Saturday, June 20, 2009

Fun With Maps

Go here. It's an interactive map of the Middle East, the eastern Mediterranean, North Africa, Persia and the old Soviet Asian countries. You match the names to the countries.

I did a bit better than I expected, though I missed a good few. I really was at sea in sub-Saharan Africa and the "-stans" of the old Soviet Union.
I Keep Trying to Tell Y'all

Who said this?
"The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest [our nation] become bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance."

Nope, not some modern day Republican but Roman statesman and philosopher Cicero, writing in 55 BC. (Quote via Jerry Pournelle.)

I keep trying to tell folks that human nature doesn't change, just our surroundings. Core lessons, once learned, are eternal and always relevant. But no, even with all our technology to keep the lessons of the past alive, we still forget what we already know.

Years ago, I read a large part of Thucydides' (or Xenophon's?) history of the Grecian peninsula. It was full of wars, betrayals, sons turning on fathers, wives cheating on husbands, treachery, thievery, pride, ego, public scandal, you name it. It read just like Dallas or any modern soap opera, except the stories were thousands of years old and only described one very small part of a large world. I was struck that I could relate and understand it all so well.

In high school, I remember reading about Medieval and Rennaisance Europe, all the courtiers and schemers and social climbers and political maneuverers. Teachers tried to make it sound like it was all long ago, that modern-day Americans no longer behaved that way in our modern democratic republic. But you look at Washington, DC, today and you see that it is ever thus.

Nothing much changes because we keep turning away from what we know to be true, believing that this time we are different and things will be different.

We are lucky to be the direct inheritors of the wealth of observation and study and application that the Founding Fathers (and some Mothers, like Abigail Adams, Dolly Madison and Mercy Otis Warren) created and handed down. They were keen and discerning students of the past. And they too recognised their lessons would be lost in a couple of generations.

They understood that Democracy and Reason flowed against the natural human tide. That they were artificial and required vigilance and effort to keep.

Even with technologies that can preserve and spread that information far and wide as never before, that can enable self-study and education as never before, we still forget. Or, worse still, ignore and repudiate.

History shows us what will happen. We need only learn it and keep it fresh.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Lordi: Hard Rock Hallelujah

I think it was Lindsey who first pointed me to this song. Thanks!! Yeah, it's Euro-pop-metal and the band's costumes are uber-cheesy. But damn, does this song hit a major sweet spot for me. It's one of those rare songs I can set on endless repeat and let it roll on. And it's only a three minute song. Oh yeah, pure rock bliss.

The band won the 2006 Eurovision contest with this song and here's the video, in its full cheese glory:

It's the choruses that do me in. Those high, high harmonies ("Aaaah, aaaah, aaaah, aaah") just sail over the song. The guitar crunches nicely and it's a good solid riff; the synth sounding like shrill orchestral strings is a recurrent failing of Euro-metal (it's that high culture they all get steeped in) but I can live with it for this song.

Just the other day, I found what's apparently the official music video. You can't embed it, so here's the link. The whole "good girl going bad at terror high" schtick is silly, sure, but some of the edits (the cheerleaders screaming as the band hits those high harmonies) are inspired timing and the final "walking down the hallway" shot is, for me anyway, close to sublime. Some clever bits, like the way the cheerleaders' outfits change, too. And notice that the heroine is fully dressed in normal-ish clothes! It really is her face that sells everything and not American-style "sexi body" sluttiness. That's welcome.

Anyway, yeah, I'm lame. And I don't care, as long as I've got songs like this.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The GOP is About to Make Another Mistake

Tuesday was the 13th of course.

It's completely understandable that Republicans would want to expel Kent Williams after his stunt today in snatching the Speaker's chair for himself. The House, and Tennessee government, will be in chaos for months, just as we face the worst budget problem in a generation.

But it's a mistake to boot him. The first thing Democrats do is take him as one of their own, thereby giving themselves the de jure majority again! And don't think that Williams will be given any freedom as a Democrat. He will be Naifeh's bitch from then on. The supposed palaver about how Williams wants to appoint committee chairs based on merit and cooperation will not be Naifeh's.

Better to keep Williams in the party and make him, if he so chooses, depart on his own. Let his constituents in the 4th District see his actions for what they are.

What angry Republicans can do is this: Go to the dollar store, or a Fred's or Walgreen's, and buy a pack of those plastic coins kids use as play money or pirate's dubloons. Whenever you encounter Williams, just drop a few in front of him (on the ground or the table) and say, "Here are your thirty pieces of silver." Especially do it in front of Jimmy Naifeh!

Non-legislators can mail a few in an envelope to his House office with the same message. (See here for the address.) Let's see how long it takes before they begin piling up!

Everything I've heard so far has been that this move was a closely guarded secret kept by a literal few until Monday night and Tuesday during the session. Go to the Main Street Journal website to see a whole raft of stories on what happened. I don't think the Republicans can be too heavily faulted here for "letting" this happen. Their biggest mistake was under-estimating just what a conniving, scheming, vindictive thug of a man Jimmy Naifeh is.

It's times like this I almost wish I was a believing Christian just so that I could be assured Naifeh will roast in Hell for eternity.

Remember, the constitutional officers have yet to be appointed and now the Democrats likely control things unless a couple can be peeled away and the Republicans can stay strong. Not likely, given how the Democrats voted en bloc today. Say, someone should ask Senator Jim Kyle if he still believes constitutional candidates should still reveal their personal and campaign finances!

Also, redistricting is now in their hands. That means, at minimum, ten more years of a Democratically carved State district map. You think Naifeh was having fun today? Wait for redistricting....

INSTANT UPDATE: From a comment I spotted on the web:
In the November general elections, according to the Secretary of State's office, these were the voter breakdowns for all legislative candidates in the 99 districts for the House of Representatives:

Republicans: 1,134,374 - 54.2%
Democrats: 914,108 - 43.7%
Independents/Write-Ins: 43,955 - 2.1%

What the Democrats did today was anti-democratic; just the worst, most naked kind of power grab I've seen in a while. Regardless of party, it's a slap in the face to Tennessee voters. They clearly didn't want Naifeh in charge any more.

In fact, TN Republicans won with the same kind of "mandate" that Obama has. Imagine if McCain had tried to steal that election somehow! Democrats would be wailing a different story for sure. But ... it's not their ox being gored today, so as you'll see if you tour lefty blogs, they're all happy little putschers tonight.