Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Enjoying Las Vegas qua Las Vegas

While I did those things for which I came to Vegas, Debbie had been rammin' around the various hotels and casinos much of Saturday. The Liberty Lives! Conference was over after a nice buffet lunch early Sunday afternoon, following which I became freed up to check out some of these things, as well.

Debbie had been talking about seeing a show while we were there, but many of them were closed Sunday and others were outrageously expensive. Since we'd talked about seeing one of the tribute shows, she bought a couple of tix for a show called "The Rat Pack is back!"

As we walked from our hotel to the Greek Isles Hotel and Casino, which contains the theater at which the show is presented, we began to be concerned, as we noted that the building had a rather "weathered" appearance. Our concern was not partucularly diminished as we entered the building and observed a relatively small and spartan casino.

Concern mounted as we went to the will-call window to get out tickets. The male member of the couple in front of us was having a discussion with the clerk.

"Sandy said the tickets would be here for me."

I couldn't hear the "I'm sorry sir, I don't find anything in your name."

The man produced a cell phone. "Just a second. I'll call Sandy." And, turning to me, "I'm sorry this is taking so long."

He says something I can't hear to his phone, then hands it through the slot in the window. "Here's Sandy."

After a few seconds, the clerk hands the phone back to the gentleman, then after several seconds, pushed his tickets out to the gentleman.

He took his tickets, thanked the clerk. He and his lady turned to Debbie and me, apologizing once again.

Well, Debbie and I got our tickets, then went to the hotel's restaurant for a pretty ordinary dinner while waiting for showtime.

When we were seated, 'twas at a table well back from the stage. We were going to have trouble seeing over those in front of us. After pondering that fact for a few minutes, we were approached by an usher, who offered us better seats down near the stage. Whoopee!

The show turned out to be excellent! "Dean Martin" sang a couple of his standards, and did so extremely well. Facially, one could tell it wasn't really Dean Martin, but that's about the only way. He had the voice, the moves and the manerisms, not to mention the Dean Martin rap. As the show continued, the same proved to be true of "Sammy Davis, Jr," "Joey Bishop" and "Frank Sinatra." They were really good!

About two-thirds of the way though the show, "Marilyn Monroe" joins the group on stage. She banters with the boys in perfect Marilyn Monroe style, then is given the stage. She sings, going out into the aisles, soon asking who's having a birthday. Interacting with those who respond, she picks out an elderly gentleman and proceeds to sing Happy Birthday, in the style the original performer famously sang to President Kennedy, years ago. Planting a couple of lipsticky kisses 'pon the gentleman's face, she returned to the stage for the rand finale act, performed by all five performers, during which a jet of air reproduced the famous skirt-lifting scene from The Seven-Year Itch."

Great show!

As we stood to exit the room, who's sitting in the booth directly behind us? The couple who were in front of us at the will-call window. We chatted, briefly. Turns out he's Dick Hardwick, a comedian currently working at the Sahara. "Sandy," was Sandy Hackett, son of the late, great Buddy Hackett. Sandy is one of the producers of the show, and plays Joey Bishop.

We left the room still chatting with Dick and his wife, and ended up meeting the members of the cast and talking with them for a little while. Dick didn't say anyting, but I'm pretty sure it was he who got Debbie and me the better seats down near his table. Cool!

And I got to hug "Marilyn Monroe!"

We went casino hopping the next day, and did a little more gambling, collected a few souvenirs and went up to the top of Paris Las Vegas' Eiffel Tower. It might only be half the size of the original in Paris, but 'twas still very high at the observation deck up top. Debbie was white knuckling the handrail.

Then, there was the drive home. We'd had a lot of fun, and I include the drive home in my favorite car, at night, across the desert under the stars. There's a Bob's Big Boy in Baker. I haven't eaten at a Bob's Big Boy in easily fifteen years.

It would've been worth it just to drive there and then drive back.

They've killed Freedom! Those bastards!

Warm regards,

Col. Hogan
Stalag California

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Agreement and Disagreement

One of the things I like about Liberty magazine is that, other than its commitment to libertarianism (precise definition to be determined later), the editors have taken no sides regarding the various contraversies within the movement. the writing of any individual can be accepted into the pages of the magazine, as long as it's well written and makes a coherent point.

Thus, there are pro and con articles on objectivism, the Libertarian Party, Friedman and Rothbard, to mention a few. They occasionally publish a fiction story and I think I even recall a poem or two. One can send in a comment on a news story to be printed in the Reflections column or just a clipping that may be placed in Terra Incognita.

It's for this reason, among a few others, that I decided to attend Liberty Lives!, the 2006 Liberty Editors Conference, in Las Vegas earlier this month.

There were several talks by individual speakers and several panel discussions on a variety of topics.

Mark Skousen tried to define the optimal size of government. I'm not sure that I got the entire program, but it started with a stipend from government, to be paid to every American, I guess out of the general fund, to take the place of all welfare and subsidy. While it might actually be less expensive than the outrageous hodge-podge we have now, it still requires that the funds first be extorted from the productive, with the unavoidable "administrative" rakeoff that always seems to serve to cause the "administators" to become the wealthiest among us.

My comment is that whatever government ought to exist, must exist in the absence of the initiation of force by said government. In other words, the only government that ought be tolerated is that which finances itself on a purely voluntary basis and never initiates the use of force.

Skousen returned Saturday morning to speak about Benjamin Franklin, and some of his lesser known activities to aid the cause of the American Revolution.

David Friedman gave the keynote address, in which he spoke about the upcoming changes, for better and for worse, to be caused by new technologies we'll soon be seeing. Some of it, to be employed by government and corporate entities, will increase surveillance of us all and make personal privacy more and more difficult. On the other hand, some of that technology will also serve to help us secure our financial privacy and to make interpersonal communication more private. Friedman, in his professorial style, admonishes us to become familiar with this new technology as it becomes available, and to use it to our best advantage.

Friedman also appeared in a few of the panel discussions, including "How to Fix the Drug Laws" (repeal them), The Future of Liberty, Libertarianism and Religion, and others.

Another highlight for me was the appearance of Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw. I read their book Life Extension: A Practical Scientific Approach (Warner Books, 1982) back when it was new, and have thought they're on the right track nutritionally since then. I've also appreciated the fact that they're in a constant battle with the evil FDA for our right to ingest that which we, each individual, wish. Ocasionally, David does slay the giant!

Pearson and Shaw gave a talk they called "One Million Deaths by FDA," in which they described one of the battles they had with the incompetent regulatory agency, regarding the right to publicize the beneficial characteristics of fish oil supplements. The one million deaths refers to the number of heart failure deaths that might have been prevented had fish oil advocates been able to publicize their findings earlier. The rule was, as I understand it, that fish oil supplements were on the market, but it was illegal to publicize the findings of studies that show the dramatic effects fish oil supplements have toward preventing sudden death heart attacks.

Jo Ann Skousen moderated a panel on Liberty in Film, in which the panelists described some of their favorite movies, and why they believe they have libertarian messages.

Saturday evening held the climax of the conference. It started with a very tasty Mexican food buffet dinner. Following dinner was a tribute/memorial to the life of Bill Bradford, the founder and late publisher of Liberty, during which several individuals described their friendship and experiences with Bradford during his life.

The evening was topped off by an hour of comedy by Tim Slagle. I only knew Slagle from the several short bits he's had published in the Reflections column in the magazine. They are always witty, funny and make good libertarian points. His stand-up routine was similar, but with a lot more belly-laughs. He made fun of vegetarians, "why don't carnivores have simulated salads made from lettuce-flavored meat?"and marijuana, with a little on the benefits of DDT. His humor was of the sort that one doesn't have to be drunk to find funny.

Debbie didn't attend the conference except for the Saturday night dinner program (which she also enjoyed), preferring to check out the various hotels and casinos on the Vegas Strip. She actually won a little money!

As for me, I had a great time, met several new and interesting people and learned a lot about one of my favorite monthly reads!

They've killed Freedom! Those bastards!

Warm regards,

Col. Hogan
Stalag California

Friday, October 27, 2006

In Search of Lost Grammar

While attending Liberty Lives! last week (a full review of the proceedings is coming soon), I had an opportunity to chat with Stephen Cox, Editor of Liberty and a professor of literature at UC San Diego, during which he mentioned that he was a grammar nut. While I have to admit my knowledge of English grammar is far less than his, I told him that I too, found it very annoying that most Americans have little education and a poor understanding of the language they use to communicate with others.

In recent issues, Mr. Cox has been writing monthly articles called "Word Watch," in which he discusses communication issues.

It occurs to me that I ought to mention the odd case of the mugging of the English language, particularly when it's perpetrated by professional communicators.

For my first example, I'll use a phrase that pops up very often on tv and radio, and they always get it wrong. When speaking of a gap between two entities, a newsperson will say," between A to B."

Anyone who has ever set foot inside a school, even if just to use a bathroom, should know better than that.

Between A to B.

I hear it daily in the media. What kind of uneducated cretins are they hiring, these days?

It's "between A and B." Or alternatively, "from A to B."

I knew we were in trouble when, several years ago, the news covered a teachers' strike. The teachers were picketing on the public sidewalks in front of the schools carrying signs and chanting silly slogans.

The bad news? Several words on many of the picket signs were misspelled.

I fear for the health of the Republic.

Warm regards,

Col. Hogan
Stalag California

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Viva Las Vegas!

Well, I'm back. One of the fun things about the trip was the drive out there, starting at 0100 Friday. Cruisin' along a desert highway in the wee hours, where our main company on the road was 18-wheelers and billions of stars on a moonless night is hard to beat.

We arrived at the New Frontier hotel at about 0730 and found a nearly empty casino. We had a first-thing-in-the-morning beer at the bar, which was surfaced with video poker machines, then went into the hotel restaurant (The Orchard) for a real breakfast. The cook there actually knew how to fry eggs to order! They have a breakfast buffet there, but Debbie and I agreed to skip it in favor of the menu. All I'd do is eat a whole bunch of bacon, and I don't need that.

The room left a lot to be desired. It wasn't fully maintained--the TV cabinet (which we never used) had a broken door and the bathroom fixtures had a lot of old calcium buildups and corrosion damage. The large window gave us a view of the beautiful Wynn hotel across the Strip, instantly making us wish we were staying there instead.

The few daylight hours I spent in the room were spent watching the construction work on what looks like a second Wynn building going up alongside the first. I can watch construction work all day (busman's holiday), and watching the crews' skill as they lift rebar mats into place and tie them down, and watch concrete crews placing the material is so cool!

Both Debbie and I did a little gambling, with a surprising degree of success--if you define success as breaking even. Remember: the percentage is always with the house. Debbie got a kick out of watching the action at the craps tables and I enjoyed watching the play at the roulette wheels. Neither of us knows enough about the games to be able to bet intelligently, so in the end, all we did was watch.

One of the (sort of) disturbing things about Las Vegas flows from the fact that it's been thirty years since my last visit to the town. Thirty years ago, it seemed like the casinos made their money mainly from the games. Everything else was either free, or very inexpensive. Rooms were cheap. Meals ditto. Shows, too.

Now, everything is its own profit center, therefore everything costs what it actually costs. I guess I don't actually have a problem with that, but it seemed odd to have to pay as much for a steak as it'd cost in LA. I suspect the cause of the change has its roots somewhere in the tax structure. The government extortionists have to get their clutching fingers into the pot, as well!

I can't complain, though (well actually I can, but who's gonna listen?) because Debbie and I had a very good time.

While I attended Liberty's Conference, Debbie did some exploring. She went up and down the Strip checking out a few of the casinos. We did a bit of that together too, after the Conference was over. I'll get into that in a subsequent entry.

'Twas the best vacation we've had in years.

They've killed Freedom! Those bastards!

Warm regards,

Col. Hogan
Stalag California

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Liberty Lives!

I'll be heading out to Vegas for a few days, starting tomorrow. Among other things, I'll be attending the Liberty Editors Conference at the New Frontier Hotel. Speakers will include editors and contributors to Liberty Magazine. Part of the weekend will be a celebration of the life of Liberty's Founder and Publisher, the late R.W. Bradford, a fellow whom I'd really have liked to have known.

I'll write a report on the proceedings 'pon my return.


Warm regards,

Col. Hogan
Stalag California

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Respect Mah Authoritaa! (Or Go To Juvie Hall!)

Poor Julia Wilson (age 14), unsophisticated with regard to the perilous times in which we live, thought--as many of us do--she was able to express political opinion as she sees it, under the protection of Amendment the First to the Constitution of the United States.

According to a story on AccessNorthGa.com, linked on Drudge, she posted a photo of the President on her web page 'pon which she wrote, "Kill Bush" (her words, not mine, Mr G-Man).

She was taken out of class by a couple of SS thugs and questioned, and they were, reportedly, "unnecessarily mean."

I understand that they were just trying to scare the crap out of the kid, and they did just that, but does her admittedly crude statement of opinion qualify as a threat to the life of the President? I think that a cursory examination would've shown them that this was just a kid who doesn't like the Iraq war.

Hell, I don't like the Iraq war.

Now, Julia, justifiably angry after having been raked over the coals by our government's best jack-booted thugs, now plans to organizing other students to protest the war. Here's hoping she takes some time to study the nation's founding documents (I doubt the President has) and to learn what her rights are and what's right and what's wrong with the Republic.

It certainly is illegal to threaten the life of the President, and it ought to be (though no more so than to threaten the life of any other person), but it is just as certainly not illegal to express dislike for the President and his policies.

They've killed Freedom! Those bastards!

Warm regards,

Col. Hogan
Stalag California

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Green Swastika

According to a memo written by the US Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works, dated October 11, 2006, Grist Magazine staff writer David Roberts has written an article advocating Nuremburg-style trials of members of the global warming "denial industry."

This is pretty remarkable, in view of the fact that most of those advocating the erroneous notion that there is a warming trend in the earth's climate and that the actions of mankind are the cause are largely agenda-driven "scientists" whose findings determine the size and scope of the grants they may receive. Lest there has been any doubt at all, this shows very clearly that Hitlerian fascism still lives, and that one of its homes is in the environmental wacko clubhouse. It's also interesting when advocates of a failing program attempt to elevate it to a "war" status--which is what this "war crimes" ploy tries to suggest--to attempt to give it further credence.

It fails completely and begins to illustrate the degree of desperation to which a psychotic will descend as he realizes the errors in his carefully-laid plan have finally been exposed. Watch for the advocation of even wilder acts of craziness in the near future

When simple logic shows that a single volcanic event, such as the Krakatoa eruption in 1883, threw more greenhouse gases and particulate matter into the atmosphere than all the actions of mankind in its entire history, one has to wonder how there can be any reasonable advocates of mankind-caused climate change.

I'm not sure if this places me in Green Kangaroo Court legal jeopardy, but I'll consider myself successful when the Green Meanies come knocking on my door to haul me off to trial. I'll be in pretty good company, I think.

As I've written here, and in previous entries to this site, the public advocates of this imaginary phenomenon, largely the of Hollywood airhead set and the political way far left, are much less interested in the climate than in effecting political change. And, they ain't advocating capitalism, boys and girls.

They aren't exactly saying, but logic indicates that they're in favor of some variant between a feudal and a hunter-gatherer society--with them, of course, cast in the role of the aristocracy. Else, why the condemnation of technology in general, and labor-saving devices in particular? Why the utter disdain of private (read liberty-fostering) conveyances and the accompanying freedom of movement they provide?

Well, we had a relatively short heat wave that ended about a month ago, and currently the days are cool and the nights are cooler. I bet that torques 'em off!

They've killed Freedom! Those bastards!

Warm regards,

Col. Hogan
Stalag California

Monday, October 09, 2006

Writer's Block....

I've been trying to write an entry about the Republicans' utter failure to do anything other than continue the destruction of the Bill of Rights and attempt to remain in power (presumably to finish the nullification of the rest of the Constitution), but it wasn't quite working. Meanwhile, I wasn't getting anything posted.

I'm gonna write some easier stuff for a bit.

Like, today. I started to watch Hannity and Colmes on Fox. Unremarkably, they spent the first several minutes talking with the very shady Col. Oliver North about North Korea. They were saying the predictable things about strengthening the ill-conceived "Patriot Act," and getting the do-nothing UN to write yet another resolution or something.

The really annoying thing--the thing that made me change to AMC (which is playing Fargo, a movie that reminds me of the part of the country in which I grew up--they really do talk that way up there!), was that once again, over and over, ad nauseum, they played that same hackneyed old footage of thousands of presumably North Korean soldiers goose-stepping in a way guaranteed to wreck their backs in no time. I think those clips were really put together by George Lucas on his Industrial Light & Magic, Inc computers at the Skywalker Ranch.

I did a little marching when I was in Boot Camp in the Navy. I have a good memory. You can't march like that.

And I can't watch those computer-generated stooges hippity-hopping past the reviewing stand even one more time.


Warm regards,

Col. Hogan
Stalag California