Saturday, October 23, 2010

Charlotte Gore commits Heresy, ThoughtCrime, HateSpeech, and also points out the obvious....

From Charlotte Gore, via David Thompson:

....But consider: Say I steal £1 off 100 people and give you the £100. Should I do it a second time? Apparently refusing to do it a second time is a greater crime, because I’m denying you £100 that you’re now expecting. The poor suckers who are losing the £1? It’s only £1 isn’t it? Hardly worth getting in a flap over.

If they knew how much you really really needed that money, they’d be happy to cough up, right?

See, whilst many (most of them apparently on Twitter) are psychologically able to ignore, or excuse, or basically discount altogether the taking money from people bit of public spending, there are some of us that just can’t.

One day it occurs to ask the question, “What exactly gives them the right to help themselves to whatever they want?” and the answer turns out to be because they can. Then you get a bit angry and frustrated, feel almost entirely helpless then, just to make things that little bit worse, everyone else in the world comes and slaps you in the face for even daring to consider such heretical notions.

The taking from me bit doesn’t count. I don’t matter. It’s the no longer giving bit that counts. Think about how people feel! Think about all the things they could do with that money, or that job, or learn from those people or achieve with the support of those others! Don’t you understand? Have you no feelings?

Apparently not. I just keep thinking, “But it’s not your money. How can you live with yourselves taking it?”

Go to Charlotte Gore's site to read the whole thing. 

Some random Republican makes some random claims about shutting down some random government program. Not gonna happen

Because of the firing of Juan Williams, some Republicans are claiming that they're going to cut off funding to NPR. 
This will not happen.  Republicans don't reduce the size of government. 
If the Republicans take control of both houses of Congress and cut off funding to NPR, I will shave my head. 
NPR's government slop is as safe as the gold in Fort Knox. 
Republicans don't cut anything. 
They don't reduce the size of anything. 
They take their turn behind the wheel of the car, keeping it going in the same direction, but stop at different restaurants, tourist traps, and hotels.  But they change nothing that matters. 

Here's Hot Air, on the latest grandstanding Republican:

This was inevitable, in more ways than one. Jim DeMint has announced that he will introduce a bill to strip all funding from NPR and PBS:
Conservative Republican Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina today announced plans to introduce legislation stripping federal funding from National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting Service.
The move comes following the firing of NPR contributor Juan Williams for comments about Muslims. Williams said among other things that he gets “nervous” when he sees Muslims on his airplane flights.
The firing prompted calls from Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee and others on the right to strip NPR of funding, and now DeMint, who is beloved in the Tea Party movement despite his Senate perch, has taken up the call.
“Once again we find the only free speech liberals support is the speech with which they agree. The incident with Mr. Williams shows that NPR is not concerned about providing the listening public with an honest debate of today’s issues, but rather with promoting a one-sided liberal agenda,” he said in a statement.
The Juan Williams controversy provided a catalyst, but this issue would have arisen anyway. The GOP needs to find ways to cut costs, and the funds for public broadcasting would have eventually come under the knife, and sooner rather than later. Republicans have paid lip service to conservative complaints over federal subsidies to PBS and NPR for decades but have never had the nerve to cut funds, especially when the GOP tried the “compassionate conservative” approach and grew government everywhere else.

And if they find the Testicular Fortitude to do it this time, I'll shave my head.  And if they're not willing to cut funding to something as blatantly partisan as NPR, they're not going to cut anything. 
This is a Moment Of Truth. And if they cut off NPR, I'll shave my head. 
Jim DeMint is a girly-man.  My remaining hair is safe. 

The monies involved are not exactly minimal, but won’t balance the budget, either. DeMint’s statement references the $4 billion spent by the US on PBS and NPR over the last nine years, which works out to something less than $500 million each year on average. DeMint wisely casts this as just a small piece of right-sizing the federal government and reinstituting the proper boundaries and priorities in a Constitutional context.
In one sense, this may not be the best context in which to raise the issue, although certainly NPR gave about as big of an opening as one could imagine.

Yep.  It's a perfect opening, but they aren't going to take it.  REPUBLICANS DON'T CUT THINGS.  THEY GROW THINGS.  IT'S MORE FUN TO BE IN CONTROL WHEN THE SPENDING IS INCREASING.  And if the Republicans cut off funding to NPR, I'll shave my head. 

The real issues at hand are the fact that we simply can’t afford to fund feel-good arts programs any longer while we rack up huge amounts of debt, and more importantly, that public broadcasting is an anachronism — and has been for at least two decades. In an era with 200 channels readily available on cable and plenty of over-the-air broadcast content, the government doesn’t need to provide subsidies for entertainment based on the predilections of bureaucrats in Washington. In fact, there is an even better question within that issue: should the government in a free society ever have funded news channels in the first place?
Update: Eric Cantor will add the option to the House Republican’s YouCut website:
House Republicans announced Friday they would take action that could force a vote on defunding NPR in the wake of the firing of news analyst Juan Williams.
House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said that he is adding a measure to defund the publicly subsidized radio network to the conference’s “YouCut” program, which allows the public to vote online on spending programs they want cut. Williams was axed by NPR on Wednesday for comments he made about Muslims, drawing the ire of Republican leaders. …
“In light of their rash decision, we will include termination of federal funding for NPR as an option in the YouCut program so that Americans can let it be known whether they want their dollars going to that organization,” he said.

If the Republicans take control of both houses of Congress and cut off funding to NPR, I will shave my head.  Republicans do not cut things.  They don't reduce the size of government.  They just take their turn driving the car, and keep it going in the same direction. 
If the Republicans cut off funding to NPR, I repeat, I will shave my head. 

Vote for every Libertarian candidate you can in November.  They'll shut it down like a dying K-Mart.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Caramel Pie Story

This is the definitive version of The Caramel Pie Story, a tale that has been spreading throughout north Mississippi (and beyond) for at least 35 years. It is time to get it online before the variant versions take hold and are accepted as truth.

People have told this story so many times that some Mississippians now claim to have been there when they weren’t. Combine those folks with the number of people who claim that they saw the aftermath and, well, there’s not room for that many people on an ocean liner.

The story involves a caramel pie, my family, the LaMastus family (neighbors), a remodeled kitchen, and some ducks.

Don’t forget about the ducks.

It was wintertime on our farm in North Mississippi, sometime in the early 1970’s.  I was probably 14 or so. Amy and Jill, my sisters, would have been 11 and 9. My little brother Steven was 7.

On the morning of The Caramel Pie Incident, my father went duck hunting with Ed LaMastus. The plan was for the hunters to be back by early afternoon (with ducks) so they would have time to clean the ducks, clean themselves, and get over to the LaMastus’ house in time for Arlas LaMastus to cook the ducks for supper that night.

In the meantime, Mama was in her (newly remodeled) kitchen, cooking a caramel pie.

Here’s the recipe:

Peel off the labels off of three cans of Eagle Brand Condensed Milk.
Submerge the three cans in a large pot of boiling water for 3 hours. Add additional water every 30 minutes to ensure that the cans remain completely covered.
After 3 hours, carefully remove the cans from the pot and place in the refrigerator until they are cool to the touch. Don’t open the cans until you are 100% sure that the caramel is at least down to room temperature.
Open the cans and spoon the contents into a pie crust.

The condensed milk will have turned into a delicious, gloppy caramel substance. Cover the caramel with whipped cream, and you’re finished.  Go here for a variant version that involves a crock pot, but takes 8 hours. 

If you want to make a healthy version, put some banana slices on top of it.

That’s all there is to it, and those things are great.

That takes care of the preliminaries. So….

1) Mama was boiling some cans for a caramel pie.
2) Daddy was duck hunting with Ed LaMastus.
3) Don’t forget about the ducks, which have not yet arrived on the scene.

By most accounts, we were all good kids. But sometimes we would leave a mess in the (newly remodeled) kitchen. Sometimes we would leave new clothing or toys outside. Occasionally we would bring our dogs or cats into the house and they would get into the groceries. On one occasion we let a female cat in the house, a cat who had kittens all over Mama’s wedding dress, the dress that was being carefully saved for Amy’s and Jill’s weddings. Mama looked at the spectacular amount of kittens and afterbirth, shrugged it off, and wondered if one wedding dress was enough to make that many kittens legitimate.

In the time leading up to The Caramel Pie Event, Mama had been on a Responsibility Rampage.
Her battle cry was “Y’ALL HAVE GOT TO ACCEPT SOME RESPONSIBILITY!”  If we didn’t clean up our rooms, we heard “Y’ALL HAVE GOT TO ACCEPT SOME RESPONSIBILITY!”  If we left the refrigerator door open (in the newly remodeled kitchen) – “Y’ALL HAVE GOT TO ACCEPT SOME RESPONSIBILITY!” We started doing our best, but I think our parents were ready for a break from their irresponsible kids.

Duck hunters are usually back home early, perhaps because Mississippi ducks have done most of their flying by noon. But on the day of this duck hunt, 6:00 p.m. came and went without the hunters returning home. This was long before everyone had cell phones, and no one could get in touch with the two patriarchs. Someone had drowned, someone had been shot, or the duck hunters weren’t having much luck and were staying on the pond out of sheer pride and hard-headedness. Sometime around 4:00, Mama and Arlas LaMastus switched over to plan “B” and agreed to cook some of the many diverse animals that were already in the LaMastus freezer.

Finally, around 6:30, Daddy’s pickup pulled into the driveway. He had gotten five or six ducks, and he looked like he’d spent the day stranded on Mount Everest.

(My father, Donald Gene Patterson, was one of the greatest men I’ve ever known, and it was an honor to grow up in his house. He has left behind some big shoes that I’ll never be able to fill. But the man could not go duck hunting without getting water in his waders. I’m a horrible role model, but at least I can stay dry on a duck hunt. Daddy could’ve worn waders into The Gobi Desert and come back soaked to his armpits.)

For the benefit of the Brits reading this epic, these are waders, compliments of The Mossy Oak Company, or West Point, Mississippi:

Since we had a yard full of ravenous dogs and stray cats, Daddy dropped the ducks off inside the house, where they waited at the far end of the (newly remodeled) kitchen hallway, like biological weapons of mass destruction. (The Caramel Pie story requires more foreshadowing than the complete works of Charles Dickens.  I apologize.)

Mama was already irritated beyond rational speech, since the plan was for Daddy and Ed to be back in time to clean the ducks, cook the ducks, etc., etc., etc. I halfway expected her to say “YOU AND ED HAVE GOT TO ACCEPT SOME RESPONSIBILITY!”

Daddy got out of his waders and coveralls, inspected himself for new frostbite, and then stomped into the back of the house to clean up. You know how badly it hurts to get into hot water when you’ve been extremely cold? I can still remember the sound of Daddy screaming in the shower.

They finally left for the LaMastus house, (going through the kitchen and stepping over the ducks as they departed through the side door) and leaving three children and an invalid grandmother in my care. We spent the next couple of hours in the back of the house watching TV with my grandmother.

A couple of hours later my sister Amy was walking toward the front of the house and heard the first explosion in the kitchen.

Fortunately for Amy, she assumed that Steven and I were fighting and she didn’t bother investigating immediately. Otherwise, she would’ve had an Augustus Gloop moment.

But then she heard two more explosions. She opened the kitchen door to investigate.

You know that scene in “The Wizard of Oz” where everything goes from black and white into color? Or the first time Harry Potter walks through the column at gate 9 ¾ to Hogwarts? Or those C.S. Lewis kids who are messing around inside the wardrobe and come out the other side into Narnia?

That’s the experience Amy had when she opened the door to the kitchen. She walked into another world.

Mama had forgotten about the cans of caramel. All of the water had boiled away hours earlier. The cans had started swelling and swelling, turning red hot. At one point you coulda penetrated their lids with a hat pin.

Finally, all of the cans had given up and exploded underneath the cooktop.

But they didn’t remain under the cooktop. When each can finally ripped open at the vertical seam, it went spinning around the kitchen at about 5,000 RPM’s because of all the pressurized caramel glop releasing itself into the stratosphere. (Or it would’ve gone into the stratosphere, but our kitchen ceiling was in the way.)

Each can probably made 30 or 40 laps whirling around the kitchen floor, spraying tiny rivulets of hot, sweet, sticky, caramelized goodness all over the wallpaper, the ceiling, the appliances and everything else.

Imagine if vandals attacked your house with a thousand cans of Nestle® Silly String.

Imagine if "action-painter" Jackson Pollock had gone through a “brown” period.

Imagine yourself as a child, seeing the greatest thing EVER.

Amy took a look at the thousands of strands of caramel, each one slowly being overcome by gravity, and marveled for a few seconds, much like the first European to see Niagara Falls, or the first astronaut to see the curve of the earth. Even as a child, she knew. She knew. This was something people would talk about for centuries.

And. It. Was. Not. Our. Fault ! ! !

If you read a lot of crime novels, you know that there’s enough blood in a human body to paint a small apartment. Mystery novelists are fond of that statistic, for some reason. On a smaller scale, in case you’re wondering, there’s enough caramel in 3 cans of Eagle Brand to paint a large kitchen.

Amy sprinted to the back of the house. “Y’ALL COME LOOK IN THE KITCHEN. Y’ALL AREN’T GONNA BELIEVE THIS ! ! !”

We pulled ourselves away from The Brady Bunch and ran into the kitchen. Once we figured out what had happened, we were absolutely delighted. We ran our fingers through the caramel on the refrigerator and ate delicious fingerloads of the stuff. We wrote our names in the wallpaper. I think we took Steven’s shirt off of him and rolled him around the floor.

Some of the new kitchen cabinet doors were open, and the stuff had gotten into the plates and cups. The cabinet doors that were closed had caramel rivulets running down their glass fronts. The vent-a-hood over the cooktop was dripping enough chocolaty stalactites to send Willie Wonka into insulin shock. I don’t know why I remember this little detail, but we had a Skillet Clock like this one….

….mounted over the stove and a tiny little drop fell off the minute hand and fell into Steven’s hair.

We briefly debated letting the dogs and cats in, partly so they could help us lick the walls, and partly because we knew we’d be telling this story for decades and Border Collies and cats would add some flavor to the tale. But we couldn’t do that because they would’ve also eaten….

The ducks.

Don’t forget about the ducks.

After about 15 or 20 minutes of licking caramel off of the walls, the floors, and each other, we decided that it would be a good idea to call our parents.

Amy got to the phone first and called the LaMastus house. “You remember those cans that were boil….”


“It’s too late,” Amy said, without betraying the extent of the fury that the Eagle Brand Company of Orville, Ohio had unleashed in our kitchen. “The kitchen is a mess.” Amy and Mama went on to calmly exchange some girl talk about how it could be cleaned up the next morning, a Monday, when we would be in school and not in the way.  But, in later tellings of this story, Mama admits that she halfway thought we were playing a trick on her because of the "responsibility" rants we'd been enduring.  She thought we had noticed the red-hot bulging cans of Eagle Brand on the cooktop, turned off the heat, and played a joke on her with the phone call.

(Amy went on to get a Masters and then a Doctorate in Rhetoric and Composition, a field that requires one to cite information in a straightforward manner with no appeals to emotion or verbal trickery. She displayed this ability even as a child.  I, on the other hand, grew up to pound political rants into a computer at odd hours of the night, with the stated goal of attracting as much attention as possible.  That explains the next phone call nicely, I think.)


That did it. The parents decided to come home.

We started calling our friends and describing the carnage, not realizing that we would be calling them again in 20 minutes to describe the final outrage that would be inflicted on our defenseless kitchen….

And that would be….the ducks.  They were dead.  My father had shot them.  But they would have their revenge. 

I haven’t been duck hunting in 25 years. Not because I don’t like going, and not because I don’t like to eat ducks. It’s because I hate cleaning them. Ducks have intestines that are the diameter of a pencil and 3 miles long, filled with everything that the bird has eaten for the last six years.

They also have millions of tiny little pin feathers that have to be pulled out by hand. After you’ve cleaned your first duck, your hands are a mess, and the feathers start sticking to everything. I’d rather field dress a Woolly Mammoth than clean another duck.

Some duck hunters claim that it’s easier to remove the pinfeathers if you freeze the duck first, and then let it thaw. For some reason, the feathers are easier to remove afterwards. (I used to think that was just an excuse to postpone cleaning ducks. Throw the critters in the freezer, forget about them, and then bury them in the backyard sometime in the Spring.) Whether you believe that’s a time-saver or not, the ducks had frozen solid in the back of Daddy’s pickup while he was driving home that afternoon.

When he put them inside our back door, they had thawed.

And when my parents opened the side door, thousands and thousands of tiny little pinfeathers had already released themselves from the ducks that grew them…

And the four Patterson children, with caramel all over their faces, hands, and hair, had posed themselves in a photographic tableaux in the kitchen hallway, looking like Victorian Sewer-sweeps, if there ever was such a thing, waiting to surprise our parents….

And when my father opened the door, a huge gust of Mississippi winter wind blew across the ducks, picking up those thousands and thousands of feathers….

And we saw a feathery cloud coming toward us, and there was absolutely nothing we could do about it….
Except watch the feathers stick to the caramel, the kitchen, and us...

And our joy was made complete.  (1 John, Chapter 1, Verse 4

The kitchen looked like it had been tarred and feathered. We all laughed until we cried.

The #1 priority for the cleanup plan the next day was to get us to school so we wouldn’t be stomping through the caramel and tracking it through the rest of the house. Everyone went to bed thinking it would happen.

We woke up the next morning with a foot of snow on the ground. School was cancelled.

Daddy got some paint scrapers, some 5-gallon buckets for us to sit on, and Amy and I started scraping the walls. We didn’t make much progress.

Then Daddy went to the farm shop and picked up “Son”, one of his employees.  Son Rogers was an older African-American guy, salt of the earth, taught me how to drive a tractor, first man to tell me about B.B. King, etc, etc, etc.   Daddy told Son that we had some cleanup to do at the house, and asked him to bring a scraper and a 5-gallon bucket to sit on. This was north Mississippi in the early 1970’s, and Son was of a generation that didn't question white people about their business or their personal lives. He just showed up with his scraper and bucket.

In the greatest display of willpower and suppressed curiosity I’ve ever seen, Son briefly looked at the caramel, the feathers, the two nasty looking white kids scraping the walls, and never said a word or asked what had happened.

He just sat down beside us and started scraping.

I'm copying my sisters, brother, and various LaMastus people on my Facebook link to this so they can vouch for the accuracy of this story.  I hope someone in Drew or Merigold Mississippi will forward this to the current owners of the house so they can put up a plaque or something. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Why so many Yankees fans left early

If you've been to many pro baseball games, you know about New York Yankees fans.  Loud.  Arrogant.  Abrasive.  They have a reputation for sticking with their team no matter what. 
But things have changed, haven't they? 
Last night's TV viewers were shocked to see so many empty seats behind home plate (and elsewhere) during the 8th inning. 
Why in the world would someone pay so much for a New York Yankees vs. Texas Rangers Championship Series ticket, and not stay for the entire game ???

Fortunately, we have some survey results.  These give us some insight into the minds of the "new" New York Yankees supporters.  1,000 guys were asked one simple question as they were leaving during the 8th:  "Why aren't you staying for the entire game?"
Here are the top responses. 

1) If you don't arrive by 11:00 p.m. at Barry Manilow's "Midnight and Moonlight Central Park Concert", all of the good blanket spots are taken. 

2) Macy's has an Early Bird Special on handbags.  Gotta be rested.   

3) The postgame spinach quiche at Tavern On The Green is simply to die for.  Fabulous. 

4) A direct quote:  "Mom gets anxious and irritable if she can't tuck me in before 11:00 p.m.  In my basement bedroom.  With all my Yankees penants.  And my Mickey Mantle posters.  And my Derek Jeter action figures."
5) There's a new tradition of leaving a few innings early to stroll arm-in-arm and do some
 window shopping along the beautiful tree-lined boulevards of The Bronx. 

6) Once you've heard Prince Poppycock, the Yankees' new Harry Carey, stick his head out of his skybox,  and sing "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" during the 7th inning stretch, it's all downhill from there. 

7) After the 8th inning, the only security on the subway is provided by New York police officers. 

8) The vendors ran out of sushi.

9) Too many outfield fights about who is "cuter": Alex Rodriguez or Andy Pettitte.

10) The Texas Rangers rocked.  It was pure, undiluted greatness. 

GO RANGERS  !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, October 18, 2010

On the Tea Party

From Commentary, my favorite conservative Jewish political magazine (not that there's a lot of competition for that spot):

“The irony is great here. A cadre of pundits cautioned the GOP after the 2008 wipeout to move to the center, to accommodate Obama’s agenda, and to recoil from the small-government philosophy that, the self-appointed gurus told us, had no sell with voters. With a big assist from Obama, the Tea Partiers have proved themselves much savvier than the punditocracy (damning with faint praise, I know). An entire populist movement built not on specific positions (e.g., anti-war) but on philosophical principles is a remarkable phenomenon; even more remarkable is the degree to which those principles have resonated with the public at large. . . . The left understood all too well what the Tea Party was about, tried its best to strangle it in its political crib, and now has seen its worst fears come true.”


One should never underestimate the historical illiteracy of the liberal intelligentsia. And it is also the case that the left did not merely misunderstand the Tea Party movement but actively distorted and vilified it. When unsubstantiated claims of “racism” start flying, you know the left is running scared. Certainly the Tea Party was the repudiation of the notion that the recession and the election of Obama had moved the country to the left. It simply couldn’t be that there was a broad and principled objection to this hypothesis. And when the rabble — that would be fellow citizens — showed again and again that the movement was genuine, determined, and deeply principled, the left had a collective meltdown, railing at the supposedly crazy citizenry.

Thanks to Instapundit for the link.  I went to the first Cowtown Tea Party and it was an impromptu rally behind the Cowtown Bar & Grill.  They had to have the most recent one at the Tarrant County Convention Center.  Heh.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Weekly Radley: "Let's Get Small"

I've long thought that if election results really matter to you, then your government is too big.  Elections should matter about as much as choosing a new lawn service. 

Here's Radley Balko with an explanation: the spirit of bipartisanship I’ll go ahead and endorse Alvin Greene in addition to Paladino and O’Donnell. Politics is a ridiculous profession populated by ridiculous people. Maybe if we elect increasingly clownish candidates, the public will eventually come to realize this, and finally realize that it’s probably not a good idea to put larger and larger portions of our lives and livelihoods in the hands of people who have achieved success in a field that rewards character traits you spend your entire tenure as a parent trying to teach out of your kids.

I’m kidding about endorsing Greene, O’Donnell, and Paladino, but only because their election would give them actual power. But I see no particular reason to root for their opponents, either. And I see no reason to instinctively cheer for Republicans over Democrats. Or vice versa. At least electing transparently crazy people will make us more cautious about how they use their power. Alvin Greene that much sillier than Nancy Pelosi, Trent Lott, or any other Pork Merchant? 

Me, I’m cheering for elections to matter less, and for politicians to have less impact on my life. I dream of waking up to find the results of the November 2 election on page A-10 of my November 3rd newspaper—because no one cared, because very little was at stake, because we stopped pinning our hopes and dreams on the results of a perverse process dominated by generally horrible people who have made a career of accumulating power for the sake of accumulating power.

Incidentally, this is also how you “get money out of politics.” You make politics and political outcomes less important. I’m amused by people who are surprised that as the power, scope, and influence of government grows, interest groups are correspondingly willing to spend increasingly more money to purchase a piece of that influence. I actually once heard a prominent lefty journalist express this very sentiment. They’re shocked by this!

Yes, without exception.  Shocked, I say!  Shocked ! 

It’s even cuter that they think they can continue to expand the size, scope, and influence government and prevent the government from being corrupted . . . by giving the same government yet more power, in this case to prevent itself from being corrupted. Inevitably, these new powers then manifest as new restrictions on our ability and freedom to criticize politicians. Because that’s their solution to the corruption of our politicians: Less criticism of politicians!

You cannot decrease government corruption, bribery, earmarking, pork-barreling, featherbedding, and favoritism by writing more laws.  The purpose of those laws is to sell exemptions to those laws. 
The only way to decrease the size and scope of the problem is to make the government smaller.  Much, much smaller.  Small enough to drown in the bathtub. 

Go here to listen to Steve Martin's "Let's Get Small".