Monday, February 28, 2005

Lebanon's turn . . . . . .

The government of Lebanon just walked off the job, encouraged to do so mostly by huge protests in the street, contrary to the direct instructions from the government not to demonstrate. It seems that the Lebanese themselves would prefer a more representative government than that which has been ruling them from Syria for some years.

What's going on? Why is the established order falling apart everywhere? First Afgans reject Talibanism, then Iraqis and Ukrainians don't want to be governed by the their former acknowledged legitimate rulers. Next thing you know, Syrians and Iranians will want to vote, if you can imagine such a thing. I don't think there's been this much uncertainty in world politics since the U.S.S.R. evaporated and the Berlin wall fell. And you may remember what a mess that turned out to be. We had to print new maps!

All this change is, well, upsetting. Used to be, a person felt secure that they knew things about how the world worked, like, for example, all Muslims only respect, want and need strong autocratic rulers, and the "Arab street" would rise up in righteous fury if one of their own despots were to be humiliated and dumped by western infidels. All the nightly news guys told us how that worked. Now, apparently, all that's changed and a bunch the little buggers want to vote!

Way too much change. Pretty soon, they might all want to vote. In that regard, President Bush has a lot to answer for.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Moron Factories . . . . . .

The governors are getting together to shake their wise, governmental heads over the sad state of affairs of American high schools, which need major repair. Bill Gates, the drop-out, showed up and opined that high schools are "obsolete."

In my opinion, not much of any worth is going to come out of this unless the political
establishment intends to take on the educationist establishment. And that isn't going to happen, as each pack feels it is beholden to the other. From top to bottom, the educationists need a serious smack-down, to eliminate people teaching out of their specialty, or teaching without a specialty, or teaching nonsense using untested faddish methodologies proposed by morons with degrees and adopted on faith by aspiring morons.

The sad spectacle of the current Ward Churchill blogging frenzy fits right in here. The shame of it isn't Ward Churchill. He's just another unprincipled opportunist and if it wasn't this, it would be some other scam probably involving making money at home by stuffing envelopes. No, the shame of it is that U.C. hired him and gave him tenure in the first place. Higher education. Right.

People don't recognize that America has a product that is in demand world wide -- higher education. Students come from all over the world to go to our graduate schools. I bet that many of our own college graduates can't compete effectively in those same graduate schools. (Maybe because their undergraduate degrees are in gender studies or protest literature, and not calculus. Lord knows, we've had at least 40 years of higher education where it wasn't necessary to have any math or foreign languages. I know; I did it.) Nevertheless, the achievement requirements necessary to get into college keep dropping as the educationist establishment needs to fill up classroom seats. So, colleges offer remedial courses to incoming freshmen. You can call it serving those who are "under-advantaged" all you want, but it amounts to filling up college classroom seats that can't be sold otherwise than by lowering admission standards. And it shows the problem. Keep it up, and our graduate schools will lose their effectiveness and appeal, with the possible exception of medical schools. (To date, medical schools still worry about brain surgeons having learned their basic science from people who idealize the earth as a living, concious, single organizm. )

Until the political will develops to get in there and flush the problems away, we are going to continue down the same sad path. People must be fired and expelled from the system. Start with any instructor who has ever, in a high school class, spread a lot of poster paper, paste, markers, and picture magazines on the floor and instructed the students to make collages about world hunger, or discrimination, or homelessness, or global warming, or, well, anything! And if it turns out that the students truly weren't capable to doing anything more challenging than making collages, then fire every instructor they had in the lower classes.

To be fair, lots of dedicated, intelligent people go into education to become teachers. They mostly leave teaching after a few years to go to law school, or sell real estate or insurance, or sign up for military service.

Maybe Mr. Gates is right. Don't fix high schools. Call them obsolete and install replacements.

A long time ago, a wealthy man saw a problem and used his personal wealth to support literacy. You know. Carnegie libraries. Maybe . . . . . . . Microsoft Academies?

Get over yourself, Mr. Williams . . . . .

It looks like the Gang of Oscar is stifling art once again. Poor Robin Williams. He had a little bit all prepared and they went and told him he couldn't do it.

Bet they would have let him do it if it was funny.

Celebrities receive so much reinforcement that they start believing pretty much anything they are doing is funny, entertaining, or interesting, just because they are the ones doing it. When that happens, we are only a few years away from that bittersweet moment when we hear a nostalgically familiar voice doing voiceovers for bank and insurance commercials.

Good luck with that new career there, Mr. Williams.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Urban sprawl. . . . . .

Well, it looks like people who are either (probably) smarter than I, or (certainly) work harder than I do on their blog, have come up with something I've long suspected. The Portland urban growth limits are not as wonderful as all the local mandarins would like us to think.

Take a look at Amy Ridenour's blog which argues that the effect of limiting sprawl with the growth limit is to drive up home prices. Who'da thunk it? If you reduce the supply of something, the demand will drive prices up. I can't imagine who might benefit from such a thing. Can you?

Oh, nevermind. It's probably all about sprawl, 'cause if we didn't have wise laws like the urban growth limit, why in no time all of Los Angeles would move here and clog the place up. Three and a half million people in a little confined area like Oregon is already claustraphobic. So, the only solution is to pack us all closer together.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Eminent domain, a scoundrel's playground . . . . .

For several years, now, when dealing with the matter of eminent domain and condemnation of private property in my real estate class, I've been making up a hypothetical where local politicians go in cahoots with sticky-fingered land developers, and condemn a bunch of homes. The developer plans to raze the homes and build a shopping center in their place. But the developer wants property at a "fair" price -- not the price that would be necessary to buy out all the homes from a bunch of people who have no desire, need, or incentive to sell, other than getting "too much" cash. The politicians, equally as sticky-fingered, would find nice campaign contributions to assure their continued ability to lap at the public trough.

My hypothetical government justification for favoring the land developer? Nothing is wrong with the homes; they're aren't blighted, or anything. But people will work at the shopping center, representing more jobs.

More jobs is the number-one campaign promise of all politicians. 'Cause more jobs sounds good to voters. But to politicians, more jobs means more both business income and more personal income to tax, thus raising $ for elected nannies to fritter away on all sorts of bone-headed projects other than boring things such as keeping the peace and repairing the roads. Plus, more government interaction in normal commercial affairs, leads to citizens increasing their $$$ partipation in local politics, to see to it their their needs $$$$ are adequately $$$ represented in the $$ councils and $$$$ legislatures where $$ law is made.

Well, now. Somebody told me the Supreme Court is looking at a case like my hypo. The gummint's justification for condemning the land is that the new use, whatever it is, will generate more taxes.

So let's see if the Court does what I cynically suspect it will do - that is, support government. After all. The homeowners are going to get paid, and the fact that they didn't want to sell in the first damn place shouldn't be allowed to get in the way of progress. And taxes.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Bumper sticker wisdom . . .

Wisdom doesn't fit on bumper stickers. Clever statements, on the other hand, can frequently be found on bumper stickers. But a clever bumper sticker will not necessarily indicate that the driver of the vehicle is himself clever. Just pleased with himself.

Perturbations . . . .

Okay, folks. If you can't drive as fast as a city bus moves out, and if you can't put your nice, safe SUV through traffic openings that a city bus goes through without encroaching on somebody else's lane of travel, well, I don't think the problem is actually that you bought yourself an SUV.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Kyoto Weather Control

I understand that the Kyoto Treaty goes into effect this week. Without the United States. So, I guess now every right thinking greenie will feel justified in blaming the United States of America for every bit of bad weather that comes our way anywhere for the foreseeable future. 'Cause responsibility just isn't important when determining who gets the blame.

Nevertheless. In not signing on to Kyoto we may have dodged a political and economic bullet.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Green Weenies . . . .

Here in Portland, we love the environment. We care about the environment and we care for the environment. We like to do things for the environment. Well, mostly, what we like best to do for the environment is tell other people what they should not be doing. There's no end to the solutions we have, all of which have several features in common: (1) All technology must be older technology, (2) people must stop doing whatever makes them happy and start being happy little collectivists, (3) guilt, (4) junk science.

You know. Self-righteously dull.

Two thirds of all the chatter from the green weenies is envy and the other two-thirds is posturing in an attempt to get some notice from other green weenies. (I know the arithmetic doesn't work out, but you know what I mean.)

Portland's environmental sophisticates will smugly ride a bike eight miles to work and back, and then drive a flaming huge 4wd SUV fourteen miles worth of trips to various specialty markets to fix dinner each night. The SUV is necessary because on weekends they must drive said FH 4wd SUV up Mt. Hood so as to slide repeatedly down the mountain with implements (of which a large component part came from oil wells) strapped to their feet. This past winter about the best thing that happened to the environment around here, when it comes to air pollution and energy and resource depletion, was that it hasn't snowed much on the mountain.

It isn't that being concerned about the environment is a bad thing. Quite the contrary. It's that so many of those who constantly just go on about it, are so parochial and -- fundamentally unserious.

We are not going to solve environmental problems by going back to a simpler, less technologically- demanding life. Life was never simpler. Just shorter. We need to look at where we are -- right now -- and look at the resources we have -- right now. There are rational approaches to the problem, as here, by Varifrank. And then there are the green weenies all around me.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Finally, the truth about CNN's Eason Jordan erupts . . .

Of course, there's no way we can know for sure what is happening but this sure has the smell of truth about it. Iowahawk nails it.

It is at least as probable as the official CNN self-serving pronouncements on the subject, now that we know that there will be no video of the conference published. There's probably no good reason to publish the tape, anyhow, because doing so would probably just resolve the confusion about what Jordan actually said when he said the United States military is targeting news guys. Publishing the tape would spoil everything. Everyone knows it's a whole lot more fun to just make up the truth as you go along -- particularly if the real truth were to be, well, truthful about the sympathies of the head of an alleged news outfit that was attempting to sell itself as the most trusted source of information since the New Testament.

This little man would never dare to speak of it in public if the military was actually shooting journalists. But lefty chicks probably like it when he talks this way.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Good Reads. . . .

Just finished Morality for Beautiful Girls, by Alexander McCall Smith., after reading his The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, both of which chronicle Precious Ramotswe of Botswana. I've enjoyed these books even though these are not the sort of reading I've ordinarily done. Both are, for lack of a better word, very sweet stories, without much sentimentality.

Thanks to No. 1 Daughter for giving them to me.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

State of the Infidels

I mean, State of the Union.

Yeah, I know. It was all about Social Security.

But did you hear the part where the President sent a little message to the Iranian people?

Iran is run by the mullahs who, basically, took the place over by stomping on civilized values and taking U.S. citizens hostage, and holding them hostage for days and weeks and months, while a United States President fussed and dithered and considered and presented a noble profile for view.

("Ah have lusted in mah heart." "Ah will never lie to yew." Energy crisis? We will all shiver togethah.)

The mullahs saw another American president respond to another atrocity by sending over a couple missles that didn't strike much of anything of value, and then move on. (Move-on. Yeah, that would be a good name for an organization or something.)

The Iranian so-called theocracy never was a legitimate government in the sense that it was historically established or widely accepted by its people. It is and has always been a rule by religious thugs who systematically choose and use over-the-top violence above all other strategems. (I once interviewed an Iranian nurse seeking asylum who said that she had been beaten by the religious thugs - because her socks were too thick.) The mullahs may be savagely ignorant but they know that they still stay in power because they keep a population that outnumbers them, too scared to do much about them. They terrorise their own people; they rule by terror.

Well, now the Iranian people have heard a president of the United States say that we are on their side against the mullahs. Should the mullahs be worried?

After all, they have similar previous United States rhetoric to consider. But they also have the history of this president to consider, too. He said he was going to shut down the Taliban in Afganistan. He did it in a matter of months. He did it with both with new weaponry, and with some of our guys riding around on horseback like warriors in the movies, and with organization. But mostly it took determination. Remember the U.S.S.R.? The Soviet broke its teeth in Afganistan. The Afgans, residing to the east of Iran, now have a government run by its people, not by its religious nuts. A democracy is in place on Iran's eastern borders, because a United States president did what he said he was going to do. And if that isn't sufficiently instructive, there is the matter of Iraq, on the western border of Iran. This president said that Iraq was next, and, despite all the predictions to the contrary, it was. And in the case of Iraq, Saddam had a modern army, rather than some raggedy-assed tribal hill fighters armed only with 20 year old weapons and fanatism. And Saddam had time - time provided by all the useless negotiations in the U.N. that smart people said were necessary - to prepare a main plan to stay in power in the capital, and a back-up plan to go underground, literally, while an insurgency armed with piles of hidden materials pounded away at United States's determination. The key element was the determination of the United States, and its leader. Most recently, we've had United States marines fighting face-to-face where necessary in Falujah. The determination is there and the capability is there.

So, hell yeah. The mullahs should be worried. The Iranians have seen a country to the right of the them, and a country to the left of them, go from oppression to democracy, each in a matter of a months, and this president and the United States made it happen. So the mullahs should most definitely be worried.

Are they worried enough? Probably not. They have a view of history, and they are determined, too. The dream is of the caliphate. The dream is of when shariah is the law everywhere, and apostates everywhere are killed with the blessings of the law, and adulteresses everywhere are tied in sacks and struck with fist-sized stones repeatedly for as long as it takes - and it takes way too long - until they are a dead, misshapen mass of bloody pain. The mullahs know that there have been crusades before and they call us crusaders, now. They have never been beaten; they've only been discouraged and required to lie low for a generation or two or three. The dream of the caliphate remains.

The dream is of when the people of the book have been subjugated to dhimmi status, paying taxes and causing no interruption to the Islamic peace that will finally come to pass when each and every person is terrified stupid of the arbitrary authority of a mullah. It is, for them, a powerful dream.

In addition to determination, the mullahs in Iran and everywhere, have resources. All through the lands where mullahs predominate, there are young men who have no prospect of satisfaction in their lives, except to die. They have nothing to do on the weekends, because they have no weekends. No movies, no art, no girlfriends, no women. No books to read, exept the one. No employment. Nothing, except to sit in dust and talk to other hopeless young men such as themselves, and to listen to the mullahs. And they know there's damn little chance of them ever improving their lot in life, given the social and economic circumstances of their parts of the world. These are the tools of the mullahs. These can be shaped and sent to die when necessary. These will never ask the question that should occur to them -- hey, when was the last time we saw a mullah go give his own life fo the furtherance of Islam?

So, even if we should see the mullahs dumped in Iran, and then Syria, it won't be over. This is a world-wide event. Even in the U.S. there are mosques where the faithful are taught to hate the infidels - us. There are such mosques in Britain and Europe, Indonesia, the Phillipines, hell, all over. So, this isn't going to be over soon.

I suspect the next few years may be even more dramatic than the last few have been, and the next few years will demonstrate that we are merely at the beginning of a long struggle of questionable outcome. And I say, maybe the crusades were abandoned too soon. And I say, the mullahs have declared themselves our sworn and everlasting enemy and mean to conquer us, and we have their own words and terrorist deeds as proof. And I say, the sooner we realize that we are in a battle for survival, the sooner we can get on with acting to assure we survive. And I say, as would that great American pundit, Al Bundy, "Let's rock."

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Morons-in-Control Department

I don't want to subscribe to your news service. I just don't. And I won't.

Evidently, I'm not the only person who feels this way.

[ sarcasm.] It would be different if subscriber- only news sites could explain to what use the information is put. You know. Something helpful and information-packed, like, "We are gathering this information about you in order to serve you better." That would do it, right? [/ sarcasm.]

UPDATE!!! That link above should be to bugmenot.