Thursday, March 31, 2005

Creeping Phlox Finally Puts Out

Creeping Phlox
Originally uploaded by Uncle Mikey.
It took nearly four years for this plant, and the one other that survived out of four my wife bought, to succeed and put out the kind of flowers I was led to believe it would produce from day one, and this must be the third place it's been planted. It's about goldarned time, I say. Submit to my will, you damned dirty plants!

The Orange Trumpet Vine has also gone crazy, but the flowers have turned from a bright orange/red to a darker one, I'll try to get some pics of that this weekend.

Just the Facts, Man

If you haven't already, go read Thomas Sowell's two columns on the Schiavo case. They're the best I've read yet on the topic.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

From the Top of the Key to the Bottom of the Inverted Pyramid

Bill Bradley, my favorite NBA Hall of Famer turned Presidential Candidate, has a fine column in the New York Times today about the difference between the Republican and Democratic power structures. He's not happy about that difference:

Big individual donors and large foundations - the Scaife family and Olin foundations, for instance - form the base of the pyramid. They finance conservative research centers like the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute and the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, entities that make up the second level of the pyramid.

The ideas these organizations develop are then pushed up to the third level of the pyramid - the political level. There, strategists like Karl Rove or Ralph Reed or Ken Mehlman take these new ideas and, through polling, focus groups and careful attention to Democratic attacks, convert them into language that will appeal to the broadest electorate. That language is sometimes in the form of an assault on Democrats and at other times in the form of advocacy for a new policy position. The development process can take years. And then there's the fourth level of the pyramid: the partisan news media. Conservative commentators and networks spread these finely honed ideas.

At the very top of the pyramid you'll find the president. Because the pyramid is stable, all you have to do is put a different top on it and it works fine.

It is not quite the "right wing conspiracy" that Hillary Clinton described, but it is an impressive organization built consciously, carefully and single-mindedly. The Ann Coulters and Grover Norquists don't want to be candidates for anything or cabinet officers for anyone. They know their roles and execute them because they're paid well and believe, I think, in what they're saying. True, there's lots of money involved, but the money makes a difference because it goes toward reinforcing a structure that is already stable.

To understand how the Democratic Party works, invert the pyramid. Imagine a pyramid balancing precariously on its point, which is the presidential candidate.

Democrats who run for president have to build their own pyramids all by themselves. There is no coherent, larger structure that they can rely on. Unlike Republicans, they don't simply have to assemble a campaign apparatus - they have to formulate ideas and a vision, too. Many Democratic fundraisers join a campaign only after assessing how well it has done in assembling its pyramid of political, media and idea people.

There is no clearly identifiable funding base for Democratic policy organizations, and in the frantic campaign rush there is no time for patient, long-term development of new ideas or of new ways to sell old ideas. Campaigns don't start thinking about a Democratic brand until halfway through the election year, by which time winning the daily news cycle takes precedence over building a consistent message. The closest that Democrats get to a brand is a catchy slogan.

Democrats choose this approach, I believe, because we are still hypnotized by Jack Kennedy, and the promise of a charismatic leader who can change America by the strength and style of his personality. The trouble is that every four years the party splits and rallies around several different individuals at once. Opponents in the primaries then exaggerate their differences and leave the public confused about what Democrats believe

One of my favorite movies is Heat, with Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Val Kilmer, and a bunch of other good actors. It's unbelievably violent, but to me it's really about the distinction between serious people and amateurs. Both DeNiro and Pacino exemplify the serious people and have to battle amateurs on their own side for the chance to do things the right, or serious, way. I feel the same way about Republicans and Democrats. Whether or not you like either ideology, the GOP just seems more serious about getting the job done. Bush is a lot of things, but frivolous is not one of them. He does not deviate from the task at hand, or the plan to achieve that task, no matter what distractions pop up. Kerry seemed all too willing to leave the track, and in the end more people than not didn't take him seriously, whatever place his heart seemed to be.

Until the Dems get serious, I won't consider voting for one. I'm not nearly as conservative politically as I may appear in this blog, and would have voted for a number of Dems had they been given the chance by their own party to run for president. Kerry was not a serious choice, and until one is made, the party will continue to decline.

Brought to you and me today by Pejmanesque, your one-stop politics/policy/chess/go/poetry/classical music shop.

American Idle

BOring. Last night was like a recap show on Survivor or the Amazing Race; I couldn't make myself care. The theme was the '90s, which you'd think would lend itself to a lot of great songs, especially for rockers Bo and Constantine, but Bo did "Remedy" by the Black Crowes not very well, and then Constantine sang "I Can't Make You Love Me," doing a nice job, but for crap's sake, how about some Alice in Chains, or Soundgarden?

Carrie Underwood did a nice job with "Independence Day," which my wife informed me is about a battered wife killing her husband, Kind of a weird choice lyrically, but people seeemed to like it, and she sure can sing. Better hair this time.

Vonzell pretty much nailed "I Have Nothing," which is risky by season four as many past female contestants have butchered it and, even worse, a couple have done it pretty well. Nikko did OK with "Can We Talk" but could have been better, but by comparison his was one of the better performances of the night. He reminded us that he's Ozzy Smith's kid, which is kind of cool since Ozzy was a great player and the antithesis of the steroid monkeys who have ruined Major League Baseball. It's nice to see a rich kid with a lot of drive.

Bottom three this week will likely be Nadia, who did fairly well with "I'm the Only One" but has been in the bottom three a lot, Scott Savol and Anthony Federov. I'm getting really tired of Federov and can't stand it when people try to get sympathy votes with their medical histories. Sorry, dude, but lots of people have had difficult health problems, and everyone has a story about the doctor who said you'd never do as well as you ended up doing. Having a tracheotomy scar doesn't make you a hero. Plus you're a dork and your pronunciation of some English words (he says "duh" instead of "the" sometimes) makes you sound like the singer from the Scorpions, or Europe. Go away please.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

That's a Shocker, but Not the Fun Kind

In fact, if there's anything surprising about this study, it's the degree to which liberal professors outnumber conservative ones at US universities. I knew there were far more liberals than otherwise, but not even I guessed it was this bad:

By their own description, 72 percent of those teaching at American universities and colleges are liberal and 15 percent are conservative, says the study being published this week. The imbalance is almost as striking in partisan terms, with 50 percent of the faculty members surveyed identifying themselves as Democrats and 11 percent as Republicans.

The disparity is even more pronounced at the most elite schools, where, according to the study, 87 percent of faculty are liberal and 13 percent are conservative.

"What's most striking is how few conservatives there are in any field," said Robert Lichter, a professor at George Mason University and a co-author of the study. "There was no field we studied in which there were more conservatives than liberals or more Republicans than Democrats. It's a very homogenous environment, not just in the places you'd expect to be dominated by liberals."

When just 13% of the general public call themselves liberals, it doesn't take a statistician to see there's an imbalance in the schools. And it's not likely to get better on its own:

Rothman sees the findings as evidence of "possible discrimination" against conservatives in hiring and promotion. Even after factoring in levels of achievement, as measured by published work and organization memberships, "the most likely conclusion" is that "being conservative counts against you," he said. "It doesn't surprise me, because I've observed it happening."

No shit. Same with journalism and the arts. Unsurprisingly, there are always those who will deny the obvious:

When asked about the findings, Jonathan Knight, director of academic freedom and tenure for the American Association of University Professors, said, "The question is how this translates into what happens within the academic community on such issues as curriculum, admission of students, evaluation of students, evaluation of faculty for salary and promotion." Knight said he isn't aware of "any good evidence" that personal views are having an impact on campus policies.

"It's hard to see that these liberal views cut very deeply into the education of students. In fact, a number of studies show the core values that students bring into the university are not very much altered by being in college."

He's right there; if anything, there's been a backlash. Kids may be ignorant at times, but they're not stupid. Regardless, we're supposed to be teaching them how to think, not what to think. When you spend class time on the latter, you make the former much, much harder.

Comic Justice

Apparently this site is the first thing you get when you Google "Anwar Robinson . . . . Gay?" I don't remember implying he was gay, although he may well be and God bless him either way. He's awesome.

It's about Time Someone Said It

I too am tired of "glum rock," the tendency toward mopeyness and not having fun that has pervaded the entire music scene. Now a British comedian is telling it like it is:

At the centre of this sombre gathering can be found Coldplay - the inspiration, it is being claimed - for a new wave of bands determined to reverse Bing Crosby's homespun wisdom by accentuating the negative and eliminating the positive from pop music.

The thesis is being expounded in a vicious new parody by the comedian Mitch Benn in his series Crimes Against Music, which is being broadcast on Radio 4 this week.

In it he identifies four bands: Keane, Snow Patrol, Embrace and the Thirteen Senses, which he says are guilty of sounding uncannily similar to Coldplay, whose dour hits have included "Yellow" and "Clocks". A third Coldplay album, following on from Parachutes and A Rush of Blood to the Head, is due to be released this summer - one of the most keenly awaited releases of the year. Others have added a fifth band to the list, Athlete, whose current hit "Wires" is about the singer's baby on a life-support system.

In the new series, Benn laments: "Everything sounds like Coldplay now. No other sounds can be allowed ... Very restrained, not too much row ... This could be Embrace, Keane or Snow Patrol, Thirteen Senses sound like this as well I'm told..."

Benn's conjecture has prompted a flurry of debate in the pop music world where the miserablist tradition can be faithfully traced from Leonard Cohen to Morrissey and the Smiths, to such giants of modern-day gloom as Radiohead.

I think this is the same thing that is behind all the Linkin Park-like groups who moan about how miserable they are in half their songs, "Nobody understands me," and such nonsense. How unhappy can you be, making tons of money and being worshipped by young girls? I mean seriously.

I think Nirvana and Pearl Jam are as guilty as anyone else, and that's about when I stopped liking pop music. They were good bands who wrote good songs, but I can hear about people's problems at home or work. When I turn on the radio, I want to be entertained, and I don't get a kick out of hearing some overpaid whiner pretend he's nort having the time of his life being a rock star. If you really are miserable, keep it to yourself, Jack. Dance like a good monkey, then smile, bow and go have a good cry in your dressing room. Just leave me out of your psychodrama.

Monday, March 28, 2005

You First

Seriously, go ahead. Since it's voluntary and all. Don't tell us, show us.

I don't get stuff like this. It's like the Apathy Club, or a gathering of Atheists. How do you generate support for such things?

UPDATE: From Dean's World.

The Spread of a Lovely Madness

Although I can't tell how excited to get about massive democracy demonstrations like these latest ones in Taiwan, Bahrain and Mongolia, I'm certainly aware that democracy is a process and not an event as some pundit so eloquently put recently (I think it was Michael J. Totten). I do know I find this kind of thing far more interesting and meaningful than any one person's life or death, or molestation trial, or divorce, or whatever. I'm kind of tired of the focus on the individual that seems to pervade American culture these days.

I recently read a short, fantastic book by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, the author of The Little Prince, who was a very interesting guy and an amazing writer. The book was Flight to Arras, and it describes a reconnaissance flight over France during the last days of the French part of WWII, particularly Saint-Ex's conversion, in midair, from a man who risked his life in a lost cause for the respect of his fellow pilots and his own self-respect to a man who did so for France, and for Man:

When I took off for Arras I asked to receive before giving. My demand was in vain. We must give before we can receive, and build before we inhabit. By my gift of blood over Arras I created the love that I feel for my kind as the mother creates the breast by the gift of her milk. Therein resides the mystery. To create love, we must begin by sacrifice. Afterwards, love will demand further sacrifices and ensure us every victory But it is we who must take the first step. We must be born before we can exist.

I came back from Arras, having woven my ties with my farmer's family. Through the translucent smile of his niece I saw the wheat of my village. Beyond my village I saw my country, and beyond my country all other countries. I came back to a civilization which had chosen Man as the keystone in its arch. I came back to Group 2-33 - that group that had volunteered to fight in Norway.

I dressed this day for the service of a god to whose being I was blind. Arras unsealed my eyes.

The sentiment would be familiar to those brave men and women marching in Taiwan, Bahrain, Mongolia, Lebanon and elsewhere. They do so for freedom, yes, and even democracy. But mostly they do it for their countries, and Man, because to do otherwise would be a degredation of the soul beyond what any fascist government or theocratic terrorist organization could visit upon them.

Thanks to Instapundit for the original links.

The Long Focus

If I could make something like this, I probably wouldn't do much of anything else. Thank you Gerard.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

God this Poor Girl Will Never Live this Down

Originally uploaded by Uncle Mikey.
If you think this pic is funny, go see the many hilarious Photoshops made out of this here. From Cityrags.

Friday, March 25, 2005

What's in It for Mr. Schiavo

As usual, Gerard Van der Leun of American Digest has some deep thoughts on the matter, and inside information on the mechanics thereof. Well worth reading:

What I do have some sense of is how much money Michael Schiavo stands to make if, and only if, his wife dies. It is, for a man, with a fresh new wife and two children, substantial. Having worked as an editor for Houghton Mifflin and as a literary agent, I have some [idea of] the price the publishing and media worlds would put on his story. It will be significantly more than 30 pieces of silver.

The book deal: "HER BODY, MY SELF" by Michael Schiavo can be auctioned to a large group of major publishers within ten days of Terri Schiavo's death. This can be arranged by an canny and shameless agent -- and they are legion -- on the basis of 12 telephone calls, a two-page outline, a ghost writer known to the New York publishing world, and a dog-and-pony show where Michael is flown to New York and trotted around to six to eight editors' offices in a day. The bidding for this book will have a floor of two million dollars. The top offer will be in the range of three to three and a half-million for hardcover and paperback rights. Depending on the agent's feel for the market, translation rights may be added to the mix. Film rights will be held back. After the agent's 15% fee, Michael's take from this will be $2,550,000, less $50,000 paid to the ghost writer.

The film and tv rights for Michael's "story" will probably bring in another 1-3 million dollars depending on a number of factors and will, in this instance, be set in motion before the publication of the book.

Speaking fees: Michael Schiavo's lawyer currently commands $15,000 per speaking engagement, so it is not hard to see that Michael could easily pull down $50,000 per engagement. While you probably won't see him show up at Catholic conventions, he's a natural Keynoter for hundreds of other groups across the country and abroad. In the first year alone he could, given a reasonable calendar, be booked for at least 50 events. His gross fees in the first year would, in that case, come to $2,500,000.

Terri Schiavo is worth six to eight million dollars to Michael Schiavo if, and only if, she's dead. If she continues living nothing happens on the book or movie front because there's no ending. When she dies, it is jackpot time for Michael. (I added some apparently missing words, apologies to Gerard if that was inappropriate but it seems to work better that way)

There's more, check it out. This has always been my beef about the case, more than federalism vs. states rights, left vs. right, or even right vs. wrong. One man is driving this train, and it seems that his actions and motivations are not among the issues being scrutinized by courts or even much of the news media. Maybe they should be; the possibility of profit seems to be ample reason for governments and journalists to investigate people who wish to take unconventional action. Why not now?

Big Island Hibiscus

Big Island Hibiscus
Originally uploaded by Uncle Mikey.
I've never seen another like this one my wife found in Kona. I do so love the flowers, and gardening in general. How the hell did that happen?

I wasn't always this way. I spent a little while talking about motorcycles with my old buddy Randy R. from San Antonio, and it reminded me what a nutty bastard I used to be. It never really occurred to me that you could get killed on a Japanese hotrod bike like the Suzuki GSXR 1100 I bought and we both rode for a while. Then one day day it did occur to me, by which time I had a Honda CBR 600, and I sold it within two weeks and haven't ridden a rice rocket since. Randy reminded me of a story which is probably a lot more funny to me than him.

It was in the process of trying a stoppie, which is a nose wheelie you make happen by applying the front brake just short of locking it up to bring the rear wheel off the ground (there are entire videos of this kind of thing nowadays, but in the late '80s, it was purely racetrack behavior). Unfortunately Randall didn't notice the speed bump just ahead, which threw them both ass over teakettle, thrashing him and the bike pretty good, more him than it unfortunately. It was late and he decided he didn't need professional medical care.

After a while I convinced him that at the very least he should clean his road rash up a little to avoid infection. We went to his apartment and realized we didn't have much to work with, some Hydrogen Peroxide, a little Listerine and some cotton balls. I said we might be able to get it done with what we had, and Randy agreed to try it.

The treatment consisted of me sloshing the two liquids on his massive bloody scrapes alternately, which cause poor Randy to turn a number of odd colors while I tried to pick the gravel and dirt out of his ruined flesh. He was quite the trooper, putting up with a level of pain and medical malpractice that would have killed lesser men, or at least caused them to turn around and belt the incompetent helper a few times. Good times.

Those were the days, baby: motorcycles, jumping off high things into water, driving like a maniac, all the things you do when you never joined the military and got to risk your life for a reason. Now I like flowers and going to bed early. That's life, baby . . .

This One's for the Ladies

Go to Blackfive and read an amazing story of nine US soldiers, including two women, reacting to an ambush in which a number of them are wounded by attacking and killing a larger, heavily armed force. Once again, discipline, training and aggressiveness make the seemingly impossible possible.

Walking Underwater Coconut - or Not

This is mesmerizing, an octopus that has crawled into a sea coconut and walks on two of its legs, looking for all the world " like Wile E Coyote pretending to be a shrub," as Boingboing points out. I've watched it 10 times and it does not get old.

UPDATE: Neither does this video of a running vampire bat, also from Boingboing.

UPDATE 2: OK, it's not that the octopus crawled into a coconut, it's pretending to be one. Whatever that means.

Oh Great

How long until someone clones one of these? I could have sworn the major reason Jurassic Park couldn't happen was that there weren't any viable tissues from which to get DNA laying around. Now there are. Yippee!

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Can't Say I Disagree with That

Stanley Crouch is urging the ladies to "stop buying into rap's misogyny." I agree wholeheartedly, and not just because my wife and I are trying to conceive:

The regular defense of the worst of hip hop is that these images should be accepted because they provide a way for black men at the bottom to become successful. An additional aspect of this defense is that young men are making so much money one should not mess with the flow of the dough. The next defense is that anything that makes money is good - especially if it is not illegal. At the end of the argument is the manipulative racial ploy that black people should not use "white" standards to attack something that comes out of the neighborhood, that arrives from black street culture. This last point has been far too successful for far too long among middle-class blacks, who are often made to feel as if they have lost contact with their roots and should never question anything "authentically" black, lower class and street.

You'd think there would be no defense of calling yourself a pimp with pride, or even acting the part. And despite the apparent disintegration of anything like sexual morality among the young, I can't believe women would permit that particular dynamic in any popular culture arena, much less participate in it. I guess my worldview is past quaint and rushing headlong toward outlandish in this regard, but I hope that Marilyn Manson gets his wish that America takes a hard turn back toward stricter moral standards, if only to separate the truly debauched from the amateurs; if the few times I've seen Girls Gone Wild have taught me anything, it's that there's nothing all that sexy about young, ignroant girls aping what they understand to be sexy behavior, generally from MTV or some other sad source. It's really kind of pathetic. And while women keep accepting that lot in life, it's not going to get any less so.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

I Too Am Stumped by That

Gerard at American Digest has noticed a really good question, from Dave Weigel. Why is that, exactly?

Goosebumps, Baby

Last night may have been the best American Idol episode I've ever seen, especially the performances by Carrie Underwood, Scott Savol and Anwar Robinson. Carrie (the blonde country girl who said, in response to the question "have you seen many stars since you've been here in Hollywood?" said "No, it's been overcast the whole time") sang "Alone" by Heart and shredded every line of it, prompting Simon to predict she'd win this year's show and sell more records than any other Idol winner. Scott (who appears to have daddy issues but last night tried to take the edge off of his initial pronouncement that "my father said I'd never amount to anything" by sort of dedicating his performance to him) did an amazing job with "Against All Odds," which I'm not wild about. And Anwar (who has a perfect voice and attitude and can do no wrong as far as I'm concerned) sang the living shit out of "Ain't Nobody" by Chaka Khan, which has a degree of difficulty far beyond anyone else's song last night, but can't seem to get Randy Jackson's approval no matter how great he does. Fortunately he doesn't appear to care.

Nikko Smith also kicked ass with a Sisquo song I'd never heard and seems to be coming out of his shell finally. Bo was boring with "Time in a Bottle," but dedicated it to Mom and won't get voted out until the final four or so no matter what. Constantine did a decent harder version of "I Think I Love You" and should stay around for a long time. Nadia Turner, who I love, butchered "Time After Time" in a mohawk and may be sorry. But Mikalah Gordon is going down, and knew it. See ya later Fran Drescher Junior.

I must have watched Carrie and Anwar's performances five times each, and Scott's three times, and still can't get them out of my head half a day later. Which is fine by me. I think I'll go watch them again right now.

UPDATE: I've been thinking about this way too much, my wife says, but I forgot to say Vonzell also rocked the house, and it occurs to me that by picking a song that required an unseen backup singer to do the higher and more difficult harmony part as loudly and perfectly as she did, Carrie kind of cheated. I loved the performance, and she didn't really need backup as she's got a fantastic voice, but the goosebumps I get while watching it are largely because of the harmony. Plus I dig Heart, even some of the '80s stuff like "Alone."

Now That's Entertainment

Scottie McMullet
Originally uploaded by Uncle Mikey.
I can't get nearly enough of this, or this. Awesome. From a place you probably already go online.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The Schiavo Case, in Other People's Words

While I agree with my old school chum Rogers Cadenhead's observation that Terri Schiavo is never going to get better no matter what, I must also concur with Ann Althouse's fine piece on the federalism aspects of the case, or rather that it's a bit silly to make that your chief objection unless you do the same about all such things. She quotes a Wall Street Journal editorial here:

We'd have more sympathy for this argument if the same liberals who are complaining about the possibility of the federal courts reviewing Mrs. Schiavo's case felt as strongly about restraining the federal judiciary when it comes to abortion, homosexuality, and other social issues they don't want to trust to local communities. In any event, these critics betray their lack of understanding of the meaning of federalism. It is not simply about "states' rights." Conservatives support states' rights in areas that are not delegated to the federal government but they also support federal power in areas that are delegated.

Think of an analogy to the writ of habeas corpus. As John Eastman of the Claremont Institute points out, "We have federal court review of state court judgments all the time in the criminal law context." The bill before Congress essentially treats the Florida judgment as a death sentence, warranting federal habeas review. Mrs. Schiavo is not on life support. The court order to remove the feeding tube is an order to starve her to death. Moreover, Mrs. Schiavo is arguably being deprived of her life without due process of law, a violation of the 14th Amendment that Congress has the power to address.

I am torn about this case, since as the lovely and talented Mr. Cadenhead points out it's more than likely Terri would neither know the difference nor profit from either course of action. It's all tragedy to me, I guess. And although I get a bad feeling about the husband, that's exactly the kind of reason that shouldn't sway me either way. But I agree that an inconsistent view of federalism is not helping anyone. So I'm punting, and good luck and God bless all around.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Absolutely Stunning

This may be the best animal picture I've ever seen. Thanks to Tim Blair for the link.

What's in a Name?

Bear's Breeches
Originally uploaded by Uncle Mikey.
Why is this plant called Bear's Breeches? Each one of the leaves is about three feet long and two wide, and it puts up a huge (5' tall) spike with pink/white/purple flowers all over it.

But why Bear's Breeches? I don't get it.

Speaking of Censorship

Michele Zipp, the editor-in-chief of Playgirl, who voted for Bush in the 2004 election, has been fired. In her words:

"After your coverage of my article about coming out and voting Republican, I did receive many letters of support from fellow Republican voters, but it was not without repercussions. Criticism from the liberal left ensued. A few days after the onslaught of liberal backlash, I was released from my duties at Playgirl magazine.

"After underlings expressed their disinterest of working for an outed Republican editor, I have a strong suspicion that my position was no longer valued by Playgirl executives. I also received a phone call from a leading official from Playgirl magazine, in which he stated with a laugh, "I wouldn't have hired you if I knew you were a Republican.

"I just wanted to let you know of the fear the liberal left has about a woman with power possessing Republican views."

The First Victoria Cross Awarded since 1982

LGF brings us the heroic tale of Private Johnson Gideon Beharry of the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment:

"Beharry’s platoon was tasked over the radio to come to the assistance of the remainder of the company, who were attempting to extract the isolated foot patrol. As his platoon passed a roundabout, en route to the pinned-down patrol, they became aware that the road to the front was empty of all civilians and traffic – an indicator of a potential ambush ahead. The platoon commander ordered the vehicle to halt, so that he could assess the situation. The vehicle was then immediately hit by multiple rocket-propelled grenades. Eyewitnesses report that the vehicle was engulfed in a number of violent explosions, which physically rocked the 30-tonne Warrior.

"As a result of this ferocious initial volley of fire, both the platoon commander and the vehicle’s gunner were incapacitated by concussion and other wounds, and a number of the soldiers in the rear of the vehicle were also wounded. Due to damage sustained in the blast to the vehicle’s radio systems, Beharry had no means of communication with either his turret crew or any of the other Warrior vehicles deployed around him. He did not know if his commander or crewmen were still alive, or how serious their injuries may be. In this confusing and dangerous situation, on his own initiative, he closed his driver’s hatch and moved forward through the ambush position to try to establish some form of communications, halting just short of a barricade placed across the road.

"The vehicle was hit again by sustained rocket-propelled grenade attack from insurgent fighters in the alleyways and on rooftops around his vehicle. Further damage to the Warrior from these explosions caused it to catch fire and fill rapidly with thick, noxious smoke. Beharry opened up his armoured hatch cover to clear his view and orientate himself to the situation. He still had no radio communications and was now acting on his own initiative, as the lead vehicle of a six Warrior convoy in an enemy-controlled area of the city at night. He assessed that his best course of action to save the lives of his crew was to push through, out of the ambush. He drove his Warrior directly through the barricade, not knowing if there were mines or improvised explosive devices placed there to destroy his vehicle. By doing this he was able to lead the remaining five Warriors behind him towards safety.

"As the smoke in his driver’s tunnel cleared, he was just able to make out the shape of another rocket- propelled grenade in flight heading directly towards him. He pulled the heavy armoured hatch down with one hand, whilst still controlling his vehicle with the other. However, the overpressure from the explosion of the rocket wrenched the hatch out of his grip, and the flames and force of the blast passed directly over him, down the driver’s tunnel, further wounding the semi-conscious gunner in the turret. The impact of this rocket destroyed Beharry’s armoured periscope, so he was forced to drive the vehicle through the remainder of the ambushed route, some 1500 metres long, with his hatch opened up and his head exposed to enemy fire, all the time with no communications with any other vehicle. During this long surge through the ambushes the vehicle was again struck by rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire. While his head remained out of the hatch, to enable him to see the route ahead, he was directly exposed to much of this fire, and was himself hit by a 7.62mm bullet, which penetrated his helmet and remained lodged on its inner surface.

"Despite this harrowing weight of incoming fire Beharry continued to push through the extended ambush, still leading his platoon until he broke clean. He then visually identified another Warrior from his company and followed it through the streets of Al Amarah to the outside of the Cimic House outpost, which was receiving small arms fire from the surrounding area. Once he had brought his vehicle to a halt outside, without thought for his own personal safety, he climbed onto the turret of the still-burning vehicle and, seemingly oblivious to the incoming enemy small arms fire, manhandled his wounded platoon commander out of the turret, off the vehicle and to the safety of a nearby Warrior. He then returned once again to his vehicle and again mounted the exposed turret to lift out the vehicle’s gunner and move him to a position of safety. Exposing himself yet again to enemy fire he returned to the rear of the burning vehicle to lead the disorientated and shocked dismounts and casualties to safety. Remounting his burning vehicle for the third time, he drove it through a complex chicane and into the security of the defended perimeter of the outpost, thus denying it to the enemy. Only at this stage did Beharry pull the fire extinguisher handles, immobilising the engine of the vehicle, dismounted and then moved himself into the relative safety of the back of another Warrior. Once inside Beharry collapsed from the sheer physical and mental exhaustion of his efforts and was subsequently himself evacuated."

And that's just the first part of the citation. Read it all.

Mysteries of the Deep

Varifrank's got new information on an undersea mystery for us to read about, concerning the planned firebombing of San Francisco in WWII. Fascinating.

Why John Kerry Was Unelectable, in Photos

I don't know much about Livejournal, but I know what I like. From American Digest, where Gerard calls it "Man vs. Doofus."

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Hammer Time for the Antiwar Set

Instapundit links to a fine Krauthammer column about the moral bankruptcy of people who would march against the war in Iraq on the second anniversary of its beginning. It's just gloat-y enough for me:

We do not yet know, however, whether this initial flourishing of democracy will succeed. The Syrian and Iraqi Baathists, their jihadist allies, and the various regional autocrats are quite determined to suppress it. But we do know one thing: Those who claimed, with great certainty, that Arabs are an exception to the human tendency toward freedom, that they live in a stunted and distorted culture that makes them love their chains -- and that the notion the United States could help trigger a democratic revolution by militarily deposing their oppressors was a fantasy -- have been proved wrong.

As an advocate of that notion of democratic revolution, I am not surprised that the opposing view was proved false. I am surprised only that it was proved false so quickly -- that the voters in Iraq, the people of Lebanon, the women of Kuwait, the followers of Ayman Nour in Egypt would rise so eagerly at the first breaking of the dictatorial "stability" they had so long experienced (and we had so long supported) to claim their democratic rights.

This amazing display has prompted a wave of soul-searching. When a Le Monde editorial titled "Arab Spring" acknowledges "the merit of George W. Bush," when the cover headline of London's The Independent is "Was Bush Right After All?" and when a column in Der Spiegel asks "Could George W. Bush Be Right?" you know that something radical has happened.

It is not just that the ramparts of Euro-snobbery have been breached. Iraq and, more broadly, the Bush doctrine were always more than a purely intellectual matter. The left's patronizing, quasi-colonialist view of the benighted Arabs was not just analytically incorrect. It was morally bankrupt, too.

Suck on that, protesters. You were wrong then, and you're fifty times as wrong now.

UPDATE: Varifrank has been posting as spottily as I have lately, but I should have checked him out earlier so I could include his fine post on this topic. Very well said sir.

An Icky Moral Wicket

Gerard at American Digest says he just doesn't get Florida law. I can't say I entirely fathom the Terri Schiavo case, although the husband seems like a sonofabitch no matter what the legal merits of starving his wife to death may be. Ace says the media approves. Seems that way to me too.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Hilarious Post of the Week: Which Celebrities Look Haggard in HD, and Some Who Don't Too

Delicious. I must have a load of schadenfreude in my pants right now because this made me crap myself laughing. It's funny 'cause it's true.

Most TV news anchors should be on the first list.

UPDATE: Oops, I mean the anchors should be on the second. The first is who looks good, and includes Sting, of all people. Plus I forgot to say this was from Boingboing.

It Never Really Left

Gerard at American Digest notes the return of an "ancient virus," which when I think about it makes perfect sense, since they don't really ever go away so much as go underground, lurking unseen:

Anti-Semitism is our most ancient spiritual virus. It is the oldest known virus that attacks, replicates within, and then destroys the human soul. The existence of Israel masks the existence of the virus in many infected souls, institutions, and, yes, liberal democracies by renaming itself as Anti-Zionism. This is especially clever since the renaming has survived the political movment it refers to. Through the renaming of this ancient disease as a “political problem,” many people now become infected through their friends, families, at their schools, from their community, church, or nation, or from exchanging infected fantasies with infected ideologues. (This is especially evident in the increasing support given to the virus by the Left here and abroad.) By changing the name of the disease it has become possible for many to deny that they have contracted the virus. This facilitates the current outbreak. Yes, it is a clever virus and this eerie shape-shifting is one of its oldest methods of perpetuating itself. A contemporary Christian might say it is one of the oldest "Faces of the Enemy." It is what it is.

The origin of the virus is unknown, but many suspect the area to be Bablyon and Sumur with an early leap across borders into Egypt. It was later transmitted through not-so-casual contact to much of the world by traders out of Northern Africa and the Roman Empire.

During the period following the fall of Rome, the virus found traction in early Christianity as a common carrier. In this host it thrived, and was able to survive and spread for many centuries. Of late, many parts of Christianity, now that it has become fragmented, have rejected the virus and those who host it, but strains of the virus can still be found at the center of many subsets of the Christian faith today.

Islam, of course, is the not-that-new major religion to not only host the virus, but to celebrate being infected with it, and to actively take measures to make sure that, within the body of Islam, the virus can thrive and expand and continue its contamination of souls almost unchecked. What to do about this new and virulent strain of the virus is something that is now consuming a great deal of the attention and treasure of Western Civilization.

Poetic as always. Read it all.


Beautiful Atrocities has a fascinating long post up right here. Now that's what I call blogging.

Ze Monsta!

A six-legged logging monster, from Garfield Ridge via Ace.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Baseball is a Disgusting Joke

I've had just about enough of this. I used to really like baseball, after spending some time working for Beckett Publications, the authority in sports collectibles. They told me to spend the first two weeks reading the Baseball Encyclopedia, and as I did, something magical happened. I started to see the game as a century-long tapestry that, despite many changes in rules and equipment, measures men against a game as complex and hard to master as chess, and which requires physical gifts few have.

Steroid use has destroyed that tapestry. No longer can you read a players' stats and get a feel for how good a player he was, compared to his contemporaries and players of other eras. Steroids have made players who would not have otherwise done so the best at certain thing. Hank Aaron's lifetime home run record will fall to a guy who's not just a cheater and a liar, but an insufferable asshole as well. Barry Bonds shouldn't be allowed in the same record book as Aaron, and now he's going to be ranked above him, as far as the record book will know.

I remember talk at Beckett during the late 1980s about why so many home runs were being hit. Some said the ball was juiced, others said pitching just wasn't what it used to be. I genuinely don't remember anyone talking about steroids, not seriously. Most of the others were big-time sports fans and baseball lovers before they ever worked a day at Beckett, and are probably heartbroken by all this. I feel for them, even though I stopped watching baseball some time ago. It's a beautiful game. But until Major League Baseball gets serious about getting rid of steroids, it will be a disgusting joke. Shame on the lot of them.

And in particular, shame on Curt Schilling, who knows better than to laugh off Jose Canseco's book as the lies of a money-grubber. Not so long ago, Schilling was one of the players who would be honest about the steroid problem in baseball. Now he's protecting the bad guys.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

What Would James Madison Do?

Erik at No Pasaran! knows, and so will you.

Seems Excessive to Me

Dave at Garfield Ridge is right: there have been a lot of female teachers banging their students in this country lately. Twenty-eight, to be exact.

I have to wonder if they're doing it more, or getting caught more, these days. Hmmmm.

Enough Already

Jeff Jarvis, whom I respect and read regularly, has been crusading against censorship a lot lately, except it's not really censorship when all people want is to keep from exposing kids to the worst humanity can provide, and to spare themselves from having to see or hear things they'd rather avoid. I had to comment:

Is a porn-free area of the internet such a scary thing? I still don't get the hysteria about this stuff. No one is going to take your cuss words and porn away. It's like defending partial-birth abortion to the death on the basis that it will help your larger mission to protect Roe v. Wade: it won't. Frankly it makes your case weaker if you won't acknowledge that problems exist on both sides of the argument.

This is a how question, not a why question. You can retain access to all the deviance and prurience you want, but those who wish to avoid it should be able to do so without being told. We've changed from a world where you had to make an effort to expose yourself to porn and profanity to one where you have to make an effort not to. Is that a victory for anyone? We'll all have to learn to live with some sort of compromise in the end, but all I read here is "Shut up and deal with it." It's like the Daily Kos on the war.

This guy Stevens is a ninny, but he can't, and won't, outlaw obscenity. He and the others like him are really talking about limiting underage access and providing for those who wish to avoid certain things. I'm not a prude, and I'm as supportive of free speech as anyone here, but by being so absolutist you've effectively put me on the defensive for respecting the desires of those who don't want what you want. Labelling CDs didn't hurt free speech, and neither will the kinds of things that have any chance of actually happening to TV and the internet.

Relax. No matter what happens, you'll still get to see naked people and hear cursing. Forever.

The Disaster that is Light Rail

Ann Althouse has a great post today on what is either being contemplated or is already coming to Austin, featuring another P.J. O'Rourke column (yes, he has been around here a lot lately) where he figures that you can either ride the Minneapolis "Hiawatha" line to work, or for the same amount of money, lease a BMW X5.

My brother works for the ABC affiliate in Houston and has a number of fun stories about the Houston light rail project, which ends short of the sports stadiums and other large venues, requiring a bus or cab ride to complete those journeys, and has done a wonderful job of endangering the lives of drivers. It's been called, variously, "the train to nowhere," "Danger Train," the "Wham Bam Tram" and "A Streetcar Named Disaster."

I can't wait until Austin tries to alleviate traffic by bringing this nonsense to town, thereby allowing Capitol Metro to further fleece taxpayers. Part of their plan is to close lanes on North Lamar so they can lay tracks, which should do a fine job of making traffic worse. Brilliant . . .

Your Duty as an American

Is, today, to read these three stories of wounded US soldiers from the Iraq war, brought to you by Blackfive, the paratrooper of love. Awe-inspiring, heartbreaking, and a brutal reminder of what the cost of doing the right thing can be.

That Makes Perfect Sense to Me

Gerard Van der Leun at American Digest has a fine essay on the relative happiness of Americans, Canadians and Israelis, and why. Good stuff.

What is Beauty? Well, it Ain't THAT

This photo essay featuring the two sides in the Lebanon conflict is indeed revealing, as Instapundit points out. You shall know them by their portents, I guess, or maybe the first commenter has it right when he says:

Sheesh. It almost looks like Men and Elves vs. Orcs from the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, doesn't it? Too bad that in many ways it is. Let's hope the outcome is the same, albeit with a lot less bloodshed.

It's been said before, but P.J. O'Rourke wrote not too long ago that the way he could tell antiwar protesters of the early 21st century weren't going to get anywhere was because the protests he attended didn't have any hot girls, and the reason those of his generations succeeded was because they did. Lebanon seems to have plenty . . .

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

The Political Death of John Kerry

Hilarious P.J. O'Rourke column in the Weekly Standard here. He is in rare form:

Addressing the audience of tame Democrats, Kerry explained his defeat. "There has been," he said, "a profound and negative change in the relationship of America's media with the American people. . . . If 77 percent of the people who voted for George Bush on Election Day believed weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq--as they did--and 77 percent of the people who voted for him believed that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11--as they did--then something has happened in the way in which we are talking to each other and who is arbitrating the truth in American politics. . . . When fear is dominating the discussion and when there are false choices presented and there is no arbitrator, we have a problem."

America is not doctrinaire. It's hard for an American politician to come up with an ideological position that is permanently unforgivable. Henry Wallace never quite managed, or George Wallace either. But Kerry's done it. American free speech needs to be submitted to arbitration because Americans aren't smart enough to have a First Amendment, and you can tell this is so, because Americans weren't smart enough to vote for John Kerry.

"We learned," Kerry continued, "that the mainstream media, over the course of the last year, did a pretty good job of discerning. But there's a subculture and a sub-media that talks and keeps things going for entertainment purposes rather than for the flow of information. And that has a profound impact and undermines what we call the mainstream media of the country. And so the decision-making ability of the American electorate has been profoundly impacted as a consequence of that. The question is, what are we going to do about it?"

Kerry is hilariously bad as a demagogue. A low subculture and its inferior sub-media are thwarting the will of the sacred mainstream?[emphasis mine]

Thanks to Balloon Juice for the link.

I Sure Hope So

Did Court TV reporter Dianne Dimond tip the feds off about Jacko's wacko antics? Journalistic ethics expert Tom Rosenstiel of the Pew Research Center says that's not cool. This is one of the things I never understood about Journalism wonks, that no transgression is too heinous to compel a journalist to help the good guys stop the bad guys. Because of ethics. You know, 'cause it's the right thing to do.

I understand they're trying to defend freedom of the press by opposing any and all encroachments thereupon, real or imagined. But to me it's the same as trying to keep Roe v. Wade from being overturned by defending partial-birth abortion. You end up hurting your own cause for something you don't actually believe in, on "principle." It's the height of absurdity.

My Eyes

There was a time when I said, and even believed, that no piece of art could make me feel anything I didn't already want to feel. I think that time, if it ever existed, is over. My wife and I made the mistake of watching a little of "Dope Sick Love" on HBO last night, and my God I'm glad I don't live in New York. Wifey says having addicts shooting up and smoking crack in your building stairwell or elevator is part of the deal unless you have a doorman. I'm also glad I never smoked crack or tried heroin, since they seem to lead to prostitution and not-so-slow death.

Christ HBO is intense these days, with Carnivale, Deadwood, Six Feet Under, the Sopranos and soon Rome continually exposing the depths of human despair and degradation. Not to mention Nip/Tuck on FX, which is so emotionally scarring I can't watch the two episodes they've been airing on Sunday nights one after the other or I have nightmares. I'm not sure where the reruns are over now, but if the last episode I watched (which ended with "The Carver" temporarily paralyzing Christian Troy and slashing his face) wasn't a season finale I don't want to watch the real one. I can't take that much psychic torment.

After a Sunday night like that, I need American Idol just to detox.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Nastily Put, and Deservedly So

Cathy Seipp puts the WWF Smackdown (TM) on Susan Estrich for being a "deranged cow," and worse:

And take a look at her other big gun, a website she created about L.A. Times bias.

Originally the site's only content was Estrich's syndicated column, in fairly unreadable 8-point type, with a weird logo on top that looked like the dashboard from the Starship Enterprise. Now it's morphed into an advertisement for the unpaid labor of her hapless Gender Discrimination students, who've been bean-counting the ratio of male to female opinion writers at the Times. You can read Estrich's latest missives, though, if you click on the "Note on the E-Mail Trail" link.

Estrich is in fine form here, lurching into ALL CAPS FOR NO APPARENT REASON and continually hitting off-notes; at one point she complains about unsuccessfully trying to bring her class research to the attention of the Times "powers that are." But apparently she's beginning to realize that telling someone with a neurological disease his brain is turning to mush may have been a tactical error:

"One sentence of mine, written in haste and intended only to convey an honest warning, was read by some as an attack on health grounds, something those who know me well understand that I would never do, and for which I surely would never intend any harm, and for which of course I am sorry if any were suffered," she writes. Now that's what I call lawyerly backpedaling! Media Bistro's new gossip site FishBowlLA summed her attitude nicely in a headline: "Estrich to Kinsley: It's Not Personal, You Retard."

Can you smell . . . . what the deranged ninny . . . is . . . cookin'?


Crap, he was my favorite. Or him and Anwar. And speaking of those two, this doesn't seem all that hard to believe, I guess. Not that anything should be wrong with it, and I sure hope that's not why homeboy's bailing. It would be funny if it was, and then Anwar won.

Good for Him

Kevin at Wizbang points to a very interesting post on a liberal blogger's site about abortion, wherein the author, in his search to understand when life begins, "figured that I should use logic and science and not propaganda, so I decided to stay away from anti-abortion groups and their rhetoric." It's very good:

So after that debate I decided to see what scientists define as the life cycle of a human being. The life cycle is just what it sounds like- the series of events that occur in the life of an organism. At any point in this cycle the organism is alive, except for the point of death, which is usually included as the end of the cycle. If the human life cycle is just birth, infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, old age and death, then everything before that is “pre-living” or not living. But the majority of scientists believe that it begins before birth. Most include fertilization and prenatal development in the human life cycle. While some see birth as the beginning, these theories tend to rely more on philosophical underpinnings- i.e. the recognition of self and so forth- rather than pure biology. This suggests that scientists- who are paid to not let personal or religious bias into their work- tend to regard life as beginning at fertilization. The pre-birth period is as much a part of life as infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood and old age this seems to say. To end an innocent life in any of those other periods would get you sent to prison, possibly to death. Why is ending a life before that legal?

So I started coming up with arguments to counter these slightly frightening facts. First, I considered the fact of development. A zygote is barely developed- it doesn’t look like a human, it doesn’t act like a human, etc. As a result, it really shouldn’t be considered “human life.” Yet isn’t an infant undeveloped? It doesn’t act like a fully mature human nor does it really look much like one. We wouldn’t kill an infant so why is killing just a slightly less developed human any less of an atrocity? It seems that the fact that fetuses aren’t developed isn’t a good excuse to allow for abortion.

Another argument I considered was that this life is different from other types of life in that it is dependent on another human not just for care and provision, but for even the most basic of functions. Its waste is carried out by another person, its breath and food is actually shared by another person. It is clearly a much different form of life than the traditional conception of “human.” Still, when one starts making distinctions between living humans and declares a whole class of them fit for extermination, isn’t that absolutely abhorrent? Isn’t that the idea at the very heart of genocide? If we acknowledge the biological fact that a fetus is alive and it is human, yet a different form of human life, and we then decide that this particular variety of human life can be exterminated at will how are we any better than the Nazis or the butchers in Somalia, Sudan, Japan in World War II or other genocidal regimes? In fact, it seems, we are not if those things are true.

My wife and I watched "In the Womb" on National Geographic the other night, and while I have never been willing to view a fetus as a "clump of cells," I had no idea how alive, sensory and active a fetus is, even months before birth. Read the whole thing, it's not too terribly long and worth the time.

UPDATE: I really should include the money paragraphs that distill Andrew Dobbs' arguments:

Choice is not a valuable argument as no one has the right to choose whether another human lives or dies except when that person poses an immediate threat to one’s own life.

Women’s rights is not a valuable argument in that no one’s rights include the right to kill an innocent human being, not to mention that at least 50% of the lives we are snuffing out are women who will never have a choice on anything.

Political difficulty is not an excuse as the history of our country is the history of oppressed groups taking on monumental difficulties to set themselves free, and in this case we must stand up for those who not only cannot speak for themselves, but are as yet unborn.

Finally, constitutionality is not a valid excuse as it is clear that if these embryos are living humans then Roe v. Wade was a bit of unconstitutional abomination on par with Dred Scott and Plessy v. Ferguson. In the end, if life begins at conception, we have no choice but to protect that life with every element of our law available to us. Democrats must take the lead, as only Democrats can protect life before it is in this world and after it is born. It is time for politics to leave this discussion and for level-headed and honest people to debate the issues with themselves and others in a respectful way.

Well said.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Mikey Like

Originally uploaded by Uncle Mikey.
Ace posts the best war porn (his trademarked phrase) I've seen all year, the Cornershot. Comes in 40mm grenade launcher as well. Yummy!

That's a Really Good Question

Captain Ed has the question of the century: If Saddam never actually had WMD, why did he have to bribe a UN weapons inspector $2 million to say so? This is the epitome of required reading:

This, of course, represented the tip of the iceberg, as Nile Gardiner of the Heritage Foundation notes. Saddam's entire reign rested on bribes and kickbacks, especially during the sanctions years. Even if the Swedes didn't do business that way, the French, Germans, Russians, and many others stood ready to conduct business Saddam-style, as the Oil-For-Food program proved. Coincidentally or not, that corruption started in earnest after [bribed UN weapons inspector Rolf] Ekeus' departure from the scene.

This brings up another, more serious question. If Saddam didn't have the WMD ... why did Tariq Aziz offer Ekeus $2 million for a clean bill of health? Wouldn't just have been easier to produce the documentation demonstrating his innocence or allow for complete inspections, as the UN demanded?

Read it all.

UPDATE: Reader RMBN comments that Saddam was just as fooled as the rest of us about Iraqi WMD, and that "nobody dared tell him otherwise." I've heard that one before, and so has super commenter Dafydd ab Hugh, who seems to pop up from out of nowhere when his wisdom and perspective are needed:

Interesting theory, RBMN, but this whole "Saddam was fooled" idea runs aground on the shoal of Hussein's innate distrust of everybody.

I certainly think Hussein could have been fooled into believing Iraq had more and better WsMD than they actually did. But does anybody here really imagine that Hussein would passively buy whatever his scientists told him without demanding to see some of those chemical and biological weapons -- and probably see them tested on some prisoners? First, to make sure they're real; and second, because he enjoyed watching helpless people being tormented.

Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. It's entirely possible they never had as much as their own internal records indicated, but they definitely had them (those Kurds, Shi'a, and Iranians didn't die by black magic). And I am extraordinarily skeptical that from 1991 through 2003, they developed and produced exactly zero chembio weapons, which is what is required to maintain the idea that there were none for the inspectors to find.

They were hidden; they were moved; there never were quite as many as we (and Hussein) thought there were... but some still exist, whether in Syria, Iran, or buried in the desert in Iraq.

The suggestion that none existed is such an extraordinary claim that it requires extraordinary evidence... not simply the absence of post-1991 stockpile discoveries.

Damn right.


In-n-out Dreamburger
Originally uploaded by Uncle Mikey.
We don't have In-n-Out Burger in Austin, but this makes me wish we did. From this lovely post, via Wizbang.

UPDATE: Keep scrolling down in the original post, he eats the whole thing, with the exception of a tomato. My hero . . .

Friday, March 11, 2005

Scamgular, or How I Should Have Known Better

I've been a cell phone customer for some time now, long enough to know that while Sprint sucks in coverage and function, you can call them up and scream at them and they'll give you money to shut up for a while. AT&T, my most recent company, has great coverage and function, but they could give a flying crap if you're unhappy with them or want to bail. You won't get a dime out of them under any circumstances.

I've been out of my rate plan with AT&T for some months now, and since I'm returning to real estate I needed a new plan with more minutes, and for that matter a fancier, newer phone with which to convince clients I'm a go-getter with fancy gadgets. So I dropped in on the Cingular store, formerly the AT&T store, near 45th and Guadelupe here in Austin, because the line at Chipotle was too long for my liking and I wanted to kill some time.

While there, I found a nice little phone with wireless internet, camera, Bluetooth, and probably other features that are unknown to me as yet. It wasn't terribly expensive with a contract, and the rate plan was reasonable, featuring 1100 rollover minutes and a moderate text/picture/browser plan. All I had to do to get the bang I deserved for those bucks was to copy my receipt, cut a UPC sticker out of the box, and mail them in for a rebate.

But of course, there are no rebate instructions anywhere in the packaging, or on the receipt, or on the Cingular website. And since it's 11 p.m. here, you can't talk to anyone at Cingular who knows anything about rebates, because they don't work at night. And you can't email them or get online customer service through the website.

Had I known any of that, I would never have considered using Cingular. And this is exactly the kind of dirty pool involved in most rebates, where time limits and purposely difficult conditions make sure most people never actually get their rebates. That's the whole point: you think you're saving money, and the company and salesmen know very well it's bullsh@t. It's the kind of dirty, filthy behavior I should have grown to expect from companies like Cingular by now, and yet I'm still astounded by it as I write this. Death to Cingular, you dirty sons of bitches should rot in hell. I can't wait to verbally kick the ass of the salesman who gladhanded me through the process, even lying to me about how everything I needed to know about the rebate was right there in the box, the box he had just finished fishing through for ten minutes before that.

As Good an Explanation as Any Other

Actually, that title is inappropriate: it's a perfect explanation. Varifrank pegs the source of Michael Jackson's problems very nicely here. I am inclined to agree with Dave Chappelle when he says, and I probably don't quote accurately, "Next time you see Michael Jackson and wonder why he did all that shit to his face, just remember, he did that for you, somehow." But that's not the whole problem, by any stretch of the imagination. As Varifrank points out so eloquently, Howard Hughes had the same problem, as did Elvis. Hell, even Hitler needed at least one person who could tell him he was screwing up and needed to check himself. Not that I'm comparing MJ to AH. Not yet, at least.

UPDATE: Added the first sentence and changed "a major source" to "the source." I really should proofread more.

UPDATE: And fixed the spelling of "accurately." Jeez.

Absolutely Priceless Video

Wizbang posts a link to Stop the Bleating's great post featuring video of a gun safety instructor shooting himself in the leg in front of a bunch of kids he's trying to teach. Frickin' hilarious, and a little tense because you don't know exactly when it's going to happen, and he's not terribly safe with the gun even before the accident. That said, he seems to take it rather well, as do the kids.

UPDATE: Much better video link here from Garfield Ridge.


(I have moved this up to today to point out a couple of things about this 5-day-old post, hope that doesn't break any blogging laws)

This pisses me off so much I'm actually seeing red spots in front of my eyes right now. My father experienced the very thing James Wolcott and Jack Shafer say never happened. What does anyone gain by denying Vietnam Vets, and soldiers in uniform generally, were treated like shit by protesters in the states and, yes, spat upon? Why, to rewrite history the way they want to remember it.

UPDATE: Emailed Jack Shafer to tell him my father and his brothers in arms did in fact experience exactly what he says never happened, and this is what I got:

Did your father report the incident? Is there a contemporaneous account of it in a newspaper or a police report? I'm prepared to believe it happened, I just want to see proof.

My reply:

To whom would he have reported it, and why? You presume a lot of weird things about how this kind of thing went, and what would have happened if it had. Where's your proof it DIDN'T happen? Isn't that the real issue here?

You're the one who's making a public claim of something you are demonstrably ignorant about, and trying to prove a negative to boot (surely you understand how difficult that is?). How many military men and women did you interview about this? Think a little harder about your argument: people who have been through a war aren't likely to run and tell on someone who spits on them because they're wearing a uniform, and they aren't likely to jeopardize their careers over some ignorant ninny with a chip on his shoulder either. You may be threatened by hippies, but I can assure you a man who saw Pearl Harbor bombed and fought in Korea and Vietnam wouldn't be. And he wasn't, just kind of shocked and saddened.

Absence of certain kinds of evidence, cherry-picked by you to slant your argument, is not evidence of absence. You've got an axe to grind about the military, and that's fine. Just don't slander a bunch of people you don't know in the process.

He replied, incomprehensibly:

He could have reported the assault to the police or a newspaper.

I can't prove something DIDN'T happen. And neither can you.

Astounded, I replied thusly:

Then why are you trying?

And yes, he could have. But why would he have? What would he have hoped to gain? Do you misunderstand people, and the military, so thoroughly?

Shafer's reply, to which I replied line by line:

I'm not trying.

Bullshit. You wrote a slanderous essay trying that very thing. Why would you lie so transparently about this?

I'd report an assault, that's why.

I'm sure you would, but in my experience men who aren't pussies take care of their own business, they don't run and tell on people who wrong them. Just the other day a guy almost hit me on the road, then brake-checked me when I blipped the horn to let him know I was there. He chased me down and when I stopped to see what his problem was, he knocked my hat and sunglasses off, trying to provoke me into hitting him. When I slapped his face because he had slapped me slightly knocking my glasses off, he ran and grabbed his phone, yelling "Stay right there! I'm calling the police!" I told him I'd be happy to talk to the police about him trying to cause two car accidents and slapping me first. He chest bumped me a couple of times, cursing all the while, still hoping I'd punch his sorry ass. I declined to give him a reason to charge me with assault.

Did he deserve a beating? Sure. Would it have fucked me over to give in to such an impulse? Totally. It's called discipline, and they teach it in the armed forces. Surely you've heard of it.

I find it preposterous that none of the men who were allegedly spat upon beat the living shit out of the spitters. The people I know who served their country, especially in Vietnam, would not turn the other cheek. Surely there would be news stories or arrest reports stemming from those sorts of brawls. Lembcke could not find one?

I find it preposterous that the people you know would sacrifice their careers to beat up a hippie for doing something that didn't harm them physically. Can't you do any better than "I can't imagine that happening"? There are a lot of things you can't imagine. Doesn't make them nonexistent.

Do you always use this belligerent persona in your correspondence? Does it yield the results you're looking for?

You are slandering a lot of people who you should be thanking for doing what you won't. That seems pretty belligerent to me. And yes, it does. Now fuck off, you're boring the shit out of me with your inane lies.


And that was the end. I suppose I was mean at the end, but it infuriates me that this jackass pretends to not be doing exactly what he has done. Disgusting.

Venal, Vestigial and Vile

Gerard points to and expands upon a nasty little story about the United Auto Workers denying Marines driving foreign vehicles or vehicles with bumper stickers supporting President Bush the right to park at their facilities, which are close to the Marine Corps Reserve Center in Detroit.

Why do we need unions again? I mean, now that we have our 40-hour week and what have you? Then again, most people I know work more than that, or wish they could but are denied the right to overtime pay by their employers, and I don't hear the unions making noise about that unless it involves their members (and frankly not even then, but that doesn't mean it doesn't happen, I guess). So what's the point, other than to feed a corrupt system of inappropriate political influence and routine embezzlement?

Thanks to Mr. Lileks, where I too saw it first.

Buh-Bye, Jackass

Brian at the Peeve Farm has the last word on Dan Rather. Very good stuff.


Blogger has been complete poop for a couple of days, I just gave up after a couple of hours yesterday. Seems better now.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

The Poetry of Life and Death

Gerard at American Digest has made something beautiful out of the ugliness that our fighting men and women in Iraq face every day. Check it out.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Too Frickin' Cool for Words

I could explain this, but you should just go look at it. Very, very cool, and I didn't even know such a thing existed. Ah, the art we have lost along the way . . .

From Ann Althouse, who also loves the Idol.

How Gay Am I?

This gay: I love American Idol. Love it. There's something great about watching these kids struggle before a huge live audience, and when the ones you like and are pulling for do well, it's even better. I love Anwar Robinson, and my wife loves Bo Bice. We both dig Mikalah Gordon and Nadia Turner. Should be a fun season.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Fishier and Fishier

Sgrena Car
Originally uploaded by Uncle Mikey.
The Jawa Report has a post today with pics of what Italian TV station RAI TG1 says is the car Giuliani Sgrena was riding in when, as she says, American forces fired 300-400 rounds into it, including fire from "tanks." That look like a car that was hit by 300 rounds of even .22 ammo to you, much less anything from a tank? She said she was able to gather handfulls of spent bullets from the back seat. I'm pretty sure that's impossible, but not entirely certain. Stranger things have happened in war, and elsewhere.

As Dr. Rusty notes, Scared Monkeys has some possible explanations:

1. The US Soldiers are brilliant marksmen by placing multiple bullets through the same hole.

2. The US soldiers are terrible marksmen, firing 300-400 rounds at the automobile and missing a huge percentage of them.

3. She is a lying #$%#$% communist, who has an ax to grind against the US and its Iraqi strategy and is using this to further her own aims.

I'm not at all sure this is the right car, being the third presented by news services as the car Sgrena rode in. There is a seriously fishy smell all over this story. But at least we understand why she didn't tell Coalition forces what she was doing - she thought it was the best way to keep from getting killed (dammit, I can't find the link or remember where I saw it, but apparently she wrote a piece in the past where she explains why it's better to not let the Amreicans know where you are or what you're doing in Iraq - it's safer that way!?!?).

UPDATE: Fixed Scared Monkeys link. Ooops ...

What a Weirdo

Why would a high school football coach be licking his players' bloody wounds? And why would the players let him? Damn Drudge is creepy sometimes.

Now That Is Interesting

I haven't looked at Coolgov for a while, and that's a shame, because if I had seen this a month ago, I might just have moved to California. That flu really kicked my ass, and I'm still hacking up nastiness from my lungs. And this is pretty damned interesting too, even if it does take a while to load.

I'll Be Seeing That One in the Theater

Wow. I loved the book, both inspiring and thoroughly heartbreaking. I'm sure Clint will do a great job with the movie.

Sounds Like Paradise to Me

Cold fury's got a fine post about how great it is in Cuba. The next time I hear about the glories of Socialism, I will think of this.

What Have We Done for Them Lately?

Blackfive, the paratrooper of love, has posted a great article by Gerald Baker in the Times UK:

ONE OF MY favourite cinematic moments is the scene in Monty Python’s Life of Brian when Reg, aka John Cleese, the leader of the People’s Front of Judea, is trying to whip up anti-Roman sentiment among his team of slightly hesitant commandos.

“What have the Romans ever done for us?” he asks.

“Well, there’s the aqueduct,” somebody says, thoughtfully. “The sanitation,” says another. “Public order,” offers a third. Reg reluctantly acknowledges that there may have been a couple of benefits. But then steadily, and with increasing enthusiasm, his men reel off a litany of the good things the Romans have wrought with their occupation of the Holy Land.

By the time they’re finished they’re not so sure about the whole insurgency idea after all and an exasperated Reg tries to rally them: “All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?”

I can’t help but think of that scene as I watch the contortions of the anti-American hordes in Britain, Europe and even in the US itself in response to the remarkable events that are unfolding in the real Middle East today.

Seems like a lot of people are starting to notice that very thing.

(thanks to Dean's world for the last link)

Monday, March 07, 2005

MOABB: the Mother of All Beer Bongs

There was a time when I would have happily subjected myself to this, and I thank God that time is over. I remember my third spring break at Myrtle Beach, SC, so well because we went to a party where the admission price was the consumption of a four-beer beer bong, administered from the second floor landing that was the only entrance for newcomers. Everyone looks the same when they do something like this: fear, anger, acceptance, commitment, and eventually bulging cheeks and eyes as you experience 48 ounces of beer disappearing down your gullet in about five seconds. Some couldn't keep a seal and ended up wearing some, and some couldn't finish (the last second or so was mostly foam, which is to be expected when the operators were as hammered as they had to have been), but I was amazed at how easy it was. I never was much of a chugger, but all that momentum really opens one up.

An hour later, I was vomiting in the yard. But I still felt like a winner.

Thanks to Llama Butchers for the link, although seeing it again on American Digest reminded me to post it here.

The Rest of the Story

How did I know the Sgrena story was going to turn out to be a load of bullshit? Now she says they were hauling ass, and wants us to believe a tank shot the car. Riiiiight.

UPDATE: Oops. I forgot the most interesting part of what the Italians are saying about this now: nobody said anything to Coalition forces about this operation. Sounds like a great way to get killed; she's lucky to be alive, I guess.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Actually, I Had Noticed That

Instapundit's right, there are a lot of Lebanese hotties in the news these days. And I agree further that the alternative isn't so groovy.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Are You Secretly Spanish?

I got a kick out of this, and not just because my wife occasionally is secretly Spanish, which is when you're a European caucasian going back many generations and yet you insist on overpronouncing Spanish words in a Latin American accent. Steve of the Llama Butchers, who provided the link, says half of his fellow faculty members do it, and certainly all TV news honkies do it religiously.

I accept the Secretly Spanish under one condition: they have to pronounce everything that way, not just Spanish words. Then it makes perfect sense.


I'm not sure I'm willing to go this far, but there is something weird about the Italian journalist who Iraqi terrorist just released, only to be shot up by a US patrol on her way back. As Dr. Rusty points out, she and her paper ("Il Manifesto," and they ain't talkin' 'bout the passenger list on a plane, neither) are as anti-American as they come, and some of her messages were oddly timed. And any attempt to piss all over the success that is Iraq by making the guys who lit up her car out to be the bad guys (how about the f%cking people who HELD YOU HOSTAGE get that label, you silly bitch) is despicable. Read the whole thing and tell me what you think.

Thanks to LGF for the link.

Can I Get Yet Another Hell Yeah?

The best thing I've seen all week: a contributor to Make Magazine's blog has posted a piece on recharge your Ipod Shuffle with a hand crank.

Thanks to Instapundit for pointing this out. I should have seen it before this, but I'm behind on my Make reading. Which is a real shame.

You Had Me at "Boney Old Whore"

Noreen is right about Sex in the City, if you can stand the bad language. I'm not so sure about her opinion of people who won't just swear properly, I'm a fan of gosh and golly. But only because I know what they really stand for.

The Right Side of History

Mark Steyn, on the topic of being right about Iraq all along:

A couple of years back, I went to hear Paul Wolfowitz. I knew him only by reputation - the most sinister of all the neocons, the big bad Wolfowitz, the man whose name started with a scary animal and ended Jewishly. In fact, he was a very soft-spoken chap, who compared the challenges of the Middle East with America's experiments in democracy-spreading after the second world war. He said he thought it would take less time than Japan, and maybe something closer to the 1989 revolutions in Eastern Europe. I would have scoffed, but he knew so many Iraqis by name - not just Ahmed Chalabi, but a ton of others.

Around the same time, I bumped into Dominique de Villepin, the French foreign minister and man of letters. He was just back from Egypt, where he'd been profoundly moved when he'd been asked to convey the gratitude of the Arab people to President Chirac for working so tirelessly to prevent a tragic war between Christianity and Islam. You don't say, I said. And, just as a matter of interest, who asked you to convey that? He hemmed and hawed and eventually said it was President Mubarak. Being a polite sort, I rolled my eyes only metaphorically, but decided as a long-term proposition I'd bet Wolfowitz's address book of real people against Villepin's hotline to over-the-hill dictators. The lesson of these last weeks is that it turns out Washington's Zionists know the Arab people a lot better than Europe's Arabists.

Isn't it odd that the people who purport to be able to see past the smoke and mirrors that are the Bush Administration don't have that power when confronted with European statesmen and Wahabbist lunatics? Why do Chirac, Putin and Schroeder always get taken at their word by lefties, while the "evil neocons" of the Bush administration get every word picked apart for hidden meaning?

I bet you already know the answer to that. And it's about time we all stopped paying attention to those who have dragged their feet every step of the progress coalition soldiers are paying for with their lives.

Et Tu, Dave?

Powerline has the transcript of the Dan Rather appearance on David Letterman, and for some reason, Dave seems to be part of the problem:

LETTERMAN: So CBS News and yourself and others cleared of that, and that seemed to be a great point of criticism, did it not, that there was political bias here, that...

RATHER: People had their own political motivations and agendas, and some people who didn't have that, who were asking the question. That's one reason the panel was appointed. That was one of their conclusions.

LETTERMAN: That charge has been erased by the fact-finding committee?

[RATHER]: That was their conclusion.

LETTERMAN: Did not exist. That evaporated. Secondly, they could not prove the documents were false. They could not prove they were true and accurate, but they also could not prove they were false

RATHER: That's correct.

LETTERMAN: That's a push right there.

RATHER: Some people would not regard it, but you've summarized it correctly. They had a lot of other findings. Those were among the findings.

Christ, why do these people think we won't know when they're lying? Sure they're on the same network, but Letterman just joined the ranks of the Bill Mahers of the world, sad apologists for guilty idiots. Which is cool since I haven't watched him since the early '90s. Good riddance to both of these dinosaurs, I say.

As If You Needed Another Reason to Hate Ward Churchill and Bill Maher

I sure am glad Jeff Jarvis was willing to watch Churchill on Maher's HBO show, because I can't stand either of those pieces of human garbage. If you can, read all about it. Thanks to Instapundit for the link.

I think Maher's worse, frankly. To further perpetrate the outright lie that Churchill is some sort of Native American is sickening, given the fact that Churchill himself has admitted otherwise.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Great Advice Unlikely to be Taken

Democracy Guy, who is not a conservative, is right: Howard Dean needs to resign.

Barely a month since Dean has been DNC chair, already he has put every single Democrat in the country, whether or not they ever liked the man, on his defensive. We have to defend why suddenly he doesn't want to talk about Iraq anymore. We have to defend why he draws crowds with idiots who threw a shoe at his debate foe. And it's just beginning. All this for a position, DNC chair, that has never, ever, been such a source of distraction.

I've argued that perhaps we need to go through this as a party to hit bottom. But the endless defense of Dean that is surely coming might be more than we deserve. It's 2005, but we have to defend the Dean of 2003, because that's who voters remember. We have to defend his 2003 stand on Iraq even after Iraq has had its election in 2005. We have to defend his 2003 condemnation of the Bush democracy doctrine, even after the Bush democracy doctrine appears to be taking down one dictator after another in 2005.

And all along the way, Dean seems oblivious, as if he can just say "I don't make policy on Iraq," and that ends the debate. Mr. Chairman, you don't go to the bars in Cleveland where the mere mention of you as DNC chair starts people laughing at us; people who never knew such a thing as "DNC chair" ever existed. That reaction isn't because they disagree with the DNC over Social Security. Hell, they probably agree with the DNC on Social Security. But we can't get heard about Social Security over the din of shoes flying, tired score settling, and petulant smugness over Iraq.

Democrats don't need this. The position of DNC chair should be a de minimus media issue. Instead, it may soon become the only issue dominating the DNC on a day to day basis. It is hard to imagine picking up a single seat in Congress in 2006 under these circumstances, let alone winning the White House in 2008.

When you let mental defectives and overzealous losers take the helm, it's no wonder you end up on the rocks.

From Instapundit, who thinks it's too soon for all this. I just hope it's not too late.

Good Lord

Jay Tea at Wizbang posted a couple of things here and here on a teen sex scandal that seems to be part of a larger problem.

Jay Tea seems pretty weirded out by this story, and frankly so am I. I don't know whether to make a crude joke or start working on a home schooling program for any potential future offspring. I think kids today get a much earlier and rawer exposure to sex than any generation ever has, and the internet provides an ultra-graphic education in fringe behaviors I had never even heard of until they showed up in my email of their own accord.

I think another problem is that porn has become such a mighty industry that the money is good enough to attract seriously beautiful women to even the ickiest activities. When I was young, there were maybe 10 genuinely attractive porn chicks, and none of them did the fringe stuff. Now, nothing's too gross or degrading for perfect 10s, it seems. That must lend a measure of legitimacy to the behavior; look, even someone as pretty as that lady thinks it's OK.

It's too much too soon for one of the cockiest, most empowered and confident generations of children and young adults this world has ever seen. And I think it's going to have some really weird and awful consequences. I think one day there will be a need for a company that scours old Girls Gone Wild reels and web servers to find all of mommy's embarrassing teen moments before the baby arrives. That kind of thing. Who's with me?