Monday, February 28, 2005

Riding the Bus Using Other People's Money

As expected, bus service in Allegheny County is being cut and fares are being raised. As of tomorrow, the Port Authority of Allegheny County announced, most routes are being reduced and several are being eliminated completely. This is happening even though Governor Ed Rendell thinks he can come through in his efforts to use taxpayer money to bail out the struggling Port Authority here in Allegheny as well as SEPTA in Philadelphia. Don't think that this is a Pennsylvania issue, either. That money will be coming from federal highway funds intended to repair and maintain Pennsylvania's infrastructure. My fellow Americans, these are your tax dollars at work, and they have just been given a new job.

I really do sympathize with those whose lives will be adversely affected by the transportation cuts, as I have been a bus rider for the last four years, and took four bus rides a day when I was in college just to be able to get to and from classes. I paid for my tickets and passes then, and I felt every increase. I remember when discounted U-tickets for college students were eliminated. I marveled at how ordinary bus rides were $1 adult fare; when I was a child, my mother paid 50 cents for herself and 25 cents for me. That was a 2X increase in just ten years. Now it is twenty years after that, and the fare is going to be double what it was in 1985. Inflation is bad, and I do not like having to pay more than I accustomed to for anything.

These days, I have nothing to complain about as far as the cuts go. I can take unlimited free bus rides all over the county just by showing my work ID like a bus pass. It is a perk and a benefit, and saves me hundred of dollars a year.

However, I do have an understanding of where the money comes from that most bus riders either approve of or have no clue about. Why does Rendell feel confident about using federal taxpayer money for his transit bailout? It's all politics, of course. He could wait and allow the Republican legislature to plan for transit funding in the state budget. That would still involve taxpayer money, but at least it would leave the other 49 states out of it. Voters are idiots, and Rendell knows this. Two years from now, Rendell is going to run for reelection and one of his accomplishments is going to be "I Saved Public Transportation From the Big Bad Republicans". This is crude and simple, and certainly irresponsible, yet it will probably be as effective as the federal government shutdown in 1995. Bill Clinton bore the bulk of the responsibility for that fiasco, but managed to blame it on the Republicans and he came out smelling like roses. Why? Because news coverage concentrated on the poor unfortunate government employees who were temporarily out of work. Which side do you think these people were on? The side of the legislators who passed the spending bills? No. They were too blindly loyal to their party's man in the White House.

Pennsylvania bus riders, as well as transit employees, I fear, are likely to have the same regard for Governor Rendell.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

More MOB Credentials

After my initial problems getting the internet feed of the NARN show to work yesterday, I was able to listen to the last 2 hours 19 minutes without losing the connection. This means that I had the privilege of hearing fascinating interviews with State Senator Michele Bachmann, who seems to be on the verge of obtaining a restraining order against Mitch Berg; and Jake Slichter, drummer for Twin Cities based Semisonic, best known for their hit "Closing Time". (You know you have hit the big time when weird Al includes your song in a polka melody.) I had heard that particular tune a few times, but never paid enough attention to know the name of the band before now.

Perhaps I should have been paying more attention. This morning I came across a CD that I had almost forgotten about, "Giddyup" by a band called the Holy Cowboys. The guitarist for this band happens to be my first cousin, once removed, from Saint Paul. In fact, he and his dad were my hosts on my 1994 trip to northern Minnesota. Here he is as a goofy teenager:



Here he is a couple of years ago as a serious professional musician:



Quite a change, eh? As far as I can determine, the Holy Cowboys are no longer together. (It gets harder and harder to keep up with relatives. Musicians are a transient lot.) But they were not shy about touting their meager claim to fame, as this line from the notes to their CD indicates:

We once played a show with a band whose front man used to play drums for the brother of the guy who sang the song 'closing time'(sic)


Whoa! Let me put that in perspective: I am the first cousin once removed of a guitarist whose band once played a show with a band whose front man used to play drums for the brother of the guy who sang "Closing Time" whose band's drummer was interviewed by Chad the Elder on NARN yesterday. By my count, that is exactly six degrees of separation from the MOB. I am practically a Minnesotan already.

Lost at the End of the World in Southeastern Minnesota

The other day, Cathy In the Wright identified this site as a Minnesota Organization of Blogs "satellite office" in Pennsylvania. I hadn't thought about it before, but she is right. Most of my links are to NARN/MOB sites, and most of my "echoes" in the so-called "right-wing echo chamber" originate in Minnesota. I discovered blogs by surfing in to sites like Fraters Libertas and Lileks. Are there other bloggers in my area? Sure, but I am rather disinclined to try and hook up with them at this point. There is an organization of Pittsburgh area bloggers that meets occasionally but when I try reading their blogs, I feel like I need a shower. I can relate more to the right-wing and conservative Minnesotans.

Not that Minnesota is unfamiliar territory; I have been there twice. The first time, in 1993, I spent a couple of days in Saint Paul with an unintended detour to the Mall of America. In 1994 I spent a weekend at a secluded cabin on a lake in northern Minnesota. On the way and on the return trip, I took a slow driving tour along the Mississippi River, with some visits to remote villages in the southeastern part of the state. I studied my Delorme Minnesota Atlas and Gazetteer long and hard before leaving so that I could plan an itinerary. One place name that stuck out was BUCK SNORT. What was Buck Snort? Who in the hell would want to go to a place called Buck Snort?

I, that's who. So after having a filling but inexpensive breakfast in a nice locally owned restaurant (the kind with moose heads on the walls) in Chatfield, I drove eastward out of town in the direction of Buck Snort. Just next to Buck Snort was another town called Trout Creek. That sounded nice. So I paid close attention to the topographical atlas and drove right through where I expected these places to be. At a bend in the road, I realized that I had gone too far. Where were these quaint towns? How could I miss them?

I drove until the pavement ended and found myself in the middle of a tall corn field next to a yellow "cow crossing" sign. I turned the car around and slowly made my way back to these ghost towns. Near the bend in the road right before the field stood an old and apparently abandoned building that once served as a general store. No homes were in evidence. I stopped a nice looking picnic shelter alongside a stream just to gather my wits about me. One does that when one feels that one has almost driven to the literal end of the world in a place where one does not expect to find it. A small sign, planted in the ground near the bridge running over the stream, indicated that this was Trout Creek. The cartographers lied. Trout Creek wasn't a town; it was an actual Creek! Still, a really nice-looking creek as my photos reveal:





And the fish were really hopping, too. If only I had acquired a fishing license and taken some fishing gear with me. I had not seen another humanoid life form since I left Chatfield. Those fish would have been all mine, jack!

But one dilemma still remained. As a slogan on a T-shirt that I found in a local shop asked, "Where the hell is BUCKSNORT"? Why, right next to Trout Creek, of course, just as the atlas indicated. And it wasn't a town either. It was the picnic shelter.



All I could think when I took this picture was, "Hey, they misspelled DAMN!" Was it worth it? Was it a wasted trip? Have I regretted it for the last 10 and 1/2 years? No way! How many people can actually boast that they have been to a place called Buck Snort (alternately, Bucksnort; it seems to be rendered both ways)? You can do that when you are young, single and carefree. If I tried to take my wife and four kids to that place today, the whole group would get bored and mutiny. They might even toss me in the creek and take my minivan from me.

Still, Bucksnort was a little touch of paradise compared to what awaited me. Two days later, I experienced Minnesota at its most hellacious. Most people think of Minnesota as a place that gets freezing cold and covered in snow several months a year. Well, I have seen the other side. I also know Minnesota as a swampy, mosquito-infested, burning hellhole. I have seen the loon dive for cover beneath the waters of a placid lake. I have gotten the heck back to the cabin when a lightning storm commenced while I was in a boat on the middle of the lake. But it was worth it.



Beautiful, isn't it? I am going back someday; I don't know when, but I will be back. And I will have the family in tow. If you have been patient enough to read this far, congratulations. Now, here is my parting shot:


Saturday, February 26, 2005

Seventeen Seconds

Last night I sat down at my computer to see if I could catch a replay of last week's Northern Alliance Radio Network show. The connection would not work for me last Saturday; I tried for over two hours and gave up. So imagine my surprise when the connection worked last night and I heard Hugh Hewitt's voice coming out of my speakers. There won't be any problem tuning in to the NARN this weekend, right?

*sigh*

I had no problem getting the last few minutes of Rabuse, but as soon as it was NARN time, my connection went into "Buffering" mode. Just like almost every other time I try to listen to the NARN. (I take comfort in knowing that one of the hosts knows exactly what that feels like.) I tried again and again for twenty minutes, using two different browsers. Each time, the feed came through for exactly seventeen seconds before going into "Buffering". Why seventeen? There must be a reason, but I am danged if I know what it is.

After nearly giving up, I decided to take one last shot at 1:41. It worked. I've been tuned in for fifteen minutes. That means I have two minutes before it breaks contact. There's just something about that number seventeen that I do not trust.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Railroad to Hell

A particularly alarming article appeared in this morning's Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: "Pittsburgh railyards get more deadly cargo". Nothing like scaring the pants off of the readers before they have a chance to find out what is going on. What made our area a target for these mysterious death trains? And what are they transporting? Are we building up some kind of nuclear arsenal in Pittsburgh?

As it turns out, Pittsburgh is not being singled out as a good place to send radioactive, flammable, or poisonous materials. As the article states:

In the wake of the Madrid, Spain, train bombings in March, rail giant CSX quietly began diverting locomotives hauling potentially catastrophic amounts of deadly gases around the U.S. capital.

The bustling railyards in and around Pittsburgh, linchpin of the railroad's mainline through the Ohio River Valley, began receiving increased shipments of chlorine gas, anhydrous ammonia and other lethal chemicals that, if released, could kill, injure or displace tens of thousands of people.

So -- since one major western capital was the site of murderous train bombs, our capital had to be protected from similar attacks. If a train gets blown up, the damage is exponentially multiplied when nasty chemical substances are involved. These tankers could have been diverted anywhere to reduce the risk to D.C.; Pittsburgh just happens to be one of the more convenient detours on the CSX lines. The city of Washington went so far as to pass legislation barring these diesel death demons from crossing its boundaries, and Pittsburgh is getting inspired:

Some lawmakers, such as City Councilman Doug Shields, of Squirrel Hill, believe it's time to investigate Washington's decision. If the nation's capital can reroute hazmat to Pittsburgh, why can't the Iron City divert it around Shadyside, Oakland, Bloomfield and Hazelwood?
I am noticing a pattern here. Where will the trains go if major cities all start to pass anti-hazmat train legislation?
"We're not talking about diverting hazmat from around every city," said Fred Millar, a consultant who helped draft the Washington, D.C., ordinance. "We're not talking about 1,000 cities. We're talking about the 30 or 40 largest cities, the ones most likely to be terrorist targets and the ones most likely to have what are really weapons of mass destruction prepositioned for the terrorists right in the middle of heavily populated areas. Hazmat on the tracks is now the highest threat to citizens, which is why it makes no sense to let it into your city. It's safer for everyone if it's out in the country."
Does this idiot think that no one even lives "out in the country"? Or that nothing of importance originates from the country -- like, say, the food we eat? One begins to suspect that areas considered "safe" for hazardous cargo are marked in red on this map. Remember, red areas are "flyover country" and don't count to urban leftists.

88 in 2006

As expected, former Pittsburgh Steeler Lynn Swann is beginning a campaign for Governor of Pennsylvania. Swann has formed a committee which will allow him to start raising money to fund his campaign. The current Governor, Ed Rendell, is a former DNC chair and looks like a tough act to beat no matter who ends up as the Republican Nominee. Pennsylvania has been a "blue" state in recent Presidential elections despite returning Republican Senators Rick Santorum and Arlen Specter to office in 2000 and 2004, respectively.

Swann brings a whole ton of name recognition into the race, and is undoubtedly a surprise and a disappointment to those who think that a person's political views should be dictated by his/her melanin content. During the 2004 Presidential campaign, Swann's former teammate Franco Harris campaigned with John Kerry during rallies in the Pittsburgh area. During at least one such rally (held a block away from my office), a counter-rally (held in the building next to my office) featured Lynn Swann along with Senator Santorum and a few other local Republican office holders in support of President Bush. Swann and Harris are genuinely nice guys; they can appear concurrently at these opposing functions and afterwards go to dinner together. One wonders whether Franco could be drawn over to our side to help out his friend.

Swann's expected opposition in the Primary thus far includes State Senator Jeffrey Piccola, of whom I know nothing, and former Lieutenant Governor William Scranton III. Scranton, son of former Governor Bill Scranton, ran for Governor in his own right nineteen years ago after serving under Governor Dick Thornburgh (most recently of the Thornburgh Report from the 60 Minutes Memogate scandal) and lost his bid to succeed his boss in 1986 when victorious Democrat Bob Casey's campaign operative, the vile James Carville in his pre-Clinton days, publicized a picture of young Scranton during a "hippie" phase. This apparently turned off enough voters to sway the tide in favor of the pro-life, relatively conservative Democrat. (Casey's son, Robert Jr., is the leading candidate for the Democratic nomination for Rick Santorum's Senate seat in 2006, but that's another post.) Scranton spent some time out of PA but is looking forward for another try at the seat.

I do not have a favorite yet, but I will be watching this race with great interest.

"Let's Take It For a Spin, No One Will Notice"

There have been some strange news stories about odd occurrences during funerals, but this is a new one on me. You just know that the thief (or thieves) only wanted to do this for the sake of doing it. How far was he/she going to get with a big limousine? And stealing the thing from outside a church while mourners are inside makes it extra super-duper bad.

A while back, a man was arrested at the end of a gravesite funeral service (for a family member, if I recall correctly) by waiting police officers for failure to pay child support. At least the cops showed dignity and respect by allowing the services to conclude before performing their duty. But the criminal element knows nothing of honor. The least they could have done is waited until after the service and stolen the limo from the cemetery.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Where's the Source?

There is still no source for the Sunday Mirror story about the Charles-Camilla White House ban. The only article that has appeared online since yesterday is a cute selection of comments by celebrities in India criticizing the President's alleged anti-divorcee policy.

A more sensible article appeared in the Daily Mail. Nothing about a specific prohibition on the divorced. The Prince has been invited, but Camilla is "unofficially" accompanying him, so she may not be invited to the White House. No substantiation for the rumor.

Here is another thought -- Queen Elizabeth will not be attending the wedding, even though it will be held "184 steps" from her residence. Is it possible that she might be using her influence as the UK's Head of State to persuade the Bush Administration to deny Camilla official access? Don't underestimate the power of the constitutional monarch in such matters. Would these journalists be willing to put the Queen under the microscope and speculate that she might be responsible for a Camilla snub? No, because then they couldn't blame it all on George Bush. And to the media worldwide, that is all that matters.

Feeding Fridley

Doug at Bogus Gold (which is currently a Large Mammal in the TTLB Ecosystem) is getting hungry. Far be it from me to ignore his criteria for remaining on his blogroll. He was the first blogger to add me to a blogroll. As of the this morning, he is still the only one to link me. I don't want to lose his support, so I'd better start feeding him.

Bogus Gold

Bogus Gold

Bogus Gold

That should do it for now. And lest someone think that this is all about linking for the sake of linking, check out his great post on Social Security from this morning. There's a reason that he's a mammal, folks.

And I am curious -- how many people look at the top of his page and think that his name is actually "Doug Fridley"? Other than Joe Gandelman, that is.

Ecological Consciousness

A post by David Strom at Our House reminds me to add my credentials to the The Truth Laid Bear's TTLB Blogosphere Ecosystem. At the moment, Ohligarchy qualifies as something like "amoeba excrement". I have no great ambitions; I would be happy to be a "Slimy Mollusc" someday. "Oozy Rat In a Sanitary Zoo" would be nice, too, but it's not part of the hierarchy.

I need to expand my blogroll and do some heavy linking. Reach out and touch me. I'll be waitin' for ya.

Mr. Speed

Mitch Berg is looking to deal some speed to Chad the Elder. Chad is looking for a good source, and Mitch has experience processing his own.

No, not that kind of speed; these guys are interested in the art of speed reading.

Back in the late 1970s my father took a speed reading class at work. He brought the textbook and workbook home with him so that I could try it out. I got through the initial chapters but gave up as I find myself skimming too much. I needed to go back again and read slowly to be able to digest everything I had missed while trying to speed read. So I gave up.

Mitch's speed reading experience involves a last hour rush to finish his senior paper in college. I could have tried the speed reading during my college days, not to mention speed thinking and speed typing. Typically, I waited until the evening before a paper was due to begin writing. It actually helped me concentrate on the paper; I was so worried about getting finished that nothing else could distract me, even sleep be damned. My intensity was almost always rewarded with an "A" grade of some kind.

Keep in mind that these were short, 2-4 page papers and not 10-20 page term papers. Those required actual research and study throughout the semester.

On one occasion, I had to write a 2-page paper on some topic pertaining to Medea by Euripides. I had read the play, the class has discussed it, and I was all ready to start typing. I sat down at my Commodore 64, transcribed my thoughts, and came out with what I thought was a pretty good essay. Yes, I was quite proud of myself.

Then I saw that I had finished just moments before 11 PM. Time to run downstairs and reward myself with an episode of one of the BBC's funniest comedies ever. But I had neglected to print the paper; I habitually shut off the computer without saving my work, and everything was lost. (Since I had a word processor, I did not bother with pen and paper.) Yes, I was quite disgusted with myself.

I was in to much of a panic to try typing again right away, so I went downstairs to watch the show as an anxiety reliever rather than as a reward. Somehow, it worked. By the time the show was over, I had relaxed enough that I was able to go straight back upstairs to my desk and start over again. To my amazement, I didn't have to start over completely. I sat down, and in my sleepy, anxious state, I was able to re-type my entire lost paper from memory. Was it adrenaline? Or was it the human brain displaying its capabilities to the fullest extent? As far as I was concerned, it was another "A" grade on an essay.

Don't ever expect me to try that again, though.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

White House Lockout

Every now and then I hear a discussion of the day's news in the room where my college student associates ply their trade. Today, I overheard (and this is an estimate) Reason #4,562 to Hate George W. Bush: He won't let divorced people into the White House.

This little tidbit comes from an article in Britain's Sunday Mirror tabloid newspaper entitled "CAMILLA BANNED FROM WHITE HOUSE". Read the article and ask yourself -- is this a factual news story, or is it a cheesy smear against President Bush? The heart of the matter is this: Prince Charles, after taking Camilla Parker Bowles as his bride, is planning to visit the White House to see the President. The article claims that the couple will not be welcomed because Camilla is a divorcee. The author, who is the Political Editor of the tabloid, describes Bush as "a notoriously right-wing Christian and reformed alcoholic". Is he politically right of center, a Christian, and a recovering alcoholic? Yes, yes, and yes. Funny, then, how that one word, "notoriously" puts an entirely different spin on the sentence. "Granny-starving, Bible-thumping and a hopeless drunk" would have worked just as well, for the story's intended audience. We have detected the political bias.

Poor Prince Charles. The alleged White House ban is just the latest in a series of setbacks to befall the heir apparent and his bride-to-be. Thus far, all of his problems have been internal. But this story brings hope for the editors of the Sunday Mirror. Prince Charles, symbolic of all Britons, is being treated unfairly by George Bush. It's an assault on the entire nation! And all in the name of public relations. Where is Michael Moore to say "Shame on you, Mr. Bush" about this?

And just to make sure that there is some semblance of balance, the writer points out that the late President Ronald Reagan, who lived in the White House for eight years, had divorced his first wife. This is quite clever -- now both Left and Right can bash Bush equally.

So now our collegiate moonbat girls have more fodder for their insipid rhetoric. He's not just stopping gay marriage, he's even going after traditional marriage! Oh for crying out loud -- don't believe everything you read on the internet. Even some of the stuff I say is meant to be sarcastic.

This story has no meat to it. Give it a few hours and see how many other news sources can produce confirming reports of this story. Then wait a few days and see what Snopes has to say about it. It might turn out to be true after all, but so far none of it makes sense.

Unless, of course, a ban on divorced folk was instituted last year to keep John Kerry out of the White House. I would be down with that.

Monday, February 21, 2005

On the Subject of Conspiracy Theories...

Paris Hilton just can not seem to stop making news. The latest is pretty bad. But, as Barnum said, there is no such thing as bad publicity.

Am I the only one who finds it curious that her cell phone directory is hacked, and numerous celebrities prank called, at around the same time that Hindrocket is having problems with abusive phone calls? He needs to be more careful whom he associates with.

Vast Left Wing Conspiracy

What in the hell is going on? Every story on President Bush's trip to Europe, no matter what news source I click on in Google News, has some ad with a chimp in a suit.

Unless this turns out to be some kind of reference to the President's visit to the Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys, I say there's a bloody conspiracy theory going on here.

A World of Spite

Ohligarchy has been up for over a month, and has attracted little traffic during its short lifespan. You will find few entries in my comments section. If my readership continues to be limited to me, and the few people who surf in from time to time, it might be a blessing.

The larger a blog's readership is, especially a political blog, the greater the amount of attention it attracts -- both positive and negative. Sometimes the negative attention comes as part of an orchestrated campaign of invective and hate, as recently happened to John "Hindrocket" Hinderaker at Power Line. The moonbats could have attacked Hindrocket at any time for just about any post; this intrusion just happened to deal with the Talon News controversy, or lack thereof.

Be sure to read Hindrocket's firsthand account of the experience as well as Mitch Berg's analysis of the situation. The Left is so crude and so bankrupt of ideas, that I find it harder and harder to expect people who describe themselves as "liberals" or "Democrats" to be capable of rational adult behavior.

Unsurprising Revelations

According to a book that I read many years ago, President William McKinley customarily put away his cigars when photographers entered the Oval Office at the White House. The children of America, he reckoned, must not see their President smoking. More than a century ago, then, smoking was already seen as a bad influence. In recent years, another President William (Clinton), with the aid of a young female White House intern, demonstrated why children should really not be exposed to the influence of smokers.

George W. Bush, as Presidential Candidate in 2000, made comments in phone conversations with advisor Doug Wead that seems to be a pretty obvious admission of past marijuana use. The key word here is past.

The President suffered a major setback on the eve of the 2000 election when knowledge of an old DUI charge became public. Polls indicated that this had a negative influence on voters who might have voted for Bush, and quite possibly turned a clear victory over Al Gore into a nearly two-month court battle over electoral college votes. When asked why he kept the DUI secret for over twenty years, Bush responded that he did not want his children to try and copy his past behavior. This makes absolute sense. Children are very impressionable, especially when it comes to their parents, and you really do not want them to know about anything bad that you have done. Parents are (ideally) the biggest influence in their children's lives; children will try to copy their parents to try to please their parents, to show that they have something in common. Would the Bush twins have had problems with underage drinking if they had never known about their father's youthful actions? Perhaps they would have done anyway. But as a father, I understand George Bush wanting to keep the incident secret.

In one surreptitiously recorded phone call, GWB explained his refusal to answer questions about past drug use thusly: "Do you want your little kid to say 'Hey daddy, President Bush tried marijuana, I think I will'?" He was thinking about a way in which he could negatively influence American children, just as if they were his own children. He has kept this bit of personal information quiet, just as he did the DUI charge, as long as possible. It falls right in line with his character. He was a drunk, but he knew that drinking to excess was bad so he took responsibility and stopped consuming alcoholic beverages. His comments indicate that he was not a habitual marijuana user, but that he tried it. He probably even inhaled. But he did not continue with it -- because he knew it was bad.

I sometimes use the expression "young in the '70s" to refer to an entire generation of Americans who must have been unable to get through college without smoking pot. It is a joke, of course, and one that could apply to the '60s or more recent decades. When I was in college in the 1980s, I drank a lot (underage of course) at parties. People occasionally offered me marijuana. I always turned it down. Why? Because I knew it was bad; yes, as drunk as I may have been at the time, I still had some of my wits about me. In fact, I have never in my life smoked anything, which results from trying not to be like my parents. Some children recognize something that is bad and avoid it, but most do not. I have more respect for President Bush because I now know how well he cleaned up his life and changed his ways in order to be a more responsible adult role model.

I am more concerned with the character of the person running for office and serving than in who they were twenty-five years ago.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Let US Be Fair

Anyone seriously interested in effecting positive changes in the way that the Federal Government collects revenue should look into Americans for Fair Taxation. Implementation of the organization's ideas would eliminate the heinous payroll tax and replace it with a consumption tax. That will keep our personal spending under control!

The Real Pittsburgher?

Earlier this month I blogged about State Representative Michael Diven's jump from the Democrats to the Republican party. I concluded that the Diven move could be a sign of things to come in a liberal city with a untapped conservative element.

This morning, I had the opportunity to hear Mike Diven speak and he essentially confirmed my views on the matter. Diven explained that he has always been a conservative, yet was raised in a Democrat home and knew no other way. He has always held strong pro-life and pro-RKBA views that are more welcome in the Republican party. His short, simple answer when questioned on his Second Amendment stance: "I own an AK-47." (He is also 6'5" tall. There's a mental image to scare off the Left.) He was challenged in his own party's Primary Election race when running for his third term as State Rep last year. One Democrat propaganda piece informed constituents that he voted with Republicans 95% of the time. Is it any wonder he has found a comfortable new home with us? Diven might well echo the sentiment of Ronald Reagan and Zell Miller: He didn't leave the Democrats; the Democrats left him.

In the few weeks since his jump, Mike Diven has heard overwhelmingly positive feedback from constituents in his home neighborhood, the Brookline section of Pittsburgh. Older residents have asked how they too can register as Republicans. Many others have called to cheer him on. Only two negative calls have come in to his office. None of this was much a surprise to him. He has always known that there are many others in the city like him, who share the values of the Republican party. But they register and vote Democrat because they feel that there is no other way to participate in what is basically a one party town.

Pittsburgh does not have to stay that way. If every Pittsburgher with conservative values took the first step and changed registration, the Democratic machine would grind to a halt. The city could have real elections again.

Friday, February 18, 2005

We Have the Technology

Perhaps you are one of millions looking forward to the new Star Wars film. You may even have seen promotional photos from the film, such as a pretty good look at Anakin Skywalker's cybernetic right arm. This is nothing new for long time Science Fiction fans; for decades, cybernetics has been a key ingredient in many of the best SF stories. From Doctor Who's Cybermen to Star Trek's Borg, cybernetic organisms have been some of the coolest characters ever created. Those of us who were young boys in the 1970s fondly recall a cyborg who was also an All-American Hero -- Steve Austin, the Six-Million Dollar Man. In 1976, "bionic" was a household word. And who can forget the opening voiceover: "We have the technology"?

Well, guess what? We do. And it's right here in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Local researchers are getting world wide attention with an enhancement to a monkey. (You have to start somewhere, I suppose.) A connection between a "neural prosthesis" (a.k.a. robotic arm) and the brain allows the creature to feed itself using the new arm. It doesn't seem to do much else, but this is a major breakthrough. Eventually, neurobiologists may be able to use this technology to assist humans with neural disorders and missing limbs. Plenty of details need to be worked out first, requiring many years of research.

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, where the research is being conducted, is just a few blocks from my office. A couple of weeks ago, James Lileks expressed concern about working for a newspaper whose offices are near the site of human-animal hybrid experiments. He seemed quite worried about the results of such scientific study. I am not worried; in fact, I would be willing to put our Pitts-Borg Monkeys up against his Minneapolis Man-Pigs anytime.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Zoinks!

Well, that was fun while it lasted. I have removed the "referring web pages" info from the bottom of the page. Finding out which random Blogger pages people surf in from is interesting, but I am not leaving links to naked web sites with the "f-word" in the URL on my blog!

My apologies to anyone who might have clicked to investigate before I changed it.

The Bureaucracy

If anyone wonders why many of us on the right do not trust the government, it's not just a matter of political philosophy; it's personal experience. Just ask Atomizer at Fraters Libertas.

Intramural Games

For some unfathomable reason, a 2-to-1 Republican majority was elected to the Allegheny County Board of Commissioners in 1995, and under the new home rule charter four years later, a Republican was elected as the first Allegheny County Executive. The incumbent lost his reelection bid in 2003, so it's back to normal for Allegheny as Democrats hold all of the top countywide (as well as citywide) offices.

What's a Democrat to do with no big name Republicans to pick on? Cannibalism, my friend. Eat your own. This has been a staple of Democratic primaries for over two generations in Pittsburgh. Just look at the last two mayoral races between Tom Murphy and challenger Bob O'Connor. Republicans field token opposition in the October general elections, but the races are generally decided in May.

This past week, the big local political news concerns the so-called "feud" between District Attorney Stephen Zappala and County Coroner Cyril Wecht. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Dr. Wecht's private consultation activities are the basis of a criminal investigation by the D.A.'s office, based on state and federal ethics laws against using public office for private gain. The main complaint involves a $5000 payoff for his participation in a lawsuit filed by the family of a man who died in 2002 during a scuffle with police. The payoff came after Dr. Wecht had recommended that the cops be charged with homicide.

Dr. Wecht is and has been, for decades, the most respected forensic pathologist in America. He has been called on as an expert witness in many high profile cases over the last forty years. One nationally syndicated show -- the name of which I forget -- from about twenty years ago introduced him as "a real-life Quincy". That's high praise coming from a celebrity-sodden late afternoon interviewer. Respect for Dr. Wecht also crosses party lines; in the early 1980s, when he was elected County Commissioner, Wecht chose a Republican to succeed him as Coroner, basing his choice on merit rather than political affiliation. (Naturally, the Republican lost in the next general election.) When Wecht ran for Coroner again a few years ago, the Republican nominee graciously bowed out of the race, due to his respect for Dr. Wecht's proven abilities. Even local radio host Jim Quinn has found enough common ground with Wecht to interview him as though he were chatting with an old and dear friend.

Dr. Wecht has a dark side, though, which usually comes out in the form of letters to the editor. If he does not like you, he lets you know in no uncertain terms, especially if you have penned an editorial criticizing him. It's even worse if you are the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the more editorially conservative of the two local papers. He might pen a calm, rational letter giving his opinion that Yassir Arafat died of AIDS. No argument with that; but it all goes downhill from there. For instance, there is his defense of remarks he made that can be interpreted as religious bigotry. He certainly doesn't handle criticism well, based on his odd response to another letter writer's criticism two years ago. On the subject of consolidation County "row offices", antiquated elective positions whose jobs could be done perfectly well using computers and a minimal staff, Wecht told a critic that he hopes to perform an autopsy on him. In 2002 Trib editor Colin McNickle (of THK "shove it" fame) reported that Wecht apparently had a "road rage" run-in with a neighbor after getting upset with comments by Pat Buchanan that appeared in the paper the same day.

This all makes Dr. Wecht sound like a raving lunatic, but there is no one that I would rather have slicing up my dead body, should it come to that. He had a good idea, so many years ago, about keeping the Coroner out of politics. He certainly functions better when he leaves politics aside.

Since this present feud is between two Democrats, I can honestly say that I don't have a horse in this race. But if anything ever happened to Dr. Cyril Wecht, Allegheny County politics would become really boring.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

The Harrisburg Public Transportation Rally

The news reports are flying in concerning yesterday's union-led rally at the state capital advocating more taxpayer money for public transportation. Each story has its tales of people who will "suffer", if you will, in the event of further transportation cutbacks. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports on the teenage waitress and student who can not attend school if evening service is cut, as well as this janitor fellow:

Ken Thompson, a janitorial worker who lives in Ingram and works Downtown, said he's worried about the looming cuts.

"Some of us believe (state officials) have the money (for transit) and they're holding it back," Thompson said.

Think about this. "State officials have the money"??? Are the only people contributing to public transportation people who work for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania? Has this janitor ever heard of taxation? That "money" of which you speak, Ken, came from involuntary contributions by Pennsylvania citizens. Any money that "state officials" are holding back was taken from the rest of us.

The Daily Pennsylvanian, from the University of Pennsylvania, mentions an interesting fact about those in attendance:

"We had an eight-car train that was full. ... There were 30 buses from Philadelphia that were full and six buses from Pittsburgh," said Peter Javsicas, executive director of Pennsylvanians for Transportation Solutions.
That's very impressive. If they really want to solve Pennsylvania's transportation problems, perhaps they ought to consider running their own bus routes.

I can sympathize with the people whose lives will be affected by service cuts and rate increases. But I also understand that public transportation should not be taken for granted. Two years ago, during the last scuffle over bus service in Pittsburgh, a co-worker of mine insisted that public transportation is "a basic human need" because "people need to get to work". The last part is true. If you have signed on with a particular employer in a particular workplace, you obviously need to get to your job in order to perform and to keep your job. But it is not a right. It is a privilege, and one that you have to pay for. In the interest of disclosure, I will admit: I get to ride the bus for free. My employer, a large non-profit institution, pays big bucks to the Port Authority of Allegheny County so that employees and other affiliates do not have to pay out of their pockets for bus rides. It's a good thing, too, since non-profits generally don't pay well. Most people consider it to be the biggest perk we have. But, again, I don't take this benefit for granted. The Port Authority and my employer could end the agreement when the current contract expires. When that happens, it may well be new job time for me.

Come what may, it will be my responsibility to get myself to work. I am not going to cry to the government to use other people' money for it.

Music Critic

Kim DuToit, the archetypical Angry Bastard with Guns, suggests an alternative for those who are sick of Frank Sinatra:

I would rather listen to Black Sabbath at 78-speed (kids, ask your parents what that means) in a continuous loop for 24 hours than be subjected to a whole side of a Frank Sinatra album (any one of them).
I could live with that.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Public Transportation in Pennsylvania

This morning on my bus ride to work, a pair of riders were discussing the plight of the Port Authority of Allegheny County. The Port Authority constantly raises fares and cuts routes in order to keep up with expenses. My fellow riders fretted about the rising cost of the bus ride, and optimistically hoped that Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell will succeed in an attempt to get more money for the Port Authority.

Where will the money come from? From another government program, of course. Millions of dollars intended to improve the infrastructure of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania might be snatched away to subsidize the Port Authority, which ought to be a mostly self-sustaining county government entity but never really has been. Bus service in Pittsburgh has relied on state and federal funding for years.

Why has the situation worsened over the years? Thank the bus drivers' union for that. Every time the union renegotiates the drivers' contracts, they ask for more money. In order to avoid a strike and keep the buses running, the Port Authority relents and gives the unions what they want. Bus riders (literally) pay with real money. Over the past five years, more routes have been drastically reduced or eliminated than ever before.
Do not expect any of those cutbacks to be restored. A huge chunk of the Port Authority's budget goes towards personnel. The drivers are not going to be taking a pay cut any time soon.

So riders are hoping for Ed Rendell to "come through" for them. One of the riders even pointed out why: he's eyeing a presidential run in 2008. This is embarrassing. The man, and his party as a whole, are crass enough to feel that they can buy votes and get elected to high public office. The sad thing is that this works in Pennsylvania nowadays. People can be such whores, given enough incentive.

Like so many matters of public concern, the transit problem cuts right to the whole idea of what government is for. This afternoon, a rally was held at the state capital, Harrisburg, to protest service cuts and fare increases in several areas around Pennsylvania, including Pittsburgh. The AP report begins with some twit demonstrating to the world what idiots Pennsylvanians are:

Randy Angle, a 35-year-old who showed up at the Capitol on Monday to support a rally for public transit funding, said he was praying that lawmakers would be charitable enough to find money to keep the bus and rail systems running without further cuts.

"Hopefully they'll have a nice, kind heart," said Angle, of York, who rides buses to and from his job collecting shopping carts at a Wal-Mart store.
This is Nick Coleman material right here. Someone who labors under the yoke of the great corporate oppressor looks to the government for compassion and understanding. Government has a heart? These people want it to bleed for them. What happens when the blood is drained? Why should they care? It's someone else's blood.

Further along:
At the rally, which drew hundreds of transit riders, union members, college students, environmentalists and advocates for the homeless and disabled, there was little sympathy for lawmakers.
More material for lefty journalists. Give them time, and they will figure out a racial angle. Sympathy for lawmakers? You know those legislators are going to fall all over themselves giving the riders what they want, regardless of the consequences, just to get their votes in the next election.

Wait -- did that say "union members"? What have they to do with this?
"A crisis is here," said William George, the president of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, which helped organize the rally. "And in the next 90 days, there's going to be a whole lot of suffering by a lot of people if we don't do something about it."
Oh, I see. Is that a threat? A proverbial "thinly veiled" threat? You never can tell with these union thugs, especially when the biggest thug of all is your Governor.

It's all about more money for the unions.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Nothing Bogus About That Guy

Please check out this post by Doug at Bogus Gold and you will see why he is one of my favorite writers on the internet. The subject matter of the post is something unpleasant, as you will plainly see if you follow the link to the source page (which he does not quote directly, due to a glut of profanity, ignorance, and stupidity). But unfortunately, it is reflective of the way that many people on the left feel about us on the right.

When I get a chance, I will weigh in with my own experiences. Not pleasant.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Just Let Them Get Married

At one time, I was quite an avid monarchist. No, I did not favor the imposition of a monarchy here on American soil; our republican system was created in the right place and at the right time. But the abdication of the old dynasties in many traditional monarchies has often come at great cost. The successors of the Hohenzollerns in Germany and the Romanovs in Russia were responsible for the Holocaust, the Great Purges, and the Cold War. Other monarchies adapted as the times have changed, and exist in harmony with democratic systems in the nations of Benelux and Scandinavia.

Until recent years, the constitutional monarchy of the United Kingdom has been relatively safe and stable. British republican sentiment became strong during the later years of Queen Victoria's reign, but never gained enough support to seriously challenge the existing structure of the state, even under the most extreme socialist Labour governments. Serious questions about the future of the monarchy were not raised until the dissolution of the Prince of Wales's marriage several years ago.

When Prince Charles took Lady Diana Spencer to be his wife, he was performing a duty. As heir to the throne, Charles needed to produce heirs of his own. That has been the way for centuries. The consort of the heir, and the consorts of anyone in the recognized line of succession, must meet several requirements. They must be of royal or noble birth; they must be Protestant and not Catholic; and their marriage must be approved by the reigning British monarch. Sad, but true. (Some of the constitutional monarchies of northern Europe have only recently allowed heirs to marry commoners.)

The Charles-Diana marriage infamously ended in tragedy. They did their duty and had their children. Earlier royal marriages would have continued behind a facade of harmony while the king exercised his prerogative to carry on with whomever he pleased in private. But times have changed, and as it has always done before, the British monarchy should adapt in order to stay relevant. In fact, it can become more open and honest than it has ever been.

So why is there such an uproar over the news that Prince Charles is engaged to long-time companion Camilla Parker Bowles?

Both Charles and Camilla did the right thing in divorcing their first spouses. Life is not as solitary, brutish, poor and short as it once was. People need to take time to find their lifemates. Arranged marriages are almost never happy. Not to mention that both are in their mid-fifties and there is no longer a problem with dynastic succession where Charles is concerned. Unfortunate that it took an urging from Queen Elizabeth II to convince Charles to remarry.

The Prince is doing everything he can to please everyone from the Queen down to the harshest critics as long as his future happiness is assured: having a civil wedding ceremony, attending a blessing service with "prayers of penitence", agreeing that Camilla be styled Consort but not Queen should Charles become King, and perhaps most importantly listening to his mother. Her Majesty often seems to be the only one with her head on straight, based on news reports of the Royal Family.

Charles should not, as some people feel, step aside to make way for his older son William. The future of the monarchy is in Charles's hands, and it is his responsibility to reign as King. William and younger brother Harry still have plenty of growing up to do. Let them wait their turn.

Now is the time to allow the royal family to adapt and change. Nobody wants to be the one to put and end to a 1000 year old family business. I do not want to see Charles be that one.

DIY Bleat

(Today was another vacation day for me, so please indulge me. I've been wanting to do a Lileks for a while and finally have some workable material.)

While wife was being feted by work colleagues at a belated birthday luncheon, I drove to the school to pick up Hyperactive Son from morning Kindergarten. Argumentative Baby Daughter came along for the ride. Normally I would avoid stopping by a fast-food joint on the way home, but I was in a generous mood and had a few extra dollars to spend. Hence, we were soon seated at our kitchen table with bags of Scottish Clownburgers and thin-sliced, deep-fried potato sticks. Both children acquired a new toy with the meal. For Son, it was a demonic spiky-haired bust of some character that looked like a Skater Boy coming up through the wooden table top.

Daughter pulled out a cute figurine. The third one of its kind this week, I later learned. I opened it for her and read the label: "My Little Pony".

She took it and assured me that it was not.

A moment later, I asked her: "Is that 'My Little Pony'"?

"No, it's not yours, it's mine."

Another moment passed, and I informed her: "That's a 'My Little Pony'".

"NO! You don't have a little pony. It's MINE!"

An hour later I tried to reenact the drama for her mother. Holding up the figurine, I asked: "What's this?"

"Yours", she replied. Why doesn't this kind of persuasion work on adults?

(Okay, enough. I had better cut this out before it really gets bad.)

Thursday, February 10, 2005

What I Did On My Vacation (Day)

Being the masculine half of a politically "mixed marriage", I was shocked when my wife called me at work a couple of weeks ago and asked me to take a day off so that I could accompany our older son (age seven) to a GUN SHOP.

What?????????? That was like getting a call from your church pastor asking you to take your kid to a Satanic Mass to see the child sacrifice. Let's just say that my wife takes an unconstitutional view of RKBA. I, on the other hand, am a strict constructionist, and not a devil worshipper, so try not to read too far into the sacrifice analogy. Our house is bizarrely free of political talk of any kind. This was not about politics, anyway. It was about a Cub Scout den trip.

When I did some research -- meaning about five minutes on the internet -- I discovered something wonderful. Calling Cabela's a "gun shop" is like calling your supermarket a "cereal store". We drove past the new West Virginia (northern panhandle) location on our way to vacation in Ohio last summer. I knew not at that time what this massive construction project was, but it had to be big in order to affect the local infrastructure. It has its own exit off of I-70, just a few miles out of Wheeling. And a few days later, local media coverage made the store's grand opening seem like the biggest thing locally since Ikea opened its doors. (Fortunately, nothing like the London tragedy happened here.)

If I can ever organize my family enough to tackle the great outdoors, this looks like a great place to start. No outfitter that I have visited comes close, since this place is also a museum, an aquarium, and a restaurant. The place is full of dead animals, most of them victims of poachers in West Virginia. The live animals are all slippery, scaly, and spend their lives swimming in water. Just outside of the aquarium one finds the fishing gear. If you think guns are bad, mean and scary, just imagine how the poor fish feel being trapped behind glass within view of the potential instruments of their demise.

Lunch was good -- I had an Angus burger, and the kid chose pizza with fries. This is also my problem with eating out. Why is everything starch and carbohydrates? It's inescapable, unless you get a cold salad. What about those of us who want warm meat? Do we have to go out and shoot it ourselves?

Obviously. Cabela's has a decent gun selection, as well as a glass encased gun library. I can not afford to stock up on shooting and hunting supplies right now, so I contented myself to spend some time in the laser rifle shooting range. My son took a few quick shots, but the gun was too long and unwieldy for his slight frame. Daddy took his time. Daddy had an excellent score. I doubt that I could have done as well with bullets, as shaky as I was, but it was fun all the same. Remind me to go back sometime.

Now They're On TV!

My day spent in bed on Tuesday kicked this flu thing big time, for the second time in under a week, so it was back to business as usual for me, listening to the Northern Alliance Radio Network filling in for Hugh Hewitt for the third time in under a week. Since I've already determined that flu can be transmitted via the internet -- apparently Hugh caught it from Hindrocket -- does this mean that I'm going to be stricken once more before the week is out?

The NARN's national turns are always interesting, not to mention a nice bit of a change from the weekly show, as they stick to the Hewitt schedule and interview all of the regularly scheduled guest stars. It's got to be a thrill for the guest hosts -- they actually get to speak to folks whom they would otherwise only be blogging about. Unimaginable for them just two years ago, and inspirational for the rest of us now.

Wouldn't it be great, then, if they showed up on TV? Why, they did, just last night. And if your Window Media Player is fully upgraded, you can watch it anywhere in the world. All Mitch Berg needs to do is send up a satellite, and he will rival Howard Stern as "King of All Media". Just imagine: "Satellite Radio, the Patriot In Space, this is Mitch Berg with the Astral Alliance Radio Network. Go nowhere, Earthlings!"

Do you think I am being silly? The project has already started; it is still in the test stages. Perhaps it was a bit mean of them to use Mr. Hewitt as a test subject, but when you are reaching for the stars, you might as well start big.

UPDATE: Just as I was finishing up this post, Mitch was posting an insider's review of the KARE11 segment. Most of the other NARN bloggers are either too modest, too ill, or too interested in getting a full night's sleep to link to it yet. Except for Captain Ed, who linked last night. Look for him in the video -- he's the guy in headphones who is even harder to spot than Mitch.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Sick In the Head...Back...Chest...Feet...etc.

Just when it looked like I was all better, I was stricken on Monday night with a relapse of the flu bug from last week. There's nothing quite like the feeling of fever and aches from head to toe. Most of my day was spent laying flat on my back, which I now realize was a mistake. How was I to know that gravity played such a big role in how bad I felt? Laying down put too much pressure on my head; sitting up relieved my headache. Too bad it took until 2:30 AM for me to figure this out. Taking ibuprofen instead of cold/flu medicines helped, as was taking a drink of honey-lemon tea after abstaining from food the entire day. (No internet, either, so I missed the NARN filling in for Hewitt again, drat the luck.)

This morning, I decided to return to work (for at least part of the day). I expect to be cloistered in my office for the duration.

No one that I know, at home or at work, is suffering from this bug. Did I get ill from using the internet? The question must be asked.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Boing Boing Little Lileks

Mark Frauenfelder at Boing Boing directs his readers in the direction of Lileks's Big Little Books site. Strangely, he chooses to illustrate his post with an excerpt of a Spider-Man story in what appears to be a selection from the Marvel Erotic Fiction series. (Of course, it is not; you have to go to the Lileks site to find out what is really going on with that woman.)

A New Hope

In one sentence, a trio of Pittsburgh Tribune-Review journalists sums up what I was trying to say in a post from last weekend:

The last time Republicans had any real clout in Pittsburgh, Babe Ruth was the Sultan of Swat.
Thus begins a report on some good news for the local Republican Party. A young local politician has undergone a major life change:

When state Rep. Michael Diven of Brookline switched from the Democratic Party to the GOP last week, it marked the first time in decades that a Republican lawmaker based in the city held a seat in the Legislature. The switch also positioned Diven to run for the state Senate seat formerly held by Jack Wagner, the state's new auditor general.
Plenty of local Democrats are lining up for their party's nomination, so Diven's defection is seen as no great loss. Pittsburgh is one of three urban centers, along with Philadelphia and Erie, that made otherwise blue Pennsylvania a red state last November. If Diven runs for the Senate seat and wins, it could be the start of a trend that bodes well for the GOP in Allegheny County. If a Democrat -- any Democrat -- wins, it means business as usual. Which might also be to out advantage.

Michael Diven deserves to be thanked and congratulated for his bold move. Political commentators have been saying for years that Pittsburghers are a conservative lot. This could be the beginning of that conservatism taking political form.

The Burden of a Mixed Marriage

Too bad I can't celebrate Reaganmas at my household. It would cause too much domestic strife. Plus, I am trying to cut down on sweets, so no jellybeans either. How Pathetic.

The Watt Rebuttal

A few days ago, I posted about the Bill Moyers rant in which the veteran propagandist decries a supposed war on the environment conducted by conservatives in general and George W. Bush in particular. Christians came in for the harshest criticism, as Moyers perceives the "Religious Right" as being driven by "End Times" theology and therefore having no concern for Earth's natural resources. He cites the popularity of the Left Behind series of novels, along with quotes from well-known conservatives.

In trying to make his case, Moyers libels former Interior Secretary James Watt with grossly inaccurate quotes that were first published in a poorly researched 1990 book by a former Christian with an axe to grind. Mr. Watt, living quietly out of the public eye these days, needed to present his side of the story. Which major media outlet did he turn to in order to get his rebuttal across?

He called John "Hindrocket" Hinderaker of Power Line.

As a good lawyer, Hindrocket knows how to do proper research and uncover facts. And as a good blogger, he knows that fact checking takes precedence over pushing an agenda at any cost. This is why the MSM/Legacy Media is a dying institution. Be sure to read the whole thing.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Northern Alliance Radio Review

Ever since the Minnesota-based NARN commenced webcasting their weekly radio show last year, I have been trying to tune in whenever possible. The show is a nice way to spend three hours on a lazy Saturday afternoon, and it is a refreshing change from a lot of blogs (like this one!) since there are voices to match the writings and occasionally the faces. It is difficult to read, say, Shot In the Dark without hearing Mitch Berg reciting his compositions.

In fact, it is Mitch Berg who keeps things running smoothly in the studio. Mitch's broadcasting experience is evident as he provides introductions at the beginning of almost every segment, and picks up the conversation when the others finish their thoughts. One can not help but wonder, though, if Mitch's familiarity with broadcast studios is why his voice was amplified above all others until very recently. It would not have been a surprise to hear "THIS IS THE VOICE OF GOD" whenever Mitch spoke to the microphone. Captain Ed, King and the Power Line guys needed a slight boost in volume to be heard after Mitch, and the Fraters were so quiet that they might as well have been Spitbull. (And Spitbull never does radio.) I needed to turn the volume wayyyyy up in order to hear Saint Paul speak. As soon as he would finish, Mitch would resume talking. Then I would leap to my feet in shock, followed by a three-second struggle to decrease the volume so that my ears would stop ringing.

Thankfully, everything seems to have been equalized so that I don't have to spend three hours playing with the volume control. The callers still need an occasional boost, but no longer at the expense of my hearing or my sanity, thank you very much. But there have been other problems along the way.

For a while, I was having trouble getting the webcast to work on my computer. I tried several browsers, starting with Internet Explorer (which I have since given up on for most uses due to reported security issues); Netscape, which was an improvement as it has better tools for blocking and allowing pop-ups; and most recently Mozilla Firefox. Who won? Good old Internet Explorer, owing to the Mozilla-unfriendly Abacast plugin that is required for use with Mainstream Network webcasts. Score one for the big guys.

Everything is perfect now, right? No, I am sad to say. Everyone's volume is fine, and the browser problem has been resolved. The only remaining problem can be summed up in one word: BUFFERING. Yesterday's webcast kept cutting out at the worst times. This is either a problem with my computer, which I now share with three children and a wife, all of whom like to lay graphics-intensive games that eat memory like Tribbles eat grain; or with the sheer number of machines trying to access the live webcast at the same time. If the latter, this is good news; I would love to see what kind of statistics the NARN has for its internet feed.

This all sounds quite terrible, doesn't it? Not to worry, though. Those problems were all technical. The real reason for the show, the Bloggers, keep me coming back for more in spite of the weekly ordeal. If you haven't heard it yet, please give it a listen. This is the fusion of new and old media, taking shape before our very ears.

Friday, February 04, 2005

How to Give a Cop the Finger and Get Away With It

At first glance, this story sounds like an instance of a cop having a bad day, and taking it out on some poor foolish motorist.

Stephen Corey, 42, filed a federal lawsuit because he says he had a First Amendment right to flip his middle finger at the trooper in July.

Trooper Samuel Nassan III gave Corey, a flight attendant from Pittsburgh, a ticket for following another vehicle too closely, then wrote him up for giving "an improper hand signal while passing my patrol car, namely middle finger up," according to Corey's lawsuit.

My initial impression was that the driver was acting a little jerky, but the trooper was being an even bigger jerk for punishing his indiscretion. But this is about more than displaying half of a peace sign:

Nassan chuckled when told of the lawsuit - but said the ticket was proper because he said Corey gave him the finger as part of a gesture that indicated he was changing lanes, making it an improper turn signal. Nassan also acknowledged that Corey has a right to give him the finger under some circumstances.

"Absolutely, he has a right to shoot his middle finger at me unless it's in plain view of the motoring public," Nassan said.

There you have it, folks! Here in Pennsylvania, you have carte blanche to drive around giving everyone the finger -- as long as you do it while making a turn.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

The Disloyal Opposition

As if the Democratic response to the State of the Union address is not enough, we have to hear feedback from the people who really don't like us:

Iran's supreme leader on Thursday condemned President Bush's State of the Union address in which he accused Tehran of sponsoring terrorism, saying Washington was seeking to uproot Iran's ruling Islamic establishment but would fail.
You're baiting us, aren't you?
"The Islamic Republic of Iran, because of supporting the oppressed and confronting oppressors, is being attacked by the global tyrants," state-run television quoted Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as saying.
Someone is jealous because he can't impose his rigid belief system on people all the way on the other side of the world. And when he uses the term "global tyrants" to describe folks like President Bush...Khamenei sounds a lot like a Democrat. Birds of a feather, as they say.
"They (America) are trying, in a real but nonmilitary confrontation, through every possible means, to deny the talented Iranian nation of progress and deprive it of existence."
Does this jackal realize that the USA might be trying "nonmilitary" methods of restoring freedom to Iran because we want to put it back on the path of progress, and maintain its existence? Of course not -- that would be against his religion.
"America is like one of the big heads of a seven-headed dragon," Khamenei said. "The brains directing it are Zionist and non-Zionist capitalists who brought Bush to power to meet their own interests."
Seven heads? Is this a reference to the Book of Revelations? If anyone in the world seems set to bring about the apocalypse, it's this guy. Democrats, of course, would beg to differ; as far as they are concerned, the Antichrist resides in Washington, D.C.

Note, too, the oh-so-subtle appeal to anti-Semites and Communists. That should play well with the Dems.
Now, let's find out what a third party has to say:
"To cooperate with the Americans is very important and very helpful," said Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn of Luxembourg, which holds the EU presidency. "Together, the Europeans and the Americans can put real pressure on Iran to find a solution."
Well, maybe the Europeans don't hate us after all. At least, not this week. Let's just call them the wild card and avoid making any hard predictions about which way they are going to go.
Now back to the Ayatollah:
Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters in Iran and is also commander in chief of the armed forces, said all U.S. presidents since 1979 have sought to overthrow Iran's ruling establishment, but all failed one after the other.

"Bush is the fifth U.S. president seeking to uproot the Iranian nation and the Islamic Republic of Iran. (Jimmy) Carter, (Ronald) Reagan and father (George H.W.) Bush and (Bill) Clinton failed. This president will also fail," Khamenei was quoted as telling students during a meeting.
You mean we've been at war all this time, and losing? That's some major media blackout.
"The Iranian nation not only has confronted the global tyrants, it has also convinced the Islamic world that it's possible to defeat the arrogance," the broadcast quoted Khamenei as saying.
What confrontations and defeats? Does this character repeat his nonsense over and over until he believes it? Hey, yet another parallel with our Democrats!

But how does the average Iranian citizen feel?
On a street in the Iranian capital, Ali Dehqani said President Bush should stay out of Iran's business.

"Bush's comment is right somehow. The people of Iran are restricted. Iran follows nuclear technology. But it's not his business to intervene in Iran's affairs," the 55-year-old man said. "Also, there is no evidence of support of terrorism by Iran."
Nice save. Maybe. It looks like you already said too much. Still, this is an acknowledgement that we are pursuing the proper course of action. How many other ordinary folks over there are willing to admit that the President is right?

Elsewhere in the Islamic world:
Mr. Bush's speech amounted to "incitement and provocation against Iran," said Khaled al-Maeena, editor of the Saudi newspaper Arab News. He described the policy as "wrong and dangerous."
The "Islamic Republic" started out in 1979 by taking hostages and burning American flags. The rhetoric has not been toned down since then. Who is inciting and provoking whom? The United States has been patient, almost to a fault.
Ayed al-Manna, columnist in the Al-Watan daily in Kuwait, said Bush's words to the Iranians were "dangerous" and he feared such a move would lead to bloodshed. The Iranian regime is strong and it would be "better to talk to it and develop the democracy already in place," he said.
Yet another guy with his head up his backdraft. How is anything that the President said about Iran any more dangerous than what they have said and done in the last twenty-five years? As for the last part of the quote, it sounds like talking to your plants to help them grow. And what "democracy" is he talking about?

These guys live in some kind of mental amusement park.

"You Can't Go to the Hospital, You're Sick!"

...as Rob Reiner once said to Sally Struthers on All In the Family. After a couple of days of feeling like I'm coming down with something, I finally feel as though the flu has taken over my body. In all likelihood, I am going to have to call off from work. I am the sort of person who never likes to call off from work. If I could work for 50 years and keep all of my sick days until the bitter end, I would.

Yesterday I had to leave early in order to take my son to the Doctor (for something unrelated to my malady). The whole time, I wished I could have been at home, in bed, asleep. The fact that the waiting room was one hour behind schedule didn't help much, either. My body kept telling me that I was too sick to go to the Doctor's office.

If this is a sick day for me, I might just try blogging to see how therapeutic it is. Either it will keep me occupied, or it will make me sicker; it all depends on the material.

Hmmm...the Blogger spell checker doesn't recognize the word "blogging". Very odd. Or "Blogger" either, which seems like a form of self-denial.

Cardboard Cockpit

Slowly but surely, all my old memories of the original Battlestar Galactica are coming back. One of the coolest things (or so it seemed at the time) was the Viper Cockpit made of cardboard. If it sounds cheap, that's because it was; it was free with five proof-of-purchase seals from select General Mills cereals.



I found the image at The Imaginary World, a great site for reliving your past through products of the mid-twentieth century and beyond.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Confess!

Well, at least one leftist admits to being a hater. (Via Powerline)

I Always Expect Some Kind of Moonbat Inquisition

During the last fifteen years, I have worked for two employers, both of whom seem to favor hiring people of a distinctly leftist bent. As a result, I have rarely had a serious discussion on any topic with my coworkers. It would be like openly admitting heresy in front of a group of priests during the Inquisition. Instead, when anything remotely political is discussed, I stay silent.

That is just one reason that I took up blogging.

This morning, for instance, I chose to remain civil rather than getting into an argument with one of the college students who works in my office. College kids are convinced that they need to hold strong opinions about everything. People who get to be my age have long since realized that not everything is worth commenting on, especially if expressing yourself leads others to question you intelligence, your maturity or your sanity. "Especially since," as P.J. O'Rourke once wrote, "some of us have been going through an awkward adolescent stage for nearly four decades". I hear you, brother.

In this case, the college student was referring to a "Straight Pride Week" sponsored by the College Republicans at the University of Central Oklahoma. While I have always been opposed to political correctness on college campuses, I also feel that an "equal but opposite" reaction like this is not only irrelevant, but also harmful to one's cause. Our college student thought that it was silly, poorly thought out and just a stupid thing to do. Had she stopped there, I would have been happy.

But she quickly descended into moonbattery and rattled off a list of pejoratives to explain why she expects this sort of foolishness from people who live, say, between LA and New York, and south of the Great Lakes. "Middle part of America! Christian! Fundamentalist! Conservative! Oklahoma!" She could have just said "Flyover Country" or "Jesusland", but being a college kid with big opinions, she just had to give a detailed expression of her feelings. If the tables had been turned and I had ranted about "Left Coast! Humanist! Atheist! Liberal! San Francisco!", she presumably would have accused me of being a "hater". Some folks are very predictable that way.

All I could really say in response to that outburst is "Hush, Little Moonbat". But not to her face.

He's At It Again, Step In Time

Lileks does not even have to leave work to find something insanely idiotic to fisk. Old Bill Moyers, the recently retired canker of public television, follows in the footsteps of Walter Cronkite by becoming even louder and more obnoxious after stepping down from public life. There's not much to add to Lileks's screedy Bleat, but I will make a few points:

  • Moyers attacks the Christian religion, or at least whom he considers to be the more powerful, more uncompromising adherents of the faith, with little or no recognition that he is virtually a religion unto himself. Having destroyed a presidential candidate by running the most misleading campaign ad in history, followed by a run as presidential press secretary, Bill Moyers had shaped the news and swayed public opinion in a big way before settling into his long-term role as television commentator. People have watched television just to see what Moyers has to say, and they have made his books instant bestsellers. Adorn someone with too many accolades, and they start to see themselves as something more than merely human. Is it any wonder that he has no qualms with irrational criticism of Christian belief? He's attacking a rival faith.
  • Lileks catches Moyers admitting to a sort of blindness. Quoting Shakespeare does not necessarily make you seem more intelligent.
  • Moyers grossly misrepresents the audience of the Left Behind series of novels. Having been responsible for merchandising the books during my last few years as a bookseller, I can tell you that not everyone who reads them agrees with the theology behind them. Many readers took a look at the first book and became hooked. It's like the Harry Potter phenomenon. Would Moyers imply that the average Harry Potter reader practices magic when not in the presence of muggles?
  • The British writer to whom Moyers looks for validation has a name that looks like "Moonbat". This is like the second half of a double whammy after hearing Lileks refer back to his French adversary, "King Bedspring", on the Hugh Hewitt Show last night.
If, as the title of the Moyers article suggests, "There is no tomorrow", it is the likes of Bin Laden, Zarqawi, and their ilk who will bring the end about much sooner than any perceived Christian religious fanatics.