Saturday, June 30, 2007

Also ...

Three million dollars for a couple miles of fence? And people think the government can handle healthcare in a cost effective manner?

Clinton Invaded Mexico!

It's true! The Clinton Administration invaded Mexico back in 2000, and seized territory that we have yet to return.

U.S. Border Fence Protrudes Into Mexico
Jun 29, 7:11 PM (ET)

By ALICIA A. CALDWELL

COLUMBUS, N.M. (AP) - The 1.5-mile barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border was designed to keep cars from illegally crossing into the United States. There's just one problem: It was accidentally built on Mexican soil. Now embarrassed border officials say the mistake could cost the federal government more than $3 million to fix.

The barrier was part of more than 15 miles of border fence built in 2000, stretching from the town of Columbus to an onion farm and cattle ranch.

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman said the vertical metal tubes were sunk into the ground and filled with cement along what officials firmly believed was the border. But a routine aerial survey in March revealed that the barrier protrudes into Mexico by 1 to 6 feet.
Well, okay, it wasn't so much an invasion as it was a surveying mistake. The owner of the farm on the American side thinks it was a mistake of his forefathers that created the issue.
James Johnson, whose onion farm is in the disputed area, said he thinks his forefathers may have started the confusion in the 19th century by placing a barbed-wire fence south of the border. No one discovered their error, and crews erecting the barrier may have used that fence as a guideline.
Regardless, the Mexican government wants their 1 to 6 feet of territory back, and has asked for us to remove the fence. On the other hand, Mexico has illegally protruded into the United States by 10,000,000 to 15,000,000 people. I say let's give 'em back their 1 to 6 feet when they take back their 10,000,000 to 15,000,000 people.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Warlords!

For the last few days I've meant to write a couple of posts about iPod listening habits and my quest to acquire a broader music library. Unfortunately, a combination of tiredness and a busy weekend have temporarily left those posts on hold. However, something has come up that I feel the need to blog.

Today, Althouse seems to have completely lost her mind. In a post about Hillary's new campaign ad, Alhouse jumps the shark and lands in Insano Land. The ad is a send up of the final scene from The Sopranos. One change is that Hillary orders carrots instead of onion rings. And here's Althouse's take on the food selection:

Bill says "No onion rings?" and Hillary responds "I'm looking out for ya." Now, the script says onion rings, because that's what the Sopranos were eating in that final scene, but I doubt if any blogger will disagree with my assertion that, coming from Bill Clinton, the "O" of an onion ring is a vagina symbol. Hillary says no to that, driving the symbolism home. She's "looking out" all right, vigilant over her husband, denying him the sustenance he craves. What does she have for him? Carrot sticks! The one closest to the camera has a rather disgusting greasy sheen to it. Here, Bill, in retaliation for all of your excessive "O" consumption, you may have a large bowl of phallic symbols! When we hear him say "No onion rings?," the camera is on her, and Bill is off-screen, but at the bottom of the screen we see the carrot/phallus he's holding toward her. Oh, yes, I know that Hillary supplying carrots is supposed to remind that Hillary will provide us with health care, that she's "looking out for" us, but come on, they're carrots! Everyone knows carrots are phallic symbols. But they're cut up into little carrot sticks, you say? Just listen to yourself! I'm not going to point out everything.
Judas H. Priest! That's a helluva a lot to read into onion rings! Really, sometimes an onion ring is just an onion ring. (Ditto for the carrot sticks.) Instead of being a stand-in for the vagina, the onion rings represent Bill's well-known propensity to over-indulge in greasy foods. The part of the video has way more to do with Phil Hartman than it does Monica Lewinsky et al. And yes, this whole post is simply an excuse to embed the best Bill Clinton spoof ever.



As always, I am amazed at Hartman's ability to eat so much crap in this skit. I've never checked into this, but I have to believe that he went backstage and immediately threw up.

Friday, June 15, 2007

"Brain, and brain! What is brain?!"

Maybe the best line of dialogue ever....

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

That's all for tonight....

I know I should post something cynical to cleanse the palate, but I'm too tired tonight. So just pretend that I posted several posts oozing with cynicism and fatalism about the following topics: the logistics of a recent fatal shooting here in Orlando; drug use in Houston and the death of culture; and something about the pathetic nature of "Palestinian Democracy". (I think the only bigger cluster fuck on the Democracy front is Chinese Democracy.)

Also, pretend I posted something else about the folly of charity, and how it isn't so bad that the path to Hell is paved with Good Intentions. The bad part is that the people with the Good Intentions keep sending other people to Hell instead of themselves.

Really, I'm still a cynic!

Tales from the Hunt

Two stories tonight from the world of hunting. One strange, but legal:

BOSTON - A 50-ton bowhead whale caught off the Alaskan coast last month had a weapon fragment embedded in its neck that showed it survived a similar hunt — more than a century ago. Embedded deep under its blubber was a 3 1/2-inch arrow-shaped projectile that has given researchers insight into the whale's age, estimated between 115 and 130 years old....

The 49-foot male whale died when it was shot with a similar projectile last month, and the older device was found buried beneath its blubber as hunters carved it with a chain saw for harvesting....

Whaling has always been a prominent source of food for Alaskans, and is monitored by the International Whaling Commission. A hunting quota for the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission was recently renewed, allowing 255 whales to be harvested by 10 Alaskan villages over five years.

A sad end for the whale, and I can't say that I approve of whale hunting, but it is legal.

On the other hand, this isn't:

LUSAKA (AFP) - Poachers have shot the last two white rhinos in Zambia, killing one and wounding the other, in a night operation at the Mosi-Oa-Tunya national park in Livingstone, an official said Tuesday.

The shooting of the two endangered animals in a heavily-guarded zoological park near Victoria Falls in Zambia's tourist resort town of Livingstone took place last week.

"I can confirm that one of the white rhinos was shot dead by suspected poachers. The other one was wounded and is undergoing treatment," said Maureen Mwape, spokesperson of the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA), which would be investigating the shooting.

The dead female rhino's horn was apparently removed.

Zambia's white rhinos were all killed by poachers but the government managed to acquire six from South Africa in 1993, of which the injured male is the last to survive.

It's hard to say what's worse, that people are killing these rare animals for profit, or that there's a market for it.

I'm not opposed to hunting, per se. But it has to be done in a manner that manages the wild life in an intelligent manner. But white rhino hunts are just criminal wastefulness.

...

I think I need to post something more cynical now, just so no one things I've gone completely soft.

Comment Elevation

In the previous post Bill and I have been discussing the legality of raiding the library for music. It looks like it probably isn't legal, and that I'll have to dump my files. (But not until I've listened to them once. That's why I checked them out.)

Bill suggests the following: Use the library to experiment with music, not necessarily to create a massive library of songs you'll never listen to.

Actually, that's the intent. I've recently decided to broaden my listening habits, and I'm going back to what I loved best when I was much younger. But the old European music has a vast catalogue, and that doesn't include the multitude of recordings for most of the more important works. (I'm also experimenting with other types of music, and have also decided to mine some of the old veins a little more thoroughly.)

This is the method I've chosen for my exploration. First I do a little research to find something that looks interesting, and then try to find decent recordings for listening. If I can't find exactly what I'm looking for (in terms of performances) I broaden the search a little. If I can't find any of the best know versions of, say, Bach's Cello Suites, maybe I can find a fairly decent version I managed to find a more recent performance that's received mixed reviews. So I check it out and give it a listen.

Now that I've done that, I can decide if I like the music. In this case I do, so I now I listen to the recording for more detail. The mixed reviews in this case seem to be warranted - it's not bad, but it doesn't seem to fully rise to the occasion. So now I'll buy the Pierre Fournier performance from iTunes. (That is considered to be one of the best performances on "phonorecord".)

On the other hand, I've tried listening to Husker Du's New Day Rising on two occasions now, and it hasn't done a thing for me. (This one was a pure impulse choice. I just happened to look down and see it in the stacks.) I'll give it one more chance, but so far I'm not getting what all of the fuss was about. I expect to have a similar reaction to Kraftwerk, but they'll get their chance soon enough.

There's also the question of changing tastes. When I was younger I loved Pink Floyd. But I'm older now and I haven't been able to get into it. At one point I had all of their albums from Roger Water's tenure with the band, but that was on cassettes which have long since disintegrated. Currently I only own Dark Side of the Moon. Do I want to get anything else? Well, The Final Cut wasn't that good the first time around. And The Wall? Ugh, I can't stand that when it comes on the radio now. But what about, say, Meddle? Or even Piper at the Gates of Dawn? Well, the library's got Piper! We'll see how that goes.

Finally, browsing allows for impulse acquisitions. I've been hearing of the movement for more historically correct performances (meaning instruments, arrangements, playing styles, etc) of the old works from Europe, but I haven't really heard any of the actual performances. But I see a couple of albums by Musica Antiqua Koln, so I pick them up on impulse. I haven't gotten to those yet, but I am really looking forward to it, especially Biber's Harmonia Artificiosa.

Sorry for rambling on like this, but this is really a rambling on kind of thing I'm doing.

Monday, June 11, 2007

And now for something completely pleasant!

Despite all the folly, foibles and fury mentioned below, life still has it's pleasures. Amongst them are the happy intersection between the coolest device yet devised by human artifice, the iPod, with the greatest expression of human expression of human civilization, the public library.

The Orange County Library System, serving Orlando and Orange County, Florida, where I live, is an excellent public library system. Its features include multiple branches, a large selection of print, CD, DVD and other items, a fantastic home delivery system, and several other features and services that I'm either barely or completely unaware of. Truly, it's a wonder, and undoubtedly contains more human knowledge than the fabled Royal Library at Alexandria.

(In itself, that last sentence is intimidating. Imagine how much more knowledge will be available two thousands years hence, when our modern libraries, even the huge collections in Washington, New York, London, Paris and Moscow will seem small by comparison.)

Lately, I've been "raiding" the library's music collection. In the past two weeks, I've added 1108 pieces of music to my collection. That amounts to 3 days, 6 hours, 46 minutes and 15 seconds of material. I've grabbed everything from old heavy metal albums ("The Number of the Beast", mentioned by XWL recently, was one such album), to newer metal albums (Iron Maiden's "A Matter of Life and Death"), to experimental stuff that I've heard about, but never actually heard (Kraftwerk, for example), to mountains of "classical" music (Bach's Cello Suites (by Jian Wang) and the St. Matthew's Passion (Otto Klemperer's 1962 production)), to whatever else struck my fancy.

And, thanks to the science and technology of the day, I can carry all of that and much more with me wherever I go. Truly, we live in an age of wonders!

Added: Thanks for the anniversary present, honey!

Compare and Contrast

Compare and contrast this story:

Bono pressures candidates to focus on the poor

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The anti-poverty campaign founded by U2 rocker Bono and others is investing $30 million to pressure the presidential candidates to focus on the oft-forgotten issue, with its leaders arguing on Monday that helping the poor is a national security issue.

Dubbed ONE Vote '08, the bipartisan political push aims to get President Bush's successor to commit to taking concrete steps to combat hunger and disease while improving access to education and water across the globe.
with this story:
SPIEGEL INTERVIEW WITH AFRICAN ECONOMICS EXPERT
"For God's Sake, Please Stop the Aid!"


The Kenyan economics expert James Shikwati, 35, says that aid to Africa does more harm than good. The avid proponent of globalization spoke with SPIEGEL about the disastrous effects of Western development policy in Africa, corrupt rulers, and the tendency to overstate the AIDS problem.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Shikwati, the G8 summit at Gleneagles is about to beef up the development aid for Africa...

Shikwati: ... for God's sake, please just stop.

SPIEGEL: Stop? The industrialized nations of the West want to eliminate hunger and poverty.

Shikwati: Such intentions have been damaging our continent for the past 40 years. If the industrial nations really want to help the Africans, they should finally terminate this awful aid. The countries that have collected the most development aid are also the ones that are in the worst shape. Despite the billions that have poured in to Africa, the continent remains poor.

SPIEGEL: Do you have an explanation for this paradox?

Shikwati: Huge bureaucracies are financed (with the aid money), corruption and complacency are promoted, Africans are taught to be beggars and not to be independent. In addition, development aid weakens the local markets everywhere and dampens the spirit of entrepreneurship that we so desperately need. As absurd as it may sound: Development aid is one of the reasons for Africa's problems. If the West were to cancel these payments, normal Africans wouldn't even notice. Only the functionaries would be hard hit. Which is why they maintain that the world would stop turning without this development aid.
Read it all (both links), and contemplate the wonder of it all.

I have heard the idea that foreign aid to Africa is more harmful than helpful before. (One of the places I've heard this before is on Jon Evans' LiveJournal page, here. See this recent post and the comments for more. I'd link to more lengthy posts by Evans, but I'm having trouble searching his site.) But for now I'd just like to point out a couple of bits from these pieces.

First, from the Bono piece we get this bit of wisdom from former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist: "People do not go to war with people who have saved their children's lives." Perhaps Frist hasn't heard stories like this, which makes me happy he isn't going to be our next President.

Second, from the interview with the Kenyan economist, there's this wry observation: "Unfortunately, the Europeans' devastating urge to do good can no longer be countered with reason." Also, here's an example of how aid does harm:
SPIEGEL: Even in a country like Kenya, people are starving to death each year. Someone has got to help them.

Shikwati: But it has to be the Kenyans themselves who help these people. When there's a drought in a region of Kenya, our corrupt politicians reflexively cry out for more help. This call then reaches the United Nations World Food Program -- which is a massive agency of apparatchiks who are in the absurd situation of, on the one hand, being dedicated to the fight against hunger while, on the other hand, being faced with unemployment were hunger actually eliminated. It's only natural that they willingly accept the plea for more help. And it's not uncommon that they demand a little more money than the respective African government originally requested. They then forward that request to their headquarters, and before long, several thousands tons of corn are shipped to Africa ...

SPIEGEL: ... corn that predominantly comes from highly-subsidized European and American farmers ...

Shikwati: ... and at some point, this corn ends up in the harbor of Mombasa. A portion of the corn often goes directly into the hands of unscrupulous politicians who then pass it on to their own tribe to boost their next election campaign. Another portion of the shipment ends up on the black market where the corn is dumped at extremely low prices. Local farmers may as well put down their hoes right away; no one can compete with the UN's World Food Program. And because the farmers go under in the face of this pressure, Kenya would have no reserves to draw on if there actually were a famine next year. It's a simple but fatal cycle.
Red high-lights are mine. The best thing we could do for sub-Saharan Africa would be to stop dumping our subsidized food stuffs on them. For that matter, we could stop subsidizing our farmers, but there's no way that will ever happen....

"It's not bad enough that we have to worry about our own elected representatives..."

"... now we have to worry about other states' too!"

That was the comment my wife wrote when sending me a link to this Orlando Sentinel editorial:

If you can stomach any more examples of ethical problems in Congress, look no further than Coconut Road in Southwest Florida.

A congressman slipped $10 million into a transportation bill last year so that an interchange could connect the road to Interstate 75, even though the local planning board has twice opposed taking even preliminary steps toward the interchange. And it's no wonder. Study after study has warned that it would threaten sensitive wetlands.

But it wasn't even the congressman in the district who slipped the road into the bill. The Naples News discovered that it was Rep. Don Young, a Republican from Alaska -- yes, Alaska. In fact, the local congressman, Connie Mack, didn't know anything about it. And, yes, this is the same Don Young who steered $200 million to the "Bridge to Nowhere" to serve an Alaskan island with 80 people.

If you think this sounds suspicious, you know Congress all too well. It seems that the developer wanting this interchange -- for 1,000 acres he owns on Coconut Road -- helped raise $40,000 for Mr. Young's re-election just before he introduced the measure.

And now local officials are getting strong-armed into approving the interchange. Mr. Mack has told them future federal dollars could be threatened if they don't play along. After all, Mr. Young is a powerful congressman.

Enough already. If local officials cave in to this threat, people such as Mr. Young will be emboldened. Only this time instead of a Bridge to Nowhere, it's an Interchange to Somewhere: a contributor's land.
This story has plenty to be outraged about, and I am in fact outraged. But there's no reason to go on about congressional earmarks. If you want outrage on that front, you can go to PorkBusters.org, or do a search at Rick Moran's site on "earmarks". No, that's not what has me outraged.

I am outraged by some of the comments. In particular, I'm pissed at "the king of reality" from Lincoln Park NJ, "Increase Mather" from Wyoming MI, and "Eppur Si" Los Angeles CA for the following three comments, respectively:
1) wetlands eh? because of people like you that could mean a 6-inch puddle of water is holding up a bit of road that could make people's lives a lot easier

2) Screw the wetlands, build the road.

3) It threatens wetlands? In Flordia???? Is there a shortage of wetlands if Florida?
The pisser here is that not only do we have some dirty Alaskan politician mucking up our state (Pooh, I thought you said it was our Southern states that were corrupt?), we are now getting idiotic advice from a bunch of damned out-of-staters as to how to deal with this. TKOR, keep your advice on wetlands management for your own armpit of a state. And to the other two dumbasses, yes, Florida does in fact have threatened wetlands. Hopefully, we won't turn it all into a big damned slab of concrete like Los Angeles.

/ rant at anonymous commenters on another site entirely

(And yes, I DO feel better now!)

Stating the Obvious Blogging - Session 4: Award Show Edition

Listening to the Tony Awards on tape delay, it occurs to me that the Tonys seems to be about the most entertaining of the awards shows. Perhaps theatre people are simply more entertaining than other entertainers. Or maybe it's that theatre people are used to performing live in front of an actual audience. Or maybe this isn't so obvious after all?

Added: It also helps that the "production numbers" are simply scenes lifted from currently running shows, and that the reason they're being shown is because they're actually good. Incidentally, Audra McDonald has great legs. (And I shouldn't have to tell you that she's enormously talented otherwise.)

What I learned today.

Today, I finally learned the origin and meaning of a new (to me, at least) derogatory word, namely the word "jit". I've been hearing or reading this word a lot lately, and had no idea what it meant. It was obvious from usage that it was derogatory, and seemed as though it had some racial overtone. But that last part wasn't clear because sometimes it would refer to a member of one race, and sometimes it would refer to someone of another race entirely. I was confused.

So today, after seeing the term used again in the comments here, I just had to find out what the heck this term means. Once again, Wikipedia to the rescue!

Jit may refer to: J.I.T. Juvenile Delinquent in Training: Southern slang used to describe the "Thug" youth element. This term has origins in the "Youth Correctional System".
Well, now I can rest easier, knowing the meaning and origin of the term. Still, not a term that's work-safe....

What do I want for Christmas?

The same thing Crow T. Robot wants: The power to decide who lives and who dies. In particular, I would choose death for two particular idiots I encountered on the roadways on the way home this evening.

First, I would see to it that the idiot in the black Talon who ran a stop sign and almost smashed in the side of my Civic was terminated. Put down your cell phone, quit wildly gesticulating with your other hand (That's right, NO hands on the steering wheel!) and pay attention to the signs, fuckwad. Besides, who doesn't have a Blue-Tooth or an ear-bud now?

Second, I would have the moron in the bluish-black Mercury Mountaineer terminated. I know it's rained recently, but we're still under drought conditions. Throwing your still smoldering cigarette butt into dry grass is contra-inidicated. If you don't like the smell of the things, quit smoking.

/ road rage fueled rant