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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Well, Since We're Having So Much Fun Let's Talk About Race

I got Socialists mad at me last week, and I got a whole bunch of people mad at me about the Boycott Diane & Co thing, so I figured why not ride the momentum and talk about race this week.  Honestly, ad nauseum discussions about race bore me to tears so I would probably not bother to read the blog this week, but maybe you've got nothing better to do, or maybe we're not so alike afterall.

The first time I was a victim of racism I was in my early twenties. I am American of German and Irish descent, pretty standard stuff. I was marrying into an Italian family, and this mixed-marriage-from-the-view-of-small-minds really opened up my eyes to the ignorance of racism. I was called names and had cliches about drinking and laziness thrown my way for about six years. (To this day that entire family doesn't speak to me, but I think it now has less to do with race than it does with divorce.) I realize this was probably not racism per se. It was probably more like culturalism or ignorance, but whatever it was it was real. I have been friends with many, many people of Italian heritage since then, and I have always felt accepted by them, but whenever I meet a new Italian person, always in the back of my mind is I wonder if they are judging me and my Irishness. Please insert thought "Oh he's kidding!" here.

I was also the victim of racism several other times over the years and we'll explore them more deeply as the week unfolds.

But there is one other time I witnessed racism at its ugliest.

I got into a discussion with a rather ugly-minded person in Belfast about a decade ago. This was right as the Troubles were ending and there was still a lot of underlying violence of thought. This person, a mother of a toddler, who was Protestant and loyal to the Crown, began to explain to me how she felt about Catholics. Dirty, stupid and not worth the space they take up still stick in my mind as she explained her view of Catholics in particular and the Troubles in broadview. I ended our conversation and have not spoken to this person since, not just because of her views of Catholicism though - she was ugly-of-thought in many ways.

A few years later, I was preparing to take my family on a holiday to the Republic of Ireland that was coinciding with Spring Break and the Easter holiday. I was speaking with a co-worker of sorts and his wife. Originally from Brooklyn, New York, they were very proud of their own cultural heritage and their strong Catholic faith. "Why do you want to go over there during Easter?" she asked. "They're all dirty Protestants over there." I will say for the record the husband of said wife was embarrassed in the extreme. I didn't bother to explain to this fine lady about the religious or political traditions of the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland. It's also interesting that both women used the word dirty to essentially denigrate each other.

Granted, these examples are more a form of culturalism than they are strictly racism, but for the sake argument, they are pretty much the same - they both rely on stupidity for propagation.

My point? Racism, in all its forms, is real. It festers among the minds of people who are not able to look broadly at their world. You need not be of African heritage to suffer its barbs. In one form or another everyone suffers the slings and arrows of ignorance disguised as racial superiority.

This, more than anything else, makes the races more similar than not. It also points out that what also needs to be discussed openly and honestly is culture.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

No First Amendment Rights Here Kids, Sorry.

The piece I wrote this week on the Boycott Diane & Co has resulted in some comments in defense of, and from, the people who started the Facebook page to punish Diane & Co.

For the record, I am affiliated with neither but I do think it's necessary for facts to speak for themselves, and in this case I stand by the facts as I read them. This is also not a silly little chatroom where anonymous stalkers can muck up the flow of ideas. So unfortunately because of the incivility of the people who support the boycott of Diane & Co boycott, from now on only members of this blog can post comments to it - no First Amendment Right here kids, sorry.

I am not afraid of the ideas or opinions of any other person, and I welcome comments about anything I write - however, anonymous comments won't get published on this blog. I call people who remain anonymous, well, cowardly. Don't expect to have your say to my audience when you are afraid to stand by your words. I work hard for my audience and they deserve better than chatroom nonsense from some anonymous person.

Say what you want, be civil, and don't hide behind some silly nickname or email address. The kind of people who do that are exactly the kind of people I am taking to task with the post about Social Media as it relates to the Diane & Co story.

Remember, you have the freedom to not read this page.

Ed. Note: As of September 19, 2011, full commenting has been re-activated.

Friday, May 27, 2011

"I Feel Like Joining a Socialist Organization!"

Before reading this column and getting your collective undergarments all bunched up, please read the disclaimer at the bottom.

"I feel like joining a Socialist organization!" is what an English teacher exclaimed in front of her class the day after Obamacare was shoved down our throats passed by Congress last year.

How do I know this? My youngest, a little Libertarian in her own right, was in the class. So this means the exhortation to join a Socialist organization took place at little ol' Jackson Memorial High School in Jackson, New Jersey. Home of the Jaguars and at least one proud Socialist.

The day it happened I was outraged by the abuse of power this teacher demonstrated. If she had exhorted her class to join the Young Republicans or the Chamber of Commerce, or God-forbid a church, the school would've been consumed by every righteous journalist, political pundit and Statist in the country. Probably even Canadian people would have stopped by to express their concern.

I could have complained to someone but the teacher had the power. She could drop a failing grade on my daughter, she could refuse a letter of recommendation, she could do a lot of things to make her life miserable. This is a prime example of the dangers of institutional power. Knowing that my family is in the minority politically because we believe in self-sufficiency rather that state-inefficiency, I figured fighting the good fight was probably only going to end up causing my kid stress and strife she didn't need.

This my friends is that realpolitik stuff you learned about in college.

I kept my mouth shut, but I've just received my soon-to-be college freshman's first tuition bill, so screw realpolitik. The power has shifted. I pay this teacher's salary and I resent her using her bully pulpit to proselytize for something I am diametrically opposed to. I should have gone immediately to the administration or Board of Education and lodged a complaint. I didn't because we all know that public schools are dangerous places for people who buck the system, so really, where was complaining going to get me?

This teacher is safe to say pretty much anything she wants without reproach. This includes sharing her extreme political views to an English Lit class. This is not what I send my kid to school for. Trust me, my kid learns all the extreme politics she can handle right from dear old me.

I didn't raise a stink because I made a conscious decision to put peace ahead of principal, and now that all is said and done, I feel somewhat hypocritical for having done so. I guess I am part of the reason why public institutions in this country have become cesspools of wrongheadedness. Anyway, a teacher who would say such a thing to impressionable young people is a lost cause - a dangerous lost cause, but a lost cause nonetheless. Instead I put the fight and made my points about the idiocy of Socialism directly to the student I was most concerned about.

I hope I am not the only one who did that.

Disclaimer at the bottom: I disagree with President Obama on pretty much everything. I am, however, not a racist - that racism bit is your own thing and you need to expand your thinking. Likewise, you and I both know there are bad teachers in the classroom, just like we both know there are good teachers in the classroom. There are good and bad people in their jobs in every occupation except for gas station attendants and toll collectors, where of course all positions are filled with ill-performing people. So, once again, I like teachers (most of them), and I despise labor unions (especially public sector labor unions), so because I am taking a teacher to task for exhorting my kid to become a Socialist does not mean I am anti-teacher. Thank you.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Newt Gets A Hatchet Job Courtesy of the Today Show

"Lisa Myers is an Emmy award-winning Senior Investigative Correspondent for NBC News, a seasoned political analyst, and one of the most respected journalists in the country.  Her groundbreaking reports on the financial meltdown, war on terror, politics, assorted political and corporate scandals, and the Pentagon’s sometimes broken military procurement system have triggered official investigations and won critical acclaim." - From Lisa Myers' MSNBC bio page.

Wow. Lisa Myers must be the best, most important journalist in the whole wide world!

Being an important, unbiased journalist, she took her self-proclaimed journalistic skills up Fifth Avenue where she uncovered the fact that Newt Gingrich has a $500,000 credit line at the upscale jewelry company Tiffany! Ms. Myers proceeded to interview some analyst during her rabid Today Show report on May 26, and this important analyst exclaimed, "Most Americans don't have houses worth $500,000, let alone a credit line at Tiffany's!"

"What could Newt have purchased at Tiffany's?!" Ms. Myers worried out loud. Well, she saw a photograph of Newt's wife Calista wearing a necklace! A necklace that looked exactly like a necklace in the Tiffany catalog that sold for $45,000! $45,000! I repeat - $45,000!

"What a hypocrite Newt is!" Ms. Myers breathlessly inferred. Here he is saying he's financially responsible and "frugal" yet, he has a $500,000 credit line at Tiffany!

Newt sucks! He's earned money and now he wants to spend it! Rat bastard! No wonder the country is going to hell in a handbasket!

By the way, as I've mentioned before, I love Newt's politics, but he is too politically damaged to make a serious run for President in 2012. I also couldn't care less what Newt spends his money on or how much of it he has. I couldn't care less what you spend your money on either. If you earned it legally, go for it. (By the way, the cliche is NOT "could care less" - that means I could care less, by saying "couldn't care less" I announce I am at the end of my caring threshold, but I digress.)

I do care about blatant political hatchet jobs disguised as important news stories performed by the mainstream media. Listen, America, get your act together and reject political meddling (from either side) by lunatics like Lisa Myers who profess to be credible journalists. The future of your country depends on it.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Social Media: How It Enables Stupidity Disguised As Outrage Disguised As Social Conscience

On Friday May 14, James Volpe, a seventeen-year-old student at one of the high schools in the town I live in was tragically killed in a senseless automobile crash. His death marked the second such tragedy in our town in a little over a month. At times like these, its completely understandable for emotions to be raw and unfiltered - as a scan of the comments section of the local daily newspaper affirm.

However, there is a secondary story related to this tragedy that clearly points out the danger of emotion being broadcast on a large scale. It is also a lesson on how emotion can be manipulated by people with less than honorable agendas.

James' girlfriend had purchased her prom gown at a local store that had also been featured on the Oxygen Network show Jersey Couture. As the story unfolds, the girlfriend's mother, shaken by this horrible tragedy, innocently attempted to return the $1200 dress for a refund and was refused.

Fox News in New York City was quick to jump on this story as an example of the little guy (the girlfriend) being crushed by corporate America (the store). One headline says it all: Freehold retailer denies prom dress refund to teen after date is killed in car accident. That headline was grabbed from a story written by Bob Holt at newjerseynewsroom dot com. Read the story here.  How heartless for the owners of Diane & Co to deny a full refund after this tragedy! And to make matters worse, according to the girlfriend's mother, the employees at the store were rude to her as well! The outrage! A friend of the mother of the girlfriend fronted a Facebook page entitled "Boycott Diane & Co." The outrage was so severe that the Facebook page had over 15,000 followers as of yesterday afternoon.

You have to love the power of the new media!

Except for one thing: the story was made up by the girlfriend's mother. She was simply exploiting the tragedy to gain a refund for the dress. A refund she had tried to get the very afternoon before the car crash. A refund she wasn't entitled to because she didn't buy the dress in the first place.

According to the Facebook page of the father of the girlfriend, Click to read his entire note.
"After being made aware of what was going on with the dress that I PURCHASED not anyone else Diane had repeatly tried to contact met to resolve this issue at hand. When I finally reach Diane she first expressed her feeling of the tragedy over James’s death , further in the conversation without me even asking Diane reinsured  me that what ever I wanted whether it would be a refund or store credit, she would be more than happy to do."
The website The Reputation Doctor (read the story here) did a detailed examination of the story and concluded the girlfriend's mother had nothing to do with the purchase of the dress. The afternoon before the accident occurred, the mother, Dana West Santanastaso, threatened to ruin the reputation of the store after being rebuffed. It seems that Ms. Santanastaso simply used the tragedy to further her war against her ex-husband.

The outrage should not be channeled at the store, who by all accounts (except for Ms. Santanastaso's) were completely reasonable at this horrific time. The outrage should be channeled toward the people who perpetrated and propagated this senseless abuse of a tragedy to further their own twisted agenda. And I'm sorry friends, but if you're one of the 15,000 plus people who "Liked" the Boycott Diane & Co page, you are party to the fraud and evilness as well.

My heart is heavy for the family of the young man, for his girlfriend and her father, and for everyone who was legitimately touched and affected by this tragedy. I am disgusted by the people who used this tragedy to perpetrate their fraud.

I feel sorry for those of you who mindlessly jumped on the band wagon and who were subsequently made to be fools. That's what happens when you put emotion before intellect.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

TWIR: England Edition

I'm a little late posting this week's The Week In Review, in fact its actually already next week, but nevertheless, let's review the week. I was in England and although I thought about actually blogging everyday with my witty and intelligent insights, quite frankly that was too much like work, and well, I was on vacation. So here we go with that.

  1. Glum. English society seems to be mostly glum. Very polite, but glum.
  2. There is a cultural pride in England that is just a part of the society, something that is sorely lacking here. They have people who actually clean the sidewalks with sidewalk sweeper machines, and we just have slobs who couldn't care less about the filth they create and live in.
  3. Based on a sample of a dozen or so, London taxi drivers are the best I've ever encountered, but based on a sample of one, Liverpool taxi drivers actually make NYC cabbies look professional and pleasant.
  4. When French school children pose for pictures they sound like this: un deux trois cheeeeeese! Try to smile when you say fromage and you will see why.
  5. Seriously people, have you ever heard of standing in line and waiting your turn?
  6. It appears that the UK has embraced technology and incorporated it into most aspects of daily life, on the other hand, we here in the US appear oafish and backward in terms of the daily use of technology. As a technologist I was embarrassed by that, I mean we should at least make an attempt to be on par with our peers.
  7. Most British people think most Americans are stupid and loud. On this point we agree. But I also think most British people need to take the snootiness down a notch or two.
  8. I like the politeness. 
  9. There are great restaurants in NYC. There are better restaurants in London.
  10. Liverpool is a far cooler city than London, and my visit there was an outrageously pleasant surprise. 
It sucks when vacation is over, but its always nice to be back home.

Friday, May 13, 2011

TWIR: Pre-Vacation Edition

I will be posting sporadically from the UK next week. I'll be on vacation so Vacation Rules will apply: No Politics. To make up for the lack of intelligent insight this blog provides, this week's The Week In Review will be a little heavy on the politics.
  1. Why are the US, the Arab world, and the "revolutionaries" in Egypt all silent about the killing of Christians in riots in Egypt this week? I don't expect the US government, particularly the Obama Administration, to be especially vocal about Christian rights in the Middle East, but I am disappointed that the so-called revolutionaries in Egypt (whom I supported whole-heartedly) weren't really about changing the world, they were just about getting themselves a bigger slice of it.
  2. Newt, you're a brilliant guy and I love your politics, but you make Rudy Giuliani look chaste. You're not electable on a national scale.
  3. I take back everything I said about Trump being a good choice for President. Seriously. I apologize.
  4. Mitt, I'm sorry but no matter how you spin it now, your healthcare program in Massachusetts is just Obamacare-Lite. You can't run from it and you can't hide, so, sorry there slick fella.
  5. Ron Paul, I love your politics, but you've gotta stop saying dumb things. And it's not time yet for a Libertarian to win nationally.
  6. Simple fact: Common has written lyrics and poetry that do support a convicted cop killer, and he has written lyrics that are basically a call to battle against the police. Inviting this artist to the White House was a direct slap in the face to police and people who think killing them is bad. But then again, we should remember that when a white cop arrested a black man in Cambridge Massachusetts, Obama's first ill-considered response was that it was obvious the "police acted stupidly." Call me racist, I don't care, that's your thing. I don't categorize people by race, I characterize them by character, and I judge character by action.
  7. Speaking of acting stupidly, Obama's campaign speech about immigration this week, you know the one where he made fun of people who want to tighten border security by glibly saying we will want a moat with alligators in it? Very presidential there buddy. You should be ashamed of yourself for thinking you are a leader of an entire country. You're a hack politician, nothing more.
  8. Oh yeah, and this is a direct and private message for the kid in Connecticut who can't go to the prom because he taped his prom invite in big letters on his school. Dude, sorry, but the rules about trespassing were made clear, and so was the punishment for breaking those rules. The headmaster is not out of line, but all of the media whores who are spinning this story to make us all feel bad for you are. Next time you're thinking about being "creative" think about the rules and all of the boring stuff too.
I'll be in England if anyone needs me...

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Oil Industry...Another Enemy For Dems To Demagogue

I wanted to write today about the silliness of the warfare being raged by Democrats against Big Oil. It's a prime populist movement that the inepts in government can use to take some of the heat off of themselves.

However, they couldn't be more off-target.

In doing my research I came across Bob Beauprez's summation of how we bark up the wrong tree when we allow the government to lead us into blaming Big Oil for all of our problems. The problems we face pertaining to our energy costs will never be solved as long as we foolishly allow ourselves to be led down the wrong path by the charlatans we have put in charge.

Bob Beauprez's brilliant and truthful column on the oil industry.

Bob Beauprez is a former member of Congress from Colorado with successful careers as a dairy farmer, community banker, and real estate development. He has published his first book, publishes a public policy website, A Line of Sight.com, and operates a buffalo breeding ranch in the Colorado mountains.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Chris Christie Hates Regular People, or Teachers, or Something, I'm Not Sure

"Our point is simple: given the choice between adequately funding public education and other vital services, or taking care of his millionaire friends (and his own family), Christie took care of his own. The public needs to know that, and we intend to tell them." - Steven Wollmer, NJEA Communications Director in a letter to all NJEA Local Presidents. Click here to read the letter.

Just in case you're confused, where funding for education has been cut in New Jersey, it has been cut by the failure of local school budgets in local school board elections, not as a mandate from Governor Christie. The NJEA's beef is with people like me. And as far as NJ's vital services are concerned, they're really just as crappy as ever and Christie hasn't really even started cutting yet - so cut away my friend, cut away.

When you're done understanding the thought process of the NJEA, click the following link for an example of class warfare, unionist propaganda and general ignorance. Millionairesforchristie.com

The NJEA is attacking New Jersey Governor Chris Christie for taking contributions from millionaires, and loving millionaires, and maybe even being a millionaire himself.  Jon Corzine was a millionaire but he kissed the large and immobile butt of the NJEA, so he was okay.

Sorry my teacher friends, but your union is absurd. Oh, and by the way, just like I am not a racist for disagreeing with President Obama, I am not anti-teacher because I am anti-union.

The gist of the commercial you will get to watch when you visit the link is that Gov. Christie is somehow different from Jon Corzine because...well, it's not because of Wall Street ties, ummm, it's not because of the size of his portfolio (Corzine was a really rich guy), errr, it's because Governor Christie dared to speak the truth about the financial condition of New Jersey, while Corzine just continued a policy of kowtowing to the NJEA and other thuggish unions to garner favor and win votes.

Seriously people, it's 2011. Please don't tell me you are still so naive to reality that you actually buy into this populist propaganda. This would be hysterically funny if I didn't think the vast majority of you actually believed this garbage.

Taking The Country Back One Liberal At A Time

Liberals are more successful than Conservatives because they are patient, not because their ideas are better. In fact, I personally think their ideas are horrible.

The liberal faction in this country has been working slowly and diligently since the 1930s to transform the US to its own version of representative Socialism. Over the past 70 years they have defined the argument and they have defined the opposition (that's us).

Meanwhile, those of us who have been defined as the "Right" or "Conservative" have been shooting ourselves in our collective foot because we want wholesale change NOW! Ain't gonna happen. An entire culture of entitlement is now three or four generations old. For thirty years the education system has failed to educate our children about personal responsibility and how powerful freedom actually is, and they've been helped in this failure by three generations of lazy parents. Since FDR we have been conditioned to believe government is the center of our lives. We have also been taught by the central power in this country that if we put ourselves and our families first we are somehow selfish and narrow-minded.

As frustrating as it is to live in a country that is mindlessly groping it's way toward the next handout, we need to be patient. We should take little nibbles instead of big giant mouthfuls. We should define ourselves and our beliefs without embarrassment and let those who disagree with us define themselves with their typically ill-informed responses. Revolutions of the heart happen slowly, almost imperceptibly, and they rarely happen at the ballot box - they happen in the general discourse of the population.

Sorry to inform you hard-core Libertarians out there, but you're not going to get what you want in your lifetime. You will however set the course of the country on the correct path by being well informed and thoughtful in your arguments. Otherwise, unless we start taking a more level-headed approach to politics, we will continue to allow the country to become a bad imitation of any number of failing Socialist European states. We don't need to engage in rhetorical battles, all we need to do is be firm and confident, and start our dialogues with what we believe on a personal level.

Get your arguments together. Find out what you really believe you want for your own life and go out and have lunch with a Liberal. We'll take the country back one Socialist at a time.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Why The Arab Spring Matters

Osama bin Laden was not a religious leader. Wearing the cloth of Jimmy Swaggert and other charlatans familiar to all American late-night television viewers, bin Laden used a vague knowledge of Islam to highlight precepts that fit his maniacal view of the world. Masterfully, he ignored the parts that didn't fit his agenda, and the world swallowed the bait.

Like every cult and insane religious group, bin Laden targeted the disenfranchised and disenchanted and gave them something to believe in. The fact that what he gave them to believe in was a lie didn't matter at the time. What Hitler gave a war-ravaged Germany raped by a barbaric peace treaty didn't matter - at first. Humankind is rife with examples of power vacuums being filled by men who carried nothing more than evil in their hearts.

What bin Laden preached was not religion, yet his followers are blind to that. In fact the West is blind as well. This perpetuates the cycle of disenfranchisement, myopic foreign policy and mistrust. It's a hamster wheel we all desperately need to get off of.

To those paying attention, watching with their own intellects and not through the filters of the Angry Right and Naive Left in this country, the Arab Spring finally offers hope for the world to jump off the hamster wheel.

Sure the news of the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is troubling, but it was not unexpected. And the power with which Assad has continued to crush the revolution in Syria dims hope in even the most optimistic observer. More troubling still is the Saudi role in controlling the outcome of the revolution in Bahrain. In the short term things don't look too promising, but it took 100 years to put the Middle East where it is today, and it will take a lot longer than one season to put the region on the path to freedom.

Osama bin Laden and his ilk exist because the young and disenfranchised were unable to channel their desires for freedom anywhere else. And scream all you want, but the US and the West have helped them by supporting the very despots who controlled them. The God-given yearning for freedom and peace are now openly embraced in a region that historically answers those desires with violence and oppression. If people are confident they control their own destinies, then thieves and liars like bin Laden have nowhere to ply their trade. Ditto for the despots who claim authority.

The Arab Spring matters, because whenever one neighborhood improves its lot in life, every other adjoining neighborhood shares in the result. The Social Media Age has taught us that every neighborhood on Earth is only as far away as a poke on the ENTER key.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Why Libertarians and Anarchists Are Delusional

First a refresher:
  1. I believe I am better able to make decisions for myself and my family than any government entity whatsoever - even on the occasions when I make really stupid decisions.
  2. I believe the less influence some faceless beauracrat has over any aspect of my life, the better off I am.
  3. I believe there is not one thing civil service employees (another way to say government) will not screw up if given the chance.
  4. I believe that a successful society requires the goodwill of its inhabitants as well as concern about the welfare of others.
Okay, so after you read this don't write to me and explain to me how libertarianism and anarchy works. Because simply put, I know how they are supposed to work and they never will. Here's why...

I took my lovely bride of twenty-plus years and her mom out for lunch yesterday to celebrate Mother's Day. We had a nice meal, even if the busboy was a little over-attentive, (think Sergeant Carter from Gomer Pyle, USMC clearing tables). It was after lunch that I was once again reminded that true Libertarianism will never work.

The entryway of this establishment was two doors wide. One on the right and one on the left. In America we drive on the right. We also pass each other in hallways on the right. In a word, we stay out of each other's way and keep society flowing by moving on the right. When I go to the UK next week I will do all of these things on the left. Personal responsibilty dictates that we learn to use the correct doors. What side you pass people on has nothing to do with your political beliefs, so stop looking for an allegory.

Being a person who is concerned about societal flow and personal responsibilty, I pushed the door on my right to lead my family out of the restaurant. I was immediately met by the vacant grin of a middle-aged woman whose family was entering on their left and therefore right in front of me. You should note that the door on their right was unused at this particular time. Flummoxed by my sudden appearance the woman stopped dead in her tracks and stared at me. I let her pass which separated me from my family. Meanwhile, my family was being cut off by another family of typical New Jersey noveau rich thirty-somethings, the kind who are generally blind to the existence of other human beings. You know the type, unless you are one, and if you are one, please don't read this blog anymore, but I digress.

This family started by using the left hand door and then, seeing the space created by the vacantly grinning middle-aged woman, moved en masse to exit through the right hand door. The same door I was now holding open. Not content with merely being clueless, the toothpick chewing Jersey Shore wannabe dad stopped to tickle his soon-to-be obnoxious little girl right in the foyer between the doors. This lasted for maybe 5 seconds. Which is a long time for me when I am holding the door for a jackass.

At this point there were approximately thirteen people in this tiny little foyer, and no one was actually moving.

Simply put, because of other people, my family took almost 15 seconds to walk through two doors, on a beautiful May afternoon with no natural obstructions to said egress. This my friends, is a microcosm of the state of society today.

We Libertarians actually think we can have a society of people pulling together and living without government interference when most people in this country can't even navigate entering and leaving a building properly.

Good luck with that.

Friday, May 6, 2011

TWIR: Big Picture Edition

To say the least this was quite a week. Usually I like to keep TWIR fairly light-hearted, kind of like Casual Friday for the Mind, but sometimes you have to be an adult and not start the weekend early.

  1. Pakistan is apparently hurt and angry that we ignored their duplicity and went in and took care of some business we felt was vital to our interests, not Pakistan's. Like the kid down the block who is mad at you for always making him 'it,' Pakistan is now threatening to stop being our ally and maybe even side with the Chinese. No more military and intelligence cooperation from us they brazenly shout whilst they try to cover up their incompetence and untrustworthiness. Our response should be an unqualified "Okay, whatev. As a matter of fact go be friends with China and see how your sovereignty works out then. And anyway, we like India better because they are a democracy with better food. :-p" The Obama Administration needs to continue to examine their new-found cajones and tell Pakistan to go pound salt. In fact, they should throw Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Egypt in the mix while they're at it.
  2. I've heard all the arguments from both sides about releasing the video and pictures of the currently barnacle-attracting Osama bin Laden. I agree with almost all of them pro and con, so in this case I'm going to let it go under the advisement of the Commander-In-Chief. Some things are just never as black and white as people want them to be. It's time to let it be and move on. The loyal opposition needs to learn they can't win every argument.
  3. Having said that, the Obama Administration shouldn't even have released the news in the first place. The crash of the helicopter kind of made that impossible to do, but the right thing from a security, intelligence and operational point-of-view would have been to kill bin Laden and then just answer "no comment" when asked about all the US activity in Abbotabad that night. We could have secretly had tremendous intel on Pakistan, Al Qaeda and Afghanistan that would have served US interests far greater than the little bump President Obama will receive from his "gutsy decision." You know what Mr. President? How about just shutting up and getting the job done instead of turning everything into an opportunity to celebrate your awesomeness?
  4. I also I have a big problem with the Intern-In-Chief and his merry band of pranksters' inability to get their stories straight. Michelle Malkin wrote everything there is to say about that in her column today. CLICK TO LINK. Obama's trip to the WTC in New York yesterday showcased how inexperienced and lacking in gravitas Mr. Obama is. We're two-plus years into his administration and it's past time for him to start carrying the weight of his office in his countenance.
  5. The removal of Osama bin Laden from the political landscape and the Earth in general will have a much smaller if even measurable effect on history than the so-called Arab Spring. Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda fed off of the unrest caused by the cache of dictators that were bolstered and supported by the United States, and the revolutions have removed that aspect from Middle Eastern politics. It has been said Osama bin Laden died in Tunisia in January, and for the most part that is true. I'm also not a big fan of the tailgate party style cheering and celebrating that came after the news was released. I understand the cathartic release of emotion the news of his demise caused, but it's a little too video gamey for me.
Have a nice weekend. I have to shop for clothes and shoes for my upcoming vacation, so I will be working very hard to be light-hearted and joyful while I roam the mall this weekend.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Good News Wrapped In Bad News Surrounded By Dismal News

Weekly jobless claims jumped to 474,000 last week, the highest number since August 2010. Commodities were clobbered in trading today, mostly on poor reports from Germany. So the news is still grim, but...

US Crude dropped $7.36 / bbl to $101.88 / bbl today and Brent Crude had the biggest one day drop since April '09. It looks like supply and demand has retaken control of the markets. Couple that with a report that a lot of spec money has been removed from the markets after the announcement of Osama bin Laden's death, and things are looking up a little. The Euro also slid against the dollar on reports the EU would not raise interest rates next month.

Things are still pretty bad out there, but maybe in the short term we'll get relieved of a little pain, which in the long term could help get the economy back on track on bit.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Most Patriotic Man In America

Fifty-year-old Ephrata Washington middle school teacher Gary Weddle shaved his beard Sunday night. After the attacks on September 11, 2001, Mr. Weddle vowed not to shave his beard until Osama bin Laden was captured or killed. I'm sure ten years ago he made his most sacred vow out of a wellspring of emotion caused by those tragic events.

SpeakForChange dot org called Mr. Weddle "the most patriotic man in America." I don't know what SpeakForChange's politics are, and I'm not even sure they do because they're not listed anywhere, but this quote alone gives you some idea about who they are.

Mr. Weddle himself said, "I'm still very emotional about this. About all the death and destruction. I'm finally getting closure on this."

The principal of the school he teaches at said she was proud of Mr. Weddle because his beard reminded students everyday for ten years about the horrific events of September 11.

Mr. Weddle is a media darling of sorts.

This is all very silly and childish, and I have some questions.
  1. Other than remind his students of all the "death and destruction" by bringing attention to himself by wearing a 15" beard, what did Mr. Weddle do to educate his students about the attacks?
  2. What did Mr. Weddle do in his personal life to honor the victims or help prevent future attacks?
  3. What did Mr. Weddle do to help support the soldiers who have been fighting for our security while his beard has been growing?
  4. Other than bring attention to himself, what did Mr. Weddle do to empathize with the families of the 3,000 victims, and with the families of all the wounded and dead soldiers since?
  5. If Mr. Weddle was sincere about his vow, why did he alert the media that he had shaved?
People like Mr. Weddle should not be lauded for their silly attempts to bring attention to themselves by leeching on to the suffering of others. Most patriotic man in America? I think not. Giant media whore who perfectly represents a vacuous society that worships style over substance? Yup, that one.

And before Mr. Weddle's supporters take me to task here, let me just say I didn't invite Mr. Weddle into my home and consciousness, he just sort of showed up.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Osama bin Laden

We've gone through a complete news cycle since the first announcement that the US had finally captured and killed Osama bin Laden. Social media and the news media are all full of the partisan comments and attacks we've come to expect, but its encouraging that there was also a heightened sense of positivity and civility. I waited 24 hours to say anything just to be a little more thoughtful in what I say.

  1. Does the death of OBL change anything? Not really. Most of the Arab world considers OBL's death to have taken place during the revolution in Tunisia in a strictly political sense. OBL's power as a political figure in the Middle East ended when the street revolutions began. As Americans we need to understand that OBL derived his power from hatred among the people for the despots our government backed.
  2. Our human need for revenge was somewhat fulfilled by bin Laden's death, especially here in the New York metropolitan area, but it was also dimmed by lack of visual evidence.
  3. My first thought was to be cynical and assume the government was lying since there was no visual evidence, but after thinking about it, the US really had no choice but to withhold photographs and video because of our irrational fear of pissing off people who spend their lives being pissed off. The radical wing of Islam would simply use the pictures and video to inflame masses of people who operate on ignorance first.
  4. Did OBL get killed on President Obama's watch and does Obama get to take credit for the operation? Yes.
  5. Does George Bush get to share in the credit because of decisions made during his presidency? Yes.
  6. Should President Obama show some grace and gratitude to Bush? Yes. Did he? Surprisingly more than I would have expected even though the Angry Right in this country will never admit to it.
  7. Is the Angry Left entitled to gloat a bit? Yes, but gloating makes them all hypocrites so they should be careful of that.
  8. Will there be reprisals? Probably, but we're all worried about it and after all, isn't that the point of terrorism?
  9. Should we get out of Afghanistan now? Yes, absolutely, but OBL's death has nothing to do with that.
  10. Why did we bury him at sea so quickly? No country was going to accept his body, and even if someone did accept it, the last thing we would want is to unwittingly build a shrine to a martyr. We deprived the radicals in the Islamic world a chance to turn this into something even more dangerous.
I guess it was a good day for America in some sense, and I applaud Obama's handling of the situation, but let's not get carried away. We are still living in a dangerous world, and we still have a government that does foreign policy like a squirrel crosses the street at rush hour.