Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Burn The Witches!

The wonderful thing about Lucianne is it only takes a few minutes of scrolling to find something that makes me want to punch the monitor. Easy-peasy inspiration for a post.

Now comes one Robert Smith Jr. writing in the Detroit News Political Blog, and offering a no nonsense approach to the violence plaguing the communities of America - Burn The Witches!... I mean ban the guns... whatever.

Combining historical illiteracy with an utter disregard for logic, and wrapping the whole in a thick sheath of hysteria, Mr. Smith concentrates more dimwittery in four short paragraphs than most pro-crime hacks do in forty.

I encourage you to read the entire post, but a few excerpts are in order...

The right to bear arms is killing all of us. In 2005 the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported 3,006 children and teens killed by gunfire, most of them young, black men in inner-city neighborhoods.

Uh... that's not all of us, and I do not think it's the second amendment that's down in the hood bustin' caps. Some of us even use that pesky right to bear arms as a means of not being killed.

Then there's this head scratcher...

We need to ensure that those we elect to public office are not so stuck on protecting us from another British invasion that they cannot enact legislation that will limit the number of guns in our country.

Yeah, those perfidious Brits, still hanging around waiting for their chance to come in and take over. A limey peril is what it is, and if we're not armed to the teeth it's tea and crumpets for us buddy.

The country's urban centers are loaded with stupid, violent people, doing stupid, violent things, and the decent people who live there are the ones to suffer. Human brutality does not have a cause - it is a default position. It is decency and civilization which have causes, and when those enabling causes are suppressed, the result is a Hobbesean dystopia.

For decades, our politicians, public intellectuals, and community leaders have been actively undermining the causes of prosperity and decency for their own short term gain (bailouts anybody?), so it should come as no surprise that the rising tide of barbarism thus enabled is swamping the vulnerable first.

Mr. Smith, those who encourage false solutions, obscure truth behind rhetoric, and appeal to magic instead of reason are helping kill people more surely than lack of worthless gun laws.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Vegetarian Chili

In my opinion, the most important ingredient in vegetarian chili is meat. Yep, that's what makes it good - the more the better. Now, Breda is a purist and does not consider it chili unless it has kidney beans and ground beef as a base. I made this last night, and in deference to my lovely wife, I call it Mexican Stew (but really it's chili).


1 lb. chorizo cut into slices

1.5 lb. boneless beef chuck short ribs cut into small cubes

5 slices of bacon

1 large green bell pepper - diced

1 poblano pepper - diced

1 large yellow onion - diced

1 15 oz. can of pinto beans - drained

1 15 oz can of chick peas (garbanzos to you fancy types) - drained

1 12 oz can of tomato paste

2 cloves of garlic - minced

1/2 tablespoon of salt

1/2 tablespoon oregano

Now the important part:

1 dried chili pepper - seeded and minced

2 dried Jalapeno peppers - seeded and minced

2 dried chipotles - seeded and minced

1 large fresh jalapeno - seeded and minced

1/2 teaspoon dried chili powder (I like the chipotle, but ymmv)

The above produce a sting on the tongue, some sniffles, and slight perspiration, but no permanent damage - I would say a 4 or 5 on a scale of 10 - feel free to add more heat to suit your particular pain threshold.

Fry the bacon in your chili pot till crisp (why dirty a skillet ?). Take it out and crumble it, but don't pour off the drippings.

Fry the sliced chorizo in the bacon fat (this is a healthy recipe after all, and nothing says cardiac goodness like bacon fat).

After the sausage is brown, remove from pot, and drain off all but 2 tablespoons of drippings.

In the reserved drippings, cook the green pepper, poblano pepper, onion, garlic, diced beef and all the dried peppers until the meat is browned. Do not pour off the juices.

Add 2-1/2 cups of water and everything else, save for the beans, and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and simmer for thirty minutes and add the beans.

Let it bubble away for another thirty minutes plus however longer it takes to achieve the thickness you like.

Pour everything on the floor and let your family fight for it like wolves.

Alternatively - spoon it into bowls and serve with fresh bread and a nice lager.
The good thing about this recipe is that it serves as a starting place for all sorts of variations - add some corn, or potatos, or use Italian sausage - the sky is the limit.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Econ 101

Today's question comes to us from one Jacob Leibenluft via Slate via Lucianne: "Are carbon offsets worth it?"

Well Jacob, the simple answer is no. The less simple answer is ... what are you, some kind of idiot !?! Of course they're not worth it. Any nine year old could tell you that.

No that's not quite right, carbon offsets are worth it to a certain species of sharp operator of the type common to street corners offering Rolexes for cheap, and also often seen in the private offices of legislators offering to brighten re-election prospects for not so cheap.

But for the rest of us?

Jacob, try this test: Go up to the above mentioned nine year old and tell him that his farts are fouling the atmosphere and causing much distress among the gentry. After he finishes high-fiving his buds, offer to offset his crude humor for the small cost of one dollar... "Say kid, yeah you, come over here a second. That was some rancid fart you just made, but I'll tell you what... for just one thin dollar, I'll see to it that a professional comedian in the controlled setting of a real comedy club does an entire routine that mentions deadly methane not once, and that will offset your fart. One dollar kid, how can you go wrong?"

Bets on whether you get the dollar or a GPS enabled ankle bracelet?

Jacob, if you can't get a nine year old to fall for some magic bean scheme, what adult is addled enough to fork over their hard earned dough on a cheesy con like carbon offsets?

Wait a minute let's see what you wrote...

Above all, use common sense. The whole rationale behind carbon offsets is that worthy efforts to stop global warming cost money, so if you find a provider selling at a cut-rate price, be careful. The Lantern would be very cautious about spending his own green on a provider who sells offsets at much less than $10 per metric ton of CO2-equivalent. You may be able to buy atonement for your carbon sins, but it won't come cheap.

Oh dear...

Since you won't by carbon offsets for less than ten bucks a ton- (no... no.. Mr. Used Car Salesman, no way will I give you fifteen hundred bucks on this Yugo you're selling, you'll take five thousand and not a penny less! Alright, six thousand but only if you flatten the tires... heh, that'll teach you to mess with me.)... tell ya what I'm gonna do Jake - I'll offset tons and tons of the frightful greenhouse gas, and not for ten dollars a ton, not for twenty, nope.. I'll do it for one million dollars a ton - cash, small bills, non-sequential serial numbers, sent to P.O. Box...

Monday, December 22, 2008

So this guy jumps into a cage with a polar bear...

If you are waiting for the punchline, it is provided by the growing stranger by the minute Associated Press via Lucainne.

Police say he told them that he felt lonely and that Knut also appeared to be lonely - but he did not give the impression of being mentally disturbed.

Aside from jumping into cages with a polar bears, he gives no impression of being mentally disturbed that is.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Health Of The Nation

Imagine yourself a doctor, one who specializes in the treatment of addiction - all addiction - drugs, booze, gambling, whatever.

For your efforts, you are well compensated. In fact your salary places you above ninety-five percent of the rest of the country. Not only that, the perks that go with your job are nearly unlimited: no commercial airline travel for you - private jets are your conveyance. Someone else picks up the tab for your five star meals, and five star accommodations, three day work week, six month vacation, and diamond-crusted, platinum parachute retirement package.

But wait, there's more. Along with your fantastic pay and benefits, you also have power- real power. You can make rules and have them enforced by armed men who answer to you. You don't give advice, or make suggestions, you make rules, and can make people follow them. Of course mistakes are sometimes made, and people die, but, and this is another benefit of your position, the rules you have made say you cannot be held liable for the results.

Better than that, you are mostly immune to the rules you make. Sure, if you are caught robbing a bank, or killing someone, there will be trouble. But for the most part, you are insulated from the consequences of your own misdeeds.

Best of all, the number of other practitioners in your field is limited by law - that's right, there is no chance someone will set up a competing practice next door to you, so you're the only game in town. If the addicts need help, you are their only choice.

There is only one problem. Your position is not a lifetime one. Periodically, you must be re-elected, and since your job is so lucrative, there will always be contenders trying to take it from you.

But here again, the rules you have made give you the advantage. The set up is brilliant in its simplicity, and nearly foolproof - make sure the addicts you treat are the same voters who decide your future.

Oh it is delicious: to the heroin addict in your examination room, "China white baby! Free, free to you just put your X right here on the ballot next to my name." To the drunk, "Twelve year old single malt - all yours. Ice? Splash of soda? Freshen that up for you? Don't worry, I've got this round...vote for me?" "Compulsive gambler? There's a plane leaving for Vegas in an hour; here's some chips, and there's more... lots more where that came from. Who loves ya? Remember me at the polls."

What addict is going to vote to cut off the source of his supply? And what competitor is going to try to fight for your position considering the advantages you hold?

Treating addicts by catering to their addiction? What could go wrong with a plan like that?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Irony that slices like a hammer.

Mark Felt has died. If you didn’t know it, he was better known as “Deep Throat”, the anonymous informant who helped bring down the Nixon Administration.

Like many of his kind, he didn’t run to the press to tell his story out of ethical considerations, but from a violated sense of entitlement. He was a frustrated place seeker who blamed Nixon for his lack of advancement and used the Washington Post to get his revenge.

Now comes that same Washington Post with a strange sort of eulogy for the old whistleblower…

Deep Throat's death comes as no shock to the nursing-home atmosphere that sometimes looms over American newspapering these days, where we tend to log on each morning and ask, while chewing soft food, who's dead now? (Or, who's been laid off? Who's stopped subscribing? Who's stopped delivering? Who's decided to close their Washington bureau?)

Is this a commemoration of the passing of a snitch, or of the industry who depended on his sort?

A couple of lines later the question is inadvertently answered…

Without a single byline he inspired thousands and thousands of campus misfits to get journalism degrees, each one of them in pursuit of bad haircuts, smoking habits and the next Deep Throat, the next huge story. Any "-gate" that followed or may yet follow feels incomplete without its own Deep Throat.

Write the truth as best you can? Bring a sense of order to chaotic events? Quietly and humbly perform a service for your community? No way baby; we’re looking for heads to hang on the wall. Journalism morphed into a blood sport, and while the great hunters were out stalking their prey, the locals with webcams, and internet connections were back looting the camp.

Deep throat was aptly nicknamed. He was man with no animus toward the administration he brought down, and no love for the instrument he used. He was an out of town businessman hiring a call girl for something he felt entitled to.

Like a self-destructive habit, the client the call girl relied on is the thing that killed her. Live by the rat, die by the rat. Those in power might not be very competent at any useful job, but know how to leak a story and knife a rival without leaving fingerprints. The misfits with bad haircuts and willingness to self-deceive met with fake whistleblowers as well as real ones and didn’t care about being used because they were getting the story.

That’s the problem: The hooker as a business model only works until someone younger and better looking comes along. Then the choice becomes leave the trade or lower your standards hoping to hang on for a little longer.

The news industry is doing both.

The article ends an admonition that Mark Felt shows us what is truly important in the newspaper business…

The best way to appreciate Mark Felt is to work the phones, take notes and figure out how to get that which is off the record, on.

Kind of like someone on the deck of the Titanic saying, “Build ships with more lifeboats.”