Class Totty

Loyal Readers will know of my fondness for BritTV personality Charlotte Hawkins, who is always an island of class in a sea of Train Smash Women at the various horse racing events over in Britishland.  A couple samples just to remind you:

However, I was pleasantly surprised to see her companion-in-crime at the races, commentator Francesca Cumani (that’s her on the right):

Yummy.  Some more?  Oh, why not?

And one of them together:

As the title suggests:  class totty.

Out Of The Past 5

Rethinking Conservatism –  Part One

January 24, 2008
4:20 AM CDT

As the Republican primary season wears on, I find myself becoming increasingly introspective—and not just because of the sheer paucity of originality among the front-running Republican candidates (who are actually parodies of stereotypes, rather than actual candidates): Huckabee, the born-again Old South Democrat evangelist; McCain, the authoritarian war hero; Giuliani, the Big City über-lawyer, and Romney, the East Coast Establishment liberal Republican.

Fred Thompson and Duncan Hunter, the only real conservatives in the race, proved to be damp squib candidates; which leads me to ask: are we conservatives actually in the minority in this country? Are our views no longer even close to the mainstream in American political thought? Have we, as a society, drifted so far away from our founding principles and the Constitution, that we are doomed to end up as only a slightly-more conservative society than that of, say, the European Union?

If the above are true—and they may be—then we have an awful lot of work ahead of us, and an awfully-large number of people we need to educate in the values of conservatism, if we are ever to preserve the Republic in any semblance of the vision designed by the Founding Fathers.

(An aside: if you think the job is too much, or if you want to just throw up your hands and give up, uttering defeatist statements about “sheeple” as you do so, or if you start muttering about pressing “reset” buttons, then please stop reading at this point. I know your opinions and rationale, and I’m not interested in hearing them again. This is a working session.)

Most importantly, we conservatives need to reexamine the very essence of conservatism, see what works (and just as importantly, what doesn’t work), and start putting together a consistent vision for others to read, understand and support.

The most obvious way, one would think, is to revisit the principles of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan. Or is it? Conservative columnist Mona Charen, in reviewing David Frum’s new book doesn’t think so:

When Ronald Reagan ran in 1980, the top marginal tax rate was 70 percent. Inflation was eroding the purchasing power of consumers. Overregulation strangled businesses. One out of every three households had been victimized by crime within the previous 12 months. The Soviet Union had added 12 new countries to the communist domain in the previous decade. American hostages in Tehran were paraded on international television. Welfare rolls were expanding.

Reagan’s reform package spoke to those issues. He favored tax cuts, deregulation, welfare reform, stricter law enforcement, tight money and a strong national defense.

I’m not so sure that Reagan’s reform package is that inappropriate today, but let that ride for a moment.

Inflation was painfully wrung from the economy in ‘82 and ‘83. The Soviet Union was brought low. Crime has dropped to levels not seen since the 1960s. Bipartisan efforts have reduced regulation. Welfare reform was finally accomplished in 1996.

But it wasn’t just the triumph of conservative solutions that left the Republican Party without a unifying theme; it was also the conduct of Republicans in power. Complacency, corruption and lack of imagination have combined to undermine the Republican brand.

Absolutely true. And yet, like so many diagnosticians, most of the “whip-smart” Frum’s prescriptions for conservatives to regain the high ground are dreadful:

A carbon tax. That’s right. To discourage the use of gas and oil and to fund more tax breaks for young families.

Let me spell this one out: no Republican has ever come to high office promising new taxes.

Cut the inheritance, corporate, capital gains and dividend taxes to zero to encourage wealth creation.

Much better. Not only would this allow Americans to keep more of the money they earn (and I don’t quite care whether it’s earned by actual work, or by investment; one creates the other), but this would dismantle the tax-collection apparatus which Government uses. I used to think that a flat 1% corporate tax would suffice, but I was wrong: 1% becomes 2% becomes, eventually 15%.

Modify an idea from Bill Clinton and permit “USA accounts” within Social Security that would permit even minimum wage workers to save a small fortune. Frum runs the numbers: “That should be our conservative and Republican promise to American workers: ‘Every American a millionaire by age sixty-seven!’“

I would rather privatize Social Security altogether, using Chile as an example, but I’m starting to think that it’s a no-go proposition. Putting a Trojan horse inside SocSec might be a better idea.

Reform the nation’s scandalous prisons. Conservatives put all those people behind bars to make the rest of us safe, Frum argues, but it is intolerable that there are 240,000 prison rapes yearly (compared with 90,000 rapes in the larger society).

Forget about this. I don’t care how awful prison is (although I agree that the situation is horrible), and I suspect that most conservatives don’t care about it, either. It’s a red-herring issue.

Revive conservation and create “green conservatism.”

Oy… and how do we do that? With green taxes and more regulations? That’s not very conservative.

Negotiate with Iran, sure, but resolve to deny nuclear weapons to them, whatever it takes.

Screw negotiation with any of these insane countries like Iran, Syria and North Korea. They are not the U.S.S.R., and treating them like they are simply gives them too much leeway to cause mischief. Warn them, then bomb them. End of story. We have bigger things to worry about.

Limit immigration to the skilled, and close our doors to radical Islamists, even if they have Ph.D.s.

I don’t have a problem with that. We didn’t allow avowed Communists to come into the country once (why bother, when we could create our own in Berkeley, Harvard, Austin and Stanford?), and we should do it again, with a different enemy.

All that is well and good, and we could debate them all ad infinitum/nauseam. I’d like to start from a few bedrock principles—principles of government, and of human nature (for government is after all just an extension of mankind’s baser instincts) which are immutable, and which we know have been proven true by history, time and time again, to the point where they are axiomatic. Then we can shape conservative principles around those axioms, avoiding wishful thinking no matter how tempting the proposition.

I also want to ignore the peripheral issues—the Republic is not going to fall because of lousy prison conditions or stem-cell research funding.

The axioms below are in no order of importance: all of them are important. Most critical, however, is this observation: the converse of every single one of these axioms forms one or another plank of a socialist party’s platform.

Axiom #1: All capital (i.e. money) belongs to the individuals who earn it, and not to the State.

—This seems to me so self-evident that I hardly know how to explain it. Suffice it to say that in countries where capital has been considered the property of the State, those countries have generally collapsed, and been saved only by other countries where capital is not the property of the State.

Axiom #2: If you remove the incentive to perform a specific task, then the task will not get done, or at best get done half-heartedly.

—So welfare/unemployment payments are inherently self-defeating, in that they remove the incentive for anyone to get a job. (Note: I am not talking about people who are genuinely needy, such as the crippled, retarded or insane. No decent human being can deny succor to people like that. But the definitions of “crippled, retarded or insane” need to be severely limited and carved in stone.)

—Included in this “welfare” clause is retirement. The problem with having the State provide retirement benefits is that people have not therefore involved themselves in providing for their own retirement, and here we are, with a system wherein income is soon not going to be sufficient to cover outlays.

Axiom #3: In the long run, government tends to become more tyrannical, while The People tend to get less so.

—Ignore for the moment the fact that, under our Constitution, The People are the government—because that’s not strictly true, in any event. We The People do not vote on regulation, only on legislation—and most tyranny comes not from legislation, but from the regulations which follow and underpin the laws. We have seen, time and time again, that over time, government becomes more oppressive, even our own. The Fourth Amendment becomes, eventually, ignored by government agents who seize assets and conduct searches and raids without a warrant or proper legal procedure.

—In the long run, The People will tend to correct egregious mistakes in our laws and society. (To think otherwise is too depressing to contemplate.)

Axiom #4: Government will always grow, and develop an insatiable appetite for revenue.

—Like most axioms, this needs little explanation, just a cursory study of history and/or economics. Here’s one:

Government spending as share of Gross Domestic Product:

1910: 8.2%
1997: 31.1%

And just so we know what that “GDP” really represents:

1910 GDP: $472.7 billion
1997 GDP: $8,703.5 billion. (+1,740%)

Government spending grew from $419.51 per person in 1910, to $9,927.74 per person in 1997. And that was before the Republican-led Congress of the early 2000s started their insane spending spree.

Axiom #5: An armed society is a polite society.

—By this, I don’t mean that people tip their hats or curtsey to each other in the streets. The true definition of a polite society is that with 80 million armed citizens in the country, government has to think twice before loading “undesirables” and “non-conformists” into cattle cars. The ability to defend one’s person against the aggressions of other individuals is a secondary (although worthwhile) benefit; and the ability to defend oneself and one’s family and community against baleful furriners a tertiary one. Any action by government, therefore, to curtail that citizen armament, should not only be viewed with suspicion and circumspection, but with massive resistance. (Remember, in order: soap box, letter box, ballot box and cartridge box.)

Axiom #6: America is not what’s wrong with the world.

—We may, and do, have our faults as a nation. But in general, what we do benefits everyone—whether it’s providing Marine choppers to rescue tsunami victims, or providing the economic engine for the entire world, or providing a blueprint for a free and prosperous society. Once again, this needs little proof other than a glance at the Press photos of the 2004 Asian tsunami aftermath, at the fact that the U.S.A. contributes nearly a quarter of the world’s GDP, and at the lines of people waiting for entry visas at our embassies and consulates abroad.

There are more, but those will do to start with. Note that I have not included anything to do with abortion, or education, or stem-cell research, or strip clubs, or homosexual activity. These are red herrings in the political process, and have nothing to do with government. Most importantly, none of them are allowed, or proscribed, in the Constitution.

Behind The Boredom

Good grief.  When I was on my sabbatical in Britishland a year or so back, I tried watching BBC’s GMTV (Good Morning TV) and after the second day I had to stop because I was starting to suffer brain damage.

An unending diet of pablum will do that to you.  The topics were banal, the “celebrity guests” (with only a couple of exceptions) were awful to the point of dire, mostly nonentities (Third Cop From The Right in some turgid detective show with a viewership numbered in the dozens).  If the point of morning television is to present the audience with material that doesn’t tax the morning brain, then the BBC succeeds magnificently.  If they showed it at night, sales of sleeping tablets would plummet.

So with that introduction, read this article about what happens backstage and off-camera on GMTV.  (It doesn’t matter if you don’t know the characters involved:  all you have to know is that all this nonsense is happening behind the most stultifyingly-boring show of all time.)

The only thing that ever saves the show is when one or the other of the hosts is either drunk (at 7am) or still drunk from some awards show after-party the night before — one of which seems to take place on a weekly basis Over There.

And all the hosts are appalling, without exception.  (For reference, Piers Morgan is one of them, on the ITV channel’s equivalent, so there you have it.)  Were it not for the fact that a couple of the women are quite attractive, there’d be even less point in tuning in.

By the way, the presenter whining about the way she was treated, Anthea Turner, was quite a babe back then — which is probably why all the other backstage women on the show hated her.



…because this post would be useless without pitchurs.

Out Of The Past 4

Stopping The Rot

August 12, 2008
7:55 AM CDT

Finally, someone has taken a stand:

A judge flew into a rage in court yesterday after being presented with a charge sheet littered with spelling mistakes and grammatical errors.

In an extraordinary outburst at the Old Bailey, Judge David Paget bemoaned declining standards of written English and branded a bureaucrat from the Crown Prosecution Service an ‘illiterate idiot’.

In the papers, the official had consistently misspelt the word ‘grievous’, four times accusing the defendant of ‘greivous bodily harm’.

The judge also slammed the bureaucrat for stating that the defendant had used an offensive weapon, ‘namely axe,’ instead of ‘namely an axe’.

After reading the charge sheet the judge threw the papers down on to the bench in disgust and fumed: ‘It’s quite disgraceful. This is supposed to be a centre of excellence. To have an indictment drawn up by some illiterate idiot is not good enough.’

That noise you hear in the background is thunderous applause from the Literate Nation.

I am so sick of seeing misspellings in public documents (to say nothing of in newspaper articles). And for those who would substitute the stupidity of “alternative spelling”, allow me to castigate them as fucking morons.

I don’t mind the occasional misstep, especially in a live format like blogs or comments thereto. What I detest is repetitive misspelling—because to me, that indicates a drift towards illiteracy. And I don’t excuse “their” for “there” (and vice-versa), “your” for “you’re” (ditto), or any of the onomatopoeic blunders which bedevil the English language.

I am especially harsh when people refuse to use basic spellchecking software when they have it available.

Words are important. Spelling is important: it’s a basic tenet of communication that the people doing the communicating have a common method of discourse—did I say “basic tenet”? I meant axiomatic.

Spelling is the first building block—some would say the foundation—of shared language. To litter the place with “alternatives” at best slows the communication process down (like trying to decipher “cn i haz yr tlno?”), and at worst it undermines the language itself.

And don’t give me that shit about how English is a “fluid” language or any of that jive. I have no problem with introducing a new word to the English language, especially when an equivalent is non-existent; but if a perfectly decent descriptive word already exists, why clutter the language with a bunch of “near-spellings” which serve only to confuse, and render the lazy the equivalent of the diligent?


Sans Blade

Because we flew up to New England and didn’t check any bags, I couldn’t bring a handgun or knife onto the flight because TSA [25,000-word rant deleted] and because they have some strange shitty laws about Texans carrying handguns around New England [250,000-word rant deleted].

Of course, our first full day of vacation was spent shopping in Kittery, Maine — home to a jillion outlet stores — so New Wife was well pleased to spend a morning shopping (as was I, you will see).  While she was shopping in the Ladies’ sections, I was off looking at guys’ stuff — and at Eddie Bauer, found a couple of beautiful white cotton shirts (my go-to everyday wear) at 50% off, which made them only a little more expensive than the Target / Wal-Mart equivalent, at much higher quality.  (And  made in Sri Lanka and not in China, for the win.)  Also a summer-lightweight cap from Barbour, at 70% off (making it merely expensive rather than Barbour-price i.e. nosebleed). Then it came time to remove all the price tags and such, which required cutting the little plastic loop thingy on the shirts, and a sturdy piece of string on the cap.

No knife.

Well, I wasn’t going to be put about like that, and because I’ve been to Kittery before, I went over to the giant Kittery Trading Post to buy a knife.

My original intention was really to buy a cheap $10-Made-In-China POS, then just throw it away before getting on the return flight.

Unfortunately, the Trading Post has an excellent selection of lovely knives… and you all know where this is going, right?  Here’s the rather old-fashioned Case two-blade pocket knife that followed me out of the store:

I have probably about three or four Case knives at home, and I love all of them:  they are the perfect “working” blades, and I have a soft spot for the “sheep’s foot” type (the upright one, for those unfamiliar with the term).  So for $35, I now have a(nother) decent pocket-knife, and  made in the U.S.A. withal.   And yes, it’s a fingernail-opener rather than the modern button-opener type;  don’t care.

And I’ll just have to check my bag when we fly back, because I’m not going to risk having this lovely little thing confiscated by the Airport Gestapo.

En passant:  KIttery Trading Post has an excellent selection of lightly-used second-hand rifles, so I did spend a little quite a long time browsing that aisle.  New Wife of course was shopping downstairs in the Ladies Department, so the trip ended up costing a little rather more than $35.  Don’t care about that either.  All worth it.