Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Election 2010 Prediction

I predict that the politicians who win the elections tonight will all violate their promises. They will exploit their power to give one group special privileges at the expense of all of our individual rights. It looks quite a bit like 1994 and we all saw how the "Contract With America" turned out to be mostly useless.

Projecting forward, I think Obama's people are going to exploit the image of Republicans as being obstructionists to try to boost his ratings for 2012. And, there's a good chance the GOP will offer up yet another pathetic candidate who will sap the enthusiasm of voters who would have voted against Obama.

Never underestimate the ability of Republicans to screw up any advantages they have at a given point in time.

But that's just one reason I have no intention of setting foot inside a polling station again. Richard Nikoley and Mike Soja offer some roundups of arguments against voting.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Anita Hill Turns Voicemail Over to FBI

"Good morning, Anita Hill, it's Ginni Thomas. I just wanted to reach across the airwaves and the years and ask you to consider something. I would love you to consider an apology some time and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband. So give it some thought and certainly pray about this and come to understand why you did what you did. OK, have a good day."

Apparently, Anita Hill turned that message over to the campus DPS, who forwarded it to the FBI.

Why?

I don't know if Anita Hill lied to the Judiciary Committee two decades ago, but bringing her forward to make a public spectacle was inappropriate. They had interviewed her, found no real evidence, and should have dropped it at that, regardless of Nina Totenberg. And, while I don't agree with most of the Democrats' political objections to Clarence Thomas, I have other objections to many of his opinions, particularly the law-and-order cases when he helps to winnow away individual rights.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Bairo Ávalos

Seven-year-old son of the first rescued miner, Florencio Ávalos, brought tears to my eyes. It was a beautiful thing to see that boy's overwhelming emotions. (Picture from CNN.)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Beck on Beck

Billy Beck makes some observations about Glenn Beck, with which I tend to agree. I don't get the ubiquitous hostility and charges of craziness directed at him. His emphasis on faith at the Lincoln Memorial rally pretty much proved most of the pre-event hysteria dead wrong. It wasn't a "right-wing" political festival. Instead, it was a boring gathering of milquetoast religious speeches, something which isn't going to do any good to further the individual rights of Americans.

I've never listened to or watched Savage or Levin. I can't really argue too much about Billy's opinion of Hannity. For one thing, he tells people who phone him "great Americans" without knowing anything about them, other than the fact that they call him a "great American". But he's still smarter than Bill O'Reilly or any of the chumps at MSNBC. (Yeah, I know, that's not saying much.)

I was, however, surprised to see faint praise for Rush Limbaugh. I don't agree, because I don't think you can put your finger on "the bounds of his logic" because he so often makes ridiculously specious arguments with no logic. When Limbaugh is on the right side of an issue, or making a valid point about freedom and individualism, most of the time he's backing into it by accident, or at the very least, unable to universally apply such principles across party boundaries.

Stephen Colbert Testifies Before Congress

What Congress Critter thought this would be a good idea? I'm all for mocking politicians and see no reason to show them respect. They are, after all, whores and thieves on the scale of trillions of dollars. But those people seem to think highly of themselves and the "dignity" of their profession, so what moron figured bringing Colbert before their committee made any sense?

Stephen Colbert is very quick-witted and can be very funny at times. But his always-on "Opposite Day" shtick gets tedious after awhile. And, his character is hard-wired to lampoon Republicans/"conservatives"— some of them make it so easy—but any good satirist ought to see just as many, if not more, targets among the Democrats/"liberals".

Monday, September 20, 2010

Tea Party

When Rick Santelli, from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, stated on CNBC (Feb 19, 2009) that traders ought to engage in a "tea party" to protest the insanely irresponsible mortgage bailout, which was rewarding poor economic decisions at the expense of everyone else, I was a bit moved. At least some people on the national scene were getting just how reckless the Obama/Pelosi/Reid machine was and the level to which Americans ought to be resisting. To be fair, Bush signed TARP with a few Republican supporters, including McCain, so the Democrats were only accelerating the large-scale looting of the efforts of taxpayers started a few months before. And, while TARP was unprecedented in its scope and scale, it was the logical progression from all of the travesties mainly tracing back to FDR's authoritarian meddling in the economy in response to the Great Depression.

All of the political horrors being splashed across the news from the start of the new administration convinced me that in order to dissuade the government from trashing the free market with more of these legislative abominations, it was going to take the kind of determination and courage shown by the Sons of Liberty, who carried out the Boston Tea Party. Widespread non-violent civil disobedience could have warned the politicians away from going as far as they did, but that sort of movement never materialized. People were content to hold rallies and rely on elections, rather than demonstrating their resolve to shut down the machine of government through non-compliance.

When I saw news footage of tea party rallies in the days which followed, I quickly realized from the placards and t-shirts being shown that a good number of these people were rather ignorant, or at least hopelessly naïve. They had all sorts of different agendas, most of which were recycled Republican/"conservative" positions, rather than more principled advocacy of individual rights and across-the-board opposition to government abuse of power. Many were able to enumerate the misdeeds of the Democrats, but few had the insight to recognize that the vast majority of the GOP politicians were similarly unethical, but just in slightly different ways. At best, the tea party movement has targeted RINOs. Unfortunately, it hasn't done anything to weed out the more irrationally religious candidates and pundits, or the law-and-order types.

When the immigration stupidity in Arizona became associated with a large number of self-proclaimed tea partiers, I saw no reason to hope that this "movement" was going to accomplish anything for liberty, but could turn out to be a net loss—if for no other reason than people who could have taken a stand for individualism against the Democrats were going to be drowned out in the debate. The media focuses on the more vocal, more sensational, oversimplifying the issues and pigeonholing people. And, when political opportunists like Sarah Palin and Mark Williams hoisted the tea party banner for their own agenda, I realized that the people who were sincerely interested in liberty and reining in government on principle were going to lose the opportunity to debate the important moral questions. Instead, people are distracted by Cordoba House ("Ground Zero Mosque") and other irrelevancies.

Meanwhile, Democrat supporters have happily cherry picked the most irrational, ignorant self-proclaimed tea partiers as being representative of the movement, in addition to playing the race card because a few idiots (or perhaps agents provocateur) showed up at rallies with signs which were racist (or, at least, which could be portrayed as racist). But the race thing started before the tea party became hot, as one liar after another cynically accusing anyone who opposed Obama's agenda of only doing so because he was black, and not on the principles of freedom.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Salt

Angelina Jolie as a female Jason Bourne makes this an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride. I could pick a few nits on the plot, but I was sufficiently entertained to forgive them. Go see it.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Agnostic Manifesto Mess

Balko puts himself somewhere around

Despite the common misconception, Richard Dawkins and other atheists do not have an absolute, 100% disbelief. In The God Delusion, Dawkins has a [Spectrum of theistic probability] scale from absolute belief to absolute disbelief, with agnostics in the middle. He puts himself close to, but not actually at, 100% disbelief. The common analogies are comparing a rational consideration of the possibility of a deity to the rational consideration of the existence of a teapot in orbit between Mars and Earth, or the existence of fairies in the bottom of the garden. Strictly speaking, I can’t rule out the teapot or the fairies, because tomorrow someone could actually provide proof. But I feel quite safe in disregarding such a “possibility” as too trivial to concern myself, like an infinite number of other similarly trivial “possibilities”.

That’s not agnosticism, either.

I identified as an agnostic for about 15 years. I considered atheists to be smug and often hostile to good people of faith. But I realize now that what tethered me to the theist side of the fence was residual Christian fear and guilt, as well as a kind of desperate hope that there was some kind of higher power. I even described myself as an agnostic leaning towards Deism.

I cut the tether [see #75 for more details] when I read someone point out how cruel it is to convince a child that their beloved grandfather would be burning forever in fire because he wasn’t baptized. All of the seemingly “well-meaning” traditional religions are poisoned with such hideous fundamental ideas, because it is necessary to inculcate people with fear and/or hate in order to keep them from “straying”, i.e., using their rational mind and dismissing religious tales as ridiculous fantasy–not to mention identifying the truly horrible aspects and applications. Leaders can only control the minds of religious followers so long as they use such despicable ploys. Even the Eastern and New Age religions are often poisoned with a worship of death over life. (Without such poison, they’re just silly fluff, mere fads.)

So, once I freed myself of that irrational anchor, I decided that, while I can respect people of faith who treat others respectfully and appreciate how much their beliefs mean to them, I should never again respect their actual beliefs. I don’t include the non-supernatural, rational beliefs like the 'Golden Rule' and [rules like] don’t commit murder. But I give no special exceptions for brises, religious education, slave garb for women, etc.. No, it’s not for me to decide how other people raise their children or treat their wives, but I also don’t have any reason to overlook cruelty and deception just because it falls inside some conceptual fence of “faith” (a wholly unvirtuous human quality).

I regret wasting my time on the agnostic fence and I would highly recommend that anyone who now considers him/herself an agnostic to critically question why. Read god is Not Great (Hitchens) and The God Delusion (Dawkins) if you haven’t already, rather than relying on hearsay about these people. I have a couple bones to pick with both, such as Dawkins’ utilitarian approach to morality and Hitchens’ occasional broad brush condemnations. But they do make excellent arguments against theism and agnosticism.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Taser

In response to an article at View From The Porch in which Tam made an offhand comparison between Neal Boortz and Rush Limbaugh, with which I generally agree, I noted some of Boortz's moral failings:

"I thought Boortz was a libertarian-leaning conservative.

That was before I heard Boortz advise a caller how to snitch to the IRS. Also, recently he expressed glee that the idiot cop used a taser on a non-violent streaker at a ball game.
[Boortz's approval was done on-air but not mentioned in the preceding linked article.] The more I listen to Boortz, the more examples of anti-freedom ideas leak out from his microphone.

His "libertarian" principles run very shallow. Sure, he might be better than Rush in many ways, but I think it's worse to have someone who purportedly represents the libertarian position who undermines real application of the principles of freedom."

In a followup comment, "Divemedic" dissented:

"To Elliot: I don't have a problem with tasing the ball game streaker, even from a libertarian standpoint. Not only was he resisting arrest AND violating the property rights of the stadium owner and ball club, but he was violating the rights of the thousands of fans who paid to watch a ball game, not an idiot streaker.

IMO, this is no different than the "Don't tase me, bro" guy- why should one person who is disrupting the event and refusing to leave when instructed be given greater weight than the thousands of others there? The easy way to not get tased is to 1) not trespass, 2) leave when instructed, 3) not resist when being arrested for failing at #1 and #2."

To which I replied:

"Divemedic, when the taser was introduced to law enforcement, authorities claimed that it was to be used as a "non-lethal" alternative to using a gun or other more lethal force.

By that reasoning, the idiot cop could have been justified in shooting the streaker with a gun.

Please note that the taser is not actually non-lethal. In rare cases, people do die. If LEOs honestly only used tasers in cases where guns would be justified, one could argue that even a small risk of death is preferable to being shot.

But the reality is that LEOs routinely use tasers in an inappropriate fashion, even on old people, disabled people, and children. In many situations, they aren't reasonably justified in doing this.
[Added: Nikoley gives an example of a video showing a cop's obviously sadistic pleasure in using a taser. His mom is right.] LEOs are supposed to be able to handle people in a professional manner, including using reason and, if necessary, physically restraining a smaller, weaker person without resorting to sadistic methods. And, if they're afraid for their safety, they shouldn't have become a cop in the first place. Fire the cowards who can't handle such situations.

The problem is that LEOs have become unaccountable, paramilitary automatons. They know that people like you will defend their inappropriate use of force ("don't tase me bro") and that they can do what they want.

I'm disgusted that you, or anyone else, could look at either situation and decide that "law and order" must be maintained, that not disrupting other people's "enjoyment" is of such a paramount importance that thuggish violence ought to be used to expedite the resolution.

This is the mindset that has led to SWAT teams swarming into the homes of non-violent suspects, risking the lives of innocent bystanders (like children), murdering family pets, and generally escalating a non-violent situation into a very violent one. Despite what apologists might argue, this happens hundreds of times a day.

Police are supposed to be professional and display exemplary behavior. They are supposed to be brave and strong, not cowards. They are supposed to use reason and restraint to resolve problems and defuse situations before they get violent, not inject unnecessary violence into them. And, most of all, they ought to be held to a higher standard than the rest of us, not given a free pass to do things that would put us in prison for years."

Tam reminded me that my rant (which she incorrectly called "copypasta"—I didn't cut-and-paste, but rather included hyperlinks in my original commentary) was inappropriate in the comment section for that article she wrote. That's her place, so she gets to make the rules. However, if anyone would like to discuss this further, feel free to use the comment section in this article.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

and a high chair for my wife

Chris Muir's Day by Day Cartoon

Chris Muir sets the bar high for entries in the first annual Everybody Draw Mohammad Day. This follows on the heels of the 2005 Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten publication (and 2008 reprinting) of various cartoonists' renderings, which triggered riots by savages in which more than 100 people were killed.

I still think Giovani di Modena's 1415 depiction of Mohammad burning in hell, as part of a fresco about Dante's Inferno takes the cake:

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Dog Murders on Film

WARNING: The following video involves a police raid in which one, or possibly two, family pets are murdered by cops. The murders occur off camera and the dogs are never visually shown, but the sounds are very disturbing to hear. (via Balko)

This is just plain evil. There is absolutely no justification for this. If you approve of laws which make drugs illegal, please explain to me how shooting pets in a house with children just to keep some people from smoking a plant makes any sense. How is pot more dangerous than a violent, paramilitary raid with guns blazing?

Mailmen, meter readers, cable/phone technicians all have to deal with dogs. I've never heard of any of them needing to kill a dog. [Update: I forgot to mention what cowardly pussies all these cops who murder dogs are. It happens all over the country, all the time. (Search for "puppycide".)]

I don't need to watch any fictional movies about a futuristic dystopia. We are there now.

P.S.: "The entire philosophy behind SWAT-style drug raids is that the death of a mother, a child, or the family pet is an acceptable risk to prevent flushing."Commenter "Dr Mabuse" in a forum.

Big Brother Tax Threat Commercial in PA

Balko, FNC. They are actually proud of their work.

American Idol

I didn't bother to blog last week's Shania Twain show. I was busy, but I also wasn't enthusiastic about the show, anyway. Shania Twain is a beautiful woman and seems to be a nice person, but I just can't stand her songs. They are trite and the worst combination of pop and country. My interest in country music ended in the 70s: Johnny Cash, Charlie Daniels, Glen Campbell, Mac Davis, the Oakridge Boys, Loretta Lynn, Lynn Anderson. After that, I quit paying attention. Except a few Randy Travis albums I own and a couple songs here or there, I just don't find any country music in the past few decades to be enjoyable, particularly the pop-ish women. That night, I picked Siobhan Magnus as the best performance of the night, with the caveat that all of the songs that night were annoying and stupid. To me, her song was just the least awful to hear. I don't think any singer could have made those tunes enjoyable for me. I don't know if Shania Twain fans could have enjoyed the American Idol versions. All the thematic choices of the Rolling Stones, Beatles, Elvis, Shania, and Sinatra this season have pushed contestants into an awkward corner. I don't imagine any of them will ever cut an album with those types of songs, so what is the point? For whatever reason, people called in more votes for what I believe are clearly inferior singers, particularly Aaron and Casey. Perhaps they thought she was safe. Perhaps they thought she was too weird. Perhaps her poor song choices from previous weeks had caught up to her. Whatever the case, I was disappointed that her elimination left Crystal Bowersox being the only remaining singer whose performances have interested me. Sure, Lee and Michael have done decent jobs here and there, but I just can't get enthusiastic about them as artists. Unless one of the men does something fantastic, I can't imagine any excitment in the final showdown this season. It's Crystal's to lose. If she does lose, it will just make this season even more uninteresting.

Friday, April 23, 2010

South Park Punks the "Revolution Muslim" Punks

South Park creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, were the target of threats by a group called "Revolution Muslim." These ridiculously stereotypical angry Muslims produced a video intimating that Parker and Stone would end up murdered, like Theo Van Gogh, for depicting Mohammad in a "blasphemous" way. Well, the joke was on the angry Muslims:
Mohammed appeared on Wednesday night's US episode of the cartoon with his body obscured by a black box, since Muslims consider a physical representation of their prophet to be blasphemous. Last week, the character was believed to be disguised in a bear costume. When that same costume was removed this week, Santa Claus appeared.
The very idea of blasphemy against any religion is such an obviously human one. There is no god. But if there were a being of such awesome unimaginable power, would it really be necessary for people to protect this god from ridicule? It's not like this alleged creator of the universe would have the emotional constitution of a fragile young child being mocked on the playground for having a goofy haircut. This is supposed to be an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent deity. Few other human attitudes do more to highlight the absurdity of blind faith than throwing a temper tantrum and demanding that everyone else give respect to the irrational belief in imaginary beings.
In some respects, science has far surpassed religion in delivering awe. How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, "This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant. God must be even greater than we dreamed"? Instead they say, "No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way."Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot, 1994

The plot of episodes "200" and "201" are quite convoluted and silly, in true South Park fashion. But as with many episodes, it's a subversive, intentionally offensive morality play. Buddha is depicted snorting cocaine, Jesus admits viewing porn on the internet, but a box covers Mohammed at all times and even the mention of his name by the characters is bleeped in the audio. The closed captions, however, weren't altered. Even more absurd, a "lessons learned" speech at the end of the show, which made no mention of Mohammed, was completely bleeped out (including the closed captions). Apparently, Comedy Central completely caved to what can only be described as terroristic "warnings."

Before the September 11, 2001 attacks, and years before the murderous riots by angry Muslims, pissed over a few Mohammed cartoons, the episode "Super Best Friends" (July 4, 2001), showed an apparently innocuous cartoon version of Mohammed as part of the plot, but there were no riots, no death threats then. On April 5, 2006 and April 12, 2006, a two part episode "Cartoon Wars" had terrified characters throughout the US burying their heads in sand to show Muslims that they had no part in the airing of a picture of Mohammed on the show Family Guy (well, the South Park parody of Family Guy). They built the suspense, first showing an episode within an episode with a black censorship box. The next week, they were supposedly going to show it unedited, but Comedy Central wouldn't air it:

vs.

I still prefer the "Douche and Turd" episode, in which Stan decides not to vote for a school election, and is threatend by Puff Daddy to "Vote or Die" (an actual slogan he used in pro-voting commercials). As usual, their over-the-top theme serves to illustrate the stupidity of people feeling obligated to vote in an election, even if they don't like either candidate.

P.S.: Balko links to a story about a call to ink pens, for cartoonists everywhere to draw Mohammed on April 20, 2010.

Anthropomorphizing Nature

At CNN, Alan Weisman tries to add a few more squawks to the chorus of Chicken Littles pushing the Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming (CAGW) theory. He litters his unsupported hypothesis with the childish view of the entire world being a sentient being which is "striking back at us" for our environmental "sins", closing with the stereotypical alarmist imagery:

...if we don't pull carbon out of the way we energize our lives soon, a small clump of our not-too-distant surviving descendants may find themselves, as Gaia scientist James Lovelock has direly predicted, like the first Icelanders: gathered on some near-barren hunk of rock near one of the still-habitable poles, trying yet anew to eke out a plan for human civilization.

"Gaia scientist"? What's next, an astrology scientist? How can so many grown men and women go out in public and pretend that a 658-sextillion-ton rock measuring 25,000 miles around has a rational mind? This is Santa Claus and Leprechaun stuff.

Even more amazing is how these charlatans have managed to repackage socialism and convince so many people that there is a dire need to do the economic equivalent of carpet bombing modern industry.

As I wrote before, green is the new red.

What he said.

Musical Madness

Radley Balko links to an article at Slate explaining the maddening trade-offs involved in tuning keyboard and fretted instruments. I was blissfully unaware of the concept of musical temperament and just assumed that musical notes were perfectly laid out in simple, integral frequency ratios. Thanks, Balko, for making me feel even stupider about music theory.

My introduction to playing music was on a trumpet in the sixth grade, which meant I had a very narrow perspective: one note at a time. I could hear when I didn't harmonize with another person's instrument, but that was either a matter of tuning, or a simple result of someone playing the wrong note. Not until high school did the band directors even attempt a cursory sketch of music theory: major, minor, and perfect intervals. Otherwise, it was just rote learning. Play what's on the page.*

Being a math geek, it always bothered me that the notes on a major scale were not symmetrical, making each letter two semitones apart--the reason there isn't a black key between every white key on a piano. Why not use a hexatonic, or whole tone scale, so an octave involved six notes instead of the seven notes in a diatonic scale? Put a black key between each white key and adjust accordingly. A C-major scale would no longer be void of accidentals, but wouldn't that force neophyte musicians to grasp just exactly how a major interval differs from a perfect interval? Alas, the symmetry of such a scale was swapped out for the concept of the tonic. Having done most of my playing on a one-note horn, and never having been taught improvisation, I still only have a fuzzy grasp of harmonics. The idea of connecting that to what's on sheet music and what's on a piano or guitar comes as naturally to me as playing Boggle in Spanish. I have a rookie-level ability to pronounce printed words (I have to look up how to pronounce words like "ciudad") and would be an abysmal failure at writing down words I know by ear ("quatro" vs. "cuatro").

Another mystery to me was the "Every Good Boy Does Fine" vs. "Good Boys Do Fine Always" discrepancy (treble clef versus bass clef). It didn't matter to me when I stuck to one instrument. But after a few lessons on the classical guitar (which was already rough going), I was asked to take lessons on the electric bass guitar to replace another student (Chris W.**) in the jazz band, because he was moving. If I recall correctly, his family had a change of plans so he quickly returned and I was spared the agony of compounding two unfamiliar tasks--playing a string instrument and reading bass clef. Unfortunately, it also meant I never resumed the classical guitar lessons.


* On my list of most embarrassing moments is the time I was hired at age 17 to be part of a trumpet trio playing Christmas music in front of a large congregation. At the last minute, we were told to transpose to another key to make it easier for the pianist. The other two more experienced players said "no problem" but I managed to inject a plethora of sour notes. "A little bit of humiliation goes a long way."


**My Best Man at my wedding, Carlos, played with Chris in a band, doing gigs for high school parties. They were often arguing over what songs to play. As a bassist, Chris was always wanting to play Rush songs, which are heavy on Geddy Lee's bass playing. Chris was most famous in the high school band for keeping a book of quotes of our band director's humorous impromptu aphorisms. After it became well-known, Mr. M. would add, "Put that in your little book, Mr. W!" afterwards.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

B.O.H.I.C.A.

From the AP:

President Barack Obama suggested Wednesday that a new value-added tax on Americans is still on the table, seeming to show more openness to the idea than his aides have expressed in recent days.

Before deciding what revenue options are best for dealing with the deficit and the economy, Obama said in an interview with CNBC, "I want to get a better picture of what our options are."

Here's an option: cancel all the rubber checks you've been writing and let people decide how to spend their own goddamned money.

Bill Clinton paraphrases Billy Beck

When I first read the "hatriot" section of Bill Clinton's speech, I told my wife that he was quoting Billy Beck (well, almost). Apparently, Billy didn't miss that, nor did the many people who sent him e-mail about it.

Idol Season 9, Top 7

Tuesday night was mostly disappointing:

  1. Crystal Bowersox ("People Get Ready" by Curtis Mayfield) - Again, Crystal beats everyone else. This time, she outdoes the best of the rest by the biggest margin yet. I loved her a capella opening. She didn't allow the music to overtake her voice. Even a couple seconds of crying was forgivable, given the awesomeness of her performance. Speaking of forgiveness, the lyrics make reference to the more obnoxious side of Christianity ("no room ... no hiding"). Even an atheist like me can appreciate a moving gospel song about love and charity if it has a good melody and is sung beautifully. I just don't care for the hellfire, Left Behind crap.
  2. Lee DeWyze ("The Boxer" by Paul Simon) - I love this song. While Lee didn't live up to the original, he did a very good job. It was very moving at times. There were a few rough spots, but not many. Even better than the original was a cover by James Taylor and Alison Krauss at the 2002 Kennedy Center Honors tribute to Paul Simon. It's worth it if you can find it. (Incidentally, Lee DeWyze, like Taylor & Krauss, skipped the verses which included the line: "Just a come on from the whores on Seventh Avenue." I listened Simon & Garfunkel's version for years, oblivious to the exact words they were singing until I actually read it.)
  3. TIE Siobhan Magnus ("When You Believe" by Mariah Carey, et al.) and Michael Lynche ("Hero" by Nickleback) - I was disappointed with both performers. I'd say they were a distant third, behind a distant second, which is not a good place to be. Siobhan was very boring and her voice got nasal at times. Otherwise, her singing was excellent. Michael let the music overshadow his voice at times, even though his vocals were excellent, as well. Neither of them moved me, like Crystal and Lee.
I curse Casey for playing that song that the Clintons forever ruined for me.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Taking Bill Clinton to Task

Radley Balko takes Bill Clinton to task for his cynical exploitation of the Oklahoma City bombing and his revisionist whitewashing of what his people did in Waco. I mentioned a few of the same things last Friday, in a response to an early Balko article.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Bill Clinton waves around Timothy McVeigh corpse

At Balko's place:

Bill Clinton waves around Timothy McVeigh to demonize critics of the Democrats.

They’ll fine you if you don’t buy health insurance, jail you if you don’t pay the fine, and kill you if you dare not to submit to them trampling on your rights. That’s all OK to Bubba. “They were elected. They are not doing anything they were not elected to do.”

But if you dare to point out that they are trampling on our rights, election or no, you’re feeding into the mentality of monsters who blow up buildings with children inside.

P.S.: Damn, I mentioned Bill Clinton and destroying a building with children inside without even catching the irony.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Idol Season 9, Top 9 (part II)

I'm glad the judges used their save on Michael Lynche last week. However, that means two go home tomorrow, increasing the likelihood of another "shocking result."

My picks for the Elvis show tonight:

  1. Crystal Bowersox ("Saved") - As usual, the best of the night. Her only problem is that she's performed so well each week that she doesn't get bonus points for improving over the previous week that some contestants do.
  2. Siobhan Magnus ("Suspicious Minds") - I liked both halves, unlike the judges. To me, the first part set up the second just as it was supposed to. I listened to it again to try to hear the notes Simon thought were off, but only one seemed to be ever so slightly off to me. My only complaint would be that she tends to get a nasal tone to her voice at times. In the top 10, she was torturing high notes on Chaka Khan's "Through the Fire". In the first top 9 (Lenon/McCartney), she gave a decent, but very boring rendition of "Across the Universe". I think this was her best since the Rolling Stones' "Paint it Black" (top 12), though Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" (top 11) is a close contender. She definitely peaked with Aretha Franklin's "Think" (top 20), and I'm hoping she can repeat that level of performance in weeks to come. I think that all depends on song choice and whether she can effectively work in some glass-shattering high notes without going overboard.
  3. Lee DeWyze ("A Little Less Conversation") - Good, solid performance with a lot of energy. All the whinging by the judges about his facial expressions is getting tiresome and distracting. Who cares? If he sings well, then he sings well. This week, he was much improved. The past several weeks he's done OK, better than most of the men. I did appreciate his boldness last week having a bagpiper, though I wouldn't have brought him down that staircase in such a melodramatic fashion (putting him off to the side would have been more appropriate). It was great to see the reaction of the judges to that stunt, though.
  4. Michael Lynche ("In the Ghetto") - Michael gave a very moving performance. I've always liked the melody of that song, but the lyrics (written by Mac Davis), when sung by white men like Elvis, seem patronizing and dripping of white guilt(*). Still, I don't want to read too much into Michael's choice to do that song, especially since he said the Crystal recommended it to him. Last week, I thought Michael's "Eleanor Rigby" was very good, almost great (he did go over the top at the end). I thought his changes to the original were very creative and interesting. I couldn't believe he was dead last in the vote.
  5. Tim Urban ("Can't Help Falling in Love") - Nice voice. There were a few places where I think he should have used his strong voice rather than quiet voice, but he showed real talent. It's a shame he was cursed with a face that makes him look confused or dull at times, even when he apparently isn't. He has been improving, which is making VFTW look even more pointless. I understand why they did, but they would be a bit more credible today if they had gone with Andrew Garcia or Aaron Kelly. Not that I want them to look more credible, mind you.
  6. Casey James ("Lawdy Miss Clawdy" by Lloyd Price) - Good, but not exceptional. He needs to watch his vibrato as he's going to start sounding like a goat if he's not careful.
  7. Katie Stevens ("Baby, What You Want Me to Do") - I'm always a bit ambivalent about Katie. The song lyrics were too mature for her, in my opinion. Her voice was great, as usual, but I've always been a bit bothered by her appearance. I know I shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but she looks like a very spoiled girl. In her interviews, she doesn't come across as egotistical, though. And, I can't deny her voice.

(*) In retrospect, the "child needs a helping hand" meme in 1960s was a driving force behind welfare. That has translated into government institutionalized single-parent motherhood with built-in disincentives to have a two-parent household or to escape the ghetto. This "helping hand" only feeds the cycle, which is ironic since Mac Davis originally titled the song "The Vicious Circle". The best thing the politicians did in that era was to end Jim Crow, which was government institutionalized racism, but they should have left things at that.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Shades of Red

Warren Meyer points out how Obama fits the mold of a "Corporatist" more than a Socialist. I've also seen people describe him as a Mussolini-style Fascist.

Of course, the media marginalizes anyone who uses such terms (while stupidly lumping libertarians and anarcho-capitalists into the "far right-wing" category, along with neo-Nazis and skinheads, when they are as different as can be).

The term "collectivist" nicely ties the -isms with which to describe Obama into a simple category. Unfortunately, the average person is unfamiliar with the term, and doesn't think much beyond the arcane, useless 1-dimensional left-right continuum.

Entertainment Notes

I haven't been taking the time to make any comments on American Idol here for weeks. I've been disappointed that the women keep getting cut. Previously, I'd predicted the opposite. Of course, the women have had a few flops. Tim Urban should have been cut early, but he's a VTFW pick (these are the people who kept Sanjaya in the competition). Funny enough, he's improved the past few weeks--not enough to win, but not horrible enough to give the worsters much satisfaction. The whole concept behind Vote for the Worst is halfway funny, but also pretty lame. Sure, it's fun to make fun of things, but at some point, if you're obligated to put something down all the time, it wears thin, like the Addams Family, where everything was supposed to be like opposite day. The maturity level is pretty low when the best they can do is talk about Kara DioGuardi, a grown woman, having lots of sex. What are they, 12?

Despite the corniness of the show, I still like Richard Nikoley's description of American Idol as an example of the American Dream.

At this point, I like Siobhan Magnus and Crystal Bowersox the best. I think Michael Lynche deserved another chance. He's better than many of the others, and I wish he'd improve his song choice and arrangements to be sharper.


I saw How to Train Your Dragon (in 2D, we got the showtimes mixed up). [update: That was a happy mistake, as I doubt a 3 year old would put up with wearing glasses for 2 hours] It's quite entertaining, a good children's movie. But we also learned that it's much too long for our 3 year old granddaughter. She managed to entertain and annoy the audience the last 10 minutes, playing keep-away-from-grandpa under the movie screen, until I could corral her off to the side, out of view. Otherwise, the movie was enjoyable for me.


After hearing so much about the movie Precious, my wife and I rented it. We almost let our daughter see it, but she wasn't interested. [update: FWIW, I mistakenly thought it was PG-13, not R. Another happy accident that my daughter didn't want to see it.] I would not recommend the movie, unless you like sad stories. Definitely don't let your children watch it, as it is very disturbing and very explicit. I wonder why such movies get such critical acclaim. Sure, the acting was convincing, but damn.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Google Docs

Google offers a cloud-computing version of (Open)Office. Create documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and forms. Export them to MS Office or OpenOffice format.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Organization of No

Warren Meyer points out something which should be obvious, though I can't recall ever seeing it articulated so succinctly:

"Government bureaucracies do not exercise power by allowing activities to occur – they only have power, and thus have reason to justify their continued funding and jobs, when they say no. Every incentive that they have is to say no. When a government agency allows progress to proceed smoothly, it is doing so because some person or small group is fighting against the very nature of the organization."

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Dieticians Wrong About Fat, Ignore Processed Carbohydrates

See update below.

Anyone who has been reading about honest nutritional science will not lift an eyebrow when Radley Balko says, "What do you know, the experts may have been wrong again..." to blame saturated fat for cardiovascular disease:

Ultimately, saturated fat...may be neutral for the heart. Meanwhile, some mono-unsaturated fats...and some poly-unsaturated fats...could be good for the heart.

...

If saturated fat doesn't adversely affect cardiovascular health, what does? Sorry, Nabisco: We should be giving a closer look to foods with a high glycemic index—a measure that reflects a food's influence on blood sugar levels, based on how quickly it is digested and absorbed. Typically, that means carbohydrates like cereal, bread, chips, and cookies.

In a 2000 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Harvard researchers...found that the quintile of women who ate food with the highest glycemic load—a measure that incorporates portion size—had twice the risk of developing heart disease than the quintile who ate food with the lowest glycemic load. A 2008 meta-analysis of 37 studies reported a significant association between intake of high glycemic index foods and increased risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, gallbladder disease, and breast cancer.

Read the full article for more details.

Meanwhile, CNN stupidly ignores the role of sugars in an article titled Fatty foods may cause cocaine-like addiction. Ironically, they call processed food "purified" and "evolve[d]" when comparing its addictive qualities to "evolved" drugs like cocaine (as compared to coca leaves).

Look at the ingredients on your box of "low-fat" whole-grain packaged food. You'll see dozens of laboratory chemicals and industrially mutilated plant byproducts. How is that more pure than a grass-fed rib-eye steak? Or a serving of vegetables, nuts, or fruit you buy in their whole, unadulterated form and prepare yourself? And, how can they use the word "evolved" without remembering how the human metabolism evolved almost entirely before agriculture (and definitely before industrial junk food and sedentary TV/Internet lifestyles)?

Eat like our paleo ancestors did, whole foods including fatty meat, fish, vegetables, nuts, and fruit. Skip the packaged stuff. Stay active as much as possible, but don't engage in unnatural aerobic or "cardio" workouts (animals don't run on treadmills--they walk around all the time and occasionally sprint).

Addendum: Mark Sisson gives the lowdown on sugar, how it is so destructive to our health. And still, the "common wisdom" is that fat is the evil.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Some Background on the Window War

A comment at the Walls of the City blog:

I, too have been following Vanderboegh in real time, before his Sipsey Street Irregulars website came into existence, via David Codrea's War on Guns website (which chronicles daily a dozen or more stories of police corruption, particularly with regards to gun laws--the sheer number of articles itself is a very bad reflection on the state of law enforcement) and the Western Rifle Shooters blog.

Vanderboegh wrote about a fictional Window War a decade or so ago, by his reckoning. It was a cautionary tale about gun control in the twilight of the Clinton administration. His repost occurred Feb 2009, just after Obama's inauguration, during the uncertainty of a gang of top administration officials who were far more leftist than anyone before in such high office, who brought with them the brazenly corrupt Chicago-style political thuggery. Couple that with the rotten, power-drunk federal law enforcement agencies, who even during the Bush years were already running amok, and anyone paying attention quickly saw the potential for more Waco and Ruby Ridge incidents (which occurred or started during Bush 41, before Clinton upped the stakes with the scary-looking gun ban).

The Window War has been in the works for a long time. Personally, I believe Vanderboegh is a principled man who is not itching for a fight.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Internecine Criticisms

At Walls of the City I comment on this post, which is a roundup of criticisms of Vanderboegh's Window War:

I wrote a couple posts here and here about your article The Substance of Things, an objectivist critique of Vanderboegh's Window War. I personally think that such tactics are a miscalculation, which run the risk of "copy cats" escalating the subversive acts to things like cutting propane lines to a house (wrong address, actually) or making death threats. As Vanderboegh himself put it (in reference to a different matter), that's the Law of Unintended Consequence--you lose control over how things play out. Innocents get hurt. Bad people exploit the chaos to grab power.

My read of history is that civil disobedience--not just waving signs, but actual non-violent lawbreaking--gets much better results. It puts those in power in the position of showing who they really are, highlighting for the "fence sitters" and unaware just what is wrong with forcing people to buy health insurance, for example.

On the other hand, Roberta X's call "to regroup and plan for elections...for the states to take the matter to court" doesn't strike me as any more productive than the Window War. You can't vote yourself into freedom. Elected officials, by their very nature, will never relinquish power once attained, even if it is at the price of your rights. Trying to win a majority is a losing proposition.

Which lead me directly to your claim that "the government has never been the problem with our country." I could not disagree with you more.

Government was the problem when it ensconced slavery into the Constitution, when it interfered with the free market by imposing a government monopoly on mail delivery (something affecting us this very day), when it made Jim Crow laws, when it engaged in colonialism and foreign interventions (something affecting us this very day), when it imposed one collectivist "reform" or market "regulation" after another. No corporation or non-governmental group has the power of government to trample our rights and to behave unethically (harming the rights of others) purportedly in our name.

Spooner, Garrison, and Thoreau explicated the reasons why the government was wrong, why "its very Constitution is the evil." Government is aggressive force instead of persuasive reason, which by its very nature is immoral.

Now, while I assert that non-violent civil disobedience will likely get better results now than the Window War, the cartridge box or the ballot box...I do not agree with the notion that violence is never the answer. See this post at The Smallest Minority, or the Solzhenitsyn quote Vanderboegh cites here.

I've been reading Vanderboegh for years and I know he has not "been wishing for our backs to be against the wall" nor is he an "extremist... who pleasure[s] [himself] at the thought of another civil war." I may disagree with him about the usefulness of the Window War (and about God and the Constitution at root), but I do have respect for him as a principled individual, unlike those who cut propane lines, make death threats against legislators' family members, etc..

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Silencing the Opposition

MSNBC radio talk show host Ed Schultz, who boasts that he would cheat on elections to keep his party in power, calls for using the Fairness Doctrine to steal the resources that other people pay for to "equalize" radio talk show audience. As he put it: "If we're going to be socialist, lets be socialist across the board." (h/t Drudge)

I don't expect a cretin like him to understand the simple concept of private property--he is so far beyond the reach of reason. Why are the "right-wing" talk show hosts far more successful than "left-wing" hotheads like him or Air America? Because the audience, the consumers, freely choose to listen to what they like, which means most of them don't like his ilk. Imagine Shasta demanding to get an equal share of the cola market, by fiat. You want Coke or Pepsi? Too bad.

Of all the times I've heard assholes like Shultz, Pelosi, Durbin, Harkin, Bill Clinton, et al. (D) call for reinstating talk radio socialism, I've never heard a one of them call for applying the same rules to TV. None of them want to force CBS, MSNBC, CNN, and ABC to run stories about Tea Party protesters and all the nasty negative aspects of the bills (as opposed to the bland reporting they did on the run-up to the House vote). Though, considering how much Fox News blows them away in the ratings, I'm sure they might be willing to force Keith Olberman and Rachel Maddow on millions of people who don't want them.

Beyond the issues of private property and individual choice, I want to know why "equal time" only extends to Democrats and Republicans. Why not libertarians, anarcho-capitalists, Tea Party independents, Naderites, or Bernie Sanders? Hell, what about the Nation of Islam, the Aryan Nation, or al Qaeda? Who decides which voices are valid? Who decides what proportion and why?

I guess if they can't get their socialism across the board, they can knock down radio towers. If that fails, they can pull a Hugo Chavez and just declare the stations illegal.

Social Security Bankrupt

Jacob Sullum at Reason gives us the bad news: Social Security will go negative this year, six years earlier than predicted.

Meanwhile, we start to see the really bad news regarding the consequences of Health Care Deform:

Deere & Co and Caterpillar Inc said they are expecting a combined $250 million in charges this year as a result of changes to the $2.5 trillion U.S. healthcare system that President Barack Obama signed into law this week.

Why do these Democrats act so surprised when the victims start reacting in anger, either symbolically or worse? And, is it any more surprising that the vandalism is directed at both parties?

Now, they're getting warmed up over Cap-and-Trade (i.e., Kneecap Business and Undermine Free Trade). While they're scaling back the House version, they're getting the camel's nose under the tent. In order to force Americans to limit carbon emissions, it has to hurt, and hurt bad, or people will keep doing what they're doing. All of this, of course, is based upon bad science. (If James Cameron wants to call anyone "out into the street at high noon and shoot it out", I'd suggest the weapon to be used be the scientific method of inquiry, which for centuries has necessarily included healthy skepticism in order to move beyond the flat-earth stagnation of "settled" diktats. Mr. Cameron, without any Hollywood glitz, explain feedback and runaway processes in the context of historical data.)

My daughter rolls her eyes when I say, "Want to hear something really scary?" and then proceed to tell her how Social Security will be gone when she retires. She's not interested now, but this fiscal house of cards that's starting to teeter is worse than any R-rated slasher movie I won't let her get at the video store.

Vanderboegh on Colmes

Go listen.

Castro Applauds Obamacare

Oh joy!

Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro on Thursday declared passage of American health care reform "a miracle" and a major victory for Obama's presidency, but couldn't help chide the United States for taking so long to enact what communist Cuba achieved decades ago.

That Glenn Beck sure is craaaazy! All his talk of Socialism. Where does he get that stuff?

P.S.: Some unusual news: Hollywood actors and musicians actually denounce political tyranny going on today in Cuba. Unlike other apologists for mass murder and tyranny.

Escalation at Republican Office

From Fox News:

Republican Rep. Eric Cantor's Richmond campaign office was shot at Wednesday night, Fox News has learned, the latest in a rash of apparent threats and acts of intimidation against members of Congress.

Which brings to mind:

"Hold onto your butts!" -- Ray Arnold (Samuel L. Jackson) in Jurassic Park (1993)

Propane War?

Every time I hit the web, I find more angry fallout from the Democrats' Health Care Deform atrocity--reactions which exceed the relatively weak Tea Party protests. I don't recommend doing these sorts of things--at this point I think peaceful civil disobedience would be the most effective means of getting people to face these issues rationally, with the advantage of being solidly ethical. But it's important to draw distinctions between the incidents, as the media tends to conflate them all together into one big sticky ball of racist, Timothy McVeigh scariness, which they'd like to attach to Tea Party protesters and Republicans in general.

The most prominent of late is the Window War, of which Mike Vanderboegh of Sipsey Street Irregulars takes credit for instigating, or at least inspiring .

There have also been some death threats mentioned in the news--even some cowardly threats against children of lawmakers, for example. So far, these incidents are few in number. Most, if not all, are likely hollow threats, but they do give Democrats lots of sympathy points. Committing a felony like that is just plain stupid, considering how easy it is to trace most of them.

On the Alan Colmes radio show Wednesday evening, I heard Alan speaking with Mike Troxel, who tried to weasel his way out of being held accountable for his actions. Colmes took full advantage of the situation, pressing Troxel to the point that he just sounded stupid. On Colmes' Liberaland:

On my radio show Tuesday night, Mike Troxel (pictured) of the Lynchburg, VA Tea Party defended posting what he thought was the home address of Democratic Congressman Tom Perriello. However, it was the address of Periello’s brother, Bo, that wound up on Troxel’s website. Opponents of health care reform were asked to drop by and “express their thanks” for Periello’s vote. Troxel’s defense was that the Congressman was unreachable at his office, not responding to phone calls, and refusing to explain his pro-heath care reform vote to his electorate. Now, the FBI is investigating the severing of a gas line at the home of Bo Droxel.

More about the incident here. Troxel, if you're going to be putting up addresses, not only should you make sure you've got the one you intend, but you should be man enough to take responsibility for it, instead of offering pathetic explanations like a child who gets caught with cookie crumbs all over his face.

Whoever cut the gas line at that house took it to another level. That could have easily ended up causing casualties. As with McVeigh and Andrew Stack (who flew the plane into the IRS building in Austin), such a blind act makes no effort to avoid harming innocents. I find it utterly despicable.

So, while some people like the window warriors may be trying to act ethically, with measured restraint, they're going to need to work very hard to distinguish themselves from the cowardly idiots. As I a commented at SSI:

Window warriors need to keep in mind a few things: When you're on someone else's property with a brick, you are putting yourself in danger of retaliation to your person (arrest, assault, deadly force). If you're not prepared for such an eventuality, don't pick up the brick in the first place. And, now that the "Window War" has started, don't whine that "...[a]nything they can think of to say is OK. But if you disagree with them you are the scum of the earth." (emphasis mine) Vandalism is not mere words of disagreement. Telling people to commit vandalism is not just words, but a call to action. I think I get why Vanderboegh is citing the threats here, and I don't see him acting like a victim here. I don't think it serves him for anyone else to pretend this is just about words of disagreement at this point.

Vanderboegh has repeatedly stated that he wants the window war to be enough of a warning to stave off a shooting war, like a rattlesnake shaking its tail wants to save its venom and avoid being hurt. I have my doubts, and I think that Billy Beck may very well be right when he wrote, "All politics in this country now is just dress rehearsal for civil war." I think it either comes to that or the once free American individualist becomes an endangered species as this country devolves into just another European-style socialist mess.

P.S.: When reading the comment sections at SSI and elsewhere, be wary of the presence of agents provocateurs, who could be working for law enforcement, Democratic Underground, Daily Kos, etc.. I've seen plenty of remarks purportedly posted by those sympathetic to the window warriors or Tea Party "movement", yammering about courage and whatnot--often from anonymous comments, hilariously enough--that I've no doubt some of them want to see someone else escalate. Vanderboegh has written at length about handling plants in his former militia group, such as those who pretended to have a racist agenda. He reported them forthwith to the authorities whom he suspected of sending the plant in the first place.

Remember, the Democrats just grabbed immense power and they're going to be ruthless about keeping it and shutting down anyone who would dare threaten them. The usual warnings about The Reichstag Fire and Ft. Sumter apply.

"This business will get out of control. It will get out of control and we'll be lucky to live through it." -- Admiral Josh Painter (Fred Thompson) in The Hunt for Red October (1990)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Property Rights Work Both Ways

In the comments section of Vanderboegh's reaction to an objectivist's objections to his "Window War", a few commenters made an obvious point which I wish I'd seen in my previous post:

B Woodman says, "He forgets ... who started stealing from whom first."

An anonymous commenter writes:

Had they applied the same logic to my own property rights (including the money I work so hard to earn) I would not have to resort to using a louder form of persuasion to get their attention. Hello?! Anyone out there? If you take something that belongs to me without my consent then I will do the same to you. Get it yet?

Roger wrote:

...the feral government has taken my personal property by force with the threat of violence for three decades of my life. My hard earned money represents my direct time, my blood, sweat and tears. It is stolen, never to be reclaimed, never to be recovered, and something I can never replace.

Unfortunately, Roger, like many others in the comments, goes on to repeat the bullshit Broken Window Fallacy when he says, "At least with a broken window, it creates jobs. Jobs that are needed." With that sort of inane thinking, we could evacuate a few towns and carpet bomb them to cure unemployment. Destruction of value is destruction of value. It is always a net loss to the owners. The benefit to others (new jobs) comes at a cost to the owners. (Which, in the case of the "Window War" is the point.)

Another anonymous commenter writes:

So by that logic, when the government begins to wage war on our property, they are waging war on our person. I'll accept his premise which would conclude with John Locke's premise on the rights of the people over the government.

Among the rest of the comments, there are the lame attacks on the objectivist author, concocting all sorts of fantasies and straw man arguments. A few collectivist interlopers come in to share their stupidity. But, curiously, a comment I posted early Tuesday never seemed to make it into the bunch. [Update: I resubmitted and it's there now, slightly edited.] See my previous post for the full text.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Shattered Glass

I felt hung over on Monday because I was foolish enough to watch the news all Sunday, holding out hope that the Health Care Deform would be voted down. It's about like watching a train wreck about to happen, holding out hope that the school bus will somehow go 0-80 in 5 seconds to clear the tracks. Or, like watching election returns in 2008, just in case the tracking polls were way off. I at least saved myself some stress by changing the channels whenever a Democrat started spewing ridiculous horse shit. When Pelosi got up, I had to switch over to a Kung Fu movie for awhile, just to clear my brain of that ghoul's smiling visage and grating voice.

Over a decade ago, when I read others predicting impending tyrannies like this, I paid attention, though the vast majority dismissed them in Cassandra-like fashion. I took occasional opportunities here and elsewhere to echo such sentiments.

A few people recognize (for different reasons) that it is useless to hold out hope for a GOP majority in November 2010 and 2012 as a means to reverse this atrocity. For all the clamoring of Tea Partiers, media pundits, and innumerable bloggers, you can't vote your way to freedom. By the nature of democracy, that strategy is ultimately doomed to failure, but if ever there was a chance to put off this disaster for a generation or two, it's long since passed.

Many pragmatists recoil in horror at my decision not to vote. I read babbling about coming up with a better system, the ever-inane "love it or leave it", and, of course, charges that I don't really believe in the principles I espouse because I'm not shooting it out over every violation of my rights.

While I reserve the right to protect my rights and the rights of my family (and perhaps those of my neighbors), I see no value in getting myself or others destroyed for no real gain. Frankly, I would prefer civil disobedience on a massive scale to any sort of violence. As history shows, most civil wars or rebellions come at a heavy cost to innocents, and are almost always exploited by the less principled. "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss." Starving the beast is the best option--if you can avoid its fangs.

At Sipsey Street Irregulars, Mike Vanderboegh is calling for a "Window War" in response to the audacious power grab by the Democrats. It's certainly more provocative than the mostly weak Tea Party demonstrations, though I've yet to see it gathering momentum. Without that momentum, it's a dud, which puts Mike and others in danger of losing their freedom (or worse), for what I consider to be insufficient gain. I recognize that it's their choices to make and I don't expect them to take council from someone like me, who prefers non-violent civil disobedience (whether en masse or on an individual, under-the-radar level).

In response to a post at "Walls of the City", Vanderboegh and a fellow irregular take exception to this so-called pragmatist, whose article contains the very opposite of pragmatism. A response from me:

I didn't see the word "sacred" in his remarks. That seems to be your word, not his. I would use a more common phrase: property rights are inalienable, like the rights to life and liberty.

But inalienable doesn't mean "in all circumstances" nor do I glean from his words that he makes such an argument. Again, those appear to be your words alone.

In addition, I don't see the objectivist argument as "pragmat[ic]" at all. It's the opposite: taking principles to their logical conclusion, instead of abandoning them when convenient (the hallmark of the pragmatist). Don't misconstrue what I just said. I'm not accusing you or brick throwers of abandoning principles, per se. I'd need more information to make such a judgment. The same applies to the objectivist author who, from what I'm seeing, has made some assumptions about intent.

Furthermore, unless the objectivist author has elsewhere expressed a desire "to shoot people for resisting in a way with which he disagrees," it's dishonest to put those words in his mouth.

I want to address some particulars, like the difference between "inalienable" and "in all circumstances."

If some crack head breaks into my house, he is violating my rights, thus his rights are superseded. That's one "circumstance" in which that man's rights don't apply--as a direct consequence of his choice.

It's all about context.

As for violence against property and violence against a person, I think he is correct that it is wrong to draw a moral distinction between the two. Suppose some arsonist burns down the house of an old lady. Take insurance and charity away. The consequence of violence on mere property is that she will die of starvation or exposure. That is effectively violence against her.

If you assert your moral right to do violence against the property of others, you thus assert the right to do violence against their person. For one obvious reason, the property owner may use deadly force against you if he sees you on his property with a brick. By your choice to do violence against his property, you have opened the door to the possibility that you will need to do violence to his person as a consequence of your choice.

Thus I would argue that you don't have cause to do harm to someone's property unless you have cause to do harm to him. That you draw a distinction between the two and decide that you'll do one and not the other, is a tactical decision, a personal value judgment. In effect, you decide to risk your life or liberty to inflict property damage, because you calculate that escalating would do harm to the message you want to send.

In other words, if you assert the right to do harm to the people who have done harm to you and your neighbors (via intolerable acts), but choose to limit your response to property as a tactic and a personal value judgment, you have not abandoned the principle of private property, assuming that your assertion is well-founded. If you consider what the Dems have done to be an initiation of force (by threat and by proxy), then your window breaking would be a reaction, not the initiation of force.

My ancestors fought in the American Revolution, with far less provocation. Personally, I think the Rubicon was crossed long ago and that only the strength of American individualism has proverbially kept Caesar's army from taking Rome until recent years.

Here is my take on the time of death.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Idol Season 9, Female Semi-Finals Week 3

In the top 8 women, there were so many great performances I'm wondering if any men are going to show the sort of talent that will make the Top 12 have any sort of balance. Based upon what I've seen, I'd make the final six contestants include five females and one male, though none of the men stand out as a clear leader over the rest, so it's possible I'm being too generous. A few more weeks will separate the wheat from the chaff.

Of the top four I picked from Tuesday's show, I was hard pressed to decide how to order them. I watched them several times, each time getting goosebumps. I was drawn into each of these four performances. I'd be happy with any of them winning this season. But only one gets the prize, so here's my take:

  1. Crystal Bowersox ("Give Me One Reason" by Tracy Chapman) - One chord gave away the song and her fingers hit every blue note with masterful skill. Even better, her voice. Her rendition surpassed the original. I like Tracy Chapman's music (minus the socialist crap in the song "Talkin' 'bout a Revolution"), but Bowersox showed how to do it even better tonight. From what I've seen, she is the most talented on instruments and the most polished performer. In interviews, she's a bit reserved. I don't have a problem with that, but it may hurt her in the voting.
  2. Didi Benami ("Rhiannon" by Fleetwood Mac) - Like the judges, I was leery of her taking on Stevie Nicks, but her sweet and haunting voice gave the song something new and wonderful. She's not just another pretty face. I previously compared her to Megan Joy (at Megan's best), but this week she moved beyond that comparison. I was reminded a bit of Brooke White from Season 7, whose "Let it Be" was similarly captivating.
  3. Lacey Brown ("The Story" by Brandy Carlile) - Close third. Another sweet and endearing performance. She made it seem effortless to pull off that melody. Even better, she gave it all the right emotions, making great use of the camera. I loved the lyrics to that song and, other than the lack of lines on her face alluded to in the song, she made it believable. If I could make one small change, I'd work on the final crescendo, which didn't quite match the quality of the rest of the song.
  4. Siobhan Magnus ("House of the Rising Sun" by The Animals) - Very close fourth. The other performers did a little better this week due to song choice. But Magnus did a great job with what she chose. Her personality shines through in her interviews and she backs it up with consistent talent. At this point, I'm leaning towards her as my favorite to win this season, though I can't pinpoint why I feel that way. She hasn't played an instrument like most of the others, and that may be a weakness which could change my opinion down the road.
  5. Lilly Scott ("I Fall to Pieces" by Patsy Cline) - Another very unique and charismatic performer. I liked how she changed up the song a bit, but not enough to lose some of the best qualities of the original. She doesn't have the clear, piercing voice of Patsy Cline, but she used what she had to great effect. Her quirky style, including her facial expressions, may be a bit distracting in this competition, as the other performers appear to be more adaptable. But competition aside, she'd stand up just fine on her own in her niche. Based upon tonight's song, she fell behind the leaders, but taking all three weeks of the Semi-Finals together, I'd put her above fifth overall.
  6. Katelyn Epperly ("I Feel the Earth Move" by Carole King) - Good performance, though it suffered by comparison to the original. I agreed with the judge who said it was too copycat, especially her look. She should squeak by this week, but she'll have to bring more to rise to the level of the top five women I chose.

It was heartbreaking for me to see the other two stumble this week, especially Page Miles. She did so much better the previous week. Katie Stevens was my favorite the first week, but she peaked early and has done worse each subsequent week. Considering the talent of the remaining male performers, I'd much rather keep these two and get rid of four of the men.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Idol Season 9, Semi-Finals Week 2

I'm going to combine the Tuesday and Wednesday show. As with the first week, the men are sucking wind trying to catch up to the women.

My top picks, in terms of goodness for this particular performance:

  1. TIE Crystal Bowersox ("Long As I Can See The Light" by CCR) and Lilly Scott ("A Change Is Gonna Come" by Sam Cooke)
  2. - Both gave sterling performances. I would turn up the volume in my car if I heard those performances on the radio. They'll go far in the finals
  3. Siobhan Magnus ("Think" by Aretha) - That note! That freakin' note! Wow! Parts of the song strayed a little from greatness. If she redid it in a recording studio, it would be a hit. Loved the mohawk from her earlier days.
  4. Lee Dewyze ("Lips of an Angel" by Hinder) - Only guy worthy of competing with the women this week.
  5. Katelyn Epperly ("The Scientist" by Coldplay) - It's supposed to be slow, judges. That made it sweet.
  6. Page Miles ("Walk Away" by Kelly Clarkson) - Not my sort of song, but she did it well. Close call between here and Katelyn.
  7. Tim Urban ("Come On Get Higher" by Matt Nathanson) - Surprising comeback. Song was good from start to finish.
  8. Aaron Kelly ("My Girl" by The Temptations) - Another surprising improvement. Nice voice control.

Honorable mentions: Did Benami (didn't deserve the harsh criticism), Katie Stevens (sounds so much better than you'd expect looking at her), and Michael Lynche (not as good as previous week, though).

Disappointments: John Park (I thought he was better than given credit the first week, but he blew it this week), Andrew Garcia (getting weaker), and Haley Vaughn (whose song last week wasn't horrible like this week, despite the critics).

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Police Arrogance and Callousness over SWAT Raids

Radley Balko tears apart a letter to the Baltimore Sun from former police officer, Lawrence Schweinsburg. Point by point he refutes the disinformation of that letter, citing the overwhelmingly damning evidence against the overuse and misuse of SWAT teams. These raids are creating more death and danger, even among non-violent offenders and innocent people.

It takes a stout heart and a strong stomach to read all the stories of law enforcement abuse reported throughout the blogosphere each day. Whether it's people's dogs being shot by police for no reason or cops and prosecutors routinely getting a free pass after brutalizing innocents, I have to wonder what goes on in the minds of the men and women in blue, who must realize that the ugly devolution of law enforcement over a period of decades has, in the eyes of more and more Americans, turned them into mindless paramilitary thugs who consider themselves above the law and just about everyone else a second-class citizen. Our hopes and dreams, our suffering, our very lives are all too often disregarded to protect a cop's pension or, even worse, merely a cop's pride.