Monday, December 31, 2012

Great, Another Kardashian!


 One more baby conceived out of wedlock by two people who will likely move on from each other before said baby makes its appearance in the world.   Alas, Kim and Kanye are expecting a little bundle of publicity joy.

   USA!  USA!  USA!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Hollywood's Lecture on Guns

Whoops.


No Bias Here, WaPost....Move Along

Sloppy analysis here by Chris Cillizza from The Washington Post.  Entitled "As the Fiscal Cliff Looms, Republicans Have No Political Incentive to Make a Deal With Obama".    His evidence? 

"Of the 234 Republicans elected to the House on Nov. 6, just 15 (!) sit in congressional districts that Obama also won that day, according to calculations made by the Cook Political Report’s ace analyst David Wasserman. That’s an infinitesimally small number, particularly when compared with the 63 House Republicans who held seats where Obama had won following the 2010 midterm elections. "

First off, note the (!) exclamation point...."just 15".  Ok, if I do my math, I divide by 234 to get a percentage of Republican House Members who sit in districts won by the President.   I come up with  6.4%.  Which means that 93.6% of Republicans in the House sit in districts that were carried by Mitt Romney.   Well, what percentage of House Democrats sit in districts carried by the President?  Cillizza tries to finesse this one later in the piece by switching from numbers to percentages (presumably he figured his readers wouldn't do the math for him).  "The picture on the Democratic side is less clear. Although 96 percent of House Democrats in the 113th Congress will hold seats Obama won in November".  So there we have it.  The percentage of Democrats sitting in Romney carried districts is EVEN SMALLER than the exclamation point earning figure above.  HOW DOES THIS NOT IMPACT THEIR WILLINGNESS TO COMPROMISE? This is of course, left unsaid.

Trying to pull his weak chestnuts out of the fire, Cillizza then shifts his emphasis to the Senate."fully one-third of the 21 Senate Democrats who will stand for reelection in 2014 represent states that Romney won."  And then, "First, with the exception of a dozen or so Republicans in the House and Maine’s Susan Collins in the Senate, the number of GOP members of the 113th Congress who see cutting a deal with the president — in the fiscal cliff or, frankly, anything else — as politically advantageous is close to zero. Second, while House Democrats are equally de-incentivized to working across the aisle, there is a large-ish group of Senate Democrats who must find ways of showing their bipartisan spirit if they want to win reelection in states that didn’t favor their party — or even come close to doing so — in the 2012 election. "

Which might be important if Democrats didn't control the Senate, and if anyone really considered Senate votes to be where the action is on the fiscal cliff.  It seems pretty obvious that if Boehner and Obama had a deal, Reid could get the votes needed.  But Boehner and Obama couldn't get a deal because BOTH the Republican and the Democratic caucuses did not see any profit in making a deal. 

You wouldn't know that from the headline, or the exclamation points.

2013 Predictions

First, here are my 2012 Predictions:

1.  Mitt Romney will be elected President:  NOPE
2.  Marco Rubio will be elected Vice-President:  NOPE
3.  Republicans will win majorities in both Chambers of Congress as a result of the 2012 Elections: NOPE
4.  The Presidential Election of 2012 will be notable for its ugliness.  Apologists for Mr. Obama will claim the result was a sign of lingering US racism, forgetting of course, 2008. NOPE
5.  My renovation will be completed by the time I write next year's wrapup  YES!
6.  The Dow will break its previous high sometime during the year  NOPE
7.  UVA's Football Team will lose only two games, one of which will be to Va Tech (which will play in the BCS Championship Game) NOPE
8.  Israel will be at war with at least one other nation-state during 2012.  The US will provide logistics and intelligence support, but nothing else. NOPE--technically, their dust up this year was not with a nation state
9.  Scott Brown will lose his Massachusetts Senate Seat--YEP
10.Scott Brown will be Mitt Romney's choice for Attorney General-- NOPE

2 for 10.  Pretty sorry performance.  Now, onto ten for 2013:

1.  Chris Christie will be re-elected in NJ
2.  Republicans will lose the VA Governor's race
3.  UVA's 2012/2013 Basketball Team will make the NCAA Tournament
4.  UVA Football will return to a Bowl Game with 8 wins or more.
5.  The Atlanta Falcons will win the Super Bowl over the Denver Broncos
6.  Barack Obama will be above 58% approval on 12/31/2013
7.  John Boehner will not be the Speaker of the House on 12/31/2013
8.  I will weigh less than 175 lbs on 12/31/2013 (currently 192)
9.  "Lincoln" will win the Best Picture Oscar
10.  Barack Obama will replace 2 members of the Supreme Court

2013 Resolutions

I invite my fellow bloggers to post their own.  First, here are the ones I made last year, and a brief measure of performance.

1.  Eat better.  Low carb, all year. NO
2.  Exercise more.  Even a little bit is better than nothing.  NO
3.  Curse less.  I'm an educated, reasonably articulate man, but I can curse like a Sailor.  It's time to put that away.  NO
4.  Be a "nicer" guy.  I don't think the first thing that comes to people's minds when they think of me is that I'm a "nice guy".  I guess I'm okay with that, as I don't really strive to be seen that way.  In 2012, I think I'd like to be seen as a "nicer guy", at least nicer than 2011.  NO
5.  Be more patient. In all things.  With all people.  YES
6.  Be there more for my family.  In all ways.  NO
7.  Smile more.  NO
8.  Strive to develop a more nuanced sense of humor; value lightness more, sarcasm less.  NO
9.  Work around the house more, in the house less.  NO
10.  Read more books, fewer URL's.  YES

So now, here are my 2013 Resolutions...some will look very familiar

1.  Eat better.  Low carb all year
2.  Take my vitamins and supplements, daily
3.  Exercise more.  Even a little bit is better than nothing.
4.  Curse less.
5.  Be nicer, smile more
6.  Do more professional writing
7.  Be there for my family more---especially for The Kitten
8.  Stop expecting things to happen around the house--do them, take ownership
9.  Breathe.  Count to five.
10.  Be more charitable.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Deduction We Can All Live Without

Did you know there are a few states with no individual income tax? Of course you did. Some states avoid taxes because they're big tourist destinations and generate a lot of revenue from that. Alaska because they have oil revenue. Washington State has a "business and occupation tax" so Microsoft and Boeing pays everybody's tax I guess. Some states even have constitution restrictions on income tax. And then, there are states like mine that tax the living hell out of their citizens.

But one benefit in states like mine is we get a deduction for our states taxes on our federal returns. Now think about this. If citizen x in a high tax state pays 10k in state (and local) tax, and that is deducted from their federal tax liability, then folks in low or no tax states have to pay more and are thereby subsidizing state governments in high tax states.

National Review did a study on the elimination of this tax and found it would increase federal revenues $800 billion over ten years. Not enough money to get us out of trouble but hey, it's a start. Low income folks would pay less than 100 bucks more but the 250k and over bunch would pay over 5k more. But there's a problem. According to the NY Times "The seven states that account for 90 percent of state and local tax deductions (including sales and property taxes) —(are) New York, New Jersey, California, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Illinois and Massachusetts." Hmmmm? The deduction, according to the Times is a way for Washington to support the states that do the most to support their "most vulnerable citizens and neediest cities." Neediest cities? I'm not quite sure what that means but it sounds very Detroit-ish.

I would love to see the elimination of this deduction because it requires rich liberals to put their money where their mouth is. They voted Democrat time and again. They supported this crazy profligate spending time and again. Now it's time to pay up.

So do I think it will happen? HELL NO!


Friday, December 28, 2012

Ahem...it appears a certain Blogger has fallen down on the job...so here it is, BFFFFA!

Let's see, how does it go?  Something about getting things off one's chest.  Pick a current event and ask if the circumstance has you feeling cheated, wronged, etc (e.g. "What's wrong? Did your Meet the Press show-and-tell prop get you in trouble with the authorities?).  Then add some directive comments:  "C'mon people, emote! Let loose right here on BFFFFA!...or words to that effect. 

Oh, that's right, the most important item: insert picture of an unfortunate corpulent person to make some of us feel better about our own lack of self-discipline (or "glandular problem").

Detroit unveils it's latest innovation: Driver-equipped air bags

Thursday, December 27, 2012

IF HIGH CAPACITY MAGAZINES ARE OUTLAWED THEN ONLY OUTLAWS WILL HAVE HIGH CAPACITY MAGAZINES

Liberal host of Meet the Press and gun outlaw, David Gregory, is in hot water with law enforcement officials in our nation's capital for his blatant disregard of DC's common sense gun laws regarding possession of high capacity magazines. These laws, designed to protect our children, make it a crime to possess high capacity magazines whether attached to a gun or not. Flaunting his stature as a 1st Amendment-cloaked political talk show host, Mr. Gregory, in his attempt to show NRA Executive VP, Wayne LaPierre, whose Amendment cloak was stronger, held up an actual illegal (in DC) high capacity ammunition clip as he attempted to show how Mr LaPierre and his 3.4 million radical NRA members were putting children at risk by resisting legislation that would make possession of these magazines a federal crime.

Alleged criminal in the act of committing a gun crime.
Mr. Gregory could not have illustrated the folly of his argument any better:

- Did Mr. Gregory have any intent to do harm with his detached empty magazine (other than to the case of those who seek to protect the Second Amendment)? No.

 - Did Mr. Gregory's magazine, a piece of sheet metal enveloping a spring and folded and planished into a banana-shaped curve, pose any danger (besides a mass emotional meltdown of the membership of Code Pink and other liberal groups) to any human anywhere on the planet? No.

- Should Mr. Gregory, who has no past criminal record, be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law? Absolutely.

And that is the point. If it is the law of the land, then in our society, where rule of law presides, the law must be obeyed, no matter how ludicrous or ineffective or misguided the law may be. Until such legislation is rescinded, either by elected legislators (the ideal choice) or by judicial review (the more common modern day choice), then the law should be enforced. And THAT is why I, and lots of other American citizens, who have never knowingly violated a single gun law in the US, resist even more such laws. More laws are not the answer to this issue (or for that matter, MOST issues in a free society). Stronger enforcement of the laws we already have is. Every felon arrested in possession of a firearm should go directly to prison, do not pass go, do not get bail, etc, instead of walking the streets while out on bail and being paid to go to the polls in November. The mentally ill pose a much more difficult challenge to be sure, but it is most certainly in need of serious societal review and debate first and foremost before adding still more legislation that would put Mr. Gregory and his gun outlaw ilk at even greater risk of going to prison with no criminal intent.

And I'll bet ever-so-wise Mr. Gregory and his producers still don't see the irony in their predicament.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

On "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"

Many an hour of my pre-teen/teen life was spent with the Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien.  I devoured those books; I wrote little messages in Elvish, I created visions of the characters and creatures, and I generally longed for a film adaptation of the books.

For some reason, I skipped over The Hobbit entirely.  Perhaps it was its billing as a "children's book", which for me--a young man frustrated by childhood--was the kiss of death.  Perhaps it was the Rankin and Bass animated version of the book, which I found to be substandard, and which came out during the prime years in which I was reading the LOTR series for the first time.  But the sad truth is that I only read the Hobbit all the way through for the first time about two years ago.  I found it to be much as I thought it would be--of interest, but of much less interest than the LOTR series.  The story moves along at a good clip (in the book), something that can't always be said for the longer volumes of LOTR.  But it just isn't as good of a story. Furthermore,  Dwarfs are among the least interesting characters Tolkien introduced us to, paling in comparison to Elves (for instance), or the Uruk-hai. 

Which brings us to Peter Jackson's long awaited rendering of The Hobbit for the bigscreen, the first of three of which (An Unexpected Journey) I went to see today.  My bottom line?  Good, not great.   Lots to unpack here, so if you aren't a Tolkien geek, you may want to go elsewhere.

First of all, it would be almost impossible for The Hobbit NOT to suffer by comparison to the Lord of the Rings trilogy as made by Jackson.  In my view, these are among the finest films ever made.  Technically perfect, wonderfully acted, true-enough to the story, and loaded with heroism and derring do, I remember the sense of anticipation I had as I waited for the first (The Fellowship of the Ring) to come out in December 2001, and I remember being crestfallen at its conclusion, wondering how I would pass the next year waiting for "The Two Towers".  When "The Return of the King concluded, I may even have had tears in my eyes--not from the storyline, but from a sense of finally having grasped something of real perfection. 

It is now eleven years after my trip to the theater so see the first installment of the Lord of the Rings.  The series won a ton of Oscars, and is universally regarded as great film-making.  I have since then, re-watched the movies several times over.  I have even re-read the books.

And so I come to The Hobbit a bit biased--by my past, and by Jackson's past.  He had a huge bar to clear for me, and he didn't do it.  Not that the Hobbit isn't good--it is.  It simply isn't great, or even near great.

First of all, there simply isn't as much "story" to work with.  Three long movies is a movie and a half too many to capture the storyline of the Hobbit, even as three movies were one movie too few to get all the great parts of the LOTR books onto the screen.  I will of course, go to watch the next two installments as they are released--out of curiosity, out of wanting to see good movies, and out of a sense of respect and awe for what Jackson can accomplish on screen.  I will not do so because I feel somehow drawn or compelled, as I was with the earlier movies.

Secondly, let's face it.  Dwarfs are kind of boring.  I was SO relieved when Thorin's band wound up at Rivendell so that I could look at good looking creatures with gravitas.  Elves--simply put--are bad asses.  These Dwarfs though are a far cry from the relatively immobile and quite rotund "Gimli" from The Fellowship, exhibiting great athletic skill and nimble feet.

Thirdly--Jackson has taken a bit of a "George Lucas" turn on us in this first installment, in that some of the characters (trolls and goblins) get remade into cockney dwarf rats, adding a comicality (and immaturity) to creatures which were heretofore simply only to be feared. Additionally, one of Gandalf's order (Radogast the Brown) appears to have a great load of birdshit streaming down the side of his head, something I simply wasn't able to take my eyes off of.   In his defense, Jackson has the books to fall back upon--which were indeed aimed at a younger audience.  

Finally, we're back to Gandalf the Grey--before his "resurrection" after the battle with the Balrog.  He seems less sure of himself, less powerful (because he is) and much more in need of a good bath and change of robes.

What's good about The Hobbit?  Well, mostly everything.  If you don't have the biases that I have, you're treated to a rollicking good time, with some of the most amazing special effects around.  The movie opens with a familiar Bilbo and Frodo (from the first movies), ostensibly earlier in the day in which their three movies begin.  The fellow playing a young Bilbo is doing a great job so far, and I'm sure I'll grow to like him even more as the movies go on.  And Gandalf is still a wonderful character.  Nothing bad about the Grey Wizard.

My recommendation?  Go see the movie--you won't regret the decision.  But try and keep your expectations packaged up and filed among great memories of years gone by. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Christmas to All, Old School

Old Testament Prophecy of Jesus' Birth: Isaiah 7:14 and Isaiah 9:6
"Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel."
"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace."
Birth of Jesus by Botticelli

The Angel Gabriel Speaks to Mary: Luke 1:26-38
"And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee , named Nazareth , to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.
And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favor with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible.
And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her."

An Angel Speaks to Joseph in a Dream: Mat. 1:18-25
"Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily.
But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.
Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS."

The Birth of the Baby Jesus: Luke 2:1-7
"And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria .) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth , into Judaea, unto the city of David , which is called Bethlehem ; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

The Shepherds Receive Heavenly Visitors: Luke 8-20
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
15And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them."

Wise Men Come to Bethlehem Bearing Gifts: Matthew 2:1-13
"Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem , Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem , in the land of Juda , art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel .
Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem , and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.
When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.
And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way. And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt , and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him."
I'm ending the King James Christmas story quotes now. If you want to find out what happened next to Joseph, Mary, and the Baby Jesus, turn to Matthew, chapter 1, verses 14-23.
For those of us who follow Jesus, the biblical Christmas story isn't just a historical event. It's a story that beacons to us-just as it did to the shepherds and the wise men-to go and find Jesus. He's waiting for you to call his name. Do that, and you will experience the truth of the Christmas story.

Source: King James Version of the Bible, (Philadelphia: National Publishing Company. 1978).

Gone But Not Forgotten

It's was Stalin's birthday a couple of days ago. I'm afraid I missed it in all the holiday hubbub. He was born 133 years ago. You know a lot of people think he was Russian, not true. He was Georgian (Soviet Georgia not Gone With the Wind Georgia). He lived by the rule "no man, no problem". Conservative estimates of Stalin's mass killings come in around 6-8 million. But if you add in the Ukrainian forced famine, the Great Purge (who needs those old Bolsheviks anyway?) the German POWs worked to death in the gulags, the Eastern Europeans murdered in NKVD massacres; well, the numbers really improve (upwards of 20 million). To show you what a cut-up Uncle Joe was, he got toasty one night at a party and the old lady started talking shit, as they tend to do in situations like this. So he went home and strangled her. What a cad! Hey, she shoulda seen it coming OK? It's not like she's married to Jozef the Plumber. Anyway, by my estimates he's responsible for about 200k death per year of his life. Guys, those are Hall of Fame numbers.

So, a tip of the hat and a Happy Birthday to Uncle Joe Stalin. You are missed, but our loss is Satan's gain.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Annual Christmas Party Horror

As many of you know, I am "Mr. Christmas".  I love everything about the season.  In college, my decorations went up the day after Halloween.  I am obsessed with Christmas music.  I love the smell of Christmas candles.  You get the picture.

Most years, I hold a Christmas Party, though I haven't had one for four years. We came close last year, but the renovation wasn't completely done, and so the Kitten put the kibosh on the idea.  The two previous years, the house was being renovated, or was in need of renovation.

The last party I had was in my Crystal City apartment in 2009.  I gave up the apartment soon after, but it was a typical, city-fied party in a decent sized apartment.  Good bartenders, finger food, lamely decorated apartment.  Everyone had fun.  Most people were return attendees.

This year's party was different.  Since "my" people and "the Kitten's" people were coming, my style of party was clearly not in the cards.  Whereas I would take the nice shrimp wheel from Harris Teeter and lay it down on the table (minus its clear plastic cover), Talbot County standard dictated its being laid out on an appropriate serving platter. This approach conveyed throughout all aspects of the party.

The result?  Magnificence.  The Kitten worked her ass off and decorated our house beautifully.  I handled the alcohol, the caterer and the parking guy.

Only problem was, my physiology decided to get in the way.  I awoke yesterday and began to distribute bodily waste through all available exits.  At 1130, after a trip to the Acme and a parking lot vomit, I came home and told the Kitten I was going to bed for two hours.  The party started at 3, so that meant I was stiffing her in the home-stretch.  Not my best moment.

Our party was 3-7; I made it until 5pm.  I said goodbye to a few good friends and family members, then went up to bed--yes, once again stiffing the Kitten.

I awoke today at noon, weakened and dehydrated, but generally better.

For those of you who came and either didn't see me or saw me walking around like something from a Stephen King novel, I am sorry.  I hope you enjoyed yourselves.

The Kitten?  She outdid herself.  She never wanted to have the party in the first place, but she did it for me.  And I took a knee.

Hopefully a better performance next year.

Friday, December 21, 2012

All We Need is Hate

As any good amateur cultural anthropologist knows we are all tribalists. Given our heads we will divid ourselves into overlapping clans, groups, sub-groups and bands. It just our nature. We all want to fit in, to get along, have group protection etc. CW belongs to the "ex-Navy" clan, the "UVA" clan, the "owns an up-scale European car and you don't" clan and the "short guys who buys their suits at Joesph A. Bank" clan. Some groups are more cohesive than others. Some have a real, formal structure and some don't. Some offer tangible benefits some don't.  I doubt I could walk out of a cigar store and ask a fellow patron whom I had never met to loan me twenty bucks because we both like Cohibas, but if we were both Freemasons and I had good reason, maybe so.

But we can be defined by what we aren't (or don't want to be) as much as by what we are (or want to be). The Democrats have done an amazing job of bringing all sorts of groups into the "Against Hate" tribe. Of course there are all kinds of sets and subsets of this group, and they can be redefined, repositioned and re-prioritized at will. For example let's say the high priests of the clan "Against Hate" wants to promote gun confiscation. Now you may have members of "Against Hate" who aren't that keen on the idea, but do care about racism (a subset of "Against Hate"). So you redefine gun-control as racist: e.g. Chicago Police Commissioner Garry McCarthy "Federal laws...facilitate the flow of illegal firearms into our urban centers...that are killing our brown and black children." So, if you're against racism then you must be against guns. And the beauty of it is, this shell game can be played with just about any issue from taxes to abortion, you name it. The effect is if you oppose Democratic policies you are not a member of "Against Hate" therefore you must be a member of "For Hate", which is usually designated as "Republicans" with all their subsets like the Tea Party, the NRA, white males (subset rednecks), fatty foods, fossil fuels etc.

Now you may can see through all this nonsense, but this is the age of the "low information" voter. This is just marketing to and motivating consumers to buy, as any good advertiser would do with any product be it toothpaste or cars or erectile dysfunction drugs (not that I would know anything about those). They don't sell Budweiser as the beer of overweight lumps farting in their Lazy Boy, they sell it as the drink of choice for young guys chatting up hotties in a single's bar. They sell to our aspirations first, our prejudices second. Ronald Reagan positioned the Republican Party as the "Americans for the American Way" clan and the Democratic Party as the party of special interests against the "American Way".  Race-hustlers, radical feminists, appeasers and peaceniks were all subsets of the Democratic Party; and against "Americans for the American Way" whatever party you identified with.

Conservatives better get busy cracking this nut rather than bending over backwards individually with this "I'm a different kind of Republican" rubbish. If you're in the tribe you're in the tribe, so either redefine perceptions or the Democrats will be right when they say the Republican "brand" is dead.



         

Two Random Thoughts

I'm supposed to be helping the Kitten prepare for our Christmas Party tomorrow (sorry if you weren't invited, must have been an oversight), but two things are on my mind and worth sharing:

1.  Increasing unmarriedness of American society.  Read this article last night--about the rise of unmarried America.  It begins to become clear to me that the more "single" America becomes, the less responsibility its citizens feel to future generations, and the more they feel that government owes them something in the here and now.  This is not a good trend for our country.

2.  I keep coming back to this abortion/gun control nexus.  In 1973, the Supreme Court pulled off one of the most tortured, contrived, and irresponsible decisions in its history, to wit Rowe v. Wade.  In it, the justices found that a woman had a constitutional right to an abortion though the practice and thought never occurred to the founders.  Instead, they found the "right" within the "penumbra" of the right to privacy.  So be it.  But with guns, the founders were EXPLICIT.  There really is no serious debate, and the Supreme Court has time and again upheld this explicit, individual right.  So why is it that the left--who hold up the fragile, tenuous, ridiculously argued and constitutionally specious "right" to an abortion--cannot seem to get its collective mind around the far more explicit right to bear arms? 

Obama Takes Us Cliff Diving

Well, if there were ever a doubt what the President's political strategy was in the "fiscal cliff" deliberations, there can be no more.  His strategy boils down to this:  1) Maximize new revenue from increased tax rates 2) minimize spending cuts 3) minimize any structural changes to entitlements and 4) create as much political trouble for the Republican Party as possible.  Anyone who believes the President was negotiating in good faith simply hasn't followed the story, and they are simply not capable of being convinced.

Read this story from this morning's Washington Post on how things unraveled last night.  It really is quite evident the extent to which the President held the whip hand, and how far Boehner was going to get a deal.  The Problem was, Obama isn't interested in a deal.  At least not one in which his opponent survives to fight another day.

Barack Obama has seized this moment to exact as much political damage as he can upon the Republican Party.  He can do this for several reasons: 1) he is in a good position 2) he does not mind going over the cliff at all--it provides him with a ton of revenue, significant debt reduction and serious defense spending decreases--what's not for a Democrat to love and 3) he knows that if he waits long enough, he'll get what he wants.

I have to hand it to President Obama--he is playing a strong hand flawlessly.  He will achieve his political goals here, but it will be a Pyrrhic Victory.  The country will suffer as a result of the President's inability/unwillingness to deal with structural holes in long term entitlement spending.  He will no longer be in office when this harvest is reaped. 

And don't come at me with these "Boehner's caucus is a bunch of right wing loonies who he can't even control".  Plan B failed because it asked people who are ideologically disposed to vote against tax increases to increase taxes without ANY SPENDING CUTS from the President.  This is on the President--had Boehner gotten ANYTHING on spending cuts, he could have gone to his caucus and made a case. Read the article posted above--his adversary at the negotiating table gave him nothing. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

On Newtown

In a conversation this morning with my brother Sean, he he noted correctly my silence thus far on the tragic events of last week in Newtown, CT.  Like the rest of America, I was deeply saddened and then enraged at the senseless killings.  Words have not suggested themselves until now, largely because I had not thought through the horror.  After some deliberation, I have a few thoughts--some directly connected to the murders and some that suggest themselves as a result of the discourse raging in the media these days.  Much thinking remains, and I have more questions now than answers. 

First, I remain far less enamored than most conservatives of the Second Amendment as currently written.  I have written here before that the presence of so many guns in our society--both legally and illegally owned--is problematic and directly contributes to the culture of violence from which events like Newtown are spawned.  I depart from the vitriol of the moment by saying that there really is one and only one answer to this, and that is to change the Constitution. Our Founders gave us this magnificent document with enshrined liberties codified in the Bill of Rights, and they gave us methods of amending it.  I am amused by the propensity of some who would cry from the highest mountaintops "freedom of the Press" when national security secrets are leaked, but who look at the protection given to those who would own guns by the same document as being somehow less legitimate. 

There was no shortage of serious gun control laws on the Connecticut books--yet this tragedy still occurred.  Banning guns--besides being unconstitutional, seems unlikely to do anything but remove guns from the law-abiding.  But--there HAS to be more that we can do that can make 1) the number of guns in circulation decline and 2) make it more difficult for those that are in circulation to be used in violent crimes.  Three ideas suggest themselves.

First--why not tax guns and bullets, heavily?  What you tax, you seek to discourage, and I seek to discourage the proliferation of guns.  I support the individual right to keep and bear arms, and I do not consider taxation to be an "abridgement".

Or maybe--as a formerly conservative now totally gone squishy left-of-center buddy of mine has suggested--we should require that every gun purchased be covered by a liability insurance policy, one that could provide compensation to victims of crimes aided and abetted by the gun.

Perhaps we could have the same checks we use for the purchase of firearms applied to the purchase of ammunition?

"But CW, all you are doing is punishing the law-abiding.  Criminals would neither pay the tax nor the insurance premium."  Yes.  I understand that.  But I continue to believe that the presence of guns in the hands of criminals is DIRECTLY RELATED to the presence of guns in the hands of the law-abiding.  Fewer guns owned by the law-abiding WOULD EVENTUALLY mean fewer owned by criminals.  Wouldn't happen overnight, and of course, there would be situations like Chicago--in which the law abiding have trouble owning weapons but criminals don't--but Chicago's would be less likely if these policies were implemented nationally. 

Let's talk now about hypocrisy, shall we?  I love seeing the Hollywood elite come out of their chalets to decry the violence of Newtown and demonizing the NRA and its members--whilst flooding the culture with movies and other media in which gunplay/murder/and violence are glorified. 

Or, there is the hypocrisy of the liberal elite in its wailing for the murder of 20 children in a classroom without a second thought for the 3000 children killed in utero every day.  Not the same thing, I understand.  But not different enough to be dismissed, the "innocence" of the victim being well established in each case.

Finally, there is the discussion of guns in schools, which is one that causes even reasonable liberals' heads to explode.  Would the presence of an openly armed guard have dissuaded Mr. Lanza from his crimes?  Would an armed guard have been able to save the lives of ANY of the people killed in this instance or in other school shootings?  Would a teacher or administrator with a concealed carry permit have been able to mitigate this tragedy?  The inability of the left to calmly and rationally discuss these issues is one that I find incredibly frustrating.  We make laws that designate areas as "no gun zones" and then expect murderers to follow these laws. 

As for the demonization of the NRA....I don't think conservatives are on the right side of this one.  Let's look at the NRA's "liberal" counterpart, the ACLU.  Conservatives LOVE to demonize the ACLU for doing essentially the same thing as the NRA does--and that is, advocating for constitutionally protected individual rights.  Time for conservatives and the NRA to put on their "big boy pants" on the abuse.  That said, it is notable that the ACLU -- whose mission is the following:  "The ACLU is our nation's guardian of liberty, working daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country" chooses to ignore the second amendment almost completely. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Let's Ban Schizophrenia

Ok full disclosure, I have an autistic kid. If you know anything about autism you know it's a spectrum disorder that can go from the, I suppose non-sentient (who knows) to the socially awkward, ultra-nerd. My kid is about in the middle. I've been around families with three autistic kids that pretty much screamed day and night so I'm thankful for what we have. My son can do math, read and write (if that's what you want to call it) but he will never hold a job. Left to his own devices he would happily spend his days playing video games (racing games, geography games: NO SHOOTERS!), looking at books, eating Doritos, grapes and Hershey bars (it seems) and harassing daddy to bring him out for a grilled cheese sandwich. He can be very belligerent but is never violent. The worst he'll do is slam doors and stamp his feet. He hates swearing and will demand you stop immediately, loves rock music (Bon Jovi, it's his mother's fault!) and Aquafina water bottles (don't ask).

The reason I bring this up is according to press accounts the shooter in this latest mass murder had Asperger's Syndrome. Now someone with Asperger's is at the top of the spectrum. They are for all intents and purposes normal (my wife hates that word) but just really, really nerdy! I have an Asperger's guy who comes in and does some data entry for me and he's a really sweet kid. But he wants to "hang out" and watch Ironman movies and such. I even watched half of The Avengers with him a couple of weeks ago because it's hard to tell him, well you know. But his parents know he's safe and they're nice folks so I can see Spiderman III in my future. I asked him a while ago how he likes being out of high school. He said he didn't miss school at all and there are probably a lot of people there who were glad to see him go. That's heartbreaking to me. He wants to be sociable, and he's interested in girls (I can tell) but he simply does not know how, and he has the awareness to feel rejection. So in a way my kid is the better off.

Now Asperger's is not exclusive of mental illness. This young man in Connecticut may have slipped into schizophrenia or some other mental pathology. The fact is we are all mad given the right conditions but I think the worst is social isolation. We've all seen the conditions some prisoners of war have endured but if they do it as a group they're usually ok. It's that group support that gets them through. But if you isolate someone, that can be the worst for one's mental health. And I suspect that's what happened to this guy. He had no friends, no future (as he saw it) and slipped deeper and deeper into the abyss. And as Nietzsche said "If you gaze long enough into the abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you."

Have a look at the last few mass killers. In Aurora, Co. the guy was obviously intelligent, he planned the attack, booby-trapped his apartment, and he was crazy as a Junebug. Go down the list from the Unibomber to Columbine to this latest tragedy. Is there any doubt these people would have found a way to kill if guns were not available? Not in my opinion. And the ACLU's de facto denial of essential mental health services for folks who desperately need them, on the grounds that the incompetent mentally ill choose not to receive those services, is, pardon me but insane.

What I'm saying is these are mental health issues not gun issues. I'm not opposed to reasonable regulation of firearms. If States want to require registration, some weapons training, even require gun-safes if one has multiple firearms, then I'm all for it. Now I'm not talking about slow-walking gun permits in places like Chicago or D.C. because the locals don't agree with the 2nd. Amendment. We have a right to own and possess firearms but again reasonable regulation accepted. As a gun owner the last thing I want is the irresponsible use of firearms. I don't want the mentally ill, criminals, felons, the violence prone to have access to firearms. But disarming tax-paying, law abiding America is not the answer.




Friday, December 14, 2012

The Hammer's First Annual Cheerleader Review

As you well know I'm a big proponent of only beautiful, shapely young women being allowed the privilege of representing our colleges and universities as cheerleaders. I have nothing against homely women or skinny women, and I'm not suggesting attractive women are in any way superior apart from their obvious attributes, but I believe cheerleaders are a unique component of American culture which has no equivalent elsewhere in the world. Other sports in other countries have tried to duplicate it, even our professional sports teams have tried, but in the end it all turns into some manner of licentious jumping around before howling drunks more analogous to a strip club than a sporting event. 
And I'm sure you're aware there has been an insidious, subtle subversion of this revered institution taking place behind the scenes these last few years. This is never spoken of. There has been no public debate, no questions or investigations, in fact no acknowledgement that there is even a problem; such is the nature of the politically correct, group-think environment we live in today. Well I for one will not stand for it. I will not acquiesce to some misguided, prudish, expurgated version of the college athletic experience under the guise of "cheerleading is gymnastics therefore a sport unto itself" bulljive. No friends, I stand up for the rights of gorgeous, curvaceous young women not out of some base, lascivious desire but as a celebration of virtuous American beauty that has heretofore set the standard for the world. My task is a lonely one, and I am prepared for a shower of hateful criticism, but I feel strongly about this issue and I will not be dissuaded.

So, let's get started. First let's examine how NOT to do it. I give you first prize for the WORST cheerleaders in the country; the North Carolina State Wolfpack.

Not only is this young women unattractive and flat chested (not that unusual), but her companion is a fat, beer-gutted Sansabelt wearing lump. If I wanted to see fat bastards jumping around I can watch a Jets game. This is appallingly bad and since this is my alma mater it is especially troubling for me.
Now, as you can see, the rest of the ACC ain't much better, apart from (drum roll please)... The Clemson Tigers, who seem to get it. Some are so bad as to be offensive. In fact, I'll venture to say if Mike Nifong had arrested the Duke cheerleaders he'd be Senator today. He would certainly get my vote.






























But the best conference is without doubt the Pac 12. And the best of the best are the USC Trojans.



Rest assured I will continue to stay on top of this issue.

Big Fat Friday Free For All

What's got you down this holiday season, friend?  Worried that the rich aren't paying enough income taxes?  Concerned that your idiotic stances on domestic fossil fuel development might actually impede our recovery? 

Talk through it, friends.  We're here to help.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Let's Push Our Advantage

Ok we lost, but not by much. Obama won 51% with what Brit Hume described as the best "get out the vote" effort in the history of electoral politics. And I agree. Factor in the successful cyber-attack on Romney's "Project Orca",  the 2-3-10%(who knows) in voter fraud, the millions upon millions in free pro-Obama media, the changing national demographics and it's surprising Romney did as well as he did. But we are not without resources.

As the map shows, we have 30 Republican governors and Republican control (according to wikipedia) in at least 27 State legislatures. Now Nebraska is officially non-partisan but we all know it's Republican. And in some of these States you can figure the Democrats have at least veto power over most legislation, plus some States (like mine) the cabinet positions are directly elected, so it's not absolute control. But the point is, the closer we get to the people, the more power we Republicans have.

We need to use that power. We should organize those States and go on the attack. We should vote in the State houses calling for fiscal responsibility by the Federal government. It takes two thirds of the State Legislatures to call for a Constitutional Convention and that's one tool we could use to pressure Congress. The Feds are always threatening the States with withholding funds if they don't enact this or that. That tactic cuts both ways. We should threaten the Federal government as a bloc in areas like highway funds and the like. Threaten to withhold taxes to the Feds. What are they going to do, send in the Army? We should attack in the courts on 10th. Amendment grounds. We should not cooperate with Obamacare mandates. We should be a pain in the ass at every turn!

Furthermor we can do things within our own States. We need to attack the underlying cause of the Democrat majority. They own the media, they own big labor but most importantly they own education. We should no longer tolerate the Stalinist discrimination of conservatives on campus. We pay the bills and there is no way a State university faculty should self-describe 85-90% liberal. This is an outrage and it must change. This intolerable situation ripples through all our society and we have allowed this to go on much too long!

The fact is there is a lot of things we can do and should do. The Democrats didn't get in this position overnight. They had an organized, coordinated long term plan of attack, as should we. So, let's stop worrying about the power we don't have and get to work in leveraging the power we do have. In five or ten years we can make the federal government almost irrelevant, just as the founders envisioned.  Let's make them think they lost the election.  

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Bowl Schedule courtesy of The Hammer

BCS Games
DATE
GAME
LOCATION
TV
TIME
MATCHUP
TICKETS
Jan. 7
BCS Title
Miami, Fla.
ESPN
8:30 p.m.
No. 1 Notre Dame (12-0) vs. No. 2 Alabama (12-1)
Jan. 3
Fiesta
Glendale, Ariz.
ESPN
8:30 p.m.
No. 5 Oregon (11-1) vs. No. 7 Kansas State (11-1)
Jan. 2
Sugar
New Orleans, La.
ESPN
8:30 p.m.
No. 4 Florida (11-1) vs. No. 22 Louisville (10-2)
Jan. 1
Orange
Miami, Fla.
ESPN
8:30 p.m.
Jan. 1
Rose
Pasadena, Calif.
ESPN
5 p.m.
No. 8 Stanford (11-2) vs. Wisconsin (8-5)
Non-BCS Games
Jan. 6
GoDaddy.com
Mobile, Ala.
ESPN
9 p.m.
Jan. 5
BBVA Compass
Birmingham, Ala.
ESPN
1 p.m.
Pittsburgh (6-6) vs. Ole Miss (6-6)
Jan. 4
Cotton
Arlington, Texas
FOX
8 p.m.
Jan. 1
Capital One
Orlando, Fla.
ABC
1 p.m.
No. 6 Georgia (11-2) vs. No. 23 Nebraska (10-3)
Jan. 1
Outback
Tampa, Fla.
ESPN
1 p.m.
Jan. 1
Heart of Dallas
Dallas, Texas
ESPNU
Noon
Purdue (6-6) vs. Oklahoma State (7-5)
Jan. 1
Gator
Jacksonville, Fla.
ESPN2
Noon
Dec. 31
Chick-fil-A
Atlanta, Ga.
ESPN
7:30 p.m.
No. 9 LSU (10-2) vs. No. 14 Clemson (10-2)
Dec. 31
Liberty
Memphis, Tenn.
ESPN
3:30 p.m.
Iowa State (6-6) vs. Tulsa (10-3)
Dec. 31
Sun
El Paso, Texas
CBS
2 p.m.
USC (7-5) vs. Georgia Tech (6-7)
Dec. 31
Music City
Nashville, Tenn.
ESPN
Noon
N.C. State (7-5) vs. Vanderbilt (8-4)
Dec. 29
Buffalo Wild Wings
Tempe, Ariz.
ESPN
10:15 p.m.
TCU (7-5) vs. Michigan State (6-6)
Dec. 29
Alamo
San Antonio, Texas
ESPN
6:45 p.m.
Texas (8-4) vs. No. 15 Oregon State (9-3)
Dec. 29
Kraft Fight Hunger
San Francisco, Calif.
ESPN2
4 p.m.
Navy (7-4) vs. Arizona State (7-5)
Dec. 29
Pinstripe
Bronx, N.Y.
ESPN
3:15 p.m.
West Virginia (7-5) vs. Syracuse (7-5)
Dec. 29
Armed Forces
Fort Worth, Texas
ESPN
11:45 a.m.
Rice (6-6) vs. Air Force (6-6)
Dec. 28
Meineke Car Care
Houston, Texas
ESPN
9 p.m.
Minnesota (6-6) vs. Texas Tech (7-5)
Dec. 28
Russell Athletic
Orlando, Fla.
ESPN
5:30 p.m.
Rutgers (9-3) vs. Virginia Tech (6-6)
Dec. 28
Independence
Shreveport, La.
ESPN
2 p.m.
Ohio (8-4) vs. Louisiana-Monore (8-4)
Dec. 27
Military
Washington D.C.
ESPN
3 p.m.
Dec. 27
Belk
Charlotte, N.C.
ESPN
6:30 p.m.
Cincinnati (9-3) vs. Duke (6-6)
Dec. 27
Holiday
San Diego, Calif.
ESPN
9:45 p.m.
Baylor (7-5) vs. No. 17 UCLA (9-4)
Dec. 26
Little Caesars Pizza
Detroit, Mich.
ESPN
7:30 p.m.
Dec. 24
Hawaii
Honolulu, Hawaii
ESPN
8 p.m.
Fresno State (9-3) vs. SMU (6-6)
Dec. 22
Maaco Las Vegas
Las Vegas, Nev.
ESPN
3:30 p.m.
Boise State (10-2) vs. Washington (7-5)
Dec. 22
New Orleans
New Orleans, La.
ESPN
Noon
Dec. 21
Beef O'Brady's
St. Petersburg, Fla.
ESPN
7:30 p.m.
UCF (9-4) vs. Ball State (9-3)
Dec. 20
Poinsettia
San Diego, Calif.
ESPN
8 p.m.
BYU (7-5) vs. San Diego State (9-3)
Dec. 15
Famous Idaho Potato
Boise, Idaho
ESPN
4:30 p.m.
No. 18 Utah State (10-2) vs. Toledo (9-3)
Dec. 15
New Mexico
Albuquerque, N.M.
ESPN
1 p.m.
Nevada (7-5) vs. Arizona (7-5)





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