"I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man."

Thomas Jefferson
Sept. 23, 1800

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Haunted Pub

Who can resist actual video footage of a ghost cowboy walking through a pub in Stoke-on-Trent, England? This is too cool.

No More "Education" Lottery

That sure didn't take long. Just three years after being sold to the public as a means of raising money for education, the NC lottery has become just another revenue stream. Gov. Perdue announced yesterday her plans to take millions from the lottery fund to shore up the state's budget, which is expected to fall $3 billion in the hole by next year.

No one can say they're surprised by this. Any legislator who expected the state to abide by a "promise" to keep lottery funds directed toward education without putting that requirement into law is a fool.

The lottery is essentially a tax on the stupid, and in as much as one should tax that which one wants less of, it's not a completely bad thing. It would be refreshing to see some politicians be honest about that fact, though.

Friday, February 27, 2009

That's Just Nasty

The latest in "Green Living"---reusable toilet wipes.

The Sky Is Not Falling

Victor Davis Hanson tries to put some perspective on our current financial mess. Yes, we are having a tough time, but no, this is not the Great Depression, Part Two. Here's a piece:

Nearly 93 percent of those Americans in the workforce are still employed. The difference between what the banks pay out in interest on depositors' savings and what they charge borrowers for loans is one of the most profitable in recent memory.

For the vast majority of Americans with jobs, the fall in prices for almost everything from food to cars has, in real dollars, meant an actual increase in purchasing power. The loss in value of home equity is serious for those who need to relocate for work or want to downsize and move to an apartment or a retirement community. But when averaged over the last decade, real estate still shows a substantial annual increase in value.

Moreover, the vast majority of American homeowners -- well over 90 percent -- meet their mortgage payments. They have no plans to flip their homes for profit. For them, the fact that they have lost paper equity, or even owe more than their homes are currently appraised at, is scary -- but not equivalent to a depression. Most are confident that after a few years their houses will appreciate again. As for now, working young couples have a chance to buy a house that would have been impossible just two years ago.

The same holds true for many retirement accounts whose decline is terrible for those retirees who count on drawing out each month what they put away or must cash out their depleted accounts at vastly reduced value.

But the majority of working Americans are not yet pulling out their sinking retirement funds. Most are still putting away pre-tax money each month, apparently confident that within a few years their portfolios will return to their former value. Some are even consoled that they are now buying mutual funds at rock-bottom prices rather than investing in sky-high investments at the peak of a bull market.

Starbuck Speaks Out

Remember Battlestar Galactica, the original, all full of cigar-smoking fighter pilots, a ship's captain borrowed from Bonanza and evil silver robots with a moving red LED for an eye? Well, that cigar-chomping fighter pilot's been retired to Montana to raise his two sons, but is none too happy with the remake of his old show. The "new" Starbuck is a chick. He is not amused. Here's an excerpt from the Big Hollywood blog:

One thing is certain. In the new un-imagined, re-imagined world of “Battlestar Galactica” everything is female driven. The male characters, from Adama on down, are confused, weak and wracked with indecision, while the female characters are decisive, bold, angry as hell, puffing cigars (gasp!) and not about to take it any more.

One can quickly surmise what a problem the original Starbuck created for the re-imaginators. Starbuck was all charm and humor and flirting without an angry bone in his womanizing body. Yes, he was definitely “female driven,” but not in the politically correct ways of Re-imagined Television. What to do, wondered the Re-imaginators? Keep him as he was, with a twinkle in his eye, a stogie in his mouth and a girl in every galaxy? This could not be. He would stick out like, well, like a jock strap in a drawer of thongs. Starbuck refused to be re-imagined. It became the Great Dilemma. How to have your Starbuck and delete him too?

The best minds in the world of un-imagination doubled their intake of Double Soy Latte’s as they gathered in their smoke-free offices to curse the day that this chauvinistic Viper Pilot was allowed to be. But never under-estimate the power of the un-imaginative mind when it encounters an obstacle (character) it subconsciously loathes. ”Re-inspiration” struck. Starbuck would go the way of most men in today’s society. Starbuck would become “Stardoe.” What the Suits of yesteryear had been incapable of doing to Starbuck 25 years ago was accomplished quicker than you can say orchiectomy. Much quicker, as in, “Frak! Gonads Gone!”

And the word went out to all the Suits in all the smoke-free offices throughout the land of Un-imagination, “Starbuck is dead. Long live Stardoe!”

I’m not sure if a cigar in the mouth of Stardoe resonates in the same way it did in the mouth of Starbuck. Perhaps. Perhaps it “resonates” more. Perhaps that’s the point. I’m not sure.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

How Education Can Work

The Carolina Journal has a piece today about Brunswick's County's own charter school, the Roger Bacon Academy. Charter schools in North Carolina are public schools and funded by public money, though at a lower level than a "regular" school. They accept children by lottery and the waiting list, at least for Roger Bacon, can be long.

Not all charter schools work, but the beauty of them is that if they don't, the parents can remove their child, unlike a traditional public school. Charters provide a glimpse of what the education system could be like if the free market were allowed to operate. Some, like Roger Bacon, would be good and parents would fight to get their children enrolled. Some would be bad, and they would fail and close, rather than continue to fail students in perpetuity.

The whole article is worth a read, but here's some excerpts:

Roger Bacon Academy uses the Direct Instruction method, a systematic presentation of “rules, tools, and techniques” rather than the facilitated discovery model popular in the state’s teacher colleges.

“You can take any content, the classical trivium or something nouveau, as long as it’s nested in a behaviorally sound approach to instructional design,” Mitchell said. “Look at the end goal task, break it up into components, teach each subskill to mastery.” Military and industrial training follows this design, “but here, no, no, we take a kindergartner, immerse him in books and expect him to learn how to read.”

RBA’s philosophy is that every child can learn if properly taught. State records say it’s working. Compared to other Brunswick County elementary and middle schools, Charter Day School had 17 percent more students on or above grade level for reading, 29 percent more in math, and 23 percent more succeeding in both subjects. Many RBA students are going into Early College programs next. This occurred while receiving 30 percent less in funding than surrounding schools, Mitchell said

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Higher Education

In his address to congress last night Pres. Obama asked all Americans to pursue some sort of higher education for at least a year.

And so tonight, I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training. This can be community college or a four-year school; vocational training or an apprenticeship. But whatever the training may be, every American will need to get more than a high school diploma.

That's all fine and dandy for career training purposes, but if we're going to survive as a free nation, we need a populace educated in the ideas that made us great in the first place.

With that in mind, here's a little reading list to help us all with our higher educations.

Aristotle's Ethics, and Politics

Plato's The Republic

Voltaire's Candide

John Locke's Two Treatises of Government (especially Book Two)

Thomas Jefferson's A Summary View of the Rights of British America, the un-edited Declaration of Independence, the Kentucky Resolution of 1799 and his First Inaugural Address

Thomas Paine's Common Sense, The Crisis, and The Rights of Man

That ought to last us for a while, but there's plenty more where those came from. All of this is available free of charge on the wonderful world wide web. Just click and get educated. Let's do Obama proud.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Semper Fi

Today is the anniversary of the raising of the American flag at the summit of Iwo Jima's Mount Suribachi.

For a little bit of biography of the men who raised that flag, click here. For an interview with one of the flag raisers click here.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Lincoln's Fingerprint

This is really cool. From Science Daily:

Lydia Smith, a first-year psychology major from Granville, Ohio, was transcribing a letter written by Lincoln on Oct. 5, 1863, for a class project when she noticed a smudge that she suspected could be the 16th president’s thumbprint. Lincoln historians have confirmed the print.

A student at Miami University has discovered what experts say is a fingerprint belonging to Abraham Lincoln from nearly 150 years ago.


After all the talk of politics and stimulus and bailout and deficits and rich vs. poor, it's easy to lose sight of what really can change the world for the better. It's not going to come from politicians, or pundits or a think-tank, as much as a free people need these things. The salvation of our country and our world will come from the souls of those who seek wisdom and find a way to pass what they find on to the future. Here's the last three stanzas of Alfred Lord Tennyson's The Poet. We need more of them.

And in her raiment's hem was traced in flame
WISDOM, a name to shake
All evil dreams of power--a sacred name. [5]
And when she spake,

Her words did gather thunder as they ran,
And as the lightning to the thunder
Which follows it, riving the spirit of man,
Making earth wonder,

So was their meaning to her words.
No sword
Of wrath her right arm whirl'd, [6]
But one poor poet's scroll, and with 'his' word
She shook the world.

New Constituent Services

Doug Bandow at the Cato Institute's blog has a post about a new kind of help being sought from elected officials. Seems that people who have been turned down for loans by banks that received federal bail-out money are asking their congress-critters to step in. Talk about the Law of Unintended Consequences rearing its ugly head. How long before this starts the ball rolling once again on the government forcing banks to loan money to people without the means to pay it back. And what bank wouldn't go along, knowing the taxpayers will subsidize their foolishness to the tune of billions of dollars.

We are heading at a scary clip toward nationalization of banks in this country. And it won't end there. Here's Mr. Bandow's conclusion:

On the one hand, this is outrageous. On the other hand, if the taxpayers have to support the banks, why shouldn’t the banks support the taxpayers? The logic is obvious even if the consequences are potentially catastrophic.

It won’t be easy to roll back the federal government’s leap into socialism American-style. But if we don’t halt the federal subsidy express, there might not be much real “free enterprise” left in America when we finish.

Those Who Don't Learn from History...

Sure it's a cliche, but it fits. The Obama administration is promising to follow up it's spending orgies with an attack on the nation's job producers and wealth makers. A Washington Post article explains the administration's plans to cut the budget deficit by two-thirds by the end of Obama's first (God help us) term. This is the exact recipe that led us into the Great Depression. Starving the private sector of capitol though increased taxes on business and capitol investment, especially at a time when there is no sense of restraint on the size, scope and expense of federal government will lead to massive private sector job loss.

It took a world war to drag us out of FDR's folly. What's going to do it this time?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Another High School Fails The Hope-n-Change Test

What's become of our education system? First they refuse to name their school after Barack Obama, now we have high schoolers questioning the wisdom of the mortgage bail-out. From the Drudge Report:

Senior Syna Daudfar took some notes during the speech and was among the most vocally opposed to Obama's words.

At one point, when he talked about the costs of his stimulus plan, senior Maaike Albach and Daudfar looked at each other and said, "uh-oh."

"Overall I think it's a good idea, but he's not addressing the issues of the economic crisis," said Daudfar, a John McCain supporter who added he leans more toward being a moderate conservative. "The spending bill he just passed is just progressing the Democratic agenda rather than addressing the economic issues in the country."

Daudfar thinks Obama's plan is backward and deals with the "less important stuff" first. "Bailing out businesses" and "providing better regulatory systems for giving out money to businesses" should have been first, he said.

"If businesses can't afford to hire people, then people won't be able to work and pay off their mortgages," he said. "It's kind of like putting money into20a funnel." Albach, who is also a Republican, said Obama's plan sounds good but questioned how Obama can want to rely on "people's responsibility" when that is "what got us in this economic crisis in the first place."

"This puts us more into debt," said Albach, 18. "It's a horrible situation we're in."

One student even dressed special for the President's visit.

Senior Brandon Miller wore a shirt with the words, "Hitler gave great speeches, too" above a picture of Obama.

Miller said he had been an Obama supporter "because of his speeches," but after debating the issues in this class and looking more into Obama's policies, his vote was swayed toward McCain.

I hope he doesn't wear that to college next year. He'll be brought up on "hate speech" charges.

Tastes Like Chicken

I guess this shouldn't be funny, but it is. Courtesy of Fox News:

A bird suspected to be extinct was reportedly photographed for the first time in the Philippines, and then sold to a poultry market as food.

Worcester's buttonquail was known only through illustrations based on decades-old museum specimens until a television crew documented the live bird in the market before it was sold in January, NationalGeographic.com reported.

Scientists had suspected the bird, found only on the island of Luzon, to be extinct, according to NationalGeographic.com.

Wild Bird Club of the Philippines President Michael Lu, told the Agence France-Press news agency that it’s unfortunate that the locals aren't more conscious of the threatened wildlife around them.

"What if this was the last of its species?" he said.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Fun New Maps

The Civitas Institute, always reliable for some good number crunching, has come up with some cool little maps that show the relative partisanship of North Carolina Senate and House districts. You can see how far they lean towards the Democrats or Republicans and also what change there's been in those opinions over time.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Why Didn't We Ask This Guy First?

A UCLA geography professor thinks he's pinned down the location of Osama bin Laden. He used technology used to track endangered species to draw up an area of probability for Osama's hiding place. Scroll through the article for a look at the most likely building and, helpfully, its exact latitude and longitude.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Happy Presidents' Day

Here's an interesting discussion on National Review Online about who was our greatest President.

No one picked Obama? Racists!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The "F" Word Rears It's Head

Michael Ledeen has a column pointing out that the bailout and economic stimulus are not heading us towards socialism. They are classic examples of Facism.

But that’s not socialism. Socialism rests on a firm theoretical bedrock: the abolition of private property. I haven’t heard anyone this side of Barney Frank calling for any such thing. What is happening now–and Newsweek is honest enough to say so down in the body of the article–is an expansion of the state’s role, an increase in public/private joint ventures and partnerships, and much more state regulation of business. Yes, it’s very “European,” and some of the Europeans even call it “social democracy,” but it isn’t.

It’s fascism. Nobody calls it by its proper name, for two basic reasons: first, because “fascism” has long since lost its actual, historical, content; it’s been a pure epithet for many decades. Lots of the people writing about current events like what Obama et. al. are doing, and wouldn’t want to stigmatize it with that “f” epithet.

Second, not one person in a thousand knows what fascist political economy was. Yet during the great economic crisis of the 1930s, fascism was widely regarded as a possible solution, indeed as the only acceptable solution to a spasm that had shaken the entire First World, and beyond. It was hailed as a “third way” between two failed systems (communism and capitalism), retaining the best of each. Private property was preserved, as the role of the state was expanded. This was necessary because the Great Depression was defined as a crisis “of the system,” not just a glitch “in the system.” And so Mussolini created the “Corporate State,” in which, in theory at least, the big national enterprises were entrusted to state ownership (or substantial state ownership) and of course state management. Some of the big “Corporations” lasted a very long time; indeed some have only very recently been privatized, and the state still holds important chunks–so-called “golden shares”–in some of them.

Nassur, the Terroroist Teddy Bear

Allah be praised, the Palestinians have found a replacement for Assud the Jew-Eating Rabbit on their children's television program, Pioneers of Tomorrow. If you'll remember, Assud was killed by the evil Israelis during the late unpleasantness. Never fear, his replacement, Nassur, is ready to take over the kiddie show Jihad.

"Scotty! I need more power!"

The Examiner editorializes about one needed infrastructure project that may be getting short shrift in the new trillion dollar stimulus bill. They say our current electricity grid is holding us back and won't be able to handle the needs of a high-tech future.

The current, industrial-age grid is simply not sufficient to power the server-dominated digital workplaces of the future. Without a significant upgrade now, future brownouts will become regular Third Worldly features of daily life in America. Peter Huber, a senior analyst at the Manhattan Institute, estimated that the U.S. could eliminate the need for 70 percent of imported foreign oil simply by electrifying its transportation and heating sectors. Installing new million-volt transmission lines would automatically boost the efficiency of existing power plants by 50 percent, Huber added, because it would allow them to operate round the clock instead of sitting idle half the time.

Covering the nation with 21,000 miles of new high-voltage lines would cost between $50 and $75 billion. Pocket change these days.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Students Stop "Obama High"

The students of Boulder High School in Colorado have voted down an attempt by a Marxist student group to have their school's name changed to Barack Obama High School. Seems they they haven't gotten the Hope-n-Change message yet.

If the guy carrying the sign in that picture is in the group for any other reason than to find out what's behind that peace sign, I'll eat my shorts.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Senator Gregg Backs Off Commerce Post

New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg has fallen off the Hope-n-Change Express. His press release announcing his withdraw from consideration for the Commerce Secretary post cites some irreconcilable differences:

“However, it has become apparent during this process that this will not work for me as I have found that on issues such as the stimulus package and the Census there are irresolvable conflicts for me. Prior to accepting this post, we had discussed these and other potential differences, but unfortunately we did not adequately focus on these concerns. We are functioning from a different set of views on many critical items of policy.

Welcome back, Senator.

Maybe They Need A Stimulus, Too?

It seems the crumbling world economy is hurting the terrorists, too. I blame George Bush.

From CBC News:

A Turkish militant group, which has hundreds of Turkish, Chechen and Uzbek fighters allied to the Taliban, reported that a sharp drop in donations is hampering its fight against NATO soldiers.

The group, based near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, made the revelation on an Islamic website last Friday.

Just as financial support from donors in the Middle East and Turkey has dropped off, prices for ammunition and weapons on the black market are skyrocketing.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

My Favorite Governor

South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford opposes the stimulus in a more sane and reasoned manner than any talking head pundit. Here's a video.

Obama's had three weeks. America elected a black dude President. Can the adults please have the government back now?

The First 21 Days

Can you believe we've not even lived in Obama-land for a whole month yet? Feelin' the Hope-n-Change already, aren't you? Randall Hoven at American Thinker has a brilliant synopsis of the Dear Leader's first three weeks as Messiah-in-Chief.

Roll Over Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson, once claimed as Democrats as the father of their party, must be rolling in his grave. The Senate has added billions of dollars to the bloated pork-o-rama that passed the House last week and one can only guess at how many billions more will be added in conference. Democrats have become the party of FDR, and proud of it. Let's hope their economic fix doesn't lead to another decade-long depression like their hero's.

To give you an idea of what a true classical liberal sounds like, here is a part of Jefferson's Second Inaugural Address:

At home, fellow-citizens, you best know whether we have done well or ill. The suppression of unnecessary offices, of useless establishments and expenses, enabled us to discontinue our internal taxes. These, covering our land with officers and opening our doors to their intrusions, had already begun that process of domiciliary vexation which once entered is scarcely to be restrained from reaching successively every article of property and produce. If among these taxes some minor ones fell which had not been inconvenient, it was because their amount would not have paid the officers who collected them, and because, if they had any merit, the State authorities might adopt them instead of others less approved.4
The remaining revenue on the consumption of foreign articles is paid chiefly by those who can afford to add foreign luxuries to domestic comforts, being collected on our seaboard and frontiers only, and incorporated with the transactions of our mercantile citizens, it may be the pleasure and the pride of an American to ask, What farmer, what mechanic, what laborer ever sees a taxgatherer of the United States? These contributions enable us to support the current expenses of the Government, to fulfill contracts with foreign nations, to extinguish the native right of soil within our limits, to extend those limits, and to apply such a surplus to our public debts as places at a short day their final redemption, and that redemption once effected the revenue thereby liberated may, by a just repartition of it among the States and a corresponding amendment of the Constitution, be applied in time of peace to rivers, canals, roads, arts, manufactures, education, and other great objects within each State. In time of war, if injustice by ourselves or others must sometimes produce war, increased as the same revenue will be by increased population and consumption, and aided by other resources reserved for that crisis, it may meet within the year all the expenses of the year without encroaching on the rights of future generations by burthening them with the debts of the past. War will then be but a suspension of useful works, and a return to a state of peace, a return to the progress of improvement.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Live Free Or Die, Indeed

Three state representatives and one state senator in New Hampshire are introducing a bill before their state and federal relations committee that "affirms states' rights based on Jeffersonian principles." They seek a return to Federalism and the recognition of the Ninth and Tenth Amendments of the Bill of Rights. You can read the text of the bill, HCR 0006, at the New Hampshire legislature's website here.

The genius of this is that they've simply re-written the words of one of our Founders. Back in 1798, Kentucky adopted the Kentucky Resolutions as a protest of the Alien and Sedition Acts of the John Adams administration. Though unknown until years later, the resolutions were written by Thomas Jefferson. New Hampshire's bill changes some of the language, removing specific references to the Alien and Sedition Acts and inserting references to the 13th Amendment barring involuntary servitude, but leaves most of Jefferson's arguments untouched.

Here's some of the wording common to both:

That the several States composing the United States of America, are not united on the principle of unlimited submission to their General Government; but that, by a compact under the style and title of a Constitution for the United States, and of amendments thereto, they constituted a General Government for special purposes, -- delegated to that government certain definite powers, reserving, each State to itself, the residuary mass of right to their own self-government; and that whensoever the General Government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force; that to this compact each State acceded as a State, and is an integral party, its co-States forming, as to itself, the other party: that the government created by this compact was not made the exclusive or final judge of the extent of the powers delegated to itself; since that would have made its discretion, and not the Constitution, the measure of its powers; but that, as in all other cases of compact among powers having no common judge, each party has an equal right to judge for itself, as well of infractions as of the mode and measure of redress

The New Hampshire bill gives some specific examples of federal over-reaching that will not be allowed:

That any Act by the Congress of the United States, Executive Order of the President of the United States of America or Judicial Order by the Judicatories of the United States of America which assumes a power not delegated to the government of United States of America by the Constitution for the United States of America and which serves to diminish the liberty of the any of the several States or their citizens shall constitute a nullification of the Constitution for the United States of America by the government of the United States of America. Acts which would cause such a nullification include, but are not limited to:

I. Establishing martial law or a state of emergency within one of the States comprising the United States of America without the consent of the legislature of that State.

II. Requiring involuntary servitude, or governmental service other than a draft during a declared war, or pursuant to, or as an alternative to, incarceration after due process of law.

III. Requiring involuntary servitude or governmental service of persons under the age of 18 other than pursuant to, or as an alternative to, incarceration after due process of law.

IV. Surrendering any power delegated or not delegated to any corporation or foreign government.

V. Any act regarding religion; further limitations on freedom of political speech; or further limitations on freedom of the press.

VI. Further infringements on the right to keep and bear arms including prohibitions of type or quantity of arms or ammunition

God Speed to these fellows! I can't wait to hear Democrats arguing against the words of Thomas Jefferson. One hopes the other states are paying attention.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Hope For Change

Victor Davis Hanson at National Review Online points out the opportunities Obama has s a result of his relationship with the press. He could, Davis argues, get away with some real helpful radical change that would leave the country better off than he found it. But it looks from his first weeks, that he lacks the courage or imagination to be a transformative president.

Here's Hanson's conclusion:

In the next year Obama can continue to run against George Bush and whine about the “mess” that “they” left him as he tries to turn the U.S. economy and government into copies of those in Spain and Greece. He can print money and label as “stimulus” a pork plan that is designed to empower Democratic constituencies at the price of leaving generations to come with decades of debt. He can use his formidable powers of rhetoric to talk of ethical progress while he allows Clintonian ethical regress. He can hope-and-change the world—and learn to his dismay that its thugs take such magnanimity for weakness to be ridiculed and indecision to be exploited. And he can end up a mediocre president who counts on historians to whitewash his presidency just as the media once ensured it.

Or President Obama can decline to be worshiped and instead stop the monstrous borrowing, unsustainable debt, and endless expansion of an increasingly incompetent government. And as solace, he can remember that his idol, Lincoln, was as hated by his contemporaries as he was worshiped by posterity—and that the latter is often predicated on the former.