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Saturday, February 28, 2004

AT LEAST ERIC MILTON WAS CONTINENT 

Last night I dreamt that Twins pitcher Brad Radke gave up a two-run homer in the first inning on opening day and then had to leave the game because he wet his pants.

You read it here first.

Friday, February 27, 2004

NEXT THING YOU'LL TELL ME IS THAT ROSIE O'DONNELL IS GAY 

I have a hard time remembering names, faces, and statuses (statusi ?) like whether a given celebrity is dead or alive (strangely enough, I'm great with telephone numbers). So you could knocked me over with a feather duster when I learned that not only is Dennis Kucinich still in the race for President, but some people are continuing to show up for his speeches! One of my favorite blawgger kids reports that Mr. Kucinich spoke with Harvard Law students on Wednesday:
Kucinich outlined his plan to create a cabinet-level Department of Peace ... . The Department of Peace, he explained, would infuse the principles of peace into every aspect of society. In school, children would be introduced to "peace-making" and "peace-sharing" programs starting in the early grades. In homes suffering from domestic violence, abusers would be treated with "open-hearted compassion," with a focus on dealing not just with the effects of but with the underlying causes of violence in our society. Internationally, the Department would work with the nations of the world to transform relationships, and, in the spirit of the original United Nations charter, end war for good.
I guess I've got to stop just reading the headlines.

TWISTED TITLE #13 

This week's demented children's book title is:
Ask Dr. Science About the Birds and Bees (shipped in a brown wrapper)
To see last week's title, click here.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

I'M LAUGHING ALREADY 

At this year's U.S. Comedy Arts Festival (scheduled to giggle along March 3-7 in Aspen, Colorado), a panel featuring "an ideologically balanced group of important players in the entertainment and political worlds" and moderated by NBC's Campbell Brown will explore comedy in politics at an "event" dubbed Who's Funnier - The Left or the Right? No word whether Independent Ralph Nader has yet launched a protest.

Understandably, Spitbull has been blackballed.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

FULL PUNDIT EMPLOYMENT AMENDMENT 

It has caused, and will continue to cause, a whole lot of blog, but Bush's recently announced support for the Federal Marriage Amendment isn't likely to change many people's votes in this election. Even if it were to be passed (a long shot, many feel), there are few voters for whom this issue outtrumps the rest -- and I would guess that those few have always been likely to vote Democratic. Jane Galt of Asymmetrical Information, as usual, says it best:
[W]e've got some hard hitting economic issues, a war on terror, a reconstruction in Iraq, a budget deficit that would make the folks down at Shopaholics Anonymous blush, and a demographic crisis coming down the pike that's going to make all the rest of those issues look like a walk in the park. People are not going to decide who to vote for based on what they do, or do not believe, about the rights of a tiny percentage of the population to wed
It might be possible, I suppose, that Bush's stance could indirectly change votes. Emotional issues such as this get people to open up their wallets. And much of these donations could get funneled into political advertising (which, in theory, affects voters).

I'm figuring Spitbull could start running some BlogAds and come out ahead by, say, $4.12. Go FMA!

PROOF THAT WE'RE ALL A BUNCH OF OLD FARTS 

Nobody's blogging about the dinosaur barf!

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

HIGH ANXIETY 

The Blawgger kids have been worrying about their grades. Little Woody Allens that they are, the anxiety mercifully sometimes turns to comedy:
- Buffalo Wings and Vodka helpfully brainstorms possible responses to rude and unwelcome grade inquiries ("Come again? I am not from your country. Please pass the biscuits")

- Jeremy Blachman lists the Sneaking Into Registrar's Office And Giving Everyone Perfect Grades Editor as one of the myriad Law Review Leadership Positions currently up for election at his school.
I took the denial route when I was in law school. Although I was forced to pick up my grades one time for the law firm recruiting season, after that rude interruption I successfully pretended they didn't exist (law school is simply an intellectual exercise, no?) until graduation.

But it turns out Mr. Blachman's grade anxiety isn't so strong that it swamps his sense of priority:
So, basically, I really want to find out how I did, but I don't feel like finding out I don't know Constitutional Law very well, or at least I didn't show it on the exam, will do all that much to my self-esteem. A reader writing in to tell me my weblog sucks, however, will kill me.
Me too. Don't do it.

I GUESS "PULLMEOVER" WAS ALREADY TAKEN 

Personalized license plate on the big red Dodge Durango in front of me on the way to work this morning: BEERS.

Monday, February 23, 2004

ONE RECALCITRANT BOOK 

Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cowen comments on the ten books university professors think undergraduates should read. Number three on the list (after the Bible and the Odyssey) is Plato's Republic. Sticking in my own 2 cents (what else are blogs for?): I have always been more taken with Plato's Timaeus than The Republic.

Everybody says The Timaeus is a hard book (some call it "obscure and repulsive"). It is a tough book, in part because it's short and about well, pretty much everything. As a result it's dense; "dense" in the sense that it's crowded with ideas, packed into conversations that need to be decoded like mathematical proofs. I read it a long time ago so my memory of its difficulty has faded, like my recollection of childbirth, leaving one line behind:
Matter is recalcitrant.
This is Plato's explanation for why, despite that fact that it is working from those oh so perfect blueprints the Platonic Forms, it was not possible for the Creator (or "Demiurge") to reproduce them faithfully when creating our sensible world.

I like the line and remember it because the principle stretches well to cover far less profound contemporary misses. Plus, it makes its point with only three words. It is elegant, again like a mathematical proof--or the Form of one.

Now I just need to figure out the original Greek of the line and find myself a tattoo parlor.

DEMURRER AND COUNTERCLAIM 

Admission: I indeed spent the weekend with four other men at what must be the gayest hotel in Atlanta, and while I was there I indeed received, and politely but firmly declined, an offer of "southern hospitality" (his exact words, by the way).

Context: (1). We have five wives, eight children, and countless former girlfriends among us. (2). Two of us work for John Ashcroft. (3). If you would read "the best kind of budget hotel" and "good choice for families" in Frommer's to mean "flamingly queer," then you've got some pretty damned finely tuned gaydar.

Exculpation: Before checking out Sunday morning I took the Gideon Bible from the bed-table drawer, guessed that Leviticus would be the best place to look, with some luck quickly located the big daddy, circled it, bookmarked the page, and replaced the book in the drawer. I just might have saved a soul--what did you do with your weekend?

Sunday, February 22, 2004

HE'S TORTURING HIS LIVER, YOU SEE, INSTEAD OF BLOGGING 

Posts at Spitbull are often sparse on weekends. This weekend they are and will be even sparser than usual. The Warrior Monk is in Atlanta and in no state to blog, even if he had a computer with him, which he does not. I understand he's been eating oysters, washing them down with some kind of liquid, and fending off offers of "southern hospitality." His original plans have him returning to Minneapolis today, and he assured me that he packed his favorite anti-hangover remedy to give him a fighting chance of making the plane, but as yet we have no confirmation that he will live to blog another day.

We must all hope for the best.

Friday, February 20, 2004

SPEECH TURNS UNSERIOUS ... WEIRD, WHO COULD SHE BE TALKING ABOUT? 

Recently launched blog Wonkette morphs politics from a liver and onions meal into tiramisu (are my biases showing?). Well OK, it's a politics (and media) gossip site, but a spoonful of sugar helps the you-know-what go down, right?

Today, Wonkette blogs last night's National Press Foundation Annual Awards Dinner. Free sample:
7:00PM: There are a lot of old people here.
7:30PM.: Wolf Blitzer! Very short.
It's Friday folks. Go ahead and enjoy the whole thing.

TWISTED TITLE #12 

This week's demented children's book title is:
Look Both Ways Before Peeing in the Street
To see last week's title, click here.

RIGHTWRIGHTING 

Is the (historical) restriction of marriage to opposite-sex couples a denial of equal rights? Atomizer from Fraters Libertas thinks not:
To all you gay marriage supporters out there who think you are being denied your rights...knock it off. You have equal rights. I, as a straight male, can marry a female. You, as a gay male, can also marry a female. Should you choose not to marry a female, that's fine for you. If you choose to "marry" a male...I'm sorry, but, you can't. And neither can I!!! That sounds quite equal to me.
Convincing? Not really. Questions of equality depend crucially on how one characterizes the rights and classes involved. Atomizer chooses, cleverly, to define the right at issue as the right to marry someone from the opposite gender and the relevant classes as men and women. But one could alternatively define the right at issue as the right to marry the person of one's own choosing and the relevant classes as heterosexuals and homosexuals. Under the former account, no inequality results (as Atomizer notes): the law grants all men and all women, whether heterosexual or homosexual, the right to marry someone from the opposite gender. The latter account, on the other hand, does appear to generate an inequality: the law grants heterosexuals but not homosexuals the right to marry whom they choose (with the trivial exception of "convenience" marriages by homosexuals).

So which account--Atomizer's "opposite gender" conception of the right at issue or the alternative "my choice" conception--is better? As a purely logical matter both are plausible, and neither more so than the other. But as a practical matter surely the "my choice" conception makes more sense. It's at the heart of most current arguments for same-sex marriage, as any reader of Andrew Sullivan can wincingly attest. This means that most people are in fact thinking about the issue in these terms, even if it's not logically necessary to do so. What's more, there's something obtuse about the "opposite gender" conception. Heterosexuals don't care about being denied the right to marry within their gender, but everybody cares about being able to choose their own marriage partners. (Well, almost everybody. Committed bachelors and bachelorettes, hard-core marriage opponents, and marriageable singles in arranged-marriage cultures spring to mind as groups that might put little or no value on the right to make this choice. But certainly their numbers are small.)

Racial segregation is an instructive analogy. (Matt from Free Range Human also floated this, though imprecisely.) The Jim Crow laws technically denied both blacks and whites the right to mixed-race accommodations--the Louisiana statute at issue in Plessy v. Ferguson, for instance, provided that "No person or persons shall be permitted to occupy seats in coaches, other than the ones assigned to them, on account of the race they belong to." Of course only blacks cared, and understandably so, as that was the whole point of Jim Crow. In one of the more notorious passages from Plessy, Justice Brown ignores this reality by adopting an obtuseness mirroring that of Atomizer's "opposite gender" conception:
We consider the underlying fallacy of the plaintiff's argument to consist in the assumption that the enforced separation of the two races stamps the colored race with a badge of inferiority. If this be so, it is not by reason of anything found in the act, but solely because the colored race chooses to put that construction upon it. The argument necessarily assumes that if, as has been more than once the case, and is not unlikely to be so again, the colored race should become the dominant power in the state legislature, and should enact a law in precisely similar terms, it would thereby relegate the white race to an inferior position. We imagine that the white race, at least, would not acquiesce in this assumption.
In other words: To all you racial intergration supporters out there who think you are being denied your rights...knock it off. You have equal rights. I, as a white man, can ride on a car assigned to my race. You, as a black man, can also ride on a car assigned to your race. Should you choose not to ride on a car assigned to your race, that's fine for you. If you choose to ride on a car not assigned to your race...I'm sorry, but, you can't. And neither can I!!! That sounds quite equal to me.

Where does this take us? Not as far you might think. All I've done is argue that the "my choice" conception of the right at issue better captures the actual dispute than Atomizer's "opposite gender" conception does. I've said nothing about how far the law should restrict the right so conceived, nor about who should decide these matters. No right is unlimited, and the right to marry the partner of one's choice is no exception. The law says that I can't marry my sister, or a child, or a hamster; in fact, given that I'm already married, the law says that I can't marry anyone. These limitations on the right to marry are not controversial (yet). Is the prohibition against same-sex marriage enough like these that it should remain in place? Is it so much like these that legalizing same-sex marriage would lead inexorably to the downfall of the other restrictions? And what level of government should decide--state legislatures, Congress, the courts, perhaps even voters directly?

It seems to me that these are the relevant questions. Avoiding them by defining away the problem is clever but not very useful. Nor is appealing to a lexical definition, as Atomizer does at the end of his post. Words are not eternal Platonic forms, and dictionaries are not unchangeable holy writs. Words are defined by use, not by fiat. The primary of meaning of "gay" used to be light-heartedly happy; now it's not. Perhaps the meaning of "marriage" will undergo a similar change.

My own position, in brief, is that while I've yet to be persuaded that same-sex marriage is objectionable as a matter of public policy (this argument by David Frum certainly sucked), I've also yet to be persuaded that the Constitution requires the recognition of same-sex marriage. I've linked to this before, but the most sensible piece I've encountered on this matter is Richard Posner's review of Evan Gerstmann's book Same-Sex Marriage and the Constitution, originally published in The New Republic and available here. Make haste.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

CARBALICIOUS! 

Michael of 2Blowhards extends his fascination with the low carb boom via a post yesterday on the diet's effect on the food industry. 11% of Americans currently say they're eating low-carb. Michael is one of them. But Jane Galt of Asymmetrical Information gave up after four days ("You know that things are getting desperate when you find yourself tempted to eat out of the dog's dish").

One of the beneficial secondary effects of all this carb-shunning is increased donations to food shelves by bakeries and grocery stores (food drive coordinator: "We load our clients up with three or four bags of bread ... We're trying our best to get rid of it"). But I noticed that one of my favorite restaurants/bakeries, the French Meadow Bakery (great music too!), claims not to have seen a huge dent in business: "If my sales are any indication, the people who are eating carbs are making up for the people who are not eating carbs." (Full disclosure: I'm one of those carb-eaters, sacrificing myself so you Atkins nuts can pig out.)

My cranky theory why the Atkins diet works: anything that gets food gluttons to say no to something (anything!) with calories in it will help them lose weight.

YES WE'RE A BOOZY CITY BUT FULL OF WARMTH AND GOODWILL, MIND YOU 

Doktor Frank and his band visit our fair city:
I think it may have been the drunkest audience we have ever tried to entertain (and I'm even including Oslo 2001 in that assessment.) People were falling down and remaining on the floor, smiling and continuing their conversations, clearly not having realized that they were no longer upright. It was one of those nights. Luckily, the Minneapolis drunk is not a belligerent drunk. Or they put their belligerence aside temporarily for the occasion. Either way, there was a lot of warmth and goodwill radiating from floor to stage. It sounds corny, but after a lifetime of being received more often than not with stony indifference, you really notice stuff like that. Your lower lip starts to tremble. You start slapping people on the back and saying stuff like "I love you, man." ("Woman." "Sorry, woman.") Life feels ever so slightly less unbearable.
We love you too, woman (sorry, man).

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

BUT WHY NOT ACCEPT MICROPAYMENTS? 

We're partial, here at Spitbull, to people who put their money where their mouths are (although you may notice that, by this reasoning, we aren't very partial to ourselves; Blogger is free, after all).

Polls and pundits may come and go but the Long Bets Foundation (formed in 2002 and bankrolled by Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com) forces folks to pay ($50) to publish their wild predictions. If challenged (challenge fee: at least $200), the "Prediction" graduates into a "Long Bet." All proceeds go to charity.

Not surprisingly one Bet is on whether a Democrat or Republic will be elected in 2004 (and then remains alive and in office until August 2005). The stakes: $1,000. Currently, 54% of the voting riff-raff (who don't need to pay to vote, but must register) think a Democrat will fulfill the criteria.

But my favorite prediction, unchallenged as of yet, is "The Long Bets Foundation will no longer exist in 2104." Again, 54% of the riff-raff agree.

YES, VIRGINIA, THERE ARE RADIO PROFESSIONALS IN MINNESOTA 

Chris Lydon says Minnesota Public Radio is "wildly interested, as I am, in the Internet extensions of media" and so may develop a national radio show about politics and blogging with Mr. Lydon as host (hat tip: Buzzmachine). In case it escaped your attention, members of the Northern Alliance of Blogs are wildly interested in the media extensions of blogging and have developed (read "thrown together over beers") a local (Eagan, MN) radio show that will air Saturdays from noon to 3 pm on AM 1280 The Patriot. First show is on March 6.

Ah Minnesota. The birthplace of the convergence of old and new media. Sends shivers down me spine.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

NO I WON'T 

Sticking the phrase "if you will" in the middle of a sentence is just a pretentious way of saying "um ..."

I don't know why I'm feeling so anal and peevish today but I have backup this time: the phrase made LSSU's Banished Words List in 1984 and 1991. So there.

Monday, February 16, 2004

OMBUDSBLOG 

Not only is the New York Times ombudsman willing to dis his local baseball team, but he's now sticking his neck out even further ... all the way into the blogosphere (no commenting feature though)! (Hat tip: Oxblog).

Lou Gelfand where are you?

"VILE, VICIOUS HATEMONGERING" 

(1). Why I hate politicians, with special reference to John F. Kerry (from CNN.com):
Kerry accused President Bush of engaging in "attack politics" for releasing an Internet ad Friday that took Kerry to task for accepting contributions from special interests while campaigning against the power of special interests in Washington.

"Instead of attacking America's problems," Kerry said, "George Bush and our opponents have once again turned to attack politics.

"We deserve a president who wants to lift America, not divide America and drag it down to the lowest common denominator."

However, the Kerry campaign plans to release an ad of its own outlining the president's ties to special interests.

The Bush campaign, responding to Kerry's earlier complaints about the ad, issued a statement Saturday charging that Kerry had spent nearly $5 million to put out negative ads in 15 states against the president before the Bush campaign responded.
In other words, Kerry uses one side of his mouth to deride as "attack politics" an ad that calls voters' attention to an aspect of his record that is in fact true, while simultaneously preparing to use the other side of his mouth to make exactly the same charges against Bush.

(2). Why I hate big media: Neither the foregoing CNN story nor any story from any other major American media outlet mentions Kerry's bimbo eruption. Why not? Because it's based on uncorroborated evidence? Okay, fine. Then why have CNN and every other major American media outlet not given the same treatment to the issue of Bush's National Guard service? It too is based on uncorroborated evidence--in fact, it has by now been pretty definitively disproven. Yet that uncorroborated charge, and not the one about Kerry, gets mentioned in this morning's CNN story on the Democratic race.

(3). Why I hate Canadians (with one or two important exceptions).

Saturday, February 14, 2004

FLUSH! 

The Internet is one big bathroom wall -- don't we all know that? Since almost the beginning folks have taken advantage of its anonymity to do naughty and annoying things, from spamming to defaming. But the anonymity is more like a two-bit mask than an invisibility cloak. It's not so hard to rip it off.

And sometimes it's kind of delicious when the mask slips.

The New York Times now (really! for the very first time I'm timely, thanks to That's News To Me) reports that a software glitch at Amazon.com's Canadian site temporarily unmasked its book reviewers, some of whom (surprise!) turned out to be authors praising their own books or panning their rivals'.

Yes, ain't it ironic that I'm also hiding behind a mask as I post this. OK, I admit it, I never banged on that damn pot, nor do I have any intention of making pepperoni hearts. Satisfied?

I HEART PIZZA 

Don't think that my blogging about Valentine's Day means I'm a big fan. Nope.

I have learned to greet the day with yawn. You see, I tend to choose as romantic partners guys who are, well, a little romance-deprived (I once received salad tongs as a V-Day gift). On top of this, some years ago I made the mistake of attempting to mark the day with dinner at a well regarded restaurant that suddenly chose to see how many couples it could stuff into the dining room at one time and how few waitrons and cooks it could mobilize to serve them.

Being a practical girl, I have responded to these slings and slights by devaluing Valentine's Day as much as possible (and vowing never to eat out when fat little winged kids are roaming around with bows and arrows). In fact, these days, I probably match my beloved in romantic sense. But of course I'm careful not to sniff and sneer and call Valentine's Day a "Hallmark Holiday" because there's always a possibility of flowers and I am, as I said before, practical.

This year, I'm "celebrating" the day in my trademark practical manner: beer and pizza at home with two other couples who also must need lessons in romance and impracticality.

It appears the best way to value, worship really, Valentine's Day is to move east, where it is often banned. In India, Hindu nationalists have threatened to shave young lovers' heads and beat them if they exchange Valentine's Day cards and gifts. The BBC reports that despite such threats,
celebrating Valentine's Day, named after the Christian patron saint of lovers, has become increasingly popular in both India and Pakistan.
And Al-Jazeera itself observes that Valentine's Day "has gained popularity among many young Muslims from Kuwait to Karachi."

I feel so ungrateful.

I know! I'll just cut the pepperoni into into little hearts. Now that's romantic!

UPDATE: The hints worked! I got roses. (At least someone is reading this blog).

Friday, February 13, 2004

TWISTED TITLE #11 

This week's demented children's book title is:
I Am Too a Policeman, and Of Course That's a Gun in My Pocket
To see last week's title, click here.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

TOWARDS A UNIFIED THEORY OF NOW 

Yesterday, Hugh Hewitt asked the Northern Alliance blogs what relevance Kerry's 1971 testimony is to the presidential election of 2004 (don't look at us funny, he hasn't kicked us out yet, we're not even on probation). My answer: very little. Two reasons:
1. I live in a glass house. I long ago burnt my own diary from that time period (it was appalling! embarrassing! I think it even had smily faces instead of dots over some of the "i"'s). Lileks makes this same point, but in a slightly more mature manner:
I held contrary positions when I was Young and Idealistic, and thought that those were attributes that lent some sort of moral weight to what I thought. (Hah!)
You really should read his pithy rendition of said youthful positions if you haven't already--it's trademark Lileks.

2. The election is being held in 2004. As the Fraters' Atomizer huffs,
I don’t give a damn what the man said 30 years ago. I also don’t give a damn what President Bush did or said 30 years ago. I care about what he is doing now. This non-stop back and forth business of “He did this” answered by “Oh yeah? Well HE said THIS” is freaking beginning to wear me down.
It's strange to me that the 70's loom so large for both political parties. The Democrats are trying to weave ancient tidbits into a Unified Theory of Bush and the Republicans into a Unified Theory of Kerry. Doesn't everyone know that the swing voters are under 30?

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

THE $25 MILLION QUESTION 

US News reiterates the unanswered questions that inevitably flow from David Kay's recent "no WMD" conclusion:
If Saddam had destroyed his banned weapons or decided to give them up, why didn't he report it to the very agency that could have vindicated him? Why didn't he change his behavior toward the U.N. inspectors? Why, instead, did he prevent the U.N. inspectors from going where they wanted to go and seeing what they wanted to see? Why did his rhetoric continue to underscore his commitment to possessing WMD as part of his vision of Iraq as the dominant power in the region and in the Arab world?
Perhaps some insight into the answers can be drawn from this report of Saddam Hussein's current incarceration:
Hussein has repeatedly refused weapons and contraband inspections.

"Most of the prisoners I've dealt with see the daily checks as routine," the soldier said. "But Saddam likes to complain about how we need evidence of wrongdoing before we can cross the cell's threshold."

Occasionally, guards have been forced to threaten Hussein with sanctions to get him to comply with inspections.

"Every couple of days, he refuses to let us look under his bed," an unnamed soldier said. "There's never anything under there, but sometimes he likes to make a big deal out of refusing."
Or perhaps not.

WHERE EVERYONE'S GRAMMAR IS ABOVE AVERAGE 

Well, courtesy of Esquire Magazine (hat tip: Romenesko), I now know that the very first "ombudsmen" were Swedish government officials investigating complaints from citizens. So I guess it's fitting, given the Twin Cities' Scandinavian past, that our local paper has the longest lived (both in age: 81 and time served: 22 years) ombudsman in the country. Also, again fittingly, the one with the most boring and non controversial pet peeves: "adjectives and adverbs" (in stark contrast, The New York Times ombudsman takes peevish aim at the New York Yankees in his response to this question). Did Lou Gelfand have a shockingly maladroit Mad Libs experience as a child?

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

LETTER FROM IRAQ 

Spitbull has a distant relative who is a lieutenant stationed in Iraq. He wrote the family a letter in December and a copy of it finally made its way to us. The letter is long--7 typed pages--and we thought our readers might be interested in reading some excerpts (we've added the bold words to break it up a bit and try to highlight the topics). The letter is more day-in-the-life than some of the other correspondence we've seen posted on the web:
Food. The food is ok. It is basically chicken al la whatever every day or beef-something surprise. Imagine non English speaking third world civilians trying to read a cook book and cooking American food that they have no idea how it should taste. The ice cream is good though. I eat a lot of junk food because it is prepackaged stuff from the states. It tastes normal. Their favorite ingredient here is pepper. They pepper the heck out of everything here. Doesn't taste right? Add pepper. Out of sugar, salt, or other ingredients? Add pepper. Pepper, pepper, pepper.

Water. The water here that we consume is extremely high in minerals. I don't know why they fortify it so much. We have had a few guys pass kidney stones because of it. They loved it. I am pretty pumped up about the prospect of passing a boulder through my pee hole.

Weather. The temperature stays in the 60s most days now. It is now the rainy season. It is also dust season all year long. It (sic) the winter months they have a lot of dust storms; more so than in the summer. The wind blows more in the winter, I am told. Dust is in and on everything. I sweep the floor in my room a few times each week. I also brought a feather duster with me. It is probably one of the most valuable things I brought. The best I can describe the dust is that it is like talcum powder; especially in high traffic areas. The rest of the ground is mud-sand. Everywhere. Nothing is green. Nothing is clean.

Iraqi police. As for the Iraqi police that we are are training, they are worthless and lazy and scared of everything. They seem to not want to do anything. They are going to have to start if the Iraqis are ever going to get control of this place. People back home talk about letting the Iraqis handle their own problems and pulling out the US military. It can't be done yet. The Iraqi police force cannot even take care of themselves. They are basically a non factor at this point. Maybe they just need more time, but right now it is a major problem with turning control over to these people.

Educated Iraqis. The problem here is education. There is none and ignorance is everywhere. It is refreshing to speak with educated Iraqis. Most of which are older and were educated in the West during the Iran/Iraq war. Back then remember "the enemy of your enemy your friend" ideology was the "in" thing during the Cold War. It didn't matter the type of government that was in place. That is why the Reagan administration supported all those Latin American dictators as well as Saddam Hussein. After all, Iraq was at war against the hated Iranians, right. Well during that time many of the Iraqi military officers, wealthy families, and the middle class that worked for the regime were allowed to be educated in America, France, and Britain. I have ran into a few of those people. They are optimistic about the future of Iraq but think the United States will have to remain here for many years. The individuals I spoke with feel that if we pull out too soon this place is definitely up for grabs and the people will never understand what they will be missing. The Iraqi people who are educated understand that we have to be here if they are to have any chance at a democracy. My feelings are that it better get safer here and the Iraqis had better take on more responsibilities, as far as governing, building infrastructure, and providing their own security in their cities, towns and supply routes. The rest of the world had better get in on it too because you they are just waiting to jump in here and take advantage of this countries (sic) cheap labor force. And in the end the US and BG will end up footing the bill in money and blood. It really irks me about France, Russia and Germany wanting to get in on the rebuilding contracts. As far as I am concerned they can take a leap.

The Brits. We have worked close with soldiers from other countries such as Azerbaijan, Australia, and of course the Brits. The Brits are real good too. We have fun working with them. It is kind of like Iowans working Missourians or Minnesotans. You know how each has jokes about the other and lieks to tease the other. Well the Brits and the Americans do this as well. It is all in good fun and both armies really respect each other. They have a great sense of humor and they really hate the French.

Monday, February 09, 2004

AT LAST, DAMMIT, SOMEONE'S RECOGNISED THAT STING IS BLOODY GREAT 

Not that a link from the likes of us will float its boat, but if you don't know the British music weblog No Rock and Roll, then we feel all proud of ourselves for introducing you. It's one of the many weblogs that make us wonder why we even try to squeeze out posts to amuse and interest our audience (at about a tenth the rate and a hundredth the quality of others) when our audience's opportunity cost is this high.

Last weekend simon b. informed everyone that Musicares have made Sting their person of the year:
After years - decades - of his tireless and quiet work to save humanity, the planet and about thirteen dozen species, someone's finally given him a small thank you. That was all he was looking for, you know. A little bit of the love, love, love he shares on a daily basis given back to him.
ChartAttack.com notes "The award gives a nod to Sting’s accomplishments over the years and doesn’t just pay attention to his musicianship, but to his involvement in humanitarian and environmentalist causes as well." Or, as Mr. b. explains it:
He was nominated for the selfless work he's done in recent years to promote environmental issues through his strong support of Jaguar S-Type cars, with its environmentally sensitive ability to squeeze 22 miles out of every gallon of fuel.
Rumor has it Hugh Hewitt is next to be honored.

I SCREAM YOU SCREAM WE ALL SCREAM 

Just in time for the folks who've failed at their Lose Weight! resolution (as I predicted), our local paper is running a multi-part series on fat people.

I always read these things because, like watching The Jerry Springer Show, it makes me feel all smug and superior. At least my boyfriend isn't having an affair with my daughter and I'm not shopping for an extra-long lotion applicator (don't ask). Plus, since I don't know that many fat people myself I get to wonder about where the 2/3 of Minnesotans who are reportedly overweight (about the middle of the national pack--but our paper's more hysterical and long winded formulation is "we're more likely to be obese than residents of 25 other states and the District of Columbia") and 1/5 who are obese are hiding. I see some of them once a year at the Minnesota State Fair. Where are they the rest of the time? Hiding out in their homes shoveling down ice cream so next year they can compete with the fattest hog exhibit (it always draws a huge crowd)? Who knows?

As I would expect, there's also a piece on the recent trend of suing various calorie-sellers for making people fat. One lawsuit I hadn't heard of was mentioned: an ice cream manufacturer was sued for lying on its nutrition labels (it hugely understated the fat and calories in its product). As a rabid label-reader myself I'm glad and not surprised to learn the lawsuit resutled in a $1.2 million settlement. But what did the pudgy consumer get? Well, if they hung onto their receipt for the more than 2 years it took to litigate the case, they could get a refund. If they didn't, they could get some free ice cream. That'll help them lose the weight they gained from eating the mislabeled ice cream.

Saturday, February 07, 2004

THE FALSE CONSCIOUSNESS OF THE BOURGEOISIE 

I'm planning to fly to Atlanta in a couple of weeks to see some friends from law school. I had a $20 Northwest Airlines voucher that was about to expire, and when I booked my flight over the phone I was told that I had to go in person to a Northwest ticket office if I wanted to use the voucher against the fare. The closest office to my Minneapolis home is nestled in a Byerly's grocery store in the nearby suburb of Edina, a few blocks from the Southdale shopping mall (which, having opened way back in 1956, is reputed to be the nation's first.)

So I went there the other night. After consummating the ticket transaction--it ended up taking only a few minutes--I crossed into the grocery store to pick up a few things, including some star fruit and Asian pears, since my finicky six-year-old daughter has decided, inexplicably but encouragingly, that she likes them. The store's sound system was in oldies mode, with a touch of slight obscurity--selections included Bill Haley's version of "Shake, Rattle, and Roll," the Hollies' "Stop Stop Stop" (a song I always associate with the longtime Twin Cities band Boiled in Lead, who covered it on this album years ago), and, best of all (and I mean "all" in the broadest possible sense, as nothing gets much better than this), Gene Vincent's "Be-Bop-A-Lula."

I paid for the groceries--like I had the plane ticket--with my Target Visa card. As I was pulling out of the parking lot I noticed the Guitar Center store across the street and remembered that I needed a new set of bridge pegs for my acoustic guitar. A very helpful clerk--assistant manager, actually, according to his name tag--helped me find what I needed. After gazing for a few moments in abject longingness at the grail, I pointed my car toward the freeway and was home in time to help put the kids to bed.

Airline tickets, exotic fruits in the depths of a northern winter, timeless songs, and arcane guitar paraphernalia in under an hour, greased with a chain-store-branded credit card and wrapped up in a freeway bow.

Goddamned suburbs.

Friday, February 06, 2004

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO A KNOWN ARTS BLOGGER IN CAPTIVITY! 

About Last Night's Terry Teachout is 3 x 42 today!

Although Mr. Teachout claims this makes him the "oldest known arts blogger in captivity," we have to point out that Friedrich of 2 Blowhards is about to start his sixth decade of life on this planet and has used the wisdom (and chutzpah) of his advanced age to finally unravel the structural and emotional logic behind Mel Brooks’ "Robin Hood: Men In Tights." And don't tell us that ain't art ... and older age.

So: HB KABIC!

TWISTED TITLE #10 

This week's demented children's book title is:
Get All Your TV Watching Done, Or No Homework for a Week
To see last week's title, click here.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

RHETORIC VS. LOGIC 

Daniel Drezner has a nice post about the rhetorical disadvantages faced by free traders (like me) in the growing debate over outsourcing. He notes that it's much easier for the protectionists to present anecdotal evidence about specific people being tangibly (and indisputably) harmed by offshoring than it is for the free traders to counter with similar stories about the corresponding (and equally indisputable) net gains to the economy as a whole:
It is easy to point to large multinational corporations laying off American workers because of offshore outsourcing -- cue IBM. However, the jobs that are either saved or created from outsourcing seem less impressive. In the case of jobs created, it's because a healthy share of new hiring takes place among smaller firms, the anecdotes of job creation seem much less convincing -- even though there may be more examples of the latter than the former.

In the case of jobs saved, the difficulty is that such statements require counterfactual reasoning -- "If outsourcing had not occurred, then a greater number of jobs would have been lost." Counterfactuals are extremely difficult to demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt.

So, in the debates over trade and unemployment, protectionists have juicy media stories, while those who favor an open economy are often left sputtering.
A related problem is that the Ricardian case for free trade is counterintuitive--not horribly so, but just enough that most people never think it through. Here's an excellent summary of the argument--in America's dumbest newspaper, no less! Perhaps there's hope.... (Hat tip to Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution.)

1000 WORDS 

Valdis Krebs at orgnet.com has drawn a fascinating network map showing purchase patterns for books about current politics. The righties have one big cluster of books, the lefties another; four lonely titles serve as bridges. Krebs' conclusion--"These political books are preaching to the converted!"--is obvious, but that doesn't detract from the map's powerful visual effect. (Hat tip to Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution.)

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

PLEASE RETHINK THE "BRING IT ON" THEME 

I think I've mentioned before that I'm a wimp, as well as a little slow on the news uptake. Please allow me to marry these two traits with this cowardly take on yet another news item I seem to have missed until now:

Conservative pundit Bob Novak will likely be charged with assault for shoving a heckler who had called him a traitor and a scumbag after live broadcast of CNN's "Crossfire" in New Hampshire. Coincidentally, the shoving incident occurred the day after liberal pundit Al Franken took down a heckler at a Dean rally, also in New Hampshire.

No bellicose news yet from yesterday's primaries but, just to be sure, I'll be blogging from under my bedcovers today.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

CELESTIAL PUNDITS 

All the Northern Alliance bloggers were given a pop quiz on their predictions for the 2004 presidential election at last Saturday's meetup (As previously reported by the Fraters' Elder) so we could all earn our pundit-hats. Now Powerline's Hinderocket has gone for extra credit with a long thoughtful post predicting a Kerry victory. Sensing a pundit-crown may be at issue, Mitch Berg and the Elder disagree. (But beware the echo chamber, boys!)

I punted on the quiz, as I punted on the group photo, so all blame rests with the Warrior Monk when Hugh Hewitt announces the results to the world and tries to make fun of us in the telling. (Hugh didn't take the quiz himself--neither did Lileks who was possibly tipped off in advance and so hid out at an undisclosed location). And so will it surprise you to hear I'm punting on the extra credit too?

After Saturday's lunch I can safely say: I've met pundits and I'm no pundit. But as the self-designated non-pundit, can I say that I'm tickled by an Op-Ed in today's New York's Times' take on the race and John Kerry in particular (George W. Bush was left unanalyzed):
He has a judicial character, but also has little tolerance for fools. Born with the rare Mars retrograde, he entered life with a rage — a deep, inner need to overcome (the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. also had the Mars retrograde). He has a strong sense of responsibility as well as feelings of caution about his message. Over the last 18 months the planets have empowered him with core strength. The long-term picture depicts him achieving his highest goals.
(hat tip: Crooked Timber)

I'm sure Kerry will be heartened to know that he's got the astrology vote nailed down. Now on to the remaining 99.99% (we hope it's at least that) of the electorate.

BEATS THE HELL OUT OF CHRIS RIEMENSCHNEIDER 

"Substitute" by the Who? "It sounds like when your wee goes back up."

Johnny Rotten? "He sounds like the baddie in Scooby Doo at the end."

Bob Dylan? "He sounds like he's just smelled something really bad, like cat poo."

Get hip to the next generation of rock critics here.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

WHEN I SAY NORTHERN ALLIANCE SUMMIT, I MEAN THAT LITERALLY--I SCORED THREE FREE ONES IN AN HOUR AND A HALF! 

Eloise and I were invited to the Northern Alliance summit meeting at Billy's Lighthouse on the shores of Long Lake yesterday afternoon, and while we're still not quite sure how we got into the club, we found it hard to resist a free meal with a nationally known shock jock, snowmobile enthusiast, and Peter Billingsley impersonator. So we went, and we're glad we did. In a somewhat less than optimal use of modern technology, three separate digital cameras were dragooned into service to snap three virtually identical pictures memorializing our attendance at the event (except for Eloise, who remains OGIC-esque in her devotion to anonymous blogging. Also, she's not a dork.)

P.S. In the extremely unlikely but not logically impossible event that anyone reading this needs a pointer to the other Northern Alliance blogs, rather than the other way around, they are (in alphabetical order) Captain's Quarters, Fraters Libertas, Power Line, SCSU Scholars, and Shot in the Dark. Plus Dennis Perrin fave Lileks and Commissar Hugh.

Now go and give their Site Meters a statistically insignificant bump.

THREE FOR FIVE, THREE FOR YOU 

I missed big time on the over/under (though it looked like a good bet for a while, eh?), and the game was anything but tedious. But the Patriots won without covering, and the anthem-to-final-whistle span was 4:09.

4:09. I don't care how good the game was. That's just wrong.

And I have three questions:

(1). Is there anything Willie Nelson won't do for money?

(2). Did Janet Jackson really show one of her boobs to a billion people? (Actually, a billion minus one, since I looked away from the TV screen at the crucial moment. Which I guess is why I'm asking this question.)

(3). An erection lasting more than four hours? An erection lasting more than four hours?!?

THE SUPER BOWL 

My prediction: From the National Anthem to the finish will take more than four excruciating hours. (The anthem just ended at 5:20 by my watch.)

Oh yeah, the outcome: With the spread at New England by 7 and the over/under at 37-1/2 (it says here), bet on the Pats to win but not to cover, and take the under. 20-17, we'll say.

Let the tedium begin!

BIG L, LITTLE L, WHAT BEGINS WITH L 

VodkaPundit has been taking aim at doctrinaire libertarians and their knee-jerk opposition to the War on Terror, mainly here, with follow-ups here, here, here, here, and here. I think he's right on. This may seem surprising--after all, I've defended my libertarian leanings at stupefying length against the charge that I should "pull my head out" and fall in unswervingly behind G.W. and the Republicans. But at the end of that defense, I made the same sort of argument that VodkaPundit is making now:
Does that mean I’ll be voting for the Libertarian Party candidate? Maybe, maybe not; I don’t know yet (my flippant “undoubtedly” in another context notwithstanding). I’ve voted Libertarian since 1992 (Bush pere got my vote in 1988, Reagan in 1984), and I’m lukewarm on George W. overall. But I think the war against terrorism is by far the important issue facing this country today, and Libertarians seem to be more concerned with the excesses, real and imagined, of the Patriot Act than with the very real possibility that the next terrorist attack on American soil will kill millions, not thousands. Lileks seems to think this is a virtual certainty, and while I’m not that pessimistic, doomsday scenarios cross my mind a hell of a lot more now than they did during the Cold War, which after all had the icy logic of mutually assured destruction to keep everyone honest. Those days are gone; the challenge now is to find a new way to keep us safe. Bush’s decision to topple Saddam was a bold and risky attempt to do just that. It may turn out to fail, though I sincerely hope it doesn’t. But at least Bush seems to recognize both the gravity and the novelty of our predicament. I don’t get the sense that any other candidate does.
VodkaPundit makes an important distinction between big-L and small-l libertarians. The former are the doctrinaire ones, the reflexive anti-warriors who fantasize endlessly and pointlessly about "a perfect libertarian world" in which "we drop tokens in the meter to walk on the privatized sidewalks to sell legal heroin to a tax-exempt hooker." They have always dominated the Libertarian Party, and they are to blame for its deserved reputation as a fringe society for anarchists, utopians, and cranks.

Small-l libertarians are much harder to characterize by anything other than their non-doctrinairism, and I don't know if VodkaPundit has ever attempted a definition. But if I had to take a stab at one, I'd start this way: A small-l libertarian is anyone who is optimistic about the power of voluntary methods of organization like markets to give order to the world, and who is correspondingly skeptical of the efficacy of non-voluntary methods like government. To put it in legal terms, a small-l libertarian always presumes that government solutions to social problems are inferior to private solutions and always puts the burden of proof on the supporters of government solutions to prove their case. This presumption is hardly irrebuttable, and in areas like national defense that are plagued by collective-action and free-rider problems it is easily rebutted, but the burden is always squarely on the shoulders of the statists.

Needless to say, I consider myself a small-l libertarian. For many years I've been willing to put up with the big-L Libertarian Party and to vote for their candidates because we saw eye-to-eye on many issues and because their kookiness seemed harmless. But 9/11 changed all that. There are many things I don't like about Bush, but unless another candidate emerges who understands the dangers of Islamofascism, I'll have to give him my vote. (And for the record, my President Match scores: Bush 100%, Lieberman 83%, Kerry 63%, Clark 60%, Edwards 59%, Dean 57%, Sharpton 56%, Kucinich 36%.)

I do wonder sometimes, however, whether 9/11 will turn out to shake up domestic politics as much as it has international politics. I sense that the number small-l libertarians in this country is growing, and that they're restless. Comedian Dennis Miller, with his well-publicized post-9/11 rightward shift and his now-famous crack that he couldn't care less if two gay guys want to get married but that any foreign terrorist who wants to blow up their wedding ought to be eliminated, is an emblematic example; the phenomenon of South Park Republicans is in the same vein. If either the Democrats or (more likely) the Republicans could shake themselves loose from their ossified base constituencies enough to start fielding candidates that genuinely appealed to this crowd, I think they'd be assured of long-term electoral success.

Maybe this is wishful thinking, maybe not. But the chance that either the Democratic Party or the Republican Party will seize this opportunity seems vastly more likely than the chance that the big-L Libertarian Party will. And when the big-L's can't even woo the little-l's, you know they're in trouble.