Tuesday, July 27, 2004


I am on vacation for the remainder of the week, so this will be the last for the week. 

Linda Rondstadt has recently been run out of Vegas for her anti-Bush screeds and her tribute to Michael Moore.  That tribute consists of dedicating the last song of her concert, Desperado, to comrade, er, I mean, patriot Moore.  Somehow that alone makes Eagles music less appealing for making out.  But it gets even worse when you look at the lyrics and try to apply them to Moore.

Desperado, why don’t you come to your senses?

I like the question, but I would probably address it "*%$hole, why don't you...

You been out ridin’ fences for so long now

See what the sexual revolution has led to?  Somewhere in Montana there are a bunch of ranchers busily fixing their fences and wondering why their buffalo count hasn't diminished, and why there is a discarded condom left exactly where the fence was broken.

Oh, you’re a hard one

With those 24-pack abs of yours.

I know that you got your reasons

Cheif among them your oversized ego, your love for fascist Arabs, and the fact that there are enough people on the looney left to make you millions by hawking conspiracy theories

These things that are pleasin’ you

Can hurt you somehow

If only it were so, and I can't say scenarios haven't run through my head. 

Don’ you draw the queen of diamonds, boy

She’ll beat you if she’s able

Somebody ought to beat you, if it's the queen of diamonds, so be it.

You know the queen of hearts is always your best bet

Now it seems to me, some fine things

Have been laid upon your table

A full-rack of spare ribs, three Big Macs, a plateful of french fries, some pork rinds, a gallon of Ben & Jerry's Chubby Hubby ice-cream, half a dozen fried catfish ...

But you only want the ones that you can’t get

Say what?

Desperado, oh, you ain’t gettin’ no younger

You aint gettin no prettier either.

Your pain and your hunger, they’re drivin’ you home

Hunger?  Is she dedicating this to the Michael Moore we all know and hate?  And he might be in pain, but surely he could alleviate it by rubbing Preparation H all over his head.

And freedom, oh freedom well, that’s just some people talkin’

Yeah, like 25 million Iraqis

Your prison is walking through this world all alone

Walking alone?  Isn't he usually walking a couple steps behind some poor guy he has chosen to hector for his day's amusement?  I got another idea for a prison that would be suitable, but unfortunately Uday and Qusay are out of business, courtesy of Bush's Saudi puppet-masters.

Don’t your feet get cold in the winter time?

Of course they don't.  I have never seen them, but by the power of induction, unless he has some strange affinity to liposuction exclusively for his feet, my guess is that those toes could melt a polar ice-cap.

The sky won’t snow and the sun won’t shine

It’s hard to tell the night time from the day

Especially since the Bush administration has been systematically trying to turn day into night, per the bidding of their Saudi puppet masters.  Or is it their Jewish puppet masters?  Gee, it's tough keeping up with the latest conspiracy theory!

You’re loosin’ all your highs and lows

Ain’t it funny how the feeling goes away?

The feeling is going away because all of your blood is rushing to your stomach (see fine things laid on your table)

Desperado, why don’t you come to your senses?

Come down from your fences, open the gate

But put your clothes back on, for God's sake!

It may be rainin’, but there’s a rainbow above you

Now here is a line that makes sense.  As the sunlight breaks through the vapor of sweat that he exudes, the droplets of perspiration no doubt have a prismatic effect on the light waves; it happens to all celestial bodies that have water in their atmosphere, and a star in their solar system.

You better let somebody love you, before it’s too late

Give John Kerry a hug, you are prettier than John Edwards!

Monday, July 26, 2004

Springer's Talent Agency

In my grad school days, sometime after the lunchtime foosball tournament had come to its conclusion, and shortly after I would go back to my office and stare at some article that might as well have been written in Chinese, and following the nap I would take after going home because the Chinese script made me tired, I would sometimes, very rarely you understand, turn on the TV.  (So much of an admission among the educated set is really rather a confession - not one grad school chum in my days of Minnesota would bring up a TV show in discussion without the preface - "I don't watch TV often, but the other night ..."  I heard that expression so often that one day I even consulted (in great fear you understand) the grad school handbook to check if there was an explicit policy that habitual TV watchers would have their funding yanked.) 

So there I would be, flipping through channels, and like a passerby attracted to a train wreck, I would invariably stop at Jerry Springer.  Mouth agape in horror, mind racing through existential questions of meaning, eyes transfixed, there in solitude I would struggle with striking the correct emotional response to the carnival of human folly on display.  Once the shock would pass, and I'd move on to other pursuits, the questions would creep back into my mind: how does he find these people?  In what sewers do they dwell?  How, in the most prosperous nation in the civilized world, does an entire class of barbarians manage to grow like a weed?  Like my dissertation question, try as I did with all of the intellectual power I could muster, I could find no satisfactory answer.  Until now.

You want to know how Jerry Springer does it?  He directly subsidizes the creation of the underclass that serves as the actors on his stage:

CINCINNATI, July 22 (UPI) -- Talk show host Jerry Springer, a delegate at the National Democratic Convention, has contributed more than $500,000 to Democratic causes, it was reported.  Springer, a former Cincinnati mayor, has been a generous and vocal supporter of the Democratic party, with donations totaling at least $550,250, the Cincinnati Enquirer said Thursday after examining federal, state and city election reports since 1990.
Springer made 95 percent of the contributions since 1999, when he first considered running for U.S. Senate against Mike DeWine.

The controversial talk show host also has contributed his time to speak at fundraisers, paying his own expenses.  Because of his generosity, Ohio House Minority Leader Chris Redfern, who led John Edwards' campaign in Ohio, rewarded Springer with an at-large John Edwards delegate slot at next week's National Democratic Convention.  Edwards is slated to be the Democratic vice presidential nominee.  Springer's support also earned him "Democrat of the Year" honors at the party's state dinner in May.

Friday, July 23, 2004


A twist on an old joke applies equally to a new phenomenon: 95% of the population Googles itself, and the other 5% are liars.  To that end, here are a few facts about my life that even I didn't know:

- I have written "a dynamic story that captures the essence of survival w/in an African American family in a Mississippi swamp."  No easy feat for white guy who grew up in South Jersey!  But there's more;

- I was one of the last larger than life characters in the Yukon, until recently passing away;

- I am the founder and creator of the Village Banking method of poverty lending;

- If you don't like this particular blog, why not check out my other blog, or a third.

- Though some people scurrilously think that I got cut from the Freshman basketball team, how does your memory square with the fact that 1982-83, I scored over 20 ppg and had 11 rpg as the 6'7" center of St. Francis Xavier?

- In my spare time, I am the Kennan Professor Emeritus at UNC's school of public health, and you can check out a speech I delivered here.

- But the way I pay the bills is as a real estate agent in Portland Oregon "who will speak openly to you, evaluate your needs, and address your questions and concerns."

Quite a busy life, wouldn't you agree?  Others I am sure meet with more success, like my good friend Greg Sawka, whose poker skills recently netted him $15K, which, judging from this picture, he apparently squandered over the course of several months in the Nevada desert at $5 all-you-can-eat prime rib buffets.  Greg, you should have visited my buddy Tom Metzger while you were out there; he lives in Vegas, and if memory serves he had no meetings of the White Aryan Resistance during your time in Vegas, so he would have been free.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Stephen Hawking's Losing Bet

Stephen Hawking, the famous physicist, conceded a scientific bet placed with a physicist at MIT.  The MIT physicist, it seems, bet that Hawking was wrong in his theory that a black whole in space destroys any matter that it consumes.  Hawking is conceding the bet after working out an alternative theory to his original theory that concedes matter can be released from a black whole, and also contradicts his earlier theory, beloved of science fiction fans, that one could actually travel to another universe through a black whole.

That story got me thinking.  Scientists are usually so sure about their own theories that they rarely, if ever, generate the theory that supplants their own.  Instead, they tend to lock in to their conception of the problem, and have difficulty thinking about it critically.  This explains the willingness of Hawking to place a bet against a prominent MIT physicist who was skeptical.  Clearly that physicist's skepticism wasn't enough to prod Hawking back to the drawing board to rethink his theory, otherwise why would he have placed the bet?  So what drew him back?

I have a theory on that, and it goes back to a photograph I saw long ago.  At the time, as the following archived article reveals, I mocked the photograph.  But now I think it explains why Hawking came to doubt his own theory.  Here it is:

I recently had the pleasure of taking a tour of the West Wing of the White House.  I suppose I was one of the lucky little people in the 1990s to catch glimpses of  the location of so many decisions of import in the history of our nation without forking over thousands of cash sourced from the Chinese military to the Democratic National Committee.  (Though my tight pockets may explain why I did not get any coffee.)  The halls were filled with pictures of our president, first lady, and vice president, each warming the hearts of people the world over with their empathetic personalities.  My tour mates and I were told that the president has his own photographical staff that is responsible for taking pictures of him wherever he treads, with the obvious exception of the closet that adjoins the oval office (however, maybe Starr just failed to consider the possibility that Clinton had it all videotaped, and maybe the president was being truthful when he said that he and that women were never alone together).  It might be the case that most of the presidents have generally had the same, but I suspect none before have considered it one of the great perks of the presidency.
My purpose in this article is not to beat up on Bill Clinton, lest I, for shame, be accused of being a Clinton-hater (to which the best response is simply: “What’s to like about him?”).   Instead I turn my attention to his heir apparent, Algore.  In the course of our tour, more than any other attraction that we were privy to, there was one picture prominently displayed in the hallways of the West Wing that particularly caught my attention.  In contrast to most of the pictures, it was in black and white rather than color, as if to display the gravity of the discussion taking place among its subjects.  It pictures Al Gore standing in front of an easel that holds a large pad of paper, pointing toward an equation displayed on the sheet, and looking at Stephen Hawking, who is trying earnestly to keep up with the lightning quick lecture being delivered by Algore.  In the background, there are four or five of Gore’s lackies staring on with rapt attention, trying their best to feign that the conversation taking place is way over their Ivy-league educated heads.  More striking than the obvious staging of what is intended to come across as a candid picture is the equation that Algore is trying to pound into the obtuse head of Stephen Hawking.  For it is the equation that either gives away the lie of the picture or displays Algore’s ego in an all-too perfect manner.  The equation – “x/y”.   That’s it, right there!  Apparently it requires explaining to Stephen Hawking.  
If you take the view that the photo was purely staged, can you not picture Algore choosing that equation himself in haste as something he is sure any lowly peon touring the halls of the West Wing would never understand?  If you can’t, it’s only because you have never watched him give a speech, where the would-be philosopher king Gore’s typical gameplan is to explain very complex minutae to you, the unwashed, in a style reminiscent of your kindergarten teacher.   If the photo was in fact staged, what it clearly shows is an arrogant fraud.  And if it wasn’t staged, what on earth does Algore think that he can explain to Stephen Hawking with an equation as simple as x/y?  Gore: “Now, Stephen, if we let x represent the size of my IQ, and y represent the number of steps that you will take in the remainder of your life, then the equation tends toward infinity, which is exactly what my research shows will happen to global temperatures if I cannot convince the ignorant masses that the Kyoto accords must be signed in order to limit greenhouse gases.”  So either he is a fraud with a mild amount of cynicism and arrogance, or he is entirely sincere with an arrogance that knows no equal (OK, maybe Clinton displays equal arrogance).   I’m not sure which is the case, but I know that neither makes me very comfortable.
How this guy has gotten the reputation for being so intelligent is beyond me.  He has certainly received kid-glove treatment from the press as VP in comparison to Dan Quayle, as he has had many gaffes along the lines of misspelling potatoe (I learned to spell from members of the NEA).  Included among them are pointing out that a photograph of the earth pictures our planet upside down.  I suppose his penchant for environmental issues gives him the ill-deserved aura of understanding the complexities of nature.  But even if his “sky is falling” environmentalism is entirely backed up by all of the leading scientists in the field (it is not), it is entirely legitimate for voters to ask themselves whether they’d prefer to slowly burn to death in a soup of greenhouse gases or be saved from the coming inferno at the cost of having to listen to Algore talk to them like they are kindergarten students for the next eight years?  Before casting a vote for this guy, I suggest you watch a speech he is delivering while sitting in scalding hot water so that you can make a truly informed decision. 
Equally undeserved is Gore’s reputation as a man who, despite his closeness with Clinton, has managed to remain untainted by his boss.  If we compartmentalize his sexual life away from his political, of course this claim is true, but other than Larry Flynt and Hugh Heffner, of whom could we say that it is not?  The moral preening and crocodile tears empathy of Clinton for the “common” man, though curtailed somewhat in recent months (though by no means entirely), finds its logical successor in Algore.  Can you imagine a politician courting the votes of tobacco farmers in an earlier run at the presidency by signalling himself out as probably the only candidate to actually farm tobacco, while in a later campaign shedding tears for his late sister at the 1996 Democrat’s National Convention because she died of lung cancer, at the evil hands of tobacco companies?  It sounds like classic Clinton, but is in fact Algore.  In the 1992 Convention, he was able to convert a horrible accident, wherein his son was run over by a car, into a speech that scored among the voters, and established Algore as just like us, despite being born with the silver spoon in his mouth.  And thereby proving that there are silver linings, for him at least, to any tragedy that befalls members of his family.  His speeches call to mind the old cartoon where a fat guy and a thin guy, stranded on a desert island, begin to hallucinate from hunger and exposure, and see each other as a hot dog and a hamburger.  I wonder if his close relatives ever get the feeling when he looks at them that he is envisioning them as victims of gun manufacturers, environmental polluters, tobacco companies, or other groups perceived as evil and non-descript.
The press has reported rumblings from among his campaign staff that they are all worried, right up to Gore himself, that Clinton will get us mired in Kosovo, and thereby jeopardize Gore’s election chances.  And there is no doubt in my mind that Gore would consider this the greatest tragedy of Kosovo.  In this Gore is the political soul mate of Bill Clinton.  If either can do a service to this country by doing a service for themselves, then so much the better in their eyes.  But if these two goals ever conflict, as they have many times during Clinton’s presidency (not to mention his draft dodging), we can take Gore’s callous concerns as an indication that, as with Clinton, he will do what is best for himself.  It would be ironic if Clinton, whose primary concern now is historical reputation rather than political survival, pursues a course in Kosovo toward that end, and in so doing, hurts Gore’s chances.  But for you liberals out there – do not despair – with enough contributions from Buddhist monks and the Chinese military, Algore shall overcome (and then he can deal with burning issues like campaign finance reform to remove the corruption from government).

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Link Day

Don't you hate when you go to a library, and you "inadvertantly" remove books that you haven't officially checked out? It happens to me all of the time - somehow books seem to fall of the the shelf into my open bag, and off I go none the wiser.  Sometimes they even find their way under my pant leg and into my socks.  What makes it worse is that, once I am alerted to these things by the librarian who shows up at my door, she gives me a hard time when I immediately return everything I had except for a few documents that apparently I had accidentally discarded.   I guess I am not alone; similar things happen every day to good people:
CNN.com - Federal probe targets Clinton's national security adviser - Jul 20, 2004

* I know that I linked to stories about this last week, but this more recent story builds a larger case against Honest Joe Wilson. Despite all of the vagueness that usually attends the "Bush is a liar" rhetoric, the "Iraq was trying to purchase uranium (for nukes) from Niger" is the one specific "lie" these people have clinged to from the get go. If you have any remaining doubts as to who the liars are, please read this article: "A Little Literary Flair".

Speaking of liars, from what I've been told, Clinton's memoirs reflect a deep reservoir of memories related to nearly everyone who has crossed his path in his lifetime. Although I think that any claim that Bush is a liar was, until recently, woefully uncharitable, in the absence of evidence that clearly contradicts that charge, it was at least an opinion that could not be affirmitively and objectively disproved. That, of course, has changed, with the primary "Bush lie" blowing up in the face of the lying liar who told it.   Now, the charge that Bush is a liar is no longer merely uncharitable, it is a lie.  (By pointing this out, of course, I am trying to chill free speech and quiet dissent.)

But hey, I am an admitted Clinton hater, and I'm sure I accused him of being a liar prior to having any definitive proof.  So I have some sympathy for Bush haters.   My proof, however, eventually came my way. Remember the lip-biting, index finger waving "I did not have improper relations with that woman." There was a chance that this was true in the Clintonian sense, which hinges upon the accepted definition of each word in the sentence. For example, this statement had a chance to be true if one defines "improper" in the same manner as his core constituency: a sexual relation is only improper if the male doesn't wear a condom, or if he wears a lambskin condom (PETA would object). But then the stain on the dress blew up even that defense of his honesty.

He has 900 plus pages of vivid memories from over 50 years; pity he "could not recall" so many memories closer to the surface.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Why Intellectuals Revile Capitalism

The Great Depression is rightfully regarded as the bleakest period of peaceful time in our nation’s history, and yet for the liberal intellectual it was a time of newfound hope and opportunity.    Edmund Wilson, one of the most prominent intellectuals of that era, captured the sentiments of his peers in finding the Great Depression  years “not depressing but stimulating.  One couldn’t help being exhilarated at the sudden, unexpected collapse of the stupid gigantic fraud.  It gave us a new sense of freedom; and it gave us a new sense of power.”  Wilson, along with Theodore Dreiser, Sherwood Anderson, Erskine Caldwell, Jon Dos Passos, Lincoln Steffens, Malcolm Cowley, Sidney Hook, Clifton Fadiman and Upton Sinclair each supported the Communist candidate William Z. Foster in the election of 1932(6).  The list was a virtual who’s who of American intellectuals at the time.
The “stupid gigantic fraud” of free market capitalism had produced economic growth that was unprecedented in the history of the world, but in doing so it kept the importance of government in domestic affairs marginal at best, and frustrated the revolutionary and reformist dreams of the liberal intellectual.  Rather than society laying its accolades upon the liberal intellectual, it was the businessmen - the small-minded Babbits risen from the lower middle classes – that were to be credited with the enormous success of the U.S. economy.  A degree from Harvard was no automatic entry into this class, and may in fact have been a barrier.  Free market capitalism, as such, was not hospitable to a caste system that was based upon intellect. 
In that same era, the rise of communism in Eastern Europe presented intellectuals the almost criminally naïve hope of just such a caste system.  To the liberal intellectual, the contrast between the workings of the U.S. economy and that of the Soviet Union could not have been more distressing.  While a group of small-minded men were accruing enormous fortunes in transforming the U.S. economy by focusing upon the mind-numbing details of commerce, in Eastern Europe, it was the economic philosophers, steeped in their grand theories of history and human nature, who were determining the destinies of the millions in their charge.  The liberal intellectual was all too keenly aware of which economic regime was more to his liking.  His preference for the utopian rhetoric of the classless society over the dynamic freedom of free market capitalism made him blind to the atrocities and the abysmal record of communism, and he has still not recovered his sight.
But the shameful record of Western liberal intellectuals in the Cold War is merely the manifestation, albeit the most important manifestation, of their hatred of free markets.  What can explain their hatred for an economic system that led to unprecedented standards of living in their own backyards?  How could such a hatred lead them to lie incessantly about the performance of the Soviet economy, to engage in traitorous behavior within their home countries, to become a propaganda tool of a hostile foreign government in the course of the Vietnam war?
Free markets are reviled by intellectuals for two related reasons: 1) the resulting income distribution violates their sense of justice; and 2) the resulting distribution of power violates their sense of entitlement.[1]  Taking it upon themselves to cure the first ill of free markets, they naturally cure the second.  Government, as the natural monopoly of violence, has both the power and the ability to force its will onto unwilling parties, and therefore represents the only alternative to freely made decisions of individual citizens.  The centralized decisions of government are much more susceptible to the utopian dreams of the liberal intellectual, either directly or indirectly, than are the dispersed decisions of their moral inferiors.  The free market provides the intellectual a subject for criticism that establishes his moral superiority (via his alignment with those who do not fair well under a system dominated by free markets) and provides a pretense for making his own decisions the law of the land.
This is the primary reason that intellectuals are liberals – the view that government should take a larger role in society goes hand in hand with the view that it is better to have extreme inequality in the distribution of power as opposed to income.  And the bet is that the liberal intellectual stands to gain significantly in power and the status that accompanies it.  Even those liberal intellectuals who do not actively seek such power nevertheless want it in the hands of like-minded intellectuals, as this in and of itself provides external validation of the status they feel should be accorded them as a group.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Better Fred than Red

Did you know that there is a nickname of derision for the weekend bicycler with legs proudly unshaved?  (I am talking about the men, of course; there is no need to discuss derisive nicknames for women bikers with stubbly legs.)  The would-be Lance Armstrong’s of the world call them “Freds.”  For all I know, there is a whole other term for a Fred who doesn’t wear spandex.  So there you have it – biking is a sport where men who do not wear spandex and do not shave their legs are ridiculed.  As a sport, sadly it is not alone in this regard. 
Take swimming, for example.  When I was a lad life-guarding down the Jersey shore, our patrol’s representatives proudly eschewed the wearing of what we called “bird” suits in the swimming and rowing races held among the coastal towns in the county.  You probably know these suits as speedos – glorified thongs for men that leave little to the imagination.  I should admit up-front that our team sucked, and were routinely beaten by bird-suited individuals bringing glory to their teams.  But we didn’t suck because we wore normal swim trunks.  We just lacked talent.  Now it is one thing to lack talent, and it is quite another to lack talent and be wearing a bird suit.  That just makes you a French Canadian (for those unfamiliar, French Canadians vacation frequently at the Jersey shore, and always sport bird suits – reason enough, in my mind, for other Canadians to root for the Quebec separatists).
My guess is that swimming has no term equivalent to the bicycling “Freds” and this is because it is almost universally the case that everyone who swims laps or enters into some type of race sports the bird suit.  If you enter a race without a bird suit, the sight is so shocking to the other participants that it leaves them speechless.  No sense making up a word of scorn given the rarity of the non-bird suit wearing swimmer.
Now, I can understand that at least biking garb has some utility, and who am I to argue with guys who ride 2100 miles through the Alps and Pyrenees in three weeks time.  But of course there are only about 150 guys who do that, and I am pretty sure none of them pass me on the bike trail, muttering “Fred” to me while clad in their US Postal-wannabe outfits.  They may be faster than me, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t feel at home in Quebec.
Maybe the individuality of swimming and biking drives grown men to wear such outfits.  No team sport would admit of such competitive gear looking to exploit some thin competitive advantage, because it would take at least one guy on the team to propose such an idea, and he’d be teased mercilessly until he finally retired.  I would bet that basketball players could play better in just their jock straps, but that is no reason to take off the uniforms and show everyone the comparative size of your naughty bits.
These athletes have it so mixed up that even their teasing is upside down.  Does calling another guy a “Fred” truly convey your contempt for them?  If called out by that name, my first instinct would be to say: “Thanks!  It is good to be recognized as a regular guy, a guy who likes to drink beer and watch football.”  What guy named Fred doesn’t fall into that category?  My reaction would be far different if someone called me “Trent” or  “Dylan.”  By that I would infer that he thinks I wax my legs, enjoy wearing spandex, and can sing at least three show tunes off the top of my head.  Now that would be insulting, because I don’t wax my legs.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Link Day

* Tax the rich! The Bush tax cuts benefit the wealthy, right? So we can expect if and when Kerry gets elected, he (or at least his Sugar Momma) and trial lawyer extraordinaire John Edwards will see their tax bills rise precipitously, right? Think again. Maybe it is too much to ask one bleeding heart liberal super-millionaire to give away the vast portion of his/her fortune in order to live less like a hypocrite, but can't they just stop going out of their way to not pay taxes?

* Remember the lies Bush told about Iraq seeking to purchase uranium from Niger? Turns out, as usual, that there was plenty of lying going on, just not from Bush. Or you could read about it here. But don't expect to see good old Joe Wilson making the major media rounds to explain his lies, as is pointed out here. But in the eyes of some, particularly the person responsible for funding this web site (see the bottom of the linked page), Joe Wilson is the model of honesty. Heck, if you defended Bill Clinton's honesty for so long, as so many Democrats have, it is easy to see how you lose some judgment in this area.

* I read yesterday that US troops are pulling out of Bosnia after nine years. Nine years stuck in that quagmire, which I remember all the networks fretting over at the time, and incessantly across these nine years, as another Vietnam (which makes it at least the third of five Vietnams we've had since Vietnam: Central America (Reagan), Iraq (Bush Sr.), Afghanistan and Iraq (Bush Jr.)).   At least now we can expect all of the anti-Bosnia war demonstrations to come to an end.  Anyway, do you remember all of the hand-wringing from the press following the initial "victory" there over our inability to find weapons of mass destruction ? Oh, sorry, my mistake, nobody ever tried to sell that war as one that involved any American security interest. It was just good old-fashioned American do-goodism, which was OK in the case of Milosevic for two reasons: 1) he didn't have the good taste to produce mass graves silently and slowly over the years, away from the camera's eye (see Saddam Hussein); 2) he lacked the ability to bribe every UN security council country in Europe with lucrative oil contracts that circumvented UN imposed sanctions (see, also, Saddam Hussein).
But at least in Bosnia we had the backing of the UN.  Oh, wait a minute, we didn't have their backing, did we.  But we did have France on our side, and that's what counts, right?  That's what Kerry and Edwards mean when they say they want America to be respected in the world again.

*   Against racial profiling?  I bet you'd change your mind had you been on this flight.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Steroids and Barry

Reproduced below for your reading pleasure is an exchange of e-mails with my liberal friend Victor, a grad school chum. Prior to establishing my blog, he alone was subjected to my daily rants, which he responded to with patience and true grace. The topic of debate at the time was whether or not Barry Bonds surpassing Willie Mays in the home run category was as legitimate as, say, MC Hammer (who was too ligit to quit, although he seems to be taking a hiatus of late). As a debate, friends from Lehigh will be disappointed in comparison to the level of passion and lack of sobriety I once famously exhibited in debating one Sean McCormick at 4:00 in the morning on some train in Manhatten, wherein I established firmly and forever that Lenny Dykstra was superior to Barry Bonds. Even the bumbs on the train agreed with me.

Hatcher: All right, here it is: Has Barry Bonds legitimately hit 661 home runs? Or is he the product of steroids?

Here is my view:
1) Nobody grows from the size he was in his first few years in the league to the size that he is now without roids.
2) Nobody naturally or coincidentally makes friends, and keeps as friends, guys who later go down on federal charges for illegal distribution of steroids.
3) Steroids make you irritable. Barry Bonds is irritable.
4) In Amerika, you are guilty until proven innocent,
especially if you are black. Barry Bonds is black.

In my book, Say Hey Willie still ranks third, and I rest my case!

Vic: Actually, Willie ranks 2nd because Ruth never had to hit against
Satchel Paige and the rest of the great Negro League pitchers. Furthermore, nobody goes from hitting 11 and 29 home runs in 1918 and 1919 and then 54 and 59 in 1920 and 1921 (and hitting more home runs than 22 of the other entire teams in the league in 1920) without some type of assistance. Finally, I can only speak from personal experience here that looks can be deceiving. Lot's of people look at my physique and think that there is no way that I am not on the juice. But, in 100% honesty, this body is entirely natural, so I've got to give the same benefit of the doubt to Barry.

Hatcher: Didn't know the history of Babe as well as you do. I am not sure when
he converted from a pitcher to a regular player, but one would imagine there was a learning curve on the hitting end that could explain some ramp up in production, if not the levels he achieved. Also, booze, greasy food, and women are permissible performance enhancing habits - these were the Babe's assistance. I doubt that any steroids were even available back in those days; I think were still leeching the sick back in the 20s. If Bonds gained his girth through the natural pursuit of vice, I'd be on his side! But as far as I can tell, he doesn't drink, smoke, womanize, etc. And he is supposed to be a role model?

But you bring up an excellent hypothetical question: what would Babe
have hit if he had to face the best of the Negro league pitchers?
First off, even if Satchel Paige were in the MLB, there would be a
50/50 shot he would have played in the National League rather than the
American. So you'd have to look at expected home run effects of facing
any individual pitcher. But what can we infer from the racial
distribution of Hall of Fame or Hall quality pitchers post-integration
about the comparative quality of black pitchers? And in considering
this question, I think you remove any Dominican pitchers from the mix,
because the timing of the influx of Dominican players is not related to
the timing of integration (although you could argue that because
baseball draws from a wider geographic population than at one time,
quality of pitching has increased - but remember, Bonds hasn't faced Pedro in his career). Bob Gibson comes to mind as one of the greatest pitchers ever. Doc Gooden had a few good years. But I can't think of many great black pitchers, maybe due to lack of knowledge.

Off the top of my head, here are some great white pitchers:Carlton, Seaver, Big Unit, Maddox, Clemens, Orel Hershiser, the Neikros, Nolan Ryan, Sandy Koufax, Ron Guidry, Mark "the Bird" Fidrich (OK - he's not great, but he was cool). Who am I forgetting? In any event, I think it is reasonable to argue that Ruth would not have hit 45 fewer home runes(6.2 percent of his total) in an integrated league, but it is debatable.

Vic: A surprisingly reasonable argument given the writer. In regards to Satchel, he pitched 3 scoreless innings for the A's in 1965 at the age of 59 and went 12-10 for the Browns in 1952 at the age of 46. Not too bad. It does make you wonder why the great cross-over players from the Negro Leagues tended to be hitters.

In regards to Ruth, should booze be considered a permissible performance enhancing habit if booze is constitutionally prohibited?

Back to the simply looking at the size of the player, pick up a Kirby Puckett rookie card: a bean pole who stole over 100 bases in his two minor league seasons. He hit 4 home runs in his first two major league seasons
(1,248 at-bats) while batting roughly .300. In his third season (1986) he hit 31 home runs (good for 6th in the league) with roughly the same batting average. He was also much bigger. Steroids? So, I would suggest that the "Just look at him and his statistics" argument is not sufficient evidence and even in tandem with the BALCO thing can't be given much weight.

I would also say that while steroids and physical strength is a huge issue for, say, weight-lifting, in home-run hitting, it is only one relatively small piece of the home-run hitting puzzle. Otherwise, every team would just sign up Arnold or other body-builders.

Hatcher: In regard to booze and constitutional prohibitions, I refer you to a little essay by Henry David Thoreau - I think it is entitled Civil Disobedience or On Civil Disobedience. You might also read King's Letter From a Birmingham Jail. The only reason someone didn't write equally eloquent defenses of civil liberties in regard to the 19th amendment was because those inclined to do so were hopelessly drunk, as was their God-given (if not government given) right. But drunks are people too!

As for Kirby, turning from a bean to a pear is hardly evidence of steroids, which may be your point. And having that extra weight and strength in the hips will naturally give more power. But much more suspect is a guy who has thin arms that suddenly look like those of the Incredible Hulk.

Finally, the argument that steroids have little effect in the sport is absurd. Clearly the strength they provide is not a sufficient condition to hit home runs, but if added strength allows you 10 percent more bat speed without loss of hand-eye coordination, this implies that every ball you hit will come off the bat nearly 10 percent faster. This makes routine fly balls to left field home runs. If only we had complete video history of Hank, Babe, and Willie, we could see how many times a five percent addition to the distance of their ball would have led to home runs.

Anyway, Vic, I got to hand it to you: it is a measure of your fairness to give the guy the benefit of the doubt in a situation with imperfect information. Baseball doesn't want to do anything serious about it - record breaking performances put people in the seats, whether they are legitimate or not. Of course I blame the player's union for this. But I also think the conduct of Bonds through this is partly indicative of his guilt. He's said test me anytime, which is really an empty offer because he clearly has probably stopped using due to the scrutiny. If we could go back in time - now that would be the test. So why doesn't he, as the best player in the game and one of the best players all time, take a leadership position and buck the union and say that baseball should adopt a stringent standard? My guess is that he won't do that because he knows people in the game who know the truth about his own history, and they'll stay quiet to the extent that they may also be benefitting from similar usage. But if you piss some of the guys off with a statement that is hypocritical, the gloves might come off.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Self-Hating Uncle Tom Black Conservatives

The annual NAACP convention is taking place this week, and one of its leading lights, Kweise Mfume, is calling the black conservative Uncle Toms the inert portion of a ventriloquist act, with the "right-wing conservative media" playing the part of ventriloquist. Good old Kweise, father of five children by five different women, taking people to task for their political thought crimes! There is a name for a guy who doesn't take responsibility for his offspring, and then makes his living as the leader of an organization that propogates the myth that racism is the biggest problem for the black community (rather than the staggeringly high rate of illegitimate births among blacks) - con man. In any event, it put me in mind of one of the first Ideas Hatched articles, from the February 1999 issue. Some of this is probably a little dated, but here it is anyway:

There exists today a growing minority within a minority. The Congressional Black Caucus finds itself dealing with two Republicans - Gary Franks and J.C. Watts. The head of the California Civil Rights Initiative, which intended to remove racial and gender quotas from government employment within the state, is a black man named Ward Connerly. The most welcomed Supreme Court Justice in conservative circles since Scalia is Clarence Thomas. And it is the Republican party, not the Democratic party, that boasts the presence of a black presidential candidate in the most recent election, with Alan Keyes throwing his hat into the ring.

A curios phenomenon, this! The black leaders capturing headlines these days are increasingly identifying themselves as conservatives, and the phenomenon is not restricted exclusively to political circles. In the realm of academia, which has traditionally fueled the most leftwing elements of the Democratic Party, the writings of Shelby Steele, Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, and Glenn Loury could just as easily be those of William F. Buckley, Pat Buchanan, or Joe Sobran.

There seems to be a burgeoning diversity of opinion, regarding nearly everything political, within the African-American community. And if the civil rights establishment stands for anything, they most assuredly stand for greater diversity - right? Well, not exactly. It seems the minority within the minority is not very well liked! How can this be? With all of the great strides we have made in increasing diversity in areas stretching from the composition of collegiate faculty right up to our immigration numbers, could it be that there is some form of diversity that does not promise to improve our lives and our society in leaps and bounds?

Is there a circumstance that justifies the other reindeers not letting Rudolph play in their reindeer games? Shouldn’t we embrace our differences as the source of our strength? Doesn’t more diversity improve our educational experience and, by extension, the substance of national political debate? In the face of all of the proven benefits of diversity, surely anyone who opposes it does so out of racism or sexism. To what else can we attribute such atavistic leanings?

But alas, diversity of opinion and viewpoint is apparently not necessarily to be valued, while diversity of skin color and gender are to remain sacrosanct. But surely good liberals will respect the rights of the dissenting minority to voice their disagreements. Or will they? Michael Williams was an African-American member of the Bush administration who pushed for race-neutral scholarships. Now, maybe he deserves to have his say, even if you believe the scholarships should be geared toward African-Americans. Spike Lee has a different idea of what should happen: Williams, in his eyes, is an Uncle Tom who deserves to be “dragged into the alley and beaten with a Louisville Slugger.” Thank God for freedom of speech. This minority within the minority must not wonder what it was like to live in the South in peak years of the Klan. Ask Ward Connerly - death threats were not unusual in his efforts to pass the CCRI, and it is doubtful they would have been as prolific had he been white.

Those members of the hard-line Civil Rights establishment have become diversity merchants. And in all their years of perfecting their trade, they have made few strides for the poorest inner city African-Americans. Sowell reviews evidence that suggests affirmative action has had beneficent effects on the income streams of middle and upper class blacks, while it has not affected the incomes of the poor. Charles Murray explains that the trend line for African American incomes prior to the institution of affirmative action programs would have put African Americans in the same position they hold today without one quota ever being made. But this would not have allowed those who have become wealthy to do it in the style they’ve become accustomed to: by exploiting white guilt for personal gain. This is much more fun then earning your money.
Consider President Clinton’s Secretary of Labor, Alexis Herman. After leaving the Carter administration, she started a consulting business that would help companies implement diversity programs that would allow them to smoothly adjust to affirmative action requirements. The example of large-scale construction in Washington D.C. provides an excellent example of how she could help a company achieve this goal. The city had in place a requirement that any government procurement process had to consider, as a criteria for selection, the representation of minorities in the management of private firms making bids. Alexis Herman helped more than one firm secure contracts without being the low bidder by her expertise in making the company more racially diverse. It was as simple as making her a silent partner with a nice equity share in the company - good work, if you can get it.

All of these black conservatives threaten the possibility of more millionaires in the style of Miss Herman - but do they really threaten the situation for other, less well-connected, African-Americans? The average back person on the street has no ties to the late Ron Brown and to other high ranking government officials that he can parlay into paychecks. What does he have to lose in the replacement of the standard civil rights leaders with their conservative brethren? To hear the standard civil rights reply, that reversal of power would be the loss of black leadership entirely. There is no such thing as a conservative brother. As Roger Wilkins puts it: “For black Americans who live in a society where racism exists, it is legitimate to set parameters. In arguing about how best to struggle, there is some political and intellectual behavior in which you engage that keeps you from being a black person.” The color of your skin, then, is at least partially dependent upon whether or not your political views mesh with those of Mr. Wilkens and others.

The modern civil rights establishment is premised upon the belief that blacks, as a group, have a clearly defined set of interests which, when denied from within, makes one a traitor to his people. The political embodiment of that notion is racial gerrymandering of districts: defining electoral districts so as to assure that blacks constitute a majority within certain districts, thus ensuring them the ability to be represented by blacks. When President Clinton originally nominated Lani Guinere for Attorney General, some of the criticisms for that pick centered upon her writings, which echoed the logic of racial redistricting, and suggested that blacks should have the right to veto legislation they find to be against their collective interests. Dinesh D’Souza points out that not since John C. Calhoun, in the context of arguing for the South’s right to hold slaves, has anyone advanced the belief that a minority should have some veto power over legislation.

Even if we were sympathetic to the idea, it could only be implemented in a logically inconsistent manner. Suppose that ten percent of all blacks are conservative - will ten percent of the racially defined districts be constructed so as to allow ten percent of the Congressional Black Caucus to be conservatives? If blacks were to be given veto power as a minority, in deciding whether to invoke that power, would they grant the same power of veto over their decision to a dissenting minority of black conservatives?

These arguments are made under the assumption that the majority of blacks lie consistently on the same side of the political fence across a wide variety of issues. In reality, the distinction is not so clear. As a minority faction within Congress, black representatives have gone far to the left of the blacks they presumably represent. In doing so, they have become a powerful minority coalition, trading support for more liberal measures in exchange for support on the issues they consider important. Their power belies the notion that minority veto power is required at all. It also suggests that to be truly representative of blacks, if they possessed that veto power, they would have to wield it in a way that would differ markedly from their current voting records. Is Miss Guinere ready to grant that minority power to blacks, seventy percent of whom are opposed to abortion? Perhaps she would grant the same veto power to women as an oppressed majority, and this would trump the majority decision of black Americans.

The ideas are so ludicrous when closely examined, but they point out the misplaced belief among black liberals that a consensus on issues across the board exists in the black community, is represented by current black leadership, and requires only a more concerted effort to consolidate the power necessary to implement their agenda. There is no consensus, as black conservatives are quick to prove. To artificially create one, black conservatives are no longer black.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Hedging the Election the Old Fashioned Way: Gambling

There are only two ways to watch a contest – either you’re fully vested in having one of the two (or multiple competitors) win, or you are indifferent. Some prefer indifference, others cannot enjoy a game unless they are emotionally invested. In either case, there is an age old tradition that enables anyone to be able to transform an event that they would not otherwise care about into one which they can watch with enjoyment: gambling. For those who need to be indifferent, simply bet on the team that you are rooting against. Likewise, if you are completely indifferent between two teams, you will quickly become both emotionally and monetarily invested in one simply by placing a wager.

I like to hedge my emotional favorite with a wager when I am motivated primarily by hate, so that I am indifferent to the outcome; thus, if I am rooting for the Marlins because I hate the Yankees, and have no particular affinity for the Marlins, I might hedge by betting the Yankees. Only then can I safely watch the game. But if I am motivated to root affirmatively for a team I love, I prefer not to hedge my emotions by betting on the opponent. (There is a classic episode of Cheers where Sam bets against the Celtics, and is discovered for his betrayal – you don’t bet against a team you love because it is not good form to be happy when your fellow die-hard fans are low).

Which brings me to the presidential election. I am trying to determine exactly how much I would have to bet on John Kerry to remain indifferent to the outcome. I like Bush, but I don’t love him, or to put it another way, the degree of hate I feel for Kerry exceeds the love I feel for Bush, which means that I am looking for the emotional hedge – a bet on Kerry. I fear that, should Kerry lose, in four years time I will be making the same calculation with Hillary, and in that event I am pretty sure that I will need a large second mortgage to place my bet. That contingency, of course, limits the amount of my “indifference” bet – a Kerry win has the silver lining of delaying any Hillary candidacy until 2012 – when even all of the plastic surgery in the world will be insufficient for her to stay viable.

In the election of 1916 (Hughes vs. Wilson), which exhibited perhaps the highest volume of bets of any presidential election, the volume of betting (in 2002 dollars) was as high as $8.90 per vote cast in the election. If you figure that only 1 in 100 voters were casting bets, this would put the average bet at close to $900. Organized markets for such bets (such as financial exchanges and pools) have existed since the administration of Lincoln. It was also not uncommon for people to make “freak bets” – where the loser would be required to literally eat crow or engage in similar embarrassing exploits; in the election of 1900, it was estimated that 1 in 30 voters engaged in such wagers.

Today, the Iowa market is the one legal betting market for presidential elections. There, you can buy a contract that pays $95 if the candidate you bet wins. Right now, both Bush and Kerry contracts are selling for about $50, implying that the election is regarded as dead even. And speaking of the dead, don’t forget to count on them voting heavily for Kerry in 2004, as they historically vote more Democratic than even African-Americans. (There is a joke in New Orleans, where no one is buried in the ground, that this is to make it easier for them to get out and vote on election day). And the dead, unlike elderly Jews in Florida, never vote for Pat Buchannan. I trust the Iowa market over every poll, and the price of contracts on the day prior to the elections have even been more accurate predictions of the vote count than exit polls conducted on the day of the election.

The Iowa market is actually a bet on who will win the popular vote, so that the price for a contract is the predicted percentage of votes for a candidate. If you bet Al Gore in 2000, you actually won in the Iowa market. Now that would have been perfect – having your candidate win the election and still winning money on your hedge bet, but of course the opposite can occur as well.

As a public service, I should mention that I have a friend in Vegas who has the magic betting touch that only those in Vegas seem to have – whatever team he bets on invariably loses. But he works this to his advantage in killing off teams he hates. Remember the 2001 World Series, where Mariano Rivera came in to close out the Diamondbacks in the 9th inning of Game 7? Mariano Rivera hadn’t given up so much as a foul ball in a decade, and he gives up two runs to lose the Series in the 9th. At the time, you probably thought to yourself – nothing explains this. Well, now you know, my friend bet the Yankees, and you have him to thank. By the way, he is no fan of Kerry, so if you do plan to place your hedge bet on Kerry, I can funnel it through him. But if your betting the emotional hedge on Bush, you are on your own.

Monday, July 12, 2004

A Public Service Announcement

For my subscribers (who have subscribed by virtue of me knowing your e-mail address and being helpless to block e-mails): the "reply to all" button is a very delicate instrument, people. The word "all" encompasses many people who are now daily questioning their association with me, and some who now actively seek to sever it. But more importantly, it has many disparate persons who are two degrees of separation removed from you, and who wish to remain that way.

The flurry of e-mails last Friday surpasses my daily requests to help out the Zambian "in charge of bills and foreign exchange remittance Department of GULF BANK PLC" who writes me at least twenty times a day "to ask for your support and co-operation to carry out this business opportunity in my department." It seems he has discovered "an unclaimed sum of ($21.5000 US Million Dollars) in an account belonging to one of our customer, who died in a plane crash with the entire family in year 2000", and "since we got information about his death we have been expecting his next of kin to come over and claim his money." In any event, should I ever respond to Muhameed Idris in connection to this business opportunity, needless to say I will have enough money to quit my job and blog full time. Lucky you.

But I also recognize the "Reply to All" serves as a nice forum for keeping a dialogue of inanity going between far flung friends and associates. Therefore, I will send separate alert e-mails to different groups whose members have some affinity to each other. That way, if you hit reply to all, at least everyone will know who you are, and they will blame you rather than me for clogging their e-mail. Also remember that by clicking on the comment button beneath an entry, you can actually post a comment to the blog that can be read by millions each day.

Don't believe me? Well, why don't you google "Ideas Hatched"? I think I am 10th on the list, worthy of first page status. Although on Friday when I checked I was ninth on the list, so I am falling fast. Google it now. Surely with such high Google recognition, I must have many readers by now.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Ode to Flip Flops

Here is one from the archives, circa July 1999. As true today as it was then; indeed I think this one is timeless:

Ahhh, summertime! At last, it has arrived, and I can once again enjoy my favorite indulgences of our warmest season. First on that list is the dusting off of my flip-flops for another season of service and comfort for my feet after nine long months of confinement. Minnesotans always talk about cabin fever caused by the long winters, but if there is one body part that suffers from terminal cabin fever, in all months outside of summer, it is the foot. But as they say, one never knows the pleasure of comfort so well as when it has been denied them for so long.

Summer affords one the opportunity to wear a whole range of open toed footwear, from flip flops to the Tevas, Birckenstocks, or the soccer style sandals. While everyone has his own preferences, I can say with confidence that anyone choosing something other than the flip flop has no taste. A presumptive remark, I know, but I make it only after serious thought and experience with the matter.

First among the advantages of the flip flop is its economy of material – there is simply no other way to attach a cushioned sole to the bottoms of your feet without using more material than that required by the flip flop. I offer this as an advantage not because of any concern for wasting natural resources in shoe construction, but instead for the aesthetically pleasing simplicity of design that no other summer footwear can match.

Second among advantages is the complete lack of pretension embodied in the flip-flop. Their price ranges from as little as $2 a pair to as much as $70 a pair, but there is no way to put on heirs by your choice. No matter how much you spend, you will always be seen as being in league with those wearing the cheap ones. Though I typically have no complaint with a showy display of wealth, I note the irony that the liberal environmentalist peacefreak’s shoe of choice for summertime is typically the Birckenstock. The Birckenstock is supposed to signal the liberal’s simple lifestyle, his eschewing of material wealth, and his rebellion from the tight leather shoes required in the business world. Yet he pays barely less for the Birckenstocks than the businessman invests in his Italian leather shoes. The image that the shoe provides for its wearer actually commands a premium in price which makes it, quite laughably, an ostentatious purchase made only by those who are specifically trying to avoid one. You’ll never see a poor person wearing Birckenstocks, but you’ll see plenty who are sensible enough to invest a couple of dollars in flip-flops.

A third set of advantages presented by the flip-flop consist in what it prevents you from doing. In comparison to all other summer footwear, the flip-flop is unique in constraining its owner from the contemptible temptation to wear socks in conjunction with them. The thingie, that little piece of material that attaches the sole to the upper flip-flop, and nestles in between the big and second toes, effectively prevents doing so. (I made this word up. Some people used to refer to it as a thong, but that word, along with others such as “is”, had its meaning destroyed in the course of the impeachment.) In my mind, there is no greater sin to fashion. Just as white is not an appropriate color for women in the time between Labor Day and Memorial Day, so to should the wearing of open-toed footwear be confined. Fashion rules are of course often arbitrary and inexplicable, but this one just wrings of common sense, and I suspect that it is followed in all cultures.

A friend once purchased a pair of nice Timberland leather sandals, similar to the Teva design, but also having the thingie characteristic of flip-flops. I expressed disappointment in his choice, as he was for many years a sensible flip-flop wearer. He replied by saying that he could never wear socks with his Timberlands, and so he was in the spirit of the flop. I might have let him off the hook after pointing this out, but he got greedy, and argued that his pair was superior because the heel strap allowed him to run more easily than he could in flip flops. Which brings me to the second and more important great constraint offered by the flip flop: It prevents you from running anywhere. If you want to run, put on running shoes. Open-toed summer footwear is all about relaxing – running nowhere. Those who are able to run in their inferior footwear may find themselves blistering, and could resort to, egads, socks, as a preventive measure.

A last advantage of the flip flop held over all but the soccer sandal is that you never have to bend over to put them on or take them off. You simply step into or out of them. No laces to tie. No velcro straps to attach. No buckles to secure. In and out – its as simple as that.

If there is a disadvantage, it’s the emotional attachment that people tend to feel toward their flip-flops. Others will leave behind their current pairs for the latest fashions long before the sandals have been rendered useless, but the flip-flop wearer is loyal. He wears nothing other than his flops until that fateful day when the thingie eventually breaks. Even Jimmy Buffet, musician and fellow flip-flop wearer, could only escape the sadness of blowing out his flip flop by firing up the booz in the blender for another margarita. I suggest the margarita as your grieving ritual when you should blow out yours. One thing is for sure, you’ll never blow it out in a season that is not perfect for an excuse to kick up your heels and enjoy one.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Link Day

* Do you share with me the fantasy of going back to high school, knowing everything that you know now, and being a conservative wise-ass punk kid who ridicules your teachers and fellow students. Then read this. It won't disappoint.

* Here is a question to add to the racially biased SAT verbal section (I've added ebonics in paranthesis to make it a racially fair question - substitute for the italicized text)- Coach K, as a highly successful college coach, would have been (be) to the Lakers as:
a) Rick Pitino was (be) to the Celtics;
b) Larry Brown was (be) to the Pistons (or Sixers, Pacers, Clippers, etc.)

I know this is an easy one, but send me your thoughts.

* ESPN has put forth Philadelphia as the second most tortured sports town. Which beckons the question - who has it worse than us Philly fans? Apparently we have to wait until next Tuesday to find out.

* Jeopardy Answer: Sexual harrassment laws, the independent cousel statute, and campaign finance reform laws.
Jeopardy Question: Name three laws rammed down the throats of Americans by Democrats, who then wail and complain when such laws come back to bite them on the ass.

Remember - Clinton's impeachment was "just about sex"; actually it was about lying about sex in a sexual harrassment suit brought against him. And Kenneth Starr was a sexual McCarthyite whitch-hunter. Now joining the ranks of laws that liberals consider to be appropriate if and only if applied to Republicans is campaign finance laws. Apparently, a literal application of such laws would land Michael Moore in some deep trouble, and you can read about it here. Don't hold your breath waiting for the Bush administration to prosecute, but could you imagine the cries of censorship coming from the left if he did merely try to uphold the ill-chosen laws of the land.

* The "two Americas" vice presidential candidate no doubt feels the pain of those who pay high health care costs and those who cannot afford insurance, but what is less obvious to us in the lumpen proletaiat is that Edwards and his trial lawyer buddies are a big reason those costs are so high. The Health and Human Services department of the federal government estimates that reasonable limits on non-economic damages would reduce the amount of taxpayer's money the federal government spends on health care by up to $50.6 billion per year. And this is just what the federal government would save in reduced Medicare, Medicaid, and other health benefit transfers. It does not account for the larger percentage of the market that pays directly for health insurance. Where does the $50.6+ billion go? Well, one-third percent goes to John Edwards and others who bemoan our two Americas. Heck, with those savings annualized, we'd have enough money to not only reconstruct Iraq, but we could also institute some good old fashioned regime change in Syria and Iran with money to spare.

* Kim Jong-il, the leader of North Korea, recently shot 37 under par in a round of golf that featured 5 holes-in-one. But even with such obvious hyperbole from the benevolent Communist dictator, in the eyes of one wag, poor Kim isn't quite in the same league of despicable golf cheats as Bill Clinton. I personally disagree, and how can you not given the comparative magnitude of cheating. But the difference in the scale of cheating between a guy who tried to socialize 1/7th of our economy and another who has socialized everything in his gives whole new meaning to the saying that communists are just socialists in a hurry.

* An absolute classic from Lileks.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

The Sad Fate of Swedish Skinheads

In my Swedish research for yesterday's post, I came across this paragraph from P.J. O'Rourke (Eat the Rich):

"There are a few Swedish skinheads, who sometimes gather in numbers of about a hundred at the statue of King Carl XII in Stockholm's Kungstradgarden. They are regularly beaten up by about a thousand anti-fascist activists who then break store windows to protest the skinhead outrage."

I bring this up not to continue beating up on the poor Swedes, but to note that cultural inclinations stay in tact thousands of miles away and a hundred years removed. Minnesota, as some of you may know, has a large Scandinavian-American population. Having suffered many years in grad school at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, I witnessed a story very similar to the one PJ recounts from his visit to Sweden.

I think it was my second or third year of grad school when a white supremacist skinhead by the name of Tom David, an undergrad, decided to start a White Student Union. For at least a year and a half, the Minnesota Daily, the school's rag, featured stories related to Mr. David and the anti-Davidians... uh, sorry, that rings too close to the whole Waco thing ... let's call them the anti-fascists, consistent with O'Rourke.

Although the coverage of the Daily and the reaction of the anti-fascists was decidedly alarmist, if there is one thing every liberal campus needs, it's the prospect of a significant white supremacist movement in its midst. Nothing energizes the extreme left quite so much as the threat of a Nazi (at least a white one, as opposed to an Arab one). And the presence of one that walks right into town, as opposed to hiding in a rural militia 200 miles from his nearest neighbor, is a downright boon to those right thinking individuals who think themselves quite morally distinguished by their opposition to skinheads. No doubt the Women's Studies Department and the African-American Studies Department saw significant increases to their funding, on the premise that the "education" provided by such deparatments was necessary to combat the impending Nazi menace on campus. Which is at least somewhat odd, since white women were not a priori excluded from joining Tom David's group. In any event, there is probably two chaired professorships within these departments that should be named the Tom David Professor of blah blah blah.

How bad was the White Student Union? Tom David stood about 5'3", and probably weighed no more than 115 pounds. But what of his followers? Here, I should note that after having applied to be a registered student group (in order to get a share of student fees that go to student-based organizations), the White Student Union was rejected due to lack of significant membership. It seems that a student group must have at least three members to be so recognized, and Mr. David had only one other friend. Two white supremacists on a campus of 30,000 students, but given the hysteria, you would have thought that Coffman Union (the student center) was about to become America's Reichstag.

In any event, one day on campus there were flyers put up in the stealth of night announcing the date, time (evening), and place (outside Coffman Union) for a rally of those who support the White Student Union. The obligatory counter-rally rally was then advertised widely, setting the stage for Minnesota's very own version of 100 skinheads being pummeled by a thousand anti-fascist activists. Except this is Minnesota, which has fewer Swedes than Sweden, and therefore the numbers were smaller.

About 100 anti-fascists gathered outside Coffman Union spoiling for a fight. They ate their vegatarian meals to energize themselves for peaceful non-violent protest, but of course once the blood started pumping in their veins and their heart rates rose, all adherence to the pascifist ethic passed through their system as quick as their tofu salads. Waiting patiently to take on the fascist menace, they were no doubt deeply disappointed to find that there didn't seem to be anybody who supported the White Student Union.

At about the time they were about to give up, some poor unsuspecting white guy, with his girlfriend, came strolling over a foot bridge that spans from the main quad of the campus, over Washington Ave., and onto the grounds of Coffman Union. He had the misfortune of wearing black leather and a short haircut, and was immediately labeled by the mob as a skinhead. It must have pained some of the professors who taught the students in the mob to see their students judging a person by their looks, and not valuing the diversity that such people bring to the campus environment. But, in any event, the mob moved toward the token skinhead, and proceeded to beat him silly.

Now here is where the Daily earned its shining moment in the sun, basking in the glory of what every journalist seeks - self-sacrifice in order to preserve the freedom of the press. It seems that there were Daily reporters there, cameras in hand, vigorously taking pictures of the melee. When the misunderstood skinhead pressed charges against his compassionate debators, the police sought evidence that would allow them to identify said assailants. Ergo, the police sought to obtain the Daily's photos, which the Daily chose not to publish, and the lonely fight of the Daily's student editor to preserve the first ammendment was on! This was pure heaven for the Daily - they even got take on the Pigs! like their parents did in the Sixtees. If there is one thing better than covering the news, it is being the news!

Of course the argument put forward by the Daily, though I am sketchy on the details, was something like if people knew the presence of the paper at a rally might later incriminate them, they might not be inclined to engage in criminal activity. And a rally with no criminal activity doesn't sell a whole lot of papers. Of course, had the skinhead managed to get a good lick in one of his attackers, the Daily would have raced it into print, and cooperated full-scale with the police. This would only be consistent with the moral pecking order that characterizes the left: prosecuting and/or persecuting skinheads is a higher moral priority than freedom of the press, which is a higher moral priority than prosecuting anti-fascists.

So you see, you can take the Swede out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the Swede.


I owed you one last peon to hate, having taken last Friday off to get an early start on the holiday weekend. I thought about an entry dedicated to hating Jimmy Carter, but nixed it at the last second. It's not that I think him worthy of one of only five entries; instead, I worry that people forget that they should hate him, and my entry would have merely been a public service. It's kind of like when the Dallas Cowboys were 1-15, and you thought they were too pathetic to merit celebrating their low state. A couple years later they were winning Super Bowls. Not that Carter will ever be back in the sense of regaining the presidency, but he did win the Nobel peace prize, and people are starting to rethink their position on him. It's a mistake, but I'll save my reasons for another day. On to the more pressing concern: Volvos.

I hate Volvos. I also hate Sweden, where Volvos are made. Sweden is the one place in the world where socialism hasn't led to utter and complete collapse of the economy, along with the usual amount of political oppression. But I suspect it has more to do with the Scandanavian culture than the economic system. A Swedish economist once remarked to Milton Friedman that in Sweden there is no poverty, and Friedman replied that in America it is also true that there is no poverty among Scandinavians. A perfect comeback.

You have to understand a little bit about Sweden to understand the Volvo. The culture and economy are driven by an inordinate sense of egalatarianism, and it is bad form for there to be significant differences in wealth or income between citizens. This is why a person driving a 1994 Volvo station wagon looks no different than a person driving a 2004 Volvo station wagon - there haven't been any design changes in at least 10 years. God forbid that it be obvious that I have a shiney new Volvo, and yours still has an 8-track player.

Did you know that fully 25 percent of U.S. automobile costs stem from frequent changes in the design of the models? Here is a company, Volvo, that has only very recently discovered a design feature and technology that has been prevelant in the auto industry for decades - the ability to curve the elements of the car's body. For the first time (ever?) you can buy a Volvo that does not look like a box, although you can still buy the box. Given how little is spent on design, you would think that the Volvo would cost only 75 percent as much as comparable vehicles. That would be the American "Wal-mart" way, after all - pass the savings onto the customer and earn your profits through volume volume volume. That is exactly what Wal-Mart does, by the way, and aside from Halliburton, it has earned them the enmity of all Volvo-driving Americans, which is to say rich American liberals.

Because of course everyone knows that only liberals drive Volvos in America. And the Volvo in America is really a status symbol - it screams out "I am a rich liberal. I may vote Democrat along with the UAW, but I would never dare buy an American car, because that is so jingoistic!" At the same time, the rich liberal would never buy a car made by crass capitalists, so other foreign made cars are out of the question, as production no doubt involved some exploitation of labor (and the exploitation goes far beyond not registering your live-in-maid with Social Security, which is really a very minor infraction). Park yourself outside a tony private school in Washington D.C. (there are many), and I'd bet you'd see at least half of the kids being dropped off by a parent driving a Volvo, who no doubt fully supports the public schools for other people's kids. The Volvo in America is the outermost symbol of liberal hypocrisy.

Are the Swedes to blame for this? Perhaps not. But there is plenty of reason to hate them nonetheless. Here are a few facts about the Swedish culture that you probably didn't know:
- Despite having a fully sponsored and subsidized state religion (Lutheran), church attendance is about 5%;
- The state's schools and public services depict the few women who shun work to raise kids as "parasites."
- Sweden has the world's lowest marriage rates, one-half of births are now out of wedlock, and one-half of marriages end in divorce.
- Their teenagers boast the world's highest teen suicide rate.

This is what America would look like if the Volvo-driving liberals ever had their way.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

The Illogical Hatred for Sports Figures

Let me say right off the bat that I hate people who say "it's a crime that professional athletes are paid millions per year while teachers earn less than janitors." There are so many ways to attack such a statement that I feel it unnecessary; why is it my responsibility to rescue such people from the prison of their own stupidity? That said, I will say that in part such people underestimate the value of prominent professional athletes in giving us regular Joes a harmless outlet for our irrational hatreds. I'd pay them a teacher's salary just for that service alone. In that spirit, here is a list of: 1) the athletes I hate; 2) athletes I should hate but don't; 3) athletes I try desparately to hate but can't; and 3) athletes I once hated but came to love.

In the first category, for the exact same reason I hate Karl Malone and Gary Payton (see "Pay Thanks to the Sports Gods"), Alex Rodriguiz (A-Rod) heads the list. If the Yankees win the Series, I hope they do it while A-Rod goes 0-50 in the playoffs, so it will be made obvious that they could do it with the rest of their overpaid players, and that he was just a really expensive insurance policy purchased by Steinbrenner. In basketball, of course Kobe heads the list. In football, Jeremy Shockey was near the top until he questioned the sexuality of the Big Tuna, which was way too funny. Now he ranks among my favorites, even though he plays for the hated Giants. Michael Irvin, though he no longer plays, ranks probably as the player I have hated more than any other. His one redeeming quality was showing up at press conferences in those ridiculously loud suits with the bowler hat; at the time the bowler added to my hatred, but now that I look back I can't deny that it was really cool.

The two players I should hate but don't are Allen Iverson and Pete Rose. If they were any other team, I would have despised them. With Rose, I in fact did despise him until he became a Phillie and got us over the World Series hump in 1980. Iverson may not be a life-long Sixer, but I stay loyal to even the ex-Philly players, even when they want out (like Charles Barkeley). I can see why Democrats clinged to Clinton through his tawdry scandals, defending him at all costs - he was a rogue, but he was on their team.

Derek Jeter is an athlete I try desparately to hate but can't. In fact, I can say the same of nearly every Yankee from those World Series teams. I hate the team, but the players were largely classy people, and as hard as I try, I can't blame them for Steinbrenner trying to buy a World Series every year. Compare them to, say, the 1986 Mets - now there is a team that I could hate down to every player (with the exception of Lenny Dykstra, as he later made ammends by playing awesome baseball for the Phils).

Larry Bird I once hated with all of the energy I could muster, but the guy is so ugly, you have to eventually learn to love him. Contrast him with Magic Johnson, who you liked even when he was beating up the Sixers with a smile on his face. His trajectory is a little different - once he was diagnosed with HIV, all of a sudden he became this new-agey "victim-hero." Being treated with more respect by the media after that went down wasn't his fault - it says more about the media than about him. But it did sour me on the guy. Maybe if he had made a statement like the boxer Tommy Morrison - I made my bed and now I have to lay in it, I would have had some more respect for him. But instead he treated it like he innocently caught the flu. In that he may not be much different from most who have the disease, and many who have it, including him, may bear it with admirable dignity, but the innocent victim role is a little hard for me to swallow.

I also once hated Scottie Pippen, but a few things brought me around. As with Bird, his ugliness worked to his advantage over the years, but what turned me into a Scottie fan was when it became obvious he hated Phil Jackson. I remember him saying something about him never reading any of the books Phil gave him as his zen master - priceless! Zen didn't win those championships, it was Michael, Scottie, some good role players, and three guys in striped shirts with whistles!

There is one current exception to the "if you are really ugly, I will eventually let up" rule: Bill Walton. The fact that this guy was an academic all-American at UCLA speaks to the fact that everyone in college at that time was at least slightly more stoned than him. Ahh, but who knows, maybe I am just jealous of him?

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