A race to help Soldier’s Angels

Squidoo has $80,000 to give away.  It wants people to vote on which charity (from a long list) should get some of that money.  For every vote cast for a specific charity, that charity receives $2.00, up until all of those $80,000 are gone.  My vote is for Soldier’s Angels.  You should check it out and, if you don’t know which charity to select (and there are many good one), I recommend Soldier’s Angels as your default vote.

Hat tip:  My Pet Jawa

Trying to break through the media fire

Since the moment Palin burst onto the scene, the media has engaged in the most sustained attack I’ve ever seen on a single political candidate.  Outright lies, partial lies, rumors, half-truths, full truths — it doesn’t matter.  There’s just a giant information dump onto the public radar, with the hope that most people will never sort through the information, but will just be left with a general impression that Palin is an idiot who lies, cheats, steals, slaughters animals indiscriminately, hunts and burns witches, sleeps with her whole family, censors books (but probably can’t read ‘em), and (worst of all) believes in God.

The McCain campaign has now set up a pretty cute little website aimed at countering the worst of the smears against her.  It’s called, appropriately enough, Palin Truth Files, and it deserves some attention.

A blog to consider

Ronald Hayden wandered over to my blog in connection with my post about the transgendered bathrooms in England, and stayed to make some good points.  I therefore decided to wander over to his blog, Better Angels, and discovered that the good points were not accidental.

Better Angels is a good blog, written by a genuinely independent thinker.  Just as Ronald may not agree with everything said here, and you or I may not agree with everything said there, it passes my test of being well-written, well-informed, intelligent, and intellectually honest.  You all might want to scootch on over and check it out.

Interesting day

It’s been a surprising day.  I went up a belt at martial arts, so I’m now an advanced beginner, working towards becoming a beginning intermediate.  I also got a very interesting job offer.  I periodically get job offers from my clients, but I don’t often consider them interesting.  This one, however, I do, and I really need to sit down and seriously think about my long and short term goals.  (And I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow a.m., DQ.)

Still no American Carol

There is still no listing for An American Carol in my neck of the woods.  And this isn’t just because today is Tuesday and it’s not opening until Friday.  As you can see from the movie listings from my community, all the other “opening Friday” movies, but for Drona and Kidnap (both Hindi movies), are booked into theaters.  I therefore depend on all of you to tell me if the movie is good.

The view from across the pond

I like to read British publications, as well as the Spiegel, and whatever other English language versions of European papers strike my fancy.  It’s useful to see what’s going on in other parts of the world and, more than that, to see how the local press views its own events.

One thing I’ve noticed in all these foreign publications in the last week:  aside from whining about their own economic plight, they’re all thrilled to think that America’s dominance is at an end.  This story from Spiegel strikes precisely the note I’m talking about:

THE END OF ARROGANCE
America Loses Its Dominant Economic Role

By SPIEGEL Staff

The banking crisis is upending American dominance of the financial markets and world politics. The industrialized countries are sliding into recession, the era of turbo-capitalism is coming to an end and US military might is ebbing. Still, this is no time to gloat.

I found that last sentence quite amusing, because the Spiegel Staff is so obvious gloating. After 60 years of being dependent on America — to rescue them from the Naziism they imposed on themselves, to protect them from Communists, and to support their economy by providing all the military they needed — the Germans (and most of the rest of Europe) are just too delighted with America’s current economic woes.

I will only say, Twain-like, that I suspect reports of America’s death are greatly exaggerated.  And more to the point, the Europeans had better hope that they’re exaggerated, because we are the last bastion of small “d” democratic freedoms, whether the European’s like to admit it or not.  We’re not holding our own as well as we once were, and some Europeans are wising up the hard way, but we’re still the last best hope.

European arrogance towards America doesn’t stop with politics.  How about this from the head of Nobel literature committee:

Bad news for American writers hoping for a Nobel Prize next week: the top member of the award jury believes the United States is too insular and ignorant to compete with Europe when it comes to great writing.

[snip]

As the Swedish Academy enters final deliberations for this year’s award, permanent secretary Horace Engdahl said it’s no coincidence that most winners are European.

“Of course there is powerful literature in all big cultures, but you can’t get away from the fact that Europe still is the center of the literary world … not the United States,” he told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview Tuesday.

Well, I guess you’re going to be the center of the literary world if you designate yourself as the center, but tautologies seem to be too sophisticated a thought for Mr. Engdahl.

As for me, I’m a woman of simple tastes, and make a point never to read recent examples of Nobel Prize winning literature, since they seem better suited to a man of Mr. Engdahl’s dubious sophistication:  unmoored to common concepts of grammar, narratively challenging, and morally vacuous.  But that’s just me.

Viva la difference!

First, I have to give you the money quote from the article.  Then, as you try to figure it out, I’ll fill you in on the story:

“You don’t necessarily have to have had gender reassignment surgery, but you could just define yourself as a man, feel very masculine in yourself, feel that in fact being a woman is not who you are.

Confused?  Well, yes, but so are a lot of people.  You see, the University of Manchester, in response to unnumbered complaints from transgendered people, have done away with men’s and women’s rooms and, instead, classified restrooms as “toilets” and “toilets with urinals.”  The quotation above is from a “women’s officer,” explaining precisely why the University thought this change was necessary:

Women’s officer Jennie Killip refused to say how many people had complained, and there are no figures for how many transgender people there are among the university’s 35,000 population.

She said: “If you were born female, still presently quite feminine, but defined as a man you should be able to go into the men’s toilets.

“You don’t necessarily have to have had gender reassignment surgery, but you could just define yourself as a man, feel very masculine in yourself, feel that in fact being a woman is not who you are.

“Transgender people can face violence and abuse when they go into toilets and we wanted to provide a place where they can feel comfortable.

“I have had complaints from people who said we didn’t have any facilities for them.”

I find it suspicious, of course, that Killip refuses to number those complaints.  Be honest:  Just how many transgendered people really are suffering potty confusion over in Manchester?

Not everyone is as thrilled with the change as Killip clearly is, but even the students who complain seem incapable of phrasing their complaints without falling back on their own PC victimhood (that is, raising one victim group against another):

Second-year student Jane McConnell, 19, a news editor on the Student Direct student newspaper, said: “While these signs might be appropriate for people with different sexualities, I also think that many people from different religious and ethnic groups are going to feel uncomfortable using these facilities.

“Even though they’re just two signs, at the end of the day, toilets should be for women and for men specifically, not for both.”

Although it may be hard to believe reading this post, I have sympathy for people who are sexually confused.  I can only imagine that it’s a hell of a life and that it does carry with it certain very real inconveniences.  Nevertheless, the university’s decision to abandon biology entirely and pretend on the basis of “unnumbered” complaints that the differences between the sexes are merely a product of any given individual’s self-perception is a form of intellectual dishonesty that really takes my breath away.

Frankly, even there really is a problem, how about digging into the university budget and springing for a few bathrooms with a single toilet and a sink that can be used by either gender, on a one-at-a-time basis?

It’s the end of the world as we know it.

The new brownshirts *UPDATED*

One of the most horrific things about both the Nazis and the Communists was the way in which they indoctrinated children.  Children were encouraged to place the State — and especially the state’s leader, whether Hitler or Stalin — above the family, and to give their loyalty to the former, not the latter.  Unhappy parents discovered that the state’s spy network extended to their own home, with their children, having been completely reprogrammed by the state, turning them in for whatever the average 9 year old deemed to be a treasonous infraction.

Thank of that as you view this video, which Kim Priestap found and posted at Wizbang.  Kim doubts that this is what it pretends to be — a grassroots moment where hyper aware kids discover the beauty of the Obamessiah and suddenly burst into song.  I agree with her, but I find it even more disturbing as a harbinger of our children being co-opted to the state:

UPDATETrust Confederate Yankee to discover just how polished this allegedly grass roots effort really is.

UPDATE IIThe Anchoress adds her two cents about the Orwellian nature of that creepy video.

A lovely homage to Admiral Stockdale

In 1992, I watched the three way Vice-Presidential debate, pitting Al Gore, Dan Quayle and last-minute Perot pick Admiral James B. Stockdale.  I saw 90 minutes during which Admiral Stockdale opened with two philosophical questions (“Who am I?  Why am I here?”) that made him look befuddled, not thoughtful, and then I watched him vanish in the melee that was the Gore-Quayle verbal fist-fight.

As a die-hard Clintonite, I resented his being there (although I’ve since realized that it was Perot’s and Stockdale’s presence on the ticket that enabled Clinton to win), and I was not inclined to take the man seriously.  I’m sorry now that I didn’t.  His son has written a lovely homage to him, one that explains the way in which he was brutally dragged into an alien political landscape and exposed to a great deal of public humiliation.  Mr. Stockdale also tells us precisely what kind of a man his father was, and how even this gauntlet didn’t touch his true core:

As everyone saw that evening, he was not a politician. He was a fighter-pilot ace, a Medal of Honor recipient, and a wonderful dad and human being. During his eight years as a POW, he slit his scalp and beat his face with a stool to prevent his captors from parading him in the streets for propaganda purposes. He gave starving men his food rations when he himself was starving. And at home, after his release in 1973, he was a respected leader, scholar and writer. He considered himself a philosopher.

He studied the Greeks — specifically Epictetus, an ancient slave and stoic who espoused the idea that individuals have free will and absolute autonomy over all matters within their control. He believed we must not wallow in self-pity when the chips are down, but rather recognize that we have the power to choose how to respond to everything.

My father adopted this philosophy while a graduate student at Stanford University in the early 1960s. So he never took pity on himself — ever. Not as a POW when he was tortured, forced to wear leg irons and to live in solitary confinement. And not after the debate. He knew he had put himself into that arena.

Mr. Stockdale wraps up his article with a great deal of sympathy of what has been and will be happening to Sarah Palin.

The fix is in

I don’t think Glenn Reynolds will mind my reprinting this in its entirety, since it deserves to be read as widely as possible.  Send it along to your friends — and, maybe, to your local newsroom:

A READER AT A MAJOR NEWSROOM EMAILS: “Off the record, every suspicion you have about MSM being in the tank for O is true. We have a team of 4 people going thru dumpsters in Alaska and 4 in arizona. Not a single one looking into Acorn, Ayers or Freddiemae. Editor refuses to publish anything that would jeopardize election for O, and betting you dollars to donuts same is true at NYT, others. People cheer when CNN or NBC run another Palin-mocking but raising any reasonable inquiry into obama is derided or flat out ignored. The fix is in, and its working.” I asked permission to reprint without attribution and it was granted.

UPDATE: The Anchoress hears similar things. And reader Eric Schubert: “The Edwards debacle was proof enough of where the heart of the MSM lies, and lack of curiousity of the press about Edwards probably cost Hillary the nomination. And that shameful episode offers a warning to the MSM. What if Obama does have a skeleton in his closet (such as a shady deal or outright bribe) that is revealed after he wins the election? While the chance of this scenario is remote, imagine the backlash against the MSM if it could be shown that a reasonable investigation by the MSM would have easily revealed this secret to the public prior to the election?”

Watcher’s Council Winners

Time flies, and with the economic and political hysteria flying around with it, I lost track of Watcher’s Council results.  As it was, I found the voting incredibly difficult, because each post I read struck as being at least as good as, if not better than, the one that came before.  No wonder, then, that there were so many ties this week, although the first place winners came through loud and clear:

Non-Council Winners

* – T denotes a tie

The Hollywood illusion

I hadn’t missed the fact that Paul Newman died of cancer this weekend.  I always admired him, not for his screen presence, but for his off-screen decency:  a fifty year marriage to the same woman and a twenty year commitment to children’s charities.  As for his on-screen presence, I too admired his unusual good looks, but I never made the mistake of being unable to separate the man from his roles.

I was thinking of that in connection with this picture, which surfaced as part of all the obituaries about Mr. Newman:

It’s a great picture, isn’t it?  Anyone other than a child recognizes it as a scene from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Don’t they look cool?  Running through a shootout with their own guns blazing.  Talk about heroes (or, in the case of this movie, anti-heroes).

Except that’s not what the picture shows at all.  What this picture really shows is two grown men playing at dress-up and “let’s pretend,” with fake guns in their hands.  They aren’t brave, they aren’t cool.  They aren’t doing anything meaningful at all.  If you saw your neighbors do this on the street, your first thought would be “what pathetic geeks.”

Of course, unlike those hypothetical geeky neighbors, Newman and Redford are doing one thing:  they’re providing entertainment.  I happen to believe that entertainment is a wonderful thing.  I really like being entertained.  But I never make the mistake of thinking that our current crop of studly little actors, such as Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise, are anything but short men (they’re always short) who work out a lot with trainers to create pretty but useless muscles, and who pretend on screen to be cool.  These guys don’t do anything.  They don’t fight for their beliefs, they don’t protect the innocent, they don’t push around bad-guys.  They put on costumes, and hold fake guns, and prance around to someone’s direction.

And when it comes to these hot-shot actors (not just Brad and Tom, but all of them), their off-screen lives range from the banal to the disgusting.  None of them are exemplary in their lives.  Indeed, that’s what makes Newman’s death truly sad.  Not the end of his screen presence, but the end of a life that was lived with true decency and meaning despite, not because of, the pretence of coolness and “meaning” that Hollywood foists on the American people.

Good reads

Gosh alone knows why, but I’ve never linked here to Haveil Havalim, a weekly blog carnival of posts from all over by, about and of interest to Jews.  It’s a fantastic read, and it reflects badly on me that I’ve never let y’all know about it.  So, in the “better late than never” category, go here to the 184th editon of Haveil Havalim.

Harry Truman, America’s most famous Missourian, is rolling in his grave

“If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”  — Harry Truman.

If you can’t stand the heat, get goons to frighten your opponents — and in Missouri, this means rounding up Democratic government prosecutors and officials to threaten people with prosecution for political speech.

Setting the bar to a new low *UPDATED*

Do you get the feeling that a lot of Democrats, having watched the first debate, are saying that their man is qualified to be in the White House merely because he managed not too drool all over himself and say anything too stupid?  That is, they’re acknowledging that, substantively, McCain was much better, but they’re willing to set the bar so low that it’s good enough that their candidate isn’t an idiot.  Scary days, my friends.

UPDATE:  I have more thoughts about the debate here, at my alternative blogging venue (on Saturdays), McCain-Palin 2008.

Some uncomfortable watching

I’ve said before that I am not a racist — I’m a classist or values-ist.  Always have been.  I don’t care about your external color or sexuality or whatever; I do care about the beliefs you bring to the table.

What this means is that I’m pretty hostile to identity politics.  I never felt compelled to like Hillary just because she and I are both female; and I admire Joe Lieberman, although not always his political positions, because he’s a brave man, not because he’s a Jew (although I think it’s nice that he’s a brave Jew).  I definitely associate with my Jewishness when I feel people are under attack merely for being Jewish, which is the Holocaust all over again, but that’s entirely different from giving someone a pass just because he or she is a Jew.

And as I explained to my children, one doesn’t vote for Obama just because he’s black, which is as racist as voting against Obama just because he’s black.

All of this is a lead-in to a very uncomfortable video that’s making the rounds.  I caught it on both American Thinker and Wizbang (which also has a chart showing how many Democrats benefited from Fannie and Freddie).  Here’s the video.  It’s long, fascinating, boring and important:

There are two take away messages.  The first we already know:  Republicans were trying back in 2004 to reform Fannie and Freddie, with some of them accurately predicting precisely what started happening last year, with the subprime meltdown, and this year, with the bank implosions; and Democrats were blocking these efforts.

The second take away is a new message and a very disturbing one.  While it’s true that the video seems cut to highlight the point, it is still plain that black House members rallied around Fannie and Freddie because Franklin Raines is black.  They were protecting one of their own and to Hell with the nation.  That’s a peculiar kind of 21st Century identity politics that I find horrifying and that, for America, proved to be devastating.