Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog

Friday, July 30, 2004

Convention Notes

  • Michael Moore now unarguably represents the mainstream Democratic Party. No other conclusion can be drawn from his presence in the Presidential Box, along with numerous references to the charges made in his latest movie by speakers during the convention. Note that I don't say he represents mainstream liberal ideology, because he doesn't. And neither does John Kerry.
  • Until last night, I considered any accusations relating to John Kerry's performance in and after Viet Nam to be out of bounds, since it was 30 years ago. However, based on the last 4 days, the movie prior to Kerry taking the stage, and Kerry's acceptance speech, it's now fair game. He's opened the door by making his veteran status the centerpiece of the convention.
  • I heard a radio bit today (possibly NPR but I don't know what station it was) lamenting the lack of coverage by the major networks. I believe Peter Jennings was complaining that Barack Obama's sppech was not carried, the network chosing instead to air a repeat of a cancelled sitcom. What the story failed to mention is that the repeat probably drew higher ratings. Conventions have lost any real meaning, as the nominee is known for months in advance. Nothing happens at the convention.

    The sad part is that, particularly for the Democratic National Convention with all the entertainment folks involved, conventions are so boring. You'd think that with the opportunity to script everything, they could pump a little life into it.
  • I plan on watching just as much of the Republican Convention as I did the Democratic one. None. Reading the transcripts takes far less time.
  • The single biggest issue facing the US right now is Islamic fundamentalism. And on this issue, Kerry had nothing concrete to say to differentiate himself from Bush. He says he'll do things differently, but is silent on the details. Yes, I know, conventions aren't about details, but again, I can't find anything in print that shows where his plan differs significantly from the Bush plan.
  • The Kerry campaign has been run almost as ineptly as Bob Dole's of 1996. Speaking of which, what's Mary Madelin been up to lately?
  • John Kerry gave mouth to mouth resuscitation to a drowned hamster, I'm not sure what the hell that proves, but it got a rousing ovation, which may actually prove something about delegates' mental state by the 4th day of the convention.
  • John Kerry has spent nearly 20 years in the US Senate, but, based on his campaign to date, he hasn't done anything of note, or at least, anything he'll admit to.
  • Ben Affleck says he may be better at politics than acting, which places him right up there with Pat Paulsen.

Posted by Rich
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Thursday, July 29, 2004

Unfair?  Sure.  But Funny!

Found at ZudFunk via a blogad at Spoons

Posted by Rich
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That’s no moon…!

This is an actual, unretouched photo of one of Saturns moons.

Or is it?


Posted by Rich
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Liberalism Revisited

Awhile back, I wrote a piece on liberalism, and its flaws called Liberalism: The Lie at Its Heart

I need to revisit that topic, and revise it abit, so as to not offend my two liberal readers. It's not a lie, really, more of an exaggeration.

First, truth in advertising requires that I mention that most of what follows (OK, all of it) comes from a comment I just wrote over at SKBubba's place, but I was planning to write it here anyway; it just dovetailed nicely into a discussion I was having over there, and why write it twice when cut and paste works so nice?

I'm a libertarian conservative, favoring a limited role for the government, a role in line with the original boundaries set forth in the Constitution. Neither Party today gives a rat's ass about the Constitution, so I'm not a supporter of either. On the one hand, I oppose abortion, confiscatory taxation, progressive taxation, income taxation, federally funded social engineering, and Bob Dylan.

On the other, I'm in favor of fiscal conservatism, and social liberalism. I favor gay marriage, drug legalization, lowering the drinking age to the age of consent (since the two activities involved are so often linked anyway), full recognition of the bill of rights, including the individual right to keep and bear arms, and in general keeping the federal government out of our lives to the maximum extent practical.

So why am I constantly challenging liberalism?

I'm not a liberal, because I have a problem with any philosophy that starts with the assumption that the world owes me anything, and liberalism is based on the principle that every human being has the right to expect their government to meet their basic needs, if, for any reason, they are unable or unwilling to do it themselves.

The world simply doesn't work that way. There Ain't No Such Thing as a Free Lunch isn't just a saying, it's a natural law, as inexorable as gravity and any philosophy that fails to acknowledge this is headed for trouble. Modern liberalism flatly contradicts it. Without getting too deep into it, a society works only when its members produce as much or more than they consume. To the extent that they produce more, they have the opportunity, not the obligation, to use the surplus to help members who come up short. Enlightened self interest (reciprocal altruism for you behavioral evolutionists and Randians) may even dictate that such sharing creates a benefit to the society as a whole.

But it isn't a right; it's a privilege that comes from living in a wealthy society.

Now here is where it gets tricky; if sharing the surplus produces a benefit to the society, then shouldn't the society have the right to require it? That, in a nutshell is the rationale behind progressive taxation; that society as a whole benefits when those who have the most pay more than the rest, in order to help those who need it, preventing them from becoming a drain on society.

Unfortunately, charity can have a corrosive or addictive effect; people come to expect it, then believe they are owed it, forgetting that it's not a right, but a privilege. On the other side of the equation, those who are paying more than their fair (ie proportionate to income) share begin to resent having the benefits of their work taken away from them. People on both sides of the equation lose the incentive to work. I'm sure you're familiar with the Tragedy of the Commons, which is closely related to this problem. In order to get the benefit of sharing the surplus, we must firmly maintain that it is not a right, but a privilege; in that way we can avoid the ToC. Means testing or payback programs are a couple of ways to achieve this.

It becomes a question of balance; how much assistance is enough to obtain the maximum benefit to society while minimizing the attendant negatives and disincentives? As long as liberals and conservatives continue to refuse to recognize any validity to the other side, we won't find that balance. Instead of a scale, we'll be the rope in a tug of war.

However, for the sake of argument, let's assume that the liberal philosophy is correct, and conservatives are completely wrong. Society does have a responsibility to make sure that all members have their basic needs met to the maximum extent practical, including housing, food, clothing, education, health care, and retirement income. And, to make things easier, let's also assume that we can do so without overburdening the wealth creators with overly punitive taxes, so that they continue to work hard, invest their earnings, and create wealth.

There's still a problem.

Responsibility brings with it authority. The two are inextricably linked. If you give away one, the other goes with it. We're talking about making the government responsible for every facet of our lives, which, in the long run, means we're also giving the government authority over every facet of our lives.

You don't believe me? Take a look at your state budget sometime and see how much of it comes from the federal government. But the fed wouldn't use that for financial blackmail, would they? Well, Jimmy Carter did.

Remember the good old days of the double nickel speed limit. Speed limits are set by the states, but Carter put out the word that any state that didn't lower their speed limit would lose their highway funding.

Guess what? Double nickels it was from coast to coast. More recently, Ronald Reagan did the same thing when he forced the states to raise the drinking age to 21 in 1984. This is not a partisan thing; it's inherent in the nature of government. If it's their responsibility, you can bet they'll regulate it whether they're reps, dems, or independents.

So now consider health care. If the gov't is going to guarantee you get health care, it would only be prudent for them to protect their investment by "encouraging" people to live healthier lives. How would you like for the Center for Science in the Public Interest to become an official branch of the FDA? Say goodby to Chinese food, Mexican food, popcorn, and god forbid you should eat a hamburger. Hell, they'd even come after Bubba's scotch, which might even be enough to get him to vote republican!*grin*

I've seen how the feds "encourage" co-operation, and I'll pass on it.

(How much you want to bet that Bubba puts a word limit on comments after this baby? Don't worry; for anybody still reading this, I'm almost done.)

Like I said above, we need to find a working balance between liberal and conservative principles because both are valid and both are vital for a properly functioning society. Work must bring a reward proportionate to the effort and risk involved and we are all better off if we can help those who are less able or less fortunate to help themselves. We need to retain the values that made America strong, independence, self sufficiency, innovation, and hard work, while embracing newer values that can make us even stronger, like tolerance, and acceptance of those who are different. We need both sides of the coin, the yin and the yang, if we are going to continue to thrive. If we lose that balance, no matter which side we tilt to, we'll lose everything.

Or, it could be that it's 2:34 in the am and I'm completely full of shit. It's hard to tell.


PS: I was only kiding about Bob Dylan. Bob Denver, on the other hand...

Posted by Rich
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Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Name that quote!

First, look at this:
OK, now for the quiz:

1. What is Bill Clinton saying?

A. I did not have sexual relations with that woman; Ms. Lewinski
B. John Kerry knows who he is and where he’s going. He has the experience, the character, the ideas and the values to be a great President.

2. Was he lying the first time, the second, or both?

Posted by Rich
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A Contrast in Styles; More Moore Homage

John Kerry flies in secret to Boston, where he throws out the first pitch in a Red Sox-Yankees game. He failed to get the ball across the plate. He was roundly booed. Security around the visit was tight, with the press on board his plane ordered not to talk about the trip, to protect Mr. Kerry's photo op.

Gearge W. Bush flies in secret to Baghdad, where he serves turkey to the troops on Thanksgiving. He got a rousing ovation. The turkey made it over the plate and to the hungry service members. Security around the visit was tight, with the press on board his plane ordered not to talk about the trip, to protect the president's life.

Posted by Rich
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Cavorting with the Clueless; An Homage to Michael Moore

I was flipping through the channels last night and stopped to watch the latest edition of America's Funniest Home Videos. I wasn't even aware that the show still existed! I thought it died along with Bob Saget's career, but apparently it lives on in syndication. AFHV that is, not Bob's career.

Sorry about that, Bob.

As I watched, I noticed that it wasn't as funny as it used to be; where before, there used to be plenty of funny shots of guys getting hit in the jewels by their kids, or of 350 pound men destroying vinyl swimming pools by doing a cannon ball off the 4x4 in the driveway, now there were just a bunch of raving lunatics spouting gibberish and foaming at the mouth.

That's not funny; it's just sad. Why humiliate those unfortunate folks by airing their deficiencies on national television. Isn't it cruel to laugh at another human being's shortcomings? I was vaguely repulsed and was about to change the channel to Monster Garage and check out the latest creation from Jesse and the boys when I checked the listings again and realized I was watching the Democratic National Convention, and then it all made sense.

Let's check out the highlights of the Kerry Campaign so far, shall we?

We have the presumptive first lady telling a reporter to "Shove it" after giving a speech about the lack of civility in politics. How about a little less preaching and a little more practicing, babe.

We've seen the press sit on stories that could damage Kerry, while playing up those that damage Bush.
  • Joe Wilson has been revealed as a liar, and Bush's SOTU speech vindicated. But you'd never know it if you get all your news from CBS, who has chosen not to run the story, despite the over 40 pieces they ran detailing the Wilson story when it first broke, not to mention the hour long infomercial for his book.
  • Sandy Berger mishandles (steals)classified documents, and possibly alters them. Compare the Berger coverage with the Plame coverage and tell me there's no bias in the media.

We've seen Ted Rall use the "N" word about Condaleeza Rice, in most cases a death sentence in any public position, with absolutely no outcry from the usual PC crowd, including the NAACP. I guess Condi isn't black enough for the NAACP.

And let's not forget about those wonderful convention speeches from last night, starting with the big dog himself:
  • Bill Clinton:
    Therefore, we Democrats will bring the American people a positive campaign, arguing not who’s good and who’s bad, but what is the best way to build the safe, prosperous world our children deserve.

    Cool, the speech will not be a negative attack on Bush, but a positive statement of what Democrats will do differently. This is a first for the Kerry campaign.
    They think the role of government is to concentrate wealth and power in the hands of those who embrace their political, economic, and social views, leaving ordinary citizens to fend for themselves on matters like health care and retirement security. Since most Americans are not that far to the right, they have to portray us Democrats as unacceptable, lacking in strength and values. In other words, they need a divided America.

    Sigh. Well, that didn't last long. OK, maybe it was a reflex attack, and now that he's got it out of his system, he'll get on with telling us what Democrats will do.
    When I was in office, the Republicans were pretty mean to me. When I left and made money, I became part of the most important group in the world to them. At first I thought I should send them a thank you note—until I realized they were sending you the bill.

    OK, another attack, but hey, this is a convention right? Even though the DNC said to tone down the attacks, a few are going to slip through the cracks, right? Any minute now, Bill will end the attacks and tell us what the Kerry will do differently
    They protected my tax cuts while:

    · Withholding promised funding for the Leave No Child Behind Act, leaving over 2 million children behind

    · Cutting 140,000 unemployed workers out of job training

    · 100,000 working families out of child care assistance

    · 300,000 poor children out of after school programs

    · Raising out of pocket healthcare costs to veterans

    · Weakening or reversing important environmental advances for clean air and the preservation of our forests.

    Boy, am I a sucker! Falling for another Clinton lie! This speech is nothing but an argument about "who's bad and who's good." But maybe, just maybe, now that he's finished attacking Bush, he'll tell us what John Kerry will do differently.
    John Kerry and John Edwards, have good ideas:

    · To make this economy work again for middle-class Americans;

    · To restore fiscal responsibility;

    · To save Social Security; to make healthcare more affordable and college more available;

    · To free us from dependence on foreign oil and create new jobs in clean energy;

    · To rally the world to win the war on terror and to make more friends and fewer terrorists.

    Alright! Now we're getting somewhere. Obviously these are all great goals, and just as obviously, these are the same goals the Bush campaign is running on. Now Bill can tell us how Kerry/Edwards plan to achieve them, and how they differ from Bush.

    Wait a minute, why the standing ovation? Why's Bill leaving the podium? The speech isn't over yet; it can't be! He never said anything about what Kerry was actually going to do! All he said was 'elect a Democrat instead of a Republican.'

    What a ripoff!

  • Next Jimmy Carter:
    In repudiating extremism we need to recommit ourselves to a few common-sense principles that should transcend partisan differences. First, we cannot enhance our own security if we place in jeopardy what is most precious to us, namely, the centrality of human rights in our daily lives and in global affairs. Second, we cannot maintain our historic self-confidence as a people if we generate public panic. Third, we cannot do our duty as citizens and patriots if we pursue an agenda that polarizes and divides our country. Next, we cannot be true to ourselves if we mistreat others. And finally, in the world at large we cannot lead if our leaders mislead.

    A picture is worth a thousand words, Jimmy.
    free speech.JPG
    This is human rights at home? It's a few blocks from where you were giving your speech! Why didn't you say something about it? Surely you don't condone locking up dissidents in razor wire cages, guarded by anonymous fellows in full riot gear and holding some pretty nasty looking weapons. That's not human rights, is it? Jimmy? You still there?

    When our national security requires military action, John Kerry has already proven in Vietnam that he will not hesitate to act.

    Here's what John Kerry had to say about his fellow soldiers 'acts' in Vietnam:
    They told their stories. At times they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war, and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country.

    And his own 'acts'
    "There are all kinds of atrocities, and I would have to say that, yes, yes, I committed the same kind of atrocities as thousands of other soldiers have committed..."

    Do these acts go along with Mr. Carter's concerns for human rights? Is this what he had in mind when he said John Kerry wouldn't hesitate to act? Jimmy? Are you with me? Maybe I should be talking to Amy. She's the brains of the family.

  • And last but not least, Al Gore:
    I didn't come here tonight to talk about the past...

    Excellent, a progressive who's actually looking forward.
    After all, I don't want you to think I lie awake at night counting and recounting sheep. I prefer to focus on the future because I know from my own experience that America is a land of opportunity, where every little boy and girl has a chance to grow up and win the popular vote.

    Ha ha. Move on to the future, Al.
    I want to thank you as Democrats for the honor of being your nominee for president four years ago. And I want to thank the American people for the privilege of serving as vice-president.

    The future, internet boy. Talk about what's ahead.
    And let's make sure that this time every vote is counted.

    Sigh. Alright, Get it out of your system.
    Let's make sure not only that the Supreme Court does not pick the next President, but also that this President is not the one who picks the next Supreme Court.

    Can we please return to 2004 and the current election?
    To those of you who felt disappointed or angry with the outcome in 2000, I want you to remember all of those feelings. But then I want you to do with them what I have done: focus them fully and completely on putting John Kerry and John Edwards in the White House.

    Apparently not

And that's the Kerry convention in a nutshell folks. No new ideas, no plan for tomorrow, nothing that really makes them stand out. That's why the speeches were so empty last night. When the DNC put out the word to tone down the negative campaigning, the dems had nothing else to offer.

It's sad.

Posted by Rich
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Monday, July 26, 2004

Congrats to Cox and Forkum!

Their editorial cartoon is spreading like kudzu. Come to think of it; that's probably not the most favorable analogy, but I've been on the beach for a week and my brains are fried, so they'll have to live with it.

Anyway, it's nice to see some talented folks succeed.

On a personal level, I was just added to the blogroll of The Adam Smith blog, a freemarket think tank in the UK, and I've added them to the references section, since there's tons of good information on that site.

And finally, yes, I will be posting on the beach, including pictures, but I do have business to attend to first, so be patient. I promise good things to come...

Posted by Rich
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Friday, July 16, 2004

Back in a week, folks!

Yep, it's time once again for the annual Hailey pilgrimage to sunny Florida, so I will not be blogging for the next week.

I'll be soaking in some sun, splashing in the water, ogling nubile females who'd never give me the time of day, playing beach football and volleyball, and in general haveing an excellent time.

Or, I'll be trapped in a small beachside cottage with 13 kids while it rains like it hasn't since Noah built his boat.

Either way, I won't be here.

See you next Monday!

Posted by Rich
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Wednesday, July 14, 2004


The Marriage Amendment is dead, at least for now.

It simply is not the federal government's job to determine who can get married.

Posted by Rich
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Tuesday, July 13, 2004

A Major Announcement!

It's finally here! I'm very pleased and proud to announce that PHD Press has just released it's first book, a quirky crime novel by Steven Denton called Trouble De Ville

Trouble De Ville follows the employees of Miss Wynn's Fine Lit, an independent bookstore in Asheville, North Carolina as they deal with with each other, and with chatroom lesbians, a femme fatale with a secret love, a minister on a crusade, and a truly amazing can of Hawaiian Punch.

This book represents why I started PHD Publishers LLC. The story is good, and well told, but the subject matter is not exactly mainstream, which meant rejection when it was submitted to a major publisher. But now, people have the chance to read it, and Steven has the chance to make a little money off of his labor of love. It's sold well so far, and every bookstore we've shown it to has ordered copies, so, while it's a long way (god help me) from being a financial success, it's already a successful book to me.

Trouble De Ville is available at the link above, (along with a free sample chapter) and at Patrick Sullivan's in the Old City every Tuesday night, where the author will be happy to sign a copy or two. If you're in the neighborhood, Trouble De Ville is also available at
  • Dee Gee's Gifts & Books in Morehead City, NC.
  • Beach Book Mart in Atlantic Beach, NC.
  • Malaprops Bookstore and Cafe in Asheville, NC.

Soon to be available at and at Mr K's in Oak Ridge and Johnson City, TN.

Posted by Rich
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NASCAR Has Lost All Credibility

I don't know how many of you are NASCAR fans, but for those of you that are, do you think they can sink any lower?

They revamped the points system to placate NBC, who cried all last year that they didn't have a points chase to drive viewership. Never mind that the overwhelming majority of the fans hate the system, as well as most of the drivers. (Well, those brave enough to defy NASCAR's gag order, anyway.)

They moved races around to spread the sport to the north and west, destroying decades of tradition like Labor Day at Darlington.

They injected new scoring rules into the sport that are so ill-considered and implemented that drivers spend 40+ laps waiting while the scorers try to figure out where everybody should be. And still get it wring.

They pay drivers to run a race just to keep up the illusion of a full field, despite the fact that many of these field fillers retire after 3 laps. Hell, Kirk Shelmerdine ran out of gas a few weeks ago because it was the first time he lasted long enough in a race to need to pit, and he forgot how.

They've started considering restricting who can sponsor a team, even though there are teams and drivers screaming for new sponsors, because of TV advertising restrictions.

Veteran drivers are running in second rate machines because the emphasis in NASCAR has switched from the driver's performance on the track to his appearance on camera. A great driver can outrun most of the young guns, but they can't outspend them.

So yeah, things are looking pretty bad for NASCAR, but it could be worse, right? I mean, sponsor and TV money may be altering the rules left and right, but at least there's still a semi-level playing field, right?


For the entire first half of the season, Tony Stewart has been a driver out of control. He's spun other drivers repeatedly, both under the green and the yellow; he's been involved in a pit road mugging; he's broken NASCAR rules by walking out of driver's meetings. It's been a rare race this season where Tony hasn't sent somebody spinning into the wall.

And NASCAR has let him get away with it all.

A couple of weeks ago, after a race, Tony went over to Brian Vickers, and hit him. Just flat out hit him while he was strapped in and unable to fight back. A man does that and I think it's fair to call him a coward. I also think it's fair, particularly in light of a continued pattern of misbehavior, to sit his butt down for a race to demonstrate that this kind of behavior is unnacceptible.

And NASCAR agrees. They did exactly that to Kimmy Spencer a few years after he got into a fight with Kurt Busch.

Well, they used to agree. Tony Stewart was fined $50,000 and a meaningless 25 championship points. The points are meaningless because, under the new rules, the top ten drivers will have their points reset at the start of the last ten races. a loss of 25 points will mean at worst a change in position of 1 place and more likely mean no change in position when the championship run begins. In short, NASCAR did nothing to Stewart, and then NASCAR President Mike Helton said:
This action we've taken speaks for itself. Tony Stewart is well aware of what is expected of him going forward.

And he was right; Tony Stewart did get the message. Last Sunday, on a restart where he started in third, he jumped the restart and passed Sterling Marlin on the outside. Because he jumped the restart, he had the advantage of momentum as he came up on race leader Kasey Kahne, who was held up by traffic in front of him. Stewart tagged Kahne from behind, sending him spinning into the wall, along with several other cars. At the end of the race, Stewart tossed the race sponsor's product (Tropicana Orange Juice) to the ground as he got out of his car, with a smug smile for the cameras.

Just business as usual for Stewart.

And business as usual for NASCAR, who saw nothing wrong with the move, and will not penalize Stewart. Kahne's team, on the other hand, likely faces penalties of their own, for going to Stewart's pit, where a brawl erupted betweeen the crews. I'm sure NASCAR will make very grave and solemn announcements about how this behavior won't be tolerated, as they impose fairly severe penalties on Kahne's team. Of course, Kasey is running 14th right now, and isn't in serious contention for the points championship, so I'm sure NBC will allow NASCAR to penalize him.

Because that's what NASCAR has come to. Tony Stewart is untouchable because his sponsor, Home Depot, is a major NASCAR sponsor, and NBC, who owns the remaining races, wants him in the points race. Unless his actions hurt, or God forbid, kill another driver, he will continue to act like a bully on and off the track.

Since NASCAR lacks the spine to stand up to and control Stewart, it will be left up to the drivers to do so. What we saw in the pits Sunday afternoon is just a taste of what's coming. Drivers will not continue to risk their lives with an undisciplined brat like Stewart, and one way or the other, they will make that clear to him.

Posted by Rich
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Monday, July 12, 2004

John Edwards is Right!

There are two Americas; rather, there are two visions of America.

In one vision, Americans come together and resolve their differences in the face of a common enemy, emerging stronger and more unified than ever before. In this vision, Americans are an intelligent, resourcefull and capable people, able to to take care of themselves, and compassionate enough to help those who, for whatever reason, aren't capable of helping themselves. In this vision, the individual is valued as highly as the group, because it is recognized that the success of the individual benefits the group. This is a vision of optimism, of faith in the future, of belief that America is a geat nation.

Then there's the other vision.

In this vision, Americans dissolve into a variety of special interests groups, each looking out for their own interests, competing for a bigger slice of an ever shrinking pie. In this vision, the American people are weak and foolish. They must be cared for, coddled, and protected against their own ignorance and self destructive tendancies. They are unable to make important decisions for themselves, and must look to other, wiser citizens for guidance. And should they fail to follow that guidance, then they must be corrected, punished if necessary, for the greatest good. In this vision, the individual is subordinate to the group; individual achievement is downgraded in favor of group achievement, resulting in overall mediocrity. This is the vision of pessimism, of doubt, of the belief that America is a venal nation, and must be restrained from causing more damage to the earth and the nations on it.

Come November, each of us has a couple of decisions to make. First, which vision do we believe more accurate reflects reality? Is America a land of ignorant sheep, or of intelligent, free men and women? Are Americans blessed with the greatest freedoms, or are we unknowing slaves to hidden masters? Are we a beacon of hope for the rest of the world, or the torch that lights off the final conflagration? Are we a nation built on self reliance, or are we a people who must rely on a strong federal government to make sure our basic needs are met?

Once you've answered that question, the next one is easy. Which candidate sounds the most like you and comes closest to sharing your vision? Which one sounds like he's on the other side?

That call is easy for me to make. I believe in my fellow man; I believe Americans are can-do people. I do not believe that our nation is a corrupt ravening monster, working evil across the globe. I believe we do our best to live up to a standard we ourselves have set; that we sometimes fall short is not an indictment of our intentions, despite the views of the Michael Moores of the world. Instead it is a measure of just how high we've set the bar, and a testament to how often we do manage to reach it.

I'm filled with hope. Not blind hope, I recognize that we have problems, and that we are moving through perilous times. But I have confidence that the overwhelming majority of Americans are smart, optimistic, creative, and clever people, and that we will continue to solve our problems as we have for over two hundred years. I refuse to believe that you can reduce the American people to the lowest common denominator, and treat them like a herd. In America, the whole is indeed greater than the sum of its parts.

So, the next time you're listening to or reading a political debate, remember which side shows respect for the common man, and which side denigrates him. Remember which side shows a true affection for America, and which side only tries to tear her down. Remember which side values the individual and the group, and which only values the group. Remember which side speaks with love and pride, and which speaks with hate and fear.

Remember these things when it's time to cast your vote.

Posted by Rich
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Friday, July 09, 2004

King Arthur: A review of reviews

Doesn't anybody read anymore?

I watched King Arthur tonight and while it wasn't the greatest movie I've ever seen, it wasn't bad.

I found it particularly interesting since I'd just finished reading the Camulod Chronicles by Jack Whyte, a retelling of the Arthurian legend based in no small part on the research and theories of Geoffrey Ashe, who combines a skilled reading of history along with the most recent archeological evidence to trace the legend back to a real man who lived in about 460 AD, when the Roman Empire withdrew from Britain. John Matthews, the historical advisor for the film, has come to many of the same conclusions as Ashe, and the screenwriter, David Franzoni used those conclusions when he wrote the script.

In both cases, the series of novels and the movie, we get the story of what very possibly could be the real man behind the legend, a half Roman, half Celt warrior king who united the Britons against a Saxon invasion.

All our favorite characters from the myths are here, albeit not quite as we remember them from earlier, more fanciful films. And this really seems to cause some folks some heartburn.

Take Ty Burr, of the Boston Globe, for example. He pans the movie for trying to depict the truth behind the legend, instead of slavishly following the legend as conceived by Mallory, White, and Walt Disney, for cryin' out loud!

He writes:
"King Arthur" departs so radically from what most of us accept as the basics (i.e., what we've gleaned from Sir Thomas Malory, T. H. White, Walt Disney, and Monty Python) that the movie qualifies as a whole new myth. The opening titles do posit some bunk about "recently discovered archeological evidence," which is the first time I've heard that rationalization used to explain the existence of Keira Knightley.

He goes on:
The last half of the film gallops downhill to an epic climactic battle, with Arthur forging an alliance between his knights and the Woads to claim the mantle of king of Britain and stand tall against the Saxons. By this point, history has been hogtied and left in the trunk of Jerry Bruckheimer's Porsche, but Fuqua delivers the summer-movie goods, so it's possible you'll forgive him until you're at least halfway home...What does any of this have to do with King Arthur?

Glad you asked, Ty, although maybe you should have asked before you wrote the article. Then you wouldn't look so much like a horse's ass.

The final battle scene in the film is a depiction of the Battle of Mount Badon, a real battle (real as in actually happened, despite not making the cut in Monty Python and the Holy Grail)where the Britons turned back the Saxon invasion. According to history, the general leading the Britons into battle was called the Riothamus, or High King, and there is documentary evidence that the name of the Riothamus got it...Arthur.

Any more questions?

The problem I have with this guy is simple; he's writing from complete ignorance. He knows absolutely nothing on the subject of King Arthur, other than what he's learned from the movies, and when one comes along to interject a little history into the mix, he calls it 'bunk'.

But I can't be too hard on the guy; even the usually reliable Roger Ebert screws up on this one. In an unexplainable mistake, he writes:
To the line "Last night was a mistake" in "Troy," we can now add, in our anthology of unlikely statements in history, Arthur's line to Guinevere as his seven warriors prepare to do battle on a frozen lake with hundreds if not thousands of Saxons: "There are a lot of lonely men over there."

Yes, the line is awkward, but there's another problem: It was Lancelot who said it, not Arthur.

And the mistakes continue:
The plot involves Rome's desire to defend its English colony against the invading Saxons, and its decision to back the local Woads in their long struggle against the barbarians.

Wrong again, Roger. Rome was withdrawing from Britain at this time, not defending it. Nor did Rome decide to back the Woads. Rome retreated from the island altogether, leaving the Woads to face the Saxons alone. Arthur, slated to return to Rome, decided to remain, and organize a resistance to fight the Saxon horde.

This sequence is the key to the entire movie; for Ebert to misread it this badly tells me he either didn't watch the movie, or was more concerned with getting the right amount of butter on his popcorn rather than actually listening to the dialogue.

Another Ebert mistake:
They even keep straight faces in the last shot, as the camera audaciously pulls back to reveal Stonehenge.

Stonehenge is not the only circle of standing stones in Britain, Roger. Stonehenge is located on the Salisbury Plains, not on the edge of some rocky coast line. Stonehenge is far larger than the stone ring shown in the movie, consisting of a double ring of stones, rather than a single ring. Any attentive viewer would know at a glance that the ring in the movie wasn't Stonehenge. Additionally, we do know that the stone circles were used ceremonially, so it isn't too farfetched to think that a High King may have been married in one.

What really gets me going is that after making these careless mistakes (misattributing dialogue? Please!, Ebert accuses the audience of being lazy!
I would have liked to see deeper characterizations and more complex dialogue, as in movies like "Braveheart" or "Rob Roy," but today's multiplex audience, once it has digested a word like Sarmatia, feels its day's work is done.

Thanks, Roger. In one day, I've been called Lazy, silly, and clueless.

Heck, I feel like I'm married again.

Posted by Rich
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That’s Me; Silly and Clueless.

Kevin over at lean left had this to say on July 4th:
America is not a nation, not in the traditional sense. Yes, there is a geopolitical designation with borders and armies and whatnots, but that isn't the real America. America is an idea - all men are created equal, that all men shall be judged as they deserve, not as their fathers deserved. Citizenship is granted, not by the fortune of being born on a particular piece of dirt, but by the choice to live by that idea. Every Saudi woman who wants to walk down the street without fear, every Venezuelan peasant who wants his voice heard, every Sudanese slave who dreams of a life without masters, every person anywhere who wants nothing more than to be accorded the simple dignity due them as a human being - they are all Americans.

I posted a comment, suggesting that Kevin's idea made American intervention in sovereign nations inevitable, since we would be obligated to protect the rights of our fellow Americans, regardless of their geographical location. Kevin replied:

Rich, you have to be kidding, right? I mean, seriously, you aren't really suggesting that the only two choices are invasion or nothing, right?

Nowhere did I state that invasion is the only alternative. I only pointed out that, if all freedom loving people are "just as American" as you or I, then certainly their oppression deserves more from us than a limp condemnation before an incompetent and ineffective UN. If there were real American citizens being slaughtered like the Tutsis in Rwanda, we would have invaded, and been justified in doing so. Kevin says we should have stopped the massacre, but is he agreeing that we should have used military intervention, or was he saying we should have used some unspecified, less confrontational tactics? If the former, then he accepts the argument he characterized as "silly." If the latter, then he demonstrates that even he doesn't really believe his statement about the nature of being American.

So, which is it? Is he silly, or a hypocrite?

The answer, of course, is neither. He oversimplified my argument in order to avoid dealing with it, and found himself trapped in an artificial paradox. Obviously, there are more ways to intervene than direct military invasion, but the fact remains that they are still interference in a sovereign nation's internal affairs, something not lightly undertaken. Are we justified in trying to impose our core values on other cultures just because some members of that culture agree with us more than their countrymen? Put another way, would Soviet Russia be justified in interfering with American internal policy because we have a Communist Party?

In my comment, I went on to note a curious comparison, where liberals tend to favor domestic intervention to help people, while favoring a hands off approach internationally, while conservatives are the exact opposite. Kevin responded:

They are investments in the social and physical capital -- investments that made this country great.

Oddly, those investments he mentioned didn't really kick into gear until the 1930's and the New Deal Is Kevin suggesting that America's greatness didn't begin until then? History says otherwise. American greatness was forged long before the New Deal. Social investments did not make this country great; self reliance, independence, and a limited government get the credit for that.

However, let's take a look at the actual spending numbers for some very interesting revelations.

In 1940, human (Welfare, Medicare, Social Security, education training etc) and physical (WPA, CCC, TVA, Interstate Highways, etc) resource spending totaled 68.1% of the budget, with human resource spending holding a 2:1 edge. Now remember that this was deep into the New Deal, prior to our entry into WWII. The federal government was spending every dollar it could to lift people out of the depression.

Now, fast forward to 1950. The war was over; and the economy vibrant. H and P spending totaled 42% of the budget, with human resource spending holding an almost 4:1 lead. It was the highest level that would be seen for that decade, yet despite a gradual decrease in social spending, the 50's saw tremendous growth in the US and strength in the economy.

At the end of the 50's H and P spending begin to rise again, maintaining about a 3:1 ratio, still favoring human resource spending. This continues throughout the sixties, except for an interesting change. In 1969, total H and P spending reached 42.7% of the budget, but now the ratio was 6:1 human verses hysical resource investment. H and P spending increased throughout the 70s, reaching 63.9% of all outlays in 1979. Throughout the decade, the ratio remained between 5 and 6 to 1, still favoring human resource spending.

Which brings us to the evil 80's when Ronald Reagan robbed from the poor to help out the greedy rich bastards. Except that h and p resource spending hovered between 56 and 64% of all government spending throughout the 80s. In short, during the 80's, a time of economic strength, we were spending the same percentage of our total budget on social spending as we did during the Great Depression.

What's wrong with this picture?

But wait; it gets worse. By 1998, 67% of the federal budget went to social spending.

I'll say that again. Two thirds of the money spent by the US government in 1998 went for human and physical resource spending.

If you think that's unbelievable, you might want to sit down for this next bit. The ratio went from 3:1 in the 40s to 5-6:1 in the 60s to a preposterous 17:1 in 1997! Physical resource spending dwindled through the 80's and 90's while human resource spending bloated like a rotting corpse on an August afternoon in Alabama. I can make a very strong argument that the lack of government spending on infrastructure was due entirely to out of control human resource spending.

And nothing has changed. The estimate for 2003 shows a total of 70.9% for H and P spending.

And have we received good value for the money we've invested? According to most liberals, who think this country is headed directly into the toilet, with a terrible economy, poorly paying jobs, untrained workers, undereducated students, and so on, blah blah blah, the answer must certainly be "No, we haven't" yet their answer is to spend still more money.

Why keep pissing our money away? As an investment, this ranks right up there with a Pyramid scheme; it's great if you're the one collecting all the dollars, but it sucks for the rest of us.

Finally, Kevin adds this little bit:

if you love the country only because it was where you were born, then you haven't the first clue about what is important.

Show me where I said that. What I object to is the automatic bestowing of American status on anyone anywhere simply because they love freedom. It's hyper-romantic bilgewater. America is a nation, defined both by its physical borders and its ideology, and even more importantly, by a shared culture and history. Love of freedom is only one small part of what it means to be an American. The ideas are important, but so is the culture, the history, the shared experience, and yes, the land itself. Americans were shaped by this land every bit as much as we shaped it. To say that a man who has never seen America, never lived there, never tasted the freedom we take for granted can truly be an American is simply wrong. America is more than just a physical location; but the physical location is integral to the ideal. You can't have one without the other.

Posted by Rich
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