Sunday, October 31, 2010

I'm not sayin' the dude is hypocritical or anything, but...

...if I'm gonna write an article complaining that legal articles these days have too many footnotes, then I don't think I'm gonna give the article [pauses to count...counting...still counting...] 174 footnotes.

HT: Instapundit (who of course in his day job is a law professor).

Saturday, October 30, 2010

And Helen is my proof

I'm re-reading Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Sonnets from the Portuguese tonight. I had forgotten the last words of Sonnet XXVI:

...God's gifts put man's best dreams to shame.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Sometimes the right guy loses

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Political Line Of The Day

Jim Treacher had a great response to Katie Couric's already-infamous comment that she was going to Middle America to listen to, and this is a direct quote (!!!), "this great unwashed middle of the country." That sounds like a match made in heaven: the Great Unwashed, and [I here bow to Treacher] the Great Unwatched.

But that's not the Line Of The Day because Treacher came up with that yesterday. The Line Of Today So Far comes from Matt Miller:
The American people in their wisdom are about to punish a party they're furious with by giving more power to a party they can't stand.
True dat.

A close runner-up for line of the day is in the same article, where Miller observes, "For the next two years we'll thus be ruled by the blind fighting the blind."

I may have to read this Miller guy more often; the guy has some wit and verve to him.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Criminal Mastermind Of The D...Oh. 2007. How did I miss that until now? Oh well, better late than never.

A tip for petty thieves hiding from the police in abandoned buildings: when the policeman calls, "Marco," you are not obliged to answer, "Polo."

Saturday, October 23, 2010

If you'll excuse a political post...

...I have to comment on this line from the Justice Department (from this Washington Post article) -- not so much for the sake of the politics as to show the linguistic game that's going on:
“The Voting Rights Act was passed because people like Bull Connor were hitting people like John Lewis, not the other way around,” said one Justice Department official not authorized to speak publicly, referring to the white Alabama police commissioner who cracked down on civil rights protesters such as Lewis, now a Democratic congressman from Georgia.

Now isn't this really the crux of the difference between Left and Right here? I, and fellow non-liberals, agree that the Voting Rights Act was passed because people like Bull Connor were violating the rights of people like John Lewis, not the other way around. But we believe that you judge people by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. Ike Brown is a person whose character is that of Bull Connor (in that he used nefarious means to disenfranchise those not of his own color, though I hasten to add that he at least wasn't murderously violent about it), and whose skin color is that of John Lewis. Conservatives think the thing that matters about a person is the content of his character, and therefore we believe that when Ike Brown abused his power to keep white people from voting purely because of their skin color, Ike Brown disenfranchising innocent white people was precisely a case of a person like Bull Connor disenfranchising people like John Lewis.

But to a lot of the careerists at Justice (and to Brown himself), what matters about people is their skin color and nothing else. So to them, Ike Brown cannot be a person like Bull Connor -- the skin color is wrong, and the character is irrelevant. To them, it is self-evident that the whites whose right to vote was stolen from them cannot possibly be people like John Lewis -- the skin color is wrong, and the character is irrelevant.

In other words, they are racists.

Is Ike Brown like Bull Connor? Yes, if you look at his character; no, if what matters to you is skin color.

And now we know what matters to a lot of the career lawyers in the Department, perhaps "Justice" is not the right word. I begin to be reminded of the joke in which the President of Kazakhstan, the Politburo having denied his request for funding for a Ministry of the Navy on the grounds that land-locked Kazakhstan has no ships and no access to the ocean, replies, "So what? You guys have a Ministry of Culture, don't you?"

And we in the U.S. have a Department of Justice.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Threat Promise Of The Day

James Harrison decides to give the NFL some positive reinforcement for their new policy on the semi-murderous hits in which he specializes.

A letter to my Congressman (and there are two like it headed for my Senators)

The Honorable Pete Olson
United States Representative, Texas, 22nd District
514 Cannon HOB
Washington, D.C. 20515


Dear Congressman Olson,

As are many of my fellow constituents, I am interested in seeing our country’s immigration laws be both sensibly written and credibly enforced. I have rather more of a personal interest in legal immigration than do most of my fellow Americans, I would imagine, because over the years I have adopted four children from Kazakhstan, and on 18 September of this year I married an utterly delightful woman from China and am now starting the process of applying for visas for my beloved wife and my seven-year-old stepson.

I do not object to the necessity of providing documentation to prove that the marriage is bona fide; I understand that necessity and certainly do not want to encourage immigration fraud. On the other hand, when I came home from my honeymoon without my wife and explained to friends that it would be months before she could join me here in Texas, those of my friends who were born American and have never dealt with the immigration process were surprised and appalled. As one friend put it in an e-mail to me, “To make newlyweds wait months before they could start playing house together, in peacetime, is inhuman.” I could not agree more, and I hardly think it reflects well on the country, or serves well any one of us who is an honest and loyal American and who plays by the rules, but who happens to have met the love of his life in a foreign land.

I urge you to consider sponsoring legislation that would leave all the current requirements for spousal immigration intact EXCEPT for a simple change: allow the foreign spouse to enter the country on a temporary visa, immediately (with approval delays no greater than ordinary tourist visas), on three conditions:

  1. Require the sponsoring spouse to have a clean background record. Your experience and common sense may suggest other requirements for the sponsoring spouse that would help ensure that the marriage in question was prima facie likely to be bona fide (and you may wish to restrict eligibility to American citizens); but remember that it must be possible to establish the spouse’s eligibility very rapidly or else the whole point of the legislation will be defeated.

  2. Require the financial sponsor to post a significant cash bond (meant to be sufficient to purchase airline tickets for every immigrant on the CR-1 application) to ensure that the immigrating spouse and any accompanying children can be sent home, at no expense to the American taxpayer, in the event the CR-1 application is finally rejected.

  3. Require the immigrating spouse to present himself/herself at a Deparment of Homeland Security office within a reasonable amount of time (e.g., three business days) to be assigned a probation officer from the federal immigration authorities, analogous to a probation officer from the criminal justice system; and require said spouse to check in with his/her probation officer at regular intervals until the final verdict on the full residency application is passed.

I understand that the last provision would require additional budget appropriations; but the cost could be mitigated by charging a higher fee for CR-1 visa applications that request this sort of immediate entry than for CR-1 visa applications submitted by couples willing to wait to enter the country until the CR-1 process is completed – in a word, by making the expedited process both voluntary and (within reason) more expensive, and thus reasonably close to self-supporting.

Under the current process, American citizens such as myself who are law-abiding and honest persons, are punished simply because there exist other people who are dishonest. To a certain very limited extent, this is an unavoidable consequence of life in a society of 300 million people – but to the extent that this cost to good and innocent citizens CAN be mitigated, I believe it is the responsibility of the citizens’ representatives to mitigate it. I humbly submit that my proposal would make a very great difference – not to me, as I will be done with the process long before the legislation could take effect – but to others like me in years to come; and I humbly submit that if properly designed it should NOT significantly enable the sort of fraud that the current process seeks to intercept, nor have a significant net budgetary impact.

In closing, I ask you only to imagine what it would have been like for you to have had to walk through an airport security gate the day your honeymoon ended and leave your bride behind, not knowing how many months it would be before you would see her again – and from personal experience I assure you that, whatever you are imagining, the reality is worse.

Thank you very much for your time and attention to my proposal.

Yours most sincerely,

Ken Pierce

P.S. I note from your Wikipedia article that you served in the United States Navy for nine years. Please accept my most sincere thanks for your service to our nation.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Quote of the day

I love this line from Carlos Slim: “There is a saying that we should leave a better country to our children. But it’s more important to leave better children to our country.”

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Criminal Mastermind of the Day

And the answer to her question was, of course, "As a matter of fact, there does seem to be a warrant for your arrest -- thanks for askin'."

And the real-life name of the day is...

...Ms. Pussycat Doppelganger-Weedman.

Courtesy of Dave, of course, though regrettably he could not link to it because of his strict policy, etc. [Inside joke for fellow Dave Barry fans.]

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I love this country

Really, I do. I detest its politicians, but people like this are why the space for greatness created by the Founders has stayed so full for so long. Just a dad, hanging out with his son...sending a camera into space for the fun of it.

HT: John Derbyshire, another man who knows where to go when the object is matrimony.

Presented without comment...

...well, except for this one: I really resent the "glad you enjoyed your honeymoon, and your new wife can join you in, you know, half a year or so...maybe...if you catch a break, you know..." U.S. Immigration types right about now.

Of the many congratulatory e-mails I've gotten (and I appreciate them all) my favorite is the one that began bluntly, "To make newlyweds wait months before they could start playing house together, in peacetime, is inhuman." Preachin' to the choir, there, Sophia. Preachin' to the choir. (Have I mentioned that you should all, every last one of you, buy her delightful book? Oh, yes, I believe I have.)

HSSE Moment Of The Day / Delightful Prank Of The Day

I just love this one -- a cheerful teenager hacks into his local TV station's news teleprompter and awards himself a Nobel Prize.

Also, you gotta love the girl on the left, who figures out what's going on but is clearly amused by it; and you thank your lucky stars you're not married to the pompous twit on the right who graces us with a Have Some Respect For My Dignity speech while the blonde tries and fails to hide her grin. Big marks to the blonde, who purely on the basis of that cheerful and good-natured grin becomes one of the few women I've met that I might actually have been willing to go on a date with if I hadn't met Helen first, and a big raspberry to the leuke dude.

HT: Insty.

Classy gesture of this baseball postseason

No, not the San Francisco Giants' applauding Bobby Cox's career -- that one was a no-brainer. I'm talking about the Texas Rangers' clubhouse celebrations.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Like the song, it takes a while to get going, but it's worth the wait

6-year-old Connor and his sensei give us a new meaning of "dueling nunchucks".

Hat tip: ESPN.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

All-Time Great Kung Fu Quotes

Of course some of the silliness is a result of bad translation in the subtitles...well, okay, most of the silliness is a result of bad translations in the subtitles. But can you resist an invitation like, "Greetings, large black person. Let us not forget to form a team up together and go into the country to inflict the pain of our karate feets on some ass of the giant lizard person"? And can there be a more triumphant victory boast than, "Yah-hah, evil spider woman! I have captured you by the short rabbits and can now deliver you violently to your gynecologist for a thorough extermination"? Or a more pensive pre-battle musing than, "That may disarray my intestines"? Or a more deflating pre-coital instruction than, "Don't do anything perverted, we are in a hurry"?

The only other question I have is...what, you couldn't find three more quotes to make it an even 100? At any rate, here are 97 all-time great late-night kung fu movie quotes, thanks to the sidebar over at Ace of Spades, which is off-limits to those of my children who are still too young to drive.

A good example of self-deception

My fundamental criticism of the American self-identified "intellectual" is that -- as is the general law across the human race as a whole, though the tendency is greatly exaggerated amongst our chattering classes -- his level of rationality tends to be inversely proportional to his self-satisfaction. There's a lovely, lovely bit of unintentional self-revelation in the interview David Remnick grants to Der Spiegel here. The whole article is instructive in its illustration of Advanced Techniques of Self-Deception, but I thought I would pull out just one bit. As it happens, Remnick adores Fellow Intellectual Barack Obama and despises Unwashed Proles Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin; but this same pattern of obvious self-deception can be found anywhere you find a person who is proud of How Smart I Am, of any political stripe; and my interest is the psychology and mechanics of self-deception, not the political affiliations in this particular case.

Notice how far Remnick reaches to avoid having to admit the moral force of Hillary Clinton's complaints about Obama's dishonesty on the campaign trail, which complaints he implicitly treats as absolutely true -- that is, that the things Obama said about his own life were contrary to the actual facts, and that Obama knew them to be contrary to the actual facts when he said them...yet somehow Remnick has to reassure himself that this does not mean they are lies. (I remind the Gentle Reader that the focus here is not on Obama's deliberate dishonesty, but on Remnick's desperate self-deception.)

Remnick: I think it's intermittent. Even if that happens, it will help Obama in the long run that he is also a "shapeshifter." He speaks in a different way in the Oval Office to the entire nation than he does in Selma, Alabama, speaking directly to the African-American community, or to union workers in Ohio. That is another one of his gifts and I think it will help him find a way to reach out to angry voters.

SPIEGEL: Has that gift to adjust also undermined his credibility? In your book, you quote a Hillary Clinton aide who complains that Obama basically changed his life story in the presidential campaign, depending on the audience he spoke with. Does he not stand for anything?

Remnick: I quoted the Clinton aide not to agree with him but to get the point of view of the Clintons, how helpless they felt during their campaign against Obama. Do I think Barack Obama manipulated his life story in some pernicious way? No, I don't. Do I think he gave it its full poetic force? Yes.

SPIEGEL: What do you mean by that?

Remnick: He did what politicians have done for centuries. They take the facts of their life and try to make it embody a national drama at a certain point in time. Lincoln did this. Obama did that when in his book he describes his upbringing as that of a disadvantaged African American even though he actually grew up under rather comfortable circumstances.
Lest there be any doubt that the exact same behavior from, say, Glenn Beck would cause Remick to call him a "liar" rather than a "shapeshifter" who gives his (bogus) life story its "full poetic force," here is Remnick later in the interview:
"People like Glenn Beck are not political analysts, they are circus barkers, fantasists trafficking in bogus history and ugly conspiracy theories. And, unfortunately, he has real influence on millions of people."

If it's the person Remnick agrees with with who is deliberately misleading people by telling stories about her own life that she knows to be nonfactual, then she will be a "shapeshifter" who is "giving her life story its full poetic force." If it's the person Remnick disagrees with, on the other hand, then the prevaricator is a "circus barker, a fantasist trafficking in bogus history." Were Remnick's prejudices conservative -- or even if he were liberal but a die-hard Clintonist -- we can be sure that he would be calling Obama something like "a fraud and a con man, trafficking in bogus autobiography;" were his prejudices conservative then we can be sure that he would be excusing any similar dishonesty from Glenn Beck as the skillful "shapeshifting" of an embodiment of the popular will, "giving his political philosophy its full poetic force."

I hope you can see the technique, and I hope you, Gentle Reader, can understand the general principle that the wise man applies when listening to pundits. Words like "true" and "lie" and "factual" and "contrafactual" are straightforward and simple. You don't have to be very smart to understand that it is wrong to tell somebody something that you know is not true in order to get them to do what you want them to do. So the self-deceiver takes refuge in big but vague, noble-sounding but gaseous, phrases like "full poetic force." What Remnick is of course saying is that Obama is a gifted liar, and that he is very good at being able to change his story from audience to audience so that each audience hears what its itching ears want to hear, and that he is not constrained by ordinary ethics that govern the lives of honest people. (Elsewhere in the piece Remnick says bluntly, "He is a politician. This fact should come as no surprise to anybody who examines his very first moments in politics. The first thing he does when he applies for office in Chicago is to get a competitor off the ballot with legal tricks. I don't know if Mahatma Gandhi would have done that.") But "liar" is such an unpleasant word. So instead he is a "shapeshifter," and he isn't "telling audiences whatever they want to hear without worrying about whether what he's saying is true" -- he's "giving his life story its full poetic force."

Now let me ask you something: what does "full poetic force" mean? The answer, of course, is that it means...well, not very much, specifically. In this particular context we can deduce that it means "telling audiences whatever they want to hear." But "full poetic force" doesn't mean anything actually concrete. The phrase is used not for the sake of its meaning -- but for the sake of its positive connotations. "Poetry" is a good thing...that is, when we hear the phrase "full poetic force" we naturally feel predisposed to approve of whatever is being spoken of. And this is one of the telltale signs that you're being lied to (or that you're listening to somebody lie to themselves): when the words they use have strong emotional content but don't actually mean anything specific. In such cases you should always dig into what concrete meaning is hiding under the positive vibe. The same rule holds for denotationally empty, but connotationally loaded, negative phrases such as "fantasists trafficking in bogus history".

And that's ESPECIALLY true when you hear YOURSELF using phrases like that.

By the time Remnick is done, of course, he's managed to talk himself into not even knowing what the word "facts" means. Compare these two sentences, which are part of what Remnick fondly believes to be some sort of logical argument:

"They take the facts of their life and try to make it embody a national drama at a certain point in time...Obama did that when in his book he describes his upbringing as that of a disadvantaged African American even though he actually grew up under rather comfortable circumstances." Isn't it instantly, blindingly obvious to anybody (except Remnick himself, of course) that by Remnick's own admission, the facts of Obama's life were precisely NOT what Obama was trying to make embody a national drama at a certain point in time? What Obama tried to make embody a national drama were his contrafactual fantasies about his life, not the actual facts of his life -- but it is Glenn Beck, not Obama, who is the "fantasist."

In short Remnick's whole exculpation of Obama is, in the most literal sense of the term, incoherent. That does not keep Remnick from thinking he has said something impressively indicative of profundity of thought.

What is pitiful about Remnick, and his self-impressed peers in the chattering class, is that, while Obama certainly knows that what he was saying to his target audiences was untrue, Remnick himself is blissfully aware of his own dishonesty. For Obama was only lying to other people. Remnick is lying to himself.

That is, after all, what the American self-identified intellectual does best.

Friday, October 08, 2010

My favorite picture from the honeymoon

I'm not at all a good photographer but I like the composition on this one, and I like the peace that Shu projects in the pose (not that it was a posed picture, just a snapshot on which I got kind of lucky). In retrospect I wish I had gotten rid of the leather bag but other than that it turned out nicely.

That's a pretty lovely wife I have there, don't you think?

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Back in the USA as a married man, but alas still months from bringing my bride home

I am a VERY happily married man. Also a very tired one. (From TRAVELLING, I mean...just spent more than twenty hours coming home from China.) I apologize for not keeping you guys up to date but blogspot is blocked in China, as (apparently) is Facebook.

Helen is putting up wedding and honeymoon-trip pictures here, but I should warn you to be sure to click on the pictures because what look like photos are actually the links into entire photo albums.

Will pass on one funny thing...we went to church while on the honeymoon at Qiandaohu ("Thousand-Island Lake"). After church we went into the small room that serves as their bookstore and bought several books from them...well, Helen did, at least. I just looked at the posters on the wall, and at first glance very much liked one that had I Corinthians 13 in Chinese and then below it in English. But then I looked closer and discovered that the person who did the English bit, didn't realize that r and n are different he simply used a script n for both. Alas, as every good Baptist Sunday School student knows, very early in St. Paul's listing of the characteristics of love, he observes that "Love is not rude..."

So much for honeymoons, I guess.