Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Thursday, June 6, 2013

D-Day; the Sixth of June

I had few minutes today and went to Ann Althouse's blog.

I found something I had to share.

I haven't heard this speech in almost 30 years. I surprised it is still available to view and listen do. I definately puts the lie to the notion that current president is a great orator.

Or even an orator.

Today is D-Day; 69 years on, not 40. President Reagan's words still ring true and should remind us that there is no such thing as a Peace Dividend. Yes, we can call this an Era of Peace and cut our military spending, just as every nation but Germany and Japan did between the two World Wars, and we will wind up in exactly the same place the world did in 1939.

I usually spend a few hours on this day to watch The Longest Day; the 1963 movie about the heroes of D-Day. That will be postponed until tomorrow night.

I also think I will start adding President Reagan's speech to my D-Day itinerary. Great words, honoring greater men.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Where I Have Never Gone Before

Ever since I got Netflix a few years ago I have been slowly working through the Original Star Trek TV series. Right now I think I have 2 episodes left. It is easy to see why the show was so popular in certain circles.

It is also easy to see why there was no season 4.

First; the popularity. I yet to find an episode without a half naked woman. This has to be the sexiest show on TV in 1967. Every show also had at least one fight sequence, usually hand to hand, but occasionally they would just 'blast away' at each other. And, in the era when we are just starting to send men into space for a few days trip to a celestial body we could see nightly, The Enterprise was traveling at the speed of light to places we could not.

Despite some classic episodes, the writing is very uneven. Somehow the story lines in some cases either haven't aged well or were junk 45 years ago. In one of the last episodes appear the Space Hippies. Was there some well-received social message in 1968? Maybe. But if there was it was long gone by 2013.

And then there was the physics.

Why is it that most alien planets seem to be able to violate at least one law of physics? Or maybe in the future we will be able to repeal some of Newton's Laws? Except that it always seems to the lack of a law of physics that enables the aliens to be a step ahead of our intrepid crew.

Either that, or the super computer built 200 years ago that has been powering the planet (without maintenance, to the point where the inhabitants don't even know of the computer's existence) that gives them their power.

Each episode also followed the 1960's formula; balance the drama with a bit of humor, throw in a musical number or two occasionally, and a fight scene every week whether we need one or not.

In Season Three they added the philosophical musing. I don't know if they were trying to go in a different direction or felt secure enough in their audience to become preachy; and these musings are preachy.

I haven't become a pure 'Trekkie'. I can't tell you the author of every episode or go into the reason why Spock pushed the wrong button on his science console in episode 6 of season 2.

But I can tell you that Spock and Kirk drove a 1928 Packard V-12 in the episode where they run into a planet full of aliens who acted like it was 1930's Chicago.

But that's cause I'm a car guy.

Still, over all the series has held up well 45 years later. The dialogue is sometimes a little stilted, and you can tell they used the very best cardboard for some of the sets. AND WHY DOES EVERY DAMN THING ON THE BRIDGE HAVE TO CONSIST SOLELY OF FLASHING LIGHTS!?!?!?!?!?! That, and the noise the redlight below the view screen seemed to make I would been stark raving nuts before the end of season three.

So maybe that's why there was no season four....

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Drones, Revisited

Rand Paul, my junior Senator from Kentucky, was in the news again this week; apparently for advocating drone strikes inside the USA, on American citizens.

Well, that's what the media was saying anyway. All the while managing to squeeze in the word hypocrite as many times as they could. Senator Paul has a slightly different position, as you can imagine. After all; this is the man who filibustered for 13 hours against the Obama Administration on that same topic.

Senator Paul said on a show on Fox that: "If someone comes out of a liquor store with a weapon and $50 in cash, I don't care if a drone kills him or a policeman kills him".

Here is the detail that makes this a non-news, non-event; detail that the folks wanting you to believe Senator Paul is a hypocrite hope you don't hear about.

Rand Paul used that exact same phrase in his filibuster. He has drawn a very bright line between the use of a drone as a law enforcement tool and its use as an assassination tool. The liquor store scenario shows that a drone, much like the bomb squad robots, can be used as a law enforcement tool to keep cops out of harm's way. A technology that, to the best of my knowledge, doesn't yet exist.

Small wonder- I agree with the Senator.

If someone is leaving a liquor store- or any place- they have just robbed, guns blazing and stolen cash in hand, law enforcement has a duty to protect the rest of us from this menace. Whether the cops protect me with their sidearm, their shotgun or the yet-to-be-developed urban drone, I don't care. This is a 'hot' situation, requiring instant reaction.

Let's say our bad guy gets away somehow, although the police have a description of him. 6 months later this same yet-to-be-developed urban drone spots our unindicted, but known, felon eating lunch at a patio table at your local Rally's.

And pumps 3 slugs into him; making him a former unindicted, but known, felon, now known as the recently deceased.

Do you see the difference in these two scenarios?

I would have no problem with eh Administration flying a few armed drones into a situation- like say the Benghazi Embassy attack- and dropping a few combatants.

But I would have a problem with them dropping those same combatants a few weeks later while they sitting at a cafe enjoying some spring sunshine.

The difference is all about when we can allow the use of lethal force as a substitute for a trial by jury and a legal- and possibly non-lethal- punishment.

Take for example the recent Boston bombing. The cops had a gun fight with the two bombers, and killed one. They searched for and found the second bomber, and now know where he is. Can the Boston PD walk into his prison hospital room and shoot him? Would that have been justified in shooting him instead of arresting him when they found his bullet-riddled carcass hiding in a Watertown backyard?

Of course not. It's the difference between an active situation requiring an equal reaction and a simple arrest.

So why should the use of drone technology be considered differently? Technology makes us more able to control a situation; it doesn't remove our moral or legal restraints from the action.

Rand Paul is once again on the right side of the issue, leaving the Democrats sitting on the wrong side, and being forced to defend their poor position as best they can.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Miranda Rights

Have you ever heard of a fellow called Ernesto Arturo Miranda?

Probably not. Ever heard of Miranda v. Arizona?

Again; probably not. But you have heard of Miranda Rights, or the Miranda Warning. Especially in the last week. But what are they, exactly, and why are they 'read' to a suspect? And why is the the fact they are read or not important to the Boston Bombing Case?

First; we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights (do those words sound familiar?) Those rights are enumerated in the Bill of Rights. Some of us will never need to know about some of those rights; they only come into play when we become involved with the government in a possible discreditable nature.

In English? When we get busted.

If you have ever watched a cop show you know the drill: You have the Right to Remain Silent (anything you say can and WILL be used against you in court). You have the right to an attorney (one the state will pay for if you are broke enough). And of course, the first piece of advice from your mouthpiece is SHUT UP.

Here is where the Miranda Rights come in on Live Bomber (as with all mass murderers, I will not name either of them; for sake of difference they are Dead Bomber and Live Bomber). We want to know some things; things only he and Dead Bomber knew. Once we have Mirandized him, if he tells us how this action came about, and maybe admits to a few more crimes while he is at it, we can use that information in court. It is to his benefit to follow the sound (and expensive) advice of his mouthpiece and shut up.

If he isn't Mirandized, then we can act on the information in all cases but the defendant's. He hadn't been told that we could use the information against him, so we can't use it.

In practical application, let's say that Live Bomber says he was part of a larger conspiracy and names names. If he states that information before he is Mirandized, then we can find his conspirators and charge them, but not him, with the conspiracy. Same information after he has been read his Miranda Rights? Then we can round up the gang, AND add a conspiracy charge to Live Bomber.

This is why the decision to read him his Miranda Warning was a poor one, provided he has his right mind. Who in their right mind wouldn't lawyer up and shut up? Information we might have obtained if we couldn't have used it against him now can and will become a part of the case.

Granted, I think we have enough to fry Live Bomber and send him to where ever it is he has earned in his God's eyes. He couldn't incriminate himself anymore than the photos and other physical evidence has. We can't fry him twice; who cares what else he could incriminate himself in?

This is Massachusetts for crying out loud. They may not fry him for the murders and the maimings, but they will for not filing an Environmental Impact Statement before he set off the bomb and polluted the atmosphere.

Here is the other problem with our Constitutionally protected inalienable rights: Live Bomber is a United States Citizen and entitled to all of the rights every other citizen has. Considering that he has blown the oath he took into as many pieces as he has his pressure cooker, and considering what he is charged with, I'm not happy about it.

But I would rather have him acquitted than I would have a precedent set of trying him as a foreign national.

Sometimes Justice is not pretty. Sometimes the rights of the one must be seemingly misused in order to save the rights of the many.

I hope it doesn't happen in this case.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Spring Time Chores

It took me 5 hours to mow my yard today. Not all of the time was spent mowing.

Most of it was spent in that time honored Spring Ritual: Cussing the mower.

This was actually the second time this year I have mowed the grass. The first time I had to unstick the float so it would get gas. Today I had to change the plug and clean up the magneto so it would get spark.

And then clean the carburetor again.

Fire it up; mow ten minutes, spend 45 minutes working on the @*$%@^$* thing. Clean up and repeat the process.

Three times; and then it was fixed, and I mowed the last three-quarters non-stop.

You may have noticed I talked about mowing the yard, not the lawn. I say that because I don't have a lawn; I have a yard.

A lawn is tended; weeded, sprayed and fertilized.

A yard is played in, trod on and bare in spots. Just like the mutt dogs that run in them, the grass in yards is 57 varieties. I don't know what varieties; I just mow it. And throw some cheap grass seed in the bare spots every now and again. The bag says fescue and bluegrass, but it could be crabgrass and dandelion for all know. Or care.

The kids, grandkids and dogs will just run it bare again in a few weeks.

And in the mean time I'll have to mow it.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Boston Marathon

For years to come the Finish Line will be a place of horror. Because of the memories.

As Acts of Terror go, this was a small one 3 dead and a few hundred wounded and/or maimed for life.

As I write that line it reminds me of how accustomed we have become to Acts of Terror, mostly from outside our shores. Bombings in nightclubs and restaurants in Israel leaving dozens dead and hundreds wounded. Bombings in police stations and bazaars in Iraq, leaving dozens dead and hundreds wounded. Bombings in town squares in Afghanistan, leaving the same number of fatalities. The Philippines; Indonesia; England; France and Belgium; all have felt the sting of the terrorist weapon of choice.

To us; they are numbers. We cluck our tongues at the evil loose in the world, and continue with our day. Unless the count includes X number of Americans. Then we care.

Monday the count was Americans first, other nationalities included. Among the dead a Chinese national; among the wounded a Saudi student. There are most likely others, names we will learn in the course of things. But, as with every terror attack, we are most concerned with the American dead.

Why so few deaths? Luck. The attack took place within yards of a staffed medical aide station. Medical professionals expecting to treat a little dehydration; a little exhaustion; maybe a pulled muscle or a cramp or two now had to deal with a missing leg, not a leg cramp. They went from being a part of a race to racing the specter of death; calmly stepping up to the challenge.

Now its our turn. You won't hear this from the administration, but this was a salvo in the ongoing War of Terror. Not the War on Terror; the War of Terror; the one Islamist have been waging since the Carter Presidency. The one we ignore, until we can't. The one we fight, when we absolutely have to. The one that hides in the shadows, until it explodes across the face of our nightly news.

The one that has the goal of killing American civilians.

Monday they succeeded. Innocent lives, snuffed out or changed forever, just because they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. A cliche- and I hate cliches. But what else can you say about an enemy who only attacks at random times and places? Not military targets; not drawn battle lines, but soft targets; targets of maximum pain; targets who didn't sign up to be targets; targets who shouldn't be targets.

Like 8 year-old boys, who are one minute waiting to take the hand of their father, after a long run, but instead are grasping the hand of The Father, after too short a run.

Our problem is how do we fight a enemy who has no county; no flag; no home base?

In short: we can't. We need the places where they are based to fight them for us; our friends in the Middle East. But since the Arab Spring those friends are few and far between. Egypt has fallen; Iraq and Afghanistan we have lost or will lose. Libya too.

We need to fight this war on two fronts; at home and abroad. Abroad we need to hunt down not just the Terrorists, but the governments that give them refuge. That may sound hard, but in a lot of ways that is the easy part.

The hard part will be at home. How can we welcome new flavors to our Famous Melting Pot, while protecting ourselves from the poison they may be? Can we welcome the Arab shopkeeper on the corner, who looks just like the member of Al Qaeda we are accusing of planting a bomb up the street?

Is the Iman praying in the back of the plane waiting to perform an act of terror? Or is he here to escape the terror in his homeland, and just afraid to fly?

Boston will do just as every other Act of Terror has for the last 35 years; create dozens of hard questions.

Where do we go for hard answers?

Friday, April 12, 2013

Friday Night

I saw the headline: Consumers suing Budweiser, and thought it was about the fact that they consistently mislabeled it as 'BEER'.

But, no; they are just complaining about the alcohol content. Well of course they are.

Who would drink Budweiser for the taste?

Okay; so maybe that was a little snarky.

But in my opinion Budweiser just isn't a good beer. Hell, it ain't even a good CHEAP beer. 

As I write this I am drinking a Leinenkugel's Snowdrift Vanilla Porter. Now THAT'S a BEER!

Ahhh... Friday after 5:00. The weekend had begun, and I am joining it.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Do Emission Standards Equal Horsepower?

Amazing how, at times, a simple article can start a massive discussion on several other, tangentially related, topics.

Take this post over at The Truth About Cars. Starts off with a rant from a used auto dealer about the deals he has missed because his county still has emission control checks.

Then it sways into the difficulty of diagnosing a glowing Check Engine Light, and the various ways to defeat, where it is legal to, the emissions systems.

And then swings off into the Constitutionality of Emissions checks as opposed to emissions systems, with a swing back to whether the checks and the systems themselves serve a public purpose, and should be a legitimate function of government.

Wow; that's a lot of territory.

Ya wanna know what I think?

Of course you do; you've read this far, haven't you?

Back in the day of the big block engine with points and a carb we re getting about 10% of the power of the gasoline to the road. The rest didn't burn, and washed into the oil or trickled out the exhaust pipe.

Yep; we was polluting. Part of the advances in emissions have lead to less gasoline being a pollutant, and more of it being turned into horsepower. That's how you can have a Ford Focus with 420 horsepower. These systems have also become more reliable. Fuel injection is not new. Automakers experimented with it in the 1930's. Chevrolet had a production FI unit in 1957.

But they were about as reliable as $3.00 watch. So the idea was shelved until it had to be revived.

Not that I think the current state of automotive technology is solely the result of emissions standards. Physically engines could only get so big in an automobile; 500 cubic inches was about all there was. New ideas had to be developed to squeeze more horsepower out of a drop of gasoline. The technology that was developed would have been developed where there were emissions standards or not. Maybe not as quickly, but it still would have been developed.

Things would have worked just like all the others advances had; high end manufacturers would experiment and develop; the mid-level would  produce thousands of units, and the consumers would do the road testing for a few years until the bugs were worked out.

Without emissions standards would we have street legal cars pushing 600 horsepower? Oh yeah.

The market would have demanded it, and the automakers would have made it happen.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Workin' Fer a Livin'

I have been working in my new office for the last few days, and in the beautiful weather outside have been a couple of guys who do the maintenance on the building. I have worked with them both before, so I know them well enough to kid around.

Which of course I did.

But I was only half kidding.

One part of me wanted to be outside in the warm weather, using power tools and breaking a sweat.

But then I regained my sanity. Doing things like breaking up an old concrete wall, building a form and then pouring the new wall is fun, when it is a hobby, around the house. But I guarantee you it would get old in a hurry if it was your real job.

Especially when the weather turns for the worse, like it's going to do Friday. Working in the 75 degree sunshine is a lot more attractive than working in the 55 degree rain.

And I do have a job I can brag about. Not my real one, although I can and do brag about it, I had a plumbing job to do the other night, and it went very well.

My eldest boy and his wife bought a new washer and dryer, one of those fancy new front loader sets, and they didn't connect properly with the old hook ups. So we had to do some work before the new set went in.

They have a nice sized laundry room, but it was laid out funny. There was a shower in the middle of the longest wall (an el cheapo thin plastic thing that was install by a Hobbit. Had to have been; the shower head was only 5 feet off the floor.) This we removed, unceremoniously. But we saved the copper pipe. It took a few minutes to bust up the concrete they poured under the plastic pan, but even then it only took about 20 minutes to remove all traces of its existence.

Then we reconfigured the old piping so we could use it to connect the washer. Cleaning up the old copper was the hardest part, but even so we we ready to sweat the joints in about an hour. And that hour of labor saved us 30 bucks in copper pipe. It Pays to Recycle sometimes.

Sweating the joints took about 5 minutes, and then we turned on the water. No leaks anywhere; that is a job to be proud of, when reusing old pipe and old fittings.

The drain was easy; 10 feet of PVC and a couple of elbows. Done!

Then we turned to the electric for the dryer. Moving the outlet was more time consuming than we figured. The wall was concrete block, and in drilling for the new screw holes we hit a rock, and burned up the masonry bit; damn the bad luck. Another run to Lowes for more bits.

Then the hard part; moving the old set into the garage and then the new set into the laundry room. We got everything into position, hooked up and running and called it a night. In 5 hours we removed the old appliances and the junk shower, ate dinner, ran to the store for supplies, re-routed the hot and cold water lines, ran a new drain and moved the electrical outlet for the dryer and moved in and hooked up the new stuff.

Not bad for a couple of guys playing around after work. And yeah, I know a pro would have been done before we got back from our first trip to Lowes.

But then I wouldn't have had the fun of watching my grandson watch me sweat a joint and then look at me all wide-eyed and say: "Pappaw plays with fire!"

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Hi; Remember Me?

Well, based on my recent posting schedule I'd say its time for my April post.

Yes, that is supposed to be self-deprecating humor. Or the truth; you pick.

The real truth is that the last few months have been... crazy. I had a son get married, have had some serious changes at my real job- some good and some bad- and have had some other personal issues to bring under control.

When push comes to shove we need to find out which activities have the short straw. It may not always be the activity we want to delete from our daily routine, but sometimes we don't have the level of control we would like.

And there was very little I really felt like blogging about.
Some things have eased, and I am trying to get back to a daily post. It may take a few weeks to ramp back up to my former schedule, but that is my goal.

So; what brought me back to the table today?

This video; found at one of my guilty pleasures, The Borderline Sociopathic Blog For Boys.

What can I say, but WOW.

Science, destruction, cool video shots and hot glass. What more could you ask for in a 6 minute video?

Cool, ain't it?

But, a component of this video is a good example for some other things.

Like the Housing Bubble.

Random activity creates stress in a system. Other random activity will dissipate that stress. Or intensify it.

Take for instance the beginning of that video; the hammer blow to the bulb did not cause the destruction; it was the vibrations set up by the blow, reacting in the other end of the drop that caused the drop to disintegrate almost as a single unit.

The Housing Market disappeared in almost the same way. Things like a weak job market created stress in the market. Folks who bought more house than they could afford added another stress. Folks with loans they couldn't/wouldn't repay added another. Folks owing more than the house was now worth was another stress on the system. Any one of these stresses could have been easily dissipated; a rise in home values; additional jobs being created; the ability for lenders to 'redline' areas or borrowers.

A lot of random actions by a group of random people could have shifted the stress and stopped the meltdown.

Or made it worse.

And, like in the video, sometimes the obvious things are the real cause of the result; there are things going on that we can't see, either because they are well hidden, or because they are happening too fast to separate the cause and effect properly.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Repent! The End is Near!

Oh Crap.

I agree with John Kerry on something.

But, in my defense, I have been saying this for years; he has been living it for years.

And, I'm not sure we both mean the same thing.

Our Constitution, and in particular the Bill of Rights, allows us freedom to be in charge of ourselves. We aren't wards of the State, to be cosseted and controlled.

We can, for fun and recreation, jump out of perfectly good aircraft. We can climb shear rock walls, depending solely on our fingertips and toes. We can jump off of cliffs, and hang suspended by 10 yards of fabric and an aluminum frame.

We have the ability to determine for ourselves what is fun and safe.

Do some of us make bad decisions when it comes to safe and fun?

Indubitably. The phrase "Hold my beer and watch this" comes to mind.

Some also make the wrong decision when it comes to what is recreation, or over indulge in that recreation. Drugs and alcohol in particular. A few beers every now and again isn't a problem. Staying drunk for weeks on end is. But we are allowed that stupidity. We may have family and friends who will work toward making us sober up, but the state cannot intervene without being asked to.

The symptoms can be addressed- public intoxication for example- but the state cannot forbid us from purchasing and consuming alcohol.

That is our right; the right to be stupid.

The Constitution created a limited Federal government, and the Bill of Rights further limited the reach and scope of that Federal Government. Why was that?

Look at two Amendments in particular; the Second and the Ninth.

Take a look at the Aurora, Colorado shootings. One person in that room had weapons. That person became the one in control. He alone determined who would leave that room unscathed, wounded or dead. Everyone else had been disarmed, by law and custom, and were, barring random chance, at the mercy of the armed shooter. He was in control, and it was the weapon (a weapon held illegally) that gave him that control.

The Second Amendment hands us the ability to be in control of our own destiny. We can use that weapon to hunt and feed ourselves. We can use that weapon to defend our lives and property. We can use that weapon to defend our liberties, just as the men who wrote the Constitution had done.

The choice is ours. We determine what is worthy of defense; which life, which property, which liberty.

We also have the choice not to arm ourselves. To choose not to defend our lives, our property, our liberty. To submit to the control of a cosseting government; to surrender our labor to the government for a doled out share of health and wealth. a share not determined by how hard we work, but by a far off bureaucrat, more interested in our political worth and reliability.

But that would be stupid, wouldn't it?

The Ninth Amendment also limits the power of the Federal government; reserving to the individual all of the powers not reserved to the Federal government.

And believe it or not, not withstanding a lot of.... Well; most of the recent activity in Washington, the Federal government did not retain the right to act with acute stupidity.

I have no idea what Kerry meant by his statement, but I do know what I meant by mine. 

We may have used the same words, but I doubt we really had the same meaning.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

UFOs Don't Exist Either

Two things I seem to remember from last years election; One- the entire election would be determined by Hamilton County, Ohio; and Two- there is no voter fraud.

Having spent many hours trying to figure out how Obama got re-elected (I admit I am probably the guy who has caused the shortage of Maker's Mark. Obama isn't only a good gun salesman- he has also increased the sales of hard liquor) I think this video answers a lot of questions.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

How Much Did You Miss Yesterday?

Was yesterday a bust-ass day or what?

Half a dozen bloggable things happening and I, to use my Dad's phrase, felt like death warmed over.

I'm a little better today, but not by much. Now I'm only a near death experience warmed over.

Rand Paul hit Hillary rather hard yesterday, didn't he? Not hard enough, but still, harder than anybody else did.

And he's right. We not only no longer keep score in kid's sports, apparently we no longer keep score in government.

Who was responsible for the four deaths in Libya? What  is/will be their punishment?

What are we doing to make sure this does not happen again?

All questions that should be asked and answered.

But won't be. We don't want to ruin somebody's career over a little thing like this, now do we?

Even Hillary's. She will bail on the job of Secretary of State- a 'post turtle position' for her for sure. And don't even get me started on Kerry's "QUALIFICATIONS"- and retire to her estate in New York or somewhere, and start showing up at shopping malls and diners in Iowa in a couple of years.

And no one will ever mention it was her inadequacies and errors that cost us the lives of 4 Americans, including an Ambassador.

And then we have Biden hinting he will be in the running in 2016. Why? is he looking for another 4 years as Vice-President?

And last, but by no means least, we have Leon Panetta stopping on his way out the door as Secretary of Defense to announce the end of the ban on women in combat roles.

Really? Talk about dumping a hot mess into the lap of whoever is next Secretary. Who is the current sacrificial lamb? Is it still the RINO Hagel? But that description even gives RINO's a bad name. When was the last time we actually had a Democrat as Secretary of Defense? The middle of the Clinton Administration? 20 some years ago?

Why don't any Democrats want the job? Too much responsibility? You can lose a few diplomats an still keep your job. Lose a dozen young men and there is Hell to pay.

And of course they won't change the standards; any woman wanting a combat MOS will need to meet the same standards as the men currently do.

Yeah; that'll last. Only until the first batch of 250 women wing up producing 5 qualified applicants.

Three of which who will withdraw when they break a nail.

And then watch the race to the bottom.

I'll be blunt; I have never served in a combat unit. But I have served in the military, and I have seen what happens to a group of young adult males when a few women have been dumped among them.

It ain't pretty. The men lose all control and the women gain it. And nobody can resist following their instincts to protect the weaker sex.

It wasn't just in the military; I saw it happen in the workforce too. Not as pronounced- because the folks are older, in general- but still the same jealousies and conflicts.

Comparisons will be made to the integration of the services during the Truman Administration. Some of them may be valid, but I really doubt there were breakdowns in unit cohesion because the new arrivals stopped dating one fellow soldier and started dating another, or a breakdown in discipline because of an over protective attitude toward the black unit member.

Hopefully we can start reversing the damage before it's too late.

But I am starting to have my doubts.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

January 20, 1973

A date that will live in infamy; at least in some circles.

A tortuous decision, Roe v. Wade, in which the decision was made, and then the law was found to enforce it. Or maybe found in certain 'emanations from penumbras'.

Ann Althouse, whose blog is a daily stop for me, has a post up on the decision. Ann is a law professor, so her opinion on Conlaw should carry some weight. But in this case she, and the court are wrong.

I won't fault their finding of a right to privacy, or their finding of a limitation on state action when it comes to the individual. Both correct.

But they incorrectly protect the wrong individual.

In his opinion Justice Blackmun seemed to have trouble determining when life actually begins. I don't have the same trouble.

Life begins at conception.

Unless you can prove to me that the product of human sperm and a human egg can somehow grow into a duck.

Why is that so hard? Why couldn't the esteemed Justices figure out that there is a second individual involved in every pregnancy, just as human as the mother, whose life has the same right to legal protection as the mothers?

Is that life worth as much as it's mother's? Absolutely. Once you start assigning comparative value to a human life you have started down a road toward lessening the value of every human life.

Certain things need a bright, white line; the protection of human life is absolutely THE prime one.

Once a society  has determined that a human life is worth less than a whim decision of another, where do you now draw the line?

Since a 20 week old fetus is not viable, based on its inability to live with out the support of another human, what about a 25 year-old comatose individual, also unable to survive without the care of another individual? Why is the 25 year-old 'worthy' of the care of another, and the 20 week old is not?

Or the 85 year-old grandmother with Alzheimer's;can we consider her viable? She needs constant care individual in order to survive. Can someone's whim decision end her life as well and the 20 week old's?

Ah; I know the response; ANY individual, with the proper training, can care for the comatose or the elderly; only ONE individual is capable of taking care of the fetus; its Mother.

When we say its her baby we don't mean its her possession, like an automobile; we mean its in her charge; her care. The child is a part of her.

Women have been given the most important job in the history of mankind; the production and nurturing of the next generation. Over 55 million mothers in the last 40 years have decided they don't want the job. which is fine.

As long as you haven't applied for the position and been granted the job. It's not one you can quit half way through the contract.

Next objection is always Rape/incest. I can understand why a woman would not want to carry the child of her rapist. The morning after pill exists, and I think this would be an excellent use of it. When a woman reports a rape, a part of the kit is a morning after pill. If the egg has been fertilized, it has not yet begun to grow, and has not become implanted on the uterine wall. It has not yet become life.

But the idea that 6 months later a woman suddenly decides to cry rape because of an inconvenient child... maybe I don't understand what it means to be raped. I can't imagine it would take a woman more than a few minutes to figure out she was, or had been raped.

Incest is another matter. Yes it happens, and yes, an unwanted child is the result. And yes, there should be an exception in the law for the victims of incest. Are they willing to put the father in jail?

As is pointed out in the Althouse comments, abortion was always legal, but not available on demand. Medical professionals needed to determine that the saving of the mother's life required the termination of the child's. As a father, that is a decision I would find impossible to make. Kill my wife or kill my child? A decision I pray I never face.

And yet, 55 million women have easily decided that the cost of having a child was more than they were willing to pay.

And they are free to decide not to have children. Its easy.

Just avoid the act that creates them.

But I suppose that would be too difficult, wouldn't it? Easier to have your fun and destroy the results than not enjoy the fun.

Maybe that is the part of the process I understand the least.

But apparently Justice Blackmun had no trouble.

Monday, January 21, 2013

News From Saturday

Representing: John Noto of Springville, New York holds two signs attacking Gov Cuomo and representing his political views as a Conservative America

Interesting article about Saturday's Gun Appreciation Day.

From England's Daily Mail.

Not is it balances, it actually seems envious, not only of our freedom, but out willingness to express our support for a specific freedom.

Contrast and compare with the article from the LA Times.

Three people were slightly injured of the millions who got together?

Can we make the Daily Mail our newspaper of record?

By the way, I really like the sign on the left.

But that's just me.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Yesterday Was My Birthday

And I spent it well.

First my boys took me out to Frisch's for the breakfast bar. I may have to deny the next sentence when I next see my doctor, but I had half a plate full of eggs with green peppers, onions and cheese; a half dozen link sausages, about 10 strips of bacon, a big bowl of fried potatoes with sausage gravy, a big slice of ham and a dozen big hunks of pineapple and melon. A couple of glasses of ice-tea. Other that the pineapple and melon, I don't anything I ate was on my official diet.

Then we went to get measured for Tuxes for my son's wedding in March. Always fun. Especially when the cute young thing doing measurements asks if you wear your pants on you belly or below it. But then, when it came time to fit a jacket, their sizes must run small. Every jacket I tried on was way too tight. My upper arms were straining the fabric and I couldn't move my shoulders at all. We finally went to a jacket that my fitter claimed would have room at the waist, but finally fit my shoulders, barely.

And we had to fit the Young'un for her bridesmaid dress. Yikes! David's Bridal was a flippin' madhouse. and the prices! between the tuxes and the dresses, the rehearsal dinner and all, I am really gonna have to make a big dent in the open bar just to break even. But I think I can manage.

Then came the fun part of the morning; out to the junkyard. I am still looking for a transmission for my BMW (the damn thing only lasted 250,000 miles; it should have still been under warranty) and I was hoping they would have one. The car I have been waiting 3 weeks to hit yard finally did, but someone had already pulled the tranny. It looks like I am going to have to breakdown and spend some real money on one. I did get a few other pieces that I have been needing but couldn't find, so that was a birthday wish come true anyway. I still can't drive it, but when I do, it will function a little better.

And then I spent about an hour with the grandsons. Always brings a smile to my face. They are truly one of the things that gets me out of bed some winter mornings. Everytime I see them they have gotten a little older, gotten a little smarter and just a bit cuter.

Then it was off to a gaming party with my brothers and a few others. I didn't win anything, but it was fun anyway. I love the games my youngest brother finds. No Monopoly or board games for us on these occasions; Bang, Pit, Citadels, Settlers and the like. Strategy games, with a smattering of luck thrown in just to confuse you. We spent about 6 hours at the gaming table, eating pizza rolls all the while. Another sentence I will need to deny at my next doctor's visit.

Then home, where a 12 pack of Leinenkugel's Oktoberfest was on ice. My youngest son and I popped Smokey and the Bandit into the DVD player and sat and played 500 Rum and watched one of my old favorites. When that ended I had him pick out another movie, and his choice was El Dorado; an old John Wayne Western.

It was a great day; no cake or party (that is today), but I was able to do what I wanted to do and enjoyed every minute.

I can't wait for my next birthday.

Well, maybe that is a bit of a stretch.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Just How Stupid Can One Man Be?

And no, for a change, this post is not about Obama.

It's about this guy. And no, it's not about how stupid it was to break into his former employer's store.

And no, it's not about him wearing a bucket on his head.

It's about the gun. Allegedly the crook said this:

He also said he tried to break into the pawn shop to steal a gun because he was afraid of the possibility of future gun control laws being passed, according to a statement issued Tuesday by police.

He was STEALING a gun to avoid future gun laws?
You just can't make this stuff up.

The Issue is Basic

Who controls your life? You or the Government?

And when Government control becomes oppressive, what do you do about it?

You do your best to vote out the bums, and only the bums change, not the oppression.

Then we turn to the Second Amendment. Do we really plan on defeating the government with our little guns?

Uh, yes.

What were Lexington and Concord about? What was Paul Revere's ride about? Why were an ignorant bunch of Colonials taking on the most powerful military the world had ever known in 1776?

The men who had fought and won the Revolution then entrusted the newly formed government to be in charge, because as Jefferson said, government is a necessary evil. But the new Constitution failed to enshrine some of the basic rights the new country had just fought a 7 year long war for. One side in 1783 reminded us that these rights are God-given, and can't be infringed.

The other side we agree, but put it in writing. That's how we wound up with the first 10 Amendments, commonly called The Bill of Rights.

All of these Amendments are important, but let me call attention to 3 of them; the Second (of course); the Ninth and the Tenth. These rights were so important to the Founders that they were individually named; the same as our freedom of press and expression; freedom of worship, and freedom from illegal search and seizure.

The ability to own weapons is the Second Amendment. Not the last.

The Ninth and Tenth further limit the Federal Government to only the powers enumerated in the Constitution itself, further limiting the power of the government in our lives.

Reagan said it best; Government isn't the solution, Government is the problem.

Take Sandy Hook. It was a 'Gun Free Zone'. A place designated by the government to exclude guns. That sure stopped the shooter there, didn't it? So lets up the penalty for bringing a gun into the zone. The crazy bastard killed himself. What punishment can you craft into law worse than that?

Take a look at ALL of the mass shootings in the last 5 years. For arguments sake lets say there were 15; 3 a year. Say each one averaged 20 dead, and the shooter used 3 guns, each with a 30 round magazine. Damned evil guns.

So we have 45 guns used for evil in very attention grabbing incidents. In a county with over 300 million guns in it. and we have 300 dead; each death a tragedy, but again, in a country of over 310 million people; and these number are just off of the top of my head. The real numbers are considerably less.

But each incident makes headlines, and the folks who don't like guns in the hands of private citizens use each one to ram home there talking points. Never waste a good crisis, remember?

Instead, I maintain that incidents like Sandy Hook only serve to prove the old saying; When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.

Gun technology is a genii you can't stuff back into the bottle. Bans don't work, not just for guns but for anything. Prohibition worked real well back in the 1920's didn't it? The War on Drugs? How's that working out for you? Gun Free Zones?

Yeah, you see the point.

One way I use to make my point about self defense (it's easy for me, at 6-4 and around 300 pounds) is I invade personal space, and then ask what they intend to do about it. Call 911? Why? Because they have guns? Then why not have one yourself?

Me standing in front of you to make a point in an argument is one thing; What would it be like if I was truly hostile?

How long would you be willing to wait on a government response?

Who is in charge of your life?

You; or the government?

23 times ZERO Equals Nothing

I was looking for a list of Obama's 'NEW AND IMPROVED' gun control measures so I could snark.

Instapundit lead me here. And he does teh snark at least as well as I could have, and with absoluteley no effort on my part.

Well, except for the pun in my headline.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Ready for a Little Bang-Bang-Bang?

I want to show you a video. I found it a few minutes ago on the The Borderline Sociopathic Blog For Boys.

Great video. My goal is to make it to the shoot one day. Just as soon as I can justify the thousands of dollars it would cost.

But here's my point, especially tonight, right before Obama tries to outlaw 'Assault Weapons' by Presidential fiat.

During the video the report says something to the effect of "you could kill a lot of people with all this firepower.

Yep. Sure could. Even if one shot in a hundred killed somebody this shoot would have probably killed thousands.

But guess what? Nobody even suffered a wound from these fully automatic firearms. Why was that? because they are in the hands of responsible citizens, not criminals or spaced out victims of modern psychiatry. 

If the guns were evil; if the massive magazines were evil, then this would have been a complete blood bath.

I don't see any blood. All I see are a bunch of folks having a good time. A DAMN good time.

When some body asks why I need a 30 round magazine to shoot a deer I tell them I don't. I tell them I need a 30 round magazine because it's FUN to shoot 30 rounds in a row.

This video proves just how much fun it can be.

Does That Go For My Man Chuck, Too?

The U.S. Air Force on Sept. 18 celebrated its 65th anniversary.

Guess what I just found out. This means all of the Jokes can now stop, right?

You know the ones about how soft the Air Force is?

And now I know where BUFF's get the ability to scare the ground away!

You Can't Do That Here

I don't know what to say. This brought tears to my eyes.

Tears of laughter.

Having spent a year or two as a civilian Federal Employee I can verify that this could happen.

The only thing that surprises me is that a supervisor pulled the write-up. Most of the second level supervision is dumber than the most of the first line supervision.

Here's the other funny part:

Do you think this is the only stupid write-up this supervisor has ever done?

Yeah, I doubt it too.

Here's the unfunny part:

Your tax dollars pay these people.

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Few Good Movies

I watched a few movies on Netflix over the last few days, and although they are genre-wise about as far apart as you can get, they all had a few things in common.

And of course, they were all good stories, competently told.

Sunday a week we watched Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang. Yeah, I know what your thinking. But why do we classify some movies as 'Kids Movies', even though they tell a good, watchable story? Just because they fail to include bare breasts and profanity? Two things that very seldom add anything to the scene or the story.

Of course there are occasions when profanity adds to the story. Yesterday we sat down and watched Planes Trains and Automobiles. Again, a good story, competently- and hilariously- told. There is one scene that, as described by Wikipedia, Steve Martin drops the 'F'- bomb 18 times in one minute. The plot of the movie and the preceding action absolutely required the profanity. In real life, in a similar situation I think the Pope himself would have dropped an 'F'-bomb or two. And the Rental Car Agent's response; simply classic. One of the best scenes of the movie. And, it was the ONLY profanity in the movie, adding to its effect.

Saturday night I sat down and watched McLintock!, an old John Wayne Western. Maybe not as politically correct as some might require- the various scenes of men spanking their women come to mind immediately, along with the frequent drunkenness- a very funny story results. Along with a little commentary on the worth of the political class. A fist fight or two, including a long brawl at the mud pit of a mine, a few minutes of rodeo action, and it all culminates in a 10 minutes chase scene through the entire town.

And last night I was searching Netflix for some thing to watch and saw Force Ten from Navarone. Another good story. How can you beat Harrison Ford fighting Nazis?

Perfect relaxation movies. No demanding plots to follow; no twists and turns to keep track of; no hidden agendas to be mindful of. Just a good story, competently told. And, except for the prior noted exception, no nudity or profanity. you can gather the whole family together for a couple of hours, and the plot and dialogue don't preclude some conversation while your at it.

Like a little action? Check. Comedy? Check. A little suspense? Check. Why is it most modern movies seem to think they can't do several things at once? A suspense drama can't have a few comedy bits; a comedy can 't have a suspenseful section or a action flick has to be all action, all the time. Maybe the directors today aren't as competent as their predecessors, who could move from directing a comedy this year to an action movie the next.

Maybe that's why Hollywood is going into the tank. First they can't find a good story, and then they can't find anyone who can competently tell it.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Zombie Apocalypse is Here

I ran into this article the other day about 'zombie foreclosures'.

Absolutely sickening.

Consistent readers will note that I have had a long term interest in the housing market and the attendant foreclosure crisis. Part of the reason for my concern was situations just like this.

I'll be blunt; the banks in this nations have been getting a legal pass for years in foreclosures, basically because the debtors never fight back. Statistically only a small percentage ever file a response, and it is not the court's job to protect your rights; its your job the spell out those rights and ask the court to enforce them.

Since the debtors rarely have done that, lenders and their attorneys have become increasingly lax about addressing those rights in their own pleadings and official paperwork.

Ever heard of Robo-Signing? Basically, in order to file suit you need an affidavit- a sworn statement- of the facts, and that statement requires the signer to state that they have 'personal knowledge' of the facts they have just sworn to.

Guess what? In some (maybe a majority, and maybe a VAST majority of the)  cases they did not. These sworn affidavits would be signed without  review of the file or any knowledge, much less personal knowledge, of the facts.

Another issue was banks foreclosing on mortgages they didn't legal own. In order to have the power to foreclose a lender either has to have a mortgage of record or a valid assignment of that mortgage of record in the county where the property is located, and usually the county where the foreclosure is taking place.

This was a requirement the courts have only recently- since 2010 or so- been enforcing, by requiring the lender to file a copy of the assignment with the foreclosure complaint. But for years banks were able to process a foreclosure through the Sheriff's sale and taking possession without ever legal proving they had the authority to do so.

So we have been through the robots and now we are on to zombies. One more way for the banks to steal by using the court system.

And why are the banks behaving like this? Well, I can think of multiple reasons.
  1. The Cities and Counties are making the banks maintain the homes they have title to;
  2. The housing market is still collapsing, and the banks know it;
  3. The debt they are owed is well above the value of the property;
  4. The costs of maintaining and selling the property cut into what little profit there is in the property;
  5. The legal risks of owning the property outweigh the benefit of having title;
  6. The legal fees are lower, because they have cut out approximately 40% of the process;
  7. The judgment can be held over a creditors head for years, guaranteeing the creditor or collector will receive some payment.
Cities and Counties. I have some experience in two of the cites named in the article, both in Ohio. In these areas- especially Cleveland/Cuyahoga County- the government is cracking down hard on bank owned property. Some communities are requiring owners to maintain the property in a livable condition, meaning working plumbing and electrical, intact windows and doors and a good coat of paint.

The problem is these communities are incredibly depressed. Property values are basically the based on the amount of copper in the standing structure. Homes are selling for less than $10,000 on a consistent basis. Yet, as soon as the local thieves break down your door and steal all of the wiring and copper plumbing, the owner is required to make repairs. For the second, third or fourth time.

Although conceived as a plan to keep the community livable and to make sure the banks didn't become owners of vast swaths of decaying property, the banks quickly developed a work around. Knowing they held a $40,000 mortgage and a $45,000 judgment, the property would sell for less than $20,000, of which they would realize, after taxes, real estate commissions, transfer costs and the cost of the foreclosure action itself, maybe $10,000. Better to sell the judgement to a third-party collector than actually take the collateral for the debt. This instantly solves items 1, 3, 4, 5 and 6.

It contributes to item 2, but what do the banks care? Housing will depreciate whether they take title or not. Item 7 is the leverage the banks have when they sell the judgment. In most states this judgment will last 10-15 years, and be a lien on any property the debtor owns. They are unable to buy another home; the judgment would have priority the new mortgage, so the banks won't lend, and if they can scrape up enough cash for a home, the judgment can be enforced against the new house. The debt collector will get his money in better than 60% of the cases.

Not that I am against debtor's paying their debts or banks making a profit or taking advantage of a legal procedure. But a long standing process for the repayment of a bad mortgage has been established. It's the reason the property was pledged as collateral for the loan.

But the process of failing to complete the sale of the property is criminal. After all, no law requires these banks to purchase the property at sale. Let the property go to sale, accept the proceeds of the sale to a third party against your judgment and then file for a deficiency judgment for the balance, which they can then sell to the third-party collector.

Then it becomes a better situation all the way around. The debtor no longer has possession of the property; the bank has their mortgage satisfied; the property has a new owner who will start caring for it immediately, which helps the community, and the bank has no liability to assume or portfolio of real estate to manage.

There is probably a very good reason that banks have decided on their current course of action instead of the one I propose.

But I'll be honest; I can't see what it would be.

But maybe because I'm not a bean counter at some Lender or another.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Say Cheese!

I did a post the other day on the changes in the last hundred years on the way music has changed in our lives.

At the same time I was thinking about the ways that photography has changed as well.

Photography was initially developed almost 200 years ago. The process of using light to cause a chemical reaction and create an image was a startling revelation. History could now be documented in real time. As long as history would stand still and had plenty of light thrown on it.

50 years later Matthew Brady would do just that, making hundreds of images of the carnage on Civil War battlefields.

The process has changed sometimes; the chemicals used or the base material. Tintypes are just that- an image created chemically on a metal plate, and glass plate negatives were just a chemical wash on a glass plate, subject to the hazards as any piece of glass is. The modern negative film was the development that put a camera in the hands of the common man. George Eastman was the Henry Ford of photography; Ford put the common man on the road with his Model-T, and Eastman allowed him to photograph the trip.

The images were still; very still. We are so used to micro-second exposure times, but images in the old days took minutes to expose, which is why most old pictures are stiffly posed portraits.

The Kodak Brownie had those same issues; slow film speeds, no adjustable aperture, no flash. Groups didn't gather on the front porch for their health; they needed the light to make sure the picture turned out.

And then once the roll was full, the whole camera was sent off to Kodak, returned a few weeks later with your pictures and a fresh roll of film inside, all set for 8 more shots. And that's when you found out that Aunt Martha had moved during the Easter family portrait.

Cameras became more complex, and those cameras eventually made their way into the hands of the amateurs. Although amateur in this case just meant took pictures for fun, not profit. Film speed had to be set, f-stop, depth of field and focus all had to be right, and heaven help you with color film!

And you had to wait a week to find out if that once-in-a-lifetime shot had turned out.

Unless you did your own developing; tubs of caustic chemicals and very specific timings. Old chemicals, to long or too short in one bath or the other and your negatives or your pictures were ruined.

And then came the Kodak Instamatic with it's Flash Cubes. Point and shoot, inside or out, a (fairly) perfect shot every time. But film and developing cost money; about 6 bucks all told for 24 shots. And you had to wait to see the picture.

Unless you had a Polaroid. Take the shot, catch the picture as it spit out the bottom of the camera, keep it warm in your armpit for a minute and voila! Pictures! Want two copies? Take two pictures. At about 50 cents each.

Kodak and Polaroid were getting quietly rich.

Then came the image sensor; developed by an employee at Kodak, of all places, in 1975. It took 20 years, but once the sensors became cheap everybody wanted one. No film; no developing; no wait pictures. Snap one? Hell no; snap 50. Things not worthy of documenting 10 years ago now became fodder for a battery of images.

And just when the digital cameras thought they had a monopoly on the market, BAM! The iPhone, and now every phone has become a pocket photo studio.

My grandfather took pictures of me and his other grandkids with an Argus 35mm; fully manual, it took some great pictures, once you knew how to operate it, a skill I had just about mastered when I got my first point and shoot digital 10 years ago.

Now my son sees his boys in a cute pose, pulls out his phone, snaps off a pic or two, and texts them to me on my phone.

I think his Great-grandpa would be proud. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Music Makes The World Go Around

 Have you ever given much thought to music?

Today we don't have to; drag out the iPod; pull up a song. Don't like it? Dump it and pull up another. But that technology, through the iPod, is just over 10 years old. MP3? About 20.

Before that we had Tapes; Cassette; Reel to Reel and 8-Track. And of course before that albums and 45s. Or 78s. Or even further back, wax cylinders.

Before that? All music was live.

We have become accustomed to music being a constant soundtrack to our lives; our MP3 players; the radio or CD in the car; muzak piped in the stores and elevators; even coming through our TVs through the miracle of cable. Pandora coming through your flippin' cell phone!

Less than 100 years ago it wasn't so easy. You want a tune? Whistle it. Or Hum it. Or know somebody who who can play it on some instrument or the other. Sure; you could buy a Victrola in 1913; for $75.00. When the average year's salary was $1300. Two weeks pay; give or take a couple of hours. Plus records at a buck or so each. That one song would lose it's novelty real quick.

Dances in the rural areas were a godsend; a reason to get together and music to boot, provided all of the members of the band could get together.

You think a barbershop quartet sounds goofy? Compare it to no music at all. Sounds pretty good now, don't it? Ever wonder why you always see Uncle Ed with his guitar in old family photos? Because he brought the music.

Stop and think for a minute about how dependent we are on electrons for music today, and how few folks play an instrument. Every high school had at least one band back in the day. The official one that played at football games, and there were always 4 or 5 guys banging around in somebody's garage or basement, hoping to play the school dance some Saturday night.

There was also a community to be had when a band got together and a dance was in the offing.

Something that's hard to achieve with a pair of earbuds.


Everybody knows what a placebo is right? A pill or procedure that does absolutely nothing, but we are supposed to be convinced it is working wonders.

Kind of like the Republican Party.

They keep talking a good game- and have since 1988- but accomplish nothing.

They held the House, the Senate and the White House for 6 years.

6 YEARS!!!!

And government got bigger, along with the debt. Abortion is still legal, along with a host of other things they supposedly are against. But it's not there fault. It's the Democrats.

Don't take my word for it; spend a few minutes with talk radio.

I have become convinced that talk radio is our circus, designed solely to keep possibly expatriating Republicans on the ranch. Keep us convinced that the Republicans are doing their best and are deserving of our complete support.

And they cave again.

Just like on the 'Fiscal Cliff', when it comes time for the debt ceiling they will fold with the best of intentions. The debt ceiling will go up, debt will increase, spending will increase and taxes will rise again.

All things we sent them to Washington to OPPOSE.

I have faith in some of the younger members; ones who are now holding their first elected office- like Rand Paul- but the old timers have learned the ropes. When to speak out and when to act. Or not to.

Just start making real noise about a new third party; one to represent the people of this country, not the people and the companies sucking at the government teat, and watch the words fly. The only time most of these idiots can quote Ronald Reagan is when they say one of two things: 'Never criticize a fellow Republican', and 'we don't need a third party; we need a revitalized Republican Party'.

Just about the only two things President Reagan ever said that I don't agree with.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Sometimes a Book is Just a Book

I recently read Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet. I am still trying to make my mind up about the novel in some respects.

Parts were a fascinating read; others parts I found less interesting, particularly the parts that seemed cribbed from a Penthouse Forum Magazine. Every chapter seemed to have a part that should have begun “I really never thought it would happen to me, but…”  The worst part was the end.  It literally felt like the author ran out of enthusiasm for the book and just wrapped it up somehow. Through a thousand pages a given character would act a certain way, with certain motivations. In the last 80 pages all of that went out the window.

Am I glad I read it? Yes. But I won’t bother with the sequel and I won’t bother to read it again. How’s that for a ringing endorsement?

As briefly as the plot of a 1,087 page novel can be described; a small, fictional medieval English Monastery and its village build a cathedral. The book chronicles the arrival of the master-builder to the site and the various political and financial maneuverings that both enable and stymie the construction. That also includes the personal lives of the various characters; the Prior of the Monastery, Prior Phillip; the builder, Tom; his family-children, step-child and wives; the local Bishop and the local Earl. 

This is where I found my first fault; only one or two of the characters were well rounded, even the essential ones. If they were evil; they were never nice to anyone. If they were good, they never had a bad moment. Until the last chapter.

The second fault was the lack of detail on the construction of the Cathedral. For a book about the building, you would think a few of the 1087 pages could be spared for a few details on the actual construction or maybe a description of the various trades involved. But then the author would have had to drop one of the forty or fifty sex scenes that seemed to plague the story. I was beginning to think someone had actually slipped me a copy of 50 Shades of Grey. Based on this book every Cathedral in Europe physically went up without a hitch.

Well, until they fell down. Which, of course, this one did. The primary crux of the story was the change between round and pointed arches; a discussion that took place with minimal interruption of the characters lives and even less explanation of why this was such a sea change in public building. They did discuss how the pointed arch allowed for taller churches with more windows, but more history of development between the round and pointed arch would have been apropos, especially given the pivotal place in the story given to the pointed arch.

Bear in mind, in most communities the Church was THE public building. There were no public halls or municipal buildings like town halls. The Church was the town hall; it was the center of the community and the gathering place for every purpose.

Pillars does reflect that, and in some ways is a fascinating look into Medieval England, in the years immediately following the Norman Invasion and during the period of Anarchy after Henry I death. The history seems to be correct, albeit with our fictional characters thrown into the mix. And one of the fictional characters being thrown into the mix suffers a non-historical fate. But, since he really wasn’t a part of the history, and his fate is almost required by the story, so, no harm, no foul. At least in this case.
But there were a lot of other fouls; illiterate builders use multi-syllabic words; the language itself is not even remotely like Norman English and the characters seem to be able to speak both native English- akin to German- as well as Norman English- very French-like- with equal ease and without fault. There also seemed to be an acceptance of quite a few cultural items without comment, almost as if we should be as familiar with the methods of Medieval Dress and Buildings as we are with modern ones.

These can be written off as poetic license; liberties taken to insure a smooth flow and readability of the story. And I would be willing to agree; if elements of the story itself didn’t constantly remind me of a Harlequin dime romance.

Let’s take the character of Waleran Bigod. When we first meet him he is an archdeacon to the Bishop of Kingsbridge, the fictional location of the Cathedral. His first act in the book is to scheme with the hero of our story, Prior Phillip, maneuvering Phillip into agreeing to support Bigod to replace the current Bishop. Later it becomes evident that the Bishop was already dead, a fact Bigod was hiding from the world. This is just the beginning. Bigod is constantly scheming, lying and dealing, not only as an arch-deacon, but as a Bishop as well. His scheming never lets up, and includes the ordering of the murder of members of his diocese, with absolution granted prior to the act itself.

And then in the last few pages he repents and becomes, almost literally, a kind, saintly old man. Which in itself is not a problem; entire books are based on the reasons behind a character’s motivations for changing himself. But here the motivation is lacking. Maybe it’s there, and I just missed it. But the change is similar to Saul’s conversion on the road to Damascus, without the intervention of the Lord’s lightning.

Set in an era when The Church ran everything, and being ex-communicated was almost a death sentence, only Prior Phillip seems to be truly devout. Monks in the Monastery do their best to avoid devotionals or anything relating to their religious duties and most of the main characters, most of them deeply involved with building a Cathedral, the highest concrete form of worship, seem agnostic at best, and atheist at worst.

As I said early on; it was a fascinating read in parts, and I am glad I read it.

I am also equally glad I didn’t buy it.

‘Nuff said.