Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
--C.S. Lewis--

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Jonas Brothers

Did anyone else know that they are all committed Christians who wear promise rings and have been vocal about the importance of abstinence? Man, now I'm gonna have to stop making fun of them...

Arlen Specter

I've got a little bit to say on Specter, but nothing profound, so I'll try to just say it briefly. Two things jump out at me. The first is that all of the GOP types rejoicing at Specter's departure are simply being classless. Yes, Specter has been an unreliable vote, and yes his decision to jump parties was a nakedly self-interested attempt to keep his seat, rather than some principled decision based on the GOP's direction. However he's been a Republican for the last 40 years, and a Republican Senator for longer than I've been alive. He deserves a respectful exit if nothing else.
Secondly, we need a reminder that my 80% friend is not my 20% enemy. Reagan built his grand coalition by including plenty of people who were conservative on some issues but not others. Yes, his ability to articulate what conservatism stood for made some ideological converts, but he also united a lot of disparate interests. Unfortunately, the Republicans are on a kick to "purify" the party, rather than to get as many people into it as possible.

Conservatives feel that it was Bush's (and Congress') spending and compromises that got us where we are, coupled with McCain's lackluster centrism fetish. Therefore, they see the answer as kicking out the riffraff. The real problem though, is a lack of strong leadership. A good leader makes deals, minimizes internecine battles, and keeps people on board. George Bush tried to do this, but in his second term, he managed to make the compromises that angered conservatives while still losing pieces of his coalition. Until a strong leader or leadership emerges in the GOP that understands the need to build alliances with the middle without compromising core principles, the party won't make any progress.

I share the frustration other conservatives feel with the party's moderate wing. I'm as conservative in my politics as any purist could ask for, and I'd love 60 Republican senators who shared my views. But the problem is, we aren't going to get that in the near future, and an ideologically pure rump of 30% of the voters is still a rump. Does anyone really think, for example, that the country would have been better off if Rudy Giuliani hadn't won in New York? Will New Jersey be better off if we force a movement conservative to lose what may be a very winnable governorship in 2010?

I don't think anything could have been done to save Specter specifically. If Toomey or some other conservative had not run, Pennsylvania Republicans were so fed up they would have stayed home on election day anyway, and Specter was never going to go gracefully into the night. But the way we handle his exit may determine what happens to people like Snowe, Ridge, and the rest of the moderate crew. And sadly, we need them in order to remain meaningful as a party.

One last note. This thing might have a couple of silver linings. The Democratic party has been moving leftward over the past 8 years because they were able to be a crazy opposition with little responsibility to make things happen. Even after the election, they could afford to ignore the Blue Dogs and claim that their legislation was failing because of Republican opposition. Now, with 60 votes in the Senate, they will have to keep the Blue Dogs happy in order to govern. If the net effect is to shift the caucus back a little closer to the center and away from the brink, it may be worth it after all.

Silver lining number two is that I see little reason for aspiring Democrats to lie down for a former Republican who, to be completely crass about it, may not live through his next term, and has a tenuous grip on his seat at the best of times. If there is a bruising primary fight on their side, we may still regain the seat in 2010 with a more reliable Senator.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

John Wayne Is Dead

Behold, the "Axe Detailer Shower Tool". It's a loofah dude. Throwing plastic on it and pretending it's designed to wax a car or something doesn't change that. Man up and admit you're using a girly product. At least there's some dignity in admitting to a wuss move. There's no dignity in being a wuss while lying to yourself about it. It just makes you a pathetic wuss.

**In the interest of full disclosure, I use a loofah and shower gel. I told Shannon she could pick out what soap I used, and I stick to my promises.**

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Posted Just Because

This is from C.S. Lewis' book, The Four Loves:

"...the higher and domesticated animal is, so to speak, a 'bridge' between us and the rest of nature. We all at times feel somewhat painfully our human isolation from the subhuman world--the atrophy of instinct which our intelligence entails, our excessive self-consciousness, the innumerable complexities of our situation, our inability to live in the present. If only we could shuffle it all off! We must not--and incidentally we can't--become beasts. But we can be with a beast. It is personal enough to give the word with a real meaning; yet it remains very largely a little bundle of biological impulses. It has three legs in nature's world, and one in ours. It is a link, an ambassador. Who would not wish, as Bosanquet put it, 'to have a representative at the court of Pan'? Man with dog closes a gap in the universe."

Monday, April 27, 2009

Moral Ecology

This post seems to tie rather nicely into my last question.

Miss California And Christian Witness

Too much has already been said about Miss California, Carrie Prejean, and her controversy with Perez Hilton. Given the legendary profundity of her opponent, I'm sure Miss Prejean is more than capable of handling that controversy herself. Besides, so much has been said about so little, that there really isn't more original commentary I could deliver. So, as far as it goes, I'll just say good job by her for sticking up for her Christian values in a polite and respectful way during her answer.

On to a more interesting topic. Does anyone find it at all troubling, or at least interesting, that such a conservative Christian woman, currently attending a Bible college, was in the Miss America pageant in the first place? I ask because I imagine that a decade or two ago, there would have been at least some notice taken of a very conservative Christian girl parading around a pageant stage like this?

It's not an isolated incident. Much has been made of the fact that Evangeline Lilly, the comely Kate Austen on the show Lost, was raised in a devout Evangelical family, and even spent some time as a missionary in the Philippines. She has also appeared in some "spicier" photo shoots in magazines like Maxim (a magazine once described to me as "porn for guys without the guts to go buy porn). Now admittedly, she has stated that she would never appear nude or in sex scenes that go beyond a certain level of gratuity, but it still seems an odd standard for a Christian woman to take. Either modesty counts or it doesn't.

My goal here isn't to critique either of these women for the decisions they've made. I don't know their reasons, their relationship with God, or any of the other information I'd need to do so. What I'm curious about is why other Christians don't even seem to take notice. Have we entirely lost our sense of modesty in a sex-drenched society? Do Christian women not understand the fact that we men need them to help us out a little when it comes to controlling our desires? And, more importantly, if one assumes that such compromises to modesty are required for an attractive woman to advance in the entertainment industry, is the potential to have a Christian in a high-profile spot where they can articulate Christian values to a secular culture worth such a level of compromise?

Ok, so maybe I spoke too soon about there being no more room for original commentary.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Real Question Concerning the Miss America Pageant

Why is a gay man judging a beauty pageant in the first place? Isn't that like me being asked to judge a Chippendale's dance-off?

Susan Boyle

By now, everyone has seen Susan Boyle's performance on Britain's Got Talent. If you haven't, here it is. Unlike most everyone else, I don't really see much of a deeper meaning in it. She's had a rough life, and had she sung badly, or even done an average job, her life would be a little rougher. She'd be one of those many unfortunate souls we all (justifiably in my book) love to mock during the opening episodes of American Idol (or, I would assume BGT for those in the UK). She did sing well, so instead she is an inspiration who challenges us to follow our dreams, no matter how unlikely they are. Ok, fine. Just remember that for every Susan Boyle, there are 50 talentless morons who think they are the next Carrie Underwood. That's how life works. We use the words "average" and "exceptional" for a reason. Most people are average, and for every exceptionally good person, there's a naughty end of the bell curve too.

I did have one thought, however. While not profound, I find it mildly entertaining. Most professional singers, especially those of the female variety, are impossibly pretty. Unless there is some correlation between above-average physical appearance and above-average vocal talents (and singers worldwide prior to the advent of the music video would argue against such a conclusion), this is obviously a marketing strategy. You want to squeeze every bit of advantage you can out of each investment, so why dump money into the ugly girl if you can instead invest in an up-and-coming Taylor Swift? Her songs may all be about matters of vital importance only to 15 year-old girls, but some percentage of guys will come along for the ride just because of her looks.

Ok, none of that is really earth-shattering info. But, here's the rub. What happens if Susan Boyle becomes a financial success as well as a Youtube sensation? Being a "common man" can translate into marketing success if you hit the right chord (see Ricky Hatton's ticket sales as proof). Since marketing types tend to follow the crowd, isn't it possible that a financially successful Susan Boyle will cause other record labels to look for their own common man? I think it would be kind of fun to see the hotties frozen out in favor of the notties for a while. Although honestly, I think sex is a far more powerful force in our world than human kindness, so I wouldn't hold my breath.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Dog Swims 6 Miles With Sharks

Meanwhile, mine won't go in water deeper than his chest...

Somali Pirates

Is it just me, or is the US military getting more forceful with acts of piracy off of the African coast? I don't know whether this is due to an explicit directive from the president, or if he's simply let it be known that he'll back the decisions of the naval commanders in the area, but either way, good job President Obama! It may not rid the area of pirates, but a cost-benefit analysis that involves potentially getting personal attention from a SEAL team just might convince a few more Somalis to take up farming.

Monday, April 13, 2009


I just watched a TV fight scene in which an armored man (complete with visored helmet) was punched in the face by another man with bare knuckles. The armored man went down like a sack of bricks, while his attacker (a normal TV tough guy, not even the star of the show) continued completely unfazed.

Now, I can imagine that a metal helmet, if not fitted properly, could conceivably do a lot of damage to a wearer from a punch that forced it back into the owner's face. But, anyone who has ever landed a blow to someone's face knows that, even with padding, it isn't fun for the guy landing the punch either. With all the time and money shows spend on consultants, stunt coordinators, and effects, you'd think they would have at least one guy who'd say, "What? With his bare fist? Come on guys."

Sorry, just had to get that off of my chest.

Sadly Appropriate

Sometimes the truest satire is the least funny.

Wait, What?

Last Thursday the Washington Post contained this paean to the triumph of the Obamessiah and his Attorney General over the incompetence of the Bush reign of terror. The article is all about how Attorney General Holder is going to "remove the taint of politics" from the office's hiring practices. As one of his first moves towards that goal, he appointed Mary Patrice Brown, a career prosecutor, to head the Office of Professional Responsibility. Given the laudatory tone of the article, the loaded criticisms of the department under President Bush, and the fact that the subtitle is, "Personnel Moves Opt for Experience Over Political Ties", one would think that the previous head was a monkey with a degree from New Delhi Community College and an automatic deposit to the RNC every month. So imagine my surprise at the fact that rather than firing the old office-holder, the AG is keeping him on as head of the executive office of US attorneys. A little more research turned up the fact that the previous officeholder, H. Marshall Jarrett, was a Clinton appointee, and a former assistant US attorney with over 20 years of experience in the department. How did Bush ever get away with appointing such political hacks!

As for the appointment of Jarrett to this new office, it is meant to shake up the US attorneys, indicating that there is a "new sheriff in town", again according to the article. So, who is this new sheriff replacing? Kenneth E Melson, "a career prosecutor in Alexandria for nearly 25 years", who also happens to be a former Chair for the Council of Scientific Society Presidents, a Board Member for the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board, a former President of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, and a member of its Ethics Committee, who graduated with honors from George Washington Law school, where he currently serves as a professor. Oh, and Holder is making him head of the ATF. Who was he replacing? Michael Sullivan, a Bush appointee who was blocked from confirmation by REPUBLICAN senators and the NRA because they felt he was hostile to small gun dealers.

So, would someone please tell me, where is the big Holder shakeup/change in direction from the Bush years? He seems to be shuffling the career Justice Department employees around, making few serious changes, and yet the article could as easily be a campaign press release. Heck, a press release would probably be less effusive, because no one would take it seriously otherwise.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

A Prediction

I can't say that it's a terribly profound one, but I'll make it anyway. Assuming Barack Obama doesn't make any dramatic changes to the way he handles foreign policy (i.e. speak apologetically and lament that the US has a big stick, as he has done on his magical mystery tour of Europe), I think we'll see two things. First of all, I think we will see a dramatic improvement in public opinion polling about America. Secondly, I think that in terms of substantive policy, we'll see very little change. Europe will commit as few troops as possible to any endeavor, no matter how abject we are at the UN, bad actors like North Korea will continue to pursue nuclear technology (They may sign a treaty or two in exchange for aid, but remember that they signed a treaty with Bill Clinton too. How long did that last?), and Muslim countries worldwide will continue to tolerate the violent and oppressive forms of Salafism and Wahabism practiced by people like Bin Laden while continuing their persecution of religious minorities. Don't expect "secular" Turkey to stop harassing the Ecumenical Patriarch any time soon! In short, I think Obama will conclusively prove just how valuable "world opinion" is.

Any Obama fans care to place a wager on my predictions?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Norm Coleman

He's been out-hustled from the start, and the latest results in his legal battle make it almost impossible to see how he can pull out a win. He's always seemed like a decent guy, whereas Al Franken will be a disgrace to the US Senate, so it hurts me to say this, but I think Coleman needs to hang up the gloves. He's still got a chance to leave with his dignity intact, and possibly make a comeback later on down the road. Extending the fight at this point can only hurt his future.

Obama's Turkey Speech

I can't muster more than an "eh". How is it any different than the 10 million speeches George Bush gave using the exact same rhetoric? Oh...right...Barack Obama has a funny middle name.

As for the issue of the Armenian genocide, I love the fact that the AP writer characterizes Obama as having "stood by" his assertion that what happened to the Armenians was, in fact, a genocide, simply because he refused to take it back when asked about it at a press conference. Let's look at exactly what he said on the campaign trail. "America deserves a leader who speaks truthfully about the Armenian Genocide and responds forcefully to all genocides. I intend to be that President." Oh yeah, that's exactly the same as carefully avoiding explicit references in your speech (he talked about countries having problems in their pasts that must be dealt with, but his only specific example was American and its treatment of blacks), and only dealing with it indirectly when asked at a press conference. Couldn't this just as easily (and more accurately) have been described as Obama "backing off" from his previously agressive statements on the topic?

**For the record, I'm agnostic on the Armenian genocide. I simply don't know enough about that facet of Turkey's history to comment intelligently, nor do I think an explicit acknowledgement of it today by the Turkish government would actually cause anything meaningful to occur in terms of policy.

***One more point that annoys me. Can we PLEASE stop referring to the Muslim world? If I was Muslim, that term would annoy the heck out of me. The idea infers that Muslim countries can be treated as some monolithic block. I'm familiar with the concept of the Ummah and all of that, but does anyone really think that Turkey, Indonesia, and the Sudan are similar enough for politicians to get away with the phrase?

Shed A Tear For The Concept of Normalcy

A mother wants to save her dead son's sperm, in order to someday create the grandchildren he always wanted. Two thoughts. 1. Most screwed-up kids ever? 2. If your son dies in a bar fight, are you sure those are genes you really want to live on?

Friday, April 3, 2009

The View From Inside A Black Hole

Scientists with too much time on their hands have created a video of what they believe it would look like to fall into a black hole. You know, if you were to ignore the crushingly horrible instant death part.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


and I repeat yet again, CRUD! None of these actors has been remotely funny in years. Good choice guys.

Porn In Colleges

UC Davis, that noble institution of higher learning, will be showing a porno in one of it's lecture halls. There's probably an interesting object lesson in comparing the concern you'll see on college campuses for not offending some groups (see the previous post), with their absolute delight in flaunting their disregard for the standards of other groups. "You'd better not use a word I consider offensive!" shouts the college student as he heads to his campus-sponsored hardcore pornographic movie viewing (right after he gets his mandatory freshman lecture sexual harassment, of course). No mixed messages in any of it, though.

Personally, I've always just assumed that the left is so obsessed with sex primarily because they aren't getting any. (Or perhaps, those that are aren't doing it right.) It reminds me of that guy in high school/college who always bragged about how he was beating women off with a stick precisely because he couldn't actually get a girl's number if he paid for it.

Language Is A Fluid Thing

Students at Chapman are campaigning to end the use of the word "retard" in everyday speech. There's also a campaign to stop using "gay" as a derogatory term (as in "That's so gay").

It's all fine and good to want to stop using mean-spirited language, but I think people need to understand that this is nothing more than a gesture. The word "retarded" may have a negative connotation now, but in the past, it was the enlightened word. Terms like "idiot" used to be commonplace, and "retarded" became the coin of the realm among people who wanted a gentler word to replace it.

This isn't the first time a similar shift has taken place. What does NAACP stand for? National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The only person who I've heard use the term "colored" in the last decade was my ninety year-old grandmother. Coming out of my mouth, it would sound either off-putting or downright rude. Same with Negro, although when the United Negro College Fund was founded, it was obviously not. Shift a little further eastward on the globe and you'll encounter the term "Oriental". Not really in vogue much any more is it? And yet, 50 years ago, college professors studying Asia and its cultures were "orientalists". Try calling a Middle-Eastern studies professor that today, and see what happens...

I could go on, but some of the terms that used to be in vogue for various groups are now so inappropriate that I really don't want to recount them here. The point is that you cannot ever ban all of the mean words, because new words will be appropriated and made mean. The meanness is in the people, not the language. Campaigns like this are, at best, misdirected.