Paul supporters are social creatures; their support for the Congressman is simply an on-ramp to a conversation they would like to dominate. Our country gives too much support to The Joos, Iraq is an illegal and unjust war, nine eleven was an inside job, we need to get back to the Konstitewshun.

So those are the three products being sold — the three genres produced by our “networks.” The rock star, the waffler, the True Believer.

The True Believers are going to be going bye-bye in the months ahead. This is a bad thing. I don’t say that because my guy Fred is one of them…although I do think that’s bad. No, just in general, True Believers are the only ones who are tied down. A brand-new situation comes up and you send a True Believer in to represent you, you at least know what he’s going to do.

Those rock star guys and those waffler guys…you don’t know. You aren’t supposed to know. The burden is on us to think of every little pain-in-the-ass issue that might conceivably come up, before the election, and preferably before the conventions.

So this isn’t a process of culling extremists from the herd. We’re eliminating the ones that have our real confidence when they make important decisions.

In other words, we are becoming acclimated to voting for things other than principles. Principles have become passé. We want slick salesmanship. With a big glittery name…without the name, and a big sparkling smile instead — that’s just as good. Once Fred Thompson is eliminated from the pool, the transformation will be complete.

And that’ll be a real shame.

I Hope We Can Remember…

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

Martin Luther King…he was not all about doing what was right when it was “The Thing To Do”…

…he was about doing what was right when it was not.

A timeless message? Or a message whose time has passed? That is the question. It is up to us to provide the answer.

Update: Irony Police — like Emma Peel, you are needed

In November, California NAACP joined the nationwide protest against the choice of a Chinese artist sculpting a tribute to Martin Luther King on the National Mall. The Martin Luther King Memorial Project chose Chinese sculptor Lei Yixin to complete the granite sculpture.

In response, the NAACP issued a statement calling the use of a Chinese sculptor an attempt to outsource “the production of the monument to Dr. King to the People’s Republic of China, the country with the worst record of human rights violations and civil rights abuses in the world.” The NAACP feels that it is more appropriate that the sculpture to be completed by an African-American artist.

Artist Gilbert Young, who created a site (www.kingisours.com) protesting Yixin’s contract also criticizes the Memorial Project’s decision. Like the NAACP, Young complains that America is unrightfully outsourcing the production of the project.

Create A New Season

Monday, January 21st, 2008

Did this person really start a blog and configure it so no new users could register to leave comments?

That would be a shame. Looks like my kind of discussion — bitching about the lazy way people do their thinking nowadays, with the other person’s prejudices slanted in a direction opposite from my own. I guess the hidden moral to this parable is that simplistic thinking can be stifling, but echo chambers can be that way too.

Update: This is hilarious.

The topic of the page linked, is that there are people who seem to be just agreeing with everything Rush Limbaugh says because he’s the guy who said it. “As I listened to one person after another applaud Limbaugh’s latest discussions on topics from the ‘Bush Presidency’, ‘War in Iraq’, ‘Hillary Clinton’, etc. etc.; I wondered if the callers had really taken the time to really analyze what they were hearing…Our brains are wired to stretch and new connections can be made every day. However, this won’t happen until we actually use our own minds to understand, define and/or determine why we agree.”

A woman called Rush Limbaugh’s program, somewhere over the halfway point of the first hour, maybe twenty minutes ago. She said the exact opposite. That’s right. She goes to school, and she deliberately filters people out by a judicious use of Limbaugh’s name. She mentions his program in favorable tones, and if the person in question has an “emotional reaction” (in context, this decidedly meant toward the negative), she just refuses to engage them.

It goes without saying that this runs the risk of “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” — but, in my own experience, not much. People who are emotional about Rush Limbaugh, with very few exceptions, tend to be emotional about everything else as well.

It seems we’re all talking about the Yin/Yang wall, a hypothetical, trans-continental, impenetrable barrier, dividing people who spend their entire lives on one side of it or another. On this side of the impenetrable wall, everyone thinks before they feel, and on that side, vice-versa. I would assume everyone engaged here, agrees with my fundamental premise that a great deal of the conflict we experience today, would be reduced. Where we disagree is how ideology would drive this; one side, or the other, would do all the listening to Rush Limbaugh. Which side? The Yin-thinkers, or the Yang-feelers?

I’ll leave it to the reader to decide for him- or herself. The phrase “I feel your pain” still reverberates in my ears all these years later — along with fresher sound bites, having to do with Obama being “the real deal” — and I’ve got a few ideas about it that I’ll just keep to myself for now…

Killing the Agents Americans Won’t Kill

Sunday, January 20th, 2008

Via our parent site and host Webloggin, a story from fellow Webloggin contributer Big Dog about those honest and hard-working illegal immigrants that do such a good job of following the laws once they break the law to get here…

Now we have word that a border patrol agent in California was run over by a vehicle that he tried to stop after it entered this country ILLEGALLY. The area where this took place is popular among off road enthusiasts as well as drug runners entering the US ILLEGALLY. Our government is responsible for the death of this agent. The failure of the President and the Congress to secure our borders has allowed a vehicle to enter ILLEGALLY and run over an agent.

I can certainly understand why some people really hate Fox News and immediately think of the words like “slanted” and “biased” whenever it is mentioned. If you’re used to cherry-picking the facts to make ILLEGAL immigrants look good, I would suppose the truth would might look strange and tainted when it finally walked up and slapped you across your ILLEGAL-alien-apologist face.

The apologist viewpoints that I find most disturbing about this, are the ones that leave the wrong idea and then hang around for awhile by being laced with kernels of truth. Namely…that the illegal aliens hop the turnstyle and break the laws by being in America, because they suffer from a lack of options and want to do right by their families. This is true, several times a day…of that, I have no doubt.

But the argument is diminished somewhat, the first time someone gets hurt. It’s diminished further when someone is killed…more so, when it happens a few more times.

What I think people lose track of here, is that “Illegal” means immeasurable. You don’t know who these people are. So it’s impossible to say what they’re really wanting to do once they’re in America. And you certainly can’t state in any certain terms how dangerous it’s going to be to let ‘em run around. You DON’T KNOW. Even the illegal aliens that have names, and supposedly, work histories…you don’t even know if that applies to the guy in front of you, or not.

The word “illegal” means it is a crapshoot. To support it, you have to say it is worthwhile to play this absurd lottery game with the lives of others. With real citizens, that belong here. To which, you can reply (and many do) that it’s only by an accident of birth that anybody supposedly “belongs” here…that lie has a kernel of truth to it as well.

But look where that leads. This argument, necessarily, insists that your “accident of birth” made you a citizen of the United States, and it shouldn’t have — you have been overly privileged, and therefore it is just desserts that you be made into target practice for millions of illegal aliens. Some of whom are here to “work hard,” some of whom are here to run people over with their cars after getting drunk. Some of them, both. Maybe it’ll happen to you, and maybe it won’t. But you deserved to be subjected to this sick game of chance, because you as a natural-born citizen were born overly-privileged.

Yes, that isn’t what these apologists mean. But that’s the argument they’d have to embrace, for their statements to make sense. That the lives of natural-born citizens…simply aren’t worth very much, and have been overvalued.

The Top Ten Teaser Trailers…

Sunday, January 20th, 2008

of all time.

Kingston Trio on the MTA

Sunday, January 20th, 2008

This posted in honor of the passing of John Stewart at the tender age of 68. He’s not in this one, but what the hell. In all my travels throughout the eastern seaboard, this song just kept ringing through my head.

Lyrics can be found here.

Sewer Explosion

Sunday, January 20th, 2008

Just because.

I’m A Doctor, Not A (blank)

Sunday, January 20th, 2008

In honor of DeForest Kelly’s 88th birthday, a montage of “I’m a Doctor” quotes.


H/T: FARK (link may require registration).

On Tiny Cars

Sunday, January 20th, 2008

My feelings about large cars versus tiny cars aren’t as divided as some folks might think they ought to be. My car is a “rice rocket” from another era, a 1989 Toyota Corolla GTS, built low to the ground. I drives it because I likes it. So I should be on the “tiny” side of the car debate, but frankly, a lot of the “tiny car” people are acting like complete dicks.

I think, in the parlance of my overly-simple-minded social studies teachers from middle school, it’s time to stop bickering and remember we all want the same thing.

Unfortunately, that same-thing we all want is: To drive around in a vehicle that sits way up high and has enough horsepower to rock the asphalt, while everybody else scoots around something…relatively bug-sized.

Which is quite doable, except for that bit about all of us having to live under the same laws. But it’s tough to let go of a dream, isn’t it? So the “tiny car” thing has turned into a huge squabble-fest in which much is said, but nobody really says what they mean.

And, being oh so concerned about our household budgets, we turn to our lawmakers to force us into a more economical way of life. Yeah, that’s the ticket. I think everybody understands, deep down, that if you want to have a little bit more money left over at the end of the week for your lottery tickets, you simply…decide things for yourself. But that’s it. We don’t want to decide things for ourselves. We want to keep driving things that sit way up high and have stepladders built in for the driver to climb in…and to be able to afford all that gas, we want the gas to fall back down to 58 cents a gallon, which it will surely do when the other guy drives something that looks like a fishbowl floating down the highway.

Well…GM is saying don’t forget about the extra costs involved in complying with this regulation.

GM says new fuel requirements to add $6,000 per car

New fuel efficiency requirements imposed by Congress will add, on average, $6,000 to the price of GM vehicles sold in the United States, the automaker’s vice chairman and product chief said on Tuesday.

Congress passed a new energy law in December 2007 that requires automakers to increase fuel economy across the industry to 35 miles per gallon by 2020 — up 40 percent from current levels.

“We’ve done the research and it’s going to cost us $4,000 on some vehicles and $10,000 on others, with an average of about $6,000,” Bob Lutz told reporters at the North American International Auto Show.

“That cost will have to be passed on to consumers,” Lutz, a long-time vocal critic of federal fuel regulations, said.

My car gets 35 miles a gallon quite regularly, with a fresh air filter and the tires properly inflated and rotated. When she was brand new, this was a minimum. Even with city driving.

But Lutz is right about the principle of the thing. Living in the nanny state has a cost to it.

Lutz said the law — the first mandated increase for passenger car fuel economy in more than two decades — will force GM to make vehicles lighter.

“We can make the 35 miles per gallon with vehicle size structures more or less like they are today but we will have to restrict our choices when we decide what we want to make next,” Lutz said.

Lutz said one example of the restriction in choices is that GM is now reversing its decision to make rear-wheel-drive versions of some vehicles because those models use more fuel.

“We probably have to take a lot of weight out of the vehicles. We will have to use some premium materials like more aluminum, more magnesium,” Lutz said. “Which gets you the weight savings but drives the cost up.”

But we are going to try as much as possible to preserve the size of the vehicle the American public wants to buy.” [emphasis mine]

See, you have to read critically here. Lutz is speaking in behalf of an engineering mindset that is determined to appeal to the consumer impulses I described above. Sitting way up high. It’s tough to let go of that, and any carmaker who is careless in appealing to that vision is going to be rewarded with disappointing sales.

What’s undiscussed in this article, is that the model that results from this is bound to be compromised in other areas. It is all-but-certain to have safety issues. Meeting new requirements by shedding weight…and embracing classic dreams by sitting way up high. Zipping along at 85, no doubt. Yikes.

Hey, I got a name for these new cars that people still “want to buy” but get 35 miles a gallon and cost $6,000 more. How about the “Fustercluck”? Because that’s what it’s going to be, I think. One can only hope Congress builds in a requirement that the center of gravity can’t be any farther off the ground that it is in most cars today. Maybe it has to hug the road like my “semi-compact” wonder from the Land of the Rising Sun. And then…the Fustercluck will cost twenty thousand dollars more than you’re used to paying.

Otherwise — well, the highway death and injury statistics will be fusterclucks. I’m afraid our “first global warming deaths” are going to be happening along real soon now. Just not in the way the West Wing writers envisioned.

You know what could solve all this nonsense real quick? A “scientific study” that says excess government regulation leads to increased emissions of greenhouse gases…and causes learning disabilities in children, too.

The Second Most Important Issue V

Saturday, January 19th, 2008

Nice DemocratsGerard would like you to step forward if you are the owner and/or creator of the graphic to the right.

So would I.

It reminds me of the second most important issue in the upcoming elections, which is: That party named after the Latin word for “people,” which is “demos” — are they mixed-up stupid or full-blown crazy? Do they understand people who build businesses and make money and thereby provide jobs to people — aren’t necessarily the bad guys? If so, then what’s the deal? Do they want to rebuild Mother Russia over here in North America, or are they just a bunch of anarchist buttholes who want to go back to the horse and buggy whip and plow and acres and mules?

All these things they’re supposed to support, like the economy, and soldiers, and people in general — how come all their plans seem calculated to inflict the maximum harm upon those things?

It reminds me of that old campfire song

Johnny Rebec the Dutchman,
what makes you be so mean?
I told you you’d be sorry
for inventing that machine.
Now all the neighbor’s cats and dogs
will never more be seen.
They’ll all be ground to sausages
in Johnny Rebec’s machine.

One day the machine was broken
The darned thing wouldn’t go.
So Johnny Rebec crawled in
to see what made it so.
Along came his wife
a walking down the street.
She gave the crank
a heck of a yank
and Johnny Rebec was meat.

Ohhh Johnny Rebec the Dutchman,
what makes you be so mean?

Ha! That is so much like the typical democrat plan. The utterly naive misunderstanding of human nature, the failure to comprehend that the “free market” (the wife) might already be doing something about the problem. The idiocy, the instinct for self-destruction.

And the grinding up of the cats and dogs into hamburger.

Well, there might be a dearth of facts available to lend support to that last one. But hey. Just give a listen to the crap they say about Republicans sometime. This just evens up the score.

Human Events Endorses Fred Thompson

Thursday, January 17th, 2008

About a week ago, following his comment about the 72 virgins, Fred Thompson was endorsed by Human Events.

Since then, Romney has won Michigan which means we now have three Republican winners in the state primaries. There may very well be five before this is all done. And I don’t mean to imply that Fred will be one of the five…he may very well pass out of this thing after never amounting to anything more than a pressure candidate.

But you’d be well advised to read this before popping open the next New York Times screed about Abu Ghraib, or listening to the next empty-minded bitch-fest about who got kicked off Dancing With The Stars…

We make this endorsement on the basis of much research, having interviewed Sen. Thompson and some of his opponents, as well as examining what they have all said and done. We conclude that Thompson is a solid conservative whose judgment is grounded in our principles.

In his Senate years, Mr. Thompson compiled an American Conservative Union lifetime rating of 86.1, which is higher than both Sen. John McCain (82.3) and Rep. Ron Paul (82.3). The Club for Growth has praised Thompson as someone who has a strong commitment to limited government, free enterprise and federalist principles.

On the issues that matter most to conservatives, Sen. Thompson’s positions benefit from their clarity. He is solidly pro-life. He said that he was in favor overturning Roe v. Wade because it was “bad law and bad medical science.” As the National Right to Life Committee said in its endorsement of him Nov. 13, 2007, “The majority of this country is opposed to the vast majority of abortions, and Fred Thompson has shown in his consistent pro-life voting record in the U.S. Senate that he is part of the pro-life majority.”

Thompson’s record is solid on voting to preserve gun owners’ rights, cut taxes, reduce government spending and drill for oil in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He has voted consistently against gay marriage. Thompson is by no means perfect. He strongly supported the McCain-Feingold bill, did not support the impeachment of Bill Clinton on perjury and more than once voted with the trial lawyers against limitations on liability in defective product and medical malpractice cases.

We like the way Thompson unhesitatingly attacks the liberal ideologues and their activists such as MoveOn.org and the ACLU, and the way he reaches out to those we knew as the Reagan Democrats.

The question now is whether Sen. Thompson will do what he has not yet done: Take the advantages he is given by his intelligence, his principles, his political skills and this endorsement and make the best use of them.

As the primaries and debates speed by, we would like to see Sen. Thompson continue to invigorate his campaign to carry him successfully through Tsunami Tuesday and to nomination at the Republican convention.

Sen. Thompson, you suffer, like most conservatives, from the built-in problem of not being a professional politician. It’s precisely as Rush Limbaugh said of you: “The problem with Thompson is, and a little bit with me, is I’m a depth guy. I like depth. Television doesn’t reward depth. Television rewards zingers, one-liners, cutesyisms. Fred Thompson produced a brilliant 17-minute video that was on YouTube that explains everything about every issue that he cares about. It’s clear he’s thought deeply about a whole lot.”

It’s interesting to note that, with regard to whatever victories Fred has won thus far, he owes them to whatever capacity for the “zinger” he does have. And he does have a considerable capacity. Far more than whatever I have.

And that is why his success is so important. As crucial as 2008 is to the future of the country, Fred’s candidacy is more important even than that. We don’t get “depth” people who have some capacity for “zingers” just every year, you know.

He’s a balance. I think that’s what most people really want.

This is why, in my mind, Romney has won Michigian. And McCain, New Hampshire. And Huckabee, Iowa. These guys mix it up. They offer a blend, by being inconsistent. Trouble is, that inconsistency simply makes them bad candidates. Who’s to say what they’ll do when the hand comes off the Bible?

Well, nobody. And we all understand this. By supporting them, people are buying lottery tickets, hoping these inconsistent candidates will follow through on the bits & pieces of the record that one particular voter happens to like.

And then you have the “rock star” candidates — those who, to their “fans,” mean something above & beyond the record.

If the Presidency doesn’t go to Fred, I can only hope it goes to one of these “inconsistency” candidates, rather than to one of the “rock star” candidates of whom there are exactly three:

1. Barack Obama (D)
2. Ron Paul (R)
3. Hillary Clinton (D)

Those three are listed in order, by the way. Their fans are slobberingly enthused about them, but the reason for this slobbering enthusiasm has nothing — butkus — to do with positions on the issues.

I think Fred’s positions speak for most people, both Republicans and Democrats. But the thing of it is…and this continues to frustrate me…I don’t know that for a fact. We seem to have some loud, powerful, outspoken people determined to make sure that never becomes a question widely pondered.

Fred’s dismissal as a viable candidate, in the minds of some folks who’ve been known to me to be far more thoughtful about other matters, has been pretty quick. Hasty. One might say…rushed…perhaps even desperate.

But he’s a “consistent position” candidate. It seems to me, Hunter & Tancredo aside (and perhaps Edwards too), the only one in the running with a real shot at this thing.

And it is only through a “consistent position” candidate that The People can be restored to their rightful claim insofar as what control they should have over what the Government does. The “inconsistent position” candidates and “rock star” candidates, should they win, can make whatever shady back-room deals they want to make.

Update 1/19/08: Although the Hawkeye State has already cast its votes and gone home several days ago, this seventeen-minute message from Thompson does such a wonderful job of capturing the vision of his campaign that it deserves an embed here: