Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Tipping Point

There's plenty of buzz today about a president of the United States removing a chief executive officer from a corporate office. The same apparently goes for the board of directors. The removals took place as part of the U.S. effort to restructure General Motors while funding its recovery with taxpayer money. At the same time, the administration "directed" Chrysler to merge with Fiat. It seems the powers in Washington decided that Chrysler, already on life support for a long time, had fresher management and deserved more time to affect a turn around.

Having the president remove a corporate manager is, I believe, a first. On the other hand, having the federal executive intervene in the corporate world is nothing new. In the last century alone the federal government has nationalized the railroad, banking, steel, and coal industries at one time or other. In every case, the industry in question returned to the private sector promptly, sometimes aided by judiciary decision.

For Americans today, the big questions is not so much the takeover as the return. When Wilson, Roosevelt, Truman and Reagan took their turn at nationalization, they did so with years of experience behind them as well as a firm belief in the capitalist system. Today, the man in the White House is a novice politician with what appears to be a decidedly receptive view of alternative economic systems.

I find it interesting that Obama sees fit to remove the CEO at General Motors, but leaves the GM "head" of the United Auto Workers in place. Granted, GM management made some really sloppy decisions for a long time. I bought one - a 1971 Vega - and never made the mistake again. But General Motors didn't make all of these decisions in a vacuum. Anyone who would believe that the UAW is blameless regarding GM's demise is only deluding himself. I thinks it's reasonable to say that a management-union partnership brought this company down. That Obama "stopped the buck" at the feet of GM's CEO is telling. To be fair, the president was equally tough on the leadership of the American International Group (AIG). It's not quite a corporate parallel, but still worth noting that, unlike GM leadership, those folks overwhelmingly identify with and contribute to the Democratic Party.

So how soon before the federal government returns GM to private ownership? Who knows? We taxpayers may be funding the company for a long time. That could be followed by bankruptcy. For certain, the company will change. For certain, the company will not disappear. Most important, what ever comes out at the end of this long tunnel, let's hope it is in private ownership. If it is not, capitalism in America may be at a tipping point, and stemming the flow away from it may be downright impossible.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

North Korea Honors Earth Hour

Kim Jong-il, the completely deranged tyrant in charge in North Korea, celebrated Earth Hour last night by assuring total national cooperation by his loyal subject. We even have satellite imagery to show their dedication to saving Earth. South Korea chose not to participate. Ah, but there's a catch. This photo was taken in 2007. Unfortunately for North Koreans, they celebrate Earth Night every night. What little wealth they have goes to the central government. The darkness is the result of fifty years of life under the Marxist-Communist thumb. Looks like the folks in China got the message too.

I suggest you keep a copy of this photo with you at all times. Whenever someone you know hints about the benefits of a "share the wealth" nanny state, show them the photo and ask for a response. If they have any sense of reason, they'll concede a point or two. They may even thank you.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Brain Building

When I was a grad student, an outstanding research class in perception very nearly wrecked my intentions for a career in the softer sciences. About the same time I had that class, advances in computer science began to contribute to the explosion of neuroscience into the multi-faceted field it is today. My fascination with neuroscience has never waned even after forty years. Shrinkwrapped helped feed that interest today with a post on the development of a parallel processing computer that will function like a brain. Testable hypotheses may be only a decade away. Several links accompany the post. Plug it all into your brain here.

Delusion News

Well after midnight last night, I read this post on Yahoo News and got two impressions. First, either the Associated Press writer, David Bauder, apparently doesn't watch news broadcasts on Fox News or he can't recognize news from opinion. And second, CNN U.S. president Jon Klein is deluding himself if he thinks CNN is the "real news network." There was a time, years ago, when CNN did "read the news," but those days are long gone. CNN has been a bastion of liberal journalism for years now, and that's fine as long as people, including management, acknowledge it. On the other hand, Fox News seems perfectly comfortable with their center right news and conservative opinion. If CNN's management wants to operate under a delusion, then they're suffering from Sulzberger syndrome, the illness that is sinking The New York Times.

I feel for CNN. Fifteen years ago, they had the most comprehensive, useful, and timely news page on the Internet. Today, that page is a shell of its former self. Their cable news is struggling. Maybe it's time for that madman maverick, Ted Turner, to rescue his baby. At least he'd bring humor along with his delusions. Best of all, he wouldn't mind admitting he's a far lefty.

Paul Whiteman, The King of Jazz

OTR has quite a few significant birthdays on his calendar this week. The honor today is reserved for "The King of Jazz," Paul Whiteman. He was the most popular band leader in the U.S. during the Roaring Twenties. Whiteman encouraged many talented artists and composers through his interest in fusing jazz with other musical styles. He also sponsored several concerts featuring experimental music. For one of these concerts, he prodded George Gershwin into composing some "new music." The composition was Rhapsody in Blue. Whiteman premiered the piece at the Aeolian Hall in New York in 1924 with Gershwin at the piano.

Today, Rhapsody, is beloved throughout the world, but Whiteman is all but forgotten as the man behind the music. We need to correct that. After all, he did give early exposure to some of the best, including Bing Corsby, Mildred Bailey, Bunny Berigan, Jack Venuti, Bix Beiderbecke, and Jack Teagarden.

Here's an important interview with Whiteman about Gershwin and the creation of Rhapsody. This is a very recent YouTube post running 9:36 - well worth every second - including about three 3 minutes of music.

It wouldn't be right to let Whiteman's birthday pass without an opportunity to hear his celebrated orchestra performing one of their hits. This was Crosby's first number one record. The year was 1928.

Bet you tapped your foot.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Divine One

Today is Sarah Vaughan's birthday. Could she ever wring emotion out of a song. One could say she performed songs rather than sang them. Her palate was a three-octave range. Her technique, a symphony of sound. Here she is late in her career performing her early signature song.

The Divine One performed for almost fifty years and, nineteen years after her death in 1990, we still wait for a singer who can approach her amazing voice. The decline of professional songwriting and popular music in general have contributed to the void. And where is jazz, a genre birthed in the United States, but cast aside for mass market mediocrity and worse. I wait eagerly for a paradigm shift in music.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

"Overseas Contingency Operation is Hell"

The Obama administration has retired the phrase "war on terror" and replaced it with "overseas contingency operation." Somewhere, Orwell and Huxley are discussing what it all means. Will Strunk and White plan on channeling a new chapter on vagueness to their publisher? Words may turn out to be the least of our problems. Alas, it is going to be a very long four years.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Flannery O'Connor

Today is the birthday of the American writer, Flannery O'Connor. She was born in Savannah in 1925 and spent her early childhood there. She lived on Lafayette Square with its moss-draped live oaks, colorful azaleas, abundance of birds, and
towering spires of The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. Things haven't changed much on this beautiful square. I'm sure it still has a interesting spectrum of regular visitors. Children play on the sidewalks and lawns. And every day, the cathedral bells remind the people of God's love and their obligations as His children. I think as long as you can visit Lafayette Square, say on a pleasant Sunday afternoon, you can know O'Connor well.

The family moved to Atlanta in 1938, where her father was diagnosed with lupus. Soon after, they moved to her mother's family home in Milledgeville, about 100 miles southeast of Atlanta. After his death in 1941, O'Connor moved a few miles north of town to her uncle's farm where she lived with her mother. Eventually, the farm would be called Andalusia, and it would become a refuge following her own diagnosis with lupus in 1950. At Andalusia, she would weave her rural Georgia experience and her childhood memories into some of America's finest literature.

Lupus took Flannery O'Connor from us in 1964 when she was in her 39th year. You can visit both her childhood home and Andalusia thanks to foundations that preserve the landscapes and memories she cherished. And, thanks to her, you can visit the South anytime by simply opening one of her books.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Divine Title Search

This post at Babalu was simply too good to pass up. Hope you enjoy it.

Here is William Blake's interpretation of the creation of the actual plot in question. I wonder if the Federal Housing Authority would add this to the file?

Lazy Afternoon

Other duties take me away from blogging today; however, it is break time and I'm enjoying some music by that great visionary singer-songwriter, Randy Newman. Here he is doing what he does best:

Hope y'all enjoyed that.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Redoubt Volcano Erupts

For weeks now, I've been following the rumblings of Alaska's Redoubt Volcano several times a day. As volcanoes are wont to do, it rewarded the careful attention of its watchers by erupting in darkness and clouds. The Alaska Volcano Observatory reports - get them here - that ash clouds have reached 60,000 feet. Let's hope the weather clears in time for some impressive photography. The accompanying photograph of steam venting and summit glacier melt was taken on Saturday.

Leave Your Troubles Outside

Given the performance of the Obama administration over the last 60 days or so, I'm a bit worried about my exposure in the markets this week. Many of us have watched our retirement accounts cut in half over the last six months. I spent 20 years building mine. The chronic frustration wears one out after a while. In anticipation of what tomorrow may bring, I bring you instead a diversion based on an economic meltdown in the last century. The setting is Berlin and the Weimar Republic. The year is 1931. Take it all in, listen carefully, digest it and remember that we have been partying for a long time.

Cabaret (1972) is a historically significant film and one of my favorites. The opening scene you have just watched is one half of a bookend and one of the best in the history of film. That said, you have to watch the entire film to understand why. I trust your curiosity will drive you to add it to your Netflix queue or rush to the nearest library.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


The Internet. How did I live without it? Ordinarily, there's no way I would have known today was the 79th birthday of Stephen Sondheim. Power Line's Scott Johnson helped me avoid this oversight with a tribute to Sondheim and some valuable links, including one to the unsurpassed Zero Mostel singing Sondheim's "Comedy Tonight," from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1962). Sondheim wrote both words and music to this memorable piece of entertainment. Frankly, I have to agree with Mark Steyn that Broadway pretty much died somewhere around BC, that is "Before Cats" or, to put a date on it, about 1982. As one of the stars in the last wave of traditional musical theater in America, Stephen Sondheim has provided us with a wealth of extraordinary music and entertainment beginning in 1957 with his lyrics for West Side Story. Though some may scoff at the idea, I think musical theater is a significant measure of American cultural character and deserving of serious study. I wouldn't have said that thirty years ago when I was blinded by academic arrogance. Today, I know better, so I trust that Sondheim has enjoyed his day and taken some pleasure in knowing and reflecting on the happiness he has brought to us in the past half century.

The illustration for this post comes from my coveted copy of the original Broadway cast recording of West Side Story. I've owned this recording for about 50 years and would put it up against any remastered CD anytime, anywhere.

Report From Afghanistan: An OTR Scoop

My son is on temporary duty in Afghanistan until sometime this summer. He wrote last week that he may be starting to enjoy his work a bit too much. To give you a reason why, I'll just say that he's one of the few people in the world who can say they have a graduate degree from a university with a department of war studies. The kid isn't a soldier in the usual sense; he's fighting this battle as an expert in tribal conflict. He's taking very good notes - I hope some pictures - on his observations and impressions of life in a country torn by almost thirty years of war. The good news for Old Tybee Ranger readers is his agreement to let me edit his work and post it each week. That's the plan; we'll see how it goes. Look for the first report in the next week or so.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Going Bananas

Peter Robinson is a fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. A generation ago - the guy was barely out of college - he wrote speeches for President Ronald Reagan. One of those speeches contained the line,"Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall." Reagan's advisors though the line a bit harsh and urged him to delete it or at least use some less threatening language. Reagan ignored them and, on that summer day in Berlin in 1987, delivered the simple line that would define his foreign policy in history and hasten the end of the Soviet Union. It also gave Robinson quite a career boost.

The man behind those famous words has an enlightening column at Forbes.com this week where he describes personality, nationalization and censorship as disturbing trends within the Obama administration. In short, he wonders if we are on the road to becoming a banana republic. It's "must read."

As an aside, let me point out one of Robinson's books, How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life (2003). It's well-written, fast-paced, full of powerful observations and wonderful anecdotes about Reagan as well as a window into the reality of working in the White House. You'll most likely enjoy reading it and you'll get some insight into Robinson, a man whose career bears watching.

Speaking of watching, one of my greatest regrets was not being able to follow the Reagan presidency as it happened. From early 1981 until he left office in 1989, my wife and I were producing and raising children, including one set of twins. From what I know of Reagan, he would have enjoyed our stories and made some entertaining jokes about them. But life for us at the time was no joke; I worked full-time at the office and at home. As full-time parents, we simply couldn't carve out the hours to fully appreciate Reagan in action. Of course, a generation of aging does add valuable perspectives to any history, but nothing could replace the joie de vivre of the here and now. We can, however, come as close as possible to the way things were through the sensitive observations of writers like Peter Robinson. Too bad all our information sources aren't like that.

Thanks to Power Line - and you can read more on the subject.

Friday, March 20, 2009

A Song for Spring

Once again, Scott Johnson, at Power Line, blogs about a remarkable song, providing the lyric, a link to some historical background and ending with a stunning performance by Ella Fitzgerald. Don't miss this one; it will stay with you all day.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

There's Just No One Left To Kill

The New Ledger has an interesting comment that's relevant to my Detroit post on Sunday. Here's the link. I got a charge out of mayoral candidate Stanley Christmas's remark on the 14% decline in Detroit's murder rate, "I don't mean to be sarcastic, but there's just no one left to kill"... That's progress for you.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Lesson in Excess

Why have one candelabrum when you can have thirty? If you want to see what unrestrained new money can lead to, go to the Julien's Auctions site where you can peruse five catalogs of Michael Jackson's soon to be auctioned possessions, many of them from Neverland Ranch. Much, much better talent than taste, I'd say, but I've never had the opportunity to seriously overindulge. Give me the chance.

Nat "King" Cole

Today is Nat "King" Cole's birthday. Cole was one of the nation's most versatile and popular entertainers of the mid-20th century. Power Line's Scott Johnson has the details here along with two videos of the man in action.

Saint Patrick's Day, Savannah Style

Pleasant surprises abound across this great country, some of them in the most unexpected places. Savannah will host one of those wonderful annual surprises today. At 10:15, rain or shine, the Saint Patrick's Day parade will step off for the 185th time. Almost half a million people will line the streets and squares of this historic city to watch a family-friendly event. Organizers have worked hard over the past years to keep the "Saint" and sanity in the holiday, confining most of the adult revelry - drinking and excessive partying - to River Street following the parade. That was fine with me even in my early thirties during my second adolescence. It's only since the arrival of "the book" and the discovery of Savannah as a significant tourist destination that issues with irreverent activities became serious. [See my "A Night[and Day] in Old Savannah," August 23, 2008, for details.]

My first parade there was in 1977 when I lived in the historic district. Over the years, I lost count as the events merged one into the other during my tenure in the Coastal Empire. Eventually, my children became Irish for a day and were part of the parade. They sat on the folded top of a hot convertible and waved their green, white and orange flags to the crowds. They have plenty of ancient Celtic ancestry, just not Irish, but no one was keeping score. It was simply great fun, often complemented with fine spring weather and thousands of azaleas blooming throughout the city.

Those were the good old days? To be honest, the parade is a fond memory, but life has moved on. Haven't been to the parade for several years, although I plan to watch it on the Internet. Still, I would put this event on a list of things to do before you die. That said, I suggest you make your reservations tomorrow before March 17, 2010 becomes "No Vacancy."

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Cost of Freedom

The Obama administration wants to force private insurance companies to pay for the treatment of veterans injured or disabled while serving their country. Gateway Pundit has the story and associated links here. What are they thinking? This is just wrong.

Obama Poll

The latest Rasmussen survey show President Obama with a +4 approval index. The index has been shrinking lately and will bear close watching as the administration caroms off events, both domestic and foreign, as the weeks unfold. Power Line has the story here.

Detroit: America's Pripyat

In 1986, a reactor explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the former U.S.S.R. resulted in the abandonment of Pripyat, a nearby city of 50,000 residents. A generation later, the city remains a ghost town. It is filled with the trappings of everyday lives that ended suddenly with the sound of a policeman's warning, a hastily packed suitcase and a bus trip into a new world. Our nation has a similar city: Detroit. Although it is much larger - half its size 50 years ago - and suffering a slow death, the city remains filled with the decaying architecture and material culture of its once-great past. It is America's Pripyat. Several photographers and civic activists have documented this sad story over many years through a variety of websites. Now, two French photographers have interpreted this story through some remarkable images. See their work here. One of my must-read blogs, Dr. Sanity, provided this link as well as some appropriate comment.

As a man with roots in the Appalachian Rust Belt, I am affected deeply by reading stories and studying images of such decline, abandonment, and displacement. We Americans have a history of overcoming great hardships. Let's see that history repeat itself.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

"Don't know much about a science book"

Sam Cooke wrote and recorded Wonderful World sometime in the late '50s, but a half century of education apparently still leaves most Americans in the dark about basic science facts, according to a recent Harris poll. Little Green Footballs has the story here along with links to a Carl Sagan interview and the science survey itself. If one doesn't have the basics, one cannot argue the complexities. That's why I place absolutely no faith in the opinion polls about the science flash points of the day, including abortion and global climate change.

My friends, I'm sorry to be hammering away on the science issue lately. It has appeared across my reading spectrum this week and I can't ignore the subject because it is so vital to our nation's future. If I hadn't been so lousy in math, my career would have ended up in the hard sciences. Yes, I was a proto-nerd. My high school teachers, Miss Hood (chemistry) and Mr. Howard (physics) taught me well. Enough on this, it's time for more caffeine.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Celebrate Pi

Today, you have an opportunity to celebrate, celebrate, celebrate. Yes, that's three celebrations:

1. Pi Day - today is March 14 or 3.14;

2. Pi Minute - official designation is March 14 at 1:59 PM or 3.14159; and,

3. Pi Second - official designation is March 14 at 1:59:26 PM or 3.1415926

One could say it's an opportunity for constant enjoyment.

Put more pi in your life by going to this Wikipedia page. Be sure to check out the external links at the bottom.

Friday, March 13, 2009

More(on) Science

Science and ideology are in the news today in reference to comments by Barack Obama on embryonic stem cell research. Blue Crab Boulevard has details and links here. The sooner folks understand that science is a method, not a product, the better off we'll all be.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Steele on Abortion

Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee, has some words about abortion which will be ringing soon between the ears of the conservative wing in the party. Essentially, he said that abortion was an individual choice and an issue to be reserved for the states. You can read an early link to the story here. [National Review Online was my tip - look for more there today.] Steele is a Catholic and on the record as "pro-life." He has made his personal choice. On the other hand, I can hear the libertarian principles of the Founding Fathers appealing to his conscience as he attempts to lead his party through a political mine field. The issue is so divisive that some Republicans will call for his head. This is the Taliban approach and one that will do nothing more than lose elections, rather than heads, in our republic. Attempts at reversing Roe vs. Wade in the hope that it will end abortion will, I fear, do the same. On the other hand, a reversal may put the "choice" in choice back into the hands of the states where it belongs. Frankly, this is something the Republican party needs to hear and accept if it intends to woo the center, grow the party and win elections. No question it will be a hard lesson, but this, I believe, is the new and essential thinking Steele brings to the party.

My personal journey with this issue has been equally difficult. I find abortion deserving consideration only in the most limited of circumstances. Many Americans agree with me, perhaps a majority, but we live in a nation of laws anchored in liberty and the freedom of personal choice. We should thank God every day that our earthly Fathers spared us from democracy, the mob and the tyranny of the majority. In the same manner, the Fathers spared us from the tyranny of state religion. We, the people, are a government of choice. That said, who am I to make a moral choice for another under this umbrella of liberty? I am obligated to guide, to counsel, to offer example, but who am I to make the choice? The very act of choice defines the moral self and the consequences of that choice. Christians have it no other way. And my nation's highest court has raised the issue to federal prominence in an era of judicial activism. There, the role of the court as the interpreter of the Constitution moves evermore beyond the intent of its authors. How am I to act? I choose high moral ground for the individual and legal compromise for the community. It is more at resolution through management; there is no miracle cure here.

So Steele pursues his course through rough seas, knowing full well that one safe harbor will not satisfy his crew. The man has accepted a big challenge. He responds to this issue both personally and professionally through an interview, though perhaps not as clearly as he could, being the "at ease" person he is. This interview and its issue will be fodder for the critics and a hard lesson in reality for the wingers. Shall we keep our heads, while all about us are losing theirs?" Shall we choose wisely? We shall see.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Freeman Takes Rope, Makes Point

If there ever was any doubt that Charles Freeman was not fit to chair the National Intelligence Council, he erased it today in a loony, anti-Semitic declaration of victimhood. Little Green Footballs has all you need on this story here. Check out the comments and be thankful this guy never got close to his intended position. Once again, I am more than a bit stunned at the poor, if any, vetting of several candidates for senior positions. It tells me this White House has neither command nor control.

The Neighbors

On Monday, I wrote about the bluebirds moving through the woods. Today, a pair seems to have taken up residence in that dead tree mentioned in the post. We're pleased to have such entertaining neighbors and look forward to watching them in the months ahead.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Simplify, Simplify

Tonight, Atlantans were treated to another comfortably warm day. It ended in the reds, yellows, and oranges of a setting sun drifting behind some alto-cumulus clouds, all back lighting the bare trees in our woods. Minutes later, a beautiful full moon, the Worm Moon, rose out of the haze almost due east of my patio. Spectacular. If you find yourself a bit overwhelmed by what Lao Tzu calls "the ten thousand things" these days, go to the the U.S. Naval Observatory site and prepare yourself for April's full moon, the Pink Moon.

Sunday, March 8, 2009


On a day much like today in Atlanta - sunny, low 70s, light wind - I was hiking one of the small ridges that sits astride the North and South Carolina line near Charlotte. Climbing out of one of the steep ravines and reaching the highest point on the trail, I was surrounded suddenly by thousands of bluebirds moving through the woods and brush. The show continued for twenty minutes as wave after chattering wave passed by. In the 33 years since that encounter, only one event compares with it: seeing eight or ten bald eagles in a tree next to a convenience store in Anchorage. We were leaving for a tour and some of the folks wanted to stop for snacks before we left town. As we pulled into the parking lot, someone - obviously a lower 48 type - said, "Hey, are those bald eagles?" The driver said something like, "Yeah, happens all the time here." Amazing.

Today's happening was on a much smaller, but significant scale. Two bluebirds presented themselves in our woods. They're the first I've seen since 2007 when several pairs found our woods made nice accommodations for raising a new family. This pair spent an hour scoping out apartments in a small dead tree trunk about 50 feet from my patio. First, the male would inspect the premises, then look inquiringly toward the female in a nearby branch. After a few minutes, he would fly to a neutral branch; she would inspect, then fly to her neutral branch. They would meet to discuss on yet another branch, then repeat the cycle. Again. And again. The setting sun made it hard to follow their house hunting and soon they disappeared over our ridge. Will the rising sun lead them to return and make a home in our tree? Tomorrow's weather will be ideal for moving in.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Putting it in Perspective

This is why I enjoy sitting in the woods and doing absolutely nothing.

Protocol 101

Heads of state have been exchanging gifts on official visits since the beginning of time. The best the new White House staff could do for Gordon Brown, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, was send him home with a set of 25 DVDs of classic American films. Disgraceful. I'm sure Barack Obama wasn't out perusing the Wal-Mart on New York Avenue selecting a gift; the White House has a staff that does this sort of thing. I can't believe some mid-level career employee, say a GS-11, didn't pull on someone's sleeve and suggest a more appropriate gift. Afraid to speak, you say? Perhaps. Were they asked for some guidance? Ceremony and protocol are important symbolic functions in Washington. Seems we have a steep learning curve even with centuries-old traditions.

In the scope of things, this may be interpreted as a small issue, until the fly is in your soup.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Real Science

Our new Secretary of the Treasury, Timothy Geithner, made a statement today attacking the oil and gas industry for its contribution to climate change. Personally, I would rather hear such talk from some authority that is a bit closer to environmental science than banking. Geithner, in fact, seems to have his hands more than busy trying to stem the outflow from my 401k. I can attribute his attack more to the disdain he holds for the evil rich than to his knowledge of Mother Earth and methodologies of science. After all, it is much easier to build the science around a conclusion than to seek the truth. Really?

I am neither a research scientists nor an environmental specialist. On the other hand, I was trained in the modern methods of science and spent some years studying earth sciences, all couched in the liberal arts, before applying that training to a long career. Yes, it was a rare, if not unique, career. In it, there was the pursuit of truth (the science) and the appreciation of perception (the belief). So how does all of this lead to Geithner and his remarks?

Earth is a hugely complex natural machine, as is the body and consciousness of each of us. [The issue of science and religion is for another time.] If you're curious about the earth-human continuum, read Edward O. Wilson's Sociobiology: The New Synthesis (1975), followed by his Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge (1998). In spite of all knowledge that modern science has brought to us in the last century, we are still far from understanding the mechanisms that Geithner has reduced to punishment for the oil and gas industry. In other words, truth is somewhere in the future. Of course, that does not mean that we should be paralyzed by our gaps in understanding global environmental change. Where evidence and review call for action, we should act. Before making a decision, we must examine both the observation and the observer with care. In doing so, we can separate truth from polemic.

To me, there is no question that global climate change, past and present, is real. To what extent human occupation of the planet has affected that global change significantly is open to question. To say that such activities threaten Earth needs even greater research. Just examine the disagreements among environmental scientists. One could say that this "peer review" process, so far, has confirmed the uncertainties more than the hypotheses themselves. In addition, it is unfortunate for science and civilization that environmental advocacy has been hijacked by the anti-capitalists and unhinged leftists. Positioning the logic and reason of science against the emotion and demands of the ideologues often results in a loss for science. We need to understand that revealing truth, let alone searching for it in this hostile environment, is difficult even under the best of conditions and funding climates. Four centuries ago, Geithner's comments were occasionally backed by torches and pitchforks. My children deserve a better future.

Who will be next to bash the "evil industries" among us? Can't say who, but I'm sure it will be coming soon. When it does, think about this short essay and decide for the real science.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Reprising Saul Alinsky

This year marks the centennial of the birth of the Chicago community organizer, Saul Alinsky. Perhaps you have heard his name in the past year or so in regard to the mentoring of Barack Obama, another Chicago community organizer. Alinksy's name is rarely heard these days, but it wasn't always that way. Beginning in the 1930s, and well into the 1970s, he was the nation's foremost power organizer, almost always associating himself with "progressive" movements. As a radical from the youth rebellion of the 1960s, I have a first edition of Alinsky's Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals (1971). It's been read more than once, a bit yellow here and there, and the dust jacket has a few small tears and scuffs; otherwise, it's in excellent condition. What's inside is excellent, as well, though I never thought I'd be pulling the book from the library in order to educate my readers on the political experience we're living through. In effect, I thought the radical days were behind us. I was wrong because the actions we're seeing from the White House have been taken straight from Saul Alinsky's play book. Obviously, Barack Obama learned his lessons well.

Knowing the rules and understanding them as they are administered by the Obama White House is the first step to countering what seems to be a great leap to the left cloaked in terms of economic rescue. What follows are Alinky's thirteen rules of power tactics, with his elaborations, as they appeared in Rules for Radicals:

Rules of Power Tactics

1. Power is not only what you have but what the enemy thinks you have. Power has always derived from two main sources, money and people. Lacking money, the Have-Nots must build power from their own flesh and blood.

2. Never go outside the experience of your people. When an action or tactic is outside the experience of the people, the result is confusion, fear, and retreat. It also means a collapse of communication . . . .

3. Whenever possible go outside of the experience of the enemy. Here you want to cause confusion, fear, and retreat.

4. Make the enemy live up to their own book of rules. You can kill them with this, for they can no more obey their own rules than Christians can live up to Christianity.

5. Ridicule is man's most potent weapon. It is almost impossible to counterattack ridicule. Also, it infuriates the opposition, who then react to your advantage.

6. A good tactic is one that your people enjoy. If your people are not having a ball doing it, there is something very wrong with the tactic.

7. A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag. Man can sustain militant interest in any issue for only a limited time, after which it become a ritualistic commitment, like going to church on a Sunday morning.

8. Keep the pressure on, with different tactics and actions, and utilize all events of the period for your purpose.

9. The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.

10. The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition. It is this unceasing pressure that results in the reactions from the opposition that are essential for the success of the campaign.

11. If you push a negative hard and deep enough it will break through into its counterside; this is based on the principle that every positive has its negative.

12. The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative. You cannot risk being trapped by the enemy in his sudden agreement with your demand and saying "You're right - we don't know what to do about this issue. Now you tell us."

13. Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. In conflict tactics there are certain rules that the organizer should always regard as universalities. One is that the opposition must be singled out as the target and "frozen." When you "freeze the target," you disregard [arguments of why you have chosen one target and not another] . . .and as you zero in on your target . . . and carry out your attack, all the "others" come out of the woodwork very soon. The other important point in the choosing of a target is that it must be a personification . . . . With this focus comes a polarization. The classic statement on polarization comes from Christ: "He that is not with me is against me" (Luke 11:23).

Perhaps you have heard or read the pundits on the use of Rule 13 in reference to the recent White House attack on Rush Limbaugh, who has himself commented about it. Given time, I think we'll be hearing about more than one or two of the rules because there is powerful and time-tested advice here. Some of it is rather obvious, some a bit fresher, but all of it vital to understanding the administration's tactics as they lurch ever leftward on the road to serfdom.

Blue Steele

Michael Steele, new chairman of the RNC, is taking flak for both talking and not talking on two occasions in the past week. First, he made an unnecessary verbal attack on Rush Limbaugh, America's leading conservative radio talk show personality. Second, in the same interview, he failed to respond to CNN host D.L. Hunley"s ludicrous remark that last year's Republican convention "literally looked like Nazi Germany." Regarding the first issue, Steele should know better than to attack such a media presence as Limbaugh. After all, El Rushbo usually walks in Republican traces and has recently been targeted by the White House in an attempt to identify him as the face of the Republican Party. Totally uncalled for.

The incident with Hunley was equally embarrassing. Raising the term "Nazi" anywhere these days generally means the conversation has deteriorated into the realm of extreme moonbattery and deserves to end. Steele should have called him on that. He didn't, and should explain to his friends why he didn't. All very unfortunate.

The good side of this experience is that Steele is a fast learner, and he'll come away stronger. Byron York has more on the unhappiness in his column at The Examiner. Here's the video with Hunley's remark:

Anybody think Hunley's wardrobe may be a bit edgy?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Fantasy is Setting In

A few days before he entered the White House as President, Barack Obama made a remark to The San Francisco Chronicle that "electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket" under his cap and trade proposal. Unbelievable! Looks like the first term will be OJT. OMG.

Read more about it and watch a video report here, courtesy of Gateway Pundit.

The Loss of Common Culture

If you have followed OTR for awhile, you know I value the understanding and appreciation of popular culture as a significance force in directing our American experience. Popular culture really is an ingredient in the cement which holds the country together. And there was a time when that cement was much stronger than it is today. If you were value programmed after the Vietnam War - let's say born after 1960 - you really don't have much experience with common culture. The "Me Decade," political correctness, multiculturalism/diversity and the neglect of the past have worked to balkanize our culture. You could say common culture became an elective instead of a requirement after Vietnam.

Yes, you could say that I am a product of a required culture. When I was in elementary school in a mill town in Western Maryland, all the students attended a Thanksgiving service at the nearby Presbyterian church, and on class time. My town had a large number of Catholics, some Jews, and probably a few non-believers, not to mention what today would be called satanists, tree-huggers and worse. In the three years we made that trek for Thanksgiving, there was no word of dissent. It was a common experience, and one that I'd like to think was driven by more than our fear of Miss Dowling and her paddle. There were plenty of other cultural requirements throughout my schooling, ranging from playing a musical instrument to attending two years of ROTC at the state's flagship public university. I hadn't planned on it, but I got a liberal education. Sad to say that's no longer the case, not even in public high school. Given the state of Western civilization, a bit of repair on the common culture would be in order. Unfortunately, any large-scale restoration seems highly unlikely. None of us has time to mourn the loss. Keeping a hand on the tiller and sheet is difficult enough these days, even in a small lake.

This topic has been on my mind for several weeks. I chose to write a bit about it today because John Derbyshire referenced it in The Corner at National Review Online. What I didn't expect was finding that most able arts critic, Terry Teachout, at the link. Teachout - blogging at About Last Night - is to the fine arts what Tom Wolfe is to the novel; that is, remarkably observant, readable, and relevant. Derbyshire's sharp as well.

Monday, March 2, 2009


In 1999, I had the pleasure of standing with my family at John Ford Point in Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Arizona. By that time, they were already familiar with several of Ford's films; therefore, it was a treat to be with them honoring his contribution to American culture while overlooking the landscape he loved. Today marks the 70th anniversary of the release of Stagecoach, the first of many of his films set in Monument Valley. It is one of the most important films in American cinema history and provided John Wayne with his breakthrough to stardom portraying the Ringo Kid. Today, Leo Grin has a brief, enlightening post about this great film at National Review Online. Check it out here. If you have never watched the film - is that really possible? - please do so. You will not be disappointed. And finally, there is a nice panorama view of John Ford Point available here if you want to get a feeling of how majestic the place really is.

Statements for Our Time

George Moneo has assembled an entertaining list of practical observations for us at Babalu. A sample:

Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean that politics won't take an interest in you. Pericles (430 BC)