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April 26, 2007


Stuff like this pisses me off no end. Now the government thinks it must regulate violent content on TV in the name of protecting "the children."

Concerned about an increase in violence on television, the Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday urged lawmakers to consider regulations that would restrict violent programs to late evening, when most children would not be watching.

The commission, in a long-awaited report, concluded that the program ratings system and technology intended to help parents block offensive programs -- like the V-chip -- had failed to protect children from being regularly exposed to violence.

The V-chip didn't "fail" to protect kids. People elected not to use it because it's stupid. And that drives the federal regulators crazy. See, they tried giving you the tools to protect your children from this horrible assault on the senses, but you dropped the ball and didn't do it, so now it's up to the federal government to undertake the parenting tasks at which you failed so miserably.

“Clearly, steps should be taken to protect children from excessively violent programming,” said Kevin J. Martin, the agency’s chairman and a longtime proponent of à la carte programming. “Some might say such action is long overdue. Parents need more tools to protect children from excessively violent programming.”

For me, the most infuriating part of this whole story is that word "clearly."

"Clearly" we have to take over the task of raising your children for you, because "clearly" you miserable parents have dropped the ball by not blocking all this violent content with the V-chip.

Well frak you, Kevin. (BTW, I'm trying to work at least one BSG reference into every post these days.) If it's so damn clear to you that children need to be protected, then protect your own children as you see fit. But it's far from clear to me that the rest of us should forfeit our parental rights to a miserable bureaucrat like yourself.

Folks like you shoved the V-chip down our throats. We declined to use it because it's retarded. I know that drives you crazy, but deal with it. We're perfectly content to do our parenting the old-fashioned way, without a lot of government regulation and newfangled technology. Why don't you find something actually useful to do?

This story single-handedly inspired me to renew my membership to the ACLU. Despite their flaws, they're very good at combating idiocy such as this, and they're one of the precious few groups that's actually willing to do it.

"Bullshit!" on gun control

So sayeth Penn and Teller. One of the many reasons I love these guys.

(Hat tip: Sandmonkey)

I'm shocked

Apparently there's reason to suspect the credibility of the whole "carbon offsets" industry, including.

■ Widespread instances of people and organisations buying worthless credits that do not yield any reductions in carbon emissions.

■ Industrial companies profiting from doing very little – or from gaining carbon credits on the basis of efficiency gains from which they have already benefited substantially.

■ Brokers providing services of questionable or no value.

■ A shortage of verification, making it difficult for buyers to assess the true value of carbon credits.

■ Companies and individuals being charged over the odds for the private purchase of European Union carbon permits that have plummeted in value because they do not result in emissions cuts.

Yes, friends and neighbors, it's hard to believe, I know. Who would've thought?

Don't expect much follow-through with this though. If the Al Gores of the world are forced to admit that their little indulgences scheme is fraudulent, then they'd presumably have to figure out how to burn less energy than a Las Vegas casino. Since that would entail actual, you know, sacrifice, I'm guessing we won't see it.

April 21, 2007

Elections in France

I lived in France for three years, met my wife over there, and continue to have a fair number of French and francophone friends. For that reason I'm probably more interested in the French presidential elections than most Americans. So if you don't give a shit about tomorrow's vote (and there's no reason you should, really) you can stop reading now.

I care little who wins, and I think that should be left up to the French people. I bristled when I got e-mails from French friends telling me who to vote for in 2004, so I would never presume to tell them how they should cast their own ballots. Still, it's going to be a great spectator sport.

Either way, I suspect Franco-American relations are likely to improve. Bush is a lame duck, Sarkozy is relatively pro-American (for a Frenchman, anyway) and Royal is much less reflexively anti-American than the current resident of Elysee Palace. I've long noticed that the two countries seem to get along better when the Left is in charge of France. There's something in that Gaullist mindset that gets "galled" (ha ha, get it?) by American preeminence on the world stage, because they still harbor delusions of grandeur about France being a major country or something.

But we might not get a chance to put my theory to the test. There's a decent chance that the Socialist Party could get frozen out during the first round of votes for the second election in a row. That's because a "centrist" candidate named Francois Bayrou came from nowhere to land a spot in the top four. Knowing what I do about French elections (not much) the only guarantee is that we'll get to enjoy the spectacle of a run-off vote, as none of the four is likely to win an outright majority tomorrow.

All right, I said I don't really care who wins, and that's mostly true, but I have to confess it's been highly entertaining to watch Parisian elites get their culottes all in a bunch watching Sarkozy's rise to power. He's from the "wrong" type of French background, you know. Hungarian descent, Jewish blood, and he doesn't even have a de in front of his name Quelle horreur. Can you imagine what they'll do if he wins?

April 20, 2007

News flash

Alec Baldwin is an asshole.

April 18, 2007

How they view us

The European press wasted no time in lecturing the world authoritatively on all the problems with American culture and why they led to the Virginia Tech massacre. My favorite bit was from the German Bilt:

Now we will probably begin discussing the overly lax gun laws in the United States. There, buying a machine gun is often easier than getting a driver's license.

Now there's someone who's spent a lot of time over here, meticulously researching the intricacies of American gun law. Why didn't he mention that most Americans are also named "Rambo?" And here we thought it was only Americans who, in their provincial ignorance of other cultures, clung to such uninformed stereotypes.

While I'm at least peripherally on the subject, I'd like to say how proud I am of the American blogosphere. Most of the blogs I read seemed to have decided it would be appropriate to wait for a respectful interval before launching into the political debates we all know will ensue. There are exceptions, of course, but they're just that -- exceptions. There will be plenty of time for the debates and recriminations later. Pity the Europeans couldn't afford the courtesy of similar restraint.

April 16, 2007

Joe and Mike in Cuba

It's hard to imagine that Michael Moore's latest cheap gimmick will actually sit well with any but the most devout moonbats. Whatever you think of our country's health care system (and I don't know anyone who likes it) taking sick, low-income Americans to Cuba for treatment as a movie stunt will probably cause a lot of people to cringe. To put it in perspective, try to imagine an award-winning, right-wing documentarian (I know, it's implausible already) enrolling fixed-income seniors in Pinochet's retirement program in Chile, to point out the shortcomings of Social Security.

More great Republican leadership

Arlen Specter has apparently offered a flat tax proposal in the Senate. I like the looks of it

and the seasonal timing is right, but do I have to point out the obvious problem here? God bless him for doing it and all, but couldn't he have thought to do this sometime during the six years that Republicans were in power?

Some days I'm convinced that Arlen Specter just goes out of his way to annoy me.

April 14, 2007

My governor's f*cked up

Wow. When I first read about Jon Corzine's accident, I didn't realize how seriously effed up he had been. Apparently he's breathing with a respirator now, and although his injuries do not seem life-threatening, he's in a world of hurt, and I wish him a speedy recovery.

It almost makes me feel guilty that this site is still the top-ranking Google hit for "Corzine sucks." He's not all bad, of course, but I earned my "Corzine sucks" bona fides very early in his administration, when Corzine violated his campaign promise almost the minute he'd taken his hand off the bible by launched such a sweeping taxation orgy that caused even the Democrats in the legislature to balk.

Other than that, he's done an okay job. But when he recovers, I'm going to take him to task about something else -- his seat belt. It's much less important in terms of policy than his "tax everything that isn't nailed down" frenzy, but it's a pet peeve of mine nonetheless.

See, Corzine wasn't wearing his seat belt at the time of his accident, even though state law requires him to. That's a minor infraction, of course, and he's already paid quite a price for it, so I don't think there's any benefit in charging him with a violation. In fact, I don't think mandatory seat belt laws should exist.

Special consideration must be given to minors, of course, but adults should be able to decide whether or not to wear a seat belt for themselves without being mandated by law. When you convince me that George W. Bush or Jon Corzine owns my body I'll believe otherwise, but until then it's nobody's damn business whether I wear a seat belt or not.

Yes, I'm familiar with the argument that without such laws the emergency rooms will fill up with indigent people who will cost society a lot of money, and I reject that argument out of hand. If we grant that the government has the right to coerce our private behavior because of a perceived vested financial interest, we can abandon any pretense of a free society.

Once we buy the validity of that argument, we have paved the way for banning tobacco, alcohol, trans fats, saturated fats, cholesterol, sodium, sedentary lifestyles, "risky" sex practices and any other "lifestyle" choice that might make you more statistically likely to become a financial drain on the state.

Anyway, I did not mean for this to become a diatribe against seat belt legislation. But if there's anything that pisses me off more than unjust legislation, it's politicians who support unjust legislation that they themselves refuse to abide by. I wear a seat belt every time I get in the car, yet I have no compulsion to force others to do the same. By contrast, there are those who don't bother to buckle up themselves, but who are perfectly happy to demand that the rest of us do. I'm sick of these elitist hypocrites who fancy themselves above the laws they create for the rest of us. That is a big turn-off for me, right up there with telemarketers and people who talk out loud in theaters.

Get better soon, Governor, so we can discuss it more.

April 12, 2007

Can someone please...

...explain the Fred Thompson boomlet to me? I really don't get it.

Obligatory Don Imus post

Don Imus says he tries very hard to be funny, but sometimes goes too far. One could argue that he doesn't go far enough in this regard. Can anyone now recall even a single, documented instance of Don Imus being funny, even by accident? Ever? I've been on terminal cancer wards that are funnier than Don Imus. How this old fool ever managed to bag a radio show in the first place, let alone keep it for decades on end, is beyond me. (I'd also point out that Imus's own hair was a bit "knappy" back before he went gray. What is he doing now, using straightener?)

I was also surprised to learn that Al Sharpton has his own radio show as well. I guess you have to give Imus credit for going on it, but I'll bet he's kicking himself for it now. Imus bowed and scraped before Sharpton until it was embarrassing, but still walked away with no absolution. In fact, Sharpton was more pissed off after the show than beforehand. Future people who run afoul of sensitivity boundaries will think twice about going to kiss Sharpton's ring for atonement.

Still, it's hard to argue that Imus doesn't have it coming. Yes, I hear much more offensive things than this from others fairly frequently, and yes, double standards abound, and yes, the spectacle of Al Sharpton as arbiter of racial decorum is absurd. Nevertheless, impossible for me to gin up any sympathy for Imus whatsoever.

But... do you predict his ratings will go up or down when his suspension's over? I can't help but think he'll enjoy at least an initial boost, because hell, even I'm tempted to tune in, and I've never listened to the dude in my life. (Assuming he actually comes back, of course.)

Anyway, who cares? I'm seriously tempted to follow Tami's lead and foray boldly into the world of food-blogging.

April 11, 2007

So long, Kurt

Yes, he was old. Yes, he led a successful life. And, yes, he was something of an asshole at times. I once saw him make a coed cry at a question-and-answer forum at my university, and he proved to have no sense of humor at all regarding Philip José Farmer's "Kilgore Trout" jest. Still, I was surprised at how saddened I was to learn of Kurt Vonnegut's passing.

And let's be honest about something else as well. All of his books weren't exactly masterpieces. (And were there really only fourteen of them? It certainly seemed like more.) I recall back in college being so disgusted with "Breakfast of Champions" that I threw it against the wall. Still, when he was good, he was goddamned great, a fact that I'm still trying to convince my wife of. She's read frakkin' Proust in its entirety, in French, no less, but still can't seem to find time to work in the slender-spined mini-novels "Slaughterhouse Five" or "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater." Consequently, she probably has no idea why I sometimes answer her questions about human nature and the ways of the world with "See the cat? See the cradle?" So it goes.

Anyway, bummer about Kurt. But I figured it was a good opportunity for me to break radio silence. I've been far too busy to do much blogging this week, but I'm going to try to do better in the days ahead.

April 06, 2007

End the war?

The war has failed, and it's time to stop the denial and cut our losses. I'm talking about the War on Drugs, of course, and for the first time in recent memory I agree with Arianna Huffington.

Well, sort of. Her point is that it's inconsistent for Democratic candidates to actively court the minority vote while ignoring this major issue, the burden of which is borne largely by the minority community. I guess she has a point, but she doesn't really understand the political calculus at work. Democrats have taken minority votes for granted for decades now, and continue to do so, so there's no reason for them to stake out a controversial position for a voting block they've already got locked up. Nevertheless, if Democrats are serious about courting disenchanted libertarians and other small-government types (they're not, btw) they might consider tackling the WoD to solidify their bona fides. Genuine civil liberties are at stake here, and the fact that it'll play well with a large part of their base is a bonus.

The great global warming debate

The global warming prophets of doom are fond of telling us that "the debate is over!" Not so, apparently, as it is to be held next week in the Russell Senate Office building between John Kerry and Newt Gingrich. Should be fun to watch, provided you don't take it too seriously.

But for pity's sake, why John Kerry? Did Exxon Mobil get to pick the debators? Seriously, where's Al Gore on all this?
For a man on a mission, he sure seems remarkably loath to appear before anything other than a friendly audience of the already converted.

April 05, 2007

"Fuck" (A worrisome sign)

I've been a loyal XM radio subscriber for a couple of years now. I've got one in my house and one in my car, and I listen to streaming audio through the internet while at work. I've been worried about the pending XM/Sirius merger because I chose XM for a reason, and I'm scared that the union will move the entire center of gravity closer to the lowest common denominator.

Today I got a letter from XM that tried to reassure me, and tell me everything was going to be just great. I'd like to believe them, but a recent experience involving Alanis Morissette gave me pause. About a week ago I heard her singing "You Oughta Know" while driving around town.

(Now at this point I feel the need to explain why I was listening to Alanis Morissette in the first place. Normally I would have changed the channel, of course, but I was in the middle of trying to parallel park without spilling my beer, so I just didn't have a free hand.)

Anyway, it got to that lyric that goes "Are you thinking of me when you fuck her", or words to that effect. Heh. Anyway, they obscured the word "fuck," and I'm like, "WTF??" It wouldn't have grabbed my attention so if it weren't for the fact that I've regularly heard the word "fuck" on XM for years now. It's one of XM's many charms. Hell, Steve Earle has a song that's little else, and I've heard him perform it live in XM studios.

So what's the deal? I was vaguely troubled, but put it out of my mind. And then this afternoon during my commute home, she started singing it again. I didn't change the channel. In the interest of science, I persevered... they did it again! They fuzzed it out.

Fuck! What's the deal? Perhaps it's just some damned FCC nonsense that says you can use "Fuck" as an adjective or expletive, but not a verb? Yet somehow, I fear the worst. I fear it's yet another instance of satellite radio becoming closer and closer to commercial radio. First commercials started creeping in, and now this. Fuck.

If someone can say anything to help me feel better, I'd appreciate it.

Great piece on Iraq

All right, this is old by now, but I've been on vacation, so sue me. It's so worth reading I'm going to post it anyway. It's probably the best analysis of the war in Iraq that I've read in a long time, long on common sense and short on partisan posturing. Not surprisingly, it's from The Economist. I'd urge everyone to go read the whole thing, but I'll excerpt some of my favorite bits below.

It is not enough to say with the neocons that this was a good idea executed badly. Their own ideas are partly to blame. Too many people in Washington were fixated on proving an ideological point: that America's values were universal and would be digested effortlessly by people a world away. But plonking an American army in the heart of the Arab world was always a gamble. It demanded the highest seriousness and careful planning. Messrs Bush and Rumsfeld chose instead to send less than half the needed soldiers and gave no proper thought to the aftermath.

What a waste. Most Iraqis rejoiced in the toppling of Saddam. They trooped in their millions to vote. What would Iraq be like now if America had approached its perilous, monumentally controversial undertaking with humility, honesty and courage? Thanks to the almost criminal negligence of Mr Bush's administration nobody, now, will ever know.

If this article were more representative of current political discourse, perhaps we could actually have a constructive dialog about the whole debacle. I guess we're just not there yet. We don't seem able to progress beyond a shouting match between the administration's denial and a chorus of "BUSH LIED!!!"

April 03, 2007

Jim Webb is cool

My favorite news story during my absence has to be the one about how one of Jim Webb's aides got in trouble for toting Webb's handgun... or something like that. (I pay less attention to the news while I'm on vacation.)

Anyway, Webb's economic populism leaves me a bit cold, but I've otherwise always liked the guy, and I made it no secret that I much preferred him to Virginia's Senator Smiley (hi, Syd!) in last year's election. But now we find out we've got a senator who packs his own heat! Now how cool is that?

Back from Hawaii

Okay, I'm back, and I've officially decided that every place that's not Hawaii sucks (sorry, PE.) We spent about half the time doing tourist stuff and the other half getting (re)acquainted with a side of the family that my wife hasn't seen in years and whom I'd never met at all. For those of you who don't know, my wife is a blue-eyed blonde of Scandinavian descent, and I just think it's a hoot that she has all these browned-skinned surfing Hawaiian relatives, but there you go.

Anyway, we had a blast, but when I started going through my photos I realized that very few of them are fit for public consumption (i.e., do not contain me in a swimsuit.) There are a few exceptions, however, particularly the ones I took at Pearl Harbor, so I'll post a few of those.

It was a beautiful, sunny day when we went to pay our respects to the USS Arizona, as this picture of the flag flying over the memorial illustrates.

Part of one of the turret foundations on the Arizona is still partially above the surface.

And if you look closely at the right-hand side of this picture, you can see some of the fuel oil that's still leaking from the Arizona at the rate of about a quart or so per day. If you stand there long enough, you'll see a few drops of black oil rise to the surface, spread out, and then turn into a filmy rainbow before dissipating altogether. It's weird to think that this oil had been trapped inside the ship for 66 years and finally emerged only as we were standing there watching.

We also got to meet Pearl Harbor survivor Sterling Cale, who was a US Navy Corpsman on December 7, 1941. Cale was active in the recovery efforts following the attack and told some truly horrific stories. Once again, I couldn't help but believe that men were made of stronger stuff back in those days. Cale is not only a hero, but a living museum as well. I find it incredibly sad to think that the survivors of that day are leaving us at an alarming rate and that one day soon there will be no one left.

Ah well. On a lighter note, check out Missy the sea turtle. We caught her sunning herself on Oahu's north shore. Missy is a year or two older than I am, and a few pounds heavier, although she looks neither. That thing on her back it what's left of a GPS-type thingie. The scientists thought it would be cool to track a few of these turtles by satellite, but the guys have a way of effing up the transmitters.

All right, I won't bore you with any more. I'll just say that the coolest part is that it turns out that they have TVs in Hawaii! That means I got to see both 24 and the season finale of Battlestar Galactica during our trip. So stop reading now if you don't want any BSG spoilers.

So Tigh is a Cylon, huh? I guess that explains why D'anna apologized to one of the final five in her vision. But haven't we seen Tigh age? What about those flashbacks to a young(er) Tigh and Adama, long before Adama took command of Galactica? Are cylons supposed to age like that?

And although I'm glad to see Starbuck again, I'm still very nervous that she's going to end up being a cylon as well. There are five missing models, but only four met at the "All Along the Watchtower" rendez-vous on Galactica. That, to me, suggests that the fifth model is not on board the ship. Perhaps Baltar is off the hook, but Starbuck, it would seem, is suspect numero uno -- assuming, that is, that she exists anywhere other than in Lee's head.

Oh well, I guess we gotta wait until 2008 to find out. That sucks.