Archive for December, 2006

How To Be The Perfect Girlfriend

Sunday, December 31st, 2006

Now of course nobody ever reads this blog, but if one or two gals happen to trip across it this would be fortuitous viewing for them as we begin the New Year.

I think this would have been good for about fifteen years ago, when women really needed to watch it. Nowadays I think it’s started to sink in, that if a lady wants to have a happy life with her beau, she just needs to pick wisely, appreciate what she finds, and all the rest will follow. Just be ready for a life with a man. Not a puppy dog, not a teddy bear, not a little boy, a man.

It seems there is still a pocket of resistance of young ladies who have yet to figure this out, going by the crap that is still popping up on Lifetime television. Well, like I care. My current gal makes an art out of all seven points, especially #3 and #6.

Heh heh…”…as there is nothing sexy about a downtrodden man.” Based on what I know, my money says this truism is responsible for some two-thirds of all divorces today, and eighty percent of all the ones over the last ten years.

Update: Might as well get the supply of equal time out in front of the demand.

It Didn’t Start Five Years Ago

Saturday, December 30th, 2006

This one goes into the “required viewing” file. Just click and watch. Make sure the sound is turned on or your headphones are plugged in.

And there’s some quality video-blogging going on below. I can’t endorse every single word because it’s a critique of a movie I’ve not seen, but I like Jimmy’s use of rhetorical questions and skeptical thinking.

Healthy cynicism, folks. It’s not just something to throw in Halliburton’s direction. Save some for the Hollywood “Peace Love Rock-n-Roll” types.

Cancel The Account

Saturday, December 30th, 2006

Okay everybody else is posting this, I might as well too. You really should listen to this from beginning to end. We’ve all been here in some way or another, right?

Password Salts

Saturday, December 30th, 2006

This article is not long, but manages to cover all the details and cover them well. Makes some good points, seldom considered, too. Interesting read.

Yikes! III

Saturday, December 30th, 2006

What an ass-and-a-half. Didn’t stop.

It would be very hard to fake this, too…

On Heavy Words…Like “Justice”

Saturday, December 30th, 2006

Let me begin with a crass generalization. Parents are like hostages, and soldiers in foxholes: They believe in God. All of them. If they are atheists, they have real doubts about their atheism that purebred died-in-the-wool atheists do not have. And if they say this is not the case, they’re lying. Certain situations, certain perspectives, give one cause to absorb the news that life hands us day-to-day, and seriously ponder whether a Supreme Intelligence is making itself evident.

HusseinAnd that’s the thing I can’t help but wonder, as I see Amnesty International turn the notion of “justice” on its head just as 2006 is coming to a close. In the protest they released against Saddam Hussein’s death sentence Thursday, they’ve managed to turn the concept of justice around a hundred and eighty degrees.

“The trial of Saddam Hussein and his seven co-accused before the Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal (SICT) was deeply flawed and unfair, due to political interference which undermined the independence of the court and other serious failings,” sad Malcolm Smart, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa programme. “The Appeals Court should have addressed these deficiencies and ordered a fair re-trial, not simply confirmed the sentences as if all was satisfactory at the trial stage.”

“It was absolutely right that Saddam Hussein should be held to account for the massive violations of human rights committed by his regime, but justice requires a fair process and this, sadly, was far from that, “said Malcolm Smart.”The trial should have been a landmark in the establishment of the rule of law in Iraq after the decades of Saddam Hussein’s tyranny. It was an opportunity missed.”

Okay, let’s start with the points of agreement, between AI and myself: Massive violations of human rights. Justice demands a fair process. Mr. Smart and myself are in agreement here: Justice is the administration of a fair verdict and sentence, in the aftermath of violations.

Now somewhere after this common ground has passed underfoot, something has happened which has made Mr. Smart upset, something he regards as unfair. I do not know what it is. Mr. Smart doesn’t want to tell me what it is, and if he does, Amnesty International has whittled his comments down to size because apparently they do not want me to know what it is. It could be this highly meaningful assertion is based, entirely, on the concluding paragraph, which is the only text in the AI press release I can find that even approaches justification for the above:

The trial before the SICT, which began in October 2005 and concluded with the imposition of sentences on 5 November, was widely criticised due to political interference and the court’s failure to ensure the safety of witnesses and defence lawyers, three of whom were murdered during the course of the proceedings, and for failing to establish an effective case against the accused.

I really do hope they got something better than that. “Failure to ensure the safety of witnesses and defence lawyers, three of whom were murdered during the course of the proceedings” simply means that justice is a sufficiently serious concern that people are willing to put their lives on the line to get it. The defense is to be commended for this…as is the prosecution, officers of the court, and everyone else involved. “Failing to establish an effective case against the accused” is nothing but a practical contradiction of the second paragraph quoted above. The dude did his stuff, or else he didn’t. Looks like he did; the court said so, and the facts say so. Moving on.

Thanks to Captain’s Quarters it was brought to our attention Friday that — surprise — the New York Times is none to fond of Saddam’s death sentence, either. And I cannot help noticing the Paper of Record, well-known as our nation’s journalistic flagship, picked up this mostly-unexplained and mostly-unexplored concept of “missed opportunity” and passed it on down, unskeptically, uncritically. In some passages, on a word-for-word basis. History demands it will then be echoed and re-echoed, like everything else that comes out of the Times. Such-and-such Tribune, So-and-so Herald, Mayberry Gazette, on and on and on…their editors read it in the Times, so it must be so.

What really mattered was whether an Iraq freed from [Saddam Hussein’s] death grip could hold him accountable in a way that nurtured hope for a better future. A carefully conducted, scrupulously fair trial could have helped undo some of the damage inflicted by his rule. It could have set a precedent for the rule of law in a country scarred by decades of arbitrary vindictiveness…It could have, but it didn’t. After a flawed, politicized and divisive trial, Mr. Hussein was handed his sentence: death by hanging. This week, in a cursory 15-minute proceeding, an appeals court upheld that sentence and ordered that it be carried out posthaste…What might have been a watershed now seems another lost opportunity. After nearly four years of war and thousands of American and Iraqi deaths, it is ever harder to be sure whether anything fundamental has changed for the better in Iraq.

And ladies and gentlemen, there you have it. Poor ol’ 2006 is destined to spin its bones in its grave as it’s retirement is marked by a renewed demonstration of how what’s reported becomes the polar opposite of what’s really happening. Some cranky international activist group like Amnesty International says something was amiss, the Old Gray Lady repeats it, and then from sea to shining sea we’re going to be sold on the proposition that there’s no elephant in the room and no man behind the curtain.

That’s the spin. What does the evidence say, meanwhile? Saddam was guilty of violations and deserved to die — undisputed. He got what he had comin’ to him — measurable.

And here’s where I start to think The Lord works in mysterious ways. It is the eve of a new year; a time when we’re inspired to reflect on the way we’ve been doing things, and find ways to do them better, while keeping an open mind about perhaps doing entirely new things.

And AI, and the Old Gray Lady, make their intentions a little too clear about the word “justice.” They seek to re-define it to something beyond what it really is. Time we had some sort of symposium on what the J-word means. Here in the U.S., it’s a little overdue. Call me a hick, call me a NASCAR hillbilly if you want. Call me white trash. But I do believe the Good Lord wants us to put a little more thought into what justice is. I think He’s a little cheesed-off at the way we’ve been throwing the word around for the last generation plus. I think He put the itch between the ears of our Armani-suited anarchists, so they would sound off RIGHT now, as a way to inspire us to call out their bullshit.

Again: Let us start with the area of agreement. “Justice” means to get what’s comin’ to ya. It is, ultimately, a subjective thing that exists in the mind of the observer, which sometimes can present some problems. In the case of Saddam Hussein, it does not present a problem. He was a bad guy. Nobody with a reputation worth protecting, seeks to assert anything different. So when we look up “justice” in the dictionary, we find

1. the quality of being just; righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness: to uphold the justice of a cause.
2. rightfulness or lawfulness, as of a claim or title; justness of ground or reason: to complain with justice.
3. the moral principle determining just conduct.
4. conformity to this principle, as manifested in conduct; just conduct, dealing, or treatment.
5. the administering of deserved punishment or reward.
6. the maintenance or administration of what is just by law, as by judicial or other proceedings: a court of justice.
7. judgment of persons or causes by judicial process: to administer justice in a community.
8. a judicial officer; a judge or magistrate.

And I’m thinking definitions #4, #5 and #7 are closest to what we’re pondering here. Note that in all cases, even clear-cut ones like Mr. Hussein’s, this is a matter of opinion. Other cases are not so clear-cut. I go out and get a pet ferret, pet ferrets are illegal where I live, you might say I deserve to spend a year in jail. Other people might say the ferret law is stupid, and I don’t deserve any penalty at all. Someone else, yet, might think the ferret law is so unjust that I deserve a reward for opposing it. These are all legitimate opinions; what makes them so, assuming nothing else does, is that there are no known facts that directly contradict those opinions.

But it’s worth pointing out again: Such opinions are not represented in Saddam Hussein’s situation. It is agreed that he is guilty of wretched human violations. That he deserves death is agreed ipso facto. This would be a great time to make a stand against the death penalty, if one is inclined to do so — Amnesty Internatonal is not known for hawkish attitudes where the ultimate punishment is concerned — and in the situation at hand, nobody bothers to lift a finger. Their efforts to confuse the issue, exuberant and enthusiastic as they are, are confined to way the sentence was handed down and do not touch on the sentence itself. Well, that certainly says something.

With that observation, let’s venture forward into the area where we disagree. Those who seek to incite in me some kind of frustration with the way Saddam’s trial was executed (or denied a re-trial), have adhered to a trend of stopping with the argument right after defining this as their stated intent. They define this as the purpose and — right away! — it’s time to whip up the emotions. No logic involved at all. I have been instructed to believe the process is flawed. The particulars of the flaw, are left unmentioned. That says something too; I’ve read all the way through AI’s condemnation, and the Times’ as well. Every word of both of ’em. Not lengthy epistles by any means, but I would expect that in this exercise I would trip across some foundation. All I got was a snarky observation at the end of Amnesty International’s little tome, to the effect that being involved in the trial was a deadly and dangerous thing.

That’s all I got out of both opinion pieces.

And you know what that tells me? Justice triumphed — where politically motivated people on both sides of the issue sought to thwart it, were willing to kill to confound it. Justice was attacked, and emerged victorious. Hey, champagne all around.

And yet, it seems safe to infer this brightened no one’s day at Amnesty International, or on the editorial board of the New York Times. These folks remain peeved about something…they’ve availed themselves no shortage of opportunity to say what it is…they will not say what it is. Personally, I doubt they want anyone to know what it is. But the better-late-than-never symposium on what justice means — awaits. So let’s give them the full benefit of the doubt, every smidgen of it. Let’s say Saddam Hussein’s trial was flawed and unfair, to such an odious extent that “what might have been a watershed now seems another lost opportunity,” even though those who say this is so, refuse to say why this is. Let’s just go with that anyway.

Is that not justice? You do something awful, and “just desserts” come to you, while the process by which they are delivered, is flawed? It’s still justice, isn’t it? Therein lies the question we’ve been needing to resolve for nearly half a century. So let’s take a look.

Well, move the question-at-hand to some other situation to take the emotion out of it. A hypothetical. I swindle some old widow out of her life savings, which is decidedly a bad thing to do. I invest my ill-gotten gains in the futures market on some kind of “sure thing” — my broker somehow screws up the order. Wrong delivery date on the commodity, or wrong commodity. I lose everything. Stupid broker! What a flawed process. He’s just asking to be sued…but of course, I can’t bring much of a suit now because I have no money. Unjust? Really? Who would say so?

Ever seen “Trading Places” with Dan Akroyd and Eddie Murphy? The one where Jamie Lee Curtis…yowza. Well, I digress, so let me wipe the drool out of the keyboard and continue onward. Remember the ending? What happened to Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche? Flawed process. The characters played by Akroyd and Murphy, it would seem, are guilty of several felonies — assuming they got caught, or failed to deliver on the orange juice contracts, neither one of which really happened. Badly flawed process. Unjust? Or, were Bellamy and Ameche’s characters “held accountable in a way that nurtured hope for a better future?” Hey, if anyone thought not, it wouldn’t have been funny.

How about acts of violence? How about if I shoot you from some distance for no reason…but since I’m a lousy shot, the bullet misses you, bounces off something, and nails me right between the eyes? Hey, that’s a pretty thoughtless process! I don’t get an appeal for my sentencing! Darn it, someone should do something. It doesn’t nurture my hopes for a better future at all! But what of it? I think everyone would agree there’s “justice” involved in that. Even most people opposed to the death penalty would be on board with that.

So the question I have for Amnesty International and the New York Times — and all of us, as we begin a new year — is this: How come we’re supposed to re-define “justice” from what we all know it really is…just because a human process is involved? What’s different, other than the potential for abuse of the retrial process in artificial proceedings? Mr. Smart, unlike the editorial board of our nation’s most prestigious newspaper, at least as the balls to say what he’d like to have done differently. If he had his way, the retrial would be granted. How this fixes any of whatever issues he had with the first trial, of course, goes unanswered…since there’s no good answer. And what those issues were, exactly, I don’t think I have a good understanding of it even though he’s gone out of his way to try to explain it to me. I know what decision was made, that he doesn’t like; I don’t know anything else about his beef.

Meanwhile, the asshole Saddam’s dead. Now, throughout the year I’ve been talking with some folks about Mr. Hussein’s death sentence. It impresses me that even people who are opposed to the death penalty, in several cases, “would grant an exception” for Iraq’s former despot. So…although justice can be a subjective thing, it seems acceptable to a broad cross section of us that this was just. Saddam Hussein did not deserve to live, and in politics as well as in tactics, his continued survival endangered others. With few, meaningless exceptions, the agreement on this is universal.

The debate before us, therefore, is whether the ends justify the means. That’s assuming I’m willing to grant that this trial was somehow unfair — a concession I make, here, only to pursue the argument. It hasn’t been substantiated very well, even by those who are obviously very passionate about substantiating it.

We must define what justice is. Is it the delivery of what’s deserved, or the process by which it is delivered? You know what? It seems to be the delivery itself. The end does justify the means. The process is secondary.

The process does remain somewhat important because it has the potential to change what is deserved. This observation has no bearing at all in the case of Saddam Hussein. So some of our more pacifist types seek to make the process of delivery a primary consideration, simply for the sake of protesting things. That is their fatal flaw, for the process is not primary at all. It is decidedly subordinate, especially when you talk about “landmark[s] in the establishment of the rule of law.” Corrupting that, is done far more effectively by denying the guilty what they got comin’, than by delivering what they got comin’ through a trial that some peevish activist group happens to dislike in some nebulous way. Saddam Hussein got what was deserved, and justice was done. The New York Times says the trial “could have set a precedent for the rule of law in a country scarred by decades of arbitrary vindictiveness” — and based on the information I’ve been able to find, it has achieved exactly that.

Next problem?

Back to Sixth Grade

Thursday, December 28th, 2006

This blog, which nobody actually reads anyway, is one of the last places on earth where people are respected for knowing things — specifically, knowing how to do things. All over the civilized world, this respect is in a rapid decline. It is receding faster than my hairline. You doubt me?

Check out the word “qualified.” Listen real close the next time you hear it used. Does it have anything to do with ability…anything at all whatsoever?

No, nobody uses it that way anymore. “Qualified” no longer means you’re experienced doing things equal to, or greater than, the task to be done, and have made a success of yourself as you do that. That’s what it used to mean. Qualified, today, means you have some kind of accreditation. That would be bad enough if said accreditation had to do with demonstrating that you know things, but this has been corrupted too. Today, it has to do with holding the right opinions about things. Yet-unproven opinions. As in…you think boys are better at three-dimensional problems and girls have better social skills, you fail — you think boys and girls are equal in everything they do, you pass. Opinions like those. That’s what it takes to be what we call “qualified” for things now. We’ve become a rather pasteurized, utopian society, in which promotions to higher offices of trust have less and less to do with merit and competence, and more and more to do with ensuring people with good opinions outrank people with bad ones.

For an even more incandescent example, listen a little more closely next time you hear the word “unqualified.” A generation ago this would have meant someone was about to mention inexperience in whoever was unqualified. That’s no longer the case today. Again, it’s got to do with holding unpopular opinions…or failing to present credentials, which would have proven a candidate holds the right opinions.

And every once in a great while we see evidence of this problem, said evidence usually not quite as damaging as it could be, when you think about it. File this one under “cheap warning about where we’re headed.”

Talk about a high-stakes test. The radio audience was live and the question for teachers union president Randi Weingarten involved sixth-grade math: “What’s 1/3rd plus 1/4th?”

Weingarten, however, is a not a sixth-grader or a math teacher. She’s a lawyer and a union boss who once taught high school social studies – and no one told her there was going to be a quiz. “I would actually have to do it on paper,” she said when asked yesterday to complete the math problem on WNYC’s “Brian Lehrer Show” where she was a guest. Mike Pesca, who was filling in for Lehrer, introduced the show’s education topic by saying American college grads can’t do basic math while high school grads in Canada and middle-schoolers in India have no trouble.

After Weingarten stumbled, another guest quickly produced the correct answer: 7/12ths, leaving Weingarten to explain herself.

“I do it the old-fashioned way,” she said. “You take your paper, your pen, you add it up and get the fractional whatever.” “And you show your work,” Pesca offered. “And you show your work,” Weingarten agreed. “A good teacher will look at it and talk to you about what went right and what went wrong, like they do in Singapore.”

Math expert Alfred Posamentier, dean of the City College school of education, said most Americans can’t add fractions in their heads, leaving Weingarten in good company. “I hate to say it, but I would cut her slack on that one,” he said.

I wouldn’t. You know, just take a look at what’s happening here. It’s a case of one class of people, entirely abdicating their rights and responsibilities, surrendering them to be administered by a different class of people. The assumption in place is that these non-producing, life-and-death-decision bureaucrats know something that “qualifies” them to make these decisions. Everybody knows that isn’t really true; everybody understands it’s really about having the right names in your Palm Pilot. Nobody says that out loud, everyone understands it’s so.

And the President of a teacher’s union can’t do sixth-grade math.

Oh yeah, I understand that’s the way of the world. I understand the dunces are in charge, and we’re instructed to believe they’re oh so much smarter than everybody else when they’re really not — unless the name of the guy on top is George W. Bush, anyway. I know things have worked this way for a long time, and anyone who expects anything different, is simply showing their naivete. I get that. What I don’t understand is this:

Things are this way, because we put up with it. Why do we put up with it?

Most Innovative Products of 2006

Thursday, December 28th, 2006

Title says it all. These are high-tech hardware and software products, some of them pretty interesting. One or two I’m actually thinking about buying, now that I know they’re out there.

I’ll just throw this one in, it’s a binary editor that’s also on my list. And two outliners, here and here, that I’m evaluating. I’m in the final stages on those and I’m pretty pleased with the results. Expecting to purchase one or the other soon, maybe both.

Parasite Makes Men Dumb and Women Sexy

Thursday, December 28th, 2006

Hmmm…well, this would explain a lot.

A common parasite can increase a women’s attractiveness to the opposite sex but also make men more stupid, an Australian researcher says.

About 40 per cent of the world’s population is infected with Toxoplasma gondii, including about eight million Australians.

Human infection generally occurs when people eat raw or undercooked meat that has cysts containing the parasite, or accidentally ingest some of the parasite’s eggs excreted by an infected cat.

Eh, 40? I’d say that’s a little low.

Until recently it was thought to be an insignificant disease in healthy people, Sydney University of Technology infectious disease researcher Nicky Boulter said, but new research has revealed its mind-altering properties.

“Interestingly, the effect of infection is different between men and women,” Dr Boulter writes in the latest issue of Australasian Science magazine.

“Infected men have lower IQs, achieve a lower level of education and have shorter attention spans. They are also more likely to…”

Miss CellaniaWaitaminnit, I just thought of something. Out on Miss Cellania’s website. Video games, pretty video games (h/t, YesButNoButYes). Me like video games, they have blinkin lites.

Man, Miss Cellania is a looker. She’s hawt. Think I’ll take some steak out of the freezer for tonight. Me like steak. Me like Miss Cellania, she purty.

As Dave Barry might say…”Toxoplasma Gondii” would be an awesome name for a rock band.

Sexiest Women in Sports in 2006

Thursday, December 28th, 2006

MaliaNow hey, waitaminnit. Isn’t it discriminatory to notice that women look good when you watch sports? Aren’t you supposed to cheer them on as they make it in a “man’s world,” ignore their sexuality in favor of their performance stats, and indulge in a charming fantasy that men and women are exactly the same?

Well ya know, I never could get that one down cold. And someone else had a tough time of it too. Judging from some of the poses it doesn’t seem the lady athletes were taken by surprise in any way.

I’m just happy to be living in a country where it’s okay to notice nice-lookin’ women are nice-lookin’ women. It wasn’t ever thus.

Best Sentence IV

Wednesday, December 27th, 2006

ShapiroI’ve never particularly cared for Ben Shapiro. The man is a good writer, but so are many others, and I always got the impression he was getting a lot of attention because of his pedigree, his educational history, and his age. The habit he has that gets under my skin, is to write about what he thinks is going on, and comment about it as if it’s an established fact. Now, in all fairness, everybody who writes about current events ultimately has to do this, over and over again. I try to sprinkle mine with “I can’t prove it, but” or words to that effect. To me, when I write about something, there’s a situation involved. The situation has become worthy of comment, because something has been left unexplained — so you start with what has been left unexplained. And within that, you start with what you know for a fact. Only then do you opine about what could be going on, to explain what has been left unexplained.

Shapiro seems to be opposed to this…which is fine, it simply means he is creating a product intended for consumption by others.

ObamaBut early his morning I was looking for an article on this weird phenomenon I don’t understand, called Barack Obama. Obama is a freshman senator from Illinois, a possible candidate for the presidency in ’08. He is a candidate the way Julia Roberts is a movie star: A good one, the evidence says only a good one and not a great one. But the hype says he’s more than great, he “walks on water” and he’s the “real deal.” NOBODY knows why this is, as far as I can see. To reason and common sense, he’s simply more articulate than our current President. And many others are that much.

And I was googling for an article that was wondering the same thing, and sought to explain it — the way I would have. I’m not sure I was able to dredge it up again; this thing in the Seattle Times has a few phrases that set of some bells. Maybe that’s it. But by mistake, I run into this thing by Ben Shapiro. Once again, Shapiro has it down cold, he knows everything. This is no great offense mind you — where he speculates, he speculates safely. And, again, other people are just eating his product up and demanding seconds, so that’s great. It’s just, once again, I’m seeing a younger man who hasn’t learned things about what-you-don’t-know-yet, that I’ve had to learn. He’s a living pictogram of lessons I’ve already been taught, that I have no desire to learn again.

But Ben Shapiro is becoming an excellent writer. He’s a better writer than Barack Obama is a presidential candidate; not just good, but great.

And hey, if he thinks he knows something about this Obama character that I’m just starting to figure out, there’s a pretty good likelihood that he’s right. I’m still more confused and befuddled than young Shapiro, so for the time being I’ll read what he has to say about Sen. Obama. Nothing, absolutely nothing I say, has come to my attention that would directly contradict the explanations Shapiro has to offer. And he seems to have turned that corner that aspiring writers sometimes turn, where his output actually becomes a source of education and entertainment at the same time. In that sense, he’s more senior than I am.

He has virtually no voting record; he has virtually no articulated positions. Ask his advocates, and they will describe him as “a breath of fresh air” — but ask them about a single position he holds, and they will stare at you as though you are speaking in tongues. They will tell you, however, that Obama “understands” every position you hold…Where’s the meat? It’s all well and good to campaign on the basis of “common sense” and “smart government,” as Obama did in his softball interview with Tim Russert, but no politician in history has ever campaigned on any other basis. Where does Obama stand? His own writings display the weakness inherent in his platform of “understanding”: If you profess to understand everything, you understand nothing. Not every conflict can be glossed over by “hugging it out.” Focusing more on “understanding” and less on questions of morality coddles the immoral.

Take, for example, Obama’s “understanding” with regard to our enemies in the war on terror. In his new introduction to his first book, “Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance,” Obama writes, “My powers of empathy, my ability to reach into another’s heart, cannot penetrate the blank stares of those who would murder innocents with abstract, serene satisfaction.” Except, of course, that Obama proceeds to “understand” those he has just dismissed, blaming terrorism on “the underlying struggle” between “worlds of plenty and worlds of want” — a neo-Marxist interpretation of the rise of Islamofascism. “I know, I have seen, the desperation and disorder of the powerless,” Obama writes, “how it twists the lives of children on the streets of Jakarta or Nairobi in much the same way as it does the lives of children on Chicago’s South Side, how narrow the path is for them between humiliation and untrammeled fury, how easily they slip into despair and violence.” This is a sickening comparison; even the worst inner city youths generally do not join up with Al Qaeda.

What makes him a good writer? Many things in this piece do, but this sentence stands out: “There is a thin line between being open-minded and empty-headed.”

Bingo. You nailed it.

Although my indictment against Mr. Shapiro stands — what it comes down to, is, like a teenager he’s “young enough to know everything” — this is not necessarily bad. In fact it can come in handy. People like me need people like him.

Here’s a case where I would like to apply the energies of one who is quick to figure things out, and slow to uncertainty: How the Republicans will handle Barack Obama should the freshman senator be nominated. With questions like the ones I have, it’s impossible to find the Achilles’ Heel of a given target; but I have high confidence Mr. Shapiro has identified it correctly. Senator Obama is weak. Weak is a one-syllable word, easily understood, with a primal meaning for those interested since prehistoric times.

I’m taking it as a mostly-established tradition, now elevated beyond any possible doubt, that the Republicans won’t use this against him. If they do, they won’t do it properly. To much of the electorate — especially those who re-elected President Bush in ’04, but voted for a Democrat Congress in ’06 — it is a highly relevant issue. Why is it, that the issue of Sen. Obama’s weakness on issues, will not be exploited?

Why will it not be discussed by the Republicans — not even to a tiny fraction of the volume and rage, with which Democrats excoriate George Bush for his public-speaking failures?

Have we reached a point where Democrats and Republicans agree, that the spoken style is everything, and positions on issues mean nothing?

This is still something I must conclude with a question mark. Other folks, Shapiro included, are far more certain about what’s going on. I’d sure like to hear from them.

Jon Carry Aloan in Irak

Wednesday, December 27th, 2006

None of the troops that are stuck there, seem to want to talk to him or even be seen with him. I guess they lack the education to know who he is.

I really don’t want to be a Democrat right now. You know, the actual leaders and representatives and movers-n-shakers who have to decide what the platform’s going to be. I don’t want to be those guys. YEAH they won…let’s face it, the Republicans don’t have a winning party right now. But putting the Democrats in charge — that was just a case of, status quo not good, do anything BUT the status quo. Fair enough.

But I think it’s going to start sinking in: If you are a Democrat, you are REQUIRED to think soldiers are the very lowest rung of society, just a notch above the homeless. Uneducated, antisocial, anger-management issues, maybe retarded, probably disease-infested. If you’re a Democrat, and you happen to meet someone in the military who genuinely impresses you in a positive way — you MUST keep that a secret to yourself. Spill the beans that there are intelligent, dedicated professionals in our military, and you’ll get kicked outta the club.

The electorate, as a whole, will catch on to that. Someday. And when it happens, the Democrats are going the way of the Whig party. I hope it happens in the next two years.

Ford Down

Wednesday, December 27th, 2006

President Ford was a contender in the first BAD political decision I ever made. I’m glad I was eight years too young to actually elect that asshole Jimmy Carter.

Rest in peace, Mister President.

Update 12/28/06: On the subject of our new senior elder statesman from Georgia…I must confess I’m a little worn-out of writing about Mr. Carter’s various episodes of cluelessness, impertinence, dickheadedness, desperately-disguised vapidity and general effluence. I thought new sidebar addition SeeJaneMom did a fantastic job on the same subject, and shall not try to outdo her there.

At Sunday supper earlier in the week, between the soup course and the main event, Granddaddy had flatly stated, “That sonuva cracker bitch, Jimma Cartuh, is gonna march his ass into Washington and make sure we all look like hicks.” Oh, the prophesying I was witnessing.

The Last Milestone?

Tuesday, December 26th, 2006

Okay, so here is where we note that the death toll of U.S. servicemen in Iraq has just passed blah blah blah blah blah…

…those of you reviewing this much later on, the yardstick today is, the official Associated Press death toll of the September 11 attacks. Wowee, this is a really important occasion. Well you know, for those who personally knew the recently deceased, I’m sure it is. But not as far as U.S. policy. In fact I couldn’t help noticing the following…

The deaths — announced Tuesday — raised the number of troops killed to 2,974 since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003. The figure includes at least seven military civilians. The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks claimed 2,973 victims in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

“The joint patrol was conducting security operations in order to stop terrorists from placing roadside bombs in the area,” the military said in a statement on the latest deaths. “As they conducted their mission, a roadside bomb exploded near one of their vehicles.” [emphasis mine]

Yeah, a roadside bomb that was set by someone. Now, what did they want, I wonder? Could it be…propaganda? Because, yeah, I’m sure to a left-wing war protester it’s going to come as a huge shock that terrorists fight propaganda wars. But they do. And the fact is, that bomb had a purpose. It’s been settled for a long time now, that when the American media knows about something, the terrorists that our guys are fighting in Iraq, know about it too. And the media has been salivating over this “greater than the 9/11 death toll” thing since last week.

And so now that we’ve passed 2,973, news outlet after news outlet after news outlet plays it up. And let me guess…oh this is so hard to predict…if I dare to say this might have a positive effect on the endeavors of our enemies I’m going to be hit with a tidal wave of sarcasm, and I will become the latest evidence of the chilling effect, that those who dare to dissent are called unpatriotic. Right?

So thanks to sarcasm and paranoia, we aren’t allowed to think such a thing. Hey, there’s a chilling effect all by itself. But meanwhile, we know the terrorists want our anti-war protesters to win more arguments. We know this. It’s an established fact. And we know the roadside bombs are just a way to make this happen. That’s an established fact, too.

Well, I’d just like those who assign some special significance to this event, to highlight for the rest of us what it actually means. I’ll bet they can’t. What, Iraq is a failure in some “official” way now? If it is now, and it wasn’t before, then there must be some rule that the military death toll in a given engagement is not supposed to exceed whatever enemy attack somehow inspired that engagement. And yet we have no such rule, so that’s bullshit. What else? Anybody? Buuuueeeelller?

On the whole, the citizens of FARK have recognized this to be a bullshit milestone that means nothing. Let me repeat that…the denizens and derelicts that hang around FARK. FARK, where most of the account holders have never come up against something bad that wasn’t George Bush’s fault. Where people who haven’t been sober after 10 a.m., since they first started going to college nine years ago, spout off about George and Don and Condi plotting the September 11 attacks with the terrorists. Where the “thermite theory” of the collapsing towers, lives on indefinitely. Where Ralph Nader is the man best qualified for the White House, unless Rosie O’Donnell can somehow be pursuaded to run. On FARK…they see through this bullshit milestone.

Well, if they see through it, anyone can.

And yet, all the disgusting morning coffee-table “news” shows, are covering it wall-to-wall. The most common-sense insight you can use, is going to tell you the terrorists have been working their skinny asses of for this milestone for weeks, months maybe. Always working for the next propaganda push. And now that they’ve gotten it, the media is happy to oblige, and make sure the win is as big as it can possibly be. Only too happy. And none of this is going to stop at the water’s edge. Whatever renewed calls for “immediate redeployment” are issued as a direct or indirect result of this meaningless milestone — they will become public knowledge, all the world over. And, as always, the terrorists will watch what we do, refine their tactics, and re-engage, as they’ve been doing since Day One.

Just disgusting.

Yeah, we’re supposed to leave this whole process undisturbed because of the First Amendment. And yet…you wouldn’t be able to have this kind of “news” in World War II. And nobody seems to be able to explain to me how a constitutional passage ratified in the late eighteenth-century, mandates us to a slow, passive suicide today, when in 1943 it did no such thing.

Anybody? Buuuuuuueeeeeeelller?

Wii Will Kill Us All?

Tuesday, December 26th, 2006

LeahMaybe I’ve been a little too tough on the newfangled video games. Some of these pictures taken with Nintendo’s Wii look pretty good (some sissies would say this is NSFW, although I don’t see how; you’ve been warned).

But Will Payne of the Harvard Crimson remains a skeptic. His article diligently warns us against our upcoming fate, that “it’s only a matter of time before someone pokes a friend’s eye out with a renegade Wiimote. On the popular gaming message board, poster Shadowfamicom warns ominously that ‘the Wii will kill us all.'”

Heh…it’s good to know we’re destined to survive global warming after all.

Christmas 2006

Monday, December 25th, 2006

Thanks to Trip at Webloggin, and Miss Cellania for the nice Christmas cards.

My nine-year-old was the oldest one in line at the mall to see Santa Claus. We were actually there to have a nice lunch together, and we didn’t know Santa would be stopping by. We became aware of it when one of the younger toe-heads was done with telling Santa what he wanted…except…he didn’t think he was done. Jeebus, you talk about LOUD. You’d think someone was pouring boiling water all over his bare ass, you know?

So the dad tries to calm the kid down by hauling him off somewhere and letting him cry it out. Where all parents take their bratty kids in situations like that. Close to ME.

And the kid’s just yammering away. Yammering, yammering…like this…

Dad decides to try a different tack. No, not the one I would have done. He hauls the little shit back in to see Santa again! And we can hear the kid in there, screaming in poor Santa’s ear. One minute turns into two…two minutes turn into three…it goes on and on and on. And I’m thinking, hmm, there’s a career choice I need to remember to pass up even if it means living in a cardboard box.

NaughtyAnd so, on a lark we decided to see Santa.

Now, Santa’s little helper has a nice digital camera, and they’re charging five bones a pop for a picture of your kid with Santa. One problem: The card is downloading or something…so there’s a delay. So my son gets a little extra time to tell Santa about all the crap he wants. Blah, blah, blah. Well he gets to the end of the list…card is still downloading.

Santa needs to stall for time. So he asks the boy if he’s been nice all year. My son says absolutely yes. And Santa smells some bullshit, because y’know, he’s Santa…and there is some…anyway, that’s what I think. So the grilling continues, and they start to have a conversation about how much niceness you need to get your list taken care of, and what some naughtiness does to it. And how you should always tell the truth to Santa, because he knows anyway.

So he’s got my son on his lap and he’s reminding him it’s okay if he had a little tiny spell of naughtiness sometime this year. Because that’s all right, you know…happens to everyone.

My son looks right up at him, steals a glance at me, looks back at Santa…and he says, so that all the parents and kids in line behind me can hear every syllable…”Well — my Dad’s been naughty.” Of course I could feel my ears burning as the crowd roared with laughter.

Way to throw the ol’ man under the bus, kid.

So that’s how mine went. Hope yours was merry too.

Update: Here’s to best wishes for what remains of ’06, and for the New Year and many months thereafter. Hope the best of dreams of everyone reading this, and of everyone who never will, are realized in full and may the wind blow gently at the backs of all humanity…except for the stupid bitch who took trotted her sick kids around and gave my girlfriend the flu. Her temperature is about 101.5 and it’s a lotta fun. Oh well, we had good Christmas in spite of it. I think the squeeze was a little depressed that her physical strength just flat-ass gave out in the middle of the gift exchange, and she had to go to bed ’cause she couldn’t keep her eyes open any longer. And I’m the one who got coal in his stocking, huh. Someone’s out there spreading a virus because she can’t do her Christmas shopping when the hubby or boyfriend could watch the kids…or doesn’t want to bother with getting a sitter…or is simply inconsiderate. And I’m the one who gets coal. Santa, your lists need some work.

Update: And an extra helping of Christmas itching powder down the underpants of all the snotty atheists who think they’re so much smarter than everybody else, spurred by their sense of right-and-wrong to leap into action when “IN GOD WE TRUST” is found on our money, or when bus drivers wear Santa hats. — BUT — won’t get off their conceited atheist asses to keep a single McDonald’s open on Christmas Day so I can get my kid a happy meal. Isn’t it funny? There is a principle at stake in keeping church & state separate, always, until such a fracas might possibly have a side-benefit of convenience for the rest of us…like having mail delivered on December 25th for example. And then, they’re nowhere to be found. Politically active only when they’re being a pain in the ass. Atheists make me sick. Show me ten atheists, I’ll bet I can show you at least nine assholes who put out a Christmas stocking — and probably eight who screamed and yelled like a red-headed stepchild when they didn’t get what they wanted. Coal for ME, Santa? Why? Why are we putting up with the atheists at all? EVERYBODY ELSE…Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Update: And whoever drew up the plans for my son’s toy. An air-pressure powered styrofoam rocket that’s supposed to go 120 feet in the air. Kinda blips up somewhere between eight and ten INCHES, if that. Hey thanks guys! Well, we got to spend some time together exploring trails, kinda doing guy stuff as father and son. Good Christmas all in all. Would have been even better with a rocket that did what it was SUPPOSED to do. Screw you guys. You’re ripping of little kids on Christmas, charging good money for toys that don’t work. And I get coal. Everybody ELSE, I wish a joyous holiday season and the upcoming year brings you everything you want, and none of the things you don’t.

On Crying Men

Monday, December 25th, 2006

WahThis blog, which nobody actually reads anyway, challenges the prevailing viewpoint. It’s an idea whose time has come. “Prevailing viewpoint” has never, I daresay, been easier to define with regard to any issue that comes down the chute. What’s the prevailing viewpoint on whether President Bush lied to get us into a war? What’s the prevailing viewpoint on global warming? Like never before, the size, shape and texture of things-you-are-supposed-to-think is laid out and colored in, with crystal clarity.

But what’s really correct? Nobody knows…and few seem to care.

Now I can’t prove it, but I would seek to assert that the prevailing viewpoint also — as never before in human history — is starkly at odds with what the evidence supports on each issue. It’s either non-correlative to the truth, like a stopped clock is non-correlative to the correct time…or it is antithetical to it. And with each matter brought to my attention as I go over the news and find out what’s going on, it seems the prevailing viewpoint is leaning farther and farther in the direction of hostility to the truth, rather than simple apathy toward it. It seems to all start with the pursuit of this sense of irony. To suppose that the United States government was blindsided by the September 11 attacks like the rest of us, may net someone a certain amount of attention…to opine that the government was engaged in a conspiracy theory, will attract a great deal more. And so the truly attention-starved will lean toward conspiracy theories.

Who’s willing to bet a substantial portion of their personal fortunes that there was a conspiracy, though? I’ve not seen anyone do such a thing. And yet the theories still roll on in.

Now, it occurs to me with this thoroughly brain-damaged opinion piece in the San Bernardino Sun, that the crying-man is an even better example of this.

Alfred Baltazar considers himself a weak man.

At the tender age of 40, Baltazar cries with such frequency that his sisters have labeled him “Weeping Wanda.” It’s a habit he’s always had, but one that became more commonplace when his mother died five years ago because, as he explained, she meant the world to him.

Perhaps, though, Baltazar has confused his perceived weakness with being a man who is confident enough to show his emotions.

These are tough times for Baltazar, who finds himself one of tens of thousands of parents and spouses waking this Christmas morning with a loved one serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. Baltazar’s son, Steven, is a navigator on a tank in a unit serving in Baghdad.

“I’m not strong,” said Baltazar, who separated from his son’s mother about four years ago, although the two remain close friends. They had no other children.

“This is just so hard,” Baltazar said. “I just miss him.”

But really, is a man weak because he fears for his son’s safety and shows that emotion through the tears that roll down his cheeks?

Strength, it would seem, should be evaluated not by emotions but by actions that overcome those emotions, which could make some people roll themselves up in a little ball and surrender.

Threadbare cliches all around.

Now look…I’m pretty sure it’s easy to find a man who’s genuinely strong, in several of the ways that matter, who’s going to start boo-hoo-hooing at the right time. And yet the author makes reference to a man “confident enough to show his emotions,” implying that men who cry are stronger than men who do not.

The article goes on to tell an anecdote about how the non-crying son just flabbergasted the blubbery dad, by refusing to come home because…

[The son] Steven’s tank was damaged from an attack while on patrol. An explosive device rocked the tank, causing Steven to hit his head, knocking him out for a few hours, his father said.

Baltazar learned of the attack quickly, but for three days had no news about his son’s health. He was of course relieved when he finally heard his son’s voice, but he was struck by the sound of fear that he had not heard in his boy.

“I know he’s not going to come back the same, whether it’s physically or emotionally,” he said. “I can hear it in his voice.”

Baltazar hoped unsuccessfully that the Army would send his son home.

But the little boy he used to hold in his arms told him he would not have wanted to come back. Suddenly, confidence and maturity replaced the fear. His duty, his son explained to his father, has not yet been fulfilled.

It’s a moment that continues to startle Baltazar.

“I don’t know where he got the strength,” Baltazar said. “I am so proud of him. He’s surpassed everything that I thought he could accomplish in his life by this point. And he’s done it on his own.”

The editorial clings to the notion that men who buck up & suck up & soldier on, are not as “confident” as the weeping wallflowers. Anybody want to bet a LARGE amount of money that this is the case, overall? Anybody want to bet the 401k that we have the wrong family male out there patrolling the area in a tank, that the stoic son has something to learn from the weeping dad? That his tank buddies are going to do a superior job of carrying the fight to the enemy if they’re blubbering away?

How about the younger mans’ boot camp drill instructor, what would he say? Has he done his level best to prepare a batch of hardened killing machines, if they’re stumbling out of camp and into battle with tears bravely rolling down their faces and adams-apples bobbin’ up and down?

I’d venture to say not.

But Google the innernets sometime. How many opinion pieces do you find that support common sense…that enduring adversity, and keeping your head together, is a traditional manifestation of masculinity for a reason? That being a real man is all about taking on your challenges — and — at the same time, making it easier for everyone to take on theirs?

That’s just so self-evident, there’s really no reason to ponder it anymore. We had a time here in the United States where it was very fashionable to say a “real” man, was an emotional man. It didn’t last terribly long. It went out with mutton-chop sideburns and leisure suits, and there’s a reason for that.

It wasn’t so much about defining manhood, as about re-defining it. Simply put, we learned it was a lot of bullshit and we moved on.

And now we have the innernets…which, weighing the content as a whole…promotes, some more, and with remarkable and alarming consistency, said bullshit.

We have this artcle here, just a scraping off the top of the big ol’ cow patty. Somehow, it likes to turn my Firefox browser, itself, into a blubbering, whining, dysfunctional mess due to some problems with the hosting site or the ad banners or something. I find that metaphorical for the message it seeks to deliver.

Most men have been socialized to view crying as a sign of weakness. It is an act that symbolizes an inherent lack of self-control, which they expect from women and ridicule in men.

This simply is not true.

In fact, crying is thought to serve a number of important physiological functions. Having the courage to express your emotions in public should be considered a sign of strength, not weakness.

Okay, we know what the lady wishes to say and we know what she seeks to prove. Crying is not a form of weakness…in fact, once again we have this worn-out little talking point about “courage to express your emotions in public.” The intent is obvious: If you don’t cry in public, you lack courage. Some would say I’m putting words in her mouth. But if she doesn’t want to say that, then why use the c-word in the first place? The thing to be proven, is that it hasn’t been demonstrated or put into doubt. So why battle some stereotypes by spreading others?

I’ve seen all of the important men in my life cry. My father, my husband and my best friend are males who have shed tears in public.

Does this make them weak?

Or does this mean they are stronger than the men who allow their actions to be controlled by the fear of being judged or labeled?

I agree with the Big Lebowski when he says “Strong men also cry.”

The young lady who wrote this two years ago was some kind of college student. This is indicative of something terrible going on in higher-level education. When someone graduates from college, I expect them to be skilled in pursuing logic and common sense. Mathematically, if no other way — as in, the I.Q. test question that asks if all freeps are gloops and all gloops are fraps, what do we know about freeps and fraps?

And clearly, this lady can’t solve problems like that one…or couldn’t in 2004. She seeks to support the notion “strong men cry” — some freeps are not gloops, therefore, anyone saying all freeps are gloops, is wrong. She then supports this by stubbornly insisting: You’re a better freep if you’re un-gloopish. Before she’s done, she’s protesting you can’t be a freep at a gloop at the same time, or something in that direction…something different from her stated thesis. No anecdotes about crying men, going on to demonstrate their strength. That is something that would support the theme of her article. She simply self-indulges the stereotype she seeks to promote, and battles against another stereotype she seeks to defeat.

By herself, she doesn’t show anything is wrong here. But she’s got a lot of company. Behold the prevailing viewpoint.

As far as the central issue, I have little to say on the subject here. Except, simply observing the way women behave around me and other men, and comparing what people in general do against what they say…I don’t think anyone truly believes crying men are strong. They say such a thing, sure. It’s kind of like saying money doesn’t make you happy. People say it, they don’t really mean it. They’re just concerned about how they are perceived, when they say things.

But take this much to the bank. The prevailing viewpoint, again, has failed us and a crisis situation will surely crystalize that failure. When a burglar is breaking into the house at three in the morning, no woman is going to be too interested in her husband or boyfriend confronting the threat downstairs…blubbering away. Doing something to make the intruder do the crying — yeah. That’s a lot more like it.

And NOBODY disagrees with the above. Anybody who says they do, is lying.

Memo For File XXXVI

Sunday, December 24th, 2006

Blogger friend James Bostwick over at Newsblog Central has performed an excellent fisking job on some silly blow-dried airhead piece in SFGate about the minimum wage. He gets two shiny gold stars for this one. It’s not for the great smart-alecky job of fisking, since I’m not a big fan of fisking anyway. It’s for 1) correctly pointing out that the minimum wage is all about outlawing jobs, rather than about giving people money; and 2) linking to an insightful and well-written column over at the Mises Institute explaining in detail, for those who need to have it explained, Point 1). And as far as the fisking goes, it does have a place — and this is one of those places. Example:

Alice Laguerre is among the millions of workers now earning less than $7.25 an hour. She makes $6.55 an hour driving cars headed for the auction blocks in Orlando, Fla., and says a boost in the federal minimum wage would help her build a nest egg for emergencies.

Really? ‘Cause somehow that just doesn’t mesh numbers-wise with this passage:

That can be tough these days, acknowledges Laguerre, 53, after paying the monthly rent and utilities on her two-bedroom apartment and after recently buying a car — a blue 1994 Buick Century.

Check out monthly rents for two-bedroom apartments in Orlando, Florida–you’d be lucky to find something under $800. And the Blue Book value on a 1994 Buick Century is between $2000 and $2500, depending on four or six cylinder models (maybe blue ones are cheaper.) With a typical 40-hour work week, Laguerre makes $1,048 gross a month. And she still has to pay food, utilities, etc. Even if she has another job as the breadwinner, it doesn’t compute.

Ding ding ding ding ding, we have a winner. A problem is identified, and a solution is proposed — yet the solution is ineffectual against the stated problem, and no one with a reputation worth defending seeks to assert anything different. Not only do we go ahead and implement the ineffectual solution once, we do it many times, over several generations — and act surprised when the problem remains.

You know what is unique about the issue of the minimum wage, is it reveals the failure of the liberal mindset to adhere to the plane of reality, like no other issue before us. You go down through the list, there’s a conservative outlook on the effect of a given proposed policy, and then there’s a liberal outlook. Conservatives think wars may be necessary some of the time, to keep larger wars from happening later — liberals think war can be avoided forever, when one interested side has decided to simply stop fighting them. Conservatives think global warming is part of a natural cycle, liberals think it’s an extinction-level event. Conservatives think the death tax is double-taxation, liberals figure that just because the taxed party is seeing the loot for the first time, this is somehow not the case. The same goes for gun control. Conservatives say if guns are outlawed, only outlaws have guns. Liberals say if we don’t (in the words of Michael Moore) “have all these guns lying around,” there won’t be any gun violence because it won’t be possible. Like Obi-Wan said, you come to find out a great many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our point-of-view…

…but in the case of the minimum wage, it’s different. It’s much simpler. Conservatives say it’s all about outlawing jobs. This is not a point-of-view. It’s simply what the policy does. To extrapolate any more complicated mission from a minimum wage law, is to indulge in fantasy.

And yet, from sea to shining sea, untold millions of people so indulge. And they think they’re commenting intelligently on the policy. Nobody seeks to assert any minimum wage law, federal or state, anywhere, engages in an effort to collect revenues to supplement these wages. That would probably be shot down as “corporate welfare” if it were ever proposed. So lacking that, we borrow from Bostwick’s terminology to illustrate what the law really does: make “free and voluntary wage contracts illegal.”

There really isn’t any disagreement about the minimum wage as a job killer. Not among those who make the policy. It’s like arguing over whether a higher prime interest rate has a retarding effect on the economy. There’s a reason why the federal minimum wage hasn’t been raised in a decade, and there’s a reason why the amount of the proposed increase is proportional to the number of years since the last increase. The minimum wage is already indexed to inflation, for all practical purposes; we just have this ceremonial knock-down-drag-out, just before the increase kicks in. When Congress increases it, it increases it as much as can be afforded. Over the long haul, adjusted for inflation, it doesn’t increase. Not really.

And that is why we’re allowed to argue over the job-killing effect. It’s made into a matter of individual perspective, artficially.

Suppose we had some genuine curiosity about whether the minimum wage is deleterious to the job situation, and were willing to make some real changes to policy in order to settle the matter. There’s almost no limit to what we could do, save for our imagination. We could, just for starters, increase it after inflation. We could index it to the inflation rate over a period of several years — doubled. Or tripled. Inflation for Fiscal Year 1 is 3.5%, minimum wage automatically goes up by 10.5%. Do that for a decade. Or, we could go the other way. Rather than freezing it over a period of several years, thereby asking for sob-story articles like this one — “imagine what it would be like to work without a pay raise for nearly 10 years” — we could cut the dollar amount. We could even sunset that measure. For the next thirty-six months, the federal minimum wage nosedives by a buck fifty an hour, just so we can see what happens. That would effectively legalize the “free and voluntary wage contracts” that were, up until then, illegal. Maybe more people would then be hired. Perhaps not? At the end of the three years, we wouldn’t have to argue about it. We’d know.

In my lifetime, and beyond, we haven’t done any of those things. We just keep it at a posted dollar amount across several years, which is silly because inflation is always around and never goes away. And at the end of some period of time, we have our predictable Republican/Democrat knockem-sockem routines, and of course the Democrats always win. They must. The debate is about the theory, only on the surface, only cosmetically. In substance, the debate always turns to what a rotten time Alice Laguerre is having of things, and whether she could use a few more dollars in her purse.

That’s just stupid. Of course she can use them.

What is to be gleaned from the data, if we were to sit down with our state governments, our fifty-one social laboratories, to figure out what the minimum wage does? Not much. Conservatives theorize this would prove the minimum wage kills jobs, liberals say it would exonerate the minimum wage. Some hard-core leftists will insist the minimum wage reduces the unemployment rate, and they’re all too willing to offer cherry-picked examples to support what they want supported. Never, in my experience, has anyone sat down with all of the data at a given time, and presented it in a simplified way so cause-and-effect could be examined with some intellectual sincerity. Well, a few months ago I actually did this. I went through 51 states and I plotted it. Not that hard. Turns out conservatives and liberals are both wrong. What one gleans from the data, is that different parts of the country have different economies. The scatter diagram that results, presents no correlation whatsoever between the state’s effective minimum wage, and the unemployment rate of that region:

You can review my data for the effective minimum wage levels here and you can check my data on the unemployment figures here. The chart was last refreshed back in July, so admittedly there’s an issue of currency. But nothing that would impact the cause-and-effect between wage controls and unemployment figures; and anyone who doesn’t trust the scatter, in an hour or two could repeat the exercise entirely. The data is all there and it can be accessed by anyone who wants to.

You see over on the left side, we have several states with no minimum wage. In the eyes of the law, the effective minimum there reverts to the federal rate of $5.15. The latest reported unemployment rates from these localities is between 3½ and just over 8 percent, which is roughly on par with the other states that yank it between one and two dollars over the federal minimum. THERE…IS…NO…CORRELATION. None. What you’re seeing here, is a disparity amongst the states as far as how draconian of a minimum wage you can afford to have — based on what’s going on there.

I would expect “most” Americans, if they were to explore this honestly, would opt for a “moderate” approach to the minimum wage. If such an argument were then to be pursued honestly, we would then see those Americans would end up supporting a full repeal of the federal minimum wage. That would be moderate, would it not? In twenty-five states, this would have no effect whatsoever. Among the states that remain, doubtlessly most of them would pass state-level measures to re-institute the federal minimum that had just been nullified. The states that would seize the opportunity and ratchet the effective minimum downward, I expect, would be down in the single digits. The states leaving the minimum-wage concept non-existent, leaving everything up to the employer and the employee, I would probably be able to count on the fingers of one hand.

Let us then plot those on a scatter diagram like the one above, with some contrails to show how things are moving around. Who knows what would be revealed two or three years afterward? Truth be told, I think I’ve got an idea. Deep down, I don’t think anyone disagrees with my idea. Not if they were to bet some real money on it, they wouldn’t.

Once again…if we did that, we would know.

But decade after decade after decade…we do none of these things. We just let conservatives and liberals argue over what the minimum wage does to the job market. We all know the conservatives are right — all they’re saying, is when you make a commodity more expensive it’s less likely to be consumed. That’s Econ 101 stuff. And yet…we also know whenever the argument comes up, the liberals will win. So it’s known, the way we engage the argument, the wrong side will win. It isn’t just conservatives who know this. Everybody knows it. We just don’t want to admit it.

This is an issue that is supposed to be really, really, breathtakingly, important. We don’t act like it is.

Letter From a Constituent

Saturday, December 23rd, 2006

When you’re represented in Congress by someone, and they’re supposed to be doing what you say, it just makes sense to sit down and jot down a couple paragraphs to make sure the message is crystal clear. Sometimes you just have to grab your senator or congressman by the lapels and remind him that he works for you. That’s just part of your civic duty. And it becomes all the more important, if you went out of your way to get the guy elected in the first place.

[al Qaeda No. 2 man Ayman al] Zawahri says he has two messages for American Democrats. “The first is that you aren’t the ones who won the midterm elections, nor are the Republicans the ones who lost. Rather, the Mujahideen — the Muslim Ummah’s vanguard in Afghanistan and Iraq — are the ones who won, and the American forces and their Crusader allies are the ones who lost…And if you don’t refrain from the foolish American policy of backing Israel, occupying the lands of Islam and stealing the treasures of the Muslims, then await the same fate,” he said.

Await the same fate? So he means the Libertarians are gonna take over Congress?

Seriously…this is just further evidence that there’s a message we need to be delivering to these people, that isn’t being delivered. Is American belligerence fomenting more terrorism around the world? The hype says yes…the evidence says no, American pacifism is doing that very thing.

In my lifetime, maybe politics will stop at the water’s edge again. How many more times do we need to be reminded of the wisdom of that axiom…how many more terrorists do we have to see cheering for Democrats…before we get it through our thick heads. Our sworn enemies have figured out they’d rather have one of our parties in charge, than the other. They want something, and with the more “peaceful” folks running our show, they think they’ve got a better chance of getting it. They’re right.

Another One Bites the Dust

Saturday, December 23rd, 2006

Hooray, it’s another dead terrorist. Mount his turbaned head on a wall somewhere.

Christmas came early for NATO troops fighting in Afghanistan. The U.S. military announced Saturday that it has killed Mullah Akhtar Mohammed Osmani, the most senior Taliban leader to be eliminated since American troops invaded Afghanistan in 2001.

A U.S. military spokesman said a targeted air strike hit Osmani as he traveled in a vehicle near the Pakistan border in southern Helmand province. Killed with him were two associates also in the vehicle.

In 2008, I’m going to want to know what the next President will do to keep the dead-terrorist-carcasses rollin’ in. If nobody else has a good answer, I’m all for repealing term limits.

Woman Dies After Being Hit By Three Cars

Saturday, December 23rd, 2006

What’s going on in my old stomping grounds of Kirkland? This happened right at the mid-point of my old commute on I-405.

Kaisa Lauren Larson…had been asked to leave the bar by tavern employees earlier in the evening but was hanging out in the parking lot. She “was very intoxicated” and was “getting in the way” as officers attempted to investigate the assault complaint, Rudeen said. Officers called Larson a cab that was to take her to a friend’s house in Lynnwood.

As the cab traveled north on I-405, Larson became agitated and the cab driver pulled over on the shoulder in an attempt to calm her down, Rudeen said. Larson, who was wearing dark clothing, jumped out of the cab and began walking across northbound lanes. She made it halfway to the median when she was struck by a car and fell to the ground about 1:35 a.m., Rudeen said. She was then hit by two other cars and died at the scene.

Ba-bump, ba-bump, smoosh. That’s always been one of my phobias, having a drunk in dark clothing run out in front of me at one in the morning. Kinda freaky reading about it actually happening, right where I used to live.

You’re A Racist If You Want Lower Taxes

Saturday, December 23rd, 2006

Derrick Z. Jackson links the issue of race, to the decidedly non-race-related issue of taxes.

“Taxes” has become a code word for “we got ours, forget the rest of you all.” “Taxes” avoids real discussion of white privilege. “Taxes” avoid s how old-line white families were able to transfer wealth and property during slavery.

Why does this guy have a column?

No War On Christmas, Huh? III

Saturday, December 23rd, 2006

I just don’t see what’s complicated about this. I support separation of church & state, as far as what the First Amendment says; no establishment of a religion above others, and no prohibition against the free exercise thereof.

When you treat any one religion, no matter how politically-incorrect you regard that religion to be, as a filthy contaminant, that crosses the line. Religions aren’t filthy contaminants. Crosses on military gravestones, Moses on the Supreme Court building, “IN GOD WE TRUST” on our money, hey it’s all good. Some of the people who disagree with me about that, as sane as they may try to pretend to be, are whacko-nuts. And I hope people don’t forget how nutty they are. So let’s take a look at the company they keep, like, out in Bakersfield

A man used flammable liquid to light himself on fire, apparently to protest a San Joaquin Valley school district’s decision to change the names of winter and spring breaks to Christmas and Easter vacation. The man, who was not immediately identified, on Friday also set fire to a Christmas tree, an American flag and a revolutionary flag replica, said Fire Captain Garth Milam.
Beside the tree the man stood with an American flag draped around his shoulders and a red gas can over his head. Seeing the deputy, the man poured the liquid over his head. He quickly burst into flames when the fumes from the gas met the flames from the tree.
The man suffered first degree burns on his shoulders and arms, Milam said. Kern County Sheriff’s Deputy John Leyendecker said the man had a sign that read: “(expletive) the religious establishment and KHSD.”

Is it unfair to lump this deranged whackjob in with the other folks who would bleach and scrub every single somewhat-religious reference from public view? Some might say it is indeed unfair. But I don’t think so. From where I’m sitting, it all looks equally surreal.

One Thousand

Friday, December 22nd, 2006

Jotting down a thousand things is not an accomplishment. When I’ve got an opinion, I’ve got it, whether I scribble it away or not.

The accomplishment is in meeting up with the “nobodies” who read The Blog That Nobody Reads. I haven’t met any of you face-to-face, and who knows, maybe every last one of you is a puppy-raping child-abducting psychopath. I mean, hypothetically.

But in my correspondences with you, online and off, I have to comment on one thing: I’m just completely blown way by the points you have to make about things. This blog — which, throughout two years, I’ve commented repeatedly “nobody reads anyway” — is read by some incredibly deep thinkers. I would never have anticipated this. I am pleasantly surprised that this is the case.

Some folks can hear “Yes, sir! I agree completely! You are so right, sir!” all day long…every day…seven days a week…never get tired of hearing it. I am not one of those people. So I’m glad that when people comment, and they have a different opinion, they at least know why it is that they think the things they think. Mercifully, this blog tends to attract that kind of reader, moreso than most of what we call “blogs.” I’d like to think I’ve been doing something to make it so, although of course I can’t prove it.

You know who you are. Give yourselves a hand. CYL.

Update: By coincidence, Mein Blogovault turned two years old this week.

Whodya Root For

Friday, December 22nd, 2006

I’m rooting for Donald.

I don’t think he’s really going to sue, though. This isn’t the stuff you say before you sue somebody.

But it occurs to me, with this recent widespread attack on bloggers for — assuming I understand the charges against us correctly? — having opinions about things and then jotting them down…Rosie O’Donnell is everything we are supposed to be. She’s got opinions that nobody is willing to stick their neck on a block and say, “Rosie really knows what she’s talking about.” Nobody thinks that, nobody’s saying that. The woman’s a dimwit, and the more she has to say about a given topic, the less she seems to know.

Nobody’s ever been more of a “captive audience” to any blogger, anywhere, than we all have been to Rosie. She demands, and is given credit for, simply having her opinions. Her ignorant, costless opinions, in a land where neither she nor anybody else is punished for having them.

Harmless? I’m not so sure. We seem to have this rule in place that because Rosie is so “courageous,” she and people like her must always have a bedrock amount of influence on our public policies…no matter how tired we are of her. Case in point, she wants us to think “both wars” were things we should not have done — Afghanistan, and Iraq. She’s not part of the “Since there were no WMDs in Iraq, that was a mistake” plank of the left. She opposes Afghanistan too. She doesn’t think we should have done anything about it. She’s part of the “bend over, take it up the ass, and ask for another” brigade.

Let her talk, by all means. Give her enough rope to hang herself. But when we all consciously understand her ravings are just so much crap, let people tune her out. Well…you know, she’s ugly. And fat. And gay. And tuning her out, isn’t quite acceptable. So she keeps babbling away with all her crap, and people keep listening to her. She doesn’t want the country to defend itself. There is potential damage in this. I’m not saying shut her up — I’m saying stop broadcasting her from every little corner, when the people who still want to listen to her, are whittled down to just a microscopic few.

Best information I have, is that if Trump proceeds with his lawsuit, that may be the only way to get that done. Besides, he’s got a good point about her being dangerous to The View. Maybe if he goes forward with it, it’ll be a cheap lesson for them.

Update: Barbara must be feeling the heat, going by this transcript of a CNN newscast from yesterday. Called in to the show from her vacation to say “We cherish them both and hope the new year brings calm and peace.”

I’m hearing reports from third-hand that Rosie had obviously been talked to and advised to shut up. You’d have to see the show, but you’d know it if you saw it. Mmmkay, I believe that…I believe a “been told to shut up” Rosie looks different from a noisy Rosie, and not subtly so.

I still don’t think he’s going to sue. And yet, as good as she is for the show’s ratings, I strongly doubt she’ll be there for long. Shows like this, make their living from looking like something they really aren’t: Bold, opinionated, courageous, willing to take on controversial topics, come hell or high water. Guess what? You can’t do that for real if you need friends, and all television shows need friends.

I think she’s gone. She’s not going to be sued, the show isn’t going to be sued, but her fat ass is out of there. She did way too good a job of revealing what the show really is: Controversial only when & where it can afford to be.

Timeframe? I dunno. The next move is obviously going to be to put Rosie on a lower profile and wait for this thing to blow over. If that works, it could take years. If not, she’s out before Groundhog Day.

Commit Blasphemy, Win Free Stuff

Friday, December 22nd, 2006

Richard Dawkins is going to get you a free DVD and a chance to win other cool stuff if you videotape yourself blaspheming the Holy Spirit.

The comments underneath the linked post are pretty interesting. There seems to be a deep schism within the atheist community. Some don’t give a rat’s ass about Christians, and others live for the purpose of cheesing off the Christians — they’re left each arguing with the other, about how much attention to pay to the Christians.

Some atheists leave me convinced by their conduct that they should just get together, build some temples and arenas out of marble, get ahold of a bunch of lions, and get it the hell over with. It’s like — they want to be given all this credit for pursuing a “logical and reasoned” process, subordinating their cognitive pursuits to nobody…and then they end up orbiting around the Christians, like an insignificant little moon orbiting around a large planet. They wake up wondering what they can do to tick off the Christians, and if they go to bed not getting it done, they wake up the next morning wondering how to do a better job of it.

Well, look. I’m not going to sit here and type in a bunch of foolishness to the effect I know the atheists are wrong. I don’t know that. Faith is called “faith” for a reason, after all.

But if you want to deny the existence of a higher power because of your “logical and reasoned” process, and you have refused to subordinate your cognitive pursuits to outside authorities, and you truly think for yourself — if this leads you to the conclusion that God is a fairy tale, the following seems just obvious. You aren’t going to care who agrees with you and who does not. You’re supposed to be relying on your own internal sense of right, wrong, proven, unproven. That means the opinions of others, are irrelevant or mostly irrelevant. Whether you’re in good company or not, is going to be decidedly off-topic.

And you sure aren’t going to be starting any contests or giving away DVDs.

It would appear these folks, Dr. Dawkins included, have given up one religion and accepted a different one.

Best Fake Movie Trailers

Friday, December 22nd, 2006


Spicoli Thinks You Are A Protein Stain

Friday, December 22nd, 2006

You Dick!Pictured at right is Sean Penn uttering the famous line to the My Favorite Martian guy in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” It is the limit of his existence. Oh, I’m sure he’s had more money in the bank since then and he’s lived in bigger houses since then. But the point is, this is where he banked his capital, and everything he’s done since then is just a withdrawal from that capital. He can go to Iraq for P.R. purposes and he can play tragic parents in Mystic River and he can do any one of a number of things, but the reason he became what he is, is because of his successful portayal of a buffoon. That is his claim to fame. Even the most slavish, slobbering Sean Penn fan is going to stop short of suggesting he knows something special about Iraq, just because he’s been there. And that was supposed to be the purpose of being there. We were supposed to be surrounded by fawning Sean Penn fans, indignantly demanding of us “Have YOU been to Iraq, like Sean Penn has?” And it’s not happening. It’s not happening because, if we want to get a picture of what things are really like in Iraq, we can ask some of the soldiers coming back from there who had the job of being there. Pro-Bush soldiers, anti-Bush soldiers, pro-war, anti-war…they’re all out there. Some of them will share the opinions they have. And all of them have insight that is worth more than Mr. Penn’s.

Which poses a problem for Sean Penn. And his solution to it, is to show his anger and righteous indignation. Thanks to, we see he does this by uttering the following…while accepting an award. Hey, classy.

Let’s put his administration under oath. And then if the crimes of treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanours are proven, do as Article 2, Section 4 of the United States Constitution provides, and remove the president, vice president, and civil officers of the United States from office….If the Justice Department then sees fit to bunk them up with Jeff Skilling, so be it. So look, if we attempt to impeach for lying about a b*** j**, yet accept these almost certain abuses without challenge, we become a c** stain on the flag we wave.

You know what’s really amazing about this? It proves beyond any doubt, that Sean Penn lacks the intellectual depth necessary to relate to a mindset embracing a slightly different system of beliefs.

Assuming he’s sincere, what is it he seeks to do here? I would hazard a guess that he’s trying to address people who think President Clinton did something worse than anything President Bush did, and seek to change their minds. Okay. Hey that’s no big stretch for me…so let’s say he’s trying to change my mind. So here I am thinking President Clinton did something bad and deserved to be impeached — which I do. Sean Penn’s going to try to change my mind with his brilliant logic about semen stains. Okee dokee.

Finger WagglingWhy do I think President Clinton did something wrong? Because it’s conduct unbecoming. Sex in the Oval Office, and then lying about it. It diminishes the office he held. His actions turned the Presidency, and all the trust vested in that office, into a puerile thing. You go into a high school classroom and say the name “Clinton!” — and you get a lot of giggling. So there’s a dignity issue. And then there’s a separate issue involving trust; trust based on truth. The nature of what we call “truth” is changed forever. Presidents, for the rest of my natural existence, can waggle their fingers as much as they want — Presidents! — and the expectation that they are telling the truth, and stand to lose something important if it subsequently turns out they are not, is history. Before Clinton, we knew our officials could lie, but we expected that once they got caught lying they would go away for good. Not so anymore. There’s something damaging about that.

So I think President Clinton changed our nation’s culture with regard to what’s true and what’s not true, what’s mature and what is prurient. What was unacceptable before he came to power, became fair game afterward. He lowered the bar, in ways we can’t really afford to have it lowered.

Spicoli is going to change my mind, by grappling with my prejudices with seminal-discharge analogies, while accepting the Christopher Reeve First Amendment Award — betraying everyone who entrusted him with the microphone for those few seconds.

You know, he ultimately does very little to make me reconsider my initial leanings. In fact, if he himself doesn’t provide them with reinforcement…I dunno what does.

It’s called manners…you dick.

Those Stupid Dr. Laura Questions

Friday, December 22nd, 2006

This summer I had commented on that silly episode of The West Wing from October of 2000 when the show’s writer, Aaron Sorkin, decided to properly skewer Dr. Laura. He chose to do this the way he skewers everybody else, as I understand it: To position a ridiculous caricature of the chosen target opposite the blisteringly self-important Martin Sheen, and construct a highly improbable “dialog” between the two, most of which is worked over by Sheen himself, rushing through his pre-constructed lines at a jackrabbit pace.

This episode is often cited as a display of the show’s brilliance, which is odd because the whole thing is pretty far from being original. It had been passed ’round the innernets like a hooker at a stag party some five months before the show aired. A model of Sorkin’s brilliance? It seems the selection of a different model would be in order, but lots of West Wing fans don’t think so. You can get a transcript of the scene from many places, including here.

But the point is, just because you seldom hear of a response to those stupid questions this fictitious President is hurling at Dr. Laura, doesn’t mean the responses don’t exist or are somehow not probable. The responses are more reasoned and straightforward than you might think, and someone has taken the trouble to put them together. Really, they’re just the kind of responses a reasonable person would expect them to be, for the most part. Example…

Q. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may buy slaves from the nations that are around us. A friend of mine claims that this applies to the French but not to the Scots. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Scottish people?

A. It doesn’t actually say slaves, it says ‘bondmen and bondmaids’. People who were poor bonded themselves or their children to someone wealthy. It was a form of social security. It is also written (Exod 21:16) that anyone who steals a man to sell him shall be put to death. So those Muslim slavers who took and sold black slaves to the white man were flat out of order and worthy of death. Don’t forget that the man who had slavery outlawed in Britain was William Wilberforce, an evangelical Christian. Atheists were quite happy with slavery.


But come on. Who really thought the best answer that Christians would have to give to Aaron Sorkin’s oh-so-brilliant recycling of innernet urban-legends, would be just a bobbing up-and-down of the Adam’s apple and a deer-in-the-headlights look? Maybe a fun fantasy for you if you really hate Christians, I suppose. But back here in the plane of reality…situation’s unchanged. It always pays to get both sides of the story.

No War On Christmas, Huh? II

Friday, December 22nd, 2006

I don’t know why we’re arguing about whether there’s a “War on Christmas” or not. As long as the Judeo-Christian religion, and variants thereof, remain “politically incorrect”…and as long as it’s the nature of administrators and bureaucrats to be weasely, spineless and lacking in testicular fortitude…there will be a War on Christmas. Count on it. It’s like the sun rising in the east.

Case in point, there is Ken Mott, a school bus driver who was ordered by his superiors to ditch the Santa hat he’s taken to wearing every Christmas season.

Mott, the big meanie, squealed to the parents of the kids he was driving. Some of them, anyway. Next thing you know, “supervisors suddenly had a change of heart” and decided he could go ahead and wear the hat.

In the meantime, there was some kind of foolish nonsense about the bussing company getting a phone call from a parent, saying their child didn’t believe in Santa Claus and was bothered by the hat. So — okay — look at this. Let’s assume Mr. Mott isn’t lying about what he was told…and whoever told him what he was told, in turn, wasn’t lying about what they were told. That all seems reasonable. So assume that…what we have here, then, is a parent finding out about the bus driver’s Santa hat, and taking the time to call the bussing company to protest. I would guess if that’s the case, this is a parent who called the school district, and was told about the bussing services being contracted to Mott’s employer, maybe being given the phone number, and proceeding to punch that one in as well.

Hey look, those people are out there. And without a doubt, that’s what I would call a “war.” A war going on in someone’s mind, if nowhere else.

Should Christians take offense? Well, first you have to settle the question of whether Santa’s hat is a Christian symbol. That’s got a few problems in itself. But it seems someone has surmounted those problems…and if they have, then everybody else can get past it as well. So we have those people walking around out there, determined to treat a certain religion as a dirty contaminant. They see a Santa hat on a school bus driver, and it’s gotta go.

So if someone’s treating your religion as a dirty contaminant…is that offensive? Should it be? Maybe I have a personal bias in this, but if that’s the relevant question, it gets a big fat “DUH” out of me. A personal system of beliefs, being treated by a bunch of outsiders as something akin to a public health hazard. Why, I’m hard pressed to think of anything that could be more offensive than that.

Preventing the establishment of a state-sponsored religion is one thing. Going after a specific religion or set of religions, like an antibody after a virus — that’s an entirely different thing.

But if I had to bet money on it, I’d bet this parent doesn’t exist and the weasely supervisors lied to Mr. Mott. After all, I’m left with no reason to infer they have any of what passes for “character” at all, whatsoever. They cracked down on Mott with some zero-tolerance policy, or the equivalent of same…and then once the wind blew the other way, suddenly it wasn’t zero-tolerance anymore. Like freakin’ magic. So being forced to make a snap-judgment, I think they’re liars, and the originally-complaining parent doesn’t exist.

Assuming that’s what happened, that’s offensive too. Would they invent a fictitious parent who objected to, for example, a star-and-crescent dangling from the rear-view mirror? No, I don’t think they would. So the religions most closely associated with Santa, are singled out for special abuse — because those religions show the greatest capacity for tolerating it.

You know, that’s offensve on a whole different level, as long as we’re looking for reasons to be offended. You don’t have to be a Christian to find that offensive. Specific creeds being targeted for attacks from the bureaucracies, just because they’ll put up with it — that’s kind of like a schoolyard-bully environment for religions. Religion, in general, deserves a lot more respect than that.