Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Bread Baking Information – New Developments

Barry Harmon, one of the most experienced amateur bread bakers around and the man behind the informative Artisan Bread Baking website, has just started a new Google Group, "bread baking." To join it, first go to Google Groups and open an account if you don't already have one, then search for "bread baking."

As of now, there are only 4 members in the new group, one of whom is Barry. Those who join early will help to shape its course.

The explanation of why Barry started this group is a bit convoluted, but here goes.

The Attorney General of New York, Andrew Cuomo, has been cracking down vigorously on child porn, a bit of long-overdue law enforcement which is entirely admirable in its intent. However, as with so many crusades undertaken with the best of intentions, there are turning out to be some unforeseen and wholly unintended consequences.

These consequences involve the restriction or total blocking of access to one of the oldest parts of the internet, UseNet.

For those who aren't familiar with it, UseNet works very much like email, except that it is not sent to individual addressees. Instead, it's an enormous public bulletin board organized into various hierarchies. Each hierarchy is divided into sub- and sub-sub-hierarchies, then finally into individual "newsgroups" covering every conceivable topic.

Originally, UseNet consisted of just a few "top-level" hierarchies strictly regulated by committees. All of the original newsgroups, which were, after all, begun back in the days when memory was precious and 300 baud was considered high speed communication, were text-only.

Over the years, UseNet dveeloped its own form of "netiquette," which was enforced either by newsgroup moderators or by vigorous flaming directed at the miscreant by the more experienced members.

With the passage of time came vast improvements in technology, unfortunately accompanied by a sharp decline in standards of personal responsibility.

As memory and bandwidth became more plentiful, users began to demand the capability to start new groups which did not necessarily adhere to the rigorous standards of the older ones. In response to this pressure, the "alt" hierarchy was begun.

Many of the new "alt" groups were very similar to the older newsgroups, but were operated in a more freewheeling, informal manner. They were, for the most part, unmoderated, and thus depended upon the innate good taste and self-discipline of the members supplemented, when necessary, by a dose of vigorous flaming. In addition, newsreader software with increasingly sophisticated filtering capabilities became available, enabling some members to "killfile" others whose posts habitually offended them.

With further improvements in bandwidth, memory, and hard drive capacity, another type of newsgroup, the "binaries" sub-hierarchy, also joined the mix. Originally, they were used to exchange programs among the computer enthusiasts who wrote them. The programs – binary files – were encoded into a pure text form, transmitted, then decoded by the recipient.

It wasn't long before some of these enthusiasts realized that the same methods which could be used to transmit programs as plain text through newsgroups could be used to distribute any other type of binary file as well. Before long, newsgroups were set up for the purpose of exchanging music, then pictures, and now even video. Increasingly sophisticated newsreader software handles the tasks of encoding and decoding the files automatically and transparently, just like email clients. The sending user need only select the file to be uploaded, then send it on its way with one click. The recipient need only open the received file as an attachment. Even large files, which must be sent in "segments," or "parts" due to size restrictions, are now automatically decoded and reassembled with no human intervention other than a single click.

Many of these files consist of perfectly legitimate exchanges of information among interested participants, some of whom may be among the most highly qualified professionals in their fields, and others of whom may be dedicated amateurs trying to learn all they can.

Particularly before the development of the World Wide Web, such newsgroups were enormously useful. They enabled interested people all over the world to interact and exchange information in real time, and at extremely low cost.

It wasn't long, though, before some people began to employ UseNet for some rather unsavory purposes. In particular, the alt.binaries groups rapidly became the electronic equivalent of a very bad neighborhood. While some of the alt.binaries groups still fulfill legitimate functions, others have become cesspools of hard-core filth, including child porn.

Enter Andrew Cuomo. In an attempt to stem the increasing flood of illegal material pouring through UseNet, he began to pressure some of the larger ISPs to do something about it.

The sensible thing to do would be to selectively filter out the offending newsgroups. However, ISPs soon realized that by so doing, they would also be exercising – gasp! – censorship, and thus bringing the wrath of the ACLU and its like-minded allies down upon their heads.

Even before these recent developments, AOL, which used to provide just such a filtered UseNet feed to its subscribers, had decided instead to cut off all UseNet access. Now, in response to pressure from AG Cuomo, two of the largest ISPs, Verizon and Time-Warner, have decided to restrict their subscribers to the so-called "big 8" hierarchies – that is, the older ones which are run according to strict standards by committees.

These measures will, indeed, stop the flow of child porn and other unwelcome material through the systems of these ISPs, but such non-selective wholesale blocking also stops everything else, including a great deal of useful and perfectly legitimate information.

For example, I subscribe to the following newsgroups belonging to the "alt" hierarchy:

alt.ascii-art
alt.bread.recipes
alt.comp.freeware
alt.comp.software.financial.quickbooks
alt.comp.software.financial.quicken
alt.food.barbecue
alt.food.diabetic
alt.food.sushi
alt.humor.jewish
alt.os.linux.ubuntu
alt.quotations
alt.support.psoriasis
alt.support.skin-diseases.psoriasis

None of these groups permit binaries, and none have anything to do with porn of any variety, child or otherwise.

Fortunately, my ISP, AT&T, has no intention of restricting access to UseNet, nor to its "alt" hierarchy, so I am not directly affected – or am I?

Suppose that a leading authority on a certain topic, and one who contributes heavily to the success of a newsgroup devoted to that topic, is suddenly cut off from access to that newsgroup. Suddenly, he can neither read it nor post to it. "Newbies" are now unable to ask him questions in a public forum, and he is unable to answer them.

Yes, there are workarounds. Particularly if one needs access to text-only groups, and not to the binary groups with their far greater bandwidth requirements, there are several free and low-cost newsgroup servers available which can be accessed by anyone with an internet connection – if they know how to do it. But the technical aspects of obtaining and utilizing these services, while not difficult, are way beyond the capabilities of many UseNet subscribers.

That brings us back to Barry Harmon.

Barry is a regular in the alt.bread.recipes newsgroup, and an invaluable resource to those of us just learning how to bake. He's a dedicated amateur who is constantly learning, experimenting, and expanding his knowledge. He's infinitely patient with "newbies," answering their many questions and taking the time to diagnose their baking problems without flaming them and making them feel like idiots. In short, he's a treasure to those just learning how to bake bread, as well as to those who have progressed beyond the beginner stages and wish to refine their techniques.

In response to these latest UseNet developments, Barry decided to start the "bread baking" Google Group as an alternative to alt.bread.recipes, so that those who lose access to the alt hierarchy will still have a public forum in which they can discuss their baking results and ask questions.

While I doubt seriously that I will have much to contribute, I have joined Barry's new group. I'd encourage everyone else with an interest in baking any type of bread – sourdough, yeasted, or quickbread – to join and turn it into a rousing success.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Energy Wisdom from Charles Krauthammer

The brilliant Charles Krauthammer has written a concise essay which John McCain badly needs to read. It's available in several places, including NRO, as "McCain’s Partial Fix", and Townhall.com, as "Critical Thinking on Energy." Here's are two pull quotes:
McCain's problem is that he's only able to go halfway on energy production because he has locked himself into opposition to the other obvious source of domestic oil -- the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

His fastidiousness on this is inexplicable. "I believe that ANWR is a pristine area," he explains. Is it more pristine than the ocean, where he now wants to drill? More pristine than the Arabian Desert from which we daily beg the Saudi princes to pump more oil?

**********
McCain's unwillingness to include ANWR lacks even political logic. His policy on offshore drilling is a flip-flop from his past positions. Perfectly justified, but a reconsideration nonetheless. If you are going to take the hit for flip-flopping and for offending environmentalists, why go halfway?

Let's hope that McCain, or those close to him, will read Krauthammer's wise words and take them to heart. Unless and until they do, the situation is, sadly, exactly as described by Chuck Asay in this cartoon:



With all due respect, Senator McCain, WISE UP – WHILE THERE'S STILL TIME!

Hat tip for the cartoon: Townhall.com.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Stupid Crminals of America – Tennessee Chapter

Today's paper brings the story of what happens in rural Tennessee when a trio of worthless, bottom-dwelling, scum-sucking residential burglars get caught in the act. You can read all about it by clicking "Morning break-in leads to manhunt" (registration required, but well worth it).

Here's how it begins:
Morning break-in leads to manhunt

By HILARY TRENDA

Posted: Friday, June 20, 2008 12:39 am

June 20, 2008 – NORENE — Three area burglars didn't remember the Scouts' motto of "Be Prepared."

If they had, they may have been better equipped to handle being shot at by property owners and hunted not only by local law enforcement, but by United States Marshals on Thursday.

There's a nice color picture, too, showing their pickup sitting there in the ditch where it ended up after they tried to run over the homeowner's father.

I'll say no more, though, lest I ruin the suspense. If you want to know the details, go click the link, register, and read all about it.

Wilson County Sheriff Terry Ashe, probably the finest sheriff in all of Tennessee, handled this case superbly. Now, if only he'd start housing his inmates in tents and issuing them pink skivvies ...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Habeas Corpses



Hat tip: Townhall.com

Democrats were the racists' party

Mark Rose, one of our great conservative Tennessee bloggers (Right Minded), writes a weekly column for our major local newspaper, The Lebanon Democrat. Yesterday, he knocked one out of the park with "Democrats were the racists' party." Here's how he begins:
You would think that with Barack Obama becoming the Democrats' nominee for president that civil rights activists on the left would concede that we have finally arrived at a color-blind America. In reality, the emergence of Senator Obama has only brought about more discussion about race and the continued accusation of racism in America. Much of the accusations are aimed at conservatives, perpetuating the false stereotype of the racist Republican. (Even Hillary supporters in West Virginia were called racists.) As history shows us, however, nothing could be further from the truth.

The Democrat Party was formed in 1828 with the election of Andrew Jackson to the White House, and was largely pro-slavery right up to the Civil War. The Republican Party, on the other hand, was formed in 1854 specifically to oppose slavery on a national level. Abraham Lincoln was elected as the first Republican president just six years later.

According to historian David Barton, author of "Setting the Record Straight: American History in Black & White," the first grand wizard of the KKK was honored at the 1868 Democratic National Convention.

Writes Barton, "Although it is relatively unreported today, historical documents are unequivocal that the Klan was established by Democrats and that the Klan played a prominent role in the Democratic Party. In fact, a 13-volume set of congressional investigations from 1872 conclusively and irrefutably documents that fact."

"Contributing to the evidences was the 1871 appearance before Congress of leading South Carolina Democrat E.W. Seibels who testified that 'they [the Ku Klux Klan] belong to the reform part -- [that is, to] our party, the Democratic Party.'"

Furthermore, the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which granted citizenship to blacks, came before Congress in 1868. While 94% of Republicans endorsed the amendment, not one Democrat, either in the House or the Senate, voted for the 14th Amendment.

Barton also argues that "The Klan terrorized black Americans through murders and public floggings; relief was granted only if individuals promised not to vote for Republican tickets, and violation of this oath was punishable by death. Since the Klan targeted Republicans in general, it did not limit its violence simply to black Republicans; white Republicans were also included."

There's lots more. By all means, go read the whole thing – including the comments. (I've left one myself, which is presently in the queue awaiting moderation. Maybe by the time you read this, it'll be up.)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Another Brilliant Editorial Cartoonist: Jerry Holbert

Here's an inspired piece of work from the Boston Herald's Jerry Holbert connecting two seemingly unrelated issues:



Hat tip: Jewish World Review

Why I'm Voting Democrat

Ben Shapiro tells us "Why I'm Voting Democrat" – and I agree with him 100%.
"In the spirit of evenhandedness and fair play, ... I feel it my duty to explain why I'm going to vote Democrat."
No, I haven't gone nuts. Before you jump to conclusions, read what Ben has to say. Chances are, you'll agree with him, too.

Obama's Going to Lose

Today, June 16, 2008, I'm sticking my neck out and unequivocally predicting that Barack Hussein Obama is going to lose the election.

Why do I say that? Well, my prediction has absolutely nothing to do with the relative merits of McCain versus Obama.

I know that Obama will lose because today, this guy
came out and endorsed him. As anyone knows who has followed the career of Albert Arnold "Al" Gore, Jr. since he first entered public life, his endorsement of any other political candidate generally turns out to be the Kiss of Death.

Characteristically, Gore waited until the last possible second to endorse Obama, long after it was obvious to everyone (with the possible exception of Hillary Clinton) that Obama was going to be the Democratic nominee. Throughout his career, this has been his pattern. He deftly avoids any commitment until he has stuck his finger into the wind and determined which position will benefit him the most. As far as the Democratic primary goes, it's probably to Obama's advantage that Gore held off endorsing him until now. Had he done so earlier, his endorsement of Obama would undoubtedly have propelled Hillary across the finish line.

Now that Gore has belatedly taken a position (and did anyone seriously expect him to come out and back McCain?), I predict that during the next four months or so, many independent voters who had intended to vote for Obama will begin to reassess their positions.

They already knew Gore as a shameless hypocrite and a pompous ass. Now, it's becoming more obvious every day that he's also a con artist par excellence. He has not only perpetrated the greatest scam in human history in the form of his Global Warming cult, but has used hundreds of millions of public dollars to promote it. Simultaneously, he has managed to enrich himself handsomely by setting up a private entity which profits directly from the scam through the sale of nonexistent "carbon credits."

Remember the story of Charles Ponzi, the originator of the eponymous "Ponzi scheme"? What do you suppose would have happened if he had endorsed a presidential candidate in the 1920 election? Would it have helped or hurt?

Of course, the 1920 election was won by the Republican, Warren G. Harding, who turned out to be one of history's worst presidents. However, he died in office and was succeeded by his Vice President, who was, in my opinion, one of the best of our presidents, the underrated Calvin Coolidge.

Just suppose that Ponzi, who was widely admired as a financial genius early in 1920 (prior to his subsequent arrest), had endorsed one of the other candidates. Would it have made any difference in the outcome? Instead of the Republican hack politician Harding, would our country's fate have been placed in the hands of Democrat hack politician James M. Cox or, even worse, in the irresponsible hands of the wild-eyed Socialist Eugene Debs? We would have been deprived of the calm, stabilizing influence of Coolidge. Instead, the country would have been run by the lackluster Cox, if not by the radical leftist Debs, with unimaginable consequences.

Well, the fact of the matter is that the scope of Gore's scam dwarfs anything that Ponzi could have conjured up in his wildest dreams. Many people are beginning to realize the true nature of "Global Warming," undoubtedly spurred on by the advent of such sequellae as $4.00 gas and worldwide food shortages. With time, more and more eyes will open up, revealing the true nature of Gore's scam to all whose vision is not obscured by leftist dogma. (Who knows? Perhaps some day, the phrase "Ponzi scheme" will be superseded by "Gore scheme.")

If, during the next four months, enough thoughtful voters will examine the voluminous evidence disproving Gore's Globaloney and draw their own conclusions, Gore's enthusiastic endorsement of Obama will prove to be an incurable wound. Obama will join Gore himself on the Democrat Loser List, from which no politician has ever managed to extricate himself.

UPDATE AND BUMP: The American Spectator's Robert Stacy McCain (no relation to John) posted this response about Brother Al:
Phil, I'm not sure exactly what Al Gore adds for Obama -- an endorsement by a loser, a reminder of the past, for a candidate who's supposed to be all about "change"?

I'd call Gore the Al-batross.

As Glenn Reynolds (InstaPundit) would say, "Heh!"

We Have Only Ourselves to Blame for $4 Gas

Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of Newsbusters, has posted an incisive essay on NRO's "Planet Gore" blog, "We Have Only Ourselves to Blame for $4 Gas."

Here's how it starts:
As oil prices head through the roof, and gasoline jumps over $4 a gallon, Americans feeling the pinch at the pump should recognize that the wealthiest nation on the planet has nothing but itself to blame for the third in a series of energy crises that began when Richard Nixon was still in office.

Having largely ignored the previous two shots across the bow — the first coming in 1973 when OPEC decided to ban sales of oil to nations that supported Israel in the Yom Kippur War, and the second in 1979 after the Islamic Revolution in Iran — the U.S. seems determined to repeat the mistakes of the past.

We keep hearing about the worldwide decline in oil production, and tend to assume that the situation in the rest of the world mirrors our own. Sheppard points out that this assumption is false:
At least those countries are participating in exploration efforts to expand their own supplies. China’s oil production has almost doubled since 1980, while India’s has grown by an astounding 375 percent. At the same time, U.S. production has declined by 22 percent.

We sure do know how to respond to energy crises in this country, don’t we?

Closer to home, our neighbors also ramped up oil production. To the south, Mexico has seen its crude output jump 64 percent since 1980, while Canada’s increased 85 percent.

Did you know that? I must confess that I did not.

After explaining in simple, understandable language how the oil futures market works and what effects we could expect to be exerted upon it simply as a result of making the policy changes necessary to facilitate future increased oil production, Sheppard asks these questions:
Why has one political party for nearly four decades viewed energy crises through the narrow prism of learning to adjust to higher prices and declining resources, as opposed to aggressively finding and producing more of what the country and the economy needs?

Such questions seem particularly relevant given how this same party views hunger in our nation and throughout the world. The answer isn’t for those that have less to make an adjustment and adapt to their impoverished condition. “Adjust to having less” is certainly not the Left’s prescription for Americans lacking health insurance.

Democrats want government to increase the supply of food and medical care to those deemed financially incapable of providing for themselves.

Why doesn’t the same hold true for energy? Does the Left just presume that food and medicine are both human necessities government is required to assist the citizenry in obtaining, while energy is a luxury item people can learn to do without?

It's hard to argue with Sheppard's conclusions. Now, our task – and it is a formidable one – is to exert sufficient pressure upon our elected representatives to induce them to follow our wishes instead of the desires of their friends the environmental zealots.

Another Bullseye from Lisa Benson

I'm becoming a huge Lisa Benson fan. Besides being a superb cartoonist, she obviously has a comprehensive understanding of the issues. Check out her latest effort and see if you don't agree.



Hat tip: Jewish World Review

Thought for Today

"Many people are so preoccupied with the notion that their own knowledge exceeds the average knowledge of millions of other people that they overlook the more important fact that their knowledge is not even one-tenth of the total knowledge of those millions. That is the crucial fallacy behind the repeated failures of central planning and other forms of social engineering which concentrate power in the hands of people with less knowledge and more presumption."

~~~~~ Thomas Sowell


(Obama, are you listening?)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Thought for Today

They say oil causes pollution. A hundred years ago the streets were ankle deep in horse excrement. What kind of pollution do you want, anyway? Would you rather die of cancer at eighty, or die of typhoid fever at nine?

~~~~~ P.J. O'Rourke

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Common Sense from the WSJ and VDH – Congress, Listen Up!

Today's Wall Street Journal's editorial, "$4 Gasbags," is a concentrated dose of common sense. It should be a bucket of icewater in the face for all of our posturing Representatives and Senators. Here are a few excerpts:
Anyone wondering why U.S. energy policy is so dysfunctional need only review Congress's recent antics. Members have debated ideas ranging from suing OPEC to the Senate's carbon tax-and-regulation monstrosity, to a windfall profits tax on oil companies, to new punishments for "price gouging" – everything except expanding domestic energy supplies.

Amid $135 oil, it ought to be an easy, bipartisan victory to lift the political restrictions on energy exploration and production. Record-high fuel costs are hitting consumers and business like a huge tax increase. Yet the U.S. remains one of the only countries in the world that chooses as a matter of policy to lock up its natural resources. The Chinese think we're insane and self-destructive, while the Saudis laugh all the way to the bank.
**********
While energy "independence" is an impossible dream, there's no doubt the U.S. has vast undeveloped fossil-fuel deposits. A tiny corner of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge contains an estimated 10.4 billion barrels of oil and would be the largest producing oil field in the Northern Hemisphere. Yet the Senate blocked that development as recently as last month. The Outer Continental Shelf is estimated to contain some 86 billion barrels of oil, plus 420 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Yet of the shelf's 1.76 billion acres, 85% is off-limits and 97% is undeveloped.
**********
Democrats are going to have to grow up. The oil-rich areas they want to leave untouched are accessible with minimal environmental disturbance, thanks to modern technology. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita flattened terminals across the Gulf of Mexico but didn't cause a single oil spill. As for anticarbon theology, oil will be indispensable over the next half-century and probably longer, like it or not. Airplanes will never fly on woodchips, and you won't be able to charge your car with a windmill for some time, if ever.
Recent weeks have seen some GOP stirrings on Capitol Hill, but John McCain has so far refused to jettison his green posturings, such as his belief in carbon caps and his animus against offshore development. A good reason for a rethink would be $4 gas. At present, it is charitable to call Mr. McCain's energy ideas incoherent, and it may cost him the election.

The indispensable Victor Davis Hanson also weighs in on the subject with "Do the Right Thing: Start Drilling!," in which he observes,
The wealthy, particularly those who are politically liberal, also like that high-priced gas translates into less burning of fossil fuels by others and will help accelerate research into alternative energies.

But what these elites don't seem to realize is that the energy policies they tend to advocate are for the present paralyzing almost everyone else in the country -- and that the truly ethical and environmental solution would require embracing positions long considered anathema to traditional liberalism.

For far too long, we've been treating the greenies like spoiled, overindulged children. Every time they throw a hissy fit, we cave in to their ever-increasing demands, no matter how unreasonable. In many cases, even the threat of a hissy fit seems to have been sufficient to cow our fearless leaders.

The situation has now deteriorated to the point that our very existence as a free nation is in peril. The only way to avoid national suicide is to tell the spoiled enviro brats to sit down and shut up, then go ahead and do what so urgently needs to be done. If John McCain is too stubborn or too stupid to see that, then he doesn't deserve to be elected president, anyway.

Thoughts for Today

"A pat on the back, through only a few vertebrae removed from a kick in the pants, is miles ahead in results."

~~~~~ Bennett Cerf
"If I try to be like him, who will be like me?"

~~~~~ Yiddish Proverb

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Israeli Cojones – More on the New Israeli Settlements

Last week, I posted here about Ben Shapiro's column on the subject of the proposed new Israeli settlements.

It turns out that others are also quite interested in the subject, including the Qatari-owned Al-Jazeera network. They decided to interview an Arabic-speaking Israeli scholar, Dr. Mordechai Keidar, lecturer from Bar Ilan University's Department of Arabic Studies, on live TV, and assigned one of their best journalists, Jamal Rayyan, to conduct it.

As reported by YNetNews.com, here's how it went:
Rayyan opened with the question, "Mr. Mordechai, is this decision meant to constitute another nail in the coffin of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations?"
The journalist appeared taken aback when Keidar answered, "To tell you the truth I don't quite understand this. Must Israel ask permission from some other authority in the world? It has been our capital for 3,000 years. We have been there since the time your forefathers used to drink wine, bury their daughters alive, and pray to multiple gods."

Keidar was referring to a period Arabs call Jahiliyyah (ignorance of divine guidance), which prevailed in the Arab world before the time of the Islam. "So then," he continued, "why must we speak about this? It has been our city for 3,000 years and will be for eternity."

The stunned Rayyan refused to give up. "Excuse me Mr. Mordechai! If you would like to speak about history let's talk about the Kuran as well. You cannot deny the existence of Jerusalem in the Kuran! I ask you to refrain from making statements that offend Arabs and Muslims. Let's please stay with our topic," he said.

"Jerusalem is not mentioned in the Kuran," Keidar said.

Rayyan stated the verse that, according to Muslim belief, refers to Jerusalem, but Keidar continued to object. "Jerusalem is not mentioned in the Kuran even once."

Rayyan continued: "Let's talk politics, please. Doesn't this decision oppose the Road Map, which determines that Israel will halt construction of the settlements in Jerusalem?"

"The Road Map does not mention Jerusalem," Keidar argued. "Jerusalem is outside of negotiations. Jerusalem belongs to the Jews, Period! We cannot discuss Jerusalem in any way. You return to this issue time and again, but Jerusalem is not referred to in the Road Map. My brother, go and read the Road Map."

"At this rate Jerusalem will soon include all of the West Bank," Rayyan countered.

"My brother, Israel does not involve itself in housing that Qatar constructs in the Qatar Peninsula," Keidar answered. "What do you want with Jerusalem? Jerusalem is ours for eternity and no one, not Al-Jazeera or anyone else, has any say in it. Jerusalem is solely a Jewish city and no one else has any connection to it."
YNetNews.com goes on to state:
The interview went on for a few more minutes, after which Rayyan parted from Keidar without thanking him. It is interesting to point out that Al-Jazeera's slogan is "The opinion, and the other opinion". It seems this slogan has never been put to such a test.

Meryl Yourish, from whom I first learned about this incident, commented about it in her post Israeli shows Al-Jazeera that Israeli spirit.

Hillary As Seen from Israel

Yedioth Ahronoth (Latest News) is Israel's most widely read newspaper. Their parent company also runs an excellent English-language online service, YNetNews.com. Recently, it carried an English translation of an opinion piece by their Washington correspondent, Orly Azoulay – somewhat presciently, two days before Hillary's delayed, inadequate, ungracious, self-aggrandizing excuse for a concession speech. You can read the piece here: "Defeated and pathetic."

Here's a sample:
Hillary Clinton erased her immense achievements during the primaries with her own hands. The moment her uncontrollable lust for power became an obsession, her judgment evaporated. She clung to false hopes of victory, thus providing ammunition for all those who said to begin with that women must not play this game.

The numbers were clear for several months: Even her most loyal supporters told her, cautiously, that she cannot win, and that Obama reached the point of no return when he opened a gap she had no chance of closing. Yet Hillary refused to listen to these voices and reached the end of the road not only defeated, but also pathetic.

Now she is seeking respect for her determination and perseverance and for bringing millions of voters to the polls. She would have gotten much of it had her ego been more modest and had she possessed an internal mechanism that warned her that it is impossible to base leadership on a strange mix of being a crybaby with a body language that constantly conveys the following message: I deserve it, now it’s my turn to rule.

Hillary started her campaign in a grandiose manner: She was the leading candidate, she enjoyed a 30% lead, and she didn’t even count Obama. Back then already she conducted herself not as a presidential candidate, but rather, as one who already won the title. She insisted calling her airplane “Hillary Force 1,” when Obama was still running around in commercial flights.

However, this arrogance came back like a boomerang and exploded in her face. She was increasingly portrayed as someone who fantasizes, rather than someone who knows what she’s talking about.

There's more, which you can read for yourself.

In my opinion, had the author waited two days, until after Hillary's speech, to write this piece, she would not have changed a word.

Uncommon Valor – A Forgotten Story

Hal G. P. Colebatch, an Australian lawyer and author, has uncovered a remarkable story of American valor against insurmountable odds during the darkest days of World War II. You can read about it here "Stephen Hopkins vs. the Germans," in today's version of The American Spectator.

As Colebatch succinctly states,
This is the story of a forgotten ship with a prosaic name. But when I came across it accidentally in the course of some other research I thought it a story that it would be good for America to be reminded of. And, possibly, good for America's enemies to be reminded of, too.
By all means, go read this amazing story. If nothing else, it will place our present difficulties, minor by comparison, into proper perspective, and renew either your pride in being an American, or your envy of those of us who are fortunate enough to be citizens of the greatest nation in the world.

Thought for Today

"Politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia."

~~~~~ George Orwell (1903-1950), Politics and the English Language (1946)

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Ageless Observations

My friend Dick Stephen-Hassard, who was a shipmate aboard the USS MAURY (AGS-16) back in 1965, sent me this gem:
Some of the great old quotes have taken on renewed meaning and importance.

AGELESS OBSERVATIONS


"If you don't read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper you are misinformed."

~~~~~ Mark Twain

"Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress....But then I repeat myself."

~~~~~ Mark Twain

"I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle."

~~~~~ Winston Churchill

"A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul."

~~~~~ George Bernard Shaw

"A liberal is someone who feels a great debt to his fellow man, which debt he proposes to pay off with your money."

~~~~~ G. Gordon Liddy

"Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner."

~~~~~ James Bovard, Civil Libertarian (1994)

"Foreign aid might be defined as a transfer of money from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries."

~~~~~ Douglas Casey, Classmate of Bill Clinton at Georgetown University

"Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys."

~~~~~ P.J. O'Rourke, Civil Libertarian

"Government is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else."

~~~~~ Frederic Bastiat, French Economist (1801-1850)

"Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it."

~~~~~ Ronald Reagan (1986)

"I don't make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts."

~~~~~ Will Rogers

"If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it's free!"

~~~~~ P.J. O'Rourke

"In general, the art of government consists of taking as much money as possible from one party of the citizens to give to the other."

~~~~~ Voltaire (1764)

"Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you!"

~~~~~ Pericles (430 B.C.)

"No man's life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session."

~~~~~ Mark Twain (1866)

"Talk is cheap...except when Congress does it."

~~~~~ Unknown

"The government is like a baby's alimentary canal, with a happy appetite at one end and no responsibility at the other."

~~~~~ Ronald Reagan

"The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of the blessings. The inherent blessing of socialism is the equal sharing of misery."

~~~~~ Winston Churchill

"The only difference between a tax man and a taxidermist is that the taxidermist leaves the skin."

~~~~~ Mark Twain

"The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools."

~~~~~ Herbert Spencer, English Philosopher (1820-1903)

"There is no distinctly Native American criminal class ... save Congress."

~~~~~ Mark Twain

"What this country needs are more unemployed politicians."

~~~~~ Edward Langley, Artist (1928-1995)

"A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have."

~~~~~ Thomas Jefferson

Friday, June 6, 2008

A Warning from Thomas Sowell

One of my favorite authors and columnists, Thomas Sowell, has just written an unequivocal warning directed to the American voter. It's called "Painfully Inadequate, " and it is truly "as serious as a heart attack," and arguably more so.

Dr. Sowell begins thus:
Now that the two parties have finally selected their presidential candidates, it is time for a sober — if not grim — assessment of where we are.

Not since 1972 have we been presented with two such painfully inadequate candidates. When Election Day came that year, I could not bring myself to vote for either George McGovern or Richard Nixon. I stayed home.
By all means, read it through from start to finish, then please do everything within your power (short of holding them at gunpoint, anyway) to persuade others to read it, too.

Dr. Sowell has examined the situation, then concluded that our very existence is at stake. In my opinion, no plausible refutation of his arguments is possible. His warning is as prescient as were Winston Churchill's unsuccessful attempts to warn Great Britain about the Nazis during the 1930's. Can we learn from history, or are we doomed to repeat it?

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Gift of Prophecy?

On March 30th, a little over two months ago, I wrote a post titled "It's Over for Hillary." Yet, I don't believe that I have any special gift of prophecy.

Despite the wishful thinking of Hillary's supporters, it's been obvious for quite a while now that her quest for the presidency was going to fail. Once her erstwhile friends in the media, as usual acting in concert like birds on a telephone wire, decided that she was yesterday's news, it was just a matter of time.

Hillary still seems to believe that she is somehow entitled to the presidency. All these years, beginning back in Arkansas, she has attained positions of influence and power not by virtue of her own talent, but because of her husband's political successes. She may have managed to convince herself otherwise, but now, she has run up against cold, hard reality.

Now that her former media supporters have jilted her and fallen madly in love with Barack, Hillary is beginning to get some inkling of what it's been like to be a conservative Republican all these years. The same long knives which have been available at her beck and call to slice and dice Republicans have now turned against her, wielded by many of the very same reporters who used to willingly swallow and regurgitate the latest White House lies during her husband's impeachment. (Remember all those "Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy" charges flying around during the Clinton administration? The more fanciful and ridiculous the charges became, the more eagerly and uncritically the White House Press Corps reported them.)

If there has been one beneficial result from all of this it is the fact that more and more Democrats are beginning to recognize the Clintons – Monsieur et Madame – as the dangerous narcissistic sociopaths that they are. Oh, most of them will never admit it, but that's OK. The scales have been removed from the Democrats' eyes, and that's the important thing.

Now, let's hope that enough of the Democrats will use their newly improved visual acuity to learn all they can about Barack Obama before November.

Jerry Holbert on the Democrat Primaries

Here's a succinct comment on Barack's triumph by the Boston Herald's talented editorial cartoonist Jerry Holbert:

Wisdom from 1914

Both of my late parents were born in 1914 – the same year this inspiring poem was written:

          It Couldn't Be Done

Somebody said that it couldn't be done
But he with a chuckle replied
That "maybe it couldn't," but he would be one
Who wouldn't say so till he tried.
So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
On his face. If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn't be done, and he did it!

Somebody scoffed: "Oh, you'll never do that;
At least no one ever has done it;"
But he took off his coat and he took off his hat
And the first thing we knew he'd begun it.
With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,
Without any doubting or quiddit*,
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn't be done, and he did it.

There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
There are thousands to prophesy failure,
There are thousands to point out to you one by one,
The dangers that wait to assail you.
But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,
Just take off your coat and go to it;
Just start in to sing as you tackle the thing
That "cannot be done," and you'll do it.

~~~~~ Edgar Albert Guest (1881-1959), "Breakfast Table Chat" (Detroit: 1914)


* Quiddit: an equivocation; a subtlety

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Thought for Today

The teacher reminded us that Rome’s liberties were not auctioned off in a day, but were bought slowly, gradually, furtively, little by little; first with a little corn and oil for the exceedingly poor and wretched, later with corn and oil for voters who were not quite so poor, later still with corn and oil for pretty much every man that had a vote to sell—exactly our own history over again.

~~~~~ Mark Twain (Samuel L. Clemens) (1835–1910); "Purchasing Civic Virtue," Mark Twain in Eruption, ed. Bernard DeVoto, pp. 68–69 (1940)

Israeli Settlements – The Rest of the Story

At the age of 24, Ben Shapiro is not only a UCLA graduate and a Harvard Law School student, but a nationally syndicated columnist. Incredibly, he has been filling that latter position for 7 years – ever since he was hired as a 17-year-old college student, thereby becoming the youngest syndicated columnist in the country.

Ben has just issued an outstanding column, "The Case for Israeli Settlements, " which eloquently explains why, instead of castigating Israel for constructing new "settlements," we ought to be encouraging them. Here's a sample:
What's the problem with Israel building homes in its capital city? The problem is that the homes will be built in two neighborhoods -- Pisgat Zeev and Har Homa -- which lie east of the so-called "Green Line," the pre-1967 Israeli border.

And the international community doesn't like that at all. According to the international community, Israel's decision to build constitutes a slap in the face to its Arab neighbors, particularly the Palestinian Arabs.

Here's the question: so what?

The world should be far less concerned about Israel's settlement policy than about the terroristic, fascistic nature of Israel's enemies. Supporters of the so-called two-state solution -- in reality, a piecemeal attempt to dismantle the state of Israel by making its borders indefensible -- assume a moral equivalence between Israel and her enemies. They argue against Israeli settlements as if Israel were America and its Arab neighbors Canada, as if the Arab-Israeli conflict were a simple border dispute. In reality, Israel shares Western values; its enemies share values with the mullahs. The Arab-Israeli conflict is a conflict between two contrasting worldviews: freedom and fascism.

The rest of the world, including, sadly, our own State Department, doesn't see it that way. Of course, they'd deny it, but I believe Meryl Yourish has it about right when she explains the difference in attitude as "Israeli Double Standard Time, " in effect only on days ending with a "Y."

Go read all of Ben's column. It's a good start toward recognizing the reality that sooner or later, we're going to have to choose between good and evil.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Victor Davis Hanson on the Presidential Campaign

Victor Davis Hanson is a true Renaissance Man. Besides being a Professor of Classics, a military historian par excellence, and a part-time grape farmer, he's one of the most insightful commentators in the business. Occasionally, Brit Hume interviews him on Fox News. Whenever he's on, I always drop whatever else I'm doing and devote my full and undivided attention to every word.

VDH, as he's fondly known, has just written the finest summary of the 2008 primaries and present state of the presidential campaign that I have seen anywhere. As a veterinarian, I have a minor quibble with his title, "Autopsy of the Primaries: The only Democratic Candidate who can lose the General Election; the only Republican one who can win it.." He should have used "necropsy" rather than "autopsy," because only another primary could autopsy a primary. (Veterinarians learn early in the course of their studies that only another horse can autopsy a horse. If a human performs it, it's a necropsy.) Aside from that minor nitpick, though, it's an absolutely brilliant piece of work. Here's how he begins:
Both Obama and McCain have pulled off the once unthinkable. The former dethroned some 16 year of Clintonian political hegemony by the sheer force of personality and charisma, when initially all the hierarchy and political machinery were against him. The latter by sheer force of will, stubbornness, and a certain courage, never gave up when most had written him off, and simply out toughed his opponents.

There is a certain irony here. In a year that for historical and contemporary reasons should be a Democratic shoo-in, the Democrats have nominated about the only candidate who can lose in November, the Republicans the only one of their own who can still win it.

By all means, go read the rest for yourself. You'll be glad you took the time.

Vets for Freedom

Have you seen this new TV ad from Vets for Freedom?


Senator Obama: When will you finally visit Iraq? – May 28, 2008

Well, here's another somewhat longer video from Blackfive featuring SPC Kate Norley along with Tennessee's superlative 7th District Republican Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn.


Nashville, Tennessee – National Heroes' Tour – March 31, 2008 – Kate Norley & Interview w/ Rep. Marsha Blackburn

(I wish Marsha were my Representative, but I live in the neighboring 5th District, so I have to settle for Jim Cooper. I must admit that for a Democrat, though, he's about as good as it gets – one of the bluest of the Blue Dogs. If only he hadn't voted for that ditzy Nancy Pelosi as Speaker ... Anyway, Marsha, who, incidentally, is a brand new grandmother, is a whole lot better looking than Jim.)

If you like what you just saw, click on over to Vets for Freedom and check out the rest of what they have to offer.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Cap & Trade

Here, courtesy of TownHall.com, is Lisa Benson's succinct pictorial comment on the Lieberman-Warner Cap and Trade Bill currently under consideration in Congress.


Yes, I really enjoy clever editorial cartoons.

The Next Indiana Jones Film?

From TownHall.com comes this Glenn McCoy cartoon:

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Carrier Landings

One area in which our Navy is unquestionably the best in the world is carrier operations. Last April, for some odd reason, the topic came up on the alt.quotations newsgroup.

First, David C. Kifer (whose previous work I cited here) posted this excerpt from P.J. O'Rourke's Weekly Standard piece "24 Hours on the 'Big Stick' What you can learn about America on the deck of the USS 'Theodore Roosevelt'":
Carrier launches are astonishing events. The plane is moved to within what seems like a bowling alley's length of the bow. A blast shield larger than any government building driveway Khomeini-flipper rises behind the fighter jet, and the jet's twin engines are cranked to maximum thrust. A slot-car slot runs down the middle of the bowling alley. The powered-up jet is held at the end of its slot by a steel shear pin smaller than a V-8 can. When the shear pin shears the jet is unleashed and so is a steam catapult that hurls the plane down the slot, from 0 to 130 miles per hour in two seconds. And--if all goes well--the airplane is airborne. This is not a pilot taking off. This is a pilot as cat's eye marble pinched between boundless thumb and infinite forefinger of Heaven's own Wham-O slingshot.

Carrier landings are more astonishing. We were in heavy seas. Spray was coming over the bow onto the flight deck, 60 feet above the waterline. As the ship was pitching, 18 tons of F-18 with a wingspan of 40-odd feet approached at the speed of celebrity sex rumor. Four acres of flight deck has never looked so small. Had it been lawn you'd swear you could do it in 15 minutes with a push mower.

Four arresting cables are stretched across the stern, each thick as a pepperoni. The cables are held slightly above the runway by metal hoops. The pilot can't really see these cables and isn't really looking at that runway, which is rising at him like a slap in the face or falling away like the slope of a playground slide when you're four. The pilot has his eye on the "meatball," a device, portside midship, with a glowing dot that does – or doesn't – line up between two lighted dashes. This indicates that the pilot is . . . no, isn't . . . yes, is . . . isn't . . . is . . . on course to land. Meanwhile there are sailors in charge of the landing hunched at a control panel portside aft. They are on the radio telling the pilot what he's doing or better had do or hadn't better. They are also waving colored paddles at him meaning this or that. (I don't pretend to know what I'm talking about here.) Plus there are other pilots on the radio along with an officer in the control tower. The pilot is very well trained because at this point his head doesn't explode.

The pilot drops his tailhook. This is not an impressive-looking piece of equipment – no smirks about the 1991 Tailhook Association brouhaha, please. The hook doesn't appear sturdy enough to yank Al Franken offstage when Al is smirking about the presidential candidate who belonged to the Tailhook Association. The hook is supposed to – and somehow usually does – strike the deck between the second and third arresting cables. The cable then does not jerk the F-18 back to the stern the way it would in a cartoon. Although watching these events is so unreal that you expect cartoon logic to apply.

Now imagine all concerned doing all of the above with their eyes closed. That is a night operation. We went back on deck to see – wrong verb – to feel and hear the night flights. The only things we could see were the flaming twin suns of the F-18 afterburners at the end of the catapult slot.

~~~~~ P. J. O'Rourke, 24 Hours on the 'Big Stick' What you can learn about America on the deck of the USS 'Theodore Roosevelt.', The Weekly Standard, 04/28/2008

Then someone else who uses the nom de newsgroup "The Sanity Inspector" followed up with this photorealistic word picture from Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff:
In the Navy, in addition to the stages that Air Force trainees went through, the neophyte always had waiting for him, out in the ocean, a certain grim gray slab; namely the deck of an aircraft carrier; and with it perhaps the most difficult routine in military flying, carrier landings. He was shown films about it, he heard lectures about it, and he knew that carrier landings were hazardous. He first practiced touching down on the shape of a flight deck painted on an airfield. He was instructed to touch down and gun right off. This was safe enough – the shape didn’t move, at least – but it could do terrible things to, let us say the gyroscope of the soul.That shape! – it’s so dammed small! And more candidates were washed out and left behind.

Then came the day, without warning, when those who remained were sent out over the ocean for the first of many days of reckoning with the slab. The first day was always a clear day with little wind and a calm sea. The carrier was so steady that is seemed, from up there in the air, to be resting on pilings, and the candidate usually made his first carrier landing successfully, with relief and even élan. Many young candidates looked like terrific aviators up to that very point – and it was not until they were actually standing on the carrier deck that they first began to wonder if they had the proper stuff, after all.

In the training film the flight deck was a grand piece of gray geometry, perilous to be sure, but an amazing abstract shape as one looks down upon it on the screen. And yet once the newcomer’s two feet were on it ... Geometry – my God, man, this is a skillet! It heaved, it moved up and down beneath his feet, it pitched up, it rolled to port (this great beast rolled!) and it rolled to starboard, as the ship moved into the wind and, therefore, into the waves, and the wind kept sweeping across, sixty feet up in the air out in the open sea, and there were no railings whatsoever. This was a skillet! – a frying pan! – a short order grill! – not gray but black, smeared with skid marks from one end to the other and glistening with pools of hydraulic fluid and the occasional jet fuel slick, all of it still hot, sticky, greasy, runny, virulent from God knows what traumas – still ablaze! – consumed in detonations, explosions, flames, combustion, roars, shrieks, whines, blasts, horrible shudders, fracturing impacts, as little men in screaming red and yellow and purple and green shirts with black Mickey Mouse helmets over their ears skittered about on the surface as if for their very lives (you’ve said it now!), hooking fighter planes unto the catapult shuttles so that they can explode their afterburners and be slung off the deck in a red-mad fury with a kaboom! that pounds through the entire deck – a procedure that seems absolutely controlled, orderly, sublime, however, compared to what he is about to watch as aircraft return to the ship for what is known in the engineering stoicisms of the military as "recovery and arrest." ...

As the aircraft came closer and the carrier heaved on into the waves and the plane’s speed did not diminish and the deck did not grow steady – indeed, it pitched up and down five or ten feet per greasy heave – one experienced a neural alarm that no lecture could have prepared him for: This is not an airplane coming toward me, it is a brick with some poor sonofabitch riding it (someone much like myself!), and it is not gliding, it is falling, a fifty-thousand pound brick, headed not for a strike on the deck but for me – and with a horrible smash! it hits the skillet, and with a blur of momentum as big as a freight train’s it hurdles toward the far end of the deck – another blinding storm! – another roar as the pilot pushes the throttle up to full military power and another smear of rubber screams out over the skillet – and this is normal! – quite okay! – for a wire stretched across the deck has grabbed the hook on the end of the plane as it hit the deck tail down, and the smash was the rest of the fifteen-ton brute slamming into the deck, as it tripped up, so that it is now straining against the wire at full throttle, in case it hadn’t held and the plane had “boltered” off the end of the deck and had to struggle up into the air again.

The Sanity Inspector then linked to this YouTube clip. Watch in awe, and keep in mind that this is no computer-generated special effect. No. this is an actual cockpit view of a nice, normal routine fair weather daytime carrier landing onto the flight deck of the USS EISENHOWER:



Now, it's time to look at the rest of P.J. O'Rourke's column:
Some say John McCain's character was formed in a North Vietnamese prison. I say those people should take a gander at what John chose to do – voluntarily. Being a carrier pilot requires aptitude, intelligence, skill, knowledge, discernment, and courage of a kind rarely found anywhere but in a poem of Homer's or a half gallon of Dewar's. I look from John McCain to what the opposition has to offer. There's Ms. Smarty-Pantsuit, the Bosnia-Under-Sniper-Fire poster gal, former prominent Washington hostess, and now the JV senator from the state that brought you Eliot Spitzer and Bear Stearns. And there's the happy-talk boy wonder, the plaster Balthazar in the Cook County political crèche, whose policy pronouncements sound like a walk through Greenwich Village in 1968: "Change, man? Got any spare change? Change?"

Some people say John McCain isn't conservative enough. But there's more to conservatism than low taxes, Jesus, and waterboarding at Gitmo. Conservatism is also a matter of honor, duty, valor, patriotism, self-discipline, responsibility, good order, respect for our national institutions, reverence for the traditions of civilization, and adherence to the political honesty upon which all principles of democracy are based. Given what screw-ups we humans are in these respects, conservatism is also a matter of sense of humor. Heard any good quips lately from Hillary or Barack?

A one-day visit to an aircraft carrier is a lifelong lesson in conservatism. The ship is immense, going seven decks down from the flight deck and ten levels up in the tower. But it's full, with some 5,500 people aboard. Living space is as cramped as steerage on the way to Ellis Island. Even the pilots live in three-bunk cabins as small and windowless as hall closets. A warship is a sort of giant Sherman tank upon the water. Once below deck you're sealed inside. There are no cheery portholes to wave from.

McCain could hardly escape understanding the limits of something huge but hermetic, like a government is, and packed with a madding crowd. It requires organization, needs hierarchies, demands meritocracy, insists upon delegation of authority. An intricate, time-tested system replete with checks and balances is not a plaything to be moved around in a doll house of ideology. It is not a toy bunny serving imaginary sweets at a make-believe political tea party. The captain commands, but his whims do not. He answers to the nation.

And yet an aircraft carrier is more an example of what people can do than what government can't. Scores of people are all over the flight deck during takeoffs and landings. They wear color-coded T-shirts – yellow for flight-directing, purple for fueling, blue for chocking and tying-down, red for weapon-loading, brown for I-know-not-what, and so on. These people can't hear each other. They use hand signals. And, come night ops, they can't do that. Really, they communicate by "training telepathy." They have absorbed their responsibilities to the point that each knows exactly where to be and when and doing what.

These are supremely dangerous jobs. And most of the flight deck crew members are only 19 or 20. Indeed the whole ship is run by youngsters. The average age, officers and all, is about 24. "These are the same kids," a chief petty officer said, "who, back on land, have their hats bumped to one side and their pants around their knees, hanging out on corners. And here they're in charge of $35 million airplanes."

The crew is in more danger than the pilots. If an arresting cable breaks – and they do – half a dozen young men and women could be sliced in half. When a plane crashes, a weapon malfunctions, or a fire breaks out, there's no ejection seat for the flight deck crew. While we were on the Theodore Roosevelt a memorial service was held for a crew member who had been swept overboard. Would there have been an admiral and a captain of an aircraft carrier and hundreds of the bravest Americans at a memorial service for you when you were 20?

Supposedly the "youth vote" is all for Obama. But it's John McCain who actually has put his life in the hands of adolescents on a carrier deck. Supposedly the "women's vote" is . . . well, let's not go too far with this. I can speak to John's honor, duty, valor, patriotism, etc., but I'm not sure how well his self-discipline would have fared if he'd been on an aircraft carrier with more than 500 beautiful women sailors the way I was. At least John likes women, which is more than we can say about Hillary's attitude toward, for instance, the women in Bill's life, who at this point may constitute nearly the majority of the "women's vote."

These would have been interesting subjects to discuss with the Theodore Roosevelt shipmates, but time was up.

Back on the COD you're buckled in and told to brace as if for a crash. Whereupon there is a crash. The catapult sends you squashed against your flight harness. And just when you think that everything inside your body is going to blow out your nose and navel, it's over. You're in steady, level flight.

A strange flight it is – from the hard and fast reality of a floating island to the fantasy world of American solid ground. In this never-never land a couple of tinhorn Second City shysters – who, put together, don't have the life experience of the lowest ranking gob-with-a-swab cleaning a head on the Big Stick – presume to run for president of the United States. They're not just running against the hero John McCain, they're running against heroism itself and against almost everything about America that ought to be conserved.

If you happen to be one of those who's considering giving your vote to Obama because you think you want "change," I'd recommend that you think long and hard about your decision, then, if you're still having trouble making up your mind, go back and re-read this post, then think some more.