Thursday, July 31, 2003

Marriage, maybe - proposals definitely: We may be having the gay marriage debate for years, but we should absolutley endorse gay proposals. Tonights episode of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy featured the gang of five tricking up a guy to propose to his girlfriend. Makeover, redo the apartment, cook dinner, dessert, liquers, candles - the whole nine yards. I'm not sure I would have said no. If we could all have our proposals so well coordinated, the institution of marriage would be strengthened immeasurably.
Memo: From Mark Steyn, on Liberia. Choice bits:
It’s precisely the lack of any national interest that makes it appealing to the progressive mind. By intervening in Liberia, you’re demonstrating your moral purity. That’s why all the folks most vehemently opposed to American intervention in Iraq — from Kofi Annan to the Congressional Black Caucus — are suddenly demanding American intervention in Liberia. The New York Times is itching to get in: ‘Three weeks have passed since President Bush called on the Liberian President, Charles Taylor, to step aside, and pledged American assistance in restoring security. But there has been no definitive word here on how or when."

Three weeks! And Bush is still just talking! The Times spent 14 months deploring the ‘rush to war’ in Iraq, but mulling over Liberia for three weeks is the worst kind of irresponsible dithering.

Then Steyn turns to Howard Dean's outbreak of acute idiocy (as opposed to his chronic foolishness):
‘I opposed the war in Iraq because it was the wrong war at the wrong time,’ says Governor Dean. But Liberia’s the right war any time: ‘Military intervention in Liberia represents an appropriate use of American power.’ And unlike that desert mess, Dean confidently predicts that US troops would ‘stabilise the situation and remain in Liberia for no more than several months’.

[T]he idea that the US would be there for ‘no more than several months’ and hand over to a ‘legitimate and stable government’ is ludicrous. If the Yanks are there for only a few months, the warlords will keep their ears close to the ground and bide their time. The intervention would be an intermission, after which the show would resume, as it has done after previous desultory interventions in the region.

As with most of his writing, there are many lessons in one column. Go and read.
Face in the Crowd: Drudge cites this article on the recall race in California. A sobering statistic:
Even as the parties planned strategy, the field of potential replacement candidates for Davis mushroomed: To date, a total of 123 Californians have taken out papers to run for governor in the recall, according to the Secretary of State's Office.
Now, surely most of these can expect a handful of votes. Most won't have the money to compete in a statewide election, let alone in the expensive markets like LA and the Bay. But even if four or five attract a good audience, plus Gray Davis, a situation could arise wherein the next governor of California gets a low-20s-ish percent of the vote. This in itself is a fine argument for the party/primary system we use, thus avoiding the splintering effect. As sclerotic as the two-party system often seems, at least it can usually prevent the accession to office of a candidate that four-fifths of the electorate didn't choose.

Gray Davis easily has a core of 25% or so, if you take his approval ratings as indicative. Add in those who don't particularly like Davis, but who don't like the recall. He's very far from dead.

Sam Phillips dead: The Sun Music founder who is credited with discovering Elvis Presley passed away at 80.
After the success of Presley on Sun, others who recorded for the label under Phillips included Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, Conway Twitty and Charlie Rich.
Not a bad lineup.Thanks to Tim Blair for the heads up.
Who you calling a Democrat?: Yes, I am an official member of this party; of course what that means anymore, I don't know. In an ideal world, the Democratic Party would give we, the little dems, a candidate who was fresh, full of ideas, sensible, and inspiring. Instead we are given radical governors, also-rans, never weres, and... Al Gore(?). I have to be honest, I don't really remember Al Gore. I have a vague recollection of him smashing an ashtray on David Letterman a few years ago (was he some sort of performance artist?), and him kissing some woman on a stage (perhaps an actor?), but beyond that, I cannot say for sure whether I'd like that man to be the President. Does he have any experience? I know some actors like running for office (I think Stallone will do well in California), but I think we need to know more about him before I can fill you in. Is he his own man? Did he inhale? Vital answers to telling questions. I'll have to get back to you. Maybe this Gore fellow has a web site. Is he internet savvy?
Starting Lineups: Arnold will run. No, he won't. Al Gore will sit out 2004. Well, maybe . . . This story says that he's under some pressure to step back in. And this (obviously biased) unofficial site pushes an intriguing line:
Gore's spokesperson denied that there was any change of plans, but a former Democratic National Committee official close to Gore told The Hill he believes the former vice president may enter the Democratic primary this fall...

The former DNC official, who was active in Gore's 2000 campaign, said his prediction of another Gore campaign is based on more than a hunch. But he declined to offer specific evidence.

He believes, as other Gore confidants do, that the political climate has changed significantly since December, making Bush more vulnerable to defeat in his bid for a second term...

Jesus, you can't tell the players without a scorecard of their illegal campaign contributions. As the resident Democrat, Razor, your opinion is called for: What's time is it for Gore?

I for one don't see him enthusiastically coming off the bench to help the team -- the team that spent most of 2001-2002 bad-mouthing him for the loss. Clinton, on the other hand, would love that kind of shot, called up in the clinch by the team that sent him down. Gore, it seems to me, would be more likely to say, "You had your chance." I don't rule out a Gore run, obviously, but it seems improbable, mostly because of the people he would alienate:

1) He would piss off the Deaners, who are pulling the party to the left. They would no doubt see this as an establishment response to the Dean threat.

2) The New Democrats, on the other hand, and particularly Lieberman, would see this as a betrayal. Al steps back in to rescue the center-left from the failure of the JV squad. It's bad form; it's technically a slap to Lieberman, who waited politely for Gore to make his decision before announcing; and it says to dues-payers like Kerry and Gephardt, "Back off. You can't cut it."

3) Most importantly, a Gore late-run -- if it does in fact suck the money and oxygen from the other candidates -- would be a disservice to the entire Democratic party, since it would kick down the road an argument that the party desperately needs to have. Namely: How long can the future of the party be mortgaged to disparate interest groups like socially conservative union members, the gay lobby, the NAACP, the AARP. Honestly, what does the party stand for, other than goodies for their constituent groups?

Wow: You think gay marriage is a controversial debate? Check out what Glenn's found.

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

The Art of Movie Promotion: Let's say you have a movie, that stars two names that are hotter than the sun right now, but at the time, were merely scalding. And these two, at the time, were merely co-workers, but are now star-crossed lovers, whose every move draws the attention normally reserved for luminaries such as Ari Fleischer. And let's say that your movie contains more f-bombs, bullets and domestic abuse than your average Tarantino film. How to market this movie? Hmmm. Well, let's start by calling it a "romantic comedy" and leaving all mention of the plot out of the promotion - just focus on the two love-birds. Oh, right...let's ignore the fact the woman plays a lesbian and has no actual romantic attraction to the male star. And, let's just, for kicks, re-work the ending that has the male lead slaughtered in a hail of bullets. Last, and to really kick the movie off, push back the start date to the doldrums of mid summer, move the start date from Wed. to Friday (fewer advance reviews), and have your studio head come out with some real buzz like: "Well, I can't think of a single movie that I liked all the way through, can you?"

Now you have "Gigli", the first Affleck-Lopez combo on-screen. Here's some opinions on the film itself. The part about the movie poster takes the cake.
Immigration: The BBC tells us of a very ambitious project that will delight historians, genealogists, and everyday blokes alike. It's the "Moving Here" project, which is up on the web and traces over 200 years of migration to the U.K. through thousands up on thousands of digitized pictures, records, and personal diaries/notes. The best part is that you don't need to have an agenda going into the site as you can simply take advantage of the "popular search" feature and see what others have found interesting.
Re: That Put Order on "Dirty Bomb at My Ex's House": Pentagon puts the kibosh on the Terror Futures market. At least that means Barbara Boxer can crawl back into her cave for another few months. Speaking of caves, Tom Daschle appeared for this issue, saying that "We are asking the administration this morning to renounce this plan to trade in death." What a deep thinker. What a brave soul, to be making moronic attempts at glib moral offense. Let's put this in the starkest possible terms, here: Tom Daschle would rather see you die in a terrorist attack than explore all options in a reasonable manner. He'd just plain ol' rather score the cheap point now. Ron Bailey has a fine piece not only on this but on idea markets in general.

More: Reynolds says, "The idiots win a round." He has a good list of links. It seems like everyone liked this idea except the politicians. As Bailey says, "cheap moral posturing."

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

More PERC: And just to show that the Bozeman think tank isn't just a Republican apologist group, they positively slammed W. in his Mid-Term Report card on environmental policy (pdf link available for the whole report). Some highlights.

On the 2002 Farm Act:

Like all major farm bills over the last
two decades, the 2002 farm bill became a
political Christmas tree, with ornaments
attached by politicians representing specific
commodity interests as well as other
constituents of their various states. The act
induces land, labor, and capital resources
to remain in the farm sector–where they
will be inefficiently utilized. In addition,
the act produces an inequitable distribution
of income. The principal beneficiaries
will be large commercial farmers who already
have incomes and wealth above the
average for all Americans. Environmentally,
the act is a step backwards because
it motivates farmers to use more chemicals.
On "Changing the Debate" about air quality:
Although the Bush administration can’t
control what other organizations claim, it
has missed an opportunity to change the
debate by focusing on real trends in air pollution
levels and risks. Instead, it has played
by its critics’ rules, implicitly conceding a
false view of the nation’s air quality and then
asserting that policies like Clear Skies will
solve an artificially inflated problem.
He even blew it on ANWR:
For trying to tie revenues from oil development
in ANWR to investments in environmental
improvements, the Bush administration
deserves high marks. Because
it did not give environmental interests a
more direct stake in how oil revenues would
be invested, however, the administration
receives a C.
The fun part is looking (deep) for an issue where he gets a good score. Let's see...Ahhh, "B's" on Chemical Plant Security, Regulatory Review, and Water Quality.

I can only hope that some of this was Chrisite Whitman's fault, but I'm not very hopeful right now. Anyone who was hoping that Bush's rhetoric on the environment would offset his, ahem, less than consistent free market record (finger pointing at self, stomach turning) needs to read this report. If something doesn't change in the next two years, I may consider a protest vote myself.

Enviro Capitalists: PERC, a think tank of environmentalists who care as much about free markets as they do about trees, has covered the forest fire issue for years, and their criticism of federal policies and environmental "watermelons," green on the outside, red in the middle, has been consistent. This piece by Holly Fretwell from last year is a good start. An important quote:
Indeed, the Sierra Club, the Wilderness Society, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Southwest Forest Alliance, and other environmental organizations all pay lip service to thinning small-diameter trees and to prescribed burns. So why don't we see more thinning and prescribed burning, particularly in the urban-wildland interface where life and property are at greatest risk?

The fact is that environmental organizations have opposed logging, including restorative thinning, for years. Their opposition has played a deadly role in helping the fuel buildup to reach dangerous levels. And many continue to oppose projects that would reduce fire risk. The Sierra Club and Forest Guardians, among others, have appealed an Arizona project that is desperately needed and supported by a consortium of federal, state, and local organizations known as the Greater Flagstaff Forests Partnership. Based in Flagstaff, Arizona, the partnership devised a thinning project that would cut only trees up to 16 inches in diameter, with 60 to 80 trees left per acre after thinning. But four years later this area surrounding Flagstaff remains a tinderbox.
Federal administration of economically viable lands is horribly inefficient and poorly structured. Land managers are given short term incentives that have more to do with protecting (and enlarging) their beauracracy than they do with improving forest quality, safety, and economic benefit. States, corporations, and individuals all do it better, as is illustrated in this report by the same author. They have long term incentives, and they get to keep the rewards they reap instead of sending the money back to Washington, hoping for a nice baseline budget increase. Fretwell's conclusion in the report:
Our federal land management system is clearly dysfunctional and harmful to the health of our national forests. Forest managers must respond to a multitude of demands that are contrary to their goal of healthy forest ecosystems: political interests, short-term bureaucratic goals, perverse incentives, and stultifying layers of regulations that reflect neither local nor regional differences.

Yet other timber lands exhibit healthy, vigorous forest ecosystems. Private land owners who grow trees for commercial harvest have a long-term commitment to the value of the timber and a strong incentive to manage for a productive forest. In recent years, the growing market in outdoor recreation has created additional incentives for private owners to manage their lands for wildlife, recreational opportunities, and other environmental amenities. Similarly, the managers of state trust lands have shown that with less political interference and clear mandates to generate revenues for public schools, public timberlands can be managed to benefit both forest health and the state residents.
The Human Torch: Like you allude to, what the environmentalists fail to adequately address is that while it's fine and dandy to argue about fuel loads and natural burn cycles, the fact of the matter is a significant number of these fires aren't started by dry lightning or other natural means. They're started by a) lazy and/or lost campers; b) depressed park rangers, or c) criminals. This means we actually have more fires, or at least the potential for more fires, which are outside the so-called "natural" fire pattern. With that in mind we need man-made solutions to fire-spread prevention. The questions then is: Is it enough to just allow loggers in there? Sure they will thin the fuel load, but do they do it in a way that makes sense, and that serves as a barrier to fire-spread? And, if loggers aren't allowed to help, who will? Clearly, the government won't be able to do it in a cost-effective manner. I sincerely doubt any environmental group can come up with a logical fire-prevention plan - of course they argue that fires shouldn't be prevented (which goes against every thing Smokey ever told me). With unnatural fire sources, I think we need unnatural fire prevention. If loggers can responsibly cull the supply, then they should be allowed to with close monitoring. If it gets out of hand, shut them down and back to the drawing board.
Fighting Fire with Fire: Excellent and fair reporting in this month's Smithsonian on the Western wildfires of the past few years. The article does lean toward solutions like limited commercial clearing to keep the fuel level down, but not without airing the views of the environmental lobby. In addition, it features a group of active and retired forest firefighters who advocate a limited hands-off approach (once fuel levels have been reduced) in order to restore the natural cycle of small, beneficial fires. The environmentalists are off the reservation on this one. Fighting against fuel clearing, they help produce the dangerous situation, against which current fire-fighting methods can't compete. I can only speculate that the hard greens see any presence of commercial logging as a loss for their side. In fact, one environmentalist quoted in the story, Brian Segee, accuses the forest service of "hijacking important concepts like fuels reduction to disguise traditional timber sales." This is idiocy driven by environmentalist ideological purity and plain hubris.

Like it or not, humans are part of the environment, and we're going to have some kind of effect. We can manage that effect, in a sort of ecological compromise that approximates a healthy, low-fuel level forest; or we can worship at the altar of Gaia and get the results that the last couple of years have brought to Arizona. As with the anti-war crowd, the anti-managed environment crowd sees lots of evil in current policies but has no plan to defend against the consequences of the surrender they advocate.

Re: death market: It seems the Pentagon (Wolfowitz) has caved on the DARPA project.
Facing outraged Democratic senators, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said he learned of the program in the newspaper while heading to a Senate Foreign Relations hearing on Iraq.

"I share your shock at this kind of program," he said. "We'll find out about it, but it is being terminated."
Translation: "I know nothing about this, but if I'd known it was going to be such a political cat in a sack I damn sure wouldn't have approved of it, which I probably did anyway, because surely nothing of this magnitude was going on without senior leadership's knowledge." There are a lot of very good reasons for trying a program like this, and probably some good ones for being cautious. DARPA is supposed to come up with wild ideas and see if any make sense. This is a great example and now we'll not get to find out if it's workable. What's worse is the over the top reaction from politicians trying to pile on for political points.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., told Wolfowitz "I don't think we can laugh off that program,"

"There is something very sick about it," she said. "And if it's going to end, I think you ought to end the careers of whoever it was thought that up. Because terrorists knowing they were planning an attack could have bet on the attack and collected a lot of money. It's a sick idea."
As for the main criticism of the plan, that it encourages terrorists to bet on an attack and then clean up when they pull it off, this misses the point. Heavy betting on a particular incident indicates the market finds it more likely to occur, so authorities can take necessary precautions. There is a danger of hoaxes by traders creating a lot of wasted security effort. But with such a limited number of traders (10,000) we can screen for criminals like this.

Another question, though, is how likely am I to wager on an outcome that my wager makes marginally LESS likely to occur. Just reduces what I'm willing to pay for the contract, I guess. Still seems counterintuitive, but such is much of life.

More Dean: Chris Caldwell makes an unconventional observation on Dean's chances:
But there is no concrete political reason why Dean should be less electable than any of his rivals. People forget that "electability" used to be a synonym for "large advertising budget." Dean has the latter; therefore he has the former.
There's a good point being made here, although part of the complexity of the nominating dance is to not put yourself in a position where the money needs to be spent telling the American center that you didn't mean all of the loony things you said in the primaries. To use a metaphor that might tickle Dean, he's going around the small cities in a rush to Baghdad -- and all of the same problems will follow.

Caldwell continues:

As for the general election, Republicans seem unaware of how riled up Democratic activists remain, even three years after the 2000 elections. A substantial segment of the party's base has been radicalized to the point where it does not recognize the legitimacy of the Bush presidency. This is a very different thing than mere dislike of a president. It means that Democrats are prepared to fight this election as if they were struggling to overthrow a tyrant. One fears that 2004 could wind up--in its rhetoric and its electoral ethics--as the dirtiest general election campaign in living memory. It is not a condemnation of Dean to say that his rise provides another piece of evidence that this fear is well founded.
Hmmm. Sounds a lot like what we heard in 2002, when the Dems were going to, in the words of Terry McAuliffe, knock off the Bush boys "one by one." The Democratic base, we were told, was fired up about Florida, motivated to GOTV. It was going to be, they said, the Democrats' version of 1994. None of that happened, of course, and it was because moderate America doesn't trust the leftist rhetoric, the stolen-election carping, the "rolling back the clock" metaphors on everything from civil rights to women's rights to entitlements. The common-sense crowd, as distinct from the red-meat crowd, thinks that Bush is a decent man who has done a pretty good job, and they'll need real reasons to vote against him. Anger isn't going to do it.

More: Den Beste says it plainly, too, in the context of the overall anti-war movement -- to whom Howie Dean is the keeper of the flame:

America's political center has been asking how we can remove the danger we face. One of the strongest leftist messages which has been coming through has been this: we shouldn't be trying to remove the danger, because we deserve what's happening to us. Rather than trying to avoid our just deserts, we should try to atone for our sins.

That is not a message which America's center finds acceptable, and oddly enough it hasn't been politically persuasive.

Obviously, Dean isn't quite as explicit as the rest of the anti-war crowd in his condemnation of the Iraq campaign; but Dean's run for the nomination clearly got its initial momentum from his anti-war stance. Put another way, if Dean's Iraq position had been the equivalent of Kerry's or Gephardt's, he would still be a former governor of a small, rather inconsequential Northeastern state, and not the surprising dark horse he has become. I don't believe that Dean shares the blame-America philosophy of the strident anti-war left. But he hasn't worked particularly hard to put distance between himself and them, to denounce some of their more demonstrably false or obnoxious ideas. He'll need to do so at some point, and the fact that he hasn't done so yet seems to indicate that he's happy to ride the "Bush is worse than Saddam" crowd as far as they will take him.
Motion Practice: From The Smoking Gun, important legal work of not inconsiderable precedential value: whither f*ck.
Thousand Words: Think this kid has ever slept better? Just look at his face. (Cheers to Reynolds.)
An Important Post in Vodkaland: Stephen Green beat me to it on this fascinating story:
The Pentagon office that proposed spying electronically on Americans to monitor potential terrorists has a new experiment. It is an online futures trading market, disclosed today by critics, in which anonymous speculators would bet on forecasting terrorist attacks, assassinations and coups.
Note the subtle english on the idea in the opening sentence. "From the same people who brought you bloating, nausea, intestinal cramps, and diarrhea . . ." Sounds like writer Carl Hulse is pretty neutral on the idea, eh?
Byron L. Dorgan of North Dakota . . . said the idea seemed so preposterous that he had trouble persuading people it was not a hoax. "Can you imagine," Mr. Dorgan asked, "if another country set up a betting parlor so that people could go in — and is sponsored by the government itself — people could go in and bet on the assassination of an American political figure?"

After Mr. Dorgan and his fellow critic, Ron Wyden of Oregon, spoke out, the Pentagon sought to play down the importance of a program for which the Bush administration has sought $8 million through 2005.

Why downplay? This is one of the best ideas yet. Any free and open market is a fountain of predictive information, because, as Green explains, people with varying degrees of knowledge invest. This is why metrics as simple as market indicies are typically considered leading economic indicators. The aggregation of knowledge, combined with the potential financial returns, acts as a fairly reliable, if blunt, compass. Put another way, with open betting on terrorist acts, we get to be the house. Hell, we could even make some federal revenue on this if we run it right.
Viking: Nice to see our work recognized. Ahem. As Viking says: "Fauxpolitik...check him out." I smell a powerplay.
A Minority of One? Viking Pundit hits the roll of honor on the right today. Take a peek. By the way, his site's slogan ("The only conservative in Western Massachusetts") may actually be true. Whenever I see a car in my town with a Bush/Cheney bumpersticker, the first word that rolls through my little brain is "tourist."

By the way, what is it with Massachusetts liberals and bumperstickers? When you see a conservative with one (and yes, it will be one), it's smartly applied, clean, and timely (e.g., no Pete DuPont sticker from 1988). Liberals, though, never remove any, so you'll see the (relatively fresh) Nader/LaDuke sticker next to the (well worn) Greenpeace sticker next to the (rather tattered) Mondale/Ferraro '84 sticker next to the (sun-bleached and nearly illegible) apocalyptic Three Mile Island anti-nuclear sticker. And so on. By the time they get to a certain vintage (Muskie?), I suppose they either fall off the bumper completely or are bleached to the point of saying nothing. A nice parallel here between bumperstickers and the left's fetish of being unable to dispose of old, obsolete, and discredited ideas.

Flash Mobs: This, like most novel things, seemed amusing the first time, like a brief dada show of hands, gone like a cloudburst down the storm drain:
In New York City, hundreds of people burst into applause on the mezzanine of the Grand Hyatt hotel at 7:12 p.m., then quickly disappeared.

In San Francisco, about 200 came out of nowhere to whirl like dervishes across Market Street, attracting confused stares from tourists.

Now, the new phenomenon called a ''flash mob'' is coming to Harvard Square.

Also, like most things, repetition of it has a dulling effect. Jesus, now everybody's gonna want their own mob network, and the rest of us poor, tired bastards who just want to buy a pack of smokes and go home will have to slog through the provocative absurdity running shin-deep in the streets.

Monday, July 28, 2003

Re: Not a joke...: Reminds me of when I started grad school and told a friend where I was going. "Queens' College," I said.

"Is that anything like gay clown school?" he asked.

I'm split on this one, as well. If it's privately funded, I don't have a problem, I guess, just like the "traditionally black" colleges like Howard University. But doesn't it undermine the goal of diversity and understanding among different people. I mean if you can't learn to put up with people different from you in high school, when will you. At least that's the idea behind diveersity, right. If we all interact enough we'll learn black people aren't dangerous and gay people aren't icky. Then they go and start their own school, creating more isolation and "group identification" rather than individual understanding.

On the other hand, if I want to go to a school that has higher academic standards because it will help me succeed, then no problem as long as I can afford it. Going to a school where you don't get beaten up every day in the locker room for being different certainly goes a long way towards academic success, I suspect.

I'm still suspect, but if it comes up as a school voucher argument, I'll pay real close attention.

I still don't get it: This quote from a column in yesterday's New York Times:
If you see a whole monkfish at the market, you'll find its massive mouth scarier than a shark's. Apparently it sits on the bottom of the ocean, opens its Godzilla jaws and waits for poor unsuspecting fishies to swim right into it, not unlike the latest recipients of W's capital-gains cuts.
Is the tax cut the monkfish scooping up poor people who don't have stock portfolios to sell and cash in tax free (not that they didn't pay taxes on the income in the first place)? Is W. the monkfish and the tax cut his jaws? All right, so it's a stupid analogy, and a snide, unnecesarry comment by a Times reporter. Not exactly a first, right?

Except it's a fu***ng food column!

Jonathan Reynolds is writing a piece on his culinary experience on a trip to Norway.

Link via Taranto, who tries to explain the analogy, but I still don't get it.

Not a joke, apparently: I don't know how to react to this yet. It just can't be publicly-funded, can it? Really? What am I missing?
Your clothes...give them to me: I just like that quote. Anyway, Esquire did a puff piece on him a month ago concerning his possible candidacy. If even half of what they said was true, the man shows a real devotion to his pet issues (education and after-school programs) and he doesn't talk or walk like a politician. He even was making fun of some of the choices kids have now; something along the lines of a "Just Say No" program. Arnold's take: You can't fool kids. Don't give them slogans; give them something real to do, that has an application on their lives. The theory is that a productive teenager, with tools he can use, is better than 50 reciting gung-ho cheers or listening to a man in a dog suit talk about fire safety. Plus, the man is a magnet. After Gray Davis (has a first name ever been more apt?), I could see real optimism for his chances. He's no Ventura, riding a wave of apathy into office. I heard him on Howard Stern (promoting T3) and Howie asked him about the pot scene in P.I. Arnold's response (paraphrasing): "Just like Clinton, except I inhaled." I mean, you have to love that - plus the electorate will figure it's some sort of Austrian vibe. And, if adultery is grounds for trouble in California, well...
Ahnuld: I'm sorry California won't be favored by his candidacy. If there be a state ready-made for an apostate Republican to win, it's California. "Compassionate libertarian" is how John Fund described him in the WSJ on Friday, and I think that's the electoral future of the GOP. Arnold is pro-choice and pro-gay adoption, steering to the center on issues that have caused many a moderate to describe the GOP as a small tent. On the other hand, Fund describes Arnold as nearly worshipful of Milton Friedman, which goes a long way with the Club for Growth Republicans who hold out for a better business climate in Cali:
When Milton Friedman's PBS series "Free to Choose" was reissued in 1991, Mr. Schwarzengger jumped at the chance to introduce a show he said "changed my life." "I come from Austria, a socialistic country. There you can hear 18-year-olds talking about their pension. But me, I wanted more. I wanted to be the best," he told viewers. "Individualism like that is incompatible with socialism. I felt I had to come to America, where the government wasn't always breathing down your neck or standing on your shoes."
Fund also points out an unusual bonus for Arnold:
The Austria-born actor may have an ace up his sleeve. He is ineligible to be president. Since California governors have often been distracted by having one eye on the White House, he can claim he will have no higher priority than the Golden State's problems. Pledging that kind of "total focus" would not only serve Californians best, but could make his candidacy both less implausible and more appealing.
This is a quiet way of noting that Gray Davis has harbored White House aspirations; those aspirations would make it easy for an opponent who is technically unqualified for the presidency to point out that, for some reason (2008 -- hint, hint), Davis has avoided the tough decisions that might have kept California on track but might have been, in the short term, quite unpopular.

Of course, Mr. Olympia has some skeletons in the closet. He smokes a big old joint in Pumping Iron, after all. Rumors of extramarital affairs dog him. Still, though, if life after the religious right exists for the GOP, it will find its birth in California, and in the person of someone like Arnold Schwarzenegger.

More: Arnold denies, says still mulling.

Bad decision no. 328: Did you ever see a picture of these two? How about a picture of them at their wedding with MJ and Liz standing by their sides [click on the thumbnail]? If there was ever a doomed relationship from the start, this was it. The guy was a frigging Garland memorabilia collector! I guess he got the ultimate piece. Ugghh.
I'll be baack...eventually: Arnie's not going to throw his hat in for the recall election. I think this makes sense. First, with a guy like him, with all he has going on, it would be monumental to for him to jump in with real conviction. I imagine he must plan things two years in advance, and given the fact that he has a few more movies he wants to do (notably T4, and some sort of Conan reprise), he will need to take advantage of the few years left in his still remarkable body. Like our perverse Hillary-watch, the best he can hope for is another Democrat to take the reins and hope for a slow recovery in the economy. That way, when he's wrapped his next few films he'll have a good year to stump for his message and draw an accurate read on his chances.
And they say Bush is illiterate: Wow, it takes a machete to hack through this quote from John Kerry:
"We have to diffuse the perception in reality of American occupation. The obligation of the United States government is to rapidly internationalize the effort in Iraq, get the target off of American troops, bring other people, particularly Muslim-speaking and Arab-speaking Muslim troops, into the region. The president clearly doesn't have a plan to do that, and we're paying a price for it.

Robert Musil takes it apart.

For that matter, what is one to make of "the perception in reality of American occupation?" Surely some Bush mole tossed that in.

And did Yale-educated Senator Kerry really say "diffuse" (which means to pour out and permit or cause to spread freely) rather than "defuse" (which means to make less harmful, potent, or tense) or was that part just The Guardian at play? On the other hand, since "We have to diffuse [of defuse] the perception in reality of American occupation" does not appear to be an actual English sentence assuming either choice of vocabulary, perhaps the choice doesn't matter.

And, finally, what to make of: "The president clearly doesn't have a plan to do that, and we're paying a price for it?" Well, depending on what "that" turns out to be after the Senator's grammar and vocabulary is unpacked, maybe it's a price worth paying.

He just seems weirder and weirder.
Can't resist golf talk: It's amazing how little attention anyone payed to Suzy Whaley's 75-78 stroll in Hartford. Being in the golf world every day, I heard exactly three mentions of her over three days. They consisted of "What do you think she'll shoot today?" and two occurences of "What did she shoot yesterday?" Annika stole her thunder, which was one of my beefs with the way she timed her PGA Tour debut. But notice that there was no Vijay this week, an evil man protest a woman getting out of place. That's 'cause nobody felt threatened by Suzy, like they did when Annika played. I feel bad that Whaley didn't get her deserved recognition for qualifying for a men's event, but she was probably relieved that the media whirlwind was much less intense than it could have been. All in all, I'm more impressed with her performance than Annika's.

Watson's win was most deserved, especially with the way he's played all year, and the affection and loyalty seen between him and Edwards has been touching. I have to say, though, that I was a little annoyed by the attention given to them at the U.S. Open. The media made Edwards their pet for the weekend, reshowing an interview of him slurring his speech and openly weeping over and over. It made me a little uncomfortable, a little sorry for Edwards because he seemed exploited. I'm a little conflicted over Watson's handling of it, that he hasn't been so quiet as he could have been. I'll discuss it another time, perhaps. It's not easy to handle tragedy in public, I'm sure. Always expectd to have a sound byte, to do something, to use one's celebrity for goodness. Thin line to tread, I suppose.

As a golfer, though, Watson could have challenged Nicklaus as the greatest. While Jack won 18 majors over almost twenty years, Watson got his eight in a seven year span; a Tiger-like pace. He cooled off and is often forgotten when the "greatest ever" debate comes up. His resugence this year is a great reminder of his talent.

As for the scores at the Senior (but they're active Seniors) Open, the difference is in the courses. You can't set up a course to be a fair test for a 54 year old, fit, strong, and tough Watson and an ancient Jack Fleck (who I'm shocked to learn is still alive and tried to qualify this year). It's like putting me on the same course as Tiger. Something's got to give, so they trim the rough, shorten the holes, and put the hole in the easiest place they can find. And then, the weather lays down and leves the course defenseless, just like it did in 1977 when Watson's weekend scores of 65-66 beat Jack's 66-66. The youngsters would have shot 30 under this week.

More Tony Blair: (Via A&L Daily.) The American Prospect advises domestic Dems to take up the mantle of the Labour leader here:
If a Democrat were smart enough to adopt the Blair formula as his own, he could create a number of advantages for himself in the presidential race. First and foremost, he would bring a credibly tough foreign policy to the 2004 campaign. After all, Blair favored the Iraq War, and his world view would countenance the use of force to protect American interests, both narrowly and broadly defined. He could also portray himself as someone who would reclaim the good standing of the United States in the eyes of the international community. As Blair implied in his speech on Thursday, the United States can serve as a forceful international leader without being a global bully. Most importantly, he could avoid falling into a rejectionist critique of Bush's foreign policy, which would inevitably sound to voters like a doubting of U.S. resolve. Optimism is one of the key factors that wins presidential campaigns, and Blair's conception of American power is far more optimistic than Bush's. It is also, ironically, more American than Bush's foreign policy, because it directly invokes the tendency in U.S. history to see our own national battles for safety as inextricably bound up in the world's battle for liberty.
I think this is correct, although it's still a Democratic shibboleth that the war is either unjustified or being executed badly (the Prospect holds the latter view). It's hard to preach buoyant, Blair-ist, pro-American optimism that -- coming from an administration official -- would have the editors of the Prospect frothing with disdain. But, quibbles aside, Blair gave the speech that hawkish Democrats should have given. Indeed, the New Republic beat this drum from the start. If Bush is going to be quasi-Wilsonian, the Democrats could out-Wilson him in a New York minute. Now that Dean is pushing for troops in Liberia, he sounds like a dope for holding out on Iraq. Bush, on the other hand, has the political capital, has the Africa outreach that would benefit enormously, and is still reluctant to send the Marines. The reluctant Wilsonian. Democrats could get a lot of mileage out of their previous "no daylight" support for the Iraq war, combined with a push for limited humanitarian and advisory involvement in Liberia. In effect, they could claim to be better executors of the Bush doctrine than Bush.
Hard Working Congressmen: Viking Pundit has been keeping a watchful eye on missed votes by Democrats running for president. Kerry's latest grade. Gephardt. Lieberman must be on deck.
Interesting: A Muslim libertarian talks economics at Reason.
Bully for Watson: Great to see him win the Senior Open, and in a playoff finish, to boot. His longtime caddy, Bruce Edwards, has ALS and has can't afford the expensive treatment that prolongs his life. Watson has quietly taken over the medical bills. This will help.

By the way, why is it that the senior boys shot so well under par in Scotland, while the main tour shot almost entirely over par in Sandwich? Could the courses have really been that different, or is it the Geritol?

Oh, yeah. And Suzy Whaley missed the cut in Hartford. Whatever. We went over this when Annika was the issue. I'd let a chimp play at the U.S. Open, as long as he (or she) shot from the men's tees to qualify.

More Dean: For an interesting follow-up to my post on VodkaPundit's Dean-as-Goldwater construction, check out Cohn and Chait in TNR having a similar debate. Cohn gives the first convincingly honest reason to support Dean that I've heard:
If there were some dream Democratic candidate out there suffocating because Dean was sucking up all the political air, then I might favor "stopping" Dean, too. But, dear lord, have you seen these guys? While some of them have perfectly respectable records as public servants--and a few are peddling some intriguing policy ideas--they're awful campaigners. Either they can't connect with audiences, or they have nothing interesting to say, or they're hopelessly (and transparently) led around by consultants, or some combination thereof. And as we learned in 2000, there's nothing like a bad candidate to undermine an otherwise strong political position.
If I were a Democrat, I think I'd be pretty convinced by that argument. The other candidates themselves are Dean's greatest asset at this point. Chait, on the other hand, thinks that Dean is so doomed in a general election that he's not worth the time:
Dean's foreign policy message is a straightforward attack on Bush from the left. It will only work if he can convince the American public that Bush is too tough and too willing to use force--an impossible task. In your response you offer a couple reasons why you think Dean's foreign policy message could work. First, you argue that blue-collar voters have only seen "some caricatured version of his opposition to the war." Well, so far Dean's position on the war has received only light and infrequent criticism from his Democratic opponents, who know they need to win over antiwar voters. You think his view is being caricatured now? Wait until he GOP tears into him in the general election. If he's nominated, by next year most Americans will think he's a dues-paying member of Al Qaeda.
Chait either agrees that there is no Goldwater-esque optimistic wilderness after Dean or he hasn't considered the possibility. I think Chait's too smart not to have entertained the idea of a spectacular but galvanizing loss, and I think he probably has the same doubts I do that Dean can lead to a major restructuring of the party, except as a repudiation of a platform he rides to defeat.
Holding out Hope: First of all...are you sure he's really dead?? Okay, enough with that. Hope was sort of like a Minister Without Portfolio of the comedy world. Not a movie star exactly, not a stand-up exactly, never had a t.v. show, exactly. He just "acted" in countless movies, was constantly doing live comedic shows, and probably was on more televisions than Milton Berle. He was the master of the inoffensive put-down. He could poke fun without drawing blood, and he was apolitical. That and his tireless work for the troops is no doubt why every president you can think of made nice with the man. You could say this made him second-rate - that he was afraid to go for the jugular - but does anyone think Dennis Miller, for example, is still funny (or that Bill Maher ever was)? He also never tarnished his image through women, drink or worse. 100 years, and the worst you could say about him was that he was ego-centric, or a kiss-ass.

It's funny, if you mention Bob Hope, and ask what the first word to come to one's mind is, each person will probably have a different answer: golf, USO, presidents, movies, t.v. specials, nose.... What is clear is that there will never be another of his type. Nowadays, every bar-comedian has an exclusive development deal that keeps him tied down to his "star vehicle". Bob realized that as long as you have an audience, you're always the star, and no matter the setting (golf course, Army base, stage, screen, press conference), you put your best effort forward. Truly a timeless class act, and one that will be ever-appreciated.
Thanks for the memories: Bob Hope dies at 100. There was plenty written about the man a few weeks ago, when he made the century mark, so I won't go into it. Besides, the man was from a different era that I only understood vaguely. I remember being young enough (probably about ten) to be looking forward to a Bob Hope special on tv and being kindly informed by schoolmates that I was an incomparable dork for saying so. And I think that was it for fifteen years, then I saw him only once a year, at the Bob Hope Classic golf tournament riding in cart, greeting players, and swatting the occasional ball. Once again, I thought Hope was cool. RIP.
Kurtz's Warning Shot: Stan Kurtz takes the anti-gay marriage issue to the Weekly Standard with a manifest of all the dangers and threats of gay marriage. Every time he writes, he has some new horrible possibility to ponder, some new combination of the institution of marriage and a group that will misuse it. Here's the scare du jour:
Ironically, the form of gay matrimony that may pose the greatest threat to the institution of marriage involves heterosexuals . . . an all-too-likely scenario in which two heterosexuals of the same sex might marry as a way of obtaining financial benefits. Consider the plight of an underemployed and uninsured single mother in her early 30s who sees little real prospect of marriage (to a man) in her future. Suppose she has a good friend, also female and heterosexual, who is single and childless but employed with good spousal benefits. Sooner or later, friends like this are going to start contracting same-sex marriages of convenience. The single mom will get medical and governmental benefits, will share her friend's paycheck, and will gain an additional caretaker for the kids besides. Her friend will gain companionship and a family life. The marriage would obviously be sexually open. And if lightning struck and the right man came along for one of the women, they could always divorce and marry heterosexually.

In a narrow sense, the women and children in this arrangement would be better off. Yet the larger effects of such unions on the institution of marriage would be devastating. At a stroke, marriage would be severed not only from the complementarity of the sexes but also from its connection to romance and sexual exclusivity--and even from the hope of permanence.

This is so bizarre I hardly know where to begin. First of all, we have the term "marriage of convenience" already because this possibility already exists. The single mother could "marry" a gay man with good family benefits. Where's the stampede? Second, "marriage . . . severed from its connection to romance and sexual exclusivity," frightening as that may sound, posits a that such a connection ever existed. Adultery is as old as marriage, and . And the idea of romance? Hogwash. Romance has only been an issue for as long as modern society has offered us the luxury of not living a clannish life of arranged marriage. Think that kind of stuff is old as the hills? It's still practiced all over the world. Even in modern western society, customs like dowry (the purchase price of a husband, in essence) still hang on. Kurtz is reduced to arguing fairy tales in which marriage is a handsome prince and a beautiful princess in endless love. Marriage comes in all flavors as it is, and I would argue that few of them are based on romance, at least after the first couple of years. Romance may bring some married couple together (as it does with gay couples, too), but that doesn't mean marriage is based on romance at all.

I wonder what Stanley's wife thinks.

Interpretation: Excellent counterpoint, sir, as usual. And that's why I don't prefer someone like Ashcroft (or Reno, for that matter) at AG. But a thinking person like yourself will always be able to make a sound and reasoned critique of an official's policies, rather than chanting silly slogans and cheapening the tools normal people use to debate and decide. And I agree that interpretation is the crux of the biscuit. For example, remember that the Clinton administration, via Janet Reno, insisted that the Elian Gonzalez case was, in effect, a custody dispute. How many custody disputes do you know of that are solved by federal ("Give me the f - - - ing boy or we'll shoot you") stormtroopers?

I disagree with Ashcroft on, well, nearly everything, including the assisted suidide issue. Particularly awful is the decision to enforce federal drug laws as controlling over state medical-pot laws. But still, I'll wait until Ashcroft's DOJ starts storming private residences, using armed-forces weapons and tactics against a bunch of religious nuts, and assassinating women and children before deeming him a threat to liberty.

The Justice League: Well, your Ashcroft post has many points, some I will readily agree with, others not so fast. The best point you make is that Ashcroft is hardly doing all of this alone. Our Congress can, if it wants, control him. The point is no one (okay, one woman from California) was going to dare vote down a law that was called "The Patriot Act"; how very unpatriotic. But, to say that Ashcroft can't greatly influence the direction the DOJ takes would be misleading - not that you're quite saying that. The point is that the AG, although he would never admit it, interprets laws, just like the Supreme Court. He, and he alone, can tell his troops what is bad, and what is good. Now, here's an example (and I'll agree the source material is slanted, but hey - this is the internet). Ashcroft is against physician-assisted suicide (as are millions of other people). But the fact is, he takes an anti-drug law, and interprets it in such a way that the A.D.A.s are now prosecuting doctors under the guise of this law.

Another example is Ashcroft, almost immediately after taking office, reverses direction on United States v. Miller, a case which interpreted the 2nd Amendment to cover only "collective rights" to firearm ownership (we're talking 29 years of precedent). Ashcroft took an oath to enforce laws, not re-write them. Some, this being America, are suing.

That said, as you also correctly point out, Reno was a disaster of a different sort, if not degree. The take-away, therefore, is not to get angry when this happens, but to act with your vote. If you replace the President, you replace the AG. Otherwise, short of him taking a roll in the hay with a young intern (unlikely given that the man dances without moving his hips), you have another year of bitching to look forward to.
More DOJ: It seems to me that, if Justice srepping on rights is one's big problem, one ought to read a little about what went on in Reno's department in the 90s (instead of bitching about how big an enemy of the Constitution John Ashcroft will no doubt prove to be if we don't hold some teach-ins). Cato's report on Waco is the essential starting point. If ever there were an era in which the controlling paradigm of federal law enforcement was domestic thuggery and systematic aggregation of federal police power, it was the Clinton/Reno era.

Sunday, July 27, 2003

Controversy: Let’s start the week with a rant, shall we? How about John Ashcroft? Last week, the voice of the Gen X GOP, Jonah Goldberg, wrote a short defense of Ashcroft, and it was uncharacteristically weak, unconvincing, and whining. (David Tell takes up the defense in a better, but more specific, way.)Let me give you my defense and see if it makes you think (or if it makes you think I’ve given up dancing).

Ask any Ashcroft-basher what the big problem is; and you’ll likely hear some thing like “that goshdarned Patriot Act” (possibly with stronger language, of which Ashcroft would surely disapprove). Ah, the Patriot Act. Remember how that act put us in chains in one fell swoop?

To be honest, I have some problems with the Patriot Act, but they’re less legal than political. (Orin Kerr, over at the Conspiracy, has done yeoman’s work debunking some of the sillier legal ideas of the Patriot Act, like that it makes it a crime to read anymore. Read his stuff. He knows more than I.) Let’s start with those. For example, I have a problem with the fact that the Patriot Act smells just a little bit like the work of a crowd of career pols who took a look at the 9/11 aftermath – and their thoughts turned quickly toward any threat toward their incumbency. Thus was born the act with a patriotic name, a host of symbolic gestures, and little else in the way of power that law enforcement didn’t have before, only shuffled a bit. A perfect incumbency-protection act (“Look at me, I’m protecting the nation!”) but not much actual thinking about new threats or better methods. No matter. They only would’ve f*cked it up, which they did anyway with the Homeland Security nonsense.

If it seems like I’m going far afield, I apologize. Enough background. So here comes the Patriot Act, which supposedly Ashcroft is going to use to send civvies to Gitmo of they snicker when the president mispronounces nuclear. Fair enough. It’s a big enough country that we can disagree on an act of Congress. But how does Ashcroft figure in? He didn’t make the law. The Senate voted 99-1 in favor of the Patriot Act. What does this mean? It means several things. First, it means that everyone has one senator, and most people have two, who voted for the Patriot Act. Got a beef? I can give you the capitol switchboard number if you like. Call your senator. Second, it means that the senate was so totally convinced that this was the right thing to do that they acted with a unanimity unseen (in a matter of important policy) since they decided, without a dissenting vote, that the Kyoto Accord was a giant piece of shit and not even worth a Democrat vote.

Hmmm. Where does that leave us? Oh yeah: Ashcroft. Now, as I recall, at Johnny’s confirmation hearing, the main accusation against him was that he had some deeply held beliefs that conflicted with current jurisprudence and statute. In other words, he couldn’t be trusted to enforce the law – his main duty. In light of the Patriot Act, what’s the new beef? Look out! He might just enforce the law after all! This strikes me as the sheerest eyewash, and above all a case of a partisanship in search of an enemy, a threat to present to its constituency. It’s garbage, of course.

As for Ashcroft the man, I don’t know him. And neither do most of the trust-fund freedom fighters at the liberal arts colleges with their “Stop Ashcroft” signs. I’ve met some people who share his religious inclinations, and I found them to be boring, a bit self-righteous, but generally honest and dutiful. I have no reason to believe he is any different. Do I want him as AG? Heck, no! But then I won’t be satisfied until somebody like Glenn Reynolds is at the post. (Read some of his stuff on law enforcement, especially the stuff with Dave Kopel.) Those who point to Ashcroft as the threat are one of two things. They are either ignorant of how the making and enforcing of laws is carried out, or they are willfully distorting it.

Friday, July 25, 2003

Howard Dean: I can see some of the similarities that Dr. Vodka posits re: Barry Goldwater. But while Goldwater tapped into a vein of anger among conservatives that culminated in the Reagan Revolution, I don't see a post-Dean wilderness for the Dems having the same effect. First, Goldwater was speaking to a GOP that had strayed from its core principles -- as Green rightly notes, Rockefeller Republicans dominated the party from the liberal, Northeastern wing. Dean, on the other hand, doesn't offer a return to the core party values of Wilson, Roosevelt, and Kennedy; rather, he speaks to an ideological crust around the party, much like McGovern did. And that is why McGovern didn't spawn a revolution either. Clintonism was, in fact, a repudiation of McGovern's idealistic "liberalism."

Second, when the GOP moved to the right under Reagan, it succeeded because it moved closer to where the country was, hence the "Reagan Democrat" phenomenon. No similar "Dean [or whoever consummates the revolution] Republican" movement can be expected; that is, moving the Democrats to the left will not do the same, because that's not where the country is. America exists in the middle: a bit to the left of Bush (though not as much as it thinks), but well to the right of someone like Gephardt. The fact that Dean's selling point is that he's from the "Democratic wing" of the party (and presumably Gephardt is not) will not win him the center.

The third important point was that Goldwater and Reagan were both WYSIWYG politicians; in other words, their heart-on-the-sleeve ideology was their selling point to the electorate -- in Reagan's case a successful one. (And, again, it worked because that's where the country was.) Dean seems like a cipher. What is his ideology? No war in Iraq? Why, then, does he push intervention in Liberia, when clearly America's interests lie more in Iraq? (Update: Here we go! Someone ask Dean why this isn't a distraction from the war on terror.) Civil unions? Like Green, I welcome the idea, but it's not like Dean sweated for it; the Vermont judiciary brought it about. What else is he for? Reducing the deficit? A great thing to be for, until you tell people you'll fix it by taxing the bejesus out of them. Visit the careers of Mondale and Dukakis to see the effect of running on taxes vs. deficit. The public will abide a deficit every time.

In short, I find myself agreeing with Green on many points, but I disagree with his conclusion. Dean is bad for the Dems. He's McGovern, not Goldwater. If you want to see where America is, watch Hillary, who will run in 2008 as a moderate. She's supporting the war in Iraq, hasn't been a carper about WMD (do you really think Bill was allowed to speak on the issue without her say so?), and keeps herself fairly clearly apart, publically, from Tom Daschle -- thus avoiding the whirlpool surrounding him as he slips into irrelevance. The Goldwater (and Reagan, for that matter) of the Democrats was Clinton -- the New Democrat. Why do you suppose the paradigm in liberal politics, on both sides of the Atlantic, is the aptly named Third Way? The second way, traditional Labour (in which direction Dean would take the Dems), is ideologically discredited.

Hmmm, like their father?: Funniest line from a CNN report about the Hussein boys and their bodies: "Officials said the bodies would be kept refrigerated at the airport until a family member comes forward to claim them. "
God and Justice: This takes the cake. I don't know how anyone takes him seriously - honestly. He's a freak that should be "retired".
While I'm at it: The Vodkaman has an interesting take on a Dean candidacy, comparing it to Goldwater in '64. I'm in no mood to parse it, but it's worth reading.
Collect yourself, blogger: Houseguests tonight. Five Austrians (three male, two female). Online game friends of my roommate who are visiting the states and passing through town for the night (for bloggers, imagine , Radley, Stephen, Tim, and The Bitch Girls came into town and wanted to party. This was the gamer equivalent, or so it seemed to me). The Austrians wanted to go sing karaoke, and, well, we did. And yes, Flyer partook. A rather good (if I do say so) rendition of Cheap Trick's Surrender and a less impressive mangling of Jimmy Buffet's The Weather is Here, I Wish You Were Beautiful had them in stitches. It was worth it to hear the ladies sing 99 Luft Balloons in German. A lot of fun, though it won't seem as fun tomorrow. Oh well, strange thing are bound to happen with Austrians in the house.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

The Disinterested Media: This kind of thing makes it hard to doubt that mainstream media has an agenda. Volokh has more.
Very different views: How different? Contrast the WaPo's take on Paul Wolfowitz's "report card" with Andrew Sullivan's. The Post:
Paul D. Wolfowitz, briefing reporters after a 41/2-day trip to Iraq, said that in postwar planning, defense officials made three assumptions that "turned out to underestimate the problem," beginning with the belief that removing Saddam Hussein from power would also remove the threat posed by his Baath Party. In addition, they erred in assuming that significant numbers of Iraqi army units, and large numbers of Iraqi police, would quickly join the U.S. military and its civilian partners in rebuilding Iraq, he said.
The article continues, reporting "tension," "chaos," and charges of political patronage and inter-administration feuds. Yikes! Sure, they give some space to Wolfie explaining how unpredictable war and occupation can be.
"There's been a lot of talk that there was no plan," Wolfowitz said yesterday. "There was a plan, but as any military officer can tell you, no plan survives first contact with reality."
We're not stupid, just helpless. Sullivan, though, digs up this quote from the Dep. Sec.:
The entire south and north are impressively stable, and the center is getting better day-by-day. The public food distribution is up and running. There is no food crisis. I might point out we planned for a food crisis; fortunately, there isn't one. Hospitals nationwide are open. Doctors and nurses are at work. Medical supply convoys are escorted to and from the warehouses. We planned for a health crisis; there isn't one. Oil production has passed the 1 million barrels per day mark. We planned for the possibility of massive destruction of this resource of the Iraqi people; we didn't have to do it.
The school year has been salvaged. Schools nationwide have reopened and final exams are complete. There are local town councils in most major cities and major districts of Baghdad, and they are functioning free from Ba'athist influence.
Doesn't sound like the same occupation, or the same report. Different sides find justification for their stance. Just the admin. allowing room for "diversity," I guess.
Senator Landrieu faced by a nine year old: Nice piece on Opinion Journal (reg. req.) about Senators Landrieu and Specter flip flopping to vote against vouchers for Washington D.C. students. Here's the scene last week at a Senate Appropriations Committee meeting:
Even a child can spot the contradiction. Outside the committee's meeting room last week, nine-year-old Mosiyah Hall, a D.C. public school student himself, politely asked Sen. Landrieu where she sent her own children to school. "Georgetown Day," came the response, a reference to one of Washington's most exclusive private schools. Mosiyah's mother says an obviously agitated Sen. Landrieu then came over to a group of local mothers to explain that a voucher would be no help for them here, because even with the $7,500 voucher this bill offers, they still couldn't afford Georgetown Day.

"It was an ugly moment," says Virginia Walden-Ford, head of D.C. Parents for School Choice and one of the moms demonstrating.
See dear, it doesn't matter if we give you a voucher. You're just, well, not one of us. Now, back to your 'hood.
The Democrats' Mantra: Ommmmm sixteenwords. Ommmmm sixteenwords. Ommmmm . . . Sixteen words?!?!
Loyal Opposition: Uday and Qusay are worm food, and Den Beste has a fine run-down of the leftist reaction. My favorite, from Lambert at the Atrios collective:
I think killing Saddam's sons was hog stupid. [Note: "hog stupid" now edited at site to read "not the smartest thing" etc.]

First, it's entirely possible that they were valuable sources of intelligence. Perhaps they knew which rosebushes the rest of the centrigures were under! Second, it would be more effective to display them as captives. Imperial Rome knew this when they paraded captives through the streets in triumph. The Peruvians knew this when they captured Shining Path leader Guzman and displayed him in a cage on national TV. Legends grow around martyrs, not captives.

So we should display Uday and Qusay on TV in a cage, then? God, no!
Suppose we had captured Saddam's sons, and then turned them over to the Hague tribunal for trial. What happens? The national interest gets served in all kinds of ways.
So no cage, a trip to the Hague, and maybe one of those pretty canal boat trips as long as they're in the low countries? Am I getting you now? Hell, within six weeks they'd be supping with Jacques Chirac and swapping stories of Baghdad back in the 80s.
Flashman: I meant to comment on this earlier. Bravo for delving into Fraser's epic, stunningly funny tome(s). As you demonstrate, amid the tomfoolery and debauchery of our Flashman, there is some keen insight to be discovered. Fraser was a fairly interesting guy himself, which may deserve a post later.
9-11 Critique: Well, you asked for got it. 20 findings on how the intelligence/law enforcement community let us down re: 9/11 attacks. It's good to see that we're not just giving up and letting the government say that it couldn't have forseen what happened. On the other hand, can you imagine, for instance, if the CIA went to the Transportation Administration and said that airplanes will be used as weapons, therefore, you need to create a new TSA, create 2-hour lines for domestic flights, and inspect the shoes of every 5th passenger. Oh, and all nail clippers must be viewed as instruments of terrorism. I mean, any President/Congress that even hinted at such changes pre-9/11 would have been crucified. Yes, the information should have been passed along, but no one can seriously think that much would have been done about it. I imagine the CIA has reports on how taxi-cabs can be used to destroy NORAD. This report must be used as a serious tool for improving communication among government agencies, and for giving serious evaluation to possible threats; but it cannot be used for political advantage or for throwing heaps of blame upon one particular segment of the government. No one was completely blameworthy or blameless.
Pryor to the Floor, for Filibuster? I'm going to revisit the issue of the judiciary committee for a moment, because yesterday they approved William Pryor by a party-line vote. I've said before that Democrat attempts to block nearly all of Bush's nominees is a good way for the party to repeat the losses of 2002 (most recently here). But the GOP seems intent on falling on its own sword in trying to beat the Dems on the issue. (The GOP should lighten up and take a page from the Democrats' book: ride the issue. The judicial system isn't falling apart due to vacancies; odds favor Bush having more than 5 more years, and the possibility of much bigger coattails in '04.)

Anyhow, the sword this time was a third party advertisement:

All nine Democrats voted against the Pryor nomination, but not before they assailed a television campaign by a group supporting President Bush's judicial nominees that showed a locked courthouse door with a sign reading, "Catholics need not apply."
Now, this is a great issue for the GOP to push, but it needs to be framed with some subtlety. It is a demonstrable plan of the Democratic Party (and not necessarily anti-Catholic, either, though just as sinister -- more on that below) to redraw the political lines in America so that anyone who holds traditional Catholic beliefs is an extremist. And they've had a stunning amount of success in running it below the national radar. John Kerry has been the most public about it. From his own website:
"Let me just say to you: That is not a litmus test," Kerry told about 85 women who turned out to listen to him over a continental breakfast in Des Moines. "Any president ought to appoint people to the Supreme Court who understand the Constitution and its interpretation by the Supreme Court. In my judgment, it is and has been settled law that women, Americans, have a defined right of privacy and that the government does not make the decision with respect to choice. Individuals do."

In an interview after the speech, Kerry added: "Litmus tests are politically motivated tests; this is a constitutional right. I think people who go to the Supreme Court ought to interpret the Constitution as it is interpreted, and if they have another point of view, then they're not supporting the Constitution, which is what a judge does."

(My emphasis) My god, how does one address such monumentally royal ignorance? First, according to this logic, an observant Catholic could never be on the Supreme Court. So change "no Catholics need apply" to "cafeteria Catholics only." Second, according to Kerry's non-litmus test, as other commentators have observed, he would never have supported any nominee to the high court who might have overturned such "settled law" as Dred Scott or Plessy. (Thus the obvious question: Is John Kerry a Jim Crow segregationist?) Obviously this is posturing of the most hyperventilating sort. More importantly, though, when Dick Durbin and Pat Leahy (both "Catholics" -- when it's convenient) sit on the judiciary committee and mutter and shake their heads at this despicable "no Catholics" issue ad, they are not to be believed for an instant.

This is a difficult issue for me, becuase I do have a dog in the hunt. I think abortion should remain legal, and I don't fully believe that nominees can keep their private beliefs compartmentalized while they interpret the law. On the other hand, I think the philosophical campaign by the Democrats to present mainstream beliefs as disqualification from service on the judiciary is anti-constitutional, anti-democratic, and another bit of evidence that the party is bent on making modern liberalism the de facto state religion, with heretics barred from participation.

Thank God for this Study: Headline, health page: Ice Cream 'Isn't Health Food' - Study

Update: Reuters has now moved this from "Health" and reclassified it as "Oddly Enough."

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Posted Without Comment:
But the best reason for murdering the [enemy] was that if enough of the brutes had escaped, the whole beastly business would have been to do again, with the consequent loss of [more] lives. That's something the moralists overlook (or don't give a dam' about) when they cry: "Pity the beaten foe!" What they're saying, in effect, is: "Kill our fellows tomorrow rather than the enemy today." But they don't care to have it put to them like that; they want their wars won clean and comfortable, with a clear conscience. (Their consciences being much more precious than their own soldiers' lives, you understand.) Well, that's fine, if you're sitting in the Liberal Club with a bellyful of port on top of your dinner, but if you rang the bell and it was answered not by a steward with a napkin but an Akali with a tulwar, you might change your mind. Distance always lends enlightenment to the view, I've noticed.
George MacDonald Fraser
Flashman and the Mountain of Light
Politics - NYC Style: Straight out of the "If you can make it here" files, comes this story of how to settle your differences in NYC Council politics. Perhaps the most egregious thing about this is that they gunman was allowed to bring in a weapon because of his "ties to the [victim]". Yeah, he was tied to him in that he wanted him dead. Bizarre.
The Oscar: holy relic: Some would say that an Oscar is priceless. Well, the Academy values them at $1.00. One of Orson Welles' daughters was trying to auction her father's Citizen Kane Oscar, but has been enjoined from doing so, it appears. The article is short, so I won't summarize, but my only comment is: "Who the f*ck cares?!"
Clinton: Granted, conspiracy speculation and Clinton go together like, well, stains and blue dresses, but here's an interesting speculation posted to The Corner:
Don't you think this . . . may as well have been an announcement: My wife is running for president in 2008?

1. [I]f Bush loses to a Dem because of unpopularity, she's locked out until 2012, therefore Bush must win so she can run for an open seat in 2008[.]

2. [I]n order for him to win, he must remain popular and thrash his Dem opponent in 2004[.]

Essentially, he almost endorsed GWB for re-election.

I speculated on this back in November, when Gore was still toying with a run. In essence, I said, Hillary has to hope (or work) for a Gore defeat in '04:
The CW, though, is Gore in '04, Hill in '08 (which leads one to the very interesting picture of Hillary pulling the lever for W. in '04).
The identity of the Democratic contender does nothing to change the calculus. Hillary's best chance is 2008, after six years as a distinguished senator, then perhaps a truncated term or two years of high profile speechifying. In order to get there without a party schism, she has to hang back and hope for four more years of Democrats in the wilderness.

An interesting speculative question is this: Would Hillary, notwithstanding her promise to serve out a full six-year term, consider accepting the vice-presidency slot? Should she? Should she be offered it? I say no on all three. The Dems are too weak this year. They'll either want a bland VP nominee (perhaps Lieberman again, or someone like him) or they'll try Reagan's stunt of co-opting the rival and try to get Howie Dean on the ticket. (Unless Dean is the ticket, in which case it hardly matter who the VP nominee is.) Bland is my guess here.

Awfully decent of the old chap: Clinton makes some rather surprising comments concerning Uranium-gate. I guess one could say he has nothing to gain by bashing Bush, and he's trying to achieve elder statesman status (given that Congress won't any time soon be amending the Constitution). Still, it was refreshing if only that it offered a pause in the vitriol.
One for Lileks: The WSJ looks at one little noticed effect of smoking bans across the country. Headline: Printed Matchbooks at Bars, Restaurants Are Flaming Out.
Demand for restaurant matches isn't what it used to be as more localities ban smoking in dining establishments and bars. Mr. Stuart and many other owners say they plan to use up their supplies and then let the once-ubiquitous restaurant matchbook fade into history.
Even at famed Boston tourist trap Cheers:
Matches still play a big role at Cheers, the Boston bar that inspired the long-lived TV show. Most tourists want to leave with a keepsake. Still, when the bar finishes off the matches it has on hand, it is considering a shift to souvenir buttons.
This is a shame because, as Likeks's galleries testify, the restaurant matchbook was a rich vein of commercial art.

There's a tendency to see this stuff today with a heavy dose of irony, and Lileks is not immune. (If I have one complaint about his his stuff, it's that he sometimes sounds like he's getting a charge from pointing at the rubes and giggling. I could be wrong.)

I used to be an avid match collector. (Yas, it was a glamourous life . . .) I tried to pick a pack from every restaurant I visited, and the more outrageous or odd, the better. The ones from New York in the 80s were a gold mine of forgotten names: names, in Miami Vice pastels, of places that opened and closed the same week; the latest post-Mama Leone nouveau-spaghetterias where small portions under bright lights were the rule, the name on the matchbook always a stylized neon cursive; the tsunami of fusion, which meant a typically moribund ethnic cuisine (French, usually, since they frogged around Southeast Asia the longest) cooked in a wok, the kitchen item usually featured on the matchbook.

One day when I was in college, desperate for a light (you guess why), I pulled out a book of matches from my pile (I don't remember which book, not that it matters; for the sake of romance, let's say it was from Vespa, on the upper east side, with the cute little Vespa scooter on the matchbook) and lit up. That was the end.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Dingell v. Connerly: Over quicker than a Tyson fight (circa 1990). You would think a U.S. congressman would be smart enough not to pick a fight with Ward Connerly and not mount any evidence in his favor or give some explanation for his position. No. This about sums up his tone.
We reject your “black vs. white” politics that were long ago discarded to the ash heap of history. Your brand of divisive racial politics has no place in Michigan, or in our society. So Mr. Connerly, take your message of hate and fear, division and destruction and leave. Go home and stay there, you’re not welcome here.
Connerly's not gonna stand for that, and he pulls the rug out, leaving Dingell look quite the fool.
The thought does not escape me, Congressman—and it should not you either—that some of my tax dollars contribute to your salary. That makes me an involuntary constituent of yours. Therefore, I must ask, do you treat all of your constituents with such contempt, arrogance and high-handedness, or do you reserve such treatment for the "uppity" ones who insist on using their civil rights to participate in public policymaking?
Dingell, who posted his letter to Connerly on his website, was obviously just looking to toss a bone to his liberal constituents and probably thought it wouldn't ever come up. So he was an easy target, and I almost felt sorry for him. But then I didn't. He deserves it.
If this is the best they can do: In trouble with the electorate? Opposition starting to make hay on what you knew and when you knew it? What to do? Start releasing top secret documents to bail you out. Oh but wait! It doesn't help at all, but only makes things worse. The top secret, highly competent analysis is filled with phrases like "highly dubious" with regard to WMD intel. And what about this:
"We lack specific information on many key aspects of Iraq's WMD programs,'' intelligence experts reported of efforts to gain weapons of mass destruction. "We have low confidence in our ability to assess when Saddam would use WMD.''

The biggest question is why the report was classified in the first case? Oh, so the American people could be fooled by rhetoric, that's why. And, why is it suddenly okay to release classified information when it's politically expedient to do so? Isn't this the White House that is fighting, tooth and nail, all efforts to weaken Executive secrecy?
Well, some would argue cheesesteaks are lethal: It has gotten so bad, our most prominent sports radio host has been suspended for his inappropriate (if accurate) comments concerning Eagle management. No one doubts this is a scam to force us to buy $5.00 soft pretzels, and $10.00 "hoagies". No self-respecting fan would be caught dead, however, eating a stadium cheesesteak - well, maybe after your 6th beer. Also, I have yet to hear of any fans turning in their season tickets, which shows that Eagles management really knows what it is doing.
The Cheesesteak-free Iggles? For you, Razor: For "homeland security" reasons, you won't be able to bring your street food into the new Iggles stadium. But you can still bring your D batteries, as Jeff Taylor explains.
Qualify This: One does presume that the Administration is confident if so many sources are coming out to comment. Of course, with all the qualifiers they attach to their statements, they're fairly worthless (although fairly standard with anything unconfirmed). It's too bad they couldn't take them allive. I mean, they go in with gunships and start firing. How about asking them to come out ... with their hands up? Failing that, can't they gas 'em or something? Imagine the leverage we gain if they're alive and in custody.
The Progressive Paradox: Along the lines of the progressive taxation debates we've had here, comes now this story about how the University of California system is considering charging higher tuition for wealthy students:
The Board of Regents of the University of California examined a proposal for a surcharge on wealthy students at a meeting Thursday. The university would be the first in the country to target wealthy students with a surcharge.

The proposed fee would force undergraduate students with family incomes exceeding $90,000 to pay as much as $3,000 more to attend one of the university's nine campuses.

And why not charge wealthy people more for a dog license. The argument, that they can afford to (and therefore should) pay more, is really indistinguishable from the argument for progressive taxation. If you can see your way clear to supporting this, what sorts of state or federal fees (if any) should be exempt from this extrapolated reasoning? How about state highway tolls? Just throw your social security number on your application for the EZ-Pass transponder, and do your part for balancing the state budget. How about municipal garbage collection fees? Water and sewer fees? Building permits?

The logic is insupportable, and the idea is class warfare dressed up, as usual, in the garb of fairness.

Link nod to Rob at Gut Rumbles, who has some choice words on this. (And Rob, although Steve Goodman cut a version of "Souvenirs," it's Prine's song.)

Do We Buy It? Reports abound, from the ubiquitous "unnamed senior officials," that Uday and Qusay got their tickets punched in Mosul today. By now, you'd think that the administration would be wary about this kind of speculation. For that reason, I'm guessing they must be pretty confident to leak this one.
Partial Retraction: Actually, Ramesh Ponnuru's cover article on gay marriage is an even-handed look at the politics of the issue, and is not, as such, extreme. It is, in fact, full of thoughtful and interesting observations like this one:
The logic of the argument against homosexuality now implicates the behavior of a lot of heterosexuals. If the argument is made openly, and cast as a case for traditional sexual morals in general, a large part of the public will flinch. If the argument is made so as to single out gays, the logic vanishes. Social conservatives begin to look as though they are motivated not by principle but by the desire to persecute a minority. If no effective public argument can be made, the prohibition on gay marriage must survive based on tradition and unarticulated reasons. These are weak defenses in a rationalistic and sexually liberated era.
The follow-up article, more editorial in nature, by Gerard Bradley, is typical of the attempts to frame marriage as a by-definition issue, that marriage is -- by definition -- closed to homosexuals. That is to say, it makes the case based precisely on those grounds that Ponnuru dimisses as "weak":
. . . homosexual acts are not and never can be marital. Sodomy has been discouraged, and sometimes prohibited, for basically the same reason that fornication and adultery have been: to protect marriage as the principle, or litmus line, of sexual morality.
Now this is not to say that Ponnuru's judgement of such defenses as "weak" means that he dismisses them as insubstantial. He may well agree with Bradley; I don't know. But the two pieces are not of a piece.
Your breeches or mine?: As I've said before, it's not like the "institution" of marriage is doing so hot right now that its sacred image could be tarnished by allowing more members into the club. The underlying worry (and bigotry) is that when we legalize homosexual unions, we tacitly "okay" homosexuality. This is like ignoring the avalanche headed your way in hopes that it will disappear. Homosexuals will never stop being born. It cannot be done away with by therapy or even threats of physical violence. Homosexuals can be brilliant artists or depraved criminals. In short, they're just like the rest of us. The only difference is that they cannot naturally pro-create; which means they match about 10% of our hetero population -- who are allowed to marry to their hearts' content. So, the issue is clearly that people don't like homosexuals because they are afraid of them. This is silly from even a practical view however, because they are a minority. At best, they are asking to be made equal, but there could never be the possibility that their dreaded "gay agenda" could be foisted on Middle America. Interestingly, the more they are accepted, the less you'd probably hear from them, as they'd be content to focus on more important issues: fashion (the men); car repair (the women).
Into My Breeches? It's funny that Massachusetts is already that way. So maybe the couples don't have a slip of paper telling them that the government grants them such rights as heteros receive, but the rings are there, the bickering is there, etc. We have a great picture on our fridge of two friends of ours at their "wedding," wearing matching traditional white gowns. You can't know them and not think of them as spouses, because all the baggage, good and bad, is present, as it would be in any marriage. For all its blather about "protecting the institution of marriage" (believe me, the current issue of National Review is nearly unreadable in its apocalyptic fears), the Right's rhetoric is not distinguishable from a Brown-era segregationist's rhetoric about protecting the institution of our public schools (viz. Ol' Strom's 1940s speeches about allowing the "negro" into white society). It is the last gasp of the bigot when they claim to be protecting our institutions for our own good. The institution of marriage will survive homosexuality. So will the armed forces for that matter. It wasn't too long ago that an argument was made that black officers wouldn't be able to lead, and black enlistees would lower morale in previously all-white units. (And perhaps this was true at first, but the actual obstacle, bigotry, not integration, was only overcome by facing it rather than kicking it down the road.)

And what about Bill Frist's comment that "marriage is a sacrament"? It may be in your church, Bill. For some of us, it's a legal arrangement. And that's as it should be. Churches are private, non-governmental organizations, and no one can force the Il Papa to allow gay marriage in the Catholic Church. The anti-gay-marriage crowd would have us believe that secular gay marriage still corrupts the institution, Catholic or not. I fail to see this. Otherwise, why would the church still keep its own set of rules, stricter than the states', governing who may marry? The argument falls apart on so many fronts, the only thing left is for the Right to claim some nebulous but unspeakable damage that will be dealt to marriage. Honestly, they sound like Brahmins farting on about what might happen if between-caste marriage were allowed. It's pitiful, and another reason I don't vote for the bastards.