Uncommon Sense

Because sometimes we need to see the forest

Admin Note

At this point, this just exists as a backup of my actual blog at www.uncsense.com where you’ll find all the recent posts. Just playing around with WordPress still at this point.

May 19, 2007 Posted by | General Commentary | Leave a comment

Rachel Lucas

She’s Ba-ack. Not as funny, though.

I turned 35 last month and something about reaching that age makes
me feel totally ballsy. I’m ready to berate asshats once more, baby!

And
I’ve started paying attention to the news again, which is like watching
a bunch of circus clowns throwing poop at each other. The headline on
Drudge as I write this is about John McCain using “a curse word
associated with chickens” while arguing with John Cornyn over
immigration. Seriously? Did he call him a Chicken-F—er?
Someone throw me a bone; I’m in the dark here. Hillary is going to run
for president – oh god, yes, please. This election should be almost as
hilarious as the last one. Al Gore has amped up his fearmongering and
even though I do think we’re doing all sorts of naughty things to
Earth, god, do I still hate that guy. And my favorite morbidly obese
nutjob in the whole world, one Mr. Michael Moore, is back with a new
“documentary”. It’s like manna from heaven, there for me to munch away
on.

…Right.

May 19, 2007 Posted by | General Commentary | Leave a comment

Coolest Widget Ever

See the Answer Tips image at the top of the column to your left? Ok, now double-click on any word anywhere on this page and see what happens. If it’s a hyper-linked word, then right double-click.

Tell me that’s not cool. Just go right ahead.

May 19, 2007 Posted by | Web/Tech | Leave a comment

Funny Carter

Glancing through the news, I see this.

Former President Carter says President Bush’s administration is "the worst in history"…

I was immediately reminded of a joke that goes something like this:

A husband and wife who’d been married for many years had just completed a session in bed, when the wife, who just can’t take it anymore, says out loud: "You know, I’ve just got to tell you. You’re the world’s worst lover."

The husband pauses and reflects a moment. "No; that would just be too much of a coincidence."

May 19, 2007 Posted by | Politics | Leave a comment

Insanity

Is there a better word to describe this?

"What kind of embassy is it when everybody lives inside and it’s
blast-proof, and people are running around with helmets and crouching
behind sandbags?"

Perhaps they ought to consider a mote, drawbridge, battlements and portcullises.

May 19, 2007 Posted by | Politics | Leave a comment

Ron Paul and Blog

For those interested in a single-source for current news and whatnot on Ron Paul, here’s an unofficial blog that seems to be doing a pretty good job rounding up everything of interest so you don’t have to. So throw that puppy into your RSS reader if you like.

I highly doubt Paul could ever win this thing (primary or general) — but he is a U.S. Congressman of several terms so it’s certainly within the realm of possibility. He’s getting traction right now because what he’s saying (about the war, mostly) resonates both with conservatives who somewhat understand some of the moral imperative behind the war but are tired of it and democrats who are mostly amoral about the thing, count up the number of dead, and because there’s more of them than us, conclude that we’re the badder bad guy.

It’s difficult, in hindsight, for me to look back to post WWII and not conclude that plastering military bases in Europe and Asia wasn’t the geopolitically smart thing to do. It seems to have worked out. We never went to war with the USSR and my guess is we never will with Russia, at least on the scale that thing could have gone down.

But this all seemed to work because the Europeans and Asians, in general, wanted us there and were pretty welcoming most of the time. They saw our presence as stabilizing and comforting. They were rational. The Middle East is not, at least not in that sense. How can you really account for how a kid growing up in that god-forsaken desert acculturates and integrates the fact of a foreign military power based in, on, and around his homeland? I think we have ample evidence to make a pretty good guess how it’s going to work out, eh? But then, who knows for sure? As a former Navy officer who has ventured outside the gates of many a U.S. military base on foreign soil, I was always amazed at how welcome we were. But I think that has a lot to do with the dollars we carry out those gates and our (often drunken) willingness to spend them, as the saying goes: "on wine, women and song (the rest we waste)."

Here’s what you can bet your ass is going to happen. The Republicans and Fox News are soon enough going to realize that Paul can’t be beaten on the war issue. It’s just such a disastrous mess that it really takes no great insight to make the gains Paul has made. It’s more the fact that he’s the only Republican saying it — the rest just spouting party line with sufficient microns of difference that they and their gleaming camera smiles can try to STAND OUT. So watch for this thing to soon turn domestic. Just wait until Paul is confronted with voting against school lunches, or more cops on the street, or against the latest "safety" fad forced upon you at gunpoint. Virtually every American has a pet must that Paul is against and voted against if he had the chance.

See, you can be a constitutional congressman. You can’t be a constitutional president. Presidents are elected to find ways around the Constitution and it’s been working fabulously for over 200 years. Presidents began ignoring the constitution sooner than the ink was dry on the thing. Presidents exist and are elected as a giant euphemism for King. The only real difference is that when the good King you put in power becomes the bad King a few years later, you get to replace him with another good King and the cycle continues.

I think Ron Paul sincerely doesn’t want to be King, which disqualifies him. You’ll see.

May 19, 2007 Posted by | Politics | Leave a comment

“Speaking Intolerable Truths”

Much as I hate to say it, because he’s so often whack, Pat Buchanan is right about this. It’s along the lines of something I wrote yesterday.

…up on that stage in Columbia, he was speaking intolerable truths. Understandably, Republicans do not want him back…

I suppose it’s not unreasonable to say that those who opposed going into Iraq in the first place had very good reason, simply because the chances were so great it would end up the complete and undeniable mess it has ended up. I supported going in, and I was agnostic on the nation-building democracy thing, which is to say: if you can do it, do it quick, and it works, fine. I should have considered how unlikely that was. What we should have done (20/20 hindsight-wise) is as soon as Saddam Hussein was captured, to haul ass, along with delivering a stern message to not make us come back.

May 18, 2007 Posted by | Politics | Leave a comment

Big, Bigger, Biggest Fool’s Parade

I don’t know that James Dobson is anywhere near what Andrew Sullivan refers to as "the most influential man in the Republican base," but he’s pretty damn influential, successful, and has been for a long time (I remember him as a teenager, like 30 years ago).

But get a load of that, will ya?

Well, God is going to move. You won’t find in the Scriptures that the
United States is coming to rescue Israel or the European Union, but God
says he is going to supernaturally intervene, we’re talking about fire
from heaven, a massive earthquake, diseases spreading through the enemy
forces.  It is going to be such a clear judgement [sic] against the enemies
of Israel that Exekiel 39 says that will take seven months to bury all
the bodies of the slain enemies of Israel. And the birds of the air and
the beasts of the field are going to eat many of these slain soldiers.
I think this is the end of radical Islam as we know it, Ezekiel 38 and
39, and in the aftermath, millions, even tens of millions, including
radical Muslims, will come to faith in Jesus Christ. And given the
events going on in our world today, people at the Pentagon, people at
the CIA, people at the White House are asking to sit down and talk
about these issues, to understand the Biblical perspective, because it
is uncanny what is happening out there and it deserves some study.

Get a good belly laugh and read the whole thing. No, it’s not two inmates from an insane asylum, but it ought to be — rather than a discussion of the sort of "geopolitical analysis" they’re prepared to provide to the White House, CIA, and Pentagon.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I was once enough of a complete impressionable moron to hear stuff like that and completely take it in stride with a head nod. Reading it today, I’m just awestruck by the insanity. I mean, I was just writing about bigger fools, and it boggles my mind to think that anyone, in 2007 — with so much access to information at the fingertips — could be a big enough fool. At least I had the excuse of being somewhat cloistered, which is the Fundy stock in trade; i.e., church three of four times per week, private echo-chamber schools, limited or no access to television, limited or no access to contemporary music, limited or no access to contemporary film. In short, the idea is to limit competing sources of information.

Sure, they (Fundies) are all over the Internet, but just like we boys had the Playboy stash behind the woodshed, you’d think kids today would be bombarded by competing information. I suspect they are, but it just takes time for nutbars like this to be laughed off the planet.

It’ll never be soon enough for me.

May 17, 2007 Posted by | Religion | Leave a comment

Grave Dancing

An interview of Christopher Hitchens given to CNN on the death of Jerry Falwell. I take some issue with it, but take a look first.

I’m not so sure that Falwell wasn’t sincere in his beliefs in primitive superstition and an imaginary friend. As a teenager and young adult, I watched Falwell and others like him very closely, went to a college for a year at a place much like Liberty University, et cetera. There’s a hypothesis I have some sympathy for: that it’s impossible for someone (like the pope, for instance), to be stupid enough to really believe all that childish rubbish and create the kind of success they do in building and managing huge organizations. They must just be really good cons. Kind of a Man Behind the Curtain, only out in front.

I never bought into that completely, and mostly because it’s impossible to prove unless they confess. And, why wouldn’t they? If they derive pleasure and satisfaction from the con, then eventually their ego must demand that everyone know just how good they were.

I’ve a better theory, kind of like the Bigger Fool Theory. Religious leaders are sincere fools, and it works only because there’s no shortage of bigger fools that will follow, i.e., so foolish that they can’t even capitalize and profit from their primitive delusions. Indeed, in my observation regarding fundamentalist baptist churches, there’s the few "rock stars" that do very well, those who are always trying to be one, but never can, and most everyone else just gets poorer and poorer in life. They go from one life crisis and failure to another. Some fortunate ones eventually distance themselves (or give it the big middle finger, like me) and almost immediately begin seeing improvements in their lives in terms of finances, relationships, and happiness.

It’s good that fools like Falwell are dropping dead, but there’s plenty just waiting to take their place. Who better to lead fools, than fools?

As a bonus, here’s more Hitchens on Falwell.

The discovery of the carcass of Jerry Falwell
on the floor of an obscure office in Virginia has almost zero
significance, except perhaps for two categories of the species labeled
"credulous idiot." The first such category consists of those who
expected Falwell (and themselves) to be bodily raptured out of the
biosphere and assumed into the heavens, leaving pilotless planes and
driverless trucks and taxis to crash with their innocent victims as
collateral damage. This group is so stupid and uncultured that it may
perhaps be forgiven. It is so far "left behind" that almost its only pleasure is to gloat at the idea of others being abandoned in the same condition.

You’ll have to read the article to discover the second such category.

May 17, 2007 Posted by | Religion | 1 Comment

Facts and Judgments

The blogosphere is awash in commentary about the Guiliani and Ron Paul kerfuffle in the 2nd GOP debate the other night.

I’ll simply point out that there are facts, and then there are judgments about what ought to be done about them. Why is it such a taboo for Paul to point out that America has and is being targeted by Middle Eastern terrorist organizations because it has engaged itself in Middle Eastern affairs? It’s a fact. Now, you may think it’s an entirely appropriate engagement (and some of it was, in my view), but that is a separate matter from the immutable fact that it’s the case. To my knowledge, there are dozens of countries with more or less the same secular freedoms and "morally corrupt" culture we have, yet they are not engaged in the various Middle-Eastern conflicts and you don’t see them being attacked. Again, you can judge or characterize their lack of involvement however you wish, but the facts remain.

We were, are, and will be attacked because we put ourselves into the fight way back when and are in it now deeper than ever.

Alas, Ron Paul has not said that America deserved what it got (which is the dishonest spin being given by blowhards); he has said, essentially, that what it got is only to be expected. He is (accurately) identifying a cause & effect relationship.

Now, the Republicans — and particularly the primitive-minded morons on the Christian Right — want you to believe that the root cause is not our involvement, but our freedom, secularism, Christianity — or some combination thereof. ‘They hate us because of our culture and that’s why they crash planes into buildings and blow up embassies and so forth.’ Well, they hate us because of our culture, and it’s a convenient excuse to inflame the conflict and stir the streets and bolster the incomes of American flag and presidential effigy makers, but it’s not the fundamental reason for their attacks. The fundamental reason is that we have engaged ourselves in the conflict.

Those are the facts. Now deal with them.

May 17, 2007 Posted by | Politics | 2 Comments

Confirming Signal

Yep; just when you think all is settled and everyone is on board is the most critical time in any trend. I saw this coming months ago. Here’s a confirming signal (link: Meyer). Watch for more.

It was a combination of things. It was the ever-increasing number of Toyota Prius Hybrids I see (enormous, here in CA). It was compact florescent bulbs, which for most applications are not any improvement over what we’ve been using for the last 50 years and more in terms of purpose. It was the increasing hysteria over plastic grocery bags to the extent that some cities are banning them. It was pretentious calls to use less TP, for Christ’s sake. It was Citigroup committing $1 billion to the global warming cause. It was all kinds of things that looked to me just like an exhaustion rally.

Maybe I’m wrong.  But I don’t think so, and the reason I don’t think I’m wrong is because I highly suspect that man-made global warming is bullshit, and I think that the warming that has been demonstrated isn’t and won’t be anywhere near as serious as has been predicted. It may even be beneficial, on balance, globally.

Look at it this way: the man-made global warming lobby has stuck their necks out big time. Oh, they’ll never pay the price for that, but they’ve bet everything on the assertion that man-made Co2 emissions are the causal factor in warming, which means that when the sun’s current 1000-year record activity peaks (it may have, already), it should have little effect on continued temperature rise if man-made Co2 emissions continue to rise, which is a sure bet considering development in China and India.

In essence, they’ve bet the farm that temperature will continue to rise if man-made Co2 continues to rise. If it doesn’t rise year after year after year, it falsifies their entire thesis. Oh, they’ll shuffle their feet and issue bullshit press releases for a few years, hoping for a spike back up, but should it never come, they’re sunk. And then we’ll be off for the next big global rip-off.

And everyone will forget what suckers they were. They’ll be too busy trying to get suckered all over again.

Update: Yep yep yep. All the makings of a sucker rally. A fad.

May 16, 2007 Posted by | Environmentalism | 2 Comments

This Just In

Michael Hampton at Homeland Stupidity has a really excellent writeup on last night’s GOP Debate on Fox to include poll results at both Fox and MSNBC where Paul placed 2nd and 1st, respectively.

Look: nobody should be the president of the United States. But I’d at least like to see Paul get some decent (wide) media exposure. He’s the only one (on either side) saying anything that ‘s worth more than a dime’s worth of difference from what everyone else is saying.

May 16, 2007 Posted by | Politics | Leave a comment

Falwell

I actually heard him speak in person once, at a church here in the SF Bay Area. Must’ve been mid-80’s. As with all such controversial personalities, they’re loved or hated far more than ignored and in my book, overcoming irrelevance goes a long way towards having lived a life.

– I really believe that the Pagans, and the abortionists, and the
feminists, and the gays and the lesbians, … the ACLU, People For the
American Way – all of them who have tried to secularize America – I
point the finger in their face and say ‘you helped this [terrorist
attack: 9/11] happen.

– If you’re not a born-again Christian, you’re a failure as a human being.

– AIDS is not just God’s punishment for homosexuals; it is God’s punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals.

– The idea that religion and politics don’t mix was invented by the Devil to keep Christians from running their own country.

– Homosexuality is Satan’s diabolical attack upon the family that will
not only have a corrupting influence upon our next generation, but it
will also bring down the wrath of God upon America.

– Christians, like slaves and soldiers, ask no questions.

– I am such a strong admirer and supporter of George W. Bush that if he
suggested eliminating the income tax or doubling it, I would vote yes
on first blush.


Billy Graham is the chief servant of Satan in America.

– I think hell’s a real place where real people spend a real eternity.

I wonder if there’s any truth to the rumor that in his final moments of life, he had a deathbed confession renouncing primitive superstitions, accepting Reason as his absolute guide, and acknowledging the sad but immutable finality of his death.

May 15, 2007 Posted by | Religion | 2 Comments

Legislating Elightenment

Here’s a follow-up to a sent item form yesterday. This was from another very nice and upstanding member of our small community whose company I always enjoy quite enthusiastically.

I understand the point of view that compassion and respect cannot and should not be legislated–that’s what I hear lies at the heart of your response, yes?

Yes; they cannot. Compassion, respect, appreciation, understanding, enlightenment, empathy, et al; these and other — some would say ‘virtuous’ — attributes can’t be legislated. The law can only effect one thing: compliance. To wax metaphorical, legislation can’t offer heaven, it can only threaten hell.

And of course that’s precisely why the laws and ordinances are needed: to ensure that folks who would otherwise be ignored or who have historically been marginalized or in some other way "disenfranchised" or dehumanized so that others DON’T feel compassion, understanding, or respect toward them, can participate fully.

Right. We’re not talking about compassion, respect, understanding, education, or anything like that. We’re talking about force, compulsion, penalties, and so on. We’re also talking about the transfer of assets from some to benefit others, also backed by threat of force.

One clarification: such laws and ordinances are perceived as "needed" by some and are typically paid for (via compulsion) in part by others who perceive no such need.

I.e., I’m passionately in favor of legislation that provides for the possibility of inclusion and participation by historically marginalized folks. And yep, I think the availability of handicapped accessible parking spots is a good step in that direction.

I’m passionately in favor of Enlightenment, which naturally subsumes all these compassionate, inclusive, diverse things we’re talking about. You can’t legislate that either. All the guns, fists, clubs, jails, execution chambers, fines, levies, seizures, judgments, legislatures, courts, judges, kings, presidents, laws, ordinances, statutes, declarations, constitutions, amendments, subpoenas, election days, and voting booths  in the world cannot compel enlightenment. They can only compel. As George Washington stated: "government is force." That’s all it is; and I contend — will forever contend — that forced compliance never delivers anything but submission.

I don’t have a problem with handicapped parking, wheelchair ramps, or sinks no more than 36" high, or whatever. These are all good things. But who among us cannot identify hundreds, if not thousands of things that would be good for them, but that are not necessarily accessible?

I just want to be clear about what we are "achieving," and it’s not compassion (resentment, more likely) or respect (which is earned, even for those with handicaps) or Enlightenment (which begins by rejecting force and coercion to achieve "noble" ends).

In truth, I believe that such laws and ordinances can change the life experience of those who have had the unearned privileges all along–such as the (temporarily) able-bodied–and that by changing those life experiences, the laws can actually encourage the growth of awareness, compassion, empathy, understanding, and care.

Yep. If you force an animal (even rational animals) long enough you’ll modify behavior. You could perhaps even condition behavior to the extent that it’s seemingly "from the heart."

I’m reminded of a line from Christopher Hitchens in his newest book, God is not Great: "False comfort is no comfort."

So I cannot be comforted by mere behavior that mimics a trait I wish humanity would develop out of Enlightenment. For me, everything else is just a fraud (and a very expensive one).

May 15, 2007 Posted by | Culture | Leave a comment

“The Stockdale Paradox”

Long-term human optimism in the face of short-term reality

An interesting bit on the late Admiral Jim Stockdale, Vietnam prisoner of war.

Asked: "Who didn’t make it out?"

"The optimists. They were the ones who said we’re going to be out by
Christmas. And, Christmas would come and Christmas would go. Then
they’d say, We’re going to be out by Easter. And Easter would come, and
Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas
again. Then they died of a broken heart.

"You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end –
which you can never afford to lose – with the discipline to confront
the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be."

Words to live and trade by, I think.

May 15, 2007 Posted by | Market Trading, Philosophy | Leave a comment