Thursday, October 29, 2009

Kid Synonyms

Articulate Joe was a late talker. It seems one of the results of that is difficulty remembering exact terms for things. There are times when he starts a sentence, and you can tell he knew all the words at the beginning, but by the time he gets to the end, he's forgotten one of them. What's kind of neat about it is he's very willing to describe the forgotten word in other words. He's an expert at using other words for the ones he can't remember.

As a result, we get to hear fun synonyms that we probably wouldn't have thought of ourselves. Just now he built a boxing ring out of building blocks and told me, "It's a punching stadium." I don't think I ever would have thought of a boxing ring as a punching stadium, but that's basically what it is.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I Am (Possibly) a Professional Writer

Still no word yet about whether I'm getting paid for my newspaper gig. In my initial interview my editor expressed dismay that my last newspaper didn't pay me, and he assured me this one did after my fourth article. Then he e-mailed me to tell me it was actually after my second article.

This past Monday they ran my fifth article, so if his e-mail was correct, I've got three articles' worth of pay coming my way. But my editor is much more hands-off than any previous editor of mine (meaning everyone Monday I open the paper to find out if they've run my article or not). I e-mailed him, but he has an aversion to responding to e-mails. Maybe there are some sweet paychecks sitting out there with my name on them, possibly totaling upwards of $10. I just have to find out where they are.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

These Are Not the Websites You're Looking For

Today I read that ICANN, the group that governs Internet protocols and stuff, is going to approve domain names written in non-Latin characters. This article makes it sound like it's a giant step forward for world democracy. An article I read several months ago about the prospect of this change, though, brought up the fact that some non-Latin characters are visually identical to Latin characters. Thus a website can be called something like, only the "b" isn't a Latin "b," but a Cyrillic one. This website is distinct from the actual website of your bank, but looking at the address wouldn't let you know it. Typing in the address yourself will still be fine, since you probably won't use non-Latin characters in the middle of a line of Latin script, but seeing the address in a link won't tell you if the site is valid of bogus.

Just something to think about today.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Being on a Newspaper Staff Is Not As Exciting As the Movie "Fletch" Would Have You Believe

I feel so smarmy when I write a newspaper article with good structure. I start with a joke, write the article, then end with a joke related to the first one. It makes me seem like a hack. I don't know why; I don't think others who do it are hacks. Just me. But then, I've always been a very special boy.

The headline is mine, the subheadline my editor's. He also likes new paragraphs much more than I do, which I think they teach in journalism school.

Weapons of Mass Employment: Find the Perfect Job in a Not-So-Perfect Economy

President Barack Obama has a lot on his plate. Between adjudicating misdemeanors in Cambridge, MA, opining about the proceedings at the MTV Video Music Awards, demonizing a non-friendly news agency, and advocating for a college football playoff, no one can really blame the man if unemployment is on its way past 10 percent. Clearly he's busy.

Not to fear. While our country is shedding high-wage technical jobs, others are growing in those very sectors. If you happen to enjoy sunny Mediterranean climes, pistachios that get your fingers all red, gasoline that costs less than 50 cents per gallon, and oppressive Islamic republics, scores of jobs await you in the promising field of nuclear technology.

According to Mark Hosenball in Newsweek, Iran followed its 2003 “halting” of its atomic weapons program by, well, immediately restarting its atomic weapons program.

In Iran's defense, though, it should be noted that, since even Denny's now closes for Christmas, every business can be said to “halt” every once in a while.

It's the length of the halting that matters. One man's halt is another's dramatic pause.

The problem is the nature of diplomatic language, which doesn't really differentiate between halting and catching one's breath. This deficiency might need correction soon, as it seems every time the International Atomic Energy Agency secures promises of halting weapons programs, the promising nations start things back up pretty quickly.

To slightly exaggerate, on one particular trip to Iran, Hans Blix was shown the “halted” centrifuges and left to catch his plane back to Belgium (official name: Netherlands Junior).

When he got to the car he remembered he'd left his hat inside, whereupon he opened the door to find centrifuges spinning like a toked-up hippie girl at a Phish concert.

The world's thugs have been of two minds about how to handle weapons inspectors. Some end their programs and say they didn't, while some don't end their programs and say they did. The first group was lead by Saddam Hussein, who thought the international community should be satisfied with a, “Come on, guys, you know me” level of verification.

Iran subscribes to the other school of thought. Hardly a month goes by that it isn't halting its nuclear program. But don't let that discourage you from applying for one of the technical jobs. Somehow the program has a way of starting itself back up every month.

I once had a radio like that. I gave it to Good Will. Iran is not seriously considering doing the same.

Of course, we have nothing to worry about. Americans have a Nobel peace laureate in the Oval Office. Not so much for anything he's actually done for peace, but more for the fact that, you know, he likes peace. And that should be worth a fancy dinner in Norway.

Unfortunately, some people aren't swayed by fancy awards. I was a two-time geography bowl champion in high school, but not everyone wanted to be my friend as a result.

Peace prizes have a way of not bringing peace as effectively as strength. David Von Drahle of Time recognizes as much when he argues that the Nobel prize should more rightly be given to nuclear weapons than to those seeking a nuclear-free world.

Perhaps the president's lack of focus on the nuclear threat is really just a way to kill two birds with one stone.

If nuclear weapons make us safer, then handing them out like toasters with new checking accounts is the safest thing of all, and if our country isn't going to make any more jobs on its own, allowing every tinhorn despot to start up an expensive weapons program is a great way to find work for unemployed scientists and technicians.

If he keeps coming up with ingenious employment schemes like this he might find himself with the Nobel prize in economics, an award that historically is more rewarding of actual results than grand intentions. And if his plan doesn't work, it's not like any of us will still be alive to say, “I told you so.”

©2009, Broadside. Reprinted by permission.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The First Rule of Politics Is Don't Do Anything to Spook the Horses

I find myself more closely aligned with Libertarians than with Republicans these days. Even the Republican politicians who have developed conservative personae undermine it by either 1. appearing too calculating and insincere in their political declarations, 2. basing their political philosophy on religious arguments that are popularly derided, or 3. both.

As a Christian, I dislike the narrow (and in some aspects wrongheaded) definition of Christianity that supports many Republicans' political views. I've written before* about my disagreement with people like George W. Bush who vouched for Harriet Miers as a Supreme Court justice based on little more than their common interpretation of the Book of Revelation, and with people like Mike Huckabee who built an entire presidential campaign based on the idea that Mormons shouldn't be president. I've written before* about how a moral compass is not synonymous with a Christian baptism, and that a non-Christian candidate like Joe Lieberman would be infinitely more moral than a Christian candidate like Bill Clinton. I think much of America's uneasiness with the Republican tendency to breach Thomas Jefferson's phony "wall of separation" between church and state could be calmed by responsible Republican politicking. If a political opinion is supported by both scripture AND reason, why not trot out reason first?

Haters like to talk a lot about how the Republican Party isn't inclusive, but when I, as a Christian, feel like I'm "not Christian enough" for a quarter of the party's base, there might be something to the criticism. Too many Republicans treat the party like a club for straight (or at least closeted) white men, instead of what it should be, which is an organization of political conservatives.

Libertarians have staked out the conservative segment of the political spectrum which is not necessarily religiously based. Which isn't to say that they are all agnostics and heathens, but they trot out reason first.

The problem with a political shift that sees one major party drop away and another take its place is that it takes a generation. The decline of the Whigs and the rise of the Republicans was unusually fast due to the catalyst of civil war; most transitions are like the 1896-1912 change of the Democrats from Bourbons to Populists. And the problem with a generation in the wilderness is that the opposition gets a crap-load of stuff accomplished in that time. Current proposals include giving the government that has spent trillions of dollars in the "war on poverty" (last week's headline: new "poverty" standard now includes more Americans than ever before) control of your health care, and carbon taxes that will stifle business and force more Americans into true poverty, not the cell-phone, flat-panel-TV, two-car poverty of today*. If we take 20 years without a conservative voice in this country, the amount of "change" will be breathtaking and possibly irreversible. How much of the New Deal do we still have with us today? (Hello, Social Security, progressive income taxes, and massive farm subsidies.)

The question is, does the Republican Party promise anything different, or is their major difference with Democrats just the matter of pacing? Republicans accomplish the same things, just slightly slower. It was a Republican Congress that pushed through a transportation spending bill larger than ever President Bush (no penny-pincher himself) wanted. It was a Republican president and Congress that gave us a prescription drug entitlement program*. It was Republican presidents who gave us steel tariffs*, voluntary import quotas, federalization of airport security screeners, and five of the seven Supreme Court justices who formed the majority in Roe v. Wade (and all three justices who wrote the decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey*). If these are the best friends the Constitution can find, we're all in for it.

So I'm very close to writing off the Republican Party*. The Democrats are a hopeless amalgamation of special interest groups who all want to throttle the majority for their various causes; as fractured as it might seem, it will never die so long as they all know that by sticking together they each have a chance to force their crackpot agenda on the nation. If a major party is going to wilt and be replaced, it is the Republicans. There are self-styled leaders out there who want to be the next Reagan, to lead the party to glory again, but they all seem disingenuous, like they are playing the role of the conservative rebel rouser because the part was vacant, not because they care about any part of the cause. Maybe I'm wrong, but if the policies of the current administration can't bring an articulate conservative Republican to the forefront, it can only mean articulate conservative Republicans no longer exist.


*=things I've written about here before, but Blogger's worthless search capability can't find them

Friday, October 23, 2009

Mailbag - Politics Edition

Some of you have responded to my opinion article calling for pulling support from the two major parties. JT writes:

What about Duverger's law? We will almost always have two parties, so a third party has to come in with sufficient force to capture the former base of another party before it simply becomes a spoiler party. Man, political science sucks!
And how. But I do recognize that our political system does not lend itself to more than two major parties. In the past, however, which two parties were the "major" parties were always in flux. Washington was a Federalist, Jefferson was a Democrat-Republican, Taylor was a Whig, Johnson was a Unionist. These parties gained favor when the existing "big two" failed to respond to the people. A century ago it was happening again with the Populists, but the Democrats co-opted the movement (and later its leader). Instead of Democrats remaining of the Bourbon strain and Populists remaining separate, Democrats shifted the party's principles to cut the movement off at the knees.

"But A Random Stranger, wasn't this a case of a party responding to the people? People didn't want to be Bourbons anymore, they wanted to be Populists." But I contend that this shift was nothing more than the vested interests of the Democrat Party protecting their incumbency. That is the problem with the two parties today, the reason nearly everyone is dissatisfied with Congress no matter who is in charge: politicians care about nothing but remaining politicians. They have party affiliations because they've found a majority of their constituents like them better with a particular letter after their names, be it R or D. But when the letter becomes a liability, they have no problem with changing it (ala Arlen Specter) or dropping it. In my state's gubernatorial election, neither major party candidate is claiming any party affiliation on his campaign material. It's not a signal of their positions so much as it's a campaign gimmick to attract the type of voters who thinks it matters.

What I want to see is the two intellectually-bankrupt parties have their hegemony threatened by others. Either the two parties will survive because they will right themselves, or they will fall away as new parties take their places.

Next in the mailbag we have Nathan:

While I recognize that your article aims to disparage both parties and thus your slight of the Democratic Party, which you call the "Democrat Party" a la Bush and Fox News, may be deliberate, it also suggests that you've taken sides.
I just wonder how a party that uses "super-delegates" thinks it has claim to the word "democratic."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Enemies List

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-ed plaid shirt) thinks the White House shouldn't start an enemies list. I disagree. Being on that enemies list would be a great achievement in my life. What would it take? I've already written critical blog posts, and my newspaper article for this coming week is unflattering to the president. Is that enough?

Normally I'd say no, the most powerful man in the free world isn't going to be concerned with the opinions of someone like me. However, this administration has an almost Clintonesque intolerance of dissent. As long as someone, somewhere disagrees, they know about it.

Discuss Amongst Yourselves

Our topic today comes from Richard Lyman Bushman's Believing History.

In the Mormon atmosphere, religion seemed to dwarf conventional studies of politics or culture....I include [an earlier history essay] here now in its initial naive rendering to illustrate the way religious belief in an unbelieving world drives the mind toward skepticism and relativism. The separation between one's own convictions and the standard common sense of the time forces one to doubt the validity of received wisdom. A modern believer lives in a kind of postmodern time warp where religious reality is constantly overlaid on conflicting secular reality, making everything seem relative and indeterminate. In the modern world, faith is a choice. One has to choose to believe over against the reigning common sense. This leads to the liberating but disconcerting realization that historical truth is also molded to suit our assumptions and desires. (page 3)
This seemed pertinent to me because I'm now reading my third book this month that starts from the premise that people originated in an evolutionary process. In these matters, I feel like a sham scholar when I politely listen to everything but secretly think, "I'm going to choose not to believe parts of what you say."

Getting Preachy

What's the point of acquiring a nearly-invisible modicum of fame in this world if you don't use it to browbeat your public with your crackpot political ideas? If we couldn't do this, five-sixths of Hollywood would be working in medical billing jobs. I, too, have unfounded political opinions, and if forcing them on my non-existent readership is wrong, then I don't want to be et cetera.

Two Party System Means Both Can't Be Losers

In America's perpetual electioneering, the moment Barack Obama took the presidential oath of office, the midterm election campaign began. Prognosticators make a living by discussing such things on cable news channels, often making up for a lack of insight with an overabundance of hot air. "My opponent wants to pay for (social program/defensive weapon) by cutting spending for (defensive weapon/social program), all while balancing the budget on the backs of the (poor/rich), which will benefit no one but the (rich/poor)." Using this formula five times in ten minutes will get you a guest spot on the McLaughlin Group; using it ten times in five minutes will get you your own show on CNBC.

Currently the presidency and both houses of Congress are controlled by the Democrat Party. The Republican opposition looks at the incredibly low Congressional approval poll numbers (which has skyrocketed to 26% from a low last fall of 14%, according to and salivates. Wait until next year, they think, and they will ride the wave of disapproval to electoral victory.

The problem is that congressional disapproval is nothing new. In fact, Congress's approval rating has been at or below 50% for over six years, according to Three congressional elections have come and gone, and still not once has Congress garnered the approval of even a bare majority of Americans.

This seems strange. Even in the post-election honeymoon, for the past six years voters don't approval of the Congress they elect. I once knew of a couple who got married on a Saturday, argued that Sunday, and contact divorce attorneys on Monday. But at least even they approved of each other at the reception Saturday night.

Historically, approval has been tied to the political party of the respondent. Thus, Republicans tend to favor a Republican Congress, and Democrats favor a Democrat Congress. But for the past few years, poll respondents from both parties disapprove of Congress nearly equally, irrespective of which party has a congressional majority.

This means that each election voters go to the polls and say to the ruling party, "I hate you," and then have to wait two years to tell the former opposition party, "I hate you, too." This is probably what will happen next November, when the current dislike of Congress expresses itself as a loss for Democrats.

The shame with this result is that it can't be a loss for Democrats without being a victory for Republicans. When one of the two parties wins a congressional election, they think it had something to do with how great they are, while what America is trying to tell them is, "It's been a while since we've seen how badly you suck, and we are hoping you've turned your act around."

They have not, in fact, turned their act around. Why would they? They don't need to gain voter approval to win an election, they just have to make sure the voters hate them slightly less than the alternative.

This was not a winning formula when I got married. I did not sell myself to my wife by pointing out that some other potential husband was twice the jerk I was. I actually had to be desirable, not simply less repulsive, because my wife would have said, "I'm not limited to just the two of you jerks."

The American electorate, however, has limited itself to two jerks. Ending the relationship with one jerk makes the other think he's desirable, and ends whatever incentive he had to change. If America wants a Congress it can approve of, if it dislikes the idea of approval numbers getting to 26% by "skyrocketting," then it has to look beyond the two jerks.

I lived in California during the 2003 gubernatorial recall election. In countless conversations friends would say to me, "I prefer Candidate X, but he can't win, so I'm going to vote for Candidate Y."

A candidate can't win so long as his supporters think he can't. The biggest supporters of the myth that a third-party candidate can't win an election are the two established parties. American politics used to see the births and deaths of all sorts of political parties. The Republican Party was founded in 1852, and within eight years had its presidential candidate elected to the White House. As the midterm election comes into swing this coming year, consider looking beyond the two jerks for a party you can actually support, not just a party you hate slightly less than others.

©2009, Broadside. Reprinted by permission.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Reading Plan

I like to keep lists, to track things. Maybe this is the result of wanting order in my life, or maybe I don't need a reason, so back off. The point is, I like to be able to quantify my accomplishments (hello, economics) and track my progress. So I keep track of how many books I read in a year, and the number of pages. And in keeping with the idea of goal-setting, I have outlined the seventeen books I will finish reading before the end of this year.

  1. The Proper Role and Improper Role of Government, by H. Verlan Andersen and Ezra Taft Benson
  2. The Closing of the American Mind, by Allan Bloom
  3. Believing History, by Richard Lyman Bushman
  4. Cicero, by Anthony Everitt
  5. The Punic Wars, by Adrian Goldsworthy
  6. Drawing on the Powers of Heaven, by Grant Von Harrison
  7. Seeing With an Eye of Faith, by Grant Von Harrison
  8. Three Men in a Boat, by Jerome K. Jerome
  9. The Mortal Messiah, Book 1, by Bruce R. McConkie
  10. Vanishing Vapour, by Brandon T. Minster
  11. The Power of Positive Thinking, by Norman Vincent Peale
  12. Following the Light of Christ Into His Presence, by John M. Pontius
  13. The Way We Live Now, by Anthony Trollope
  14. The World Without Us, by Alan Weisman
  15. Herbert Hoover, by Joan Hoff Wilson
  16. Leave It to Psmith, by P.G. Wodehouse
  17. Psmith, Journalist, by P.G. Wodehouse

Columnist Bonanza

Writing for a newspaper can be fun. Late Friday night I got an e-mail from my editor seemingly questioning if I'm guilty of plagiarism. My response must have been adequate, because today two of the three opinion page columns are mine. Here's the first.

Coywolves Prove Even Evolution Gets Bored

Wolves are getting randy for coyotes at an alarmingly ever-increasing pace, and we have evolution to blame.

For readers unfamiliar with these animals, I'll remind you that wolves are the direct ancestors of chihuahuas, and coyotes are used by cowboys as a pronunciation test of the claims to authenticity of other cowboys, much like English merchants making suspected Dutch say “bread and cheese” in the Rising of 1381. A fellow might be practically indistinguishable from the Village People cowboy, but if he says “coyote” with anything more than two syllables, he's a good-for-nothing city slicker, bent on fencing the last free range of the West.

As it turns out, the coyote is more useful than any of us suspected. In a pinch, it can serve as the nightcap of a wolf's Saturday night. According to Jennifer Viegas of Discovery News, wolves are getting their inter-species freak on (paraphrasing), and the result is something called a coywolf.

Like any good modern American, I have two questions. Firstly, who is responsible? Secondly, is that responsibility fiduciary in nature, or can I at least convince a Mississippi jury that it is?

Roland Kays of the New York State Museum lays the blame on Charles Darwin, an obscure 19th-century British naturalist who salvaged a startlingly unproductive career in science by founding the Darwin Awards. “This is an evolutionary mechanism to generate new variation that can work faster than genetic mutation,” Kays said.

Of course, I'm the product of a public school, but I seem to remember that evolution is non-sentient. Now I come to find out, not only can evolution pick faster methods, it's also a little kinky. Dave the Wolf is walking along in the forest, contemplating the infinite, and he sees a lady coyote. His natural reaction might be to kill the coyote, but now evolution steps in and says, “I can't let you do that, Dave.” Instead, Dave gets hot for his new lady friend and, if you want to know the rest, ask your parents.

Before the advent of television lowered evolution's attention span, here's how it used to work. Of all the slightly different coyotes, some might be more suited to fill the hole left by a thinning wolf population. These would flourish and be more likely to pass along the genetic traits that helped them succeed. Eventually, these super coyotes have cornered the means of production and lord it over their standard coyote brethren, who gnash their teeth and foment revolution. The circle of life.

That might have worked before, but now evolution has a plane to catch. Instead of the thinned wolves prospering from a lack of competition, they are saving everyone some time by going against their nature and wooing coyotes. Perhaps coyotes are incredibly easy lays. It's hard to say; all that fur around their tails makes it difficult to spot lower back tattoos.

Using sex as a weapon of conquest has a long history, from Pat Benatar's “Love is a Battlefield” to Jose Luis Marques's profanely-titled movie about reconquering the Falkland Islands by Argentines impregnating the British women. Before these two instances, though, I don't think it ever occurred, which raises the question: who is letting wolves listen to Pat Benatar and watch avant garde minimalist cinema?

Now that I know evolution can be sped up, I'm looking to do a little cross-species hanky-panky myself. Trying to teach kids can be a long and thankless task, and often the end result isn't even what was desired. So I'm going to use hybridization to run an end-around on evolution. I've got a hot date this weekend with an encyclopedia.

©2009, Broadside. Reprinted by permission.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Why Misanthropes Get More Done

My shuttle bus driver started off by wanting to talk to me when I was getting on and off. Okay, I can handle that. Then he wanted to send me an e-mail. Um, okay, I guess. This week he wanted my phone number. Wait, what?

Maybe I'm just a little too freaked out because I was one of five people who've seen Cable Guy, but I don't want my bus driver to call me on the weekends like he wants to do. I'm afraid that I'll say something inappropriate, such as: "When the highway signs warn of traffic between exits 47 and 52, it doesn't do us any good when you get off at exit 56 and weave around town for half an hour, just to get back on the freeway at exit 52 and drive to exit 47."

I wouldn't have to worry about this if I wasn't trying to be nice. There are plenty of people who ride my bus and never think to talk to the guy, and he hasn't asked any of them for their phone numbers. Just me.

Maybe I should break up with him. You know, tell him, "I'm sorry but I just don't think we can see each other socially anymore." I'm a little out of practice; the last time I tried to break up with someone we ended up engaged and nearly married. If I screw it up with my bus driver like that, he'll be living in our Harry Potter closet by the end of the week.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Stupid News, Courtesy of MSNBC

Just looking at the home page, without even clicking on any of the articles, here's the stupidity I'm facing:

  • "Study confirms what critics have said: M4 rifles jam at worst possible times." Now, why is that? Is it because rifles only jam when pieces are moving, and pieces are only moving when the rifle is being fired, and any times you want to fire a rifle and it won't fire could be called the "worst possible times"?
  • "Great Recession by the numbers." Only idiots and political hacks call this the Great Recession. It's either the crutch of the Obama apologist, trying to play up the dire circumstances he faced at the start of his term, or it's the crutch of the intellectually dead who use whatever media-created nickname they hear.
  • "Biden is Obama's truth teller." Joe Biden has been called a lot of things, but I bet even he would be surprised being called a "truth teller." Myriad writers who've been plagiarized by Biden must have been unavailable for comment.
  • "Polanski feels depressed in jail." To be fair, the headline suggests it's just passing along the opinion of his lawyer. But still. Come on. This is news? That being imprisoned is a depressing experience?

And all that was before scrolling down at all.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

About That Whole "Friend" Thing....

Remember when the Internet was so exciting? It used to be all spicy and exotic, like Salma Hayek making sweet love to a jalapeƱo. Now it's as bland as John Tesh shaking hands with a Canadian. I have, like, three websites I check, and when baseball season ends, I'll lose one of them.

Anyway, in an effort to make the Internet fun again, I started going through my Facebook friends, alphabetically calling them out to write on my Wall within a day. I'm still in the As, but I feel I have come to know my friends better, and it's fun to give people deadlines. That's why I was such a successful hostage negotiator.

But not everything I've learned about my friends is happy news. Last week I went through my three friends named "A-----." Only one of the three responded. Today when I looked to see who was next, I saw that I now only have two friends named "A-----." Evidently one of them dropped me in the past two days.

Was it because I gave him a deadline and he couldn't handle the pressure? Or was it because he's a low-level California State Democrat Party hack and my last Facebook status update was about what a joke Obama's Nobel "Prize" is? Hmmm. I wonder.

Since we're not friends anymore, I decided to antagonize him. (That was the one trait that stood in the way of my career advancement in the field of hostage negotiating. But it also would have been a huge asset had I ever decided to get into the field of hostage taking. Go figure.) So I sent him a message that read, "Was it something I said?"

While I'm at it, I'll now tell you the most embarrassing story I know about him. He would wear a braided belt (standard-issue early-90s wear) and allow the excess belt to hang limp, so my best friend gave him the nickname Belt Dick. (That wasn't the story. Wait for it.) Well, Belt Dick's girlfriend was on the student newspaper with me. I've written before about the grueling requirements of the student newspaper qualifying class, but once on staff, duties consisted of sitting around chatting with co-staff members. During one of our chats, his girlfriend told me that he acted and sounded like a rooting pig during a particular sexual act. (Amateur.)

The real pisser is that my Facebook status didn't even go into detail about how ridiculous this Nobel thing is. (For said details, see my previous post on this blog, and even there I forgot to mention how "closing Guantanamo Bay" became "setting a deadline we hope to meet for closing Guantanamo Bay" which has recently become "failing to meet the deadline for closing et cetera.") How many of my Facebook "friends" will I lose before the end of Obama's term? That sounds like the type of challenge a bored person like me could use to spice the Internet right back up to "caliente."

Friday, October 09, 2009

What Obama's Done for Peace

Sure, he's only been president for less than a year, but in that time he's had an impressive amount of peace-promoting accomplishments.

  1. Cuba: he sold out the Cuban people on their first chance for "change" in 50 years by demanding nothing of substance from Raul Castro in return for serious relaxations of the American embargo.
  2. Iran: he presided over America's complacency in the face of Iran's most advanced nuclear weapons programs and facilities to date.
  3. Iran (Bonus Peace Promotion): He saved his most strident words not for the suppression of pro-democracy protesters, but for a Cambridge (MA) police officer doing his job, and for Kanye West interrupting Taylor Swift at the VMAs.
  4. Eastern Europe: he kowtowed to Russian imperialist demands and scrapped a missile defense shield because our nominally-democratic nominal "ally" thought it might curtail his future abilities to attack the United States. (Hint: that was precisely what it was supposed to do.)
  5. North Korea: he provided no leadership in the face of North Korea's July missile tests and continues to do nothing about their continued ramp-up of their existing nuclear weapons capacity.
  6. Afghanistan: he dithered about increasing our troop strength, even though a "surge" worked in Iraq, the current military leadership is asking for a "surge" in Afghanistan, and our enemies are emboldened by his talk of withdrawal deadlines in the face of mounting aggression.
  7. Sudan: [crickets chirping] Remember Sudan, and how everyone thought getting an African-American president would mean something would be done about Darfur? Yeah, well, neither does Obama.
  8. Israel: [crickets, exhausted from so much chirping, are now playing recordings of crickets chirping while they rest their tired legs]
  9. Georgia: he failed to say anything meaningful about Russia's invasion of Georgia under trumped-up pretenses except basically advising, "Georgia, you probably shouldn't be so attached to your territorial integrity."

What's most amazing is the way his award was specifically for his work in ridding the world of nuclear weapons, but it stops to be amazing when you realize the Nobel citation contains a typo; instead of "the world" it should read "America." Then it makes sense.

Iran is closer to nuclear weapons than ever before. Ditto North Korea. The president, meanwhile, spends time on an Olympic bid, and wastes political capital on the idea of a BCS playoff (which is the only idea of his I'm behind). Instead of streamlining the tax code as a way to help end the recession, he hammers a multi-trillion dollar entitlement program. The surest way to promote peace is to make as many people rich as possible. When was the last time two rich nations went to war with each other? When was the last time you heard anyone say, "Oh, you know those Norwegians and Swedes are always at each other's throats"? Not since the 17th century. Why, what's changed since then? Yet this administration, when it accidentally finds an economically beneficial program like Cash for Clunkers, lets the funding run out and the benefits die.

To say Obama has promoted peace is to redefine peace. It is using the Islamicist definition, which means submission to the demands of others. (It is in this sense that "The Religion of Peace"® qualifies for its nickname, and in no other sense.) This is the view of history which would label Neville Chamberlain a peacemaker and Winston Churchill a warmonger. Using this definition, it is true that America has never had a president as peaceful as Obama. And if he keeps this up, there might not be an America left to have future presidents to challenge his record.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

That's What I'm Talkin' About

In a previous post (which Blogger's for-crap search function won't find, so I found it for you and linked to it here, because I'm steadily making my blog the most kick-ass blog imaginable, a blog which will one day wrestle world domination from the lifeless fingers of Google before really turning up the heat on the Trilateral Commission) I wrote about feeling embarrassed when watching others do embarrassing things. Then today I read this:

That feeling which attacks a sensitive person sometimes at the theatre when somebody is making himself ridiculous on the stage - the illogical feeling that it is he and not the actor who is floundering - had come over him in a wave.
P.G. Wodehouse, Psmith in the City (1910), p. 105.

I was appreciative of the way Wodehouse noted the feeling is illogical. That's why I love him so.

Aside: I realize it's going to be difficult to challenge Google's hegemony on a blog controlled by Google, but I've got to start somewhere. I'll be like when Imperial Russia kicked Lenin out, and he used the free trip to Germany to become more steeped in the radical ideology being kicked around the Weimar Republic. I will gather strength from the teat of Google before ruthlessly crushing it into the ground! (If my blog goes silent tomorrow, you'll now know why.)

Secondary Aside: When I wrote this blog title, I imagined it yelled like Mr. Costanza would, but then I remembered the way Kip Dynamite delivered the line after Uncle Rico hit Napoleon in the face with some steak, and I've decided either reading is acceptable.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Why I'm an Unsuccessful Blogger

Sometimes I think, "It would be nice to have a super cool blog that people want to check all the time, and that gets traffic aside from those friends of mine with more guilty consciences. I'm going to do make it happen right now!"

Except you don't just sit down and make that happen. It happens slowly, with a good blog post every day for, like, ever. And there's no way in hell I'm doing that.

It's sort of disheartening that technology keeps inventing cool new stuff, but it can't change the basic laws that govern its use. If you want something nice and worthwhile, you have to make a consistent effort, often for months with little visible progress. There's no real secret to losing weight or learning economics or having a nice blog. You do them all the same way. Which is not the way I want to do them. Which is why they don't happen for me.

Sometimes I wonder about my brain. More than usual, I mean. It seems there are two possible responses to a challenge:

  1. Buckling down and working hard.
  2. Growing despondent and quitting.
Most people would do one or the other. I spice things up by doing both, sometimes in such rapid succession that they appear coincidental. Is that normal? Or is it another symptom of my broken brain?

We'll find out today, I guess, as I study all day for my first midterm this evening. How much of the time will I study, and how much will I spend thinking no amount of studying is going to help me? Perhaps the answer to both is "the whole time."

Involuntary Hiatus

I opened the newspaper this Monday to find my article, and I didn't find my article. There has been no explanation, but I wonder if it doesn't have something to do with their payment schedule.

I'm supposed to start sucking on the newspaper teat with my third article; the first two are gratis. Is it a coincidence that after my first two articles appeared I was shelved? Could it be that the paper just maintains a revolving door of two-week de-facto "guest" columnists and keeps all the wages for their own riotous living? I've yet to see evidence of hookers and blow in the newspaper office, but that doesn't mean they aren't partaking at some off-site location.

Since my article hasn't run yet, I don't really think I should share it here yet. I'll either wait until it appears in print (earliest possibility: October 19) or until I hear for certain that I've been given the sack.

Who knew small-time paid writing positions were so difficult to come by? First Undergrad U. suckered me into the editorial board with promises of $25 per week ($400 per semester, or slightly less than books) and then backed out of paying while still expecting the work. Now Graduate U. promised payment after the second article (without ever specifying how much payment), and when it came time to pony up, they eased on out the back door. With their clothes.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Seeing the Future

Persephone started up Conference on the computer this morning. The first speaker was President Monson. He said, "As we start this conference..." and I thought, "Something's wrong here." Then he talked about temple attendance and I thought, "The teleprompter guy loaded his Saturday morning talk and he doesn't realize it yet." I said to Persephone, "He's about to say that 83% of church members live within 200 miles of a temple." Then President Monson said, "Worldwide, over 83% of church members live within 200 miles of a temple."

Persephone paused the computer to investigate, and it turned out she had started up yesterday morning's session. I should have just pretended it was live and I could predict the future. It's not like Persephone would be able to tell; she slept through nearly all of yesterday morning's session. (She'll say it's because I kept her up until three-thirty the night before, but I would remind you that I was also awake until three-thirty.)

Friday, October 02, 2009

Messiah Complex

One day a fellow at work started a joke by asking me, "What do Barack Obama and Jesus Christ have in common?" I responded, "What DON'T they have in common?" But there's at least one thing that Obama still can learn from JC: when you set yourself up as the Messiah, everybody wants to cut you down to size.

Being Barack Obama might be a difficult thing right now. He's certainly justified in feeling beleaguered, but I'm sure it's never crossed his mind to ask, "How much of this opposition has come from my smugly riding roughshod over everyone who doesn't agree with me?" I don't need to recount here all the ways Obama has presented his personal opinions as gospel truth. The man (or is he a demi-god?; he's undecided) doesn't know the meaning of the phrase, "My opinion on that doesn't matter."

For instance: is it in keeping with the dignity of the presidency for him to have a public opinion regarding Kanye West's interrupting Taylor Swift at the MTV Video Music Awards? As much as Bush did to extend the Imperial Presidency, at least he kept his actions in the realm of public action. Obama has truly imperialized the presidency by transparently making official actions the result of private whims.

The problem with Messiah complexes is they're self-fulfilling. If part of the gig is gaining opposition, then the natural opposition that comes from egotism is seen as model reinforcement. "See, I must be the Messiah, because the IOC eliminated Chicago in the first round of Olympic voting." What matters, though, is what causes the opposition. Remember, there was another JC killed by Romans, but nobody aside from Caesar himself would confuse the two.