Thursday, April 30, 2009

If I Can't Trust Them To Identify The History And Origins Of Intellectual Movements, Why Am I Supposed To Trust Them About The Origins Of Life?

Melanie Philips tries again to educate those who refuse to be educated, resulting in the usual dishonest/willfully blind/bigoted ape-riot in the ensuing comments.

An Insightful Takedown Of The Tea Party Denialists

A must-read at Reason Magazine.

Our No-Class Punk-In-Chief

GayPatriot:

Recall how many Democrats, left-wing bloggers and their allies in the MSM dismissed former President George W. Bush as “divisive.” He engaged in name-calling, a friendly acquaintance of mine alleged recently. It was refreshing, he said, to have someone in the White House whose rhetoric is more uplifting, less acrimonious.

He later acknowledged that he has grown tired of watching the news, so hadn’t heard much of Obama’s presidential rhetoric. Methinks that with Obama’s increasing ubiquity on the airwaves, that may be a good thing for the Democrat’s standing among Americans.

But, my acquaintance’s words notwithstanding, the president has been more critical of his fellow Americans than have perhaps any of his predecessors at least since Nixon. As to his immediate predecessor, can anyone recall when George W. Bush mocked ant-war rallies, using a descriptor cooked up by the most extreme conservative blogs? Did he try to dismiss the various organs of the news media which criticized him on a regular basis (e.g., New York Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, MSNBC) as outlets where he’s “not very popular”?

Commenting on the President’s recent statement, “Those of you who are watching certain news channels on which I’m not very popular, and you see folks waving tea bags around,” Moe Lane observes: “He’s not really all that gracious when it comes to dealing with people that don’t already love him, is he? Kind of smirky, with a faint flavor of exasperation.“ As Glenn opines in linking the post, “Say what you will about George W. Bush, he had a skin whose thickness wasn’t measured in Planck lengths.“

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

If Christopher Hitchens Agreed To Undergo It, Then It's Probably Not Torture

I've never seen the point of all the self-righteous preening surrounding waterboarding. Neither has Sailorette.

excerpt:

In a nutshell, that's why I haven't posted much about water boarding. It wasn't torture when my uncles and friends went through it, and I don't see how it would suddenly become torture now that it's been very cautiously applied under controlled conditions against someone that I don't love. If the situation were put in opposite form, I could see a reason for the masses of vitriol that I've had lobbed at me already-- but it wasn't. All the piles of stuff people can toss at me that says, in wordy manners, torture is bad won't change that-- I already agree torture us bad.

Much as when I use to agree with my classmates about a human deserving the basic right to life, it's a problem of definition. You won't get anywhere yelling "murderer!" and "woman hater!" at each other.

Neo-neo comes as close as I've seen to having a reasonable post on the topic.

With all due respect to the many very smart folks who've written on it, they all tend to make a logical fallacy that I can't remember the name of at the moment-- basically, you define the thing that's being argued, and then from that assumption go on to show why that assumption is right. "I assume water boarding is torture; because it is torture, then it is bad and should not be done, and anyone who disagrees is evil." (exaggerated for effect, of course)

Another form is this: "We shouldn't use water boarding. I don't think it's right. Therefore, it is torture." This argument usually ends up with the person putting it forward claiming that anything the captive doesn't like is torture, up to and including having no choice of meals. (that one I wish was an exaggeration)

Torture is bad. Nobody should end up like Mr. Chen, and if my guys are doing it, I'll be right there in the front row trying to fix what's wrong.

But when our people are being accused of being as bad as taking a power drill to someone's eyes because they kept them in uncomfortable cold rooms, with loud music on little sleep-- and yes, this is usually listed along with water boarding as examples of "torture"-- then I'm waving the BS flag. That sounds like my military barracks...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Problem Of Evil

Excellent Benjamin Wiker essay.

Less Popular Than Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, And Bush II Were At This Point

Only Bill Clinton was more unpopular at the 100 day mark.

Barack!

Link:

President Obama's media cheerleaders are hailing how loved he is. But at the 100-day mark of his presidency, Mr. Obama is the second-least-popular president in 40 years.

According to Gallup's April survey, Americans have a lower approval of Mr. Obama at this point than all but one president since Gallup began tracking this in 1969. The only new president less popular was Bill Clinton, who got off to a notoriously bad start after trying to force homosexuals on the military and a federal raid in Waco, Texas, that killed 86. Mr. Obama's current approval rating of 56 percent is only one tick higher than the 55-percent approval Mr. Clinton had during those crises.

As the attached chart shows, five presidents rated higher than Mr. Obama after 100 days in office. Ronald Reagan topped the charts in April 1981 with 67 percent approval. Following the Gipper, in order of popularity, were: Jimmy Carter with 63 percent in 1977; George W. Bush with 62 percent in 2001; Richard Nixon with 61 percent in 1969; and George H.W. Bush with 58 percent in 1989.

It's no surprise the liberal media aren't anxious to point out that their darling is less popular than George W. Bush. But given the Gallup numbers, their hurrahs could be more subdued. USA Today's front page touted the April poll results as positive, with the headline: "Public thinks highly of Obama." The current cover of Newsweek magazine ponders "The Secret of His [Mr. Obama's] Success." The comparison with previous presidents is useful because they are usually popular during their first few months in office - and most presidents have been more popular than Mr. Obama.

The explanation for Mr. Obama's low approval is that he ran as a moderate but has governed from the far left. The fawning and self-deceiving press won't go there...

It's Perfectly Clear, You Fool!

I liked this comment at Uncommon Descent:

Evolutionary Psychology is my favorite intellectual pastime. I love to give intelligent positions where I can never be wrong, because I am always right.

For example:

Q. Dr. Harris, why would a mother run into a burning building to save her baby? What explains this altruistic behavior?

A. It’s quite simple you creationist moron. Genes control all our behavior and genes exist because of undirected, purposeless natural selection. She is simply acting out her genetic destiny. By saving her child she is preserving her genes – the very genes that control her actions. Genes create her actions and her actions create her genes. And don’t give me any of that “tautology” stuff.

Q. Dr. Harris, why would a mother not run into a burning building to save her baby? What explains this selfish behavior?

A. It’s quite simple you creationist moron. Genes control all our behavior and genes exist because of undirected, purposeless natural selection. She is simply acting out her genetic destiny. By avoiding the chance of death she remains alive to have other babies, or to take care of other children she may have, thus preserving her genes.

Q. So Dr. Harris, are you saying that Evolutionary Psychology can equally explain one thing and its opposite at the very same time? That doesn’t sound like science.

A. You don’t know anything about science. You’re a right wing fascist creationist moron.

Panorama

Taken on a cold evening in Sedona a couple of weeks ago using the Nikon D90. The panorama is stitched from 15 exposures. There were snow showers in the sky at the time of the exposures. Here's the flickr page. Be sure to check out the large and original sizes! Or, tilt your head and look at this:

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

The Flow Of Ideas

Looks like a comment I left at Hot Air inspired a post by a blogger who read it.

If You're Innumerate

This might help:



H/T The Anchoress.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Leftists Are Just More Articulate

President Teleprompter triumphs again.

Liberals: The Real Misogynists

Good observations at Hot Air:

The saga of the Miss USA pageant continues to get more and more ridiculous. After organizer Donald Trump inexplicably invited Perez Hilton to judge the beauty contest and the blogger wound up using it as a PR stunt with a politically loaded question, Carrie Prejean has garnered more attention for her runner-up status than the winner got. (Quick: without Googling, can you name her?) Now, after Miss California has become a media darling by speaking her own mind, she reveals that the Miss California pageant organizers wanted her to remember her proper place — by renouncing her religious beliefs and apologizing:

Miss California Carrie Prejean, who became the bombshell of the Miss USA pageant by saying gay couples should not be allowed to marry, said Sunday that her state sponsors urged her to apologize afterward but she rejected the advice.

Prejean, 21, said officials from the Miss California USA pageant were worried that her comments would cost their contest financial backing and tried to prepare her for a string of post-pageant media interviews by discouraging her from discussing her religious beliefs.

“`You need to apologize to the gay community. You need to not talk about your faith. This has everything to do with you representing California and saving the brand,’” Prejean recalled being told. “I was representing California. I was representing the majority of people in California.”

You need to not talk about your faith. For those who think of beauty pageants as anachronisms for young women in an era of liberation, doesn’t this speak volumes about the attitudes of the organizers? Just shut up and look pretty, even if people are attacking you.

Let’s remember why Prejean has to talk about this at all. The organizers of the national contest invited an outspoken gay-marriage advocate and allowed him to turn the pageant into a soapbox for his own purposes. After Prejean gave her honest answer, choosing to have the confidence in her own faith and intellect, Hilton then went on a media tear, calling Prejean a “b***h” and saying he wished he could call her an even more vulgar term demeaning towards women.

And the beauty pageant organizers want her to shut up, smile, and just take it — and apologize for having an opinion.

What a breakthrough for women!

Among All Of Those Who Seriously Dig Him, Most Dig Him

Astonishing news from the AP.

The Conversion Of A.N. Wilson

From atheism to Christianity.

Excerpt form his conversion story article:

But religion, once the glow of conversion had worn off, was not a matter of argument alone. It involves the whole person. Therefore I was drawn, over and over again, to the disconcerting recognition that so very many of the people I had most admired and loved, either in life or in books, had been believers. Reading Louis Fischer’s Life of Mahatma Gandhi, and following it up with Gandhi’s own autobiography, The Story of My Experiments With Truth, I found it impossible not to realise that all life, all being, derives from God, as Gandhi gave his life to demonstrate. Of course, there are arguments that might make you doubt the love of God. But a life like Gandhi’s, which was focused on God so deeply, reminded me of all the human qualities that have to be denied if you embrace the bleak, muddled creed of a materialist atheist. It is a bit like trying to assert that music is an aberration, and that although Bach and Beethoven are very impressive, one is better off without a musical sense. Attractive and amusing as David Hume was, did he confront the complexities of human existence as deeply as his contemporary Samuel Johnson, and did I really find him as interesting?

Watching a whole cluster of friends, and my own mother, die over quite a short space of time convinced me that purely materialist “explanations” for our mysterious human existence simply won’t do – on an intellectual level. The phenomenon of language alone should give us pause. A materialist Darwinian was having dinner with me a few years ago and we laughingly alluded to how, as years go by, one forgets names. Eager, as committed Darwinians often are, to testify on any occasion, my friend asserted: “It is because when we were simply anthropoid apes, there was no need to distinguish between one another by giving names.”

This credal confession struck me as just as superstitious as believing in the historicity of Noah’s Ark. More so, really.

...

I haven’t mentioned morality, but one thing that finally put the tin hat on any aspirations to be an unbeliever was writing a book about the Wagner family and Nazi Germany, and realising how utterly incoherent were Hitler’s neo-Darwinian ravings, and how potent was the opposition, much of it from Christians; paid for, not with clear intellectual victory, but in blood. Read Pastor Bonhoeffer’s book Ethics, and ask yourself what sort of mad world is created by those who think that ethics are a purely human construct. Think of Bonhoeffer’s serenity before he was hanged, even though he was in love and had everything to look forward to.

My departure from the Faith was like a conversion on the road to Damascus. My return was slow, hesitant, doubting. So it will always be; but I know I shall never make the same mistake again. Gilbert Ryle, with donnish absurdity, called God “a category mistake”. Yet the real category mistake made by atheists is not about God, but about human beings...

See also Wilson's Palm Sunday reflection in the Daly Mail.

Queens Of Hypocrisy

A couple of well-written "had it up to here" responses to the Perez Hilton Inquisition. From Andrew Breitbart. And also from this commenter at GayPatriot:

After 30+ years of being out and mostly very proud, my sense of connection to “the gay community” over the last several years has been thinning to the point where –to my utter amazement– I don’t like to refer to myself using the G word that much anymore.

Lord knows my sexual orientation is as happily focussed on Humans Living With Testosterone as it ever was. Even more, if that’s possible! But the antics of the “LGBT” leadership and media and the herdlike ways of the tribe have worn me out. Jack Malebranche’s spot-on manifesto “Androphilia” really ripped a Titanical hole in my social identity when he ranted on, very articulately, about the unholy trinity of anti-male feminism, leftwing politics and group victimism that now shapes the gay worldview.

Then this…flesh-creeping troll, Perez Hilton…an eerie part-boy, mostly drag-queen in PMS creature…whom I had barely heard of before…shreds this poor woman for having the audacity to hold a view of marriage universally assumed in the West for two millennia. And he uses really vile language in public. The whole scene disgusts me, both for narcissism and for rank cowardice.

If she had been black, you know for sure that Miss Thing –a stupid gay phrase that in PH’s case really fits– would not have been making videos with the B and the C words in it.

Why would I want to be part of a group that has such human trash in it…and, unless I’ve missed it…let’s him go on his merry way unchallenged!

If the scenario were reversed and some beauty queen in favor of gay marriage was trashed by a conservative judge like that, she’d the the Queen of Martyrs by lunchtime and we’d be hearing the calls to man the barricades against the imminent concentration camps of the “bigots” and “haters”.

The gay community is full to the brim with bigots and haters. I am almost out of patience and am wondering where I send in my Q Identity card for a refund.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Freedom

Wide-ranging Gagdad Bob essay.

snippet:

Again, when I use the word "left," I mean it as a shorthand to designate any philosophy that conceives of our liberty in the opposite way -- as only freedom to -- say, to get an abortion, or to be paid a "living wage," or to receive free health care, or to "marry" someone of the same sex. These are not real freedoms, if only because they involve coercion of someone else. For example, a "living wage" simply means that the government must force someone to pay you more than you are worth, while "free" healthcare simply means that you want to force someone else to pay for it.

Likewise, the absolute "right" to abortion can only be grounded in a metaphysic that maintains that human beings are literally worthless. The absurd outcome for the leftist is that human rights are more precious than human beings (which we see replayed in the interrogation debate). For the leftist, the right to abortion is sacred, while the human being to whom the right is owed is of no more value than a decayed tooth. But stranger beliefs can be found on the left, the reason being that it is fundamentally rooted in the absolutization of the relative, which is the very essence of the absurd.

Furthermore, when I discuss leftist philosophies, I am not trying -- or only trying -- to be insultaining, but as accurate as I can be, so I don't know why anyone should take offense. It is simply a fact that if you believe you are entitled to "free" healthcare, then you have a very different conception of freedom than I do or than the American founders did.

Likewise if you believe it is appropriate for the federal government to make it a crime to be racially colorblind, then you have a very different conception of liberty than I do. Or if you believe unlawful combatants are entitled to Geneva Convention rights, we differ. All we can do is acknowledge our differences and go our separate ways.

I am hardly offended if someone simply describes my views accurately, so I don't really understand why leftists don't feel the same way. For example if you express the truism that Democrats wish for us to surrender in Iraq, they go ballistic [which they apparently no longer wish to do, now that George Bush is not president]. They seem to have a fundamental difficulty in simply saying what they believe in a straightforward manner.

But it's not really a mystery why they are so deceptive, for if they came out and said what they believed, they could never get elected. For example, if citizens are actually given the choice, they are overwhelmingly against the idea of a few elite judges redefining the fundamental unit of civilization, marriage. Likewise, sensible people have no objection to rough treatment of terrorists if it can save American lives.

In any event, assuming we have the "freedom from," what is freedom for? This question is at the heart of philocooniosophy ("The Mondello Sutras"), which has a very different answer than any illiberal leftist philosophy. For example, the so-called integralists commonly express anger at me because I am not "integral," meaning that I do not integrate left and right.

But here again, this is an incoherent philosophy, because it absolutizes the relative, placing "integralism" above Truth. In other words, I do not consider it a sophisticated philosophy that maintains that integrating truth and falsehood somehow leads to a higher synthesis. This is not integralism, it is merely incoherence.

Here's how one new-ageist describes me, and it is typical of the genre...

Friday, April 24, 2009

God Created Nuclei For A Reason

He gave us a great gift. We're too delusional to use it.

This American Thinker piece demolishes the magical thinking behind all of the current "alternative energy" pipe dreams, and then points to something whacky that just might work.

excerpt:

Or as Oliver Morton, chief news and features editor of Nature, has expressed it, "If Silicon Valley can apply Moore's Law to the capture of sunshine, it could change the world again."

Unfortunately, we can say with absolute certainty: "It ain't never gonna happen." There is absolutely no chance that all the money in Silicon Valley is ever going to discover a "Moore's Law" that will allow us to miniaturize the generation of energy the way it has miniaturized the storage of information. Why? The answer is simple: energy and information are not the same thing.

The marvelous miniaturization embodied in Moore's Law was accomplished by using less and less energy to store each individual bit of information. Think of an abacus. The position of each bead represents a 1 or a 0, and the amount of energy required to move the bead across the wire frame is the cost of storing that information. If we move down into the microcosm so we are storing information by the energy used to change the state of a logic gate or a group of molecules or a single molecule or even a single electron, we are using less and less energy at every level. That is the essence of Moore's Law.

BUT WHAT IF WE ARE SEEKING TO generate energy? We cannot move down the molecular scale in the same way. At each and every stage we will encounter less energy. There is only so much energy stored in a chemical bond or in a flow of photons or electrons. This is easy enough to calculate. The amount of energy stored in a single carbon-hydrogen bond in a fossil fuel is about 1 electron volt (eV). The amount of energy in a photon of visible light is in the range of 1.7–3.3 eV. When we break one of those chemical bonds—through the process of "combustion"—or capture a photon in a photovoltaic cell, we can generate about 1 to 3.3 eV of energy. In fact, we already do a pretty efficient job of capturing and converting these sources of energy. A liter of gasoline, for example, can produce 9.7 kilowatt- hours (kWh) of power—probably the densest form of chemical energy we will ever encounter. Anthracite coal produces 9.4 kWh, liquid natural gas 7.2 kWh, methanol 4.6 kWh, and wood around .5–.9 kWh, depending on its moisture content. "Biofuels"—crops that are less dense and more saturated than wood—produce even fewer kilowatthours per liter.

Sunup to sundown, the sun's rays shed about 400 watts per square meter of ground in the United States. By theoretical limits, only about 25 percent of this can be converted into electricity. This means that solar electricity can light one 100-watt bulb for every card table. Covering every square foot of every building in the country with solar panels would be enough to provide our indoor lighting—about 4 percent of our total electrical consumption—during the daytime. Other forms of solar energy flows—wind, hydroelectricity, or biofuels—are [even] more dilute...

[read the rest!]

Alternative Energy is yet another socialist pretext. Given that its advocates show no actual interest in the real physical/economic facts behind what is possible and feasible, what else should one conclude?

One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other

Link

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Results Are In. The Nikon D90 Kicks Ass.

Here's the set of photos I've gotten so far with the new camera (all photos zoomable via clicking on them, or try this alternative view). The Tamron 17-50 2.8 lens was already darned good on the D40; on this camera, it is absolutely splendid.

When I used to (try to) play electric guitar, I soon noticed the difference between a solid state amp and a tube amp. The D40 is the camera equivalent of a solid state amp. The D90 is pure tube. The image sensor can capture so much more visual tonality without either blowing out the highlights or having the shadows buried in noise. The available contrast, colors, and sharpness (assuming you work in RAW) are astonishing. The resulting photos look like something you can swim in.

The Whole Thing Was Just A Gag

This is seeming pretty likely.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Fall Of The Third American Republic

Fascinating article about the shape of things to come.

The Voters Have Had It Up To Here With Spineless GOP Hacks

A glory to behold:



More details here. It's good to hear a bloviating Republican shot down while delivering his usual empty talking points. They talk the talk (if no media leftist is criticizing them), but they don't walk the walk. Enough!

Quip

"If stupidity got us into this mess, why can't it get us out?"
--Will Rogers

Under Carefully Controlled Laboratory Conditions, God Will Do Whatever He Wants

In getting my instrument rating for flying airplanes in the clouds, I had to learn a lot about weather, and I generally keep tabs on daily conditions and forecasts by going right to the National Weather Service pages (which are vastly more informative than the Weather Channel and other such sources). Although forecasting has become more accurate due to computer modeling, it periodically seems that the weather just does whatever it wants, for no discernible technical reason. Right now we're in the middle of a heat wave. I was amused by the follwing in the latest forecast discussion:


.DISCUSSION...AS OF 4:30 AM PDT TUESDAY...SHORT TERM FOCUS ON HEAT
ADVISORY FOR THE SANTA CLARA VALLEY/RECORD TEMPS...THEN COOLING
TREND AND ANY SHOWER CHANCES LATER THIS WEEK.

HEAT ADVISORY CONTINUES FROM NOON TO 8 PM THIS EVENING FOR THE
SANTA CLARA VALLEY AND THE CITY OF SAN JOSE FOR CONTINUED RECORD
HIGH AFTERNOON TEMPS. THIS HEAT EVENT CONTINUES TO BE QUITE
REMARKABLE WITH RECORDS BEING SMASHED THE LAST TWO DAYS AT NEARLY
ALL OF OUR CLIMATE SITES. THE INTERESTING THING IS HOW UNREMARKABLE
THE OVERALL PATTERN SEEMS TO BE AND LONG STANDING RECORD HIGHS ARE
BEING SURPASSED BY AS MUCH AS 12 DEGREES?

850 MB TEMPS OF 20 CELSIUS ARE NOT UNUSUAL...NO STRONG OFFSHORE
GRADIENTS WITH ONLY 2-3 MB DOWN THE COAST AND 5-6 MB OFFSHORE FROM
THE DESERTS. 500 MB HEIGHT FIELD IS DOMINATED BY A 582-584 HIGH.
LEAVES ONE SCRATCHING THE HEAD A LITTLE BIT AS TO WHY WE`VE BEEN ABLE
TO GET SO WARM...EVEN AT THE COAST IN THE ABSENCE OF ANY NOTEWORTHY
WEATHER FEATURE.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Keeping His Cool

Fairly riveting AOPA article about the Cessna 172 pilot who landed a twin engine King-Air turboprop after the pilot expired. Be sure to listen to the audio. Good radio work by the pilot, and great assistance from the ATC controller.

Stand By Me

Separated in time and place, but able to make great music together. Bravo! (H/T my mom via e-mail).


Stand By Me from David Johnson on Vimeo.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Anti-Obama

Link:

There is something viscerally compelling about the current viral internet video. If you're one of the three people in America who haven't yet seen Susan Boyle's appearance on Britain's Got Talent--American Idol with a bunch of accents--you owe it to yourself to watch it. Now. Here. It may be the most riveting 7 1/2 minutes of television ever.

I, and apparently millions of other people, have found ourselves watching the video over and over. And I'm struck by our fascination with it.

From the moment she strides resolutely, solidly, on stage, this frumpy Scottish spinster captivates our attention. Not because of her beauty; to call Miss Boyle's appearance plain would be like saying the U.S. Marines have a lot of firepower. Or her style; she's wearing a beige dress, dark stockings and white shoes. Not because of her poise; at one point, flustered, she has trouble answering a question from the show's judges.

About the time she finds the right term -- villages, she realizes -- to describe her hometown, Blackburn in West Lothian near Edinburgh, we begin to suspect that we're about to be served haggis, when we had hoped for filet mignon. After all, average people usually only have average talent. And on first glance it would be stretching the word, average, to apply it to Miss Boyle, bless her big Scottish heart. A mini-bump and grind, causing the show's judges to roll their eyes, convinces us that heartburn will surely follow.

Then Susan Boyle opens her mouth and sings.

And her voice sends a shiver through you. Just as it must have the audience, even the jaded judges--come on, you've heard Simon Cowell called worse than that--on hand to hear it in person.

I have heard the song Miss Boyle sings, I Dreamed a Dream from the musical Les Miserables, performed at least a half-dozen times by professional cast members in theatres around the world. I have never heard it sung so beautifully. Even in London. Even in Paris.

Miss Boyle finishes to a standing ovation from a stunned audience, and two of the three judges. Then she walks off the stage.

She had explained in the lead-in to her performance that she "always wanted to sing in front of a large audience." Having accomplished that dream, she turns to exit, stage right. The judges have to call her back to review her performance.

It is a remarkable performance that, even now, gives me goosebumps. As Britain's Got Talent judge Amanda Cooper says in the clip, we've just been given a stunning wakeup call not to judge a person by her, or his, looks.

But I suspect that there's something more powerful even than that at work, to cause the almost-universal appeal of Miss Boyle's performance. What we sense is that this plain woman--hair unstyled, eyebrows unplucked, an image consultant's worst dream sprung to life--is the rarest of things in this age of soundbites and spin doctors and focus groups: a real person, completely lacking in artifice.

At a time when the President of the United States feels compelled to use a teleprompter for even the most minor appearances, when Grecian columns are necessary props for campaign speeches, when public figures are as carefully packaged as your morning cereal boxes, after watching plain Susan Boyle sing with a voice for the ages, you feel like you have witnessed a real person do something that's real. And right. And good. No, extraordinarily good.

She is, in effect, the anti-Obama. No artifice. No teleprompter. As likely to stumble over words, or do a spontaneous bump and grind as she is to belt out a song that could leave you with chill-bumps.

I don't know what Miss Boyle's politics are. I don't care. Whatever they are, I hope she keeps them, just as I hope she stays true to her small-town--uh, village--Scottish roots and to herself after the big, and no doubt well-deserved, payday she has coming.

Why We Party

Belittle us at your own risk, tyrants. This country was founded on dealing with the likes of you.

American Thinker:

...

Now, the Tea Parties occurring in the present day may indeed represent a brushfire that quickly extinguishes itself. Only time will tell.

But the message in grassroots Tea Parties today is of exactly the same character as its historical inspiration. The Tea Parties represent a growing anger against encroaching tyranny by a federal government that pays far more heed to billionaire financiers, union bosses, special interest lobbyists, and those on the bottom who pay no income taxes, than it does to all the folks in the middle, who work hard to pay their taxes and all their other bills.

The Tea Parties represent real citizens' anger over watching powerlessly for the past two months as a president, who ran as a moderate to get elected, has taken the fastest, boldest leap to the far left of any president to date. Not only has President Obama upped the ante on the failed policies of FDR and Lyndon Johnson, he has gone on an apology tour of Europe, bowed to a Saudi King, and promised billions more of our hard-earned money to global entities over which we have absolutely no control.

At a time when we Americans in the vast middle write checks to our federal government as we try to balance household budgets already stretched to the max, we read about the Obamas flying in a pizza chef and Michelle hiring her own full-time makeup artist to go with her already full-time hairstylist. We're stunned by a $150-million plus price tag on an inauguration carried out at the same time this president was telling the rest of us we needed to put our "own skin into the game" of saving America from the "worst financial crisis since the Great Depression." We're shocked to see a president using tax dollars to pay for cocktail parties, elaborate entertainment and $100/lb. Japanese steak as he continues his campaigning from the White House.

And we're stuck with a mainstream media complex so in bed with the new administration that they fĂȘte us to nonstop commentary on the Obamas' new dog, the swing set on the White House grounds, the organic garden of the new First Lady and the exploits of the first mother in-law...We are treated to prime time press conferences galore that are nothing more than scripted campaign stops, complete with pre-selected questioners and not a word spoken by our President without a teleprompting device.

Yet, from these members of the fourth estate, we see next to no interest in this administration's fumbling, bumbling, giveaway foreign policy. We see only the lamest of excuses for the ever-increasing numbers of tax cheats and lobbyists -- handpicked by this "new kind of president" -- filling up the administration. We hear no cries of collusion, even though this president kowtows to labor bosses while he imperiously fires the CEO of GM.

We're told by this same media that we're selfish and rotten if we don't support national healthcare as a new entitlement, and that we're purely fanatical anti-science idiots if we don't support our tax dollars being used to kill babies in the womb and new wave Dr. Megele's experimenting on human beings at embryo stage.

This is the media complex who gives more coverage to a paltry little group of ACORN agitators bussed to an AIG exec's house than it has to the hundreds of genuine grassroots Tea Party protests preceding yesterday's national outpouring. And to top it all off, our own tax dollars go to support the agitating work of the ACORN folks and other leftwing, non-taxpaying groups who believe they are entitled to money they have not earned.

We, in the modern-day Tea Party movement, are being billed by the leftist press as greedy, insane, rightwing zealots who not only hate the poor, the minorities, the women and all the little children, but are now seen as a terrorist threat to homeland security.

Tax Day Tea Parties may merely be the tip of a growing-by-the-day iceberg of anger experienced by millions and millions of Americans who see the overreach of a federal government drunk on its own power. The American people know tyranny when they see it and they see it all around them now, threatening to finally extinguish what little liberty we have remaining.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Jonah Goldberg

Has some good observations.

excerpt:

4. Republicans are hypocrites for suddenly caring about deficits.

Well, maybe. But then so are liberals for suddenly not caring about deficits. (That part always gets left out.)

Moreover, I don't get it. Republicans didn't care enough about the deficit when it went up a "little" under Bush (to pay for a war), therefore they can't complain when Obama sends it through the stratosphere (to pay for socialized medicine)? How does that work? If my wife spends too much on a shopping trip, does that mean she can't complain if I lose our house on a trip to Vegas?

5. The populist anger out there is the real face of America's homegrown fascism.

Sigh. While I think Rick Perry's secession talk is idiotic and unfortunate (even accounting for Texas's unique history), I am at a loss as to how any of this stuff smacks of fascism. Even Perry is talking in the context of the federal government doing too much, taking away too much liberty, getting too involved in local communities, and interfering too much with the individual.

How do I say this so people will understand? Fascism isn't a libertarian doctrine! It just isn't, never will be, and it can't be cast as one. Anarchism, secessionism, extreme localism, or rampant individualism may be bad, evil, wrong, stupid, selfish, and all sorts of other things (though not by my lights). But they have nothing to do with a totalitarian vision of the state where individuals and institutions alike must march in step and take orders from the government.

If you think shrinking government and getting it less involved in your life is a hallmark of tyranny it is only because you are either grotesquely ignorant or because you subscribe to a statist ideology that believes the expansion of the state is the expansion of liberty.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Nothing To See Here

The Ministry of Truth reacts exactly as expected to the massive Tea Party event. Keep up the contempt, guys, and guarantee a revolution.

Not Clever Enough To Avoid This Quagmire

Obama just ain't all that.

Link:

Now that we have a rough idea how President Barack Obama and his lieutenants plan to prop up insolvent financial institutions using taxpayers’ money, we’re left with a more difficult question: Why?

Why doesn’t the Obama administration force insolvent banks and insurance companies to come clean about their losses first? It’s the “why” that’s so vexing. The who, what, when, and how are mere details, by comparison.

More than anyone else’s, it should be in Obama’s political self-interest to accelerate the worst of the financial crisis and get as much of the inevitable pain behind us as quickly as possible. Every day he waits is one less day he will have between the time we hit rock bottom and the next election. And yet, Obama and his minions are doing all they can to delay the reckoning, which only will make it worse.

When publicly owned companies change management, often the smartest thing a new chief executive officer can do is clear the decks and take a “big bath” charge to earnings. In other words, the company writes off all its worthless assets and reports huge losses, pushing every conceivable drop of red ink into the past. The new CEO gets to blame his predecessor’s dumb mistakes. The company gets a fresh start with the investing public.

Obama could have taken the same approach with the banks the moment he took office, while he still had standing to blame the financial crisis on George W. Bush’s administration, stupid regulators, and corrupt lawmakers -- that is, everyone but himself.

Obama didn’t do that. And now, six months into the government’s Troubled Asset Relief Program, his administration’s approach to the financial crisis is largely indistinguishable from its predecessor’s. The only objective, it seems, is to buy time, in hopes that an economic recovery somehow will materialize and lift the financial system back to health.

....

Whatever the case, as long as the government refuses to remove the cancer of zombie banks from our financial system, there’s little hope the U.S. will return to robust economic growth anytime soon. And the longer our wounded banks are allowed to stagger along with no end-game in sight, the greater the risk for Obama that voters will conclude he’s as responsible for blowing the cleanup as others were for causing the crisis.

He’d better act soon. Time may not be our side any longer.

Excellent Analogy

And very well written. Charles Hugh Smith makes a detailed (and non-cliched) technical analogy between the global economy and the Titanic.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Onion Nails It

Link:

Media Having Trouble Finding Right Angle On Obama's Double-Homicide

WASHINGTON—More than a week after President Barack Obama's cold-blooded killing of a local couple, members of the American news media admitted Tuesday that they were still trying to find the best angle for covering the gruesome crime.

"I know there's a story in there somewhere," said Newsweek editor Jon Meacham, referring to Obama's home invasion and execution-style slaying of Jeff and Sue Finowicz on Apr. 8. "Right now though, it's probably best to just sit back and wait for more information to come in. After all, the only thing we know for sure is that our president senselessly murdered two unsuspecting Americans without emotion or hesitation."

Added Meacham, "It's not so cut and dried."

Since the killings took place, reporters across the country have struggled to come up with an appropriate take on the ruthless crime, with some wondering whether it warrants front-page coverage, and others questioning its relevance in a fast-changing media landscape.

"What exactly is the news hook here?" asked Rick Kaplan, executive producer of the CBS Evening News. "Is this an upbeat human-interest story about a 'day in the life' of a bloodthirsty president who likes to kill people? Or is it more of an examination of how Obama's unusual upbringing in Hawaii helped to shape the way he would one day viciously butcher two helpless citizens in their own home?"

"Or maybe the story is just that murder is cool now," Kaplan continued. "I don't know. There are a million different angles on this one."

So far, the president's double-homicide has not been covered by any major news outlets. The only two mentions of the heinous tragedy have been a 100-word blurb on the Associated Press wire and an obituary on page E7 of this week's edition of the Lake County Examiner.

While Obama has expressed no remorse for the grisly murders—point-blank shootings with an unregistered .38-caliber revolver—many journalists said it would be irresponsible for the press to sensationalize the story.

"There's been some debate around the office about whether we should report on this at all," Washington Post senior reporter Bill Tracy said while on assignment at a local dog show. "It's enough of a tragedy without the press jumping in and pointing fingers or, worse, exploiting the violence. Plus, we need to be sensitive to the victims' families at this time. Their loved ones were brutally, brutally murdered, after all."

Nevertheless, a small contingent of independent journalists has begun to express its disapproval and growing shock over the president's actions.

"I hate to rain on everyone's parade, but we are in the midst of an economic crisis here," political pundit Marcus Reid said. "Why was our president ritualistically dismembering the corpses of his prey when he should have been working on a new tax proposal for small businesses? I, for one, am outraged."

The New York Times newsroom is reportedly still undecided on whether or not to print a recent letter received from Obama, in which the president threatens to kill another helpless citizen every Tuesday and "fill [his] heavenly palace with slaves for the afterlife" unless the police "stop the darkness from screaming."

"President Obama's letter presents us with a classic journalistic quandary," executive editor Bill Keller said. "If we print it, then we're giving him control over the kinds of stories we choose to run. It would be an acknowledgment that we somehow give the nation's commander in chief special treatment."

Added Keller, "And that's just not how the press in this country works."

Jefferson, Madison, Adams: Right Wing Extremists, All

The DHS identifies the real enemy.

Transterrestrial Musings has done a few table-turning edits to show how outrageous the language in the DHS document actually is.

Bring It!

We need to see a lot more of this:

WAKE UP CALL: TEXAS GOV. BACK RESOLUTION AFFIRMING SOVEREIGNTY
Tue Apr 14 2009 08:44:54 ET

AUSTIN – Gov. Rick Perry joined state Rep. Brandon Creighton and sponsors of House Concurrent Resolution (HCR) 50 in support of states’ rights under the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“I believe that our federal government has become oppressive in its size, its intrusion into the lives of our citizens, and its interference with the affairs of our state,” Gov. Perry said. “That is why I am here today to express my unwavering support for efforts all across our country to reaffirm the states’ rights affirmed by the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. I believe that returning to the letter and spirit of the U.S. Constitution and its essential 10th Amendment will free our state from undue regulations, and ultimately strengthen our Union.”

Perry continued: "Millions of Texans are tired of Washington, DC trying to come down here to tell us how to run Texas."

[VIDEO]

A number of recent federal proposals are not within the scope of the federal government’s constitutionally designated powers and impede the states’ right to govern themselves. HCR 50 affirms that Texas claims sovereignty under the 10th Amendment over all powers not otherwise granted to the federal government.

It also designates that all compulsory federal legislation that requires states to comply under threat of civil or criminal penalties, or that requires states to pass legislation or lose federal funding, be prohibited or repealed.


See also Brutally Honest.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Fraud Or Looting, Take Your Pick

Wells Fargo posts "record profits". Feeling screwed, yet?

Market-Ticker:

So Wells comes out this morning and says they're going to make a "record" profit, claiming an expected 55 cents (.vs. mid 30s expectation)

It must be nice to be able to keep loans on the books at whatever price you feel like, receive billions of taxpayer money including "assistance" in rolling up Wachovia, and then turn out to not need it, right?

That is, if these numbers are accurate.

Wells premarket is ramping from $14.89 at the close yesterday and now trading premarket at $18.10, up over $3 or some 30%.

This leads one inescapably to the following:

* Either Wells is lying (obfuscating losses through unrealistic marks, etc) OR
* These "bailouts" were no such thing - they were a simple and transparent looting operation by the banks that is now showing up directly in "earnings" (and will shortly show up in the bonuses of executives too!)

So which is it folks?

Are the banks really that healthy? Because if they are, you've been robbed to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars per person in this country, and it is long past the time that you act to stop it.

If they aren't, then how is it that these banking executives are not residing in the graybar motel for cooking their books? Again, it is long past the time that you, the citizens of this country, act to stop it.

And while we're at it, perhaps you'd like to tally up the income you're NOT making on savings (CDs, etc) through the much lower rates of interest you're being PAID so that these guys can post "record earnings"? Naw, we don't want to hold The Fed accountable for their monetary policy - a backdoor way of looting the public even further - do we?

PS: AIG's former CEO Greenberg is on CNBC this morning and he actually used the word "LOOTING" and insisted that the government must claw back the payments that were made as a "passthrough" - exactly as I and others have called for.

While I object to the characterization that Hank Greenberg was "blameless" in AIG's morass, it is nonetheless refreshing to hear people like him talking about what we should and indeed must do - that is, claw back the inappropriate and arguably illegal "pass through" payments that in my opinion are nothing more than pure robbery of the taxpayers of this country.

They Have Already Had Their Reward

All too typical. This sort of honor is its own punishment.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Lunacy

Prepare for the next Ice Age:

WASHINGTON (AP) - The president's new science adviser said Wednesday that global warming is so dire, the Obama administration is discussing radical technologies to cool Earth's air.

John Holdren told The Associated Press in his first interview since being confirmed last month that the idea of geoengineering the climate is being discussed. One such extreme option includes shooting pollution particles into the upper atmosphere to reflect the sun's rays. Holdren said such an experimental measure would only be used as a last resort.

"It's got to be looked at," he said. "We don't have the luxury of taking any approach off the table."

...

Sinking Titanic

Amusing take on the movie from one of Paglia's reader's letters.

Telling It Straight

Charles Krauthammer:

Where does one begin? Obama says in America there is a failure to appreciate Europe's leading role in the world.

Maybe that's because when there was a civil war in Europe's doorstep in the Balkans and genocide it didn't lift a finger until America led.

Maybe it's because there was an invasion in Kuwait it didn't lift a finger until America led.

Maybe it's because with America spending over half a trillion a year keeping open the sea lanes and defending the world, Europe is spending pennies on defense.

It's hard to appreciate an entity's leading role in the world when it's been sucking on your tit for 60 years as Europe has with regard to the United States, parasitically….

And then he goes on and calls America arrogant, dismissive, and derisive regarding Europe. "The London Telegraph," a correspondent in Strasbourg, said this was the most critical remarks he had ever seen a president give on foreign soil, and I think he's right.

When Kennedy arrived in Paris, he did not attack Eisenhower and the United States. When Obama's elected president, he is president of all of the United States, including Americans who opposed him, and he owns American history, including a past he may not have wanted to engage in.

I think what he did is, in order to gain the adoration of the crowd, he denigrated his country in a way that I think is disgraceful.

H/T Brutally Honest.

What Kind Of Story Are We In The Middle Of?

Good Easter reflection at Brutally Honest.

Barney, You Need To Practice Changing This Attitude Before Judgment Day

GayPatriot:

The most telling thing about the exchange between Barney Frank and a conservative student (which I blogged about yesterday and which has been making the rounds of the rightosphere) questioning him in a public forum at Harvard is how quick the Massachusetts Democrat is to attack.

How dare someone pose such a tough question! How dare someone ask him to consider if he might have done something wrong. Barney’s used to getting softball questions from an adoring media. Tough questions mean someone is accusing him. They’re part of some nefarious right-wing plot!

The Congressman accuses the student of “making an accusation which is totally inaccurate” and asks him to suggest what he, the Congressman, should have done. That very response showed his arrogance. He acted as if he never erred, well only once, just that one time when he took some bad advice. That he would ask someone else to suggest his errors suggests a man who rarely, if at all, engages in any sort of introspection, rarely considers if he had done anything wrong.

His failure to address his misdeeds is particularly telling given his repeated defenses over the years of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the Government-Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) whose failure sparked the financial meltdown.

Instead of even considering if he had made errors over the years*, Barney rambles on about a “systematic right-wing attack to try and divert the blame for the deregulation.” It’s all the right-wing, isn’t it Barney? He doesn’t acknowledge his own failure to support (indeed, his active opposition to) increased regulation of the GSEs.

...

No wonder the unhappy Mr. Frank is such a hero to the left. Just like all too many of our critics who ignore the points of our posts and attack us instead, the mean-spirited man from Massachusetts ignores the question, accuses the person posing it and goes on a tear against the “right-wing.”

You think a guy so smart would relish such a challenge. You’d hope that a guy so powerful would be able to acknowledge his mistakes.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

I Hope BMW And Honda Don't Go Bankrupt

Otherwise I'll face something like this:



H/T Brutally Honest.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Fun And Games

Via Lileks, I stumbled upon a "tool" called Xtranormal.com. It lets you create little animated movies using a text script and various action symbols. This one was very quick and easy to do:

Can It Get Any Plainer?

Denninger:

And this is what Dugan's OCC says about it:

The OCC said it still does not have a solid explanation for why the modified mortgages are sinking into trouble. The agency revealed the trend in data released in December, which at the time threatened to scuttle a nationwide modification plan being pushed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

I have a solid explanation: it's called mathematics.

If someone got a "mortgage" that wasn't really a mortgage at all (defined as a time payment for money intended to lead to the free and clear ownership of the underlying deed) but instead was effectively either a balloon note or worse, a bought-down short-term rate paid for by loading the fee to buy down that rate into the fees associated with the loan (added to principal) then it is not possible to modify that loan on a sustainable basis, if the borrower could not make a fully-amortizing payment in the first place.

By the way, that is every single "Option ARM", "teaser rate attached" note, I/O loans and 2/28 or 3/27 subprime mortgages. The latter two have largely all defaulted; the former three categories have the bulk of their blowup still to come and they not only constitute a much higher dollar volume than 2/28 and 3/27 in terms of origination they're also concentrated in the "high value" areas such as California and Florida.

Since the presumptive reason that these loans were made in the first place (as opposed to a 30 year fixed mortgage) was that the buyer did not have the income to support a 30 year fixed mortgage, we are left with a house that the borrower cannot afford.

That's the underlying reality and no amount of arm-waving can fix it.


The correct solution to this problem is simple: default the damn mortgage and force the bank to eat their imprudent loan.

This will of course cause the value of the house to be "reset" (at foreclosure auction) to its economic value - a process that must take place.

Everyone in government and banking has for the last two years and change tried to avoid the fundamental reality: house prices must reset to their economic value, which is relatively easy to define - it is represented as a house price of approximately three times median income. Since median income was also "expanded" through bogus and in fact fraudulent financial activities, it too must contract, which means that in terms of "overinflated" salaries (and parts of the country where that was a major component of the wage base) house prices probably need to contract to two times those overinflated incomes!

This faux "bewilderment" is infuriating. There is nothing complicated about shelter pricing - it simply can't consume more than a little less than 30% of your pretax income, all-in, or it is unsustainable. That 30% of gross income must over time lead to a clear deed, or it is unsustainable.

That's it, in the main.

Those who lack the economic means to do this must take advantage of higher-density living (e.g. apartments) where the "per-unit of living space" cost is lower due to the commonality of elements (e.g. parking, land, tax, HVAC plant, roofing, etc) that can be shared among living units.

This is basic economics folks. There is nothing complicated about any of it; our government is instead hellbent and determined to pursue "pie in the sky" nonsense that, on the math, simply cannot work.

Our economy will not turn around until we face reality, because the math is never wrong, and over longer periods of time it always asserts itself.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Nikon D90

After getting much use out of my Nikon D40 over the last couple of years, I've retired it to backup duty, and am now using a D90. The D90 kicks ass!!

My photo examples here.

Clarifying The Sophistry

Link:

In terms of intelligence, as limned by reasonableness and logic, this is completely cockeyed. He is saying it is not fair for a rich person to save 39 cents of tax per charity dollar while a middle-class person only saves 28. The fallacy is obvious. The idea of charity being deducted is the notion that the society is being helped by direct action in a way which obviates the need for taxation.

Take that homeless shelter down the street. It receives some of its dollars from citizens, some from the government. There is no point in the government taking part of your dollar to give to the homeless shelter when you are prepared to give it the entire dollar.

Thus it is not true to say the dollar you give to the shelter is untaxed. On the contrary, it is taxed at the rate of 100 percent, a taxation to which you have submitted voluntarily. At this point, government has no interest in blocking your transaction, since you are achieving the same charitable end without its intervention.

If a man in a 39 percent tax bracket gives that dollar and we only allow him a 28 cent deduction, we are de facto taxing him at a rate of 111%. In essence, he has to write the government an eleven-dollar check to give the homeless shelter in order to get permission to give his hundred dollars to the same shelter. This is fairness… on which planet?

...


NOW TO MORALITY. Clearly, what propels this illogic is a sense that a person exercising disposition of his own philanthropy is a usurper, an interloper, an underminer of government as the sapient determiner of need. Who is this private bozo to say this widow should rather be helped than that orphan? It is best left to government as impersonal arbiter of fate and collector of vital statistics to apportion benefits based on its assessment of social equity.

This vision of government as a moral agent superior to the individual citizen informs all the policy thinking of Obama and the intellectual wing of the Democrat party. To see it operate to such an extent is fascinating. Think of the mind-set required to describe a person giving a spontaneous gift to charity as "getting a tax break"!

Notice also the sanctimoniousness of saying that if it is "really" a charitable contribution, the tax implications should not be a consideration. This again deflects the main moral reality here; namely, the government taxing him on the dollar he gave away to the homeless shelter is the monstrous act of moral blindness. To call him crass for noticing the injustice is a crowning iniquity. This man took a rightfully earned dollar and turned it over unselfishly to the poor, and the government wants to charge him 11 cents for the right.

The rest of the article deconstructs a third bit of sophistry.