The Electric Commentary

Friday, July 30, 2004

Sure, I'd love to help pay for your gastric bypass.

Afterall, obesity is a disease now. Or so says the Federal Government. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson announced Thursday that Medicare will now cover obesity. The Federal Government is eliminating the part of its Medicare policy that states obesity is not an illness.

Well, if it is an illness I sure hope I don't catch it. I saw this woman in the cafeteria at work today pound two Arby's regular roast beefs a large order of fries and like 82 ounces of coke. Last week I saw one of our security guard eat five cinnamon roles for lunch. If I came down with a bad case of obesity and it made me eat crap like that, I'd probably get fat. These people are everywhere. Apparently this disease also makes you think that taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or walking for twenty minutes, three times a week is "exercise."

One positive effect of this is that, because Medicare will only cover procedures that are proven to be effective, we will, for the first time, have reliable data on methods for losing weight according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

So we'll have reliable data on effective weight loss for the first time? Really? Here's some reliable data. Eating less food and healthier food and exercising is an effective way to lose weight. We've known this for years. We're just lazy now.

I suppose its easy for me to say that. I'm the ideal weight for my height. I run under five minutes in a mile. I bench 75 pounds more than I weigh. But at one point in my life I was infected with obesity. At 13, I weighed 160 lbs, about what I weigh now that I'm 8 inches taller than I was than. It wasn't easy to lose weight but I did it and now I'm happy as hell that I did. And I did it by myself. I didn't ask anybody to help me pay for it unless you count the new pair of Adidas my mom bought me.

Here's what I know about weight loss.
Fact: If you exercise like I do, you WILL be fit.
Here's how:
1) Work out EVERY DAY for 1-3 HOURS.
2) When you work out, work out HARD. I see all these people that have obesity, and a lot that are just on their way, at the gym riding the bike at 65 rpms or walking on the treadmill. That's not gonna cut it. Try 110 rpms. Try Running.
3) Lift weights. Aerobic exercise won't cut it alone. You need to get stronger to lose weight.
4) Quit eating crap. Food is fuel. Try to look at it as such. Base your meal on your next workout. Eat what you will need to get through that long bike ride or that tough upper body weight workout you're doing this afternoon.

If that doesn't work, I'll pay for the damn lyposuction.

Quote of the day

Surfer Bethany Hamilton (yeah, that's the girl who's arm got taken off by a 15 foot tigershark last year) is competing in an indoor surfing competition in Wisconsin Dells this Saturday. Here's a Q & A session with the Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel:

Q. You're coming to Wisconsin Dells this month to surf indoors at Kalahari water park. Have you ever surfed indoors before? What's the difference between surfing indoors compared with surfing in the ocean?

A. Oh no! I've never surfed anywhere where there's no ocean. That's why I'm excited to see the waves with no ocean at the Kalahari. I think surfing indoors will be more predictable, I imagine. Also, I bet it's safer! (emphasis added)

I also would bet that it is safer, because, well, there are no frickin sharks!

Oh Great,

We're published on the Carnival of the Vanities the one week that Instapundit doesn't link to it.  Oh well.  I suppose there are more important things going on.


The link is now up at Instapundit.
Thanks Jeff!  Thanks Glenn!
Welcome carnival patrons! 
Have a look around while you are here. 

Everything to Everyone

I'm with Sullivan. What an arrogant jerk.

John Kerry's Democratic Party nomination acceptance speech was everything I didn't need to hear. I am well informed, and fairly set in my opinions. I already know exactly what I do not like about Bush, and exactly what I do not like about Kerry. All that matters to me is what they decide to focus on, and Kerry focused solely on things that make me nauseous (although to be fair, I missed probably the first 15 minutes of the speech, perhaps that portion was more palatable).

At least he wasn't boring, although I don't really care about such things (I would have voted for Joe Lieberman in a heartbeat, and he is frequently observed fleeing from mobs of termites and beavers). But part of why he was interesting was that he was scary. During several of his serious points he would take on a grave demeanor, finish his thought, and then suddenly, remember that he was supposed to be smiling, and crack a big grin that was less indicative of an optimistic, hopeful leader, but instead sparked thoughts of a certain Batman supervillain. He was also sweating profusely, which is fine. Stage lights are hot. But it made me think of Nixon, and that's a parallel that no one wants to draw.

But content is what it's all about. He could have said so many things to get me firmly off the fence, but instead he forcibly shoved me back on. I'm on board with stem cell research, the FMA (against), and all of that good stuff. What I needed to hear was concrete views on domestic spending, taxes, and on Iraq. All I'm left with are more questions:

You don't value families by kicking kids out of after-school programs and taking cops off our streets, so that Enron can get another tax break.

What do the Federal Government and the President have to do with after-school programs? And what does the Federal Government have to do with the number of police officers on the street? These are not concerns of the President. The President has as much ability to kick kids out of after school programs or take cops off of the street as I do. What's the point? I'm against corporate welfare and special tax breaks, but what does that have to do with social programs for kids or cops being laid off?

You don't value families by denying real prescription drug coverage to seniors, so big drug companies can get another windfall.
We believe in the family value expressed in one of the oldest Commandments: ``Honor thy father and thy mother.'' As President, I will not privatize Social Security. I will not cut benefits. And together, we will make sure that senior citizens never have to cut their pills in half because they can't afford lifesaving medicine.

On what planet do drug companies get a windfall by denying their products to customers? What should drug companies do, work for free? How should they fund R&D? Do you think we have enough drugs as is, and we should stop inventing? And how are we going to make sure that seniors can afford medicine? Price controls? Welfare? What is it going to be?

If you're not going to privatize social security, what will you do with it? Just because the government runs it doesn't mean it won't go bankrupt. It needs fixing somehow, privatization or not. What is your plan? Give me something.

What does it mean in America today when Dave McCune, a steel worker I met in Canton, Ohio, saw his job sent overseas and the equipment in his factory literally unbolted, crated up, and shipped thousands of miles away along with that job? What does it mean when workers I've met had to train their foreign replacements?

It means that the costs of making steel in America are too high, in spite of the horrible price fixing instituted and then retracted by President Bush. And if it costs less elsewhere, more power to them. It means that Dave made too much money in an industry where almost all employees make too much money. And it means that someone else got a better job than Dave had because of the cost savings of outsourcing. Jobs and money are not just destroyed when a job is moved. New and better jobs are created elsewhere, in areas where America is growing.

For someone who claims to be a nuanced, deep thinker, Kerry's understanding of economics leaves a lot to be desired.

What does it mean when Mary Ann Knowles, a woman with breast cancer I met in New Hampshire, had to keep working day after day right through her chemotherapy, no matter how sick she felt, because she was terrified of losing her family's health insurance?

It means that sometimes bad things happen to good people. And Mary should be commended for working incredibly hard through a hellish ordeal. But she had health insurance to take care of her cancer. Maybe she was out of sick time and vacation time. Maybe she had a job that didn't give her very much. Maybe she had a jerk for a boss who would not cut any slack for an employee with cancer. Is the solution to this problem to have Mary get free healthcare instead? Is that the best solution?

What does it mean when Deborah Kromins from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, works and saves all her life only to find out that her pension has disappeared into thin air and the executive who looted it has bailed out on a golden parachute?

First of all, pensions are protected by the Federal Government already (through the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)), so this is impossible. I assume what he means is that the stock, 401ks, etc. of companies that commit fraud are destroyed. So what is his solution? We have new, stricter accounting standards (options must now be accounted for when they are given, not when they are exercised). Most of the corporate thieves at Enron, Imclone, etc, are going to do time. Some won't and that's a travesty, but what will Kerry do about it that hasn't already happened? What? (And anecdotes are a stupid way to make a point, as Al Gore found out last election).

What does it mean when 25 percent of the children in Harlem have asthma because of air pollution?

This stat is accurate. And it's a big problem. But this is not the best environmental area to take on the president. Harlem has an unusual amount of diesel fuel traffic and airline pollution, which is one of the reasons it is so cheap. Check out this report. The good bits:

One explanation for the high asthma rates in these neighborhoods is the air pollutants brought about by the area's disproportionate number of the City's infrastructure facilities - waste transfer stations, bus depots and highways - choked with diesel-powered vehicles emitting particulate pollution, a major contributor to asthmatic conditions. Asthma is also prevalent among residents living near busy La Guardia and JFK airports in Queens, where airplane exhaust raises levels of air pollutants in their neighborhoods.

Now, read this, by Gregg Easterbrook. The good bits:

Bush has put into force three powerful new pollution-reduction rules, one written by Browner and the others composed under Bush. One new rule mandates that diesel engines of trucks and buses be much cleaner; a second new rule mandates that "off road" power plants such as outboard motors and construction-machine engines be much cleaner; a third requires refineries to reduce the inherent pollution content of diesel fuel, this last rule enacted over the howls of Bush's core constituency, the oil boys. Taken together, these three new rules are the most important anti-pollution initiative since the 1991 Clean Air Act amendments that cracked down on acid rain. And because studies show that diesel fumes are bad for public health, Bush's new rules should produce at least as much public-health gain as the strictest interpretation of the new-source standard.

With ANWR, poor logging practices, poor regulation of mercury emissions, and the increasing problem of greenhouse gases (a bipartisan effort), you pick this? Why?

What does it mean when people are huddled in blankets in the cold, sleeping in Lafayette Park on the doorstep of the White House itself and the number of families living in poverty has risen by three million in the last four years?

It means that the definition of poverty was revised downward (which just made it more accurate, but did not increase the number of people in actual poverty). It also means that the economy was in bad shape. It no longer is. And again, what are you going to do about it?

So here is our economic plan to build a stronger America:
First, new incentives to revitalize manufacturing.

Incentives for manufacturing? Call me crazy, but that sounds like either tax breaks or corporate welfare. I thought you were against that. That's also more economic protectionism. Great.

Second, investment in technology and innovation that will create the good-paying jobs of the future.

Umm, people already invest in this. What do you mean? Government subsidies to work on "technology and innovation?" Usually the words "government subsidies" and "innovation" don't really go together very well. More tax breaks to tech companies? What?

Third, close the tax loopholes that reward companies for shipping our jobs overseas. Instead, we will reward companies that create and keep good paying jobs where they belong: in the good old U.S.A.

I thought you were for closing tax loopholes, yet here you are proposing more of them. Or more corporate welfare, either way. Do you really think that taxes drive outsourcing, and not labor costs? Are you that, what's the word, simplistic? And are all of your solutions to throw money at non-competitive businesses? At this rate you're going to make a prophet out of Ronald Reagan:

Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.

Next, we will trade and compete in the world. But our plan calls for a fair playing field because if you give the American worker a fair playing field, there's nobody in the world the American worker can't compete against.

What is fair? Sure, if we artificially raise the price of foreign goods to the level required to make American goods competitive, we'll be competitive. But what's the point? Why not focus on something we actually are competitive in?

And we're going to return to fiscal responsibility, because it is the foundation of our economic strength. Our plan will cut the deficit in half in four years by ending tax giveaways that are nothing more than corporate welfare and will make government live by the rule that every family has to follow: pay as you go.

And let me tell you what we won't do: we won't raise taxes on the middle class. You've heard a lot of false charges about this in recent months. So let me say straight out what I will do as President: I will cut middle class taxes. I will reduce the tax burden on small business. And I will roll back the tax cuts for the wealthiest individuals who make over $200,000 a year, so we can invest in job creation, health care and education.

How are you going to do this when you've just committed to a huge new health care entitlement, corporate welfare to manufacturing, no privatization of social security, and a middle class tax cut? Just repealing the tax cut on those who make over 200K isn't going to cut it. Where is the money going to come from? Where? Also, small businesses are often taxed as individuals, as they tend to be organized as sole proprietorships, partnerships, s-corporations, or LLCs. It is difficult to lower taxes for small businesses at the same time you raise taxes on wealthy individuals, and at the same time not create a huge tax loophole.

Our education plan for a stronger America sets high standards and demands accountability from parents, teachers, and schools. It provides for smaller class sizes and treats teachers like the professionals they are. And it gives a tax credit to families for each and every year of college.

How does it demand accountability from parents? I don't think that you can do that. What measures will you take to make teachers and schools accountable? Is "treating teachers like the professionals they are" holding them accountable? Tax credits for college? Sure, why not.

When I was a prosecutor, I met young kids who were in trouble, abandoned by adults. And as President, I am determined that we stop being a nation content to spend $50,000 a year to keep a young person in prison for the rest of their life when we could invest $10,000 to give them Head Start, Early Start, Smart Start, the best possible start in life.

I'll outsource this one to Stephen Green:

More smart stuff -- talking about spending on Head Start instead of prison.
Hell, I didn't even know we were sending any preschoolers to jail. Something must be done about that!

Since 2000, four million people have lost their health insurance. Millions more are struggling to afford it.
You know what's happening. Your premiums, your co-payments, your deductibles have all gone through the roof.
Our health care plan for a stronger America cracks down on the waste, greed, and abuse in our health care system and will save families up to $1,000 a year on their premiums. You'll get to pick your own doctor and patients and doctors, not insurance company bureaucrats, will make medical decisions. Under our plan, Medicare will negotiate lower drug prices for seniors. And all Americans will be able to buy less expensive prescription drugs from countries like Canada.
The story of people struggling for health care is the story of so many Americans. But you know what, it's not the story of senators and members of Congress. Because we give ourselves great health care and you get the bill. Well, I'm here to say, your family's health care is just as important as any politician's in Washington, D.C.
And when I'm President, America will stop being the only advanced nation in the world which fails to understand that health care is not a privilege for the wealthy, the connected, and the elected - it is a right for all Americans.

First, read this. This is nothing short of a call for socialized medicine. At this point in the speech, he's advocated letting social security die, ruining health care, putting in protectionist rules of trade, and killing innovation in the drug industry. This election sucks.

We value an America that controls its own destiny because it's finally and forever independent of Mideast oil. What does it mean for our economy and our national security when we only have three percent of the world's oil reserves, yet we rely on foreign countries for fifty-three percent of what we consume?
I want an America that relies on its own ingenuity and innovation, not the Saudi royal family.
And our energy plan for a stronger America will invest in new technologies and alternative fuels and the cars of the future - so that no young American in uniform will ever be held hostage to our dependence on oil from the Middle East.

So you are against domestic oil drilling but want us to be free from Mideast oil dependency? How? How? How!? Are you going to invent cold fusion? What are these new technologies? Hydrogen? Not in your term, buddy. And are we still playing the "war for oil" card? Seriously, does anyone believe this anymore? It doesn't even make any sense. It pissed off all of the countries that sell us oil.

The rest is all fluff. As I said, I'm on board with stem cell research, against the FMA, and agree with a lot of democratic social policy. There was not enough of that for me tonight.

One constant refrain during the speech was the "Help is on the way."
I don't need your help, Senator. What I need is for you, and the President, to get out of my way.
I'm probably sitting this election out. Maybe I'll still give a grudging gridlock vote for Kerry, but I doubt it. I would feel dirty.

Plus I've got this song stuck in my head now.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

The NFL Offseason, from Amos to Zereoue

There were more offseason moves this year than at any other time in recent memory. There was even a blockbuster trade, a sight unseen since the salary cap set up the signing bonus prison cell which makes trading almost impossible. You may not have kept up, so here’s a brief synopsis. Try and keep up.

Amos Zereoue claimed that he was a 1500-yard back who was being hindered by a runningback-by-committee approach in Pitt, with Jerome Bettis. He got his chance last year, and it turns out that he’s a 433-yard back. D’oh!

Anyway, he won’t get a chance to catch passes from Tommy Maddox or Ben Rothlisberger this year, as he is now a Raider, where he will join a brand new runningback-by-committee of Justin Fargas, Ty Wheatley, and everyone’s favorite "touchdown suck" Zack Crockett. He’ll also join the oldest team in the league, playing alongside Rich Gannon, Tim Brown, and Jerry Rice, although Gannon may be pressed for his job (and should be) by the newly acquired Kerry Collins, who has a much stronger arm, well suited to the new Norv Turner offense in Oakland. Oh, and they’ve also taken a step towards becoming the fattest team in the league by signing under-performing loudmouth Warren Sapp.

You may have noticed Charlie Garner’s name missing from the RB committee. That’s because he’s now a Buccaneer, switching places with Big Warren. The Bucs should rebound nicely, exercising the cancers of Warren and Keyshawn Johnson, now a Cowboy. This team is only one year removed from the Superbowl, look for them to get back. Look for Charles Lee as a sleeper wideout.

Charlie Garner replaces Thomas Jones, now a Bear. The Bears have taken steps to insure future high draft picks by signing the aforementioned loser ex-Cardinal, starting what is basically a rookie quarterback, and now word is that Brian Urlacher has a bum hamstring. It’s always a good idea to ignore positions of need and bring in extra loser RBs, especially when you already have the perfectly serviceable Anthony Thomas in camp.

Word is that the Dolphins are interested in Thomas, possibly offering up sack specialist Adawale Ogunleye. They desperately need a RB to replace the high flying (heh) Ricky Williams, because otherwise, they, how shall I say this, suck. Just to make things a bit worse, they brought in David Boston, who may be cut before opening day, but he’ll look oh so good being cut.

He came over from San Diego, who drafted Philip Rivers to be the new QB. He can’t possibly be worse than Drew Breese, so as long as Reche Caldwell and Antonio Gates do something, anything! Ladanian should easily be a 2000-yard back with 70-100 catches. Philip was traded to the Chargers when crybaby wussy brother of Peyton and Cooper, son of Archibald, Eli Manning refused to play in San Diego (who refuses to live in San Diego? Seriously? Has he ever been to San Diego? Unbelievable).

Eli is a Giant, and may be their starter, except he has to beat out former MVP Kurt Warner to do it. The Giants are pretty unexciting, except I hear they want to return to Thunder and Lightning for a running game. This is problematic, as last I heard Thunder wanted to return to Old Country Buffet for seconds on bulk pudding, and stop by Ricky’s place for some Urine Luck on the way home (Just kidding, Ricky hates Ron, and voted for Major Applewhite over Ron for the Heisman. What, was he high at the time?).

Kurt left unhappily from the Rams where he had gone from downtrodden-boy-makes-good hero to walking joke with his whining, and his wife’s frequent radio show appearances. Goblin sightings have declined 100% in St. Louis recently. The Rams are sort of a disaster, as several of their players have off the field problems (Leonard Little), Marshall is old, Isaac is old, and Mike Martz is still the coach, and still an idiot. At least if Marshall breaks, Steven Jackson looks like a promising backup.

Grant Wistrom, late of the Rams, is now a Seahawk, where Matt Hasslebeck will try and make the leap from just bald to good and bald. The Hawks are pretty much the same, but Matt still has to get over that pick by Al Harris last year.

Al’s teammate, Mike McKenzie is holding out threatening to blow the Packers whole season. They drafted a corner just in case (and a punter, yeah!), but other than that, all they did was sign Tim Couch to back up Brett. We all hope that Tim never plays again. Ever.

The Packers grabbed Tim from the Browns, who drafted him #1 overall a few years back. They may be the most improved team out there, with the shifty Lee Suggs in the backfield, Kellen Winslow at TE, and Jeff Garcia at QB. My sleeper Superbowl pick out of the AFC.

They stole Jeff from San Fran, who just decided to give up this year. They’ll start Tim Rattay at QB, who might be dead by week 3. Rashaun Woods should catch a lot of passes because, hey, someone has to. Oh, by the way, they also lost TO.

He lands on the Eagles. TO was unhappy with the play of Jeff Garcia, a mobile but inaccurate QB. He was also frustrated by the lack of any complimentary receivers to take pressure off of him. So now that he’s an Eagle, he gets to play with Donovan McNabb, a mobile but inaccurate QB, and Todd Pinkston, who’s due to break in half any day now. The Eagles should be a Superbowl favorite, as they also gained The Freak, Javon Kearse, leading to the ancient Chinese riddle, "if Todd Pinkston runs into Javon Kearse’s ankle, what breaks?"

Javon left the Titans, who had a terrible offseason, losing Eddie George (who sucks) and Justin McCareins, (who’s good). Steve McNair is already listed as questionable, as a preemptive measure to spare the training staff from having to write it in to the NFL every week. They’ll rely on Drew Bennet and Tyrone Calico to supplement the excellent Derrick Mason. They also signed Antowain Smith to replace George, and split time with Chris Brown.

Antowain came from New England, who grabbed Corey Dillon from Cinci, who didn’t need him anymore because they have Rudi Johnson.

Eddie went to Dallas, where he’ll join Terry Glenn and Keyshawn Johnson, the most annoying WR tandem in the history of football. They have a bit of a QB controversy, as Quincy Carter blows, Drew Henson has played baseball for a few years, and Vinny Testeverde was mummified over the summer. Parcells loves Vinny, and don’t be surprised if he starts at some point.

Vinny came from the Jets, where Chad Pennington will try to regain the form from his rookie year, and will have both Santana Moss and Justin McCareins to hit in perfect stride, while the elderly Curtis Martin continues to carry the load on the ground. They had a verbal agreement with Antoine Winfield to shore up their defense, but he backed out at the last minute.

Winfield signed with the Vikings who improved their defense, have a healthy Michael Bennett, and added the Randy Moss like (except for the HORRIBLE BACK PROBLEMS) Marcus Robinson. They should win the North.

Marcus Robinson came from the Ravens, who thought they had TO locked up. They missed out on all of the good free agents and as a result they will have the same pedestrian offense as last year. On the plus side, they now have a murdering Lewis and a druggie Lewis (Jamal is likely not guilty of that though, so don’t worry).

The Vikings old coach, Dennis Green, now runs the Arizona Cardinals, who drafted Larry Fitzgerald to join Anquan Boldin as a very good WR squad. Too bad Josh McCown is throwing to them, and Emmitt Smith is still playing. Marcel Shipp is much better.

TO’s former teammate, and former Cardinal 1st round draft pick Garrison Hearst left the 49ers for the Broncos, who will look to Jake Plummer to not get hurt, and play better than Jake Plummer. Garrison will compete for time with Quentin Griffith, Mike Anderson, and intriguing youngster Tatum Bell. The Broncos also shored up the defense by acquiring shutdown corner Champ Bailey, but giving up Clinton Portis.

Clinton is now a Redskin, where he will join the overpaid crew of Dan Snyder under legendary coach Joe Gibbs, back from his stint in Nascar. They could be tough with newly acquired Mark Brunell at the helm, and a healthy Laveranues Coles at WR.

Mark came from the Jags, who have a young tough defense and a young upcoming Byron Leftwhich at QB. Fred Taylor stayed healthy all of last year which is a big positive. Oh, and Jimmy Smith who will probably join Ricky Williams on his round-the-world pot tour sometime soon.

The Redskins also signed former Eagles WR James Thrash, who used to play there a few years ago.

The Eagles also let go of Duce Staley.

Who now plays in Pitt.

Replacing Amos Zereoue.

Got it?




First, read this.

Taco Bell is not one of my favorite fast food restaurants.  I think most of their items are rather repulsive actually.  My wife briefly worked for a Taco Bell/Blimpies (what ever happened to Blimpies, anyway?) in college and her descriptions of some of the Taco Bell ingredients made me scared of most of the menu.  But I love the Chili Cheese Burrito.  So mysterious.  So indescribable.  What is that stuff in there anyway?  As James Lileks writes:

This is a sin. I had no idea that the Chili Cheese Burrito was in danger. Aside from the humble “taco” that TB does so well, the Chili Cheese Burrito is the ultimate old-school Taco Bell food. It consists of a tortilla slathered with an inscrutable meat paste, drizzled with cheddar and steamed to death in a small machine. It’s perhaps the most potent fat-delivery system in fast food, and I lament its passing.

I haven't been to a Taco Bell in ages, and I'm not sure that they even exist in the city of Chicago, but this will make my occasional commutes to Madison and Milwaukee depressing. 
May you rest in peace, gentle semi-processed pseudo-Mexican food-like product. 

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

The Next Democratic Star (that's not Obama).

The national media pounced on Chicago’s Barack Obama as the DNC’s rising star; and rightfully so. The 42-year-old Obama is a Harvard educated lawyer, state senator, and eloquent speaker (and future Senator according to…well everyone). However, watching the national media cover an event is (in the words of John Stewert) like watching 6-year-olds play soccer: there is no strategy, just a focus on chasing a ball back and forth. Therefore, let me point out another young star of the Democratic Party: San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom.
While Newsom may not have the education of Harvard Law Review editing Obama (he has a BA in Political Science) he certainly has star power. His status in the Bay Area is that of which is usually reserved for rock stars and supermodels. During this years Pride Parade his coming could be heard blocks away because of the exploding crowd chanting “GA-VIN! GA-VIN!”
Newsom exploded onto the Democratic stage by allowing gay marriages to be performed in San Francisco’s city hall, earning hatred and praise from around the world. Besides his championing of gay rights, Newsom is reforming the way SF deals with homelessness, and is actively tackling a $300 million budget deficit (including cutting his own salary 15%) by taking a liberal but yet pragmatic approach to social programs.
A young, energetic, good-looking, and motivated individual, Newsom is an ideal hero for a younger generation of democrats. Forget Hillary in ’12, I’m backing the Obama-Newsom ticket.

All of this hot air is causing global warming

I hate environmental politics.  When politicians make any statement regarding the condition of the environment, just ignore it.  It's not true.  Ever. 

I bring this up because Teresa Heinz-Kerry said the following at the democratic National Convention:

With John Kerry as President, global climate change and other threats to the health of our planet will begin to be reversed. (Hat tip, Ahren)

The truth is that Republicans are not particularly bad for the environment, and Democrats are not particularly good for the environment.  Regardless of who has been in office over the last 30 years or so, every environmental trend in the United States (with the exception of greenhouse gas emissions) is positive.  Pollution continues to dwindle, sanitation improves, illegal dumping by corporations is almost non-existent (Superfund cases are in steady decline).  The party in power has had no impact at all on the state of the environment.  As for those pesky greenhouses gases, blame big oil if you want, or auto workers, or auto manufacturers, or the bureaucrats that allow SUVs to skirt emissions regulations (a bipartisan effort), or farmers - all are responsible.  Or blame people who drive cars, run air-conditioners, blend fruity cocktails in their blenders, watch TV, write on paper, or perform any number of other activities that make up what I like to call, "living."

Sure Republicans stupidly cast themselves as anti-environmentalists during the "Contract with America" days, in an order to pick up votes they already had and alienate people like me, but those days are past.  Currently, the differences between the parties are negligible. 

If you are choosing your candidate based solely on environmental considerations, you may want to read this first.  When you're finished with that, read this article by Gregg Easterbrook from 1998.  It will make you happy, and give you something to think about the next time a candidate runs on the platform of impending global disaster. 


Dan Drezner has more fun environmental news here.

Teens who play video games and watch porn...

fail to actually have sex or commit violent acts. I just added a link to Tech Central Station on the newly organized blogroll, as it is one of the most consistently fascinating reads on the net, and then Glenn Reynolds comes along with this article to prove my point.

It reminds me of an old Onion article (which I can't link to, as they have uncooly started charging for back issues) which stated:

Pictures of naked women fail to attract real naked women to college dorm room.

When you phrase it like that, I think the causal connection between viewing porn and not having sex becomes more obvious.  Glenn has his own theory, (which relates back to one of Danny's favorite topics):

(Or maybe it's a different one -- research indicates that teenagers, though safer and healthier, are also fatter -- so perhaps the other improvements are the result of teens sitting around looking at porn and videogames until they're too out-of-shape and unattractive for the real thing…)

Read the whole thing.

Clash of the Dickheads

O'Reilly vs. Moore.

I'd give the victory to Bill on this one. Moore was doing a lot of dodging and misleading. One exchange (which was repeated several times) went like this:
M: He didn’t tell the truth, he said there were weapons of mass destruction.

O: Yeah, but he didn’t lie, he was misinformed by - all of those investigations come to the same conclusion, that’s not a lie.

M: uh huh, so in other words if I told you right now that nothing was going on down here on the stage…

O: That would be a lie because we could see that wasn’t the truth

O'Reilly basically argues that if Bush believed, based on the information that was provided to him, that there were WMDs he was not lying when he said so. Moore thinks that this is lying anyway. By Moore's logic, Stephen Hawking was lying when he said that black holes destroy all molecular fingerprints of their contents and emit only a generic form of radiation. It wasn't a lie. He was just wrong.

Moore also drills O'Reilly about whether he would sacrifice his child to remove certain leaders from power to which O'Reilly responds "I would sacrifice myself." Moore pushes and pushes the "your child" line but O'Reilly's suggestion is actually closer to what is actually going on. American children are not being killed. American soldiers, adults, who choose to fight in the military are the ones sacrificing themselves. Nobody is sending their children to war.

Justice at the Movies

The story is here.

A college student who took a cell phone call from her mother in a movie theater was pepper sprayed by an officer and charged with disorderly conduct, along with her boyfriend.

Witnesses said the pair did nothing wrong.

Actually, they had a cell phone on in a movie theater. That's wrong. Even if the movie was Catwoman. Sometimes "shhhh" just doesn't cut it.

That fella Paul and Peter are always talking about gave a nice speech.

I was very impressed with Barack Obama last night at the DNC. The meat of his speech was nothing spectacular but his words and his voice were very.... Presidential? Unlike most of the other speakers from last night, he seemed to have gone to the trouble of actually memorizing his speech and was able to say it with some feeling without getting all wishy-washy and full of liberal rhetoric. That was my take. I'm curious to see where this guy goes from here.

Andrew Sullivan liked it too. His commentary is here.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Everyone else is doing Star Wars titles...

I choose Austin Powers (actually, Dr. Evil):
At last, I have somewhere to mount my "L.A.S.E.R."

(Link via Instapundit)

If You Were Worried That America Wasn't Fat Enough...

Worry no more. Krispy Kreme unveils the liquid doughnut. If McDonald's creates the intra-venous-Big-Mac I'm leaving the country.

Update: Good commentary on this abomination at Diztopia.

As a longtime Krispy Kreme enthusiast, I set off to determine if mankind was ready for this evolutionary leap forward. Arriving at KK with trusty Agent L (pictured above, undercover) as backup, I inquired of the dour KK kounter-man, prithee, what is the Frozen Blended Beverage made of? "It's a drink," he answered. Yes, that I got from the poster showing the product as a liquid in a cup, but what's in it? Milk? Is it like a milkshake thing? At this point, his jaw began working mechanically, and he called for his manager. Uh oh.

The manager came storming up to the counter, and when we asked her the same questions, she barked "It's a blended ... frozen beverage!" She was sticking to the company line, even though it should have been rendered "frozen blended beverage." But before she could call security, the counterman suddenly interjected, "We don’t know what it is. It's just powder. They just send it to us and we mix it with ice." I thought the manager was going to snap his head off for such impertinence.

This was my favorite line:

Would it be possible to just freebase that donut powder for a direct connection between cosmic donut essence and the human soul?

Update: Treks vs. Tractors in Dane County, WI

Mike Ivey writes another good editorial in the Capital Times here.

Trackbacks here, here, here and here.

I made a Funny

With all this serious political talk, I thought I would interject a little humor.

I personally love the Herman Munster line. See for yourselves.

What Book Are You?

I took one of those stupid internet quizzes because a bunch of the "Althouse Crew" of law professors at my school (Ann Althouse, Nina Camic, Tonya Brito) have been posting about it. You answer six very simple questions and it tells you what book you are. Whatever. Here's my result:

You're To Kill a Mockingbird!

by Harper Lee

Perceived as a revolutionary and groundbreaking person, you have
changed the minds of many people. While questioning the authority around you, you've
also taken a significant amount of flack. But you've had the admirable guts to
persevere. There's a weird guy in the neighborhood using dubious means to protect you,
but you're pretty sure it's worth it in the end. In the end, it remains unclear to you
whether finches and mockingbirds get along in real life.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Drezner v. Benedict

I attended the foreign policy debate between Kennette Benedict, the director of the International Peace and Security Area of the Program on Global Security and Sustainability at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and Daniel Drezner, Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago, and excellent blogger. The topic: Democracy Defined: Wield or Yield.

A friend and I took in the hour and a half-long debate, which was standing room only by time we arrived. (Note: everything here is from memory, so the "quotes" that I list are paraphrases. There was no room to hold a notebook, so I could not take notes. Sorry.) There was an impressive turnout considering that it was a Monday night, and that it was a political debate, and on the same night as the start of the Democratic National Convention, which you assume would keep everyone interested in politics at home in front of their TVs. The moderator for the event was Jon Langford who is the founder of the seminal British punk band the Mekons, and also a member of the Chicago-based alt-country band the Waco Brothers. He stated (and made clear throughout the night) that he is very liberal, but I felt that his questions were very even handed, and he always showed respect to both participants (Note: a notable exception was during introductions, where Kennette was given a lengthy and glowing intro and received a long ovation, and Dan was simply described as "a Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago." At that point the questions began, and there was no time for applause). He asked each debater 5 questions over the course of the evening, and each had 5 minutes to answer.

Some general observations:

1. This debate was incredibly civil, and was very enjoyable to listen to. There was no partisan sniping, and even the crowd, which purportedly got a little rowdy at the last GOAt debate, listened diligently the whole time.

2. Drezner supporters were a distinct minority.

3. Daniel really played well to the crowd. I think that they were expecting a big Bush supporter (Dan is still on the fence on who to vote for) and they instead got a very pragmatic and even-handed view of foreign policy from a guy who knows his stuff inside and out. He was often critical of the administration:

What we learned is that while you can win a war with a small light force, you can't occupy a country with a small light force.


The administration is bad at articulating its reasons for war. Really this is nothing new. During Bush 41's administration some political scientist went back and located 27 different justifications for that war. And that war was a war in which a nation state invaded another nation state. The reasons stated for the current war were some of the least compelling reasons. And remember it's ok to go to war for more than one reason. That's allowed. I would have made a bigger deal out of the humanitarian impact. For instance, since about 2002 Saddam Hussein had been carrying out what could only be called genocide against the Shiite Marsh Arabs that live between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 500,000 Marsh Arabs have been wiped out by his regime. And this was ongoing through this year. (The moderator expressed shock at not having known this fact).

4. Kennette was uneven. She sometimes gave very good answers on why an interventionist foreign policy was a bad idea. She often came back to the points that it creates ill will overseas, it costs us American lives, American dollars, and that it is often unnecessary, as people are perfectly capable of taking matters into their own hands in their own countries.

A few times she got off topic and rambled a bit. She pointed out that "we created Hussein and Bin Laden" which is sort of true. We funded Bin Laden in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union, and Hussein against Iran as part of our Middle East balance of power politics in the eighties. Is that really an argument not to wage war against them?

She also was enamored with the idea that war never results in stability afterwards, and that the correct path to take with regard to the radical Islamist movement is to understand them better, and "look inward at what we have done wrong." That understanding our enemy would make it unnecessary to fight our enemy. I have never understood this argument. (Drezner, to his credit, responded to this by quoting verbatim the bipartisan 9/11 commission report. It states that negotiation with al-Qaida and Islamist regimes is impossible, as we share no common ground, "not even a respect for life.")

Kennette also made a few way-out-there comments to the effect that the US was as morally bankrupt for having nuclear weapons as North Korea was for seeking them, that North Korea could use a nuclear facility for energy production purposes to aid it's impoverished population and that we were wrong for opposing it, and that we wish to dominate space and develop a laser weapon to kill preemptively those that we disagree with. Seriously. She also stated that Castro was "not the friendliest guy" in the understatement of the evening. But this probably makes her sound wackier than she was. This list is mainly composed of what caused Dan to roll his eyes. By and large she was very down to earth and made a few compelling arguments.

5. Dan was always on topic. He always started by stating his conclusion and then used facts to back it up. He supported promoting democracy abroad because two democracies have never fought each other in war. A democracy has never experienced a famine. Democracies are more likely to have other democracies around them. He offered hard facts.

In answer to this question, Kennette stated that everyone wants democracy and we can't import it, because it already exists internally in every person. She cited 4th century Indian emperors as instituting the earliest democracies (she was emphatic that ancient Greece did not invent it) and that several African tribes have used democracy for centuries, although these may not look like what we conceive of as democracy. Basically, she argued that we need not bother exporting democracy abroad because it is impossible, and already desired by all.

Dan responded to this point with the fact that the Middle East has never had a democracy and has no tradition of democracy that might naturally take hold (except Israel, of course). Therefore, injecting democracy into the region is not only a good idea for us, but also for the Middle East. He also agreed that every country would like democracy, but not that every country was internally capable of instituting it.

6. There were two instances of sniping that I noticed.

A. When asked if the "Axis of Evil" is evil, Dan responded with an emphatic "yes" citing all of the humanitarian and human rights catastrophes that Iran, Iraq, and North Korea were responsible for and how Reagan's "Evil Empire" speech was an important moment in turning the cold war in our favor. How?

Believe it or not, totalitarian regimes seek legitimacy. They like to be recognized in the international community, and it makes life easier for them. By labeling these governments as evil, it makes it harder for the rest of the world to recognize them and aid them. Furthermore, most of the people that live under totalitarian regimes don't like their government, and it is good to communicate to those people just whose side we are on.

Whether you agree with this or not, this is a pragmatic statement citing the strategic importance of the use of the word evil. He also stated several evil actions by the named countries, but by and large he focused on why it was smart to use the words, not why it was right to use them. For this, Kennette called him a "Theologian." It was meant to imply that use of "good" and "evil" to describe people was simplistic and irrational, based in faith and not reason. This only served to illicit an "oooh" from the crowd, and provide Dan with some ammo for later, when the two were discussing the civility of the debate:

Kennette: And really, two sides can have a rational reasoned discussion on this topic.
Dan: Although you did call me a "Theologian" a little over an hour ago.

B. The two were asked a question about sanctions on Cuba. Kennette went first and stated support for ending the Cuban embargo and opening up commerce. She stated that if we do this that Castro would be gone within 2 weeks.

Dan went second and started by saying, "well I've written a book on sanctions so I can speak here as an expert and not a pseudo-expert." This sounded like a rip on Kennette and maybe it was. I think what he meant was that the last few questions were off the topic of discussion and he finally got one that he could speak knowledgeably about, but it sounded a bit harsh to me.

For the record, he also supported opening up Cuba but was less optimistic about the result. His reasoning was that when Castro did die it would be better to have a Western influence there than not to.

7. Dan does a killer Bill Clinton impression. Not just a send up and not the typical SNL impression where the actor sounds like an actor trying to do Bill Clinton. He sounds just like him. He has the mannerisms down as well.

8. Dan drank beer the whole time. I respect that.

9. There should be more debates in bars. It's relaxed, the participants are more open and less guarded, and I think the audience is more receptive to new ideas. In a way, a debate is like trying to pick up a member of the opposite sex. You're trying to get someone to see your side of things through conversation and performance. Often alcohol is a catalyst in this process. Why not a bar? Wouldn't the debates be better if Bush and Kerry had a beer on the podium?

10. Overall, I think that Dan had a better showing, and "won" the debate, to the extent that a debate can have a clear winner. His arguments were sound, and he never acted pompous, never resorted to rhetoric, and always showed respect for his opponent. I think the crowd was generally impressed as well, even if they disagreed with him.

11. Most of the audience questions were, to be as diplomatic as possible, stupid. Both participants did their best to answer anyway.

12. I would highly recommend attending one of these debates in the future, and I would encourage more taverns to copy this idea. Schubas was packed on a Monday, even though they didn't have a special and charged ten bucks a head. Now that is a good business opportunity.

13. Politics should always be as reasoned and devoid of political rhetoric as this. No "Bush lied" or "Kerry is a commie." It was entertaining and informative at the same time.

Fun Fact: (Unless you're North Korean) Did you know that the average South Korean is now four inches taller than the average North Korean? 


Dan clarifies:

One correction -- when I made the statement about answering a question as a real expert and not a pseudo-expert, that crack was NOT targeted at my debating partner, but rather myself -- the previous question or two had covered areas where I felt uneasy making authoritative statements.

Monday, July 26, 2004

It's Monday, Time for HEADLINES!

In the wake of the 9/11 commission’s report major newspapers rushed to focus on particular elements for their headlines. A look at headlines throughout the SF Bay Area shows why media consolidation is a threat to democracy.

The usually stridently liberal San Francisco Chronicle declared, “U.S. Safer – but not Safe.” The San Jose Mercury News chose to spread the blame with the headline, “Panel’s Searing Look At Government Failure,” while the nationally distributed New York Times focused on the intelligence failure with, “Report Calls for a Sweeping Overhaul of Intelligence.” In my opinion the most partisan headlines came from the national daily USA Today, “Fix Terror Strategy Panel Says.”

While all of these headlines may technically be accurate, they do lend themselves to different interpretations of the panels findings. A casual read of the Chronicle of the Times might lead a reader to believe that Bush has done his best and America is safer as a result, while a quick glance at the Mercury News or USA Today might lead one to conclude that Bush is a massive failure in the terror arena.

It’s important that these different voices compete for attention as one can find a variety of coverage and separate the relevant bits from the chaff. Some markets offer only one major paper and its inhabitants must actively seek alternatives. If one corporation owned all 4 papers I examined they could have run the headline to 7 million Bay Area residents, “Panel Finds 8 Missed Opportunities to Take Down bin Laden on Bush’s Watch;” or “AMERICA SAFER!” and they would both be correct.

You think you know somebody...

So John Kerry is a civil libertarian and John Ashcroft is a superstitious calico-cat-fearing trampler of civil liberties right? Right?
(Hat tip, Vodkapundit)

Radio Killed the Radio Star

The Carnival of the Capitalists is up (via Instapundit, as usual).  The best of the bunch deals with Clearchannel's consolidation of radio and how it has cannibalized the entire music industry.  The good bits:

These far away programmers -- and their greatly reduced playlists -- ultimately equaled less fans.

Clearchannel didn't only hurt radio -- they drew first blood from the recording industry also. Music fans only buy what they hear; Less music on the radio meant decreasing purchases of CDs. I'm convinced that the ever shrinking national radio playlist caused by radio consolidation is one of the key factors in the declining CD sales nationwide.

The recording industry's solution was, of course, to sue people who downloaded music.  Assuming that the recording industry succeeds in this endeavor (if you think that that is impossible, read this, also via Instapundit) they will have destroyed millions of dollars worth of free advertising.  I think that the recording industry fundamentally misunderstands what it is selling.  It is not selling CDs, but music.  And music is a nebulous thing.  It is a consumer good in and of itself, but it is also its own advertising.  You hear a song, and you like it.  You want to here it more, so you buy the song.  The recording industry is attempting an unnatural act: to separate the advertising aspect of the song from the product aspect of the song. 

Recording artists have given away free music as long as music has existed.  Radio was the ultimate free commercial for the music industry.  It was of slightly inferior quality, thus leaving a demand for a higher quality permanent version.  Now they have run into technology, and like any industry that has been defeated by technology, they seek restrictions on progress. 

Their problem is that the advertising portion of music can now be made permanent in the consumers' hands.  The dual aspects of advertising and consumer good can no longer be partitioned by the recording industry.  Their only hope to remain a salient business is to adjust, and to give consumers more than they can currently get for free. 

In Barry Ritholtz's post he states that the following will fill the void:

1) Internet;
2) Satellite Radio;
3) iPods;
4) P2P

What these all have in common is personal choice.  When Clear Channel destroyed the local music station they narrowed the already limited spectrum of musical diversity on the radio.  These options provide the user with whatever that individual user wants.  Any technology that fails to give listeners as many choices will die, whether they pass protectionist laws, or consolidate into larger and larger entities. 

Many (including me) complained when Sony and BMG merged into a "grotesque abomination" that they were attempting to monopolize the industry.  Now I'm not so sure.  I think it was more a matter of survival than of dominance. 

Dinosaurs get bigger.  The rest of us evolve. 

Andrew Sullivan plays the "Anti-American Card"

Here,in response to a BBC story on Lance Armstrong which claims that Armstrong is great but others, Eddie Merckx in particular, were greater. I think that Sullivan either knows nothing about cycling or didn't read the article. Maybe its a little back-handed to print an article comparing him to other greats the day after Lance won his sixth tour but its not uncommon. These articles pop up around every major sporting event. Is Phelps as good as Spitz? Is Kobe as good as Jordan? Sports commentators are constantly comparing today's greats with yesterday's. This article was actually a fair commentary on how Lance stacks up against Merckx.

In sum the article says Lance is the greatest rider in Tour de France history but Merckx is still the greatest rider in cycling history. Both are probably true but since the two could never race on common ground who knows for sure. Lance has one tour on Merckx who won five. Merckx has several Giro d'Italias and a Vuelta d'Espana to go with his five tours while Lance has little else. Merckx also held the hour record for some time. Being able to dominate a pure speed hour race and several-week-long tours at the same time is no easy task. Merckx also didn't have the benefits that come with technology. He didn't always know where his competitors were. He was forced to ride all out for the entire race, every race. And he'd do several in the same year. He didn't just save himself for the Tour.

I don't mean to take away from Lance's achievements. He is amazing. He went from having a 40% chance of surviving to being the the most physically fit person on the planet right now. And, he's not done yet. He may still make the debate less debatable in the next few years. I'm simply saying that the article was fair and by no means "anti-American" as Andrew Sullivan claims.

The headline of the day is...


Finding the Perfect Name for your Product

It's a big stupid business.

In 2002 PepsiCo. Inc. was looking for a "slick, fashion-forward name for its new, ice-blue cola." PepsiCo.'s marketers consulted Catchword, an Oakland, California, marketing firm "whose exclusive niche is engineering product names and pithy tag lines." The deal must have happened something like this:

PepsiCo.: We have a new product and would like your help in developing a name for it. It's pretty much just like Pepsi but its blue. We're "looking to target hip young people - skate-punk kids." We'd like something that is sort of "in-your-face" Something that is "cool-sounding."

Catchword: We'll get started on it right away.

After several weeks on the beach or at the golf course or in front of the television Catchword contacts PepsiCo. with its answer.

Catchword: We've tested out 1500 different names with consumers and think we've found a winner. How about Pepsi Blue?

PepsiCo.: Brilliant! Your service has been more than worth the several million dollars you charge. We'll just pass that cost on to the consumers that will be so eager to by our new product with its "cool-sounding" new name.

What's funny about this article is that it discusses the current trend of businesses looking for "unique, fanciful, almost impressionistic names", like Verizon or Altria or Viagra instead of descriptive names such as International Business Machines or General Electric. And this gives us Pepsi Blue.

Miami area Waffle Houses add staff to prepare for Williams' retirement.

Hi, I'm former pro football running back Ricky Williams.  I used to take punishing hits every Sunday for the Miami Dolphins, until I started smoking pot.  At first, everything was basically the same.  I suffer from social anxiety disorder, and it made going out less stressful, and relaxing after practice was easier, but my performance on the field was still excellent.  Then the Dolphins front office failed to sign an adequate offensive line, and the punishment that I was taking increased tenfold.  Because of the added pain, my pot consumption went off the charts.  Eventually I lost the will to show up for training camp. 

You see, pot cost me my career.  Before, the idea of getting beaten to a pulp on a weekly basis even though I already had several million dollars seemed to make perfect sense.  Pot changed all that.  Now, all that I have are my millions of dollars, my mansions, my legions of fans, oh, and four metric tons of the finest imported weed you can find. 

Some other players go the safe route with alcohol, or attempt to improve their games with performance enhancing drugs like anabolic steroids, but not me.  I gave into Mary Jane, and look where I am today.  Sitting alone and unemployed in a hammock on my private stretch of South Beach, with a bag of Doritos, and a pina colada.  And a bong that I had custom designed by this guy.

So, remember kids, next time you're tempted to "light up" or you're faced with "peer pressure" to "smoke a doobie" that if you say yes, you could end up like Ricky. 

This message brought to you by The Electric Commentary as a public service, and as a reminder that if it's fun, someone probably wants to ban it.


Maybe this is why he's retiring.  The important part:

New super-strength marijuana readily available on US streets is prompting the White House to change direction in its war against drugs.

Super strong pot!  For a limited time only!  Carpe Diem!
(Hat tip, Andrew Sullivan)

Friday, July 23, 2004

Thanks to Jon Rowe

for the link, and especially for the permalink.  Check out Jon's site here (or on our blogroll).  It's smartly written and makes extensive use of political philosophy.  He has recently posted several spirited and well written defenses of gay marriage, and has taken on some of the far right's more despicable arguments (like the slippery slope to bestiality.  Why stop at animals?  Why not rocks?  Or cacti?  Or Krsipy Kreme donuts?).  I also found this post on John Locke very interesting. 

I'm so there...

You can buy tickets here.

A Real American Hero

What can we learn about the war on terrorism from GI Joe?

When I was growing up, wayyyyy back in the 80s, we learned all about terrorism from everyone's favorite group of para-military cartoon supervillains bent on world conquest: Cobra - the perpetual thorn in the side of America's elite special forces unit known as GI Joe. This particular organization was not based in any specific nation, and yet it was able to afford state of the art weaponry, thousands of foot soldiers, matching facemasks for said soldiers, and a relaxation facility buried underground somewhere in the arctic.

Cobra, like al-Qaida must have relied on nation-sponsors for its continued existence. It required a large budget and the ability to hide troops and vehicles, some of which were inexplicably bright yellow. Afghanistan would have been perfect with its lack of infrastructure and towering mountain ranges. After all, lone supervillains, for instance, the Joker, can simply hole up in an abandoned warehouse in downtown Gotham (Note: Gotham City could have rid itself of crime entirely if only they enacted stricter zoning ordinances). It is quite another thing to hide an entire army. Unfortunately the troops at GI Joe were never able to discover the whereabouts of Cobra headquarters, so no economic sanctions could be imposed nor military action taken against Cobra's host country.

I always thought it highly probable that Cobra was Canadian in origin. They seemed to have ready access to the American border (according to GI Joe, attacks on American soil not only occurred; they were routine). They all seemed to be Anglo-Saxon (with the exception of Cobra Commander, who always wore a mask, and his second in command Destro, who may or may not have been a robot. His head was made of metal, and if it was a mask, then he had a really small head. I seem to recall that he was stronger than normal people as well). Another high ranking Cobra official, the Baroness, spoke in an ethnically ambiguous accent, which I assumed must be French, lending support to my Canada hypothesis (though it just as easily could have been German, or Russian, or just copying Natasha from Bullwinkle).

We learned the consequences of a passive foreign policy on GI Joe. Weapons of mass destruction were created by Cobra using deep see lava, moon rocks, and some other hard to get ingredient. Giant "Lasers" were placed in space, somehow avoiding detection by the United States. Nuclear warheads were placed inside the logos of a ubiquitous fast food restaurant right under our very noses. We risked total annihilation on a weekly basis. Surely some preemptive action was warranted by the President. But alas, none was forthcoming.

The reason for our lack of initiative against Cobra can probably be found in their incompetence. In the history of aggressive Cobra military operations, no member of GI Joe was ever shot. Several planes and tanks were destroyed, but in an amazing feet of engineering and foresightedness, every troop managed to parachute to safety or leap away from their doomed vehicle at the last moment. Cobra was also in a constant state of disarray, as Destro continually plotted to overthrow the vain Cobra Commander.

Cobra's incompetence was matched, if not exceeded, by our own special forces', who were slightly more adept at destroying opposing vehicles but equally inept at taking opposing life. No member of Cobra was ever slain and their parachutes were as efficient as their American counterparts'.

Perhaps the two sides were using the same weaponry. All GI Joe artillery fired what appeared to be blue "lasers" and all Cobra artillery fired what appeared to be red "lasers." It is my belief that these lasers were actually incapable of causing damage, and that some government contractor had hoodwinked the government in a despicable act of war profiteering.

The ultimate lesson from GI Joe is that if you allow your enemy to survive, he will come back week after week with increasing ferocity until he takes you out. Cartoons in general teach this lesson.

From Power Rangers to Superman to Voltron, no hero will ever actually kill his arch-nemesis. This puts the hero into a difficult situation in which he can never lose a battle, and the enemy need only win once. Superman once had the opportunity to kill Darkseid, the near omnipotent ruler of a hostile world, who would occasionally try to conquer this world. Superman had defeated him in battle and had the opportunity to finish him, but declined, sending his mangled but living body back to his people, who worshipped him as a god. This was supposed to show the righteousness of Superman, but it always made me mad. Wouldn't this lack of action lead to the future deaths of thousands? Possibly millions? This was just irresponsible. Voltron's planet is constantly attacked. Batman's enemies continually escape from the asylum. People die, and heroes do nothing.

GI Joe is perhaps the worst example as it is clearly the policy of the Unites States Government that we will not attack an enemy even after multiple successful strikes on US soil. Instead, we play perpetual defense using an elite force composed of a rapping strongman, a mute ninja, and a sailor with an actual parrot on his shoulder (named "Polly"). Clearly this is not the way to go.

Basing foreign policy on a childrens cartoon show is suspect, I grant you. But the hero problem is real. A nation should not put itself in a position of perpetual defense, even if the enemy is so inept that it employs soldiers who don't remove their masks, even when on vacation and wearing comical John Stocktonesque shorts (scroll down a little more than half way).

This is why preemption must be viewed as a legitimate option. While it is clearly not appropriate for every situation, it should not be dismissed out of hand as inherently wrong. Sometimes, it may save lives. It may help people be free.

Now you know. And knowing is half the battle.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Evolution Right Before Our Eyes?

After a near-fatal battle with a stomach flu a monkey began walking on her hind legs like a human. Is she evolving to become more human? Her vet says its probably just brain damage. So maybe.

The Age of Irresponsibility


I will die a happier man if I never again hear "values" discussed in a political campaign as the rhetoric it has become. "Values" as discussed on the stump trail seem only connected to who can marry whom, or who can have sex with whom and in what manner. If you want to isolate a specific act that is damaging to families, children, institutions, and society in general, it’s not two men honeymooning in Key West; it’s the current trend of our leaders and icons to shirk responsibility and decline to assume fault. The "Age of Responsibility" is bullshit. What kind of example does it set for youth when esteemed members of industry, sport, government, and culture consistently deny responsibility? Let’s dissect a few recent statements across the social spectrum and note what they said and what they should have said.
Martha Stewert on her sentencing– "I have done nothing wrong."
The responsible thing to say (RTTS), "I have broken the law and been justly convicted by a jury of my peers. I hope all of my supporters can forgive this transgression. I promise a new and socially responsible Martha Stewert Living upon my release."
Dick Cheney on saying "fuck yourself" on the Senate floor – "I may have said it; if I did I felt better afterwards."
The responsible thing to say, "Yes, I said it and it was wrong and out of character. I apologize and promise the American people a respectable level of discourse from now until I vacate my office."
David Beckham the overpaid soccer star on shanking two penalty kicks in the Euro Cup- "It was Real Madrid’s fault for their training."
The RTTS, "I guess it proves I’m human. I will train with a vengeance so the next time Madrid calls on my skills I will not disappoint."
Sandy Berger on taking classified documents from the National Achieves- "It was an honest mistake."
The RTTS, "It was a mistake for which I will pay the consequences. It was a breach of national security and I want to restore faith in homeland security by assuming responsibility and cooperating with the investigation."
Ken Lay, "I have done nothing wrong."
The RTTS, "I have realized the err of my ways and apologize to Enron stockholders, creditors, and deeply to the people of California. May God have mercy on my twisted soul." (Ok, the last one is a little overboard)
"Values" are more than blow-jobs, homosexuals, dirty words, and atheists; they are truth, justice, equal rights, and the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness whatever those pursuits may consist of. I personally don’t care if the Vice President said "fuck yourself" or "how about a reach around?" I just wish he would take responsibility for saying it. The next time a politician from either side of the aisle claims they more accurately represent "the values of real Americans" they would do well to consider more than just sex and religion and consider truth and responsibility.

Oh, and "reach around"...yeah I said it.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Free Health Care!...for the right people

This week's Carnival of the Vanities is up (Link via Instapundit), and you should check it out if you're sick of the same old stuff.  Topics are all over the map, and there are usually a few keepers.  Like this one, about the workings of socialized medicine, and how it has affected Canada.  The good bits:

Another and more insidious method of rationing health care in a "zero price" system is denying health care for reasons other than price. As Williams points out, "Another way is to have a medical czar who decides who is eligible, under what conditions, for a particular procedure -- for example, no hip replacement or renal dialysis for people over 70 or no heart transplants for smokers."
Denial of service sets parameters which decide those not 'worth' the scarce service be denied that service. Again, as rationing is inevitable in any health care system, this particular form of rationing is especially likely in a "zero price" system once the queuing mechanism finally becomes to unwieldy (and delays too long to further tolerate).

Read the whole thing.  This post also mentions a newly enacted law in British Columbia that may criminalize opting out of the Canadian system.  In other words, if you are Canadian, and require surgery, and you would like that surgery to take place sooner than the standard waiting period, you may not pay for the service. 

There truly is no such thing as a free lunch.  By the way, did you know:

Robert Heinlein's 1966 novel The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress does lay out a way in which the Moon could be used for military purposes. In the future, convicts at a penal colony on the moon mine minerals that are transported to Earth via a catapult that fires the products "downhill," in gravity terms, to manufacturing facilities in Earth-orbit. The convicts take over the catapult and refit it to hurl huge boulders at Earth's cities--essentially, creating artificial asteroid strikes. Faced with this threat, Earth grants the Moon colony independence. The phrase "there's no such thing as a free lunch" originates in the novel. The most popular café at the moon capital's has a huge sign that says FREE LUNCH, but the drinks cost twice as much as in other cafés, and drinks are mandatory.

Emphasis added. 
(From Gregg Easterbrook)

And then there were four...

 Sony, BMG Merge into One Grotesque Abomination.  Collusion just got that much easier. 

They Should Have Gone to Trial

Attorneys general from 38 states filed a class action suit against record companies including Bertelsmann Music Group Inc., EMI Music Distribution, Warner-Electra-Atlantic Corp., Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group, Trans World Entertainment Corp., Tower Records, and Musicland Stores Corp., alleging that they fixed prices by threatening to withhold popular titles from retailers. The companies denied the allegations but settled in September of 2002. The settlement included giving CDs to libraries in the states involved in the suit.

The Milwaukee Public Library got, in part: 188 copies of Michael Bolton's "Timeless," 375 of "Entertainment Weekly: The Greatest Hits 1971," 104 copies of Will Smith's "Willennium," 11 of "Martha Stewart Living: Spooky Scary Sounds for Halloween," lots of Christmas music, and everything in between, from nearly all genres from rap to classical - and even 77 copies of a CD by chanting Spanish monks.

There was even mold growing on a few of the 520 CDs received in Mequon - a five-disc 1999 set titled "Respect: A Century of Women in Music."

I, for one, can't wait to check out a copy of "Willenium." I'll be rockin out to some jive hits including "Freakin' It," "Da Butta," "Afro Angel" and of course, "Uuhhh."

WMDs found?

I'm extremely skepticle about this right now but I think its worth a post.

"Iraqi security reportedly discovered three missiles carrying nuclear heads concealed in a concrete trench northwest of Baghdad, official sources said Wednesday. The official daily al-Sabah quoted the sources as saying the missiles were discovered in trenches near the city of Tikrit, the hometown of ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein."

Update: That didn't take long. This claims the missile find was bogus. Iraq's Interior Ministry has dismissed as "stupid" a report in a local newspaper that said three nuclear missiles were found near Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

This Can't Possibly Go Wrong.

"Pop star Michael Jackson, facing a trial on child molestation charges, is about to become a father to four more children — quadruplets — by way of a surrogate mother, Us Weekly magazine reported Tuesday."

You can't make this stuff up. It's like when Fabio hit a goose on a rollercoaster. We live in a crazy world.

Update: Jackson denies that he is attempting to make "The Jackson Five-The Next Generation." However, he also denies that sleeping with little kids is weird so who knows.

If you have 15 minutes to kill...

Check out Bill Simmons' Vengeance Scale.  My personal favorite:
4.8 -- Inigo Montoya vanquishing Count Rugen in "The Princess Bride" -- "My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die." (Penalty points because this was a kid's movie.)

Kids movie or not, who has ever been more concerned with revenge than Inigo?  The first question he asks anyone he meets is "do you have six fingers on you right hand?"  I usually say "Hi, nice to meet you."  He spends his whole life seeking this one person, only to suffer a devastating stab wound when he finally locates the six fingered Count.  Inigo is so consumed with revenge that he gets up, ignores the pain, and defeats the count, first slicing his face, all while telling the Count to beg him which he enthusiastically does:
Inigo Montoya: Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father: prepare to die. Now, offer me money. [slices Count Rugen's cheek]
Count Rugen: Yes.
Inigo Montoya: Power too. Promise me that. [slices Count Rugen's other cheek]
Count Rugen: All that I have and more. Please...
Inigo Montoya: Offer me everything I ask for.
Count Rugen: Any thing you want.
Inigo Montoya: I want my father back, you son of bitch. [stabs and kills Count Rugen]
(Courtesy of IMDB)
And Shaquille O'Neal ranks higher than this?  I think not.

Are those classified documents in your pants...

or are you happy to see me?  This story about Sandy Berger is lending itself to double entendres all over the internet right now.  Apparently he smuggled classified documents out of the National Archives in his pants.  This could prove to be a big story, as these documents were related to the Clinton Administration's handling of al-Qaida terrorist threats during late 1999.  If you want to read more about it, just click on any of the links in the Electric Commentary blogroll (Sullivan, Postrel, Reynolds, and Marshall all have extended sections dedicated to this story).  I happen to think that any situation involving "pants" is funny.  Here are some highlights:
Josh Marshall thinks that the secret of the pants was discovered because of a leak:
However, it seems equally clear that the surfacing of this matter is the product of a malicious leak intended to distract attention from the release of the 9/11 commission report.
Those malicious leaks are the worst kind.  I think we've all been there.  On the other hand, Andrew Sullivan asks:
How can stuffing papers down your pants be a function of "sloppiness'? It's a function of someone doing something he knows he shouldn't.
I couldn't agree more. 


Update: Cyclists vs. Cow-Milkers in Dane County

A good editorial from the Madison Capital Times is here.
This line sums it up perfectly:
"Frankly, we should consider ourselves fortunate to get all bent out of shape over bicycle/vehicle conflicts. You could be in Iraq - or Illinois."

Trackbacks here, here and here.

Lance is in yellow.

Is it for good?  My guess is probably so.  Armstrong won stage 15 and reclaimed the overall lead today.  Most of his main competition is out of the race, like Tyler Hamilton, or too far back to be any real threat, like Leipheimer, Heras and Mayo.  Basso, who Armstrong outsprinted to take the stages and is currently in second 1.25 back, should keep it interesting for a while.  He's riding extremely well and is one of the few people that can hang, maybe even beat Lance in the mountains.  Tomorrow's individual time trial up l'Alpe d'Huez should be interesting but after that the US Postal team and the remaining flat stages will make Lance insurmountable.

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make a Book About It.

Is there anything that Martha Stewart can't turn into profit?  In her first comments since being sentenced, Stewart told Larry King, "I think I'll write a book because I think it could be helpful to other people, just about what lawyer to choose, how to behave, how to attend an interview.  There's no how-to book about this," she said. "There isn't. And not that it's going to be a big bestseller, but for anybody who has to go through this process, there should be some guidelines because guidelines would help."   Something tells me that it just might be a bestseller.  She'll have plenty of time to write it.

Legal Battle Over...

who came up with the idea of televised swingers?  ABC is accusing FOX of stealing the idea for their show "Trading Spouses" from ABC's upcoming show "Wife swap."  My question is where does Dave Chapelle factor into all of this?  In April of 2003, Dave had a sketch on his show called "Trading Spouses."  It was a parody of trading spaces and other reality shows of the sort.  Who would have thought FOX and ABC would have really made the show?  FOX even gave it the same name. 

Monday, July 19, 2004

To the 5 Burroughs

NYC Mayor Bloomberg has decided that the protesters of the forthcoming Republican National Convention must exercise their freedom of assembly and speech on the West-Side Highway: an out-of-the-way, narrow and generally undesireable place to hold a rally/protest. This is a poor showing from the leader of a city that has always been famous for alternative voices and perspectives; in fact, it is a down right un-New York act. It seems to be a trend to isolate protesters away from the events they are protesting for convenience and safety (G8 Convention); at what point does it stop? Are future protests going to be held at "free-speech" reservations in the middle of nowhere? This trend cannot continue; if protesters are peaceful, and the only negative is traffic logistics, then cities must allow peaceful assembly where it is wanted.

To mayor Bloomberg: Bad Form
To the citizens of NYC: I hope to see you protesting outside of Madison Square Garden.

Technical difficulties...

have now been resolved, I think.  Basically, the blog disappeared.  I'm still not quite sure what happened, it may have been partially due to our increased traffic.  It is now fixed, whatever it was. 

Frier-grease Powered Cars

Two Madison men (and apparently many more people across the country) are beating gas prices by making their own fuel out of discarded grease from restaurant friers.  They're paying just $.50 per gallon and it's cleaner too. 

At last our kings are safe

(Note: It was difficult to resist the title, "No longer searching for Bobby Fischer")
Bobby Fischer has been arrested. The chess champion has been wanted for some time for playing an illegal match in Yugoslavia. From the American Spectator:
In 1992, Fischer willfully violated United Nations sanctions against Yugoslavia by playing (and winning) a match in the Montenegrin resort of Sveti Stefan against Spassky. Since then he has been a fugitive from American law.
Bobby Fischer had been a nuisance for several years, occasionally popping up to spread anti-American, and anti-Semitic statements. His story is a sad one, as he is probably mentally ill, and in need of treatment. Still, he has never really hurt anyone other than himself, and while he is annoying, his crimes have been more or less victimless.  That being said, if we were carefully tracking his whereabouts with CIA personnel I hope it went something like this:
CIA Operative: Sir! He seems to be moving in a diagonal line across Eastern Europe. What should we do?
CIA Director: Do we have anyone in the area?
CIA O: Sir, we have 3 inexperienced operatives in his vicinity.
CIA D: Get one of them moving to intercept!
CIA O: We can move him 2 miles north and he should be able to take him down.
CIA D: Excellent, now we just have to wait for his next move.
CIA O: Sir! He's changed to an L-shaped pattern...

More from Tyler Cowen at The Volokh Conspiracy


to readers of Virginia Postrel and thanks to Virginia for the link.

Update: Riders vs. Rednecks in Dane County

Some friends of mine heard a local radio dj badmouthing me on the radio on Saturday in response to a letter to the editor I wrote to the Wisconsin State Journal.  The letter, as it was when I wrote it, appears below.  What was actually printed is italicized.  Why would they even print it if they are going to remove the meat of the arguement?
I am writing in response to the article, “Bike riders are raising some hackles” in Tuesday’s issue.  I am extremely troubled by the one-sidedness of both the article and the Vermont town meeting it described.  I attended the meeting and was unimpressed and fairly unmoved by the array of anecdotal sob-stories told by the residents of the townships of Vermont, Black Earth and others.  Many residents spoke of incidents in which they were unable to pass a cyclist on a county road or when they got “flipped off” by a cyclist.  The article quoted resident Steve Aeschlimann as saying that "Just about every night I've got to deal with the bikers." 
Just about every night I have to deal with reckless, angry motorists in these small towns.  They yell.  They honk their horns.  They swear and make rude gestures.  They pass entirely too close.  Everyone that rides has experienced this and the vast majority of the time it is completely unwarranted. 
At the meeting I was amazed by how politicians, even at this level discussing an issue this minor, can be such ideologues.  They seemed so unsympathetic and irrational I couldn’t believe it.  One of the town leaders suggested “banning bike racing.”  And why?  Because he couldn’t get his mail for one day.  Maybe we should ban Christmas too. 
Another one of the town leaders suggested forcing cyclists to wear license plates so that they can report riders that break the law.  Besides being completely impractical due to the limited resources of the county sheriff’s department this would also carry a big potential for abuse.  If the sheriff’s department had the power to issue a citation or take any real action based completely on the uncorroborated accusations of the same townspeople that yell and honk and swear and pass us entirely too close, some of the townspeople will abuse it.  Many of them seem to detest cyclists, even those that abide by the law, and would use whatever method you give them to get the cyclists off of the roads that they are equally entitled to use under the law.
The truth is that there are cyclists that break the law and ride recklessly and there are motorists that do the same.  This is already against the law.  The best solution to this problem is just being careful.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Update: Terror in the sky?

Drezner and a few others think this is probably bogus.  I am inclined to agree.  There are a lot of unnecessary details in the story.  Why is the husband writing a description?  Could these fellows be any more sinister looking?  Any more obvious?  Why did the passengers not at least ask a few questions?  Or try to investigate themselves?  Or take to the restrooms? 
It appears that this was investigated by the FBI, as the update that Danny posted attests too.  But the devil is in the details, and these details do not pass the smell test with me.  I'm willing to bet that some other passenger pops up in a few days and gives a different account. 

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