Fifty thousand

50,000 visits since this blog began on October 8th. Not exactly Instapundit territory, but it’s been quite a success in my opinion. Thanks to all the regulars stopping by, and I hope you’ll all continue to do so in 2004. I’ve very much enjoyed the experience, and I have no intention of stopping anytime soon.

Have a happy and joyful new year.

Mowbray gang agley

Joel Mowbray writes: Technically, the former head of the Central Command in the Middle East didn’t say “Jews.” He instead used a term that has become a new favorite for anti-Semites: “neoconservatives.” As the name implies, “neoconservative” was originally meant to denote someone who is a newcomer to the right. In the 90’s, many people self-identified themselves as “neocons,” but today that term has become synonymous with “Jews.”

Joel Mowbray has done some yeoman’s work on Saudi Arabia in the last year, but he’s seriously smoking crack if he thinks that neoconservative is synonymous with Jew. A neoconservative is someone who pretends to be a conservative, but supports a Wilsonian foreign policy. Alternatively, a big government conservative. In either case, a left-moderate in conservative clothes.

There may be many Jewish neoconservatives these days, as their formerly beloved Marxists and left-liberals have turned on them with a vengeance over Israel. Unfortunately, they haven’t abandoned many of their anti-conservative positions. If they had, there would be no need for the adjective “neo” now, would there. I am opposed to neoconservatives. I also defend the Jewish people and Israel at every opportunity. Am I, too, an anti-semite? The fraudulent manufacture of verbal offense via code word is much better left to the anti-intellectual vocabulary perverters of the Left.

Zinni hasn’t tarnished his reputation. Mowbray, sadly, has.

Shut up, TMQ, we know

In fact, by Monday that page [at] opened with, “The football gods must have something against the Vikings.”

Clearly, it’s time for Ragnar to execute the blood eagle on representatives from the Dallas Cowboys, the Washington Redskins, the Atlanta Falcons and now the Arizona Cardinals. Why do I have the feeling that there’s a lot of Redskins’ fans who’d like to nominate Steve Spurrier?

Mailbox: the vanity of virtue

JX writes: Yeah, Vox. Slice and dice those morally self-righteous liberals. Sometimes it’s like picturing a primetime fight between Lennox Lewis and Rosie O’Donnell. I have an important question:How do you deal with those people around you who accuse you of being ‘better’ than they for your choices? I’ve come across that lately, some people I used to hang with back in my secular days referred to me as Mr. X in the street instead of my first name in order to diss me, and their sly assaults on my character are making me madder than I should be. How would you go about attacking this?

Well, first, I don’t get a lot of this, if any. I’ve made some impressively bad choices in my day, so the notion of portraying myself as some sort of behavioral exemplary would strike a lot of those who know me well as being more than a little humorous. Your problem is that you are still too concerned with what the world thinks of you. Who cares? And what is important to keep in mind is that even as they are mocking you, they are watching your behavior. It’s good that they have noticed a difference – a very minor, but totally uncharacteristic change in the White Buffalo’s behavior was integral to my reassessment of Christianity – so you should not be angered by their taunts, you should be pleased. If you are greeted as Mr. X, then smile, give them a little mock bow, greet them with a friendly “Mr. Y” and let it slide. Don’t attack it, ever. Eventually, one of them will probably approach you quietly and want to talk in depth about the changes in your life.

What is this, an advice column today? Where’s the hate?

Mailbox: On learning language

JB commiserates about the Vikes and asks: Question…did you learn those foreign languages at an early age? I have recently tried to learn a bit of Italian. Although I can speak and understand some basics, I can’t imagine the amount of work it would take to get fluent at reading the language. If you learned to read either of these languages as an adult, were there any particular strategies you used to help you in your quest?

No, I did not. I had five years of German in junior high and high school with an excellent German teacher. I studiedJapanese in college and learned Italian as an adult while living in Europe. My Italian is usually described as “bellissimo… per un americano”, which is to say that it’s functionally conversational as long as the other person doesn’t speak troppo veloce or use a lot of idioms. I still remember trying to figure out how the heck a wolf had come into the picture during a conversation about school when my friend saw my confusion, laughed, and explained that “in the mouth of the wolf” is an idiom used to say that you’re facing a difficult situation. One responds by saying “hit the wolf”, if I recall correctly. Of course, Italians are so shocked that you speak any Italian that they tend to give you far too much credit. My German used to be quite good, but it’s been so long since I’ve used it that it’s a real struggle. More often than not, it tends to come out Italian. The Japanese is totally shot.

I find that reading a language is much easier than speaking it. The tough part about reading Italian is the placement of pronouns, as they tend to scatter si and ci around pretty haphazardly – the fact that both words are part of the reflexive verb structure as well as serving as a pronoun and at least one other unrelated word doesn’t make it any easier – and the use of the gender-specific “the” as a pronoun is also confusing. La what? Which la? Le? Who? Speaking also doesn’t help as much with reading as you’d hope. I was reading “Il visconte dimezzato” and fortunately, references to starvation, putrifecation and corpses hadn’t tended to come up in my everyday conversation with people, so I was forced to resort to the dictionary distressingly often.

I would recommend starting with a book like 501 Italian Verbs, published by Barron’s, which has the seven simple tenses and seven complex tenses for the most common verbs. Verbs are the key to any language, as once you have that, its usually relatively easy to figure out the subject and the object. Make up a flash card system or use something like WinFlash on your computer. Don’t go on from the present indicative until you know 85 percent of them down cold, then start mixing in the imperfect, future and present perfect conjugations. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of irregulars, but having the basics down really helps. Just do 15 minutes every day, and you’ll make progress.

I warned you, Penelope

I find it tremendously amusing when someone complains that I have embarrassed them by utilizing the cruel device of quoting them at length in public. It is particularly ironic when they are clearly unaware that I respond every week to critical email, while at the same time asserting detailed knowledge of me, my philosophy and my membership, or lack thereof, in various organizations.

I do not post private correspondence. When you send me an insult-filled diatribe about a column I have published somewhere, we are not corresponding. I freely admit that I rather enjoy vivisecting nonsensical lunacies for the benefit of my readers, but such missives are wholly unsolicited nevertheless.

I have zero sympathy for those who believe they should be able to freely rail at public figures without consequence. Perhaps most columnists suffer such blather in Olympian silence; I do not. I stand by what I write, and I expect everyone else to do likewise. Polite and reasonable criticism will always receive polite and respectful treatment, both in this blog and via email. Baseless assertions and petty insults will be mercilessly mocked. The choice, dear hate mailer, is always yours.

I have said it before. I will say it again. Don’t bring it if you can’t take it.

So not surprised

California’s parks department, staggered by the state’s budget problems and trying to avoid closing dozens of parks, announced Tuesday it will raise entrance and camping fees to their highest levels in history. Some fees will more than double at California’s 277 state parks, which range from redwood forests to “Baywatch” beaches, desert ghost towns to mountain ranges, and battlefields to Lake Tahoe shoreline sites. Getting into Hearst Castle, for example, will jump from $12 to $25.

I warned about this. When you vote for a pragmatic Republican, you not only get tax increases, you usually get tax increases that are worse than anything the Democrats can put together. This is the first step – Arnold will soon go back on his pledge not to raise taxes, because “the situation is worse than he realized it was before he took office.” Isn’t it always.

The spending half of the equation won’t be significantly addressed because that’s harder. So, Schwarzenegger will be saluted in the press for his “courage” and California Republicans will finally begin to realize that they screwed themselves badly in electing a pragmatic man without any commitment to small government principles.

In truth, he’s already violated his pledge. Fees are taxes, they’re just slightly more optional.