Dressed to the Nons

I watched the results of yesterday's French referendum on the European Union Constitution with what I can only describe as disinterested interest, not being a European myself. The French gave the measure a resounding defeat by more than 55% of the vote. I think they did the right thing, although many of them may have done it for the wrong reasons.

I went to the E.U. site on the link above yesterday morning and tried to actually read the proposed E.U. Constitution, and my eyes glazed over after about 30 pages or so. It runs a couple of hundred pages, and it prescribes in minute detail how the the E.U.'s subjects would be allowed to live their lives under its provisions. There is so much small print that just about anything could be hidden in there that would be useful to the Eurocrats who actually run the E.U. While paying lip service to individual rights such as "freedom of expression," it also abridges them by saying that:

"The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary."

In other words, any speech that might be perceived as infringing any of the other rights in the E.U. Constitution would be prohibited and punished. Indeed, at that point, about the only thing the French would really be free to say would be "Bonjour!" Such a provision would be unconstitutional in the United States.

I think the main difference between our constitution and the one the E.U. proposes is that in America, the people are sovereign and have inherent rights, and grant such powers to the State as it needs to function, and no more. In Europe, the State is sovereign and has inherent power, and grants such rights to the people as it deems necessary, and no more. We are a people who have a government; they are governments who have people. This is why so many of the leadership positions in the E.U. are unelected and unaccountable to the people they rule.



I watched a couple of movies on DVD over the weekend. By sheer coincidence, they were the same two that James Lileks also watched over the weekend: Team America: World Police and The Incredibles. Yes, two movies and neither one had any live humans in them; Team America featured some amazing animatronic puppets, while The Incredibles feature some amazingly good animation.

While Team America is a puppet movie, it is not for children, just as South Park is a cartoon which is not intended for children. Not coincidentally, both come from the twisted minds of Trey Parker and Matt Stone. Team America is hysterically funny, but is not for the easily offended or the squeamish. There is something in the movie to tweak just about everyone, although Muslim terrorists, Hollywood political activist actors and North Korean tyrant Kim Jong Il get nailed the worst, and none of it seems undeserved. The musical numbers are quite entertaining, from songs like the gleefully obscene theme song "America (F**k Yeah!)" to Kim Jong Il's poignant solo "I'm So Ronery" to the ballad "Pearl Harbor Sucked... And I Miss You." The action scenes also are amusing, especially the beginning sequence where we watch the Team America agents blithely destroy most of Paris' landmarks while taking out Muslim terrorists. Only a Francophile wouldn't get a chuckle out of it. The end of the movie was quite satisfying, although it does leave the possibility for a sequel wide open.

The Incredibles, by contrast, is suitable for the entire family. There's a lot to see, so you'll want to watch it more than once so that you can catch all of the little goodies in the background. I watched it the second time with the director's commentary track, and it was really interesting to learn how the various scenes had been farmed out to various animators working on the project. The special features on the second disk are also a lot of fun, especially the Top Secret files on the various "Supers." Not to go too deeply into the story, but it's about a couple of married super-heroes (Mr. Incredible and the former Elastigirl) who have been forced into retirement by events, and fifteen years later are living mundane suburban lives, raising their three children (who also have super powers that they must hide) in an early 1960s setting. Mr. Incredible misses the old days, though, and hangs out with one of his old crime-fighting buddies on a regular basis, and through that, gets drawn into what he thinks is a government project to regain control of a military Omnidroid project that has gotten out of control. All is not as it seems, and the story goes from there. This one is well worth seeing, if you haven't already seen it.


Yo, Adrian! ....Errr, Arlene?

We're still a week or so away from the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season, but we have a little tropical action already. Seems there's a (minimal)Pacific hurricane that just slammed into the west coast of El Salvador and is crossing northeast into the Caribbean, destination: Cuba. Of course, the mountains of central America will rip away most of the storm's power as it crosses them, leaving it at most a weak tropical storm when it reaches the Caribbean. By the time it hits Cuba, it will be just a tropical depression. It's not supposed to affect Florida at all.

I've heard that if it still has tropical storm strength winds when it comes out into the Caribbean, then it will turn into Tropical Storm Arlene, which is the first name for Atlantic tropical storms this year. While it would be an early storm, it wouldn't be unprecedented. In 2003, Tropical Storm Ana popped up in late April.

We don't have to worry about really major storms for a couple of months yet, since it takes a while for the waters of the Atlantic, the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico to warm up. The warm water is the fuel that runs the storm's engine, which is why the big storms don't usually occur until August and September. We will, of course, be making our preparations. Here in Florida, there's going to be a period of a couple of weeks at the beginning of June during which a certain amount of hurricane supplies purchases will be tax-free. Like all Floridians, I'm hoping that we won't see anywhere near as much hurricane action as we saw last year.


Monday Blahs

Yes, it's back to work. To improve your mood, here are a couple of goodies for you:

Huffington's Toast (Parody of Arianna Huffington's Hollywood liberal blog)

Store Wars (Organic but entertaining.)


Comments Policy

Okay, let's go over this quickly. I make comments available for my readers so that they can give intelligent replies to my posts if they wish to do so. This is a privilege, not a right. I do not make comments available for those who wish to make insulting and abusive remarks. Some people have been abusing the privilege.

You will notice that this post does not have any comments available. Blogger gives me a few options: New comments on, new comments off, new comments off and hide existing comments. The default for this blog has been open comments on all posts. That can and will change if people continue to abuse my hospitality.

On the post below, I disabled new comments but left the old ones visible. This gives me the last word on any conversation. I have the option of either holding abusive commenters up to the bright light of public ridicule if I so choose, or else making the comments disappear entirely on a particular post if I deem the comments to be sufficiently obnoxious.

I try to follow the Golden Rule and treat others the way that I would like to be treated, but if others are abusive and insulting to me, I reserve the right to reply in kind. You'll get it back, in spades. And remember, I do get the last word.

Finally, an aside to those of my co-workers who read this blog: It never ceases to amaze me how someone who wouldn't dare speak a harsh word to a person standing in front of him suddenly gets as bold as Attila the Hun when he can type anonymously from behind a keyboard.

If you have a problem with me, if you don't like what I have to say, or you don't like my political views, or you just don't like me, I don't really care. There are only a handful of people whose good opinion I value, and the odds are vanishingly small that you are one of them. But if you have something negative to say to me, then have the courage to say it to my face. I'm on BCS#14, Monday through Friday, Tour 1. Bring it on. Don't be a cowardly keyboard Attila.


What A Drag It Is Getting Old

More than ten years ago, I went to the Rolling Stones concert at Tampa Stadium during their "Voodoo Lounge" tour. It was rumored at the time that it might be their last tour. There have been a few more Stones tours since then, the most recent in 2002. Well, guess what, folks: The sexagenarian rockers are going out on tour again later this summer.

Now I'm wondering what the name of this tour will be: Steel Wheelchairs? One Foot in the Grave? Petrified Wood? Feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments.

Sometimes you're better off dying young and leaving a good-looking corpse. I think that Keith Richards is probably one of the undead. And when I looked at the picture of Mick Jagger on the Drudge Report website, I thought, "Which has more wrinkles, his face or that t-shirt he's wearing?" It was a photo finish.



I saw a story over the weekend about how the Earth's surface is getting 4% more sunlight than it did a decade ago, because of the reduction in air pollution in recent years, especially in the former Soviet bloc countries. The additional sunlight is believed to be accelerating global warming. I'm confused: We were told that pollution led to global warming so we needed to reduce pollution, but now that pollution is actually being reduced, we learn that also leads to global warming

Perhaps the most interesting thing is that we humans believe that we are the prime movers of global climate change. That's debatable at best. Sunspot activity seems to be a major player, and other long-cycle trends also have major effects. The longest cycle of all is the cycle of multiple long ice ages followed by much shorter interglacial periods over the past two million years or so. The ice ages lasted for an average of about 100,000 years, the interglacials only for about an average of 10,000 years. The current interglacial period has lasted about 14,000 years, so we could be due for another ice age just about any time. Indeed, it may only be human industrial activity and its concomitant "global warming" effect that is keeping us from the next global freeze.

The one thing we can be sure of is that the Earth of the past was very different from what it is like today, and that the Earth of the future will also be very different. Most areas that are dry land today were under water at one time or another in the past. The coastlines of the continents have marched far out and back in again as the sea levels rose and fell based on the amount of water locked up in ice sheets. Indeed, the continents themselves are constantly moving toward and away from each other. Antarctica was not always a frozen continent, and sometime in the future, it won't be again.

We have a hard time really understanding this, because our frame of reference is too narrow. We have a hard time taking the long view. We see things like coastlines as being permanent, because they haven't changed much during our lifetimes. Our lives are too short to see real change on a geological scale.


Late Night TV

Right now, I'm watching the Discovery Channel's Walking With Prehistoric Beasts. The first part of the show was about smilodon, the sabre-toothed cat. The computer graphics are amazing. The long-extinct animals look real and lifelike on the screen. Coming up next: Woolly mammoths. Cool.


05/05/05 05:05:05

The fives have it. Your moment of zen came this morning at 05:05:05 a.m. At that particular instant, the computer clock read 05/05/05 05:05:05. You won't be seeing that again. Sure, there's another 5:05:05 this afternoon, but that's really 17:05:05, which lacks the purity of this morning's special moment.

Only a year, a month and a day until 06/06/06.

Something else you don't see every day: This morning, there were a pair of swans being sent by express mail to a lady in Naples. They were in two large cardboard shipping cartons. We speculated about whether they were going to some condo association's lake or whether it was some wealthy lady wanting swans for the grounds of her mansion (lots of mansions in Naples). Either way, I hope the lady doesn't have some romanticized image of swans, because she may be in for more than she expects. I understand that they are very aggressive birds.


Faces of Meth

I was watching CBS News' "Up to the Minute" show this morning while I ate lunch. They had a story called "Faces of Meth Addiction", about a program in Portland, Oregon, where one of the local deputies is collecting before and after pictures of methamphetamine addicts to show how quickly their addiction takes its toll on their appearance. Not only does the drug damage the brain, but it makes people downright fugly in a matter of months. If you click on that link to the CBS story, there's a pop-up photo essay link on the right side titled "Faces of Addiction." They are not for the faint of heart. I really don't understand why people want to take a drug that will destroy their brains, make them psychotic and make them ugly as well.


This and That, #2

I was talking with a female friend at work about the "runaway bride" case in Georgia. Evidently her fiance still wants to marry her, which was mind-boggling to both of us, especially after she put him through being a suspect in her disappearance.

"She'd have to be pretty good in bed to be worth putting up with that," my friend said.

"She'd have to be like a porn star," I replied. We both got a good chuckle out of that.

Best new product: Cracker Barrel cheese sticks. Individually wrapped, single serving size, perfect for tossing into my lunch box as a snack. No fuss, no slicing, no dicing. I like the sharp cheddar (gold package) better than the extra-sharp white cheddar (red package). What took them so long? Beats the heck out of string cheese.


Scary Situation

We had a scary situation this morning at work. One of my co-workers is a cantankerous curmudgeon like me, but he's been doing it for far longer. I'm not sure exactly how much longer, but I know that he has great-grandchildren. Here in Florida, that's Wal-Mart greeter age territory, but the U.S.P.S. pays much better.

Anyway, he stopped off at my machine right before lunch time and we shot the breeze about the upcoming Crusades movie epic "Kingdom of Heaven," the Crusades in general and Monty Python. He told me an interesting story about one battle in the Crusades where things didn't quite go according to plan because the Muslims rode mares while the Crusaders rode stallions, with predictable results when the stallions caught a whiff of those mares which happened to be in heat. We had a good laugh about that.

When I was going on my last break a couple of hours later, I heard that he had choked on some food just a few minutes earlier. One of the women in the cafeteria did the Heimlich maneuver on him and dislodged whatever he was choking on, but then he started coughing up blood. They quickly called for EMS. I went in and saw that my friend was sitting there with a big trash can in front of him, pale-faced, while one of the women held a cold compress on his shoulders.

"If I die, [his ne'er-do-well son] gets nothing!" he said. "You're all witnesses!" We all laughed. That right there told us that he probably was going to be okay.

"Hang in there," I told him. "I would ask how you're doing, but I don't think that's necessary." He kind of chuckled at that. Someone else joked that he sure seemed to be going to extremes to get some time off.

The EMTs from the fire department showed up a few minutes later and started checking his vital signs. My break was over, so I had to leave. He's a tough old bird, even if he is no spring chicken, so I think he'll be alright. I don't expect to see him at work tonight, though.