FauxPolitik

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

More Road Map: There are several things at work here, but one of the most important is the challenge that Bush laid down to the diplomatic world view. Remember how Brent Scowcroft confessed to despairing over the breakup of the Soviet Union? That's the world view: preferring the status quo, whatever the drawbacks or imperfections; preferring the devil you know to the Pandora's box that comes with dramatic change. This is no slight to Scowcroft et al, people who think the world can be moved by tiny degrees. Bush, on the other hand, set down a fulcrum and picked up a long pole. There will be times when he'll need to show some finesse, and he needs to keep cool heads (Powell, his father, maybe Condi Rice) around him for those moments. For now, though, he deserves some credit from the NPR hand-wringer types who tsk-tsked at his willingness to force a dramatic change on a violent stalemate.

Wading In: Here comes the road map. I'm hesitant to wade into this awfully complex issue, since the Israel/Palestine "process" has been able to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in the past, but a couple of things need saying. Bush is not going to get much credit diplomatically. (The left will never acknowledge his success, especially this close to the 2004 race. Plus, the right is piling on now, in the person of Newt Gingrich and his tongue-lashing of State and specifically Powell.) But he's pulled off a minor miracle in changing the way the Palestinian Authority operates. Bush declared Arafat a non-partner and called for new leadership. The diplomocrats of the world, after recovering from their collective faint, scolded that Bush was acting without finesse, without regard to the ... ah ... complexities of the situation. Lo and behold, Bush initiates the biggest breakthrough in the region since Anwar Sadat broke with his mentor Nasser's policies and shook hands with a Jew (unless you count Oslo, which only seemed like a breakthrough until Yasser decided to take his bomb ... er ... ball and go home). Now, as I said above, I'm not all that confident that this breakthrough will be any more meaningful than Oslo. Arafat has every motivation to make sure that the new leadership isn't terribly successful, since this is the first step toward sidelining him for good, and Sharon isn't going to jump to pull out all the Jewish settlements right away. All this is true, but make no mistake: To the extent that this is a breakthrough, Bush's "cowboy diplomacy" made it possible.

More: Den Beste on some sticking points.

I thought you promised no more Santorum: The most priceless quote about what Santorum said comes from fellow foot-in-mouth Senator Lott.
"I advised him to say whatever you're going to say, say it once very clearly, and don't say it repeatedly," Lott said. "That was my mistake. I said it not once, not twice, but three times and kept the story alive."
Yes, THAT was his mistake; that he kept saying it....not at all that he said it just once.

Santorum Aftershocks: I know that this subject is getting stale, but the silly right keeps wading into it. Stan Kurtz's latest offering is an absolute manifesto of idiocy. He's now pulled down every pretense of the Santorum flap being about sodomy law. At least he's being honest now that this is all about gay marriage for the religious right. Here's an idea of how far he drifts from making sense. He's making a speculative case that gay marriage will cause a breakdown of the incest taboo:
The reason we need an incest taboo is because there is no effective way for the state to protect children from sexual abuse by family members. Children are essentially at the mercy of the adults who care for them. So only by building into adults a psychological mechanism of disgust and horror at incest can society protect children from the psychological harm of abuse by close relatives.
Society builds this mechanism? Stan is now a postmodernist, it appears -- society creates the organism. Do you suppose that we have incest laws and taboos to "build" the revulsion into society, or do those laws and taboos eminate from a revulsion already "built" into us by natural selection, whereby those organisms less likely to engage in closed-pool reproduction had better chances for successful reproduction? Stan stakes his case on the first. He's wrong, in fact doubly wrong; he mixes up cause and effect, then postulates a "slippery slope" based on that error.

Stan is right about one thing: This issue will only grow in importance. The arguments you hear from Kurtz are the arguments you'll hear at the Supreme Court a few years from now when the gay marriage cases get to that level. They don't work now and they won't work then.

More: Radley fisks Kurtz.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

TMQ - Backdraft: TMQ is back for the draft, and we all yell: "Ye gods!" Most fun section? Well, he does a great analysis on how teams trade up or down seemingly just for the sake of it. Trading pick 128 for 120, for instance. However, the most interesting portion had nothing to do with NFL drafting, but rather NCAA graduating...or the lack thereof:

On the Men's Side, the Bad Habits Have Already Started: According to the new Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, established by Richard Lapchick, who has doggedly counted up sports-and-race statistics over the years, NCAA men's basketball champion Syracuse University has not graduated an African-American scholarship basketball athlete in a decade. Kansas, the Orangemen's opponent in the men's championship, graduates two-thirds of its African-American basketball scholarship athletes. This proves a big school can have a top program and still educate players, almost all of whom will need their degrees because they'll never take the floor in the NBA.
Syracuse's tournament win was played as a feel-good story -- plucky school gets first title, lovable grandfatherly coach finally on top. Syracuse's tournament win actually should have been played as a huge embarrassment for college basketball -- school that openly makes no attempt to educate bests school that plays by the rules and treats athletes as students. The grandfatherly Jim Boeheim? If he were really grandfatherly, he'd be taking care of his charges by getting them educations, rather than feeding them phony dream of NBA play then abandoning them the instant they cease being useful.
This year's men's champion actively thumbed its nose at education, not even engaging in a token effort to graduate African-American athletes. Zero action was taken by the NCAA against either school. What message will other NCAA men's coaches take away? Thumb your nose at education.


So at what price success? And, does it really matter if any of them graduate, b/c the vast majority of them wouldn't be in college if it weren't for basketball in the first place?

Making Me Dizzy: When it comes to Iraq, John Kerry has more positions than the Kama Sutra. (The linked story is from the New York Post, so I figured my comment should have a very Post-y ring to it.)

Monday, April 28, 2003

Some bring the sports page...: Authorities found missing artwork by Van Gogh and Picasso in a public toilet. Obviously the masterminds behind this theft had the whole storage bit somewhat confused. Next time a safe or even under your bed might be the better way to go.

And This Is Supposed to Be ... Scary? The very, um, confused Bill Greider writes of "George Bush II" in The Nation:
The [Bush-drivien right-wing] movement's grand ambition -- one can no longer say grandiose -- is to roll back the twentieth century, quite literally. That is, defenestrate the federal government and reduce its scale and powers to a level well below what it was before the New Deal's centralization. With that accomplished, movement conservatives envision a restored society in which the prevailing values and power relationships resemble the America that existed around 1900, when William McKinley was President. Governing authority and resources are dispersed from Washington, returned to local levels and also to individuals and private institutions, most notably corporations and religious organizations. The primacy of private property rights is re-established over the shared public priorities expressed in government regulation. Above all, private wealth--both enterprises and individuals with higher incomes--are permanently insulated from the progressive claims of the graduated income tax.
You know, if this were really Bush's grand plan, I'd have no choice but to vote for him. Unfortunately, the GOP has no ambitions that are even remotely that grand. George W. Bush, like his father, is a moderate, semi-big-government Republican. He has more juice with the base than his dad did, but, as even the liberals will tell you, this comes mainly from what Bush says and his token gestures, rather than decentralization ambitions, express or implied. Bush has not presided over any sweeping tax cuts (rates are still a lot higher than under Reagan), nor has he engineered any significant spending cuts or returns of power to the states (for example, his monstrous "no child left behind" education bill, which was supposed to empower local decision and cut federal spending but was, in the end, essentially written by Teddy Kennedy's staff). Asks the folks at Reason or the Cato Institute, the folks who really support "rolling back the 20th Century" (Greider's laughable catch phrase for dismantling the leviathan state), if they think Bush is implementing the kind of reform (yes, it would be reform) that Greider so fears. (Honestly, though, you'll probably have to wait until they've finished laughing.) Greider, as usual, is throwing a punch that is all D.C.-Comics-style "ker-POWW!" bubble and zero actual contact. Read the whole thing for alarmist gems like these:
Liberal activists gasped at the variety and dangerous implications (the public might have been upset too but was preoccupied with war), while conservatives understood that Bush was laying the foundations, step by step, toward their grand transformation of American life.
Hilarious alarmism -- plus, if you act now, some supercilious dismissal of "the public's" ability to keep its eye on the ball. (Thank god Bill Greider is watching for them.)

Friday, April 25, 2003

Suckered: Jonathan Adler got me. Adler (a law prof at my wife's alma mater, CWRU) posted to the Corner with the headline "O'Connor to Retire!" Me: "Wow! I thought it would be Rheinquist!" Click ... Oh. Sinead O'Connor.

And Now Back to the Tax Cut: Don Luskin, over at the Conspiracy to Keep You Poor and Stupid, has a nice, succinct case for making dividend taxation reform the centerpiece of the tax package. Going with the $350 billion tax cut won't pay for it. A long quote, but worth the time:
Right now, when a corporation earns a dollar of profit, it pays corporate income taxes at the rate of 35%. Then when the company pays out those already taxed profits to its shareholders, the profits are taxed again on the shareholder's personal income tax return, at a top rate of 38.6%. That's right... the simple act of licking a stamp and mailing the shareholder his own money causes that money to be taxed a second time. It's like a tax on taking money out of your left pocket and moving it to your right pocket.

Put those two taxes together, and consider what happens to a dollar in profits. At the corporate level it gets taxed down to 65 cents. Then by the time the shareholder has paid the second tax, all that's left is 40 cents! That's right -- today's double taxation amounts to a 60% tax on the fruits of investment. And that's just the federal tax -- it doesn't even include the additional taxes levied on corporations and individuals by individual states.

During the good times it seemed that America was able to get away with these prohibitively high taxes on invested capital. But now we're paying the price. Corporations learned to take on lots of debt, because interest payments to bondholders are only taxed once -- but when the 1990s boom ended, all that leverage was pure risk when the economy slipped into recession and earnings collapsed.

Ohio Senator George Voinovich, a Republican and opponent of the larget cut, and who is Bush's first target in lobbying for more support, is on record as prepared to support the full cut if we can "pay for it." I assume he means through spending cuts. This is a classic dodge, but Bush should indulge him. If we could cut taxes and spending, we could really get the economy in a full-throated hum.

Thursday, April 24, 2003

Back From the Wilderness? Ah, what to make of the minor Bush-Gingrich kerfuffle? There's been a lot of GOP talk about how Powell has failed miserably in the diplomatic lead-up to Iraq. I disagree with that for the most part. Yes, I think we could've had Turkey on our side. Yes, Powell seems to have some trouble keeping his staff in line. But his performance at the UN was exactly on target. And, to his credit, when he saw the diplomatic well dry up, he became an eloquently reluctant hawk, which was great PR in a country that thinks more highly of Powell than just about any other figure in government. In addition, as I've said before, some (not all) of his dove stance was as a calculated good cop to Rummy's bad cop. And any criticism that Powell didn't get France on our side is ludicrous. France's vote was never in play, despite the way they begged us to play the diplomatic game. There was no chance, none, that France would go a step beyond 1441 until Powell turned hawk. Once Powell stopped playing, Villepin and Chirac began to suggest, never concretely, that France's non-negotiables were, in fact, negotiable. It was a joke, and Powell wisely refused to return to the table.

That said, what is Newt's angle? He's not going to weasel his way into the Cabinet, certainly. It's not too early to think about 2008. Can Newt pull off that kind of turnaround, from fallen speaker to presidential candidate? I doubt it, but I bet he'd love to run against Hillary in '08, if only for old times' sake. Oh, man. That would be a race worth following.

But you can't run an airline profitably!: I mean, can you? Surely not without billions in federal bail-out money. This must be some sort of hoax. Afterall, the major airlines have some of the best and the brightest CEOs running the show. This JetBlue will never last with this kind of stunt. This announcement is like some big baseball player standing up and saying: "Strike? Strike!? Hell, I make tons of money already. Why do we need to strike? I bathe in dollar coins every morning." All the union reps run over to pummel him - "Shut up man! We need concessions!"

Newsflash: "Dogs have fleas.": N.Korea admits today that it already has nukes. Oh now, this changes everything, because before, we were operating under the assumption that it had no nukes because....it said it didn't. Well, why should we doubt anything the the frustrated movie director cum bloodthirsty tyrant might say? The best part is, of course, N. Korea will get what it wants and we'll pretend it didn't. I mean, this is a country that can't produce food - something the species has been doing pretty well, oh, since it fell from the trees (or was divinely created about 6,000 years ago - you choose). And it's not like they're in some desert where stuff don't grow. But hell, they've got nuclear rods, so lets treat them like they're at the adult table and "negotiate" because lord knows they won't be pulling this stunt again once our influx of aid and food runs out. No sirree. When they say they're gonna stop making nuclear weapons they mean it. They'll even sign a treaty to show how serious they are.

JetBlue: You just know they're sending courtesy copies of this headline to their comrades at American, United, USAir ...

Fat One in the Middle: It is so like you to overintellectualize bare female flesh.

Switch: Joe Queenan, on the publicity stunt whereby Jay Leno and Katie Couric will switch jobs for a day, in the WSJ. Since it's subscriber-only, I'll give you the best paragraph, with Queenan suggesting other entertaining switches:
Public television's Jim Lehrer hasn't been able to get a straight answer out of anyone in the State Department in years, so my vote for a one-night replacement is Tom Arnold from Fox Sports Network's "The Best Damn Sports Show, Period." Always ready to say the first thing that comes into his head, and not afraid to approach the limits of good taste, Tom's in-your-face approach might finally intimidate Doris Kearns Goodwin, Joe Biden or Tom Ridge into telling us something we don't already know. How Mr. Lehrer fares with the likes of Charles Barkley and David Wells on Mr. Arnold's show is anybody's guess; these guys both claim to have been misquoted in their own autobiographies. On the other hand, Mr. Lehrer did spend eight years talking to people in the Clinton administration, so it's not like he's a complete stranger to mind-boggling deceit.
As always, Queenan can zing more people in one paragraph than most writers can in a book.

Did they have to put the fat one in the middle?: Hmm, let's see, people hate us because we said we're ashamed of Bush "being from" (I'm not quoting, I'm using the quotation marks to indicate Bush is from Texas like Michael Jackson is from earth - sure, they both currently have houses there, but that's about it) Texas, like us. People should take what hillbilly musicians say seriously. Soooooo, let's get naked and write stuff on our bare, quivering flesh (sorry) and then, they'll be sorry. The logic is impeccable.

Hackers is more like it: Readers?! Readers???!!! Maybe we should do a self-serving money-beg like Sullivan and Radley. Hmm, let's see. "We only do this as a service to our readers, who, without us, would be gray, humorless and under-informed. Clearly, this blog is invaluable. I need this really cool $93 sushi knife in order to be able to better serve our readers. I'm sure Enobarbus would find it nearly impossible to carry on ignoring his real job duties unless he were compensated to the tune of oh, $1,500 at least. So, give people, give."

Still Upset with the Dixie Chicks? Consider me mollified.

Wow: Looking at the site traffic today, I'm stunned. Did you know we had readers? We are "Website of the Day" over at Right Wing News. (This is surprising, since between the two of us, you might be able to cobble together half a Republican and two thirds of a Democrat -- the complement being mainly cigarettes, beer, and wings.) Must be my hyperventilating anti-Clinton rants that draw the crowd. Nyah, nyah! Let me know when you start bringing in traffic from the spelt-bread-eating tree-huggers and we'll be even. For now, I'm giving myself a raise.

Last Santorum post...swear: Your fourth non-horse-beating-to-death point is your best. What's funny is that laws are supposed to be about morals, but everyone freaks out when someone proposes or supports a law that is decidedly non-P.C. Meaning, we can all agree that murder is morally wrong, so we impose laws to stop it. Of course some laws cans also be argued from an economic standpoint (random killings is bad for business, and bad for productive lives; same would go for stealing). But some are purely moral issues: bestiality, homosexuality, polygamy (although Volokh could probably come up with good non-moral arguments for these as well - but again, he's like so super smart and all). Of these types of issues, homosexuality clearly is the most debateable (few will argue FOR incest, for example), and has the most compelling reasons behind not outlawing it. When you get down to it, all Texas can say is that homosexuality has traditionally been banned (leaving aside the Greeks, the Romans, etc.) and/or that it disrupts or defeats the heterosexual sacred tradition of marriage (because if it weren't for those damn homos, the divorce rate would be non-existent). These arguments are hard to make today with a straight face.

Tertiary Motto: "We're not just handsome hardbodies."

More Santorum: I don't want to beat this to death, but there are a couple of side issues worth exploring here. First, the calls by prominent Democrats for Santorum to step down from his leadership position. This is nutty. They're feeling their oats over the Lott debacle and want to score another victory. Unfortunately, as you point out, Santorum is not out of the mainstream in his party on this issue. I disagree with him; I think he's hurting his party. But it's not a firing offense.

Second, the GOP stalwarts, even those who oppose the Texas laws like Stan Kurtz, are blaming the liberal media for whipping up a frenzy. This is clearly not a case of media bias. Santorum's comments weren't taken out of context or misinterpreted, they were simply an honest formulation of GOP policy. Two things are at work here: One, GOP policy on this issue is entirely our of step with the country. Two, the country is content with code words on hot issues. Santorum skipped the code words.

Third, Santorum attempted to resort to federalism to defend Texas. I'm a little tired of the convenient invocation of federalism (from both parties) when it suits their needs. Santorum even claims to support federalism on abortion ("If New York doesn't want sodomy laws, if the people of New York want abortion, fine. I mean, I wouldn't agree with it, but that's their right. But I don't agree with the Supreme Court coming in."). But in this case, calling for a federalist policy on abortion means necessarily overturning Roe. Which do you think Rick really cares about -- overturning Roe or returning the right to the several states?

Fourth, is it really Santorum's concern,as stated, that a vote to overturn in Lawrence V. Texas will really lead to the legalization of polygamy, bigamy, and incest? No. Santorum may be fully against those things, but I don't believe that to be the issue. The issue is that, by striking down a law against homosexual conduct on explicitly moral grounds, the court removes one more obstacle to gay marriage. Remember that one of the arguments against Texas is that heterosexual extramarital acts (also traditionally defined as sodomy) are treated differently by the law. If the Supremes overturn in Lawrence v. Texas, there will be that much more daylight visible in the door opening to gay marriage under an equal protection/equal treatment argument. This is what the GOP fears, not rampant polygamy.

Context: FDR's evil twin? Did someone in the office brew the high test into the decaf pot yesterday? First, I think that FDR's evil twin was clearly ... FDR. (And if that doesn't count, then LBJ wins.) Yes, the Bush administration has its share of big-government conservatives -- and Bush is one of them. And I don't like the Patriot Act or Ashcroft a whole lot, but I don't think people are going to be rounded up for dancing or not going to church, as Ashcroft's critics imply. (On the whole, disagree as you might, wouldn't you admit his department is more competently run than Planet Reno?) Bush has put women and minorities in real jobs in his administration, like cabinet jobs -- not the Department of Pet Rock and Imaginary Friend Services like his predecessor did, who loved talked the talk. (Don't tell me you really think Webb Hubbell would have ever been expected to actually take orders from Janet Reno.) Colin Powell has brought some dignity, so lacking under Maddie Albright, to the State Department, and he played a stellar "good cop" in Europe and the UN. Don Rumsfeld, who got the "bad cop" role, has proved his critics wrong, I think. Bush dragged Congress, kicking and screaming, to one tax cut, and is about to drag them to another. And don't kid yourself about it being "only" $350 billion. Left to their own devices, Congress would have proposed an economic stimulus package that included another $50 credit to Toyota Prius owners, deductability of veterinary care for Rover, subsidized minty freshness for people with bad breath, and a (non-binding) resolution telling the economy to shape up, dammit, or we'll really get Keynesian on your ass!

What We Don't Know, We Make Up: Correction -- Our primary motto.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Take me out to the context: It only took Santorum 24 hours to say that his comments were "taken out of context." God, when will we stop using that excuse? Even if it's true, it doesn't mean anything any more. Everytime someone reads that defense, one's eyes automatically begin to roll upward, and a groan emits from the diaphragm. Where are his advisors? I would never allow my guy to use that as an excuse. Let some flak make that play, but not the guy himself. Why doesn't he just explain what he meant? Don't dance, don't deny, don't dodge. His position is legally defensible, if ideologically somewhat of a nightmare (either from the "gay rights" angle or from the conservative angle). First, it's a bit silly for Sully and others to act shocked that someone who is part of the government machine would say that the government's rights trump the individuals. Does the name John Ashcroft ring a bell? This is the time for major, major expansion of government powers. I don't know who everyone thought they were electing (didn't Bush promise to make the government smaller???), but they got FDR's evil twin. FDR gave the money away to the people, Bush is giving it away to himself and his cabinet. Lines are being blurred constantly as to the boundaries of "individual rights." Santorum is as paternalistic towards the populace as Clinton ever was. Once you're on "the Hill" you think you know best, and you usually have millions of dollars sittting in your coffers saying you're right. Anyway, to bring this back, Santorum should just say that "we" want everyone to act in accordance with what we think is best; gay, straight, poor, rich, left, right.

Volokh: I knowww...like totally. He is like some kind of major genius or something. When he starts quoting Supreme Court jurisprudence, I go all woozy. Seriously though, he is burning serious candlepower in his brain, and does it so off-the-cuff that you have to like the guy. Plus, he's not bombastic, just very, very well-reasoned. He's in my top 5, after FauxPolitik, of course (secondary motto: "What we don't know, we make up!").

Noticing: Is it just me, or is the Volokh blog about the best damn thing on the web? Is this as true for a real lawyer as it is for a lawyer manqué/jurisprudential groupie?

More: Michelle Boardman, an occasional Volokh contributor, clerked for Frank Easterbrook -- better known as "Official Brother of TMQ." I'll find out soon enough that they all gather to play beer pong with my brother on odd Wednesdays.

This band should be sued, but for this?: Quasi-spiritual "alternative" blah band Creed has been sued recently by four attendees at a recent show where the lead singer, Strapp, was so "intoxicated and/or medicated" that he couldn't sing the words to any of their songs in a coherent fashion. Oh, and it's a class action lawsuit for all 15,000 people who attended. The theory is that the show should be treated as "cancelled" and therefore the fans issued a refund on their tickets. The band's only response was to say that they hear the complaints and that Strapp is getting a long-overdue rest. Thank god the statute of limitations has run on Van Halen shows from the 70s and 80s.

Santorum, Again: Yeah, I gave my two cents. But I want to quote your man Radley, over here, where he says:
This I think is a huge coming-of-age test for the Republican party. A member of their leadership has just publicy asserted that government has rights which trump the rights of individuals.
Could it be clearer than that?

End of a Saga: As the NFL draft approaches, I note that the Pittsburgh Steelers have finally addressed the elephant in the living room of their roster: Kordell Stewart, a free agent, was allowed to go. (Hey, I was watching the war!) The Bears are interested, I hear. Kordell was a prodigiously talented fellow, and played some good ball for the team, but you could always count on him to choke the big game. He was given too many chances to try to redeem himself, always another season for him to work out the kinks. Often it seemed he would do just that -- for a while. The Steelers have been contenders these past few years, but have always been denied a championship because, when it was all on the line -- in a division championship, in a conference championship, in the Bowl -- Stewart turned erratic, threw interceptions, muffed plays. Worse still, the highly ranked Steeler defense always commanded respect, and made opponents pay for on-field movement. But in big games, big losses, the opposing team generally scored the majority of their points from turnovers. In the heartbreaking conference championship against the Patriots two seasons ago, the Steelers dominated the game physically and statistically 90% of the time. The Pats won by pressuring Stewart and picking him off for points three times.

I guess this is just a long way of saying goodbye, good luck, good riddance. Pittsburgh has long combined success with frugality. It's about time Stewart did something useful -- like free up salary cap space.

Copy, Rip, Etc. You rightly mention the starry-eyed vision of the free music future, but how different is file-sharing, really, from the time you had a dual cassete deck, or a CD and cassette setup, and you duped "Ride the Lightening" for a friend? (You did this hypothetically, of course.) Is it the technology, the fact that you can now just swap the data quickly, that makes one worse than the other? And would either one stop you from buying music? I agree that free music isn't in the cards. But it might get a whole lot cheaper. Whenever technology is available but idle within an industry, you can usually point to someone protecting his or her pocketbook. Plus, any industry that can leave technology idle in this way has a captive audience -- one that will take release from captivity in any way it can.

In the end, the artists hate the record companies, the consumers hate the record companies, and the companies themselves are dinosaurs from another era. They'll be gone soon. Indie labels are already undercutting them, using digital file technology as a major part of their distribution. They'll find a way to make sure they get paid. Will the artists still make millions? Probably not, unless they have successful tours. (But, hey, ars gratia artis, right?) Will the indie companies make multi-millions? Probably not, unless they stumble on the next Madonna-type publicity juggernaut. But methinks they'll be happy to make a living. The world changes, and the most entrenched companies try to hold it back. But they all lose, in the end, because capitalism moves as surely as a glacier.

Copy, Rip, Burn...: Well, it had been quiet for too long, so the recording industry decided to go after its prime enemy: the college student. As the NYT reports, many of industrious college students have been rigging their own websites to allow for campus-wide sharing of music files. While these web entrepreneurs were no doubt the envy of their peers, and probably had their fair share of groupies (hey, it beasts "wanna come up and see my loft?"), the recording industry was less than charmed. One is struck by the arguments offered by the student body; that the industry is "crazy" and doesn't recognize "the future of music." Hmmmm, would that be the future when everything is free? In any event, the more one runs this issue around the cranium, the more one realizes that there's very little justification for "peer-to-peer file sharing." Certainly blaming the record industry or the artists for "making too much money" can't be a rationale. If that were the case, we should all be entitled to free cars (fortunately, airline seats would be exempt). In the end, and once Congress and the courts can get over the national security phase, I think file-sharing goes the way of the Tyrannosaurus Rex (or T.Rex -- and I thank you...).

Santorum's Sexuality: Ahh, but don't forget, Santorum is of the religious right, not just the right. Although the Philadelphia Inquirer has been quiet of late, it will perk up now and then and bash him for various things. A while back, if I remember correctly, it did a piece on him and how is religious beliefs tended to get in the way...ahem ... of actually being an elected government official. However, he's considered a shining star and I don't doubt he'll be in position for President in about six to ten years. Quotes like these will hopefully help prevent his election.

Earth Day: Ron Bailey has been saying this for years. Why is environmental improvement never hailed by environmentalists? Could it be that they just like having an issue about which they can ooze sanctimony?

Why Bother? I was going to hammer your senator, Rick Santorum, this morning, but I see that Sully has it all tied up nicely. Sully is right, Santorum is espousing something deeply unconservative here, something as alien to American tradition as political correctness.

More: Volokh has a good rundown of the legal side.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

On Saddam's Payroll? Allegedly, of course.

It begins: Still suspicious of France's motives not to invade? Well, this may be an early tell of things to come. Britain's most ardent back-bencher against Iraqi invasion/sanctions is found to be on the Baghdad payroll to the tune of 375,00 Pounds/year at least. Asked to explain, he comes off like Nixon: "Maybe it is the product of the same forgers who forged so many other things in this whole Iraq picture. Maybe The Daily Telegraph forged it. Who knows?" This guy should be lead away in chains. In France, he'd be a hero, but hopefully Britain will see things differently.

The Dream Palaces and Joey Tabula-Rasa: David Brooks, a keen armchair sociologist, takes a look at the world through the eyes of a 20-year-old student:
Joey likes to think of himself as fundamentally independent. He looks at the people living in their dream palaces--the Arabists, the European elites, the Bush haters--and he knows he doesn't want to be like them. He doesn't want to be so zealous and detached from reality. He's not even into joining political movements at home. But he is less independent than he thinks. He has started to acquire certain assumptions over the past months, which will shape his thinking in years to come. As a rule, these assumptions are the exact opposite of the assumptions he would have formed if he had been watching the Vietnam war unfold. His politics will be radically different from those of the Vietnam generation.
And radically different, I guess, from anything else. If I had a hope, it would be that Joey and his pals will be able to synthesize. Party affiliation, like choosing a brand of beer, is an identity marker of a different generation. (The GOP, the "young" party of the two majors, is a century and a half old.) As recent elections have shown, the vast middle is where the votes are to be found in the general election, and an amazing number of votes are in play for both parties. Pundits like to talk about "soccer moms," but in reality, the center is a kind of "everyone else" pool: small-government types who don't self identify with the GOP on issues like abortion or school prayer; progressive thinkers who realize that the trajectory of history has consigned many systems of public affairs to the dump while the free market has been reasonably successful; environmentalists who know that private ownership breeds benevolent stewardship of resources, while the "commons" paradigm encourages misuse, overgrazing/fishing, and blame shifting. Maybe Joey's generation will be the last to suffer, or the first to do away with, the moribund political categories that stifle and distort the political debate.

Workers Unite! I'm not particularly pro-union, and I'm not anti-executive, but this stinks: Get your biggest union to sign on to huge concessions to keep your company out of bankruptcy court, then file your 10K to the SEC, revealing executive bonus and pension-security information. And the union is pissed now. AMR's problem:
"This is a classic 'Catch 22' for American Airlines. If it does not find a way to compensate its top executives for the substantial risks they are taking and the very hard work ahead, many will resign from the company," said William Alderman, president of aerospace investment firm Alderman & Company.
Oh, boo-hoo. Listen, running American Airlines is not that hard a job, and Don Carty got nearly $4 million in 2001. I'd be glad to do it for a lot less money. And I guarantee I could have happier unions, have more satisfied customers, and lose a hell of a lot less money than Carty is. Technically, I have no problem with executive pay, as long as you're not a weasel, as Carty and his minions appear to be. And as long as you don't pretend your job is so tough that you deserve to make a few million. If you can get it, great -- I'd take it, too. But don't pretend that you earned it through long hours and total dedication when your company, your industry is tanking because you can't understand that your way of running an airline has never even hinted at a long-term profit.

Crystal Clear: SecTreas (Release 2.0) John Snow shows he can learn from the mistakes of his predecessor. No doubt this was at the top of his to-do list the day he took the job.

Monday, April 21, 2003

PBR: When I started reading your post about WaPo's celebration of PBR, I anticipated a cringeworthy comment about how PBR is the "working man's" beer, and that by drinking it, reflected a shift to more honest, blue-collar values, blah, blah, blah. Fortunately, the WaPo didn't stoop that low. The only time I drank that swill was at this bar that gave a boilermaker special. Shot of Jim Beam with PBR chaser. Fun bar, bad beer.

On the Other Hand: Beer-wise, I just don't get it. Would you be happy drinking one wine the rest of your life, even if it was a 1982 Latour?

More Advert-Think: To put it in pop/psych terms, this kind of advertising appeals to the kernel of anomie in all of us -- the fear that we are truly alone -- and to the glimmer of hope that we can overcome that soul-eating loneliness by identifying ourselves as members of groups. These groups are signified to society by logos, team jackets, bumperstickers. It's an ugly thing, but that guy with the sticker on his truck, the cartoon picture of the kid whizzing on the Chevy logo -- that's a desperately frightened man, so frightened that he needs to have what Eric Hoffer would call an other, a sort of fascist concept of "not-us" to share. Grass only exists to give the concrete a name, as the sage said. Anytime I see an ad selling me that kind of group identity, the desperation of it reinforces how alone people are. How they're not buying a product, but buying a feeling, a respite.

Thinking Too Hard: The WaPo, in what could almost be a press release for a re-branding campaign, trumpets the "return" of PBR -- Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. In a paragraph typical of the piece, and sounding like it came right from a brainstorming session with a brand consultant, we are told:
The popularity of PBR is a lesson in reverse psychology. Young adults have taken to the beer because it wasn't forced down their throats. Like ugly clothes and extreme sports, Pabst's value lies in its expression of individuality and choice, a rejection of consumer society by those who feel manipulated by it. Pabst's selling point is its distinct unpopularity, its unself-conscious existence among beers that reinvent themselves as regularly as political candidates.
Jesus, it's almost a reason not to drink it. Beer is still marketed under a paradigm that suits the America in which beer became popular. Brand loyalty is of the highest importance, like buying a certain brand of pickup, even if it falls apart in your driveway, just like the last one; rooting for the same team every year, even if they lose; having a favorite NASCAR driver. Add to that mix the loyalty of beer brand, and you have a picture of the target -- he's a Chevy driver, a Giants fan, roots for Jeff Gordon -- and he's a Bud man. What's different about the PBR campaign? Everything, but nothing. It's still a celebration of the identity that a brand offers its patron, but with a contemptuous rejection of the traditional symbols (think snowboarding instead of NASCAR).

Friday, April 18, 2003

Outrage du Jour The liberal voice of the WSJ editorial page, Al Hunt, has an unusual mission today: applauding Indiana's Senator Richard Lugar. Never mind that Hunt's praise is a stalking horse; I'll accept that Hunt actually respects Lugar. Anyhow, the opening paragraph is a must-read for its transparent use of misleading language to put down the evil GOP. Hunt says that Lugar "reversed Republican support for South African apartheid." That's right. I bet you didn't know it, but Republicans were so sad that Jim Crow was done away with in America that they cheered the policy and vicariously, in their hearts, lived out their fantasies of a segregated society through South Africa. So tired. As I mentioned in my post below, there were some valid reasons for not backing sanctions against South Africa. Some people thought it wouldn't help anything (cf. Iraq, North Korea, Cuba). Others thought sanctions rewarded some of the elements opposing the regime of P.W. Botha -- what we used to call "extremist elements" but now call "terrorists." One particular sanctions bill (which I researched during the 2000 campaign and them promptly forgot the name/number of) was the one Dick Cheney voted against in the mid-80s, which during the campaign got him labeled a "supporter of apartheid" or some such formulation. The fact of the matter turned out to be that a number of representatives (in both parties) voted against the sanctions bill when the House watered it down by removing condemnation of some factions loosely connected to the ANC -- the folks that practiced the infamous "necklacings" and were basically the IRA to ANC's Sinn Fein.

I like reading people who disagree with me. It's the only way to formulate a real argument. But it's this kind of stuff that makes me stop in the middle of an Al Hunt column and wonder why the hell I should go on reading.

Boycotts, Left and Right:Volokh has taken a different slant on boycotting versus condemning disagreeable opinion: ethics. He says:
But I think there's an important ethical distinction between simply responding to speech -- even if it may foreseeably hurt the speaker's pocketbook -- and trying to organize a boycott that's aimed at punishing the speaker, or at deterring speakers from saying such things in the future.
I'm not sure he's correct. Is it the case that the boycott of, say, the Dixie Chicks is motivated by a desire to "[deter them] from saying such things in the future"? I would guess that most people who withheld their money from the Dixie Chicks don't particularly care what Natalie Maines says in the future. The point is to exercise a type of economic speech -- voting with their wallets, as it were. Is that "punishment" of the speaker? I don't think so. Nothing is taken away from the speaker, no right withheld. The speaker is free to continue saying what he or she wishes, but with the understanding that he or she does so to the detriment of his or her "customer base." It's an inexact parallel, to say the least, but wouldn't you, Eugene, stop patronizing your dry cleaner if the owner greeted your patronage with a salutation of "Hey, asshole"?

Like I said, inexact; but Volokh's example, I think, really goes wide of the mark. He posits a case of employment:

Here's a simple hypothetical: Imagine that a company employs someone who's a noted Republican activist. The company's sole owner fires the activist, saying the following: "By employing this person, I'm supporting him financially; in fact, part of the money that I'm paying him ends up being used for his activism, so I'm supporting his actual speech and any action stemming therefrom, and I am, however incrementally, associating myself with it. Which, of course, I would not want to do. I will therefore fire this person." Whether or not this behavior is legal (and I think it should be), I think most of us would rightly condemn it as intolerant and therefore improper. Yes, if the employer retains this employee, he may be indirectly supporting a cause with which he disagrees; and perhaps by firing the employee, he may in some small measure weaken that cause. But tolerating people means that sometimes we should do even those things that indirectly help causes we dislike -- pay a salary to supporters of those causes, decline to ostracize them, even in some situations (for instance, if we're a private university that's dedicated to academic freedom) provide an equal forum for them as we do for other groups.
But employment is a contract, even if one supports (as Eugene says he does, and I do) the right of an employer to fire for any reason. An employer who has hired me to do a job has an economic incentive to keep me working, and an economic disincentive to fire talented people with whom the employer might disagree on unrelated matters. (Remember the college student working for a Texas media consultant who was said to be secretly mailing insider information to the Gore campaign? She turned out to be an active Democrat, if I recall, in which case it would be not only ethical to fire for political reasons, it would be a disservice to one's client not to.) At any rate, I have no contract with the Dixie Chicks to buy their records. I might do, if I like the tunes. I might even if I like the tunes but hate what they say/stand for/advertise for/etc. (If I didn't buy the music of artists who disagree with me politically, I'd only be able to listen to Zappa.) Nonetheless, if an artist says something irresponsible ("kill the Jews," for example) it is entirely ethical for me to withhold my money, and to send a note to the nice people at the record company telling them why my $12 is still in my wallet, and to tell my friends what I did and why. Now, if the record company wants to fire the artist because they're beginning to look like a financial risk, that's a business decision.

Another example to help distinguish, shifting from speech to the related matter of association: Let's say that a restaurant that won't serve black people. I think a private business can refuse service to anyone they choose without legal sanction, so their right to do business is not at iassue. But is it ethical for the white people in the area to make it perfectly clear to that establishment that they will not bring their money there because of such a policy? Absolutely. Now we move into deeper waters: This was, effectively, the motivation behind various boycotts of South African products in the 1980s. One direct effect of the economic pressure was that less money came into the South African economy. In the long term, one could argue, this led to the disestablishment of apartheid. In the short term, though, many people, including the oppressed black population we were ostensibly trying to aid, suffered first in an economic tightening. Were the sanctions still ethical? That is the interesting question, and the one worth debating.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Mea Culpa: You're right. I forgot about the dividend thingy. That is a long overdue change, and Bush should certainly be applauded for recognizing it, although as far as revolutionary tax work goes, it's a tad mild. Back to the love lounge. You should SEE all Courvosier he's got stashed. I'm going to test for chemicals.

Hurt Me: What's this, you show up only to slam my posts? I think we can agree that "tax reform" as it has existed for lo these many years has been a tangle of special interest watering, Clintonian "tax credit" fever, and complication in the name of simplification. That said, the one issue that Bush's tax cut does address, and the thing it can't do if chopped by the Senate, is to end the dividend tax grab. This is one of those tax code offenses, like the death tax, the AMT, and the marriage penalty, that has no justification. Worse, it is probably the most counterproductive of all taxes, as far as its impact on the economy, since it double taxes the productivity of corporations. The rest of the Bush tax cut is the same old monkey business: a couple of token rate cuts, some incentives, and other stupendously useless giveaways. Just the fact that Bush's principled position (which principle he promptly sold out in 2001) is that nobody should be taxed higher than 33% is maddening. One third of your income? That's not a exactly a brave conservative stand, is it?

The NEW Starr Report: Excerpted: "...and the burgundy stain on the Vice Commissioner for Pennsylvania's Liquor Control Board's lapel gave off hints of blackberry, currant, allspice and honey. As he motioned in the air with his sodden cigar, he attempted in a precocious, yet vibrant manner to draw attention away from the stain (more cinnamon than cherry in complexion) and move on to more airy and aloof topics, like the rainy weather in Sonoma."

The Taxman: Sorry for the delay, but finding a broadband connection in Baghdad these days is rough. I'm writing from inside one of Saddam's now infamous "love shacks". One thing people probably didn't know about Saddam; he and Curtis Mayfield....tiiiiight. As I wander to the rumpus room, I notice the turntable needle frozen in time, resting over the fourth cut, "Mother's Son," off of 1974's "Got to Find a Way". I can see the Great Uncle now, settling back into some thick shag, the hookah within arm's reach as he watches a couple of his henchmen "soften up" a few women he "invited" over for some "fun."

Anyway, to comment on your tax issue. The converse of your point is: "The idea that this tax cut will actually have an effect is ridiculous." I, for one, do not equate tax cut with "tax reform." I think the two phrases should mean something different. A tax cut is brainless, easy and used as a political doggy treat to show your GOP bona fides. If you want to do something about our 8 million-word tax code, then do something. Don't stay in the existing parameters and trumpet how hard you're working.

Glad He's on Our Side ... I Think: According to the Wine Spectator, Ken Starr is now working with the Coalition for Free Trade to help overturn the clearly unconstitutional state laws that restrict wine drinkers from having wine shipped to their homes. (The several states defend their laws as falling under the rubric of post-prohibition state regulation of liquor, but they are really only a favor to distributors and a limit on a person's ability to choose wine.) I feel a little bad for Starr, since he was odds-on for the Supreme Court until a few years ago -- a job, I've argued before, that he's cut out for. Starr has a large and powerful legal brain, so good for us (wine drinkers). I can only wish him more success than in his previous endeavors.

Sharpen Your Pencil: In the spirit of tax season, Brian Reidl at the Heritage Foundation examines Bush's tax cut:
The federal government is projected to collect $27.9 trillion in taxes over the next ten years. President Bush has proposed a $726 billion tax relief package that would drop that total to "only" $27.2 trillion. While that amount seems sufficient to satisfy Washington’s spending appetite, a group of Senators is opposing any tax cut larger than $350 billion. These Senators have described all proposals that would tax less than $27.6 trillion over the next decade as "unaffordable."
Reidl's next step is to pay for the tax cut by cutting spending. Most of the spending offset he suggests comes simply from cutting waste, counterproductive spending, and sop-type subsidies; the biggest chunk is "unreconciled transactions," a euphemism for spending that the Treasury can't even account for. And he does this without the benefit of dynamic scoring, which has to count for something (Reidl thinks 25-60% of the cut will be recouped). The idea that we can't afford this tax cut is ridiculous.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Grade-A, First-class Moron: Sometimes it seems like nothing can occur to upset the insular worldview of the coastal elite without it being a revival of McCarthyism. Witness Renee Graham in the hypersensitive Boston Globe:
It's been a good long while since I've had a sit-down with the US Constitution ...
Watch carefully while she proves it.
but if my junior high school memories serve me correctly, I don't recall the Bill of Rights guaranteeing free speech only to those who espouse one particular opinion. Yet that seems to be the disturbing interpretation preferred by those encouraging a backlash against some celebrities who have been outspoken opponents of the US-led war against Iraq.
Let's take a look at that. Is it the government encouraging the backlash? No, private citizens are. Now that we have that straight:
One of those singled out is Janeane Garofalo. The passionately antiwar actress and comedian has become the target of a campaign to convince ABC to drop plans for a proposed series starring her.
Certainly, in this case, Congress passed a law making it illegal for Garofalo to have a weekly series. No? Hmmm. Let's finish up, then. Here's the closer:
As the United States prepares to guide Iraq toward democracy and a new political future, it must not slip back into its own dark past of McCarthyism, which ruined dozens of lives and careers in the 1950s. The Bill of Rights guarantees free speech to everyone, including celebrities who flash peace signs at awards shows or release music denouncing war. And to believe otherwise, or contend that their dissent is dangerous, may be the most treasonous, anti-American act of all.
I thought that to be a Boston Globe writer meant an IQ at least equivalent to one's hat size, but Ms. Graham has enlightened me by squeezing a record amount of faulty logic and misguided Constitutional interpretation into one column. It used to be McCarthyism if the government systematically stifled your right to speak and associate. Now you're a McCarthyite if you don't personally support Janeane Garofalo's latest banal attempt at sitcom humor. A boycott, long beloved of the left, is now an unfair way to register your disagreement with a person or product. How many dime-store editorialists have to have this explained to them? The Bill of Rights protects citizens from the intrusion of the government. It does not, however, guarantee Janeane Garofalo an income. If she shoots her mouth off, then gets hired by ABC, I have my own rights, one of which is to take my viewership elsewhere -- and to let ABC know why. It is not McCarthyism; it is not injurious to the Bill of Rights. It is simple economic freedom. Go back to junior high, Ms. Graham. It appears you didn't meet the requirements to graduate.

C'est Incroyable! Denis Boyles, in his European dispatch over at National Review, points out this bit of unintentional humor in the French daily Libération. Scroll down to the last question.

More City Journal: I admit that I'm disappointed, but not surprised, that the City Journal piece doesn't state more forcefully a position of moral neutrality, given that one can find this kind of argument there:
The Court has subjected the First Amendment to a stiff dose of “power judging” as well. It has used the amendment’s religion clause—“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”—to erect a nearly impassable “wall of separation” between church and state, a wall that the Framers never envisioned. Washington, for example, thought religion “indispensable” to the “dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity”—a view that seems to belong to a different universe from a 2000 Supreme Court ruling that a short, freely chosen, nonsectarian, and non-proselytizing prayer delivered by a student before a high school football game represented an unconstitutional establishment of religion.
Like I said, the sorts of beliefs various crowds are pushing all sound like religion to me: belief in something unreasonable, depite a dearth of proof. In the end, if you want to pray at home, great. If you want to fist at home, that's also great. Just don't try to tell my kid how "great" either practice is. His mother and I will have those discussions with him when the time comes. How hard is that to understand?

An Interesting Read: City Journal is the Manhattan Institute's periodical, and it has, in the past, often served as a megaphone for so-called compassionate conservatism. (The editor is Myron Magnet, whose writings have influenced G.W. Bush, and contributors include former liberal Harry Stein and thoughtful iconoclast John McWhorter.) This piece, from the Spring 2003 issue, caught my eye: Queering the Schools, it's called. I'm afraid we have to call a spade a spade and declare a certain strain of leftist thought a "religion" in order to keep it out of the schools. This kind of gay-friendly indoctrination is no different from the indoctrination featured in schools that want to push Darwin out the door in the name of "promot[ing] tolerance and acceptance of diversity of opinion." It is pseudo-scientific (and, in the case of GLSEN, social science, which was never really science to begin with) rubbish, forced on children by adults with an axe to grind and an agenda to push. Just as the tobacco industry is said to prey upon the young in an effort to boost their sales, so too do various special interest groups reach out to children, well aware that their relatively impressionable state and respect for authority are boons for their cause when it comes to proselytizing. This sort of propaganda tactic is straight out of the PETA handbook. The PETA campaign in elementary schools against dairy consumption, however, was not taxpayer funded; GLSEN's activities often are.

Smoke: Via A&LD, a thoughtful, measured take on the NYC smoking ban. New York Times food writer William Grimes says the ban helps him enjoy dining more, but he's uncomfortable with the means.
Chefs can send out food from the kitchen knowing that it will be enjoyed in a smokeless atmosphere. Waiters can lean forward to serve their customers without getting a cloud of Camel right in the face. And sensitive palates like mine can operate at peak efficiency, picking up nuances of herb and spice without interference. It's the dawn of a bright new day. But to usher it in, the government has had to declare shade illegal.
Fair enough.

Happy Tax Day: Stephen Moore, of the Cato Institute, reports that
Businesses will spend about 3.4 billion man-hours and individuals about 1.7 billion hours figuring out their taxes this year. That is the equivalent of 3 million people working full time year-round on tax-preparation work. This is more people than now serve in the U.S. armed forces. It is more man-hours than are required to build every car, van, and truck in the United States.
He has more.

Monday, April 14, 2003

Hard to Argue with a Winner: North Korea softens its stand on multilateral talks. You just have to know that Kim took a hard look at the statues of himself and his father this week, imagining how they would look being dragged behind a humvee through Pyongyang.

One bad thing about the war being nearly over: No more Sahaf. God I'll miss him. At this point he's reduced to standing in a 5-meter square area next to the Syrian border declaring: "As I stand here today on Iraqi sovereign soil, I declare that none of the heathen troops shall ever vanquish the noble Iraqi people. This area...right here...encompassed by that rock to the north, that stream to the east, that small shrubbery to the west, and that Iraqi tank, which has somehow been disguised by the devil-spawn Americans to resemble a Bradley Fighting Vehicle, is and forever shall be, beholden to the Great Uncle himself, who would be here, but is currently fighting off a battalion of U.S. marines with his bare hands. Death to the infidels!" Anyway, he was funny.

Friday, April 11, 2003

Funny: A diverting peek at the "book race" that fits into the modern presidential race. I think most candidates are vulnerable to the claim that they shoot pretty high when "revealing" their favorite reads. One has to respect Kennedy, who declared his love for the sexy, violent, and icily anti-communist From Russia With Love. At the height of the cold war, to boot. (Link via the one and only Arts & Letters Daily.)

Thursday, April 10, 2003

Loitering at the Masters: And I don't mean Martha. Adrian Wojnarowski takes on the real Augusta controversy: the fact that Arnie is still playing. As far as I'm concerned, Arnie can play at 93 if he wants, and shoot 50 over on the front nine. I have to admit, though, it probably is a bitch playing in his threesome. Or behind it.

More: No round today; the grass is too wet. Another boost for Tiger, who is probably the best prepared to put in 36 tomorrow and still roll out Saturday with a spring in his step. Dark horse -- Chris DiMarco. (Update: DiMarco shot 9-over on the first lap.) Anybody know if Ian Woosnam still smokes his Camel straights on the course?

Richard Cohen Does: (By Kaus, out of Volokh, as the horse-breeders say.) A man of the left takes on the left's soft spot for dictators, particularly Cuba's blood-soaked thief-in-chief. It's no use to excerpt; too wonderful from start to finish. Read it all.

Side note: Wouldn't it be a shock to the world (and great fun, to boot) if we announced that, after Iraq, Cuba was next on "the list"? Even if just as a joke, like Reagan's "the bombing will begin" remark. Ah, to see the look on that old fart Castro's face, the cigar tumbling out of his gaping mouth into his crotch, his quivering hand reaching for the phone to ready his asylum (in France, no doubt -- or Beverly Hills).

Rod Paige Doesn't Get It: Our Education Secretary stuck his foot in it by saying, "All things equal, I would prefer to have a child in a school that has a strong appreciation for the values of the Christian community." It's hard to believe he didn't realize how stupid that sounds. But the prize for not getting it goes to Bill Bennett, who came to Paige's defense by saying, "He'd prefer to have a child in a school that has a strong appreciation for the values of the Christian community. Who's opposed to that?" Golly, Bill, maybe Jews, Muslims, Hindus, atheists, secularists, people who can read the Constitution.

Update: Peter Wood defends Paige, saying that Paige was suggesting where he would send his own kids. First, I think that's unclear in context, but he's welcome to clarify. Second, who cares where the secretary would send his kids? Part of the job is that you don't get baited into pronouncements like this, particularly by the Baptist Press -- a group that could be seen as partial to a certain answer. (Try to imagine the Baptist Press headline if Rod Paige said he'd prefer to have his kids in a secular school.) This was clearly a suck-up, perhaps a deliberately ambiguous one, on Paige's part. Third, does he think that Yeshiva is not a "community of values"? Or that those values are lesser values? Fourth, he has to know that when he discusses what he would "prefer" for "a child" (not "my child"), he could easily be seen as declaring a policy goal.

The secular left wants Paige's scalp over this. That's crassly taking advantage of a dumb comment, and I think they'll tone it down. Bad as it sounds, it's not a firing offense. But if he wants to keep his job, Paige should think carefully before speaking to the advocate press.

John Kerry on Litmus Testing: Ramesh Ponnuru examines John Kerry's statement that a pledge to appoint only pro-choice judges is not a litmus test, since Roe is "settled law." This is typical political "fine for me but not thee" weaseling. As Ramesh points out, if a Supreme Court decision indicated settled law, as Kerry argues in the case of abortion, then Kerry
is [also] saying that he would never appoint a justice who would vote to overrule a previous constitutional decision of the Supreme Court. Dred Scott, Plessy v. Ferguson, Korematsu, Bowers v. Hardwick: They would all be the law forever. That's quite a platform for a Democrat.
Maybe I'm calling this too early, but Kerry's mouth seems to be so far ahead of his brain these days that it might as well be in a different zip code.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

Worth Another Look: From the Pittsburgh Trib-Review comes this story of an underground nuclear facility 18 miles outside Baghdad. A big scoop, if it pans out. Highlights:
So far, Marine nuclear and intelligence experts have discovered 14 buildings that betray high levels of radiation. Some of the readings show nuclear residue too deadly for human occupation ... "It's amazing," said Chief Warrant Officer Darrin Flick, the battalion's nuclear, biological and chemical warfare specialist. "I went to the off-site storage buildings, and the rad detector went off the charts. Then I opened the steel door, and there were all these drums, many, many drums, of highly radioactive material."
Thanks to the Corner for the link.

You Can't Make this Stuff Up: [Link courtesy of Drudge.] Major document destruction at Iraq's Brasilia embassy. And the official line from the embassy is worthy of Sahaf:
"It's all lies," said the official, Abdu Saif. "We are only burning garbage and recently cut grass." A short time later, a man who answered the phone at the embassy said only, "I'm not working now" and hung up.
It's all lies, it's all lies. If these guys were any more on-message, I'd swear they were cribbing from Ari Fleischer's notes.

News: Baghdad falls? No, Baghdad arises.

Iraqi TV: Boy, you're not kidding. Don't we have the technology to interrupt their broadcasts? You know they have to be using the kind of technology we were used to when the only military man we cared to see on TV was Captain Kangaroo. You know, the big, clunky knobs to change channels, rabbit ears on top of the set. Anyway, you're right, we really should have made it a priority.

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

Too Much T.V.?: When the war began, the powers that be seemed to allow Iraqi t.v. to stay on-line, because, conventional wisdom held, it would be beneficial to the cause for the Iraqis to see their "elite" (don't forget in Iraq this means "fed and clothed") troops throwing down their weapons and running into the arms of waiting "Coalition" forces to denounce their oppressive former ruler. Well, then that didn't happen, and t.v. only served to disseminate the grainy images of "Saddam" and the increasingly belligerent Sahaf, spouting fire and brimstone our way. So, then we took greater efforts to destroy the transmitters, etc. only to find Saddam had put a lot of his communications underground. Now, it's pretty irrelevant, as we may have nabbed the Big Kahuna himself. By the way, I don't think we're killing journalists on purpose. So, if you're running a war, what do you do with state-run t.v.? Me? I hack into it and broadcast my own t.v. showing "Saddam" stomping on a Koran and kissing Bush on the cheek.

T&R Lies: Already reports appear of vigilante justice in the streets, reprisals against those who were Saddam loyalists, civilians looting and stealing guns from Republican Guard caches. A certain amount of this is too be expected, and a certain amount of it, arguably, is necessary for a populace that has lived so long under the bootheel. But the question will asise, what will we have as the legally sanctioned version of this? There has been talk of a de-Ba'ath-ification process, something akin, I hope, to Nuremburg, where the henchmen of this regime will come to justice, where the people will go to seek retribution. The UN is big on "truth and reconciliation" commissions, like in South Africa. Truth is a good goal, and the party files should go a long way to that end. Reconciliation? Hmmm. Maybe that's just a squishy way of describing what I'm thinking of, but it sounds more like a pop-psych, feel-good sing along. I'm thinking about a process that features more gallows than good feelings.

I saw this picture and was horrified. Something should be put in place quickly to serve as an outlet for these feelings. This may sound squishy, too, but these people need closure. Firstly, we don't want to have to police civil disorder. Secondly, this kind of freelance "truth and reconciliation" can quickly become a political tool in the cloudy days when a transitional government is unformed and various groups jockey for position.

Working Our Way Through Baghdad: Some stunning stuff in this report:
At one stage the marines opened fire after coming under attack from snipers, leaving at least two civilians wounded. One man needed treatment for gunshot wounds to his stomach and left arm. But his friend, Abdul Amir Jaffa, said he did not resent the Americans despite the shooting. "Americans are coming to free us," he told AFP.
We shot his friend but he doesn't hold it against us because we did it in the process of freeing him.

I've touched before on the mindset that makes the protesters tick. A lot of them were too young to protest Vietnam. Some of them were old enough but didn't and now feel they missed their chance. Some of them did protest, and are now reliving their salad days. At any rate, the protesters are looking through a prism of 1960s America, where war means 'Nam and hipness means marching. This is not an original observation. But this is: Some of us, myself included, didn't get to see or hear about the liberation of Paris, the dismantling of the concentration camps. Iraq is not WWII, but it may be as close as my generation will get. For me, the stories and images of freed people is a tonic in a country where we shout "Fascist" if someone tries to take away our "freedom" to do any number of silly things, like blocking traffic to protest the war. This, in Iraq, is freedom -- something you can only really feel so clearly when it is a new environment, like realizing you were dry and comfortable the moment before a downpour soaked you.

More: One can argue that Johnson's war budgetary policy was a lynchpin of sorts (i.e., no war, no deficits), but that assumes a deficit-inflationary link. Besides, it's simply playing what-if games with history anyway. It's not reasonable argument. In addition, raising taxes to pay for Vietnam would have been electoral suicide, and I doubt the Democrats in Congress would have stood by for that, since they had to face the voters in '66, while Johnson had until '68 to complete his own political seppuku.

Makes Me Wonder: TNR's "&c" blog, despite the magazines hawkish stance, has set out to whack George Bush anywhere it can, perhaps to burnish its liberal bona fides. (After all, they wouldn't want to go around agreeing with the president willy-nilly, eh?) Anyhoo, this statement, on the purported idiocy of the WSJ's justification for tax cuts, struck me as the pot calling the ... Ah, see for yourself. Here's the WSJ line:
[The tax cut] will also lay the seeds for a better performing economy, which is the best way to finance a war and address the deficit anyway. Ronald Reagan (the Cold War) and JFK (early Vietnam) proved that tax cuts can spur growth in wartime.
Now here's TNR's reply:
Does the Journal really want to stake its argument for cutting taxes during wartime on an analogy with Vietnam?
Hmmm. This means what, exactly? That conservatives can't argue a bit of economic theory that says strategically cutting taxes can increase revenue, I guess. And why can't they? Well, because they used the analogy of Vietnam. Not getting it? I'm not either. The analogy was to tax policy in the early 60s, based on foreseeable war expenditures. The fact that the Vietnam War turned long, ugly, and unpopular in no way dismisses the argument that tax cuts can stimulate revenue.

That piece of illogical argumentation made, TNR goes on to ask:

Is [the WSJ] not even a little bit bothered by the fact that Lyndon Johnson's failure to raise taxes during that war was perhaps the driving force behind the crippling inflation of the 1970s. [sic]
Their emphasis, by the way. Now there are a lot of people at that magazine who are smarter than I am, I admit. But to link the hyperinflation of the 1970s to Johnson's failure to raise taxes seems absurd. I can see an argument that war spending pushed inflation a bit, but Johnson's solution was to take us deeper into the war, even as he knew that stalemate was the inevitable outcome (viz Beschloss's recent compilation). Surely Nixon's attempts at price/wage stabilization had their own unintended consequences, as monkeying with the free market always does. And what about oil prices? That set off a huge secondary inflation wave, since so many industries were affected by the cost of fuel. And notice how tax hikes throughout the 70s brought the problem of hyperinflation to a screeching halt. Actually, the only deep solution, as opposed to cosmetic tinkering, turned out to be tax cuts, and the US only really emerged from the sluggish 70s in 1983.

Monday, April 07, 2003

A little late?: Yahoo announces that it's upgrading its search engine to include not just links, but information with its results. Apparently Google has gotten a little too big for its britches - actually, it's the No. 1 search engine. Funny, but Yahoo can be accused of being too fixed in the "old" internet economy, while Google has best grasped what went wrong earlier, and learned from it. Namely, Yahoo wanted to be this "destination portal" that offered not just information searches, but travel, news, products, and hell, match-making. Typically, companies that are really good one or two things tend to suck when they try to do everything (go ahead, buy a "stylish" watch from shoe-designer Kenneth Cole...go ahead, I can wait...). Yahoo thought it should be everything to everyone. Now, has Yahoo done a pretty good job? Well for many things, yes. They offer good bulletin board services, email, searches, and breaking news (links, not reporting). But when you just want relevant searches done with minimal fuss and flashing banners, Google is the way to go...as alluded to here earlier. Anyway, Google has thus far resisted the siren call of banner advertising (Yahoo can actually remember when those things made a profit), and instead focuses on its algorithims. Still, the competition is good, and I look forward to the outcome.

Easterbrook on Michael Kelly: From the New Republic. A nice tribute, not a glossy paste over of the tumult Kelly was part of at TNR.

Chin-less: One of the longest-running acts in NY finally lowered its curtain for the last time. That's right, Vincent "The Chin" Gigante cops a plea to having feigned his mental illness these thirty years in an effort to avoid incarceration. He gets three years in, then three years of parole. Plus, he's already serving 12 years for a 1997 beef. This is regretful. Nothing was better than watching clips of him wandering around his neighborhood in a ratty bathrobe, mumbling to himself. Of course, and this is just me talking, having to act like that for all these years had to have been, in a sense, its own prison. With the methods law enforcement can use to snoop on you, it's hard to ever feel safe in letting your guard down and you essentially put yourself in a jail of your own making. Anyway, bravo.

Annan Says U.N. Role in Iraq Will Add Legitimacy: Yes, that's really the headline you see in this article. When in this sordid process did the UN add legitimacy to anything? In fact, isn't that why we're there without them in the first place, that they refused to "legitimize" the war? Yesirree, having an organization with Syria (ahem, Syria -- you know, the country that took Saddam's side) on the security council give you the nod is a must-have for any international project! I can't wait to see their faces when Bush slams the door to Baghdad on the UN's nose, and Blair shrugs and says to Kofi Annan, "After your posturing and dicking around, can you blame him?" Yes, I inhabit a dreamworld, since some way, somehow the UN will weasel its way back in. But, for now, indulge me my fantasies.

We Now Return ... After a short break, Tim Blair is back posting on the war from Australia. He, too, has noticed Sahaf's growing isolation from reality:
Live from the front steps of Saddam Hussein's presidential palace, a US tank commander told Fox News a little while ago that he was going to take a shower in ol' Saddam's en suite. "It's got running water," he said. And gold taps! Can't wait for to hear Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf's spin on this. "They do not control the shower! We have them trapped in the shower! The taps, the nozzle, dish where soap is placed, all controlled by Iraq!"
Welcome back, Tim.

QED: We've got the WMDs, we've got the terror connections (click, scroll down to "South of Baghdad"), we've got more violations of international law, and that's just in a quick scan through the headlines. I don't want to get ahead of things, I think we can officially start the "I told you so" routine. Oh, isn't that rather childish of me? Goddamn right it is.

Infidels at the gate: First of all, you have to love the Iraqi spokesman, Sahaf, and his word-choice. On the one hand, he's full of all the archaic, vaguely religious terminology, promising plagues, burning, and other ominous, if apocryphal, fates. On the other, his English is just bad, bad, bad, and as "stupid" and "silly" as he accuses us of being in our war tactics. Sure, my arabic ain't so good, but then again, I'm not the spokesperson for my government on arab developments. This, from a guy who has to give press conferences outside because there aren't any buildings left for government use. Secondly, you have to wonder about their refusal to admit to any truth that doesn't have the "elite" Republican Guards wiping out the 3rd Infantry. Maybe, to them, it's like the moon landing that never happened. Instead, we built this elaborate mock-up in Nevada, then flew the "embedded" journalists around for 10 hours before landing right back in the U.S. at the Baghdad we built. Then there's the thousands of arab extras we hired to be the opposition. You can imagine the confusion the journalists feel when our troops keep attacking the same group of "soldiers" - each one vying for the opportunity to stage a dramatic death scene.

Our Friends, the Saudis: I have no doubt that the Saudis were in a serious bind. They didn't want to upset us by totally denying us staging rights for Iraq, but they knew, deep down, that we were aiming to build a real, non-whacko ally in the region. Places like Qatar, the UAE, and Yemen have their own issues with radical Muslims, but they jumped on our coalition with both feet while the Saudis dicked around. That's because the Saudis knew that this op could spell the end of their oil and diplomacy dominance in the mideast. Yes, they're an ally in that they're a "friendly" nation, but they only in comparison to, say, Iraq, Iran, Syria, etc. (In addition, the fact that we have bases there is a direct result of Saddam's threatening behavior in the first place. With him gone, we can roll up the bases and move out, denying the Saudis the additional money from their leases and the indirect budgetary benefit that out military presence affords them.) Now that the potential exists for an ally that doesn't require a moral blindness on our part, things get even tougher for the House of Saud. This was a no-win decision for them.

Warm Beer, and Snow for the Northeast Today: The thing is, if much of the world has already industrialized, and no significant climate change has directly resulted (which appears to be the case), we're close to being over the hump. There will be a spike in greenhouse gases again as the third world industrializes, but they will do so with the benefit of better, cleaner technology. In the long-industrialized west, air and water have been getting progressively cleaner as we burn cleaner fuel, explore alternative energy, and reap the benefits of efficient technology. This trend will only continue. I'm all for alternative fuels, for reasons I mentioned before, but with hybrid engines soon to be the standard (I hope) and better traditional internal-combustion engines always available, I think we're on the downside of the pollution curve. Plus, population growth is tailing off worldwide, so the famous population "bomb" hasn't happened. (In fact, some areas of the world are on the cusp of population shrinkage, such as China and Western Europe.) I just can't get worked up about climate change. Better that we get off foreign oil for the reasons threatening us right now, and sort out any potential but unlikely environmental issues if they come up. The idea of putting our economy on an oil-diet based on fuzzy predictions that have never even come close to matching the actual data seems alarmist and destructive. In the most radical quarters, it's simply a stalking horse for true-believer neo-ludditism.

We don't need no stinking Saudis: It's clear that if the Saudis didn't host some of our troops, we wouldn't be so kissy-face with them. They'd be more along the lines of Pakistan - an ally only in the sense that the government isn't hosting terrorism. Not that most of its population isn't, just not the government. Of course, once we "liberate" Iraq from Saddam, we're going to have a pretty friendly, and enormous, source of oil to "buy." This should worry the Saudis more than anything else. Oh, and we'll have plenty of land for new bases too.

This is why the British drink their beer warm: I thought I'd throw this out before you got to it. It seems that we're not warming up so much as no longer cooling off. A recent comprehensive study argues that between the 9th and 14th centuries, the overall climate was in fact warmer than the "record-setting" temperatures we're starting to see now. If true, this is certainly good news for those that would claim the sky is falling. However, it's equally difficult to believe that our globe can withstand the greenhouse emissions we pump out every day and just absorb it all without some change being inflicted. Perhaps it reinforces the notion that we're not as all-important as we think we are.

Bloom: I couldn't believe it when I heard it. I don't know the guy, but he's one of those t.v. fixtures that you sort of develop an affinity for. Every morning I was used to grainy images of him on top of his "Bloom Mobile", broadcasting the very latest in troop movements. Hell, he was brave. The fact that he died from a pulmonary embolism is odd in terms of everything else that was out there trying to kill him. Anyway, I'm sad in a way that makes no sense, given that we've lost 80+ soldiers. I'll shut up now.

Does this stuff interest other people too?: Imagine a taking all of the energy the sun will produce in its existence and bottling that into a tenth of a second. There you have a hypernova. I dunno. I find this very interesting, even if I have basically no idea as to what its significance is.

Getting Ridiculous: Whoever is giving orders to the Iraqi Ministry of Disinformation is, I think, sipping Brandy Alexanders in a cafe in Paris (home in exile of, among others, Ayatollah Khomeini). After we recently rumbled tanks through the city, the minister emerged for spin:
"They are sick in their minds. They say they brought 65 tanks into center of city. I say to you this talk is not true. This is part of their sick mind," Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf said. "There is no presence of American infidels in the city of Baghdad at all."
Yeah, you do want to give your troops good news to keep them fighting, but you also have to avoid looking silly. Next time he's going to say it with a U.S. tank rolling behind him.

David Bloom: Very sad. The reporting he was doing truly was groundbreaking. To lose him and Kelly in a span of days is shattering. I wouldn't be surprised to find that, as a proportion of their numbers, more reporters are dying in the war than soldiers.

Head to the Newsstand: Pick up this month's Atlantic Monthly and read the cover story, "The Fall of the House of Saud." Saudi Arabia's ruling family can't move far enough westward to please the U.S. without angering its powerful Wahabbist faction. If they go too far in appeasing militant Islam, they risk alienating us, their biggest oil customer. On top of that, their oil system is vulnerable to terror attack, a nightmare scenario that could push oil into triple digit pricing, essentially killing any industry that relies directly on cheap fuel, and crippling any industry with an indirect reliance. The House of Saud, the article concludes, is in serious trouble, not least because of the opulent lifestyle of the royalty -- which is truly unbelievable -- in a country that has grown significantly poorer in the last decade. Though not the point of the article, the message is clear: anything we can do to get our economy out of the hands of the Saudis is good policy. This means alternative energy and conservation. But that's a long term solution. ANWR can help now. We should do it, and soon. I'm convinced it's a national security issue.

Friday, April 04, 2003

Atlantic: Michael Kelly became editor of the Atlantic Monthly a couple of years ago. I've read the Atlantic for some time, and if ever there was a grand old monthly that had become a shell, that was Atlantic. After Kelly took hold of it, it became a strong voice again, with important, serious articles and great wit. Kelly knew how to staff, too. He set Chris Hitchens to work doing feature-length book reviews and added David Brooks as a regular columnist. Then Kelly took the unusual step of leaving the editorship. (He remained as editor-at-large.) His work was done, and I imagine he had no need to create some kind of journalistic fiefdom, instead turning things over to Cullen Murphy, who appears to have succeeded (no slight to Murphy) by leaving Kelly's structure in place. If Kelly had done nothing else in his life, his turnaround of the Atlantic would put him in the editorial hall of fame on the first ballot. I'll miss his great writing too.

Michael Kelly: Dead, in Iraq, a humvee accident. This is an enormous loss.

A Crew: A first-timer war journalist meets old salts Hitch and O'Rourke in Kuwait, hoping for a mad, unilateral press dash into Iraq. I'm curious why Hunter Thompson didn't show up, though that might have pushed things into frightening territory. Hunter would've been armed.

More Kerry: The GOP bigs say Kerry's "regime change" comments crossed the line, whatever that means. I'm not sure what they mean. I sure hope they're not implying that it's treasonous. Was it a stupid comment? Yep, and I think Kerry will have to grovel at some point. After all, he does have to win a general election after he wins the race-to-the-left nomination. But it shows you who the Democratic base is, what they want to hear. You can be sure Kerry's crew selected "regime change," just as Democrats have intentionally chosen to call right-wingers the "Taliban wing" of the GOP, to cause maximum Bush-bashing euphoria among the vocal, active Democrat stalwarts. As I've said before, this is as it should be. He'll race to the left, but then have to hack his way back to the center again. As a sidenote, check the headline of that WaPo article linked here: "Republicans Attack Kerry on 'Regime Change.'" Go back to yesterday and see what the headline was in the Boston Globe when Kerry's comment first hit: "Kerry says US needs its own 'regime change.'" Both are headlines to news articles. Which one sounds like the headline to an editorial? That's right. Only Republicans attack. Dems just "say" things.

Still More Kerry: But that's not what I came here to talk about, as Arlo Guthrie says. I came to talk about Kerry's plan. I think he believes he can have it both ways on the war. Sure, he's a total waffler and famously non-committal on anything politically unproven, but I think he believes he's got this war business licked. When members of the GOP complained about the "regime change" comment, one of Kerry's flacks chose to say this:

"Unlike many of his Republican critics, Senator Kerry has worn the uniform, served his country, seen combat, so he'd just as soon skip their lectures about supporting our troops."
Examine, if you will, the way that statement drips with hubris. Kerry thinks that his service allows him to "skip the lecture." Bullshit, dude. Nobody gets to cut this one. I'm sure Jesse Jackson's been at the receiving end of racial invective in his life; that doesn't mean he gets to go around calling Jews "Hymies" and then say, "I'll skip the lecture on racial sensitivity, thanks." Sergeant Akbar at Camp Pennsylvania wore the uniform, too -- was wearing it, in fact, when he fragged the officers' tent. Whaddya say, Johnny-boy, should we just let him go? We sure as hell wouldn't want to reprimand somebody that wore the uniform. Heck, I'd better shut up. I've never served, so who am I to judge Akbar, eh John?

Meanwhile, wordsmith David Frum doubts "regime" is really the word Kerry was looking for. (Click, scroll down.) Makes sense to me. I wonder if Kerry is smart enough to be president.

Thursday, April 03, 2003

Kerry's Flip-Flopping: He supports the war, except he doesn't see the need for it. He's behind the troops, though he's not entirely sure why they're there. He thinks diplomacy could have won the day, even though no reasonable person has any evidence to conclude that French intransigence was anything more than a self-serving ploy. (Which effectively means that, when Kerry says he wants to have a "a golden age of American diplomacy," he means he's willing to be the plaything of a hostile UN.) Recently he said he wants to tone down his criticism of the Bush administration, which is why he's now calling for "regime change" in America. It's getting to the point where even his supporters might have trouble knowing where he stands at any given minute. I think he's Jimmy Carter, minus the former president's ability to use ostentatious piousness and a huckleberry facade to hide his cutthroat politics.

Hilarious: Just the other day I was writing about Eddie Vedder's Jesus complex, and here he goes and gives a command performance, impaling George Bush (in effigy) during a concert. (Link courtesy of Drudge.) Brilliant statement, I know, but the encore was even better. During a ramble (induced by the ravages of a drug called smug self-satisfaction) on the evils of the Bush/Iraq/Halliburton/Jew/Nazi/Defense-Contractor conspiracy, or whatever, a kid in the audience told Vedder to shut up.
"Did someone just say, 'Shut up'? I don't know if you heard about this thing called freedom of speech, man. It's worth thinking about it, because it's going away," Vedder said. "In the last year of being able to use it, we're sure as (expletive) going to use it and I'm not gonna apologize."
Golly. The last year of free speech? Who knew? Wait, is it a Jesus complex Vedder has, or a cornball, the-end-is-near, street-preacher/hustler complex? (He might have caught the latter from Howard "The Handmaid's Tale is Bush's Blueprint for Women's Rights" Dean.) Given that Pearl Jam was last relevant about the time of the Gulf War, they must think the bombing of Baghdad heralds their return from obscurity. Think Vedder was disappointed when fans began to walk out on his tirade? I don't. I think he felt smugly superior to the "idiots" who didn't care to pay good money to be lectured.