Friday, December 26, 2014

Merry Christmas 2014!

Merry Christmas 2014 from the Dises!

We’re being advised by every weather prognosticator in eastern Virginia that this is going to be a cooo-ooold winter!  And it may well become one.  But not yet.  Our unseasonable warmth is making certain folks blame it on global warming.  On the other hand, if it was colder than normal, they would be blaming that on global warming, too.  And you thought all roads lead to Rome, didn’t you?  Wrong!  They all lead to a seat at the reviewing stand in the Al Gore Eco-Scold Parade.  Be sure you give a big ol’ salute to Big Al when you march past.  Meanwhile, I’ve been investing in Baffin Island waterfront.  Going with the floe, so to speak.  I’ve almost talked L.L. Bean into carrying linen suits and Panama hats for those scorching Maine winters.  By the time we’re done, the polar bears will be so confused, they’ll be bi-polar.

Speaking of ice, Debbie and I, along with twenty bazillion Dise cousins and friends, took a Holland-America cruise to Alaska this past August.  (Their slogan:  “Visit Alaska – before it’s baked!”)  Our friends Kevin and Ann Schmalz from New York joined us in Seattle, along with cousins Jim and Debbie Dise, Kelly and Jean Dise, Ed and Sally Dise, plus a cast of thousands of family friends.  Before boarding the ship, we took the “Tour of Seattle, Hell” on an uncharacteristically sunny and warm Seattle day.  The tour guide led us for many, interminable hours through the neighborhoods of Seattle, stopping to marvel at every blade of blessed grass that was fortunate enough to call Seattle its home.  Debbie (my Debbie) complained that her blood sugar was low since it was 1:30 PM and we hadn’t had lunch, and the sympathetic tour guide responded by driving us through yet more neighborhoods for yet another hour -- this time, we marveled at the lawn ornaments.  We did finally board the ship in time; thank heaven, but no thanks to Seattle’s most self-absorbed tour guide.

The cruise itself, I’m happy to say, was a wild success.  Our ship wasn’t one of the really gi-normous ones that pull dwarf stars in their wakes -- this one was only the size of a typical Virginia county, so we were able to head all the way up into the fjords and watch the big glaciers do pretty much nothing.  Think of glaciers as the ice machine of the gods.  They’re mostly blue, by the way, but well-peppered with soot.  You don’t see the soot in all those touristy travel brochures, do you?  I think it gets airbrushed away.  And any soot you see with flippers?  Those are seals, only slightly more frisky than the soot.   Then we arrived at Juneau, Alaska -- not at all named for Juno, the Roman goddess of politics, but for some old gold prospector named Mr. Juneau, who kept buying drinks for everyone in town until they agreed to name the town after him.  Political pandering has since gotten more sophisticated.  In the world of adjectives, Juneau is nestled in somewhere between quaint and beautiful -- too many state buildings to be quaint, too many run-down homes to be beautiful.  To know what makes Juneau special, you have to look at its setting: mountains and coastline.  The town starts at sea level and is pretty much built straight up into the nearby mountains -- after climbing the streets to the other end of town, we had to rappel back to the ship.  Best $15 ever spent -- we took a tour bus to the Alaska Brewery, where we received a lecture-tour of the facilities… and free samples.  It’s a nice story -- back in the Seventies, a young married couple visited Juneau, fell in love with the place, and wanted to move there.  But… what to do for a living?  She was a CPA, he was a chemical engineer whose hobby was beer-making.  They went door to door, trying to talk the locals into investing in their start-up brewery; today, the unhappiest people in town are the ones who turned them down.  Did I mention the free samples?   Yowzah!   Whoa, did the island just shift?  On our way back to town, as we passed a small island about two hundred yards offshore, the shuttle driver explained it had the world’s highest concentration of grizzly bears.  Can you imagine having to carry an elephant gun just to take out the trash?  Also, Mel Gibson once owned a home there.  The grizzlies had to carry elephant guns, too.  After Juneau, we also stopped at Sitka and Ketchikan on the way back to Seattle, but, by that time, I’d decided that life in the ship’s bar was more fun than climbing the streets, and the wildlife was slightly more active.  Cousin Jim had a system worked out to where we could max out our bar tabs during happy hour and carry a glass of cheap wine into dinner.  It takes a Dise to figure the important things out.  Cara Wallo, a member of our entourage, was one of the finalists in our ship’s version of “Dancing With the Stars!”  I contributed at karaoke time by doing my very best Jim Morrison impression.    Plus, I got to spend lots of quality time with my wonderful wife.  Don’t you love her madly?  I do.

Unfortunately, after thirty years of programming at a desk, my physique has come to resemble an oyster’s.  There are sports teams named after the big cats, bears, and other species of nature’s strong and swift predators, but I defy you to find an NFL team named after a mollusk.  Not getting any younger, and here at age sixty able to see old age from my backyard, I decided to sign up for strength training.  There’s a gym in Norfolk named “Brute Strength” and I went there to see Stella.  In the waiting area, I looked around and realized, I’m the weakest person in this gym, and that includes the pretty little twenty-something ladies.  There was a young boy sitting in the reception area, maybe seven years old.  I thought I might be able to take him.  Stella greeted me.  She’s a very nice lady, and about as helpful as anyone can possibly be.  She’s also only the ninth woman in history to bench-press 350 pounds.  That there is what we call ‘street creds’.  Stella trained me for about a month, and if I could afford it, I’d still be hiring her for every workout.  But I’m more or less on my own now.  And something happened that I never expected: I kinda like this.  After about a month, I started noticing these little tiny bumps starting to spring up in various places, where there had never been so much as a ripple or a ridge.  They’re not big enough yet to call muscles -- I call them “muscle sprouts.”  But recently I’ve had to take some time off, because, somehow, I hurt my lower back, and have been unable to work through it.  Now, my theory has always been, you have to have a muscle to pull a muscle.  That theory seems to hold -- I never had to worry about back pain until I had something resembling a muscle, and I never realized how debilitating it can be.  I’ll just have to find some way to work through all this, because at the moment, I seem to be hooked on lifting.

Speaking of dead-lifts, about a year and a half ago, Debbie and I invested in a zombie movie, “The Other Side”, written and produced by Pittsburgh’s Niespodzianski Brothers -- John and Chris.  I knew John when he was in the Air Force, and simply could not imagine him doing a bad job of anything he’d set his mind to do.  The biggest risk a movie investor takes is that the movie will never actually get made.  I just knew that wasn’t going to happen -- and it didn’t.  Cousin Jim Dise and I drove to Pittsburgh last spring, with my pastor, Wally Sherbon, to see a sneak preview, and again to see the theatrical premier in November, with my friend and colleague Martin Barritt.  Still don’t know whether there’s a financial happy ending, but so far we’ve gotten some excellent reviews, and the production team has announced we are very close to a distribution deal.  Fingers crossed!  If you happen to see the movie, watch for my name in the “Executive Producer” credits -- what I actually produced was a signature on a check, but it’s the thought that counts.  And meanwhile, if some folks who look dead come shambling toward you, don’t assume they’re just asking directions.  They might want to pick your brain about something.

Debbie’s dad, Bill Wallace, at age 86, broke his hip this past January, and both he and Debbie’s mom, Audrey, lost their ability to live on their own.  Debbie intrepidly drove them both up here this past March, and they took up residence with us here in our house.  Audrey is still with us here, but Bill’s health has met with a few setbacks, and he’s in a local nursing home now.  Breaking your hip when you get older is sort of a harbinger for other things, mostly not good.  We have no idea how things go from here, but we visit Bill a lot and he seems to be rolling with the punches pretty well.  We just celebrated Bill’s 87th birthday with beer and pizza.  Bill flirts outrageously with the nurses.

And that’s the year that was.  Debbie is still teaching 5th grade beginning orchestra, I’m still programming and playing trombone, and we both are grateful for the Lord’s many blessings.  This Christmas season; remember the One who came into this world to make life and death both worth celebrating, -- the New Life that is to come.

Love from,

Lee & Debbie 

Bill & Audrey, too!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Merry Christmas 2013!

Took the afternoon off work to write this… Debbie is in her best, most urgent “Have you written the Christmas letter yet?” mode -- so, with my schedule papered with musical performances later in the week, this is the ‘Do or die’ time, right now. Sitting here with a nice martini buzz (something else I can’t do at work) -- brain cells roasting on an open fire. The hi-fi is playing something by a group called “The Cars. Debbie will be out most of the day, conducting her fifth-grade strings concerts and, as usual, doing something productive. Me? I’m much more easily distracted, but the circumstances will never get better than this. Now! Let the stream of consciousness commence...

We’ve taken a whole bunch of trips this year. As much as I loved living in Omaha -- and I did -- there was usually an enormous time commitment involved whenever traveling to anyplace but Omaha. Not so in Virginia! Take a trip through Virginia if you want to see beautiful coasts/mountains/cities/wineries; take a trip through Nebraska if you want to see corn/sorghum/bison/grain elevators. Last May, Debbie and I traveled to Asheville, NC, to meet up with our good friends, Tom and Mary Salem. Tom is a former boss from my Omaha years -- yet strangely enough, we still like each other. We beat the odds. It is said that Asheville is the “San Francisco of the East” -- not an unfair comparison. Both Asheville and San Francisco are blessed with great natural beauty, and both seem to be very artistic in something of a counter-cultural way -- the difference is that in Asheville, you half-expect to see leftover Sixties hippies trading bong-hits with Daniel Boone. The ladies visited the Biltmore Estate, home of the Vanderbilts, who made their fortune in railroading -- exactly whom, I can’t say. Tom and I decided to go slumming instead and embarked on a brew-pub tour of beautiful downtown Asheville -- which bills itself as the brew-pub capital of the world. That’s pretty big talk, and we wanted to see if Asheville walked the walk. It did. All I really remember, though, is that there was lots of tasty dark bubbly stuff. And pretty waitresses. But after a sufficient amount of dark bubbly stuff -- must have been something chemical -- the pretty waitresses all started looking like Picasso had passed through Asheville on his plastic-surgery tour. My, what pretty eyes you have! Would you mind turning your head around so I can see your other two? On our way home, Debbie started having abdominal pains, and, from our cell phone, we arranged a rendezvous at a local hospital. Turns out, she had a kidney stone. Fortunately, it was small enough to pass on through with no further ado, and a few days later, it did. Like Bob Dylan said, everybody must get stoned -- Debbie, in her way; me, in mine.

As usual, I was signed up this past summer with the Tidewater Winds, a John Philip Sousa-style concert band that works pretty much every evening in July. However, this year, I hit a wall. My workplace switches over to ten-hour days in late June, so for the past several years, that has meant working ten hours, dashing home, scarfing a quick dinner, donning the tux , and heading out again for a two-hour gig. This past July, I decided I just can’t do this anymore. The Winds played a Christmas concert last week -- one of the most fun, ever -- and then I resigned from the group. They’ll do fine without me, and I just hope I’ll do fine without them.

In August, Debbie and I visited our friends Kurt and Patty Rauscher in Batesville, IN, not far from Cincinnati.  En route, we sat patiently on a runway in Norfolk waiting to depart for Cincinnati, via Philadelphia, in what I hope was the jet with the least effective air conditioning this side of Morocco.  When your sweat glands give up and turn into liver spots, you know you’re in for it.  By the time we arrived in Philly, we were cheese steaks.  Had a related thought that's just dying for its own "Far Side" cartoon:  a plane is being boarded by buzzards and hyenas (along with some real people). The buzzards and hyenas are carrying dead animals and a stench is overwhelming the humans, while the stewardess pleasantly announces, "Please check your carrion luggage."  Kurt is my friend of longest standing -- we've been close friends since I was in eighth grade.  That was… uh… twenty years ago??  Heh.  Try, uh, 45 years.  Kurt is a retired Delta Airlines pilot, and is enjoying his retirement very much -- "The hours are great,” Kurt says, “but the pay sucks.”  It was great to see Kurt’s parents, Merle and Irene, again -- when I was in high school, they always made me feel welcome, like one of the family.  Merle and Kurt even tried to teach me how to play golf, an endeavor inspired more of pity than practicality -- I can’t even master walking while chewing gum.  Then, to make matters worse, I lost about seventy pounds during my sophomore year – once I could actually see the golf ball, I didn’t know what to do with it.  We all went to a wonderful restaurant outside of Batesville where they make their own wine, and my reaction was, hey, they sell food too!

We took two trips to Pittsburgh this year -- the town where I went to grad school, where my academic career died an agonizing death before it was born, and where I learned to love the NFL -- hard to say for which I should be most grateful. As aging baby-boomers, we’re always on the lookout for yet another investment that can go sour, and this year we decided to invest in a movie. An old Air Force buddy, John Niespodzianski (not just another pretty name, I assure you), is the CEO of an upstart production company, Orchard Place Productions. They’re making a zombie movie named “The Other Side, so we decided, what the heck, and threw in some capital -- our portfolio has been like “The Walking Dead” for some time now, just thought we should make it official. In August, we enjoyed a long weekend at the William Penn Hotel in the beautiful downtown, and met John and his wife Cindy at a kick-butt beer joint named “The Sharp Edge.” Later on, we introduced Debbie to the inexplicable allure of Pittsburgh cuisine, which is to cuisine as a laboratory culture is to culture. We enjoyed a Primanti Bros. sandwich, which consists tomatoes, slaw, some species of meat (it’s not important which), and a fistful of French fries – all mashed down between two slabs of Italian bread. Then we went back to the hotel, had dessert and coffee, and listened to a fabulous jazz trio on the lovely art deco mezzanine. The next day, we met up again with John and Cindy at an old farmhouse west of Washington, PA (pronounced “Warsh-ington”), where the zombies were being filmed. You might be surprised how much effort goes into making a movie. There were actors and cameramen and directors and assistant directors and make-up specialists and… rain. Lots of rain. Debbie and I walked around like we owned the place -- and, in a very temporal sense, I guess we did, sort of. For a day, maybe. The cast and crew were very warm and welcoming. Cindy was… I don’t know the technical term, but she was the person in charge of finding discontinuities in the film -- like, hey, those brains were seeping out of your left temple yesterday, but today they’re hanging out of the right one, what gives? John is the producer, and I can’t imagine a better one -- he solved problems and brought food and kept smiling, sort of a one-man morale machine. On our way back to Virginia, Debbie and I met up with Jim Siehl, father of my college buddy Dan Siehl, and had dinner at the Jean Bonnet Tavern in Bedford, PA. Not only did George Washington sleep there, he left the recipe for his favorite porter. Mmmmmm. We decided to eschew the drama of I-95 and the D.C. Beltway, and traveled home via Winchester, VA (birthplace of Patsy Cline). It took a bit longer to take that route, but we were rewarded by a gorgeous drive through the Shenandoah Valley.

On our next trip to Pittsburgh, in early November, we got together with our upstate New York friends, Kevin and Ann Schmalz. There was a Pitt game and a Steeler game in town that weekend, so any thoughts of bargain-basement lodging prices were dispelled very quickly -- we wound up at a Hampton Inn about four miles north of downtown. That doesn’t sound like much of a distance, but when you consider that Pittsburgh is one of the hardest cities in the country to navigate, it’s worse than you think. Pittsburgh is a city in three dimensions. When you see a crossroads on a map, you think, okay, I get it -- but then you arrive and you’re on a bridge between two mountains and the “crossroad” is actually a small access road about a thousand feet below you -- welcome to Pittsburgh, where there is simply no substitute for knowing where you’re going. Even Tom-Tom was confused and started sounding like Robot from “Lost in Space” –- “When in danger, when in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout!” Kevin and I attended a Pittsburgh Symphony concert that was, without a doubt, the best I’ve ever heard. The least-uttered sentence in the English language is, “Wow, look at that trombone player’s Rolls-Royce!” Runner-up on that same list is: “Wow, what a musical bassoon player!” Yet that’s what Kevin and I were both saying as we left Heinz Hall. The Symphony performed Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade” -- it was everything you’d expect from a princess with a thousand tales. At some point since I left Pittsburgh, the Symphony had graduated from “good” to “world-class”. Next morning, we all had breakfast at DeLuca’s in the Strip District -- if you watch Tom Cruise’s “Jack Reacher”, a scene was shot right there in that restaurant. According to the waitress, they had to shut down for a week during the filming, for a scene that lasted all of forty seconds. We ordered the “Scientology Scramble” -- a double order of ham, served out of your gourd.

On April 2 this year, Debbie and I celebrated our 30th anniversary. We threw a shindig at our house, many of our wonderful friends and family attending. Debbie is still amazing. She teaches strings (music) at three different elementary schools and runs the music program at our church; she is the glue that keeps our household together. This past week has been a busy one for her, as she has been giving concerts -- conducting fifth-graders and herding them as well. I’m back with the Virginia Beach “Not Ready for Primetime” Symphony, and we’re performing Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker” ballet this week while the ballerinas pass the deux. The deux stops here. Our lives are truly blessed. We hope yours are, too. May the Lord of all Creation bless you this Christmas season and bring you all the happiness that comes with knowing Him and accepting His gifts.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

RINO Blasty

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Apology Excepted

Our politicians are always reminding us that an apology has a fairly strict form. They remind us by not following it.
Most modern apologies take the form, "We're sorry if you were offended..."

Firstly, any apology that contains the word "if" is not an apology. If someone is truly sorry, it isn't contingent on anything.

Secondly, any apology that personalizes the offended party is not an apology. "Sorry if you're offended" casts the offended party at least as a part of the problem. Is the problem that I was offensive, or that you were so thin-skinned? That's left unclear, and a good apology leaves nothing unclear.

However, such apologies can *sound* very close to a real apology, which is probably why politicians employ these bogus mea culpas.

Our Education secretary, a Mr. Arne Duncan, takes a more sophisticated route to the non-apology. He has been getting some pushback from critics of his "Common Core" initiative. Rather than answering them substantively, he said, according to the Washington Post, that he was fascinated by the fact that some opposition to the standards was coming from “white suburban moms” who fear that “their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were.” (No word as to what Common Core has to say about the use of argumentum ad hominem.) This frames their criticism as something unsubtantive without itself offering anything of substance, and in passing relies on a stereotype and a racial slur.

All this is fine and dandy, but unfortunately, some of the thin-skinned, white suburban moms took offense. An emergency like this calls for an excellent non-apology, and Arne's went something like this:
"I used some clumsy phrasing that I regret — particularly because it distracted from an important conversation about how to better prepare all of America’s students for success... I want to encourage a difficult conversation and challenge the underlying assumption that when we talk about the need to improve our nation’s schools, we are talking only about poor minority students in inner cities. This is simply not true. Research demonstrates that as a country, every demographic group has room for improvement."

As non-apologies go, this one is a masterpiece. Firstly, Arne expresses no contrition, but only "regret". "I feel remorse for my statements" is what the aggrieved party wants to hear -- whereas "I regret my statements" is more neutral.
E.g., I may regret my sins, and I may regret leaving my sunglasses at the restaurant.  But I don't have remorse for forgetting my sunglasses.

Then he admits to some "clumsy phrasing" when the real problem is that his phrasing was perfectly clear: a bunch of spoiled white suburban soccer moms who think they're kids are geniuses have the temerity to question the Secretary of Education... sniff.  A pox on them and their insufferable spawn.  I'm paraphrasing.

Then, Arne poses as someone who is sincere and means well, but has just been so misunderstood.  He says he wanted simply to "encourage a difficult conversation"... but then goes on to impute a lack of comprehension to his critics. Of course, difficult conversations don't get any easier when you lead off with a couple of insults. And it begs the question to insist that it's his critics who misunderstand the education process, and not him.

Ah well. We probably shouldn't criticize him at all. He is our public servant, you know. It's not our place to question our servants...
Update 11/20/2013:  I don't like Martin Bashir very much, and I certainly don't like his politics, but here he gives the world a lesson in how to deliver an apology (for an unspeakable thing he said about Sarah Palin)...

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Sounds Easy to Me

I'm an old warhorse database programmer/administrator, been programming since 1984, been a DBA since 1997. I've worked in defense applications, in intelligence applications, in the insurance business, and for school districts. If I haven't quite seen it all yet, I've sure seen a lot.

One of the things I've seen is that there are basically two types of people:

1. There are people who, if they don't know about something, assume that the something in question is not necessarily easily knowable. A programmer might assume, for example, that if he's worked on military software, that software for school systems might be at least as hard to master, even though that may sound counterintuitive to a non-professional.

2. There are people who assume, if they don't know about something, that it must be easy to learn. Does that sound strange? Yeah, to me too. But that is what a lot of people are like. People who would assume that school software is easier than military software. People who would assume that software is easy because they work on computers too, and all you have to do is point and click. People who assume that something can be done within the dictated deadline because that's what's on the calendar. People who, to pull out an old retread, believe that if a woman can have a baby in nine months, then nine women can pull it off in a month.

I've met plenty of people like that. If you try to explain the complications, they take it that you're making excuses. HR and benefits departments have at times seemed to be fully staffed by such folks.  A benefits lady where I once worked gave us a briefing on our retirement benefit and tried to gloss over an obvious gouging the employees received from the company, as if nobody in the room would notice. This was a room containing mostly mathematicians, physicists, engineers, and computer-science wonks, many of whom had masters' degrees and Ph.D's. But if one assumes that math and physics are no harder than payroll, you get someone who thinks she can sneak an intellectual knuckleball through the strike zone even though she's probably the dumbest person in the stadium. It didn't end well for her presentation.

If I were the guessing sort, I would guess that the entire ObamaCare software project is being overseen by our type 2 individuals. It would just never occur to them that delivering a brand-new application to be used by millions to sign up for health care would be all that complicated. They could tell it would be done by Jan 1, 2014 just by checking their calendars. Yep, there it is, Jan 1, 2014.

Lucky us.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Outsourcing Slavery?

Where does being a "wage slave" stop and being a slave begin? 

Maybe the United States doesn't just outsource jobs.  Maybe we also outsource slavery.  Is that an exaggeration?  If so, it's a slight one, and the Bloomberg writer agrees:  "Apple, along with others, calls that bonded labor, a form of modern-day indentured servitude, one step removed from slavery."  However you put it, it's not something the U.S. Dept. of Labor or the National Labor Relations Board would accept.

There's something for everyone in today's world economy.  They get our money, and we acquire their indifference to workers' conditions.  When the Fourteenth Amendment gets outsourced, so do OSHA regulations.  We depend on China to ensure that their workers are treated fairly and safely.  The suicide nets set up outside the workers' dorms, to keep the workers from jumping to their deaths, may or may not apply.

That's not all.  We also outsource EPA regulations -- "Pollution in China" gets in own page in Wikipedia.  The U.S. is all for "saving the planet" when "the planet" is defined as our own backyard.  The EPA lacks jurisdiction in China, but of course we don't have to trade with them.  Maybe the theory is that we can ruin half of the Earth's environment so long as it's the half we don't live in.

And don't forget other obligations businesses incur when operating in the U.S.  ObamaCare's heavy and incompetent hand is already poised to turn the U.S. into "part-time nation", as more businesses are and will be cutting back their workers' hours to 29 per week, to avoid getting completely sucked into helping liberals sleep better at night.  Ruining the U.S. labor market may not have been the intention of the ObamaCare legislation, but the "law of unintended consequences" is always a lurking presence when policy decisions are made -- and, like Glenn Close's psychopathic character in "Fatal Attraction", it is not gonna be ignored.

Businesses outsource not just to avoid paying higher wages, but also to avoid the other costs of producing something here in the U.S., and that includes taxes and the aforementioned regulations (including EPA and OSHA).  Maybe there's a happy medium somewhere that would enable businesses to turn a profit even when operating in the U.S., while also dealing with the government's ethical and environmental concerns.

If so, we'll never find that happy medium if we need government bureaucrats to find it.  Government bureaucrats are not judicious conservators of our nation's way of life.  They are attack dogs.  Chasing an issue beyond the bounds of any positive return is no deterrent to getting to sink teeth into a businessman's neck.  Doing so may ruin someone else's job opportunities, but the bureaucrat gets paid whether or not his actions help or hurt the economy, and life is always good in Washington.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Church of Liberalism vs. the Infidels

ObamaCare is floundering and Margaret Carlson is one unhappy liberal, which happens to be my favorite kind.

Carlson: "The website failure gives credence to those who warn that government can’t be trusted to get big things right, and that the market, not bureaucrats, should fix health care. It’s not just the crazies who doubt government now. According to the Pew Research Center, the competence of officialdom is on shaky ground, with only 19 percent of Americans saying they trust in government 'just about always' or 'most of the time.'"

"Crazies". I guess she means people like me -- people who don't always trust the government to do the right thing, whether through ignorance, incompetence or malice; people who believe, to quote another "crazy":

"Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master."

The "crazy" who said that, by the way, went by the name of George Washington, who just happens to be the fellow after whom liberalism's Mecca was named.

For that's what we're dealing with here: a religion. There is no god but liberalism, and Obama is its prophet.  We are imbued in liberalism's moral precepts in the schools, battered incessantly with its presumptions in the popular media, and continually and coldly assessed by the keepers of its flame for any signs of heresy, unbelief, or rebellion.  Suspend a student from school for wearing an NRA T-shirt, or for physically defending himself in a fight.  Ostracize Chic-Fil-A and the Boy Scouts when they defend the traditional family.  Smear Clarence Thomas and Herman Cain with rumors of sexual misconduct when they take the national stage espousing a heretical viewpoint, while ignoring Bill Clinton's and John Edwards' own sexual issues for as long as possible because they're true believers.  When liberals speak of "crazies", what they really mean is infidels.

That makes liberalism, in Marxian terms, the opiate of the high and mighty classes.  It is the religion of choice for the clueless cognoscenti, such as Ms. Carlson. "Heaven" is the Great Society, our goal, our eschaton -- a social paradise, perfectly just, perfectly managed, and based on our shared faith in man's reason, knowledge, and inherent gosh-darn goodness.  Wicked resistance yet exists, but can be wholly blamed on the deprived childhoods and lack of (federally-funded) education of the benighted classes (that's us, by the way -- murderers, pimps, thieves, conservatives, and other species of "bitter clingers"). Society's institutions have failed to create a citizenry worthy of their vision. To create the Great Society requires tearing down our outmoded institutions and replacing them with newer, shinier ones.  Not justice, but social justice.  Not prison, but rehabilitation and re-education.  Not the family, but the village.  Not the church, but the progressive university.  Not the Constitution that James Madison helped write, but the "living Constitution" that the Supreme Court gets to re-write -- it's life, Jim, but not as we know it.

The opposing viewpoint, espoused by "crazies" like George Washington and me, is that man is imperfect in knowledge and character -- a fallen creature whose motives are suspect even on those rare occasions when his competence is not; whose laziness and greed require an incentive structure like the free market to get him to lift so much as a finger for his fellow man; and whose depravity requires institutions like the family and the church just to get him to behave himself.  You'll want to be very careful when dealing with such a creature.  You'll want to empower him to improve his own lot in life, while still protecting everyone else's.  Unfortunately, this also empowers him to ruin his own life.  And while it's dangerous to trust the governed, it's catastrophic to trust their governors:  you'll want to disperse political power and bind it with a constitution.  Unfortunately, this also disempowers the government from doing all the things some think it should. 

What you don't want is to collect too much political and economic power together under the hood of one mighty and unstoppable vehicle, and then hand over the keys to anyone who is not Jesus Christ.  Contrary to what the breathless and gushing Evan Thomas thinks, Barack Obama is not Jesus.  To judge by his recent spate of incompetencies, he's not even Pontius Pilate.

We had plenty of warning.  The Bible advises us, put not your faith in man. Discretion tells us, don't fix what ain't broke. Experience should have told most of us that slick hucksters, whether they wear the loud houndstooth and leering grin of the used-car saleman, or the blue serge and ingratiating smile of the professional politician, are to be taken with a grain of salt.

But many of us bought it anyway.  And now we have to suffer the consequences.  Alleluia, amen.