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Archive for December 2009

Dec/09

31

Last-minute holiday cheer

If anyone is looking for a final holiday treat, I highly recommend the animated movie Fantastic Mr. Fox, which I review here.  Don’t think that you need to have a child in tow to see it; its satire of the urbane modern personality is hilarious; the dialogue is marvelously witty; and the soundtrack pulses with energy.  If you need a message, evolutionary biologists will cheer its moral that one’s nature is inbred.
 
I adore cartoons and every other type of animated film, because they display the human imagination at its apex of creativity, liberated from such unnecessary drags as gravity and every other law of the universe.  And they show the director’s knowledge of human expressiveness, since his actors do nothing by instinct.  He must explicitly command every pregnant pause, every ironic arch of an eyebrow.   We live in an age of great animators, one of many things to feel optimistic  about.

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Dec/09

31

Happy New Year!

And let’s have a great teens.

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Dec/09

30

Terrorism and health care reform

In 2000, commercial jets carried 1.09 billion people on 18 million flights, according to a no-longer-linkable Boeing document.   Assuming that the number of flyers has not increased since then, that makes for one would-be underwear bomber out of about 10 billion travelers over the last decade.  Does that record represent success or failure?  Are we jacking up physical security measures on planes and in airports because we think that the risk of another underwear bomber has risen since Dec. 25, or because we think that our record of prevention over the last decade was inadequate?   The notion that we should be able to protect against every terrorist incident is understandable, and announcing that we are not going to try to stop every such incident is unthinkable, though former DHS Secretary Chertoff did make tentative noises in that direction regarding cargo screening.  But it’s still intriguing to me why dying in a terrorist-induced airplane crash has a greater hold on the public imagination than driving on the highway, where there are about 40,000 fatalities in the U.S. a year, much higher on a per-mile basis than the number of deaths from non-terror-induced airline crashes, of which there are many more than terror incidents.  We do not have a federal agency checking everyone who gets on a highway for driving safety.  Terror attacks are intentional, not accidental, so the public policy imperative of sending a tough-on-terror message is arguably far greater than for highway crashes.  But that fact doesn’t affect the individual perception of risk, which seems to be influenced by issues of agency, control, possibly even altitude. 

Maybe the proper denominator in assessing risk is rather the number of would-be underwear bombers.  If the number of would-be underwear bombers is small–let’s say, one–then our security system deserves a huge black eye, but our perception of a huge phalanx of ready recruits would need readjusting.  Admittedly, the size of the recruit pool is probably affected by the perception of our security system, so security overkill may be responsible in part for its own disproportionality. 

(Contra my impatience with what appears to me to be security excess at airports, one could argue that we approach all activities with similar levels of risk intolerance.  The difference is that security measures designed to eliminate even very small risks are constantly being engineered into the design of products–such as cars and planes–making them invisible.  That may be.  But then people drive while texting and talking on the cell phone [see below], introducing massively higher levels of risk into their own and others’ lives.) (more…)

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Dec/09

29

WWTDD

Now look:  For keeping up to date on what celebrities are doing. there is NOTHING to beat this guy. It’s People magazine for the rightist intelligentsia.

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Dec/09

26

“Appeasement” watch

I expect the charge that Obama brought on this latest terrorist attempt with his Nobel-Prize-inducing multilateral delusions and toadying to Muslims to start rolling in any minute now.  Meanwhile, we are undoubtedly going to get yet another layer of after-the-fact security overkill at airports.   The chances are still hugely higher that you’re going to be killed in a car than from a bomb on an airplane.

Dec/09

26

Post-Christmas economic vent

Following Derb’s vent, I have to get this one off my chest, however elementary the sentiment:  If I hear one more Democrat (and occasional Republican) in the House or Senate condescend to business, I am going to throw up.  Today it’s insurance and drug companies, tomorrow it’s oil producers, toy companies, banks, chemical manufacturers, or any number of other enterprises that offer necessary or simply life-enhancing products and services.  The preening self-righteousness towards for-profit economic activity is not specific to any particular legislative initiative such as “health care reform,” it is part of the psychological make-up of many politicians and huge swathes of educated professionals, including virtually the entire academic world and non-profit sector, the media, and many high-paid lawyers.  It is simply unbearable to hear these sheltered senators and congressmen look down upon people who have had the guts to try to create something that other people want to buy; who have had to figure out intricate supply chains and methods of financing; who have had to organize and motivate their employees; and who take financial risks with no guarantee of reward.   For the anti-business mindset, the fact that businessmen need to make a profit in order to continue operating renders them prima facie suspect, if it doesn’t outright undercut any claim that they might have to contribute to the public good. 

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders recently encapsulated one fallacy regarding for-profit activity prevalent among intellectual elites: “The point of insurance companies is not to provide health care but to make a profit,”  he said, as if these were mutually exclusive goals.  Sanders complained that for-profit insurance companies are too bureaucratic and, in a flight of fancy that would have seemed like a fringe conceit just a year ago, asserted that they require government to provide efficiency-inducing competition.  The hilarious idea that government is less bureaucratic and more efficient than private sector companies will endure even if the seemingly nine-lived public option finally stays dead. (more…)

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Dec/09

25

Christmas Vent

Mainstream conservatives are such pussies.  When the left-liberal / multi-culti crowd says “Jump!” your main-con just wants to know how high.

We’ve had a nasty little example over Christmas.  Some wits associated in some way I can’t be bothered to figure out with Human Events posted a spoof of the Christmas song “Feliz Navidad” on the Human Events website.  You can hear the song and read the lyrics here, along with some leftist hyperventilating. 

Jose Feliciano, who popularized the song, complained that the spoof was “racist” and so on.  “I am revolted beyond words,” he said, at his song being used as “a vehicle for a political platform of racism and hate.”

Instead of telling Feliciano to go boil his head, the girlies at Human Events pulled the post and groveled. Score one for the multi-culti fanatics, intimidators, and speech code enforcers. 

I’m up to here with this b-s about “hate.”  There are supposed to be languages with only two color words, “black” and “white.”  To express “blue” you have to say “white like the sky”; for “red” you say “black like blood”; and so on. 

There is some similar lexical reduction being pressed on us by the multi-cultis, with no nameable attitudes to human groups, perhaps even to human individuals, other than “love” and “hate” — no “disapproval,” no “wary acceptance,” no “rather fond of,” no “grudging respect,” no “annoyance at being imposed upon,” no “get on with all right but wish they were better behaved.”

Political Correctness is, as several people have noticed, basically a campaign of enstupidation. It seeks to prevent us from noticing, talking about, thinking about, or — heaven forbid! — analysing features of the human world.

A good way to prevent us talking about things is to collapse complicated ideas down into single words with a strong emotional coloring. That’s what’s going on with the “hate” business. 

In quite a long life, I am aware of having hated only half a dozen people, each one a person who had done me some definite wrong with malice aforethought. In cherishing that original, restricted use of the word “hate” I am, of course, hopelessly behind the times. 

I’m not even sure that actual hate is inappropriate for foreigners who scoff at our laws.  If someone breaks into my car and steals my iPod, I think I can legitimately hate that person.  If someone breaks into my country and steals my job, my emergency-room care, my school places, my public utilities, my jail cells, why shouldn’t I hate that person? Probably I don’t, because the losses are at several removes from my everyday sense of possessing a thing; but I can’t see why I shouldn’t

As for poking fun at foreigners in general and their habits, well, if that’s “hate,” then most of the things I’ve been laughing at most of my life are “hate.”  Yet in fact it’s normal, natural, and harmless to make fun of peoples with different customs and languages.  Human beings have been doing it for ever. Has our doing it contributed to history’s manifold inter-group outrages?  I seriously doubt it.  To the contrary, I think the attempt to stifle and shame ordinary, mild human responses is far more socially harmful, generating resentment against both the stiflers and the objects of our responses.

It sometimes seems as though one big goal of the leftist bullies is the stamping out of all humor.  Making parodies of popular songs is a fun and harmless pastime.  I’ve engaged in it myself now & then, and have used illegal immigration as one of my topics a couple of times: see here and here.

But I guess there is to be no laughter in the Left’s utopia — in that polished, perfected City of the Sun where everybody loves (or “loves”) everybody, with “loving” speech codes enforced by pursed-lipped schoolmarms and sneering commissars, their “conservative” poodles trotting along obediently at heel.

The left makes the social rules and enforces them; the right goes along meekly, with anguished, whining, sniveling apologies when the enforcers crack their whips. 

And so we advance towards that City of the Sun, that Kingdom of Heaven on Earth … except that it is a mirage, and every attempt to reach it has ended with an ocean of tears and a mountain of corpses. Still we march on to the precipice, pretending that we are what we are not, and can become what we cannot become. 

The death of mankind is not only a conceivable result of the triumph of socialism — it constitutes the goal of socialism.
           — Op. Cit., p.285

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Dec/09

24

On Christmas

A few years ago I stopped saying “Happy Holidays” as my default and switched to “Merry Christmas.” The main issue for me is that I didn’t want to get hung up on a name. As someone who doesn’t accept that Jesus Christ was the Son of God I don’t celebrate the season for that particular reason. But winter festivals have been common across the northern hemisphere long before Christmas, and if you dig through the literature from many fundamentalist Protestants you’ll find they’ve done a good job cataloging the exact pagan antecedents of many Christmas traditions. If I lived in a nation which was mostly non-Christian I would celebrate the same communal holidays which symbolize the importance of such festivals in a properly functioning society, the name would simply be different.

As a person without supernatural beliefs the holidays have no nominal connection to what is “up there” for me. Rather, they are about what is “down here.” We don’t live in utopia, but for this small period of the year we put aside our concerns, worries and grievances, and celebrate all that there is to celebrate.

Dec/09

24

A Christmas joke

A leader in the New York State Republican Party (admittedly not a powerful domain) recently concluded a dinner presentation with the following joke:  “To those of the Christian faith, Merry Christmas!  To those of the Jewish faith, Happy Hanukkah!  And to those of no faith, good luck!”

LOL.  Let us be grateful for this theological kissy-wissy between Christians and Jews, a trait that is particularly pronounced among conservative defenders of religiosity, but that characterizes virtually all of Western life today.  “Jesus the Son of God?  No?  Hey!  No prob.  Whatever.”   This easy amicability would have been unthinkable when Religion ruled the West. 

As for the fate of non-believers, possessing faith does not seem to provide much protection against disaster during earthly life.  God allows the daily slaughter of the innocents to claim believers with as much indiscriminate abandon as non-believers.  Church vans appear to be particularly prone to fatal accidents, I have noticed; avalanches, like earthquakes, floods, fire, and crippling genetic abnormalities, show no solicitude for victims of faith.  As for the afterlife that believers hold so dear, if God would consign to eternal damnation a moral, generous, and honest human being simply because he has not bent his knee to God in worship and supplication, you’ve got to wonder about the Divine One’s fragile sense of self-worth and the impartial justice with which He allegedly governs his creation. 

Still, on this Christmas eve, we can all celebrate the marvelous world, so filled with uncountable comforts and beauty (including Christmas traditions and all its music), that men have built for themselves, whether through their own innate hunger for knowledge or with divine assistance.  Merry Christmas!

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Dec/09

24

Seasonal Cheer

A very Merry Christmas to all SR readers and contributors! 

Oh, it’s a Christmas poem you’re wanting?  Glad to oblige.

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