Monday, March 31, 2008

Like Father, Like Son

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that this fellow is in a pickle. His name is Max, and he is the four time president of FIA, which is the sanctioning body for Formula One racing that our European cousins are so enamored of. It's a high dollar production that makes NASCAR look like a barn dance in Illinois by comparison.

Well, you say, what's the problem with Max?

Simply that he was videotaped reporting to a London bawdy house where role playing was part of the ....ahem.... services. Max, for his part, was dressed up as a prisoner and the sluts were dressed up as Nazi interrogators and they gave old Max quite a hiding. The video's pretty interesting, and there's a link to it in the article.

What makes this story a noteworthy one? Max is the son of Sir Oswald Mosley, one time pal of Adolf Hitler and leader of the British Union of Fascists, a/k/a the Silver Shirts.
The apple, it seems, never falls far from the tree, and it is more proof, if it were ever needed, that evolution is a dead end.

Phil Sheridan On Improvised Explosive Devices

General Sheridan was an aggressive fighting man who was that rarest of birds in his day, an infantryman who commanded cavalry. He did rather well at it and a fair number of Confederates probably regretted the day he crossed their path.
What's this have to do with anything, you ask? How could it be cutting edge information?
Well, read on. It's from his memoirs.
Sheridan served under General Meade in the Army of the Potomac, and Meade insisted on issuing orders and movements to Sheridan's cavalry divisions, which brought matters to a showdown in which Sheridan opined that he could whip General J.E.B. Stuart's famed Confederate cavalry if Meade would let him, but since Meade wouldn't, Sheridan was going to issue no more orders to his troops. Meade went to his commander, Ulysses "Sam" Grant and complained about Sheridan's impertinence and mentioned that Sheridan had said he could whip Stuart. Grant said "Did he say so? Then let him go out and do it."
Meade did a complete about face, cut Sheridan's orders, and that is exactly what happened in the battles around Yellow Tavern, Virginia, where Stuart met his maker on the field.
Sheridan's troops were moving down the Mechanicsburg road on the south side of the Chickahominy River at around 11:00 at night on 11 May, 1864, and the Confederates had mined the road with IEDs-improvised explosive devices in the form of cannon shells connected by trip wires across the road.
Sheridan directed that the IEDs be removed and brought up Confederate prisoners to crawl forward on their hands and knees, feel for the trip wires, follow them up and defuse the IEDs. When the prisoners disclosed that a local Confederate sympathizer was the author of the devices, Sheridan ordered that some of the IEDs be placed in the sympathizer's basement under his house set to explode if the enemy came that way, while the sympathizer and his family were held as prisoners overnight, presumably so that they would be unaware of the little surprise that had been set for them.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Turning Out the Lights, or, What Really Happens When You Close The Refrigerator Door?

We're told that for an hour or so the other night the world was going to turn out the lights to show concern for global warming.

At first I thought there was something wrong with a certain operating system because the Google screen came up black. Then I thought that the half of the world that has electric light had taken leave of their senses because they haven't cared much about the other half as near as I can tell. But nevermind.

I think it is admirable, and if I ever meet anyone who really and truly does not understand that wasting resources contributes to-well, wasting resources, I'll be sure to tell them.

Imagine all the energy we saved in that one out of 8,760 hours that compose an average year-this one's 8,784 because of leap year. That's nearly a tenth of a percent if everything everywhere got turned off, which of course it did not.

I wonder why we need an event to understand it. Mother always said "Turn the lights out when you're not using them", and anyone who's had to pay an electric bill recently also has what Father called a "keen grasp for the obvious".

In a way it is emblematic of the superficiality of our age, that we are more interested in email chain letters of the "Send this on to one hundred people and you'll save the harp seals but if you don't, eternal damnation shall befall you!" type as a substitute for actually thinking things through, figuring out what we can do and putting a plan into action, much less sitting down and sending out a check or showing up at the next city council meeting-heaven forbid!

What it is is a species of ersatz concern that probably yields an evanescent sense of moral superiority to the believer: "You didn't turn out your lights for an hour, you anti global warming schmuck! We, on the other hand, care deeply."

The picture by Reuters is of the Detroit skyline. I suspect it is as dark as it is because there was nobody there to pay the bills and the thieves had already made off with the copper wire and light bulbs.

But who am I to judge my fellow morons?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Smells Like ENRON, Doesn't It?

The New York Times informs us this day that the fickle finger of culpability in the collapse of New Century Financial-a house of mortgage plungers that became a house of cards-is pointed straight at the accountants.

It seems that KPMG, rather than being something of a restraint, connived in suggesting accounting practices that could mask New Century's financial rot-at least until the smart money bailed, which is probably what happened. Some folks in KPMG hoisted the storm warnings, but they were taken down by partners who didn't want to lose a paying client.

In the event, New Century went tits up last year in the first stages of the sub-prime mortgage collapse.

One of my old man's frequent observations on mankind was "That sonuvabitch doesn't know the value of an honest dollar." It wasn't until I was out on my own, working in factories and mills and in the cab of a wrecker and underneath VW Beetles and behind the counter of an auto parts store that I understood it in terms of sweat and cold and dirt and oil and mashed knuckles.

The old man knew. He'd grown up in south Florida during the Depression on a boat and didn't live on dry land until he went away to college-where he worked and ROTC'd his way through MIT. He learned the value of a dollar through heat and fish guts and shooting rabbits with a .22 for dinner and catching rattlers for Ross Allen at five cents a foot. He never forgot it either.

I really do think that there are a lot of people who could learn a lot by actually seeing and feeling what it takes to earn money, rather than by moving it around through legerdemain and sleight of hand.

Right now there's no connection.They've forgotten Yahweh's admonition to Adam:
Still thou shalt earn thy bread with the sweat of thy brow, until thou goest back into the ground from which thou wast taken.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Obama and the Gauleiter

We're given to understand that Barack Obama is to give a major policy speech this morning, partially because of the contretemps that has brewed up over the intemperate rantings of the former pastor of his church.

It's bad. It's really bad. No amount of parsing his words and talking about the role of preachifying in the traditionally black churches can mollify the abrasive and hostile words he's expressed.

We've heard that he served as a Marine, and that his words are not to be taken literally. But there's the problem of what he's said. There's just no excuse for saying mean, nasty, ugly, hurtful things, even if it is from a pulpit.

He's no more permitted to use his pulpit to advocate such things than Father Coughlin was entitled to besmirch his calling.

How Obama reconciles all these things will determine the trajectory of his career and presidential aspirations.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Weekend At Bernie's

The International Herald Tribune informs us this day that Bernard Kouchner, one time practitioner in digestive endoscopy, has opined recently that as to America, "the magic is over".

While we're not entirely sure what that's supposed to mean, we think that the good doctor is preaching to the choir, because that's what they expect to hear in his part of the world and he didn't want to disappoint.

I'm going to studiously avoid all the canards, japes and rough jesting that the French have unjustly suffered at the hands of a bunch of rude backwoodsmen and yahoos hereabouts.

I will merely say that if I was the Tom And Louis Show over at Airbus and that those unmagicked people had just handed me a contract worth $40 billion, I might see if there are some unemplyed Irishmen with knowledge of kneecapping to get this guy out of circulation for a while.

It's not so much that Mr. Kuechner is not entitled to his point of view, or that it isn't shared by a lot of people that rubs us the wrong way. It's the casual disrespect that grates.

I mean, he could have gotten up in public and said "George Bush is wrong and Iraq was a horrible blunder." and I'm quite sure that a lot of us would have agreed with him and reminded him that the electorate here is striving manfully to remedy all that.

But stating your mind to your associates and even people you think a lot of in an open and frank discussion and casually insulting people in public are two very different things, even if you go on and try to establish a factual basis for what you've just said-which is sort of establishing your cause after the fact. It's akin to post hoc ergo propter hoc logical fallacy in a way.

Perhaps, like some other folks, Kuechner was looking for another fifteen minutes of fame in the way that so many others have trod.

Well, nevermind. What's said is said, and people will remember the bad smell of this when he comes around looking for something or other .That's the view from here.

Mother always said if you can't say anything nice it's best to say nothing at all. I'm guessing the lesson was lost.We've no shortage of horse's asses in politics here-Steve King for one-and that's why we can easily recognize them when we see them.

Photograph courtesy of the French Embassy

World's Most Expensive Loo?

Reuters informs us this day that the fine folks from the great nation of Japan have ventured into space with a laboratory module attached to the International Space Station. Price wise, it was no slouch either, costing the taxpayers a cool $2.4 billion, although they probably could have got a deal on today's exchange rate

Mr. Yokoyama, deputy manager of the project said it was a memorable day for Japan's human space flight program.

So what's so funny?

Simply that the Japanese module thusly attached is named "Kibo", which is slang for a portable toilet here in the midwest.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

And Now, For Something Completely Different

Here's a couple people who are very important, and they point to a very important principle and it is one that I have tried to live up to, and that is to never give up on anyone.

These fine folks are my son Jay, who is serving as an Army medic, and his daughter Victoria.

The Slow Bomb Part 3

The Slow Bomb Redux: Ferraro and King Weigh In

The Chicago Tribune tells us this morning that race is becoming an issue in the Democratic primary season.

To which we here at the Dougloid Towers collectively said "Well, duh!" I mean, it's always been there, it's just been a matter of who would choose to make it a defining issue. And it was the Clinton campaign which did it, in South Carolina and now at the hands of Geraldine Ferraro.

The rest of the article goes on to say that Geraldine Ferraro resigned from the Clinton "campaign" (and I use that word advisedly) but she's intent on using her fifteen minutes of fame to spew her venom, all the while giving that li'l ole fig leaf of plausible deniability to Mrs. Clinton. All of which points to the utility of having throwaway flunkies to do your wet work for you.

Maybe Ferraro had a point about gender and race and nomination, but she lost it for us when she dropped the Slow Bomb into the crowd.

The Tribune also points out that there's a segment of southern white male voters in the old Confederacy that will not vote for Obama if he's the candidate because of his color. They'll defect to McCain.

What they aren't underscoring is that these voters will probably vote for McCain anyway, because they don't like women either. Aside from voting in the primary they're lost to the Democratic party anyway.

As an aside, the existence of a place, in the words of Tom Lehrer , where "old times there are not forgotten, whuppin' slaves and pickin' cotton" merely points out that there are few things in life worse than bad ideas that refuse to die.

Our own resident Klansman Steve King, not to be outdone, has opined that if Obama is elected the terrorists will be dancing in the streets. It's so absurd that the offensiveness of his remarks is outweighed by their pathetic nature.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Meet Me In St. Louis, Louis? I Don't Think So.

These are a sampler of what I snapped through the windshield of the pickup on Monday, and it was not the worst of what I saw. If I'd had a little more time I might have come up with some real doozies. The whole place makes Camden look like the vacation spot of the western world, and it compares favorably with Dresden circa 1946.
I have invited my spouse to give me a quick lethal injection if I ever get the idea I want to move to St. Louis.

The Slow Bomb

Once upon a time I heard a witness describe a particularly nasty accusation as a 'slow bomb'-the first thing it does is kills those nearest to it.

That's what the injection of intolerance adds to any political campaign, and it reinforces the good judgment of the electorate in that Geraldine Ferraro was never given a seat one heartbeat away from the presidency.

"B-b-but Sparky!" you say. "What ever are you ruminating about this morning?"

Two things, my little friend. The first is, of course, the odious nature of the remarks that Ferraro injected into the present political season, kinda like Doc Mengele injecting a particularly nasty bacillus into an unsuspecting arm.

The second and more sinister aspect of this is the tendency of the Clinton campaign to use people associated with it to make outrageous remarks in public that play on bigotry writ large, at the same time preserving the candidate's plausible deniability.

What did she say? Well, it's something she's said before, about other candidates.

According to Frank James of the Baltimore Sun she said back in 1988 the following, referring to then presidential candidate Jesse Jackson:

And former representative Geraldine A. Ferraro (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday that because of his "radical" views, "if Jesse Jackson were not black, he wouldn't be in the race."

So what's the connection with the present silly season? Well, she hasn't changed a whole lot.

Here's what was printed in the Daily Breeze, composed of equal parts of resentment, victimness, and a sense of being done in by the male power structure that typifies some aspects of the Clinton campaign. It's the persistent "the bastards did it to us again" feel of the thing that makes me gag.

I think what America feels about a woman becoming president takes a very secondary place to Obama's campaign - to a kind of campaign that it would be hard for anyone to run against," she said. "For one thing, you have the press, which has been uniquely hard on her. It's been a very sexist media. Some just don't like her. The others have gotten caught up in the Obama campaign.
"If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position," she continued. "And if he was a woman (of any color) he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept."

Shame on you, Geraldine Ferraro. You've had your fifteen minutes of fame.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Famous Frauds and Charlatans

The Los Angeles Times sums up the revelations about a book that was recently released to approving reviews, only to be found out to be a complete fabrication.

The book's "Love and Consequences" and it purports to be the biography of a mixed race girl raised by a black foster family in south central Los Angeles with all the horrible stuff that happens. Turns out the author's really a 33 year old white woman from Oregon who may not ever have gotten within hailing distance of a real live negro.

It brings to mind other frauds perpetrated by people with book deals in hand: "A Million Little Pieces" comes to mind. So does Kaayva Visanthwan's "Opal Mehta" ripoff (imagine-an unpublished teenager netting a half million dollar advance?), the Emily Davies contretemps that netted her a cool $900,000 and Jayson Blair, fired by the New York Times for plagiarizing with mad abandon.

There are others. The stakes are high, of course.

A professor at the law school I attended produced a law review article that proved to have borrowed heavily from an unpublished manuscript from a fellow in Minnesota and it cost the professor his cushy job. A graduate of the University of Iowa law school had his degree cancelled and lost his law license over plagiarism.

What happens to those who don't get caught straight off the bat? They spend the rest of their lives looking over their shoulders, I guess.

I'm always in awe of the chutzpah these folks display.

Who Would You Want to Answer The Phone At 3:00 AM? UPDATE

UPDATE 1: From the New York Times:

" On the argument of which candidate was better prepared to protect the nation – an issue Mrs. Clinton raised with the advertisement featuring a telephone ringing in the White House at 3 a.m. – Mr. Obama suggested that Mrs. Clinton has not explained why she would be better prepared to take such a call.
“It’s important to examine that claim and not just allow her to assert it, which I think has been going on for quite some time,” Mr. Obama said. “What exactly is this foreign experience that she’s claiming? I know she talks about visiting 80 countries. It is not clear, was she negotiating treaties or agreements, or was she handling crises during this period of time? My sense is the answer’s no. I have not seen any evidence that she is better equipped to handle a crisis. If the only criteria is longevity in Washington, than she’s certainly not going to compete with John McCain on that.” "

The electorate of three states have spoken, more or less, on that very subject. In doing so, the voters stopped Obama from running the table but the overall picture of delegate count is pretty much the same. As usual, the mud flew and some of it stuck for long enough to confound the undecided.

If I have anything to offer to the Obama campaign it is this: In the words of Joe Hill, "Don't mourn for me. Fight like hell and organize."

I know who I'd want to answer the phone at 3:00 am, and it would be the person who's been honest and upfront right from the beginning about the recent war and his opposition to it. That's the person who's not easily confounded by the advice of the experts and listens to his own heart and acts out of his deeply held moral convictions about what is right and what is wrong.

Why's that?

What you get at 3:00 am is likely to be pretty much the same as what you get all day long. Problems aren't different at 3:00 am, and who you are at 3:00 am isn't any different than what they are and who you are at 10:00 am or at lunch. What matters is who you are, and your character- and that's a function of who you've been and where you've been and what you've done all your life. John Gotti at 3:00 am is the same John Gotti at high noon, and that is a fact.

I would not want the person who answered the phone to have a voice in her ear saying "Honey, here's how you should handle this-just like we did with Whitewater, Monica Lewinsky, Web Hubbell, Vince Foster, Paula Corbin Jones, Gennifer Flowers, NAFTA, I didn't inhale, impeachment, late night cruising down in the law student slave cabins and the odd suicide, and the trip from dreary southern-bourgeois Fayetteville to D.C. You can handle it, dear, just like we've always done. Stonewall it and scare the dickens out of people. They're morons and they'll forget about it."

When you lie down with dogs, you'll almost always get up with fleas.

I also do not want the person answering the phone at 3:00 am to say "OK-one hundred MORE years of war should take care of it. While you're at it, say something about gay marriage-that oughtta keep 'em busy." and then roll over and go back to sleep.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Dewey Defeats Truman Part Two

I guess the Malaysian Sun's stock rose quite a bit, as the news is that The Northrop-Grumman-EADS-Airbus combine got the tanker project we talked about down below, against all expectations.
It's quite a season for underdogs this year.
Congratulations are in order. I think we all sincerely hope that the Mobile, Alabama plant will be more than the Potemkin Village I suspicion it to be.
Maybe Airbus will find that being in the dollar zone in the country that invented commercial aviation and knows more about it than anyone else is a nice place to be. And I hope that our colleagues in Europe will see their way through to buying American-it's good business, we've got good products, and the price is right.
The folks at EADS have been given a huge vote of confidence by some of the toughest and most persnickety people in the world. That says something-although they have yet to meet AFPRO and NAVPRO inspectors, which should prove interesting and informative.
The hard facts are, we wouldn't be having this discussion if there was any competition from a domestic builder, which points to the damned foolishness of letting Douglas go down the chute. It seems our military doesn't like monopolies any more than any one else.
Deconstruction has its drawbacks, and Boeing didn't help things any. This one was theirs to win and they blew it.
Here at the Dougloid Towers, all we've got to say to Jean and Luc and all the other rivet bashers and tank rats in Toulouse is, "Come on in. The water's fine, and there's great barbecue down the road."