Monday, December 27, 2010

Guest column: Proceed cautiously on marijuana

I've been taking a shellacking in the comments section for this column, dear reader, but it displays in stark manner (1) the mindsets of the "wicked local" residents of my hometown and (2) the absolute faith of those in favor of the legalization of marijuana, a faith that should be by no means rock-solid. But try telling them that. Anyway, enjoy:

(Previously published by the Watertown TAB & Press, December 26, 2010. Copyright 2010 Watertown TAB & Press / Wicked Local Watertown.)

One of the issues that keeps on re-occurring is the decriminalization, or legalization, of marijuana. Proposition 19, the California Legalization Initiative, recently suffered defeat in the Nov. 2 election. Massachusetts decriminalized marijuana via ballot question in 2008, and other states such as New Hampshire, Hawaii, Vermont and Oregon have, by referendums or State House bills, allowed possession of marijuana for medical or recreational purposes—to no avail, of course, because federal anti-drug laws will trump the initiatives, rendering them moot.
When it comes to the War on Drugs, there is no such thing as states' rights.
The libertarian impulse to legalize the herb is, from a face value point of view, noble. No government, be it municipal, state or federal, should have the right to dictate what we can or cannot do with ourselves, if it involves no harm to others. Naturally-grown cannabis is a relatively mild drug. Some of its more eager proponents assert that it's less harmful than alcohol; some would even put it on a par with caffeine in terms of both its ubiquity and non-life threatening nature.
It helps those suffering from pain that conventional medicines cannot touch. To deny these people relief is cruel. And the fact that so many jailbirds are non-violent offenders who got locked up for possession of amounts that make it clear, even to those with a brain the consistency of mashed potatoes (which rather adequately describes federal lawmakers), that they are not dealers is preposterous.
I would, as purely a matter of technicality, be perfectly willing to decriminalize marijuana. Free the dopey stoners; they are not a threat to anyone. Allow those suffering from glaucoma, asthma and multiple sclerosis access to it. Let's be honest—prohibition doesn't work. It's why alcohol was re-legalized. It's why we fight a war on drugs that is incredibly costly. Yet, drugs are still available. The black market provides, such as it always has.
Furthermore, the so-called legal highs like Salvia or K2 have been studied far less and their effects on the mind and body long-term are largely unknown. Sometimes, as with K2, they can be synthetic. There is no end to the variety of marijuana alternatives being produced, widely available over the Internet that could pose more of a danger than cannabis itself.
But if the government was to decriminalize marijuana or any other illegal drug, they would not only have to admit they were wrong, which is highly unlikely, they would have to regulate it. Do we want more tax revenue to be wasted on programs that benefit everyone except American citizens? I don't think anyone with a libertarian bent wants to place this kind of potential cash cow in the government's hands.
I previously used the phrase "naturally-grown cannabis." This is exactly what the government would legalize. There would be a scientifically determined maximum amount of THC to legal marijuana. This would not please connoisseurs of the stronger varieties, such as “skunk.” If the point were to defeat the illegal dealing of marijuana, such a measure would fail.
Furthermore, we cannot pretend that cannabis is a happy-go-lucky, hippie drug. This is disingenuous. Like any drug, it depends on how you're feeling, where you are, and who you're with when you take it. Users may be aware that a super-strong strain of marijuana is literally "one-hit s**t," but, apropos to the laws of human nature, they'll still smoke an entire joint of it in one sitting. As for the claim that marijuana is not addictive, perhaps it isn’t pharmacologically, but definitely is from a psychological perspective. There is no avoiding the fact that frequent use of cannabis affects the mind long-term.
Normally I would say that medicinal marijuana is a fine idea, to be regulated by the healthcare industry. Those who seek the pain-relieving qualities that cannabis provides would not care that it contained only government-approved levels of THC. There should be allowances for it in any competent healthcare plan.
ObamaCare, however, has largely rendered that option unworkable.
Conservatives don't like hearing about how things work in the Netherlands. But since we're likely to have death panels under ObamaCare, we might as well allow cannabis in government-sanctioned coffee shops as they do in Holland. But again, there's the ever-thorny issue of who is supplying the drugs. I've witnessed deliveries to coffee shops in Amsterdam. The suppliers didn't bother anyone; they did their job and went on their way. But they all had that ruthless "dealer" look to them. Does this make the Dutch experiment more or less laudable because they found some way around the fact that marijuana is not going away and it's better to use coffee shops as a middleman between dealer and user?
This is an issue that cannot be taken lightly. We cannot claim an absolute right to deny anyone the “Alice in Wonderland”-like existence they search for in the smoke—their bodies, and their lives. But legalizing marijuana could create an even more surreal experience for lawmakers, the judiciary and the general public. On marijuana, we must proceed cautiously or not at all.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Joyeux Noël!

"Yep, here it is, mid-December and society is pushing that giant poop called Christmas-time out of its collective posterior and there's no escaping the eye-watering stink."
You know, I've been tough on Christmas. Not because I have any politically correct objections to it. What I resent about Christmas is that it is, without argument or conjecture, the most hyped-up, overly commercialized holiday in existence. You think Hallowe'en is bad? At least with Hallowe'en, you're not expected to be jumping around with feelings of bonhomie toward strangers that you'd sooner slug.
Ever since I started blogging nine years ago, I've thrown some sucker punches at Christmas, last year's entry, from which the italicized quote above comes, being no exception.
But I experienced a moment yesterday while food shopping which sums up how, if I'm honest, I really feel about this time of year. After I bagged and paid for my groceries, the cashier wished me a "merry Christmas." In America, cashiers and store clerks wait for you to say it; only then do they feel emboldened to return the favor. Here in Britain, despite all of our own zany political correctness—and, trust me, we have no shortage of it—"Christmas" has not been reduced to "Happy Holidays" nor has it become an unmentionable.
In a suburban London supermarket, you can still be wished a "Merry Christmas" without all hell breaking loose. I like that. It made me smile. Strangers don't normally get a sunny glimpse of my pearly whites, but that lady did.
I love Christmas from the pure Christian perspective. Christianity is part of my heritage and though I don't embrace all of its aspects, I acknowledge that tradition.
Furthermore, I never believed that song from 1963 which proclaims this "the most wonderful time of the year." Erm, harrumph, say what? Unless you have the unbelievably good fortune to be in Australia, it's the suckiest time of the year. Twenty hours of darkness (in England, we never see the sun anyway, so it hardly matters), freezing cold, snow and ice everywhere ... no wonder people want to bring trees, artificial or not, into their homes and festoon them with lights, drink mulled wine and sing a bit. It's what pagans did before Christmas and you cannot blame them.
So I'll give Christmas a break this year ... and take a break from writing for the next few days. In the meantime, I wish you, dear reader, a safe, warm and, above all, merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Tax cut agreement was not "lousy"

So, dear reader, are you glad the deal to extend the Bush-era tax rate for two more years passed or do you think we should have held out for a better deal from January when the Republican Congress takes over?
I'm happy with it. The way I see it, if this incoming Congress is as efficient as we're hoping, let's strive for another tax deal and lower rates even further once those Republicans take their seats.
Sarah Palin said the agreement was "lousy." Sure, it was a compromise between the GOP and the White House. But she concentrated a little too much on this being a victory for Obama. She's right when she contends that "Obama is so very, very wrong on the economy," but I don't think the Prez "spinned" Republican tax-cut goals.
Newt Gingrich, meanwhile, supported the agreement, while Mike Pence advocates making the Bush tax rates permanent. John Thune, Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney have all indicated that the effect of the tax package remains to be seen, but stopped short of criticizing it.
If this is a victory for Obama, so be it. We needed, at the very least, an extension of the tax cuts to keep helping the economy to recover. It was necessary. Obama may have complained about it, spoke of being held hostage to it, and struck a somber note in announcing it. But in the end, he did the right thing, stood up to the far-Leftie "purists," and endorsed a tax package that will keep America on track.
So here it is: Good for you, Mr. President.
So let Anthony Weiner, Barney Frank and Nancy Pelosi squawk all they like. They didn't get to screw the middle or working classes on a tax deal and that's what matters.
Besides, it's a little nauseating to see the die-hard Tea Party stalwarts moaning along with the far-Left. Do they really want to be seen to agree with Paul Krugman that this tax deal is "bad stuff"?
Now if we could just bury the DREAM Act once and for all, instead of watching its seemingly never-ending death throes, then 2011 is looking up.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Advertisers should sell products, not push agendas

(Previously published by Blogcritics)

By this point in history, dear reader, you must surely have noticed that there's a certain bias against the male gender in advertisements and sitcoms. I don't worry so much about sitcoms because they're not coercing me to consider the purchase of a product and no-one watches them anyway.
But advertising is a different story. Consider the following scenario: I'm relaxing in front of the idiot box and a commercial starring a couple airs. They could be walking through the park, shopping, driving in a car, whatever. But the woman will be portrayed as all-knowing and wiser than Methuselah, even if she looks no older than 25, while the man will be shown to do or say something stupid. He will be belittled by the woman and the commercial will end. And then another will appear, with a stupid man thrown in the mix somewhere.
The ads don't even have to contain women. Advertisements for alcoholic beverages routinely make men on their own look idiotic. OK, alcohol and idiocy often go hand-in-hand, but still, why do we never see just how hideous members of the "fairer sex" get when they're loaded? Furthermore, the guys in the beer or alcopop commercials usually aren't even drunk yet.
By the end of this barrage, after I've been not-so-subtlely told that I must be a hopeless dolt simply because of my gender, I'm expected to seriously consider the purchase of any goods or services from companies that have just insulted not just me, but my male family members and buddies.
Remarkably, it's not just white men who are on the receiving end of this bigotry. If a black couple are portrayed, the black guy receives the same awful treatment. This is perhaps the only instance in which you can actually make a black man out to be a dumb-ass and get away with it.
It's a shame because, in the past, commercials were quite good at taking all the bits and pieces of our daily routine and making light of that. The tricky or annoying situations we so often find ourselves in, regardless of our gender, were being made fun of. It was effective but harmless humor.
Now advertising executives have taken it too far by twisting the logic to make men the constant source of what makes those bits and pieces of daily life so irritating. It doesn't do women much justice if advertisers think that there must be a man-bashing element to their sales strategy.
I think it's good and healthy for our society that women are now respected in a way they certainly weren't fifty years ago. Unfortunately, the live-and-let-die mentality is not being displayed here. Now that they've asserted themselves, the feminists in the news, entertainment and advertising industries have been hell-bent for years on turning the tables and "getting some get-back" with men.
The impact this insiduous attitude in our advertising has cannot be denied. Young males watch TV, get this garbage soaked into their brains that there's something wrong with them, and then grow up to be emotionally deficient, reckless and possibly self-loathing.Testosterone and low self-esteem do not make a good combination.
This "men as privileged" mindset is bunk. As Glenn Sacks and Richard Smaglick point out in their article Advertisers: Men Are Not Idiots, "Yes, men do make up the majority of CEOs, politicians and powerbrokers. They also make up the majority of the homeless, the imprisoned, suicide victims and those who die young." But one can only suppose that's not a concern to militant feminists in the ad industry and their left-wing, cojones-lacking sympathizers who are clearly given a reason to continue to make fun of men and all that's wrong with them.
It was believed for a while that men did not care how they were portrayed. But a 2005 study conducted by advertising company Leo Burnett Worldwide found that four out of five men were concerned by the anti-male bias in commercials and found that men suffer from an identity crisis.
In an age where soundbites are crucial, and no-one has the time or werewithal to delve into the logic behind them—especially when it's erroneous—how people are portrayed is a serious matter. It's time advertisers put the focus on selling their products, not persuing agendas or pushing propoganda.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A 21st century tale of "customer service"

Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. And sometimes, the two things seem to happen in equal measure. Life's a bit odd like that. It's remarkable how often you win and lose at the same time with the business world.
Exactly one year ago, Squirrel and I ordered a security door from a windows-and-door company that has a high recognition factor here in Britain. I won't mention them in this space only because we have not gotten our deposit money back yet, although we've been told we will. However, if you're curious to know, dear reader, I'll be happy to name-drop via e-mail.
The door was one of those pre-framed, uPVC doors that are impossible to open without a key or an explosive. In January, a fitter came out to take measurements, and we awaited the big day when our new door would arrive.
That day came at the end of March. I had gotten everything out of the way and taken the decorations (apartment letter, fox door-knocker, etc.) off the current door. The fitter said he had "the wrong door," that the measurements taken were from a left-hinge position as opposed to our current right one. The fitter said he'd call back later that day; he never did.
Now, even that one incident, you'll agree, was enough to ask for an apology and perhaps even a discount off the price of the door. I talked with the manager and got the huffy attitude that I had no right to discuss such things until after the door was installed. I would have told him to go crap in his hat at that juncture, but Squirrel really wanted the door.
An installment was booked at the end of June. We insisted on the end of the month, because that's when we both get paid, and according to this company's contract, deductions come out from the day of installation. Once again, I had everything taken out of the way. I received a call from the main office informing us that the installer's van had broken down. Soon after, we received requests from the company that the installation take place sooner. We said "no, it'll be the end of the month or nothing." No hint of apology this second time around.
At the end of July, on a Friday, the installers arrived and took less than a minute to inform me that our doorway consisted of the wrong kind of timber. The company's main office said it was the right kind and that if it had not been, it would have been noted during the January visit. They offered to have it installed on the coming Monday, and as this was still the end of the month, we said OK.
The installer, yet another different one, started bombarding me with questions about parking. I lost count of how many times I told him, "I can't advise you. Neither of us drive. So we have never taken any notice of parking restrictions." Isn't that this guy's job to find out these things? I'd never been moaned at before about parking arrangements, so I figured the man must have obsessive-compulsive disorder or something. He offered to come back the following Sunday when parking wouldn't be an issue, and I was so frustrated by then, I said "ok, fine," forgetting that by then, it would be the beginning of a new month.
Again began the frustration of dealing with the company's main office to cancel that date and arrange another end-of-the-month appointment. That was slated for the end of September. Before then, however, we received a letter from the main office to the effect of: "We are pleased that you are happy with your new product, etc." It was obvious to us by now that the people of this company didn't communicate with the installers—or simply didn't know their asses from a hole in the ground.
One more chance. The day in September arrived and the installers started preparing. I was called out to have a look at the door. "Why?" I asked. "I've just taken off my boots. What are you telling me?" I was urged to have a look at the door. So I went out in the drizzle, my stockinged feet on the cold, wet pavement of the sidewalk to look at the door in the van's compartment bay. Damaged. A huge crack ran through it.
"Obviously, we can't install it like this," I was told. No duh!
We were desperate now to cancel and get out of this never-ending nightmare, but we'd signed the contract and paid a deposit. We had not heard anything at all from the company since that day in September. Yesterday, we finally managed a breakthrough and got the company to cancel the contract. Freedom!
In total, five incidents, more phone calls placed and e-mails written to the company than we care to remember, and perhaps just two weak-assed apologies.
We will give another security door company a chance, but we will tell them this sordid tale and if just one thing goes wrong, we will demand cancellation of that contract. I will lay it on the line to them, because I refuse to go through this again.
We might have won back our money, as well as the recognition that we've been screwed with for too long. But we lost time and faith in any company to deliver on their promises. We learned that this is what customer "service" and corporate responsibility amounts to as we head into the second decade of the 21st century.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Weiner: Tax bill benefits "only 32,000 people"

You may have noticed, dear reader, that New York Representative Anthony Weiner—schmuck extraordinaire, but we'll get to that later—is fast becoming the face of the modern Democratic party. His young looks, however, don't prevent it from being ugly.
His recent interview with Megyn Kelly on FOX News on the subject of the tax bill deal was telling in terms of how he does not acknowledge reality, about how "principles" refers only to what he and his left-wing fellow travellers feel, not what Americans want or, indeed, what's good for the country.
Weiner is, obviously, unhappy with the compromise President Obama reached with Republicans on the tax rate bill. When he talked with Kelly on FOX News, it's not bad enough that he talked down to her: "The President has had negotations with the Republicans, and now he's going to have some with Democrats. That's how this process works."
Thanks, Congressman Weiner, for the civics lesson. Kelly and her audience did not already know that. As you know, we're dumb, for we are not pulling all the stops for higher taxes—"the best deal for the American people"—the way you and your Democrat colleagues are. Alas, I digress ...
What's best for the American people, according to Weiner, is not "to add another $80 billion in debt to our children to pay for the estate tax burden that will only be lifted for 32,000 people in the entire country." This is the same man who derided the "Tea Bag Party" for opposing the Dream Act, which will affect these children, indeed all children who are American citizens, when they start losing out to the entitlements the offspring of illegal aliens will receive.
The tax rate being proposed is the same one we've been paying for nearly a decade now. It is not a hand-out to millionaires or billionaires. But, according to Bernie Sanders, a citizen making £200,000 a year is a billionaire. Weiner, no doubt, agrees.
Kelly rightly pointed out the time on a tax deal is limited, that if a bargain is not struck between the President and the Congress to determine the tax rate before December 10, it will affect workers' paychecks and hurt small businesses who might have to file twice, and will delay tax refunds. Obama, for once, is doing the responsible thing here, acting as a President should, and Weiner thinks that it's vital that efforts continue to stop a vote on the tax bill?
Chuck Schumer couldn't sell a Democrat-authored package on the floor of the Senate, yet the President, who admittedly feels he was "held hostage" to this deal, has to continue to fight? At whose expense, Mr. Weiner, the American people's or your principles? Ah yes, but your principles are shared by all Americans. Silly me, I forgot.
Also, according to Weiner, if you pay your taxes and invest in an estate, there should be another tax paid on that because "you'll be dead." In other words, those who are due to inherit an estate should be punished. Weiner told Kelly, "For people who inherit money, that money gets taxed at a lower rate than if they worked seventy hours to earn it. That's just not fair."
Again, we're "aiding only 32,000 people," so let's pretend that money that was earned should not be free to pass on to another generation because it adds to the debt. I don't see how that works. Unless, of course, you're using smoke-and-mirrors to make it seem as though only the rich are getting tax cuts, which simply isn't true.
Weiner knows full well that this isn't a tax cut for the rich. But we're not penalizing those "millionaires and billionaires." That's what has him up in arms over this tax deal. He and most of his Democratic allies don't realize that the middle class don't need government programs to assist them. They need those rich business owners, those who invest private money, to create jobs for them. The middle class doesn't benefit from a stimulus package. They benefit when those with cash create real jobs for real people.
But don't tell Anthony Weiner that. It would violate his sense of fairness and principled convinction of what's good for the American people.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Time for the Senate to slay this beast

The bad news: Yesterday, the still Democrat-controlled House approved the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, a.k.a. the Dream Act.
The good news: The measure is unlikely to survive passage through the Senate. Even Dick Turbin ... excuse me, I mean Durbin, admitted that getting the sixty votes needed for Senate approval is "an uphill struggle."
Good. Whose dream is engendered by the Dream Act? It's been sold to us by liberals as a way of acknowledging that foreign-born children brought to the U.S. by their parents had no say in the matter and therefore should be given the chance to gain legal status. The Dream Act stipulates that these lawbreakers' offspring will be eligible for legal status up to the age of 35, though some reports say the cut-off age will be 29. A 29-year-old is a minor? Better tell them they're not allowed to drink any cervesas until they turn thirty.
Once these 12 million illegals gain their amnesty—because that's exactly what this legislation proposes—they'll be able to bring over their extended relatives and, before you know it, welfare dependency will skyrocket.
Of course, there will be illegals who will work due to the unscrupulous nature of some businesses and service sectors. Why should they hire a Miller, a McCarthy or a Moretti when there's a Mendoza or a Morales who will do the job for less and doesn't give a stuff about employee benefits and whatever else is considered important to pampered American workers.
The Obama White House has called the immigration system "broken." How dare they? The immigration system was working fine before the Hart-Celler Act of 1965 smashed our ability to control immigration to pieces. Gone were the caps from the 1924 and 1952 Immigration and Nationality Acts. The Simpson-Mazzoli Act of 1986, which Ronald Reagan was duped into signing or actually believed would place restrictions on illegals—he later called this the worst mistake of his Presidency—granted amnesty to 3 million illegals. Mr. Obama, the American immigration system was broken long before you came into office; now you just want to break it even more.
(Not that I entirely blame you, Mr. President. Your predecessor, George W. Bush, was every bit as mush-headed as you when it came to amnesty for illegals.)
If the 12 million "minors" who are depending on passage of the Dream Act don't like what their parents did, then they can prove their willingness to respect the country by standing in line and jumping through hoops in order to gain legal citizenship. You know, the way it used to be done before Lyndon Johnson screwed us all.
The Democrats and their loony-Left allies know this is the last chance to achieve "immigration reform," hence the struggle to rush it through a lame-duck Congress. It's up to the Senate today to slay this beast. The "Dream" may die, but sanity will at least remain on life support with a chance for improvement.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Hunters don't like being in the crosshairs themselves

Every year, at the start of the hunting season in Massachusetts, conservative radio personality Howie Carr gleefully aims his gun at the "outdoor enthusiasts." His November 25 column for the Boston Herald stated: "Shotgun deer-hunting season begins in Massachusetts tomorrow, but it just ain’t what it used to be. The native hunter population has scattered south and north. Gun and rod clubs rank high on the moonbat hit parade. And the spread of dental insurance has reduced the number of toothless yahoos stumbling drunkenly through the woods around here every first Monday after Thanksgiving. Still, tomorrow will not be a good day to be a cow in Massachusetts—or a stop sign."
Last year, he wrote: "On your way to work tomorrow, when you notice the pick-ups off to the side of the road, remember that deep in the brush, some toothless moron may be guzzling his final Budweiser."
And in 2000, he said of hunters, "[T]hey return from the woods, hungover as all git-out, to take crayon in hand and write me about how an armed citizenry is the final bulwark, the ultimate defense against insane politicians bent on stealing elections and eradicating our liberties with the help of an out-of-control judiciary."
Carr has been doing this for at least a decade now, and yet the hunters still get agitated and think they have something worthwhile to contribute to the debate. In response to his most recent hunting column, a letter writer to the Herald bemoaned, "[I] find it particularly offensive that Carr belittles and insults the unfortunate individuals who were involved, injured or killed while hunting. Making light of the demise or injury of a person or persons to get a laugh among readers is beyond reprehensible."
I would call the demise of these people either of two things: Darwinism or justice. You might also look upon it as "thinning the herd" of a different sort.
Still, the hicks with rifles cannot contain themselves. On, in response to one of Carr's hunting columns, somebody posted, "There's no hate like anti-hunter hate." I suppose there's the kind of hate that another poster on the forum exhibited. He remarked, "I wish more hunting accidents occurred in and around the offices of the Boston Herald writers, more specifically Howie Carr's office." Or, how about this gem: "I hope this farkwad hits a deer tomorrow, and does several thousand dollars worth of damage to his pussy pink Toyota Prius. It's only fitting for someone who doesn't understand wildlife management."
I think it would be news to Howie Carr that he drives a pink-colored Prius. But yeah, go ahead, use the cheap shot and claim your moral high ground.
In response to his 2009 column, somebody on a Free Republic website thread whined, "Thousands of idiot liberals die of drug overdoses and gang violence, and AIDS—but as usual, contempt is held for white middle class men who happen to hunt." Shall I cue the violin music and fetch the tissues? No-one mentioned anything about idiotic liberals; the subject is your idiotic hobby.
The Black Bear Blog, a Maine-based hunting website, featured an anti-Carr article entitled "What's Good For the Goose is Good For the Gander." (I wonder how long it took the writer to come up with such an original title for his opinion?) In the piece, the author stipulates, "What this overweight, biased, two-fingered, keyboard-pecking moron does is then carry on about all the dumb things hunters have done causing accidents. Like any uneducated fool, he spans the country and Canada to find stories that make all hunters look to be drunken, bumbling idiots."
No. What Carr does, with relatively little effort, is make hunters out to be the big crybabies that they are, an intolerant group of dopes that cannot believe that anyone could fail to see the fun in bloodshed.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Supermarket snickers

Check out the blue product indicator sign on the top right of this photo.

I know it's puerile of me, but I can't look at those two words together anymore without suppressing the urge to laugh.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Go ahead, touch my teabag, make my day ...

Well, dear reader, I hope you had a great Thanksgiving, and if you took part in the consumer madness that is Black Friday, then I hope your feet weren't too sore by the time you got home.
Now then, previously I felt no need to opine on the whole sordid affair regarding the new TSA regulations and procedures. I knew that we would not jettison the political correctness behind such regulations, thus defeating the point of them. That's why it's possible for some swarthy-looking guy to stroll right through security while some frail 80-year-old grandmother whose only crime in life was to burn the occasional apple pie gets accosted.
I'm not against airport security. We require it. We just can't accept the fact that for it to be successful, without violating the rights of most American citizens, some tough profiling is required. The Israelis don't screw around; why should we?
Because I wasn't even in the least bit surprised, and airport security remained as ineffectual as it's nearly always been, my attitude was, no comment. I read Charles Krauthammer's hilarious column on the subject. Yet, I just shook my head and didn't feel inclined to discuss it.
But then I heard the recording this rebel known as John Tyner made on his cell phone at San Diego Airport when he confronted TSA authorities. You've probably heard it for yourselves, so you're already aware of how eye-watering it is.
Never mind that Tyner was apprehended while trying to leave the airport, a TSA officer asking him for contact details and his compliance, so that "it would be better for you." Yes, submit and do what you're told—it'll make you look like a good little boy, Tyner, which is clearly how we, the government, regard you. Because we're going to bring a case against you ... for trying to leave the airport.
It's even bad enough that the lady officer who came over to have a stern chat with Tyner talked of "submitting" to what Tyner had every right to call "sexual assault." If I ran my hand up your inner thigh to the bottom of your torso, would you have a problem with that, dear reader? Even if I wore expensive cologne and a come-to-bed smile? Could you resist this good head of hair and this straight set of teeth? Of course you could, and you would. But I'm not a TSA agent; I can't claim the right to perv out on people. (The fact that I'm not even the slightest bit tempted to is another matter—I suppose you could call that being normal.)
As Mr. Tyner wisely pointed out, sometimes a human being other than your significant other has to touch you and it really is to your benefit. I speak, of course, of doctors. When you're suffering from a malady or disease, sometimes you have to be groped. I certainly was when I had a vicious kidney stone tearing up my urethra five years ago. I'd never been hospitalized before, but I'll put it this way: I quickly learned why the hospital gown I wore was so skimpy and allowed for easy access. If I'm sick and in pain, and you're a medical specialist, then fondle me anywhere you like, if it helps you to determine what's going on inside my body and how to cure it.
But I experienced a moment of abject horror that shone a light on this not simply being a matter of government-sponsored meat-marketry when at one point, a supervisor informs Tyner, "upon buying the ticket, you gave up a lot of your rights."
Whoa. Just ... whoa. Let me make sure I've got this right. If I buy a ticket for a flight, I not only give up my First Amendment rights, but I must submit to an extreme invasion of my privacy and, should I decide not to fly, I cannot even leave the airport without being threatened with a $10,000 fine and a civil lawsuit?
What else can I say? This flagrant abuse of power largely speaks for itself. But I'll be wearing a kilt with a fishnet thong underneath that the next time I fly. The hospital gown mentality applies here. Those government-sanctioned sexual offenders are going to get quite a literal handful from me. I have a good sense of humor regarding the human body; therefore, I'm not an unduly modest person (though my sympathies lie with those who are). If they're going to be perverse about this, then so will I. If fighting dirty is the only way to make a stand, so be it.
So go ahead, officer. Slide your hand past the pleats. Make my day.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Conservatives: Don't reject us Right-leaning mavericks

Some good souls out there are confused by opinions I have offered in the recent past. "Dragon," they say, "you claim you're a conservative, yet you seem to take great pleasure in bashing the Tea Party and those conservatives of a less secular bent."
I can understand why they're befuddled by my position. My previous critiques of Christine O'Donnell, Sarah Palin and the "Tea Partying gung-ho gang" would seemingly put me to the left of John McCain. But I don't call myself a conservative. I'll say I'm center-Right. I'll say I have conservative leanings. I'll say I'm a conservative-minded libertarian. I don't often refer to myself as just "conservative."
Not that I consider "conservative" a slur. I just cannot claim that ground when I am more likely to be moderate on some issues that Tea Party members wouldn't. I'm a vegetarian. The only time I could ever defend hunting is when the people of a rural community are snowed in by a devastating blizzard and cannot drive the ten miles to the "local" supermarket.
I believe in a Higher Power—and I even call him God—who sets the moral compass inherent in myself in other people and keeps the flame of reason burning. I see no need to get evangelical about it or to take literally every word in a "new" tome written 2,000 years ago.
I will take the side of a conservationist over a developer 99.9 percent of the time. I believe it's neither the government's nor the public's business what I do in the privacy of my own bedroom. Or not, as the case may be: if you're a childless couple, I will congratulate you, not condemn you.
Yet, I do believe in law and order. I cannot tolerate political correctness. I believe in tradition and that the generations that preceded us incorporate things of value that we can all learn from—Baby Boomers are perhaps the exception to this rule. History should be told as it was, not revised nor rewritten. The whole reason for sending children to school is to educate, not indoctrinate, them. The government has no business having their hands in my pockets—or on my genitals. I'm happy to help pay for a safety net for citizens (note: I said citizens) who truly need it and to maintain an infrastructure, but that's all I would willingly contribute.
But if a conservative screws up in my opinion, I will call them on it. I will hold a member of the Right's feet to the fire as much as I will a member of the Left's. If I'm particularly appalled or incensed by them, I will take great pleasure in it. (Are you listening, Mick "Squirrel Eater" Huckabee?)
Recently, a caller to a conservative Boston talk show opined that we need a leader with strong private-sector experience, not simply someone who's pretty and gives the perfectly scripted, "Miss America" response to every question a.k.a. Sarah Palin. I cannot understand the slavish devotion, the Pavlov's dog-like reaction, to her among most conservatives and Tea Party members. She is but one candidate and I believe she's got serious flaws. Yesterday, on Glenn Beck's show, she said that "we've got to stand with our North Korean allies." When Paul Krugman recently hinted at death panels under ObamaCare, Sarah Palin told him, "Thanks for the admittance."
If she runs against Obama in 2012, I believe we're looking at a 51 to 49 percent win for Uncle Barry. I will, of course, hold my nose against the dead moose stink surrounding her and cast my vote in her favor, but to say I will feel several miles short of satisfaction would be an understatement.
Aren't Tea Party conservatives acting as bad as the moonbats who all idolized Barack Obama? Let's not fall into this "one-size-fits-all" mentality. You only have to look to ObamaCare to discern the benefit of that thinking.
The devotion to Sarah Palin is mind-boggling when there are more qualified and less gaffe-prone candidates out there who deserve mainstream and grass-roots support: Bobby Jindal, Charlie Crist, Tim Pawlenty, Jim DeMint, Lindsey Graham. Even Newt Gingrich, whose intelligence is not to be trifled with. Mitt Romney will struggle to win the Republican nomination, crippled by RomneyCare such as he is, but his financial knowledge is second-to-none. I would be happy with any of them.
The Tea Party needs to learn how to be less rigid in its outlook. They do not have to compromise their positions, just learn to live with folks who may differ on one or two points. Look what happened when Massachusetts senator Scott Brown acknowledged that he received broad support from a wide range of voters, not just Tea Party supporters. He did; a Republican doesn't get a 53 percent win in the Bay State without building a broad-based coalition. But The Free Republic jumped all over him, accusing him of treason.
I don't mind the label "conservative." I'm just being honest here. I go my own way when I see fit. I'm with the Tea Party on issues of taxes and illegal immigration, and I think they're down-to-earth folks. I guess, as Oscar Wilde once noted, I'm cautious of being part of any group that would have me.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

One rule for us, another for them

Democrats, if you didn't already know, dear reader, are an interesting breed of people.
Representative Steny Hoyer of Maryland and Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina are both vying for the minority House whip position. Nancy Pelosi, the outgoing Speaker, is trying to smooth the way for both men to keep a position of leadership within the Party. Clyburn is apparently being offered the chairmanship of the Democratic caucus while Pelosi's intentions are to move Hoyer from majority leader to minority whip.
The only problem is, Clyburn wants the No. 2 job as minority whip—and, having been the majority whip, it's a job he's quite good at. Rep. Clyburn is also black.
It's intriguing enough that Pelosi held a "victory party" after midterm election results severely curtailed her length of time as Speaker. "I understand the American people better than they do themselves," she claimed, after the American people voted to have Republicans take back the House. But she wants to hand the African-American contestant a no. 3 position, and have Hoyer, who's white, take over as second-in-command.
Aren't these people for diversity? Aren't they for affirmative action? Why does Pelosi and a sizeable chunk of Democratic lawmakers want to push the black guy to the back of the bus? (I suppose, as Clyburn's proven to be more than competent in his position as whip, he doesn't technically qualify for affirmative action.)
This comes just a couple of weeks after Bill Clinton urged Representative Kendrick Meek to drop out of the Senate race in Florida so that minorities could rally behind Charlie Crist, another white guy, wouldn't you just know it. The Republican candidate, Marco Rubio, was considered a threat. So, the black guy must drop out so the white guy has a chance of beating the Latino, according to the Democrats' thought process.
If this sort of power struggle took place in a company boardroom, Democrats would be filing legislation to cripple that business. If a college demoted a black man in order to elect a white provost, the resutling protests, spearheaded by Democrats, would put that school in a negative light for years to come. Can't the Democrats live by the same rules they expect the rest of society to follow? Or do they deem their own prescription for a fairer society too inconvenient?
Speaker Pelosi, if you can stop celebrating your "victory" long enough to answer the following question: How come one American of African descent is told by the Party's chief gigilo to drop out of a Senate race to increase a white man's chance of winning while efforts are continuing to delegate another—who, I repeat, is good at the job he's applying for—to a third-ranked position?
Inquiring minds would love to know.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Reach for the stars, lose your nuts

Oh no, say it ain't so!
A study by the National Cancer Institute, which analyzed data from 10,000 men, found that every two inches above the average male height of 5-foot-9 increased the risk of getting testicular cancer by 13 percent.
Golly gee, and I was having such a good day before I read about this study. Life isn't fair!
Realistically, the risk is low for all men. Only one in 210 men get testicular cancer, and that represents only 1 percent of male-related cancers.
But still, I like to think it gives the sentence "short guys have balls" a more literal meaning.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Just don't call me "comrade"

What's the definition of a letdown, dear reader? The midterm election results in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Sure, I'm happy that Republicans re-took control of the House and that we have a new Speaker. The fact is, the rest of the nation had to do it for us. Because Bay-staters apparently love high taxes and bloated bureaucracy.
How else to explain that every Democrat, from auditor to treasurer to governor to representatives, got re-elected, including incumbents? Ed Markey, the man who wants to push fuel bills into the stratosphere, won by 66 percent! And Barney Frank, with his two twins Freddie and Fannie, won by 54. What about governor Deval Patrick, who, in this time of economic worry, champions a graduated income tax? A nearly 50 percent winning percentage. Wow. Doesn't get more surreal than that. I suppose to win in Massachusetts it doesn't matter what nonsense you support, you just have to be a slick campaigner.
What were voters thinking when they went to the polling station: "So this guy wants to bend me over and ram me up the behind until my sphincter ruptures? That's fine. After all, he sounds like he cares. I'm sure he'll do it gently."
Scott Brown's election to the Senate in January seems like nothing short of a miracle given these results.
Then there's the "no" vote on Question 3 ... We could have had a solid "yes" vote on Question 3 if only the mush-heads that make up the majority of the state's electorate didn't believe the scare tactics of the moonbats who said it would cripple police and fire services and that our bridges would suddenly become unsafe. Congratulations, Mr. Masshole, you just voted for more welfare funding for illegal immigrants.
The "no" camp even recycled the same claptrap slogan from the similar Question 3 in 1990 (which would have rolled tax rates back to 1988 levels): "I'm mad but I'm not crazy." No, you're mad as in insane. Or brainwashed.
I'm also disappointed that the law concerning Question 2, in which developers have been given free reign to build low-income housing wherever they and the State House bureaucrats like, passed. Because, gee, we all want low-income housing for seniors, don't we? No, this question didn't involve Section 8 housing whatsoever.
Well, at least Question 1, which will repeal the extra excise tax on alcoholic beverages, passed. Hmmm. Think there's a connection there, dear reader, or do I need to spell it out?
I think that's the only way this shockingly abysmal state election can be explained.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Letter to the editor: "Massachusetts no longer an automatic win for Democrats"

(Previously published by the Watertown TAB & Press, October 22, 2010. Copyright 2010 Watertown TAB & Press. Some rights reserved.)

I’m a proud Townie currently transplanted in London, England. Although most of my time is spent “across the pond,” I try to keep in touch with all things Watertown—especially as it relates to politics.
I’m back in town for a few short days and, as is my practice, I like to walk around to see what’s changed since the last time I visited.
Interestingly enough, this time the biggest change seems to be in the political climate.
Maybe it’s the election of Scott Brown, or maybe it’s that Massachusetts voters are finally fed up with an ever-expanding government. What I know is that, as I watch the news, I see Barney Frank in a tight race with Sean Bielat. I also hear that Dr. Gerry Dembrowski is giving Ed Markey his first serious challenge in 34 years. Now I know Obama promised us change, but I don’t think this is what he had in mind!
Say what you will, or believe what you want you want politically, but I think we can all agree that it’s a good thing that Massachusetts can no longer be considered an automatic win for a Democrat. For decades the Republicans have written us off and the Democrats have taken us for granted.
Massachusetts’s citizens are independent thinkers. Just look at the biggest plurality of registered voters—it’s unenrolled. Yet for decades as far back as most of us can remember, we consistently sent a congressional delegation to Washington that was 100 percent Democrat.
But things are finally changing.
Last January, Massachusetts shocked the nation by sending Scott Brown to replace the so-called “Lion of the Senate,” Ted Kennedy. In November, we can continue to show our independence by unseating some people, such as Barney Frank and Ed Markey, who have simply been there too long. Frank, by his association with the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac collapse, is partially responsible for the economic crisis we find ourselves in. And Markey sponsored legislation designed to make our heat and electric bills go through the roof. These two guys we can really do without.
So before I head back across the pond, I will exercise my duty to vote, especially against any incumbent running for re-election. You might say it’s my way bringing “hope” back to change.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Voting for the "shock wave"

BOSTON, U.S.A.—Today, during my last day on my old stomping ground, I voted in the 2010 Massachusetts elections. I voted a straight Republican ticket, including Charlie Baker for governor, Dr. Gerry Dembrowski for Representative, William C. Campbell for Secretary of State and Karyn Polito for Treasurer.
There were no Republicans running for Sheriff of Middlesex County, so I wrote in Tony Blair for the position. Even his detractors would agree that he'd make a good cowboy.
There was also no-one from the GOP running for District Attorney. I wrote in Ted Crilly, the well-meaning but accident-prone priest of Father Ted fame.
I voted "yes" on all three ballot questions. A Yes on Question 1 would remove the sales tax on alcoholic beverages, where the sale of such beverages or their importation into the state is already subject to a separate excise tax under state law. Yes on Question 2 would repeal a state law allowing the issuance of a single comprehensive permit to build housing that includes low- or moderate-income units. And, most importantly, Yes on Question 3—the ballot question whose result I'm most interested in—would reduce the state sales and use tax rates (which were 6.25% as of September 2009) to 3% as of January 1, 2011. YES ON 3!!!
Now I'm as prepared as I'll ever be to return to England with a feeling of satisfaction, knowing that I played my part in what will hopefully be a Republican "shock wave" and the beginning of era of lower taxes reverberating across the Bay State on November 2.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Time to re-jig the ol' résumé

BOSTON, U.S.A.— Great. Just great. From what I can see, folks who possess more than an ounce of common sense (a.k.a. non-far Left whackjobs) continue to be represented by the brightest bulbs on the Christmas tree cord, thanks to the Tea Partying, arch-conservative gung-ho gang.
The Republican Senate nominee for Delaware, Christine O'Donnell, showed a truly frightening level of ignorance regarding the First Amendment during a debate against her Democrat rival, Chris Coons, last week.
During a candidate debate at Widener University Law School, Coons asserted that teaching Creationism in public schools violates the First Amendment. It doesn't necessarily do any such thing. Intelligent design should be a valid choice of belief presented to schoolchildren, especially to balance out the sickeningly staunch athiesm that's been promoted for the past forty years. Coons should talk with Richard Dawkins to find out how militant the athiest crowd is. Dawkins and his disciples have made a religion out of anti-religious fervor.
However, note that I said "intelligent design," as in a Higher Spirit that guided the creation of Earth and all its life forms, as well as the rest of the universe. It's not at all a sign of stupidity or ignorance to believe that there is a force much more powerful than us directing the whole show. (Even though, I admit, the essence of the words I just wrote apply to Scientologists as well; just insert the word "aliens" for "force".) I distrust the term Creationism because it suggests to me a lobby that plans to go the opposite way with their own brand of ridiculousness, namely, rejecting all scientific theory and advances because they weren't mentioned in the Bible.
You can gather, dear reader, from what I've written so far, that I have no time for athiests, Scientologists or Creationists. And you'd be absolutely correct. They're all as mentally deficient as each other. Put fifty members of each of the three camps in one auditorium and the collective I.Q. in the room would be less than Mini-Me's shoe size. (Throw in 100 adherents to the so-called "religion of peace" for good measure and the intelligence quotient wouldn't even rate without the aid of a micro-particle measuring device. The BS meter, however, would be about to blow up.)
Coons, however, was not wrong when he noted that the First Amendment bars Congress from making laws respecting the establishment of religion. Coons had the right argument behind him; he just applied it erroneously. This is when the following worrying dialogue occurred between O'Donnell and Coons:
"Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?" O'Donnell asked.
Coons told O'Donnell that the First Amendment bars the establishment of a religion.
The daughter of Socrates replied, "You're telling me that's in the First Amendment?"
According to Widener University political scientist Wesley Leckrone, who was present during the debate, "You actually audibly heard the crowd gasp." Gasp? If I'd been present, I think I'd have fainted.
Loosely translated, this is what O'Donnell really meant to ask: "What, you mean that it's, like, un-Constitutional to teach children that the sun revolves around a 10,000-year-old Earth and in fifty years' time we won't have the technologically and scientfically backward theocracy that I fall asleep to dreaming about?"
Remember how the "9/11 Was An Inside Job" layabouts asserted that Bush trashed the Constitution while in office? That crowd ain't seen nothing yet. The current crop of Generation ZZZ conservatives don't even know it enough to trash it. It's no wonder O'Donnell wants to reform public education—clearly it's failed her. But that's OK. She made up for it by having faith in things that were written during Methuselah's day and which went through more language translations than the number of drum sets that Keith Moon destroyed.
Don't get me wrong. I appreciate how O'Donnell is accusing Coons of being "addicted to a culture of waste, fraud and abuse," which, being a liberal Democrat, he no doubt is.
Yet—and I know I've mentioned this before—I'm sick of these candidates who seem to appear fresh off the Sarah Palin Factory of Dumb-Assery production line, only to get pushed into candidacy by the gung-ho gang. And they're going to represent me and my beliefs. I should be so lucky. I guess that means I'll have to re-jig my résumé so that it appears my education stopped at 6th grade.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Criminals don't kill; guns do

I was listening to Boston talk-show host Howie Carr—who I listen to via podcasts—and he brought up the topic of gun control after the recent shootings in the inner-city enclave of Mattapan ("Murderpan" as we Bostonians call it).
Howie is a populist conservative, so naturally he expressed dismay at the familiar attitude that it's guns that are the problem, not criminals nor a welfare system that breeds irresponsibility. He brought up a great point by referring to an old New York state statute called the Sullivan Law that stipulated if you were caught committing a gun crime, you went away for life. End of. Massachusetts and other states had similar laws as well. But now, with plea bargaining, the emphasis on the weapons charge basically gets dropped.
My favorite part of the segment, however, came when a caller asked, "Why do liberals believe that crime will go down if the law-abiding public is unarmed?" To which Howie answered (and I'm paraphrasing here):
"What they believe is the perfection of human nature, that somehow human nature can be perfected. Whereas conservatives acknowledge the imperfection of human nature."
It's true. Liberals believe that if you are generous with welfare bums, they will realize their debt to society by shaping up and at least living clean lives on the public dole. They believe that normal people should be willing to give up their security and protection by having pureblind faith in human nature.
And even though I admittedly do approve of some form of gun control myself—I think that if you have to learn to drive and register a car, you should surely be tested on your knowledge of guns and have them registered as well—I have to tip my hat to Carr for saying, "Gun control, yet another area for the government to poke its nose into. How's Obama-care working for you? How'd the BP oil spill clean-up go?" (Though, to be fair, I don't advocate a federal law; I want to leave gun control to the states.)
As for the thugs who shot five in Mattapan? Well, you just know they went through all the checks, didn't they? Registered their guns with the police and everything. What a shocker. It's not so much gun control or the lack of it that determines these crimes; it's the dissolution of Sullivan Law-type statutes.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

And you may wonder why I'm not a card-carrying Tea Party member ...

The Montana Republican Party wants to criminalize homosexuality by making it illegal. Montana's long-standing anti-gay policy was struck down in 1997 by the state Supreme Court, but the state Legislature never repealed the law, which Republicans now wish to confirm. The state's GOP chairman Will Deschamps confirmed that two-thirds of Montana Republicans voted in favor of the statute.
Way to go, guys. That's the spirit. A real winner, a sure-fire method of getting people on the GOP's side.
Why don't you outlaw daydreaming as well? I'm sure if someone tried hard enough, they could control the urge to visit Cloud 9. If they don't, that means they just don't care about society's good standards. Lock 'em up. They clearly show a desire to not live in the real world and we simply cannot tolerate that sort of deviancy. It's a threat to our way of life.
Why not criminalize homosexuality? Sounds like a great idea. It falls perfectly into line with the sort of platform that deems Creationism sound educational policy and the idolatry of a bully with too much space between her ears.
As if society doesn't have enough misfits who deserve locking up, Montana Republicans wish to protect their desire to create more criminals.
Honestly, I'm sick and tired of the extremists calling the shots. Is a Republican Party dedicated to law-and-order and free-market economics as well as personal liberty and a right-libertarian platform too much to ask?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Sept. 11 musings, 2010-style

Who'd have thought that the ninth anniversary of 9/11 would be so contentious? The tenth, I could understand, but the past eight years involved solemn remembrance and mourning. No more of that: Sept. 11 is political all over again.
It's not as if it has no reason to be. The "victory mosque" proponents, those self-styled Constitutionalists, will be displaying American flags and reading off every name of those killed in the 2001 attack. Good for them, but it's not going to win me over to their side. Emperor Hirohito could have raised an American flag at Pearl Harbor in 1951. Would it honestly have mattered? A slap in the face is still an insult, even if you wore thickly padded gloves when delivering it.
However, I am relieved that the pastor in Gainesville called off the Koran-burning. It was a profoundly stupid idea. It doesn't exactly take much to inflame Muslim passions. This would have been catastrophic. Our troops would have been in danger like never before. Americans needed to denounce this.
Yes, they burn Bibles in Saudi Arabia regularly. But the Muslim world not taking their own hypocrisy into account is something we've had to live with. Primitive actions on our part do nothing to cancel out primitive actions on the part of another's.
I have no idea whether the Ground Zero mosque-builders are moderates or not. I think Imam Faisal has dark links he's not telling us about. It wouldn't surprise me one bit if Saudi Arabian money started furnishing the place. But I do know that there are Islamic moderates out there. And burning their holy book is as insensitive to them as the Ground Zero mosque is to most Americans.
I was in Morocco last year. The Moroccans pride themselves on a liberal interpretation of the Koran. They welcome tourists and allow churches and synogogues; there is even a Jewish cemetary in Marrakech that is well looked-after. It's an Islamic society but I didn't feel that I had to watch my step. I would not want to offend these people. Your average Moroccan cannot be compared to an Al-Qaeda terrorist. There are even plenty of Iranians that love America and Americans. We cannot afford to lose them as friends by supporting the torching of the one book they hold in reverance.
And do we really want to borrow a tactic from the Nazis?
The pastor is not exactly the best example of a Christian. His views on women don't seem any more enlightened than those of extremist Islamists.
Grieve for the memory of the crime committed against us nine years ago. Don't stand for being told that you're un-American if you oppose the Ground Zero Islamic cultural center. But leave the Koran alone. That tome is not our enemy; it's the brainwashed extremists who interpret it far too radically, and the pride they take in their unyielding position, who threaten us.
And with that said, I'm going to listen to some pure, unadulterated rock'n'roll from a band that's as American as they come:

Monday, August 30, 2010

Freedom of expression at Ground Zero is about more than a liberal cause du jour

(Previously published by Blogcritics)

Sometimes, just sometimes, Democrats impress me. John Kerry holding the Scottish government's feet to the fire over the release of Abdul al-Megrahi, for instance. Kerry doesn't buy the argument that it was right to show mercy to the PanAm flight 103 bomber given his (supposedly) terminal illness, as you would normally expect a bleeding-heart liberal to do. I also respect Dianne Feinstein for approving of the Patriot Act, supporting the death penalty and running San Francisco as a centrist during her tenure as mayor of that normally loopy, hard-Left city. I like Joe Liebermann, of course, for several reasons.
Add to the list Harry Reid and the recently defeated Senate candidate Jeff Greene. Why? For their opposition to the location of the proposed Ground Zero mosque and for criticizing the Messiah's thoughts on the matter.
President Obama's main premise, that we have freedom of worship, is correct. But, as Greene noted, he's got it all wrong. What gets conveniently lost in the liberal-Left's argument in favor of the mosque is that American citizens have a Constitutional right to voice their opposition to it. What about our First Amendment rights?
Like Reid, one of the highest ranking Democrats to oppose the mosque's location, I feel that this isn't a matter of religious opposition. It's simply the mosque's proposed location, and the powerful symbolism it carries with it, that bothers me. Muslims don't like it that we are focusing on the religion of the terrorists that killed 3,000 people nine years ago. But how would they like it if we erected a monument dedicated to the Crusades in a place that carries significant symbolic sentiment to them?
The Constitution should not be wielded as a tool to trump popular opinion in this matter. I have heard so much blather with regard to "good, law-abiding Americans who just happen to be Muslim" wanting to build their Islamic community centre at the Ground Zero location. But are they really thinking this one through?
If the Muslims who sought permission to build at the Cordoba Centre are that respectful, wouldn't they have backed down after realizing how their fellow Americans, assuming they consider us as such, agonized about the symbolic importance of their decision? If they're moderates, as the Left is assuring us they are, can't they understand that it would please everyone if they simply looked elsewhere to erect their place of worship? I think it's an affront of the highest level to blame the average American for his or her "bigotry" when it's the mosque-builders who are being intractable and intransigent.
Consider this, dear reader: the Islamic community centre's imam, Feisal Abdul Rauf, described U.S. policy-making as "an accessory to the crime" of 9/11, and asserted that all the "attention is a sign of the success of our efforts." As Toby Harnden of The Daily Telegraph wrote, that assertion from Rauf is "an utterance that shows he is stupid, mischievous or worse. Even if the aim of building the centre there was to encourage religious understanding, that is clearly no longer a possible outcome. So what kind of success was Rauf referring to?"
My thoughts exactly. Though, I suppose I must give Rauf some credit for calling 9/11 a crime. He earns a point from me for that, but nothing more.
New York mayor Michael Bloomberg—a RINO (Republican In Name Only) if ever there was one—isn't exactly trying to smooth things out, as you would expect him to do. He condemns the opposition, opining that they "ought to be ashamed of themselves."
Honestly, why is it so difficult to understand that there is a line being crossed here, a basic level of civility and respect that is being ignored? But, alas, I forget: Even if you slashed the throat of a Leftie's loved one, he'd still think, "Hmmm, what's wrong with the person who just killed my brother? Is he hurting? Is that a cry for help? Maybe I can help him. Golly gee ..."
To tell you the truth, for me, that's what this whole debate over the Ground Zero mosque comes down to. We're all getting our throats cut in a metaphorical sense, and we're still expected to understand "the other side."

Sunday, August 29, 2010

A cat, an animal abuser and selective free speech

You might recall, dear reader, that back in July I was outraged at Facebook's refusal to take down a page dedicated to the killer Raul Moat because it was very inflammatory—a place for hordes of brain-damaged people to jot down their violent fantasies of cop-killing anarchy and the overthrow of society. It was also highly insensitive. Even the Prime Minister, David Cameron, demanded that Facebook remove the page; they refused on the grounds of free speech.
But apparently free speech doesn't apply to those outraged by animal abuse.
Mary Bale, a bank worker, was on her way home from work when she stopped to pet Lola the cat, owned by Stephanie and Darryl Andrews-Mann. After stroking the cat for a few seconds, Bale picked her up by the scruff of her neck, threw her in a large wheeled garbage bin and walked away. Footage of Bale grabbing the cat, throwing her in the garbage container and closing the lid was caught on the Andrews-Manns' CCTV security camera, and they uploaded the video to YouTube to try to identify Bale.
When she was identified and questioned about it by reporters, and unaware of just how furious the reaction was to her vile act, Bale shurgged it off. "I really don't see what everyone is getting so excited about. It's just a cat," she remarked. Only after she started receiving death threats did Bale do an about-face.
Bale reckons she had "a split second of madness" and cannot explain why she did it. She apologized to the couple and to cat-lovers in general. Her apology is worthless; only because she was threatened to the point of needing police protection did she claim she was sorry.
Understand, dear reader, that this was no harmless joke. The rubbish bin in question is four feet tall. The bin was empty. A small cat could not jump out of there even if the lid was open. And Bale had closed the lid. Lola was trapped in there for fifteen hours. If it had been a hot day—an absolute rarity here in Britain, I grant you—Lola could have suffocated in the heat. Realistically, if the outside temperature had been above 75°F, Lola might not have survived. Plus, the obvious scenario of being emptied into the rubbish truck and crushed by the packer cannot be ignored or discounted if the trash collectors had come by at any point during those fifteen hours.
People have boycotted the branch of the bank at which Bale works, so she's likely to be fired. It's also likely that the RSPCA will prosecute Bale for animal cruelty.
Now, I can understand why Facebook would take down a page entitled "Death to Mary Bale." I don't think Bale deserves vigilante capital punishment for her act. But I doubt whether most people making threats against her were serious about it. It was intended to make Bale realize how despicable she is. I agree whole-heartedly with one man who'd written, "Mary Bale needs to be head-butted several times." Bale is the sort of po-faced, arrogant-looking person who should be head-butted on general principle, but for trapping a cat in an enclosed space and disrespecting the cat's owners in the process? Most definitely. Head-butted, sucker punched, a brick through her window: whatever works, karma-wise.
Now then, if Mary Bale crossed the line with her "joke," so did some of those who were rightly outraged by it, and that's a valid argument.
My problem here is with Facebook for being hypocritical. If free speech was so paramount that they allowed the Raul Moat dedication page to flourish—it was eventually taken down by the page's creator, not Facebook itself—and did not see the violent threats inherent there, then how exactly do they justify taking down the anti-Mary Bale page? Discussing the decision to remove the page, a Facebook spokeswoman said that moderators would remove anything deemed to be a "credible threat."
So exactly how was the Raul Moat "Legend" page any different? How the hell did that not constitute a "credible threat"? Did they not notice the surfeit of threats against the cop that Moat disabled?
It's enough to know that Bale will pay a severe price for her horrible behavior at the hands of her employers and the RSPCA, and that's how the Andrews-Manns want it as well. "Now that the police know who she is, I think people should leave it to them and the RSPCA and not take matters into their own hands ... I don't like her, but it needs to be dealt with properly," said Stephanie. (The RSPCA will probably act, but the police certainly won't because they're useless.)
Fair enough. But I just have to wonder if a fan page dedicated to Josef Fritzl is doing fine and dandy under Facebook's selective free speech policy. Again, I'm too afraid to look for myself.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Civil rights outrage

At the Lincoln Memorial today, conservative commentator Glenn Beck is to kick off a rally entitled Restoring Honor. Tea Party devotees have flocked to Washington, D.C. in their thousands to hear Beck's speech and participate in the rally.
But, lo and behold, a little something a rally-supporting blogger wrote has caused a stir. The "Tea Party: One Lump or Two?" blog cautioned rally attendees to avoid certain areas and subway lines in Washington and asserted that certain immigrants in the city, such as Arabs and Africans, should not be engaged in conversation.
Bruce Majors, the blogger in question, responded to charges of racism by asserting that all he did was post links so people could get an idea of what areas of Washington should be avoided. "My suggestion to any visitors to DC this weekend is to check these URLs and learn what is safe and what is not. All the Liberal hatemongering aimed at visiting citizens to DC is crap. Even the DC police think the Green Line is dangerous," Majors wrote.
Also, it seems that the point behind mentioning the African immigrants in Washington, despite what those civil rights activists currently crying foul have to say, was about respect for their sensitivities rather than fear-mongering.
"As a rule, African immigrants do not like for you to assume they are African-Americans," Majors wrote, "and especially do not like for you to guess they are from a neighboring country (e.g. Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia) with whom they may have political or military tensions." Majors' point would appear to be that well-intentioned people sometimes say things in ignorance that can be deemed offensive, so conversation with certain immigrants, who don't yet understand the average American's puppydog-like curiosity, should be kept to a minimum.
It's hard to fathom how either piece of advice could be considered racist. But, of course, as far as the liberals are concerned, if we don't give an African immigrant a friendly slap on the back while saying, "Hey, my brother, where you from? Somalia?" or if we're not willing to place our total and complete trust in our fellow human beings no matter what sort of neighborhood we find ourselves traversing, then we're racist and a threat to civil rights.
Because you do realize that if you're not skipping down the street in a "disadvantaged" neighborhood, handing out lollipops to everyone you see on the street, you're as bad as Hitler? Don't you?