Friday, October 31, 2003

Another Fiver

1. What was your first Halloween costume?
I think my parents dressed me up as some little farmer or such when I was still to small to stop them. The first one I remember would be He-Man... Battle Action He-Man to be precise.

2. What was your best costume and why?
Possibly He-man, possibly The Joker, but probably Ross Perot in 1996.

3. Did you ever play a trick on someone who didn't give you a treat?
Nope. Mostly the tricks are reserved for those who give out crappy treats.

4. Do you have any Halloween traditions? (ie: Family pumpkin carving, special dinner before trick or treating, etc.)
Nope. Actually, I don't know that I have any traditions for anything. That's a downer of a thought.

5. Share your favorite scary story...real or legend!
The one about the young couple at "makeout point" who hear a story a mass murderer with a hook for a hand being on the loose. Needless to say, she gets scared and insists he take her home after she thinks she hears something. Blah, blah, blah. When Dude gets her home, walks around to open her door... there's a hook hanging from the door handle. Yeah, so I forgot most of the middle of the story.

Bad Month for the Old

Yesterday, , the world's oldest person, Kamato Hongo, died at the age of 116.
In late September, the world's oldest man, Yukichi Chuganji, died at age 114.
In mid-October, Elena Slough, the oldest living American (at the time), died (and, in a truly sad fashion- her 90 year old daughter died only 3 days earlier).

Update: I forgot about Madame Chiang Kia-Shek who died earlier this month at 106.

Hey, I'm a number cruncher!

So Bush is warming up a victory lap after last quarter's strong overall economic growth. Apparently, Bush (until yesterday) has been in the business of semi-deriding his government's statistical analyses (among others). Which, when we get right down to it, makes sense given the man and his administration. Facts, statistics, rigorous procedures, well, they can only slow you down. We would never have gone to war if someone had bothered to pack the facts. What mostly draws my attention and moves me to type are the following old quotes from the Nicknamer in Chief:
Bush was decidedly more upbeat about the economic figures than usual. Often, he has dismissed the statistics as the work of "number crunchers" and "bean counters" that interests him little. "I know the numbers are beginning to look better, but, you know, I leave the numbers for the statisticians and the bean counters," he said early last year. At another point last year, he said, "We're seeing some encouraging signs of recovery, but I want to tell you something: I'm not a numbers cruncher. I'm not one of these bean counters."

Reading these "thoughts," I am reminded of the Steve Martin movie, The Jerk (search for "eggplants"). Hey, I'm a number cruncher. They hand out nobels for this shit. The creation of the national accounts... considered the most important economic innovation of the 20th century. Nice to see he has little use for number crunchers and bean counters.
Actually, this shouldn't be a surprise. Here's a man who understands fuzzy math better than 2+2=4. A former CEO and America's first MBA president. Hell, Florida. Numbers are only there to get in the way of an otherwise good time.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

What's the sequence there?

DeLong quotes Gerard Baker of the Financial Times thusly:
Bush administration's economic team... shoot[s] itself in the foot while trying to extract the same part of its anatomy from its mouth...*

That would explain the brain damaged policies, eh?

*need to find this article!

Monday, October 27, 2003

If that's what you call desperation

I'd hate to see what you consider a strong, well thought out plan.

Following a sequence of attacks in Baghdad, the first at the al-Rashid Hotel Sunday which nearly snared Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz (I guess that's as close to combat as he's ever been, right?) and has been described as "a barrage of rockets fired from a launcher disguised as a portable generator," and " carefully planned" followed by a coordinated (might synchronized be the right word?) series (4) of bombings at the Red Cross and police stations across Baghdad. Sandwiched between these larger scale incidents, 3 additional American troops were killed in a separate incident.

These are the acts of a desperate enemy? An enemy on the run? According to Fearless Leader's press secretary:
"We've always said the more progress we make, the more desperate the killers will become," the spokesman said. Asked how it could be determined that the attacks signaled desperation rather than sophistication, McClellan repeated: "The more progress we make toward a free and prosperous Iraq, the more desperate they will become."

Finally we would seem to have a yardstick of success- more sophisticated attacks will be the result of more progress on our part. Therefore, these attacks are a good thing. A peaceful Iraq, one where American troops and the Red Cross among others were not targets would be an utter failure according to the administration? Or did I miss something?

Update: Maureen Dowd, doing an actual column as opposed to her standard "chatty Kathy/ high school girls in the bathroom" formula, observes: "They don't even understand the political utility of truth."

Saturday, October 25, 2003

Turning mole hills into mountains

Gay marriage as a key electoral issue next year? We've got to be kidding, right?
Party strategists said the issue could be a bonanza for mobilizing conservatives to fund campaigns and turn out to vote, particularly in the South. Conservative groups said they plan to challenge candidates to sign a pledge in support of a constitutional amendment precluding gay marriage, then use the results -- along with votes Republicans hope to force in the House and Senate -- as a wedge against Democrats.

Watching the Episcopal Church roiled over whether openly gay bishops should be confirmed, politicians in both parties are beginning to see gay marriage as a potentially key issue for candidates in a 50-50 nation.

Yes, in many senses this is a 50-50 nation, but not in the way that would make gay marriage electorally relevant. If we were a 50-50 nation who basically agreed on everything else but gay marriage, then it might be relevant. But that's not where we are. This is pure and simple demagogue politics based on hate. That's what we're talking about here. All for the sake of getting and keeping a seat at the table of power. Craven.
Focus on the Family, the group led by James Dobson, has begun raising money and excitement about the issue with a mailing warning that "the institution of marriage is about to descend into a state of turmoil unlike any other in human history." He asks for a contribution for a costly battle that "could very well be a turning point in our nation's history."

A House Republican aide said congressional leaders would probably push for a constitutional amendment next year, "if there is a confluence of court rulings and a groundswell of public opinion."

"Some conservatives who usually are reluctant to support constitutional amendments wouldn't stand in the way of the will of the House if courts are distorting the essence and purpose of marriage," the strategist said. "In an election year, it would be good to get folks on the record. Democrats who usually would be tempted to vote against us might join us out of fear of looking extreme."

Turmoil unlike any other in human history? World Wars, sweeping plagues, nuclear holocaust... they've got nothing on letting a few gays marry. Have they become completely unhinged? We're talking about an incredibly tiny percentage of the population being allowed to do something the rest of us are allowed to do (marry) and, here's the kicker, YOU'D NEVER KNOW! That's right, this isn't talking about not allowing gay men or lesbians to walk down the street holding hands or kissing in public because it makes other passers-by feel uncomfortable. It's not about letting gay couples live together. It's about letting the rings they put on their fingers mean something in the eyes of the law. Indeed, turmoil like no other.

But an amendment. What will we tell the children (*note, this is the first time I have ever used this Clinton-Lewinsky parental cry). Imagine your kids learning the amendments... here's the one about speech and religion, the one about fair trials, the one about no slavery, women's voting rights, and presidential succession and incapacity, and the one outlawing gay marriage. For the second time, we would be passing an amendment which restricted the rights of Americans and the last time we did that, we took it back.
Geoffrey Garin, a Democratic pollster, has been conducting focus groups on the subject for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay political organization, and said he finds that middle-of-the-road voters "would prefer to talk about almost any other subject." He said the issue could boomerang on Bush's efforts to come across as moderate.

"Even when they agree on the substance, voters often become uncomfortable with politicians who raise the subject," Garin said. "While Americans certainly don't embrace the idea of gay marriage, they're uncomfortable with identifying themselves with policies that smack of discrimination and unfairness."

Ya think? Suburban America stands proud: "I don't like being a petty bigot, I know it's not right, but that's who I am. Can you please not remind how much of a jackass I am." So much for the idea of the America that overcomes, that raises the standards, improves itself, that strives.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

When the Lies Get So Thick...

From Seymour Hersh's New Yorker piece on the weapons of mass destruction fraud. It's getting a lot of pub lately and there are certainly many key paragraphs here, but this one really stands out:

The government of the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, President Bush’s closest ally, was also brought in. As Blair later told a British government inquiry, he and Bush had talked by telephone that summer about the need “to disclose what we knew or as much as we could of what we knew.” Blair loyally took the lead: on September 24th, the British government issued a dossier dramatizing the W.M.D. threat posed by Iraq. In a foreword, Blair proclaimed that “the assessed intelligence has established beyond doubt that Saddam . . . continues in his efforts to develop nuclear weapons.” The dossier noted that intelligence—based, again, largely on the sismi report—showed that Iraq had “sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” A subsequent parliamentary inquiry determined that the published statement had been significantly toned down after the C.I.A. warned its British counterpart not to include the claim in the dossier, and in the final version Niger was not named, nor was sismi.

SISMI is an intelligence gathering/ analysis (a term used advisedly considering...) outfit Rumsfeld's crew set up in the Pentagon, the one created as its detractors claim to circumvent the CIA. Recall the Bush framing, the British government has learned that Iraq is attempting to acquite uranium from Africa... those 16 words as it were. Apparently the British learned this from our intelligence cooking house in the Pentagon. The entire appearance of this being elsewhere determined, or being corroborated by foriegn intelligence, is apparently also crap. This revelation is now largely meaningless considering the discredit of those 16 words. But this really highlights the depth of the intelligence we weren't dealing with.

A Political Revival?

I don't know if the term is out there yet, but this column from the American Prospect reminded me... Political Revival. That is what we need and that may be what Dean is providing, generating. It was remarked about Dean, either shortly before or shortly after his money surge in June and July garnered him heavy coverage and front runner status, that what is truly different about the Dean Campaign is the people. Namely, that they are there. It has become far too common an event that more people stand behind the candidate on the platform (where they appear on camera) than people stand in the ostensible audience. And Dean is changing this. Certainly his use of Meet-up has helped. But doesn't explain it (anyone other candidate can run meet-ups).

I'm certainly not trying to say that Dean is a candidate with all the answers... a Messiah if you will. I don't know if I agree exactly with any of his positions, I don't know if he's the candidate closest to my political wishes. Whether I ultimately pick Dean or one of the other candidates, I'm quite sure Dean is the only candidate for whom I would work and the only candidate to whom I would consider donating money. I may pull the lever (to use an outdated metaphor) for Edwards, Clark, Gephardt, etc, but that's all they'll get out of me. Maybe I'm alone in that regard.

Whether Dean is providing a Political Revival or not, that is precisely what this country needs. To awaken from its slumber of letting the political class (on both sides) continue through the forest thinking they know the way. We are fasting approaching a point where the leadership of this country cannot lead. The people must, for just a little while, light the way, to re-orient the political class (be it the existing or a new political class). And before we can do that, we must rise up from the back of the bus. We must be revived. Both in the slumbering sense and in the religious sense. To awaken, and to believe again.

What is Worse, To Be Wrong, or to Have Never Been?

The Gregg Easterbrook thing... pretty distrubing. First off, Easterbrook's statement on Jews, Hollywood, and profiting from violence- pretty off base. I think Talking Points has it right, "It seemed out of context not only for the writer, but even in the post itself."

That said, I find the goings on with ESPN to be more disturbing. Why more disturbing? Because, be this an aberration on Easterbrook's part or not, what is his influence? Particularly posting on a New Republic blog? a) Is he even reaching an audience sympathetic to the hate in the statement? b) As many have reacted to this (outside of the chattering opinion journalists who travel in his circles) "who the hell is this Easterbrook fellow in the first place?" It's a comment which will not echo forth (at leat in those circles), may very well not represent the man, and likely did not impact much of anything on its own.

Back to ESPN, they have apparently fired Easterbrook- a move I consider silly and ill considered- and removed every trace of his "Tuesday Morning Quarterback" columns from their website- a move I consider deeply troubling and borderline inconceivable. I should add that I enjoy reading his TMQ columns from time to time for the different perspective they bring to the coverage. Firing Easerbrook silly and ill considered? He did not use ESPN to spout this nonsense. He, and this may simply be my lack of sensitivities here, did not say anything "beyond the pale" which would make him unfit to publish regardless of the forum or subject matter (and this is not likely a beyond the pale moment as TNR isn't dropping him). Easterbrook did name Disney chief (which owns ESPN) Mike Eisner (see Shrek for a former employee's opinion of him) in his smear. Making this look more petty than principled- though that may simply be the appearance of it. As for the firing, Rush Limbaugh got a job on ESPN having said some pretty hateful things over the years and was welcome to keep his ESPN gig and say some pretty hateful things in other forums. Ditto for Michael Savage at MSNBC this summer. It's not a line which liberals much liked, but so long as they kept themselves clean and mainstream they were welcome on mainstream outlets. They were willing to distinguish (I would say create, but anyway) alternate personas for alternate venues. But not in Easterbrook's case. And that is silly and ill-conceived.

The deletion of his columns however, is what has moved me to commit my thoughts to keystrokes (in spite of the space if I've given to lesser issues in this post... the whole thing is just odd). It's possible that Easterbrook continued to own his TMQ columns after publication and upon termination took them "with" him. Maybe ESPN hasn't done anything untoward, but part of what I'm about to say remains either way. The deleting of his columns, rigging the search feature to not return any results for Easterbrook or TMQ (try it, it's scary), it's actually Orwellian. I hate using that overused term. But it is like he never worked there, like TMQ never existed. And that is petty, but also disturbing. If I read back issues of the newspaper, shamed and fallen columnists words still exist. They are still there. TMQ was something, it was part of ESPN's quilt of NFL coverage, and it is now as if there were a whole in their coverage over the past few years. Whether ESPN has acted in an untoward manner regarding the columns or not, they need to remain. Same thing for Bill Simmons' "The Sports Guy" columns if he were to quit or Andy Katz's pieces if he were to leave. They need to remain because they are part of historical record. How can we say what sports reporters (and those who play as sports reporters) thought about players if we, in our new digital world, go around removing their columns? They need to remain, because they exist and without the permanent record, we come one too many steps closer to a world in which shared experience disappears, a world in which we are each divorced from that which surrounds... our contemporaries, our ancestors, our future. And that is unacceptable.

Monday, October 06, 2003

what's disturbing is not the subject of this article, a twine ball town in Kansas City. What's disturbing is the apparent competition to have and build large balls of twine.

Friday, October 03, 2003

The Fiver

My Five

1. What vehicle do you drive?
Toyota Solara

2. How long have you had it?
Two months, two days

3. What is the coolest feature on your vehicle?
I might have to say the sunroof. In fact, I do.

4. What is the most annoying thing about your vehicle?
the car payments

5. If money were no object, what vehicle would you be driving right now?
The BMW Z1. Although money isn't the only impediment. Safety might be a little bit of an issue.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Truth for a Change?

Busy day. I'm actually ok with the cronyism that's going on in Iraq. Well, I'm not actually ok with it. But I accept that this administration will engage in cronyism, and might as well let the cronies screw up some other country rather than mine.

And I'm encouraged by the truth telling it's bringing out. For example:

"Getting the rights to distribute Procter & Gamble products would be a gold mine," said one of the partners at New Bridge who did not want to be named. "One well-stocked 7-Eleven could knock out 30 Iraqi stores; a Wal-Mart could take over the country," he said.

Isn't that what the buy local movement has been saying for years now? Again, accepting that it's going to happen, better there than here.

New Hampshire's star, about to join Alabama's?

Rest in Peace, New Hampshire

New Hampshire "won" the Free State Project's ballot. Why couldn't they choose Wyoming or Montana, or some other state that's nowhere near me.

New Idiot on the Block

Well, not exactly new. Rush has been punted. As a result of comments on Sunday about Donovan McNabb, to wit:

"I don't think he's been that good from the get-go. I think what we've had here is a little social concern in the NFL. I think the media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well. They're interested in black coaches and black quarterbacks doing well. I think there's a little hope invested in McNabb and he got a lot of credit for the performance of his team that he really didn't deserve. The defense carried this team."

My take (on McNabb)- aside from the race stuff, he's sorta right. I've never been overly impressed with McNabb, but note this, he wins and that counts for a whole lot. Yes, the Philly defense has been impressive these past few seasons but look at that offense. I wouldn't take anyone from that offense for my team, with the exception of McNabb. Does McNabb deserve all the credit he's received? Yes- winning team, no offensive talent, and on top of that the quarterback usually gets a disproportionate share of the credit (blame) anyway. McNabb might be overrated, but that is not at all out of sync with the rest of league.

Here's Limbaugh's, er, defense of himself

"All this has become the tempest that it is because I must have been right about something. If I wasn't right, there wouldn't be a cacophony of outrage that has sprung up in the sportswriter community. . . . This is such a mountain out of a molehill. There's no racism here. There's no racist intent whatsoever."

Yes, anytime people get pissed off at you and cause a stir, it means you were right about something. For instance, if Rush had simply said, "Black people are inferior" he'd have caused an even larger shitstorm. Which would have made him more right? Sadly misguided.

His statement truly was not that horrible, except for the need to insinuate race into a non-racial event. Limbaugh, no fan of affirmative action, no fan of the continued relevance and discussion of racial issues in America, sees a successful black and assumes that his success is the result of a conspiracy to make him qualified. Maybe this is the poison of affirmative action, and the public/ media backlash against Rush which culminated in his dismissal is the antidote. Rush doesn't get it, but hopefully more Americans now do. And that will bring us even closer to the day when race actually doesn't matter.