Saturday, May 17, 2008

Lies We Tell Our Children, Part 2

This is a continuation of the story I began here. Click that link before continuing, or you'll be lost.

The Future Aggie was met on the ground by a group of well-wishers.

She brushed them aside as soon as possible, and then said "Ok, Dad, let's go buy a piglet !" Some of the well-wishers followed us, perhaps to make sure I wasn't going to go back on my promise, or perhaps because they'd never seen anyone purchase an Immigrant Boat People Piglet because of losing a bet.

We went back to the Vietnamese Pot-Bellied Pig booth. The runt of the litter was the only one left, and he was marked down to $10. The owners gave us some unhelpful literature on piglets and told us in no uncertain terms that we needed to get this one "fixed" as soon as possible. They didn't have any available info on what that would cost. I was betting it would be more than $10.

This was a male piglet and was immediately christened "Pumba", after the warthog in Disney's "Lion King" movie. He might have weighed four or five pounds.

As soon as The Future Aggie picked up her piglet, a squeal erupted like compressed air blowing through a dozen kazoos, mixed and filtered through Ted Nugent's amplifier system. She instantly put Pumba back on the ground and the noise stopped.

"It's a defense mechanism," the piglet salesman said, as if that much racket had actually come from Pumba. "It scares away predators." Later on, when I had the leisure time to read up on Vietnamese Potbellied pigs, I'd learn that they have a higher decibel level than airliners.

She picked up the piglet again. The Ned Beatty squeal started again. I was expecting officers from ASCAP to appear. But after about 20 seconds, Pumba chilled out and nuzzled into my daughter's shirt.

"Awwwww", said the onlookers.

We laughed all the way home, congratulating ourselves on being Urban Pig Owners, and laughing over the climbing wall adventure.

Once we got home, we cautiously put Pumba in the back yard with our dogs - the yellow lab and beagle we had at the time. The Learjet level squealing had freaked them out, but once all the sniffing was done, they ignored the pig and the pig ignored the dogs. Pumba ran around making tiny little grunting sounds and then started digging. It was ineffectual baby piglet digging, but still, yard digging is yard digging. Later on, I'd learn that the only way to stop this behavior would be to put a ring through Pumba's nose, foreshadowing the currently fashionable Tribal/Pierced look.

Mrs. Whited Sepulchre was away on a church retreat. (They retreat more than the Italian Army....) The Future Aggie and I brainstormed on how to break the news that she was now 1/3 owner of a Vietnamese piglet. We decided to just let it surprise her.

It could've been worse. Once she got over the initial shock and got the obligatory lecture out of the way (I can't even let you two go to Mayfest together, 'cause you'll come back with a pig....) Mrs. WS thought Pumba was cute, as yard pigs go.

For the first month, everything was fine. Pumba wasn't big enough to effectively plow the yard, and he sometimes helped the dogs chase squirrels. I was working retail at the time, and when I came home from late shifts, Mrs. WS would be sitting on the couch watching TV with Pumba in her lap with his head resting against her arm. Like a surrealist Madonna And Child painting. Or a preview of that infamous Tori Amos album cover.

The Future Aggie had a great time with him. They'd invent games where she'd tie a little bag of Purina Piglet Chow in a mesh sack, tie the sack to a rope, and then run Pumba around the yard. He also loved to push beach balls from one place to another.

But then Pumba started growing. And growing. He was no longer a good lap pig. One of the main reasons - we had neglected to get him fixed. A pig's manhood is all interior, not exterior, and any reproductive surgery is quite a bit more complicated (and expensive) than it is for cats or dogs. All of a sudden, The Future Aggie couldn't go into the back yard without being the unwelcome object of Pumba's carnal affections. The little beagle wouldn't even come out of the doghouse. She was totally terrorized. (If you've ever wondered about the size of a Vietnamese Pot-bellied Pig's manhood, it's about....oh, never mind.)

Our backyard began to look like....well, not that much different than it does now. But it was irritating to see the springtime grass ripped up by a pig, instead of being allowed to die from neglect. I was the only one in the family brave enough to go into the back yard to feed the dogs or the pig. (If you've ever wondered what it's like to have your leg.... oh, never mind.)

This event was the final straw: We live on a corner lot, and one day Mrs. Whited Sepulchre came home and saw three Fort Worth Water Department trucks parked by our back yard fence. 5 or 6 city employees were looking, laughing, and pointing at something. When she joined them at the fence to see what was going on, she saw that they were watching Pumba have (ahem) relations with one of his beach balls.

When I got home from work, she told me all about the trauma of being a popular lunch break spot for Civic Employees. "It would be really good," she said, "if we didn't have a pig in our back yard when I wake up in the morning."

It was a tough, tough decision.

Most of my regular readers know that I'm a firm believer in 2nd Amendment rights. Even if it's inside the city limits. Let's just leave it at that.

But the official story is that Pumba went away to live on a farm, where he would be happily surrounded by girl pigs in need of his services, and have plenty of wide open spaces and plenty of beach balls.

That's one of the many, many lies we sometimes have to tell our children.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Lies We Tell Our Children

Brian Micklethwait has an interesting series of links and posts about "Lies We Tell Our Children". You could list Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, step on a crack-break your mother's back, the Tooth Fairy, or the doctrine of Original Sin. In Brian's case, the falsehoods were related to the death of the family cat.

It reminded me of one of my favorite stories about my daughter, The Future Aggie. You couldn't force her to read this blog at gunpoint, so this story should be safe here. Unless one of you people rat me out.

Every year, Fort Worth has a big celebration called Mayfest. There are a few carnival rides, but it's mostly fund-raiser booths, live bands, and good food. A fun time is had by all.

Payments at Mayfest are done with coupons. This lessens the need for cash handling and security at so many different locations. I probably bought about $50 worth of coupons. We rode a few rides, ate some junk food and were having a great time until we saw....the piglets.

They were Vietnamese Pot-Bellied piglets, miniature versions of regular pigs. In the mid-90's, there was a fad of keeping them as pets. Mother and Father pig were nowhere to be seen, which should've been a warning. Three Pot-Bellied piglets were for sale - something like $50 each for the larger two, and $30 for the runt of the litter. The Future Aggie was enthralled. Fascinated. Obsessed. She would be a Vietnamese Pot-Bellied pig owner, or die in the effort.

All Mayfest fun ended once piglets entered our sight. The Future Aggie has always been obsessed with animals, and will soon be going to the Veterinary Science school at Texas A&M. We now own 3 weiner dogs, and sorta own 3 cats. We've had as many as 17 lizards, including a basilisk named Norbert.

I didn't see room in the equation for a piglet, since in my experience, if left alone, piglets have always grown up to be pigs.

"Daddy, can we get a piglet? Huh? Huh? I'll take care of it, I promise, I promise....huh? Huh? I can pay you back out of my allowance? Can we get the little one?"

"We don't have room for a piglet," I lied.

"Daddy, we have plenty of room," she said. "Our back yard is huge."

"They eat too much," I lied.

"I'll feed it out of my allowance," she said. "Can we get the little one? He's the runt, so he won't eat much? Please?"

"No. We can't come home from Mayfest with a piglet," I said. "People would talk. Your mother would kill us both. I don't want to hear any more about it. Let's go ride some rides."

The Future Aggie appeared to be over it, since there was no more talk of pigs for at least thirty seconds. I kept invoking Mrs. Whited Sepulchre's absence from the decision, and how she would at least want to have input as to which piglet we'd purchase.

Then we saw the climbing wall. It was about 35 feet tall, portable, and had the usual assortment of knobs, projections and footrests bolted to it. If you haven't seen these before, there's a pulley at the top that a safety harness mechanism is threaded through. In this case, it projected about two feet over the climbing wall like a gallows.
At the very top of the wall was a bell. If you could ring the bell, the crowd applauded. Then you would rappel down the wall into the waiting arms of your girlfriend, you would High-5 your buddies, and you would feel more macho than anyone else.

But high school and college boys were getting about halfway up this climbing wall, getting scared, and bailing out. (Since the wall was portable, it swayed a little.) There were at least a dozen people in line to try it. Since it was expensive, The Future Aggie asked to try. I reasoned that if it would take her mind off the piglets, I was all for it, and forked over $12 worth of coupons. While we were waiting in line, a helpful cheerleader-type employee put her in a small safety harness and gave her a few climbing tips.

In the meantime, a kid who looked like an American Gladiators contestant got halfway up the wall and came to a halt. He was scared to death because the wall was swaying. His buddies on the ground started booing. The Future Aggie looked on apprehensively as the kid on the wall faked a loss of balance and rappeled to the ground.

"Daddy," said The Future Aggie, "I think I might want to go look at some other things, and then come back to this...."

"Don't you even THINK about backing out of this. I've paid $12 in coupons."

Another huge athletic boy went halfway up the wall. Then he started climbing very, very slowly. "You can see Dallas from here," he said, before he muttered some obscenities and gave up, dropping into a knot of his friends. They called him names.

The Future Aggie didn't miss any of this. "I think if we went and got something to eat first, I'd have more strength and energy...."

"Dang it, we're not leaving this line," I said. "If we leave now, we'll never get back to this line."

"Well, what if we just rested a little right here, and let some of these other people go first?" she asked.

"I tell you what," I said, in a moment of weakness, "Get on that damn wall, climb to the top, and ring that bell. If you ring that bell, I'll buy you a piglet."

It was like that feeling you get as you slam the car door shut when you know your keys will be locked inside. I couldn't stop myself. I knew as my mouth, tongue, and teeth formed the sentences that I was making a mistake.

All of a sudden the climbing wall that had been Mount Everest was nothing but a speed bump. The Future Aggie was transformed. She ran to the climbing instructor, the perky cheerleader-type girl, and tugged at her shirt. "Hey, my Dad is going to buy me a piglet if I can ring the bell at the top. Can you teach me how to climb better?"

The climbing instructor, the perky cheerleader-type girl....she's going to Hell. She taught The Future Aggie all sorts of helpful climbing tips and hints. By the time we got to the front of the line, my daughter could've ascended the north face of The Matterhorn without an oxygen tank.

"Listen up, everyone !" the perky cheerleader-type climbing instructor said. "This is (insert The Future Aggie's name here). Her Dad is going to buy her a Vietnamese Pot-Bellied Piglet if she can get to the top of the wall and ring the bell !"

Half of the forty-or-so people gathered around the base of the climbing wall applauded politely for the nice father who was willing to reward his child with a piglet. The other half of the crowd, mostly the veteran onlookers, scowled viciously at the a-hole who had set an impossible task in front of his daughter.

Once the safety line was clipped to her harness, The Future Aggie went up the wall like Spiderman. "Go Go Go Go Go Go Go," the crowd chanted. "Slow Slow Slow Slow Slow," I thought. More and more Mayfest attendees gathered around the climbing wall.

It got difficult at the halfway point. Maybe the knobs and projections were further apart. She kept going. It took her ten minutes to go five more feet. Wagers were placed. Money was changing hands. As a compulsive gambler, I almost bet against my own offspring, and was prevented from doing so only by the knowledge that I might need all my money to buy a freakin' pig.

At the 3/4 point, The Future Aggie slipped and lost contact with the wall altogether, spinning around on the end of the safety rope like a little spider. Once every revolution she would reach out toward the wall and miss it. The perkly little cheerleader-type climbing instructor, guaranteeing herself an even hotter spot in hell, told her to be still and stop spinning. Once that happened, she grabbed a wall projection with her feet and pulled herself to the wall.

The crowd down below went nuts. Totally batshit nuts. Total strangers were slapping me on the back in well-intentioned gestures of solidarity and support.

Ten minutes later, after a few more incidents of separation from the wall, The Future Aggie reached up and rang the bell. The cheers could be heard in Waco. She kicked away from the wall, leaned back like a commando, and allowed the hellbound cheerleader to lower her to Terra Firma.

"Ok, let's go buy a pig," she said.
Climbing Wall photo is from Moonwalk Rentals.
Vietnamese Potbellied Pig photo is from Stashy

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Blog For Human Rights - May 15th, 2008

It's May 15th. If you look to your right, you'll see this is Blog For Human Rights day. I decided to go old fashioned, and talk about a series of Norman Rockwell paintings based on Franklin Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms" State of The Union Address. These were originally published in The Saturday Evening Post (1943), and were eventually used to sell War Bonds.
Yeah, yeah, I know. Norman Rockwell is totally out of favor and widely ridiculed as bourgeois kitsch. Rockwell was cursed with both talent and training, both of which are out of favor. If only he'd been inspired to create a Virgin Mary with elephant dung, or photograph a crucifix in urine. Now THAT is art.

But I digress....the painting above is called "Freedom From Fear". You can't see the newspaper headline that the father figure holds, but if I remember correctly it's about the Nazis fire-bombing Europe. I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm mistaken.
Here's another image, a photo taken in the aftermath of recent explosions in Jaipur.

The seven bombs that injured this child were packed with lethal ball bearings and strapped to bicycles, and went off close to at least five Hindu temples within 20 minutes of each other.
In recent months, terror group Lashkar-e-Toiba has advocated jihad aimed at "liberating Muslim-dominated areas of India".
In this it has been echoing calls attributed to Osama bin Laden, who has made it clear he sees Hinduism as being an enemy equivalent to Zionism.

Here's the second Rockwell painting, called Freedom From Want. You can safely assume that it's Thanksgiving.

In the meantime our government, in an effort to guarantee that campaign donors are properly cared for, has mandated that MORE than 100 % of our yearly production of certain foodstuffs be converted to ethanol. The current Farm Bill, which will probably make it through the House of Representatives today, provides more of the same.
This has caused food prices all over the world to skyrocket. Food riots have broken out in Haiti, Bangladesh and Egypt.

Here's the third Rockwell painting in the series, and it's called Freedom of Speech. My parents had a picture book of Norman Rockwell paintings, which included this series, and I've always been intrigued by the man standing to speak. Do you see what's unusual about him, relative to everyone else?

He's the youngest person in the painting.
He's also wearing the grungiest clothes in the painting.
And yet everyone is listening to him.
In the meantime, our allies in Saudi Arabia are putting barbers on trial for "insulting Islam".
In Canada, believe it or not, Canada.... The Alberta Human Rights Commission, truly one of the most poorly named bureaucracies in North America, is hauling people into court for insulting Islam.
I'm noticing a trend.
And don't get me started on the sanctions against Free Speech in China.

The last of the Four Freedoms paintings is Freedom To Worship. (In President Roosevelt's speech, it was Freedom Of Religion.)

Lest anyone coming to these pages for the first time think that I obsess over the Islamic concept of death to all apostates, well, I do. Just to share the joy and play fair, look at this quiz comparing remarks from Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and Co. to those occasionally made by Bin Laden.

There are degrees of intolerance, however. This man was apprehended in Iran with a Bible in his car.

That's all I've got for "Blog For Human Rights" day.
I've done my best to contrast some Norman Rockwellian sentimentality with some rest of the world harsh reality.
Click on the little widget to your right, or here, and there are links where you can contribute to various worthwhile causes.
In the meantime, raise hell.
Don't put up with it. Don't vote for those who do. Bang pots and pans together in the middle of the street.
Ask yourself, What Would Norman Rockwell Do?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Barack Obama, The Apostate

Here's an angle I haven't thought of before....
This was in the New York Times yesterday.

By Edward N. Luttwak
BARACK OBAMA has emerged as a classic example of charismatic leadership — a figure upon whom others project their own hopes and desires....Case in point is the oft-made claim that an Obama presidency would be welcomed by the Muslim world.

Yes, Obama's Father was a Muslim. But so what?

....But it is a mistake to conflate his African identity with his Muslim heritage. Senator Obama is half African by birth and Africans can understandably identify with him. In Islam, however, there is no such thing as a half-Muslim. Like all monotheistic religions, Islam is an exclusive faith.

Now that Luttwak mentions it, I don't know of any "blended" families where the kids go to the Mosque on Friday and to Hebrew school on Saturday mornings....

....As the son of the Muslim father, Senator Obama was born a Muslim under Muslim law as it is universally understood. It makes no difference that, as Senator Obama has written, his father said he renounced his religion. Likewise, under Muslim law based on the Koran his mother’s Christian background is irrelevant.

I'm going to have to ping my friends at Muslims Against Sharia (see blogroll to your right) to get a ruling on this. They're the group that is translating the Koran into English.

....Of course, as most Americans understand it, Senator Obama is not a Muslim. He chose to become a Christian, and indeed has written convincingly to explain how he arrived at his choice and how important his Christian faith is to him.

Yes, but I still get at least two emails a week explaining his Muslim connections, and casting doubt on his conversion experience. All this in spite of his campaign being plagued by his decades-long association with a Christian minister, Reverend Jeremiah Wright.

His conversion, however, was a crime in Muslim eyes; it is “irtidad” or “ridda,” usually translated from the Arabic as “apostasy,” but with connotations of rebellion and treason. Indeed, it is the worst of all crimes that a Muslim can commit, worse than murder (which the victim’s family may choose to forgive).

Define Apostasy: Abandonment of one's religious faith, a political party, one's principles, or a cause.
Define Apostate: Someone who has commited the crime defined above.

With few exceptions, the jurists of all Sunni and Shiite schools prescribe execution for all adults who leave the faith not under duress; the recommended punishment is beheading at the hands of a cleric, although in recent years there have been both stonings and hangings. (Some may point to cases in which lesser punishments were ordered — as with some Egyptian intellectuals who have been punished for writings that were construed as apostasy — but those were really instances of supposed heresy, not explicitly declared apostasy as in Senator Obama’s case.)
It is true that the criminal codes in most Muslim countries do not mandate execution for apostasy (although a law doing exactly that is pending before Iran’s Parliament and in two Malaysian states). But as a practical matter, in very few Islamic countries do the governments have sufficient authority to resist demands for the punishment of apostates at the hands of religious authorities.

Imagine this scenario....
President Obama to the Head of State of a Middle Eastern nation: "Hello, I'm Barack."
Head of State of a Middle Eastern nation to Barack Obama: "DIE, INFIDEL !"

....At the very least, that would complicate the security planning of state visits by President Obama to Muslim countries, because the very act of protecting him would be sinful for Islamic security guards. More broadly, most citizens of the Islamic world would be horrified by the fact of Senator Obama’s conversion to Christianity once it became widely known — as it would, no doubt, should he win the White House. This would compromise the ability of governments in Muslim nations to cooperate with the United States in the fight against terrorism, as well as American efforts to export democracy and human rights abroad.

There's something wrong with the logic here. I can't put my finger on it. I'm afraid that the logic breakdown lies not with Edward N. Luttwak's editorial, but with the Muslim world. That paragraph, unfortunately, is goofy enough to reflect our present reality.
I really, really need The Muslims Against Sharia people to enter the comment field on this one.

That an Obama presidency would cause such complications in our dealings with the Islamic world is not likely to be a major factor with American voters, and the implication is not that it should be. But of all the well-meaning desires projected on Senator Obama, the hope that he would decisively improve relations with the world’s Muslims is the least realistic.


Thomas Sowell and Gasoline Prices

Please stand for this month's reading from The Gospel According To Saint Thomas....

Economist Thomas Sowell, the smartest man in the world now that Milton Friedman is dead, has proclaimed that rising fuel prices are due to supply and demand, mostly increased demand from China and India.

Therefore, there is no need to create a complex melodrama complete with heroic congressional investigators and villainous oil company executives.

In his latest epistle, Saint Thomas also accuses Senators Obama and McCain of straying too far from The Church Of Free Market Orthodoxy, but he did not appear to be speaking Ex Cathedra on that particular issue.

As future ministers of The Church Of FMO develop an internally consistent theology, the Obama/McCain mistake will perhaps be known as The Pelosian Heresy.

The Church Of FMO will soon visit both the Obama and McCain campaigns, and both candidates will be shown the Tools of The Inquisition. Obama will probably recant. McCain has seen worse.

High fuel prices will be with us for a long time.

The man has spoken.

Thus endeth the reading from The Gospel According To Saint Thomas.

You may be seated.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Bob Barr?? Libertarian For President?? Why Not Jesse Helms??

Please tell me that Bob Barr, gay basher and drug warrior extraordinaire, isn't running as a Libertarian. Say it ain't so....

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - By Andy Sullivan - Former Republican Rep. Bob Barr said on Monday that he will run for president as a Libertarian, a development that could pull some votes from Republican candidate John McCain.

Bob Barr ??? THE Bob Barr ??? The Bob Barr who vehemently opposed medical marijuana use? They are talking about the former Congressman from Georgia, right?

Barr said neither McCain nor Barack Obama, the Democratic frontrunner, would rein in a government that he said has grown too powerful after the September 11 attacks.

This is the Bob Barr who helped sponsor the “Defense Of Marriage” act? That’s who the Libertarian Party might put up for President?

"A vote for the status quo ... is really and truly a wasted vote, because it is not going to do anything," Barr said.

I can agree with that….but Bob Barr?

When Jesse Helms is still alive and presumably available? And Trent Lott still has decades left in him? I haven’t checked on Rick Santorum in a long time….is he still around ?

The Reuters article goes on to speculate on how much Barr’s entry into the Presidential race could harm John McCain.

Well, it sure won’t harm Barack or Hillary.

Half of the libertarian worldview relates to limited government excursions into business, the economy, and voluntary transactions between individuals. Bob Barr may have seen the light, and perhaps he now advocates these positions. I can’t remember him doing anything spectacular in Congress to limit government, though.

The other half of the libertarian philosophy advocates minimal government intrusions into personal behavior. Bob Barr has made a career of being a libertarian nightmare on gay rights issues and the disaster that is the war on drugs.

So this is where the nation stands….
Sizable percentages of Obama supporters say they will not support The Clintons if they’re nominated as the Democratic nominee, and vice-versa.
A large percentage of Republicans aren’t happy with McCain the Maverick as their nominee.
Are there any capital “L” Libertarians who would be happy with Bob Barr?

Is this going to be The Winter Of Everybody’s Discontent?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Redneck Swing

This picture was taken from the pickup with the TV on the tailgate. If you listen closely, you can hear the Lynyrd Skynyrd boxed set is playing in the background.