Sunday, December 24, 2006

Some serious thoughts about Merry Christmas...

Let's get this outta the way first: I am 100% down wit' Christmas. Christmas rawks. I like the spending, the giving and receiving, the songs, the company parties, the dinners with family and friends, the spontaneous kindness and generosity, the ads, the classic movies, eggnog, Santa...you name it. Party on.

However, what this guy says.

Pay attention. He's not nasty and he's not lying.

Read this article first, then wander around. Prepare to be challenged.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Andy McKee

This guy is so good I burst out laughing! Joyful to see real mastery look so casual.



Watch this one here but go to YouTube and check out some more. Fella's a monster.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Denis Payton

Dennis Payton, dead at 63

Younger folks may not be aware of Denis Payton, but he was a member of the Dave Clark Five (check the link to listen to tunes), (and here for more info on the band itself), arguably second only to the Beatles among British bands of 1963-1965, and the first major concert act I ever saw live. Dave's saxophone and harmonica were integral to the band's sound, and what a band it was. Most folks who remember the band at all will remember the drums, but the DC5 were groundbreakers in other areas as well. Dave Clark is a bright boy and was astute enough right from the beginning to make sure that he owned the band's songs and master recordings, but also to make sure he had creative control in the studio. The biggest consequence of that was that the DC5 had a huge big fat recorded sound, much closer to the actual live sound of the band than many acts of the day who had to deal with recording engineers constantly forcing the bends to turn down during sessions.

Well, the short version of the whole story is that Payton was a truly good player in a truly good band that almost never gets recognized for their pioneering use of instrumentation throughout their catalog.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Doin' the Right Thing

HERE

Judge gets fired for wrongfully jailing 11 people.

Sloop admitted he violated judicial canons. He blamed his behavior on undiagnosed attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and said he has since received treatment.

He expressed no bitterness over his removal, saying he joined the justices in hoping his removal would help restore public confidence in the judicial system.

"I spent my life helping people understand they are responsible for their actions," Sloop said. "I am responsible for the grievous things that I did."


Class isn't about not making mistakes. Everybody makes mistakes.

Class is about owning up. Good on ya, John.

Monday, December 04, 2006

This is a repost of my very first blog post, and I'm reposting it because: 1)I want to, 2) I think it's still relevant, and 3) now some folks are actually reading my blog, so...

have at 'er...

John Podhoretz, in the NY Post, writes in Too Nice to Win/Israel's Dilemma (link updated to a blog copy of the article since the NY Post archived it),

"What if liberal democracies have now evolved to a point where they can no longer wage war effectively because they have achieved a level of humanitarian concern for others that dwarfs any really cold-eyed pursuit of their own national interests?...Are [the enemies of the western powers] seeking victory through demoralization alone - by daring us to match them in barbarity and knowing we will fail? Are we becoming unwitting participants in their victory and our defeat? Can it be that the moral greatness of our civilization - its astonishing focus on the value of the individual above all - is endangering the future of our civilization as well?"

Podhoretz continued:

"Didn't the willingness of [WWII Allied] leaders to inflict mass casualties on civilians indicate a cold-eyed singleness of purpose that helped break the will and the back of their enemies? Didn't that singleness of purpose extend down to the populations in those countries in those days, who would have and did support almost any action at any time that would lead to the deaths of Germans and Japanese?"

The entire implication in Podhoretz’ article is that it’s time to get down to winning no matter what ethical lines need to be crossed even though, of course, Podhoretz can deny that, given that he didn’t answer even one of his own questions.

So…what are you thinking right now? Has Podhoretz got you thinking it’s time to forget about valuing individuals for a while and get down to the job of kicking ass with the same utter lack of civility we are seeing from the terrorists. If so, you’ve been conned and I got news…If you think for one minute that western civilization's "astonishing focus on the value of the individual above all is endangering the future of our civilization...", then you are wrong.

First: The West (using the term loosely) hasn't been granting the Arab world their individualism, or showing them great humanitarianism, for a fucking dog's age. What western governments have been doing in the Arab world hasn't had or got the slightest thing to do with any "astonishing focus on the value of the individual above all." Instead, Western motives and actions in the Islamic world haven't been much different than, for example, the motives of the first waves of imperialist European settlers who occupied Turtle Island (look it up if you need to).

Say what you wish about the tactics they're using right now or the causes they represent, it's still true that the Arabs or Islamists throughout the Middle East, and certainly the supporters of Hezbollah, have far more in common with, say, the Indians under British rule than they do any type of militarist expansionist state like Germany or Japan. Almost the entire Arab world has been occupied or politically interfered with by foreign nations and their protected companies, economic "aid" and "development" agencies since at least the turn of the last century--and in lots of cases a lot longer. In other words, the Arab world has essentially been occupied by Russia, Britain, Germany, the United States, and by any number of less-powerful countries, alone or together and generally allied with one or more of the those biggies. In contrast, the Arab world hasn't historically made any huge efforts to take us over, at all.

What we've lost in the Middle East, we've largely lost because we weren't focusing on the value of the individual enough.

All I’m saying here is that even though we do have a perfect right to totally eliminate a threat to us from, say, Osama bin Laden, we'd bloody better still keep in mind why he's so fucking upset and why it seems fairly easy for him to obtain followers to do the kinds of things they do. It might be things like (from a letter bin Laden wrote to Americans a few years ago)

when [former President George H.W.] Bush, the father, visited the area...some of our own were impressed by America and were hoping that the visits would affect and influence our countries. Then, what happened was that he [Bush] was impressed by the monarchies and [supported them while they were] staying in power for tens of years, embezzling the public money without any accountability"
It might be things like how we supported Iran’s Savak, sowing the seeds for an Ayatollah Khomeini to arise and take power in Iran. I mean, do you really think most Iranians, who were becoming westernized up to the point we clearly began supporting a tyrant, really actually hoped then for a return to fully blown Islamic fundamentalism?. Understand, me: I like George Sr. as a person, and he wasn't the worst or the first, and I even think he meant well, but...

Get real. We radicalized them. And we didn't do it out of any concern or consistent regard for Arab or Islamic individualism. We did it because it suited our government’s purposes, which is to say--in many cases--it also suited companies unduly protected by western powers. It is also fair to say that, in many ways and for example, much of the Middle East was essentially annexed during major but dominantly western wars.

Second, there is precious little in common between the concept of national interest (at least government backed commercial and political interest beyond the physical borders of a nation) and that of individualism. To now say "[we] have achieved a level of humanitarian concern for others that dwarfs any really cold-eyed pursuit of [our] own national interests"--implying that an objective view would show us that we need to drop our humanitarian concern, our astonishing focus on the value of the individual, now, in the interests of our nation, and do some very much more "collateral damage intensive" things over there--is almost a perversion of language.

Get this; it's simple: Treating people as individuals means you let them be them as long as, and any time, they leave you alone too. And you then deal with them on those terms--or you don't deal with them. If you can't deal with them on those terms, you don’t trade with them, you don't take them over, you don't take their stuff, you don't choose their governments and you don't insult their belief systems and way of life. Instead, you simply do without stuff they have that you might want if you can’t get it without them--and, if you wish, you hope they come around. That's respecting people as individuals, and it's the only thing that is enough to ultimately conquer the zealots and the tyrants of the Islamic nations.

Why?

Because there's a smuggled premise right through Podhoretz' article: it's the idea that there is a paradox between what is our best and what keeps or protects our best. Individualism, expressly acknowledged as such by Podhoretz' article, is the best--and about that he's right. We can't keep it by throwing it away; we keep it by keeping it.

Because, for a great example, it took a potent combination of two things for the west to ultimately beat the Soviets once they were entrenched enough to fight the Cold War.

1) We didn't displace the Soviets because we pummeled the daylights out of them--but because, after decades of increasingly becoming aware of the comparative freedom and prosperity of the west, the individuals who lived in Russia wanted what we had, as individuals. Hell, even Gorbachev was astonished at how good we had it, and he admits it. If they hadn't wanted what we had, no power on Earth would have made those individuals question and then reject their oppressive government, even with Star Wars. In other words, we overcame to the degree we did when we led by example.

2) And because two leaders (Reagan and Gorbachev, as flawed as you might justifiably feel they were) made a conscious decision to see each other--and the citizens of their respective countries--as individuals.

The implication of this Podhoretz article is just another in a long list of calls for expedience over ethics and the implication should be soundly rejected. If we give up our astonishing focus on the value of the individual (even such as it is lately--and it's in tatters), what difference does it make who wins?

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Just a reminder...


People are not their caricatures. You are witnessing very human pain.
An Iraqi youth mourns the death of his brother outside the morgue of a hospital in the restive city of Baquba northeast of Baghdad, 25 November 2006. The bodies of 21 Iraqi villagers from two families executed by gunmen the night before were found today in the strife-torn Diyala province northeast of Baghdad, police said.
(Photo credit: ALI YUSSEF/AFP/Getty Images - AFP Image #72641899)

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Off to Edmonton...

for about 5 days...keep safe, be happy.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Idaho Zamboni caper...

HERE (Seattle Times)

BOISE, Idaho • Two employees have been fired from the city's ice skating rink after making a midnight fast-food run • in a pair of Zambonis...[the drivers]...had to negotiate at least one intersection with a traffic light on their late-night creep from Idaho Ice World...The rubber-tired vehicles, whose top speed is about 5 mph, drove about 1 1/2 miles in all.

Parks Department Director Jim Hall: "They were fired immediately...We're pretty sure it was just the one time. When we interviewed them, they didn't seem to be too concerned about it. I don't think they understood the seriousness of it."

Although neither of the $75,000 Zambonis nor their $10,000 blades appeared damaged, Hall said Boise may still try to press charges against the former employees for allegedly operating an unlicensed motor vehicle on a public street.

Hall again: "They could have been hit by a car."
<**blink**>

"They could have been hit by a car"?!?!?!?!?! At 5 miles an hour, being the size they were, they coulda both been hit by a baby-carriage. And I can see that it would be easy for a distracted driver to overlook two drag-racing Zambonis in the hustle bustle of midnight traffic in Boise.

Totally adolescent stunt? Sure.

Fair to fire 'em? Well, yeah, firing's among the allowable responses (mind you, now they're two of the most terrain experienced Zamboni drivers on the planet)...

"operating an unlicensed motor vehicle on a public street"? Got 'em. Stone cold. That's what the courts are for.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Conway Twitty & Sam Moore

Conway Twitty and Sam Moore got together for this re-make of Brook Benton's 1970 hit (written by Tony Joe White): Rainy Night in Georgia (AOL video).

Take a few minutes out to watch and listen right through--even if you've seen it before (it ain't new). Sam Moore of Sam & Dave working with early-rock & country crooner Conway Twitty. This is what happens when "Hold On, I'm Comin'", "Soul Man" and "I Thank You" meets "Hello Darlin'" and "It's Only Make Believe".

No one grandstands, no one overplays, no one gets all artsy about it...

I'm trying to tell you why this video means so much to me and it's hard because I can't find the words I'd like, but I know it has to do with stuff like self and mutual respect, honesty, appreciation, restraint, credit-where-credit-is-due, friendship, "making room" and generosity, working for the tune...just a whole whack of serious, serious musicianship. Artistry. And not just from Sam and Conway (although they IZ truly spectacular here), but from everybody.

Lemme know what ya think.

And, by the way, didja know that Conway Twitty holds the record for the most #1 country singles (40) and most #1 singles across the combined various US charts (55)?

What kind of guy was he? <---it'll give ya a clue.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Trust the Government?

OK, admittedly this is the US government, but still...

The FBI framed four innocents for murder back in the sixties because they wanted to use the real guilty guys as informants. The innocent folks spent decades in prison (two of 'em died there).
In his opening, Hartford attorney Austin J. McGuigan, representing [one of the 4 innocents], cited a score of FBI memos and reports showing that numerous FBI agents - including Hoover - not only knew the identities of Deegan's real killers, but had the information before he was killed.
One of the FBI agents in on the scam was later arrested for murder himself:
He was accused of conspiring with another...informant...in the murder of Roger Wheeler, president of the World Jai Alai corporation. Rico and [another mobster] were part of an underworld attempt to take over a substantial portion of the East Coast parimutuel wagering on jai alai. Rico died in January 2004 while awaiting trial in a Tulsa, Okla., jail.
Trust the Government? Yeah, right.

Meanwhile, Leonard Peltier is still in jail. He's there based on FBI testimony.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Small Victory for Tobacco Nazis...

So I'm reading FARK and it seems the little burg of Belmont, California is debating banning smoking anywhere except single-family detached homes including on the street, in parks, apartments, duplexes, and private cars. Fark Headline Comment: Personal Freedom's head asplodes.

So the debate is on. Go read it; it's fun. Sorta.

Anyways, in the midst of the curfuffle, I ran into an adult (2006-11-15 11:54:58 PM mastethom), a guy posting as mastethom. He wrote:
What a bunch of weak, soft, pussy-assed people this country is turning in to. As a life-long non-smoker, can I please be allowed to take care of myself? Anyone who wants to ban smoking and 1) actually thinks it's a good idea and 2) thinks it will work should be shot in the face.
I admire this person.

It's always inspiring to run into someone who understands freedom.

Either you think he's right or you can fuck off.

I'm quitting smoking just so I can back this guy up.

(Yeehaw!! Mastethom has a website!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Sheena: "The Forgotten"

Some days the blogosphere can be a wondrous place.

This post, from Sheena, at her blog SheenaVision.

Thank you, Sheena.

I think you just earned every good thing that ever happens for you.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Thank you, Joanne...

Finally.

Fuck. I have waited a loooooooong time to see an article this comprehensive (Ottawa Citizen) on a subject usually ignored, denied or evaded.

Thank you, Joanne Hatherly, Victoria Times Colonist.

--found here (also interesting).

Variation on a Theme...

I've simply never seen a better set of intructions on how to do a job well. What you read here can apply equally well to just about any job, whether you are working for someone else or yourself.

Don't miss it--and don't let yourself think you know how good the advice is based on how you feel about the writer. It's good advice. Period.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

On Enemies and Opponents...

I don't know much about Tony Snow but I've linked to Wikipedia if you want to find out more.

That's not my point.

This is:

Snow was recently quoted (CNN) as saying:

"...We do have an opportunity to return to a prior period where you still had big, vigorous disagreements, but at the end of the day you could still acknowledge that the people with whom you're disagreeing are respectable, likable, good people."

Kate McMillan points to an article by Victor Davis where Davis notes some of Donald Rumsfeld's accomplishments. Check the Rumsfeld's history here or here. Lord knows that the guy has made mistakes, big freaking mistakes, on the world stage no less. But I've gotta hand it to a guy with enough modesty to say this: "Learn to say 'I don't know. If used when appropriate, it will be often."

Anyways, I went looking for Rumsfeld quotes. I found them here (About.com) and here (Slate) and, well, all over the place once I went looking.

Sorry--but warts and all, I like the guy. I might not want him as Secretary of Defence, but I'd be tickled to have him over for coffee.

A few Rumsfeldisms...

"I don't know what I said, but I know what I think, and, well, I assume it's what I said."

"There are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns -- the ones we don't know we don't know."

"Everyone is so eager to get the story, before in fact the story's there, that the world is being fed things that haven't happened."

Addendum:

Read what Billy Beck has to say on Rumsfeld. Billy is spot on about this (and why Bush Jr's actions are more than callous), and I'll add that I agree that the situations Rumsfeld had to deal with were skewed enough by the time he took the reins that shortcomings are understandable and certainly not entirely Rumsfeld's fault. And I'll agree that Rumsfeld handled the episode of his dismissal with grace.

Addendum-end.

Enough about Rumsfeld and back to my overall point, which is also Snow's point, I think:

People are not their caricatures. Very few people are as fully evil as painted by their histrionic enemies, nor are they often as good as described by their most fervent admirers. Instead, most folks are some mix of wise and foolish, knowledgeable and ignorant, caring and thoughtless, and--consequently--correct and wrong.

Don't misunderstand me. One of the most valuable points ever made by Ayn Rand (The Cult of Moral Grayness/1964)was that very few things--and certainly not moral proinciples--are gray in this life, but that it is most important when things look gray to carefully work to discover exactly what is white and what is black. Put another way, Rand noted that "there may be "gray" men, but there can be no "gray" moral principles" which is connected (but probably not intentionally) to the Alcoholics Anonymous sophism: "Principles before personalities."

An example: As closely as I remember the details, there was a debate I saw between John Ridpath and Leonard Piekoff (Capitalist/Objectivists) on one side and Jerry Kaplan and Jill Vickers (both ideological socialists). At one point an audience member asked Ridpath a question in terms that clearly identified Caplan and Vickers as Nazis or murderers or some exaggeration of that sort. Ridpath took the time to explain, as much as he disagreed with his opponents, that he would be very hesitant to state anything like that without strong, clear and specific evidence. Ridpath, in other words, kept the debate to principles not personalities.

I try to do the same; I try not to see those I disagree with as enemies. Sometimes they are merely opponents. Enemies and opponents are not the same thing. I've put something similar this way, for years: No one was ever insulted into changing their mind. But people have had their minds changed.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Iraq: An Interesting Exercise for those...

...who like reading between the lines.

HERE

Hmmmmmm...Sunni & Baath (sometimes the same folks) Iraqi insurgents loyal to Saddamare being asked by Saddam and his lieutenants (including a Saddam/Baath second in command, former vice-president Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri , still at large) to cease hostilities.

That doesn't mean all the Sunnis will stop--or even all the Baathists who happen to be Sunni, but still...

And I'm looking at the CBC News picture of Saddam today. So should you. (I'd post the photo here but I'm not sure if that's legal).

HERE

Interesting.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Compusec (free & spyware/malware free)

HERE, available for Windows or Linux.

It seems like every week y'hear a horror story about a stolen or lost desktop computer or laptop--and everybody is freakin' because of sensitive data, ready for the taking.

OK...for most folks the sensitive data may be entirely personal. For others, it's business related information like detailed membership or customer lists, financial information, passwords and so on.

Or maybe you just don't want unauthrorized folks poking around your computer, even though it's sitting right where it should be.

Well, if someone steals your computer--or just decides to boot it up and have a look--and you have Compusec running, what they get is nothing. Even if they take your hard drive out of your machine and put it in another computer, they still can't get at your data. Period.

OK--maybe the CIA could get in--but even then it would be expensive, and likely prohibitively expensive. But, bottom line, no street level thief is gonna be able to do anything to get around Compusec. For that matter, neither are nosy kids, friends or anyone else...

Here's how it works (quote from the Compusec website):

FREE CompuSec® intercepts all reads and writes to the hard disk. Just before information is written to the hard disk, Free CompuSec® encrypts it. Conversely, right after any data is read from the hard disk, FREE CompuSec® immediately decrypts it. So the process of encryption and decryption is transparent to the user. Note that first-time encryption takes a longer time than the subsequent encryption and decryption process.

Then, just for fun, Compusec writes a pre-boot access program (where you have to enter a password) to the very first sectors of your hard drive. In other words, the very first thing on the hard drive is the Compusec login. If the login isn't successful, then the computer is not gonna do anything except keep asking for the password.

Again, from the Compusec website:

CompuSec® has a pre-boot authentication mechanism that requires a modification of your Master Boot Record (MBR). Your MBR are files that contain important information on how and where your operating system is and other system information. Therefore, in order to authenticate the user before the operating system boots up, we are required to modify the MBR. Why do we need to do so? Well, as you might probably know, many [programs] (i.e. keylogggers) are able to spy and record keystrokes that are performed when you are using your PC. However, these programs can only run using the windows operating system.

In short: this is way more secure than a bios password: no password, no access. The data is encrypted and password protected, right from the get-go. As I mentioned, even if the hard drive is taken out and put in another machine, or even if the bios battery is removed and replaced, the pre-boot access control still works, and unauthorized folks get nowhere.

Caveats:

1) Read the instructions carefully, and don't forget your password (although Compusec does provide a workaround that only you can use if you do forget your password).

2) Your mileage may vary. I've used this software for months, trouble-free but always backup data you can't afford to lose, and store your backups somewhere else where you can get it if you need it.

3) It's an unlikely circumstance, but somone could always beat the password out of you. Assume that torture will work.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Shittock

OK...sometimes it's spelled differently, and:

I mean, I know they got there a little late to actually protect the thing, but isn't reassuring to know the bureaucrats are still active and on the job?

Heads up by SayUncle, courtesy of Two-Four...
Ah well, such stupidity couldn't happen here...

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Now Here's a Good Read...

Albert Jay Nock (this article is something I guess you could call a life review).

Three quotes:

[t]he practical reason for freedom is that freedom seems to be the only condition under which any kind of substantial moral fiber can be developed -- we have tried law, compulsion and authoritarianism of various kinds, and the result is nothing to be proud of.

Another strange notion pervading whole peoples is that the State has money of its own; and nowhere is this absurdity more firmly fixed than in America. The State has no money. It produces nothing. It existence is purely parasitic, maintained by taxation; that is to say, by forced levies on the production of others. 'Government money,' of which one hears so much nowadays, does not exist; there is no such thing. One is especially amused at seeing how largely a naïve ignorance of this fact underlies the pernicious measures of 'social security' which have been foisted on the American people. In various schemes of pensioning, of insurance against sickness, accident, unemployment and what-not, one notices that the government is supposed to pay so-much into the fund, the employer so-much, and the workman so-much…. But the government pays nothing, for it has nothing to pay with. What such schemes actually come to is that the workman pays his own share outright; he pays the employer's share in the enhanced price of commodities; and he pays the government's share in taxation. He pays the whole bill; and when one counts in the unconscionably swollen costs of bureaucratic brokerage and paperasserie, one sees that what the workman-beneficiary gets out the arrangement is about the most expensive form of insurance that could be devised consistently with keeping its promoters out of gaol.

One of the most offensive things about the society in which I later found myself was its monstrous itch for changing people. It seemed to me a society made up of congenital missionaries, natural-born evangelists and propagandists, bent on re-shaping, re-forming and standardizing people according to a pattern of their own devising – and what a pattern it was, good heavens! When one came to examine it. It seems to me, in short, a society fundamentally and profoundly ill-bred. A very small experience of it was enough to convince me that Cain's heresy was not altogether without reason or without merit; and that conviction quickly ripened into a great horror of every attempt to change anybody; or I should rather say, every wish to change anybody, for that is the important thing. The attempt is relatively immaterial, perhaps, for it is usually its own undoing, but the moment one wishes to change anybody, one becomes like the socialists, vegetarians, prohibitionists; and this, as Rabelais, says, 'is a terrible thing to think upon.

For the most part, there's only one legitimate way to "change" anyone who is not acting in an overtly coercive manner--and that's by convincing them, which is to say, only when such change is a voluntary result of their free inquiry.

Anyways, I don't agree with everything Mr Nock has to say, but I agree with lots of what he had to say.

Evidently, Nock was a friend of H.L Mencken (about whom you can read about here, or check for a quote in "About Me" on the sidebar). I don't doubt they were friends. ;-)

BIG SCARE

Big Scare is Doug Biggs and Mishka Keir.

HERE

Check the link above and listen to a few Big Scare tunes (My faves? "Sarah" is wonderful, so is "Rounder Man").

Lemme tell ya about this duo...

I first heard Big Scare at a local jam in Courtenay, British Columbia. Now, Courtenay is chock full of great musicians, as it happens, so hearing something unusually good isn't all that uncommon, except...

...by the end of the first song, I was moved to tears. Right in front of my eyes and ears, an otherwise very ordinary day was becoming something I would remember forever. It's one thing to hear a great recording or see a great concert. It's entirely another to be so moved by witnessing sheer musical and (especially) vocal brilliance.

I'm not sure Doug and Mishka know this (well, they will if they read this) but although I loved speaking with them after their performances, I usually had to compose myself first. It isn't generally good form to gush teary eyed while talking to friends.

No insult to anyone else, but Mishka isn't at the top of her game...she's plain at the top of the game.

Doug is a consummate musical craftsman, a terrific singer is his own right, and a bloody wonderful arranger. The sum of the whole makes the ability to see Big Scare one of the things I miss most about the Valley.

If you have any connections at all: BOOK these folks, Danno.

Microwave Rice

I love rice. But before I got one of these my results were always kinda hit and miss.

Not now.

I know this is a horror to some folks but I like white rice better, usually--but no matter; this wonderful item does both, quick and easy. Mine's black but it's exactly the same item otherwise, and I got mine at Wal-Mart® for about ten or eleven bucks...



Anyways, I know this may be old news to some (it's old news to me; I've had mine for over a year) but a good idea is still a good idea.

I get perfectly cooked, fluffy, extra long grain white rice in 13 minutes, anytime I want. Brown takes about 20. No muss, no fuss. It makes a big difference, though, if I rinse the rice before cooking to get rid of the glumpy starch (pour cold water over rice, stir with fingers till the water gets milky, and drain the water--do it twice for great results).

Then nuke (2 cups of dry white long grain rice and 3 cups of water) for 13 minutes (1000 watt at high--your mileage may vary), let the rice sit with the cooker unopened for 5 minutes, open it up, spoon out the rice and: YUM.

Oh yeah, and the thing also doubles as a killer vegetable steamer.

...we now return to regular programming...

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Jeff McCann

I've just finished the website for my good friend and fellow musician, Jeff McCann of Peace River, Alberta. The site promotes Jeff's latest CD: "Serpent on the Grass".

Jeff is a fine guitarist and vocalist, the host (with wife Suzanne) at Peace River's best weekly musician's jam, and a skilled songwriter. I was very pleased that he asked me both to do his site and to play a bit of harp on one of the tunes.

There's a high bitrate mp3 download of the complete song "Like A Chain" available on the music page (at the top), plus short clips of the rest of the tunes on this CD (a little lower).

Good songwriting is a difficult craft, and Jeff's tunes have catchy vocal/lyric hooks, and melodic guitar solos that fit the tunes rather than being just scale-derived fills. I think his CD is well worth a listen.

Good work, Jeff.

Monday, October 23, 2006

L. Neil Smith

"in economic terms...when two people are taxed for a lifetime, one whole human life has been used up, consumed by the ravenous state".

Anything else you want your government to do for you--with someone else's money?

Link to L. Neil Smith's Blog.

Link to the article where the above quote resides.

L. Neil Smith is one of my favorite authors. You can find his stuff--and much more--at Laissez Faire Books, whose slogan is (accurately) The Worlds Best Selection of Books on Liberty.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Kind of Thinking You Get When...

...someone speaks who considers those they disagree with as friends anyways.

HERE

Gorbachev, speaking--with wisdom--on a few things.

A note: Gorbachev is correct when he sees democracy as a tool, not and end. Democracy and about a buck and a half will getcha a cup of coffee. Like any tool, you have to use it only when and where it's proper and useful. In the case of democracy, it's a useful tool only when and where group decisions are proper--and that's not near as often as you might think,

Monday, October 16, 2006

If a Picture is Worth a Thousand Words...

...a great video and a cool tune is worth a million.

This one is worth even more.

Two Fathers.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

I Spent the Afternoon in Tears

Here.

Highly recommended, with no apologies for the things you will feel--and none for the way I feel.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Mine Your Own Business

Richard Evans blog Let Freedom Reign deserves your visit to read about Mine Your Own Business, and to watch the accompanying short video.

Monday, October 09, 2006

RAW COURAGE

Two video posts of Wafa Sultan playing straight up hardball with the Islamic extremists.

HERE at Memri.Org from Al-Jazeera

and

HERE on YouTube from Danish TV.

Thanks to Celestial Junk for the heads up.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Found this at Scout's Blog: Harper Valley, submitted by Aunty Bertha.

Made my day. Happy Thanksgiving.

A rare thing - maybe worth a look

HERE

Folks who disagree in blogland often get into name-calling and other related ill-tempered shenanigans.

Richard Evans (of Let Freedom Reign) and I disagree about Canadian drug laws. But the debate (at least between the two of us) isn't sinking to what I described above. Instead, it's a good-natured and detailed exchange, and I'm enjoying it.

So maybe take a look.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Dignity and Grace.

HERE

Quoting Mr. Maher Arar:

"My wife, Monia, and I spoke with Commissioner Zaccardelli today on the telephone, and received his personal apology. We thanked him for publicly apologizing to us and for acknowledging that serious mistakes were made that caused my family and me serious harm...We also thanked the commissioner for accepting the findings and recommendations in Justice [Dennis] O'Connor's report, and urged him to ensure the recommendations that pertain to the RCMP are fully implemented as soon as possible."

That's a class act. A lot of folks could and should learn something from it.

Mr. Arar: Thank you, Sir, with my sincere compliments, and my sorrow for your losses.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

A better idea....

HERE

The drug war is worse than a waste of money, it simply and obviously causes more problems than it solves.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Three cheers for Axbridge carnival organizers!!

Hip Hip HOORAY!!!!

Decent folks making a caring decision. And cheers to the townfolk for being good about it.

We could use more friendly tolerance like this.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Ahmadinejad

HERE

I think Bush is badly misreading this guy.

Friday, September 15, 2006

When Colin Powell speaks...

Colin Powell, in a letter to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), stated "The world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism. To redefine Common Article 3 [of the Geneva Convention]would add to those doubts. Furthermore it would put our own troops at risk."

Details here.

Bush had best pay attention. When it comes to military matters, it is Powell who has the experience and the expertise. Quite frankly, Powell is the only American political figure I really respect.

On one hand, the provision is somewhat vague, so there's an argument for making it more specific. There is no good argument for the United States to change the definition unilaterally. And for sure there is no good argument for the United States to act as if the definition has changed before it actually does change, in writing, agreed and witnessed by others in the world community.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Have 5 minutes?


If you do, take some time out for this, from Google Video.


Nori Bucci w/Gamalon

There's more where this came from..

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Social Contract

Well, okay, so you're born...so it isn't like you joined voluntarily, but the second you get here, there's a group of folks called "government" that hold a mortgage on your life--and they, and the folks who depend on it, call it (only if you ask) a Social Contract, and they remind you that it isn't a real contract you can look at and discuss; it's instead implied. "By what", you ask.

"By the fact you're here" it is answered.

Anyways, this fella decided to write it down, just to see what it might look like. It's not far off. And if you substitute Canada for the United States, it's the same situation here.

(Found on the Net)

From: (A T Furman)
Newsgroups: ba.politics
Subject: Re: Social contract?
Date: 14 May 92 08:53:22 GMT

We’ve all heard of the “Social Contract” — the unwritten agreement between individuals and “society” (i.e. the government.) The following is an attempt to write down, once and for all, just what the contract is that we’ve all supposedly agreed to.

SOCIAL CONTRACT

Between an individual and the United States Government

WHEREAS I wish to reside on the North American continent, and WHEREAS the United States Government controls the area of the continent on which I wish to reside, and WHEREAS tacit or implied contracts are vague and therefore unenforceable,

I agree to the following terms:

SECTION 1: I will surrender a percentage of my property to the Government. The actual percentage will be determined by the Government and will be subject to change at any time. The amount to be surrendered may be based on my income, the value of my property, the value of my purchases or any other criteria the Government chooses. To aid the Government in determining the percentage, I will apply for a Government identification number that I will use in all my major financial transactions.

SECTION 2: Should the Government demand it, I will surrender my liberty for a period of time determined by the government and typically no shorter than two years. During that time, I will serve the Government in any way it chooses, including military service in which I may be called upon to sacrifice my life.

SECTION 3: I will limit my behavior as demanded by the government. I will consume only those drugs permitted by the Government. I will limit my sexual activities to those permitted by the Government. I will forsake religious beliefs that conflict with the Government’s determination of propriety. More limits may be imposed at any time.

SECTION 4: In consideration for the above, the Government will permit me to find employment, subject to limits that will be determined by the Government. These limits may restrict my choice of career or the wages I may accept.

SECTION 5: The Government will permit me to reside in the area of North America which it controls. Also, the Government will permit me to speak freely, subject to limits determined by the Government’s Congress and Supreme Court.

SECTION 6: The Government will attempt to protect my life and my claim to the property it has allowed me to keep. I agree not to hold the Government liable if it fails to protect me or my property.

SECTION 7: The Government will offer various services to me. The nature and extent of these services will be determined by the Government and are subject to change at any time.

SECTION 8: The Government will determine whether I may vote for certain Government officials. The influence of my vote will vary inversely with the number of voters, and I understand that it typically will be minuscule. I agree not to hold any elected Government officials liable for acting against my best interests or for breaking promises, even if those promises motivated me to vote for them.

SECTION 9: I agree that the Government may hold me fully liable if I fail to abide by the above terms. In that event, the Government may confiscate any property that I have not previously surrendered to it, and may imprison me for a period of time to be determined by the Government. I also agree that the Government may alter the terms of this contract at any time.
_____________________________
Signature
_____________________________
Date

Copyright 1989 by Robert E. Alexander.

May be distributed freely.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Monday, September 04, 2006

Todays interesting read:

So I'm watching "Deadwood" and I start thinking about parallels between that fictional society and what some see as "how things would be" in an anarcho-capitalist world.

Turns out, I'm not the only one. Google Deadwood and libertarian or anarcho-capitalist to see more observations about the show relative to history, economics and all that.

But anyways, in my web meanderings I found this, An American Experiment in Anarho-Capitalism: The Not So Wild, Wild West from two folks at the Department of Economics, Montana State University.

Which gets me to a quick "aside": On a couple of my favorite "left-leaning" blogs, some writers (usually as a sort of en passant move sidestepping a point of discourse) constantly make references to some supposed Libertarian Utopia that they claim anarcho-capitalists and libertarians (and, by extension, me) think possible. When I listen to the future claims of most politically-minded folks, it becomes clear to me that the only folks who don't envision some sort of "we'll all get along wonderfully" utopia are exactly the libertarians and anarcho-capitalists. Making no claim at all for a utopia; they just say things would be more rationally fair if and as we move in that direction. I agree.

In any case, as found here at Billy Beck's wonderful Two-Four blog:

"In your efforts to reduce government, aim for zero. If you ever get there and don't like what you see, I guarantee that it will be the easiest thing in the world to pick up the nearest telephone and have another one established on the very next day." Robert LeFevre (1970)

Friday, September 01, 2006

What the FUCK is this?!?!?!?!?

Read this.

Nice to know you don't even have to be charged, or convicted, or even have had a civil lawsuit, before this BS comes into play. But that's okay because if there aren't any further complaints after SIX freaking years, you can apply to have your name removed from the registry, as in: A civilly declared offender, however, could petition the court to have the person's name removed from the new list after six years if there have been no new problems and the judge believes the person is unlikely to abuse again. What is this again crap if you weren't charged and convicted in the first place??

Maybe it's time to call in and provide the names of everybody on that panel.

So much for the presumption of innocence...

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

This just makes sense...

Scratch every environment-related reason to buy these--it's still a really good idea to get some.

Not news but still...

Monday, August 28, 2006

This is Wonderful...

Oh, read this, please :-)

It's like this: there are many companies now that provide benefits to unmarried gay couples similar to those afforded married straight couples. So far so good, but this gets better. It seems that one sensible--and also unmarried (but cohabiting) straight--young woman realized that the law says you can't discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. So she wants her benefits, too.

I think this is covered under the Law of Unintended Consequences.

I wonder what'll happen when the asexual or onanist or transiently monogamist singles quite rightly mosey in for their benefits, or ,for that matter, the polyamorists or polygamists. I love where this is going.

I'm in favour of allowing (celebrating, in fact) same-sex marriages (I mean, why not, same thing goes for the polys) but I bet this makes folks write the laws real carefully. Chuckle.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Essentials...

This article by Paul Wells illustrates the worst mistake being made by the American military in Iraq, the one that fatally undermines the best of what they want to accomplish there.

It's really the same mistake being made by the Israelis and generally by the entire western political presence in the Middle East.

Essentially, it's a lack of respect. A lack of manners. And it's enough to kill the deal.

Why "essential"?

Because it's always enough to kill the deal, and--as it happens, it's the same whether it's your next door neighbour, your friends, your dog or a country across the world.

This is worth reading

I think this is worth reading. It illustrates in fair detail some ethical discussions between top Israeli tacticians about"targetted killings" and it's a bit of an eye-opener. Note that I'm not speaking to the right and wrong of any particular mission here; I'm just noting that the Israelis aren't proceeding near as willy-nilly as some observers might want you to think.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

More Importance in the Grand Scheme...

I mentioned that these guys tolerate each other...

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

This is important in the Grand Scheme of Things...

These guys and some of their friends hang out occasionally behind the shop I work at. I put out seed and mostly just leave 'em alone. By the way, it might look like the feathered guy is squawking or just pissed at the furry fella, but it ain't so. Moments before they were both nibbling happily away but they paid a bit of attention when I brought my camera out to shoot 'em.


Monday, August 21, 2006

Video Links

One of the best things about the Net is the video available--especially since mainstream TV is so...uh...informative. Right. In any case, here's links to some online video that's worth watching. Hint: especially with the Friedman series, watch it in episode order.

The first is
The Libertarian Alternative series. Understand that I'm not suggesting you watch this stuff so you can go out and vote. I'm not even sure voting's a good idea, especially considering the things folks figure they have a right to vote about. I'm just saying watch this stuff so you get a better idea of what freedom might mean, especially compared to what you have today. Do I agree with everything these folks say? Nope. But not so much I think you'll be worse off for hearing it. Just so you know: I'm not fond of the series host, sometimes I think he's not even listening, and when he does, sometimes he clearly doesn't get it, so thank whatever you thank that the show's guests are pretty bright.

The second is the Milton Friedman's
Free To Choose series. As Billy Beck points out clearly: "this is broad-stroke baby-stuff and should be taken with great care, because there is no morality in it. It is sheerly utilitarian." Totally correct, but... Do I agree with everything Freidman says? Nope. But, again, not so much I think you'll be worse off for hearing it.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

About the JonBenet thing...

No link needed--it's all over the news.

Now...about all the cretins that were sure the parents were guilty and that were consequently perfectly willing to dispense with the presumption of innocence and make the parents lives miserable over this...

I wonder if they've learned anything.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

So I'm reading about BB King...

...in the April 206 issue of Guitar World and the interview mentions Jules Bahari who basically handled King's recordings, including the business end, in the early 50's. I'll mention that Jules was white, but that's not the point of all this. Anyways...so Jules would add his name, or the names of relatives, or even pseudonyms, to the songwriting credits so he'd get a share of the royalties, a bigger share, evidently (although that wasn't explicitly stated in the article). The interviewer (Alan D. Perna) asks King about Jules.

He gets, from King: "I'm sure I did get ripped off, but I was crazy about Jules Bahari. I didn't know much about business anyway, and Jules treated me like a person. He was just a good man to me. After I got my royalty check, which was never much--maybe I got a couple of thousand dollars--sometimes I'd walk by a new car and I'd say 'I need two thousand more dollars.' And Jules would give it to me. He made me feel like I was special...Jules Bahari was guy who would hang out with us, drink with us and treat us nice during those segregated times...Jules had my heart in his hand. I still love him today."

God, I love capitalism.

Y'see...that's how it's supposed to work. King was a black musician in 1951 that was able to buy cars, just for the asking. Just because he had a working man-to-man deal with someone he trusted. King "didn't know much about business anyway" and my bet is Jules wasn't much of a guitar player.

You and I can quibble about the methods used to ensure that everybody got paid, or how fair it was, or how legal (as if I give a shit). But King doesn't.

And that's the point.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Let's get real here...

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14304397/

Commenting on Bush Jr's statement that “this nation is at war with Islamic fascists...," Parvez Ahmed, board chairman of the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations wrote Thursday in an open letter to President Bush:

"Unfortunately, your statement this morning that America 'is at war with Islamic fascists' contributes to a rising level of hostility to Islam and the American-Muslim community...You have on many occasions said Islam is a 'religion of peace’...Today you equated the religion of peace with the ugliness of fascism.”

An OPEN LETTER to Mr. Ahmed

Mr. Ahmed, my friend, Peace be upon you.

With respect, Bush did not equate Islam with fascism; he merely publicly associated the two, which is consistent with the present facts. Mr. bin Laden, for example, has made it plain through his actions that he is both Islamic and fascist (as have any number of very active and associated and non-associated terrorists) and he has made it plain he considers his religion to be tightly woven with his political philosophy, essential to it, in fact. I suppose you could request of Mr. bin laden that he also cease to so closely associate his politics with his faith, but I don't see that happening.

But in any case....

I know there's a certain uncertainty when it comes to defining fascism, but just for clarity, I'll pull some stuff from Wikipedia:

"A recent definition is that by Robert O. Paxton:

"Fascism may be defined as a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victim-hood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion."

and:

"Fascism is associated by many scholars with one or more of the following characteristics: a very high degree of nationalism, economic corporatism, a powerful, dictatorial leader who portrays the nation, state or collective as superior to the individuals or groups composing it. Stanley Payne's Fascism: Comparison and Definition (1980) uses a lengthy itemized list of characteristics to identify fascism, including the creation of an authoritarian state; a regulated, state-integrated economic sector; fascist symbolism; anti-liberalism; anti-communism. A similar strategy was employed by semiotician Umberto Eco in his popular essay Eternal Fascism: Fourteen Ways of Looking at a Blackshirt. More recently, an emphasis has been placed upon the aspect of populist fascist rhetoric that argues for a "re-birth" of a conflated nation and ethnic people."

True, it is absolutely possible to be Islamic and not fascist, as it is possible to be fascist but not Islamic, and you, I and Mr. Bush all know that--and so do, for example, most North Americans. But the fact remains, we are at war with Islamic fascists. I'd be thrilled were that not the case, but, alas, it is so. Unless, of course, you don't think the bulk of the above definitions of fascist apply to the majority of Islamic folks with whom we are at war, but you haven't explained how that might be. Or, of course, if you don't think the folks we are at war with are Islamic, but that would be an even more difficult case to make.

I know full well that you are afraid that people will equate the two, and it is a plain fact that many people have already done so, so you have good reason to be afraid. But the situation will not be helped by evasion on your part when the connection is brought into the open; that just makes you look dishonest. Worse, it makes you look both dishonest and sneaky when you ask others to ignore or suppress the connection. I'm not accusing you of being either; it just sadly looks that way.

The big problem with that is: your evasiveness, which might well be more accurately described and understood as confusion based on embarrasment or fear (or what?? You tell me...), does unfairly increase distrust of your faith given that you are a spokesman by choice. I am sorry you might be embarrased or afraid, or both, but whatever it is that is behind your actions: it doesn't help.

With sincere best wishes,

Ron

Taking things a step further...

Just as a response to some private email I received on my post below "Interesting Questions."

Western governments, or at least the citizens of western governments, have every right to eliminate the threat to themselves coming from Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, as quickly and efficiently as possible. The fact that Arab peoples in general have legitimate grievances does not change this. My only point is that a successful end to Middle Eastern problems will only come when we in the west start acting consistently according to and towards our highest ideals.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Perceptive...

Although a little out of date (2003), I think this interview with Bernard-Henry Levy still worth reading.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

About Mel...

Mel Gibson has apologized directly for his drunken anti-Semitic comments, even going so far as to ask to "meet with leaders in the Jewish community, with whom [he] can have a one on one discussion to discern the appropriate path for healing." Well, he screwed up major big-time, that's a fact. That was just plain nasty bullshit he was spewing. And it's perfectly fair to nail his ass when he's being an asshole.

I’m watching to see how folks react to his apology.

The standard line, of course, is that we all say folks should apologize when they are wrong, when they hurt people around them, and that they should do what they can to make things right. Well, Mel is at least starting on his way down that path. The other side of the coin is that the injured—and those as well who are offended by the behavior—are supposed to forgive and maybe even work to assist the erring person to reclaim the benefits of correct behavior. Heck, we’ve been taught that since we were all kids.

Are you going to have some fun bad-mouthing him, calling him names, making jokes, laughing at his misfortune, taking delight at the damage he’s caused himself? Are you going to wallow in nastiness, joining your friends in putting him down? Are you going to see how clever you can be while doing everything I just listed? Are you going to dismiss his apology as self-serving and insincere? Are you going to write him off? Are you going to feel morally superior when you do all this? Well, bottom line: you can be as cynical and mean-spirited as you wish and my bet is hardly anyone will even think to ask you to examine your motives if that's what you choose.

When you’re figuring out what you’ll do, it might help to think about how a lynch mob acts. They don’t just do the wrong thing. They wallow in the togetherness, the group-think mutual approval, and sheer raw power of the mob, and they enjoy looking forward to the hopefully upcoming misfortune of others; they enjoy the punishing and the hating. Take a look around the world. You might see a few mobs in action right now.

You gonna join the mob?

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Interesting Questions...

John Podhoretz, in the NY Post, writes in Too Nice to Win/Israel's Dilemma (link updated to a blog copy of the article since the NY Post archived it), "What if liberal democracies have now evolved to a point where they can no longer wage war effectively because they have achieved a level of humanitarian concern for others that dwarfs any really cold-eyed pursuit of their own national interests?...Are [the enemies of the western powers] seeking victory through demoralization alone - by daring us to match them in barbarity and knowing we will fail? Are we becoming unwitting participants in their victory and our defeat? Can it be that the moral greatness of our civilization - its astonishing focus on the value of the individual above all - is endangering the future of our civilization as well?"

Podhoretz continued: "Didn't the willingness of [WWII Allied] leaders to inflict mass casualties on civilians indicate a cold-eyed singleness of purpose that helped break the will and the back of their enemies? Didn't that singleness of purpose extend down to the populations in those countries in those days, who would have and did support almost any action at any time that would lead to the deaths of Germans and Japanese?"

The entire implication in Podhoretz’ article is that it’s time to get down to winning no matter what ethical lines need to be crossed even though, of course, Podhoretz can deny that, given that he didn’t answer even one of his own questions.

So…what are you thinking right now? Has Podhoretz got you thinking it’s time to forget about valuing individuals for a while and get down to the job of kicking ass with the same utter lack of civility we are seeing from the terrorists. If so, you’ve been conned and I got news…If you think for one minute that western civilization's "astonishing focus on the value of the individual above all is endangering the future of our civilization...", then you are wrong.

First: The West (using the term loosely) hasn't been granting the Arab world their individualism, or showing them great humanitarianism, for a fucking dog's age. What western governments have been doing in the Arab world hasn't had or got the slightest thing to do with any "astonishing focus on the value of the individual above all." Instead, Western motives and actions in the Islamic world haven't been much different than, for example, the motives of the first waves of imperialist European settlers who occupied Turtle Island (look it up if you need to).

Say what you wish about the tactics they're using right now or the causes they represent, it's still true that the Arabs or Islamists throughout the Middle East, and certainly the supporters of Hezbollah, have far more in common with, say, the Indians under British rule than they do any type of militarist expansionist state like Germany or Japan. Almost the entire Arab world has been occupied or politically interfered with by foreign nations and their protected companies, economic "aid" and "development" agencies since at least the turn of the last century--and in lots of cases a lot longer. In other words, the Arab world has essentially been occupied by Russia, Britain, Germany, the United States, and by any number of less-powerful countries, alone or together and generally allied with one or more of the those biggies. In contrast, the Arab world hasn't historically made any huge efforts to take us over, at all.

What we've lost in the Middle East, we've largely lost because we weren't focusing on the value of the individual enough.

All I’m saying here is that even though we do have a perfect right to totally eliminate a threat to us from, say, Osama bin Laden, we'd bloody better still keep in mind why he's so fucking upset and why it seems fairly easy for him to obtain followers to do the kinds of things they do. It might be things like (from a letter bin Laden wrote to Americans a few years ago) "when [former President George H.W.] Bush, the father, visited the area...some of our own were impressed by America and were hoping that the visits would affect and influence our countries. Then, what happened was that he [Bush] was impressed by the monarchies and [supported them while they were] staying in power for tens of years, embezzling the public money without any accountability." It might be things like how we supported Iran’s Savak, sowing the seeds for an Ayatollah Khomeini to arise and take power in Iran. I mean, do you really think most Iranians, who were becoming westernized up to the point we clearly began supporting a tyrant, really actually hoped then for a return to fully blown Islamic fundamentalism?. Understand, me: I like George Sr. as a person, and he wasn't the worst or the first, and I even think he meant well, but...

Get real. We radicalized them. And we didn't do it out of any concern or consistent regard for Arab or Islamic individualism. We did it because it suited our government’s purposes, which is to say--in many cases--it also suited companies unduly protected by western powers. It is also fair to say that, in many ways and for example, much of the Middle East was essentially annexed during major but dominantly western wars.

Second, there is precious little in common between the concept of national interest (at least government backed commercial and political interest beyond the physical borders of a nation) and that of individualism. To now say "[we] have achieved a level of humanitarian concern for others that dwarfs any really cold-eyed pursuit of [our] own national interests"--implying that an objective view would show us that we need to drop our humanitarian concern, our astonishing focus on the value of the individual, now, in the interests of our nation, and do some very much more "collateral damage intensive" things over there--is almost a perversion of language.

Get this; it's simple: Treating people as individuals means you let them be them as long as, and any time, they leave you alone too. And you then deal with them on those terms--or you don't deal with them. If you can't deal with them on those terms, you don’t trade with them, you don't take them over, you don't take their stuff, you don't choose their governments and you don't insult their belief systems and way of life. Instead, you simply do without stuff they have that you might want if you can’t get it without them--and, if you wish, you hope they come around. That's respecting people as individuals, and it's the only thing that is enough to ultimately conquer the zealots and the tyrants of the Islamic nations.

Why?

Because there's a smuggled premise right through Podhoretz' article: it's the idea that there is a paradox between what is our best and what keeps or protects our best. Individualism, expressly acknowledged as such by Podhoretz' article, is the best--and about that he's right. We can't keep it by throwing it away; we keep it by keeping it.

Because, for a great example, it took a potent combination of two things for the west to ultimately beat the Soviets once they were entrenched enough to fight the Cold War.

1) We didn't displace the Soviets because we pummeled the daylights out of them--but because, after decades of increasingly becoming aware of the comparative freedom and prosperity of the west, the individuals who lived in Russia wanted what we had, as individuals. Hell, even Gorbachev was astonished at how good we had it, and he admits it. If they hadn't wanted what we had, no power on Earth would have made those individuals question and then reject their oppressive government, even with Star Wars. In other words, we overcame to the degree we did when we led by example.

2) And because two leaders (Reagan and Gorbachev, as flawed as you might justifiably feel they were) made a conscious decision to see each other--and the citizens of their respective countries--as individuals.

The implication of this Podhoretz article is just another in a long list of calls for expedience over ethics and the implication should be soundly rejected. If we give up our astonishing focus on the value of the individual (even such as it is lately--and it's in tatters), what difference does it make who wins?