Feb 28 2010

The Descent of “24″

Category: media,societyharmonicminer @ 10:01 am

The FOX TV show “24″ continues to go downhill.  Sadly.  It used to be pretty good.

Jack is getting stupider, the writing is getting worse and worse, the setups of personal motivations are more cartoon-like (come on…  this little plot line of the head CTU data analyst having a “secret identity” not found by a background investigation is risible), and the “fight scenes” and “interrogations” even sillier.

Just for example:  imagine you are an experienced FBI agent with undercover missions and considerable experience with violent action under your belt.  Imagine that even though this is so, you are a slender female, who has killed a big, strong man, in self-defense, because you were in fear for your life…  since he had his hands wrapped around your neck and was strangling you.  And imagine that you managed to grab a knife and stab him multiple times, and he has died of his wounds.

Now imagine you are being questioned by a barracuda Justice Dept lawyer who insists that since you stabbed your assailant multiple times (instead of stopping after the first thrust), you must have intended to kill him, not merely stop him.

Do you get all teary eyed and shaky and maybe confess you wanted to kill him for other reasons?  Or do you, out of the wealth of background in violence statistics learned by every newbie FBI agent in the academy, remind the lawyer that one stab rarely stops a determined assailant…  that the assailant had a firearm on his belt…  that even though after a couple hits he went down, he STILL had access to the firearm, was not unconscious, could not be presumed inactive, and, in any case, you were weak and shaky from the attack, and simply couldn’t risk that he could get up again, or get his firearm and kill you.

It’s a little thing.  But it undoes my ability to take the “tense interrogation” seriously, and just makes me want to say, “Are these script writers ignorant, or just stupid?”  TV script writers are mostly ignorant about most things…  they are mostly young, they mostly haven’t had another job, they have mostly learned about the world by reading other novels and scripts, not by reading history and books by people who know what they’re talking about, etc. 

I’m really tired of Glocks with manual safeties, the little “snick” every time an agent merely POINTS a gun that was already in hand and presumed ready for use, the ridiculous scenes where someone is using a pump shotgun and has fired it, and is now searching for the person they want to shoot WITHOUT PUMPING THE ACTION to get another round in the chamber, until they SEE the person, and only THEN do they menacingly work the action…. 

Given the prevalence of this cliche, it’s as if someone in Hollywood has convinced all the rest that the sound of a racked shotgun slide is somehow scarier than one with a round in the chamber, ready for use.  Just as with the cliche of gang bangers holding guns horizontally, I hope anyone seeking to do me harm with a shotgun has an empty chamber.

I’m pretty sure that if this season had been the FIRST season of “24″, the show would not have been renewed, because it would not have attracted an audience.  The new owners of the franchise, who had a year LAST season to learn the ropes, and get it right, have done worse this year.  About the only thing that have done right this year is that at least the terrorists appear to be Islamic crazies (although their Ahmandinejad analog comes off as a more muscular Gandhi), instead of an American corporation…  so there is some realism there.  Of course, they still have the time to screw up the plot line and blame it all on Toyota or something.  The season isn’t over yet.

24 used to make some sense to me.  The motivations of the players made some sense.  Jack was impossibly gifted as an agent, and got away with things no one would, but it wasn’t just simply ridiculous every ten seconds. 

Still, the thing is, Hollywood’s presentation of other matters is no better.  Hollywood’s ideas of how business works, how the military works, how the government works, how the church works, what religion even IS, how journalism works, how the justice system works, how the education system works, how the medical system works, how ANYTHING works, are just so stupid, mostly, that it’s hard not to snicker.  In fact, I suspect the only time Hollywood gets it right is when someone writes a script about the skull-duggery behind the scenes of movie-making.

That would be something they know all about.


Feb 27 2010

Another Democrat Congresscat mad at the media

Category: humorsardonicwhiner @ 12:22 am

It can be really, really dangerous to be an investigative journalist, investigating what Congress-critters are doing behind closed doors.


Feb 26 2010

Running for the hills… or just the parking lot

Category: humorsardonicwhiner @ 9:42 am

So, last week at my university, we had a drill.

The alarms blared, and the entire campus had to evacuate every building on campus and make for the parking lots.  In my group, we were told to make for the sidewalk on one side of the parking lot.

I’m trying to figure out what we were practicing to avoid.

If there was a fire, it would probably affect only one building, not the entire campus.  It’s a big campus.  I don’t think there’d be any reason for us to empty all the buildings, and just make it that much harder for the firetrucks to get where they needed to go.

If there was a sniper or active shooter, running for the outside would seem to make us better targets.  I think I’d rather lock my office door (which is heavy, metal, and thick) and take my chances.

If there was an earthquake, current doctrine taught by the experts is to get UNDER something substantial in the first three seconds, but not to try to run down halls and stairways, get into elevators, etc.  Besides…  would we go stand under power poles on the street when the quake and aftershocks were still happening, or might start again?

If there was a bomb threat for a building… well, I don’t know, but it seems to me that a bomber who really intended to do evil would threaten a particular building, then blow up a car bomb in the parking lot next to it, as soon as the building’s occupants had left the building…  for the parking lot.  Same thing applies if a building WAS blown up on campus…  smart killers will rig a few cars to go about five minutes later.    Sounds grim, I know…  but exactly that has been done in Israel, where bombs have been rigged to detonate within a few minutes of a first explosion, to kill emergency responders, people who think they’re safe now, the inevitable crowd of onlookers, etc.

Gas attack?  Hmmm..   I don’t see how the bad guys get every building on campus that way….  so if some building is attacked that way, as long as it isn’t mine, I’m not sure I think it makes sense to run for the parking lots.  If we’re under serious attack, the same logic applies as above…  gas attack a building, then blow up a few cars in parking lots a few minutes later.

So, I think I’ve decided.  If the balloon goes up again, I’m not heading down the stairs for the sidewalk by the parking lot under the power poles with the rest of the sheep.

I’m going across the street to Jack-in-the-Box, and order a Southwestern Grilled Chicken Salad.  I’ll be safe there, because Jack already blew up Jack-in-the-Box.  I saw it on TV years ago.  I don’t think he’d do it again.  And the terrorists sure won’t, since according to the FDA all that fast food is killing us anyway.  Why interrupt the punishment Allah has ordained for gluttonous Americans?  And let’s not even start talking about poison gas…

Or maybe I’ll just start telecommuting.  But maybe I’ll update Skype first.


Feb 25 2010

The Road Not Taken

Category: freedomamuzikman @ 9:00 am

I have been thinking a lot about the future lately.  In some respects my future now is perhaps more uncertain than it’s ever been.  While pondering the imponderables of what tomorrow may hold, lately I find myself frequently recalling a scene from a Tom Hanks film.  “Cast Away” was made in 2000, and stars Hanks as a man who survives a plane crash only to be stranded alone on a desert island for two years.

The scene I keep thinking about is at the very end of the movie.  Hanks, starting his life over after being rescued, is standing in the middle of an intersection of two country roads somewhere in a very rural part of Texas.  He looks in each direction, his eye following the roads as far as he can see, as he contemplates his future.  He is at a point in his life where he can literally just get in his car and drive in any direction he chooses for as long as he chooses.

I often take my dog for a walk late at night.  Sometimes she and I stop in the middle of an intersection near my home as we return from our walk.  Like Hanks’character in the movie I look in all four directions and try to imagine what it would be like to have the freedom to choose to travel in any direction.  It’s been a very long time since I had that kind of freedom.  For I cannot take any road I choose.  I must take the road that leads to home, to family, and to the life I lead.

I am not complaining.  I am very blessed.  But with age comes family, career, and a host of responsibilities.  And with age comes a life that in some ways offers fewer choices, or… perhaps it’s better to say it is a life made up of consequences from choices past – mostly good, some not so good  – that lead to other choices.

In my job as a teacher I am surrounded daily by very bright, happy, and generally motivated young college students who have their entire lives ahead of them.  As they approach graduation they are nearing an intersection in their own lives.  How thrilling it is for them to be able to travel down any road they like, for as long as they like. I’ll admit a little part of me is jealous. OK, sometimes maybe more than a little.  For I cannot just take any road as they can – most of my choosing time is behind me.  (I think I’m starting to understand the concept of mid-life crisis…)

Young people, enjoy the intersections in your lives.  Yeah, they are scary at first.  But each one is a great adventure, and they get fewer and further apart as you go on down the road.

Ah, that Robert Frost – he was on to something!


Feb 24 2010

Raising African-American consciousness about abortion — at last

Category: abortion,media,societyharmonicminer @ 9:30 am

I’ve commented many times on the Shoah of abortion, and how the enormous injustice of it is especially bitter in inner-city minority communities, where Planned Parenthood and its competitors do the largest part of their business.  This is just about the first time I’ve seen serious mention of black abortion rates in the major media.

The message on dozens of billboards across the city is provocative: Black children are an “endangered species.”

The eyebrow-raising ads featuring a young black child are an effort by the anti-abortion movement to use race to rally support within the black community. The reaction from black leaders has been mixed, but the “Too Many Aborted” campaign, which so far is unique to only Georgia, is drawing support from other anti-abortion groups across the country.

“It’s ingenious,” said the Rev. Johnny Hunter, national director of the Life Education and Resource Network, a North Carolina-based anti-abortion group aimed at African-Americans that operates in 27 states. “This campaign is in your face, and nobody can ignore it.”

Oh, I don’t think NBC, CBS, ABC and CNN will have much trouble ignoring it.

The billboards went up last week in Atlanta and urge black women to “get outraged.”

The effort is sponsored by Georgia Right to Life, which also is pushing legislation that aims to ban abortions based on race.

Black women accounted for the majority of abortions in Georgia in 2006, even though blacks make up just a third of state population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nationally, black women were more than three times as likely to get an abortion in 2006 compared with white women, according to the CDC.

This understates the real jeopardy of African-American children. It isn’t that it’s false, it’s that it disguises the fact that black children are about five times as likely to be aborted as white children.

“I think it’s necessary,” Cheryl Sullenger, senior policy adviser for Operation Rescue, said of the billboard campaign. “Abortion in the black community is at epidemic proportions. They’re not really aware of what’s actually going on. If it shocks people … it should be shocking.”Anti-abortion advocates say the procedure has always been linked to race. They claim Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger wanted to eradicate minorities by putting birth control clinics in their neighborhoods, a charge Planned Parenthood denies.

“The language in the billboard is using messages of fear and shame to target women of color,” said Leola Reis, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Georgia. “If we want to reduce the number of abortions and unintended pregnancies, we need to work as a community to make sure we get quality affordable health care services to as many women and men as possible.”

In 2008, Issues4Life, a California-based group working to end abortion in the black community, lobbied Congress to stop funding Planned Parenthood, calling black abortions “the Darfur of America.”

Pro-Life Action League Executive Director Eric Scheidler said a race-based strategy for anti-abortion activists has gotten a fresh zeal, especially in the wake of the historic election of the country’s first black president, Barack Obama, who supports abortion rights.

“He’s really out of step with the rest of black America,” Scheidler said. “That might be part of what may be shifting here and why a campaign like this is appropriate, to kind of wake up that disconnect.”

Abortion rights advocates are disturbed. Spelman College professor Beverly Guy-Sheftall called the strategy a gimmick.

Is it a “gimmick” to simply tell the truth?

“To use racist arguments to try to bait black people to get them to be anti-abortion is just disgusting,” said Guy-Sheftall, who teaches women’s history and feminist thought at the historically black women’s college.

“These one-issue approaches that are not about saving the black family or black children, it’s just a big distraction,” she said. “Many black people don’t know who Margaret Sanger is and could care less.”

Stunningly, this “professor” seems to think that’s a good thing.  Why are there so many blacks who don’t know about Margaret Sanger’s opinion of blacks, their value to society (not much in her mind), and the desirability of blacks not reproducing?  These people have been VERY ill served by “black studies” programs and “black history” weeks and so on, which should surely include prominent attention paid to a person who wanted many fewer of them, and helped found Planned Parenthood to bring that outcome about.

On the right side of this page, there are some links for you to click. They are Black Genocide, CURE, Issues4Life, and LEARN.  Educate yourself, if this is new to you.  You cannot support abortion-on-demand, or politicians who support it, and care about the future of African-Americans in the USA.


Feb 23 2010

Dvorak meets dixieland

Category: Uncategorizedharmonicminer @ 4:47 pm

Some music students apparently have entirely too much time on their hands.


Feb 23 2010

It is very sad

Category: energy,Obama,Russia,science,space,technologyharmonicminer @ 9:43 am

Charles Krauthammer – Closing the new frontier

“We have an agreement until 2012 that Russia will be responsible for this,” says Anatoly Perminov, head of the Russian space agency, about ferrying astronauts from other countries into low-Earth orbit. “But after that? Excuse me, but the prices should be absolutely different then!”

The Russians may be new at capitalism, but they know how it works. When you have a monopoly, you charge monopoly prices. Within months, Russia will have a monopoly on rides into space.

By the end of this year, there will be no shuttle, no U.S. manned space program, no way for us to get into space. We’re not talking about Mars or the moon here. We’re talking about low-Earth orbit, which the United States has dominated for nearly half a century and from which it is now retiring with nary a whimper.

Our absence from low-Earth orbit was meant to last a few years, the interval between the retirement of the fatally fragile space shuttle and its replacement with the Constellation program (Ares booster, Orion capsule, Altair lunar lander) to take astronauts more cheaply and safely back to space.

But the Obama 2011 budget kills Constellation. Instead, we shall have nothing. For the first time since John Glenn flew in 1962, the United States will have no access of its own for humans into space — and no prospect of getting there in the foreseeable future.

Of course, the administration presents the abdication as a great leap forward: Launching humans will be turned over to the private sector, while NASA’s efforts will be directed toward landing on Mars.

This is nonsense. It would be swell for private companies to take over launching astronauts. But they cannot do it. It’s too expensive. It’s too experimental. And the safety standards for getting people up and down reliably are just unreachably high.

Sure, decades from now there will be a robust private space-travel industry. But that is a long time. In the interim, space will be owned by Russia and then China. The president waxes seriously nationalist at the thought of China or India surpassing us in speculative “clean energy.” Yet he is quite prepared to gratuitously give up our spectacular lead in human space exploration.

As for Mars, more nonsense. Mars is just too far away. And how do you get there without the stepping stones of Ares and Orion? If we can’t afford an Ares rocket to get us into orbit and to the moon, how long will it take to develop a revolutionary new propulsion system that will take us not a quarter-million miles but 35 million miles?

To say nothing of the effects of long-term weightlessness, of long-term cosmic ray exposure, and of the intolerable risk to astronaut safety involved in any Mars trip — six months of contingencies vs. three days for a moon trip.

Of course, the whole Mars project as substitute for the moon is simply a ruse. It’s like the classic bait-and-switch for high-tech military spending: Kill the doable in the name of some distant sophisticated alternative, which either never gets developed or is simply killed later in the name of yet another, even more sophisticated alternative of the further future. A classic example is the B-1 bomber, which was canceled in the 1970s in favor of the over-the-horizon B-2 stealth bomber, which was then killed in the 1990s after a production run of only 21 (instead of 132) in the name of post-Cold War obsolescence.

Moreover, there is the question of seriousness. When John F. Kennedy pledged to go to the moon, he meant it. He had an intense personal commitment to the enterprise. He delivered speeches remembered to this day. He dedicated astronomical sums to make it happen.

At the peak of the Apollo program, NASA was consuming almost 4 percent of the federal budget, which in terms of the 2011 budget is about $150 billion. Today the manned space program will die for want of $3 billion a year — 1/300th of last year’s stimulus package with its endless make-work projects that will leave not a trace on the national consciousness.

As for President Obama’s commitment to beyond-lunar space: Has he given a single speech, devoted an iota of political capital to it?

Obama’s NASA budget perfectly captures the difference in spirit between Kennedy’s liberalism and Obama’s. Kennedy’s was an expansive, bold, outward-looking summons. Obama’s is a constricted, inward-looking call to retreat.

Fifty years ago, Kennedy opened the New Frontier. Obama has just shut it.


Feb 22 2010

A Debt of Gratitude

Category: Boy Scouts,characteramuzikman @ 9:00 am

I spent much of my youth in the Boy Scouts.  Simply put, it was a great experience, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  In fact I think a lot of what has shaped my character can be traced directly back to my Scouting experience.  To this day I take great pride in the fact that I earned the rank of Eagle Scout -  it still appears on my resume, some 35 years later.

I was fortunate enough to be part of a very active Scout troop.  We hiked, we camped, we climbed mountains and floated down rivers, we performed community service and we went to Scout camp. We were out camping at least one weekend every month of the year and a couple weeks during the summer. I was even fortunate enough to travel to other countries as a Scout.  It was a tremendous experience.

But what made the greatest impact on my life was not the camping, or the hiking or the mountain climbing, or any of the other activities.  No, what helped me to mature and to learn about life was being around the men who volunteered to be Scout leaders and to give so selflessly of their time.  Men who often had just 2 weeks paid vacation each year, and regularly spent both of them on a Scout trip.  Men who had wives who must have been angels.

I was blessed to encounter men all along the way who taught me what growing up was all about.  Men who took the time to spend time with boys and to point the way to manhood.  Most I knew just by their first names, some had Scouting nicknames like Jolly, Bubbles, Rock-Ape and Kahuna – names that sound so silly now but seemed to fit the men so well at the time.  In some cases it was years before I actually knew their real names.

It was always a shock to me when I found out what jobs these men had in the “real” world.  They were electricians, phone company linesmen, defense contractor technicians, construction workers, teachers – blue collar workers almost to a man.  Their jobs seemed so small and insignificant, compared to the lives they lead as Scouters and as heroes to me and many other boys like me.   I almost never saw them wear anything but scout uniforms and almost all the interaction I had with them were on a dusty mountain trail or out in the woods around a campfire.  Years later when I would chance to meet one wearing civilian clothes I often thought how awkward and out-of-place they seemed in long pants and a necktie.

These men were not perfect. But that didn’t matter.  They were men who cared about helping boys become men.  In fact, the man who was my Scoutmaster for many years was anything but a dynamic or particularly inspiring person.  He was soft-spoken, not very graceful, kind of shy and kept a full beard to conceal big ears that stuck out quite a ways from his head.  (One time he did shave off his beard and scared us all very badly). But he loved Scouting and it was infectious.  He loved the outdoors and he took us there so we could learn to love it too.  He loved and respected boys and he earned the love and respect of the boys he was with.  He provided opportunity for us to experience, to learn, and to grow.  He wasn’t exceptionally articulate, or a motivational speaker, most of the time he did his job simply by showing up and teaching us how to do things like build campfires, paddle a kayak, and set up tents.  But oh… those were such valuable times.

My old Scoutmaster lives a quiet life these days.  He is retired, he survived a bout with cancer and has a little trouble getting around now.  He will never win a medal, he’ll never be written up in a newspaper or a magazine. No one will erect a statue of him in a city park after he is gone.  But he has an enviable legacy.  For scattered all around this country (and perhaps the world) are a group of now grown up boys who themselves have families, careers, and lives in their communities.  Men like me.  Men who remember what they were taught about honesty, trustworthiness, loyalty, honor, duty, perseverance and other important building blocks of character.  Men who form a living tribute to those who took the time to help them when they were boys.  Men who are now engaged in passing along those same values to the next generation, perhaps even to a group of young men in a Boy Scout troop, sitting around a campfire somewhere.

The farther I move through life the more I appreciate what these men did for me and what a tremendous debt of gratitude I have for them. I wish I could track them all down and thank each of them individually, but I wouldn’t know where to look and I’m also pretty sure at least some have passed by now.  Others just moved away or faded away, leaving Scouting when their boys grew older, returning to their very normal lives.    So, In lieu of a personal word of thanks to each, let me just say it here once for all.  Thank you.  Thank you all very much.  I found my way to manhood.  It was right where you told me it would be. My hope and prayer is that if you saw my life today you would think the time you invested in me was time well spent.


Feb 21 2010

How much of this can you tolerate?

Category: Uncategorizedharmonicminer @ 9:16 pm

Is anyone actually surprised by any of this? Only people who have been deliberately blind to the facts.

Climate scientists withdraw journal claims of rising sea levels

Study claimed in 2009 that sea levels would rise by up to 82cm by the end of century – but the report’s author now says true estimate is still unknown

Scientists have been forced to withdraw a study on projected sea level rise due to global warming after finding mistakes that undermined the findings.

Climategate U-turn: Astonishment as scientist at centre of global warming email row admits data not well organised

* Data for vital ‘hockey stick graph’ has gone missing
* There has been no global warming since 1995
* Warming periods have happened before – but NOT due to man-made changes

The academic at the centre of the ‘Climategate’ affair, whose raw data is crucial to the theory of climate change, has admitted that he has trouble ‘keeping track’ of the information.

Colleagues say that the reason Professor Phil Jones has refused Freedom of Information requests is that he may have actually lost the relevant papers.

Professor Jones told the BBC yesterday there was truth in the observations of colleagues that he lacked organisational skills, that his office was swamped with piles of paper and that his record keeping is ‘not as good as it should be’.

The data is crucial to the famous ‘hockey stick graph’ used by climate change advocates to support the theory.

Professor Jones also conceded the possibility that the world was warmer in medieval times than now – suggesting global warming may not be a man-made phenomenon.

And he said that for the past 15 years there has been no ‘statistically significant’ warming.

There is nothing new here, except that now the liars are beginning to admit their prevarications. The fact that the science is anything but “settled” has been obvious for awhile.

Now you should ask yourself this:  exactly how seriously should we take any politician, or any scientist who has been carrying water FOR those politicians, who have tried to scare us into accepting economy killing measures to reduce CO2 on the ground that it is a greenhouse gas?  When other greenhouse gasses are far more potent?  Including, well, water vapor

These people have simply forfeited all credibility, in my judgment.

It is time for them to go.

Shoot..  rather than implement any of the suicidal economic policies these clowns are promoting, it would be cheaper to put the entire IPCC as well as the bulk of the global-warming establishment on permanent vacation on the French Riviera in 9-star hotels (we’ll have to create new categories), with leased Aston-Martins and paid, fawning entourages of GAIA worshippers along with entire Hollywood movie production companies filming their lives for the eventual Oscar ceremonies.


Feb 21 2010

I wonder if these people have Ahmandinejad’s address

Category: Uncategorizedharmonicminer @ 9:51 am

Dubai seeks global dragnet for Hamas man’s slaying

Dubai police appealed for an international manhunt Tuesday after releasing names and photos of an alleged 11-member European hit squad accused of stalking and killing a Hamas commander last month in a plot that mixed cold precision with spy caper disguises such as fake beards and wigs.

Powerline thinks this was done by Mossad, or a similar Israeli agency.

I doubt it. They don’t leave this many loose ends, especially the security camera footage.  I suppose they may have paid for it.  On the other hand, it could simply be a political foe who fronted the cash.  Fatah doesn’t exactly love Hamas.  In fact, this kind of thing has happened before, but is just more likely to be ignored when there isn’t an obvious potential Israeli assassin angle.

I suppose it’s possible the hit was done by a private assassination service for hire, though it seems they didn’t use bullets that move in curves.

I think I may start insisting that everyone who goes to faculty meetings go through a metal detector on the way into the room.  And I won’t assume I’m safe from that slightly crazy looking Medieval Literature professor, just because he’s sitting on the opposite side of the computer projector.

His beard looks fake to me.


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