Thursday, January 05, 2006

People, learn what irony is!

Over the last several years I've noticed that so many people mis-use the word "ironic" when describing a coincidence of some sort. It's really become a pet peeve of mine.

Irony usually does involve a coincidence of some sort, but the facts about the situation is what makes it ironic or not.

For instance, recently I saw a story on TV about two golfers whose wives had both delivered premature twins just a few months apart. The babies were delivered at the same hospital and treated by the same medical team. The announcer called it "ironic" that the twins were born under the same circumstances at the same hospital. That's not ironic. It's just a coincidence. For it to be ironic, there would need to be some dark humor somewhere. But there is none here.

Irony is a chiropractor wearing a neck brace. Or a liability lawyer being sued.

Or that O. Henry short story about the comb and the watch. I can't remember the title of the story, but in it a poor man sells his watch to buy a comb for his wife who has long beautiful hair. Unbeknownst to him, his wife had her hair cut and made into a watch chain for her husband to use. So now he has a chain and no watch, and she has a comb but short locks of hair. This is the essence of irony.

Another illustration of irony I can think of off hand comes from a Family Guy episode that parodied the Y2K fears. In the episode, the citizens of New Quahog destroy all their guns because guns are bad and only cause trouble. After the last gun is tossed into the fire they are immediately overrun by a swarm of mutated Stewies. As part of the story, the episode has a scene during the marauding Stewies where one character says to another "Remember how I was trying to explain irony to you the other day?" and is attacked before he can finish his thoughts. Of course, the thought was how ironic that the folks destroyed their guns just when they needed them most.

So irony is a unique set of circumstances that contains some sort of dark humor. Aggravatingly, too many people label unusual coincidences as ironic when they are not.

Of course, the irony here is that they are describing circumstances or situations as ironic when they aren't.

I love irony.

The Eyes of Texas are Upon You

The University of Texas Longhorns are college football's champions due to their thrilling victory over the University of Southern California Trojans in this year's Rose Bowl game. Final score - Texas 41 - USC 38.

What a game.

While Texas' come-from-behind victory is what made the game so thrilling, the game was won (or lost) in the first half last night. Texas led the game at half time 16 to 10. USC moved the ball efficiently throughout the first half but only scored 10 points. USC was in scoring position several times but was thwarted by (1) the failure to convert a short 4th down play, relinquishing possession to Texas deep in Texas territory (2) the ill-advised Reggie Bush lateral that was dropped and recovered by Texas, again deep in Texas territory (3) a Texas interception of a Matt Leinart pass at their own goal line, turning the ball back over to Texas at their 20 yard line.

Had USC been able to hang on to the ball and score some points on all three of these possessions, the outcome last night would have been a USC victory. Those turnovers cost USC anywhere from 9 to 21 points. In the second half, USC outscored Texas 28 to 25. Had they put a few more points on the board in the first half, they would likely have won another championship.

But you still have to tip your hat to Texas. They were down 12 points with about 6 minutes left to play in the game and they were able to score 15 unanswered points to claim the title.

Ironically, in a game that featured so much offense (especially in the 2nd half), it was the Texas defense that gave Texas the chance to win the game.

USC had a 4th down and 2 yards to go for a first down with the ball at the Texas 47 yard line. USC coach Pete Carroll decided to go for the 1st down instead of punting. The Texas defense rose to the occasion and stuffed the LenDale White run just shy of the first down. Texas took over possession of the ball on their own 45, with just over two minutes to play and two time outs in hand.

Texas was able to move the ball down the field, helped by a USC face mask penalty that allowed Texas to avoid a 4th down conversion situation early in the drive. After that, Texas moved down the field and scored the game winner on a 4th down play on a rush by the incomparable Vince Young with 19 seconds left in the game. USC got the ball back and moved it into Texas territory but simply ran out of time.

While I certainly understand the Coach Carroll's decision not to punt, it's not the one I would have made. I would have punted the ball and made Texas march 80+ yards down the field to beat me. Instead, Texas was given a shortened field, only 55 yards away from scoring. The decision to go for the 1st down is one of those "damned if you do, damned if you don't" type of situations. If USC gets the first down, it's likely lights out for Texas and an "atta boy" for Coach Carroll. But USC didn't get the first down, and now Coach Carroll will be second guessed on his decision from now until the end of time. Of course, even if USC punted Texas still might have scored anyway, but most won't think of that and will think Coach Carroll blew it.

Finally, what can one say about Texas QB Vince Young's performance in last night's game? Superlative is what it was. The Texas QB rushed for 200 yards on 20 carries and threw for 267 yards, completing 30 of 40 passes. He rushed for three TD's, including the game winner, an 8 yard rush on 4th down and 5 from the USC 8 yard line. USC fielded the last two Heisman Trophy winners in Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush, and both had fine games. But it was Vince Young who showed everybody what a truly unique and gifted athlete he is.

What a game.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Parade coverage

I watched some of the Tournament of Roses Parade yesterday. I enjoy seeing the beautiful floats, the marching bands from all over the nation and the world, and I enjoy the horse teams and their ornate saddles and rigs.

What I don't enjoy is inappropriate comments from the announcers.

I was tuned into HGTV watching the parade when host Rob Weller made a bone-headed comment. It rained during the parade and he was telling the audience how the rain had been light until just a few hours before the parade started. At about two hours before the parade started, it was "Wham. Bam. Thank you, ma'am." and the rain really started coming down much harder, per Mr. Weller.

Now I'm hardly a prude, but that phrase just seems out of place when covering something as wholesome as the Tournament of Roses Parade. So come on, Mr. Weller, let's not do that again.

College Football Mania

Word on the street is that college football junkies have already reserved their spots in rehab centers around the country, in preparation for the ending of the college football season following tomorrow night's Rose Bowl game.

I've certainly enjoyed the games I've viewed over the last several days. Let's just hope the Rose Bowl game between Texas and USC lives up to all the hype. I think it will.

One thing though. Let's stop all this nonsense that USC is going for its third straight National Championship. USC did not win the National Championship two years ago, LSU did. USC was ranked #1 in the final AP poll for that year, but that no longer counts. LSU finished #1 in the BCS, and that is the national championship. The whole Bowl Championship Series (BCS) was put in place so that a true national champion can be crowned. Prior to the BCS, the national championship was based on the UPI and AP polls after all the bowl games were played. It was mythical.

The fact that the AP puts out a poll is irrelevant since the invention of the BCS. To claim a national championship based on poll that is no longer relevant is just bad form by USC and its supporters. The fact that the BCS is flawed is irrelevant too. The major conferences wanted a championship, and they got it with the BCS. The Pac-10 (which USC is a member) was one of the major conferences to that signed onto the BCS, so it should tell USC that they were not co-champs two years ago.

Happy New Year

With the passing of the Christmas holiday, the "War on Christmas" will be in a state of cease-fire for at least a while. For that, it truly is a Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Spy stuff - Michael Barone

Here's a column from Michael Barone (the best political analyst in the country today) about the spy "scandal". The more you read about this, the more clear it becomes that this is a non-issue, and all the carping is really just more political "gotcha games" from Washington, DC.

Hat tip - Real Clear Politics.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

More spy stuff AKA DC Gotcha Games

Well, it is Christmas morning, and I'm heading out across the winter plains of southern Illinois to visit my family. But that doesn't mean I can't do a little net surfing before I leave.

Check out this analysis of the spy "scandal" at justoneminute.

As Mickey Kaus says, another spy scandal and Bush's approval ratings will be at 60%. LOL.

Another hat tip to the Instapundit.

Editor: Does this guy Reynolds ever sleep?

UP: No, actually he is an android. That's why he does all that high-tech shilling over at his site, he has a vested interest in nano-tech and stuff.

Editor: Really? I didn't know that.

UP: It's the only explanation I can think of that explains his prolific number of posts. He's like Data on ST:TNG, except he has normal Caucasian skin coloring.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

No Knock Entry - Bad Policy

Clayton Cramer relates a story about police trying to enter a home without a warrant here. (Hat tip Instapundit.) Surprisingly enough, this wasn't a drug raid but rather a weapons issue. Unlike the Cory Maye case, among many others, no one was hurt.

The more laws there are on the books, the more law enforcement you will need. It never ceases to amaze me how cavalierly many, if not most, of my fellow Americans call for more and more laws. We used to call our policemen "peace officers", but nowadays they are called "law enforcement officers". A few generations ago, the idea was to let everyone do as they pleased so long as they didn't bother other folks (i.e, violate others rights via violence or theft). Those days are long gone, as many of the laws passed over the last few generations are laws that criminalize the potential for (perceived) bad behaviors, but the behaviors aren't really criminal in of themselves. Because many of the "crimes" we now have don't violate another citizens rights, they go "unreported". Thus the need for "law enforcement officers" to go out and find out who those miscreants are and "enforce" the law on them.

What do I mean by those few sentences above? A couple of examples may help explain what I mean.

Strict gun control laws presume that the gun owner may do something bad with his gun. Can't have that, so make owning the gun illegal or difficult to do so legally. So the crime is no longer using a gun immorally, but merely possession of the gun itself. The law turns otherwise law abiding citizens into criminals with the stroke of a pen. And of course, the laws do nothing to actually stop criminals from committing crimes, it just adds another charge if they are caught after the fact.

The same rationale is used to justify drug prohibition. Some small percentage of drug users will face some dark days due to their abuse of some drugs. Can't have that, so just make possessing the drug a crime. However, of the million or so drug arrests each year, only a fraction of those arrested are real addicts with real drug problems. And rehab is what they need, not jail. The vast majority of those arrested are ordinary folks who use drugs the same way others do alcohol or are trying to make a quick buck in the lucrative, prohibition-spawned black market. Again, the law turns otherwise law abiding citizens into criminals with the stroke of a pen.

With laws that criminalize ordinary human behavior, whether its a weakness for intoxicating substances or the desire to be able to defend one's hearth and home, is it any wonder that there is so much cynicism, anger, and hate in this country?

No political home

It's been an interesting year for me politically. I've been a Republican since 1980, the year I first really starting paying attention to politics, replacing my 1976 vote for Carter with my 1980 vote for Reagan. Since that time, I've occasionally voted for a Democrat in local or state elections, but never for any federal office.

Over the last 25 years, I've felt pretty much at home there. But for most of that time, I've had some major disagreements with the majority of Republicans with regards to the "social" issues. Not all of them, to be sure. But mostly with the ones concerning vices laws. I came to believe that the libertarian view toward these laws was the correct view.

So, for the past 20 years I've reconciled my libertarianism with the authoritarianism of the social conservatives in the Republican party. In the last few years, however, that's become more difficult.

What happened?

As I wrote above, the first split happened long ago over the Republican's support of drug prohibition. Being both a casual drinker and recreational marijuana smoker in the 1980's, the hypocrisy of the drug laws stood out like Mt. Everest. So that was my first real split with the orthodoxy of the Right. But I stayed put for other reasons.

It remained that way until just the last 3-4 years, when I started perusing the political forum sites of the Right. Some of the things I've read at these sites posted by "grass roots" Republicans showed me that some Republicans can be just as reactionary as anything on the Left. I'm not saying all Republicans are hateful, but judging from some of the things I read on the net, some minority truly are.

A few other things have happened over the last couple of years that's caused me to distance myself from the Republicans on the social issues. Here they are, in no particular order:

  1. The Lawrence v Texas case. Many Republicans were upset with the SC's ruling that struck down the state law that criminalized homosexual intercourse, and thus counted it as a loss in the "culture wars". I think of the decision as a victory for personal freedom, regardless of how I feel about the morality of homosexual behavior.
  2. Abortion. While I've always believed that most abortions are immoral, I was never an ardent pro-lifer and I respected the arguments coming from the abortion rights side of the issue. I was finally moved to the pro-choice side by, ironically enough, something I read at National Review's online site last year. One of their regulars was wondering what the punishments for abortion would be if it were to be made illegal in the future. The response from another regular was 2-3 years imprisonment plus fines for the abortionists, with no punishment for the woman getting the abortion if she testified for the state. No word on what the punishment should be if she didn't testify for the state. All these years I've heard the pro-life folks call abortion murder, but the punishments proposed are not those for murder. This told me that even ardent pro-life people don't really think abortion is murder, just wrong.
  3. Birth control. Ironically enough, again it was something I read in National Review (dead trees edition) that once again pointed out the authoritarian leanings of the Right. Earlier this year, there was an article in the magazine re-visiting the Griswold decision from 1962. That court case overturned a Connecticut state law that banned the sale of contraceptives. As I was reading the article, not only was the author critical of the court's reasoning, he went on to make the case that there was nothing wrong with any state passing those type of laws. I couldn't believe my eyes.
  4. The 2005 elections. Don't get me wrong, I voted for Bush and I'm glad he won. Unfortunately, the social conservatives mis-read the results, and now they feel more empowered than ever politically. Not a good thing, from my point of view.
  5. The utter nonsense of this whole "War on Christmas" controversy. I just can't see how Christianity and its mission is served by picking political battles that INVOLVE religion. Politics is bad enough without bringing religion into it. Nobody wins here.
  6. The War on Drugs. For past twenty years or so I've been an opponent. But while pondering this issue this past year, I realized that this policy is not only wrong logically, but that it is wrong morally and therefore unjust. People argue about the issue like we do about taxes, in the abstract. But while taxes threaten my wallet to one degree or another, they don't put me in jail. But drug prohibition puts people in jail when they aren't deserving of imprisonment. Sadly, too many politicians, Democrat and Republican, find it all too easy to jail or fine any minority (behavioral in this case) if it will help their chances to win office.

In summary, I've come to realize that many Republicans are much more authoritarian than I'd noticed. I'm not sure how I missed it.

What we have in America today are two statist parties. They both crave power, they just have slightly different agendas for the use of that power.

For many years, I thought all the moral preening done in politics came from the Left. But over the last few years, I've seen that it comes from the Right too. I'm repulsed by it from both sides. So for the first time in many years, I really don't feel at home in the Republican party, and it is because of its social conservative faction. I'm not one, and never will be.

I guess I truly am a centrist. I find some things I like and much I dislike in the policies of both parties. If the Democrats would ever get their act together on taxes, national security, and the size and scope of government....

Well, one can dream, can't he?

22 Congressmen Hate Christmas?

More news from the front in the "War on Christmas". Here's a laughable piece from the laughable site.

It seems this whole "War on Christmas" brouhaha has caught the attention of some Congress critters (surprise), so one member of Congress introduced a resolution"protecting the symbols and traditions of Christmas" . It passed overwhelmingly (surprise, again), with only 22 "No" votes against it.

Note the headline of the piece, "22 Congressmen Hate Christmas". But does a "No" vote on a resolution of this sort really mean that the person casting the vote "hates" Christmas?

There might be several reasons one might cast a "No" vote here, and none of them would mean that the person hated Christmas. Perhaps they think the resolution is frivolous. Perhaps they think Congress has better things to do with its time. Perhaps they see the resolution as pure political pandering. Perhaps they think this type of resolution is dangerously close to "endorsing" a particular religion and therefore a bad idea.

Perhaps they are like me and "All of the above" would suffice as valid reasons to cast a "No" vote here.

I'm a Christian, and I would have voted "No". In our free country, I believe the Lord can take care of himself and his people without some meaningless Congressional resolution. However, I guess that would make me a lousy politician.

Update: This story was posted yesterday (again) at here.

I guess I really am a centrist, in that I took hits from both sides. I pasted an excerpt from what publised above. Here was the first response made about my comments by another poster:

Perhaps, and far more likely than any of those, is that they are God-hating and Christmas-hating liberals. How many pro-lifers among the 22? How many supporters of actual marriage vs. lavender make-believe?
When another poster thought my criticisms of this vote was a blanket condemnation of the Bush administration, he posted this to me:

Fabricate an issue, any issue, local talk radio morons jump on it because it fills time between commercials and, what da' you know, it becomes a national farce worthy of Dr. What his name's, minions in the House abandoning real congressional issues to worry whether the aged greeter at Walmart says Merry Christmas instead of: ''did you know that Walmart screws me out of my meal breaks and makes me work overtime off the clock?'' Hey, with these clowns the King-in-Chief and the Vice-King, in the exercise of their Divine Right to do as they damn well please and to hell with the law, must be rationalized irrespective of how silly the attempt at justification may be.

Ain't life under this adminsitration's fist great???
I wrote this in response:

It's not the administration that bothers me on this issue. It's the fact that many conservatives are merging their politics and religion, and using Christmas as a front in a political battle. It's unseemly to me. As someone posted on another thread, many Christians seem to walking around with a bunch of chips on their shoulders, just hoping and waiting for someone to knock it off. Sad, really.
I guess he didn't like my take on this, so he wrote this back to me:

Stuff it !!!!
So I managed to get criticisms of my thoughts from both the Left and the Right. And these are just some of the highlights. LOL

Merrry Christmas.

Fairy Tales

I imagine that almost everyone has heard the fable about "The Boy who Cried Wolf". It's the story of a shepherd boy who kept raising false alarms about a wolf threatening the sheep he was watching. He thought it was funny to make all the adults come running when there was no threat. As the story goes, finally a wolf did arrive to threaten the sheep, but when he cried for help, no one came. He'd raised so many false alarms in the past that he'd lost his credibility.

It seems that some folks never learned the moral of this story.

Glenn Reynolds links to this story in The Boston Globe about a college student that claimed he was visited by agents from the Dept. of Homeland security after checking out Chairman Mao's "Little Red Book" from the library. As it turns out, the story was completely false.

Why did the student lie? Who knows. My guess is he's politically Left on the scale and he thinks America is now under the thumb of BusHitler. This was his way of calling attention to what he thinks about the current administration in DC.

Sadly, this student is not alone. Over the past few years, there's been several stories about individuals (students and professors) defacing their own dorm rooms and cars with racial epitaphs, claiming they were the victims of racism. These turned out to be hoaxes. I guess if you can't find a fire, you just have to start one yourself.

It would serve us all well if we take to heart the story of the boy and the wolves that weren't there.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

As a neutral observer in the "War on Christmas", I wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and joyous holiday season. Left or Right; believer, atheist, or anything in between; my best wishes to all of you. Sincerely.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Everyone should read Mark Steyn

Here's another gem, this one about Iran, from the prolific Mark Steyn. His insights are usually spot on, and, man, this guy can really turn a phrase.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Spielberg's Munich

Here's a very interesting article over at the American Thinker site by Kate Wright discussing the new movie Munich by director Steven Spielberg (hat tip Powerline).

The film is about the murders of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic games in Munich and the Israeli government's decision to track down and assassinate the perpetrators. Click here to read it.

More on the spying "scandal"

Click here to see an editorial from Judge Richard A. Posner about domestic intelligence issues in today's Washington Post. A lot to ponder from the honorable judge.

Key excerpt in the opinion of yours truly:

These programs are criticized as grave threats to civil liberties. They are not. Their significance is in flagging the existence of gaps in our defenses against terrorism. The Defense Department is rushing to fill those gaps, though there may be better ways.

The collection, mainly through electronic means, of vast amounts of personal data is said to invade privacy. But machine collection and processing of data cannot, as such, invade privacy. Because of their volume, the data are first sifted by computers, which search for names, addresses, phone numbers, etc., that may have intelligence value. This initial sifting, far from invading privacy (a computer is not a sentient being), keeps most private data from being read by any intelligence officer.

Folks, getting back to first principles here, but one of the main reasons for any government to exist is to protect its citizens from enemies. This data mining is just the government doing its job in these perilous times.

Contrary to popular belief, this has been going on for decades. Most of the caterwauling coming from around the nation is being done by those that see their political fortunes rising if they can sink the Bush administration on this. As always, I'm shocked, SHOCKED, I say, that they would do such a thing.

Update: As mentioned in my last paragraph, this stuff is nothing new. Radio talker Neal Boortz writes about it here.

Statistics in the news-be wary

This morning, I was perusing a thread on where a poster made the claim that 2 out of 3 women are molested or raped by the time they reach the age of 18. Several other posters challenged this claim, but she wouldn't budge. The poster making the claim stated that she heard the stat on a talk show broadcast over a Christian radio station, so it must be true.

Anytime I hear some sort of statistic that doesn't sound true, I'm reminded of the sage words that radio talker Dennis Prager has said time and time again on his program. To paraphrase Dennis, everyone has an agenda, unfortunately, the truth isn't always a part of the agenda.

Some of you may recall a series of TV ads from a few years ago making the claim that 1 out of 10 Americans were starving. The first time I saw the ad, my male bovine fecal matter meter pegged in the red zone at total BS. As it turns out, my BS meter was correct. A reporter investigated the claims made by this organization. It turns out that this organization asked people taking their survey if they ever went to bed hungry. And guess what, 10% of the respondents answered in the affirmative. Do I have to point out that going to bed hungry on occasion is not the same as starving?

Obviously, truth wasn't part of the agenda here. Raising funds was the agenda, the truth be damned.

Another example I recall was a radio ad from the early 1990's claiming that over 500,000 children go missing each year in America. Again, my BS meter zipped to the red zone. And again, it turns out that my BS meter was correct. The truth is that there are over 500,000 missing persons REPORTS filed each year for missing children. The children were missing in the sense that mom and dad didn't know the whereabouts of their child for a short period of time. For the vast majority of these reports, the children don't stay missing. The actual number of children that stay missing is only a few thousand each year (and most of these are non-custodial parent kidnappings). Of course, when a child does meet some sort of foul play, it is terrible, but the actual numbers are a far cry from over half a million.

In this case, it was a business selling child safety guides to parents. Selling kits was the agenda, the truth be damned. To it's credit, the company did change its ads and clarified the 500,000 number in later ads.

Given these two examples, what are we to make of the claim that 2 out of 3 women are molested or raped before they are 18 years old? It seems likely to me that the definitions of molestation and rape being used by the researchers here are very broad. It could be that the researchers included consensual acts like necking at the movies as molestation. Perhaps boys bumping into a girl's breasts in a crowded school hallway is considered molestation for this report. As for rape, this report probably considered a girl's regret for having consensual sex as rape, as it is not uncommon for a woman to regret sexual activity afterwards when they don't have strong feelings for their sex partner. They regret having sex afterwards, and blame the man for this. Regret becomes rape.

So the 2 of 3 number may be "true" by these (likely) broad definitions, but not true by a narrower definition of rape (forced, non-consensual sex) and molestation (non-consensual, inappropriate touching). I'll see if I can find out more, and update this post if I do.

The moral of the story? Everyone has an agenda, but the truth may not be part of the agenda, as Dennis says. And, sadly, sometimes that's the case even when it involves Christians and Christian radio stations.