<$BlogRSDUrl$>

Wednesday, December 31, 2003

BARRY ENDORSES KUCINICH 

From an online interview appearing in this Sunday's Washington Post Magazine:
Kent, Ohio: Hey Dave -- from a humor perspective, who would you like to see win the Democratic presidential nomination?

Dave Barry: Sharpton is genuinely funny. But my man Dennis K. is also VERY strong.
No word yet from Letterman and Stewart as to whether they plan to follow suit.

BANG THE POT SLOWLY 

As I keep telling the Monk, I'm saving my persona for our season finale. Until then, I can't help but drop hints along the way. If you care to try, see what you can get out of this:

I've been invited to a New Year's Eve party, which I won't be attending. I decided long ago that I don't enjoy celebrating "that giddy boozy interval between what was and what will be." (I actually don't know anyone who admits enjoying New Year's Eve parties--big ones, that is--now what does that say about my circle of acquaintances?) Looking back upon all my prior New Year's Eves (and there have been a frightening number of them), I can think of only three evenings with fondness:
1. A big boozy party I attended as a child. The boozers were my parents and their friends, none of whom were able to get babysitters that evening, of course, and so in desperation brought the kids along and stowed us on a different floor. My friends and I took turns executing daring raids into the grownup territory, returning with candy contraband and tales of how the adults didn't notice a thing, which we found hysterically funny and proof of how dull grownups are and how clever we were.

2. A dinner party I attended which culminated with a flaming dessert (actually, I think I always enjoy New Year's Eve dinner parties).

3. A lonely New Year's Eve I spent in New York City. I had moved there only two months before and knew few people other than my roommate. As we shared a bottle of champagne, we heard a strange noise outside. A child accompanied by someone who appeared to be her father was walking down the dark and empty street in front of our apartment building banging on a pot with a wooden spoon.
Well, I'm not in possession of a wayback machine and haven't been invited to any dinner parties this year so I've decided to go with the pot thing and press everyone I'm with into service.

Listen for us tonight. Oh yes, and have a Happy New Year.

WELCOME BLAWGGERS! SORT OF. 

A recent link from Howard Bashman's How Appealing and another one from Stephen Green's VodkaPundit have boosted our traffic considerably, for which we are very grateful. But both painted Spitbull as a law blog, which doesn't quite fit.

I confess to being a lawyer, and my squinty view of the world owes much to the indoctrination I received during the three years I was marooned in law school. Nevertheless, I actually practiced law only for two (mostly miserable but entirely debt-retiring) years. For the past nine years I've been a kind of meta-lawyer for the Eagan, Minnesota outpost of a Canadian concern, as my nom de plume suggests (or would suggest, if you happened to have page four of the Fall 1997 issue of the Green Bag close at hand. Not that the article is available there; that would be too easy. You might want to try this site, which I've heard has lots of legal-type stuff.) Also, I usually blog about other topics, such as the many uses of the human fist.

And while my co-blogger Eloise has been known to muse on legal matters, her persona remains maddeningly mysterious, even to me. Only she can say for sure whether her varied experience includes unholy congress with the law.

So I hope none of you lawyers out there feel like you've been hoodwinked. Aw geez, come on! You're so pathetic when you look at me like that! Okay, I tell you what--here are a couple of legal bones to gnaw on. Just don't expect regular meals, you mutts.

First a Kozinski follow-up. One year when I was in law school, Kozinski served on the three-judge panel that presided over the finals of the moot court competition. He seemed to see his role to be making the student lawyers as uncomfortable as possible. He asked a lot of questions, of course, but his chief agent of provocation was his nose. How so? He blew it. Often. Loudly. With a paisley handkerchief (I may be misremembering this last bit, but if it's not true it should be). The effect of this was so risible, at least to those of us in the audience, that it must have been intentional.

Now a Posner follow-up. Two items of recent Posneria well worth checking out are available on or through the news page of the University of Chicago Law School website. There is his review of Evan Gerstmann's book Same-Sex Marriage and the Constitution, originally published in The New Republic. Gerstmann argues that Supreme Court precedent supports an equal protection right to homosexual marriage. Posner's verdict: the book is "careful, interesting, worthwhile, though ultimately unconvincing." If the following quote doesn't make you want to read the whole review, there's something wrong with you:
It is a strange implication of Gerstmann's approach that if a man wanted to marry his sterile sister, his eighty-year-old grandmother, three other women, two men, and his chihuahua, a court would have to turn somersaults to come up with a "compelling state interest" that would forbid these matches.
Item two is a recording of a radio debate between Posner and an M.I.T. political philosopher named Joshua Cohen on the merits of deliberative democracy. Cohen thinks there are many; Posner thinks there are essentially none. Highlight: a caller late in the show characterizes Posner's views as "bordering on fascism." Posner responds with a genial chuckle.

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

DUCT TAPE THAT ALMANAC SHUT! 

A new entry in the annals of Weird Advice From Our Government On How To Protect Ourselves From Terrorism: FBI issues alert against Almanac toters.

Monday, December 29, 2003

PIZZA POLITICAL PROGNOSTICATION 

Reuters reports:
[P]eople with "Dean for President" bumper stickers on cars in their driveways tipped 22 percent higher than people with "Bush for President" bumper stickers. People with "Bush for President" bumper stickers were three times more likely to order meat-topped pizzas than "Dean for President" drivers.
No word on Lieberman or Kerry supporters' tipping styles or preferences. Every one else might as well concede now. It's definitely gonna be a Bush v. Dean race.

A LOOK AT MY NAVEL 

Spitbull experienced a mini-Instalanche starting this last weekend when Howard Bashman at How Appealing took note of our Circuits of Hell postings (7th and 9th). Now the one true god of Instalanches has had one of his own caused by his post about, of all things, cookware. I guess it wasn't really an Instalanche though; it was a surge in e-mail, not link, traffic (do we need some new jargon?).

Spitbull's sudden traffic spike shouldn't be all that surprising (I was surprised anyway). An obvious corollary to Joe Carter's (of the Evangelical Outpost) rule #1 to becoming a top blog ("be a lawyer") is to write posts that appeal to lawyers. But Glenn Reynolds' cookware experience makes me wonder: is there any way to generalize about what posts people find interesting? Post comments would be one measure and they're pretty easy to find and therefore to automate. Eschaton's famous (or infamous) Saddam capture post had over 350 comments when I checked it on December 14 (the comments are still there but the total no longer appears). But there's no easy way to figure out the e-mail traffic provoked by a particular post.

The two most significant features of blogging are, to my mind: (1) it's interactive; (2) it's cheap to free. Both features are important not only to blog visitors but also to bloggers. We bloggers do this for free (almost always) and one form of non-monetary recompense we receive is the illusion that people find what we write to be of interest. Since we here at Spitbull rarely get e-mail and we don't (yet) use Movable Type with its built-in comments feature, site and link traffic is our best indicator of reader interest. (The unkind ribbing of our family and friends doesn't count).

Okay. Now we'll see if Aaron Haspel of God of The Machine is right: "one key lesson of blogging: since the most devoted audience of blogs is bloggers, navel-gazing will always boost your hit count."

Sunday, December 28, 2003

COLUMNISTS' TOTENTANZ TUGS HEARTSTRINGS WORLDWIDE 

Doug Grow has upped the ante (and don't click on that link unless you've already registered with the Strib or are willing to do so now. Besides, the print-version headline alone really says it all: "Dog's plight tugs heartstrings worldwide.")

Now that each of the three main combatants has weighed in, I fear that the sentimentality competition among the Strib's teeming stable of bleeding-heart columnists, first identified by the Elder at Fraters, is entering a new and downright frightening stage. I can't help but think of the climax of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, when Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, and Lee Van Cleef array themselves around the tinkling music box, eyes darting and fingers twitching, for the final shootout to determine who gets the loot.

Kate, Nick, Doug: please, we beg of you! Nothing good can come of this! Drop your pens and stop this madness now, before it's too late!

Friday, December 26, 2003

BAD SANTA 

Considering that I got sick of Christmas music about two minutes after Thanksgiving, like I do every year, and that Christmas itself has finally trampled us underfoot, it's a little perverse to put together a list of my five favorite Christmas songs. But the songs themselves are perverse (or worse), so it sort of fits.

(5). Vinnie & the Stardusters: "XXXMas Song"
From Novelty Music for Casual Sex
Listen! (you'll have to click through; bastards won't let me link directly)

It sounds so chipper you almost forget it's about fisting. Tasteless, perhaps, but such lapses ought to be forgiven them, as the poor lads suffer from numerous medical and psychological problems. But they've bravely risen above their disabilities to inflict a permanent scar on the Minneapolis music scene and, indeed, the course of world history, which you can read all about here.

(4). Mojo Nixon and Skid Roper: "Son of Santa" / "Transylvanian Xmas" / "Jesus at McDonald's"
From Get Out of My Way! (Restless Records 72185-1) (reprised in part on the CD version of Frenzy)

These three songs comprise the second side of a 1986 EP by gonzo punk bluesman (pluesman? blunker?) and Don Henley-hater Mojo Nixon and his washboard-thumping sidekick Skid Roper. The first song chronicles the adventures of the Son of Santa upon his release from San Quentin (my favorite line: "I was drinkin' a Fanta with the Son of Santa / Down in Looos-iana"). The second is a spooky instrumental version of "Joy to the World" with Skid on harmonica and Mojo on bongos. The third is not strictly speaking a Christmas song, though it does mention Santa and Rudolph and (naturally) Jesus--and Allah and Buddha and Moses and Confucius ("I saw Confucius at a Kentucky Fried Chicken / He said, 'Mojo, it's . . . finger lickin'!") and John Lee Hooker and warm Schaefer beer. I end the list, arbitrarily, here.

I once took a leak next to Mojo in the blood-splattered men's room of a bar in Chicago where he and the New Duncan Imperials were performing together. As we took care of business we briefly took up the topic of the possible sources of the blood ("What the hell happened in here?" I think is what he said). But he was considerably drunker than I was and so we were unable to advance the inquiry much beyond these preliminary musings before our bladders emptied.

Mojo has lived an eventful life. Presently he has a day job as a flabby bearded DJ at a San Diego radio station. Sometimes he works naked, as documented by these and those profoundly disturbing images.

(3). Tom Lehrer: "A Christmas Carol"
From Songs & More Songs by Tom Lehrer
Listen! (to a live version; scoot the progress button up to 20:53)
Read the lyrics!

The world's greatest mathematician/musical satirist--think Mark Russell, if Mark Russell were a mathematician and funny--takes aim at the commercial spirit of Christmas. A rather obvious topic, it must be granted, but Lehrer's verbal panache carries the day. Best verse:
Relations, sparing no expense, 'll
Send some useless old utensil,
Or a matching pen and pencil.
("Just the thing I need, how nice!")
For further study: an interview in The Onion A.V. Club from 2000 and an animated version of "The Elements." (And for a less predictable take on Christmas and commerce, check this out.)

(2). Sonny Boy Williamson: "Santa Claus"
From The Essential Sonny Boy Williamson
Read the lyrics!

I can never quite make up my mind whether the greatest blues harpist ever was Little Walter Jacobs or Sonny Boy Williamson (Number II I'm talking, though Number I was a fine player too). But Sonny Boy wins hands down in the yuletide division of the competition. "Santa Claus" relates Sonny Boy's feverishly intense search through his baby's dresser drawers "tryin' to find out what did she bought me for Santa Claus." The search raises the ire of the landlady and the police but, strangely enough, not Sonny Boy's baby, who, having inexplicably told him where she hid his gift in the first verse, leaves the stage without returning. The song is reputed to have been made up on the fly during a drunken studio session in 1960, and lyrics sure fit that description, but the performance itself is crisp and biting: half blues, half rock and roll, and all Sonny Boy.

The song is also available on a Rhino Records compilation called Blue Yule, which I don't own but which looks first-rate.

(1). Elvis Presley: "Santa Claus is Back in Town"
From If Every Day Was Like Christmas (also on The Complete 50's Masters, CD 3)
Listen and read the lyrics! (this reeks of copyright infringement, by the way, so don't let the jack-booted thugs at Elvis Presley Enterprises know)

According to the liner notes for If Every Day Was Like Christmas, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller whipped this up on demand when it became apparent at the end of the recording session for Elvis' 1957 Christmas album that one more track was needed. They must have been laughing out loud as they composed it: their Santa has traded in his reindeer and sleigh for a "big black Cadillac" and issues a command to "Hang up your pretty stockings, turn off the light / Santa Claus is comin' down your chimney tonight," which I would peg at about 1.1 on the entendre meter. For his part Elvis rises (or sinks, depending on your perspective) to the occasion and turns in a bravura barrelhouse performance, including a lascivious, sotto voce "Hah hah hah" just before the piano break. You can't listen to this song and not imagine strippers.

But the most curious thing about "Santa Claus is Back in Town" is the very end of it. The Jordanaires harmonize "Christmas . . . Christmas . . . Christmas" just like they did at the top and again in the middle, but instead of bumping and grinding into another verse, the song drifts away on a piano arpeggio followed by an odd chord, not quite jarring but distant and even a bit regretful. It sounds like someone opening the blinds too early on an uncomfortably bright morning after. I don't want to read too much into the tossed off ending of a tossed off (but brilliant) song, but it's hard not to hear the gospel-singing, mama-loving side of Elvis' personality, having allowed the hip-swivelling, rock-and-roll-inventing side its bawdy little romp, getting in its two cents' worth of tsk-tsks. And that's why this song gets to be Number One.

TWISTED TITLE #4 

This week's selection is:
Don't Tell Daddy What the Mailman Brought Mommy Today

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

WE WISH YOU A MERRY CHRISTMAS, WE WISH YOU ... 

I've had the opportunity to attend not one but TWO kid Christmas programs this year. Like the superiority of Charlie Brown's Christmas to all the celeb razzle-dazzle xmas numbers, there's nothing like a nice amateurish children's Christmas program held together with rubber bands and tape to make you feel like maybe, just this year, you might be able to get in the proper yuletide mood.

The first was a dance "recital" that while, not strictly Christmas themed, sent the little pink-clad ballerina-hopefuls to tumble and twirl to a number of Christmas music chestnuts. The teacher/toddlerwrangler was hugely pregnant but gamely mimed the moves to help her confused charges through their numbers. One little sugarplum spent about half her number adjusting her tutu. Among the parental paparazzi was one James Lileks who posted a snapshot of his progeny here.

The other was an honest-to-goodness musical Christmas Program put on by a local K-8 Catholic school. The kindergarteners were adorable in their low budget tinsel halos and paper accordion wings. Afterwards, one of the moms I knew pointed out a little boy and confided that he was definitely *not* typecast. But oh what a difference nine years makes! The eighth graders consisted of a bunch of beautiful vampy girls (one looked ready to belt out a number at some Las Vegas casino) and greasy pudge pot boys who grinned and elbowed each other. I vaguely remember this from my youth but finally getting an outsider perspective on it makes the whole situation look tragic.

I feel my own Christmas tree embodies the entire spectrum. Bedecked with homemade snowmen and tinsel, it is both earnest and slutty. Now to await Santa...

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

NINTH CIRCUIT OF HELL 

Crescat Sententia and the Curmudgeonly Clerk disagree about Ninth Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski, coiner of the famed (in some circles, at least) Toyota Principle of personal responsibility: "You asked for it, you got it." Will Baude of Crescat thinks he sounds like a lot of fun; the Clerk thinks he sounds insufferable. Both opinions were prompted by a recent Legal Affairs profile in which Judge Kozinski himself provides the definitive (I believe) opinion: he's "sort of weird" (offered as an explanation for why he was turned down by 18 of 20 law firms after graduation).

If specifying which of your six pet chickens (say, Veronica or Heckle) laid the particular eggs you are giving away as gifts (to your clerks? the profile doesn't say), one oddity cited in the profile, is weird, then what about keeping score of the mice executed by your cat (an eccentricity displayed by Seventh Circuit Judge Richard Posner)? Maybe all great jurists are kind of weird.

The profile depicts a judge in love with making trouble. His clerk rejects an email: "You can't send this. It's not as if we're not being listened to! Come on, Judge, it's just too much." Sounds like the makings of a great blogger, though.

ROCK 'EM SOCK 'EM ROCKERS 

Since so many of you have come to rely on Spitbull to keep you abreast of the news, we thought we'd give you a head start on a story you'll probably read or hear about sometime today:
Jack White is expected to turn himself in to police on Tuesday to be arraigned on a charge of aggravated assault, according to Detroit police.

The charge stems from a fight that took place December 13 between the White Stripes frontman and Jason Stollsteimer, singer for the garage rock band the Von Bondies (see "Jack White Brawls With Fellow Garage Rocker At Detroit Club"). After talking to nine witnesses who were at the Detroit rock club the Magic Stick, where the incident took place, the Wayne County prosecutor determined on Monday (December 22) that White attacked Stollsteimer and the Von Bondies frontman didn't fight back, a spokesperson at the prosecutor's office said.

White will be charged with aggravated assault because of the severity of the beating. Aggravated assault is more serious than simple assault, and can include assault with a deadly weapon, or assault with intent to rape, maim or murder. Stollsteimer's right eye was badly bruised and swollen shut, his nose was swollen and bloody and his forehead was bruised.

According to witnesses, White had tried to speak with Stollsteimer, then became enraged when he was ignored, so he spat in Stollsteimer's face, threw him to the ground and repeatedly punched his eye and nose until witnesses separated them, the spokesperson said.

White has been given the opportunity to turn himself in for booking, after which a court date will be set. If he doesn't show, Detroit police will issue a non-in-custody warrant for his arrest.

If convicted, White could face up to a year in jail, but the spokesperson for the prosecution said that since he has no criminal history, he would likely just be served with probation.

The night of the brawl, Stollsteimer filed a complaint against White, who filed a cross-complaint, saying he didn't start the fight and was defending himself against the Von Bondies singer.

A spokesperson for White was not available for comment.
It's refreshing to see a rock star run afoul of the law for something manly like getting into a fistfight with another rock star, rather than, say, diddling a cancer boy.

Assuming both count as rock stars. Jack White does, I think it's safe to say, but Jason Stollsteimer? The Von Bondies? I've never heard of them. So I checked them out on amazon.com, and their 2001 album Lack of Communication appears to rawk. And Sire Records has built them a fancy shmancy website to promote their new, not-yet-released album Pawn Shoppe Heart, which is star-like treatment (though pretty minimally so, given that these days everyone and his brother has a website, literally so in my case). So I guess Stollsteimer qualifies as a rock star too. Especially now that Jack White has kicked his ass.

Which makes me wonder: is this whole imbroglio just a publicity stunt to generate buzz for the Von Bondies' new album? And what is this very post that you are now reading but an ad for the Von Bondies? Damn you, record company weasels! The least you could do is send me a check.

Monday, December 22, 2003

WE MAY NOT BE FAIR BUT WE TRY TO BE BALANCED (Part 2) 

We have the Arabs to thank for bringing us the spirits.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

WE THREE KINGS OF SCARBOROUGH FAIR 

Simon and Garfunkel are guilty of many transgressions, chiefly of the overblown schmaltz variety. But ripping off "We Three Kings" with "Scarborough Fair," as J.B. Doubtless at Fraters Libertas recently claimed? I don't think so.

According to the "Sold on Song" page on the BBC Radio 2 website, "Scarborough Fair" is a traditional English ballad, and it's at least two centuries old; according to another source, the song dates to the late medieval era. "We Three Kings," on the other hand, was written in 1857 by an American clergyman named John Henry Hopkins, Jr. as part of a Christmas pageant for the General Theological Seminary in New York City. If there's any filching here, Mr. Hopkins is the guilty party.

Not that there's not much evidence of filching. Both songs, it is true, are in a minor key: Martin Carthy's rendition of "Scarborough Fair" on the BBC page (more on Carthy below) appears to be in D minor, while the sheet music for "We Three Kings" indicates E minor, though the remarkably listenable version recorded by kooky multi-instrumentalist jazzman Rahsaan Roland Kirk under the name "We Free Kings" is, like Carthy's "Scarborough Fair," in D minor, if my untutored ear and rudimentary ability to accompany the song on guitar are to be trusted. Both songs, it is also true, are in triple meter. And the first-line endings of both songs ("Scar-bor-ough-Fair"; "or-i-ent-are") are melodically identical: E-F-E-D (if we're in D minor, and if the foregoing caveats regarding my ear and guitar are kept in mind).

But the world is awash in minor-key triple-meter songs, and apart from those four first-line-ending notes, the two songs are completely different in character. "We Three Kings" stays close to its tonic home, moving away only by baby steps and quickly returning, and its oom-pah-pah oom-pah-pah rhthym is ploddingly regular throughout: WE three KINGS of ORient ARE (pah-pah) / BEARing GIFTS we TRAverse aFAR (pah-pah). Et cetera, et cetera. This is what makes it so easy for small children, the tone-deaf, and blog readers (admit it, you were singing along just now, weren't you?) to perform, which no doubt accounts for its annoyingly enduring popularity. "Scarborough Fair," by contrast, features wider intervals (the distance from "Fair" at the end of the first line and "sage" three notes into the second line is a full octave, for example) and a less predictable beat (the accent on the first syllable of "parsley" come on the second beat of the measure rather than the first, a fillip far too subtle for the implacable Mr. Hopkins). Throw in its wistful and melancholic overall feel and you've got a song that's tailor-made for earnest folkies and the overly fey and unsingable by anyone else.

Despite all this, Simon and Garfunkel's version of "Scarborough Fair" was in fact filched. Paul Simon learned "Scarborough Fair" from the aforementioned Martin Carthy when Simon was hanging around the UK folk scene in 1965. But when Simon and Garfunkel put the song on their third album in 1966, in essentially the same form that Simon had learned from Carthy, they claimed it as their own composition, and they did nothing to correct the error when the song vaulted into prominence by way of its inclusion on "The Graduate" soundtrack the following year. Simon and Carthy made nicey-nice in 2000 when Paul invited Martin onstage to perform the song together during a London concert, and the two have recast the record company and publisher as the villains. (A summary of the spat is available on Olav Torvund's Guitar Pages.) But 25 years is an awfully long time to allow such a misconception to linger. It's not copyright infringement--the song itself is obviously in the public domain, and Carthy had no rights to his arrangement until it was fixed in a tangible medium, which seems to have postdated his teaching of the song to Simon--but it smells a lot like plagiarism. And whatever it's called, it's pretty shoddy.

Friday, December 19, 2003

TWISTED TITLE #3 

This week's selection:
Tripling Your Lemonade Stand Sales With Vodka

Thursday, December 18, 2003

THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT 

The Fratersians have set up an easy way to donate to a worthy cause: an orphanage in Chihuahua, Mexico. The Elder himself will be delivering the proceeds personally in February, so this is as close to a one-to-one dollars-to-needs transfer as you're ever going to find. The only downside is that they are turning the kids there into Vikings fans, which seems like an entirely gratuitous bit of cruelty, but put that aside and throw some money in the pot if you can. Muchas gracias.

BUBBLICIOUS 

Although I still have not been swayed from my former anti-quiz stance, recent reader submissions have softened me up a bit and now I have capitulated entirely.

Admittedly, these submissions are examples of generators rather than quizzes. You could say the fact I prefer them to quizzes shows I don't like being asked questions and would rather control the game (a statement that could also be made of Saddam Hussein--but would he ever use a moniker like "Eloise" for his blog?). Or, more likely, I'm simply making a shameless play for blog traffic.

If you want more, you can find a Nigerian scam email generator and many other toys here and here. I'm sorry, it's just that you all seem so overworked...

EVERY JOKE NEEDS A BUTT 

Here's a round-up of some of the Saddam humor cooked up by our nation's corps de comedians. My favorite is "Hiding in Holes for Dummies — A Reference for Gutless Dictators." The Warrior Monk favors a more pictorial view.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

PRESIDENTIAL ROLEPLAY 

Harvard's Berkman Center and the Howard Dean Campaign have just teamed up to offer a public discussion, using very expensive non-blog technology, of what you would do if you were elected President of the United States in 2004. At least that's what I think they're asking--there is a lot of dross:
[...]

Now you are President of the United States, a position perceived by many as responsible for the health, safety, financial security and well-being of two-hundred sixty million people, plus the peace and prosperity of the entire world. You are also responsible to the mandate of your campaign -- to change the role of the president of the United States, shifting power from the White House and to the American people. The night after you are elected, you receive 2 million email messages from supporters. Not surprisingly, each supporter seems to believe that he or she has been elected co-president and stands ready to guide your domestic and foreign policy.

How do you, elected on a platform of citizen empowerment, govern? What opportunities and challenges are made possible by the personal relationships and communities that your campaign has established? How will your government be shaped by social software and political engagement? What is your personal role as president
?
You all are dying to get in on the discussion, aren't you?

I WONDER WHAT THEY'LL DO WITH HIS HOLE 

Ah, the joys of Photoshop. How did we ever get along without it?

UPDATE: The joke went from lame to incomprehensible when Ralphie's permalink went wobbly (go figure!). Fixed now.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

FRUITCAKE MYSTERY SOLVED! 

Every holiday season you can count on a few fruitcake-themed features from the so-called "news" media. So I thought to myself, Spitbull's gotta get on this bandwagon! (I think the Warrior Monk is off hibernating somewhere, recovering from his recent spate of late night postings, so can't make trouble for me here).

The weird thing is, I haven't seen a fruitcake in the flesh since the 1970's (note to friends/family: refrain from sudden fruitcake gift for me this xmas; joke obvs.) So I'm skeptical of all the reports of 1.5 million fruitcakes shipped to 200,000 countries (and this from just one bakery) and total sales of over $100 million. Where are do all the fruitcakes go? (Yes, I'm aware of Johnny Carson's famous thesis that there's only one, and it just hasn't gotten to me yet.)

I poked around and discovered that fruitcake can be made in heart-healthy, diabetic-friendly, pumpkin, vegetarian, gluten-free, cornflake, "free range" (?), and even alcohol-free (what's the point?) models. Of course, they're all billed as appealing even to fruitcakeaphobes.

In the process, I think I solved my mystery: the fruitcakes are confiscated by airport security, just as fast as they're made.

Now, if I could only figure out where all the candy canes I hang on my Christmas tree disappear to, I'd be set.

JACK AND MARILYN, BILL AND MONICA . . . DENNIS AND GINA 

I just had the weirdest dream! I was surfing the Internet and I came across this news article about Dennis Kucinich and a woman who already has a live-in boyfriend going out on a date together which consisted of eating oatmeal at a steakhouse and discussing a single-payer health-care system.

Damn! Your subconscious mind sure can cook up some freaky stuff, huh?

Monday, December 15, 2003

THE EMPEROR HAS NO RAZOR 

Is the footage of Saddam Hussein’s scalp and mouth inspection, now playing ad infinitum on a 24-hour cable news channel near you, humiliating? Some have said so (no links at hand, sorry to say; just check the usual suspects), but when I first saw the footage Sunday morning I was struck by how dispassionate and clinical, how civilized and humane it seemed. When the Iraqis lucked into capturing those hapless, wrong-turning American grunts back in March, they beat them bloody and then paraded them at gunpoint on television; we capture the capo di capo after an intensive, months-long search and we . . . check his hygiene on television.

In a sense this is humiliating, but it’s a salutary humiliation, and one in keeping with American ideals of democracy and equality. Grandly: no man is above the law; colloquially: I don’t give a damn who you are, buddy, it’s my job to check heads for lice, and I’m gonna check your head for lice. If the issue is how this footage plays in the proverbial Arab street, I think the answer is that it should play well, or at least appropriately, in a good-medicine kind of way. That is, it shows, in a compressed, symbolic way, the difference between the tyrannies and theocracies that have brutalized Iraq and its neighbors for so long and the kind of government that with any luck will rule Iraq and its neighbors in the future. And if how it plays in the Arab street is not the issue, then who really gives a damn, since he deserves infinitely worse treatment.

Oh, and another thing that struck me: when someone who looks for all the world like a wino has been living in hole for God knows how long, what the hell must his breath smell like? That poor guy with the tongue depressor earned his Purple Heart right there.

WARNING: INTRA-BLOG CHATTER COMMENCING IN THREE...TWO...ONE... 

I became a libertarian to get chicks.

Back to you, Eloise.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

SEVENTH CIRCUIT OF HELL 

If you haven't yet checked out Howard Bashman's 20 Questions with Seventh Circuit Judge Richard A. Posner from a couple weeks back, it's worth a look. Posner is perhaps best known among the general public as the failed mediator in the Microsoft antitrust case--failed in the sense that parties were unable to reach an agreement under his watch--but within the legal community he is widely considered to be the most influential (for good or ill; he has many detractors) jurist and scholar of the last fifty years. (Full disclosure: I have read many of Posner's books, articles, and opinions, I agree with much of what he has written, and I took two classes with him in law school, in which I received grades slightly lower than my spectacularly average average.)

We learn among other things that his beloved cat Dinah has executed 52 mice to date (he keeps score, apparently); that he is offically eccentric, not loony (see previous parenthetical); and that he has never advocated baby selling, only baby leasing, with a back-end option to buy.

Actually I made that last bit up. Here is what he really says about that baby-selling business, in the context of his answer to a question about whether he thinks he would have been confirmed if his nomination had come before today's Senate:
I would have some trouble being confirmed today, though I might squeeze through the way Mike McConnell did, with support from liberal law professors like Cass Sunstein. (My notorious "baby selling" article had been published before I became a judge, yet didn't block me. And, by the way, let me take this opportunity to correct the record: neither in the article, nor in my subsequent writing on family law and economics, have I ever advocated "baby selling." I have merely pointed out the consequences of the present legal regime, in which monetary transfers incident to adoption are (nominally) capped, and have suggested, by way of experiment only, that some adoption agencies be permitted to pay women contemplating abortion to carry the fetus to term and put the newborn child up for adoption. I continue to think it would be a worthwhile experiment.)
Inhuman monster!

He also praises Larissa MacFarquhar's December 2001 New Yorker profile of him (available here) as "witty, perceptive, and on the whole accurate, though there are a few points that I would take issue with." He doesn’t elaborate on which these points are, though he does say that she "exaggerated" his role in the law and economics movement, which is a little like Michael Jordan claiming that he didn’t have much to do with another Chicago success story. More genuinely disputable is her rather hamhanded attempt to explain the Coase Theorem, the bedrock insight behind the economic analysis of law and the basis for Coase’s Nobel Prize; David Friedman provides a much abler if longish explanation, if you’re interested.

Also, I wonder if Posner knows about this, from a transcript of a presentation that MacFarquhar gave at Northwestern University on November 17 of this year:
For instance, I was writing an article about Judge Richard Posner, a federal judge in Chicago and also a legal theorist. He's written about 40 books, but I read a good number of them and I very much disagreed with his views. He's very conservative and a radical critic of the way justice is currently perceived in this country. I was so immersed in his reading and his writing that I became actually terrified to meet him. This man was Satan, this man actually wants to destroy our country. I worked myself into a kind of near-hysteria and I was quaking when I rang his bell. As it turns out, he's a lovely person, very amusing and we got along great. But, that fearful reaction is the kind of hysteria I can work myself up into because I'm so immersed in the person. I try to open myself to them in a way that you don't usually with the people you meet.
It’s unusual for a journalist to be this candid about her antipathy toward her subject. In this case I think she did an acceptable job of overcoming it, her rather shaky grasp of law and economics principles notwithstanding; the profile was chilly but evenhanded, and after all Posner himself was happy enough with it. Still, it makes you wonder how often Satan gets a fair shake.

Friday, December 12, 2003

LIBERTARIAN SHMIBERTARIAN 

The Elder at Fraters Libertas is impressed with Joe Carter's post on why he is not a libertarian. I am impressed by Berkeley Breathed's explanation on the same subject:
"I'd be a Libertarian, if they weren't all a bunch of tax-dodging professional whiners." (via the Onion)
Time to 'fess up Monk!

UPDATE: Professor King Banian at SCSU Scholars dodges the question.

WE MAY NOT BE FAIR, BUT WE TRY TO BE BALANCED 

Here at Spitbull, we often get our noses out of joint at the bias and most egregiously, the sheer laziness of the media. But we don't really think they belong in the lowest circle of hell, we just sometimes talk trash. Here's proof: journalists can sometimes be heroes (via Romenesko).

TWISTED TITLES 

This week's selection:
Playground Bullies Love Boys Who Wear Pink

Thursday, December 11, 2003

NIGHTMARE ON SCHOOL STREET 

Everyone I know has had the standard "oh my god it seems it's finals time and I totally forgot to go to class and didn't crack a book all semester what do I do?" anxiety nightmare. But I had no idea teachers have their own version:

I dreamed I was reading my students' course evaluations, and all their comments were not only negative, but horribly detailed. ...here's the proof, I thought to myself, looking at the evaluations, that I've got to change careers.[more-by a Midwestern English professor]
I feel very sympathetic. Nightmares suck, both during the throes and often upon reflection ("how embarrassing that I'm so wigged out by *that* little thing").

Did I tell you I didn't see most of The Wizard of Oz until after college? I was so scared of the tornado scene, had nightmares for years, that I never made it past Dorothy's arrival in Munchkinland.

Something else I'm not terribly proud about: yes, I felt sympathy, but there is also some kind of guilty pleasure in knowing that teachers go bump in the night too.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

OPEN MAILBOX, ADD WATER, AND PRESTO! INSTANT POST! 

A sampling from the, um, underflowing Spitbull mailbox:

  • Regarding my disgust with the Republicans' spend-o-rrhea and my suggestion that a split Republican-Democratic government might serve as the Pepto-Bismol (and that's enough of that metaphor), one reader proposes another solution: term limits. I agree that term limits could have the salutary effect of lessening the pressure on lawmakers to drop a couple of billion dollars into every outstretched hand. The problem is that term limits, like the flat tax, is currently about as dead as a political issue can be. It will probably be resurrected some day, but certainly not before November, so it's not really practical as an immediate remedy. Plus, I think there is much to said for divided government in general: the more they bicker, the less they get done, and the less they get done, the less they screw up.

  • Regarding the same issue, another correspondent expresses some dissatisfation with the spending spree but asks "why would you rather have both a spending spree AND higher taxes? Are you daft? At least the Republicans got ONE thing right." To which I say cutting taxes at the same time that you greatly increase spending is getting NOTHING right. Call me old-fashioned, but I think spending more than you take in is irresponsible. (So does Andrew Sullivan.) With the Republicans acting like Democrats there is no brake on federal spending at all right now. If the Democrats controlled Congress again maybe the Republicans would revert to what I thought were their principles and reintroduce a voice of fiscal sanity in Washington.

    Besides, if recent history is any guide, the only party committed to spending sprees right now is the Republicans. Clinton, for all his faults, at least gave us a balanced budget. And yeah, the economy helped him out, and yeah, the Republican Congress pushed him in that direction, but who among the Republicans now in power is even talking about balanced budgets or spending restraint? They don't seem to give a shit. They just buy off half the voters with tax cuts and the other half with shameless handouts for no apparent reason other than to simply stay in power.

    The only justification I can think of for the binge is that we're all Keynesians now, and that it's government's job to borrow money (it's gotta come from somewhere, and if you cut taxes you're necessarily financing this binge on the credit card) and pump it into the economy, and that we'll somehow magically grow our way out of a deficit that already exceeds $400 billion.

    I've always been extremely skeptical of the efficacy of fiscal policy as a tool for stimulating the economy, but let's assume for the sake of discussion that it can work in general and is working right now (the recent uptick in many economic indicators being undeniable). How does that justify the way in which this spending binge has been conducted? If the government has to spend money to stimulate the economy (a big if, I reiterate), does it really have to spend it on the likes of peanut subsidies and the Department of Education (which the "principled" Republicans once sought to abolish) and choo-choo trains?

    And even if fiscal policy works, where's the guarantee that spending will be cut in the future? That is my biggest objection to fiscal policy: it encourages government to have the party now (cut taxes, increase spending) and to postpone actually paying for everything until some vague future time, which usually means never. Thus the endless ratcheting up of the size of the federal government.

  • Finally, a knowledgeable reader provides insight into the possibility of a federal kidnapping prosecution in the Dru Sjodin case, which I raised in a post last week:
    You're right that 18 U.S.C. § 1201 can be a capital offense. You are also right that a state border has to be crossed, or it's not federal kidnapping. Offhand, I can't think of any other federal offense that might apply to this case.

    Note that the inquiry wouldn't stop there though. After you have a death-eligible offense, you have to figure out whether there are proportionality and aggravating factors. The statutory proportionality and aggravating factors for Title 18 homicide offenses are listed under 18 U.S.C. §§ 3591(a)(2)(A)-(D) and 3592(c). At least one of the statutory proportionality factors listed under Section 3591(a)(2) plus at least one of the statutory aggravating factors listed under Section 3592(c), must be found to exist before the death penalty may be considered for these offenses. See 18 U.S.C. § 3593(d) and (e)(1).

    The issue in the Sjodin case would be the 3592(c) factors, but I bet it would be no problem. Probably (c)(4) is met, for instance. After they find that poor girl, there might be others apparent, such as (c)(6). It's weird, but (c)(1) might not be available. At least last time I checked, there was at least some case law that says you can't use kidnapping both as the underlying offense and also the aggravating factor.

    You are right that Ashcroft is a true believer in the death penalty, and I know that it's true sometimes even in cases where the prosecuting AUSA recommends against. There is a history of deference to state prosecutors for traditional state crimes, but I don't think that would stop him here. (As a procedural matter, there is a capital crimes review committee in the DOJ in DC which would consider the matter, including a pitch from the defense attorneys, then make a recommendation to the AG.)

    Maybe the biggest obstacle would be the practical one. Maybe you could pick a jury that would impose the death penalty in North Dakota, I don't know, but the defense would move (undoubtedly successfully) for a change of venue due to pretrial publicity. They would try to move it to Minneapolis. See the problem?
    Indeed I do. It's also a problem with the Chicken Little reaction that Doug Grow, Nick Coleman, and many others of that ilk had to Pawlenty's comments. In the unlikely event that Minnesota enacts a death penalty, you'd still need to find a Minnesota jury willing to impose it. Maybe Grow, Coleman et al. should trust the people they purport to speak for just a little bit more.

  • Tuesday, December 09, 2003

    ARE YOU QUIZZICAL? 

    2Blowhards (an excellent blog I plan to petition the Warrior Monk to include on our blogroll) had a post several weeks ago entitled "Greats I Don't Get." The post invited visitors to answer the question "what indisputably great art do you blank out on?" Of course, it's lovely to have such an erudite writer give his readers permission (nay, practically beg them) to dislike some great art. I read the post, and eventually some of the comments (there were over 100) with interest, and then realized that I was way out of my league. So I'd like to go downmarket a bit and pose (and, of course answer) the the question "what indisputably popular Internet form do you blank out on?" Well, I don't get Internet personality quizzes.

    It seems everyone loves personality quizzes. I don't; I've never even been slightly tempted to take one. But I'm kind of fascinated by their very existence. You can find out where you stand on the political compass (even the Warrior Monk succumbed to this one) or, more specifically, whether you are a neoconservative, an imperialist or a fascist.

    For the less political among you, you can find out about which characters from any number of movies (Pulp Fiction, The Princess Bride, Pirates of The Caribbean, Star Wars, Dune), television shows (M*A*S*H, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and even Saved By The Bell; there are too many Friends quizzes for me to provide a link) and books (Lord of the Rings and its other trilogy mates, Harry Potter, Lolita and even The Brothers Karamazov) you most resemble. Feeling juvenile? Find out which Teletubby, Powerpuff Girl or Winnie-The-Pooh character is your evil twin.

    Are you you a geek? A freak? The web knows all. Are you pretentious? A complainer? Or, god help us, a romantic, perhaps a jealous one?

    If you learn you are boring, you can find out whether you are a baby bore, car bore or rock bore. And then what? Professional help, I suppose.

    Well, are you a Positive Thinker? No? Don't despair! Find out your true thinking "style"
    and then get advice about which college would best benefit from it.

    Some folks evidently care to know what flavor Tic-Tac they would be, were they a Tic-Tac. Not a Tic-Tac fan? Maybe you'd like to know what animal cracker, fruit, dessert, wine or even pattern (?) you *really* are.

    Hey! Computer nerds! Want to know which operating system, HTML color or computer virus best describes you? No takers?

    But don't think all quizzes are so frivolous! You can find out how many days you have left before departing this vale of tears (Wait! perhaps you should first select a religion, with expert help of course). The carrot (or stick)? Your designated circle of hell.

    Oh yes, and there's my favorite: How Gullible Are You?

    Legal Disclaimer: SPITBULL IS PROVIDING THESE LINKS TO YOU ONLY AS A CONVENIENCE, AND THE INCLUSION OF ANY LINK DOES NOT IMPLY ENDORSEMENT BY SPITBULL OF THE SITE. Especially because I haven't tried any of them. I remain, to this day, an Internet Quiz Virgin because I Just Don't Get Them. Please explain.

    UPDATE: Virginia Postrel at Dynamist is California and Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit is 31.25% owned by his weblog (both via quizzes I didn't include because the post was already so long). Atomizer at FraterLibertas and The Chosen Monkey at Infinite Monkeys are both plaid. And me? I am .... still stumped.

    Friday, December 05, 2003

    DER TOD UND DAS MÄDSCHEN 

    Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty's recent comments about the death penalty and the Dru Sjodin disappearance have caused quite a kerfuffle among the hand-wringers, who are legion in these icy precincts. (The wringing generates frictional heat, I guess.)

    First, the comments (from a story in Wednesday's St. Paul Pioneer Press):
    "I think I speak for most Minnesotans — as a Minnesotan, as governor, as dad of two young daughters: I'm fed up," he said at a news conference, reacting to the arrest of a convicted sexual offender in the Nov. 22 disappearance of University of North Dakota senior Dru Sjodin.

    Pawlenty said Sjodin's case was the "tipping point" in his decision.

    * * *

    He said he wanted juries to have the option of imposing the death penalty for "heinous crimes," such as murders of police officers and children, or in cases of murder or attempted murder where there is also a rape or attempted rape.
    Next, the kerfuffle. As noted by Saint Paul at Fraters Libertas yesterday, Star Tribune columnists Doug Grow and Nick Coleman both found Pawlenty's remarks "chilling" (Grow), chided Republicans for "flapping [their] lips" (Coleman) about how "if we have to kill 'em to get 'em off the street, that can be arranged" (Coleman's arch paraphrase of ... something, if only the fevered voices in his head), and drew an express comparison to "how lynch mobs worked" (Grow).

    Saint Paul aptly noted how the Strib's commitment to a diversity of voices consists of giving one of their columnar sinecures to a bleeding heart from Minneapolis and another to a bleeding heart from St. Paul. But I think he let them off too easy.

    Grow can't be serious about this lynch mob business, can he? Does he really think that an elected governor urging elected legislators to consider and enact a law is "how lynch mobs worked"? Sounds to me like the way democratic government works. If this had anything to do with how lynch mobs worked, we'd be cutting down an actual person--or persons--from an actual tree right now, not abstractly debating whether a not-yet-reconvened legislature should pass a hypothetical bill.

    As for lips, there's flapping aplenty on all sides. Critics are saying that Pawlenty is engaging in shameless politicking here, that he's twisting a sad and visceral story to his nefarious, moustache-twirling advantage (I know he doesn't have a moustache, but work with me here people, work with me). Why politicians should be pilloried for playing politics has always been beyond me. Besides, what's so awful about choosing a moment when the death penalty is likely to be on many people's minds to have a discussion about whether Minnesota should have a death penalty? Don't circumstances like these make it more rather than less likely that a death-penalty debate will be the vigorous, engaging, and fully participatory one that people like Grow and Coleman (purport to) want public issues to receive?

    And where's the shameless politicking in this (also from the PiPress article)?
    "There are people on both sides of the political continuum of thought who oppose this for very different reasons. And so it will be an uphill battle but I will push it," said Pawlenty.
    Acknowledging the existence of a wide range of views that cuts across party lines yet willing to take a position that is clear and thus is bound to be opposed by many--goddamn you, Pawlenty! Pandering, partisan hack!

    There's more. Again from the PiPress article (emphasis mine):
    It is unclear how much of an issue Pawlenty plans to make of the death penalty when the Legislature reconvenes in February. He has not stressed the issue in the past, and on Tuesday the death penalty was not raised in his printed statements, nor did he focus on the proposal except when asked to do so by reporters.

    But some suspect that may have been by design.


    "Timing is everything in politics," said professor Steven Schier, chairman of the political science department at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn.
    So. He's shamelessly politicking if he does discuss capital punishment, and he's shamelessly politicking if he doesn't. Makes you wonder which way the lynch mob is headed.

    POSTSCRIPT: There's a further irony in all this, mention of which I've heard only once, by local criminal defense attorney Joe Friedberg on Dan Barreiro's KFAN radio show Thursday evening (though since I haven't been paying especially close attention, others may have made this point too). If Sjodin is in fact dead and her body is in Minnesota--two big ifs, but given the amount of time that's passed since Sjodin's disappearance and the apparent Minnesota-centric focus of the police investigation, these ifs seem increasingly likely to shed their potentiality--then whoever ends up being charged probably will face the death penalty.

    Section 1201 of Title 18 of the United States Code sets forth the federal offense of kidnapping, and provides in relevant part as follows:
    [w]hoever unlawfully seizes, confines, inveigles, decoys, kidnaps, abducts, or carries away and holds for ransom or reward or otherwise any person . . . when . . . the person is willfully transported in interstate or foreign commerce, regardless of whether the person was alive when transported across a State boundary if the person was alive when the transportation began . . . shall be punished by imprisonment for any term of years or for life and, if the death of any person results, shall be punished by death or life imprisonment.
    Of course, it would be up to the Justice Department both to assert jurisdiction and to opt to seek the death penalty, but Friedberg says that Ashcroft et al. are eager to do so whenever the state in question (like North Dakota and Minnesota both) does not itself have the death penalty. A high-profile case like this one would seem to be the perfect cherry to pick. (I have no idea whether Friedberg is right about Ashcroft's modus operandi here, but I have at least one loyal reader from inside the belly of the beast--yes you, John--who I'm sure can set me straight.)

    TWISTED TITLES 

    When we were wee, the Warrior Monk and I were both fans of the Rocky & Bullwinkle Show's Fractured Fairy Tales. We think they stopped running them by 1970 (yes, this dates us), so we were overjoyed when we able to get our hands on a similarly twisted series and can bring these finds to you, our precious readers. (Let's just say we mugged an elf to get them; she's normally an upstanding citizen who never expected her darker side to see the light of day and we're now a bit afraid for our lives. Blogging can be a *very* risky proposition...)

    With great fanfare we announce our new Friday Feature: not ready for primetime children's book titles!
    1. Encyclopedia of Pointy Things Guaranteed to Put Your Eyes Out
    Visit Spitbull each Friday for a new offering. If you feel so inspired, email us with your suggestions of new titles. The fun never stops here at Spitbull!

    Thursday, December 04, 2003

    WESLEY CLARK WILL MAKE US RICH 

    Several weeks ago (we're so on top of things) the New York Times ran an article about the plans of a '90s dotcom millionaire to cash in on this here blogging phenomenon. The millionaire reportedly spends only "several hundred dollars to buy ads tied to certain keywords on Google's search engine, like 'Anna Wintour,'" thus cheaply beckoning traffic to his sites. This traffic he turns into cash, ala flax into gold, by selling ads via Google's AdSense.

    Here at Spitbull, we get a significant portion of our traffic from searches like (and I'm not making this up) "Brett Favre shirtless," "Doug Flutie shirtless," and (do you sense a theme yet?) "Wesley Clark shirtless." (If not for the quarterback-centric harbingers, we'd have chalked up the last as a mis-keying of "Wesley Clark shitless.") With this undoubtedly coveted demographic hanging on our every word, we figure we're ready to cash in too.

    But wait! The editor and publisher of Radar is quoted as warning "The low cost and few barriers that have made blogs an attractive business proposition may turn out to be their undoing, as everyone and their grandmother will soon have a blog."

    Now we're worried. Are we everyone? Or our grandmother? (Please, God, please: no search for "grandmother shirtless.")

    CAN WE DO THIS TO RUSH LIMBAUGH NEXT? 

    Jonesing for some direct democracy now that the California recall election is behind us? Saunter over to Ed Asner's favorite blog, Fraters Libertas. They are conducting a poll to decide the fate of Hugh "Ralphie" Hewitt--more specifically, the precise interval by which his days as a radio host shall be numbered.

    Good luck, Hugh. I hear they are hiring at the Liberal Radio Network.

    Wednesday, December 03, 2003

    BELLY UP TO THE BAR, PAL–UNCLE SAM'S BUYIN'! 

    Andrew Sullivan has been grousing about it for months. So have Tyler Cowen and Daniel Drezner. David Boaz fired a recent salvo in the op-ed page of the Washington Post. And I agree: The Republicans’ spending bender is staggering, even brazen.

    Just look at the numbers. Federal spending is up 23.7 percent since Bush took office. Well, we’re fighting a war, you say; of course spending has to rise? Think again. The vast majority of this increase–20.8 percent–represents non-defense discretionary outlays. By way of comparison, under Reagan’s watch such spending decreased 13.5 percent. In the first three years of the Clinton administration, such spending decreased 0.7 percent.

    What this money is being spent on rankles even more. Forget about the gigantic Medicare bill. How about peanut subsidies, which have gone from zero in the (supposedly) bad old Clinton days to $1.5 billion? Dairy subsidies likewise: $318 million in 1998 to $2.45 billion today. Or choo-choo trains. Many of us here in the Twin Cities whinge and sputter about the millions in public funds being spent on light rail, and rightfully so, but where’s the outcry over the feds’ doubling the Amtrak budget to over $1 billion? Perhaps worst of all is the Department of Education. Once it was a reliable bugbear of the Republicans; now it gets a 70 percent budget increase.

    David Brooks comments on all this in a recent New York Times piece (which I read in Tuesday’s Star Tribune but will link to here in my ongoing annoyance with the Strib’s registration policy). He provides a sensible enough review of the decades-long transformation of American conservatives from fringe movement to establishment sugar daddies. But consider his conclusion:
    Many conservatives are dismayed over what has happened to their movement as it has grown fat and happy in the Promised Land. A significant rift has opened up between the conservative think tankers and journalists, who are loyal to ideas, and the K Street establishmentarians, who are loyal to groups.

    The good news for Democrats is that the K Street establishment will slowly win this struggle. The majority will ossify. It will lose touch with its principles and eventually crumble under the weight of its own spoils. The bad news for Democrats is that, as Republicans can tell you, the ossification process is maddeningly slow. After the New Deal, it took 60 years.
    The “nyah nyah nyah!” tone of this seems awfully premature to me. The Republicans’ legislative majority is razor-thin, and Bush is an increasingly polarizing figure. I think that both are vulnerable in 2004, or at least would be if the Democrats weren’t in such disarray. And I’m starting to think that the country would be better off if the Republicans kept the White House (the war on terror being too important to entrust to anyone the Democrats have put forward so far) but the Democrats regained control of Congress. Because if the alternative to tax-and-spend liberals is tax-less-and-spend-more conservatives, this pragmatic libertarian (to borrow Daniel Drezner’s pet term) says gimme the former.

    Monday, December 01, 2003

    AND 40% OF NOTHING IS! ... OH I GET IT... 

    Welcome old and new visitors to our humble home. If you feel the site does not live up to the advertised "high standards," we apologize. The spike in traffic caused by the FratersElder's recent link is causing interference with the smooth functioning of our commentary. Please visit again when we have receded back into obscurity and we are certain you will be better accommodated.

    Oh, and I guess we forgive the "spawn" comment.