Thursday, October 04, 2007

One nation divided by two languages

I'm going to repost here a comment that I just made at Protein Wisdom. I have been thinking about writing such a post here, but I ended up doing it there first, because it seemed more appropriate.
The MoveOn [ad] meant exactly what it said.

Well, no it didn’t. Hard lefties don’t use words the same way as you and I. They chose the word "betray" because it rhymed and because it is not a nice thing to betray someone.

Unfortunately, many on the Right have reacted to the ad by taking the words literally, which isn’t how they were meant. They were meant only to evoke strong emotions against the General to say This guy uses the wrong narrative and you shouldn’t listen to him.

In other words, it’s to seize power over the General’s words and interpret them according to their lights, once again proving Jeff’s point about the violent appropriation of meaning by radical interpretative communities.

Gagdad Bob expressed it well in terms of male/female communication patterns thus:
we all know that in a highly charged emotional situation, it is possible to argue falsely by recourse to common-sense logic. You see this all the time in male-female relations, in which, say, a woman will make an emotionally charged comment, to which the man responds with mere logic, and they’re off to the races. The astute man will discern the deeper content of the emotional communication — the emotional truth that the woman is trying to convey, usually about their relationship — and not respond to it in a literal manner. It’s like two very different forms of communication, and each must learn the other’s language….

I think we can see this same dynamic in the dysfunctional relationship between the left — which is so obviously like a child or hysterical (the operative word is hysterical) female — and the right, which too often deals with the left as if mere logic will satisfy them. It doesn’t work and it won’t work, as anyone who’s tried to have a rational conversation with a leftist knows. In their shrill paranoia, narcissism, and hysteria, it’s as if the left is crying out in pain, so that their literal words are completely unimportant. If it were a micro-relationship, we’d know how to deal with them.

But in the macro realm, how does one respond to a whole psychoclass of histrionic girly men? (And please keep in mind that we are specifically talking about a form of dysfunctional feminized consciousness, not the normal or healthy variety. A radical feminist is not a normal woman, any more than Dennis Kucinich is a normal man.) In fact, to be fair, the left is mainly composed of hysterical women (of both sexes) and of adolescent boys and girls. In both cases, there is a developmental arrest, the failure to become a proper man or woman. Indeed, this is one of the premises of leftism, which rejects any concept of a spiritual telos to human psychological growth. Rather, all is relative, so that no way of living or being is superior to any other.

I would take issue with Bob only in that last phrase. The Left is not agnostic to an individual’s lifestyle, but far prefers something that is transgressive and holds in contempt traditional arrangements.

Other than that, bull’s-eye.

I would add that the attempt to privilege interpretation over intent falls into the same vein as pathologizing other people's political views. This is what lead to the Gulag, folks, and don't think something similar can't happen again.

Because it can.
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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

What SHE Said

Verbatim.

If these morons have their way, they'll put another Clinton in the White House for sure, on another plurality. Which is exactly what we need.

But no one articulates it better than The Anchoress. Nobody. Hence the link.
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Friday, September 28, 2007

Thread of the Week

Over at Ace of Spades HQ, a couple of self-righteous vegans decide to spit into a hurricane, with predictable results. I just about wet my pants a couple of times.

h/t Mrs. Peel
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Friday, September 21, 2007

Quote of the Day

From Protein Wisdom, on the rank and file of the Left:
I rather doubt many of them have followed to their logical conclusions the premises upon which they base their entire political world view — preferring instead to live in the heady subjunctive of their fantastical present, where "activism" appears a kind of righteous protest against the ostentatious inequity of outcome, a howl directed at the cruel face of capitalist excess, whose invisible hand these egalitarian warriors believe should be broken and reset by benevolent social surgeons until it is capable of doing no more than gently cupping those poor souls who might otherwise fall.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

How to remember yesterday


This cartoon, from Cox & Forkum reminds me of this tale of someone who was on the 59th floor of Tower 2 when the first plane hit, and barely escaped with her life.

Never again.

But humanity doesn't seem to take "Never again" very seriously. It's always "Ever again. And again. And again."
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Monday, September 10, 2007

Quote of the Day

From James Lileks, on the Administration's post-9/11 tactics:
As I keep saying every time a court strikes down a provision of the Administration’s post 9/11 practices, or a newspaper reveals another element of our secret strategies: we are a hair’s breadth away from a fascist state.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Quote of the Day

From Michael S. Malone at ABC News, in a story about how a bank that reversed its program of giving college students interest-free overdraft protection was swarmed by a Facebook campaign to renew the program:
only post-adolescents would characterize the end of a charity as a "rip-off."

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Protein Wisdom on Fire

For a slow news week, Jeff and a guest-poster Karl are sure heating it up over there. First is this detailed (but iceberg tippish) compendium of examples of media bias, mendacity, and malfeasance with regard to the Iraq War. Jeff followed it up with a post about how the press has Just Plain Got It Wrong about the British withdrawal from Basra.

Then in this post, Jeff quotes Dave Kilcullen at length on the dynamics of the tribal structure in Iraq and how it relates to the tribes' decision to give al Qaeda the heave-ho. None of which, of course, we have heard about in the MSM in any important detail.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Useful Latin Phrases

Cattus Petasatus
Quomodo Invidiosulus Nomine Grinchus Christi Natalem Abrogaverit
Virent Ova! Viret Perna!!


Guessed them yet?

The Cat in the Hat
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Green Eggs and Ham.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Bookmark This Page

No, not this one. This one. It shows how NASA GISS had to revise down its figures for the hottest ten years since 1880. It turns out that there was a Y2K error in the data, of all things.

Ha! Our bad! Right? Well, the error would have been discovered sooner, except that the man who discovered the error had to reverse-calculate it out of GISS's data. Steve McIntyre, a Canadian mathematician, has been hammering on the statistical methods of Michael Mann's and James Hansen's Super-Secret Algorithms that they use to adjust raw data but that they won't release for scrutiny.

New top ten: 1934, 1998, 1921, 2006, 1931, 1999, 1953, 1990, 1938, 1939

And here is the famous McIntyre and McKitrick critique of Mann's "Hockey Stick."

Amazing stuff. I have no grasp of statistics, so I can't critique M&M's work, but criminey, Mr. Hansen, you won't release your algorithm?

UPDATE: Hansen has grudgingly released his algorithm and methods, or so he says. I guess if it's fake, McIntyre et al. will figure it out.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Quote of the Day

From Orson Scott Card's review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
The elitists are such boneheads they think literature exists to be admired.

Monday, August 13, 2007

How to Manufacture Outrage

Step 1: Find something that you find distasteful in your opponents' behavior.

Step 2: Attach an emotionally provocative word to the behavior even though the behavior doesn't actually rise to the denotation of the word.

Step 3: Insist that "to you" the word applies.

Step 4: Accuse your opponent of committing the crime that is associated with the ordinary denotation of the word.

Quote of the Day

From a Protein Wisdom commentator, on the Beauchamp affair.
What’s especially ridiculous is that TNR defended itself by saying "many of these questions have been formulated by people with ideological agendas." Not even a full 360 degree eye roll that detached the optic nerve and caused my eyeballs to flop out of my face and land, squishily, on the keyboard before me could capture the awesome irony of that statement.

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Friday, August 03, 2007

Acronym Soup (in Honor of STB)

Over on Protein Wisdom, I posted some acronyms last night that I came up with to describe the Scott Thomas Beauchamp episode.
Well, there are several ways for this to turn out: we could keep repeating our chorus of WHAT A DOUCHEBAG (Wannabe Hemmingway Artlessly Trashes Army, Driving Opinionators Utterly Crazy, Hoping Evidence Belies All Garbage).

Or when it turns out that he totally lied, it will be EGREGIOUS (Emohawk Gains Renown, Emoting Garbage In Outrageously Untrue Slander).

Or, if his stories check out, it would be a TRAIN WRECK (TNR’s Right, And Incensed Neocons & Wingers Reluctantly Eat Crow Kabobs).

But now that we know he was lying, I've changed a few words: WHAT A DOUCHEBAG: Wannabe Hemmingway Artlessly Trashes Army, Driving Opinionators Utterly Crazy, Having Evidence Blasting All Garbage.

But see, the commenters over there did not hail my genius and begin to employ the acronyms in everyday conversation. Had I done this at my old haunt, HP for Grownups, they would have. New clubs would have sprung up, each adhering to one or the other theory, and the battle would ensue, the acronyms becoming immortalized. Such as LOLLIPOPS did over at HPfGU lo these many years ago (Love Of Lily Left Ire Polluting Our Poor Severus), and which turned out to be true.

Boy does my life suck. I totally write an acronym that totally predicts the future, and I get NO CREDIT for it. None!
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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

In the Similitude of Dihydrogen Monoxide

Glenn Beck, that prankster, has created a sticker to put on your car that says "Hydrocarbon Powered Eco-Vehicle."

And he's invited his readers to share the public's reaction to the sticker. In only one case did someone clue in and — wait for it — black out the sticker with a Sharpie®. (Imagine the uproar on the left if someone blacked out a vulgar bumpersticker or a rainbow square.)

In the other cases, people were duly impressed and wondered how they could convert their car to burn hydrocarbons.

Morons. I bet most of them vote, too.
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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Another John Francois Kerry?

The identity of The New Republic's source in their scandalous stories about soldiers is finally out, one "Scott Thomas Beauchamp." (His pseudonym was "Scott Thomas"; good security there.)

Here's an entry from his blog from 24 May 2006:
...there could be no other way to appreciate what I had or what I'm going to have once I get out other than enduring this now when all I really want to do is teach history and lay around and read and hustle around and repair the world (tikkun olam) [Heb: "repair the world"] and sift through knowledge and improve culture and learn how to sail and work in soup kitchens and start a family and really, I mean REALLY study the best the western civilization has to offer and facilitiate the mystery and power through everything I do, but I cant do it without getting through this army experience first, which will add a legitimacy to EVERYTHING i do afterwards, and totally bolster my opinions on defense, etc,...

He's in it for the LEGITIMACY, folks, figuring that if he's worn the uniform (he's in Germany), he's an Unimpeachable Source. Earlier in that post he remarks, "Every morning I get up and I'm a little more liberal than the day before."

Those who have been in the military say that every unit has a Scott Thomas, someone who whines and complains and feels victimized and picked on.

The guy, from his MySpace material and stuff, seems borderline psycho. I mean, if you're going to tell a story about a Bradley careening through the streets, killing dogs that you espy on the right side of the vehicle, you should at least get the facts straight, especially when you're familiar with a Bradley, as he has been. (Debunkers of the story note that when you're driving a Bradley, you can't see anything near you on the right of the vehicle.)

As for the story of the unearthed graveyard, he should know that people could look into the records and see that no mass grave was unearthed near FOB Falcon, where Beauchamp was stationed for a time.

The best part is that TNR didn't bother to check the verifiable facts before running the story, nor did they attempt to alert the Army to these blatant rules violations.

Tools. You can tell by the style of his blog writing that he's a couple of units short of a batallion. But no, they HAD to run a fake story.

BECAUSE OF THE NARRATIVE!

And that guy at Amazon had him PEGGED: the guy's an aspiring writer/academic who wants to appear tough and all but knows that he's really not, so he affects sociopathy.
He (it is always a he) is an MFA candidate or recent graduate at one of the big-name creative writing programs in the USA, sometimes in poetry, usually in fiction, and increasingly in "creative non-fiction" (the litsy byline that "feature writing" took on when it moved uptown, became significant, and stopped having lunch with its old buds at the newspapers). Usually he is in his mid-twenties and is probably among the bright stars in the tiny constellation (and complicated pecking order) that MFA programs create. His particular niche in that social ecology will be the Big Talent With Big Balls, a role that requires some claim to a "dangerous" or "edgy" past, meaning some connection to interpersonal violence and to having seen some gruesome sights. (Being recently back from combat duty in Iraq, particularly if the young man is a reservist who will be going back for another hitch there, would certainly fit the bill nicely ...).

This is just another piece of fiction to him, another exercise in setting the scene and crap. But it's how he feels, so the facts shouldn't be taken literally. Except the part about U.S. soldiers being animals.

Again, what a tool.
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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Well. The Times Certainly Have Changed

This from my online Page-a-Day calendar:
The Japanese sent 9,300 balloon bombs floating across the Pacific Ocean during World War II. Though probably fewer than 1,000 balloons made it all the way across the Pacific, several did cause damage when they exploded into fiery balls in places like Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, North and South Dakota, and Canada. Called FU-GO by the Japanese, the balloons carried bombs that were mostly intended to start forest fires. In general, the incidents were not reported in newspapers, because the United States didn’t want Japan to know whether their plan had been successful.
(emphasis mine)

What an interesting time that must have been, when the newspapers and/or government officials knew how to keep their pie holes shut when it counted.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Shocka: NY Times prints HP spoilers

I don't read NYT, so I wasn't spoiled, but really, is anyone surprised anymore? At The Leaky Cauldron, they organized a letter-writing campaign to NYT to castigate them for their insensitivity.

So of course, I had to get my licks in:

SUBJECT: What WON'T you print?

So, it appears that Harry Potter spoilers are fit to print.

What a bunch of smug, selfish, elitists you all are. HP fans been waiting for ten years to let the story unfold by itself, but no, you have to spoil it for a lot of people. I would cancel my subscription, but fortunately, I don't have one, and I don't read your miserable excuse for a newspaper, so I wasn't spoiled.

Do you also go around telling little kids that Santa isn't real?

What's next, publishing details on national security?

OH WAIT, YOU'VE ALREADY DONE THAT.

Paper of record, indeed. I'm glad your enterprise is circling the drain. You make The Daily Prophet look like a model of journalistic integrity.

With all due respect, which is to say, none at all,

<my real name>

Oh, and I finished it today at 7:30pm, having begun reading at 1:45pm (I was way back in the line at B&N) and taken about 3.5 hours break. That's, hmmm.... about 14 hours.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Why I Am Not a Marxist

I never was a Marxist, but Alan Johnson was, and he enumerates his reasons why he discontinued this particular worldview here.

Money quotes:
[First,] I no longer think that the bad bits in human beings can be swished away by replacing scarcity with 'abundance'. I think they are pretty much here to stay. And I think the bad bits amount to enough of the whole, enough of the time, to undermine the idea of a 'leap to the kingdom of freedom'. We are never going to reach a time when we each turn into a Goethe or a Beethoven, as Trotsky thought. I think we are 'ill-constituted beings' as Primo Levi put it, and as such we are never going to 'cleanse the world of all evil' as Trotsky hoped. We are not wholly bad by any means, but ill-constituted for sure, so pretty poor material for Marx's secularized version of the end-time. If we are lucky, and vigilant, we can create decent social democracies, maybe, but that's it. ....

[8.e.] the extraordinary romantic hostility to 'bourgeois' society that Marxism projects. Hatred of 'bourgeois' rights, 'bourgeois' democracy, 'bourgeois' morality, 'bourgeois' art, the 'bourgeois' family (and on and on), has fuelled hatred toward decent if prosaic societies and institutions and indulgence or worse toward appalling societies and institutions. ....

This animus against things 'bourgeois' I have come to despise. It is reckless about the defence of democratic society, insensible to how truly miserable the actually existing alternatives to 'bourgeois' society have been, and quick to morph into support for any thug who happens to be shooting at anything identified as 'bourgeois'. This animus is the common sense of much of the intellectual class in the West where it is called 'critical theory'. Inchoate negativism toward anything 'bourgeois' has morphed into support for anything that is 'transgressive'. We are all Hezbollah now.

9. I used to think Marx's thought had been distorted not disproved. But I have come to find compelling Irving Kristol's argument - any theory that can't stand being placed in the real world without turning into its opposite must be judged by that fact.

Emphasis mine.

h/t: AoSHQ

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Confessions of a Reformed BBC Producer

Here's a great article by a former BBCer who recognizes the folly of the journalistic mindset.

Spot on, mate, spot on.

h/t: Dan Collins over at Protein Wisdom
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Review of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Orson Scott Card gave this movie a good review, which I read before I saw the movie.

Here's the part of the review with which I agree the most: "Without anyone taking much notice of it, Goldenberg has actually discovered what all those miserable little screenwriting classes pretend to teach: He has discovered how to tell a real story on film."

Goldenberg is one of the guys who wrote the 2003 Peter Pan movie with Jason Isaacs. That was truly a stunning bit of storytelling, I thought. And he's brought that same talent to OotP. For the first time, I felt as if I were watching a movie instead of the staging of a book. The narrative moved smoothly instead of feeling blocky and awkward, as if they were concentrating more on recreating the cool scenes from the book instead of recreating the story that was told in the book.

In the OotP movie, they concentrated on Harry's psychological and emotional state. This of course means that many scenes and subplots have to fall by the wayside except where they reinforce the main thrust of the film. I actually liked watching Radcliffe in this one, and Ron, very happily, was not relegated to comic relief except for some genuine jokes in the book, such as having the emotional range of a teaspoon.

They also did a good job of showing Harry's relationship with Sirius and, as Card says, the other "communities" that needed to be built. Luna served a wonderful role as the only person who seemed to understand, empathize with, and accept Harry. Some of the narrative shortcuts they took made sense and weren't disruptive.

The only disappointment I have is that I would have liked to see the scene at the end where Harry trashes Dumbledore's office. I guess they didn't do it that way, though, because they put the emotional climax in the Ministry of Magic, when Voldemort possesses Harry.

Also missing, and a good thing, too, was the cleaning of Grimauld Place and all of the rooms in the MoM. And Quidditch. They left out Quidditch, but it wasn't needed this time around.

Oh, and Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix LeStrange was brilliant casting. She was truly deranged, dark, and almost sexy, if she weren't such a loony tune.

It drives me crazy when reviewers slam the film for not having "enough magic." Because by "magic" they mean awe and wonder and charm and sweetness and discovery and newness, which was fine for the first movie: it was the exposition movie/book. But that's really background noise compared to the larger themes in the series, on which JKR concentrates more heavily with each novel.

OotP wasn't "faithful" to the books in the sense that it sought to recreate them. But it was VERY faithful to the spirit and thematic material, which, IMO, is more important for the movie than the special effects (of which there were many, nonetheless). This movie wasn't made to please the kiddies, it was made to tell Harry's story.

Bravo! Encore!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Ok, now I don't know what to think.

In this post, near the bottom, I cite the legend of St. Urho as evidence for the Medieval Warming Period. The man, if you'll remember, is celebrated for having driven a plague of grasshoppers out of Finland's vineyards long ago.

I was willing to concede that St. Urho himself might be fictional, or that the grasshoppers were, but—and this is my mighty logic in play here—no country celebrates a guy for saving a fictional crop.

Unless, of course, the country doesn't celebrate him at all. I turns out that St. Urho is the creation of Minnesotan Richard Mattson, who invented the tale to complement the Irish's St. Patrick so that the Finnish-American community could have its own blast.

The day? March 16th, one day before St. Paddy's day. Iz in UR holidaz eev, stealin' UR thundr, I guess.

Crap. That was such a good plank in the GW skeptic argument. But I can't find evidence of vineyards ever having existed in Finland during the Medieval period so I'll heave the plank over the side and stop using it in arguments.

Because if it's fake, it's NOT accurate.

UPDATE: OK, now I feel better.
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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Well. This is valid.



This rating was determined based on the presence of the following words:

* zombie (3x)
* missionary (2x)
* stab (1x)

Wha? "Missionary" is a bad word? Criminey, some people have dirty minds.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

I give up

I was going to wax eloquent on the second and third aspects of The Perils of Illegal Immigration, but then I read this post over at Ace of Spades and collapsed into a heap of quivering despair.

I was already incredulous about the provision that people could get their Z-visas if a 24-hour background check failed to turn up anything disagreeable. A private investigator with only one client would be hard pressed to do a thorough investigation in 24 hours, but the GOVERNMENT? Right.

But it turns out that:

Employers cannot attempt to ascertain a prospective employee's legal status prior to hiring. They have to hire, then after an investigation of several months turns something up, they can fire them.

The only "affidavit" people need to establish how long they've been in the US is a note from someone not related to them. Also known as the "have your friend forge a note from your mother excusing your absence from school yesterday."

And that's just two of them.

Here's what I sent to my two senators:
Sen. Hatch/Bennett:

If you have not already done so, please consult this list of 20 loopholes in the proposed immigration bill that were found by your colleague, Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama).

http://sessions.senate.gov/pressapp/record.cfm?id=275456

I think that you will agree that the writers of this bill are profoundly unserious about border enforcement, getting rid of undesirables (criminals, terrorists, gang members, child molesters), limiting employment to legally eligible persons, and establishing who exactly is here.

As happy as some Senators are about this bill, one thing they keep forgetting is that their constituents, on both the left and the right, loathe this bill with all their souls.

If you vote for this travesty, I will personally campaign AGAINST you and FOR whomever runs against you.

Show some backbone, Senator. We'd be better off with the status quo than with this abortion.

The bill is a joke from beginning to end and Bush and McCain know it. That's why they accuse the bill's opponents of racism and not being "for diversity."

Monday, June 04, 2007

The perils of illegal immigration

There are several problems, as I see it. (1) The problem of illegal immigration (2) The problem of the proposed Comprehensive Reform Bill (3) The problem of the debate on immigration/reform. I'm going to cover only the first today.

And unfortunately, before speaking on this subject, I have to establish certain bona-fides to stave off the charges of "racist" and "xenophobe."

I was a Mormon missionary in the Cali, Colombia region for 15 months. Prior to that, while awaiting Visa approval, I was in the Bell Gardens/Downey area of Los Angeles, proselytizing among Spanish-speaking immigrants.

I have eaten their food, lived in their houses, worn their clothes, spent their money, been infected by their amoebas and parasites, spoken their language, and entered hundreds of their homes. All of my companions were Colombian natives. I became partly Colombianized, to the point that returning home gave me culture shock.

After returning home, I majored in Spanish, got Bachelors and Masters degrees in Spanish and Spanish literature, and completed the PhD coursework and exams in Spanish Literature (no dissertation; long story). About half or more of my colleagues at the university came from all quarters of the Spanish-speaking world. I have met and gotten to know Latinos from the lowliest campesino to the Chilean poet Gonzalo Rojas.

Therefore, Latinos are not foreign to me anymore. Spanish isn't a foreign language to me, nor are their customs strange or "threatening." And furthermore, in Colombia, there is a healthy mix of European, Native, and African blood, so I'm used to dealing with people all over the color spectrum. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt how obscenely ridiculous it is to think that skin color means anything beyond how vulnerable you are to skin cancer.

So I was peeved mightily at President Bush's statement that Americans just have to get used to the idea of diversity. Puh-leeze. From my cubicle here at work, I hear Chinese over one partition and Russian over the other. We've got Latinos, Asians, Middle-Easterners, and Europeans. (We might even have—gasp—Canadians!) Nobody cares what color you are or what your native language is. It's not 1955, for the sake of Pete.

When I first thought about the issue of illegal immigration several years ago, I was wholly indifferent to the fact that people were crossing the border for work. Que vengan was my attitude. Let them come. I knew how rotten the economic structure is in Latin America. I totally didn't blame them for being here, and I had no problem sharing my space with them (my neighborhood is just under half immigrant).

However, I also knew that I didn't know what the impact of illegal immigration was. So later I found out, and I've since determined that illegal immigration isn't the best way to run a railroad. Here's why:

(1) Legal immigrants tend to spread out when they settle down, whereas most of those who have crossed the border illegally are clustered near the border. (Those who overstay visas are also better dispersed). These agglomerations are a serious impediment to assimilation. During the first huge wave of immigration from Europe, there was some clustering in places like New York, but as they spread west, they all mixed in with immigrants from other nations. The only way a Swede could talk to an Italian was in English, and the only way a Pole could talk to a Frenchman was English.

The children of these immigrants may have been bilingual (though there was a strong ethic among immigrants to Become Americans, so they might have insisted in speaking only English in their homes). But by the third generation, the native languages were gone, and only English remained. Some of my ancestors came from Norway, Denmark, and Germany. I'm not distressed by the fact that I can't speak any of those languages. There are plenty of Norwegians, Danish, and Germans to carry on the tradition.

But when you have millions of people clustered in a small area who speak only one language, there's no impetus to learn English. When I was a missionary in LA, I met a man who had been in the US for 15 years and yet spoke no English. His children did, of course (the children almost always prefer English to their native tongue because that's the language their friends speak), but he never needed to. He was surrounded by enough Spanish speakers that he could get by without learning English.

I'm here to tell you, as one who took some Spanish in Jr. High and who has taught Spanish in college, there is no way to really learn a language except Total Immersion. Classes are nice, but they only give you an intellectual understanding of some of the concepts. Nothing can replace practice.

And because language acquisition is so incredibly difficult past puberty, few people will undertake to learn a new language unless circumstances force them to. The first four months in Colombia were downright painful. Not having anyone to talk to made me feel very lonely indeed. Even with the two-month crash course in Spanish that I took prior to arriving in Colombia, I was not able to follow conversations very well for the first two months, and it wasn't until after the fourth month that I felt I could express most of what I needed to say (and follow most conversations). And that was with total immersion: I ran into a fellow American maybe once a week, and we had to stick to Spanish to not alienate our native companions.

Why is it important that people learn English? Exhibit A: Quebec. Canada decided on the two-language solution, and they are a nation divided. Fortunately, it hasn't come to blows, but Quebec considers itself to be separate from the rest of Canada, and it comes down entirely to language. We have several sub-cultures in the US: New England, New York City, the South, Texas, the West, SoCal, NoCal, Minnesota, etc., but we consider ourselves to be of one nation because we all speak the same language and therefore have a chance at understanding each other.

Furthermore, the barrios that they create often are ghettos, where most kids drop out of high school, join gangs, conceive out of wedlock, and land in jail. The concentration of illegals is creating an whole new underclass in one place, which makes it harder to take care of.

(2) Illegal immigrants tend to have a different attitude than legal immigrants. Speaking of Quebec, there are several organizations within the Latino community who are agitating for secession even now. I am confident that most of the secessionists are here illegally. Those who came in the front door did so because they wanted to be part of a different country, not transplant their own in the heart of another. Illegals have to justify their actions by claiming that the land was "stolen" from them in 1848, even though it was ceded to us by Mexico as part of a treaty after the war in exchange for $15 million and the assumption of $3.25 million in debts. Stolen indeed.

I absolutely hate historical grievance arguments. My own Mormon ancestors were literally chased off their duly purchased land at gunpoint in Kirtland OH, Jackson County MO, and Nauvoo IL. Do I have the right to go back and claim that indisputably stolen land? No, I don't think I do. Both the people from whom the land was stolen and the people who stole the land are dead dead dead. Whoever holds that land now probably bought it from someone else, just as my ancestors did. They're no more complicit in the theft than I am.

It's a loser argument all around: Sure, California, Nevada, Utah, and parts of Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico used to be part of Mexico. But where did Mexico come from? It's a construct of the Spaniards, who obtained the land through conquest. And the original inhabitants of the Southwest US? From whom did they get the land? Dig far enough into history (to the extent that you can without written records) and you'll find that land changes hands all the time—conquest, war, disease, climate change—all lend themselves to human motility. We tend to think of the native cultures as timeless entities who were always there, but they weren't. It just seems like it.

But if Mexico wants the Cession back, they can have it—as soon as we remove all of the roads, factories, power plants, mines, businesses, farms, dams, parks, buildings, and housing developments. It would only be fair to return the land in the same condition in which we found it: a godforsaken wilderness with a cluster of Mormons around the Great Salt Lake and random trappers and gold-diggers wandering the area.

In seriousness, the argument for "returning the land" is really an argument for outright plunder. Unless you can settle a "you stole my land" argument within one or two generations, forget about it and move on. Wreak your revenge by growing where you're planted and by living well, the way my ancestors did.

(3) Latinos aren't the only poor people in the world. If turning a blind eye to illegal immigration was done with an eye toward compassion and charity, then you have to look at the fact that there are just as many Asians and Africans and Middle-Easterners who would like a stab at the American Dream, who are just as capable of harvesting cucumbers and busing tables and hanging drywall as any Latino. And just as willing to perform the "jobs that Americans won't do."

Similar to my argument in (1), there's a better chance of assimilating immigrants when they're from many different countries. The Nigerians will only be able to talk with the Argentinians in English, and the Filipinos will have to speak to the Pakistanis in English.

America is better off when it assimilates people from many lands. Bringing in huge numbers from one culture (yes, I know that Latin America has its variations, but they're overshadowed by the common language that unites them) sets us up for our own Quebec, and for unhappy conflicts.

(4) Illegal immigration strains the infrastructure. Others have talked about the schools being overcrowded and welfare being abused. I'm most concerned about what's happening with healthcare. Illegals don't have health insurance. so they congregate in the emergency department at the hospital for everything from sniffles to XDR Tuberculosis. (At Ellis Island, they turned you back if you were carrying a serious communicable disease.) Many hospitals near the border have had to close down either the emergency department or another department (such as obstetrics) to make up for all the free healthcare they're providing. To make up for the lost revenue, hospitals have to raise their prices, which soaks everyone else, especially the poorer Americans.

Closing down emergency rooms. That's serious stuff. That's way bad. And illegals almost never have car insurance, so the insurance rates rise to cover those losses. What's that you say? We're rich Americans? We can afford it? Maybe the richest Americans can, but the rest of us are hurting, thank you very much, even with Geico insurance.

(5) Illegal immigration depresses wages. OK, so you want to convert your garage into a few bedrooms. You can hire a US contractor who hires legal workers, pays them benefits, taxes, and Social Security, and who pays taxes and license for the business, or you can hire the illegals who are hanging out in front of Home Depot. Who do you think will charge less? Who has less overhead? Who is willing to work for less because he's sharing an apartment with 7 other guys and sending his money home to Mexico, where a little goes a loooooong way, rather than paying off a mortgage in the US?

If you're a US contractor who wants to compete with illegal labor, you have to cut overhead, and the only place to cut it is in wages. Or you can go out of business, which is often the case.

(6) Illegal immigrants are easily exploited. If you go with the illegal laborers to remodel your garage, guess what? If you refuse to pay them, they can't do a blasted thing about it. There are plenty of people who stiff legal laborers; they won't hesitate a second to stiff someone who can't retaliate. Furthermore, employers can mistreat illegals and threaten to tell La Migra if they complain. The fact that a bad, exploitative job in the US is better than no job in Mexico is irrelevant.

(7) We really need to know who is here. This is the argument that addresses illegals who are here to commit acts of terrorism. I'm not going to make any of my own arguments here except to note that the terrorists are serious, and they will not hesitate to cross from Mexico into the US, undetected. Most of them are desert-dwellers, after all, so the Mojave is no big deal.

But to be honest, I'm not all that concerned about the terrorists crossing the border, even though I know that they do. I think the concerns above are enough to warrant good immigration law by themselves, security issues aside.

As for solutions, I'll address them in a later post.
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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Zombie's Homework Assignment

This is a response to the gauntlet thrown down by the intrepid Zombie, who is unable to post all 500 submissions at zombietime.com.

These are the five submissions that didn't make the cut (one did).







This one is a parody of LOLruses.



Thursday, May 24, 2007

Monday, May 21, 2007

The attractions of defeat

I've been meaning to transcribe this for awhile, and I finally got around to it. It's part of an interview from Pajamas Media's Blog Week in Review for 19 Apr 2007. Col. Austin Bay interviews Jeff Goldstein from Protein Wisdom. The whole podcast is worth listening to (it also includes Neo-Neocon), but this one little bit resonated with me quite a bit:
AB: The title of this topic [is] "The Attractions of Defeat." Why does the Left seem to enjoy defeat? Or is that an unfair question?

JG: Well, I'm not sure I agree with the premise. I don't think think that they love defeat, they just have a different definition of victory than maybe you and I do.

AB: What would be their definition of victory be, then, in this case?

JG: Any kind of hamstringing of US military power, for instance. Getting rid of the US as the lone hyperpower, promotes, I don't know, if you want to call it transnational progressivism or whatever you want to call the kind of world government movement. But either way, you see from progressives a desire for an erosion of sovereignty, and for the ascendancy of a kind of world government led by bureaucratic elites, international criminal courts, things like that. You know, the kinds of things where problems are solved by treaties that are signed over extensive hors d'oeuvres. So, solidifying domestic power, and making it impossible for the US to act muscularly on the world stage, I think, would by many progressives be seen as a victory.

Ooh yes. A One World Government, ruled by the types of people the currently populate the UN. Does that make you salivate for the future or what?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

If you like John Bolton

You'll love this.

And here's a comparison between the questions the Republicans got asked on MSNBC versus FoxNews.

100 Movies 100 Quotes 100 Numbers, on YouTube. h/t Ace

Someone cobbled together movie quotes that contain numbers, from 100 to 0. See how many movies you can name.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The fallacy of requiring proof

Now I've heard it all. A lefty who ridicules people for doubting anthropogenic global warming refers to "the fallacy of requiring proof."

I guess that's related to the fallacy of believing your own lying eyes instead of what the profs tell you in your Womyn's Studies class.

Also at Protein Wisdom.

"Up is down, black is white, Potsie is the Fonz." — Jeff Goldstein
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Thursday, April 26, 2007

And here I thought Al Gore was the champion hypocrite

The Anchoress hits one out of the park with this post on how much energy the average music star must use in watts consumed during concerts, exhaust from the 18-wheelers that transport it, and petroleum consumed to make CDs, tee shirts, and other concert-related paraphernalia.

She also links to this article that shows that Hollywood's TV- and movie-making spew more pollutants than "aerospace manufacturing, apparel, hotels, and semiconductor manufacturing" (individually).

Proposed by the Anchoress: that they give up a summer's worth of tours. For the planet, after all. And in return she'll learn to live without them.

Hey, I can get behind that.
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Friday, April 20, 2007

Beware the slow news cycle

Is it just me, or do national tragedies tend to strike while the news organizations are whipped into a froth over a whole lotta nuthin'? 9/11 took Gary Condit out of the news (not a moment too soon), and the VTech shooting knocked Imus off the front page. (I don't remember what was going on when the tsunami hit; it was over Christmas, so I wasn't following the news.)

Perhaps Providence or Fate or God or whomever delivers these 2x4s to the head when our society gets too full of its own faux outrage, narcissism, and superfluity. Either that or we are engaged in such stupidity so often that it's just statistically more probable for a tragedy or atrocity to hit while we're being so foolish.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

In which I make a funny

I managed to be commenter #2 on LGF's post on how some Somalis were insulted by the bag of hamsteak that was set down on their table.

I've been waiting to use that reference for years. That this is the highlight of my day should tell you something about my life, none of it good.

UPDATE: And by none of it good, I mean that my life is pretty pathetic, in a self-deprecating sort of way. Except for the fatigue I'm still fighting, my life isn't all that bad.

And someone just flattered me via imitation on this Hot-Air thread (scroll to 11:42), but failed to mention the grand jury, which makes the joke work.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Why I Haven't Been Blogging

No specific reason, really, but a combination of several, including the emotional devastation from stepping down off Effexor (I'm back on it now; it wasn't causing my fatigue), mental fatigue that is probably caused by the fact that my thyroid still isn't well-balanced, a bit of a slow news month (months?), news fatigue, business at work, and, probably most significantly, this article by Orson Scott Card about how civil wars get started.

He castigates both left and right for being unwilling to see the other side as composed of well-intentioned human beings (even if misguided), citing the vicious e-mails he gets from both sides. Which no doubt is true.

However.

Today I saw this on YouTube, a Heritage Foundation address by comedian Evan Sayet about "How Liberals Think" and how their way of thinking inevitably leads to them choosing what's wrong, evil, and unworkable every time. It has to do with their inability to exercise "discrimination," in the sense of looking at something and judging it good or evil or so-so. Ergo every judgment is the result of prejudice, and every policy a matter of power.

Makes me want to clean out the rifles, but I don't have any firearms. Look, OSC, the libs might not be evil at heart, but they are unthinking and incapable of rational thought, and they're teaching the kids how to think this way, too. I won't haul off and kill them, but there's got to be a way to fight this maladjusted way of thinking.

Tidbit of the day:

I was listening to podcasts over the weekend and a caller to NARN (Northern Alliance Radio Network) pointed out that March 16th is the feast day of St. Urho, patron saint of Finland.

His claim to fame? He drove the grasshoppers out of the vineyards, thus saving the grape crop.

Grapes. In Finland.

Think about it, won't you?

UPDATE: This post has a partial transcript of the video, if you don't have the time or the bandwidth to view it.

UPDATE II: About St. Urho? Never mind.

Friday, February 09, 2007

I just read this article from The New Yorker about the politics of Joel Surnow, co-creator and executive producer of the hit TV series 24.

The article does say something about the man's politics, but it spends most of its energy criticizing the portrayal of torture in the show, which is always shown to be necessary and effective. And Jack Bauer uses real torture, not waterboarding, hypothermia, and sleep deprivation. He actually puts some serious hurt on whomever he needs information from.

I'm not going to debate the merits of torture here; what interested me was the explicit assertion that the portrayal of torture on 24 is detrimental to America's image abroad, that it makes torture acceptable to the viewing public and even that soldiers who watch 24 go ahead and try those same techniques on detainees.

To the author of that article, Jane Mayer, I can only say: sucks when the shoe is on the other foot, don't it?

Because I remember the outcry in the early 70s when the sitcoms began showing frank portrayals of behavior that most of the country considered immoral, and they were all told to sit down and shut up because it was "only a show" and that it wouldn't affect people. Except that it did. Radically. TV sitcoms have done more to change the way Americans think about sexual behavior than any other thing, including the university.

So if the Left is upset that conservatives are spewing their vile filth over the TV waves, maybe they should remember who it was that opened the door to that kind of thing in the first place.
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Monday, February 05, 2007

Rage of Amanda

Blogging has been light, as my regular reader (hi mom!) must have noticed. The reason why is related to the subject of this post: the rantings of Amanda Marcotte.

I've had depression all my life. Just recently I stepped down off of Effexor (a notoriously difficult drug to stop because of the prolonged withdrawal symptoms), taking my last dose just before Christmas. This is the first time in maybe 12 years that I haven't been taking an SSRI- or SNRI-type drug. And now I'm remembering why I started them in the first place.

My head is full of expletives. Since stopping the drug, most of my inner dialog has consisted of me tearing into someone verbally, foul language and all. Either that or I'm arguing with an insufferable interlocutor who Just Doesn't Get It, and I'm forced to resort to Extreme Sarcasm and other not-so-subtle means of planting a rhetorical axe into the idiot's forehead. I get so agitated by these imaginary discussions that I sometimes start slamming doors and cussing out loud. The noise in there has made it hard for me to want to think hard enough to do any good blogging. (I've also had lots of stuff to do at work, which saps my blogging energy.)

It's all over the 'sphere that one of Pandagon's contributors, Amanda Marcotte, was selected by John Edwards to, uh, man his campaign blog.

Conservatives have been pointing out that Pandagon is filled to overflowing with Amanda's expletive-laden, rage-filled prose and that Edwards should have been wiser in his choice of "blogatrix."

That's a matter for others to discuss. What I've noticed is how perfectly the tone of her posts fits in with the rage that's inside my unmedicated head. Food for thought.
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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Response from Orson Scott Card

In response to his essay on "The Crisis of the Islamo-fascist War," I e-mailed him the following:
The Democrats will try to blame the disaster on Bush, but the American people will know that things went hopelessly wrong only after the Democrats forced our premature surrender to Islamo-fascism in Iraq.

No, the American people won't. The left will successfully blame the disaster on Bush.

"See, we told you it was a bad idea to invade Iraq! Bush stirred up a hornet's nest." As J.K. Rowling put it in HP6, people can forgive you for being wrong, but they'll never forgive you for being right.

Most of the American people still don't know how dishonorable our withdrawal from Vietnam was. I learned about the subsequent slaughter only a few years ago (I had heard about the Killing Fields, but no connection was ever made between that and our withdrawal), and here I was raised in Utah in a Republican household with John Bircher relatives.

The Left will never admit that it was wrong, and those who didn't get it after 9/11 still won't get it even if Valencia, California goes up under a mushroom cloud.

Today, in 2007, what does it matter whether we should or should not have invaded Iraq? The fact is that we did!

People seem to be operating under the assumption that had we not invaded Iraq, all would be well. We'd have found bin Laden, the Taliban would have been crushed instead of hunkered down in Waziristan, and we'd all go back to our lives and let the CIA swat down the few terrorists who emerge.

I swear to you, I read a comment by a troll on a conservative blog who dismissed the threat posed by the jihadis, saying, in essence, "look, they came at us with only 20 guys. How dangerous could they be?"

As if I need to tell you how incredibly illogical that argument is.

Anyway, keep fighting the good fight.

—Dicentra

His answer (if he'll forgive me for posting a private e-mail):
"Thanks for reassuring me that there ARE people even more cynical and depressed about our future than I am <grin>"

Well, yes, a lifetime of depression does give one skills in that area. But I will be ecstatically happy to be proven wrong wrong wrong. Or at least less depressed, which is about as good as it gets, sometimes.

Signed It

I signed the NRSC Pledge that Hugh Hewitt launched. I was a little ambivalent about it, partly because of John Hawkins's objection that it puts the NRSC in a no-win situation (if they give in to this, they'll be deluged by other similar pledges on other hot-button issues), but I resolved the conflict thus:

If someone else comes up with another similar pledge with regard to any other issue besides the war, I won't sign it. It's that simple.

Because the successful prosecution of the war is too, too important to let it be held hostage by political considerations on the homefront. I understand the bind the NRSC is now in, but I want them to be thus bound, and I want them to take a cold, hard stand against what is clearly, clearly a cynical way for senators to have it both ways. If the surge fails, they can claim they were against it, and if the surge succeeds, they can claim that they didn't actually do anything to impede it.

Because as it's been pointed out, if they really think that the surge is a colossal mistake, they should do everything in their power to actually stop it. But they don't. They're just doing what they do best, covering their anatomy for the next election cycle.

I sent copies of the pledge to my two senators (and asked Hatch not to send a letter) and told them that I had signed it and that I meant it.

I had a dream last night where I was on an open field, trying to play soccer in the long, unmown grass (I was successful only in stopping the ball from going out of bounds a few times, which is much better than I'd ever be able to do in real life.) Then something in the sky caught my eye: a small plane was doing loop-de-loops close to the ground. As I watched in horror it sped past, went halfway into a loop, stalled, and did a horrific belly-flop into the ground, bursting into flames on impact.

When the plane sped past me I saw the face of its lone occupant: John McCain, smoking a cigarette. I knew immediately that the crash was no accident; he had stalled on purpose, and his death was a spectacular suicide.

I'm with Hugh Hewitt on this: John McCain just lost every ounce of credibility he ever had on the war. One day after confirming Petreaus, one day after Petreaus made it crystal clear that these non-binding resolutions were detrimental to the war effort, and McCain is back to being his beloved "maverick" self, long-term consequences be damned, and playing footsie with the Dems.

And yet another politician goes into the Narcissistic Personality Disorder column. Although it would be easier to put them all into that column by default, then let them out when they do something to rule out NPD. Like ignore polls, or do what's right despite the consequences to their popularity, or otherwise behave like statesmen.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Quote of the Day

From Jules Crittendon's piece on what the State of the Union Address should say, a commenter responds to the chickenhawk argument:
Some mistakes are with you forever; being a Marine isn't one of them. —htom


[I originally tried to post this on the 22nd, but Blogger did something wonky and it never showed up on the main page.]

Monday, January 15, 2007

Time to Talk about Dinesh D'Souza's Book, I Guess

Here's a round-up of some initial reactions to Dinesh d'Souza's new book, from people who haven't read it. But Amazon has a pretty forthright explication of the book's central argument, and after having read it I wonder why one would need to write an entire book on it.

The short version is that the "cultural Left," e.g., the results of the counter-culture revolution of the sixties, notably the sexual antics, are the primary reason that they hate us. Absent the sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll, 9/11 doesn't happen.

Hmmm. Well. It is true that they are disgusted by the vulgarity that is on display in our popular culture. And it is true that the vulgarity is disgusting.

It is also true that one of the seminal texts that sparked the Wahabbist movement was written by Sayyid Qutb, who came to America and pronounced us horribly corrupt. Clayton Cramer asks,
So where did poor Qutb end up? Disco era New York City or Los Angeles? Did he wander into a strip club? Perhaps he got lost at a gay pride parade?

No, Greeley, Colorado. In 1950. Oh yeah, that's a wild, depraved, and sexually promiscuous place! Pretty obviously, what Qutb was doing was projecting his own sexual desires for these American women with their "round breasts... full buttocks...and... shapely thighs" in a period that is among the more sexually restrained periods.

I agree with Ace: we might have problems in that arena, but we don't need to hear it from them.

I suppose the only use D'Souza's argument has is to serve as a type of tu quoque rebuttal to the Ward Churchill argument about chickens coming home to roost. In other words, an absurd rebuttal to point out the absurdity of the accusation.

The problem is that D'Souza might be serious, which puts him in a camp with those who use 9/11 as a platform to grind their pet political axes. I haven't followed his writings very closely, but I'm pretty sure that this is going to be a shark-jumping episode for him, and whatever clout he had among the right is now evaporated.

At some point, I'll write that essay I have in my head about Historical Inexorability and how there is no single Root Cause to jihadism but rather a convergence of multiple factors. Maybe someday we'll stop blaming ourselves and realize that the jihadis' reasons are their own and that we are unwitting players in their narcissistic drama.
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Saturday, January 13, 2007

Another Answer to Integralist

From One Cosmos, again, this time in response to something I said.

Dicentra, I don't know why you and others insist on perceiving everything I say in the worst possible light. I am not trying to "score points" off of anyone.

Then what are you trying to do? Why is it so all-fired important that Bob engage you? Why, after being told to get lost, do you keep going back over and over and over again? Why don't you write off One Cosmos as a lost cause, start your own blog, and work to build a discussion that you find fruitful?

Bob and the other Cosmonauts have told you many times over that they're not interested in the discussion that you want to engage in. They see you as passing through a stage in your spiritual development that is way behind them, as a road they've already tread and a thought process that they've already explored and found wanting. They get you, but you don't get them.

The fact that you keep pestering Bob, and that the bulk of your arguments are a whinge against the ill treatment you've received, is an indication to me that whatever your motives are, being that oppositional friend that you mentioned isn't one of them. To become that "loyal opposition" to Bob, you would have to first (a) become his friend (b) prove yourself loyal. Then, and only then would you have the privilege of telling him things he doesn't want to hear, but needs to. Oh, and you have to possess more wisdom (life experience) than Bob. It's evident that you don't.

You're trying to be the loyal opposition by being opposed first, and somehow Bob is supposed to interpret that as loyalty and friendship. Doesn't work that way, but you either can't see that or you don't care, which means that you don't qualify as loyal opposition, no matter how badly you want to fulfill that role.

IIRC, your debut on One Cosmos consisted of reprimanding Bob for the "ugliness" thereon. Here's a hint, for future use, and I want you to tatoo it on your forehead:

You cannot enlighten people by alienating them first.

Have you noticed how ill-disposed you are to listen to the Cosmonauts after they've called you names? Have you any desire to take my words to heart? Had you the wisdom to become Mr. Loyal Opposition on One Cosmos, you would have started out by asking earnest questions, presenting your thoughts, and taking it like a man when people said things you found hurtful.

I could go on, but I have other things to do right now. Besides, I know that you won't listen to a word I say; everything I say is a springboard for a rebuttal, not something to consider.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Political Science

This is amusing, for what it's worth. Cows and economics. Economics and cows. It's just that simple.

Destroying the Chickenhawk Argument

Laura Ingraham went ballistic this morning over Barbara Boxer's insinuation that Condi Rice has no standing to send troops to war because she doesn't have a husband or kids at risk. Laura is understandably incensed on behalf of a fellow spinster, who, like myself, did not necessarily choose to be either single or childless. Converting the personal into the political is a hallmark of the Left, and in this case it was an extremely low blow.

But that's not the primary issue. The issue is the chickenhawk argument, which for some reason the Left thinks is legitimate. Unfortunately, too many on the right miss the point of the chickenhawk argument and retort that "you don't have to be a teacher to support education or a cop to support law and order."

But that's a good counter-argument only if the Left is arguing for authenticity, which, in a wholly uncharacteristic move for them, they are not. They are instead arguing about who stands to lose the most by going to war. The core of the chickenhawk argument is that if you don't stand to lose your own life or that of someone you love, you can rightfully be accused of being careless with other people's lives.

There are two ways to answer this argument, as follows:

Fine, I don't have actual skin in the game. So let's talk to those who do: the soldiers themselves and their families.

Here's the fact: 75% of those who have served in Iraq sign up for at least one more tour, and some sign up for more. Not because they're desperately poor (please, do we have to go over this again? they're totally not) but because they believe in the mission. They think it's worth it to risk their lives to save Iraq.

Furthermore, when you talk to the soldiers in the VA hospitals, the ones who have lost arms and legs and the power to walk and who knows what else, the vast majority of them will tell you that it was worth it, and that given the chance to do it over again they would. In a heartbeat.

The soldiers in Iraq have also gotten to know the Iraqi people on a one-to-one basis, and you know what the Iraqis say? They say, "Don't leave us to the mercy of the monsters among us! Stay and help us like you did with Japan and Germany! Don't give up on us, please!"

Which leads me to my second argument against the chickenhawk accusation: it's not YOUR country that will fall into genocidal chaos if we leave.

That being the case, how can you, you Spoiled American, sit there in your warm, secure home and demand that Iraq be left to twist in the wind, just because you're squeamish or bored or afflicted with BDS? Who are you to tell the Iraqis to go to hell and provide the means for them to get there?

President Bush may not have skin in the game, but he does have to look in the faces of the families who lost loved ones and tell them that their sacrifice isn't in vain. As soon as you, Mr. Dove, have looked into the faces of these angels and told them that they're not worth it, then and only then will YOU have standing to call for withdrawal.

Get it? Good. Now until you have a solution to the problem, sit down and shut up.
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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Wacademia, Humility, and Gratitude

Victor Davis Hanson asks "Why? Why? Why?" about "this increasingly corrupt institution, whose health is so necessary to the welfare and competitiveness of the United States?" About "Why when academia is so critical of other American institutions, from the Republican party and corporations to churches and the military, does it ignore its own colossal failures?"

I can answer part of that. Academia, or "Wacademia," at it has become, is utterly devoid of two virtues: humility and gratitude.

These two virtues are so absent that there aren't even counterfeit versions of them running around.* The virtues of tolerance and open-mindedness and critical thought are non-existent, too, but they're at least touted. (I can't say if that's better, though, than being ignored entirely.)

Humility does not appeal to academics, regardless of their political leanings. Academics have made their way in life on their book smarts, and society rewards you for being smart: good grades, parental approval, high-paying jobs, and most of all, credibility. It's easy to be self-important in this case, and to believe that because you have are well read and can converse intelligently with other well-read people, you must know quite a bit.

And you do. But to be humble means not over-estimating what you know. It means being aware that there are libraries chock full of things that you don't know, and people living in trailer parks whose understanding of human nature and other kinds of non-book smarts makes yours pale in comparison.

Humility, contrary to popular belief, does not mean that you downplay your strengths, or that you operate in a constant state of humiliation, but that you have a realistic understanding of your strengths and weaknesses.

Humility also means that you're teachable, that you're not so attached to your pet theories that you can't see where you were wrong in the past.

Humility guts hubris, though, and hubris feels good. Oh, it feels good! Not having to ever admit that you were wrong is a place we all want to be in, but it's a position that is contrary to reality. We're all wrong about something, but it doesn't feel good to be wrong and it feels much worse to admit it. Especially when your social standing or your career are dependent on being right.

No, humility doesn't fit into the academic environment very well. So it gets ignored.

Gratitude is also unwelcome, because it erodes hubris as well. You can't think of yourself as self-sufficient if you owe anything to anyone, and you can't enjoy the endorphin rush of hubris if you indulge in gratitude.

But this is also contrary to reality. Universities exist only when there is enough wealth and security in a nation to permit such institutions to emerge. Wealth comes from business, and security from the military, both of which are despised by Wacademia. Could it be that Wacademia despises these two institutions because they know that they are indebted to them? Or is it that they eschew gratitude because it would mean acknowledging their debt to hated institutions?

Either way, humility and gratitude would go a long way to cure what ails Wacademia, but these two medicines are far too bitter for the average Wacademic. Destroy my hubris? Death first!

* The new praise of "uncertainty" coming from cerebral luminaries such as Bill Maher stands to fill that role as a counterfeit of humility. Of course, it's only a virtue when the other guy possesses it.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Alternate Enegry Sources and Other Wishful Thinking

People often cite the West's addiction to petroleum as the source of all our problems, especially those in the Middle East. Although it is true that petroleum dependency is a nightmare, it is not true that it would be an easy thing to find an alternative energy source, if only those bastages in Big Oil would quit suppressing the research.

What people seem to forget is that thermodynamics is merciless and unforgiving. Petroleum is so much more efficient than any current alternative from a thermodynamic perspective, and so much cheaper, from an economic one, that it is difficult to imagine anything replacing it entirely or even principally.

One popular suggestion is Ethanol. It's made from plant matter (renewable), burning it produces few noxious emissions, and we can make it right here at home. But in terms of solving our energy needs (and yes, they're needs, unless you want to go back to the 1600s), it stands to create more problems than solve them.

Take these comments from The Belmont Club. It begins with this question from Mətušélaḥ:

Why live under the threat of nuclear armed Jihadis, when all it takes is about $20 USD to convert your current US motor vehicle to one that can use ethanol as its main fuel. Why?

To which Cedarford responds,
Well, for starters, conversion of all US cropland to ethanol production would give us 24% of the net oil substitute we need.

Second, ethanol, unsubsidized, costs about 6.50 to 7 bucks for the same energy as gasoline priced 2 bucks less taxes. Far more than the cheaper sugar cane cycle now created by chopping down unproductive, cheap virgin Brazilian rainforest.(Emphasis added.)


I don't know where Cedarford gets his numbers, so I can't substantiate them. Mətušélaḥ responds by quoting "A 2005 joint study by the US Dept of Energy and Dept of Agriculture [which] suggests that 30% of US oil imports can be replaced by bio-based ethanol by assuming relatively modest changes in agricultural and forestry practices."

Commenter Bart Hall, a farmer in Kansas, cites the work of David Pimentel a researcher at Cornell who argues that Ethanol isn't a viable alternative.

[G]rowing the corn, harvesting it, moving it, grinding and fermenting it, distilling it, and handling it requires about 130,000 btu per gallon. Ethanol provides 75,000 btu per gallon.

Some have criticised the work for using '80s era corn yields, but yield increases since that time depend on massive applications of fertiliser manufactured using natural gas.

I am a soil chemist and agronomist by training, and earn my living as a farmer. Corn as a crop is very hard on the land. Destruction of soil organic matter is a non-trivial contributor to greenhouse gases.

We need to be taking land out of corn production, not increasing the acreage so we can convert corn to ethanol at a net energy deficit of 50,000 per gallon.

Ethanol is a political boondoggle, pure and simple. That some folks have been suckered in to the naive hope it can provide an energy alternative ... simply adds another layer to that whole unfortunate mess.

If you include the fact that pure Ethanol is useless when the temperature drops below 20°F (adding petroleum lowers the temp, but not by much), you've pretty much closed the case.

If some people want to pour vegetable oil into their diesel engines so that they emit the aroma of french fries, that's fine with me. But to look to it as a Silver Bullet?

Sorry, folks, but the hard truth is that energy production and consumption always involves a trade-off, and never a good one. The only possible exception is geothermal, but that's only if you live in Iceland, and who wants to do that?
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Friday, January 05, 2007

Cat on the Keyboard?

Checking my referrer logs, I found this blog, which appears to be either the ramblings of a schizophrenic or the product of a random sentence generator.

Anyone know what this is about?
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No More Leno

Sometimes, I will stop watching an otherwise enjoyable show cold when they cross a line that is important to me.

I haven't been watching Leno much lately, but tonight I let it run in the background while I piddled around on the computer. In his monologue, Jay announced that President Bush had signed into law a bill that allows him to read any letter, any time, for any reason, without a warrant.

Of course, the purpose of the announcement was to set up Yet Another Bush Is Illiterate joke, but given that most people get some of their news from Leno and Letterman monologues, the misrepresentation has serious consequences. The Powerline guys explain the bill here.

So I hereby swear off Leno so long as he's on the air.

But can I tell NBC this through the Internet? NO! They have plenty of public forums and if you click "Feedback," you get to answer an interminable survey before being given the privilege of joining their consultant group, or whatever. I get the impression that they'll be soliciting feedback from me, but I can't initiate contact.

However, I'm a contractor at NBC's parent company, so I have access to the NBC employees' Outlook accounts. Not sure I should use that avenue, though. It could get me in trouble for something not exactly work-related. But it's tempting. Oh, it's tempting.

Want Fries with That Crow?

First, I'd like to thank the Associated Press for finally releasing Jamil Hussein, undoubtedly because of the preponderance of banners like these, which I'm removing from the front page:


[Was hot-linked to Flopping Aces, which has since taken it down — ed.]

Only it wasn't the AP who produced him, it was the Iraqi Police. But that's just details. Latest info on the developing story is at Malkin.

I'm trying to decide what the proper, intellectually honest response to this latest revelation should be. A helping of crow? I'm not sure.

I'll start by listing all of the posts I've made on the subject.
In private, though, I was fully willing to believe that Jamil Hussein was either utterly fictional or that he existed but wasn't who he said he was. After Rathergate, Fauxtography, the Katrina rubbish, and countless examples of media bias and distortion, all of which began when we "lost" Tet in Vietnam when the nation's most trusted reporter decided to blur the line between stating the facts and influencing opinion, it fit into a pattern that I have witnessed during my lifetime.

And given that many members of the MSM have long given up the pretense of reporting the facts, considering it a "higher calling" to tell the "higher truth," I will continue to be skeptical about everything I hear from the MSM, especially as pertains to the war. Any war.

Apologies, though? The bloggers have no need to apologize. They asked legitimate questions, consulted as many sources as they could, concealed no information (as far as I know), and stated no known falsehoods.

As for moving the goalposts, this whole Jamil Hussein thing arose when Flopping Aces discovered a story that AP had produced but could not substantiate from other sources. That's when Curt began to wonder about the source.

So now that Hussein has been found, the original question remains: was Hussein a reliable source or a partisan in a uniform all too willing to feed a pack of lies to an infidel reporter?

If it turns out that everything, or mostly everything, that Hussein reported on was the God's Honest Truth, then the reverse equivalent of "fake but accurate" (OK, they weren't lying this time, but we just know they do anyway) will not be appropriate.

Constant Vigilance™, however, will be, as it always is. Would that it were not; would that it were not.
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Monday, January 01, 2007

Letter from Orrin Hatch III

I must have made some quick comment about ISG and Gates prior to writing this letter. Either that, or this is a really lame answer. More lame than usual, that is.

11 December 2006

Dear Ms. XXX:

Thank you for writing to express you [sic] feelings about the Iraq Study Group and the nomination of Robert Gates.

The report of the Iraq Study Group represents an important bi-partisan effort to determine an effective strategy for conducting the war in Iraq. It is by no means the only such effort. There are several other proposals pending, including those being developed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the National Security Council. It is my hope that the President will listen to all reasonable proposals for accomplishing our goals in Iraq. I believe that there have been some good proposals made to the Bush Administration, including some by the Iraq Study Group, but I will leave it to the President to decide which recommendations to listen to and which to reject.

[Repeat of paragraph "Regarding your comments opposing Robert Gates's nomination..." from this response]

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Back from SoCal

I recorded my observations of the trip on my LiveJournal in four entries:

The Good
The Bad
The Birds (Heavy Graphics Warning)
The Leafy Things (Heavy Graphics Warning)
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