Friday, February 24, 2006

#241 - This Whole UAE Ports Thingie...

I have to admit that, politically, I am completely neutral on this Portgate issue. So they're from the UAE. So what? I have no idea from which country the owners of our local convenience stores hail, but I can guarantee you that most of them are ESL types, if you get my drift. Even my local Subway has taken on a decidedly Middle Eastern atmosphere this past year. I have no problem patronizing their businesses because they seem like genuinely nice people, and I really don't think they're going to hide an IED in my cold cut special.

I think the President's largest problem here is that the entire affair smacks of just the sort of secrecy for which the Democrats continually accuse him. Did it never once occur to this administration, after four years of post-9/11 sensitivities, that folks might just get the wrong impression about this deal?

Even President Bush knows that, in politics, perception is reality where the voters are concerned. Now, granted, Bush will not be running for office in 2008, but I can't see him being terribly excited about handing the Oval Office over to the Dems simply because he forgot this simple truth.

For as much as the administration attempts to convince everyone that this is not a matter of [trumpet fanfare: ] National Security, they seem genuinely surprised that normal citizens seem to perceive it as precisely that. But, hey, it's been more than four years. We haven't gone above "Yellow" alert for, what, months now. How could we possibly be squeamish about turning six major ports over to a country that recognized the Taliban as a legitimate government?

Well, Mr. President, I'm sure this whole thing will (if you'll pardon the phrase) blow over soon. In the meantime, [fanfare again: ] National Security or not, you might just want to consider opening a dialog with your constituents. Might save you some trouble later on.


Thursday, February 23, 2006

#240 - Of Relative Morality and Michael Morales

So let's make sure we all have our priorities screwed on tightly, shall we?

Michael Morales was scheduled to die by lethal injection at San Quentin prison this past Tuesday. He was convicted of an extremely brutal torture killing and has been on Death Row for twenty five years, if I have the basic facts correct. At the last minute, Morales' lawyers were able to push a "cruel and unusual" defense in front of the courts by claiming that the California lethal injection process does not guarantee that the prisoner is completely unconscious when the "cocktail" is administered. Most unfortunately, a federal judge agreed and the whole thing has now been postponed "indefinitely."

Oh, we tried. We really did. We (being the state) agreed to bring in two anaesthesiologists to ensure that poor Mr. Morales was completely knocked out before we killed him. Sure, he may have been guilty of a heinous crime that will affect the family and neighbors of the victim for years to come, but that's no reason why we shouldn't respect his right to die with dignity. Irony is never pretty.

Then, before that attempt to turn Mr. Morales into worm chow could take place, the anaesthesiologists refused to participate, claiming that such work would violate their ethical adherence to the Hippocratic Oath. (As one family member of the victim put it this morning: the "hippocratical oath." I'm not altogether certain that was a malaprop.) The family and, indeed, the entire community of Lodi are furious and hurt by this nonsensical legal posturing. The local talking-head news radio station here in Los Angeles interviewed one of the lawyers for Tookie Williams. He went so far as to claim that Morales' attornies performed a "rather brilliant piece of lawyering, and should be commended." I think I stepped in a piece of lawyering like that a while back, and had to throw those shoes away.

As infuriating as this spectacle is, I read this morning (H/T: Fetching Jen) of an even more ironic coincidence that took place in New Orleans subsequent to Hurricane Katrina. There are allegations that doctors - no doubt out of concern that their patients would "suffer needlessly" - euthanized some patients in the immediate aftermath of the hurricane. None of this is by any means official, of course, and the information is still sketchy. National Public Radio is on the case and says the details of the investigation thus far are pretty harrowing. Some doctors, apparently, fled the hospital rather than go through with it. But it still may have happened.

So this got me to thinking. Since we seem to have suddenly become squeamish about making Saint Victim Morales the latest to suffer far less than his own victim, why not work out a barter arrangement with the staff of Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans? We send them our highly ethical anaethesiologists to prevent the euthanizing of patients whose most violent acts probably related to toe-nail clippers, and they send us their Kevorkian specialists to help us take care of Morales.

Then sit me down and explain to me why ours seems to be the screwiest society on the face of the earth.

#239 - That Pesky Government Changed the Calendar Again! (UPDATED)

It's Tax Season here in the Untied States. Admittedly, I am one of few who actually look forward to this time of year because it's my opportunity to ask Uncle Sam to give me back the money he's been so carefully safeguarding throughout this past year. I always wonder whether I should charge interest, but, darn it, I just can't bring myself to ask. He's so doggone likeable, and I'm sure that if I asked he'd even be willing to put me up for a few weeks' visit to his chateau at Guantanamo. I hear his staff's to die for.

Anyway, we e-filed again this year, and were notified by the bank that processes e-filed refunds that they expected our refund to arrive on the 24th of this month. The state, of course, being completely intimidated by a naturalized Austrian who keeps flexing his muscles in a threatening way, funded us a week ago.

So, since I wasn't expecting to hear anything before tomorrow, imagine my surprise to receive an email from the receiving bank this morning. At 12:30 in the morning. I, you may understand, was not awake when this email arrived.

Anyway, the second paragraph of this email reads:

We expected to receive your IRS refund on 02/24/2006. Since we only receive IRS deposits once a week, the next opportunity for us to receive your refund is one week past the expected funding date shown above. We will not have any additional information until that time.

I always appreciate an opportunity to communicate with members of the third oldest profession, especially when they give me a link in their email, and a Super Secret Code Reference Number known only to me, them, and every junior grade hacker in ninety seven countries including Easter Island. Herewith find my response (yes, I actually sent it):

Dear Sirs,

I appreciate your prompt notification of the delay in receiving our refund. I am gratified to note that the banking industry is definitely keeping pace with the latest technological advances. It is particularly noteworthy to see that you have somehow developed the ability to see at least twenty four hours into the future to determine that you already have missed receipt of a refund that wasn't scheduled to be received until tomorrow (assuming we're using the same calendar).

I applaud the industry for developing this ability that used to be limited to quack psychics and the federal government. I always find tax season to be particularly amusing, and you have helped to further propagate this tradition.


Another Satisfied Customer

I'll let you know how the service is at my hotel in Guantanamo.

UPDATE: Well, this explains the technology...


The IRS notifies us on Tuesday or Wednesday, which refunds they will actually be funding for the week. This is how we know that your money will either be available or not available. The IRS had advised us on Wednesday that they had funded all the refunds for the week. Your refund was not included. This is why you received an e-mail advising you that your refund was delayed by the IRS.
However, the IRS made a second deposit on Thursday morning, this after they had advised us your refund would not be available for this week. Your refund was in that second deposit and we are sending your refund to you, minus the fees via direct deposit. Expect your refund in your account within 1-2 business days.

So, they don't really have a time machine in the banking industry. Oh, well. Perhaps now they can focus on getting a sense of humor inste...

Nah. Some dreams are just too far-fetched.

Monday, February 20, 2006

We needed a new post.

Anyone else tired of seeing the same old post every time you log in?


Me, too.


How 'bout that Superbowl?

Uhh . . . lessee . . . content. Need content.



FEAR vs. DOOM 3!

FEAR, man. Absolutely. FEAR had me jumping in actual fear where Doom 3 merely had me cursing in annoyance and yawning in boredom.


Eh. I got nuthin'.

Woody's Lament:

Dude! A little warning, next time? I think I broke my nose on the keyboard when I fell asleep.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

DNA and the Book of Mormon

I, for one, can't wait to read the transcript of Hugh's interview with the author what sounds like the LA Times' latest inability to understand what "Mormon" doctrine actually encompasses. It is, sadly, a surprise to some Mormons who have only given it casual thought to realize that the Book of Mormon does not anywhere claim to be THE history of ALL the Americas. I myself am quite impressed with John L. Sorenson's studies and many defenses of said studies on the subject (he keeps Book of Mormon history limited to a small portion of Central America), and unless something better comes along, I'll subscribe to it quite happily - just not as official doctrine.

It may seem like a weird topic for Hugh to cover, but

[1] Hugh has a sizeable Mormon audience,

[2] Remember that Hugh was a friend of the late, great Elder Maxwell (get a copy of Hewitt's "Searching for God in America" if you can find one), and,

[3] I've always enjoyed Hugh's takedown of mainstream media's snide anti-Mormonism during the Utah Winter Olympics.

Wish I'd heard it, but ah wuz workin'.

Woody's Two Cents:

Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Truly nothing new under the sun, it seems: Mr. Lobdell trots out the same old tired arguments, clothed in relatively new "controversies." Speaking personally, my faith hasn't been this shaken since I discovered that I had to develop my own testimony instead of relying on Mom's.

Also, the idea that interviewing a few disaffected former members constitutes a major shakeup of our faith is ludricous. As I recall, reports of the demise of the Episcopal church over the election of gay bishops have been premature, too. (Mine among them.)

Oh, and I always enjoy the need to get "expert" opinions from those who study religion in general, but have absolutely no idea what our church really represents. Or why.

Time to get a real job, Mr. Lobdell. You've run out of fresh material.

Final note from CCWBASS:

Eh. Gotta agree with Woody: that was dullsville.

But it was also annoying. Lobdell's whole story depends on this statement being true:

And the traditional interpretation was that they populated the entire North, Central and South American continents.

Oh, what strawmen can be fashioned from the phrase "traditional interpretation" . . .

And this sentence really bugs me:
And so they're slowly, they slowly appear to be shifting from the American...all the natives of the Americas were descendents of this Hebrew tribe to this fresher interpretation.

Slowly? The limited geography theory (John Sorenson's work, essentially) has been king o' the mountain since the early 80's. The shift - however one defines it - happened. It is not happening. It is old news. It was old news 20 years before Lobdell wrote the story.

I demand we get a new shill, as Lobdell has clearly forgotten how to please our masters: The Sacred Council of Four of the Great Alkali Plain! Onward, Merona!

No . . . wait. Sorry 'bout that, folks. I'm kind of reaching a point where I find it more and more difficult to differentiate between sloppy journalism and A. Conan Doyle's "A Study in Scarlet," hence, the confusion.

Won't happen again (this morning), I assure you. ;)

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

#238 - When Is It a Good Thing... not get a lot of attention in the blogosphere?

When you might otherwise become the target of yet another Jihad.


I'm still looking for a lucid discussion of why this so-called "cycle of violence" is all because we as a nation have responded to the 9/11 attacks. Have the "cycle" apologists completely forgotten that we were targeted long before 9/11 ever happened? Do they dismiss all evidences that the violence will continue whether we appease al-Qaeda or not?

We could withdraw completely from Iraq and Afghanistan tomorrow, close our borders and never leave home again, and the terrorists would still target our nation because we are capitalist infidels and therefore must die.

It's really as simple as that, but only to those who pay attention to history.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Your Cranky Review: Barry Manilow - Contrast & Compare

No, I didn't purchase Manilow's best-selling album, but I have been listening to it at work, and I've heard, if I may be so bold as to suggest such a thing, enough.

First, please allow me to offer a comparison in the form of one Jim Nabors.


Didja ever listen closely to the way Nabors sings? Oh, not the way he hits his pitches and holds notes, but rather the way he forms words when he sings? I mean, listen real close when you get a chance. None of you? Well, great. Let's approach this from another angle.

Didja ever listen to some guy with a broad Bronx accent say the word "Way," or even "Why"?

If one were to record the speaking of said word and then play it back really, really slowly, the word word break down something like this:

"oooooooWWWWWWWaaaaiiiiiiii." It would sound the same for either word, and you know it. When you really start listening to the "oooooooWWWWWWW" closely enough, you discover that this way of speaking isn't limited to word that begin with "W," but, rather, the mouth forms that unfortunate consonant+vowel combination FOR EVERY WORD! It's as if the speaker's mouth is permanently puckered.

THAT's the accent I'm talking about, and Jim Nabors sings like that on almost track I've ever heard. It's just the weirdest darn thing, don't ya think?

Anyway, as I was listening to Barry Manilow, I thought, "You now, Manilow has more than a touch of Jim Nabors in his voice."


That being said, however, I must say that in contrast to the horrific histrionics that makes such a mockery of music on every track of an Il Divo record, Manilow sounds by-gosh excellent.

Taken in its own, it ain't a bad record, save that I'm highly sensitive to the way Manilow sometimes forms his words when he sings, but that's a miniscule complaint, and I'm probably one of only a few cranky jerks who'd notice such a thing.

Overall, Manilow's record is harmless. Two stars, or whatever.

This is your Cranky Reviewer, signing off.

Monday, February 13, 2006

#237 - Headaches of Olympic Proportion (UPDATED)

So the Olympics are upon us once again. I tend to enjoy the winter games more than the summer variety for a number of reasons: the pace is quicker, I love snow and ice, and I can't wait to see who's gonna get wiped out in Short Track.

Unfortunately, with the return of the Olympics we also herald the return of Olympic advertising.

Olympic advertising is somewhat akin to Super Bowl advertising, but with more emphasis on international diversity and less on beer. Not that this is a bad thing. It used to be that the Olympics engendered a somewhat higher class of advertising than you might otherwise see during, say, the World Series. But no longer. Now they just seem to throw out their latest advertising campaigns to coincide with the Opening Ceremony, then bombard us with the same doggone commercials every 5 to 10 minutes. (NBC officials may wish to disagree with me. They may think that they're providing much more coverage than I am crediting them. My feeling is that when they quote "coverage" times, they should exclude all the face time that Costas, Lampley, and Jimmy Whatsisname who does the "Olympic Moments" nonsense receive. In fact, I invite NBC officials to come to my house. I will help them understand the frustration.)

I finally figured it out, though. There is, in fact, an unannounced competition between the advertisers that actually amounts to its own version of the Olympics. Not the Clio Awards, of course. No self-respecting Clio entry would be caught dead being shown during a sporting event. At least, not based on what I've seen so far. No, this is a quiet competition; a secret competition, you might say. But I think I've cracked the code.

Advertisers during the Olympics compete in events that somewhat correlate to the games themselves. For example, for sheer melodrama, you can't beat Figure Skating. Especially the way that NBC hypes it. For the advertisers, the corollary might be the "Heartstring Skating" event which would include every commercial by Kays Jewelers. I mean, come on... they're even recycling stuff from two Olympics ago!

Olympic branding is not, I realize, an "event," but it plays a prestigious role in the identity of each Olympiad. In the equally prestigious "Branding While on Acid" category we have Budweiser. Now, I don't drink beer. Never have, never will. But can someone explain to me how they came up with this stylized crown concept if it didn't involve powerful hallucinogenics? If Budweiser takes gold in this event, then the silver must belong to E-bay and the whole "it" concept. I have long since reached the point where I not only don't care what "it" might be, but I'm ready to tell E-bay precisely what they can do with "it."

The problem with Budweiser is that they also score well in a category that I call "Commercials that Make Me Laugh, Even Though I Shouldn't." I'm referring here to the Bud Lite "Magic Fridge" campaign. That one gets me every time. I also tend to chuckle every time "curling" is mentioned. It's just a gut-level reaction.

In the relatively new "Lower Class Than Super Bowl Advertising" event, CashCall is a strong finisher. "Ch-chiiiing." Need I say more? (At least we've been spared Gary Coleman in these ads. If we had to deal with that, I'm not altogether certain there's a category invented that would be appropo to the punishment CashCall would deserve.) This would be the Half-Pipe competition of advertising.

(Side note here: The overall design of the US Olympic Team's uniforms is fine, if decidedly unspectacular this go 'round. I really liked the Salt Lake look much better. But what's with those X-game outfits? Is it just me, or did anyone else look at Shaun White and think "penitentiary chic?" I suppose it could have been done on purpose, but why not just send them to the same outfitters our local gangs use? Probably be cheaper.)

In the "Eponymous Like Oprah" event, Bode Miller streaks to gold with "" This, I suppose, is an attempt to explain Bode Miller. Like any web site could possibly do that. What's next? "BM Magazine?" Yeesh. If this event were compared to Bode's downhill event, Bode would reach the bottom much faster than he did during his actual ski run.

Ah, well. The Games continue, and so will the advertising. Unfortunately. In fact, while the Games themselves will pass into memory, it appears that some of these commercials will be with us for another few presidential administrations at least. Hey, if I'd just spent $730,000 for 30 seconds of air time, I'd wanna get air time. In the meantime, feel free to comment with your favorite (or, really, most hated) Olympic commercials. Just be sure to tell me in which "events" your entries are running. If I get a few responses, I'll do a round-up after the Games are over.

Gotta go. Jelly Woodyette is waiting for me to take her to skating and skiing classes. I may have to get a few sponsors. I wonder who "" is sponsoring these days...?

UPDATE: It's early in these games yet, but examples of bad sportsmanship are bound to appear 'ere long. I look to Hockey to fill this gap. I mean, any sport that features angry people waving sticks at each other is either bad sportsmanship waiting to happen, or war. Or both. Anyway, whoever designed the "My Fast" campaign for Volkwagen deserves a special place in advertising hell. Apparently, owning a Volkswagen GTI is just another excuse for divorce court. Also, you can break the law with impunity if the cop has his own Fast in the squad car. That's Volkswagen's stand. Are you in good hands?

Speaking of which, could Allstate possibly have found someone more sincerely pompous sounding to tell us precisely what their stand is? Hey, do they really think this guy's attitude is gonna make me toss my nice, relatively cheap insurance in favor of Allstate? I'm beginning to look at Allstate as the Jim Lampley of the advertising biz.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

#236 - I Love the Smell of CARP in the Morning!

Like most fish, carp have a horrific smell when they die and begin decomposing. Dad and I buried a small dogfish shark out in the backyard one day 35 years ago after a fishing expedition, and the smell lingers over the western edge of Simi Valley to this day.

So when we hear from BoifromTroy (via California Mafia) that the California Republican Party (or CARP, if you will) is refusing to issue press credentials for their upcoming convention except to only a couple of California-based bloggers, you can imagine the smell.

I am not personally interested in attending such a convention. I have long been of the opinion that the state-wide parties and their affiliates are only exceeded in their sloth and ineptitude by their national counterparts. And that's saying something. The state Party elite, however, have not learned the lessons of the last general election. Bloggers are a force to be reckoned with, and not lightly.

As KG over at the Mafia states, "Republicans don’t seem interested in running effective campaigns - let alone winning."

Too true.

Our races for U. S. Senator are case in point. If the state GOP were serious about taking the office away from the Liberal Sisters, they would have fronted serious candidates, and even helped them campaign, for Pete's sake. Instead, they throw their "backing" to some unknown white guy, and apparently spend their entire war chest on making sure that he stays unknown. Less collateral damage that way, I suppose. I mean, I voted for the guy, but heck if I remember what his name was. Bill Somethingorother, I think.

So, election season is upon us and, once again, the state "Party" has not a clue how to convince us to vote. Except, probably, to call my house and beg for money. This appears to be the Party's core competency. Once again, when called I will state, "I'll send you guys money when you do a better job with the money you already have." They have no response to that kind of circular logic, but it works for me.

Thus the tenor (so to speak) of my posts this election year will probably be along the lines of haranguing the Party for their inability to find and run a viable candidate who actually has a chance of winning the state. Schwarzenegger got in on an anti-Davis backlash, so he's not a shoe-in this time around. We have a golden opportunity to unseat Feinstein, but I doubt we'll find someone who can convince the liberal Coasties otherwise. In short, the only elected Republicans this state can count on are probably in those places where Republicans tend to win, like Orange County and parts of Ventura.

In the meantime, I need to go bury another fish. I miss the smell.

Friday, February 10, 2006

#235 - Because Revolutions Take Time and We Are Impatient

I called my Mom the other night. It used to be that when I'd call my mother at home I generally had to go through the Debby Filter®. My sister was living with Mom and kept the phone within reach pretty much full time. Now that Mom is married and living in Texas, however, I have to go through the Evil Woody Step-Dad. (Just kidding, Bob! Really!)

We can tease about having an evil step-dad because Bob is about as nice a guy as you'd ever want to meet. He even reads my blogs, so exactly how evil could this guy be? Unless, of course, he's planning some sort of extortion later on... Hm. Must ponder this disturbing development further.

Anyway, Bob answered the phone the other night. He point-blank refused to let me speak with my mother (the nerve!) until he'd shared with me his Burning Opinion of Bush's 2006 State of the Union address.

"Don't you think, " he asked, "that Bush's comment that we need to depend less on foreign oil comes across as 'too little, too late?'"

Yes, I admitted, he certainly seems to be entering this fray a tad late.

"Well," continued the Evil Woody Step-Dad, "I think there might be a blog in there somewhere."

Point taken. Then he let me talk to Mom. (Side note of no real interest except to my siblings: Wanna know how to make Mom blush? Just mention, when she says she was ready to jump on Bob's chest to make him give her the phone, that she can jump on his chest anyway. I swear I heard her blush.)

So: Dependence on Foreign Oil. My mind immediately jumped to a report I'd heard just a few days earlier about some hydrogen fuel cell vehicles that were being test driven around Los Angeles. Fuel cell vehicles are - for a number of reasons - the most obvious approach I can think of for eliminating our dependence on OPEC and the Dynasty of Imperialistic US Oil Interests.

The idea is to take a technology that was used extensively in the American space program - hydrogen fuel cells - and make it available to power the vehicles that we drive every day. (I read, in fact, that the invention of fuel cells actually occured in the 19th century. Go figure.) On the plus side, the by-product of a hydrogen fuel cell is water. Water would, of course, merely evaporate - sorta like my tax refunds every year - and are about the most environment-friendly fuel source imaginable. Also, every major car manufacturer has some sort of fuel cell vehicle under development. The down side includes the ludricous cost of the technology, and the equally ludicrous cost of the fuel itself.

The processing of hydrogen for fuel cells makes the cost of that fuel the equivalent of $20 to $30 dollars a gallon when compared to gasoline, according to one report. Add to that the fact that fueling stations are rare, and you see that we just don't have the infrastructure in place yet to support wide-spread use of fuel cell vehicles. California, in fact, is the only state I know of to have an active interest in building hydrogen fueling stations. But even when Schwarzenegger is done with his current wish list, there will be a total of 13 (count 'em! 13!) fuel stations across the state. Big whoopin' deal.

Of course, it's easy to fret now. Chrysler just delivered 5 test vehicles to Los Angeles World Airports (keepers of LAX) to be tested over the next two to three years. Technology Proof vehicles, we'd call them. This will help the company see how the vehicles age with "normal" use and help them further refine the technology. Also, the cars cost $1 million each to build. (Really? One million, you say? Huh.) So the probability of seeing fuel cell cars at a dealer's lot in the next 10 years or so is slim.


If the computer industry has taught us anything it's that, once something has caught on, prices will drop. Within the next twenty years, who's to say that the vehicles won't be available for less than $50,000 while the price of fuel drops to under $5? By then we can imagine that between government incentive programs and the honest greed of corporate America, we might begin to see hydrogen fueling stations popping up all over the country. (You just know that we'll begin to see the hydrogen equivalent of Yugos breaking down on freeways all over Los Angeles. That will be one of the signs of the Apocalypse.)

In the meantime, there are alternatives to consider. BMW, for example, is producing an engine that will run on either gasoline or hydrogen. It's basically just a combustion engine that will burn either fuel. Of course, the act of burning hydrogen means that there would be some pollution. But those pollution levels would be, according to BMW, far below even California's tough emission standards.

Battery-powered vehicles are another option. The technology has grown tremendously in the last few years. One of my best friends works for a company that produces the Tango, a battery vehicle that has potential to become the commuter vehicle of choice in the near future. It's about the size of a smallish golf cart, is highway rated, and can park in impossibly small spaces. The problem? It still costs about $80,000 to own one because they can't get investors to recognize the potential for mass producing such a vehicle. Hey! Mr. Investor! I'm a regular middle income guy, and I would buy one of these! Really! (How'd I do, LaVar?)

The hybrids already in production are nice, but just a stop-gap when you think about it. They are meant to reduce (not eliminate) emissions and be much easier on your personal economy. As a help to the environment, however, their impact will be minimal at best.

So, yes, President Bush's statement might be perceived as too little, too late. On the other hand, maybe - just maybe - Congress will finally get the message and start to ignore the Oil Dynasty's protestations. Will we ever be completely free from our dependence on oil? No. Not given our current infrastructure. But we can start, and if the Government gives it a big enough push, we really can pull it off. Oil will still be useful to our economy. It figures heavily, if memory serves, in the production of plastics. I don't see that disappearing any time soon. But if we can stop burning the stuff to get to work every day, we will have achieved a tremendous victory.

France may even start liking us again.

Or, maybe not. One can never tell, with the French.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

#234 - Dave Barry Suicide Watch

This could send Dave over the edge.


Tuesday, February 07, 2006

#233 - Home(land) Security

(Note: I struggled over whether this was more appropriate for the Woundup or the Inner Dad. I finally decided that this was important enough to cross-post on both. Another first for Woody.)

So what do the Patriot Act and your own house rules for kids and internet access have in common? Hopefully, more than you might expect.

This morning during the commute I was tuned to our local news blatherers, hoping for some sort of update on the fire situation here. (For the record, the so-called "Sierra" fire is growing, but seems to be staying on the unpopulated side of the freeway for now. A couple of hot spots flared overnight, but firefighters beat them down quickly and the evacuated areas are still relatively unaffected.) One of the things the talking heads have been salivating over for the past few days is the sting operation recently undertaken to catch sexual predators as they tried to rendevous with kids they thought they were meeting over the internet.

Aside from a minor discussion regarding whether or not this constituted "entrapment," (it didn't, according to the folks who sponsored the operation) I was once again struck by the need for people to state the obvious: kids cannot be allowed to freely wander the internet in today's society. And it has nothing to do with any federal, state, or local statutes that may be on the books. It has everything to do with parents protecting their children by enforcing stricter controls over their access privileges.

I've had this discussion before; most recently in a couple of lessons at church. One of the most obvious ways to enforce appropriate access to internet resources is for that access to be strictly supervised by the parents. Liberal (sorry... the word works here) use of parental control software would be considered a bare minimum. The suggestion I liked best was having all computers out in open traffic areas, where there is no expectation of privacy. I understand that some folks get a little queasy about invading their teenagers' rights to privately communicate with friends, but the internet is precisely where that privacy often gets those kids into trouble. Trouble they are ill equipped to handle. Far better to encourage open communication at this stage of life, rather than risk having them stalked by predators who may end their childhoods (if not their lives) prematurely.

In fact, this is where this sort of policing is not unlike the Patriot Act. It has its fans, to be sure, but I can't think of anyone who enjoys the need for the Act. I'm sure we'd all like to be back in our relatively safe and secure pre-9/11 world. I can't think of anyone (excepting perhaps the FBI and other law enforcement types) who really wishes we could have regular wire tapping all the time. But the reality is that we are (as the White House is suddenly fond of reminding us) a nation at war, and war is a mitigating circumstance. We would love nothing better than to trust everyone living within our borders, but we simply can't. We need vigilance, and the Patriot Act allows a higher degree of vigilance than we might normally have.

Likewise, we are also a society at war. The enemy, for purposes of this discussion, is everyone "out there" who feels that their sexual appetites make our children legitimate targets. And one of the larger battlegrounds is no farther away than your computer. There is no "safe" age at which a child may have unrestricted, unsupervised access to that battleground. Even with all the legitimate uses for which the internet was created, the margins of safety are too slim to allow kids to use it with impunity.

Does this sound overly restrictive? Perhaps. In fact, yes, I admit it, I plan on being just that restrictive where my girls are concerned. They are far too precious to me to not take every precaution I reasonably can. Mrs. Woody and I have a deeply vested interest in both their upbringing and their safety. They will simply grow up to understand that there are, in fact, secure ways to communicate with friends. They will understand that, unless some major changes occur between now and "then," the internet is not one of them. I sure wish this were 40 years ago when such things were virtually unknown, but it's not. I wish I could trust even my closest neighbors with my precious daughters, but, with few exceptions, I can't. Not yet, anyway.

Do I have a solution? Well, for as long as the technology exists, a phone call and the price of a stamp still work for me. For pretty much everything else, Dad plans to butt in. There is, after all, no expiration date for my Patriot Act - Home Edition.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Okay - THIS is my last Islam post for a while . . .

Hugh Hewitt says:

The debate begins with these questions: Are we at war with Islam? Do you want a war with Islam?

My answers and the answers of any sensible person ought to be "no," and "no." I'd like to see blogggers who are opining on the caroons answer these questions up front.

Fair enough. My own answers are: "I think so," and "no, I don't, at least in one sense, but in another sense, yes." Oof. This'll take some explaining.

The famailiar tropes, which I wish I could believe, are:

[1] Islam is being hijacked by a radical minority.

[2] The real Islam is a religion of peace.

[3] "Jihad" is primarily a spiritual movement, and only falsely interpreted as a bloody, physical one by said radicals.

Sounds great, except it's not true. Historically, Islam's birth and expansion was bloody. Jihad is officially warlike, and I use the word "officially" carefully. Courtesy of Andrew G. Bostom's "The Legacy of Jihad" (p. 28) comes this little passage from Bat Ye'or that offers what Bostom calls the "thematic structure" of modern pro-Islam apologetics:

Historical negationsim consisting of suppressing or sketching in a page or a paragraph, one thousand years of jihad which is presented as peaceful conquest, generally welcomed by vanquished populations; the omission of Christian and, in particular, Muslim sources describing the actual methods of these conquests: pillage, enslavement, deportation, massacres, and so on; the mythical historical conversion of "centuries" of "peaceful coexistence," masking the processes which transformed majorities into minorities, constantly at risk of extinction; an obligatory self-incrimination for the crusades.

Now, I realize that I am as far from being an authority on Things Islam as a person can be, and that my opinions are only the tiniest bit informed, but what little I do know leads me to understand that, ultimately, that larger portion of modern Islam which more or less comfortably subscribes to the three "tropes" I mentioned above is no more the "real" Islam than the spiritually dead and almost-completely empty protestant churches of Europe are the "real" Christian faith that Jesus founded.

In other words, the radicals ain't radical - they're the real historical deal, even if they are more or less in the minority.

For the bloody jihadists, centuries of Islamic thought and the imposition and codification of dhimmitude is on their side. The real radicals, historically speaking, are the ones who won't chop a head or two off to spread the kingdom of Allah.

The sad thing is that if we do reach a point where we get Islam to stop freaking out over things like political cartoons lampooning Muhammad, we'll have reached a point where a billion people have lost something of their faith.

The real issue is, what have we to offer them to fill the vacuum that the failure of jihad will create?

The question is ALWAYS a religious one, isn't it?

#232 - What Makes It So Super?

(H/T: Michelle Malkin)

I haven't voluntarily watched a Super Bowl for more than a dozen years. Probably longer than that, but I can definitely vouch for the dozen. In reality, I haven't really followed any pro sports since my before my first marriage. I just got tired of watching people who make millions of dollars get arrested every other week for (pick your favorite vice) drugs, solicitation, domestic violence, steroids (don't forget lying to Congress about that one), and so on. The mystique is just gone.

Even with that, I would try to sneak in an occasional Super Bowl, if my church schedule permitted it. Once I even set up a TV in the garage so I wouldn't bother my then-wife with the game. But now that the Super Bowl is less about football, and more about the hype, the commercials, and the half-time show, there simply is no reason to get excited about the event.

This morning I'm watching the local news. I'm doing this because there's a brush fire uncomfortably close to my house and we have "red flag" conditions. Dry weather, high winds. Nature's Molotov cocktail. The local morning news shows are the worst collection of vapid pseudocelebs you can possibly imagine. Their only redeeming qualities are that they occasionally get around to reporting on newsworthy events. "Coming up; we'll have a look at more of those Super Bowl commercials, a peek at the latest exhibit of movie costumes that you won't want to miss, a discussion of whether Steve's hair is real or implanted, and, oh, yeah, some fire or other out by your house. Stay tuned."

So, I had to watch a few segments about the Super Bowl commercials in order to get to my fire ("No homes are threatened yet but don't get comfortable"). I now have a whole new list of advertisers that I will personally boycott, and will probably have to visit with my Bishop because I feel dirty. Especially after the Ameriquest commercial. Thanks, guys.

So with all the millions of dollars filling the producers' coffers - what with all the commercials, the Rolling Stoneds, and a bad gospel arrangement of the national anthem - you might think that they would take advantage of a national event to pay at least some small tribute to our troops.

You would be, no offense, an idiot.

Supporting the troops in the entertainment industry (yes, professional sports are just another division of the entertainment industry) has become bad mojo. Why, if we dared to support the troops on national television we would be sending the message that a) the troops are doing something dangerous and life threatening so that we can continue to enjoy our freedom to play a silly game for far more money than any of us normal people will ever see in eight lifetimes and they deserve our appreciation, and b) we might somehow offend a portion of our viewing audience who will make next year's Super Bowl even less viewed than this year's, if you can imagine.

Well, I'd tell you that I, personally, plan to boycott all future Super Bowls, but in my case that would be incredibly redundant. I can, however, suggest a new reality show for the producers of the Super Bowl. In fact, it would be a show about the producers, who are each sent to Iraq as embeds with our troops in desert combat situations. They can only leave the country when they convince the troops that football is more important than building democracy in the Middle East.

That oughta take care of the Super Bowl for another year or so.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

. . . aaaaaaaaand . . .

. . . now they've torched a Danish mission.

It seems to be following a pattern similar to the October/November riots last year in France.

I suppose the Imams will just keep moving down the European foodchain until they finally get what they want.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

#231 - A Little Enlargement

(from a blogger who's already over-enlarged)

CCWBASS, my esteemed brother, brings up an interesting conflict regarding the whole Danish Anti-Muhammed Cartoon nonsense. It's easy to see where we might want to, alternately, praise the cartoonist for having the courage of his convictions, yet understand why the Islamic world at large might be justifiably offended by the intended slight.

I commented that my considered response to this issue is to ignore. I said that from the perspective of one who has had to endure a fair amount of ridicule over the years regarding my beliefs and the impugned reputation of an entire church because of the actions of a few in our past. I have always held such ridicule to be incredibly unfair, but have learned over the years to ignore such things. I place all such criticisms under the heading of "casting pearls before swine," and have emotionally resolved to allow the swine the full run of their mistaken notions.

Entire groups of peope cannot always do that.

Let's review here: A militant sub-group of a religion that labels itself the "religion of peace" has espoused a culture of terror whose stated goal is nothing short of the eradication of all infidels. These "enemies of Islam" must not be allowed to exist, and the hated Jews are at the top of that list, followed closely by Americans.

Yet the entire world of Islam is not like that. Many of them - let's call them true Islamists - recognize that there are common roots between Muslims, Jews, and Christians that date back to Abraham. These people are (rightly, in my mind) offended by such cartoons.

The problem here is the incendiary nature of the terrorist sub-culture. No matter how dearly we may hold the right of free speech, we simply cannot regulate how others will react to that speech. So, for example, when we use our right to free speech ("blog free, or die") to voice our opinion that terrorists are a six pack in desperate search of the plastic thingy that holds it together, we should not be surprised when we start receiving fatwas. No matter what our liberal friends would have us believe, no amount of "civil" dialogue will soon overcome centuries of hatred embedded in that sub-culture. Other Islamists - those true ones - already get it. The rest will not, I fear, understand this principle until they blow themselves straight to Allah, only to be gently told, "That wasn't what I meant."

We should never fear to express opinions when we feel (or know) something to be correct or true. But expression for the sake of incitement, I submit, will never be a "protected" right so long as the recipients exercise their perceived right to react violently.

Let's use at least a little common sense, shall we?

There Ain't No Good Guys In This Fight, Folks (UPDATED)

So, a Danish newspaper printed cartoons that were offensive to Muslims; indeed, they were designed to be so.

Radical Islam responded in its usual way, which is to say it went absolutely nuts (from my Western, non-Islamic perspective) and got probably more worked up than when Salman Rushdie came out with "Satanic Verses."

Non-muslims, getting sick and tired of radical Islam's remarkably thin skin, reacted by holding up the cartoonists as heroes, somehow, of free speech.

And Hugh Hewitt, and God bless the man for trying, tried to calm the angry non-Muslim side of the aisle down with some wise words of counsel.

Only it didn't seem to work. Listening to Hugh's show this afternoon, the vast majority of his callers who opined on the cartoon kerfluffle did not frankly agree with Hugh's take on this one.

It all sounded very, very familiar to me, and then I remembered an old essay of Orson Scott Card's wherein he took the same stance in regards to Rushdie's "Satanic Verses" that Hugh is taking in the cartoonist situation.

The situation back then went something like this:

Rushdie publishes "The Satanic Verses," which is offensive to Muslims; indeed, it is designed to be.

Radical Islam - even not terribly-radical Islam - issues a fatwa against Rushdie.

The "literary community" (however one wants to define it) holds Rushdie up as a poster boy for free speech etc etc.

Card writes an essay in which he says, "Yeah, Islam's response to Rushdie is horrible and wrong, and, yeah, free speech is vital; but for God's sake, people: Rushdie's book was overt, thoroughly ugly attack on Islam and Muhammad. You're arguing for a good thing, but you're using the worst possible man as an example of what needs to be protected."

Card didn't get any slack, either. People STILL hate him for not defending Rushdie like he was supposed to, being a writer and all.

I don't know why I'm bringing this up other than to suggest to Hugh that if things seem a little different this time around it's in this way: Back in '89, Islam's fatwa against Rushdie scared the you-know-what out of just about everybody in the western world. I mean, we knew the Middle East was nuts, but we didn't really believe that Muslims could just up and openly - like they were proud of it or something - put a price on a writer's head.

These days, with the exception of those in Denmark who are on the receiving end of Islam's latest collective freak out, there is far, far less fear, and waaaaaaaay more anger, like the world is finally getting tired of having to deal with the bullies in the back of the room over and over and over again.

I'm not sure where I stand here, either, but do I agree with a point Hugh made today to one caller, which is that we have to be more decent than our enemy. As he wrote on his blog,

We rightly condemn and must continue to condemn every anti-Semitic outburst from the president of Iran and every anti-Semitic cartoon published in the hate press of the Middle East. Those condemnations lose some of their force among some of the world if we rush to defend those cartoons that can objectively be seen as anti-Muslim.

I have my own disagreements with Hugh about other things in regards to Islam, but on this point, I'm with him.

Now if I could only get the point across to Rusty at My Pet Jawa . . .

UPDATE: In regards to the anger being felt this time around, the bottom of this post serves as a wonderful example, but also makes me waffle.

That is, I agree both with Junkyardblog and Hugh Hewitt. I tell myself that, on general principle, we need to be more decent than our enemy. But then I can't help but start thinking that the enemy includes more of Islam than Hugh seems to think, and being more decent only facilitates them.

I mean, sure, it seems like a decent thing to do, to say that we're not fighting Islam but merely a small, radical faction of Islam, but when the afore-mentioned decent statement is uttered in the context of Islam's actual long and extremely bloody history, it becomes - to be polite, here - open to serious question.

And, like Junkyardblog, I'm really, really tired of Islam's temper tantrums in general.

In other words, it ain't radical Islam driving this one, Hugh: It's Islam, period.

But . . . dang it . . . I guess we still need to take the high road, here.

I hate being all conflicted. I'm going to bed.

UPDATE: Timely advice here, which I shall try to take to heart. Hugh's link to Steyn seems particularly cogent this morning, as Steyn has written:

Speaking of which, if we are at war--and half the American people and significantly higher percentages in Britain, Canada and Europe don't accept that proposition--then what exactly is the war about?

We know it's not really a "war on terror." Nor is it, at heart, a war against Islam, or even "radical Islam." The Muslim faith, whatever its merits for the believers, is a problematic business for the rest of us. There are many trouble spots around the world, but as a general rule, it's easy to make an educated guess at one of the participants: Muslims vs. Jews in "Palestine," Muslims vs. Hindus in Kashmir, Muslims vs. Christians in Africa, Muslims vs. Buddhists in Thailand, Muslims vs. Russians in the Caucasus, Muslims vs. backpacking tourists in Bali. Like the environmentalists, these guys think globally but act locally.

Yet while Islamism is the enemy, it's not what this thing's about. Radical Islam is an opportunistic infection, like AIDS: It's not the HIV that kills you, it's the pneumonia you get when your body's too weak to fight it off. When the jihadists engage with the U.S. military, they lose--as they did in Afghanistan and Iraq. If this were like World War I with those fellows in one trench and us in ours facing them over some boggy piece of terrain, it would be over very quickly. Which the smarter Islamists have figured out. They know they can never win on the battlefield, but they figure there's an excellent chance they can drag things out until Western civilization collapses in on itself and Islam inherits by default.

That's what the war's about: our lack of civilizational confidence.

Food for thought, as always, from Mark Steyn.

But I've also started reading Bostom's The Legacy of Jihad, though, and it so far seems to indicate that things are not quite like Hewitt, at least, is arguing.

Anyhoo, I'm done with the subject, blog-wise, for a while. I'm going to be spending the next couple of weeks on a Civil War reading binge.

Shelby Foote finally affordable

For anyone interested in this kind of thing, Barnes & Noble has made available a budget version of Shelby Foote's three-part history of the Civil War. They are fairly nice looking hardcover editions, at only $15 a pop. Even if you don't have time to read them now, buy 'em anyway and put them on your "to-do."

I've been lusting after them for years, but didn't want to pay so much for the set. Now they're mine. MINE! HANDS OFF! GET BACK, YOU ANIMALS!

Anyway; heck of a prose-man, that Shelby. The books so far seem to read as well as he spoke on that old PBS documentary.

This is your friendly B&N bookseller, signing off.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

#230 - And Your Point Is...?

This is news?
NAACP chairman compares GOP to Nazis

Pfeh. Where's he been? Demoliberals have been tossing that one around since before I was a wee bairn of a blogger. Welcome to diversity, liberal style.

(H/T: Grudge, who appears to be having a slow news night)

#229 - Oprah the Excluder?

There's a bit of a brouhaha surrounding Oprah Winfrey's essay contest for high schoolers which ends on Monday, February 6th. Specifically, there's a significant population of high school students that appear to be excluded from participation in this contest.

Now, I'm no Oprah fan. Never have been, really. I think all this eponymous empire building is just silly. Trump, although a brilliant business tycoon, is more of a caricature and P. T. Barnum showman than a dynamic leader of the corporate world. So, too, is Oprah more of a pop cultural icon than she is a mover-and-shaker of idealisms that shake the world.

Yet, I'm still puzzled by this apparent exclusion. The rules quite specifically state that participation in this essay contest is limited to legal citizens (no argument there!) who are "currently enrolled full-time (and in good standing) in a public or state-accredited private or parochial school, grades 9-12." Which would seemingly indicate that homeschooled high schoolers are students non grata.

The Home School Legal Defense Association issued an open letter a few days ago castigating La Winfrey for this egregious error. As I have skimmed the few blogs that even have this issue on their radars, I note that there is conflicting information as to the intent of the rule. At least one commenter indicated that they'd been informed that the contest was really open to "all high school students." Yet the HSLDA states that they were "rebuffed" when they asked for a change in the wording of the rule to allow homeschoolers to participate.

True to political form, the United States of Oprah seem to suffer from an overlarge bureaucracy.

I hope this was an unintentional slight. I won't, however, hold my breath worrying about it.

'Sides... the Woodyettes are still in elementary school. What's the rush?

(H/T: The ever-incredible Mrs. Woody!)

Do Political Movies Make An Impact? (UPDATED)

I'd have to say they do, which is why the older and more political I get the less patience I have for Hollywood's frankly dangerous POV.

I hate to admit this, but as I didn't become remotely politically-minded until I hit middle age, my political views , where I had them (which was almost never) were almost completely in lock-step with the political movies I watched in their TV runs in the 70s and early 80s. Not knowing any better - and this because my conversations with Dad centered exclusively on me whining about not wanting to mow the lawn - I just assumed that Hollywood movies, just like TV documentaries (sigh . . .), basically presented factual stories. Surely, they told it How It Was, I naively thought.

It took a long time for that kind of innocent political ignorance to slough off; it was mostly gone before 9/11, thank God, so it took me only, oh, roughly a split second after I turned on the TV on the morning of 9/11 to decide where I stood on many, many things.

And I even forget sometimes that I was a much more politically liberal person, and that I owed it all to swallowing without question Hollywood's politics.

I forget about the power a movie has to inform a person's woldview. It came back to me today, however, as I read Mark Steyn's review of Spielberg's latest mangling of history, Munich. This piercing critique by Steyn should tell you all need to know:

‘Humanising’ the Arabs is fine, but the film works hard at dehumanising the Jews, not just because of the thin characterisations but also through the demands of the narrative arc: the Israelis are cold loners living in the shadows coolly observing Arabs taking their little girls to music lessons in Paris or chatting affably to the local storekeeper in Rome; then the Jews move in and clinically blow them to pieces. The Arabs have fully formed lives, the Israelis don’t.

It seems a heavy accusation to make. After all, Spielberg is a Jew and did a lot for educating people about the Holocaust, didn't he? Well, sure - but Schindler's Jews were simply "Jews" and Israel didn't exist yet; Spielberg is still enough of a Hollywood twit to think that one can despise "Israel" without also despising "Jews."

But I didn't actually need Steyn to point out the film's intent, and Steyn eventually argues that the movie is not as anti-Jew as other critics say it is. But a recent experience obliges me to question Steyn's generosity: One of my barely-out-of-his-teens co-workers actually shocked me - I mean, it literally took me a few seconds to believe that I had really heard what I just heard - in the Barnes & Noble breakroom when, the day after he saw Munich, he casually said, in much the same way one would point out the color of the sky this afternoon: "Man. Those Israelis. That's just the way they are; they'll kill a hundred innocent guys just to get near one guilty guy and not even think twice about it."

Who needs Goebbels anymore when we've got Hollywood?

Anyway, read Steyn's excellent shredding of Munich. It even has the phrase "ludicrous boomer narcissism," so you get some fine dessert with your excellent meal.

UPDATE: Think I'm being a little harsh on the idiocy of Hollywood's denizens? I don't.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Say It Ain't So, Dave! (ccwbass is shocked!)

You already know my take on Peter Jackson's King Kong. Imagine my surprise to see that one of my favorite bloggers felt differently. Quoth Dave of Garfield Ridge:
Best Set Piece (Runner-Up): The Empire State Building, King Kong. I haven't gotten that misty-eyed since E.T. "died."

To which I can only respond that I've often come close to tears when trying desperately not to laugh.

I hope that was the case with Dave.