Saturday, October 01, 2005

Fun With Fords

Make of this Harold Ford Jr bit what you will.

SATURDAY NIGHT UPDATE: My bad! Hat tip to Nashville Files for the story. Sorry.
The Crack in the Dam

It seems the first serious crack in the dam of Republican unity has now appeared, courtesy of the American Conservative Union. In a press release earlier this week, America's oldest conservative group said:
]T]he Board of Directors of the American Conservative Union, acting on behalf of over one million ACU members and supporters, do hereby express their grave concern that the Republican Party has abandoned its traditional belief that the individual has supremacy over the state. Big government, in the hands of any party, threatens the rights and privacy of that individual. In the hands of the GOP, the federal government has grown bigger and faster in the last five years than during any previous five year period since The New Deal, and the GOP’s current leadership has forgotten the populist legacy of Ronald Reagan; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Board of Directors of the American Conservative Union applaud the efforts of Congressman Mike Pence (ie. Operation Offset), and other true conservatives, to curb the dangerous growth of government spending and regulation. As strongly as we support Congressman Pence, we just as vehemently oppose Speaker Hastert and other defenders of the status quo and urge them to remember that the GOP only became the majority governing party when it rejected Nelson Rockefeller’s liberal wing of the Republican Party and instead embraced the courageous conservative leadership of Ronald Reagan.
As the ACU puts it in another press release:
The Republican congressional leaders want Indiana’s Rep. Mike Pence to go away, or at least shut up.

They say that he’s grandstanding by talking about cutting spending and that the effort of the Republican Study Committee (RSC), which he chairs, to force them to look for offsets as they prepare to spend as much as $200 billion on hurricane relief, on top of the spending that already has conservatives rolling their eyes, is “counterproductive.”

Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), among others, took Pence to the woodshed last week and, we are told, informed him in the bluntest terms that the problem is not runaway spending or the Democrats but him and the RSC. It seems to be the leaders’ belief that, by criticizing spending, Pence and his hundred-odd followers are not the “team players” they should be because it is at least possible that whipping up popular anger on the issue could convince people that the GOP isn’t doing all it can to deliver on decades of promises to America’s voters.

DeLay went so far as to argue preemptively even before the meeting that there is no wasteful spending in the federal budget because of the effective leadership he and his buddies have provided over the years. Though he’s backed off a little from this statement in the past few days, he laid out his views in Monday’s Washington Times on how Republicans ought to “handle” this volatile issue:

“Our positioning on this issue — as a party that is strongly identified with the American people as sensible and determined protectors of the hardworking taxpayer — demands a unified and clear opposition to those whose policies and agendas are hostile to the taxpayer’s best interests: Capitol Hill Democrats intent on raising taxes, free-spending special-interest groups intent on curing the ills of society by advocating federal dollars as the only solution and a bevy of bureaucrats more interested in an expansion of federal programs than the reduction of ineffective ones.”

What Mr. DeLay doesn’t get is that it is precisely that identification that is in danger — not from Pence, but from the actions of the GOP in office. Republicans around the country are beginning to question the wisdom of devoting their time, treasure and votes to a party that doesn’t take its commitments seriously.
Democrats think that they can keep hammering away and eventually they'll find the magic bullet that will kill Republican political domination. The real threat to the GOP is right here, this issue.

Americans see Republicans behaving in exactly the same out of control, wasteful, porky way that the Democrats did in their years of power, even after decades of promise that they would change Democratic "business as usual." The American conservative taxpayer is really mad right now and the expression of that anger will come in 2006 if the Republican leadership doesn't change its ways right now.

Operation Offset is nothing but a reasonable request to balance unexpected emergency funding with equal emergency cuts in non-necessary projects and programs. It's longer range goal, buried in the plan itself, is to re-introduce fiscal responsibility into the Federal equation and Republican actions. It's all to the good. (Tennessee's Representative Marsha Blackburn is a member of Operation Offset, by the way. Good for her, and Tennessee!)

The worst of all possible outcomes is facing us right now. If voters turn out Republican legislators in disgust at their rejection of fiscal responsibility and border security, they may put Democrats back in office, rather than just turning out the miscreants in primary elections. (That is, unless some true conservative Republicans can get into the primaries and block the wasters. It's tough to do.) If Democrats get even the slightest of wins, they will crow and boast about "mandates" and "rejections" and whatnot. But it won't be a real win, one based on platform and principle, but simply a "lesser of two evils" choice that Democrats will willfully and gleefully exploit.

And the Democrats will have the / Democratic Underground / Daily Kos / Mike Moore / anti-Whatcha got American? loons in charge, or increasing their efforts in their putsch to take over the party for good. Long range, I wouldn't mind that; it will only increase the depth and length of their exile. That's fine by me. But coming now, as the struggle is not quite clear, it will instead embolden and derange the Democrats, and wreck the nation.

There is a part of me which would like to see our political status quo wrecked, I have to admit. It's only by revolution that great change takes place. But having this group of Democrats -- with no positive agenda and powered by hatred and negativity -- at the helm when the revolution comes could mean great danger.

There is another danger: the likelihood of a third party challenge to the Republicans over fiscal security and border control. Remember the Reform Party and what it stood for? The issues that powered them then are still with us today, and the Republicans have only proved Reform right all along by their actions now. Someone may take up the banner again, and we end up, again, with a minority Democratic President.

Some might argue that would be a good thing -- look what happened when Clinton (Elected with only a plurality thanks to Reform, about the same as President Bush's popularity right now! But he claimed mandate.) had to face a growing Republican majority in the Congress. but Clinton was a once-in-a-generation figure. He excelled and prospered even as his electric aura overshadowed the collapse of the Democratic Party underneath him. He is unique in politics; none of his pretenders for '08 can hold a candle to him.

Democrats will also not have the sensible (if wrong-headed) Old Guard at their helm, but the lunatic hordes of the Resurgent Far Left -- anti-Semitic, internationalist, isolationist, multiculturalist. And they will set about stepping up the pace and force of their takeover (and subsequent purges).

It's a horrible prospect. And it all lays at the feet of the Republican Party leadership now. Change is gonna come; question is who will be directing it?
Context is All

Great photo essay that shows how, by tightly cropping a photo and removing the explanatory context around the central image, the San Francisco Chronicle was able to create an impression that, while false, is still not quite unethical.

What looks like an iconic image of a strong, poltically active woman is revealed instead to be one of several teenagers being stage-managed by an adult communist organiser for an anti-Israeli front group.

SATURDAY NIGHT UPDATE: Oh my God, but it keeps getting better and better. The SF Chronicle article linked in the story above identifies the young girl as a member of Youth Together. Who are they?
The Youth Together Project was created in October 1996 in response to rising racial conflicts in California's Bay Area schools. The project is a consortium of multiracial agencies: ARC Associates, East Bay Asian Youth Center, International Institute, West Oakland Health Council and Xicana Moratorium Coalition. These groups believe that in order to achieve long-term resolutions to racial conflicts in the schools, the students must be involved in creating the solutions. Funded initially by the U.S. Department of Education's hate crimes prevention grant, Youth Together is currently funded by the department and additional private foundation grants, including the Evelyn and Walter Haas Foundation and the Y and H Soda Foundation.

Program Operations

Youth Together develops multiracial student teams to lead school-based efforts to prevent and reduce racial conflicts and violence in five targeted high schools in Oakland, Berkeley and Richmond. Each of the five Youth Together consortium members is responsible for one school. A group of approximately ten diverse students at each school undergoes a series of biweekly trainings that are run by the consortium group. In addition, each month there is a project-wide meeting for the young people from all five schools. Through a racial violence prevention curriculum, imparted in these trainings and through team discussions, students develop an understanding of the dynamics of race, equity and violence in their schools. These students then mentor their peers and younger students to pass on the understanding and skills that they have learned. Participants also work with school administrators and staff to educate them about students' perspectives on race and equity issues. Finally, the students develop school campaigns to address the underlying roots of racial violence, and work with members of the school community to implement these changes. Through the design and implementation of the Youth Together Project, students learn that their perspectives are valid and valued. They also learn to find positive ways to resolve conflicts and to build alliances across color lines. Youth Together also operates a summer program for eighth graders to increase their understanding of race and peacemaking.

Outcomes and Significant Accomplishments

As a result of the Youth Together Project, 350 young people have increased their awareness and understanding of their own and other groups' cultural and racial histories and backgrounds. The project has empowered young people to believe that they have the ability to change themselves, their friends and their schools into positive forces working for justice and peace. Youth Together has also enabled school communities to work together to change the policies and practices that give rise to racial conflicts and divisions. Youth Together is currently developing a curriculum guide which will be available for dissemination and replication in Fall 1999.
That's from this page, from NARA, the . Follow the link up the URL chain and you learn that this program was an initiative from... wait for it... the Clinton presidency!

Even better was the purpose -- to stop racial hatred in America's schools. Which explains why a communist sympathiser is leading a group of American teens in adopting Palestinian terrorist dress, in front of Palestinian flags which indicate sympathy with the Palestinian terrorist actions, and by extension sympathy with the murder of Israelis and Jews.

If I had more time, I'd love to Google the names and organisations listed by Youth Together as their founders. Guarantee you that they are all radical, Leftist (and Marxist) narrow-agenda "activist" groups, bilking taxpayers for the money they need to survive because they can't possibly raise it themselves.

Remember, this is your tax money at work here, funding anti-war nonsense that has no rational connection to teaching East Bay youth how to live with each other.

All of which flew right over the heads of the SF Chronicle photographer, writer, editor, etc as they were prepping this for print. Or maybe they knew and hoped you wouldn't....

Hey, Chris Peck, Editor in Chief of the Commercial Appeal, tell me again why I should trust your industry's vetting and fact-checking process; the assurances of balance, neutrality and objectivity; the ponderous solemnity you drape yourself in? Cause I sure see a whole lot of reasons not to trust.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Thought for the Day

[From a comment I made further down.]

Laws are tools, not expressions. That's why social engineers love to tinker. We keep giving them lovely, useful tools.
My Kung Fu is Stronger Than Yours!

Mark and I get together every Wednesday for a game or two of Epic: Armageddon, a table-top wargame using 6mm figures. It's a lot like commanding an army and can be very entertaining and frustrating at the same time.

Mark has the details of our last Wednesday games. Not only did he beat me in two games but badly enough to get me to offer him my defeat! Yes, I am his biatch now. It was bound to happen, as I've lately taken to offering him the opportunity before each game to save face by capitulating before hand. "Pride goeth before a fall," right?

He says I'm playing better now, which is good. I have a clearer idea of how various kinds of formations work together, and what formation is good at what kind of tactic. I've lately been playing a particular formation -- Devastator missile-launching infantry in huge heavily armed tanks called Land Raiders. I like the combination; it's got a lot of firepower and can do a lot of damage, and it's hard to break or kill.

But, as I'm learning, it's also a very expensive formation in terms of what I can afford for the kind of tournament-rules games we sometimes play. If we're playing an "all in" game, with everything we've got, it's not an issue. But when we have sharp limits under tournament rules, then I don't think I can afford that combination and may have to go with less-powerful and less-costly alternatives so as to free up some resources for adding other units. Especially against his Ork army, who use swarm tactics: dozens of big axe-swinging thugs swamping their enemies with sheer numbers.

These calculations are a part of the fun of the game. The Epic system offers a lot of flexibility in how you can put the various armies together. If I wanted, I could field all artillery, or all infantry, or mostly heavy tanks with some infantry, even an all-space force which drops from the skies right onto the board with devastating results, if things go right.

That's yet another fun part of the game: dice and luck. As Mark notes, you can lay the best of plans but if luck isn't with you, too bad. You can lose badly, or be doing great up until that one vital roll of the dice goes against you. It's been teaching me about making plans, but not planning for specific results or outcomes. Sometimes you have to be able to recover and keep going, to adapt your damaged plan to the reality on the ground, by planning for various outcomes good or bad and not just the desired one.

I just recently read a book (The Art of Maneuver Warfare) that has added immeasurably to my understanding of strategy and to implementing it on the table-top battlefield. Stupidly, I loaned it to Mark, who is also gleaning vital tactics and strategy from it. But hey, if it makes him a better opponent, then that makes me a better player.

It's all fun. Go read Mark's account.
What's the Point?

I read this Commercial Appeal story and it took me a day or two get finally get what was bothering me about it.

What you have is basically the results of reporter / investigator Mark Perrusquia's afternoons spent digging through publicly available records downtown to amass a record of a lot of bad news for John Ford, disgraced and resigned State Senator.

So what's the point? To borrow Gertrude Stein's famous phrase, there's no there there. It's a lot of evidence in search of a raison d'etre. If they wanted to shame John Ford, to wave his dirty laundry in front of the public for our amusement, then they accomplished that. But if there's a larger point here, it's not in the story. Which makes this a kind of pornography.

I've always disliked the standard broadcast and local news approach to traumatic and violent events, which is to stick the camera in people's faces and record their grief and horror. It is, to me, emotional pornography. A ritual display of others' most intimate moments for our pleasure and gratification.

It reminds me of the Commercial Appeal's running of a photograph a couple of years ago, of a distraught, mentally ill mother holding police at bay by holding a gun to her pre-teen child's head. It was Page One, above the fold. There was no reason to run the photo, as the events happened in Nashville and not Memphis, and everything ended well enough. It was one of an innumerable number of crimes committed that day across the state and region. But the CA had the picture, it was dramatic and sure to cause controversy, and so they ran it. Just for drama's sake.

Which is what's going on with the Ford story. This used to be the supporting evidence for a real story about the unraveling of Ford's income sources and how high-flying and close to the edge his life was to run into these kinds of arrears in a mere six months or so. (He first came under serious investigation by his colleagues in the State Senate in February or March this year. Then came the Tennessee Waltz indictments early this summer.)

There is no connect-the-dots reporting and examination going on here. Just a page of dots. How does Ford earn his money? Where and from whom? Did they talk with any of these people to find out how events have impacted Ford's earning power? No. All they have is a lot of unpaid bills massaged into the semblance of a purpose.

That semblance? Well, a lot of regular CA readers would say it's just the latest in the paper's long string of abuse heaped on the non-Harold Jr parts of the Ford family. They couldn't get people near John Ford to talk, except the ever-voluble Tamara Mitchell-Ford, so they went with what they had.

And local news stations went for it. Three and Five both went straight by the CA's outline, reporting what was only part of a story, and not the real meat of it.

Mark Perrusquia is a "real meat" reporter. He excels at digging and drawing connections. To put this out under his name is sad to see. You would think even the "new" Commercial Appeal would find this embarrassing.
Shades of Rickey Peete!

The newest member of the Tennessee Waltz Indictment Club is William Cotton of Hamilton County, a County Commissioner. I have no idea about his guy, except that he's connected to Charles Love, who was indicted in the first wave. He and Barry Myers are, as I correctly predicted, now and forever to be described by the lazy press as "bagmen." Whatever else they are or did, it's all compressed into that one ludicrous word.

Anyway, Cotton's story has two interesting facets. One is that he's on tape taking money at a restaurant. Shades of Rickey Peete, who was caught the same way! Cotton even warned Love not to take money that way. For Memphians, this provokes sage nods; we've seen this before and we know better.

The other interesting elision from the full account is this:
Cotton, 58, was led from his home handcuffed and was released hours later. His next hearing is Oct. 14....

Cotton was arrested at home after leaving Thursday's commission meeting, complaining of the flu. A caravan of unmarked patrol cars followed him home where he was charged with taking money to affect public policy-making....
So... they were going to arrest Cotton at the County Commission meeting? Now that's balls. Without more to go on, we have to ask: did Cotton get advance word and plead illness to escape the embarrassment, or did the agents show up and for some reason let Cotton leave without arrest, them following like lazy bloodhounds? I'd like to know. It's always nice to know that some criminals (alleged, of course) get favorable treatment; it just raises the hopes for regular guys like me.

On another front, State Representative Lois DeBerry won't be facing State criminal charges investigation, but merely an ethics violation investigation. Rather than attempt to rewrite or wrangle with reparsing the law -- which says accepting gifts from registered lobbyist is illegal; but the e-Cycle representative wasn't a legally registered lobbyist -- they will simply side-step that issue to focus on DeBerry's behavior as it relates to House rules. This also avoids them having to hand up a colleague to the State's prosecutors, which I'm sure was on everyone's mind, given how "small" DeBerry's infraction was. All she's likely to get now is a sharp handslap.

The twelve member committee (click "Ethics"), by the way, voted unanimously.

The story ends with a deadpan paragraph that is a howler of disbelief inducement:
She has not been charged with any crime, and she insisted she has broken no law. She said she never discussed any legislation with "L.C." and was not aware his company was interested in legislation.
So, she's in a limo with a good friend, Representative Kathryn Bowers; she and Bowers are middle-agish black women and their companion is a stranger, a white man. Their only points of contact are their relationship to Bowers and the fact that he wants to do business with the Legislature and she's a member of the Legislature.

And we're supposed to believe that nothing on that point was ever discussed in several hours?

Oh yeah, I'll buy that.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Another Music Post

I was watching the beginning of CSI and the soundtrack was the cover version of Tears for Fears' Mad World done by Gary Jules and Mike Andrews, from the Donnie Darko soundtrack. (Full story here)

Most of the folks reading this should be familiar with the original, which the post linked above describes as "chugs forward with electric drums, a wash of keyboards, and layers of synthesised horns." The cover version, though, is a closely-miked voice singing sofly with genuine melancholy alongside a simple piano accompaniment, with a subtle synthesiser boost. It's definitely a 3AM kind of song. Scarily intimate, letting you in just a little too close.

It's also an illustration of one of my favorite theses about music: good songs can withstand being transferred to any other genre, and may even improve.

Look at the Fine Young Cannibals' Ever Fallen in Love. The original, by English punk band The Buzzcocks, was full-bore, high speed guitars, an adrenalin rush. The FYC slowed it down, transferred it to a lush keyboard environment and had a Top 40 hit.

Going more obscure (because that's where my musical tastes lie, sadly for you), there is Aztec Camera's acoustic version of Van Halen's mega-hit Jump. Diamond Dave and VH in their pop mode makes for a bouncy rocker, but Aztec Camera took a more relaxed approach, so that the song almost sounds knocked off, half-joking. When Roddy Frame off-handedly sings the song's trademark line "You might as welllllll jump," he sounds almost like he's talking to a friend and kiddingly suggesting it for real. Very sweet.

There was a band from Athens, Georgia, music scene back in the Second Wave of American Punk that produced REM, the B-52s, Pylon, Guadalcanal Diary, and others. They were an instrumental group called Love Tractor. On their first album with vocals they did a cover of Kraftwerk's Neon Lights. Of course, most folks know Kraftwerk for thin, wobbly vocals and lush, detailed, completely synthetic soundscapes. Love Tractor redid the song with a raga-rock feel (think George Harrison during his Indian phase, the whole "Eastern enlightenment" thing, or bad Sixties movies). Dense layers of guitars with similarly thin vocals. No matter how many people I've played it for, no one recognises it until the vocalist starts singing, but everyone's amazed by the difference and by how good it sounds.

There was a local cover band in Huntsville in the late Seventies called Nuke the Whales. Their lead guitar player was called Doctor Proctor because he was a med student during the day. His schtick was to take his wireless guitar and leap around from table to table in clubs. The lead singer was the lead sales manager for the big Top 40 AM radio station. They did a hilarious cover of the song Cocaine. Eric Clapton's version is the most famous, but it was written and first recorded by JJ Cale. His original is a bit slower, but his vocals are deep, gravelly, bone-weary and harrowing. He had obviously written the song from personal experience which had thoroughly kicked his ass. The Nuke the Whales version was played as though they were on cocaine. It flew by in a blur. "Shedon'tmindshedon'tmindshedon'tmind..." big pause for the audience to get ready... "COCAINE!" Zoom!

Nashville's White Animals were legend for their covers. Two in particular stand out for me. I first saw them in the early Eighties playing at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. They did a version of The B-52s Planet Claire where the lead singer and the guitar player left the stage during the song to sit with the audience, still playing their instruments. The drummer and bassist kinda shrugged and kept up the long, jammy rhythm while the other two tinkled his Casio and strummed his guitar for a while.

They were also famous for a nearly nine minute long epic version of the Van Morrison / Them classic Gloria. It was faithful in that they didn't redo anything to the lyrics or chords. But in every other way, it was reworked into a long, long night of trying to get laid. The band's producer was also their soundman at shows and an uncredited (sorta) fifth Animal. Most folks didn't realise he was manipulating vocals with echo, throwing a Jamaican "dub" feel into the band's sound, and generally taking a straight-forward (and fun-loving) cover band into new territory. After grinding away through the usual verse/chorus stuff they then launch into The Jam. Lead singer Kevin Gray starts talking to the listener about driving around in his car with his girl, hand on his stick and how she reached DOWWWWWWWWNNNNN. He warns the listener about what can happen, and the bassist can be heard adding "'Cause it can lead to harder stuff" to which Kevin enthusiastically replies "Yeah, yeah, YEAH!" Some "unhs" and back into the riffing. Cover bands have always redone songs with long, slow sections where the members show off their chops, or they try to take listeners to new places mentally. The White Animals succeed in Gloria.

You want more? How about Iggy Pop's The Passenger, from his David Bowie-collaboration days? I think it's even been used in a car commercial. A chugging rocker, full of anomie, with the Ig's deep, sonorous voice singing about driving around bleak industrial towns, trying to find some action. It was covered by Siouxsie and the Banshees, and English post-punk band. They redid it with upbeat flamenco-ish guitars and horns, and Siouxsie's mannered singing. It still has that "driving nowhere" feel, but in a more open production atmosphere. It's weird, but in a welcome way.

Let's go the other way. The Mary Tyler Moore Show had a great theme song, Love is All Around, beloved by young women in the early Seventies all across America. The original, written by Sonny Curtis, was typical of the soft-rock sound of the day, compressed to run in the time alloted as opening title credits. A big studio band softly but emphatically rocking out. Then came Joan Jett, prototypical hard rocker. She did was is essentially a fairly reverent version, but with her trademark stripped-down, no-bs sound and made it cool all over again for a new generation of women. Same song, two different takes, same result across twenty years.

I mentioned Guadalcanal Diary earlier. On their first proper album, "Walking in the Shadow of the Big Man," they include a live, full band, electric cover of the folky / protest classic Kumbayah. Instead of the weedy, wuss plea you're used to, it becomes triumphal, a cry to arms, building to a great climax.

There are many more. Punk bands were especially fond of doing satirical takes on previous generations' hits. Take The Sex Pistols' version of The Monkees' Steppin' Stone. Sloppy, sarcastic fun. The Monkees were singing about love, but from The Sex Pistols, it sounded like a thumb of the nose to the record companies and media flaks that all wanted a piece of them. Same song, different meanings.

Are there any more good covers, done in a different musical genre? Not just the kitschy ones, but fans of the song trying something new or adapting a song they love to their own musical style?

Speaking of television theme songs, my all-time favorite is the Hawaii Five-0 theme. Another large studio orchestra, but going full bore, balls to the wall, burly and muscular. Wild blaring horns -- lots of them! More! -- rolling drums, pounding beat. It builds to a frantic crescendo and then, with a few da-da-da-das it's over, leaving your breathless. Gotta love that.
And So It Begins....

Democrats are crapping themselves over the indictment of Representative Tom DeLay yesterday. They think, for the umpteenth time, that they finally have the cudgel or lever or whatever by which they can discredit and oust the Bush administration.

And now, today, comes this:
The money that led to the indictment this week of two Las Vegas pastors and the wife of one of them came from federal grants arranged by Sen. Harry Reid in September 2001, a Reid spokeswoman said Wednesday....

According to the indictment, a grant of $423,000 was approved for the alliance in September 2002.

The indictment charges the defendants of using the grant money to benefit themselves.

A Reid relationship with the Second Baptist Church surfaced in 1997, when the senator donated $250 to the church where Davis was and still is pastor.

The money came from John Huang, who was convicted of making illegal contributions to the 1996 re-election campaign of President Clinton.

At about the same time, Reid donated another $250 from Huang to the First African Methodist Episcopal Church in Las Vegas.
As a retired Clinton Hater (I still think he's a sociopath and did the Democrats far more damage than they can see, but no longer take the slavering delight in every perceived wrong he did like Democrats with Bush today. It got old and I realised that this kind of stuff is bipartisan. Events have borne out that belief.), I understand the Democratic impulse, but I think they may have taken one step too many. The Texas prosecutor who brought the conspiracy charge (Hey! Can't convict on the crimes themselves? Allege conspiracy and indict, indict, indict.) has a whole lot of problems of his own for the indictment to overcome. It looks like it will all blow up in their faces now.

As it has time and time again. Albert Einstein said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.

On the other hand, the Republican Party really does have a lot of problems of its own that will cause problems for them in the '06 elections. Democrats will claim false and self-aggrandising reasons for any victories, but it's not from any appeal on their part. It's that Republicans are digging a deep hole for themselves, and not pausing or slowing down or looking up. Border security and fiscal responsibility are bubbling away out there. Republicans' seeming indifference to it (especially from President Bush. Remember his term from the spring and summer of 2001, before 9/11? Lessons there for the alert to recall.) is costing them right now.

If Republicans don't get serious about their whole reason for being handed the reins of government there will be a backlash. If someone gets on the ball ASAP and self-finances another Perot-style protest party like Reform, they are in deep, deep trouble.

The discontent of social conservative Republicans with Bush before the election is nothing at all compared to the anger from fiscal conservatives right now. Failing to deal with it properly will assure doom for them and a Democrat default victory.

Which would be doom for us all. If anyone shouldn't be handed an undeserved victory, it's the, anti-war / anti-America Far Left trying to wrest control of the Democratic Party. The wreck they would make of America would likely be enough to end the American Century. Their self-righteous glee would be as appalling as it would be bloody. Remember post-Revolution France?
Yet Another Excercise in Obviousness

Via Say Uncle comes yet another Politics Test. The results are no surprise:
You are a

Social Liberal
(78% permissive)

and an...

Economic Conservative
(81% permissive)

You are best described as a:


Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid
Also: The OkCupid Dating Persona Test

Some of the questions were a bit confusing for me. For example, one asks if it's alright to have Federal regulation of television shows. Well, very few people understand that we gave the Federal government the power to regulate radio (and then television) as a public trust for The Common Good. So, yes, I think the Federal government should exercise that power if they have it. But I don't think we should have ever given it to them in the first place. The Federal Communications Act should be abolished.

See? It's that kind of over-thinking that makes me such a dud at social gatherings. That, and I use phrases like "social gathering." And I like "Windy" by The Association.
Early Adopter

Polar Donkey speculates on the 2007 Memphis mayoral race. He seems to think Harold Ford, Jr will run and that Shelby County Demcratic Party infighting will open up a power vacuum for someone to exploit.

Ummm... yeah. Young Master Harold simply does not have what it takes to be a mayor. Nor does it seem to me that his ego will accept what is most certainly a "demotion" and the loss of the national media stage he currently enjoys. Yes, he would be appropriately "corporate" in the Herenton mold; he would be less secretive; he's widely viewed as pro-business. But he's also an openly partisan Democrat where Herenton affects a much less politicised image. Many business leaders won't like that at all.

My best guess is Harold stays in the Senate race and loses. Then he goes back to the House, but finds himself, in trying to take the seat back, in a real electoral contest for the first time. He might win, though that will depend on where the family's media circus is by then. Will Unka John be on trial? How badly will Aunty Ophy implode during her brief tenure in the State Senate? Will the mysterious Memphis-Miami connection in the Tennessee Waltz investigation ever show a link between the Fords and the Shelby County Democrats being indicted right now?

What little I know says that Herenton is indeed serious about running for yet another term. He really should've stopped before this one. He would have gone out a hero and all the mess he's been responsible for would have come out on someone else's watch. As it is, he's got all kinds of problems to deal with: record unemployment; loss of NW Airlines; serious budget problems and problems with the office responsible; lots of potential challengers chafing at his hogging. If he overstretches yet again, he's going to destroy what little respect and legacy he has remaining.

Besides, I want Carol Chumney to run. I could have a ton of fun razzing her.
Today's Assignment

Jamey has a couple of very short lessons in American History and World Cultures. Painless instruction, so go.

While you're there, go up to his main page and read up on his experiences with WWII veterans. Good stuff.
The World is About to Change

A group led by Nicholas Negroponte is about to make$100 laptops a possibility. They aren't for America or the West, though ultimately a commercial version will be available, but for the developing and Third Worlds.
The proposed design of the machines calls for a 500MHz processor, 1GB of memory and an innovative dual-mode display that can be used in full-color mode, or in a black-and-white sunlight-readable mode. The display makes the laptop "both an electronic book and a laptop," he said.

One display design being considered is a flat, flexible printed display developed at MIT's Media Lab. Negroponte said the technology can be used to produce displays that cost roughly 10 cents per square inch. "The target is $12 for a 12-inch display with near-zero power consumption," he said.

Power for the new systems will be provided through either conventional electric current, batteries or by a windup crank attached to the side of the notebooks, since many countries targeted by the plan do not have power in remote areas, Negroponte said.
They are to be made available to schoolchildren the world over.

Issues of connections to the internet are being worked on by others, but just having the computers is a huge step in connecting the poor and isolated of the world to the knowledge and information they desperately need to improve local health care, agriculture, politics, etc.

I really hope this idea works out. The implications are tremendous and exciting. Studies have repeatedly shown that societies that adopt Western liberal democratic representative government -- especially empowering women -- have dramatic improvements in life expectancy, quality of life, general health and literacy. They also experience significantly lower fertility rates that eventually lead to smaller populations. It's overall a win-win.
Cindy Sheehan

It occurred to me today that, like Jesus riding the ass into Jerusalem knowing he was to die shortly, so Cindy Sheehan rode the bus into Washington DC to complete her journey with the pinnacle ritual of protesters and dissenters: arrest and jailing.

Pictures and video show a smiling, almost amazed, Sheehan being carried by a phalanx of cops to a waiting van where, surrounded by other criminals, she smiles and waves as she departs.

So, this is the same Sheehan who has been railing unrelentingly against Bush, Cheney, the military, the Departments of State and Defense, and every target she has handed to her? The vitriolic, unsparing, angry woman? And yet, about to be swallowed into the very belly of the beast she is almost beatific in her happiness.

No fear? No concerns for her safety? No worries she might "have an accident?" Or get "misplaced" in the system?

Her near-complete lack of concern about being taken by the very security apparatus she has been criticising and deriding for months says something either about Sheehan or the objects of her scorn and derision.

Either Sheehan sees herself as a celebrity who is above the need for these kinds of worry-- she's just too well-known and well-loved to be subject to danger -- or the people she sees as heartless imperialists filled with hate and greed... aren't.

Neither option speaks well for Sheehan, but I suspect most readers of H-B had already figured that out.
Marsha Blackburn, Blogger?

OK, not quite, but Representative Blackburn has a post up at about the Operation Offset project from Congressional Republicans, including herself. Offset seeks to get cuts in pork, wasteful, and mismanaged spending to help offset the huge expenditures going to Hurricanes Katrina/Rita relief. It also seeks to get Republicans back on the path of fiscal responsibility.

Good comments on the post, too, including what appears to be one from occasional H-B commenter von! Another points out that OO has the potential to become the next-generation Contract With America, the abandoned blueprint that powered the 1994 Republican revolution.

And then, in a follow-up post, Representative Blackburn responds to comments on her original post!

Blackburn's star may not burn as brightly as some, but it's good to know she's in the firmament.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005


[NOTE: This is a spoiler-free review. You are safe.]

I went to the special screening of Serenity tonight at the Cordova Malco. It was surprising to see the long line waiting to get in, even though we got there an hour early. Turns out some radio station had a contest for tickets. I scanned the crowd to see if I recognised anyone from the Memphis blog community, but we were it.

We managed to snag some swag -- a page-sized one-sheet and some Serenity keytags. Kinda wimpy, as they didn't even have enough for the crowd. By the time the movie started the theater was maybe 95% full. Judging by crowd reactions during the crowd was largely, but not completely, Serenity fans. They laughed at all the right places and were appropriately shocked too.

The rock station sponsoring the showing (I guess?) had a banner down front, as did the Commercial Appeal for some reason. There was a middle-aged guy with a clipboard and a buzzcut running around; once in a while he'd run up into the seats. Not sure what his function was. There were also a couple of folks with hardpasses on neckchains, but they were never identified.

Anyway, on to the movie!

I had worked hard to keep my expectations down, with fair results, but I still loved the movie. Folks who have been looking for a new direction for science fiction movies in the post-Star Trek/Star Wars world should be glad for the new Battlestar Galactica and Serenity. In both, the "gee whiz" techno-geekery is held to a minimum in favor of strong characterisations and the relationships. As much as I like the technobabble and gee-whizzery, I have to say that I find the characters in these new SF productions to be worth tuning in for by themselves. They are flawed, normal people -- easily recognisable. Some strive for the heroic, some are just doing their job, but they are more like you and me than the stereotypes and archetypes of SW/ST.

At the same time, this movie has a large-scale feel, a sense of large events moving in the background as we watch our heroes cope with the daily business. It's the right pitch, as in the first two Star Wars movies, and makes us feel like we're in a large, lived-in space.

The movie's lead, and captain of this rag-tag crew, is Captain Mal Reynolds (Played with rock-solid leading man chops by Nathan Fillion.). He is an embittered veteran of the losing side of a civil war. He's a survivor of its worst battle. Like all Whedon heroes, he struggles between the desire to do the right thing and paying the costs. But when he decides on a course of action, all grey areas disappear and you are either on the team or far, far away. He is an idealist who has a tough time fitting into the workaday world. This is not to say he's honest, in the sense of following the letter of the law. He just has his own moral code, which he follows strictly.

The movie starts out by briefly setting up the situation in the Serenity universe, and answering a long-time fan question. We are then into the action. The plot is clear and the narrative easy to follow, except at one point late in the movie. The pacing is a good back-and-forth between action and dialogue. I never got the sense of things dragging with one exception, and that was more a thematic one having to do with the young woman who is the source of their troubles. We know what must come, but it takes a while. Events move quickly enough, but the thematic overlay seems stretched thin.

Comparing to the television series it is based on, Firefly, there are some differences. The use of pistols for civilians, versus heavier weaponry by the government, isn't explained and may confuse some. But, the new pistols don't look like Wild West survivors. The show's blending of Chinese and Anglosphere cultures is never addressed. Fans of Firefly of course know what's going on, but the characters spout the occasional Chinese phrase with no explanation; most of the text is Chinese too. I'm not sure how someone coming to the movie cold might react. The series intentionally conflated Chinese and Western culture and put it front-and-center. It gave the series a sort-of late 19th century San Francisco / Chinatown feel that helped set a mood and style. The movie tends to background the Chinese aspects a bit too much.

River Tam, the damaged girl, was a mystery in the series, and here her mystery is slightly more cleared up. It's very good to see that she's not some supernatural mental freak, but only slightly more gifted than the best of us. The actress who plays her, Summer Glau, does a spectacular job keeping her traumatised mind front-and-center, rather than playing her as some X-men angsty superhuman. She has much more to do in the movie than she did in the series and she rises to the demands with appealing results.

Shepherd Book (played by Ron Glass, who is really showing his age; is he ill in real life?) is nearly a cameo in the movie, though in a pivotal role. Inara (Morena Baccarin, looking more beautful in the movie. Yum!) comes in late but falls into her accustomed ship role quite well. The movie's bad guy is played by African/British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor. He starred in the thriller Pretty Dirty Things and is a very watchable blend of civilised and ruthless and evil all in one.

The script is packed full of the trademarked Whedon dialogue and humor. None of which will be quoted here. The crowd laughed a lot, in the right places, so that should tell you something. Fans of his throwaways and asides and conversational twists will be well pleased. I know I was. It's good to hear his dialogue again. Sometimes the language seems a tad forced in being Wild Western, with archaic terms and stilted phrasing, but it's not lethal. Just a tad clunky sometimes.

Overall, I don't think it's off-putting to people coming in to this movie cold. Fans should be very happy, certain events excluded. (No spoilers in comments, OK y'all?) I would recommend this movie to anyone, and especially to folks who are tired of the Star Trek/Star Wars ethos. It's different in that it's less high tech glossy and more grungy and lived-in. Director/writer Whedon has said that his inspiration for the series was post-Civil War America, and it certainly shows in many ways, especially in the moral code of Mal Reynolds.

My only criticisms are technical. The film is too-dark for my tastes, and the grain in the film shows too much. Otherwise interesting sets are just muddy and hard to see. Whedon also shoots a lot of the action sequences up close with shaky-cam and quick edits that make the action harder to follow than I'd like. There were a lot of establishing shots and landscape (or spacescapes) that I'd like to study, but I guess that's why God made DVDs.

As an aside, I have to say that the libertarian in me was tickled pink by this movie. Its ultimate message is libertarian to the core, as is Mal's way of life and looking at things. It's not pushed in your face, but it's there, like with The Incredibles.

Lastly, I saw the CA's movie reviewer there: John Beifuss. In person, he's much leaner and more rumpled than his picture. I introduced myself and asked his quick opinion. He said, and I quote, "I liked it!" Exclamation included. He didn't think people who didn't know about Firefly would be confused. So there you go; I just saved you fifty cents on Friday.

I attended with fellow fans AlphaPatriot and Mark. As I wrote this they didn't have their reviews up, but they should by Wednesday morning. [NOTE: Done! Links changed.] I'd suggest you read their reviews, as they also like it, but had different reactions.

My thanks to the folks at Universal for setting up this screening and giving us the chance to attend.

In short: Go, enjoy. Good science fiction; great dialogue and story; compelling plot with relevant undertones. It's funnier than the usual run of SF movies, too, which is welcome.

WEDNESDAY MORNING UPDATE: Links above are fixed to link directly to AP's and Mark's reviews. AP also has another post with links to more reviews!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Fleeing Rita

Via SayUncle comes one family's hellish experience of fleeing Houston in the face of Hurricane Rita:
As we moved along, our own gas became critical. My wife was in such agony over the whole ordeal she said she would prefer to bear a child or suffer almost anything else over this situation. My kids were magnificent, bearing it all in stride. There is a wonderful lack of perspective that a child has. After encountering several attempts to get off the road to find an emergency restroom for one of our party, we found ourselves in the parking lot of a Fiesta food store that appeared to be opened. It was a quite desperate move, I'll not go into what arose to lead us there, but we left the freeway for a good reason when we could. It was a madhouse. The store was in fact closed and the doors were guarded by police to prevent the rabble outside from looting. There was no order, trash was everywhere, and people were arguing and frantic. We pulled into the lot and realized we were in the midst of a rather shady crowd or gang bangers and the like. Traveling with my pistol at hand gave me some comfort, and I had a riot shotgun riding "shotgun" the whole way as well, and I was getting really nervous as people began to size us up, examine our vehicle contents with craning necks and generally see if we were worth a fight. But had it come to a fight there would have been little hope of getting out fast. Sheer numbers of potential opportunists and jammed traffic would have made diplomacy necessary in light of survival, force would have insured panic, looting and possible returned force from the police guarding the store (two of them, perhaps their loose grip on the situation would have prompted them to flee, and I wouldn't blame them a bit.) We managed to get out of there as fast as possible, still having a fairly dire need for a refuge.
He notes that the news seems to have been censored by City officials or police, too. Or is it censorship if the press and broadcast news (including radio) gladly play along in keeping the truth from being told? Isn't that called conspiracy?
Today is the Day

Going to see the new movie Serenity later today with
AlphaPatriot and Conservative Zone Mark. I'm looking forward to this, as the movie promises to be very different from the Star War / Star Trek movie experience.

What I liked about the television series it's based on - Firefly -- is that its based on the post-Civil War era of American history, when the dominant Union government was impressing Reconstruction on the South, when former Rebels were reviled outside the South, and a whole lot of former soldiers still carried the experiences of war and loss for a cause they had valued with them. That dynamic is almost forgotten today outside the South, but still can be found here, even in 2005.

Anyway, the good folks who are promoting the movie describe it thus:
Joss Whedon, the Oscar® - and Emmy - nominated writer/director responsible for the worldwide television phenomena of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE, ANGEL and FIREFLY, now applies his trademark compassion and wit to a small band of galactic outcasts 500 years in the future in his feature film directorial debut, Serenity. The film centers around Captain Malcolm Reynolds, a hardened veteran (on the losing side) of a galactic civil war, who now ekes out a living pulling off small crimes and transport-for-hire aboard his ship, Serenity. He leads a small, eclectic crew who are the closest thing he has left to family –squabbling, insubordinate and undyingly loyal.
I enjoyed Buffy, but really enjoyed the later seasons of Angel, where he did things to his characters that were really terrible, but made for compelling viewing. For example: Imagine that you have caused your best friend's son to be taken away from him forever. He was also your employer, so now you've been expelled from friends and work. You take up with a woman you knew who is evil and works for the competition; what she's getting from the relationship is mostly information about you friend/boss, and maybe influencing you to work for her. It's mostly a sordid, violent and degrading sexual relationship. Then she dies suddenly, but is due to be reborn as a vampire the next morning. Your job is to sit there, waiting for her to come back so you can kill her the minute she does. And you do.

Whedon has a way with writing people and dialogue I admire. Witty and unexpected, flawed but always striving to do good, with fresh turns of phrasing.

Like I said, I'm looking forward to this movie.

Monday, September 26, 2005


Over the weekend, the Andrew Clark radio show played the old Association hit "Windy". And then this morning, the Rush Limbaugh show was doing a Cindy Sheehan parody ("Cindy") based on the song.

OK, I'll admit to it. I really, really like that song. Complex vocal harmonies not unlike what Brian Wilson was doing in the Beach Boys or John Phillips was in the Mamas and the Papas, and a bouncy, melodic tune. Sunny and upbeat in the mid-Sixties way. What can I say? A pop classic.

I'd always assumed that the group's style had grown from their being in glee club back in high school, as it had that sort of sound, but this Association page says differently, that their music was derived from folk. I might have it backward then; maybe glee clubs adopted songs like this because they were so amenable to the structure of harmony singing glee clubs use.

Anyway, there you go. Revile and humiliate me as you wish. I might as well also note that I like their other huge hit "Cherish." Generally I detest slow songs (wake me up when they're over) but I like this one for the same reason I like "Windy": soaring harmonies.

Where are the soaring harmony groups working in rock today?
Press Innumeracy

Remember at the start of the Gulf War, the press had dire warnings of thousands of dead soldiers in the early days? Final total: 148.

Remember in the wake of the Twin Towers attack on 9/11, the press was telling us of 20,000 caualties? Final total: less than 3000.

Remember in the run-up and the early days of the invasion of Iraq, the press had lots of predictions of thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of dead? Curent total, after 2 1/2 years: less than 2000.

Remember on Election Day 2004, the press was reporting most of the day that Senator John Kerry was winning handily? Final tally: 52% for Bush and 48% for Kerry.

Remember in the wake of Katrina, the press told of us tens of thousands of dead before settling for 10,000 dead? Current total: fewer than 1500.

Remember in Rita's landfall, the press warned us of hundreds of possible deaths, and days of rain as the hurricane sat in Texas unmoving? Current death toll: two. Location of Rita? East Tennessee and the Carolinas Over southeast Alabama and the Florida panhandle. (I had the tail and the dog confused there. And we may now be looking at the rebirth of Rita back in the Gulf!)

The press constantly gets these things wrong. And yet we keep tuning in and expecting them to somehow start getting it right? On what basis? What, anywhere, in the newsgathering, fact-checking and dissemination (print and broadcast) process has been changed in the past few years?
The Anti-War Rally Reporting You Never Read

From San Diego's Lt. Smash -- The Indepundit -- comes this report of his local Sunday anti-war rally, which mirrors those across the nation:
JAMAL KANJ, a fiery Palestinian from a group called Al-Awda, takes the podium. “We Palestinians,” he begins, “have been subjected to GENOCIDE at the hands of the Israelis for generations." He rants on. "In 1948, they forced us out of our homes, and today we must DRIVE THE JEWS FROM PALESTINE!”

Suddenly, a middle-aged man wearing a black “F the President” T-shirt rushes the stage, screaming at Kanj, “I’m TIRED of this CRAP! You people keep bringing this up! This is supposed to be an ANTI-WAR rally, not an ANTI-ISRAEL rally!”

Kanj yells back, into the microphone. Others in the crowd stand up and join in the shouting match.

The Arab-Israeli conflict has arrived in San Diego.

Red-vested “peace monitors” converge on T-shirt Man, trying to contain this sudden outburst of dissent. They are followed closely by the San Diego Police Department, who quickly take control of the situation and lead the man away.

As T-shirt Man exits stage right, ANSWER front man Carl Muhammed enters from stage left, strutting in front of the platform and waving a large Palestinian flag. Carl and his radical Palestinian posse face down the angry Israel supporters, and the entire rally begins to descend into chaos.

In an effort to regain control of the rally, CodePink maven Barbara Jaffe-Rose takes the podium, declaring her solidarity with the Palestinian cause. “As an anti-war Jew, I support the Palestinian Right of Return, and demand the end of U.S. aid to Israel.” She attempts to lead the crowd in a cheer: “Not one penny, not one dime, U.S. out of Palestine!”

It flops.

AT LEAST A THIRD of the crowd has departed. Others remain behind only to express their disappointment and disgust. The organizers argue amongst themselves....
Somehow, mainstream media reports always neglect to mention the Stalinist, Socialist, pro-dictator, anti-America (not anti-America's-actions, but plain anti-America) ANSWER, the group organising and using these rallies as a front. It falls to the blogosphere to do their job.

However, the continually declining attendance and growing chaos at these rallies is testament to the fact that at least some on the Left are getting the idea.
The Myths of New Orleans

Remember all those media reports of murder, rape, etc. in New Orleans, as especially the Superdome, right after Hurricane Katrina? Well, many of them weren't true:
As floodwaters forced tens of thousands of evacuees into the Dome and Convention Center, news of unspeakable acts poured out of the nation's media: evacuees firing at helicopters trying to save them; women, children and even babies raped with abandon; people killed for food and water; a 7-year-old raped and killed at the Convention Center. Police, according to their chief, Eddie Compass, found themselves in multiple shootouts inside both shelters, and were forced to race toward muzzle flashes through the dark to disarm the criminals; snipers supposedly fired at doctors and soldiers from downtown high-rises.

In interviews with Oprah Winfrey, Compass reported rapes of "babies," and Mayor Ray Nagin spoke of "hundreds of armed gang members" killing and raping people inside the Dome. Unidentified evacuees told of children stepping over so many bodies, "we couldn't count."

The picture that emerged was one of the impoverished, masses of flood victims resorting to utter depravity, randomly attacking each other, as well as the police trying to protect them and the rescue workers trying to save them. Nagin told Winfrey the crowd has descended to an "almost animalistic state."

Four weeks after the storm, few of the widely reported atrocities have been backed with evidence. The piles of bodies never materialized, and soldiers, police officers and rescue personnel on the front lines say that although anarchy reigned at times and people suffered unimaginable indignities, most of the worst crimes reported at the time never happened.
Hmmm.... Only one source for all those media reports: the mainstream media. It would seem the vaunted "fact checking process" some are so enamored of failed pretty spectacularly.

But, the stories are out there now, and part of the meta-story of New Orleans for all time to come. Can't take them back and running a quick "We were wrong." doesn't replace hours daily, day after day, of sensationalised, breathless reporting.

Will the media put the brakes on themselves next time? Will reason and caution replace the rush to be first and the desire to "grab" viewers with "compelling" stories? Will they research those rumors before they print and broadcast them?

What do you think?
Strong Bad Email

A new Strong Bad email is out, with The Geddup Noise, a techno song and Lou Dobbs! What more do you need?
Waking Up to the Reality

Tennessee State Representative Stacey Campfield posts some excerpts of the famous "I Have a Dream" speech by Rev. Martin Luther King on his blog and then the fun begins.

What's going on? Well, let's let the Rep. tell it:
I woke up this morning [Thursday, Sept. 22nd]
to front-page news of how I had asked for the
bylaws of a state funded organization and was denied them. Actually,
it's an old story.

Back in the spring, I had asked the leader of the black caucus, Johnny
Shaw, for a copy of the bylaws. Johnny said he wanted to see a copy of
the Republican Caucus bylaws first. I agreed and had a copy sent to
him in less than 10 minutes.

When my assistant returned from dropping them off, she notified me that
Shaw did not want to give me a copy of the bylaws. I called Johnny
Shaw back and he said unless I had a court order or attorney general's
opinion, he was not going to give me anything.

I later asked him again for a copy and was again rebuffed. I asked why
I couldn't have a copy and asked what he didn't want me to see. Johnny
said he didn't have to give me anything and asked why I wanted the
copy. “Do you want to be a member?” he said.

I said “I don't know. Are you asking me to join?” Johnny said “No!
You can't be a member.”

I asked “why?” He answered “because you are white.”

I work hard to represent all people of all races fairly and equally in
Nashville. My district is comprised of a diverse population, with a
large percentage of minority citizens. Many of my friends and neighbors
are considered minority. So although Johnny Shaw's question of asking
if I wanted to be a member was not out of the question, and actually
might be beneficial to many of my constituents, I stepped back and
dropped the issue because of his hostility and obstruction.

Until today of course, when I open the Knoxville News Sentinel many
months later to read the account from many months ago.

The timing is quite interesting since about a week ago on this site I
posted a story about how Johnny Shaw (who is serving on the ethics
committee) was pushing a bill through the legislature that would personally
and directly benefit him financially in his radio business.

I guess Shaw didn't like the message, so he tried to shoot the
messenger. In other words, he didn't like that I pointed out
his questionable ethics regarding the radio bill.
And, of course, the white Leftists jump in to help out. Tennessee Guerilla Women has a post mostly full of insinuation and associative blame:
There's a nasty new twist to the story about the white Tennessee lawmaker who wants to join the Black Caucus.

The blogging legislator has a link to a white supremacist site on his blog.
Of course, when you look at TGW's blogroll, you find links to Daily Kos, who famously said that murdered Americans in Iraq deserved their fate and to Cindy Sheehan, who has links to anti-Semitic organisations and has made anti-Semitic remarks herself.

If you want to question Rep. Campfield's motives, there are several easy questions you can ask him that would answer the question. Figure it out; it's not hard. I'd also like to know why the Knoxville Times-Sentinel chose to take up a months-old story when they did. Campfield implies a motive to them. Another good question! Sadly, newspapers are famous for practising the very opacity they so decry in other public figures. Best of luck prying an answer from them.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Hiding in Plain Sight

When this AP-derived story was first put up, it said "thousands" had gone to Washington. CNN delicately edited it to make it "crowds." Notice the tightly cropped photo, too; not a panaramic shot like the big 2003 rallies.

It amuses me no end that a rally that drew, according to the semi-official DC Police estimate, 100,000 people was described not as "tens of thousands" or "a crowd estimated to reach one hundred thousand" but as "thousands." It's technically true, of course, but serves to hide the indelicate truth: Attendance at anti-war rallies has steadily declined since 2003.

That's not how it went during the Vietnam years, is it? And they had to face truncheon-swinging cops and National Guard troops using live ammunition and frat boys willing to bust heads. Just goes to show what a bunch of over-privileged, comfort-loving, sunshine anti-warriors they are today. Piff.

And then there's the pro-war counter-rally. This time, CNN will say "hundreds of people, far fewer than organizers had expected" while avoiding -- or actively working to mis-paint the situation -- mentioning the same disappointment on the Left side.

Can't wait to see which story Chris Peck's Commercial Appeal goes with tomorrow, and what the doofus headline writer there comes up with. "Many dislike war" maybe? Peck can tart up the pages any way he wants, but when he's reporting self-evident crap he can expect circulation to continue to decline. I doubt, though, that he'll start to research on his own the reporting he takes as gospel from the likes of the New York Times and the Washington Post. Cardinals, after all, don't question the Curia.

MONDAY MORNING UPDATE: Well, well! A quick check of the Commercial Appeal website finds nothing at all. What if they gave a protest and no one reported it? I heard on the radio that Cindy Sheehan was supposedly mad at Hurricane Rita for sucking up all the media oxygen.
It Can Be Done

One economist takes a pass at budget-pork cutting and nets $347 billion in results.

Yes, as one commenter there notes, "every cut has a constituency." But it really saddens me that the former party of fiscal responsibility, responsible for forcing and crafting the Clinton-era budget surpluses, once proposing to cut whole programs and departments, now gorges on its very anathema. I always suspected that Republicans are whores just like Democrats, but it's disheartening to find out its true.

Where are the Republicans who used to rally to the flag of lean government? The time is now.

[Sound of crickets and a lone banner flapping.]
Flush Times, For Some

August is the first month of the Tennessee State fiscal year. Already, we are running a surplus! Sales tax collections rose 5.8%.

Remember three years ago? We were told -- by the Governor (Sundquist), the Legislative leaders Naifeh and Wilder, and by every newspaper in the state -- that the sales tax was simply unable to keep up with the needs of the state of Tennessee. It was outmoded, "inelastic" was the buzz word, and needed to be replaced by the income tax. If we didn't do that, we'd be facing terrible times ahead.

And yet, here we are. Three straight years of revenue growth. Three years of rising budgets. Did you know that last year's budgeted actual expenditures were 25% higher than the last year of Sundquist's budget? Twenty five billion versus twenty billion. We still had surplus revenue even after that!

Is the State Legislature even looking at returning state-shared revenues to the cities and counties again? Bredesen suspended those to make his so-called austerity budget work. When is first year in office produced a tax surplus, he didn't restart those shared revenues, even though he precipitated the budget crises that most major Tennessee cities have faced since. Cities have had to look at cut services and rising property taxes instead. And the State has kept all that money.

What's up with the greedheads of the Shelby County Legislative delegation? Can't they, you know, legislate for the benefit of their constituents?

No. It seems government will always keep its money and find ways to take more of yours.

Hey, Bredesen couldn't even be bothered to suspend the gasoline tax for a month. It's not like he couldn't afford it. It just sets a bad example....
Looking at Modern Warfare and Anti-Terrorist Fighting

One of the things that really bothers me about a broad majority of the anti-War Left is that so few of them have even the most basic understanding of how war is fought. I suspect most still picture it in their heads as two broad lines of men facing each other, shooting, and then rushing each other to whomp heads. Of course, it's nothing like that any more, most of the time.

Today, we are fighting what's called Fourth Generation warfare. Terrorism is the expression of that approach, and the terrorists we face in the Global War on Terror are the New Model Army of our day. One of the hallmarks of this kind of warfare is for the "soldiers" to operate far behind the "lines" of conflict and well within the society they oppose. They seek to bring down from within, rather than break down from without. It's the desire of the Left to want to see these soldiers as "dissidents" rather than the "enemy" that creates problems. The terrorists may be "in" our society but they most definitely are not "of" it.

Part of the problem, for Americans, but part of the solution for the terrorists, is the press and media. An uncritical and relativistic media like we have in the Anglosphere (the English-speaking world of North America, Europe and Australasia; and to a lesser extent in South America and Westernised Asia) does not operate to view the terrorists as an "enemy."

The media, especially the news, sees themselves as detached, as neutral, as "supra-national." That is, above such petty artificialities as nation-states. Hence, the terrorists aren't an enemy, but another group with a gripe against yet another group. In a manner of speaking, the press doesn't plant their flag on American soil, but on the imaginary soil of their own self-designation.

And yet the American press can only operate as they do thanks to the strict and wide-ranging protections of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. Let America's press operate with the restrictions of the European press! I can just see the burst blood-vessels when editors in newsrooms across the country are told that -- by law and threat of imprisonment and the shutting down of their business -- they cannot print certain stories simply because some government or police officials say so.

And yet that's how it is in Europe. The British government can issue what's called a "D Certificate" which imposes just those restrictions. Even next door in Canada, the Federal judiciary just this Spring issued a press gag order in the Gomery Commission investigation into public, Federal corruption, on public information being broadcast on private networks and discussed by bureacrats and the press being rebroadcast or re-reported on the national media! It was an American blog which reported the story for them, causing a sensation.

So the press, by virtue of having abandoned its American basis and dependency on the nation-state that sustains it, doesn't report on attacks by Americans against an enemy, nor its victories, but instead reports on the "underdogs" being "brutally assaulted" and sustaining or creating "terrible casualties" by our actions. The American press is an unmoored boat and most Americans sense that pretty clearly.

All this came about from reading a long, long post on the influence of Colonel John Boyd, on the American military. If you've ever heard of or been taught the OODA Cycle (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) in business or the military, that's his creation.

Not sure where my point is, but I just wanted to share all those links. It takes a while to read them all, but they will give you a much clearer idea of what we're doing in the Middle East and why. People who ask why we didn't attack Saudi Arabia instead of Iraq need to read these posts. They don't answer the question directly, but will give you the tools and critical thinking skills to get that answer.

In a severe nutshell: To have attacked Saudi Arabia directly in the wake of 9/11 after smashing Afghanistan would have been to throw our strength against their strength. Yes, they were the source of the ideology, the money and the protection of radical Islamic terrorism. But to have gone directly against them would have been viciously costly and brutal.

Instead, we went at it sideways. We already had a good, ready to go target with Iraq. Saudi Arabia is a narrow monarchial theocracy with a strong military and internal police. Iraq was the most secular Arab government in the area, and for all that the people were oppressed they had good experience with open markets and self-governance, to an extent. (Remember, this is a nutshell.)

Nearly every other government in the area is theocratic as well, and of the majority Shia branch of Islam. In Iraq, the Shia (Shiites in America) are the minority to the Sunni branch which outnumbers them greatly, and to the Kurdish ethnic minority (Turkish peoples). But they have ruled the country in collaboration with the Baath Party of Saddam Hussein.

Establishing a secular, representative, possibly even federalist, government in Iraq is a threat to every government in the region. Making it work is even worse. Even if it fails, the results are three new countries, none of which are sympathetic to theocratic rule.

We've seen the results across the Middle East in popular revolts or uprisings against these theocracies. Syria and Lebanon are the brightest examples. Iran is panicked because they are pressured from within by a young majority that seeks to upend the oppressive elder generation of the Islamic Revolution. Now they face external pressures and examples they don't need. (Iraq on one side and Afghanistan on the other.)

Will we have to make long-term investments in the Middle East as we did in Europe after World War II? Yes. It's generally the same principle. We need to defend, prop up and nurture the better states until we break the back of the one we seek. It's more complicated, obviously, since we deal with Saudi Arabia for oil. But high oil prices and the back-to-back hurricanes will help there, oddly enough, by encouraging new drilling and exploration and by making the Alberta oil sands profitable at last. We can enrich Canada while beginning to starve the Saudi monarchy. Faced with saving themselves or profitting the corrupt Saudis, other OPEC (when was the last time you heard them in the press?) nations will abandon them.

That's why I sorta had to laugh when the American press solemnly passed along the Saudi Foreign Minister's warnings about events in Iraq. It was exactly what you'd expect to hear from a threatened nation! And the press, which is overwhelmingly secular or non-religious in American, completely passed over the Shia/Sunni overlay on events in Saudi Arabia and Iraq, which deeply inform issues there.

Anyway, long post and more than a bit scattered. I hope there's something useful in it.
Answer Me This

Up to the 2000 election, the typical electoral map used a color scheme that I remember being used since I was a kid in the early Seventies. Democrats were always red and Republicans were always blue. Why that color scheme came into being I don't know. But the joke was that Democrats were Red Communists and Republicans were "true blue" Americans.

So why, suddenly, in the 2000 presidential election was the scheme reversed? I don't recall any discussion or huge notice paid to it, but suddenly everything Republican was red and Democratic was blue. It's been that way ever since. Even traditionally Republican people and organisations accepted it.

Gore / Edwards '08?

Chris at My Quiet Life thinks that will be the Democratic ticket in the next Presidential election. His commenters alternately laugh and muse.

As he notes, Gore has been busy lately. He's the poster boy for "Never again!" It's the last, perfect chance for Democrats to rewind the clock and pretend the last eight years never happened.

Weirder things have happened.
Rita Redux

Even as she was bearing down on us yesterday, after failing to stay put in Texas and Louisiana and dump rain on them as forecasters were saying, now comes the possibility that Rita may return.

Watching it's path, movement and short-term projected path, it was clear to me on Saturday that Rita was curling back around towards the Gulf. There's a cold front coming into the area (and another behind it) that seems to have the oomph to steer it back southeastwards. If that happens it might push Rita back into the Gulf of Mexico.

If that happens (big train of ifs here) then Rita could restrengthen from a depression or storm into another hurricane. As the post shows, it's happened before. And then it will take aim at another part of the western Gulf shores.

Wow. And the peak of the hurricane season is only now underway. It runs all the way through the end of this month. Hurricane season as a whole runs two more months, to the end of November.