Friday, January 31, 2003

Those who fail to learn...: You're really on a roll today, and I'd love to comment on them all, because you're making great points. You'll have to be satisfied with this: I just started reading Dr. Thompson's (Hunter, that is) book: "Fear and Loathing: The 1972 Campaign" (paraphrasing title here) which is about his time on the campaign trail as a writer for Rolling Stone on the '72 campaign. One of the issues he brings up again and again is how many candidates were running on an Anti-Vietnam platform despite their near-unanimous support for same only a few years earlier. They all admit to "having made mistakes" (boy, that phrase never gets old) and that now, they were certainly against the war (unless we start to win, in which case, they'll be for it again). People like Muskie and McCarthy who had to be FOR the war in the mid to late 60s b/c otherwise you're AGAINST democracy. Once the war is exposed to no longer be about communism vs. democracy, but rather thousands of filled body bags in a country most people can't place on a map, they're against it. The parallels are eerie.
TRB: The Republic Bulletin on the New Republic website is often thought provoking, though occasionally banal, opinion from what I called the "grown-up left" the other day. This piece is a fine example of the bulletin at its best. Nobody in the mainstream press is calling John Kerry on his war posture, which up until now has been to vote for one thing, then tell you he voted for the opposite. Too many Dems who voted for the resolution to allow Bush to act in Iraq are now trying to spin it as either the opposite or some measure of restraint on the president. Again, you may not agree with Bush often (or at all), but he's been honest and plain-spoken about his intentions in Iraq from the start. You may or may not think he's justified, and he is certainly trying to paint his justification in the most favorable light possible, but he's not spinning his policy. As for Kerry, I've distrusted him for a long time (he's one of my senators), and I've hammered him before for trying to have some issues both ways as he gears up for '04. But this is disqualifying, I think, to play games on something as serious as war. He wants to set himself up as the go-to guy for an I-told-you-so quote if there is a hint of trouble subduing Iraq. This is disingenuous (okay, it's politics, after all), but it's worse coming from a Vietnam vet, who should know better.
Krauthammer: He makes a lot of points that others have made recently, so it's not breaking news that the UN is irrelevant, Iraq is bad, etc. But he writes it so damn well, with his inimitable optimistic cynicism. here he is on the supposed need for us to have another UN resolution authorizing force:
These protestations are ritual, and mindless. How would the vote of Syria, member of both the Security Council and the State Department's list of terrorist states, confer legitimacy on America's actions? Or the vote of China? Or, for that matter, France, whose president called the president of Syria to coordinate Security Council strategy, and whose interest in stopping the war is a matter of finance (to protect its huge contracts with Saddam Hussein) and vanity (to be the one European ex-power that tames the American cowboy).
I wish I could hide Krauthammer behind a movie poster, like Woody Allen does with Marshall McLuhan in Annie Hall, and pull him out whenever some fool starts spouting the received wisdom as gospel. It would save a lot of time to have that eloquence at hand.
A Reader Comments:
Finally, now that the Dept. of Homeland Bureau... er, Security is official and everything, can we please go back to calling DOD the War Department? Just asking.
Why not? Homeland security is all about defense, and the DOD is all about cool things like daisy cutters. How about "the Department of Guns, Jets, Cool Exploding Things, and 25,000 Jarheads Running through Your Back 40"? It's no more or less silly than "Health and Human Services."
And Another Thing: Godammit, I've read poetry. I'm not proud of that. Just thought I'd mention it. Didn't poets previously admire the greats? Homer, perhaps? Dante? Milton? (Hell, the only classical poet you hear anything of in college anymore is Sappho, and then only becuase she was alternatively inclined, sexually.) Now who do they admire? Bob Dylan. I never had a poetry prof who wasn't gaga over Dylan. This is called expanding the canon. (I find this horribly confusing, since the important thing about poetry today is that it must not, under any circumstances, rhyme. Dylan, oddly, never passed up a 10-for-a-dollar rhyme to avoid having to think beyond moon-June-spoon stuff. In fact, Dylan's emphasis leans so heavily on simple rhyme that the meter blows and the tenor is laughably pseudo-enigmatic, all because he refused to rhyme anything more complicated than "you" and "do.") That aside, I'm sure that NPR, which joyously reported this news with absolutely no attempt at balance, will put some of the awful anti-war doggerel they read this morning, as part of the story, onto the Morning Edition website. Enjoy!
So Very Tired: Thanks to the mantra "The personal is political," we have become a terribly uncivil society. I don't usually care about this, since I'm basically a plain-vanilla misanthrope, but I do take issue with what our country's "best" poets (read: chardonnay-sipping hacks with tenure, a radical bent, and a summer house) did to Laura Bush. Here's a quickie wire summary. Here's another one with a typical, huffy-puffy "silencing dissent" quote. The first lady, who, unlike her predecessor, has made it clear that she wants to opt out of the cheesy political "partner" bit, instead focuses on literature and literacy. (Let's get it out of our system: yes, she could begin with her husband.) Anyhoo, Laura schedules a poetry symposium, the poets all start chattering about how they're going to either boycott or show up and read anti-war verse, Laura "postpones." Now the poets bitch that their "voice[s] ha[ve] been silenced"? Give me a day off, for god's sake. Laura announces a tea party; a bunch of ungracious, uncivilized brutes announce their plans to show up and piss in the geraniums. And she gets lashed for calling it off? The arts and letters used to be a home for those with a little class, a little dignity, a little civility (none of which, by the way, have any connection to money or social status). Now all you need is some downtrodden, Mumia-style "friends" (none of whom you'd actually see socially, mind you; since the personal is political, you can think of them as colleagues), a claim of dissent, and a belief that the world owes mindless "artists" like you a living and a megaphone. In other words, it's perpetual adolescence.

Thursday, January 30, 2003

Strange Bedfellows: Not much blogging today or tomorrow. Big trial on Monday. Big motion due tomorrow. Anyway, when you align with Syria on anything, you can pretty much just lay down on the tracks. You know, I can oddly enough respect Germany for its stance. Schroeder did what he had to in order to get elected. But, in any event, no one really wants Germany to start getting up on its governor vis-a-vis war mobilization. I think most of Europe would get nervous. But France just looks more and more stupid. I'm starting to buy into they have something to hide, a la my earlier comment on some post I read. They're happy to take over in their fomer colonies (Ivory Coast), but heaven forbid they help anyone else out. As for your much earlier comment concerning my time in France. I lived in a fairly cosmopolitan city about two hours from Paris (by slow train, only 1 via TGV). The city didn't seem to have a particular bent on politics. Maybe I was too busy with other activities, but I did tend to watch a fair amount of news and other t.v., and I don't remember a lot of editorializing about imperialism. Dunno. Maybe Chirac is desperate like Schroeder.
Sigh. TNR's "&c" blog, while often a refreshing voice from the grown-up left, still lets this kind of selective quoting creep in. Note that the Club for Growth's Stephen Moore "gushe[s]" over the SOTU. Read his piece on NRO yourself. Yes, he compliments the "conservative points" in the speech. But as for the spending spree, the ostensible focus of the &c post, Moore says flatly:
I too cringed when Bush touted out his multimillion-dollar cockamamie proposal for hydrogen-fueled cars. George: Let the private sector do it. Yes, during that part of his speech W. was temporarily and eerily transformed into Al Gore ... One gets the sense that W. is a long way from ever uttering the famous Reagan maxim that "government is the problem not the solution." Few of the Bushies believe that anti-big-government piece of the Reaganomics puzzle. A four percent spending increase is about two percent too much. The spendaholic tendencies of this White House could be its undoing.
Hmmmmm. One of these things is not like the other. I suppose the hope at TNR is that no self-respecting reader would click through to a National Review piece and see what the author actually says.
Can't Butt Out: France's latest trick, via Drudge. This is very important to France, for some reason. I think it's money. Others have suggested that France has something to hide. Still others think it is a deliberate attempt to embarrass the U.S. and display the strength of the EU. (And only a country like Syria would see it as a strength that France doesn't stand up to corrupt, terror-sponsoring regimes.) Whatever it is, a whiff of desperation is in the air now.
"New" Europe: This is astounding. Eight nations in Europe, some of which have had, at one time, the boot-heel of totalitarianism on their neck, declare solidarity with America:
The U.N. Charter charges the Security Council with the task of preserving international peace and security. To do so, the Security Council must maintain its credibility by ensuring full compliance with its resolutions. We cannot allow a dictator to systematically violate those resolutions. If they are not complied with, the Security Council will lose its credibility and world peace will suffer as a result. We are confident that the Security Council will face up to its responsibilities.
In addition to being a statement of solidarity, this is a huge (if implied) slap at France, the self-appointed "rooster" of the EU henhouse. So now when a Democrat says that we shouldn't go into Iraq without our allies, you'll know it's a ruse. Britain, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Poland, Hungary, Denmark, and the Czech Republic? No, not without our other allies. Australia? No, no, the other ones. Like Kuwait, Qatar, Turkey, Jordan, UAE, Oman, and Albania (to name just a few Muslim countries)? Maybe you start to get the picture. It's France, right? Or whoever's still holding out after that. Iraq, maybe.
Assumption Check: I've heard a lot of this argument (i.e., if Iraq, then therefore North Korea) and I have to disagree. I think it's a hypertechnical argument that ignores some critical strategic elements. First, there is a solid chance that North Korea has nukes now, which means that to call thier bluff is to nuke them. Even if they had no nuclear weapons, I don't foresee a conventional hot war, given that we have about 50,000 troops on the border, while they have nearly a million. And out host, South Korea, at whose "invitation" we serve, finds that the SOFA that keeps 50,000 troops there is already chafing a bit. Imagine if we told them we wanted to bring in another quarter of a million soldiers. If North Korea doesn't negotiate, it's a lost cause, and we end up with full-blown cold war syndrome. Second, Saddam promised 12 years ago, after we kicked his ass up and down the gulf coast, to fully disarm, which he hasn't done. On the other hand, North Korea fought us to a draw 50 years ago and made no promise, outside the DMZ, to disarm. True, they did sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which they officially backed out of this month, but didn't we just back out of an ABM treaty with Bad Vlad Putin? We'd look pretty hypocritical going to war over that. Despite the obfuscation of the media, the French, and the Dems, Iraq is an open-and-shut case, otherwise we wouldn't have UN resolutions that the frogs are trying to weasel out of; nor would we have congressional resolutions that Tom Daschle wants to weasel out of. If the case was made last October, when the congress authorized Bush to use force, the case is made now. Hell, the case was made in 1998 when Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act, which states unequivocally that none of us really believes that disarmament will ever occur under Saddam's regime.

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Check your assumptions: Lileks, accordingly, assumes that when we invade Iraq, everything will be better. You, importantly, raise the issue that we don't know where all this stuff is coming from. Terrorists live in every country of the planet. The anthrax is as likely to have come from a disgruntled microbiologist as Mohammed Atta's pissed off younger brother. We have little to no proof of Saddam sponsoring anything signifcant against us, directly. Is that to say he won't? No. But I go back to my slippery slope argument, if we do it with Iraq, we had better do it with N. Korea, Iran, Nigeria, Lybia, Indonesia and Pakistan. I mean, where do the pre-emptive strikes end? Yes, Saddam is the worst of the lot as far as open, nationalized aggression goes (let's face it, border invasions just don't happen that much anymore), but it's hard to argue that he hates us anymore than the rest. His "potential energy" is the greatest, but you tread a delicate line between aggressor and defender in this situation.
Bleat On: When you're tired of hearing the same old thing said yet another way, go read Lileks. He has a way of saying things, on topics that everyone is talking about, that no one else is saying. Here's an example:
Think back to the post 9/11 climate, and remember the feeling you’d get in your stomach when you read a story headlined “Does Al Qaeda have a nuke?” or “Smallpox fears rise” - it seemed as if the one thick thread that held your world together was about to get a good hard yank. Some forget how every day brought the same routine - news report, a hot squirt of fear in your stomach, a quick imposition of denial, then . . . well, you had to make dinner, or pick the kids up, or take the dog to the vet. We lived in these twin worlds of the Now and the Horribly Possible. The latter, thank God, hasn’t happened yet.
Visceral, ain't it? Next time you hear someone yelling about how imperialist the U.S. is and how we need to wait for the threat to be imminent, for the gun to be smoking, remember the quote above.

I remember the feeling: I remember washing my hands, repeatedly and vigorously, after I opened the mail so that I could play with my son without being afraid -- because a lady that lived 65 miles southwest of us had died of anthrax. No, we don't know where that anthrax came from, do we? Does that make you feel better or worse?

POTUS/SOTU: I didn't see it. I instead, wisely, went to see "Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" which was excellent, if physically and emotionally draining after 3 hours. God, what a masterpiece of direction that movie is. Anyway, from what I've read about the SOTU, there was a noticeable change in his demeanor and delivery. This is what gives me hope about the Democrats for the 2004 run-off. Before he was president, everyone considered Bush to be an aimless ex-coke fiend who got by due to his dad's connections. Now we see a real steely resolve in what he does, and whether you agree with him or not, you are forced to respect his determination and ability to get things done. One hopes that one of the Dems will find their true voice in the campaign and then develop that should they win. The war issue will never be sold with what they're selling now. I'm not saying they won't go in, I'm just saying they don't have a compelling reason to do so. You can't give the inspectors a month and then say that you gave inspections a real chance. Basically, it would be nice to have proof the inspectors or our intelligence actually found something. Even though we could go toe-to-toe with Saddam, I think it would be better for all if we could hold something up as a compelling reason. I'm all for ridding the world of evil, but there's no more of a compelling reason to do it now as opposed to in 1991. Anyway, I'll have more to comment on when I read a bit more of the speech.
The French: I like your reminiscences of France post-Gulf War I. But you lived in the equivalent of a "red state" in France, didn't you? I bet the folks in the countryside have longer memories than the sophisticated Parisians. I'm talking about the folks that cried when Reagan went to Normandy, the ones that declared "Nous sommes tous Americaines" after 9/11. Am I right?
A VAT of Revenue: The nice thing about the VAT is that, theoretically, it wouldn't have to be too high, since it cuts out most non-consumer deductions (mortgage interest being the biggest). Another nice thing? You get point-of-purchase sticker shock; that is, you see how much the government is bilking you. It would foster more awareness than the current paycheck deduction method, whereby you never actually see the money the government takes away. This is one major reason why, as you note, the VAT is unpopular. I've flirted with the idea lately, as you recall, and I don't think it would be a disaster to have a national "sales tax." I just worry that it would come on top of the current income tax, not instead of it.
Home Run: Sorry I'm late, but I had trouble with the web this morning. It gave me a chance to peruse the papers. There is a lot of nitpicky criticism of the SOTU, but nobody tackles it head on. I think it was a home run. (David Brooks comes closest to agreeing with me. It would be Radley, who's right on in nailing Bush on the price of the domestic programs, except that I buy the war argument.) For two years I watched Bush's speeches on the edge of my seat, waiting for the grammatical train wreck or the deer-in-the-headlights look. I've stopped. He's in command; he's a good speaker when it's written out (this can't entirely be said of his father); and, dammit, I like him. Yes, he is like Reagan, just as the liberals claim. He's easy to peg as a doltish pushover. Remember when Reagan went to Iceland for a summit with Gorbachev? Everyone said, "Oh, Gorby's so smart, he's gonna eat Reagan's lunch." Not so. If anything, the reverse happened: Reagan told Gorby that we could reduce arms together, but Star Wars was going forward and the USSR could pound sand if they didn't like it. Young George is like that, too. Friendly, informal, but with a determination that isn't obvious at first.

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

This won't sell in Peoria: We debated the Value Added Tax a while ago. Here's a short snippet from the Economist on the VAT in restaurants vs. take out (or as the Brits say, "take away"). You tell me. Would Americans stand for a 20% bill on every meal they eat out-of-home in exchange for no 1040-EZ? Maybe. But when you put that VAT on everything they buy? That's a tough sell.
"Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys": Thanks again to Arts and Letters Daily. Nice piece on hating the French and the other Europeans (but mostly the French). Funny, when I lived there (and this was winter/spring 1992 - so just after we got done in Iraq), I never heard a word about American imperialism either in the news or in conversations. You know how we have "Outback" and "LoneStar" steakhouses? Well, they have the same thing, only its usually in a "Wild West" type deal. They are infatuated with their idea of the U.S., which admittedly, doesn't comport to reality. Likewise, they don't all play accordians, and sit around in striped shirts with berets. They do all smoke, but this is common to Europe (although that's starting to change). Nonetheless, I don't think that they reject us because they don't agree with us. They reject us because they can no longer be like us (Napoleon having been their last shot at hegemony). One wonders when the U.S. will be thumbing its nose at Australia as it imposes its will on the U.N. Security Council. USA Today headline: "G'day?! Goddamn!"
N. Korea & Iraq: Yes, I think your average peasant knows little but his cabbage plot, but don't discount the samizdat that pops up in these places. The chic young Muscovites were wearing Levi's in 1985, and it wasn't for the comfort and durability. They knew what was in style in the west. Meanwhile, the Koreans polish the statues because they don't want to be shot. As for the Axis of Evil remark, I think it's a hard construction to spin, but I'll try. Okay, Germany, Italy, and Japan were all "Axis" powers in WWII. But one got firebombed, one got nuked, and one got a purely strategic (but hard fought) invasion. Collaborators like Quisling and the Vichy government were ignored, although they were technically the enemy. In the end, you want to keep your options open. By make moral equivalents of N. Korea and Iraq, Bush himself raised the question of why we should have differing attitudes toward diplomacy in the two situations. A mixed bag, coining that phrase, but the phrase has stuck. (By the way, Iran's on that "Evil" list, too. What will we do with them?)
The Reason? The New Republic's "&c" blog asks why Gov. Gary Locke will respond to the State of the Union speech for the Dems. They have the sources to back up their assertion that it's because the governors were the only Dems that fared reasonably well in '02. But I think that's spin. I think that too many high profile Dems are gearing up to run for president. First, this is a touchy time for a politician to speak, officially, for the Democrats. They still don't have a formulated message (other than "Bush has a credibility gap," which message telegraphs the notion that they learned nothing from 2002). Second, any prominent Dem who harbors presidential aspirations and gives the rebuttal speech will be subject to a large dose of the hairy eyeball by the other likely candidates. Why give Kerry, Daschle, Lieberman, Gephardt, etc. free face time just as several candidates are jumping in or set to announce? You might as well call up Gary Hart and ask if he'd like to do it. I think they all agreed (to their mutual relief) to let an outsider take a swing at it while they watch the dial group numbers.
Yes, but: Your points on N.Korea vs. Iraq are excellent. However, you engage in the foolish practice of arguing reality as opposed to rhetoric. Either you're part of the "Axis of Evil" or you're not. While N.Korea is definitely in over its head, it still has the means to bring about a rather nasty end. As to what your average N. Korean is seeing across the DMZ, I might quibble a bit. I watched a recent show on PBS that had one of its ubiquitous toothy Brits and his digital camerman, as they took a tour (state supervised, of course) into N. Korea. There is no question that they were shown only what the government wanted, and that their two guides (one being a very fetching young lass) were spouting the party line the entire time. However, I do think that the masses, while certainly aware of how ridiculous their leader can seem, don't really have a clue as to what the West is like. They're too bombarded with propaganda, and kept busy polishing statues of Dear Leader. Nonetheless, if a war would occur, I think they would put up a good fight, but anything protracted would exhaust their supplies of food and equipment. Having said the above, I'm inclined to agree with your Nazi Germany/late 80s USSR analogy. Problem for Saddam is that he has no Moussilini to speak of.
If Lincoln Had Powerpoint: This is hilarious. Thanks to Arts & Letters Daily for the link.
The Thing with Iraq: I accept part of your formulation, i.e., that we should take an equally strong stance with North Korea. On the other hand, I don't think we are obligated to use the same methods. For one, I think North Korea is using their nuke program as a bargaining chip. (Why else would they admit to it?) Not true of Saddam. I think he wants the weapons more than he wants humanitarian relief. The starvation of the Iraqis can be conveniently blamed on the decadent west and their lust for oil. Not so in Pyongyang. I think it's pretty clear to the average North Korean that they have nothing we want. In addition, there is the fact that they need only look across the DMZ to see a successful, democratic, capitalist Korea selling us all kinds of stuff. Where, exactly, would the Iraqis look to see this kind of example? Certainly not Turkey, with its unfashionable desire (Muslims might say "pretentions") to join the EU. Certainly not, on the other side, Iran, where a once thriving, educated middle class has been beaten into submission by a theocracy that makes Jerry Falwell look like Jerry Garcia. North Korea, even with nukes, has the look of the Soviet Union circa 1988: trying to project military strength while really having more rattle than fang. Iraq, on the other hand, has a bit of the decadent look of twilight fascism. While the Soviets could, in fact did, go out with a whimper, Nazi Germany was destined for a bang. While I don't want to play analogues too deeply, Iraq is more like Germany, and North Korea is more like the USSR.
Here's the thing with Iraq: I'm not anti-war in the sense that people like Janene Garofolo are. I don't think the concept of war is the brainchild of evil corporations. I recognize the need for the use of lethal force to protect ourselves, and to stop aggression when it runs unchecked. The problem I have with the war on Iraq is that, to my knowledge, this will be the first preemptive strike the U.S. has ever engaged. Sure, you could argue Vietnam was one massive preemptive strike against Communism, but this one is fairly clear cut. It is clear that Saddam poses a threat all the time. It's clear that in a perfect world, he and the wacko in N. Korea should be in insane asylums. However, to say that we're going after Saddam because he "supports terrorism" while we offer Pyongyang additional aid for breaking their promises is logically unsound. N.Korea supports plenty of terrorism as do countless other leaders around the world. If Iraq poses a threat, then N. Korea is what exactly with its long-range nuclear weapons that it wants to start building and selling again? I know that we want to go to war against Saddam in part because we can win fairly easily. But, you can imagine what that sort of image does to our weakling allies who still want to seem important. Anyway, if we do go after Iraq, we MUST do the same to N. Korea.
What's My Song? I couldn't do much better than Bissel does at McSweeney's, taking on the Beatles. But I'll shake the tree and see what falls out here ... I'm going to go with "Blue" by Lucinda Williams, from 2001's astounding Essence. I post the lyrics out of metaphysical obligation:
Go find a jukebox and see what a quarter will do

I don't wanna talk, I just wanna go back to blue

Feeds me when I'm hungry and quenches my thirst

Loves me when I'm lonely and thinks of me first

Blue is the color of the night

When the red sun disappears from the sky

Raven feathers shiny and black

A touch of blue glistening down her back

We don't talk about heaven and we don't talk about hell

We've come to depend on one other so damn well

So go to confession, whatever gets you through

You can count your blessings, I'll just count on blue

Blue is the color of the night

When the red sun disappears from the sky

Raven feathers shiny and black

A touch of blue glistening down her back

The music is appropriately spare and haunting, too. Have a listen. There's little I can add to this. The lush color of the chorus, contrasted with the starkness and rawness of the verses: It's a good description of how attractive and comforting loneliness can be. Hmmm. I'm not very good at this, providing a verbal argument for a song.

Well, on the other hand, one "song" that never fails to move me beyond words is the "Credo" in Bach's B Minor mass, particularly the third small movement (the soprano/mezzo duet).

And, Finally, the Tax Cut: That same wire story quotes a bit of the Dem "leadership" agrgument against Bush's newest tax cut proposal. Says Pelosi:
And yet, the president says there is enough money in the wartime budget to create a huge tax cut that benefits the wealthiest in our country," Pelosi said. "The credibility gap widens.
They've found their theme for 2004, apparently: a bit of class warfare and "the credibility gap." But here's the real credibility gap: Bush has, from the start, stood foursquare behind tax cuts as a domestic strategy. First, it is good for the economy. Yes, the rich do benefit; that's why its good for the economy, since the poor pay almost no taxes, and aren't out buying heavy equipment or hiring semi-skilled labor with their "rebates" anyway. Second, tax cuts take money out of congress's purse, which is the only way to keep them from spending it (and even that doesn't work perfectly).

Now here's the credibility gap part: The Democrats have always opposed tax cuts, calling them "risky schemes" to "blow a hole in the deficit" (yeah, what the hell does that mean?). But when they see the country's appetite whetted for some serious economic justice, to borrow a phrase, they quickly come up with a competing plan that, consistently and infallibly, complicates the tax code, rewards behavior that Nancy Pelosi (or someone like her) deems civic virtue, and does nothing to reduce that actual tax burden on the people who build this multi-trillion dollar economy with their own hands, day after day.

Here's a surefire way for congress to fit the tax cut into the budget: stop spending so damn much money with so damn little to show for it. Instead of taking from me to fund your every whim, you feel the pinch for once and actually cut worthless programs, give in to private-sector-style efficiencies, and put congressional raises on the ballot. That would be direct democracy, Ms. Pelosi.

What's your song?: I don't want to rip off McSweeney's (nor Hornby), but I found this to be a pretty nifty idea. Read it and then come back and finish this post....Anyway, here's mine: "Analog Kid" by RUSH. Although I've moved beyond my days when RUSH was the best band in the universe (an affliction many, many high school boys shared), this song always hits me hard, even though I rarely hear it unless I put in the CD. I used to play this song nearly every morning before I went to classes my freshman year in college. The song was so beautiful in its lyrics describing a young boy who lays back in the grass, gazes up into the sky, thinks of the "fawn-eyed girl with sun-browned legs", and watches a hawk "go soaring by." It was the tempo, Geddy's voice getting nearly falsetto in the third verse, and the hopeful feeling that the song inspired. It makes me smile every time.
Domestic Gripes: The Democrats, it seems to me, are trying to play a double game on this, too. Tom Daschle wants Bush to put proof on the table:
The two crucial questions the president needs to answer on Iraq are: first, does Saddam Hussein pose a threat to our national security so imminent that it justifies putting American lives at risk to get rid of him? And second, how are our efforts to deal with this threat helped by short-circuiting an inspections process we demanded in the first place.
Why does no media outlet ask Daschle why? Why did he vote to give Bush the authority to act with all necessary force if he doubts the casus belli? Here's Nancy Pelosi, from the same article:
At the end of the day, it may be that the American people conclude that we have no choice but to put our young people in harm's way. But I think we have to take every precaution before we do that.
So Pelosi is willing to go with what "the American people decide"? I wonder if she would be so keen on this concept of direct democracy on any other issue. Partial birth abortion, say. As long as the poll numbers favor her side, she thinks the American people should decide. Earth to Pelosi: You, and Bush and Daschle and the rest of you phonies, were elected to lead, to make the tough call -- not to stick your finger in the wind.
Iraq Looms: And Europe continues to dither. There was a wonderfully telling article in the WSJ yesterday (link requires subscription), specifically about Colin Powell on the hot seat at Davos. He got some of the standard lectures about U.S. "imperialism" from the usual European suspects, but the most interesting paragraph was this:
Many Europeans here understand the U.S. goals in Iraq but have been insulted by the administration's tactics. "When you tell your partners that you want to do something with them, but if they don't agree you will do it anyway, that is not negotiation," said Bertrand Collomb, chairman of Lafarge, the big French construction company. "That is the crux of the matter."
Is that really the crux of the matter? If so, it's quite revealing. How would you describe someone who understands your goals, and is not necessarily opposed to your solution (viz the general European agreement on Res. 1441, which we basically let them rewrite), but who works to derail that solution because you didn't treat them with enough deference? Perhaps "diplomat" is the obvious answer, but I think I'd choose "petty," "shortsighted," "obtuse," etc. How else can you see these countries? They simply are not serious about Iraq. They can make the point, again and again, that there is no need for us to "rush into war." First, we're not exactly rushing; second, it has been, after all, twelve years since we first asked Saddam to comply with the UN disarmament specifics. The UN has shown that it will not live up to its responsibilities, that it will always be willing to give "one more chance" to Iraq. Enough. This war has had its timing dictated by weak, petty diplo-crats for too long.
From the Legal Department: Umm, heheh...everyone is now laughing at Enobarbus' little joke with Maureen. In case there is any confusion, the views expressed on this blog by one editor, do not necessarily reflect the views of anyone else, namely me. I love everyone. No one has penis envy. Well, maybe Rumsfeld, which is why that war-mongering, blood-thir.....EVERYTHING IS FINE. RAZOR HAD TO ATTEND TO A FAMILY EMERGENCY. HERE IS SOME LIGHT READING WHILE HE IS GONE.

Monday, January 27, 2003

Sullivan, Dowd, Time, Etc.: Minor flapdoodle in Time about the president "reinstating" the practice of laying a wreath at the Confederate memorial at Arlington. (Read the correction here.) Both Andrew Sullivan (you know the drill, scroll down) and Maureen Dowd make a point of loudly tsk-tsking this; then Sullivan gets holier than Dowd because her "retraction" involved too little self-flagellation. (Glad you're hammering her, Andy, but you need to listen up here too.) In addition to simply correcting herself, Dowd has to sneer as she corrects:
In my last column, I cited a Time article reporting that the president had "quietly reinstated" a custom of sending a wreath to the Confederate Memorial. Time has since corrected the story, saying he didn't revive the custom, but simply continued it. I would still ask: Why keep a tradition of honoring the Confederacy while you're going to court to stop a tradition of helping black students at the University of Michigan?
Obviously that bit about the Michigan case is meant only to excuse Bill Clinton. One could say to Dowd, "You can't hammer Bush for something Clinton did too." But Dowd, so smart, is ahead of you: "But Clinton," her implied argument runs, "wasn't practicing the politics of economic genocide [would this hyperbole be a reach for her? Nah...] against African Americans!"

Memo to Dowd: According to Lincoln, the defeated Confederates were American soldiers, no more or less so than the Union soldiers. Their memorial is fitting and just. It does not imply any support for the Confederacy's cause to honor dead Americans, soldiers who, in the great American tradition, fought bravely and died for their side. What's next, Maureen? Tear down the Vietnam Memorial because that was another unjust cause? Maybe you can serve us by letting us know just what is and is not worthy of our honor and remembrance. Oh, and break the list down by president and party, too, so that we can keep up with what acts of public policy disqualify other acts of public remembrance.

Maureen, you're such an idiot, I can't believe you live and breathe. I'm sorry that the world is changing in a way that interferes with your attempts to salve your own festering, unconscious guilt with finger-wagging self-justification. That's life. Grow up, see a therapist for the penis envy, and get job where you contribute something to the world, rather than just sucking, maggot-like, on the carcass of the silly, narcissistic "liberalism" of your generation and excreting its tired trope on the pages of the Times.

Friday, January 24, 2003

I love catching up after having been on vacation. It means I get to read tons and tons of smart things. Like looking at Arts & Letters Daily and having weeks and weeks of stuff to scroll through. Volokh is like that, too. A couple weeks ago I mentioned campus speech codes briefly. Read this, Eugene's fiskette of a really stupid statement. Read it and know joy. You can thank me later.
Startlingly Useless: Volokh has been chatting about names (here, with links, and earlier) and provides the link to the Social Security Administrations statistical and actuarial data. You'll be surprised at how wonderfully lost you can get in this useless data. For example, In 2001, we named our son Simon (a pretty common name, you'd guess). It turns out that twice as many parents named their sons Clayton (also Preston, Jayden) as chose Simon. Three times as many chose Riley, Tanner, Dalton, Colby, Carson, Dakota, Wyatt. (Was there some very popular cowboy movie I missed?) Four times as many chose Gavin (reruns of "The Love Boat" no doubt aiding this spike, with that dashing Gavin McLeod starring). Ten times as many chose Logan, which I suppose I'd always considered a surname. Biblical names dominated, from Jacob (taking the top spot) to Isaiah, Nathan, Caleb, and a host of other names that were previously popular in the long "begat" sections of the Bible. Funny that, over on NRO, Derb observes the common trend of Jewish families moving toward more gentile names over the generations. Paying back in kind, the goyim has appropriated Joshua, Zachary, Noah, and Samuel (all in the top 30).

Fascinating, no? Okay, I'll stop

And he's a vegetarian!: The Weekly Standard chooses to waste valuable bandwidth, not to mention presumably valuable time of one of its editors to lambaste Moby for daring to express his thoughts on the potential war with (against? near?) Iraq, his disdain for the GOP, and for being a pacifist (even after being assaulted by three hooligans). Maybe they're too tired over at the Standard to extol, once again, the Bush "Tax Code Simplification Plan", but isn't this like Moby deriding W. for how choppy his techno soundtracks are?
Us and Them: Thanks to the fearless Agitator (my favorite anti-warblogger) for pointing out Christopher Caldwell's excellent piece in Time on the Europe-America split over Iraq. Of course, Radley pokes the essay for being "big-government foreign policy," but I suspect that he's intentionally missing the point.
But the heart of the American complaint — again, reversing an old European saw — is that Europeans are naive and provincial. It is easy enough to browbeat Americans about the flimsy coverage the E.U. gets in U.S. dailies. But where does European interest in the world rise above the dilettantish? When has the E.U. come up with a workable plan for Iraq? For the Middle East? For North Korea? After the carnage of two world wars, the European distrust of power politics is something for which we have reason to be grateful. The problem is that postwar Europeans think their strategic differences with America are the product not of a specific historic experience but of a new, higher morality. And that is what George Bernard Shaw was talking about when he defined a barbarian as one who mistakes the customs of his tribe for the laws of nature.
Caldwell's point could be just as easily applied to GM foods, Kyoto, or any number of smaller issues that cause the Europeans to sniff at us from across the puddle. In fact, Caldwell's point is not even so much about war as it is about how an issue divides allies, and how Europe's dismissal of American cowboys, whether leading the way on security, technology, or globalization, is shortsighted rationalization and nothing more. They lack the power to do what we can, so they dismiss it as not worth doing (as grasping or tacky) or dangerous and unwise (rushing headlong into war with Iraq).
Peace, Man: George Will is on again, this time batting back the left on peace demonstrations.
In a process without precedent, America has been, for more than a year, walking slowly -- never mind nonsensical headlines about the "rush to war" -- toward an optional war. Optional, that is, in the sense that although it is a defensible choice, it is a choice. War has not been unambiguously thrust upon us, as in 1861 by secession, or in 1917 by unrestricted submarine warfare, or in 1941 by surprise attack, or by aggression across international borders as in June 1950 or August 1990. Yet the left cannot mount a critique that rises above rock lyrics and name-calling.
An odd aside: Regarding the "rock lyrics" bit, my copy of Will's column (in the Daily Hampshire [Massachusetts] Gazette) referred to protesters quoting the Beatles ("Give peace a chance"). A later version, found here, rightly credits John Lennon as the author of those lyrics. I'm not sure which version is the "correction" (my paper is an afternoon paper, so I would imagine they take the latest syndication feed). Any non-fan could make this mistake, though. "Give Peace a Chance," though properly a Lennon song, is credited to Lennon/McCartney, since it was published before John and Paul dissolved their partnership. I'll go out on a limb and say that George Will is not a Beatles expert. Gold star for some editor at the syndicate.
Truth in Advertising: Judge Sweet is a little behind the curve on milkshakes. Why do you think they're all now called "frostees" or "blizzards" or some other name with an emphasis on it being a frozen product rather than a dairy product?. (Speaking of milkshake names, up here in the frostee north, they used to call them "frappes" when I was a kid. Not so much anymore, though I'm told that in Rhode Island a milkshake is still often called a "cabinet.")
Speaking of McDonalds: A couple of days ago, Judge Sweet issued his opinion granting McDonalds' Motion to Dimiss the class action suit by those people to stupid to know that eating Big Macs and french fries 24/7 "might" make you fat. Incidentally, and as Judge Sweet admits in his opinion, he is the first and only judge to have thus far come out of the closet and say that drugs should not be criminalized. He argues that we should treat all drugs like we treat alcohol: caveat emptor. Anyway, that philospohy carries the day in his opinion. He recognizes that due to federal law, McDonalds has to tell you the "nutritional" content of its food via those little black and white labels that are on everything we eat. Accordingly, there can be no fraud or misrepresentation no matter what its ads might try to make you believe. He did leave a window of opportunity however. To the extent the food isn't what it purports to be (i.e. a "milkshake" lacks milk and isn't shaken - instead being comprised of about 15 chemicals), and that somehow causes a harm, then there may be a cause of action. All the judge said was that he was letting the plaintiffs take one more chance at pleading their case. However, this tiny window will be far too small for these fatsos to crawl through.
Europe Ancien: Well f**king said! As you say, Europe either doesn't use its military or it uses it way too much. Either way, it isn't good, and leaves them precious little ground to stand on in times of conflict. We actually know how to use our force to protect our interests and that's it. Stated differently, when we push east, west, north or south, it's not to stay and impose our way of life on the land we're goose-stepping through. We let McDonalds do that.
I Love This Story: Rummy dismissed France and Germany as "old Europe" for their determination to back down from any challenge. Here's my favorite bit though:
In an editorial, [German daily] Bild reminded Rumsfeld of his German roots and the French ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity which had so impressed the American statesman Thomas Jefferson.
So Rummy, because his ancestors were Germans, should go easy on Deutschland when they get all spineless? And what of these fabled French ideals? The ones, no doubt, that held sway for about 45 minutes somewhere back in the late 18th century, before giving way to terror, beheadings, a midget emperor, more monarchy, and a historical tendency to jump when the Germans say, no pun intended, "Frog." France long ago decided to whore herself to the half-baked dictators of the world in exchange for being thought of as a first-world country and a world power, since nobody else will pay her that honor. The seat on the security council is akin to the exception, handed out before a big tournament, to a has-been tennis player so as to not say too loudly that she can't run with the elk anymore. As for all the "support" that Germany will withhold, remember that these volks still don't have a proper military from the last time we had to take it away from them when they got a little puffed up about their influence in the world and let another short fella take charge. (What is it with these two countries and their dinky megalomaniacs?) This was, ahem, right after we took away La France's dangerous toys, too, since they weren't inclined to use them anymore and were about to give them to Germany.

So Europe can skip the lectures about responsibility, sovereignty, and the judicious use of force, thanks very much. The tune's getting old, and, frankly, anytime "old" Europe had any force to use, it wasn't particularly judicious, responsible, or respectful of sovereignty. Don't like the way we use force? Then don't call us when your small-time hoods like Milosevic start acting up and you haven't the guts (or, in fact, the muscle) to make him sit in the corner. God forbid we and the Brits didn't start up the Natomobile and come on over, the Cote d'Azur would be speaking Southern Slavic by now.

Thursday, January 23, 2003

Skakel Debacle (TM): Hard to give real insight into the whole story as my sources are either too generalized (broad press accounts ) or completely slanted (Dunne). I just think that where there's smoke, there's fire. The guy is infatuated with the girl, he admits to whacking off outside her window, there is no question in my mind she rebuffed his awkward advances at one time or another, and he's a loser even in his teenage years. Couple all that angst and hormones with some booze and pot, and I don't see how he's not involved. NOW, that doesn't mean he fries just because of my feelings; some hard evidence would be nice. But, when you manage to convince a police and court system to prosecute a case which is decades-old, you are pretty much commited to coming to a resolution. Stated differently, the D.A. wasn't going to try this case if he didn't feel, for whatever reason, the stars were aligned in his favor, despite the political pressure. So, was the whole thing contrived? Sure, but find me a capital case with a famous defendant that isn't (either by the prosecution or defense or both). Skakel was the safe defendant for the prosecution by virtue of no matter how much rinsing his defense team did, there would still be plenty of mud that would stick. Plus, and to mix my metaphors, can you imagine how many old axes there were to grind in that small town vis-a-vis the Kennedy clan? Oofah.
Economy, Again: From today's WSJ:
Fourth quarter results, oddly, are bringing home to investors how good last year was. This is utterly unclear from management comments, but companies are handily beating earnings numbers, and it's not just because they've managed to bring expectations down. The economy grew fairly solidly last year. Cars are rolling off lots. Interest rates are daring people to borrow. Housing is hotter than "Joe Millionaire."
While the bears still appear to rule Wall Street, we have a fundamentally sound economy; yet the Democrats lining up for the 2004 presidential run are hinting, loudly, that they will run on Bush's economic failure. Once the politics blow over, this will go into the history books as being a rather painless correction, given all the money that was lost in the bubble. Yeah, it was hard on the people who bought MicroStrategy at 185 or employees at Enron whose retirement portfolios were, unwisely, allocated at about 90% company stock. Beyond that, this has so far been the little recession that couldn't.
Movies: I watched Y Tu Mama Tambien this past weekend, and I have a question. Why is it that foreign sex-farce/coming-of-age movies are looked at with such benevolence, while America's versions of the same are thought of, generally, as trash? I thought Y Tu was familiar, predictable in its story, and puerile (not that it's a bad thing!) in its approach to sex. The voiceover was a nice touch, but not terribly original. The twist at the end is artificial, seeming almost borrowed, in my opinion, as if the writer wanted to suddenly make all his hijinks seem "deep," to turn a romp into an ironic bildungsroman. I won't say more, in case you've not seen it (and want to). But if you do see it, ask yourself: Is this movie bringing me more insight than, say, Fast Times at Ridgemont High?
Yikes: I'll take your "Skakel" post as being simply musings on the circumstances, and not any of your own feelings on the matter (which I would like to hear). I can't imagine that "closure" for the Greenwich townfolk is paramount here. As for what Skakel knows, I imagine it is possible, when a murder happens in your backyard (so to speak), that you have more insight, know the characters, etc. But how does that affect Skakel's fate? If the police believe he knows something, he should be charged with conspiracy after the fact, but not murder. Do you suppose that the prosecutors might have thought a murder charge could get him to rat on his brother (or anyone else), and then pressed the charge when he didn't talk?
Heretics/Lomborg: We talked briefly of the ice melt several weeks ago, noting that the melt was dramatic, but not necessarily unprecedented (i.e., some evidence from the 50s shows similar melts). The thing is, if it is a cyclical change, there isn't any proof -- since we haven't really been measuring long enough to detect geological-scale changes. However, if it is a man-made effect, we should be able to see trends in our relatively short-term records. But any attempt to find clear trends has failed miserably, and attempts to extrapolate from implied trends have had no luck in predicting actual climate changes. Put simply, there isn't enough evidence to get worked up. As you know, I'm a practical green (and I think Lomborg still is one, too); I like low-emission vehicles, though I'm inclined to drill for oil in Alaska, if only to stick it to OPEC a bit. I like the idea of clean air and water, and being able to eat fish without worrying about toxins and heavy metals. But the global warming thing I don't really see as a threat, and there are a lot of better places for a practical green to advocate spending resources now.
A couple of screwdrivers a day would have solved his problems: Yes, it's 2003 and people in the U.S. still get scurvy. He should sue the maker of the chocolate he was eating for failure to warn him that if that's all he ate he could die from scurvy.
Skakel: It is easy to argue that Skakel fell victim to a) vigilante justice; b) the inability of the police to find the real killer, and c) his family's name. Plus it didn't help that the guy is an overall loser, who doesn't have a whole lot to show for himself over the years. I've only read Dunne's work (himself the father of a slain child), who is admittedly working with Mrs. Skakel (hell, he got the investigation running single-handedly). Still, one wonders how much Skakel knows and if he wasn't the killer, what part did he take in her death? In the end, many would say the end justifies the means. The town can put this ugly chapter to bed, the police feel vindicated, the family can move on (albeit decades later), and we have someone to blame.
Death, err, House Arrest to the Heretics!: Bjorn makes an excellent, if technical, rebuttal to his critics in his homeland. And, the National Review piece is excellent (would that it produce such work on a consistent basis). Finally, not being a scientist of any sort, I cannot rebut Bjorn with statistics. I only ask why the polar ice cap is shrinking and the icebergs are falling into sea at an alarming rate. If it's not global warming, but only part of a cycle, or due to other issues, please let me know. Until then, I remain unconvinced by the GOP's assertions that everything is fine, and we should let Bush do what he wants.
What it Means: So what of the Skakel story? Why does it matter? Mainly because, if Kennedy is right and Skakel is innocent, prosecutorial aggressiveness is to blame. Look at it this way: What is the job of the prosecutor? To see that justice is done? No, to win cases! This is why George Ryan shouldn't (entirely) go jump in a lake. Prosecutors looking for a victory got Skakel sent to prison. If I were a betting man, I'd say he gets that overturned on appeal, but there's no guarantee. What if it were a capital case? Kennedy showed me enough reasonable doubt. I'm a long-time death penalty supporter, and one who believes that vengeance alone justifies it -- never mind deterrence. But I'm also liberal enough to realize that, as with anything run by the government, the courts will make mistakes. (Okay, we're not talking about Amtrak or anything, but still...) Plus, prosecutors will be overzealous, juries will be misled by the Johnnie Cochrans of the world, etc. I see enough reasonable doubt built into the system to be a skeptic of the death penalty. But that doesn't mean I'm saying "Free Mumia." If there were no death penalty, there would have to be serious hard time. Serious. No weight room, no cable TV, no exercise yard. Hard work, long hours of it, and bad food to boot. A convicted murderer shouldn't live better than the poorest bastard in Calcutta, but I'm increasingly unable to say he should die.
Atlantic Monthly: I had to start out this month with Robert Kennedy Jr.'s defense of Michael Skakel, if only because it was a good lurid story. (Ron Rosenbaum's "Sex at Yale" is hilarious, but I was willing to wait for that one.) I don't put much stock in Kennedys, nor in supposed exculpations by relatives of the convicted, but Kennedy is convincing. I came away believing that Skakel is innocent, whereas I'd been at best agnostic before. Kennedy doesn't have a Columbo moment, appearing out of the blue with a fact or a bit of logic that closes the case. Rather, like a good attorney, he builds reasonable doubt bit by bit. To wit: Skakel has a bizarre but fairly strong alibi; the story that he admitted to the murder turns out to be a little more complicated than the press made it sound; there are other, more plausible suspects; Dominick Dunne and Mark Fuhrman, credited with getting the case reopened, are motivated by things other than justice. And so on.
Bring on the Global Warming: Today I was as cold as I can ever remember being. It was easily 10 below zero. The wind chill must have been, during the big gusts, 20 below. The power-steering fluid in my car had almost ceased to be a fluid. My wet hair was frozen solid, like a Trent Lott/Jimmy Johnson kind of solid, within about 30 seconds of coming out of the YMCA. Holding the steering wheel was as painful, like it is on a boiling summer day if you park in the sun. Today's high is forecast to be around 5 degrees. What am I, Job? Like I need this.
More Economy: I loved this aside from Sully, referring to our "still-dawdling economy":
(I say dawdling, although, by European standards, the U.S. economy is still roaring).
True, but there's still more. The kind of economy we have now used to be called "good." Without the late 90s for comparison, these growth numbers, coupled with still-low inflation, would send the bulls running through the market. So I'm still at a loss when I hear every news anchor in America talk about a sluggish economy and a slow recovery. Everyone thinks it can be 1997 all over again, and they're sitting on their money until it happens. To quote Jack Nicholson, what if this is as good as it gets? What if the years of 2% unemployment (and practically no inflation) are behind us? What if the supergrowth of the 90s was really just a paper tiger? We already have some evidence that that is the case, as stock prices settle at more reasonable levels. Could it be that we have to resign ourselves to the fact that, as before, 5-6% unemployment is statistacally negligible? Don't doubt it.

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Slugfest: Boy, I wish I'd seen this match. The longest in Aussie Open history. Speaking of which, a big nod to your brief but appropriate farewell to Pat Rafter. One of the best net men ever, and by all accounts the best sportsman in ages. The famous story is of Rafter calling a close ball out -- despite the fact that it was his ball, his point that he stood to lose. That and the fact that he apologized to his opponents for serves he had to abort due to a bad toss.
I suppose I should talk a bit about Bjorn Lomborg, who is taking a bit of a beating from the "scientific" community. (Actually, I'll let Goldberg tell the tale, since he's obviously forgotten more about Galileo than I ever knew. Do click through to Nick Schulz's TCS piece, not to mention Lomborg's own defense -- both linked in this piece.) Lomborg proves the point that it's hard to be an optimist, even when you have evidence that things are getting better. Far easier to predict doom and offer "scientific" models that take a worst-case scenario as a baseline.

And, hey, anyone who still buys into global warming can come shovel my "coldest winter on record" patio right now. Bring heavy gloves.

30 Years of Roe: I'm not a pro-lifer, but I still get the creeps when I hear someone, like Maddy Albright on NPR this morning, talking about saving the right to "choose." Right to choose what? This modern shibboleth is one of those constructions that can fairly be called Orwellian. The pro-choice side has worked hard to cleanse its PR of the word abortion. It's about reproductive "choice" and reproductive "rights" -- though, really, it's not about reproduction; quite the opposite. I suppose it must be market tested, as everything is these days.
Hate to Be Mean: ...but, I do about 125 miles a day on the highway, and I see a lot of the "new" Beetles out there. Memo to the ladies driving them -- it's not making you look younger.
What a great post: Fantastic piece on a possible reason why France and Germany are so dead-set against invasion in Iraq. The gist: once we take over, we have unfettered access to whatever records the Iraqis didn't manage to destroy. What if we find that French and German companies were selling to Iraq during the embargo? Especially what if they were selling weapon components? Goodbye NATO.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

More human than human: Apparently one can obtain a better tariff rate on imports/exports in the U.S. if the products you are importing/exporting are toys (or "non-human creatures") as opposed to dolls (presumably "human creatures"). A judge in the U.S. Court of International Trade in New York recently held that the "X-Men" action figures were decidely non-human. While this made the manufacturers happy, folks in the comic world were outraged. "These [fictional characters] have families, they work. They must be human!" The judge, meanwhile, was apparently more persuaded by the tentacles, eye-beams, claws and other "non-human" attributes. More disturbingly, the judge admitted that the determination required the "removing" of clothes ("battle uniforms" in the parlance). The libertarians out there might find this to be the final straw; the government can now determine whether you are a human being. Excuse me while I telepathically curse out the judge.....there, that's better.

Friday, January 17, 2003

Better than Excedrin!: Thanks to Fark for this link. Finally, the truth about beheading that you were all waiting for.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

You too can learn sign language. This stuff you can really use.

Friday, January 10, 2003

We hardly knew ye: Sadly, we wave goodbye to Patrick Rafter. During the past 5-6 years that I've watched him play (from my front-row seats watching Pete Sampras demolish him in 1996 at the Philadelphia Open to his stunning wins in Queens, NY at the U.S. Open), he's been a joy. He played the dying form of serve-and-volley (much more endorsement-friendly to bash from the baseline...winning percentages be damned) and in my opinion was second only to Sampras in his serve set-up, and McEnroe with his net-play. He won a few slams, so his place in history is secure, however if it weren't for his nagging injuries, he had at least two to three more good years in him. Anyway, goodbye Patrick. Go Aussie!

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

The Picks: Like I've been paying attention. Dear god, I've been on vacation for the past few weeks, haven't even checked TMQ lately. The Steelers do not have the smell of destiny, that's true. But they may yet surprise the Titans. Look at the fourth quarter they put up against the Browns. I'll grant you, the Browns aren't the NFL benchmark -- neither were the Pats last year -- but they've put together an impressive year for what they had to work with. As for Pitt folding in the playoffs, I'll admit that. But the Titans, even when the touts are ... er, touting them, have suffered damnation even earlier. Eagles vs. Falcons? Look, even the Steelers hammered the Falcons. Okay, the game was a tie, but look at the numbers. If not for turnovers, it was a runaway game. And the Niners. Pittsburgh beat Tampa, too. Can't slag Pitt in one breath and then hype someone who choked to them. Oakland is looking for payback. The Jets are a comer, but I think they have years of bad joss to work off.
But first, the picks: In light of the ass-whomping I put on you last year during the NFL Playoffs, I thought it only sporting of me to give you another chance. With the wildcards out of the way, it's safe to go into the water. This weekend: 1. Steelers v. Titans. Your hometown team versus the ex-Oilers. Everything says go with Titans. The Steelers barely won over Cleveland at home; this is in Tenn., McNair is a prime-time player, and the Titans won pretty easily earlier this season. Plus, Pittsburgh does not have the smell of destiny lingering over it (as we learned last year, this is key - more on this later), and Pittsburgh folds in the playoffs every year. I'm going with the popular vote on this one: Titans by 10 or more. 2. Eagles v. Falcons. The Falcons have one good everydown offensive player (ummm, what's his name? oh, right Vick) and one good on third downs (Dunn). They have no receivers or other running backs. The Falcons have a good defense, with some real ath-uh-letes, and they run fast and lean. The Eagles have what appears to be an automatic offense if A.J. Feeley is any indication. Nothing flashy, but when run properly, eats up yards, and will generally score points (highest total ever in Eagles history this year). The key is McNabb (no news flash there), and I say if McNair can play at a high level each week without practicing, so can McNabb. Also, word is that McNabb picked up some pointers in terms of watching A.J. and his quick release (McNabb gets sacked a lot not b/c of a bad O-line [actually one of the best this year] but because he holds and holds and holds). Oh yeah, and one of the most experienced and frightening defenses in the league. Did I mention they're playing at the Vet? Eagles by 7-71/2. 3. Niners v. Bucs. The Niners are wiped out, emotionally drawn, and traveling 3 hours east to Tampa where the best defense in the league is chomping at the bit. Brad Johnson is scheduled to start. With Johnson, I like the Bucs in a tight game. If he goes down early enough, I take the Niners by 10 or more. The Niners may have two starting O-liners out this week which really, really hurts against that defense. But without Johnson, Tampa cannot score. I see T.O. taking this it to the house at least twice, plus a great scrambling QB and a decent 1-2 combo at RB. So, that's that. 4. Jets at Oakland. This is all about Destiny baby. Note the capital "D". Oakland has won with smoke and mirrors. Its secondary is wiped out with leg injuries and its pass rush is mediocre. Pennington is the ice man at only 3 years in. He is the 2002 version of Tom Brady. Curtis Martin is re-energized and the receivers love the way Pennington spreads it around. I see Oakland falling behind quickly and then packing it in. Gannon is the real deal, and he has a load of experience around him, but the fans will peter out, and you're left with a tarnished silver and greyish black. The Raiders have always been my sentimental team, but the Jets have divine guidance. Jets by 10-13.
Et toi.
"Gun Rights": Sorry, I totally overlooked your response to my safe guns missive. When I say "gun rights," I mean the "gun rights movement." By that I mean, I don't buy into the idea that anyone should have the un-checked right to own a gun of any type. I still believe (and I know this theory is batted around ad naseum) that the 2nd Amendment, and its inclusion of the word "militia" means that the government needed people to own guns because there was no government to speak of, much less a standing army. So, if our current government incarnation wants to impose 24-hour waiting periods, criminal background checks, and limit purchases to only certain types of guns, I'm all for it. I don't view this as a sign of the impending New World Order where the Jews control the world through the U.N. I find people like Michael Moore to be opportunistic blowhards, but his recent film "Bowling For Columbine" dares to connect death to guns. While the over-arching question is about why America is so violent (comparative to other Western countries), he does not shy away from the fact that a gun makes it much easier to kill. So, restrict guns, and you're still going to have violence, but now it's going to be knives and bats, which gives you a "fighting" chance anyway. Okay, this is much too simplistic, but it's indicative of my feeling on the issue, not detailed research.
"I wanna, a cheeseburger...: Thanks to The Agitator for this link of every last meal requested by those sitting on Texas' compasionnate death row. I'd ask for blowfish liver - raw.
Apres moi...: You know things are bad when the president of a country falls victim to a wacky DJ stunt. While extremely funny, it's kind of sad. Chavez is one of the few remaining seemingly genuine socialists to run a country (I think we can agree entities like the Khmer Rouge, the V.C., North Korea, aren't about equality for the classes anymore), and you can imagine that he must have been fairly happy to hear that Castro was calling him (no doubt to praise his steadfastness in the face of the oil strike, the bank strike, etc. - death to the capitalists!), only to have several minutes of disjointed "conversation" end with a barrage of insults from the Miami-based DJs. Now, I'm not saying that I could solve Latin America's economic woes overnight, but clearly, clearly, huge taxes coupled with wasteful government spending ain't the way out of this mess. He has to slim down the government and encourage actual, productive enterprise (I mean, come on, he's got oil to export!). Anyway, sad, but funny.

Tuesday, January 07, 2003

"Exhibit A, your Honor.": These are good. It's fun guessing what each one is in for. Some aren't so hard to figure out.
Greatest Picture Ever?: This is nostalgic in a way only the internet can be. Anyway, in lieu of serious, analytical posts, I give you this.
What was 2002?: Here's what was what in 2002.