Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Politics and anger

Max Boot has commentary over at Pajamas Media. He defends political anger, so long as it doesn't turn into violence. He also takes a look at where political violence is more likely to come from:
At the G-20 summit held in Steel Town, Time reported, leftist protesters who refused to apply for an assembly permit pushed dumpsters into the street, pelted police with rocks and macadam, and smashed windows of banks and even a Boston Market and a Mini car dealership. (These guys even hate cute little fuel-efficient Euro-cars? Sheesh.) Dozens of arrests were made. Meanwhile the number of projectiles hurled at law enforcement figures by banned-in-the-UK radio talker Michael Savage remained stuck at zero. The 9/12 protests that drew tens of thousands of marchers to D.C. were consistently painted as threatening because of signs that said things like, “Joe Wilson was right.” But if there were any arrests for violent acts, they weren’t mentioned in the Washington Post’s coverage.

And this is a telling point...
The MSM aren’t too curious about protesters like the ones in Pittsburgh (Do they watch Rachel Maddow? Do they read Paul Krugman?) because they believe radical leftists kinda have a point. Bankers get huge bonuses. Shouldn’t we all lob rocks at police to express our outrage?

And a particularly sharp closing point:
The thing they’re nervous about is not being assassinated but being tossed out of office. They should be nervous about us. Because we are their bosses and we can fire them.

More on Roman Polanski

...and the morons who apologize for him.

Reading through the Wikipedia entry on Roman Polanski and the reaction to his recent arrest, I came across the following:

French minister of Culture and Communication, Frédéric Mitterrand, was especially vehement in his support, all the while announcing his "very deep emotion" after the questioning of the director, "a French citizen" and "a film-maker of international dimension ": "the sight of him thrown to the lions for an old story which doesn't make much sense, imprisoned while traveling to an event that was intending to honor him: caught, in short, in a trap, is absolutely dreadful". Polanski, Mitterrand continued, "had a difficult life" but had "always said how much he loves France, and he is a wonderful man". There is, he added, "a generous America that we love, and a certain America that frightens us. It's that America that has just shown its face."

Such naivete is incredible. We should not arrest known criminals if they are on their way to collect awards? I can just imagine the example that would set for other criminals:

Officer: Sir, you are under arrest for murder. Please step out of the car.
Suspect: But officer, I'm just on my way to accept an award!
Officer: What award is that?
Suspect: Serial Killer of the Year.
Officer: Oh. I had no idea. Please, proceed. We'll pick you up afterward.
Suspect: (Under his breath) Not if I can help it...

Remember, this is Roman Polanski. He's fled justice before. You think he wouldn't have tried to do so again? In spite of what the celebrity left would have us think, police are not stupid.

But wait, there's more. We should forgive Roman Polanski because he "loves France" and is a "wonderful man." Well of course he loves France, you dolt! That's the country that has helped him avoid consequences for his crimes for so many years! And if Polanski is such a wonderful man, why did he drug and rape that girl? Lots of criminals are wonderful people when they're not committing their crimes. So what?

Mitterrand also seems to find an America that believes in law enforcement frightening. That terrible America! They lock up rapists! They extradite criminals! Oh, the shame! Where will it end?! I'm sure Mr. Mitterrand has no trouble with law enforcement and extradition when it goes the other way. Or perhaps he does oppose hauling French citizens back to France to face justice for their crimes. From what I've heard of French prisons, I don't think they have much ground to call America frightening.

Of course Mitterrand is no more a fool than the group or artists who wrote a manifesto calling for his release. Also from Wikipedia, the manifesto concludes as follows: "Roman Polanski is a French citizen, an artist of international reputation, now threatened to be extradited. This extradition, if brought into effect, would carry a heavy load of consequences as well as deprive the film-maker of his freedom".

Uh...yes, I believe that is the point of criminal punishments. They are intended to bring consequences to bear; the heavier the crime, the heavier the load. And yes, that usually involves depriving people of their freedom, film-makers or not. It's called a disincentive. It's called the law.

Luc Besson, on the other hand, seems to get it: "I do not know the history of the process. (...) I feel a lot of affection for [Polanski], he's a man I really like and I know him a bit, our daughters are very good friends but there is a justice, [and] it is the same for everyone".

So does Jewel: "Polanski-admitted raping a 13 yr old-whys every1 in the arts upset hes facing jail? cause hes a gifted director? what am i missing?" asked bewildered singer-songwriter Jewel via Twitter.

UPDATE: Ran across a few more reports of celebrities rushing to defend him with such platitudes as "it was consensual" or "that was so long ago" or "the victim has asked for the case to be dismissed". According to the court transcript it was NOT consensual. She was thirteen! She was drunk and on drugs, and she was still saying no. Under the law, consent has nothing to do with it. He knew that, or should have known it. In what universe is a forty-four year old having sex with a thirteen year old girl okay?

As for the length of time since the incident, that's Roman Polanski's fault, not the justice system's. He didn't have to run. He didn't have to stay away so long. He could have put this behind him long, long ago. He chose to continue avoiding responsibility. It's his fault, and no one else's.

Let me put it another way. I have a son who does not take well to punishment. When he does something wrong he gets time out. Often he will throw a tantrum and refuse to go into time out. He has not only done something wrong, but he is refusing to accept the punishment. So when he finally does calm down and accept punishment he still has to have his time out.

It would do neither of us any good to say "Well, your tantrum was longer than the time out would have been. Since you weren't having any fun during that time I'll count that as your time out. Go play now." He would only learn to keep throwing tantrums. He and his siblings would learn that I don't mean it when I threaten him with time out.

Roman Polanski is pretty much like my four-year-old, sorry to say. To let him off now, especially when his life has been by no means bad for those 32 years, would send him and society the wrong message. Punishment is punishment. He didn't even stick around to see what his would have been. It would serve him right if his punishment now is much longer than it might have been had he just accepted responsibility and served whatever time was coming to him.

He had the ability to put this to rest long ago. Instead he threw a 32-year tantrum.

Liberals, morality, and Roman Polanski

Liberals like to believe they are the elite, morally and intellectually. Hollywood liberals (no, that is not entirely redundant) make normal liberals look humble by comparison. And yet the only ones they are fooling are themselves. Nothing exposes the moral bankruptcy of the left like their inability to apply morality uniformly.

This is because morality is useful in placating moderates and bludgeoning conservatives. But, truth be told, if it weren't for those pesky moderates and conservatives they would prefer there be no morality at all. Liberals seem to think that abject hedonism and intellectual enlightenment can exist in the same being.

Witness for the prosecution: Roman Polanski. This "gentleman" drugged a thirteen year old girl, raped her, then fled the country to avoid imprisonment. After thirty-two years in exile, he has been arrested in Switzerland and is awaiting extradition hearings. A large number of artists in America and in Europe have rushed to Polanski's defense, claiming he's suffered enough already and that such a great talent should not be shut up in prison.

In other words, if you are talented you should a) be allowed to have sex with anyone or anything, regardless of legality or the wishes of the victim, b) should not be subject to the rule of law, and c) should be shielded from their own stupidity. So what they seem to be telling us is that Timothy McVeigh's only real crime was not being talented enough.

Of course this attitude should not be surprising. Artists and actors have been told by everyone and themselves for years that they are special, that they are delicate souls, and that their role is to push the boundaries and break the rules. More than once in my own musical training did I hear the maxim "You have to learn the rules before you can break them." So many artists have "handlers" to shield them from the realities of life.

But to shield artists, no matter how talented, from the consequences of illegal activities is to undermine the very society that makes it possible for them to develop and display their talents. It is spitting in the face of everyone who has lived by the rules. It cannot be allowed to stand.

Roman Polanski is a criminal. He broke the law. Criminals must be punished, or the system breaks down. He did not just break one law, either. He raped the girl, and he fled the country to avoid justice. That is two laws. Even if there is any reason to overlook the first--and there is not--there is no reason to overlook the second. On the contrary, overlooking the second does more harm to society than the first.

I do not believe those who claim he has suffered enough for his crime already. In what way has he suffered? He has still been able to work all of this time. He has had his freedom. True, there are certain countries he has been unable to visit, but he seems to have done well enough in spite of that. Such are the inconveniences of fleeing justice. Is being unable to go to other countries to accept honors for your work a small price to pay for being free to continue your work?

It is not the fault of American justice that Roman Polanski, for all his supposed genius, was stupid and remains stupid. If there is any constant in America it is our willingness to forgive and forget, especially our celebrity types. What else can explain how Bill Clinton can commit adultery with no consequence while GOP senators continually have to step down for less?

Had Roman Polanski gone to jail like he was supposed to he may have given up a year or two of his life. Considering the kid-glove treatment he was receiving that allowed him to flee in the first place, he probably would not have served even a year. Once he got out he would have been embraced by Hollywood again, and perhaps even lauded all the more for his having experienced the darker side of American justice and come through unscathed, or some clap-trap nonsense like that. Critics would have been falling over themselves to point out the new-found depth and passion in his work that could only have come from having experienced the horror of incarceration and a loss of freedom for a time.

And he would have been free to collect his awards anywhere he liked.

No, I do not feel sorry for Roman Polanski. Every step of the way he has received special treatment. He has foreign diplomats and celebrity elites falling over themselves to come to his defense. The man made some very serious mistakes, but he has largely avoided the consequences.

If Roman Polanski gets off I will feel outrage on behalf of a friend of mine who committed statutory rape. He also plead guilty. He went to prison for several years, voluntarily accepting harsher conditions than was required. I believe he learned his lesson and was reformed. Yet, as a registered sex offender, he will never have the same degree of freedom Roman Polanski has enjoyed for thirty-two years.

Where are the celebrities rushing to his defense? Where are the awards? Is his only crime, then, not being famous enough?

The liberal elites think they are so intelligent, yet they cannot see the harm their attitudes toward morality and rule of law are doing. My friend accepted responsibility for his actions and learned from the experience. He's a much smarter man than Roman Polanski.

Roman Polanski should serve time for his rape. He should serve even more time for evading justice. If he dies in prison, so be it. We, as the "unfamous, untalented" of America, deserve nothing less. The liberal and Hollywood elite deserve nothing less. It is high time someone sent them the message that they are not above the law, that "genius" and creativity and celebrity are no excuse for anti-social behavior. The question is whether or not they are smart enough to learn the lesson when we try to teach it.

UPDATE: In all fairness, I should point out that while the Huffington Post has fired an extensive volley in support of Roman Polanski, not all on the left see it the same way. Many see the situation for what it is: a crime exacerbated by evasion of justice.

It is mainly the Hollywood Elite who are rushing to Polanski's defense. And why not? If justice can be enforced on him, could be enforced on them too! We must push back the hands of legal progress!

Alan Grayson vs. Joe Wilson

What's the difference between Alan Grayson's charge that the GOP just wants people to die and Joe Wilson calling Obama a liar?

Well, for one, House leadership are not insisting he apologize even once, let alone twice. For another, there is substantial evidence that Joe Wilson was correct, whereas there is very little to back up Grayson's claim. But other than that, the incidents were pretty much the same.

Good behavior for thee, but not for me.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I think your computer would do it better

Actual tweet from someone who just started following me:

Im not Actually typing this my computer is!!! LOL, email me to learn how to automate your business

This person really needs his computer to start typing his tweets for him. Computers at least know basic rules of grammar. He doesn't do much to convince me I should trust him anywhere near my business. I don't need to look like an uneducated hick...automatically.

I am not going to be nice and follow this person back.

I realize that Twitter forces one to be brief, and perhaps he has decided to trade punctuation for brevity. But just drop "LOL, " from that tweet and you've bought yourself enough punctuation to look intelligent.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Social media is all fine and good, but it is only as smart as the user. Broadcasting a poor image to a million people instead of a few thousand just drives your business into the ground that much faster. The rules of business still apply. The Internet is merely an equalizer, not a miracle-maker. If you are clueless, it can't help you.

The more technology encourages people to communicate without proper grammar and spelling, the easier it will become to differentiate oneself by merely writing to an acceptable standard. There are already too many people out there who think that grammar is the person married to grampar.


Socialism and the assault on the middle-class

This weekend I had a lengthy conversation with a gentleman from Ecuador. He spoke about conditions in his own country and how things are headed that way here. He explained that down there the socialists have gained power by taking from the middle-class and giving it to the poor. Not from the rich, but the middle class.

They don't take from the rich because they want to become rich themselves. They don't want a middle class, because the middle class can threaten them. The poor, however, can be easily diverted in their hatred of the rich to take it out on the middle class. They can be placated by handouts from the government.

Eventually they eliminate the middle class, leaving only the rich-and-in-power, and the poor who depend on the government for everything. As the old song goes, the rich get richer and the poor get children.

We need to be more observant here. Sure, the Cap-and-Trade bill will impact companies and the wealthy. But the main impact will be on the middle-class. Energy costs are nothing to the rich, but they're a significant budget item for the middle-class. Universal Health Care means nothing to the rich. They'll go wherever they need to to get the best care. But saddle the middle-class with their own health care costs (from keeping their private plans) and subsidizing health care for the poor, and suddenly they don't have much left to go around. Hit them with both and the middle-class start resembling the poor--only they're not eligible for the handouts.

People are not stupid. Provide them enough disincentive and they'll get the message. They'll give up and join the poor. It's easier than trying to get ahead and become rich. It's easier than trying to hold the line and remain middle-class.

Socialism doesn't lift everyone to higher levels. It drags everyone else down to the lowest common denominator. After so many decades of fighting against socialism around the globe you think we'd have learned that by now and know better than to bring it here.

Racist is as racist does

Sonja Schmidt over at PJTV has a video installment on racism and the Democratic Party. It's an interesting video, but most disturbing is the segment showing Sen. Barbara Boxer trying to counter testimony from the head of a national chamber of commerce organization (who is black) on what seems to be a science-related issue by citing that the NAACP takes a different stance.

She seems to be implying that the NAACP's position should be the standard position for all blacks, and that this gentleman should just shut up and accept it. When he rightly takes offense at her intimation of not toeing the black party line she continues to talk to him in an increasingly demeaning way.

To his credit he doesn't back down and calls her out on it. The liberals stance that any black who does not agree with their policies is a sell-out, self-loathing Uncle Tom is much more racist and nasty than any of the protest statements the left are currently denouncing as racist. It's time more people called them on it.

The idea that one should always think and feel (and vote) a certain way because of one's race is despicable. It is wrong. To attack any member of a particular ethnic group because they disagree with that "party line" is vile, underhanded, and racism at its worst. The left have no business lecturing the rest of us on racism until they clean up their own act first.

From the "Too Much Free Time" files

I give you...Monty Python's "Camelot" as performed by the Star Trek Players:

A cautionary tale

How to catch a wild pig.

Enough with the free corn.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Greetings to space

For the last four nights the International Space Station has been visible orbiting above our city at least once per night. For some inexplicable reason I've felt compelled to go out and watch every night. Tuesday night it made its earliest pass of the week, and I took the kids outside to watch.

It's little more than a bright light, a little brighter than Venus perhaps, traveling across the sky, fading in out of the sunset and fading out toward the east. I watched it with binoculars the first night, but it's simply too high for my birdwatching binoculars to help much.

But each night I've been out there watching that little bright point of light pass overhead. I've always been excited about space, I suppose, from the time my brother woke me up early one morning to watch the first space shuttle launch on TV. There is something inherently exciting about the idea of traveling out there in the void where distances quickly become mind-staggeringly meaningless, where there is barely anything at all, and where one slight misstep is not just dangerous, but fatal.

To the men and women who have served on the ISS, I salute you. And, given the chance, I keep a quiet vigil from my backyard. You'll never know it, but there is at least one pair of eyes in Idaho noting your passage in the night sky. God bless, and good night.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Things that concern me

Starting off, the FCC chairman has decided the Internet needs his regulation.
Now, whenever a telecom company wants to implement a new service or product that works by manipulating traffic flow on the Web, it will have to worry about whether or not its innovation might set off Genochowski's sense of... well, whatever it is that he and the rest of the regulators at the FCC don't like.

Harry Reid doesn't want to investigate ACORN.
Reid, D-Nev., said Tuesday that he would not ask the Senate committee chairmen or Congress “to do anything that would distract from efforts to address” health care, climate change, an overhaul of the nation’s financial regulatory system and oversight of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Investigating baseball steroids use is important, but not what some questionable political group does with taxpayer funds. Harry, your moralectomy was a complete success. Heck, even Barney Frank is starting to question ACORN.

The Washington Post is coming to the defense of Congress by saying that requiring them to read every bill they vote on would bring government to a standstill. As Glenn Reynolds says, "That's not a bug, it's a feature..."

Meanwhile, our Secretary of Energy thinks Americans are children who need to be taught how to act.
This week, prepping for the upcoming Copenhagen climate change talks, Dr. Steven Chu, our erstwhile Energy secretary, crystallized the administration's underlying thinking by claiming that the "American public . . . just like your teenage kids, aren't acting in a way that they should act. The American public has to really understand in their core how important this issue is."

This concerns me, and I'd like to see a reference for this claim:
Chu will deploy bureaucrats to more than 6,000 public schools to, um, teach children about "climate change" and efficiency. They probably won't mention that the Energy Department was found to have wasted millions on inefficient use of energy by an independent auditor this year. (Listen, even our parents aren't perfect.)

We don't need bureaucrats for that. It's already in the lesson plans for every school out there. My children get it in school regularly. I get frequent lectures from my kids based on stuff they heard in school. Of course they still can't manage to turn out the bathroom light when they're done, but hey, they're only supposed to pass on the message, not heed it themselves.

And what's this? Is the government really helping out the drug companies in exchange for pro-reform advertising? In light of the recent NEA scandal, it's not hard to imagine.

Meanwhile, Democrats have rejected a GOP bill that would have required putting the text of the health-care bill online 72 hours before an vote.

Remember when posting the text of bills online before a vote was a plank of Obama's platform? He doesn't.

Of course he's too busy apologizing for America, stiffing our friends and loving our enemies:
But on foreign policy as his record emerges -- as he reverses himself on missile defense and perhaps on Afghanistan -- his motivating principle seems rooted in an analysis, common in his formative university years, that America has too often been on the side of the bad guys. The response has been to disrespect those who have been our friends and to bow to our enemies.

Evidently if we want moral leadership we need to look to Canada, of all places:
“President Ahmadinejad’s repeated denial of the Holocaust and his anti-Israel comments run counter to the values of the UN General Assembly, and they’re shameful,” said one Canadian official.

“He uses his public appearances to provoke the international community, and that is why Canada’s seats will be empty.”

And finally, what better way to wrap up than a jab at our dear friend Charlie Rangel, who can write tax law blindfolded. That way he can honestly claim to never have seen it when he fails to follow it himself later on.

It's not whether you are loved, but who loves you

The Telegraph, a British paper, offers the following analysis of Barak Obama on the international stage:
Simply put, Barack Obama is loved at the UN because he largely fails to advance real American leadership. This is a dangerous strategy of decline that will weaken US power and make her far more vulnerable to attack.

As we saw last week with his shameful surrender to Moscow over missile defence, the president is perfectly happy to undermine America’s allies and gut its strategic defences while currying favour with enemies and strategic competitors. The missile defence debacle is rightly viewed as a betrayal by the Poles and the Czechs, and Washington has clearly give the impression that it cares little about those who have bravely stood shoulder to shoulder with their US allies in Iraq, Afghanistan and the wider war on terror.

The Obama administration is now overseeing and implementing the biggest decline in American global power since Jimmy Carter. Unfortunately it may well take another generation for the United States to recover.

I feel safer already.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Saturn in all its glory

I am not kidding. This picture, (Hat Tip Bad Astronomy) is simply incredible. Or, if you're really up for a show, try this larger version (picture is large. Scroll down and right for the main show).

It's stuff like this that adds a little perspective to one's day. Political sniping loses importance in the face of such reminders of the wonders just outside our own world. Or in our world, for that matter.

Why don't I like Glenn Beck?

Several friends of mine are avid listeners of Glenn Beck, but I can't bring myself to become one myself. I've listened to a little bit, and while I find him at times amusing and at times correct, I still can't warm to him. Ron Radosh over at Pajamas Media comes close encapsulating my viewpoint, I think, by encapsulating David Horowitz:
And let me give the last word to David Horowitz, who reasonably accepts part of what David Frum has said, when he makes the following point. Beck, he says in one of his blogs, has done good things and must be given credit for this and not be read out of the conservative movement. Yet, he agrees that Beck must be “reined in” and corrected when he goes too far. If those in the conservative ranks who support Beck do just that, Beck’s excesses can be tempered, and those who do not like him will listen to him more carefully when he is right.

I admit some of my dislike of Glenn Beck is a gut reaction. My father was an early and avid "Ditto-head" when Rush Limbaugh first impacted on the scene. The more avid he became the more I avoided Rush. Beck reminds me of Rush, and so triggers my habitual wariness.

Yet, on the recommendation of some persons whose opinions I respect, I read Beck's "Common Sense" recently and found it convincing. If that was the Beck who showed up on the radio every day I might be more inclined to listen, had I the time. But therein, too, lies the problem. I'm not willing to give very many people a full hour of my time. If they can't make their point in a few minutes it's time I was moving on.

But ultimately I think my main reason for disliking Glenn Beck is because of his incite-ful style. He is a merchant of anger, and I find that distasteful and counterproductive. Anger doesn't get the job done, not when the job is something that requires long-term focus and commitment. And Anger is too easily subverted for other purposes.

There's a popular bumper sticker that says "If you're not outraged, then you're not paying attention." The trouble is, the opposite is also true: If you're outraged you're not paying attention to anything else. I can't live a life of continual outrage. I don't need to be outraged to act, and I fear those who do. Outrage far too often leaves one unable to think clearly, and therefore prone to having others do their thinking for them.

I'll take a platoon of calm, cool, rationally concerned people motivated to action over an army of the outraged any day.

Granted, that can be hard to come by.

Monday, September 21, 2009

In defense of Ewoks.

This weekend I completed the indoctrination of my children by showing them Return of the Jedi. I know, there are three other movies still to go, but I'm still ambivalent about the "newer older" movies. Perhaps in time I'll watch them again to see if they're any better than I remember. I mostly just remember being overwhelmed with special effects and underwhelmed with actual plot and acting.

But to get back to my children, Return of the Jedi for many Star Wars fans is the worst of the three, for one main reason: Ewoks. There are very few ambivalent fans where Ewoks are concerned. You either hate them or love them. Most hate them.

I'm one of the ambivalent ones. I thought they were fun the first few times. I don't dislike them now. I have no problem with a bunch of overgrown teddy-bears defeating an entire legion of the Emperor's best troops. With the Empire, that's not saying much. The Empire military doctrine always seemed to be "either build massive, intimidating weapon systems or throw more troops at them". They deserved to get beat by a band of teddy bears with teeth.

I have more of a problem with either the speed at which the Ewoks were able to prepare all their traps, or the fact that the Imperial troops basically ignored those traps for so long, depending on which premise you believe. I think the Ewoks had too easy of a time with it, but that was more a fault in the story-telling than anything else. Lucas dwelt more on the Ewoks beating up stormtroopers than on stormtroopers beating up Ewoks, yet also portray's Chewbacca's liberation of a scout walker as the turning point in the battle. I don't think it was meant to look like such a cake-walk for the Ewoks, yet that's how the battle came across.

But there was one aspect of the entire situation I hadn't considered until my kids showed me. Kids love Ewoks. At least mine do, and I now can see why. They'd sat through three movies of scary stuff. Scary bad people. Scary alien monsters (Jabba's Palace wins the competition for my six-year-old son's least-favorite part). Big people fighting big, uncertain fights. It's the sort of thing that caused great amounts of anxiety in even my bravest kid.

Then along come the Ewoks. They're cute, they're small, they're non-threatening. They obviously have to be good. And then the cute, small, non-threatening "silly-bears", as my kids call them, proceed to kick the scary people's butts in cute, amusing ways (unless you're the Imperial walker crew caught between those two logs). It's not just a triumph for the Rebellion. It's not just a triumph for the Ewoks. It's a triumph for small, repressed things everywhere, which includes children who have sat through three movies of scariness and never seen it completely defeated, merely escaped. Until the Ewoks do it.

In short, I think George Lucas, consciously or not, was tapping into the adolescent psyche. He'd been providing the coolness and wonder for three movies already, but he still needed to provide that empowering image that children could connect with. The Ewoks provided that. They are the one thing in the trilogy that kids can connect with whole-heartedly. They're the comic relief of the movies, and they save the day.

I think Jar Jar Binks and the Gungans played that role in the next three movies, though primarily in the first. I think Jar Jar was not there for the adults, but for the kids. But the adults hated him--much like many adults at least now hate the Ewoks.

Young Anakin was, I believe, intended for a similar function. He was a kid played for kids. Yes, to adults lines like "Let's try spinning, that's a good trick" sound corny and...well, childish. But I've heard similar things come from my own children's lips.

I don't think the adults were ready for a young Darth Vader that acted like a kid. I think we were expecting something more like the little girl from Poltergeist or something; creepy and vaguely menacing. Instead we got...Anakin. And many of the adults never forgave Lucas for that. Especially for that, coupled with Jar Jar.

Time and nostalgia tends to make all of us take things from our childhood more seriously than we should. The original Star Wars trilogy, for all its excitement and dark aspects, was meant to be fun. Let's face it, parts of Episode IV are just plain silly. Like the trash monster. Like the Jawas. Like the cantina band. Like C-3PO. We're not supposed to think too much, just enjoy.

Time ages us, however, and we somehow get the idea that our beloved Star Wars we remember from our youth was somehow better and more serious than it was. So when a new set of movies came out, we went expecting something more like Star Trek: Deep Space Nine or some of the other darker, more "adult" sci-fi we had been subsisting on in the mean time.

Lucas went the other direction. He made Episode I to out-Star Wars the originally Trilogy. He emphasized what he thought were the key ingredients in making it fun--and had we still been the children we had been when was first saw it, he would have been right. We told him on no uncertain terms that he'd gotten it wrong. We hated Anakin and Jar Jar.

He wasn't stupid. He made a quick attitude correction hoping that he'd done enough to bring in the kids in the Phantom Menace that they'd stick with him through the darker, more angst-filled remaining two films. It was the adults he had to convince now, and I'm not sure he really knew how. The result was two more films that, in my opinion, lacked the fun of the original trilogy while not ever quite figuring out what else to be instead.

I'm not so sure that Revenge of the Sith couldn't have been made better with a dash of Ewoks. My kids are clamoring for me to show them the next three, but I'm hesitant. After Phantom Menace there will be precious little pay-off for them. I'm not sure I want them getting the message that not all movies end well just yet. I'm pretty sure I don't want them getting that message from a set of movies that basically tell you "life sucks and then it gets worse, and there aren't even Ewoks to make you laugh along the way."

Because no matter what you may think, real life is not that way. Even if it sucks and just gets worse, there will always be Ewoks if you know where to look.

And I thought it was the cats I had to keep an eye on...

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

Double standards on criminal behavior

This weekend in our city a female schoolteacher was arrested for having sex with a thirteen year old student. Today I overheard some colleagues discussing it. Their consensus was that this woman's husband must not be much of a man if his wife needed to go have sex with teenagers.

Can you imagine anyone saying that if the situation were reversed? Did anyone suggest of Elliot Spitzer's wife that she was an inadequate lover? Does anyone ever think to place the blame on anyone but the rapist when the rapist is male? Not that I excuse male rapists in any way, but that's the point. Why do female rapists get a pass? Why do people look for external causes to explain their behavior?

It would be unthinkable to blame the wife for a husband's sexual crimes, but it's entirely too common to blame the husband when the wife messes up. This teacher did not do what she did because of her husband. She did it because she has some deep, serious problems. She made some very bad choices, and she alone is responsible for them.

Or have we merely progressed for far on eliminating sexism against females that we over-compensated and are now sexist against men?

Friday, September 18, 2009

The detritus of our lives

My den has become home to a family of four kittens being fattened up for adoption. Our local shelter can't adopt them out until they're big enough to be neutered, which isn't until they're around ten weeks old. In the mean time they need the cages space for all the cats that can be adopted, so they've asked foster families to take on kittens for awhile.

Kittens are frisky. Kittens have sharp claws. And they can't be allowed out into the rest of the house, so my den door is always closed. I am somewhat allergic to cats, and my den gets stuffy without proper ventilation. In short, I have been unable to use my den much.

This weekend we came up with a solution. The den is becoming my wife's sewing room, and I'm moving my desk and stuff up to our bedroom where her sewing stuff was. It should be an easy swap, right?

Except my desk won't fit in our bedroom. It's a corner desk, and won't fit in any corner of the house except the one it was in. So out it goes, and in the mean time I've built a new desk from an old closet door, a bookcase, and a filing cabinet. It's actually quite nice. I have more desk space than I've ever had before.

The trouble is finding places for all the stuff that used to go in the old desk and bookcase. I never realized just how much stuff had built up there in the four years since we moved in. All of that stuff no longer has a place, but dearly needs one.

Much of it is not simple-to-place stuff. We're talking about old keys I'm not sure what they go to. Or old cassette tapes that I'm not sure what is on them. Or that container of change from the yard sale. Two undeveloped rolls of film. Where do they go?

To find out could require a significant amount of time. I'd have to try every lock in the house to figure out what to do with the keys. I'd have to find one of the few working cassette players to try the tape on. I'd have to find my wife and have a non-trivial discussion on where the change can goes. Okay, the Chuck E. Cheese token can go in the trash. There, one piece of clutter gone.

It's like a bomb went off in a thrift store, and I'm sifting through the rubble trying to reconstruct both the bomb and the store. We accumulate so many things in our lives that have significance only in where they came from. I have dozens of little knickknacks given to me by my children or by flummoxed family. I love them, because I love the people who gave them to me.

And I can never get rid of them, especially anything given to me by my kids. Every single crayon scribble on paper must remain a cherished keepsake until at least a few years have passed to where even they don't remember it anymore. Then you quietly slip it into the trash and hope this is not the day they decided to go through Daddy's garbage can.

The bulk of my writing has ground to a halt this week. The task of sorting, sifting, and placing has gone on much longer than expected. Not all of it has been drudgery. I came across several manila envelopes full of old pictures my mom sent me. There are numerous mementos of ten years of marriage; paperwork for cars long dead, loans paid off, or education completed. It's a fossil record marking the passage of life and the evolution of souls.

Some of it gets thrown away at long last, though you can almost hear the grief-stricken wail of the abandoned artifact, unable to comprehend why it, and not the receipt for the microwave, is being tossed aside. Such is the burden of a sentimental person. Everything has meaning. Everything represents a lifetime of memories, and to dispose of the object somehow diminishes the memory. Isn't my daughter's first gymnastics lesson just as important as the last car payment? They both left behind receipts. Where do you draw the line?

It seems easier just to hoard and hoard every little artifact until desperation forces your hand. You simply have to reclaim more space, so this time it's the manual for the old refrigerator that gets it, along with the receipt for when you got your wedding rings re-sized. Another memory dies, gasping its final death rattle.

It's not good to live too much in the past, but it's still good to visit now and then. It's good to measure growth, to reconnect with things now taken for granted.

My in-laws are in the process of moving to a smaller place from the townhouse where they lived for over thirty years. I do not envy them the task of deciding which bits of memory are worth saving. A lot of memories will be taking their last breaths.

Where do you draw the line?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Fighting racism with prejudice

Someone in my Facebook friends list (I don't recall how she came to get there) was ranting about "teabaggers" and how they are all racist and ignorant because she saw a few signs at a rally that could be taken in a racist manner.

Obviously the irony of her own statements were lost on her. Certainly the implications for liberal protests were. I'm sure there were some liberals who were uncomfortable with some of the signs that showed up to some of their protests, too, and would take exception with someone assuming that they agreed with those signs just because they were at the same rally.

I'll tell you right now, I did NOT agree with the "Birther" at the Tea Party rally here in Boise last week. And I thought quite a few signs were too angry for my tastes. But they have a right to say what they want to say, whether I like it or not.

I still don't get how liberals can call themselves "intellectuals" and simultaneously hold the belief that anyone who disagrees with the current administration is racist. Especially since I'm pretty sure a large number of liberals disagree with the current administration on a number of issues, such as Obama's move today to renew three key points of the Patriot Act, or our escalating commitment in Afghanistan. By their own definition, they are now officially racist.

I disagree with the current administration on a number of issues. I also agree with many of the actions Obama has taken since taking office. So which is it, people? Am I racist or not? Please spell it out for me. How many issues must I agree with the president on before I am not a racist?

And where does criticism of Pelosi and Reid enter on the spectrum? Since a good portion of the details of "Obama's" policies actually come from them, am I racist for disagreeing with Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid? Can a white person be racist against a white person?

Of course this entire train of thinking is idiotic. It's merely justification by the left for not listening to any criticism of their hero. If they can find a way to dismiss another's arguments before even hearing them they never have to risk being uncomfortable or questioning their own moral superiority. Crying racism is a cop-out, and in the long run it will do more damage to their cause than they realize. Soon everything will be "racism" to the point that real racism will become irrelevant.

I "unfriended" this person. I'm probably a racist for doing so, even though she's white. But, having reviewed her own words (which is more than she has done for me before painting me as an ignorant racist), I find I have no desire to associate or, by accepting her as a friend, imply any approval of her prejudice and intellectual dishonesty. She is, quite simply, everything she is supposedly against, but refuses to see it. She is no friend of mine.

Fifteen minutes of fame

Last night I was just checking Instapundit one more time before heading to bed when something caught my eye--my own name. I'd nearly forgotten about it, but I'd sent Glenn Reynolds a brief email about the Boise Tea Party after I got home on Saturday. He posted it. Fortunately someone else had sent a picture. I had intended to, but forgot the camera in the hustle to get the kids ready.

Anyway, I was like a giddy fanboy to see my name on Instapundit. What can I say?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

My First Tea Party: Why I joined in

I've never been to a demonstration/protest/rally before. It's not my..."thing". While my involvement in politics has increased dramatically since I became old enough to have something to lose, I've never really felt passionate enough about something to go demonstrate.

Perhaps that is because in my lifetime protesting has largely been the tool of choice of the Left. The right, as a general rule, are not protesters. And the moderates...well, we think both sides are nuts and tend not to get too close to either lest something undesirable rub off.

Besides which, I've never felt that protests work. In my rather short political history there's been little evidence that it does. How many anti-war and anti-Bush protests were there? What did they accomplish? They couldn't even sway enough democrats to their side.

Plus, I felt that their rabid, frothing anti-Bush hatred undermined their entire argument. I mean if these people were reasonable, thinking human beings they would surely realize that there is another side to the issue and be willing to acknowledge it, right? They would be more convincing if they acted reasonable. At least in my book.

Well, times they are a-changing. Over the last year or so I've grown increasingly dissatisfied with both parties. The Left are too busy trying to spend all our money, sock it to the rich, and get as many special interests hooked on government funding as they can. The Right are too busy trying to spend all our money, sock it to everyone but the rich, and annoy as many special interest groups as they can.

And then Obama took office. Though I didn't vote for him (my vote for McCain was not an enthusiastic one), I at least had hope that he would be who he campaigned as. I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. For awhile, at least on national security, it appeared he might be okay.

But as a team, Obama, Pelosi, and Reid have been atrocious. Obama has largely sat it out on domestic matters. He has offered no leadership on any of his "pet projects". He's simply told Congress "Send me a bill, and I'll sign it". So the democratic congress has served up the biggest slabs of partisan legislation they could find, laden with pork, and stuffed with little "gotchas". And they've tried to run them through before anyone had enough time to read them, a sure sign that they've had something to hide.

But the Republicans haven't had anything better to offer. Granted, the Democrats have largely cut them out of the process. But they've been unable to get any message out at all, let alone one that resonated with the public enough to sway them to their side. The GOP has become the party of zombies. They've done precious little to earn any trust. The only good thing they have done is keep saying no. But my own democrat congressman does that, too.

Then there's the corruption. The Republicans can't keep their pants on and the Democrats can't seem to file an honest tax return to save their lives. Nancy "I'm going to drain this swamp" Pelosi has done nothing to try to restore ethics wot Congress--unless a Republican does something wrong.

So I'm sick of all of them. No one represents me in Washington anymore, except perhaps for the Blue Dog Democrats, and then only on fiscal matters. The left has done their absolute best to shut down any dissent, including trying to frame any criticism of the sitting president as motivated by racism. That's a bunch of hooey, and they know it. But they also know that if they keep hurling the same epithets at reasonable people long enough they get scared off and go away.

Well here's a news flash for you. I do not trust Obama. I do not like his policies. I think his plans are dangerous. And I am not racist. I defy you to prove that I am. If Bill Cosby were to run for office I'd vote for him in a heartbeat. If Colin Powell or Condoleeza Rice were to run for office I'd seriously consider them after a good look at their policies. I judge people by the content of their character, their words, and their actions. Skin color matters about as much to me as the color of their car. If you've got any evidence to the contrary I urge you to bring it forward.

But to get back on topic, I'm extremely dissatisfied with our government--all of it. However, except for elections, which happen far too infrequently to avoid the pending disaster that is a Obama supported by Pelosi and Reid inadequately opposed by the GOP-light, there is nothing we can do except protest. And I've felt protest to be an ineffective tool of the politically demented.

The Tea Party protests have given me some hope. And the Town Halls of August helped, though the level of anger coming out has made me wary of associating myself with any of it. The 9-12 group has some good ideas, but I've associated it too much with Glenn Beck. Mind you, I don't mind Glenn Beck. I read his "Common Sense" and found it to be very good. He's got some good ideas. But he is an entertainer, and he takes his discourse to levels I do not wish to go.

So when I heard about our local September 12th Rally sponsored by the 9-12 group I wasn't interested. But the night before I talked with a friend who is more politically impassioned than I am. He asked me if I was going, and I said I wasn't. We discussed my reasons, and I posed the question of what good it would do.

He explained, first of all, that beyond saying it's a good idea, Glenn Beck is not involved in the 9-12 group. He encourages people to look into it, but that's it. And to answer my question of what good it would do, he simply reminded me that the more people who show up the more likely the politicians will take notice, and those who show up help determine what it is the politicians hear.

I replied that it was all well and good, but the only chance we really have to make a difference is for Americans to stay angry until the 2010 elections, and I doubt Americans will do that. He countered that the movement doesn't need angry people, it needs concerned people who are willing to stand up.

We ended up moving on to other topics, but the discussion stuck with me. Saturday morning in the shower I replayed the conversation in my head and realized that my excuses were just that--excuses. What chance does the Tea Party movement have of sustaining its efforts into 2010 if it sputters and dies now? If people aren't willing to stand up now while it's still fresh, who is going to stand up in a year from now when the powers that be are pulling every trick in their playbook to help us forget all about this year?

There is another reason to protest, and I had been the one to think of it during our conversation. There are people out there considering running for office. The way our election cycle works they have to be making their decisions soon if they are to get things started soon enough. By protesting now, these people may get a chance to see what issues are really important. It may help them shape their platform, and it may get good people who feel similarly to run, taking the protests of a sign that the support may be there for them next year.

But it basically boiled down to the fact that for me to feel as strongly about the situation as I do and then to not try every avenue to get my voice heard would be a useless waste of energy at best, and downright hypocrisy at worst. I really started to think hard about going.

I looked up the information online and saw that it was not just the 9-12 group sponsoring the rally, but also the Tea Party organization. That further nudged me toward going--while the Tea Parties are painted and dismissed by the left as just right-wing extremism, they are really about as centrist an organization as you're likely to find in America right now. I would not be presenting myself as one of "Glenn Beck's Evil Minions."

But there was the matter of my kids. My wife does volunteer work on Saturday mornings, and I watch the kids. They're 8, 6, and 4 years old, so taking them would not be the easiest thing to do. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this would be a good opportunity to teach them about citizenship and government. I want my kids to grow up with a different example than I had.

My dad was passionate about politics, but I don't recall him ever doing much more than yelling at the television during the party conventions and arguing with friends. I'm beginning to see now that I was wrong, but at the time it just turned me off. I don't like extreme emotion, or extreme devotion to a cause (Dad was a Ditto-head), and from my dad's example, I learned to dislike politics intensely.

I want to be different for my kids. I want to show a calmer, more rational view of politics. I want them to know that I keep informed and form opinions, but that I can discuss it rationally with anyone who is willing. I also want to show them that there are times when talking is not enough and that people of conscience must act--act rationally and within the law, but act nonetheless.

From what I've heard of the Tea Party protests so far, I figured this would be about as safe a rally as I'm ever likely to find. Taking my kids would pose no problems beyond their ability to keep up with the march. There was little chance of seeing something that I would have to explain before they're ready to understand it. In hindsight that was not entirely an accurate assessment, but we got lucky.

So I ended up loading the kids in the car, driving downtown, parking near the rally zone, and walking with my kids up the hill to meet the rally as they marched downhill from their starting point. I was able to spot my friend and some of his kids, and we joined in. He was surprised to see us, and flattered when I explained it was largely his doing.

The paper today indicates there were about 1500 people involved. That's pretty good for Idaho, especially for a moderate-to-conservative cause. It was calm, rational, and pleasant. My kids had fun being in the "parade", as they called it. They would have liked it more if I'd thought ahead better and given them some signs to wave, but all things considered, it went well. We left early, as they were getting hungry and started getting bored once the speakers started, but we were there long enough to count, I think.

Later in the day I checked the news and found out about the 2 million protesters at the Tea Party in Washington D.C. That's a staggering number. If the politicians fail to take notice of that then they're too stupid to serve.

Frankly, I wouldn't have thought a turnout like that was possible. That alone is enough to make me glad I went. I think I would have been embarrassed had I not gone and then found out that so many others did--enough to possibly make a difference. Instead I can take some satisfaction that, in a small way, I was a part of something much, much bigger than just me.

Obviously my story is not unique. There are a lot of people going through much a similar thought process right now. A lot of people who thought their individual participation probably wouldn't matter, but took a chance anyway. One by one, person by person, we individually added up to a very big something.

And that sent a message louder than anything we might have shouted, or anything we might have written on a sign. I was there, and so were my children. There is hope that we can change the world after all--or at least our country.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Historical Perspective

I just finished reading "The Victors", by Stephen E. Ambrose. It's an account of the European Theater during World War II. As I made my way through the book, reading of all the men killed and wounded it slowly dawned on me that my impressions of the war were flawed. World War II, in my mind, was a war that Americans went off to, won, and then came home. But that is not really accurate. A lot of Americans went off to war, died, and never came back.

I know it sounds incredibly stupid on my part, but it occurred to me that my viewpoint was based entirely on one detail: The only ones who can tell the story of what happened are the ones who lived. Every story you hear about the war is told by someone who lived. The dead tell no tales. You never hear a story without it ending "and then I got to go home."

Wikipedia states that there were 416,800 American soldiers killed in the war. That's as if the entire region for about 50 miles around my house were suddenly depopulated. America got off lightly, considering our role.

It is practically impossible for us today to comprehend the evil that was unleashed on the world in the space of about ten years. Three to four percent of the world's population was killed in the war; about 60 to 80 million people.

What can one say about that, really?

What was the big deal?

I just finished listening to the President's speech to schoolkids. It was a good speech. I enjoyed it. I got some positive things from it. Is there room for disagreement on what he said? Sure there is. A lot of the disagreements in this country stem from how we define a lot of the terms he spoke about. But chances are each kid that listened is going to define those terms the way their parents do.

I didn't see anything I'm going to have to sort my kids out on tonight. It was a good speech. I hope all you screaming radicals who kept your kids home today are embarrassed. I'm embarrassed for you.

UPDATE: It seems that the screaming radicals are always with us: When Bush spoke to students, Democrats investigated, held hearings

Friday, September 04, 2009

Does power breed apathy?

Marta Mossburg looks at why ObamaCare is failing in her column for the Washington Post:
The group collectively lamented that the Right discovered Saul Alinsky's "Rules for Radicals." "It's kind of scary! They have learned all of the tricks," said Sue Esty, the assistant director of American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Maryland.

But maybe it isn't the Right learning the rules. Maybe it's the community organizers losing the anger so necessary to keep the fight alive. Angry people drive beat-up hatchbacks and eat ramen noodles.

They don't show up to greet their leaders in a Volvo, Lexus, Cadillac or Chrysler 300, like some of the cars parked outside SEIU 1199, and eat grapes and cheese like at this meeting.

Who would have thought that being in power might actually make it more difficult to get things done. What a concept: We vote our people into office so that they can get things done, not so that we have to keep working to get it.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Parental responsibility and Obama's school speech

My first grader informed me today that his class will be watching Obama's address to schoolchildren on Sept. 8th, and that if we don't want our child to watch we need to notify the teacher. Frankly, I'm embarrassed that this is what our country is coming to.

I remember a lot of people on the right promising to do for Obama what the left were unwilling to do for Bush: respect the office, if not the occupant. That has all been forgotten, evidently, as a hear a lot of people encouraging us to keep our children home that day. I repeat, this is embarrassing.

The man is the President of the United States, whether we like it or not. Let him talk to our kids. He's not likely to say anything too complicated anyway. These are schoolkids, after all.

That night be sure you talk to your kids about the speech. Find out what they got out of it. Find out how they feel about it. Then offer counter-arguments as needed. I learned last year around election time that my opinion still hold sway with my kids. They still trust Mom and Dad over teachers and presidents.

But they won't for long if they feel like you are hiding things from them. Pulling them out of school because the President is speaking is going to spark their curiosity and make them want to find out just what is so bad about what he said. Then they'll wonder why Mom and Dad were afraid of it. You will lose credibility by avoiding issues like this, where you will gain trust and respect if you meet the challenge head on.

My wife just found in the school newsletter that only six classes out of at least fifteen will be showing the broadcast. That is rather sad, but I can understand why the teachers would want to avoid the hassle. It makes me wonder if there are parents out there who burn their children's Presidential Health and Fitness Award certificates when they bring them home from school.

Give your president a little respect and your kids a little credit. I understand the speech will also be broadcast online, so watch it yourself so you know what to discuss with your kids. But for pity sake, people, let's stop acting so suspicious and fearful. Obama does not have a mind control ray. He's not going to tell our kids to join his Obama Youth Brigade and refuse to eat their vegetables until you give in on health care and cap-n-trade.

I do not fear Obama using the schools for a bully pulpit. I have a much more effective vehicle when it comes to ensuring my children are taught correctly. It's called the dinner table.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Can America stay angry?

It seems 53% of independents disapprove of Obama. People on both sides of the political fence are getting tired of government spending, government waste, government bickering, and government taxes. We're tired of hypocrisy and duplicity by our elected officials. We're tired of those who keep promising to clean up Washington yet don't even lift a finger to do so once elected.

All well and good.

But can we hold on to our anger for another year? This is why the administration is trying to push everything through now. They're counting on the "American Amnesia" to kick in before the next election. Will we forget by then how upset we are with things now?

This is not the time to go all "Yoda". We do not want to let go of our anger. America needs to turn to the dark side for awhile and take back our country.

Can we do it? Yes we can!