Monday, February 28, 2011

March Madness: South Regional, Round 1

Welcome to Day Two of the U.S. States and Territories Flag Tournament!!!
The Bracket

The Rules: Anyone can play.  For each of the pairs of flags pitted against each other, simply indicate your favorite.  Explication, derision, and/or analysis will not affect the scoring, but is nevertheless encouraged.  Each winner will of course advance to the second round.

In the first round only, you may select one of your six preferred flags as especially favored; for that flag only, your vote counts double.

South Regional Voting Deadline: 11:59 p.m., Saturday, March 5.
East Regional Voting Deadline: 11:59 p.m., Friday, March 4.

Alabama vs. Florida



Tennessee vs. Georgia



Louisiana vs. Kentucky



Texas vs. U.S. Virgin Islands


U.S. Virgin Islands

Mississippi vs. North Carolina


North Carolina

Arkansas vs. Oklahoma


Make your votes in the comments, of course.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

March Madness: East Regional, Round 1

Welcome to this exciting opening day of the U.S. States and Territories Flag Tournament!!!
The Bracket

The Rules: Anyone can play.  For each of the pairs of flags pitted against each other, simply indicate your favorite.  Explication, derision, and/or analysis will not affect the scoring, but is nevertheless encouraged.  Each winner will of course advance to the second round.

In the first round only, you may select one of your six preferred flags as especially favored; for that flag only, your vote counts double.

East Regional Voting Deadline: 11:59 p.m., Friday, March 4.

Vermont vs. New Hampshire


New Hampshire

Delaware vs. West Virginia


West Virginia

Massachusetts vs. New York


New York

District of Columbia vs. New Jersey

District of Columbia

New Jersey

Virginia vs. Maine



Connecticut vs. Pennsylvania



Make your votes in the comments, of course.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

BLOODY MEXICO - Guadalajara

For years, Guadalajara, capital of Jalisco State dodged the violence that gripped other parts of Mexico. That's over now and the beheadings and murders are back on track, with only a fraction being reported by the local press.

Fox News Reports: The head of Mexican state police department targeting car thieves has been slain by gunmen who attacked his vehicle. The attorney general's office of Jalisco state says Jesus Quirarte Ruvalcaba and his wife, Maria Guadalupe Aldrete Rosales, were killed Thursday morning in the city of Zapopan on the outskirts of Guadalajara. Authorities say Quirarte and Aldrete were apparently on their way to work in a state-owned Dodge Ram when gunmen fired on them. Investigators found about one hundred 9 mm and 7.62 mm casings at the scene.

Violence has spread in Jalisco recently as rival gangs battle for control of crime. On Feb. 12, armed men attacked a Guadalajara nightclub, killing six people and wounding dozens more. 

To put the problem into perspective, Jalisco State has been claimed by the Sinaloa Federation Narcotics Cartel. Another group calling itself "The Resistance is pushing back. The Resistance is comprised of a mixed group of former Mexican Special Forces and police gone rogue (Los Zetas) and members of other rival cartels that have drawn together to fight a common enemy.

To put it bluntly, it's no longer safe to be on the streets of Guadalajara after dark, and it's really a shame, because traditionally it's been a rather nice city. Reports from town directly to this blogger indicate that many are leaving the city because they expect the gang war and violence to increase. I think that's an accurate litmus test. As Fox news reported (further), "Armed men opened fire and hurled a grenade into a crowded nightclub early Saturday, killing six people and wounding at least 37 in a western city whose former tranquility has been shattered by escalating battles among drug cartels."

Is Gadhafi a Dead Duck?

h/t DALE

"A former Libyan Justice Minister Mustafa Mohamed Abud Al Jeleil told a Swedish newspaper he expected the increasingly isolated Libyan leader to commit suicide the way Adolf Hitler did at the end of World War Two rather than surrender or flee." (Reuters)

The reports conflict at the moment and the oil market is bouncing up and down like a basketball at the play-offs. Today the Saudis guaranteed to increase production to match Libyan shortfalls... and everyone wonders if the House of Saud will survive. They increased the pay of everyone in the kingdom by 15% to "pour oil on the water" with unhappy subjects.

Meanwhile, nobody knows whether Gadhafi is alive or dead. His troops surged today, slaughtering and attempting to beat back turf gains that the insurgents made in recent days.

And while all the drama unfolds throughout the Middle East, New Home Prices dropped 12.9%, Wisconsin Democratic Party Legislators are hiding from the police in other states so they won't have to do what the public hired them to do, and a full 26% of Americans believe that the US is "headed in the right direction".

The only shocking bit of news is that unlike Obama, Gadhafi is blaming Osama bin Laden for his internal problems. If it ("it" meaning anything) happens here, the administration would have laid all blame at the feet of George Bush.


I often suggest on this blog that President Barack Hussein Obama consistently works against the best interests of Americans. I have consistently preached here on Virtual Mirage that America's largest looming concern was our dependence on foreign oil. Imagine an America where our foreign policy decisions weren't guided in large measure by considerations placed on it by foreign oil suppliers.

George Bush (remember him?) lifted the ban on domestic drilling and it sent domestic crude prices downward. Barack Obama in his orgy of hope and change blocked domestic drilling. The very first thing that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar did was to cancel leases for energy exploration. 

There is oil in the US. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska has an estimated 16 billion barrels of recoverable crude and the Green River Formation (Utah, Wyoming & Colorado) have an estimated 800 million barrels of recoverable crude oil. The Congressional Research Service reported in 2009 that the US has a recoverable supply of oil  in excess of 160 billion barrels. (equal to 75 years of OPEC oil imports). One would hope that in 75 years we will find an alternative to petroleum as our primary energy source...but who knows?

Yes, I know that Al Gore opposes oil exploration and drilling, but frankly, I don't care what Gore likes/doesn't like. It would be nice if we weren't dependent on oil. I'd be thrilled if we had some sort of real solution to oil, but we don't.

If we opened ANWR to drilling today, we'd see oil at the pumps by the end of the decade. Other areas in the US are more likely to provide oil to market more quickly. It takes time to get things in place. It's time to open up oil leases and to get things moving NOW. 

I don't know what's going to happen in Libya, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Iran - but do any of you trust the oil supply coming from THERE? Investor's Business Daily has a good article on the subject HERE.

The Saudis announced that they are pursuing a nuclear power program now that Iran is building a bomb. Russia backs the Iranian program, France supports the Saudis. Both claim to be pursuing peaceful research into energy generation. Kuwait is relying on British support for their peaceful nuclear program. Does any of this make any of you feel that the world's oil supply is safer? I don't predict a nuclear war in the Middle East in the near future, but the sad truth is that AMERICA needs to chart a course where our own oil needs are hedged. --- and guess what? President Obama opposes that. What a shock!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Flag Day: Mexico!

It's Flag Day in Mexico!

I bet "Flag Day" sounds awesome in Spanish.  Can anyone help me out?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Gadhafi -- DUCK

I don't know whether or not Moammar Gadhafi's days as dictator of Libya will be cut short by his repressed masses who are smelling freedom on the other side of that line of soldiers with bayonets or not. President Obama (closet Muslim) reached out a hand of friendship to Gadhafi, murderer of his own and of our own. I never thought that I'd see the day when a US President could stoop so low -- but it was early in his presidency and he bowed to just about every dictator and thug/strongman despot on the planet. 

I REMEMBER LOCKERBIE and President Reagan did his best to send a message to Gadhafi. It's history now but the war was short and one-sided. When it ended the dictator retired to his tent and the terror ended. We failed to achieve regime change (nobody's perfect), but we tried.

Fast forward to 2011 and the people themselves have taken to the streets to do what the President Reagan tried to help them do. Col. Gadhafi (dictator-for-life) responded by ordering aircraft to strafe demonstrators and to have the Libyan navy shell coastal areas where the people were demonstrating.

One Libyan naval vessel has reportedly mutinied and is in the waters off Malta. It's officers and crew found it repugnant to turn cannons on their fellow Libyans - dictator's orders or not. Gadhafi has ordered anyone who fails to fire on unarmed demonstrators to be executed.

Some cynics believe that Gadhafi is actually Michael Jackson, citing their general physical similarities, they both "like" boys and the disturbing coincidence that nobody ever saw Jacko and Gadhafi at the same party. One is/was the King of Pop and the other, King of Libya. 

SecState Hillary Clinton sent a message to Gadhafi urging restraint in his treatment of his rioting citizens. Obviously the dictator-for-life is not a Clinton fan because he's ignored her 'strongly worded entreaty'.

Gadhafi, leader of a terrorist state, needs to be toppled by his own people, but the US needs to offer full and financial support of the "next regime" until they get on their feet and are able to spend their oil trillions. We need to offer our full faith and advice in any matter they may need help on. However since Obama bowed to the dictator, he's unlikely to take the bow back... Obama, a socialist, is unlikely to support any new Libyan regime that shows signs of democracy and unbridled capitalism. 

We simply witness yet another outrage in this Age of the ObamaNation.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Is Gadhafi on the Ropes?

Al Jazeera reports that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has ordered the Libyan air force to fire on military installations in Libya. The BBC has also confirmed that air force fighter aircraft have opened fire on crowds of protesters.
 Similar reports of the Libyan navy firing on targets onshore also are emerging, as well as reports that Gadhafi has given execution orders to soldiers who have refused to fire on Libyan protesters.
Photo Courtesy UK Guardian

As one of the latest dictatorships in Egypt to feel the wrath of the people that they've been oppressing, I can't help but feel that President Obama will once again dither in formulating an opinion on the matter. On one side, he's been very friendly with the Libyan strongman since taking office. On the other, the American people feel that toppling the virulently anti-American dictator might be a good thing.

One wonders whether the slaughter of many thousands of Gadhafi's countrymen will backfire for him (the way it has elsewhere) or not. Will Gadhafi's head end up on a pike, will he be hung by the neck (or the heels) from a light pole, or will he continue on as dictator-for-life?

Leadership Deficit

Happy President's Day -- now lets look at where the present leadership has and is taking the United States:

The second anniversary of the stimulus package, passed on Feb. 17, 2009, saw an additional $3.4 trillion having been added to the national debt, according to the Bureau of the Public Debt. During that year, the government has had to borrow an additional $29,600 per household, raising the total debt burden to $125,475 per household.

When Ronald Reagan took office, we were in the grip of financial woes and had four failed years of President Jimmy Carter (by all accounts the worst president in recent years--until Obama took office). He inherited a nation that was suffering from crippling inflation (prime rate 21.5%) and from a president whose only foreign policy was appeasement. Does that sound familiar?

Today, we have very weak and unreliable leadership in the White House, the nation is in serious financial trouble and the economic malaise isn't going away. The Obama solution has been to increase the burden of government regulation, nationalize General Motors and swallow the healthcare industry. The unemployment numbers only inch up and the dramatic increase in government subsidies and programs stagnate rather than helping. Oil prices are rising and may reach the projected $5.00 mark at the pumps by the end of the year.

Leadership matters and the direction that leadership takes the country matters.  We can turn the ship around but we can't do it with the current fool in charge -- and like a dog with fleas -- with his coterie of misfits filling appointed positions.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Love on the Rocks?

Is the liberal love affair with Obama beginning to tremble and crack? Have they tasted a dose of reality? Do they really think that the President of the United States should send his army of political/community organizers to Wisconsin to try and topple a governor who is working to save jobs - including teachers - from lay-off?
No, I'm not suggesting that the SEIU thugs that were bussed in love the source of their funding any less. And, I'm not suggesting that many Wisconsin state workers have the maturity to see the handwriting on the wall.

Governor Scott Walker proposed that state employee wage increases be indexed to the rate of inflation unless approved in a voter referendum. Public employees could opt out of paying union dues after current contracts expire, with dues no longer collected automatically. (the unions tremble) State workers will have to increase contributions to their pensions to 5.8 percent of salary, and double contributions to health insurance premiums to 12.6 percent of salary. The plan calls for raising appropriations for prisons and the Medicaid program, which is underfunded by $153 million, while making changes to the health insurance program for the poor. It also calls for selling the state's heating plants.

Iowa Democrats are trying to block similar efforts there where their state faces equally ominous economic forecasts. Ohio is following Wisconsin in an effort to curb run-away public employee unions. The word that keeps coming up is UNSUSTAINABLE. Crazed liberal whack jobs rant but there are a lot of liberals who see the handwriting on the wall, and they will vote too. Bringing balance to a system that has tipped too far is essential to saving the states and saving the nation.

Nobody expects Obama (deeply into the pockets of the unions) to do anything but be unpresidential (what's new?).

Wisconsin joins many states in the union who are running vast deficits and constitutional mandates to balance their budgets. The unions may howl, but ultimately voters from across the spectrum will decide the fate of government union workers and of the unions themselves. The public will have to increase taxes to unheard of levels or to reduce COSTS. It's not rocket science.

March Madness: Get Your Bracket Ready!

What U.S. State or Territorial Flag will emerge triumphant?  Pick your favorites now and be ready to cast your votes throughout March as 56 flags go head to head on Vexillophilia and The Life and Times of Michael5000.

First Round Schedule

February 28: East Regional, Round 1
March 1: South Regional, Round 1
March 3: North Regional, Round 1
March 4: West Regional, Round 1

Second Round Schedule

March 7: East Regional, Round 2
March 8: South Regional, Round 2
March 10: North Regional, Round 2
March 11: West Regional, Round 2

Note for non-UnitedStatesian readers: "March Madness" is a parody of the elaborate yearly American college basketball tournament.  But the flag tournament is for real.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Michelle Obama

Yes, she's a shrew. Yes, she feels ashamed to be an American -- or she did up to the point where she became First Lady, and one would presume that it feels pretty good to be lapping at the federal trough so completely.  But perhaps it's not all it's cracked up to be, for like Hillary when she slept in that bed, she's not calling the shots.

(h/t DALE)

In her efforts to show that she is 'doing something' other than taking lavish vacations at public expense,  she has set out to conquer childhood obesity by encouraging government control over fast food (private industry). She does shy away from criticizing big contributors to the Obama campaign like Pepsi (even though KFC is a subsidiary).

The Federal Government under the Obama Administration has made its bones on telling private companies what they can and can't sell and on what they can and can't do - and added over 200,000 new federal jobs to try and make the point. There, out front, leading the charge at a waddle is the lady with the mean face, the ample bodied hypocrite, Michelle (Marie) Obama.

Flag Friday XXIV

Flag Friday is a periodic discussion of the world's national flags; the project is explained and indexed here.

These discussions are about graphic design, and perhaps about nationalism and national symbolism in general. They should not be taken as critical of the countries, ideals, cultures, or people that the flags represent.


Parsons: It has "bad colours" but salvages a "B", 73/100.

Michael5000: How come I've never noticed the Mauritanian flag before?  It's pretty slick.  Plus, I like the colours.

Grade: A-


Parsons: "Hey, lots of countries have a tricolour," writes Parsons, speculating on the thought process behind this design.  "Why don't we have a quadricolor?  Big mistake."  With "bad colours" that "make [him] nauseous, it only escapes with a "C-", 50/100.

Michael5000: Going from the three stripes to the four stripes is such an obvious move that it would be surprising that more countries hadn't tried it -- or would be, if it just didn't look so wrong in execution.  Whether this is simply a product of everybody being accustomed to tricolors, or if there is something culturally or even biologically less satisfying about a series of four stripes, I could not speculate.  Clearly, picking the colors of IKEA children's toys don't especially help.  Slight mitigating factor: distinctiveness and recognizeability.

Grade: C-


Parsons: With "graven images" and being "too busy," it barely tops Mauritius with a "C-", 70/100.

Michael5000: See, I almost have to recuse myself from looking at the banner of a next-door neighbor of my own country.  Clearly, the eagle-serpant-cactus-island retelling of the national origin myth is way too detailed to be properly flaggy, failing with gusto the Betsy Ross test and foiling all but the very most talented of child crayon artists.  And yet I am fond.  You have to admit that, as national seals go, it's a pretty boss national seal.

Grade: B


Parsons: Without comment, it gets a "B-", 66/100.

Michael5000: Pretty much the only thing I like here is that the stars are set so as to create a squarish negative shape in the center.  But beyond that, we have four white stars.  In a field of sky blue.  Boring enough on the page or screen, this thing must be essentially camoflaged when flown up on a flagpole.  On the up side, it won't really matter when the flag gets old and the color is all washed out; washed-out color is built into the design.

Grade: C-


Parsons: With a trio of complaints -- a "bad shape," "graven images," and being "too busy," it barely tops Mexico with a "C," 45/100.

Michael5000: It is a bit leggy, being one of those 1:2 ratio flags despite the relative lack of British influence.  Moldova has deep cultural ties with neighboring Romania, and its flag is basically the Romanian tricolor with a seal on it.  The seal is undeniably busy, an eagle clutching something with each leg, and with a crest on its chest.  (It is, incidentally, an interesting convention of heraldry that makes it seem perfectly normal to represent birds of prey with crests on their chests.  Birds almost never bear heraldic crests on their chests in real life.  But I digress.)   But two things mitigate the busy-ness.  For one thing, the seal is graphically simple, and the entire flag is rendered in five colors plus black.  It's not especially kind on the local Betsy Ross, but if she's got her skillz she'll do fine.  The other thing is, the crest is of a cow with a moon, sun, and little flower.  I find this slightly enchanting.

Also: distinctive.  Romania and Chad are the only other two countries to fly an all-primaries tricolor, and neither of them have a cow.  Or any seal at all, for that matter.

Grade (for the current flag): B

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Human Rights -- for women

In many nations of the world, women live in fear precisely because they are women. The United Nations has a council dedicated to the rights of women and both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have been appointed to participate in the United Nations Agency for Women. Watch a video on that subject here (LINK). (h/t Coffeypot) Some Saudi Arabia, routinely deny equal rights or protection under the law to women.

It's odd that anyone would say that 'human rights' need to be extended to women, who represent 51+% of the population. However, they do.

There are countries where rape is so endemic that billboards are posted in an attempt to keep men from raping women.

In Egypt where we saw reporter Lara Logan raped repeatedly (LINK), this report has been made:
On Friday, the Egypt story took another dark turn when CBS correspondent Lara Logan was separated from her crew and security. A group of rioting “freedom fighters” saw Ms. Logan and decided to administer a personal jihad of sorts to her and CBS. Press reports are scant, but Ms. Logan was the victim of a severe sexual assault that left her devastated. CBS itself reported that Ms. Logan was “surrounded and suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault.”
Islam is primarily a religion that subjugates woman. Men typically treat their women like chattel while forcing them to cover their bodies in cloth from head to toe. Nowhere in the Koran does it say that women should have no identity. The burka is a modern construct designed to control the feminine voice within Islam. In Islam the feminine sex and sexuality are destroyed, leading to wide-scale repression among members of both genders.
This isn't new in Egypt as the report below indicates.

Christians in America and Europe worry about the secularisation of their holiday.... Egypt's Christians have a far more basic worry....
A serious fear of Egyptian Christian parents is not the assimilation of their children into a Muslim majority but the fear of their daughters being abducted, raped and forced to convert to Islam. So fearful are many Christians that they prefer to live in a garbage choked section of Cairo inhabited exclusively by Christians, who would rather risk serious illness and death by disease than the loss of their daughters to predatory Muslims who kidnap their daughters under cover of active police collaboration....
Assyrian International News Agency reports as follows on cases involving Coptic Christian girls who were kidnapped, raped and forcibly converted to Islam by a Muslim gang that was allowed to act with impunity.
Striving to protect women from men who would abuse and injure them is or should be the duty of every civilized nation, but many nations do not accord equal rights and and protection to women. Those nations need to be singled out and sanctioned.