August 2008

While it should come as no surprise to me that the sort of people who would support the kinds of evils Hilary has helped bring forth over the years, would still be whining about how she lost the popular vote, I had no idea how delusional these folks really were. I recently ran across a blog called The Confluence, which has lowered my opinion of Hilary supporters even further. The writer claims to be part of a group called PUMA, a barely notable blip on the political radar that is having a hissy fit because voters chose Barack Obama over Hilary Clinton. What is hilarious and sad at the same time is the lack of grip on reality that the writer and many of the commenters exhibit. Come along with me and I’ll take you on a tour of their madness.

First and foremost I am amused by the comment the author makes that Liberty has died “with thunderous applause”. Evidently she’s unsure of the definition of Liberty. You see Obama won the popular vote, and led in the popular vote for practically the entire primary. The voters of America chose him. To pick Hilary over Obama when the voters have chosen Obama would resemble the death of Liberty. But as for allowing the popular vote to stand? That’s preserving Liberty. What makes this misunderstanding of Liberty even more confusing is the existance of other posts on the blog where the author advocates encouraging the Democratic super-delegates to deal a finishing blow to Democracy by overriding the popular vote. I think perhaps the author is mistaking Oligarchy for Democracy, because otherwise I don’t see how wanting a bunch of elite old white guys to override the popular vote would preserve Liberty at all.

But the madness doesn’t stop there. Oh no. It gets deeper and deeper, earlier in another post our friendly crazed Hilary blogger said:

What we have witnessed this year seems to have set back the clock for the rights of women by 40 years.

Really? Forty years? How exactly does Hilary’s losing the election to the better candidate set back human rights? Why is it any surprise that Hilary, who opposes free speech, supports censorship, supports Bush’s position on executive authority, supports the death penalty, wants to weaken and destroy public education, supported the war in Iraq, AND the Patriot Act, didn’t exactly play well with a lot of Democrats and concerned moderates? Hilary is basically just a pro-choice version of George Bush, hell she was head of the College Republicans on her campus during her University years!

I’d encourage everyone to head over to The Confluence and have a look around, you’ll find all the Hilarious Hilary Hijinks we enjoyed during the campaign and even more. The level of insanity and self deception is simply astounding, here are some brief highlights of the points I don’t have room to cover in detail:

Well, keep the good comedy coming in “The Confluence”, and don’t worry, we won’t try to win your vote. Even if all five of PUMAs members vote for McCain this November, it won’t be noticed one bit.

-Angry Midwesterner

I’m not really angry about this, only mildly piqued. I saw The Dark Knight twice, once as a matinee about week after it came out and the second time recently with MPA’s honey, who decided that she wanted to see it over our dinner of barbecue and piña coladas after a fine day in the park listening to a Brazilian drum choir. Just so you understand why I’m not actually angry per se.

Both times the experience was marred by screaming children. Time number one involved a youngish (twentysomething) mom with Junior of age 4 and Even More Junior of age 1 or so. First of all—call me old fashioned—but Junior shouldn’t be seeing The Dark Knight until he’s quite a bit older. The Joker’s disappearing pencil trick is really not appropriate for children, and it goes down from there fast. Even More Junior won’t actually understand anything, but crazy sounds, flashing lights, big booms, and so forth aren’t exactly comforting stimuli. To a one year old mind they are going to be overwhelming. Twentysomething Mom went in and out of the theater several times with screaming Even More Junior. It didn’t ruin the movie for me but it didn’t exactly help it either. On the second time, MPA and MPA’s honey go to see The Dark Knight. Again—surprise!—there are at least two small children in the theater. And again small children start to cry when the scary music starts playing (including the way-cool Shepard-Risset scale in the Joker theme), the big booms go off, and scary Mr. Joker is up to his tricks.

I am not personally opposed to “audience participation” in the movie-going experience, if it fits the mood. If you’ve ever seen a horror movie with a substantial number of black folks in the crowd, you know what I mean: A scary silence on the screen punctuated with “Girl, don’t you even go into that room!” or “Aw, you gonna get it now boy!”makes an otherwise stupid horror movie something special. Similarly, I once saw Monty Python and the Holy Grail with an extremely drunk college audience at the late, lamented Co-Ed Theater which used to be right on Green between Sixth and Wright Street. Drunken recitation of many a line by the entire audience followed. “That rabbit’s dynamite!” And who in their right mind would watch Rocky Horror except in a theater with live players?

Screaming child, however, isn’t audience participation. Millennia of evolution have made the sound of a screaming child pretty much as demanding to the human ear as it gets. Why are some parents such jackasses that they just have to see movies in the cineplex and either can’t get a sitter or, I don’t know, wait until the DVD comes out? It’s not good parenting. Not only does it subject Junior to a scary stimulus which has a non-trivial chance of leading to nightmares but also it teaches Junior that it doesn’t really matter if you ruin other people’s enjoyment. Besides it’s pointless: Chances are good you the parent won’t be seeing much of the movie anyway, not when you have to take screaming Junior to the lobby to calm down every fifteen minutes.

You have a small child. This is going to mean that there are a lot of things you won’t be able to do until Junior gets older. That’s just how it is.

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Aside 1: What a tragedy that Heath Ledger died in such a pointless way and won’t be giving any more performances like The Joker. Jack who? I’m not really a superhero move fan, but Chris Nolan’s take on Batman is the one to watch.

Aside 2: As I was reminded of when watching the trailer for the upcoming Body of Lies, it has become evident over the last few years that Leonardo di Caprio—object of loathing for many an Angry Man—has turned into a good actor and not just a pretty boy. He no longer looks like a twelve year old. He’s had some fine roles, e.g., Amsterdam Vallon in Gangs of New York, Howard Hughes in The Aviator or Danny Archer in Blood Diamonds, and turned in solid performances each time.

I hate hippies. They smell bad, they disregard the laws of this nation, support terrorism, are lazy, and are a general nuisance. Hippies should be treated like Kudzu, they shouldn’t be allowed in most states, and where ever we find an area infested with them, we ought to call in the Army Core of Engineers to help us solve the ecological disaster created by their presence. After all, I’m sure that the Army Core of Engineers know the answer to my favorite joke: “What’s orange and looks good on a Hippy?” But this article isn’t about hippies, or rather it isn’t about ALL hippies. It’s about a special breed that call themselves Vegetarians, Vegans, and other such monikers. These folks have one thing in common, a dastardly sinister plan.

They seek to cause the extinction of the noble cow.

Yes, you read that right, and whether the Hippies are aware of their plan, or not (because let’s face it when you smoke so much Mary Jane, are you really aware of anything anymore? Do you even still count as intelligent life?), make no mistake, this is their goal. Cows, or more properly, Cattle, are not a natural animal. Much like modern corn has strayed so far beyond its Teosinte origins, so have Cattle. They are dependent on us for their livelihood and cannot survive in the wild without us, just as we are dependent on them for their tastiness, and could not have a hamburger without them. But some people hate Cows so much that they want to see an end to our symbiotic relationship, and thus an end to Cows. They won’t stop till every last Cow in the world is deprived of its purpose and cast into the wild to die painfully. Their goal is for cattle to join the Dinosaurs in oblivion.

But we are not helpless against the Hippie menace! No, far from it! If we act together we can reverse the tide and save the future of cattle everywhere. A solution has been discovered by another writer who has put together an elegant but simple plan on his website. To help his plan succeed all we need to do is sponsor a vegetarian. It’s simple, effective, and fool proof. Simply find a friend of yours who refuses to eat meat and inform them you are sponsoring them, and then eat three times as much meat as you normally would. By doing this you not only counteract their part in the Crusade Against Cows, but push the tide backwards even further, helping to preserve a Bright Bovine Future. Once they see the light and agree to help preserve the future of our cattle, you can then either go back to eating a normal amount of delicious cows, or sponsor another vegetarian.

Act now! The future of our tasty and noble friends hangs in the balance!

-Angry Midwesterner

Pity poor George W. Bush. Already under fire from some quarters for his decision to attend the Olympic Games in Beijing, he drew more fire for keeping his harshest words for China out of his speeches in Beijing, and more fire still for being in Beijing and “out of the loop” for the sudden Russian invasion of Georgia. For many, just more proof that W is a bumbling fool.

But in reference to both China and Russia, it’s really Bush’s foes who are foolish, and W who really understands what is needed. Whether we like it or not, the world is currently geopolitically divided into four power blocks: the United States, Russia, China, and everyone else. The European Union and Japan can compete economically (though each is less of a competitor than either seems to realize) but lack any credible military power projection. The rest of the world may have armies, but has neither the economic might nor the infrastructure to really project them. Like it or hate it, at the present time the US really only has two rivals for hegemony: Russia and China.

And since 1972, the United States has conducted a long, slow, steady dance which has slowly but steadily transformed the People’s Republic of China from an insular, xenophobic rival into an engaged, cosmopolitan economic partner. The PRC remains an autocratic state run by a cabal which can be brutal but which, increasingly, hides its iron fist in a velvet glove. Most importantly, the PRC’s leadership has adopted a nearly explicit bargain with its people: in return for your obedience we will deliver you prosperity. This means that the PRC has little choice but to grant a growing class of wealthy capitalists and prosperous businessmen increasing freedom of action. While these classes may be largely apolitical, they will make increasing demands for their own personal, economic, and social freedom. And the Chinese will have to either deliver or watch the prosperity they need vanish.

Sadly, since 1992, Russia has taken an opposite course: clawing its way out of Communist tyranny only to fall into the worst excesses of kleptocracy and crony capitalism. As China has been building economic freedom, Russia has been reducing it—limiting wealth and influence to a tiny class of criminal overlords and political cronies. And while the Chinese leaders increasingly choose to conceal their true power, Vladimir Putin has been steadily accumulating the trappings and practice of the Czars of old. And now, at long last, he has taken up the favorite Czarist pastime: gobbling up vulnerable neighbors on the most transparent of pretenses.

Unfortunately, much as we might like to, we simply can’t afford to meet such Russian aggression openly on the battlefield. Any large direct confrontation between American and Russian forces must result in either many, many Russian soldiers killed by American weapons or vice-versa. And that means that in any such confrontation, the specter of nuclear retaliation cannot be avoided. No matter how unlikely, the very thought of nuclear escalation must give us pause, especially against someone with Putin’s sociopathic patterns. Yet we cannot allow Russia to simply crush sovereign nations without limit or reprisal.

So the Administration’s strategy of avoiding rattling the saber in favor of threatening credible economic and political reprisals makes sense. As does the Administration’s willingness to allow the Russians to save face after what was, after all, a profoundly stupid move by the Georgians. And a move done in clear opposition to the consistent advice and counsel of the United States. No matter what provocations Russia engaged in—and the evidence is building that they all but directed separatist attacks—Georgia’s overwhelming military response targeting Russian “peacekeepers” directly was the worst possible response. And one which greatly limited American ability to back the Georgians.

But, as long as Russian aggression can be contained by a strong and unified stance by the US and its allies, then in the long run, Russia is the less important concern. Drunk with oil profits, and headed by a burgeoning Napolean, Russia is an important short-term threat. But it is also an aging nation with a declining population, crumbling infrastructure, and rampant corruption. In the long run, it is energetic China, with its huge population, exploding economy, and tremendous optimism which will be the great rival or the great partner of the United States. Bush can’t afford to ignore or underestimate Russia, but he knows that China deserves the greater attention.

The greater attention, and the greater respect. China remains a nation with oppressive laws, cavalier treatment of certain basic human rights, and problematic limits to the rule of law with respect to senior government and military officials. But it has also made almost unbelievable strides in a very short time. Beijing in 1988 was not a place many Westerners, much less many businessmen, would have chosen to live in. Beijing in 1998 had seen vast improvement, but still had much to do. The Beijing of 2008 has become a vibrant place of commerce, prosperity, and genuine cosmopolitan life. The limits on personal freedom remain, but have become largely unimportant for daily life: more Singapore than Communist China. Serious problems remain, but the urban centers of China of today are far more similar to those of Korea or Japan than most would have predicted even a decade ago.

So W was right when he expressed his strategy to Bob Costas in a brief, but frank interview. To influence China we must remain engaged with China. And to remain engaged with China, we must show clearly that we respect China and her recent accomplishments. To be sure, we must continue to use that relationship to urge reform and liberty, but we don’t have to slap the Chinese in the face during their big moment. Instead, we can do exactly what W did: call clear attention to the problems but keep the greater focus on the positive changes in China and the decades-old Sino-American relationship that has helped to produce them.

On the occasion of the surprisingly peaceful resignation of Pakistani “President” Pervez Musharraf the Angry Men reflect upon just what this might mean for Pakistan, the region, and the world. (And by “world” we really mean United States, but you knew that.)

(Oh, by the way, that wailing sound you hear is the sound of countless losing bets about just how bloody Musharraf’s last days would be.)

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Angry Midwesterner
Another tyrant falls. Unfortunately this won’t be the end to Pakistan’s funding of Al Qaeda, their efforts to spread nuclear weapons to rogue nations, or their long determined path of repression of human rights and dignity. One tyrant falls, another is sure to rise.

Sadly, I highly doubt Pakistan will ever be more than a rogue nation in Allied clothing during our lifetime.

Angry Immigrant
I disagree. It could be Russian in our lifetime…

Angry Overeducated Catholic
Well, as will sadly become clear, Pakistan was never really our ally. But Musharraf—for all his faults—was…

Angry New Mexican
Musharraf was incredibly bad, but it’s unlikely that Sharif or Zardari will be able to form effective, low-corruption governments, especially given their track records.

On the plus side, Pakistan has a real democracy again. On the down side, it’s not obvious that it will be any better than Bangladesh’s last democracy (which evoked little complaint from most western governments when overthrown by military coup, because the government was that monumentally corrupt).

Mildly Piqued Academician
Unsurprised. Musharraf followed the usual career trajectory of other men on horseback. After a decade of military rule it is not surprising that the military wants to return to the barracks at least for another decade.

Most “countries” in that neck of the woods are shitholes but Pakistan is a has a giant case of piles and a bunch of dingleberries too.

Angry Overeducated Catholic
As for an end to funding for al Qaeda: Far from ending, funding for al Qaeda sympathizers will go through the roof now. Not immediately, but whether Pakistan remains somewhat democratic or moves back to dictatorship, support for the Islamic extremists will almost certainly increase. It will increase in a democracy because there is real broad-base support for some of those groups in large areas of the country. It will increase in any likely dictatorship because those dictatorships would likely rise in response to the attempts to liberalize the country by the democratic leadership.

Either way, al Qaeda wins and we lose…

Musharraf was a jerk, but as the saying goes, he was our jerk. And not only in the sense of doing what we wanted but, I think, really understanding that radical Islamic terror was not healthy for Pakistan or for Muslims. I doubt the next dictator will be as strong in the face of constant threats and assassination attempts…

Angry New Mexican
Once again, conservatives coddling dictators…

Angry Immigrant
Where was there a conservative coddling Musharraf? I thought it was only Bush…

Angry Midwesterner
Well they do love big government.

Angry Overeducated Catholic
Well, when your practical choice is: evil dictator or crazy jihadist who wants to burn down the world…

If you have to choose between the Mob and the Joker…well, let’s just say I agree with Commisioner’s choice there.

As I recall, the last time good-hearted Progressives shouted down the mean old conservatives (well really realpolitik guys) and forced the US to abandon a mean vicious dictator opposed by a radical Islamic faction to his well deserved fate, it did not exactly end well. (Unless you like Islamic terror, then it ended really, really well, I guess.)

Angry Midwesterner
Musharraf was an Al Qaeda friend and lover, he just pandered to the US on the surface for the moolah, while he had his cronies do his dirty work. He was no friend of ours, just another terrorist.

Angry Overeducated Catholic
Hmm, that’s odd, I guess his dislike for the tribal regions of Pakistan strong in al Qaeda supporters, the numerous assassination attempts by Islamists against him, and his constant attacks on Islamist groups and regions were all just smoke and mirrors…

Angry Midwesterner
Smoke and mirrors? No. But when you make your bed with thieves and murderers, you’d be ill advised to try and sleep.

Oops… He Did It Again : Hugo Chavez went and did it… he gave himself the powers he didn’t win in the election last December. As Megan McArdle so dryly put it, “One might have asked why Chavez needs emergency decree powers during an oil boom when his country is at peace.” We have already said what needs to be said about good old Hugo Chavez, who continues to win in slow motion.

Have a durian, Hugo, and shove it right up your a–. Better yet, make it a pineapple.

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A “Class Action” DotW: I saw this little gem the other day. It is a story about people such as Reginald Paterson of Jacksonville, Florida, who was dissatisfied with his sandwich in Subway and, rather than heading to Quizno’s or calling the district manager, decided to call 9-1-1. Because, you know, the cops are the right people to handle disputes between Subway “sandwich artists” and customers…. The news piece has a lot more and you should, by all means, read them. While it is certainly the case that stupid policies such as requiring calls to 9-1-1 to report a crime exist, there’s just no two ways about it, douchebags such as Mr. Paterson call it for no good reason at all and they cost the rest of us big time.

I’ve called 9-1-1 three times (that I recall). The first, in the pre-cell phone era, was when I witnessed a pedestrian getting turned into street pizza by a car at a nasty intersection. It turned out several other people did at the same time. The second was when I was involved in a serious accident and needed to get taken to the hospital in an ambulance on a back board. This was January of 2001, a month after I got a cell phone. I feel really, really good that I had it then because I was not easily visible to passers-by and could have laid in the fine January weather for a while before someone happened upon me. The third was when I was stuck in an elevator with a friend of mine. Fortunately he had cell reception, while I did not. Unfortunately, we had to try two times because the first time the operator thought we were pranksters. Fortunately, the fire department did come and break us out, though it took a while and the air was getting pretty stale when they arrived. In short, I have had ample reason to both be very happy that 9-1-1 exists and dislike crank callers for that reason. Thankfully, I haven’t had to wait for a long time for something truly urgent but I wonder how many people have?

So from anyone who’s had to wait a long time to call 9-1-1 because of stupid jackasses deciding it’s a blast to crank yank the 9-1-1 operators, here’s a hearty collective EXPLETIVE DELETED from the 12 Angry Men.

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This week has much douchebaggery of note. Yet more:

  • Kwame Kilpatrick, rapidly working on topping Marion Barry as the scummiest big city mayor since the good old days of Tammany Hall.
  • John Edwards, for being a sanctimonious prick and media whore in his entire life.
  • The Prince George’s County Police, for kindness to animals and showing admirable restraint when it was needed most… or not.

It’s the dog days of summer and none of us seems all that motivated to do much of anything besides vacation. So we’re going to turn the ranting duties over to someone else with a classic rant by blogger Kung Fu Monkey, titled Farm Fetish.

Well not completely. 🙂

I like this one because the topic—the enduring pull of farming—struck me. I grew up in a rural area. Nowadays almost nobody there farms as the land has been bought up by rich guys who are collecting subsidy checks from the USDA to do nothing. It’s anecdata, but from my high school class last I checked only one person was farming out of probably fifteen farm kids (in a class of thirty). By any measure he was the guy who would have been voted “Most likely to succeed” if such a thing had appeared in the yearbook. I don’t think he is a farmer anymore, but we’ve lost touch.

But when I was a kid, the family farm of mom, dad, 2.3 kids, a dog, some cows and a tractor was still alive… barely. The mental pull of farming was substantial, even on us non-farmers. Much to my shame at the time in kid-to-kid comparisons, my dad didn’t have cool things like a combine or tons of silage. Instead he worked as the maintenance manager of a factory. We were probably a lot better off for it, though we still got wiped out by the early 80s recession. The romanticization of farming, though, is well and alive, and no more evident than in an election year when all the would-be contenders make the rounds of farm states. I remember the first time it really, truly hit me quite vividly. I was at my parents’ house. It hadn’t rained there in over a month and my step-mom said something, almost ritually, like “It’s just terrible for the farmers.” I said “Who the hell cares? They have crop insurance, and half of them aren’t even growing anything, just collecting a USDA check.”

Now don’t get me wrong. Just as Kung Fu Monkey notes, farming is important for all the obvious reasons, but the USA just isn’t the nation of small farmers envisioned by Jefferson, and hasn’t been for years.

More people play World of Warcraft than farm.

Now that it’s gone agribusiness, it’s not even a “family” thing—not more than any other family business anyhow—and needs to get in line to be fed from the public trough like anyone else. Reasonable arguments can be made for some kind of farm subsidy given the high startup costs, relatively low margins and an uncertain environment from year to year (remember that month long drought?), but as far as I am concerned agribusiness giants such as corn ethanol can get in line with all the other industries important to the national interest for protection from foreign competition. Here’s a nice discussion on an economics blog for you to read.

(I fully expect a response from AM, running dog of agribusiness that he is.)