Saturday, January 30, 2010



In a recent posting, I used the metaphor of the millipede to describe the federal government. I didn't strain for the image; it just popped into my mind. But when I thought about it later, it seemed like an apt comparison for the central State that now -- instead of sticking to the limited powers granted by the Constitution -- feels free to insert a leg or two into virtually every area of life in these United States. (To be really accurate, the animal in question would need to be larger and longer than any known species of millipede. A mega-millipede, so to speak.)

I read today that the Obama administration's hollow kingship -- at a time when millions of citizens are out of work, the national debt has reached Everest-like proportions, militant Islam openly boasts of its threats to the safety of Americans, and we are engaged in a fool's errand costing American lives in Iraq and Afghanistan -- is turning its attention to ... wait for it ... the college football bowl system.
President Obama has made it abundantly clear that he does not like the current system for naming a national championship team in college football.

Now his administration may take action on behalf of him and the countless other sports fans who oppose college football’s Bowl Championship Series (BCS), the controversial system by which a national champion is crowned every January. ...

In his four-page letter, an exhaustive explanation and dissection of the complex BCS system, [Assistant Attorney General] Weich said that the department is exploring several options to address the concerns of those opposed to the current system, including asking the Federal Trade Commission to examine its legality under consumer protection laws and having a governmental or non-governmental body or commission study the possibility of a playoff system.

Just to be non-partisan, I note that a Republican senator, Orrin Hatch, requested the investigation.

I don't know enough about the Bowl Championship Series to have an opinion about its fairness or the lack thereof. But even if its rules were written in blood by Satan, it is no business of the mannequin president or his Justice Department.

Fishermen in Madagascar or someplace put metal rings around the necks of cormorants. The birds catch the fish but because of the constriction can't swallow them, and the fishermen collect the catch. It's long past time to put a ring around the neck of the federal government so that it can't go on swallowing one more area of life after another.


Friday, January 29, 2010

If at first you don't secede …


You probably didn't read about it in the mainstream media (I knew nothing of it), but on January 9 some 2,000 South Carolina residents held a protest rally at the state capitol in Columbia. Among the demands: secession from the United States. (Tip o' the lid to Rebellion Blog.)

This isn't another "save your Confederate money, boys, the South will rise again" joke. Splitting up the United States is on the table again.

It makes sense. There is no longer a "United" States. The name is an anachronistic fiction. For 40 years we have had a culture war unlikely ever to be resolved. It is like a marriage with, in the legal phrase, "irreconcilable differences."


Part of the population wants a Euro-style government-directed state, open borders, legal anti-white discrimination, welfare-state expansion financed by higher taxes and borrowing, an apologetic foreign policy, and the rest of the program represented by the Failed Messiah and his radical Democrat followers. Very well, let them have it. With this proviso: they must give up any and all claims to another part of the country where those with opposing views can live by their own values.

If we are to avoid civil war or tyrannical repression, we must enact a constitutional amendment that provides a clear legal path for states that wish to secede from the federal leviathan to do so.

To those who say this would present immense practical problems — true. But as long as individual liberty remains, people will overcome practical problems. Yes, some people who found themselves on what was for them the wrong side of a legal divide would have to choose between accepting it or shifting house to a jurisdiction more to their liking. We are the most mobile nation in the world. People move all the time to what they think will offer them a better environment culturally or economically.


An immense anger in much of the country has built up against the Washington oligarchy and the federal bureaucracy, a millipede with a foot in every business and activity. As David Foster writes, "
Obama, with the complicity of Pelosi and Reid, is in the process of creating an economy and a society in which the primary factor affecting the success of every individual and every business is the attitude of the federal government toward that individual or business."

That anger will not be assuaged by an election. At most changing the complexion of Congress will result in endless gridlock. At worst, well, who knows? The number of once-free countries that became dictatorships throughout history is almost countless, the most recent examples being the European states that became Communist puppet regimes for the Soviet Union after World War II.

It works the other way, too. People who feel alienated from their own government, who think they've been pushed too far, can destroy civil government in their wrath. Charles I dissolved the British parliament over what he saw as irreconcilable differences between it and the monarchy. A civil war ensued, and a few years later King Charles was kneeling on a scaffold for his head to be severed. The French revolution quickly devolved into the reign of terror and set the stage for Napoleon's permanent war state and his crowning himself as emperor.


This country's founders, despite important differences with one another, managed an inspiring feat. The devised a form of government with not only checks and balances among different branches, but a federal system in which states could counterbalance the inevitable tendency of a central government to accumulate power. It worked brilliantly for more than two centuries. It does not work today. We have a president who can call on the wealth and patronage needed to bribe members of Congress to fall into line. We have a Supreme Court and other federal courts with a power never granted to them in the Constitution, to nullify laws passed by the people's representatives or the people's own referendums, the nullification based on the politics of the court.


Can we return to a limited federal government and a balance of powers? I doubt it; but if there is any chance of that happening, the right of states to secede will be a strong force for such a restoration.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Crazy Heart


Capsule review: Eh.

Slightly expanded review: Everybody seems to be over the moon about Crazy Heart because at least it isn't awful. Considering that our theater screens are mostly filled with animated rubbish, special-effects action rubbish, teenage Angst rubbish, and other varieties of rubbish, a country music drama with characters who are (the movie industry's idea of) real people has an obvious appeal to thinking audiences.

Has there ever been a musical drama where the musician isn't strung out on a drug and/or booze and messes up his or her life while we watch? I'm afraid Crazy Heart follows the well-worn path. It even follows the Saved by the Love of a Good Woman path. Are you getting the signal that there's not a carload of originality here?


But what about Jeff Bridges? Look, Bridges is maybe the best American actor around, but contrary to other reviews, this is not one of his better roles. It comes painfully close to caricature. But the script almost forces him to play the lovable loser in neon colors. He might as well wear a sandwich board that says, "Sensitive, pathetic drunk."

I found Maggie Gyllenhaal more interesting, possibly because I'd never seen her in a movie before. She is a left-wing nutter and 9/11 conspiracy theorist, but on the evidence here she's a fine actress, combining charm and vulnerability in this performance, and gives the picture what depth it has. I also love her name — Dutch?

There are no other roles of consequence. Robert Duvall gives a minimalist reading of a supporting role, and Colin Ferrell proves he is just as lame playing a country singer as he is playing you-name-it.


The movie has its intermittent pleasures: a good line here and there, authentic atmosphere (except Duvall's accent, which makes him sound like a Texan who's spent the past 40 years in New York, or vice versa). Location shots in my former home town of Santa Fe and the southwestern desert gave me nostalgic enjoyment.

Two or three scenes work up a respectable dramatic heat, but the story line is basically episodic and predictable. My wife said Crazy Heart is "a Lifetime TV movie for guys," and I concur.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

America's alien turnstile

Our national government's population replacement program comes with a price. But Arnold Schwarzenegger, governor of Mexifornia, has a plan to lower the bill.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Monday that the state could save $1 billion by building and operating prisons in Mexico to house undocumented felons who are currently imprisoned in California. …

"We pay them to build the prisons down in Mexico and then we have those undocumented immigrants be down there in a prison. ... And all this, it would be half the cost to build the prisons and half the cost to run the prisons," Schwarzenegger said, predicting it would save the state $1 billion that could be spent on higher education.

About 19,000 of the state's 171,000 prisoners are illegal immigrants, according to the most recent statistics available online.

In other words, the United States has an, er, understanding with Mexico that the latter can siphon off its poorest to El Norte as a safety valve. A certain percentage of the "immigrants" reaching the land of dreams are caught in criminal activities and banged up, but that's expensive and Mexifornia is broke. So Mexifornia pays Mexico to take charge of the criminals the U.S. made no serious attempt to stop admitting in the first place.


Prisons built and run by Mexican companies, to hold Mexican citizens, paid for by U.S. taxpayers. Brilliant. How many of these criminals will serve out their sentences? But don't worry, the system is a perpetual motion machine. El Norte will continue to allow "undocumented" Mexicans in with a nudge-nudge, wink-wink; some will commit crimes serious enough to get them sentenced to hard time; back they'll go to Mexico, along with taxpayer money to keep them in televisions and hip-hop mariachi music while they serve out the remaining week or two of their incarceration.


Or maybe, au contraire, Mexifornia pays for the prisons to be built and Mexico decides it doesn't want their errant citizens back. Presumably the United States will have to accept them as refugees. The situation of some Somalis in Uganda offers a precedent.

THE American government is to resettle 5,800 refugees from Nakivale refugee camp in Isingiro district to the United States, Prosy Katura, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) protection officer, has revealed.

Katura said a team has already been sent to Nakivale to scrutinise the refugees to ensure they have no links with al-Qaeda, an extremist group. The American taskforce at the camp will also study files of individual refugees since they arrived in Uganda. During a meeting with the Germany ambassador to Uganda, Reinhard Buchholz, who visited the camp on Friday, Katura said the exercise under the “expedited Somali resettlement programme” should be completed by September. “We have so far scrutinised about 2,000 Somalis out of 5,800 who are living in Nakivale.”

Why is the United States taking in this particular group when, according to the article, the refugee camp holds some "470,000 refugees from Somalia, Rwanda, Sudan, Congo, Burundi, Kenya and Eritrea"?

Explaining the reason of resettling Somalis to the US, Katura said Somali refugees have failed to integrate with other refugee groups living in Nakivale and with the local communities because of their unique language and culture.
Oh, I see. They can't get along with other Africans because of their "unique language and culture," so we'll settle them in Minnesota, where they'll blend right in.

But maybe they'd feel even more at home in a country where the climate and social conditions are more like what they're used to. Mexico?


Saturday, January 23, 2010

Forever young

[This entry is cross-posted at 2 Blowhards.]

May your heart always be joyful,
May your song always be sung,
May you stay forever young,
Forever young, forever young,
May you stay forever young.

— Bob Dylan

The pace is picking up. “My” generation is dying off.

I put quotes around “my” because it doesn’t necessarily mean exact chronological cohorts. Rather, people whose work affected me when I was young, or at least a lot younger than I am now, and left a lasting impression.

It’s hard to imagine them aging, impossible to comprehend them dying. They and I will always be in the 1960s or 1970s when I think of them. (That’s not so long ago in my mind, although for young adults it’s the Pleistocene Age.)

Just this week, two people I never met personally but with whom I connected with emotionally passed out of this life.


The first was Kate McGarrigle, one-half of Kate and Anna McGarrigle. Their first album floored me when I heard it in the early ’70s; some 35 years later, it still does. Practically every track on the album sparkles. They were bilingual “English” girls from French Canada, blessed with splendid voices, individually and in harmony. I’m not sure which songs were written by which sister (the sublime “Heart Like a Wheel” is credited to Anna), but they were synergy in action.

Kate and Anna released other albums over the decades. While they were of uneven quality, and none in my estimation surpassed that original effort, the craftsmanship was always there. They continued to offer consolation to those of us who were immiserated as popular music sank to ever-more artificial, and often cretinous, levels.


The other loss this week that affected me was the detective novel writer Robert B. Parker. I believe I discovered him by way of his first book, The Godwulf Manuscript, about the same time as the sisters McGarrigle swum into my ken. He created the tough, wisecracking detective Spenser who was to Boston what Hammett’s Sam Spade was to San Francisco and Chandler’s Philip Marlowe to Los Angeles.

Parker has his detractors, and I agree with some of their reasons. After the first few novels, the Spenser series started to roll off an assembly line -- still entertaining enough to be good company on an airplane ride or for light reading, but successive titles did not grow in depth over the years like Ross Macdonald’s, for instance.

But it was thrilling enough to my young self to learn that the Raymond Chandler tradition was alive and well, and the snappy dialogue probably influenced my own style, as it undoubtedly influenced many others. (I’m not, of course, saying I imitate Parker or comparing myself to him as a writer.)


In the 1960s, even before the McGarrigles and Parker came on the scene, the San Francisco Chronicle’s wonderful columnist Herb Caen wrote a piece I remember: about how he dreaded opening the paper to the obituaries and seeing names of people he’d known for years.

The English poet Philip Larkin said that once he had reached a certain age, there was always Something standing behind him, which he could almost see if he glanced over his shoulder. (Henry James called death “that distinguished thing.”)

We are not forever young, nor are the people who are part of our lives, at least not in the way we imagine when we ourselves are young.


But maybe in a different sense we are. According to many mediumistic communications from the Other Side, souls who have passed over usually take the astral form of the most physically vibrant years of their earth lives. So, even a person who dies very old might have the appearance in spirit of a 20-year-old. Time and aging have no place in the afterlife. Forever young.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

What did I tell you?

Rewind to January 14.

Federal immigration officials are expecting up to 200,000 undocumented Haitian immigrants, including nearly 68,000 in South Florida, to apply for a new federal immigration program that would allow the migrants to legally remain and work in the United States for 18 months.

The estimated number of potential applicants for Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, is far larger than earlier predictions of about 30,000 Haitians nationwide, according to local immigrant organizations and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officials.

This is no more than an opening move. First, give "temporary" amnesty to as many as 200,000 Haitians illegally in the United States. Temporary will mean until the sun burns out from Manmade Universal Cooling. Meanwhile, those temporarily protected aliens won't be slow to issue anchor babies.

Then, of course, all the children/parents/grandparents/aunts/uncles/cousins/nephews/nieces of les criminels haitiens will get their invitations to come hither — can't separate families! If that doesn't give the Democrats a permanent lock on Florida, we will adopt Haiti in its entirety as a "special U.S. state."

The Alinskyite Marxists sure do know how to dismiss a citizenry and hire a new one.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Turning America's disaster into Obama's


Thank you, Massachusetts, for giving us hope and change.

The Obama machine for scalping America into high-tax European-style nanny state with government-controlled health care has stalled. Best of all, the victory is down to individuals, not a lobbyist-financed party machine.

Plenty of bloggers will analyze the Brown victory and its implications, and most of them will know more than me, so I'll limit myself to one observation.

Do not underestimate the fanaticism of the radicals, their acidic hatred of individual liberty, their worship of transnational progressivism, and their willingness to make common cause even with aggressive Islam. They will do anything to tear up the Constitution and substitute a British-style soft totalitarianism in which the State makes the rules for every department of life, from the words you are permitted to speak and write to the methodology for loading your trash in the wheelie-bin.

We got a glimpse of the Obama gang's anything-goes strategy in a desperate trick by the Coakley campaign.


… said the headline in a Coakley organization news release yesterday, January 19.
We've received several independent and disturbing reports of voters across the state being handed ballots that are already marked in favor of Scott Brown. This is obviously a serious violation, and our legal team is taking immediate steps to protect the integrity of this election.
There are many ways to commit fraud in an election, but giving out pre-marked ballots is about as stupid and easily detected a means as possible. Ethical issues aside, why would a candidate with a lead in the polls risk everything on a clumsy scam?

Oh, one other thing. The Coakley news release was dated January 18, the day before the election.


Monday, January 18, 2010

Turning Haiti's disaster into America's


The earthquake was a horror for Haitians, but for the Left in the United States it's almost all silver lining.

What an opportunity for moral exhibitionism!
Former president Bill Clinton will travel Monday to Haiti to deliver emergency relief supplies and meet with the country's leaders, his foundation's office said Sunday.

Clinton will meet with President Rene Preval and other members of the Haitian government, as well as visit with those assisting in the earthquake relief effort, the foundation said.

Clinton must believe that he has the power to heal, not by touch (as kings of old were said to have), but merely by his presence.

But at least he is so far performing his magic act in situ. The next stage will be an answered prayer for the Left in its desire to remake the United States as an oligarchy of transnational progressives ruling a society of poor, dysfunctional, easily manipulated peasants. We will bring Haiti here.
In preparation for a possible mass migration of Haitians, local Red Cross officials are dusting off old disaster plans used when the U.S. allowed mass migration of refugees from Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s.

"It's something that we as a country have done before, so it's not new," said Becky Sebren, director of emergency services for the Mid- Florida regional chapter of the Red Cross. ...

At the Hope CommUnity Center in Apopka, whose founders have long worked with the immigrant community, Sister Ann Kendrick said, "We'll do whatever we need to do. If they send children, we'll find families."

She witnessed the community open its doors and hearts to desperate people before — notably, in 1980 during the Mariel boatlift from Cuba, when 125,000 people came to Florida.

"My experience was that it was the poor, immigrant families who made room," Kendrick said. "They have nothing — but they have a generosity of spirit. … And if we need to, we'll put up cots here at the community center. We have a kitchen here. I mean, we'll do anything."
Since when is immigration policy decided by the Red Cross and the Catholic Church? It is supposed to be determined by Congress -- not that I expect any of that bunch would have the courage to stand up to a humanitarian invasion.

The pretext is "the federal government's plan to repatriate the 45,000 American citizens who were living in Haiti at the time of the earthquake." It is hard to believe that 45,000 Americans have chosen to live in dirt-poor, crime-ridden Haiti, but depend on it that no one in the leftist mainstream media will question the number. In any case, those 45,000 supposed citizens will be the thin end of the wedge.

Since Haiti has for generations been a failed state, our latest venture in nation building will inevitably bog down in corruption and incompetence. Voices will be raised to insist that the only way to "save" Haiti is to hand its inhabitants a get-out-of-Hell-free card.

Chris Roach, at Mansizedtarget, observes:
... Our desire to help must be tempered by our responsibility to our countrymen to maintain an orderly, safe, and prosperous country. It also must be tempered by some recognition that Haiti’s bad circumstances are not caused by the earthquake, but rather are exacerbated by the earthquake; the conditions that made the earthquake so bad stem from the characteristics of the Haitian people and the unique characteristics of Haitian society.
It is not simply people we will be offering a place to, but their cultural characteristics: lack of skills and self-reliance, superstitions (think voodoo), and what will undoubtedly be for many a permanent need for welfare assistance. The Social Work Establishment must be salivating at the thought of a whole new "underserved" clientele. The Liberal Establishment is surely licking its chops at the thought of another servile population for their plantation.

Roach adds:
We no more have to take these forlorn Haitians into our homeland to show our compassion than we have to take real life, often self-destructive, homeless people into our real life homes. But that’s what Obama and company want Florida to do for Haiti: a gesture stemming from a perfect storm of liberal compassion, the opportunity to show a “lack of racism,” indifference to America’s working class, and the cultivation of a political constituency through specialized immigration policy. This is going to be bad and especially bad for Florida.
But Obama and his fellow graduates of the Alinsky School of Marxist Infiltration think we deserve it because we are such a bad nation. Like Jesus with the Gadarene swine, he wants to drive the national evil into middle- and working-class Americans and send them over the cliff. As his handler said, never let a crisis go to waste.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Haiti speech

The dreadful destruction visited on Haiti by the earthquake is a genuine humanitarian crisis. But I suspect it is a crisis that our rulers will not let go to waste.

Haiti needs all the help — well, almost all the help — we can offer. It is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere. At the best of times, it hardly has the resources to cope with an emergency; in a full-blown disaster it is virtually helpless. I am more than happy for a portion of my tax money to go for whatever the United States can supply in medical and reconstruction aid. And I'm glad to live in a country where many will volunteer their expertise and labor to reduce suffering in Haiti.


I have $20 that says that within a few days, Little Daddy Obama will call his panting spaniels in the media to a press conference and announce that he has "directed" the Citizenship and Immigration Services to provide tens of thousands of green cards to Haitians to settle in the United States.*

Anybody want to take the other end of the bet?

Obama may be slow off the mark when it comes to standing up to Muslim aggression, but when it's a question of race replacement for "his" country, no gazelle can keep up with him.


* The Citizenship and Immigration Services web site offers green cards for families, jobs, refugee or asylum status, and "other ways." Citizenship may be granted through naturalization, parents, or a "naturalization test." And don't forget humanitarian parole, battered spouse, children and parents (battered parents?), victims of human trafficking and other crimes, "special situations," and "temporary protected status." Who are they kidding? The word "temporary" in connection with government means "get it now and we'll forget to tell you when time's up."


Monday, January 11, 2010

Reid, his lips

On no account did I ever expect to be defending Harry Reid. But the reaction to his reported comments (in private) about Obama — you know, "light-skinned" and "no Negro dialect" — is insane. And it's mostly Republicans who are having a phony attack of the vapors for political advantage.

Of course I understand that "Negro" has been out of date since the 1960s, replaced by "black" or "African American," the latter of which is silly: we don't speak of "English Americans," "Scots-Irish Americans," or "German Americans," and almost never these days of "Italian Americans," etc. But "Negro" is not a term of disparagement. It was long used by white liberals, including those who were active in the civil rights movement.


"Light-skinned"? Well, that is a fact, is it not? A political fact, and Harry Reid is a politician. Politicians make calculations all the time based on their own and other politicians' racial and ethnic characteristics. It is quite possible that Reid was implying that a light-skinned half-black man had an
epidermis asset, one that darker blacks lacked. If that advantage is a fact, it's indeed unfair. But speaking of it is realpolitik, not a sign of racial prejudice.

"No Negro dialect"? Please. Everyone knows that liberals and the media (okay, redundant) swooned over Barack Obama because he is a "black" man who speaks without the typical dialect. Would Obama have risen to his present height (or sunk to his present depth) if he spoke Ebonics? No. By the same token, Republicans would be loath to nominate as a presidential candidate a white man from Mississippi with a strong regional accent — not the same as a dialect, but close enough in principle.


Every time we have a contrived incident like this, someone like Mary C. Curtis calls for a racial dialogue.
Just a few days away from the holiday honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., is it too much to ask that we honor his memory by finally having that honest conversation on race and privilege that we threaten to do each time there's a blow-up?
That comes at the end of a long article in which Ms. Curtis cites Archie Bunker in a 1970s TV show as proof that whites judge blacks by their degree of blackness; claims that "when Middle America's favorite football hero, pitchman and bad actor O.J. Simpson became public enemy No. 1, Time magazine's cover wasted no time in darkening him up" (citation from a credible source, if you wouldn't mind?); goes into a riff about James Madison's slave quarters; claims that "I missed out on a part in the fourth-grade play because my light-skinned, long-haired friend 'looked like a princess,' according to my nun nemesis"; claims that "in the 2008 election, more than a few white folks – breathing a sigh of relief – told me they believed Barack Obama wasn't really black because he had a white parent, ignoring that few people white or black in America are pure anything" (race is only a social construct, except when someone wants an affirmative action job or reparations); and adds that "In [other whites], you could see the familiar mind game in which people with a stereotype of a certain group declare a person who doesn't fit it as somehow different or exceptional because that's so much easier than changing that stereotypical view."


Something tells what me Ms. Curtis means by an "honest conversation" is: We scold, you cringe and pay up. You are all slavemasters, we are all victims. Any other kind of honest conversation is racism.

What was that about stereotyping?


Friday, January 08, 2010

The system ate Obama's homework


"Ultimately the buck stops with me," our Commander-in-Absentia said yesterday. It was a pathetic attempt to associate himself with President Truman's famous line. Except there was a difference: Harry Truman didn't give himself the wiggle room of "ultimately."

Having crowned himself as the buck stopper when there's no one else to blame, he released the results of a no-doubt carefully calibrated report. The Washington Times says:
The report points to "a series of human errors" that kept the government from stopping the attempted bombing, including one involving someone in the government apparently misspelling the suspected bomber's name in a database search. But Mr. Obama and his team repeatedly blamed the system rather than any individuals.
Right, mistakes were made.

What a truly craven person this presidential impostor is. The system, the system, the system. As if the system ran itself, untouchable, with its supposed managers and administrators no more than swivel-chair dummies appointed to fill slots in an organization chart.

If we lived in an age where honor was a living concept, several people would have resigned for their failure to do the job they were meant to do, viz., protect the American public. Failing that, the top banana should have given them a couple of hours to clear out their desks.

But that would imply a government network of real, not rhetorical, responsibility. That is the last thing the Failed Messiah wants, because it would hold him, not an abstract system, responsible. Not ultimately, but here and now.

Mr. Obama said the country remains at war with terrorists and he ordered security agencies to strengthen their analyzing practices so that information that could prevent an attack would not fall through the cracks. He also called on intelligence officials to re-evaluate the process of placing suspected terrorists on the no-fly list.

As reported in the Washington Post, "In a memo to department and agency heads outlining 'corrective actions,' Obama ordered Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair to 'immediately reaffirm and clarify roles and responsibilities' of counterterrorism agencies 'in synchronizing, correlating and analyzing all sources of intelligence related to terrorism.'"

Once more, the language of a hands-off bureaucrat: "Re-evaluate the process." "Reaffirm and clarify roles and responsibilities." Study the situation more carefully. I want another report on my desk in 60 days!

"We are at war against al Qaeda, a far-reaching network of violence and hatred that attacked us on 9/11, that killed nearly 3,000 innocent people, and that is plotting to strike us again. And we will do whatever it takes to defeat them," he said.

Who's this "we," chief? You and your legal beagles have determined that captured "enemies" are to be treated as civilian criminals, even though their lawbreaking ("alleged") took place 5,000 miles from American soil. Nor is our enemy simply al Qaeda, which is only the most violent and famous wing of militant Islam. But I guess talking about Islam strikes too close to home with you.


Wednesday, January 06, 2010



Shouting at your wife may get you a criminal record in France

Daily Mail, Jan. 6

Married couples in France could end up with criminal records for insulting each other during arguments.

Under a new law, France is to become the first country in the world to ban 'psychological violence' within marriage. The law would apply to cohabiting couples and to both men and women.

It would cover men who shout at their wives and women who hurl abuse at their husbands - although it was not clear last night if nagging would be viewed as breaking the law.
France, damn it, you're just like your mother! Er, sorry, didn't mean that. Forget I said it … please, put down the phone. What will the neighbors think when la police show up at the door?

Insofar as the Daily Mail reporter could find anyone to quote, there is opposition to the law. But only because of doubts about how it could be enforced. Well, yeah. What is the government going to do, install a Shout-O-Meter in every home? Change the wedding ceremony so it includes an exchange of rings followed by an exchange of miniature recording devices?


No one quoted seems to find anything repugnant about the principle of a "Raise Your Voice, Go to Jail" law. But while this legislation is laughable, it's serious, terribly serious.

The soft totalitarian state continues to metastasize. Not even in the two greatest tyrannies of modern times, Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany, did it occur to the rulers to regulate private relationships between couples.

Among the forces behind this loathsome intrusion into people's lives is radical feminism. The law will inevitably used by women with a grudge against a man, or men. Even in this age of feminized males, I can't see very many men making themselves targets of derision by calling the cops to complain about their wives accusing them in no uncertain terms of being a waste of space.


But that's the least of it. Here is a further extension of the bane of modern Western society, the nanny state mentality. It's the frame of mind that sees every human problem as something for The State to fix. According to this way of thinking, individuals are incapable of arriving at their own solutions; the solutions must be imposed.

Can verbal abuse in a relationship be hurtful? Of course. And women are just as capable of saying wounding things as men. But in a sane traditionalist view, if you find yourself in such a situation you have basically two alternatives: you work it out or you leave the relationship. Either way, it's your life and your responsibility.


The more The State takes on the role of arbiter of personal behavior, the greater the number of people who forget or never learn to develop their own character. It becomes a premature second childhood — no, not really, since the authorities' intervention in every corner of life means the first childhood cannot be outgrown.

Authoritarian states masquerading as therapists welcome a citizenry that is dependent not only economically, but emotionally. Learned helplessness is the tyrant's great enabler.


Sunday, January 03, 2010

Material witness

Psychical researcher Michael Roll describes his experience with materialization of spirits on the "Other Side" in an interview with Lou Bondi on Maltese TV. (Tip of the hat: The Campaign for Philosophical Freedom.)

Materialization (or physical) mediumship is the rarest kind. Most mediums can see, hear, or sense spirits. Materialization mediums are apparently able to provide a quasi-physical substance that enables spirits who have passed from this life to return in temporary physical bodies. Bizarre? You bet. But distinguished scientists such as Sir William Crookes and Professor Brian Josephson (with whom Michael Roll has conducted experiments) have demonstrated it.

In this interview, the host seems somewhat skeptical, but asks reasonable questions. And he gives Roll plenty of time to answer -- no "sound bites" here. Would such a program be made for American TV? It's unlikely.

To accommodate the necessary bandwidth, the interview is divided into six parts. When each part concludes, you are presented with the opportunity to go to the next part, although they don't seem to be in the right order. But they are labeled correctly.

I really don't have much to add. Roll seems intelligent and sincere, and what he says coincides with a good deal of anecdotal evidence, as well as some spiritual teachings.


Friday, January 01, 2010

Carlos Saura's Fados


Fado is a type of traditional Portuguese music, still popular in its original mode as well as updated forms. In its combination of nostalgia, regret, romanticism, and sensuousness it occupies a similar place in Portuguese culture as flamenco does in Spain. Like flamenco, it echoes with lost times and lost loves. But fado is sweeter, more rounded, the accents less jabbing. Its exotic element comes from Africa and Brazil, rather than North Africa as in flamenco.

fado is little known outside its own country (I italicize fado because, unlike flamenco, it has not entered the English language -- MS Word puts it on that platform of faint red dots that means, "Typo alert").

The director Carlos Saura has made a beautiful film featuring fado performers that could be a revelation to many who are unfamiliar with the art form. Indeed, although I have several prized CDs of fado singing, it quite expanded my appreciation.

This is a documentary -- wait, don't roll your eyeballs. It's nothing like those pseudo-intellectual music documentaries on PBS where you get a 90-second clip of the musician followed by five minutes of a talking head explaining what you've just seen and heard and why you should love it. Fados (the film) has no narration, no musicians struggling to conceptualize what they do, no politics except for a brief and relevant look back at the military dictatorship Portugal suffered under in the early 1970s. Saura trusts his audience's ability to appreciate his subject without editorializing, and bless him for that.


The movie contains about a dozen performing groups, and they're allowed to complete their songs full-length, without interruption. We see and hear how fado sounded in earlier generations; there's even a re-creation of a 19th-century performance. The basic instrumentation is a guitar and something whose name I don't know: it looks like a lute or a Middle Eastern oud, but sounds like a mandolin. In more modern arrangements, it is supplemented with a variety of others.

The movie gives us examples of how fado has blossomed to include bluesy, jazzy, marching, and other varieties. I could have done without the hip-hop version, which (un-musicological as I am) seems to me to violate the music's spirit, but it isn't awful.

Not surprisingly, fado has inspired choreographers to match the music's mood, and dancers accompany some of the performances, their art ranging from the ballet-like to the modern. I am not normally a dance fan, but I found most of this captivating with its svelte moves and colorful costumes.

Did I mention the singing? Well, I won't try to describe it. You have to hear (and see) the vocalists in Fados.


Saura has provided just the right degree of production values: enough for attractive and interesting settings, not so much as to be distracting. One unusual effect: some of the musicians are back-projected so you see them and their "ghosts" simultaneously. As a variation, there is a time delay so you see the performers in real time as well as what they were doing a second or two ago. It sounds contrived, and might be annoying if overworked, but Saura knows when enough is enough; he and his cinematographer show imagination and taste.

I've tried to give just enough description so that you will know if Fados is a film for you. It's available for rental, of course, from Netflix.