Thursday, June 30, 2005

Concept Albums, Schmoncept Albums: Flyer knows how to draw me out. I should really be getting ready for the show, but I can't resist.

Best one I can think of is Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition (either Mussorgsky's original for piano, or Ravel's orchestration, though I honestly prefer the latter), a series of musical sketches, each one based on a different work (watercolors, I think) of artist Victor Hartmann. The suite itself is a musical "walk" through the gallery, including a recurring promenade theme that represents the walk from picture to picture, instrumentally influenced by the subject matter. Just effin' brilliant.

Other oddballs that make my sun shine include Pete Townshend's White City, Lou Reed's loosely conceptual New York, Joe Jackson's Heaven and Hell (featuring a fantastic workout on moralizers called "Right"), perhaps Tom Waits's Blue Valentines.

Pet Sounds? Sgt. Pepper? I guess both could be thought of as concept albums, but only in the context of their day. Pet holds together musically more than conceptually (and, let's be frank, the lyrics are generally pretty dumb). And the Beatles open and close Pepper as a concept, but in between, it's clear that the real theme is four blokes flying by the seats of ther pants, improvising madly.

Juliet Letters is an inspired choice, though I can understand why some hate the album. I love it. Rush's 2112 comes up a lot; but I think it doesn't stand up with any real maturity, plus Hemispheres is a lot better thematically and musically. Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life is another loose (but groovin') concept work. McCartney's Band on the Run is a fine concept album and contains some of his best solo work, though the concept itself seems to have been "Let's make a concept album!"

At the top of the list I'd put Marvin Gaye's What's Going On, clearly a modern masterpiece without rival in its topicality, emotional frankness, and sheer musical brilliance, both in the writing and the performances, especially the standout bass work by Jamerson. The topicality is dated now, true; it's become an artifact of another time. But certainly not the way that, say, Surrealistic Pillow has. Nothing in it has become silly, pretentious, or self-indulgent, the way so much of that era's music has (and so many concept albums have). It is a gem that beats out everything on Green's list, hands down. (Listen particularly as the dramatic, spoken-sung "Save the Children" boils down into a nearly supernatural groove that takes off from a piano glissando into "God is Love." Possibly the best moment on the album.)

Poker anyone: Via the Swede, here's a link to James MacManus's World Series of Poker journal. He's covering the month long event out in Vegas, as well as playing is quite a few events as well. Good stuff.

Not as good as this, though, Paul McGuire's (aka Dr. Pauly) in depth poker blog. You won't see this in the Times.

I thought someone was trying to break into my apartment. I heard screaming and loud banging up against my front door. I woke up and jumped out of bed. I grabbed the first thing I could find... my laptop... and I was ready to smash it over the head of any intruder who dared entered my sanctuary. When I ran into the living room/kitchen area I didn't see anyone. I put down the laptop and grabbed an empty bottle of beer. I found a new weapon and I was prepped for a possible home invasion.

I heard another loud "Thud!" against my front door. I reluctantly peeked through the blinds and saw a black guy lying on the ground and another guy kicking and punching him. The loud noises where the guy's head getting bashed up against my front door. The noise stopped and I heard the assiliant run away. I thought about calling the front desk to complain. It was 9:04am and I had only been to sleep for a couple of hours. I picked up the phone and told the girl who answered the phone about the fight. They said they would call the police. I tried to go back to sleep. They guy who got his ass kicked had a friend who came by a few minutes later to help him up.

"I'm gotta end this shit now. I can't have people getting a beat down at my parties," he said.

And as the cop car rolled up, they disappeared. I starred at my fake stucco ceiling trying to fall back asleep. Things had been slow at the Redneck Riviera, until last night.

Moving on...
Ain't Vegas quaint.
Concept albums: Stephen Green lists his top five concept albums of all time, opening the door for all kinds of ridiculous debate. I like his idea, and some of his choices, but I don't think I'm qualified to judge I'm Breathless or Magnolia. Just never really listened to either.

I'd have to add Pet Sounds to my list. And I disagree a little with his point about Sgt. Pepper's. Maybe it doesn't stand up as well over time as some other Beatles albums, but, at least to me, it's only value is as an album. "(L)istening to a couple of favorite cuts on the radio now and then..." doesn't satisfy my Sgt. Pepper's jones. That need, which has, admittedly, dwindled considerably over the last decade, can only be met with the whole album. But that's just me.

Also, though I'm likely to get raked over for this one, I liked Elvis Costello's Juliet Letters*. Nowadays every act thinks it can make themselves serious artists if they hook with the Poughkeepsie Pops and put out a live version of a bad rock song with some confused bassoonists and second chair violin stand-ins. Elvis actually teamed up with a classical quartet to write an album of songs suited to the instruments involved, but melded his distinctly non-classical voice to create something very different. And it's as "conceptual" as you can get.

Go ahead and fire away, boys. If this doesn't bring out some heated argument, nothing will.

*Eno will no doubt point out that I'd think Costello warbling his grocery list into a soup can on a string would make a great concept album. I'm a fan. Guilty.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Helpful hints on how to avoid shark attacks: In light of the recent "spate" of shark attacks (notice how no one acts surprised if a person wandering around the African savannah is killed by a lion/leopard/cheetah, but once a person is bitten by the most evolutionary perfect killing machine in its own habitat - it's national news), we here at FauxPolitik want to do our civic duty and offer you some safety tips on how to avoid being bitten and/or killed by a shark*:

1. Avoid wearing freshly cut tuna pieces as beach fashion accessory.

2. While body surfing, do not go on and on and on about how great a director Steven Spielberg is, and wow, did he ever coax a great performance out of Roy Scheider, a true movie hero if there ever was one.

3. Sandals with socks. Known shark attractant. Ever seen a German make it out of the ocean alive? Neither have I.

4. If you do see a shark coming right at you, take out your survival knife, wield it in the classic underhand commando grip, crouch, then reach out and slice the nearest person to you who looks like s/he is a slower swimmer, and then go like hell for the shore. It helps if you distract that person with a comment about the pretty dolphins right before the cut.

5. Wear killer whale costume when venturing past surf break. Sharks don't fuck with killer whales. Use squeeze bottle to approximate blow hole clearing. Eat mullet or herring thrown to you by friend/spouse dressed as Sea World trainer (do not forget whistle; sharks notice detail).

6. Don't swim in ocean.

There you have it. We hope this has been helpful. Remember sharks don't kill people, Michael Schiavo does.

*Note, this only applies whilst in the water. If a land shark comes knocking on front door, you're on your own.
Dog bites man: Radley, 17-25 year old "Young Republicans" can rarely explain why they do anything. They are, as their name suggests, young. I don't think it's fair to use the statements by a few kids with no experience or really much understanding of the issues at hand (with exceptions among the age group, to be certain) to implicitly support an argument ("chickenhawk") that is a lot more complicated.

Many young people don't always know why they make certain choices, to go to college, to war, to follow Phish. Often, in fact they find out down the road they wish they had made a different choice. One need not, then, have served in the military to make judgements about military matters, as those decisions are made in youth, on the advice of parents, teachers, and a host of other influencers. I think there's an argument to be made that civilians, both current and lifelong, may be better qualified to make final judgements about going to war - they may be better and more broadly educated, they don't have as much potential for bias towards particular branches, divisions, or individuals within the military as a whole, they haven't been "scarred" by emotional trauma that, due to its personal and tragic nature, is not helpful in rendering sound judgement on use of force.

I gather you disagree, and that's fine. I think there's plenty of genuine hypocrisy worth pointing out, and there may be some who fit the chickenhawk description. But it's not fair to use a bunch of dopey, MTV-addled teenagers as examples of the larger pool of Iraq war supporters who don't/didn't serve in the mlitary. Use them as cause to raise the voting age, maybe.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Enough with the Supreme Court decisions: Any more court talk and this is going to start sounding plausible.
On China: Daniel Drezner had this post last week on the effects of an open economic policy with China in regard to creating a society more respectful of human rights and civil liberties. Inconsistent reluts, to be sure, and those coming at the speed of Darwinian evolution.
By the Freedom House measures, China has been rated as "not free" for the entire history of our expanded trade relationship with them. Within that category there are some subtler trends -- in the eighties both the poliitical rights and civil liberties measures improved slightly. Both went back down after Tiannamen, and then since 1998 the civil liberties score has improved marginally.
Not the most encouraging news, especially not in light of recent policies on registration of blogs and other intenet sites. Drezner cites several reasons that an open policy may be working, if slowly, and that to the extent that it's not China may be an exception to the rule because of their size and the particular nature of President hu Jintao's rule. I'm not expert enough to say if he's right or not, but I'm not very confident that we'll see any social effect of our economic policy very soon. Drezner makes at least one very good point, though.
Third, when questioning the utility of a certain policy, one always needs to compre it to the alternative set of options. There is no other option that would cause China to democratize any faster that a policy of openness.
Of course, we could democratize China in a hurry if we wanted to, like we did Japan in 1945. But I think Drezner's point is that with any policy aimed at achieving a particular goal, there are some tradeoffs involved. In this case, the tradeoffs are speed and the certainty that they could choose as their leader someone who's personal ambition supercedes their willingness to relinquish power to individuals and more local institutions. In exchange, we don't have to go to war with 1.3 billion Chinese. Conservatives are hardwired to understand tradeoffs, so I'm willing to agree that the current course of action is the best and maybe the only practical one we can take towards China. I just wonder how realistic we're being in our expectations.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Tribute to Jeff Goldstein:

Recently Jeff did a marvelous bit of short [short being relative] fiction using a literary version of the quick-shot film technique a la Michael Bay, et al. Anyway, very amusing. Here is my tribute, in a few "short" paragraphs...

Carnie rose early. Well, "rose" put a bit too much shine on the mealy apple. Maybe this is would be more accurate: "Carnie opened one grime-encrusted eye and simulataneously fell from the roof of the tar-paper chicken coop, dragging nearly half the roof with him."

The point is he was awake. Groaning, gasping...but awake.


Baby walked through the corn field, humming her momma's favorite tune. The wind was light, barely bending the tops of the stalks, which seemed to move with Baby, as if engaged in a slow country waltz. That must be because Baby didn't eat corn (not even corn bread), and the stalks knew they could trust her. The familiar tune stopped suddenly as she broke into a clearing in the corn about 20 yards in diameter. "What in the world?" Baby thought to herself. She slowly circled around the object, only touching it after she'd seen all sides of it. "Why...that looks like one of them catty-pults from Carnie's books."


Carnie rose (this time for real) off the ground, wincing, patting off the dust, feathers and the rest. He looked back to the corn field...then to the giant stack of hay bales a few yards past the chicken coop. "More ballast next time," he thought.
What Would Jesus-as-Zombie Do?: Much ado is being made over Romero's latest zombie flick, "Land of the Dead" -- this time done with at least a modicum of a budget (around $15MM to $18MM).

The above link will give you the fan-boy's perspective, but what about the more spiritual among us? What would a good Christian think about the newest installment in the zombie oeuvre??

Well, quite a bit, and amazingly enough to this blogger, those thoughts are quite insightful.

Leave aside the quotes from the Bible, and the references to "we all live through Christ forever" and you find that the message that Romero sought to imbue was not lost on the reviewer just because he is a "goody-two-shoes" born-again. To wit:

The fear of death is heightened in Romero's films by the fear of decay. As zombies shamble about in Romero's films, they have a hard time literally holding themselves together. It is disquieting to see the human body profaned.


In a telling scene from 28 Days Later (not, technically, a zombie film though it has many of the trappings) some of the world's last defenders are discussing the impact of the "infection." A sergeant concludes that since the human race has only been around for a relatively short time, if the infection wipes them out it will just be a return to normality. But the commanding major concludes that since the infection all he has seen is people killing people -- which is precisely what he had seen in all the weeks before the infection. He concludes that they are currently in a state of normality. Zombie movies put the insatiable lust of sin front and center. There is no sugar coating, no attempt to make sin look nice. All we see are the ravages of the horrible behaviors across the globe squeezed into a small area so that we can witness them more easily.


Early in Land of the Dead the protagonists discover that the zombies are beginning to organize. Many of them appear to be attempting to perform their old jobs. One human comments, "They're pretending to be alive." Another responds, "Is that what we're doing? Pretending to be alive?"

So, all-in-all, a pretty good extraction of the movie's message.

Contrast with the review for "Boogie Nights":

"What the...?! Blaspheming devil-loving.... ARghghghghahhhh! *gagging sounds*"
Busy bloggers: I know Eno's been busy, learning his lines, schtupping chorus girls in his dressing room etc. And I was too busy to even throw up a final comment on my beloved Open (Summary: great final day, but not a finish that will rank high on the history-meter. Oh well, good for Campbell). Razor must be on vacation.

I kept meaning to post soemthing on every issue that hit the spin machines this week, but never go around to any of it. I thought Radley summed up the past week(s) well with this post, though, as well as my current attitude towards politics in general.

So that's all I got. One lame link to Radley. Pathetic blog effort concluded. I'll try to do better next week.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Answers you seek, within you will find them: I'll give it a try, though.

Wire to wire: Leading wire to wire is rare, particularly in majors. I think out of his 18 professional major titles, Nicklaus won something like 4 or 5 of them wire to wire, and there aren't many who even approach his ability. So who cares who's leading after Rd. 1? Because it's still the only way to tell who's got the best chance to be in the hunt. The saying goes, you never win the tournament on Thursday, but you can lose it. They're just trying to get in position and try to improve a little every day. Whythe media breathlessly reports anything, though, you'll have to ask them. It has nothing to do with golf, though. Or sports. They're just naturally breathless.

Course setup: There's nothing wrong with making the course play hard, and specific holes play really hard, but there's a point of diminishing returns for enjoyable viewing, and the USGA is attempting to entertain viewers either at the event or on tv. When the best in the world are playing, I want to see a tough course that still rewards good shotmaking. If I wanted to watch someone five putt, I'd play golf with Eno. I don't want to see a train wreck. It may be fair that everyone on the train dies, but it's no fun to watch.

Daly: He only wishes he could win once a year. I think he's got maybe four or five wins in almost 15 years (two of them majors, though, so that helps). Despite being exceptionally talented, Daly has struggled in many ways. He's popular because he's an everyman, blue collar, red-neck, who pounds the ball nine miles and, most importantly, is friendly to the fans and never forgets that they've made him successful beyond what his record would have earned him. He's done a lot of things wrong in his life, on and off tour, but he never fails to get another "second" chance.

Tiger: He's the furthest thing from a robot, at least as far as his game goes. He's all over the course, hitting drives into the worst possible places, then hitting miraculous recovery shots. He's also a walking mouthful of cliches and as personable as a robot in his relatioship with fans. Can you blame him? If he stops to speak to one person or sign one autograph, he could literally be there for hours. Would you stop to chat with someone and risk offending four or five hundred when you walk away? Probably not. Mickelson handles it better, but it's an impossible situation for both of them. And Mickelson comes across as a dope, with his aw shucks smile and over the top politeness, but he gives more real answers and insightful comments to reporters in a minute than Tiger will in a year. He pays for it too, since not everyone wants to hear an untested sound bite.

Why see it live: I can't answer for everyone, but for me it's to see the course. They look totally different live than on tv. And I can't get out of work to watch tv. But as far as actually seeing the event, tv coverage is much better than trying to watch it live, so I almost never attend these things on the weekend when it will matter.

The Open: Attended my first U.S. Open round yesterday, and had a great experience. A few thoughts on the day and the tournament.

The U.S. Open is the most well run event of that size I've even been to. From 7 am to 6 pm we never waited for more than a minute. Not to park, get on the shuttle bus, get into the course, get food and drink, buy a souvenir, get back on the shuttle bus, get out of the parking lot, nothing. And there had to be at least 50,000 people there. They had two large parking lots, one north side, one south. The north lot, where we were, had 100 buses shuttling people to and from, and it made a big difference. But the entire event was like that. The football field size merchandise tent was packed, but there must have been 60 or so cashiers moving people along. Excellent.

Mickelson was the name on everyone's lips this week, and a 69 yesterday had everyone picking him. Anyone want odds now.

Pinehurst is not a pretty course. It's not ugly, but there's none of the flora of an Augusta, or panoramic awesomeness of Pebble Beach. It is, as it's name indicates, full of pine trees, which are fine but not pretty. And that's as it should be for a U.S. Open. This ain't the Masters, where they dye the water in the ponds blue for tv. It's simpler here, a little more honest. Beautiful, but not pretty.

On tv, the course doesn't look that hard, but it is a killer. The phrase "turtlebacked" has been used to describe these greens. If that doesn't make it clear, imagine landing a golf ball on the hood of VW Beetle and stopping it close to antenna. Yikes.

Fortunately, the USGA seems to be resisting the urge to push the course too far. I saw them watering the greens, just a little, yesterday between groups to keep the greens from getting out of hand. Good for them. It's about time they learned not wreck a good thing.

Heat, sweat, sunscreen, and sand require an ocean to achieve any level of sustainable comfort. Without it, you feel like a walking pile of crud after a few hours.

Fans are getting too polite. Not that they should ever be rude or inconsiderate (golf is different from every other sport and this is one of the good ways), but fans are almot afraid to cheer out loud sometimes. There was a lot of obnoxious fan behavior when Tiger Woods turned pro and took the popularity of golf to a new level, but the backlash seems to have taken some of the fun out of the experience. Considerate fans don't want to distract the players during a swing, but surely cheering them on when they're walking off the teebox is still inbounds, right. Some players have a reputation for acknowledging their fans and showing appreciation for the cheers, Mickelson being the biggest example today, but others you feel like you're bugging them. I think the problem is part of the celebrity/sports obsessed culture we live in, where some fans don't know where to draw the line, and golf is just the latest to be affected. But Arnolf Palmer never walked up a fairway staring at the ground, ignoring the fans around him. He always took time to wave, nod, show some recognition of the people who make it possible for him to fly in private jets and play a game for a living. Today's players need to be more like him. And gas should cost a nickel a gallon, right?

My pick of Justin Leonard as dark horse doesn't look too good. I gues it's time to confess: I have no idea who will win from one week to the next. I never would have picked Rocco Mediate and Olin Browne to be the leaders after Round 1. I don't think either of them will win. I may be wrong again. Me, I'd watch Retief Goosen real close today. But, you know, it's all just guessing.

Holla: Thanks. Now on to your bete-noir: golf. First of all, why do the papers, websites and newscasters always breathlessly report who is on the lead after day 1? Or even day 2, for that matter? How often does someone go wire-to-wire in a golf tourney, much less a Major? Like, once a year, maybe? Really, it's enough.

Why so much whining about the organizers making holes tough to play? Doesn't it work to everyone's disadvantage? I mean, are we supposed to believe that gravity works differently for Tiger than the rest of them? Shut up, play, and collect your big check.

How does John Daly manage to win one surprising tournament a year, but the rest of the time flame out after the cut? It doesn't seem to compute. Perhaps that is why he remains so popular: he's the golfing everyman, as opposed to the robot (Tiger) or doofus (Mickelson). The rest are all foreign, so...

Why do people go to golf tournaments (other than to avoid work - which is a noble goal, but still)? You get to really only watch one hole. Or you can be a complete idiot and follow Tiger around along with 2,000 of your closest friends, screaming "Get in the hole!" after every putt, or just wild applause on every drive regardless of distance and accuracy.

I need answers here Flyer.
Echo: Razor, you nailed it.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Hope: I write today on hope.

Hope can spark wondrous achievements that might seem improbable as it spurns defeatism, and nurtures ambition. It helps us, during our dark days, to pull out a glimmer, a glimmer of hope, and strive onwards, against even daunting odds. If not for hope, why would any of the Jews, who were put in concentration camps, not have immediately ended their lives, in the face of what was being done to their bretheren? They held on, using hope and its cousin, faith, believing that they would make it out, to perhaps see their loved ones who by some other small miracle, might too have found a way to hold on and walk out of those damned gates.

Hope, on a smaller stage, keeps a baseball team working its hardest in the face of a losing slump, believing that if the players just keep plugging, and a little luck thrown their way, their season can be salvaged.

Hope is indeed a wonderful attribute. However, there comes a point when hope turns. When a dreamed-of salvation creates a wildly distorted reality, and desperation and delusion sets in. See, hope cannot be abused, nor can it be used as a substitute for substance. Hope is just a feeling; it cannot, by itself, make day into night, or death into life.

I speak now of the Schiavo family, who for so long, used hope as their watchword. Hope that their faith would endure and turn what was deemed by so many (doctors, judges, reporters) to be a dire, unwinnable situation, into one that was a triumph of the human will and spirit.

But, Terri's brain was half what it used to be. It was so irretrievably damaged, that it had to preserve of itself what it could, in order that it might survive. That meant shutting down the very portion of our mind that generates and stores our hope. It had to only use what little power it had left to keep the heart pumping, the lungs breathing. It had to sacrifice its most awesome function, the ability to dream, to laugh, even to see, so that its host, which had carried it all these years, could survive; not "live" mind you, but survive. The brain, for all its wonder, knows no other way. It is a primitive device at its very core. To sustain itself, hope had to be abandoned.

Terri's parents and siblings, because they loved what Terri had once been, refused to see what she had become. Their hope did not whither, did not die. But their hope could not restore Terri's brain. In short, their hope was not transferable. Once hope is gone, it is often said, you might as well be dead. Nonetheless, their vigil was admirable, but by the end, their simple act of faith had been turned into a shouting point for various interest groups. When Terri finally passed, the family clung to that hope, insisting that a horrible mistake had been made.

Unfortunately, even today, after the report of the independent and respected pathologists, the Schiavo family has not given up their hope, even though all hope is truly lost. I do not wish to deny them their memories or their faith. I don't wish to besmirch their great, great love for their daughter, sister, niece. But, what the doctors and judges had said these many years, is now shown to be conclusively true. This is beyond politics, beyond those ingrates with their signs, using Terri as a polarizing force.

What she truly wanted may never be known. And true, there was no particular harm in letting her body live, even as her mind has died. But to still suggest that she was a reactive, emoting, thinking being is simply beyond the pale. Unfortunately, there were no miracles for Terri. Accept that she died a decade ago. Grieve. Cry. Laugh. Remember. But let her go. Let hope for Terri go. There are other people who need it now.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Open picks: Media picks for the U.S. Open are pretty predictable: Tiger (though not all that many), Phil, David Toms. They're all good picks, but not exactly daring. A couple guys went out on a limb, with picks like Jim Furyk and Kenny Perry (although Jim Furyk won it two years ago and Perry is a long way from the dark horse he's been in the past). Lots of people are talking about Chris DiMarco, too, which makes sense since he's been in the hunt for the last three majors. But his game's been off form the past few weeks, so it'll be interesting to see if he can peak for a major. He's never played Pinehurst before, so he best get ready.

The one name that jumps out at me that nobody's mentioned is Justin Leonard. You don't need to bomb the driver at Pinehurst, and if the weather holds the fairways will be running fast adding yardage anyway. Leonard's got a win already this year, and he putts as well as anyone. He's also got major championship bona fides, with British Open title and some other close calls, like the '02.

Turns out there's a U.S. Open blog. I'll have to check it out.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Golfblogging: This is the week of the U.S. Open, so expect a little of my inner golf geek to show through for a few days. It's especially exciting because I just learned that I'll be making the drive to Pinehurst to watch Thursday's opening round, thanks to a friend who has a pair of tickets he can't use that day. Since my favorite golf tournament is whatever one is being played this week, I won't go on about what a great event the Open is, but I will be offering some thoughts on the course, the favorites, the play and the coverage.

For now, check out a piece on the last Open Champion at Pinehurst.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Yeah, Okay: So I went on vacation for a week and forgot to tell anyone. Well, like, that's the point isn't it? To get away, abandon responsibilities, and just drink gin and tonics? Outer Banks are lovely this time of year.

Anyway, ditto on the medical marijuana ruling. Just absurd. I love how Stevens admits it has nothing to do with interstate commerce, but cites to a 1940s case that says where the potential exists to possibly, maybe, in some extreme circumstances, affect interstate commerce ("among the states") then the Feds can come in with their jackboots. I somehow doubt the plaintiff and her six weak plants were about to threaten the Mexican cartels.

Well, I'll have more soon, but I have to catch up on mail.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Barnett dismayed: Randy Banett's thoughts on Gonzales v. Raich are up over at NRO. He's clearly disappointed by Scalia's new stance on Federalism exhibited by this case, but he remains very respectful of the court overall (I think I could hear him biting his tongue, which is hard to hear, even if you're in he same room as someone, so I bet it hurt a lot). He's absolutely right when he mentions the importance of nominating authentic federalists/originalists to the court, like Thomas, who will abide by the letter of the Consitution even when it doesn't suit their policy preferences.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Commies scared of bloggers: No, there's not a revolt at The Huffington Post. I'm talking about admitted Communists, China in particular.
The Chinese government has announced plans to police web forums, chat rooms and blogs alongside other websites.

Websites in China have long been required to be officially registered.

The authorities are now determined that blogs should also be brought under state control.

Press advocacy group Reporters without Borders said the initiative would "enable those in power to control online news and information much more effectively".

I can't fathom how China is allowed to get away with crap like this. What to do? I don't know. It's not worth a shooting war and "free exchange of ideas, goods, and services" doesn't seem to be prodding China to adopt principles more in line with Western-style Democracy. People wearing T-shirts with pictures of Che Guevera like to ask why we continue to enforce a 40 + year old embargo against Cuba, but we have no problem trading with China to get access to billions of consumers. The stock answer has been, I gather, take a look at China 100 years ago. Take a look at China now. They've come a long way, and they seem to undertand that they'll have to release their Vader like mind control over their people. Economic liberalization will lead to social liberation, blah blah blah.

But if this is an indication of the progress China is making towards civil reform, man have we been duped of what. We can't embargo them Cuba style, of course, without doing horrible damage to the world economy, our own in particular. It would put a dent in Wal-Mart's bottom line the size of Michael Moore, not to mention put out of business many of the US companies that sell to them.

I'm no protectionist when it comes to trade, in fact I don't really care whether we trade with ne'er do wells and villians around the world. But it may be time to stop pretending that free trade alone is going to cause the social revolution we've been hoping for. Has it ever before? Certainly creeping Westernization helped play a big part in the break up of the Soviet Union (Jordache Jeans and Sony Walkmen feeding the desire of average Russkis to improve their standard of living), but so did an arms race that was as much about bankrupting Moscow as it was about missile defense and ICBM's.

Hmmm, glad I'm not Secratary of State. And, so is everybody else in the world.

Via MarketingVox.

Monday, June 06, 2005

A Mark Steyn must read: Mark Steyn's latest tackles the Hillary in '08 question better than anyone ha yet. Some excerpts:
But, if I had to be a bit more mathematical about it, I’d look at it this way. If the Democrats ever want to take back the White House, 2008 is their best shot. After the 2010 census, the electoral college apportionment for the 2012 Presidential campaign will reflect the population shifts to the south and west – ie, growing Republican “red” states will get more votes and declining Democrat “blue” states will have fewer. The trouble with being a party that promotes abortion as a sacrament is that after a generation or two it catches up with you: in 2004, the 16 states with the lowest fertility rate voted for John Kerry; 25 of the 26 with the highest fertility rate voted for George W Bush. In the long run, a lot of Democratic turf is looking as demographically barren as the European Union. And, even discounting the long-term prognosis, right now more red states are trending blue than vice-versa. So, if the Dems don’t win in three years’ time, things are only going to get worse. In 2008, they need a candidate who can hold all the territory John Kerry won plus flip Ohio or Florida into the Democratic column.
So the electoral math is as favorable as it's going to get for quite awhile. But the real reason is that Hillary is the only Democratic figure with enough star power/political capital to run to the right on national defense issues while keeping the left wing fringes from going into revolt.
Lately, for example, she’s been making some tentative moves away from Democrat orthodoxy on abortion. The abortion absolutism demanded by the party’s wrinkly feminist activists is a net vote loser for the Dems, but figuring out how to shake off Gloria Steinem and co is a tricky business. John Kerry was reduced to claiming that, while he personally, passionately believed life began at conception, he would never let his deep personal, passionately held beliefs interfere with his legislative programme; Howard Dean, declining to torture his rhetoric so pitifully, was practically offering to perform partial birth abortions on volunteers from the crowd. But Hillary’s begun to sound kinda-sorta-pro-life-ish: “We can all recognize,” she said the other day, “that abortion in many ways represents a sad, even tragic choice to many, many women.” Really? The abortion lobby doesn’t think it’s “sad” and “tragic”. They think the choice is something to be celebrated. Yet, unlike Kerry and Dean, if Senator Clinton tiptoes further down this path, I’ll bet the Democrats’ feminist enforcers decline to protest.
And that's before you even talk about Iraq and her remarkably hawkish position. Anyway, RTWT, as they say. It's worth it.
Six Justices in Search of a Fig Leaf: No time to read the opinions, but this seems absurd on its face.
Federal authorities may prosecute sick people whose doctors prescribe marijuana to ease pain, the Supreme Court ruled Monday, concluding that state laws don't protect users from a federal ban on the drug . . . [Justice John Paul] Stevens said there are other legal options for patients, "but perhaps even more important than these legal avenues is the democratic process, in which the voices of voters allied with these respondents may one day be heard in the halls of Congress."
Their voices were heard, you jerk-off, in their state houses and assemblies. Hence the state laws legalizing medical marijuana. And Stevens is what passes for a liberal on this court. Just another political schmuck searching for ways around federalism when it suts his aims. I'm tired of him. Somebody point his walker toward Shady Acres and give him a shove, and send in some fresh new faces.

Look for Randy Barnett, whose appellate victory this overturns, to combust here.

More: David Bernstein weighs in:

Every Justice who joined Stevens's opinion voted to prohibit states from regulating homosexual sex in Lawrence and [if they were on the Court at the time] voted to limit the government's power to regulate abortion in Casey. Why was the democratic process not the appropriate avenue of relief for the victims of overzealous government regulation in those cases? It seems we do to some extent live under a system where the personal preferences of the Justices, having nothing to do with the history, text, or logic of the Constitution, dictate when the Supreme Court will or will not intervene to overturn particular regulations.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Is This What Wachovia Should Worry About? Good on you for pointing this out, Flyer. I agree with you that it's "back door" reparations, and that various, um, civil rights leaders who get antsy about the fact that the U.S. at one time allowed slavery can't seem to bring themselves to admit that the African slave trade existed long before we tapped into it, or to denounce African countries who still practice slavery. (Also, the UN doesn't seemed to have noticed it, either.)

Most importantly, though, let's recall that everyone who ever bought slaves, sold them, or accepted them as collateral (or simply did not get worked up that there were slaves, for that matter) has already been worm food for a couple generations. I think that says something about how silly this whole thing is.

After all, if the blacks are justified in holding hostage the great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren of slaveholders, who else in this fuc*ed-up world has a claim on another? I know plenty of Irish folks who'd love to hit the English up for nigh on 800 years of theft of land, eviction at gunpoint, intentional crop destruction, starvation as colonial policy, and just plain old shooting people who didn't like them. Of course, the Irish economy today is the fastest growing in Europe, while England's economy continues to linger over its lager in some mildewy old beerhouse, fondly recalling the old days when everything that wasn't nailed down was nationalized. The wheel of fortune offers the fairest of reparations.

Disclosure: Wachovia bank released a report yesterday disclosing past ties to slavery. It details profits made by taking slaves as collateral for loans in the antebellum south. Well, Wachovia didn't make the profits, since it didn't exist as such. But the various mergers and acquisitions over the past 200+ years that make up Wachovia as we know it included Banks such as the Bank of Charleston and the Georgia Railroad and Banking Co., and they profited from slavery.

What made Wachovia go into soul searching mode, you ask. Well, personal shame and guilt on the part of CEO Ken Thompson might be one reason. But it's not.

Wachovia said it prepared the report to comply with municipal laws requiring companies seeking city business to acknowledge any profits from slavery. Chicago passed the first such law in 2002; Philadelphia, Detroit, Los Angeles and other cities have followed.

The company filed its findings with the city of Chicago on Wednesday. It has also posted the complete document on its Web site,

You may also wonder what Wachovia is planning to do about their spotty past. Open their wallets, is, of course, the answer.

Wachovia becomes the second major bank to disclose ties to slavery under Tillman's prodding.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. said in January that two Louisiana banks loosely tied to the modern bank accepted slaves as loan collateral. The company established a $5 million scholarship fund for African American students from the state.

Wachovia said it was not prepared to announce a specific financial commitment Wednesday, but it pledged to spend time and money educating people about the results of the research. The company will not attempt to target descendants of specific slaves because the records rarely include even first names.

This is reparations sneaking in the back door. I wonder if Chicago, L. A., Detroit and Philly will extend this rule to companies not based in the U.S. or, for that matter, to foreign governements that allowed and profited from slavery, including those African nations that profited from selling their brothers and sisters into bondage.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Recently: I've been meaning to respond to Eno's "Lately" post. So here goes.

With regard to the Open Francais, there really haven't been any surprises, except for maybe Davenport willing herself into the Quarters. Quite a show by the "mademoiselle grande". Otherwise things have kept to form, including last year's finalists bowing out relatively early, giving a new no-name European a shot. Too bad Federer and Nadal won't meet in the finals. While past performance is no guarantee of future events, I have to go with the odds and vote for Nadal to be the upstart winner, as the French seems impossible to win twice in a row nowadays. Oh, I was a bit surprised to see Safin get out of the first round even, so his progress up a few rounds was impressive.

"Empire Falls" was a tremendous book, although I did not watch the HBO movie. Despite its excellent cast, movies of books, even when done by HBO, almost always let me down. My memory of the characters is more important than seeing them on a screen. One exception to that rule was "Master and Commander" with Crowe and Bellamy. While the movie was not better than the book(s) on which it was based, it perfectly grabbed the spirit of the books and was jolly well done.

Moving sucks and is enough to drive anyone to drink and smokes. I really, really hate it and hence, do not plan on doing it ever again...until they come to take me away and put me in a nice home where I can drool over my bingo cards. And those lovely sellers who seem sweet as pie when you're walking through their house, as soon as the closing table is in their sights, they become pigs. Uggh. I think squatting is the way to go.