It's the largest such symposium I've ever seen from Claremont. When I used to put them together, I was lucky to get six or seven contributions. This one has 28! (Glad I kept my suggestions short.) John Kienker, my friend and successor as managing editor of the Claremont Review of Books, reports that this year's list includes
144 around 140 books*, 6 audio books, 7 pieces of music, and two television shows.
I think there is something for just about everyone on it -- including Chris Rywalt and Khabalox -- so check it out.
* Four books repeat.
If I had a dime for every time I looked at some boneheaded policy prescription or egregious piece of legislation and asked, "What are those idiots smoking?" I'd be rich enough to run for governor of California.
Turns out, some guy in Lake Arrowhead didn't realize that was a rhetorical question and wrote up a ballot initiative that would require state legislators to submit to annual drug and alcohol tests.
If passed, any lawmaker who tests positive for drugs or "habitual use of alcohol" would need to complete a substance-abuse program before resuming his or her public duties. Failing a second drug test would result in expulsion from the Legislature.
There is no danger that this initiative will pass, however, let alone make the ballot for voters to reject. The Press-Enterprise reports that the measure is "a long ways short of the nearly 434,000 signatures it needs by Thursday's petition deadline to qualify for the 2010 ballot." This despite plenty of favorable publicity from the John and Ken Show on KFI in Los Angeles. (Have these guys lost their touch or what? Did they ever have it?)
According to the P-E:
(Initiative backer Gary) Ellis said he has no proof of chronic substance abuse among the Legislature's 120 members.
Rather, he saw the initiative as an exercise in democracy, getting lawmakers' attention and avoiding the use of paid signature collectors.
It didn't work.
That's direct democracy for you. But it makes me wonder if we shouldn't force some ballot initiative petitioners to submit to drug and alcohol tests instead? Next year is shaping up to be a wild one for kooky ballot measures, even if they fall short on signatures -- from John Marcotte's "satirical" divorce ban to
Gene Glen Simmons' initiative that would impose criminal penalties on politicians who "knowingly and intentionally (make) a false statement of material fact."
Honestly. What are these idiots smoking?
The Sacramento Bee just launched a feature that lets you search the voting records of every California state legislator: "Wondering how often your legislator broke party ranks, abstained or switched sides? Enter the last and first name of the lawmaker you're researching to see how he or she voted, or enter a bill number to see how every legislator voted on it."
The Web page lets you search by ZIP code and includes a helpful link to the Legislative Council's guide to legislative terminology, although your searches are limited currently to the 2009-10 session. Still, it's a fine start -- and a more user-friendly tool than the Legislature's own site for keeping a closer eye on how your state senators and assembly members may be representing you.
Welly, welly, welly, welly, welly, welly, well.
Running under the Tea Party brand may be better in congressional races than being a Republican.
In a three-way Generic Ballot test, the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds Democrats attracting 36% of the vote. The Tea Party candidate picks up 23%, and Republicans finish third at 18%. Another 22% are undecided.
There is much more to it, of course. Rasmussen, who has been tracking what he calls the Political Class/Mainstream divide since the beginning of the year, notes that "Among the Political Class, not a single respondent picked the Tea Party candidate. However, among those with populist or Mainstream views, 31% prefer the Tea Party, and 26% are undecided. Twenty-three percent (23%) pick a Republican candidate, and 19% are for the Democrat."
Duke Hefland of the L.A. Times has a predictable story today about the American Humanist Association's campaign to promote secularism during this month of religious holidays. I say "predictable" because, of course, such "offbeat" and contrarian features are more likely to get into print than articles about this or that denomination's efforts to minister to the sick, the homeless and the lonely during this season. According to the story:
The group, consisting of atheists and others who say they embrace reason over religion, has launched a national godless holiday campaign, with ads appearing inside or on 250 buses in five U.S. cities, including Los Angeles and San Francisco starting today. The placards depict smiling people wearing red Santa hats with the slogan: "No God? . . . No problem!"
Just as predictably, some religious organizations think the atheists' $40,000, five-city ad campaign amounts to... (sigh)... "an assault on religion." Hefland does his best to sample the reactions of Catholics, Jews and Muslims. I found myself wincing at the Catholic League's Bill Donohue, nodding at Rabbi Elliot Dorff, and feeling my eyes widen at the pronouncements of Imam Muzammil Siddiqi.
Now, Joel and I tackled the "war on Christmas" for the Scripps-Howard column a couple of weeks ago. "All most people want is to say "Merry Christmas" without a bunch of politically correct Grinches and litigious Scrooges getting bent out of shape," I wrote. "We've traveled a long way to reach this absurd point in American life."
Indeed we have. But the American Humanist's ad campaign doesn't bother me one bit. First, because it doesn't seem to be aimed at anyone other than co-relig... er, fellow skepto-agnostic-Americans. They're preaching to the converted, for the most part, and trying to reassure the faithless that doubt is indeed safe. (As if there was any doubt about that.)
Second, because the ads betray a certain insecurity. As the Times story notes, "Humanist leaders say the... ad campaign... is meant to counter a barrage of religious messages during the holiday season, letting free-thinking atheists and agnostics know that they are not alone." Well, no kidding. Is the American Humanist Association worried that 30 days of incessant department store sales, 987 covers of "Jingle Bells" and "Silent Night," and the odd broadcast of "It's a Wonderful Life" will lure their members into the embrace of monkish superstition or evangelical Christianity? Dawkins forbid! Seems like the opposite would be more likely.
Although my own faith isn't what it used to be -- and that may well be an understatement -- I've never understood the weird, embattled sense of entitlement espoused by some atheists and agnostics. Is it the idea that so many people believe "nonsense" that grates? As if secularists aren't prone to irrational flights of fancy. I realize that it's impossible to simply "live and let live," but the Christmas season was so much more pleasant and peaceful when people swallowed their personal grievances for a flawed but nevertheless greater good.
If the holidays are supposed to teach anything, regardless of whether or not you are a person of faith, it's that it isn't about you. If you drop the "faith," you're still left with "hope" and "charity" -- and two out of three ain't bad.
Today is the 68th anniversary of Japan's surprise attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor. For decades, "Remember Pearl Harbor" served shorthand for reminding Americans to be ever-vigilant against threats foreign and domestic, to ensure that we would never again be caught off guard by a scheming enemy. That changed on September 11, 2001. The lessons learned -- or not learned -- from both days of infamy haunt us still.
The Detroit Free-Press today publishes a story about the struggle on behalf of the dwindling number of Pearl Harbor veterans to keep the memory of that day alive.
The article, "Another generation's 9/11 lives in infamy," highlights the stories of a few of the men who were there and still live to tell the tale:
Vincent Rosati, 89, of Macomb Township was a Navy gunner's mate aboard the U.S.S. Phoenix, one of several battleships moored on Battleship Row along the southeast shore of Ford Island. A retired Stroh Brewery Co. employee, Rosati said the element of surprise was the most striking similarity between Pearl Harbor and 9/11.
"At Pearl, we should have known better, though," he said. The war had been raging for more than two years by December 1941. "It seems like every generation has to learn the hard way through bloodshed," he said.
"The lessons of Pearl Harbor and 9/11 are that someone's always out to get us and we need to be on the alert," said Francis Rogers, 87, of Westland, a retired donut shop owner who was an Army Air Corps gunner on Oahu that morning.
Nathan Weiser, 93, of Dearborn was an Army Air Corps mechanic and radio operator stationed on Oahu when the attack occurred. A retired owner of an iron and metal business, Weiser said, "I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little concerned about people forgetting about Pearl Harbor."
Bill Muehleib, national vice president of Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, said approximately 4,600 survivors of the Pearl Harbor attack are still alive. Muehleib acknowledged concerns from some veterans that the nation will someday forget, but he said he believes those fears are misplaced.
I'm not quite as optimistic as Muehleib. Constant vigilance is impossible. Memories are short. Ignorance is bliss. War might have been foreseeable in 1941, yet most Americans went about their daily lives largely unconcerned about the bloodshed and conquest on the far shores of Europe and Asia. Most Americans in the 1990s paid little mind to the threat of radical Islam, and few people knew the name Osama bin Laden before 2001.
What's remarkable today -- and what contrasts our 9/11 from their 12/7 -- is how little most Americans know or understand about the war we're in. The effort to link our current enemy to the old one -- "Islamonazis" or "Islamofascists" -- has not resonated beyond the listening audience of certain radio talk show hosts. And the debate about what to do in Afghanistan has only confused the issue further. Who the hell are we fighting and why? Is this war ever going to end? And what does victory look like?
Even more remarkable is the failure to draw the right lessons from the respective attacks. The myth that America had been totally surprised at Pearl Harbor formed the basis of the rationale for creating the Central Intelligence Agency. The failure to "connect the dots" leading up to 9/11 formed the basis for the rationale for creating the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. But more bureaucracy and insularity hasn't protected the country or made its leaders any more intelligent or capable. On the contrary, our foreign policy decisions are as mushy-headed as they have ever been.
There seems to be a lesson in there somewhere, if only our wise statesmen would choose to heed it.
Update: Here is Rick Moran on Pearl Harbor and the "mystic chords of memory":
Where does Pearl Harbor fit into our historical consciousness today? We like to take “lessons” from history but in truth, this is nonsense. The currents and eddies underlying the historical tides on which we are but reluctant passengers are too complex, too obscure to glean what we might commonly refer to as “lessons” to be learned from historical events. In this respect, Pearl Harbor was the culmination of decades of history; the rise of Japan as a westernized imperial power went back to the turn of the century, for instance.And from the moment of the opening of Japan in the middle of the 19th century, the prospect of a collision between their imperialist ambitions, and our own commercial empire building in the Far East was virtually assured.
Nothing is ever as easy as it appears as far as history is concerned. And that’s why it is easy to fall into a “false” historical consciousness when it comes to events like 9/11 or even Pearl Harbor. Rather than history teaching us anything, it is far better to have it inform us, animate our spirit, and act as an undergird to our most closely held beliefs and values.
The old Saturday Night Live, Chris Rywalt writes, "is actually much, much worse than we remember. The current season only seems like a severe drop in quality. The show has actually always sucked."
Rywalt, as usual, isn't entirely wrong. But he isn't quite right, either. (And vice-versa.) In more than 30 years on the air, Saturday Night Live has produced many gems. Think of the Two Wild and Crazy Guys, the Samurai Deli, Gumby, Willie and Frankie, Billy Crystal's Joe Franklin Show bits, Ebony and Ivory, Chris Farley's Motivational Speaker, The Sinatra Group, "More Cowbell." Think of those great ad parodies like Schmitt's Gay and Bad Idea Jeans. But a show that has 90 minutes to fill also produces a lot of unfunny garbage. How many sketches have we seen over the years that went on for six or seven minutes with few laughs and lame endings?
Andy Samberg's digital shorts are exemplars of the best and worst of Saturday Night Live currently. I'm a big fan of Samberg's humor-laced brand of Jewish hip-hop. As good as those videos are, however, there always seems to be something that strikes a sour note. The Taser punch line in "On the Ground" doesn't quite work for me. And there is something about Shy Ronnie's "accident" that falls one or two degrees short of funny to me, even though the ending is terrific.
Subjective? Well, in matters of taste there is no argument, as the sages say. I believe I'll have another potato chip.
Hey, if you are a little LA music venue and one night some guy comes in to play and does a cover of some obscure Tears For Fears song that was on soundtrack and he and the original band and some guy who looks like Spiderman gets rich, and then some other guy pays a song that gets picked up for "Garden State" does that mean that your venue is famous ?
But it does mean that it has the best FAQ ever. Oh, I mean: Best. FAQ. Ever.
Sarah Palin on Thursday told radio talk show host Rusty Humphries that the provenance of Barack Obama's birth certificate is "a fair question, just like I think past associations and past voting record — all of that is fair game."
Well... ain't that a gas? AllahPundit at Hot Air writes: "Something for (almost) everyone here: For the left, smoking-gun proof that she’s a fringe character, and for Birthers, smoking-gun proof that their concerns are mainstream."
And how. Joel Mathis is so upset, in fact, he's threatened to eat some baronial linen fine art paper.
Moments before, responding to the question of whether she would "make the birth certificate an issue" if she ran, Palin said: "I think the public, rightfully, is still making it an issue. I don’t have a problem with that. I don’t know if I would have to bother to make it an issue ’cause I think there are enough members of the electorate who still want answers."
Allah again: "It’s the same thing as Truthers saying that all they’re doing is 'asking questions.' The answers have already been provided; they just reject them because they’re married to their conspiracies."
Meantime, Pajamas Media's Rick Moran, whose work I'm liking more and more lately, utterly destroys Palin's assertions:
No, it is not a “fair question.” It is a silly, stupid, ignorant question. No, “the public” is not making this an issue — only looney tune numbskulls are pursuing it. No, there aren’t “enough (whatever that means) members of the electorate who still want answers.” Only a small subset of the entire electorate cares.
By even entertaining the question the way she did, Palin has lent some mainstream legitimacy to a fringe theory. Doing so doesn't help her chances at anything other than winning the goodwill of nutters. And, indeed, her stake puts every Republican elected official on defense. Writes Moran:
(S)he is now going to force every GOP candidate for the House and Senate to come out and declare whether they are birther nuts or not. Even if they’re not, being forced to answer in the first place makes the party look even kookier than it has to this point in time. You can bet Democratic opponents of Republican candidates will be asking whether they agree with Palin or not — and they will do it every chance they get. The press will gleefully repeat the question, no matter how many times the GOP candidate answers it.
That is correct.
Joel and I dispensed with the Birther business in a Scripps-Howard column in August. I wrote:
Every calorie burned and every neuron fired on the subject of President Obama's birthplace -- yes, contrary to what you might have heard Alan Keyes say, he is president -- is energy better spent elsewhere.
It is energy not spent opposing the president's very real policies. Congress is busy debating a $1 trillion health-reform bill that would fundamentally change the way Americans get medical care, and yet some Americans would rather argue over Obama's certification of live birth.
Why? Because of the fallacy of "if only." If only we can show that Obama is constitutionally unqualified to be president, it would all just go away -- the crazy socialized medicine schemes, the cap and tax energy legislation, the suicidal debt increases, the ridiculous posturing to Iran, Russia, and Venezuela, all of it.
If only politics were so simple. Forget the fringe. Obama isn't going anywhere. But his agenda presents conservatives with real opportunities to craft and articulate sound alternatives. Conspiracy theories, like the poor, will always be with us. But they don't win elections.
For her own part, Palin revised and extended her remarks on Facebook under the headline "Stupid Conspiracies":
Voters have every right to ask candidates for information if they so choose. I’ve pointed out that it was seemingly fair game during the 2008 election for many on the left to badger my doctor and lawyer for proof that Trig is in fact my child. Conspiracy-minded reporters and voters had a right to ask... which they have repeatedly. But at no point – not during the campaign, and not during recent interviews – have I asked the president to produce his birth certificate or suggested that he was not born in the United States.
If the conspiracy theories are as stupid as Palin says, she ought not do her part to fuel them. By the way, notice how well parsed her last sentence is. Very deft. And who could be against regular folks asking questions...?
Fact: At 4:07, 4:19 and 5:55 (close-up) of the following video, Dwight Schrute from "The Office" is standing next to Harry Belafonte during Quincy Jones' iconic "We Are the World" Super Group benefit video.
Don't worry. I've confirmed this. I emailed Dwight myself. And he related the following information, quoted directly ...
Fact: Harry Belefonte smells funny after a night of partying.
Fact: That's not Cyndi Lauper's real hair color.
Fact: I was not the only one wondering why Huey Lewis was there. Willie Nelson gave me a knowing glance.
Fact: Dionne Warwick tried to give me a Psychic Friends reading.
Fact: Huey Lewis didn't know who James Ingram was, either. Huey's off the hook.
Fact: Bruce Springsteen was just a little too into his singing part. (Editor's Note: Dwight Shrute says he is convinced that Bruce was the most-sober performer — and since Dwight Schrute was fully sober, Dwight Shrute could definitely have taken him that night in a battle of martial arts.)
Fact: Kim Carnes paid money to be included. Money wasted.
Dwight Schrute started to ramble after that. Something about how he thinks Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder are faking their "blindness" to bump up record sales. "Everyone knows people open their wallets for the 'handicapped'," he said. Anyway, I present the evidence:
(HT: Mrs. Zaius, who was hipped to this amazing story from a Facebook friend.)
My former employer, The Washington Times, has announced a 40 percent staff reduction — and just in time for Christmas! The paper, which will be distributed for free, will reportedly only concentrate on national coverage now — meaning, it seems, the end of the Metro, Sports, and Business sections ... for starters.
Makes me glad I'm a former employee. But this is a sad day. I still have many friends at that paper, which even The Washington Post's Howie Kurtz admitted often "punched above its weight class." Indeed. We were out-staffed and out-resourced by at least a factor of 5 (if not 10) by our rivals, but rattled The Post and The New York Times — often making them follow our coverage.
I will forever be grateful for the opportunity TWT gave me to practice newspapering at the highest levels and beats — Congress and The White House. I don't want this post to be the beginning of a eulogy ... but it sure feels like it.
A friend there emails his lack of immense worry: "The cuts will all be people we never heard of, upstairs."
Another (very veteran reporter) is more nervous, emailing: "I'm not sure what the future holds and whether I'm in or out. Problem is, I don't think the managers know yet either who to keep and who to send packing. I can't imagine the product they envision, but there are few places to go if I don't like it."
Joel tweets: "It's fun to watch the media ponder 'the meaning' of Tiger's transgressions, as though it had any meaning at all."
Yep. I've done my level best to avoid the "coverage" of this "story." (Could I possibly work any more sneer quotes into this post? We'll "see.") I just can't get worked up about it. Until a few moments ago, I could barely muster even an iota of amusement.
But then Jonah Goldberg posted this video of a Chinese TV news story, complete with computer reenactments of the events leading up to the "accident."
It's a "riot."
I have some problems with Obama's Afghanistan speech tonight, but I think it's important to begin by excerpting a laudable passage that (gasp!) George Bush could have delivered — and often did.
Since the days of Franklin Roosevelt, and the service and sacrifice of our grandparents, our country has borne a special burden in global affairs. We have spilled American blood in many countries on multiple continents. We have spent our revenue to help others rebuild from rubble and develop their own economies. We have joined with others to develop an architecture of institutions — from the United Nations to NATO to the World Bank — that provide for the common security and prosperity of human beings.
We have not always been thanked for these efforts, and we have at times made mistakes. But more than any other nation, the United States of America has underwritten global security for over six decades — a time that, for all its problems, has seen walls come down, markets open, billions lifted from poverty, unparalleled scientific progress, and advancing frontiers of human liberty.
For unlike the great powers of old, we have not sought world domination. Our union was founded in resistance to oppression. We do not seek to occupy other nations. We will not claim another nation’s resources or target other peoples because their faith or ethnicity is different from ours. What we have fought for — and what we continue to fight for — is a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if other peoples’ children and grandchildren can live in freedom and access opportunity.
Bravo! A welcome declaration from a president who, heretofore, has emphasized America's mistakes and has seemed loath to speak of the triumphs for liberty and unparalleled generosity that preceded his administration. Then again, Obama wasn't speaking tonight before a foreign audience, but a gathering of West Point cadets — about as "domestic" as you can get.
Obama needs to emphasize this point more if he really believes that the Afghanistan project shares this noble context.
It's a sign of something, I suppose, that even when I agree with Michael Moore I still find him irritating. So it goes with his open letter to President Obama, urging the president to call off his proposed troop increase in Afghanistan and instead bring the soldiers home.
Choose carefully, President Obama. You of all people know that it doesn't have to be this way. You still have a few hours to listen to your heart, and your own clear thinking. You know that nothing good can come from sending more troops halfway around the world to a place neither you nor they understand, to achieve an objective that neither you nor they understand, in a country that does not want us there. You can feel it in your bones.
I know you know that there are LESS than a hundred al-Qaeda left in Afghanistan! A hundred thousand troops trying to crush a hundred guys living in caves? Are you serious? Have you drunk Bush's Kool-Aid? I refuse to believe it.
Your potential decision to expand the war (while saying that you're doing it so you can "end the war") will do more to set your legacy in stone than any of the great things you've said and done in your first year. One more throwing a bone from you to the Republicans and the coalition of the hopeful and the hopeless may be gone -- and this nation will be back in the hands of the haters quicker than you can shout "tea bag!"
I agree: Continued war in Afghanistan is not worth the blood or (non-existent) treasure we'll spend there. Still, you've got to ask Michael Moore a serious question: What did you expect?
It's true that Barack Obama campaigned in 2008 against the Iraq War. But he also campaigned on fighting the Afghanistan War more effectively than President Bush. He was very explicit about this. Anti-war liberals should not be surprised, but they are -- probably, I think, because they expected his "tough on Afghanistan" rhetoric was just a ploy to seem tough in case his GOP opponents decided to deploy the standard "surrender monkey" campaign against him.
We keep doing this to Obama. He told us in the campaign that he didn't believe in marriage rights for gays and lesbians, yet there has been a constantly repeated hope -- in referendums in California and Maine -- that he might lend his voice in support of gay marriage campaigns. It never happens. And liberals end up surprised, again. There are other examples of this sort of thing.
During the campaign, Republicans warned us that we didn't know the real Barack Obama -- that he'd take office and reveal the radical-almost-Communist reality beneath the moderate mask. The heck of it is that liberals apparently suspected nearly the same thing. But everybody was wrong.
Barack Obama will surprise us on occasion by taking more moderate or more conservative stands than we expected. He will never, ever surprise us by doing something more liberal than we expected. He was never trying to win over the Michael Moore wing of the Democratic Party. And he still isn't. We shouldn't be surprised.
* Thanks to Ben to pointing out Moore's post to me. Believe it or not, I don't regularly read Moore's blog. You'll have to ask Ben how HE came upon it.
When I was co-moderating RedBlueAmerica.com, I had an excellent intern/editorial assistant/researcher by the name of Charles Johnson. Charlie -- or Chas, or Chuck -- is an industrious and entrepreneurial student at Claremont McKenna College who blogs at the Claremont Conservative. Though a man of the right, Charlie interned for Alan Dershowitz... in high school. In his short but illustrious career, Carlito has worked for Scripps-Howard, Amity Shlaes, the Kauffmann Foundation, and the Claremont Institute. I told Chuck not too long ago that I'd be working for him some day, and I wasn't kidding. He's going places.
My Charles Johnson, in other words, shouldn't be mistaken for this Charles Johnson. He's not going anywhere.
A man who considers Robert Stacy McCain to be a "fascist" doesn't know what fascism is. (Update: McCain replies to Johnson.) A man who believes opposing abortion is akin "throwing women back into the Dark Ages" doesn't understand history or the present. A man who believes Hot Air and Ace of Spades are redoubts for "raging hate speech" debases the language. A man who conflates the tea party movement with the birther conspiracy has parted ways with his judgment and taken leave of his senses.
I don't begrudge Johnson his success, his reach or his influence. Then again, until I saw his post linked from Memeorandum earlier tonight, I hadn't read his site in months.
These are strange, unsettled times in our politics. The Republicans are struggling and the Democrats are dispirited and confused. The old left-right, conservative-liberal paradigm no longer seems adequate to the task of explaining or understanding where we stand or why vote the way we do. But I would not recommend conflating or confusing Johnson's peculiar prejudices, eccentricities and self-absorption with the political independence many Americans now embrace. His constituency is a cult. Once you understand that, it's easier to see the service Johnson has done explaining why he's "parted ways with the right."
Put another way: I wouldn't go to the wall for Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin or a particular Charles Johnson.
Monkey friend and frequent comment contributor Rick — otherwise known as Deregulator — sent me an email asking why I haven't been all over the collapse of the global warming fraud. Thanksgiving week explains most of it. And there is also the fact that there is just so much fraud to expose and comment upon.
Since the blogosphere is already well down the field on the Climategate scandal — I like the term "Climaquiddick" — I'll contribute here by sharing what a columnist from the Toronto Sun found when trolling through the incriminating emails that expose the global fraud meant to reorder the societies of the Western world. Actually, the columnist didn't find it. The nerd the global warming statists hired to analyze the data found it.
From a column aptly titled "Botch After Botch After Botch," the nerd put in charge of trying to make sense of the data upon which the United Nations (and our Congress) would impose punitive taxes and force us to live more "green" ... well, could make no sense of it. This matters because this guy is a programmer, and he could make no sense of the program that crunched the "science is settled" data:
"But what are all those monthly files? DON'T KNOW, UNDOCUMENTED. Wherever I look, there are data files, no info about what they are other than their names. And that's useless ..." (Page 17)
"It's botch after botch after botch." (18)
"This surely is the worst project I've ever attempted. Eeeek." (31)
"Oh, GOD, if I could start this project again and actually argue the case for junking the inherited program suite." (37)
"... this should all have been rewritten from scratch a year ago!" (45)
"Am I the first person to attempt to get the CRU databases in working order?!!" (47)
"As far as I can see, this renders the (weather) station counts totally meaningless." (57)
"COBAR AIRPORT AWS (data from an Australian weather station) cannot start in 1962, it didn't open until 1993!" (71)
"What the hell is supposed to happen here? Oh yeah -- there is no 'supposed,' I can make it up. So I have : - )" (98)
"You can't imagine what this has cost me -- to actually allow the operator to assign false WMO (World Meteorological Organization) codes!! But what else is there in such situations? Especially when dealing with a 'Master' database of dubious provenance ..." (98)
"So with a somewhat cynical shrug, I added the nuclear option -- to match every WMO possible, and turn the rest into new stations ... In other words what CRU usually do. It will allow bad databases to pass unnoticed, and good databases to become bad ..." (98-9)
"OH F--- THIS. It's Sunday evening, I've worked all weekend, and just when I thought it was done, I'm hitting yet another problem that's based on the hopeless state of our databases." (241).
- "This whole project is SUCH A MESS ..." (266)
Looking at this bit of evidence, Toronto Star columnist Lorrie Goldstein asks:
And based on stuff like this, politicians are going to blow up our economy and lower our standard of living to "fix" the climate?
Are they insane?
Yes. But are we?
Joel and I tackle the so-called "War on Christmas" in this week's Scripps-Howard column. Joel thinks the whole business is a construct of the theocon-Fox News-Industrial Complex, and urges everyone to chill out. I think the whole business is a construct of ACLU provocateurs abetted by lily-livered bureaucrats, and urge everyone to chill out.
It's the least plausible column we've done in quite some time.
I have a new op-ed in Friday's Sacramento Bee about the folly of Race to the Top, which is the Obama Administration's futile exercise in imposing innovation on the schools from the top down. Because if at first you don't succeed, spend hundreds of billions over four decades until you can claim some semblance of success. (Save your wisecracks about America's misadventures abroad, please.)
My piece is a rebuttal to The Bee's Sunday editorial urging the Assembly to pass legislation that would make California eligible for up to $500 million in Race to the Top grants. The Bee argues that the money could help patch over the state's horrific budget situation.
Well, sure it could -- for about a year or so. One of the problems with Race to the Top, like so many other reforms that emerge from Washington D.C., is that the mandates they create last forever.
But that isn't the only drawback. My piece could just as easily be a rebuttal -- albeit indirectly -- to the commentary that appeared in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal under the byline of Harold E. Ford Jr., Louis V. Gerstner, and Eli Broad. The authors worry that the feds are "being pressured to dilute the program's requirement that states adopt performance pay for teachers and to weaken its support for charter schools. If the president does not remain firm on standards, the whole endeavor will be just another example of great rhetoric and poor reform."
I argue that those reforms in and of themselves are inadequate to the task. What fundamentally ails the schools isn't a lack of competition or accountability -- although those are surely disabilities -- but what E.D. Hirsch has called the anti-curriculum ideology. So more charter schools won't help if they're using the same curriculum as the traditional public schools, for example.
I'm pretty sure that the Legislature will come through at the last minute anyway, with predictable results: "But if history teaches anything, it's that these mad dashes for dollars amount to little in the long run. Just look at the expensive results of Title I, Head Start, Goals 2000 and No Child Left Behind. In five years, when we're debating the next great reform initiative -- call it 'Speed to Success' -- it's a fair bet we'll ignore the wreckage of Race to the Top as well."
One last thing: Good grief, I really need to get a new headshot. I've lost weight since that photo was taken. And I've got the Leninesque facial hair now. In all, I come off as a goober, when I should really look more like a bookish thug.
My favorite Thanksgiving story involves a drunken man, his son, a plate glass window, and the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department. This year, the Los Angeles Times recounts tales of Thanksgiving excess from local emergency rooms.
“If you thaw a turkey wrong or cook a turkey wrong ... it’s an opportunity for turkeys to get even with the human population.”
What to drink on Thanksgiving? A few days ago, I heard the loathsome Hoda on loathsome parasite Today show (following the less loathsome actual show) suggest that "they make Beaujolais Nouveau just for Thanksgiving." She was no doubt remembering a charming Thanksgiving at a little cafe on the Seine, but Hoda, that was just an acid flashback. The loathsome Kathie Lee tried to correct her, then gave up, no doubt thinking "the only people watching right now are those too lazy to get up and change the channel, or with misbehaving Tivos, so who cares?"
And even were Beaujolais Nouveau not -- you guessed it -- loathsome, it's hardly fit for an American feast.
The perfect drink for Thanksgiving (and really any time) is the American 76. I came up with it a couple of weekends ago, and worked with Ben to perfect it. As the name suggests, it is based on the French 75. But this is a very American drink. The cognac (or gin) in the original is replaced with Applejack, the champagne with good American sparkling wine -- say, Roederer Estate non vintage brut: American, but owned by people who know how to make sparkling wine (that is, French people). The lemon and sugar/simple syrup are replaced by good apple cider (homemade, bought at a good roadside stand, or Simply Apple). The "75" (from a French 75 mm artillery piece) is replaced by the American independence "76."
And that's it -- the cider should be both sweet and tart enough. If it's not, you can tinker by adding a little lemon and/or sugar, but it should be fine.
In a champagne flute:
• 2 oz Laird's Applejack or apple brandy
• 1 1/2 oz apple cider
• sparkling wine to fill (about 6 oz)
No, not football. The immortal WKRP turkey drop episode, of course...
What are you thankful for? Because, really, it doesn't get much better than this...
Here's our posts from last year, and a year or two before. This stuff never gets old. The moral of this story? You can't trust the system. Also, don't deep fry your turkey, no matter how enticing it looks on Alton Brown. Do brine your turkey before roasting, however.
And give thanks you aren't any one of the turkeys in those videos. (No, I don't mean the birds.)
Update: Steve Hayward makes it look soooooo easy. No fireballs, explosion, shrieks of alarm or anything. Worst. Video. Ever.
The American Enterprise Institute's Nick Schulz shares a graph depicting the percentage of cabinet officials since 1900 with prior private sector experience. It includes secretaries of State, Commerce, Treasury, Agriculture, Interior, Labor, Transportation, Energy, and Housing & Urban Development, but excludes others, including Postmaster General, Secretaries of the Navy, War, Health, Education & Welfare, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security. In all, 432 cabinet secretaries are represented.
Schulz observes: "When one considers that public sector employment has ranged since the 1950s at between 15 percent and 19 percent of the population, the makeup of the current cabinet—over 90 percent of its prior experience was in the public sector—is remarkable."
Ace of Spades floats the theory. In the context of a "no-win" vote on Obama care — where a "yes" vote screws you with the home constituents, and a "no" vote screws you with the lefty money stream — what are the options for a Red State Democrat?
I am wondering if at some point a few of these Red State Blue Dogs don't float the idea to the RNC of a Reverse Specter: Let me run as a Republican, and keep the field clear for me, and I'll join your party and vote the way you like.
Considering the fact that a long-time Blue Dog from Kansas has decided to throw in the towel, it's not beyond the realm of possibility that we'll see Democrats switch to Republican in a desperate attempt to save their asses — much like Sen. Arlen Specter did of Pennsylvania did in reverse. Though, if 2010 mirrors 1994, the switch of party will come afterward.
I'm not saying it's likely, but I wouldn't be surprised. At any rate, I'm thinking Arlen's greatly regretting that early 2009 decision to become a Democrat right about now.
That bit of creative animation is a bit gruesome, meant to represent the 400 kg of greenhouse gasses for each passenger in a commercial flight — the weight of an adult polar bear. (By that count, private-jet-fan Al Gore has quite the pile of polar bears on his conscience, eh?). But the video below is even better.
From Portugal comes a video portraying a chimp, a polar bear and a kangaroo who commit suicide rather than try to eke out a life on a world despoiled by humans. Call me cold, but I found it hilarious.
The worst part about this video? It presumes chimps — chimps! — are stupid enough to not only buy into the global warming scam, but take their lives over it. Maybe so. But we orangutans come from smarter stock.
I believe that Joel, for one, said he was looking forward to watching AMC's mini-series "The Prisoner." My colleague, Sam Karnick, over at The American Culture was not impressed. And a smart observer — a veritable scholar of the original series — notes in the comments just how awful this reboot was, and is well worth reading.
I also left a comment there, which contains spoilers so I won't repeat it here. But I'm curious about the reactions of other Monkeys and Monkey Readers.
This is an interesting approach to free-market competition, no?
Microsoft and News Corp. have met about plans to help the media company "de-index" its Web sites so that their stories could not be detected by Google. News Corp., the Rupert Murdoch company that controls The Wall Street Journal, approached Microsoft, according to the Financial Times. But Microsoft has gone to other publications offering its services to remove their sites from Google's search engine, the paper said. “This is all about Microsoft hurting Google’s margins,” said one online publisher.
A lot of newspaper publishers seem to think they'd be making more money if only Google wasn't linking to their product. That seems insane to me, but that's not what is weird about this story. It's about Microsoft taking on its competitor ... by actively trying to make its competitor's product worse.
When we hear paeans to the free market, it's usually about consumers benefiting because competitors strive to offer better products or better service or better pricing. What Microsoft is doing, though, is akin to Burger King competing with McDonald's by openly spitting loogies into Big Macs. Making Google less useful might drive search consumers to Bing, Microsoft's search engine, but it will also make it more difficult for consumers to find the news and information they want and need. And that, once again, is why Microsoft is evil.