Virtual War is Better Than a Real War


Roughly ten years ago, I took part in a "virtual" warfighter exercise that involved thousands of troops and computer simulations and scenarios that would have dwarfed what these British soldiers probably had to deal with. This sort of thing has been around for a while, but, for the rapidly shrinking British Army, getting a couple of hundred of them in one place doing anything in the future is going to be news, no matter what.

Technology is never going to be a substitute for actually being able to deploy troops, support them, and extract them when your nation decides it has had enough of endless war and endless profits for defense contractors. Having said that, it's always better to be training for war than to be actually in a war, no matter what the politicians say.


David Mamet is a Fool


This is sort of up my alley:
Andrew Sullivan goes in pretty well on David Mamet's deplorable article which finds him arguing for a world of maximum guns. But like Scott Lemeiux, I was absolutely stunned by this paragraph: 
The Founding Fathers, far from being ideologues, were not even politicians. They were an assortment of businessmen, writers, teachers, planters; men, in short, who knew something of the world, which is to say, of Human Nature. Their struggle to draft a set of rules acceptable to each other was based on the assumption that we human beings, in the mass, are no damned good -- that we are biddable, easily confused, and that we may easily be motivated by a Politician, which is to say, a huckster, mounting a soapbox and inflaming our passions. 
Which is also to say the Founding Fathers were also slaves, and by slaves I mean white guys who wore wigs. All jest aside, I find the process that produces this sort of work to be utterly amoral. I've said this before, but this is the kind of writing that would get you bounced out of any decent essay writing class at a credible university. Words have meanings. You cannot change the fact that Thomas Jefferson served in the Virginia House of Burgesses because it's unfortunate for your argument. Unless you have a name like David Mamet.
I have to say that I agree with Ta-Nehisi Coates, and it is utterly deplorable to have to suffer through another David Mamet piece without being able to laugh in the man's face. He is the modern version of buffoonery, right down to his smugness and his ability to wave a bit of success around. In the world of cultural commentary, he is as wrong as a man can be.

The Founding Fathers were largely irrelevant when it came to actually "creating" the idea of America. They get all the credit because they wrote, at length, such wonderful things. But what people like Mamet often forget is that it was the community--that group of Americans who banded together and stood together and helped one another--that took up the arms and fought the crown's officials and ran them out of the towns and villages long before 1775 that created the American character and idea. These were savage, ignorant people who lived by one rule and one rule only--when my neighbor is threatened, I will go to my neighbor's aid.  

Hence, the militia concept, which gave birth to the 2nd Amendment and the misguided idea that we are all allowed to own guns. That's a modern concept created by people who want to flood America with cheap, profitable handguns that make it easier to murder minority males. Tell me, if America was meant to be a nation where everyone was supposed to have their gun on them at all times, why did the people who tried to run towns in the American West in the late 1800s have to come up with the concept of surrendering those guns at the edge of town? Was it squishy liberalism or common sense?

We have no coherent idea of what life in pre-revolutionary America was like. To have lived a hundred miles from the Atlantic Ocean was to live in a country that, even though it was nominally free and protected by His Majesty and his representatives in the colonies, was savage and brutal beyond comprehension. Sickness, disease, and the harshness of everyday life was impossible for even the people of the 19th Century to grasp. And the very real fear of being murdered or carried off by Native Americans was never far from consciousness. 

The very geography of America was changed--whole areas were leveled of trees not only for farming but for safety. Vast tracts of forest were converted into virtual parks because of the need to remove any and all branches or bushes where ambushers could hide. The people who cleared and created this land didn't care about anything other than their own need to take care of one another--hence the modern "conservative" notion that everything was built by one man alone.

America succeeded precisely because no one--no one--was able to go their own way and do their own thing without having at least a distant neighbor to help them out once in a while. We tend to think of being free to move around as normal for human beings. It was not normal to move about in those days, not for great distances and not at night and not without moving in at least a small group for protection. Gone are the stockades and fences and clearings that people created for some measure of safety for themselves and their families. When was the last time anyone in America had to live in a fenced-in community, terrified to go anywhere? Oh, well, except for all the gated communities and urban hellholes, when was the last time anyone had to ride a horse more than five miles because they had to, not because they wanted to?

Everyone in the 17th Century living in America would acknowledge the concept of "you didn't build that" precisely because needing others was a way of life. No one could survive without neighbors, and without a communally share concept of interdependence. In other words, everyone was a liberal in those days, and everyone contributed something to the safety and wellbeing of their community.

So, we're treated with the ideas of David Mamet, writing horrible things filtered through a conservative mindset that ignores history or confuses it with an ideological bent that doesn't represent what America actually was in those days--a republic founded by people who didn't trust one another but knew they had to work and live together in relative peace and safety in order to have something. You cannot take one part of that, confuse it with something thought up in a stupor by Ayn Rand, and ignore the other part. You'll end up coming off looking stupid.

Jackie Robinson


This is about a minute or so old. What a wonderful way to commemorate Jackie Robinson.

Who Is Complaining About How Cate Blanchett Looks?


Anyone who has a problem with how Cate Blanchett looks in this red dress probably has a problem with anything, everything, and all the things that don't matter in this world.

Really, when did the world start acting like someone's bitchy trip to whinesville?

Don't Cry For the Staffers


When I read stories like this, I tend to wonder if the people who write them are in touch with reality and with what's been going on in America for the last five years. No one has any job security anymore, save for the guy who gets paid to evict people in places like Detroit, Michigan. And if you're working in the broadcast television industry for a channel like CNN, then why aren't you always ready to be fired at the drop of a hat?

Anyone who chooses to work in television should probably already have that resume fired up and ready to go. Soledad O'Brien will be unemployed for five minutes or less unless she chooses to be.

The real story here is that Jeff Zucker is being allowed to ruin CNN. Who dreamed that up?

Don't Hate Randy Moss For Being Himself

Randy Moss might very well be the greatest wide receiver to have ever played the game. The fact that he is even in the NFL is proof of something that at least backs him up, if only a little. His career is not over and his story has not been told. He is nearer to the end of his career than to the beginning of it, but it has been a typical NFL career. It has not been all wins, all success, and all about being with one franchise. It has been storied, troubled, and messy.

The real test will be on Sunday. If Moss is a factor in the Super Bowl, and if he helps his rookie quarterback and his team win, then he can say whatever he wants about himself. Hating him for being who he is doesn't make any sense, does it?

My pick for Sunday is this: The Ravens will win by 21 points or more. It will be a blow out. Just the fact that the Ravens got through Denver and New England says it all. If some spark happens--if Flacco can't move the ball and if San Francisco can run wild behind their offensive line, then it'll be a down to the wire kind of game. I suspect it will be a boring blowout.

Drive That Car


America was once a rural country where people actually knew how to do things. It isn't like that anymore:
Randolph Bean of Oviedo, Fla., had pulled over late Sunday night to text message his wife when two would-be carjackers approached his sporty yellow Corvette. 
One, holding a gun, forced him to the ground while the other hopped in the driver’s seat, Bean, 51, told WKMG Local 6. 
But there was a problem: The aspiring carjacker didn’t know how to start Bean’s car, a 2002 Millennium Yellow Z06 Corvette. (The car, used, sells for about $19,000.)
Aside from the fact that this man's life was in danger, this is a healthy combination of sad and strange. If you're going to steal cars, at least have the ability to identify the cars you can actually drive.

Say It Ain't So


When I saw the news that Barnes & Noble is planning to close more stores in the years ahead, I had the same reaction that I did when all of the B. Dalton stores closed, and it wasn't a happy one.

Of all of the memories I have of the 1990s, working for B. Dalton and then Barnes & Noble is up there, and for good reason. There's nothing better than letting a shoplifter go when you've outsmarted them. Trust me, catching a shoplifter and then letting them go without calling Johnny Law is the best thing you can do in this life. It's a combination of being brilliant and merciful all at once.

I also worked for a defunct video store chain called Title Wave as well--those were good times. I preferred working for those stores to my full time gig at the time. But, that was the 90s. You didn't just have one job, you had two, and if at least one of those jobs was a decent one, well, you were lucky.

Barnes & Noble isn't going to survive, and anyone who buys a Nook is crazy. I'm sorry, that's counterintuitive in some ways, but it's the truth. I just don't see them having a bricks and mortar future even though people probably do prefer buying books that way. It's all about saving a buck or a half an hour or getting what you want in the mail as opposed to having to go look for it. That's what we've evolved into.

Another Crazy Fox News Personality Can't Understand Politics



Greta Van Susteren is the "deep thinker" at Fox News. I say that because it took her until the third paragraph to produce three good lies, and then a fourth one that I'm going to single out below.

Lie number 1: The disintegration of relationships? The demise of backslapping and social drinking between politicians has nothing to do with anything, other than making it so that people can no longer argue that "back room deals" and corruption are a part of our government.

Lie number 2: President Obama has to have "relationships" with people to get things done? Which people would that be? The ones who don't think he was born in America or the ones who call him a Marxist all day on Fox News?

Lie number 3: Vice President Joe Biden is routinely mocked and scorned, especially on Fox News, which delights in his gaffes. For a guy with so many gaffes, suddenly he's very popular. And, no. They don't respect him. They don't respect any Democrats. Therein lies the problem.

Susteren's big whopper is this one:
He has not allowed a budget to get to the Senate Floor for years to even begin a discussion.
Really? Harry Reid is the problem now and he's the reason why we can't have nice things? And the fact that the Republican minority in the Senate has threatened to filibuster everything and obstruct our government for four years as a means of destroying the American economy and thus electing a "Republican" last year to the presidency means nothing?

It's as if she's operating inside of a bubble where Mitt Romney was going to win last November, one divorced from accountability and reality. It's as if she's been "drinking the Kool-Aid" for so long that, even after Inauguration Day, she can't stop imagining American politics as it was in her imagination several years ago instead of the reality of today.

Here's what is real: the government is not functioning, the Republican Party cannot govern, and this President got re-elected because no one in America was willing to believe the lies told every minute of every day on Fox News. How's that for an assessment as to what's "wrong" with the President pointing out that people lie every minute of every day on Fox News? Hey, did you notice that or were you incapable of recognizing the simple fact that the people who are paid to analyze American politics and society on Fox News lie every minute of every day? Or am I rude and shrill for pointing that out?

Susteren represents a failed network full of failed ideas, and she can't stop lying to save what little reputation she has left.

The Conservative Movement is in Disarray


Here are three stories that populate the front page of Mediaite.com. Notice anything?

You have Brit Hume using Fox News to downplay the legacy of Hillary Clinton. Then, you have the President complaining about how Fox News (and someone who we'll call Rush Limbaugh for fun) has "influence" in American politics. Then, you have Paul Ryan going off the conservative script to praise Hillary Clinton and thus undercut his fellow conservatives so that he can, presumably, pick his own opponent for the 2016 Presidential Race.

There is no sustained, cohesive message from the conservative movement right now. The message discipline of years gone by is long gone. There are elements jockeying for position, and that position continues to become more fragmented.

I think that there is nothing savvy about what they are doing. The fact that the President was re-elected has shocked them into a panic. And, as others have pointed out, the President was much better about using social media, technology, and Silicon Valley. Those elements don't want anything to do with the conservative movement, which becomes more and more repugnant and anti-American as the days wear on.

Paul Ryan, at least, is trying to come off as the least shrill of the bunch, but he's still mired in his own fraudulence. Why is anyone concerned about what these people think anymore? They lost, and they lost in ways that are more defined and easy to understand in light of the fact that America is becoming a more open, tolerant, and diverse country? It is not a center-right country anymore, and it never will be again so long as the conservative movement remains a mildly confused hate group led by the likes of Rush Limbaugh.

Phony Issues and the Republican Party


The last, best hope for the Republican Party, circa 2013, is a terrorist attack on American soil that they can pin on Democrats.

If you read stories like this, and if you're wondering to yourself, "why is an abject phony like Rand Paul, himself the spawn of Crazy Uncle Goldbug Liberty, being accorded a level of respect in a debate for which he has no right to a coherent opinion?" then look no further than our graceless media.

What happened at the hearings for John Kerry and Hillary Clinton this past week was nothing short of a public beatdown for the Republican Party. They came off looking opportunistic and out of touch. They came off looking like incompetence had never left their ranks. And if you're wondering what the Tea Party thinks, and why anyone should care, then today's issues are not being explained properly to the American public.

The things that matter right now are economics, not security. Except that there is no security without a clear and concise focus on economics, and that the Republican Party has no credibility on either of these matters. The Democratic Party has to start creating jobs and it has to break the Republican hold on the things that are preventing our economy from expanding and growing. They have to make things work in ways that will benefit the American people. Ending our wars of choice overseas will help, and staying out of Northern Africa is paramount. We have no business there, save encouraging the French to do the dirty work for us.

The media simply isn't capable of explaining economics to the American people anymore. And so, we are left with Rand Paul lecturing people about security. What is his track record on keeping the American people safe? Has he served our nation in any capacity other than as an opportunist? Are we going to be lectured by an eye doctor about American foreign policy? And why shouldn't people be laughing at a man who thinks he's somehow qualified to have an opinion about what will keep Americans safe?

Paul represents the elevation of ignorance and anti-intellectualism in our politics. He is the Tea Party's best hope for the future, and that future looks nothing like what America's future should be. These are not the people you would want to trust with our safety and security.

Another Tough Guy Fail





The only thing more hilarious that someone who pretends to know how to defend themselves with a gun is when they actually go on the Internet in order to explain what they would do to defend themselves with a gun.

I'm pretty sure that if someone robs you with a shotgun at a party, your "piece" is going to be in a holster or down your pants and you won't be able to get to it in time.

The Palin Brand is Worthless


The slow descent into irrelevance never shows up well on television. When a fading personality finally realizes that they have no influence and no hope of regaining the spotlight, do they turn down television deals or do they do something a little savvier in order to "reinvent" themselves?

There had to be something in the deal from Fox News that made Sarah Palin balk at signing the papers. Perhaps they were only offering her the occasional appearance and only for chump change. Perhaps they were asking her to follow someone so far down the food chain that the intended insult caused her to tear up the papers in embarrassment.

I have never seen evidence of anything savvy about the Palin machine; they take the deals they are handed and they ride them until they are worthless. She has a following of people that will never expand or elevate her to national office. Will they buy her books and her trinkets? Probably. This should be enough to sustain her for another four years or so. After that, interest in her will fade considerably, especially if she leaves her followers in the cold and declines to make the pilgrimages to Iowa and New Hampshire so that she can receive single-digit totals from bored voters.

As long as Sarah Palin stays in Alaska, she isn't going to reinvent herself or regain the spotlight that she had in the 18 months or so after running with John McCain in 2008. That seems like a lifetime ago, doesn't it? That's why she has the next four years or so to do something. Anything. And then, whoosh. She simply won't matter to anyone anymore at all. Her only hope is to run for the United States Senate and become Alaska's voice in Washington D.C.

Are the people of Alaska willing to vote for her? Why not? They would be glad to rid themselves of this woman and her family.

Something Else That Belongs in a Museum


This is not really a sports or hockey post--it's a post about museums and preserving artifacts and things of that nature.

In the case of Mike Eruzione, it's very evident that parting with the jersey, the hockey stick, and other assorted paraphernalia are an attempt to create a financial "nest egg" for his children and grandchildren, and so making the decision to dispose of those items through a commercial auction makes sense. He has every right to do this, and he has every right to expect that people who understand history and memorabilia would recognize that right.

However, what's sad is that his items rightfully belong in a museum, and a proper one at that. These items would be a fantastic addition for the Smithsonian and should be added as items related to American sports and sports history. Too often, these items end up in the hands of private collectors or collections that are offshore. Am I off base in wondering if it would be a good thing for a Russian oligarch to purchase them and put them on display in Russia? Should they go to a wealthy buyer somewhere else?

There is a balance between cultural artifacts and items of cultural significance that are worth a great deal of money to a private collector. Given that Mr. Eruzione deserves to be able to live comfortably and pass something on to his descendants, I wish there was a way for the Smithsonian to acquire the items and allow Eruzione the chance to make what he deserves from the transaction. There are examples of this, and sometimes it turns out that museums run by the government can acquire items, but I think that someone is simply going to buy these treasures and then they won't be seen again until they are resold further on down the line.

Things of this nature, however, should be in a museum. Perhaps whoever buys them will agree.

Tina Turner Finds a Home in Europe


This snippet of a story doesn't tell the whole truth as to why Tina Turner is surrendering her U.S. passport. I'm sure that this will dissolve into a bunch of nonsense about taxes, but, really. Having lived in Europe, I can tell you two things.

One, taxes in the United States are much lower; if you live on the income sources that Turner lives on, you can be rest assured that a European residence has advantages and disadvantages. If her accountants are taking care of her, this is less about taxes, more about quality of life and sustaining herself on income from her recording projects, tours, and perhaps publishing. Anyone who has ever signed a contract with a major label knows that they have already been fleeced and ripped off.

There is no question in my mind--Turner has never been paid what she was owed for recording music and performing music. She may be wealthy now, but that's only because, at some point, she was able to make sound business decisions and control her fate. Whatever Turner gets from her recording deals has probably already been bled dry of whatever could be removed from it and, thus, she needs to protect her income and should not be judged for doing so.

Two, Turner is more popular in Europe than in the United States. She has more of a presence in the popular culture there. In America, she's a star, but in Europe, she's a legendary superstar, and that makes quite a bit of difference to someone who has to figure out how to spend the rest of their life. That's just reality, going back to the 1960s, and she is more appreciated there than here.

I don't judge her one bit for settling in Switzerland. Many people of means do so, and have been doing so since Switzerland was created out of almost nothing by diplomats and royalty.

How Many?



Google+ tells me that I have a post on Modern Technical Writer that has garnered a ridiculous number of 1+ hits. And, when I say ridiculous, I mean, well, ridiculous.

Is this even accurate? I have 112 actual "hits" for the blog but I have a ton of 1+'s?

That should make me somewhat pleased, but I'm curious if there wasn't a coding error or something along those lines.

At Least He is Serving


There is a tendency to laugh at the people who mock Prince Harry on the Internet; he has never done himself any favors by essentially behaving like a rake rather than a royal. I think that the royal family, and the idea of royalty, are ideas best abandoned to history.  But this video is quintessentially bitchy, superficial, and full of itself:



At the very least, here is a wealthy, privileged young man who is serving in a foreign country, in uniform and in harm's way (I have no reason to believe otherwise) and he is doing so out of a sense of duty that is all but unheard of in the United States. Why would anyone mock what he's doing? Where is his equal amongst those with the free time necessary to make fun of a young man serving in a war zone? Aside from the son of John McCain, where are the privileged sons and daughters of America's elite?

They are rarely, if ever, in uniform and they are not to be found sprinting across a tarmac in order to fly in a helicopter during a war.

That Must Be One Heck of a Falsetto


This story gets weirder and weirder every day. And how do we know this is over? We don't.

I do know this--whoever gives Manti Te'o a professional sports contract is just asking for trouble. Are you really going to pay this young man, potentially, a few million dollars to play for your franchise? What happens when he falls for a scam or ends up broke, holding a bag of magic beans or the reins of a unicorn? What happens when it becomes apparent that he is incapable of functioning in polite society without being fleeced or confused by simple con men and grifters?

Manti Te'o shouldn't be left unsupervised, let alone given millions of dollars to throw away.

What is Mark Levin's Point?


Over the last few days, I've been watching the headlines out of the conservative media, and Mark Levin keeps popping up. Here he is over on the Breitbart FAIL site, being quoted at length and his entire screed is a mishmash of paranoia. His unethical rants should be mocked for their desperation.

There is no coherent opposition to President Obama. There is no message emanating from the Republican Party anymore. It has degenerated into a laundry list of things that simply aren't happening the way that the conservative media believes it to be happening. The gun control proposals, for example, are primarily centered around common sense and public safety, and enjoy popular support. They help keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of crazy people. They effectively co-opt many of the conservative controls over the gun control issue because they don't particularly infringe on the rights of anyone except the people who shouldn't have guns in the first place.

When a President can drop a slew of executive orders and receive a ho-hum from most of the American people, and an attaboy on a lot of the ones that keep America safer, then you have to conclude that the fringe is really out there, howling about a bit nothingburger.

Levin is angling himself to become an "opponent" of the Obama Administration but he simply doesn't possess the coherence or the experience to pull this off. He pulls lever after lever, reciting issues over and over again, without thinking them through.

The Obama Administration isn't going drown anyone in regulations; the progressive wing of the Democratic Party has consistently faulted him for not going after bankers and "too big to fail" organizations.

Obama's thinking is perverse? Then why is he constantly asking everyone to work together? Why is he asking for consensus and for dialogue? What evidence is there to suggest that his thinking is perverse? Could it be the fact that he has a family and a happy life? Compared to Richard Nixon, who appears to engage in "perverse" thinking?

Does anyone seriously think we are "de-industrializing" this country when manufacturing jobs are actually coming back? This is what makes Levin so comical. How is the EPA--an organization that is fairly toothless and underfunded in actuality--supposed to de-industrialize a country that actually makes more products than it did four years ago? The de-industrialization of America began under the Bush Administration; six million manufacturing jobs were lost during Bush's eight years in office.

I mean, these examples are just pathetic. Obama, Marx, and Alinsky? Who is still beating that drum? This is what was done to keep Obama out of office, and it failed. Everything Levin is peddling failed to keep the President from being re-elected. All of the hate, the phony rhetoric, the birtherism, the nonsense and the racist garbage failed because it rang hollow with the majority of the American people who saw a clear choice and chose against everything Republicans are selling. Levin's hate parade is a sad example of what happens when a country stops taking care of the mentally ill. It is deranged and sad.

What I want to know is, who's really believing any of this crap? How is this supposed to accomplish anything when the American people stopped buying it years ago?

It's Going to Take a While

These are the NBC news headlines in the sports section from this evening and, if you're wondering where the hockey coverage is, you're going to have to click into the sports section and start scanning from the bottom up because it isn't on the front page.

The National Hockey League damaged itself this season, and the sports media has taken note of this fact. Did anyone see their numbers go down because there wasn't any hockey? In the months ahead, people are really going to start gauging whether or not hockey coverage is even worth it anymore.

If big time media organizations discover that, by cutting hockey coverage, they won't lose too many readers or viewers, then they're going to cut hockey coverage to save money. It's that simple.

Chris Brown Hasn't Been Swatted Yet?


Someone in the Los Angeles area (well, who knows for sure?) is working their way through the celebrity phone book, trying to make a name for themselves by falsely summoning law enforcement to a home by making a claim that there are people with firearms threatening public safety.

No one deserves this kind of treatment, and no one should send law enforcement into a situation where they have to have their guns drawn. This could lead to someone being killed, and I would think that, by now, they would be able to catch these people much more quickly.

Would you want the Los Angeles Police Department showing up at your home, ready to sort out a situation that does not exist? No, of course not. No one should tolerate such a prank. It is not entertaining in any way, shape or form.

The Left Does Not Hate the Rich


Leave it to Fox News to fundamentally misunderstand the culture, the political spectrum, and America all in one brash moment of ignorance.

Stuart Varney claims that the popularity of Downton Abbey represents a threat to the left in some way without really understanding that there is a separation between American political culture and popular culture.

Downton Abbey's success has occurred largely because it represents a change in the way Americans have traditionally viewed Masterpiece Theater. Instead of being stuffy and ignored, PBS has a genuine hit on its hands. It is genuinely popular because it is a high quality piece of British television and nothing more. It is done in such a way as to guarantee that it would be a hit with anyone who likes good storytelling. The politics of early 20th Century Britain have no resonance with Americans anymore, not the least of which is the storyline running through Season 3, which centers around Irish independence.

There is a personal connection to the story because of the themes that hit home, and in classless America, the class structure of Britain becomes evident in the way that the story is told. And this happens largely because the aristocracy portrayed here is largely benevolent to the subservient servant class below them. The wealthy have little or no place in Downton Abbey; having wealth means nothing to these people if one is not born to a peerage or a place of social rank. Self-made people need not apply. And there is a marked difference between the servants and the served, one that is exemplified by the fact that they actually get along with one another.

So, for Varney to think that America suddenly embraces the rich because of this show is absurd. The show has nothing to do with wealth but with class and Americans are suckers for a good story involving people who have fabulous lives mingled in with people who have to wait hand and foot on others and struggle. Americans love a good melodrama, and that's what they're getting from this show.

The American left has never hated the rich; the American left embodies the idea that the rich can be benevolent, and that's why you have the limousine liberal smear from years past. Varney gets it wrong; the right in America is responsible for the demonization of the wealthy because it fetishizes their right to screw people over. The left is the saving grace of the wealthy, giving them a veneer of kindness and respectability when they often possess neither.


Mr. Kelly Goes to the Mall


This is a photo of a man in a mall somewhere in Utah. He is not breaking the law, nor is he known to have shot anyone with his weapon. What good it does him on his back is anyone's guess. Why he is not wearing protective gear and a protective vest is beyond me. If you are armed, you should be prepared to engage other armed individuals. To bring a weapon like that to a fight without personal body armor is to invite being taken out.

If this is the new normal in America, then we have a problem because American citizens should feel safe and secure wherever they go. If they do not feel safe and secure, then that's the failure of our society to create areas where people do not need to see backslung weapons. I fault this man more for wearing a t-shirt than for carrying a weapon. He is not ready to defend himself at all. In fact, he is merely inviting his own death by being unprepared.

I grew up in a country that was safe and secure. If someone walked into a mall with a weapon on their back thirty years ago, they would have been laughed at for being paranoid, especially without a bulletproof vest and a bandolier of ammunition. Why aren't these people being mocked for their fears? Why aren't these stumblebums being singled out for their lack of common sense?

What happened to laughing at people who were insecure and paranoid enough to take a weapon to JCPennys? I don't understand why that isn't the central issue here. You certainly do have a right to bear arms. The rest of society has a right to laugh at your insecurity and paranoia when you insist on bearing those arms, haphazardly and in an incompetent manner, into a retail store.

Gas Prices and the Obama Years


One of the hysterical headlines on Drudge today relates to gas prices. Here is where the conservative disconnect from reality is easy to expose.

Gas prices are certainly higher than they were three years ago:



And four years ago as well:



But they are quite a bit less than they were in May of 2008, a little over four years ago.



So, whatever. That happened. And it happened at the height of the Bush Administration, which is where our economy tanked and where the Obama Administration subsequently faced, some nine months or so later, the greatest economic catastrophe since the Great Depression.

What happened? How did President Obama get re-elected?

Well, they fixed things as much as they could and won re-election primarily because this country refused to hand over the reins of power to a plutocrat. In other words, the price of gas didn't matter then and it doesn't matter now. It's simply not the indicator it was in the 1970s, which is where many of today's conservative pundits learned their trade. Drudge is addicted to that mindset, and he feeds it largely because those members of the failed prognostication class have been wrong, every day, for as long as anyone can remember.

Another example of conservative FAIL.

Yes, This Really Happened

This is the story of what happened when a police officer started to investigate why bullets were striking homes. I don't know which special interest group this story hurts more--gun enthusiasts or recreational marijuana advocates:

“When I get about a half mile back in the field up on a hill, gunfire started again, and started hearing rounds go over my head,” the officer explained. 
Neil called for backup and police discovered two men who thought they were safely shooting at paper targets, but the bullets were skipping off the ground and riddling the suburban neighborhood. 
“They were drinking alcohol, they had some drugs on them and they were just outside, in their backyard shooting paper targets,” Neil said. “They felt because they were shooting at a downward angle, that it would have been OK.” 
Police suspect that “dozens” of shots were fired and have asked other residents to come forward if their homes were hit. 
Two men, 53-year-old Mark Bornino and 45-year-old R. Daniel Volpone, were arrested and are facing felony charges. Police seized an AK-47 with two high-capacity magazines, three handguns, over 700 rounds of ammunition and some marijuana.
Clearly, we have a public safety issue here, and we can't just write it off as nothing. Whatever possessed these two men to go out and act like ignorant jackasses is a large part of why we can't have an honest debate or discussion about guns anymore. People are going to shoot guns, use drugs, and there's very little we can do about it. But do we really need to debate whether or not people should have AK-47s and things of that nature? Or does the kind of weapon involved really not matter?

When does the right of two yahoos to shoot up a neighborhood intersect with the rights of the people who live in that neighborhood to be reasonably safe from AK-47 rounds?

Raising the Retirement Age is a Lousy Idea

Senator John McCain as a Wal-Mart Greeter...
This is an idea that I have never liked:

Executives of the Business Roundtable  are urging Congress to raise the Social Security and Medicare age eligibility to 70, from the current 67, and to adopt means testing for wealthier retirees, in order to keep the entitlement programs solvent longer-term. 
"When you look long-term at the U.S. fiscal health, you have to look at these questions," said Business Roundtable President John Engler during meeting with reporters in Washington Tuesday. 
The idea is not likely to be popular. The Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction committee saw opposition when it suggested lifting the retirement age to 69. The Roundtable executives argue that raising the level gradually for those less than 55 years of age now will provide substantial long-term savings to the entitlement programs, while still giving Americans time to adjust to the new requirements.
What will keep entitlement programs solvent is politically unpopular--the funding streams have to be increased, and that means controlling what those entitlements cost and the amount that working people have to pay in. It means that we stop raiding the Social Security trust fund and it means growing up about what living in American society is about. Namely, it's about shared sacrifice and commitment, and it's not about sticking it to the poor and confiscating wealth for the upper class.

This is a manufactured problem, designed to get people to accept things like cuts and austerity as being the normal way to preserve what little we actually do for the poor and the elderly. We don't need cuts and we don't need austerity. We need political solutions that force everyone to come to an agreement about what is fair and just.

The long-term fiscal health of the United States is threatened by two things--unrealistic tax cuts on the wealthy (which haven't created jobs) and out of control defense spending. A modest increase in taxes on the wealthy, coupled with defense cuts, won't solve everything, but that doesn't mean that those options should be discounted. As part of a comprehensive fix, those are the common sense solutions that the political class in Washington refuses to embrace so that they can continue to reap the rewards of keeping their donors happy and at a ridiculously low tax rate for an industrialized nation. What they want to do is find a slick way to stick it to the poor. And sticking it to the poor is always the easiest and more irresponsible choice amongst people who don't have the courage or the curiosity to find out how to make things work. It's also the choice that brings the least amount of risk with it when the voters are misinformed and when organized labor remains on the fringes of society.

Raising the retirement age does for the political class what any good dodge is supposed to do--it changes the subject and avoids dealing with the problem head on. It forces people to remain in the work force, paying into the entitlement funds (and into the income tax base, which will be used to fund subsidies for businesses and more defense spending, in part) that were promised to them at a certain age. It forces life changes and disruptions, and it doesn't cost executives a dime because they're not being asked to make any sacrifices.

At a certain age, depending on the line of work that a person is in, working past 65 becomes more of a struggle and a burden than working at 45 was for these folks. Are we talking about people who work at a desk or people who are on their feet all day? Are we talking about mechanics, firemen, police officers, factory workers or retail workers? Are we talking about sedentary positions or positions where people are on their feet all day, actually doing things? Skilled or unskilled?

Unless you've actually had to work at a job where you pick up things, move things, drive around, or have to be in motion for long stretches, raising the retirement age looks like a great thing. For many, it's akin to a death sentence, meaning that the chances of that person being injured or having a shorter lifespan increase as they work past the current retirement age. It's the removal of three years in a person's life where they could be working half days or less, which actually might make more sense, and it's the breaking of a promise, plain and simple.

The solution to our problems should not mean making life harder for people who actually have to work for a living. That's what's lousy about the idea of raising the retirement age--it should be a personal decision based on life experiences and it should not be arbitrarily enacted just because a handful of business leaders have figured out how to protect their own wealth.

It's Never About Anyone But Me


Director Paul Haggis has publicly identified himself as an enemy of the cult known as Scientology. He is, along with Lawrence Wright, responsible for the negative attention that Scientology is getting right now in the mainstream media. Once outlets like Salon are able to attack Scientology, others will follow if they see the opportunity for ratings and attention.

The problem is, Scientology is nothing you want to get attention from. It's a litigious, nasty cult of people who will stop at nothing to attack and destroy their opponents, both real and imagined. Think rich and paranoid, and then add a legion of lawyers.

At the heart of this is a universal truth--if we didn't already have a culture of self-centeredness, would anyone even care about Scientology? Look at the video below and see if you can't detect some measure of how self-centered our society has become:

 
Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Is it really true that the people who are swept into cults are not responsible for their actions? Is there any reason to forgive people who are weak-minded and gullible enough to give everything they own and work as slaves for the likes of the Scientology organization? America, and the world at large, are both littered with cults, large and small. Without the feeble-minded, they wouldn't exist. And, it's because of this reality that cults are here to stay, in one form or another, unless someone can define what they are and codify a societal response to their actions and influence over people.

The entertainment industry is full of self-centered needy people; no wonder Scientology thrives there. But American society is increasingly gadget-driven and self-centered. The lines between who is, and who is not, engaged in meaningful ways is not enhanced when so many are being left behind. Gadgets, in and of themselves, are not evil, of course. But the shrinking of human interaction and contact into ever-dwindling circles that have less and less to do with actual back and forth between people is isolating more and more human beings, making them desensitized to their own existence.

You cannot be for liberty and for cults of this kind; believing in the freedom of a people to live a life of dignity means acknowledging that cults operate inside of the seams of openess and draw in victims from the fringes of society. If there's anything about this country worth heralding it's the idea that you have a right to be free from the people who prey on others for monetary gain. The economic exploitation of desperate people comes in numerous forms--Ponzi schemes, legalized gambling, and religious cults. When you separate the scam from those being scammed, at the root of it all is a technicality that allows the entity profiting from the misery of others to flourish. We have to stop that. As difficult as it is to legislate against stupidity, we have to protect citizens from predators wherever possible.

Perhaps when we're done fighting terrorism and defiant gun owners, we can come up with an American solution to what cults do to our society. It all begins with burying the self-centered culture of entitlement that exists solely because we let our guard down against the predatory nature of those who practice economic exploitation from behind the curtain of religious tolerance. That's something that is played out in America and has to end.

Obnoxious and Indulgent


This is someone's idea of fashion and art, and I'm not going to criticize the attempt at doing something shocking and unique. I will say this--a modestly competent carpenter could have cleaned that mess up and made it something presentable.

Larry Johnson Wants to Know Where the Negroes Are



Larry Johnson has continued his slide into race-baiting and insensitivity. It's a fair question--why isn't the second Obama Administration as diverse as the second? But to throw out a word like "Negroes" speaks to Johnson's derangement over all things Obama.

Maybe we can get to Johnson's "Whitey" tape before the end of the second term?

Another Dinosaur Falls by the Wayside

The closure of British retail chain HMV has virtually no impact here in the United States, but it does indicate that the bricks-and-mortar approach to actually selling things to people is dying, and it's dying quickly. Is this really the end for them or will a few stay open once they are "reorganized?"

Record stores used to be my favorite thing in the world. Now, I couldn't be bothered to find one of the few that still exist. HMV seems to be more like the Tower Records chain than anything. Who is lamenting the passing of Tower Records? Not me.

An Insult of Inspiring Devotion and Fealty

Nothing succeeds in boiling the blood like a good insult. There are many like this, but this was the one I thought worth sharing.

An Insult of Inspiring Devotion and Fealty

Nothing succeeds in boiling the blood like a good insult. There are many like this, but this was the one I thought worth sharing.

The Post Armstrong World


Why should anyone care about Lance Armstrong?

He is famous for being really successful in one of the most corrupt sporting activities in the history of competitive sports. Do they even bother to hold bicycle races anymore? What a crock. Believing in a competitive cyclist is akin to believing in a heroin addict who only wants to borrow your jewelry for a few days.

The real damage done by Lance Armstrong to the American psyche centers around cancer, the adversity faced by cancer survivors, and the Livestrong charity in particular that supports a broad range of cancer survivors. No one in America really cares about the Tour de France, to be completely honest with you. It's a quaint sort of non-sport for skinny men in tight shorts, but cancer is an ever-present reality for millions of Americans. This is where Lance Armstrong made a huge impact in terms of holding himself up as a survivor and a hero.

He is not the first hero to fall, but he was a major player in the lives of people who wanted to attach themselves to something tangible, which was a cancer survivor who defeated the diagnosis and went on to accomplish something significant. Those people have been handed something that they probably never expected--proof of their own gullibility. When you make fools of the people who believed in you for years, you create cynics and unbelievers. Well, we have to grow up some time.

Armstrong clearly never thought he would get caught, but in true childish fashion he's planning on squealing:

He is also said to be planning to testify against powerful individuals in the world of cycling - though not other cyclists - he will claim knew about or facilitated the doping, sources said.

This is the extent of Armstrong's character--once trapped, finally, by the lies he has spun, he turns on anyone and everyone who might be able to take the blame. This is all you need to know abou Armstrong. It wasn't "his" fault he cheated. It was everyone else's fault. What a child.

One Con Man to Another

This is where the head of a normal person would usually explode.

Andrew Sullivan, who was and is the practitioner of incompetent hate-journalism, is having a snit because Piers Morgan is more commercially successful (well, on CNN anyway) with a very similar brand of ethically-challenged trash journalism to what Sullivan used to practice up until, when? Thirty seconds ago?

I mean, WTF? Andrew "The Bell Curve" Sullivan, he of the demonization of anyone morally opposed to the invasion Iraq and he of the ability to conveniently forget every liar he ever defended, has the gall to think he can criticize the likes of Piers Morgan? The balls on him, said the ass.

Two Brits who can't find the decency to self-deport themselves and stop practicing whatever they're calling what they do, and one of them has the utter lack of introspection to call the other out for his sins while standing atop a mountain of similar sins. How hilarious is that?

Why Turn Your Paper Over to the Crooks?


Another day, another ridiculous letter to the editor.

The problem with running this "letter to the editor" is evident in the fact that it comes from the Employment Policies Institute, which is a crooked Washington D.C. based front for an anti-consumer bigwig who has been exposed, time and again, for working against the interests of the poor.

The Employment Policies Institute is a lobbying front for the restaurant, hotel, alcoholic beverage and tobacco industries. It's owned by Rick Berman and it is widely considered an organization that uses unscrupulous methods to attack anyone who tries to raise wages or improve the working conditions for people who are barely making it in our society. Giving this individual and his various front organizations any more exposure than a summary dismissal of their dishonest activities just hands free space to shills and thieves.

Raising the minimum wage creates jobs, and it creates better jobs. But Rick Berman doesn't want you to know any of this. And the Albert Lea Tribune is happy to help him spread lies and disinformation. If an idiot blogger like me can discover who and what the Employment Policies Institute is in a matter of minutes, why can't anyone else?

You Can't Get Any Dumber Than This


Townhall's own Matt Barber brings the stupid:
Places you don’t se mass murder and mayhem? Well, there’s a reason bad guys largely avoid shooting-up gun shows, ranges, households with signs that say: “This home insured by Smith & Wesson” and Texas in general. It’s because they know – even while thick-skulled liberals don’t – that, as recently noted by the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
"Texas" in general?
1. Oct. 16, 1991: A deadly shooting rampage took place in Killeen, Texas, as George Hennard opened fire at a Luby’s Cafeteria, killing 23 people before taking his own life. 20 others were wounded in the attack. 
2 .Aug. 1, 1966: Charles Whitman opened fire from the clock tower at the University of Texas at Austin, killing 16 people and wounding 31.
3. Nov. 5, 2009: Thirteen soldiers and civilians were killed and more than two dozen wounded when a gunman walked into the Soldier Readiness Processing Center at Fort Hood, Texas, and opened fire. Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder.
4. Sept. 15, 1999: Seven people were killed and seven others injured when a gunman opened fire inside a crowded chapel at Fort Worth’s Wedgewood Baptist Church. Some worshipers believed that Larry Gene Ashbrook was pulling a prank and continued singing after the shooting began. The murderer killed himself.
Townhall. Home of the generalization and the barely-thought-through intuitive conclusion.

China Has a Major Problem With Pollution


Via James Fallows, this caught my eye:
The pollution appeared to peak on Saturday evening, when an air monitor at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing showed an air-quality index reading of 755. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says an index reading of above 300 is 'extremely rare' in the U.S. and generally occurs only during events such as forest fires.
These are unheard-of levels of pollution in China, and should serve as a reminder of what the cost of China's industrialization and modernization is adding up to in terms of destroying the environment and the quality of life for the people.

Fallows cites an editorial that extols the notion that "democracy" is the only way to inform the Chinese people of what is happening. Well, what kind of democracy would accomplish this? Certainly not the form practiced here in America, where one of the two major political parties is home to the most anti-science, anti-knowledge, and now anti-algebra mindsets ever recorded in this country.

China is a country that ignores reality; America is a country that laughs it off as a liberal conspiracy. Next time you laugh at a "tree hugger" or an "environmentalist," remember those haunting pictures of people wearing face masks. Our media is complicit in spreading disinformation and mischaracterizations in a way that has now made it possible to sneer at what is actually happening without a shred of introspection.

Contrarian Nonsense


Tauriq Mousa makes the same mistake that contrarians often do: without credibility and context, your source is meaningless if they are afflicted with madness.

Mousa is making the attempt to take the other side here and perform like a good devil's advocate. Despite the fact that Alex Jones has demonstrated time and again that he is a huckster trying to make a buck off the paranoid fears of Americans, there will always be a few who cannot accept that Jones has no credibility whatsoever and should be ignored. We used to have gatekeepers in the media who would shut out such voices. Now, the louder Jones is, and the more vehement the crowd who listens to him and champions him, the harder it is to perform that gatekeeper requirement.

Mousa steps into it here:
Jones’ point is important: whether he or a qualified forensic psychiatrist says it indicates that you ought to be careful of dismissing his points because Jones screams them and believes 9/11 was an “inside job”. To dismiss his points entirely because he acted so bizarrely, is a conspiracy theorist, and so on, is to make an ad hominem attack. 
The other thing to take from this then is: Don’t dismiss all his points; don’t dismiss Jones as being representative of everyone who wants to keep their guns; don’t immediately think every conservative is like him. Furthermore, his facts don’t become more or less true because he shouts them at a remarkably calm presenter. 
A tragedy has occurred. But that is exactly why we require our best, critical and scientific types of thinking to be in best possible form. If we let only our emotional reactions, whether to shootings or conspiracy theorists, reign, we do nothing to make sure such tragedies don’t happen again.
To dismiss his points is to reject the source because the source has no demonstrable credibility to express an opinion. He is not to be confused with someone who is, in fact, a "critical and scientific type" who can think clearly. Jones is not an expert on anything, save manipulating the media. He has no education to speak of, save for a stint in a community college. Without an education, he turned to entertainment and found success in much the same way that Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck found it--by manipulating people and presenting a public image that could be consumed like a commodity without having anything behind it.

Jones is simply a fraud when it comes to presenting an authoritative opinion on American society. He is a radio host and a film producer who works largely in the realm of conspiracy theories and current events. Anything that falls outside of that has no commercial value to him as a subject because the product he peddles takes fear and misinformation and combines it into something he can sell. That, right there, removes the quotient of credibility. He is woefully unqualified to assess American society and pronounce anything save his own opinion on things because he doesn't make money by telling the truth; he makes money coming up with angles on things that will ramp of fear and cause a fundamental misunderstanding that will push people towards the wrong conclusion. He is commercially successful because of how well he can lie and scare people and this, in turn, allows him to vault past the gatekeepers. But he has no credibility beyond those areas where sympathetic listeners are willing to suspend their own disbelief and live vicariously through Jones.

His facts are wrong. Hitler did not "take the guns." That has already been disproven. So, for Mousa to say that his "facts" are "more or less true" ignores the most basic fact of all--Jones is wrong. Not because he has no credibility but because he is simply, factually, wrong.

Defending him is just contrarian nonsense. Sometimes, a raving madman is simply a raving madman and not some tortured genius who is right once in a while.

Remembering Stuttgart



Almost three years ago, we arrived in Stuttgart, Germany. On our first foray into town, these shots somehow ended up on my Nikon Coolpix, which is overdue for an upgrade.

Prosecutorial Discretion


Did you hear the news about David Gregory? He will not be prosecuted for waving around a 30-round magazine. And all across the nation, people wept uncontrollably for the collapse of all that was good into a heap of nothing, thanks to the utilization of prosecutorial discretion.

Poor William Jacobson. He appears to be in the throes of a particularly racist snit:


Like there has never been a guilty man who got away with it.

Afghanistan is Not South Korea


Peter Bergen wrote this:
Instead of publicly discussing the zero option on troops in Afghanistan after 2014, a much smarter American messaging strategy for the country and the region would be to emphasize that the Strategic Partnership Agreement that the United States has already negotiated with Afghanistan last year guarantees that the U.S. will have some form of partnership with the Afghans until 2024. 
In this messaging strategy, the point should be made that the exact size of the American troop presence after 2014 is less important than the fact that U.S. soldiers will stay in the country for many years, with Afghan consent, as a guarantor of Afghanistan's stability. 
The United States continues to station thousands of troops in South Korea more than five decades after the end of the Korean War. Under this American security umbrella, South Korea has gone from being one of the poorest countries in the world to one of the richest. 
It is this kind of model that most Afghans want and the U.S. needs to provide so Afghanistan doesn't revert to the kind of chaos that beset it in the mid-1990s and from which the Taliban first emerged.

The U.S. military is not going to get a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) from the Afghan government that will be worth anything; it is simply not going to happen. Without a SOFA agreement, our troops would not be able to function in the war zone that is Afghanistan; each and every engagement with the enemy would become a legal nightmare for any American forces stationed in the country.

Bergen's idea that there is any kind of similarity between Afghanistan and South Korea is a howler of the first magnitude. When the American military agreed to a presence in South Korea after the Korean War, it did so knowing that there would always be a simmering "hot" war with North Korean forces. Americans have died defending South Korea in numbers that would startle most, especially during the resurgence of incursions in the 1960s. There has never really been a "quiet" time in South Korea for American forces, only periods of relative calm.

North Korean forces have, repeatedly, crossed into South Korean territory and butchered people, soldiers and civilians alike. And yet, this has not occurred on any scale similar to a single month in Afghanistan where whole entire areas of the country have never been safe or pacified. There really is no comparison.

America is going to abandon Afghanistan and it will not become "another" South Korea because there is no cultural or religious similarity between the two. Anyone trying to sell that is simply ignoring the fact that the Afghans are ready to fight the invader forever and the Koreans do not possess that same level of fanaticism. No one in Afghanistan is going to manufacture a product that is not heroin that people in the west will want to buy. No one in Korea is willing to spend the entirety of their natural life fighting as an insurgent against a foreign army.

Just Make Hits


Tina Fey has decided to mock her employer, and good for her: This comes after the esoteric nature of her show, 30 Rock, and that of shows like The Office and Parks and Recreation were cited as being "too narrow" for NBC's future plans.

Really. That's what Robert Greenblatt thinks of his own products? His own shows? Too narrow? In what sense is a show "too narrow" if it is beloved, funny, watched endlessly on alternative outlets like Hulu and has repeatedly been cited and awarded for maintaining an exceptional level of quality?

This is what Fey thinks:
"You know what? They’re wrong, and I’m going to wait that out," Fey said. "What they want is hits, but no one knows what that is. Remember when Jeff Zucker was like: 'I've got a new plan! We’re only going to make hits!' [Laughs.] It’s hard. I couldn't do it. I couldn’t be a network exec."
Fey has struck out against the fallacy of having people run television networks based on the phony idea that they actually know what works. There are certain professional occupations that are constructed on a mountain of bullshit, and being a television executive in America is like building a retirement home on top of it without taking into account the smell of it all.

If you find quality people, hold them to a high standard, and then let them do what they do, there's a good chance that their television show will fail. If you get crap people together and let them fight like rats, you can probably get a successful show out of them. Some of the worst human beings in the history of humanity have been beloved, successful television stars. There is no way to judge what will work and what won't. But, when a certain number of people routinely agree that a show like Parks and Recreation is worth watching, never assume that the residents of Chez Bullshit will accept the truth.

Not a Great Way to Market a New Rifle

What the world needs now is a rifle that can correct the shooter's aim, right?

Someone has a curious sense of humor about the overall marketing strategy of a sniper rifle, apparently, and while it has a price tag that would almost certainly assure the public that only very, very wealthy people could possess such a weapon, I can't think of anything dumber right now. We are about to enter into a discussion about gun control in this country, and if you need a weapon like this to "hunt" with, then there's something about this discussion that has escaped the bounds of common sense.

How about we develop a weapon that won't shoot unless the person holding it is a law-abiding, not-insane person and one that fires non-lethal rounds? Or is that too silly as well? How many gun manufacturers are developing that technology right now? Zero?

Okay, then.