Archive for December 2010

The Last Post of the Year

The dogs have settled down in their crates, except the smaller ones that suspiciously eye the Wife as she packs for her trip to Africa tomorrow. Our little one is out flexing his not so little wings at an overnight chaperoned party, and I try not to let my worries for both take over. It seems that so little was accomplished this year, but it’s an illusion.

The other day the Kid was standing next to me as we shot skeet and I felt instinctively that another man stood beside me. It frightened me in one way and relieved me in another. I could no longer protect him from the world as I had when he was an infant, yet at the exact same time I felt the relief of knowing that I had somehow – no, we had somehow – helped craft the infant from 14 years ago into the beginnings of a good man. We had successfully laid the foundation upon which the Kid would build his life, and there is great relief knowing that when all was said and done, we hadn’t done badly. It would soon be up to him to decide the type of building he would set upon that foundation.

As for the Wife, over the past year I have watched her mature into a fine doctor. All the years of rides to school, pick ups from dodgy rail stations, dried tears after tests, encouragement and dogged determination had resulted in a doctor who could hold her own against the best in her field. We have come a long way from the Scripps Clinic parking lot in San Diego via the winding streets of Ponto-cho in Kyoto and the dusty trails of the Mahale Mountains.

So tonight I will stand in the cold with a handful of fireworks to welcome in the New Year in the way that I choose, filling the cloudy sky above my little patch of heaven with color and light. Chasing away the demons and welcoming the animal spirits of the New Year as the Chinese have done for a millennium.

The Council Has Spoken: December 31, 2010

Congratulations to this week’s winners.

Council: The Glittering Eye --Domestic sitrep

Noncouncil: Discriminations- Journalistic History Lessons (Or Not)

Full voting here.

More on the Higher Education Bubble and Global Warming

Education bubble And climate change. An end of the year two-fer!

We are appropriately on guard when the head of research at a tobacco company tells us that studies of the dangers of smoking are unreliable; or the researchers at an oil company minimize the dangers of offshore drilling. But when advocates of global warming enunciate their views, many people, including many in the academic community, put their sensitivity to conflicts of interest on hold.

Because 27 Year Old Aspiring Models Drop Dead All the Time

Being born and raised in St. Louis, I’ve followed the Busch family closely. A surprising number of people have died in their mansions and estates over the years, and it looks like another person has suffered the same fate.

The woman, Adrienne Nicole Martin, was Busch’s girlfriend and there was “absolutely nothing suspicious” about her death, said Busch’s attorney, Art Margulis.

The 27-year-old woman was dead when police and paramedics responded to a 911 call from Busch’s estate Sunday in Huntleigh, a wealthy St. Louis suburb. St. Louis County forensic administrator Suzanne McCune said there were no signs of trauma or illness, and an overdose was among the possible causes of death.

Absolutely nothing suspicious about a 27 year old woman dying? Excuse me? The Busch family is the closest thing to royalty there is in Missouri, so it’s not surprising to a cynic that no one in the family has done time for murder or manslaughter. A few calls to politicians here, a few donations there and you have a 27 year old woman dying of natural causes.

Perhaps that is because dying at the hands of a Busch has happened so often that it is now a natural way to go in St. Louis County.

UPDATE: The St. Louis Post Dispatch has more on the history of the Busch “tragedies.”

The Council Has Spoken: Dec 24, 2010

Congratulations to this week’s winners.

Council: Thank you to the council for selecting Michael Vick and redemption for this week’s winner. I am humbled to be chosen by such an astute group of writers.

Noncouncil: Seraphic Secrets- Harry Potter Actress Beaten and Branded a Prostitute by Her Family After Dating a Non-Muslim…

Full voting here.

Cold, Heat, Drought, Snow – Evidence for Global Warming

“When everything is evidence of the thing you want to believe, it might be time to stop pretending you’re all about science.” – Ann Althouse

UPDATE: Investors Business Daily notices the same thing:

Got that? No matter what the weather, it’s all due to warming. This isn’t science; it’s a kind of faith. Scientists go along and even stifle dissent because, frankly, hundreds of millions of dollars in research grants are at stake. But for the believers, global warming is the god that failed.

Drama Queen Julian Protests Release of His Secrets

Petard meet Hoist. The man who made a moral crusade in exposing government secrets no matter how petty is positively petulant that his secrets have become public fodder.

He accused his media partners at The Guardian newspaper, which worked with him to make the embarrassing leaks public, of unfairly tarnishing him by revealing damaging details of the sex assault allegations he faces in Sweden…

Speaking from a Suffolk mansion where he is confined on bail, the 39-year-old Australian said that the decision to publish incriminating police files about him was “disgusting.” The Guardian had previously used him as its source for hundreds of leaked US embassy cables.

Assange was understood to be particularly angry with a senior reporter at the paper and former friend, for “selectively publishing” incriminating sections of the police report, although The Guardian made clear that the WikiLeaks founder was given several days to respond.

Sound familiar? It should. Assange tried to help justify his release of secret State Department cables by saying that he gave the Department a change to respond.

Assange’s sexual secrets have turned the moralizing David into a whining, sexually stunted douchebag.

The lesson? Never trust a man who speaks about himself in the 3rd person. Ever.

UPDATE: Assange: A legend in his own mind. “I am Danger, Achtung.”

Michael Vick and Redemption

Those that don’t know me very well are often surprised to learn that I am an avid NFL fan. Of all the things I’ve been, punk rocker, goth, IT nerd, ending with middle-aged parent and Tea Partier, the NFL doesn’t exactly fit the profile. But I’ve paid the rights to my soul to DirecTV for their NFL Sunday package so that I can watch games on an embarrassingly large Panasonic plasma HDTV.

I am also deeply involved in animal rescue and have been for years. I have financially supported several local grass roots organizations: Forgotten Cats of Delaware, Dumpster Cats, the ASPCA, Tri-State Bird Rescue, and the Delaware Humane Association. I have also opened my home to dozens of stray animals over the years, finding homes for those that I could but assuring all that arrived that their suffering was over; they would never again go hungry or sleep alone in the cold. If I could not find them a forever home elsewhere, they would join my pack of misfits and mongrels. I laugh and tell people that I belong to the “Dog of the Month club” but that’s an exaggeration; on average my wife and I rescue a dog about every other month and we’re about due for our next one anytime.

Three years ago I wrote the following about Michael Vick:

I’m no saint, Michael. I’ve done stupid things in my life just like anyone. But I’ve never done anything as bad as what you’ve done. My parents raised me to avoid doing those things – killing for sport and torturing for kicks. I’m no sadist, and seeing a sadist stand there as the camera shutters whirr away really pisses me off.

I hope you turn life around, Mike, but if you don’t I won’t lose any sleep. You can then rot the rest of your life having tasted success while knowing you will never, ever taste it again.

I wasn’t just a Vick hater; I wanted to see him completely and utterly destroyed. I was beside myself with rage at a man who could do what he did to dogs, and a system that limited his punishment to less than two years in jail. There is something unique about animal cruelty that sets it apart from all but a handful of crimes except child molestation or abuse. I believe that it is because the only thing that separates it from cruelty towards children is the fact that the sadists are afraid they’ll get caught if they do to a child what they do to a dog. Both child and dog are innocents and incapable of protecting themselves, and I believe that the line separating an animal torturer from a child abuser is a thin one, and one that she or he will eventually cross if not stopped.

Michael Vick was stopped by the full force of the Law before crossing that line. He was stripped of his fame and his fortune and sent to prison, and even today I stand behind what I wrote 3 years ago. Should he have been punished more severely as some have argued? Should he have been banned from his passion and his livelihood forever?

I understand why people believe so. I sympathize with their fury at seeing his face on the cover of Sports Illustrated and his name hung on banners inside stadiums. Michael Vick had everything that most do not – money, fame, athleticism – yet none of that stopped him from drowning struggling dogs in pails of water. As Isolde of Avalon writes:

People want Vick to be punished more because his crime was not one of passion or bad judgment or desperation. It was one of repeated, cold-blooded, needless cruelty inflicted by a millionaire who had everything against a bunch of innocent animals whose nature is to be loving and faithful companions for human beings. That is why people want “more”.

I understand that, and it would be much easier for me to agree with him (or her – come Isolde, forget the nom de guerre and use your name. It’s 2010.) than to accept the nagging suspicion that the Truth is much more complex than that.

Michael Vick admitted his crime and went to prison. In every interview he has not attempted to dodge the severity of his crime or his responsibility for it. He has followed the letter of his sentence without complaint. He has listened to his mentors like Tony Dungee and his former and current coaches – and by doing so he has forced me to answer this question:

Is it possible for a man to atone for his crime no matter how heinous its nature or how honest his atonement?

As an alcoholic I did terrible things to others. As a recovering alcoholic I have done my best over the years to make amends where possible for these actions. Now nothing that I did was anywhere near the same magnitude of what Michael Vick did, but who are we to judge whether redemption is possible for one man but not another? That sounds like Supreme Diety turf to me.

Over the past three years I have viewed everything Vick has said and done through the lens of suspicion, just as every ex-con or recovering addict understands the games played by other cons and addicts. Everything he says is worthless; only his actions add credibility to them. Vick followed the program laid out to him by the courts and by his mentors. When the Human Society president Wayne Pacelle spoke well of Vick’s efforts to end dogfighting, I took note. I respect the The Humane Society because they don’t get to cherry pick the easily adoptable dogs the way some so-called “no kill” shelters do, and they are often on the front lines of cruelty, working in the inner cities where the affluent are afraid to go to rescue or adopt pets.

How many people haven’t done something that they need redemption for? How many have never experienced the shame and disappointment of finding yourself in a deep well dug with your own hands and struggling to see the light above? How many have never struggled upward against a heaviness that sucks you down as you reach upward towards the light? How easy it must be for them to not feel the icy fear in the pit of your stomach with each loose stone that pulls away at your fingertips.

For Michael Vick the well is deeper and the light dimmer, but does the possibility of redemption exist for Michael Vick? Do the screams of dying dogs echo in his dreams the same way as the sobs of loved ones do in mine? Does redemption exist on a spectrum or as a binary event? Again, these are questions only Michael Vick or theologians can answer.

Before I heard of Vick’s Bad Newz Kennels I had no idea that dog fighting existed in the inner city. In the Midwest where I grew up it was known as a backwoods “sport” practiced in the Ozarks or in “Deliverance territory” in the Deep South. Vick’s case shone light on its prevalence in the inner city, and has helped authorities and animal rights activists to roll it back there.

It pains some people when good things come out of evil actions. Of course the end should not justify the means but shouldn’t we accept that Vick’s case has helped the cause of ending animal cruelty? Vick’s success on the gridiron only furthers that cause by keeping the issue in the public eye and funds flowing to animal rescue and support groups. Would these groups and their cause be doing as well with a broken Michael Vick in prison or in a half-way house somewhere?

When I sobered up there were people who wanted me to pay for my actions as well. I followed the 12 Steps and did the best I could, but for some it wasn’t enough. They never forgot my mistakes or forgave me for them, and that’s something that I will always have to live with. But sitting on the loveseat next to me as I write are a chihuahua mix and a beagle, the former found abandoned as a pup in a box without his mother and the latter running around alone in my field on the coldest day of the last Winter. They are warm, well-fed and loved. Would they prefer that I was ruined to pay for my mistakes?

Over the past 10 years I have helped raise a decent kid, supported a wife through medical school and residency, helped her through the loss of both her parents, and overall built a decent life for my family and dozens of stray animals – knowing throughout it all that one mistake would cause it all to evaporate. Should I have sacrificed those things and worn a hairshirt in payment for my mistakes as some even today want me to do?

What kind of payment is that anyway? What are the goals of people like that? In the case of Vick, what do they want him to do if not electrify the football field every Sunday that he steps on to it? What more must he do to redeem himself in their eyes?

True redemption is one of the most honest and beautiful things around. There are no more lies and clarity in abundance. The humility it grants endows one with a taste of serenity that a junky or criminal will never savor. Redemption replaces chaos with peace, selfishness with selflessness, wrecklessness with caution. It is a force of good in the world that can spread from the redeemed to transform the world around him or her.

I hope that Michael Vick’s redemption is real, but only Michael and his mentors know for sure. In the meantime I will not forgot his crime but I will cheer him on. I want Michael Vick to succeed to be redeemed and transform the world around him. I want to believe in the promise and possibility of Redemption.

UPDATE: Maybe the Eagles should reconsider this after their shellacking at the hands of the Vikings last night.
Eagles Pick Squeaky For Defensive Coordinator

The Council Has Spoken: Dec 17, 2010

Congratulations to this week’s winners.

CouncilThe Colossus of Rhodey -What makes America great …?

Noncouncil: Raymond Ibrahim/Pajamas Media- Islamists Target Christians ‘Wherever They Can Reach Them’

Full voting here.

Japan Gets Serious

It takes a lot to scare Japanese into action. Evidently one drunk Chinese ships captain, and the Chinese reaction that followed was enough to get the Japanese to begin to take the Chinese threat seriously.

Mr Azumi declined to discuss such specifics, but says the new policy will stress in particular the need for greater military mobility so that forces can be deployed quickly by air or sea to wherever they might be needed.

“Island defence is not just a matter of stationing 500 or 1,000 men on an island,” the vice-minister says. “As we know from our tough fight against the US in the (1941-45) Pacific war, it’s no use leaving them standing on their own. You need to have a lot of back-up and support.”

That’s the first time I have seen a Japanese referring to the lessons of the Imperial armed forces that fought in World War II. That alone tells me that something is seriously out of whack in East Asia.

The thing about the Japanese is that they resist change to a ridiculous extreme, but once that limit is reached, the change flows quickly. But has it quieted down the Okinawans?

UPDATE: StrategyPage reports the obvious:

Reacting to an American suggestion, Japan and South Korea are planning the use of Japanese forces to help defeat another North Korean invasion of the south. This cooperation was long considered impossible, because of Korean hatred for brutal Japanese occupation from 1905-45. The brief North Korean occupation of South Korea in 1950 left a mark as well, a more vivid one at that. Japan, however, is more concerned with China, and is expanding its navy, and defense ties with Australia and the United States, to improve its defenses against possible Chinese aggression.

Real Politic 101: Find a stronger but distant ally to guard against a stronger, closer enemy.

More on the Education Bubble

I’ve been closely following the education bubble, not as a participant (I have no plans to get a higher degree) but as a consumer. In a relatively short time my son will have to decide when, where and whether he wants to go to college, and I will be on the hook to pay for it. Both of my parents suffered through the 1930’s Depression and imprinted upon me an almost pathological craving to stretch my money as far as it will go. I’m also someone who acquired a BA in a field that is completely unrelated to the ones I’ve worked in for the past 20+ years. I have no regrets about my education since I gamed the system, got a low-cost University of California degree thanks to the California taxpayer (thank you Jerry Brown!), and left the state 9 months later with student loan debt that I was able to pay off in less than 3 years. It’s just as well since the fields that I’ve worked in, ESL and IT, have very low correlations between degree attained and salary – at least from what I’ve witnessed in those fields.

So studies like this give me pause:

(A)pproximately 60 percent of the increase in the number of college graduates from 1992 to 2008 worked in jobs that the BLS considers relatively low skilled—occupations where many participants have only high school diplomas and often even less. Only a minority of the increment in our nation’s stock of college graduates is filling jobs historically considered as requiring a bachelor’s degree or more.

This is something that I’ve suspected for a while and am deeply troubled to see verified. The purpose of education isn’t to employ teachers, administrators and bankers; it’s to expand one’s economic and intellectual opportunities. If education is failing at either of those two tasks then something is terribly wrong with the system.

The Council Has Spoken: Dec 10, 2010

Congratulations to this week’s winners.

Council Friends Like These – Thank you to the council for selecting my post for this week’s winner.

Noncouncil: Rubin Reports- Thanks to International Aid, Gaza Is Going To Be A Well-Off Islamist Republic

Full voting here.

Friends Like These

One of the results of the Wikileaks debacle has been to highlight America’s problem with Saudi Arabia. Secretary of Defense Gates stated that the Saudis want to fight Iran to the last American. Meanwhile al-Qaeda and other Islamofascists have treated the country as an ATM, with the kingdom funding terrorist groups around the world. Of the many questionable and downright evil things Wikileaks has done, it has shown that at least some members of our government aren’t complete idiots when it comes to the danger that kingdom presents to the world.

The Saudis have a very long track record of undermining American foreign policy. It has bought off members of both the Left and the Right in Washington DC, and has avoided scrutiny of its actions. Some apologists have noted that the Saudi government has been helpful in the fight against Islamic terrorism, and that Osama Bin Laden himself hates the House of Saud almost as much – if not more – than the United States. But they ignore the fact that the Saudis are the primary bank rollers of the puritanical Islam espoused by Bin Laden, al-Zawahiri and the vast majority of nut jobs with a suicide belt around their waists and a Koran in their hearts.

The founder of the Saudi regime, Ibn Saud, used Wahabism to achieve domination of the Arabian peninsula, and his family has used it to maintain power ever since. Religion was a potent weapon in Ibn Saud’s rise to power, but controlling it has been difficult. Over the decades the Saudis have funded Wahabist causes around the world in exchange for zero tolerance of any religious actions targeting the regime within the kingdom itself.

Saudi money has spread the Wahabi brand of religious intolerance to all parts of the globe. It has built mosques throughout the world, bringing Wahabism to places that it had never been before including Pakistan, Indonesia, and sub-Saharan Africa – areas with more tolerant, indigenous Islamic traditions. As the Saudis became wealthier after the oil shocks of the 1970s, their funding of Wahabist causes grew. The United States, locked in an ideological battle with the Soviet Union, even welcomed the Wahabist influence as a tool to undermine Soviets in South Asia, and as a potential firewall against the spread of Shiite radicalism that Iran began exporting after the Ayatollah Khomeini took power in 1979. Less than two decades later the United States would come to regret their support and encouragement of these Wahabist elements.

It is only in retrospect that we see the extent of which the Cold War defined American foreign policy actions until September 11, 2001. During those decades the United States didn’t see the threat Wahabist terror posed since it was locked in what it thought was a greater struggle with Communism. It was only after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s that the United States began to reassess its strategic threats, an action that the events of September 11, 2001 brought home.

But people cannot change their views quickly, especially after a lifetime of seeing the world through the Cold War prism where Saudi Arabia stood as an ally. In hindsight, however, it is becoming much more apparent that while we may have been the Saudis allies, they were never ours. With the Cold War over we are locked in yet another ideological struggle that threatens our way of life just as surely as Soviet nuclear weapons targeted on our cities. And the heart of that struggle is in the Arabian peninsula.

What is ironic is that some Saudis may recognize the predicament they are in. They don’t want an end to the status quo whereby they can stay in power by buying off discontent and forcing it to go elsewhere, but they cannot stop supporting jihadists without risking the jihadis turning on them. The Arabs were never great strategists – as T.E. Lawrence proved in his Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

Julian Assange wasn’t a slave to the truth; his goal was much more mundane and common amongst his Leftist supporters. He wanted to damage the United States – to punish it for its sins. But what he has inadvertently done is the opposite: he has exposed a truth that can strengthen the US if it acts upon it. And that truth is that Saudi Arabia is its enemy and must be treated accordingly.

UPDATE: SoccerDad provides some info on the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia that I wasn’t familiar with. Many thanks.

Ted Turner Calls for Global 1 Child Policy – Has 5 Children

The Globe and Mail reports that Ted Turner spoke at the Cancun Conference yesterday and urged that the world adopt China’s 1 child policy:

Mr. Turner – a long-time advocate of population control – said the environmental stress on the Earth requires radical solutions, suggesting countries should follow China’s lead in instituting a one-child policy to reduce global population over time. He added that fertility rights could be sold so that poor people could profit from their decision not to reproduce.

Mr. Turner has 5 children himself. I wonder which 4 of the 5 he would lose.

UPDATE: Ed Driscoll lays out more of Ted Turner’s hypocrisy.

The Council Has Spoken: Dec 3, 2010

Congratulations to this week’s winners.

CouncilAmerica’s China Problem – Thank you to the council for selecting my post for this week’s winner.

Noncouncil: Iowahawk- White House in Talks With Elusive Taliban Leader

Full voting here.