Monday, February 20, 2006

Last Post

I got cast. I’m playing Verges in Much Ado About Nothing and Angelo in A Comedy of Errors. Verges is a moron and Angelo is a goldsmith, two good comedic parts.

In my day job I’ve taken on more work. More work and acting are a huge time commitment. I’ve decided to shut down this blog. It was not an easy decision; I had some good posts planned. For the next week or so I will have to force myself to stay away from this blog, otherwise I’ll fall back into the habit and make a liar of myself.

I’ve learned a lot since I began blogging on November 19, 2005. I didn’t realize when I began that I would learn this much by forcing myself to organize my thoughts and write. I thank Blogger for letting me do this for free.

The only problem with blogging is that I found it was taking over my creative life. Every day I felt pressure to “feed the monster” as Vodkapundit puts it. My subconscious was looking for things to blog. Ayn Rand noted in one of her books on writing that her subconscious shut down when she had an appointment that day. A blog is a neverending appointment. I was not getting any playwriting done.

I want to thank everyone who took a few minutes to read Myrhaf every day. I’m sorry for those of you who put me on your blogroll and now you have to take me off. I’ll still be reading your blogs.

This will sound corny but I want to thank anyone reading this who is now or has been in the military service. The men and women in the armed forces are fighting for my freedom to do the things I do, such as act. Our enemy, militant Islam, is a hideous ideology that hates everything good in this world and worships death. It must be destroyed. If our politicians had one tenth of the integrity and rationality of the men and women in the military, then I would feel more secure about our future.

20 Things You Didn't Know About U.S. Presidents

Such as,

15th U.S. president James Buchanan is the only unmarried man ever to be elected president. Buchanan was engaged to be married once; however, his fiancée died suddenly after breaking off the engagement, and he remained a bachelor all his life.

Can you imagine what the loons on the left today would say about any Republican politician whose financee suddenly died after breaking off the engagement?

Bush's Accomplishments

Check out Bill Quick’s list of Bush’s platform.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Free Speech Question

At Gateway Pundit, via Instapundit, we find this photo from a protest in New York:

This sign is Islamist propaganda. Does free speech extend to enemy propaganda in war time? What if a Southerner in New York in 1864 had held a sign reading, “The Confederacy will dominate over evil”? Or a German in 1944 in New York had held a sign reading, “Nazism will dominate over evil”?

Diva Antics

I heard that Mariah Carey won three awards at the Grammys, but lost the biggest ones. After the Grammy show she sulked in her dressing room because she lost best album to U2. Then she went back to her luxury hotel suite and drank so much champaign that supposedly corks could be heard popping every five minutes. Come the dawn she had broken two windows, six light fixtures, two TV’s and a $50,000 chandelier.

Another Mariah story. She was scheduled for a book signing at a Barnes & Noble. The employees told her she could have their break room all to herself for a few hours before the event. She asked them to paint it pink.

Is there something in celebrity that makes some of them, such as Mariah Carey and Michael Jackson, act irresponsibly? Could being surrounded by sycophants detach one from reality?

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Scene Inspired By My Last Visit to Starbucks


Joe is at the speaker in his Buick.

Yeah, I’d like a large vanilla latte.

CLERK (Voice-Over)
Do you mean a venti?

No, I mean a large.

Large is venti.

I want a large.

We don’t have large. We have venti.

Listen. Take your biggest cup and fill it with a vanilla latte.

You want a venti.

No, I want a large.

You have to say venti.

I don’t want to say venti.

Why not?

Because it’s a stupid word, all right? I want one vanilla latte. Large.

A venti vanilla latte.





Venti this, asshole.

Joe shoots the speaker with a .45.

UPDATE: Took out some, but not all of the profanity.


I auditioned today for a local Shakespeare festival. I don’t know how I did. I have not acted in 17 years and there was rust up there on the stage. I started off talking too low and the director had to ask me to project. Not a good sign. They asked other auditioners to stick around, but told me I could go. Not a good sign. Maybe they don’t need a 280-lb. spear carrier.

The audition started off with me reading Iago, a part for which I could not be more ill-suited. Later they asked me to read this speech from Othello, and I think I did okay with it:

O thou foul thief, where hast thou stow'd my daughter?
Damn'd as thou art, thou hast enchanted her;
For I'll refer me to all things of sense,
If she in chains of magic were not bound,
Whether a maid so tender, fair and happy,
So opposite to marriage that she shunned
The wealthy curled darlings of our nation,
Would ever have, to incur a general mock,
Run from her guardage to the sooty bosom
Of such a thing as thou, to fear, not to delight.
Judge me the world, if 'tis not gross in sense
That thou hast practised on her with foul charms,
Abused her delicate youth with drugs or minerals
That weaken motion: I'll have't disputed on;
'Tis probable and palpable to thinking.
I therefore apprehend and do attach thee
For an abuser of the world, a practiser
Of arts inhibited and out of warrant.
Lay hold upon him: if he do resist,
Subdue him at his peril.

It’s a good speech, in which I got to play an emotional, aggrieved father who is narrow-minded and superstitious, and a racist in the line, “the sooty bosom of such a thing as thou”. I filled the lines with values that showed I knew what I was saying; I had some good emotion going. I did not get cheated, but showed them what I can do. We'll see if it's good enough.

I hope I get cast, as I love acting Shakespeare. I’ll let you know if I made it as soon as they let me know.

I'll take the rest of the weekend off from blogging as I catch up on work. Back to the mundane world of the day job...

Friday, February 17, 2006

Science and the State

Mike’s Eyes explores government subsidized science. He makes some epistemological points on the conflict of reason and force.

Here’s an interesting question. Why is it that government scientists, in order to keep their job, end up compromising the truth or doing bad science more than scientists working for the private sector?

The purpose of private industry is to make a profit. Good science helps that end. If bad science leads to a faulty product, then the employer does not make a profit. The bad scientist loses his job.

The purpose of government is power. If good science shows, say, that regulating industry has nothing to do with global warming, then the budget of the EPA and various agendas are threatened. Pressure is brought on the scientists to find politically acceptable results. The government scientists, with mortgages to pay and children to put through college, can pursue the truth with relentless integrity and risk losing their job… or evade a few facts and fudge a few numbers and make the holders of power happy.

The only proper function of government is to protect individual rights. The state is unjustified in taking money from individuals in order to fund science, except science that has something to do with defense. If the purpose of state science is not to protect individual rights, what is it? To do good science? By what standard? By whose standard? What is the standard of those who set government's standards? In long run, its purpose becomes the purpose of all big government: to perpetuate itself.

Sometimes government science does a good job, as in the Apollo program of the 1960’s. But look at NASA since then. Would you want to fly in a spaceship that has to meet the politicized standards of some environmentalist bureaucrat at the EPA? Whose crew was chosen in part because Congresswoman Thickhead has a large contingent of Vietnamese lesbians in her district and she insisted that a Vietnamese lesbian be found to pilot the next flight? I would not.

UPDATE: Slight revision.

Math Test

North American Patriot has this satirical math test:

GANG/CREW NAME______________ Crib _________________

1. Ramone has an AK-47 with a 30 round clip. He usually misses 6 out of every 10 shots and he uses 13 rounds per drive-by shooting. How many drive-by shootings can Ramone attempt before he has to reload?

2. Otis has 2 ounces of cocaine. If he sells an 8 ball to Antonio for $320 and 2 grams to Juan for $85 per gram, what is the street value of the rest of his hold?

3. Rufus pimps 3 ho's. If the price is $85 per trick, how many tricks per day must each ho turn to support Rufus's $800 per day crack habit?

4. Darius wants to cut the pound of cocaine he bought for $40,000 to make 20% profit. How many ounce bags will he need to make to obtain the 20% profit?

There’s more.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Principle of Darkness

They do not hear because they will not hear,
In magic circles, tight with blinders on,
Their mantras dull and worn, all meaning gone,
Their words a fog that covers up their fear.

They do not think because they will not think;
Abuse and venom: cavil, mock and spurn;
They hammer demon images to burn,
And creep in craven huddles to the brink.

They work like slaves to bring unending night;
When all are blind, then no one needs his eyes,
When all are chained, then no one needs to rise,
When all submit, then no one needs to fight.

Who does not shudder in the gloaming time?
The candle spits and sputters, small and low,
The candle-makers gave up long ago;
The darkness is an end, a goal, a crime.

The Real Scandal

During the commercials of the Lakers game (how do the Lakers lose at home to the Atlanta Hawks, who were 15-34?), I flipped around the news channels. I see that the Cheney hunting story is raging. I remember the Vince Foster conspiracy theorists getting exposure on talk radio, but not on the MSM, not like this story.

Al Franken argued that because Cheney did not go to the hospital with the man he shot, he is either a bad man or he was drunk. Franken is speculating without full possession of the facts – which is probably enough to satisfy his listeners. If all the facts were the same, but the shooter was not a Republican, would Franken be less inclined to jump to conclusions?

Tucker Carlson interviewed R.J. Eskow, who wrote on Huffington Post,

The real story is already emerging, if you're willing to do a little digging. Cheney and Whittington went hunting with two women (not their wives), there was some drinking, and Whittington wound up shot.

Eskow’s parenthetical “(not their wives)” means that he suspects extra-marital sex, otherwise why mention it? Dick Cheney, irresponsible with his gun. And his shotgun, too.

The Democrats could be right that Cheney was as loaded as his gun, but we need more evidence. The lack of evidence is not stopping them from working this scandal for all it’s worth. Sex, booze, guns – could there be a better scandal? No abstract issues to follow, not even a complicated money trail, just a drunk with a gun. Even pot-smoking rock’n’rollers can understand this story (or the version the Democrats want them to understand).

Aside from the Democrats, who profits most from the attention this story is getting? Those who would destroy freedom, both at home and abroad. Statist bureaucrats work best when no one pays attention, writing and enforcing regulations, expanding the power of the state, intimidating free individuals to submit in obedience. Those who exercise power love it when the media shine all their spotlights on the scandal of the day and leave the bureaucrats free to maneuver in darkness. The growth of the state is never a story to the media; they treat it as a metaphysical reality not to be questioned, like the shining sun and the air we breathe.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Multiculturalist Intimidation

Tongue Tied reports:

KHOU in Houston is reporting that the soccer team there will change its name from "Houston 1836" following pressure from the Hispanic community. 1836 is the year Texas gained its independence, but for Mexican-Americans it's said to remind them of the year "thousands of their forefathers lost their lives and their land."

Do you think anyone seriously gives a damn about who won what in 1836? The sole purpose of this is multiculturalist intimidation. They seize any opportunity to show that the whims of an ethnic collective trump all else. As we are now seeing, this premise leads to the timidity many in Europe (and America) show before Islamist intimidation.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Book Review

Ayn Rand: My Fiction-Writing Teacher by Erika Holzer has a lot of good tips for writers. Holzer was fortunate to have Ayn Rand give her private lessons in fiction writing in the 1960’s. The book has anecdotes of conversations the author had with Ayn Rand.

The portrait of Ayn Rand in this book is different from the smears of her enemies. Murray Rothbard, the Brandens and even William F. Buckley, Jr. in a recent novel depict Rand as a bizarre woman who dictated how others must think. There is none of that here.

Being a philosopher as well as a novelist (and a good introspecter), Ayn Rand understood better than anyone the thinking a writer needs to do to create good fiction. She understood that she could not do Holzer’s thinking for her and instead pointed her in the direction of the work she needed to do.

People with a shallow or rationalistic understanding of Objectivism might be surprised that Rand advised Holzer to write about things she had strong feelings about. Rand urged fiction writers to be selfish and write about what excited them. Otherwise, writing feels too much like a duty and if anything gets done the product is lifeless.

Rand also advised a writer not to overdo the outline, but to leave room for flexibility. A detailed, rigid outline shuts down the subconscious from producing new ideas.

Holzer’s tips on revising are especially useful, as she lists what she looks for in each pass. She might go through a manuscript one time just looking for clichés, another time just looking for character consistency, etc. This is not platonic, inspirational writing. The amount of revising work and the different things Rand and Holzer looked for are good to know. A writer needs to put in the extra effort.

I was surprised to see that on the subject of how to make a logical progression of events, Ayn Rand sounds very much like Bernard Grebanier and the syllogism method he writes about in Playwriting. Grebanier got his ideas on plot from a critic named William Price, who got his ideas from Aristotle. Here is how Holzer says Rand explains the logical progression of Romeo and Juliet:

To have a logical progression, you must first have a common dramatic element. Look at it in three steps.

Step one: love at first sight.

Step two: marriage.

The common element is the family feud. It infuses step one and two with drama and builds in a logical progression to an inevitable question – to step three:

Will they be happy?

At first glance it might seem odd that something as emotional and exciting as drama depends on logic, which most people think of as dry and detached from values. But in fact, without logical inevitability there is no drama. The process of “if this, then that” is the essence of a logical progression of events – the essence of a plot.

Some parts of Holzer’s book are less interesting, such as her Hollywood experiences. She wastes two chapters on endorsements for her novels. The chapter discussing what actors should play the parts in Atlas Shrugged will be outdated in five years, which is just as well – the actors Holzer picks all seem hopelessly inadequate to me. Russell Crowe as Hank Reardon? Annette Benning as Dagny Taggart? Gag.

In one annoying chapter Holzer fictionalizes a conversation with Ayn Rand about the 2002 Academy Awards show. It didn’t sound like Ayn Rand to me. I can’t picture her saying “reverse racism,” which is just racism, or talking about hobbits.

UPDATE: I should add that Erika Holzer has published in a libertarian magazine and might have some association with the Objectivist Center, I don't know for sure. This might be enough to stop some Objectivists from buying this book.

The information in the book itself is good and there is no Rand-bashing. Holzer had important conversations with Ayn Rand about fiction writing; I'm glad the knowledge has been preserved for history.

Although I support the Ayn Rand Institute, I speak for no one but myself. Anyone who wants to learn the ideas of Ayn Rand should read her books.

Democrat Desperation

Dean Barnett of Soxblog sum up my thinking on this Daily Kos reaction to the Cheney shooting story:

A prominent Daily Kos diary suggests that it’s the biggest scandal yet to emerge from the Bush White House because of its metaphorical value. Seriously. They think this story will have the traction that all their other pathetic attempts to cripple the presidency have lacked because of its strength as a metaphor. Could you make this stuff up?

Meanwhile, Drudge reports that Democrat opposition research plans to attack Newt Gingrich for being fat.

As always, the Democrats seem rather desperate to smear Republicans. When will these sad sacks learn that their number one priority should be thinking up reasons Americans should vote for them? They can tear down the other side all they want, but what do they offer as an alternative? Just saying, “We’re not Republicans” is not good enough.

Publish Or Perish

Robert Tracinski hits one out of the park on the Danish cartoons. (HT: Cox and Forkum)

Valentine's Day

I’ve always looked at Valentine’s Day with a jaundiced eye. It’s silly. Cupid flying around shooting people with arrows? Chocolates in a red heart-shaped box? “Be my valentine”? Do these things celebrate passionate love or trivialize it?

Valentine’s Day is for people who are not in love. They can compartmentalize their love to February 14, get it out of the way and return to their gray, passionless existence the other 364 days of the year.

Now I see that Islamic fundamentalists are attacking Valentine's Day. Damn them. They’ll make me defend the holiday. If they hate Valentine’s Day, then it must have some merit.

Brief Thoughts On Current Events

Winter Olympics. Don’t care.

Cheney’s Got A Gun. I would care if I were planning to hunt with the Vice-President.

Ann Coulter called Muslims “ragheads.” I agree with Bill Quick.

20 Questions For Submariners

1. Do sailors have to pass a psychological evaluation to join the submarine fleet?
2. Are claustrophobes kept out of the submarine fleet?
3. How do submariners deal with cabin fever?
4. Do submariners ever lose their sanity under the ocean? Have you seen any?
5. How long can submariners stay submerged before sanity and order break?
6. Do you hear pinging noises in a submarine like in the movies?
7. Do enlisted men sleep in bunks in a common room like in the movies?
8. Do submariners have to be quiet when the enemy is near? What is that all about?
9. Do submarines have cameras to view what’s going on around them?
10. What is the most realistic submarine movie?
11. What is the most unrealistic thing in submarine movies?
12. Have you ever said “Up periscope” or “Dam the torpedoes”?
13. Is the food good?
14. Is there any alcohol on subs?
15. What is the biggest submarine?
16. How many subs does the US Navy have?
17. What nation has the best submarines?
18. What nation has the second best?
19. If an American sub was stranded on the ocean floor like that Russian sub, would there be any way to save the men inside?
20. Have you ever seen a giant octopus?

Monday, February 13, 2006

Contested Legacy

In a comments thread on NoodleFood, Nicholas Provenzo asks,

Why do you think Kelly even keeps the Objectivist moniker? Since he doesn’t represent AR in any way and since his group engages in no Objectivist scholarship, why even try to maintain the tenuous connection? Why doesn’t he simply admit to what he is: yet another moonbat libertarian? What does maintaining the claim that he is somehow an Objectivist earn Kelly that he couldn’t get if he were honest about his creed?

Well, how many hundreds of thousands of copies of Ayn Rand’s books sell each year? The interest in Ayn Rand’s novels and her philosophy is a growing phenomenon. Young people excited about Rand’s ideas google “Objectivism” and find the Objectivist Center. There’s too much value in the word for Kelley to give it up.

I think the Objectivist Center would be more aptly named the Enlightenment Center. With their general respect for reason and emphasis on toleration, they often sound 18th century to me. Maybe Enlightenment Center sounds too much like some new age retreat with monks wearing saffron robes.


In “A Question of Sanction” Kelley argues against Peter Schwartz that ideas should be judged as true and false, and actions judged as good and bad, although he never states it as clearly as I just did. He makes a more elaborate argument on the same subject against Leonard Peikoff in The Contested Legacy of Ayn Rand.

Kelley never mentions that Ayn Rand agreed with them, not with him. She wrote, “Kant is the most evil man in mankind’s history.” She didn’t say the most evil man was Attila or Stalin or Hitler or Mao, any of whom killed more people than peaceful little Immanuel Kant. The closest Kelley comes to acknowledging her statement is on p. 57 of Contested Legacy, when he mentions “Objectivists who casually denounce Kant as the most evil man in history without having read a word of what he wrote.” Where did those ignorant Objectivists get that idea? From Ayn Rand.

Why doesn’t Kelley address Ayn Rand’s statement instead of focusing his argument against Schwartz and Peikoff? Because he wants to claim himself as the proper heir of Ayn Rand’s contested legacy.

It’s a glaring omission. I don’t see how he can square Ayn Rand’s statement with his argument in Contested Legacy. And I don’t see how he could write that book without thinking that people would ask, “But what about Ayn Rand’s statement about Kant?” It is baffling that he never addresses it.

Go Raiders!

Robert A. George posts about Art Shell’s return as head coach of the Silver and Black. As a Raiders fan, I say congratulations, Mr. Shell. Just win, baby. Just win.

He Was Almost POTUS

Every time Al Gore opens his mouth, I shudder that the man came within a hair’s breadth of the Oval Office. Powerline posts about his latest comments, bashing America in Saudi Arabia. According to the AP:

Gore said Arabs had been "indiscriminately rounded up" and held in "unforgivable" conditions. The former vice president said the Bush administration was playing into al-Qaida's hands by routinely blocking Saudi visa applications.

"The thoughtless way in which visas are now handled, that is a mistake," Gore said during the Jiddah Economic Forum. "The worst thing we can possibly do is to cut off the channels of friendship and mutual understanding between Saudi Arabia and the United States."

Setting aside the validity of Gore’s charges against America, which I doubt, I just want to make two points. Al Gore went to a country where women are not allowed to drive and criticized supposed civil rights violations in America. Worse, he went to a country filled with militant Islamists and criticized America’s war effort against them.

UPDATE: Revision.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Diet and Exercise

A recent study involving 49,000 women shows that a low-fat diet does not lower health risks. What does it mean? Who knows? I’ve heard so many contradictions and fads over the decades that I’ve concluded the science of nutrition is still young and learning. There are probably some reasonable nutrition guidelines, but you have to sort them out from new age wackiness, snake oil salesmen and political agendas.

Diet fads are particularly annoying. The only way to lose weight is to consume fewer calories than you expend, by some combination of eating less and exercising more. Period. The only other ways to lose weight are liposuction and amputation. But con artists constantly come up with new promises of ways to get around calorie reduction and they make millions of dollars off the hopes and fears of people desperate to lose weight without dieting. If you look at the fine print on any weight loss snake oil, it will say something like, “for best results, use with diet and exercise.” In other words, you just spent $30 on a bottle of placebo.

There was a radio commercial that played everywhere for a year or so. It claimed to be some enzyme or hormone, I forget, that the body needs to get rid of fat. The commercials are gone now; I guess they got all the money they could from the gullible and are working on their next scam.

The Atkins diet is dishonest. It claims that you don’t need to worry about calories, just carbohydrates. You can eat all the calories from meat, cheese and eggs you want, just no carbs. I tried it for a few weeks. What happens is that you get sick of meat, cheese and eggs and since you can’t eat much else, you stop eating. It’s hard to overeat without carbs. It’s just a roundabout way of getting you into a low calorie diet. For some people it works, and more power to them.

Any diet that changes your eating habits radically will probably not work in the long run. If you drink some special milkshakes or consume nothing but onion soup, you will lose weight for a month, maybe two, but can you live like that for a long time? When you go off the diet, you go back to your old habits and put back on more than you lost.

You have to find some diet you can live with. Me, I’m still working on it. My weight peaked at 333 lbs., which is morbidly obese. I got that heavy eating from the five major food groups: cheeseburgers, pizza, burritos, sweets and pasta. I’ve lost 50 lbs.; at 283 I still have 100 lbs. I need to lose.

I’ve found that walking helps a lot. I listen to taped Objectivist lectures from the Ayn Rand Bookstore as I walk. Sometimes that motivates me to walk longer because I want to hear the whole lecture.

I’ve also found that I do better making moderate adjustments, losing a pound a week over the long run instead of starvation dieting. I’m looking for a diet I can live with the rest of my life.

And if I don’t lose weight, the rest of my life will not be long. Last fall I was diagnosed with diabetes type 2. At first I didn’t believe it. I figured I was just eating too much sugar and these stupid doctors diagnose everyone as diabetic to cover their ass so they don’t get sued. They made me go to a diabetes class with some 25 other people. There were hardcore diabetics there: one man was on insulin shots; another had swollen feet and looked like he was heading for amputation and a wheelchair. Of the 25 people in that room, I had the highest blood sugar according to the hemoglobin A1c test. That got my attention.

Up to now losing weight has been about looking good and attracting the opposite sex. Now it’s about life and death. Decades of sedentary living, filling my time with intellectual pursuits, has put me in a bad situation that I must turn around – or else. I’ll let you know how it works out.

Today's Deep Thought

Last night the Memphis Grizzlies played the Los Angeles Lakers. I figure there are as many grizzlies in Memphis as there are lakes in Los Angeles.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Don't Anger Them, Surrender Now

Belmont Club points us to this Guardian Unlimited commentary by Polly Toynbee titled, No more fantasy diplomacy: cut a deal with the mullahs, with the subtitle, “Iran cannot be prevented from developing nuclear weapons, only delayed. We must negotiate not ratchet up the rhetoric.”

Since it is impossible to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons (she says), she concludes,

[I]f you cannot win, give up at once to minimise the damage. Get off the high horse and start to negotiate terms on which Iran can be allowed to enrich uranium. It amounts to turning a blind eye to their weapons potential while striking a deal that saves their face, affords them some dignity and entices them economically into becoming a more stable force.

Well, that’s one European leftist’s opinion. The sooner we surrender the better. If we surrender fast, rather than after a lot humiliating belligerance, then Iran is more likely to act responsibly with its nuclear weapons.

Why is Polly Toynbee so certain we can’t stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons? We have bombs, many bombs. Some of our bombs are smart, some are like Polly Toynbee. We can get the job done if we have the will.

Religious Consistency

Diana Mertz Hsieh discuses the idea of moderates Muslims.

To the extent that a person is a Muslim, he is intellectually disarmed by the barbaric demands of his own religion, particularly its call to expand the dominion of Islam to the whole world -- by whatever violent means necessary. (Remember, the essence of Islam is submission to God's will as transcribed by Mohammed in the Koran in the form of direct instructions, not ambiguous tales.) So based upon both history and ideology, we have absolutely no reason to hope great mass of moderate Muslims will ever rise up against their fanatical brothers. To do so would require the rejection of Islam itself.

Oh, now I'm depressed.

She is saying that Muslims, because of the nature of the Koran (a product of the dark ages), cannot become inconsistent like modern Christians. Well, that is depressing. I was staking my hopes on the triumph of a prosperous hypocrisy over a suicidal consistency in Islam. If all Muslims are forced by the logic of their premises to place death over life, we're heading for bad times.

The REALLY frightening prospect is that, as philosophy deteriorates in the West, Christians become more consistent and revert to a medieval Augustinian Christianity. That might be the ultimate threat to liberty in the coming century.

UPDATE: Slight revision.

Men Are From Mars, Idiocy Is From Earth

Listening to the John Tesh Radio Show (my job involves listening to radio), I heard him talk about an idea from a book called Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. Men don’t like chatting on the phone as much as women because of – are you ready for this? – hormones. The hormone that reduces stress in women is oxytosin, and it is stimulated by communication. For men, testosterone reduces stress and it is stimulated by problem solving and competition. When chatting on the phone, men don’t feel like they’re accomplishing anything, so they have less patience for the activity.

What a load of BS. I know several men who live on the phone. They love nothing more than gossiping on the phone. I see men all the time walking on sidewalks or driving a car, holding a cell phone to their ear as they gab away.

It might be true that women in general enjoy talking on the phone more than men, but the reason for that has to be bigger than what hormone reduces stress. Reducing behavior to hormones is nonsense. It's astrology for materialists.

Friday, February 10, 2006

They're Not Crazy

Tom Bevan, writing about the Democrat politicizing of the Coretta Scott King funeral, concludes,

The left is welcome to screech and froth and spew as much hatred as they want over this President. Lord knows the hard right had its collective fits over Clinton all through the 90's. Yet it is inconceivable that a former Republican President would have seen fit to launch an attack on Bill Clinton on the occasion of a dignitary's death. It wouldn't have happened. Because the unwritten rule has always been - up until the left recently lost its mind, that is - that some things were above politics.

Saying that the left “recently lost its mind” is an inadequate explanation. The left is behaving sane by their principles. The left’s malfunction is not primarily psychological, although there is a psychological correlation. The Democrats’ fundamental problem is that they are becoming more consistent to their moral-political principles of altruism, collectivism and statism. The Democrats are becoming more consistently and openly who they are: New Leftists. The moderates have been leaving the party for decades.

The New Left is totalitarian compared to the welfare statists the Democrats used to be. New Leftists believe that they are good and the right is evil. They believe that the end of power justifies any means possible. They think they are utterly justified in telling lies because they are good and the right is evil. Politics of personal destruction? Perfectly justified when Democrats do it; besides, the right is so evil, they deserve personal destruction. They think they are doing the right thing when they attack Republicans at a funeral.

These are people who take the pursuit of power seriously. Politics ain’t no gentleman’s game like it used to be. 19th century decorum is a joke to totalitarians, something to be used if it furthers their pursuit of power.

The Republicans are acting as I imagine the White Russians did circa 1916. Hey, you Bolsheviks are crazy! You’re breaking the rules!

UPDATE: Slight revision.


One sentence in James Q. Wilson’s article in the February, 2006 Commentary, “How Divided Are We?” caught my attention:

In 2005, three-fourths of all Democrats but fewer than a third of all Republicans told pollsters that good diplomacy was the best way to ensure peace.

Relying on diplomacy with an enemy such as militant Islam is a recipe for appeasement. It means working out a deal in which we partially surrender in exchange for Islam withholding force. In other words, it is extortion, like paying the mafia protection money.

Diplomacy is proper between free countries that have values to offer one another. Diplomacy is improper with totalitarians who threaten the use of force; then it is weakness. Aggressive dictatorships have no value to offer us. The promise not to attack is not a value. If you give a burglar $100 so that he will not rob your house, he has not given you a value in exchange for that money. The burglar has used the threat of force to take your money.

Diplomacy with an aggressor does not give long-term peace. Quite the opposite, rewarding aggression ensures further aggression. If aggression buys payoffs, why not keep doing it? The only rational, long-term answer to force is force. The sooner an aggressor is met with force, the sooner he understands that aggression won’t work.

The short-term peace that diplomacy buys is the work of pragmatists who cannot think in long-term principles. They are happy to put off the crisis of the day, hoping that tomorrow they will use diplomacy to put off that day’s crisis. In the long run the principle of aggression thrives and freedom suffers. How much better would the world be if we had exterminated the regime of the mullahs on November 4, 1979, when they attacked the US embassy in Tehran?

Republican politicians are not as clear on this issue as Republican voters. They are every bit as pragmatist as the Democrats, though not in thrall to the New Left’s anti-Americanism. Reagan and Bush 41 failed to answer Islamic terrorism just as much as Carter and Clinton did, so the failure has been bipartisan. It makes election day decisions less clear. Pragmatist diplomacy has a way of muddying up a lot of things.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Kelly Clarkson

In my day job I listen to FM radio all day. There are worse ways to earn a living. It keeps this 49-year old in touch with the current music. Were it not for this job, Black Eyed Peas would just be beans to me.

Kelly Clarkson won a grammy. She deserves it. Of all the artists currently big in the Hits format (or “Top 40”), she most consistently chooses good songs to sing. “Breakaway” is a nice song in 6/8 time. “Since U Been Gone,” despite the trendy ignorance in the spelling, is good. The melody of “Walk Away” is almost as good as the pop hits of the ‘60s. “Because of You” is too much of a boring ballad with a stock melody for my taste.

In addition to picking songs with good music, she manages to avoid the vulgar lyrics that plague a lot of pop artists today. I hate to sound like a prude, but I cringe when I hear songs with explicitly sexual lyrics on stations that kids listen to.

She has a remarkable voice with a huge range, although she does get a bit screechy on the high notes.

I heard on the radio once that she was asked what she thinks of Bo Bice. She replied, "Who?" That made me laugh. The sweet Texan is getting in touch with her inner diva. Gotta love it!

I’m risking my credibility with the rockers I used to jam with in my youth, but congratulations, Kelly Clarkson!

No Apologies, No Backing Down

Mike’s Eyes makes some excellent points about the Danish cartoon story, among them:

I heard they don't want to print the cartoons out of respect for Muslim "sensitivities." Right! When someone tells you not to print something or they will burn down your building, and then you don't print it, that's not respect, that's obedience.

We must stand up to their intimidation; it is the only way we can defeat militant Islam. That is also the only chance the moderate Muslims have of reforming their culture. If we cave in moral cowardice, the worst elements of Islam will be emboldened and the best will be forced to continue cowering in shadows, afraid to speak their mind.

This is why Hugh Hewitt is wrong to argue that the cartoons have hurt our war effort:

There are hundreds of thousands of American troops deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and across the globe among Muslim peoples who they are trying to befriend. The jihadists like nothing more than evidence that these troops represent a West intent on a new crusade and a new domination of Muslims. Idiot cartoonists make our troops' jobs more difficult, and the jihadists' mission easier.


So, did the cartoons and their aftermath make it easier or more diffcult for Musharraf of Pakistan to continue to guide his country away from the lure of the jihadists? Easier or more difficult for Turkey to remain a friend of the West's? Easier or more difficult for the pro-Western people of Iran to summon the courage to change their government? Easier or more difficult for Jordan's King Abdullah to continue his course, which has included support for the reconstruction of Iraq even in the face of Zarqawi's murderers?

If the Muslim masses are so irrational that cartoons can hurt our war effort, then Islam is beyond hope. But in fact, the cartoons themselves are of little importance. What is important, and what good Muslims are watching carefully, is if the USA has the moral backbone to stand up against the Islamic fundamentalists. Reprinting the cartoons is an act of defiance that shows we will not tolerate threats of force against free speech.

I linked to a story in December about Muslims trying to shut down a play by Voltaire about Mohammed. Are we supposed to avoid plays by Voltaire for fear that they will anger 1.3 billion Muslims and harm the war effort?

Acts of appeasement hurt our war effort, not cartoons. The State Department hurts our war effort. Steven Spielberg’s Munich hurt our war effort. And Hugh Hewitt’s lack of confidence in the rationality of 1.3 billion Muslims hurts our war effort more than any stupid cartoon could.

This is about more than cartoons, it’s about fighting a totalitarian ideology that has been intimidating the West in the name of multiculturalism. They are using our New Leftist ideas against us. In the long run, we must change our culture’s philosophy to survive. In the short run, we must find the courage to stand up against their bullying. Hugh Hewitt’s fretting about the tender sensitivities of the Muslim world only get in the way.

For more, see JunkYardBlog.

UPDATE: Alex Epstein of the Ayn Rand Institute says “Muslim Opinion” Be Damned. I came upon this via Thrutch. Onkar Ghate writes about The Twilight of Freedom of Speech. I found this one via NoodleFood. And Gus Van Horn is all over this issue.

My Results

Your Five Factor Personality Profile


You have low extroversion.
You are quiet and reserved in most social situations.
A low key, laid back lifestyle is important to you.
You tend to bond slowly, over time, with one or two people.


You have low conscientiousness.
Impulsive and off the wall, you don't take life too seriously.
Unfortunately, you sometimes end up regretting your snap decisions.
Overall, you tend to lack focus, and it's difficult for you to get important things done.


You have low agreeableness.
Your self interest comes first, and others come later, if at all.
In general, you feel that people are not to be trusted.
And you're skeptical that anyone else really feels differently.


You have low neuroticism.
You are very emotionally stable and mentally together.
Only the greatest setbacks upset you, and you bounce back quickly.
Overall, you are typically calm and relaxed - making others feel secure.

Openness to experience:

Your openness to new experiences is high.
In life, you tend to be an early adopter of all new things and ideas.
You'll try almost anything interesting, and you're constantly pushing your own limits.
A great connoisseir of art and beauty, you can find the positive side of almost anything.

It's Like Something Out of Atlas Shrugged

Mugabe is offering to lease back the farms to the white farmers he stole them from. He has destroyed the Zimbabwean economy, so now he hopes his victims will bail him out. As David Gillies wrote, in a post titled “Tell him to go to hell,”

The only way that people come to understand the folly of supporting socialism is to suffer its consequences. Zimbabwe is in the grip of hyperinflation, it's running out of food, and is near collapse. So now the bestial Robert Mugabe is asking white farmers to come back and 'lease' their own land back from the thugs who drove them away in the first place. And if they do, and get the farms back into production, how long before the 'war veterans' re-confiscate them? Let the country burn. With luck Mugabe and his cockroach cronies will be consumed in the conflagration.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Another Glimpse At Democrat Morality

The Democrats have politicized another funeral, this time Coretta Scott King’s, going so far as to attack President Bush, who was present at the funeral. Glenn Reynolds asks,

Why does this keep happening? Part of it, I think, is that the Democratic Party is in a state where it finds it hard to get national TV coverage except when someone dies. I think that their behavior reflects another forlorn hope for regeneration. I guess looking at policies is out of the question, though.

Professor Reynolds is usually right, but here he is wrong. Democrats speak politics at funerals not because they think they will gain some practical advantage, but because they think it is moral. Leftist morality is entirely bound up in politics, as captured by the old feminist slogan, “the personal is political.”

Leftists hold sacrifice for the collective as the standard of morality. That is why they are socialists. If they were interested in practical results, they would be capitalists, as the last century has been a vast series of experiments showing the impracticality of state intervention in the economy. They don’t care if socialism doesn’t work; it’s the right thing to do.

Republicans are for free markets (or they used to be in the Goldwater days), so in the leftist imagination they must be bad people. The greedy right-wingers do not want to sacrifice for the collective! Democrats can think of nothing more moral to say at a funeral than an attack on Republicans.

Democrats in their moments of cynicism are not a threat. What is really scary is when they are true to their morality.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Does It Mean Anything?

According to Newsmax Bush campaign workers are joining McCain.

(HT: Neal Boortz)

Talk of War

Officer’s Club has speculation on an Israeli attack on Iran. The comments are warlike.

My guess is that they are too optimistic to think that anything will be done to Iran until they attack us. The pragmatists will argue against taking action. The State Department will see any use of force as “destabilizing the region.” The US will lean on Israel not to do anything provocative.

And then one day Iran will use its weapons of mass destruction. In my worst case scenario, Iran will coordinate its attack with Islamic militants, Syria, China and North Korea, and WWIII will be upon us. But who knows what will happen?

(HT: Pajamas Media)

Liberal Cartoon

A liberal cartoonist on the differences between the Republicans and the Democrats. It's an interesting condensation of the liberal point of view.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Top 10 Lamest Members of the Legion of Super-Heroes

This ranking goes from most powerful to most useless. Some of these characters were never actually in the Legion of Super-Heroes, but were rejected and formed the humiliating Legion of Substitute Heroes because of their unquenchable passion to be super-heroes.

10. Bouncing Boy. He had the power to bounce. He is the most powerful character on this list, which should give you an idea of what is to come. I once made the mistake of joking about Bouncing Boy on a Legion message board. I learned that there are people in this world who worship Bouncing Boy. You do not joke about BB around them. I ask you readers, who would you rather have at your back, Wolverine or the guy who can make himself look like a beach ball?

9. Dawnstar. She could track life forms across light years, making her something of a galactic bloodhound.

8. Spider Girl. She had prehensile hair. Her hair could grab things. And the name makes sense because, you know, all spiders have hair that grabs things.

7. Insect Queen. Lana Lang, Superboy’s girlfriend, got a ring that gave her an insect power that lasted 24 hours. I don’t really know what that means, but it sounds lame.

6. Color Kid. He could change the color of anything. So if he was fighting the Hulk (in some crossover with Marvel), he could change the Hulk from green to red. This would anger the Hulk and he would crush stupid Color Kid. Frankly, I think he should have been in the Legion of Interior Decorators.

5. Chlorophyll Kid. He could accelerate the growth of plants. When you needed lettuce fast, he was the guy.

4. Duo Damsel. She was a girl who could make herself into two girls. Not many super-villains would find this intimidating, but can you imagine what she was like in bed?

3. Matter-Eater Lad. He could eat anything. He was not used much because writers couldn’t think of ways for him to help defeat villains. Matter-Eater Lad stands to this day as the archetype of Silver Age DC silliness.

2. Calamity King. He brought bad luck wherever he went, which is a highly problematic super-power. Who would want to be around him? His entire career he would be told, “Go stand by the bad guy.”

1. Rond Vidar. He had the power of immunity to super-hypnotism. When all the other Legionnaires fell to the power of a super-hypnotist such as his father, he would remain unhypnotized. This made him useful to writers, I would guess, in his origin issue. After he defeated his evil father, what did he do?

Brutal Beast

How tough are pitbulls? I would not want to go up against one with anything less than a .45.

UPDATE: On second thought, a battle ax or a good sword like a katana would probably get the job done. You would need something with the power to incapacitate the beast, or it would just keep coming.

A Super Sunday

During the first half of the Superbowl I had the TV on mute as I listened to music on my new AKG K240S headphones and smoked a $13 cigar. The headphones cost about $90 more than my previous pair that I bought at Wal-Mart; I could hear the difference. The headphones were worth every penny, but I’m not so sure that the cigar was worth burning $13.

Then I ground out my cigar butt and removed my headphones to watch the Rolling Stones perform during half-time for free. I want my money back. They suck. But I should add that I hate live rock. It just sounds like boring, droning noise to me. The only live album I listen to is Ten Years After Recorded Live, which features some of the greatest lead guitar work in rock history. It’s too bad Alvin Lee is forgotten today. He’s one of the greatest rock guitarists ever, but I doubt that one in 100 people under the age of 40 can identify him.

The game was moderately interesting until the last five minutes or so.

The ads have become self-conscious creations because of the media hype about Superbowl ads. They’re bloated, overdone productions geared toward getting talk about the ads, not the product. It’s fun seeing corporations compete to make the best ad, but it’s exasperating to watch ad after ad whose purpose is perverted from selling the product to calling attention to itself. Form should serve content; the how should serve the what, but in these ads the how becomes the what.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Liberal-Left Bloggers on the Danish Cartoon Story

Like the French riots, the Danish cartoon story excites the right and bores the left. Checking the portside of the blogosphere, I found no mention of the story since Thursday from James Wolcott, Atrios, Pandagon, Firedoglake, Digby, Matthew Yglesias, Daily Howler, Bullmoose, Eric Alterman or NewDonkey. I found one post from Oliver Willis and one from georgia 10 on the Kos blog (I didn’t check the diaries or comments). Joshua Michael Marshall has a long, thoughtful post and several reader emails on the subject. Willis, Georgia 10 and Marshall all find an equivalence between Islamic fundamentalists and Christian fundamentalists, which strikes me as unfair in this context; Christians don’t call for the beheading of blasphemers.

On Friday Kevin Drum had trouble taking the issue seriously because the Islamic radicals were burning the Danish flag:

I fully realize that I should be taking this more seriously — it involves issues of free speech, national sovereignty, gratuitous religious insults, Islamic radicalism, etc. etc. — but it's hard. I mean, just look at whose flag they're burning in the Middle East right now: Denmark's.

Cuddly little Denmark! Home of Hans Christian Andersen, delicious pastry, and tasteful furniture. Home of Tivoli and the Little Mermaid. Denmark!

On Sunday he wrote:

…a reader wants to know what my serious take is on the Danish cartoon affair. Here it is: I think the press has an absolute right to print those cartoons. But you knew that already.

Huffington Post has one blog post on the subject from Thomas De Zengotita that shows confusion from the progressives on the issue:

My question is: where do American progressives stand on this? In one way, we have looked to Europe as an ally against Bush and all he stands for in Iraq and the "War on Terror," right? Haven't we felt supported every step of the way by European countries condemning those policies? Hasn't there been a sort of agreement about Bush, that primitive cowboy, the Europeans agree with us and we with them, about that, us enlightened ones together? But don't we also conveniently forget that, for example, France won't let Muslim school girls go to school with head scarves? That's just one example of actual European responses to Islam that don't quite fit with our multicultural version of what "progressive" means. Are we busy avoiding that whole side of this issue? For good tactical reasons, of course.

So, without going on and on analyzing the dilemma, let me sum it up with this way; will progressive American publications republish those cartoons? If they do, how will they explain it? If they don't, how will they explain it?

Juan Cole has the most classic leftist take on the issue I have read yet. Among other things, he writes,

Of course people are upset when their sacred figures are attacked! But the hurt is magnified many times when the party doing the injuring is first-world, and the injured have a long history of being ruled, oppressed and marginalized.

His final paragraph sums up his multiculturalist approach:

Human beings are all alike. Where they are distinctive, it comes out of a special set of historical circumstances. The Muslims are protesting this incident vigorously, and consider the caricatures insupportable. We would protest other things, and consider them insupportable.

UPDATE: I thank Michelle Malkin for linking to this post.

Democrat Thinking

Here is the description of Bob Fertik at

Bob Fertik is a life-long progressive and Democratic Party activist, as well as a blogger, journalist, author, systems analyst, candidate, political consultant, and entrepreneur. He has been profiled in the New York Times, Newsday, and the New York Sun.

Fertik is a recognized leader in feminist politics. He is the co-founder of the Pro-choice Resource Center, Eleanor's List, Political Woman Newsletter, Women Leaders Online, and the Women's Voting Guide. He serves on the board of the Westchester Coalition for Legal Abortion and co-author (with WCLA's Polly Rothstein) of "Pro-choice Power."

He graduated from Yale College with a B.A. in Economics in 1979, and lives with his family in New York City.

Fertik debated Al Gore's victory in Election 2000 and popular opposition to the Iraq War with Bill O'Reilly on The O'Reilly Factor on 9/25/02 and left O'Reilly fuming for days. Fertik publicly challenged O'Reilly, Roger Ailes, and the rest of the Fox News cast to a debate on 4/16/02 but no one at Fox has the guts to take him on.

Fertik co-founded with David Lytel in January 2000. Lytel left at the end of 2002 to launch

Fertik is not some nutcase on the internet, but a respected Democrat who has been consulted by politicians. Here is what he recently posted on his blog:

The White House is being way too quiet today, and the silence is eerie.

[I]s Karl Rove planning a terrorist attack during the Super Bowl, in order to set the stage for building towards war with Iran over the coming year?

You have to read the whole thing to get an idea of Bob Fertik’s bizarre thinking. The man is a respected member of the Democrat establishment.

(HT: JunkYardBlog)

Watching Hamas

Interesting piece on Shalom Harari, a former Israeli intelligence officer who has been watching Hamas for decades.

While most Israeli and Arab-language news channels were broadcasting scenes of Hamas supporters in the Gaza Strip waving green flags as they celebrated their stunning victory, Harari had tuned in to a seemingly tedious military ceremony on Egyptian state television. “Look at the wives of the generals,” he said. “Many of them are wearing traditional head scarves. This was not so ten years ago. And this tells you where we are heading. When the women of Egypt’s pro-Western military élite are dressed like that, you know that the Hamas victory is not about Palestine. It’s about the entire Middle East.”

(HT: Talking Points Memo)

Saturday, February 04, 2006


I want one.

(HT: Right Wing News)

Yummy Stuff

I posted this earlier, but blogger was acting weird on me. Anyway, here’s something to make Gus Van Horn drool. That black lager looks thick and tasty.

Somewhat related (things you put in your mouth for 500, Alex), Eric S. Raymond writes about cheese cake.


A blogger quits:

I'm done. No one reads this site. No one visits here. I've done everything I know for a year and a half to promote this site and traffic has actually gone DOWN. I'm tired and instead of being fun, it's become a pain in the ass. I dread every day trying to come up with enough content to keep a tiny handful of people from leaving along with everyone else. I can't do it anymore.

(HT: Maggie’s Farm)

Election In Costa Rica

Is Latin America trending socialist? An election to watch:

Costa Rica goes to the polls tomorrow, and by all accounts the dreadful Ottón Solis is narrowing the gap with frontrunner Oscar Arias. Solis is an anti-globalisation Lefty who wants to prevent Costa Rica from signing up to CAFTA. His biggest fear is that CAFTA membership will result in the breakup and privatisation of the large State-run monopolies such as telecomms and energy, gutting the power of the over-powerful unions. That's of course why I want the strongly pro-CAFTA Arias to win.

Friday, February 03, 2006

In the Name of Free Speech

Surrender At Foggy Bottom

The US State Department has joined the enemy.

The United States blasted the publication by European newspapers of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed as unacceptable incitement to religious or ethnic hatred.

"These cartoons are indeed offensive to the beliefs of Muslims," State Department spokesman Justin Higgins said when queried about the furore sparked by the cartoons which first appeared in a Danish newspaper.

"We all fully recognize and respect freedom of the press and expression but it must be coupled with press responsibility," Higgins told AFP.

"Inciting religious or ethnic hatreds in this manner is not acceptable. We call for tolerance and respect for all communities and for their religious beliefs and practices."

What business is it of the State Department what private newspapers publish? Where does the government get off telling free individuals that their speech must be responsible? Intolerant speech is not acceptable to the government?

This is a disastrous appeasement of radical Islam, which is using the threat of force to violate free speech rights.

I think we just lost the war. I really do. We have conceded Islam’s right to intimidate free citizens. The State Department has said to our enemy, “You are morally right to threaten force against speech you do not like.” Yes, they throw in a disclaimer about freedom of speech, but that is a non-essential qualifier compared to their moral concession in siding with thugs who want to kill westerners that blaspheme Mohammed. If we concede that, what are we fighting for?

This will give the enemy aid and comfort. They will think, "Even the Great Satan knows we are right. All we have to do is hang tough and they will leave, as they did in Vietnam and Somalia. How long can they fight when they know we are morally right?"

(HT: Michelle Malkin)


The Rule of Reason has an exclusive, a piece by Edward Cline on why he wrote Sparrowhawk. He talks about the purpose he set before he began writing. If a writer has little ambition, his writing will fall to the level of his ambition. Edward Cline set his purpose high and met it.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Composing On Guitar

In the February 2006 Commentary, Terry Teachout writes in a piece about the Beatles,

Like most self-taught musicians who start out playing guitar rather than piano, both Lennon and McCartney were conditioned by the feel of the guitar fingerboard, whose stepwise layout facilitates the harmonization of the flattened-seventh, Mixolydian-mode melodies first heard in such early Beatles songs as "Can't Buy Me Love" and "A Hard Day's Night."

As a self-taught musician who started out playing guitar, it never occured to me that the instrument itself might influence the melody and harmony of songs written on it. I can see what Teachout is saying about the flattened-sevenths. I'll take his word for it about the Mixolydian-mode.


Is blogging good for a writer?

Don Watkins considered this in the last post to his blog, Anger Management:

…blogging has been a blessing and a curse to me as a writer. The blessing has been that it has certainly improved my writing in several aspects. One of the major benefits is that my first drafts often read better than most people's final drafts.

But that came at a price. While my posts have been insightful and lucid, with certain exceptions, they have not been clear in the Objectivist sense. Clear writing doesn't mean that you can grasp some isolated aspect of the writing. It means that the writing forms an integrated whole -- that each element sheds light on your single theme, leaving the reader with a single, proved, convincing idea. Rather, my posts have been -- as I have previously said -- the equivalent of thinking on paper. That has a certain value, but it is not good writing. Good writing requires intensive editing. So while I've been posting almost every day for three years, the most essential writing skill, my ability to edit, has gone undeveloped.

And that has consequences. I recently submitted my forthcoming Axiomatic article on risk and decision-making to several Objectivists for review. I was proud of it, as it contained a plethora of new integrations and insights. But a few days later, one of the editors sent me an email that pointed out that, qua writing, it was a disaster. There was no clear theme uniting the piece, much of the material (more than half) had almost nothing to do with me ostensive subject, I failed to motivate the reader, I left important questions unanswered, and treated important subjects hastily, etc. None of those were thinking problems, but they were huge writing problems. The root of the problem was that while it made for a great blog post, it was not good writing.

I have found blogging to be an informal type of journalism. It’s not essay writing, but more like writing an open letter to a friend.

The last few months of blogging have helped my writing in a few ways. I’ve gotten faster. When I’m unclear or over my head, warning bells go off quicker and louder than they did before I started this blog.

I can see the potential for bad writing habits to develop from banging out these posts every day. Blog writing is not as ambitious as essay writing. Instead of thinking through something deeply and “writing the last word” on a subject, I just try to make one point as clearly and as cleverly as I can. After a few years of writing on this level, I can imagine that a writer would no longer be capable of writing better or deeper.

The opposite of blogstyle would be someone like Northrop Frye. In his literary criticism he wrote long, erudite paragraphs that were sometimes hard to understand. After a few years of blogging, one can probably forget about ever writing like Frye.

As Don Watkins notes, the lack of editing is a real problem. When you let writing sit for a few days, you gain perspective on it; your writing becomes richer and more polished. Blogging, at least the way I do it, is more immediate: write it, post it and move on. I’m lucky if I catch the typos.

The best thing about blogging is that it forces me to write. Before this I was not writing non-fiction at all in any form. Now I’m writing something, which is better than nothing. I have no aspirations to write non-fiction professionally, so this is good enough for me.

Death of a Yippie

Ann Althouse wrote a post about the death of a yippie, Stew Albert, that is actually rather moving. I'm surprised to be writing this, as I have nothing but contempt for his politics. The yippie movement was just silly nihilism; it combined an anti-conceptual New Leftist politics with humor.

Addiction to Oil

Henry Payne has written a must read piece on Bush’s SOTU speech, which Hugh Hewitt and Rush Limbaugh called “great.”

In Tuesday’s State of the Union address, George Bush hit the rhetorical low of his presidency. By calling for an end to “America’s addiction to oil,” he not only embraced the radical, green vocabulary of Al Gore, but he undercut the principles of freedom, innovation, and anti-isolationism outlined elsewhere in the very same speech.

The president touted his commitment “to encourage innovation . . . and give our nation’s children a firm grounding in math and science.” But his oil-addiction comments were just the opposite, a prescription for ignorance. With his cynical pander to opinion polls and special interests, the president missed an opportunity to educate the nation on the essential role energy plays in our prosperity.

“Addiction to oil.” The phrase manages to combine economic ignorance, environmentalism and psychobabble. It’s a masterpiece of idiocy.

I know Bush is a simple-minded man who, like his father, is not interested in ideas, but isn’t there anyone in the White House with the sense and the courage to give Bush good advice? Did Vice-President Cheney read this speech?

(HT: Polipundit)

The Party of Potential

Whither the Democrats is becoming the default topic for pundits and bloggers to write about on a slow news day. Can’t think of anything to write about? Try to figure out what’s wrong with the donkeys.

Tony Blankley calls the Democrats nihilist:

But not satisfied to be a head in the sand, reflexively negative opposition party, an increasing number of Democrats and their supporters in the leftish fever swamps have started calling for President Bush's impeachment.

While I haven't seen any polls yet on the subject, I would guess that
something less than 10 percent of the American voting public would look forward to seeing the last two years of the Bush presidency consumed with a Democratic Party-controlled Congress trying to impeach the president during a time of war.

Somehow the Democratic Party -- for 180 years the most electorally successful political party on the planet -- has now almost completely mutated into a party too loathsome to be seen in public, and too nihilistic to be trusted with control of even a single branch of government.

Bull Moose says the Democrats should move to Bush’s right on national security.

If some Democrats have a modicum of imagination, they would move to the President's right on national security. Of course, that would require to take on some of the those on the left flank. But, if a donkey is ever to occupy the Oval Office in the foreseeable future, he or she must be perceived as being as tough or tougher than the Republicans on national security.

There’s a name for Democrats who are tough on national security. They’re called neoconservatives. In other words, the Scoop Jackson Democrats have all left the party and what’s left is anti-American New Leftists.

During the 2004 Presidential election, I thought that if Kerry was smart he would make a dramatic run to Bush’s economic right. Make the campaign about Bush’s big spending and the outrageous growth of government. Had he done that, I would have voted for Kerry, but such a tactic was obviously beyond his imagination. A liberal campaigning against big government would be like the Ku Klux Klan campaigning against racism. If you throw out their core principle, what is left?

Still I think that some kind of right-wing Democrat is not impossible. They’re the party of big government, but they never seem proud about it. Campaigning as honest, open socialists would be electoral suicide.

As nihilists who stand for little but hating Republicans, the Democrats are beginning to resemble the black hole of modern philosophy. Modern philosophy has demolished all absolutes and left nothing but the insane word-chopping of linguistic analysis and the radical skepticism of postmodernism. Its most important Founding Father, Kant, was called the “all-destroyer.” But when the actual is destroyed, all is potential. The emptiness of modern philosophy leaves our culture wide open for real ideas. And the emptiness of the Democrats is a wasteland waiting for a politician with imagination and energy and maybe even some new ideas.

I know it sounds crazy, given that the Dem constituency is pressure groups dependent on big government, but if they lose enough elections, a candidate with some free market ideas might succeed in Democrat Party. Who knows, with the rise of the religious right in the Republicans, it might turn out that the black hole of the Democrat Party is freedom’s last hope. Or am I dreaming of that which could never be?

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

That Great, Expensive Speech

Veronique de Rugy looks at the spending increases proposed in Bush’s SOTU speech, a speech hailed by both Hugh Hewitt and Rush Limbaugh as “great.”

(HT: Andrew Sullivan)

Policing the Powerful Is Not Easy

Capitol Police apologize for doing their job:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Capitol Police dropped a charge of unlawful conduct against anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan on Wednesday and apologized for ejecting her and a congressman's wife from President Bush's State of the Union address for wearing T-shirts with war messages.

"The officers made a good faith, but mistaken effort to enforce an old unwritten interpretation of the prohibitions about demonstrating in the Capitol," Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer said in a statement late Wednesday.

"The policy and procedures were too vague," he added. "The failure to adequately prepare the officers is mine."

What should the Police Chief have told his officers? “Our long-standing tradition prohibits t-shirts with messages on them, but tonight if any congressman’s wife or famous leftist wears one, give them a pass because we don’t want the bad publicity.”

The worst comment came from a Republican, Congressman Bill Young, whose wife wore a t-shirt to a State of the Union Speech.

"My wife was humiliated," he told reporters. He suggested that "sensitivity training" may be in order for Capitol Police.

Yes, this Republican wants to waste policemen’s time with sensitivity training because they did their job and his wife was humiliated.

UPDATE: I cleaned this up, taking out the abuse that I wrote in my first angry reaction to this story, because I sounded a bit too much like Atrios.

Rush's Take On the SOTU

I listened to Rush Limbaugh’s first hour. He thought the SOTU speech was great because it made the Democrats look bad. America cheered Bush as the Democrats sat on their hands. If I understand Rush, he thought the speech was designed to show America who the Democrats really are.

It is true that the Democrats looked bad, but is this the most important thing to say about the speech? Should making the Democrats look bad be one of Bush’s major concerns when he delivers an important speech? Making the Democrats look bad is a short-term gain; what about he long term? Did Bush’s speech advance freedom and individual rights in America or did it advance state intervention in the economy?

Someday when we have lost all our freedom, conservatives will be able to look back in satisfaction at the night Bush made the Democrats look bad. Boy, those were the days! I hope it makes their chains feel lighter.

Rehang That Veil!

AP reports:

Two top Egyptian officials called on Hamas to recognize Israel, disarm and honor past peace deals Wednesday, the latest sign Arab governments are pushing the militant group to moderate after its surprise election victory.


Hamas is under growing international pressure to renounce its violent ideology and recognize Israel's right to exist as a condition for receiving millions of dollars in foreign aid — the lifeline of the Palestinian economy. Western powers have said they will not fund a Hamas-led Palestinian government otherwise.
Let me take a guess at what is going on here. A lot of people think the Hamas election is good because it brings clarity to the Palestinian situation. Why wasn’t there clarity before? Because Arafat played a double game that the pragmatists of the West were happy to go accept. He talked about peace to the West but at the same time indoctrinated Palestinian schoolchildren to idolize terrorists. He gave the West just enough talk about peace so that they could evade his terrorism, and that kept the money flowing into his Swiss bank account.

Mubarak's spokesman, Suleiman Awaad, also called on Hamas to recognize peace deals with Israel. Former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat "was able to change his position. There is nothing that prevents smart leaders from changing their positions to behave accordingly," Awaad said.

Arafat changed, but not essentially. He moderated his rhetoric for the West because it made him rich. But when he was offered a peace deal during the ‘90s, he ultimately walked away from it. He did not want peace with Israel.

Now Hamas is threatening the arrangement by being honest about their intentions toward Israel. They have removed the veneer of negotiations that allowed the pragmatists to evade reality. Their principles stand so naked before the world that even career diplomats in the State Department can see them.

Egypt and the rest of the diplomatic community want Hamas to declarify the issues again. They want Hamas to hang a veil over their ugliness so that everyone can resume pretending the bride is beautiful. The dollars will continue to pour in from the West.

I think those commentators who hail the Palestinian election as a victory for clarity are overoptimistic. They underestimate the pragmatists’ capacity to evade reality. All it will take is some nice sounding lie from Hamas for the diplomats to claim that they have changed.

"Nobody will talk to them before they stop violence, recognize Israel and accept (peace) agreements," Suleiman said. "These are radical people. But we have to try to convince them to change their position. It's still difficult to make them change 180 degrees ... This might take six months or more. We will try."

Six months is probably all the diplomats will need to make the issue unclear again. The State Department is not called Foggy Bottom for nothing.

(HT: Instapundit)

Today's Deep Thought

"If I wasn't Bob Dylan, I'd probably think that Bob Dylan has a lot of answers myself."
Bob Dylan

Mm, not if you were Myrhaf.

(HT: Maggie's Farm. Ain't gonna steal quotes from Maggie's Farm no more...)