January 31, 2006

Remembering Ernie Kovacs

The funniest TV show I ever saw, bar none, was the comedy of Ernie Kovacs. Ernie was a wacky Magyar, who opened his show with a vibraphone number by the Nairobi Trio, shown below.

Ernie also made famous the inimitable Leona Anderson, whose pseudo-operatic "Rats In My Room" is the all-time non-classic classical music spoof.

Ernie was married to the lovely Edie Adams,
and died too young, at 43, in 1962. But he was funny.

Of course, nowadays you'd be howled down by the PC crowd if you put a bunch of guys in gorilla suits on TV and called them the "Nairobi Trio." You'd be lucky to avoid a fatwa. Buy Danish.

UPDATE: A video of the fabulous three here. Sorry about the ad that precedes it.

Schadenfreude Dep't

Aside from the Senate Democrats, my Schadenfreude quotient was increased by this incident:
CAMBRIDGE, England (Jan. 30) - A museum visitor shattered three Qing dynasty Chinese vases when he tripped on his shoelace, stumbled down a stairway and brought the vases crashing to the floor, officials said Monday.

The three vases, dating from the late 17th or early 18th century, had been donated to the Fitzwilliam Museum in the university city of Cambridge in 1948, and were among its best-known artifacts. They had been sitting proudly on the window sill beside the staircase for 40 years.
Reminds me of Eddie Lawrence, the Old Philosopher:
Hello, there, my friend.

You say your old man dressed up as Santa Claus and can't get his
belly through the fireplace?

And you hang up a purple bulb on the tree and three thousand volts
go through ya?

And your brother made an animal cage out of your Erector set, and Grandma can't get out?

And someone opened a window while you're sortin' stamps and all your triangles are flying around the house?

And one of your gifts, a strange little shiny box, suddenly takes
off and is now circling the earth at twelve-hundred miles-an-hour?

Is that what's troublin' you, bunky?!?

HT: Hugh Hewitt.

January 29, 2006


In his autobiographical book Goodbye To All That, the English poet Robert Graves describes the disappearance of the hopeful, rational Europe in the trenches of France during the First World War. Millions were slaughtered as a result of the stupidity and arrogance of their leaders and commanders.

The result was the collapse of three multinational empires, Ottoman Turkey, Austria-Hungary, and Russia, and their replacement by truculent national states and totalitarian régimes, followed by a further, and bloodier World War, that in turn ushered in the collapse of the European colonial empires and a "Cold" war in which millions also died. China, in its turn, was taken over by a bloody totalitarian state.

Not so long ago, the Soviet empire collapsed with relatively little violence, and ushered in what it seemed might be a period of relative tranquility, with the exception of failed states such as Haiti, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The First World War was long a-brewing, but its trigger was Sarajevo, where a Serbian assassin's bullet was the tossed pebble that launched the avalanche of mobilizations and declarations that began the World War.

We learn from Sarajevo and its aftermath that prediction and calculation in statecraft are often ludicrously wide of the mark. I will not venture either an apocalyptic scenario like Dr. Bob's nor a call to arms like Gerald Baker's. It will be enough for me here to list some of the factors that make some kind of sudden downward spiral plausible, and whisper for the appearance of the Four Horsemen, War, Pestilence, Famine and Death.
  • The apparent acquisition by North Korea's Kim Jong Il of nuclear weapons, and the inability or unwillingness of the Five (China, Japan, South Korea, Russia, and the U.S.) to bring the little tyrant to heel.

  • The increasing instability of China itself, barely a whisper in the news media so far. Popular protests and land confiscations and local corruption have been meeting increasingly violent resistance, and the régime, seeing the Mandate of Heaven slipping away, has been slow to devise institutions to allow for some kind of orderly transition. A war in the Taiwan Strait, or a nationalist campaign against Japan, might be a tempting tactic to postpone internal collapse. China is acquiring the means.

  • The progress of Iran's nuclear program, combined with the rise to a position of prominence (who knows how much real power?) of the strange Ahmadinejad, apparently a believer in the reappearance of the occulted Twelfth Imam. Even if Ahmadinejad is restrained in normal times by the more cautious sectors of the Mullahocracy, what would transpire if the Iranian people were about to toss out the régime? Like Hitler, would the mullahs conclude that a faithless people deserved destruction and mass death?

  • There are parallel political upheavals in Israel on the one hand and the West Bank and Gaza on the other. There are enough people on both sides who believe they have God's telephone number, while an unstable Syria and an armed, Iranian-subsidzed Hezbollah lurk to the north, to make events unpredictable. War (as opposed to bombings, roadblocks and raids) could easily lead to a second Nakbeh, the mass expulsion of Palestinians to Jordan and perhaps Egypt.

  • Although, unlike some, I believe a Lebanese-style compromise could emerge in Iraq, the situation is hardly stable. A civil war could break out, with Iran, Turkey and Syria all potential paticipants.

  • Europe has gone completely feckless, incapable even of bringing Iran to the Security Council. Meanwhile, sterile ex-Christian majorities are being nudged by new, growing, immigrant Muslim minorities. The French rejection of the European Union is unlikely to be reversed. If it is not already too late for the old Europeans, their eleventh-hour response to the threat may well be brutal and extreme.

  • Meanwhile, Africa seems hopeless and Latin America is in the grip of a leftism that has repeatedly failed it, with organized racial resentment now thrown in.

  • The potential is there for some or many of these brewing crises to interupt energy flows and thus to provoke economic turmoil or collapse.

  • Our own country seems torn between an administration that understands national secuirty but is less than wise, and a totally feckless opposition that repeatedly panders to its own moonbat left wing. Whether we as a nation will make sacrifices, take risks, or endure privation to defend our interests and our freedom, and whether our leadership, now and post-2008, will be up to the challenge, is in question.
The picture that emerges is a potential for things to spin out of control. Whether they will, and if so, where, how and when, I do not claim to know.

But I believe that danger lurks, and fear that our suburban world of Starbucks and soccer is about to be shaken. Hard.

January 28, 2006

Zoe's Latest Poem

Lingering Shadows
Lingering Shadow
No matter how much I push
and try to force you away
you still remain here
lodged in my heart;
etched in my memories;
lost in my dreams.
No matter how I resist you
you still remain here
hiding within me
searching for something
I claim not to have.
And yet, every time
when I think of you,
you slip through my fingers
and flee from my grasp.
You are my future,
my present,
my past.
Every time I reach for you
I clasp empty air.
Every time I call to you,
and dream of you,
my dear.
I cannot escape you,
you’re just out of reach.
I know I can't have you,
that right has been taken.
Still, every time you’re in sight,
my feet will move forwards,
my arms will extend,
I’ll fall flat on my face dear
and you’ll be gone once again.
But in spite of that,
because of that too,
I will never stop chasing.
I'll follow forever,
those traces of you
will not yet be gone.
If you cannot leave me,
I refuse to move on.
I will keep trying to catch you
forever my dear,
my demon,
my shadow,
forever stay near.
This is the revised version. You can see how Zoë thought throug her edits here. Revise, edit, revise. A key to great writing. She's 14. Yes, I'm her father, but I am truly impressed.

God's Gift to the GOP

From Power Line:
The Washington Times article by Charles Hurt on John Kerry's call for a filibuster of Judge Alito's confirmation is long in entertainment value: "Democrats concede Judge Alito victory." Surely this was Scott McClellan's finest hour:
White House spokesman Scott McClellan called it a "pretty historic" day.

"This was the first time ever that a senator has called for a filibuster from the slopes of Davos, Switzerland," Mr. McClellan said. "I think even for a senator, it takes some pretty serious yodeling to call for a filibuster from a five-star ski resort in the Swiss Alps."
Kerry is a world champion jamoke.

January 27, 2006

The Three Ages of Man In the Big Box

I blew a good part of my day at Costco yesterday. I had a flat tire, and my Honda has one of those dwarf temporary replacement tires, so I had no choice but to replace the flat. Turns out Costco was having a sale, so there went the day . . .

It seems that Costco is now selling coffins. They already sold cribs. And diapers for babies and adults. Costco has the three ages of man covered.
In the Middle Ages the cathedrals hovered over the towns, and the fairs were in the open air. Sacraments marked the ages of man.

These days, little pligrimages to the big boxes, like the cathedrals always built on the same plan, but unlike the cathedrals not to last, accompany us from the cradle to the grave. And in Orange County many churches are in nondescript tilt-up buildings in our industrial zones.

The cathedrals will outlast both, even if they are turned into mosques.

January 26, 2006

The Non-Declarative Declaration

My former neighbor Gerard has done a riff on poor Joel Stein, the hapless cub columnist for the LA Times, whom the blosophere savaged for a column wherein he allowed as how he didn't support our troops.

Brave or foolish enough to allow Hugh Hewitt to interview him on the air, Stein showed he knew nothing about our men in uniform, and the Times had no reason to pay him to opine.

Gerard makes two points. He observes that Stein speaks declarative sentences that end in an annoying half-question intonation. That's common among what as a Grumpy Old Man I am entitled to call the Slacker Generation. Gerard links it to what he calls a "neuter" quality, a disconcerting blandness and inability to live a real life.

I don't think Gerard's making the commonplace association between anti-military views and cowardice or effeminacy, but rather to a persistent disconnect from responsibility, from assertion, from polarity of any kind. Neither yang nor yin, the Steins of the world are incorporeal wraiths.

I would add to Gerard's thought mention of the recent articles on the exodus of males from our high schools and colleges, and the resulting feminization of those institutions and the professions, the rise of hip hop music and iconography, and the increasing absence of fathers in any but the sperm-donor sense.

If "virtue" etymologically refers to the male qualities, it would seem that many of my generation have failed to raise up virtuous men, worthy human beings who can be counted on and will take a stand when it counts. Instead we have raised up wusses on the one hand, and thugs on the other (or at least boys who emulate thuggish style and manners).

Our soliders and marines seem to be an exception, and I hestiate to draw too bleak a picture because it's so easy for the grandparent generation to conclude that youth has gone to hell in a handbasket. But Gerard is on to something.

For a longer and somewhat different essay on this theme, read "The Sons of Murphy Brown", or anything by Theodore Dalrymple.

January 25, 2006

George Again: This Was Not Photoshopped

George Galloway making an even bigger fool of himself than before, if that's possible.

Meanwhile, no comment from the socialists who sponsored George's speaking tour.

From Political Teen, who has video.

UPDATE: This picture is even weirder.


Seattle's eloquent Dr. Bob sketches a plausible and scary doomsday scenario.

Meanwhile, we natter on about earmarks, domestic spying, "American Idol," and Seahawks v. Steelers.

Read the whole thing.

January 24, 2006

Advice on Avoiding Identity Theft


Some stuff I didn't know. And a good blog generally.

Moonbat Coup at Pacifica

I still have a button on my car radio programmed to KPFK, Southern California's Pacifica Network radio station. Truth be told, though, I only listen to Ian Masters and occasionally to Susie Weissman, both intelligent and civil lefties.

Marc Cooper, a former programmer on KPFK and Radio Nation, a lefty with a few grains of good sense, tells all about the decline of Pacifica:
The potentially biggest media resource – and really one of the largest institutions of any sort—on the American Left has taken one more giant and voluntary step toward oblivion.

The five-station, listener-sponsored, half-billion dollar Pacifica Radio network has just named a new executive director. Predictable enough that the new guy, Greg Guma, comes straight out of the pwogwessive bubble of Burlington. But what catches the eye is how Guma – who will now oversee the five stations—has written with enthusiasm about truly off-kilter conspiracy theorists like David Ray Griffin who argue that 9/11 was NOT caused by the four Al Qaeda—commandeered planes. Instead, Guma asks us to take seriously the proposition that the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon were the product of a Reichstag-like plot engineered by the Bush Administration.

That proposition was described as “monstrous” by former CIA agent Bob Baer writing in The Nation magazine a couple of years ago (Baer’s story was the basis of the movie Syriana). Baer’s reaction to the same loon praised by Guma is the proper one: The Bushies may be liars but that is no reason to lie to ourselves and swoon over preposterous conspiracy theories.Unless, of course you are the new Executive Director of the Pacifica network. To be frank, for those of us who actually pay some attention to this matter, the selection of a non-credible fringie like Guma is hardly a surprise. Pacifica has been in accelerating decline for two decades – especially in the last five years (disclaimer: I did a daily drive-time show on Pacifica’s KPFK in Los Angeles from 1998-2001. I quit when an extreme know-nothing faction who believed that I and others were engaged in a dark "corporatist" conspiract to -gasp!- "mainstream" the programming took over the entire organization. My Radio Nation show, which was made available for free to hundreds of public radio stations and therefore to Pacifica, was also carried on KPFK until last month when the program moved –without me—to Air America).
If there is a rational left anywhere in America, I have yet to find it.

Yes, TV Can Go This Low

The Amy Fisher-Buttafuoco reunion.

Mencken, of course, was right.

January 23, 2006

A Revealing Protest By an Israeli Arab

It seems that some in Israel have proposed a land swap, putting some of Galillee's Arab towns into a new Palestinian state in exchange for Jewish settlements near Jerusalem.

This proposal does not sit well with Israeli Arabs, even if they are in some ways second-class citizens (although exempt from the draft):
MK Ahmed Tibi (Hadash-Tal) slammed the plan. "We reject this proposal outright and find it repulsive," he said.

"Is Israel going in the direction of making its Arab population feel like a rejected enemy or attempting to create an atmosphere of co-existence and equality?" Tibi said.

Tibi called on Israel to declare its Arab population a "national minority" and to adopt the Canadian model in which the relations between the minority and majority populations are clearly defined in a constitution.
MK Tibi would rather be a minority in Israel than part of the majority in Palestine. Tibi and his constituents know a failed state in the making when they see one.

I'm no particular fan of Israel, but this news item reveals how much worse an independent Palestine, alas, is likely to be.

January 22, 2006

UCLA Alumni vs. The Professoriat

Recently a group of conservative alumni has been publishing portraits of professors whose leftism it denounces. This otherwise unremarkable event made the news when it came out that the Bruin Alumni (no affiliation with the official alumni association) were offering to pay up to $100 for evidence of classroom indoctrination or intimidation by lefty academics.

Some of the portraits on the website were right on (Victor Wolfenstein doubles down as a Marxist and a Freudian, of all things?), some sophomoric, and some plain silly. Law school professor Carole Goldberg, for instance, is no radical, even if she supports affirmative action and garnered a donation from a casino-rich Indian tribe.

In response to the website, howls of "McCarthyism" were heard, of course.

Having been, in my callow youth, one of those lefty profs, and having aged into a libertarian conservative wingnut, as my sister puts it, I find the whole subject amusing.

The charge of McCarthyism (assuming that such a thing ever existed and was as evil as it was reputed to be) can be put quickly to rest. These accusations are neither gratuitously false, nor are they coupled with anything beyond mere denunciation--no call for mass firings, blacklisting, or lynching has been heard in the land. As Eugene Volokh, a non-lefty UCLA law professor comments,
My colleagues and I are public servants. We have a certain degree of influence over public affairs, both through our public commentary and through our teaching. Others disagree with us, and think we're doing a public disservice rather than a public service. They're entitled to criticize us, and to monitor our public performance of our duties to see whether that performance is, in their view, lacking. I try to imagine what I would think if someone from the Left set up a site to criticize Prof. Bainbridge, me, and my (rather few) conservative colleagues, and to solicit concrete evidence of our supposed misdeeds; I would like to think that I would recognize that this was their right, both legally and ethically.

Now it's true that this may have a "chilling effect" in the sense of deterring some people from saying controversial things, in class or outside it. But all criticism has such an effect; much criticism is intended to have such an effect. It's even good when criticism has such a deterrent effect, for instance when it deters us from saying foolish or unsound things. If you criticize my posts, my articles, or my lectures, and I recognize that your criticism is apt — that my lectures were too partisan, or that my arguments were unsound — then I may well change what I say. That's criticism performing its proper function.

And if I think your criticism is unsound, my duty is to remain undeterred. It's not always an easy duty to fulfill. But look: Most of my colleagues have tenure. Even our untenured colleagues have the protection of being reviewed by their peers, and peers who are generally unlikely to much sympathize with what the UCLAProfs.com site says. We're in a much better position than other public servants, who routinely have to deal with criticism. If we're not robust enough to resist unsound criticisms — if we're deterred from saying certain things even when we think they should be said — what's the point of all the employment protections we have?
In short, if you're going to put your snout in the public trough, and take positions that are more popular on your insulated campus than in the outside world, be prepared to take criticism, even it it's a sophomoric and beside the point, as much, though not all, of the UCLA Profs website is. That's not a witchhunt, it's free speech.

I remember when one of the UCLA Profs honorees, Richard Abel, came to a Santa Monica City Council meeting while I was serving as a councilmember, and after saying his 3-minute piece, marched off muttering loudly that I was a "turncoat" and worse. I was a turncoat, from his point of view, and if he didn't like the way I voted, or spoke on the Council, he was free as an American to blast me, as indeed, the "SMRR" leftist faction did in the next election campaign. Such is life in a democracy.

It is still true that UCLA academics, especially in the humanities and social sciences, list sharply to the left (although at one time at least, the Economics Department, very much "Chicago school," was an exception). Academia is monolithically left wing and politically correct, which is a problem when we consider the taxes that go to support them and the tenure that protects their sinecures, and the pressures of speech codes and political correctness that too often chill dissenting speech on campuses.

People who are publicly political must expect criticism, and not always in the form of wiffle balls. If critics blast them, they may choose to respond, politely or in anger, or they can grin and bear it. And most of these folks are publicly political. The Bruin Alumni website, however, is the first instance of interest in the petitions that professors sign that I've seen in years! Those who are one-sided or intimidating in the classroom have committed a different sort of offense, and may be called to account in a different way; this sort of thing appears to be much less common, outside the schools of ethnic studies and the occasional course on the Middle East.

In any event, if you're going to go public with your politics, stop whining and learn to live with criticism. It comes with the territory.

UPDATE--Corrected some typos at 1500 hrs. PST on Jan. 22.

Greenhut Gets a Twofer

Just below, I mention Orange County Register columnist Steve Greenhut's aside on Madagascar hissing roaches.

I always wonder if Steve Greenhut is related to my 7th Grade English teacher, also a Greenhut, first name "Mister," who had a way with unruly 13-year olds and a darker beard than Dick Nixon.

In any case, today's Greenhut column is a journalist's paean to the blogosphere. A libertarian, Greenhut rejoices in the sprawling diversity and freedom of the blogosphere, rejecting the "O dear, the sky is falling and the market for buggy whips is collapsing" attitude of so many in the press.

From his picture, Steve Greenhut looks like he shares the heavy beard with his putative cousin, Mister.

If Steve were as persuasive to politicians as Mister was in selling "Julius Caesar" to literarily challenged New York seventh-graders, California would be a better place.

Yes, Virginia, There Are Madagascar Hissing Roaches

The Orange County Register's Steve Greenhut mentioned, in passing, Madagascar hissing roaches, claiming no less than 711 hits when googling them. Here's one depicted, and here's an essay on these six-legged revelers.

As a student, I had to wander the stacks, no doubt inhabited by more prosaic arthropods, to find stuff like this. Now I can do it from the comfort of our deck. Brave New World, indeed!

January 21, 2006

Bryan and Dorothy

An historian named Littlefield came up with a detailed analogy between Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and the politics of the turn of the 20th Century, in which the now underrated William Jennings Bryan headed a movement for the free coinage of silver, which would, he said, free the farmer and the workingman from the oppression of Wall Street.

Although apparently Littlefield later questioned the allegory, it is so much fun that one hesitates to abandon it.
The Lion represents Bryan himself. In the election of 1896 Bryan lost the vote of Eastern Labor, though he tried hard to gain their support. In Baum's story the Lion meeting the little group, "struck at the Tin Woodman with his sharp claws." But, to his surprise, "he could make no impression on the tin, although the Woodman fell over in the road and lay still." Baum here refers to the fact that in 1896 workers were often pressured into voting for McKinley and gold by their employers.[19] Amazed, the Lion says, "he nearly blunted my claws," and he adds even more appropriately, "When they scratched against the tine it made a cold shiver run down my back" (pp. 67-68). The King of Beasts is not after all very cowardly, and Bryan, although a pacifist and an anti-imperialist in a time of national expansion, is not either.[20] The magic Silver Shoes belong to Dorothy, however. Silver's potent charm, which had come to mean so much to so many in the Midwest, could not be entrusted to a political symbol. Baum delivers Dorothy from the world of adventure and fantasy to the real world of heartbreak and desolution through the power of Silver. It represents a real force in a land of illusion, and neither the Cowardly Lion nor Bryan truly needs or understands its use.

All together now the small party moves toward the Emerald City. Coxey's Army of tramps and indigents, marching to ask President Cleveland for work in 1894, appears no more naively innocent than this group of four characters going to see a humbug Wizard, to request favors that only the little girl among them deserves.

Those who enter the Emerald City must wear green glasses. Dorothy later discovers that the greeness of dresses and ribbons disappears on leaving, and everything becomes a bland white. Perhaps the magic of any city is thus self imposed. But the Wizard dwells here and so the Emerald City represents the national Capitol. The Wizard, a little bumbling old man, hiding behind a facade of paper mache and noise, might be any president from Grant to McKinley. He comes straight from the fairgrounds on Omaha, Nebraska, and he symbolizes the American criterion for leadership -- he is able to be everything to everybody.

As each of our heroes enters the throne room to ask a favor the Wizard assumes different shapes, representing different views toward national leadership. To Dorothy he appears as an enormous head, "bigger than the head of the biggest giant." An apt image for a naive and innocent little citizen. To the Scarecrow he appears to be a lovely, gossamer fairy, a most appropriate form for an idealistic Kansas farmer. The Woodman sees a horrible beast, as would any exploited Eastern laborer after the trouble of the 1890's. But the Cowardly Lion, like W. J. Bryan, sees a "Ball of Fire, so fierce and glowing he could scarcely bear to gaze upon it." Baum then provides an additional analogy, for when the Lion "tried to go nearer he singed his whiskers and he crept back tremblingly to a spot nearer the door." (p. 134)
What sort of an allegory could we create with Karl Rove, Joe Biden, and Michael Moore? Nothing to equal "Oz," I suspect. The mighty have fallen, and the glory of Europe (like America) has vanished forever.

January 18, 2006

More Answers to Impertinent Questions

Four Jobs I've Had
1. College professor
2. Elevator operator
3. Bookstore worker
4. Lawyer

Four Places I've Lived
1. Manhattan
2. Brasília, Brazil
3. Stepford Irvine, CA
4. DC

Movies I'd Watch Again
1. Casablanca
2. Seven Samurai
3. God and the Devil In the Land of the Sun
4. Coneheads

TV Shows I love to watch
1. House
2. Gilmore Girls
3. Sopranos
4. Rev. Gene Scott

Four of my favourite foods
1. Hachiya Persimmons
2. Squid
3. Gingerbread
4. Maine Lobster

Four places I'd rather be right now
1. French Polynesia
2. Chiloe, Chile
3. Venice, Italy
4. Portugal

HT: The Little Woman.

January 17, 2006

Nuclear Felines?


Maine Coons are dangerous, sometimes.

One of Our Daughters to Remember With Pride

Myla Maravillosa, an American soldier from Hawaii, was killed in iraq on Christmas Eve, the Anchoress reports:
Maravillosa died from injuries she sustained when the Humvee in which she was riding was struck from behind by a rocket-propelled grenade. She was in the back seat of her vehicle, the last one in a convoy of five on a routine patrol.

“She met the sisters at the cathedral at Mass and she just felt right away the attraction for religious life,” said Sister Susan, one of the sisters who operate the downtown Pauline Book and Media Center. “She would come to visit us and volunteer at least a couple of times a week.

The Dec. 31 cathedral service was a somber hour of testimony and remembrances in words, pictures and music. The Rev. Gary Dale, a Protestant chaplain and Army major, offered the opening prayer.

“She touched so many in so many different ways,” Rev. Dale said. “She sacrificed her own (freedom) so that the Iraqi people could be free.”

Brig. Gen. Gregory Schumacher, commander of the Military Intelligence Readiness Command, flew in from Washington to speak.

“She approached everything she did with a positive spirit,” he said. “She was a servant of God, her country, her fellow man.”
Not all our young people are slackers. Some of our best are in the military.

A Southern Memory

I found this piece, a childhood memory of the white author's black nanny, very moving. An excerpt:
The sharpest memory of the color line that lingers in my mind is a spring day in 1968, when I was almost nine. Roseanna stood at the ironing board in between the twin beds where my brother and I slept, which she used as laundry tables on washday. I remember the smell of starch and the hissing of steam, and then the sudden realization that Mrs. Allen was crying. Silent streams of tears trickled onto my father's white shirts. When I asked her what was wrong, she almost bellowed: "What's wrong? What's wrong?" She seemed desperate and almost out of control. "They gone and killed Martin Luther King, that's what's wrong!" She choked hard on her sobs and buried her face in the laundry.

I knew vaguely who Dr. King was, and I knew that my father admired him greatly, but I was too young to understand even a little of the magnitude of that murder in Memphis. All I knew was that I wanted to comfort my beloved Roseanna. Never had I seen a grown-up crying like that. And so I said the only thing I could think of to say: "Maybe it will be alright, Roseanna, maybe somehow it will work out for the best."

She lifted her head and almost roared at the obscenity of the thought. "Work out for the best? How could it possibly work out for the best?" Mrs. Allen's face, contorted with tears and anger, looked at me with a stunned expression of rage. "How could it work out for the best that the man that God lifted up to save my people has been shot down like a dog in the streets? Did it work out for the best that Hitler killed six million Jews? Would it work out for the best if somebody burned your house down to the ground? Did it work out for the best that they took King Jesus out and nailed him to the cross?" Her head pitched forward into the crook of her arm again, and once again she sobbed into the laundry.

Somehow I managed to whisper, "We think it did, don't we?"

"What?" she said, raising her red-rimmed eyes at me.

"We think it worked out for the best that they hung Jesus on the cross, don't we, Roseanna? Jesus died on the cross to save us all from sin, didn't he?" I asked her.

"Oh, child," she cried, crawling toward me on her knees. "Oh, sweet child," and before I could move she was kneeling in front of me, reduced to roughly my height by her kneeling, and she squeezed me tight, rocking me back and forth in a muttered mixture of tears and prayers, and she held onto me for a long, long time. Afterwards, she rounded up my brother and my sisters and gave everybody their own little bottle of Coca-Cola, and we took the thick green bottles out to the back steps, where we sat together for what seemed like the rest of the day. Mrs. Allen would wail and cry from time to time, and cling to us. When my father came home, I remember, he hugged her, which I had never seen before. It was a terrible, terrible day, how terrible it was I had no way to know at nine years old.
What I remember from that day is that the black bus drivers in New York City, which I was about to leave, kept their headlights on.

January 15, 2006

Iran Delenda Est?

This piece by Niall Ferguson is a chilling "what if" about the Gulf War of 2007.

His notion is that if Iran's President Ahmadinejad is not stopped, a nuclear exchange between Iran and Israel and ensuing war are real prospects. And condidering the burgeoning alliance between Venezuela's mad Hugo Chávez and Iran, the introduction of hostile nuclear weapons into this hemisphere is not excluded.

Chilling. And the Senate gabbles about disgruntled old-school-tie Princeton alumni.

Patric the Cat

As a courtesy to readers of Nancy's blog, herewith two portraits of the redoubtable Patric, the cat:
And here is a posturing idiot posing as a cat on British television.

January 14, 2006

Georgie, We Hardly Knew Ya!

This post and the videos it links to shows the Scottish rogue George Galloway making a fool of himself in a nonpolitical way, as opposed to his political follies of the past.

What will the Bolshies who sponsored his speaking tour say now? I don't think Lenin or Trotsky groveled in public and pretended to be kittens. What was the line about history repeating itself as farce?

The name of George's political party is . . . Respect!

January 13, 2006

Bloggers On the House Leadership Contest

I've joined in this appeal over at NZ Bear.

An Appeal from Center-Right Bloggers

We are bloggers with boatloads of opinions, and none of us come close to agreeing with any other one of us all of the time. But we do agree on this: The new leadership in the House of Representatives needs to be thoroughly and transparently free of the taint of the Jack Abramoff scandals, and beyond that, of undue influence of K Street.

We are not naive about lobbying, and we know it can and has in fact advanced crucial issues and has often served to inform rather than simply influence Members.

But we are certain that the public is disgusted with excess and with privilege. We hope the Hastert-Dreier effort leads to sweeping reforms including the end of subsidized travel and other obvious influence operations. Just as importantly, we call for major changes to increase openness, transparency and accountability in Congressional operations and in the appropriations process.

As for the Republican leadership elections, we hope to see more candidates who will support these goals, and we therefore welcome the entry of Congressman John Shadegg to the race for Majority Leader. We hope every Congressman who is committed to ethical and transparent conduct supports a reform agenda and a reform candidate. And we hope all would-be members of the leadership make themselves available to new media to answer questions now and on a regular basis in the future.


N.Z. Bear, The Truth Laid Bear
Hugh Hewitt, HughHewitt.com
Glenn Reynolds, Instapundit.com
Kevin Aylward, Wizbang!
La Shawn Barber, La Shawn Barber's Corner
Lorie Byrd, Polipundit
Jeff Goldstein, Protein Wisdom
John Hawkins, Right Wing News
John Hinderaker, Power Line
Jon Henke / McQ / Dale Franks, QandO
James Joyner, Outside The Beltway
Mike Krempasky, Redstate.org
Michelle Malkin, MichelleMalkin.com
Ed Morrissey, Captain's Quarters
Scott Ott, Scrappleface
John Donovan / Bill Tuttle, Castle Argghhh!!!

January 11, 2006

Bloviating Fools

Senator Leahy buries his face in his hands as Slow Joe Biden natters on.

Won't anyone tell these fools to shut the f*** up?

And Slow Joe thinks he's running for what? President?

January 10, 2006

At First, I Thought This Was a Parody


Next: Teddy Kennedy and Jean Jacques Cousteau: kindred spirits.

Remind me not to send my kids to Pomona.

January 8, 2006

No Ignoramus

No politics, religion or philosophy tonight.

For complicated reasons, I flashed on that daffy duo, Flanders & Swann, and their revue, At the Drop of a Hat.

My kid sister used to be able to (and no doubt still can) warble:

We don't ask much for wages, we only want fair shares
So cut down all the stages and stick up all the fares.
If tickets cost a pound a piece
Why should you make a fuss?
It's worth it just to ride inside
That 30-foot-long by 10-foot-wide
Inside that monarch of the road,
Observer of the Highway Code,
That big six-wheeler scarlet-painted London transport diesel-engined 97-horsepower, 97-horsepower omnibus.
I remember stuff like that, but unlike my brilliant sister, not completely, and rarely in order. The green monster is sitting on my shoulder.

And who can forget The Hippopotamus Song:
A bold hippopotamus was standing one day
On the banks of the cool Shalimar
He gazed at the bottom as he peacefully lay
By the light of the evening star
Away on the hilltop sat combing her hair
His fair hippopotami maid
The hippopotamus was no ignoramus
And sang her this sweet serenade

Mud, mud, glorious mud
Nothing quite like it for cooling the blood
So follow me follow, down to the hollow
And there let me wallow in glorious mud

The fair hippopotama he aimed to entice
From her seat on that hilltop above
As she hadn't got a ma to give her advice
Came tiptoeing down to her love
Like thunder the forest re-echoed the sound
Of the song that they sang when they met
His inamorata adjusted her garter
And lifted her voice in duet

Now answer the comprehension questions here. Pencils ready!

After that, they sang it in Russian.

Enough for now. I'm having some Madeira with my gnu.

January 4, 2006

Abramoff, Gambling and Public Policy

I know, we could make a fortune, but where can we have the game?
The Biltmore garage wants a grand
But we ain't got a grand on hand.
And they now got a lock on the door
To the gym at P.S. 84.
There's the stock room behind the McCloskey's bar.
But Mrs. McCloskey ain't a good scout.
And things being how they are
The back of the police station is out!

--The Oldest Established, from Guys and Dolls
Jack Abramoff has plead guilty, and many are quaking in their boots.

Chickens have a way of coming home to roost. Some of it's just plain corruption, and some of it is due to the Republicans having become the party of government. As Lord Acton said, "Power tends to corrupt; and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

It would be naïve to think that any brand of conservative ideology (to the extent Congressmen have an ideology other than "Me, me, me!") would prevent the GOP from becoming just as corrupt as the Other Party is when it has power. Just witness the history of Republican Orange County, California, where I live.

More to the point is the fact that Abramoff's machinations largely involved legalized gambling, in this case that bizarrely vouchsafed to Indian tribes. Over a generation or two, we have seen legalized gambling spread from church social halls and Las Vegas to most of the country. When California had its lottery initiative, and I was briefly a budding politician, I was asked to support the initiative. To the surprise of my political consultants, I refused.

Instinctively, I felt then, and feel now, that although nothing's wrong with a penny ante social poker game, legalizing large-scale gambling is a mistake.

I'm not sure why serious Protestants condemn gambling, and Catholics sponsor it, and although I acknowledge that lotteries, at least, are a tax that lays heavier on the willing poor than on the rich, I haven't really analyzed these arguments.

I have two points to explain my feeling. The first is that large-scale gambling somehow lowers the moral tone of society. A neon sign flashing "Casino" doesn't make me feel warm or fuzzy. It makes me feel we have all lowered ourselves. This reaction is more a feeling than an idea, and perhaps it's really some form of snobbism. I don't know.

The second point is that large-scale gambling seems to invite corruption. Large pots of money lying around, that can be increased markedly by a few short cuts, don't bring out the best in people. Rather they attract the sleazy, especially when the government gives the casinos monopoly or oligopoly power. In addition to the house percentage, there are monopoly rents to be had. So it's no surprise that an Abramoff became involved in the politics of gambling and will drag many others with him.

Prohibition seemed to increase the corrruption that surrounded alcohol production and marketing, and its repeal reined it in. I suspect that same might be true of drugs. Legalization of alcohol has, and of drugs would, bring other evils in their train, such as an increase in addiction and the pain it causes the addicted and those around them. But it seems to have reduced the involvement of the mob, perhaps because the degree of monopoly rents available, in most states, is small, when every corner grocery can sell the stuff.

Gambling, corporate though it sometimes is, seems not to shed its ganster connections just because it's legal. Turn over the rock, and you'll see the creatures scurrying to and fro.

Because it would take a nationwide revival of some kind to reduce or eliminate legalized gambling, this set of thoughts is mere rumination rather than a policy proposal. But it's part of the human tragicomedy, and so worth thinking about. Becker and Posner, where are you?

Rest In Peace, Miners

Horrible. Our heart goes out to the families.
I hope when I'm dead,
And the ages shall roll,
My body will blacken
And turn into coal.
I'll look from the door
Of my heavenly home,
And pity the miner,
A-diggin' my bones.

--Merle Travis.

January 1, 2006

2006 Thematic Apperception Test No. 1

What is going on in this photo?

Your answer will tell us a lot about your psychological makeup.

It's Joe Wilson and his outed spy wife Valerie Plame.

And what's going on here, anyhow?

HT: Just One Minute.