The Pot Calls The Kettle An Unimpressive Intellect

Here’s a snippet from Al Gore’s appearance on 60 Minutes talking about global warming skeptics:

Two things about this clip, particularly in naming the skeptics of global warming:

  • “You mean Dick Cheney?” he asks. Seriously, who’s the vice president in his world? Al Gore throws this out just so that he can say the fighting words Dick Cheney and so the faithful can react appropriately to the invocation of the demon. Seriously. And then, “Mm-hm.” Pompous (can’t think of appropriate noun for Al Gore, sorry).
  • Secondly, who does this fellow think he is? Doctor Al Gore, credentialed climatologist? The only reason he’s gotten the attention he’s gotten for his position and the stepladder to the pedestal he’s standing on come from having the titles Senator and Vice-President in front of his own name. So he’s going to start demeaning them now?

Goofball. Pompous goofball. There, I have a noun for him.

Maybe he’ll get pulled from the Democratic bench this year, and the Republicans can beat him again.

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Government Takes Care Of Its Constituency

In a shocking turn of events, governments lack perspective and priorities when it comes to spending tax money. Cities pay huge salaries despite fiscal crises:

In Vallejo, a midsize city of 121,000, there were 292 municipal employees who earned more than $100,000 last year. But in Oakland, with roughly three times more residents, 1,333 city workers were paid six figures in the same period. San Jose, a city of almost a million people, had 2,312. And San Francisco, which serves as a city and county government for its 809,000 residents, had more than 8,000.

None of the region’s largest cities faces the imminent threat of bankruptcy, but all are weathering their own financial crises – even as firefighters and police officers often earn more than City Hall department heads.

You think that institutions that think they can spend themselves out of bad times or can spur development by taking out risky mortgages instead of reducing barriers to entry and regulation would foolishly line the pockets of the participants even when financial times are tight?

If not, you’re obviously not cynical enough or you’re trying to save your phony baloney job by diverting the attention of the citizens. How about a sports team to distract them?

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At Least They Didn’t Make Up The Language, Like Tolkien

Last week, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran a cover story on Easter about how it symbolizes rebirth amongst Christians. You can read it via Google cache because it has disappeared from the paper’s Web site. Why?

Well, it seems that the vivid, meaningful anecdote about a woman who symbolizes a modern rebirth–a Christlike figure that the paper could savor–was sort of completely made up. The Post-Dispatch offers a note to its readers:

On the front page of last Sunday’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch, we published the story of a woman identified as Virginia Gillis. She was featured in an Easter story in which she described in detail a past of victimization, homelessness and despair followed by recovery and repair.

We have since learned that a number of the details in that story were inaccurate. Further, our verification procedures were not followed during the reporting and editing process. In short, this story did not meet our standards for publication.

We apologize for this journalistic breakdown. We value the trust you place in us every time you pick up the Post-Dispatch or log onto, and we understand that incidents such as this put that trust at risk.

Last Monday morning, we were contacted by someone who told us that information provided by the woman in the story was inaccurate.

The note goes on to identify all of the facts that were wrong in the anecdote, including the woman’s name and everything she told an enraptured journalist.

Of course, the paper doesn’t really explain missing the theological explanation of Easter, choosing instead to cast Christ and the meaning of Easter as an Adonis figure, ignoring the interpretation that Christ died to cleanse the world of sin, and that Christ’s death means capital punishment is wrong.

Perhaps newspapers should learn to avoid the common template, particularly in policy pieces but also used in this case, that requires a human interest anecdote in the lead position to humanize the sweeping pronouncements and paper-based interpretations that follow and should instead focus on actual reporting. They could shunt these pieces off to the human interest pages or editorial pages where they belong instead of casting them as news. However, that would probably require more effort and less creative writing on the parts of newspaper staffs.

So I don’t expect it. But at least the Post Dispatch acknowledged this systemic failure on its part.

But they’re the ones who will frame the elections this year for a good portion of the St. Louis area, and I don’t look forward to a number of pieces in the middle of April and November saying, “Whoops! Our story presented our agenda, but might have been inaccurate.”

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Book Hunting: March 29, 2008

I wouldn’t call it good book hunting. It was nominally the first garage sale weekend, so we hit a couple advertised in the Old Trees local papers. Unfortunately, a couple weeks ago when the people decided to throw their sales, it was 70 degrees on the weekend. Yesterday morning, it was 38 with a wind. So not many people were out, and nobody was happy about it.

Here’s our take:

March 29 book
Click for full size

I got:

  • Space Wars Worlds and Weapons, a book of space weapons art from 1979. No doubt designed to tap into Star Wars‘s new popularity.
  • THX 1138, George Lucas dystopian first film on videocassette.
  • Two Garth Brooks CDs, Garth Brooks and The Chase.
  • The soundtrack for Dazed and Confused. Soundtracks for period nostalgia movies are better for collecting a number of period hits at cheap prices at garage sales. They’re often better than hit compilations, since so many hit compilations get “hits” you’ve never heard of because they’re cheaper than real hits. The movie guys, though, they spent the money and got the A-list stuff.
  • Adore by Blind Melon because I have only heard one Blind Melon song, and $1 for the whole album is cheap.

The son(s) got a stack of Dr. Seuss big boy books. My beautiful wife came away empty, figuratively of course because she’s literally quite full these days.

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I Can Follow Directions, Dammit

So I acceded to the query by the disembodied drive thru voice and partook of the two hot apple pies for a dollar, but not without difficulty. For you see, the instructions are to open the box containing the pastry on the left side of the box:

Open the box here.

Oh, but no; if I opened the box on the left side, that would violate the instructions on the right side of the box:

No, open the box here.

I am not a dumb man; I understand that opening the box on one side would violate the instructions, because that would open the box in such a fashion that I was not opening the box properly. That is, if I were to open the box on the right side of the box, the box would be open by the time I got to the instruction on the left side; therefore, I would not correctly open the box on the left side, as the box would already be open.

No, verily, I could infer without any further written instruction that, to satisfy this short end user license on the box and to not violate the warranty of my apple pie, I must open both sides of the box simultaneously; that is, I would open both flaps marked Open here at once so that I would not merely break down an already open box by one of the motions. Fortunately, it was a small box, and I could break the structural integrity of the box on each side with only one hand, and it was thus that I enjoyed my nice cold apple pie knowing that I had correctly interpreted the directions and acted according to the box designers written and explicit intent.

Sometimes, my wife says I overthink things, to which I reply, “You certainly think that, and perhaps I am a bit deliberate in my actions at times; however, I do think that by taking a more reflective approach, I can suss out things and correct interpretations of disconnected and often unintended meanings to ensure that I do not have to learn by trial and error or failure, but rather by rational application of what Hercule Poirot called the little grey cells.”

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O’Fallon, Missouri, Happy To Be Pimped

Geez, you lonely municipalities, so busy courting developers that you’re okay when those same developers refer to your relationship as one of employee-employer?

A last-minute change to a proposed tax deal has kept alive plans for a housing development on the polluted site of a former trailer park.

Under the change, University City-based Highland Homes will get 13 years of tax abatement, not 20 as originally requested.

The city “thought they were going to get pimped for 20 years,” said Bob Shallenberger, co-owner of Highland Homes. “They’re not.”

After the change was made, the O’Fallon City Council voted 7-1 to create a “community improvement district” to reimburse Highland Homes an estimated $2.2 million in property and sales taxes to clean up asbestos dumped at the site.

He only talks like that because he loves you, unlike the other municipalities.

Although I wouldn’t say the description isn’t entirely unfair; after all, through a CID, you’re going to take money from the johns, formerly called “citizens,” and give them to him.

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Author Wants Hydrogen Explosions, Electrical Fires

Auto companies are studying alternative fuel vehicles, but an author apparently wants them rushed to market without thorough study:

“They’re totally just dipping their toes in the water,” said Sherry Boschert, author of the book “Plug-in Hybrids: The Cars that Will Recharge America.”

“It’s good they’re doing something, but it’s the automotive form of greenwashing,” she said. “They could be mass-producing these things.”

Whereas this person thinks that Mother Gaia will only take those whom she wants due to poorly engineered accidents and defects, the trial attorneys across the country agree with her. “The faster these things are on the market, the sooner we can begin litigating,” a spokesman said.

Additionally, Ralph Nader has dusted his consumer product deathtrap Mad Libs off of his shelf and licked his pencil. “Indeed, the sooner that big corporations begin rushing hastily engineered solutions to market, the better it will be for all of us.”

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Don’t You Hate It When That Happens?

When you confuse two songs that have the same title and that came out near the same time? For example:

Duran Duran’s “Notorious” (1986):

Loverboy’s “Notorious” (1987):

It was the video for “Notorious” that I had in mind for some reason. Sadly, I didn’t look 80s cool until the early 90s, and that made for some lonely times and few dates at college.

Another similar circumstance: Robbie Nevil’s “C’est La Vie” (1986):

And David Lee Roth’s “That’s Life” (also 1986 — sorry, no video). Both songs charted at the same time, but fortunately one is titled in French to alleviate the confusion.

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Diplomacy That Works

I recently got into an IM discussion with an old friend who’s taken the blue pill. We were talking about how the United States coerces the world to watching Dallas and makes the world hate us with our aggressive military posture. He held up the fact that diplomacy worked in North Korea as an instance where the military didn’t have to invade, and everyone loved the United States.

Yeah, it’s a good example: build nukes, and the United States will give you things.

Looks like the diplomacy ain’t working all that well either:

North Korea underscored its anger over South Korea’s tough new stance toward the communist country with the test-firing of short-range missiles.

The launches Thursday night also came as the North issued a stern rebuke to Washington over an impasse at nuclear disarmament talks, warning the Americans’ attitude could “seriously” affect the continuing disablement of Pyongyang’s atomic facilities.

On the other hand, it did go about as well as the conversation, which included casting US soldiers as rapists, too, in all earnestness and intellectual rigor. That is about where the philosophical inquiry ended.

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Wait! Facebook Will Change Everything!

I suppose that Web 2.0 will change everything in this instance:

Time may be running out for lawmakers hoping to pass a controversial civil union bill this year, but supporters are getting some untraditional help to boost interest: a “Facebook” army of more than 8,000 supporters.

This is meaningful because it supports the narrative and preferred mindset of the journalist. I mean, it’s 8,000 names on an Internet bulletin board or Internet petition.

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Post-Dispatch Covers Bass Tournament

Sorry, it’s a fishing expedition of another sort:

They say it was the town’s worst kept secret.

“People were always saying, ‘We saw them here. We saw them there,'” said Florence Streeter, who owns several rental properties in Valley Park.

And Mayor Jeffery Whitteaker, people said, didn’t help himself by refusing to answer questions about his relationship to his secretary last year, during a deposition for a lawsuit over the town’s ordinances targeting illegal immigrants.

Did he have a “social relationship” with the secretary, a lawyer asked him.

So how does that have direct bearing on ordinances covering immigration? Oh, yeah, trying to shame the mayor so he will back down.

I’m not all of a sudden defending adultery, but I also don’t care for blackmail or extortion or public shaming for litigious advantage, which is what we’re talking here.

Of course, now the secretary’s suing for getting fired after the relationship ended, which is why the paper is covering it. But the leading anecdote really highlights shoddy legal work.

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Book Report: Mischief by Ed McBain (1993)

Even after reading McBain for 20 years, I’m always amazed that I come across books that I don’t seem to have read. Granted, he wrote them over the course of 50 years, sometimes more than one a year. If I tried to read all of them and all of the Evan Hunter books and Smoke books and whatnot, it would take a whole year. Of course, given how many there are, I might have forgotten this one and only think this is the first time I read it.

This is a Deaf Man book, so the cops of the 87th Precinct dial up the dumb. They find the Deaf Man’s clues inscrutable until such time as it’s too late for them to stop the plan. I knew from the first clue what he was talking about, and I don’t live in Isola. But the cops who normally act rationally get a whiff of the Deaf Man, and they live down to his characterization.

Also, this book has a lot of unrelated subplots. The best of his books have a main crime and a subplot with some character soap opera within them. This book includes the Deaf Man’s plot, a murder mystery, an abandoned elderly case, Eileen Burke’s dealing with her transition to the hostage negotiating team, and Kling dealing with the breakup with Burke and meeting Sharyn Cooke. That’s a pile of stuff packed into one limited space, padding the book out to 350 pages and sort of scattering attention.

Don’t get me wrong; the writing is still excellent, but the potency is diminished.

I will probably read this book again; either I’ll pick it up at a book fair for a buck and forget about reading it now, or I will actually collect all of them and read them all in chronological order for fun.

Books mentioned in this review:

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Ignoring Another Cautionary Tale

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch is beating its breast and rending its garments that the latest, biggest public-private partnership is falling apart now that the private corporation, the St. Cardinals (holy enough to lose the Louis) has what it wants (a stadium, tax breaks) and hasn’t given the city what it wanted (a cool and trendy business/residential development called Ballpark Village. Stories:

So, does that tell the city and other municipalities to perhaps stay out of these boondoggles? Heck, no! What kind of government would it be if it learned its lesson and will limit itself to actual government duties? It’s going to get back in the saddle and participate in bigger, more expensive boondoggles in the future.

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George Bush Now Responsible For Wandering Children

Mother of toddler found wandering lost husband to war:

A Belleville woman charged with letting her 2-year-old son wander alone in 40-degree weather wearing only a diaper is the widow of a man killed while serving in Iraq.

If you don’t have enough bad news to report about Iraq, it’s good to see the creative writers who run the newswires can tie so much bad news back to Iraq.

So we can see the real costs of war, of course.

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Cautionary Lesson? What Cautionary Lesson?

Collinsville Holiday Inn up for sale:

The beleaguered Collinsville Holiday Inn will officially go on the auction block May 13 as officials hope to move the property off state books in time for summer.

The announcement Wednesday is likely one of the last in a tortured history. Part of a large economic development program in 1982, the hotel was built with more than $13 million in state loans that were never repaid. It has been a boondoggle for state treasurers ever since.

The owners repeatedly claimed financial hardship and refinanced their loans. In 1995, they had tried to buy the property outright for a negotiated sum of $6.3 million, but political infighting in Springfield killed that deal. The debt now has grown to more than $32 million.

That was 1982! Now, the governments who meddle in land use more aggressively 25 years later have just mandated failure right out of their 5- and 10-year plans.

Now, back to the normally scheduled borrowing to help private developers steal land from its rightful owners for another strip mall with promised chain stores designed to reflect and retain the neighborhood’s unique flavor.

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The Number One Clue You’re Not Eligible For Manhood Anyway

If you tell a pollster that you feel pushed around by the world, you’re probably not much of a man to start with:

Many men believe the world is now dominated by women and that they have lost their role in society, fuelling feelings of depression and being undervalued.

Research shows the extent to which men have had to change within one or two generations, adapting to new rules and different expectations.

Asked what it meant to be a man in the 21st century, more than half thought society was turning them into “waxed and coiffed metrosexuals”, and 52 per cent say they had to live according to women’s rules.

Read the whole thing, and weep.

Reminds me of a story when I was a sophomore in college. My grandmother was getting married, and as an usher, I was expected to fit in with the wedding dress standards. Somehow, the color pink was involved. Instead, I decided to wear a white shirt, as I owned white shirts and I don’t think pink is my color anyway. So my stepmother, wretched woman that she is, told me that real men weren’t afraid to wear pink.

I guess our understanding of masculinity differs; mine doesn’t involve bending to the whims of the polls or those who would use the polls to manipulate weak men.

That being said, Winston Churchill was a tough man, regardless of whether your woman allows you to think so.

(Link seen on Instapundit.)

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