Friday, September 28, 2007

Monday, September 17, 2007

"You Mean The Naval Academy Is Part Of The Navy?"

From the "How dumb do you have to be" file:

One has to wonder what kind of journalists the storied Columbia School of Journalism intends to produce. If the column published this month by Idris Leppla ten days ago for the Columbia Spectator gives any hint, we can expect novices of the obvious who infantilize the people who serve as their subjects. This time she uses her brother, who applied to and entered the Naval Academy at Annapolis, apparently without Idris and her mother realizing it meant joining the Navy

The whole piece is well worth reading.

Chavez Hearts Hitler

Who is still supporting this guy, aside from Hollywood fascists: Venezuela's Chavez May Take Over Schools

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez threatened on Monday to close or take over any private school that refuses to submit to the oversight of his socialist government as it develops a new curriculum and textbooks.

"Society cannot allow the private sector to do whatever it wants," said Chavez, speaking on the first day of classes.

All schools, public and private, must admit state inspectors and submit to the government's new educational system, or be closed and nationalized, with the state taking responsibility for the education of their children, Chavez said.

A new curriculum will be ready by the end of this school year, and Other Top Headlines Photos new textbooks are being developed to help educate "the new citizen," said Chavez's brother and education minister Adan Chavez, who joined him a televised ceremony at the opening of a public school in the eastern town of El Tigre.

The president's opponents accuse him of aiming to indoctrinate young Venezuelans with socialist ideology. But the education minister said the aim is to develop "critical thinking," not to impose a single way of thought.

I love the employment of trendy jargon imported directly from U.S. schools of education. It sort of brings the whole thing full circle.

Next week we will probably see the launching of the "Chavez Youth" movement.

Happy Constitution Day!

Gotta love the "contract clause" and everything else that came with it.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Your Musical Interlude, Part XVIII

Better late than never. That is especially true when the track is a John Wesley Harding number.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

I Don't Know How They Do It

I read a lot of blogs where the authors are more than gainfully employed, and I have to say I don't know how they manage to blog so much, stay employed, and (often times) stay married. Lord knows, given the week I've had so far, if I had given the Iconic Midwest half of the time I did over the summer I'd be having some serious difficulties. (As it is now I'm blogging this in a spare 15 minutes before I go teach my next class.)

It must be said, I've never been noted for the stellar manner in which I budget my time (I watch baseball for crying out loud), but even without that particular personal defect I'd be failing to keep this place interesting.

In the meantime, I'm waiting to hit my groove. It could happen any year now.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

That Shrinking Feeling

Here is raising things to another level: Bin Laden branded `virtually impotent'

Seemingly taunting Osama bin Laden, President Bush's homeland security adviser said Sunday the fugitive al-Qaida leader is "virtually impotent" beyond his ability to hide away and spread anti-American propaganda.

The provocative characterization came just days after bin Laden attracted international attention with the release of a video in which he ridicules President Bush about the Iraq war and reminds the world that he not been captured.

Ahead of the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist strikes, White House aide Frances Fragos Townsend made a clear attempt to diminish the influence — or the perception — of the man who masterminded those attacks.

"This is about the best he can do," Townsend said of bin Laden. "This is a man on a run, from a cave, who's virtually impotent other than these tapes."
In appearance on two Sunday talk shows, she used the "virtually impotent" reference both times, suggesting the language was chosen with careful purpose.

"We know that al-Qaida is still determined to attack, and we take it seriously," Townsend said. "But this tape appears to be nothing more than threats. It's propaganda on their part."

Hmmm...I'm not sure what the point of this was exactly. Maybe someone thinks having a Western woman belittle bin Laden will get him so angry he will make a mistake (just like Galahad suggested in regards to the killer rabbit in Monty Python and The Holy Grail), but it doesn't seem likely. I guess the Bush admin felt they should respond to the bin Laden video in some manner...but I can't say this inspiring stuff.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Your Musical Interlude, Part XVII

Low-fi goodness. Notice the rhythmic distortion caused by someone tapping along with the beat...or at least trying to play air drums.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Political Entertainment

Some house races take on a life of their own and become fun for even casual political junkies to follow. A good example of this can be seen in Massachusetts. Tsongas widow faces pilot's brother

The brother of a pilot hijacked during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks launched his general election campaign for Congress Wednesday with a sharp attack on his opponent, the widow of one-time presidential candidate Paul Tsongas.

Niki Tsongas won Tuesday's Democratic primary in the race to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Martin Meehan, who is resigning to become chancellor of the University of Massachusetts-Lowell.

On the Republican side, Jim Ogonowski, whose brother was captain of American Airlines Flight 11, one of two hijacked planes flown into the World Trade Center in 2001, easily won his party's nomination.

"Niki's a nice person. I like her. I know she means well, but let's face it, she presents more of the same tired Washington that continues to fail us," Ogonowski told supporters at his campaign headquarters. "She is wrong on the issues and she is not right for this district."

Tsongas, meanwhile, pledged to end the war in Iraq and "send a message to the White House." in the Oct. 16 special election.

"In the end, this election will be a referendum on the Bush administration, and I represent the Democratic voice and the alternate view," Tsongas said. The 5th District seat has been in Democratic hands since her husband won it in 1974.

It will be fascinating to watch this unfold. Paul Tsongas was my type of Democrat, although it doesn't seem that Niki styles herself as being anything like her late husband.

The lover of political theater in me appreciates the attempt to label sending another Democrat to Congress from this district for the 18th election in a row as the "alternate view."

The word "audacious" comes to mind.


Shocked I am. Shocked! Democratic donor a no show at hearing

Disgraced Democratic fundraiser Norman Hsu was a wanted man again after he failed to show up for a court date Wednesday and a judge issued a new warrant for his arrest.

Hsu, whose criminal past has roiled the campaigns of top presidential candidates, was scheduled to ask a judge to cut in half the $2 million bail he posted last week when he turned himself in after spending 15 years on the lam from a felony theft conviction.

Instead, San Mateo Superior Court Judge Robert Foiles ordered Hsu's bail forfeited to the county and issued a new arrest warrant. If Hsu is arrested again, he will be jailed without bail this time.

Hsu, a Hong Kong native, was also supposed to turn over his passport Wednesday. Hsu's prominent Silicon Valley criminal defense attorney Jim Brosnahan said Hsu failed to give the passport to the legal team on Monday.

"Mr. Hsu is not here and we do not know where Mr. Hsu is," Brosnahan said outside court.

Convicted felon? Check.

Convicted felon on the lam? Check.

Friend of the Clintons? Check.

No one will be praying harder for a Clinton victory next November than one Norman Hsu.

Maybe Marc Rich can give Hsu pointers on the best Swiss chalets to rent in the meantime.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007


Welcome to a Brave New World: Is carbon-offsetting just eco-enslavement?

If you thought that the era of British bigwigs keeping Indians as personal servants came to an end with the fall of the Raj in 1947, then you must have had a rude awakening last week.

In a feature about carbon offsetting in The Times (London), it was revealed that the leader of the UK Conservative Party, David Cameron, offsets his carbon emissions by effectively keeping brown people in a state of bondage. Whenever he takes a flight to some foreign destination, Cameron donates to a carbon-offsetting company that encourages people in the developing world to ditch modern methods of farming in favour of using their more eco-friendly manpower to plough the land. So Cameron can fly around the world with a guilt-free conscience on the basis that, thousands of miles away, Indian villagers, bent over double, are working by hand rather than using machines that emit carbon.

Welcome to the era of eco-enslavement.

The details of this carbon-offsetting scheme are disturbing. Cameron offsets his flights by donating to
Climate Care. The latest wheeze of this carbon-offsetting company is to provide ‘treadle pumps’ to poor rural families in India so that they can get water on to their land without having to use polluting diesel power. Made from bamboo, plastic and steel, the treadle pumps work like ‘step machines in a gym’, according to some reports, where poor family members step on the pedals for hours in order to draw up groundwater which is used to irrigate farmland. These pumps were abolished in British prisons a century ago. It seems that what was considered an unacceptable form of punishment for British criminals in the past is looked upon as a positive eco-alternative to machinery for Indian peasants today.

What might once have been referred to as ‘back-breaking labour’ is now spun as ‘human energy’. According to Climate Care, the use of labour-intensive treadle pumps, rather than labour-saving diesel-powered pumps, saves 0.65 tonnes of carbon a year per farming family. And well-off Westerners - including Cameron, and Prince Charles, Land Rover and the Cooperative Bank, who are also clients of Climate Care - can purchase this saved carbon in order to continue living the high life without becoming consumed by eco-guilt. They effectively salve their moral consciences by paying poor people to live the harsh simple life on their behalf.

Climate Care celebrates the fact that it encourages the Indian poor to use their own bodies rather than machines to irrigate the land. Its website declares: ‘Sometimes the best source of renewable energy is the human body itself. With some lateral thinking, and some simple materials, energy solutions can often be found which replace fossil fuels with muscle-power.’ To show that muscle power is preferable to machine power, the Climate Care website features a cartoon illustration of smiling naked villagers pedalling on a treadle pump next to a small house that has an energy-efficient light bulb and a stove made from ‘local materials at minimal cost’. Climate Care points out that even children can use treadle pumps: ‘One person - man, woman or even child - can operate the pump by manipulating his/her body weight on two treadles and by holding a bamboo or wooden frame for support.’

Feeling guilty about your two-week break in Barbados, when you flew thousands of miles and lived it up with cocktails on sunlit beaches? Well, offset that guilt by sponsoring eco-friendly child labour in the developing world! Let an eight-year-old peasant pedal away your eco-remorse…

The whole piece (and there is much more to it) is a worthwhile read.

I'm starting to think the entire environmental movement is becoming nothing more than the not-so-disguised imperialism of the 21st century.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

John Edwards: Embracing Fascism

It is good to know that in John Edwards world you live only for the well-being of the state: Edwards backs mandatory preventive care

Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards said on Sunday that his universal health care proposal would require that Americans go to the doctor for preventive care.

"It requires that everybody be covered. It requires that everybody get preventive care," he told a crowd sitting in lawn chairs in front of the Cedar County Courthouse. "If you are going to be in the system, you can't choose not to go to the doctor for 20 years. You have to go in and be checked and make sure that you are OK."

Well, that is just f@#%!$-ing spiffy.

So, Edwards wants to use the coercive power of the state to stamp a Grade A brand on my ass? He's got another thing coming.

What's next? A "Strength Through Joy" program?

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Enforcing Laws Unconstitutional?

Hmm...what exactly needs to be thought about here? Judge puts hold on immigration penalty letters to employers

The Social Security Administration cannot start sending out letters to employers next week that carry with them more serious penalties for knowingly hiring illegal immigrants, a federal judge ruled Friday.

Ruling on a lawsuit by the nation's largest federation of labor unions against the U.S. government, U.S. District Judge Maxine Chesney granted a temporary restraining order prohibiting the so-called "no-match" letters from going out as planned starting Tuesday.

The AFL-CIO lawsuit, filed this week, claims that new Department of Homeland Security rules outlined in accompanying letters threaten to violate workers' rights and unfairly burden employers. Chesney said the court needs "breathing room" before making any decision on the legality of new penalties aimed at cracking down on the hiring of illegal immigrants.

She set the next hearing on the matter for October 1.

The Social Security Administration has sent out "no-match" letters for more than two decades warning employers of discrepancies in the information the government has on their workers. Employers often brushed aside the letters, and the small fines that sometimes were incurred, as a cost of doing business.

But this year, those letters are to be accompanied by notices from the Department of Homeland Security outlining strict new requirements for employers to resolve those discrepancies within 90 days or face fines or criminal prosecution if they're deemed to have knowingly hired illegal immigrants.

It is garbage like this that gives our judicial system generally, and liberal jurisprudence specifically, such a bad name. Notice, there is no new law at issue here. Indeed, the law in question has been on the books for decades. What has changed is its method of enforcement. Federal authorities are now increasing the level of scrutiny and telling employers to resolve discrepancies resulting from factual error or improper (illegal) documentation on their workers...or else face stiff penalties as required by law.

How is the change in enforcement methods a matter for the court exactly?

Think of it this way: There is a stretch of state highway near my home that is never patrolled by police. Basically, anybody can speed with impunity. Now, let us say that next year the state decides to crack down and puts five patrols on that road, who begin pulling people over and writing tickets hand over fist. Now, the law hasn't changed at all. Speeding is still the same offence it was the year before, only the enforcement has been stepped up. By the "reasoning" of Judge Chesney, there would be reason to grant judicial oversight on such matters. "Hey," say an enraged driver, "I was going 90 mph in a 55 mph zone for the last five years and never got a ticket! It should be unconstitutional to start giving out tickets now!" "Ohmigod!" exclaims a gullible Judge Chesney, "You may be right!"

It is rank stupidity, and leaves the judiciary open to the charge that they wish to subvert laws for the benefit of particular interests (economic, political or whatever). Alright, I don't believe liberal jurisprudence is just "open to the charge," I believe they are "guilty as charged." But think about what we are witnessing here. The interference of the judiciary in the enforcement of law based solely upon political considerations. I thought that was always supposed to be unacceptable.


I love the concerns voiced in the WaPo version of this story:

There are errors in the Social Security records of an estimated 12.7 million native-born U.S. citizens, 250,000 foreign-born citizens and 4.8 million legal immigrants, potentially creating a paralyzing bureaucratic nightmare for workers and Social Security offices if their records are dragged into the sweep, union representatives said.

Whether the Social Security offices are backlogged or not is under judicial purview how exactly?