Last Updated Thursdday, October 21, 2010
America Can Be Better
Using the Internet to promote a sane America since February 2007
America can be safer, smarter and more revolutionary than ever.
The experiment is
Find out what's true, and say that.
Find out what's right, and do that.
That's all it's supposed to take to make things better.
If you cannot understand how your opponent could be right,
then you can never really understand how he is wrong.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
NY Times v. Arizona
Let the ad hominems roll!
Surprise, surprise. An editorialist at New York Times disapproves of Arizona's Enforcement of Immigration Law
In Desert Derangement Syndrome
Timothy Egan performs a flawless ad hominem + Big Lie attack on Arizona's recently passed law allowing
police officers to ask about immigration status if already investigating possibly illegal activity. I offer a few remarks below,
which I posted as a comment at the site. You should read the original opinion piece if you are not
already clear on how vapid such presentations are.
"Arizona is also a lunatic magnet," he says. Possibly true. I don't know. Relevant in a snide
variety of travel
writing. Out of place here except that it helps lay the foundation for ad hominem
argument, which is just about the entire basis of the piece.
Obviously this helps
avoid having to deal with the actual text of the law, its simple mirroring of what
federal law already mandates, and its specific provision against using race as
the sole trigger for asking for identification.
"A few days ago, the governor signed
the instantly infamous “show me your papers” law, allowing authorities to stop and
question anyone who looks Hispanic." This is a lie, of course, pure and simple.
By now it's a damned lie, because it is so widely known to be inaccurate. This did
not stop Barack Obama from parroting it yesterday at a public gathering.
people who say this willfully ignorant or willfuly misrepresenting? You'd have to
be the former this far downstream of the torrent of comments that explain the law.
You'd have to be the latter unless you have simply not listend to or read one word
about the law itself. If you're that disinterested in the truth, you have no business
commenting at all. That doesn't seem to stop anyone.
It must be lovely to live several
states away, never have to deal with the problem directly, and pronounce yourself
wise beyond the understanding of the idiots who are whining about such a silly thing
as having a few thousand extra illegal entrants crossing your border or those near
you every day.
Not posted at the site: I should have mentioned that I agreed somewhat with
Egan's evaluation of John McCain. I wasn't crazy about McCain to begin with. He just
was better than the leftist he was up against. He lost what little respect I had left
for him (as a candidate) with his pause-my-campaign-and-rush-to-Washington stunt.
I still shake my head over that one.
The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.
Paraphrase of remarks by John Philpot Curran 1790 (wikiquote:Thomas
The Serenity Prayer
God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
The courage to change the things that I can;
And the wisdom to know the difference.
For every ailment under the sun
There is a remedy, or there is none;
If there be one, try to find it;
If there be none, never mind it.
Source: Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serenity_Prayer
Wednesday January 13, 2010
My sister sent me a simple question: Global Warming - What do you think?
What I think is that there seems plenty of data to indicate slight warming trend,
which may continue. There is also data to show that the Earth has been significantly
warmer and colder in the past, long before humans existed.
What I don’t buy is that we know whether humans play a primary, moderate or even
significant role in that trend. We don’t know either way, I would say. Of course
the recently disclosed emails don’t help the proponents’ case, although some of
the statement are less damaging than the opponents want to make them out to be.
I have had the impression for some time that the current passionate advocacy (I
might even say frenzy) is more akin to religious fervor than scientific discussion.
Have you ever heard anyone snap back, “The debate is over!” when the discussion
was truly based in mutual respect and devotion to find the truth?
Part of the problem is that no one who advocates controls based on the assumption
that global warming is serious and human-induced can accept anything less than 100%
devotion to their view. You can’t, for instance, make much headway saying something
like, “Well, I don’t think that the draconian measures you have in mind are necessary
or merited, given the thin support available, but of course having cleaner air and
water and using less energy are obviously desirable for their own sake, so we certainly
should continue to innovate and motivate to achieve all of those goals. You just
can’t commandeer the world’s entire economy, bring it to its knees, and install
your own dictators (call them whatever you like) to decide who gets to use what
when or how much and so on and so on.”
In a typical gathering of the acolytes of this new religion, you wouldn't be able
to get past the second comma in the first sentence. In hardcore gathering you wouldn't
get as far as the first comma.
In the first Star Trek movie, the silicon “life form” (maybe) V’GER takes over Lt.
Ilia and through her talks about the “carbon based infestation of Enterprise.” Global
Warming Fundamentalists have a similar view, sort of like modern day Puritans. We
(humans) are the infestation. And accordingly, anything we do that makes life more
enjoyable or easier must somehow be too energy-intensive and therefore wrong, and
we must be stopped. We simply cannot be allowed to consume or emit anything beyond
some meager amount that guess-who will decide.
It’s a mess. Like so many of our discussion these days. They aren’t discussions.
They are sermons, delivered to opposing choirs (yes, the exact opposite claim -
that it's not serious and even if it is it has nothing to do with humans - is just
as much a faith-based outcry), and with the loudest preachers taking control one
after the other and yanking the rest of us around.
I guess I think that the Global Warming hysteria (yeah, that’s what I’d call it)
is part and parcel of having raised a population for generation without the desire
or ability to ask a good question, or if asking, without the desire or ability to
listen respectfully to the answer and consider whether or not something useful was
communicated, and if not to ask another question until both parties seem to understand
each other. And then to ask a few more to see if the seeming understanding leads
to anything productive. But you have to have that intent to begin with.
To correct the old boy from Cool Hand Luke, “What we have here is not a failure
to communicate. What we have here is a failure to intend to communicate. What we
have here is a desire to control everyone who doesn’t agree with us, or at the very
least have them dismissed as stupid.”
Part of what’s scary is that we shouldn’t be surprised by this. History is full
of examples. It is the rule, not the exception. And yet we continue to allow it
take the reins again and again. What have we been teaching our children for 50 years
that they should grow up behave like this?
All we can hope for is that those who know (that hunger for power is insatiable
in those who give in to it) do not give up resisting the tide.
Hang in there.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Mexico and al Qaeda, Pipeline and Payload
Unless we become a nation united, we will argue ourselves literally into oblivion.
I am always surprised when my friends are surprised when I link together the chaos
churning along the U.S.-Mexico border and the unrelenting Islamist pursuit of the
destruction of the United States of America.
To start with, even if Mexico were falling apart all on its own, the situation would
be bad enough. Our southern border is completely out of control. Muslim men have
been captured crossing among other illegals. One is too many, but the numbers, widely
unreported, perhaps unknown, are probably more like hundreds per month.
It is a safe bet, though, that Mexico is not coming to such a violent state all
on its own. Think for a moment about the increased incidence of beheading. To cut
a long story short, you only have to think for a moment to realize that this signature
technique of Islamists is on the rise and not by coincidence.
Think how much is gained for al Qaeda, or any similarly minded group, by joining
in the fray south of the border, in fact by ramping up the fray as much as possible.
A patient and very canny enemy would be quick to make use of the confusion along
the border to slip operatives into the country, knowing that they have safe haven
in mosques across the nation. All the safer because almost certainly very, very
few who attend a particular mosque would have any idea that it was used for such
activity. You cannot give away what you do not know. If it takes longer to move
operatives around because even other Muslims are being protected from the knowledge,
so what? Anyone paying attention knows with great clarity that al Qaeda is nothing
if not patient and canny.
Such an enemy would be certain to realize that anything that contributes to the
chaos on our border is to his advantage. Ramping up any sort of violence along the
border would be especially appealing if it can be related to the movement of drugs.
These produce a cash flow of obvious value, and there is the additional benefit
of insuring that the infidel speeds up his own demise by getting increased access
to the drugs without which he can apparently simply not get along.
If I am an al Qaeda planner, then I am sending my best trainers to every drug gang
in Mexico, offering to help train them in tactics that could increase their effectiveness,
both at distributing drugs and at taking control of the countryside. How could I
Any increase in violence that accompanies the effort is to the good. If I also get
a cut of my clients' drug money, so much the better. Then I can afford to send even
more trainers and operatives. I will defeat my enemy with the money he gives me
to feed his weaknesses.
How could it get any better? It's a tactic with no downside. It costs little to
support my trainers in Mexico. If they are at all effective, they generate capital
by taking some off the top for their help. And no matter which gang is rising in
any region, it is to my benefit all around. I can even trust my trainees to die
happily if Gang A wipes out Gang B and their trainers. They have died in service
of the cause. Seventy-two virgins await them.
All this adds up to a very unpleasant certainty. The United States is headed for
another major attack, and sooner rather than later. There can be no doubt whatsoever
on this score. Operatives are already in place around the country, unless al Qaeda
is simply inept and has completely missed this opportunity. Is there anyone daft
enough to characterize al Qaeda in this way?
No diplomacy, no containment efforts, no international efforts can prevent this
in the absence of even the pretense of controlling our borders. More than failing
to protect against it, we cannot seem to get ourselves as a nation to accept that
it is there to defend against, regardless of what we do or say in the world. The
stupid things we do from time to time certainly provide a boost for the enemy's
marketing efforts, but they are not the cause of his actions. To believe otherwise
is to ignore all of Islamic history and the enemy's own contemporary declarations
The Islamists know exactly what they are about. They are continuing a fourteen hundred
year old campaign to bring the enlightenment of Islam to the infidel. Everything
is fair. There are no limits, no restrictions. There may be moderate Muslims who
do not support that notion, but they have no more influence on the Islamists than
anyone else. And in a reprise of the sometimes willful ignorance of German citizens
through the rise of Nazi power, many Muslims will accept our nation's fate stoically.
Insha'Allah. (إن شاء الله). If this is
the will of God, so be it.
Some will say that it is just nuts to impute to al Qaeda and its ilk such a grandiose
plan as I have described. They are overlooking all the signs that Islamists see
indicating their inevitable, even pending, victory.
Islamists undoubtedly draw a straight line from the collapse of the World Trade
Center towers to the collapse of the U.S. and world economies. They have brought
Have no doubt. This is how the situation is being sold in quarters where it counts,
where support for such attacks is high and where resources are being sought and
obtained. Nothing attracts money like success. Striking in the infidel's own cities,
bringing down the infidel's economy, and then huge portions of the world's economy
as well, all make for a pretty good resume. Wouldn't you hire someone with that
track record if destruction of the U. S. were your goal?
One great problem we have as a nation is that we are not exactly a nation. We do
not understand what we have and what we offer that unite us. We do not believe as
a nation that we are, in spite of faults, a force for good. And we do not have enough
sense of history to understand that there is actually an enemy committed to our
destruction. When we do admit the possibility, we do not respect that enemy sufficiently
to understand the patience, the resolve, the ingenuity, the genius of that enemy.
If you are still naively racist or "modernist", you may believe that the enemy is
backwards, because you see styles of dress that "look funny" to you, or you see
primitive conditions prevailing everywhere your enemy holes up. These are distractions
and utterly irrelevant. This enemy may be "backward" in some trivial sense of the
word, but he is not stupid, or slow, or ever distracted.
The next attack in the U. S. will be breathtaking. It will be widespread and coordinated.
In 2001 a few cities and highly prized targets were involved. By 2014 at the very
latest, there will be an attack on a much grander scale, assembled from far more
and much simpler strikes, utterly audacious in concept, and stunningly simple.
Anybody who laughs at the possibility or minimizes the likelihood is simply not
paying attention, or else has a reason to want you not to pay attention.
In a world where some will argue complexity everywhere in order to avoid clarity
anywhere, we must figure out, as a nation, that the choice now is as simple as it
was when Benjamin Franklin first published his famous cartoon: Join (Unite), or
Now that it's over...
From: a friend of mine, who was and is (as of 2/24/2009) a more-than-staunch Obama
supporter, but this was sent shortly after the election.
Subject: now that it's over ....
I remember all too well how I felt when W was "elected" and then "re-elected."
I imagine that you're not too happy. Had McCain been elected, I would have moved
to ... Ireland, with a similarly minded friend. Actually, I'm glad to not have to
So, what are your thoughts?
I’m certainly not pleased that Obama won, but I’m hardly planning to move out of
My thoughts are that if Obama governs as he campaigned in the beginning, he will
wear out his welcome in about 6 to 9 months. If he moves towards the center, as
he did when the elections loomed closer, he will annoy his base.
Or, a miracle could happen and he could surprise me and govern well, in which case,
Either way, the politics of entitlement and nanny-state solutions do not appeal
to me, so the obvious thing to do is to follow the old saying, but the whole saying:
My country, right or wrong. If right, then right; if wrong, to be righted.
There’s much to be righted, regardless of how pragmatically or successfully Mr.
Oh, and here’s something you can absolutely expect:
Obama will take complete credit for pulling troops out of Iraq, even though the
move has already begun, and even though it is only thinkable because others before
him did the heavy lifting. Then, when things fall apart, which they will if he withdraws
them precipitously, he will take no blame whatsoever for interfering. And none of
NPR, NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN or MSNBC will conceive of saying that anything is amiss
with the new President's approach. They will have to find some pretext to be surprised
at the recovery power of the insurgency. They will have to begin yet another catalog
of what we did wrong in addition that caused such levels of resentment to survive
even the diplomatic flair of President Obama. (The flame hasn't died in fourteen
centuries. It's not going out now, but that sort of remark will be considered at
the very least "islamophobic", and by then will probably have earned some even more
That’s a sad little drama that I hope is avoided by Mr. Obama’s being willing, as
he said in the later days of his campaign, to take action only in light of conditions
on the ground in Iraq.
Anyway, I'm glad to see the rest of the nation finally catch up to those of us who
have been ready for a man or woman of color or not to be president for decades.
Quite a few of us haven’t cared much about race or gender for close to 40 years,
and were disappointed hugely when Colin Powell declined to run. I was sad to hear
friends opining that it would be nice if we elected Mr. Obama to show the world
that we had come to a point in our history where we could have a black man as president.
Hello!? We’ve been at that point for decades. In my view, they are late to the party,
and put the relief of their own unfounded, lingering guilt above the good of the
nation. Well, OK, there’s some value in getting past nonsense like that, too. If
his election closes out that chapter, then there is one benefit already.
I’m concentrating on what I want to happen over the next two and four years now.
I will watch with interest as events unfold. I will applaud what I think are good
choices, criticize those I find lacking, and carry on as I think reasonable persons
do when an election doesn’t go our way – get over it, get on with it, and plan the
Watch "Rock, Paper Scissors: The American System of Government".
Temporarily withdrawn for editing.
Current Article: NY Times v. Arizona, Let the adhominems roll!
June 25, 2008
My "Drill Here, Drill Now, Save Lives" campaign is now a video on YouTube.
Click here to see it.
June 21, 2008
(Compare to the original at
Newt Gingrich says “Drill Here. Drill Now. Pay Less.”
OK. Paying less is good. Wouldn’t mind. But drilling here, even starting tomorrow,
is not likely to lower prices at the pump significantly or soon.
(On the opposite side, I can’t help noticing that within about 4 days of Bush announcing
that he supports drilling here we get an announcement from Saudi Arabia that they
will pump more. Hmmmm.) (Yet another note on this, added June 23: I can't help noticing
that an "an unusual summit" Saudi Arabia has pledged to produce more oil now and
add capacity for the long term. See Wall Street Journal, June 23, "Saudis Promise
More Oil to Curb World-Wide Fears". Hmmmm again.)
Anyway, I’m all for paying less, but it is not THE reason for drilling. Suppose
the price went down this afternoon. Now it’s only $2.00. Do we want to send that
money where it’s going these days, regardless of how much it is? I don’t.
So, for me the real point is that in the long run we save lives, several ways: If
drilling here does send a signal and causes prices to drop, we send less money to
hostile groups bent on our destruction. IF they are less successful at fundraising,
they will be less popular, or at least less effective. Either one works in our favor.
If we are less dependent on those hostile sources, no one can turn one spigot off
and put our economy completely in the toilet, which could pretty much happen now,
though it might actually have to be two or three spigots. In any event, if our economy
remains strong, we can keep our focus on the main task, which is making sure that
we conquer the threat facing us from extremist Islam.
Speaking of threat: The best parallel I've heard is the KKK, for several reasons.
I'll write more about that in the next article.
June 19, 2008
My 11-Year-Old Daughter Got It Almost Instantly
I remarked to my kids that it looked to me as though most of our politicians are
just asleep at the wheel, and about to drive our country over the edge of the cliff.
That got a chuckle.
After a moment, I realized something. "It's worse," I said. "They're
wide awake, and driving like crazy people. If they were asleep, the country would
soon veer off into a ditch or something. We'd have a crash. We'd know what was wrong.
And if we survived we could fix it. These people are jerking back and forth, left,
right, left, right. We have no idea where we're going."
My daughter thought about it and observed, "Maybe they're on drugs."
I thought that sounded about right. "I think you're right. And the drug is
The kids laughed a lot. I laughed less.
Big Bucks, Serious Change Needed
"Receive this free bumper sticker when you contribute $10". Pardon me?
This is one of the things that I absolutely detest about our campaigns. Everything,
absolutely everything, every waking minute, is about money. I understand why. I
see why. And that does nothing to make it alright.
The opening line is from the American Solutions
website. I don't mean to pick on them particularly. They just happened to
come to my attention this morning. Finding that phrase on one of their pages, just
as you find it on political sites all over the web and in practically every email
from any politician, reminded me, yet again, of how much I detest the role of money
in determing our politics.
Earlier this morning I noticed an article reporting that Sen. Obama will forego
federal campaign funding, and that John McCain may, partly as a result, wind up
in serious trouble, falling further behind the senator in fundraising. Tough break
for Mr. McCain.
No one can fault Sen. Obama's fundraising skills. But is that change? "I can raise
more money than you."
We need to figure this out: How can we use this incredible medium, the internet,
to make this kind of nonstop fundraising circus irrelevant? To speak to the world,
you need about $20 to secure a domain and another $20 to host it for a year, max.
Then you need some skills or some friends with skills. Wouldn't it be great if you
relied on saying something interesting enough to compel attention, instead of relying
on paying enough to get the same slogan repeated ad nauseum in every conceivable
venue to get people to vote for you just because they heard of you or heard something
Pointless fantasy, I'm afraid.
And, by the way, how about just saying "Contribute $10 and we'll send you this nifty
bumper sticker." Although apparently I am stupid enough to subject myself to following
this sort of stuff relentlessly, I'm not actually stupid. If I have to send $10
to get it, it's not free. It's not even a good deal. It's not even good language.
For that, I show no mercy. (See Underground Grammarian below.)
Blogs at America Can Be Better
The links above go straight to the America Can
Be Better blogs.
Long Form has introductory remarks.
2007 Article Archive
I have become increasingly interested in timelines. When I was in school I hated
timelines. I feel pretty certain that's because far too often the teachers led with
the timeline, and then laid back and settled for the timeline.
My interest in timelines grows as I read more about the various events in history
that interest me. Timelines serve to organize those events in a way that never mattered
to me before I knew something about the history itself.
Here are a few I find interesting for content, presentation, or both:
I plan to offer a timeline here at AmericaCanBeBetter.com, so I will spend a little
time researching to see if (a) the web has any use for another timeline and (b)
I think I can do a decent job.
Feel free to send along any comments you have on the subject.
The Underground Grammarian
The Underground Grammarian
The UG figures prominently at ACBB right now because I placed a link (straight to
it, not via this home page) in response to Dick Cavett's blog entry (It's
Only Language). I wanted anyone who came here manually to see the
reference immediately. UG will always hold a prominent place in my own scheme of
things and, hence, at this site. After all, no progress can be made on any topic
if language is not adequate to the discussion or, worse, is actually used to sabotage
the discussion. I know of no better preparation than liberal doses of UG.
In Volume 1, Number 1, Richard Mitchell put offenders on notice with this: "Warning!
Rape of the mother tongue shall be punished." And no one punished offenders better
than Richard Mitchell.
From Volume 1, Number 1, January 1977: The Underground Grammarian does not advocate
violence; it advocates ridicule. Abusers of English are often pompous, and ridicule
hurts them more than violence. In every edition we will bring you practical advice
for ridiculing abusers of English.
From Volume 1, Number 2, February 1977: When we say our thoughts clearly, we often
see that they are stupid. Sometimes we see that they are also self-serving.
From Volume 1, Number 5, May 1977: Where profit is the end of enterprise ambition
may be virtue, but in a professor it is corruption and an insult to his calling.
It is an irony of the academic world, therefore, that those most eager to wield
power are least likely to give good service. Thus it is that presidents and vice-presidents
and deans, and even chairmen and faculty senators, are usually the wrong people,
thirsty more for office than obligation. (RW: Apparently political office is a lot
like academic office.)
St. John's College, Santa Fe, NM
I graduated from Master's program at the Santa Fe campus. Rita Kramer, author of
Ed School Follies, put me onto it at just the right moment. I had just figured out
that what I had had all my life was job training, when what I actually wanted was
education. Thank you, Rita!! SJC has been called the "last bastion of classical
liberal education." That's liberal as in liberating, freeing the mind from the constraints
of ignorance, sloth, and bad habit. If you want to advance the cause of higher education,
Giving to St. John's and send them something. And if you do, thanks!
Please mention the site. I don't get anything from it, but I'd love them to know
if we're doing them any good.
Time permitting, I will incorporate another site of mine, Third Senator. The main
thrust of it is that we ought to have a third senator from chosen by lottery from
among the general population. Until I can get it worked in better, you can find
all of that site here.