Rants and Raves

Opinion, commentary, reviews of books, movies, cultural trends, and raising kids in this day and age.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Putin visits Washington, gets refrigerator magnets

From the Valley City-Times-Record, Wednesday, April 1.

In a historic first, the likes of which Washington has not seen since "Gorbymania" during the Reagan administration, Prime Minister of the Russian Republic Vladimir Putin made a historic visit to the United States to discuss spheres of influence in Europe and the Middle East with President Barack Obama.

Putin presented Obama with a priceless Faberge egg from the collection in the Russian National Museum, "As a symbol of the historic ties between our two nations which were, with a slight interlude of tension between the 1950s and 1980s, the most uniformly friendly of any between two such powerful nations, from the founding of the United States through the Second World War," Putin said.

Only 69 of the eggs were made by Peter Carl Faberge and his assistants, as gifts for members of the Russian royal family between 1885 and 1917. The eggs are made of precious metals decorated with enamel and gem stones and open to reveal cunningly fashioned models, such as miniature royal carriages and other designs.

The term "Fabergé egg" has become a synonym for luxurious opulence, and the eggs are regarded as masterpieces of the jeweler's art.

Obama presented Putin with a set of White House refrigerator magnets and autographed copies of his books, "The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream" and, "Dreams from my Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance."

Putin offered to extend the treaty of 1867 which ceded Alaska to the United States.

Obama politely refused and told Putin could take it home with him, and would like the purchase price refunded.

“As Mr. Putin knows, we've got a bit of a budget crunch theses days,” Obama said, “and as conservatives are harping on the necessity of cutting spending, it makes sense to cut loose a state that has always absorbed more federal revenue than it produces.”

Saturday Night Live alumnus Tina Fey commented, "Now Sarah Palin can see Russia from her house, you betcha!"

Alaska's Governor Palin, who has been touted as a possible Republican presidential candidate in 2012, was unavailable for comment.

A presidential aid unofficially apologized to the Chief of Protocol of the Russian delegation for putting Putin up in the D.C. Super 8 motel, and explained that Barbara Streisand was using the Lincoln Bedroom this week.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Flood fighting

It's Saturday morning, but not a day of rest for me I think.

At 9 o'clock I'm going to City Hall for the morning briefing of the emergency management team, and then probably up to the Winter Show building to put in some time sandbagging.

The dikes in Valley City have been raised enough to give us a comfortable margin of safety. We'll raise them another couple of feet to the 22 foot level (which is about the level of the top of my front porch, three blocks from the river) to meet the projected 50/50 chance the National Weather Service gives us.

We've had a break for a while. The predicted precipitation this last week came in the form of snow, so it's not running into the river right away. Next rain though...

The Army Corps of Engineers is taking the opportunity to bring the level of the reservoir down, raising the river to just below the banks for a prolonged period of time so they'll have storage capacity.

Thirty-odd miles downriver, he delightful town of Fort Ransom (pop. less than 100) was saved by one inch. That's how close the flood waters came to the top of the dikes as the Corps and volunteers were building it up.

Further down river, below where the Sheyenne joins the Red River is Fargo.

Fargo, to put it bluntly, is screwed. They're predicting 44 feet in Fargo and they've already started evacuating old folks homes, hospitals and invalids. In short, everyone who isn't light on their feet first.

To show how serious they were, Fargo police arrested a CNN camera crew and some gawkers who didn't believe that "stay of the dikes" means YOU.

Our authorities asked everyone who isn' a volunteer or media not to sightsee. Since the on-site media is me and the guy from the radio station, we haven't exactly been in the way.

It's funny. I realized lately that I've lived in a country undergoing a civil war, associated with dissidents in a country with a real-live KGB - but I've never covered a flood before.

Not counting the time me and a bud put out in a canoe in the South Canadian river in flood - it wasn't actually threatening the town.

We had a wild ride for a couple of miles, clinging to the bottom of the overturned canoe.

"And how old were you when you did this?" is what my wife asks when I tell her these things.

Well, I'm old enough to know better now. Though actually the river isn't raging here, the danger would be the ice jams downstream...

Sunday, March 22, 2009


From the depths of depression, to guarded optimism. Come along with me on a roller-coaster ride!

* Political mercenary Dick Morris had this to say recently:

"In an effort to promote liquidity and boost the economy, the Federal Reserve yesterday announced plans to grow the money supply by another 50 percent to 60 percent. This ignores the profound observation of Gen. George Patton, 'You can't push a string.'"

See: http://townhall.com/columnists/DickMorrisandEileenMcGann/2009/03/20/the_feds_futile_move

This looks very bad to me. A credit crunch, high unemployment, and now here comes the inflation!

For those of you who've got money in savings, what are you going to do with it when the inflation rate starts to exceed the interest rate?

My guess is, buy stuff. Quickly.

A usually sober financial guru advised, buy a house on a plot of land of any size you can garden on.

Some have added, guns - and don't leave a paper trail.

There was a time I'd have considered that advice paranoid and inflamatory...

* I sometimes wonder about Dick Morris. He's one of the few examples of a political consultant who has worked both sides. That doesn't happen often, you rapidly make yourself unemployable doing that.

What I wonder is, after working for the Clintons, is he pissed-off after enduring Hillary's personal anti-Semitic slurs? And after Bill threw him under the bus (pics of a toe-sucking hooker showed up in the Enquirer if you remember) is he out for revenge?

Or did the reality that the Left is finally in a position to destroy captialism, the engine of our prosperity and power, finally sink in?

After years of screwing with the market to the extent that it's on the ropes, the Left is pointing to their handiwork and saying, "See, capitalism is a failure!"

Morris has been around the block a few times. He can see what happens under socialism - and more specifically, what has happened to Jews under socialism.

* From America's wisest public intellectual.

"One of the many symptoms of this decay from within is that we are preoccupied with the pay of corporate executives while the leading terrorist-sponsoring nation on earth is moving steadily toward creating nuclear bombs.
Does anyone imagine that we will care what anyone's paycheck is when we see an American city in radioactive ruins?"

Thomas Sowell, Feb. 24

* From John McCaslin's column: http://townhall.com/columnists/JohnMcCaslin/2009/03/20/well_put

...a Tennessee constituent of Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn said it best when he told the congresswoman: "I'm tired of the government spending money I have not made yet for programs I don't want."

* We just saw on TV that The One Who Causes Legs to Tingle has made ovetures to sell my wife's country to the nation that within living memory, participated in the murder of 20 percent of its population.

That's what it looks like from here at any rate. He's putting on hold (meaning he's going to drop) plans to base a missile defense system in Poland, that is no possible threat to Russia - it's a turf thing.

I couldn't help but remember a Polish colleague in Warsaw. It was some years ago when Poland wanted into NATO, and Russia objected. It didn't look good for Poland then, although it did get in after all.

Piotr said gloomily, "It will be second Yalta. The West will sell Poland for peace."

The Polish prime minister said they'd have to reevaluate how they trust America.

My wife just snorted derisively.

* I just got in from filling sand bags to fight the rising flood waters in our valley. I worked with a bunch of high school students, let out for this purpose.

These young men and women were great. They did the work cheerfully, with minimal supervision, and without slacking.

One small girl held bags for me while I shoveled. I could see the exhaustion on her face, but she never complained.

She did however, abandon me for a tall, handsome young senior. At one time he had three girls holding bags for him to fill, while I had none. ;) (However, he was shoveling like a machine.)

So I paired with a woman closer to my own age who works in the juvenile justice system. She mentioned she recognized a few of the young folks around...

I feel better about a few things now, although I'll be stiff and sore tomorrow for sure. These kids faced up to a crisis, and believe me it's a crisis here, with guts, grit, and cheerfulness.

These kids have have been raised in a nation with a crap educational curriculum and an increasingly toxic culture. But when the chips were down, they came through.

I don't know if this is just a local phenomenon, this is after all a pretty isolated part of the country. And I don't know how they'd fare faced with a threat that's not just impersonal nature but malevolent and evil, such as resurgent communism or radical Islam.

Still, I feel good about this - and the water is still rising.

"God will save you, fear you not. Be ye the men you've been. Get ye the sons your father's got, and God will save the queen."

Mark your calendar! I defend Obama.

Mark it on your calendar - today I defend Obama!

A few days back Obama went on Leno - causing my wife to remark, "What's the president of the United States doing on Leno?"

Understand, she loves Leno, but not being American she has certain assumptions about the dignity of the office, but never mind.

Anyhow, after the usual political verbiage with intellectual content as close to zero as doesn't matter, Obama made a self-deprecating joke about his bowling prowess, "it's like - like Special Olympics or something."

The audience laughed. The PC lobby was not amused, and surprisingly did not excuse one of their own this time.

Once given permission, Republicans jumped on him too.

Mark Steyn said, "He might be "a fairly sensitive and compassionate man," (in the words of a defender.) Alternatively, he could be a mean, self-absorbed S.O.B. who regards anyone other than himself as intellectually disabled."

“I was shocked to learn of the comment made by President Obama about Special Olympics,” Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, mother of a child with Down's Syndrome, said. “This was a degrading remark about our world’s most precious and unique people, coming from the most powerful position in the world."

After the show, Obama phoned Tim Shriver, chairman of the Special Olympics, to apologize.

Shriver later said the president expressed regret "in a way that I think was very moving."

However, the foster-mother of Kolan McConiughey, a Special Olympics athlete from Ann Arbor, Mich., was not the least bit offended

McConiughey has an IQ somewhere around the 50s. He never learned to read or figure, but holds down a job just fine thank you, and evidently shows signs of savantism.

Idiot savant is a French term, pronounced "ee-dee-oh sah-vaunt." It describes the phenomenon of people who appear to be of sub-normal intelligence or autistic, who display remarkable talents of memory, calculation, or sometimes music.*

McConiughey's talent it appears, is bowling. He bowls an average score of 266 and has bowled three perfect games.

And now he wants to take on the president, according to the TMZ Web site.

Now here's my suggestion:

You critics, need to LIGHTEN THE FRACK UP!

Don't feed the PC beast!


And if you want to do something for Special Olympics athletes, and show you're a good sport - take Mr. McConiughey's challenge and let us watch him wax your ass at bowling.

* The most famous movie depiction of savantism, was of course, "Rain Man" with Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman.

The question of why these talents don't appear more often among people of more normal or high intelligence is an interesting one. Or perhaps they do - some have suggested more socially adept people quickly learn to hide such talents.

On that note, my grandmother had the "play by ear" talent. When her older sister finished pracitising her piano lessons, my grandmother could sit at the piano and repeat everything she'd heard - before she'd ever had lessons herself.

My great-aunt told me how mad it used to make her.

Perhaps such talents just aren't very useful or are even, dare we say, handicapping.

People with perfect pitch or the play-by-ear talent rarely, if ever, become great musicians. I've heard perfect pitch can make listening to an orchestra an excruciating experience.

People with phenomenal natural memories often have problems with attention and focus - as I can attest.

Lightning calculators - how handy is that in normal life?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Battlestar Galactica, not the frakkin' end!

"What seems human, is human."
- Cordwainer Smith (Dr. Paul Myron Linebarger)

Battlestar Galactica concluded in a two-and-a-quarter hour special last night, and it wasn't bad at all.

I actually feared they might have painted themselves into a corner they couldn't get out of, and might have to use the stock ending of incompetent writers, "And they all got run over by a truck."

They found Earth - our Earth, not the radioactive ruin they ended last season on. And it was the distant past.

This was the ending I suspected they'd use. There were after all, only three possibilities: find Earth in our past, present or future. Last season appeared to settle on the future, but then they announced another 10 episodes, and I did notice that they didn't show the continental outlines of the globe on that "Earth"...

Their decision not to rebuild a civilization right away, but scatter across the globe and ultimately mix with and mentor the primitive humans they found here was a bit of a surprise. One might have expected them to build cities with the limited technology they could sustain (38,000 survivors don't have enough collective skills between them to run a civilization as advanced as ours) and become the gods of antiquity: Hera, Athena, etc.

Not everybody got a happy ending, not everybody survived, but thank Gods Helo, Athena and their little girl Hera came out OK! I don't think I could have stood a tragic outcome for them. There's only so much a man can take after all.

(Have I got something personal invested in the welfare of this mixed-marriage family? Maybe.)

Laura Roslin got a peaceful death with the man who loved her at her side, after performing heroicly in Galactica's last battle. Adama didn't crash the aircraft he was flying her around to see their beautiful new home, as I expected. Instead he landed at a nice spot, built a cairn for his woman, and planned to build the cabin they wanted to spend their last years in beside it.

Boomer redeemed herself before her twin/clone Athena blew her away. One can't help suspect Athena might have forgiven her for kidnapping her child (she did bring her back after all) if Boomer hadn't frakked her husband while she was tied up in the closet...

Chief, perennial screwup, managed to destroy the chance for a Cylon-Human bargain at the end - which may not have been a bad thing. The choice was made for a human race that continues and evolves by natural reproduction and the turnover of generations, rather than eternal ressurection of a few standard types.

He wound up with neither of the women he'd loved. He killed the Cylon reincarnation of his ancient fiancee on "Earth" when he realized she'd killed his wife Callie.

Chief (whose name "Galen" is Celtic) went off to be a hermit in the mountains on a cold island off the northern continent.

My wife said, "The immortal Highlander!"

If Boomer had lived, would he have forgiven her? Could he have?

That's one of those good questions that have no final answers.

Surprisingly, Saul and Ellen got to live happily ever after. She was unfaithful quite a lot, and he did poison her, but I guess love conquers all.

I was unclear about the Six who miscarried with Saul's child. Was that Caprica Six?

More surprisingly, Baltar and Caprica Six seem to have redeemed themselves. Surprising because they were after all, between them responsible for the 12 colonies coming out on the losing side of the war that killed most of the human race.

The Galactica got the honorable send off she deserved.

Not all the loose ends were tied up, and that's how it should be. Only trivial questions have final answers.

How'd Kara Thrace come back?

God, evidently. She and Lee Adama didn't get together after all. She went poof, gone. Maybe joined Sam on the "other side."

God it seems, can send a risen savior back in a fighter-spacecraft.

Who was the Six that haunted Baltar?

Apparantly some kind of angel or higher power. And at the very end, it turned out Baltar had an angelic doppelganger as well.

And then it ended now, and in 21st century New York. Baltar-angel and Six-angel debating whether mankind will screw it up again, like on Kobol, "Earth," and Caprica, or not.

"And don't call him God, you know he doesn't like that silly name..."

The specific screwup is developing artificial intelligence and then treating it badly enough to make it turn on mankind. I think we can treat that as a dramatic device. The reality could be that, or any number of other possible screwups.

(Have you read the controversy about the Large Hadron Collider? There is a school of thought that holds the earth could be destroyed by a lab accident. As in a lab accident within the next year.)

There are holes you could drive trucks through of course. This is drama, not history.

Are they just turning a bunch of city folks who've spent the last 5-7 years in artificial environments loose in the wilderness with no survival skills? How about a little reliance on the tech they've got left while they teach their kids flint knapping and such.

If they've scattered all over the world already, how did Hera become mitochondrial Eve to the whole human race?

If a bunch settle in Tanzania, how come it was the white and Asian people?

Baltar is going back to his roots as a farmer. But this is 150,000 years ago, and agriculture was invented only about 10,000 years ago.

Maybe it didn't work.

But there's room to keep exploring.

Caprica, a prequel-series just might be OK. Knowing how it ends is usually the kiss of death for drama, but the brief teaser we saw looks promising.

And, there is going to be a two-hour made for TV movie about the final war - from the Cylon point of view.

That took balls!

Earlier in the series it was made plain there were scattered survivors in parts of the 12 colonies. Places in the mountains and areas not radioactive. In time the radiation will subside and without the bad cylons hunting them, the survivors can spread across the ruined worlds again.

Do we have kin out there still?

And who's this God guy?

God, as in God, or could this hint at a modification of Clarke's Third Law: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

The corollary would seem to be: Any sufficiently advanced intelligence is indistinguishable from (a) god.

Well whoever He is, thank Him for this thought-provoking and entertaining series. Only He knows how seldom the industry manages to put the two together successfully!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Olson, Ayers, Dorhn: America's aging terrorists

Note: The body of this appeared as an op-ed in the Valley City Times-Record.

"What matter the victims, so long as the gesture is beautiful?"
- Laurent Tailhade, 1854-1919

A couple of news items caught my attention last week, and apparently almost nobody else's.

On March 17, Sara Jane Olson, nee Kathleen Soliah, was released from the Central California Women's Facility in Chowchilla, California, after serving seven years of a 14-year sentence for possessing explosives with intent to murder, and first-degree murder for the killing of Myrna Opsahl, a mother of four, during a bank robbery. Though she did not personally discharge the shotgun that killed Mrs. Opsahl, she did kick a pregnant woman in the belly during the robbery, causing her to miscarry.

Before her arrest for acts committed while a member of the Symbionese Liberation Army, Olson had been living for 23 years in Minnesota as a housewife and mother of three, active in various worthy causes.

The SLA was famous in the 1970's for kidnapping, and shortly thereafter converting, heiress Patty Hearst.*

On March 12, representatives from “The Campaign for Justice for Victims of Weather Underground Terrorism,” held a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., asking the Justice Department to reopen the case of the 1970 bombing of Park Police Station in San Francisco, which killed police Sgt. Brian V. McDonnell.

FBI informant Larry Grathwohl, testified under oath that Bill Ayers, University of Chicago professor of education, told Grathwohl that Ayers' wife Bernadine Dohrn, Associate Professor of Law at Northwestern University School of Law and the Director of Northwestern University's Children and Family Justice Center, "had been forced to plant the bomb at Park Station because others were not active enough in committing violence."

Full disclosure: I was not part of that world, but I knew people in it. My childhood best friend disappeared underground. But unlike Mrs. Olson and Professors Ayers and Dohrn, he never resurfaced.

Olson, Ayers and Dorhn's parents were affluent to wealthy. Ayers' father was a CEO at Commonwealth Edison. His comrades in the Weather Underground included the children of high-powered lawyers, business owners, and educators. Many of them received financial support from their families while living underground.

My friend, Thomas "Tiff" Feeney, was the son of an Irish cop, who made it into a good university on a scholarship. Since he disappeared underground, I have never heard a word of him. I fear the worst.

The criminal justice system is ill-equipped to deal with these people. Criminals act to satisfy their desires to get things without working for them, and to feel good by hurting people they don't like.

A terrorist feels him-or-herself to be a soldier in a cause separate from and superior to himself - although he or she my be acting to satisfy a need greater than wealth or comfort, the need to feel important. This is felt most strongly by those whose material wants are already satisfied. Which is why the ranks of American terrorists come largely from the children of privilege.

Before paroling an offender into society, the justice officials wants to see some evidence of remorse, or at least a desire not to go back to jail. They are well aware that criminals are very good at faking it. Recidivism rates among released and paroled offenders are high.

Recidivism among our aging domestic terrorists is rare. After their youthful radical adventures, they re-entered society and hold prestigious, well-paid jobs they'd be disqualified for if they'd robbed, bombed, and killed for mere money, rage, jealousy, or any motive any sane person could comprehend.

Remorse is totally absent. Ayers and Dorhn have said many times they'd do it all over again. Their only regret is they "didn't do enough." Olson pleaded guilty and allocuted to her offenses, then had to be hauled back into court after stating publicly she was innocent. None of them have ever cooperated with authorities to solve any of the still-open cases. Their attitude towards their victims is eerily detached, like they aren't real.

Well, that's what you'd expect from "soldiers in a cause," though to my knowledge none of them ever demanded to be tried by military commission under the laws of war. They prefer to trust the criminal justice system of the “fascist pig-state of AmeriKKKa” and the best lawyers Daddy's money could buy.

You see, under the Geneva Convention, you get to shoot people who do things like that.


*Patty Hearst was treated rather harshly by the press after she was caught, tried, and sentenced. Journalist Marylyn Baker quipped, "Patty didn't need a brainwash, just a quick rinse."

I confess I shared the sentiments. However, in the Playboy interview Patty said two things that hit me right between the eyes.

"I did two years of a seven year sentence, and everybody talks about it like it was nothing."

Right Patty. Two years in stir is not nothing. And it wasn't a country club prison for politicians and white collar criminals either.

And, this I thought was really profound. The interviewer asked her what she thought made it politically possible for President Jimmy Carter to commute her sentence (she eventually got a full pardon from Bill Clinton.)

She replied, "Jonestown. Before Jonestown, nobody believed in brainwashing."

See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Jones

*And by the way, Marylyn Baker was the journalist who really broke the case, did the legwork the feds followed up on, and revealed the SLA were in fact mostly a bunch of white, middle-class dykes, who got a totally un-political black career criminal (Donald DeFreeze, a.k.a. "Field-Marshall General Cinque") to front for them.

*"I asked, 'well what is going to happen to those people we can't reeducate, that are diehard capitalists?' and the reply was that they'd have to be eliminated. And when I pursued this further, they estimated they would have to eliminate 25 million people in these reeducation centers. And when I say 'eliminate,' I mean 'kill.' Twenty-five million people. I want you to imagine sitting in a room with 25 people, most of which have graduate degrees, from Columbia and other well-known educational centers, and hear them figuring out the logistics for the elimination of 25 million people. And they were dead serious."
-Larry Grathwohl

*“She lived in Berkeley. It was kind of normal. I always tell people she wasn't a terrorist. She was an urban guerrilla.”
-Emily Peterson, Olson's daughter.

*"We were young, we were idealistic and we'd do it again... we were so lucky to have been born into that moment in history." - Bernadine Dorhn, Connie Chung interview 1998

See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TQsYzBlXK6M

Friday, March 13, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

We invoke holy Patrick, Ireland's chief apostle.
Glorious is his wondrous name, a flame that baptized heathen;
He warred against hard hearted wizards.
He thrust down the proud with the help of our Lord of fair heaven.
He purified Ireland's meadow-lands, a mighty birth.
We pray to Patrick chief apostle; his judgment has delivered
us in doom from the malevolence of dark devils.
God be with us, together with the prayer of Patrick, chief apostle.

- Ninine (eighth century, translated from Old Irish)

Beannachtai na Feile Padraig agat!” Blessings of the feast of Patrick on you!

Don't even try to pronounce that from the text. The rule of Irish spelling is, you only pronounce the letters that aren't there.

March 17 is St. Patrick's Day, marking the date of death sometime between 461 and 496 A.D, of a man born Maewyn Succat sometime in the late fourth or early fifth century. Which ought to tell you something about how much is known for sure about the patron saint of Ireland.

Patrick was born of Romano-British stock in what is today Wales, where Romanized Celts fled from the Saxon invaders after the death of the leader known in legend as King Arthur.

He was taken by slave raiders from Ireland and set to work as a herd boy for six years.

Patrick said in his Confessio, “I, Patrick, unlearned and a sinner, the least of all the faithful and most contemptible to many, had for father the deacon Calpurnius, son of the late Potitus, a priest, of the settlement of Bannavem Taburniae; he had a small villa nearby where I was taken captive. I was at that time about sixteen years of age.”

After a time, Patrick had a vision that if he made his way to the coast, he would find a ship which would take him home. After he was reunited with his family for a time, he had another vision.

“I seemed at that moment to hear the voice of those who were beside the forest of Foclut which is near the western sea, and they were crying as if with one voice: 'We beg you, holy youth, that you shall come and walk again among us.'”

Patrick, as he was now known, returned to Ireland as a missionary. Legend has it he commenced his activity on the pagan feast of Beltane, on May 1 when all the fires in the land were extinguished and re-lit from one sacred fire of the Druids at the hill of Tara, seat of the High Kings of Ireland.

The story goes that Patrick kindled a fire within sight of Tara, causing a Druid to prophesy, “If that fire is not put out, it will kindle a blaze that will consume all of us.”

The Druids brought Patrick to a trial, at which he acquitted himself so well he won his first converts. In fact, conversion proceeded so rapidly that Ireland was Christianized without a single martyrdom, the only Christian nation which can claim that.

Of course, the Irish have been making up for it ever since...

Various reasons have been advanced for this. It seems likely Irish paganism had become encrusted with taboos and obligations (gaesa in the Irish) and Christianity offered a much more liberal and humane set of dos and don't.

“You mean, I avoid meat on Friday, fast once a year, and I don't have to get up every sunrise and run backwards nine times around my house because I saw my mother-in-law hang her washing on the line ten years ago? Baptize me!”

Since the pagan tradition offered so little resistance, there was no reason to suppress it. Patrick himself enjoyed listening to the old tales, and specifically commanded they be written down, to the everlasting gratitude of historians, anthropologists, and folklorists.

The recorded Irish mythology is the largest collection of Celtic culture in existence, twice the volume of the next largest, the Welsh. What is known of the mythology and religion of the continental European Celts fills one very thin book.

So whether you're Irish or not, here's a toast to St. Patrick, in green beer or uisge beatha (“water of life” origin of the word “whiskey.”)

And you don't even have to get plastered and start a fight. It's not a law or anything.

That was a short honeymoon

This has got to be the shortest presidential honeymoon in the history of the Republic.

We're just over 50 days into the new administration, and even the mainstream media that had "A Slobbering Love Afair"* with The One Who Sends Tingles Down Legs, is beginning to sound like how the easy bar pick-up feels next morning when she sobers up and sees what she's woken up next to.

The Obama presidency seems to be a floundering mess from day one. Polls seem to indicate practically no one believes the economic "stimulus" is going to do anything but make things worse.

And, the foreign policy front of the administration is such a disaster that even the Bush-despising Europeans are aghast. In short order, The One has managed to insult the Brits, the Eastern Europeans, and even the damn Brazilians!

Ovetures to the Islamic crazies are met with sneering contempt. The Russians are openly flouting the Monroe Doctrine in our back yard and ratcheting up the bullying of Europe. Looks like the Euros are going to be needing a cowboy soon. Too bad what they'll get is a hip metrosexual.

Those of us who never felt the love to begin with may be pardoned for indulging in a moment of schadenfreud** - but damn it, it's my country too, and the prospect of a nuclear Iran and Russian long-range bombers in Cuba and Venezuela is no laughing matter.

Bill Clinton had a floundering period too, at the beginning of his presidency when he and his buddies would stay up past midnight over pizza and solve the world's problems, like a pack of college sophomores. He did eventually straighten up and get things at least semi-organized.

(I didn't and don't give a damn about the shenanigans in the Oval Office, apart from the perjury. If I were president I'd have a hareem in the East Wing - and if you were married to Hillary...)

Maybe Obama will realize there are limits to power, organize his administration, and deal with the stuff a president must deal with, before trying to do what he'd most like to do.


* http://www.amazon.com/Slobbering-Love-Affair-Pathetic-Mainstream/dp/1596980907/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1237132781&sr=8-1

** I don't think I ever get over the creepy realization there is a language which has such a word which means that and nothing else.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A time of juveniles

Note: This appeared as an op-ed in the Valley City Times-Record. The title is from an essay by Eric Hoffer, which seems prescient at present.

Question: What is the most dangerously stupid thing that walks the earth?

Answer: An above-average bright adolescent.

What's that you say? If the kid is so smart, why do you say he's stupid?

It's this, the better-than-average bright adolescent can see that he's better-informed about many things than most of the adults around him. What he cannot realize is that experience counts for something. He can't see it of course, because he doesn't have any.

I'm not being holier-than-thou. I was that smart-aleck adolescent, and the memory of it is painful.

But what's really painful now, is my growing suspicion that we're ruled by highly-educated people with no experience of normal life, i.e. bright adolescents.

Case in point. The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom paid the first state visit to the United States in this administration. He brought the gift of a pen holder, carved from the timbers of the Royal Navy vessel HMS Gannet, which played a prominent role in the anti-slavery crusade, a gift designed to symbolize the "historic ties" between the two nations.

In return, he got a set of DVDs that probably won't play on English sets, and a couple of toys from the White House gift shop for his kids.

It's customary on such occasions to hold a joint press conference with two podiums and the flags of both nations prominently displayed. The president didn't have time for that, though he did have time to meet with the Boy Scouts that week.

The British press are aghast. Speculations abound. The President is tired and on the verge of a breakdown, he's hostile to Britain because his father was Kenyan and Kenya was a British colony, he's signaling an end to the “special relationship,” etc.

The thought that the head of the mightiest state on earth simply has no idea how to behave on the world stage and has no one to tell him how, hasn't come up. Probably because the thought is just too scary.

Remember how scornful the Europeans were that cowboy George Bush didn't have a passport, didn't know people from Kosovo are “Kosovars” not “Kosovians,” and couldn't pronounce “nuclear?” Do you think they're reassured now?

When the present economic crisis emerged in the last months of the Bush administration, Bush junked everything economics and common sense says about not going deeper into debt, and threw money we don't have at the problem.

Can anyone see anything different in the present administration's policy? Except perhaps for who gets the pork?

Do I have to point out that indifference to tradition, courtesy, and the long-term consequences of profligate self-indulgence are the hallmarks of an adolescent mind?

Obama has spent his entire working life seeking every-higher public office, except for a grand total of one year's experience in the private sector. A year he described as like, “being a spy in the enemy camp.”

Bush's experience in the private sector was brief, heavily dependent on family connections, and largely a financial failure.

And it's not just presidents, it's cabinet officials, advisors, and congressmen. We are increasingly ruled by people whose career choices begin and end with the pursuit of power.

Former Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern realized this is a bad idea too late, after leaving office for the private sector. “In retrospect, I wish I had known more about the hazards and difficulties of such a business.... I wish that during the years I was in public office I had this firsthand experience about the difficulties business people face every day. That knowledge would have made me a better Senator and a more understanding presidential contender...”

Friday, March 06, 2009

Paul Harvey ... Good day

Note: This appeared as an op-ed in the Valley City Times-Record.

Paul Harvey died on February 28, 2009, at the age of 90 in Phoenix, Arizona, surrounded by family and friends and mourned by millions around the world.

There will never be another broadcaster like him, and I'm quite confident making that assertion. Paul Harvey started in radio in 1933 in Tulsa, Oklahoma when he was 15 years old, first as a janitor and soon after as a news and commercials reader. That doesn't happen anymore. It probably isn't even legal.

Harvey had an idiosyncratic cadence in his delivery that once heard, was never forgotten. When his program was carried on TV, you saw just what you expected, a face and body language that matched his voice perfectly.

I first encountered Harvey many years ago on TV in my grandmother's house in Ponca City, Oklahoma. I was never a follower, I'm not of the radio generation. I just seemed to run into him from time to time, whenever I was someplace near a radio. It wasn't hard to run into Harvey, he broadcast News and Comment on weekday mornings and mid-days, to an audience estimated at 22 million people.

There were things he did, and got away with, that few others would have dared. For one, he read his own commercials. Salon magazine called him the "finest huckster ever to roam the airwaves."

Maybe so. Others might call it, “not biting the hand that feeds you.”

Harvey said, "I am fiercely loyal to those willing to put their money where my mouth is."

For another, he went out of his way to chronicle good news. News about people being decent and good to other people. And however much we in the news business may decry “sensationalism,” we never really lose sight of the adage, “if it bleeds, it leads.”

When Harvey did note and comment on the foibles of humanity, he usually did so with irony and a certain sadness rather than the outrage-for-public-consumption we're used to from today's talking heads.

Politically he is considered conservative. But he was an Old Right, Paleo-conservative. In foreign policy he was isolationist. But unlike the Left isolationists who cried ”American imperialism” was corrupting the world, Harvey warned the United States that dealing with dictatorships was corrupting our country.

Just as Lyndon Johnson had his Walter Cronkeit moment when the liberal Cronkeit came out publicly against the Vietnam war, Nixon had his Paul Harvey moment.

“Mr. President, we love you, but you're wrong,” was what America heard from the other most trusted man in America.

That's how Harvey would disagree with you. I don't think anyone ever heard a gratuitous personal insult from Harvey, or ever the slightest implication that disagreeing with him made you a bad person.

Harvey was what we call a social conservative these days. He did not approve of the commercialization of sex, and made no secret of it. But he was not a joyless prude and did have a wry sense of humor about it.

On one occasion he related the results of a survey about... which anatomical features of men women look at most, and chuckled, “After all guys, it is their turn.”

Paul Harvey ... Good day.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

They're ba-a-a-ack!

If you go here http://pajamasmedia.com/michaelledeen/2009/02/12/we-are-all-illiterates-now/

you'll find a very nice article by Michael Ledeen that I meant to write - complete with the title I'd picked for it.

Heavy sigh.

Only goes to show the dangers of procrastination. When there is an obvious truth staring you in the face you should write about it without delay. Because if it is, 1) true, and 2) obvious, somebody else is going to see it and write about it.

The title of the article We Are All Fascists Now, suggested itself. It's a play on words of the title of the Newsweek article We Are All Socialists Now, which is itself a takeoff on Richard Nixon's remark "We are all Keynesians now."*

What Ledeen points out, is that in Obama's Great Plan for the Economy and All of Us, we aren't seeing pure Socialism, but the "Third Way" partnership of government and corporations of Mussolini, i.e. Fascism.**

The term "Fascism" has for a long time had no intellectual content other than perhaps, "position held by people on the Right that I don't like." Or more specificly, "positions held by people on the Right which are so repugnant they ought to be killed for holding them."

I once had an email exchange with a correspondent who referred to an Englishman I recommended listening to, as a "fascist bastard." I then invited him to name a single plank in the Fascist Party platform, either Mussolini's or the contemporary Fascist Party in modern Italy, (yes, it's still around and regularly elects delegates to parliament) your choice.

Of course, he couldn't. Instead he blustered, "I know it when I see it."

Well, actually no. He didn't

Anyone who investigates history seriously runs into the uncomfortable but incontrovertable fact that German Nazism and Italian Fascism are phenomena of the Left.

Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei "National Socialist German Workers' Party" - sound Right-wing to you?

In the words of Jonah Goldberg, "Everything you know about Fascism is wrong."

So, as part of your survival kit for the next four-to-eight years, if we're lucky, I recommend that you read Michael Ledeen's article right now, and follow the link and read the Newsweek article.

Next, I strongly urge you to read Jonah Goldberg's "Liberal Fascism" without too much delay.

It drags in spots, and at the end it almost seems like his argument is taking him to places even he doesn't want to go. Nonetheless, read it. You need to.

Among other things you'll find are:

-Mussolini's Fascist Party was not at all anti-Semitic. Italian Jews joined in disproportionate numbers and were included in the highest ranks.

-Mussolini considered himself a Marxist and socialist to his dying day.

-Musollini was initially admired by a great many American intellectuals, including Franklin Roosevelt, Thomas Dewey, and (this hurts) Will Rogers.

-The Fascist platform included a number of planks many would approve of: abolition of the draft, lowering the voting age to 18, universal suffeage - including women, repeal of titles of nobility, an eight-hour day, a minimum wage. Along with others you'd find very familiar: the obligation of the state to build "rigidly secular" schools for the raising of "the proletariat's moral and cultural condition," and "A large progressive tax on capital that would amount to a one-time partial expropriation of all riches."

According to Goldberg, America has gone through three flirtations with fascism, under Woodrow Wilson, FDR and the National Recovery Administration, and a period of "smiley faced fascism" that started in the 60s and has been sputtering along ever since.

We'll discuss this further. In the meantime - get the book.

*Nixon was invoking the ghost of leftist economist John Maynard Keynes (an English milord no less, 1st Baron Keynes) who advocated strong state intervention in the economy, particularly in the area of monetary policy - deficit spending.

We are now in what is called the "Keynesian revival." Keynes fell out of favor during the Reagan years and is now having somewhat of a comeback.

The irony of it all is, according to people who actually knew him (such as his friend and intellectual opponent Leonard Read,) Keynes confided to them he had second thoughts about much of his theory. However, he didn't publicly revise his opinions because the last act of his professional life before he died of a heart attack in 1946, was to help negotiate a post-war loan from the U.S. to Britain - and much of the argument from the loan proceeded from Keynesian theories he no longer supported!

**I love the response of Vaclav Klaus, sometime prime minister of the Czech Republic, and staunch free marketeer. His comment about a "third way" between capitalism and socialism, he remarked, "The Third Way is the quickest route to the Third World."