Wednesday, August 31, 2011

et ceteras

It's Back!
Tomorrow night marks the return of college football, and I can not wait for kickoff. There aren't many intriguing games tomorrow night, but who cares? Just because they don't seem exciting now doesn't mean that won't change once they are underway...and there are some eye-popping match-ups set for Saturday, with Oregon and LSU locking horns and Boise State traveling all the way to Atlanta to face Georgia on a (ahem ahem) "neutral" field.

As an Auburn grad, I get the pleasure of watching my team mount its first defense of an official national championship since I was born. With as many players as were lost to graduation, especially on the offensive line, I do not expect the Tigers to repeat as champs -- but I do believe they are way, way better than the so-called experts are saying, and I look forward to watching them prove those so-called experts wrong.

And my last pre-kickoff comment on college football has me wading into waters I usually avoid until I have seen teams play: The waters of prediction. I am going on record saying that South Florida will upset Notre Dame in South Bend on Saturday afternoon.

The Exalted One
I hate to beat a dead horse by talking about how low an opinion I have of President Obama. However, he keeps doing things that drive my opinion of him even lower and I can not resist the urge to vent.

One year ago, with the economy floundering and millions upon millions of fit-to-work Americans unable to find jobs, Obama left for a fancy vacation on Martha's Vineyard and said he would unveil his economic recovery plan upon his return. This month, with the economy still floundering and millions upon millions of fit-to-work Americans still unable to find jobs, he left for another fancy vacation on Martha's Vineyard and again announced that he would unveil his economic recovery plan upon his return. I do not begrudge anyone, even Barack Obama, the joys of a well-earned vacation -- but for him to not see how ridiculous this appears to the average person shows he is out of touch with America.

The MSM is not making a big deal out of this, and perhaps they are right not to, but I have vivid memories of my ending college days when they were stridently claiming that George H.W. Bush did not deserve to be re-elected because he was "out of touch with America." Their reason for deeming him out of touch was that he went fishing in Maine, but apparently they do not find Obama spending a week lounging and golfing at a famous playground for the super wealthy to be grounds for the "out of touch" label. The double standard drives me madder than a 19th century hatter.

Fantasies in Freefall
I am not the first person to notice that liberals cling to their beliefs with a blind-to-facts fervor that can only be described as religious -- even as they claim to be immune to such fervor and to care only about science. This phenomenon is noticeable in all parts of the liberals' creed, but especially so when they talk about "the environment." Michael Crichton gave perhaps the best analysis of it in a 2003 speech that is captured here.

Anyway, alternative energy sources are one topic about which liberals are perpetual suckers. Tell them there is a source of energy that will outperform petroleum for a fraction of the cost and transform the world in the process, and they automatically believe you no matter how wrong you are.

Wind power is a perfect example of this, since every liberal on Earth seems to believe that erecting windmills can lead us to energy nirvana. Unfortunately, the facts fly directly in the face of this left wing fantasy. For a compelling dissection of facts about wind power, you may go here or here.

C'est la vie!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Blog Update

As you may know, I also have a travel blog, The Continuous Tourist, which I started 7½ months after starting this one. Back in 2009 I wrote that my reason for starting The Continuous Tourist was that traveling “is something I truly love, and when I write about it I am writing out of love rather than duty…”

Both blogs have featured posts about hiking, because the fact of the matter is that there are few things I enjoy more than experiencing God’s creation by walking through it and seeing it on its own terms. And that love of hiking has prompted me to start yet another blog, one whose name strikes even me as somewhat oxymoronic: The Tampa Bay Hiker.

Basically, its purpose is to inform people about the many locations in the Tampa Bay area where nature rules and people can walk through wild landscapes undisturbed. These places exist but are mostly unknown to the public. Because I have spent most of my life focusing on hiking in places far away, it was not until recently, and only after I made an effort to educate myself, that I realized how many wild areas there are around here…so I figured a blog about them would fill a void.

The link to The Tampa Bay Hiker is here in case you have any interest in its subject matter. Right now it only has one post, explaining what the blog is about. I will publish the first trail review before the Labor Day weekend arrives, so there will be useful information there for anyone wanting to get outside that weekend. However, like I said in the current post, most of my reviews will be published during the cooler months when hiking in the Tampa Bay area is far more pleasurable than it is right now.

If you visit the new blog, please let me know what you think. I would love to hear feedback!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

RIP, Dixie

Today has been a sad "growing up" experience in the Stanton household.

Several months ago, a trio of Pekin ducks started hanging out in our neighborhood and Sarah immediately took a liking to them. She named them Dixie, Quackie, and Moe (pronounced mo-ee), and in the great tradition of American kids, started feeding them bread. We allow her to perform these feedings once a week, and even tough that doesn't seem like much, the ducks act like they are her pets. Sarah will step outside and see them walking near the opposite side of the pond, and when she calls their names they waddle over at top speed like puppies running to their mum.

But this morning, when Sarah took the dog out to go potty like she does every morning, she found Dixie's decapitated body lying in the grass outside our lanai. I had barely turned on the water for my shower when Erika came in to tell me about the discovery, and seconds later Sarah came in crying. Erika advised me to make it a quick shower because Sarah needed comforting.

We have no idea exactly what happened. At first I thought Dixie may have succumbed to a fox or some other predator, but then I figured that doesn't make sense, because why would a predator go through the effort of taking prey and then not eat it? Erika, observing that on a few occasions over the last week we had seen the ducks as a duo rather than as their usual trio, theorized that Dixie may have been sick and succumbed to the illness -- after which a vulture or some other animal took a bite but didn't like the taste.

Anyway, all that is neither here nor there. I went out back with Sarah and put my arm around her shoulders as she showed me what she had found. Dixie lay on her back, her white plumage splattered with blood. Sarah pointed out that her beak was resting on the grass to the right of her body. Her voice trembling, Sarah said: "At first I thought it was a crumpled up Target bag, but then I saw its feet."

I told her I was sorry to hear about Dixie's passing, and that I felt bad she was the one who discovered it. I stressed that she should focus on the fact that Dixie lived a happy life because they met, and that she should focus on the fact Dixie always enjoyed it when she gave her bread.

Sarah wanted to bury her. We said we could not, because whatever took off her head would dig up the rest of her body and destroy it (although the real reason was I couldn't be late for work).

Sarah may have suspected the real reason, because she suggested we put the body on the front porch for the day so we could bury it when I came home in the evening. This left us having to explain that when an animal dies its body starts to rot and stink, and it gets covered by hordes of bugs trying to eat it, and this all happens in short order so we couldn't just leave poor Dixie sitting on our porch.

She understood, but insisted she still wanted to bury the duck after work, and so she asked if we could just "put her in a box on the porch." Erika and I explained that a box wouldn't hold back the processes of nature, especially on a humid summer day in Florida. Erika told her that Dixie's soul is what's important, not her body, and that her soul is in Heaven.

And so I grabbed a garbage bag, slipped on some vinyl gloves, and went out to retrieve the corpse. It was raining even though there were very few clouds. Sarah stood on the lanai and watched glumly through the screen. I obliged her when she asked me to hold Dixie's body up so she could see it one last time.

When I picked up Dixie's beak, I learned that there was still a good bit of flesh from her head attached to it. The flesh was covered with ants. That was a sight I did not let Sarah see.

I walked to the dumpster at the end of the street, and that is where I tossed Dixie's remains. When I went back inside, Erika was consoling Sarah on the couch.

I headlined this post "RIP, Dixie." But it is not a duck that I feel like I said goodbye to today. I feel like I said goodbye to part of my six-year-old daughter's childhood innocence. Dixie brought amusement to all of us, but she brought unbridled joy to Sarah.

Sarah will still feed Quackie and Moe, but I will never again hear her call out "Dixie! Quackie! Moe!" as she runs into the yard holding bread. I will miss that because she always sounded so happy. In memory, below is a picture of her feeding all three ducks. I believe Dixie is the one all the way on the right, but Sarah could tell you for sure -- just as she could tell you how she knew that Dixie was the only one of the trio who was a girl.

Monday, August 15, 2011

V-J Day

66 years ago today, the bloodiest war in human history came to an end when Japan accepted the terms of the Potsdam Declaration. The announcement of Japan's surrender set off celebraions around the globe, including the one in Times Square during which this iconic picture was taken.

After six years, during which more than 60 million people from 27 different countries were killed, World War II was finally over. In the United States, August 15th came to be known as V-J Day, for Victory in Japan Day, since our European enemies had surrendered three months earlier.

Despite the fact that America was brought into the war when it was bombed by Japan, and despite the fact that atomic weapons were used to hasten the war's end, and despite enormous cultural differences, the two countries became strong and lasting friends whose alliance is now one of the most dependable on earth.

That is a direct result of the respectful and helping way America dealt with Japan after the war ended. One of the reasons we are unique in world history is that as conflicts conclude, we always seek to befriend our antagonists and to better their lot as well as our own. That fact needs to be burned into the hearts and minds of those who believe America is always the aggessor.

In my younger days, V-J Day was noted on calendars. Today it is not. This is not how it should be.

The Greatest Generation is rapidly passing to the other side of eternity's veil. Before its members are gone, may the rest of us thank them for the freedom they transmitted to us. And may we resolve that their sacrifice shall never be forgotten, and that it shall not have been made in vain.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Follow up

My last post dealt with how ridiculous it is for liberals to blame tea partiers for the downgrading of the federal government’s credit rating, when the liberals’ own spending policies are what really caused the downgrade and the tea partiers are the only ones who tried to reverse those policies.

Almost as soon as I published that post, a few thoughts came to mind that I wanted to add. Now, well, here they are.

It has to be said that 1) the only way to reduce long-term government deficits is to reform government entitlement programs, and 2) the only people who have ever attempted such reform are Republicans. This includes not only today’s so-called Tea Party Republicans, like Paul Ryan, but older-generation stalwarts like Alan Simpson, who fought the good fight years before it became fashionable.

There is no doubt about #1 above. Entitlements overall account for 72 percent of all federal spending, with the Big Three (Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid) accounting for 42 percent. By contrast, overall defense spending is only 19 percent. Yet every time the topic of reducing expenditures comes up, liberals/Democrats reflexively suggest defense cuts while stridently refusing to even consider entitlement cuts. Meanwhile, conservatives/Republicans suggest cutting both, but somehow they are the ones who get called “intransigent.”

Far from trying to get a handle on entitlements when he came to office, Barack Obama sought to create a brand new one -- a.k.a. Obamacare -- that would be the largest in American history. An overwhelming majority of his fellow Democrat politicians sided with him, and got their way even though most voters were against Obamacare. And the percentages cited above are even more ominous when you consider that Obamacare has not even gone into effect as of today.

Social Security is the biggest entitlement right now and is nothing more than a second-rate Ponzi scheme. Any private citizen who sold such a thing would be thrown in jail. It consists not of taxing workers and setting their money aside to grow, so that larger amounts can be returned to them at retirement, but instead of taxing today’s workers and instantly giving the money to today’s retirees. Eventually every civilization involved in such an arrangement will reach a point where the worker-to-retiree ratio is not enough to sustain it, but in America, where members of the gigantic Baby Boom Generation are reaching retirement age and much smaller generations are going to be expected to take care of them, the situation is a potential cataclysm.

Although I do not remember any Democrat ever attempting to get Social Security under control, plenty of Republicans have -- even George W. Bush, whose high-spending ways made many question the GOP’s commitment to limited government. After his 2004 re-election, Bush courageously spent his political capital trying to give people the option to choose how their Social Security contributions are invested and also giving them ownership of the funds. Unfortunately, his efforts failed because Democrats opposed them in toto and were joined by enough timid Republicans that the principled ones got outvoted.

When it comes to who is responsible for the government’s decrepit spending habits, the Republican Party is not innocent. However, it is far less guilty than the Democrat Party, and can hang its hat on the fact that every person who has tried to overcome those habits and slay the spending dragon has been a Republican. If only the timid ones would overcome their fear and govern as they were voted to govern, we could look at the future with confidence instead of trepidation.

Note: Statistics in this post were taken from and "The Daily Beast."

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Debt Dance

Am I the only one who wants to chuckle about the reaction to S&P downgrading the federal government's credit rating?

To be sure, there is nothing funny about the government creating a financial quagmire and saddling future generations with the consequences. But there is something amusing about its (and the media's) "shoot the messenger" response now that the chickens have come home to roost.

Anybody with an ounce of knowledge and sense has known for some time that the government deserved to have its credit rating downgraded. For years, under many different administrations, it has been borrowing way too much in order to spend way too much, and wary observers have been warning that a day of reckoning was inevitable. But under Barack Obama the situation escalated like a nuclear reaction, because under him the government has operated at larger deficits than under all previous administrations combined. Even George W. Bush looks like a tightwad compared to the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

As the debt ceiling talks played out in previous weeks, the only time Democrats or the MSM mentioned the possibility of a credit rating downgrade was when they said one would happen if Republicans in general -- and "Tea Party Republicans" in particular -- refused to raise the debt ceiling. Specifically, they claimed that if the ceiling was not raised by August 2nd, the government would go into default on its debt payments, Grandma would not get her Social Security check, and as a result the government's credit rating might go down.

They echoed this meme loudly and incessantly, even though they knew the government had more than enough cash on hand to keep making debt payments and entitlement payments for several months after Obama's arbitrary August 2nd deadline. And, crucially, they kept echoing the meme in spite of the fact that S&P issued a statement declaring that a downgrade could be triggered not only by a default, but could happen anyway "unless substantial and credible agreement is achieved on a budget that includes long-term deficit reduction."

The only people at the table who made any proposals for "long-term deficit reduction" were "Tea Party Republicans," and the plan that eventually passed ignored all of their suggestions while still raising the in hindsight, it is obvious that the tea partiers were the only ones doing anything that could have prevented the downgrade. However, Democrats and the MSM are actually saying the tea partiers caused it! They are even calling it "The Tea Party Downgrade." This is laughable, but unfortunately, it is also deadly serious because the whole purpose of the propaganda is to get liberals elected in majority numbers. That would ensure that liberals' ruinous policies continue -- a prospect that would place America's future prospects in imminent danger.

Once again, the "takeaways" from this whole spectacle are to ignore the noise from The Left; to comprehend that The Left and the media are one and the same; and to follow what your common sense tells you to be true. And most importantly, to make sure your non-partisan friends don't listen to left-wing sloganeering without hearing the facts.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Double Standard

About halfway through my last post, I opined about the media's coverage of the sex scandal surrounding Congressman David Wu. The gist can be summed up by the following question: If a Democrat is embroiled in a sex scandal but nobody knows it because the national media hides it and obfuscates he really involved in a scandal at all?

Although my venting generated no contrary comments online, a very well-meaning and very liberal friend of mine did make a verbal comment suggesting that the coverage has been appropriate because Wu has not been convicted. That is what prompted me to write this follow up.

Wu may be innocent. I hope he is. And neither I nor anyone else of good faith wants to see an innocent man get tarred by false accusations. But I was not talking about Wu, nor was I talking about whether he is innocent or guilty, when I wrote my post. I was talking about the grotesquely different standards to which Republicans and Democrats are held by the MSM.

I have said before that writing about the double standard is so easy it almost feels like cheating, but that doesn't change the fact that it must be commented on. And it turns out that the Wu situation provides a perfect example of just how devilish the double standard is.

To recap, he is 56 and has been accused of raping the 18-year-old daughter of one of his donors. However, the MSM has barely acknowledged the story -- and in those instances where it has, it has completely avoided the word "rape" and chosen to instead say that Wu is accused of "an unwanted sexual encounter." In my post I wrote this: "You know that if such accusations were made against a Republican, they would be the lead story for weeks and the word 'rape' would be trumpeted all over the place. But when the accused is a Democrat, the story gets buried on the bottom of page 8; the word 'rape' gets placed in the Witness Protection Program; and female-defending feminists are suddenly nowhere to be found."

I don't see how anyone could disagree. The MSM dragged Clarence Thomas through the mud with malice, even though the accusations against him were far less serious and far less credible than those against Wu. Many in the MSM continue to drag him through the mud all these years later.

When a Republican is accused of sexual impropriety, the press hoots and howls and his career screeches immediately to a halt, often before the evidence is even weighed. Examples that come immediately to mind include Larry Craig, Chris Lee, and Bob Livingston.

On the other hand, there are innumerable examples of Democrats who have been accused of sexual impropriety -- but, far from seeing their careers end, they continue to work and even attain the status of legend. See Barney Frank, Gerry Studds, and any fill-in-the-blank Kennedy.

Even among those who rarely pay attention to politics, most people know Craig was accused of tapping a man's foot in an airport restroom. But few are aware that Frank's live-in lover was a male prostitute who ran a prostitution ring out of Frank's home.

As it happens, the same week I cranked out my post, 1) Gabrielle Giffords, whose wounds prompted President Obama to call for a new era of civility, resumed her official duties; 2) Vice President Biden likened Tea Party Republicans to terrorists; and 3) the MSM failed to notice the vast gulf between the veep's slander and the president's claim to want civility.

Of course, number three should not surprise us because the MSM routinely fails to notice the president's own slander and lack of civility -- like when he refers to Republicans as "our enemies," accuses doctors of performing unnecessary surgeries on toddlers purely for financial gain, and says police "acted stupidly" in the Skip Gates case despite admitting that he did not know all the facts of the case.

This double standard has existed for decades and is unlikely to end. But unfortunately, it still influences many voters and gives them a view of the political world that does not match that world's reality. That is why the double standard must be opposed, and to opposite it we have to point it out again and again without letting up.