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December 31, 2010

Now it’s “Don’t Fight, Don’t Resist”

Now that “don’t ask, don’t tell” has been repealed, many elite universities are rethinking their opposition to allowing the military’s ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) back on campus given that the argument that the program is inherently discriminatory no longer applies.

However, Colman McCarthy, a Founder and Director of the Center for Teaching Peace, an organization that does not operate in a world dominated by Nazi fascists, believes otherwise, writing that:

“…schools have legitimate and moral reasons for keeping the military at bay, regardless of the repeal of ‘don't ask, don't tell.’ They can stand with those who for reasons of conscience reject military solutions to conflicts.”

Presumably one of those “reasons of conscience” would be the willingness to allow the enslavement of human beings to continue in the southern half of the country while the north rejected military solutions to the conflict and instead examined the “complex role of culture in peacebuilding and conflict resolution” and the “historically grounded conceptualizations of culture, core patterns of cultural differences in values and beliefs, interpretive frames, and specific conflict intervention approaches in terms of their cross-cultural applicability.”

That probably would have worked (although it would have left Ken Burns making documentaries on Fussball and Jarts).

Besides, McCarthy finds ROTC coursework to be “laughably weak” in contrast to the rigor found in his favored fields of academic study such as “peace studies, women's studies, black studies, and gay and lesbian studies,” the graduates of which ensure that the nation will always have a steady supply of desperately needed waiters.

It should also be pointed out that McCarthy is not “anti-soldier” in the least. Rather, he points out:

“I admire those who join armies, whether America's or the Taliban's: for their discipline, for their loyalty to their buddies and to their principles.”

Whether those principles are to, say, individual freedoms and liberty or to a policy of “don’t tell, don’t get stoned to death.”

(It has something to do with interpretive frames and cross-cultural applicability.)

All McCarthy is trying to say (that ability to speak freely being the product of a country that decided to challenge totalitarian communism with something other than historically grounded conceptualizations of culture), is that the elite schools must:

“…rise above the foul idea that nations can kill and destroy their way to peace.”

The luxury of that position being provided by the 300-plus non-elite schools that choose otherwise.

J.

December 31, 2010 at 01:16 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 30, 2010

You Know How an Addict Swears to You That He’s Off the Stuff? He’s Lying.

As many readers know, Congressional Republicans have taken the lead against earmarks, with incoming House Leader John Boehner going so far as to call on the President to veto bills that contain them.

No doubt you see this as a victory for the notion of representative government in that we finally have a political party that has heard the voters loud and clear and demonstrated they are serious about banning the distasteful and corrupting practice of earmarks.

Of course, the voters didn’t say anything about “lettermarks,” or “phonemarks,” now did they? Because those are still going strong!

Now before you get all outraged that lettermarks and phonemarks sound like the same thing there is an important distinction that sets them apart:

They are largely done behind closed doors and without the transparency and openness of earmarks.

So there’s that.

How do these work?  Rather than placing an appropriation in a bill, a Congressional representative instead sends a letter or makes a phone call to an agency strongly “suggesting” that they allocate part of their budget towards funding the construction of, say, a Lint Museum in his or her home district.  This suggestion is made much in the same way “Fat Tony” from the neighborhood would make the suggestion that maybe you need to buy insurance from him to guard against the potential hazard that someone might accidentally douse your place in kerosene and light it on fire ifyouknowwhatimean.

And if you’re getting ready to start writing your Representative demanding an end to lettermarks and phonemarks, we have one word for you:

Twittermarks.

The core problem is the strange practice in which the federal government acts as a middleman, collecting money from everyone, taking a cut, and then giving the money back to the various localities.  Eliminating this would mean that local and state governments would have to carefully weigh the benefits of various projects given their more limited borrowing and spending capacity, and the people would have a much closer relationship to the real costs and burdens of many government programs.

Which could very well put that Lint Museum in jeopardy.

Sorry, that’s just our libertarian crazy talk again. 

Now, about those Twittermarks…

J.

December 30, 2010 at 11:31 AM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 29, 2010

Isn’t This How We Got Here in The First Place?

A rule proposed by incoming Republican House leaders that would create greater accountability for the spending of federal transportation funds has united a “diverse coalition of business groups and unions,” in opposition including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Trucking Association, the Laborers International Union and the Associated General Contractors of America. 

These strange bedfellows no doubt come as a surprise to many readers given that labor unions have long lobbied the federal government for money and favors for their members whereas business groups have typically been more interested in lobbying the federal government for money and favors for their members. 

And yet, somehow, these two very different groups have found a way to put aside petty partisan rancor to make sure they both work together to lobby the federal government for money and favors for everyone. 

Well, everyone but you.

The problem with the new rule, according to people who stand to benefit from maintenance of the status quo, is that it would “make annual federal highway and transit investments subject to the whims of the appropriations process.”

Think about that: The spending of your money would be decided by your elected representatives governing with your express consent and giving voice to your interests and concerns and not some formula that automatically funnels money to businesses and union members!

Clearly, that would be unworkable, and so as “No Labels” advocates, these groups were able to look beyond archaic, impractical ideologies, such as “not wanting to bankrupt the nation” and instead find a middle ground that they could agree on.

And if business and labor can move past their differences and unite to recklessly spend your money, can’t Republicans and Democrats do the same?

You bet they can, but only if they are willing to work together.

BIPARTISANSHIP

J.

December 29, 2010 at 10:08 AM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

December 28, 2010

Heartwarming Stories of the Holiday Season

It’s that time of year when people seem to be willing to give a little extra of themselves, to try to rise above the din of everyday life and do some good, and so we thought we’d share some heartwarming stories of the season.

Heartwarming Story #1: The students of Battlefield High School in Haymarket, Virginia, wore zany Christmas-themed sweaters, sang Christmas carols, showered students with small 2” candy canes as they arrived for morning classes, and were accused by administration officials of attempting to “maliciously maim students with the intent to injure” given the fact that “candy canes are weapons because you can sharpen them with your mouth and stab people with them."

In the end, the students were given disciplinary referrals and detention for creating a “disruption.”

Hey, they gave them a break.  It’s Christmas after all!

Heartwarming Story #2: Of course, candy canes and other sweets are one of life’s simple pleasures, an inexpensive treat to lighten the burden of an otherwise hectic day, a temporary oasis of calm that, like most things, are harmless in moderation.

Which is why they must be banned.

That, according to the St. Paul, Minnesota School District which spent the days leading up to Christmas preparing to implement a plan to create a “sweet-free zone” during the school day, banning "sweet, sticky, fat-laden [and] salty treats” from school premises

Back when I was in high school many years ago… okay, many decades ago, we had a student-run convenience store on site that sold may of the same sweet, sticky, fat laden and salty treats being banned by St. Paul school officials and yet there were very few overweight kids, strongly suggesting that access to Twizzlers probably isn’t the root cause of today’s obesity problem.  So why ban the treats anyway?

We’re thinking, “Christmas miracle!”

Heartwarming Story #3: Finally, there is the story of two men who, upon seeing a deer trapped on a frozen river rushed to its rescue, ultimately freeing it and seeing it to safety.

Like all such stories, these two selfless men were recognized for their heroics by government officials, and by “recognized,” we mean “fined $90 for not having the proper floatation devices.”

But that’s not the end of the story. Colonel George Johnson of the Baltimore Natural Resources Police reviewed the reports and decided to play Santa Claus and give out an early Christmas present.

Not to the brave rescuers, but to his officers on the scene, standing by their decision to pedantically issue the citations.

Merry Christmas, guys, you deserve a break, given your tireless efforts discouraging individual initiative and punishing good deeds wherever they might be found!

J.

December 28, 2010 at 09:14 AM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 26, 2010

Snowpocalypse Interruptus

Just to give you an idea what it’s like to live with Washington DC weather forecasters, here is an actual timeline of the changing winter storm predictions (screen cap below). Keep in mind that this is, literally, a forecast for THE NEXT DAY:

Snowpocalypse Interruptus

The summary:

December 25, 7:35 PM: Winter storm warning!  6 to 7 inches! Drive only if it is absolutely necessary! Listen to your radio for emergency information! Watch for signs of frostbite!  Aaaaagggghhhh!!!

December 26, 3:00 AM: It now appears that the storm will be smaller than anticipated locally.

December 26, 2:00 PM:  Ummmm, never mind!

In other news, the 54,750-day forecast calls for a 100% chance of rising sea levels unless we immediately reorder our entire way of life.

UPDATE: I got back to the Washington area today.  What comes below "dusting" in terms of snow accumulation?  "Talcuming?"  "Nanoing?"  Wait, I know:

"Zeroing."

J.

December 26, 2010 at 10:11 PM in Weekend Leisure | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 24, 2010

Weekend Pictorial – Christmas Lawn Decoration Edition - 12-24-2010

SCI: Snowman Crime Investigation

Snowman Crime Investigation

Mrs. Snowman burn the turkey one too many times resulting in an ugly domestic violence incident?  A Christmas drug deal gone horribly wrong?  Or did a snowman merely slip on a puddle of water left by… well, his feet? You make the call!

Holiday Mashup

Holiday Mashup

Okay, I get the mailbox in the middle.  I get the stocking full of presents on the very far left.  And I sort of get the penguins playing the drums.  Sort of.  I mean, yeah, it’s the South Pole, but it still evokes a wintery scene.

Giraffa Clause

But the giraffe in the Santa outfit?  That I don’t get.

It’s "Certified!"

Its Certified

In order to qualify as a “Certified Wildlife Habitat” you must demonstrate to the National Wildlife Federation that your yard provides local fauna with the three essentials of life: Edible native plant life, a reliable source of water, and festive multicolored Christmas lights.

Well, that and $20 will get you certified.  And yes, the sign extolling your superior virtue is extra.

He’ll Go Down In Obscurity!

Reginald

Rudolph’s less-well-known twin brother, “Reginald, the Broken-Legged Reindeer.”

Tannenbaum May your Christmas be merry, your holidays joyful, your Festivus cathartic, and your Druid celebration free of excessive law enforcement intervention!

J.

December 24, 2010 at 06:04 AM in Weekend Leisure | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 22, 2010

Putting the “Cry” Back In “Christmas”

The Office of the Attorney General in Rhode Island this past weekend held its annual “Let’s Make Children Cry Just Before Christmas By Taking Their Toys Away” holiday bash in which parents force their kids to feed their toy guns into the gaping maw of a mechanical monster the better to witness their beloved playthings being destroyed before their eyes.

And that’s how Rhode Island officials put the “Ho-Ho-Ho” back in “Holiday!”

Of course, the point is not to make children cry, it’s to instill in them at an early age an abiding suspicion of absolute authority and its power to arbitrarily seize private property without recourse.

You know what? That doesn’t sound right either.

The reason for the program is to “raise awareness of the dangers of playing with guns, real or fake.”

One of those dangers being that someone will take your gun away and destroy it.

(And we would like to be on record as noting that as far as the Danger-O-Meter goes, you’re going to want to highlight the danger of real guns with your kids first.)

In exchange for giving up their toy guns, children are given new non-violent toys, such as dolls, stuffed animals, and other plaything popular with little girls.

Overall the program succeeded about as well as most gun buyback programs, in that people gamed the system to their advantage by running out and buying a cheap gun for their children to turn in for a present.

Still, as Diane Levin, professor of education at Wheelock College, said, police and parents coming together to destroy toy guns sends a powerful message to children, that message being that large institutions will always seek to consolidate their authority by confiscating the means of resistance from those who…

We’re never going to get in the proper spirit of the thing, are we?

No, the message is that progressives care so much about children that they are willing to do what it takes to smash their toys and take them out of their happy meals.  

So this Christmas, show that you really care.

Grab a kid’s toy and smash it!

J.

December 22, 2010 at 10:55 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 21, 2010

We’re Saved!

It was like the Surrender at Appomattox, Armistice Day, and VJ-Day, all rolled into one.

Yes, just a few short days ago, President Obama signed into law the CALM Act:

"Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act"

At least now you know what all the excitement was about.

The CALM Act is meant to address the practice of advertisers who make the volume of their commercials louder than the programs they are on.

As Senator Charles Schumer put it

“TV viewers should be able to watch their favorite programs without fear of losing their hearing when the show goes to a commercial.”

Indeed, how many Americans have lost their hearing already due to loud commercials? 

Okay, none, but there is a larger principle at stake here.

As House sponsor Anna G. Eshoo explained:

“The CALM Act gives consumers peace of mind, because it puts them in control of the sound in their homes.”

And the only real way to put consumers in control of the sound in their homes is to put the federal government in control of the sound in their homes.

Specifically, the bill requires the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to adopt regulations that ensure that:

(1) advertisements accompanying such video programming shall not be excessively noisy or strident;

(2) such advertisements shall not be presented at modulation levels substantially higher than the program material that such advertisements accompany; and

(3) the average maximum loudness of such advertisements shall not be substantially higher than the average maximum loudness of the program material that such advertisements accompany.

We know what you’re thinking, “These guys have heard of Tivo, right?” 

Also, “It’s about damn time the federal government got involved in making sure advertisements aren’t excessively strident.”

“And no, we don’t really know what that means either.”

Of course, the FCC will still have to specifically define terms such as "excessively" and "substantially," as our lawmakers don't like to get all bogged down in actual law making.

As of this morning, the FCC was still noting on its web site that: “Manually controlling volume levels with the remote control remains the simplest approach to reducing excessive volume levels.”

Loud Commercials 1

Leaving aside the fact that remote controls don’t have stridency buttons, here in America we never take the easy way out.  As President Kennedy might have said:

“We choose to regulate the sound level of television commercials not because it is easy, but because it is hard.”

Okay, that doesn’t make any sense.  It never did.  But it helps if you’re really handsome and have a Boston accent.

You might say that what with Internet video getting set to surpass traditional TV and the near-universal adoption of remote controls, this law, regardless of its original merits, comes kind of late, but that’s not the point.

The point is that it is absolutely essential that at a time when the economy is struggling to grow and federal budget deficits are spiraling out of control, we put in place a law that requires the private sector to spend money on activities that don’t produce anything, and the federal government to spend money making sure the private sector is spending money on activities that don’t produce anything.

Now that we know the threshold at which federal intervention is both appropriate and necessary, we suggest immediate action on the following petty annoyances and aggravations in need of regulation:

The CLEAN Act

“Cups with Lipstick Eradication And Neatness Act”

Make it illegal to put a cup away if it still has lipstick stains on it so as to ensure that when someone goes to grab one he or she doesn’t have to go all “eeuuw, yuck” about it.

The RESPECT Act

“Remove Everyone’s Shoes Please to Ensure Clean Tracks”

Make it a federal crime to track mud and dirt into someone’s house. The definition of “mud and dirt” is expected to run 30 pages with 17 different classfications for acceptable particulate diameters, viscosity, and color.

The COURTESY Act

"Coffee Out, Universally Required To Ensure SupplY Act"

Prohibit taking the last cup of coffee and then leaving only a little bit at the bottom of the pot and making like you don’t have to make a new pot which is totally rude.

J.

December 21, 2010 at 05:16 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 20, 2010

Study: Fox News Viewers less likely to support Democratic Party Talking Points

A groundbreaking study released by World Public Opinion.org last week found that people who view Fox News are less likely to believe everything the White House tells them.

For example, the study asked participants:

Is it your impression that most economists who have studied it estimate that the stimulus legislation:

Caused job losses
Saved or created a few jobs
Saved or created several million jobs.

Fox News viewers primarily chose the first two answers despite the fact that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) determined that it saved or created millions of jobs.

Well, not “determined” in the sense that they looked at any actual data, more like they “determined” in that they just kind of assumed it happened.  

In other good news, many more regular MSNBC viewers agreed with the CBO’s rigorous making up of numbers.

In another question, respondents were asked whether it was thought that the health care bill would reduce the deficit, and surprisingly, despite months of the President telling them so, more Fox viewers refused to believe that a new multi-trillion-dollar entitlement would reduce the deficit.

Unbelievable!

Seriously, that’s unbelievable.

Inspired by World Public Opinion.org, we decided to expand on their study to find out how regular Planet Moron readers would fare in their answers compared to those who rely on the other news outlets.

The results:

Do you think that most scientists believe that:

Fox News – Climate change in NOT occurring.
CNN – Climate change IS occurring.
MSNBC - Climate change IS occurring and it’s Bush’s fault.
Planet Moron – That reminds me, do you guys have any ice? I need to freshen up my drink.

Presently, the economy is:

Fox News – Getting worse.
CNN – Staying the same.
MSNBC – Getting better, no thanks to Bush.
Planet Moron – You know what you guys need? An icemaker. It doesn’t have to be fancy.  Just a tray in the freezer would be an improvement.

When TARP was voted on, most Republicans:

Fox News – Voted against it.
CNN – Were split.
MSNBC – Voted for it because Bush made them.
Planet Moron – I think I know the problem here.  You guys don’t drink, do you? Because if you did, you’d have a freaking half-decent icemaker.

You made us proud.

J.

 

December 20, 2010 at 04:21 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

December 19, 2010

Weekend Pictorial – Coffeehouse Beverage Edition – 12-19-2010

While digging through my coffee cupboard (yes, I have a cupboard dedicated to coffee, and yes, my wife is very tolerant) I came across a sample packet of instant coffee I must have picked up free somewhere: 

 
Coffeehouse Beverage
 
“Naturally and Artificially Flavored Coffeehouse Beverage Mix.”

Could you be more noncommittal?  “Naturally and artificially flavored” pretty much covers all the bases as far as flavoring goes. It’s like telling a friend that a movie was both good and yet at the same time had Megan Fox in it.  And they are cautious not to specifically describe it as “coffee” but rather the broader “coffeehouse,” as if they wanted to leave open the option of including powdered cardboard insulator sleeves, or freeze-dried smugness.

However, “beverage” is defined as anything you can drink.  So that’s at least somewhat reassuring.

Delightfully Foamy Nevertheless we are promised that “The sweet taste of vanilla bean perfectly balances this light and creamy latte. Delightfully foamy.”

 

Delightful Dipotassium Phosphate Perhaps it’s the delightful dipotassium phosphate, which we are informed “is often used as a fertilizer, food additive and buffering agent.”

 

It’s a fertilizer and a buffering agent!!

I can only speak for myself, but when I go to a coffeehouse for a delightfully foamy beverage, I always insist that they not skimp on the dipotassium phosphate, or as regulars refer to it, “di-pot,” as in, “I’ll have a skinny half-caf, double di-pot latte.”

Mmmm Mix Just LIke A Real Coffeehouse Piping Hot Cup of Beverage Mix But there’s no need for all that bother. All you do is pour the powdered mix into a mug, add hot water, and before you know it, it’s like you’ve just been transported to your favorite local coffeehouse except they just poured a powdered mix into a mug and added hot water which makes you think you probably don’t need to leave a tip this time.

So how did it taste?

Let's put it this way, you don't go to your ten-year-old's Christmas pageant and walk away complaining that the production values were "amateurish at best."  Judged only on its own merits, as a powdered “coffeehouse beverage,” it was fine.  Judged as an actual latte, not so much.

In other words, you probably wouldn’t want to go out of your way to buy it, but if you stumble across a free sample pack, it's drinkable.

(Every man has his price.  Mine is "free.")

J.

December 19, 2010 at 04:16 PM in Weekend Leisure | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack