Saturday, April 30, 2005

Look out: Scrappleface:
While he was campaigning for president, Sen. John F. Kerry, D-MA, often noted that he had a plan to save Social Security.

Today, in his boldest move yet, he threatened to unveil his plan unless President Bush backs away from his proposal to reform the taxpayer-funded retirement system.

Mr. Kerry, during his 2004 White House bid, suggested he would not "privatize" the money that Americans put into the government-run system, and he would not cut benefits.

However, America's failure to elect him to the White House seemed to ensure that his Social Security plan would remain cloaked in mystery, since as a mere Senator he can do little more than introduce bills and lead his colleagues to turn them into laws.

"As you'll recall, my plan is better than the president's," said Mr. Kerry at today's news conference. "It saves our beloved Social Security without any changes to benefits, taxes, or any other element of the system. If the president persists in attacking the co-dependent relationship between America's seniors and the Democrat party, I will unleash my plan in all its magnificent glory."

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, wondered aloud if the Kerry plan might be the hoped for "miracle" that would catapult the Democrat party back to majority status in the Senate in 2006.

Party insiders said that Mr. Kerry's revived suggestion of a plan also helped to cement his position as "the visionary leader" among Democrats and the frontrunner for the party's 2008 presidential nomination.


Friday, April 29, 2005

Re: Purpose Driven Life: I think most of us would agree with you on that topic, Razor. As always, a P.J. line comes to mind:
If God had wanted us to spend more time in church, he'd have given us bigger butts to sit on and smaller brains to think with.
Now, I don't think there's anything wrong with attending services that feed one's spirituality and sense of community, but if all it took to have a fulfilling religious experience and endeavour to know thy God was reading a book, going to mass and saying "I believe" then it would be easy. Too easy, as you said.
Are We Jesus-Blogging Now? Just kidding. Most people who know my beliefs think that nothing could be greater hell for me than sitting around listening to people talk about their "faith." To the contrary, since I don't understand it, I am all the more interested in it. I once left a brace of Mormons quite nonplussed when I invited them in, served them drinks (club soda for them, Old Grand Dad for me), and listened to their spiel. (They fumbled my questions on race and Mormonism, and at the time I was living with a black guy who had gone to BYU, so I just had to hoist them.) I've listened to testimony from Jews for Jesus, folks who dig crystals, Ayurvedic practicioners, Taoists, Sikhs, and trustifarian Sufis (who typically know as little about actual Islam as Elijah Mohammed's spaceship-Islam followers).

That said, I start collecting the glasses and waving folks toward the door when it becomes a sales pitch. I'm glad to hear about your beliefs, Winter Morning Wolf Breath, but when you start hitting me up for the cause, I'll dangle. Anyone who says he knows the answer, but won't part with it without a little do-re-mi, doesn't really know the answer. Think Deepak Chopra and other "life" salesmen. And this "Goal Driven Life" (shouldn't that be hyphenated?) thingummy sounds, as you said, sales driven. Discussion groups are a nice innovation, too: Used to be, if you dug the book you passed it to a friend. Instead, let's get lots of people to buy copies so that they can talk about it!

More: I'm the same way with mysteries. I love conspiracy theories, hoaxes, puzzles -- the odder the better. I've confessed before on this blog to my brief flings with the likes of the Kennedy assassination and the Apollo hoax. I also had a brief if torrid Black Dahlia phase. I hasten to add that I am a proud subscriber to Skeptical Inquirer, and a skeptic in all these matters. But SI, while a valuable debunker in the cases of scams, cheats, and for-profit gurus, does tend to suck all the fun out of harmless cranks, like the moon landing skeptics, and fun hoaxes, such as the Kensington Stone.

The Sales Driven Life: So, my church (a very open-minded Presbyterian place [if that's not too oxymoronic]), bought into the mania surrounding the "Purpose Driven Life" (no hotlink for reasons explained below). This is the book written by this self-ordained guy from California that has some huge following at a church-cum-ampitheatre where he preaches.

Anyway, the concept is that you read a chapter a day for 40 days. Every Friday, you get together in small groups with other people from your church to discuss seven chapters. The Sunday sermons also relate to the book.

I'll read anything, and in fact, usually do. I've been known to read t.v. manuals when there's nothing else around to pass the time. Anyway, this read is a serious chore; the author a major bore.

His shtick is that God has a purpose for you, and it's to please God. Everything you do is about God, and for you to think otherwise, is folly. Now, this is not so freaking new as I belive this other book...called "The Bible" has a similar message (although it's much more entertainingly told). But this guy is just so black-and-white about the whole thing, that it really turns me off. I'm someone who believes faith is very personal (hmmm, I sound like W last night) and that it's okay to take the Bible as merely a grouping of parables, rather than the ummm, Gospel truth (too many people are living for like 400 years in the Old Testament for me to start taking the thing literally - and yes, I know, that example is only the tip of the iceberg in plausibility issues). Still, there are some good lessons in the Bible which will, if followed, make one less of a reprobate then if you used, say "American Psycho" as your spiritual guide.

So, my fear was that I was going to be running screaming from these Friday night meetings, as each person around me stood up to thump their copies of "The Purpose Driven Life" over my head. Fortunately, my fears were entirely unfounded. Instead, I discovered a group of couples that are healthy skeptics. Who challenge dogma, instead of blindly accepting it. They're all "good Christians" who are loving spouses, parents and friends, but they realize that any book that attempts to change your way of living has to first address the realities of life. Just as we don't go around washing our guests' feet with scented oil anymore, so too must the lessons from religion adapt to the times.

It's easy to just write a book saying "follow God's will" - in fact it's too easy. Each chapter is just a variation of that theme; be friends with God, love God, obey God, praise God, fulfill God's purpose -- on and on it goes, with selected excerpts from various versions of the Good Book.

But what about my job, my interests, my relationship with my wife, my kids?? Am I supposed to just put on the hair shirt and start babbling in tongues? Do I tell my boss that God wants me to leave early so he better let me or eternal damnation is his?

No, thanks. I'll stick to the original source, taking from it what I want and need. If that makes me too secular, then so be it. I can't believe in any God that would make me read this simple-minded claptrap. I've gotten much more from the meetings with some new friends, as I hear of their own personal challenges, and their unique tests of faith. As I learned in high school, you learn and grow much more from interacting with people than you do in standing before an altar. And if you tell me that maybe "The Purpose Driven Life" has impacted me after all, I'll give you a running start before I throw my copy at your head ... it would be the Christian thing to do.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Then I Bravely Ordered a Tuna on White, with Extra Mayo: Here's Al Gore's story of the 2000 election:
I couldn't have possibly disagreed more strongly with the [Supreme Court's Bush v. Gore] opinion . . . But I knew what course of action best served our republic.

Even though many of my supporters said they were unwilling to accept a ruling which they suspected was brazenly partisan in its motivation and simply not entitled to their respect, less than 24 hours later, I went before the American people to reaffirm the bedrock principle that we are a nation of laws, not men. "There is a higher duty than the one we owe to a political party," I said. "This is America and we put country before party."

Earth to Al: It was the f*cking Supreme Court, baby. Short of armed insurrection, you were pretty much played out. Please don't try to paint it as a noble sacrifice.

Link via Viking Pundit.

Homeless redux: Another Morristown NJ case, eh.
To The Supremes! Houston bans B.O. But does one's personal stench send a clear and unambiguous message? Could be a first amendment case!
No Nukes: Admirable post, Flyer. This is not an easy issue, I think, since one can feel that the Democrats are being unprincipled bastards even without any sympathy for Bush's picks for the court. One thing worth remembering, as I've mentioned before, is that the Dems are only interested in railroading Bush on judges as a prelude to a Supreme Court nomination fight. In other words, this is just spring training.

It seems to be in the interest of both parties to declare some sort of crisis. For the GOP, it is the crisis of "democracy": the Dems are spoiling against the will of the people, which went clearly to the GOP last November. For the Dems, it is the crisis of "extremism": Bush is attempting to ram through a slate of non-mainstream judges without allowing the Senate enough say in the matter. There is little merit to either position, unless one defines mainstream as "Pat Leahy" and democracy as "we should always get our way." True, Bush has nominated some conservatives; this is life in the two-party system, though. And true, the minority (by quietly using it's own nuclear option) has effectively stymied the majority in the Senate. Again, life in the two-party system. I'm unconvinced that this rather petty stalemate requires any change to Senate rules.

In fact, I see no evidence of any kind of crisis. (The GOP claim that "nobody's ever used the filibuster this way before" is possibly the most ridiculous. Nobody ever used the filibuster any way, until they did. The filibuster tactic is a famous example of a bug that became a feature.) I would think that the GOP has seen enough gains in the past 3 elections that they would be wise to go to the people one more time, in 2006, before entertaining other options that might show them appearing to over-reach.

Meanwhile, I advised the Dems against their tactics beginning in 2003, after 2002 handed them bupkus for their efforts. Another disastrous election later, I'd advise them to start listening to me. Yes, there is a chance that the GOP might self-destruct on this issue; on the other hand, there is a track record that says a hard line on nominations has brought them only a steeper minority in the Senate. Both parties need to back off pretty quickly, I think. The Dems have already been stupid, and the GOP is about to be even more so.

As for the filibuster itself, I do think it has become rather diluted in value. Strom Thurmond filibustering for 24 hours against Civil Rights is a dramatic picture, for both sides, that draws the public into the debate. Nowadays, they just close up debate prior to any actual filibustering, and move on to issues of agreement, like smothering the market with idiotic subsidies, tax breaks, and other varieties of corporate welfare. Nevertheless, I like the filibuster in theory as a brake on the powers of the majority, and I'd like it to remain -- just in case we ever do muster 40 senators to the side of righteousness. Besides, anything that shuts down the workings of the government, even temporarily, can't be that bad.

Filibuster blues: I've totally avoided any discussion of the "nuclear option" re: filibusters in the Senate. If you ask me, there's only one nuclear option when it comes to the Senate and I say Hiroshima their ass tomorrow (ba-dump). But Gene Healy got me thinking about it a little this morning. His premise is that the filibuster is hisotrically a conservative tool, used to prevent increased government activity and losing the filibuster would be like opening the floodgates for legislation by expansionist liberals (Gene makes the case that there's no principled difference between regular filibusters and ones in the case of judicial nominations. I say what do principles have to do with anything and why can't they be different, but that's another argument).

[the death of the filibuster] would be disastrous. The theory underlying the Constitution is that, in political life as opposed to economic, transaction costs are good. As James Madison explained in Federalist 62, the Senate itself was designed in part to curb "the facility and excess of lawmaking." The filibuster isn't part of the Constitution, but it helps augment some of the Constitution's checks on promiscuous legislating. Since many of the constitutional checks on legislative overreach have eroded over the years, the filibuster is even more important today.

I was inclined to disagree, for the reason that if all the other checks on governemnt overreach have eroded, who cares at this point. I mean, it's not like it's worked very well the past thirty years or so. That has me wondering, though, who is the "conservative" party. The belief that government must naturally and continuously expand pervades the hearts and minds of both parties, with few exceptions. Expansion is the rule and it's a rare thing when Republicans can muster the collective will to pass any government-limiting legislation. To the extent that there is a small government coalition in the Senate, they are definitely a minority wing of the Republican party. Right now they don't have the numbers to hold a filibuster under any set of rules. I don't see any point when the majority or super-majority of Senators are "smallgovs" but it's conceivable that there could one day be enough to hold a 40 person coalition together (and it's conceivable that simians may aviate from my anus, but I'm looking way into the future).

I don't expect the current crop of Republicans to make any use of the filibuster, no more so, anyway, than Bush has made use of the veto. The only thing they're interested in conserving is their own vice-like grip on the thinnest of majorities, just so they can make Teddy Kennedy sit in the wobbly chair. But a filibuster will be the first tool within reach if there ever is a "Conservative" party.

If Healy is right, and there can be no distinction between regular filibusters and nomination blocking filibusters, then I would say it's not worth giving up just because it helps the other guy this time.

Life imitates art: Anybody remember "Gangsta Bitch Barbie," an SNL creation from about ten years ago? Today's Bleat reminded me that particular spoof commercial.

I froze. The Bratz are now Baby Mommaz. Yes, the hooker-in-training dolls have children.

Bratz are the main reason I do not keep a supply of bricks around the house, because everytime the commercials come on I wish to pitch something kiln-fired through the screen so hard it beans the toy exec who greenlighted these hootchie toys. The Baby Bratz are as bad as you can imagine: “Bottles with Bling.” Judas on a stick, why not just refit the Bratz so they have Real Oozing Gonorreal Flow Action?

“They know how to flaunt it, and they’re keeping it real in the crib.”

Gangsta Bitch Barbie, she's down for the poop!

Back from the abyss: Whooo, you don't pay attention for a few days and all of a sudden, Flyer is acting like he runs the joint. Well, good for him, a few hundred more posts and he can make up for his November - March sabattical.

Eno: love to hear a running diary on your rehearsals and the production. However, I resent you calling me "honest". I have a career to think about...come on!

Can you imagine Cronkite sitting down for the first day of blog lessons? Heaven forbid he should use Blogger - the poor man would have a stroke from the aggravation. "Okay, now, press "Publish Post" .... hmmm.....*whistling old theme to CBS News*.... "404 Error" .... that wasn't part of the tutorial. Okay, just press 'back'....what the? Mother f*cking piece of sh*t....this thing...aahhahahaghghhghgh...!"

The only bicyclists you can respect are the messengers. They neither give nor expect any courtesy and fully assume all risks of squirting between a parked car and a city bus about to take on passengers. In essence, they do not cause any real inconvenience, except for their disdain for traffic signals, which again, is a risk more likely to cause them harm than I. So, I applaud their kamikaze spirit, but will still laugh when one takes a spill.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Yet More Suckage: One of Arianna's "big names" for her celeb-blog, Maggie Gyllenhaal, gives us a preview of the kind of deep thinking we can expect:
Maggie Gyllenhaal has waded into sensitive political waters by raising questions about Sept. 11 and American foreign policy. The 27-year-old actress, who stars in a new film about the 2001 terror attacks on the World Trade Center, said in an interview last week that the United States "is responsible in some way" for the attacks.
Oh, Maggie! That opinion is so, like, 2002. Sounds to me like something you cribbed from Uncle Eric.
We Should See More of This: Bush has proposed sending Amtrak exactly $0 next year:
Several senators on Thursday criticized President Bush's proposal to give Amtrak no money next year, while the railroad submitted a request to Congress for $1.82 billion.

A majority of senators on the Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Subcommittee were critical of Bush's plan and sympathetic to Amtrak, favoring giving the railroad money next year. No specific amount was mentioned.

"How did the administration come up with such a ridiculous proposal?" asked Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., subcommittee chairman. "I was extremely stunned and disappointed that such a proposal was made."

No, I don't mean that we should see more of this in order to get Trent Lott "stunned and disappointed," though that's always a bonus. Rather, I like this part:
Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, in a statement issued after the committee hearing, said Amtrak itself has now acknowledged "its current business model is unsustainable and in need of serious reform." . . . The Transportation Department's general counsel, Jeffrey Rosen, said changes need to be made in Amtrak "before we spend one more taxpayer dollar to prop up a fundamentally broken system."
The prez and I disagree on the future of Amtrak. (I think it should be pulled off taxpayer life support and have its assets auctioned off -- which will bring in about tuppence.) But bully for the administration for taking this position.

More to the point, every single federal spending program should be subject to the very same requirement: reform, or go off the teat. And reform could start quite simply with the requirement of a clean audit opinion every fiscal year before another cent is appropriated for the next fiscal year. That should shake some of the federal Enrons out of the system. No fair laying shit like Sarbanes-Oxley on the private sector when the public sector couldn't get its fat ass through 5% of the hoops corporations jump through every year.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Re: Suckage: Cronkite's quote is telling:
This gives me a chance to sound off with a few words or a long editorial. It’s a medium that is new and interesting, and I thought I’d have some fun.

I can't wait for the first time a couple thousand bloggers come storming down on Cronkite for a making a factual error, intentional or not. The term "Fisking" may get replaced (although Cronkite's name doesn't lend itself to the phrase quite as well...perhaps "taking a Cronkite" will catch on as a euphamism for a particular bodily function).

Anyway, pundits from both sides who thought the blogosphere was powerless, or a place to have some fun, have learned otherwise. Bill O'Reilly, white courtesy phone. Dan Rather, check with your lawyer. Paul Krugman, we have a few questions for you.

And each of them is more capable of engaging in the debate than Warren Beatty and Nora Ephron.

Suckage Redefined: Via Tim Blair comes the dreadful news that someone just isn't taking the hint.
Arianna Huffington, the columnist and onetime candidate for governor of California, is about to move blogging from the realm of the anonymous individual to the realm of the celebrity collective.

She has lined up more than 250 of what she calls "the most creative minds" in the country to write a group blog that will range over topics from politics and entertainment to sports and religion . . .

Having prominent people join the blogosphere, Ms. Huffington said in an interview, "is an affirmation of its success and will only enrich and strengthen its impact on the national conversation." Among those signed up to contribute are Walter Cronkite, David Mamet, Nora Ephron, Warren Beatty, James Fallows, Vernon E. Jordan Jr., Maggie Gyllenhaal, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., Diane Keaton, Norman Mailer and Mortimer B. Zuckerman.

Oh, goody. Hey, I gotta idear! Why don't you call it "Blog America"? I mean, that paradigm just knocked 'em dead in radio! But Al Franken's busy, so call in the B-team liberals. Er, C-team?

One of Tim's commenters sums it up quite well: "Most blog readers fled to blogs in relief, from these people. I don’t know if they realize that."

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Notice to Cyclists: You bore me. Take your f*cking bike to a park and ride the goddamn thing there. Particularly you "recumbent" cyclists. Do you have any idea how you look? Like some whacked out boob of an inventor straight out of the 70's, set to appear on "That's Incredible" with your latest invention, the Barco-Cycle. (Did you know that there is a "Recumbent Cyclist" magazine? How much is there to write about this borderline psychotic activity? If you're sitting in that posture without chips and the remote, you need guidance.)

Oh, and another thing: Ditch the moronic "Share the Road" accessories. I have yet to see a single cyclist in this town follow an applicable traffic law. You want me to share the road? Then that means you quit zipping through the intersection around the line of cars waiting for the light. That means that when I yield to pedestrians, you don't whip around me, cut between crosswalk traffic, and then block my ass when you stop at the next crosswalk to chat with some buddy of yours. And when I come past on a narrow road, that's your cue to get your two silly wheels over to the curb, not to stand up in the stirrups and hump the bike from side to side, taking up the whole lane, like you're doing some kind of Pyrenees climb.

I'll put the bottom line bluntly: I have a two-ton car . . . and limited patience.

Friday, April 22, 2005

No Big Surprise: Rehearsals are well under way for the Roman play, and it's going to be interesting. I've never been the type who judges people by their political affiliations or sympathies. (After all, everyone's a little nuts in some way. Witness my dear, dear friend Razor: standup guy, quality friend, loyal, honest, and a pinko right down to his untertrousen.) Nevertheless, it is clear from cast and crew meetings so far that we have unanimity, with the silent exception of yours truly, on the the proposition that this tragedy is crying out to be played as a commentary on the current administration

Let me be clear: Everyone in the show is great -- it's a very talented cast, very friendly and helpful -- and I'm happily biting my tongue for the sake of a good production. But on closing night, look out: I'm wearing my "I'm the NRA" shirt.

Politics and rice, both dirty: New Orleans "political operative" and advertising bigwig Ray Reggie has pled guilty to bank fraud charges, which was no shock to those who knew about the case. The FBI had "the nuts" as they say, and Reggie wasn't getting out of it easily. But now it comes out that he agreed to play Linda Tripp for the feds to get the dirt on David Rosen, former aide to Sen. Hillary Clinton. Reggie, by the way, is Sen. Ted Kennedy's brother-in-law.

I confess to a certain enjoyment in watching this one go down because I knew Reggie when I lived in New Orleans. A relative worked for his firm, Media Direct, and they happened to be a large client of mine (so, I suppose, I was a beneficiary of his misdealings..mea culpa). On a personal level I liked Ray. Bill Clinton was legendary for the way he charmed those he met and made you feel a personal connection. Well, Ray did the same but without the "I feel your pain" schmaltziness. He could be in a room of 200 for an hour and buy everyone a drink, make them laugh, promise them a favor and, probably, peak under every female skirt. You couldn't dislike him face to face, because there was no time.

Unfortunately, when I left Clear Channel Radio Ray and his firm owed my station many thousands of dollars and our sister stations in the city (6 of them) tens of thousands more (we're talking invoices almost a year old in some cases). And I was on the hook for a large chunk of change in commissions earned. I got a lot of it collected but he was a jerk about it in the end. And it surprised me not at all when it came out that he was, essentially, full of shit.

Howard Dean, undignified: I'm not saying it, he is.

Between a speech he delivered without notes and a question-answer session, Dean regaled an appreciative audience for nearly 90 minutes without once raising his voice, as he did after last year's Iowa primary election. But he did draw howls of laughter by mimicking a drug-snorting Rush Limbaugh.

"I'm not very dignified," he said. "But I'm not running for president anymore." In fact, as part of his commitment to lead the party for the next four years, he has sworn not to seek any office until after 2008.

I really couldn't care less if he makes fun of Rush, funnier people than him already have. We do it all the time in this country, poke fun at those who topple from the highest horses. Rush doesn't need special treatment - he's a big boy (not a fat joke, there, by the way) with 15 hours a week to defend himself and make fun of others of he chooses. But I find it interesting that Dean admits that the undignified part of himself is his true character and he was playing nice during the primary campaign. That scream, I guess, was a glimpse at the inner Howard. But doesn't he think that "leader of the Democratic party" is a job that requires dignity? I guess not.

Of course, we had 8 years of a Clinton presidency to show us that the "no shirt, no shoes" rule was pretty much out the window as far a the left was concerned.

Via Viking Pundit.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

News Flash -- Pot, Kettle Both Black: I criticized Andrew Sullivan for his fair-weather commitment to his blog. Now I'll open myself up for the same criticism.

I will be performing in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar this summer, cast as Decius Brutus (one of the conspirators, naturally), and the rehearsal and performance schedule will take a bite out of my always-trenchant, on-the-spot news analysis, art criticism, and general buffoonery. Flyer's mini-comeback today leads me to hope that he might be ready to ramp up as I step back. I may be mistaken, since he still has not offered us any analysis of Tiger's recent win, his first major in three years. (For that matter, neither has Razor favored us with an insightful deconstruction of last month's DFW article from the Atlantic. He is perhaps ashamed to admit that it was, oh, how to phrase this . . . a piece of crap?)

Anyhow, as regards Sullivan, let it be known that I am offering a full refund to anyone who donated money to me for my contribution to this site. Cancelled check or Paypal receipt should suffice for evidential matter. Send by prepaid mail a photo of yourself, two dead creeping charlies, and a self addressed stamped envelope to the Tropicana Motor Hotel, Hollywood, California . . .

Cliff Claven, Pope?: Man, John Ratzenberger's come a long way. What's that? Ratzinger? Oh, sorry. Move along.

I made that joke to a friend yesterday and without taking time to get it and laugh he launched right into the hours old conventional wisdom that the Catholic Church is going backwards, they've elected a Nazi, what the Hail Mary could they be thinking! This, mind you, from a non-practicing Jew who pays about as much attention to Catholic dogma as I do to American Idol. I mean, I know the election of a pope is a pretty big deal politically, so there's interest beyond the church, but since when did every American take the iPod off shuffle and start obsessing over who's going to bless the tourists in St. Peter's square (I don't mean people who were listening to this on their iPods, of course. They were probably already interested). Is this really MTV material? Well, since many people disagree with Catholic doctrine vis a vis what people do with their private parts and who they do it around, and MTV and its viewers are fixated on people's private parts, I guess it's understandable. But I can't understand their surprise at the choice. Even the folks in The Corner were freaking out, though in a different way than, say, Andrew Sullivan. I'm with James Lileks on this one:

I’m still astonished that some can see a conservative elevated to the papacy and think: a man of tradition? As Pope? How could this be? As if there this was some golden moment that would usher in the age of married priests who shuttle between blessing third-trimester abortions and giving last rites to someone who’s about to have the chemical pillow put over his face. At the risk of sounding sacreligious: it’s the Catholic Church, for Christ’s sake! You’re not going to get someone who wants to strip off all the Baroque ornamentation of St. Peter’s and replace them with IKEA wine racks, okay?

I'm sure a lot of people wanted to see a more liberal pope, at least many in the West. Better luck next time I guess. But to those, like Sullivan, who insist the Church must come to them on their particular issues, I'd say you may want to start shopping around for other religions. Sorry.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Nostalgia: Harken back to the days of yore; circa 1987. What car would a young growing man want over any other? Well yes, a Lambo Countach was always fun to play on our IBM 386 computers with 16-colors (!), but it was hardly attainable. No, for the aspiring man of mystery, it was the VW Scirocco. It had the "fast back" allure, quasi-Italian styling and name, plus it didn't sound like a lawnmower, like the Beetle, or even the Karmann Ghia (although it was a toss-up over which was harder to spell).

Deep down, I was always more partial to the Audi GTs, but you didn't see many of those, plus the price was a bit steep. No, it was the Scirocco, or "southeastern Mediterranean wind" for the Euro-poser in all of us.

Sadly, I never got around to owning one. The best I got was a used Audi 4000 that could barely make it up a hill, but I seem to recall a certain white one being driven by a particularly foppish friend of mine.

Friday, April 15, 2005

They're heee-eeere: I don't...have much time...getting hard ... to breathe. I just saw...a couple today. Actually...I heard them. Coming up...behind me. I ran. I ran.

I thought...they were gone. But...they're back. I'm losing strength. For god's sake, somebody....stop them. STOP THEM!!

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Where I've Been: Blogging malaise is epidemic, it seems. Well, I managed to get through the weekend without even thinking about posting. Instead, I spent a decent part of Sunday afternoon rolling through the byways of Rockland County in a yellow Ferrari 550 Maranello. If you have the means, I highly recommend it.

Friday, April 08, 2005

The meaning of "bespoke": Excellent site I found which is operated by a Saville Row tailor of impeccable heritage. Very informative read, with some excellent advice and thoughts on bespoke tailoring for today's world.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Euthanos, Re-revisited: Noam Scheiber has a remarkably clear-eyed view of the Terri Schiavo debacle from the other side of the looking glass:
Much of the press coverage of the Schiavo case focused on a now-familiar split within the Republican Party between social conservatives--who insisted nothing mattered more than prolonging Terri Schiavo's life--and anti-government libertarians, who tut-tutted about the Republican leadership's encroachment on local autonomy. Some in the media, citing apocalyptic predictions from activists on both sides, went so far as to call Schiavo the beginning of a GOP schism.

In truth, the GOP has been finessing the uneasy alliance between libertarians and social conservatives for at least as long as pundits have been pointing it out. I suspect the party will pull through this time, too. Far more interesting--and politically more consequential--is an emerging Democratic split between social libertarians, who emphasize privacy, and what I'll call communitarians, for lack of a better word. Like social conservatives, the communitarians believe the government has a role to play in Schiavo-like dilemmas. If they prevail, it could help the Democratic Party reclaim its popular majority.

I doubt that, but at least Scheiber is right in criticizing the Dems for being unable to cobble together a set of positive values. Instead, professing only negatives, they always come off looking like vultures. (E.g., "How dare you suggest there's anything morally suspect about abortion!") As an example, Scheiber notes Bill Clinton's winning motto on abortion: "Safe, legal, and rare." Does it matter that Clinton cared not a whit about one-third of this formulation? It was a winner because it reached out -- not to the pro-life side, but to the majority of Americans in the middle. Likewise, on the Schiavo case, most Democrats seemed to be saying that, since there was no living will, the burden of proof landed squarely on those who opposed pulling the tube, and only religious fanatics could hold that position. As I said, the case was certainly more complex than that, but someone in the party has to look out for this kind of stuff. Again, the vital center of America felt enormous ambivalence on the issue. Why have most of the party pull a Howard Dean and start insulting those people?

Put simply, and with realpolitik hat squarely on the noggin, if you want to move the center toward your party, speak with respect when you speak about those who disagree with you, even if you really do think they're a bunch of nuts and zealots.

Radley Hammers Choice Fatigue: Our dear Agitator's latest Fox column shows that the command-and-control left will always have yet another stalking horse for the effort to make our decisions for us. This time it's "choice fatigue":
"Sometimes, critics argue, government should limit people's choices," [Times essayist Eduardo] Porter writes. "That is, choose for them." Porter used the concept of "choice fatigue" to argue against private Social Security accounts. Some people can be overwhelmed by choice, the thinking goes, and sometimes, some people will choose poorly.

Therefore, at least in this case, it's better that government make all choices for all people.

Obviously, Radley doesn't have the space here to take on the whole tangled mess, but it's worth noting that the "choices" government would seek to limit for us always seem to be the biggies, usually related to economic freedom. Notice that progressive think tankers aren't saying, "Golly, we really ought to do something about all the choices people have for cell phone ring tones." Rather, they can leave such choices up to us, and they'll offer to take the load off somewhere else. Like deciding how to invest in our retirements. Now, the progressive mind would say, "Ring tones are fluff; but your retirement is too important to be left up to you." To the contrary, it is far too important to be left up to the government's mentality of one size (or one tiny rate of return, to be precise) fits all.

Beyond that, the explicit message of the left is that some folks are unfit (who and how many are left unsaid) to make these decisions. But note that many people make retirement decisions anyway, managing a portfolio independent of Social Security, making decisions on IRAs, 401 (k) funds, bond funds, DRIP investments, CDs, commodities, and real estate. Some add another layer of complexity by whirling futures into the mix, which makes the no doubt terribly difficult task of selecting a one of three or four funds for some small part of your payroll taxes (about all the reform we can hope for in our wildest dreams) seem like a game of pin the tail on Adam Smith.

In other words, if the progressive argument's there for relieving you of the choices with your payroll taxes, why should we be allowed to diddle in the market with our discretionary funds? We'll probably just blow it anyway, right? But if the overabundance of choices is really the problem, then keeping everyone chained to the slow death of Social Security is no solution, since anyone who wants to live on more than Tender Vittles in the golden years will need to go out and make those same damn choices anyway, with his or her discretionary income.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The Guv? I finally checked out Bret Schundler's campaign website -- he's running for governor of New Jersey this year. Schundler was mayor of Jersey City when I was working there. He was popular, extremely talented, and a promising young moderate who got elected by consistently returning to parochial issues and avoiding the tropes of the national parties' agendas. There was a brief press swoon over him in the 90s, and he ran for governor in 2001, only to lose to Jim "Give the Briefing to My Gay Israeli Lover" McGreevey, mainly because the GOP would not support him.

Schundler's a bit of a question mark on abortion, having tried to downplay the issue previously. (New Jersey does have a lot of Catholics, but the mayor of Jersey City has little power to influence abortion rights, so he was able to kick the issue down the road; now he's caught up to it.) He may or may not have some sexual skeletons in his closet (though, post-McGreevey, what the hell could surprise the Garden State?). On top of that, the New Jersey GOP is a total shambles. And New Jersey (unlike Massachusetts) is a liberal state that has shown no serious willingness to elect conservatives to statewide offices. (Former governor Christie Whitman, a nominal Republican, at best, is case in point.)

Anyhow, in 1994-ish, my boss (a Hudson/Bergen county real estate developer) and I were walking around Jersey City and saw Schundler. My boss introduced me (briefly) to him and, after we walked away, said to me, "Keep your eye on Schundler. That guy is going to be a star." I've been watching with curiosity ever since.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Marty Peretz, Scourge of the Ostriches: TNR's senior lib hawk slaps down those in his party who are blind enough or giddy enough with partisanship (or just plain churlish, as Peretz calls them) to not see or acknowledge Bush's great strides in the Middle East.
It has been heartening, in recent months, to watch some Democratic senators searching for ways out of the politics of churlishness. Some liberals appear to have understood that history is moving swiftly and in a good direction, and that history has no time for their old and mistaken suspicion of American power in the service of American values. One does not have to admire a lot about George W. Bush to admire what he has so far wrought. One need only be a thoughtful American with an interest in proliferating liberalism around the world. And, if liberals are unwilling to proliferate liberalism, then conservatives will. Rarely has there been a sweeter irony.
Ding. Give that man a cigar.

More: Even the frankly anti-war Reason magazine published this its April issue:

In fact, [Operation Iraqi Freedom] has fared much better than any reasonable person with a suitable respect for the chaos, madness, and unpredictability of war had any right to expect. What we are seeing right now in Iraq is the best possible outcome of the liberal hawks' grand vision. If they don't like the results, they need to reassess their expectations.
Ideology: Good debate going on here.
I'll Have a Berger, Well Done: Look, Mommy, it's another member of the most ethical administration in history!
The Pope is Dead? Reports swirl. No doubt we'll see some major traffic on the Fatima websites this weekend. According to the prophecy, the next pope is supposed to be something like the "great apostate." Or maybe it's the one after that. Never can remember.