Tuesday, December 21, 2004

The New Wave in Blogging: I swear, I came across this "blog" accidentally - actually by pressing the "Next Blog" button at the top of this one. Sometimes a random search will turn up an interesting blog. Anyway, this one, ostensibly about baseball is quite about something else.

I had to click a few of its links just to make sure that I was thoroughly appalled.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Better than Groundhog Day: Mark your calendars...February 8th, 2005. Mark them well.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Re: Bass Ackwards: Sounds like universities could meet Razor's standard by simply airing reruns of the Daily Show. Seriously, the Economist article is right in the respect that as long as the business community cares more about science and technology there's no way to start a trend towards academic "balance." There is no solution that I can see. I certainly wouldn't endorse any government action to legislate hiring/voting policies at private universities and any attempt to effect change at public institutions would fall flat. If the faculty is already so biased, which I agree it is, can you really imagine them putting forth an honest effort towards balance?

The only hope is for "conservative" academics to have better credentials, publish more, and make themselves impossible to marginalize. Or, as the article points out, continue the flight to "think tank" world.

Rumsfeld Sucks: Hey, don't take my word for it. Just ask Bill Kristol.
Bass Ackwards: The Brits are finally just realizing that professors of American universities have a umm, slight political bias toward the left. This is apparently news across the Atlantic.

What is funny about article is what Conservatives want to do about this imbalance: use the government to force universities to give more opportunity to the Right on campus. Yes, you heard correctly; it's affirmative action for right-wing principles. You can imagine the directives to the professors: "Henceforth, for every three statements deriding President Bush or his administration, you must deliver commentary that mocks a) the current state of social security; b) public education; or c) Al Gore (sample jokes provided herewith). In the alternative, you may simply hand out copies of The National Review."

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Best of 04: Before all the "Best of" lists start popping up, here's one of my own. Since I am forever at least ten years behind musically, I can't do a "Best Albums" list of stuff from the past year, but I will give you a list of the ten discs I've been playing most frequently in the past 12 months (give or take). They wouldn't have necessarily made anyone's Top Ten in any year, but each has it's own appeal.

So, in no particular order...

Chip Taylor & Carrie Rodriguez: Let's Leave This Town One (of several herein) that were recos from Eno, this collection of duets by two relative unknowns reafirms my belief that country music isn't all Nashville Pop. Only all country music that makes money. I can't list my favorites off this album, since that would be pretty much all of it, but "You Are Danger" is probably the standout to me.

Coldplay: A Rush of Blood... Yeah, i told you I'm always behind. This made everyone's list last year, but it didn't make it to my collection till this year. Suffice that the heavy praise it received upon release was well deserved.

Joe Jackson: Volume 4 Eno reviewed it earlier this year, and I promised him my take after listening, which I never composed for posterity. A little late for that, but Jackson fans can be comforted that he can still put together a band that jams like it did on Look Sharp, Night and Day, and Beat Crazy. That is to say, that old band can still play. Save the snoozer "Blue Flame" and the good idea/bad execution "Dirty Martini" this album swings and rocks, showing the band's talent for making a studio album feel live and Jackson's sense of humor and ability to mock himself and the rest of us at the same time. Much fun.

Matthew Sweet: Girlfriend An impulse buy for $7 pays off with much good listening. The eponymous single brings back high school memories, but songs like "Evangeline" and "Nothing Lasts" give it some depth of enjoyment that I wasn't expecting. You might be surprised.

The Sundays: Reading, Writing... I recently popped in their second album, Blind, and immediately began scrambling through the closet for the first. Harriet Wheeler was to me what Natalie Merchant was to others: the woman who made me realize how much sexier a beautiful woman is when she can sing too. And she was English, too, which was much cooler. They folded after three albums, and the first was the best. Glad I rediscovered it.

Tears For Fears: Greatest Hits '82-'92 The inclusion of "Head Over Heels" and "Mad World" on the soundtrack for the movie Donnie Darko prompted me to pick this up and I'm glad I did. 'Cause those are two great songs. The rest of it bites (except maybe "Laid So Low"), but sometimes you takes what you gets.

Lyle Lovett: I Love Everbody Still my favorite Lyle and if you're not a fan already this is probably the best intro. It's a little bit of everything.

Reel Big Fish: Turn The Radio Off Remember when ska was cool for 5 minutes in 1998? Me neither, but I can't get rid of this disc. Mostly it lives in my portable, as I love running to ska music. And you will too, if you'll only try. Or maybe cooking to ska music, considering your cardio habits, Eno.

The Beatles: White Album One of those "Why don't I own this yet" albums, until I made Eno make me a copy. When you've gotten burned out on Sgt. Pepper and Abbey Road it's just the thing to make you like the Fab Four again.

Various Artists: The Bottle Let Me Down (Songs For Bumpy Wagon Rides) Not what you're thinking. A friend bought this out of the $1 bin, thinking it might be good drinking songs. Not unless your drink of choice is milk or Kool-Aid. It turned out to be a collection of 26 children's songs. Some are well known, like "On top of Spaghetti," "It's Not Easy Being Green," and "Rubber Duckie" (sung in a way that makes you wish the female singer was giving you a bath), while others were previously unknown to me. My favorites are "Godfrey," a diddy about the "sickly, unemployed, amateur, children's magician" that brings back childhood gross out contests at recess and "Sad And Dreamy (The Big 1-0)." Think it's all a breeze turning ten years old? Fat chance. "Candy just don't taste as good anymore." If you've got kids, or if you are a kid, or if you want to pretend you are for a while, this compiliation will be a blast. If nothing else, one song will lay out a plausible scenario by which you could become your own grandfather, and that's the kind of information that amazes people at cocktail parties.

Well, that's a sampling of what's been spinning here this year. Happy listening.

What is it with Alabama?: I'll give them credit, these judges don't give up their convictions easily. I think this scenario is one of the strongest why we need a federal government to keep the states in check. If not, imagine we'd have these certain states which would become little islands of not only religious tolerance, but religious enforcement.

Schools would all teach either creationism or at least "intelligent design". Companies would get tax breaks for including prayer meetings and abiding by christian edicts. Travelers through the state would have to pay "tithe tolls". All courts would open and close with prayers, and the Ten Commandments would become enforceable laws.

Eventually secession would be necessary, and we'd have the NorthEast and the West Coast as the USA. Then we'd have the South as UCSA (United Christian States of America). Last the states in the West (but not the coast) would be for all the separatists, in which case there would be at best a loose confederation of warlords; all of whom would be well-armed. In which case the Mexicans might re-consider their traipsing over the border for work.

Anyway, I think Kevin Costner has already filmed this scenario.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

What jurors fail to appreciate: Since I'm on my lawyer kick, no sense stopping now. We all know now that Scott Peterson is headed for the er...lethal injection table (not quite as pithy as "headed for the chair" or "gallows"). This has fascinated the People Magazine editors (read down a bit) to no end, but in terms of jurisprudence, this is a ho-hum, been-there, done-that case. Still, the focus paid by the media bears some further scrutiny - after all, this was a "victory" for Laci's family, and apparently, for other non-related people as well. Well, let's see.

Some analysts were surprised at the sentencing, given the paucity of direct evidence linking Scottso to the killing, however when asked, the jurors were quick to explain how the punishment fit the crime, i.e. a life for a life. Which might make sense if it were true. See, the jurors weren't told what happens to a prisoner sentenced to death in California. There (and in many other jurisdictions) a death sentence is more likely a life sentence with the slim possibility of death - and even then, the death is more likely to occur by natural causes or suicide than by the state-sanctioned method of killing. It's all here in black-and-white folks. Since 1978 when capital murder was approved by the California legislature, courts and governor, 717 prisoners have received a death sentence. 60 were released or re-sentenced. 13 offed themselves, 22 "died" (presume by natural causes, but I suppose could be murdered in prison), and only 10 were "executed" (again assume that this means state-sanctioned).

Yup, my rough math skills show that the actual execution rate for prisoners condemned to death is about 1.4%. By way of example, in 1996 (and yes, I'm really stretching my statistics), accidental injuries caused 4.1% of all deaths in California. Meaning, you are actually safer being on death row in California then you are simply walking down the street! Fortunately, murders only accounted for .oo6% of all deaths of Californians in 2000 (6.1 per 100,000), which gives you some faith in your government I suppose.

The last inmate executed in California was in 2002 - for crimes committed 22 years earlier.

So, 10 executed in 26 years. We have somewhere around 600 prisoners remaining in front of Peterson. Assume even 100 are either released, re-sentenced, "die" or kill themselves. The backlog is so enormous you'd either need a total re-vamping of the judicial process or have elected some testosterone-pumped action-hero type governor to...oh...hmmm.

Anyway, point being, while the jurors thought they were seeing justice done, all they did was ensure another couple of decades of appeals, ensuring their tax dollars are spent not only fighting those appeals, but feeding and housing Scott Peterson. Who knows, maybe he'll even get conjugal visits. Bravo.
Why people hate lawyers: I'm not big into the self-loathing that some lawyers like to emote; we're as necessary as anything in our world. Even deposed dictators should have them, in order that we as a civilized people not endorse and further a system which countless lives have been sacrificed to overthrow.

However, Pinochet's lawyer takes the cake (and believe me, I whole-heartedly support the notion that any lawyer has a duty to zealously defend his/her client within the bounds of the law). In commenting on a recent decision by a Chilean judge holding that Pinochet is mentally competent to stand for trial, his lawyer objected to the ruling, stating that the decision "overruled human rights."

Right. Pinochet...on trial...for his various and sundry crimes against humanity, violates human rights. Good one.
In the clinch: While a Philly/P'Burgh Super Bowl would be the NFL's worst nightmare (from a marketing/ratings standpoint), it would certainly make our little blog an interesting place to be. Surely, Eno won't make the mistake once more of trifling with Destiny, but he may still be willing to tempt her a bit assuming our respective teams make the Big Game, and place a friendly wager on the outcome. Let's not put any equine before its heavily-laden cart, but keep these things in mind as the Iggles continue their march to destiny.

As an aside, the Eagles' fight song is well-known and loved around these parts, but I've always quibbled with its words. Part of it goes like this: "Fly Eagles Fly, on the road to victory..." Who flies on a road? I suppose you could interpret the two clauses (here's where Eno's training will be of some value) separately, and read it so that the first part is the directive (fly you Eagles), and then the second part is merely descriptive of the team as a whole (it's on the road to victory, generally), but I really think that is a bit tortured.

So I propose an amendment: "Fly Eagles fly, through the sky to victory." OR "Fly Eagles fly, soaring on to victory." Something like that. It really bothers me...which clearly says more about me than I'd care to admit.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Clinched: Doesn't it figure. This year I decided that I would waste no time with the NFL since a) it has become a league of prancing egotists (and, to be redundant, Deion Sanders once again), hip-hop wannabes, and overpaid wideouts who run three steps and then pull up on a draw play, usually to look for the nearest camera; and b) the Steelers had lost all of their clutch games in the last few years, and the deja vu was getting to me.

Naturally, this year they have locked up their division title and are a hot pick for the Bowl, green QB and all.

If I start watching, they'll lose, of course.

Don't Let the Door . . . Parting is such sweet sorrow:
His elegant, red-walled Capitol office is filled with boxes of memorabilia and photos and artwork in bubble wrap. At the end of this week, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., will close the doors for the last time and leave behind the view of the National Mall that he has enjoyed for a decade.
So Let It Be Written: Now that you both have responded, I'm chastened. I apologize for doubting your mettle, even implicitly, in the midst of doubting my own. I still wonder whether the blog thing is played out. For our purposes, it suits nicely. But, as I mentioned earlier, we've never really thought much about traffic (okay, occasionally), writing mainly for one another.
Faux lives: Since this blog is primarily the domain of its creators I witheld my comments until Razor had spoken. Since he's indicated his feeling that the blog will survive even W. 's reelection, I'll say only that I agree with him. If you're in the tax preparation business imagine this is two weeks before April 15 and you'll have an idea what my world's like right now. Add into the mix that your firm was just acquired and predictable confusion has ensued and you'll appreciate it even more. Of course, other bloggers are busy as well and they still manage to post heavily and frequently, but, hey, that's why I have the lowly "associate" tag. And that's the way I like it.

I'll continue at my usual (ahem) leisurely pace, picking it up a bit when Eno and Razor are swamped themselves. I think we all have more to say about te world, political and otherwise.

Bet You Didn't Know: Your government has decided, in conjunction with its counterpart behemoth in Europe, that you just don't pay enough for textiles, dammit. So they got together and told China that it better raise prices (by tariff) or else.

You've heard of win-win situations? Well, meet the opposite. Okay, U.S. and European textile companies win in the short term, but its a pyrrhic victory. First, they don't have to become competitive now. Ed Deming said that if you don't have to change, you won't. (Take a look at the domestic steel industry, fellas.) Second, artificially inflating the prices on cheap goods has its own unforseen consequences. As the story notes,

Dozens of U.S. retailers, including J.C. Penney Co. and Liz Claiborne Inc., have filed suit to block the Bush administration from imposing textile limits, which would raise the price of imported clothing and other goods.
They have two choices: Suck it up and raise prices, or find new suppliers. I just bought my son two new pairs of cheap, elastic-waist pants so that he can practice totally independent bathroom use (he's 14, and it's a real drag for his junior high teachers . . . just kidding -- he's three); the pants were made in Kuwait. Hey, as long as we're over there fixing Iraq's wagon, maybe we could RPG some tariffs over the border.

China's textile producers lose. The tariff makes them less competitive, but they don't see a yuan of it. And they're bound to lose volume in the process. There's always another place with cheap labor that hasn't yet bent over for the WTO. Maybe Afghanistan will soon start flooding our country with cheap sheets and hand towels. Martha Stewart, wearing fashionable stripes, will chuckle, and our trade representatives will sigh, "Why didn't we let them stick with opium?"

And you don't cuddle anymore either: I feel that we just needed some time off from the froth that was the election. There were too many strong feelings (if not necessarily ours, then we emoted for them), and to be frank, I was just a bit disappointed with the outcome, so I figured why not let things cool for a while. And not to be left unsaid, Blogger's technical difficulties were enough to drive any man away. How many posts did we lose in the past 45 days?

That said, I don't want to give up the ship. Just because Eno's sensibilities make Kissinger seem reasonable doesn't mean I've abandoned all hope of turning him, or at least making him admit to the inherent truth and reason of my arguments.

I've never been the greatest political polemist - Eno has me by a mile there. I'm usually more intrigued by the off-beat, the nonsensical, and the obscure (which Eno might suggest sums up my political theories quite nicely). In any event, I'm ready to head back into the breech - assuming Blogger cooperates. I've had a busy past few weeks, and but for a judge-brokered settlement on Friday, would be hip-deep into my opening arguments to a jury of pissed-off Philadelphians right now.

So, let the games begin (real games, not one where you can nearly make the top 20 money leaderboard while smoking a cigarette, Flyer). Plus, there's some really interesting stuff going on right now in the world.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Blog-ola: Ahem. I feel like I'm stepping onto an empty, cobwebby stage. Aside from a couple of vacations, this blog has run nonstop for two years. Now, I'll grant that we may have shot our wad a bit over the past 6 months. We did just have a presidential election, after all. But I think I see something a little deeper than that.

I think the political angle is tapped out. We don't, as a rule, write for the edification of others. That was never the aim of Fauxpolitik. This site was conceived as a discussion site where Razor and I could hash out our policy differences, as we had done via e-mail for some time. The difference? Instead of sending discreet missives, we'd have the equivalent of a front-porch argument: Anyone passing by could stop and listen for a while. (During a particularly busy time, Flyer came on to lighten the load and add some cultural diversity, but politically, he and I are not far enough apart to be be fully two voices.)

The problem is that I know where Razor stands now, and he knows the same of me. There's not much left to argue, since I'm unlikely to change his mind on any core issues. One that has come up repeatedly is the question of whether the government has a legitimate role in the personal welfare of its citizens, as opposed to simply in the "general welfare" of the republic. To oversimplify, he says yes, I say no. This is pretty much played out.

I'm not sure any of us has the time to delve into actual reportage. And, given how far we are geographically flung, parochial issues seem a little too, well, parochial. We don't share a vocation, or even an avocation. (For example, Flyer thinks golf is a sport. Razor thinks golf is tiddlywinks in funny clothes, with sticks.)

Maybe I'm just feeling tapped out, as I said, following the election. Perhaps it will pass. Perhaps not. I guess I'm wondering, where do we go from here? We could talk about books. Sounds fun, eh? Oh, and our name doesn't quite work then. Yes, I know I sound like that certain type (male or female) that we've all dated: the one constantly needing to discuss the state of the relationship. Sue me.