Obama the Micromanager

After seeing Obama’s comments about the police in Cambridge. Massachusetts this week, I’ve decided I’m going to call him and let him handle it the next time the city fails to pick up my trash.  I thought it was ‘stupid’ the last time they left it at the curb, and I’m sure he will also.

Beaten Down by All the Hype

The events of the last week have left my head spinning.  It’s almost like God has decided to cast his own version of I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here.  First you had a washed up ‘B’ movie actor in David Carradine, then you had a washed up variety show sidekick in Ed McMahon, then the washed up model/actress who had not worked in twenty years unless it was on Lifetime in Farrah Fawcett, then we had the freak show that was the washed up life of Michael Jackson (see MC Hammer), and finally we have the guy who was made famous by being in commercials, Billy Mays.  Paulie Shore had better hide.

The confusing thing in all of this for me has been the extreme revisionism that has come with all of these deaths.  Suddenly, people who were fringe at best a few months ago are being hailed for their greatness.  What’s up with that?  Can’t we appropriately honor the accomplishments of these people without all of the hyperbole?

I am always brought back to the year Princess Diana died when these things come up.  Do you remember who died the same week that Diana did?  Most people do not because the press was too caught up in the hype of Diana to properly give Mother Teresa and her lifetime of service to humanity her due.  I guess the explosion of media since then has given us the ability to overhype any number of things at the same time.

It’s the hyper-revisionism that bothers me the most.  Suddenly, Michael Jackson has been elevated to a level just below that of Martin Luther King Jr.  How did this happen?  Here we have a guy that had obvious mental and emotional issues that drove him to try to appear more, for lack of a better term, ‘white’.  He married a white woman, and I don’t ever remember him taking a strong stand on racial issues unless you count his song “Black or White.”  I seem to remember allegations of molestation, but somehow a 22 million dollar broom swept them all away (and, of course he was found ‘not guilty’).  Now, there seems to be confirmation that he was gay, and did like young men.  Has that become a popular stance in the black community?  And, all of the children of his ‘baby mammas’ have turned out not to be his.  Is this the example that so many young men are following today?

Suddenly, however, everyone is rushing to praise his greatness, not just as a singer and dancer, which he was, but all other aspects of his life, and many more that have seemed to materialize after his death.  Here’s a newsflash, you can be a great singer and a great dancer, and still be a freak in the rest of your life.  It’s OK to admit it in Jackson’s case, because it’s the truth.

Unfortunately, it looks like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are going to have to have a monkey knife fight to decide who will preside over the funeral.  The self-promotion of these two guys in this case is almost as nauseating as the self-promoting of Joe Jackson (anybody need a blue-ray?).

The truth is, Michael Jackson was a great performer in the 1980s, and sadly like many people, had a hard time dealing with his fame in the years since then.  The same group of leeches that followed him during his lifetime have turned into a flock of carrion birds whose ranks have been swelled by the likes of Jackson and Sharpton.

Sadly, the exploitation of Jackson and his children is just beginning.  They say he will not be buried at Neverland.  I’ll bet the opposite.  There is money to be made if they can put the body there, so it will probably happen.  Next, you will have the Michael Jackson memorial tour in which lots of washed up singers trying to jump-start their careers will get together and sing their versions of his songs.  And, of course the tribute anthology will be released on which every artist from Whitney Houston to Jamie Foxx will sing Michael Jackson songs.  Then, in a few years when the money has stopped rolling in, and the nostalgic fervor has worn off a little, his family will sell the movie rights to his life, and back up the Brinks truck once again.

A Doll House for my Daughter

As a dad who can’t get enough of being one, I am always trying to find a way to prove that I am a better father than the next guy.  Not really, but I do feel the need to be thought of as a good father.

The fact is, I’m a little cheap.  I don’t like to spend a lot of money on something I could do myself.  My father was a general contractor, and I inherited all of his toys.  There’s nothing like needing to hang a picture on the wall, and knowing that all I have to do is step into the garage, turn on the 6 ft. tall Campbell-Hausfeld compressor and choose which nail-gun I want to use.  Oh, yeah.  So whenever I see an overpriced toy that I think my kid needs, I think, “I could make that.”

The last time it was a set of bins for her toy that were twice as large as the ones at Ikea, and cost me half as much (if you don’t count the trip to the doctor when I shot a nail through my thumb).

So, with my daughter’s third birthday arriving in a bout two months, I have decided to build…a doll house.  My niece has a cool one that is three stories tall, one room deep, and has the whole back half open for easy access.

I looked around and these things go for around $300.  Of course, I thought, I can build one of those.  I have been thinking about it for a few months now, and collecting materials along the way.  Last month, I did a rough sketch and bought a couple of pieces of MDF and a piano hinge.

I did some more drawing, and realized that I needed another piece of MDF.  So, I finally decided that last weekend, I would have to start it if I were to have any chance of finishing it before her birthday.

I decided that I would not hide it from her for several reasons.  The first was the fact that hiding it would be difficult.  The second was the fact that I thought she would appreciate it more if she saw the effort that it took to make it.  And of course, if it made her love for me grow greater, that would be even better.

So I asked my mother to come and watch her Saturday, and got to work.  It was not that difficult, but it was hot, and as with anything like this, the time seems to fly by when are actually doing it.  By Saturday evening, I had the whole frame put together, and the piano hinge on the roof.  The wood for the interior walls had been cut, and I had decided that a lot of the work from this point on could be done in the house where there is air conditioning.

Since Saturday, I have done a little work every day.  The interior walls are in now, and I have cut the wood for a couch, love seat and chair for the living room, and a couple of beds.

As with most things that I do like this, I have gotten carried away.  I tend to build things that are a little more elaborate or just plain big.  This would fall into the ‘big’ category.  It is 57 inches tall, 49 inches wide, and 18 inches deep on a 24 inch deep base.  There are 10 rooms including a living room, study/library, dining room, kitchen, pantry, full bath, master bedroom, nursery, child’s room, and kid’s playroom.

I plan to make as much of the furniture as I can.  My focus will be on functionality rather than reality.  For instance, I want to make a chair and table for the dining room that will last if my daughter wants to play with it for years, not an ultra-realistic piece of miniature art that will break the first time she plays with it.  And, I want it to be big enough for Barbie when she gets one.

Special thanks to my wife.  She has done most of the measuring and marking, and without her assistance, it would not be done at all.

I have enjoyed it a lot more than I ever thought I would, and I will continue to document this process in case any other parents out there decide that they want to attempt it.  Stay tuned for pictures, and further documentation.

Cost so far:

3 pieces MDF: $22.00 each

48 inch Piano Hinge: $15.00

Screws: $0 (already had these)

Nails: $0 (already had these)

Tools: $0 (already had these)

Scrap Wood: $0 (already had some of this. Also took two small pieces from a trash pile at a home being built in the neighborhood)

Total: $81.00

Failure to Act

Off the horn of Africa, a drama has taken place which I am afraid will turn out to be an example of what Americans will learn to expect from the Obama administration.  Last night Captain Richard Phillips of the Maersk cargo ship Alabama (the ship that had been taken by pirates only to be freed after he heroically offered to accompany the pirates as a hostage) leapt from the boat in a bid to save himself

It is important to note, that these pirates and their hostage are currently in a lifeboat with their hostage.  It is out of fuel, and simply floating in the Indian Ocean.  So, what happened when the captain tried to escape in the night by attempting to swim to a U.S. Navy destroyer?  The pirates caught him and brought him back on board.  The U.S. Navy reported that it happened so quickly they could not provide assistance.

Translation: The Navy was not ready and in position to act when they had the opportunity to save the captain, they did not have the authorization to use deadly force against the pirates if they had been in position to do so.

I talked to a friend about this yesterday.  I told him that I believed that these pirates would eventually surrender, and that for the first time in history, we would do nothing to them, and they would eventually be released.  Historically, piracy has been one of the most punitively punished crimes in the world.  In fact, the first time the U.S. fought a war abroad, it involved piracy and the attempt to end it in the Mediterranean Sea.  Pirates are hung, shot, downed and keel-hauled (the Alabama has a big-assed keel), and rightfully so.

When this happened to a U.S. ship, Navy Seals should have been immediately provided to the destroyer overseeing the situation.  They should have been deployed in the small support boats from the destroyer to surround and curtail the movements of the pirates, and given the right to use deadly force.  Once it was realized that the pirates were adrift in a boat with a hostage, it should have only been a matter of time.

After the pirate boat was surrounded, the seals with appropriate Barrett M107 .50 Caliber sniper rifles should have simply waited until they all had a shot that did not include Captain Phillips.  This would definitely include any time he was not on the boat, especially an escape attempt in which he was in the water and swimming.  In fact, that may have been a good time to employ a weapon that involved an area of effect (one that goes ‘Boom!’) on the pirate boat.

My point is, I suspect that the Navy did not act because it was not prepared to do so.  The only reason that makes any sense to me is that they had not received the authorization to use deadly force at that time.  This would be the same authorization that would be expected to be given to any local police force in the U.S. in a similar hostage situation.

This inaction, and the attitude that kept the Navy from being able to do what was right and necessary at the time will be a hallmark of our foreign policy for the next four to eight years.

My thoughts and prayers are with the captain and his family.  I just hope action is taken to save his life soon.

National Work Zone Awareness Week

As much as I despise him, I’ve decided to go a little Andy Rooney with my post today.

As I was driving into work today, I looked up to see a message flashing on one of the permanent traffic information boards that are spaced about every five miles apart on my drive through Fort Worth on my way to work. 

Sometime these signs contain useful or even important information.  They will let me know a few days ahead when there will be scheduled road repair or if a NASCAR race will be affecting traffic that week.  Often there are Amber Alert messages regarding missing children or elderly.  When I see these messages, I make a mental note of their content in case I actually see the car that is wanted or matches the description.  This seems like a great use of technology to me.  Sometimes there is an accident ahead that is significant enough to warrant a warning on the signs.  Those days I take an alternate route.

However, there are also the days when someone is put in charge of the sign who feels like things need to be tricked-up a little.  I have grown used to the “Buckle Up” admonition, and the polite desire that I “Have a Nice Day,” but every now and then some joker feels the need to say something different.  These messages sometimes encourage me to pay attention to road workers even if there is no road work to pay attention to.  In other cases, I have been encouraged to vote.

The only real affect that I have noticed from innocuous messages such as these, is that they affect the flow of traffic as people feel like they have to slow down to read them.  It seems to me that when signs are used in this manner that they defeat the purpose of having the sign in the first place.  I have even seen accidents shortly before getting to the signs that were probably caused by people breaking to read the signs while other people trying to read the signs hit them in the rear.

This morning as I drove to work, I was greeted with a message informing me that it is Work Zone Awareness Week.  I looked this up in the internet, and not only is it Work Zone Awareness Week, it is National Work Zone Awareness Week.  This struck me as a little odd.  Of course, there were no work zones on my twenty mile trip to work for me to be aware of, but that was not all.  I suddenly thought, “Pretty soon we are going to have a week for everything.”  But, there are only 52 weeks in a year.  So, is ‘Work Zone Awareness’ in the top 52 things that I need to be worried about.  I find that hard to believe.

So, I assume there must be some serious overlap here.  Every week must have multiple causes that are competing to make sure that I am aware of them.  In the cacophony of causes something is lost.  I am just not able to care that much about all of this stuff, and  regardless of that, I always try to be safe when I am driving down the road anyway. 

So what is the real purposed of National Work Zone Awareness Week?  I can only assume it is three fold.  1) To give the folks that sit at a desk in a boring job at the highway department something to do.  2) To provide revenues to advertising agencies that have won lucrative government contracts to promote these types of things. 3) To assure that my drive home from work takes a little longer as people slow down to read the ‘very important’ message that has been provided for our edification.

Let the Newspaper Industry Die

I have been mostly staying away from politics since Obama has taken office.  All of his real policy changes so far have been on the social side (i.e. stem cell funding), and therefore, as a conservative, I oppose them.  On the other side (the Republican side), I am even more disappointed.  My party has apparently stolen the Democrats’ playbook.  All I see is the twisting of facts to promote fear of Obama’s policies.  Never mind the fact that we can simply oppose his policies because we disagree with them.  My party is spending its time spinning everything in the direction of fear.  I, therefore, have found myself farther removed from politics than at any point in my life.  Oh yeah, and Newt Gingrich is thinking of running in 2012.  great.  Looks like we learned a lot from that McCAin nomination.

Now that my first rant is over, I will get to the reason for my re-injecting myself into the political process.  It seems that Democrat Senator Benjamin Cardin is proposing measures to save the newspaper industry.  This is the dumbest idea to come out of Washington in years.

He proposes that newspapers be allowed to become non-profit organizations.  They will not be allowed to ‘endorse’ a candidate if they do, but they will still be able to report on elections and editorialize them.

This makes no sense whatsoever.  Reporting is never, ever unbiased.  I would rather have my news provided by an organization that announces its bias up front.  That way I can filter the information that they give me in light of these biases.

Cardin said: “We are losing our newspaper industry.  The economy has caused an immediate problem, but the business model for newspapers, based on circulation and advertising revenue, is broken, and that is a real tragedy for communities across the nation and for our democracy.”

The fact is, saving the newspaper industry would be like attempting to save the steam driven engine industry.  There is no need for it.  There is something better and much more effective available to replace the newspaper industry, the Internet.  There is no information available in a newspaper that is not already available on the Internet for free.  And, even though there may be some crazy views expressed on the Internet, it is still a place where all views are available on any topic.

The great thing is that the reader on the Internet is allowed to form his own opinion on any topic by looking at many divergent opinions, not just the myopic opinions delivered by the editorial page of a newspaper.

The Federal government does not need to get into the business of supporting newspapers for several reasons.  First, they are dying a natural death because the public is no longer interested in their product.  No amount of government support is going to make people want to read newspapers more.  Second, I have serious reservations about the government injecting itself in any way in the reporting process.  This is simply dangerous, and politicians cannot be trusted not to try any control information once they start subsidizing the industry.  And three, the press does not need to feel like it owes any politician for its livelihood.  Any situation like this could not be healthy.

In the end, with the abundance of network and cable news programs, along with radio and the Internet, newspapers are simply no longer necessary.  A few will survive because they will find a niche,  The rest need to be allowed to die a natural death.

Not What the World Was Promised.

I seem to remember in the months leading up to the recent presidential election and for some time since, being told that things would be different once Obama was elected.  He promised to use diplomacy(apparently a word that he thought GWB had never heard before) to force the World to, once again, fall in love with America.  He specifically told us that he would employ this diplomacy to improve our relationship with Iran.

Well, last week, instead of working out the nuclear issue with the sensible Iranians as he had promised, he went to the Russians (Watch that Putin, he’s a nut too.) and negotiated with them to discontinue providing the Iranians with support for their nuclear programs.  That ought to get those Iranians to love us.  I’ll bet they invited Obama over for tea after that brilliant piece of maneuvering.

Today, we are told that Hillary has threated North Korea.  She is now insisting that they end their nuclear programs.  Or, what?  What sort of threat is any nation going to buy from “Mr. Scale Back Our Military Options and Negotiate?”  Good luck with all that.  And, how is this policy any different than that of GWB?  Oh yeah, these policies have no teeth.

We should be threatening Cuba and Venezuela any day now, and then Obamawill threaten Pakistan some more.  Now that’s diplomacy.  Isn’t it interesting to see that the same irrational people that Bush had problems with are the same irrational people that are lining up to cause Obama problems?

America’s enemies are our enemies because they choose to be so.  They want to be our enemies.  In fact, people like Castro and Chavez make their ‘political hay’ out of hating America and pumping others up to do the same.  They have absolutely no incentive to negotiate or work with us, and they never will.  We may buy them off for a time, but they will always return to the America-hating trough because it is their bread and butter.

Our job is to separate the truly dangerous ones from the ones who are simply annoying.  We must ignore the ones that are simply annoying no matter how they buzz about our faces.  The dangerous ones have to be crushed.  It’s just that simple.  Obama needs to take a page out of Teddy Roosevelt’s playbook.  He said, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”  Obama will have no stick at all, and will keep increasing the rhetoric until all our enemies hear is an annoying screech…which they will continue to ignore.