Hypocritic Oath: First, Do As I Say, Not As I Do

You know, I’m a small government conservative type, but I have a deep, dark secret that shatters my credibility and totally dismisses any argument that I might have against a Federal mandates for purchasing Obama-approved health insurance: I watch some PBS programming.

It all started, as it often does, with Sesame Street, which I started recording for my children. Because I needed them to see a number of puppets praising Jessica Alba, Jenny McCarthy, and Michelle Obama. Then we started with the Dragon Tales so they would learn to embrace the cognitive dissonance of having a dragon, which can fly, in a wheelchair. That program started catching the beginning of the noon program, which was an adult program. So I started recording those programs for Daddy, which happen to be programs that Daddy can watch while the children are present.

So I watch the following on PBS regularly, even though I don’t think that the Federal government should replicate criminal laws that states already have just so its prosecutors can dip their beaks into headlines when crimes occur:

  • Equitrekking, a program about where you can go worldwide to ride horses. I have a bunch of horses around me now, so I thought I’d like to learn more about them. The program is more about travel, though, to places where you can ride horses. Still, it’s interesting to see different landscapes, and the children catch glimpses of different wildlife than the demonic possums one sees around here. Also, Darley Newman is cute.
  • Beads Baubles and Jewels [sic], a program about making things with beads, which I actively hobbied earlier this year. I get to see some of the people whose books I read and whose blogs I visited in action, and the live demonstrations of the bead stitches helped me understand them better than diagrams in books.
  • Victory Garden, or as I call it, “An Aussie, A Brit, and a Hippie.” This program explores some gardening things and shows off a variety of plants and things to consider while worshipping Gaia. Actually, it does talk a little green and sustainably, but it’s not as bad as P. Allan Smith’s Garden Home, and the voices and accents on Victory Garden are easier to listen to for more than three minutes.

Now that I have unburdened my guilty soul to you, I ask of you: Why are these shows on public television?

Because they’re produced by public television stations!

But why are they produced by public television stations? Look at the content of these shows. Maybe in the 1960s and 1970s, you would not see these programs on the big three networks and might have needed someone to spend tax money to put them on the air, but in the 21st century, cable channels and nowadays the Internet pump these sorts of programs out all over the place. There are entire travel channels, entire crafting channels (well, DIY and HGTV run those sorts of shows), and so on. There are so many profit-seeking channels that quality shows like these are frequent and available. So why is public television still pumping them out?

Because there’s still a public television budget.

Until there isn’t, public television stations will continue to spend tax money to provide duplicate programming that other sources are providing on their own dime. Maybe you won’t get Victory Garden running for 60 years; my favorite programs Creative Juice and Small Space Big Style ran for 3 years and 1 year (IMDB indicates, but I think there were more episodes than that) respectively.

But you do get free market flexibility, and tax money savings the government could put to infrastructure projects or something else. Ha! Who am I kidding? In the 21st century, the government doesn’t spend money on public benefits. It spends money on private wealth transfers and government employees.

UPDATE: I just watched an episode of Victory Garden that included a segment, apparently forthcoming regular feature on the program, whose experts actually have their own program on DIY. You see how this sort of proves my point?

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Book Report: The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury (1951, 1969?)

I read this book because I watched a television program, Criminal Minds, because it had Green Bay Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings making his acting debut in it. Well, I watched enough of the program to see Greg Jennings appear, which was about half. And in that half, the program referred to The Illustrated Man twice. I’d passed over this book a couple times recently when picking over my to-read shelves for something quick to read. So when Greg Jennings, indirectly, encouraged me to read it, I complied.

Like The Martian Chronicles, the book creates a sort of wrapper into which Bradbury inserts his existing short stories. In this case, it’s a tattooed wanderer whose tattoos move and tell stories of the future at night. A camper encounters the illustrated man and watches the stories. In the beginning, we get some italicized addition to each story to keep the thread of the book going, but Bradbury abandons it by the end, although the epilogue returns to the frame story.

I haven’t read Bradbury in a number of years (before the blog, but within the last decade, I think I reread The Martian Chronicles). I liked him well enough in my youth, but in my middle age, I find him a little bleak. Many of the stories deal with death, aliens triumphing over men (or men triumphing over aliens with their consumer culture, still an indictment of humanity). Reading this, I cannot help think that Bradbury could have written Avatar since he shares a lot of thematic ground with Cameron. Maybe these themes were challenging sixty or seventy years ago when Bradbury was writing the stories, but now that they are a prevalent part of the modern mythology/culture, they lose resonance and fade really into the background. I need to rinse my science fiction palatte with some Heinlein soon.

A little note: in the television program, one of the people says that the illustrated man has a blank spot on his back to show the future in the film version of the book, but not the book. Untrue. The book does have that spot.

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Where Are The Vapors?

I received a sweepstakes packet from Readers Digest today:

A check from the treasurer's department!
Click for full size

What I want to know is where are the news outlets and lefty blogs on this one? The GOP sends out a fundraising mailer which really isn’t so much a survey as a fundraising vehicle with the word CENSUS on it, and everyone foams at the mouth about the mean Republicans trying to trick its previous contributors into contributing again or something, but here you have a stodgy old magazine trying to entice senior citizens to enter their contest by mimicking an IRS tax refund, and we get nothing.

So, gentle reader, I will leave it to you to gauge whether the people who shriek like a struck Porkins are entirely earnest in their concern for the gulls beneath them or if they simply don’t know anyone who subscribes to Readers Digest to see what the old people are reading (like they contribute or sign up for GOP communications to see what the ENEMIES are saying and doing).

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Book Report: Arizona Ambush by Don Pendleton (1977)

This book represents the second Mack Bolan book I’ve read in the last year; the first, Missouri Deathwatch was a later entry in the series. This book is far earlier in the series and represents a better piece of work. The writing is tighter and snappier, and it doesn’t rely so heavily on the repetition of conventions.

In this book, Bolan goes to Arizona to tackle some drug trafficking, and he uncovers a military-type unit comprised of several fellows with a score to settle with Bolan from some unpleasantness in ‘Nam. This unit is part of an internecine war among the mafia whose stakes include an owned U.S. Senator. Bolan shows up and muddies the water, pretty much playing both ends against the middle and eliminating this particular bunch of bad men. As he does.

A better entry in the series, as I said. Although let’s talk about Bolan’s Warwagon. It took the book a long time to mention it’s actually an RV, which was a shame because I spent a lot of time trying to imagine a GMC that can support a full rocket battery, communications center, arsenal, and can unobtrusively tail a bunch of scared mobsters. Come to think of it, I still can’t, but I’ve never seen the Arizona highways. Maybe the desert is hilly enough that they would not see the RV that followed them from Tucson to their desert lair turn just a mile down the road and parallel their course. Maybe. But that’s the only real “Huh?” bit in the book.

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Book Report: The Joy of Junk by Cheryl Fall (2003)

This book is kinda like reading a collection of episodes of Creative Juice in that it provides as examples a number of step-by-step projects using old cast-offs to make new decorative things. One can make a jewelry box from a craft box and some old drawer pulls for legs, for example, or one can use the pages of books (perish the thought!) to create decoupaged storage boxes. Really, the most use of the book is in the tips for what sorts of cheap raw materials you should look out for at garage sales and the different ways of looking at and using ordinary things as parts of crafts. The more exposure to that one gets, the more crafty in an arts-and-crafts sort of way one can become. So the book is worth flipping through for that alone, if you’re into that sort of thing.

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Assurances The Day After

Do not fear, citizen: it was not a rational response to the unsustainable government spending and underfunded pensions in Greece and throughout the world, including the United States and its component state and municipal governments, that triggered the Dow Jones’ plunge yesterday.

Instead, it was a computer glitch or typographical error that, for a time being, looked as though it was going to bring economic collapse upon us. That is, it was something completely accidental, random, and out of your control which wreaked havoc with investor confidence and, potentially, your life’s savings.

Carry on as you were.

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Not Juxtaposed Enough

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar characterizes the United States Federal Government approach to BP:

“Our job basically is to keep the boot on the neck of British Petroleum to carry out the responsibilities they have both under the law and contractually to move forward and stop this spill,” Salazar told CNN’s “State of the Union” program.

George Orwell characterizes totalitarian government:

But always— do not forget this, Winston— always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face— forever.

Frightening, isn’t it, how the Department of Interior, that is the Parks Department, for crying out loud, sounds like Big Brother?

UPDATE: Welcome, Instapundit and Transterrestrial readers! If you’re in IT, check out my QA blog QA Hates You. And don’t forget to visit my little corner of Cafe Press for cool gear.

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Book Report: 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America by Bernard Goldberg (2005)

Okay, now I feel kinda dumb. Not only did I slog through a contemporary political screed book, but when I sat down to review it, I find I’ve already read it and reviewed it in 2006. I didn’t remember it. That should be an indicator of what I thought of it this time and, apparently, what I thought of it then, too.

A simple book to write, it’s a list blog post stretched into a couple hundred pages. It does call out some liberal influences that you might not be aware of (and which you’ll forget soon after reading, as I apparently did), but Goldberg is a little abrasive and name-calling even while attacking certain liberals for being abrasive and name-callers.

A difference in reading it today versus 2006: Three of the hundred are now dead. Anna Nicole Smith and Michael Jackson died from the very lifestyle excesses for which Goldberg pillories them. It seems gauche now to read someone speaking ill of them. The third is Teddy Kennedy, and Goldberg focuses on his political career, so it’s less unseemly to read harsh words about him.

I doubt the book will get any better with age, but these sorts of books aren’t supposed to have any longevity. On the plus side, I will remember now that I have read it. Twice.

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Because That Money Was Just Lying Around

City looks at lobbyist to grease wheels for streetcars:

Milwaukee aldermen could vote Tuesday on a no-bid $24,000 contract for a lobbyist to help speed action on a modern streetcar line downtown.

Just so we’re clear: $24,000 is an annual salary for a low-level full time staffer downtown answering citizen calls. Or an annual salary’s worth of tax money stripped from businesses and citizens in Milwaukee. The municipal government is spending this money in an attempt to get Federal money for its next money sinkhole–a streetcar line in Milwaukee will undoubtedly require annual subsidies to run.

I read in an editorial that the Christian County library spent $50,000 on its recent ballot initiative for a tax increase. That’s a couple librarians or a couple dozen computers it threw away.

I don’t think governments should spend money on the following, ever:

  • Advertising for tax increases. I mean, they’re showing profligacy and poor money management with the existing tax revenue they have if they throw it into four color mailers and neat signage. I notice that Greene County has started putting up signs along roads it would improve if the quarter cent sales tax wasn’t sunsetting. Please. Spend the existing money better.
  • Lobbying for more share of revenue from higher governments. The whole game of getting “free” money from the state or Federal government is unseemly as it is. Spending money to get that money is a bit like gambling.
  • Suing other governments or taxing districts for a bigger share of money. I hate it when the taxpayer is on the hook for all three sides of this story (two sets of attorneys plus the actual judiciary). Win or lose, taxpayers lose.
  • Advertising their services. I listen to radio on the Internet, so I get a steady diet of PSAs advertising the services of various agencies, but I also hear them on the regular radio, too. If you have to advertise for your service, it’s probably superfluous. And the regional drinking-and-driving ads drive me crazy. The state gets money from the Federal government to spend on the ads, so instead of a single PSA, you get your state highway patrol cutting its own ads. Which takes a cop out of a car or from behind a desk for a day in addition to inefficiently spending money to let citizens know that the government will enforce a law.

The fact that the impoverished (ask them about how they don’t have enough money to do what Must Be Done) governments can spend money on these things proves that there’s too much tax money slush sloshing around in their buckets as it is.

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Gauche or Not, It Keeps The Sun From My Eyes

So I managed to make it up to Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield last week, and as I alluded elsewhere, I bought myself a hat with a Confederate flag on it:

Wilson's Creek National Battlefield hat

I bought it to show my support for the park and because I wear hats to keep my balding head from burning when I pretend to work the land.

However, I’m sort of stricken with the notion that it might be distasteful or odd, to say the least, to purchase a hat commemorating a battle. Men fought and died for honor, state, and country on that battlefield, and I got a hat about it.

Trivializing or commemorating? You decide.

Also, two things I learned at the battlefield:

  • The Old Wire Road that followed the telegraph lines and upon which both armies marched at different times quite probably did follow the edge of my property.
  • From atop Bloody Hill, you can see my house.

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