A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

A Good Weekend

Not because it was longer than usual, but because it reminded me of how fun being a parent can be. Last weekend my wife and I were kidless, thanks to my folks, and it was a lot of fun to do what we wanted to do and not have to respond to "Dad, can I..." or "Mom, Jacob is..." at ALL. The back-to-reality of the constant work of being a parent-- trying to be consistent, explaining why some things are right and some wrong, the resolution of sibling disputes, the efforts to keep other societal influences from contaminating my children too strongly, etc., etc.-- wore on me after that.

Until Friday. Friday was my daughter's first grade musical, which is a big thing in Racine. 100+ six and seven-year olds singing and dancing for almost two hours. Wow. Seriously, wow. And they were GOOD. Certainly good for 1st graders, but I'd compare them to middle-school performances I've seen. As much as I rip on my school district, and deservedly so, this was the opposite end of the spectrum-- a fabulous thing, done by a good school, almost entirely without administrative interference, and successful precisely because it is an act of love by dedicated teachers and enthusiastic children. I haven't smiled that much, for that long, in quite a while.

It was also fun to be a parent that night. To ooh, and ahh, and laugh and clap along with a couple hundred other parents and grandparents. They do grow up fast, our kids, and things like Friday night help you appreciate the best things about being a parent-- the fun, the laughter, the pride you feel as you child belts out his or her one line of dialogue at the top of their lungs. It was a blast. Truly a blast. I'll try to post some pictures later tonight or tomorrow.

Saturday was a kick about the house day, and I got most of the garden area prepared before practicing some baseball with the kids. Nicole can actually hit this year-- it's amazing with kids, it's like something just clicks at some point in their development and all of a sudden what used to be a difficult process that required substantial thought becomes "natural" and nearly effortless. Fun, great fun, to see that process work its way through. Hopefully she can take that progression to her softball games this Wednesday and Friday.

Sunday was a neighborhood get together which featured enough beer to be happy without feeling it the next day, children playing contentedly on their own while the big people talked and played Catch Phrase, brats, decent weather, and a bonfire to wrap the evening up. Excellent.

Yesterday was lazy. Gorgeous weather which my family shared with my sister. We saw her new house, ate still more brats, drank a bit more beer, and then commenced to try and teach Jacob and Nicole how to fish. Me too, for that matter, as fishing was never something I did as a kid. It was great fun, and when the kids got a bit bored with sticking worms on hooks and not catching any fish, there were geese and playground toys (not necessarily together) to keep their interest.

In short, I think the weekend was an excellent testimony to all of the brave men and women who gave their lives in defense of this country. They did not shy away from putting their lives on the line so that folks like me could enjoy the comforts and joys of a family in a free and prosperous country.



Greatest Super Heroes

Quite a bit of feedback on this, which is nice. Felt a need to respond to a few of the responses. First, I weighted my list based on both heroes I liked, heroes that have made a lasting impact on popular culture and society, and the variety and number of films/shows/books/comics/etc. they've appeared in. Longevity and quality were also important aspects.

The first criteria was the most important, since it was my list, but Harry Potter makes it in, for example, because I enjoy the books, the movies are decent, and the impact young Harry has had on society are considerable. For proof of that, check out this and this. Five of the six (soon to be six of the seven) top selling books of all time belong to the Hogwarts' crew, and 15th, 27th and 34th on the all-time top grossing films list. And, unlike Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings, he is also clearly the hero of the works. I'd take Gandalf, Aragon, or Frodo over Harry too, Troy, but that's part of the trouble-- LOTR is an ensemble piece, as is Star Wars. Plus, there are goofballs out there wanting to ban Harry books, which makes him a hero of sorts to me as well.

I also did not include actors who have played tons of heroes. John Wayne and Clint Eastwood are the prototypes here. Though, for some reason, Dirty Harry never occured to me. Josey Wales did, and that movie is still one of the best westerns ever, but it was only one movie. But I realize I have no cops, firemen or soldiers on the list. No "real life" heroes, no matter how fictionalized. Doh! Dirty Harry should be on the list. John McClain is a borderline choice, and I haven't watched 24, so I can't really comment on where I think Jack Bauer fits. Steve Austin has insufficient longevity/impact to make the top 20.

Hercules also probably should be on the list, and John's inclusion of Sampson was intriguing. Not sure Sampson has enough street cred to qualify. Thor causes me difficulty as he is, technically speaking, a god. Hercules is a demi-god for that matter, but grows up as a human. Thor is also automatically disqualified for having been coopted by the namby-pampy Minnesota Vikings and their namby-pampy indoor stadium. So, Hercules in, Sampson and Thor out.

I found it tremendously ironic and amusing that Rod should rip on John's typo "jawbone of an axe." The old kettle and pot thingie.

Yes Troy, I realize I disallowed Austin Powers for being a parody while allowing The Tick, but primarily for the reason that The Tick truly does rock. He also crosses many more media formats than Austin Powers, having been a comic, a cartoon, and a live action TV series.

Finally, my revised post-Memorial Day top 25 (my list, I can make it longer) super heroes of all time:

25) Sinbad
24) Buck Rogers
23) John McClain
22) Sampson
21) G.I. Joe
20) The Tick
19) King Arthur
18) Harry Potter
17) Dirty Harry
16) Indiana Jones
15) Conan
14) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
13) Flash Gordon
12) The Lone Ranger
11) Wonder Woman
10) Robin Hood
9) Hercules
8) The Hulk
7) Tarzan
6) Fantastic Four
5) James Bond
4) X-Men
3) Spiderman
2) Superman
1) Batman

Batman is still my #1 based on overall coolness factor. As Jim notes, Superman (or Spidey or any of the X-Men or any of the Fantastic Four or... well, you get the idea) would thrash the Dark Knight in a head-to-head throwdown, but I still prefer the moral questions (vigilanteism, revenge as a motivator, etc.) and huge quantities of grey area explored by Batman over the years, along with the cool toys.

One other factor to consider, and another reason I tend to like Batman, is the quality of the bad guys the hero faces off against. Indeed, I think that shall be Friday's best of list-- so start your thinking now about the best evil villains of all-time.

OTIT: CUNY-Brooklyn

I haven't posted much about bias in higher education, but it was only a matter of time for a doozy to come to light. Political Correctness reaches new lows at Brooklyn College, where prospective teachers are now evaluated on their "dispositions," in particular, their disposition toward "social justice."

Social justice sounds great in theory, except that in practice, it seems to consist of having a very liberal world view, and a very contemptuous opinion of capitalism and America. To sweeping a generalization? Maybe. Then again, maybe not. Interestingly, towards the bottom of the article about "dispositions" is the following tidbit:
Advocates of the dispositions criterion say it is rooted in the psychological tests developed early in the last century by an American psychologist, Edward Thorndike, and compare it to personality tests that corporations often give to job candidates.
Thorndike was a psychologist and educator who, by the end of his career in the 1930s, strongly believed in meritocracy. Something which seems in direct contrast to a lot of the touchy-feely goodness that modern pedagogy, including "dispostions" embraces. He also wound up supporting eugenics. An article in the October 1 1998 American Psychologist (p. 1145) notes also that Thorndike, " believed in lots of little measurements, not big theories." Which, of course, explains why his work is being used as the basis for a big theory.

UPDATE: Check out Ann Althouse's interesting interaction with some faculty at Marymount College. It is fascinating that the faculty memeber from Marymount just doens't get that lightly and easily referring to Marx and Lenin as "good" could be considered inappropriate or offensive to anyone. Read through the comments, too, if you have time. Quite interesting.


France Officially: "Pissiest Place on Earth"

Unemployment is running at around 10%. Lots of people die in the summer because their state-run health care system is in disarray and everybody is off for the summer. They have radical Islamists killing and beating the crap out of jews and non-muslim citizens just for kicks. And the citizenry just voted down a European Union constitution proposal that most outside observers felt was heavily weighted in favor of France.

France, setting the standard for pissiness as we head into the 21st Century!

Friday, May 27, 2005

Top 20 Super Heroes of All Time

Not a lot of comments lately, so either I'm getting boring or you guys are getting lazy. Either way, I figure nothing stirs up discussion like a "best of" list. And I happened to watch Bravo's Ultimate Super Heroes of All Time last night. So, we'll start there. Bear in mind, this list goes along with their Ultimate Villain and Ultimate Super Vixen lists to be aired later, which partially, though not entirely, explains the near total absence of women from the list:

20) Men In Black
19) Blade
18) Conan
17) Austin Powers
16) The Tick
15) Daredevil
14) The Mask
13) Flash Gordon
12) Hellboy
11) Spawn
10) The Hulk
9) The Fantastic Four
8) The Incredibles
7) X-Men
6) Luke Skywalker
5) Indiana Jones
4) James Bond
3) Batman
2) Superman
1) Spiderman

My initial reactions: Austin Powers? He's a parody, how does he make the list? Why are there so many obscure comic book heroes on the list? Where the hell are Wonder Woman and Batgirl? Spiderman as #1? Are you kidding me-- it has to be either Batman or Superman, those two are like the Beatles and the Stones in rock and roll. Putting Spidey ahead of either of them is like saying Led Zeppelin is the best rock band ever-- there are some odd docks out there that will make the case, but 90% of all rock n rollers older than 20 will put those two first and second. I'll grant you the two spidey movies have been better than most super hero movies, but you have to look at more than that. Superman started the whole superhero thing, and Batman was the first superhero with a darker side, plus he's still the hero with the coolest gadgets. They have to be 1-2, though I think a case can be made either way for which one is #1. I'll happily put Peter Parker at #3, but not above Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent.

Some other thoughts. No cowboys? The folks at Bravo never heard of Davy Crockett, Roy Rogers or the Lone Ranger? I mean if it was the ultimate super heroes in the sense that the hero had to be super, i.e., have special powers, okay, leave the cowboys out, but if you're throwing in James Bond and Indiana Jones, how do you leave out the Lone Ranger? For that matter, how do leave out Robin Hood and Tarzan? Two of the models on which many of the heroes that did make the list are based? The amazing thing is that during the Bravo piece they talk about how Lucas modeled Luke Skywalker after people like Robin Hood and King Arthur-- then they include neither of those heroes but put Luke all the way up at 6. Maybe they got a free tour of Industrial Light and Magic or something.

No Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? They STARTED the whole obscure comic book to big screen phenomenon that made films about Blade, Hellboy, Spawn, Men in Black, Daredevil and the Mask possible. To my mind this list is ridiculously overloaded with obscure comics, but if you're going to load up on that genre, how do you leave out the one comic that started the whole revolution? And the Heroes on the Halfshell are still as cool as, or cooler than, any of those other guys. Omitting them is just silly.

Luke Skywalker at SIX? Huh? I'm not sure I'd put him in the top 20, but I sure as heck wouldn't put him at 6. First, there were only three movies with that character in it (though there have been a number of subsequent Star Wars books featuring Luke and the gang), second, he's really only one part of an ensemble cast-- he does not carry the movies, and he's arguably not even the biggest hero in the cast. I also wouldn't put Indy as high as 5, probably more like 15, but at least he DID carry the movies, and he was definitely more of the prototypical hero/adventurer type than Luke.

How do the Incredibles rate higher than the Fantastic 4? The Incredibles was a great movie, and payed homage to all of the comic heroes that came before them, but it was ONE movie, folks. One. No comic books, no TV show, no novels. One movie. The Fantastic Four, whom much of the Incredibles' theme of a family of supers fighting together is based upon, has a long and storied history. They're right up there with the X-Men (who, in my opinion, should be #4). So, how do you put the Incredibles ahead of the Fantastic 4?

Okay, enough carping. Here's my top 20 without looking around on the Web to make sure I didn't miss anyone:

20) King Arthur
19) The Tick
18) Buck Rogers
17) Indiana Jones
16) Harry Potter
15) Sinbad
14) Conan
13) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
12) Robin Hood
11) Wonder Woman
10) Flash Gordon
9) The Lone Ranger
8) The Hulk
7) Tarzan
6) Fantastic Four
5) James Bond
4) X-Men
3) Spiderman
2) Superman
1) Batman

So, what do you guys think? No, in the grand scheme of things, none of this matters a whit. But it's Friday, and discussions about what's the best anything are always interesting and fun. Did I miss anybody significant? Does someone want to make the case that Spidey does deserve the #1 spot? Should there be other women heroes on the list?


Thursday, May 26, 2005

A Little Bush Hypocrisy

Since the last post ripped on an in-your-face liberal, in the spirit of fairness, this one will take a look at the Administrations inconsistencies on this whole democracy worldwide thing. In his 2005 State of the Union address, Bush promised, "America will stand with the allies of freedom to support democratic movements in the Middle East and beyond, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world." Yet when a brutal dictator crushes democratic dissent in Uzbekistan by killing his own people, the U.S. effectively does nothing except admit that the situation is "deeply disturbing." For a bit of background on the situation in Uzbekistan, and why would should care, check out this piece in the New Republic (you have to sign up, unfortunately)

Now, it seems that Karimov is cozying up to China. Which can only be bad. If we truly do "stand with the allies of freedom to support democratic movements," then we need to do more than just tsk-tsk Karimov and his thugs. The people there are ready to throw off Karimov's oppressive shackles, but they aren't likely to do so when torture and death are the likely result. And torture and death will remain the likely result until a bully like Karimov is faced down by somebody with a bigger stick than his-- and America has that stick.

As much as it galls me to admit this, because I despise the man on general principle and for a wide variety of offensive stupidities, Ted Rall actually has a point when he asks, "How can the United States claim to be fighting a war on terrorism when its biggest allies are terrorists themselves?"


James Wolcott is a turd update

I had not checked in on Jimmy the Turd lately, so I surfed on over for some pompous hypocrisy served with the assuarance and condescension that only a New York "intellectual" can seem to muster in sufficient quantities for 24/7 derision of any who disagree. Actually, that's not fair. There are lots of folks who maintain 24/7 levels of assuarance and condescension on both sides of the political spectrum-- there's just something particularly grating about Jimmy's desparate need to sound intellectual and cultured. Perhaps because he's a C level journalist/pundit who simply can't understand why he doesn't get the regard that folks, clearly much stupider than he, like Rush Limbaugh, Al Franken and others seem to receiving. Not to worry, Jimmy, I got your back here-- I should be bringing in at least... um... one?... new reader your way. Maybe.

But I digress. Seven posts on the current front page of his blog called simply, James Wolcott. The first deals with the anti-military bias of the media, which Wolcott dismisses easily because the Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman stories were so easily embraced by said media. He dismisses both as "propogandist concoctions." Why they are propagandist concoctions must be evident to all of his other more cultured and nuanced readers, because he certainly does not offer any actual... oh what's the word... wait, it's coming to me... evidence or anything.

For Jimmy the Turd, the fact that Lynch's story was overhyped beyond the actualities of the story and that Tillman was sadly killed by friendly fire while he was leading a patrol in a dangerous area of Afghanistan after leaving his job because he loved his country and wanted to serve it somehow proves that journalists aren't anti-military. And Wolcott no doubt supports our troops. Right... moving on.

The middle five posts are mostly rants and raves and cryptic references to things long-time readers may understand but which I don't. Nor do I wish to spend enough time on Jimmy's site to find out just what the heck the silly putz is babbling about.

The last post is a doozy. Short, only six sentences total, yet he manages to link to: a guy that calls Repbulicans "cornpone Nazis"; a woman that calls Condi Rice an evil vampire and believes that Newsweek retracted because the White House pressured them to and not because, you know, they were wrong or anything; a woman who thinks it's great that China is helping Palestine and bemoans Bush's lost opportunity to do the same; and Wolcott wraps it all up by calling the President a selfish bastard for bicycling in a wildlife reserve for which he cut funding.

That's some pretty heavy lifting for six sentences. Of course, Wolcott doesn't note the irony of linking to an article using the term Nazis that is published in an online "journal" run by a noted anti-semite. He's too busy sneering at the administration to look beyond Riverbend's nearly constant bashing of conditions in Iraq and the U.S. policies there and maybe check out some more positive blogging from that country. And the fact that the refuge where Bush bikes has to be cleared of others ahead of time is Bush being selfish, and has nothing to do with security or anything. Wolcott's too busy being an elitist putzbag to realize how childish his little rants are.

So, why do I bother with the guy? Honestly, I'm not sure. A bit of masochism, perhaps, or maybe it's the realization that in years gone by, I would've agreed with him wholeheartedly. Would have found his little assinine barbs and florid prose to be most agreeable, even charming. So, maybe I go to remind myself of where I came from, and why I don't want to go back there again. Because it's easy to sew yourself into a safe little coccoon where you dismiss those who disagree with you out of hand without really thinking about what they're saying.

Jimmy the turd helps me keep my perspective from skewing too far left, much like this turd, helps keep my perspective from skewing too far right. So, periodically I visit, and then I rant. I'll put Jimmy the turd in the post titles from now on, so if you don't want to read my rants on this topic, you can skip right over them.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Okay, I'll Mention the NBA

First, I still don't care that much for the game any more-- it has slipped from a distant #2 (#1 being the NFL, of course) to #3 behind baseball-- but it is exciting when your team, the Milwaukee Bucks, gets the #1 pick. Especially since they only had to suck badly to get it, rather than having to suck excruciatingly badly like the Atlanta Hawks (who were the most likely to get the #1 pick). Especially when your team is overloaded in the backcourt and needs a talented front court player.

The consensus seems to be that the Bucks should take Andrew Bogut, from Utah, a 7-footer who can rebound, score and pass. He plays well with his back to the basket, and has tremendous vision and touch for a big man. I admit I didn't see anything of Bogut besides three tourney games, but what I saw in those games was most impressive. If you doubled him, he made great passes to the open man. He hit cutting team mates on the money with bounce passes that I doubt a lot of point guards would try. If you didn't double him, he had the best combo of short fade away jump shot and up-and-under spin layup moves I've seen since Kevin McHale.

Actually, Bogut reminds me a lot of McHale, right down to the jet-black, gleepy white dude hair and the ungainly movements that somehow correlate into points, assists and excellent defense. It's like watching a Jim Furyk golf swing: Ugly, ugly, ugly, contact with ball, 6-foot uphill birdie putt. Bogut also seems to have his head screwed solidly onto his shoulders, and is willing to do what is necessary to help his team-- whether that's scoring, passing or helping out on defense.

The other options would seem to be Marvin Williams, a power/small forward from North Carolina, or Chris Paul, point guard from Wake Forest. Hopefully TJ Ford will be back at point guard next season, so there shouldn't be a need for Paul, and while Williams may have more upside longterm than Bogut, he only played one year of collegiate ball, so he's a bit raw. And I'm not sure he has that much more upside than Bogut.

And there's the fact that Bogut is 7'0", which is hard to teach. I listened to Lenny Harris, the Bucks' GM, this moring on the radio, and he seemed to definitely be leaning toward Bogut. I hope that wasn't just smoke and mirrors.


Tuesday, May 24, 2005

I live in the worst school district in history

Not just in Wisconsin. Not just in the country. Not just today. Ever. EVER! My school district makes the Keystone Cops look organized, and the Federal Government look streamlined and efficient.


Okay, I feel a little better. Though not much. A quick recap. The Racine Unified School District (RUSD for short) wanted a new $11 million referendum last April, just a year after voters agreed to a different referendum ($8 million I think). It got shot down. Convincingly. RUSD threw a fit, said they'd have to cancel all sports, close schools, throw the librarians out the windows just to make ends meet.

After much furor about the loss of sports from local students, the local press, and some local residents, the RUSD School Board graciously agreed to put the referendum BACK on the ballot, this time in June. 'Cause they really need the money, you know. Really, really.


Well, except that there's this. A $1.2 MILLION dollar consultant to look at RUSD facilities. Are you kidding me? Even the teacher's union thinks this is absurd, and they've never before found spending they thought was wasteful or inappropriate. The teacher's union thinks its absurd for God's SAKE!

Do you think maybe, just maybe, the district ought to get rid of the consultant before closing schools? And why, given that they'd just had a referendum due to inadequate funding the year before, did they hire a consultant to look at "dream classroom" facilities? I'm sure that the fact that the consultant is a friend of school superintendant Hicks had nothing to do with the decision.

Man, if you can't even get the teacher's union behind you on a school funding project, you have got yourself one donkey of a project. Lucky me, I get to help pay for it.

It's a start

I still think their should be an up/down vote on all of Bush's nominees that make it out of committee (ie., all of them), but at least some of them will get the opportunity they should have had long before. The Democrats have made a committment that "future nominees to the appeals court and Supreme Court should "only be filibustered under extraordinary circumstances," with each Democrat senator holding the discretion to decide when those conditions had been met."

It will be interesting to see what democratic senators find "extraordinary circumstances" when the big one roles around and Bush nominates one or more Supreme Court Justice. In a principled, respectful situation with honest, trustworthy individuals involved, this type of compromise would be perfectly acceptable.

Unfortunately, this is the U.S. Senate.



The previous bit
Angry Dragons
Part I

Sammi was at full attention. Normally, watching the front entrance to the Lazy Dragon Inn was a more relaxed activity, but after the attack the day before, everyone was on edge. With Melian in a state of steaming anger, the entire staff was working with renewed vigor and diligence to avoid being singled out for Melian’s ire. Sammi hadn’t been there when Mel had grilled Antonio or Glunk, the day watchmen, but he had never seen an ogre’s skin such a pale shade of green before, and Antonio’s eyes were trying to look everywhere at once so fast, Sammi wondered if his fellow minotaur was getting dizzy inside his head. And that had been several hours after Mel talked to them—when Sammi and Srkkzy had arrived for their evening shift.

So now Samanto Ringhorn, youngest of a litter of five minotaurs from Local #4, and an adventurer at heart to have traveled all the way to the City, found himself peering at everyone passing the Lazy Dragon Inn with suspicion. Was that cyclop paying just a little too much attention to the second story windows of the Inn, or was he just impressed with the massive wood structure of the building, so different from the stone construction of his native lands? Did that wizard just make a furtive ward against evil, or was he just flapping his heavy robes, necessary in the cold regions of Borlais the wizards favored, but far too warm in the more temperate climes of Ninevah. A glint off a sword made Sammi swing to his left, hands tight on his double headed axe, but it was only the city watch patrolling the streets. They too seemed on edge. News of a fight inside The Lazy Dragon Inn had no doubt reached the ears of the authorities quickly.

Settle down, Sammi told himself. The guy the assassins were after left, so there’s no chance of a repeat. But this thought brought little comfort to the veteran bouncer as he continued to wonder how the killers had gotten past Antonio and Glunk as well as all the Inn's magical wards. Antonio, also a minotaur, had helped get Sammi his job, and his keen eyes and sharp nose had probably found more secreted weapons on patrons trying to get an edge up on the other Inn patrons than the rest of the door crew put together. Glunk was a slab of an ogre, bigger by far than most of his brethren, but despite his size, he moved, and thought, faster than most of his kind. Together they formed a formidable team, as many a would-be circumventers of the Inn’s no weapons policy had discovered over the years. Sometimes quite painfully.

Sammi jerked himself back to attention as S’mon, a trader from the swamps of Eeko-Yah-Ap, ambled toward the front door of the Inn in the swaying manner typical of someone used to walking on shifting, slippery ground. The grubby man shifted awkwardly to a halt as Sammi stepped between him and the front door, the minotaur’s axe held at the ready.

“Waz ‘is?” the man asked, staring blankly at the axe.

“Sorry, S’mon,” Sammi said. He could feel Srkkzy, his basilisk partner, shifting to the side of S’mon. “We have to search you. House rules.”

The trader’s eyes flicked to his right, where Skrrzy stood ready to pounce, then he peered up at the intimidating, bullheaded visage of Sammi. “S’wen?”

“Since always,” Sammi replied, trying to be polite while still keeping the razor sharp edge of his axe prominent in the conversation. “We’ve been a little too easy on the regulars, lately. Melian wants that to end. Too much tension in the city these days, so we’re not taking any chances. All patrons get frisked before entry in addition to passing through the magical wards. Sorry.”

S’mon considered the axe for a moment, then shrugged. He set down his large leather bag, and held his hands out. “S’ok. Like ‘is?”

“Like that, yes.” Sammi patted down the tattered leather tunic of the trader while simultaneously sniffing for the tell-tale scent of sharpened steel. As expected, there was nothing. Sammi signaled to Srkkzy, and the basilisk shifted to watch S’mon while Sammi did a quick check of the bag's contents. Mostly herbs and medicines unique to the swamplands of S’mon’s home. A few trinkets carved from the spongewood trees that grew there as well. With a slight grimace of distaste as the smell of a particularly bitter bit of leaf assaulted his nose, Sammi pulled the bag shut and handed it back to S’mon. “Thanks for understanding, S’mon.”

The trader nodded briefly, and slung his bag back over his shoulder. “S’no pobelm.” He shuffled past Srkkzy, who shifted to let him by. The elaborate carvings around the door to the Inn glowed briefly green as the magical wards confirmed Sammi’s conclusion that S’mon carried no weapons.

Before the door could close behind the hunched form of the trader, a mighty force threw it back open, banging it into the wall of the Inn. Sammi jumped back, axe at the ready, and Srkkzy’s ridge of neck scales stood to full alert as a hiss escaped his beak. Both doormen quickly made way as the angry form of Melian stormed through the doorway, her long dark hair flowing behind her. The force of her momentum seemed to clear people out of her way, and the deep crimson dress she wore seemed to radiate anger and contempt. Within moments of bursting through the front door of the Lazy Dragon Inn, the intimidating form of an angry Melian was lost in the maze of streets that formed the heart of Ninevah.

Sammi looked down at his companion. “Was it just my imagination or was that red streak in her hair actually ON fire?”

The basilisk nodded in affirmation. “Yesss. We guardsss well today.”

“I hear that,” Sammi said, nodding, while all the while his eyes weighed the myriad of people and creatures that called the mighty city of Ninevah their home.



Monday, May 23, 2005

The Loss of Innocence

Kids grow up too fast today. I know, I know, might as well sign myself up for The Old Fogies Reeducation Center now. Maybe do something useful with my tired old bones, like making some bling for these "lovable" pooches. But really. Are homie dogs necessary? More importantly, and the impetus for this old person rant, are these really necessary? Lord. I want my daughter to be hip. I want her to be cool. I want her to have many friends and enjoy these formative years.

I do not want her wearing three-inch stiletto heels or thigh-high f-me boots. Not when she's 16, not when she's 12 and especially not when she's a newly minted seven-year-old. What an old duffer I am.

My daughter had her 7th birthday last week, and she had a party at Chuck E. Cheese's. And believe me, as much as I find the noise and mayhem of dozens of children blissfully screeching and yelling and laughing a bit on the overwhelming side, I will happily take "Where a kid can be a kid" over "The girls with a passion for fashion" any day of the week. But unfortunately, one of the girls invited to the party thought the soccer brat would be a nice doll for my daughter.

Wasn't it not so long ago that all the feminists were up in arms about Barbie, and how unrealistic the dolls were, and how it taught our daughters a feminine ideal that was impossible for real flesh and blood women to attain? Where are they now, and why aren't these, as James Lileks calls them, 'Ho's in training' smack dab in the middle of their cross-hairs?

On the plus-side, the doll in question was not one of the worst of the group, but rather part of the new Bratz sports line. Why exactly my daughter's new soccer brat doll is wearing that much make up, much less a skirt that short, is a mystery, but it could be worse. She could be trying to golf in these boots.

Aye carumba.

Fortunately, the party was very nice, and most of the presents were much more... traditional. Polly Pockets were in attendance, and several My Little Ponies were unwrapped. Sidewalk chalk and a startlingly wide variety of jewelry making kits. Even some accessories for her American Girl doll-- and believe me I'm willing to pay the exorbinant prices for AG products now that I've seen the Bratz alternative up close and personal.

It's a fast-paced, fashion-crazed world we live in. That doesn't mean I have to like it. Thank God summer is here and we can spend most of the next four months outside.


Some Iraq Updates

This certainly seems like good news. Especially given that the heavy lifting of the operation was done by Iraqi forces, with the multi-national troops merely providing support. One of the keys to stabilizing Iraq is getting Iraqis in control of the policing. This shows that the country's government is legit and makes it very hard for the terrorists to claim they are merely victims of the U.S. forces.

And for those that see a civil war brewing in Iraq, please also read Omar's thoughts on prejudice, bias and ethnic strains in Iraq as seen from a middle-class Baghdad citizen. Money quote:

And who am I to disagree with the shiny names of the media who although might be spending 3/4 of their time in a hotel room and might not even know the culture or the language of the country but they certainly are the giants of their field.

In comparison I am just an Iraqi guy who lives in the town, walks in the streets and meets more people than he's supposed to so certainly I don't see what the big names see.

He writes better, and with more perception, in his second (or third or fourth) language than most journalists do in their first.

On a more disturbing note, Ali, who was one of the first Iraqi bloggers, has some depressing thoughts on Spirit of America, one of the largest, and oldest, NGOs aimed at helping Afghanis and Iraqis. Perhaps Ali is just being paranoid, he has shown such tendencies before, but maybe he's just shining a light on one of the great drawbacks of NGOs-- they tend to become vehicles unto themselves, more determined to keep the NGO viable than to actually aid those they were originally funded to help. BTW: for those that haven't been reading Iraq the Model or Free Iraqi, please be aware that Ali of Free Iraqi is brother to Omar and Mohammad of Iraq the Model and helped his two brothers start Iraq the Model before starting Free Iraqi back in 2004.

Finally, a very interesting post from Ali on journalism and perception. Given my rather dismal opinion of journalism in general right now, and its coverage of the war in particular, it was a very intriguing post. So, perhaps I have to attribute some of the negativity of the war's coverage to plain old human nature. On the other hand, given the increasing predisposition of human beings to analyize their lives through a perspective greatly influenced by the media, it also makes a very compelling argument for trying to keep journalism as objective and balanced as possible.

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Friday, May 20, 2005

Some Heavy Friday Lifting

Lots of interesting comments about my Newsweek post. I fear Troy's wish to move on to other, non-media/bias, topics may not happen-- off all the posts I've thrown out there, the ones on bias are always the most commented upon. For the most part I agree with Mojo, who's analysis is very good, and his style is quite persuasive (I'm going to have to keep an eye on that guy. Don't want the commenters showing up the host.). In particular I think this is a key point:

The videos of the brutal beheadings and other murders of hostages by Islamic terrorists have been available on the internet for some time. The Beslan school massacre killed hundreds of civilians in the course of a terrorist act committed by Muslim separatists. This and more has been available and reported, but none of it has jolted us into the realization of who we are facing.

Instead, we continue to have hand-wringing stories revisiting the very few abuses that were committed by U.S. personnel (abuses that involve government cases against those responsible), or stories with unsubstantiated claims of U.S. abuse that are acceptable because they seem plausible. All the while the successes of our forces in theater go widely unreported and the concept of revisiting the atrocities committed by the terrorists and their allies is dismissed as something that would be xenophobic or just stir-up ill-will towards Islam.

I agree that those who fomented the populous to riot in the Muslim world following the Newsweek story are directly responsible for the damage and deaths, but there is a plausible question of partial civil culpability on the part of Newsweek due to their publication of that piece. I don't think that the civil case will be forthcoming, but there would be a foundation for such a case in civil court.

The problem here is that we have a press that won't revisit or show the brutality of the terrorist acts for fear of riling Americans against innocent Muslims, yet press organizations seem to have no problem whatsoever in publishing stories, unsubstantiated or otherwise, that rally Muslims against Americans. If the Newsweek story had been something that caused riots against Muslims in Dearborn, MI, do you think CAIR would file a civil case against Newsweek for damages sustained in those riots on the grounds of reckless disregard and vicarious liability? I think that CAIR would; and Newsweek would settle.

I do also think it important to remember that whether the allegations are true or not is irrelevant to determining Newsweek's culpability. Innocent until proven guilty, remember that phrase? Yet, because we find it credible that the U.S. military may have desecrated the Qu'ran (and yes, it is possible that has occured), one uncorroborated source claiming such desecration is sufficient reason to go ahead with a story on the desecration. That's reprehensible journalism, because A) it fails nearly any standard of journalistic credibility and B) Newsweek had to know that the story would be inflammatory to fanatical Islamists, so they should have exercised extra caution in publishing such inflammatory material. The bar should be higher for publishing such content-- not lower.

That said, there does need to be greater outrage and scrutiny of the abuses our military is perpetrating-- as tc notes. We don't get to claim the moral high ground when things like this occur, and there is credible evidence that it is occuring more frequently then just an isolated incident or two at Abu Ghraid. By all means, let the media report on actual, credible, and documented abuse-- and let those responsible be punished to the full extent possible to show the moderate and liberal elements of Islam that we do live by the rule of law. But, the fact that abuses occur does not absolve Newsweek of responsibility for 1) shoddy journalism and 2) the consequences of reporting unsubstantiated, and inflammatory, content.

Finally, let me respond to a comment I discovered Jack left recently on an old post:
One of you brainy conservatives out there needs to explain to me why we invaded Iraq. In middle school they taught me that America would never invade a country that hadn't attacked us, but now we have.

Why was that again? As I recall, it had something to do with some miss-information about WMD. Yet, I can't help but conclude that we invaded Iraq because we could. that we invaded Iraq because we could.

Couple things. If you were taught that in middle school, did they ignore the European Theater of the WWII and the entirity of WWI? Or did I miss something and, in fact, the Nazis did bomb Pearl Harbor? The Korean conflict was just us sending troops over there after North Korea attacked Philadelphia? Now, you can argue that we shouldn't have gotten involved in any of those wars precisely because we weren't attacked, but the fact is that U.S. military might has been brought to bear on other countries many times for things having nothing to do with us being attacked. We use our military when the President, in consultation with Congress, and hopefully with the support of the majority of the country, feel it is both necessary and prudent to defend our principles, our allies, and our interests.

As to the particulars of invading Iraq. First, pretty much everyone thought there were WMD's in Iraq. The NYT, Clinton, Albright, etc. etc. The fact that there weren't any reflects incredibly poorly on our intelligence services, and if tc, Jack and anybody else want to rail about how incredibly ridiculous it was for Bush to give George Tenet a frickin' MEDAL for heaven's sake, I'll be right there with them. But at the time, our best intelligence was that there were WMD's in Iraq, and to wait until they could deliver them to Israel, Europe, or American soil would be foolhardy in the extreme, given that Saddam had already shown himself willing to use such weapons on his own people.

Second, WMD's was only one of the reasons posited for invading Iraq, though arguably the most time dependent and the most trumpeted. Saddam's continued flouting of UN resolutions and weapons inspections was antoher. Regime change was another. Stability in the region was still another. As was the fact that his was a terrorist regime, whether there was a direct connection to Al Qaida or no-- bin Laden/Zarqawi's terrorist cells are only one faction in this war. Ask all the Israeli widows, widowers and parents who no longer have children whether Saddam's funding of suicide bomers from Lebanon and elsewhere is the act of a terrorist state or not.

Now, if you want to rip the Administration on inconsistencies in their support of democracy in places like Uzbekistan (sp?), there's a case to be made. But the War in Iraq is another theatre in the War on Terror. And, for those of us who have forgetten, it is important to remember that we did not start that war.

THIS started that war.

What does that have to do with the Newsweek article? It has to do with it in that the media, and much of the country, appears to have forgotten that we are, in fact, at war. You can argue we shouldn't be, and that's fine, but we are and we should not be giving ammunition to our enemies. Things like the Newsweek report actively undermine our ability to prosecute the war and give ammunition to our enemy. A case can be made that such a story should never be reported precisely because it will aid our opponent. I think that goes to far-- we need an open society, and part of that society is a free and open media.


If you ARE going to report on something that will have that effect, you BLOODY WELL BETTER BE SURE IT'S TRUE!


Star Wars

I'm not a huge Star Wars fan, I haven't seen the last three movies-- which of course are the first three movies-- but with the release this weekend of #6... err... 3... I figured I should at least mention it. Mostly because of things like this:

"In terms of evil, one of the original concepts was how does a democracy turn itself into a dictatorship,'' Lucas told a news conference at Cannes, where his final episode had its world premiere.

''The parallels between what we did in Vietnam and what we're doing in Iraq now are unbelievable."

Which is really a remarkable thing to say. Remarkable in that a well-respected filmmaker, with a pretty big megaphone at his disposal, uses that megaphone to compare the United States to one of fictions most ruthless, merciless dictatorships. Which, if it were true that the US is much like the Empire, couldn't happen. I mean, if the U.S. is the Empire, Bush is Vader, and Rove is the Emperor then shouldn't Lucas be minus his head right about now? Or being held in a cell and being forced to watch Mystery Science Theatre 3000 films without the MST3K commentary?

Of course, just the fact that he opened the film at Cannes gives you a pretty good indication of Lucas' ideological bent. These are the same people who couldn't stop kissing Michael Moore's ass last year, after all. A certain irony, however, to the fact that one of the films entered this year at Cannes is "...an Iraqi film, ''Kilometer Zero,'' a tragi-comedy on Iraqi-Kurd relations during the 1980s Iran-Iraq war. It's told from the perspective of a Kurdish man drafted to fight for Saddam Hussein's brutal regime."

Anybody think that film would have been made, much less entered in a film competition, if Saddam was still ruling Iraq?

Now, for those of you who just can't get enough Star Wars and political commentary, leavened with "live-action" vegetables, check this out. It doesn't make me want to buy organic, but it is pretty cool-- especially if you have a good enough connection to d/l the broadband version.

UPDATE: MoJo passes along the following link, which really is very funny. Give the Star Wars fans credit, too, for being good sports about the whole thing.

FURTHER UPDATE: I found this summation to be a concise and tidy explanation of my own opinions on the subject.

Thursday, May 19, 2005


If you don't read Chris Muir's Day By Day on a regular or semi-regular basis, you really should. He's pretty funny. BIAS ALERT: Though he definitely does have a conservative agenda. There you go-- today's BIAS ALERT brought to you by The Original Whizzinator. Accept no subsitutes.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Okay, a whole Heap O' Bias

By now most of you have heard about the Newsweek report that has lead to the death of at least 15 people and injuries to many more. Read all the way through the updated report on how Newsweek got it wrong (and I love how Newsweek writes about itself in the third person in the piece. 'How did Newsweek get it wrong? Well, we here at Newsweek will attempt to find out how such a respected news magazine could foul up so badly') and realize that they went with the story of the Qur'an being flushed down a toilet despite only one source supporting that allegation. One. Can you say uncorroborated?

Examine also this interesting tidbit from Newsweek's "defense" of how they managed to start riots that killed 15 and injured many more:
Given all that has been reported about the treatment of detainees—including allegations that a female interrogator pretended to wipe her own menstrual blood on one prisoner—the reports of Qur'an desecration seemed shocking but not incredible.
They had only one unsubstantiated source, but since the desecration "seemed shocking but not incredible", why not run with it, right?

Just so nobody thinks this is the modus operandi of journalism, and therefore acceptable, contrast Newsweek's handling of this situation with ESPN's handling of the following: Back in November of 2003, Dan Patrick interviewed baseball player A.J. Pierzynski on his radio show. After the show, Pierzynski told Patrick that he had just found out that he had been traded from the Minnesot Twin's to the S.F. Giants. Patrick wanted to break this story on Sports Center that evening, but the folks at ESPN would not let him because he only had one, uncorroborated, source for his story. Granted that source was the player who had just been traded, but he was still only one source.

To sum up-- ESPN would not let one of their journalists report on a trade that he had found out about first hand from the guy being traded because the story was uncorroborated. Newsweek ran an uncorroborated story that got 15 people killed. So, either the journalistic standards at Newsweek are significantly lower than those at ESPN, a sports entity where the E stands for entertainment, or they really wanted to believe the story was true and ran it because it reflected poorly on the current Administration.

Either way, it doesn't reflect very well on Newsweek, does it?


Just a Little Bias

I am trying to avoid my well-worn ruts, but this comment by tc in regards to architecture made my ears perk up:

I took the gentlemen's comments to mean that to much of the world, the Midwest is an unknown country; the media does tend to concentrate on the coasts.
And, which parts of the country tend to be liberal, and which parts conservative? Here's a hint:

So, if the media focuses on the coasts, and the coasts trend liberal, isn't it reasonable to conclude that the coverage will be biased toward the liberal?


The "Nuclear Option"

An interesting viewpoint on filibusters and judicial nominations over at The Ornery American. Orson Scott Card is one of my favorite authors, and a thoughtful fellow. According to his previous columns, he has been primarily a Democrat throughout his life, yet he is a devout Mormon and therefore pro-life and against gay marriage.

Regardless, I think he frames the question in the proper manner, and I think he clearly illustrates the problem we currently have with American's highly polarized political atmosphere. Which is why I think Tagliabue can work (and no, John, Chelsea can not. Nor would I want her to. If we're going to change the Constitution, let's let Schwarzenegger run, not a 25-year old.). People in the middle have no good options right now (and contrary to Card, I don't view Bush as "moderate" except in the sense that he's more like the stereotypical Democrat on fiscal matters than a stereotypical Republican), but in an era of easily disseminated information, one can be created.

But I digress. As much as I dislike Bill Frist in general, I think he's right to force the issue on the judicial filibuster-- disagreeing with a jurist's general political philosophy should not be sufficient reason to keep them from being appointed if the majority of the senate feels the candidate is qualified and acceptable.


Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Book Banning Bastards

Actually, I just liked the alliteration of the title-- I don't think there are any real bastards in this post, except maybe Jerry Allen, the idiot state legislator from Alabama. But for tc and Jack, I am apparently "too soft" on those that would ban books. Which I found interesting, since books effectively get "banned" from libraries all the time-- no library in the world, the Library of Congress included, can collect every book ever written, period. Libraries, which usually, but not always, means librarians, select books all the time-- and the ones we don't select are as effectively banned from that library as a book that was selected and subsequently had to be removed. Sad but true-- limited resources mean limited selection.

Of course, there are ways around this-- inter-library loan being the principle means. Your library doesn't have a particular book? No problem. Have your library borrow it from a library that does and then check it out to you. Problem solved. Except that the patron has to a)know about ILL and b) actually use it. But the ability to get virtually any book (with the exception of very rare and/or very fragile materials) to anybody, anywhere exists in today's world. Banned books included.

Banning a book is not the same as burning one, folks, nor does it lead down that ubiquitous slippery slope to book burning damnation for all the illiterate heathens in the world. Hopefully, your library system has a process to go through to review any book someone takes exception to, and, hopefully, that system includes as much community feedback as possible. But should, gasp, something be banned from your library it does not constitute "sacrificing" that material as tc implies. It merely makes it harder to get, not impossible. Is it unfortunate? Yes. Is it short sighted? Probably. Does it cater to the desires of the vocal minority over those of the silent majority? Quite likely. But it does not consign that book to purgatory or to flaming piles of published materials surrounded by half-witted, toothless yokels with nothing better to do than burn books. It does not even make it impossible for someone to access that book in that community.

It's a PUBLIC library folks. Librarians rassle with what to buy and what not to buy ALL the time, and, by our choices, we censor just as surely as any book banner out there. We just do it with more knowledge and a different perspective than those outside of our profession. And if a particular community does not want a particular book in their library, and can justify its exclusion with something more than 'We don't like that book', who has the right to say, 'No, we know better than all of you. This book is literature and your objections mean nothing to those of us that know what we're talking about'?

Actual banning of books is fairly rare, fortunately, as usually some sort of compromise can be reached. The book is held behind the desk, or moved from the children's section to the adult section, or some such. And, believe me, when a protest against a particular book does occur, the librarians at that library will be strong advocates for the retention of the book. Additionally, even if a book does get the boot, there is nothing that says that it can't be reviewed again at a later date for reinclusion into the library.

The main reason the idiot in Alabama is, well, an idiot, is threefold (at a minimum): 1) His ban is far too broad, geographically, 2)his ban is far too all encompassing in its dimensions, and 3)his ban is nearly completely unreviewable as it has the force of law behind it, rather than just the disgruntlement of vocal portion of a particular community. As I say, he's an idiot, and the other members of congress in Alabama, thankfully, clearly realized that.

So, to tc and Jack, I feel a need to say, "Chill." Taking a book out of a library is not an "obscenity." Idiots who think the magic in the Harry Potter books could be bad for kids have just as much a right to their opinion as you have to yours, though hopefully your arguments for the retention of the books will be of superior quality to their arguments for their removal. And blaming "the great, white, republican, myopic county of Ozaukee" for the removal of materials does little except make you feel good about being so progressive and enlightened in your views. Well, I suppose it does help entrench the believe in those who disagree with you that you are nothing more than an elitist snob with no connection to the real world. Neither portrayal is accurate, and neither serves any constructive purpose except to make the individuals feel superior about their own particular perspective.

A few other notes about the Snow Falling on Cedars case up in Ozaukee. The objection was not to the book being in the library, it was to its being on a mandatory reading list for an upper-level high school English course. An important distinction-- it is one thing to object to a book being in a library because someone might read it, and something quite different to object to a book being in a curriculum that a student has to read. Additionally, the book was not removed from that curriculum, but rather, made an optional part of the reading list for the class. A compromise that probably left neither the parents nor the teachers completely happy and was therefore the best conclusion that could be reached under the circumstances.

And do we really want parents to have no input into their children's curriculum? No ability to make their objections to something being taught known to the school's administration or school board? For a thoughtful look at the Ozaukee situation, I suggest reading Mike Nichols' take on it from February's Journal Sentinel.

Our Candidate

Please note how I say "Our." I'll grant that the whole idea of running a third candidate with little or no funding, little or no organization, and without the knowledge or consent of said candidate is pretty nutsy. But, if it's going to be anything at all, even just an interesting thought experiment, we need to settle on one person with as many folks on the bandwagon initially as possible. Which is why I keep ixnaying tc's candidacy-- well, on top of possibly messing up his wa. I'd feel really guilty about that.

So, to date my favorite is Tagliabue, but I'm not married to that choice (which is good, since that'd be illegal in a goodly chunk of the country). On Thursday, the discussion roamed over the possibility of choosing a Supreme Court Justice. An interesting thought. They all come with some name recognition (though, can you name all 9 without looking? I only got 6. I missed Stevens, Souter and Breyer), and they have connections with, yet are still separate from, the Washington power structure. O'Connor was suggested, but I don't know that she'll work-- she'll be 78 in '08. Scalia would be okay with me, but I suspect he might not sit well with liberals (even moderate ones), and he's only 6 years younger than O'Connor. Thomas is a non-starter, I don't think I could vote for Ginsburg, Rehnquist is obviously off the table, and Stevens is already in his 80s. Which leaves Kennedy, Souter or Breyer. Kennedy is the same age as Scalia (70 next year), but otherwise works for me (though I'll admit I don't know that much about him), Souter is okay, though I suspect too liberal for many conservatives, and he's only 67 (though nearly 70 in '08), and Breyer is even more liberal than Souter (and a year older). So maybe none of these guys work, but its an interesting alternative.

Any feedback, folks?


Friday, May 13, 2005

You Will Be Assimilated

I briefly considered a career as an architect back in my high school days. Likely a result of my older brother's decision to pursue that career. Probably just as well that I decided it wasn't for me, as I have to admit, I just don't get a lot of architecture, or for that matter "modern art." I'll have to accept TC's defense of MVRDV's design as coherent and credible as I have no particular knowledge or expertise in the field, and he clearly does. All I can say is, I find their designs oddly repellant. Check out an old-folks home they did in Amsterdam here, an apartment building in Spain, along with the Silodam project I had in the previous architecture post. Or just go to their home page.

Perhaps I am just too big a fan of symmetry, or perhaps I'm just plain old-fashioned, but none of the designs on that page create any positive reactions in me, and many make me just think, "Ick!" The old-folks home, for example, looks like a building with a serious goiter problem, or some sort of apartment complex cancer.

Overall, I still can't quite escape the possibility that Winy Maas (the M of MVRDV) is really is just cover for this guy.


Accept No Substitutes!

If you are a professional athlete trying to dupe the doping board or just an oridnary, average schmuck trying to enjoy some weed without losing your job, then you absolutely must go with The Original Whizzinator. Don't be fooled by lookalike dried urine products-- buy with confidence when you order from the original, and still the best, urinating device with a very realistic prosthetic penis. Yes, folks, you simply can't beat The Original Whizzinator when you need to "let it flow, again and again, anytime, anywhere you need to."

Prices are reasonable, and with additional dried urine packs available for as little as $10 a pop, you can afford to take your dried urine with you just about anywhere, anytime. Just ask profesisonal football player and satisfied customer Onterrio Smith! Or look at this actual testimonial from the product's website [naughty bits edited ever so slightly]:
Wow! You guys are pathetic. So many testimonials to use drugs (and by far the most spelling and grammatical errors I have ever seen; seems like the drugs affect your ability to write English as well). If you morons spent half your energy trying to stay clean from mind-numbing substances that you do trying to pass a piss test, you'd all be f***ing geniuses with your own island somewhere growing weed and staying the hell away from me. One testimonial was right on. I'm a probation officer and I don't give a flying f*** if you smoke your shriveled brains into oblivion. My concern is all the other people you carelessly hurt in the process of your self-centered pursuit of feeding your need to be numb. Please take your fake dicks and go f*** yourselves and stop taking everyone else down with you into your sewer. Believe me, I'd like nothing more than to leave you stupid f***s alone but it seems when I or my neighbor is affected by your inability to care about anyone but yourselves,!
I feel compelled to protect myself. Talk about freedom; I would like to be free of a society of sh**heads who make drug use more important than taking care of themselves or their families. So many of you said "Now I can keep my job." What?!? If you weren't so toxic you'd figure out that it's fairly easy to get and keep a job. JUST STOP F***IN' IT UP DUMMY!

Not a chance, WA
My goodness with support like that and the chance to have the airport police mistake your dried urine for cocaine, why wouldn't you want to spend a couple hundred bucks on The Orininal Whizzinator? So, don't be fooled by wannabes-- insist on The Original Whizzinator!

I do have one question though-- the newspaper report says the dried urine packs tested negative for cocaine and opiates. On TV, the cops always check the white powdery substance by placing a little bit on their tongues... you don't think that's what they did with Smith's stuff do you... nah, probably something more scientific... right?


Thursday, May 12, 2005

Tags for Prez

No sooner do I get Troy on board for the Taglibue in '08 campaign, when Rod tries to crash the party with a reality check:

Tags for Prez... You Can't be Serious!!! as JM would say....
1. Lawyer
2. Control Freak
3. manipulative game player for wealth and power
4. Lawyer
5. Did I mention he was a Lawyer????

THe whole Idea was to find someone DIFFERENT, for ggovernment to get OUT of peoples lives, for someone who worked for the people not for the power... and you all get immediately blinded becuase he runs the NFL... yes I love the NFL as well but have you guys taken leave of your senses???? YOU CANT BE SERIOUS!

I am serious, and don't call me Shirley. The fact that Tags is a lawyer does not automatically disqualify him. Our candidate has to be both an outsider AND capable of actually getting something done once he or she is elected despite the complete impossibility of such a thing happening. Tough nut, but I think Tags fits the bill-- he is a lawyer and a successful manager, which gives him cred in Congress (which he will very much need), he has managed to keep the NFL Players Union and the owners happy without destroying his league (which neither David Stern nor Bud Selig nor whoever it is that runs the NHL have managed to do), and I don't mind a control freak in office when he won't have at his disposable any of the political apparatus a Republican or Democrat has upon inaugaration. In fact, I think a strong case can be made that you NEED a control freak in that position-- anyone who isn't will quickly be swallowed whole by the Washingtonian bureaucracy.

And does anyone really think a President can survive, much less prosper, in today's political world unless he or she is a "manipulative game player for wealth and power"? I don't. The key thing is to find somebody who can play those games but didn't cut his or her teeth on those particular versions of the games that are found in Washington.

In all of the things that he has done in his life, Tagliabue has shown himself capable of well-representing his client. When he becomes President, we become his client. He works for us, and will be far more aware of that than anybody coming out of the Democratic or Republican parties, who see themselves as working for the party and the special interests the party represents. Certainly Tagliabue won't be beholdin' to the unions or the oil companies or any of the other thousands of PACs and good 'ole boy networks that constitute 90% of today's politics.

I still think Tags is an excellent candidate-- but if you don't like him, Rodney, who would you suggest? I figure we have until about the middle of summer to settle on someone. Then it's pedal to the metal to get the word out to folks, as it will likely take a year just to convince people we all aren't total nutjobs.

P.S. temps, as much as I concede that you are an intelligent, well-read, astute individual you are not, with all due respect, Presidential material at this time. By which I mean, there is no real way to sell you to people, not that I don't think you could handle the job. Whoever the candidate is, he or she has to already have name recognition unless you can convince Bill Gates to fork over $100 million, in which case we'd propably have the time and money to make pretty much anyone recognizable in time for '08.


Comedians, Politics and Life as we know it

So, TC reminds me that I can just change the channel, or turn the TV off if I find a comedian unfunny. Quite a revelation, let me tell you. Here I thought that once I figured out how to turn the magic box on, I had to just sit there and let my brain melt. Okay, that was a little snarky. Yes, you can change the channel or, as I eventually did, turn the thing off.

But that doesn't change the fact that folks that used to be amusing no longer are. At least to me. A goodly part of the reason is undoubtedly my changing perspectives on what's funny and what isn't. It's hard to make somebody who believes the war in Iraq was justified, with or without WMD's, laugh at a joke about the war in Iraq and WMD's. I get that part. But I don't think that's all of it. I'm not even sure that's most of it.

I think the rest of it comes from the very human propensity to belittle those who disagree with you (we never fully escape the school yard, do we?) and from how invested many people, comedians among them, get in their political perspective. The more fully you immerse yourself in a particular viewpoint, ideology in many cases, the less it becomes a "laughing matter." It's serious business, and ridiculing the other side-- the wrong side from the comedian's perspective-- becomes the focus of the jokes, rather than finding the humor that exists all over the place on both sides of issues. People are funny. But a lot of what humor often is, is taking a step back and look at a person or situation from the outside, or from a different perspective, and realizing just how absurd that person or situation is. Seeing things differently than the majority of people do. Hard to do if you are only seeing things from one vantage point.

This wasn't meant as a bias post, or anything, and I'm not claiming that most comedians are liberals and isn't that unfair, wah, wah, wah. I was just stunned by how incredibly UNfunny I found Bill Maher to be when I remember him being quite funny, often hilarious, only a few years ago. And I think at least part of that, maybe a big part of that, is that he has become convinced that one way of looking at the world is right and the other way (as if there are only two) is wrong.

Still another argument for a regular and thorough reexamination of your motivations and perspectives. How much of what you think and feel on various subjects is just knee-jerk conditioning from what was once an active and thoughtful examination of the topic? People are creatures of habit. How much of what we believe and do is a result of a conscious thought process on our part, and how much is just a result of our habits?

I'm more and more coming to the conclusion that ruts are dangerous things. We funnel down our ruts only rarely realizing all of the possibilities that exist outside of those well-worn paths if only we can manage to overcome inertia and redirect our energies.

It's emotional and intellectual physics. An object at rest will stay at rest until influenced by outside forces and a belief unexamined will not change. Sometimes external events make us step back and examine our beliefs-- a death, a new love, a crisis in our family, or something like 9/11-- but short of those types of things, it is up to us.

How much of what you think, feel and believe is a result of emotional and intellectual inertia? How often do you step back from yourself, your life, and take an appraisal? How many ruts have you fallen into without even realizing it, and do you like where they are taking you?

Nobody responded to my hell post, a while back, but I think hell could easily be having to relive something you did wrong or that hurt people you cared about over, and over, and over, knowing what's going to happen, wanting desparately to do something different, to change something, and not being able to. Recommitting all of your mistakes again and again and again with full awareness of what's going to happen, yet being powerless to stop yourself.

Ruts are like that, except that we can change them if we try. I'm going to try and consciously avoid them in the future.

Which should make Troy happy as it means I will not be writing much, if at all, about MSM bias for a while.


Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Of politics and comedians

What is it with comedians that used to be funny who have now become political activists? Al Franken used to be funny. Now he's just kind of a nerdy little twit who has trouble talking anything but politics. George Carlin used to be VERY funny. Now he's just kind of a nerdy old guy ranting and raving about nothing much of anything. Dennis Miller used to be VERY funny, and while I still think he is funny, he's not as funny as he used to be. Margaret Cho never really was funny to begin with, but since she dove head first into the deep-end of the liberal pool, she has become actively annoying and stupid.

Bill Maher used to be funny, and his show Politically Incorrect was quite funny, and, from what I remember, fairly balanced in that it poked fun at politicians, idiots, and other "pundits" on both sides of the political spectrum. I watched Bill Maher's Real Time for the first time the other night, and it was spectacularly unfunny. He had Madeleine Albright on, and most of the segment consisted of him serving up softball questions so she could make unfunny commentary about how great Clinton (and by association herself) had been and how crappy Bush and his adminstration are. She tried to be funny, but she really just isn't. Neither was he. Then he had a panel consisting of Andrew Sullivan (who I was quite disappointed in), Michael McKean (you know, Lenny from Laverne and Shirley, and David St. Hubbins of This is Spinal Tap), and Kim Campbell, a former Prime Minister of Canada. Seemed like a good mix of folks, should be an interesting group of perspectives, and maybe even amusing.

Not so much. Maher starts with this lovely statement (or words very close thereto), "Okay, first off, grant me that, for some reason, conservatives are allowed to make really bizarre and stupid comments without taking as much heat from the media as liberals." Which, not surprisingly to anyone who has been reading here for any length of time, nearly made my head explode. To me, statements like that are just stunningly ridiculous, as liberal commentators (i.e., Michael Moore, Sean Penn, etc.) make all sorts of perposterous statements that get little or no heat, and sometimes props, from the media. Maher's example proving that conservatives get off easy? Pat Robertson, the nutjob preacher who is not taken seriously by anyone outside of his TV congregation. Robertson recently said that federal judges are, "...probably more serious than a few bearded terrorists who fly into buildings." I found dozens of editorials and websites denouncing Mr. Robertson, and outside of a white supremist site, nobody who seems to agree with him.

But I digress. So, Maher makes this huge blanket statement that, at best, seems based on sketchy evidence and, at worst, appears to have just been made up, and none of the panelists (Sullivan included, and he claims to be a libertarian/independent) offer even the most basic counter argument. You know, like saying, "Well, Fahrenheit 9/11 certainly had its share of politically questionable and explosive rhethoric and it not only didn't receive any media condemnation, it won a variety of awards." It was dreary and boring and I have difficulty believing it would appeal to anybody who wasn't already a dyed-in-the-wool liberal or a conspiracy theorist.

So, my two questions are, is Real Time supposed to be funny-- and if so, is it ever?-- and why do comedians who take political stances on one side or the other seem to get much less funny than when they either didn't care about politics or lampooned both sides?


Yet Another Reason I'm Not Becoming a Republican

There, are you happy now, Troy? I had this post earlier (after a heads up from Gym Jim) regarding meddlesome laws at the state level. Well, here's another one, this time from Alabama. Gerald Allen (R) was attempting to ban gay books. What a dufus. Of course, for Jerry, it's not censorship, it's "protecting the hearts and souls and minds of our children." How thoughtful of him. We wouldn't want to leave the protecting of the hearts and souls and minds of our children up to the parents, now would we-- lawmakers are ever so much more able to determine what is and what isn't appropriate for the kiddies.

Look, I'm a librarian, so I am automatically predisposed to think book banning is a really stupid idea (there's my bias), but IF it ever occurs, it should be because a parent objects to a book, a library responds to that objection, and there is a discussion of what to do, with banning the book usually being the last available option. Instead, Mr. Allen would arbitrarily institute a blanket law stating:
No public funds or public facilities shall be used by any state agency, public school, public library, or public college or university for the purchase, production, or promotion of printed or electronic materials or activities that, directly or indirectly, sanction, recognize, foster or promote a lifestyle or actions prohibited by the sodomy and sexual misconduct laws of the state of Alabama.
Which covers-- just about anything and everything. Now, I know this Alabama, the same state that made the sale of sex toys illegal, and on the plus side the measure died without a vote, but wow! Talk about your nanny state and the loss of individual liberties.


A Question for the Architects

I know there are a couple reading here (Jack for sure, and I believe TC has some background from his engineering schooling), so tell me-- am I missing something, or is this one of the most truly ugly edifices ever conceived (click on the pic to see a larger version of this... thing):

The only phrase that comes to mind for me when I look at that building is from the Princess Bride, "NO your ears you keep, so that every babe who cries, every woman who screams 'my god what is that thing' will rattle in you perfect ears for eternity."

My god, what is that thing?

And, as a follow up, what's the point of selecting a group that bills itself as the "anti-Calatrava" to build something in a city (Milwaukee) where the most prominent piece of architecture is a Calatrava?! I mean, that's like having a lovely tribute to Superman in your city, and then having someone build a Kryptonite processing plant next door.

I also love the condescension of one of the architects who is quoted in this article:

"But I am fascinated by the Midwest," Maas said. "It has had almost no voice to the outside world, and that makes it an interesting field to explore - an escape from the known."
Well, I'm not an architect, and I don't play one on my blog, but has he honestly never heard of, let's see, Chicago? Minneapolis? St. Louis? Indianapolis? Coloumbus, Cincinatti, Cleveland? Detroit? I mean, I can see overlooking, or being unaware of, Milwaukee or Dubuque, but is there really no architecture in any of those eight cities that people in the "outside world" have heard of? And when exactly did they put a bubble over the Midwest? Did I miss that memo?

Ye gods, what a pompous little prick. By all means, let's give him a prize for being so "urbane." I think the Marcus Foundation is lucky everyone in town is STILL talking about the boneheads on the Marquette University Board of Trustees or this would be receiving much more public outcry.

UPDATE: I don't mean to imply that only the architects can weigh in. Does anybody like this design? The more I look at it, the more it strikes me as something the Borg would think was a really hip building.

Yo! Anybody out there?

Okay, so the only person you guys could come up with in the four days I was gone was temporary costello, who was nominated by himself and is a pseudonym to boot? I'll admit it would be amusing to vote for temporary costello in '08, but I'd rather have somebody who uses their own name (and isn't quite so far left). Personally, I'm leaning more and more towards Paul Tagliabue. We need a President who is a capable manager (neither Bush nor Clinton were particularly good at this, though for very different reasons), who understands financial matters, who can balance a variety of agendas presented by an equally varied constituency.

Tags is nearly perfect-- the NFL is the best run sports "industry" around, hands down, no contest. It's a multi-billion dollar proposition, don't forget, and he not only seems to manage well but to surround himself with capable people. He's managed to keep the player's union AND the owners happy-- no small achievement and one which makes me think he could handle Congress. He has sufficient name recognition to build on-- a goodly number of folks who aren't NFL fans still will have heard of him. He'll be 68 in '08, which is about right, he's a Rhodes scholar (for whatever that's still worth), has a law degree, and has a proven record of success.

Hopefully, he can also write more coherently than whoever did his bio piece for the "sportsecyclopedia." In the third last paragraph, the author writes of comities-- which I'm pretty sure is supposed to be commodities. Funnier still is the final paragraph, which opens with this sentence, "As Paul Taglibue enters his 14th year as Commissioner the NFL sits as the gold slandered of sports leagues. "

The gold slandered, huh? See, he's perfect for a career in politics.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Idiotarian Candidate

Okay, pretty sure this guy is not our candidate, but he'd be a good choice for the Idiotarian Party:

(Copyright (c) 2005 Los Angeles Times)
A pastor of a small Baptist church in Waynesville led an effort to kick out church members because they didn't support President Bush, members said. The nine members were voted out at a meeting of the East Waynesville Baptist Church. WLOS-TV in Asheville reported that 40 other members resigned in protest. "It's all over politics," said Selma Morris, the church's treasurer. "We've never had a pastor like that before."
So much for turning the other cheek and loving your neighborhood like yourself.


Friday, May 06, 2005

Question for the weekend

Since I've posted several of my son's questions regarding heaven here, and there has been some interesting responses, I thought I'd turn the "What's Heaven like?" questions on their head this week. So, here's a question to mull over the weekend.

What's Hell like?

Hell has fallen out of favor with most Christian religions these days. Not a lot of fire and brimstone out there any more. Not necessarily a bad thing, but interesting. Do you believe in Hell? What's it like, and why would you get sent there? If you are a Christian, and I think most if not all of my readers are, do all non-Christians automatically go to Hell, thereby consigning folks like Ghandi to the netherworld simply because they believe, incorrectly, in someone other than Christ?

Easy to contemplate Heaven-- no matter what you picture it as, it's gotta be a good place. Not so easy to think about Hell. At least not if you think you, or people you care about, might be headed that way.

I will be out of town on Monday or Tuesday, so I will probably not be posting again until next Wednesday. Use the time to light up this blog with brilliant suggestions on who our candidate should be, whether we need a party name, and how exactly to transform this from the ramblings of an obviously imbalanced libertarian into a legitimate wake up call for the political powers that be.

Of third parties and stuff

Interesting ramblings from a variety of folks over my "lets subvert the current political power structure" post. Howard Stern, Obama, Feingold (don't worry Troy, barring something fairly catastrophic, Russ IS running-- whether he has more than a snowball's chance in hell of getting the nomination remains unlikely, imo) and McCain have all been mentioned. I talked about this with a few others last night, and we came to many of the same conclusions Troy, TC, and Rod have arrived at:

There are six million hurdles to this thing, and I'm just pie-in-the-skying here, but one of the biggest will be finding someone that A) will appeal to enough people and B) will be seen as credible enough for folks to actually vote for. Personally, I think Obama, McCain, Rice and Feingold are out-- they are too invested in the current structure (with at least two of them, and maybe three or all four) having presidential aspirations thorugh the normal channels either in '08 or '12. I'm also more and more of the opinion that anybody that actually wants to be President is automatically a poor choice to fill the position.

Our candidate needs to be an outsider, yet have the political chops to get some respect from the get go, and then, hopefully, earn more over time. Tricky. Here's a short list to mull over (and, yes, I'm half serious about this-- maybe more than half serious. Politics as usual ain't gettin' it done boys and girls, and this funky new medium known as digital communication CAN be the great equalizer. Grass roots only works as well as the communiation apparatus-- but the internet, IM, email, cell phones all make communication with people all over the country easy and affordable as in no other time in history.):

That's all I can think of right now, but there are certainly others. Bear in mind-- we will not find someone that appeals universally to everyone. Not possible, as the various discussions here clearly illustrate. We can find someone who everyone (well, maybe not Greg, but that's okay) feels is better than the hacks and halfwits we've been electing to political power. I think if we could take Kelsey Grammar's charisma and blend it with Paul Tagliabue's skills we'd have our guy, but barring a tremendous breakthrough in cloning or stem cell transplants, something close to that will have to be the goal.

This is America folks. We're not a democracy, but we are a republic, and we should have a larger, more influential voice in who we think should be running our country. Was it over when the Nazis bombed Pearl Harbor? NO!!

So, get those creative little brains chewing on this thing, and let's see what we can come up with. At worst, it'll be an interesting and, hopefully, entertaining thought experiment. At best, who knows, maybe we get enough people interested to start something. Maybe something big. Doesn't hurt to try.


Thursday, May 05, 2005

Cubs Lose Again!

That's seven, count 'em seven, wins in a row for the Brew Crew. Anybody see that comin'? Didn't think so. Turnbow blew his first save, but Carlos Lee rescued him in the bottom of the ninth with a two-out single to bring home Brady Clark.

I ripped on espn.com earlier, so I should give some props to sportsline.com (which, for my money is a far superior sports website) for having the Brewers on their front page (not the baseball frontpage, the frontpage of the entire web site). Here's the tag line:
Break up the Brewers. Milwaukee pushes its winning streak to seven by pushing across a run in the bottom of the ninth to beat the Cubs 6-5.
Heh. They're an unstoppable juggernaut!


Wild Ramblings (I blame Troy)

Turns out Troy was just feeling pissy and doesn't want to be pissy at all his coworkers. Actually, I know that feeling-- part of the reason I started my blog was to have somewhere to bitch about the idiocy of politicians other than George Bush (believe, my colleagues have that covered really well). I'm the closet conservative here at the library and, to some degree, at the university. Which may be why the titles of my posts and some of my commentary is overly skewed to the right of center.

Anyway, as Troy so snarkily notes:
So, your point in a long rambling rant titled 'More Reasons that I am not a Democrat' was that we need to be aware of all the things that are coloring our beliefs? Interesting.
Yes. Well, that was one of the points, and the one that seems to be dominating my writing on this blog to date. I didn't intend for that to happen, but in the process of examining bias it has become an interesting, and important, topic for me. Hopefully for you guys, too, because I seem to be hung up on it, to some degree.

But another important point is to keep an eye on your elected representatives, regardless of their political orientation-- because once they get elected, 98% of them (see, facts. Well, okay, I just made that figure up), on both sides, go native. By which I mean they stop representing us, the folks that elected them, and start representing the power structures and priviliges they are now a part of and in which they now have a vested interest.

At any rate, I do whole-heartedly agree with this commentary from Troy:

The basic problem is that in a 2 party system, when one of them wins a majority (which has to happen every time), they think that's their mandate to do whatever they want.
Which is actually something I've been mulling over a bit lately. The current system is still better than anything else anybodys got, but I'm not sure it's all that good anymore. Both parties seem to be more intent on beating the other guy and making gobs of money than they are on actually governing, and both parties seem to more and more be of the opinion that all of folks that voted for them are A) oblivious and B) too stupid to manage their own affairs.

What to do? Troy suggests this:

So there is only one real alternative, vote libertarian. If they do one-tenth of what they stand for, there will be a lot less government interference in everything.
Which is a possibility, but I'm not sure it's a terribly realistic one. What we actually need is a viable third-party candidate/independent. Something on the lines of John Anderson and Ross Perot, but, you know, viable. For all that I currently tend to cringe when I hear Howard Dean's name, I think he may have shown us the way-- the internet. Blogs. Instant messaging. We have a technology available to us that provides unparalleled access to, and distribution of, information to people everywhere.

The problem will be getting everyone who is completely (or even mostly) dissatisfied with the current situation here in America to do the following:

It is my gut feeling that there are a LOT of disgruntled people out there. More than enough to elect someone other than a Democrat or a Republican if we all vote as one bloc. Folks that voted for Kerry because they disliked Bush more, and folks that voted for Bush because they disliked Kerry more. Actually, for all that I work at a liberal institution, and probably the majority of my friends and family are liberal/Democrat, I'm not sure I can think of one person who was actually excited or happy to vote for Kerry. It was "Anyone but Bush". And I know I wasn't happy voting for Bush because I knew that a lot of the social agenda he would be pushing I would find annoying and/or abhorrent.

So, there's the challenge. Between now and this time next year, we need to find a candidate, and start our campaign. Six degrees of separation, right? It's the ultimate Ponzi scheme. If each of us convince just two other people to join in the conspiracy, and then each of them convinces two people, and so on, and so on....

Feedback, guys? Tell you what, I'll start the ball rolling. If I had to pick two individuals, one from each party, that I would LIKE to see on the ballot in '08, Barack Obama and Condi Rice wouldn't be bad choices in my opinion. Not saying I'm married to them, or that they are even the ones I'd like the most-- just the first two names that pop into my head that I could realistically see myself being enthusiastic about. When was the last time any of you were actually enthusiastic about a candidate?

A while back, TC tried, abortedly, to stage a mutiny. Well, now I'm taking control of the Rebel Pirate Captain roll-- any of you guys up for trying to totally reinvent American politics? Avast ye scurvy institutional politicos! The Libertarians are about to board your filthy little skiff!

P.S. Jim, when you and Scotty become multi-millionaires, you guys will help bankroll this thing, right?

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