19 August 2002
Above us, only roof
From the Department of Why The Hell Not: The Air Force, having discovered that as much as half of its on-base housing for families is in disrepair, an issue which affects retention rates, is going to experiment at some bases with turning the facilities over to the private sector for maintenance and service. Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma will be one of the early test sites. Under the scheme, private contractors will bid on first upgrading and then maintaining base housing. One hundred thirty-two of Altus' 966 units will be demolished; the 834 remaining will be refurbished, and 87 new units will be built. Base housing staff will meet with contractors this fall to begin the process.
Is this a Good Thing? Altus' Denise Hastye, in charge of the project, says:
"This is about quality of life. A person who has to go off to fight a war can't be worried about whether or not his family is being taken care of back home."
At least they seem to have their priorities in order.
None too gentle a breeze
There's a practical limit to how much you can respond to comments on other people's blogs. Today in The Vent, that limit is exceeded.
Oklahoma and its residents, reports Mike Congrove at Fly Over Country, suffer from a social stigma: we are "a little slow, too rural, and unsophisticated." Much of this, though regrettably not all of it, is undeserved, but there's not a whole lot we can do about it.
Or is there? If business has an image problem, they call in the brand managers. It's time, says Mike, for Oklahoma to be "rebranded":
"First, change the name of the state. Oklahoma has too negative a connotation. Oklahoma City is a mouthful with a similar connotation. Change the name, redesign the flag, and hold a state-wide contest for a search for a new name. During the name changing ceremony, the governor could create a neat little historical caveat. He or she could officially secede from the Union for one minute then rejoin the Union under the new name. Trivia buffs everywhere would rejoice."
Well, "Baja Kansas" is probably out. Changing the name of the state is a drastic step, but Mike's right: the image of Oklahoma hovers somewhere between rustic and risible. And worse, its elected officials seem to like it that way. Maybe it will take something as dramatic as a name change or the threat of annexation by Arkansas.
20 August 2002
You're running against whom?
I'm sure something like this has happened elsewhere at some point, but there's a definite Only In Oklahoma air about it just the same.
Glen Hampton is running (as an Independent) for one of the three Commissioner positions in McIntosh County, against incumbent Democrat J. D. Williams. Hampton's qualifications include experience on county road crews: he runs a grader under the supervision of, um, Commissioner J. D. Williams. Or anyway, he used to run a grader; Hampton reports that he was fired shortly after filing for the post with the county election board. Now Hampton has filed a $100,000 wrongful-termination tort claim against the county, which contends that he wasn't really fired but is on a leave of absence. Williams isn't saying a word, but this isn't the first time he's sacked someone and got slapped with litigation for so doing, either.
"I'm not a native Okie; I've only lived here for seven years but I've grown rather attached to the name. I like the way it rolls off the tongue. The only thing better would be one of those Native American derived names that are not pronounced quite like they are spelled. That would give us endless opportunities to laugh at the rest of the country. (I just love it when one of the local TV stations gets a new meteorologist from out of state.)"
They learn quickly enough: the TV stations go out of their way to mention every podunkular town possible during their alleged newscasts, and the aggrieved residents are quick to complain if their little paradise is mispronounced.
But nomenclature, Lynn thinks, is the least of our problems:
"The really bad part though is that politicians play to this inbred bunch. I don't think I've ever seen a local political ad in which the candidate didn't brag about how many generations of his family have lived in Oklahoma. (5 seems to be the magic number) Furthermore, every idiotic, right-wing extremist idea you can possibly think of is probably supported by the majority of Oklahomans if it didn't actually originate here."
Not everything "right-wing" can be fairly categorized as either "idiotic" or "extremist" some such notions are occasionally endorsed in this corner, in fact but a perfunctory glance through almost any issue of The Oklahoma Observer (geez, Frosty, get a Web site, wouldja?) will reveal some of what Lynn's talking about. If you've ever had any reservations about Bertrand Russell's quip that "there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence," a few weeks in Soonerland may prove to be scary.
Fortunately, our bloggers are brilliant.
21 August 2002
Mountains and hillsides enough to climb
Since it's Jackie DeShannon's birthday:
"What the world needs now is love, sweet love,
It's the only thing that there's just too little of."
Well, that and parking spaces.
What the Arabs have to Gein
The word for today is "sociopath", and Susanna Cornett puts it into an international context.
"Sociopaths have no 'tender feelings' that you and I would recognize, even though some of them fake it fairly well Ted Bundy, for example, was engaged twice during the time he was sexually torturing and killing women. You need to understand all this because the men who lead al Qaeda, the men who lead the Palestinian killer cults, are just that kind of sociopath. They enjoy killing. It's about power, it's about playing a game, it's about one-upmanship and feeling the rush of knowing that you will not stop even at murder society's greatest taboo. The people who die at their hands are so much cattle, fodder for their ideological slaughterhouse. They don't shrink at blood, people, they revel in it. Seeing an Israeli street scattered in body parts, hearing the sound of an American businessman's body bursting into jelly on a New York City public plaza, gives these men a hard-on. Do you get it? Do you understand? They are not human as we know human. Whatís more, they cannot be. CANNOT BE. Never. Ever. Period. End of story."
And just in case you missed the point:
"[B]efore someone tries to bring up their right to disagree with Israeli or US policies, I'm not obviating those differences. I'm saying, those things donít matter when the issue is terrorism. There is no context where terrorism is the right thing to do.
"Let me say it again: There is no context where terrorism killing innocent people deliberately to gain an advantage or just to cause fear, when neither they nor their leaders have first attacked or sought to harm you is right."
22 August 2002
Spammer, email thyself
Today's spam originated in Australia, where evidently they cut the crap and get to the point:
"You get emails every day, offering to show you how to make money. Most of these emails are from people who are NOT making any money.
"And they expect you to listen to them?"
Of course, I'm expected to listen to this.
Kickboxers in Peril
Most of my dreams have long since been dashed into shards, but I'm getting close to one of them: reading all the books by James Lileks. (I doubt I'll ever get to go through all his columns.) Not that this does Lileks a whole lot of good, of course; only one of them the beautifully-snide The Gallery of Regrettable Food is still in print. I did make a point of ordering it from Amazon.com through Lileks' own site so he could make an extra quarter or so on the deal. But I'm gradually acquiring the other volumes in the curious Lileks oeuvre: the first essay collection, Notes of a Nervous Man, made its way to my shelf earlier this year, and the second, Fresh Lies, has just arrived. The first Jonathan Simpson novel, Falling Up The Stairs, got here earlier this week, and the second, Mr. Obvious, is due Real Soon Now.
Needless to say, all these titles are worth your while, and worth the effort to track down. Since the publishers don't seem to be in any rush to return them to the stores, I'm taking what is, for me anyway, an unprecedented step: the $22.98 I spent for these used books (shipping via Dawdling Courier, LLC, not included) will be matched by $22.98 stuffed into Lileks' tip jar. It seems like the very least I can do.
23 August 2002
No lists please, we're British
Given the sheer quantity of flak stirred up by the BBC's putative "100 best" list of Great Britons, it was inevitable that someone would put together a list of the 100 worst. And it surprises me not at all that a handful of individuals appear on both lists.
It wasn't that long ago I counseled patience with the comments server.
There are still some tweaks to make, but the future of this site is Movable.
24 August 2002
Dean Esmay reports that in the last half of the 20th century conservatism ceased to be the red-headed stepchild of American political thought and then found itself at the dawn of the 21st to be the dominant strain.
Part of this, of course, is the fluidity of definition, especially political definition: the stance which was called "liberal" during the formative years of the Republic scarcely resembles late-20th century liberalism. Conservatives were old mossbacks or worse; conservatism wasn't stupid, in and of itself, exactly, but John Stuart Mill argued that "most stupid people [were] conservatives."
What happened in the interim isn't exactly clear, but Mr Esmay cites one particular factor that hadn't occurred to me: the decline of the purely-intellectual Left. Once upon a time, almost all of our philosopher types came from the left side of the spectrum; today, most of the left-wing voices we hear are spouting the same bunch of platitudes over and over. "Aside from a few rare exceptions," says Mr Esmay, "most 'liberal' argumentation seems to come from one of three places:"
This is the state of what once was the American intelligentsia: outflanked, then outnumbered, reduced to ad hominem arguments constructed for maximum cliché value.
I'm not about to argue that we've reached some sort of classical-liberal (let's call it "libertarian") Nirvana, or even that we're on the way. For one thing, there is still a substantial authoritarian component on the Right, and it has enough blind spots of its own to support the entire Western beam industry, let alone the odd mote. But with the American left in at least slightly self-inflicted decline, some benefits will clearly accrue. For one thing, there will be a lot less of that "Marx was right, but the Soviet/Chinese/whatever implementation was wrong" claptrap. And the leftist assumption that any conflict can be solved with an application of some sort of logic, especially their sort of logic, came crashing to the ground with the World Trade Center. "Increasingly," says Mr Esmay, "people associate 'liberal' with being just plain dumb." And with good reason, sometimes.
According to IMAO, the Blogger Pro spellchecker chokes on "blog" and "blogging".
What's next? Greymatter refusing color changes in its template files?
Words with the Lone Wolf
Fifty Penn Place in Oklahoma City is not your average mall. For one thing, it's vertical: retail and restaurants occupy the lower levels, office space fills up the tower. What's more, it's mostly devoid of chain stores. Instead of the usual panoply of Bed, Bath and Boredom, 50 Penn Place offers a place for beautiful women (I assume unbeautiful women are turned away at the gate, since I've never seen any there) to see the latest manifestations of, say, Stuart Weitzman