Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Don't Call Him A Czar

Glenn Beck has been getting under the thin skin of the current inhabitant of the White House. We know this because they started a boycott of Glenn Beck. The fellow out of the White House behind the boycott is Van Jones. And Glenn Beck went after the fellow, calling him a communist and identifying him as a White House Czar. According to Glenn Beck just now, the White House is denying that he is a Czar.

Should we call him a Commissar instead?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I wonder what Mary Jo Kopechne has to say to Ted

It appears that Ted Kennedy has left the planet. One wonders what the world would have been like had Mary Joe Kopechne escaped drowning and Ted died back in 1969.

My single most vivid impression of the Massachusetts Senator was a parody advertisement in the National Lampoon for the Volkswagon Beetle--a car famous for its ability to float. The caption was, "If Ted Kennedy drove a Volkswagon, he'd be President today."

My one regret is that Rush Limbaugh will never again run any of his Ted Kennedy Updates. "The Philanderer" was always a favorite of mine.

Mr. Kennedy's accomplishments are many. For instance, he gave us Immigration And Nationality Act of 1965 that worked out so well that it was reformed in the Immigration Reform and Conrol Act of 1986 that granted amnesty to all the illegal immigrants then in our country. And we know how well that has worked out.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Why Charles Hates Sarah (a corollary)

Yesterday, I claimed that Sarah Palin is "socially horrifying." And I expressed a desire that she continue her socially horrifying behavior.

Today I read that Charles Krauthammer has asked Sarah Palin to "leave the room."

I have as much respect for Mr. Krauthammer as I have contempt for Ms. Dowd, but they are doing the same thing in their imprecations of Ms. Palin. They are condemning her David-like style of fighting. In so doing, Mr. Krauthammer is being First a commentator and Second a conservative.

As a commentator in good standing, Mr. Krauthammer has a vested interest in the social structure Mrs. Palin is undermining with her David-like behavior. For her to behave in a fashion acceptable to Mr. Krauthammer, she must first listen to Mr. Krauthammer, and then she must get his permission to enter or exit the room. And since the other side has a lot more people like him on their side, she will lose. If you doubt this, ask how well Mrs. Palin's interviews with Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric worked for her.

This socially horrifying behavior of Mrs. Palin's has been misunderstood by a lot of people. Particularly me. (I thought she was being anti-elitist, but that's not the case.)

By fighting Goliaths in a David-like way, she is undermining the position of folks like Mr. Krauthammer and Ms. Dowd alike. If people can read your Facebook page for yourself, what do you need Mr. Krauthammer or Ms. Dowd for?

As far as I am concerned, I'm fine with Mrs. Palin waiting until she is sitting in the Oval office with veto-proof majorities in both houses of Congress before she invites either Mr. Krauthammer or Ms. Dowd enter the room.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sarah Palin is "Socially Horrifying"

Malcolm Gladwell wrote an essay a while back about how underdogs can win.

Underdogs are called underdogs because the opposition holds all the advantages. Gladwell provides an example of a girl's basketball team composed of shorter girls. The coach found a way to win by adapting unconventional strategies that he adapted from his experience with cricket and soccer. That's how underdogs win. If the other side holds all the advantages, then you will lose if you play the game the other guy's way.

Underdogs win when they can find a way to play the game their way that negates the other guys' advantage. The other guys do not appreciate this and they tend to cry foul.

Let's take a look at the scoreboard and the playing field. The President is a Democrat, as his wacky side-kick. The Democrats have a veto-proof majority in the Senate and a wide majority in the House of Representations. They have all but the networks except one echoing their every talking point. And the Democrats managed to Alinski Mrs. Palin out of the governorship of Alaska.

Meanwhile Half the Republican party is falling over itself to say, "me too."

So, I'd say that Mrs. Palin would qualify as an underdog. And instead of going on the Sunday Morning chat shows or giving interviews with pundits who'll carry her words to the masses, she posts her opinions on Facebook.

Maureen Dowd cried foul last week.

She took a forum, Facebook, more commonly used by kids hooking up and cyberstalking, and with one catchy phrase, several footnotes and a zesty disregard for facts, managed to hijack the health care debate from Mr. Obama.

This is what we call a clue. Mrs. Palin has shown that she can surprise everyone, do things that seem to destroy her future, and then manage to win. When Ms. Dowd whines, "she's cheatin' I'm tellun," you know she's not playing the game her adversaries have laid out for her.

Here's the thing. Mrs. Palin started talking about death panels. And the entire news-government complex started by putting the term in scare quotes. And then they called her a liar. The Messiah In Chief proceeded to say she was Bearing False Witness.

Yeah, but people believe that unemployed hick on the cyberstalking channel instead of their betters like Ms. Dowd, et al. David 1, Goliath 0.

How can this be? ObamaCare is proposed to reduce health care costs. Sick people incur health care costs. Dead people have zero health care costs. And if sick people die sooner that reduces health care costs. Does this mean ObamaCare won't reduce health care costs?

Is there anything in the hundreds of pages the ObamaCare bill that specifically excludes Death Panels? Has any politician suggested adding language to the bill that will specifically exclude Death Panels? I guess a sneering denial will have to do.

When Malcolm Gladwell says:
Arreguín-Toft found the same puzzling pattern. When an underdog fought like David, he usually won. But most of the time underdogs didn’t fight like David.

Later he says:
This is the second half of the insurgent’s creed. Insurgents work harder than Goliath. But their other advantage is that they will do what is “socially horrifying”—they will challenge the conventions about how battles are supposed to be fought. All the things that distinguish the ideal basketball player are acts of skill and coördination. When the game becomes about effort over ability, it becomes unrecognizable—a shocking mixture of broken plays and flailing limbs and usually competent players panicking and throwing the ball out of bounds. You have to be outside the establishment—a foreigner new to the game or a skinny kid from New York at the end of the bench—to have the audacity to play it that way.

Either by accident or design, Sarah Palin has fought ObamaCare like David fought Goliath. I have no idea whether she can keep it up. I hope so, because we've got years of Democrats playing the role of Goliath ahead of us.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Religion For Decorative Purposes

The Ten Commandments include the 3rd commandment that says not to use the name of deity "in vain." Orthodox Jews keep this commandment by writing G-d. And I think anyone who says, "God" or "Jesus Christ" as part of an oath or curse is violating this commandment. But after reflecting on the commandment, another sense of meaning occurred to me. (If you can find anything in the Bible that contradicts this, you should believe that and not what I'm about to say.)

The Bible says not to use the name in vain. I've also heard the commandment translated not to use the name "in a useless fashion" or an "empty way." And I don't think there's any question that this is what the commandment is getting at.

But consider another use of the word "vanity" and that's the furniture or bathroom figure one uses when applying makeup. We use a vanity to maintain our outward appearance. Beauty being only skin deep and all that.

Jesus complained early and often about the Pharisees whom he called play-actors or hypocrites. He condemned the shallowness of their religion. They were all about appearances without much concern about inward attitudes. He spoke of polishing the outside of the cup while leaving the inside dirty. Whited sepulchers and all that.

They used religion as a Decorative item. And that's what I think the 3rd Commandment is strongly condemning. Thou Shalt Not use the Name as Decoration.

This is a trap for anyone who goes to church more than twice a year. For one thing, it's easy to represent oneself as being somewhat pious while inside you're not entirely incorporating the character of Christ into your inner being. (Or if you're Jewish, internalizing the Torah.) Instead, you go to church and you act like you're not as desperately wicked as you know your heart to be.

I noticed when I was in Shipshewana, Indiana a couple weeks ago that there are many businesses run by Christians. They don't hide their Christianity. That's OK. But anyone familiar with families knows that the children can have a different relationship (or no relationship) with God than their parents. What if keeping up appearances is good for business? I worry that if the kids don't share their parents' Christianity, then after they inherit the business they'll feel a need to fake it: Keep up the facade of Christianity and use it as decoration. If that happens, and I hope it doesn't, it will be a violation of the Third Commandment.

Then there is Politics. One candidate for President last year ran in the Republican primaries on the premise, "Vote for me because I'm Baptist." I am Baptist and I like Baptists and I could probably enjoy an evening of non-alcoholic beverages and conversation with this man and have a great time. But I voted against him because I think having the same religion as me is a bad reason for me to vote for anybody. (Besides, he ran Arkansas as much like a socialist as Bill Clinton did before him.)

Politicians always like to be seen in church. Before Billy Graham got too old, every President make a point of getting a photo op with him. I think that any politician's religious display is suspect, and I look to see whether he's using God's name in the vain pursuit of political ends.

After Bill Climpton lost the governor's race he was in the choir every Sunday sitting where the TV cameras would pick him up. I don't think he did that because he wanted to sing more hymns.

Finally, take the recent behavior of the man currently holding the office of the President. Does his use of religion violate the 3rd Commandment? It depends upon how deep his rhetoric goes to his personal character. If he says one thing and does another once or twice, that's one thing. (A sinner should have the space to repent.) If it's a pattern of behavior, that's another thing.

Let's say that I tell you that we are all our brother's keeper. That's true. Though you can say that all men are brothers, I happen to have three siblings, two brothers and a sister. If I had millions and they were living on welfare or in a dirt-floor shack, I'd do something tangible for them. If Barak Obama believes "I am my brother's keeper," then why does his brother live in a shack in Kenya?

This whole moral argument for nationalized health care (yes, he is calling it something else) that the President has launched in the last few days reeks of hypocrisy and desperation. If it were anything more than cynical manipulation, he would have started with moral arguments, not trotted them out after he'd already lost the Blue Dog Democrats. The effort is so transparently hypocritical that only Democrats could possibly fall for it.

If you're running for office, don't use religion for Decorative Purposes. (This goes especially for Sarah Palin who has been endowed by her Creator with enough decoration already.) Internalize your faith and make it integral to your inner character. Then live that out. You might not win, but you'll do better than that, you'll do the right thing.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


There's something about asymmetrical warfare. If you can use a cheap rocket propelled grenade to take out a tank, then you've got an advantage because it costs a lot more to replace the tank than it does to buy more RPGs.

For almost a year now, the entire media-government-political complex has been obsessed with one thing: destroy Sarah Palin by any means necessary. Their goal is to get her to follow Dan Quayle's example and slink quietly away to wherever it was in flyover country that he came from.

And it has been somewhat effective. If her name comes up in casual conversation, half the things attributed to her were instead uttered by Tina Fey on Saturday Night Live. In the hospital today, I saw her face on a magazin cover with the word DIVORCE plastered on her. There's a full court press that's been ongoing nonstop well after the election and well after her departure from the office of Governor of Alaska.

But something funny has started happening. Mrs. Palin got a facebook account. And she's been posting to it. Now, when I post something here, I figure maybe a couple friends might see it and it goes no further. But when Sarah Palin posts to her facebook page, there's a lot of people who notice and read it. This includes people who have heard the latest scurrilous rumors and are hoping for a juicy tidbit, and the uncommitted middle who are wondering why the Dems and their media lapdogs are hyperventilating.

Everyone who sees her facebook posts can see for themselves that Sarah Palin is not Tina Fey. She doesn't write like she's an idiot, how can that be?

This is leverage. It costs Sarah Palin nothing but her time to write up a facebook post. Contrast that with the money it takes to run a big astroturfing campaign and to marshal the efforts of state-run media to get the Dems' message out.

But Mrs. Palin's facebook posts will languish in obscurity unless something drives traffic to her site. And what better to drive traffic than the morbid curiosity of watching a train wreck. Come on Democrats, you know she's caribou Barbie white-trash, keep coming back to see her say something embarrassing, like "death panels." And read every word for some little clue, or tidbit of gossip about her marriage. Check back early and often.

And you Democrats know that if you don't stop demonizing her, she'll be a viable political figure in 2012. You can't have that. Perhaps you should shop around some more rumors about her family.

Try not to notice you're making people curious to find out more about the target of your Two Minute Hate.

Monday, August 17, 2009

What I learned making an epub eBook

I happen to own an Amazon Kindle and a SONY Reader. I've taken it upon myself to learn out how to make every eBook that I own readable on both devices. Sadly, the only eBook format that works on both devices is PDF. But PDF expects a specific page size and my readers happen to have different display sizes. I've decided to convert everything on my Amazon Kindle to MOBI format and everything on my SONY Reader to epub format.

Removing DRM from eBooks is a violation of Federal law or maybe just talking about it is. So, I've been messing about with Gutenberg texts. And other freely available texts. A couple days ago I stumbled upon a CD-ROM full of Puritan texts. I saw one and decided to convert it into an ebook. I intended to use Calibre to convert the ebook from epub to mobi. But first, I'd have to make a good looking epub file.

The first thing I learned was that the CD-ROM wasn't as good as the web, b/c the book was in PDF and it was easier to start with this html.

The first thing I learned was that WinZip can read epub files, because epub files are just zip files with a differently named extent. Just put all the HTMLs in a zip, rename the file extent. And add a few "extras." (I'll come back to this.)

The second thing I learned was that the epub file may look good in Calibre and on the Kindle, but fail miserably on the Sony Reader. The next step was to figure out how to validate the epub. And I found this site helpful.

The validation process told me the obvious: convert html to xhtml. Mostly by changing all <br> elements to <br/> and all <hr> elements to <hr/>. And the error messages eventually directed me to all but one fix that I needed to make.

If your HTML has any illegal characters, e.g. an accented 'e' like this, é, you'll get absolutely no help figuring out what the bad character is or where it occurs. You'll want to convert it to an escaped version: &#233; or you'll get a useless error message like this: "I/O error reading" without any clue as to where or what the problem is.

After you get an epub that passes validation. You're not done, because the SONY has a limitation. It can't handle any single chapter that's more than 100k in size. Thus you'll have to split all the content into pieces that are smaller than that.

Let's suppose you've got a set of cherry XHTML files in a zip file. It's still not an epub file until you've added the extras I mentioned above. You'll need to add files named:

1) mimetype that holds "application/epub+zip"
2) toc.ncx that defines a table of contents
3) content.opf that defines the contents of the epub.
4) container.xml that names content.opf

These extras were a little intimidating for me to dream up from scratch. So I cheated. I used Calibre to convert a tiny PDF to epub. Then I started replacing and extending the parts and pieces until I had replaced the tiny PDF's content with the desired book's content. Moving step by step through the various files, I could study each change in isolation and get an idea of why things worked or didn't.

In the end, if you're going to mess about with Gutenberg ebooks, you really want to put the extra effort into making them look pretty. This means googling around to find an picture of the book's cover. Or if you're artsy, design your own cover. Or if you've got the book in dead-tree format & scan it. And then there's the business of setting up the table of contents. I think you'll want to aim for a table of contents that fits on a single screen. Finally, you'll want to properly identify the book's publisher and isbn number. I usually look up the book on Amazon and copy whatever metadata I find there. Quality is a matter of attention to detail.

This is my latest foray into the realm of "bookmaking" and I know I've got a lot of learning to do.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

More Stupid Republicans, Please

You can tell the difference between a Republican who's going to lose a political contest from one who's going to win by one simple criterion: How stupid is he?

We all know that Ronald Reagan was an amiable dunce who somehow managed to win two presidential elections by landslides and win the Cold War, then hand the presidency to his Veep (who demonstrated how much smarter he was when he called Reagan's domestic policies "voodoo economics"), George H W Bush.

Eight years after that mental colossus was defeated, his doltish son, an alcoholic frat boy or something, George W Bush, ran for president. This man was so stupid he ended up controlling both houses of Congress and the White House.

That's some kind of stupid, huh?

Now, younger Bush might have been called "stupid" by the press, but that doesn't mean he was a Conservative or a Reaganite. And his statist propensities persuaded the Libertarian bloc of the Reagan coalition to look elsewhere. Nevertheless, Bush was a lame duck and there was no need for him to be stupid any longer.

(One delightful irony is to read Jonah Goldberg's book "Liberal Fascism" and see him squirm at the question of whether Bush was a fascist. When you hear "Big Government Conservatism" just think fascism and it be clear. No, this isn't what the lefties saying, "Bushitler," had in mind.)

Then the Republicans figured that disloyalty and craven media pandering was exactly what the party needed to reward and they nominated the smartest guy in the room (just ask him) John McCain. (This was the point where I quit calling myself a Republican.)

Somehow the boffins running the McCain campaign screwed up. They thought, "if the Democrats have an affirmative-action presidential nominee, we'll counter with an affirmative-action vice-presidential nominee. Little did they know, that Sarah Palin was not going to be a hick non-entity that politely (and quietly) provided eye-candy while McLame lost the election.

Mrs. Palin did what she was hired to do. She got guys like me to pull the R lever on election day. Don't blame me, I voted for Sarah and what's his name.

She also drove the lefties, the Democrats, and the media elites nuts. Which is a blessing really. I used to take National Review and the Trojan-Horse Conservative commentators they publish seriously. I know better than to heed them now, thank you, Sarah.

You see, Sarah Palin, is stupid.

If she were only as smart as I am, she'd have done what I expected her to do: Demonstrate she can run Alaska for the next two years then move on to something bigger. Instead, she quit the governorship, citing spurious ethics complaints and slanders. Just a fortnight later, when someone said she was divorcing her husband, private-citizen Palin could sue the fellow for slander. And after the fellow's remarkable implosion, slanderers have to be more circumspect. Haven't heard anything about ethics complaints, either.

And Sarah Palin is stupid because she used two words, "Death Panels."

This was a horrible thing to say. Republicans could call Obama socialist, and point how much ObamaCare was like national socialism, but doing so runs afoul of Godwin's Rule of Nazi Analogies. Instead, she said, "Death Panels," and everyone felt the words like blood red painted fingernails on chalkboard.

The lefties caught the vapors. Some fainted and the rest said, "that Palin has gone too far." The Trojan-Horse Conservative commentariate nodded in agreement, knowing how embarrassed they'd be at the next Beltway cocktail party. "There are no Death Panels in this bill... There are?.. Uh, let me get back with you on that."

It even gave pause to union thugs busting heads of Tea Partiers at town-hall meetings.

Death Panels. The AARP is a key front group for the Democrat party. Their leadership had been bought off along with everyone else. BUT the words "death panels" wonderfully concentrated the mind of anyone aged and infirm. When you're stupid like Sarah Palin, you realize a sick geezer will cost ObamaCare money, but a dead one won't.

Death Panels forced the AARP to listen to their members. They could either go along with their Obama, or they could lose their credibility as an advocate for the aged. And geezers vote. Sorry, Barry.

Thus Death Panels have been struck from ObamaCare. (I wonder what else is in this bill my Congressman & Senators have not read.) Who'd of thought that old folks were the exact point where political pressure could be most effectively applied?

Sarah Palin sure is stupid, isn't she? I wish more Republicans were stupid like that.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Amazon Kindle DX

Wednesday night after the writers group I was chatting with some friends. One of them said, "You should read The Yiddish Policemen's Union." And I agreed, I should. It's been a couple people who've recommended that book to me, and I'd agreed then, too.

This time, I thought, "Ho, Ho, this will be good." I excused myself and ran out to my car, I retrieved my Amazon Kindle DX. This is a fairly pricey bit of kit, but I'm a gadget fiend and my wife is tolerant of my excesses. I returned and sat down to show my friend the ultimate coolness.

I turned on the Kindle's radio and patiently waited for a connection to the Kindle store. Finally, it came back and I entered into the search box, "The Yiddish Policemen," figured that was enough and hit enter. A short wait. Nothing.

I tried something else. The Kindle isn't the easiest thing to type on so I kept thinking I'd typoed or something. No joy. Then I tried "Chabon" and I got a few hits. I found a hyperlink from the Amazon page to everything written by "Michael Chabon." It came back with a list of three books.

None of them were anything I'd ever heard of, and all the books that I had heard of were absent.

"Way to go, Amazon." Then I realized they were just reflecting the decision of the publisher. "Way to go, Harper Collins." Instead of gloating about what a great device the Amazon DX was, we went back to the previous conversation about what makes a corporation "evil" and what Amazon did last month deleting "1984" off customers' Kindles without permission.

This is what's known as a market failure. I was quite willing to pay whatever Harper Collins was willing to charge to buy a copy of this book. They weren't willing to sell it, but there are other books in the world I can read.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Two Revolutions

Please forward this to and flag it "fishy."

If you're a student of history, you may have heard of "The American Revolution" and if the scope of your historical interest is restricted to the 20th Century, you may have heard of "The Russian Revolution." If you think there is no difference between the two, you may believe recent propaganda emanating from state-run media.

A few months ago, President Obama claimed that he was the only thing standing between the bankers and the mobs. This was when the only "tea party" anybody had heard of was in Boston. Now I'm watching "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" and the perpetrator is a former Baader-Meinhof gang member fomenting Revolution through domestic terrorism. The writer had the terrorist conflate his Marxist direct-action with the tea-party rallies.

This week Democrats called Tea Partiers "Nazis," and Republicans called the government-worker union members who roughed up Tea Partiers "brown shirts." Good work guys. I call "Godwin's Law."

Once upon a time I was interviewed for a security clearance. They put me on a polygraph machine and asked if I'd ever been a communist or supported any communist cause. I had to answer, "yes" or "no." My answer then and now is, "No."

This was in 1980. Hitler and the Nazi party had died a decade before I was born. Then I was asked if I had ever been a fascist or supported a fascist political party. This question made absolutely no sense. I tried to make sense of it. I did intend to vote for Reagan and he was pretty far to the right.

So, I asked, "What's a fascist?" I had no idea what fascism meant then. My inquisitor explained that he was asking about the guys Hitler palled around with. And I answered, "No," only because "Hell, No," wasn't allowed. Apparently the boffins at the NSA had seen "The Boys From Brazil" or "They Saved Hitler's Brain."

The trouble is that almost everyone is ignorant of what fascism is. It's all that Hitler stuff, right? Presumably, National Socialism was not a form of Socialism? And those who oppose Socialism, in the form of socialized medicine at a Federal level, do not belong to that socialist heresy that competes with Stalinist Communism?

This is absurd because of the blood libel that Leftists have perpetrated against Conservatives and Libertarians for all my life. Nazis are Socialists. They're a different kind of Socialist than Communists, but they are socialists nonetheless.

If someone says William F. Buckley, or Ronald Reagan, or Rush Limbaugh is a crypto-fascist, ask yourself the question, "What Would Adolph Do?" Would he cut your taxes? Would he shrink your government? Would he RIF federal employees? Would he support the NRA? Would he treat you like a citizen not a subject? Did any of these things happen in Nazi Germany? No, all opposites happened there.

It's called "Totalitarian" government for a reason.

Here's the entire matter in a nutshell: How much government do you want? Do you want a lot more government? Or do you want less government? The American Revolution threw off the British Crown to get less government. The Russian Revolution threw off the Czar and they got a LOT more government. Same with the French Revolution. Tea partiers are engaging in political activism.

They're being regarded as Revolutionaries, but they don't realize their opposition is the one overthrowing the American government with force and violence.

People think that because Tea Partiers oppose Obama's socialism that they're Republicans. Bad news for you GOP. They're sick of your me-too socialism. There's more pent-up demand for less government than any time I've seen since the Carter years. If that pent-up demand cannot find an outlet, reread the Declaration of Independence.