Just Another Effin' Observer

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Location: Huntsville, Texas, United States

Friday, February 25, 2005

It's Friday! That Means It's Time For...

Friday Booze Photoblogging!

Moxie tossed this idea out a couple of weeks ago, and since I've just acquired the means to add pictures to my blog, and the novelty has yet to even ebb a little, let alone wear off, I'm hoppin' on this one!

To get in on the action, just hop over to Moxie's Booze Photoblogging post and take it from there!

And remember, Friends don't let friends blog drunk.

Technically, I'm not drunk yet, so it's okay.

The Rest of the Story...

Experiments in Photoblogging I

Wanna know why, in the photo in my profile, I'm grinning like an idiot?

Wouldn't you?

The Rest of the Story...

Scandal! (Er, Take Two)

Regular readers of this blog (both of you) may have observed that, after a brief, initial spurt of activity, entries have tended to be, shall we say, rather sporadic. There is a reason for that. Actually, there are several.

One reason is the fact that, although I have strong political opinions (some of my more liberal friends would probably say "pig-headed", "reactionary", "neanderthal", and a few other characterizations that are even less polite), I do not feel any urge to write about them all that frequently. (There are exceptions, of course, but that isn't why I created this blog.) There are simply too many other bloggers out there, being political commentators and investigative journalists and what-not, and an already crowded field doesn't need any more population pressure from a lightweight such as me. This despite the fact that there has been an awful lot of politics going on lately -- plenty to write about, if I were to be so inclined, which, basically, is my point: I am not.

Secondly, my "journalistic instincts" (insofar as I actually have any, despite having been a journalism major in college -- for a whole semester) have always leaned less toward Jack Anderson than P.J. O'Rourke. From the Washington Times' review of his book, All The Trouble In The World: "... Economists, political scientists and sociologists are inclined to approach the ills of society with regression analysis. P. J. O'Rourke just points and laughs." That approach has always worked for me. The news lately has left me inspired, angry, jubilant, saddened -- indeed most of your better-known emotions -- but there has been precious little that I could make fun of.

Until now.

Which brings me to my final point: I only post to this blog when the opportunity arises to tweak some hypersensitive twit (one of my more recent postings was a recycled screed that regurgitated a thirty-year-old bitter-fest, in which I got to tweak 430 of them, a.k.a., my entire high-school graduating class) or, in lieu of that, a feeling that it has simply been too long since anything was added. Well, guess what: It has been too long since "new" content was posted to my blog. This time, though, the content actually is new. Topical, too, more or less.

Hard on the heels of the Eason Jordan affair came the Left-wing bloggers' "retaliation": the take-down of one Jeff Gannon, a.k.a., James D. Guckert, a third-tier Internet stringer who covered the White House beat for Talon News (whoever the hell they are), and who, in a previous incarnation, was a noteworthy presence on various gay escort-service Web sites. The lefty bloggers' complaints about Gannon (or Guckert, or whatever nom de voyage he's using these days) included such "high crimes and misdemeanors" as: he is not a "legitimate" journalist (as opposed to, say, Walter Cronkite, who lied to the country about the Tet Offensive, and who thinks Karl Rove was the Executive Producer of the pre-election Osama bin Laden video); that he pitched 'softball' questions to the Administration, thus proving their first point (the question that really set them off characterized Democrats as "divorced from reality" -- which actually reinforces his status as a "legitimate" journalist, because, in point of fact, a great many of them are, and he was sufficiently objective to notice it); that he is an Administration plant, gaining unwarranted access to the White House, under an assumed name, through Administration connections (actually, he used his real name and his real Social Security number, to obtain day passes to the White House Briefing Room); that he is gay (an odd charge, that one, since the Left just loves gays -- and perhaps the less said about that, the better, wink-wink, nudge-nudge); that he was the source of the information that revealed Valerie Plame (Joe Wilson's missus) to be a CIA operative (which information was, in turn, leaked to him by an article published in the Wall Street Journal); that he cannot be a serious journalist if there are pictures of his penis on the Web (okay, they got me there; I, for one, would find Dan Rather's credibility seriously impaired if I found a jpeg of his Johnson on the Internet -- as I would if confronted by images of Jennings' Peter, or Brian William's willie, or Shepherd Smith's "staff", or -- oh, hell, you got three freebies already, make up the rest yourselves). Oh, and did we mention that he's gay?

For reasons that completely eluded (and continue to elude) the Left, that particular "scandal" gained absolutely zero traction whatsoever. Could it perhaps be because Jeff Gannon is a complete nobody, hence no one really gives a flying flamingo about him? And there are so many penis pictures posted on the Web that Jeff's little photographic anatomy lesson cannot even claim the virtue of novelty; "been there, done that, and the T-shirt would hide my six-pack and pecs." And -- okay, I'll admit it -- I've seen the pictures in question, and I am utterly unable to stifle a yawn. A blue whale's penis is over eleven feet long; sorry, Jeff, but as Shania Twain might say, "That don't impress me much."

Faced with this abject failure at scandal-mongering, the lefty bloggers set their sights on a much bigger, infinitely higher-profile, target -- Fox News' Brit Hume. Hey, let 'em know you're going for something, that's my motto. The result was almost pathetic. No, not almost; it was pathetic.

I suppose, if the "scalp-hunters" are going to go after a major-league journalist, then Brit Hume is as good a target as any, and probably better than most; he certainly has better hair than Jeff Gannon, if only by virtue of the fact that he has hair. (Gannon shaves his head.) From a tonsorial standpoint, Hume stands Head and Shoulders(TM) above the likes of Ted Koppel (isn't it amazing what they're doing with fiberglass these days?); besides, Koppel's one of theirs. Sam Donaldson, on the other hand, would be easy pickings -- too easy, in fact; a good gust of wind would do the job, no real effort required. I know that most people would scoff at the thought of Sam Donaldson being a conservative journalist, and I daresay Sam himself would vehemently deny it. But I saw it happen, on This Week with David Brinkley, back around '85 or '86. In response to Cokie Roberts' chastising Ronald Reagan for not holding a summit with the leader of the Soviet Union, Donaldson immediately rose to the President's defense: "Maybe it's because they keep dying on him!" They all laughed it off as a nice throw-away line, but I knew that something positively seismic had just occured.

So what was Brit Hume's crime that several liberal bloggers are demanding his head? According to them, he misquoted President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on the subject of Social Security. Misquoting someone -- a hanging offense if ever there was one! Of course, Maureen Dowd does that kind of thing all the time, but I've never heard anyone clamoring for her pretty little head. (Probably because it isn't particularly pretty -- at least, not to me. Now, Claudia Schiffer is pretty. But MoDo? There ain't enough Stoli in the world.) But what, exactly, did Mr. Hume say that was so unforgivably heinous? Here's the actual quote, from an article he wrote on FOXNews.com:

In a written statement to Congress in 1935, Roosevelt said that any Social Security plans should include, "Voluntary contributory annuities, by which individual initiative can increase the annual amounts received in old age," adding that government funding, "ought to ultimately be supplanted by self-supporting annuity plans."

Now, this is what FDR said, vis-a-vis Social Security:

In the important field of security for our old people, it seems necessary to adopt three principles: First, non-contributory old-age pensions for those who are now too old to build up their own insurance. It is, of course, clear that for perhaps thirty years to come funds will have to be provided by the States and the Federal Government to meet these pensions. Second, compulsory contributory annuities which in time will establish a self-supporting system for those now young and for future generations. Third, voluntary contributory annuities by which individual initiative can increase the annual amounts received in old age. It is proposed that the Federal Government assume one-half of the cost of the old-age pension plan, which ought ultimately to be supplanted by self-supporting annuity plans.

(If you doubt me, here it is from the Social Security Administration's own Web site. It's a bit more than half-way down the page, the third paragraph following the 'Congressional Consideration' heading.)

The gist of the lefty bloggers' accusations is that Brit Hume, using a bit of "editorial license", edited FDR's statement to convey a meaning quite different than what Roosevelt intended. Rather like what the afore-mentioned MoDo did with George W. Bush's "they're not a problem" statement about dead Al Qaeda terrorists. (Dowd carefully edited out any reference to the terrorists Bush referred to as being dead, giving the impression that the President was not taking Al Qaeda seriously.)

But here's the thing: other than splitting an infinitive (which I personally abhor, but is no longer considered the unpardonable grammatical sin that it once was), Brit Hume's truncated quotation by FDR, and the article in which it appears, is entirely correct. Franklin Roosevelt, the "father of Social Security", did in fact propose something very akin to President Bush's voluntary individual accounts. So those lefty bloggers are demanding Brit Hume's scalp over -- what, exactly? Being right?

Bill at INDC Journal offers an excellent recap of the whole kerfuffle (and this is a situation that definitely warrants such a twerpy characterization).

Then again, when did the facts ever get in the way of a juicy left-wing witch-hunt?

The Rest of the Story...

Saturday, February 12, 2005

The Clueless Majority? Spare Me!

As per usual, I am weighing in on this subject a day late and a dollar short. So what else is new?

I’ve seen a lot of rumblings all over the blogosphere of possible – or at least the appearance of (and that’s supposed to be just as bad, isn’t it?) – vote fraud in the Presidential totals in the state of Wisconsin. As if that Blake Edwards movie that’s been playing in Washington weren’t enough, now the Cheese-heads have to get into the act.

I’m not going to rehash the story here, but for the seriously interested, here are some places to get the full dirt: Powerline; Michelle Malkin; Captain’s Quarters; Stranded On Blue Islands; Boots and Sabers. There are others – a great many others, in fact – but I don’t want this post to look like that copy of The Prophet by Khalil Gibran that David Bromberg referred to in his song Bullfrog Blues (the one “with all the significant passages underlined; every word in the book is underlined”).

I have to admit that I am of two minds over these revelations, if revelations they actually turn out to be (as opposed to mere tit-for-tat sniping: “I’ll see your Ohio, and raise you Washington and Wisconsin.”)

On the one hand, I must confess that I can’t quite bring myself to care a whole lot about this, at this point. The election is over. The Electors were selected in each state according to Article 2 of the Constitution, those Electors cast their votes in their respective state capitals, the votes were transmitted to the House, the House certified the results, Bush won. Like I said: it’s over. Let’s tear a page out of MoveOn.org’s book and, unlike MoveOn.org, actually move on. If there has been any serious attempt at vote fraud, then it was singularly ineffective, in that they failed to make off with the booty; despite all of the Democrats’ alleged efforts to steal the election, they still lost.

On the other hand, that humiliating knowledge of abject failure is only likely to persuade some people to try harder next time, on the theory that, well, practice makes perfect. Clearly, something must be done to discourage this possibility. So I would like to see these matters fully investigated, and if anything is proven, then the parties responsible should be held fully accountable. I’m talking some extended stays at the House of Many Doors, here. And a thorough wood-shedding at the polls in the next election would probably be in order, too – even in the absence of any convictions.

Anyone who insists that “every vote be counted” should set off alarm bells far and wide – because it’s an odds-on bet that that person knows full well that a lot of those votes shouldn’t be counted, because the “people” who cast those ballots had no legal right to do so; some of them may not even be people. And that person probably has a pretty good idea who those votes are for. It is the law in every state in the United States that, in order to vote, certain qualifications must be met. You have to be a citizen of the United States; you have to be at least 18 years old; you have to be a resident of the state and community in which you are voting (verified prior to casting a ballot, and not after the fact – except, of course, in Wisconsin, where same-day registration seems to be the “root cause” of most of the “irregularities”); in most jurisdictions, you cannot have been convicted of a felony; and, of course, you have to be alive. Shouldn’t these requirements be enforced?

But more important, we need some serious examinations of the states’ procedures for registering and qualifying voters. Some people seem to believe that the more voters you have, the better; that the level of participation should trump all other considerations.

I submit that, in the immortal words of Willie Nelson, “that ain’t necessarily so.”

Could someone please explain to me why an election decided by the majority of 160 million clueless mouth-breathers is ipso facto a better result than one decided by, say, the majority of 80 million informed citizens, each with enough interconnected neurons to make a rational decision? Or 60 million? Or 30 million? The qualifications for voting in any election should involve rather more than the ability to punch a hole in a piece of cardboard - particularly since even that seems to be beyond the capabilities of a sizeable portion of the voting population.

Where is it written that, just because you have a pulse – and even that is pretty much optional, given the “graveyard” vote in many jurisdictions – you have an unassailable right to vote, irrespective of any and all other considerations, up to and including whether or not you meet the legal qualifications to vote, or whether or not you know who is running for office, or even what those offices are?

Allow me to offer a modest proposal: in order to cast a vote in any election, for any office, every voter must:

  • Be registrered. And I mean before the fact. If you can't take five minutes out of your busy schedule to fill out and mail in a voter-registration card at least one month before the election, then I submit that you are insufficiently engaged in the process, inadequately informed on the issues, and therefore unqualified to participate. Do us all a favor and sit this one out;

  • Show up. You want to vote? Then get up off your lazy butt, get into the car, and drive down to the polling station. Don’t have a car? Ask a friend for a ride. Call a taxi, take a bus. Walk, even, like they did in Iraq. Because if you’re too damn lazy to put forth a bit of effort to vote, you damn well don’t need to be voting. And as for Internet voting, heh, not in this life, lard-ass;

  • Be able to spell the last names of at least two of the candidates for that office. This would at least provide some assurance that the voter actually has some semblance of a clue as to what he is doing. Then, no one would ever again be able to assert that anyone was “disenfranchised” because of long lines at the polling station; they would be disenfranchised because they were clueless nitwits.

And that’s a form of disenfranchisement that I think I could live with.

The Rest of the Story...

Sunday, February 06, 2005

The Potholes on Memory Lane

Since I've been too damn lazy to post any original content on this blog lately, I decided that I'd just recycle some old stuff that the publishing world (wisely) wanted to have nothing to do with. So herewith follows an essay I wrote about a year ago, when I was feeling a bizarre combination of nostalgia and cynicism....

Every so often -- say, every couple of weeks or so -- I have to log into my America Online account to clear out my mailbox. I only use that account when I'm on the road (which hasn't been much lately), so the spam has a tendency to pile up. Case in point: today's total of 182 messages, not a single one of them from anyone I knew, let alone had any desire to hear from. There was one, however, that caught my attention....

Classmates.com is a Web site that provides a venue for hooking up with one's high school classmates (hence the name). For reasons that remain unclear to me, I registered with the site a couple of years ago. (I did notice that the date on which I registered was two days before my 45th birthday, so perhaps my reasons were not so unclear, after all.) Since that day, on at least a weekly basis, I have received an e-mail message from the site, advising me of how many new former classmates they have added to their rolls, and, if I upgrade to their Gold (read: paying) membership, I could be reconnecting with all of them.

Most of these e-missives get deleted unread, along with about 99.9999975% of everything else that appears in my AOL mailbox, and for pretty much the same reasons: my house is still under construction, so I really don't care what mortgage re-fi rates are; I have no need for cheap Viagra (although not for the reasons most men would want you to think -- if you don't have a car, or even a driver's license, then you really don't need an Exxon credit card in your wallet, now do you?); and I left absolutely nothing behind when I graduated from my high school nearly thirty years ago. Most of those people despised me back then, and the feeling was more than mutual; the one who didn't (although to this day I'm not absolutely certain of this) is married to my brother, so we still keep in touch. So I really had no interest at all in how many of my high school cohort Classmates.com had unearthed in the past week, beyond a mild curiosity as to how many of them the term 'unearthed' could be applied literally -- i.e., how many were no longer alive. For some reason, however, I felt the urge to open this particular message, and follow the link to the Classmates.com Web site.

What followed was a trip down Memory Lane, recalling people I had not seen, nor, with exceedingly rare exceptions, even thought about, in almost three decades. There was Tina, who for three years shared German class with me; and yes, I had a bit of a crush on her. I recalled that, early in my freshman year, she passed an "I think you're cute" note to me during class. It was meant as a huge joke, the sentiments expressed in it regarded by virtually the entire student body as so patently ludicrous that the irony was unmistakable (she was breathtakingly beautiful, and I was, well, not), and I recognized it as such. I just didn't appreciate the humor. One name I did not find was Clarence, the class bully who tormented me for almost four years, until I finally decided that I had had enough, and tried to kill him on the school bus one afternoon. When the Assistant Principal took me to task over the incident, I freely admitted my intentions. He was not ready for that; back then, attempted murder was not a disciplinary issue that a school administrator had to deal with very often. Tina and I eventually established a cordial, almost friendly, relationship (although my crush-y sentiments were never reciprocated). As for Clarence -- well, suffice it to say that, to this day, I wouldn't pee down his throat if his lungs were on fire. Other names jogged other memories, few of them particularly pleasant.

Why this sudden urge to recall people and events from a past that, in today's self-esteem-sodden educational environment, would have demanded intensive therapy for the next fifteen years? I'm inclined to suspect that masochism was a factor, but even so, it has been (as I believe I have already mentioned) almost thirty years since any of these people occupied even the most peripheral place in my life; it's over, long past, dead and buried, with a stake through its heart. (Or so at least, I cannot help but hope, is Clarence.) Move-on-dot-org, and all that.

But I recalled another e-mail message from a few months ago, from one of those very classmates, which proposed, and solicited interest in, a thirty-year class reunion. There had been a ten-year and a twenty-year reunion, both of which I chose not to attend, for reasons to which I have already alluded: I frankly did not care (and still don't) whether I ever saw any of those yutzes again. But something -- some inchoate racial-memory kind of thing, I suspect -- is urging me to attend this one. Is it possible that I did, in fact, leave something behind all those years ago, and am only now beginning to realize it?

I don't think so.

I think I want to go to this reunion for the same reason most people attend these functions: to get a sick, demented thrill out of seeing the overweight, balding tub of lard that the school jock has turned into, and to witness first-hand what the ravages of time, parenthood and the unrelenting maw of middle-class survival (to say nothing of the relentless pull of gravity) have wreaked upon the perky breasts, the waspish waistlines, and the artfully-frosted hair of the cheerleading squad. Kind of like when The Real World meets Waiting For God.

Some people, of course, go to their high school reunions to show off, to flaunt their success and wealth, and to lord it over the plebeian hoi polloi who believe that dinner at Red Lobster and a movie constitutes a night on the town. These people are of no consequence. The desire to grab them by their silk collars and bitch-slap them until their ears bleed is understandable, but unnecessary. The IRS knows who they are, and cosmic justice, in its own inimitable, deliciously gruesome way, will be served. Trust me.

But the overwhelming majority of people who attend high school reunions do so for one reason and one reason only: to experience that frisson of almost karmic serenity that comes from the discovery that your mundane, middle-class, spectacularly nondescript existence is the norm; that, all things considered (certainly with respect to the rest of those pitiful, hopeless misallocations of protoplasm that you went to school with), your life did not turn out too terribly bad. In fact, compared to a lot of them, you've actually done pretty damn well.

You think your job is a disappointment, a grind? Consider where the guy voted Most Likely To Succeed ended up: doing eight years for securities fraud, I'd wager. (And I think I can state categorically that your sex life is more satisfying than his; you, at least, get to choose your partners.) Remember the Prom Queen, the girl whose erogenous zones extended about eight feet from her actual body? Well, her butt has that distinction now. And the guy voted Most Popular? His three ex-wives' lawyers and the Child Support Enforcement people would certainly agree; they want him bad.

Am I being overly cynical? Probably, but so what? The only people who haven't become card-carrying cynics thirty years after high school are the ones who never put down the bong they picked up on that spring-break trip to a Tijuana tchotchke shop during their freshman year of college. Sooner or later, you have to grow up, and a degree of cynicism comes with the package. You eventually realize that all that talk about World Peace that the valedictorian blathered on about during his Commencement speech (until you were ready to open a vein) was just so much beauty-pageant bullshit; that being elected Class President is as much of a political career as anyone in his right mind should aspire to; and that the high school experience in general had no more grounding in reality than your typical Star Trek convention.

Let me be brutally honest about this. The only thing I took with me out of high school was the only thing that was worth taking: an education, from the days -- now, sadly, long gone -- when high school actually provided an education that carried some measure of credibility. There is nothing more that I want or need from those years, from that place, or from the people who acted as the supporting cast of my own personal Wonder Years. I don't want or need their fellowship, particularly from those who had no interest in offering it back when it might have meant something to me, and I certainly don't need their approval.

So will I be attending the proposed thirty-year reunion of my high school graduating class? At the moment, the jury's still out on that, but one fact will weigh heavily in my decision: I look damn good in a tux. (And rolling up to the event in a Jag isn't likely to hurt my image, either.)

I'd kind of like Tina to see that. And perhaps to ponder, for a moment or two, at least one road not taken.

The Rest of the Story...