Sunday, October 14, 2007

"The Gondoliers"

Last night, my 40th birthday, was my first time at the opera.

Warning, SPOILERS AHEAD! So, be forewarned if you are planning on seeing "The Gondoliers" any time soon.

For starters, I think I picked a good venue to pop my opera cherry. I mean, for your first time there are only a couple of venues that come to mind. La Scala. Kennedy Center. The Met. Sydney Opera House is right up there.

Our seats were good. Imagine the venue as a clock. The stage runs from say the 10 o'clock to 2 o'clock. I.e. the stage runs along a line parallel to the 9 - 3 equator, but bisects the circle north of the equator, forming a secant rather than a diameter (two radii) as a line bisecting the circle at the midpoint would be known. (Feel free to check my math; I could be wrong.) The front row is A. We were in row Q (i.e. 17th row), seats 13 and 14 (with seat number one being to the far right as you look towards the stage). So, as I said, good seats.

Obviously, I don't know that much about opera. I know some basic factoids. Some big names. Verdi. Wagner. "Carmen". "Madame Butterfly". Gilbert and Sullivan. I knew some key titles of G&S. I knew they worked (exclusively?) in comedy. They wrote in English. I didn't know the plot, but it seemed like it was pretty standard opera fare, since I know some plot synopses of one or two other operas. Here is my synopsis of Gilbert & Sullivan's "The Gondoliers"

The Story (and I am sure I probably have some of this out of order.)

Opens with all the maids (i.e. of marriageable age) singing how they are waiting for two guys, brothers, to come and choose their wives from among them. The rest will then reluctantly pair off with the remaining gondoliers of Venice. Apparently these two gondolieri, Marco and Giuseppe, are some kinds of swinging dicks because the chicks are literally lining up for these guys.

Now we switch to a boat at sea. In the boat are a group of Spanish nobility. The Duke of Plaza-Toro, his Duchess, their daughter, the beautiful Casilda, and the Duke's drummer, Luiz. Their ship is caught in a storm and they manage to make port in Venice.

While the Duke is disappointed with the stateliness of the greeting he gets, it is fortuitous that the band has landed in Venice. The Duke and Duchess tell Casilda a secret. When she was an
infant, she was secretly married to the equally infantile Crown Prince of Barataria.

The Duke receives a visit from a fellow Spaniard, Don Alhambra, the Grand Inquisitor. When the prince was still a baby, Don Alhambra spirited the child away from his father after the King had become a Wesleyan Methodist. The young prince was entrusted to a gondolier, Baptisto Palmieri, who raised the young royal alongside his own son.

The Crown Prince's father, the King, has recently been killed in a terrible insurrection. The new young King of Barataria is here in hiding in Venice, and Casilda is to be crowned Queen of Barataria. Casilda feigns happiness at the news but in truth she is crushed because she is in love with the drummer, Luiz.

Marco and Giuseppe show up and pick their brides. Since they are the perfect guys, and they don't want to offend anyone, they agree to let Fate decide. They are blindfolded and then chase the chicks around until each catches one. Giuseppe is immediately betrothed to Tessa, and Marco catches Gianetta. They are married right away.

There is a problem with Casilda's marriage. Baptisto Palmieri, a drunkard, had forgotten which boy was the prince and which his own son. So, now either Marco or Giuseppe is the new King of Barataria. This also means that one is not married to either Tessa or Gianetta but is married to Casilda. Either Tessa or Gianetta is married to a king, and hence not really married at all.

However, there is one other who can discern the identity of the true King, the infant prince's nursemaid, who just happens to be Luiz the drummer's mother. She is to be sent for by the Inquisitor and "urged" (read tortured) to divulge the true identity of the King.

In the meantime, Don Alhambra invites Marco and Giuseppe to go to Barataria and rule jointly as King until the mess is cleared up. Despite being Republicans, the gondoliers and their wives are delighted at the prospect of royal life. However, Don Alhambra informs Marco and Giuseppe that since one of them is the King they may not bring their wives until it is determined which is which. He neglects to tell them that the rightful King is, in fact, married to Casilda already.

The gondoliers are installed at court in Barataria and the first Act ends.

Three months later we find all the members of the court lazing about, while the Kings do all the work and live on a single ration. It is at this point that the wives show up and everyone is overjoyed to be reunited. The decision is made to hold a huge, raucous banquet and ball. There is much drinking and dancing culminating with everyone passing out on the floor.

Don Alhambra has returned and wants to know why servants were dancing at a noble ball. They try to explain that everyone is of rank now. Don Alhambra rebuts that when "everyone is somebody, then no-one's anybody". He then informs the gondoliers that one of them is married to Casilda.

The Duke and Duchess arrive in splendid regalia. The Duke tells Casilda how he was applied for under the Limited Liability Company Act (in effect, incorporating himself) and is now quite rich. He and the Duchess complain about the lack of formal reception and try to educate the two prospective kings in the finer points of royal behavior.

The Duke and Duchess tactfully arrange for a few minutes alone between Casilda, Marco and Giuseppe. Casilda explains that she will do her duty and honor her infant marriage, but that her heart belongs to another.

The wives are crushed to learn that neither of them is to be a queen and that in fact one of them isn't even married. They sing a duet in which they fantasize about what they will do to Casilda if she turns out to be married to her husband. Then the two couples and Casilda sing a song lamenting their impossible situation.

Finally the old nursemaid shows up, strapped to a torture rack. Under the rack, she finally admits that neither Marco nor Giuseppe is the King; that the King is in fact her own son, Luiz.

I gondolieri are disappointed that one of them won't be King, but are elated to be returning to Venice with their wives. For her part Casilda is ecstatic that her long lost husband has turned out to be none other than her very own true love, Luiz.

Now, from what little I know of opera, I gather that some of the plot devices in use here are pretty common fare. For example, I think the shipwreck victims washing ashore plot device is used a lot. Ditto the mistaken or questioned identity.

One other thing I am not sure about. There were five dancers who appeared often on stage but who didn't sing. They were in white-face and masks, and wore outfits that are sort of Renaissance Italian clown suits, for lack of a better description. For example, one guy wore a one piece cover all that was loose and puffy at the ankles and wrists. He has little puffy balls for buttons up his chest and some sort of round, frilly collar. He was done up in white face and had a cylindrical (i.e. flat top) hat, not unlike a fez but a bit taller. The women wore tights and tutus. They would build the scenery between acts and engaged the crowd, albeit silently, almost like mimes, at one or two points. I get the feel that these are stock opera characters that you'd see in a lot of opera productions, but I am not sure. Maybe somebody can help me out with this.

Below is a short movie of the last few seconds of the cast's last curtain call.

As far as first experiences go, this was a good one. I just bought a seven DVD set of Wagner's "The Ring Cycle" by James Levine and the Metropolitan Opera. The gloom and doom of Wagner and Norse mythology is much more to my taste. Hopefully, I'll enjoy it on DVD.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Quick Hitter About...


Today is my 40th birthday. I am in Sydney, Australia. My girlfriend Norma is here with me. It is 6:00 pm and we are getting dressed up to go out. We are going to the world famous Sydney Opera House to see a production of Gilbert & Sullivan's "The Gondoliers". I don't know anything about it except that it's in English (I think). After that we have reservations at a well-recommended restaurant called "Aria".

Happy birthday to me!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Sometimes other people say it better

This quote sums up my feelings on the shooting incident involving Blackwater Security in Iraq last week:

Blackwater USA is in the news because of a shootout about a week ago in Baghdad which resulted in the death of about a dozen civilians. . . . If innocent people were killed then that is a tragedy, but these guys aren't providing personal security to Britney Spears and Puff Daddy, moving crowds aside so they can enter LA nightclubs unimpeded.

Before you jump to conclusions that these are trigger-happy Special Forces wannabees, keep in mind most of them did their national service in the US, Britain, New Zealand, Australia, or elsewhere as trained, qualified Special Forces, Navy Seal, Air Force Special Ops, or other elite force members. So they are special forces already-have-beens. . . . As far as I'm concerned, they have earned the benefit of the doubt.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Latest dispatch from Cloud-Cuckooland

This is like apologizing to the guy that just socked you in the face for hurting his hand!

Simply Outrageous

Thanks to Chuck Muth for this item from the War in Afghanistan (the "good" was, according to Democrites). I am speechless.

Mirandizing the Enemy
By Chuck Muth

For today's lesson in "How to Lose a War," let's consider the case of Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto in World War II and compare it to the case of Nawab Buntangyar in what some consider to be World War III today.

But first, consider this all-too-common report in the New York Times this week out of Nad Ali, Afghanistan:

"A suicide bomber wrapped in explosives walked into a crowded government building.and blew himself up, killing at least seven people, four of them police officers. Six people were wounded."

OK, back to the lesson. Admiral Yamamoto commanded the Japanese Navy and led the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. He was, as the lawyers put it today, an "enemy combatant." Then, on a spring afternoon in 1943, Admiral Yamamoto decided to take a leisurely inspection tour of the South Pacific in a transport plane. U.S. forces learned of Yamamoto's exact itinerary, intercepted his plane and blew him out of the sky.

Note that Yamamoto was merely on an inspection tour and not engaged in hostile activities directed at the American pilots who intercepted him. He posed no "imminent threat" to the American pilots. Therefore, according to some rather bizarre interpretations of today's rules of engagement, the American pilots should have tried to force Yamamoto's plane to land and capture him rather than shoot him down. And the pilot who was credited with nailing Yamamoto should have been tried for murder instead of being awarded the Navy Cross.

Asinine, right? Right. Absolutely absurd.

Which brings us to Nawab Buntangyar.

Mr. Buntangyar had been designated an "enemy combatant" in the Afghanistan war theater for organizing suicide and roadside bomb attacks like the one in Nad Ali described above. He was, for all intents and purposes, an officer in the enemy's corps, not a foot soldier. As such, Buntangyar was declared an "enemy combatant" and was "vetted as a target" by American commanders which, according to the New York Times, "meant he could be legally killed once he was positively identified."

Similarly to Yamamoto, U.S. forces learned of Buntangyar's itinerary last October and endeavored to take him out of the game - permanently. Buntangyar was lured out of his village hideout and into the open where a Special Forces team was waiting. He was positively identified by Afghan police on the scene. So Capt. Dave Staffel gave Master Sgt. Troy Anderson, reportedly 100 yards away from Buntangyar, the green light.

BLAM!! Right between the eyes. Bye-bye, Nawab. Hello, 72 virgins.

Think about this for minute, folks. Our man Sgt. Anderson, under the pressure of a wartime operation, nails the bad guy from the length of a football field right in the melon with one shot. No American casualties. No civilian causalities. Not even any property damage, other than maybe a dry-cleaning bill or two for the guys standing next to Nawab at the time. Compare this to the enemy's suicide bombings.

Naturally, Staffel, Anderson and the entire 7-man Green Beret team involved in the mission were warmly clasped on their backs and congratulated for a job well done, right? Wrong.

In June, Lt. Gen. Frank H. Kearney charged the pair of Green Berets with premeditated murder in the incident. What makes this persecution - er, prosecution even more outrageous is that Kearney brought the charges after not one, but two military investigations cleared the Green Berets in the incident, concluding the shooting was "justifiable homicide."

Is this any way to fight a war?

The shooting was cleared, twice, so why is Lt. Gen. "CYA" Kearney continuing to persecute - er, prosecute these military professionals who did the job they were trained to do and asked to do by their country? What kind of message does this persecution - er, prosecution send to our boots on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq? I mean, if we're not going to let our soldiers kill the enemy, then why the hell are they there?

Who's running this "war" anyway? The commanders in the field or the lawyers back home? If it's the lawyers, and men like Capt. Staffel and Sgt. Anderson have to read Johnny Jihadi his Miranda rights instead of plinking him in the noggin with a bullet, then the war is over. We lost. Bring the boys home.

Cultural Relativism is a bunch of rot

I am in the east African nation of Djibouti. Last weekend, my colleagues and I and some folks from the embassy took a trip out into the country to Lake Assal.

Lake Assal is a salt lake like the Great Salt Lake in Utah or the Dead Sea in Jordan. In fact, Lake Assal is the most saline body of water on Earth. It is also the lowest point in Africa and the second lowest point in Earth at about 375 ft (115 m) below sea level. (The Dead Sea is the lowest point on Earth at 1378 ft (420 m) below sea level.)

What does this have to do with cultural relativism? In our group was the representative to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). We ran across some acquaintances of hers and they joined us for a picnic lunch at the beach. They were a married couple. He was French, a doctor, and his wife was Spanish.

Somehow our conversation turned to some of the more barbaric cultural rituals practiced in African societies. Female genital mutilation is the most well-know of these. I will assume that readers are familiar with this practice and will not describe it here.

I mentioned that there is another ritual practiced in West Africa. It is called "pressing". Mothers place heated stones or irons on the budding breasts of their young daughter. This is supposed to curb the growth of the breasts. This is done so that young women do not become objects of lust to men and hence victims of rape. I wonder about the prevalence of rape that such a practice is deemed necessary.

The French doctor then told me about another practice that I hadn't known about called "pulling". He said that it is fairly common in central Africa. The purpose of pulling is to enlarge the female genitalia to enhance sexual pleasure (for the man, please). The practice usually begins around age 10.

As I heard about this practice, and thought about the others about which I had already known, I started to get angry. It's bad enough that these medieval, barbaric practices continue in the 21st century. However what got me really mad was thinking about the complicity of the political Left in all this.

Cultural relativism dictates that no one culture is better than another. Cultures are just different. Cultural relativism is a cousin of another hated dogma (hated by me, that is) of the Left, "diversity". I cannot fathom the rationale behind cultural relativism. The closest I can come is white guilt and hurt feelings. Many on the political left feel guilty that our society is able to provide more for its citizens than other societies. This isn't "fair", they say, so we must have cheated somehow to obtain these ill-gotten gains. White guilt is the natural consequence for all those morally superior people of the Left. Hurt feelings because we don't want to remind other peoples of the shortcomings of their own cultures.

Thus, Western culture is robbed of the ability to criticize such gross practices as female genital mutilation and "pulling". I think this is reprehensible and is one of many reasons I would never align myself with the political Left.

However, cultural relativism also damages our own culture. Because of cultural relativism, "hip-hop" culture (such as it is) is now dominant in the United States. Hip-hop culture is misogynistic and glorifies pathology and criminality. Put simply, hip-hop culture is a "low" culture. It is self-destructive and aspires to nothing. Yet, thanks to cultural relativism, our society is precluded from criticizing hip-hop culture. Anyone who criticizes hip-hop culture faces charges of cultural imperialism and racism.

So, thanks once again, Lefties. You are complicit in the lowering of our culture and rob the rest of us of the ability to forestall this slide into the cultural oblivion.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Donovan McNabb's Comments

On a soon-to-be-aired episode of HBO's "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel", Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb is interviewed by "Real Sport's" James Brown. I haven't seen the program, nor am I likely to watch it. However, an article on yesterday carried some highlights. In case you didn't see the article, I'll recap it for you (and I am paraphrasing here):

James Brown: Donovan, is it tougher for black quarterbacks in the NFL?

Donovan McNabb: Waaaaaaaah! Waaaaaaaaaaaaaah! Waaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Happy Birthday to Me!

No. It's not my birthday (that's next month). But yesterday was the third anniversary of my first blog post.

I left out one of the best parts!

In the post I put up the other day about the "Women's Studies" (and I use the term loosely) professor from Duke, I neglected to comment about the best part.

Did you catch this sentence?

. . . Complexifying this equation to include race meant identifying ourselves as white oppressors; it meant, therefore that our politics were now less absolute, we ourselves less pure. (emphasis added)

How like a college professor! The verb to denote the coining of a word is to neologize. I believe the origin is Greek - "neo" meaning new, and "logos" meaning word.

Now, Dr. Rudy has a Ph.D., but the fact that she won't say the field in which she was awarded her Ph.D. makes me think it is likely in the spurious field in which she teaches. So I guess it should not be much of a surprise that she choose to use a neologism -


The title says it all

Thanks to my friend, Nick Keck, for the following item:

Bank Robber Uses Own Check in Robbery

Sep 11, 8:24 PM (ET)ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) - A man robbing a bank demanded the money by writing a note on one of his own checks, authorities say. Not surprisingly, he was caught soon afterward.

Forest Kelly Bissonnette, 27, apparently tried to cover his name on the check, then handed the note to a teller Sept. 5 at the Bank of the Westin Englewood, according to authorities.

"We could still make it out even though he blacked it out," FBI agent Rene VonderHaar said. Nearly $5,000 was taken.

Surveillance video showed a suspect similar to Bissonnette's description, and a tipster said a man named Forest Kelly claimed he got $5,000 in a bank robbery, according to a federal complaint.

Bissonnette remained in federal custody Tuesday after turning himself in Friday. A public defender was to be appointed for Bissonnette, who doesn't have a listed phone number.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

There is a really simple solution here

Check out this item from Fox News.

Like I said, there is a really simple and obvious solution here. Young Saul Arrellano is also a Mexican citizen. If he wants his Mommy so bad, there is nothing stopping him from going to Mexico and being with her.

Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out, buddy!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

I can't help myself

I try not to crib from James Taranto's "Best of the Web" too much, but some items are too juicy to pass up:

Last week we noted a bizarre op-ed piece from Kathy Rudy, a professor of "women's studies" at Duke, who described herself as a supporter of animal rights but proceeded to defend erstwhile NFL player Michael Vick's involvement in illegal dogfighting on the ground that he is black.

Many readers wrote to ask us or to tell us that Rudy was one of the infamous "Duke 88," a group of Duke faculty members who signed an ad that listed quotes, purporting to come from Duke students, about the rape allegation against lacrosse players, which turned out to be a hoax. The original ad seems to have disappeared form the Web, but a copy is here.

What's more, according to this page, Rudy was not among the 89 Duke faculty members (which included some who had been among the 88 and some who hadn't) who signed a "clarifying statement" which said the ad had not been intended to prejudge the rape case--not a terribly believable assertion, but at least an implicit acknowledgment of error.

Blogger KC Johnson--co-author of "Until Proven Innocent," which is reviewed today by Abigail Thernstrom and is available from the OpinionJournal bookstore--has more background on Rudy, a tenured associate professor:

Upon first coming to Durham, Rudy recalled that she "moved quickly into the lesbian community because there was a growing sentiment in feminist discourse that lesbianism was the most legitimate way to act out our politics." Within this "progressive" neighborhood in west Durham, "Many of us thought that by avoiding men and building a parallel, alternative culture, we were changing the world . . . I managed to live most of my daily life avoiding men all together, and spent most of my social time reading, dreaming, planning, talking, and writing about the beauty of a world run only by women, . . . free of [men's] patronizing dominance." Rudy and her fellow radical feminists oriented their activities around "the ideas that women were superior and that a new world could be built on that superiority."

But problems soon emerged.

Durham's radical feminists were white and middle-class, but Rudy's social group had two "Black women." The duo "began to use race as a category of political analysis, when they declared that they--as Black lesbian women--were more oppressed than the rest of us." The two women exposed an uncomfortable truth: "If one identity-based oppression was bad, two or three or more was worse."

Their action, Rudy reminisced, challenged the founding principle of radical lesbians in Durham and elsewhere: "That we--as women--were oppressed, so much so that identification as the oppressor then seemed impossible. For us at that point, the equation was simple; men dominated and oppressed women . . . Complexifying this equation to include race meant identifying ourselves as white oppressors; it meant, therefore that our politics were now less absolute, we ourselves less pure." This development produced uncomfortable questions, such as "Could we stand to see ourselves as oppressors and still exist in such an ideologically pure community? Could we purge ourselves of racism by loving Black women but not Black men?"

They say America has the world's finest system of higher education. If that is true, there are scores of other systems--perhaps as many as 200--that are worse than the one that produced Kathy Rudy. This is going to give us nightmares for a long time.

Will someone please tell Kanye West to shut the hell up?

Someone really needs to put a muzzle on hip-hop superstar Kanye West (I know - I can't name a single song of his either). I am a big fan of freedom of speech, but sometimes I wonder if it is a good thing that every idiot in our country is entitled to it.

First, in September 2005, during a Hurrican Katrina fundraiser West made the stupid, and ultimately impossible-to-prove claim, that George Bush doesn't care about black people.

Then, in 2006, the publicity hound made headlines again by throwing a temper tantrum when he didn't win the Grammy for Album of the Year. (The award went to U2's How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb instead.)

Just a few weeks ago he was at it again, throwing another tantrum when he was shutout in five categories at the MTV Music Video Awards. Predictably, West accused MTV of "disrespecting" him.

Now he is taking shots at MTV claiming they 'exploited' Britney Spears (one wonders if that is even possible) by featuring an unprepared Spears in the show. According to West:

Man, they were just trying to get ratings, and they knew she wasn't ready and they exploited her.

Like I said, I just wish he would shut the hell up, as the press is obviously pathologically incapable of not providing him a forum for these outbursts.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Ridley, Say It Ain't So

During my perusing of today's web offerings, I came across this item.

Ridley Scott is probably my favorite modern-day director. (All time, I am still very much a David Lean fan). For the director of "Alien" and "Bladerunner" to proclaim the genre dead is very much a blow to sci-fi fans the world over (myself very much included).

Although, to a certain extent, I think Sir Scott is mistaken. With the explosive popularity of comic book properties, I think one could argue that the sci-fi genre is more popular than ever. It has just evolved (or mutated depending upon your opinion of the comic book genre) from its traditional form of spaceships and space suits.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A Call for Resolve

I was reading this essay on National Review Online. In it, the author draws some interesting parallels between the current situation in Iraq and past wars in which the United States has fought, most interestingly the Civil War.

The author, Peter Wehner, makes the point that many wars have begun with an anticipation of a quick victory only to have reality set in. WWI comes most readily to mind. However, I had forgotten that the North had similar expectations of an easy victory after only a few months of the Civil War, only to have reality set in after the First Battle of Bull Run. This rude awakening was followed by the shock of the Second Battle of Bull Run.

Had Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi been leading the Senate or House in 1861, Lincoln would have been inundated with calls to withdraw from the South. Pelosi lieutenant John Murtha would have called to redeploy the Army of the Potomac. Instead Lincoln did what great leaders do during times of conflict. He changed his military leadership and adjusted his military strategy to reflect the facts of the conflict.

This is exactly what George Bush is doing. Yes, there have been mistakes and setbacks in Iraq. However, believing in our goals, Bush has changed the military leadership and allowed his newest commander, Gen. David Petraeus, to craft and implement a new strategy. A strategy that appears to be working.

This is not rocket science. These lessons are simple: resolve of purpose and strategic flexibility. So, what does that say about the leadership of the Democrats that they can't see this?

Monday, August 27, 2007

Oh, brother!

Check out this item from Queen City, Arizona. The principal of Payne Junior High School suspended a 13 year-old student for five days under the school's "zero tolerance" policy for weapons.

"Wow," you say, "It must be serious. Did he bring a gun or a knife to school? Did he threaten his classmates or teachers?"

Uh, no. He drew a picture of a gun on a homework paper. Check out the link above if you want to see a picture of the gun he drew. It doesn't even really look like a gun. According to the student, it was a "doodle" of a "laser gun". In other words, it was a drawing of a gun that doesn't even exist.

Now, if - unlike me - you can see why, in some cases, it might be necessary for a school to suspend a student for a drawing let me point out a few more what I believe are salient facts. First, the boy didn't threaten anybody. He didn't include a hit list next to the drawing of the gun. He didn't depict the gun shooting anybody, much less classmates or teachers.

Why can't some people get it through their thick heads that we are better off with more freedom and less oppressive government control and regulation? I was reading last week about how out-of-control government spending - a fairly recent phenomenon - tracks pretty closely with women's suffrage and the modern liberal movement. Basically, women demand more government intervention, especially after they have children. This, combined with the growth of litigiousness in our society, has led to an explosion of regulation and no shortage of politicians eager to pander for votes.

I just don't understand how it is that these folks don't realize TANSTAAFL.

THERE AIN'T NO SUCH THING AS A FREE LUNCH! If you dispense government largesse, that largesse has to be paid for.

I, myself, would rather keep more of my own money and assume a larger share of responsibility for my own safety and security. I care much more about my safety and security than any deskbound bureaucrat trying to impose a "one-size-fits-all" solution on a nation of 300 million people.

Sadly, with this view, I am clearly in the minority.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The United States of America is not a Democracy

I know, I know. It's a republic.

Except it's not either

Our country has morphed into what I call a "celebritocracy". This is a society, nominally governed by the rule of law - unless you're famous. If you happen to get paid for being really, really, really good looking and reciting some lines, or wearing some clothes, then the laws don't apply to you. (Ditto, if you happen to have worked really hard to become 6'8" tall and can lob a round ball through a circular hoop or hit a little ball really far.)

If you happen to have won the genetic lottery (or chose your parents very carefully) then our society's law don't apply to you.

I have several friends and acquaintances who have had DUIs. In a word a DUI sucks. It can really mess up your life. It can restrict your ability to operate a motor vehicle. It will almost certainly cause your insurance rates to go up. And it will cost you more than a pretty penny in lawyer's fees, court costs, drunk driver awareness education program costs and just plain fines.

The same goes for possessing drugs. Every year in this country hundreds of thousands of people are arrested, tried and imprisoned for possessing a plant, or some non-government approved pills or powders. In much the same way that a DUI will mess up your life and cost you thousands of dollars, so will drug possession charges.

But, not if you are a celebrity. Take Lindsay Lohan or Nicole Richie (PLEASE!). These two queens spent a total of 1 day, 82 minutes in jail for a cumulative total of two DUIs and one cocaine possession charge.

And this new form of government is not confined to the United States. It has also spread to England. Look at the antics of "supermodel" Kate Moss and her on-again, off-again boyfriend, unrepentant dope-fiend Pete Doherty (of the British rock band "Babyshambles" - they suck, by the way). Moss was caught on tape snorting a powdered substance (almost certainly cocaine, although let's not rule out heroin, crystal meth or ecstasy all of which can be ingested nasally). British authorities declined to prosecute Moss because they couldn't prove that she was ingesting an illegal substance. (Oh, sure. Back in college, my friends and I used to snort talcum powder all the time.)

Doherty was caught on tape shooting up an unconscious fan with heroin. He keeps getting ordered into rehab, only to be arrested - sometimes within minutes of getting out of rehab - with coke, crack, heroin, ketamine, you name it. What is the judge going to say to him next time? "Mr. Doherty, you are ordered to attend drug rehabilitation and stop using illegal drugs. And this time I really, really mean it."

As John Stossel says, "Give me a break!"

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Coming out of a valley

Ok. I will spare you the usual mea culpa about not posting for so long. Let's hope I am heading for a peak.

What prompted me to write was an excellent essay on National Review Online by Peter Rodman. In it, Rodman analyzes President Bush's recent statements comparing Iraq to Vietnam. The president, rightly in Rodman's (and my) opinion, also included the Khmer Rouge atrocities as part of the legacy of Vietnam.

Rodman compares the situation in Vietnam c. 1972 to present-day Iraq. According to Rodman, there is now a consensus among military historians that at that time the balance of forces in Vietnam had shifted towards the South and against the North. It was exactly at this time that the US Congress voted to begin cutting off aid to South Vietnam.

The same thing happened in Algeria in the 1960s. Just as the French military had broken the back of the Algerian insurgency, public opinion in France had shifted away from continuing the fight.

In other words, just as the war was about to be won, the fickleness of public opinion shifted to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Please, let's not make the same mistake in Iraq.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

It's true

As much as it pains me to say it, John Edwards is right. There are two Americas. Oh, not in the way Edwards means. In terms of the extent of freedom of speech.

In one America, anyone can say anything derogatory about whites, Christians, conservatives and heterosexuals. In the other, no-one can say anything derogatory about blacks (and to a lesser extent Hispanics and Asians), women or gays - and members of these new protected groups get to decide what's derogatory. This includes a glaring double-standard in which members of the protected groups can use terms that are considered slurs when spoken by people who are not members of the group.

I'm talking, of course, about the firing of Don Imus. I logged on to my Yahoo! e-mail and saw a picture of a gloating pig (that's Al Sharpton, in case you didn't recognize the description) giving a thumb-and-forefinger circle as if to say, "Okay! We got him!" I was shocked (shocked!) to learn that somehow Jesse Jackson thinks it's okay to refer to New York as "Hymietown" but not okay to call black women "nappy-headed ho's" - at least if you aren't a rapper.

What freakin' country is this?

Monday, April 09, 2007

Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are at it again

The self-appointed czars of the racial grievance industry in the United States have a new target in their sights: Don Imus.

I don't listen to Don Imus. From what I have heard, I consider him a cantankerous windbag who, like Larry King and Hugh Hefner, should date within his own century. I fail to see his appeal. Still, many people must like his shtick since he has been a mainstay of NBC radio in New York for many, many years.

So, no. I don't like Don Imus. But I do like free speech. A lot. And I resent the hell out of people who pick and choose when we should enjoy this most important of rights. (John McCain, Russ Feingold, are your ears burning?)

Imus' sin is that he referred to the Rutgers University women's basketball team as "nappy-headed hos". This has Messrs. Jackson and Sharpton in high dudgeon. They are demanding Imus' resignation or firing. Of course they are. This is what they do: get cases of ass over purported racial transgressions.

I once read an opinion column that basically said that if [insert example of latest transgression by white people against black people] is the best that these two hucksters can come up with as examples of racism in America, then we've licked the problem of racism. I'm starting to agree with this assessment.

What is particularly galling is that members of the black artistic community regularly use words like "ho" and much worse epithets to refer to black and other women. I really, really loathe hypocrisy and Jackson and Sharpton feigning indignation at Imus' use of terms regularly used by black people is hypocrisy of the highest order.

I'm interested to see how this plays out. Normally, I'd expect the offending party to perform an obligatory mea culpa, perhaps enter therapy (see Grey's Anatomy's Isaiah Washington) and meet with leaders of the offended community (see Mel Gibson). However, from what I know about Imus, he doesn't strike me as the type to back down. And with his audience and ratings, he is not without media clout.

Who knows? If he stands up to these two charlatans, he may have gained a new fan in the Washington, D.C. area.

Fashion Alert!

Every once in a great while, I deviate from pointing out how liberals are screwing up America and the world to comment on other things.

I'm on assignment in Rome now. Being Easter weekend, today is a local holiday. My girlfriend Norma and I have been having a great time walking around and seeing the sights. Yesterday, we went to the Vatican but couldn't get in for Mass so had to settle for watching on a screen.

I have noticed a disturbing new fashion trend and want to do my little part to nip it in the bud (as Barney Fife would have said).

Here we've seen a lot of women wearing cuffed shorts with hose. Ladies, I would like to urge you to cease and desist this practice immediately! I am sure you have no idea how ridiculous this looks otherwise you wouldn't be caught dead in such an outfit.


Saturday, April 07, 2007

Much Ado About Nothing

I've been meaning to weigh in on the non-scandal of the year: the firing of the eight U.S. attorneys. Here goes.

Is this really a scandal? I mean, really? The scandal here is the pathetically weak job the Bush administration has done of defending itself against this meaningless charge.

I'm sure you know this already, but let me get it down in pixels. The President can fire as many of his U.S attorneys as he wants. Bill Clinton fired all 93 in March of 1993. He was the more astute politician. He sacrificed 92 U.S. attorneys to get the one that was breathing down his neck over Whitewater in Little Rock.

Of course, you have to do a Google search to find that out since Joe Klein and Time magazine and The New York Times aren't going to tell you that. They aren't going to tell you that one of the attorneys, Carol Lam, of the Southern District of southern California was prosecuting fewer alien smugglers pro rata than her predecessors. (Oh. Did I mention that the Southern District of southern California is basically San Diego and includes the San Ysidro border crossing?)

At times like this, the President needs to adopt the Clear and Present Danger defense. In the book, and the movie starring Harrison Ford, the fictitious President defuses criticism over a scandal involving a college friend by giving the media nowhere to go. Ford's Jack Ryan advises the President that when asked by a reporter if he and the man in question were friends to say, "No. We are close friends." If asked if they are close friends, say, "No. We are lifelong friends." President Bush should adopt a similar strategy and just own up to the firings. He has nothing to apologize for.

Empress Pelosi

I had my doubts about the job that Nancy Pelosi would do as Speaker of the House when she first ascended to the post.

Those doubts were strengthened when she demanded a larger jet to shuttle her, her staff, family members and members of the California congressional delegation to and from their state. She couldn't live with having to make a refueling stop, after the Bush administration agreed to provide her with the same transportation arrangements enjoyed by outgoing Speaker Denny Hastert.

Those doubts have now been confirmed with the imperious Pelosi's visit to the Middle East.

Unless there is an article of the Constitution with which I am not familiar, the Speaker of the House plays no role in shaping or promulgating the foreign policy of the United States. That is the exclusive purview of the President.

I could go on at length about the many reasons Pelosi shouldn't have pulled this stunt (her complete lack of experience; her wrongheaded wish to act on the recommendations of the Iraqi Study Group - a group with no statutory authority whatsoever) but I'm going to leave it at this:

Does she really think she accomplished anything?

In spite of the Bush Administration, right?

Check out this report from The Washington Times (free registration and login required). Here's the opening paragraph:

The unemployment rate fell to a five-year low of 4.4 percent as job growth picked up to 180,000 last month — a show of strength that bolstered hopes that the economy will endure the turmoil in the housing and mortgage markets without major harm.

But, how could this be? We all know how George Bush only exists to enrich his cronies, and is incompetent to boot. According to John Edwards, there are "two Americas" - one for the rich and one for the poor.

I'm confused.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Little Miss Crap

Either I am getting old or Hollywood really is CloudCuckooLand. This morning I watched "Little Miss Sunshine".

In case you spent most of 2006 under a rock, "Sunshine" was last year's "little movie that could". A small, independent, Sundance darling that went on to earn almost $100 million worldwide, a Best Picture Oscar nomination, a Best Supporting Actress nomination for Abigail Breslin and a Best Supporting Actor win for Alan Arkin.

Ok, a disclaimer here. The movie I saw was dubbed in Italian, so I freely admit that I probably missed a lot of the "humor" of the film. However, the scene that offended me required no translation.

The plot of the movie is that the dysfunctional Hoover family makes a road trip to California so that young Olive can participate in the finals of the beauty pageant from which the movie derives its name. Never mind that little Olive is homely and lacks any discernible talent.

Now, I don't have any problem with the movie's persistence theme; the idea that if you stick with something you will eventually have success. No, my problem is with Olive's "talent " performance.

In the movie, Olive's "talent" is to perform a strip tease to Rick Jame's "Super Freak". In typical Hollywood fashion, there is an uptight, conservative (read intolerant) pageant official (played by Beth Grant who excels at playing these kinds of characters; she played essentially the same character in "Donnie Darko") who objects to 9 year-old Olive gyrating on stage in a sequin tank top, hot pants and knee pads - a young Christina Aguilera in the making!

Of course, this is Hollywood. So, predictably the uptight pageant official is shouted down for her intolerance and the rest of the Hoover clan joins Olive on stage, bumping and grinding along with her in a show of solidarity. The audience ends up cheering young Olive's gumption.

This is exactly the same kind of message imparted by shows such as "Will and Grace" and "Dharma and Greg". In those shows, the "uptight" characters (Will and Greg, respectively) are always shown to be in the wrong for questioning the actions of other characters (usually Jack and Dharma respectively) and for not unconditionally supporting them. In friendships and families alike, support is one thing, but unconditional support is another.

I would depend on my friends to tell me that I am loony or sick for wanting to pursue a career as a child pornographer (and in this example, both). My friends would be doing me a grave disservice by encouraging me in such a venture.

Message to Hollywood: objectivity exists and 9 year-olds stripping is wrong!

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Good stuff!

My friend, Nick Keck, sent me this link to a great You Tube video by a fellow named Bob Parks. Dr. Parks is a member of the Broward County school board in south Florida. He also writes a blog called "Black and Right" on "Men's News Daily". Here's a link.

In the video, Dr. Parks does a great job of explaining two points that I agree with completely: from a military standpoint, we are not losing the war in Iraq, but that from a political standpoint, the Left in this country doesn't want us to win.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Obama Gets A Pass

During the 2000 and 2004 election cycles, there were persistent rumors skirting the fringes of the mainstream media about George Bush's past alcohol and drug use. The press tried to resurrect these stories and give them some traction.

Recall how prior to the 2000 election the story about Bush's drunk driving arrest surfaced. These stories surfaced just scant few weeks before the election. I, for one, believe that the release of this story was timed to deliver a death blow to Bush's chances for election. This was yet another "October Surprise" much like the well-timed Iran-Contra indictments from Lawrence Walsh in 1992 as George H.W. Bush was making a comeback in the polls against Bill Clinton.

Everyone recalls the pass the media gave Clinton with that lame story about how he had tried marijuana while a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, but he "didn't inhale". Now we have yet another candidate for the Democratic nomination with allegations on drug use in his past. Only these times the allegations are true. In his memoir, "Dreams of My Father", Barack Obama admits to smoking marijuana in high school and to "maybe a little blow...[n]ot smack though."

Okay, so he never shot up. That's reassuring. I guess "not smack though" is the 2004 equivalent of "I didn't inhale".

To this day rumors persist about Bush's drug use - being in rehab, having surgery for a deviated septum - yet you don't hear a peep about Obama's admitted drug use.

But there's no liberal bias in the media, is there?

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Same old, same old

I was reading Robert Novak's column today. He cited a recent Democracy Corps poll that showed that voters consider Democrites the party of fiscal responsibility by a margin of 44 to 36 percent. (Presumably the other 20 per cent are smart enough to realize that neither party is fiscally responsible.)

And, yet I vaguely recall Nancy Pelosi promising that the new Democritic majority in the house would change the culture of corruption and reckless spending that characterized the 12 years of Republican leadership.

Of course, I wasn't naive enough to actually believe it. However it was still more than a bit frustrating to read this article in the Washington Times. What an amazing coincidence that for the time the Republicans led Congress the [allegedly non-partisan] Congressional Research Service tracked and publicized pork barrel spending, and yet now that the Democrites are in the majority, mysteriously CRS has stopped tracking such wasteful spending.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Kyoto for thee but not for me

With the Al Gore vehicle "An Inconvenient Truth" winning the Oscar for Best Documentary (and here we must use that term at its loosest - such as when describing another Oscar winner -"Fahrenheit 9/11"), there is a lot of talk in the media about global warming and the "greening" of the economy.

First, let me say that I don't think global warming exists. At least, not as Gore et. al. hyperventilate about it. I think our understanding of the Earth's climate is still too rudimentary to declare the debate over as to whether or not humans are the source of the negligible warming that some climate models predicts.

I imagine that if a Democrat wins the White House the idea of ratifying the Kyoto Protocols will rear its ugly head. Not only is this bad idea because it will damage our economy, but also because it will not bind the worst polluters - the Chinese - to its strictures.

Check out this article from the Washington Times (login required - registration is free). Why would we want to hamstring our own economy and let our rising chief rival have a free hand?

Now, having said that, I am 100% behind the "greening" of the economy. The reason is simple: our current, petroleum-based economy enriches our enemies. All the money we spend on oil goes to enrich some of the most backward, oppressive regimes on Earth. The same regimes that support Islamic terrorism. I think a presidential candidate that campaigned on a plank of energy independence would strike a chord with the American electorate. I know that I would get behind such a candidate. While I doubt that I could ever vote for Hillary Clinton, I could see myself voting for a Joe Lieberman running on such a notion.

It's time we withdrew the material support we are providing the repressive regimes of the Middle East.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Who are the bad guys?

Sometimes it can be hard to figure out who the bad guys are in the War in Iraq, what with all the slanted reporting from CNN, the Washington Post and the New York Times. But even CNN couldn't hide the monstrosity of the terrorists in this piece from last week.

Ok. Are you back? Yes, you read that right. Some Islamofascists loaded up the kids in the family truckster, used them as cover to get through a checkpoint, parked the car near a crowded and market -

and then BLEW THE CAR UP!!

So, remember that the next time you hear Paul Krugman or Maureen Dowd hyperventilating about neo-cons.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Lest We Forget

In case you missed it, here is an interesting item from Taranto's "Best of the Web". This is an excerpt from a Reuters (you know the guys who refuse to call terrorists terrorists) article about a Vermonter who goes door-to-door collecting signatures for a petition demanding further investigation into the government's role in 9/11:

Doug Dunbebin, who walked door-to-door collecting signatures to get the question onto the town meeting ballot, said there are still unanswered questions about September 11, 2001, when hijacked plane attacks killed 2,992 people at New York's World Trade Center, at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania.

What's so interesting about this item is the number of people killed cited. The official tally of victims is 2,973. So where did Reuters come up with 2,992?

2,973 innocent victims + 19 "mass-murdering f**kheads" (to borrow a phrase from Eddie Izzard) = 2,992

Bravo, Reuters, you champion of moral relativism! Bravo!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Yet more evidence that there exists a liberal bias in the media

As if you needed more proof, how about the kerfluffle over John Edwards' wife-beating joke?

What? You haven't heard about this latest flap? I am shocked (shocked!) that neither CNN nor the New York Times have told you about this. Here's what happened.

During John and Elizabeth Edwards' press conference in which he announced he was staying in the presidential race despite the return of his wife's cancer, Elizabeth Edwards was explaining how she had broken a rib. Candidate Edwards interrupted her to joke that "actually I was beating her". He then mimed punching her in the ribs.

Now, I ask you: if George Bush or Dick Cheney had made a similar joke, do you think you would have heard about it? Of course you would have. You would have been bombarded with the news items proclaiming the insensitivity of the Bush administration. You would have heard from Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. You would have seen news stories from battered women telling you how hurtful such comments are.

But you didn't, did you?

I rest my case (for now).

Blame Google

Ok. Here we are again. After yet another long absence, I am returning to the "blogosphere". Usually I give some lame mea culpa about why I haven't blogged in so long. But this time, it wasn't my fault. Whose fault was it?

It was Google's.

See, Google bought And in their effort to make Blogger "new and improved", they broke it. Badly. For the past several months, any time I logged on to the Blogger Dashboard (the Web page from which the blogger can create new posts and manage his blog) all I saw were question marks. That's right. Every character had been replaced by a ?. I wrote to the Blogger Support mail box, but all I got were canned replies directing me to the Blogger support F.A.Q. and Known Issues page. My issue was not "known".

Any way, here I am in Rome and I logged on to my Blogger dashboard and, lo and behold, it works again!

So, get ready, world! I'm ready to start griping again about everything that's wrong with you.